Expressions I Never Give

I have been advised by my therapist and my calmer brain to write daily. And exercise daily. The “exercise” is fairly easy now that my husband works from home. I can stay in my bendy clothes from my morning routine and find a way to sneak in a jog to the mailbox and back while toddler naps, which offers a half-mile thrill of solitude.

[Interesting Fact: Elissa has not been alone in her “home” for fifteen months. When the reverse is true for years rather than months someday, I am asking Edna, my (internal) personal assistant who files away reasons for guilt, fear, and remorse like they are receipts for major purchases to please not bring me to this blog post. I have every right to complain. I’m privileged.]

I tried to get myself to write in my journal daily by asking myself, “What made today different from other days?” I used that lead-in once, and then the next day, I thought, “Wait. Now this idea isn’t any different from yesterday,” and it just *pfffftttt* fell away like a balloon fizzling back into its relaxed state.

So I’m trying the idea in blog form.

Different today: Husband is away for work, so I am home alone (qualified to mean “child napping in next room”) and I have two random people here. Two working on the house siding (their hammering and scraping have made child nap time interesting, meaning I drove my little guy to and from a clothing donation drop-off to help him drop off). I say two random people, but I then look out my front window to see my friend drive up next to her husband, who is steering my FIL’s tractor back into its spot. Four extra people suddenly, and yesterday I said I don’t have neighbors. I declare, Elissa.

Also new: My toddler, still obsessed with all electronics corded and cordless, received as a booby prize for napping in the room whose exterior is being scraped, a radio tuned to whatever station he desired. I couldn’t find classical, his usual choice, and what he chose sounded so cheery that I couldn’t resist. I want to call it Rockabilly, and bless this community radio station for posting their playlist. I will know what I was listening to at 1 PM local time in just a few hours.

So here I sit on my bed with the blinds drawn on a sunny day because my (future) home’s builder and his friend are creepily close to my second-story window on ladders. Almost as weird as the time my honeymooning husband and I had to grab our things and crawl to another room because of scaffolding, my father, a house to paint, and sheer curtains…

Anyway, I’m listening to Elvis, maybe Dolly Parton, a few others with names I could imagine, like the Appalachian Twins, the Primrose Family Singers, and Sutton Miller [turns out that’s a real name].

Other tidbit: I am wearing gold pants today for the very first time. My mom would have called them “Monkey Vomit Yellow” when we’d go shopping together in my pre-teen years. She had survived the 1970s color bloom of earthy, decaying colors like rust, avocado green, and bilious yellow, so she had full color-naming rights.

I like to think these pants are a fresher sort of gold–more like that of a newborn’s post-meconium stools. All newborn clothing should be this color, really.

Today, I successfully built a fire in the wood stove, lit it, and used all the levers properly to create a warm room in which my children could ready themselves for the day. And the house didn’t even smell like smoke! Major bonus, dude.

The children didn’t entirely grasp their good fortune and still required the kind of prodding that the nails outside my room need (I can hear Jim telling his friend that the story of the day is these rusted nails whose heads pop off so he has to pry out headless nails). I may have lost my head a few times this morning too.

I’ve been listening to a talk by a renowned scientist, Dr. Russell Barkley, whose work with ADHD is more sound than most of what I have found on the internet, but it is nonetheless depressing. I need to just keep listening and learning, but it is so disheartening to hear what a struggle my children (and many others I love, possibly even Edna and myself) face in normal, day-to-day activities with their ADHD brains.

This morning as I rolled from my four short hours of sleep into the arms of my waiting toddler, I cursed the world for having people who cough, people who flush toilets, people who can’t float across creaky floors, and for ear plugs that don’t work (knowing full well I do the same thing to the other two extended families we share our noise with). I went from one pleasant morning ritual to the next with a building sense of futility because I knew that eventually I would need to get my little ADHDers and their sister with a copycat attitude to match lately, into clothes and into the car and into their schools.

The mornings are chilly, and without central heat and because the built-in space heaters are a no-go with my curious toddler, I needed to build a fire. I glared at my attempt to build a fire, certain that it would fail. How can I do this, I challenged the wood stove with the injustice of my plight, without kindling? And how can I get kindling without my husband? He’s the guy with the tools.

So I did the thing that I hate doing. I reached for my lifeline, this time my phone, and called for help. No answer. I knew it, I’m on my own. It’s always all up to me. Everything is up to me. I prepared to curse the world some more.

Phone rings. Pleasant husband at the other end. I get a pen and paper, shout a forbidden phrase at my toddler because he’s hollering, act like poor me loud enough for my husband to hear the self-pity in my voice, and get instructions to write down.

Write them down, follow them, get a blazing fire going that actually lasts. And I’m still not happy. I’m moping because I’ll just have to do this again tomorrow, and I won’t be good at it fast enough to get to sleep in, and poor, poor, Elissa is just too tired to do mornings.

I look at the fire, trapped behind glass, but my toddler is still trying to add logs and mess with my clockwork levers because he is a helper. He seems to know more than I do. “Why can’t I enjoy this? Why can’t I be happy? What is wrong with me? I’m right in front of this fire, and I won’t even enjoy the heat because I made it for everyone else’s comfort. I guess I’m just meant to be miserable.”

Then the thought comes to me, “Ask Heavenly Father what he thinks of you.”

This must be a trick, I think. But I am kneeling already, so I pray.

The words aren’t even a complete sentence before the answer comes rushing through me. It’s as if every air vent to the dying embers in my spirit’s wood stove were suddenly opened. My soul ignites with knowledge: “I see you trying, and I am so proud of you.”

Through my tears, I see the beautiful faces of the missionaries–a trio of young adult women serving in my area right now–who told me last night, “You are doing so much better than you know.” I hear my Mom withholding judgment when I snapped at her for no good reason on Friday. I see my husband patiently explaining levers and lids while driving his rental car to work.

I wish I could say our morning was amazing and the kids got to school on time (I’d had a four-hour head start and they were still late), but it was just normal. The kids behaved like they had hidden disabilities that impaired all skills associated with self-regulation (they do), and I behaved similarly at times, except that I have learned to use myriad external regulators, like clocks, timers, lists, and calendars.

And now I finish writing while the builders hover outside my window, a toddler screams his guts out over his too-short nap, and I wipe tears from two faces because there just isn’t time to be a whole person today. But if I was searching for not just the pants I wear, but for a heart of gold, I have found it. It’s in here, and I am just hoping these moments refine it.

My pants of gold have a deceptive zipper. It is not open.

6 thoughts on “Expressions I Never Give

  1. Love the gold pants! Speaking of building fires, I still treasure a memory of going camping with your family in the Colorado mountains. We stayed in a cabin that had a firepit out front. Your dad and brother tried to get a fire started but it wasn’t going well. Your dad said he might just have to drive down the mountain for some lighter fluid or starter sticks or something. But I, with my extensive training from one whole year of Brownie Scouts, tried and was able to build a fire that lasted! It is to this day one of my greatest achievements. I may not have ever gotten that Master’s degree in Literature or learned to sew, I may be fat and lazy and full of sin, but I built the heck out of that campfire!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am so glad you remembered and shared this moment! I have no recollection of the campfire catastrophe that only you could prevent, but I do remember you having a gift for knowing just enough to say, “Hey, I can do that!” and we would just stand back and say, “Well, she is a world traveler, so she could know anything.” I think that’s why we followed you across the Kansas prairie looking for tadpoles. You knew just enough to have fun when most people would have (and probably should have) been scared. My kids are much the same way, so maybe I will finally learn how to have fun!


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