This morning, after dropping Jack at preschool, I drove to the gym. It wasn’t because I wanted to workout. In fact, I’d have just as soon written algebraic equations based on the condiments in my refrigerator or attempted potty training a manatee as going to the gym. But it’s what I do. Go to the gym. Everyday. There’s nowhere else I have to be. I’m lucky that way. But it feels hollow. No job to stress about. No PTA activities today. Not even a parole officer awaiting my urine specimen.
I think the distance between First Methodist Preschool and Fairview Fitness Center is probably about a mile and a half, though my last name is neither Garmin nor TomTom (and I’m glad. Weight, spelled this way is bad enough.) During the drive there I felt as if Depression were tailgating me in an unmarked car threatening to commandeer my vehicle and cut off my oxygen with its life sucking grip.
In the back of my mind was James’ voice asking sheepishly, “Honey, is it your time of the month?” That’s what husbands always ask in order to explain any tantrum or breakdown that wives may spontaneously hurl their way. It’s as if being a woman entitles us to time bomb status and cautions our mates to treat us as such.
Sadly, my glumness couldn’t be attributed to PMS. I’m blaming it on Tuesday. A Tuesday eerily similar to the one last week, and the week before that, and before that…and, well, you get it. Even with the sparkly magic of Christmastime decking every street sign and supermarket, I couldn’t seem to muster a smile.
I’m 35, a domestic goddess – laundry folder, homework corrector, finger print cleaner offer, church volunteer, dish washer extraordinaire. I don’t have a job where I save lives on a daily basis, but I can throw one fabulous pity party. That should count for something. Right?
If my friend Amy was here (but she’s not because she has a job.) she’d throw her arm around me, a little too cheerfully and say “Angela, snap out of this depression thing. You’re a wonderful mom. Moms have the most important job in the world. Who else would keep your kids dressed so cute and cook those scrumptious dinners?
ME: “Yes, my ironing skills are vital to my kids’ well-being and the little guy on the Tuna Helper box gets half the credit for dinner. But thanks for trying.”
AMY: “Angela, don’t you give motivational talks on gratitude? I mean, don’t you speak to big groups about conquering fear and depression using thankfulness?”
ME: “It’s sort of ironic being a depressed motivational speaker. That’s the stuff HBO mini-series’ are made of, the ones that get cancelled after the first three episodes.”
Of course this conversation didn’t happen, because, as I said, Amy is at work. Being productive. Making money. Actually Using her college degree. Changing the world one preschool class at a time.
As I walked through the fitness center doors, I did a quick survey noting the usuals at their posts. Mr. Mustache was working his biceps. Miss Portly Reception Girl was loudly sing-songing into the phone while eating a Chick Fil-A biscuit. Ms. String Bean stood counseling a newcomer on cardio workout techniques. Mrs. Blond Grandmother was on the elliptical machine next to the window. She threw up her hand to greet me. Rather than hurry over to chat with her about the weekend’s events or ask how her granddaughter was doing, I just waved without eye contact. It was all I had.
“Angela quit wearing your feelings on your sleeve,” rang my mother’s voice from somewhere in my subconscious. “Everything’s not all about you. Other people have problems too, ya know.” When I was little and she’d make the “feelings on your sleeve” reference to my sister who perpetually pouted from ages nine through eighteen, I’d always examine my shirt sleeves to see if they were perhaps tinged a strange color or thus appeared differently when I was in a bad mood, sort of like a mood ring or the way your urine looks after drinking too much carrot juice.
Mom used to also tell me not to have a chip on my shoulder. I always wondered what that chip would look like if it were visible– a potato chip, Lays or Ruffles. Or perhaps a wood chip left over from a birdhouse building project. A poker chip? An AA One Year Sobriety Chip? And how would I keep said chip balanced on my shoulder without it falling off?
After putting away my jacket, I tentatively walked out onto the floor to begin my workout routine, but I felt so out of place. Like I’d gone to a funeral home in search of a dress to buy, or an Anthrax concert hoping to hear lullabies. I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that I was missing out on something. So I did the only thing I knew to do. I went in the locker room and prayed for God to deliver me from these yucky self sabotaging feelings. I prayed to get my mind off myself and onto something productive. I prayed for a new pair of glasses to help me see the blessings around me that were currently obscured by self pity. Then I grabbed my jacket, which was still warm from wear, and drove back home.
As I walked through the backdoor noting dirty fingerprints to clean off the glass later, a construction paper turkey caught my eye. In big scrawling letters it said “I’m thankful for my mommy.”
“Who says I’m not important?”
We all have days like this. Days where we think “why bother doing the dishes. They’ll just get dirty again.” Or “why remind Andrew once more to put his shoes away. He’ll just leave them in the kitchen floor again tomorrow.” Or “Why try to get a game of H-O-R-S-E going with the boys and the neighbor kids. They’d rather be watching Spongebob.” I guess that’s when it’s most important that we DO bother. If we don’t, not only will our kids be majorly missing out, but we will be too. Childhood has a way of slipping by so quickly. Do I really want to miss this? I don’t think so.
I’ll be getting to those dishes now. Then I’ll pick up Jack from school. It’s a sunny day. Maybe we’ll take Kelly-dog to the park and try the new twisty slide. Then we’ll pick up Andrew and make a huge leaf pile in the front yard to.