Sunday, May 06, 2012

The Simplest Thing

Sometimes I hear music in the background—like my life is a movie and I’m not really living it but wondering how and why anyone would live the way I do. My life is insane. No normal person should do what I do. My husband “lives” in Chicago for 5-6 days in a row while he pursues his airline career, leaving my two children and me here in Phoenix. At the ages of 3 and 5, they’re like any other pre-schoolers: a handful! But we make it (albeit on obscene amounts of coffee, but who am I kidding? I don’t see that as a downside). Here’s a typical day:

3:15 I wake up and get out of bed to weigh myself seven times before throwing my hands in the air and accepting the number on the scale. I then proceed to run 3.2 miles in about 45 minutes while reading whatever business or fiction book I’ve currently promised myself to read. I get through maybe 30 pages. I then shower (after weighing myself another 7 times only to feel like I deserve to have lost at least two pounds for what I’ve just suffered) before going down to the kitchen to turn on the coffee pot. By the time I’m dressed, it will be ready. I get in a cup before my alarm goes off at 5am letting me know that the girls need to be up soon.

5:15 I get the girls out of bed if Iris hasn’t already decided that it’s “wake-up time”. They are dressed and hair fixed before 5:30 when I put them in front of the TV to eat their cereal and remain relatively peaceful. They also get their own version of cold coffee, which is really just chocolate milk. Yes, I give my kids chocolate milk before 6am. I spend the next 15 minutes finishing my second cup of coffee, packing up the work I’d finished the night before, filling my thermos and to-go mug with whatever coffee is left in the pot and running through the “before I leave” checklist. Adjust the air condition, feed the cats, start a load of laundry pack my lunch and get everything I need into the car before telling the girls that Sponge Bob will have to wait until we get home because it’s time to go.

5:45 We are out the door on the way to daycare. I can’t leave any earlier than this or I’ll be waiting in the parking lot. If I leave any later, I’m stuck in traffic. Getting to school usually involves one or both of the girls insisting on racing to the front door. I always loose and blame it on the insanely high heels that I insist on wearing (I’m married to a man who’s 6’5—if we’re going to see eye to eye, I need some height.).

6:08 or possibly later, I’m back in my car ready to begin the 1:15 minute commute to my office. I usually try to listen to a book in the car, but it’s often interrupted by a phone call from a colleague on the east coast or a donor who expected to get my voicemail (ha ha!). Sometimes, it’s a call from Nick if he’s between flights.

7:15-7:30, I get to my office where I stop by the kitchen to grab my coffee mug, coffee cream and drop off my lunch but not before grabbing the two hard boiled eggs that I try to eat for breakfast every morning. Work is incredibly fulfilling—I love my co-workers and I love my job. I tell myself every day that I will leave on time, but I never do. I absolutely MUST be on my way home by 4:15 but it’s usually around 4:05 that I look at the clock and desperately try to grab whatever I’ve been working on or isn’t yet finished and shove it into my bag before racing to the elevator.

4:00-4:15, I leave the office and spend the next hour promising not to work when I get home because I’m basically continuing to work in the car. I get phone calls, emails (which I only check at stoplights!) texts and whatever else happens while the rest of the world continues to move.

5:30-5:45, I get to the daycare and pick up two very sad children who beg to play in the big gym just a little longer and wonder what special treat I’ve brought for them. I insist that I am special treat enough and we are on our way home where they tell me all about their days and ask ridiculous questions about whatever is on their minds.

We’re home around 6:00 where they eat a moderately healthful but highly convenient dinner that often involves chicken nuggets and cheese balls, but always includes fruit or a vegetable. While they eat, I clean the kitchen and continue to answer the onslaught of questions like “is Mulan a real princess?” or “What color is your work?”.

6:45-7:00 is the bedtime routine. I’m fortunate that at this stage, the girls can get their PJ’s on by themselves but we do have a relatively strict tooth brushing routine which involves flossing and a fluoride rinse (I REALLY want to avoid dental work). Sometimes Nick calls and talks to one while I tuck in the other.

7:00 is truly my favorite time of day. Not because I don’t love my children, but because for about half an hour, I’m not a mom or a wife or a fundraiser, but just me and I can do whatever I want while I eat my nightly salad for dinner. After dinner, I pull out the work I promised I wouldn’t do but secretly knew I would (why else would I have brought it home?).

8:45 If not for the alarm that goes off on my phone every night at this time, I would work well into the night, far past bedtime. This gives me 15 minutes to get myself ready for bed and finish up whatever needs doing before I leave in the morning. It runs the gambit from setting up the bread maker for fresh bread in the morning to setting up the coffee pot to changing out the kitty litter or hanging up the load of laundry I started in the morning.

9:00 I pass out and am fast asleep, hoping that Iris won’t get up or that nothing else will wake me and get my mind started before the necessary hour.

I say all of this to illustrate the insanity that is my life. I went to church this morning where our family life pastor began a series on marriage. She talked about how much work it is to have a good marriage or how hard it is to be married and that no one has found the secret to a perfect marriage or has a perfect marriage.

As I sat amongst my fellow parishioners, I couldn’t help but disagree. I’ve managed to find that perfect marriage and honestly, it’s the simplest, most uncomplicated part of my life. I don’t know that I’ve uncovered any secrets—I’m just desperately in love with my husband and my only regret is that we don’t have enough time together. But seeing as how I have absolutely no control over that, I’m not sure it can even qualify as regret. The only thing in my life that requires absolutely no effort is my marriage. Some might argue that it’s because we’re never together but that’s only true in a physical sense. We spend hours on the phone or on Skype—sometimes just so we can feel like we’re in the same room. I remember distinctly one night while he was in Korea and I was in Orlando—the girls were with my in-laws and I had a lot of work to get done. Nick sat in his room on the other side of the world, ironing or reading or something like that, while I sat at my computer, working on whatever fundraising crisis had evolved and we were connected through the computer, saying nothing or whatever needed saying. In our 12 years together, we’ve spent a collective 4 years apart. Both of those numbers are growing. I can’t say I like it, but the alternative—living my life without him—isn’t an option. I simply cannot do it and I have no interest in trying. I picked the right person and we’re going to be together forever. That’s the only thing of which I can be certain in this crazy, non-stop life.