Posted On April 9, 2020
Since we ended up staying local for the holidays, I made my best effort to plan little activities each day that would keep the three of us engaged and give us a sense of some fun. In all honesty, some of it worked, but much of it I had to let go. We are all just in a place right now that we want to connect, but we also need some space.
The planner extraordinaire in me wanted to use the opportunity of a break from school and hockey to plan all sorts of excursions and fun activities, but I knew that would be met with resistance. By all of us. I wouldn’t necessarily admit it, but I too would be resisting the tour guide version of a low key Christmas break. So I tried to tame it down a bit and come up with activities that we could pick out of a jar to do each day with little planning or time commitment.
While the theory sounds good, I found that we didn’t really end up picking things out of the jar. I had to be okay with that. It was hard.
One of my ideas, though, was an International Day of Food. We are a family that likes to eat. We like to cook. We like to be adventurous in our foods. So I figured for one of our “bigger” activities that would require us to engage more intentionally would be to have an International Day of Food.
Early in my scheming process I thought Christmas Eve might be ideal. We didn’t have anything planned and it seemed like a good way to spend the afternoon evening. At some point, though it felt too forced. So I shifted it to New Year’s Day, figuring that it is a day when we’d be mostly at home and have few distractions.
I pitched the idea to the boys and we all wrote down three countries or regions on slips of paper. Then we put them in a jar and each drew one. The intent was that we would have to choose a dish from that country or region, find a recipe for that dish and then we would all prepare the dishes together. We all took our slips of paper and pledged to look up a recipe and have it ready to go on New Year’s Eve so that we could shop for any special recipe items. I even invited my parents to join in the fun since we didn’t see them over Christmas.
Again, it sounds so good in theory, but in practice, well not so much. New Year’s Eve rolled around and neither Ziggy, nor Tanner, nor I had done much research. Both boys were going along with my plan, but it just felt wrong. It felt like a chore that we all had to do to fit some preconceived notion I had of what a family should do to bond.
I had done a wee bit of pondering about what kind of Greek food I’d like to make, but I felt the pressure of picking the right recipe. I started second guessing if we’d end up with all desserts, or all entrees. I pondered making two items so that I would at least know that we had one of each covered. It felt weighty and both Ziggy and Tanner didn’t really seem all that interested. They were playing along, but I could tell that they didn’t really want to do it.
When I came home from work on New Year’s Eve, the weight of it all was pretty much unbearable. I was tired. I was tired of trying to coordinate efforts – even though I knew it’d be good for us all – I was tired of being the tour director. I was tired of doing just my normal mom / wife duties which to be fair, aren’t that over the top.
All I could think about was the unread text on my phone from my mom. The one that asked what time she and my dad should come over with their recipes and ingredients.
It felt weighty. I felt like I just wanted to run away. I didn’t want to have to be in charge and I didn’t want to feel like I was forcing us to do something together.
I’ll admit, I got a little angry. I definitely slipped into passive aggressive mode – which is my go to when I’m feeling upset. I was tired of ‘forcing’ things, but I was also tired of acquiescing to lethargy which seemed to be what was happening a lot.
So I did what I do when I get like that. I clunked some dishes around the kitchen, just to let the boys know that I was busy in there and that there were emotions roiling inside me. The more they roiled, the more I felt like I was losing control. So I ran into my room. Closed the door with a little extra oomph. Then I went into my closet, left the light off and sat and cried.
I cried because this was the one ‘bigger’ activity that I’d talked about in terms of making our break a little more fun and a little less normal life. It was the one thing I’d been looking forward to doing because it had the potential to make some pretty special memories.
I cried because I was too tired of trying to make things special, without being too pushy or annoying.
I cried because I didn’t want to look up recipes or go grocery shopping anymore than Ziggy or Tanner did.
I cried because the thought of having to tell my parents what time to come over required more planning and coordination than I could muster.
I type this and can’t help but think, “Really Meghann… you’re that tired, with your oh, so busy life. You can’t make a simple decision or put on your cheerleader outfit to get the troops rallied?” In comparison, my life has slowed down tremendously. While I’m doing a variety of things these days, I intentionally try to make plans more flexibly. I make more time to just be. I try to let go of expectations and look at my motivations more objectively.
But even with all of that looseness, I was feeling overwhelmed. So, yes, I cried. Yes, I judged myself for crying. I judged myself for acting as though this ability to even have an International Food Night was such a burden. I judged myself for potentially letting my family down by not putting on my game face and trudging forward in an effort to do something good for all of us.
I sat with my back against the closet door, the clothes hanging in dark shadows on either side of me. I sat with tears streaming down my face and my legs hugged up close to my chest. I waited. I waited for someone to come after me. I waited for someone to notice that I was hurting.
I sniffled and groaned. I clenched my fists in an effort to get control of myself. I cried some more. I cried out for help – silently, but also screaming inside my head.
Eventually, my tears dried. My hands began to relax. My head tilted back to rest on the closet door and my legs straightened out a bit. I let the silence of my little closet settle around me. I let the darkness cover me like a blanket. I let the stillness comfort me as I also let my thoughts move a bit further away from self-pity and towards a solution.
I wish I could tell you that I felt at peace with the whole situation and left my closet a newly refocused person. That would be a lie. In truth, I was still hurting which means I was still passive aggressive.
I did emerge from the darkness with a bit more of a plan. My plan was to give in. My plan was to cancel our event and just go about my day doing other things. My plan was to do all of this with some extra huffing and puffing, just to be sure that everyone realized that I was giving up my plans for them.
In truth, even that was a lie. I was giving up on the plan because it didn’t feel right – to any of us. But feeling alone in the battle of whether or not to do International Food Day, I wanted to be sure everyone knew that I was disappointed. Enter, the huffing and puffing and the under the breath comments that I muttered when I returned to the kitchen red faced.
I waited, in my passive aggressive state, for either Ziggy or Tanner to tell me not to cancel. To tell me that they were excited to spend time together in the kitchen, but just needed some encouragement to get there. I waited, knowing full well, that it wasn’t going to happen.
Then I picked up the phone and called my parents. The call was short and sweet. I simply told my dad that we were going to cancel International Food Day and pretty much hung up. I didn’t trust myself to provide an explanation or answer any questions. So I defaulted to “letting him go so he could get back to whatever he’d been doing.” Code for “I can’t go there right now” and hung up.
I went back to cleaning up dishes and preparing dinner for the night. Even though my passive aggressiveness didn’t achieve the outcome I wanted, I did feel a sigh of relief at knowing that I didn’t have to pick out a recipe or battle the crowds at the grocery store. I announced at dinner, this time not under my breath, that I’d cancelled the festivities for the next day. Tanner looked at me inquisitively, sensing there was more than I was letting on, but he also seemed relieved.
Prior to all of this, I shared my grand plan of International Food Day with a friend and true to form she texted me wishing me a fun day with the family as we explored the world via food. I responded to her message and told her that we’d cancelled, but I thought it was for the best. Nothing like sugar coating it, or downplaying the process, huh?
What surprised me most was her response almost a day later… She commended me for being brave enough to cancel. To recognize when things don’t seem right or healthy at the time. She talked about our tendency as a society to put on our game face and make things work.
As I read those words, I was humbled. I wish I could say that my cancellation at that moment had been something more than self-serving. I wish I could say that it had noble intentions of honoring where we all were as a family. But it was pretty selfish. It was 98% about me pouting and wanting to make a statement with my actions and about 2% being in touch with my emotions, knowing that I wouldn’t be in the right state of mind to make memories.
What her words reminded me, though, was that I should celebrate that 2%. There was some small part of me that was okay with not being okay. There was that small part of me that has grown a little stronger each day that is willing to challenge the shoulds in my life. There was a small part of me that was willing to cancel on my parents and not worry about how they would view me.
The best part is the crash and burn of International Food Day ended up not being a crash and burn at all. While out on my run on New Year’s morning I made the decision that we would still have my family over for a meal. We’d make some memories but in a lower stakes way. We’d break out a game and just spend some time together.
When I came home from my run and announced my plans to Ziggy he smirked a little. He’s been married to me long enough to know my patterns and the way I work things out. He’d seen all of this coming, even if I had not – a trait that is both really annoying and also endearing. Then he shared that he thought that we should have lumpias and curry for dinner. He shouted up the stairs that Tanner should be ready for lumpia wrapping to commence at three and headed off to the store, twice. I made the phone call and invited my parents to join us.
I wish every scenario ended like this. It doesn’t. There are many times when my emotions get in the way and old habits of powering through take over. But as my friend reminded me, I will celebrate this transition and my willingness to cancel as well as my willingness to reschedule in a different way. It’s growth. It’s progress.