I may seem like I have it together, but can assure you, I DO NOT. A couple months back, all the stresses and frustrations caught up with me, and I literally broke. Have you been there?
It was only 7:12am, and I could already feel my heart racing.
It was the last week of school, my husband was traveling, and every kid needed more than I could give.
“Mom, did you get a gift for my teacher?”
It was the last week of school, and teacher appreciation week, and all week, my kid had gone to school empty-handed because I just hadn’t gotten it together enough to get a special gift for his teacher. (Side note: Can we slide teacher appreciation week to a different week of the school year? Because I can’t.) I’d meant to come up with a sweet gift for his wonderful teacher (one day it’s flowers, another day it’s candy, etc.), but I just hadn’t been able to. Heck, I couldn’t even get it together enough to get milk and bread for my kids, must less find the exact flower the teacher had requested and buy it.
I was treading water.
And starting to feel like I was drowning.
“No, I’m sorry. I haven’t had a chance to get anything for her,” I said, looking down and feeling like a failure.
I knew I’d poured everything I had into our family that week, but as the words fell out of my mouth, it was confirmation that my best just wasn’t good enough.
My son started crying, hysterically. “But I’m the only one who hasn’t brought something this week,” he choked out.
“Okay,” I said, my mind racing. We were already late for school. My eyes darted around the house to find something, anything, that could fix this situation so that we could start loading the car.
“How about an apple, a pack of gum, this picture frame?”
Then, my son’s eyes fell on a pot of tulips on our dining room table.
Tulips that a friend had brought me a few days before.
A gift that, in a week of overwhelm and stress, had reminded me that everything was going to be okay. I know it sounds silly, but those flowers were mine. And all week, they’d been my secret reminder to myself that everything was going to be okay.
As I considered my son’s innocent request, my eyes filled with rage.
This thing. This ONE thing.
This pot of flowers felt like the last thing left.
The only thing left that was for me, that was keeping me afloat.
I had given everything else away.
“FINE!” I screamed. “Take the flowers to your teacher. They’re my flowers, but you can take them.”
The words flew out of my mouth, forcefully and angrily.
The rage combined with a deep sadness in my throat, and as I slid on my sunglasses and the tears began streaming down my cheeks.
I had nothing left to give.
(I know it sounds silly, but in that moment… that desperate moment, that is truly what it felt like.)
I threw the flower pot in the back of the car, made sure everyone was buckled, and muttered “Mommy isn’t going to be talking on the way to school today.”
I cried hard in the front seat for that entire, 30-minute drive to school.
I blasted worship music so the kids wouldn’t heard my sobs.
I felt alone. I felt defeated.
I felt like I wasn’t just misstepping, but failing, on literally every level.
As the next song came on the radio, I meditated on the words because they were literally all I had:
Lord, I need You, oh I need You
Every hour, I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You
As I strained to not make a sound as I cried, I clenched the steering wheel and prayed a prayer I can tell you I’d never, ever prayed before.
“Jesus, please help me make it through this day.”
After dropping the kids off, I realized I’d made plans to meet up with a friend for a walk on the water.
Crap. She was a newer friend, and there was no way I’d get through our conversation without crumbling in front of her.
I can’t let her see me like this. She probably thinks I have it all together, and I don’t. Now she will know.
Usually, I would make up an excuse and cancel, but for some reason, I didn’t.
Even though she was a new friend, I made a bold decision. To be real.
“How’s your day going?” was all she got out before my face twisted into an endless stream of tears and sobs. It was one of those days. Like, all someone needs to do is look you in the eye, and ask a single question, and you’re letting it all out. You guys, it was a full-on ugly cry.
There’s no going back from here. I’m literally dumping this all in her lap and she doesn’t even know me that well.
But there was no going back. I couldn’t hide my stress. I couldn’t mask my overwhelm.
I let it out.
We finally sat down on a park bench, near the seawall where people fish.
I got to the part where my son needed the tulips. It was a metaphor for every last thing being taken from me. For feeling like nothing I do is good enough. For feeling that my best was still failing.
There was no more keeping it in. I’d been straining my sobs all morning in the car, but now we were outside, and my kids (except the baby) were gone. No one could hear me but her. And she sat there and received my pain.
I was balling. I was wailing. I could no longer control the sounds coming out of my mouth.
I was broken.
In that moment, I’ll never forget the voice I heard.
A gruff, overweight fisherman who’d been on the seawall, listening to my whole story, turned around, looked me in the eye and said:
“You’re doing a great job, Mama. You have the hardest job in the world. I could never do what you do. You are amazing.”
It was funny to hear those tender words coming from the mouth of a scruffy, tough-looking fisherman.
But they did.
“Thank you,” I mumbled, and added a joke that I was sorry he had to listen to a crazy lady while he was fishing. I clearly had lost any sense of decency and didn’t even care who had heard my wails.
As weird as it sounds, the words of strangers stay with you.
After that day, that ‘new’ friend became a real friend, and we’ve shared some real stuff.
After that, I realized that it’s okay to let the walls down.
After that, I also realized that I can’t control everything. And so, I made a decision.
I will control what I can. And the rest, I’ll give to God.
It’s so much easier to hand Him the hard stuff and take it off my plate. It doesn’t always come naturally, and I’m definitely a work in progress, but it’s helped me remember the good stuff.
Like fishermen and tulips and real friends.
Have you ever had a day like this? You are not alone! Head over to the Facebook page and share your story.