Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Dropping the Tray

Yesterday, Laura did a wonderful post about ignoring the tray. Laura is a working mom with twin boys who runs, has a huge social network, and also managed to find some spare time to kick off her photography business. Trust me, I've missed about a bizillion things that she also does in her average week. I'm always amazed by how much she manages to pack into her life, and I'm pretty sure that not only does she not sleep, but that she also uses a Timer Turner like Hermione in Harry Potter.

Her point in her post is that one of her tricks to pulling all of this off is that she "ignores the tray". Or, that she doesn't focus on everything that's stacked on her tray, she just picks the damn thing up and carries it. I think that's an awesome philosophy.

It's also one that I haven't been able to pull off lately. In fact, not only have I failed at ignoring the tray, I think I dumped it on my head. Even worse, instead of cleaning up the mess and moving on, I've been yelling at myself for dumping it while kicking the plates around temper tantrum style.

I have a huge list of things that I need to get done. Huge. Dentist appointments that should have been scheduled six months ago. A slow leak in my tire that I drove on for months. My bathroom hadn't been cleaned in so long I refuse to confess to just how long I let it slide. This is just the tip of the ice berg.

It got to the point where I'd sit there listing everything I needed to do in my head, but instead of just taking one thing at a time and working my way through the list, I would get overwhelmed and not do any of it. Which only made the list grow over time. To the point where it felt like I'd never, ever be caught up again. All of the stress I was building up over it, made it even harder to think about tackling the monster.

Last week, Michael had some tummy troubles that lead to delayed bedtimes and me flip flopping between thinking I needed to take him to the ER and being angry because I thought he was playing it up for attention. After several nights of this, he had a particularity bad evening. Andy saw just how worked up I was getting and sent me away while he stayed with Michael.

I stepped away, and then I lost it. I just cried and cried and cried. Not just because I was concerned and frustrated over Michael's tummy troubles, but for the family issues I dealt with last fall. For the two months when I had strep/sinus infection/chest infection/messed up ribs and had to continue working because I had no sick time left. For the lump my mom found in her breast and all of the shitty stuff that has come with that. For the endless stress of trying to save up some time off while everything is conspiring to use it up. For being mad at myself for being overwhelmed by things that are overwhelming. For all of it.

I realize now what my mistake was. I decided to just plow right through everything. I didn't have a choice about going to work, or waiting for news from my mom, or any of the things I did. What I could have done, however, is recognize that it was hard and find ways to take care of myself through it all. You know, like maybe I could have asked for help. Maybe I could have cut myself a break when I wasn't pulling things off as well I I hoped. Maybe, just maybe, I could have sat down and had a good cry a few months earlier than I did. Maybe I could have cut myself a break. Getting it done was enough, I didn't need to do it with style and grace.

I've worked in the restaurant business and I've carried a lot of trays. Trays that were stacked way too high and were not balanced properly. I rarely ever dropped anything, but I'll be honest, until yesterday I had never heard of the the phrase "ignore the tray". I simply made sure that my hands were clean and that the bottom of the tray wasn't greasy. That was the only way to ensure a good foundation for carrying a tray, and it's that foundation that allows you to ignore the tray in the first place.

Last week, I took a little time to work on my own needs and help rebuild that foundation. Now it's time to get back out there and start serving again.


LauraC said...

Wait... are you saying everything will catch up to me?? Just kidding!

I don't think you read my blog then but when the boys were 15 months old, I had a backed up to-do list of over 100 things. It was CRAZY. It was because we just powered through that completely insane first year with twins. I don't know how we did it, in hindsight.

Anyway I put together this blog called 100 things in 100 days where I did one thing each day from my list. It was amazing how much better I felt after that summer, just mentally in a better place because all that mental clutter was gone.

That said, I thinkthere is a time and place for ignoring the tray and powering on. I'm in a happy place right now so I can power through. But the first year with twins and my grandmother dying? I didn't have time to breathe much less take care of myself, so I had a rebuilding year. A foundation year.

Excellent post Joanna, lots to think about!

Lindsay said...

Beautiful post, Joanna! You have a knack for putting into beautiful essays exactly what I can only put in bullet form.

Tanika Davis said...

Great post, Joanna! Between you and Laura, I'm going to get through the massive list of things I have to do this summer, and make all the important decisions I know I need to make, and even if the tray wobbles a little, your words will resonate, and I'll remember to ignore that darn tray and just keep it movin'. Thanks!
P.S. Sounds like you handled all the things going on in your life with strength and humor. Give yourself a hand -- and a break!

Julie said...

Okay Joanna, you are being hard on yourself. You HAVE handled everything with grace and strength. In some situations, there is no choice but to power through. What is amazing about you is that you are so self-aware that you can recognize when you need to take some time for tending to yourself and then you do it. And its okay to cry your head off for all of the challenges you have endured. You still make me laugh (you totally got my joke on my last post, btw).

Oh, and my shower looks like a science project.

JenFen said...

We all drop the tray from time to time. But I know you will take some time for yourself and then pick that tray back up, put everything back on it and ignore it.

And I concur that although I love your post and I completely get where you are coming from, I also think you are being just a wee bit hard on yourself instead of realizing that you did what you had to do and you have made it through some very difficult months with amazing strength, grace, courage, humor and honesty. I have such admiration for you.

Maria said...

This is beautiful and sweet and heartbreaking all at the same time. You do so much for so many and don't do nothing or something for yourself nearly as often as you deserve. You are fantastic and I hope you start feeling better and more balanced soon. I will treat you to a big delicious drink (or several) in Boston!