BY: Kathleen E Frey

 

I once heard a story about a woman who forgot to put her car in “park” in the driveway. It was an inclined driveway and gravity, being the jerk it can be, took the car at the precise moment she went behind to unload the groceries. Just when this lady thought some things were impossible, she learned otherwise in the worst way. She ran herself over. 

 

The woman survived by the way. This is consolation enough. We can use her story as an illustration of the “mental load” we carry. I have a feeling you know exactly what I’m talkin’ about. A new school year and extracurriculars are underway, after all. Other than reading this, what other ten things are filing through your brain right now? Bills due? Phone calls to make? When’s practice? Whose birthday? School supplies? Did you turn off the hair straightener? (I’m sure you did!) 

 

How could this woman be so distracted as to run herself over? Sheesh…let me count the ways…

 

Maybe she’s thinking about what she forgot to buy at the store. She struggles like the mom from “The Seven Silly Eaters”— a too-true, fictional story of a tired momma with a crew who won’t eat the same darned things. I bet she bends over backwards to feed her family. Maybe, Mikey won’t eat anything that looks “weird”. Wally only likes fruit and mom has to hide protein powder in most meals. Nick is lactose intolerant, so nothing dairy for him. Jo will only eat cheese and yogurt. Then there’s Kate who won’t touch a meal with mixed elements. Noodles have to be separate from the meatballs, which have to be dipped in sauce and not covered. Emma won’t eat meat with “strings” and George won’t eat “spongy” meat, and well, there are few meats that are neither stringy nor spongy. Maybe she doesn’t even have seven kids? Maybe it’s just one kid with all these preferences? Or, one kid with a different aversion each day of the week? She has a trunk full of food and one all-consuming thought: What the hell am I going to cook for dinner? Then, she steps out from the driver seat, forgetting one little thing.

 

Or, it could be, she pulls up to the house and notices an animal has scattered the trash again. There was too much to fit in the can, so a bag was tossed on the ground. There’s paper plates with moldy cheese crusted on them, coffee grounds stuck to bread crusts stuck to wads of paper towels stuck to watermelon rinds, naked apples with only the peels eaten off, various scraps of meats and bones, and diapers, diapers, diapers. What kind of freakin’ animal chews open a poopy diaper? She ponders various types of rodents just before wondering whether the car is rolling backward or she is leaning forward, but it’s too late.

 

Perhaps she’s thinking about that one comment someone made twenty years ago? The one that felt super passive-aggressive before the bully called her “hypersensitive.” She wavers between feeling fickle, feeling annoyed for being attuned to nuances, and feeling regretful for not defending herself. Why can’t I just let it go? She chastises herself for not having closure, for once again allowing this shard to splinter into a thousand memories of rejection by various family members and acquaintances. It’s become a massive bomb packed tightly with years of hurt. It explodes in her head from time to time (usually during mundane tasks like driving and grocery shopping). The whisper of that tiny comment ignites the bomb. Once it explodes, her whole world is blown away in an instant—including her minivan’s gear shift. 

 

*Who needs a dentist appointment? Did my husband renew his tags? Will there be enough money in the savings to pay taxes? Does God believe in karma?  Did I return those library books? No, I didn’t. Crap. Do they still have late fees? Am I a bad person? There’s cub scouts tomorrow. Is it our turn to bring snacks? Should we refinance our house? When is junk day? Is that person giving me the silent treatment? Do I ignore it or break it?  When was my last mammogram? Is it true, it’s better to learn reading later rather than sooner? My son asked me why they anoint people with oil at baptisms…gotta look that up. Is it okay that our homeschool day only lasts about an hour? Maybe we should just unschool. Do my kids have enough friends? When was the last time I talked to my best friend? What the hell am I going to cook for dinner anyway?  I should, I should, I should, I should, I didn’t, I didn’t, I didn’t, I didn’t, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t….but I need to. 

 

“How could this woman be so distracted as to run herself over?” At worst, the real question is, “Was it really an accident?” And at best, “How is this only the first time?” With all that going on, and probably more, we’ve narrowly escaped becoming a speed bump on a daily basis. I think of this lady every time I pull into my driveway with a trunk full of groceries. Every. Single. Time. I put the van in P, use the parking brake (just in case), and often promptly return to the asterisk*. Yet, thanks to her unfortunate fate, I remember to stabilize the van first. I’d venture to say every momma has an * embedded somewhere in a well-worn rut of her brain. 

 

Hear me out momma. What if instead of just returning to the * and rifling through the not-done list, we just resigned? I don’t mean “give up” or “quit”. We teach our kids to never give up, do we not? It’s more purposeful and dignified than desperate. It’s a choice, not a last resort; although, sometimes it’s both. Just put life in park. Don’t set ourselves up to run ourselves over.  And just…resign.

 

Anne Lammot says, “It helps to resign as the controller of your fate. All that energy we expend to keep things running right is NOT what’s keeping things running right.” At first glance, that freaks me out—someone telling me I’m not in control. Yikes. Are you sure? But then, I remember the words of 1 Peter: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” I feel like I often take on this role for others—let me worry for you so you don’t have to. Turns out, that’s not my job. It’s God’s. 

 

We have not only permission, but an invitation—not only an invitation, but a command—to hand our worries over. Not just a few, not just the extra ones, but all of our anxieties. In truth, a few is too many and they are all extra. I know caring translates into worrying for many of us moms. But, when it all becomes too heavy, we can, and are called to, unload that burden into hands bigger than our own.

 

In Teaching from Rest, Sarah Mackenzie writes, “If God expected you to get 36 hours worth of work done in a day, He would have given you 36 hours to do it. If you have more to do than time to do it, the simple fact is some of what you were doing isn’t on His agenda for you.” How many hours are in your day? Too many and not enough, like mine? 

 

The problem is not what’s on my agenda or your’s. The problem is assuming it’s our agenda when it’s not. I can ask God to come over and put away my six loads of laundry, but chances are it doesn’t work that way (dang). Instead, I’ll think a five-second-ditty-prayer when I sorta wake up: help me to follow Your agenda for my day and not my own. If I go to sleep feeling like I missed something today, I probably have. But it’s most likely not one of the tasks on my not-done list keeping me restless. It was God—I missed out on God today. Thankfully, God will be there the next 24 hours and the next and so on. 

 

We can’t escape so many of the practical items that need doing on a typical day, but we can lessen a great deal of the mental load with prayer. Some days (you know the kind),  it’s like breathing to say, “Help Me God/ Jesus/ Holy Spirit/ Whoever-is-most-readily-available-at-this-time”. It’s like breathing not because it’s easy. Not because it’s automatic. But, because it’s necessary. It starts with just one thing entrusted. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take one less thing any day of the week. I think, perhaps, it multiplies from there—one breath at a time—until it’s not only necessary, but also easy and automatic. The load decreases as our trust in God increases. And suddenly, we can’t exist any other way but to pray as we live and breathe. That’s my strategy. You’re welcome to it. I figure, at the very least, we’ll be able to unload the groceries a little bit more safely. 

 

 

THE SEVEN SILLY EATERS by Mary Ann Hoberman

 

By: the Documom Kathleen E Frey

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