The past few months have been stressful.
I’m not going to drone on with the reasons why, as that isn’t the story I am writing. I will say however, that three weeks ago I had the largest dark circles you’d ever seen. My eyes were dull, my skin was pale and I hardly stopped to look at my children’s faces as they played in the lush green grass of the backyard, or kiss my husband’s mouth, and take in the sensory detail of his warm, loving presence.
It wasn’t anything in particular, just a lot of little things. You know those moments that don’t mean much on their own, but when piled up, one on top of the other, they create a large shadow, a tight chest, a shaky hand and a racing mind. You no longer stop to breathe and take in each step, but rather race ahead of yourself on to the next task and the next, stopping only for brief, unsatisfying sleep before diving straight into a new day of endless, monotonous tasks.
As I sat in front of my mother for the first short break of the day, at her dark wooden dining table with a coffee in hand and a large slice of cheesecake on my plate, I pondered what it would be like to live in a house so pristine. Everything dusted, polished and shiny, with mopped floors and grubless walls. The boys, having inhaled their food in an instant, wandered around the room in excitement, looking for new things to see, touch, taste and smell. I told her how hectic life had become and how little sleep I was getting, putting emphasis on the impact it was taking on everything I did.
She looked over her glasses at me with the caring concern of the person who had been there for every fall I’d taken, be it the scraped knee at five or the woes of a cheating longterm partner at 17.
“I think you need a break.” She said, matter of factly. “Tell Francis to take the day off Thursday and have day together. I’ll take the three boys, we’ll have fun.”
Of course she’d saved me, again, I thought. I honestly don’t know where I’d be without her. Smiling, I said thank you and gave her a hug, then we finished our morning tea, and I was off again, children in tow, to the next appointment we had.
Thursday morning came and, true to her word, Mum was at the front door by nine, keen to take the boys on an adventure to the city. They giggled, jumped and squealed in anticipation as she packed them all into her car and drove them off to see the big towers and pretty parks.
It was nice to have a break, it truly was. I got a lot more done than I would on a normal day. However, the stress did not subside. By the end of the day it was actually worse, as I’d grown anxious for the return of my babies. I’d missed them and I wanted them home.
I got as little sleep that night as any other night.
The following Sunday, I was sitting at my laptop paying some bills and fixing up some drafts, when I looked out to my husband playing tag with the kids. I noticed that as the sun was going down behind the trees, it had cast an orange hue in scattered streams of light over the four most important people of my life. As they kicked and jumped and tumbled through the grass, they shed dandelions, which flew up all around them, reflecting in the light like shimmery fairies.
I stared in awe at that picturesque moment in time, then back at the lines of text in front of me, then promptly shut off my laptop and began vigorously packing bags with towels, togs and sandals.
I took us all on a surprise trip that afternoon. It wasn’t planned. It wasn’t scheduled in. It just was. The sun was almost down when we arrived at the pier and most of the cafe’s were beginning to bustle as the dinner menu began.
The sun was almost completely out of view and the horizon turned a beautiful mixture of yellow, orange, pink and blue. We grabbed our things and ran out onto the beach without a care in the world. My two eldest ran back and forth with Dad as the small waves rippled in with frothy edges that reached out to get them, then retreated back again, four little legs bounding behind.
My youngest wobble-walked his way through the sand, smiling, jabbering and babbling in excitement. I crouched down low, and crept towards him. Beaming with glee, he bolted rather clumsily away from me as I pranced towards him. Knowing his fate as I came near, he let out a squeal and giggled uncontrollably as I picked him up, spun him around then dropped us both gently down into the sand, tickling his belly with both hands.
He looked up to me with an expression of pure love and I stared down into his sparkling, blue eyes. His big brothers and Francis reappeared from the chase with the surf and happily sat down on each side of us, cuddling in for a magic moment. I finally realised. The sweetest moment of clarity I’d had in so many weeks.
All I needed was time, with you.