This past weekend I was at Mo-Ranch in the Texas Hill Country for a long weekend retreat with my family (minus Doctor Daddy) and our church family. Today was a hard day with the kids, as we are all feeling the Mo exhaustion – from lots of heat, lots of walking, lots of swimming, playing, and staying up late.
Sunday evening I found myself in a funk – feeling a little bit sorry for myself after more misbehavior at bedtime with the over-tired kids, more frustration about NOT having been able to reach Dustin for several days due to bad cell phone reception, and the reality of knowing that he’ll be just as hard to connect with once we’re home again because of his awful new work schedule. Once I finally collapsed into a camping chair “in the circle” of other grown-ups out on the lawn (most of them my parents’ age), one of the ladies mentioned that I must be exhausted after keeping up with the kids all day. I could have just nodded and agreed, but she opened a can of rotten worms, and I just dumped them out all over everybody with the truth – a truth I hadn’t had a chance to speak to anyone all day. “Well, yes. I am feeling exhausted, but not really just because of today. Mostly because I’m realizing what’s awaiting me when I return home.” I explain as best I can without breaking down, but it is just a reality that is hard for people to grasp – they think I’m a doctor’s wife, so life can’t be that bad, right?
It’s not bad, but it has just gotten exponentially more challenging since Dustin has begun his fellowship and is literally almost never home, almost always unreachable, and making lots less money, and it’s a 4-year program. So, yes, I’m feeling exhausted, but I’m also feeling overwhelmed by my new role as a “single” parent who is now taking on more work to make ends meet, feeling lonely and without a companion to help me through it all, feeling resentful that on top of it all, my children seem to be harder than most (I know, I know, you feel the same way about your children. Let’s just agree to disagree.) Have you ever met my children? They are higher energy, higher maintenance, higher rate of necessary discipline/ interventions, higher rate of tantrum/ talking back, higher rate of mess than most others I have met! But I don’t go into all of that, because I realize that my honest answer is bringing everybody down on their vacations. Instead, I’m left feeling alone and teary-eyed in the chair, breathing deeply to try to inhale a little peace from the clear night air.
As I’m looking up at the dark sky through the branches of the tree, I see a few twinkling stars, and mention that the stars must be glorious tonight….out here away from the lights of the city, on a moonless night at Mo. If only we had the energy to get up and take a few steps out from under the tree to appreciate them. I rally a couple of other ladies, and lo and behold! There is Orion and there’s the Big Dipper, and yes, that’s the Milky Way! The sky is just filled with thousands of twinkling stars. It is truly breath-taking. We decide to take a night-time walk away from the lights of the buildings. We lay down on the “Kitty walk”, a pedestrian bridge near the river. We chat in the dark as we take in the panoramic astronomic view and spy 6 shooting stars! Ahhhhh, deep breath, now I’m feeling much better. That was just what I needed to get me out of my selfish funk! What I know for sure – I always find peace in nature, and if I’m lucky, revelations!
I realize once again how BIG the universe is, how small I am, and how insignificant my problems are in the great scheme of things. These stars also remind me what a miracle it is that in all the universe – in all the galaxies and species of time and space, that the molecules and stars have lined up to give me my two little “stars” – my Ellie and Michael James. The two little stars who were brave enough to get up and sing solos in last night’s talent show: “Statue of Liberty” (MJ) and “The ABC’s” (Ellie). My two little stars - one of whom left a bird feather in my toiletry kit, and a bag of trash in our bathroom sink “doing a science experiment”. My two little stars – one of whom said “Goodbye, Bad Mommy!” today in a fit of rebellion and anger, the other one who got in trouble for throwing a shoe at me! My two little stars – one of whom covered himself in dirt this morning at the chapel on the hill, the other one who found my lipgloss to smear all over her naked body like “lotion” during nap-time.
Of all the stars in the sky, the three of us were put on the same one, planet Earth. And at the same time, in the same family, no less – what a miracle! These must be the two little stars I am meant to have and to hold, to raise and to reprimand, to teach and to touch, to love and to learn from – there is no mistaking or escaping it. These are the two little stars that the Universe feels I can handle, should handle, and so I better rise to the challenge, whether I like it some days or not. Even on days when it seems like they must be from another planet, or when I wish I could take a quick trip to “Mars for more candy bars”, and just an escape from it all. Ellie and Michael James are my stars, and my job is to let them and help them shine! And so, the next day as I snuggle with them at bed-time, I remind them of another truth that I should tell them more: “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, What a Wonderful Child You Are!”