Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Urgent VS. The Essential - thoughts from the Polar Vortex

What was supposed to be a 3-day weekend has, thanks to the Polar Vortex, become a 5-day weekend. While normally this would be cause for excitement, the walls of our house seem to be closing in ever more quickly. And, despite popular assumption that extra time at home results in more productivity, this is a complete logical fallacy. The more time spent at home, the needier my children become and the deeper their inability to tolerate each other (and me). The longer the length of time spent away from the "real" world and the workplace the longer the "To Do" list grows and the heavier my anxiety about how to get it all done.

Last night, while laying in bed and thinking through the myriad things to which I needed to attend, I came close to tears from the overwhelming mass of it all. I actually couldn't keep track of all that I had to be worried about, the list too long. Between grad school deadlines and piles of grading and the details of travel plans not falling into place, I wondered when I would get to the grocery store to get more strawberry jelly and coffee creamer.

I hear a little whimper, then a hoarse cry. "Mama." I get out of bed and walk to my 4-year-old's room. She is sick, has been sick for 3 days. I lean over her bed and touch her cheek. She lifts her eyelids for only a moment, then reaches out and grabs my hand.

"I want you to lay down with me."

I lay down beside her, tucking silky blonde strands of hair behind her ear. Her breathing evens. I think she has gone back to sleep. I watch her chest lift up and down for a few more minutes, then sit up to go back to my own bed. Again, her little hand grabs mine.

"I want you to lay down with me forever."

I lay back down. Kiss her warm forehead. "I promise I'll love you forever," I whisper.

"Me too, Mama," she whispers back.

I lay still beside her, listen to her soft snores, and wish  I could promise to lay here forever, to keep her safe and warm next to me, to kiss away fears and fevers. But there is too much that is beyond me, too much I can't control, too much outside of this moment vying for time and attention. Too many days and years bearing down upon us. But I have this moment. A quiet moment in the dark, snuggling with my sweet, snoring baby to remind me that all that stuff I worried about moments ago isn't nearly as important as what I'm holding in my arms.

My days may be filled with deadlines and To Do lists, but my arms, my heart, my life is filled with those I love. And I'm ever learning how to set aside the urgent in order to attend to that which is essential.


  1. That's really sweet, Anna. I'm glad you understood the importance of that moment. Some never do. I hope your little Squirt gets better real soon. I HATE it when they're sick.

    1. Oh, I know, Danni. I just hate it when they're sick too. I would say that I'd gladly take it if I could, but she did indeed give me her sickness and it didn't make it any better for her :( I know that I miss too many of these moments, so I was so glad to have caught this one. Thanks, Danni - hope you're on the mend!

  2. This was really lovely, Anna. A welcome reminder.

  3. I need to tack this up on my wall...but my "baby" is almost 13 and prefers to kick me out of her room. :(

    1. 13 or not, she'll always be your baby. And remembering the essential does become several degrees more difficult as they grow. But maybe that means we fight harder to remember and to push past their resistance. One day they'll be glad for it, though maybe not at the time :) (I know I did and I was NOT a picnic as a teenager.)


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