I had company over for dinner last Sunday. One week before I decided to precook most of the meal and freeze it to get ahead and save myself work the following weekend. Sure, I just put my six-year old son to bed after his third consecutive day with a 102 degree fever. Sure, I still had twenty-eight of my students’ essays left to grade. Sure, the four loads of unfolded laundry piled on my couch were taunting me and I hadn’t made school lunches for the next day. In my flawed wisdom, I decided to start precooking next week’s dinner guest meal at 8 PM on a Sunday night. Seriously, what is wrong with me? Best part? As I put the Pyrex tray of red peppers in the oven to roast, I silently praised myself thinking “Look at me. A working mom with a sick kid so organized and rocking it on a Sunday night. I’ve got this totally under control.” Right. Here’s what happened forty-five minutes later…
As I tried to lift the tray of red roasted peppers out of the oven, some of the pepper juice splashed on the bottom of the tray and…BOOM! The Pyrex shattered into hundreds of glass pieces. The peppers were ruined. The Pyrex was ruined. My oven and kitchen floor were covered with shards of pepper-coated glass. So much for having things under control.
I suppose I could have gotten upset. I can think back to times when I was so exhausted and overextended and far less things brought me to tears. I felt exhausted and overextended, but this time I didn’t feel like crying. Maybe I was too stunned by the mini explosion. Maybe I was relieved that none of the glass shards got into my eyes. Maybe I was thankful that my six-year-old, often magnetically attached to my side, was nowhere near the glass shard disaster of my kitchen. Maybe I’ve come to learn that getting upset about insignificant things isn’t worth it. I don’t know. I took a deep breath, closed the oven door, and decided to fold some clothes while the glass pieces cooled enough to clean them up. Clearly grading more essays was not going to happen tonight.
An hour later I methodically picked up, swept, and vacuumed the pepper-laced glass catastrophe. I wasn’t even bothered by it. I thought about my never ending To Do List. Much to my dismay and no matter how hard I try, it is impossible to complete every item on my list. And that damn list just keeps growing. As much as I wish I wasn’t, the truth is, I am a perfectionist. I not only want to complete every item on my list, I want to complete every item exceptionally well. I hold myself to ridiculously high standards. As I physically (and metaphorically) picked up the pieces, I couldn’t help but wonder why I am like this. Why do I do this to myself? I’m confident my guests could have cared less about eating red roasted peppers. Why do I feel such a need to get things done ahead of time? I’m fooling myself if I think it will actually calm the frenzied pace of my life. Why do I put so much pressure on myself? Is it my temperament? Is it because I was raised by a stay-at-home mom and I keep trying to do all the things she did even though I am a full-time working mom? Have I overestimated my own abilities? I really don’t know. As I continued to clean the mess in my kitchen, I realized that the why doesn’t matter. What matters is that I need to stop doing this to myself.
I decided to frame the Pyrex pepper picture and hang it in my kitchen. The next time I feel the urge to get ahead by adding even more to my already overflowing plate, I hope this picture serves as a reminder and a warning. The lives of today’s working moms are frenetic at best. Sometimes just saying no might help save our sanity…and our Pyrex.