Mama Said There’d Be Days Like This…

There’d be days like this, my mama said.

When I was little, I was pretty entrepreneurial (go figure) and would find ways to make money helping my parents around the house. I’d get 5 cents for every pair of socks I matched up after my dad did laundry and once I was old enough, I’d get a whole DOLLAR for every piece of clothing I’d iron.

Sometimes, I’d even clean out my mom’s car which consistently had coffee stains, empty SlimFast cans, and granola bar wrappers all over. That was the motherload. I’d get $10! Jackpot.

I’d roll my eyes at the mess, but didn’t really care since it was a way for me to make more allowance and as I scrubbed out the stains and brushed the crumbs off of the seats and floor, I would think to myself, “When I drive, my car will be so clean!”

It wasn’t just her car, though. Walking through her home office I’d see dried up nail polish stuck to the carpet, binders full of documents strewn about, and crumpled up napkins she’d use to clean her glasses. Microfiber rag? Please. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Years passed, I grew up and started driving. I went away to college, graduated, and got a good, professional, job of my own. Oh, and I ended up needing glasses, too.

Now, after a few months of working nearly 10 hour days, I’m starting to notice that my glasses are always dirty and my car has plenty of food wrappers and coffee stains. My house looks like someone raided it trying to find my stash of priceless jewels.

I’m a hot mess.

I realize now that my mom’s lack of cleanliness in these little areas wasn’t due to neglect, but such passion for her job that she didn’t prioritize them… Just like I’m doing now.

Stop working to clean my glasses? Nah, I’d rather power through a few more emails; someone needs insurance coverage and someone else needs flights booked, like yesterday.

And my car? Well that might as well be a mini apartment on wheels. I’m pretty sure I’ve slept in it and had a number of “balanced” meals in it. I don’t clean it often… Besides occasionally chucking a grocery bag full of trash into the gas station receptacle while I fill up from running on fumes.

My point is, I have bigger fish to fry… And so did my mom.

I had always listened to that old folk song, “Cats in the Cradle” and thought that following in your parents’ footsteps was a bad thing. But, I’ve realized in the last few months that that having similar experiences has led me to understand them more than I ever thought I would as an angsty teenager or an allowance-hungry child.

I’m proud of my mom for for the hours she put in and the times that she ate lunch at her desk to get to where she is today because I sure could do a whole lot worse than following in her footsteps. She’s always been calm, cool, and level-headed, no matter what life threw at her. But, she also always told me “you’re only as happy as your most unhappy child.”

Being one of those children, I think that phrase made me strive for a perky, pleasant demeanor at all times; putting on a ‘font’ to give the impression that nothing was wrong. We all do this a little, but it’s not healthy to do too much.

Through high school and college, I’d call myself the “kumbaya” of the group, just wanting everyone to be happy and not wanting things to go wrong. I’d take matters into my own hands and take on more responsibilities than I had time for just to ensure someone else’s day was made a little easier.

Today at work truly challenged that ‘perkiness’ that I’ve tried so hard to keep over the years. I walked into work at 8am to discover that the cleaning crew had thrown nearly everyone’s food away (sparing only a few yogurts and condiments).

After trying to deal with that debacle, I discovered in the afternoon that my bank account had over-drafted after I sent one of my art pieces to a friend to auction at their event to raise money for a community food shelf, which seems sadly ironic.

I think it’s a sign, though. It’s been a trend in my life that I give until it hurts. I bought people lunches when I knew they don’t have money. I gave people rides when I knew they need to be somewhere without the means to get there. It didn’t matter if I needed to eat ramen or be late to my appointments because of it.

I just need to be better at asking people for help when I’m struggling… and admit that sometimes I struggle… and not feel guilty or disappointed in myself when I do. The point of helping each other is that it’s reciprocal.

So… if anyone wants to go out to lunch in the next week and a half, I may ask you to spot me until after payday, but you know it’d be my pleasure to pay next time. ❤

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