816 North

Susan Vollenweider - A quiet night’s project

The house is finally quiet but not silent. I can hear the refrigerator’s ice maker drop a batch, then reload with water for the next. A bug tings the window by my desk. The air conditioning clicks on. A car drives by, the bass thumping louder than the engine roar.

The house floor creaking has stopped; the other four people who live here are tucked into their beds. I don’t have to see to know: Luke went out first. He is like me, we call it “sleep gifted.” Head + pillow = Land of Nod.

Noah would have taken a little longer, but then he flipped onto his stomach and sleep overtook him. He’s been that way since he mastered rolling over.

Bekah takes time. Her mind keeps racing and she has to still it. Some nights she can’t do it on her own and I hear the medicine cabinet opening then water running.

She gets her racing mind from Brian. He is usually the first to wake (at an hour I call “the crack of yesterday”), the last to sleep.

But not tonight.

Today I failed at something. This is not a today-only occurrence, I fail at things all the time. I saw a T-shirt recently that said “Fail fast, learn faster.” I should own one — the message rings true. The thing that I started and failed earlier and now must restart gives me the honor of being the last one in the family to put her head down. The last one to climb the stairs for today and the one who gets to turn out the lights.

Someone has to be that person. Surely Brian doesn’t want to hog the job every night. Some nights it’s my turn. Sharing is supposed to be a good thing for a relationship, right?

I look at my failed project and try to figure out where I went wrong. The errors are many. They leap and show off before my eyes. It’s a mess. What my project is doesn’t matter, what matters is that it must be done — I have a deadline.

But instead of concentrating on the task before me, I try to think back to a time when I didn’t have a deadline of some sort.

Would it have been before the kids started school? No, things had to be done on a schedule. It was in all the parenting books that I read:

Keep kids on a schedule

. So I let the deadlines of times organize our days: meal time, nap time, play time, tummy time, bath time, bed time.

It certainly wasn’t before we had kids. My body’s parts had a deadline — babies had to come before a certain age. My last one came at 41. I guess I made the deadline.

In my head I think back in time to increasingly younger versions of myself and get all the way back to pre-school age. I can’t remember back that far and I have to imagine my childhood thoughts. I realize that there were always deadlines, ones that I had to keep or ones that had to be kept for me.

(Thanks, Mom and Dad.)

But my project is before me and distracted thought isn’t going to get it done. I get to work. Sometimes this type of project doesn’t feel like work, but starting on it now feels very work-like. My head is swimming with wannas and don’t wannas, but I shut everything else out.

I focus.

I think.

My brain sheds the work feeling and replaces it with a high of impending accomplishment.

I check.

I correct.

And, as another batch of ice drops, I finish.