It was right around 9:30AM that the mental gremlins descended. They came from nowhere, overwhelming me with the realization that the day was already all wrong, and I had to do something, make something happen, to fix it. It's like the feeling when the seam on the front of my socks runs crooked over my toes, or my skirt is just twisted a quarter turn around my waist, or my french braid is not exactly in the middle of my head. It's a physical feeling of wrongness, and I cannot concentrate on anything else until it's put right. The problem is that when this feeling strikes about a whole day, it's awfully hard to satisfy it. I'm at the mercy of the gremlins, trying to hear them tell me what the next right thing is to do or not do. Meanwhile, everything that's a little imperfect is a catastrophe. While nursing the baby, I got so tense and angry over his never-quite-right latch that I had to put him down on the floor and walk into another room while he screamed because I was afraid that I would accidentally hurt him while trying again, futilely, to make that latch what I feel it should be. When I looked at the day ahead, full of laundry and little chores, I knew that I just had to go back to bed because I would never be able to play out the day in a way that would satisfy these mental tyrants. Nothing would be right. Everything would be wrong. There would be no functioning.
And then, in a moment of grace, I remembered something that I've learned before: there really is no satisfying these tyrants. I can knock myself out trying to satisfy the compulsion for mythical perfection, and I will end up unsatisfied. So I committed myself to a "what comes next" day. Slowly, carefully, I do the next thing that I know needs to be done. I changed out of my pajamas into real clothes. I combed deliberately through my hair, pulling it back into a curly little ponytail, and slipping a soft headband on just at my hairline, because I knew that I would not be able to tolerate flyaways in my face today. Then, without giving myself a chance to overthink the next step, I sorted through the laundry - a few articles of clothing, the big hamper full of sheets and towels. When the first load finished, I sorted it out from the washer. Sheets on the bottom of the basket, some of my light shirts next, Christopher's clothes on top. It was as I turned one of the baby's rompers inside out so that it wouldn't fade as it hung in the sun, that I began to feel the routine, the ordinariness, the comfortable intimacy of this task begin to drain some of that tension out of me. In the quiet satisfaction of these everyday tasks, I learned all over again about the kind of stillness that shouts louder than my mental gremlins. Sometime, all that needs to be done is the next thing.