Tears at hockey


From a more placid moment last week

I recognize that things are moving fast most of the time in our family, and that I have a lot of things I’m trying to do, but most of the time it feels like it hangs together.  Usually we even fit in time for some quiet reading and a walk around the block and a few minutes of downtime.  That and hundreds of emails and writing and running and packing lunches and laundry and cooking and … well, writing that makes me tired.  Still, most days, my life – and that of my family – works.

Except when it doesn’t.

Last Monday was one of those days.  I had forgotten that Whit had hockey even though it was a holiday, so at the last minute I had to move my mother’s planned dinner-at-home visit to late afternoon.  We were running late for hockey, and I was snappy and frustrated.  By the time I got Grace and Whit into the car, hockey pads mostly (but not all) on, and headed in the light snow to pick up Whit’s teammate for practice, I was on the verge of tears.

It can turn so fast, can’t it?  Just the night before we had had a wonderful celebration of Whit, dinner at his favorite restaurant, a homemade cake (triple chocolate, which had required my going to three stores to get the ingredients) and presents.  I’d sat at our dining room table, watching the faces of my family in the flicker of candlelight, feeling calm, grateful.  My boy was eight.

But now I stood by the side of the hockey rink, fighting tears.  It was freezing, and in my rush I hadn’t brought a hat or gloves.  I jammed my hands into the pockets of my down coat and pressed my forehead against the cold plexiglass between the rink and me.  I watched Whit skate, feeling my breath coming fast and a tightness in my chest:  I am trying to do so much all at once.  Because of this, I do everything badly.  I am just so tired.

I drew a ragged breath and fought to control the tide of sorrow that rose inside me.  Suddenly I heard Billy Joel in my head: this is the time to remember, ’cause it will not last forever…  I shook my head, new emotion churning around the self-pity.  I felt both chastened and annoyed; I was reminded of my own desperate wish to be here now and of the simultaneous weight of my expectation that I can do so all the time. Is my constant sense of failing to be present getting in the way of my actually being present?

I don’t know.  I don’t think so, because I know I was far less here before I started thinking about this.  But it certainly makes me excruciatingly aware of all the ways and times that I fall short of the engagement in my life I so badly want.

I looked at Whit, his little figure blurred by my tears.  I want so fiercely to fully live these years, to pay attention, not to miss a thing.  But still, so often, I fail.  I allow my own exhaustion or aggravation to occlude the beauty of this ordinary, flawed existence.  It makes me weep to think of all that I have already missed.  I don’t even want to blink, for fear of missing anything else.

For the rest of the night, all I could hear was this:

This are the time to remember
Cause it will not last forever.
These are the days to hold onto
Cause we won’t although we’ll want to.
This is the time, but time is going to change.


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  1. Posted January 31, 2013 at 6:01 am | Permalink

    Great minds must think alike. I have been feeling this way too lately. I did such a nice job of clearing my calendar over the summer and early fall but have let things creep back in. It is hard to feel like we are doing everything well. I just have to hope we are…

  2. Rachel
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 6:05 am | Permalink

    Thank you for the post. I so needed to read this. Have a happy day. xo

  3. Marina
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 6:30 am | Permalink

    I am right there, too. Overwhelmed with the obsession of multitasking, yet unable to let go of the addiction of wanting and sometimes forcing myself to do more, when there’s clearly not enough time to fully be present in one task. Thank you for putting it so eloquently, it helps me think.

  4. Anne
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    Great post as usual. And thanks for the Billy Joel memory! Even though it’s been many years since I’ve listened to it, I can hear that song in my head as I read the lyrics.

  5. Posted January 31, 2013 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    yes, it can turn so so fast. from tender cuddles to tears and moodiness to raucous laughter. oh so quickly. this is the time…changing already. as always, thank you, lindsey.

  6. Peter
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    I am right there with you. Our lives become so overwhelming that we miss the little things that make it worthwhile. When I realize that I have missed his moment I feel as though I have failed. The wonderful thing is that tomorrow is another day and we have the chance to do better. You are better than most since you can see it.

  7. Adriene
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    I too feel I am desperately trying to hold on to each moment, the pace of life, especially with my children, leaving me breathless.
    These moments we are most aware, most vulnerable, most want to be different are the ones that leave their mark.
    “Is my constant sense of failing to be present getting in the way of my actually being present?” This gives me pause, a different perspective on my angst.

  8. Posted January 31, 2013 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    This post so captures the ying and yang of my daily life. More like hourly…as sometimes I’m so present, calm and in the moment, only to turn into a freaksih task master the next.

  9. Posted January 31, 2013 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    But you see now
    through the tears darkly
    the power of exhaustion,
    even if not wondrous
    gracious and joyful,
    you are mind-full

    Don’t mind the tears.
    They are as real
    to being mommy
    as a smile
    and a hug.

    It’ll all be well.

  10. Posted January 31, 2013 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    Truly beautifully written. I try so hard to be patient and enjoy every moment because they don’t last forever, and sometimes I fail too – but I know in my heart that I am a great mom and I’m loving my son as much as I possibly can.

  11. Posted January 31, 2013 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    You have captured motherhood with this post. Thank you.

  12. Posted January 31, 2013 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    This is such a complex subject, isn’t it? Similarly, I often feel that trying to capture one of those liminal moments — via my camera, or typing words on a screen — simultaneously brings me deeper and further away from the moment. And yes, I often have moments that remind me that I’m doing too much at once.

  13. Matt
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    I love watching my little man playing hockey. Thanks for being the glue that holds it all together.

  14. Posted January 31, 2013 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    Don’t be so hard on yourself, dear girl. Life is full of the good and not so good, energy and fatigue, tears of joy and tears of sorrow, fleeting moments and days that drag on. Anyone worrying about not being fully present is most likely the most present of all. And your kids know that because kids ALWAYS know who is really in their corner. Accept grace and walk freely.

  15. Jill
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    I struggle with that so deeply: ‘the constant sense of failing to be present….getting in the way of actually being present.’
    the overwhelmed-ness, the not-being-enoughness, the I’m-doing-too-muchness…it’s been helpful (and relieving) for me when I can see that those feelings are part of my present moment, not separate from it. Remembering this (however rarely I am able to) sometimes lets me put the breaks on the guilt thoughts spinning out of control, and just notice the feeling instead. The flipside of everything being so fleeting is that this too, shall pass.
    so glad I read this today; it’s been a mirror for me to see my own self more clearly. thank you.

  16. Posted January 31, 2013 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    Yes. Me too. We have cut down a lot this year, but not enough for me to feel like there is ever a dull moment, and not enough for me to ever have my act completely together, and not enough for me to ever feel like I am adequately present. BE HERE NOW should be my motto for the year — no, for my LIFE.

  17. Angela
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    Gosh, you’ve done it again…posted exactly what I needed, when I needed it. Thank you!

  18. Posted January 31, 2013 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    Yes. I hear you, mama! I struggle with these moments myself with two of our girls in softball. Life seems to be on overdrive, full of practices and games. Somedays I boil over with emotion, and try to see the positive and realize that these moments won’t last forever. Somedays, though, it doesn’t hurt to skip just one practice.

  19. Jackie
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    “Is my constant sense of failing to be present getting in the way of my actually being present?”
    I am very touched with how present you are to your life. I see you as being very present to your life as it was in that moment-to your frustration- your tiredness-your tears. I am learning to hold these kind of moments as sacred.They are real and a gift to your children to not have to be perfect. You are a beautiful and wondeful mother and a blessing to your children. Appreciate your sharing your journey and in such a real and honest way.

  20. Posted January 31, 2013 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been feeling this way lately — the more my online business grows, the more I feel torn. So much to do. So little time to do it. It never helps when we have to rush and so I’ve consciously been warning people of things I am taking out of my schedule — most helping others. Anyway, thanks for giving a voice to it. I agree with some of the above … even if I’m having an off day, my girls know that I love them more than anything and I’m a great mom. Now … being a good wife, that’s a whole ‘nother story. : )

  21. Posted January 31, 2013 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    Yep. Me too. And I’m exhausted. Love this. xo

  22. Posted January 31, 2013 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    I know I will not surprise you when I tell you that I’ve jotted down words, trying to capture this very question: “Is my constant sense of failing to be present getting in the way of my actually being present?” I often feel as if I’m grasping onto the present too tightly, trying desperately to honor it and while trying so hard, I’m squelching it.

    Gorgeous words, friend. xo

  23. Posted January 31, 2013 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    This is a great post! I too have felt like this. What I decided is that it’s ALL part of being present. Being present is messy. Sometimes it’s not fun. Sometimes I am not present. I think it’s all OK. Having a willingness to be present is enough I think, and then whatever happens is all part of it – the good and the bad.

  24. Posted January 31, 2013 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    Being present doesn’t just mean being fully appreciative. We can hold so many more things than one in our hands–profound sorrow, joy, gratitude, resentment, fatigue, all at once. It seems to me that you were fully present to all those things in that moment against the plexiglass. It just doesn’t always feel good to be fully present, even when much of what is in the moment is good.

    I think, when things have changed and your children have grown, you’ll remember more, even the moments at hockey, and you’ll be grateful that it didn’t slip by. The more singular moments you can store and retrieve, the richer you’ll feel then. That’s how it is for me, so far anyway.

  25. Posted January 31, 2013 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    It’s so hard. One of the hardest things I’ve had to do as a parent is learn to let things drop and to let things go. The perfectionist in me, the knowledge that it *should* be is often such a burden that it creates difficulty enjoying those moments. So as a dear friend has told me countless times, “put the whip away”. Do not create unhappiness where none existed. I think learning a bit of flexibility is the best you can do.

  26. Tiffany
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

    Your post today touched me deeply, and going through the comments, so many people expressed feeling the same and wondering if feeling failure interferes with being present. Such courage in expressing a vulnerable moment too, as Brene Brown would say. Today, so many days lately, have felt of failure for me in my parenting. We are all human and have our better and worse days in parenting. I am hoping that I have more better days than bad. Thank you for such a great post.

  27. Posted January 31, 2013 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

    Wow, your emotional turmoil in this post sounds exactly like me most days, although i admit that since practicing mindfulness I find it much easier to talk myself off these emotional cliffs.

    Beautiful post. Thanks for being so honest and sharing what I normally question in terms of my reactions to life. It’s good to know I’m not the only one who feels this way!

  28. Posted January 31, 2013 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

    Oh, Lindsey. One of my favorites of yours. Ever. I love this question and it has me thinking, and deeply:

    “Is my constant sense of failing to be present getting in the way of my actually being present?”

    I think about this often. And I have no answers.

    Thanks for these words today. Clearly they have resonated with so many of us. xox

  29. Amy
    Posted February 1, 2013 at 1:08 am | Permalink

    Lovely… and timely. I reshuffled 5 mtgs today in downtown and rushed home so I could attend a school event. Then it all melted down after dinner and I felt a little angry. I needed this reminder to be present… through the fun and not fun times. They are all moments to hold on to. Thanks, Lindsey.

  30. Jennifer Dineen
    Posted February 1, 2013 at 5:15 am | Permalink

    A mentor once told me we need to take a long range view when we evaluate ourselves and our work/life balance. Some days we fall short on the life side but others we exceed our expectations.

  31. Lucy Beliveau
    Posted February 1, 2013 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    Good morning ! I have the pleasure of being a Granmamma to 7 lovely grandchildren! I may not be facing the stress and strain of hockey games and ballet lessons but I remember a time when I did; boy, do I ever miss those golden days full of treasured memories! However asy senior yeard quickly approach, the stresses linger….they are just about different things and the strain stays around as well! Every turn of the day seems to be encountered with a question. Did I save enough money to retire? I’m ill, will I qualify for disability? Should i go through all of my belongings and settle down in a smaller home? Just the other day, my doctor mentioned to me the importance of afternoon “siestas” , which of course are a common practice found in most other countries. he said they could significantly help health problems we so frequently encounter here in the US.

    My words may not be wise and perhaps the younger generation can’t appreciate the baby boomers situation, but please, if you read this, try, just try really really hard to have your precious children come first! They are little for such a short time. It won’t be Lon til best friends, boy and girl friends and then they will be right where you are now !!!! Long live the circle of life!!

  32. Posted February 1, 2013 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    Simply beautiful. Thank you, Lindsey.

  33. Posted February 1, 2013 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    Lovely post. You have such a beautiful way of expressing exactly what we all struggle with as mothers. Thank you!

  34. Posted February 1, 2013 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    “Is my constant sense of failing to be present getting in the way of my actually being present?” I love this, but have to admit I smiled a little because in my head I heard this in SJP’s voice- like an existential Carrie Bradshaw. 🙂

    I hear you on all of it. But my first thought when I read this was, you aren’t missing anything. The tears and frustration and missed plans are “it”- life lived with kids. You are living it, you are witnessing it, you are in it. Somedays it’s tears, somedays it’s quiet moments, somedays it’s bliss, somedays it’s just too damn hard. But that’s it. If you felt pure joy and bliss everytime you watched Whit play, you’d stop noticing the bliss, right? Light/dark, remember? You’ve got this. xoxo

    P.S. But I love that you wonder and worry about it all just the same. Makes me feel less alone in that.

  35. Posted February 1, 2013 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    Wonderfully honest post. I totally *get* this. I often wonder if it comes from a place (for me) of growing up being told I can do anything I put my mind to, and largely being able to do just that before my daughter came along. The problem now becomes when I put my mind to a dozen things, all at once. Then I feel cheated (and often resentful) that the things that are more “for me” fall to the bottom of the list. Yet that is so far from reality because isn’t all of it, the good, bad and ugly, all for me? Feelings that seem justified when someone is crying that her sandwich has too much jelly, yet completely overblown when you catch a sweet whiff of her hair later in the day while she snuggles. Cue the guilt. It’s all a balancing act, isn’t it?

  36. Posted February 1, 2013 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    thank you.
    i so very much needed this today, this week, this year.

    i had never read your blog until today, no coincidences.

  37. Kristenkj
    Posted February 1, 2013 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

    Oh my goodness…I cannot tell you how completely I understand this. Completely. Especially the juxtaposition of one day being so wonderful and the next a complete disaster all because of me and my attitude. This happens to me. And I know it is happening, and I can’t — or maybe I won’t — stop it. It is so frustrating. And then when I have a chance to settle down, I regret how stupid I have been.

    I am a work in progress…I am working. I am trying to remember how delicate these little souls are, and that I have a huge influence on them, and how they grow.

  38. Posted February 5, 2013 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    I feel like this constantly. what keeps me going is that my kids will remember all of this! we live very near my husband’s family, i hear them recount their childhood memories regularly and i’m sure their parents like most of a generation ago were not half as present as you are. They will remember, you will remember, but it is indeed fleeting. i know you are a big fan of katrina kennison so undoubtedly you’ve read or are reading her new book. she says it better than anyone and it’s SO great to hear form a parent just beyond where we are today with our young ones. it end, it changes, but it’s beautiful all the same. you are present. your children are so fortunate. thank you for writing from your heart, i always appreciate it.

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  1. By Home sweet dream home on February 4, 2013 at 10:04 am

    […] (Giving credit where it’s due–I’m thankful for two writers who helped me find my way to these thoughts last week:  Ashley at The Handmade Home and Lindsey Mead at A Design So Vast.) […]