Medusa Has a Headache by Kimberlee Conway Ireton

by Christine Sine

Today’s post is by Kimberlee Conway Ireton, mother of four and author of The Circle of Seasons: Meeting God in the Church Year and the recently released memoir, Cracking Up: A Postpartum Faith Crisis. Some days she’s Medusa. Some days she’s achy in her head. On really bad days, she’s both. This was a really bad day.

I wake up with a headache. My sinuses feel like they’re stuffed with gauze. Almost every muscle in my body aches. I do not want to get out of bed.

I lie here, wondering how I can get out of living this particular day. Could I plead being more ill than I actually am so Doug will stay home and watch the kids and I can sleep my achy body well?

But Doug has meetings that he can’t miss, not to mention actual work to do.

“We’re out of Tylenol,” I moan when he comes in to tell me tea is ready. “I took the last one, and I forgot to get more when I went to the drug store on Tuesday.”

“Come have tea,” he says, “and then I’ll go to Safeway and get you some.”

After tea, I go back to bed while Doug takes Jane up to the store for Tylenol. I lie there alternately feeling sorry for myself and berating myself for my lack of foresight and want of organization that meant Doug had to make an early morning Safeway run.

When he gets home, I take two Tylenols and haul myself back out of bed.

The kitchen sink is still piled with pots and pans from last night’s dinner that I didn’t wash before I went to bed.

The sofa is covered with a pile of washed but unfolded laundry that I’ve been moving off my bed each night for a week at least, only to move it back to my bed in the morning so we have somewhere to sit during the day. I swear I fold clothes. I do. But that pile multiplies like rabbits.

And the babies have already strewn sixteen or twenty books and a dozen toys all over the floor.

I feel like I clean up the same messes day after day after day.

“That’s because you do,” Doug says.

“I’m sorry about the Tylenol,” I say.

“Don’t worry about it.”

But I want to worry about it. I want to feel wretched about the way my lack of planning creates more work for other people on a near daily basis. I want to hate myself and my life right now.

“It’s just so typical of me,” I say. “How I never manage to get my act together, how I’m always waiting till the last minute to do things, and then I don’t do half the stuff I want to do because I don’t have time. Because I’m so disorganized and such a procrastinator. It’s no wonder I never get anything done.”

Doug calmly cracks eggs into a dish. Apparently he’s used to this. “Hey,” he says, “you made a frickin pinata for Jack’s birthday party.”

Jack always wants a pinata for his birthday party. This year, he wanted a Perseus party with a Medusa head pinata.

The party store didn’t have a Medusa head pinata.

So Jack and I had to make one. A half hour before his party started, I was frantically blow-drying the stupid thing because, once again, I had failed to start this little project in a timely manner or plan my day well enough to finish it without panic.

When I remind Doug of this, he simply says, “But you made it.” Then he pours the eggs into the pan. They sizzle and bubble.

Clearly he’s not getting it. He doesn’t understand what a wretched, disorganized mess I truly am. I decide that if he, my husband and best friend, doesn’t understand, no one will. It is a depressing thought.

The rest of the day unfolds more or less along these lines, with me feeling sorry for myself because I’m exhausted and disorganized and I have a cold and a pile of dishes and a pile of laundry and a pile of work that I never manage to finish.

Life sucks.

Then I get the mail. Among the junk and the flyers advertising sales at nearby chain grocery stores is a magazine from Compassion International, through whom we sponsor a child. The cover article is about child prostitution in Brazil.

Suddenly my world becomes extremely clear.

I realize as I look at the girl on the cover just how safe and clean and, yes, easy my life is. So I have a trifling little cold and dishes and laundry that never end. I don’t have to fight sexual predators on a daily basis. I don’t have to watch my daughter and sons fight them. I don’t have to choose between starvation and prostitution.

Used to be, reading things like this would just deepen my self-loathing. Today, though, it draws me up short, makes me see my life through other lenses.

I ask God to forgive me for my lack of gratitude this day, for my willful loathing of my good, safe, clean, well-fed, housed, and healthy life.

The pile of laundry is still here, mounded on the bed once more. I don’t know when I’m going to get to it all. But it doesn’t matter so much anymore.

I pick up a towel and fold it, and I pray for those children in Brazil, for our sponsored child in Guatemala, asking God to give them a life as good as mine.

—a repost from Kimberlee’s archives

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