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Turning grumbling to gratitude

Posted November 24

I can always tell my mental state by the status of my house. A clean, organized home means a clear, put-together mind. If I’m on top of things house-wise, that usually means I’m feeling pretty put together.

My house is a mess.

I am running on fumes. I haven’t had a full night’s sleep in two weeks — or make that eight years. I know I write a lot about how chaotic my life is, mostly because it’s strangely therapeutic for me to overshare and I also feel like I am connecting to the hundreds of women out there who might be feeling somewhat like I am — or at least they can read my column and be grateful they aren’t as crazy as me.

Recently, after dumping my fifth load of laundry out of their “waiting to be folded” baskets in my room, I crumbled like the clothes on the floor.

Everything I had been thinking about, worrying about and stressing about came to a boiling point. After listening and trying to help me through my volcanic eruption of emotions, my husband finally said, “Carmen, life is good.” Which was exactly not what I wanted to hear. I wasn’t in the mental state to appreciate the goodness of life. I knew he was trying to be helpful, but it just made me more mad and more guilty for not being able to recognize that.

After a good long cry and a good long bath, I was feeling slightly better. I sat there in the now-cold bathwater thinking about how I got to this point. I have been trying really, really hard lately to be “good” — a good mom, a good wife, a good housekeeper, a good visiting teacher, a good friend and a good volunteer.

But I still felt bad. After all, what kind of “good” housekeeper has dirty dishes from two days in her sink, clothes all over their closet floor, toys in the clothes bins and slightly rotten food in the fridge? What kind of “good” mom forgets to send their boy with lunch money — again — and has to check them in to school late — again — because they slept in from being up all night with a sick baby — again? The thought that kept coming into my mind was, “How do normal moms do this? I must be doing something wrong.”

On one particularly crazy day, I had my baby on one hip and my nephew on the other, standing barefoot on my neighbor’s porch with a package of hers that had been opened by my 3-year-old, who had found a very nice, very expensive wallet inside that he “needed for his money.” Inside were two neighbor kids I was watching, along with my other three boys. My house smelled like little kids, old snacks and wet dog. It was loud.

As I stood on her front steps, my beautiful neighbor opened the door to her spotlessly clean, completely silent house. I was overcome with the orderliness of it. Her home was gorgeously decorated. Some heavenly Bath and Body Works scent was wafting through the air. All I could do was stare. It was a sharp contrast to mine.

“Your home, it smells good,” I stammered.

She laughed and I apologized two thousand times for my son opening her son’s Christmas present and then herded my cattle back to their corral, knowing I looked like the frazzled woman I felt like.

I called my sister. “How do people do it?” I asked. “I can’t even keep up.”

My sweet little sister said, “Carmen. You are doing ‘it.’ Raising your kids and being there for them — that is it. That is what is most important. And all the crazy that comes with ‘it.’ That is what life is all about.”

I realized that by grumbling about what I was doing wrong left me no time to be grateful for what I was doing right. The loud house meant I was serving my neighbors by watching their sweet children. The dirty cushions meant I encouraged my boys to play make-believe and use their imaginations freely. The dirty dishes meant home-cooked meals, and nourishment to both body and soul for my family. What I have been hoping to achieve is not what "it" is all about.

Being grateful, I’m learning, is so much more than being appreciative. It’s being content with where you are in life, and with who you are as a person. This Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for the reminder that life is good, even when it's loud and tiring and messy.

Carmen Rasmusen Herbert is a former "American Idol" contestant who writes about entertainment and family for the Deseret News. Her email is carmen.r.herbert@gmail.com.

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