Last Friday was in an interesting day. I took acting class. I wasn’t good. I typically bounce back in a matter of minutes. This time it took me hours to shake the feeling of defeat. I went home, did some work, realized I was tired and figured I’d get take out for dinner.
This is probably when the tape of negativity started playing, “What I’m not about to do is cook tonight. I’m tired. Why do I have to be the one that cooks all the time? Why do I have to pick up the kid?” By the time I picked up my toddler, I knew I was in a funk. I smiled at him on the outside, but I harbored an attitude on the inside. I was annoyed with him for the inconvenience of having to pick him up.
In that moment, I really wanted to be alone. I wanted to go to a coffee shop or read a book or go to the movies or get lost in a museum: all the things that were easier to do impulsively before starting a small family.
“What you got in the car mommy?” He was asking for a snack. The tape kept playing, “Oh, so that’s all I’m good for? Giving you snacks?” I handed him a fruit pouch and buckled him in. That’s when I got a mild whiff of urine smell. I couldn’t tell where it was coming from. His pants didn’t look went. I assumed it was coming from some dirty clothes in his school bag, so I kept it pushing. Get food. Get home. Throw clothes in wash. Get rest. I needed it. I could feel it.
After buckling myself in, I put on a kids’ podcast that was sure to keep him occupied, so I didn’t have to deal with a bunch of questions. I just wanted to zone out and finish my quest. When we arrived at the restaurant, it took me twenty minutes to find a parking spot. I ordered the food by phone and we waited until it was ready. Over time, I heard a still small voice in my spirit telling me that I needed to take little man to the potty, so I snapped out of my trance to get things going.
I got him out of his car seat, and I was hit with that slight urine smell again. The tape, “I have got to clean out that bag.” I kept it moving. On the walk into the restaurant, he kept asking, “Mommy, what are those?” He was looking at spray-painted marks on the sidewalk, the marks utility companies make whenever someone wants to dig into the ground. I said, “It’s spray paint baby.” Then he pointed out every single spray-paint marking. “That’s one spray paint. There’s another spray paint! And there’s another spray paint.” It is possible for something that cute to be annoying. The tape: “Focus Cyrah. Just get the food and go home.”
The moment I stepped into the restaurant, I was overwhelmed by the music, laughter and smiles of all the kidless patrons. I used to BE them. I could just grab a drink in a restaurant because I felt like it, without having to drag a miniature person around with me.
I started walking directly to the bar but then remembered the kid needed to go to the bathroom, so that’s where we went. We stood at the toilet for a while. Then he told me he didn’t need to go. I got him together to leave the stall, slung his bookbag and my purse over my shoulder and picked him up at the sink, so he could wash his hands. Why restaurants don’t put stools near the sinks to make handwashing easier for kids is beyond me.
After all of that, we weaved our way through an army of servers to get to the bar. A guy on my left saw me wearing a PJ Masks bookbag and asked if it was mine. I chuckled and said, “You know better.” He asked where my kid was and I indicated that he was to my right. The man saw him and tried to say something friendly, but my son just buried his head into my leg, his typical response to strangers.
I gave the bartender my name and waited for him to bring out my order. As we waited, the restaurant got louder and more obnoxious. Then I felt a small tug at my pant leg, “Mommy, I wet.” I rolled my eyes with everything in me. The tape: “I JUST TOOK YOU TO THE BATHROOM.”
I looked down at his pants and noticed the wet spot. Before I could do anything, a woman (not the original bartender) came out with my food. She told me that the veggie quesadilla I ordered for my kid now had chicken in it because quesadillas need meat to make everything stick together. I didn’t have time to address that lie because I now had a toddler with a pee-pee stain on his pants. I said, “Fine.” I paid for the food, and I took care of my son.
Once everything settled down, I realized what was happening. Friday’s series of unfortunate events was more about me than my kid. Every couple of weeks, I start feeling annoyed with my life. It’s almost a ritual now. I go to therapy every other week, and the Thursday before my regularly scheduled session, I get frustrated with the status quo. My beautiful family gets annoying. My work doesn’t feel like it’s enough. I get internally hostile. You would only know it if you were really close to me. My sentences get short. I’m quieter than normal. I laugh less often. It’s almost like I see my world through contacts medicated with negativity. I get in a funk, and the people closest to me become my enemies.
The last time this happened, I couldn’t understand why I was in such a funky mood out of nowhere. My therapist asked me, “How have you been doing with your self-care?” I thought about it. Not well. What’s been happening is that I’ll do all of the things that help me stay emotionally healthy, and I forget to do those things after I’m feeling good. Neglecting myself over time makes me feel emotionally deprived, and I get an attitude when I have to do something for someone else. The tape: “It’s YOUR fault I’m unhappy.” But the simple truth is that I’m unhappy when I neglect myself.
This trip to the Mexican restaurant was a fantastic example. I was internally hostile toward my kid because I hadn’t taken care of myself for a few days. I didn’t yell at him. I didn’t hit him. But on the inside, I was a little angry that he was there in the first place. He was inconveniencing me.
If I’d taken care of myself earlier, I would have been mentally present to enjoy our little journey. I would have noticed the extra parking in the lot across the street sooner. I would have realized how amazing it is that my kid notices little abnormalities, like spray-paint marks on a side walk. I would have enjoyed how he gets a kick out of the automatic paper-towel dispenser in the bathroom. I would have made that server remake my kid’s quesadilla because adding chicken to a vegetarian dish is stupid. And I would have noticed that his pants were wet when I got him. He probably had a small accident right before I picked him up, and I couldn’t see it inside of the shaded car.
Sunday was a different day. I’d taken some time for myself. I was well-rested and excited to spend time with my family. We went to a festival in the park, and I genuinely enjoyed my kid’s company. I’d like to have less days like last Friday. No, I’m not expecting everything to go my way, but I’d like to still have a positive outlook on the day regardless of what’s happening. I’d like to still see my family members as allies instead of enemies when everything else is going wrong. So . . . I am reprioritizing my self-care rituals, even when I don’t think I need it. All self-deprivation does is take me down a funky attitude rabbit hole surrounded by my enemies.
About me . . .
I'm Cyrah Hill. I'm a woman of faith, an actor and an everyday black girl.