If there’s anything I can’t stand, it’s people who commit the great sin of “should-ing.” You know who I mean. The ones who are constantly offering helpful, unsolicited advice. The ones who are full of good intentions and projected issues. The ones who comment on your Facebook status about breakfast cereal with warnings about processed sugar and artificial coloring with LOLs and passive-aggressive “don’t be mad at me” smiley face emoticons. Your winky face fools no one, should-ers!

However, I am about to sin. Because sometimes you learn a lesson so profound that you feel the need to pass it on in the hopes of sparing others the anguish you just experienced. Here goes: If you ever enter the bathroom and find two lonely squares of toilet paper floating around in a bowl with a water level that is just slightly higher than normal, do NOT, under any circumstances, give that toilet a nonchalant flush in the hopes that that will take care of the problem. Heed me.

Note to self.

A photo posted by Nanea Hoffman (@sweatpantsandcoffee) on

You may find yourself staring in horror as the water slowly and inevitably spills over the sides of its porcelain prison, engulfing your Spanish tiled floor. You will discover that cursing long and inventively does nothing to stem the flow of advancing poop water, nor will it discourage your idiot cats from running in to investigate the source of the fuss and spashing joyfully about even though these same little bastards act like you are trying to murder them if you attempt to give them a flea dip because ew, water.

You might find yourself ready to cry because you have 30 minutes to shower and get to your little girl’s softball game, and you, quixotic dumb-dumb that you are, thought “Hey, I have time for a quick workout” and now you’re a sweaty, swearing mess and you can’t stop thinking about ALL THE GERMS no matter what you’ve read about how clean toilet water is supposed to be. When the zombie apocalypse comes, you’ll reconsider, but right now you just want a hazmat suit. You know the distress you are feeling is disproportionate to the situation because the great toilet water flood comes after a day, a week, a month, of nonstop work, tending to the needs of others while sublimating your own, ignoring the nagging voice in your head that says you probably need to go talk to a professional about how worn down you are by the every day wear and tear of being a caregiver/parent. (You think you’re just a big wuss because other people in your life have real problems and all you are is tired and tense.) If you hadn’t tried to carve out a little bit of time for exercise, you wouldn’t need the shower, you’d have taken the time to deal with the toilet properly, and you wouldn’t now be tearfully shouting at your hapless teenage son who just wanted to talk to you about his English essay that, “The bathroom is fucked up and I can’t deal with it so I shut the door, don’t go in there and don’t let those stupid cats in there, and I’m just going to your sister’s game, and I’ll deal with it when I come home, and I’M SORRY!”

But then what also happens is this: your son laughs. It’s not a snarky teenage laugh, it’s a perspective-restoring “Mommy’s a little bit crazy but I love her even when she’s cussing and freaking out” laugh. He goes back to his homework. You rush off to the game, and you make it in time for the bottom of the 1st inning. Your daughter’s team loses but the girls are cheering and laughing in the dugout right up until the end. The evening is cool, and the sky is pink and gray and purple. You drink the bottled water you grabbed on your way out the door, and you eat a crumbly granola bar you find in the bottom of your purse. You breathe.

Softball copy

You end up having fast food for dinner but no one minds, and you remember that this is what it’s like on game nights during the week. Your son has already fed his grandmother dinner while you were out. Your husband agrees to clean up the bathroom while you hustle the little one through bath and bedtime. You can’t stop yourself from giving detailed instructions about how to sop up the water with towels and wipe the tiles down with Clorox and you make him promise three separate times that he will do this “because there is probably e-coli multiplying all over the place!” He promises. He does not try to hug you because he knows you can’t be petted when you are in anxiety mode. You tell your daughter you’re washing her hair tonight even though she normally does it because you don’t have time for her to take one of her leisurely showers where she listens to her favorite songs and draws pictures and writes her name on the steamy glass. She yelps delightedly as you scrub and rinse, “I’m like a puppy getting hosed down!” Your body, which is always clenched like a fist, softens in the shampoo-scented air. You are grateful for your hectic little lifeboat and the people who are in it.

3 Things That Were Good:

1. I recently attempted (again) to learn knitting and gave up (again). My son patted my head and said, “Mommy” – he calls me Mommy even though he’s a big, manly teenaged guy because he feels Mom is kind of impersonal – “don’t you have enough to do? It’s okay. You don’t need another hobby that is doing stuff.”
2. The softest pajamas. I wear them all day long, some days. And all I feel is triumphant.
3. Hummingbirds in the backyard. I still go breathless when I see one of those tiny, jeweled creatures hanging in the air outside my office window.

2 Things I Did Well:

1. Wrote and wrote and wrote.
2. Forgave someone.

1 Thing I Am Looking Forward To:

A pedicure and flip-flops. It’s sunny and gorgeous here.

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