I picked up the ice cold glass and swirled the pale liquid around, enjoying the clink of half melted ice cubes inside the cup. Drops of condensation slid down the tumbler and landed pitter patter on the table top. I took a large swallow and then – disappointment! “This ginger ale tastes terrible!” I thought to myself with a grimace.
Then I remembered that I was drinking iced tea.
Oddly, once I realized it wasn’t ginger ale, it didn’t taste terrible to me anymore. It was wonderful, cool and refreshing.
When I stopped working last year, I began to fantasize about my new life at home. I pictured myself doing all the things I had never done before, presumably because the demands of full time employment left me too tired or busy to attempt them.
My daydreams must have been the result of a childhood spent watching reruns of Leave It To Beaver and the Dick Van Dyke Show. I pictured myself getting up every morning and presenting my children with a nutritious breakfast and a packed lunch. After they left for school, I would exercise and walk the dog daily. The house would sparkle. Anyone entering my home would immediately detect the smell of Pledge Furniture Polish and home baked cookies. I’d be happily active at both church and my children’s schools. In my spare time, I’d crochet and learn to sew and generally be the happiest homemaker ever. When my husband came home each evening, he would be greeted by my smiling face and a delicious, hot meal on the table. Through it all, I’d be well dressed and have my face and hair beautifully done. I would stop complaining so much, and I wouldn’t use bad words anymore.
Anyone who actually knows me – or has spent more than five minutes around me – is having a good chuckle by now.
See, I seemed to have forgotten that I would still be me. I don’t mean that in a self deprecating way. I’m simply saying that the choices I made when I worked outside the home weren’t only constricted by my lack of extra time. They were also – mostly, actually – dictated by my personality.
I’m not a particularly pleasant morning person. I rise early, but that’s because I like to spend an hour alone, slowly becoming human over a cup of coffee – not whipping up cheese omelets and fussing over my kids. I only exercise when I have the proper motivation. By this I mean something akin to being chased by a pack of rabid dogs.
My home isn’t kept it a constant state of gleaming perfection. It might smell like Pledge when you enter my house. When I spied you walking toward the front door, I grabbed the furniture polish and started spraying it about indiscriminately, in the desperate hope that it would cover the smell of my wet dog who just wandered in from the rain. You will find me dressed in a t shirt and jeans, slippers on my feet and my hair in a pony tail.
That person I thought I would become, the one whose finger nail polish always matches her lipstick, can’t really exist. She was the product of my over active imagination. I created her from a bizarre amalgam of the best parts of me, Donna Reed, and Hazel the Housekeeper. She isn’t real, and if she was, I’d probably hate her perfect, happy guts. I don’t know anyone else who would enjoy her company either. She’s not the kind of person who’d dish over a cup of coffee, or trade embarrassing secrets, or ever admit to having a bad day.
The real me would do those things, and more. I manage to place a hot dinner on the table for my family, five days out of seven. You won’t find me running any committees or meetings, but I’m usually happy to help out as one of the rank and file. My house sometimes smells like wet dog and sneakers, and some wise guy wrote ‘dust me’ on the television screen, but good company is always welcome here. My friends aren’t checking for dust anyway. A drink and a bite to eat will always be offered, even if the cookies came from the store. Some folks might think I talk too loud and too much, but I’m willing to listen if you’re having a rough time.
For months, I was disappointed with myself for not transforming into Super Homemaker. It was hard to let go of the fantasy version of me, but trying to be that person was emotionally exhausting. It gave my life a bitter taste, not the sweet sparkle I was expecting.
Then one day I forgot what I was drinking. In that moment, I was granted a life changing revelation: I’m not ginger ale. I’m iced tea with a twist of lemon.
Once I realized that, life tasted a whole lot sweeter.