I hate it when I give the worst version of myself to the people who matter the most.
Pulling into the driveway on a Friday afternoon, I turn my car off and for a few moments, leave my hands on the wheel. Like most teachers at the end of the week, I’m fried. I can feel it to my core. Truth be told, I could go all slow motion, fall face forward onto the bed, and not get back up until Sunday afternoon. But through that door, responsibility awaits. Not the kind of responsibility that is informed by a salary. The kind that have arms and legs, the kind that have stomachs that need to be filled, the kind who desire you to engage with them, play with them, listen to them, and encourage them. Inside that door are rooms piled with the tornadic debris of an activity-filled week. Mounds of laundry. Uncleaned dishes. Mail . . . I mean, bills . . . piled up eye level, challenging you to look the other way. The water heater breaks. Your dryer lurches across the floor to no avail; it’s been working a “mostly damp” cycle for at least three months. You can’t remember the last time you opened the refrigerator and the light turned on. Life, man.
You take a deep breath, get out of the car and open the door on that life you chose. The life you love. The only problem is there is very little of you living it. You drag your irritable, exhausted, mentally spent corpse into the house and attempt to weakly connect with the people on this planet, who by their very existence, make your life worth living. They get your seconds, your left-overs, your “maybe tomorrow, baby, I’m just so tired.” They get your zoned out stare, your pent up exasperation, your “I’m sorry, I’ve brought work home tonight.” They get the sick you, the worried you, the angry you, the frustrated you. And you know what? They don’t deserve it. Not even a tiny bit.
I’m not sure when we got things all turned around. When we decided to raise the value of our ambitions and diminish the vitality of our humanity. We haven’t always been this way. But we do it all the time. We bow at the altar of our busyness and call it success while sacrificing the only tangible evidence that we ever existed at all, our relationships. So dumb.
So, here’s to dialing it down in the places that feed our egos and raising the volume in the places that feed our souls. Here’s to looking people in the eye and honest conversation. Here’s to lingering over a meal and hanging out on the back porch. Here’s to throwing the football or reading that favorite story. Here’s to uninterrupted interpersonal connection. Work to live, but don’t live to work. Let’s be done with our self-righteous excuses. If you take a quick look around the landscape of your life, you will find any number of reasons to give your very best to the people who love you when you don’t deserve it. And believe me, they will always be worth it.