All The Ifs

by Julia Park Tracey
Originally Published: 
Julia Park Tracey

If I could just make a schedule and stick to it.

If I could just get up on time. If I could just go to bed and get some sleep. If I could iron all of that out, then I could sleep when it’s time to sleep and be awake when I should be working. Right?

If I could just eat good food, then I wouldn’t feel bloated or fat or starving. If I had good food on hand, then I wouldn’t feel like stopping for fast food and soda. I could eat organic and homegrown and wholesome good stuff. I wouldn’t have to rely on convenience and fast. It would be right there, waiting for me to eat it.

If I could get to work on time and work solidly without interruption, then I wouldn’t feel like I was flying out the door half-finished, half-cocked, abandoning my coworkers and unable to really leave, no picking it up again when I get home and writing into the night. On holidays and weekends, I could have a day off, a true day of rest. A Sabbath, you might say.

If I could just get this house picked up, then it would be neat, my clothes would be put away, and I could find things. Bills would be paid on time, clothes would be clean, there would be no leftovers on the counter, and I wouldn’t find the cat eating the butter and the kittens licking plastic wrap from the recycling bin and knocking over boxes of give-away stuff by the back door.

If I could just make time to exercise, to get up early enough to stretch or do some yoga, I would be less tense. I would be more limber. I would feel healthier and more relaxed, and I wouldn’t have headaches every single day and wouldn’t grind my teeth all night, every night, and worry that they are breaking when they make that loud squeaky-creaky sound in my head.

If I could just take my vitamins, it would be OK if I didn’t drink enough milk in one day or if I really ate all my vegetables—except that I want to eat fruits and vegetables and whole grains. I want to eat lovely raw sushi and grilled chicken and tender greens and lush salads and juicy mangoes and oranges and berries. I want it all. I just don’t have time to fix it. If it were more convenient, I would eat better; I know that. But is that circular reasoning or what?

But there is no time. I have no time. Time is sand and water and wind—ungraspable.

If I would just sit up straight. I’m going to be a crooked old woman in no time at all. If I could stop biting the skin from around my nails. If I could just stretch out my back and make these knots go away.

If I had time to really do my hair, I’d look better. If I used lotion at night, my hands would be softer. If I used a whitener, if I flossed more, my teeth would be brighter. If I wore red lipstick, I could be sexier—if I remembered to put it on, anyway. The expensive MAC red lipstick is at the bottom of my purse with the old ATM receipts and toothpicks and a couple of earrings and a pen and loose change and crumbs and the wrapper from a juice box straw, a grocery list, a couple of business cards from people I won’t call, appointments I will cancel at the last minute and not reschedule, and notes of things to do that won’t get done.

It is an impossible life. How can a woman carve a spiritual niche for herself in the chaos?

Which of these do I let slide? Being on time (stop and smell the coffee)? Being a pretty wife (go frumpy a couple of years into the marriage—guys love that)? Being healthy myself (everyone else suffers)? Keeping everyone else on task (so I’m always late)?

If I could come up with the perfect schedule, I could water my houseplants before they die, bake homemade bread, work on my novel(s), have spiritual moments when they happen and make love to my husband so that he knows I still love him despite my level of exhaustion. I could try not to get sick while I juggle the many woes and worries of each child, because each is individual and has different needs that must be met, and not to be a martyr? Not complaining, but being free to say how I feel and not be taken as a martyr?

I am tired. I want it all. Things slide; my house is a mess. I didn’t make a single jar of jam. I didn’t pick a single blackberry. I have put on 15 pounds since starting back to work and being glued to my seat every day for six-plus hours and not exercising. My houseplants are dead sticks in plastic pots. I keep apologizing. Most people don’t care about stuff like this. Some do. Who’s pulling the strings here? Is it me? Is it just me?

What if it’s all in my head? What if it isn’t? What on earth is possible?

If oneness is what I seek (with my husband, my planet, my body and spirit, my God), can balance be in there too? Is there a perfect schedule that can accommodate all that I need? And if not, which of these “musts” may I let go?

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