Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Prodigal Sun

Part 1: Tuesday

Today, for no good reason, I’m feeling brittle and fragile and on-the-edge. I am full of rage and disappointment at no one and everyone, nothing and everything. It is early afternoon, and in an hour I have to go and pick up my kids. I should be doing my Finnish homework, but instead I am sitting in a café, looking out despondently at the falling snow. I don’t know quite why, but I’m just about at the end of my rope.

I started the day tired, after a bad night’s sleep.

(Little Sister is discovering dreams, and currently wakes up multiple times per night shrieking my name, exclaiming loudly about what she just saw, firmly believing that it was all true.

[sitting up in bed and sobbing with wild abandon] “Mummy’s not THEEEERE! She’s gone! Mummy’s GOOOONE!”

[sitting up in bed and yelling at high volume] “Someone BROKE MY SUNGLASSES! On purpose! They are brooookeeeen!”

[sitting up in bed in an indignant huff] “The new cow is called SNUNNY! That’s his name, silly. Hmph!”)

Then, for some reason (no doubt related to her own broken sleep) Little Sister decided this morning that she was going to opt out of day-care. Her initial efforts to implement this decision (engaging in fake coughing during breakfast, refusing to have clothes put on her, and calmly informing me of her Day-Care Embargo during the bus ride into town) failed, but Little Sister is not a quitter. For the entire fifteen-minute walk from Big Sister’s preschool to Little Sister’s day-care, she sat in her stroller and alternately cried and shrieked and shouted about how much she didn’t want to go to day-care, as I slid on the icy footpath and bent my head against the snow pelting stingingly into my eyes, trying to make soothing platitudes issue forth reassuringly from my mouth, but finding their calming effect was negligible because Little Sister could only hear me over the wind and the traffic if I raised my voice to a shout.

I finally got to my Finnish class, and had one of those days where I had to look up more words than I understood, drew a blank at words I knew we’d already studied, and nearly cried when I couldn’t conjugate a type-1 verb in the present passive. This was one of those days I could not summon any energy or patience; could not find any elation in learning a new foreign language one baby step at a time. I just felt overwhelmed and tearful and defeated, and as I walked down the corridor on my way out a couple of shameful big-girl tears dripped down my cheeks.

I opened the street door to find that during the hours I had been inside, the snow had not let up at all, and was now ankle-deep and rising. A sudden sense of blind fury rose in my chest, momentarily overpowering the despair and pissed-offedness already simmering within. Never mind that we’ve had it easy this winter. Only two months of snow so far, and not even that many days of temperatures colder than -15, and yet, I have just had a GUTFUL of the cold and the snow. I am sick of dragging deadweight strollers and sleds laden with children through thick, porridgey snow and over slippery ice; sick of having freezing snowballs thrown excitedly at me; sick of feeling cold despite layers and layers of clothes; sick of reminding my three year old multiple times a day not to reach out of the stroller and swipe at banked-up, dirty, dog-wee-covered snow and put it into her mouth; sick of trying to be a good mother and forcing myself to remain with my kids in the park long after I’ve had enough of standing there in the cold, knowing that no matter how long I remain stoic, the minute I announce that we’re leaving they will still cry and whine because they would stay, revelling delightedly in the snow and ice, for three bloody hours if I let them.

It does no one any good to rage against the weather, but to hell with it.

I am also angry (in no particular order) about the following: the fact that I love ice cream but lately it has inexplicably turned on me and gives me brutal stomach aches; the fact that I can’t manage to get my house key out of my bag and into the lock without taking off my gloves, and thirty seconds without gloves is a hand-freezing eternity when it’s -10; the fact that our building management has decreed that we must not leave anything in the huge, echoing expanse of space corridor outside our apartment door and that therefore our tiny front hallway is now crammed with a stroller, a sled, an enormous plastic box containing the kids’ outside toys, and the whole family’s winter boots dripping dirty puddles of melted snow endlessly onto the floor; the fact that I would love to work as a lawyer again someday – sooner rather than later - but I cannot for the life of me find a way to do that and still be there for my kids, let alone sleep, let alone have some kind of a life outside work and kids; the fact that I have so much to be grateful for and yet today I feel inexplicably low and cranky and cannot manage to shake it off.

Today it is a bad, dark day inside my head. It’s as though someone has turned the lights off and moved the light switch beyond my grasp, and the culprit is hiding somewhere in the darkness, taunting and mocking me in a soft, cruel voice.

Life may be wonderful and beautiful and a gift, but today I’m royally pissed off at it.

Part 2: Wednesday

I can’t quite believe the change that came over me this morning, when (noticing that the room was oddly bright) I looked out of the window and saw The Prodigal Sun rising in the sky.

Suddenly, everything was ok again.

It is gorgeously sunny in Helsinki today – clear blue skies, brilliant sunshine that actually feels warm, and temperatures above zero! This is weather we haven’t had for weeks and months, and everyone’s spirits are soaring. The air is full of hope; infused with the heady promise of spring.

It is early afternoon. I have an hour to myself before I have to go and pick up my kids. I should be doing my Finnish homework, but instead I am sitting in a café, defiantly eating ice cream as the sun pours in through the floor-to-ceiling glass window beside me. After months of bitter chill, right now I am toasty warm. I am actually sweating a little bit. It is thrilling in the extreme.

This day and this sun and the sense of hope in the air have literally given me a new lease on life. This time yesterday, I was the same person, sitting in exactly the same café as I am today, and yet today everything is different. Everything is better.

Life is strange like that.  

All you have to do is wait for the sun.


  1. Wow. I too had a hellishly depressed day on Tuesday, and by Wednesday things had improved a lot with the appearance of the sun. It's seriously amazing what kind of effect that thing can have on our moods. I tend to get the doldrums at this point every winter, though, so I guess I'm anticipating a few more depressed days coming up.

    By the way, I'd like to give your blog a little plug in an upcoming post. I'll be writing about my favorite blogs, of which yours is definitely one. If for some reason you'd rather I not mention you, feel free to let me know. :)

    1. Elena, I fear that I too am going to have more bad-head-state days before the winter is through. It is somewhat comforting to know that there is scientific proof of the link between bad weather and bad moods, but only somewhat... Hang in there. I will try to as well :)

      I would be more than happy if you gave my blog a plug! Thank you so much!! :) you just put a little bit of sunshine into my gloomy and overcast Thursday.

  2. Hey K,

    I also had a day like that yesterday. I was nasty nasty mumma. As you know, at times like these I cling desperately to my hypnotherapy and subliminal affirmation music to get me through. Last night I downloaded a billion anger management apps - some music, some hypnosis. I want to be one of those mums who can whisper quietly at their children and they magically respond. So far I am pretty proficient at yelling. I am in the process of changing that- one second at a time....

    1. I hear you, LHW. I hear you.
      Hypnotherapy and subliminal affirmations sound wonderful, if I was getting any sleep in the first place. I have a feeling that (apart from the weather, which has been relentlessly gloomy for much of the past few months) sleep is one of the biggest things at the root of my current issues, and that once I manage to get a good 6 or 7 hours' uninterrupted sleep I will be on track for a better head-state. I'm not surprised that you are feeling a bit angry right now, given how sick your little ones have been lately. No doubt they have sapped every last bit of your energy. Pretty hard to be a sweet and patient yet ruthlessly effective mum when you are exhausted to your very core...

  3. You wonderful woman!
    You've captured Every-mothers experience in one beautiful "swooping-to-the-affirming-denouement" bit of prose.
    Who needs law? You could Be and Do anything - particularly a professional writer...
    Scotland can be one seemingly endless misery of rain and snow and wind and cold (maybe like Finland). And then the darkness is lifted with one simple watery fighting sun...

    1. la mujer libre, I am going to print out a copy of all your comments and keep them in my handbag, and read through them every time I feel my spirits dropping a little! Honestly, you're too kind, but if you're enjoying my blog as much as I'm enjoying yours, then we are even!

      I love your "watery fighting sun" image. Perfect description of the winter sun here in Finland.

  4. Haha! The sisters have to support one another (tho the brothers are permitted to support us from time to time too...)!
    Isn't this the fab thing about the net - that we discover such a commonality of experience and emotion and (well, all of the rest).
    I had a good productive day today. I was thanked for my clear-sightedness and the solutions I presented. Woohoo. (Just had to share that cos it never really does feel real til you've told someone else!)
    I am sitting in tonight - though I did say to my eldest that I would meet her in the pub... Maybe a short sleep will get my middle-aged bones feeling capable of walking up there to see her... Yx

  5. Sleep is so important. It is not always under our control - particularly when we have little ones, but it is so important to get right that I have learnt to try harder to make sure that I sleep as well as I can. I used to really struggle to go to bed very early - but now I know that if the kids are sick, then getting to bed early is going to serve me much better than an hour extra reading/tv/internet. I also have tried to accept that on days when I am short of sleep my outlook on life is going to be bleaker, my temper shorter - by actively noticing this, and actively giving myself some slack, and reminding myself that the sun will rise again, I have found it a little easier to cope, (mostly - my husband may disagree!!) . To The Lake House Writer - we have recently introduced a "No shouting" rule in the house - it applies to all of us, and the kids are good at reminding us parents about it - it really helps.

    1. I am intrigued by this "no shouting rule" approach.
      It sounds like something I should endorse. And I think I do endorse the sentiment behind it. My reservation (you'd guessed I had one...)? That shouting, anger, frustration, and management of all those "negative" (I've put that into inverted commas as even the negative fulfills a purpose - even if it is simply catharsis) emotions are important things to learn from within the safety of a secure and loving home. It is important that my children see disagreement and the occasional frustrated shout or scream - that they experience this from the safety of their family. And sometimes - for a child - the safest expression of their frustration for instance is a shout or scream.
      I've 5 children. I work f/t - and have done for the greatest bulk of their lives. I've had my share of doubt and despair and tiredness - like the vast majority of parents who will manage their way through periods like this, finding solutions that work for them. I've no doubt your way will work for you.
      I also admire your discipline re sleep - I realised a long time ago that reading that last chapter in bed at midnight was "not a good idea" ... but sometimes the desire to do something satisfying and for myself (regardless of time) would win out...

    2. Coaching for success, I admire you so much for your efforts not to shout, but I have to admit that I've given up on the "no shouting" project I embarked on at one point. I have, however, tried to reserve shouting for those moments when I really want my kids to understand that I am Very Very Cross with them, and I am trying harder not to shout just because I need to let off steam. I do agree with you though, LML, that the security of a loving home environment is the perfect place for kids to learn that people shout for various reasons, and although sometimes it's because you provoked them, sometimes it really isn't your own fault.
      As for sleep... Some nights I have the discipline to go to bed before 10pm; other nights I feel reckless and cannot resist sitting up until midnight with a good book or a DVD or a stack of irresistible blog posts to read... like the night before last, when I literally could not put down "The Help" - fantastic read, for those who haven't yet had the pleasure!

  6. When I read the first part of your post, all I wanted to do was HUG you!!!!!!!!!!!

    I think we all have our bad days, but being a non-mom, I can only imagine how much tougher it is for our Finnish course back then, there were plenty of frustration and tears as well (even for those who had no kids), so I guess it's normal to feel that way every now and then.

    Anyhow, I'm glad you feel better kind to yourself (that's one of my mantras when I moved to Finland) he he...

    1. Oh yeah, when it comes to learning Finnish, our Finnish teacher always says: "Learning Finnish is like one step forward, two steps back." Just when you feel that you're getting the hang of something, soon you're shoved into another batch of maze and frustration is on the horizon...

      My teacher knows how it feels like 'coz she's half-Finnish half-Russian and her mother tongue is Russian. :-)))

    2. Amel, "one step forward, two steps back" is absolutely spot-on! Sigh... at least I am not alone in my trials and tribulations with Finnish!

    3. Oh yeah, you're definitely not alone, so don't worry. What you feel is normal. :-) The most important thing is just keep on trudging...and years ahead, you'll look back at this moment and realize that you've actually made so many steps forward, even though every now and then it seems you've done your two steps back he he...:-)))

  7. Hi Katrina,

    I have given you the kindred spirit award!

  8. I do soooo agree with you! Let spring come.