a letter to my younger self

ailey me in mirror

The person I saw when I looked in the mirror just now probably would have really frightened 18-year-old me. If I’m being honest, that image probably would have really frightened me from just a year ago.

Today, I am twenty-five + a few months. I didn’t get much sleep last night because Ailey, 10 months + a week, is simultaneously teething and fighting a summer cold (as she has been for it seems like this entire summer). She’s a really happy, easy-going lady baby most days, but last night that combination of sore gums and stuffed sinuses made her really, really mad. I’m talking scream-crying at 3 am, all out mad. So today, when I looked in the mirror, I could see the wear on my face that a night of scarce sleep will give you.

Today, I am worn out. When I am tired, instead of race-crawling around the house with Ailey, or playing the game where she screams with glee while I run through the house with her riding piggy-back, I’m trying to play the game where I lie on the bed while she looks at books. It was a good try, at least. I decided to just get over myself and try to get some exercise–don’t they say that’s better than napping when you’re tired (they’re mean)? I pulled out the stroller and we went for a walk. We only dropped one toy along the way and then had to go back for it. I decided to be ambitious and jog a little. At this point, I am dripping–the sun is oppressive and hot, the way it can get in Colorado in middle of the day in the summer. I’m regretting that decision to make it a two-Arnold Palmer morning instead of just drinking water.

A whole half mile later, Ailey is basically asleep in the stroller. We’re close to home by now, and I’m ambitious. I’m going to hold this drowsy baby on one hip and close the stroller one-handed and hoist it into the back of the SUV so I’ll have it for later, yes I am. And I did, but not until I’d successfully squashed one finger hard enough that the entire weight of the half-folded strolled was dangling from that finger, and yes, baby is still on my hip, so I have no other free hand to save the first one.

I made it out eventually. We hustled into the house and I carted Ailey to her crib for a real nap (fingers crossed) while I hurry to the bathroom to run cold water over my finger. I catch my reflection, and my face is twisted into a grimace from the pain of the pinch (it’s not serious, thanks!) without a lick of makeup on my flushed, slightly sun-pinked face. My hair is piled up into some kind of something on the top of my head and hasn’t been washed in a while, if you were wondering. There are a few new strands of gray (already!) visible in my dark hair, sticking straight up in revolt. They’re settling in, staking claim.

But I cannot help but smile back at this new me, who I see these days more often than the one whose hair is done and face is painted. It’s definitely been a little while since I’ve seen the well-rested me staring back from that reflection. I would’ve thought future-me was lying if, a year ago, she’d told me I liked it here and I was loving how I fit into this slightly frazzled-looking version of myself. I am content. I have worked hard and put in some time to stare into the eyes of a tired, happy mama in the mirror.

Admittedly, not every day looks like this. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how often I still can find a few minutes to put on some make up and pick out some clothes I really like and put them together. Motherhood hasn’t meant looking exhausted and threadbare all of the time. But, it has meant that my priorities are different. Getting some exercise with a mini-human in tow has been more important that making sure I look a certain way. Crawling around on the floor, chasing after tiny legs that have just learned to climb stairs has taken precedence over a leisurely morning lying in bed. Sometimes I miss the free time, but I certainly like building something that matters, visible in the character of a little, budding person. I am okay with the person I see in the mirror, even if she isn’t someone I expected to see.

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