On taking Ann Lamott’s advice

I was sick over the weekend. This is the worst case scenario when my husband travels abroad, except of course, for the ridiculous midnight delusions I have involving my kids and traumatic events. In reality, Mom laid up on the sofa with no sign of another adult and three homebound kids can get pretty dicey. There’s nothing like trying to launder dirty PE outfits for Monday morning and pulling together a meal from a slightly outdated package of chicken when you’ve been dry heaving in the bathroom.

This morning I woke up with a running list of things I needed to accomplish to make up for all the sofa lounging this weekend. When I had difficulty swallowing down a cup of peppermint tea, I realized Pilates class might be struck from the list. Abdominal exercises feel like torture on a good day. As I sent off the email to say I couldn’t make it to class, I felt a little guilty, as if taking one day off from exercise might cause my jeans to suddenly shrink a size. I didn’t attempt to make lunches for the kids. My seven-year old took one look at my face and asked if she could make her own. Actually, she asked if she could stay home to take care of me (read: watch tv all day and ask repeatedly when her siblings are due home), and when I shook my head no, she decided to pack a lunch of nutella spread thick over two slices of white bread. I felt a bit guilty about that too.

I managed to meet a friend for a cup of tea, this being our third attempt at getting together. The addition of a scone seemed like a good idea at the time. It wasn’t. I came home and covered myself with a blanket on the sofa and as I nodded off, I recognized a familiar companion settling in with me. Guilt hangs around me so often, we’re like old, uncomfortable friends.

I find it difficult to treat myself gently. To admit one white bread nutella sandwich never hurt anybody, to allow the kids to wear a dirty pair of gym shorts when necessary, to let them eat a meal out of a can, to skip the exercise, to let the bed go unmade, and to nestle into the sofa when my body needs to rest.  The guilt I feel over not doing all and being all is born of a misguided pride. I don’t know where I got the idea all things must live and move through me, as if the world would stop spinning on its axis if I didn’t get out of bed on a Sunday morning.

Ann Lamott gets it right, she says we must be gentle to ourselves–show ourselves a little grace. For me, this means acknowledging sickness doesn’t equal laziness. My girl will undoubtedly enjoy the best lunch she’s ever eaten. My jeans will still fit in the morning. And the world keeps spinning.



  • Anna White

    Beautiful girl, you are enough. You do enough. Your daughter may look back on the day she had an awesome chocolate sandwich and all the kids in her class were jealous with great fondness. Guilt is only meaningful if we are hurting someone intentionally and need to stop. None of these things that you described. Dirty shorts? They should be glad they have any shorts at all! I’m sure there are starving children somewhere who would love to have those shorts! Hope you feel better soon. If you end up locking yourself in the bathroom with a magazine and sticking the kids in front of the t.v. for a few minutes, it’s ok. They will be ok. You will be ok.

    • Kimberly

      Oh, Anna. Thank you so much for your encouragement! You are so right, all is ok with our world–dirty shorts, too much tv and all:)

  • Yes, that Nutella sandwich will be a sweet memory!