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Before I Break

by Nikki

A different, earlier version of me may (would) have considered this past 24 hours to be selfish, a waste of money, and worthy of mounds of guilt. Fortunately, she’s gone – hopefully forever – and in her place is the 40 year old me that understands the value of taking a break before *I* break.

It has been building for a while. There were the normal stresses of the holidays, followed by seeing those extra holiday/winter pounds every time I look in the mirror. And my kids got head lice right around Christmas. I know what you’re thinking. And you’re right. Lice is gross and it’s a lot of work. But, really, I can handle all of that. And then in the middle of January I fell. Broke my shoulder. Yes, it was one of those icy days here in Vermont. But that wasn’t a factor. I fell in my kitchen – tripped over the damn vacuum cleaner cord and crashed into my cabinets. At that moment the real stress began.

I am a single mom. I have 4 kids. I own my own home. And, oh yeah, I am strong-willed and fiercely independent. I didn’t want to ask for help but I had to. Actually, strike that. I didn’t have to ask for help, I had to *accept* help. My mom moved in for a few days without me having to ask. My best friend spent that first, horrendous night with me when I was brutally sick from the meds (and likely from hitting my head) even after I insisted I was fine alone. Other friends made meals and transported my kids and stopped to fill my pellet stove. Without me having to ask. So, yeah, my friends and family rock. But the accepting is very difficult for me. It makes me anxious.

Then there were endless basketball games and homework and kids fighting and the less-than-pleasant, not at all easy to work with ex-husband. And just for the fun of it, life decided to pile on. My daughter hurt her knee and needs physical therapy twice a week, 25 minutes away. My son got sick and we’re still trying to figure it out. The past couple of weeks have been full of doctor appointments, tests with specialists, an ER visit, lots and lots of missed school, and that constant, aching, deep-in-your-bones worry when something is wrong with your child and it may be serious.

Three nights ago I was a wreck. Overtired, anxious, grumpy. My kids were fighting and I felt like I may burst. I texted a friend and said “I don’t want to be a mother tonight.”. This was bad. I put the kids to bed early, sat on my couch, and cried.

I opened my laptop and I booked myself a deluxe oceanfront room right on the beach in Maine. My happy place. I knew that I needed to get away in order to keep myself from running away.

After checking in yesterday I put on extra layers and immediately started walking on the beach. The waves were loud, the wind was furious, and I just let it all go. I stood on the beach alone and I cried the ugly cry. I thought about all of the things that have been making me anxious and I cried for every single one of them. And then I stopped. I gave my anxiety to the waves. The ocean gives me strength, it gives me perspective.

This night away does not erase all of my troubles. They will still be there when I return home later today. But it does buoy me (forgive the sea-related pun). It has allowed me to just be me for a while. I have cried, I have read and slept and treated myself to a seafood dinner and watched The Hangover on cable. I have sat in the over-sized chair for long periods of time just staring at the waves. I have recharged.

Tomorrow it all starts again. The normal everyday rigors of life. And maybe some not-so-normal ones too. But because I valued myself and my sanity enough to escape for a while, I will fight the fight with renewed energy. I will be able to be a better mom to my kids this week because I was good to myself first.

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Nikki is a work-at-home single mom with four kids, ranging in age from teenager to first grader. When life threw her a curve ball, she hit back hard and with a vengeance. She believes that life is what you make of it: you can either sit at home and watch the Oscars in your pajamas or buy a fancy dress at the thrift store and party in style. She has dedicated the last 14 years to creating a better life for her children, and now knows it’s time to create that better life for herself as well.

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