Monthly Archives: September 2014

Undertow (Just Write)


10:51 a.m. Sitting at my dining room table, all quiet except the hum of the fridge, the intermittent rain, and the roar of lawnmowers. This might be the first time I have been alone in my own house in I can’t remember how long.

I keep saying these last few weeks have been hard, like I am expecting them to be better. This has been an especially long cycle of hard, and I don’t really see any change on the horizon. I keep writing about the same things, but these same things are weighing me down. For the first time in a long time, I feel very overwhelmed by motherhood. It’s always overwhelming, in the busyness and intensity, but I mean overwhelmed like I am caught under a large wave and I’m not sure when I will be allowed to come up for air. Usually one kid is going through a phase, then the other, but both seem to be going through transitions at the same time, transitions that has turned my generally happy and independent kids into very emotional and clingy ones. At the same time, I seem to be going through a seismic shift in being. It’s all a little much.

On the micro level, these days are hard to get through. On the macro level, underneath everything is my slightly hysterical realization that it’s moving too fast, and that these are days I will long for too soon. Every minute I spend with the kids is slightly torturous- my two year old is becoming quite successful at the terrible twos, and my five year old is uncharacteristically exhausted and emotional. Both want me to be physically next to them at all times. And yet, I am so aware of how very little time I have with them where they will want to be with me. A friend in a writing group said it changes in a day. One day the door shuts, and that’s it, you will never see your kid naked again. I laughed, because it’s funny and how it should be, but why does this make me so sad?

I keep waiting for the rhythm to reveal itself. (Sidenote, why is “rhythm” so hard to spell right????) Summer’s rhythm was easy to pick up and follow and I thought fall’s would be too, especially with school and set schedules and such. Instead every day feels untethered. My preschooler is learning days of the week. One day he gets them all right. The next day I ask him, what comes after Friday? He frowns and puts a finger on his chin in mock concentration and says, ummm Monday? Yes, that’s how I feel. Saturday doesn’t seem to be following Friday. The rhythm is jumbled, out of order.

I keep thinking of a final exam I took in a music appreciation class in high school. The final exam consisted of my professor playing a single section of a Philip Glass piece of music, and playing it over and over and over for the hour and a half. Our only instructions were to write what we heard. I don’t remember the song, but I do remember it sounded like breaking glass, and only breaking glass. It did not sound anything like music. At first, it was intrusive and almost unbearable. But after an hour, what at first were random and unknowing bursts of sound, seemed to rearrange themselves and a peculiar kind of beauty emerged. A song, a rhythm, something beautiful out of something jarring.

One of my favorite things is the “Just Write” link-up on The Extraordinary Ordinary. The idea is you just write, freely, with no plan or editing. This post is just some random thoughts on a rainy Tuesday, and was very liberating, and very necessary. Check it out! http://extraordinary-ordinary.net/2014/07/15/just-write-144/

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Keeping It Together

Last week. Starbucks was crowded so I was sitting at the communal table next to two twenty-something girls. I covertly watched them- their messy hair, big sunglasses, last night’s mascara casually smeared in the right way. The black-haired one sighed, and pushed her purple sunglasses up higher on her head. “I really need to get my life together”, she said. “Yes,” the other one said, “we really do. I mean, we’re like so far from together.”

I smiled because I remembered how many times I’ve said those words. For the first time since I turned forty, I feel proud of it. I’m not making fun of these girls- I achingly remember the uncertainty of my twenties. I knew nothing, the shape of my life and what it would contain was maddeningly blurry and insubstantial. I wanted a plan, I wanted to know who I was, I wanted to know it would all be okay. I wanted to know I would not end up alone and in a job I hated, or not alone but with a guy that constantly withheld love for weeks or months and then poured it out on me all at once in a way that was intoxicating but too much to handle, or with a guy that bored me, or with a guy that was perfect for me but in a job that was suffocating and paid me no money and we would live in a crappy apartment in West Hollywood for the rest of my life while all my friends bought houses and had babies. Basically I was afraid of not knowing what I wanted, and then not ever getting anything right because I didn’t know what to ask for. I spent hours with my best friends, endlessly discussing ourselves and the different versions we were trying on, the lives we were auditioning, the lives we wanted or didn’t want, the lives we feared. This is what twenty should be- trying to get it together. Trying to identify what it is that you want, and then stitching it together with that other thing that you discover you need, and so on. Searching each thread for the right job, the right city, the right man, the right career, the right passions, the right life.

As I was listening to these girls, I was also reading Lindsey Mead’s awesome ode to turning 40 (This is 40) and nodding along. As Lindsey says,  these are the  “in between years, the thick, hot heart of life’s grand pageant, busy and rich and exhausting, overflowing with demands, responsibilities, and love”. I nodded along, yes, because I feel so in-between, in the middle, at the top of the roller coaster; and yet, I also feel like I’ve arrived somewhere. I’m not trying to get my life together anymore, I realize, I am just trying to keep it together. I want to tell my twenty-five year old self- relax. You will find the right husband, you will find the right-enough career path to get you where you need to be, you will have a house you love, and friends you cherish, kids that will complete you and tear you up in ways you didn’t know you needed, and a passion for something that makes everything make sense. But when you find it, you have to keep it all together. Life with kids is messy and someone has to make sure everything doesn’t unravel. And that’s you, that’s 40.

My life is together, as in I have gathered all these people and things that mean so, so much to me, and I hold them against me every night. But what my twenty-five year old self did not know is how scary a life together can be. Because now I have so, so much to lose. I can’t breathe sometimes with the weight of knowing this. It’s the ordinary things that remind me.

It’s O’s shoes kicked haphazardly across the entry rug, I’s baby dolls and trail of diapers she has taken from my bag and used for her own babies, Mike’s computer bag perfectly organized and zipped in the same place every night. I look at these things and I feel it in my chest- the flutter of love that can swirl itself into a tornado of fear if I let it. This daily litter of books and papers and mail and sippy cups and crayons and Lego’s and tiny shoes is the evidence of my life, and sometimes they haunt me, these things that are useless without the people they belong to. I don’t know what it is about a child’s shoe that can send me running upstairs to lie down next to O, to make sure he is still breathing, to make sure he is okay, to make sure he knows he is loved. In the still of the night, everything seems to breathe with what ifs.

It’s the drawings I found on the shower door yesterday morning. As the steam enveloped the shower, a princess, a castle, the moon, a heart with my daughter’s name inside it, all bloomed into life. I wasn’t there, but knew my husband had drawn these to please our daughter. I could see her, standing in her mermaid pajamas, her round tummy, her crazy swirling curls, her gap-toothed grin, holding her purse and her baby and her loveys, shouting “A princess! The moooon! Again, daddy, again!”. Evidence of love, of this life I share, evidence of everything I have pulled together.

It’s 3 am last night, and a shout from upstairs, and a bad dream and holding him close and noticing how he doesn’t fit quite as well anymore, but still little enough that my arm around him can keep the bad dreams at bay. I lay there longer than I had to, holding him, trying not to cry, keeping it together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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