Do you ever feel like your family is in shambles? Like the whole fuckin’ thing is just coming apart at the seams? Considering my family did in fact once come apart at the seams, and we were separated for two full years, perhaps I should explain myself so y’all don’t pose an intervention.
I’m sober. Mac’s sober. We are all sober. Even, against appearances, the toddler is sober.
I’m not talking about really falling apart. I’m talking about a sense that it’s unraveling, that you’re clinging to something that once was or you thought once was or maybe it never was, but the current state is so unbearable you convince yourself it must have been better once.
And you write run-on sentences. Because your life is a run-on sentence.
Where am I?
It’s the endless driving, maybe. The way the days blur together. Or the bickering, perhaps. The nonstop bickering over shit so stupid I just want to yell “EVERYONE SHUT THE FUCK UP.” The seat in the car. Whose turn? The Gatorade. Sometimes their voices feel like a thousand pounds of steel across my shoulders. And I’m already slouching.
I’ve got a couple of teenagers now. They sure are a treat. No seriously, they really are, as long as they’re not acting so ungrateful and entitled I decide I have unequivocally blown it as a parent and all hope is lost. The eye rolls. The deep sighs. The laziness coursing through their bones.
Five minutes later, we’re shit-talking Trump over text messages or snuggling on the couch or I look at them from across the room and they’re so fucking beautiful and strong and whole I could just fucking die with awe and pride, and it hits me that one will be gone in two years and the other in six, only now I know how fast that “six” goes, and a sense of panic settles into me: How could it be?
Are they what I cling to? My oldest two because they were once the sizes of the little ones?
Speaking of whom, the little ones. They never, ever, and I mean never fucking ever, stop talking. No stopping. Ever. No not talking. There is no way to not be talking. Dreams. Questions. Stories that last twenty-seven minutes but go nowhere. God I’m an asshole.
Where do babies come from? Why does daddy get up so early? How do we get to God? Is grandpa with God? How does death smell?
MORBID, ARLO. FUCKING MORBID.
I also fully said, “Sometimes when two people love each other a baby appears.” Leave me alone. He’s four. He won’t remember this shit anyway.
My point is, I feel right now like I cannot for the life of me find my ground as the mother of this family. Like if my teenagers aren’t sucking dry my will to live, the energy required to nurture, contain, corral, listen to, prepare for, dress, bathe, and appreciate the youth of the little ones IS.
I can’t keep my house clean for the life of me. And I ain’t a perfectionist. Think of a low bar and then fail to maintain it. If I come home and clean the house while they’re at school, I can’t work, and if I don’t work, we don’t live, because the universe apparently missed the memo that my book was supposed to be A RAGING BESTSELLER and I was supposed to not be on Craiglist looking for potential teaching gigs or maybe receptionist gigs or maybe Starbucks barista gigs because the hustle is real and the last advance check came and there’s, like, no more comin’ on that front.
DUDE I JUST SPENT 10 DAYS IN CANADA WTF AM I WHINING ABOUT?
You see? That too. This is supposed to be the best time of my life. And it was. Is? Shit.
My book came out four months ago! Am I missing it? I feel like I’m too worried about the next project (AKA “continuing to pay mortgage”), doctor appointments, picking kids up, homework, groceries, laundry, et fucking cetera to “enjoy” this. AM I MISSING MY JOY?
I’m joking. I think.
Still, in my head, everything was going to change. I was surely going to be able to pay off my student loans instead of what I actually did this morning, which was renegotiate the payment based on our new income. On the plus side, it’s now half what it was before. Yay?
My point is, between money and driving and varied kid needs and the part of me that wants to cling to my writing career but also curl safely into the arms of a 401k, I’m so lost right now I sometimes spend 2-3 hours on my bed reading, or staring at my phone, because all directions point, nowhere?
I think sometimes we are tossed into the air and we stay there for a while as shit gets sorted, or we get sorted, and then we get to find our footing again amongst our people.
Everything feels weird currently. The other day, a long-time reader commented on an Instagram post (while I was in Canada), “Remember when you used to complain about money and I could relate to you?”
That shit broke my heart. Maybe she was joking. I hope!? I think sometimes people watch something like a book coming out or a book tour, and think the author has been rocketed into fame and money and retirement accounts, but that happens for like 1% of the authors in the world and in my dreams that was definitely going to be me but in reality it turns out I have to keep working my ass off and renegotiating student loan payments. I jest. I would constantly move between “Everyone is going to love this” and “I should jump off a bridge now.” I believe we call that, The Human Condition.
My point is I even feel a little disconnected from you. My readers. The people I’ve spoken to and reached out to in the happiest and darkest days of motherhood and you’ve done the same to me, for quite a few years now. Seven, actually. Seven!
Because I think maybe you think I have changed, and we aren’t the same anymore, and that if I complain about my life I’m ungrateful, because look at all this fancy shit I’m doing. So do I hide my struggles? That seems fake too.
Do I jump into I AM AN AUTHOR NOW mode and stick out my pinky when I drink tea? AM I FANCY NOW is what I’m saying.
I mean, I shit in a bag and kept it. That’s what’s in my fucking memoir. Not exactly the type of thing that intrigues Pulitzer judges (is a Pulitzer judge a thing? Because if so, and you are one, I am happy to email you a copy of my book. Somebody help me.).
I guess my point here is that everything can go right and we can get lost, and everything can go wrong and we can get found, and I don’t seem to know how to handle life very well.
I’m 39. Seems like I should have a better grasp on this.
Success, failure, unbridled mediocrity. It’s all baffling to me. I just keep writing shit and hoping for the best, and I try to tell the truth, as I’m doing right now.
The night before I left for Canada, my Dad called to ask me an unexpected question: “Ten years ago,” he said, “Did you ever think a retreat center in Canada would invite you to teach writing for them?”
My god, we laughed. Because he really nailed it.
No, I never thought. I never imagined. And we can hold onto that, right, when we can’t see what’s coming, and maybe we’re terrified?
Here’s the book that has launched me into the literary elite or possibly exactly where I was before only in awe, stunned, and so overwhelmed by the chance to write that many consecutive words, see them in print, and hear your responses.
It’s been an incredible ride, and don’t worry, I have some shit up my sleeve. Metaphorical shit. Okay? No interventions necessary.
I have no idea how to adequately thank you.
Maybe you think this wasn’t you but it was.
Jessica ButlerThursday, 20 September, 2018 at 17:38
“Everything can go right and we can get lost, and everything can go wrong and we can get found.”
You’re a fucking genius.
Also, everyday is perfect and everyday is shambles when you’re a mother and a writer. At least it is for me. I thought that was normal. Now you’ve got me worried.
KathyThursday, 20 September, 2018 at 17:50
Thank you for your realness. Your blog posts and your book are so healing. I totally get feeling like you have so much you have ever hoped for, but still being brought down by the mundane annoyances of every day Life. People don’t talk about this but I feel it all the time. The gratitude and frustration and boredom and wonder all rolled up into one. Thank you.
TarahThursday, 20 September, 2018 at 18:00
I think you are still the bomb, I am 37 and have NOTHING figured out! Can you walk around with ear plugs all day? I have thought about this for myself but thought the baby might still need me to pay attention ???? your writing always moves me is what I really wanted to say!
SamanthaThursday, 20 September, 2018 at 18:25
We are all still here, with you, struggling and not struggling at times, in this quagmire.. keep being you, sharing good and bad and questionable. I need it. I still feel all the same things you do and can relate to the raising of humans. I raised three alone and now they’re grown. On a side note, I turn 50 next week and I’m kinda excited although my frown lines don’t show it. Lol. Oh God, I digress… please keep sharing and being your awesome ass self
EllieThursday, 20 September, 2018 at 18:47
Janelle-I am a long-time reader and first time commenter. I purchased and read (actually, listened to) your book. I loved it; especially hearing you read your own story. It felt as if you were a friend who was confiding in me. I felt bad sometimes that I couldn’t respond with awe and gratitude for your willingness to be a real human who doesn’t hide behind a mask of inauthenticity. So, I’m finally commenting to say thanks and for continually reminding me that although many of us try to appear like we have it “all figured out” most of us don’t and that’s okay.
Erin dThursday, 20 September, 2018 at 18:58
I just bought your book and when it arrived, I spent the whole day reading it. I couldn’t fucking put it down. I’ve read your blog for a few years now, so of course, I feel like we are best buddies. But your book blew me away. I’ve never had addiction problems, but I’ve never felt like I belong to any mom group. I’m a weirdo artist so it’s hard to blend in. Anyway, thank you. Thank you for sharing your life and your family and making all of us who need to read what you write and feel like they belong somewhere. Thank you.
AnitaThursday, 20 September, 2018 at 19:00
I left Cortes feeling so full, happy, excited and ready to create. I got home and reality set in. I picked a fight with my husband: because he’s breathing. I put the laundry on, pissy about how how I got stuck being the maid. I looked around and decided the house and all the people in it are the reason I’m miserable in that very moment. I want to hide out when I feel like that. Thanks for writing.
KristyThursday, 20 September, 2018 at 19:27
This is me. And not just in the content, in the narrative, the out of body levels of awareness of your own bullshit. Feeling everything and nothing all at once, pointless and purposeful.
Is this ‘it’? Am I actually doing ‘it’? Am I doing “it’ right? ‘It’ is not how I expected ‘it’ would be. Of course ‘it’ isn’t.
Once when I got high I had an epiphany about apples and permanency and duality of being but not being, and I felt so calm and understanding of the world and my place in it. I wish I had captured that moment somehow. Now its just a memory of a moment without actually recalling the moment. Typical.
WendyThursday, 20 September, 2018 at 20:14
I read your shit because you are always real. Enjoying your success does not make you less relatable. You are not afraid to be who are instead of pretending to be real (“see I woke up and didn’t get my hair blown out today”). Your words ring true and your voice is a rarity in a cacophony of “influencers.” Unfortunately “bestseller” does not always go to the “best writing” – it goes to the best social media marketing. Look into to it if you want to sell more books – but don’t ever doubt the quality of your work.
LindseyThursday, 20 September, 2018 at 20:46
You absolutely can be in conflict with yourself, your family, and the world and still right the most eloquent yet not pompous shit in the world. You are a success and an inspiration to so many and I wish that would translate into mortgage payments handled for life and a state of euphoria that doesn’t quit. Unfortunately, life ‘after’ addiction is full of non-stop feelings. That is incredibly relatable for me at least.
TabithaFriday, 21 September, 2018 at 0:11
I’m not a writer, so I can’t put something witty and funny and snarky down here I am an accountant. And a wife and a mom of two very small humans. And I live in the Central Valley and I love your blog like mad. I feel like I go crazy sometimes. Then I read your posts and I feel normal a human and just like all the other moms struggling to raise humans and husbands and make it in life. So thank you. Keep going. Please! My sanity needs it. You’re real and I adore you.
GenniFriday, 21 September, 2018 at 9:03
I so hear you re: non-stop talking! Vivid memory: MASSIVELY pregnant with my third, two youngest sitting in the back seat literally talking over each other LOUDLY. They begin to realize the other one is speaking, potentially denying the other the chance to be heard, thus each INCREASES volume. My husband is driving, somehow blissfully unaware that ANYONE is talking, as all comments are directed at ME. I’m hopelessly sitting, feeling my blood pressure rise in sync with their volume, KNOWING that I’m actively adding to this chaos by having another potential talker to this glorious mix. I ask my husband,” Why isnt this bothering you? Why aren’t they talking to you?” His response,” They know you’ll answer them. Every time.” Do I laugh or cry. (We went on to have 4)
RobFriday, 21 September, 2018 at 9:39
I am sad because it doesn’t look like my first attempt at this reply went through. I’ll try a second time, then shrug and amble away.
Anyway, yes. Thanks for this post.
I’ve spent the past feeling more and more adrift on the reactionary chaotic waves that are my family and life, and then POP into the mailbox comes this gem. Teenagers. Talking. Money issues. Piles of laundry. All of it. (Well, except for the book publishing thing. Not that.)
Gotta keep in mind that nobody on this rock knows, really, what they’re doing, and that no matter what’s going on now? It’ll change and then for some un-currently-fathomable reason I’ll miss it.
I appreciate your perspective. Keep on keeping on.
LesleighFriday, 21 September, 2018 at 11:46
JenFriday, 21 September, 2018 at 12:12
Oh how I love this. I am exactly here right now too. Minus the awesome book stuff, and besides reading yours that is ???? I couldn’t put it down. Anyway.. I’m also 39, with 4 kids and having a week where I’m walking down the frozen food aisle in Walmart and struggling to hold back tears I didn’t know I was even holding on to. Thank you for being here, and sharing this. I so needed it ❤
angiFriday, 21 September, 2018 at 12:37
I have literally read 2 of your articles. I read the first one about 5 times. In this one, you mention worry of not relating to us, your readers. I’m new here. You are the clearest voice I’ve heard that has been a beacon of hope that I’m not alone in what I deem important shit at the moment. So, for what it’s worth, you relate, you’re relatable (is that a word?!)…keep writing. Much gratitude. PS I’m buying your book.
Alison LeeFriday, 21 September, 2018 at 13:22
i still think you’re fancy, in the good and positive ways.
RainFriday, 21 September, 2018 at 14:12
Change, I hope you’ve change in the spaces where change is needed and grown where growth is needed and stayed in the spaces where you belong.
You are as authentic as ever and for that I am grateful.
There were many dark days where I was home, alone in my mind and thoughts trying to find my way. Oh yeah, with a baby or two and a house that always needed something and a spouse that did too….
Your words found me, I do not remember how but they did in a space and time when I needed it most.
Even though I have grown, changed and stayed, your words still find me and speak to me and let me know I am not alone.
I feel you shone a light for many individuals Janelle and gave light to a path that was once feared to walk.
LorainFriday, 21 September, 2018 at 14:19
Keep going. You’re doing great. I promise, you are.
AnnaFriday, 21 September, 2018 at 15:31
I wanted you to know how much this post resonated with me. Now I’m not landing book deals, or speaking gigs, but I did just get offered a huge opportunity to do something different, and maybe dig out of my own poverty a bit. Your post today nailed how I feel about it and how I feel lately.
You and I live much different lives, but you always manage to speak to my soul. Thank you for that. And please don’t feel like you are out of touch with all of your readers. Some people hate it when others grow. I’m just glad to have some validation in my own motherhood and unraveling.
Keep kicking ass, and paying bills lady, you are one of my heroes.
JillFriday, 21 September, 2018 at 19:47
My brother – who I’m super close to, but is honestly kind of a dick sometimes – said something to me a while back that was decidedly (and surprisingly) not-dickish. He said, “The only thing that stays the same is that we are always changing.” I thought that was pretty good and it came at a time in my life when I was feeling pretty much like, “What the hell?” all the time. You’re doing great. I love reading your blog and loved your book. Shit changes, our feelings about shit changes. I’m sticking with you along the way because your honest self-examination is refreshing.
kathy sokolFriday, 21 September, 2018 at 20:19
“Most things will be o.k. eventually, but not everything will be. Sometimes you’ll put up a good fight and lose. Sometimes you’ll hold on really hard and realize there is no choice but to let go. Acceptance is a small quiet room.”—–Cheryl Strayed
Sue GRFriday, 21 September, 2018 at 21:14
I’m 59 and stuck indefinitely in adulting 101. I am not overstating the level of my deficiencies at adulting. My parents were more mature than me in their 30’s. I still ask my mom for money. I have NOT written a book. My memoir is 10 years of Facebook posts and now my kids (teens) refuse to be part of the public version of us. We have no retirement plan. We are insured because we can both work full-time. I don’t expect it to get any better. Your posts help though! Thanks for keeping it real!
Amanda L O'BriantSaturday, 22 September, 2018 at 3:08
You are wonderful. I’m getting ready to get on a plane to go somewhere for work, and it will be cool, but yeah I have to leave my spouse alone with the 3 kids and the homework and the whining and laundry and all the dinners, lunch-packing and schlepping, and I feel guilty for the stress it will cause for everyone involved—yet I have worked to get here to the point where someone pays me to go occasionally somewhere else to do work and this is how we eat, so guess what I have to embrace the going. And my kids are amazing and they whiplash between the most selfish, entitled lazy individuals of a type I never planned to create and sweetest, most loving, creative humans. So thanks, I feel better as I prepare to get on the plane. I’ll get coffee and look for your book in an independent bookstore when I reach my destination and give it to myself as a gift.
SiriSaturday, 22 September, 2018 at 5:09
I want you to know that I found your blog through a google search about SouleMama. Something about how she lies about her golden son going outside to pluck a chicken for the family dinner. Guess what? I promptly stopped reading about her homestead and have read every single one of your posts about your “homestead” (haha?) over the past 5+ years. That’s a lot of your words. You never fail us readers.
Kathy Landis-KaysSaturday, 22 September, 2018 at 5:12
You crack me up! Like parenting has an expiration date: “one will be gone in two years and the other in six”. As fucking IF! Mine are 23 and 18 and cheerfully thriving in their age-appropriate adult transitions under our roof. They are appreciative, productive and delightful; occasionally selfish, entitled and lazy. Yep, all at the same time, and the hub and I feel beyond grateful to have them in our lives, and are also thrilled for our increased time alone with each other. Still parenting, still loving it, even as it changes. We got to raise people we like to be with, as I know you and Mac are doing. So ease up on yourself; this IS it; you are doing 39 with four kids amazingly well, as far as I can tell!
The cacophony of now is real, but girl, stop mourning its passage already; “it distracts from the now,” to quote Edna Mode. (I prescribe a family movie night of “The Incredibles”; it got me through the trauma of parenting through middle and high school years. And therapy helped, too.)
I’ve been reading you for about five years because my friend raved about you. We got to meet you in Portland during your tour, and you told me I had great taste in friends. True. And you are my virtual friend; I’m telling you, you are okay. You are like gravity to your family, keeping everyone pulled toward the center, creating the safe space to be occasional assholes while learning to be human beings. Get a little quiet time for yourself to recharge and do it all again. Love yourself. Model that to your kids. Love your parents, who know you so well. (You are not gone from their lives, see? Still parenting, but different.)
I hope to attend one of your workshops someday. Keep doing YOU, Janelle!
Chenay Pointer-BueltelSaturday, 22 September, 2018 at 7:06
You’re awesome, Janelle. I haven’t written a book, but I’ve done other things that I thought we’re going to lead me to some other worldly and constant blissed out state, but I’ve realized that’s not how life works. Thanks for always keeping it real for your readers, the really good and the not so really good, you don’t have to choose between the two, just be authentically yourself like you always have.
JoSaturday, 22 September, 2018 at 9:21
I lost you for a little while, Facebook, dictates who we see, but I came looking and it is as if the universe sent me.
I have followed you for four years, since just before Arlo was born, and just before my forth and whenever I have read your posts I cry because they are what I need and touch me like no other. Today I am feeling pretty crap and alone and come here and you say it all, everything I need; I am not alone, there are others in the same situation. Thank you Janelle x
Heather J.Saturday, 22 September, 2018 at 15:25
For all that is good and holy, please keep writing. Shit, keep writing for all that is bad and evil, too. And all the stuff in between. Because all of it is in everything, and your writing helps us see that and to know we’re not out here being crazy on our own. That there are other crazies, too. And that we’re probably not the crazy ones.
LauraSaturday, 22 September, 2018 at 17:37
Hang in there. Even when you’re flailing, you’re nailing it. Can’t even tell you the number of times I’ve felt what you wrote about. Thank you for putting the dynamic to words so i don’t feel so crazy and alone.
SlowsnowSunday, 23 September, 2018 at 4:37
Hi there. 42 y old here. I’m about to finish my PhD in art history, which I decided to do because 1)I finally had an inlking of MY subject 2)Writing is the love of my life (apart from my family). I dread to be in the state you’re in. Because that’s what happens when you pour your guts out in a text (which I have done, even art history can be very personal) and no one tells you how amazing you are for having done it and gives you a million $ for it. Except J K Rowling and a few others. F them.
So… Hang in there. And most of all: keep writing. It’s what keeps you alive and it’s the ultimate purpose (apart from making those fuckers alive, i.e., your family).
Stefanue RicardSunday, 23 September, 2018 at 6:55
Thank you so much for writing this. I’m newly 50 and feeling a bit like my family is in shambles.
ErikaSunday, 23 September, 2018 at 7:05
Honey, just keep doing what you’re doing, because you have always been – and continue to be – an inspiration to me. I feel you COMPLETELY on every up and down of this emotional rollercoaster. Just hang on. We’re riding it with you, and it wouldn’t be as fun without you.
Sending you love and hugs and all that hippie dippie shit!
BronwynnSunday, 23 September, 2018 at 8:59
I love reading your blog. Its so relatable and funny, I laugh and feel solidarity with every post. It’s awesome you published a book as well, especially one so raw. Ignore any negative comments, they aren’t about you, they are about whoever is writing them.
ElaineSunday, 23 September, 2018 at 10:32
Keep kicking ass Janelle. There is a “kinda mantra” I find me telling me everyday when I get lost, overwhelmed, procrastinate, tired of shit, think I’m a loser, etc. “Elaine, you are the woman who gets things done.” And it is true, just ask anyone who knows me. All of the post that say you are in inspiration. Those are real and true!
You are one of those women who gets things done too. And trust me, it isn’t easy. But you, like me, really are living the dream.
BeckyMonday, 24 September, 2018 at 5:18
I am one of your long-time readers/followers. I have never commented. You deserve all the joy, all the good things! Hang in there, and please keep writing. We’re all still here with you, trying to stay grounded amidst the chaos of this life.
Deborah IMonday, 24 September, 2018 at 6:27
I get this. So much to the depths of what is left of my soul (the .25 inches they haven’t sucked out yet). I’ve started a new job, my kids range from 7-10 (4 of them in that age range) my partner works 4 10’s so I solo 4 nights a week and I wonder what happened to the perfect Pinterest mom I wanted to be. I can’t do all the things and still look the part. Sure, you can do day long cheer camp, but I’m showing up in my dead milkmen shirt. Thank you Janelle. There needs to be solidarity among mom’s, not competition. You have softened my fearful judgement perception. Maybe that mom wasn’t absent like me but maybe she just said,”I came to win” to her kid when playing a cooperative board game last night too. Keep writing.
KellyMonday, 24 September, 2018 at 7:05
“Success, failure, unbridled mediocrity. It’s all baffling to me. I just keep writing shit and hoping for the best, and I try to tell the truth, as I’m doing right now.”
This is all you can do. You are you and life is sometimes glorious, but most of the time, struggle and muck. Meh. It will be fine. Love you, J.
MegMonday, 24 September, 2018 at 8:48
I love your blog, and loved your book. Sometimes I just need to hear from someone else who loves their kids but doesn’t always want to be the fucking mom.
ScottMonday, 24 September, 2018 at 10:16
I don’t usually write on blogs but I’m moved to with this post. Being a dad of 3, ages 20-15, I’ve walked this path for awhile and I still feel like I’m just trying to make it through today. My wife and I share laughs over your posts. So much of this one hit me in the face, as your writing usually does. All I know is you’re kicking ass. This line hits it out of the park:
Success, failure, unbridled mediocrity. It’s all baffling to me. I just keep writing shit and hoping for the best, and I try to tell the truth, as I’m doing right now.
Keep telling the truth! Awesome stuff!
VanessaSaturday, 29 September, 2018 at 15:36
Janelle, I loved your book so much, and you would be relatable even if you made a million dollars. Your success makes me happy, because you’re one of us! I’ve never done any drugs, but I refused to acknowledge or treat my depression and anxiety for 8 years and my kids and husband had to live with an angry and unhinged mom, so I felt like I could relate to your struggle. And even if I couldn’t relate, it’s a pleasure to read your writing because it’s so good.
JSunday, 28 October, 2018 at 15:34
This. I just love you, that’s all. And thank you for making g me feel not so alone