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.