Man, it got ugly there for a minute.
And by minute, I mean 6 years.
Anybody can start from the beginning of this project and figure out that nothing’s been easy for a while. But if you read through, you’ll find a common theme of hope. I have never given up hope. Far away from the soul-crushing anomalies and beneath the omnipresent darkness, I detected light and hope and believed I would get there.
But, nothing will fuck with your head like the feeling of failure. Nothing. Once somebody has told you that you failed, no matter how small or insignificant that thing is, that feeling is emblazoned in your heart and mind as the one thing you perpetually dodge but always court. No matter what you try, what risk you take, what goal you set to accomplish, that hissing, tsking voice is there. Reminding you of that one time…
But what if you didn’t fail? What if that was somebody’s boneheaded perception of events or their own issue that led them to criticize somebody else’s work or life? See, here’s what I’m asking. What if there was no such thing as failure?
As evidence, I’d like to submit Shitstorm 2006-2012. This six year long whirlwind of bullshit left me with two options:
1. Bitterness. I could rise up full of righteous rage for all the injustices we endured, cutting myself off from people and places who didn’t help or should have helped or tried to help but just missed the mark. I would wither and die, desiccating like seaweed at low tide.
2. Introspective. I could spend some time thinking about life and love and the things that really matter in the world. I could take those lessons to heart and change my perspective into one of gratitude, all the while laughing at the forces that tried to break my family. I would endure and bloom.
Happy for me, I chose option 2. I’m not tooting my own horn, because I still struggle with want vs. need, luxury vs. necessity, and the desire to scream and yell at walls because my kids won’t go to sleep. But seriously, nothing will make you appreciate life like seeing somebody come back to life. And that’s what’s happening. I never gave up hope that it would get better, and finally, it has.
This month, for the first time in years, I felt OK. We’ve all decided that kidlet’s school was no bueno, so we’re home schooling in the fall. We joined a swim team and haven’t been late to practice once, and we’re in love with this experience. I have a legit vegetable garden. We paid our bills on time. I stick to a meal plan. Mostly. “We’re OK,” I thought. “We’re actually doing OK.”
But then I got a phone call and I learned that because I’m lousy at sending cards and I call late on birthdays and Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, and because I don’t read minds, I needed to go see a therapist. I was being a bad family member. Literally. I was doing irreparable damage to my relationships. I was failing.
I got two hours of sleep that night, terrified that I’d taken slices of my family members’ hearts, seared them and laughed. “Am I really an asshole?” I wondered. Maybe. I did forget to call at a reasonable hour on Father’s Day and honestly, I don’t send cards. Am I a self-absorbed piece of crap? Maybe. I have a blog and regularly post status updates on Facebook. Sometimes I call people and talk about myself. But these claims leveled against me were really harsh. In anger and confusion, I wrote letters that I’ll never send, defending myself and retaliating with similar petty claims. I edited and re-edited and then deleted them. I looked deep inside and asked why somebody could possibly think this about me.
So, I went to see a therapist today. When I told him all of this, he laughed. He fucking laughed. He was like, “So, you’re supposed to remember all of this shit in the midst of dealing with moving 400 miles away, a depressed spouse, leaving your career, your husband changing jobs, finding new schools, finding a better school, finding new doctors, grocery stores, friends, and well, everything else that comes with this kind of change, all while running a household and mothering two small children? I’m sorry, but you’re doing just fine.”
So I walked out and left all the failure at the door.
When I got that first phone call, my mother-in-law was visiting. Tearfully, I asked her, “At what age do you get to say, ‘I’m not changing either.’”
“Well, it happens when you like who you are. It’s not an age or a birthday. It’s a mental place.”
I think I’m there. It’s not that I’ll stop learning. It’s not that I’ll stop growing or trying to be a better person. That’s as important to me as breathing. But I’m not going to start sending cards when I’ve never sent them before, simply to appease somebody else’s sense of…whatever the fuck it appeases. I don’t even know. I think cards are lame. I’m going to continue to write about my experience in living. I’m going to continue to post stories on Facebook. I'm going to learn how to do math art and revisit calculus and get re-certified as a trainer. But honestly, I don’t give a shit what anybody thinks anymore. The point of the story is this: I’ve come too far and learned too much about myself to have some third party come in and tell me that everything I’ve learned is wrong or simply not good enough. I actually like myself and the way I live my life! My kids and my husband are happy. I am happy. We overcame by not giving up and have succeeded by emerging happy. Nobody else gets a say in how we run our life under our roof. Nobody.
So that’s it, I guess. The bad shit is over and we’re good. Like really good. I’ve got new writing projects and I’m excited to share those, but really, if you’ve been reading and supporting, I am so thankful. Your comments and encouragement let me know that I’d touched on something important. Writing this blog has been as therapeutic as sitting on a therapist's couch. Motherhood is the most demanding job on Earth and I continue to find humor among the most exasperating moments. Really though God/Universe/Spaghetti Monster, I promise I'll continue to write as long as I can just go the rest of my life without my house flooding again. Really.
End of Chapter 1