This is a link-up for Addie Zierman’s Night Driving which comes out today. Happy book birthday Addie! Addie is a much needed voice in the church who is willing to engage darkness, cynicism, depression, and other things that don’t get mentioned much from the pulpit. Plus, her prose will make you straight jealous you didn’t think of that sentence. Get it here.
Is this my life?
This can’t be my life.
This cannot be what my life is about.
These phrases said to me in a car, at the park, over the phone, in a text, sometimes tossed into the conversation as a joke. But it isn’t a joke. Not really. Multiple women around my age, around my circumstances have thrown out this phrase in one form or another. Always there is a searching for something. The only thing I have to offer is solidarity.
I know. I am surprised too. I wasn’t expecting this either.
Four years ago, in March I was telling my co-workers just how exhausted I was. Two under two, a full time job and a husband in his first year of PhD all while trying to be a High school English teacher was showing its wear. I had forgotten my lunch or a meeting, or showed up to work in dirty pants again. Something adults were not supposed to do, I again had done. I am sure I was trying to laugh it off.
“I don’t know whether it was the PhD or the second baby, but our lives have been thrown into chaos.”
My co-worker with the southern accent and the exceptionally sharp wit looked at me incredulously: “Abby, It is the second baby.”
I stammered. I had my money on PhD putting us over the edge. “I think it is probably the PhD. I guess we will find out when it ends.”
The PhD is about to end and I am afraid she might be right. There is a pile of laundry in my bedroom that has been folded twice but never put away. A month after it came out of the wash it is still in a crumpled mess on my floor, some of the pieces have been washed, worn and thrown back in the pile. Despite being a “girl mom” I have Legos all over the living room. Turns out liking Legos and not wanting to pick them up is a gender neutral trait.
I wake up at 6 and get home at 6 and keep thinking I will do something fun on the weekends, but my husband and I really just tackle the dishes and take turns catching up on sleep.
Is this really my life?
Everyone but me is sick at my house. Fevers, coughs, chills, nausea. We have apparently communicated how glad we are that the girls puke in a bowl. They tell us proudly when it happens. I feel their foreheads constantly and second guess my self about taking them to the doctor. One more day, I think, and surely it will be gone. They seem better at night, but are hot to the touch in the morning. Okay, I think, one more day.
I sneak off to the spare room to lie down when everyone else is napping. I take the dog with me in hopes of one less mess to clean up in the future. At least this way I know she isn’t getting into anything. Inevitably, I am woken up by someone needing something.
M-O-M. The cry comes from the living room and even after almost six years I am surprised that I am the one in charge. That I am the one they are calling for. I have no idea what I am doing. They call for mom, and I wish my mom was here too.
Here is the thing about being an adult: You never stop calling for your mom.
Some of my earliest memories are of my mom. Her red trench coat and black heeled boots. I remember following her around the local University campus, and her coming up the front walk of the babysitters house to collect me after kindergarten. I remember a mostly clean house and a caper chart with our activities listed faithfully at the bottom so everyone would get to piano and indoor soccer when they needed to. I don’t remember her being exhausted by the pace of daily life.
I call my sisters and we shrug and marvel. We have no idea how mom did it, and we have no idea why none of us inherited that gene. I call my mom and she tells me I am doing a good job. She reminds me that she didn’t work full time until I was in first grade, and she certainly didn’t have the commute that I have. She tells me I am doing the best I can and she is right. I just wish it were better. I didn’t expect my best to look like a never ending pile of unfolded laundry and exactly zero tropical vacations in sight.
I cover up my shivering daughters on the couch and check with my sick husband before I escape to the coffee shop. Writers group, that is supposed to meet every other week, is meeting tonight and I need to write a few things before they get their. When your writers group is full of adults who are juggling kids and illness and being in community in their respective neighborhoods, people cancel more than anyone wants to. Today this writing dream of mine seems extra impossible and exceedingly selfish. It is a perfect spring day. The kind that makes me want to never leave the South East, and even the art work is exceptionally bright and cheery. It makes me feel like everyone else is thrilled with life and I am somehow missing out. I wish it were raining and the photos of abandoned places that were up in October were on the walls.
Is this really my life? I didn’t expect it to be this hard.
I wonder if this is just what the middle looks like. I wonder if I am just in the middle of the tunnel and if I just keeping inching forward I will eventually see the light at the other end. I know I am not interested in turning back the other way. As hard as this drive is today, I am sure the only way is through it. But I have learned that I am not in this tunnel alone. The greatest gift I have to offer is also the one I desperately need to receive, and I have, but there are days I need to ask for it.
You weren’t expecting this either? Just plain old daily life is harder than you ever thought it would be?
Solidarity. Me too. You are not alone.