… instead of deep cleaning and reorganizing our closet, instead of organizing the mess of a garage, instead of deep cleaning my car, instead of walking my dogs every day, instead of organizing a capital “P” perfect birthday for Lola but a regular, pretty cool one, instead of do my makeup and hair every morning, instead of spending plenty of girl bonding time with my friends, instead of volunteering at the children’s homeless preschool downtown, I keep eyeballing:
Make home-made organic dinners five nights out of seven, then sit with the kids to eat and do our family tradition of Best and Worst of the day.
Shower. Every day.
Work out five days a week.
Work. My job.
Write. My novel, here, and my freelance assignments.
Spend time with my kids talking and riding bikes and going to the park.
Get at least seven hours of sleep.
Do mother stuff like sign papers, attend meetings, find lessons, give advice, snuggle.
That’s it. My life is not grand at the moment, it’s not full of adventure or surprise. But it is a dedicated work of art. It is an exercise of love. It is a discipline for a ship of fools. It is a good time. It is a river of sorrow. It is a work in progress.
I have finally gotten to the point in my life late thirties, it was- where I can prioritize effectively, meaning that I don’t walk around in a state of guilt and half-panic all the time, thinking of everything I am not doing. That feeling is now reserved for pockets of time, or a bad day, or Mondays.
There is so much I don’t do. And someone else may think I could do more, do it better, and sometimes, that someone is myself. Most days, I think it’s amazing how far I’ve come, when I look back on myself in my twenties, so agonizingly unsure and full of not only self doubt, but self hatred. I leaned on love, in every facet and meaning, in every action that it can embody – including the self love of therapy, nutrition, nature and exercise – and tried to reflect back toward myself the kind of love I was instantly and irrevocably able to offer my children. And it wasn’t some pie in the sky. It was what saved me. And here I am, a published author, finishing my novel, raising my children, working my ass off, dancing naked in my room whenever possible, still full of faults and doubts, but more me than I’ve ever been. Making my dreams come true.
Lola has had two friends whose mothers have left home this year, one for almost a full year, and the other for a week. Both moms left their kids safe with their fathers, but we all know that children don’t care about our struggles- not really– or our excuses anymore than we care about theirs when they haven’t come home on time for the hundredth time. They just want us here and OK. When I became pregnant at 18, I wasn’t OK. And I wasn’t OK for a long time after that either. But I fucking killed myself trying. I killed the old me. I made a new me, one worthy of raising these children. There are things I did or choices I’ve made that my children – especially the oldest two, who had Mr. Curry and I as parents who essentially grew up alongside them – will not understand, not for a long time or ever. But it amazes me and is incredibly beautiful to see that what I fought for, I made happen.
When I burn dinner because I’m working on an essay – this week, Monday night, the chicken – or when I compare my house to someone else’s or when I don’t have enough money to do some extra thing for the kids, I doubt myself – I can feel insecure, inadequate.
So it’s good to remember the things that have worked. The love that stayed true. The courage it took to have even a tiny sliver of faith that I could make a life worth my child.
One of Lola’s friends cut herself a few weeks ago and called Lola, saying she felt like killing herself. I took the phone and talked to her quietly for a few minutes before I made her put her mother on the phone. And in those few minutes, I said to her, I was where you are. I understand. Things can get better. They can get so much better that the idea that could have given it all up is horrifying. Don’t ever give up on yourself or life. There is so much waiting outside of this pain.
I hope she believed me.