“Adulting” isn’t a verb but it should be. Sometimes I look around my life and wonder, who the hell had the idea that I was qualified for all this?

“Adulting” isn’t a verb but it should be. To adult is some elusive combination of things like always having clean underwear in the drawer, never ramming a cart when people leave one the middle of the aisle while they compare prices at the grocery, remembering the Netflix password, and eating something that’s not cookies for breakfast.

Last week, I renewed my domain name, and I was all puffed up with pride because I was renewing 11 days before it was due to expire. Eleven days! Look at me adulting! I even renewed for two years because adults consider the future. Adults plan ahead.

Except I renewed my domain name last February for 3 years, which means I now own until February 15, 2019, a date so far away it seems pretend, for a domain that directs to a blog so neglected that if you’re actually here reading, I’d like to give you a token of appreciation. Maybe if I see you in the grocery and your cart is in the middle of the aisle while you studiously compare light red kidney beans to dark red kidney beans, I’ll give you a pass.

Maybe. Pull your carts to the side, people. Civilization may depend on it.

Sometimes I look around my life and wonder, who the hell had the idea that I was qualified for all this? I mean, clean underwear and taxes and a car? This is ridiculous. I still feel like this girl:

My mom was more responsible at 16 than I am at 40 mumble something cough, yet somehow I have as much adulting to do as anyone. Insurance, for crying out loud. Furnace filters, dental care, and making sure my kids are never the ones on Twitter asking who the hell this Paul McCartney guy is.

True story: in the late 1970s, my mother-in-law was in a record store and she heard a girl say to her mother, “Hey, look at this! Did you know Paul McCartney was in a band before Wings?”

For the record, I manage the clean underwear issue by owning approximately 40 pair and I doubt my kids could name all the Beatles but they for damn sure know who Eric Clapton is. My eldest son gave me an Allman Brothers CD for my birthday a few years ago and raved to me about how I was sure to love this new band he’d discovered, which is a win for good music but a lose for me personally because how did I never share my love for Gregg Allman with that kid?

I have a broader and much more important statement to make about civil discourse and how we need more adults in all our conversations because I’m damn tired. I’m not tired of the heated conversations or even the arguments. I have learned things in recent weeks about race, culture, disability, sexual identity, and privilege (plus more) that no college professor could teach me, in spite of the hyper-aware education in sociology delivered mostly by earnest professors who worked damn hard to teach those things. No, I’m not tired of those conversations, painful as it has been to be called out a few times. I’m tired of watching those excellent conversations spin out in outrageous directions that do nothing but prove Mike Godwin right and leave the internet littered with so many straw men sacrificed for the cause.

Unfortunately, I can’t make that broader statement now because I lost the gas shut-off key for the fireplace. Adulting requires me to remain ever-vigilant about fire and locate then buy a new key immediately. I have letters to write to my elected representatives because adulting means civic responsibility, and then there are emails to send to the worship team at church because to adult is to be of service.

Speaking of civic responsibility, have you donated blood recently? I should put that on my schedule for next week after I check to make sure my 45 days is up.

After I find and order that gas key, I have to put the underpants in the dryer so Carter and I can get dressed before I take him to school. Adulting doesn’t mean I don’t do things at the last minute, or even that I do them all that well. There are still no points for style, at least until February, 2019.



I’m just…stuck. How did this happen, when I love my life? It’s a hard life sometimes, sure, but it’s good. It’s very, very good, so why am I not living, creating, and enjoying?

Sometimes, I get frozen.

Actually, scratch that. Often, I am frozen. I live long stretches of my life like a deer hypnotized by headlights and it’s infuriating and frustrating and as an excuse to hate myself, it’s powerful. As a good slippery place from which to descend into depression, it’s very effective, except neither self-hate nor depression is my goal.

Let’s say I just dropped Carter off at school or a play date. I come in from the garage, let the dogs out, and pour myself a cup of coffee. I’m good with all that but now it gets sticky because I need to make a decision: what should I do next? I haven’t posted to my blog in days or weeks and I want to write something, and I’m feeling some pressure because I hate that I don’t post more regularly. There’s a proposal for a column that I need to finish and I’m angry at myself because it’s an awesome idea, plus I need to make some money. There are submissions for my church’s literary magazine to be read. There’s a book for which I’ve promised a review and have only read half, a long list of emails to answer, and don’t forget my book, with its stacks of notes and half-finished chapters gathering virtual dust in their electronic folders! That’s maybe one-third of what beckons me from my office, but I assume you get the idea. It’s a mash of things, most of them fulfilling and interesting, but there is also some sense of…not exactly obligation, but my life is not as good when I don’t do these things. I am my best self in the office, when I am creating and exploring, but I also struggle in there.

I sit down at my desk and adjust my chair, put on some music, light a candle, open all the necessary tabs on my browser and…crap. The few words I’ve produced are awful. I’m feeling a little guilty because Carter wore dirty socks this morning, so maybe I should tackle the laundry. I get up and carry my coffee cup through the kitchen (need to clean! need to shop! try to ignore!) and down the hall. The green hamper outside the hall bathroom is so full, clothes and sheets and towels are poking through the little holes and things are spilling over the top. How this hamper is so full is mysterious since Carter’s room looks like a textile-factory explosion. I kick my way through the clothes so I can open the window because it doesn’t smell very nice in there.

To heck with this, I think. I’m not picking up Carter’s clothes. He can do that himself when he gets home from school. I’ll start with Brian’s and my laundry, and I head to my room.

Where I am hit over the head with the fact that my little red-headed apple didn’t fall far from this tree because every pair of socks I have worn in the past week is on the floor on my side of the bed. The bedroom hamper is no more than 5 feet from the foot of the bed (more like 4 feet, what with the over-spillage), yet I pull off my socks before I get in the bed every night and leave them on the floor. Here are more coffee cups (there are matching groups of cups on my desk and on the table next to my favorite chair in the living room), plus water glasses and a towering stack of books that belies the fact that I switched to e-readers years ago and much prefer them.

I sit down on the bed and clear a little spot on the nightstand for my coffee cup. I’ll just sort the laundry. I’ll start with that, and I’ll feel a little better. A little more in control. I get up to gather laundry baskets and discover that two of them are in my Abbie’s room, full of clean laundry she hasn’t put away yet. One is in the laundry room, full of soggy towels from Saturday when Brian gave the dogs their baths. Also, Spencer’s clothes are in the dryer and there is a load of sheets in the washer that smell musty because I ran them two days ago. I look around at the drifts of dog hair in the laundry room (which is also the dog’s “bedroom”) and decide I need to sit down and have another cup of coffee.

It all seems too much, too big, and the chatter in my head is unbearable. My folks, my sister, my ex-husband, my 10th grade English teacher, the psychiatrist I saw when I was 19, some therapists, a pastor from childhood, occasionally even my kids, all their voices bundled, amplified, and heavily distorted by my shame (except the voices of my sister and my ex-husband who would say my worst assessments of myself don’t go far enough). Except it’s all my voice. Sometimes I can drown them all out with an audiobook or loud music and actually get something done. Other times, I can’t get above the struggle. The voices are deafening and exhausting and I’m overwhelmed with guilt because I am wasting my day, my talent, or my life (Welcome to my ego; is it not an unlovely thing?).

I stir like this all day, almost every day. I feel like I’m witnessing a fight-to-the-death between my brain’s ability to focus, organize, and execute, and my life. I keep us functioning at an acceptable level: there is food in the refrigerator, clean clothes in the closets, bills paid on time(ish), and everyone gets to their appointments on time. I meet my obligations at church and in the other organizations I’m part of and I never miss a hard deadline (though the soft ones and the ones I set for myself are symbolic at best), but the rest of it is a relentless battle, and life is not what it could be. I don’t have energy for relationships, creativity, and fun because I’m exhausted from this internal fight.

But dammit, the noise! If I shut down and shut it all out (books, Netflix, web surfing), I can get a little peace but I don’t get anything done, don’t even really live my life. When I try to accomplish something, the nattering begins. I’m not good enough; why didn’t I do this sooner; who do I think I am. If I wash the window sill above the kitchen sink, I notice the horrifying state of the front yard, and if I dust the window sills in the living room, I notice the horrifying state of the backyard. Carter needs his fingernails trimmed, we’re out of milk, I told a friend I’d write a piece for her new website, on and on and on and I am tired. I’ve read the books, taken the medicine, talked to the therapists, done the programs and I’m just…stuck. How did this happen, when I love my life? It’s a hard life sometimes, sure, but it’s good. It’s very, very good, so why am I not living, creating, and enjoying?

I believe there’s a solution, but all I really know so far is this: being hard on myself is not that solution. I’ve done that and it does not work. What I haven’t done is share the struggle publicly so let’s see where that gets me. Maybe you’ve experienced the same thing and I’m not all alone in the world. Stranger things have happened.

The Ugly Familiar 6: Love Is Not a Victory March

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 3.1 (except it’s less of a part and more of an interlude)
Part 4
Part 5
However, maybe you didn’t read those, and maybe you want to read one post and not 6. Fair enough. Here’s what you need to know: Robert was my first husband. We married in May of 1993 and our son Jacob was born in December of that same year. We were both very young and our relationship was always chaotic and difficult.

During Jacob’s first year, I controlled every bite of food that I put into my body. I subsisted on vegetable soup, oatmeal, and dry salted potatoes, a diet so low in fat that eventually I became deficient in fat-soluble vitamins, and by consequence was covered in bruises. Every time I scratched an itch, bumped a table, or Jacob bit my shoulder, I would get a black-and-blue mark all out of proportion the to the injury. My doctor sent me to have something like 20 vials of blood drawn so he could test it for God-knows-what-all, and we all breathed a sigh of relief when those tests proved I didn’t have leukemia. The doctor seemed unconcerned that I was so thin I wasn’t menstruating and had to sleep 12 hours out of every 24 in order to maintain my brutal workout schedule. He prescribed a multi-vitamin and sent me home.

During that year, I also kept our house in pristine order. Everything was perfect. I washed my cloth diapers and hung them out to dry and they were so perfectly even and white out there on the line, they looked like movie star teeth. I swept the floors daily and mopped them twice a week. My dishes were clean and there were no sticky jam spills in my refrigerator. My jeans were size 4 and my breasts had all but disappeared.

Everything was perfect.

Eventually, not long after Jacob’s first birthday, I lost the thread that connected me to whatever force enabled me to do all of those things that were so unnatural for me. I ate some cookies or I watched TV instead of cleaning the bathroom, and soon it all unraveled and I was me again, laundry half done, dinner unmade, my nose in a book, and candy bar wrappers hidden at the bottom of the trash can. Robert told me I was “marshmallowing out” again and asked how a person who couldn’t cook anything more complicated than Jell-O could possibly manage to get fat.

When I lost hold of the thread, my period came back, and in April 1995, the rabbit done died again.

When I was four months pregnant, Robert got a new job and he asked me not to come visit him there, in spite of the fact that he would be working less than a mile from our house.

“Why? Don’t you think Jacob wants to see where you’re working?”

“You can come when you look more pregnant. I don’t want people thinking I have a fat wife.”

I didn’t respond. I didn’t know how.

My weight had fluctuated widely since my late teens, but during my pregnancy with Abbie I became genuinely fat for the first time. Part of that was almost certainly due to the fact that I entered the pregnancy on the rebound from a year of near-starvation, but also, I was angry. With food to nourish my brain, I couldn’t ignore that anger, and since I couldn’t starve it away anymore, I ate it. I ate my anger with omelettes and toast, with roast beef and mashed potatoes, with ice cream and cookies. I ate and ate and ate until I had stretch marks in places I didn’t know people could get stretch marks and I didn’t recognize myself in the mirror.

I was so ashamed, I almost never left the house. All my emotional and mental energy was consumed with food and weight, planning how I would find that thread and get back to being the perfect, tidy, slender person I had been a year earlier. I spent hours lost in a daze as I planned the diet I would pursue beginning the instant I wasn’t pregnant anymore.

Awful as it was, it was better than feeling so violently, helplessly angry.

And then there was this:

Oh, the pink juicy wonder of my Abbie. She smelled so good, I thought I might accidentally suck her up my nose. She was round and rosy and sweet and always, unmistakably, her own person, sharp and opinionated and stubborn.

Two babies were a heavy load on a weak and shaky marriage. Soon after Abbie’s birth, the cracks in our relationship’s foundation began to grow. By the time she started to crawl, I could fit my hand in those cracks, and when she learned to walk I discovered that I could climb right into some of those cracks and take a nap.

Maybe there’s a God above
All I’ve ever learned from love
Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you
And it’s not a cry that you hear at night
It’s not somebody who’s seen the light
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah…

Part 7

Follow That Rabbit

I wrote part five of The Transcendent Familiar (No idea what I’m talking about? Here: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4). Really, I did. As it turns out, though, what I thought was part 5 is actually part 6 (I think, though who knows? Maybe it’s part 7, or 12, or 34.).

I think that, if I was writing a book, it would go just like this, with the back-and-forthing, the rearranging, the jumping-in-and-out of memories, the expanding-and-contracting timeline. The weird/wonderful thing about blogging is that the process is on display as much as the story and you get the story as I go along, instead of after everything has been all cleaned up and neatly arranged.

Or maybe not. I don’t know about writing books. I haven’t written a book since I was ten and my friend Sarah and I wrote the definitive sourcebook on endangered species.

In any case, I wrote a story about something that happened when Jacob was a year old, but then I realized I had to tell a story about something that happened when Jacob was a newborn first. I wrote it, and I’ll post it soon, but I’m treading deep into the land of Other People’s Stories, so it seems wise to go slow and let the words settle a bit before I release them into the world.

Also, I’m fascinated by memory and can’t stop turning it over and around, playing with it and following the rabbit into all his strange little holes. Over the weekend, while I was writing stories from 1993 and 1994, I was overwhelmed with a desire to listen to Fleetwood Mac, like a food craving. I dug through stacks and stacks of CDs (Almost all Brian’s; he is possessed by a need to own every sound ever recorded by The Grateful Dead or any portion thereof.) until I found a “best of” Fleetwood Mac album and loaded it onto my computer.

I haven’t listened to Fleetwood Mac beyond the occasional song that’s come on the car radio in over a decade, but in the early 1990s, they were a musical staple. The memories of that time rang a Fleetwood Mac chime in my brain and I was compelled to respond. Thankfully, Little Lies is as awesome as ever.

In other news, we’re moving! Not just moving, but moving into the The Ugliest House in Albuquerque.

I’ll forgive you for assuming that I’m speaking hyperbolically because I so often do, but this time? Not a chance. Now, I haven’t seen all the houses in Albuquerque, so I can’t be positive that ours is the absolutely, positively, for sure ugliest, but it’s easily the ugliest one I’ve ever seen so we’re going with The Ugliest House in Albuquerque as the title of the new estate.

Behold, the kitchen:

Did I tell you? Oh, and before you ask me WHY in the world we would want such an ugly house, it’s because the location and the floor plan are perfect. What are orange countertops compared to having all the walls in the right places?

Oh, my friends, we are going to have some fun. You know how Brian and I are somewhat directionally challenged? You ain’t seen nothing until you’ve seen us get our DIY on. The Ugliest House in Albuquerque has no idea what’s coming.

I did not disappear for the reason you probably think I disappeared and that is an awesomely and excellently fabulous thing.

I’m glad blogs don’t have feelings. Otherwise, I think No Points for Style would be feeling sad and lonely and neglected right about now.


No hole. Not a bit. I would forgive you for assuming I disappeared because I slipped and fell into the depths of depression since that’s the usual cause of my disappearing act, but no. In fact, quite the opposite.

Emerging from a months-long depression is a great deal of work, and not just emotionally and spiritually. All winter, I functioned in a mostly minimal fashion. We wore clean clothes and there was food in the kitchen, but beyond that? Let’s just say that things were a bit hit-or-miss.

Now that I am actively living my life again, there are dental appointments to make, eye exams to schedule, and insurance issues to resolve. There are closets and drawers in desperate need of decluttering, vehicle maintenance that’s been too long neglected, and dogs that need grooming.

Also, there is a little boy who is now in the final week of his three week spring break, which means the only way to get any time alone with my computer requires me to skip what little time I have with Brian.

But bottom line? No hole.

In the immortal words of Ahh-nold, I’ll be back.


First things first: you people will never know (no matter how hard I try to tell you) what you have done for me this week. I want to respond to all your comments individually, but being emotionally overwhelmed. . .well, we’ll see.

In any case, many, many thanks. This being-separated-from-Jacob-and-Abbie is one of the most painful things I have ever experienced and your love and support is one of the things that keeps me from climbing under the bed and waiting there for death via dust bunny asphyxiation.

If I was a different kind of person, I would have come home from dropping Carter off at school this morning and said to myself, Self, there is a lot to day today and this house is very messy. I’m going to sort the laundry and, after I get a load started in the washer, I’ll clean the kitchen. When the kitchen is clean, I’m going to return some phone calls and after that, I’ll take a break and decide what to do next.

But I’m not a different kind of person; I’m a me kind of person and when I came home from dropping Carter off at school this morning I said to myself, Self, this house is a fucking disaster and I’m behind of everything so I better damn well get busy with something and I should start with those phone calls because my God, how can I expect people not to hate me when I don’t ever call them back but wait I should get some laundry started first or no, that’s not right, I should deal with the kitchen because how the hell can a person stand to live in a house with such a dirty kitchen but if I do the kitchen I should try to figure out what that stink in the refrigerator is but before I do that I really should start the laundry because, wait, does Carter have any clean underwear oh, my God did he go commando this morning and what kind of mother am I and I haven’t written a blog post in, I dunno, maybe three days so I should probably go upstairs and do that now but how can I even think about writing when there are so many other things to do and I think one of the dogs peed in the dining room so I should go get the tools and fix the gate to keep them out of there but if I was a halfway decent person who even deserved to own dogs I would have trained them not to pee in there a long time ago and I wonder how many emails I need to answer oh shit do you remember that blogger who recently said she answers every email she gets from her readers and how I thought, oh, I want to be that kind of blogger and who am I kidding I suck way too much to ever manage something like that and oh, no, I forgot I need to make those appointments for the kids and that one for myself and I should start thinking about what to write for the First Things First series and I haven’t seen Grammy since last week which figures since I’m the world’s shittiest granddaughter and I wonder what’s on TV?

At which point one of two things happens. Either I crawl into the couch with the remote control (or screw around on Twitter, or do something equally non-productive) or I buzz around trying to do everything. In either case, I accomplish nothing, which means I get further behind, which means that the following day, when I come home from dropping Carter off at school, I’m right back where I started.

When my sister and I were little girls, we fought all the time – that kind of constant, pick pick pick sibling arguing that kids seem, almost, to enjoy, but that drives parents to distraction. When we really got going my mom would sigh and say, “You girls make me tired.”

I feel that way about my brain. It makes me tired.

Super Secret Phone Wizardry

I hate buying groceries.

I know. You’re probably surprised.


Alas, it eventually has to be done. By yesterday, my pantry looked like this:

That isn’t the pantry of a family that is in any danger of going hungry, but Brian told me that if I tried to feed him one more bowl of beans and rice, he was going to consider roasting one of the dogs. The refrigerator was just as empty, but my recent cleaning frenzy hasn’t reached the refrigerator yet so you’ll have to go without the visual aid. Nobody wants to look at pictures of sticky, jam-stained appliances.

So, time to buy groceries, which I hate to do. In order to make the agony of shopping happen as infrequently as possible, I do it thusly:

  • I make a menu of a dozen or so dinners and put all the necessary ingredients on the list.
  • I add all the staples we need to the list – peanut butter, toilet paper, milk, etc.
  • I go to the store and gather everything on my list.
  • I go up and down every aisle and put everything I see that is a) not deadly and b) the locusts who live in my house will eat. I gather yogurt, crackers, fruit, pretzels, and everything else I see until the cart is so heavy I can barely push it and/or until it’s so full that stuff is leaping off the top.
  • I crown it all with half-a-dozen loaves of bread and head to the checkout stand.

This morning, I was finally finished loading my cart and ready to pay, and whaddya know? My card was declined.

What the hell? I checked my account balances before I left the house and there should have been plenty of money, and of course, there were half-a-dozen cranky shoppers in line behind me.

Modern technology to the rescue. I told the checker to cancel my transaction and said, “I’ll just stand right over here and figure out what’s going on.”

She looked at me like I had a giant booger on my face and called a manager while I got out my phone.

The customer service manager, when she arrived, wasted no time making sure I knew that she was a bad ass and that I was in her territory. “I’ll have your cart over at customer service when you come back.”

“No, wait. I’m not going anywhere,” I said. “I can fix this. It’ll only take a minute.”

“Ma’am? I will have your cart at customer service.” Apparently she was not only a bad ass, but I’m also hard of hearing because she said this part quite loudly.

Turns out, I can be kind of loud and snotty, too. Who knew?* “Don’t move this cart. I’ll pay for these groceries in just a minute.”

People? She stood there and stared at me while I used my phone to transfer money. Just stared right at me.

What did she think I was going to do? Get my fat, middle-aged self in gear and take off running with my 9,000 pound grocery cart?

Then I started imagining that I had traveled back in time and she was a cave woman and I was using a Bic lighter, but instead of oohing and aahing, she opted to stare and assume I had big plans to burn down the world.

At which point I developed the church giggles, causing the manager to look not only cranky, but like she just stepped in a giant steaming pile is dog poop.

That was a proud moment.

I finished transferring money and said to the cashier, “I can pay now.”

The manager sniffed, “We’ll see.”

Clearly, I was doing some magic, secret, fraudulent something there with my phone. I got away with my criminal behavior today, but I’m pretty sure she’ll have her eye on me next time!

Big surprise, though: my wizardry or magic or whatever I was doing with my phone worked and I managed to pay for my groceries.

I drove home, amazed at how awesomely cool modern technology is (Remember when, if you needed money, you had to go to a bank?) and wondering when we’ll develop something that can remove the paranoid unpleasantness from the personalities of people who have an excess of those qualities.

*Besides everybody, I mean.

Slow River

This morning at 10 am, Carter and I were eating toast and watching Little House on the Prairie when I said, “I’ve hardly been on the computer for days. I should go to my office for awhile.”

Carter, who has a (inherited) flare for (melo)drama, sighed loudly. “We had so much fun the last 2 or 9 days!”

Carter’s sense of time is a bit non-specific.

He finished his toast and asked, “Do you think we could do some more today? There’s still tons of stuff to clean.”

Yes, we could do some more today, and we did. If you think I’ve been absent for the online world for the past week or so because I’ve been riding roller coasters and surfing, you’d be wrong. But neither have I been hiding under the metaphorical bed, too sad to speak to anyone even virtually.

A month ago, I wrote about Carter’s new stability and how much trouble I was having. I couldn’t decide how to spend my time and was overwhelmed by how much work I had to do to reclaim our lives, so recently released from the grip of Carter’s illness.

With the help and encouragement of Brian and you, my readers and friends, I did something radical (which was not, in fact, radical, unless one is sister of Erin, daughter of Janet, granddaughter of Margery and Margaret, and on through the (extremely tidy) generations). I decided to let go, to let the dirty laundry fester and the dog hair continue to collect in the corners until I felt ready to deal with it.

A few days ago, I felt ready. Carter is out of school for 2 1/2 weeks and he’s excited to help because he wants to surprise his daddy, who is in Brazil this week. We defrosted the freezer and vacuumed under the couch cushions. Carter loves the lambswool duster and is unimpressed with cleaning toilets (I concur).

Most of all, my boy is here, fully himself. He tells me stories while he flings the dust off of the books and into the air. He asks me questions while I show him which tools and cleaners to use in the bathroom and which to use in the kitchen. He loves, above all, to sort the socks.

Carter’s illness is like a snarling, slobbering monster. In stark contrast, this stability is like a wide, slow river and Carter and I are here on our raft, telling stories and making jokes. We’ll come to shore soon, but for now, the air is warm and what is there to do on a raft, really, except enjoy each other’s company?

To the Moon

I love Jacob. In my toenails, I love him. In my liver and capillaries and plasma, I love him.

In the late-1980s, when my whole family was caught up in the self-help movement, it was easy to stand arm’s-distance away from my parents and acknowledge all that they had done wrong, the sins committed, the hurts inflicted. On the day Jacob was born, his dad, Robert, held him and asked me, “Do you think our parents felt this way about us?”

They did. Of course they did; they were enchanted, just like we were. They were smitten, resolved to do everything right. To love them and hold them close and protect them from the sharp edges in the world. Just like us.

They way I love Jacob, I could cut that love with a knife and fork and eat it. It’s as real to me as my body, as large as a planet. When I divorced his dad, I swallowed my ego, let all the old arguments float away because they didn’t matter anymore. I thought they didn’t matter anymore.

For a long time, they didn’t matter.

Something changed. All those resentments were uneasy in the closets and drawers and old boxes to which we’d banished them. I dealt with mine the best way I could; talked through them, healed them. I thought I healed them.

For almost two years, I was hurt and angry. Less and less as time went by, thankfully.

Then, suddenly, I recalled the day we brought Jacob home from the hospital, how Robert stood over the bassinet and said, “I’m so proud! I can’t stand it; I’m so proud!”

I smiled at that happy memory, and that smile told me that I had turned a corner, had become more healed than broken.

For the better part of a decade, we sat together at the basketball games and band concerts; talked about homework and negotiated weekend schedules. I went to his wedding reception; he brought a gift when Carter was born. We were careful, always so careful; we talked about the kids and little else. We were friendly, but never friends.

Then, the catalyst, Carter’s illness, split us wide open. Split me wide open, and brought our fragile truce to an end.

It brought everything about us that was fragile to an end. Some crises are so big, so greedy, they sweep everything into themselves.

And now, Jacob is a teenager, doing teenager things. He needs to assert himself; to be himself in the world. This process isn’t easy for most families.

Add this: a monstrous resentment at me because I abandoned him in favor of his little brother. (This is only untrue in the minds of adults, adept at justification and familiar with the vagaries of life, not across days or weeks but across years and decades and entire lifetimes.)

Add this: two parents, not just divorced but with nothing at all in common; who married far, far too young and who, in spite of some efforts at communication, are now strangers to each other.

Add this: my history of depression is significant and severe and I had a major relapse about 6 years ago, after many years of relative stability.

Add this: the responsibility borne by Robert, which is not mine to expose but which is nevertheless real.

Add this: the responsibility borne by my extended family, which is not mine to expose but which is nevertheless real.

Add this: Brian and I had no idea how to blend two families and we botched the job.

Add this: more, and more, and more.

I understand how the political climate in our nation has become so completely polarized; that is our nature. We want to choose: this one is right, completely, and that one is wrong, entirely.

I vacillate; sometimes, I blame everyone for Jacob’s absence, for the distance between us. I am caught in a web of blind red rage at the people who stole my son – my heart and soul – from me.

Sometimes, I hate myself so much for all that I have done wrong, all my failings and weaknesses, all the ways that I am selfish and incapable, that I can barely move. I can’t breathe under the weight of the guilt and shame.

When I was a little girl and I was angry at my parents, I screamed, “It’s not fair!”

My dad answered, “Good. It’s part of my job to make sure you know that life isn’t fair.”

No, it’s not. Life is not fair. My brain whirs with the scenarios…if we had never had Carter; if Brian and I had met sooner, before we had children with other people; if Carter was our only child; if we’d found good help sooner; if we’d never moved; if Brian and I had learned to work together – to be partners the way children with disabilities need their parents to be partners – sooner; if I’d chosen college, career, and a series of poetically doomed affairs instead of trying, always, to build family; if if if…

Start putting wishes in one hand and shit in the other. Which one fills up faster?

Jacob called me last night because he wanted me to do something for him. I did it, but not in the way or at the time he would have liked. He let me know this afternoon that he was not pleased.

Such a normal teenager complaint. Such an ordinary mom frustration.

For him? More evidence that I don’t care, that I can’t be bothered. Again, I have proved my vast inadequacies as a parent and a human being.

For me? Something new to tie to my whip, the tool of my self-flagellation. A shard of glass, perhaps, or a rusty nail. Again, I have proved my vast inadequacies as a parent and a human being.

He is still, for me, what he always was: enchanting, fascinating, magical. He made me a mother. His first night home from the hospital, when he grunted and snurfled because he wanted to nurse, I looked into the bassinet and was surprised. “Oh!” I thought, “you’re still here! You’re real!”

When he holds his first child in his arms, he will probably wonder, “Did my mom feel this way about me?”

I did, Jacob. And I do. I always, always will.

To the moon flew a Tooter Fish.

The Lead In My Bones

I am tired.


I feel like my bones are filled with lead.

Do you remember when you were in college and the end of the semester was a wild rush and you studied worked wrote studied more took exams and then, after the last class, you went home and collapsed for a month? All that pressure kept your running running running and then all in a moment, it was gone, like air out of a balloon and you landed, deflated.

Carter has been on a steady upward trajectory for a couple of months, but just in the past two weeks, I’ve begun to settle into it a little bit. I’ve realized that we really are in a new place, have found stability that could last awhile.

(Should the universe see fit to allow that and for which we will be endlessly and enormously grateful please don’t smite I am not testing I do not expect this I know I am not powerful I will be happy to beg if necessary thank you for your kind consideration of my plea for continued quiet for my little boy.)

There is some part of me that is almost frantic to get as much normal living in as I can while I have the chance, to catch up and rebuild and recover what we can of the last twenty months. I want to renew my marriage, clean the house, spend time with Jacob and Abbie, deal with the horrendous yards (Oh, my God, the weeds are taking over the world!), finish my book proposal, get some more exercise, shrink my to-be-read stack of books……

While I’m at it, I’ll probably fly to the moon under my own power. Because that’s about as reasonable as the rest of the list.

In some ways, crises are easier than ordinary life. When there is an emergency in front of me, I don’t stand around trying to decide what to do; I deal with the emergency. Ordinary life, though, requires me to do more than manage the most pressing thing. I have to decide.

People? There is a great deal to be done. We’ve neglected so much while Carter has been acutely ill, I don’t know where to begin.

Sigh. And I’ll be honest (but I don’t wanna!); having a kid with a disability that makes our lives utterly chaotic has some benefits. Those benefits are excuses and I’m almost unbearably ashamed to admit that I’ve come to rely on them. Sometimes I can’t cook dinner; sometimes we can’t make it to church; sometimes maintaining house and yard is more than we can manage.

But also? I hate to cook. I love our church, but I want to sleep in on Sunday mornings (Plus, when you get out of the habit of doing something like that? It’s really hard to get back to it.). And house and yard work? Bleh.

What IF:* I lived my life and gave myself permission to take time to heal? What if I took all the pressure off and just……rested? What if I stopped listening to all the shoulds that are banging so noisily in my head? What if I gave myself a break?

What if I had a little faith in myself?

*Thanks, Mara!