I've wasted away for a great deal of my life. Not bodily. I have a big, strong body that can go and go. I've got legs that root like trunks in the heart of a storm. My arms are raised, my fingers splayed against the sky. I have everything I need to carry my children, to wear the marks of them around my wrists and across my shoulders. I can bring all the groceries in, in one trip.
I've wasted away in a kind of anticipation. I get overwhelmed.
When you go to bed your whole life feeling relieved, waking up is hard. Making it to the end of the day has been a goal, for me, at times. When I get there, though, nothing is waiting for me. Only an endless promise like a void, that there will be more. Sleep now, because it's all you can do.
It never occurred to me that there was anything I could do. I don't believe in prayer, in good vibes or affirmations. I don't believe in things. I believe in love, though, and death. I believe in happiness, somewhere; in waking up with eyes that don't sting. I believe in being enough.
I've always had an attitude problem.
Clean hair and jeans, autumn scarves and riding boots. Five pound weights and oatmeal. Purses made of colored leather, apple crisp and bleach. Smaller, prettier, find time for make up. Five minutes in the morning for skin care. Manicures. Chafing dishes. All I've ever wanted was to bleed all over everything.
Being happy has always seemed like a lie, or at best, an obscene kind of joke.
I'm starting to see that there isn't anything wrong with me. I'm simply not a fresh, dew-covered, sundresses and fabric softener kind of girl. I'm a girl with a knife. I'm a girl who slides her fingers between meat and bone. I need something in my teeth, to feel.
Things have been happening. I've been doing everything differently. I've been taking matters into my teeth, and trying to do what I feel.
A problem for me is that I get caught up in feeling like I have to do things. If I want to be acceptable, I have to eat a certain way, move my body a certain amount, in a certain way. I have to write a certain number of words per day, blog a certain number of times per week. I have to keep the peace among people I don't know or have any control over. I have to make everything myself, do everything myself. I have to I have to do all of these things, but who decided that?
I've been working hard to identify those unfair impulses. When it occurs to me that I have to do something, I stop and think about whether I have a choice.
I might not want to change diapers and make meals and do laundry. I might not feel like laboriously sounding through another child's book. I might not feel like sharing my space and time and energy every moment of every day. I might not feel capable of patience and love and slow softness. Those things are my responsibilities, though. I rise to the surface of those things with a supernatural strength. I have a deep well of otherworldly power that I draw from when it occurs to me that I'd rather not carry a person on my back and a world of belongings in my arms. I draw from my well of beauty and love when I'm woken in the night by a cry. Of course I'd rather sleep, but not really. I'd rather be everything to my babies. They deserve everything I have.
There are other things, though, that I feel like I have to do, but they're shadows. When I feel like going to the gym might actually kill me, but that I don't have a choice because if I don't do upper body today, everything will be thrown off, I won't be healthy, I'll be failing my kids and sending myself to an early grave because skipping a workout is pretty much like being an unlovable loser who will disappoint everyone and then die. -- Oh wait, that is one of the shadow things. That is something I've been tricked into doing. I don't actually have to do it. I can go for a walk, instead.
When I feel like I have to run out of the door as soon as Kurt gets home so that I can spend a few hours at the end of a long day working because we need the extra money. We need it because, a few times per month, we like to go to restaurants, and Scouty might want to see a movie and there will be a pumpkin festivals and the girls will need to go down the slide, and... even though I'm exhausted and empty inside, I have to make this money, because what if there's a carnival at the end of the month and the ferris wheel is so sparkly against the backdrop of the city and I'M THE REASON we can't afford to go? -- This is one of those shadow things, too. I feel like, without my extra income, we won't be able to have Thai Food for movie night or ice cream after soccer and everyone will be disappointed and it will be because I didn't push myself hard enough.
My babies need me in the middle of the night. They need my warm body and my love. They need a safe place to live. They need me to teach them language and kindness and social skills. They need me to model being alive and happy. They need clean diapers and healthy food. They need me to read with them and cuddle them. They don't need the giant slide at every carnival.
I've been working at dialing back the pressure I put on myself. It turns out that varying what I do has been more complex than I ever dreamed it could be. I thought I would feel delighted by changing up my routine, and I have. We've been headed to the grocery store and my girls will ask if we can go to the park, instead and I look at them in the rear view mirror and say, "Okay, yes." We've been making things, decorating for Halloween, taking walks, inviting friends over for lunch. We've been sure not to live the exact same day for two days in a row. I've been splurging for pumpkin coffees, going to the movies alone, visiting my sister for a dinner date after the kids are asleep. Those things have made a difference. They've made life brighter, pills easier to swallow.
Doing everything differently has also meant that I'm dialing back on how much I'm working. It's meant that I've reexamined my motivations, deciphered how I actually feel and have been trying to figure out what I actually want. It has meant that I've bitten my tongue and had to say no. It's meant that I don't push myself until I'm hurting and miserable. I move when I want to and in ways that feel good. I don't restrict things. I trust myself to feel when something is too much or too little, or when something isn't right.
Doing everything differently has been a deep process, and I've gotten so much out of it, not just novelty. It's hard to let things go, when you've wrapped yourself up so tightly, but I'm learning to listen to myself and how to not be clenching up, inside. I've learned to let the cord in my heart spin, to unravel the knot of tension in my guts. I'm getting this, slowly.