The other day I had a peculiar thought, and that thought was, “I have everything I have ever wanted.”
Which sounds obnoxiously braggy, especially reading it on a blog, because it seems like blogs are, on the whole, becoming utterly obnoxious and braggy places, but it wasn’t thought with a sense of smug satisfaction.
[Tangent: I hope I am not part of the problem, one of these shiny facades, these carefully selected snippets of blog life that are being generated and then thrown in our faces to elicit envy. I’ve tried to be transparent about life, the ups and downs, while also trying to avoid being a giant buzzkill. I’m never sure how well I’m navigating that divide, but I feel fairly confident that it’s clear to most of you that this life, well I love it most days, but it is far from a perfect one. And, well, we know how I feel about perfect, hmm?]
Anyway, this thought just sort of emerged and stood there starkly in front of me. A bit uncomfortably, perhaps, while I looked at it with that same mix of joy and fear you experience the first time you see your crush naked.
I was in the middle of a tantrum. Olive was, I mean. We were trying to get out the door and footwear is an ISSUE lately. Capitals. So we were battling about footwear and I was giving it everything I had in my parenting arsenal, just chucking different strategies at her one after the other – getting on her level and explaining, giving her options ( Me in my patient voice: “OK Olive, rain boots, or running shoes?” her: “No.”), brute force, bribery, nothing was working. So I was overheating in my coat and wracking my brain for the solution to this ridiculous, ridiculous problem when that thought popped up and stood there, naked.
I have everything I have ever wanted.
And over the screams I was startled. How could that be?
I ran through a checklist.
I have Adam, all there is and all there has ever been. The man, the muse, the dance moves. Every inch of the infuriating mess and bluntness of him. Mine, unequivocally. Yes. I do, I did, I will.
I have this child, this girl child currently arching her back and twisting out of her stroller straps from the utter injustice of cold weather and societal norms re: footwear. This strong, whip-smart, healthy as hell toddler. Like me and like Adam in all the right ways.
I have my health (mostly. where it counts), and my family.
I have a book, a book out there making its small impression on the world. Hopping into the hands of people in Australia and India, and even infiltrating libraries. I exist to people I have never met.
And we have a home.
This last one is no small thing. And this is where the curtain gets drawn back and the shiny blog facade is shattered, because for so long we didn’t have one. Ha.
In March 2013 Adam sold his business, and we moved to a new town to settle down and carve out a life. We stayed with Adam’s parents while looking for a house to buy. We planned for it to take 1-2 months. We lived with them for over a year.
Houses were everywhere, but jobs were nonexistent. And although, if you had to be in a state of suspended animation, this would be the place to do it – this town perched on a hill overlooking the ocean – it was incredibly difficult. Losing our independence was demoralizing, we couldn’t agree on when to pull the plug and move on, Olive was growing up in a warm and loving extended family but I felt like I was failing in a very fundamental way as a mother by not having a place for her to call her own.
I say that we didn’t have a home, but we did, we always did. It just wasn’t ours.
Finally Adam was offered a job in Edmonton and we jumped, we JUMPED as fast as we could. We were so ready. And then came three more months of stasis, staying with my brother while we searched again for a house to buy. And it seemed our situation had been cruelly flipped – work was plentiful, but houses were being snapped up faster than we could see them.
So, long story short, this was not a pleasant experience. Not for the experience itself, so much as what it meant. Adam’s parents are incredible, kind, and selfless people. It was lovely. But it meant we were failing. And I didn’t write about it as much as I should have. I sometimes referred to our rootlessness, I made oblique references to what was happening, but I never sat down and poured out how fucking shitty it felt.
I have eight drafts half-finished that did just that, but I couldn’t publish them. I was too ashamed and embarrassed to acknowledge what was happening in my life, because it didn’t feel like my life. HOW was this my life? But I should have. I should have written about it, and published those drafts, and then listened to the voices that came back. Because they, some of them, would have said, “Me too.” These replies would have been there, and they would have helped.
Nonetheless, I didn’t. Cowardly lion! And then buying this house was a big deal. Finally unpacking was a BIG. DEAL.
And that’s why when this thought popped into my head mid-tantrum it wasn’t acknowledged with smug satisfaction, or brushed aside (“I know. I know.”). It was instead followed by a swift undercurrent of pure fear.
Because now it will be taken away.
(This is how you do positive thinking, I’m pretty sure.)
Staying at home with our daughter, being paid to write, with our health and food in the fridge and bills paid and sometimes even enough left over for fun (and sometimes not, because although we’re a one-income family, we are not the Kennedy’s. It’s tight sometimes. Most times? It takes a lot of finessing, this one-income situation. Ha, that’s another post I think.)
In the days and weeks since I recognized that thought, I have realized that I am waiting. Waiting for something to happen. Something bad. Something that will take all of this away. I don’t know if it’s because it took so long to get to this place, or because it feels too precious, or perhaps we can become armchair psychologists and deduce that deep down I don’t really think I deserve it, but I am certain that it won’t last. And how bizarre that in the midst of all this my response is not to clutch it closer and squeeze each last drop of joy from it, but to sort of detach… Just in case.
So sometimes it is easier to focus on the dishes. The baseboards. The desk. Anything rather than acknowledging this dark mass prowling around the edges of this, my perfectly imperfect life.
This is not the post I meant to write. I meant to write about making it work as a stay-at-home mom. But I think this is the post I need to publish.
This long, tangled, winding road got me here. I walked every step, sometimes sore and weary, to get to this place where I get to stand in my front hall and have epic battles trying to unravel the mysterious torments of toddler footwear. I get to do this.
Going forward I am trying to unravel this mess. I am trying to work on gratitude, and shaking off the fear. Trying to unseat it with the knowledge that this- we, are here to stay.
And maybe even get better.
So fuck perfect, I’m not perfect. Far from. I’m imperfectly cast and inexpertly turned. I wage pointless battles, often against myself. And then I lay them here, bare, at your feet, and see what comes back.
So far, if I’m honest, I’ve never been disappointed.
one minute you’re so excited and grateful for all the amazing, then the next you’re having kidney issues or debilitating migraines. it never fails to come through that your life is, like ours, full of ups and downs. a real life. moments of excruciating awful and moments of exquisite joy, all mixed together, into one existence. you do seem particularly good at not getting bogged down with the hard stuff, though. more than me, at least. maybe that’s because by the time you write, you’re reflecting a bit and have a bit of perspective (or are uncovering it as you write and using backspace). but we (your regular readers) know full well that you have hard times, too. and i think that noticing that you have everything you’ve ever wanted, well, that’s just finding yourself in a state of gratitude. if you just took it all for granted, you wouldn’t have that thought. it’s awesome you feel grateful. =)
(plus, if you haven’t, check out how gratitude and happiness are linked. it’s a big thing in happiness research, which i’ve heard a lot about in TED talks lately.)
Absolutely. Spot on. I just want to hi5 you.
High 10, buddy! 😉
Love that second to last paragraph. Spot on, pal!
great post! FUCK PERFECT is perfect – cheers!
Gotta love the worms!!
I think we also have to give ourselves permission to be mad/frustrated/ungrateful in a certain moment. Even though your rational brain knows that others have it worse, or you have so much… beating yourself up over feeling that way is unproductive.
So true. And is this Adrienne from Squamish?
Brene Brown – who is a pretty amazing researcher and speaker – talks about something called foreboding joy. She defines it as when we feel really, really happy or settled or something and we recognize that and then we are terrified something is going to come and make it go away. Basically what you described perfectly.
You’re certainly not alone in experiencing that, and I really appreciate you sharing it. Seriously. We don’t share this stuff enough.
And fuck perfect.
Foreboding joy. What a perfect expression – don’t you just love it when words FIT? I am going to have to read up on that. Thank you!
Just to let you know, you are my favorite blogger. Honest, down to earth, and always keeping things that actually matter in mind. And an inspiration to those who desire chemical free living and cleaning! Thanks for all you do!
Really well articulated post. You put voice to some of the thoughts I didn’t even realise I was having about my own life. I’m glad you chose to share even if it wasn’t what you sat down to write.
Write the stay at home mum post soon would you…? I need it. And yours is one of those blogs that make me laugh, and make me think, and DON’T make me feel my life is somehow not good enough. I do that all on my own!
Old retired hippy here. I quit my job 33 years ago to be a sahm and raise 2 children effectively cutting our income in half. I love your style of writing and more importantly your style of living. Life is messy and full of tantrums and I like how you meet this head on, it’s never perfect and you are so right , fuck perfect, and embrace the reality. Also, how lucky you are to have this internet thing to share with others. Back in the day it could be pretty lonely at home with small children.
Love. So much.