Hello, hello, my party people. Welcome back.
As I alluded to in my last post, there has been a great amount of really positive change happening in my life. Which takes time to complete. Which is part of the reason why there’s been another lag in blog posts.
I’m not even sure why I keep trying to explain myself for the thousandth time this has happened. We all know I’m not the greatest.
Of all the good news I have, I can share two things, confidently (with a bonus at the end of the post, because freakin’ Christmas).
- I am currently home-based, writing full-time. I now have zero excuse not to keep this rolling on a more consistent basis. Doing so will, in fact, encourage productivity in the next announcement, which is-
- The book is coming. Over the last several years, I have been urged to write an actual book. Prior to this point, that was something I had to back-burner indefinitely (clearly, because I’ve had this blog for a year, and we can all see how prolific I’ve been…). Given my new situation, which I’m enormously grateful for, and the consistent readership of this blog, I can now devote honest effort to it. So stand by, friends, because it’s about to get more real than normal
You may now all collectively lose your shit.
Needless to say, I have had a tremendous fall. I wish there were a way to convey how significant all of this truly is. I’m about to make a really strong attempt, but for all my gift of words, I already know I won’t be able to touch it.
There are three things- goals, I guess you might say- that I’ve had since I was relatively young. I distinctly remember that they fleshed themselves out one evening while I was rocking one of my grandparents’ foster babies to sleep. This delightful, pudgy, soft, African-American baby was waiting for his adoptive parents, and while I had always enjoyed helping feed and snuggle the infants they kept (I visited several times a year and often stayed for weeks as a child, so definitely honed that maternal instinct early with the extended practice), I was particularly attached to this one. He had the most velvety curls and jowls for days, and it was damned addictive the way he would nestle into my chest under a blanket. Mild temper. Pouty bottom lip. Big, beautiful brown eyes. I wanted to keep him all to myself, and, in fact, got a little territorial about night time feedings when the house was dark and quiet. Uninterrupted baby time? Uh, chyeah.
That night, I had heard him complaining before getting full-on angry and picked him up out of the cradle. I was maybe fourteen at the time, but I’ve always been “blessed,” as they say, with a thick set of hips- holding an infant on my hip with one arm and making a bottle with the other felt very, very normal. With a clean diaper on and formula heat checked on my wrist, I curled up in the better of the two rocking chairs my grandparents had, wrapped us both up in a faded blanket, and rocked my night-time buddy through a midnight feeding.
Spit-up, poo, sour milk in baby rolls…the whole nine yards. It never bothered me. All I ever saw in any of those babies was the joy in the opportunity for that child to be loved in a real home and the great sorrow that they had been given away. I simply could never imagine giving up a child. I’d rather make sacrifices myself. Heck, I’d adopt this kid. Teen mom stereotypes and nasty gossip aside, as a young person, I’d adopt that jowly, little boy right that very second, and he wouldn’t have to wait and see if his adoption went through.
I got you, sweet boy. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for you or for any child.
Now. I know what you’re thinking.
This is not a third-world country, so young mothers and the idea of young mothers is relatively uncomfortable. What the hell does a maybe-fourteen-year-old know about parenting? About the reality of life as a parent or an adult, for that matter? Them’s some hella-strong hormones.
And really, you’re not wrong. I didn’t know anything about how to adult or parent until after I was already in a position wherein I was already supposed to know how to do those things. There’s a good reason why, in our society and most developed societies, we urge young women to live a little first before seeking out a family life (caveat, as a Catholic, is if God calls you to do that, in which case, get on). I don’t know many people in their early- to mid-twenties who have a firm grip on proper adulting, much less are prepared to welcome and raise a child/children. Mom-ing it too soon can be extremely detrimental.
But. I’m special.
Because in that moment, it became apparent in my soul that my greatest calling and deepest wish was to be a mother. Of course, that naturally followed with being someone’s spouse- and a damn good one- as one is necessary for the proper development of children and a family life, but also because I love deeply in general and naturally desire to give love within a safe relationship wherein I can also receive it. Between baby burps, I continued on this wave of thought until I found I really only had one other desire at heart, which was to be someone’s teacher.
Someone’s mother. Someone’s spouse. Someone’s teacher.
Pretty simple, right?
Where it got a little hairy was the fact that I already understood that I didn’t care what order that all came in. I knew what order it “should” come in (and the theology as to why, and statistical analysis, and feminist thought, and general logic…so just calm down), and yet this was probably my earliest exercise in what would become my “Jesus take the wheel” attitude about life. I had no intentions of encouraging anything other than the “correct” sequence, but I knew, deep down in my bones, that it probably wasn’t going to go that way.
Fast-forward to university life, and I was absolutely destroying my double-major in English Composition and Psychology (the German Language minor was more for me than anything else, although our language is a German-Latin double root, which helped me explain away raised eyebrows). I was already engaged. I had already survived- barely- the loss of my first pregnancy and come to the conclusion that, whenever another pregnancy should come along, I would throw my whole effort into helping it survive. Just, you know, whenevs. And given several aptitude tests and near-perfect standardized testing scores in English literature and composition, I figured I’d knock this education out to teach AP English Comp.
Boom. Well on my way to being someone’s spouse and teacher with an open mind to being someone’s mother at any given point.
Killin’ the game.
We know now that I married the wrong person (which is putting it lightly). Shortly after entering the university, I did end up knocked up, delivering Charlie during the summer between my first and second year at school. And while I did go back to school and recover my scholarships, the following year brought preterm labor with Lucas in the middle of my second sophomore semester, causing me to drop my classes and my scholarship. I had completed an enormous amount of coursework in a very short period of time and was well on my way to graduating on time, if not early. But before I could even consider going back to school the fall after Lucas was born- shit, before Luc was five months old- I was into a high-risk pregnancy with his Irish Twin, who would also end up being delivered early and before his first birthday.
Somewhere in the fray of growing and delivering humans, my marriage went completely sideways. Despite giving up all of my own personal pursuits- children aside- in order to focus solely on our domestic sphere, we were completely spinning out. The cycle became toxic. The damage was mounting (as was my anti-depressant dosage). The only happiness I could find in my day was after my three-under-three were put to bed and their father had left for his patrol shift.
He would leave, and I would sit on the bed, staring into space, completely bombarded by all the noise in my head. I was totally overwhelmed by not only the loneliness, despair, and fear of failure I was experiencing as a spouse, but also by the whirling mass of untouched, untapped…stuff in my head that only a few could even comprehend when I untangled some of it in conversation (he wasn’t part of that few, either). I threw myself into my fitness as a way to cope. Read all of the intellectually and emotionally exhaustive books I could find. Tried to find some answer to “what do you do all day” that would seem legit to a society that looks down on stay-at-home-moms or motherhood in general.
This was not at all turning out how I thought it would.
Fast-forward a little more, and I had lost everything. My marriage ended. I had to return to work, the hours for which caused me to rarely see my children. My children were emotionally suffering and scholastically struggling, but I couldn’t help them through a lot of it. I just couldn’t be there, literally, because my stupid job required me to be in a building full of cubes, beaten to death under fluorescent lighting by entitlement issues disguised as verbal assault over customer service lines, until it was all I could do just to keep our household afloat. Add in a court case with their father. The death of my beloved cat and our only vehicle. Household appliances that all proceeded to die at the same time. Robbing Peter to pay Paul in order to come up with money for the bills and food and school expenses for my children. The gradual decline in my mental and physical health.
If ever I come into a large sum of money, I swear to God in Heaven that I will find a way to aid single mothers. Without the help I had, I can say quite honestly that I would not be living. It was a defining moment to me when I thought dying would be so much easier than living, only to be interrupted in thought by a child coming to me for hugs because of a nightmare. Even with love and support, I almost drowned. Can you imagine what it must be like for a mother who has no help, working multiple jobs, never seeing her child, with no emotional guidance? Dark days and winter seasons, my friends.
I clawed my way out of it.
Because it finally dawned on me the significance of having achieved one of my soul-deep goals.
I am a mother.
My children were given to me because only I am the right mother for the job. Only I can raise those children as “mom,” and only I can love them the way they should be loved. My failures to date in the other two areas had nothing to do with the order in which I had attempted to achieve them. In fact, they were giving me the groundwork to be even more successful at the one goal that had always mattered the most. That strength, that introspection, that faith, that empathy, that accountability and integrity…all of those things that came as a result of a marriage that died and degrees that never happened were possible because I had succeeded in being a mother for my children. I did what needed to be done to safeguard them and provide for them. I made the hard decisions. We had the hard talks and fought through the scary months.
Those things helped me to get my shit straight. Promotions happened. Finances eased. Advocating for myself and my mental health, addressing the damaging mental rabbit holes I couldn’t leave alone before, allowed me to create routines that helped me parent better. I was able to give some of myself to my romantic partner and be useful to him, to advocate for the healthy relationship I so wanted but had never had. My life had to have happened this way to give me the scope and the foundation to continue on in the next chapters.
That young person rocking that foster baby was right. I knew somehow all along that things would happen in a challenging order with the best intentions to grow me and grow my faith.
So here we are now. After all those shadowy moments, I’m coming into a new spring season of life. I survived. The kids survived. We’re all better for it. I could end the post just there and maybe have given enough insight to explain why having the opportunity to be at home and available to my kids, writing, is so extraordinary.
But be real. I never stop where one could feasibly and acceptably stop.
The epic battle I’ve just won has set me up for success with my other two goals. I have lived enough life now to know the worth of and expectations in a good marriage, to live happily in awe of marriages that last for decades because two people have the sheer will and heartfelt desire to love each other and find a way to make it work. The standard advice to newly weds is, “It’s a marathon, not a race,” or, “It won’t be easy,” but how many young marriages truly understand the depth of those statements? The intentionality with which togetherness must be doggedly pursued?
Good Lord, I get it now.
I also get how important it is to be choosy and honest about who your partner in that pursuit is. Anyone can say, “Sure, I’m in it for the good and the possible-but-please-God-highly-unlikely bad. We can probably make this work until we die.” But when the chips are down, behavior is bad, and the worst-possible scenario is looking you dead in the face, words aren’t going to matter. The soul, the very construction, of a person matters. I now not only know what mine is, but I know what my partner’s is, too.
You can’t put a price on the peace and safety that comes along with those realizations.
So read between the lines on why the first part of this title is “Ode to Darrin.”
As per the second goal, the last decade has shown me that the desire to teach isn’t so much in a conventional way, as much as it is in the urge to make a human connection with people. To better their life. To be useful to them. Sure, I can give you some advice on how to clean up your formal writing, and I can point out some psychological factors in behavior both in real people and fictional people. I can help you express yourself by commanding both sides of the English root.
But is that going to really, truly change your life?
I have learned that connecting with people through human experience and empathy moves souls much more than I would likely achieve with my initial approach. Also, I write so much better when I’m speaking on things I know from personal experience. It’s so encouraging to hear back from someone I’ve interacted with (or someone who read a recent blog post) and be told they felt supported, encouraged, or understood by something I said/wrote. I can teach, in a way, by helping others cultivate themselves by just being real damn honest.
All the previous 2,645 words were to say that in a moment of despair, I was able to sojourn on because of my own truth, and in this moment of epic gratitude, I am so hopeful about the use of my own evolution to complete what I started while rocking that baby.
Which only leaves the yoga pants part of the title.
On the real-real, this process has taken a toll on my yoga pants. God bless them, they have stretched to fit all the outward-reflecting changes in my life, and they’re still hanging on (read: I gained some weight from my job and stress). Hats of to you, Target, for creating determined tights. They’re in it to win it.
My love and dedication to fitness was one of the few carry-overs from my martial coping days that stuck, and now that I am in a position to revisit it in a healthy way, I’m excited to share a little of that come-back story here.
Interspersed between book teasers and regular blog posts, there will be updates on what I’m doing and how I’m doing with the concerted rescue attempt for my yoga pants. Tomorrow, and every Tuesday, there will be a more structured breakdown and update. Any misadventures I have along the way will be honestly chronicled (because how else do I chronicle?) as well.
Buckle up, heroes. We doin’ the things.