“Fine”

I just talked with a close friend who is going through a huge life thing. We didn’t have long to talk so it was basically a time for her to fill me in and do a little venting. At then end of the call, she says, “Next time we have to talk about you. How are things?”

“Oh, y’know, they’re fine.”

She laughed, hearing a little tone in the word “fine”. “Fine?”

“Yeah, you know, same as always.”

And there it is.

Technically, it’s not true. Things aren’t the same as always. In the last year, we moved, Husband started a new position at a new company, we bought and moved into a house, the kids started at four different new schools, and we added two new pets to the family. Lots of things have changed.

But none of them are directly related to me.

I’m just here, in the busyness, doing what I always do. Keeping after the chaos, trying to stay on top of schedules, trying to be in control and keep everything moving forward, keep everyone happy.

Some days, it feels like way too big of a load for any one person. And other days, I look around and think, “What am I doing? I do nothing. I contribute nothing. I add nothing. I am nothing.”

I don’t know, is this the way it is for Stay At Home Moms? Or is this just me?

Sometimes, I think I need to get a job. Then I would be contributing. And I’d be out of the house, and I’d have a freaking identity that is not at all times connected to what is happening to everyone else in the family. I think I’d like that.

But most of the time I think “How on earth?” The last kid goes off to school at 9am. The first kid has to get picked up at 2:15. That leaves me with five hours, total. Where could I work that I could commute to the job AND work in five hours? To say nothing of all the errands and helping at the school and keeping up with the chaos. I’m serious, some days it really does feel like way too big of a load for one person. If that one person got a paying job, she would very likely have a nervous breakdown.

Also, let’s be honest, I don’t know that I want a job. See above re: nervous breakdown.

So my solution, ever since the youngest child started school full time is to say, “I’m going to pursue my writing. I have always wanted to be a writer. Now is my chance. I will get serious. I will dedicate serious time and serious effort and see if I can do this thing.”

You are reading the only thing I’ve written this week.

It’s too easy to let the SAHM job stomp all the heck over the writing thing. The writing thing feels frivolous and unimportant. And the dust bunnies keep piling up, even when I’m reading Orson Scott Card’s very important and useful guidance on Characters and Viewpoint. To say nothing of the dishes and the laundry and the calls that need to be made during office hours and oh look, we’re out of milk, again. What Characters? What Viewpoint? I can’t even seem to form a single creative thought, distracted as I am by the minutia of my days.

And this post isn’t really about writing. It’s about the minutia. It’s about the all encompassing, heavy load of stuff that from a distance looks like absolutely nothing that my life has become.

Last night, the local weather guy said our long streak of sunny days was coming to an end. Something like 77 days of sunshine. It has been amazing. It has been glorious. And I have wasted nearly every one of those 77 days. Oh, I stood in the sunshine while the dog did her business in the yard, enjoying the warmth on my face, thanking God for another beautiful day. And then I went inside, back to the minutia. A couple of times, over the summer, I dragged my family out to the beach or on a walk in the woods, desperate to make a moment, to enjoy the sunshine and make the days matter. The husband grumbled. There was all this work around the house he needed to do. The garage was still full of boxes. After a long week in the office, he wanted to check things off his list. The teenagers grumbled. Hanging out with the family is boring. The younger siblings are annoying. Mom takes too many pictures.

This past weekend, Quinn was home. I wanted to go away, but that didn’t pan out. The weather was amazing. Seventy degrees. The leaves in brighter colors than I’ve seen in the Pacific Northwest, maybe ever. Luke had a birthday party of a school friend to attend on Saturday afternoon. That shot the idea of taking a nice day trip. We went to the mall. Sunday, everyone woke up late and grumpy for church. Near the end of service, I had the thought, “I want to do something special today. Maybe a nice brunch at a little cafe, in the sunshine. Maybe the pumpkin patch.” I asked Husband. He was not enthusiastic. The garage was his big project for the weekend. He was determined to make room for his car, now that we are getting frosts some nights, getting out in the morning is a hassle. No one else seemed enthused. I settled for a quick brunch at Panera, with a view of the strip mall. We went home. Everyone went to their corners of the house. I wandered aimlessly, wishing for family togetherness, not wanting to be a pushy nag.

The streak of sunny days is coming to an end. I missed my chance. This weekend, it will be cool and cloudy and drizzly. To be followed, I’m sure, by many many days of cool and cloudy and drizzly. If we go to the pumpkin patch, it will be in the rain. If we go. The two older kids don’t feel much need for a pumpkin these days. Husband thinks maybe it’s easier just to leave them home.

I sat on my bed last night, tears streaming down my face, because of a stupid weather report.

I know what you’re thinking. I’m losing it. It’s okay, I know I’m losing it. Heck, let’s blame peri-menopause. I hear that’s supposed to be like puberty, in reverse, only longer. (which also, coincidentally, sounds like my definition of hell.)

But all I could think was, “It’s too late. I missed my chance.” And I don’t just mean last weekend, though I’m pretty sure I’ve never looked back on one weekend with so much regret. I feel like it just sums up my whole freaking life. It’s too late. I missed my chance. I never pursued writing the way that I should have. I walked away from it after high school, because it didn’t seem practical to major in English. And then I told myself it just wasn’t the right time. It was never the right time. I had my babies. Oh, I loved having babies. I really really did. I can honestly say that most of the time I savored the moments. But they went by, just the same. The babies grew up. And now much of the time, they don’t especially want to do things together, as a family. We bicker a lot when we go out together, because we’re all at cross-purposes with one another. The fun in my head doesn’t always look the same in real life. Most of the time it seems to be more about getting through the day then about making the days matter.

I don’t want to just get through the day. What then? Another day? Why? What’s the point of it all?

Switchfoot has this song, “More than Fine“, that keeps running through my head today.

More than fine, more than bent on getting by.
More than fine, more than just ok.

That’s what I want: More than “Fine”. More than just Ok.

As a Christian, I can give myself the obvious prescription: “Pray.” I know that His plans and purposes are good. I know that if I am in His will, that is right where I need to be. I know. But how do I know if I am? And is it just completely selfish for me to be sitting here in my spoiled first-world life saying “This isn’t enough”? I mean, sheesh, woman, get over yourself!

I really don’t know where I’m going with all of this. (Sense a theme?) The plain truth of it is I am fine. Life is fine. But I wonder… is it a bright sunny weekend and I’m wandering aimlessly around the house when I should be out in a pumpkin patch somewhere?

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7 thoughts on ““Fine”

  1. Welcome to my world too only mine is a medical disability world…

    Have you ever thought of writing a Job Posting complete with a Job Description? Sometimes realizing the skills and daily requirements helps alot.

    Sometimes just venting helps too.

    I came on-line to learn about what had happened to me and to learn how to write again – some days I don’t think I have accomplished anything but hey – I am able to write this response and it hasn’t taken 27 edits and I think it doesn’t need any. I am progressing.

    Cheers and I too missed the glorious weather and the soon to be rainy grey days will make me depressed all over again.

    PS – you know why we don’t normally get the colors in the leaves? Rain…

  2. Oh, Sweetie… You have no idea how totally and completely I understand. I really, REALLY do. You’re NOT losing it. It’s definitely a SAHM thing… And a peri-meno thing. I know this for a fact.

    Would you mind a suggestion? If you don’t need the paying job, don’t pursue that. There are other ways to feel as if you’re contributing. And what’s more important is that you contribute to making YOU feel good because you are the thing that keeps your family going. If you don’t take care of you, the whole machine falls apart. Maybe you need to find something to do during those 5 hrs that is just for you. ??? At least every once in a while. Something to make life seem fresh again! If it’s something for you, it won’t feel so much like one more thing you HAVE to do and won’t be so overwhelming. Maybe a class you’ve always wanted to take, a writing workshop (take one or teach one), a Bible study (have you heard of Bible Study Fellowship- BSF International? http://www.bsfinternational.org/Classes/Locate/tabid/81/Default.aspx They have amazing, non-denom classes all over the world- there has to be one near you. This year, they’re doing Genesis and I’m LOVING it! It’s different than any other Bible study I’ve done before)… Just find something, ANYTHING that feels new and fresh and interesting- something that will make you feel special and “important” again. Although, you DO know you’re important, right? That feeling you’re having is a LIE. You know that, right? I know you do.

    Or? Come hang out with me and we can feel this way together.

    And this doesn’t matter a diddly flip, but I think you are pretty amazing. To quote the great Mr. Rogers… “I think you’re special. I like you just the way you are.” Maybe I morphed into Billy Joel a little there at the end, but you get what I’m saying…

  3. So, umm, ditto what Michelle said. I know exactly how you feel. The other night we had an activity for the women at church and, as part of it, we had a representative from our local literacy center come and talk to us about what they do and how we can get involved if we want to volunteer; and I sat there thinking, “Me! Me! I could totally do that, and I’d LOVE to do that.” But? I home school young children, and it already puts me behind on all the minutia that I need to be doing. And so, every day, I go to bed seeing all of the things that didn’t get done that day, and I think, “What on earth have I done with this day? Nothing. I’ve accomplished nothing.” And I feel like a failure (why is it so easy for me to forget that I made sure four kids got all of their school done for the day, that I graded their work, explained the difficult things they couldn’t get on their own, helped them improve on writing assignments, etc?). Want to know a little secret? That’s a big reason I dropped out of blogging. I thought it was taking too much time (and it was). It was great for me, but it wasn’t great for me getting other stuff done. So, in my attempt to balance things a bit, the blogging just fell by the wayside. Sad. Anyway, I know exactly how you feel. Exactly. What you and I are doing is important. So very, very important. The world likes to make us feel like it’s not, but it is. Michelle is right, the feeling that tells us otherwise is a lie. A constant, nagging, never-giving-up lie, but a lie nonetheless. You’re awesome. Just keep being awesome.

  4. I work three days a week. On my “days off” I try to compensate for being a working mom. Last Wednesday I got three kids off to school at different times, volunteered at my oldest’s school and had lunch with him, and then went to my daughter’s school to have lunch with her. Then I picked the youngest up from his school to take him to speech. After that I got the other two off the bus, took the oldest to taekwondo (keeping the younger two entertained while he was in taekwondo), back home, dinner, baths, laundry, bedtime stories, cleaning, etc, etc, etc. Honestly, I don’t know how SAHMs do it. Work is almost a vacation from my days off! What you are doing is important and HARD. Don’t foget that!

  5. I know this is old…but have you read the book Living with Intensity? It is the best explanation of Dabrowski’s theory IMO and I think applicable here. Also–that book about writing by anne lamotte? bird by bird? I feel your pain. I want a job–meaningful work outside the home. I don’t know how we will pay for college if I don’t. But logistically it seems impossible. Keep writing!

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