I haven't written anything for seven long months. Life has been a blur of school drop-offs, appointments, playdates, naps (and all of their preemptive strikes), Target trips, and, yes- those incredibly sustaining glasses of wine. Throughout the day, I find myself thinking, "I should probably be writing this down," or "I should get my camera." Lately, the camera has been winning out. I collapse at the end of the day, having answered no less than 256 questions- anything ranging from "do you want to come see my poop??" to "why is the dollar only a dollar?" (come on, really?). I've heard "MOMMA" approximately 27 times per hour (more on the days when someone is sick or extra tired and cranky) and I'm not certain, but I think I'm the owner of new nervous twitch now.
So I dissolve into a lifeless lump on my couch, usually around 8 pm, (and that's on a good evening). The last thing I really want to do is write. Or think. Or move. Sometimes I pin. But if I crack into the wine, that's a dangerous combo because by glass two, I'll convince myself that I really should reorganize my spice rack or bake kale chips or make bunnies out of toilet paper rolls.
I've always struggled a lot with the "shoulds." My nature is to be a pleaser, and I've had to learn to scrutinize my motives and ask, "Who am I really doing this for?" When I was younger, I actually thought that once I got out of high school, it would instantly become easier for me to know the answer to that question. (Aw, how cute pathetic was that?) When that didn't yield any answers, I set my sights on nailing them down once I got my college degree but with no more luck than before. At that point, I figured I'd have a better handle on it by the time I got married. I mean, I'd have to know those things in the core of my being before I could be someone's wife.
And yet, a few months after marrying Jake- the kind of man that I thought I could never be lucky enough to meet (possibly because he just didn't even exist)- I was no closer to being able to answer that question than I was almost a decade ago. The identity crisis that ensued sent me straight into one of the darkest and loneliest times of my life. When most people are enjoying newlywed bliss, I was in weekly therapy sessions, reaching one supposed "end of the rope" after another, heavily medicated, and feeling like a stranger in my own life.
But it took that place to get me here, and I'm convinced- now more than ever- that there actually is beauty in the breakdown.
Here, for me, has become this beautiful collaboration of redemption and grace and umpteen chances. It's chasing three kids, and doing laundry (and forgetting that I left said laundry in the washer. Again). It's studying and practicing and staying curious about words and pixels and how I can authentically weave them together. My "here" is learning to be okay with the hormonal, hot mess that I am. It's learning to embrace the fact that my friends and family accept the hot mess that I am. It's making my "I love you's" and "I'm so sorry's" really count. It's living in the ever-present tension between the "hurry up" of our culture, and the "be still" of my intuition.
We've been seduced into thinking we can do it all, have it all, be it all- and be truly, irrevocably HAPPY. It's a beautiful, horrible, seductive lie. And for someone like me who was born with that Type A perfectionist hard-wiring, it can be a particularly special hell, but it's one in which I've been all too willing to pull up a chair and make myself cozy. It's not necessarily a battle to be like the other moms who show up to the playground, or the woman in line in front of me in Starbucks, or even one of the hundreds of amazing photogs whose work I admire. Instead, I'm at odds against the me that, once upon a time, I thought I should have been. The one who's 10 lbs thinner and doesn't struggle with panic attacks. It's the mom I said I was going to be (you know, the perfect mom I was before I had kids)- with boundless energy and patience, who never missed an opportunity to snuggle and never dropped an f-bomb in front of innocent ears . It's the wife I sometimes fear that Jake would prefer better- the one who isn't exhausted all the time, who likes to wear real clothes (which, if we're being specific, aren't yoga pants with yesterday's mac-and-cheese on them), the one who is somehow always pulling it together, even when she's falling apart at the seams.
But that's not who Jake married. And it's not who he said he wanted to marry, either.
And that's not Ella, Milo, and Olive's mommy. (At least, not 24/7, thankfully).
The post-card life that I had so carefully and painstakingly constructed when I was younger, and the one that sometimes taunts me in my weaker moments, isn't real. It's not here. It's taken nearly three decades, but I'm finally starting to get it into my thick skull that we're not actually called to have it together. (And thankfully, I've been getting plenty of chances to put that to practice).
And even more thankfully, grace covers the rest.