Because sometimes, these days

My mother-in-law texted yesterday.

“Let us know if we can bring anything from Omaha!”

She meant that Trader Joe’s lemon kitchen soap I like and the little oatmeal raisin cookies that 2 1/2 years ago I put in favor bags for our wedding.

But what I thought was, “Sure, how about my friends? Or my yellow house in Dundee? Can you bring Barley Street or the Waiting Room or festivals like Maha or nightlife at all?”

Since I’ve been home on maternity leave (Lila will be two weeks old on Friday!), all sorts of emotions have surfaced. Old feelings I thought I’d conquered are back. Old insecurities I knew I’d never really beat but had at least gotten good at pretending they were gone are here.

I am trying all the time to hold it together. Not because of the baby. She is wonderful and perfect and all-encompassing and beautiful and everything we could have ever asked for in a sweet pea. Not because of my other two babies, though the dynamics of a blended family continue at times to be more than I know how to handle. Not because of my sweet, sweet husband, who is the best dad Lila could ever hope to have.

Because sometimes, these days, I just feel lost.

Do we forget who we are?

Or does who we are change? Does that happen without us realizing it? Without us agreeing to it?

Many months ago, we were hanging out with friends, and I was talking about the mother of a friend of our daughter’s. “She’s a single mom, too,” I said.

Too.

I didn’t even realize l’d said it. But once I did, I couldn’t take it back and I think maybe right there, that slip may have illuminated why relationships are hard. Why relationships I have are hard.

Be confident, they teach us as little girls. Be independent. Learn to take care of yourself. Learn to not need anybody else.

While I’ve arguably, clearly embraced much of that, ironically I am one of the neediest people I know. I need to know I am loved by my partner. Even when I know, I crave reassurance, reminders, “I love you”s just because. I can imagine how irritating that need must be.

After my divorce, I had a social support system that allowed me to figure out who I was, who I wanted to be on my own and be that. I liked that woman I eventually turned into. The one who bought the yellow house in Dundee, the one who found live music as powerful as prayer, the one who got to share her life through blogs on that website for moms, the one who somehow managed to parent her babies on her own, at least for a little while. (The same one who wouldn’t trade the co-parent she is lucky enough to have now.)

So what I’m realizing this week, today, is that I’m not that woman anymore. Pieces of me are there, alive, but I’ve yet to figure out who this new me is.

Who this new me is with the most amazing partner, the man I love with all my heart, more than anyone else I’ve ever loved, despite the times we can’t seem to figure out how to understand each other.

Who this new me is without the things in Omaha I’d constructed to make up the details of my life. The yellow house. The live music. The nightlife. The best girlfriends I could ever hope to have. The job. Even the rock-star boyfriend.

Does it take a baby to spark this internal conversation? Does it take the quiet hours in the middle of the morning holding that baby while listening to that Bon Iver song your husband introduced you to but now can’t stand because his wife listens to it so much to prompt this introspection?

Does it take Cheryl Strayed and “Tiny Beautiful Things” to make you say, “Enough. Get it together already. Figure yourself out.”

Does it take tears in the middle of the night, loneliness, insecurity?

What about hope? Resilience?

I don’t have any answers. Not yet. But I know I – we – have love. And that makes us luckier than many.

Laughter as often as it comes

The babies are back and the new one is growing and, whew, where does all this life go so fast?

Six weeks until my due date with this little creature inside of my belly. The way she turns or pokes or prods or whatever it is exactly she’s doing sometimes startles me. Like last night, curled in bed next to the rock star, little pieces of feet or something began protruding just underneath the thin skin of what was once the inside of my bellybutton.

I could feel the body parts, someone else’s body parts, under my skin. It’s unsettling. And amazing. Sort of at the same time.

This hasn’t been the pregnancy I envisioned, and it’s been difficult for me to not compare this experience with my last go-round at growing a baby. Then, my life basically on the brink of imploding, the pregnancy was second string to the emotional mess I’d made of so much else. I ate very little, I cried all the time, I exercised a lot … consequently, I gained only 25 pounds and was back in my pre-pregnancy clothes within two weeks.

That part – the appearance part – was lovely. So was the labor and delivery, which was fairly quick and easy and uncomplicated. And, of course, the sweet, sweet baby girl, who along with her brother, continues to make my world go round.

That was all good, despite the mess of the rest of my life (those dark days, of course, would eventually lead to where my life was supposed to be all along, and for that, I am thankful). But at the time, I wasn’t sure where we would all land.

So this time around, happily married to a supportive, gentle, trusting man, I gave up exercising months ago and I’ve pretty much been eating whatever I want. I’ve already gained 33 pounds.

(Which, yes, does freak me out, and if anyone follows me on Pinterest explains the numerous workout pins of late).

But the baby is growing as she should, and I’m rolling myself out of bed each morning as I should and ignoring the swollen stumps my legs and feet have turned into as best I can and getting on with it all, enduring, moving forward, with anticipation and hope and laughter as often as it comes.

Isn’t that, at the end of the day, the best we can do anyway?

Looking forward with laughter and love and hope that tastes like sun just might be the answer to it all.

To not fall apart

Saying good-bye each morning is a drawn-out affair.

After hugs and kisses to both babies (who, yes, are nowhere close to babies anymore), I gather my things and from the kitchen offer a last, “Bye! Love you! Have great days!”

My son, 9, sometimes says, “Bye,” if he’s already at the table for breakfast; other times, he’s fallen back to sleep in his bed.

My daughter, though, that 5-year-old sweet pea, begins her ritual marathon.

“Bye, Mom! Love you! See you in eight hours!”

We blow kisses, each of us catching the other’s and sticking it on our faces or in our pockets. I inch closer toward the back door, and Paige continues her chorus: “Bye, Mom! I love you! See you in eight hours!”

It’s not unusual for her to repeat that line six or seven or eight times. ”Bye, Mom! I love you! See you in eight hours!”

Last night, I drove the kids to Vail where we meet their dad for his visits. Usually, he takes them to his place in Denver, one weekend a month.

But I’m in the midst now, at the very beginning really, of the time of year I dread most: the month the kids spend away from me.

Our divorce agreement says my ex-husband will have the kids for a month each summer.

One day down. 29 to go.

Oy.

A co-worker yesterday said, “A whole month? What are you going to do with all that free time?!”

And, yes, that is the way I need to look at it. I need to embrace the time to be me, to be a wife, to be a friend, to really engage in all those things I don’t get to fully devote myself to when I’m being a mom.

But still.

In reality? That blows.

Yesterday, as I stood in the parking lot of Qdoba in West Vail, squeezing my daughter for the last time in what feels like a long time, she said, “Bye, Mom. I love you. See you in a month.”

Not eight hours. A month.

And I did what I could to keep it together, to not fall apart, to be a grown-up. On the drive, I could tell the kids were worried, or anxious, or just doing what they could to cope with the impending transition. I imagine these sorts of questions may have been on their minds: “Is Mom going to lose it when we say goodbye? Will she cry so hard she can’t talk like last year? Do we just leave her like that?”

I remember what it’s like leaving one parent to go with the other. I always felt so much pressure to help the situation go smoothly, to make sure both parents were OK and to somehow manage my own emotions in the midst of it all. I remember the pull kids of divorced parents will likely inevitably always feel between Mom and Dad, the way your heart wishes the world was different and you could somehow see them both equal amounts, that they each somehow were OK without you, that if they say they are, that it might be true.

On the drive back to our house, just me in the big, new car with third-row seating and a DVD player that unfolds from the ceiling, I texted a friend back home.

“Tell me again how you get through your babies being gone each summer,” I asked.

“Focus on how much fun they are having,” she said, “and how important it is for them to have relationships on that side, too.”

Yes. I knew that. And she is so right. The more people who love my babies, the luckier they are.

Still, that doesn’t mean the little pieces of my heart out walking around without me for the next month aren’t noticeably missing.

This morning, I peeked into my daughter’s empty room. On her bed, unmade, she had placed a dozen or so dolls. They were in a line, flat on their backs, how she’d presumably put them down for a nap.

I smiled. And I’m considering leaving them there, just how she left them, a dozen or so reminders of her.

So much more than we can ever know

Photo copyright Amanda Wilson/photosbyaw.com

My sister graduates high school this spring. She is 18 and grown-up and not – all at the same time. It is the life stage where you’re supposed to know – what to do, how to do it, what you want, where to go, etc., etc., etc.

I want to tell her it’s OK.

To not know. To not have a fucking clue what comes next or how to get there.

None of us know.

Yet, we go through moments where we think we might. Like the year I decided to be a journalist. I was in eighth grade and in academic love with words, with writing, with books and minds and the power of a sentence that was written like no one else could ever write it. I had a fantastic English teacher who pushed us farther than many wanted, but I craved the direction, the challenge, the insight he had into books and the way that world worked.

That was the year I watched every Chicago Bulls game on TV (thank you, WGN) and many times took notes so I could write a story about the game afterward. A newspaper story, like for the Chicago Sun-Times. I did this just for fun.

That was also the year I read “Hang Time,” a book by a Sun-Times columnist named Bob Greene, who somehow worked it out so his career would include following around Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player ever, and then writing a book about it (two, actually).

I decided I wanted to do that.

And back then? Back then in the days where we were told by everyone who could that our dreams were within reach, that we could be whoever or whatever we wanted if we just worked hard enough for it? Yeah, back then. Back then, I decided that’s what I would do. Be a sportswriter. In Chicago. For the Bulls.

The dream morphed over the next several years. By my senior year of high school, I’d decided to replace Jane Pauley as anchor on NBC’s newsmagazine show, “Dateline.” Again, I thought this was reality.

So I majored in journalism, broadcasting first and then a double major with news-editorial (print journalism, in plain speak). But by the middle of my sophomore year, I dropped broadcasting. Want to know why? Because I’d decided learning about different types of microphones was boring and I wasn’t interested in studying for a test on them.

It’s unbelievable really, that someone with my work ethic and grade point average would have given up so quick.

But, I figured, I’m a better writer than broadcaster anyway, and wasn’t writing my true love way back when?

Sure.

But I no longer had a dream. I no longer had a pie-in-the-sky goal. I had a boyfriend who pretty much called all the shots – about everything – few friends, straight As, some talent in writing, sure … and … huh.

Maybe this is all life is.

I got through college by doing what was expected, going to class, writing the papers, getting the internship. But none of it was inspiring. None of it felt like what my heart really wanted.

But it felt like what I was supposed to do. And I hadn’t yet figured out how to live outside the system we are all raised within – the 9-month school calendar, the 3-month summer vacation, the coaches and teachers and built-in praise, the straight As, the hustle awards … all those things that don’t matter. At all. Once you’re outside.

Even after graduation, I got married – I actually remember saying, “That’s what comes next, right?” (OH MY GOD, was I for real?!), and I got a job. At a newspaper. Because that’s what I’d majored in.

It was all uninspired. It was all supposed to. It was all headed … where?

Of course, memory is subjective and years give us wisdom we couldn’t have had back then, in the midst of it. But I think back to that time now with regret.

Life is short. Our days are not guaranteed. We get no do-overs.

So your twenties are hard, little sis. By the end, I felt like I knew enough to know what I wanted – and what I didn’t. That doesn’t mean I got there the way I should have.

Now, it’s different. And isn’t. But it is, really, truly. Everything we endure is a lesson, everything we experience helps teach us more about who we really are, what we really want, how we might be able to get there, with what partner we want to share the journey, the importance of treating what – and who – you value most in life the way a child would handle the Christmas gift he never expected to actually receive.

Life in its potential is infinite. We CAN – within reason – make our lives what we want them to be, if we go about it the right way, with grace and kindness and care and resolve.

Something I wish I knew, way back then: Life is so much more than we can ever know. When we’re 18. When we’re 22. When we’re 45. When we’re 75.

So, little sis, I want to tell you to make choices. Be bold. Be brave. Take chances. Do not ever-ever-ever let a boy make all the choices for you. He cannot know what is deepest in your heart. Only you get to figure that out. You get to steer your own ship, and that is a gift life, in its complexity, gives us. We are lucky if we find people by our sides to support us and make the road trip together.

Just as important: Treat others well, especially those you don’t want to lose. They deserve it. So do you.

Finally, let yourself off the hook. We all mess up. It’s life. Pick yourself up, and do it before you waste too much time, and get back on the horse.

Grab the reins. They’re yours. Go.

For every reason

Last spring, I started taking an antidepressant.

It very literally changed me, saved me, rescued my family, my marriage from a place that no one liked, from a depth so deep I didn’t recognize how far down it was until I was out of it.

I went to the doctor back then under the guise of wanting a physical. Really, I wanted a buoy. I wanted to be brave enough to tell someone who might be able to help how bad things were. I wanted to no longer lay in my bed and cry for no reason. I wanted to be tolerant, patient, calm all the time with my sweet children. I wanted my husband to continue to love me. I no longer wanted to be that thing everyone tiptoed past, in case she lost it. For no reason.

For me, of course, it wasn’t no reason. It was every reason. It was the pancakes I made that didn’t turn out. It was my husband, who is amazingly great, not putting his hand on my knee while we watched TV at night even though I had touched his arm. It was that dream job I used to have but lost because I made a stupid, ego-driven decision. Because I didn’t listen. Because I was dumb. It was everything. It was nothing.

So I talked to the doctor. I was brave. I cried for about half an hour. She listened like a girlfriend. I told her I missed Omaha. I told her about that job. I told her about my kids and my husband and my I’m-not-ever-enough fear. She told me to take the medication.

I didn’t. I filled the prescription and let it sit in our medicine cabinet for about a month and a half. The little things that were nothing things continued to grow in my mind. I continued to not handle life very well.

I continued to feel bad about myself, about my behaviors, about my emotions. I continued to unintentionally damage my marriage and my family.

Finally, I decided: What do I have to lose? Take the pills.

And I did and within three weeks, that hole became shallower, that low became higher. By summer, I felt what I suspected normal must feel like. I no longer fixated on things that didn’t really exist. I suddenly had an ability to let things go that I’d never had before. I still sobbed til the point I couldn’t speak when I dropped my kids off with their dad for his month-long visit last summer. But I recovered quickly. Within 15 minutes, I felt stable. My mind was clear.

Life was good. Even my husband will tell you, the past seven months have been as close to what he hopes our lives will feel like as they’ve ever been.

It’s OK to take medication, if you need it. It’s OK to ask for help. Don’t be a hero, my friend back home reminds me.

But then I got pregnant and then I googled “Celexa and pregnancy” and then I panicked. Cleft lips, cleft palates, withdrawal symptoms in the newborn, persistent pulmonary hypertension (a serious lung condition), heart defects … they’ve all been linked to Celexa use in pregnancy.

I asked my OB, who said, “Yes, those risks exist, but your baby might suffer those birth defects anyway.” I asked my OB, who said, “I’d recommend you stay on the medication.”

Well. I didn’t. I stopped taking those pills that saved my family from myself. And now, about a month later, I’m back down in that hole in the corner of my bedroom in the dark. Those thoughts about things that don’t matter take up too much space in my head. I cry like I used to. I’m a mess. It has not been fair on my husband or my children.

Once again, I miss Omaha, I miss momaha, I miss my friends like I can’t breathe. Kyle says, “Take the medicine. I’m worried about you. This is our affecting our family.”

So today I went back to that doctor, that medical therapist almost, who so kindly listened to me cry in her office last year. She said, “Take the medicine.”

And so this afternoon, on Valentine’s Day, I’m trying to remember how clear it all feels when I’m on the medication, how better our lives are, how it’s OK to accept the help that fixes the chemical imbalance in my brain, the one that isn’t my fault, the one I can’t control on my own no matter how much I tell myself to suck it up and be strong and get through it.

I’m trying to trust in the universe that if I take the pills I need to be who I truly am, my babies will be OK. Please, let them be OK. Let us all.

The doctor gave me a lower dosage of the antidepressants. Those pills are waiting for me at the pharmacy.

I am going to pick them up… probably tomorrow.

As I left the doctor’s office this afternoon, I took off my winter coat. The sun was shining, and though the streets and yards are still muddy and dirty and wet, I can tell spring is coming.

It’s just around the bend.

All of our days, 2013

I’ve never been into New Year’s resolutions. If you want to make a change, go ahead and do it, whatever time of year.

I did, however, this early January make a slideshow of our last year.

The quality would not win any awards, and even Kyle looked at me after he watched it this morning, smiled and gave me that look that usually means, “Wow,” in some form or another. (In this case, it clearly meant he never would have made such a slideshow).

But I love it. And he likes it.

And we’re happy.

Gratitude that grows on branches

The library held a parenting workshop last week about gratitude.

“What does that mean?” both kids asked me when I said I thought we’d go.

“It means being thankful,” I said, “being happy for something, appreciating the things and the people you love the best.”

They nodded and moved on, back to whatever they’d been doing before I spoke.

As it turned out, we didn’t make it to the workshop. But if we’d gone, the kids would have made gratitude trees.

I’ve been wondering what they would have placed on their branches.

Mom. Kyle. Dad. Grammy and Papa. Grandma. Grandpa. Dana and Gary. The dog. The cats. Their toys. Disney Channel. Pizza. Brownies. Juice. School. Friends.

Those are my guesses, and maybe (yes, definitely) I should have them do the exercise anyway. It is Thanksgiving after all, and it is important to remind ourselves of all the good in our little worlds.

It will just be Kyle and me tomorrow, and the insides of me spent a little time being sad about that. But it is what it is – distance and time and the cost of gas and the kids being unavailable for our side of the family anyway – and I’m happy to have the grown-up time with my love.

I’ve requested soup.

And, in honor of the holiday, here’s what grows on the branches of my gratitude tree: 

1. A husband like no other. One who makes me soup on Thanksgiving, even though he thinks it’s weird.

2. Healthy, happy, smart, beautiful children. I couldn’t ask for any better.

3. My mom. I love you.

4. The other parents in my life. Thank you. I love you, too.

5. A job that (usually almost always) pays the bills and keeps me challenged and fulfilled. And gives me an office with a window.

6. Books. You are my favorite.

7. Music. You are my favorite favorite.

8. My friends. You save me.

9. Wine bars and cheese trays. Cowboy boots and acoustic guitars. Coffee. Yoga. Fall. Yellow. Orange. Felines. Writing that takes my breath away.

10. The ability to make our own choices, pave our own paths, decide our own tomorrows.

I cheated on number 9, but those all deserved a spot on my list.

Oh, and this:

What’s on your gratitude tree?

 

I wonder if it’s a wanting all the time

The world of wanting is cruel, that feeling of never quite having everything you’ve ever wanted, that even if you do, you don’t.

How did we get that way?

Is the grass only greener in America? What about Europe? Asia? I hear Chinese couples may get to start having multiple babies one of these days. I imagine that’s happy news to so many ears, and, to me, that feels right. That feels like it’s about time. That feels like such a stupid horrible rule to begin with. I’d be lying, though, if I said I didn’t think about all those girls sold off into an underworld I don’t want details on, those girls who could have stayed, those new moms who could have cried a little less, if China had never had something so ridiculous as population control.

I bet those Chinese mothers want just as much as I do, as we do. I wonder if it’s a wanting all the time.

I am thinking about things and needs and wants and excess and greed and happiness and fulfillment and why it – life – all feels so hard some of the time. Because Christmas is coming, that holiday we celebrate secularly like so many others across the world, Christians included.

I saw a plastic Santa at a thrift store today. It was one of those retro-looking light-up ones that stands in your yard. Plastic Santa was probably about 4 feet tall. I wanted him.

He was $25, though, and $25 on a Christmas decoration sounds like a purchase I shouldn’t make. And I didn’t.

But the kids, those sweet babies of ours, will expect presents on Christmas. Of course they will. They are kids and we live in America and Christmas, at least as far as I’m concerned, should be as magical and innocent and beautiful as it can for as long as we can make it last. Gifts in paper in excess in living rooms under a sparkly lit-up tree are part of that magic.

I do not want to go to Wal-Mart on Thanksgiving. (I want to go there never, but even less so on Thanksgiving.)

I also do not want to participate in Black Friday. The thought of all those people and all those cars and all those clothes that no one will wear two years from now and all that plastic that will break or be swept up by Mom’s broom or forgotten in the closet and all that chaos and energy and need … no. I’m good. I’ll pass. No thank you.

But.

We need presents for our kids, and money doesn’t grow on that tree out back yet and I’m still figuring out how to inherit a rich relative who falls instantly in love with me and leaves us her life’s savings or how to write my own version of “eleanor & park” that I can dedicate to my own loves.

So I’m contemplating going to Wal-Mart.

On Thanksgiving.

And I hate this. About me, about life, about society, about the fact that we’re never satisfied. Why isn’t great good enough? When will it be? And how?

I’m in love with my life. That is not hyperbole.

I am so full in love with my husband that that right there should be enough forever and always and to the moon and back.

And those babies? Those babies who are now 8 and 4 and who sometimes I ask for advice because they just seem that grown up? Oh my world spins because of them.

And everything else – just about – that makes a life: friends, family, a house to call our own, a very good job, music, laughter, streets to run on, cats to cuddle and coffee to warm our souls.

Yeah, I have that. All of that. My color is yellow.

Yet, I still yearn for things we do not have. An upstairs. Sunday dinners with family. More money. More time. More fill in the blank.

So it goes, I guess. Courage and cowboy boots and bottomless red wine maybe can’t change that sort of human nature.

But we can try and cheers to that.

The beginning of it anyway

We had breakfast parfaits at work this morning. Yogurt, granola, berries. I forgot to bring the box of granola I’d set on the counter because I was too worried about the little girl missing me and the boy who seemed so tired he could barely stand. I was worried about their second day of school, whether the dog had been out, where the cat (cats?) would pee in the house today … if I’d be late for work.

So I forgot the granola.

Which was alright because I’d decided I’d stop for Starbucks today anyway, for the cup as much as the coffee, which, really, I can make at home.

The little things, though, can change your day. A cup of coffee can matter. The treat of it all … well, so what? What’s $2.50 once a week and a Treat Receipt I’ll never use?

Today is a co-worker’s birthday. She sits in the office next to mine, and today over yogurt parfaits she passed around a framed photo of her dog on a tricycle.

Yes.

That happened.

She is 29.

“One of my favorite years,” I told her after peeking my head next door before yogurt parfaits. “I hope you have a great day.”

What makes a great day? A great year? Why is 29 one of my favorites? What will make her 29th birthday more special than any other day in this long cycle of life’s days?

I have no idea.

On the radio this morning, after I passed my friend eating what may have been yogurt on her way to work, the Yale or Harvard or Stanford or someplace smart like that expert said 99 percent of our DNA is bacteria. That gut bacteria has more impact on who we are – our behaviors, our personalities, our choices – than anything else.

I’m not sure what to do with that sort of information.

I was 28 when my body began to grow my second baby. I was 29 when I got to meet her, hold her, begin this marathon of helping her be.

I was 29 when I decided to call it quits from that first chapter of grown-up-dom, when I decided to leap with my arms spread wide, hoping just maybe I’d catch a breeze just right to cushion the fall.

I was 29 when I told my first husband I did not love him. I was 29 when I began to somehow survive that.

I was 29 when I decided I deserved to be me, on my own, of my own volition.

I was 29 when I met the people who saved me, the girlfriends who listened like no one else I remembered, the ones who brought me frou-frou drinks from Scooter’s the morning of a garage sale designed to help clear out the past, the ones who smashed a backyard shed and painted a backyard deck so I could sell the house I no longer wanted – for so many reasons – despite the fact I left Little Kitty behind.

The friends who took me out, held my hands, picked me up from the airport, gifted me with my first (and only) facial, moved into the house I no longer wanted so I could pay the mortgage and not feel so alone …

That all happened, the beginning if it anyway, the year I was 29.

It is strange to think back to that time now, on the other side of the bend, with a husband who loves me and my babies like I could have never imagined, with a career that – finally – feels as fulfilling as the one I lost, with a home and a family and friends and laughter and music and love, with a life that really, truly in so many ways is so very lovely.

But today, on my co-worker’s 29th birthday, I am nostalgic. Even the nearly empty Starbucks cup on my desk reminds me of so much. So much that’s so big I can’t write it. And if I let the so big simmer too long it starts to feel heavy, that weight that earlier this year spilled out on the kitchen table and that I’ve somehow managed to neatly pack away thank-you-very-much since then.

Memory might just be the force that makes us who we are, the force not to be reckoned with, the energy that makes our tiny little worlds go round.

On the night before the first day of school, my kids got to see the moon in a telescope. A telescope so big, so powerful that the crater’s mountains were visible.

“It’s a crescent moon,” Paige said.

“Wow,” Rye said. “My class should take a field trip here.”

And I’m reminded right now, right this second on this shifty, spinning planet we live on, that letting your kids see the moon up close might be the most important thing you do all week.

All the time, just the same

Sometimes, the hardest part is just beginning.

Just deciding to start and deal with the hurdles as you go. Because you may not even know what they are if you never start.

But being brave all the time is exhausting and sometimes I just can’t do it. Or I think I can’t so I don’t and then I hold all that anxiety inside for too long where it simmers and boils around and then spills out on my husband’s poor unexpecting soul and then.

Then we just have a mess to wipe up off the linoleum.

And then we’re just back where we were anyway, if I would have just kept on being brave all the time, every day, even when it felt like too much work.

Laziness never got anyone anywhere.

I had influenza a week and a half ago and it kicked my psyche into some corner of some room of this new house that I didn’t know existed. I was the only one there (thank God), but, man, was it intoxicating. In that dangerous, crack-heroin sort of way.

For a few hours on a few days, I thought to myself, “I’m never going to get better.”

And I was so feverish sick and my head was so full of crap and the bubble I was existing in so thick, I believed it.

And that didn’t help my mood or my temperament or the way my family felt about me at all.

Or so the crazy thoughts told me in my head.

It was a few days after the bubble burst and I climbed out of that dank corner that the mess spilled out onto the kitchen floor and across the K-Mart table where we dine and the husband reminded me he loves me all the time, just the same, whether I’m living in a corner of self pity and doubt and anxiety or not.

But he has more fun when I’m just me.

So, shit, man, what now?

Well, right now, today, yesterday, too, and even the day before that, I’m trying to chill the fuck out. What’s wrong with my life anyway?

Not one thing.

What’s so great about Omaha anyway?

I don’t know. For the first at least half of my time there, I wanted to leave. To come back here.

Oh, goddess of irony, I will name you Daffodil and Scotch-tape a picture of you in your vintage crew-cut cardigan onto the wall above my dresser. So there you can mock me.

And I can be reminded.

That maybe I don’t need that as-of-yet unopened bottle of Celexa in my medicine cabinet. That there’s no reason I should feel sad about a website for moms that, yes, played a huge role in my life. Back then. Not now.

That my friends who are my friends will always be my friends. That my friends who aren’t my friends won’t.

And I can miss them, or maybe more specifically, I can miss the way my life with them as part of it was back then. But now?

Big deal.

I’m the secular version of blessed in every sense of the word. I have an amazing man who loves not only me but also my kids who are varying degrees of nice to him, depending on the minute. I have a home that we own in a just-as-nice-as-anyplace-else town. We are not poor or sick or hungry or ugly or mean.

Our babies are beautiful as they come.

We have friends and family and cats and pasta and swimsuits and words and coffee and beer and wine and acoustic guitars and sun on our faces and hikes just waiting.

And beauty. In so many things.

We have people who love us. We have people to love.

What else, really, does anyone need?

Not Omaha. Not momaha. Not women who I still care about but who maybe never liked me that much anyway.

Not even the yellow house in Dundee.

Today and yesterday and so many days before that … and tomorrow … and next month … I need what I have.

Drink the sweet syrup of the simplicity of that.