motherhood

Spiders Eat Mosquitos

spider-595301_1280Last night Mini-One Mean woke up in the middle of the night. Mini is usually a great sleeper, rarely waking in the middle of the night. Even as an infant, I was blessed with a baby that slept like a baby. I am probably one of the only women who in the first few months of motherhood was “well-rested.” Okay, enough bragging.

Last night was different. Mini was shouting from the crib, “Get you! Get you!” and of course, like the paranoid woman I am, I thought someone was in his room trying to kidnap him. Is it me or is the fear of kidnapping something that you always think about as a mother? I literally worry all. the. time. that my kiddo is going to snatched up by a stranger never to be seen from again, and you’ll all see me on the news trying to fumble through sentences of “Bring back my baby!” It’s probably super melodramatic of me, but the fear is real.

Mini was also screaming, “Scary!”Convinced a kidnapper was in our home (and of course the husband is traveling for his work, so I was alone in the house–this clearly only amplified the fear), I jumped out of bed. I didn’t even bother with my glasses, which in retrospect was fucking stupid because what if I was going to be asked to describe the perpetrator? I am blind. Like severely blind. My contact lens prescription is a -9.0. I take my glasses off and colors merge into one another. It’s madness.

I went into Mini-One Mean’s room. I held my kiddo in my arms and could feel Mini shaking. Mini is generally pretty fearless so the shaking made me nervous. I grabbed Mini’s favorite stuffed animal and blankets and marched back to my bedroom. The bed had extra space given Mr. One Mean was traveling. I generally do not believe in co-sleeping. I am not going to get into it here. This isn’t a Mommy Blog. I think it if works for your family that’s great. It’s not for me or my husband. As a result of our no co-sleeping policy, Mini-One Mean does not get into our bed at night. Last night was an exception.

The shaking got to me, and I caved. I let Mini calm down and then the child was returned to the crib. As we lay together, Mini-One Mean–who has recently begun to call me Momma, which I don’t love (I’m a fan of Mommy as a name), chatted me up. At one point, “Give Mini a kiss” was uttered and my mother heart melted. I had to be firm and so I reminded Mini it was time for sleeping.

Turns out the child thought there were spiders in the crib. Once I had convinced Mini-One Mean there were no spiders, all was good.

An hour passed between the initial crying and my return to an empty bed. Of course, I was unable to sleep so I picked up my cell phone and began to peruse social media. It was then that I saw the shooting in Dallas was occurring. Mini had woken me up as the trauma was starting, startled by something scary.

Earlier that day, I had seen something on Facebook or heard something on the radio–I can’t recall where I heard it–about being afraid to go to sleep for fear that he or she would wake up to more violence–and there it was on my little screen. More violence.

I’m not going to use this space to get political. Though is this really political? It shouldn’t be. Still, the violence of this week has been politicized, which is maddening. So many lives are being lost senselessly, and my social media feeds are filled with ignorance and rage.

When I had my daily text chat with the husband, I confessed my inability to focus on job applications and writing.

“I cannot concentrate today.”

“Why?”

“Slept like shit.” I told him about our kid not sleeping and continued, “Then the news…” I couldn’t really type. I explained my being upset over the violence and didn’t get a response. I’m sure the Husband wasn’t sure how to respond.

It reminded me of when the Paris shootings happened in November. I sat in front of the TV staring at the news. I did the same today. I just sat there (both times) crying. When I got in the car to pick up Mini-One Mean from daycare today, I cried the entire drive to the school–it’s a 30 minute drive. I had to gather myself before going into the building.

While I’m not part of either community whose been under attack this week, the violence is too much. Two weeks before there was the massacre in Orlando, and that was too much too. For the past month, it seems me (and the rest of the country) keeps waking up to horrifying news of violence. Human on Human killings.

Enough.

As nighttime approaches, I now echo the same fear that I heard the night before. I don’t want to go to sleep only to wake up to more violence. What’s even more wild is that I feel guilty for being upset. I think about how lucky I am that generally I’m safe pretty much every where I go–except maybe work because let’s face it, school shootings are a reality in this country. I can go to church or the grocery store or the mall and for the most part, I am not concerned about my safety. It’s a non-issue. Meanwhile, around the world people are trying to escape war. In my own country, there are groups of people who do fear for their lives. This is not okay. It has to stop.

I almost kept Mini-One Mean home today. I debated spending the day playing and hearing Mini’s little voice around the house while I folded clothes. It felt selfish to keep the kid home given the today the school had water play, which is like every kid’s favorite thing ever. I was grateful for the hour we spent snuggled together as I soothed Mini, assuring there were no spiders in the crib. “Spiders are good. They eat mosquitos,” my child whispered back to me.

 

Building Endurance

running-573762_1280Sometimes it feels as though my M.F.A. is just this title that I have earned. I earned it, but then haven’t done what is necessary to keep it. The M.F.A. taught me to be a writer and an academic. Since I’ve been teaching high school full time, I feel like I’ve lost my writer identity.  In fact, I feel as though I’ve lost much of my identity. At one point in my life, I was a runner too.

After I had mini-One Mean, I got a little lost. I lost track of a lot of things. Really though, I can’t even blame mini-One Mean. After I got married, I stopped running to the extent that I was running before getting married, and even my clothes got frumpier and my appearance began to wane. After the child was born, I struggled to get back into shape and even now, I am almost as heavy as I was when I was in the full throes of pregnancy. It’s disgraceful.

Since summer has begun, it’s been really awesome to have the time to reestablish who I am. I have begun to wake up early–I’m such an early bird–to run and then I’ve been bringing mini-One Mean to daycare so I can write. While the writing is rusty and the running is a sludge, it feels so good to rediscover me.

I’ve always worried about not being enough. Not being enough in my classroom for my students. Not being enough for my husband. Not being enough for my kid. Not being enough for my sisters, my parents, my extended family. Not being enough for the world of academia, a place I so desperately want to be a part of. And maybe that’s the issue, maybe I’m too desperate. Too pathetic.

I remember being in middle school and my sister–who is younger than me–being way more popular. She is, by far, the more beautiful of the three of us, and has always had this exotic appeal to both girls and boys. I remember she was invited to some birthday party by a girl in my grade–my sister was a year younger. I was so upset. I asked this girl, who I thought was my friend, why I wasn’t invited. I may not have been cool, but I sure as hell was brave. I would never do that today. Now, I’d just fester as pictures of an event would be posted to social media. She told me I tried to hard to be friends with her and that it was annoying. You’ve got to love middle schoolers and their candid abilities.

That moment always stuck with me (and stung). I didn’t want to come off as pathetic, as too interested. I even played games like this with my now husband. At the beginning of our dating, I would pretend to be unavailable to seem more desirable. The fear of not being enough is one that drives me and as the years have passed since getting engaged, that fear has returned.

Am I enough for my husband? Does he still see the ambitious (and fit) woman? Of course not. She’s been long gone. Though, she may be resurfacing.

This morning I was running along our street. We live away from it all, and I have a perfect 3 mile loop in my area with a mile long street composed of brutal hills. The road with the challenging hills has not been incorporated into my running path, but it will be soon. As I ran, I had to stop to catch my breath and could feel every ounce of extra weight. I could feel the weight on my hips, thighs, and back. All the excess had buried me. My heart was beating hard and trying desperately to keep me alive, getting blood to my organs. It would have been easy to just stop, give up, and walk, but I’m building my endurance. In a week, I’ll begin to incorporate the scary hilly road, and forcing myself to stop less. I also (and I’ve always done this) sprint at the end of my run, so when I entered my house I was panting.

“Are you going to alright?” Hubs asked. He is in great shape. He is very devoted to his fitness because of the line of work he is in, so I’m always a little embarrassed when he seems me after yoga or running.

“Yes, it’s going to be while, but I think I’ll be fine.”

I realized, I really am going to be fine. Maybe my ability to focus and write for hours on end will take awhile to return, but it will as will my ability to feel like the first 3 miles were the warm up.

Before I got married, I trained for a half marathon. I never ended up doing it (cc: my ability to follow through), but I did train in beast mode. I had a buddy who did long runs with me and at my peak of fitness, I could run 8 miles without needing to stop and without feeling like the grim reaper was chasing me. For many, 8 miles is a breeze, growing up as a chubby and unfit child, 8 miles has always felt like a major accomplishment. At one point, I had the endurance. I would get stronger the longer I would run.

I had a similar experience with writing. At one point in my writing life, I wrote a novel. Again, for some writing a novel is easy. I don’t know who these writers are, but they must exist. For me, it was difficult. I too would get stronger the longer I would sit and write.

In the first draft of this post, I was going to ask for tips, and I guess I still am asking (I’m always open to ideas and suggestions about building discipline. I’m not a disciplined person–hence the insane weight gain.) Though it seems maybe when I lost myself underneath the pounds of fat, and lazy evenings with my husband, and the stressful days at work, and the endless hours of being a mother, all I needed to do was keep up my endurance. Keep on digging. Keep on working.

It seems so simple. Doesn’t it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On a Moderately Personal Note or (Shut the F*** up and Write)

Disclaimer: I don’t think my husband knows about this blog, and while he helped me come up with the title (I seriously suck at titles;it’s a curse), I don’t think he’ll ever read this. Babe, if you read this, please tell me.

Okay, I have the best husband. No, seriously. I know this sounds like bragging, but he really is awesome. First off, on a non-One Mean MFA career note, the man is an incredible father. He loves our kid a lot. I can see it in his face, in the way he holds our little one, and in how he wishes our kid will learn to walk quickly so he can chase the Mini-One Mean in the yard. It’s amazing.

As far as my career is concerned, he is even better. I knew he would be a great dad; it’s one of the reasons I fell for the guy. He loves unconditionally. When he loves, he gives all of himself. It’s something I wish I did. I don’t love like that. I’m guarded. I don’t trust. I worry and am not confident that I can be loved unconditionally. I love him unconditionally now, but it has taken me years to learn to love in the way he does. Even when I f*** up (which is often), he forgives and does something incredible. He reminds me why I love writing. I love writing because I love people, and he is the people that I love.

Okay, I know you’re thinking, “Shut the hell up, One Mean. No one wants to read a stupid lovey-dovely bullsh** story–and right before Valentine’s day. You stupid whore. Shut. Up.” Well, I won’t shut up. I love him.

I.

Love.

Mr. One Mean MFA.

A few weeks ago, Husband and I had a huge fight. I hadn’t been writing, reading, and my agreed upon house commitments were falling wayside (don’t worry, our kid was still being well taken care of, and I was all caught up with my television shows). I was in a deep rut. I had abandoned myself. I forgot who I was before marriage and Mini-One Mean.

Since we’ve gotten married (strangely enough), it’s been rough. I think losing my mother didn’t help with that. When you lose a parent, you lose yourself. You’re angry because your mother was young and wonderful and now who the hell can you talk to when you’re having an existential crisis. Whose going to talk you off the ledge when some teenage son of a b**** cuts you to your core, and vodka feels like the only solution? You remember you are mortal and that sh** is real. Anyway, I was in a rut. Things were not great. Since we’ve been together we’ve always been great at communicating, and we’d both shut down. We weren’t interacting with each other. We had good days, but mostly they were blah days.

This past weekend I spoke a conference for the first time in a long time. It felt so good to be an academic for five minutes (I’ll be writing about this sometime soon). I was excited, Missy and I were about to get into some trouble (again, don’t worry Missy and One Mean MFA will have another reunion in Minneapolis at AWP this year!). Husband was upset because he felt like (rightly so) that I wasn’t doing enough to get out of the high school job that I’m still at. While conferences are part of this, it’s not enough. I need to be publishing.

I got upset that he was upset.

“Speaking at conferences is important.”

“And publishing isn’t?”

“It is, but this is part of the academic stuff!”

“One Mean, you’re not writing.”

“When am I supposed to write?!”

This has been a challenge for me (as it is for all writers–I know perspective and all that jazz). Being a teacher at the high school level limits my time to do anything, including parenting. I often leave work many hours after the official school day ends and then it’s mom duties, wife duties, and before I know it, it’s bed time. Of course, I was also squeezing in a ton of TV, not reading, and not exercising.

“Do you know what I’d give for 30 minutes a day to just f***ing write?”

“So do it!”

“When?”

It seemed like the best time would be after dinner when our mini-us was sleeping and we’ve had dinner.

“What about the kitchen? Oh God, it’s like never-ending the crap I have to do!”

“If you were writing, I’d be okay with the kitchen being a mess.” I thought he was bullsh**ing me, but he wasn’t.

Since this horrible fight where I cried and got super upset, he’s helped me with the wifely duties, but and the biggest thing I’ve had to give up was television. I’m really behind on all my shows, but for the first time since grad school I have a routine. I’ve even managed to squeeze reading a book into the week AND have been writing more than ever.

I always wonder how the successful writers do it.

There are a million articles about the habits of successful writers. It seems they all skirt around two issues.

The first being, you have to fucking write.

Shut the f*** up and write.

The second is being single helps. I don’t want to blame motherhood or wifelyness on my lack of writing because those things are not the reason I wasn’t writing. I wasn’t writing because I had found other things to make a priority. I have serious guilt issues and sometimes feel like I need to abandon everything for my husband and child. This is not the case. In fact, my husband fell in love with me because I loved to write. He loves the writer version of me, not the version who is all caught up on Downton Abbey, yet she doesn’t have a writing project she’s working on. It’s so easy to let that version of one’s self go after marriage and children, but I’m not happy teaching high school (more on this “revelation” soon).

I’m blessed to have a husband who actually believes in me. He sincerely believes there is talent in my fingertips waiting to reach the page. Needing to reach the page. He believes in me way more than I do. I often hate what I write. In fact, this feels self-indulgent, and I probably relied to heavily on curse words when I could have inserted more humor. Regardless, he loves me so much he’ll let the clean-freak version he knows me to be go to the wayside if it means I’m being the nerdy writer he met in college plus a few pounds.

I’m lucky.

I know this. I thank God every day, even when I’m in rut.

So my advice to those of you who are in a rut, maybe you’re single and maybe you’re busy as hell. Regardless, you can find 30 minutes, hell maybe you can start with 15 or 10 minutes. I know I started writing over an hour ago. I got lost in the words and the story and here I am, still writing. It happens. The first day I committed to 30 minutes, I struggled; 30 minutes felt like a lot, but today it seems it may not be enough. Cut something out of your life you’ve been prioritizing and writing.

Shut the f*** up and write.