It’s been a rough week. They happen sometimes… to all of us. Whether you’ve moved four states away from the only home you’ve ever known, whether you and your spouse both started brand new jobs and left all your friends and family behind, whether your four kids trudged through their first year in scary new schools with strangers who have slowly and tentatively started becoming friends, whether Barack wins or Mittens wins, whether you stop questioning every decision you’ve ever made, whether this particular storm produces hail, whether you’re sick or your dog is sick or your mom is sick or your best friend is sick, whether you’ve made a new friend or lost an old one, whether you’ve eaten too much or eaten too little, whether you’ve lost your God or lost your way…
Life happens to all of us.
I’ve been holding little pieces of home close to me this week. My Heartland Film Festival 20th anniversary pen, a bookmark from a friend, a sliver of printed paper with an encouraging email. I’ve been clutching my Curly Girl coffee mug a little extra tightly, the one that talks about how the best friends help us find our way. I’ve been wrapping myself up in my Ball State hoodie, searching for a bit of familiarity and the passing scent of a crisp autumn morning.
We all have these days, these weeks, I know. My life isn’t vastly different from anyone else’s. In fact, Jenny and I were just talking about problems and how someone wise once said that if you threw all of yours into a pile with everyone else’s, you’d look around and snatch your own right back up. We all have them. I know. I’d like to be all Pollyanna-ish about them — in fact, our motto around here generally is, “If you can’t change it, choose it” — but the reality is that sometimes they get the best of us. Sometimes we have to wade through the muck to learn something, to find something, to change something, to appreciate something.
I’ve been both angry and sad this week. About a great many things. About the big injustices in the world and the more insignificant injustices in my own soul. I’ve been a bit resentful that I have a paying job right now, one that requires me to sit for eight hours a day and… well… work. Selfish and silly and altogether ridiculous, I know. There are a bajillion people who would take that job in a heartbeat and be eternally grateful for it. I know that. And I’m thankful that it’s paying the bills. But those eight hours? That was my writing time. That was when I’d work on my novels, write my blogs, submit my essays. Now those blessed and coveted and cathartic hours are condensed into a few here and there, a couple on the weekends. I still have four kids and two dogs and a guinea pig and errands to run and toilets to scrub and laundry to fold and bills to pay and pet hair to eradicate. Those things don’t change. Money might not buy happiness, but it would buy me a little more time — eight hours a day if you’re counting. And oh, what I wouldn’t give to have those eight hours back. Writing feeds my soul, and my soul is hungry. But we need the money and it’s a good job. Right now, the dream gets to take a back seat to the reality. I’m trying not to be bitter. I’m really not.
The hard days are hard. They just are. There’s nothing pretty to say about them. And it’s not just the job. When you’re down, when you’re wallowing, when it’s nearly impossible to separate the little things from the life-altering ones, it’s every single worry wrapped up into one tight little unattractive ball of woe-is-me. When you’ve lost friends and you’ve lost your dream home and you’ve kind of lost your purpose, it’s hard. When the loneliness wraps its cold, bony hands around your neck and squeezes, squeezes… until you feel you can’t possibly take one more breath, it’s hard. When you sit in your car in an empty parking lot in a still-unfamiliar state, sobbing hysterically, snot running down your face, holding your phone, and debating whether or not you should call your best friend and drag her down into the rabbit hole with you, it’s hard. When there’s never enough money in your bank account and you just received another agent rejection and a looming deadline has you working long after the kids have gone to bed, it’s temporarily tough to remember everything that’s good about your life. (And, by the way, there’s a lot of good about this life. I remember. Even through the cloud cover, I remember.)
I ate an entire quart of Blue Bell Cookies and Cream in 48 hours this week. And I drank way too much Dreaming Tree “Crush.” And when Mary Claire came home from school on Monday, she asked why my eyes were red and swollen.
“What’s wrong with you?” she asked, snapping her gum and glancing at her phone.
“I just had a bad day, Love,” I said, trying not to conjure up the image of this tweenager girl’s ridiculous Mama curled up on the bed in the fetal position with a box of Kleenex in hand and pink fleecy socks on her feet, trying not to burst into tears just because I had to use my voice to answer her question.
“You never have good days anymore,” she said.
Those words. Those words.
We don’t hide things from our kids as well as we think we might.
This storm will settle. This personal Isaac will eventually stop pounding me with its relentless winds and its crushing waves. It will. I’ll come up for air soon. The sun will make an appearance again. We’ll mow the lawn and hang the rugs out to dry and put order back into our lives. We’ll figure out what we’re supposed to be doing and where we’re supposed to be next. We’ll learn and grow and shake the rain off our umbrellas and find our way.
You will, too. Storms never last forever. They’re just a part of this crazy, hard, blessed life. You, me, rain, sunshine, ice cream, wine, friendship, marriage, purpose, parenthood, all of it. We’re in it together, you and I, and we’ll be better on the other side.
Cross my heart.