Last night, I stayed awake until 4 a.m., working. Then I stayed awake until 5:32 a.m., the baby asleep in the infant jogger instead of on top of me, and the emptiness of my arms, the open space on top of my chest, feels so alien that I can’t settle down.
We all stay up way too late, and sleep in til noon, in these early days of summer. This is what I do now, it’s become a thing. The blackest hours of the night feel like an old friend, the kind that doesn’t expect you to talk, or crack a joke, or wear clean clothes. Still, when they’re sleeping, so much of my world simply winks out of existence. They are a persistent, annoying, insanely beautiful collection of bright lights, and however welcome the limpness of their dreaming forms, I grow uneasy in the temporary darkness.
Our trees keep falling. One came down last week, perched precariously on the roof of the shed, changing up the landscape of my view from the back porch door. When my husband began cutting through it, removing it piece by heavy piece, we saw a large splotch of darkness running through the heart of it, a slow death we never suspected. My mom loved cardinals, loved them the way I love crows, and for a similar reason — in a flash of red, in a black wing against blue sky, we remember that our souls soar endlessly in those fragile borrowed bodies. But the yard stays full of cardinals now, sleek and fat, and like saying a word over and over again until it loses all meaning, their symbolism has been buried under the weight of being ordinary. I don’t see her in them anymore.
A friend once told me that making the leap from two to three children was the hardest of all. She said it led to her and her husband arguing more, shooting words across their kitchen table and from opposite sides of the couch like trained snipers. I admit that deep down inside, I smugly thought that would never be us. But here we are, in the thick of it, a veritable jungle of “how the hell did we get here?” Most days are okay, but I miss the way it was before, when we could get through dinner without someone practically collapsing out of exasperation. I can’t be certain, but I think the way I breathe has become an annoyance. He snores more than he ever did before, and it feels personal, a sinus-initiated insult. Our five year old refuses to sleep anywhere but in between us, and I’m sometimes secretly glad to see her knees jammed into the small of his back.
If I post a picture of my kids on Facebook, I have this moment of anticipation where I can’t wait for my mom to see it, before reality reasserts itself like a punch in the gut. Basically, everything is awful. Suicide bombers, active shooters, refugees, Donald Trump. Racism, misogyny. My mom is dead and now I’m an orphan. I’m still wearing maternity jeans, and I ate 900 calories worth of cookies today. We’re all living on a steady diet of death and destruction, and ugliness has become a worldwide screensaver. Depending on who you ask, the future will either be a dystopian nightmare, or a burning apocalypse, but some days it kind of feels like we’re already in the middle of both. I’m on level 642 of Candy Crush Soda because I play five lives every time I get a breaking news alert.
I love summer storms, hot clouds bumping up against hot air, heat lightning like fireflies, thunder like hoof-beats. It’s the only time the heat feels bearable, in the wild wind that summons the rain. I feel the most like myself when the sun isn’t shining, when the breeze has a bite to it and the whole world is draped in shades of grey, so it’s stupid that I live in the South. Today it’s 87 degrees with 84% humidity and I’m cranky and fragile and also Facebook is killing my soul. Black bodies litter the landscape of my consciousness, and words fail me, and fail me, and fail me. What can I say, that isn’t empty. What can I say, that isn’t useless. What can I say, that anyone would hear and heed. I hate myself for staying silent, it feels complicit. It is complicit. I’m complicit.
Level 643. Level 644.
This isn’t a mom blog. It’s more a “you’re not an island, this is a forest” blog. Sometimes the weight of what the world is capable of is a rock tied around our ankles, and we forget that every knot can be undone. Sometimes our sorrow is so all-encompassing that we forget joy can be as simple as bare feet in a cool pond, as easy as redefining love daily. And sometimes, we get so busy surviving our loneliness that we forget we don’t have to be alone. Politics aside, religion aside, whoever you are and whatever you believe in, we are all living some version of each other’s lives. You, me, everyone we know. I created this blog as a place to leave any expectation of isolation at the door. Every one of us is going through something — why not go through it together?