Three

You know those stories you hear from someone who’s successful and accomplished and they tell you about how they grew up disadvantaged and you’ll hear them say something like, “My mom worked 3 jobs to put food on the table.” You know that story.

It’s a nice story. A story of sacrifice and reward. You think of that mother and you see her as someone noble.

Well, right now I am working three jobs to put food on the table and make sure our bills are paid and we have a place to stay. I have my 9-5, I have freelance writing projects due nearly every week, and I have my new part time delivery job. 

I’m writing this on Saturday night. I spent all week doing my 9-5 from Monday to Friday. On Monday and Tuesday nights I took care of kids. On Wednesday night I came home and worked on freelance projects. On Thursday night I took a shift on delivery. On Saturday morning I got up and took a delivery shift, a longer one than I expected. I was working until 3, then I took a few hours to run errands, then I came home and started working on freelance jobs. On Sunday morning I’ll get up, work another delivery shift, and then pick up the kids and start the week over again. The only time I wasn’t working this week was Friday night.

So let me tell you something. Working 3 jobs to put food on the table sounds noble.

Working 3 jobs doesn’t feel noble. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing it for your kids, it doesn’t matter if it’s to put food on the table. You don’t get to feel noble, you don’t get to feel fulfilled or satisfied. You don’t get to feel like it’s all worth it, or at least it will be eventually. 

You’re too tired and busy to feel those feelings.

All you feel is tired and busy. That’s pretty much it.

And honestly? If I had the time and capacity to feel my feelings, I don’t think I would feel particularly noble. Other people have a place to live and food to eat and clothes to wear without working 3 jobs. It’s not like working harder or longer makes those things any better or more worthwhile.

I’m taking a break from my work at the present moment because I’m fading. The deadlines don’t care that I’m fading. The hours I have to put in don’t care either. These things must be done and that’s that. Tomorrow will be another day, and after that there will be more days, and the days will just keep coming. I have a tiny blip in a couple weeks, a period of about 30 hours where I’ll be mostly off the hook. It won’t be enough, and I won’t be able to stretch out and relax enough to feel ready to get back into the grind again. But that’s life. That’s how things are right now.

 Oh, and “now” has morphed into Sunday night. Because I went back to work on my projects and then collapsed of exhaustion around 10. My morning of work and afternoon of kids has me beat enough that I’ll probably be in my bed at 8:30, which is coming up soon. Tessa is making little noises from her bed. She wasn’t feeling well at her dad’s house and it’s possible I’ll be sharing my bed with her tonight, which will be a setback for the week for sure. 

I wonder if I’ll ever tell the kids about this time. Will they ever ask me what it was like after their dad and I split up? Will they ever be curious about whether we went through hard times? Of course, all this assumes that eventually times won’t be hard. I force myself to think that way. I think that I could meet someone, get married again, and go back to the bliss of a household where two people can share the responsibility of meeting financial burdens. I think that the kids’ dad could be making a lot more money in a few years, which would mean my child support payments could go from miniscule to actually helping. I think that maybe we’ll move somewhere that I could find an apartment at half the price I’m paying now. I think that things could change at work, or maybe there will be a different job in a few years, or whatever other tricks of fate could have an impact on my monthly paycheck.

Part of me insists there’s no need to tell my kids about my struggle. But most of me disagrees. Most of me thinks it’s important to show that adulthood doesn’t mean you’re free from trouble. It doesn’t mean you can’t make mistakes or that bad things won’t happen. Things go wrong, life takes turns, you shouldn’t judge someone for their misfortune. If I tell them, that’s how I’ll do it. 

And who knows, maybe one day, years from now, one of my kids will be at a microphone, telling the story of their single mom working three jobs. I’m hoping if they do, at the end they tell everyone about how thanks to their unbelievable success they’ve sent their mother off to a beach to retire in luxury.

Those Five Years

There are only a few periods in my life that I look at and feel grateful to have behind me. Those chunks of time were unpleasant but necessary and while I came out of them better and stronger, I mostly feel glad they’re over. 

I’m guessing most of us have those times. One of them was the three years of middle school, and I’m guessing I’m not alone there. I was a new kid at school, awkward and tribe-less. I never got anywhere close to comfortable in those years.

The other was the 2 years or so that took me from faithful Mormon to dedicated Agnostic. Those were some hard years. It was a long struggle, mostly internal, that I couldn’t share with anyone. There was a lot of denial, the occasional self-destructive streak, and plenty of times when I just shut my brain off so I didn’t have to think about anything anymore.

I realized the other day as I continued my ongoing consideration of how I’m doing without meds I was thinking how I’d look back and see it as Those Five Years When I Was On Antidepressants. 

But then the picture got a little bigger.

Those Five Years When I Was In And Then Suddenly Out of a Tough Marriage.

Those Five Years When I Struggled Through Babyhood.

Those Five Years When My Career Went Off the Rails

Those Five Years When I Trudged Through Autism.

It’s been a hell of a five years.

And then I had another crazy thought: Those Five Years are just about over.

In a little over 4 months Tessa will start school. No more babies in my house. No more therapy sessions in my living room, so many countless hours of sessions over these last few years that I can hardly imagine life without it. She’s talking and starting to seem like a 2-year-old. I’m officially divorced. I’m in a full-time job.

Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t exactly all roses over here. Life is tough. It’s tough every day. I’m still feeling overwhelmed and overworked.

But.

All these things that have been so hard, these things that haven’t just been so hard but that have been so hard AT THE SAME TIME are just about done. My current challenges aren’t the same ones that have plagued me for these last several years. They’re new and frustrating and awful but they’re new.

And soon I will look back on this period of my life the way I look back now at my difficult faith transition. Those years that are a huge part of my story, a big chunk of who I am, but that are past.

Past.

I can’t tell you the huge figurative sigh of relief that comes with that one word.

I’m still not quite sure if I’m out of the tunnel or just able to see the light at the end of it. There were plenty of times when it seemed like that light would never come. There were plenty of times when the possibility that the light would never come was very real and very plausible. But it’s coming. It might even be here already. It’ll be a while before the lines start to become clear.

This will be a chunk of time. A difficult, harrowing, crazy, formative chunk of time. And it’ll be over.

And I can’t tell you how happy that makes me.

There Must Be (Thirty)Something More Than This

A couple months ago I was very smart and got a deal on Audible that got me 3 audiobooks for 6 bucks and after I forgot about it for a couple months, I finally started using them. That’s how I ended up listening to Landline by Rainbow Rowell (affiliate link) for the last few days. It’s delightful, but also has me all meditative. What’s struck me as I listen is just how much it’s about 30-something life. Especially what you think your 30’s will be compared to how they shake out.

Your 30’s is when things are supposed to start coming together. You build your family, you advance in your career, you settle into your friendships, you find your financial footing.

So far none of these things are happening to me. 

I mean, yes, I have two kids, but building a family is more complicated than procreation. I guess I had this one for a while, but so so much of that hard work got destroyed by the subsequent family-breaking-apart business. 

I have a job, but I have yet to stick to a career with forward movement and progress and expertise. I have a salary, but I am still living paycheck to paycheck. I pay my bills (hopefully all of them) and then hold my breath for a few more weeks. I’ve made friends, but my community is spread out and me being single has only made my connection to the almost-completely-married bunch more tenuous.

I feel like my 30’s were supposed to be my prime in that 30’s-are-the-new-20’s kind of way. The decade when I had myself together enough to enjoy life, where I’d be wise enough to not feel embarrassed about myself in the future, where I’d really come into my own. But so far, nearly halfway through, my 30’s just feel unmoored. Busy, exhausted, and unmoored. So when will my prime get here? Will it ever get here? Did I already miss it? Is there even such a thing?

I have my doubts.

And there’s more. Your 30’s aren’t just the years that life sorts itself out. They’re also the years when things start getting painfully real. In your 20’s you get your first brushes with mortality. Friends die in accidents and get cancer. In your 30’s, that keeps happening, and on top of that your friends’ kids die in accidents and get cancer. At the rate things are going, I expect this to just continue getting worse from here.

Now it feels like 30’s are when you sit down for the first time and say to yourself, “This is not what was supposed to happen.”

But what next? What happens after you say that? I guess on the plus side it’s only the 30’s! You’ve still got time to throw a real life together. You haven’t yet reached the point where you’re looking back mournfully on a misspent life. I’ve still got 5 years to see what I can make out of this decade. And looking back at how much has happened in the last 5 years, I can see just how much time that is. 

It’s a lot of time, but there’s still a lot I’d like to do. I’ll be honest, the thought of entering my 40’s in the state I’m in now is terrifying. Somehow it’s excusable now by the fact that I’m still 34, that this is just temporary, that things will come together. I sure hope they will, because I’ve only got 5 years and a couple months left to get ready for the next decade.

You Probably Don’t Want to Ask Me How I’m Doing

Whenever I run into friends (or my mom calls) I’m asked, “How is everything going?” I never have a good answer to that question because it would take too long. So instead I’ll just do an entire post. And then when someone asks me that I can just give them the link. I should really do this more often.

The Diet

Remember my diet? I officially hit 10 pounds down last week. I am not only under my pre-baby weight, I’m about a pound away from my wedding weight. I didn’t actually think I’d get this far. And now I’m kind of waffling on whether I keep doing what I’m doing or transition back to normal life and maintenance mode. 

On one hand, if it’s working why stop? But on the other hand, well, my two pairs of summer shorts I got just a few months ago are already too big. My bras are all too big (I went down a band size) except for a couple that are still in good condition from my pre-baby days and have been gathering dust since. My belt is on the last notch. And if you’re wondering, skinny jeans look awful when they’re loose. So yeah, my weight loss has already taken a bite out of my pocket book and I have plenty more clothes to get that I have to space out gradually over the next few months for the sake of my itsy bitsy virtually nonexistent budget.

Also, I really don’t want my boobs to get any smaller.

And, you know, the little post-baby tummy is still there. Less obvious, but still definitely there. I don’t think another 5 pounds will make much difference in that department. 

You know how magazines always talk about dieting with a headline like “Feel Better Naked”? Well, I don’t particularly feel any better naked, but I do feel a lot better clothed. Providing my clothes, you know, fit.

Officially I’ve stopped tracking points. After a few weeks of having it figured out, setting up some regular habits for breakfast and lunch, and not once hitting my points limit for the week, I was able to predict pretty precisely how much weight I’d be down each week based on how I ate. 

The hardest part of the diet has been paying attention to my food. There are so many other things in my life to pay attention to, but it really just took a month to figure it out and after that it’s been much more simple. I do put more effort into preparing food as well, though I went from virtually no effort to making myself something that I can eat for several days so it’s not like I work really hard now. But hey, it’s a big change for me. And that’s what it’s all about, right?

Dating

Oof. This topic. Once I came out about being on a diet, it was surprisingly easy to talk about it and not feel weird. Just had to get over that initial hump. But dating? Not so much.

I’m happy to say that I am dating and talk about it generally. I don’t mind saying that I date online. And I’m fine admitting that I initiate contact pretty often. (Or that I strike out pretty often. Out of curiosity I checked my sent mail and found that I strike out most of the time.)

It’s getting into the details that’s hard. I feel like you can’t really do it without sounding either prudish or slutty. Which honestly says more about how weird we are as a culture about this stuff than it does about anything else. Those words are both negative and we don’t really have a positive way to talk about it. I feel really comfortable with everything on my end, but I feel like talking details is something we just don’t DO and that with most of my readers being not-single people, I’d be getting judged by people who don’t really have a frame of reference to understand where I’m at.

I can pontificate about this continual up and down cycle that is actively dating without having a significant other. One week I’ll feel super confident, I’ll have a few people I’m interested in, I’ll feel like I’m drowning in interest. Another week I’ll feel like I’m never going to meet anyone, that there just isn’t anyone out there, that I’m going to be alone forever. It’s all a back and forth between those two, a sine wave of happiness and frustration.

For every time I go through those initial conversations with someone and feel like they’re really impressed and I’m a freaking catch, there are plenty of times where I wonder what anyone would see in me at all. 

But yeah, it’s frustrating. Because it feels like my emotional life right now is made up of parenting, working, and dating. But only 1 of those 3 topics is allowable for public consumption. I’m okay leaving work off the blog because it’s not something that’s all about me, it’s just a larger system that I’m a part of. But dating? It feels as personal and pivotal as parenting. And I certainly have less experience with it, more confusion, more of a need to spill my guts, and no safe way to do it.

It is not my favorite. (And by “it” I don’t mean dating, but my ability to talk about dating.)

The Juggle

This is getting easier, even if it’s still not easy. We set up a comfortable summer routine, and now we’re going to break it and start school and get another routine set up. But I feel like I don’t get as overwhelmed as I did a year ago, even 6 months ago. The kids seem to be doing well with all of their transitions. Therapy is going well for Tessa. Co-parenting has definitely improved. 

Perhaps the hardest thing about the parenting juggle right now is trying to find a way to socialize the kids, especially Graham. Not that he doesn’t get plenty of socialization, but it’s all where I don’t get to see it and get an idea of him in context and figure out what I can do to help him.

School is tough, since our school has kids from a whole bunch of different neighborhoods. But I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to get info from other parents this year. I do have a big and wonderful online community, many of whom have kids near Graham’s age, but our free time on weekends never seems to coincide with anyone else’s. Other families seem to always have plans whereas I’m always figuring it out the day before, or even the morning of. I don’t really know how to do it better. I’m not sure if I can do it better. 

Still, at least this one feels like it’s managed and generally figured out and that I’m getting through and feeling pretty okay.

Summer

And can I just take a moment to apologize to Summer? During our last brutal winter, I refused to say I wouldn’t complain about the heat in summer. Because summers here are tough when you take public transit, don’t have central air in your house, and have to pay electricity bills. 

But this summer has been so beautiful I just have no words. It has been the best weather I can remember from my whole life. Perfect temperatures, occasional rain, but mostly sun and temperatures hovering between 75 and 85 degrees. 

Of course I can be a pretty big pessimist so I’m already worrying WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR WINTER WE MAY ALL DIE IN THE COMING SNOWPOCALYPSE POLAR VORTEX INSANITY!

But I’m trying not to think about it and instead just enjoy the fact that we can go to the park whenever we want and I can sit there perfectly comfortable and the kids don’t leave drenched in sweat. I’m so glad I didn’t pay for a pass to the indoor play area because it would’ve been a huge waste of this perfect weather. 

So thanks, summer. This is the first one in Boston I’ve really enjoyed. It’s such a delight to go to bed at night without hearing the street noise from an open window or the constant hum of the wall unit. Instead just lovely silence and a perfect temperature inside. 

Ending on a positive note FTW! Congratulations for those of you who made it this far. 

Now you see why I don’t know what to say when people ask me how things are.

The D-Word

Here are 4 words that I’ve never said before but are now actually true: I’m on a diet. 

Why do I feel kind of shameful saying that? I do. I’ve felt weird about it since I started last week and I decided that meant I probably needed to blog about it to work through whatever it is that’s going on with me.

It’s not that I’ve never tried to lose weight. I just never did anything official, anything with rules. I would just watch what I ate, so to speak. I cut back on things, I ate smaller portions, I worked on healthier foods, etc. But I never called it dieting because I was just trying to be healthy or whatever. It’s not like watching what I ate meant I wouldn’t eat cheese. (God, I miss cheese.)

But now I’m all official. And while internally I feel really good about this decision, it’s one I am really embarrassed about making public.

I have good reasons. I know I’m justified. I gave myself a year after Tessa was born to not worry about my body. And then I gave myself a year to gradually work on it. But those years have ended, and while I lost most of my baby weight, I’m stuck. Very stuck. The only time I made progress since hitting my plateau was the stomach flu. And it all came back a week later. I’d like to give it a real effort to see if I can get where I’d like to go. It’s a realistic goal but one I haven’t been able to meet on my own. 

I joined Weight Watchers because 1) it’s at work so it’s not extra effort for me to get there, 2) it’s covered by my insurance, and 3) I have a group of online friends who have done it and who know their stuff and who are super supportive.

Now that I’m in it I finally get why people hate dieting. It is TERRIBLE. I am surrounded constantly by things I cannot eat. I am meeting someone for a drink on Friday and I will have to limit myself to a single glass of wine and even then I’ll be using up a majority of my extra points for the day on that one glass. Goodbye to a cold beer on a warm day, it was nice while it lasted. And now he wants to make it dinner and I’m trying to think of how I can order a meal that won’t be one of those “girly” meals that makes it really obvious I’m on a diet. At home I have lots of options for what I can eat and on that front I’m doing okay, but wow there’s just so much that isn’t an option. 

I realize how many restaurants I follow on Twitter, how many bloggers are posting recipes, how much I think about and talk about food. It sucks. 

But the embarrassment may suck more. Why am I embarrassed? Since when is it not okay to decide you want to lose extra weight? Maybe because I’ve worked so hard on accepting my body and being okay with it that now admitting I’m still not fully comfortable is admitting some kind of defeat? Maybe because I think I’ll have to insist that I really need it when people say I don’t?

I’ll be honest, I do not like my stomach. It is so much worse after Tessa. I still get people asking if I’m pregnant from time to time. I hate that. I know losing weight may not do anything for my stomach at all, but I’d like to at least give it a shot and see what happens. I’d like my dresses to fall a little better, like my jeans to fit a little better, all that stuff. 

And let’s be fully honest. I’m single. I’m dating. As much as I don’t want my looks to matter, they do.

On the bright side, my will power is pretty kickass. Then again, it’s only been one week.

I guess I just want to throw this out into the ether because I wonder what the rest of you out there do and if there’s some amazing tips you can give me or if you can just pass along some solidarity or commiseration. Because there’s 11 more weeks of this to go. It’ll be September when I’m finished. Summer will be over, Graham will be in school, the time stretching in front of me is intimidating.

Also I’m kind of nervous that I’ll lose weight but it’ll all come from my boobs. Worst possible outcome.