The old positive attitude took a slight hit this past week, for no discernible reason. It just happens. I’d been cruising along with an almost demented good cheer and a tweaker’s excessive energy, getting the big kids off to school every morning with their little faces glistening with sunscreen, plugging away through the day with my little non-napping buddy, making dinner and doing dishes and cleaning the house after the kids went to bed. Then, after spying a couple of neighbor ladies out and about with their husbands over a weekend, and having a slightly unsatisfactory phone conversation with my husband from 6,000 miles away in which he detailed his Saturday of mostly sitting outside and reading Russian history while I sat in the middle of a cyclone of noise and squalor and sticky floors and ants marching across the sticky floors and spiders moving into the corners of the house to gorge on the ants and then the ants’ little bloodless corpses dropping in piles in the corners of the house and……. well, I lost my edge a little.
Can you tell they’re related? Nose-picking: our family legacy
Anyway, I had a good solid day of feeling a little sorry for myself. It is a lot of work to take care of four people (I’m including myself in this count, though I can vouch that I’m a peach and need very little care). You simply cannot ever slack off. They are there at 6 every morning, delighted and ready to start their day, and expecting you to be delighted along with them (which, really, they deserve), and then the day is a long reel of requests and non sequiturs and heart-warming cuteness and repeated questions and things spilling and occasional arguments and then a small person who periodically just poops in her pants.
I’ve done every morning routine, answered every request, given every bath, disciplined every bad behavior, made every meal, cleaned up every meal, cleaned every room, and so forth for nine weeks now, and I still have a hell of a long way to go.
the little Queen Mother waves to her throngs of adoring fans on the walk to school
So, while I would never want to change places with my husband and be the person who has to be away from these three darling people, I also had a moment (okay, a 24-hour-spell) of jealousy where I thought I might actually, literally punch a stranger in the face if, through some Faustian bargain, it meant I could have a Saturday to myself to just sit and read.
As long as I can keep myself from being like Carol Burnett as Miss Hannigan, I’m doing alright (oh my God, she’s awesome!)
But! Resentment is no fun for anyone, and I have no one to blame for anything, so after about a day I had a little talk with myself. I usually start such talks with, “Williams!” This one went something like, “Williams! Get your ass in gear. This is no time for moping around saying poor little me, and for what? Because you have a great family? Because your husband has a job he believes in? Because your kids go to a nice school and it’s so hard to get them there on time every morning? Perspective, Williams! Enough! ENOUGH!” Then I drove down to the YMCA, left sweet Zanny in the child watch center, and cranked out my fastest 5-mile run on the treadmill that I think I have ever done. My short arms and legs were just hard-chargin’ along. I could feel the lady at the desk staring at me for running so fast, and I was worried that she was going to try to kick me out and that I was going to have to take her down using some kind of improvised jiu-jitsu move. Luckily, she did not mess with me and, feeling purified for having wrestled my demons, I collected Zanny and have had a pretty good attitude ever since.
One thing I do worry about is growing apart from my husband. Oh, when we were young! We wrote long letters, we talked all the time, we took long walks and discussed all these big thoughts and tried out ideas on each others and he read my writing when it was fresh and horrible off the page. Now, it’s so easy for me to feel like a grim-faced automaton. I just march through the day, checking every box and making sure the kids have everything they need. He’s quieter than I am, so if I don’t keep up the conversation, the whole thing could fall to hell in a handbasket. Music always helps me tap into my kinder, gentler side, and so here’s what I listened to this week:
“Sound of Sense” by Blood Pony. When we were stationed outside St. Louis near Scott Air Force base (TRANSCOM), I got really into local music via St. Louis’s amazing independent radio station, KDHX. I was housebound, thousands of miles from family, and with a toddler and a newborn to care for, while my husband worked shifts on the watch floor all through a gray Illinois winter. The local radio station brought me joy! I would listen to all their shows, like the folk music guy on Sundays, and “beep beep boop boop” on Thursday nights (the electronic music show), and Dangerous Curves with Sherry Danger (oh, this is bringing back memories!). Anyway, one local band I loved was Blood Pony. They have a haunting, quiet sound with lots of trademark violin and xylophone. “Sound of Sense” is a gorgeous song with a slow build. I am not even 100% sure of the words because I have never seen the lyrics written down, so I could be singing them all wrong like some comical game of telephone. Sadly, I couldn’t find a video of them performing this song, but you can hear it online.
why do you think that there is something untenable
on this mountain
there’s nothing there
that will eat you alive
duck your head under the covers and wait til morning, listen to the wind
and know you won’t get hurt
and this noise that’s in your head…. [then something that sounds like “are your children calling a taxi cab” – that can’t be right]
let’s be together, let’s be friends
let’s be together
“Just Like Heaven” by The Cure. That intro! And the words – so romantic! Everyone knows this song, but have you listened to it lately while missing someone and/or feeling sorry for yourself because you are not sitting outside reading Russian history on a Saturday?
Spinning on that dizzy edge
Kissed her face and kissed her head
Dreamed of all the different ways I had to make her glow [what! tell me more — Editor]
“Why are you so far away?,” she said
“Why won’t you ever know that I’m in love with you?
That I’m in love with you?”
You, soft and only, you, lost and lonely
You, strange as angels
Dancing in the deepest oceans
Twisting in the water
You’re just like a dream
You’re just like a dream
Also, with each passing day I look more like Robert Smith when I first wake up in the morning. Gonna give Dave a wee shock when he gets home.
Last of all, saving the day, my husband sent me two mix CDs. I had to smile at the first song, which I knew he chose consciously — “Stronger Than That” by the Canadian singer Bahamas.
Yeah, yeah. I’m back on the horse. I know we’re stronger than that.
Ah, parallel lives! Well, parallel if you swap out “beginning of deployment” for “end of deployment.” (So much anxiety as the end gets nearer yet still feels so far away!) I guess we’d also have to swap out your three kids for my one, needy, emotionally regressing dog. And while we are at it, swap out your awesome taste in music for me randomly singing lines from Newsies every day of the week. Make those trades and we are basically the same person.
I’ve navigated those same inner tug-of-war emotional minefields. (Last deployment I nearly gave myself an ulcer stressing over getting a massage. Only slightly exaggerating.) I appreciate that you let yourself wallow a little (how else can we work through the crazy emotional storm?) but then you moved on. Forward progress! I’m also loving that you had a killer run. Get ’em, Girl!
I think you have a blog post brewing there, if you haven’t written it already — nearly getting an ulcer over getting a massage. !!)
I dedicated my fierce run to you, Amy B.
I just wanted to say, Andria, that I think you are awesome…completing a NOVEL when you have three children at home! I was not able to write my novel (STEAL THE NORTH, pub in April 2014, Viking/Penguin, reviewed on this blog) until my oldest child had been in college a few years and I finally turned her bedroom into a “room of one’s own.” Kudos to you! When my kids were little, I wrote poetry while attending college. It was all I had time for. When they got older, I wrote short stories between ball practice and school events. It is so hard balancing being a mom and a writer (and a wife, even)–so, so challenging. And novels are so large and consuming. I literally entered another world when I went into my room to work on my novel. Transitioning back and forth between worlds took its toll, for sure. You should feel very proud of your accomplishment. And you should cut yourself some serious slack! I hope next year holds wonderful things for you as your book finally hits bookstore shelves. When I researched your forthcoming novel, I see we share the same agency. Best of luck! Feel proud! Thanks for sharing on your blog, and thanks again for featuring a review of my debut. It seems writers nowadays have to keep it all together…family, writing, job, community. I wish I lived back in the years when writers were allowed (even expected) to be a mess! Haha!
Heather, thank you for the thoughtful and encouraging comment! It’s exciting when authors drop by the ol’ Mil Spouse Review. Your words made me smile. I cannot even imagine having attended college while having little kids in the house! I think that is amazing.
Also, I could never write a poem to save my soul.