It suddenly clicked the other day: my life is a jigsaw puzzle in motion. Every day I fit pieces together as much as I can, wake up, get kids to school, shop, work, make lunch, clean, pick kids up from school, doctor appointments, dentist appointments, park time, school enrollments, laundry, paperwork, work, work, bedtime, clean, write, work. It’s a full life where everything has to go into a calendar because otherwise it is forgotten. I have to schedule everything, even my job, around the kids’ school schedule and Cesar’s double job schedule, with no outside help: it’s just Cesar and me and three small children. I still haven’t got any better at asking for help, but at the same time there aren’t really many people I can ask here, so we make it work. And it’s fine, even when the kids all get sick every other week from picking up something at school. We make it work quite well, this full life. I’m lucky to have a job that allows me to work when I can, as long as I make the hours up during the week. But it is a jigsaw puzzle, and sometimes when I have a down day I find myself at a loss: what am I supposed to do with myself right now? Shouldn’t I be running while eating and putting toddler shoes back on for the 20th time while figuring out how on earth I am going to fit wrist surgery into all this?
Should I play with the kids? Write something? Scrub a floor or two? Watch TV? Read some more? Why do I constantly feel the need to find something to do instead of relaxing and enjoying the moment? I don’t know, it’s always been this way though, well before kids. I have so much nervous energy and constantly need to be on the move, doing two or three things at once. Sometimes I crave the quiet of a more peaceful life, and then I am flooded with ideas for the future: restaurants, new careers, places to visit, things to write, more laundry to do. But I enjoy this full life, I embrace it, even those moments when I want to stand under the shower and scream silently.
It also suddenly dawned on me the other day: there is still room to dream, there is still room to accomplish dreams. I spent so many years convinced that I didn’t have the right to dream, to do everything that I ever wanted to do. I always thought that I didn’t have the right aspirations, or the drive to succeed that others do. That something was wrong with me, because I would consistently work so hard at something just to sabotage it in the end, mainly because I worked too hard at it. It wasn’t until I started reading more about adult children of alcoholics, and read through some of the typical traits that I realized I wasn’t abnormal: my brain had just wired itself a little differently based on circumstance. I have always had dreams and aspirations, so why not actually make them come true? Life is too short, way too short, to just dream. Life has never been easy, but I am lucky because nowadays I have true love, a family, a home, a job, and a future ahead of me. I’m lucky that I can cast off the reluctance to create roots, life, a home for myself.
I can’t stop this evil administration from what they are doing, and I can’t stop wars and conflicts happening all over the world. I can only write my truth, and hope that others care as much as I do to create change. But I can learn, and I can use my overflowing well of empathy to effectively help others, here, there, everywhere, so that is what I will do. I’ve never given myself a path to follow before: everything I used to start may have had a future, but I couldn’t see it, or didn’t dare to contemplate it. But now I have children, and they have futures ahead of them that are still as clear as the summer skies of Northern California… So I have to accept that I have a future too, and one that will continue even when the children have gone off on their own journeys as adults. So now, instead of living life and experiences as if they will end abruptly at any time, I shall plan ahead. I have wasted too much time on edge, afraid to let myself enjoy something fully, I don’t have to fear that it will be ruined anymore. It isn’t my fault that I feel that way, but that doesn’t mean I can’t take control of it and throw it away. Away with you feelings of inadequacy and fear, be gone!
In the meantime, I continue to try to fit funny shaped jigsaw pieces together, and while my list never gets smaller, I have to keep telling myself that I am accomplishing tasks. My eldest is now registered in the only Kindergarten we wanted her to go to (we took a huge chance and it luckily paid off), and my middle child is luckily able to stay in the same school for her last year of preschool, even though our preschool program was cut in half. I never realized how stressful, competitive, and tedious the public school system is, how each school is different even though they are all in the same city and district, and run by the same people. How many hoops you have to jump through to make sure your child is registered correctly in the right school… But all the pieces somehow fit together this year, and while the two and a half months of summer are looming up ahead, I will find ways to make other pieces fit too. It’s just what I do.
There are days when my brain melts from the bickering, the whining, the yelling, and the constant demands, and I wonder how I am going to make it through the evening without shouting, or drowning myself in whiskey, but I do. When you have been sober for quite a while it becomes your norm, but it remains a fight, and never an easy one. Never, ever assume that someone’s sobriety is easy, even if they make it look that way. Words help, losing myself in words, my own, other peoples’ words. I block out the nagging voices, the failures of others I feel the need to soften, the past, and dive into a story, an essay, a poem. There are no excuses left anyway: I can only truly function as a person in the life I have created as a sober person. They are my personal boundaries, and the ones that I will not let anyone else attempt to distort them. I’m much stronger this way. And happier.
Being a mother is hard. Being myself is hard, the lightning bolts of ideas, questions, stories, and needs of others all colliding into each other in my brain. The formation of thunderous clouds on some days, or cleansed blue skies on other: I’m always digging for a solution, a more-than-acceptable outcome, but have to make do these days with non-answers or a Band-Aid solution. It’s not settling though, it’s navigating, accepting that life has many branches and not one simple way forward. A maze of branches. Some of us never find what we were looking for, but end up with a long line of stories with an ending that that is a lot more satisfying. An accomplishment. Each step is an accomplishment in its own right: standing up, speaking out, reaching out, listening, setting up boundaries, and pulling down borders. Some days just getting out of bed, other days walking 100 miles: I set the bar too high, but have finally stopped beating myself up when I don’t meet even the bottom rung.
41 is already upon me, and spring has firmly settled its roots for 2019. I love the feeling of the sun on my skin, on my newly shaved head, and I feel hopeful. No need to hide, to secretly hope, or to wish on distant stars anymore: it is all in reach, as long as I continue to fight for myself, for us. I’m not a fan of odd numbered years, but nowadays I am a fan of looking ahead rather than behind me.