I’ve always had issues with commitments. For the majority of my adult life, if I owned more than electronics and a vehicle, I panic. It’s too much responsibility. I eased into kids, home ownership, car payments, and promising my time. As LuLu entered kindergarten, though, I started to feel the squeeze: I cannot just go wherever I want because it’s the law that she has to go school. I lost it. If I’m honest, I lost it after we bought the house, had a second baby, and bought a car with a payment. Shit got real.
I started easing out of my Executive Director role because they were out of money and because I can’t commit the time required to run everything with two little ones and no money. Then my dog Sady died. It was terrible. It was the end of an era. I clinged to Sophia, my other dog, because she gave me identity. With kids, things are constantly changing: development, sleep, schedules, eating. Everything. Sophia grounded me: this is who I am and what I stand for. As Sophia started to get sick, I realized I was slowly falling down a hole that was foriegn to me. This existential crisis wasn’t just about a part of my life: my job, my kids, my home, what I’m into; it was “WTF am I doing with my life?”
I took Spanish. I started running. I got a tatoo. I listened to new music. I dyed my hair. When these little existential crises arise, I generally know it will be hard. I think of it as shedding a skin; it hurts, but I grow. This time, though, I started to think that since every part of my life was affected, there was no ending that I could foresee. No conclusion that that was positive. What would happen? I would get a new career? I can’t work full-time with two little kids. And we’re always broke. So no big shift in my routine was coming. Unless we would loose money, in which case life would be really hard because it would go back to being about survival.
I looked into law school. I looked into accounting, human resources, OSHA training, and getting an MBA. I tried to be proactive to ward off the inevitable feeling of treading water. But I started getting tired and moody and bitchy and (gulp) socially awkward. I know this state of mind. It’s when I’m depressed that I start to act weird. I become hyper aware of how shifty I am being: my teeth feel weird (long story), I never make eye contact, I feel like I look poor, I sweat a lot, my face turns red, I CAN’T THINK OF ANYTHING TO SAY. When this happens, I think: this,too, shall pass. Just suck it up and get over it.
But it didn’t pass. It got worse. Then I started thinking maybe this is how I am now? Which was terrible. After I had LuLu (and sobered up, TBH) I felt changed. I felt new. The social awkwardness that preceded her was replaced by Mama Bear, who would break down any wall to make her happy. But as commitments piled up, and youth started to slip away, I started to feel the squeeze of life and my identity. I wasn’t the travelling gypsy, working to save the world. I was a mostly stay-at-home mom in a lower income neighborhood in a small town in Kentucky. EVERYTHING I NEVER WANTED TO BE. And so began the year of WHAT AM I EVEN DOING WITH MY LIFE?
At some point, I realized it may have to do with turning 40. It may have to do with compounding stresses of money, jobs, dogs, and my sister moving. It may have to do with my crazy marriage. But I can’t change any of those. Not a single thing is under my control. I felt trapped.