Yesterday morning, I woke up at 3:15 AM to the frantic noises of my aging Dachshund grappling to free herself from the sliver of empty space between mattress and footboard. She had slid there at some point in the night. Slipped into a dark, cruel void while dreaming of far better things. And she found herself dog-paddling for her life in tight, terrifying circumstances.

Seems to be an appropriate metaphor of my life right now. I’ve been dreaming of better things, too. Bright. Big. Beautiful. Things.

And many of them have become a reality.

In the past five years I’ve become a born-again mother, a newborn blogger, and (this year) a reincarnated teacher.

The dreams are beautiful. And real. And the reality is hard — still beautiful, mind you, but hard. Hard as calculus equations on an English major. Meaning, it can be done. But it requires a whole lot of concentration and a whole lot of help. And I find myself in short supply of both.

I’m kind of grappling out in the darkness right now, dog-paddling for my life in tight and terrifying circumstances.

I’ll start with the born-again motherhood part.

There’s probably a reason a woman’s eggs age. God knows how much energy it takes to chase after kids. Especially boys. Twin boys. They take, like, megatons of energy. Like nuclear-power-plant-on-the-sun tons of energy. Energy I may have had thirty years ago (although honestly, I kind of doubt it), but still, energy that’s in decidedly short supply now.

My energy looks more like the 40-watt lightbulb at the end of a basement pull-switch. And the boys’ energy — well, it’s accelerating somewhere close to the speed of light.  So they run roughshod over me. A lot. And they fling fisticuffs behind me. A lot. And they make messes all around me. A lot. The possibilities and prepositions are endless.

And then there’s the newborn blogger part.

I have such high hopes for my little blog. She’s like my third toddler… I love her, and I’m so proud of her, and I want people to love her. But she also requires a ton of time and energy — time and energy currently directed at my boys and my students. So she settles herself across the tightly strung stretch of my very last nerve and periodically pinches it.

“Hey! Remember me? Don’t you love me anymore??? Feed me!”

So I stress out and lash out and try to paddle faster… typing aimlessly into the dark, cold, bitter abyss.

And finally, there’s the reincarnated teacher part. The part where I’m reborn in a new school after leaving a building where half my teaching career was spent — a school where everybody knew my name. A sitcom theme song kind of place. (Cheers to friends and family and feeling at home!)

And right about now…  after a month in my new place, I’m not gonna lie… I miss the camaraderie of my old school. I miss knowing the routines, and knowing the staff, and knowing the culture. But mostly, I think I miss knowing who I can let my hair down with. Knowing who I can be my best sarcastic, gritty, authentic self with.

So instead, I’ve been building the units and planning the periods and grading the essays and faking-it-till-I’m-making-it… paddling as fast as humanly possible.

But I still feel lost. I still feel alone. I still feel trapped in a tight little space between mattress and mayhem.

And I can’t help thinking about the Corleone family “going to the mattresses” to ride out their mob wars. Holed up in apartments, twenty beds lined floorboard to floorboard, sleeping en masse for protection. Caught between mattress and mayhem.

That is totally me right now. Except not en masse. I’m flying solo.  Being swallowed whole. While paddling as fast as I can. Up hill. In the dark. Through the swirling abyss.

But I can do the hard things. I will do all the hard things — Mother twins. Pen blogs. Teach teens. Despite the abyss. Because of the abyss.

Because if there’s one good thing about an existential crisis, it’s that you learn you’ve gotta keep paddling. Harder. Faster. Longer.

Because if you stop, it’ll get you for sure. But if you don’t, a higher power will hear you. A higher power will come to your rescue. Will scoop you up by your ribcage, calm your frenzied, feverish heart, and set you back down again. Close to, but not inside of, that deep dark abyss.

Somewhere between mattress and mayhem is salvation. Just keep paddling.