Multigenerational Mom Muses on Twin Toddlers & Twenty-Something Daughters



feeling vulnerable

I’ve been trying to write about my feelings as we all maneuver our way through this insane path our lives have all taken. I feel like it’s good for my mental health. But today, I’m feeling pretty darn vulnerable. But I think it’s important I get it all out.

More and more days lately, I’m feeling like a failure. Have I done enough? Given enough? Been enough? To the ones I love? To anyone at all?

I’ve dedicated myself to raising children and teaching students. Of that, I am proud. But I don’t think I’ve done a very good job. There’s still so much more I could have given.

More patience. More attention. More lessons. More love.

And now, I’m tied to my house and I’m tired.

I woke up last night thinking I had the Corona. My back was stiff. Was it my lungs? Were they feeling brittle? Was I short of breath? Was that a vibration I felt in my solar plexus? Was I having chills? Was this the beginning of the end?

And if not of my physical health, what about my mental health? I’m an introvert. The first couple weeks of this whole stay at home thing weren’t so bad. If I’m being honest, I sort of liked it.

But now… now, I’m really starting to miss my daily routine, my students and their smiles, my coworkers and their sarcasm. My weekly trips to Kroger, my favorite table at my favorite Mexican restaurant.

I woke up this morning, thankful. Thankful the soreness I’d felt in my lungs is simply a knot under my shoulder blade from yard work, not the virus.

But still. I can’t shake this feeling that I’m just not good enough. Not good enough to mother my sons 24/7 with no break. Not good enough to be a good friend and daughter from afar. Not good enough to teach students remotely. Not good enough to write anything folks might really want to read. Not good enough to make any sort of difference in a pandemic.

Shakespeare wrote King Lear in quarantine. They say Newton discovered gravity. And me, I can barely do laundry and dinner, get dressed.

When life is at its normal pace, I can fake it pretty well. I can hustle and bustle and smile and teach, and I can be fairly efficient and fairly decent at most of it.

But when things have ground down to this — to slow motion replays day in and day out… I don’t hold up under scrutiny. All the errors appear.

When the days are stretched taut the threads will pop, the weak will unravel. I am a mousy, mulish mommy no body really wants.

My boys are in love with their daddy. They’ve never seen him so much in their lives. It’s like a carnival and he is their favorite ride. He carries them on his shoulders, drags them from his ankles on their bellies down the hall. He puts together their new bikes, blows up their new pool, and spins their world at his fingertips. Just like he does mine.

Me. I’m just me. Still here. Like I always have been. Tired and true, but nothing special.

I have children in other states who love me, but they’re grown with lives of their own. Time creeps and time flies. And I, I barely make a dent. Now more than ever it’s obvious.

This whole pandemic thing has me in an existential crisis, I know it has. Trying to figure out exactly who I am and what I’m worth. And whether or not any of it really matters. Coronavirus has so much power over my life, my thoughts, my loves right now. Everything I am and everything I do is so inexorably wrapped around it… and all of it, and all of us, are so very vulnerable.

I am a daughter of two seventy-something parents. Vulnerable. I am the niece of medically-fragile aunts and uncles. Vulnerable. I’m the mother of four children, two grown, two in the nest. Vulnerable. I’m the wife of a good man who loves us all really well. Vulnerable. I’m a teacher of 167 students I haven’t seen in three-and-a-half weeks. Vulnerable. And thousands of students over time I haven’t seen in some time. Vulnerable. I am a writer of essays and blogs and a novel in the works. Vulnerable.

I am all of those things. But who am I really? And is any of it really good enough?

I’m trying, but I’m tired. These slivers of day pulled taut and endless have me tired.

But I will keep going. Keep loving. Keep teaching. Keep writing. And maybe one day, it will all be enough. Maybe.

That’s the thing with existential crises… you really just never know.

Fears, Phobias, and Freakishly Fun Encounters

Pretty sure I had a close encounter with a voodoo queen the other day. It was a dark and stormy day on a trail just off the shores of Allatoona.

But first let me explain that not a whole lot of things scare me. Only a couple of things, really — and they are pretty much the standard fare: I’m afraid of the dark – of the demons and monsters that can lurk in the closets, under the beds, and in the black and impenetrable air. And I’m terrified of mice – of the squealing, pink-nosed breeders of filth and disease.

The fear of the dark is a holdover from my childhood and those demons I saw cast out of my parents’ living room on a weekly basis. The mice – well, I’m pretty sure they’re a plague hangover from a former life in London during the Middle Ages. Both make complete and total sense. To me.

My husband, he’s afraid of clowns. Clowns. I don’t get it. They wear makeup and extravagant footwear, so honestly, what’s there to fear?

But millions of people on this planet do fear them. I think they’re impressive. They have mad skills. They can juggle. And craft squeaky balloon animals. And distract angry bulls — and that takes a heap of talent. I was married to a Taurus, and I never could master that skill.

Clowns get a bad rap. Sure, there’s John Wayne Gacy and Pennywise… and I guess they sort of ruined it for all the clowns. But honestly, between the two of them they were responsible for maybe fifty deaths… You’re much more likely to be struck by lightning than killed by a clown.

Mice however, they carried the fleas that vomited the virus that cost the human race an estimated 100 million lives… That, my friends is a whole lot of scary. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

And our boys are a little bit afraid of thunder — but I’m working on them. Thunder’s not scary, I tell them. It’s loud, but it can’t hurt you. It’s nothing more than sonic burps — atmospheric indigestion, if you will.

You might have the same if you deep-throated lightning. (Only I don’t tell them that part.) And because I have no desire to test that theory, I maintain a healthy distance from lightning.

But then, this past week, Mike and I were inadvertently caught in a lightning storm. We were hiking a favorite mountain trail when suddenly the sky darkened and we heard familiar rumblings.

At first I thought it was my stomach – or maybe Mike’s. (We’re currently on a quest for our missing summer bods and eating what feels like nothing but raw cucumbers while we search. Our stomachs have the habit of digesting their own linings in protest.)

But nope, turns out it was the sky. And she was craving a giant, hand-tossed peperoni pizza as much as I was. She was HANGRY and hurling lightning as a hunger strike.

So there we were. Out in nature. On a mountaintop. With wobbly, fatigued legs. And about a gazillion tall trees.

Now that’s scary.

We began high-tailing it down the trail, which had morphed into treacherous red slime, rain-slicked rock, and lightning bolts (lots and lots of lightning bolts), when what to our wondering eye should appear but a freakishly frightening silhouette. (Think Victor Frankenstein, Lake Geneva, and electric shock and you’ve got the picture.)

Only she was no creature. She was a dark and mysterious woman. And she stalked in beauty like the night.

She was regal and dressed all in black: black tights, black skirt, black-heeled boots, black blouse. And she bore in her gnarled and ancient hand a giant black umbrella.

I’m fairly certain she was a bona fide, conjure-crafting, card-carrying voodoo queen. Or a dark arts Mary Poppins. Or a figment of my overwrought, Romantic imagination.

Regardless, she was upon us in an instant, parting the sheets of rain as she defied the elements — climbing up the mountain that we were so eagerly vacating.

As lightning cracked once again, she flashed us a smile, revealing a glittering cavern of canines and incisors.

I was in awe of her, and just the tiniest bit afraid. But mostly in awe. I’m pretty sure she had deep-throated lightning and lived to tell the tale.

In another instant, she was gone.

And us? We were gone too – down that mountain as fast as humanly possible.

So we could live to tell the tale.



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