Saturday, May 28, 2022

I Can't Even


On the morning of my toddler’s second birthday, I took a phone call that completely upended my life. It was the kind of announcement most people – especially women – would be ecstatic to receive. I, however, was devastated. I hung up and cried…and have continued to cry almost every day since. I cried to my therapist. I cried to my psychiatrist. I cried into my toddler’s hair and while cradling the baby. I even had an honest-to-goodness panic attack, wheezing and dizziness and nausea and all.

It's as if the universe heard me begging, “Please, no more of this,” and answered, “What’s that? You want some more of this? Here’s a shit-ton.”

I wish I could be more specific, but the situation is still precarious, so I must bite my tongue. I have been trying the keep-your-head-down-and-persevere approach but I have also been frantically searching for an escape hatch.

The timing of this news was terrible and strange and fortuitous all at once. Terrible: Instead of spending special one-on-one time with my toddler celebrating her two years on this Earth, I was doing crisis management. Fortuitous: The saving grace was that this all happened the same day my older teen finished her freshman year of college, so she Ubered home after her last exam and helped me triage. Strange: It came on the heels of some really good news.

The good news was that a poem I wrote placed third in a local poetry contest. Writing that poem was the first thing I did after the relocation plans fell through. Entering the contest, which required Minnesota residency, was the one upside I could see to staying put. Submitting a poem to this contest used to be an annual tradition for me, though because of how crazy life has been the past few years, I haven’t had the time, inspiration, or inclination to write poetry. I felt proud of the poem, and learning that other people thought it was worth reading was just the affirmation my creative self – which feels like it’s on life support these days – needed. Maybe, just maybe, I still have a little fire burning inside.

But then the other news came, and it felt like the sky was falling. I have since been in a kind of dissociative state. I go through the motions but I don’t feel fully present. I look up at the clock at the end of the day and I don’t know where the time went. I’m overwhelmed and unfocused. I’m exhausted but can’t sleep. My attention is being pulled in 1,000 different directions.

If I suspected I was having a midlife crisis before, now it’s official – and full-blown. I don’t know who I am or who I want to be. I don’t know how I got here or where I want to go. I just know, at my core, that this is not it.

Prior to this bomb dropping in the middle of my existence, I had been starting to make some changes in the interest of pursuing more balance, meaning, and well-being in my life. Now, those changes are going to have to be more drastic, and will require more risk.

I really don’t know how people come out of midlife intact. Buying the stereotypical sports car and having an affair would be easier (and a lot more fun) than what it is actually going to take to find some fucking fulfillment or, at the very least, peace.

Despite whatever-the-hell just happened, my 2-year-old still got her birthday celebration. We spoiled her and sang (she adorably thinks the lyrics to “Happy Birthday” are “Happy two day to you!”) and ate too much cake covered in thick, freakishly-colored frosting. She enjoyed the festivities so much that for days afterward she asked, “More birthday?”

Loving my kids: that, at least, is simple. Everything else is a fucking riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.

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