Last time we spoke, I was in a bad place. I could feel myself getting crushed under this psychic weight, like swimming deep underwater — unpleasant unrelenting pressure prevented me from breathing easy. I began to notice shadows out of the corner of my eye, as if something dark were sneaking up on me. It made me feel unglued to reality, a little unhinged. On a global level, and in terms of functioning correctly in my daily life, I knew I was OK and safe. But still, these changes made me nervous.
Then, for about a full day, there was this very odd convergence of signs — like the universe was using the world to tell me something directly. I know how crazy that sounds. But to me, it felt true. Ethereal and unnerving, but true. The message was about who I wanted to be versus who I actually was.
The difference between those two qualities I can best describe by telling you how I was a smoker for ten years. Nicotine is some addictive shit (duh) and I tried to quit several times. Whenever I did, it was always this agonizing process of being split into two — the part of me who wished she were a nonsmoker, and the part of me that knew, if she waited long enough, there would be another cigarette eventually. Trying to quit like that was full of failure.
The month we started trying to get pregnant, I quit cold turkey. That time it wasn’t fun, but it was easy. I knew who I was, and a mother who smoked wasn’t me. I remember being scared that I would be stupid, that I couldn’t function at my job, that I’d never write anything funny again if I didn’t smoke. I remember thinking those things and then thinking, so be it.
I was stupid for a long time, and I didn’t write anything funny, and I took naps on the floor at my job. But I didn’t smoke. It’s been over ten years, and I haven’t smoked since. So long as I am someone’s mother, I feel sure I never will. There is no split in me over who I am in that regard.
Anyway, this day of signs was themed with the idea that getting what you want is simple — you only need to be willing to do what no one else will.
Every time I turned on the radio, people seemed to reference this concept — interviews, song lyrics, everything.
As I folded laundry while watching TV, it was the theme of the show.
My kids homework assignments, the advertisements on the grocery store floor, everything and everywhere refracted this idea until, though seemingly completely nutcakes, the sense that the universe was sending me a message seemed inescapable.
Later in the day, I had a schedule conflict — a Cool Thing issue conflicted directly with a parenting obligation. I chose to do the parenting thing and lost an opportunity I’d been looking forward to for weeks.
I felt like a tremendous failure. The universe was orchestrating a Day of Miraculous Signs and Inescapable Messages to illustrate what I needed to do to succeed in my ambitions for The Cool Thing, and still I couldn’t do it. It felt like God was mocking me.
Eventually, this epiphany knocked me right on my ass: The pieces compromising the Day of Signs were a gestalt. From one angle it looked as though I was unable to do what I needed, that I was all talk and bluster with no backbone.
But from the second angle, I could see being a mother has been the profession for which I have been willing to do what (literally in most cases) no one* else could. The part of me that chose was so solidly who I am that, like my own nose, I couldn’t see it. It felt different then, why God might be laughing at me.
I came away, still struggling with these two ideas.
1) Even though I have been feeling like a sniveling needy weakling child, I am behaving like the person I esteem to be — someone who protects loved ones. I don’t throw my kids under the bus when their needs get in the way of my ambitions. And I’m not making these choices out of white-knuckled fear I might be a bad mother — I’m doing it without even thinking.
2) I am probably too far the other way — throwing myself under the bus — because of my own childhood scars. Why can’t I have two goals for which I am willing to do what no one else will? Is it possible? Do children and ambitions take so much that one inevitably demands allegiance over all others? Or am I using my children as an excuse for not going after what I really want out of life?
Anyway, I was pretty much shelled by Day o’ Freaky signs. But I woke up the next morning, and my sadness had broken the way a bad fever does, and the shadows went away, along with the feeling that I was losing my grip.
The whole experience made me nervous and I didn’t want to tell anyone about it. After I felt better, I was afraid to discuss it for fear of getting dragged back into that sad place, or muddying my understanding of whatever the universe was trying to tell me. I’m still not sure I’ve gleaned the entire message. But here it is, a month later, and it feels safe(er) to discuss. I know this experience looks weird. it feels weird too. All I can tell you is it also felt necessary.
*Exception being their father