The other day, someone asked me if I worried about how people react to what I post on my blog. I said, “No.”
I was lying.
Here’s what I should have said:
When I decided to start a blog I read a lot of advice. Hours of advice, daily, for weeks. One of my main takeaways was that in order to be “successful” (read: read) a blog needs to provide something useful to it’s readers. It needs to provide tips, or recipes, or humor, or entertainment. Something. Because, lets face it, no one wants to read about your boring life and your cute kids. Well, unless the cute kids say “Fuck” in preschool. Because, well, funny, hello.
So, I’ve tried to do that. I avoid writing about how long it takes to get shoes on five little people, because no one cares unless I’ve worked out a way to do it in .5 seconds. (I haven’t, by the way.) I avoid writing about how much harder it is to keep my house clean than it was when we lived with one bathroom in 1700 square feet. BORING. In short, I avoid writing about anything that I can’t make funny, or relatable, or… better.
What that’s meant lately, is that I avoid writing.
Right now my life is not funny, or relatable, and I’ve got no idea how to make it better. But it’s all I’ve got to work with.
So, I’m going to write about it, real quick like. I’m going to rip the bandage back, give it a little air, so that I can move on next week to more useful topics like: How to Tell Your Mother That You Are Pregnant…Again, and How Not to Buy a House.
But for now, I’m right here. I’m scared, I’m confused, and I keep trying to tell myself that everything will work out, but I’m beginning to think that I’m a red hot liar.
For the last ten years my husband has been the theatre director at a small private school. He loved it. He loved his coworkers, the students, the families, the facility. Everyday he woke up grateful. And that was a good thing. It almost made up for living on a teacher’s salary. I taught a studio full of piano students to fill in the gaps.
On paper, our budget looked impossible, but actually living it was like experiencing Hanukah everyday. The oil always lasted just long enough. I had the general sense that we couldn’t continue like this forever, but good things were always popping up and so I became conditioned to expect that things would continue to improve. Our investment in our little bitty house on the “bad side of town” paid off and we moved to a much larger house that could accommodate our family, now 7 people strong. Our eldest children started attending Mike’s school.
About two years ago, little things started to go awry. There was a change in leadership at the school. People got fired. People quit. There was another change in leadership. More people got fired. The culture of the school shifted from supportive to suspicious. I realized that the people that sold us the beautiful big house had been less than honest about its flaws. Both cars bit the dust within one week. I started losing my hair. Mike’s summer camp was dissolved and restructured. He had to fight his first administrative battle in 12 years in order to be paid what he’d been promised. I was sick to my stomach everyday. Breakfast was out of the question.
Here we are, now. Everything is a wreck. Mike dreads his job. He wakes up feeling defeated. I’m overwhelmed by the big house, both the maintenance and the mortgage. I’m sick. A year or so of chronic gastro issues has led to multiple severe vitamin deficiencies. Despite being able to eat very little, I’ve gained 25 pounds in just a few months. I have to wrap a rubber band around my pony tail six times to get it to hold. All of my bones hurt, especially my hip, knee, and knuckles. I have a strange rash that covers my face. I’m seeing a general practitioner, an endocrinologist, a nutritionist, a therapist, and a fitness coach, and so far, here’s what they’re saying: stress is literally killing me. Where other people have blood, I have cortisol.
Something has to change. Maybe everything has to change. Mike has decided that, after 13 years, he will leave his school at the end of this academic year. For what, we’ve no idea. It’s a little bit exciting. After all, anything is possible. Maybe we will no longer have to live on a teacher’s salary. Maybe I can go the dentist and afford organic strawberries.
But what will he do… what do people who’ve spent their career in arts education do if they decide to get out? He can’t just run down the street and into the office with the sign on the door saying: Help Wanted. Looking for hard-working, quick learner who is able to port extensive experience in education, artistic-directing, set-building, light-hanging, script-writing, camp-building into lucrative new career.
But he can’t stay where he is either. He’s lost faith. He’s taken to heart the pervasive disregard for the arts, and he feels like he’s been wasting his time for the last decade. Making a fool of himself. He’s been asking himself why he cares so much, if other people care so little. He believes them.
And it breaks my heart.
Because, here’s the truth: Mike is the real deal. He’s Mr. Holland’s Opus and Dead Poet’s Society and Lean on Me, all rolled into one and dressed in black. Why in the hell else would I have put up with living on so little for so long? But his faith was what was keeping the lamps burning. Now, without it, things are falling apart faster than I can put them back together. It’s getting very dark around here.
I have no idea where we are headed. I don’t know whether to paint or pack. I don’t know how to help. I set out to Google homeschool curriculum and end up searching for career counselors. In the middle of making lunch I find myself scanning real estate on Ocracoke Island. We eat later and later. It’s as if someone said, “Ok, you’ve got 365 days to create a completely new life. Go,” and hit a timer. I’m usually such an action-oriented girl, but now I’m paralyzed. I can’t help just staring at the clock in horror. I’m living on a bomb in the middle of a lightning storm, wondering which is going to get us first.
It is very, very hard to relax up here. It’s hard to be funny. It’s hard to be useful. So, I guess today, maybe all I can do is show up and be honest. Try to breathe deeply. Try get my claws out of the mess, trust, and not tell any more lies.