Good Morning or At Least Trying

I am tired, deep down bone weary. My friend and I discussed yesterday how we do not write anymore. Our lives are consumed with the daily dramas and demands of work, and for me family. Last night, I became increasingly frustrated at my 7 year old who simply would not go to sleep. As she fussed with hunger, thirst, the urge to go to the bathroom, the need to be cuddled, etc., my golden hour of free time slowly dissipated. When she finally fell asleep, I remembered the grading I promised myself I would finish before the night ended.

To reward myself for the herculean tasks of getting my minimal family and work requirements done, I stayed up finishing a book and then cried at the end – for the characters, for the toxic political environment and victims of sexual assault, for my daughter who is still struggling with social issues at school, for all the crushing worries that are stealing my peace of mind. When I finally fell asleep, I was disturbed by one child and then another crawling into my bed. This rarely happens, but when it does happen, it is usually when I am already emotionally and physically drained. In slow increments I was pushed out of the bed by knees and elbows. I tried to find sleep elsewhere, but by 6 a.m. the children were awake and searching for me, alarmed that I was missing.

Because time does not stop, I tried first to rouse myself with coffee and then an energy aromatherapy bath. My eyes still feel swollen and abused, but I found a moment here upstairs with my words, and I will try to keep finding moments throughout the day – to create, to experience, to enjoy the moments that may come. Good morning.

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When Yes Became No

When I began my professional journey applying for internships as an undergraduate journalism student, my mantra was to always say yes. Whenever an opportunity arose, I took it. By the time I graduated from college, I had completed five internships for a variety of nonprofit organizations, an advertising agency, and a newspaper. At the age of 22, I became the head of cable company marketing department. At 23, I was the editor of an alumni magazine for a liberal arts college and running my own freelance business. I took graduate classes simply on a whim, because I could. Now I am a college professor.

My mantra began to change after I had children. Instead of pursuing endless opportunities, I needed to set boundaries between my work and personal life. It took many meltdowns of mother and child, an endless stream of late night grading, and many disgruntled meetings where I wondered, why am I here?, before I arrived to this moment.  And this moment is not perfect.

Whenever an opportunity arises now, I realize I am not simply saying yes or no. Every time I say yes to something I am saying no to something else. When I said “yes” to the gym this morning, I said “no” to vacuuming. When I decided to sit in on a podcasting class, I was no longer able to join a book circle. It is for moments like these that the hashtag #firstworldproblems was born. My cross to bear is too many opportunities.

The benefit of too many opportunities is that is has forced me to reflect on what it is that I really what to do. It should be a simple task to do what you truly want, but often we are trying to do what we think we should want to do or what some nonexistent version of ourselves would do. Right now, I just want to go to sleep, even though it is only 10 p.m. and the cool kids stay up until at least midnight 🙂

Work and Self Worth

In my second day off between semesters, fresh from a retirement party, I cannot help but think of the role work plays in our sense of worth. I found myself revisiting and playing with a poem I started about my father, who believes fervently in a hard day’s work and told me often when I did not want to do a task, “Think about how good you will feel when it is done.” The underlying message being our value comes from that which we do. I’ve lately come to classify him as an existential Catholic who believes we insert ourselves into the world first by baptism and then by deed.

We stood into the wind, already sweating underneath our dusty caps,

socks staining against the dirt gathered in the bottom of our sneakers.

The bean leaves ripple, showing their pale underbelly,

as the spindles whip shapes into the sky

My father grips a hoe with his big knuckled, turgid veined fist,

hands it to me and tells me where to begin.

“Think about how good you will feel when it is done.”

We crack the topsoil and sink our footprints into the loam,

Walking miles, scouring, our heads pendulum swinging side to side

I pull two-handed the embedded ragweeds, velvetleafs

We shake the clumps of dirt from their greedy roots

Until the soil sticks to our slick forearms, embeds under fingernails,

clings to the hair of our nostrils, and grits between my teeth.

“Think about how good you will feel when it is done.”

The lesson slides down my throat, as I tip the icy thermos,

lifts perspired threads of hair and fabric as I lean

into the rushing air from the back of the truck bed

and think of the crisp line formations of the crops