Tired. That’s how I start every day, and that’s how I end every day.
I’m actually not unhappy. Not really, not in the way I have known unhappiness in the past, in different forms, over the years. I don’t grind my teeth or have shooting pains in my chest; I’m not afraid to go out into the world or silently criticizing and hating myself for being alone; I’m not feeling angry and helpless about a difficult relationship (angry, sure, sometimes, but it’s not the way it was. Not nearly so bad as that).
I’m not happy in the way I have known happiness in the past, either — That kind of happiness that can only be described as a feeling of lightness, like watching one of those puffy, white clouds floating above a landscape on a summer day. The way I felt as a kid, walking to school on the first day of 3rd grade with my mom. Or driving to meet J and go backpacking after a long week of field work. Or curling up with Ziggy, when she was sick, up on the couch where we never used to let her go, and closing my eyes and forgetting that anything existed except that then-present moment, just me and my pup, napping.
Emotionally I feel like a cow– One of those full-grown ones you see standing along gravel roads in the country. Their calves are always nearby, jumping and running at any disturbance, any new thing. The adults stand and stare in that immovable way like there’s nothing you can show them that will surprise them. It’s not that I feel like I’ve seen it all, but I feel a weight inside me these days. It’s not a painful weight to carry, but it’s a weight made up of all the pains — and happinesses — of the past. It’s a long, long story that I carry inside myself. I’m always listening to it in one way or another, and because I’m always listening I’m not as quick or as skittish as I once was.
The other thing that makes me slow is the endless To Do. It’s the early mornings with not enough time before my baby and I start our daily commute. It’s the work that’s interrupted by the daycare sicknesses. The evenings of dinner and dishes and diaper changing and tooth-brushing. The making lunches when my little boy is asleep, even though the last thing I want to do is another To Do. There are many beautiful things on these days as well, but almost every moment is a To Do moment, and when I am at last sitting by myself after my baby has gone to bed, or when I am all at once alone for an evening because my ex is parenting, I find myself sitting, barely able to act. On the days I am not parenting I find it difficult to make dinner for myself, even though it is no harder to put ingredients together than it was on any other day. I find myself sitting in front of my computer even when I don’t want to, because the ability to not To Do is such an overpowering relief.
But it’s not fun to be in front of my computer all the time. And the To Do is there, always, in the cleaning that should be done or that work project I should be putting more time on (because it’s not extra time, it’s only catching up time for all those other times when I was home with a sick toddler or distracted by too many other work To Dos that had to be done right away and that pushed this one particular work project aside until it was almost too late).
How do I move? How to I do something that is not a To Do, when to do anything at all feels like a To Do?
I brush my teeth, go to bed, read for a few minutes and get some sleep. And tomorrow I try to answer the question again.