Earlier this week Mel posted a piece called This Is How I Do It All. Evidently she has been asked frequently how she does it all and early in her post she assures her readers that the reality is, she does not. I have to admit, I am a bit skeptical. Mel seems to do it all pretty well. Of course she has (what I would consider to be) a dream job that includes within its description reading and writing blogs posts (am I the only one who thinks it would be amazing to have my blogging pursuits contribute to my professional persona!?) Still, Mel does a heck of a lot, she maintains a positive internet presence and writes well-received novels, all while raising precocious twins and maintaining a thriving marriage. In my opinion she does seem to do it all.
Reading her post got me thinking of how I do it all. Or whether I do it all. (Not shockingly, no one has ever asked me how I do it all – which leads me to believe I probably don’t – so I’ve never been prompted to reflect on it before). Honestly, most of the time I feel like I’m failing miserably at it all. The more I thought about Mel’s post, and the comments I saw there, the more I wanted to write a post about how I ensure that my make-shift life doesn’t fall apart completely. This is my meager attempt.
How do I do it? Well, I do it messily and hastily and with a lot of help. I do it giggling and screeching, sighing and venting. I do it making myriad mistakes and enduring phenomenal fuck ups. I do it, sometimes, at the expense of my relationship and my own personal well-being.
I do it flying by the seat of my pants and making it up as I go along. I do it running to the office to make photocopies during the passing period and having my students read silently until the bell rings. I do it posting grades just minutes before progress reports are due. I do it reading Hunger Games to my class because I love that book and can conjure serious enthusiasm for it. I do it navigating the impossible expectations of colleagues and parents who don’t remember that I only work until 4th period. I do it getting 4/5 of my full time workload done in 2/3 the time. I do it feeling constantly behind and unprepared and overwhelmed.
I do it with dishes piled in the sink and pots soaking on the stove. I do it pushing a fussy toddler in a grocery laden stroller. I do it while my husband cooks dinner. I do it sweeping dust bunnies under the stroller and stuffing laundry deeper into the baskets. I do it tripping over toys and showering alongside flourishing pink fauna. I do it ignoring chaos that makes me cringe, clearing a path through the detritus to my bed.
I do it wiping away tears as I say good-bye to my daughter every morning, entrusting the majority of her formative waking hours to someone other that myself. I do it indebted to my in-laws who watch her so we can afford our meager life. I do it wishing I could stay at home but not being able to afford it. I do it feeling jealous of those who can.
I do it drinking Ovaltine for breakfast and eating energy bars for lunch. I do it spending hours on the road, commuting hundreds of miles a week. I do it with my daughter in the car while it’s double parked and I’m unloading bag after bag after bag. I do it scouring the neighborhood every afternoon for a spot that can accommodate our mid-sized sedan while my daughter expresses her discontent. I do it in the two hours while my daughter naps. I do it at the park, under the lights at night when it’s dark, because our apartment is too small for my daughter to stretch her legs.
I do it by carving out time for yoga at least twice a week. I do it checking my reader in bed before 6am and writing blog posts late into the night. I do it scanning Twitter at stoplights and in traffic and randomly texting friends when I have a minute. I do it scrimping and saving and penny pinching and budgeting. I do it without take-out or eating out or ever going out. I do it changing quarters in $200 increments, dragging the laundry down to the coin-fed machine every night.
I do it on the couch at therapy and in couples counseling. I do it popping anti-depressants and ADD medications. I do it by compromising and prioritizing and relaxing my standards. I do it reading The Joy of Less and Raising Happiness and Love in the Time of Colic. I do it without having much sex and feeling pretty guilty about it.
I do it gratefully and with enthusiasm. I do it even though I’m overwhelmed by the uncertainty. I do it with hope and fear in my heart, equally measured. I do it, every day, the very best I can.
At the end of Mel’s piece she likens her life to a piece of IKEA furniture, “cobbled together with a lot of cursing and missing parts.” I wish my life could be compared to IKEA furniture (then again, I’m pretty bad ass at putting together their stuff.) Afterall, IKEA furniture comes perfectly crafted, ready to be assembled with all the proper pieces and elegant (yet wordless) directions. Chances are, if you follow the steps, each piece will have a part to play and at the end you’re kid will have a crib to sleep in.
My life feels more like a first post-college apartment – with its crappy floor plan and outdated appliances. Each piece of furniture is a remnant of somewhere else, intended to serve a purpose slightly different from the one for which it’s currently being employed. Everything is ragged and worn and dingy. Nothing matches anything else and most of it is covered in threadbare sheets anyway. The final product fulfills a need but only just barely and the inhabitants are left constantly imagining how great it’d be if only…
But maybe that’s because I still live in my post-college apartment with its crappy floor plan and outdated appliances (and oblivious early twenty-something neighbors). Maybe it’s because in our house IKEA furniture is high-end and almost everything we get is off Craigslist. Maybe it’s because this make-shift life is not what I expected it to be and I’m surprised by the constant struggle.
Maybe it’s because I’m not really doing it all, not really. Maybe it’s because I’m just barely scraping by, just like everybody else.