I bought a family summer pool pass for our time upstate. I’ve never purchased a pass for anything so fast in my entire life. It took me approximately three years to decide on a YMCA membership, that only lasted a season before the pandemic upended our lives. I signed the kids up for recreational activities at the local school, two days a week (for two weeks). I purchased new bathing suits, new clothes, and I found a cat sitter for the two fellas in Brooklyn and today I turn 32.
It has been a long time since I wrote to you. One week turned into two and I became overwhelmed with the feeling in my head and the emotions on my chest. I just couldn’t. I had my list. I worked through it. But some days, through swimming in a room temperature lake in Berlin, answering design calls that charged .25 cents a minute and shuffling money from here to there, planning kid outfits for a week and deep cleaning the hell out of my apartment, I couldn’t. It is strange, because I now realize I dictated that I would need to rest and heal (and suggested that you do too) the week prior, but I didn’t consciously subscribe to the reality that it meant detaching from things I so often like to do. These letters, included. I finished a chapter for my book, and I have begun a new one. The continuation of that one big thing, feels like it makes room for the wave of weeks, months, or even years prior. But letters feel so tangled to who I am in this very instant.
When heavy packages began to be delivered to The Mae House, the first thing that panicked me was the reality that I had no husband to game plan with. No live-in partner to call, a buddy to give a helping arm. No stronger than my own withered hands to hold the bottom while I lifted the top. There have been few times when the sexist tropes, mixed in with the reality of ease-of-life for some and not for others, has shoved me to the ground. “Stay Down.”
My only weight in the game is money. Money, which I don’t have a lot of, but enough to make a call, pay–likely be overcharged–and pay some more anyway. This is not as easy as saying, sure, some have to navigate more than others. The depth of my fear, and ultimately, some sorrow, was that this aspect of working, living, caring, creating, for and by yourself, is not so readily understood. They are microcosms of ways of life, that even in seasons of abundance (a house!), the mechanics are so largely uneven and fraught, it is hard not to be trodden down by them.
There were days last week when I thought it would be really wonderful to work for someone else and not be bombarded with urgency “after hours” or bills that come from me as a source. This isn’t to say that working for someone else is easy. There are really horrible bosses and companies out there. And the struggle to work more efficiently but within less space of unnecessary abnormal hours, is a fight that I hope is won for many employees. In Anne Helen’s newsletter last week, she prioritized this struggle,
“Now imagine that your salary and benefits stayed the same, your responsibilities at work stayed the same, but everyone at your company only worked four days a week. Think about your current life, and the current make-up of your week, and what you usually have to smush into the weekend. What would you do with an extra day off, every week of the year, for the rest of your working life?”
I had been trying and at times, failing, at narrowing the path of where my own struggle existed. Sure, it was traveling. And the preparation for it. It was coming home, and the reality of work and life not necessarily waiting in the wings. I think a vast majority of it is simply the result of a brief rest, and the ability to process one’s situation, only to be sort of de-materialized by the facts at hand. When I was done dreaming about working for someone else, I dreamt about writing books and these letters full-time, in a way that allowed for weekly recreational stimuli. Weeks, bookended by days where I knew that the nothing to do was truly nothing. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? And those weeks didn’t need a man’s hands to lift them over the tide when heavy packages and issues arose, they were so seamlessly carried over not by some strange excess of money for helpers, but the slice of room-for-thought that lacked anxiety. Thoughts so clear that it processes what to do next, without the brother of fear.
My job, for better or worse, has been around a lot of what I believe as a person; pain and joy exist in constant tandem. This is my moral compass, that grounds me each day. On one street you’re thriving, and on the next, you’re dangling by a thin thread. For example, I awoke with two apron-clad children bringing in hot tea on a vintage floral tray, singing “Happy Birthday, Mommy!!” at 7. And as I stared at them in night sweat and sleep, I began to weep for how right it was. It was all that I needed. The calls and texts from my siblings, family and friends, were swift reminders that the spanse of loneliness (or whatever it is that I’m trying to explain) isn’t necessarily true, although it is real in those moments. I was delighted in that simple morning space. I fear, like many do, that saying that illuminates something deeply fragile. But if everything were to go, this is where I'd like to be. And if I can have a hundred more birthdays, this is how I’d like to wake up.
At the risk of sounding too sweet, at the same time, I sat at my computer and checked my bank account as any sane person does every morning, only to realize that I received the child tax credit. And while I’m thankful, I instantly thought, it wouldn’t do as much for me as it would other families. Families, like the one I grew up in. “... a technical change to a federal tax expenditure that is also the most radical expansion of the welfare state since the Great Society.” says The Atlantic. Then, the doorbell rang, flowers from Saffron arrived. Phone calls came, and that tide of last week became ever-so-small. So small until it was non-existent. And so small, so much so that I was allowed to think about all the little changes that do big things for others. Little changes, that at 32, I wish to be a fraction of each day of my life.
Looking back, I realize that I didn’t do the thing that most solves my anxiety bouts; meditation. A practice that has become second nature to my body and my heart. And because I was without the utter chest-ache that some anxiety spirals have, it didn’t occur to me to sit with what I knew most. Anxiety, for better or worse, has its way in seasons. So much so that after a brief break, instead of returning to myself so that I could continue to be in service to others, I became a shell and felt the rip. In the past, and what I am doing now, is a meditation I hope to carry me through this year. While the weather of the week’s prior is over, I hope to lean on it as an additional compass when I am lost, lonely, or in places that I can not name:
I am living
I am here
My care grows deeper to people i know
I am here
My care grows deeper to people I do not know
I am living
My care grows to people who are in need
I am here
My care grows deeper in me
I am here
My care keeps growing, goes past the windows, into the garden, out on the street, out of New York, out of the country, it keeps growing.