I got so many emails in response to last week’s missive. SHUT THE FRONT DOOR, people.
Wait— I’ve been making you feel bad on Instagram?!?!? Oh holy hell!!! That’s exactly the opposite of what I wanted to do!!
(If you’re new here, last week’s missive was all about a little meltdown I had about perfect people living perfect lives on social media. Sooooo many beautiful readers wrote back that they sometimes feel bad because my life looks perfect on Instagram too.) So let’s take a break from the political fracas and talk about this.
I was floored.
I am SO sorry that I played into that illusion.
Ready for some truth?
Things are hard here.
Not all the time, but lots of the time. Our family life is full of joy— but it’s also full of complicated, fraught dynamics, like all blended families are. Our children are ADORABLE and WONDERFUL and SMART and FUNNY— but sometimes they’re terrible, like all spawn. Nick and I are madly in love with other— and we are also navigating choppy waters of gender, sexuality, testosterone-induced sex drive (in him), and utter exhaustion (that’s me). Blending two households— with nearly a decade of parenting grooves already worn in for both of us— means lots and lots of negotiating, compromising, and intense talks with our therapist. It means tears at dinner and misunderstandings and clumsy attempts to connect and lots of stinkeye. I can’t tell you how many evenings we fall into bed raw, exhausted, and teary, feeling like failures after a rough day. Also, between us we have 17 accountants, 42 immigration attorneys, and 97 custody lawyers. Ok I’m exaggerating, but the convolutions required to keep our complicated household legal and properly paperworked are EXPENSIVE and TERRIFYING because if we get something wrong, it has dire consequences for us keeping our little family raft afloat on the wavy brown fields of Alberta.
And let me talk about Alberta. I am trying really hard, guys. And let me tell you. It’s not going so well. I am a stranger here, an alien. I haven’t found my tribe. I’ve met a few wonderful people, but we only get together every few months because I don’t know why. I am so grateful to be in Canada, land of the functioning government and wonderful healthcare. But I stick out like a sore thumb. I talk differently, my manners are all wrong, and mostly importantly I don’t speak the unspoken language. Alberta is a “guess” culture, very different from the “ask” culture of Portland. On top of that, I have been a city girl all my life, and the suburbs are…hard. I don’t fit. I can’t remember which street is ours because all the houses are so similar. (Not a joke. I have to count the number of turns.) I watch what used to be farmland get swallowed up by swarms of little square boxes just like the one we live in, and my heart falls down around my ankles. No more walking to school through the park; now I’m part of the queue of identical minivans.
In Portland I felt deeply connected to the earth and all the green things that grew in it. I felt anchored by the trees, loved by the flowers, and caressed by the mists. But it is so dry here. The few trees here are scrawny and struggling, and that’s how I feel too. Parched. And like I’m always falling off the side of a mountain. I can’t find my footing, or get a grip, or sink my energetic roots down into the ground. The earth itself feels inhospitable, unfriendly, sterile. I can’t breathe. (Not metaphorically, literally; it’s so dry it makes me cough.) The sun stabs my eyes. I feel mostly miserable here most of the time.
I’m not telling you this so you’ll feel sorry for me.
Because here I am, and I would not change it.
I love my new family, and I’m committed to making a life here. I’m a grown-ass woman, and this is what I choose. So I’m using all my life coaching skills on myself. (This is a life coach’s Everest, basically.)
What you see on Instagram is me stubbornly turning my face toward beauty every chance I get.
I take copious photos of the sky, because I’m trying to retrain my eyes to look for beauty in different places. I fill my house with flowers because the outside is stark and frozen and every time it warms up, the air is filled with the intense fragrance of cow manure. I take photos of the clear and beautiful corners in my home, because most of my home is crammed full of our children and their things and the happy but unbelievably loud chaos of living. I use our two big paintings as energy sources and plug myself into their beauty when I feel overwhelmed and frantic by the attack of Paw Patrol at top volume.
I’m trying to wrestle a life of beauty out of raw material that feels challenging and hostile to me. I am working within strict parameters, because like every person alive, I have lots of freedom to make choices about my life, but I have some givens, too, that I can’t just change.
We are extremely limited in terms of where we can go and where we can move (I’m waving at you, other divorced parents!). There are lots of extra logistical hoops we have to jump through because Nick is transitioning and I am an American. Like everyone, we have had disappointments and heartbreaks. I worked for years on a book that I can’t sell and created a beautiful home that I dismantled piece by piece. I left behind a tribe of beloved friends that I miss intensely. And more recently, I poured my heart into an interview series that, frankly, only a tiny fraction of you have listened to. That’s okay, but it still hurts my feelings.
Also, like most of you, I feel sick every time I look at the news and watch my country descend into fascism.
So my life isn’t perfect, my loves. I’m so very sorry I ever gave you that impression.
But I’m doing my best to make it gorgeous. Not perfect, but gorgeous.
Because it’s my life, and that’s my job. Just like your job is to make your life as gorgeous as you possibly can, because it’s yours. No one else’s.
Remember, there are only two requirements to being an EFBA (epic fucking badass). You tell the truth, and you don’t quit.
I’m telling you my truth. And I’m not quitting.
Because if you want a beautiful life, you have to be fierce about it.
We all have the opportunity to step up and be stronger, braver, fiercer, and bigger than we ever thought we could be… or ever wanted to HAVE to be.
Welcome to life, dear hearts! It’s fucked seven ways to Friday, but it’s ours. I’m here in it up to my neck, just like anyone else, but I’m going to keep swimming and making mud paintings and setting flowers right out where I can see them.
You do the same, okay?
P.S. Want to be gloriously imperfect together on Instagram? That’s here.