Cracked Summer

This summer is breaking me.

I had such high, naive hopes.  Knowing that we couldn’t afford childcare, but that I have to keep working so we can afford food/health care/etc., and I have to dance so I don’t lose my mind, I devised a carefully-wrought plan of childcare swaps.  Which was super awesome for the first few weeks.  I love children – us Aries are known as the Eternal Child, and I just get kids, and they get me.  But watching another child (or kids) as well as my own is actually bone-crushingly exhausting.  I found that the time I had “off” from my daughter to work was never enough recovery from the “on” hours.

One of my editors from Equals wrote me and said, “I hope you’re having a great summer!”  To which I replied, “Actually, this summer is insane because I was a total Rookie Mom and didn’t understand how hard it would be to make the transition from school to no school for my daughter.”  Which is true – I completely underestimated what taking out the grounding and structure of three mornings a week of Waldorf-inspired education would do to our lives.  Next year, I’m doing something completely different – hightailing it to Haiti to be with relatives, or joining a family travelling circus.

She graciously replied, “Oh, man. I feel like Rookie Mom is a badge that we should all get to put on a vest or sash or something. There could be different colors for childproofing, emotional scarring, scheduling … the list is endless (and my vest would be full). The summer badge is one that we would all wear.”  My summer badge is being stitched straight into my skin.  This is a lesson I will never forget.

"You look cute, let's take a picture."  "AHHHHHH!" Not quite what I had in mind.

“You look cute, let’s take a picture.” “AHHHHHH!” Not quite what I had in mind. We also look appropriately radioactive.

It’s also the Summer of the Gifted Groceries.

“I have some extra veggies from my CSA.”  “We’re going on vacation and are not going to use these eggs/cheese/yogurts – they would just go bad – do you want them?”  “I’m dropping off two bags of groceries for you tonight.”  “The family I work for is moving.  Could you use the contents of their freezer?”  Kind people in my life have been gifting us groceries, left and right, and even handing us envelopes of cash, which I have accepted tearfully.  This summer, I’ve learned the measure of the amazing community I have, which is worth more than anything else in this world.

Which leads me to another reason I am so exhausted and freaked out this summer: our rent was raised, and we couldn’t make ends meet.  I decided that rather than be the proud New Englander I was raised to be, I was going to be vulnerable and tell the people in my life what was going on with us.  Hence the containers of hummus, heads of lettuce, and slabs of pork shoulder arriving at our door.  As well as an influx of strange little jobs, that have helped us make it from one week to the next: I’ve cleaned houses, been paid for some of the childcare I’m doing, helped retirees navigate social media, danced in a corporate flash mob for hire, edited documents, and given Tarot readings.  Mama has been HUSTLING.

I’ve also been working on more sustainable ways to change our money sitch, and this coming week I’m taking on a ten hour/week freelance copywriting gig, which I am both excited about and a bit daunted by.  It will all make sense once Olive is in preschool again, which sadly doesn’t start until September 9th, but gratefully I’ve worked it out so she can go three full days a week instead of three half days like we had planned.  Not only do I need the time to work, but to be honest, I need a little less toddler in my life right now.  Even if mine is this cutie:

All gussied up for the Divisadero Art Walk, a fun little outing we went on... until she had an allergic reaction.  Sigh.

All gussied up for the Divisadero Art Walk, a fun little outing we went on… until she had an allergic reaction. Sigh.

It’s the Summer of the Direct Conversation.

A lot of people conflate marriage and kids – if a couple are together long enough, folks start asking when they are going to breed.  But marriage and parenting are such wildly different relationships that they often have drastically competing needs.  So this idea that children make a marriage into a complete “family” is pretty bogus.  Marriage is awesome, parenting is awesome, and they can learn from one another, but they do not exactly fit in a harmonious relationship with each other naturally.  My soon-to-be-three-year-old has taken to screaming at the top of her lungs every time my husband and I try to have a conversation not centered entirely on her requests for “More snaaaaaaaaack!”

The further I got in my exhaustion, my back spasming from the stress of negotiating with a toddler-beyond-reason while keeping up with my job and my writing career, the less I had to give to my marriage.  I started to need incredibly direct communication at all times from everyone, but my husband and I like to talk in process-laden ways, circling around the topic before coming to a completely consensual opinion on everything.  This summer, I’ve gotten really good at saying exactly what I want and need, but I’ve also been impatiently demanding that of my partner.  I’ve been needing the shift in our communication to happen instantly, and change in human relationships is so much slower and nuanced than that.  It’s been a clumsy conversation, and one we fell into swiftly, but I do think we are getting somewhere.

A lot of that has to do with the fact that we are doing The Artist’s Way again this summer, with a group of friends.  Whenever my husband and I do this 12-week creativity program, huge changes ensue.  It draws us closer to both be working so hard on opening to faith, our own creative energy, and to the opportunities that invariably come our way in the process.  I have focused my efforts on taking risks creatively to put myself out there, rather than produce a ton of work.  Therefore, I’ve not been doing as much creative writing as I did last time, but I have several exciting possibilities in the works, shaking up who I thought I was as an artist.

Part of a collage I did for The Artist's Way, an image that has become both a prayer and an offering of thanks.

Part of a collage I did for The Artist’s Way, an image that has become both a prayer and an offering of thanks.

I haven’t been blogging much, either.  I’m sorry for my silence, dear readers.  I’ve been drowning in Binky Fairy Lore, bill paying negotiations, and odd jobs.  But I did get a sweet memoir-style piece published on The Equals Record this week, and I hope you’ll take a few moments to read it, and feel the expansiveness of what once was: Assateague.

So, while I cannot say this has been a relaxing summer by any stretch of the imagination, it has showed me so many areas in life that I need to shift direction in, and also the places in life where I am truly rich.

Because guess what?  I don’t have to do it all perfectly.  It’s okay to have a cracked summer.  As Lenny told us long ago, that’s how the light gets in.

9 thoughts on “Cracked Summer

  1. Sweet Rhea, you put it out there perfectly, how energy consuming being with 3 year olds is. Of course there are fun, adorable moments, but it is HARD WORK! I’m so proud of you for being vulnerable, and finding ways to take care of yourself. I admire you so much and am so blessed we are part of the same community! Love you!

  2. My summer has been a little cracked, too, but I didn’t realize it until you posted about your summer being cracked. (((Hugs)))

  3. Wow, I’m blown away by the sheer beauty and raw honesty of this piece. I am memorizing your every word so I can learn the lessons from you and glean light from the cracks. It was great to see you the other day!

  4. Rhea,

    Keep holding your vision for gifting, creative work that pays boatload of cash (not buckets or billfolds) and hang in there. So love your writing! I vision that you get writing gigs that pay well.

    You have helped me so much to get off my butt and stop saying to myself I can’t write because I have no time. I don’t have a quiet space. I am not inspired. Etc. etc. etc. All bogus baloney. I need to kick in gear and go.

    Love also your beautiful pics of your daughter. Looks like she has the same fab style as Mom.

    Don’t give up and do learn to find more creative ways to make ends meet and be an artist. The universe gifting you groceries is soooo cool. You even said the universe gifting you cash. Love that. Want to try it myself.

    Carry on!

    Best regards, Kitty

  5. Hang in there! I wish I had practical advice to offer. Even though I don’t, I can offer support, and acknowledgement of how tough this season of life is.

  6. I always love reading your work, it inspires me! The everyday human struggle is a real one. Thanks so much!

    PS: Olive is so beautiful!

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