I am tired.
There's so much on me right now. The end of the school year for the boys, with its neverending stream of class activities and banquets and parties, means summer is encroaching. In previous years, we were able to relax and have some fun, but that will be hard to manage this year. Today was first day of summer classes for me—a full 15-hour class load that would normally take 15 weeks but is truncated to 10. Somewhere in there I still have to work part-time, do my homework, care for the boys, clean the house, cut the grass, do the laundry, cook the meals, and try to breathe.
I have a little help lined up but not much. The decision to stay in Atlanta after the divorce, as opposed to moving back to Birmingham, meant I have no family backup within almost 200 miles. I have friends close by, certainly, but almost none are in a position to be able to help. DH is now living out of state.
It's all on me.
Every detail, every move the boys and I make, is considered and planned and stored in my head. Days like today start in the middle of the night, when I wake for whatever reason and start to run through the lists of what needs to happen today, this week, in the next month, over the next few, and so on. I am working on a two-year plan right now, and there is no room for error. Time and financial constraints make this the only plausible course of action; I have no choice but to continue to move forward.
I look around the house and see all the little shit that needs to be done—the cluttery stacks of school papers and junk mail that are building up like landmarks, the leaking shower pipe that has forced us into sharing my small bathroom, the small hole in the roof, and the shredded, fading wallpaper that still hasn't been stripped after two years—and I just can't get to it all. These days it feels like I have my fingers shoved in eight or nine leaking holes with no room to stretch even my Amazonian hands toward another emergency if it comes up.
Money and time are tight. Manageable but with little room for error. There's not a lot of time for me to stop being Mom or Ms. Jackson; Stephanie barely seems to exist right now, let alone poor Sassafras, who convinces me to wear something pretty and shiny every couple of days just so I don't forget that she exists, even though somedays my greatest splurge is a trip to Target ten miles away.
But when it gets hard, when I start to cry because I feel overwhelmed by all of it, I remind myself that I am an Amazonian princess who can save the world, and herself, with love.
You got that tattoo for a reason.
I can do this. I have to do this. I am doing this. I'm not pulling the freshly-laundered sheets over my head and ignoring the world. (Believe me, I've tried. I just lay there recounting my to-do list until I get up and do the dishes. Again.) I am busting my ass every single day to bring myself and my sons closer to a self-sufficient life, to a time when we are not dependent on anyone else's time or money or support. I am teaching them and myself that there are strong, dogged, determined women who will work their asses off to make a change, even if it is only in their own world.
And things go wrong all the time. I find myself missing a school event for Tricky because I'm working, kissing his teary face at the bus stop because he's frustrated I'm not there like he wants me to be. Or I'm in the front yard, fending off a barrage of Fuck-yous from a pajama-clad Max, who at 13 doesn't understand why his father hasn't reached out to him in well over a month.
I do my best to hold it together, to keep the shaking and the tears at bay until they're gone for the day or safely in their beds at night, but I screw up. I yell about the cat boxes and the dirty laundry they won't pick up off their bedroom floors, about telling them again to unload the dishwasher. And I don't sleep, worried like hell about how I'm ever going to manage this on my own. And at night, I stare at the lonely dark until my brain tells my body to shut down, even though it is itself constantly churning and planning and worrying.
You got that tattoo for a reason.
Every day, I get up and try again. Sassafras helps me pin my hair up in my crown and throws on some sparkly bangles. I fuel up the invisible jet, and I cruise from errand to job to another errand, hoping like hell that I have a handle on it all. Praying every single minute that I'm not losing track of my babies, because there is no one else around to keep them on track.
But I know that everything that came before, all of the lessons I have worked so hard to learn, are playing out now, in real time. There is no more practice, no more play-acting until I'm ready for the real thing.
This is my life, and I got that tattoo for a reason.