Home » Erika's book » A dark, quiet hole away from All The Words

A dark, quiet hole away from All The Words

To all of you full-time working (as in, get a paycheck) moms: I bow down and kiss your feet.

To all the part-time working moms: You’re next.

To all of you who somehow manage to keep all the balls in the air and your children alive: You rock.

And to all of you, like me, who being created and specially wired to NEED SOME SPACE WHERE NO ONE TALKS TO YOU, yet still manage to get your work done, feed your family, and get enough sleep to where you can do it all again tomorrow: You are my heroes.

The book is under way. That is, the book proposal. This is going to be a long road, folks, but I am so excited about it. My friend and co-author, Erika, drove up from Austin last week with her mom, and the three of us spent two days recording her story. I had ordered a digital audio recorder because my last cassette player disappeared years ago. I had to stop and think about how I was going to record her voice. Motherhood, apparently, has eaten my brain.

Y’all. This story? It is un-freakin-believable. As she was talking, I kept thinking, I can’t believe you are still alive. My jaw hit the floor on Monday morning and didn’t resume its full upright position til sometime on Wednesday.

However, I grossly overestimated my ability to absorb a constant stream of words for two days and emerge semi-functional. Actually, I didn’t estimate at all. It didn’t even occur to me. I forgot I am an introvert. I forgot that while I enjoy talking and being around people, I have a limited capacity to do so, and after I do, I must retreat into a very dark, quiet hole and stay there for a very long time.

Which doesn’t work out so well when you have three children and a husband and stuff to do and phone calls to make and places to go. It really doesn’t work well when the next evening, you spend an hour with ten eighth grade girls. Who are very loud. And like to talk. And giggle. And chase rabbits far away from the Let’s Talk About Jesus path.

I missed my dark, quiet hole. Desperately.

So. Many. Words.

What’s worse: my brain was so saturated and the wheels were spinning so fast, I would fall into bed exhausted—and I couldn’t fall asleep. Oh precious sleep. I only wanted to sleep. So very badly. Cruel, cruel irony.

And then Michael left town one less person who wants to talk to me and Meghan had a full weekend of dance rehearsals and performances. I thought I was going to die if I didn’t get some peace.

I pulled out my naturopathic sleep aid, which encapsulates such glorious mysteries as valerian, passionflower, and ashwagandha . Those sound peaceful, don’t they? Like you just want to snuggle up next to them and let them brush your hair? Sweet valerian. She promised to turn off my brain and provide me a full, uninterrupted night’s sleep.

She LIED. Evil, evil, hateful valerian.

I did fall asleep. I did slumber deeply. UNTIL 4 A.M. Then I jolted awake and solved the world’s problems. For FIVE FLIPPING HOURS. (I think I dozed off briefly between American materialism and global warming.) I also had the chorus of “Thrift Shop” playing on a loop in my brain. I got twenty dollars in my pocket. This is…awesome. (You try to go back to sleep with that melody line in your head.) Macklemore left screaming when my juiced-up brain started playing an orchestral lullaby arrangement from a CD I found in a diaper bag with free baby formula samples in 1999.

Once upon a time in Texas, before Governor Rasputin decided that Six Flags should determine the school calendar instead of individual communities, we enjoyed Fall Break: a full week in October to take a family vacation while enjoying off-season crowds and prices. It was beautiful. (Except the year we took Meghan and Griffin to Disney World in the middle of Rosh Hashanah. That is another very-funny-now-but-not-at-the-time blog post for another day.)

One year, we took eight year old Meghan to Germany, where Michael’s brother was stationed with the Army. We flew into Frankfurt, took a quick nap at Uncle Harold and Aunt Stacey’s house, then drove four hours to Paris. I had never experienced such jet lag and circadian confusion. Surely I would fall into bed and go right to sleep, right? Wrong. I was awake all night. The next day, we walked the streets and museums of Paris—Paris!—for twelve hours. I was exhausted, but exhilarated. Surely that night I would sleep? Wrong again. My poor brain could not adjust. We spent another full day walking around Paris (this time riding the subways…duh!). That night, taking no chances, I greeted my new best friend, Ambien, and welcomed a full night’s blissful sleep. Problem solved.

Here’s the lesson from that vacation I have repeatedly returned to: Rest counts. Even if I am awake, closing my eyes and remaining prone still has some benefit. Otherwise I could not have endured a full day of Parisian sightseeing. Or a full day of writing, driving, cooking, talking. Rest counts. Sort of.

But limited sleep does not a happy mama make. We have had a handful of Very Scary Mama moments in the past week. My throat hurt from all the screaming. I’m not proud of it. But I think it’s highly unlikely that Nathan will refuse to take his vitamins again, and he will probably choose to answer the phone the next time I call seven times from the car to tell him I we forgot he had a piano lesson and he needed to get his books and meet me outside NOW. Which is a difficult task to accomplish if he doesn’t answer the phone. Because he’s watching TV. And the phone would stop ringing by the time he reached it. So he’d go back to watching TV. Seven times. In a row.

Which doesn’t compare to the difficulty of keeping all the balls in the air while barely functioning on five and a half hours of sleep because of All The Words. And figuring out how to fit hours of writing each week into an already full schedule.

I did eventually sleep, and I’ve started writing the book proposal, and somehow we’re all surviving. I’m no longer screaming. Mostly. I’m taking a stab at self-discipline, making myself go to bed earlier so I can write and work in the mornings instead of taking a nap. Michael, who is of course extraordinarily supportive, gently inquired where he fit into my new time-crunched schedule and how we would spend time together. I (gently) replied, “Do you remember residency?” If we could do four years of medical school, an internship, three years of residency, and one year of fellowship—and still have babies and family time and stay married—this will be a cake walk. Nothing could be as hard as that.

This is my time. It’s my turn. I finally have an opportunity to throw myself into something I love, something that matters, that makes a difference, that sends forth light and breath into the world. I’m welcoming a new passenger into the car, and somehow she will find her seat among all my other beloved passengers. She’ll squeeze in between my husband, my children, my babies. Exercise, errands, cooking, cleaning will scoot over and make room. And we will drive—a glorious, scenic, breathtaking drive. Together.

Sleep may have to move to the back.

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3 thoughts on “A dark, quiet hole away from All The Words

  1. Jennifer, you always make me smile! Last week I had trouble sleeping numerous nights, and one night I had that same song stuck in my head. I know you will manage to fit your new piece into your already full life. Take time to enjoy it!!

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