Last night husband came home to the little ranch house in the buttes to find a woman hunched over, knees to her chest, pointing and clicking and squinting behind a giant computer screen.
He thought he heard her mumbling, so he said hello back, in case she might be attempting to greet him.
She wasn’t. She was talking to herself as she marveled at how she had somehow secured approval from herself and her dearly beloved to purchase this new machine with a screen the size of a television.
She was even more impressed she could fit it in the 3×3 cubby behind the recliner she likes to refer to as an office. But there was no time to really marvel, she had a big project and this spaceship of a computer was meant to help her accomplish this.
So there she sat with her coffee cup at 7 am learning how to scroll on a fancy mouse. At noon she opened the window when she noticed the temperature was climbing, inside & out.
She switched from coffee to Diet Coke at 1:00.
She got up to pee at 2:00.
She ate a cracker at 3:00.
But the hours between 3 and whenever her husband’s pickup pulled into the drive seemed to have slipped her mind as she got lost in photo edits, emails, music and words.
It wasn’t until her husband stepped through the door and said her name that she looked down to realize she had yet to change out of the tank top and shorts she slept in the night before.
And she couldn’t remember if she brushed her teeth, but could only assume that she skipped that essential step, as well as the hair brushing and shower and, uh, was that peanut butter on her shirt? Did she even have peanut butter today?
Does my hair really look like this?
It’s been close to two years since I moved back to the ranch with no job and a vague plan that included figuring out what it was I wanted to do here for the rest of my life. After the initial panic and a few weeks of manic cleaning and organization, I decided it would best serve me to strive to have the experiences I had as a child growing up in this wild place. I would climb the buttes, explore the coulees, ride horses, sing at the top of my lungs, spend time with my family and love with my arms wide open.
The way life was meant to be lived…
But between the mud sliding, dog chasing, berry picking, sledding, cooking, and a full on attempt at avoiding the laundry at all costs, life has found me two years later at a point where I need to say no to some things. Because it’s practical. And someone needs to make supper.
Now don’t get me wrong, this is not a bad thing. It means that I’m busy. It means that I am engaged. Sitting at the computer and losing myself in the hours actually means that I am working, and I do not take that for granted, especially these days.
But yesterday after I snapped out of my frenzy to catch a deadline that I realized no one had made for me except me, I found I was a bit disappointed in myself.
It was nearly 85 degrees on a perfectly absurd April day and I did not take a moment to really feel it on my skin. When husband got home he was giddy from a day driving with the windows open, the warm breeze pushing on his work shirt. He rushed in hoping to find a wife eager to get out in it, but instead he found her babbling to herself.
And possibly drooling.
He took one look at my outfit and the space around me cluttered with half-filled cups, napkins, papers and pencils and he high-tailed it out the door.
I think I might have heard him utter, “you’re a mess…” but I chose to believe that was a figment of my imagination.
Although it was a true statement.
I was a mess. I am a mess.
Always have been.
But those of you who have been following this little journey understand that this is not the place you go for house organization advice, but where you might land if you want to feel better about your sweeping schedule. I am not equipped to give tips on sifting flour, changing a car tire or how to make a man fall in love with you (come to think of it, following my lead with irregular grooming habits and a tendency to wander off into the hills and you might find yourself with the opposite results.) No, I can’t give you tips on parenting or how to impress at a party, unless of course your idea of breaking the ice is leading with a story about how you once got your head stuck in a ladder or how your dog peed in your husband’s boot. But if it is, and it worked, call me. I want to be in your group of friends.
Anyway, if I learned anything in the last few years about myself it’s that I’m not a real expert in anything. In the past several months I have been asked to speak at conferences, talk to students, sing and tell my story at various events. And each time I prepare for these appearances I am forced to evaluate what it is I am doing here out in the hills in the middle of my family’s history, in the middle of oil country.
And I can’t come up with anything to say except that I don’t know everything about anything and I don’t know the answer to most questions, but I know that to live a life with passion is the only way I know how to do it.
I am passionate.
Like squeeze the puke out of a kitten because you love it so much passionate.
I was born this way.
Because my family’s this way.
And I blame them for the fact that I didn’t move my ass from that chair all day long yesterday because I was so engrossed in my work.
But I also blame them for the fact that my sister rolls her eyes when I point out every wildflower sprouting from the earth on a ride together or on a drive to town.
And the fact that I don’t get too worked up about her annoyance at my behavior, because she lives the same way…
Because we were raised with a father who couldn’t wait for the first warm spring day to climb to the top of a hill and find a sunny, dry spot and lay down. A man who would stop in the middle a cattle drive so he could get off his horse and retrieve a turkey feather for his daughter who collects them, or pick some wild raspberries because they are on his top ten list of favorite things in the universe.
We were loved by a mother who rarely takes a day off work, but when she does, throws the best damn party, makes the best appetizers, laughs the most and stays on the dance floor the longest.
With my parents there was never a question about who they were because I always knew what they loved.
So I’ve been compelled lately to reevaluate my situation, to make a ten-year plan, to focus my work and interests that swim out there randomly from a desire to study photography to an obsession with bright fingernail polish and all of the fluffy animals and wildflowers and music in between.
I can’t narrow it down and I just can’t give any of it up to create more space for the laundry or at least brushing my teeth.
Yet I can’t shake the feeling of being under some sort of pressure to accomplish something beyond squeezing kittens, canning vegetables, singing out loud and then telling someone about it.
And when I go to bed at night sometimes that little voice speaks to me quietly and asks me “What are you doing girl? Prepare for tomorrow. Tomorrow is coming. What are you going to do?”
I don’t know anything except to whisper back to her “Tomorrow is not certain.”
And it’s that thought that keeps me awake, that keeps me working, keeps me climbing those buttes, writing songs, making french toast for my husband on Sunday mornings and wishing for more hours in the day.
It’s that quite voice that pushes me to live for today, whatever that day has on the agenda.
And so I suppose I can’t be so hard on myself if that day requires sitting for hours in front of the computer screen, as long as what I am doing is backed in passion, I suppose I can find comfort in the fact that I am being true to myself.