pour qui

Lately my nights are no longer a sleep, but naps lasting a few hours that I awaken from often. Work is this never-ending thing that I feel guilty stepping away from. I feel guilty watching a movie. Because deadlines and assignments and research projects and all the reading I must do. Then to write. And edit. And rewrite.
My recent and startling ability to pay bills and have enough money in the bank to pay another month’s worth has thrown me into a battle of comfort and mistrust. I feel like I should be working even harder to maintain my momentum. Because who knows when the floor will drop out again. Who knows when the truck will break down, or when I run out of stories to tell.
Every word and thought and event seems to shape itself into a beginning middle and end in a perfect 800-word format that I can send off in a pitch.
Yet my life feels pretty dull. I work around the clock, looking for subject matters, writing, waiting on emails, hunting down payments, and in the midst is a toddler and kid and dog who I love but only have a few minutes at a time for. I crave showers and eating while sitting. I pass invitations to go out due to exhaustion and being past the point of unkempt and because my right eye is permanently bloodshot and I’m not sure why other than maybe I just keep it open too much but then wouldn’t the left one be red too?
I know there’s balance in here somewhere. I know this is hard because of Coraline’s age and my lack of affording full-time child care. But maybe I like this life. This nocturnal existence I’ve created for myself, staying up past midnight to tap at a keyboard, writing and forgetting.

The New Apartment

Our apartment in 2010, above the freeway in Mount Vernon, Washington.

I’ve been writing about our little studio we lived in five years ago a lot lately, in such a nostalgic way. I thought we wouldn’t get out of there. For a time I thought I’d clean houses for years, possibly a decade. I thought that little room and those piles of dirty rags and the car that constantly broke down was our fate. I thought that was what being a single mom meant.
I used to sit out on our porch at night, after I’d wrestled Mia into bed, chain smoking rolled cigarettes and drinking when I could afford it, and sometimes when I couldn’t. The days hollowed me, and left me shocked in my shell. I miss it, the crinkling of the paper and the yellowed fingers. The stained lips from wine in jugs and scribbling in journals by the light of an outside yellow bulb. I miss being that romantic notion of the artist, and a tortured one at that. Maybe I just miss the smoking, though I don’t, really.
It’s almost 12:30 and I should peel off my clothes and go to bed. I need to get up early. I need to nurse Cora through the night while she turns herself in circles in the bed, snuggling up to me one minute and kicking me the next. I’ll have dreams about hiding under thin sheets with a man in beach houses under swaying palms where sand-filled shoes are left by the door. I dream my skin is tight with a fresh burn from the sun and wake up to the dryness of the Montana winter that is slowly creeping in this year and its looming makes me nervous.
I hesitate to write on my personal platform about struggles I have. Because I do love this life. I know my old self who climbs and hikes and gets out of the house often to dance is around the bend. That raising babies on your own is tough and unimaginably hard and I’m not sure how I do it most of the time. But it was nice to decide to write here. To know that this writing is for me.

7 replies
  1. Goldengirl
    Goldengirl says:

    I enjoy reading your ‘stuff’. You share from the heart and shoot from the hip and that stops this ex-single mommy now grandma. Keep writing, until..and there will be an until my dear, when your life has changed too much to babysit the keys at least for awhile. Wishing you sunnier days…

    • step.
      step. says:

      I think of that a lot. That I’ll miss this sweet time. There’s a poem somewhere out there called “No More Oatmeal Kisses” about the audible silence children who are gone from the house leave behind. I will keep that in mind more. Thank you.

  2. Klspen
    Klspen says:

    I love reading you, let me just say that first.
    As they get older it gets different, in some ways easier, but mostly just different but it’s all good. I woke so early this morning worrying about things that in the dark seem so much harder to tackle – coffee and light clear my head and I can find a way to manage it all – but I feel what you’re speaking about. I think of our first home, how tiny and dim but in ways I miss it somehow even though I couldn’t wait to leave it. I’ve managed success by many accounts, I can pay bills, tuition for kids and still not have to eat crap – but the innate sense of struggle and worry to stay ahead messes with my brain some days. After my worry passed this morning at the crack of dawn the first feeling I was cognizant of was the love of my family – I was overwhelmed for a moment by it before laundry called my name loudly to be folded. No matter where I am, how much money is in the bank or what troubles I’m facing – feeling that love in a moment like that makes it all doable.
    Sorry for the rant – but thank you for writing here. I have an 18, 16 and 9 year-old – and doing it on your own is something I don’t wish on others but it has created a sorority of sorts as I see it; an insight I never would have wished for but in retrospect I’m blessed to have. You’re a member of the sorority and you’re doing an amazing job sister! Keep the faith, I had a friend tell me years ago, “you’re not alone, it just feels like it, when you feel it think of me”.
    Take care Step.

    • step.
      step. says:

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. I don’t seem to fight the loneliness anymore, it is just a part of me, engrained in me so much I never think of it being there. Loneliness is always seen as such a negative thing, and I can’t agree with that. For me, it’s just a part of life. I’m a little scared of companionship. I think, to an outsider, this life I have would seem crazy. Even the fact that I’m breastfeeding a baby after sending my older daughter off to school, barely awake yet the coffee has been poured, the baby might go back to sleep, so I can get to work.
      I think I struggle with “freelancing” being “work all the damn time.” I’ve talked to friends in the business about it and they agree, that it is a job you never really clock out of, especially with kids. I still love it, though I sometimes worry for my health.
      Thank you, again, for your words of encouragement. I do have a hard time writing about struggles. We are expected to be fine and happy at all times. Things might be the greatest they’ve been in the last decade (and they are) but it’s still insanely hard.
      I will think of you. Thank you.

  3. Norah Vawter
    Norah Vawter says:

    I think this is gorgeous and brave and just damned good writing. I think that all we can do as moms who write (who maybe need to write in order to understand the world) — is just keep writing, keep living, keep mothering, and keep being true to ourselves. And taking care of ourselves as much as humanly possible! This is my first time reading your blog, and I’m excited to read more of your journey. I’m trying to write an article, so thanks for the reminder to write! May you go from strength to strength 🙂

    • step.
      step. says:

      Thank you so much, Norah! I am still struggling with doing interviews and writing articles between nursing/screaming baby times and Elmo’s World blaring in the back ground. Is it really not even noon yet?

  4. prisblossom
    prisblossom says:

    I’m having the same sort of sleepless nights. Usually it goes pass out with Willy around 9-10, wake up between midnight and 3am, work till I see the sun rising and say oh shit and go back to sleep and then wake up with the kiddo kissing me or slapping me hah.
    I also understand about feeling like the rug will get swept from under you. I really hope we both get to a point where that is no longer such a dominant fear in the backs of our heads.
    Also I’m only seeing a corner of that room but it actually looks quite lovely. Keep sharing your words here. This is my favorite type of writing.

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