I’ve had an idea for a book rumbling around in my head for ages, what happens when the credits roll? What happens when the Hollywood schmaltz finishes, the easy ending, usually tied up neatly in a bow, that makes everyone judge their relationships, their lives against an unattainable benchmark?
Fading to black, symphonious strings and lingering soft-focus close-ups don’t happen in real life. Neither does being able to afford a small friendly brownstone on the Lower East Side when you’re a singleton. Have you noticed no-one does laundry, washing up, cleaning or goes to the bathroom, unless it’s to further a plot point or to poke fun at a character as an example, Monica in Friends.
We see things on TV and in magazines, then expect our lives to be the same, but we don’t have a team of scriptwriters behind us to put words into our mouths. We don’t have an unlimited wardrobe of clothes that are organised and never need ironing. We don’t have a set dresser to make sure the couch rug is puddled nicely, the carefully co-ordinated cushions are standing to attention and there is a bowl of beautifully arranged flowers in every room.
My mouth often interjects things I wish I could scoop up and stuff back in. My wardrobe is limited and even more severely limited as I’m eating change because I’m anxious, so instead of confronting what I need to, I’m eating my nerves and anxiety instead. I have a toddler who follows me around the house and as fast as I tidy up, he moves things around and untidies because he’s helping me and copying my behaviour. I fold my blanket on the back of my couch in a certain way, so that when I need to pull it over me and retreat underneath it, it falls off into my lap and I can kick it over my legs in one movement. Like the blanket that is on our bed, it’s folded so that in two unfolds, I can cover me easily. It’s not there to enhance the room, or provide a flash of colour, it’s functional. I’ve only two mis-matched cushions, one from my grandparents’ house, one from Archie’s bed. Both travel around the house, both get sat on by a cat or a toddler, both are bashed, well-loved and I don’t care they don’t match our décor. My flower arranging skills are carefully unwrap bouquet; do not disturb arrangement by florist; plonk in vase; pray cat doesn’t knock it over.
I’m building a life with Hubs and our son. We live in a friend’s house, which is doing both families a favour. Yet, we are still paying back money we lost in the GFC. We scrimp and save to pay back these debts quicker, haggling over every deal with our utilities, insurances to get the cheapest, best option to give us a few extra dollars a month. I’m stuck with the food we need to buy, gluten-free options of anything are invariably more expensive, so we shop for vegetables at farmers markets instead and cook as much as we can from scratch. I’m too busy to worry that the house doesn’t look like magazine photo shoot, but it’s clean, tidy and our home. Unless we win the lottery, we will be living in rented accommodation for the foreseeable future, because we can’t save anything remotely enough to get a deposit on a house, in a suburb miles away from our jobs and only childcare option, because full-time places are like gold dust. Even if we did have the money, we’d have to buy a shack, do it up slowly, while working fulltime, because to build would mean building on the absolute fringes of Melbourne, it’s either that or move into an apartment and hope there was a park nearby, but then what do we do with Chief Brody? All the while people sit in judgement of what we have to do, how we have to live and I know you’re out there, because when you visit you make me feel uncomfortable in my own home, looking around because it’s not quite good enough.
This morning did not start well. In fact it finished off a long hard 20 hours that started when I walked into work yesterday morning, which only improved when I got home. I talked to my Dad on his birthday, I went for a walk, I cuddled my son and wiped his tears as we tried to fish a splinter out the palm of his hand. I did some ironing, cleaned the kitchen, ignored the washing pile, thinking ‘I can do that tomorrow night’. But today, 5 minutes after we woke up, I had a blazing row with my husband and tried to quell the voice in my head that was begging me to flee. Tried not to listen to Rufus when he’s barking at me, ‘Why are you even still here?’ ‘What are you doing with your life, you failure’ I have big scary images in my head that I am trying to ignore, looking at Peanut and clinging to him, trying not to stuff up his life beyond measure.
I do not want to spend the rest of my life on medication, because my life is too hard for my poor head to cope with. I want to learn how to ride out the waves of emotions, learn to stuff the voice in my head into a box and throw away the key. I want to be here for my son when he grows up. I am sick of wearing a superhero cloak, pretending we’re coping, while everyone around us builds, extends, decorates their houses, or goes on holiday, or can just buy whatever the f*** they want. I need a new pair of shoes, so does Hubs, so what do we give up paying for this month to buy them? The car needs a service, we need a new kettle, Christmas is looming, I’ve not even brought my Dad’s birthday present yet. Let alone the two other family birthdays we have this month, because what do we give up to pay for them? People suggest I don’t work full time, to make it easier on us as a family unit, so tell me f***ing how I’m supposed to bring less money into the home?
Life is not like a Hollywood movie, or a TV show, it’s sodding hard work. And while some sentences in this blog post may alarm you, may scare you. I am angry, am sick of pretending everything is ok, I’m fed up of hiding my shame, so now it’s out there. I’m dealing with it and life the best I can. Mostly I am ok, some days I’m not, but our family has been under continual pressure for the past three years, and frankly we’re running out of options.
But today is the only day I am living, I’m put yesterday to bed, and tomorrow isn’t here yet. So I’m going to take action today to bring about our Happy Ever After. We’re only going to get there if we carry on working on it, but we could just do with some breathing space please.