July 28, 2022

For the Guilty & Grateful Moms who are just Trying to Find what Makes their Hearts Sing.

*Warning: strong language ahead!

My heart sings on South Street.

I live in a small, historic port city of cobblestones, bricks, old lilacs, and centuries old, pristine houses. There are so many flowering trees dropping their petals right now that half the city looks like it snowed white and pink. Every sea breeze smells like lilacs and cherry blossoms. The epitome of old New England charm.

Now that we’re done with the paragraph that sounds like it should be the start of a quaint, beach town romance novel, I should have known right from the beginning that today was going to be a day I was hard on myself.

I gave up halfway through my yoga practice this morning. And it’s not the fact that I gave up that was the giveaway, but that I even called it giving up instead of recognizing that my body needed a walk and fresh, cherry blossom-scented air more than it needed a Level 2 vinyasa flow class that I had no business trying to push myself through on the first day of my cycle anyway.

I slammed my laptop shut, resenting the beautiful teacher—instructing the class from the deck of his jungle home in Bali—for Jedi-mind tricking me into choosing his class and trying to make me do wild thing at 5:30 a.m. Also for being a man teaching a class titled something like Divine Feminine Goddess Flow. Fucking men.

It was a beautiful class.

I drove to the park, left my car, and walked toward the South End of town. I love the South End. For the last 10 years of my life, I’ve had this same, crystal clear vision: a home appeared to me during an hour-long meditation one time and now it shows up in my dreams often. A man I was dating one time—also a writer who had built his own house—asked me to write about it a couple years ago. I wrote a few pages, but still hadn’t gotten past the front steps when I stopped writing. It was too intimate. It wasn’t his to understand. I didn’t write anymore about it.

I really want to tell a man about the whole house someday.

Every time I walk through the South End I feel exactly like I do when I think about that house. It’s the opposite of a cookie-cutter neighborhood. Nothing is cookie cutter in a town settled in the 1600s. Each house feels like it has a personality as big as all the spirits that have lived there over the last 400 years combined.

Cobblestone. Rose bushes. Color combinations like a dream. Bright blue with yellow shutters. “Black Lives Matter” and “Love is Love” signs. Dogwoods and huge maples. Raised garden beds. Jogging stroller moms. Volvos and Audis. My town is an affluent town.

I think the part of South Street that really feels most like my vision is the security, the safety, the solidity. These are homes whose foundations have held families for hundreds of years while my 10-year-old told me the other day that she has lived in seven different houses in her life. She didn’t say it in a negative way. I think she thought it was pretty cool. I didn’t. My heart wilted in an instant.

There is a coffee/flower shop on South Street. I stopped in for a coffee, and as I was walking out, I passed two women who had paused their morning run to chat on the corner. I smiled and said “hi” and inadvertently pretended for half a second that I was one of them. I don’t even really know what that means. Married? Runner? Not ever wondering if I have enough money that week to buy one of the kids the shoes they really want? I was making a lot of assumptions. I had a few thoughts at the same time just then, all fist fighting each other for front and center. Only one of them wasn’t really stupid.

I’m going to own a house on South Street one day…
If my kids don’t get to live in a house on South Street, I won’t have given them everything they deserve…
I’ll probably only own a house on South Street if I marry some rich guy…
I’m a shit writer who will probably never actually write that book…
I’ll probably be single forever…
I’ve been single for way too long already…
Definitely true that no man will be attracted to this soft, round post-children body…

There was more. It was all really fucking mean. There’s a raging bitch in there that sneaks up on me sometimes and really twists things into knots. Most days, I wake up in my rented townhouse two miles away from South Street and feel so grateful. Like so grateful that I actually want to pinch myself every day. We get to live in this beautiful, opportunity-filled part of the country. My kids—through grants and help and support—get to go to the private school I always wanted them to attend. I have flexible work that lets me be there for school plays, pick-up, and drop-off. We have a full fridge, a community, and so much love.

Then that sneaky bitch reminds me that my daughter really wants a new pair of those old school checkered Vans and it’s just not in the budget right now. So basically, I failed at everything. Sometimes she even tricks me into feeling guilty about being grateful—like by being grateful for what I have, I’m not being driven to give my children an even better life. She makes the difference between drive and greed really blurry.

There’s a curious juxtaposition in being a single, scraping-by mom in a privileged, affluent town.

I turned off South Street and walked back to the car. A little less resentful of the yoga teacher from earlier and a little more curious about why my heart sings on South Street. Underneath the tricky bitch and the fear of failure and the gratitude and the rose bushes and the desire and the cobblestones is a mother. The mother. Holding it all. Stroking my hair. Trying to remind me that maybe my vision wasn’t a physical place. That she is—that I am—the millennia old foundation.


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