When I was young my favorite tv show was “Little House on the Prairie”. The idea of a small house that was used only for sleeping and eating fascinated me. They spent most of their days outside. I wanted to be outside. And they didn’t have a fence. No fence. When you grow up in the middle class suburbs in the 1980s in Texas you have a fence. I don’t think Id ever seen a house without a fence. The very idea that you can just have your house OUT there…in the middle of a field with nothing separating it from the wild….what a concept.
Some fences serve a very good purpose. For animals. They keep livestock in place for their owners. They keep dogs from running away. They sometimes protect buildings from break ins. They surround prisons to keep bad people inside. I guess they are relevant in certain circumstances. I am claustrophobic. I don’t love feeling contained or trapped or kept. Its a physical thing…and an emotional thing. When I see birds in cages or tigers at the zoo all I can think of is how to open the door for them. I don’t like fences. They are there to keep people in. Or people out. And I don’t like that.
There’s some metaphorical bullshit here Im sure. The idea of a traditional marriage. A suburban house, 2.5 kids, a white picket fence and dog comes to mind. I tried. And the very best two things Ive ever done in my entire life, or ever WILL do, is those 2 kids I have. No comparison. Nothing I ever do will top having children. And I suppose along with having children I assumed the house, fence, dog, Sunday church, PTA and scrap booking came with it. Not that there’s a damn thing wrong with any of that. In fact- normal people are happy with these things. So when the thought of a fence and a mortgage and a craft day gives you hives——you start to wonder why you aren’t so normal.
My kids can deposit money in a bank. They can take a car to get its oil changed. They can order pizza and write a check and they are funny and smart and quick witted and could survive on their own with no problem. I wasn’t the best Mom. I didn’t do crafts. I didn’t bake a lot of cookies. I didn’t play Baby Einstein in a mini van. I listened to hard core gangster rap, cussed a lot, let them watch Fear Factor, pranked them with saran wrap on the toilet, stole their Halloween candy and took them to concerts. I taught them to jump fences, question authority, speak up, say NO to things, protect their bodies with a fierceness, love animals, do the right thing even when no one agrees with you and turn music up very loud. I didn’t do perfect. And somehow- these two people that came out of me turned out ok. Better than ok. Much better than ok. Much better than me. And THAT is everything. So take THAT traditional parenting.
This week has been a tad rough. Shit- the past 2 years have been a tad rough. And the guilt and shame and grief came to a head on Monday. I don’t need to share details. I need to say that shame and guilt SUCK. And we all feel it. And we all feel we’ve failed at certain things. Marriage, parenting, work, eyebrow sculpting, whatever the fuck. We’ve all done some days shitty. And some days great. And some day just meh. And Monday was the shittiest of the shittiest of the shitty. And I think I cried more tears than I have in a very long time. And maybe I needed to. Cleanse.
I am NOT a perfect Mom. Far from it. I am NOT a perfect friend. Far from it. I am NOT a perfect person. VERY far from it. And sometimes the guilt and shame and pain is overwhelming. Ive been through a lot. And I cringe as I write that because Im healthy and I have my kids and I don’t really have jack shit to complain about.
I am slowly, slowly, but surely accepting that I am who I am. I didn’t fit a mold I tried so hard to fit. And its really really really ok. I sucked at some things. I excelled at some things. I got some things very wrong. And I got some things VERY VERY right. I don’t want a house in the suburbs, or a mini van, or a mortgage, or a fancy couch, or a membership at a country club, or a need to ever wear a pantsuit. I want a quaint little place on a prairie in the mountains that has functional heat and furniture to sleep on and food to eat. I want to travel, and go, and see, and do. I want to climb things and sleep outside and have no cell service. I want to wake up and drink coffee on my porch and see no one for miles…except the bison. I want no schedule, no watch, no place to be. I want a hammock and a book and a ball cap on. And I want to be ok with allllllll of that………and I don’t ever, ever, ever, want a fence.
“I think that one of these days,” he said, “you’re going to have to find out where you want to go. And then you’ve got to start going there. But immediately. You can’t afford to lose a minute. Not you.”
J. D. Salinger, “The Catcher in the Rye”