Last summer, when the kids and I were in Florida for vacation and my husband hadn’t arrived yet, I was PMS-ing. I didn’t realize I was PMS-ing – I hadn’t gone crazy yet. I wasn’t sad for no reason, I wasn’t monstrous to the kids, I didn’t go dark places in my mind or dredge up old sorrows that only surface when I’m premenstrual.
Then I watched Out of Africa. I had never seen Out of Africa. I bawled. I sobbed. Rvers of snot and tears streamed down my face, and as I choked on the emotions pouring out of me, I realized, Holy crap, I am PMS-ing. Hard core.
The next day, I was scoured clean. I didn’t go crazy. I wasn’t sad. I wasn’t monstrous, I didn’t go dark places or dredge up old sorrows, and it occurred to me that the movie had served as a proxy for my own emotions. I was able to cry out all of my hormones. I was able to release without having to enter into my trauma.
It felt wonderful.
I am currently working like I have never worked before. I am in a trial period for a job I really want. I mean, really, really want. My whole family is pitching in to make this happen. My husband has taken over food: planning menus, going to market, putting groceries away, cooking new dinners. The kids have taken over chores: scrubbing bathrooms, mopping floors, changing linens, lugging the vacuum up and down the stairs to de-crumb the carpet.
And me? All I have to do is figure out how to build the internet so I can help other people figure out how to build theirs*. No biggie. All I have to do is excel. No pressure. Every day my mind scales another vertical learning curve. I’ve got lists, and private blogs, and goals, and resources, and 20 tabs open in my browser at any time, and at least a dozen internet tools I’d never heard of until three weeks ago, and I’ve got custom web searches for reaction gifs and thesaurus words, and I’m interacting and writing, and interacting and writing, and interacting and writing all day every day.
And it is thrilling.
It is exhausting.
At the end of each day my mind is gelatinous. My husband asks me questions when he gets home from work and I stare at him vacant eyed. My brain tries to rise to him then sloshes back down into a quivering mound.
At the end of each week, my emotional cache is overflowing, and I leak in inappropriate places. When I had a breakdown in the craft store checkout line last weekend, I knew things had gotten out of hand. The strain of wanting this so badly, and working so hard, and seeing how hard my family was working, it almost broke me. And then I remembered Out of Africa.
I decided to shelve the book I was reading for my Andrea Reads America project – the book I’d been working on for four weeks already and was barely managing to read two pages of each day – and, with a knowing in my heart, I trotted down to the basement book cases, my excitement mounting as I rounded the end of the banister, to the shelf that holds our favorite fantasy books.
I pulled Guy Gavrial Kay’s The Summer Tree off the shelf for the first time in years, and just the cover of it made me close my eyes and smile.
It was everything I needed it to be. I fell into the world in the first paragraph, and I turned pages like I haven’t turned pages in months. Most exciting, though, is that unlike my previous book, which was thinky and political and cerebral, this book makes me feel. The emotions that have been building in me through the want of this job find traction in the character’s stories. I laugh, and my throat chokes, and my heart aches, and I cry. I emote.
And I release. By proxy.
*I’m not really learning how to build the internet, but I am writing from a Jell-O brain. Please forgive my exaggeration poetic license.