I fell down the stairs yesterday.
Well technically, it’s stair. I fell down the stair yesterday, as in the bottom one. But I feel so much more justified in having a bruise the size of Montana on my tailbone and a slight limp to my walk when I use the plural: stairs. So I do.
It was silly, really, and sad all at the same time. I was coughing to beat the band at around 3am-ish, so I gather myself up out of bed and proceed to head for the kitchen for a spoonful of honey to calm the cough. And really, it’s no wonder that I took a spill thanks to the eternal pile of crap at the bottom landing of my stairs. I can’t be the only person that has this, right? The pile of single socks and toys and books and shirts and the stray Lego that end up downstairs and need to go upstairs, but just sort of end up on the orphan pile on the bottom step? Like anyone’s going to carry this stuff up if I don’t? And yet day after day I gaze at that pile, picking the desultory single piece to carry up, muttering on about how I’m the only one who does any work around here like a nutter. Do I really think my five-year-old will have an attack of conscious and decide she needs to contribute to the greater good of a clean household? No. but wouldn’t that be grand?
Anywho…there I am, shuffling down the stairs in the middle of the night. One minute my feet are under me and the next they are up over my head and I’m laying on the floor and the sound of my crash reverberates in my head like the gong of a bell. And I lay there for a minute, sure that I’ve woken the entire household up…sure that any moment someone will come rushing down to see what the commotion was. And so I bravely bite back the tears and make myself presentable for a minute…two…until I realize that no one’s coming.
You know that feeling that you get sometimes, as a single person, lying in bed, sure that you’re going to be single forever…that somewhere along the line you’ve fucked up to such a magnitude that the best it’s ever going to get is behind you and it’s just all downhill from here on out? That feeling is infinitely stronger and more panic-provoking as you lay on the cold linoleum at the bottom of the stairs, tears leaking uncontrollably from the corners of your eyes and into your ears and the hair snagged at your temples.
I think that feeling is my greatest fear.
And, perhaps, my most unfounded fear, but there it is nonetheless.
I am not good enough.
And there’s not a damn thing I can do about it, so I might as well embrace it.
I may not ever be good enough… so I’ll make my peace with it. I’ll continue to pull myself up off the linoleum floor and wash my own face with a warm washcloth. I’ll pour my own spoonful of honey and brush my own knees off when I fall. There is no white knight waiting in the wings. There is no cavalry coming at 5:01 every evening to hold my hand when I’ve had a bad day and turn the coffee pot on in advance. As a single parent you have to be your own fucking cavalry. You have to save yourself again and again, every day, until it’s second nature. Until you’ve forgotten what it’s like to depend on another person. Until the thought of putting yourself in someone else’s hands makes you uncomfortable and a little sweaty in tight places to even consider it. And, when you accidentally glimpse that quiet sheen of desperation wrapped around a core of steel in the eyes of another person where you work, or at the grocery store, or shining like a beacon out of the corner of a kid’s birthday party to which you’re valiantly making an effort to be social at? You recognize it as kin. You nod silently up once, letting your chin take the lead. Your lips form that half smile of empathy and wry half pity, knowing they too, think themselves not enough.
There are more of us out there than you’d think. If nothing else, I can take courage in that. I am not the only one who feels Not Enough. I am not the only one saving myself again and again, every day.
This is me on vacation. It has nothing to do with the above post. In fact, I include it here by way of saving this post from being a total whine-o-rama. Also, I think we all need a few more palm trees in our lives. You're welcome.