tongue tied

I don’t have time to write. I don’t have time to write, or do anything else, because I have small children at home.

No.

I don’t have the attention span to write. I don’t have the energy to write.

I don’t have the emotional stability to write. The mental clarity.

I have time.

Why do I write?

I write because I do. Because I always have. Because I feel better. Because I breathe.

I write because I have overflowing thoughts, and they spill into words on paper.

I don’t know why I write, but I need to. There are many things we do but don’t understand.

So why can’t I write now? Fear of perfection. Fear of writing something I don’t want to read? Something I don’t want to admit is inside my head?

I have time to write. I have time to do anything I want. We all do, right?

I don’t write because there are dishes. Because there is laundry. Because there are doctor’s appointments to schedule. Because there is dinner to cook. Because my journal to keep myself on track of things is already days behind. I don’t write because of the guilt that I should be playing outside too. Because of the guilt that I should be walking the dog. I should be taking the kids to the park. I should be enjoying a movie cuddled with them instead of putting on the tv for them while I escape into my headphones for peace and quiet.

I don’t write because I’ve forgotten how to write for myself.

I don’t write because I can make money. I can be paid for my writing, if I am writing in a certain voice. If I am writing about a certain product. If I am reaching a certain audience. If I am telling you what you need to hear, or what a brand wants you to hear. If I save up all the thoughts for the perfect flow of words that will go viral. I can make money if I do those things, so I don’t write for myself.

Because you don’t want to read this. I don’t want to read this. I don’t want to give life to what’s in my mind. I don’t want to let it be real.

I don’t have time to write. But I do. I don’t write because I am afraid of myself. I am afraid that I will feel something. I am afraid that I will not be good enough. I don’t write because I want to be a good mom, and I feel like I can’t be. Like I don’t enjoy the things I’m supposed to. That normal people don’t need to write out their feelings just to have patience for ten minutes of playing with barbie dolls in the moment.

I don’t write because it’s easier to press pause. It’s easier to step outside of the moment and let the weight of all the things I want to do wash over me, to suffocate me in paralyzing guilt.

I don’t write because I would rather be at the beach. Or hiking through a forest. Or getting a new tattoo. Or I decide to redecorate my house. I don’t write because if it feels like a job, I want to run away. If it feels like a chore, I want to feel alive.

I don’t write because I am distracted. I am distracted by everything. I am distracted by needing a four letter label for my distraction. By trying to hide my distraction, or medicate my distraction. By trying to rationalize why and how my brain chemistry works and put it into explicable little definitions. I am distracted by trying to make sense of what I am, and who I am. I am worried that everyone else can see the mess of wires tangled behind my eyes. I’m overwhelmed by the pressure I place on myself.

I don’t write because I am worried someone will read it. I am worried someone will tell me I am an inspiration, and I will feel like an imposter. I don’t write because my words can hurt. I am afraid that the things I have to say will break someone into pieces. Or show everyone all my broken pieces.

I don’t write because I don’t know what to fucking say. I am afraid everyone will tell me I am excellent and eloquent, and I will look in the mirror and see my flaws. And deny that I do. And try to take the compliments with grace. How do I do it all? ‘Oh, haha, I don’t know, it just comes natural.’

It doesn’t. I don’t do it all. I curl up in my bed and cry. And I feel like a failure. And I let those thoughts consume me and I rush around at the last minute to wipe my tears and put on some lipstick and make sure the kids don’t have dirty nails and polish up the surface of our life and I cover up the crazy for you. Or at least make the crazy look cute and use terms like “hot mess”.

I don’t write because it’s never quiet. Because there is always someone screaming or crying or chewing or needing their diaper changed or barking or something boiling or beeping or asking me questions. I don’t write because I am needed in a million other ways. And when I could write, I can’t just write like this.

I can’t write because who cares what my banana pudding recipe is like. You all have pinterest too. I have no secrets to share. Why am I unique? I don’t write because I don’t feel like I am special.

I don’t write because I am not entitled. I don’t write because I don’t think I am enough. I am not enough to be placed on a pedestal, to have followers. Why me? I am not more important than you because I have a messy head and my chaos happens to look like creativity.

I don’t write because what if someone takes me seriously? What if this ‘little blog of mine’ is not just a phase? What if it’s ok to spend my days taking photos of my life and sharing my diary with hundreds of thousands of people?

I don’t write because I don’t take myself seriously. I don’t write because if I do, I feel vulnerable. And confused why anyone cares what I have to say. What is everyone searching for that they think they will find in the alphabetic vomit that I type into a keyboard?

I don’t write because this is not a safe space. Because my words are powerful, and they can make changes. They can change me, they can cause legal action, they can persuade others, and they can change the world. And that’s scary as fuck. I’m not powerful.

I don’t write because there is no safe space. Someone could always read what I write, no matter where I write it. The only really safe space is inside my head.

I don’t write because I’ve been abused. Because I question everything I do in every moment of the day, because I’ve been taught to walk on eggshells and overanalyze my words and actions. Because I am too busy making sure I look like I have my shit together, convincing everyone I am strong and unaffected by the years of emotional turmoil that’s in the past. Because it’s not in the past – it still spins in my head every waking moment.

I don’t write because I am impulsive. I don’t trust myself to believe the things I say after I say them, enough to feel certain about the results. When I say things, it makes things happen. I move across the country, I make people feel things. I make people fall in love, with things, with places, with me. I affect the lives of everyone around me. I don’t want to be responsible for that sort of thing. What if I change my mind? What if I get bored and unhappy as usual? What if everyone sees that I really have no idea what I’m doing because I say the opposite of something I was so sure of yesterday?

I don’t write because there are rules, you know. Even though this isn’t a real job, in the real world, where people really respect you and what you do as work. There are still rules. Because posts have to be this many words, and they have to have this many well-lit photos with eye-catching text overlays. Because sentences have to end in periods and begin with capital letters and you have to share it all on Twitter with a catchy headline and your Facebook photos have to be certain dimensions and you have to plan an editorial calendar around the holidays and you have to be relatable and you have to share good content on a regular predictable schedule and you have to engage and you have to plan your stories with a purpose and a vision and treat it like a business and you have to do this and that and you have to follow the fucking rules, don’t you know? You can’t break the rules.

I don’t write because I think the rules are fucking dumb. I don’t write because I am afraid that the way I write is not how you’re supposed to. Because the way I write is the way I think and the way I think isn’t normal either. And who cares what I think? I am not an authority.

I’m just kind of a mess. I don’t write because I can’t anymore without admitting that.

So there it is.

a letter to the father who won’t pay child support

 

Dear father who won’t pay child support,

I just want to know one thing. Do you know what you’re doing?

Ask yourself, aside from financial assistance, what else are you doing?

When is the last time you trimmed tiny little fingernails? Do you wake up before the sun rises to make sure your child gets on the school bus? How many hours do you spend each week helping with homework, and are you paid to do it? Are you holding your child’s hand at doctor appointments, and paying the $35 copay? How many meals do you plan, purchase for about $150 a week, prepare, serve to, and clean up after other people on a daily basis? How many nights lately have you been woken up multiple times because of your child’s nightmares? Do you know the name’s of your child’s friends, and how many play dates do you host at your house weekly, going through 3 $5 boxes of snacks in a couple hours? When is the last time you did 5 loads of laundry on a Saturday, paying for the soap and hot water and dryer sheets, and then did another two loads for good measure on Tuesday when a blanket was covered in vomit and crackers? How many days of work have you missed because of your child’s runny nose, and did you get paid time off? Do you know what stuffed animals they can’t sleep without and how they like their apples cut into slices without the skin? How many night lights do you have powered on each and every single night? Do you know how many $39 boxes of diapers and $12 boxes of wipes a toddler goes through in year? When is the last time you bought and baked a birthday cake and wrapped all the presents and paid for all the party supplies?

How many bathtubs full of hot water do you pay for in your house each month? When is the last time you had to remember yet another password to log into a school website and pay for your child’s $1.50 per day school lunch allowances? How many packages of $12 toilet paper do you buy in a month, or tubes of $4 toothpaste, or bottles of $2 hand soap? When is the last time you changed multiple sets of bedsheets at 4am with a screaming, crying child needing you to make them feel better? The last time you bought a $9 bottle of baby tylenol, and sacrificed everything on your to do list including sleep, just to monitor a fever and be prepared for an ER visit and accompanying copay? Do you know what insurance your child has? Do you know the name of their doctor? What about the name of their teacher? Did you send in 22 separate gift bags that cost $20 for the last class party? Do you know what size shoes they wear, and when is the last time you bought them a $20 pair? When is the last time you paid $15 for your child’s haircut? When your child’s last tooth fell out, did you play tooth fairy and have the cash to do so? How many $5 bottles of children’s shampoo have you bought lately, or how about $6 boxes of dish detergent to run the dishwasher nightly? How many career opportunities have you given up or failed at because you put the priorities of your children first? When is the last time you buckled multiple carseat straps before you could run to the store for a couple of things? How many $3 gallons of milk do you buy weekly? Where are you when your child needs to clean their room, or they spill spaghetti sauce all over their third outfit for the day and need to be changed?

Where are you? Are you doing these things, and if given the chance, could you do these things 24/7? Would you be able to do it alone, relying only on the income you could find time to create, and not paying anyone else to raise your kids or taking time off to attend their school events and teacher conferences? Could you do all of this alone? Are you doing any of this?

What are you doing?

Oh, that’s right, you’re working so hard. Never mind the fact that you’re underworking to be able to say you “can’t provide” what you should. You’re working so hard, when you feel like it. And you’ve got needs too. You have an electric bill to pay and you need gas for your car, you’ve got to eat, and you’re trying to save for that vacation because you deserve a damn break. And when you only have so much left after that, why should you send “your” money to “help” the mother of your child? It was her choice to be in this situation, anyway, right? Maybe she should’ve just put up with your abuse, addiction, affair-filled, or just unhappy relationship, she wouldn’t be a single mom now. Maybe in a few weeks or months, if you make a little extra cash, you could decide to be so overly generous and send a couple hundred dollars. Not because you’re legally obligated but because you are such a good guy lavishing your children with all you can spare, and you’re doing all you can, and she should be grateful you even want to help, right?

You’re wrong. 

Do you know what you’re doing? Where are you in the grocery store when someone has to tell your child no, they can’t have the poptarts with cartoon characters on them? Where are you when someone has to tell your 2nd grader they can’t afford to buy a $25 yearbook this year? Why don’t your children deserve new clothes, and trips to the expensive kid’s museums? Why can’t they join the clubs they want to, or attend the summer camps their friends are going to? Do you know how ever present you really are in your child’s life, simply with the gentle daily reminder that they live in a one income household and must make sacrifices? Why can’t your children grow up with a mother who lives a comfortable life? Why can’t they have a mother who doesn’t try her best to hide the anxiety in the house that comes from never knowing when your next payment might be? Why can’t they have a mother who allows herself to splurge on things like mascara and yoga pants that don’t have holes in them, instead of knowing she has to put every penny towards her children? Why don’t your children deserve a vacation on spring break? Where are you when your child breaks a favorite toy and someone has to tell them with a broken heart that they won’t have the money to replace it? Where are you when someone has to snap on the 5th reminder in a night to please turn off the lights, or when someone has to tell your child to wear the same jeans again to save on laundry costs? What are you doing?

You’re defending yourself. You’ve got all the reasons why you are only doing what you can, and why the mother of your child doesn’t really need your help anyway. You’re sleeping well at night, and still carry that feeling that you’ve been treated with injustice. Everyone knows you’re a damn good father. You could raise your kids better than her anyway, right, all alone without help? And heaven forbid she start dating or have a boyfriend, isn’t that his problem who pays his damn water bill then? You didn’t tell her to move in with someone – she should be doing it all alone like you tell everyone you would be able to so perfectly and effortlessly.

I just want you to ask yourself that one question: Do you really know what you are doing when you refuse to send child support? Do you realize just how much you are doing to your child’s quality of life and wellbeing of their mother, just by doing nothing? Do you realize that no matter what happened between you and the woman you once loved enough to have a child with, that you are still responsible for the financial stability of your child and supporting the person who is devoting her entire life to raising your child? Not because you’re being generous, or because you got paid a little extra to spare like you’d toss to a homeless man on the corner, not because a court ordered you to do so, but because it’s your responsibility without expecting praise or over-the-top thank you notes in return. When is the last time you told that woman thank you for everything she does in a day for your child? You are not entitled to a thank you for providing financial assistance required for the basic necessities to raise your child.

Raising children is not a game of narcissism and rewards for good behavior. This shit is exhausting, and they are half your DNA. They are not only yours to claim when you’re showing off how they have your eyes and how you treated them to ice cream one weekend. The rest of the world might take your side, they might reassure you when you fish for attention on social media, that you are doing the best you can. You might have perfected the image of successful, over-worked man with only the best interests of his children in mind. Too bad they don’t know how many months of support you’re behind in, or how your children have become nothing more than an outstanding debt. Their mother’s pleas for help and financial assistance have become nothing more than another creditor blowing up your phone and not worth your time or cost. And just like every other bill you put off until it’s shut off, you’ll continue this route because nobody else knows right? No matter what, they are “your” kids and you have rights too, right? Who cares if you aren’t supporting them?

Dear father who won’t pay child support, I think you know, deep inside, that you’re wrong. If only you could see what you’re really doing.