How to Lie to Yourself and Others

Sometimes when I say yes, I’m lying.

1. What I want to say to my children’s school is:
“No, I don’t want to help with the five-year strategic plan task force but I feel obligated because I don’t work and because I want to be an involved parent so it reflects well on my kids.”

2. What I want to say to the old friend I run into in the Costco cereal aisle is, “No, we shouldn’t get together. I’m glad to catch up and that no harm has come to you and I’m a teensy bit surprised you’re still with the man you always called a bastard at playgroup and I will write down your email on a dry cleaning receipt but I will never contact you because I never really liked you that much.”

I never say this.

And here are some more things. Not lies, but living them feels like lies. Because it turns out:

1. I am not all that maternal.

I thought having children made you maternal. That the hormones would wash over me, coat me in endless sacrifice. Can’t you picture it? Like Ma making jonnycakes and fighting the blackbirds off the corn, Mary Bailey tending to sick Zuzu, Sally Field and Forrest. I realize these people are fictional. But I know real moms like this too. Okay, two. One. But I do know one who has a perpetually full and giving heart and I don’t think it’s just curated for Facebook. I do not have this. I don’t. I get tired. My lap gets crowded. I have limits. The hormones did nothing to bump this up.

2. I feel a teeny bit gypped.

Was this a trade? Because sometimes I don’t see what I got. I know what I’ve lost. I want my legs back, without the bumpy varicose veins. I want my brain cells, I want to finish crosswords again. Even the Saturday ones that are hard. I’d settle for Thursday. I want my work clothes. I want things you have to dry clean and the time to drive to the dry cleaners. I want my breasts back. I really, really, really miss them. These wet balloons resting on my ribcage? I don’t know you.

I want my edge back. My snarl. I used to go months without caring about people. Motherhood ruins you for edge. It robs your indifference. You have to walk around, your heart open and exposed. Do you know the exhaustion of giving a crap about people? It’s unbearable. And what did I trade for this? Fear and anxiety, exhaustion, impaired thinking, humility and vulnerability, empathy and real feeling, love without end. The chance to feel the real deal. The really real deal. I have never been so tired in my life.

And I would never go back.


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