Writing My Way Up
by Nicki Gilbert
It was an unremarkable October morning. Nothing to distinguish it from countless other October mornings, except I don’t think the sun was shining as it usually does in October. Gray, dreary. Unusual for October, but I didn’t much notice or care given that I was in a gray, dreary state myself.
I dragged myself out of bed that miserable morning, shuffled down the stairs, my flip flops barely leaving the ground (I do hate the sound of shuffling flip flops). I dejectedly made breakfasts and school lunches, and sent them out the door and down the street, with an audible sigh of relief. Dragged myself and my flip flops back upstairs.
I found myself, a few hours later, hunched over my phone hurriedly typing a Facebook message to a woman I’d never met and didn’t know. Still in my car with the seatbelt on, I frantically typed these words to this stranger: “…really enjoy your writing… wonder if you’d take a look… not sure… don’t know…”
Feeling very loser-ish and almost despairing, I hit send and unwrapped myself from the cocoon of the car. The fog was starting to lift. Just a teeny bit.
The day could not have been less wonderful. Less great. Less brilliant. It wasn’t even an ordinary, unremarkable day. It was a shitty day. They’d been going on for weeks, those shitty shitty days.
I longed to be somewhere and someone else. Somewhere I didn’t wake up in the morning and have to toast waffles and make cream cheese sandwiches and curse myself for unknowingly using the last square of toilet paper.
Somewhere I didn’t hate the sound of my own voice, pitched high with annoyance as I told them to “hurry up” and “brush your teeth” and “you’re going to be late.” Somewhere I didn’t hate the sound of their voices, as they nonchalantly chatted to each other, ignoring my constant, frantic reminders. Oh how I wished they would leave already!
I longed to be someone other than a mom, a wife, a nag, a caring friend, a woman trapped in this deceptively unfeminist time. Yes, you can have it all, if all is cooking and cleaning and grocery shopping and exercising and Target runs and teacher conferences and doctor appointments and endless carpools and mommying and losing yourself in the mind-numbing minutiae of every single day. A never-ending downward spiral of purposelessness and loss of self. All for you.
It usually takes a painful jolt when you hit the bottom to realize how impossible it is to live this way. And there’s nowhere to go but up once you’re at that dark, stinky bottom.
She wrote back, this woman I didn’t (and still don’t) know. She is a writer I admire and follow online, one who writes with honesty and truth about things I understand: parenting, living away from family, death, love, friendship. She is a writer and editor for a site I enjoy and wildly imagined writing for myself.
It was an unremarkable morning in October, except the sun was not shining as it usually does. And I had hit the very hard bottom.
Nowhere to go but up.
She was mildly encouraging, the anonymous editor, but very rushed and not at all bothered with my personal angst and insecurities, with my trepidations and desperations. She didn’t care that I was struggling to find my way. She didn’t care that I was a stay-at-home mom or that sometimes I didn’t eat for days at a time and always enjoyed one cocktail too many. She didn’t care at all.
And for once, neither did I. I didn’t care that she wasn’t attentive or full of praise and validation. I didn’t care that she didn’t respond to my email, or follow up or check in. The password she sent so that I could log into the site and publish my work was all I needed to breathlessly climb out of that wallowing pool of self-pity, to leap off that ledge of doubt, to write my own soaring way through this new somewhere I found myself.
And just like that, I was no longer a mom, a wife, a friend, a carpool driver, a grocery shopper, an unhappy woman trying to find her way in a dark and twisty labyrinth that has no beginning and definitely no end.
What I became in that moment was who I am today: a writer.
Nicki Gilbert is a writer and country music lover who lives in the Bay Area with her husband, four kids and dachshund puppy. She writes a monthly parenting column for J. the Jewish new weekly of Northern California, and her work has appeared on NYT Well Family, Mamalode, Kveller and The Huffington Post. One of her luckiest moments as a writer was when she found Jena online. Read and follow her blog, Red Boots.
The Roar Sessions, a weekly series featuring original guest posts by women of diverse backgrounds and voices, began in June 2015. Read them all.