Yes, I said it.
My life would be entirely different if it weren't for my kids. That's no great revelation, really. And it was brought on by a perfect storm of pain and self-loathing yesterday that made me think it.
It all started with something that didn't go well professionally. I'm not talking about the nine-to-five job that pays the bills, but my other profession. The one I love. The one that inspires me. I was in the running for this thing associated with writing, and I wasn't picked as the winner.
I really need to stress here, that if you can't handle rejection, you just shouldn't be a writer. Or at least, you shouldn't try to be a paid one, anyway. I console myself with the thought that JK Rowling got rejected umpteen times, as did many of my other heroes and mentors in the writing community. It happens. It happens all the time. It's even happened to me before. It stings, but you go on.
Except, it was Oscar night. Normally, I look forward to the Oscars with a fervor that puts the biggest, loudest, face-painting football junkie to shame. It's the one night a year when I can proudly remember that I was once one of them. An actor. A theatre major in college and a performer off and on for awhile after.
Now it's just off and hasn't been on in over a decade. Why? Life, I guess. My ex resented my time away for rehearsals (and sat with a bored look on his face through his mandatory one viewing of a performance), and then the kids came along and now I'm a single mom with primary custody and yadda yadda yadda....life.
As I drove the kids to the grocery store yesterday, I was feeling sore over the writing thing and realized it was Oscar night and suddenly, I was sad. I was sad because I realized I'd lost too many dreams, let them slip through my fingers.
And then the perfect storm of irony hit as I turned on the radio and the station played the song we picked to dance to at our wedding, the ex and I.
Now I was someone who'd lost it all. My dreams for myself, my dreams for growing old with someone I loved, my dreams for a life and my dreams for my kids' lives in an intact family.
Thank God I was pulling into the parking lot by then, because I couldn't see through the tears. I managed to take a few deep breaths and dab my eyes before I got out of the car and the kids saw them. And a very hurt, very ugly part of me thought:
If I'd never had the kids, I could have done more theatre. I could have been going to writer's conferences more often and had more time to work on the book and I could have been divorced earlier and maybe found someone new. Someone to grow old with. If I only had myself to think of.
As soon as the ugly thought formed itself, I was a pool of self-loathing. Look at me, Mother of the Year. I can't imagine life without them. I don't want to imagine life without them. How could I think that?
But I did.
And I'm sorry I did. I thought it, but it doesn't mean I'd choose it. Because I never, ever would. Ever.
Just then, my son emerged from the car with his shoes on his hands. Why? I don't know, but he sat laughing on the edge of the seat as I helped him reverse the situation, and as I leaned over him, my daughter caught a close-up glimpse of my face.
"Mom, are you OK?"
"Yeah, honey. I'm OK." I couldn't fool her for a minute. Even my voice sounded clogged with tears. "I'm just really bummed about the writing thing."
She leaned in to rub my back, as I do to her and her brother when they're crying or hurt or sad. As she rubbed, he reached up and wound his arms around my neck, pulling me down for a smacking, wet kiss.
"You'll figure it out," she said. "You're smart and you'll find a way to do what you want."
"Smile, Mom!" Shouted my son, right in my face.
I dried my eyes and realized that they had more faith in me than I did. I was the one who fixed things for them. The great shoe-putter-on-er and person who healed the wounds. Who was I to dash the hopes and unwavering faith of a child? I can fix things. I can fix this.
"You're right. I'll figure it out." And I smiled big and we headed into the grocery store, where Swedish Fish and ice cream were purchased with great glee.
Yes, I could have had a different life without my kids. But it's not one that would have fed my soul this way. I've decided that this writer thing is just another paragraph in the fabulously interesting story of my life. Which may or may not ever be published. That's OK, though. Books have endings - stories don't. Mine will keep going on, I'll keep writing, maybe I'll start acting again, and above all, I'll be fiercely glad that I have these two amazing souls to inspire me through this rollicking rollercoaster ride of a life.