Teeter Totter Flight or Fodder

Am I the rhubarb or the mushroom man?

Welcome to my current mental and emotional state.

Working full time, writing all the time, parenting permeates all time-

while contemplating selling the house, moving across country and starting our next chapter in a new land.

Couldn’t be a worse time to do any of the above according to the realtor’s findings, or the education classifieds on the west coast.

And yet every morning I wake up wanting to just be in the momentum of the move, and gripped by what if induced trepidation.

The “what is the worse thing that could happen” line of reasoning comes up with some doozies; no job, no place to live, miserable schools for the boys, regret.

But, I tend to fall into that make lemonade from lemons category. I find no use for regret.

This morning my first thought was; “Do I want to wake up at fifty still here?” It was this same kind of self imposed ultimatum that landed me in the adoption agency almost six years ago.

When I want to do something, I do it.

I know this about myself.

If I say let’s go, it will all start to happen.

But this isn’t just about me.

There are three of us now.

Can I uprooti them from all the people that love and breathe them, because

I have this heart-gut-deep knowing sense that I/we somehow belong on the west coast?

I have amazing friends there too, including Sam’s namesake, and many others.

Sam has birth family there too-lots of them.

A belief that all of me would show up in the picture frame if I was in this promised land of sorts is at the center of my unrest here. A belief that for me to be the best mom, educator, friend, community member, writer and poet, I can, that I need to feel like my feet are rooted in warm fertile earth, not snow.

That as much as do I love where we live, my work, and the extended family that has raised them thus far with me, not to mention raising me as a mother myself, that I am still lonely here in a way that I imagine I might not be there. It is an otherness that I feel all the time. Is that a reflection of my internal workings, or where I live?

It is not just a loneliness as a single mother.

(I have only met one other single mother who went about it the way I did in the ten years I’ve been here.)

It is not that I think I’ll fall madly in love the moment I move. But wouldn’t I have a better chance with that too, if I felt that I had more room on the dance floor to show what I really got?

It’s like the little garden we planted last night, in the dark.

Because there wasn’t enough time in the day.

Sam, Marcel and I planted petunias, and other hearty part-shade-will-thrive  little bursts of light in our brick and random rock defined patch of dirt, the length and width of a narrow twin size bed. Sam dug the holes, I picked the plant, Sam pinched the roots, and stuck it in. We both filled the hole back in, and Marcel watered (his shoes, the sidewalk, the kitchen) the flowers transplanted.

It looks so sweet this morning, in the dawn light.

And yet, I want to see our full lives fully in the full light. One part of my garden, a triangle about 1/8th of the plot gets full on sun for more than an hour. All the plants that need sun go there.

I feel like that is how we live too. Like I am constantly rushing to find that 1/8th of sun in the church on Sunday, on the playground near that other family that kind of looks like ours, in an auditorium watching the president, or as I push our cart behind the cart of the mixed family I feel like I have been stalking in the grocery store. Behind them out the check out I want to yell;  “They are happy here, look at the happy food they are buying too.”

Do we stay here and work hard to continue to create the place I want my family to thrive in, basking in the light, the emotional security, the love, the professional stability I know is here in my corner of the garden? Or do I leap, believing as they say that the net will appear and trust my gut-heart that there is a larger plot of sun drenched land out there for us to explore?

All thoughts welcome on the subject. If you are a single parent who has made such a leap, tell me how you did it. If you are a partnered parent that made such a leap, tell me how you did it. If you are just reading along and made it this far, tell me what you think. If you are one of my parents, have faith that I am not leaping, yet.

To be continued…


  1. I want to start with, I love you Catherine. I love your insight, your energy, your depth of understanding.

    Since Lilly was 3yo (7 yrs ago) I have known we need to move, and for a lack of a deep sense of trusting my gut we stayed where we were/are. Well, finally we are moving, to Portland, the place you are leaving. So now I must, No don’t leave!!
    I too follow people around grocery stores, the bike paths, the garden shop–where ever I see a family that will confirm my children’s normalcy, their sense sameness.

    I was in Boston on Friday for a conference with three women (I must classify them for later relevance, white women). I sat in a restaurant in awe as I absorbed the diversity being as vast as the rainbow. At one point, one woman said, “Ellen you look so peaceful. What are you thinking?” My peacefulness was quickly wiped away as I attempted to explain to them my thoughts, which I do not need to explain to you. It was pretty quickly I understood I was not going to penetrate their beliefs on ‘color does not matter’, which by the way is what two of them stated. I have to take a deep breath when I hear this statement because frankly what I want to do is either tell someone how ignorant they are (when I’m not very patient) or ask them to take a moment to read the comparison of White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack and Black Pain: Bearing the Constant Burden (which I try to carry copies of at all times). Unfortunately, I did not have a copy with me but I will give them all a copy when I get back to work on Monday! At this time, I turned within myself to feel the strength from you, Catherine, knowing we do not need to speak a word to each other to understand the depth and complexity of our feelings. I also was aware any conversation with these women regarding race was stretching their beliefs and the mere subject was stretching their common thoughts. Speaking my perspective was enough for me to know I had planted a seed in them that they may someday choose to water.

    With all this said, our guts do know and we must follow our guts. But I surely hope your gut begins to send you messages of staying with the beautiful people here!!! I want us all to make this community what we are seeking. To work on creating the peaceful feeling I was experiencing in Boston right here in Maine, while acknowledging the need to travel outside (Boston, NYC, DC, etc) as supplementation.

    You are a tremendous leader and pioneer. I personally would prefer to walk with you not follow you via our technological opportunities!!

    • Ellen, I’ve read your response several times. Knowing that you are out there, reminds me that there are so many of us doing the work, even if we are not in community together to do it. You are so strong, and courageous in what you are doing. And, if this is where I decide is where we belong, then I will have come to that decision with great thought, and will be more fired up than before to help create an even more dynamic community here for sure. Thank you!

  2. I have no business telling you what to do, I really don’t. But, after years of being a therapist, and some changes in my own life, my biggest advice to people is “trust your gut.” I can feel your gut in this post, but you have decide if you want to go with that. As you said, your gut brought you to the adoption agency – and could it have turned out any better:)? My gut has also brought me to adoption, and so far, I feel good about it. Anyway, good luck…change can be hard, even contemplating change can be hard:). I’ll be reading!

    • Faith, thank you for words. What is the gut really? At church today, the pastor-seemingly out of nowhere tells us how he is going to the west coast, the very area in fact where I am considering above the others, to visit a sister church out there. Then on the way home from church I ask Sammy what he thinks about living somwhere else, and he says; “I’ll go with you as long as Uncle comes.”
      I hope your gut continues to give you the answers you need as well. Thank you again for joining the conversation!

  3. I just read your post on Moms of Hue and now I am reading this one. Why not trust your gut and take the plunge? I agree with Faith… it has worked out for you thus far and as a follower of your blog – it seems like something bigger than you is taking you on an incredible journey. Besides… who says you can’t come back… right?

    • Funny I never looked at the coming back piece in the equation. I’ll add that to my thinking. My brother, the economics of it, and the largess of such a loss of community feel mountainous today. I so appreciate your feedback Tiara.

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