Lately, I find myself in a clichéd Hollywood pose late at night while in bed. I’m on my back, my arms are rested behind my head, my eyes are wide and I have a dream sequence playing in my head. It’s the kind of sequence that stressed-out characters like Nancy Botwin from Weeds or Hank Moody from Californication might have. It’s as though there’s a device in my pillow that plays hyperbolic, worse case scenarios and all I can do it watch from outer space. The whole thing is really quite surreal – the day to day, battle after battle, and punch at every corner events – events so big that they more resemble an animated parody than that of actual real life events.
As a single parent, it’s tough. As a single parent that’s a high school teacher with no family within a 1000 mile radius, it’s really tough. Nine times out of ten, I’m caught on a high wire, hovering above a chaotic explosion of things I have to get done. That leaves not nearly enough time to swallow the weight of my stress. Sure, I would love to find time for yoga, hiking, going to the gym and for meditation but where and how do I fit them in? Between grading research papers and stirring the homemade chicken cacciatore?
The culprit keeping me up at night, though, is worry. I worry about the debt I accrued while a student. I borrowed, borrowed some more and then kept borrowing. That’s what everyone did back in the 90’s. If I wanted a substantial education for both personal growth and to further career opportunities, I had to dole out the cash – cash I didn’t have. “Not to worry,” they all said. “Pay it back later. Don’t worry about it now.”
Well, the “now” has arrived and I feel crushed and defeated, as though no amount of dignified hard work will even dent the debt I owe. I look at the numbers, they spin in my head and nausea permeates. It’s a black hole with no hope. As a single, working woman, I can honestly say I am doing what I should be but it’s never enough and it sure feels as though it will never be enough.
Sadly, I’ve even pondered leaving the teaching profession. However, I get up every day with a purpose, with a zest, and with moxie. I make a difference and that’s something no amount of money can make up for. But making a difference doesn’t cover day care expenses, car loans, and the devil dancing in my waking midnight visions – the student loan.
There are a few things though that I strongly feel any woman going through the same situation should have.
1. An emergency playlist of relaxing music. Miles Davis and Nina Simone are essential top music relaxants
2. A secret stash of Lindt chocolate truffles. One truffle can remedy the stress of a toddler meltdown. Two truffles can almost make you forget that there was a meltdown.
3. Get your hair done. A new cut and color will make you feel new again and somewhat refreshed.
4. Java. Without coffee, how do any of us do it?
5. A social network of Facebook friends who empathize with you. Having someone “like” your stress-ridden status can really make your day.
6. Silly times to blast 80’s pop tunes and shake your booty like your life depends on it.
7. Buddies to go out with. If you don’t go out dancing, go to dinner, go to a show or give yourself some release, you’ll go stir crazy.
8. Ask your munchkin for a kiss on the cheek. Munchkin kisses help you to remember why you do what you do.
9. Laugh. Laugh about nothing. Laugh about everything. Just remember to laugh.
10. Keep breathing. Use self talk to remind yourself that you’re doing all you can do.
Like me, you might sill find yourself awake in the middle of the night. But, after all, what’s to be expected of a single working mom who’s running on the fumes of making a difference?