I Refuse to be a Space-Filler

I haven’t read much of Glennon Doyle Melton. A friend told me about her blog, Momastery, a while back, but I haven’t followed through on my goal of perusing her archived posts. I suppose I have had it on the back burner for a while because the eggs were overcooking, or because the cat left me another offering of small turds on the dining room floor. In his defense, he has no idea the limits pregnancy puts on inhaling his urine, and I suppose he is just mad because his litter box could site us for animal cruelty. He also clearly doesn’t understand that I have a thousand other things to bitch and complain about, and I just haven’t gotten around to yelling about his need for a bulldozer-sized scooping.

What I know about Glennon doesn’t reach much beyond her memoir, Love Warrior, or the Facebook posts she publishes here and there which pop up from time to time in my newsfeed. Out of everything that I know—years of self-torment over body issues stemming from childhood, battling eating disorders, and the misfortune of falling into the arms of the wrong guy—what I took from her book was how determined she was to do finally do something good for herself by getting up at 4:30 every morning to write from a makeshift office she carved out of free-space in her closet.

‘Damn! I need to get it together!’

We have five desks in this house, in addition to two dining room tables and a gigantic picnic-style one capable of hosting a dinner party for six on our screened-in porch. Certainly I can sit down in one of those twenty available chairs for an hour a day to write. ‘What the hell is wrong with me?

As many a writer would say, “Keep your ass in the chair; that’s 90% of this job.” Taking their advice and armed with a WWGD (What Would Glennon Do?) Mentality, I have chosen the desk upstairs in our bedroom to adhere myself to for the next hour. At least the cat seems to be amused. Both of us are trying to hold it together offering company while sequestered in the same room within this big, quiet house in the middle of suburban hell, which brings me to my topic of the day:

Our current town is driving me bananas,


I simply refuse to be a space-filler type of woman.

I have been the Chief Executive Officer of Domestic Affairs (sounds cooler and a hell of a lot more accurate in terms of criticality than simply ‘stay-at-home mom’) for the past thirteen years. And, I get it. Truly. I have it made, right? What the hell do I have to complain about? I have all day to clean the house, shuffle the kids around, take a shower, get ready, and take a yoga class. Meanwhile, Mister J (formally known as the Executive) goes to work all day and brings home a pretty decent paycheck that affords us a nice house in a nice area with all of our needs met. What more could a girl ask for?

The thing is, I knew when we were dating that if I ever married Mister J, I would have to take full responsibility for our life on the home front. It’s how his brain works. In fact, his gigantic head that houses his gigantic brain was one of the reasons I fell in love with him in the first place. He knew every fact about every useless, mundane topic I could bring up. It was amusing.

“I wonder why the UPS trucks are brown,” I had mentioned riding along the William H. Natcher Parkway in his little green truck when we were in college.

Almost anyone else would say, “I don’t know, why can’t they be orange, or purple? That would be cool, perhaps polka-dotted or paisley.”

But Mister J, he gives me a historian explanation of the UPS delivery system.

Water towers…computers…the mechanisms that make a for a good rolling system on a set of dresser drawers…

He knew everything.

Almost everything.

I was so much different from him in nearly every single way. He was, and still is, robotic. In fact, one of the first times we broke up was because he explained his affection for me in terms of chemicals in his brain reacting throughout his body. That was a total deal-breaker for someone who came from a spiritual background. For me, there is an undercurrent beneath what we see directly in front of our faces and beyond what we read in textbooks. There is a deeper purpose and meaning, an entire universe that impacts our emotions and desires, something bigger than us that produces a drive to love, or to hate.

I carried a rosary everywhere I went (I still do to this day). And for me, what made me love could not be delivered in the same fashion one would explain the history of UPS trucks.

For me it just…was love.

An attraction. A beauty. A passion. A pull. Something meaningful was happening and I just knew it was meant to be, or not meant to be.

My head was always ten feet into the clouds. His legs were always buried up to his kneecaps in the sand. But, somehow, over time, we grew to meet each other in the middle. Mister J is a now a practicing Catholic, and I am pretty good at making sure that we take care of the little, necessary things in our personal life that map out in a tangible world exactly what we need to do in order to get by. In other words, yes, he goes to work and works very hard for our family. But I work really, really hard, too, and I do nearly every single thing else when it comes to our personal life, many times including being the one who feels our way through life with three children and one on the way.

I’m so NOT robotic. My language is based on emotion and beauty and love and all of those frilly things that perhaps don’t have a real Forbes type of value of any sort whatsoever, but, I find, it serves a decent purpose for me. It’s my navigation system. I just know when something isn’t right because of how it feels inside of my body. Lately, I’m just off, really…really off, and almost to a point where, if something doesn’t change, I run the risk of having to succumb to the role of nothing more than simply woman who fills space for everyone else’s needs. I can’t think of anything more depressing.

Hindsight is 20/20 as they say, and I had no idea either that when we moved, we would be trading a hundred things we loved about every day life in for a single good thing:  good schools. The trade off isn’t worth it. I might as well drive down the street and exchange $100 bill for $1 from the Rastafarian panhandler who stands on the street corner every day.

For Mister J, it doesn’t impact him much. He still comes home and goes to work. He still travels to different cities where there is more diversity and energy. Here, I feel stuck…suffocated…as though I have put on a scratchy, ill-fitting wool sweater in the middle of the summer that I outgrew in the 5th grade. It’s uncomfortable. It doesn’t feel right. Not to mention, there is nothing close by in order for me to continue to grow as a women in my own right. This statement may bring out the supermoms with their sanctimonious pitchforks, but I’m sick of trading in my own dreams so that everyone around me can realize theirs.

I’m simply not a space-filler. I’m a person. I serve a purpose for my family, but I have purpose within myself that I also need to fulfill. I am good at doing other things. That’s why my goal, when we moved, was to get us closer to Mister J’s office, to put the girls in a Catholic school nearby, and to downsize for a bit…to simplify. But I got talked out of that and we ended up here. I’m not going to lie; I’m really pissed off because we both realize now how much we should have relied on my intuition about where we ended up. The kids are even annoyed not having anything to do but go to school and come home; that’s their whole world; small town living isn’t our thing.

I wanted to become a yoga instructor. I had a great studio with a wonderful collection of women who knew about proper form and posture, not to mention the beautiful presence and mantras they brought into every class. Yoga with them opened my mind. It released years of anxiety and depression that had built up from caring for a family in hyper speed for over a decade, including one child with special learning needs. I was going somewhere within myself, and that helped me to be a better woman in this world, not only for my family, but for myself. It was giving me direction.

If I wanted to, I could adapt to where we are. I could wear this sweater and go to the gym every single day to run my ass off so that it fit. I could drive the forty minutes it takes to get to a good yoga studio. I could get botox and my boobs lifted. I could get stuff tucked and cut off to fit a mold I currently don’t fit into. I could make friends within the uber college-level cliques that seem to roam around the section of the neighborhood we moved into. I call it Snottingham Hill. There is a lady down the street I could make amends with and join her ranks as queen bee of the cul-de-sac. I could stand at the bus stop and fuss about someone’s dog taking a shit in my lawn and then I could post it on the community Facebook page like everyone else does. I could find solace in spending a large amount of time in my minivan driving a town over to buy shit we need and don’t need. I could give up on my love for hiking and taking a walk on a decent, tree-lined greenway. I could forget that I love being able to walk down to a corner coffee shop to talk to the neighbors about their creative endeavors and politics. I could adapt to the things that don’t fit me well, but I’m finding the trade off is a pretty decent-sized dose of writer’s block and lack of inspiration and creativity. I’m not cool with that.

I will never accept a lifestyle over a life. What makes up a life for me isn’t stuff. It isn’t a house and a neighborhood and material things. It isn’t changing who I am to fit in with a subgroup of people who seem to all want the same thing. There is nothing wrong with that, at all. I simply stay out if it and march to my own beat. I have met some really cool people here and there in this town who do the same thing, and I adore them, truly. Still, I need to be in the middle of where things are happening. I’m a writer for goodness sakes! I like seeing different types of people of all different backgrounds and cultures and desires consuming the same spaces. I like talking to them and getting to know their stories. I’m inspired by people and nature, not things. I don’t want to spend my weekends mowing the grass, working in the landscaping so that it’s up to HOA par, and driving my kids to soccer. That’s not for me, and like I told Mister J:

If you need at this point in your life, not a woman who is all of herself, the same person I always have been and will always fight to remain to be, then let’s put out a job description. I know a TON of women who would gladly fill a pair of empty house slippers.

I would rather run barefoot through the grass, sit beneath the trees, walk to the corner cafe, and write about all of the life I experience on a daily basis that doesn’t just involve cleaning other people’s underwear. I don’t mind taking care of this family I love so much with all of my heart, but I need space to do other things. The very last thing I need is to be isolated from every single outlet I had that helped me to fully realize my own potential beyond these walls.

I have a desire to remain whole, and I will accept nothing less.

That doesn’t mean that I can’t still be here to be a mom and a wife, to take care of all the necessary things we need to take care of in this tangible world in order to get by. I’m OK having a husband who works so hard for everything we have. I appreciate it with so much gratitude that it overflows in various, obvious ways every time I have to be a coach, an encourager, and a supporter for Mister J to meet his needs within himself to continue to grow in all the ways he deserves to. I believe in him, wholly. He is a good, good, very good man. Still, nothing in this world is worth giving up the woman you are meant to be in order to allow everyone else around you to consume the time and the space that you need—down to the very last drop—to keep progressing in your own right.

Being a Chief Executive Officer of these particular Domestic Affairs, to me, is much more than picking up cat turds and serving as a taxi cab driver for the little humans I have birthed into the world. I desire more of the things in life that money can’t by. I’m passionate and fiery. I come from a set of pretty outrageous creative genes. This is who I am, and I will never stop fighting for her.

For now, I have my laptop, a blog, three girls to get from place to place, 5th grade math to relearn, and a little boy to get from inside my body into the world. One step at a time in a forward fashion. Eventually, we will end up exactly where we need to be. The universe has a pretty powerful undercurrent to take care of the rest, and God always knows what He is doing. We just have to be brave enough to get through each day doing our best while He puts little clues on our path leading the way. He wants me to take off this damn sweater; I know that is certain.

Your hour is now complete.