Feeling lost is part of being great. If you are forging your own path then you are often lost. Because you have not seen this route before. I wrote my book because I did not have a road map and I am wanted other people to have a road map to do a career like I did.

I have been thinking about this because I am really lost right now. I’m going to show you something. Here is stuff that’s going well. The farmer is totally hot, and he tries so hard to get along with me, and his singing voice is the kind that allowed him to hook up with any girl after his band played a gig. And he matches my wall:

Another good thing is that he lets me do whatever I want with the house. See? In the background? We definitely needed a hutch in the dining room. It’s exactly what fit with the decor. But I thought if I bought a hutch I’d just start buying stuff to fill it with. So instead, I drew a hutch on the wall. I showed it to the farmer and he said, “I really like the undulating lines. They have confidence.”

I would show you a whole photo of the hutch, but I don’t have a camera. I have never had a camera so it’s absurd that I am adding photos to my blog. I’m dependent on other people to take photos. Luckily, everyone who visits the farm takes photos, including my mom. Who visited just last week.

It was a scary visit. First of all, I don’t really get along with my mom. I used to think it was because my childhood was totally horrible and ended the day the police removed me from my house as my visibly relieved mother looked away. I think now, though, that my mom and I don’t get along because we are so much alike. She probably would not say we are so much alike. But it’s my blog and I get to say what I want, and, (in a good example of how much my mom tries to get along with me, she abides by my wishes to never post a comment on my blog) my mom will never disagree on the blog.

So she took the photo of the farmer. And she took a great photo of my son, being King of the Hay Bale.

And, look, my ex-husband took a great picture of my sons jumping:

So I can’t say that my life is going to hell. But it is, sort of. I am fighting with the farmer every day, and I am having culture shock in a way that is beyond anything I could imagine. Wait. You want an example, right? I am not kidding when I say that everyone in the town knows me. I do not know how this can be true, but every single person I have met has told me that people can identify me from far away as the new person who does not fit in. A lot of times other bloggers will write to me to ask me about how I deal with being famous. Mostly, I tell them that it’s easy to deal with: I hide out in my hotel room at conferences, and I remind myself that I’m lucky to have 100 comments on a blog post even if they all think I’m an idiot. But you know what? There is no famous in a small town. Everyone knows everyone. I don’t even really understand it. Perspective: In a small town everyone is identified by their last name and what their family is known for. But we get mail under the following last names:

The kids’ last name

The farmers’ last name

And my three last names

What does that mean for us? I’m not sure.

I am trying to think of the last time this happened to me. Which is how I got to thinking about my book. Because the last time my life fell apart was when I was at the World Trade Center when it fell. And I couldn’t leave my house so I decided that I was a writer. And I took a humongous pay cut and I worried that I’d never make it and I wrote panicking posts that drained me emotionally but made me money because people identified with them.

Then being basically a stay-at-home mom with two young kids caused another identity crisis. The thing that I did to get myself through that time was writing poetry.

I have never published it. I don’t think I’m a poet. But I get upset that The Pioneer Woman has ten billion visitors and I don’t. And she publishes her poetry. And I don’t need to tell you she is no poetic genius. So I figure that maybe I’d have a more popular blog if I published my sucky poetry. But then I sent it to my ex-step-sister (only a family of insanity has titles like this, but I can use titles like this because, after all, I’m the one who get to tell the family story here) and she is a NYC poetry editor type, and she said the poems were not bad. And my blog editor, who sends me poems he thinks I’ll like but in fact I cannot understand also thinks the poems are okay, and he must know something about poetry if he understands those poems. So here’s the link to my poems.

I think it’s important to publish the poems because this is a blog about finding a life and a career that work together. But really, this is a blog about being lost. Believe me, no one likes to read blog posts about people who are smug about how they have solved all the problems of the world. I mean, look, you either are winning a Nobel Prize or you do not have any answers. So I think it’s safe to say that this blog is about trying to figure out how to do life and work and not really knowing what I’m doing. So it is really essential that I publish the stuff where I was really lost.

The poems are what it looks like to be lost. I was not sure what I should write. I was trying something I was maybe good at but probably not great. And I was hiding.

The only thing that’s different between now and when I had kids is that when I had kids I could flounder in private. There is no private on my blog. There is no private in Darlington, WI. But I’m convinced that the less we hide ourselves when we are lost, the faster we will get unlost. The world provides a mirror for us to see ourselves more clearly, if we give the world a chance to reflect back to us what is there.

Here is another photo. It is me, running through my red dining room. My friend Liza took it when she came to visit the farm because she couldn’t believe I married the farmer. She had to see it for herself. I like this photo because it’s what I feel like right now — a colorful blur in an unsettled space:

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172 replies
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  1. Helen
    Helen says:

    CALM DOWN!! Everybody knows everybody in a small town. TAKE SOME DEEP BREATHS!! You really are doing fine, but just can’t see it. Lastly, (I hate giving advice), pick and choose your battles. Enjoy the Farmer who loves you, the kids who are thriving, and the wonderful new experiences you will be able to write about.

  2. Jess @OpenlyBalanced
    Jess @OpenlyBalanced says:

    Thanks for admitting you are lost. So few people are willing to admit it, which is ironic because I actually think most of us feel lost much of the time. And there is nothing wrong with being lost. If we weren’t lost, if we knew everything all the time, if life was totally comfortable, we’d be doing something wrong. Life is supposed to be a learning experience and an adventure, otherwise known as being lost.

    – Lost and loving it in Olympia, WA :)

  3. Marte
    Marte says:

    As food for thought. I used to follow you a lot more, I used to in fact check your site every day or every other day because it was nice to have a quick break from work and to have something to think about besides work for a moment. I no longer do this because well…you don’t blog anymore. Ok. So you do blog, but not enough for anyone without an RSS to check if you have posted recently. Pioneer Woman on the other hand does. So, while her content might seem more boring, she frequently has new context.
    While it might seem like I am harping on you, I do enjoy your take on work. I started reading your blog because I borrowed someone’s advanced reading copy of your book and loved it. Please go back to writing like that.

  4. Leslie
    Leslie says:

    I bet your son who is jumping from hay bail to hay bail isn’t thinking about whether he has an answer to anything. He is present in the moment of jumping and the picture shows it. How cool!

    I think it’s great that we have so many people learning to make their living in interesting jobs that didn’t even exist 12 years ago. They are in their own jumping moment–not sure where they will land but willing to forge ahead anyway. If you believe that you are either wining a nobel prize or you don’t have any answers you are setting yourself up for disappointment. A writer might have the answers for themselves and their family even if ten thousand people don’t read their blog. How many readers do you need to be happy anyway?

  5. Laura
    Laura says:

    I just read, “look me in the eye: my life with asperger’s” by John Elder Robison, and it reminded me so much of you. He had periods of feeling lost, too, but his life eventually stabilized. I hope that happens for you too. As an aside, I lived in the Fox Valley for 20 years. Wisconsin has a harsh climate and harsh people, hang in there. In my experience, the ones with the thickest shells ended up being the ones with the most loving hearts.

  6. neko
    neko says:

    I’ve felt lost MY WHOLE DAMN LIFE.

    But: isnt that exactly what Life’s supposed to be ? Trying to make sense of it all while meandering our way through The Great Game of Life ?

    Because, if it’s NOT, then I’m totally SOL ….

  7. Irving Podolsky
    Irving Podolsky says:

    Hi again Penelope,

    I wish I had some magic words that would make everything in your life turn to the happy color of your walls. But I just don’t know enough information to accurately access your situation. Then again, you didn’t ask for advice. I suspect though, you will ride out this storm as you have all others, and come out of it a stronger and wiser soul.

    I will now click to your poetry.


  8. Tigressreow
    Tigressreow says:

    I admit I didn’t read everyone else’s comments before I write my own, I want to speak from my heart and not be swayed by other’s thoughts. THEN I’ll go back and read everyon’e comments…just me-sorry.

    The Farmer chose you and your sons to love and share his life, THAT IS SPECIAL! Marriage is an adjustment in itself, add the dynamics and people involved with children, new roles/responsibilities etc. Adjustments are going on for everyone and in soooo many ways. Have you thought that you NEED to be lost right now so you can settle into your new life and be present for your children’s adjustment AND The Farmer’s? Are the fights you’re having with YOUR HUSBAND are so he can validate his love for you and great make up nuggies? What the hell are you afraid of Penelope? HE LOVES YOU uniqueness and all… THAT in our Vice-President’s words “a BIG fucking deal”!

    You are creative, smart, loving, innovative, a risk taker, and and adventurer…so figure out how to be the lovable, secure, seeker who will enjoy her life to the fullest. You have MORE than you know surrounding you and at your fingertips. Acknowledge… enjoy and pen a roadmap so we each can figure out how to live in gratitude for the opportunities and blessings we each have an overlook. I’m working on it too :)

  9. Elizabeth Harper
    Elizabeth Harper says:

    I don’t read Pioneer Woman or even look at her pictures anymore and although I may have mentioned her a few times … mostly when I’ve cooked some of her sweet treats. I’m a sucker for a sweet roll.

    I deleted her from my google reader a long time ago. She’s nice enough, but I get a bit bored by her world.

    You, you’re still in there. I don’t care if you publish once a day, once a week, or once a month, I’ll still read you. I only pay attention to PW on Facebook now and only if she mentions a recipe I might want to try.

    I haven’t read your poems yet, but I will have a look. I’m not sure how one can live without a camera close at hand. I’d be very interested to see how you might see the world through a image capture of your own.

  10. bzzzzz
    bzzzzz says:

    So… we know how you coped with the kids and WTC, but what are you doing now to cope? I worry because this is the sort of “lost feeling” that would put me in tailspin and have me reverting back to bulimia, or cheating on my boyfriend; but that’s just me.

  11. justamouse
    justamouse says:

    I totally know that spinning wheels feeling. But now I see it as the takeoff point. The time of catalyst, and I can either grow from it or drown in it.

    Early in my marriage it was a time of finding my own space with our relationship. I somehow lost myself in the new identity of US and climbing my way out of the rosebush was a bitch.

    When I spin, now I take all of that friction and energy dump it into something creative. Something new, something that stretches what’s already there.

    It’s a journey and you walk it one step at a time.

  12. Jessi
    Jessi says:

    Hi Penelope, I wanted to let you know that I think your right… my first impulse when I’m lost or scared is to hide away, but that changed when I was Diagnosed with AML. I had no where to hide and I needed people…and the more people I talked to the better and less scared and alone I felt!! Just thought you’d like to know :)

    Ps. Your not the only one with a “differant” family, I have a ex-step brother and a ex-step sister, along with my daddy who is my Ex-step dad. I also have a bioligical father and step mom with a half brother and sister, PLUS my “mother” had another daughter with another man… but funny enough, even though she is my half sister, I feel closer to her than almost anyone else!

  13. Yuan
    Yuan says:

    I use to subscriber to Pioneer Woman Cooks, but I had to cut her out of my Google Reader eventually because there were just too many posts of endless, meaningless stuff I didn’t care about. All I wanted were some good recipes with pictures attached, but instead I got picturesque imagery of not only her children and random nature, but other people’s photos submitted through her blog, and the worst of all, they were pointless. So now the only cooking blog I subscribe to is Smitten Kitchen.

    But I think certain people like your blog because you are on point and you have a message. Whereas Pioneer Woman Cooks feels like a flirty blond making a splash of fun – there is no statement, no intention. I guess the world likes that.

    • Patty N.
      Patty N. says:

      You probably subscribed to the full rss feed of her website which was why you got the posts from all the sections on her site. If you had subscribed only to the cooking section, you would have gotten just the recipes.

  14. A
    A says:

    Interesting post (and, as usual, very info-dense).

    My favorite part? Finding out I’m not alone in thinking The Pioneer Woman blog somewhat annoying. Yeah, I crave her subscribers, too, but I also crave Oprah’s money & power. If wishes were horses and all that, but I’m not going to turn PW (or Oprah, for that matter) just to get clicks. Keep on writing what you write, and I hope you find your path soon – the “lost feeling” can be so discouraging, sometimes.

    (PS: The first year, they say, is always the hardest. It was the 2nd year for us (he was gone for much of the first year, we only saw each other on weekends), but the principle is the same: you’re both getting used to an entirely new life. One that includes a whole new set of people in your space, and sometimes your face.)

  15. Kathy
    Kathy says:

    Hello Penelope,
    Regarding your fighting with your husband, the farmer:
    You’re like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz: you’ve had the way home at your own feet all along, except in your case, it isn’t a pair of ruby slippers.
    It’s kindness.
    You already know this. You write about it all the time. Just be kind. And he’ll be kind back. And then you’ll be kind because he was kind, and then the ruby slippers will kick in, and all of a sudden, you aren’t lost any more.
    Trust us.
    Love, rickandkathy

  16. KD
    KD says:

    I love that you drew a hutch instead of buying one and buying stuff to put in it! I’ve previously been inspired by some of your “you don’t need so much stuff” posts, and I’m currently gazing around my apartment and wondering what I could get rid of and just draw instead.

  17. Nowgirl
    Nowgirl says:

    That is a great dress you are wearing.

    Also, did you draw that hutch freehand???

    Lately I have been surfing wall decals of king sized bedframes on etsy. I don’t have the guts to draw my own.

    You might want to try sucking up to Darlington a little on the blog, especially if you’ll be sending the boys to school there. Tell Darlington something honest, insightful, important about itself that you notice, maybe? Give the new home a little love. A small town is a lot like an office.
    You sound good.

  18. Cherri Porter
    Cherri Porter says:

    I was born and raised in Dubuque, across the river, and then moved to California as an adult. I experienced a different kind of culture shift and loss coming this way. When I’m back there it’s all too easy to get flummoxed at the grocery store, participate in conversations I can’t get the basic thread of and have a life-threatening emotional breakdowns in the Walmart parking lot.

    I like Wisconsin. Although Darlington isn’t where I’d choose to settle in a perfect world, the area has its charms. Do mingle with the locals, but also explore what else the area and–and this will sound snobby but oh well–the more enlightened of its residents have to offer. I’ve got lovely friends in the area who know many other lovely people doing interesting and worldly things in small towns like Plattville. There are the UW campuses and other small colleges about which might offer some needed intellectual respite. And, Madison is one of the best cities in the world, as far as I’m concerned, with great restaurants, shopping, art and music. There is some great history there. And Frank Lloyd Wright. Take in some sights.

  19. Susie @newdaynewlesson
    Susie @newdaynewlesson says:

    I think by writing these kinds of posts you are doing a great service to all the people out there who only have few comments on their blogs or who haven’t run a successful business.

    I remember a few months back having an email exchange by an author of a book that had completely changed my outlook on life. You can imagine how shocked I was when I found out through our email exchange that he was a normal person who had his own troubles and self doubts.

    You know what? It made me stronger to know that even great people are not perfect and flounder and have hard times. Not that I wish that on anyone and I wish we could all be happy and content.

    I got lucky because my husband had decided not to go to a conference at the world trade center on 9/11. A conference no one made it our of. It must have been a terrifying experience for you.

    I don’t know if this will help but it is something I wrote a little while back when I was also going through moments like yours.

    http://www.newdaynewlesson.com/?p=3872 -It’s a post with a poem in it as well and it’s called, your starting point is now.

    Hang in there. And remember my favorite Jack Canfield remark. “if you are complaining about something, that means it can be changed.”

    Sorry this was so long.

  20. P. Jennings
    P. Jennings says:

    Penelope, When people have been under a lot of stress, or have been under chronic unremitting stress, their bodies become depleted of what it takes to break down adrenaline.

    That means every time some little thing makes them angry, or startled, or anxious – boom, the adrenaline jumps up. The right chemistry to break it down isn’t there. Result = screaming fights, and inability to not do that. (Sound familiar?)

    This chemistry is simple. And simple to fix. It only takes 2 things. Cheap, easy, legal, no prescription. But you don’t seem like a chemistry person, at all. That makes it not simple, probably.

    If you will send me a note, we can see if it will be possible for me to explain it to you.

  21. amy parmenter
    amy parmenter says:

    Penelope! I love this post because it is exactly where I am right now. i started to write a post for my blog: If you don’t know where you’re going, are you lost?…but took a break to do some reading and came across your post! The thing is…I don’t know EXACTLY where I’m going…but I don’t feel lost at all. Or maybe I’m just comfortable being lost. I probably liked to play hide and seek as a kid…and didn’t care if nobody found me! :0)

    Thx as always.


  22. Margaret Goerig
    Margaret Goerig says:

    You can’t be found till you’re lost.
    Your small-town situation reminds me of moving to a tiny island in Mexico. Same thing: everyone knew who I was and I knew almost no one. I hated it so much for about a year and I remember a few months in, writing to my sister and moaning about the neighbors and how they basically terrified me, and she said, “Just make them some of your famous beet chips and take them over to them.” Well, I never did and I know I should have, because it was much, much later–like, more than a year, when I finally just started saying Hi. And they said Hi back. And I wished I had not waited so long to do that but I let my own fear stop me. So, I don’t know if it’s that same fear that you are experiencing now but if it is, I just wanted you to know that it helped me when I finally met it head on.
    But I also find that if I am feeling blue, sometimes I just want to wallow in it and for that, I turn to music. I just discovered Ray LaMontagne on the Edward Sharpe radio station on Pandora and well, you might like it.
    At any rate, I agree with everyone else that your poems are lovely. You remind me so, so much of one of my best friends, who’s a single mom with twins. You guys are both total heroes.

  23. Michael Alexander
    Michael Alexander says:

    There are 2 Hispanic churches in Darlington, at least a third of Darlington is Hispanic. So I don’t get it that all of lil ole Darlington has you on their radar.Some people do and they gossip. Big deal. Anybody anywhere has a interest in everything.

  24. Dale
    Dale says:

    You are right about not hiding during the lost moments. I am currently lost: Mom’s dying, I’m doing really badly financially, and my daughter is heading off to college next week. The more I keep to myself, the worse I feel… the more I talk to my wife and sometimes others, the more bearable it all is… Others remind us that this too shall pass, and that life has other facets to it. Talk and truely listen to your man, your mother, and your close friend/s.
    No need to end it all:)
    Your poetry puts things into perspective for you (and us) but not the traditional perspective. I like that you are open enough to do it, but don’t think that you should read it yourself to know what is going on inside you!
    Don’t even think about the pioneer woman. She is a different animal, trapped in her own reality and forced to maintain it – you are not and have never been. Enjoy the ride.


  25. ann
    ann says:

    I did what you’re doing fifteen years ago. I married a small-town guy and moved myself and my 7-year-old son from Madison, a city-ish city, to that small town and thus burned my bridges.

    I told myself that by dragging my son into it, I was stuck with it and couldn’t go back. And I couldn’t, really, for practical reasons (I’d married one of the bosses where I worked, so if I bailed on the marriage, I also would have been unemployed. With a seven-year-old.)

    Anyhow, by marrying I completely disappeared! That’s exactly how it felt. Like people couldn’t even hear me when I talked for a long time. It was awful.

    I didn’t like small town life either for a long time. It’s tough to fit in to a place where people socialize mostly with family and with their friends from high school.

    But being a mom pulled it together. My son was involved with theater and music stuff all through school, and I made friends with the parents.

    Also, I let go of being a hip hipster, and of needing to surround myself with LATFH types.

    And I started school myself and a new career, and took it seriously. So my family life wasn’t everything, I had something else.

    And now I’m ok out here. But I can’t say I’d do it again the same way.

  26. barbi
    barbi says:

    Last night I saw Eat Pray Love. All about a woman who is lost. Right?
    I hated it. And I wondered. Why? Why do 300 million people love this story in 48 languages, buy it, get inspired by it, and I hate it. I wanted to leave. I wanted to scream over everybody’s head, this is BULL SHIT (sorry, but a farming term also right?). Anyway. I think I figured it out. Even more so now that I read your blog post. The story lacks authenticity. Its the cliche of a woman lost, but in fact she doesn’t appear lost at all. She tells us but she doesn’t show us. She shows us a gorgeous home, handsome husband, intellectual parties, NYC at its brownstone best, cutest actor rebound boyfriend, rambling apartment in Rome, all the prosciutto, basel and Chianti she can consume, fabulous funny friends who adore her, then onto the super cleaned-up version of India where she befriends the “I don’t want have an arranged marriage” cliche indian girl, including the predictable but photogenic wedding ceremony. Then onto Bali (How awful, are we suffering yet? I am, only because by now I’m so hungry because of all the Italian food earlier) anyway. While bicycling through a gorgeous landscape she gets run over by Javier Badeem. JAVIER BADEEM! Now who here doesn’t want to get run over by Javier Badeem? And she’s even pissed off about that! The end scene is straight from the Bachelorette, poor Julia Roberts at the end of the jetty waiting for her knight in shining armor, fade out to “and they lived happily ever after.”

    Sorry Penelope, I’m taking up too much space. But. What I want to say is that you ARE authentic. You are neurotic, and don’t take this the wrong way, most of us are neurotic, but you are honest about it. You want to show us that every day life, even on an idyllic farm with a handsome farmer who plays the guitar is not “the happily ever after” that we are STILL being promised. Still dream about.
    And we, your readers, all want you to be happy (ever after). We want it to work out. all want to somehow be able to say something in these comments that will make it better for you.

    I do. And I blog too. Not dissimilar to yours. I moved too, the entire family to the beach, and found out that life, and feeling lost, catches up at some point.

    According to Webster’s “Lost” means:
    1 : not made use of, won, or claimed
    2 a : no longer possessed b : no longer known
    3 : ruined or destroyed physically or morally : desperate
    4 a : taken away or beyond reach or attainment : denied
    5 a : unable to find the way b : no longer visible c : lacking assurance or self-confidence : helpless
    6 : rapt, absorbed
    7 : not appreciated or understood
    8 : obscured or overlooked during a process or activity
    9 : hopelessly unattainable : futile

    I think writing, poetry, blogging and specially Comments address much of the above. Happiness is maybe just a sense of being seen, heard, connected and feeling like a meaningful human being, in context to other human beings. And in that sense you may well be on your way to being “un-lost”….

  27. doug
    doug says:

    Theres’s a difference between being “lost” and “wandering” much like there’s a difference between “shame” and “guilt.”

    When I feel the world gets me down, I start to feel lost and tend to isolate myself. Luckily, I have a great (if small) group of friends who remind me that I’m a wanderer.

    There are simple truths in wandering. What feeds you, what helps you feed others, but more importantly …what won’t support you. You move from interest to interest, sometimes getting stuck, mired,and wallowing; but acquiring and developing skills to navigate the way.

    We didn’t have much growing up on our farm, it wasn’t easy. Money was always tight, but I never felt poor or lacking until I got to college and was told that because I didn’t have something, I was less. Then, a spouse who said the same, a lawsuit and a bought with cancer.

    Things ebb and flow, there are times of want and times of plenty. Perserverance and faith.

    Best wishes. Let’r buck.

  28. Becca
    Becca says:

    Our first year of marriage included a lot of fights, too. I think it’s just part of settling in and learning to communicate our needs, even though it was rough to go through at the time. And we had been together for YEARS before we got married, so I think we may have had it easier than some others because we already knew each other well. The second year of marriage (we’re now into the third year) was MUCH easier. We’ve loved each other the whole time–but what a difference to our happiness it makes to be able to ENJOY that love without constant clashes.

    Keep trucking and take the opportunity to forgive and move on when it’s presented. Each conflict that you work through together will build your bond, and your faith in each other will grow as you both practice putting the other’s needs before your own. Take heart, and tell the Farmer not to be a weenie, either.

  29. Patti Murphy
    Patti Murphy says:

    I like how Lien advised you to “lean into the pain”. Is that a homonym?

    I agree.

    I love this part of your post: “the less we hide ourselves when we are lost, the faster we will get unlost.”

    A frightening prospect indeed when it seems that in society/work the people who get the furthest are those who can fake the most.

    I’ve admired your writing for years. There are many of us who are lost right along with you. It’s courageous (and sometimes it seems a little nuts) to open your heart to the world Peace be with you.

  30. Brandon Yanofsky
    Brandon Yanofsky says:

    It’s hard for me to get my thoughts down on this one, but here it goes.

    Using your metaphor, you are the one blazing the path for us, your followers. You may be lost, but you are our guiding light. Our leader.

    I think every great leader has to feel lost once in a while. It’s ok to feel lost. Feeling lost tells you that you are on the right path, because it is your path, the path that you chose.

    Some days, I start my own path. I lose sight of those guiding me and think “Crap, I’m guiding myself.”

    But let’s stop for a second and look back. All those people behind us, none of them are lost because of us.

  31. amy
    amy says:

    “If there is one thing I have learned about life lately, it's that nothing is more important than togetherness. No matter what we achieve and how productive we are or the knowledge we assemble and how wise can become; nothing in our lives is as valuable as when we stop to share the moment with the people we hold in our hearts.”

  32. Gretchen Seefried
    Gretchen Seefried says:

    I don’t think you’re lost. I think you’re bravely honest about the gut-wrenching emotions that can be triggered by things as simple as a tone of voice, a photograph, or a visitor. You are no more lost than most people…you just have a courage that is rare.

    When I read your account of September 11th, I cried like I did that day staring at the tv and at you and everyone covered in white dust. It is so good that you wrote it down then. Remembering memories later is not the same.

    The poems about your boys and your life as a mom ring so true it’s eerie. Yesterday I went digging through the photo albums to find a photo of my Dad’s old car and one of my kids when they were tiny… Looking at the album for just those few moments gave me such a surreal feeling. How can those little children be the same people that I just paid college tuitions for? Photographs are sneaky though, they rarely capture the reality. Watching the old videos though is very good for that.

    Thanks for sharing your life with us. It really is a gift.

  33. Mark
    Mark says:

    Not that anyone will read this far down, but I can’t let pass an opportunity to recommend Joseph Campbell…again. As he says – “faith in Scripture waned at the climax of the Middle Ages, so at the climax of the Enlightenment, did faith in reason, and today we have only to read T. S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” for a measure.” In our time society itself is lost and on the adventure. No sense beating ourselves up about it. It really is bigger than us. We just need to know the time we live in and reconcile ourselves to it. I have noticed for myself that when I get out in the world, it really does change my perspective and what I think I know; hiding can warp your perspective. BUT, hiding can also be the right thing to be doing at the time. Whatever. If what people need is someone with the brainpower and knowledge to be able to understand and communicate the situation that we are all in – €“ that guy has already come and gone, and his name was Joseph Campbell. (don't let the new-age kooks turn you off, they like him, but he wasn't one of them, he was a real academic)

  34. Vinaigrette Girl
    Vinaigrette Girl says:

    Some of the fighting with the farmer may be about him and you, and some of it about you and you, or about him and him. It isn’t the end of the world of being married, though, because you and he are working things out. You have time on your side. The most lasting legacy you can leave will be the love you and he demonstrate and model for your kids.

    As for the rest of the town, stuff ’em, it will be ok. You can always say “might be” to the people who say “Are you the ….?”; or say, “I was then but I’m not now”, or “I’ve put that on hold” or “hey! Really? I never even thought of that!”.

    A lot of us are flying on instruments in the fog and cloud, reading altimeters and compasses, listening out for radio beacons, signalling our call signs into the ether, hearing other pilots and other towers calling back, not knowing which A-shaped trio of runways we’re headed for. It’s fine. We will land safely and take to flight more than once in our lives.

  35. Tiffany Stephens
    Tiffany Stephens says:

    Thank you so much for reminding me that it’s OK to be lost sometimes. The confusion and constant contemplation can be maddening, and I’m glad people like you shed light on these phases of life. I’m forever grateful :)

  36. MJ
    MJ says:

    I don’t always agree with you, but shit, my life at work and home is about being lost (square peg) so I totally respect that your life and blog right now is about being lost.

    I’d rather read about an honest journey into lost-ness any time than the “I AM TRYING TO HARD TO MAINTAIN CONTROL” posts of someone like Gretchen Rubin (and yes, I know that people love her, but her posts make me feel like someone suctioned all of the oxygen out of the Universe).

    F- it all, we’re all lost and just trying to get through life. In the words of Kurt Vonnegut “Babies, goddam it, you’ve got to be kind.”

    I hope that you find your way, and I do too, and all of the rest do as well. Good luck to all of us because this stuff isn’t easy and obvious all the time.

  37. MJ
    MJ says:

    Shit, in fact I’m SO lost that I’m contemplating reading Jungian analysts on dealing with the middle passage/middle age. Now THAT is saying something. God help me.

  38. John Tracey
    John Tracey says:

    What are you guys fighting about so much? Did you fight before the wedding day as much? Are you both being equally stubborn? Is one person being inflexible? Etc.? I don’t think it’s “normal” to be fighting so much so soon; but it’s probably not a surprise if it was happening before. Get a handle on it before too much time goes by; trust me, fighting is additive, to borrow and awful, awful word from the business jargon-ers …

    • Natasha Fondren
      Natasha Fondren says:

      Are you kidding? First-year-hell is a cliche for a reason. Merging two lives together is tough. There’s probably no time you’ll ever fight more in your marriage, aside from various disasters, than the first year.

      • Chicago Rose
        Chicago Rose says:

        The only time a couple fights more than during the first year of marriage is during home renovation.

      • John Tracey
        John Tracey says:

        Well I guess I’ll count my blessings since we’re in month ten and not fighting at all! :) I wasn’t criticizing anyone, just wondering what Penelope and her husband are fighting about; I wouldn’t ask at all, of course, if she wasn’t making this all so public. But I have been in a relationship whose distinguishing characteristic was fighting and I know that it got worse, not better, every month that it continued. It seems a pretty obvious point now that I’m typing it …

    • chris Keller
      chris Keller says:

      There are fates (for a marriage) worse than fighting. One of them is stuffing it, stonewalling, passive-aggressive behavior. Etc.

      My ex-husband and I did NOT fight openly till the very end. As a result, we had not worked out how to fight fair. Huge undermining factor in our marriage.

      Fighting points to the need for compromise. Learning the skill of compromising after you’ve been making all decisions solo for a while (and/or if you have leadership inclinations) is not for sissies. It is hard, piled-high difficult, with tears on the side.

      Learn to fight fair. Keep fighting for what you want/need. Learn to be reasonable in compromising. There should always be a Plan B and a Plan C, as well.
      Maybe this is your lesson right now, P.

  39. Liza
    Liza says:

    While I can understand not wanting to buy a hutch because then you would have to fill it, I don’t understand drawing one on the wall.

    There are small tables that you don’t need to fill that will work just fine.

    You’re going crazy. Get back to work, or completely become a hippy-you can’t stay in both worlds.


  40. barbi
    barbi says:

    Oh Liza,
    Hippy? Crazy?
    KNOW YOUR FAUX – I come to the defense of the hutch here…. Penelope could even paint the little objects that she does not want to buy on the trompe l’oeil hutch, she could paint a window that looks out on her past, across from one that looks to the future, she could paint the floor on the ceiling and ceiling on the floor, and all power to her! Here some examples I could find (the quick Google, I’m sure there are better) of trompe l’oeil – http://www.trompe-l-oeil-art.com/trompe.html

  41. Jean
    Jean says:

    This is your best blog in months. Perhaps it is because you write best when you’re lost, or perhaps it is because you are finally being honest about being lost after many months.

    Also, you need a better editor. I’ve added my edits in brackets: “I’m the one who get(s) to tell the family story here.”

    I like the addition of the photos to your blog and when you focus on the intersection of your family and work lives.

  42. Annie@stronghealthyfit
    Annie@stronghealthyfit says:

    I loved this post. I can relate, even though I am completely different from you. I am just out of college, married, no kids, looking desperately for a “real” job, supporting my husband since he lost his job recently and is in grad school, and feeling like I can’t handle any of it. But I do, and I know there are ups and downs and this is just probably a “down” time. You are inspiring as someone who has built a career for herself, so thanks.

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