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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  1. Kristina O
    Kristina O says:

    I’ve been dying to see poetry from you. Can’t wait to check them out. I went to look for your novella. I love that thing so much, I need to bookmark it. But then I saw the word poems in your latest post and I FTFO. Anyway, I love you. Hope you find your way.


  2. Amanda Burdge
    Amanda Burdge says:

    Completely relatable. I grew up in a small town. 3000 pop. to be exact. My graduating class {cough} was 22. My best friend moved in with us because her mom was a crack head. My mom, bitter about divorce and the idea of it, refused to marry her boyfriend. I still had my daddy’s last name. So all four of us under one roof, bearing different names. And the WHOLE town knew about our “situation”.

    Nevertheless, we all turned out ok, and mom finally married her boyfriend, and he has been my step dad for nearly 20 years now.

    But I can also relate about feeling lost. I have been in a fog for two years trying to find my way. Maybe it’s the economy, maybe I don’t like what I do, maybe I just hate people all together…who knows! But the important thing to remember is that it will all work out, and don’t forget to breathe! haha

  3. Katey
    Katey says:

    I totally identify with you Penelope!

    Just on Monday gone I decided to do Nothing…to restore myself and figure out the path forward. By doing Nothing (I mean that literally – I did not clean or cook, just read a fiction book) I felt a lot more refreshed.

    I think we all get scared and lost and either stop altogether – go the wrong way. Your post was inspirational thank you!

  4. Sherry
    Sherry says:

    I wanted to come out of lurking for once to just say how brave and inspiring you are. You have so much going on, and you always work through it. I definitely think you are experiencing culture shock. It’s hard. When I go back to my small hometown, I dread the inevitable run-ins. I don’t have any ground-breaking advice to give you there – I usually try to go to the stores at off-peak times if I go anywhere other than my parents’. I do appreciate my upbringing, though, because I think I formed some strong bonds with my peers. In a small town, you’re a person, not just anonymous, which is scary and also liberating. You don’t have to put on a mask. I’m not in a farming community now, but you may want to check out one of my favorite bloggers: Sharon Astyk, a Jewish farmer in upstate New York, for her perspective: http://sharonastyk.com/

  5. Irene Gutteridge
    Irene Gutteridge says:

    Hi Penelope

    Two gifts for YOU:

    Try watching the pieces from my blog: .

    one is innocent

    one is “The land of confusion”


    Hard to say what order is best to read and watch. I’d go with the first one first….

    and, also, I work with trauma related stuff, in remembering your post about your 9/11 experience, if you haven’t tried out Peter Levine’s work called Somatic Experiencing, I’d highly recommend it, might be something still sitting in your nervous system that needs to get out…I don’t mean real physical daemons, but energy from traumatic events can get trapped in our nervous systems and if we try to be “calm and nice and breathe lots” we miss the whole need to be instinctual and biological and this energy can cause a whole host of yucky symptomatic stuff. Actually most of the syndromes we carry around (anxiety, insomnia, IBS, chronic pain, etc) are due to such energy not getting released due to our over politeness and socialization of humans

    food for though. …be well, Irene.

  6. sandy sims
    sandy sims says:

    I once was so out of sorts that I while I drove my car with the windows up I shouted out loud, ” I need help.” One week later I was dating a psychiatrist. I think we either forget or don’t know how powerful we really are.

    • Katey
      Katey says:

      Hey Sandy… I saw you comment pop on my email and did don’t know why but did the same kind of thing in my car on two hour drive today – gawd it felt good to say it out loud! PS. I tried to find your email on your site but couldn’t – otherwise I would have personally emailed to say thanks for the tip :)

  7. Ann
    Ann says:

    This is the first time I’ve visited your site and I don’t think you are crazy. You seem to be like a lot of women I know, including myself. I know my role as mother, wife, friend, etc, but who am I? There in lies the big question. I’ve started repeating to myself, “be who you are right now”, and it’s helping me stay present. Sometimes the only way out, is through. And hiding just prolongs the process. So good luck to you!

  8. kerri twigg
    kerri twigg says:

    I’m a little lost, but others see me as pulling off the “I’m on an awesome amazing path.” It helps when your siblings are dating unemployable-painkiller stealing people.

    My husband and I met on this on-line art site — he made videos, I wrote poetry — and we met to collaborate on a visual poem thing. Looking back, the poems suck, but they did some good work too. Maybe some poems exist to be read and others are workers with expiry dates. “Hotdog love poem” written pre-vegetarian is a prime example.

    Thanks for not being perfect, that’s great.

  9. meg
    meg says:

    i really like some of your poems. if you are interested in feedback or popularity, may be interesting to have a little “like” button next to them . . . i know that’s very facebook but may be interesting for people to read the most popular poems etc.

  10. alan
    alan says:

    Two short years ago I helped launch a social support group for adults on the spectrum…I think you are amazing, and have recommended your posts re Aspergers to the group and also put your blog on my resource list that I share with all interested persons I meet. After hearing lots of stories from lots of NTs and Aspies, I concluded that living with an NT can be challenging for all parties involved! The following poem (written by an NT wife?) hits on some of the realities…so take care of yourself first, then the others :)
    p.s. don’t believe everything you read…

    Aspies as Cacti

    I see aspies as cacti, which are soft and vulnerable inside – but very soon in life they develop very cruel prickles to protect themselves from painful contacts with NTs (neurotypicals).

    They belong in the desert. They are happy there. Occasionally they bloom – and it is so wonderful, they light up the whole desert – but it is short lived.
    Cactus have a right to be cactus, and to live in the desert, and to have prickles.

    I see neurotypicals as roses. Roses do not survive in the desert. If they do survive they become stunted, lose their flowers, develop larger thorns and often have to be medicated to survive.

    Aspies do not understand that roses need rose food (emotional connection, tender loving care, appreciation, communication, time out for chatting, complete with emotional component!!, understanding, romance, etc.). Aspies can only provide cactus food. When the rose begins to wilt and tries to explain that it needs rose food, the cactus will not understand and will call the rose "selfish" and "ungrateful".

    This is an excerpt from a book of compiled contributions by persons living in a family with Aspergers issues. See http://www.faaas.org/ for more information.

  11. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    I don’t like it when people give you advice on your blog posts; it sounds ridiculous. I do, however, really like your posts. I was thinking how un-lost I would feel if I had a “farmer” and a house and some kids. It’s good to know I would still feel lost even with all of that.

    Thanks Penelope. Misery loves company :-)

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      This comment gives me great perspective, Sarah. Thanks. You’re right: I have a farmer, kids, and a great place to live. This is maybe the least lost I’ve ever been. But I’m not sure. Maybe I”m not sure what it feels like to not be lost. I don’t even know…


  12. Cindy
    Cindy says:

    Hi Penelope.
    I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say Hello and I am amazed and totally respect your openness. I find you to be so brave it amazes me!

    we are so programmed to hide our real selves and real lives. I grew up with parents whose mantra was “what would the neighbor’s think” and it rings in my ears every freaking day.

    Thank you for a refreshing, breath taking (meaning…I had to take a few breaths here and there) blog and posts.

  13. Emily Vasile
    Emily Vasile says:

    Beautiful, open post. I echo the sentiments expressed regarding your bravery for sharing so fully. I’m a new reader and will definitely come back for continued inspiration :).

  14. Page 48
    Page 48 says:

    Well, I’m sure not one who thinks you’re an idiot. You’re funny as hell and refreshingly open and honest. At worst, you’re a beautiful mess.

  15. PJ
    PJ says:

    As someone who underwent an enormous amount of conflict and upheaval when I made a transition from the East Coast to Madison, I’ll just say give it time.

    I know you made a huge transition from NYC to Madison. But crunchy-granola Madison and rural southwestern Wisconsin are quite different things. Once you leave the Madison city limits it’s a different world. Not a bad one, but it takes a while to figure out where firm ground is.

    And of course you have the three major stresses you can ever have all at once – new home, new(ish) relationship and a start-up or three going on. AND you’re co-mingling your lives AND renovating a home. The only way the two of you could possibly annoy each other more right now is if you went on a road trip with the kids and no A/C. I would be more worried if you were NOT feeling stress. Then I’d assume the Percocets were kicking in.

    PS – I say this respectfully, but the farmer….wow. I understand the fuss.

  16. amy
    amy says:

    good lawd the comments. this was the most refreshing piece i’ve read. total truth. i’m a lost puppy with a shivering heart but i go ahead and do it (whatever that it may be … currently blogging and poetry … sounds familiar hmmm.) anyway.

    i’m scared shitless. and it feels good to say so. thanks.

  17. Annabel Candy, Get In the Hot Spot
    Annabel Candy, Get In the Hot Spot says:

    Yeah, small town life is bad. Everyone knows your business and every trip to the supermarket takes hours as you have to chat with everyone. But compare that to live in the city where everyone ignores you and pretends they didn’t notice if you smile at them! Go on a charm offensive. I bet you’re the most exciting thing that’s ever happened round there, they probably love you, give them something to talk about:)

    And just before I stop giving you unsolicited advice please stop arguing with your man – save it a few more years! Lol, you’re still in the honeymoon period.

    Ok, I will finally end this onslaught now! I read the 9/11 thing. Terrible. Now off to read the poems, hopefully not at all terrible!

    Thank you for letting us be lost with you. It’s a pleasure, an honor and such fun to be wandering free and lost together, waiting to see where we all end up. The best journeys are ones that have no real itinerary, let’s just try to enjoy the experience without worrying too much where it all ends:)xoxo

  18. The Shmoo
    The Shmoo says:

    I have known the farmer since childhood, The small town life is quite different from the tavern on the green and weekends in the hamptons. The small town life should be embraced for all of its quaint charm. The world is undergoing a transitory phase where business as usual is not ever going to be the same. To really stand out and make a difference in this world do what your passion is and make it not seem like a job. Best of luck to you and the farmer as u embark upon lifes journey together.

  19. Steve-Prospering With Aspergers
    Steve-Prospering With Aspergers says:

    Wow! Penelope, you have a beautiful way of expressing yourself. What cracks me up the most is how you call your new husband “the farmer.” I don’t know why, but it cracks me up. And thanks for sharing so openly and authentically about the pain and yet the “ok-ness” of feeling lost. Because that’s all of us, at some point, or at many points, of our lives.

  20. Morgan Jones
    Morgan Jones says:

    Penelope you are amazing and I love your blog. Thanks for sharing your poetry. I really enjoyed it and I don’t even have kids. It was moving in its attention to the small things in life that give us such pleasure and pain.
    As for your fights with the farmer, I suspect that it is all of the change. I cans sort of relate to that. I got engaged, and moved from San Francisco to Toronto to be with my now fiance, all in two months. Just working out living together and how to train our dog brings up communication issues that seem petty but they keep coming up. We are working through it because we love each other.
    I can tell you really love the farmer so I can only imagine how it must suck to argue. I hope there is at least good hugs and kisses after. If there isn’t, try adding those. I think they help. In the end, how we treat each other is what matters. –not the fact that yada yada whatever the last argument was about.

  21. sandy
    sandy says:

    Interesting post. You can’t argue with feelings. If you feel lost then that’s how you feel. But sometimes I think we are very good at sabotaging our own happiness. You seem to love your husband. He seems to love you. You live on a nice farm where your kids are loved and having fun. You’re in a rural community where everyone does know who you are. Some are threatened or nervous about that. But it also means you’re part of a real flesh and blood community which can be a good thing. I’m just wondering if it’s the normalcy of your new life that’s scaring you, making you feel lost and leading to arguments with your husband. Just thinking out loud. Going to read your poems this week. Sandy

  22. Izzie
    Izzie says:

    I recently moved to outside a small town, outside a smaller village and down a long road and my family and I get mail 1) under my husband’s last name 2) under my son’s last name and/or 3) under my last name as we all have different last names…so your comment made me laugh. I became more involved in my community so have gotten to know more and more people, shop locally so have gotten to know more store people, etc etc. You must feel like a bug under a microscope marrying someone “from there”. And as the mom of a fellow Aspy, I am sure you beat your own drum so again you get noticed as being the wife of the guy “from there” with the two kids with different last names AND the woman with three last names….ahaa…thanks for making me smile. You are so insightful regarding being lost – I just came back to work after taking the summer off to be with my Aspy 16 yr old aformentioned son and I know this isn’t what I want to do. I need an income but not from this….keep writing and I’ll keep reading and maybe, just maybe inspiration will come. Thanks Penelope.

  23. Amanda Gunter
    Amanda Gunter says:

    Sorry I’m late to the party. I just discovered your blog and am LOVING it! I just wanted to say thank you for this post. I’m currently lost and this helps.

  24. vicky
    vicky says:

    I have just been reading (again?) about your horrible, secret, childhood. I also had a horrible secret childhood, though not as bad (no sexual abuse) as yours. Just everyday, garden variety psychological abuse, which was ignored always.

    I am glad I found your blog, and am glad I am reading it, and Penelope, keep it up! I hope writing about it helps you. It sure helps me.

  25. brahim
    brahim says:

    yes,you are great.
    admitting that we have a problem and talk about it is the main step to solve it.
    intelligent people are more disposed to fall in bad felling since we are living in societies that are not so intelligent !!!!!!!!!!

  26. John Wilder
    John Wilder says:

    I can teach you how to stop fighting and instead have peaceful conflict resolution. Here is a warning, the lack of good conflict resolution skills is the number one cause of divorce.

    My new book being published in January helps couples to stop fighting and instead have peaceful, collaborative respectful conflict resolution skills and also improve the quality of their sex lives as well. If you are interested, drop me a line at marriagecoach1@yahoo.com

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