When you tell your friends, in disbelief, about this post, you will say, “She’s liveblogging her nervous breakdown.”
I am doing that. Because I don’t know what else to do.
The problem with blogging while you are having a nervous breakdown is you can never work again. The problem with not blogging while you are having a nervous breakdown is you have to hide things.
If I weren’t blogging, I would have such a long list of things to hide.
For example, even though my son got into Juilliard, he’s not there now. We can’t afford it. I can’t navigate trains because I can’t read numbers. And I can’t drive because I can’t predict the direction things come from. And taking a car to and from Juilliard is $500. I couldn’t pay that every week. And then there are cello teacher politics. I cannot write anything about that because all the cello teachers would hate me.
I have not said any of this. For one thing, every time I have tried to explain not being able to travel, people think I’m lying or not trying. People think I’m being a pain.
That might be true. I can’t tell anymore. It is a social skill to know if you’re being a pain. I know for sure people are really sick of me. And that I am ruining my kids’ lives by not being able to deal with the people my kids need.
The higher the stakes, the more trouble I cause.
So, right now, my son is leaving. My cello son. I have tried so so hard. But the cello world is all social skills.
I think about the hierarchy of life. I think about how could I be failing so massively right now? But it’s taken so long for me to completely fail, I haven’t totally noticed. I am the frog unaware that I’m boiling.
I think about when there were no kids, and it was just work, it was me and men. Work is mostly men. I worked almost exclusively with men for most of my adult life. The career world is very competitive — and most women aren’t. Women are collaborative. But it’s a different story in the mom world.
The social skills you need to navigate cello moms are at a level I have never experienced. I can’t even begin to talk about how incompetently I navigate this. The cello moms who know me well would be incredulous to hear that I spend most of my waking hours trying to figure out how to make them like me — or at least, how to make them not hate me. They would probably tell you it looks like I’m not trying at all.
Looking back now, I think I was barely holding things together until we moved to Swarthmore. My biggest issue is abandonment. So, it doesn’t matter to me that the farmer was abusive. I can’t get my head around abuse, anyway. The only thing that matters to me is that he cut me out, overnight, with no warning.
I was so overwhelmed. I couldn’t work. Some days, I was nearly catatonic. Any energy I had I thought should go to the kids. So I did not make very much money. Sometimes I did. But mostly, I didn’t.
And as the kids required more and more of my time, I became even less and less able to earn money. I cashed out stock from one of my companies to catch up on bills.
I feel so alone. I don’t receive child support. No one helps me financially. Sometimes, if we don’t have money for food, Melissa sends money. There have been times when we have been stranded somewhere and I have had to ask her for $20 for the Uber to get home.
It’s not that I’m not able to earn money. It’s that the nonstop pressure of a cello kid and a kid with Asperger’s and me with Asperger’s and me being the only one making money and me being the only one taking care of the kids is all too much. And I think I started to shut down.
I tried to tell people I couldn’t keep going. But I guess people think I’m incompetent and irresponsible and largely a lost cause.
I used to tell myself, “My family doesn’t know how bad it is, but if they knew how bad it is, if I told them how bad it is, then they’d help. So, I’m OK. I have that.”
Then there was a time I called my brother from cello camp. I told him I was going to be arrested if I didn’t pay the hotel bill. The policeman was standing right in front of me. I asked my brother if he could pay the bill.
He told me not to ever ask him for money again.
I thought to myself, “I’m looking at six more years of taking care of the boys and no one will help.”
We don’t really have money. I don’t know how to describe it. People who are very close to me can see how expensive cello is. But on top of that, I don’t always know what is important and what is not important. I spend money where I don’t have to and then I don’t spend money where I should.
So everyone tells me I spend too much money and I make terrible money decisions. But it’s very hard to get good advice about money when it’s about parenting. Or maybe everyone is giving me good advice and I’m not hearing it. That could be.
I decided people are right and I moved the boys to be right next to the cello teacher. I sleep in the closet in a two-bedroom apartment with mice. No more travel expenses. There’s still not enough money.
Once, I said to my son, “You have to practice cello every single day, even on the days when it’s hard. That’s what makes you a great cellist.”
He replied, “Mom. Can’t you just accept that sometimes I’m having a hard time? When there’s nothing to eat but crackers, I don’t tell you to try harder to make money. I know you work your hardest.”
That’s when I realized the boys know everything. Or maybe I already knew. I guess it just hurt.
I am telling you this so I don’t have to hide from my shame. I’m telling you everything. Because right now I am trying to cope with the fact that my son has to leave.
I have failed him. He’s leaving tomorrow. He has to go somewhere where someone can help him become the cellist he wants to be.
The history of memoir is writing after it’s done. There is redemption. People only tell horrid stories in hindsight. I guess I don’t totally understand why people don’t talk about sad things that are happening as they are actually happening. I think it might be because it’s like cutting the lifeline you could use to pull yourself out. But do we have to hide to have a lifeline? I’m not sure. I will find out.