I don’t know what I was doing the first time I realized I was a girl going nowhere, but I think I was sitting in the carpool line. I’m not a doctor, but I diagnosed myself that day with a mental condition I made up that aptly describes the feeling women get when their lives become stagnant in the thick of child rearing:
IT’S CALLED GIRL GOING NOWHERE EVER AGAIN EVEROSIS #GGN
It is a common condition among those with young children who seem to lose their identity after they become full time caretakers. I first noticed my GGN symptoms when my quick-witted and creative brain became duller than dishwater and emptier than a can of coffee at 6 am when you are desperate for a cup. What was happening to me?
I didn’t recognize myself anymore. My hair was rarely brushed, just wound into an ugly bun. All I ever wore was a uniform of black yoga pants, black shirt, and black slip on sandals that felt more like a disguise than an outfit. I was gaining weight and felt hollow inside, and then I felt agonizing guilt for gaining weight and feeling hollow inside. The worst part of it all was the gnawing sense that I was giving up, giving in, and vanishing. And yet, I wasn’t. Not at all.
I was everywhere and anywhere, working harder than I ever had in my life. If parenting was a sport, I call for the Mama Olympics! Attempting to do it all requires exhausting and grueling training for an endless array of events. As for my house, I became a fierce competitor in the Sleepless Crying Rocking Chair, and my Multi-tasking Changing Table routine was on point!
Unfortunately, where I lost my balance every single time was in the long monotony of the car. Eternal Chauffeur was my Achilles heel. It’s where the GGN feelings went haywire. The drop offs, picks ups, therapy appointments, practices, and so on kept me driving almost constantly from 7am to 5pm most days. I hated it. I hated driving everywhere and always going nowhere. I wonder if I am the only one.
Today it’s Monday and I’m tired, but I step on the treadmill anyway and power walk uphill for an hour before I start drop offs. My guitar is propped in the corner and my brain flashes back to the upper room of Warner Brother Music in Nashville. Kris Lacey, head of A and R, is telling me and a group of songwriters that Ashley McBryde is going to be a huge star. We listen with bated breath and pencils in hand as she discusses the future of country music in her gigantic office with a bar and a stage inside that looks like a saloon.
For an aspiring songwriter, this was a full blown Devil Wears Prada moment. There is also another woman named Liz Rose standing next to Kris. She is the one who brought us past the pearly gates of Warner Brothers.
The sweat on the treadmill feels great, but the irony of climbing my way up digital squares pretending to be mountains while remaining in exactly the same place isn’t lost on me. As I make my way up the rest of my fake mountain range, I’m reminded of my favorite viral essay from the blog momastery.com by Glennon Melton, called “Don’t Carpe Diem.”
She says parenting is a little like climbing Everest. It is where the brave and adventurous souls go to take on the death-defying feat of scaling the Earth’s highest peak. Serious mountain climbers know it won’t be easy, but they do it because there will be heavenly beauty and honor to behold along the devastating journey. She also notes, the climbers of Mount Everest will suffer greatly during their climb, but in the end, they will love having climbed. Perhaps motherhood is similar?
Three months ago, I was in Nashville, Tennessee playing a few shows, which is a rare occurrence—endangered species encounter rare. After the show, because miracles do happen, I found myself in the kitchen with Liz at her home, listening to her tell stories about Grammy awards and Taylor Swift and crying as we speak about our kids. Liz Rose is known as one of the greatest writers of the 21st century and has been my idol for the last 15 years. Everything about this moment is surreal.
The Rosettes were over and we all sipped Whispering Angel Rose’ and danced around the kitchen listening to the unreleased single she co-penned with Miranda Lambert, It All Comes Out In The Wash. She played the original iPhone recording of Hilary Lindsey singing Girl Crush just after they wrote it in the living room where we were standing. Dear God, I was on holy ground. I drag my fingers over the weathered looking grand piano in the corner and wonder if this will someday sit in The Country Music Hall of Fame. I close my eyes and play it softly. Why am I here in this Wonderland? Thank you God.
Liz says I am a great singer and a songwriter, too. She wants to help and mentor me along with a group of girls she has taken under her wing that we call The Rosettes . I call her the musical Oprah. I love her, and she is trying to give women like me a chance. Yes, the Musical Oprah, indeed.
Lost in thought, I get dressed, make lunches, and race through the morning routine. With all of these musings of the mountains, I know I am passionate mother with the same blood-thirsty grizzly bear protection over my cubs as any proper mama bear. Clearly, I’m not scouring the peaks and valleys of the wilderness for survival, but my grit shows up for more than just listening to Baby Shark.
I know my good grit lies in my hustle no matter how hard times get. My children are glorious creatures deserving of my undying service and love, as is every child.
THE NEXT GRITTY STRUGGLE IS WHERE DO I FIT IN?
My oldest son, Carter, has type one diabetes, and he has to stick himself with a needle every time he eats or drinks. He’s strong and strapping and amazing. He was 88th in the world when he was eight years old for the fastest time on the Rubik's cube. Makinley is my amazing daughter. She is a gorgeous dancer and beautiful human being. She also has Middle Child, or what I like to call “Jan Brady” syndrome. (In case you haven’t noticed, I like making up ailments.) My youngest is Mattox. He has autism. He is so full of life and has the most soulful eyes you ever saw. Shapes and numbers and other visuals are how he brilliantly sees the world, but he really struggles to speak. Upon meeting him, many think he is nonverbal, but he isn’t.
We load into the car to start Eternal Chauffeur practice. Sigh, it is my worst Olympic event! Although I know I am lost, these 3 are my compass, and because of them I know where to go. God has called me to help them reach their summit points, but I can’t help but feel that they are the real North Stars taking me to mine.....
Mattox has three therapy sessions that are 45 minutes away, so we head out after dropping off brother and sister. We have the best therapy staff in the world, so I skip the waiting room and opt for Starbucks. I pass by the Savannah International Airport sign and suddenly feel an Elizabeth Gilbert Eat Pray Love dose of escapism that is so overwhelming I skip Starbucks, too, and I do something weird.
My car is pulling in to the airport parking garage. My body is walking inside the airport. My soul is scared I’m never going to play music again. My heart is broken for a million different reasons. My mind is so tired of being stuck. A woman whirs by me with her suitcase and ticket in hand. I bet she doesn’t have Girl Going Nowhere Ever Again Everolosis.
The energy of everyone traveling, running and flying is transcendent and this airport suddenly feels like church. I keep still for a long time in the sea of moving people and ask God to speak to me. Across from the ticket counters, I notice a bold beautiful wall painted blue with the words
CHANGE YOUR LATITUDE
I stare into the blue for a long time and can’t help but wonder if the word latitude has another meaning than I remember from middle school geography. Sitting down on a bench, I google the word, and according to Oxford, it means “scope of freedom.”
CHANGE YOUR LATITUDE. CHANGE YOUR SCOPE OF FREEDOM.....
The words sink in slowly and I close my eyes. I am so many things. I am a wife, a mother, a strong woman, a fighter, a survivor, and music is my hidden super power. Music. My soul aches for it so badly. I wake up before the kids at 4:30am all the time just to play my heart out alone. I stay up late to fill my soul up with it after everyone is asleep. I look at my calloused fingers from pressed down guitar strings, and I know when I play I am beautiful, wild hearted, and free. I am free....
I am free this very second to board any plane I want in this airport and leave. I could go wherever I want, whenever I want. I am always free.
I choose to stay in Eternal Chauffeur with my three children because I want to be there! I choose to stay down in these weeds together as we struggle against the odds because this is my sacred ground. In fact, there is no place I’d rather be.
I text Liz and tell her Laura Quick and Shelly Brown are considering me for a column for GoodGritMag.com about myself and other women trying to chase down their dreams. I want to write about Liz Rose and how she didn’t start writing songs until she was 38 years old and went on to win Grammys and write with Taylor Swift and everyone else you can imagine. I have so many ideas. On the text, I leave out the fact that I’m sitting in an airport. That would be kind of goofy and bizarre! Liz tells me she is beyond proud and will do anything she can to help me. I tell her I will be back up to Nashville soon when I can get Mama to help me with the kids for a few days.
With a deep breath, I know it’s getting time to head back to Eternal Chauffeur. My beautiful Mattox will be ready soon, and I’m glad I have a story to tell him on the way home.
I crank up the car and serendipitously, Girl Crush is playing on the radio in the background as I say to my son, “Even when it seems like you are trapped, even when you have lost hope and it feels impossible to take another step, even when the pain feels unrelenting, look up. Look into the sky and stare into the blue (even if it’s a fake sky on an airport wall), and let God change your scope of freedom.” Oh my child, we are all climbing our own Everest.