The Messy Middle
I am so sick and tired of this manuscript:
Woman 1: Hi, how are you?
Woman 2: I’m great! How are you?
Woman 1: Oh yes, me too.
Woman 2: Oh great. All is well? Anything new?
Woman 1: Nope, everything is great with us. Husband is great. Job is great. Diet is great. Family is great. Everything is super great.
Woman 2: Oh I know, right? Us too. We’re great. So great, I am pretty sure our great is definitely beating your great. Even our greatness comes with a side of great.
Woman 1: Okay, well great talking to you. You know, I really needed this. Glad all is great. We should really do this more often.
Woman 2: Great. I agree, me too.
See ya, BYE.
I can’t yall. I CAN’T.
One of my best girlfriends called me yesterday asking how I was doing. We didn't use the word great one time the entire conversation. We laughed and cried a little. I screamed a lot. I busted me hand on a tree explaining what life is like for us right now. It was a good reminder that I was in public and such strong hand waving looked a little crazy. She busted a tire and huffed and puffed. Someone probably cussed. And we talked about our conversations with God and how negotiating with Him isn’t going well I told her we are in the messy middle. Things are not bad. We are thankfully and somewhat gracefully exiting “holding on for dear life” phase. But we’re also not GREAT. Not riding the high of life. We’re simply in the messy middle.
The pause. The space between an inhale and an exhale – as if we’ve been holding our breath for 2 years. Smile and laugh at the catastrophe of what has been and what will come. It’s the middle. The messy, messy middle. We can smell relief, but it just isn’t promising quite yet.
We talked about how this messy middle business is funny stuff because we often wonder if things will go back to the way they were, or if we are always a little beat up. In crisis or trauma mode, we often separate our lives into two parts: before the one big event or life change and after the big event or life change.You are in that space of knowing you will never be that person before things fell apart and wondering if those high times – the stress free times ever really exist in adulthood.
I think I remember a time in life where stress and panic did not exist. Or was that all a dream? Or was I just six?
I don’t know.
This, dear reader, is what good girlfriends are for. Good girlfriends provide a space in life where there is no room for an Instagram-filtered life.
Why do we do this to each other? Why do we even waste each others time?
Sure, I respect the effort and the essence of asking how someone is while not really wanting to get into the dramatics of it all. But I seem to find that the older we get the less we’re actually sharing the vulnerable parts of ourselves with each other because everything has to be a competition of sorts and filtered to be just a bit prettier.
On a mission trip several years ago, I was one of the only women on the trip. It was my first time in India, and my first time feeling the weight of human trafficking. If there’s ever a time to share honestly, it’s on a mission trip where we start each day talking about porn addictions and how women’s empowerment could be the answer to 95% of all our problems.
One of the leaders, a male, at breakfast asked me when Robbie and I were going to start having children.
What is is about reaching a certain age or level of income that makes people assume it’s time to transition to the next stage of life and ask nosey questions they aren’t really prepared to hear the answers to?
If you’re going to ask me questions about my womb, you need to be ready to hear about it. I told this man in front of a group of young men that we were in the middle of the storm of infertility and that I had miscarried twice.
He said, with darty, large, uncomfortable eyes looking at another side of the room trying to escape my answer, “Ohhhhhh, well ummmm wow. Well, anyways, on a lighter note.” And then he changed the subject.
Well, let me tell you something. When I am asked a question, it is my job to answer that question. It is not my job to make you feel comfortable.
If you ever ask a woman when she is going to start having children, when she is going to get a boyfriend, when she is going to get married, get a job, take that next step in life that seems so blatantly obvious to you, let it be known that WE ARE IN THE EFFING MESSY MIDDLE OF SORTING THAT THING OUT AND IF YOU HAVE THE BALLS TO ASK THOSE QUESTIONS, IT WOULD BE HELPFUL IF YOU FIGURE OUT HOW TO HANDLE OUR HONEST ANSWERS.
Trust me when I tell you, that thing you think we are missing out on, WE KNOW. We know. We already know these things because it’s our life. And that thing you are wondering about--the boyfriend, the job, the baby that we don’t yet have – we are on top of it. It’s cute, for lack of a better word, that you assume we haven’t thought of the thing yet. And that by bringing it up, you’re pointing out some revolutionary piece of our lives we’re missing out on.
Every single non-dating woman I know is very well aware that she is not dating. Every meal that is not paid for by a potential partner is coming out of her own bank account that she is monitoring with her own eyes.
Every unmarried friend I have is not blind to the fact that the only aisle she has not walked down is the one that leads to her husband. Or wife.
Every woman waiting on a child is completely aware of her empty arms and her empty womb.
We know you’re wondering and you care. Mostly. We appreciate that. And we can even handle a moderate amount of nosiness or small talk.
When you are brave enough to ask these tough questions, we ask that you also channel that same courage to receive our honest answers.
Even when it makes you sweat.
And when it comes to handing out advice on getting pregnant: Keep it to yourself. As far as I’m concerned, no man in the history of men has figured out how to get himself pregnant. And yes, I am well aware that there are actually some men who have figured out how to carry a child. But please, for the sake of all things non medical, just don’t even with me right now.
When you suggest that your cousin just needed to take a baby Aspirin a day to fix “the problem” or that maybe I just need to gain some weight or lose some weight or go to the clinic to do the IVF method – you aren’t helping at all. In fact, you make me want to shove a baby aspirin in your eye socket.
And when you suggest to me that surrogacy “might be something to think about”, how about you just bite your tongue. Like off.
You name it, we’ve thought of it. Or we will eventually think of it. We are ten steps ahead of you always. Remember...? We are women. We will stop giving you advice on how to aim the pee into the toilet bowl if you stop with your baby making advice giving. Mkay?
Every woman in the messy middle.
Can we stop with the competition thing? Can we just like say to each other exactly where we’re at. I don’t know one woman over the age of 21 and paying her own bills that is not in the messy middle.
You’re on the dating apps. You’re going to the places that you find dateable boys. You’re filtering yourself in the best lighting to fit the industries standards of “pretty” to attract a man. Which, just don’t get me started. You’re doing what it takes. Whatever it takes. I can’t remember what it takes anymore, but I know you’re doing it. You are just in the waiting.
The messy middle. Amiright?
Especially newly married friends- Is it not hilarious how soon after you say “I DO” that people start to ask you when you’re going to have a baby? For crying out loud.
And if you have been married longer than a year...FAGGED-ABOUT-IT. People are on you like white on rice.
I remember about a year into marriage when a bunch of well-meaning older women started asking us about a “little ross baby”. We told them we had a five year plan to buy some time. But what I really meant was, “Well, last night I threw a hard boiled egg at my new husband’s face because he wouldn’t stop pulling my pants down in our new kitchen. And then, I spent an hour cleaning up that egg that missed his face (PRAISE) and covered my cabinets, crying because I truly did not know such anger for a person I just said vows to honor and cherish could live inside of me. I don’t think that is any environment to bring a child into.”
I think I said something dumb to the well meaning older women like, “Oh we are just having fun trying.” Which I did not mean at all. Sex your first year of marriage is the opposite of fun. It is horrifying. It is exactly what nightmares are made of. And no one tells you this because everyone is just so dang GREAT.
Here is my issue with the greatness B.S.: If we are actually doing that great and basking in our own greatness why are we so freaking tired all the time? Why are we looking for acceptance online? Why are we eating our emotions and picking fights on the internet?
I have a hunch that it’s because life is tough. And messy. And beautiful. And all of those things coexist. All of those things can be true at the exact same time.
Life is a heck of a lot more than just great. And if we can’t share that with each other, nothing changes. We stay sad, miserable, curated people whose lives look awesome on Instagram, but in reality, is no life at all.
The next person who tells me they’re great is getting a baby aspirin to the eye.