GUEST BLOGGER: SHELLEY MCCONKIE

Shelley wrote this post late one night while living smack dab in the middle of southern U.S. suburbia. She has just moved to NYC and after having spent a solid two weeks trying to find suitable housing in the city for three kids, she is now craving a large dose of daily and a smidgen of sanity.

It’s 12:02 a.m., and I can’t sleep. I am up thinking about Taco Bell in June. And the media. And how to get smashed pumpkin pancakes out of the carpet.

Every year when I was a kid, on the last day of school my mom would take us out to eat. It must have been a big deal—it didn’t happen very often. I have this freeze-framed memory of sitting on the lawn outside of the Taco Bell on 39th South with the next door neighbor kids eating puffed cinnamon twists, baking in the newly minted summer sun.  I remember the glee of being able to order as many 79-cent tacos as I wanted. I had eaten a crunchy beef taco. I was contemplating eating another one.  And there was this feeling there—this overwhelming feeling of anticipated joy and unfettered possibility—that is still palpable in my consciousness. The feeling of good things—unknown and unmentionable yet vaguely familiar—to come. Life, in all its glory, sprawled out in front of me in a moment.

I catch wafts of this feeling every once in a while at the oddest times. Pushing the swing. Driving the Interstate. Sitting in Sunday school. I am back on the Taco Bell lawn, sipping a small Sprite and smiling at my future. I am giddy.

Back in the day when Apron Stage was a wee website I wrote a post about how painful it was to be hit over the head with a picket fence. And how “darling” suburbia could really just be a euphemism for pretty darn boring. And how I missed the angst of being single and pleasantly miserable most of the time. I wanted more adventure, more unknowns. Less (for lack of a better word) day-to-day daily.

Because daily is blasé. Daily is emptying the dishwasher for the umpteenth time. Daily is watching the dirty laundry propagate on the closet floor with a morbid fascination. Daily is Monday through Friday and Friday through Sunday and Monday all over again. Routines. The hundredth trip to the grocery store.  The list of endless internet errands. The commute.

A couple of years ago a woman named Julie Beck had the audacity—the nerve—to put “happiness” and “housework” in the same paragraph. There was an uproar. “Who is she to suggest that nurturing by its very nature includes cleaning bathrooms?” they said. “Who is she to suggest that there is contentment and peace in accepting gender roles with gusto?” they cried.

Who is she, anyway, to declare divinity in the mundane?

I believe her, I really do, and yet I’ve known the dread of facing another unquantifiable day of the same ol’ same ol’.  It can be depressing to spend most of your day doing that which is so easy to undo. (I have a friend who wants to have a family naked day just so that she can have one day where there is no dirty clothes in the laundry basket.)  It all feels so drudgerous sometimes.

To escape the monotony, I went to see New Moon several weeks ago with a large group of women. It was late Monday night, three days after the movie opened and there was a woman in our group that had seen it three times already. I know from other sources that she wants to leave her husband. I don’t know why. But I could tell that Twilight had become a passion for her. I got the sense (and I could be completely wrong, but I don’t think so) that this woman was a little sick of daily. She clearly wanted more Edward in her life. Less dishes, more vampire kisses.

I’ve known that cheap emotional thrill of realizing how pathetically normal your life is. If only you were seventeen, beautiful, and in love with a monster! Or meeting your one true love on top of the Empire State Building on Valentine’s Day. Or drifting in the ocean with Leonardo DiCaprio. Your life could be so much more romantic than it is. You could be so much cooler than you are.

But I’ve dated brooding monsters before, and I’m telling you, it is not that thrilling. And the Empire State Building on Valentine’s is pretty crowded. And Leonardo DiCaprio froze to death in a watery grave.

But this feeling—this feeling I felt while eating a bean and cheese burrito on the lawn of Taco Bell—this is real. And I’ve noticed that it comes in my life in a most potent and pronounced way only when I am cheerfully about doing that which I did yesterday and will need to do again tomorrow.

I don’t know why. I don’t know why the day-to-day boring stuff is so essential to my progress. I just know that it is.

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