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Here's the thing: When I was three, my parents decided to put me in ballet lessons. I was a quiet, compliant, blonde, easy child. It seemed like the obvious thing for any well-intentioned parent to do. I went to the lessons, learned my moves, practiced as diligently as a three-year-old can be expected to, and primped and preened for the big day of the recital, where there were undoubtedly hordes of (16?) anxious fans (parents and grandparents) waiting to judge the performance. In my black leotard, face painted whiskers, fuzzy-ear-headband, and stapled kitty tail, I joined my ballet class on stage and proceeded to fixate on the audience while I robotically stepped through the moves I'd faithfully practiced and learned. The girl next to me clearly didn't bother to practice (stupid three-year-old), missed a few steps, and ran into me, which threw off my entire already endangered performance. For the rest of the humiliating time, I stood on stage and looked at the overwhelming number of strange faces in the crowd. I'm pretty sure I remember the bright, hot lights and the feeling of embarrassment and the flushed, red cheeks in which that dreaded combination culminated. As legend has it in my family, I came home after that hideous recital and exclaimed that I would not dance again "until I was a teenager."

Of course, if you've read anything written here by me (I'm shocked if you're still here), you'll know that I basically never danced again AT ALL. Not at my wedding, not when drunk, not at gun point, not ever. I've associated dancing with being watched and humiliated. Really, it's a self-centered fear: who cares what my dancing looks like? Who even knows what my dancing looks like, actually? But it's not the point. I've carried the memory and the stories associated with this feeling with me for three decades. It's why for so long I was characterized as "shy" when in reality, I am anything but shy. What I am, is private. What I am, like Bryce, is demanding of control. The combination results in a personality that resists any exposure to vulnerability that may devolve into what I perceive as embarrassment or humiliation. This same characteristic has so many extremes: it's All or Nothing. Usually, it's All. All of everything, to the point of exhaustion or self criticism / deprecation / loathing / continuous slashes until I get the perfect word. Occasionally the slashes cut me to the bone, and I have to go to the other extreme of Nothing. Of course in our culture, this Nothing doesn't look like "nothing" - it looks like fulfilling responsibilities and paying a ridiculous amount of bills and taking deep breaths when I'm angry and kicking back on the couch to relax with a glass (or however many) of wine before starting over the next day. But for me, and anyone who knows me, it's the survival trek of Nothingness. Nothing to speak for other than getting through one single day / week / month / year / ordeal. My survival trek of Nothingness these past two years has certainly yielded more than nothing: for one thing, here I am; for another, my kids are still amazingly, against all odds, the happiest psychos on earth; for yet another, this family has stepped through piles of life's manure and stands at the edge of the pasture smelling like an exhausted little rose. But as for the little intense ballerina who's faithfully practiced her moves and looks with ire and distrust at her fellow dancers, the survival trek of Nothingness has resulted in only frustration and greater stage fright. Her memories of the moves is rusty, her distrust of the audience is greater, and she's thinking that teenager comment was all too liberal.

There are so many things I've let pass by, and have failed to capture. My All or Nothing approach prevails here as well. Where there is Nothing, there is All, and this includes the expectations and consequences I place on myself. The expectations are All, and the sub-par results are classified as Nothing: I berate myself regularly for so many (all?) aspects of life: I can't keep up with the chaotic demands of monthly financial obligations, not because of a day-to-day lack of money (yet), but because of the sheer madness of it all - who can keep track?; I can't maintain a healthy weight; I can't meet goals of time spent with the kids; I can't learn the intricacies of the politics of my new job; I can't find the supposed "work-life balance" I keep hearing about; I can't not sweat the small stuff; I can't meet a goal to write down what happens in my life, to write down what happens to anything, to write at all. This last bit is evidenced here, and when I sit down to try, or even think about briefly considering trying, this fact beats down on me like those cheap stage lamp bulbs that felt so overwhelmingly bright to the ballerina with the fuzzy tail three decades ago. She looks back at me in the mirror with an unsure glance, wondering when she's going to be a teenager, when she'll have the bravery to risk humiliation again. I'd like to reach over to wipe the black whiskers off her face, but I can't do that either.

So, I'll start here:

Me: I'm tired / overweight / overworked / overstressed. I never have time to write. This is not good.

John: His mangled head has, believe it or not, healed. The cement truck's insurance has agreed to pay off the bills and settle for damages. This is good / great / needed / a relief.

Bryce: One day soon, he will wake up and run downstairs screaming that a hand-held video game has permanently melded to his palms. This is inevitable / consistent / bringing him one step closer to being the creator of our future robot overlords.

Quinn: He is, inexplicably, the most awesome six-year-old I've ever known, and at once, somehow, the combined epitome of Will Farrell and Dr. Dootlittle. I can't wait to say more about him. Maybe in two more days / months / years, huh?