Last weekend, I was at a tiny regional airport, begging everyone I could to let my family onto a flight I hadn’t checked into, fifteen minutes before the plane took off. It was the result of many mundane factors, from getting the shuttle time wrong, to an unexpected poopy diaper, to my brain just not working like it used to.
I kept it together when the stern Delta representative told me I was too late for check-in. I asked, “How do you advise I proceed?” I remained calm when the irritated TSA agent told me we were too late to check our giant bags. Again, “How do you advise I proceed?”
Thankfully, they helped us, and we made it onto the plane with very little kerfluffle. We even took off a few minutes early.
My husband took the whole thing gracefully, only saying very casually (upon discovering that I hadn’t already checked in for our flight), “Oh, really? That’s not like you.”
None of it was. I prefer showing up to the airport 3 hours before a flight and relaxing, even if it’s domestic. But this chaos is how I seem to live now, whizzing around like a cartoon Tasmanian devil.
Today, I almost had a meltdown because I sent a form in late—you know, one of Those Pesky Forms that is nearly invisible until it is late, and then causes a cascade of problems.
I always used to open my mail and never got late fees on anything. I was never neat, but my house was more of a quirky, ‘I guess she’s creative, or something?’ level of chaos, versus today’s, ‘oh, do thirteen children and their wild pack of jackal puppies live here?’ My formerly well-managed ADHD is completely off the chain, and while I’m better than ever at problem solving, my short term memory is obliterated.
Whenever I tell my therapist I’m stressed about all of this, I usually add I have to remember I can’t do everything. She always corrects me, that it isn’t about can’t. I am actively choosing to drop things.
As usual, tapdancing on the precipice of my meltdown, I was like…damn. Was I choosing the chaos of my life, instead of some calmer life? Could I be doing baby and me yoga, eating greens from clean plates?
What person instead chooses to be so anxious she can literally hear her heart beating for most of the day?
But I pulled myself back from the brink. Instead of thinking of all I needed to give up to regain my sanity, I began to think about what I had specifically kept so far.
The whole reason we’d been on a flight at all was because I had just given a talk to hundreds of my fellow designers, reminding them to take good care of their creativity. I’d brought my family along because my son is still nursing, and because my husband and I made a pact to pretty much only do conferences if we all go together.
Not hiding my identity is important to me. I don’t want it to be a secret that I’m a mother, and I don’t like how it’s still unusual to see a mom doing things, out in the world. My baby won’t remember seeing his mommy at a podium, but if all goes well, he won’t be one of those men I sometimes run into, who is totally dumbfounded and patronizing when I say I’ve spoken at conferences before.
I thought of how centered I feel when I work on the projects that help me make sense of the world, and the thank you notes I sometimes receive, when people feel seen by them. I thought of the people who use the tools I help build, and all the amazing things they build in turn.
Everyone is honestly a walking disaster, that’s what it is to be human. We have to pick what kind of disaster as best we can within our own constraints. My particular brand of chaos is indeed chosen, but it’s chosen for reasons that feel really good to me.
I want to be the kind of woman who raises her son knowing he is loved and safe. I want him to see people as people, regardless of how society might label them. I want to keep making things. I want to help people in my community heal and live out their aspirations. Sure, I hate being consistently late and haven’t slept a full night since 2017. Remembering my middle name consistently would be a plus. But I can’t say I feel bad about my choices.