I don't know how she does it, guilt, and telling another kind of story entirely / by Christina Rosalie

I don’t know where I am going yet, but I know that this is the beginning. The beginning of finding true velocity: a unity of moments, a lithe tempo, a right algorithm of speed and grace.

I am still rather far from it now, in the final semester of school, with my new job already nearly full time. And I’ll be the first to admit: The days don't always offer the time I need for pondering, for the daily practice of writing, for rest. Until I’m done with graduate school, I know the hours will ignite, one after the next at a certain pre-determined heat, each one double booked, precious, full to saturation. And I'm humbled by the process. By being here again, at the outset again, new to the particular set of challenges and opportunities my life offers and asks. I spend my day tripping, sprinting, catching my balance, careening, laughing with sheer delight.

There are wins and losses: I drive Bean to school every morning; we have a part-time nanny who helps with the laundry; Sprout is finally making headway with potty training; T cooks weekday meals with the grace and kindness of saint. And I'm still trying to find an hour that offers itself for writing; time for running is inconsistent; I have a birthday party for Bean to plan, and no time to make it to the store for favors; I see my husband less than I'd like. And in the midst of it all I've realized I've somehow reached the life velocity that causes people say, “I don’t know how you do it” to me now.

I find myself shrugging at that remark. I don't know how anyone does it. We've all got our own particular mess of moments and necessities; priorities and stumbling blocks. Each life is remarkable.

But beyond that, I shrug because I'm particularly resentful of cultural paradigm from which that statement springs.

I’m sure most of you are familiar with the book that spawned that phrase. Both it, and its movie counterpart have been suggested to me by no less than six women friends as a seminal narrative that “tells the story like it is.” I’ve been given two copies of it in fact, one from my mother. And I ended up watching the movie on the way back from California in the plane, but regretted my choice upon landing, as manufactured guilt clung like burrs to the back of my mind as I greeted my boys; drove home with my husband; and then helped my kids put on their pajamas and brush their teeth and go to bed.


I don’t think it is a terrible book by any means. It gets many of the details right, of a full-velocity life. The pace, the tumult, the jam-packed days. What I resent is the paradigm it perpetuates. It’s that Kate's primary emotion and modus operandi is guilt: About her work, about her husband, and her kids.

It gives fule to myth: That you should feel guilty as a woman if you work away from home; and that the smug comments of stay at home mothers are both assumed and justified. I call bullshit.

Women who work at home, and who work away from their home, and who stay at home each have the choice to frame their lives in terms of guilt or fulfillment.

Whatever you slice it, you see a different slice. There are challenges and advantages to each way of being in the world, and to tell the story of a woman who works and has children as a guilt riddled narrative does a huge disservice to all women, regardless of their childrearing status.

So as I’m writing now, about the early phases of doing this full velocity thing called life that includes work and kids and a thesis and whatever other bits fall into the mix, my hope is that I can begin telling the story in a slightly different way.

Less guilt, more fulfillment. Less culturally perceived “shoulds,” more personally perceived moments of sheer awesome.

I am at the beginning of a new phase; an epic; an adventure. It feels off kilter some days. There are days that I don’t have enough time for anything more than the barest essentials. Still, unless I read about it somewhere, guilt doesn’t factor in to the equation.

My life is asking for new definitions and capabilities. It demands that I cultivate the ability to adapt to the speed of things moving in multiple dimensions and directions simultaneously. It pushes me to imagine bigger constructs; and to see time, and speed, and distance, and success as new non-linear relatives.

My life is being altered by the nature of the work I am doing; by my expectations for myself; by the sunlight gradually softening towards spring; by my sons turning three and seven; by a dozen years with the man I love; by my thesis; and by all that is unfinished at present. And instead of guilt, what I am striving for is to acquire a certain degree of nonattachment. To do my very best, to pour my soul into the work I do, to love my boys when I am with them, to trust that when I’m not that they are flourishing, and to let go and know: Our right lives are happening now, in dynamic unison, every morning, every afternoon, every night.