birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.


My mom is a person who needs to slow down.

She the type of person who, directly after completing an eight hour drive, will happily mow the lawn.

If a day passes without exercise, my mom feels restless and incomplete. She loves long, brisk walks and she used to walk every day. She walked so much that she got stress fractures in her feet, and had to switch to working out at the gym some days instead.

Now my mom has some gnarly biceps.

On vacations with my mom, I can't keep up. She is known for finding the highest spot (a lighthouse, say)in any given place and climbing to its top. She wants to see everything, whereas I'm more of a see one thing well kind of person. She is 60. I am 36.

The sad thing is, I'm pretty sure that the reason my mom never stops is because if she did, she'd maybe see her situation more clearly. Her situation is this: she is a gentle soul who is married to a man who is incapable of showing love, who is a bully, and who can't muster up much empathy for anyone but himself. I love him despite all that, but it's true.

My mom knows her situation, but she clings tenaciously to it because she does not want to tear apart the unit that is our immediate family. There are grandkids now who've grown up with a Granny and a Grandpop. And, my mom has worked hard to make a comfortable retirement for herself. Her financial advisor says she should avoid a divorce if possible.

So, she creates a life for herself that is separate from my dad. She keeps going and going, which keeps her going. She seems to generate energy by expending energy. I wish I had inherited a bit more of that.

There have been a few of times where my mom's exertion was almost too much for her. She swam the Boston Harbor and went into hypothermic shock. She's injured herself, more than just the stress fractures. Once in a while she'll go for a long walk in severe heat, and she'll come back pale and sweating. She doesn't look well, and it scares me.

But. Who am I to say what she should do? I'm not in her situation. And I admire her tenacity. If you met my mom, strength might not be the first characteristic that comes to mind to describe her. But in her own quiet way, she might be the strongest woman I know. Protecting her family, or her idea of her family, at great cost to herself.

Loving us and herself the best way she knows how.

Whatever That Means

litany of faking it