primal scream

Last night at around eleven-thirty I let out a primal scream. I couldn't help myself, having gotten up every half hour or less since nine o'clock—each time within minutes of falling back to sleep—to resettle my son in his bed and cover him back up. My shriek began as a question: What is wrong (with you, Calvin)?! It ended in an animalistic howl so loud I felt it must have woken the neighbors and shaken the house. Thankfully, both Nellie our wackadoodle and my child seemed totally unfazed. I crawled back into bed with a slightly hoarse and irritated throat, and deep feelings of remorse for my behavior.

Chronic sleep deprivation is torture. It can make me impatient and ugly. My son's all-too frequent awakenings (which, by the way, are far fewer since starting him on a newish CBD oil) sometimes lead to insomnia. Despite being exhausted, I can lie awake for hours worrying about silly things like unfinished chores and calls that need to be made. Often, I fret over the miserable state of things—my son's medicines and seizures, our earth's man-made ills, this administration's vile and pathetic behavior, the ongoing and oppressive patriarchy, the greed of oligarchs, the contempt for the poor, the apparent surge of racism, misogyny and bigotry in the world. Eventually, I get my mind to calm down by imagining forests and oceans, and by counting backwards from one hundred.

This morning, while hugging Calvin in my lap, I apologized to him. I'm fairly certain he doesn't know the meaning of forgiveness, and yet I've no doubt he is forgiving. I recognize my various stresses and limitations in taking care of my infant-toddler-teen these past fifteen years, especially during Michael's absences, and so I try to forgive myself. Thankfully, my husband is coming home tonight after a two-week stint in Europe having taken photographs for a future book of Paris parks, and been on press for his second publication, LA River.

While on a walk with Nellie this morning, I recounted last night's primal scream, and last year's documentary, RBG, which I had watched before I'd gone to bed. In it, badass Chief Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg quotes Sarah Grimke (1792 - 1893) the American abolitionist, writer, attorney, judge and suffragette:

I ask no favors for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is, that they will take their feet from off our necks.

Recounting the quote made me wonder if my primal scream was more than mere sleep deprivation exacerbated by personal frustration over my son, but rather somehow collective. I imagined other mothers, wives, sisters and daughters shouting various objections about their burdens, their neglect, their abuse, their oppression. Perhaps, as Mary Oliver says in her exquisite poem, Wild Geese, they are out there wildly announcing their "place in the family of things." I don't know the answer, but I feel it when I talk with my beloved soul sisters.

Tonight, I'll be celebrating Michael's return. Tomorrow, he'll be back to cooking us fabulous dinners. As soon as the snow melts we'll be back to grilling outdoors and Calvin will again get to traipse circles around the yard touching his favorite mugo pine, rhododendrons and Alberta spruce. When the ground thaws, I'll be back to digging in the garden. With twilight coming later and later, I'll be staying up a bit longer, but I'll try to catch up on sleep when I can. I'll likely continue having meltdowns every now and then, but my husband, dog and child will, as always, listen without judgment, offer me love, support and forgiveness, and perhaps even understand my need to let out personal and collective primal screams into the world.

St. Cloud, Paris by Michael Kolster


  1. You are not alone. Ever. Sending much love.

  2. Christy,

    Thank you for your beautiful writing, for pulling it all together and for sharing the agony and the peace of your story.


  3. I so understand that scream. Bless you Mama.