the smell of my desperation has become a stench

“Who will survive? Who will survive?”

Recently I’ve been looking at the clock near the end of the day and as I watch the second hand tick off another hour my throat starts to close, my stomach a winding, undulating mass of knots. I didn’t understand what was happening until I was texting my friend Beth about it, and she asked if I feel more anxious at night, and if so, why. I realized yes, I do, and it’s because I’m afraid I’m going to wake up in the dark gripped with a paralyzing fear that everything will fall apart. Even though I know it all won’t, even though I can see that there is no reason to worry, I can’t get my nervous system to understand in the middle of the night. That second hand moving around the face of the clock signals the possibility if it happening again, and I’m dreading the act of dreading.


Beth flew out from DC to help me move. That’s a crazy thing to do, isn’t it? To fly across the country to move someone else’s boxes? Crazy generous, that woman is, and I owe her big time for that. For that and for the priceless way some of the more conservative members of my family reacted when she told them she’s a union organizer. A lesbian union organizer. A lesbian union organizer who grew up in a Mormon household.


She was here for three days, and each day got progressively worse in terms of the workload. The final night she was here we were so deliriously tired — her from packing and moving my entire kitchen, me from picking up and reattaching the dropped jaws of my relatives — that we spent a few hours deconstructing our status as Saturday’s Warriors, a teaching in the LDS faith that the children in our generation were chosen and saved to be born until the last days so that we could usher in the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

“First of all,” I said, “I’d like to know what it was I did in the preexistence that made the people in charge choose ME for this job, you know? This is not a duty I am comfortable with.”

“EXACTLY!” she said. “What if we fuck it up?

“Beth, it’s not a question of IF. I’m a blogger for crying out loud. I can exaggerate the shit out of it after it happens, but that does him no good during.”

“Who saddles a whole generation of kids with this kind of responsibility? We need a union.”

“What I don’t understand is why he doesn’t gather up a whole bunch of wedding planners to stage this thing. Or just hire my mother already.”

“Here’s the thing, though. We’re getting kind of old and he hasn’t come yet. Maybe he’s like, we totally messed up the screening process on these kids. Look: that one’s a lesbian and that one’s a blogger. Let’s reschedule the whole thing.”

And then we spent a couple of hours writing reviews on the most random things we could find on the Internet. I found a turtle made out of crystal, something you might find on your great aunt’s nightstand next to a dog-eared book of inspirational quotes, a vanilla-scented candle, and a smattering of discarded cough drop wrappers:

“I collect a lot of various forms of memorabilia concerning reptilia. I had decided that the only reptile that would be attractive in crystal formation would be the turtle. It is not long and winding like the snake. It is compact. He can retract his head into his shell to be even more compact into his body.

This crystal turtle is very small like a small turtle. Not like some of the bigger ones. So I found it very lifelike like that.

Three stars.”


It was during that conversation that I remembered: spring equinox. No wonder things feel out of control and strange and panicky. And because Beth reminded me I’m going to remind you if you need it: cut yourself some slack. If you wake up covered in sweat with dread, take a few deep breaths and hold on until morning. Take great joy in your smallest victories. If it can wait until tomorrow then let it wait until tomorrow.

Whatever it is, it’s not the end of the world. Trust us, we’d know. We’re kind of in charge of planning that whole thing.

Everything is going to be okay.

  • Kate

    2013/04/01 at 4:13 pm

    Lesbian union organizer = #2 dreamboat (#1 is Rachel Maddow)

  • bushra

    2013/04/01 at 4:27 pm

    i just spent a whole day cleaning out the kitchen, cleaning up after the girl’s diarrhoea, and just as i was about to fall asleep the boy threw up all over the place. i’m saying thanks, i really needed this 🙂

  • Lorie

    2013/04/01 at 4:31 pm

    This is exactly what I needed to hear today. Thanks.

  • ellen

    2013/04/01 at 4:38 pm

    Posts like these make it feel possible to get through some days. I hope the reminders in these comments of how much we appreciate you help give you a lift, too!

  • Kimberly

    2013/04/01 at 4:44 pm

    Oh shit. I thought only my friends and I had those kind of questions. And who knew the Mormons were in charge of the whole second coming thing? I place bets they skip you over just because of CoCo.

  • Lisa Guidarini

    2013/04/01 at 4:56 pm

    Y’all’er nutz. Now, come organize MY kitchen.

  • Michelle Boehm

    2013/04/01 at 5:08 pm

    I completely understand you. I’m in house selling hell right now, the kind that is taking my family down on its financial knees. My stomach knots at 9 am and doesn’t let up until 5 pm, when our lawyer gets in and leaves his office each day, respectively. But then it comes on again at 9 pm or so – the panic of what if I wake up at night and panic again? How can I function and take care of our baby if I don’t sleep at all? Then I pop a sleeping pill, a new habit I’m not fond of, but I know it’s what I need to do in order to avoid the cycle. I’m looking forward to tossing that bottle of pills once the house sells.

  • Kara

    2013/04/01 at 5:20 pm

    This is exactly the thing I needed to read today. Thank you.

  • Ari

    2013/04/01 at 5:26 pm

    I have a lesbian friend named Beth; she is a social worker but that would likely be just as shocking to conservatives, right?
    Related: Discussing why I can’t talk politics with my uber-conservative-Tea-party relatives to a new colleague when she stops me mid-sentence to ask :”Wait, you are a liberal social worker advocating for healthcare reform and you came from that? Are you sure you’re not adopted?”

  • Emily

    2013/04/01 at 5:54 pm

    This is EXACTLY what I needed to hear today. I’m about to graduate from grad school and have no idea where life will be taking me in a few short weeks. And though that can produce the throat-closing, stomach-winding, undulating mass of knots in and of itself, my family life is also unraveling. Dad’s an alcoholic, sister’s suicidal, mom’s clueless, dog has cancer… Sometimes it does feel like the world is ending.

    Breathing in, breathing out. Everything is going to be okay. Thank you. And thank Beth.

  • HeatherArmstrong

    2013/04/01 at 6:11 pm

    It really is going to be okay. I’m so sorry you’re going through so much (grad school ALONE is enough!), but we will get through all of this. Uncle Beth, as her godchildren call her, would nod her head.

  • Jo Ann

    2013/04/01 at 6:26 pm

    You just described my nightstand to a tee, turtle and all. Shit. I’m the great aunt. Well, I might as well own it. Come on over, I’ll make some camomile tea. Then sleep as long as you need in my guest room under thick quilts until “it” is gone and your mojo is back. 😉 take care of you. It helps.

  • starfruit

    2013/04/01 at 6:54 pm

    OMG it’s as if you just overheard my brain talking to me…I needed this post right now. THANK YOU!

  • Katybeth

    2013/04/01 at 7:09 pm

    As someones who dear husband and best dad in the world to their son, dropped dead in the shower one morning….I’ve spent a lot of time telling myself everything will be ok, and this too shall pass. It is very helpful. And now I read the blog of someone in charge of the end of world…I am so reassured. I think. Do you continue to have more good days than bad??

  • Amy

    2013/04/01 at 7:39 pm

    Everything is going to be ok – thanks! You are right. I have the same feelings periodically – so maybe late at night if you want some company remember I’m feeling the same thing too!

  • M.H. Cameron Barrett

    2013/04/01 at 7:40 pm

    I’ve met the lesbian union organizer known as Beth. I’ve sat across a NoHo bar booth from her transfixed. Also, when she knocked over that glass of wine on the table, she made sure to dump it into the lap of the woman sitting to my right, instead of me. And that really made me like her.

    Go Beth!

  • Sharona Zee

    2013/04/01 at 8:09 pm

    Thank you! The Spring Equinox has me out of whack too, and the oak trees are trying to kill me with their pollen (as I, too, am trying to sell the house). Take care!

  • 1chelleofaday

    2013/04/01 at 8:33 pm

    Ugh! Totally explains the rash/hives as of late. You are right……it’s not the end of the world :).

  • Joanne z Filmlady

    2013/04/01 at 8:44 pm

    Yes, everything is going to be okay for you. REALLY!

    In the last year, my mother died, my husband went through a 12-hour malignant-brain-cancer surgery and radiation treatments, and my brother had a massive stroke. But the universe is forgiving. I’m 57 and just got a full scholarship to a yearlong Patient Advocacy training program (my dream), I also got a part-time editing job that I can do 100% from home for decent $ (after being out of work since last August), and my husband just went back to work full-time last week. Also working from home. Our two kids are healthy and there’s only one more year of college bills left to pay.

    Heaven on earth. Everything else is window-dressing. God bless your new home.

  • Roberta

    2013/04/01 at 10:31 pm

    You give me hope. Although no one has died in my life recently, we are having a lot of employment issues (I lost my job last year, my husband hasn’t worked in 4 years) and I often despair that things will ever get better. In fact, the only road I see open to us is to burn through our retirement savings just to stay afloat and then I guess die b/c we won’t be able to afford to live.

  • natalie

    2013/04/01 at 10:41 pm

    Interesting you mention this, as I just searched for your post on the fall equinox last week when I heard about the suicides of two people in March (which I found hard to believe was just coincidence). I shared the equinox information with their families, which seemed to alleviate even just an ounce of their grief and regret over what else they could have done. Thanks for sharing.

  • Erin Gill

    2013/04/02 at 4:06 am

    I am blaming this equinox for everything. EVERYTHING!

    Burnt roast vegetables – EQUINOX.
    Sinus infection – EQUINOX.
    Uncontrollable crippling refrigerator-on-my-chest anxiety – EQUINOX, EQUINOX, EQUINOX!!!

  • Joanne z Filmlady

    2013/04/02 at 6:32 am

    We’ve done the burn-thru-retirement-savings process too. I’ve stopped caring. I have a strong faith that something will always turn up, usually when you least expect it and when you need it most. We’ve had too much happen to believe in anything else. Hang in there.

  • Arnebya

    2013/04/02 at 8:01 am

    Um, Kate? I’ma need you to back the hell up offa Rachel, kay? (And I’m not even a lesbian but there’s something…something…AND YOU CAN’T HAVE IT)

  • HeatherArmstrong

    2013/04/02 at 8:21 am

    I love the support and perspective shown here. We are all examples that we can come out the other side. Thank you.

  • Sara

    2013/04/02 at 9:27 am

    Thank you!! You have NO idea how much I needed to hear the last bit of this post. As I panic & lose sleep over being a self employed single mother, fighting a building debt to the IRS from when I left my abusive marriage. That looming debt & my inability to pay it feels much like the end of the world to me. Like, how will I survive this. But you’re right. It’s not the end of the world. Everything will be ok.

  • Len

    2013/04/02 at 12:04 pm

    Two words: THANK YOU!! I read this last night just as my insomnia was about to change into a fully-fledged panic attack. Your post and the comments beneath calmed me down and I feel asleep afterwards.

  • Kate

    2013/04/02 at 2:31 pm

    Would you like me to relay a message for you this coming Saturday when I am in the same room as her? Disclaimer: my undying love will be the first message, then I’ll pass along whatever you’d like me to say on your behalf.

  • Debra

    2013/04/02 at 4:39 pm

    Sure, Heather, go ahead and get my hopes up that you’ve changed teams. God…just the kind of girl I’d fall for. I wasn’t excited for you with the Cami rumors, but this is very different!

  • Debra

    2013/04/02 at 4:56 pm

    Oh, I got so distracted by that photo and forgot to type what I intended! So, the world didn’t end 12-21-12, right, but if you study the stars, it is predicted that the following 18 months are going to be really rough, so with that, it’s all in how you handle it is my interpretation. So……

    In my run of “situations” first my father became suddenly gravely ill, my youngest step sister (who he lived with) lied about there being a DNR in place, so after an unsuccessful surgery that he would not have recovered from the hospital tortured him for another week before letting him pass. (Hell, they had some serious insurance money to continue to collect; they couldn’t give up before it was gone.) And when you have a healthy relationship with your father, I’m sure death means something different, but it was more like my step sisters step father died than it was my dad dying and that was a whole other level of pain I was not prepared for. Still not, really. And then about a week later my asshole boss fires me while I’m in the middle of moving. The worst move ever. With the timing of my dad what started out very organized and planned move turned into the biggest fucking mess of my life.

    And I’m still laughing. A slightly maniacal laugh, but hey. And it did pay off because on one of my hardest days I got the first EVER email from my online hero (that would be you Heather), actually 2 emails if you count the smiley face. And my plan is to stay in resonance with the feeling I had that day Dooce in a Batgirl outfit popped out of the internet and into my mailbox! And ITS WORKING! Because in the end, just being minus the asshole boss changed everything for the better. Timing sucked, but hey.

  • Lil

    2013/04/02 at 9:34 pm

    Oh boy, thanks for that reassurance. I’ve been unease for several days, first I thought anxiety was due to having to drop off my kids at their grandparents for “last Easter before they die” get-together. I don’t speak to them nor am I welcome in their home, so I was super distressed at the thought of driving on their street. Anyway, uneasiness has not subsided and it’s like I’ve been uncomfortable in my own skin for over a week; worst at night.. So as I tweeted, thanks for the reassurance and for reminding us of the whole seasonal upheaval. Still, I’ll be sure to keep my psychiatrist posted on all my crap when I go in next week… maybe my meds need to be adjusted. Love ya Heather.Happy Springtime?

  • Beth Dobson

    2013/04/02 at 10:48 pm

    I know the lady that played the mom in Saturday’s Warrior! As a non-LDS, I had to find someone that a) had a copy and b) would sit through it with me because her kids would not!

  • Disq2079

    2013/04/03 at 4:35 pm

    As someone who makes their living selling things online that receive star ratings — for Pete’s sake, at least rate that turtle 5 stars while you joke about it! There is a lot of rating inflation these days, and three stars is usually read as a poor rating, no matter what the star guidelines say.

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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