How Motherhood Broke Me and Turned Me Into David Sedaris

Woman with a suitcase seems lost in the woods


I love nothing as much as reading the words of people who write about their own particular brand of insanity. I cite David Sedaris and his OCD childhood where an inadvertent crack-stepping would require a return trip to his bedroom to re-lick the light switch and start his journey over.

Or Jenny Lawson! My god, no one produces the side-splitting hilarity of taxidermy roadkill like this woman.  A Pat Conroy novel is enough to make me want to move to the deep south and let my freak flag fly. If I had a freak flag, that is, which of course I don’t, or do I?

In a nutshell, becoming a mother broke me. I used to be this carefree, easy going lover of life. While not a crazy fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants-adventurer, I was light years ahead of who I am today. Now, I’m a panic riddled, fearful ball of anxiety.

I blame postpartum depression. After the birth of both of my children I spiraled into a dark cave full of doom and gloom. Incessant walking was the only thing that lightened the load. But I had to give that up when I became convinced the neighborhood gardeners were conspiring to kidnap my daughter and sell her across the border for parts. I couldn’t even take her shopping with me because I was sure the checker at Target was from another planet/alternate universe plotting to steal her away to another galaxy.

The postpartum depression lasted a year after each pregnancy before retreating back to its hellish hole. Yet, I still haven’t returned to normal. While I no longer have full blown panic attacks, I’m still very limited in my abilities to adventure, certain that boogey men and disaster wait around every turn.

The problem is my kids are now five and seven and are starting to wonder why we never go on vacations. I don’t want them to take on my ridiculous worries, so I don’t tell them the millions of things that could go wrong, from plane crashes to the more elusive possibilities of being kidnapped by a white slavery ring or getting hijacked by pirates.

So I’ve decided to face my fears head on. Next month I’m going to an award ceremony where one of my romantic comedies is being honored. I didn’t go to the other ceremonies that acknowledged the same book because they were in London and Miami, much too far away from my Oregon home. I’m going to the event in Southern California because A.) I lived there for eighteen years, so it’s somewhat in my comfort zone. B.) I will be with friends. C.) I could find a way home if disaster struck.

What disaster am I expecting, you ask? It’s hard to say. But my money is on the Cascadia subduction zone giving way. Sounds nuts, right? Well, The New Yorker recently wrote about the probability that in the next 50 years, the subduction zone will produce a devastating earthquake somewhere off the coast of the Pacific Northwest, liquefying the earth and making all main thoroughfares impassable.

Our state capital newspaper has been writing warning articles pleading with citizens to be prepared to be self-sustaining in case of such an earthquake. Of course it could be an EMP (electro-magnetic pulse) causing electronics and cars to cease working for all eternity. I should have never read William Forstchen’s book, One Second After. Ever.

So why am I leaving? I’m desperate not to live in fear and hopefully regain some semblance of normalcy. And because I have a plan.

I’ve shipped the majority of the things I’ll need for the ceremony and book signings I’ll be participating in to a friend. I’ve done this so I can fill my extra-large suitcase with items I might need in the event I’ll be walking back to Oregon, all 887.9 miles. Truthfully, I’m hoping to hitchhike or steal bicycles (horses, cows etc.) to get me most of the way but I’ll still need survival gear.

Here’s the list I have so far.

  • Forty-seven jars of peanut butter (you know, for the protein).
  • Tang (for the vitamin C and because it works for astronauts).
  • A flame thrower (not sure how I’m going to get that on the plane… any ideas?)
  • Q-tips. I refuse to have dirty ears in a crisis.
  • Bandaids for inevitable owies.
  • Lots of pain killers (see need for Bandaids).
  • Rope.
  • Duct tape.
  • A wok in case I have to stir fry some roadkill for dinner.
  • Moccasins, you know cause they worked for the Indians and all.

Of course in the event I take to the road on foot I will have to steal a butcher knife from the hotel kitchen so I can defend myself and cut up a squirrel for my stir fry. I will also confiscate as much bedding as possible to keep me warm at night and all the tiny bottles of shampoo I can carry. That’s right, I’ll be washing my hair.

My friend Jen is leaving the same time I am for two romantic weeks in Italy with her husband. She’s not insane, but has the same kind of worries brewing in the back of her mind. I’ve offered her my inflatable raft and paddles in case she has to make her way back across the Atlantic, but she’s not biting.

My friend Laura is away with her family for two weeks in Mexico and she assures me if it hits the fan, they’ll just become Mexican citizens and it will all work out.

My friend Heidi will be at a convention in Vegas and she’s all, “I’ll be in Vegas. What a way to go!”

Why am I telling you all this? For two reasons, really.

1.)    If you see me hiking up Interstate 5 with my huge suitcase, offer me ride, give me some energy bars and maybe a bottle of tequila. I’ll need it.

2.)    I’m pretty sure by writing this, throwing a fifty pound bag of salt over my shoulder and avoiding all black cats and ladders, nothing will happen to me this time. Knock on wood.

The upside here is that I might now be as crazy as my favorite authors and if that isn’t a silver lining, I don’t know what is.

Author Bio: Whitney Dineen is an Amazon bestselling and award-winning author of romantic comedies and middle reader fiction. Her first rom com, She Sins at Midnight, won a silver medal in the 2015 Reader’s Favorite Awards. Her second, The Reinvention of Mimi Finnegan, won Honorable Mention at the London Book Festival, is a finalist in the 2016 RONE Awards (and the reason for her trip to Southern California) and won a silver medal in the 2016 Reader’s Favorite Awards. Whitney lives in rural Oregon with her family and chickens, who just happen to be named after Barbie Princesses.




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