Funny cow on a green summer meadow

by Jennifer Pruiett-Selby

I’m not comfortable telling you how much I weigh. I’m not even okay with being weighed at the doctor’s office. In fact, I’ll avoid going to the doctor altogether, if it means I won’t have to step onto the scale and brace myself in preparation for that one nurse to announce my grand total to the whole place. No joke, either. She says it out loud for all to hear. Talk about humiliating.

I also don’t want to tell you about last week’s word-count or how many hours I spent playing Best Fiends. (Note: The two are related. Other note: My new addiction began when my 8-year old son asked for help on the game. Thanks, Wes.) I don’t want to talk about how little time I’ve spent with my husband or how, when he is home, we’re both exhausted from our “adventures” of the day, so the only energy remaining goes to decompressing on our phones with an episode of Impractical Jokers in the background.

Instead, I’ll tell you about the newspaper we started here in our little town. We’d both worked for the established paper, which the current publisher is running into the ground at a steady pace. My husband, Jason, was editor there for four years. While he worked endless days—including a marathon each Sunday to meet the early Monday morning deadline—said publisher was out the door by noon and took countless vacation days. Our single employee, Linda, was also previously employed by the other newspaper—which I refuse to call the “competition,” preferring the term “opposition” instead. Our old boss hired Linda after I left, well, was fired when I became pregnant with our youngest child. (The boss had indeed warned me, “If you get pregnant, I’ll fire you.” And she did.) Linda kept a running tally of the vacation days of our boss’s absences. On Linda’s last day—before she too was fired—the total had reached nearly four months of time off. Jason was tired of working to ensure the boss could take a third of the year off, when our family hasn’t had a vacation in … well, a long time. (I should also mention that we still haven’t had a vacation, nor do I foresee being able to take one for another four years. If then.)

I’m not one for resolutions. (I wrote about this in my column “New Year, New You.”) But for shit’s sake, I have to get better. I need to lose weight. I need to eat healthier. I need to align my chakras. I need to find balance. I need to climb the stairs after my three-year old without feeling a heart attack coming on halfway.

This is a new level of stress. Owning a business is like having a child. A child that you’ve poured all your money and time into, in the hopes that the child will earn enough money to pay the bills and keep the business and your house afloat. In short, it’s nothing like having a child. It’s a business. But my God, what analogy can I use to express how stressful it is?

Do you know the Serenity Prayer? Or maybe you know it as the Alcoholics Anonymous Prayer. It goes, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” That’s where I am right now: down on my knees asking for all those virtues.

See, I don’t need our business to be like having children, because I already have children. And my eight-year old, Wes—the one who got me hooked on Best Fiends—has been diagnosed with ADHD. (Ironic, isn’t it? I joked about ADD in the column I mentioned above: “There is no now for people like me. We vacillate between this plane and some crazy land for wandering minds. It’s not ADD because I don’t even have the dedication required to commit to a full-blown disorder.”) He was prescribed Methylphenidate.

I’m not one for resolutions. But for shit’s sake, I have to get better. I need to lose weight. I need to eat healthier. I need to align my chakras. I need to find balance. I need to climb the stairs after my three-year old without feeling a heart attack coming on halfway.

Here’s more irony. I didn’t even drink coffee when I was pregnant with him. I refused fried foods and opted for organic, whenever possible. I played Mozart for him as a baby. There are no words to describe the guilt I feel, even though I have no idea what I did to contribute to his condition.

I still can’t bring myself to make any kind of announcement about it. Even his teacher this year didn’t know until I mentioned it in passing. I can’t even write a Facebook post about it! It’s like if I don’t make it Facebook-official, it isn’t real. The poor kid had just lost his grandfather six months before the diagnosis. Then, he was suddenly having to learn how to swallow pills, when the school nurse told us that she doesn’t try to get little kids to take pills until they’re in the fifth grade.

Now here’s the worst part: I don’t know how to help him. And life gets in the way. I get short-tempered with him when we’re busting out newspaper pages to meet our deadline. He can’t stop making noises or tugging on his hair, and he can see it’s annoying me, but he’s unable to listen to the part of his brain that says, “Stop doing this!” There’s no manual to tell either one of us how to deal with ADHD. Or maybe there is, but it didn’t come standard issue along with that bottle of pills. When I talk to my mom or my mother-in-law about my difficulty in connecting with him through this, their responses are full of comfort and reassurances. But I need something more concrete, something tangible to hold onto. I need a nanny with a psych degree to come in and fix us all, like Jo Frost, the Supernanny.

My oldest is a junior, and she graduates next year. My youngest is turning four, and she’ll start all-day preschool next year. And right in the middle is Wes. Time goes faster than the employee “turnover rate” at the old newspaper. This year must be meaningful. My word-count doesn’t need to be higher, it needs to be more than an end-goal. I need to make the most of those words. The time I spend trying to lose weight needs to be more about focusing my energy on getting healthy. But most importantly, I need to connect with the people I love. I need to reach out to them with compassion and understanding.

So, here I’ll set my intention for 2018 in the spirit of purpose. Let everything I do this year be with the greatest good in mind. And, dear Reader, I wish the same for all of you.


Jennifer Pruiett-Selby, winner of Smartish Pace’s 2015 Beullah Rose Poetry Prize, lives in rural Iowa with her husband, poet Jason Selby, and five children. Her work has found homes with Prairie Schooner, Hobart, Calyx, Crab Creek Review, Lunch Ticket, Rust + Moth, Ember, and Red River Review.