I was going to take my laptop somewhere tonight, but first I wanted to check if I had enough battery to leave my power cord at home. So I opened it up, but my battery icon was missing. That’s weird. After several deft and totally educated maneuvers, I figured out how to change my settings so that my battery icon would be displayed. Turned out it was already set to display, but the icon itself was just invisible. I guess. At this point I just restarted the computer, which is what I should have done in the first place because once I did that, everything was normal again. And no, I did not have enough battery to leave my power cord at home. But that’s neither here nor there.

The point of this story is that I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out why I would ever want to change my settings so my battery icon would NOT display. I mean, I have racked my brain and I simply can’t think of a scenario in which I would not want to know how much battery I had left. I can’t think of any circumstances under which I’d consider this information annoying or intrusive. I probably just don’t have a very good imagination.

With my last laptop, I was always accidentally coming across keyboard shortcuts to do things that I didn’t want to do. Not just things I didn’t want to do at that moment, but things that I didn’t want to do EVER and I couldn’t imagine why anyone else would ever want to do them either. I was also forever triggering something called “sticky keys,” a term I only know because when I did this, a notification window would pop up and say, “You’ve just turned on sticky keys. Did you mean to do that?” And I would always say, “NO,” because what even are “sticky keys”? When in doubt, politely refuse. That’s my motto. But I always appreciated that the computer asked me if I really wanted sticky keys and gave me the opportunity to change my mind.

Unfortunately, that was the only thing it ever asked me about. I never got a notification saying, “You’ve just turned off your keyboard. Did you really want to do that?” or “You’ve just given your shift key an entirely different function. Is this really the way you want to go?” No, it just assumed in those cases that I knew what I was doing. Which just makes me all the more curious what “sticky keys” is. I mean, it must be some kind of nuclear option, if it’s going to trigger a warning and everything. But actually, I’m not curious enough to look it up. Just talking about my experience with the battery icon has gotten all of this out of my system.

Why did I want my laptop in the first place? I was just thinking that my life seems very empty these days. Not empty as in nothing to do. I have plenty of things to do. I could clean out my filing cabinet. I could clean out my kitchen pantry. I could clean out the fridge. I could replace my front right turn signal lamp, which has been out for the last four weeks or so. I mean, I could look up on the internet how to replace my front right turn signal lamp and then do it. That should occupy a morning or afternoon. (I’m not mechanically inclined.) There are always plenty of chores to be done. But nothing I really have to do. I mean, technically, I suppose I really have to replace that front right turn signal, except how much do I really need to signal to the people in front of me that I’m turning right? Is the information all that necessary? From my observation, most people don’t bother to signal any which way. Or their turn signal lamps have burned out and they’re procrastinating learning how to replace them. I’ve become a lot more forgiving of other drivers lately.

No, by “empty” I mean devoid of meaningful, satisfying occupation. Okay, I really should replace the front right turn signal lamp, and I will, but after that, what next? Last month I spent about a week doing things like decluttering and organizing, and I was glad afterward that I had done these things, but the thought of doing that sort of thing all the time is very depressing. I mean, the reason I was glad I had done these things was that it meant I wouldn’t have to do them again for a while. In theory. I mean, in practice, I could spend all day every day doing some sort of cleaning and organizing, but after about two weeks of that crap I would probably rather be dead. That’s really dramatic, but it’s like the time I gave up carbs. Technically, my life was still worth living; it just didn’t feel like it was.

I’m trying to come to terms with the fact that I lack the skills to contribute meaningfully to society. I’ve always been a crappy housekeeper because I hate housekeeping. My kids used to be my excuse for my crappy housekeeping. I mean, in a way they still are. It used to be that they were so young and needy, but now it’s that they’re lazy and shiftless and why should I, one person, be responsible for managing six people’s possessions? I mean, don’t I have better things to do? Well, actually, no, I don’t. I don’t have an active social life, I’m not gainfully employed, I don’t do volunteer work. If I managed my time better, I probably could manage everyone’s possessions. I guess. I mean, I could at least try. It’s just such an overwhelming task. And so stressful.

I’m not a person who thrives on stress. My husband thrives on stress. He probably doesn’t think he thrives on stress. Perhaps technically he’s possibly digging himself an early grave with all of his stress, but he manages to be very productive and I’ve never seen him curl into the fetal position and cry himself to sleep because he’d run out of real estate for the household shoe inventory, so it looks a lot like thriving to me. Maybe he’s just a morning person. Also, his turn signal lamps never go out. I don’t know what it is, if I just turn right more than he does, or minivan turn signals are just made of inferior quality? I don’t know, but he literally never has to replace them. It’s like the universe knows he doesn’t have time for such nonsense. He’s got a demanding job and church responsibilities and he’s earned fully operational turn signals.

But this isn’t about my husband, it’s about me. Last month, when I was decluttering and organizing like a madwoman—or really, more like a responsible human being—I only managed because school was out, my husband was out of town, and I was feeding the kids restaurant food almost every night. I can only attack those really big jobs if I know I’m going to have plenty of uninterrupted time. I have to keep going because if I stop, I will never start again. It’s the way I’m wired. When I have to climb a steep hill or a long staircase, I like to do it as quickly as possible without stopping so I don’t notice that I’m out of shape and every step is bringing me closer to a painful death. I don’t want to use this as a metaphor, but I will if I have to. If I’m going to clean out my filing cabinet—something I’ve been needing to do for probably ten years, conservative estimate—I want to do it in one sitting. As long as I’m working continuously, I can pretend that I’m almost done. If I take a break and come back later, my fresh eyes will see that I’m actually nowhere near done and I will have an existential crisis, which is very bad for productivity.

I used to imagine that I could excuse my crappy housekeeping by doing more important things. Taking care of the kids was arguably more important than housekeeping. I mean, people always say that. I’m not entirely convinced it’s true. At any rate, I failed a little bit at raising them properly because none of them is any better at housekeeping than I am. In fact, they’re all much, much worse, to be honest. Part of it must be genetic, but I’m sure I could have taught them a little better. I don’t know. For the past 20 years, what I’ve wanted more than anything is a little peace and quiet. I would have done just about anything for peace and quiet, and I guess that’s how I ended up with kids who roll around screaming in agony if you ask them to do the dishes.

So, fine. I failed at both housekeeping and children, but until the last year or so, I still entertained thoughts that I would return to meaningful work once the kids were grown. I’m coming to the realization that that’s not going to happen either. I’ve been out of the work force for 20 years. I have literally no qualifications for anything. I’m sure I could get a job at Target or McDonald’s, which would be fine if I needed the money, but as of now I don’t need the money, and I can’t say that working at Target or McDonald’s would be that much more edifying than cleaning out my closets and managing my family’s extensive shoe collection. So right now it really makes more sense to re-dedicate myself to housekeeping. I just hate it so much.

I hate it so much.

Would I enjoy working at Target more? Maybe I would. I don’t know. I’ve never worked at Target. I would probably rather work at Target than McDonald’s. McDonald’s seems very stressful to me. Plus, if there’s anything I hate more than housekeeping, it’s cooking. So, yeah. Target. Target will be fine, I guess. Once the kids are gone and I’m no longer managing their possessions day to day, I can work at Target to earn money to pay someone to clean my house for me. It’s just not the life I planned for myself. This is #firstworldproblems, for sure. I kind of hate myself for going there. I’m just very, very disappointed in myself. I had so much potential, and I just wasted it. Well, who knows what I could have done, if I’d never taken a 20-year hiatus to raise kids poorly. I might have done nothing at all. I might have lost my job at some point and been unable to find a new one until I finally decided, screw it, I’ll just work at Target. It’s not like Target is a bad place to work. I mean, it’s not anything I’m especially suited for, temperamentally or otherwise, but it’s a non-toxic environment for ordinary humans, of which I am one.

That’s really what I’m coming to terms with. I spent so many years thinking that I was something other than ordinary, and I couldn’t possibly have been more wrong. Have you ever read that Henry James story, “The Beast in the Jungle”? The main character spends years trying to figure out the great thing he’s meant to do in life, and SPOILER ALERT, he just ends up wasting his whole life. I read it in college, and I thought, “Wow, this is really powerful and sad.” I didn’t know yet that I was reading the story of my own life. It shouldn’t be so easy to go this wrong, but it is.