Written by Courtnie Williams
Photography curated by Annie Louise Wilkins
Photo credit: Xavier Mouton on Unsplash


“I’m struggling with what to write.” I lace my hands and put them behind my head in exasperation.

“Why?” Bo asks. My ears pick up on the inflection in his voice. He’s seen me at my computer every night typing away as he falls asleep. 

“I’ve been writing a fluffy story about a day when I lived in Portland. There was nothing particularly incredible about it. It was peaceful and calm. It’s puff with no direction.” I toss the words out and wave them away curtly with my hand. 

He stops moving to give his response a good thought. “Well, I mean that doesn’t sound bad to write about a day like that. But why do you think you’re writing about it?” He draws out the why part because he knows me all too well. He knows my inner world is teeming with life, thoughts, and feelings. I stop nervously bouncing my leg and release a drawn-out sigh to help me think.  

This week has been frantic, and I’ve been irritated, every. single. day. The weather hasn’t helped either - the humidity has been stifling and leaves my skin constantly drenched in sweat. Our toddler Hudson has been waking up during the night crying and won’t go back to sleep for a few hours. As much as I love my time with him, it’s hard for me to be grateful when I’m awake from 1-3 A.M. Our renovation of the master bathroom has been moving at a glacial pace. The renovation process is chaotic and messy and it tests my patience. And that patience is teetering on thin ice. 

I cross my arms.  “Everything feels sooo unraveled which is making me crave some peace.” Saying it makes me feel a little better, but then I look left to see the laundry bin overflowing with dirty clothes. I close my eyes as my jaw begins to clench against my simmering frustration. 

I think about Portland. It’s a dazzling city that never quite felt like home to me - too cold to be cozy, too dreamy to be permanent. I miss the view while driving over the Burnside Bridge as downtown rises into view. It’s a city with a softly glowing halo of lights and rain. The buildings huddle together as if to stay warm. Big Pink towers above them all, keeping watch and reflecting a glitter of lights off her glossy, dusty-pink windows. I think about a date night at Potato Champion with my college boyfriend. 

The food cart has THE BEST poutine. I can see us sitting there while the rain prances around on the tarps strung together above us. Subtle touches of romance like the smattering of string lights, the steady downpour, and the empty tables make this simple night into something sultry. The soft pattering of rain becomes a background noise that I often took for granted - quieting down an otherwise noisy world. I remember both our eyes widening in sheer joy as we take in this glorious, steaming, gooey heap of fries. My fork immediately darts for a squeaky cheese curd that’s drowning in the salty beef gravy. I pull it up to the light, admiring the whiffs of steam twirling out. I give it a slow blow before letting my tastebuds savor this divine treat. I pop a perfectly crispy fry with bits of the skin still on into the mix. Ugh I could die happy at this very moment. 

We battle for fries and curds while our eyes smile and flirt with one another. Most of the poutine is devoured in silence, as a good meal should be. Each bite is different from the last yet the melted white cheddar and salt connect them all. We surrender our weapons into the paper tray dashed with gravy left on the battlefield. 

He nods his head toward the exit as he gets up from the table, grabbing our trash. We leave the cover of the tarps and step out into the steady rain. I keep my head down to avoid getting chilly drips of rain on my face as he leads me by the hand to his car.

* * *

I lean forward and rest my head on the table to unjumble all my thoughts. It's not that I miss my college boyfriend or Portland. But I do miss the simplicity of easier times when, selfishly, I only had to worry about myself. When my days were unhurried, enveloped in silence, and often wasted. When I only had to account for my own schedule and could eat cereal for lunch and dinner. 

I push myself away from the table and scoop up the laundry basket. It's heavy in my arms. A tiny onesie perches on top, and I stare down at it. I’m still getting used to my body + mind being consumed in this season of motherhood. I’m stumbling through how to nurture my marriage while also supporting a baby, my husband, and myself. 

I take the basket into our bedroom and glimpse out the window to see the palm trees swaying in the breeze. We live on a beautiful island, yet I can’t help feeling lonely and wishing we were closer to my family. I dump the clothing onto the bed and the overwhelm of where to even start taming the messes, mental and physical, floods my mind.

It’s all too much.

I hear Bo playing with Hudson downstairs. His playful shrieks escalate into roaring belly laughs that make me smile.

As I match tiny sock pairs, my mind drifts to the early Portland days long before Potato Champion date nights. It was incredibly lonely; I didn’t make a friend until school started months after I moved there. I had to wander and get lost alone often. I went through a few groups of friends and boyfriends until I found people that I felt at home with. It took me almost two years to feel settled. Two years until I could feel like I wasn’t floundering in the newness.

If I really dig underneath this facade of simple times, I’m wanting to find my rhythm again. I stack all the neatly folded laundry in the basket and make my way downstairs. 

Hudson lets out a squeal when he sees me coming down the stairs. He’s got the walk of Frankenstein’s monster, heavy thudding steps with sometimes-locked legs, as he wobbles to meet me at the bottom step. I bend down to catch him in a hug. His body is toasty from playing and wiggles in my arms as he gets comfortable so he can lay his head on my shoulder. I squeeze him gently and cradle the back of his head with my hand. 

Bo walks by and kisses our heads. Mmm. I hug Hudson a little tighter. This sweet embrace makes me feel a lot less unraveled.

In the wee hours of midnight when I’m ready to return to the page, I crack open my laptop and let it fill the room with its soft glow. I look over at Bo fast asleep and think about how different my life looks - swirling with the newness of love, uncertainties, and adventures.

My fingers lightly clack on the keyboard as I type "I'm struggling with what to write." The words continue on and so do I. 

About the Author:

Courtnie Williams is a Navy wife, mom of two, + an avid book reader. Introverted to the core, she enjoys writing to unearth emotions + process the world around her. When she's not writing or reading, you can find her on the beach with her boys, watching action movies with her husband, or giving herself a pep talk in the kitchen to get dinner made.

Connect with Courtnie: https://courtnie.substack.com/

This piece was originally crafted in The Work of Words writing workshop. Within the course, you'll discover how to string words together with creativity and discernment in a creative non-fiction framework.

To be the first to know of the upcoming workshop and learn more of the details, click here to join our waitlist. 

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1 comment

  • Beautiful, Courtnie!

    Joy Nicholas

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