Monday, February 27, 2017

Lost Identity

In Greek mythology, there is a king named Sisyphus. He lived a life of punishment that involved being forced to roll a huge boulder up a hill, only to have it roll back and hit him whenever he made progress. I'd change my legal name to that if people would get the reference and give me a break.

But it's okay. If my progress can't be measured in feet, it can be measured by persistence.

Today was another day. That's the good and bad news.

I started dinner late, with an empty fridge because I needed to go to the store later. And realized I didn't have pasta sauce after I cooked the pasta.

I ran to the convenience store to get the sauce, knowing the pasta was congealing into a solid mass and the garlic bread would burn or be removed from the oven prematurely by Big Kid, who was keeping an eye out.

While there, I saw that the beer was on sale and decided FUCK IT. I will have this beer. I have earned this beer. I will not feel guilty about the price of this beer.

I swung it onto the counter, feeling pleased with myself.

"Do you have your ID?"

I am literally NEVER asked this. I was surprised to hear it. I also remembered that I left my purse in my car that broke down and was in the shop, and was lucky just to have a debit card.

"No, but -- " She started to shake her head.

"No, no, no. Look, ma'am. Look. I get it, it's your job and all. I NEED THIS. I am 38 years old," She gave me a hard look and half a head shake. She was my age or older, and we both knew it. "No, please, not today. I have an 8th grader! I was born in the Carter administration! I wore Z. Cavariccis in 8th grade! I have gray roots right now! I've had Botox before! Please help me."

She reluctantly smiled about the Botox and asked my birthday. I answered with confidence and she rang up the beer.

I got home and dinner was fucked.

But once I finish rolling this boulder for the day, I'm going to sit down with my back up against it and let it rest against me while I enjoy this hard-fought bit of relaxation, even if it means a small loss of progress.

And tomorrow the boulder and I will start our slow waltz up and down the mountain again.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Little Teapot

My marriage was like a porcelain teapot that was given as a thoughtful gift.

Intended to be purposeful and meaningful and beautiful, and it was all of those things throughout the years.

Sometimes we survived on tea, sometimes one or the other wouldn't crave it as we had before, occasionally it was forgotten about entirely. The teapot was always pretty though, and always useful even if it wasn't being used as originally intended.

And through the years, bumps and clinks from the dishwasher or clumsy hands would chip the spout just a little or the edge of the lid enough so it fit unevenly. That was fine -- affords the teapot character actually, and history. It adds another layer of sentimentality.

I was sad when the handle broke off and I tried to glue it back on. But the break wasn't a clean one so I turned that side to the wall and tried to ignore it.

The teapot still worked, you just had to be careful in case the glue didn't hold. It was pretty though, and had all that history. Everyone still admired it, imperfections and all.

It suffered a short drop last summer and the spout cracked off, evenly enough to glue back together but no longer functional for holding tea. All that history though. All those memories of comfort. All of the good stuff it had made. I couldn't bear to part with it -- it was beautiful. It had worked hard through the years. It deserved to be mended and displayed again, not everything has to work as intended. It was fine.

And then came the crash. The teapot fell off of a shelf, obviously because it was a little wobbly in its shoddily repaired state...a long, hard drop onto a tiled floor. The shatter was loud, in a room full of people, strangers and friends who were startled by its sudden tipping. They stifled their gasps politely and then either avoided my gaze or gingerly offered to help sweep up the pieces, while I tilted my chin up and tried not to cry.

It's fine, I promised, it was already a little broken anyway. I will tidy this right up, go about your business.

I looked again then and realized that it wasn't even a teapot. It was just pieces of something that once was, and it couldn't hold the tea or sit on a shelf or even accurately represent the memory of what it used to be anymore. It would bring me more peace to part with the pieces than to face the pile, and that was the only way I might be able to remember the pretty teapot with fondness for all it had been instead of regret for what it could no longer do.

Sometimes you have to let go of something in order for it to be honored and remembered in the way that it deserves, even if the sweeping up is difficult.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Breaking News

"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed." Ernest Hemingway said that or something like it, or at least that's what the internet claims.

And for a long time that's what I did here. This was fun and this was journaling my life but this was therapy, too. It's hard to explain but the sitting down and bleeding is where it's really at with writing; I write all day long some days, content marketing pieces and catalog blurbs and other people's bios, without feeling like I've written anything at all.

It's the emotional release. The letting the blood of your feelings drip onto (what is now virtual) paper, like how medieval physicians drained bad humors through blood letting. It doesn't actually help at all, but it allows me to feel like I've done something and relieves me of a few ounces of emotion.

The surprising part about this particular medium is that other people stop to look at the wound, and often share the scar they have from a similar one, or a story about how they're bandaged up in the same way right now, or sometimes they just say, "Well, you do bleed beautifully, though," or they email me and tell me their innermost fears and secrets and dreams and I think, "Oh my god, me too, me too, and we'll be okay."

Hemingway needed some of that in his own life probably.

And then, as with all good things, it got complicated. The blog got popular. Work nudged me to do it under my own name. Local people began recognizing me from my newspaper column. The kids got older. The stories I wanted to tell weren't always my own.

So I slipped into the funny girl role, my mask online and off, when I can muster the energy to show up at all. Just a little louder, a little sillier, a little "no, not at me, look over there" instead. The autopilot, non-authentic, neutral while over-the-top, less conflicted or confrontational me with a hint of self-deprecating darkness.

Boring as fuck. Sorry about her.

There's this thing about motherhood -- womanhood? -- life? I don't know since I'm all of those things. But this thing where you're constantly giving stuff up for the sake of others. Little things like the last cookie and big things like small dreams. I'm down with that, that's the work and that's the job, but there's a realization that I've given up my voice and some of my part in my own story and I don't really know that it's a necessary sacrifice.

So. Breaking news. I'm a human being. A seriously flawed one, from the evidence I've been gathering. I guess the fear is that my children or reputation will somehow be tarnished if I'm honest about the extent of that (let's pretend we don't have years where I've already revealed it for the sake of this conversation, okay?) or maybe no one will love me.

That's pretty dumb though. So I'm going to just get that out of the way now -- I suck at all kinds of stuff. Even more lately. Like, you'd think I'd just get better and better at everything but that's not the case at all. I mean, I don't think I've played it off like I'm the non-prison version of Martha Stewart or anything and I think I admit that I suck often enough for you to believe it, but I just want a full on disclaimer from this point on that anything I say or do should not reflect badly on anyone else.

Unless I specifically tell you that person is at fault/to be blamed. Then you do it without question because whose friend are you anyway?

Anyway. That was a long and convoluted intro to announce the separation of my marriage. And writing about it right now is a dick move because I haven't even told some of our closest friends and don't know which family members know.

I am unable to communicate, really. But I need to bleed. Please don't take it personally. I probably would, but I'm asking you not to.

After 19 years of being together, I am working on finding a new way in the world. It is utterly, hilariously, horrifically, exhaustingly, chaotically, mathematically impossible in a way that makes me laugh, cry, shrug, shriek, sob, scheme and sigh all day long. From SWAT teams showing up next door at 2am, to frozen pizzas melting onto the oven heating element, to flu and pink eye and co-pays and failed job interviews, learning the pool pump and investigating the water heater and remembering trash day and wondering how grills work. The other night I had a headache and stayed awake until 3am wondering if the cats would start eating me before the kids woke up if I died overnight.

I challenge the children to rap battles and dance offs in the kitchen and then go cry on the bathroom rug while praying to a God I'm really reluctant to believe in. I help with homework I don't understand at the exact same time I'm sending out my constantly revised resume, while the frozen pizza is melting onto the oven element. I burn all the food, all the time. I have way too many cats and I could not live without them. I bought myself gummy bears the other night and lost a crown on the third one in. I also lost 10 pounds, which should be great but my clothes don't fit and motherfuckers keep telling me to eat a sandwich.

Don't tell people to eat a sandwich, maybe just make them a sandwich.

My personal mantra went from "You are strong. You are smart. You are sweet" (all things I don't quite believe) to "Just keep swimming" to "You're not dying" (and sometimes that fact makes me mad).

I mourn my marriage and fear my future.

AND IT'S FINE. I'M FINE.

That's the crazy part. I have literally no reason to have any hope at all, and I'm still dumb enough to do it. It's amazing.

I'm so human and that's so wonderful, even in the moments I wish it would stop.  Life is an incredible mess, and I mean incredible in the good sense of the word. It's fine. It really is.

One day it will be.

So. That's where we are right now. I don't know where we're going. There's an excellent chance we might burn the house down while trying to get there. People may starve along the way. I could end up homeless, which would be an exciting plot twist as long as I had wifi. Our journey will be more Oregon Trail and less Eat. Pray. Love.

Eat. Pray. Love was some bullshit anyway.

But I might need to bleed all over the place while we work this out and I need the world to know that I need you right now even if I'm still laughing too loudly sometimes. Thank you in advance for loving me anyway.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Random Acts of Compliments

Tonight little kid and I were sitting in front of the television eating a picnic of Chinese food when he reached over and rubbed my back, "I just want to let you know that you are beautiful when you're driving."

I laughed. "Yeah? When I'm driving?"

"Yes. You're all graceful and stuff, like you know what to do."

(I do not know what to do. I've handed my keys to a stranger and asked them to parallel park for me. More than once. I probably shouldn't be allowed to drive, actually.)

"Well...thanks."

"I was just thinking that earlier and thought you should know."

Please everyone in the world be more like this kid.

Not just in the tell-me-I'm-beautiful way (but that too, thanks) -- on the constant lookout for the best of people in the smallest of ways, and generous about sharing it with them.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Play That Song

As we were driving to school this morning, I mentioned to little kid that we hadn't heard a song we both really liked in a while. He excitedly said he had just been thinking of the same song earlier in the shower, and agreed it wasn't being played as often and promised to play it for me later (he is both house DJ and barista, and honored to play both parts).

The song is "Play That Song" by Train which is a real nightmare for Siri to work out, so it remained unplayed as we drove.

As I pulled into the school pick-up line, he said, "I love you, mom," and paused before adding, "a lot," in a sweet and serious tone. "I hope you have a really good day, like the kind of day where you hear our song."

I was already feeling overwhelmed with wonder about what an incredible kid he is as he was hopping out of the car, and then just as he closed the door, the song came on the radio.

Magic.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Mom's Mad

I am sick with a sore throat and a fever, after a long weekend of taking to the streets with millions of other women and mothers to give Donald Trump the "Knock it off or I will take your ass outside for a talk so damn fast" mom look on a global level.

And I had a delirious dream that I walked into the White House and it looked like a college party had just taken place. I followed the detritus to the Oval Office where I found our president sitting at his desk with an empty chip bag, the floor covered in potato chip crumbs that had been spilled and crushed into the carpet.

"This is the EXACT kind of thing I knew was going to happen! You have been here for ONE day -- ONE DAY -- and this place is trashed. How hard is it not to spill the chips? Or to clean them up when you do? Who do you think is going to get all of this out of the carpet now? Huh? You? Not you. You know it won't be you. You live like a freaking pig and who has to deal with it? The rest of us. It's disgusting and you should be ashamed, you're like a spoiled child who cares about no one but himself."

I don't remember his reaction to this scolding, just my strained mom voice and utter disgust about the trail of chips. I knew they wouldn't vacuum up easily and I wasn't cleaning up his mess.

I told Big Kid about it on the drive to school. "That's funny and something the both of you would do -- him spilling chips everywhere, and you yelling at him for it. He has really messed up making moms mad, that's a group you don't want to fight. They don't forget and talking back will just make it worse."

Yep. Clean up the crumbs, Trump, or we won't let you play with Putin anymore.