Lighter fare. Stream of thought. Feminine energy. Most of the time. Time as money. And on we go.
Things to do, January 20. I didn’t call my cousin on her birthday. Things to do. Plan meal & baking for dinner/bday party on Jan 30. Keep in mind the MPS Enrollment Fair that morning. Bake dairy-free family cake & cupcakes/cake for coworkers. Buy self bouquet for desk, you better believe – or maybe the shelf you want for photos, plant. So: dinner & 2 desserts. Cleaning & dining plan. Also: yoga practice room in office. Find one. Maybe you get a drop-in yoga club eventually. If you try. Later, list savings goals & amounts so you can stay focused. At work: memorize poetry instead of prices during down/numb times. OKGO.
Like old times, but much wiser. Less painful. Focus can be learned. Drive is innate.
This time of year is hard for me. I’m reaping the bulk of summer efforts. I’m holding feverishly tight to a season I know will change. I’m resuming schedules that require more discipline and putting my nose to that damned old grind stone. Separating the wheat from the chaff. All this, plus significant personal developments in the crumbling pillars of the Cathedral of Life’s Challenges (with a vast Karmic basement), is making me feel Crabby. I’m emotional. I’m dragging my feet in the work I’m committed to. I’m lost in confusing day-dreams and occasionally unraveled by painful memories.
I’m getting better at dealing with The Feels. It’s been a long and challenging road here, but I have tools in my coping tool-box that are clean and ready when broken feelings spring out of my otherwise logical brain. One of my most trusted tools to getting back on the good foot is singing. I’ve always been partial to loud, belting choral or gospel arrangements with special soft spots for soul and blues. The history of blues and all its children particularly sings to me. On the drive into work this morning The Alabama Shakes soothed me, and later, when I was walking the halls, trying to quell another surge of the feels, an unlikely late-comer popped into my head.
I never listened to Frank Sinatra growing up. It wasn’t until Finding Nemo gave me “Beyond the Sea” that I paid him any mind at all. Though I like music of that era and style, I never dug for it the way I have dug for Nina Simone or The Kinks. However not long after giving birth to Mme. Lu, when “just keep swimming” was about the only thing I could muster from day to day, a mix CD by my uncle literally fell into my lap from the CD visor of my parents’ minivan. On that CD was Frank Sinatra singing “That’s Life.” I listened to that song on repeat for thirty minute drives. I sang it day in and day out while struggling to dig out from the depths of the worst feelings of my life. It became a mantra. If one of my kids was having a rough time, I’d begin singing it as a means to prop us both up.
The CD proved to be an impermanent messenger of grace and just as it had fallen into my lap one horrible day out of many, it was lost to who-knows-where when I’d caught my breath just a little. My legs were less shakey. My will and direction and self-support systems were stronger. I guess I hadn’t listened to it for a few weeks so whichever little pixie dropped it off saw to it that I moved on and took it away again. Or so I like to imagine. It didn’t go before I’d memorized the song though. I still pull it out of my tool box when I need a bit of humor or light-hearted strength. “Don’t Wanna Fight” is the wrench, whereas “That’s Life” is more like a screw driver, or in my family, a red clown-nose.
I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate,
A poet, a pawn and a king
I’ve been up and down and over and out
And I know one thing
Each time I find myself flat on my face,
I pick myself up and get back in the race
I wrote this list, which I found folded up in a catch-all box, on the back of a menu in June, 2013. It’s banal and, today, it quiets the informed heat generated by reading painful news articles. It quieted the parched landscape of parenting partner-less and heartbroken, back then, too. I was just beginning to work outside the home. Mme. Lu was 6 months old.
- Unlimited free coffee
- Witness to the regulars’ routines & particularities (intimate!)
- The smell of freshly done & perfumed women
- Reminds me that I’m not where I once was & am where I choose
- Human emotion microcosm
- The books they read (Mary Oliver, Dog Songs; “Walking towards Heaven”)
- Book clubs
- Abuelas locas
- Marty, who listens to his son-in-law on headphones while eating French rolls
- Feeling 100% competent 95% of the time
- Being required to smile for 8 hours
- Heavy whipped cream
*Toni was a short lived, very dramatic, pathological liar who nearly got two of our kitchen staff fired by accusing them of sexual harassment. She requested to be to be put on the list. On Toni’s first day she showed up 45 minutes late and told us all a tale about witnessing a mugging and having a seizure. On Toni’s last day she shouted “F*** you, you fat dyke!” at our manager before flipping off the dining room on her way out.
As I sang songs to my kids last night my mind wandered. I’ve sung this succession of songs hundreds of times, so it was all too easy for me not to be mindful. I imagined a future for myself. I haven’t done that since just before I met their father – six years is a long time to go without dreams for oneself.
I was in a wood floor living room with light streaming in. I was home alone and I was playing guitar. My dreams have been here, all along. They are all feeling quite the bon vivants at the prospect of this long-hard road getting a little easier.
Lullaby routine: Skinamarink (Sharon, Lois & Bram)>Blackbird (The Beatles)>Hang Loose (Alabama Shakes) ❤
The count down to the boy having his tonsils removed is down to one day. It both is and is not a big deal. It’s a big deal. My baby having surgery is a big deal. Any where from 4 days to 10 days of recovery is a big deal. Liquid Vicodin for 4 year olds is a big deal. All of that. And it isn’t a big deal because it’s the hand shake of surgeries. It’s a good deal because his health will improve with better sleep, more oxygen, possibly even improved appetite. And all that is stressful. I have brief fantasies that I will be a productive wench while he recuperates, but I should probably allow for the possibility that I’ll be really busy being a nurse those three days I get to be home with him afterward.
We haven’t heard from his father since we learned that he was in Colorado. Ostensibly he was visiting his parents. My mom is nervous he’s laying in wait to spring a surprise visit on us. She makes sure the doors are locked at all times. Her nerves are a bit contagious. So that’s happening.
My car became ill with consumption. Incapacitated. Dead until I miracle hundreds of dollars into my life. Can I make a compelling kickstarter for this? Seems ridiculous and even shameful to think of such things. So yeah, there’s that too.
The car and not having savings enough to do the things that would maintain my health and the health of my car and home was a real kick in the teeth, especially as: the holidays. I’ve really grown to love the holidays in my adult life. Especially with kids, I relish creating as much magic and merriment as I can. But it’s a boat load of cranberries to pretend it isn’t adding to my stress. I am doing my best to minimize that, but really what is most likely happening is I’m watching the finish line approach, knowing things are not done and thinking, Oh Well. The heat will be on, I’ll stress myself to bits the night or two before trying to do something, anything for those friends and co-workers “I should” give “something” to. Because, as Garrison Keillor put it on PHC today, “what if I don’t?” They may just get cards reading “Friendship” and I will remind them that it’s a gift I give 24/7. That’ll humble ’em! Bah. Humbug.
All that was actually the preface to what I was going to do tonight, because I wanted to do something (there’s that sentiment again!). I have written and saved three posts this weekend. They’re raw. They’re uncut. Here are passages from each that mean something universal, I think. From me to you: LIFE and all its baubles….
How does she lead in to a long-winded kvetch with so many feelings choking the narrow passage out? Her complaints feel ordinary and Continue reading
On Saturday night my car did a very inconvenient thing. It died just after I left the house for a date with a seriously beneficial person. Undeterred I grabbed my bag and walked the four or five blocks home. I made sure my car was dead in a legal overnight spot and grabbed the keys to my mom’s van. Onward.
While making the drive to the date I preached to myself. I have been ignoring my intuition in the area of finances. My intuition has been correct, but I have not liked what it has been saying. Instead I’ve been begging the universe for more time or for mercy. Looks like time ran out! Some deep cuts, as the politicians say, will have to be made; some tough choices. The sermon I gave myself was about all that and more deeply about disallowing myself to feed Pippi Snotstockings.
Pippi Snotstockings is the name that was given to the part of me that is all about instant gratification, selfishness and petulance. She is the one who ignores car repair expenses while allowing holistic healthcare expenses. She is the one who blurts out whatever is on her mind while pretending that words don’t linger. She can be fun, but is more often damaging, especially in the long run.
So I recognized the issue, owned it and came up with a solution. Every time I hear the voice in my head that says “I don’t wanna….” I’m going to say to it (her) “I don’t care.”
“I don’t care that you don’t want to go to the gym. I don’t care that you don’t want to wait. I don’t care that you want something right now that you can’t afford. In the long run what you get now will not add to the long term health or freedom of this family I’m raising.”
On the heels of this very grown up and certain-to-be-challenging sermon came an idea. The idea is based on the fact that I am a writer not writing. I’m not writing for myriad perfectly good excuses. Despite the tidy effectiveness of the excuses they are not helpful or healthy to my growth. I want to add “I don’t wanna write” to my list of things Pippi is no longer in charge of. I don’t have time, it’s true. My life is extremely demanding on me, it’s true. My resources are limited, it’s true, but so what? It’s never going to be a good time to become a better writer and every day I let pass without writing takes what practice I have given it away from me. My ability to construct sentences and stories diminishes. My knowledge of grammar diminishes. All of it. Couldn’t I write just a little every day? Even if I write a post about doing things I didn’t want to do, even if no one but me reads it, at least I’m here getting better. At least I’m here using the gift I ask for the most in my life.
They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds. – Mexican Proverb
Not long after leaving my future ex-husband I wrote to his second ex wife on Facebook to see if she wanted to compare notes. She had tried, when I was falling in love and making it public on my old blog, to warn me off of him, but I didn’t listen. Of course. One self-abusing night I must have re-read her warnings and felt like a huge ass, so I wrote her to commiserate. Months later she responded and made it apparent she wanted to know what happened, but wasn’t terribly forthcoming of her own story. That spooked me and helped me make the better decision which was to continue looking forward, not back. One tidbit she did share is that she refers to him, and her friends know him as, “The Terrible Monster.” Pretty aw
So anyway I’ve had a lot of dreams about the terrible monster. Some were infuriatingly romantic. Some were telling and dark. Others have been violent. Quite a few have made use of his sexual addictions and use of whores. Last night I found a mousy brown whore in his house (for the third or so time, in dreams). I yelled, ranted and generally tore her a new asshole then chocked her full of warnings. I also think I lamented at some point all the money he was fucking away in attempt to soothe his broken ego monstrosity that could be going to educate, clothe, feed, nourish and heal his children.
It was not nice upon waking; one of those dreams you trouble over for too long into the day’s events. I can’t figure out, and probably never will, how much of it is clairvoyant information and how much is just anger poisoning my sleep.
Can’t get blood from a turnip. Promising to write every day for an hour at the end of it. It’s like trying to lie down on a bed of nails and not knowing how.
There are so many emotions in each day. It can feel like an invisible but magnificent success to have gotten through another day of mothering two babies alone. In each formerly mundane day I am faced with processing emotions like guilt for being on edge, grief for having no warm body inviting me to rest on, envy of the “in tact” nuclear families I see, regret at having not known sooner to demand better treatment… oh gawd, how it goes on.
Through out each day intense sentences, memories or paragraphs come to me. I’m driving, or engaging my two year old, or nursing my infant and this thought, these perfectly aligned words come and go. I want to save them and write them down, but I can’t. There isn’t time. I want to make sure I get to the keyboard later to recreate the scenery, but I fall asleep when putting the boy down to bed instead, or nod off while rocking the girl and wake up an hour later with a kink in my neck, a baby in my arms and a void that I fill with Life cereal instead of pre-heated paragraphs. No one wants to read my gripes. But we all feel this. These days of exhaustion are universal. And they will pass and I will be stronger.
I have an amazing cat. This is not a situation in which I am blinded by bias. My cat’s awesomeness is universally agreed upon. She possesses all the best qualities of a cat and then some pretty cool unique qualities usually reserved for dogs. She seems to love me with a steadfastness and it sometimes buoys me. Her name is Billie. I named her both for a favorite jazz singer of mine and for my uncle, who passed half a year before I got her. My then girlfriend talked me into going to get a cat because I talked about it so much. I was afraid I’d get a cat who’d be a dud – a hide under the bed, bites-your-ankles-and-hisses-as-you-walk-by cat. I wanted cat that was out of its totally insane kitten phase, but was still close enough to it to be silly and cute and cuddly.
Billie was small and as soon as I saw her face I had to hold her. And as soon as I had her out of the cage and saw how chill she was I knew she was my kitty. She has the sweetest doll face and her nose is exactly half dark and half light pink. I just loved that. She is wacky all colors calico, mostly grey, black and white but in some areas she has orange too. She is extra fluffy and never weighs more than nine pounds. I got her from the Chicago Humane Society for $55. A week after I brought her home she got an upper respiratory infection and stopped eating so she had to go back for 2 weeks before I could have her again. When she finally came home for good I had to give her both pills and liquid medicine twice a day for 14 days. I had to lock us both in the bathroom and basically sit on her to get her to take that stuff. She had the sniffles for a long time after that.
She used to sit at our back door around 6 PM every night and yowl with volume shocking for something so tiny. She has sharp, pointed yowls – more like yelps. Like she’s saying, “Hey! Seriously! Over here!” Very staccato. I figured she must have been an indoor/outdoor cat with her previous owners. She was so sweet she had to have been house broken before me and her routine, I imagined, was to be in all day and go out when the owner got home. I assumed she got lost and picked up, which led to me getting her. I felt bad having her cooped up and joked to my roommate that I was going to get her some crickets to hunt, so she could exercise properly.
I lived in that apartment for one year. That year I began taking internet dating seriously. I was unemployed for longer than a month. I fell in love with an unresponsive girl and was dumped by her. I moved into the apartment’s “pantry” so we could get a third room mate and save money.
When I moved out of that place and into my own studio apartment I learned that Billie could be left to her own devices outside and be trusted to come back. I was really upset the first time she got loose. I blamed myself, but really it was because I was moving, semi-drunk and she wanted out.
When I was driving to Washington I had Billie in a larger carrier with my other cat, Willow. Something happened on that drive that caused Willow and Billie to become enemies. Billie liked Washington. She had five acres of undeveloped land to roam. She had a cat door. She did as she pleased.
Every day I used to take a walk with Salamander and the two dogs. Billie came with. She even occasionally enticed Willow to come too. I’d be walking down our rural one lane neighborhood road with two good dogs, a stroller and beautiful son, and behind me on the road would be Billie. Sometimes she trotted right along beside me, other times she was a few yards, or even a couple hundred feet, behind us. The neighbors and passers-by were enchanted by her behavior. I felt happy to know she was mine.
When I was driving back to Illinois Billie was on her own again. Willow disappeared about a year ago after a nasty fight with something that nearly took his eye. He stuck around and convalesced and then he took off, preferring more to be wild than have a nightly roof to call his own. Or maybe the coyotes got him.
Billie has been coming and going as she pleases off and on since I got her. She disappeared once, for almost two full days. We had a beautiful reunion just across the road from a back lot and alley way. I cried I was so happy she’d come back to me.
On the road back to Illinois we experimented with how to care for Billie. We drove eight hours a day and stayed in Best Westerns every night. I was the only driver because my mom doesn’t know how to drive stick shift. Eventually the simplest route was the one that worked most. We made one long stop every day to burn energy and stretch and eat lunch. All the other stops were quicker, in and out, affairs. At this long stop, I parked somewhere apart from any other crowds, took Billie out of the car, carried her to the area I had scoped out for her and dropped her off. She’d take care of her business and come back to me. She still wants to be going on walks with us every day, but we don’t go as often. It’s harder in the frigid air of Illinois. I’m looking forward to Spring.
When we were on the road I had known Billie wouldn’t use a leash or a harness. We bought her one any way. She wriggled out of it and took off across a parking lot. I waited and called for her in that special way she knows. “Billie chick-a-pow” or “Billie chickie-pea” She’s going to stick with me. She is, sometimes, a reminder that I know things. She is a gentle reminder to myself, to be good to me.
We woke early. Five thirty gray dawn. “Just give me another hour,” I futilely begged. “Then I’ll make some eggs for you.”
Yesterday was a hard day, but sometimes the hardest days present the best opportunities for grace. An elderly southern doctor, shuffling in cowboy boots and white coat, informed me that though he could hear a murmur in my boy’s neck he is healthy as a horse. He told me that sometimes the murmur will happen in the neck and the chest will act like the body of a banjo and make it resonate much larger than it is. His banjo analogy made me want to follow him home like a lost and hungry grandchild, sit at his kitchen table and eat Saltines with him.