My figure, female

My figure, female

Getting out of the shower today, I caught a glimpse of myself in the medicine cabinet mirror. That same bathroom medicine cabinet that is filled entirely with products meant to highlight this and hide that, smooth this and lift that. Every product’s purpose is to address the imperfections which are just a tiny part of the imperfect whole. So it’s no wonder that I am dismayed by what I see projected onto the bathroom mirror. The swell of age and babies, the wrinkles, the scars, the bulges. The aged skin stretched awkwardly over underworked muscles, looks tired. Tired as the face that stares back and sighs. I wish I was younger, forgetting I will get older. And I wish I was bigger here and smaller there, smoother here and also there. Every part of me seems to hold some opportunity for criticism, an opening for attack. Smallish toes, inappropriate scalp, improper arm pits, inadequate knee surface area, unseemly nails, unsightly calves…pieces and parts of a Dali painting, putrid crayons melting on asphalt.
Recently I have had particular distaste for my stomach. It’s bigger now than it was a decade, or perhaps two, ago. It reminds me of leftover biscuit dough. I love biscuits, but this doughy mess makes me sigh. Maybe I could use my belly button to store flour, or acorns. I open the medicine cabinet door, so the mirror faces away.
Just this morning, my daughter said, without provocation, “You look good, for someone who’s had three kids. ” and I’d possibly agree….but there’s that modifier. And others. “For my age”, is another one. These are good and real compliments, that feel rather like getting a free sample of uncooked chicken skin.
It’s not as though I am simply a decoration that has seen better days, a balloon animal that has come untwisted. I am certainly more than the sum of my thighs, my weight, my age. On good days, I don’t need to be reminded of that. But I am often caught off guard by what I see in the mirror, in the curve of a spoon, in photographs and then I’m brought back to the universe where my body is the sun and all of, what might be remembered as amazing parts, are just distant planets orbiting around.
My womanly frame, of wrinkles, and unwanted bulges and sags and curves and joy and creation, needs a break. It is not as though having better thighs would make my life easier anyway. If my hair was thick and curly (which I wish for almost exclusively because it is flat and frizzy) I wouldn’t accomplish anything more. Larger boobs wouldn’t make me smarter, or more compassionate. Having toned triceps won’t get me any closer to finishing my prize winning novel. And anyway, these wobbling bat wings embrace my lover beautifully. These over-sized thighs lift me with ease upstairs and downstairs and all around. Belly laughs and gestures and hand puppets and scowls of disapproval are all possible because of the wonders of facial muscles and skin stretched over bones and cartilage. I can still do magnificent things with this flesh suitcase of mine. It is the case that this amazing human machine has created the three people I love most in the world. How much more impressive can a bag of skin and bones get than that? It makes people! I’ve got a blender than can make kale smoothies that I give more respect and adoration than my whole body.
But I’m not writing an essay about learning to love the sags and bags and wrinkles and fat. I’m not headed out to have midlife nude pictures made, I’m not going to hang inspirational quotes on my bathroom mirror reminding me that I am a beautiful flesh portmanteau capable of amazing things. Twenty year-old feminist Ami, I’ve got disappointing news–you are never going to learn to love your body. I appreciate women who do, and women who are trying. Bless each and every one of you. It’s hostile territory to even consider self-love, for many people. I can admit that there are several parts of my physical appearance that I tolerate. I attempted to love my body, mostly by trying to change the shape of my body, but it seems that loving my body is just another unattainable goal. So, I think we are going to try to just be friends. And as friends we are going to agree that there are many, many more important areas of the universe that we should be putting our energy into. Fighting Sexism, for example.

The simple act of learning to love your body is a radical act in a society that makes a living off of telling you that there is always something wrong with you. But I have begun finding the task of learning to love my body as exhausting as hating it. So instead of putting up inspirational quotes about loving myself, I am going to tack up a photo of a penguin. Penguins could give two fu$ks about the size of their beaks, the amount of black spots verses white spots, or that they make a weird noise when frightened (it’s true, look that up). This is the year that I turn my attention to something other than embracing my wrinkly elbows and I stop trying to love my laugh lines. These are, after all, just things. And if, periodically, I am startled by the unwelcome sight of my monstrous thighs, my bellowing belly, my pizza dough triceps, I will offer a figurative tip of the old fedora and go along my way.  As long as the sun shines, perhaps the most radical act of all will be saying, “what body? I have a body? Huh, I hadn’t really noticed, but now that you mention it I was wondering how I was able to dance to that funky James Brown song, make this delicious Quinoa and resist this crazy patriarchy.” So lets get our thighs out there, whale-sized or bird legs, and raise our pendulous arms to those things that are greater than our flesh duffle bags. Do something really radical today.  Don’t think about your body at all.



Summer of sad

Summer of sad

Dawn pushes through the languid, humid air, heavy with the smell of fading honeysuckle and damp earth. The sound of an unseen cicada pulses in a tree outside my window and the dogs rest silently around my feet. The long days of summer have left me with an uneasiness in my gut, a vibration that I’ve called anxiety. These summer days have been difficult, to say the least, even from the safe distance from where I get to view the world.
I felt a small victory, a relief, when Mother Nature assisted me in solving my 4th of July dilemma. As though my gentle whimpers of discomfort might be enough to distract her into my tiny universe. Still, no matter the cause, karmic, or not, I got the benefit of avoiding making a decision. My little universe, my little ship, got to stay out of the stormy sea for another moment.
The news came, while I sat on the exposed roots of an old oak tree that provides shade for those who no longer need it, in a nearby graveyard. Not one, but two new police shootings. Sad, helpless days, this summer heat keeps bringing. Then today, the news from Dallas. The pit in my stomach deepens and lurches. Solutions feel like blurry dreams drifting away into the ether. Inaction feels worse. What is this world? This country? There is much hurt.
It is nearly 10:30am and all is quiet in this house. This is the peace I know, the hushed breaths of animals and children, the time and space to write and sort and imagine what could possibly help heal this fragmented, beaten world. The space that is filled with wondering of what a white, cisgender, educated, mother of three could offer that might provide solace, even hope.
I don’t know much, but I know what it feels like to have a broken heart, to feel the pain of betrayal or the violence of a stranger. I know that the cries of injustice pierce the air like the throbbing call of the cicada, even up here where I sit on the third floor. I know that last night when my daughter tip-toed up my steps after she was awakened by a firework that when I promised 1000% that it was a firework and not a gun shot that I was at least 90% sure that we were actually safe. I’m uncomfortable, physically, literally, and I know it does not begin to approach what marginalized people must feel.
And still, I feel like I did the afternoon I lost my mother in a downtown clothing store. I spun around, like Wonder Woman, to fight imaginary crime. As I stood there, dizzily trying to focus on the landscape of clothing racks around me, I realized the shape that was my mother was not in view. I was four, I was disoriented and I felt real panic.
And I feel like I did that same year, when two uniformed cops woke me up in the middle of the night to question me about “the incident”. Or like I felt five or six years later as dried grass pushed up into my nose at the same time four neighborhood boys punched my back. This is not to suggest that these things qualify me in any way to be an expert on the terror Diamond Reynolds must have felt when her fiancé is shot at the same time her 4 year old offered from the backseat, “Don’t cry. ” but it’s what I’ve got.
And it is what I can access on this hot July morning. Because this time I can’t just avoid making a decision and hope that karmic forces will lean in and allow me to continue to avoid action, to remain indecisive. This haunting ache in my body that reminds me of the tiny moments in my life that I have felt unsafe, also persist on a much larger scale for many, many people in my community.
What I have to offer, I’m not entirely sure, but I can’t lie hear smelling honeysuckle and listening to cicadas while people die. Its not enough to feel uncomfortable, and periodically unsafe. This status quo is not ok, it is not acceptable and it cannot continue.

The invisible agony*

The invisible agony*

Hilarious beast, this depression. Like so many things in my life, I’d assumed it’s like the movies. You lay in bed, in the dark after some devastating loss. A partner dies, a divorce, a lost job. And your best friend comes in after some period of a time, a week, two weeks, and throws open the curtains and says, “That’s it! You’re getting up.” Followed by a montage of you reluctantly going for a walk in the park, thoughtfully sipping tea while wearing sunglasses and a head scarf, you toss a frisbee and laugh accidentally, eventually you play a board game with friends or travel to Italy, you write a meaningful song, or start a blog. There’s a crescendo you ride that steadily increases your mood until one day you are just–better, well.
But in real life there’s no steady path that leads you to better. There are good days relentlessly followed by terrible days. There is distinct pleasure pursued by devastating and unexpected pain. And that pain lives right next to the intense pleasure. Next door neighbors, like the kind of neighbor that you’d borrow sugar from. You’re enjoying that perfect day, the simple joy of the air temperature and the smell of flowers and the very next molecule that holds the very next thought contains a darkness so dire that you once again feel that deep ache, the deepest a heart can know without shattering into a million pieces from the weight of it. The spaces are all so fragile that they’d surely break from the lightest brush of a dandelion parachute. And you feel the black hole of depression opening up, ready to swallow you whole, but you access some hidden resource tucked away, you step forward and back into the light of the sun.
Depression doesn’t get to be the protagonist of that cinematic fairy tale, it’s messier, some days a lot more boring and,essentially, always present. Depression makes you tired, the kind of tired that napping doesn’t alleviate. You ache and not the type of ache that is removed with painkillers. You live with it, it’s a scar, it’s an unpaid debt, it’s taxes, it’s death. It follows you, it lives with you. Periodically it goes into hibernation, you medicate it, or meditate it, or get it drunk, but it comes back. It sits on your chest like an unkempt, uninvited Flemish Rabbit, it pursues you, it waits for you to be too tired to fight it off and hopes you will pull it over you like a dangerous and comfortable blanket.
Most of the time, you manage it. You go about your day. You throw frisbees and accidentally laugh, you sip tea and wear headscarves, you play Jenga, you vacation. Some days you pass so joyfully, you wonder if it’s just gone–taken up residence in some other vessel. Some days it moves in with such authority and violence that you are sure there is no more of you. You sleep lengthy naps in darkened rooms. You wonder what the point is, you cry and fret and ache. But just as the molecules of pleasure are bumped out of the way to make room for despair, the opposite is true as well.
The melody of life with depression is packed with crescendos and decrescendos, swells of beautiful music and discordant cacophonous noise, and hours and hours of background music. You struggle with it, you survive with it, you fight it and acquiesce to it. You treat it, you coddle it, you feed it and starve it, but you never get rid of it. Because you live with it. And that is ok. Or at least, that is.

The title is credited to David Foster Wallace

Mother’s Day Lament

Mother’s Day Lament

There is little that compares to the emptiness I feel on Mother’s Day morning. My children remember me and bring coffee and love notes. Friends and family send kind words. And yet, it is one of the hardest days of the year because of what feels like it is missing: The expectation of what I thought motherhood would be.
I thought I would be a better mother, more organized, more nurturing, better at caring for the little darlings that I brought into the world. I thought I’d make more chore charts and handmade yarn mittens, I thought I’d coach more after school sports, or at least bring more orange slices. I thought I’d plan more Harry Potter themed birthday parties complete with talking sorting hats and brooms strung from the ceiling with fishing line. I thought I’d be tired less and self evolved less. I thought I’d kill fewer indoor plants, outdoor herbs and tropical fish. I thought I’d rescue more kites from trees and find more lost cats and shoes and important papers. I thought I’d do more, do it more smoothly and with less shouting. I’d kiss more and yell less.
I once believed it was my destiny to be a wife and mother. I’d be the best at both, a natural by virtue of the sheer quantity of good mothers and wives that I observed in fiction and reality alike. I saw and read about great mothers, doing mother things with ease and delight. But, I didn’t hear much about the loneliness of motherhood, the bone shaking doubt, the crippling fear of utter incompetence that accompanies caring for other human beings. The ache a mother feels at caring so deeply for her children. The feeling that I am simultaneously the most influential and the least competent person to tend to the needs of these tiny humans.
The list of hurts a mom is faced with managing is long. There are bees and nighttime terrors that coincide with an overwhelming need for sleep or just to be alone with my own thoughts. There are skinned knees and, worse, the pains that you can’t see, that you can’t measure because they are invisible and indeed so much more insidious. Heartbreaks, stomach aches, late night fears that keep you awake wondering if you’ve made a huge mistake. Sure I try my best, even in the tired moments, but it seldom feels adequate. And there are no real breaks.
There are good times, to be sure. They are frequently more plentiful than the trying times. There’s laughter and joy. And there are mundane, average Tuesdays where everyone just floats along, lunches get made in peace and dogs sleep quietly and dishes get put away without nagging. There are moments that reach in and grab your soul because you could just burst with pride and elation over the beautiful human being you contributed to creating and raising. Sometimes I feel as though my heart will break with delight because I see in my daughters a reflection of the parts of me that are decent and pure. And the special bond we get because of what we have been through together. The pains and triumphs that are ours alone to understand, glue us tightly together.
But the real kick you in the teeth pain bee sting in your ear slap in the face of Mother’s Day is that I thought it would be a partnership. This day is a reminder that I thought I was standing in one line, signing up for a specific class, agreeing to a particular arrangement, and I was not. Like so many women, in so many circumstances, we are left alone on the heavy end of the see saw. We stopped playing man to man defense, or even zone defense and realized the rest of the team had already left on the bus.
I admit, there is a village around my daughters and I. People who care for us in amazing and selfless ways, people without whom the ship would sink for sure. And that makes me more fortunate than some. It offers an advantage which I cannot fathom being without. Because even with help, it is the hardest challenge I have ever endured. Because in the deepest part of the night, when I am weary from the days and weeks, when one of my daughters comes to me with a broken heart and I reach deep down and try to find an answer that will satisfy her, will heal up her wound and at the same time allow me to go back to my own tumultuous mind. Because no one else can be there for that or can even really assure me that I’ve done the best I can. Because it is the loneliest job I will ever both love and doubt. For these reasons, I wish there was no yearly reminder that I am a mother.
It’s the loneliness that kills me. And the self doubt. It’s the quiet, though disgruntled, inner voice that suggests that the universe has made a terrible error in allowing me to be the sole caretaker for the minds, bodies and souls of these tremendous human beings. Most days, I feel like barely more than an adolescent myself. And the sheer irony that I’m managing all of this alone, is the cherry on top of a macabre sundae. Just because I planned on doing this as a team is not a way out.
As always, I’m thankful for the little things, the little victories, and the big support we get from our community. I’m thankful for inside jokes and love notes, and unsolicited thank yous. I thankful for an understanding partner who walks home in the early morning hours to make room for sleepy interlopers. I am thankful to friends who send lovely supportive words. But mostly, I am thankful that tomorrow there are 364 days until Mother’s Day.

My sofa, my home

My sofa, my home

A couple of days ago, I would have been embarrassed by the pizza crumbs I found in my bra; but today, not so much. No longer bothered by the idea of wearing the same clothes for two, even three days, I’m learning to embrace my condition. I’ve come to think of the weight I’m putting on, as a result of stress eating and complete lack of activity, as what will one day become winter insulation. I’ve moved out of denial and am sliding comfortably into acceptance.
After breaking my ankle a week ago, I’ve turned my sofa into nearly my entire world. Surrounded by stacks of pizza boxes, I’ve come to accept this as the space I occupy. I eat here, sleep here, read here, build cities here, watch tv here, write here, pay bills here, yesterday I even recorded a radio show here. I’ve organized my belongings around me: a bag for trash, a bag for clean clothes, a bag for dirty clothes, toiletries, calcium vitamins, medicine, first aid kit, books, batteries, pencils and pens, brush, salt, remotes. Oh sure, I’ve been out in the past week. And certainly I’ve made the trek to the bathroom and I’ve had the adventure of crawling up three flights of stairs so I can take a sponge bath and wash my hair in the sink. But the majority of my time has been here.
Normally, I am a mover. Not in any particularly productive way, just there’s a lot of motion in my life. I go. I would simply stand up more, but my toes keep turning purple. So, adjusting to sitting on this sofa for the majority of my time, has taken some adjustment, but I think I’m over the hump. Maybe I’ll just extend my time here, stay. Perhaps I’ve transitioned to a sedentary life. And in this day and age, I could practically have anything I want delivered just a few feet away from me. Food, clothes, office supplies, animals, more cushions. I could learn to really appreciate the joy of getting to walk out to the porch and listen to the rain, or the birds. Enjoy the hours of solitude. Soak in the slow pace, buy clothing that doesn’t button, zip or tie, calculate how many hours it would take to watch every documentary on Netflix, learn how to make doilies.
In my mind, I am Tom Hanks in Cast Away, dreadlocked blonde hair, my best friend a pizza box that I’ve drawn a smiley face on. I’m learning to weave a hammock from the sofa stuffing and catch slow moving bees for food. I’m scratching tick marks into the window frame to keep track of the days. Rain storms are exciting, and I’m keeping an eye on the horizon for helicopters.
That is, of course, if Tom Hanks had been able to accomplish all that he did in a week. It’s easy to get lost in your own misery, whatever it is. In reality, I’m already halfway through the hardest part of my recovery. I’m truly getting off easy. But we’ve all had a cold, a heartbreak, a sadness that we thought would never end. It’s hard to see the light when you are down the rabbit hole. Sometimes we lose sight of hope and learn to manage the discomfort, and then before we know it, we are well again, we are lifted up, we are rescued.
Bones heal, heartbreak mends, sadness subsides, life moves. I could learn to stay here beyond my recovery, embrace my new sofa culture, order pre made food from the Internet, but in order to do so, at some point I would have to resist a lot of inertia to move forward. When we are uncomfortable, sick, sad, broken, it feels interminable. And fighting these unpleasant feelings probably doesn’t encourage them to pass us by any more quickly. They have their own course, their own pace. Giving in feels like the right thing to do for the moment. Try to find comfort in the discomfort, rest, feel bad. And not so long from now, I will rejoice in the simple pleasure of leaving my sofa and standing in the shower.

What is the meaning of this!?

What is the meaning of this!?

So let’s talk about the swarm of lethargic bees that invaded my home in the first 24 hours following my recent fall. But first, a bit of backstory will provide you with the understanding that I’m terrified of bees. Once as a lanky preteen I cartwheeled over a bee in my yard that promptly stung my finger. The old house that I grew up in frequently had wasps nests in the attic fan and as soon as the weather got warm enough, they would fly into our home and hide beneath the bedsheets. I once got a nasty sting on my thigh, through a pair of brown corduroy pants that I was wearing to keep warm in bed. As a curious four year old I picked up a paper wasp’s nest in my yard, only to discover that makes wasps angry. And yes, these are mostly wasp stories, but the pain of a sting doesn’t discriminate between species.
But these current trespassers are slow moving, crawling, bees that just march about my floors or buzz casually in my window sills; they are easy targets for a can of raid. These are low quality bees to be sure. So, it’s not so much the quality that’s an issue, but the quantity. And the fact that when it comes to exterminating bees, I don’t have a leg to stand on. Haha, get it, because…so I called in reinforcements, to help, with the bees.
Ani DiFranco says, ” life may imitate art, but Art imitates TV”. There must be a deeper, more symbolic meaning in these infestations, these minor upsets to my current condition. May friend J suggested I look to literature to search for meaning. Because after all, literature was life experience first.
I certainly can’t avoid the obvious analogy that these normally busy, active creatures are slow. They don’t fly, they walk, as though their wings are utterly useless. “Busy as bees”? Not these guys. They might as well have their wings propped up on an old sofa watching reruns of “Arrested Development” on Netflix. It is no secret that it is impossible to move quickly on crutches. Even when I’ve gotten up a little speed, I’ve nearly caused new injuries when I’ve been forced to over correct. The only way to get up stairs at the moment, is to sit down and lift myself onto each step, slowly. So perhaps the universe has sent this analogy to mock me, ” Look at these bees! They are hardly even bees. They crawl about (like you) waiting to be eliminated.” That seems a bit harsh Universe, so maybe it’s something else. Something more positive and less self-loathing.
Bees have jobs, some bees go out and collect honey, some clean the hive, others care for the larvae, and of course the queen Bee holds the hive together. Essentially the hive is an exploded version of a parent. I am carpenter bee and caretaker bee and queen bee. I may have mentioned, “things” are in disarray in my hive. There is an appealing array of mucky, greasy dishes scattered throughout the house. I swear my youngest daughter is just pouring dog food onto the floor to feed the dogs. And I’ll not even go into detail about the indoor water balloon incident. Slow moving bees would be horribly inept at keeping up with an active hive. Honey would rot (if that’s possible), larvae would shrivel. Ironically, bees could thrive in the clutter of my kitchen; lackadaisically walking on dishes of old strawberries and whipped cream.
However, perhaps the most striking parallel is that a hive, even this “low-rent” hive that has taken up residence in my room, isn’t a single bee. There are many, many bees, doing lots of jobs. When the queen is down, the other bees rally around and take care of hive to ensure its health. Both Hillary Clinton and Starman were right…”it takes a village” and “when things are at their worst, people are at their best. ” Even though some bees are solitary, for the most part bees are social creatures. They live in hives, work together and take care of each other. I’d image, there are bees back at the hive that are moving a lot faster, taking up the slack for these slothful bees. So, I’m learning to accept help and help is being graciously offered.
I suspect the reason for the lazy pace of these bees is actually the recent warm spell (which was also related to my recent fall; warm weather caused me to wear impractical sandals, impractical sandals caused me to fall on the sidewalk). I believe there is a hive in the air conditioning duct. When we turned on the A/C, the cold air blew them out into the house, but it also felt like winter to them. Blasted by cold air, they move slowly, as though birthed in winter. Our solution was to just turn off the air conditioning, which seems to have worked, for now.
I am concerned that the bees are just hiding in the walls, curled up in their hive, binging on nature documentaries. Hopefully by the time they decide to emerge once again, I will be healed and ready to do battle. Thanks to a very helpful hive, I am indeed healing every day.

2001: A Full Shining Lolita

2001:  A Full Shining Lolita

As I lounge, with my purple cast propped on a pillow, looking over the chaos that has erupted in my house in the last 24-48 hours, I realize what I normally do all day; Clear Cheerios off the counter, close boxes of crackers, throw away Puddin’ Pouches, put stray forks and spoons into the dishwasher, rinse dishes, feed the forgotten animals. My home looks like the scene in the movie after the girl has broken up with the guy and he holes himself up in his living room, surrounded by pizza boxes and empty whiskey bottles. Shades pulled, he reclusively resides amongst a sea of damp towels, waded up newspapers and filthy socks.
Breaking a body part, particularly one of the ones you use for propulsion, forces you to face the world from a particular point of view. One that is slower, lower and less capable than you were even the instant before you stepped ineptly on the uneven sidewalk in your impractical shoes. Even the most simplistic task becomes a chore of such gargantuan proportions that you spend significant time contemplating if it’s completion holds enough value to bother. Whatever is not near you suddenly feels launched into a universe that is too distant to comprehend; approximately the location of the horse head nebula. And walking up a flight of stairs has never before been appreciated for the sheer accomplishment that it is, nor has the defeat of realizing my toothbrush is three floors up ever been so poignant. Also, I don’t feel terrible about eating a handful of Bac’N Buds because they were left on the coffee table and therefore are in arm’s reach. And you should know, I’m not particularly good at accepting help. So I’ll just enjoy this new (albeit temporary) perspective on life.
A relatively minor injury, like breaking an ankle while,well, walking, isn’t such a big thing. It will be a delineation of a particular era; “oh that party happened right after I broke my ankle” , or ” oh! That’s right, I couldn’t drive then because of my ankle.” But mostly it only gives me these few moments to experience life from my sofa, or to gather perspective teetering atop a pair of crutches. But it’s important to remember it could be worse. There was no surgery, no metal pins, my toes are free, it’s only 2-3 weeks. I am a survivor and figuring out how to accomplish these mundane tasks is a challenge I’m willing to accept. Except showering, that’s just the dream of a crazy person.
There’s an interpretation of these recent events that practically writes a Stanley Kubrick flick. Particularly when you fold in the swarm of lethargic bees, which I’ll address a bit later, who have invaded my bedroom. This bedroom is tragically, on the third floor. Laid up from the simple act of walking, unable to drive single mom of three, her house infested with bees- slow bees-lays wrapped inside a single blanket on the cold porch, her wild eyes searching the landscape as her calf twitches inside her cast.
But I think there’s more humor to be found here than tragedy. For example, I’ve been using my bra as a carrying pouch. And I “butt-scootched” up the steps to the third floor, only to become so comically panicked that the house would catch on fire or that the slow-moving bees would leisurely surround my bed and form a bee beard on my face while I laid powerlessly on my back, that I had to make the disagreeable, protracted trek back down the stairs. And watching me try to maneuver this iPad out onto the porch was comic gold. Imagine a one armed sea otter learning to juggle for the first time. Mistakes were made. Comedy happened.
I’ve given up on my appearance almost entirely. I am very interested in purchasing those sweatpants that unbutton down the side. I think athletes wear them so they can rip them off in a moment’s notice to go jump in the game. I’d like the option of awkwardly tearing them off so I can pee. Earlier I did splash some water on my face as I stood wobbling over the bathroom sink. But even that feels inadequate, although difficult, enough to not even be worth it. My daughter brought me a warm dish towel to encourage me to at least rinse off, but as I slowly become more entrenched in the sofa, it just seems like an act with no meaning. Comically without meaning, of course.
And here is perhaps the most comic part of all, the person who is so graceful that she fell while walking, is now forced to encounter the world while precariously balancing on one foot. Her counterbalance a heavy, non weight bearing purple cast. Just try not to laugh when I have to pick up a sock off of the floor or when I try to suddenly change directions or when I tear off my athletic pants like a one-legged stripper during a Sunday matinee.
There is often comedy in tragic situations and it’s certainly better for my psyche to view it through this lens. Besides, I’ll have lots of time to write and catch up on some reading. Who doesn’t enjoy forced down time? Now you’ll have to pardon me, I’m planning to watch A Clockwork Orange, it’s just so relatable.

Love as dark matter

Love as dark matter

It’s 3am, the dog is barking at what might be a serial killer or a simple burglar, or a leaf. A lanky teenager occupies the space next to me in bed and a bleary-eyed preteen hovers over me. I don’t really care which reason the dog is barking, or why these interlopers are here, I just long for a peaceful night’s sleep, which I can’t remember having in my adult life. The little wants to cuddle so badly that she makes a move like she’s going to just curl up uncomfortably on the prickly rug that is next to my bed. I angrily jump out of bed, cursing, to all who will listen. Storm down the stairs declaring that this is the last GD time this is going to happen, these are children after all, not infant triplets. Why won’t they go the F to sleep?
I am not good at cuddling, I do it out of guilty obligation and an overwhelming belief that it is a short term solution to the nightly interruptions of what is already fitful sleep. It must feel that way to my girls, or maybe I fool them, or maybe touch feels the same whether it is begrudging or mutual.
One of the dirty aspects of being a single parent is that you are always on duty. Day, night, sickness, health, tired, angry or hungry. It’s hard for everyone to get their needs met in any meaningful way, I offer love and support of the drive-thru variety. It’s quick, it’s low quality and it’s offered through a window as you pass by. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be on the other side of the equation. To have needs that you’ve recognized are going to remain unmet, or in the best-case scenario, met primarily in moments of crisis. Of deep hunger or hurt. It’s unsatisfying for both parties.
Still we muddle through, catch love, or sleep when we are able and frankly periodically experience the kind of wealth that you can only appreciate if you’ve been disadvantaged.
This is how we are. Doing the best we all can under strained conditions. And, speaking of wealth, we are fortunate that in the hierarchy of needs, we are in search of satiating our emotional needs. We have the luxuries of other wealth, but emotional poverty is powerful and debilitating in ways that often feel more immeasurable.
Fortunately, I’ve discovered that I am extraordinarily adept at responding to some emotions, even the ones that erupt in the deep darkness of the night. Anger is easier than sadness for me. And sickness is permissible, though not welcomed. Apparently there is a law that states that if a child is going to vomit, it will be around 3am and it will soil every piece of bedding they are near and probably divert away from hardwood floors to land on carpet. But I don’t manage the fears of my children particularly well. Partly because the only way I know how to overcome fear, is to ignore the source of it. Whether that is thunder, or nightmares, or just the fears that curl up with you as you fall asleep and rattle you awake in the middle of the night.
Sometimes saying, ” Everything is all right.” Is the worst possible answer when everything feels not all right. But in the sleep deprived state that these fears often arise, they are the only words that rise to be spoken, that and “Go back to sleep.” And apparently, ” God dammit”. Which now that I think of it is probably a worse response than ” Go back to sleep. ” nothing like having your childhood fears be a catalyst for your only parent’s anger.
And the worst part is, if I could find breath in those moments, enough breath to squeeze past the expletives and just put my arms around them and give them the tiny gesture they need to feel secure, I know it could be better, better for everyone probably. But what I find instead is guilt over not being able to conjure that breath, frustration over my inability to fulfill this expectation.
These are the realities of being a part of this life. This life where I’m underperforming my own expectations of what is minimally acceptable, even in the states of sleep deprivation. Where the tension is not in being unaware of what would make things better, but in being too emotionally tired to accomplish them. It is the pain of watching your children having to suffer through what cannot possibly be enough. And what is not their fault.

And it is the knowledge that we will all survive these circumstances, and some days not only survive, but thrive. This life can also be about understanding need, hardship and doing without in a way that creates a situation where we are able to appreciate the infrequent riches of love and selflessness. This life can be about valuing the brief and uncommon cuddle. This life is a space where love is in the guilt of inability rather than the wealth of stability.
We can all long for the lives that we do not have. We can lament the absence, of not just highest success, but of nominal satisfaction. Certainly we can strive to be better and apologize when we fall phenomenally short, but we can also spot the upside of loss and the advantage of deprivation.

Must love dog parties

Must love dog parties

Just be who you are, whoever that is…. Ever heard that saying? Well, what if who you really are, is an asshole? Or how about, “there are no stupid questions.”? Uh, duh, yes there are. Plenty. So how about ” there’s no wrong way to do X.”? These are just lies circulated by well-meaning mothers (including me) and the Hallmark channel.
I was dating wrong. I was in desperate search for a wife. Date like that for awhile and you’ll know exactly what I mean. Worse yet, I was looking to replace the husband and father that was a fantasy. I blame Disney and the Hallmark channel.
If you’re dating, or single, or in a bad relationship, everyone has dating advice for you. ” you’ve got to be ready before you can find love” or “there’s a fish for every hook” or ” you’ve gotta love yourself first.” Or ” create a vision board/list/seashell mosaic of your perfect mate. ” and these things work, some times, by chance mostly I believe.
Because my last dating experiences, before “the marriage”, occurred when cell phones were carried around in ten pound bags, I assumed I just had a learning curve. All this technology! And it’s true that the language of dating has changed, or rather the platforms through which we communicate have changed. ” Last night was great! LOL” but the basics are more or less the same. I did have to stop looking for true love for it to land right in my lap.

In the beginning, the second beginning that is, I wanted so terribly, hopelessly, to replace (as quickly as possible) the relationship I imagined I’d lost with my husband. A space where there were brochure-worthy vacations, holidays with perfect turkeys, enviable Facebook posts, family yoga, homemade bread, Boggle games, picnics with dignitaries, dry camp sites, fire station visits, softball tournaments, bean bag chairs, dog parties, clam bakes, matching outfits, seaside family portraits, gardens, ferret adoptions…
The point is, I discovered rather immediately (at least twice) that that wasn’t what I wanted at all, well maybe dog parties…. But I wasn’t adept at sharing the charge of my daughters. I’m kinda a careworn frontier woman in this respect. Maybe that was something I longed for a decade ago, but I’d failed to let that fantasy go when reality took its place. So those forays into relationships were heartbreaking partings, and maybe it wasn’t a wrong way to date, but it certainly was agonizing.
So, I did what I could figure out to do, go on and power date. It’s like looking for a new car: I like these features, I don’t like these features, pick a couple of options, test drive and put down an offer. But people are poor substitutes for cars. And cars are terrible substitutes for soulmates, except maybe my Mini Cooper. I’d probably marry her, though she’s terrible at doing dishes and the one time I asked her to plan a dog party…wow, did she ever fuck that up. But I digress.
I considered the vision board, but in my house finding a glue stick that isn’t dried out and a pair of scissors that opens AND closes isn’t really an option. I thought about making a list and pondered singles cruises, but the whole situation had exhausted me, so instead, I just sat.
I stopped expecting something, stopped imagining that I was ready to know what I wanted, or needed. I can hardly order lunch some days and I am fully aware of exactly what kind of food I want and need. Why did I think I knew who was going to fill the chasm in my heart? I decided to sit alone. Because if I had to go on one more horrible date and make small talk about beer pong, I was going to jump a slow-moving train to Vinton.
And confidentially, no one will ever fill that chasm in my heart, or be the imaginary genius Dad/husband that I kept checking for on Tinder. Knowing this was the most freeing thought I could have had. Hearing this allowed me to breathe and sit . And one day, I found myself sitting in the right place with the right space to allow something beautiful to grow.
So here’s my unsolicited dating advice for you, gentle reader…lose your list of expectations. What you think you want, maybe isn’t what you really need. It’s probably something you never imagined, or could imagine, like the distance of Pluto from the earth. And maybe it’s helpful to start with knowing who you are. Me I’m a complicated mix of hilarious and needy, generous and bad at home repairs, honest and a decent dancer, a mother with a teenage heart. So you, go ahead, be who you are, even if that’s a total asshole, you’re in good company. I hope you find your asshole soulmate and you both play out the rest of your days tossing waded up love notes to each other at your dog’s birthday party.

I don’t like wine spritzers

I don’t like wine spritzers

I’m a forty-something single mom living a life like no other forty-something woman I know, or have ever heard from, or seen in a movie. Not that the latter has given me very many realistic examples to choose from–please see Tyler Perry’s “Single Mom’s Club” for a plethora of one dimensional options. I’ve never quite fit in even when the Breakfast Club was the movie to emulate, though I came closest to a cross between Michael Anthony Hall and a more awkward Molly Ringwald.
I could share with you a laundry list of disparate hobbies (or more accurately the ways in which I periodically spend my free time) from directing an improv group, to clumsily exercising to hip hop, playing the djembe (not well), to selling junk (er, antiques) , watching nature and food documentaries, or devouring a Netflix series like it’s Baltimore street crack, writing this blog, or recording a vlog in my car with my dear friend Blair, reading books about feminists and racists systems of power or performing plays. Nothing too outlandish there. Though I have left out the sock puppet musical I’m co-writing and some of the things I might include were this an anonymous blog. But all in all these are generally activities that would most likely be found in various arrangements of other 40 something women.
Mostly you are aware of my bizarre (though not terribly unfamiliar) dating life. Not everyone had an actual amateur taxidermist, or cat trainer in their dating history, but we’ve all had our dating woes and frankly I can’t really access this part of my narrative in the same way now because I’ve met someone who matches my crazy heart with his own crazy heart and more or less finds me intriguing rather than a train wreck. Or at least he’s not terribly easily spooked.
There’s nothing particularly supernormal about any one aspect of my life. Though I’d like to imagine I’m in a unique position on the spectrum as a young widow with three teen/preteen daughters. But still, I’m not nearly the only one. So nothing individually is enough to make me an outlier.
Certainly from a surface assessment I’m about as common as cough due to cold; white, middle-class, employed, college graduate, cisgender, heterosexual…which makes me wonder even more why I always feel like the person filmed in slow motion during a teen movie. Not the girl who takes off her glasses and let’s down her ponytail and the cute, rich jock finally sees as dateable (which, side note, ew gross) But her friend that she stopped hanging out with after junior high because a rumor started to circulate that she’d eaten bugs on a class trip to the science museum. The girl who moved to school in the third grade, who once unconsciously leaned over to kiss her best girl friend goodbye, the same girl who thought her red knee socks and shorts were cool and made her look like Wonder Woman. The girl who blew up gasoline soaked army men with the neighborhood boys not so much because she wanted to (though confidentially it was pretty cool) but because she hoped that performing this perilous act would make them like her. Or when that same girl grew up and attended her first South Roanoke Doctors’ party and drank so many wine spritzers in order to ease her nerves in a place where she felt like a complete fraud, that she attempted to drive a bulldozer down the street. The woman who was picked last for the supper club who underestimated how much food feeds 12 people, so that the hostess had to thaw out meatloaf from her freezer. Oh- they talked about that woman later. The same woman who feels like she’s faking it most of the time, unless she’s writing her sock puppet musical or snorting because any one of her daughter’s said something hysterical.
Maybe we all feel out of place, with our crazy lists of things we love, both the things we will admit freely and the things we keep hidden or to ourselves. Maybe we all feel like frauds in our friend groups or like our own one person show that only homeless vets come to sleep through. We all fumble uncomfortably through the movie that is our life, feeling mis-cast in the role of “yourself”. We are all unique snowflakes, melting on the windshield of a world that would rather see us from a distance, as homogeneous globs of white.
Truthfully, None of us really fits in anyway. In the quiet of the night, the doctor’s wife watches Wife Swap instead of making enough paella for the dinner party, the once bespectacled teen grows older and leaves the jock for a 44 year old housewife, the jock longs to learn the djembe and drink white spritzers.
So, if you’re like me, and I know you’re not, it’s ok.