Archive for December, 2011

Signs.

I was asked at the FBA Christmas gathering if I believed in destiny or in random acts. 
The meeting of a person.  The happening of a thing.

I said, “I am an attorney.  I can skillfully argue both sides.”

But I really think it’s both.  That white floating, Forest Gump, feather.

The predestined plan holds out milestone markers (people, places, events) but it’s hundreds upon thousands of random acts that package and surround them.

I could name events in my life: turtles, dolphins, dreams, a moment in a law library, Sevilla, El Prado, Real Madrid, and Pamplona.  People, places, events all given to me like a necklace of pearls.

Even the horrible and evil moments have a predestined place.  I am filled with an understanding of things that propel me toward other unseen objects.

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Friday I had a horrible morning.  I had to deal with an attorney I truly dislike.  He is vile and self-serving.  He is everything I think an attorney should not be.  I was choking down tears of frustration.  All the while hating him and what he stands for.  I hate what he is. 
Thinking this has been a real shitty morning and <viola> my parking is suddenly free.

Saturday morning I have breakfast by myself.  The girls are out doing their own thing.  I hate to eat alone.  I am at the Grand Coney thinking how shitty it is that I have to eat breakfast alone.  I am too young to be alone.  I find myself wondering about age.  I wonder how many of these breakfasts I am going to have alone. <Viola> someone pays for my breakfast leaving me with a Merry Christmas note.

I think of the night I met Amy.  I am barely holding on to reasons.  I am hating humanity.  I am not finding any good in anyone.  It doesn’t exist.  On this evening I have a horrible date. <Viola> there stands Amy.

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These perfectly timed moments just when it knew I needed them. 
I am drawing an ice cream float card and we are kids playing candy land.

“Come on, really?”  You ask.

All I know is I am talking in my head and explaining how shitty this all is.  I am not happy here.  This cosmic being is letting me know “Come on, I really am letting you know….”

It is taunting me, pushing me forward, daring me to show it what I’ve got.  I am running a marathon.  I am at mile marker 12.  It decides to give me a small drink of water.

My mouth feels like it’s full of southern cotton.  I hate humanity.  I hate all this worry.  I hate all this responsibility.  I think death would be enticingly peaceful.

It knows I could really use a good night’s sleep. 

But for some stupid reason I know I got something terribly important to do.

And it’s there holding the brass ring. The mega millions lotto sign reads:  202.

He says It’s there, it’s obtainable, it is totally an act that is within my grasp.

O.K. so I will get naked in the back seat of his car. 

Come on then.  Let’s do this. 

I am sticking my tongue out at it.  Give it to me.  Let’s see what is it you’ve got.

I am earning it’s respect. 

It suggests mile markers log persistence. 

Random acts are all in the timing.

The rest of it?  You tell me.

Which is it?

Destiny or random acts

 

 

 

 


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The Australian on the elevator.

My mind has wrapped itself around this concept.  It’s a delicious one.  I tell Amy about it.  I talk to my girls about it.  It is a formulation of all my thoughts to present.  I embody these thoughts and experiences into a mental creation.

I know life and I have been a disappointment to my girls.  We don’t have a Christmas tree.  We didn’t send out any cards.  My reasons for this are numerous.  I don’t want to look at all the reasons right now.  I don’t have to. 

I simply find no joy in putting up decorations–it is clutter and work.  Something to put up and then to shortly take down.  I cannot fake it or go through the motions. 

I find my joy at Thanksgiving, Valentine’s day, St. Patrick’s day, Easter and Halloween.  For me, Christmas has too many negative memories.  

I believe my job is to guide these three children into this world the best way I know how.  I am flawed.  I know at times my compass is off.  My perceptions, experiences, moral code, vices, and virtues are pushed upon these kids without their choice or input.  They know I value intelligence, creativity, hard work, and adventure.  They know I value freedom.  At times I am a horrible parent.  I can be scattered, self-absorbed and unreliable.  I say or do things and do not follow though.  I forget and break simple promises.  I forget important events.  They find themselves reminding the parent.  My cooking and cleaning chores are on that back burner.  I am always late. 

They know I would rather read a book, go to the gym, work at the office, work on my projects, or enjoy an activity with them or my friends.  I don’t find any pleasure in domestic chores anymore.  It has disappeared.  I am not sure if and when this joy will ever come back. My girls miss this motherly attention.  They miss my good cooking and the meals.  They miss my domestic time.  They miss the mother I use to be.  I am not sure where she went. I am not sure when this person will come back.  I picture her sad, still sleeping in her bed, not wanting to get up.  She is spent and tired.  She has gained weight and has dark circles under her eyes.

Like all children they focus on what I don’t provide.  Humans have a tendency to fixate on the negative or what is lacking.  My research tells me negative experiences are filed more readily in our brains. 

I cannot be what they want me to be.  I cannot be what they think I should be.  I know parts of them blame me because their father is no longer in their lives.  Pieces of this fault floats through my veins.  It flows out in the normal course of my digestive system.  It’s last night’s alcoholic drink.

Katie has a melt down. I ask her to take on a task she sees as my own. She tells me I am a horrible mother.  She doesn’t know that this is an insecurity I felt the moment I discovered I was pregnant with her.  A fear that entered my soul and left me unable to sleep for four continuous nights.  Something I so desperately wanted became a horrible fear.  My thoughts went dark and they took me to places a Catholic girl is not supposed to go.

Her words confirmed what I knew after her conception. 
I would evoke my own damage on something I so desperately and innately loved.

On this night I sleep well.  I know for the most part I have given her the best that I have got.  Perhaps I have given her too much.  Her reaction is an ungrateful one.  I suppose we both feel unappreciated and non-important.  There is an empty spot in each of us.  I don’t want to guilt her.  I want her to look at herself and her reactions.  To show but not give lectures.  She can share her hate.  I won’t find her disloyal. 

She is speaking the truth as she sees it. In her negativity I see a presentment of an opportunity.  We don’t know what awaits us around that corner.  My solution is simple: work hard, move forward, be a gift to this world (in thought, looks and deed). 

I acknowledge that I am broken.  If I am part of the problem I cannot be her answer.
I can’t solve equations I myself don’t understand.  She has to begin to try and figure it out.

It is no secret that at times I am very lonely. The girls know I fight off my own demons and depression.  I have made difficult choices.  It appears I don’t like to take the easy way out. 

I am too real.  I cannot close my eyes.  I do not find joy in this type of conquest.  These near kisses (the passing of smooth lips near mine), his phone number thrust and then crumpled into my sweaty hand and suggestions of a breakfast are taunting.  His words do not lure me even when stirred and mixed with alcohol.  I can’t deny that these public moments are not fun.  On the surface they are flirtatious and exciting.  I know how this ends behind closed doors.  I would have nothing to say to him in the morning.  I would be groping for my bra and my boots.  I would be left feeling more distant and alone.  I would hate myself on my car ride home.

As a writer I know the idea of this flirtation is more delicious than an empty reality. Fiction is always more fun than non-fiction.

This is not the road to any opportunity.  These are diversions that take me off course and off of a focused path.  I am not going to chase a shiny ball or waste my time on empty conversation.

My thoughts will become deeds.  These deeds will be successes.  I know this like I know how to breathe.  My wants will be filled because I will keep searching until they are.  

When it is time opportunity will present himself.  I know he will be in some unknown building at some undisclosed hour.  There is no telling when.  Those elevator doors will open. He will be right there.  He will look up and our gazes will lock.  He is rugged and wears faded jeans.  He has that sexy stubble.  His hand grabs mine.  I know there will be morning laughter and conversation.  He won’t need space.  He has more than he needs.  There is no sacrificing of anything.  There is no need  for any forced or ritualistic offerings.  We don’t care what button to push or what floor we get off.  He would miss his plane.  Everyone knows I would pack my bags and get on one.

He is out there.  I just need to be positive and persistent.  It’s all in the timing.

Their eyes roll when I tell my girls this story.  Their messed up mother is telling them a story about opportunity.  I let them know you never know when and where it will be.  You can only work on yourselves and prepare for it.  You will want to be put together.  Focus on being smart and savvy.  Learn that second and third language.  Turn off that T.V.  Go, do and be.  Write, compose, and paint.  Travel, look and see.  Work hard and I don’t want excuses.  Figure out what it is you need to do.  Find what it is you love.  I tell them don’t settle.  Don’t be afraid to learn and fend for yourselves.  If you are unhappy figure out why.  Change it.  Do it.  Be what you have or need to be.

I am not your scapegoat.  I am not your fatted calf.

He will be worth it.  That Australian man is out there.  Go, search and find your elevator.

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Good Thing.

I have been feeling restless again lately.

 

I am tired of disliking all the parts of my life while holding on to gratitude for having them. I miss living alone. I miss happy hours with friends. I miss roommates who make you glad you don’t live alone. I miss energy and excitement. I miss finding contentment in my work. I miss surprises. I miss sunshine.

 

The baby in my bath water, the one thing I did not want to throw out, was the guy I was seeing.  He’s one of those people who lights me up. I enjoy his company and his conversation. I am amused by his foibles. His sense of humor is so different from mine, but the jokes are so easy to enjoy.  He is attractive beyond his skin. Over the last few months I have steadily marched into more and more serious territory. I really like this guy! I have to move across the country? No problem, I wasn’t crazy about West Michigan anyway. He wants to have babies? Fine. I am in. His career will dictate mine? Whatevs. It isn’t that important.

 

He wants to see other people because it will be fun.

 

What? I swear I could hear the sound of the vinyl scratch as the needle was dragged off my beautiful Italian opera.

 

What part of that sounds fun? I’ve dated enough. I want you. Why else am I still here?

 

I have never had the audacity to dream big for myself.  I’ve never sighed over a corner office or built imaginary houses in my head.  I set goals and I achieve them; it isn’t about the end goal, it’s about the process.
But this was about the end goal. In a rare streak of patience, I was happy to build a foundation, one piece at a time, so that it would be strong enough to last.  It wasn’t just about where the bedroom furniture would stand.  I was giving it space and time so neither of us would feel rushed.

 

He wasn’t ending it, but I could see the problems the limbo would cause for me.  I can’t honestly date someone else if I am sneaking looks at my phone under the dinner table, still hoping for his calls.  I can’t sit at home wondering who he is going out with and what they are doing.

 

But I accept his decision.  If he thinks it will be fun to date other people, we aren’t exactly on the same track.  We SHOULD date other people. But I have to find a way to let him go, or I’m just going to spend my nights at the gym.

 

I wanted to tell him good luck and good bye.  The words wouldn’t come. I told him how seriously I had viewed things, and then I wished him good luck and asked him not to call so frequently.  Probably a given under the circumstances, but I needed to feel the break just a little.  I need to know the record will skip from now on, and it won’t carry me away in quite the same away.

 

I’ll still probably just spend my nights at the gym. But it did feel surprisingly empowering to voice my feelings and declare my boundaries.  I have rarely seen the value in being so open, but today the value presented itself in the calmness that came over me.  I did not see that coming. I will have to try it again.

 

At least one good thing came out of it.


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Presentation.

I love my parents. 

I try to analyze this paternal relationship.  When I do I lose myself.  I cannot dissect myself completely from it.  Even if I want to.

When I was young I tried everything in my power to please them. 

On one hand they are structured, kind, good, conservative and moral.  On the other hand they are racist, judgmental, non tolerant, and hard on their children. 

They are pull yourself up by your own boot straps kind of people. 

Hoe your own row kind of people. 

There are unwritten rules and codes.  Facial expressions and hand gestures.  Their words and certain tones have their own hidden meanings. 

As with anything, I am liked when I am agreeable or when I comport.  

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The first time my husband hit me— it was in the face.  He knocked me to the floor. 

I learned people do see stars. 

In his defense he used an open hand.  (If it had been closed I am not so sure I would ever have gotten back up)

This was after he tried to throw me down the stairs.  This was after he dragged me through the living room.  This was after he tore off my sweater. 

The babies were both barely sleeping.  It was about 2 a.m.

We had gotten home from a long day visiting his family.  Baby Sarah was stressed from all the activity.  She threw up in her car seat.  It was too late for us to be out with them.

I was told to shut up about it.

I was told to go downstairs and to wash the car seat clean.

I told him, “No.”  It’s 2:00 a.m. it can wait until morning.”

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This is when I think about the “what ifs”.  What if I just respected my husband and did what I was told?  If I had just resigned myself to keep the peace.

But on this night I was tired of keeping peace.  I was tired of doing as told.

This wasn’t the first time he had been horribly mean to me. 

I snapped back: “You can’t make me.”

That night I called the police. He fled the home.  I called my parents.  I wanted to come home with my babies.

Their answer: “No.”
A few days after the incident they took us both out to dinner to discuss the situation.  He is your husband.  This is your bed.  You made it.  Our home is no longer your home.  You have no place here.  You two work it out.  You have your children.

I know them and I know their thoughts:  What would the family think?  What would our friends and neighbors think?  Jodi doesn’t have a decent job.  The children are both in diapers.  It will inconvenient.  It will be crowded.  This is an ugly situation, she created it, she needs to figure it out.

All this is and was complicated.  There is more to this story.  I don’t feel like looking at it.  I don’t want to write about it now.

I  understand things I don’t want my girls to understand.
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Today I break down and I ask them for a small favor.  Our firm needs to get rid of 200 old client boxes.  I want to burn them out on their land.  It is private and safe.  It will save us a lot of money.  It’s a project I want to get done.

I ask again and again—“Are you sure it is going to be O.K.” 

Their response:  “Of course, come out it is fine.  It is more than O.K.”

But now they are saying that they didn’t think it through.  The job appears bigger than described. 

I see them.  They are worried about presentation.  The images.  No thoughts beyond their retirement world.  No thoughts beyond them.  No thoughts of me, my worries or my work load.  My father so angry and upset.  This pile of ash is making a huge mess.  He is going to have to clean it up.  This is unacceptable.   This is a big inconvenience.  This wind is going to blow the papers.  It is going to rain and it will be a cardboard and paper-mache mess.  I am not burning the boxes the right way.  I should have started this project hours ago.  I am doing it all wrong.  I am dumping this project onto him.  My mother seems to agree.
 
I am thinking:  Forget we were supposed to visit, drink beer and eat some brats.  I am here.  Love and spend time with me.  Who cares about this ugly mess.  These trivial worries.  I never asked you to do this.  This is mine.  I just needed your privacy and open space.  These are just boxes and we are just burning them.

An easy simple project turns into my father shaking with anger.  My mother defending my father.  It is an ugly family scene.

The harsh words were spoken and exchanged.  I am looking at trees and a lonely fire pit.  There is no one really around on this 17 acre site.  I cry hot tears of frustration.  I slap them from my cheek.  These tears are not just about a bunch of boxes.  They spring from a well deeper than any disappointment or hurt.

I tell my father, “Go into the house and leave me alone.  Be quite and don’t speak further to me.” 

I stay until 2:00 a.m. burning and cleaning up a mess that only racoons and birds will really see. 

I drink the beer by myself.  My arms and back ache from raking and turning the piles of ash.  Campfire smoke coats my sweater, my jeans, my hair.  I smell of crushed oak, paper and pine.  I am dirty and filthy.  My nose is caked with soot.  I feel it lined in my ears.  The cold wind whips up some flaming papers.  The wood pops and cracks. The burning carbon floats out and is filled with tiny red holes.   The blackened paper floats higher looking like hot red bugs or a new species of night butterflies.   The trees are so black against this dark hue of blue.  The moon and clouds are a chalky dull white.  The stars look like dots of shiny ice.

Coyotes howl. 

This is so quiet, beautiful and peaceful.

(I can only use my words to show it to you)

I think: Leave these old people to their simple worries of presentation.   

I would rather feel and be as deep and dark as this sky.  I want those hot red bugs to fly as far as they may into this night.   This cool air, as fresh and cold as any distant moon, is kissing those hot licking flames.

The night and I know things. 

Yes, I drink a toast to their silly and insignificant worries. 
 

 

Judgmental

I am a hypocrite and a snot. 

Last winter the girls and I gave a homeless man hot cider and a sandwich.  After he drank the cider he proceed to wet himself.  Then he cried.  The witnessing of this event was a raw and difficult one.  On the car ride home my sick and demented humor came out.  It was necessary for me to pop that balloon of tension.  An observer of our laughter would have been appalled.

I completely understood what was happening and why.

Today it was my 300 lb client who failed to shower, wore inappropriate tight fitting clothes (that  exposed her lower giblets) and had horrible breath.  Her ex, pierced and tattooed, was shortly thereafter escorted to jail.

The whole time all I could think about was their presentation.  There is no effort.  No outward physical pride.  No effort at bettering themselves educationally.  Poor, uneducated, and dirty.  I was judging them as individuals and as caretaker parents. 

I wouldn’t let them raise my cat.

Today I am clean, styled and manicured.

I don’t want her hand to touch mine.  I don’t want him too close to me up at that podium. But I took her money and am working for her.  I think I am better than she is.  I know I am better than she is.  On the outside I try to treat everyone with dignity and respect.  My thoughts are less than kind. 

She is a fat, lazy, idiot. 

There I wrote it.

I am so glad these people are not my people.  These people are my people. 

The rich and famous have to be guilty of this.  An immense ego of grandiosity.  Cars, money, looks, jewelry, things that define them.  Exceptional talents that set them apart from others. 

Judging on outward appearances, outward successes, and individual work effort and credentials.

I am sorry I have these thoughts.  I am not sorry I have these thoughts.  These thoughts intrigue me.  These random explorations.  I evaluate myself based upon them.  I see this ugly side.  I make myself promise that I will continue to do my best on every case regardless of the outward and inner qualities of my client.  I will let my thoughts run out and then down that drain.  I will continue to be critical of others and myself.  But my humor is mine and it gets me through.  I am not going to apologize for my choice of self-medication.

I wonder about these thoughts especially when I enter that back room at the water cooler and those $300.00 an hour attorneys look at my Kohl’s shoes and JCPenny slacks.  They won’t take my judgements because they are not drafted on water marked paper.  My Toyota doesn’t compare to their Porsche.  I don’t get to play golf with the judge or have lavish parties on the firm yacht  My conference room doesn’t support a glass coffee table with ten $500.00 chairs.  I am not invited to their homes or to their parties.

Nor would I go. 

They want to define me.  I see them look at me like I look at her giblet.

They are not better than me.  They are better than me.  No, wait, we are exactly the same. 

This life full or irony and satire.  We play our parts well.

It’s after days like these.  I just want to write and to be alone.  I don’t like humanity much.  It seems little tolerance and even less honor surrounds me. 

I don’t much like myself. 

I discover I like my fellow man even less.

But I go home and there is laughter.  My girls are waiting for me.  They are beautiful in every way.  They are my contribution to this messed up world.  Tokens of goodness, laughter and light. 

These creatures make up for all my faults. They are my motivation to try harder. 
I will do even better.

Like a work of art it’s all just progress.

I recognize it for exactly what it is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Messages

The guy I am long-distance dating has a habit of telling me he will call “tomorrow night” and then failing to call.  I haven’t kept track, but my guess is that this has happened 10 – 15 times since mid-October.

 

Each time it is because he got caught up in a conversation with someone else – family, the neighbors who are like family, or an ex-girlfriend.

 

We have not made each other any promises.  He is not ready for anything serious, and I respect that.  I don’t ask him to call me.  I try not to call him too often.  I let him decide the pace.

 

And there it is, in his “I will call you tomorrow.”

 

A couple of weeks ago his most recent ex-girlfriend was visiting.  He told me in advance that he would not have time to call, but he would text.  When he didn’t text I got upset.  It wasn’t that I thought he wanted to work things out with her.  I don’t think he’s playing games or just keeping his options open.

 

I think his focus remains on the person in front of him.

 

Unfortunately, when he says he will call or text, I wait.  When he doesn’t follow through I am disappointed to not have even those few minutes of tenuous contact, and I am hurt that I didn’t rate a few minutes of his time.  He was so focused on someone else it never even occurred to him to text that he wouldn’t call or ask the person to wait a minute while he canceled a prior engagement.  His disregard is foreign to me.  I can tell he wouldn’t be waiting if the situation was reversed.  And I am learning that even though I show people I care about them by making time for them, the two are not connected in his mind.

 

After his ex left town and we talked about the frustrated text I had sent him during her visit (while his phone was actually out of service) it happened again.  I asked him to just stop telling me he was going to call.  I would rather be pleasantly surprised than increasingly upset.  I can’t plan my evening around phone calls I don’t know are coming.

 

He insisted he would do better. I believed him.

 

On Thursday afternoon he told me he just needed to be more responsible.  On Thursday night he got caught up in conversation with another ex-girlfriend and didn’t call.  I had expected his call around nine and fell asleep just before 11, knowing the phone would wake me up when he did call.  Instead, I woke up around 2 and checked my phone, only to see the text telling me what had happened and that he was tired and going to bed.  He neither acknowledged we were supposed to talk nor apologized.

 

This time, I was angry, and I was done.  I couldn’t be less demanding of him than to say you can call whenever you want, but you don’t have to call, and don’t even worry about telling me when you will call.  Now I just felt disrespected.  Eventually, I fell back asleep – still hurt, still angry.  On its own, this was no big threat to him.  I am mercilessly forgiving.  A good night of sleep, a hurried apology, and I probably would have been apologizing for overreacting.

 

I dreamt about my ex.  J is my “one who got away” – though I use the term more loosely as time goes by.  When I am really upset I dream about him.  Sometimes they are just dreams, but sometimes we are so connected in them I wouldn’t be surprised if he were dreaming about me at the same time.  Usually, the dreams are littered with anger and recriminations.  This time it wasn’t.

 

In my dream J had cancer.  He was thinner than I ever saw him in real life, and parts of his leg and other foot had been amputated. The cancer was aggressive and had invaded most of his body.  The whole time he explained his prognosis the big, cheek-to-cheek grin never left his face.  He insisted he was fine.  He was going to go for an experimental treatment he was sure would be successful.  In my dream I knew it would be.  We were talking like the friends we once were.  It felt great to be surrounded by his happiness.  Then he told me that on top of everything else, his wife was pregnant and they would have a son soon.  And that was all I could take of his cancer and his happiness.  I distanced myself from him in the dream, but I was always aware of him.  Eventually, when he and his wife were leaving so he could start his treatment he caught my eye.  His wife wasn’t looking, so I gave him a thumbs-up.  And then I acknowledged with a hand gesture that we were still connected.  Then I woke up.

 

The dream was disconcerting.  It left me feeling even more tense than my original anger had.  Being a researcher with some time on my hands, I started looking up all the various meanings the ever-reliable online dream dictionaries gave my dream.  Eventually, one of them actually clicked.  It said that if you dream of cancer in another person, you have to determine what that person symbolizes for you to determine what the “cancer” is telling you to get rid of.  For me, J symbolized the best relationship I had.  If it hadn’t been deeply flawed, however, I wouldn’t have let him go.  One of the early problems in our relationship was a series of promises to call that never came to fruition.  Being young and dumb, I never stood up for myself or expressed my frustration the way I am now.  Silly as it may sound, I think my unconscious self was letting me know that I need to cut away the relationships that hurt me so that what remains makes me so unbearably happy I can’t stop grinning.

 

In other words, even though I hate staying mad or being demanding, it was not only okay for me to let the current guy know that I was upset, I really needed to let him know.  Which was good, because I had already sent back a text telling him.

 

It did not take him long to sincerely apologize and tell me it won’t happen again.  I believe he will do his best.

 

Dating long-distance is hard.  It is hard to get to know each other and hard to even communicate without the benefit of body language.  It is hard to define boundaries when “getting serious” is too much.  I’m not ready to call it quits, but I won’t regret expressing my frustration.  I want to end up unbearably happy, too.