Amy Confetti

I am figuring out the world and myself and my place in the world. I write about it all here because putting it in writing keeps it in perspective.

Homepage: http://www.eyeonthediscoball.com


Posts by Amy Confetti


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Questions.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

When the world winds down, and I cease to exist, will I have counted for anything?

Tick. Tick. Tick.

Will I have changed a life for the better?

Tick. Tick. Tick.

Will I have improved the world?

Tick. Tick. Tick.

Is it selfish of me to wish my contributions mattered?

Tick. Tick. Tick.

Can you design a life with purpose?

Tick. Tick. Tick.

How do you find a purpose to plan around?

Tick. Tick. Tick.

How should you live while you’re deciding why you live?

Tick. Tick. Tick.


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Resolution.

On New Year’s Eve I took a moment, as so many people do, to reflect back on the prior year.  It occurred to me that if time did not pass, if we did not have these mile markers, we would neither look back nor push forward.  What would be the point of pushing forward if we had no sense of how time passes?  Or how things change?  We would be unaware of how much we could accomplish.

 

Jodi and I began this blog about a year ago.  In that time we have both been pushing forward.  But now, in looking back, I see how far I have come.  The realization encourages me to continue moving forward.  At the same time, I appreciate the journey so far.

 

It is harder for me to write now.  I have exorcised enough demons.  I don’t feel the same weight upon me that I did when we began.  Now a bad day is just a bad day.  I am hurt or angry or lonely and then it passes.  I dedicated enough time and energy to sorting out the past and how I arrived here.  Whether or not I agree with my “youthful” decisions, they are mine and I can live with them.  There were lessons to be gleaned from each one.  They will continue to reveal themselves, but I have to wait for them.  I can’t purposefully examine them any longer. These lessons are hidden, like a 3-D picture concealed within a pattern.  They will be there when I least expect to find them.

 

For years, my questions have been about the past and the future.  How could I have done that better?  Where will I go from here?

 

My head is tired.  And I mean that in a good way.  As Socrates said, “the unexamined life is not worth living.”  I have examined.  I have reflected, and I have hypothesized.  I have sifted through all the information I have and reached all the conclusions I can.

 

I need a bigger boat.

 

I have let go of the past.  I don’t want to continue looking for dark moments just so I have something to write about.  I hope they pass me by.  And if that means I write less, then I write less.

 

I am not ready for the future.  It too will reveal itself when I least expect it; or when I find myself in the middle of it.

 

I want to enjoy the present.  I want to explore.  I want to laugh.  I want to be.

 

And so I shall.

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.

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.

 

Waiting

“I’ve had cancer. You can’t guilt me.” I remember my teacher saying that.  She was retelling the story of a conversation she had with her sister.  Her sister wanted her to do something time consuming and, ultimately, purposeless.  The invitation wasn’t about spending time together; I believe it was about recruiting extra hands for a project the sister didn’t want to do on her own.

 

The response from my teacher stemmed from her newfound ability to say “no” to invitations that cost her time she had no desire to spend.  She did not want to waste a day on a silly project.  She wanted to enjoy a day of life her way.  She knew how quickly the days could slip away, and she was in a better position to calculate their value than most of us.  When she passed away just a few years later from the cancer’s second round, I was glad she had spent her time her way.

 

It wasn’t that she was cruel or selfish with her time, she just defined her boundaries better after she was faced with the cost.

 

A few years ago I got tired of waiting for a travel partner to magically show up in my life.  When my family couldn’t be bothered to decide whether they would be having a Thanksgiving dinner or not, I got tired of them, too.  Instead of continuing to nag them into a decision, I let them know I would be spending my holiday in England instead.  It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.  In the end, my brother-in-law also came.  He was a great traveling companion and the trip was as amazing as I had hoped it would be, but the best part was that I didn’t waste my time on a dinner that may never have happened.

 

I became more conscious of my time after that.  I have an unfortunate habit of cramming too much into a day.  The only way it works out is to allot my minutes carefully and stick to the schedule.  I know roughly how much time I need for each person, errand, and job, including time for myself.  I also know how to keep my schedule flexible enough to adapt to the detours that inevitably arrive.  It’s a system that works for me.  I don’t nag anyone into anything.  If they want time I give it to them, and if they don’t I fill it with something else.  Doing something alone is much better than wasting time waiting for company.

 

Since I’ve moved home, however, I have been wasteful with my time.  I have tried to be even more flexible to accommodate all of the children who affect my schedule – nieces, nephews, children of friends, etc.  I have repeatedly said “it’s ok, I understand, life happens, don’t worry about it.”  When my friends have goals that coincide with mine, I tell them we will do it together.  When my family needs something done, I tell them I will fit it in.

 

I find that I am constantly waiting.  I am waiting for everyone to get their coats on.  I am waiting for someone to arrive. I am waiting for my phone to ring.  I am waiting for a text to arrive.  I am waiting for someone to tell me to go ahead.  I am waiting for it to be my turn.  I have waited until everyone else is ready.  I didn’t mind waiting because no one was keeping me from anything important. But now they are.

 

I have goals now.  I want to hunt them down and kill them.  I am ready to be precise.  I am growing resentful of the people around me.  I feel like I am waiting at the table for the scraps of time they have promised me.  I hate feeling this way.  Every person’s life is important.  There are reasons for the delays, the reschedules, the missed calls.  It seems callous to not take them into account.

 

But when is it okay to tell someone you love them, but you aren’t waiting for them anymore? My friends, my family, the guy I’m dating – they all mean something to me. I don’t want to cut them short or hustle them through, but I want my time.  I haven’t had cancer, but I appreciate my minutes anyway.  I could be learning Spanish, or finishing my quilt, or going to the gym, or picking up an extra shift at work.  More importantly, I could be sleeping.

 

I don’t need to sit here waiting for calls that never come or time that never arrives.

 

I am ready to buy another ticket to England.

 

 

Okay.

Arbitrary deadlines move me forward, but they mean nothing.  By themselves they change nothing.

 

But they give me hope.  They quell my anxiety and make me feel constructive.  I have composed and imposed them so many times.  But lately I haven’t been able to form them.  I haven’t used them to move forward.

 

But it’s okay.

 

The last two years of sitting on the sidelines and ignoring my inner demands for productivity have led me to greater discoveries than I ever could have made just by pushing forward.

 

I had to stop and let my thoughts catch up.

 

My inner sureness is back, and it doesn’t come from the knowledge that somewhere out there a man loves me.  It comes from the knowledge that I love me.

 

I have a peacefulness I haven’t had – maybe ever.

 

I feel more comfortable trusting my intuition and leading with me, instead of someone else’s voice.

 

I don’t know where I’m going. But I know I’m okay. And I will be okay.

 

And everything will be okay

 

There will be joy.

There will be sorrow.

There will be change.

There will be stability.

 

Through it all, I will be

Okay.

In Storage

It’s okay.  It’s temporary.  I have so much to do – so many things to figure out – these details don’t matter.  I can make do with anything.  I don’t really want anything, so I might as well be happy with this.

 

A year and a half ago I moved home.  Not just to my hometown.  Home.  I live in the bedroom I grew up in.  That is my space.  I also get the nearby half bath.  The room is fairly large.  The bathroom isn’t bad.  I was (and still am) grateful for the free accommodations.  How many people have a safety net like this?

 

What made me stop and take a deep breath was that my mother hadn’t bothered to make space for me.  I assumed the space was there.  My parents lived alone in a four bedroom house.  The minor detail I had somehow missed on my brief weekends home was how thoroughly they had filled it.  Both closets in one of the bedrooms are filled with Christmas décor.  Boxes tower in front of a built in dresser.  The hallway is stacked with totes.  I had two days to settle in before I left for a networking trip in D.C.  I considered my options, and the fact that I had two more hours to return the U-Haul that day, and I unloaded my stuff on top of their stuff.

 

That was a horrible idea.  I quickly become overwhelmed by spatial chaos.  I can arrange people and projects without a blink, but a messy desk can paralyze me.

 

When I had my own apartment in Denver everything had a place.  I took the time to organize, settle in, and even decorate a little.  My apartment felt like home.  I enjoyed having people over.  Sitting on my couch was restful.  I could watch tv without feeling like I should be doing something else.

 

In retrospect, I can see which “homes” only felt temporary to me.  The messier my living space was, the less organized, the more stark, the less I felt like I would stay.  And I rarely did.  I typically moved every 6 months.  When I stayed longer I would make half-hearted attempts to make my space more functional.  But a few places, like the apartment in Denver, truly felt like me.  I spent time making them feel like a home that reflected me and provided the cozy functionality I prefer.

 

I have made some half-hearted attempts here.  I have gone through sections of the room – donating, trashing, shredding, organizing.  But I get bored, distracted, or put off by the temperature.  My room used to be an attic.  In the summer it is hot and humid.  In the winter it is frigid.  My closet door, closed to contain any streams of heat created by the space heater, opens just long enough for me to throw in the clothes I don’t think I’ll want for another week or two.  Any clothing used on a more consistent rotation gets strung around the room, where I can reach it without risking a toe to frostbite.  That closet could have been the inspiration for The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.  If I pushed through the clothes I’m sure I would find snow.  And even with the heater on I am rarely in the room more than 5 minutes in the winter without climbing under the blankets.

 

But my bigger problem is just having too much stuff.  My room holds abandoned mail, the random spices and kitchen tools I have retrieved from the basement boxes but might want to use again before I move out, my winter clothes, my summer clothes, my books, my sewing projects (including my sewing machine and containers of fabric), my photographs, my writing notes, my jewelry, my movie collection, my hiking boots and pack, the out-of-season window air conditioner, jars of hand lotion, my gym bag, my workout gear, a crate of tote bags (it’s an addiction), empty crates for future organizational projects, and a half-formed pile intended for goodwill.  The walls are bare other than a rectangular frame designed to hold my larger earrings and the sapphire blue shower curtain I strung across my window to block out extra light after a particularly bad migraine.

 

The bathroom is not any better.  Half of the closet is filled with sheets that don’t fit the bed I am using.  I’m not even sure the fitted sheets still have elastic, but my parents have yet to concede that any can be re-homed.  The rickety over-the-toilet shelf can’t hold more than a few magazines or a bag of cotton balls.  My own belongings dot the countertop, and a collection of wall-plaques lean against various shelves and walls, exhorting anyone in the bathroom to enjoy every minute as though it is their last.  Or something like that.

 

It is a cluttered disaster.  It is a warehouse.

 

It’s okay.  It’s temporary.  I have so much to do – so many things to figure out – these details don’t matter.  I can make do with anything.  I don’t really want anything, so I might as well be happy with this.  I repeat what I thought when I moved in.

 

I was not looking for a home when I moved here.  I was looking for a place to stay until I decided what will come next.  I just needed a space to store me and my things.

 

But as I am reconnecting with myself I am becoming aware that being here is holding me back in a way I had not foreseen.  I am not being me.  My whole journey of self-discovery is making it impossible to live this way.  I cannot sit in my room and not see the details around me, or see them and not care what they add up to.  There are things that I want, and this isn’t it.

 

This is a good thing.

My Shavasana

“I am exactly where I am supposed to be.”

 

That was one of the quotes handwritten on the wall of the yoga studio.  I disagreed.

 

Yoga and I don’t actually get along.  I mean, I LOVE the way I feel at the end of my practice, but every twisted, unbalanced minute of the actual practice drives me nuts.

 

I used to practice quite often.  The drop-in classes were easy to make a couple of times a week, and then I hit the jackpot and lived with an instructor in training who led my friend and me in practice every weekday morning.  After two and a half months I still held a grudge against it.  When I moved I gave it up.

 

Last fall I joined the Y and started going again, but only sporadically.  The stars had to be perfectly aligned, and the excuses had to be hard to find, before I would trudge out with my mat in time to make it to the 6 a.m. class without getting lost on the track on the way.

 

But today a friend was having a bad week.  She is underemployed and recently single.  And because she is recently single, she is about to be kicked out of her house.  And today her car broke down.  And she really wanted to go to a free yoga class.

 

“I’ll go!”  I just felt like I should.  I went earlier in the week and it was fine.  One of my most enjoyable practices ever, actually.  I could definitely suck it up for a friend who just wanted some company.  So I pulled up the event on the yoga studio’s homepage.

 

108 sun salutations in honor of the first day of fall.  WTF? How did I get myself into this? I hate to do six in a practice.  108? Seriously? Balls.

 

But it got better.  When we walked into the studio I realized I had missed the line that said it was HOT yoga.  I didn’t even have a towel with me.  Awesome.  Well it could be great, right? I’d never tried hot yoga.  At a minimum the workout would have to be great.  And it was only her second yoga attempt ever, so I could talk her into leaving at the halfway point if it came down to it.

 

It started out great.  Downward facing dog, step to the front of the mat, mountain, fold, half-way up, fold, chaturanga, upward facing dog, downward facing dog…. The positions slowly awakened.  I liked the feeling.  We don’t do sun salutations at the Y.  But it was so HOT.  On about the sixth salutation the sweat was pouring off of me.  I said the same thing after Zumba this week, but it turns out I was wrong then.  THIS redefined pouring off of me.  It didn’t take long before a sweat trail led up the middle of my mat and onto the floor in front of it.  Fine.  Suck it up.  But it kept spreading.

 

The next few salutations passed quickly.  Then I started to lose my grip on the mat. As I lowered into chaturanga my left hand slipped out from under me.  On the next rotation my right foot slid to the edge of my mat.  As I worked to maintain my balance and complete the poses my inner arms began to tremble.  I couldn’t push up into upward facing dog without bracing my legs or bowing my knees outward.

 

Enough.

 

I’ve had enough injuries, I wasn’t going to set myself back by tearing a muscle in my arm or twisting my bad knee again.  I sat back on my mat and breathed.

 

I had made it through 26 of the 108 salutations.

 

Beside me, my friend was cranking.  As I watched her struggling to learn the poses and committing to her practice I knew I couldn’t ask her to leave at the halfway point.  I resigned myself to restarting at the end of the break.  When the break came so many people had left they asked us to move up in the room and fill in the spaces.  I did one more sun salutation before accepting that I was done for the night.  And now I was in the middle of the room.

 

I slid my mat to the end of the row and sat cross-legged.  I had an hour to go.  I opted to work on my meditating.  I have a hard time with that, too, but my head felt better for the yoga, even if the heat was threatening to boil it.

 

Best. Meditation. Ever.

 

I don’t know if it was a heat stroke or what, but meditation has never felt so… so.  I don’t even know how else to explain it.  My head was everywhere and nowhere.

 

I was thinking about all of the people I have practiced with in the past.  The instructors with their bits of sermon-like wisdom, the friends who keep me pushing myself, the roommate who gave up his mornings for us, and the couple who practiced on the mats beside us at one of the gyms but always checked on me and my back.  It turned out they ran a spine clinic and could immediately tell that I’d had a disk out of place that was still giving me trouble.

 

I was reflecting on all of the positive sayings on the wall about working through it, accepting your place in the world, and embracing the positive.

 

I was parsing through the past career and personal decisions I’ve made.

 

I was asking why I dislike yoga so much.

 

And I got some answers.

 

People can be awesome. Sometimes somebody else’s words open up a whole new perspective. Some things just are.  You do the best you can, you make a decision, and you move on.  And sometimes, even when you know a decision is looming, you can’t worry about it.  You will get to it when the time is right.

 

And I came up with two reasons why yoga is so difficult for me.  The first is that it’s just difficult.  I have to focus on my entire body in order to practice effectively.  I can’t just turn up the music, read the news, and turn up the energy level in order to succeed.  I have to concentrate.  The second is that it makes me feel guilty.  I feel like a failure when I practice.  Instead of appreciating the 10 poses I do well, I worry about the poses I don’t do well.  Tonight I was side-tracked by how many salutations I didn’t do until somewhere in the middle of my meditation, when I thought about how many I did do, and how 20 more sun salutations than I’ve ever done in one practice before is a pretty sweet achievement.

 

I worry over my practice because it isn’t as peaceful or as natural as it is for everyone else.  Which is ridiculous.  If there’s one thing yoga is all about, it’s finding your own practice and not worrying about the person on the next mat.

 

“I am exactly where I am supposed to be.”

 

Tonight that saying connected with my practice and my life.  When my meditation ended I was still smiling.

 

At the end of a practice the instructors turn the lights off and everyone assumes shavasana, or corpse pose.  The pose has you lie stretched out with your hands at your sides.  It is a pose of relaxation intended to rejuvenate your body and spirit.  It is incredibly uncomfortable on my lower back. The couple with the spine clinic advised me years ago to lie with my feet on the floor and apart from each other, but with my knees bent and touching like a twisted scarecrow.

 

When I got into position for my version of shavasana, I thought about how much more relaxing it was to be in a pose that worked for me than to struggle into the pose that works for most people.

 

Maybe yoga won’t be my favorite thing.  I’ll keep it up because I can feel the benefits, but I don’t want to struggle with it anymore.  I will accept my 26 sun salutations for the achievement they are, and I will let go of the rest.


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A Family History

My maternal grandfather died when my mother was 9.  At the time, her older brothers were 14 and 12, and the younger twins were 5.  My grandmother had to figure out what to do.  She found work.  She paired up with another woman going through the same upheaval.  She put just enough food on the table.  She got her kids through high school.  She only went on one date after my grandfather died; she said he wasn’t her husband.  She knew no one ever would be.

 

My paternal grandmother got married before she was 16 to a man decades older than her.  After three kids she fell in love with someone else and left them all behind to start over.  A few years and three more children later, her first husband died and two of her children with him came to live with her.  And her alcoholic, occasionally abusive husband.  He couldn’t hold down a job, relatives helped keep food on the table, and their fights had a deep impact on my father.  Over the years my grandmother would leave him when it got to be too much, but she could never make the split permanent.  When he died they were still together. I was 5 at the time.

 

My mother’s first husband cheated on her with her sister-in-law.  They divorced when my sister was just a baby.  He poured sugar in the gas tank of my mother’s car.  He rarely paid child support.  She worried that he would be high during his parenting time with my sister.  My mother washed her hair with laundry detergent for a while so she could make ends meet.

 

My parents were set up on a blind date by my father’s cousin.  After they had dated for a while my dad came over drunk and fell over a footstool.  My mother kicked him out and broke it off.  He came back and made amends.  My oldest sister remembers one other time when my father had too much to drink and my mother threw her wedding ring at him, losing it in the snow.  I can count on one hand the number of times I have seen my father have a drink.

 

My mother runs our house.  She likes things to be a certain way.  She is efficient and thorough.  She stocks non-perishables and household items as though every store in America is closing tomorrow.  She has her own set of tools.  When my mother starts a project, she finishes it.

 

When she asks my father to do something around the house he stalls until she stops nagging him and does it herself, or the nagging escalates to the unavoidable.  My father is super nice.  He is also incredibly inefficient.   He hesitates.  He is overly cautious and unsure of himself.  He leaves the house for thirty minute errands and returns hours later.  He often behaves like a child, refusing to call home and tell my mother where he is going in case she asks him to come back.  He does not do his own laundry, and he only cleans under duress.  My mother hates that he would always rather watch tv than walk the beach.

 

He swears my mother is the love of his life, and he will never leave her.  My mother says she is too old to start over.  I think there is love between them, but neither one seems to respect the other.  I don’t want their marriage.

 

My mother made sure I can take care of myself, and I am proud that I can. I own more tools than most of the guys I have dated. I taught a couple of them how to drive a stick. My summer jobs during middle school included painting rooms and cutting lawns around the neighborhood. I held my own in a career dominated by men, and I learned how to be a hard ass in order to do it. I drive everywhere because I like to be in control of my ability to leave.

 

My mother’s dating advice was “use them and abuse them.”  Her worst fears came true when my oldest sister’s husband was arrested just before he tried to enact a plan to shoot my sister for a life insurance policy.

 

I want to date and fall in love and get married.  But he had damn well better be worth it.  I don’t want an alcoholic or a murderer, and I don’t want a man who doesn’t respect me.

 

I can take care of myself, so any man I am seriously involved with has to be worth my time and attention.  Because I will take care of him, too, but I want a relationship where we take care of each other.  I want to know I can rely on him.  I want to know he is a good man.  I want to believe him when he says he will handle it.  I want to trust him enough to commit for life.

 

I want the kind of marriage that makes me never want to date anyone else again.


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Future Life

With each man that I date and truly like I have a hard time saying goodbye.  It is as though, for a moment, a window opens and I see the future we could have had together, if it had only been right.  And even though it isn’t right it feels like it could have been good enough.  And when we say goodbye I feel myself saying goodbye to that future as though I am being pulled backward through a long tunnel.  I feel disoriented; much like Scrooge must have felt with the ghost of Christmas future.

 

It is as much the fear of what will come next, without that imagined future, as the sorrow in the parting that keeps me clinging to the shifting walls.  Regardless of the reasons, they stretch beneath my grasping fingers and shake off my fingerprints.  And that entire future just disappears.  It will never exist.

 

The sadness of letting go settles over me every time.  I don’t want to keep looking at futures that will never form.  I want one of them to be real.  I get attached to them as though they are.

 

The sadness lasts until I find a moment when letting go makes sense; when I see the world for the vast space that it is, filled with endless possibilities.  I offer up my hurt and my hope and I wait for the world to make it right.  Sometimes it takes days, sometimes it takes years.  It depends on how much I believed in my invented future.

 

I like variety.  I crave adventure.  It is the feeling of moving forward that keeps me satisfied.  I know these things about myself.  They are true.  And they are only part of the story.

 

As the weight of these goodbyes has begun to register, I see that a part of me longs for stability.  I don’t like that my entire life is subject to the whims of the next week.  I want a career.  A home.  A family.  I assumed that if I built my career I would be happier than if I sat around waiting to find a good man.  But my career is nowhere to be found, and I am still hoping to chance upon a home and family.  It always felt pointless to chase after something that is never guaranteed.  Despite my efforts, however, it turns out a career isn’t, either.  And I think it is time for me to look for everything else.

 

I need to design my future life.