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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.  

**************************

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.”

*****************************

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.
******************************************************************************

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.

 

Stupid like lists

This time of year I think it standard practice for most people to reflect on their blessings.  It is so easy to wallow in sadness.  It’s easy to obsess or contemplate on what one doesn’t have. 

I, too, am guilty of this behavior. 

I didn’t ask for my hardships (if you can even call them that) or these struggle laddened scrolls.  When I look at what I have compared to others around me I should be shamefully lashed.

It’s true—- I am that spoiled teenaged brat.

Maybe it is human behavior to focus and remember the negative.  To pick something apart leaving a near perfect experience flawed. 

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to not exist.  To never have been.  To just not be.  There can be no worry or hardship in any of that.  To be off a hook I never asked to be on.

The if only, the only if, the I wish I hads, the I wants, and the I woulds —pop up and out— like evil green gremlins.

My unrest pushes me forward in positive directions most of the time.  I can obtain these things I desperately want though hard work and persistence (I do believe this).  I have been guilty of hitting the whiskey when I have been really lazy and low.  I allow myself these moments to slip up.  I am flawed and recognize it.  I am smart enough to know Motrin is always waiting for me the next morning.  It doesn’t happen often— and now— rarely ever at all.

I was rummaging through my writing.  I have projects that are taking shape.  I can see what they might become.  I am getting excited.  This weekend I ran across my list of “old likes”.  I drafted these when I was at my low.  I am amazed at how many of these items focus on my physical warmth and comfort.  I wonder if this is the same for mankind. 

To obsess and focus on how the outside world treats us.

I had a client in my office that was in such a bad state.  I remembered my “like assignment”  so I gave her the same one.  I tell her to go home and to write me a list.  I hope when she is done writing it she will see how ridiculous she is. 

I hope it will help her.

So in my moment of despair and stupid human condition this was it—this was my pathetic list: 

I like hot baths with lots of bubbles
I like day old lasagna and spaghetti
I like wine and tea lights
I like dinner with friends
I like high heels
I like being a mother and glad that I am
I like the sound of my children’s laughter
I liked my grandfather’s whiskers on my cheek
I like a good book
I like how I feel after running three miles
I like being in shape and thin
I like my Rockford office
I like ponchos and turtle necks
I like vacation adventures
I like children

I like a neat and orderly home
I like a legal challenge
I like to dance
I like flowers
I like that my loved ones spoil me on my birthday
I like most perfume
I like fine jewelry (even though I don’t have much)
I like my well worn shoes
I like my well worn jeans
I like my Picasso print
I like Katie’s art and her giggle
I like Jackie’s smile and sweet goodness
I like Sarah’s focus, drive and sensitivity
I like that my father is soft
I like that my mother is hard and predictable
I love my sister and her open home and heart
I love babies
I love the beach
I love warmth
I love feeling cherished and safe
I love sharing ideas and discussing all sorts of topics with my friends
I love live music
I love lots of good food at a cheap locale

I love the smell of a new car

I love Chicago

I love Vitale’s pizza

I love to flirt
I love butterflies and fireflies
I love when he opens the car door
I love a big soft and comfy bed
I like the silver rings I bought in Mexico
I like the necklace my friends bought me in Spain
I like my timeshare
I like my crappy little car
I love my friends
I like that unexpected good things come my way without my asking
I like that I am smart
I like soft blankets
I like helping people I don’t know
I like being a lawyer
I like my office staff
I like makeup
I love music
I love road trips
I love experiencing new people and things
I like the feeling of fear and the adrenalin rush that comes from jumping out of a plane 
I like a back rub with baby oil
I like spoiling the girls
I like learning about gardening
I like that I can speak Spanish
I like hot coffee with milk and sugar (even better with whipped cream and chocolate drizzle)
I like it when I can be just me
I like it when I am understood
I like the truth even if it is ugly
I like to laugh
I like smart and witty people

I love fall and hot cider

I like white rice swimming in salt and melted butter

I like nachos and cheese

I like the scar on my face

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Thanksgiving

I woke up this morning exhausted.  My feet and back ache. 
I put 26 hours in at my second job.

I love this soreness.  I love this exhaustion.  I love my weird broken life. 
I like that extra paltry pay check.

I woke up thinking that I haven’t been this happy for a very long time. 
I feel peace and freedom.  I am surrounded by fun and laughter.
We are planning another adventure.

(The state of Colorado and it’s rapid rivers are calling)

It seems like eons ago.  Another lifetime perhaps.  It feels like that past life didn’t really belong to me.

I am awake and it’s quiet.  There is no shouting, there is no yelling, there is no throwing or the smashing of my things.  I can sleep all day if I want.

(I do it on purpose:  I can sprinkle all the sugar I want on top of our counter-tops).

I don’t have bruises from his nasty pinch marks on my arms.  I don’t have his hand prints on my legs or thighs.  I don’t have to worry about keeping his anger from my family or the girls.  I am not scrubbing mud (he purposely trapsed) out of our expensive white carpet.  I don’t have to paint, cook or iron at 2 a.m. to get “my” domestic chores done.  I don’t have to eat left overs.   I don’t have to worry about a male store clerk giving me too much attention or looking at an attractive man too long.  I don’t have that sick feeling in my stomach or any shortness of breath when I hear his tone.  I can bring office work home.  I can talk to whomever I want on my phone.

I am making slow and steady progress on paying down my personal debt.  It feels good.  I have this profound sense of accomplishment.  I am more than happy to pay. 

(I giggle.  He didn’t know I would have paid ten times ten)

 *****************************************************************************

I received an e-mail last week.  My parents are millionaires.  They are coming into more money.  They allude or suggest I that I will receive something. 

They want me to do some legal research and tax planning.   I am not sure if they promise something because they feel guilty about asking me for my legal help. 

I love them and would do it for free. 

I know my mother is thinking about death.  Her sister is now facing it.

I secretly fear their money.  I see their strings.  I am not a marionette.

I don’t want my newly freed spirit to be jarred, canned or trapped.  I don’t want contradictions.  I don’t want to be compromised.

******************************************************************************

I wouldn’t say “yes” to my Alec. 

(I too have buried my own sorrow) 

His gives glass beads and blankets full of small pox. 

******************************************************************************

For some strange reason I have to be true to this spirit.  
This inbred pride. (I like to think it comes from some Celtic clannish code).

This wind and strong breeze now send me westward. 

Colorado calls.

 

 

 

S. P. A. C. E.

My ex-husband would tell you that I am a very selfish person.  I am sure that he is right.  In this life I have been horribly selfish in many different ways.  I am not really into self-sacrificing.  I find that behavior leaves me emotionally unwell.  I would try my best at compromises letting him know what I would or wouldn’t do.  What I could and couldn’t do.

Friendships and love affairs are never altruistic.

I want to be happy and fulfilled.  This is such a complicated topic.  Happy and fulfilled can change on given days.  But I am really not that complex.  My existence is often validated when I solve client problems, get my hot bath, help my children with their homework, eat a good hot meal and receive an e-mail from a man I truly adore. 

These men are hard for me to find.  Maybe it’s my birth order, my zodiac sign, the waves, the moon or the tide.

I have no idea.  I don’t know what it is.  I don’t know why. 

I am hunting for rare finds.

********************************************

This one tells me he has this need for space. 

********************************************

I know what this usually means to others when I ask for it. 

1.  It’s an excuse for a conversation I don’t really want to have. 

or

2. It’s really just a request for something I really need.

If it’s an excuse it is usually because, in my soul, I believe the person is another toxic monkey. I am looking for something more evolved.   Someone I don’t want to shield from my family.  My body becomes tense.  They are too numerous to count:  Slackers, drug users, racists, sexists, non-tolerants, unethicals, and just plain liars.  I have no time or room for these kind of men in my life.  I am not physically attracted.  I am not intellectually attracted.  I don’t need much time with them to figure them out.  

My body and mind tell me “no.” 

But if this need is a pure one I can identify and respect it. 

I asked for space when I was at the University of Michigan.  That was simply arranged with a predetermined time for a late night phone call.  It was a date night every other weekend.  The rest I filled with massive amounts of studying, homework, term papers, working two jobs and going out with my girl-friends. 

I thought very little about his need to see me.  I mean, after all, I was very busy.  His need was not the same as mine.  I didn’t fully understand it.  I had things to accomplish.  I didn’t understand why he didn’t see there was just no time or desire for someone else.  He was it.  But I still had other things that I needed to do.
 
This marriage became a lock box.  I was slowly suffocating and didn’t even realize it.  Instead of granting me my need for space it was constantly being crammed full for his storage.  There were always his projects and demands.  I faced constant conflict and tension when I expressed my need or want of getting rid of his clutter.  Everything became a fight or heated argument.  I was just caving to maintain a simple family peace.  I had to kick and claw for everything and anything else.  My space was filled with his clutter and household crap.

I needed to be with other people.  I needed time with my parents.  I needed time with my girl friends.  I needed time with my sister.  I needed time to fill my mind with more knowledge.  I needed time to spend donating my resources to the needy.  I needed time to be by myself.  I needed time just to cuddle, hold and care for the babies.  I needed time to write and work on projects.

When I told him these things he became hurt and angry.  I was constantly reminded that “he” should be my focus.  My time was reworded and reworked into a definition of “his” time.  He was feeling unimportant.  I was feeling like his maid and his prostitute.

I would try to explain that he was my focus.  That he was important.  But that I just had these other things to do.  That I needed this time and space to be just me. 

I felt if he really cared and loved me he would understand. 

Unhappiness is as dark and empty as a lock box

I am fully aware that I am responsible for my emotional health, well being, and intellectual development.  I don’t look to others to shoulder that.  There are people I find I adore.  There are people that I find truly black and ugly.  I was tired of being responsible for his emotional well being.  I was tired of being the source of his unhappiness.

********************************************

Today, I am standing on life’s sidewalk.  I want to spend more time with the one I adore. 

Now he is requesting space.  I need to understand his reasons for it.  Is it an excuse?  Is it a true need?

I am closing my eyes.

He can fly his kite in the vast blue sky filled with puffy white clouds.  I want to watch unpinned butterflies.  There won’t be a field of fireflies to put in any jar.  It’s open beach.  It’s an open ocean. 

This vast need for a freedom to express.  This need to be surrounded by other forms and people.  This need to be exposed to other adventures and experiences.

I don’t want any locks.  I don’t want to hold any keys.  I know what it feels like to be in a lock box.

He shall have his needed space and I will become a better person for it.

 

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.