Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Wish Me Luck

Last night, I did something I don't think I've ever done. I relaxed. Truly, deeply, relaxed. I turned off my phone so there were no updates, texts, calls, games to play. I finished a book, Jane Hamilton's first book, Disobediance. God, I love the way she writes. Cats on the bed with me, quiet (for once). I turned off the light, and I found myself not ready to fall asleep.

I let myself simply be. Listened to my old, fat cat's deep, rattling purr. The ticks of the radiators gathering heat.

And I smiled. Party because I didn't have to get up at any specific time. My phone off meant I had no idea what time it was. Mostly, though, it was me. It was a place I've started to find inside myself. A new room.

Years ago, another mom told me on the preschool playground, sometimes, you have to put yourself in time out. Go into the bathroom and shut the door. Count to ten. Take a deep breath. It's more shocking to the kids- Where is Mommy??- and more effective overall in bringing calm to the situation. I've found that room inside myself.

The meditation I've been doing lately has helped me find it. I closed my eyes and focused on different parts of my body. Shoulders? Relax. Jaw, let go. Listen to that air go in and out. Let the words inside work their way to the top, hold them each for a moment, then let them fly.

This past weekend, a friend and her girlfriend came up to Ogunquit. We had a great time. We talked about big, giant issues in the world, about silly things, ate great food and sat in front of the fire playing a rousing game of scrabble. All of 36 years old, my friend said to me, you might want to try something totally out of your comfort zone. Something unfamiliar. You might then find something new- how to be the amazing adult you are instead of the kid inside searching for old wounds to be healed.

Okay, she belongs in diapers still but she's right. She also said, it's really easy to be kind to you, Sara. Remember that when someone is treating you badly.

I'm heading up to Downeast next week. Classes finish this Friday. I have the boys for the weekend. On Monday morning, I'm driving up to spend some time alone. Oh, not totally alone. Donald is there, along with others. I have words coming out, ready to be arranged, strategically placed in a narrative about a woman finding out what relationships truly are. And what they are not.

I find myself wanting to be alone not to shut people out, which is often the case, but to decorate that new room. To let myself steep in this new peace. To have it gain root. I know now that I need to have a relationship with myself first and foremost. A kind one. To find an unmistakeable ability to enjoy each moment. To cherish moments of true appreciation.

To smile.

It's time to let go of all the past hurts, pain, disappointments. Hug each one, hold them tight, then let go. They serve no purpose anymore. They have always been piecemeal armor, never truly protecting anything, only allowing me some sense of safety that was never real. Slings and arrows still made their way through and I would be shocked, surprised, thinking I was immune. I was, and am, merely weighted down. I'm ready to take it off. Not to exile to voices inside who cry out NO! but to let them know it's a better place to be. Show them. Bring them along.

Wish me luck.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Dinner Conversation

Dinner tonight, the boys and I were having a lovely time chatting. Okay, the truth is, Ben and Jake were going at it. I said, STOP.  Jake kept up.

Jake! You are halfway across the bridge...

What bridge?

I pause. I'm not appreciating the sassy tone. He's giving me those puppy eyes.

It's a long grassy bridge, Jake. And you're carrying a torch, and you're about to drop it. Then the bridge will go up in smoke, poof, and you'll be falling into the deep chasm below.

He stares at me, I stare at him. He smiles.

But Mom... what bridge would be grassy?

Yup, still love him.

Unconditional Love

The definition of motherhood has no absolutes; perfection, except in freshly baked cinnamon rolls, is not meant to be. What, then, does it mean to love someone unconditionally? Does it mean you are perfect in that love? How can you be perfect in love?

Clearly, mid-divorce, I am not. In fact, I've been told recently I pretty much suck at it. I'm afraid it's true. I am not ready to love deeply again. The wounds are too fresh, and old voices tug at my ear, whispering their fears to me.

I do, however, love my children, and I believe I love them unconditionally. I know from the moment they were all born, my heart filled with not only the emotion of love, but the instinct, too. A parent's love can be fierce if anything comes close to endangering their kids.

I still yell at them. And it stings. The other day, Ben reminded me of a time when I made him cry. He was about five years old, and he had gone over to a cup on the table and taken a drink. It was diet coke and I yelled at him to put it down. (Indeed, I was one of those hysterical parents who never let anything non-organic pass their lips). I made him cry. Yes, I overreacted, and was wrong to do that. When he reminded me of the event, I apologized. I'm sure in ten years, I will be reminded again. And I will apologize again.

Mind you, I made him cry when I yelled at him for trying to poke at the soft part of infant Zachary's head, too. He doesn't remember that.

I love him, all my kids, unconditionally. I know, regardless of what they do, or what they say, I will love them. It is without hesitation, even when they make me cry. I would, will and have done anything for them. Anything from making fried egg sandwiches to stepping in front of a bus to save them. It has never been hard, or difficult to love them. Ever.

Romantic love, however, is a totally different thing. To love without conditions. For a long time, I thought it meant loving without pain. I grew up hugging bared wire, thinking love simply hurt. Often. There was no love between my parents to witness, ever. My mother never dated, or had any kind of deep, singular personal attachment. Later in her life, she admitted that her Grandfather was the love of her life. He was the only person, she would say, that truly loved her. Long dead before I arrived, I never witnessed her filled with love for another adult.

Stepping into adulthood, I tried to be the person I imagined I should be in relationships. Honest, loyal, kind, respectful. I'd stay in relationships too long thinking, if I just did this better... it would all be okay. When I met my soon to be ex-wife? I had no idea what a healthy relationship was, let alone how to have one.

I did believe love was like a jigsaw puzzles endless possibilities but only one perfect fit. I found my perfect fit.

 I loved her. There was a time when it was unconditional. At least I think it was. The perfect fit did end up creating a whole picture, with kids, friends, family. The memory is in a far away room inside me, locked up, with two guards at the door; Self-Preservation and Fear. I cannot let myself remember loving someone who is causing me so much pain. I must keep my eyes wide open for the next blast. Some day, when this whole nightmare is over, I hope to be able to go visit that place and smile.

Eventually, too many conditions piled up in the doorway. Rules, restrictions, demands, all creating a brick wall between us. There we both stood, on opposite sides of the wall, barking orders at each other. Any love left bounced off the bricks and slapped me in the face, to the hissed chorus of "I told you so" and "Don't be so stupid." What happened to the love? Where did it go?

I can hound my children to pick up their dirty socks every single day, over and over again, and it does not draw down on the level of love I feel at all. We have arguments, hurt feelings and tears. Never, ever, does it diminish my love for them. Why did it disappear in my marriage? That core, hardwired feeling of love, and being loved; it was there once.

I know I will never be perfect in love. I am a strange collection of neediness and strength, anxiety and charm. There is no perfect in love. Unconditional does not mean without struggle. Instead, what I hold is knowing I am capable of love on deep levels. I see that every day in how I feel about my kids. There was a time when I felt that with my ex-wife. Some day, when the rage has passed, I'll be able to see why it left. Until I know the answer, the guards can't take leave. Like motherhood, there are no absolutes in relationships. I must learn how to keep walls from being built without intent, and then decorated as if they belong.

I have, without question, a great deal left to learn.

Monday, April 09, 2012

More to Life

An opinion piece today in the New York Times, The Taint of 'Social Darwinism', discussed Obama's recent description of the Republican's budget proposals as an elitist attempt at culling the least productive, in their minds, from society as such.

It seems the Republicans doubt the need for all those silly social programs to help people. If they were worthy of procreating, they would be able to take care of themselves. They're trying to take women's rights back to Mary Wollstonecraft's time. Why not embrace eugenics?

The concept of "the survival of the fittest" came from Herbert Spencer, not Darwin, and included the evolution of society, too. The best and the brightest would succeed and society as a whole would benefit.

That was in 1864, which ironically, was towards the end of the Civil War. Considering the number of dead on both sides of the conflict, you have to wonder who was left to procreate and make that "better" society. Toddlers and the elderly?

I'm not going to argue, though, about Spencer's interesting myopia nor the Republican's utter blindness. Instead, the article made me think about something that was said to me yesterday.

I thought there was more. More to fucking life.

My answer was, there is more. And there isn't.

Let's face it. We get up in the morning, we get ready for work, we work, we come home, and we rest until it is time for work again. We eat, drink, laugh, cry, make love, snore loudly. We buy things, choose clothes to wear, go to concerts, read books, and clean our homes. Every day we consume resources that make our lives easier. Transportation, health care, economic systems, political structures, agriculture. In purchasing a single piece of paper, we touch so many lives it is almost beyond comprehension; from the tree, to the labor, to the transportation, to the marketing- the list goes on and on.

When I read about social darwinism, about political and economic games played that tug on the strings we are attached to, I wonder... why? Have we really advanced as a society?

Isn't there more to life than pretty shoes and two weeks vacation? What is the purpose of life? To run on treadmills, eat low fat muffins and be promoted? If it's about family and friends, why do we spend so little time with them?

Is the goal the betterment of society? Is a better society one where everyone has an iPhone? Or have we lost perspective in the massive rush for more, losing the core of our humanity- the need for other people.

Personally, I would put love and belonging before anything else. Family, friends and intimacy. I think we've all bought into the idea that there are winners and losers in life, and that balance is necessary, if not innate. We have evolved as a species based on economic and political distributions of power and access.

Is that what we want? Humans have always looked up, whether to the alpha male, God, King, or President. We work hard to get a better life for ourselves, for our children. Maybe it's time to look around. Maybe have and have not is a concept we've allowed ourselves to believe.

Maybe it has only kept us in an endless cycle of dependency on the very few in power.

There is more to life. More to who we are as human beings than one big competition over resources. We are no longer animals in the wild. We should stop behaving as such.

And there isn't. Life really is as simple as loving and enjoying ever day we are here. Celebrating and sharing all we can be with one another.

Obama is right. The Republicans are playing yet another game of hide and go seek. A game with very real impact. It's not moving our society forward. It only continues the cycle of looking up.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Racing Uphill

I had a dream last night that I was diagnosed with cancer and only had a couple months to live. I had been reading about the Gail Caldwell's book, Let's take the Long Way Home. I was devastated. In the dream, a good friend of mine came along and challenged me to a race uphill in wheelchairs.

She beat me. My arm was killing me (I was sleeping on it funny), and she challenged me again. I wanted to cry because I didn't understand why she wasn't being nice to me.

I realized she was. She was pushing me to fight.

What would I do if I only had a couple months to live? When I was looking at the book, a story about Caldwell's friendship with Caroline Knapp and Knapp's diagnosis of lung cancer, I was struck by the dates. Knapp was diagnosed in April. dead by June. Fast. Really fast. All my moaning about wanting to go to sleep and not wake up, I realize is just a selfish rant.

It isn't true. I raced that damn wheelchair up the hill. It hurt, and I knew I was dying and I didn't give up.

Why then, in my real life, have I given up?

I have allowed myself to become frozen. absolutely frozen. People keep asking me when I'm going to write again in the blog. Write again about anything. Please write.

Frozen with grief and fear, I've stopped growing. I've stopped everything. I've lost my home, my family, my sister, the whole world I created over twenty years. I have to start again? I'm old, fat and ugly. I can't.

I let myself think some wild thoughts about simply walking away. Get a house with some land and build a shed. Learn how to build, have Donald teach me. Walk away from all the stuff. Live simply and show my kids what I truly value. Have them see me... happy.

And write. Every day. Be a cantankerous old woman, you know, just like my mother.

Except I've done her version of life. I played the graceful philanthropist. I'm done with that. It's not who I am. It's what was expected of me. I did it. Did it very well, thank you. I know she would have been proud of me.

No more.

I remember when I was young, and would work on the Christmas tree plantation a few acres behind my house. It was dirty, hard work. I loved it. Oh, I whined about it, too. When I turned 14, I could finally be paid in money, not a handful of candy. Big excitement. I did for a little while until my mother made me stop. It wasn't the kind of work I should be doing. I wasn't to be a farm hand.

But I loved the land. I loved being on the tractor. Or the horses. I loved being outdoors. I spent most of my childhood outdoors. My friends and I would literally stay out for days at a time, at a campsite we had made. Catching fish, collecting berries, to cook over an open fire. We had a fresh water spring, bubbling out of the ground, and dug a small basin to collect it. How amazing it was to find water.

I used to ride horses. Take care of them, groom them, clean their stalls. The smell of leather and manure, the weight of the barn door that slid on cast iron rollers, the hayloft with bees half asleep hidden in the bails, teaching me that I am, in fact, allergic to their sting. I was free there.

I realize now, I don't want to become someone new. I want to be the best of who I was, before the rules crushed me. To feel the peace and safety of tall trees, to go back, far back, so I can grow again, from the place that was cut off.

I don't want to fight. I don't want to be the most beautiful person in the room (you know, the one with money). I don't want the stuff. I want to live like I'm going to die in two months. I want to stop being afraid.

I want to race uphill.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Romney vs. Gingrich?

I keep getting asked if Mitt Romney was a horrible Governor for Massachusetts. My answer is, basically? Yes. He was not progressive, nor was he "middle of the road." He fought marriage equality tooth and nail. He drained rainy day funds and cut school budgets. He left our state in serious debt. It was pretty clear all he wanted to do was run for President.

But, people say, is he as bad as Gingrich?

I must admit, the mere thought of Gingrich being taken seriously, let alone actually winning any political contest ever, anywhere, is terrifying to me. I can make fun of his moon colony, or the repeated adultery, or his flat out lies about his own Washington insider life.

Please explain how someone who was THE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE can call themselves an outsider? That's like Jake telling me he didn't finish the cake with a fork in one hand and the chocolate smeared plate in the other.

It's not funny, though, that so many Americans actually think the man is an option. People! Do you want this man in charge of the nuclear arsenal? Let alone Supreme Court appointments, job creation (heck, they can go to the moon and build!), social security, relationships with other countries... The man changed the very definition of civility in the House of Representatives during his tenure of Speaker.

In 1997, "the House ethics committee recommended last night that House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) face an unprecedented reprimand from his colleagues and pay $300,000 in additional sanctions after concluding that his use of tax-deductible money for political purposes and inaccurate information supplied to investigators represented "intentional or . . . reckless" disregard of House rules."

I must admit, Romney looks like a cupcake in comparison. Sure, he will continue the policies of George Bush that have led to our miserable economy, massive debt and free passes for the rich. But I don't see him telling North Korea to go f-themselves and drop a bomb.

That is not an endorsement. I don't want any of the Republican candidates. The only Huntsman seemed like a rational human being, and he's out of the race. People that know me well, know that deep down, I have a Republican heart. I believe in fiscal responsibility, State rights and government having no business in people's personal lives. I believe private businesses should give back to the community because it is good business practice. Want good employees? Support schools. Want low crime? Support the Police.

As Zachary would say, Duh.

When I was growing up, that's what Republicans stood for- nothing remotely being discussed today in the GOP debates. What the hell is a social conservative? Is that a fancy way to say bigot? misogynist? homophobic?

Was Romney that bad? Yes. As bad as Gingrich? No. Forget the question. Ask yourself instead, what the heck are people thinking? Stop looking at the candidates and start looking at the reasons why people are drawn to this. It's not about who is the lessor evil. It's about the appeal of either.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Shifting Fortunes

The fortune teller told me to wait nine months before thinking about another relationship. I did. In fact, I waited ten months. In truth, I waited five years. What she could not see in the cards- or maybe she could- was the years of trying. Hoping. And mostly, living for my kids.

Things, a gentle way to say the divorce, are moving along. It took a few months of tears shed lying in a fetal ball, to be certain. Certainty created enough energy to file papers, begin the process of tearing apart a life built over twenty years. I knew five years ago our lives had become too far apart. Ships passing in the night is an expression when held on a real deck of a real boat, you truly understand the depth of the distance.

I was tired of being alone. Lonely with someone arms length away, yet acres of ocean between us. If I was going to be alone, let me be alone.

Easy words to say for a woman who had spent 16 years completely enveloped by three kids. To this day, the silence in the house, when they are not with me, is the loudest testament to the change in my life.

That and having food in the refrigerator for more than 12 hours. Or two hours.

For many months, I simply accepted that I would be alone, maybe for a long time, maybe forever. I would always have my friends, my kids, and that was enough. Two spoonfuls of flan instead of the whole thing, it was like accepting a forced diet. The diet I'd been on a long time.

I grieved my sister, over and over. I grieved the loss of dreams, of future images. I didn't try to fix anything anymore. I no longer looked outside for reassurance. I stopped moving to keep from feeling.

I listened to the silence. I no longer hear what's missing. I hear what's there.

In time, as if the fortune teller's card with gold coins and sunshine was turned over, someone came along. Someone I've known for years, now in a new way. We laughed, flirted at times- nothing more, nothing less. I was able to stand toe to toe with her- not as an adversary but as an equal. I did something completely insane, according to some, and got on a plane to go see her.

It would be trite to say it was a leap of faith. It wasn't. I accepted that it could end up horribly wrong. A friend said to me, You are almost fifty. Single. You don't have the boys for the weekend. Why not? Besides, you can always leave.

Faith not required, just a credit card. I went.

I found a woman who is an equal. Someone who wears the world in similar fashion, who holds a code of justice and honor deep. And god forbid, she cooked for me. Yes, I am that easy. I've cooked for years and years, and what might seem like a simple act is full of care taking and kindness to me.

Not to mention it was delicious.

For the first time, I felt like I didn't need to carry all the weight on my shoulders. I had someone to share it with, who wasn't afraid of leading or following. Someone who wanted to do both. For the first time in years, nothing felt like a chore. I was held, she was held, it wasn't all or nothing. I felt safe and at ease. I didn't have to prove that I was good enough. I didn't have to chase. I simply needed to give back what was being given to me.

Perhaps the fortune teller was right, it took time for me to become whole again, to be able to give back without fear. Maybe it is simply about the right place and the right time. We have an amusing history of almost being in the same place at different times in our lives, not just once, but multiple times over many years.

I don't know what will happen. I know there are very real issues- like living in two far apart cities- but I also know I've been blessed with the love of a woman who can give back as much as she takes. I hope she feels that, too. I hope she feels my gratitude, my awe, and mostly, my love.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Warning: Major Self Promoting

Ah, the Most Influential Women of Newton...

scan to page 47 and you'll see me.

I think I should have worn red capris.

Newton Living Magazine.