This post is a departure from my normal shit. Sometimes I need to get serious. Curses have been kept to a minimum (don’t worry, I will still find a way to insert them). Oh and hoo hoo = vagina. Enjoy.
When our son, Nico, was born, John’s best friend, Craig, and his family bought Nico several gifts the day we returned home from the hospital. One of those gifts was a beautiful, plush blue dog blanket that looked so lush I wanted to rub it against my own cheek and fall asleep. What can I say? I was tired. Pushing a baby out of your hoo hoo can be exhausting.
I thought it would be bad form to steal one of Nico’s first gifts, especially since he was only three days old. Let him develop his motor skills first, I reasoned, so he at least has a fighting chance of defending his belongings.
The truth is, we were incredibly touched by the gift. Craig’s own son had the same blanket since he was a baby. He and that blanket were inseparable. In a moment of creative inspiration, his son called the blanket “Blue Dog.” Craig’s son and Blue Dog went everywhere together. Blue Dog slowly became worn down and in a cruel twist of fate, was decapitated. Realizing that a headless Dog might be somewhat disturbing to their child, his parents quickly bought a new Blue Dog to replace the old one.
But as you probably know, nothing could replace the original Blue Dog.
Nico quickly became attached to his blanket. So inspired by the name our friends had used, we decided to keep the tradition alive and dubbed him Blue Dog as well. At night we would hear Nico gurgling to the dog nonsensically, chattering away about the things that are generally on a child’s mind. When we would check on him, we would find the blanket nestled in his arms. If we ever tried to take it away, Nico would hold onto it, not letting it go even in his sleep.
But as can be expected and as we saw before with Craig’s son, when your child becomes so attached to something, you can be sure it will take a beating. Recalling the horror of the original Blue Dog’s untimely decapitation, I thought that I would be proactive. So for Christmas, I bought Nico a new Blue Dog. I thought I would beat it up a little so I jumped on it a few times and threw it against the wall to give it more of a worn look.
When Nico was sleeping one night, I managed to get the old Blue Dog out of his Kung-Fu grip and replaced it with the new, slightly stomped on dog.
But when he woke up in the morning and saw the new dog, the first thing he said was, “Blue Doggy have no more boo boos?” He marveled at the silky paws and the smooth tummy on the new dog. I told him we brought Blue Dog to the Doggy Hospital and they fixed him, but he knew something was up. He eyed Blue Dog suspiciously. He kept holding the blanket in his hand, looking the doggy in the eyes, “Blue Dog? Blue Dog?” He kept asking the dog to confirm its identity as if he was asking, “Is it really you? Talk to me, Buddy.”
I couldn’t keep up the lie anymore. I went and got the mangled Blue Dog out and gave it to Nico. I explained that now he had two dogs and that one was just newer than the other. I was sure he would drop the old, slightly eviscerated dog in favor of the new, shiny 2.0 model.
But kids are funny like that. Nico quickly became possessive of both dogs and would hold one under each arm. Now at night, instead of just having one-sided conversations with one inanimate object, he has one-sided conversations with TWO inanimate objects. AWESOME.
He calls the old dog, Strong Doggy. The other Blue Doggy is just “Blue.”
I don’t know if it says anything about my son and his character, but I’m glad that he recognizes that the old dog is strong. That it might be battered and bruised and a little bit worse for the wear. Perhaps not as trendy or as cool or as popular as the new dog. Not as good looking. Maybe in need of a little more love and attention.
As you probably guessed, somewhere in this post this became less about a beat up plush dog and a little bit more about how we treat people. We all know how things were in high school as we navigated the slippery turf of the social jungle. In our youth, we saw friendships shift, old friends forgotten as the other found themselves more desired and better positioned on the social ladder. We have all balanced on the see-saw of insecurity, finding ourselves and recognizing what true friendship means.
I think I have done some fucked up shit in my life when I look back at some friendships and I wasn’t even really that bad. But yes, the allure of being on the most desired part of the social spectrum always tugged at me a little.
Even as an adult, I find that some friends can pull away when they find the glossy, slick upgraded version of me. It has made me sad to realize that I can be replaced, but that’s life. As one of my new friends, Sabina would say, “That is some fucked up shit right there.”
I agree, Sabina. Some fucked up shit, indeed.
Some people may turn away from the Strong Dogs of their life. But I am grateful that my son holds his a little tighter, plays with him a little more, chooses him to have his more serious one-sided conversations with.
He is very fortunate to have Strong Doggy in his life.
Anyone who is blessed with both old friends and new, is fortunate too.
“I think if I’ve learned anything about friendship, it’s to hang in, stay connected, fight for them, and let them fight for you. Don’t walk away, don’t be distracted, don’t be too busy or tired, don’t take them for granted. Friends are part of the glue that holds life and faith together. Powerful stuff.”- Jon Katz
This is an old post, but I thought of it last night as I was in bed, bathed in darkness, right before my eyes closed.
Let’s make a law that gay people can have birthdays, but straight people get more cake – you know, to send the right message to kids. – Bill Maher
He also likes to wear his sister’s plastic high heel shoes around the house and will carry her purse all sassy-like on his right shoulder.
As we get ready for dinner and we ask him which cup he wants, it’s always the purple one.
With flowers on it.
The other day our amazing Au Pair, Heather, went to pick up Nico from school. She was wearing this pink sweater with Red hearts on it. Here is what it looks like.
The first thing out of Nico’s mouth when he saw Heather was, “Heather, I love your sweater. I just love it!” He brought his hands to his cheeks to express his enthusiasm as well.
He likes the Disney Princess fork the best.
He only has recently said he likes blue, most likely from peer pressure from his Dad. When his father is not looking, he still opts for pink or purple.
His favorite game is to play kitty cat. When asked what color kitten he would be, he says purple.
The other day he was sitting with Heather in her room trying to style her hair with a flatiron.
On the other hand, he also likes to throw around a ball, play catch and kick a soccer ball.
The way I see it my son is a well rounded kid. I like to think of him as a Renaissance Man of sorts. Or like, a Renaissance Baby. Whatever.
John and I have wondered. He is three years old now. And he has plenty of time to figure out where he is going. The display of some of these feminine traits in him does have us questioning his orientation from time to time.
We are not too worried either way. He is most likely mimicking his older sister at this point. Regardless, I have come to the peace with the following:
If my pink loving, red heart cardigan sweater loving son ever comes to me or his father and tells us that he is REALLY into wearing the red heart cardigan sweater, we will support him no matter what.
No matter what sweater color he chooses to love.
No matter who he chooses to love. I just pray, pray, pray that they are good, kind, loving people who will love him the way he deserves to be loved. Please, God, Please.
I know I am jumping the gun here, but when I have spoken to a few friends who are gay about when they knew, some said that they have memories as early as 3 or 4 of knowing they were different. One of my friends told me he remembered wanting to play with his mother’s clothes and wanting to put on makeup and play dress up.
I kind of look at the facts.
1) Wants to wear my clothes? Em, not so much
2) Wants to put on my makeup? Hell Yeah.
3) Dress up. Tinkerbell anyone? Check.
He hasn’t come out in any of my business suits or anything yet, but I am keeping a close eye on it.
It makes me sad to think of parents who disown their children when they finally learn or acknowledge this truth. I imagine it’s an extremely hard thing, not just for the child, but for the parents, who feel that some moral or societal compass supersedes the relationship between parent and child.
I saw this letter the other day, and I imagine a lot of what I would say would pretty much be in line what John Kinnear, author of the blog “Ask Your Dad” wrote in his piece called “Dear Hypothetically Gay Son.”
- Our home is a place of safety and love. The world has dealt you a difficult card. While LGBT people are becoming more accepted, it is still a difficult path to walk. You’re going to experience hate and anger and misunderstandings about who you are out in the world. That will not happen here. You need to know with every fiber of who you are that when you walk in the front door of your home you are safe and you are loved. Your mother is in complete agreement with me on this.
- I am still, as always, your biggest defender. Just because you’re gay doesn’t mean you’re any less capable of taking care of/defending yourself. That said, if you need me to stand next to you, in front of you, write letters, sign petitions, advocate, or anything else, I am here. I will go to war for you.
- If you’re going to have boys over, you now need to leave your bedroom door open. Sorry kiddo. Thems are the breaks. I couldn’t have girls in my room with the door shut, you don’t get to have boys.
- You and I are going to revisit that talk we had about safe sex. I know it’s going to be awkward for both of us, but it is important. I need to do some research first, so let’s give it a few weeks. If you have questions or concerns before then, let me know.
Nico has a long way to go before figuring these things out for himself. Hypothetically, if he were to tell me he was some day, I would wrap my arms around him and hug him as tight as he would let me and let him know with all my heart that he will still always be my favorite son.
(Easy since I don’t have any others).
It would sadden me that people would be quicker to judge him and that his path might be harder than for other young men, but I would be as supportive and as loving as I could be. Both John and I definitely would.
As John Kinnear says above, “I will go to war for you.”
Anyway, since this is all so darn “hypothetical,” you really never know what the future brings. For all I know, Nico will be into some goth chick with piercings on every appendage. There are some horrific heterosexual scenarios that could also hypothetically play out where I would just as gladly prefer he say the words, “Hey Ma, I’m gay.”
I am at peace with whatever decisions my children make in regards to their sexuality. I don’t want to have to picture the act or anything, but I don’t want to do that with heterosexual sex either. What kind of pervy mom would want that anyway?
Over the past few weeks, I wrote a few posts about my family. I pondered what boundaries to maintain since I felt like I had a right to tell these stories, because they did explain a lot about the dynamics that affected my life. That still make me who I am today.
But life doesn’t work that way, at least not for now. I think I hurt a lot of people in my family, more than I realized I could or ever would and so I have pulled down those posts. I love them more than I love this blog or even my love of writing. I haven’t yet picked up the phone to say I’m sorry, mainly because I think they’re all still upset with me and I can be a coward like that. But I am sorry and will find the balls (Has anyone seen my balls? Anybody? Bueller?) to call them soon.
There are stories that I was in and I can say that I am undeniably the main character. But there are still supporting actors in that story that have a stake in my retelling of the story. And then there are those stories where I know either my siblings or my parents are the main characters. I may have still been written into the script, but ultimately, when it comes to the retelling, it’s not my story to tell. It’s theirs.
I think even the stories where I am the main character are still theirs. Kind of, anyway.
There are other avenues to revisit my past and maybe rip the scabs off of some wounds that just won’t heal until I come back to dress them again, more carefully this time. With deeper understanding. And frankly, I pay my therapist a lot more than I will ever pay any of you, so it’s really not right for me to put that burden on those of you kind enough to join me here.
And I am starting to get that. While I have often looked at writing and this blog as a cathartic place for me, I also have to wonder at what point my fascination or need to revisit the past will end. I can recount the story hundreds of times, hundreds of ways, but at some point I think where I need to be today is not in the recounting but in the acceptance of my past.
And ultimately, forgiveness.
Both to be forgiven and to forgive.
That’s where I need to go.
That does not mean I won’t be writing anymore. There are topics I have been DYING to get to:
1) Relaxation through Needlepoint
2) 50 Shades of Grey – a chapter by chapter dissection
3) Is Orange the New Black?
4) The Gift of Menstruation – what men REALLY want to know
5) Investigative piece on whether people really say “Potah-toe.” Who and where are they?
6) Dry Brushing Cellulite techniques – From Flab to Fab? With before and after pictures (Bonus!)
7) Pink Zinfandel: The Forgotten American Treasure
8) The Extinction of Zima: Come on. You know you liked it.
And of course, my little exploration of forgiveness. I may dabble in some other things here and there, but this is the plan and I am sticking to it. Hope you stick with me too.
“Forgiveness means it finally becomes unimportant that you hit back. You’re done. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you want to have lunch with the person. If you keep hitting back, you stay trapped in the nightmare…”
― Anne Lamott, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith
For example, instead of gaining weight, I lost it. The day she was delivered, I actually weighed less than I weigh today.
I fainted frequently. Once on a plane going to a business conference. They almost landed the plane for me because they thought I needed immediate medical attention. I assured them that they didn’t need to, so they booted out the people sitting in my row so I could lie down. Little kids would come up to me and poke me to make sure I wasn’t dead.
I couldn’t walk straight for months and without pain. I heard about things like – ok – this is embarrassing – hemorrhoids – and stuff – but I mean, this was ridiculous. I could have sat in a vat of Preparation H and I would still have been miserable.
I STILL think I walk a little funny.
But no matter what, I remember the excitement. The anticipation. Getting excited for my visits with my doctor and the ultrasounds. My god, the ultrasounds. Could there be anything more exciting than getting your belly lubed up to see that amazing little heartbeat? To see the flutter of tiny feet?
I liked my Doctor well enough, but I felt like her nursing staff was pretty cold. I know that they have been through and seen all of this a million times, but for a first time mother, it’s all new. I even remember asking the nurse if there was a special way I should pee in the cup. You know – something different I should know about. She looked at me like I was speaking another language and ignored me.
And maybe I did ask some stupid questions. I think John did too. We just weren’t prepared and those appointments felt like a lifeline to the child we hadn’t yet met.
I remember when they did my blood screening to test me for any indication of Down Syndrome. No biggie, I thought.
Just another test.
I received a call a few days later. I was in a meeting at the office so I let it go to voicemail. When I came back to check the message, I found there was a message from a nurse from the office. This is what I heard:
“Hi, Mrs. Fer-nan-dee-nez.” It’s Ferrandino, people. Ferrandino.
“We’re just calling you to let you know that your test for Down Syndrome came back abnormal. Call us back so we can schedule an ultrasound. Have a great day!”
My heart started pounding and I went into a panic. What does this mean I thought? I settled into a private office and called the office back. When the nurse got on the line, she told me in a dry voice – very dry – that yes, my tests were abnormal, but that they could get me in for an ultrasound in ten days.
Me: But what does abnormal mean?
Nurse: Your numbers came back higher than normal.
Me: How much higher?
She gave me some numbers which basically could have been Greek to me. I told her I needed to talk to a Doctor right away. Like ASAP or this bitch (me) was gonna go apeshit on them.
When a Doctor from the practice called me, she gave me more information. She also explained that they like to verify early to give the mother a chance to decide whether to keep the child or terminate in the event that Down or something more serious is confirmed.
I remember being in a daze and crying and calling John and us being in shock. When I called my brother, who is a Doctor, he kind of calmed me down – he explained that the test puts out a large umbrella and there was a high likelihood that my child would not have Down Syndrome. That relieved me. My child could be normal.
But of course, I didn’t go home and just relax. I went on boards for parents of children with Down Syndrome. I read their stories. I cried. I cried for them. Not just tears of sadness, but of happiness – because all of these parents loved their children like crazy. Because you got the sense that each of the families with a Down Syndrome child seemed to take it more as a blessing – that they had been chosen for this for a purpose.
To love that child uniquely. As only they could.
When John and I discussed what we would do if further tests came back positive, we both agreed we would want to keep the baby. That we would want that baby no matter what and we would re-define what normal was going to be.
It ultimately did not come down to that. Shaila did not show any markers during the ultrasound. When I was pregnant with Nico I told them I did NOT want the test. That it would not change my decision.
This year, one of my best friends in the world welcomed a beautiful baby girl into her family’s life. The baby is beautiful. She is perfect.
She has Down Syndrome.
She does have some health complications that need to be addressed and until she is fully stabilized, I don’t think my friend and her husband will get much rest. They both work full time, have a two year old in tow and are in and out of the hospital for procedures. Right now, life is really, really hard.
But they are blessed. And the baby is blessed to be born into that wonderful family.
Nobody is making light of the challenges that lie ahead. Nobody is that naive. But my friends will do whatever they can to make sure that baby loves her life. And while she is blessed to have them, they are equally blessed to have her. Because she will also make sure that they love their lives too.
As John Franklin Stevens, a Special Olympics athlete, so eloquently said in response to Ann Coulter’s hateful tweet the other night in which she referred to President Barack Obama as a “retard”:
In speaking and hearing stories from mothers of childrens with Down Syndrome, both joy and loss are felt at the same time. The love for that baby in your arms. But the loss of certain expectations of the kind of life that baby will now lead.
One of the hardest things I think parents of children with special needs have said they deal with is fear of how their child will be treated. And you think to yourself, maybe kids can be cruel, right? But over time, through education, people learn and understand and appreciate and love. Isn’t that what growing up is about? Overcoming ignorance?
But when you see dumb shit like this?
You realize that ignorance knows no bounds. And ignorance has a voice. A very loud one.
I received some criticism of the letter I wrote to Ann Coulter yesterday (which I am sure she is just continually mulling over). Some said that I was TOO nice. But a few asked if I was just as bad as Ann Coulter in mocking her.
I don’t know. Am I?
Perhaps I am. And if that’s the case, I apologize.
I know that you cannot fight hatred with more hatred. Gandhi and Martin Luther King and Henry David Thoreau all taught me that.
But for now the thing that’s first and foremost in my mind is that she owes people an apology. President Obama can take care of himself. But for the individuals and families who deal with the challenges of special needs EVERY DAY, she most certainly should be apologizing.
One thing I have learned is that there is no normal. Parents and families will love their kids no matter what – and normal is redefined for every family every day.
Ok. I will stop writing about her now. I am done. My lips are sealed. I will not mention her name on this blog again. PROMISE.
Until the next time she says something horrifying.
Which, gosh. Could be any day?
If you came to this post thinking it is a review for the Britney Spears movie which goes by the same name as this post, you probably shouldn’t read this. And you should get Netflix or something.
When you are married or with a person for a long time, it’s possible to ignore certain faults. Certain weaknesses. We tiptoe around them initially, maybe laugh at them together when the time is right, roll our eyes later.
Ok – maybe we don’t ignore them.
We tolerate them.
For example, John tries not to notice when I wear my pajamas all day. This doesn’t happen every day. Just the majority of days. I work from home a lot and it’s just convenient. Sometimes, before he comes home from work, I will run up and take my shower and change into jeans and a new shirt. But I think he knows.
He would call it “laziness.” I prefer to call it “being laid back.”
He doesn’t complain about it though. Too much.
He overlooks my moodiness. To most people, on the exterior I look like a sweet, nice person. Soft-spoken, perhaps. But inside? Inside I feel like a raging pitbull, you know, with drool running down its face, some days. He won’t know what days those are though because of my deceptive sweetness and them BAM! he sets me off.
He calls it an “aggressive temper.” I have termed it as being “overly passionate.”
Sometimes with good reason. Sometimes not. Just kinda depends.
Things that were endearing when we first met don’t seem as cute or as gosh, I dunno – quirky – anymore. They just seem weird. Actually, they might even piss us off a lot.
Like, John has this habit of calling me right around 5:30 every night and saying, “What are you thinking about dinner?”
The conversation goes like this.
John: So what are we doing for dinner?
Me: I don’t know. What are we doing for dinner?
John: I asked first.
Me: No hablo Ingles.
I mean, why does the simple fact that I don’t have a penis put me in charge of dinner? We both work. We both have late calls.
But I do it. I make dinner. Whether its because I am better at it or because I have a vagina, I can’t be sure.
He leaves his sports bar wrappers around the house. I leave open cans of Diet Pepsi everywhere, with just a teeny bit left inside. He refuses to complete a task. I refuse to stop nagging him about completing a task.
But the thing is, just like I now recognize those “cute” things as “annoyances”, there are some things I never thought to notice at all.
Like how always takes out the trash. How he always brings in the mail. How he always gets my phone and charges it at night. How he is so much better at being a jackass with the kids than I am. How he handles the bills. Stuff like that.
When I think about it this way, perhaps I am not bringing much to the table actually.
My friend Anne Marie said it best.
“You know, every morning I come down the stairs and there is a dirty pan on the stove. It’s never cleaned. Without fail, it’s there every single day. And I hate it.”
I nodded my head. Right on girlfriend. But then she added something.
“But I think to myself, what if that pan wasn’t there? What if I came down and it was missing? That he wasn’t there? That would be something so much worse for me. So I deal with the pan. Because the absence of that pan is something I couldn’t face.”
I thought about what Anne Marie said a lot the past few days. Not necessarily about cleaning pans. John hates to clean those too. But what it would mean to not have those “quirks” of his that I complain about around.
When you end a relationship with someone – whether it’s your spouse, a family member, a friend – you might feel a certain sense of freedom. Freedom from the weight of those weaknesses that you feel have hurt you, have confined you, have annoyed the shit out of you. But with that freedom comes loss too. A loss you may not realize or appreciate until it’s too late.
That is not to say that goodbyes are not necessary at times. That it’s ok to throw away some pans. Not at anyone, of course. Because that’s being a little TOO “overly passionate.”
Maybe it just means we should be just a little easier on each other. And that’s something I think that needs to be there if we are going to make this work.
P.S. John, if you read this, I will stop wearing my pajamas if I can buy more yoga pants and sweatshirts. They call it activewear. Go figure. I will try to do more than sit at my computer in them.
Look at that picture. What a happy family, right? All smiling and dressed in coordinated denim for this little photo shoot. Might even want to make you gag a little.
But the picture is one dimensional and it doesn’t tell you our story. So let me tell you just a teeny part of ours.
Before we had kids, John and I had a lot of time for each other. We both had challenging careers. Confession: I think I always say I have a challenging career, even at times when it isn’t all that bad for the simple reason that it makes me feel important. We would go to the gym together, we’d be current on episodes of our favorite shows, we’d watch movies and go on dinner dates with friends.
When Shaila, (Baby #1), made her appearance in this world, I remember the joy and most of the fuzzy memories from the hospital where I was absolutely fine with taking my fair share of painkillers.
But I remember as we were dressing her to get her ready to take her home, this crushing, panicked realization of “I’m not ready.”
Holy shit. Holy shit. Holy Shit.
It wasn’t just that John had forgotten to read the instructions on the car seat as we were trying to adjust it to fit her little 6 lb body. And I still fully blame John for that because it was the one task I gave him while I was incubating our child for 10 months.
As we fumbled with the child seat, realizing that the outfit we brought from home was way too big for her (A one month outfit is way bigger than the NB – or newborn outfit), we looked at each other and I think it was the first time we admitted to ourselves.
“We have no effing clue, do we?”
We somehow managed to get her home without breaking her, but it was close. She cried the whole way home and I kept trying to put the pacifier in her mouth while John clenched the steering wheel in his hands.
“Why is she crying?” he asked. Yeah, just like that I’m the Baby Whisperer because I have a uterus.
“I don’t know. It’s ok. We’ll get home and she will be fine,” trying not to panic. John was freaking the shit out of me.
Things got better when we got home. Family helped. We got into some kind of routine after our families all left. And we started to get the whole parenting thing down.
But despite all the books I had read, I just didn’t know what it would be like. What the exhaustion would feel like. That I would struggle with breast feeding both of my children, trying so hard that I was often in tears. That I gave up and turned to formula and always felt like complete crap when asked, “And how is the breast feeding going?” and I would mumble something non-sensical, hoping they wouldn’t ask me to repeat myself, feeling like I had the most inept boobs in the world.
Another shortcoming to add to my list.
But somehow we made it through it. We officially felt like parents. We even were good at it some days. Not all, definitely NOT all. Sometimes we were more like taking guesses and crossing our fingers (and toes) that we were not causing irreparable harm to Shaila. We may have done some damage, we still question it, but again, we are hoping she came through relatively unscathed.
Crossing our fingers again.
Nico (Baby #2) came and it was harder this time. I didn’t bounce back into work with the same fervor that I had the first time and it took me longer to adjust. I didn’t recognize it at the time, but I was going through Postpartum Depression in a bad way, and the shiny veneer of my normally happy self was wearing thin.
So now we get back to the point of this post. Somewhere along the way, John and I stopped prioritizing each other. We kept up with the demands of work, parenting and maintaining a home, but when it came to our marriage, we did little to nurture it or each other.
After the kids went to bed, John would fall in front of the television and get lost in whatever sports event was on, while I would be in my own world, sipping on a glass of wine and writing or producing songs.
And the distance between us grew. The time we spent with each other dwindled.
We had officially stopped giving a shit.
I write this now because for quite some time this year, John and I were thinking about giving up. About calling it quits and starting over. We were very close to making a decision that would have changed our family forever.
But as the time grew closer for the actual split, I started to break down. Like, really breakdown. I would cry incessantly. If John walked by, I would burst into tears and leave the room. I would hold my children and think about having to tell them about this and cry some more.
It’s amazing I didn’t drown in those tears. I did drown my sorrows in a lot of wine though. Too much.
It took the realization that whatever our differences were and whatever our grievances are with each other, that our love and respect and concern for each other far outweighs that.
And that was a pretty amazing revelation for me.
And with that realization came the understanding for both of us that we wanted to fight for this. A little harder than we had.
Today is the day I would have been closing on the new house I bought. Some women shop at Target when they are sad. Some women splurge on a new pair of shoes from Nordstrom when they have the blues.
Not me. I bought a house. A shiny, new one.
Once John and I realized that we wanted to work on this and to “really” work on it and not just say we are working on it, it became clear that I needed to return the house. I asked John if we could keep it because I really liked all the features I had picked out, but he said that would not be a good idea.
NOTE: You lose a little more money when you “return” a house than say when you return a pair of shoes. I would strongly advise against it.
It’s a little scary trying again. It’s scary because you know there is the chance that you will fall into old habits. That the constant demands of all the other stuff, especially the really noisy stuff like the kids, can still stand in your way.
But you can’t do anything about all that. That’s still going to be there. And short of slipping some hard liquor into our kids’ sippy cups, in the hopes that they will pass out, the kids are still going to be loud.
This post is personal. I get that. I am not writing it for cathartic release or for some kind of exhibitionism of my family. I write because I know that I am not alone in this. And that others like me have sat on that scary precipice just like I did. And no matter what decision you make, you will find your way.
On Sunday night I had dinner with some of my closest friends. They are the kind of friends I don’t talk to everyday or see all the time but when we do see each other, we can talk about anything and everything. I think for the most part, we do a really good job of being there for each other. Not being too “judgey.” And when you have been friends for as long as we have and know as much as we do about each other, it’s easy to be “judgey.” But to our credit, we work on focusing on each other, giving of ourselves what we can.
Minimal judgement. Refreshing, right?
And I love them a lot, not because of how amazing they each individually are, but also because of the way they love me, forgiving me for my many faults. One of which is that I am really, really bad about returning their calls.
We all have strengths and weaknesses in this world and luckily for me, they are not counting the latter. It’s always good to have a few friends like that in your corner.
We decided to meet up for our monthly get together, which we decided we were all in desperate need of. Or, let me take that back. Maybe I am the only one feeling that desperate about it, but I know that I definitely need it. That I need the solidarity of their strength in my life.
One of my friends offered to drive me to the restaurant where we were all meeting up, centrally located for all of us. Before she knocked on the door, my husband and kids looked at me as I was grabbing my purse.
“Are you changing?” John asked, not being mean, but probably to help me. My 3 year old seemed oddly unimpressed by my appearance and my 5 year old, who usually shouts out, “Oh, Mommy, you look sooooo adorable,” was also painfully quiet.
“No,” I thought, wondering what was wrong with the jeggings I had worn all day and my favorite top, a polyester-ish purple sweater I bought from Express in 1998. To finish off the look, I had thrown on shoes that would have made any of my friends who are nurses proud – a clunky pair of orthopedic support shoes.
My hair was not perfect but then, it wasn’t the worst it had ever been either. I wasn’t wearing make-up, but these days, that seems like a step I rarely bother to take.
Look, this is how I see it. My friends have seen me at my best and also at my worst. They have seen me with mascara running down my face and have held the Kleenex for me on more than a few occasions. I have been there for some of them through some of their least glamorous moments and have never stopped thinking of them as amazing and beautiful.
So I was banking on the fact that everybody might overlook the bags under my eyes and the less than stellar outfit, the lack of mascara and my comfy shoes.
And I think they did.
We all are at crazy junctures in our lives. Times that life seems impossible, not just hard, and we are just trying to get through it, with our sanity intact. Our conversations now are so different from the conversations the five of us would have had 10 years ago hanging out at a bar in Arlington or a club in DC. That world is long gone. It left when we all decided to grow up.
And we are adults, but some days I feel like a bad grown up. A very, very bad one. An imposter, even. Like I have totally lost sight of what it was that I was supposed to be at this stage in my life. Professionally. Personally.
I have to admit something to you. This is really something I don’t tell anybody. In fact, I rarely admit it to myself, but for some reason, I want to come clean on this. In High School, I was voted “Most Likely to Succeed.” I look back at the picture of me in my yearbook where I am smiling, believing with the utmost confidence that yes, I would have “success.” I don’t even think knew what success meant for me then. And lately I realize that I don’t know what it means to me now. I feel like there are dreams I have given up on, passions that have fallen out of my grasp.
And that hurts me. Sometimes, a lot.
I confided to my friends that night, feeling pretty ashamed, that there are times where I miss those carefree days when we lived in Arlington. The time before marriage, the time before the move to the suburbs.
The time before kids.
Let me be clear. I don’t want to go back. I don’t want to be single. I love my husband and my children. In fact, I felt like I was betraying my family in saying this. I feel like I am betraying my family in admitting this now. But the point isn’t that I don’t want to be a mother or a wife. Not at all.
I just wish that I had more time to live – and sometimes I want to be selfish and have life mean more than making the next work deadline, asking my kids for the twentieth time not to call each other poopy head at the table (which they both find enormously funny) and not rushing to get dinner ready. And realizing that some days the day has gone by and it’s now 10 PM, and there I have it. There’s my time to do what I want.
Which would be great if I wasn’t so freaking exhausted already.
And I know that there are only 24 hours in a day so that means something has to give, right? But from where? I struggle with it every day, feeling like I am on borrowed time anytime I do something for myself. And so for now, some of my dreams are sidelined. Maybe one day things will get easier and I will have time to see them through.
I expected my friends to look at me with some derision in their eyes, but their empathy for me was obvious. Like they got it. And it was ok. It was ok to miss a time when I could sleep peacefully at night without waking up to my three year old’s butt in my face. It was ok to miss a time when I didn’t have a 5 year old throwing her hands up in the air breaking my heart just a little when she says, “Mommy, you are so mean. You don’t give me anything.”
Because if her 5 year old self thinks I am giving her nothing, while I think I am giving her my everything, I kind of wonder where the disconnect is. And then of course I remember that she is only 5 and that makes me feel better till I think about what she will be saying when she is 15.
I notice a common theme when I talk to my friends about what I feel. I think guilt comes up a lot. Feeling guilty that I am not the parent of the year. The wife of the year. Employee of the year. This is hard for someone who used to rock whatever I did. I didn’t settle for mediocrity. I wanted to be exceptional.
And my friends pick up on my guilt and they assure me that I shouldn’t and that I am doing my damn hardest and that I am better than I give myself credit for. All the things I didn’t know I needed to hear, but so desperately did.
I hope one day that I find the balance that I need. That I find a way to pursue the things that I want for me, just me, while still being everything I need to be to everyone else.
And in the meantime, I am glad I have my friends to help me find my footing, even if it’s on orthopedic shoes, when I need it most. And for that I am grateful.
It’s a greeting used very commonly by Indians and, for those of you who have ever been to a yoga class, its most likely something you are familiar with.
At the end of a yoga class, before you walk out the door, the teacher will usually lift their hands together, clasp them and slightly lower their head and say “Namaste.”
This simple gesture where the forehead meets the tips of your fingers in your gently clasped hands is one of the most beautiful salutations that can be made to a person.
“Namaste,” the class will respond before rolling up their mats and going on their way – to run back into their cars, grab the kids from daycare, make that run to Starbucks.
What is lost in that exchange is the absolute beauty of the word.
Translated from ancient Sanskrit, the word roughly translates to:
“In you I see the divine.”
What a powerful thing to say. What a powerful word to bestow upon someone. And how often is it lost without any understanding of it’s true beauty?
A few years ago, I was at work when an instant message popped up on my screen from an old friend. He had never been a fan of Indian food, mainly because of lack of exposure to it and apparently had to share his recent findings.
Him: Guess where I am?
Me: no freaking clue
Him: I’m on a project in Bangalore! And you were right! I am loving the food.
Me: What, is it better than that crap you call food that you get in Ireland?
(again, ignorance can run both ways. I am sure Irish food is just lovely. I am positively sure. Like 87% sure.)
Him: Ha ha. No seriously. Sambar and dosa for breakfast. So good.
My mouth started salivating as I looked at the stale bagel on my desk. Rumble. Ughh. I needed to turn the subject away from food.
Me: Have you learned any Hindi?
Him: Not really. Everyone I work with speaks English.
Me: Ok – well you should know this one. Namaste.
Him: What is that?
Me: It’s a greeting. It means in you I see the divine.
Silence. I could see . . . typing in the background.
Him: Well, I never knew you felt that way about me. This is awkward.
Me: No. It’s just a greeting. You should learn it. Appreciate and say it while you are there.
Him: Yeah, anyway – I uh . . gotta go.
He probably made a hasty retreat back to some good food while I was stuck with my nasty old sesame bagel.
“Namaste to me,” I thought as I threw the stale bagel in the trash.
But isn’t it true?
Can you imagine if we each looked at each other and acknowledged that within each of us – there is something divine, something special, something that matters and means more than all the bazillions of cells that comprise our bodies.
That every child’s smile.
Every stranger’s tears.
Every hope that lingers in the hearts of people you will never know across the world.
Every dream that grows in a young person’s hearts about their destiny.
That all of it, in some way, is divine?
I know. I know. You are now thinking about that jerk that ran the four way stop sign in his mini van practically running you off the road this morning.
Or you are thinking about the horrific act of violence that swept the Ohio high school last week killing several teenagers. Children.
Or you are thinking about two towers falling and collapsing with the hearts and dreams of everyone within.
Or maybe you are just thinking that in a world where you have to say WTF? about the unspeakable actions of so many – how can there be a glimmer of anything divine in some of the souls on this planet.
How do you reconcile that?
I just think, in the most simplistic way possible, that if we spent more time embracing the divinity within each of us and realizing that we are all part of this crazy messed up world together, maybe – just maybe – we would all believe in ourselves a littler more.
And in embracing ourselves – we would all be just a little more tolerant. A little more empathetic. A little more respectful.
And a lot more loving.
I think about Martin Luther King, one of my my most cherished heroes and I think about the belief system he espoused based on the ones that Henry David Thoreau and Mahatma Gandhi had all embraced in their teachings.
Divinity and truth and humility and love. They are not always things that come easy. They are often hidden by personal scars, by propogandized teachings, by intolerance.
Divinity is not just the belief in God. If that were the case Christian zealots who espouse intolerance towards their fellow man and Islamic fundamentalists who can bomb a marketplace full of glorious life in the name of Allah would be the spokespeople for divinity.
But that is not divine. That is mind numbing intolerance, a lifetime of programming the very divinity that exists within a person out.
I say “Namaste” to you. To that special place inside of you where your spirit can cut past the bullshit, where it sees the beauty in everything and is not marred by years of conditioning and programmed prejudices. Cut past the bullshit and be glorious.
Because you ARE divine.