It was unusually chaotic this morning. Which really got things off to a good start.
In retrospect, this day was a by-product of human error.
Beginning with the ill-conceived idea that my husband and I could get a few moments to enjoy a small luxury – like coffee in bed, maybe a little light petting -by putting on the Wii and letting the kids play a tank game.
I know… We are the worst people in the world. Within 5 minutes I’m forced to race into the living room, topless, in full view of the street below and condo windows across the street, to pull my son off my daughter, who was just going for his eyes. All while my husband runs around screaming that someone in the building will call Social Services for sure and have our children removed from our care. Naomi begins to have an anxiety attack. Just as Felix decides to teach us all a lesson about what the future will be for us all if we don’t side with him over Naomi: He starts hyperventilating. Yells something he knows will be very offensive, then starts shrieking,”No. Daddy No,” while running down the hall into his bedroom. All because my husband has finally lost it and yells, just behind our thin front door, that Felix had better stay in his room or risk being killed. Maybe for real.
Brad before people found out that he is a normal parent
Poor Brad Pitt. I am instantly filled with gratitude that we cannot afford to have staff since one of his staff was certain to have reported his “child abuse” to the LAPD. This is a complete reversal from my earlier position, which was that the only thing standing between me and complete happiness was shortage of staff.
I have to accept a ruined Sunday morning as punishment because really this was all my fault. For breakfast, I allowed our daughter to finish off the last of Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie (Sure. Take as much whipped cream as you like). And Felix pretty much finished off half a box of cinnamon buns, under my direct supervision. Just because I was just a tad hungover (just one double gin and tonic – Fuck, I hate getting old) and didn’t want to make anything for breakfast or do the dishes after. So how can I be mad at the kids for my own idiocy?
To celebrate this amazing mental breakthrough, I reward myself by leaving. (don’t judge me – it was after II make them some eggs and get everyone to the table, chests still heaving from their exertions, still smarting from the injustice of it all.)
“Bye. Just running to the store. Love you. Take care of each other.”
Since Amsterdam, I have been orchestrating and savouring these moments of true Freedom.
I float down the street to the chocolate shop so I can shoot the shit with Heather, the owner and my new life-coach. She has an idea, easy to execute, that will make me look like a rock-star with the PAC for my kids’ school. I just love her.
Then I wander up the street to the grocery store, where I try all the samples. And also pick up the ingredient I need to prepare a glorious Family Sunday Dinner, which is going to become a weekly and mandatory thing – but hopefully in a happy, quality time sort of way.
As I walk home, I look up and am rewarded again with the most beautiful cloud-shaped shades of grey and purpley black. I let the rain patter down on my face, soaking up all the negative ions. Feeling my heart open and grow patient again. Feeling the tightness in my neck and shoulders. Then holding onto a tree trunk for a little stretch. I drink in calm and the beauty of a peaceful, glimmering city by a gorgeous body of water. Thank you. Thank you. My church rocks!! I just have to figure out how to incorporate a little sip of wine during my service and a little more “body” (if you get my meaning…) And I’ll be ready to apply for tax-free status.
I invite you to join my congregation and take a little time away to savour something that makes you feel free. (and make it a news-free day. Unless it’s John Oliver, then it’s ok.)
Please share a time you’ve found magic in the mundane…
And also I’d deeply appreciate it if you’d subscribe. This way I can send you this new thing I’m trying:
I’ve got two lines of snappy little quotes you can print off and stick on your fridge…
1) Unsolicited Advice 2) Weird Shit I Overhear
I can also let you know when I’m doing a storytelling gig near you and want to crash on your couch.
My kids are six and eight years old. I am aware that this is considered the “sweet spot” in the whole parenting journey. This is the time when they’re independent, but still love to cuddle and hang out with me. Now they’re getting into cool stuff, have interesting conversations, while still believing all my lies – we can just enjoy each other’s company.
I know this and yet, I continuously choose to be overly concerned by how they’ve only eaten half the pizza on their plates, leaving the crust and all the actually nutritious bits – rather than adding my two cents to the debate over which is cooler: Nerf water guns or the rocket launcher looking ones from the dollar store.
Why do I care so much if my kid goes to every single one of his soccer practices (“Do you have any idea how much those classes cost?) Or if they’re late for Kindergarten? Really who gives a shit??? And yet, I continuously choose to make this the focus of my attention – over just enjoying their crazy and wonderful little minds.
The problem stems from my brain getting fucked whenever I try to be too responsible. The pressure to helicopter parent is turning me into someone I don’t like and that asshole is raising my children. I know this, but my awareness is so delayed, I only realize my missed opportunity after I’ve done it all wrong.
I am ready to admit that the only way to prevent myself from turning into a tight-assed, lame parent, lies in the responsible usage of marijuana. I have a legal prescription for medical-grade pot to address my anxiety and insomnia. But I find it even more effective as a parenting tool.
For those of you who are judging me or who are reaching for your phones to dial Social Services – consider this: what would it take for you to get on the floor with your six year old son to play dinosaurs versus lego ninjas – and actually really enjoy yourself? The answer for me is two long hits on a vaporizer.
“Mom? Is Jar Jar Binks bad?”
“Well,” I answer thoughtfully. Because now I’m his intellectual equal.
“He’s good in that he’s supposed to be a Jedi Master, but he’s bad because he sucks and his stupid character ruined the entire movie.”
We spend the rest of the evening lying on the floor philosophizing about Jedi powers and the proper and effective usage of them, while dinner dishes go unwashed and wet laundry moulders in the machine. It is also hands down my favourite night in recent memory.
These days, I’m experimenting with a new medicine. Its ingredients include: one thinly rolled joint, two cups of epson salts, some relaxing music, a copy of Vanity Fair and a hot tub of bathwater.
Last night, I barely wait for both kids to get into bed before I indulge. A feeling of deep relaxation and bliss begins to wash over my tired muscles and over-taxed brain when I feel someone in the room staring at me. Felix is standing just out of reach. Normally, I would start hollering threats. “Get to bed now or I’ll….(fill in the blank).” But he’s aware that the effects of my medicine have kicked in. He knows nothing he does will pull me out of the tub, so he sits on the toilet and asks,
“Mom, where does inspiration come from?”
In my current state (hell, in any state) I am powerless to ignore this line of questioning. So we start to talk. Suddenly it’s 11:30pm on a school night and I realize that little fucker has totally played me.
Normally I would be mad, but I’m pleasantly medicated and so I decide just to enjoy. And anyhow it’s my husband’s turn to get the kids ready for school the next day.
What’s working for you right now??
The reason I lost my friend
I hadn’t heard from Alice for a while, so I popped over to her apartment unannounced with a bottle of wine. The way friends do when they’re hoping for a good gossip session.
“You can’t come in,” she said blocking her door.
When I looked hurt, she responded in a stage whisper.
“There’s a mouse living in my couch. It’s why I’ve stopped having people over.”
I don’t invite people to my place either. Not since we bought a new hide-a-bed sofa from Ikea and after the first week, I walked in on my son standing on the arm rest pissing onto one of the cushions.
Now I don’t even remember what colour the sofa was originally . It’s become a collage of ketchup and milk smears, pen scribbles and something that looks suspiciously like blood. I just chose to ignore the whole thing until my mother-in-law came to visit and requested a towel to put down so she could safely sit on the sofa to watch tv.
It was then that I took a cold, hard look around my apartment, assessing all that I’d accumulated over a lifetime and realized everything I own is crap.
This is never what I intended for my life. I always wanted to be one of those people who searched out unique pieces, lovingly handcrafted by artists and journeymen. So that I could fill my space and my life with beauty. People would say, “Oh my God! What an amazing couch.” I would wave my hand and say, “Oh I got that little piece after lightening hit a tree next to the hut where I was staying and a master craftsman carved it into this two-seater.”
But this little dream was dashed to pieces when I realized good stuff costs money. And so I’ve usually opted for the cheapest possible option – especially since having kids and realizing those little fuckers destroy everything.
Where all my kids’ shitty birthday presents end up.
The last time I went to Ikea, I had this unsettling vision that everything I was looking at was destined for the landfill in a couple of years. That’s all I’m doing every single time I buy loot bags at the dollar store or a toy at Toys R Us – just adding another layer to that floating island of garbage, strangling sea life out in the Pacific. Last time I heard, this garbage island was the size of Texas. It’s fucking depressing. And now I’m in a funk.
If I continue to live with the crap I have, I’ll be too embarrassed to invite people over and my family and I will live an isolated life. But if I buy new stuff I can actually afford, I’ll just be part of the problem.
And then I think I’m basically an asshole for caring about any of this at all. I also know I’d better be careful what I start inviting into my life with an attitude like that.
I once knew this woman who was basically a hoarder. She was also basically a witch. One time she invited me over to her house for a full moon ceremony. Since I was in one of those head spaces where I was just saying yes to everything, I went along. After casting the circle and calling in the “energies” she asked that all the clutter be removed from her house and from her life.
Three days later her house burned to the ground.
So I’m just going to put a funky looking tablecloth over my sofa, call up some friends and stop being such a pussy.
Deal with it. This is my fucking couch
If only I really loved this part of the job
Moments before my husband is due home, I adjust my position on the sofa from one expressing languid relaxation to one implying grace under pressure. My freshly washed hair is fanned across the armrest, and, as his key turns in the lock, I fling an arm limply across my forehead.
He rustles out of his coat and pauses, reconsidering his habit of tossing it on the nearest chair. I hear the clank of wooden hangers in the hall closet and feign a weak smile as he approaches with tenderness, even a bit of reverence. Because what else can a man feel for a woman who spends the day working (from home, mostly) and then takes care of children, manages to perfectly clean her home, wash, fold and put away the laundry and still look so amazingly good?
Before he has time to ask about my day, I murmur wearily, “I’ve been slaving all day to get this place in order.” My husband kisses me a little more passionately than usual. He clearly finds the thought of me slaving exciting. In lieu of foreplay, he slips into an apron and makes dinner. Tuesdays are my favourite.
That’s because on Tuesdays, a lovely woman comes to clean and do laundry for four hours while I run personal errands, meet a friend, or play with the kids in the park. Because, as you might have gleaned from earlier posts, I’m a bit of a handful, I felt like I needed this one thing to make him think, “Holy Shit! I married an amazing woman.” For this reason, I was certain my husband must never ever find out.
Is this what it’s all coming to?
We are reminded from toddlerhood never to lie, but those fibs that make living and raising children with a man possible should be lumped into a different category. I wonder if it’s only my dysfunctional brain that makes marriage work this way.
While growing up, my grandmother taught me womanly arts: how to separate an egg, get blood stains out of a white shirt and to sew on a button. She also taught me how to avoid unnecessary fights.
Although she juggled being a mother and a full-time schoolteacher, my grandfather nevertheless commanded that the kitchen floor be waxed every week. Gran wanted to comply because her man believed a freshly waxed floor was a sign of an orderly house; a sign of love. But it was a soul-destroying task that had to be done on hands and knees, easily consuming an entire day.
My grandmother admitted she was dangerously close to hating her new husband early in their marriage. Until, that is, she began to smear a bit of floor wax around the door frames an hour before her husband came home. When he walked into the kitchen, he smelled floor wax and everyone was happy.
It may have been a lie, but it sounded like wisdom to me. When Grandpa died in 1998, they’d been married nearly 60 years.
In this instance, I think lying is okay if it saves your relationship or your sanity. So why is this subject so taboo? I took an informal survey of my closest, smartest coworkers. Just two admitted to telling untruths in a loving, stable relationship.
But now, at this point in the whole mid-life crisis journey, I feel like it’s time to come clean. And guess what? It led to a rather interesting conversation in which I explained that for our family’s bottom line, it is far more cost effective to prevent me from going crazy than to actually let me go crazy. (topic for a later post, I think). So the cleaning lady is here to stay, I think.
The ultimate wife and mother…if you don’t care about her having a vagina or a brain
But that doesn’t mean I’m honest about everything…. Last week I stopped my husband from repairing our broken garburator by telling him our neighbour’s son needed to fix it for his school project. I paid the plumber in cash and shredded the invoice. In the moment, it seemed an act of love: the garburator got fixed by a professional. My husband still feels manly. I didn’t have to drive anyone to emergency. Harmony is maintained. Love reigns.
But sometimes I need to be sure he does know all of this really is about love. So I’ll let some stories slip and make sure I’m ready with a laugh and a kiss when he finishes reading this piece.
Who in your life appreciates what a smart, funny, resourceful person you are??
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All week people have been congratulating me on quitting my shitty job. I won’t lie. It’s such a lovely change when my impulsivity and irresponsible disregard for long-term consequences – which is often regarded as a major character flaw, gets a bit of appreciation for being awesome.
And then I woke up
It was terrifying. I woke up from a terrible dream where a disembodied voice said:
None of this will stop you from turning into your mother.
This fear doesn’t always sit right up front in my brain, but it’s always hanging around the periphery of my self awareness. There was a brief second while skipping down the office hallway for the last time, when I thought: “my mom would totally shit her pants right now.”
How immature am I that this thought gives me so much pleasure – like I’ve tricked fate or something. Still, I carry a looming dread of fulfilling my family curse. This particular curse has been passed down for generations on my mother’s side for as far back as the women in our family can remember. I knew my grandmother only after the curse did its damage. As a teen, I watched my mother battle and finally succumb. The stories she told about herself – all from a time before – may have stirred warm sentimental feelings for her, but for me those stories only served as a warning. So I watch myself closely. Changes – especially physical ones – evoke alarm and I wonder, “Is this how it starts?” Honestly, I don’t really know at what point the curse begins or what its indicators may be, I only know, that when the curse takes hold, every women in my family is always overpowered and when she finally gives in, she follows the same fate as every other woman before her: she becomes her mother.
In my family, when a woman reaches the age of 40 or has two kids, (whichever comes first) she gains 100 pounds and grows a moustache.
I used to joke about how this is the unfortunate result of Eastern European genes. I’d laugh about the suddenness and inevitability of it all. The thing no one mentions, but I have always known is that this is the moment when she stops caring. She is no longer part of the present, but lives in the world of before. She stops doing things. She goes out less and less – eventually only to places she knows like to church and the mall. Dreams, ambitions and interests are reduced to stories meant to reveal why they weren’t worth the trouble or why they could never happen for her, or for anyone else. It doesn’t happen all at once. It starts as exhaustion or a general overwhelm and eventually a past-tense replaces sparks of excitement and previously held interests wither and decay like last season’s garden until no one remembers these women as anyone other than they are – the mother, the grandmother, the bitter old woman.
To make her seem less threatening in this state, I have purposely reduced my mother to a two-dimensional character. After all this is what she has done to herself – flattened out. Even after the kids left and she had time, she wouldn’t get a job – too scary. Or go back to school – too old. Or even travel – what if? She refused to stretch herself in any way. But she would sigh a lot and complain and talk about how the world was going to hell or go on and on about small slights turned into large offences. At first I would listen, terrified, dismayed. Years later she still tells the same stories, but I’ve long since stopped listening – it is simply too boring, too depressing, and now too threatening. Especially since I find myself doing the very same thing.
I have always carried a fear of the curse ever since high school graduation when my grandmother waddled over and laid a heavy hand on my shoulder. With the tone of someone imparting great wisdom she said, “I was as pretty as you when I was 18.” I remember watching her join my family at the table thinking, “Never. Never. Never.”
In my twenties, when I don’t think I was seriously worried, I used to examine myself in the mirror, looking for features that resembled my mother’s — but my ass was still firm then, my upper lip still hairless. I thought I might be exempt. Physically, I take after my father’s side – smaller bones, taller. But because my mother and I are so similar in other ways, I may have over compensated at bit…
I’m terrified of ruts. Before I got married and had kids, I moved often, travelled frequently, changed jobs just when my learning curve began to plateau. I dated outside my type. I lived outside my comfort zone, thinking perhaps it was really comfort and stability that somehow invited the curse in.
But then I got pregnant twice and bought a condo in Yaletown. Comfort and stability are my new goals. I’m slowly entering menopause and trying not to freak out as the sales assistant at Nordstroms described my figure as “sausage shaped.” Or as more and more dark coarse hairs begin sprouting all over my upper lip.
Every night, I stand in front of the bathroom mirror and mutter,
What the fuck? over and over.
Oh of course I am reminded every time I open the Georgia Straight that there are chemical peels and all types of cosmetic surgery available. I know about boot camp and yoga. I know I can diet if I want. But it seems pointless if it only scratches the surface.
What scares me is that for the first time in my life I can see how easy it was for my mother to lose herself – first from necessity because a woman has to let herself go a little to cope with children and the pressures of running a home. Then because it requires so much energy to find or recreate a self. I can see now, for the first time, how it is possible for a life once richly lived to shrink into the shape of a well-worn path from home to the mall and back
What stops you from drinking every night?
A mid-life crisis is that existential time when you question all the choices which have now led you to consider divorce or quitting your high-paying job to become a yoga instructor. Everywhere I look, I see people like me, doing everything they can think of to keep the threat of a mid-life crisis at bay. I can’t even count the number of Botox parties I get invited to. These parties are just like those Jewelry Parties you may see advertised from time to time, where in the comfort of your own living room a distributor comes and models the latest, hand-crafted pieces – all at reasonable rates. There’s supposed to be lots of booze to encourage your friends to buy stuff so you can get something free for putting the party on. Botox Parties work on the exact same premise, relying heavily on substances, which numb your ego to friends staring and suggesting which of your facial features is the most unattractive. Then you sit on a table and try to continue a conversation while a clinician sticks needles in your face.
I remember trying to appear unconcerned when a woman I barely knew went on a drunken rant about the cost of parking while little rivulets of blood dripped from her nasolabial folds. “Don’t worry,” the clinician said to those of us who looked alarmed. “These fillers are made from naturally occurring sugars.”
Always I leave looking much less tired, but filled with regret: I’ve just dropped a pile of cash, only to increase anxiety at a growing list of other things that need fixing. Apparently it’s an expected response to a normal stage of life – for those of us lucky enough not to live in Syria or need an Ebola vaccine. For this reason, it’s tempting to brush off this nagging, uncomfortable feeling that I might be living the wrong life, by convincing myself to feel lucky. Just to push that feeling back a bit, I’m wondering if it’s time just to embrace this new trend. “To say yes to all that life presents.” (a direct quote from a friend who just finished Landmark Forum – though admittedly taken out of context). Could my prudish timidness be what’s holding me back from success and true happiness?
Case in point: my friend “Alice”, a 40 year-old soon to be divorced mother of two, recently returned from a day at our local nudist beach and surprise, surprise met a guy. “He’s French,” she texted along with a picture of a giant cock. He also is a part-time bus driver who lives with four roommates. They arranged to meet up for sex right after school drop off at 9:00 the next morning.
It’s common knowledge that the best way to fend off a breakdown is great sex with someone super hot, but so inappropriate, there is zero chance of getting attached. But just a few weeks ago, Alice was crying into her chardonnay that her kid-ruined body made her too embarrassed to wear tight clothing, let alone jump into bed with someone new. And now, here she was flirting with bike couriers, baristas, yoga dudes with man-buns and her kids’ soccer coach.
“Cold Sculpting!” she exclaimed with the enthusiasm usually reserved for the born again. “It changed my life. I’m universally considered fuckable again.” And indeed, when I saw her the next evening, she did look a lot more relaxed.
Cold Sculpting is a procedure where you lie on a table and a machine sucks up your rolls of fat and freezes them. When Alice lifted her shirt, the difference was impressive. “You just shit out all your fat over a month or two.“ I can’t believe I waited so many months to do this,” she exclaimed. “And now I get all the sex I can handle,” she went on. “Custody issues? Couldn’t care less. Credit card debt? Whatever. Look!” she held up her hands. “They’ve stopped shaking and I’ve started sleeping again.” She leaned in to whisper, “Without meds.”
I’d probably drop the five grand it would cost to uncover my waist if the issue was only cosmetic. The truth is, nothing can really push that nagging feeling away. Once I convinced myself that I was a broken human, in constant need of repair and improvement, I fell into a bottomless pit. And this is what makes me susceptible to anything that promises to drop a ladder. But all is not lost!!
This is what’s so great about having an existential crisis after travelling around the block a few times – I’m smart enough to know I’m being manipulated. So Fuck The Secret and Fuck you to those people who put harsh lighting above bathroom mirrors.
Just as I write these words, I realize that the way out might just involve embracing my saggy bits and my restlessness and general discomfort and maybe listening to what they all have to tell me. Oh damnit. I think I just quoted the back of some self-help book I bought at Costco.
Tell me, do your nasolabial folds past muster? Any Botox mishaps worth sharing?