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Monday, February 23, 2015

That's enough

When I find myself slipping into a less-than-positive mental place I can usually grab ahold of something that will catch me before I fall.  That can be anything from a call to my best friend, or getting together with my book club. Or something as simple as actually walking into Starbucks to get my coffee instead of the drive through.

This last slip seems to have had happened quickly and before I knew it, I had fallen and I couldn't get up.  I tried to rely on my old standbys.  Except, my best friend is out of the country,  I have to work on my book club night and I gave up visiting Starbucks so often because we needed to cut back somewhere and drinking our bank account away wasn't helping anyone.

On a side note: orthodontics and vision care are extremely expensive. If college doesn't work out for my oldest, hopefully he can get a job as a model because we are certainly putting the same amount of  money into his aesthetically pleasing appearance.

So I found myself in a cold dark hole trying to figure out how I got there.    It was a series of things.  I miss the sun. I wish I didn't have to work. I'm tired. I haven't been eating as many vegetables as I should. I think my husband thinks I'm ugly. I'm pale. I forget things.  I didn't win the lottery. Our utility companies got together and decided to raise our bills by 400%.  Things that once made me happy, suddenly don't.

Once I go down this road it is a one way ticket to miserable.  Don usually can detect this and pulls the cord for the next exit.   This time he stayed on my struggle bus and listened as I made a wine fueled rant on why my life sucks.  I explained that I had wanted to live in a warm climate in a cozy house on an orchard where we would spend our days barefoot and I would write for a living while our four boys enjoyed nature and spun around on the tire swings that hung from one of the many century old Cypress trees.   We wouldn't own a TV or a car and we would bike everywhere.  I would bake and cook and make homemade soap. Don would be independently wealthy and we would spend our days talking. We would take vacations to the mountains.

The truth is, the closest I will get to being in Sonoma is the wine I was now on my third glass of.  The chance of us moving is pretty much zero because of the benefits I have at my current job. Which by the way, isn't writing. In fact, I had submitted an article and it had been rejected just that day.  Our boys get motion sick on things that spin and probably couldn't live with out a screen for more that 48 hours.  We have never been on a family bike ride, let alone hiking up a mountain. If I cooked and baked all of our food we  would probably starve. The homemade soap looks like fun, but I have never done it, and to be honest, the ones I have used left me smelling like my grandmas potpourri she kept on the back of her toilet….For my entire childhood. The only time we go on vacation is to visit family and it is not on a vineyard, although at times that would be super convenient.

As I continued my rant to Don I realized that my idea of a life that actually mattered is based on a false reality that could loosely be influenced by wine commercials.  I also got the impression that I was making him feel like a failure because he couldn't provide our family with the type of lifestyle I desired.  Unfortunately teachers don't make that much money.

Or maybe it is fortunate.  But for different reasons.  He does it because he loves kids and he has a genuine love for what he does not for the salary.  And because it has landed us exactly here. Where we should be.

He asked me to list things I did like about my life.

In an effort to get away from material possessions,  I tried to go to the basics.

A warm bed. A warm bed that is shared. The Spotted Cat, a book that I have read 1000 times while a cuddly boy body snuggled up against mine and hung on my every word.  The sun kissing my shoulders.  The way the house sounds when everyone is asleep.  Humor that surrounds me.  Writing truth from my heart, even if nobody reads it. Hearing someone call me Mommy.

"Isn't that enough?" he asked.

I could feel the warmth of guilt and tears forming behind my eyes and I realized what he was trying to say.  Yes. It is enough, but sometimes I forget that. Sometimes I forget that I'm not in a competition. I am not obligated to prove anything to anyone.  That if what I listed is enough, then I should be able to focus on them to get me out of the hole.  That those things are abundant and are not going to go away. They can happen every single day if I let them.  Or better yet, notice them.

I get too caught up in tomorrow and the next day, wondering what will happen, and if it will finally  make me feel worthy or successful. When I already am. Especially if I base  my success on just being here, observant of what is going on around me at this very moment.

I listened to the footsteps of what sounded like a herd of buffalo running upstairs that I fear will one day break through the ceiling. I smelled what was left of the rigatoni dinner we had made as a family. I looked at a well lived in house with stains on the couch and finger prints on the wall. I snuggled deeper into my fleece blanket and took the last sip of my Sonoma County Shiraz.  All five senses were living up to their potential and I thought, it really couldn't get any better than this.

Because this is all I have at this very moment, and for right now it is enough.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Valentine's Day is in the Garbage.

We were living in Los Angeles and trying to potty train a puppy. This is challenging for even the most competent of individuals, but living in a third floor apartment didn't make it any easier.  When we  had to leave him, we would put him in the bathroom so if he did have an accident, it would be easier to clean up. We accelerated to middle aged parents over night. We didn't go out because we felt bad leaving him. But after a few weeks of bootcamp dog parenting we decided to forgo Chang's delivery and go out for dinner. We said our tearful goodbyes (exaggeration) and placed Graham in the bathroom. To say it was tiny, would be embellishing. I have seen RV bathrooms that were larger.  When we came home , we discovered that Graham had taken a major size dump on the middle of the toilet seat.  To this day we don't know how it was physically possible for him to position his puppy self so perfectly to strategically place a turd so beautifully. Don and I have never laughed so uncontrollably since .  It was the kind of hysterical laughter that builds and hurts your abs for days.  We were laughing at shit.  Even thinking about it today makes me smile.

I started reminicing about when Don and I first met. It was sunny all the time, at least in my memory. And we laughed, a lot.  In the beginning I put all of my good qualities in the forefront.  There isn't anything wrong with that, it was a showcase of everything I wanted him to see.  Both of us did this.  But as time goes on, those little things that I didn't exactly hide, but didn't exactly highlight either, come out.  Life happens, children happen. Don started to realize that I wasn't as confident as I led him to believe. And I realized he wasn't as gregarious as he appeared to be.  Little by little our imperfections, like litter on a beach, drift into the water and rise to the surface. And pretty soon everything is out there just floating. Like a big barge carrying garbage out of Manhattan to the middle of nowhere. And just when you think you can't possibly have more garbage, more emerges.  Trash is ugly, you want to stash it away and hide it but if you don't deal with it, it will become unmanageable and you will become a hoarder. An emotional garbage hoarder.

So there you are, sitting with your spouse of 13 years overlooking what used to be a beautiful coastline
but it is now polluted with crap.  I see my wicked temper float by.  I see his inability to communicate glide past.  The water will keep flowing.  But now, sitting there witness to it, you must find a way to see over the garbage to where the beauty once was, and still is, but you have to look deep to find it.

Especially in yourself.  And it's not just with a spouse.  Garbage, if not contained, will come up in every single relationship you have. I have been known to be jealous in friendships, I have overacted regarding the boys behavior. I tell myself it is all with good intention, but unless I transform my insecurities I am transmitting them on to others.

Before my eyes, I became complacent with my spouse.  I always said that I would never let my life get in the way of love, but it had. Not intentionally, but honestly, Don wasn't exactly at the top of my list of things to do.

If there is one good thing about Valentine's day (other than the Starbucks gift card my mom sends me) it is a reminder to show love to someone.  Whether it is your kids, your friends, your spouse, your family, your dog or just humanity in general.  My garbage bin has been really full  lately.  Maybe it's the weather.  Maybe Mercury in Retrograde, or maybe just me.  The other night, something set me off and we found ourselves in a dreaded familiar conversation.  To give you an idea, it is a lot of me talking myself into a frenzy, freaking out and blaming Don for not only all of my problems, but the problems of the entire world past, present and future.  My aforementioned temper emerges as well as his lack of communication.

Nothing was solved and I went to bed angry.  But no matter how mean I get, there is an undercurrent of love that this man has for me, even in the choppiest of garbage filled waters.

When I got in my car  very early the next morning to head to the gym, there was a note on my dashboard  in big block letters.

Sometimes that is all I need to hear. That anyone needs to hear.  That I don't just occupy space but that I occupy an important space in his life. That I really matter.  Garbage and all.  When I came back home to a sleepy house I went to our bedroom, climbed over a dog on the floor, a four year old in the bed and told Don I was sorry for completely flipping out. He laughed. I laughed.  I have to admit, I can be dramatically entertaining when I'm mad, especially in my impersonations.

As it turns out we can still crack up about shit, even when it's our own.