Friday, August 21, 2015

Friday's, These Days

Every other Friday I am single. Not a mother, not a wife separated from her husband. I am single.

I could go out and paint the town red. I could sleep with a different man each night and stay out until dawn. I could do a lot of things that I just don't - not anymore. See, Friday for me, these days, means something different.

Well - it means two different things really. If I have my son, it means a night of cuddling and cooking dinner and mentally preparing to be away from him for two exceptionally long days. If I am "single", it is a night of doing laundry and food prep and cleaning up the tufts of cat hair that linger in the corners like shy girls at the dance, waiting to be snatched up by the rough wheels of my vacuum cleaner.

I drink wine to get me through it. Sometimes I take a xanax at bedtime to ensure at least six consecutive hours of sleep will occur and I can be rested and present for the two luxurious days with the most important man in my life. Sometimes I go out and I immediately regret it.

I am not the girl I once was.

I am not altogether sad to leave her behind. Occasionally I have the animal desire to go visit her in a short sequined dress and heels that make me tower above the men who would ask to be my lover. I am not dead, after all. It just doesn't feel genuine anymore. It feels obviously painted on - contrived. Who am I now, then, if I am not that woman?

For years, I filled the emptiness with lust. I chased down my knight in shining armor, begging him to lift me onto his horse and live happily ever after. Paris was a wash of men who I loved carelessly, thinking - or never once thinking - that they could somehow fill the void. There were Pascals and Nicolas' and Marcs and Christophes and Nathans and Brunos and Thierrys. My "number" eked up and I stopped counting. Who would be "the one"?

Just one - the one I gave a name to - fulfilled me enough to believe in myself. Just one - the one I birthed from my belly - gave me strength enough to love who I am as a woman.

I don't want to be one of those crazy mothers who makes her son the stars and the moon and thusly makes him hate his mother. I have seen how that turns out, too, and it isn't pretty. But...

But it's Friday again. I'm cleaning the comforter for the umpteenth time because my geriatric cat pooped on it while I was at work. That's what he does now because he's sixteen and suffers from constipation and sometimes it just hurts to poop so he goes wherever he likes. When I am 85 I guess I will probably poop wherever I want to if I'm not feeling well.

This morning I put on a blue rubber glove and laid him out on a drop cloth and I helped him do his business. That's how you help old creatures. My son played patiently with his stacking boxes, blissfully oblivious to the tribulations of an aging animal. I wonder if he'll ever hold me someday, while I poop.

When he was first born and I thought I needed to add formula to his diet he had terrible constipation. I never imagined that I would be so happy to see a poop come out from something in all my life. It warranted a cheer, and sometimes a drink, but usually some serious hand washing all the way up to the elbows. Lots and lots of disinfectant wipes. The moments leading up to the Hurrah were excruciating, though. It was the first time that I understood what it meant for a mother to feel the pain of her child. How many times did I weep to see him crying through the pain? As a brand new life on the planet, he couldn't understand pain, and as a brand new mother I did not know how to explain it to him. My mind extrapolated that moment into the hundreds of thousands of boo-boos and heartaches that he would feel as a human on this planet. This was only the beginning of his life who felt pain and sadness as well as joy and love. So I held him tight, singing or shushing or rocking. I held him until he felt better, because that's what mother's do when their newborn baby is hurting.

The worst thing about single Friday is that there is no one here to hold me. Though there technically is no physical pain associated with it, I instinctually need arms wrapped around me, holding me tight. I wish there was someone to rock me to sleep. Yet I know this is not the time. I know that now the only mother who can teach me about this particular pain is me.

This is complicated, as I have never bothered to listen to myself before and always figured I would be a terrible mother.

When I was a child I never played pretend with my dolls that I was their mother. I had a Cabbage Patch named Rufus (of all things!) and I think I felt vaguely motherly towards him, but in general my maternal instinct was nil. I remember, specifically, the Home Ec class where we were required to bring home a baby doll that cried. It was a newer kind of thing that required you to hold a key in a certain position for a certain number of minutes in order for it to stop crying. This was meant to be some kind of birth control, showing us how demanding a newborn was. It's cry was incessant and loud and shrill.

Mine was broken, though. Or I had to have it for longer than a night. I can't remember the circumstances other than I ended by crying, throwing it against a wall before my mother took the batteries out. Clearly, I was not meant to be a parent.

Years later, I understand how that was a pointless exercise. A malfuntioning doll with a battery is a very poor example of a colicky baby (if that's what it was meant to be) and when I had my own inconsolable child so many years later I had zero desire to throw him against a wall. A real life - your own progeny - has a different meaning and a different sound than anything that can ever be explained. Love tranforms your heart into something that becomes patient in a way that you did not know you could be and your ears become (mostly) deaf to the sound.

That is how I have come to feel that this Friday is a sucessful one. Even though it began in a latex glove, forcing rock hard feces out of one animal and bathing the mushy, teething poop off of another, I know that my life is full and my heart - though sometimes tired and aching - is full of love. There are few moments to weep about being lonely and fewer moments to wish someone would rescue me.

Someday, though, I certainly hope I will have a loved one who will hold me while I poop.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


verbalternate or waver between different opinions or actions; be indecisive.
"I had for a time vacillated between teaching and journalism"
  1. synonyms:ditherwaver, be indecisive, be undecided, be ambivalent, hesitate, be of two minds, blow hot and cold, keep changing one's mind, be conflicted;

I never for one moment suspected that going through a divorce would be easy. I watch my mother's last divorce rip her security from her at the age of 53, no less and fully expected an upheaval. I don't know, though, I guess I thought that because it was mutual things would be different. I thought that because I had seen it coming I was emotionally prepared in some way.

In a way, I was. 

"You're so strong," people say.

"You're really taking this so well," say others who don't know me as well.

The truth is, though, that literally every hour of every day holds a different emotion for me. There is no way to predict it because there are no triggers. One moment I could be holding the baby, feeling deep love and gratitude for our time together, and the very next the sun will shift and I will be reminded of the first week I went back to work, holding him while he slept in the big grey chair in his room. He had been desperate to nurse and neither of us was in love with being away from each other all day. 

I begin to cry then because I was once sad to be away from him for eight hours. Now I am sad because I only get to have my child fifty percent of the time.

This morning the sun was shining in a brilliant blue sky. I had rediscovered an old album I loved and was listening to it loudly in the car. My GPS took me down unfamiliar backcountry roads and I my windows were wide open to let the cool morning air in. I felt light. Euphoric.

As the morning passed my mood leveled. I worked. I read the news. I spoke to a friend about her ex-husband and how unkind he had been. In a moment, my mood took a nose dive. As if her pain were mine. Suddenly I felt literally heavy. My face felt slack and empty. I was deeply sad.

It has become prevalent now to talk about Highly Sensitive People. This is a thing now that some psychologist identified as a "real" trait and so society is beginning to take notice in it. An HSP is the type of person who cries easily, offends easily, falls in love quickly and generally has deep emotional states. They are also the type of person who is highly intuitive, incredibly observant and very thoughtful. They are creative and detail oriented. They the odd kid in the pink poncho playing in the back of the schoolyard by themselves, maybe trying to make conversation with the crows in their language. 

I am a Highly Sensitive Person. 

I'm glad that there is a label for it now because of the people who have crawled out of the woodwork to tell me that I shouldn't be so emotional. I shouldn't be so passionate and I certainly shouldn't express it. To be fair, most of these woodworms are men who clearly don't care about who I really am, but having those sort of sentiments shared with me right now is enough to make my skin crawl.

Because right now my reality is more than just being an HSP. It's about every single emotion I've felt - or repressed - in the last five years coming to the surface to say hello. It is being a gaping wound, infected by everyone else's emotions and hardships and becoming part of me. It is trying to heal, believing I have, only to begin bleeding profusely from somewhere else.

I'm going through it the best I can. Most days I do so with grace and have a pretty good mask to lead people into believing I'm doing just fine. Other days I get home to my empty apartment and I crumble. I sit down on the side of my bed, think about whatever it is that day that has chosen to present itself with a smack in my face, and I have an ugly cry. Sometimes a good cry is enough, and other nights it's a stiff drink and some Christmas music. On really bad nights, there is all of the above plus a Xanax and an early bedtime with the curtains closed tightly against what remains of the daylight.

I didn't know that would happen when I moved out. I don't know why.

In this vacillation I am learning to bend, though, I guess. I am learning to feel free to feel and forgiving myself for holding it back for so long. I am learning to be kind to myself. The hope is that, eventually, things will become constant again. The security I had ripped away from me will be reconstituted and I will find balance on my own two feet.

The mere thought makes me light, once again. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

One Year, Somehow, Already

It rained on Punkin's birthday, of course. Not for the whole time, but long enough for us to have to move all the food in. That is the nature of the best laid plans, I guess. 

Regardless of that, and of the few people whom I would have loved to be there falling ill, it was a great day full of all the emotions that one person can shove into a single day. Happy, sad, excited, angry, dumbfounded - all things put in place by the events of the past year that I didn't record very well and couldn't possibly begin to recount in detail. I think I spent half of it napping.

I wrote a letter for Punkin, on Sunday. Not Saturday because I was too tired and so was he. My goal is to write him a letter every year on his birthday and give them to him when he's old enough to appreciate it. Maybe 21. Maybe later. It is a poorly written letter - not my best work, by far - but I documented who was there in first and last name and I told him why we loved those people. Will they all be at his party next year? I wonder.

It was hard to share a day like that with someone I used to call my husband but no longer do. We don't hate each other, most of the time, but I'm processing so many things right now. How to be a single parent is one of them. How to let go of the past - all my various pasts - is another. I have to remember that who I am is not who I was and probably not who I will be in the future. I have to remember to live in the present. It's easy on the days that I have Punkin, because I can give all those moments of "present" to him. When I am alone, it's not so evident.

A whole year passed since he was born, can you believe that? I don't know how it went so quickly. I began by measuring his life in weeks, and then months and now he suddenly a "Big Boy" learning to have like and dislikes and make jokes and think things are fun or not fun. He went from being a squishy little nugget with colic and poops that squirted across his changing table to a vibrant, chattery little bird, interested in people watching and loving hugs with mommy and daddy. So much happens in a year.

I have postulated that people began the tradition of birthdays as a way to celebrate keeping their children alive for another year. Back in the day when the chickenpox or the flu could be the reason half of your kids died it would have been a real thing to celebrate. "Yay!! I my child did not die! Let's have a cake and make a wish that we don't die next year."

Now that we have vaccines and westernized medicine and health insurance (if you're lucky) we celebrate just as much for the parents as for the life of the child. "Yay! We made it through a whole year without killing each other! We didn't die from sleep deprivation, like we thought we might!"

Ex-H and I didn't make it out completely unscathed. But neither of us died (sometimes I thought I would), and we are on the way to figuring it out.

So we move forward. I am happy that there is life blooming before me while the other is poised all too near my front door. The reality that nothing is permanent - even the sleepless nights with an infant or the crazy toddler years - is something I grapple with. Some days I want to take everything I love and take it away to some farm in Canada where we can feel nothing but joy and live forever. Or die of old age, in our sleep. I try not to think about it. I try to be present - in the moment. I give my son all the love I can possibly give and hope that it's enough. I try to make it through another year, so we can celebrate with cake and a candle and a wish that we can do it all again.

It was a joyous day, and his smile erased all the other things I felt that were getting in the way of bliss. It always does.