I have both good and bad Christmas memories... intertwined. Many of them involve my older half-brother, since for most of our childhood, it was the two of us and lots of adults. My two younger siblings came later. In the Santa years, getting up far too early and then waiting impatiently for the clock to creep along until we were allowed in the front room where the Christmas tree and the stockings waited, it was him and me. So amid the memories of waking everyone up the year we just couldn't wait and snuck in and started playing his new table hockey game with the surprisingly loud ball bearings, and it was something god-awful like 5 am., there is remembering the year he got the new green five-speed Stingray bike, and I got a basket and new seat for my old bike. I remember fondly my little red Panasonic am radio with the single white earplug. That radio was how I listened stealthily to Motown and the Beatles and Karen Carpenter after lights out in bed. I remember expensive candy and unique surprises in our stockings each year that I know now were my mother's special touch. I remember really fine ribbon candy in dishes and making dipped chocolates and my mother's roast beef gravy. I remember getting Timex watches. One year, it was my first, with a leather strap that buckled, and later, a silver digital watch with a Twistoflex band.
I remember, year after year, how I loved to sit in the front room alone at night, with only the dying fire and the glow of the Christmas tree lights. I would sit in the dark room and watch the fire, and soak in the peace and quiet so rare in our house.
I have a big Spiegel box that I've kept my own Christmas tree ornaments and my collection of decorations over the years. In the past couple years, I've really enjoyed getting down the box and opening it with my daughter. I always get a real tree, and my preference is for short-needled trees like a Douglas Fir. I have little multi-colored lights and my ornaments consist of traditional glass balls (the numbers of which seem to slowly diminish over time as accidents happen) and a large variety of individual old fashioned, many handmade ornaments. I have a wolf ornament and a couple of glass unicorns, and two black labs. I have a small silver dove with a blue crystal eye that I got for my daughter's first Christmas. My tree topper is an old silver spire that I'm amazed has lasted this long. This year M added a pink princess castle ornament to the tree that she bought with her dad , and I was given a sparkly purple ball topped with purple Maribou feathers by my mentor at work.
This week we went to the Botanic Gardens Trail of Lights, and froze our butts off with my friend, as we walked along the paths with the colored lights and the little groups of people in the dark.
Today M decorated a gingerbread house . This year I bought a kit; last year I made the gingerbread from scratch. Last year I was unemployed and had lots of time and little money. This year I have a job and very little time. I had only today off from work and next Friday as well. The money situation was so different - this year I was able to make donations and even give money to help make Christmas special for a needy family I've never met.
Now, as I write, M is lying in her bed upstairs, probably asleep by now... it's not quite 9 pm, but I want to give it a little more time, to be sure. The lights downstairs are dim, the Christmas tree lights are twinkling softly. I've played the Holiday Channel on KBCO.com for days, but now the music is off, and only the hum of my computer and the sounds of the dishwasher compete with the click of the keyboard. This year, there are presents under the tree from both sets of grandparents, from me, and today a box came from Buster. Pretty soon, I will bring out of hiding the presents I as Santa got for M, and put them in her stocking and on the floor in front of the fireplace. (It's a gas fireplace. There is no chimney. M has no problem with this; she blithely explains that Santa is magic.) All day long we checked NORAD's Santa Tracker online. She has been highly motivated by the belief that Santa is monitoring her actions. This morning she cheerfully emptied the dishwasher to demonstrate to Santa her goodwill. She expects presents and has been electrified with anticipation.
My mother sent me a box that I know is See's chocolates, an iTunes gift card, and M made me something at school. That is all that lies under the tree for me. As usual, I bought myself a couple of nice things, taking advantage of the annual sales. I'm pretty excited about the new bicycle pump waiting in the garage for a warm day. I have a few new sweaters.
Tomorrow, after M wakes me up and we come down in our jammies to open the loot, I will make a pot of coffee and watch her tear into the wrapping paper. I will make cinnamon rolls for our breakfast and hot chocolate for her. I have crab legs and zucchini for dinner, and a nice bottle of French Beaujolais. I'm hoping to read and nap midday. At some point we will webcam with the grandparents and the absentee father.
If the day is mild, we may go for a walk in the greenbelt or ride the trailer bike. I am looking forward to a quiet weekend and treats. I don't have a lot to do at work next week; it is the lull before the January storm, and it will be hard to keep busy. Thank goodness my boss offered to let me work from home a couple days, and minimize the number of days M has to spend in Arvada, at my Plan B childcare, since her regular one is closed for the week. Less driving and disruption for me - and I really appreciate it.
This year closes with more peace and tranquility than ever. I am enjoying my daughter and where we are right now. Things are stable and manageable, and I'm in a good place.
The past several days have been consumed by M’s dad coming to visit. I have a lot of my own feelings about him and how it is to deal with him, but my daughter was very happy to have him here.
And I cannot ignore that she is my bottom line; her happiness is my Prime Directive.
More than one friend has told me recently that I need to “let it go.” My indignation and frustration with his antics and his stubborn refusal to cooperate and grow the fuck up drives me crazy. The problem is that I am the only person suffering from it. My daughter is too young to understand or care about the intricacies of our negotiations. She is a child, and she cares about what children care about: she wants to have her daddy around and to do things with him. The rest is dry leaves swirling past in the wind, as far as she is concerned.
My friends are correct in their concern. I recognize the pattern in my life: I hold on to my righteous anger because inside, I think that if I don’t, that it means I’m saying that the “bad behavior” of the person who has wronged me is not that bad. That it’s okay. And I can’t do that. Too many people wanted to gloss over all the horror of my childhood, told me I needed to smile more, and told me to “get over it.” My bitterness was my protest march. My anger was my front page statement that it was NOT okay. I was standing up for myself in the only way I knew how.
But I know how to take care of my daughter – and myself – now. Carrying around this cauldron of bile isn’t making anything better, and it is sapping my energy. I need that energy for the good things I have in my life that make sense for me and my child.
I lose nothing by setting it aside. No one is fooled. No one thinks Buster is doing right by us.
I got through this weekend without incident. I sat and made conversation, kept myself out of the room and out of the activity as much as I could, given the circumstances, and for the most part, kept my mouth shut. In the long run, the bottom line was satisfied. He insisted in going out to eat, and he paid. He couldn’t figure out how to spend the time with M, so I did, and they muddled through in his usual manner. It meant that I sacrificed the entire weekend to his ineptitude... but I can spare a weekend. My daughter finally got the new pair of tennies that she needed, and there were no fights.
I realize that he will tell people whatever he will tell them, and that it just doesn’t matter.
In the end, I am still the one raising my daughter, and that his sporadic visits, even if they should increase in frequency, really don’t change anything. He is who he is, and – as the song says – time is on my side.
Live in the moment.
I think about why that has been hard for me, and I think that perhaps, growing up as I did, for a long time the future was all I had to hold on to. I didn’t want to be "present." I was pretty good at disassociating from what was happening to me and in front of me, and comforted myself with dreams of something else, something better.
Being present seemed artificial. It was what people who lived in a different world talked about.
I recently found a letter my (now deceased) therapist wrote to me many years ago. I was at a crossroads, and was reaching out for guidance. She succinctly summarized for me what I had left to do, in order to find the peace and happiness I so earnestly sought. She told me that I needed to get my financial house in order, and find a better job. She understood how misplaced I had been for so long. She knew better than I how powerful it is for a woman to have control of her money. She was trying to help me comprehend the importance of stability and continuity. She was right.
She also talked about my bond with my nephew, and told me that I needed to sort that out. It was always in my heart that I wanted a child of my own. I am so deeply moved and fulfilled that my fondest wish came true. It still seems so unbelievable.
Because I was not used to the pleasure of making a plan, setting a goal, and having things fall into place. I didn’t grasp how much of an effect I could really have on my reality. I was just learning to leap onto the seat of the racing wagon, grab the reins of the runaway horses, and steer it to safety. I barely believed it was possible.
But despite my bumbling and stumbling, I followed her advice. It worked out amazingly well. I am no longer paralyzed with the anxiety that living beyond my means created. I don’t worry about catastrophes falling on me like hail. I am no longer merely a pawn, eking out my existence at the mercy of some irrational Assistant Manager, afraid to speak my mind, and denied simple human dignity. The walls I have built are no longer to keep people away; they now form a strong foundation that shelters me. I can now choose to trust some people, because fundamentally, I trust myself.
The future is no longer the Promised Land. Right now seems tolerable, even enjoyable, most of the time. I have earned the luxury of contemplating the wisdom of living in the moment.
I've been feeling stressed lately. I feel as if there are a lot of things on my plate, and I doubt my ability or my energy to get them all done with any semblence of competence. I've thought about taking a day off and just recharging my batteries, but with the way things have been going at work, I haven't taken the time.
Then early Friday morning, after I'd dropped off my daughter and was almost at work, as I drove down a gently sloping road in the business park, I came upon an accident. It was obvious that it had just happened, and also that the occupant(s) of the vehicle I saw could not still be alive. Within seconds of my brain registering the upside down and crushed car to my right, I was surrounded by emergency respondent vehicles as they arrived on the scene. I had already been going pretty slowly, but was forced to a stop in the middle of the road, effectively hemmed in on all sides. My eyes kept returning to the mangled car, as I scanned the area around me as it rapidly filled up with fire truck, ambulance, and several police cars and other official workers I couldn't identify.
I sat there in my car for only a few minutes, I think, but time had already shifted. I twisted around in my seat and noticed that the traffic going the opposite direction was just now being affected, and cars were beginning to seek detours. I was right up against the landscaped median on my left, a compact truck stopped directly in front of me, and the accident at 2 o'clock. Behind me was the only gap in the road, and it was full of the cars further back trying to turn around and find another way. All around me where the flashing lights of the emergency trucks. It wasn't yet 7:30 am.
I watched as a man in a fireman's coat and pants lay on his belly and tried to shimmy under the wreckage. It didn't look like there was enough room for him to get very far, but the car had landed - hard - on its roof, and bits and pieces were scattered on the road. I thought about how fast it must have been going to have flipped as it did. I am glad that I wasn't there when it actually happened.
I lowered my right window and got the attention of one of the guys who was standing near my car. I asked him what I should do. He took in my predicament immediately and motioned for me to hang on a minute, then he walked behind my car and helped make a passage out for me. He walked back and told me to back up.
By the time I'd manuvered away from the scene, I had no clear idea how to get to my office building, but thought I'd head East and wait for something to look familiar. Luckily, I soon found my way, and was pulling into the parking area. As I came into the building, I passed a woman I work with who also comes in early like me, and I stopped to tell her about it. She comes in by the same road I do, and we realized that she had passed through there mere minutes before it had happened, just as I had come through just afterward.
A look passed between us. We talked about how lucky we had been. It helped to talk to her right away like that, because I was shaky and felt weird. I walked to my desk and put away my things, and got a cup of coffee and looked for a traffic report online. When I found it, it said the accident had happened at 7:24.
On Fridays I have a yoga class at noon, and I was grateful for it that day because it helped a lot, but by the afternoon I had a splitting headache. I know my boss would have let me leave early, probably even that morning, but I'm not the person who asks for help - I don't acknowledge right away how much something has affected me. I went through the motions all day Friday, but my mind was on the accident and all the associations in my head to car accidents and trauma, and how life can change in an instant. A work friend invited me for a quick drink after work, and I accepted, but it didn't help. I just wanted to go home and be with my daughter.
Saturday, I never changed out of my jammies. I watched all the shows in my DVR, and three or four movies on cable. I fed myself and M, and went online a bit, but otherwise I was a vegatable all day. I thought briefly of the laundry I needed to do and a couple other things, but I couldn't rouse myself to do them.
I felt better by Sunday morning, but something had been decided in my brain. M has been talking a lot about Thanksgiving, and how she thinks it should be done this year, and all it has made me feel is tired. I just don't have it in me to pretend to get involved in something I don't feel invested in right now, and yet I do like to make occasions festive. We are not traveling to see family, as we just did that in August. I am not interested in being part of another family's Thanksgiving; it doesn't feel right. My single friends that I've spent holidays with in the past have other plans this year. It came to me what I wanted to do.
There is an old restaurant up in the mountains that puts on a fancy Thankgsiving buffet that I've attended in years past and enjoyed. President Eisenhower was a visitor there once. They decorate, and have a large dining area, and it is fun and the food is good. Just down the road is a nice hotel. I made reservations for M and myself to go to the Thanksgiving dinner at the restaurant and then spend the night up there, so that I don't have to worry about the weather and I can drink and enjoy the festive atmosphere and we can be safe. This way I don't have to do a thing except drive up there and pull out my wallet. We can dress up and have fun and I don't have to fret. On Friday we can go into Evergreen and walk around. It's perfect.
I was at M's school at 2:15 on Friday afternoon - and it was stiflingly hot. But how much fun to stand around watching the kids cycle through their party activities and then watch them have Halloween snacks. While I sweated in my tank top (having already shed my cardigan).
Then there was the parade, which involved the entire school marching in single file around the school, then the "dance" (which was more like a rave) and then the cafeteria for "pizza" and soda. Oh, and then M said she wanted to leave, but on the way to the car, it turned out she only meant "leave the cafeteria" - so she was having a meltdown at just the exact moment my boss called about an important file. Which I wouldn't have heard if we hadn't been outside, so... So Fun.
Then there was a birthday party at Skate City. My personal Hell. Crowded, noisy, BAD music, chaos, and M doesn't roller skate - but HAS to go, because her friends do - so we go through the Five Stages of Skating. Every. Time.
Excitement, Denial, Putting on the Skates, Not Skating while Crying, and Anger. Love it.
This time, I even put the f*#@ing skates on myself and did a lap with her. While she yelled at me in panic not to let her fall and cried, complete with me falling in a Spectacular manner (managing to make sure she fell on top of me). I don't roller skate, did I mention that? Despite my stunning athletic abilities, roller skating has remained at the top of my Most Despised List. All of this while being assaulted by the pounding, awful, conversation-cancelling "music". Pure Joy.
Oh, and the parents of the birthday girl handing me a couple dollars in quarters when they realized that the only thing M could really do was play arcade games, and they felt bad for inviting her when she couldn't skate. (sweet, but a little fucked up, don't you think? I mean, are we supposed to feel bad for the kid who can't do the thing we include them in? What message does that send? And do I really look like I couldn't handle the several dollars I'd already pumped into the machines one quarter at a time, via my suddenly blood thirsty daughter who was killing the arcade games, winning an impressive 120 tickets in 45 minutes?) The birthday girl's mom told me what time to be back at the table for cake and presents, so we had time to kill. I explored the weirdness of sharing the quarters among the little kids crowding around the games we were playing without crossing the line into scary creepy adult at the arcade (none of these kids we knew). I found it best to quickly offer to stick a single quarter in the game next to ours for the kid standing longingly watching us, no money in their pocket. There were plenty of these. I managed to share the pile of quarters without it even causing M to pause in her motions.
There are the actually sweet minutes when the birthday girl opens M's present first, exclaims with genuine joy over the rainbow unicorn birthday card that M picked out, and is in rapture over the present M gave her. And then M crowds around the other little girls as the rest of the presents are opened and they ooh and aah together over the loot. Too quickly, Skate City declares the party over, and we file out.
There was the magical moment when she accidentally broke a glow stick, and I had to pull over in a Lowe's parking lot and find the wipes and help her clean up. Special.
This afternoon, carving the pumpkin on our driveway in the blazing sun (it IS October, right?) The little Hell Gang of snotty brat girls, riding the pink electric car up and down the street in front of us, running around in their costumes already and exaggeratedly ignoring M. The little girl she'd finally begun to play with, who has just in the past couple days thrown her off again, because another girl who used to live here moved back. But of course the lure of the pink car is too much for M, and she goes to ask if she can have a ride. The two girls stand there, reluctant and torn. They have been told to let M have a turn, but M needs someone to ride with her; she doesn't know how to operate it and will never be the one to just wing it.
I cross the street and ask the girls if one of them will ride with M. They look everywhere but at M, frowns on their little faces. Clearly, this is something they are not willing to do. The mother of the pink car comes over. What is wrong? I explain. She tells her daughter to ride with M. Her daughter refuses. The mother, the woman whose husband has been so badly injured, climbs into the pink car and gives M a ride up and down the block. I thank her and appreciate it, but by now the girls have all scattered, and M is standing alone on the street. All the other parents sit in their circle of lawn chairs on the driveway two doors down, smoking, drinking, and gossiping.
We go back in side and wait for sundown, so that we can trick or treat in our neighborhood.
I few months ago, a neighbor was in a bad motorcycle accident. He’s a young dad, a nice guy, and has a wife and two little kids. The little girl plays with my daughter sometimes. I’m happy to say he is still with us and that the neighbors stepped in to help the family in crisis, but he’s not yet been fully released from the hospital and faces a long recovery.
Yesterday was a pleasant, sunny day, and he’d been allowed to come home for a few hours to visit his kids. I saw him outside basking in the mild October sunshine and went over to say hello. He is so vastly changed from the man he once was. He’s lost a lot of weight, he suffered brain injury and now one eye looks different from the other. All his long bones were broken and he’s now using a walker and can’t move one leg. But this isn’t about motorcycle safety.
I thought about what would happen to us if something happened to me. I can barely stand to think about my daughter without me standing between her and the world. Yes, I have life insurance, but that isn’t what I was thinking about yesterday.
I thought about all the stuff in my possession, and how someone would have to go through it all. My own mother has had the task a number of times of sifting through the paperwork and belongings of a deceased family member. She’s told me about how overwhelming the job can be, especially if the person was the kind who keeps everything and isn’t organized. That is what I was thinking about yesterday.
Having moved a few times in the past five years, I have pared down the amount of stuff I own. I have reduced the amount of furniture and large objects, and gotten rid of a lot of unnecessary things. What I’m still weighed down with is the small stuff: the papers, the files, the piles of little objects that someone would have to either comb through or discard wholesale, not knowing what was important and what was meaningless.
If my daughter was still a child, someone else would have to do this, and that makes me shudder. I decided to confront one more thing I’ve been avoiding, and have begun sifting through my own accumulations myself. I’ve used my decision to dismantle my huge oak desk as a launching point. It feels good to be doing this. The shredder is getting a workout.
The townhouse I live in now is very small, but it came with a two car garage (and I only have one car), so I am lucky in that I have a large storage area built in. I’ve decided, now that I’ve put the class work and the job hunting behind me, that I no longer need to have my enormous desk dominating the tiny living room, and am going to store it away while we live here and replace it with a couch and a little computer desk. I gave away my last couch five years ago, and right now we just have two comfy upholstered chairs to sit on. I love these chairs, but my daughter and I can no longer both sit together in one – although she tries – and it is time to have a couch again. I thought about how many more years I have left that she will want to cuddle with me, and that eliminated any last traces of indecision.
Plus, it’s kind of fun to buy a couch. I realized the last time I bought one was about twenty years ago, and my tastes and the amount of money I have to spend have both changed a great deal. I have coveted this couch for a long time, and it finally went on sale! I chose the sleeper sofa model, to add some flexibility. And it’s being upholstered in a lovely buttery dark taupe microsuede, so it should be able to withstand a lot of wear. It should be here in about six weeks.
Thinking about curling up on this couch with M this winter is great motivation to keep slogging through all the minutiae in and on this desk and get rid of the clutter and crap. I’ll still need someone to clear my cached computer history, should anything dire happen, though!
It is week 2 of my Fitness Training class, and I'm happy to report that I am no longer walking like an arthritic 80 year old. We had to begin the class by being weighed, and I saw a number I have only seen once in my life before, and that was when I was pregnant. I had gone into this class with the belief that I would be getting "more fit," and that it was just a tune up. Instead, after two weeks of concentrated hard work, it is clear that I had let things go beyond what I had let myself see. I'm really grateful that my workplace sponsors this class and allows me the flexibility to include it in my schedule, because I needed it. Badly.
Having been an "athletic" youth (not skinny, not beautiful) I had taken comfort in my strength and endurance, and it carried me for many years.
The reality is that nothing lasts forever. And that the older we get, the more vital it is to maintain - to work to maintain, the gifts that we have. In my case, I took for granted that having always been a jock, I would somehow remain one, despite not having done anything like this class in YEARS.
Somehow this reality check made me think about other things I've been avoiding. I decided it was high time I complained to the leasing office of my complex about the trashy people living next door. (yes, ironically the jerk who lived there when I moved in left, and the family who moved in are horrible in their own way) There are four adults and one child living in a townhouse a little bigger than mine, and they yell at each other constantly. It seems to be their only form of communication. They are also mean, stupid, and lazy. So many a night, beyond "bedtime", I will be hearing one of them yell to another one in another room, or downstairs. And back and forth, for the longest time. Most of the time, they all join in a loud spirited argument that includes the little boy crying and protesting whatever it is they are telling him to do. (he goes to school with M, and he's regularly still up at 10pm or later) I've spoken to one of them about it - the little boy's father - twice. The other day I realized that it wasn't going to get better and it would be like this as long as we all lived here unless I bit the bullet and made a formal complaint. I recognized that I feared retaliation. There are three big guys living over there, and they have demonstrated already that they possess no class, no judgement, and no kindness. And I have issues with angry, out of control men.
But I did it. I went in and talked to my leasing agent, and followed it up with a couple emails. Last night it was blissfully quiet.
Which is great, because now that I'm working out like this, I really need a good night's sleep.
Things have not improved with Buster. Shortly after my last post, I called him in response to one of his emails that grated on me especially hard. I ended up screaming at him as I drove down the road on my way to pick up M after work. He knows how to push my buttons, and he’d pushed them all that day. He insisted that his moving to BFE Southern Colorado was “better,” but couldn’t, of course, give me any concrete examples of how it would be better. He thinks he’s going to be able to visit “about 3 times a year,” forgetting, I suppose, that he can’t drive in the snow and that his not-even-front-wheel-drive POS compact truck couldn’t even handle suburban Denver roads in the wintertime. But the tipping point was when he said that he could try to get joint custody. It was only a threat, and was meant to unhinge me, and it worked. Unleash the Kraken.
(Let me just say that IF by some miraculous intervention, he were to get his shit together, move into non-condemned housing near by, manage to mimic adult behavior to an acceptable degree, and be consistent for some reasonable length of time, I would actually welcome his participation. It would take a shift in the space-time continuum, or something on that level, to make me believe he was trustworthy or capable of caring for my precious daughter, but I’d certainly rather have him do that than what he’s BEEN doing for the past seven years. Just in case you were ready to get all huffy about Joint Custody as a concept.)
But the collected, mature-er part of me that is able to step back and observe my more... primitive...self yelling at the idiot on my cellphone as I drive down Santa Fe (Oprah would NOT approve), realized then that it might be a good time to explore more productive ways to burn off the rage and frustration.
So... I signed up for the fitness training classes at work that start next week. Two days a week at noon I will be working in a class, outdoors, with a trainer. There’s also a day of yoga that I am going to try to add. It goes for twelve weeks. I think it will kick my butt, since it’s been a while since this former distance runner has done any consistent workout, but I’m looking forward to it. As motherhood has collided with aging and an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, I find that by the end of the workday I’m just tired, grumpy, and feeling more and more like a soft, squishy lethargic slug.
I think it will be just the thing. That, and imagining, in detail, Buster getting stuck somewhere in the wilds of Southern Colorado on a lonely stretch of road, far from a cellphone signal or another human being, in a ditch that he drove into because he can’t drive in the snow. (Apparently only I vividly remember the road trip we took from Denver to Auburn, CA, Christmas of 2003, when I was six months pregnant and he couldn’t/wouldn’t drive most of it because he had no skillz.) It entertains me to picture it.
I completely get that the schools are short on funds. I understand the need to fundraise. But quit telling my little child that she HAS to peddle your crap and that she MUST sell a whole bunch of it, and for the love of GOD don't get her all excited about a prize she has a snowball's chance of winning and then ensuring that she feels bad about for the rest of her life!
We are still shell-shocked from last year's chocolate sale fiasco, when the "winners" were given a limo ride, and she has just come home with the Yankee Candle sales kit. The catalog, which starts out with completely ridiculous $23 candles that smell like shit and have a smarmy Christmas theme - is Scratch 'n Sniff! - and ends with Santa in beach gear candles, that also smell like shit. The "motivational" fold out presentation of the prizes the kids can "win" for relentlessly peddling the stinky shit candles is completely atrocious. For only - ONLY - two hundred and seventy five dollars worth of shamelessly guilting your friends and family, you can get the Science kit that your mother can buy on Amazon for under twelve dollars. (ooo! guess what we're going to do?) The lowest amount of sales that will get a kid a prize nets the poor child a glowing puff ball that retails for five dollars.
We have friends in dire financial straits. We know people that are out of work. I have only been back to work since the first of May. I am not at all happy about trying to foist incredibly superfluous and meaningless garbage on the people in our lives because the people at school are so uncreative and desperate that they are willing to put us all through this. I am not going to ask our friends and neighbors to buy a twenty three dollar candle because my daughter asked them to because she's six and she's been brainwashed. Especially one that makes me recoil from the catalog after my daughter showed me how each picture can be smelled! I wonder how much that catalog cost to produce?
For about a minute and a half, Buster had a job in Florida. Then, apparently, there was a pesky problem about a license, and the job disappeared. The next thing I was told was that he was (again) looking for work in Colorado, but wouldn’t say what or where. Since his earlier attempt a few months ago to find teaching work had been unsuccessful, I was surprised to be told recently that he found a job in a town I’d never heard of, somewhere around Durango. (Six hours away)
As an aside, I’d like to know what part of being SIX HOURS AWAY is “helping” me. Because the whole point of being in Colorado was to be a participant in his daughter’s life, and now it will take him longer to drive here than it would to fly from Massachusetts. I am sorely tempted to go all “Sergeant Hartman” on him… you know, rip off his head, and – well, you get the idea. And he has a piece of shit vehicle and he can’t drive in the snow. And winter is coming. He can’t help with homework, he can’t take her for a night, and I’d sure as hell would like to know where he thinks he’s going to stay if he does come up for a weekend, because it sure as HELL isn’t here.
He called the other night to ask if she had insurance. Because he finally, after 5 years, has a job that offers insurance, and he had a form in front of him that required him to check a box. Let’s be clear – he hasn’t asked me one time in the last five years whether she had insurance or not. It’s not like we EVER have a “let’s coordinate our efforts” chat. The last time and only time he ever had her on his insurance was for a few months when she was an infant. Since then, he’s not only assumed I had everything covered, he’s never asked. He’s never dropped me an email and wanted to know anything: whether she’d been sick or not, whether she had all the clothes she needed or anything else.
But he has no problem causing trouble at her school and asking for direct access to things he should be going through me for. Last February was a nightmare. And now he’s down in bumfuck nowhere, feeling like he’s some kind of prince because he’s made some kind of pyrrhic sacrifice.
So, school is back in session, and my daughter is in First Grade. The curriculum has been giving her some challenges – not academically, but behaviorally. She doesn’t like to focus on a task for very long, and the writing assignments in particular are causing her some trouble. I find it highly ironic to hear my daughter say “I HATE writing!”
Books were my refuge from a very young age, and I was always reading far ahead of my grade level. By Fourth Grade I was reading at a Twelfth Grade reading level. But I was also a deeply unhappy child with a great need to escape, so you could say I was motivated. My girl, on the other hand, has been read to since she was born, and loves to have me read to her. We just finished the Little House series. She doesn’t see the need to read herself. She is not motivated.
Homework is as hard on me as it is on her. I kind of hate having my every night scripted by one more obligation. There is already dinner, bathtime, and bedtime that eats up most of the time after work. Add homework into it (and this isn’t stuff she can do alone) and my night is shot. Every single weeknight. I find myself counting how many years until she’s old enough to do some of these things herself. It’s not that I don’t think it is important for her to get the most out of her education – I do. It’s just that I have so very little time to myself as it is. And now I watch most of it slipping away.
I find myself thinking about my secret crush. He and I send each other emails throughout the day, and last week he asked me for my personal email address. Today he asked me to go get lunch with him. The truth is that he is my friend, and is acting like a friend. I am the one who, lying awake in the dark, lets his voice wash over me. I know there is too much time and distance between us; we’re at different places in our lives. He’s just so much the guy I should have been with if I hadn’t spent my twenties with the drug addict or my thirties in therapy. If those lost years could somehow magically condense into a smaller chunk of the space-time continuum, I could actually take the leap and try to have something with this man. This man who thinks I’m smart and funny and interesting, but thinks of me as his friend. This man who shares my taste in music and humor and is good at his job and is ambitious and talented. And who is nice looking and loves his son. I’m just sad because he represents my lost youth. It’s not a youth I ever had, and am nostalgic about, either. It is a youth I that was robbed from me, but see slipping away every time I look in the mirror. In the most self indulgent and pitying way, I feel sorry for myself because every day I am confronted with the realization that I am mortal and I have only a limited time left, and I have to adjust my expectations.
So there we are. I spend most of my time working and taking care of my daughter, and in the still quiet moments alone, I wish I could do over a couple of decades. I used to feel pretty impulsive and spontaneous sometimes. Not so much these days. I have a schedule and a reputation, both of which are worthwhile to maintain. Not Joan Jett any more.
My daughter has been wanting to visit her grandparents for a while, and lately it has been a frequent subject of conversation. With school starting back up again on Monday, I felt like if we were going to go anytime soon, we’d better go now. So, I sucked it up and asked my boss for a few days off – I don’t have PTO saved up yet – and booked a flight. We left last Sunday and just got home today (Wednesday).
I’m glad we went. My daughter was happy and excited the whole time, and meticulously made my mother do some of the activities they used to do. My mother is no longer up for gardening the way she used to, and she couldn’t play dress-up, but they re-arranged my mother’s shell collection, read books, played Chinese checkers, and swam in the pool.
My mother is out of the wheelchair and getting around with a cane. She’s recovered quite a bit from the surgery in January, and gets out of the house occasionally if someone else drives. I wanted to see for myself how she’s doing, and her progress is encouraging.
My father is doing all of the housework and cooking these days, and it’s a complete 180 from how things used to be: my mother used to wait on him hand and foot; now he’s doing the serving. I look on it as an opportunity for him to work off some of his karma.
My daughter has slept in my bed for a week, and my back is screaming. We have to be up early tomorrow to take her up to my back-up daycare for the next 2 days, and then we settle into the new school year.
Friday night is back to school night, when I’ll find out who her teacher will be.
I’m exhausted, I’ve got a ton of stuff to do in the next couple days, but I am glad we took this trip now. The idea of going was a persistent thought for a while, and I’ve learned to listen to the voice in my head that keeps whispering a message. It has served me well so far.
It has now been a year that we've been back in Colorado. It's been a very full year, and a lot has happened. I have to say, I think most of the changes have been very positive. I thought I'd share this little "first impression" bit I captured when we'd just arrived and I didn't have Internet (or furniture):
"We arrived the evening our little street was having a block party, complete with cones blocking access to our townhouse and a street filled with small people and their bicycles milling about, unheeding a slowly inching vehicle trying desperately to avoid running them over. We had been given a casual invitation to join them, but as I was dead tired, sweaty, and frazzled, and I knew M was, too, so we stayed inside.
I unpacked the car and surveyed the new place. My first impression was that it was smaller than what I had imagined it to be, and so I was mentally re-arranging my furnishings as I walked through our empty townhouse. The lingering smell of fresh paint and the marks of the carpet cleaner supplemented the appearance of the immaculately clean rooms and pristine cream and beige color scheme. I have never lived in such a new building. The style is refined but not fussy, and I know that my few pieces will look well in this space. I love the mantle. The kitchen is much smaller than I am used to, and I see that I will need a baker’s rack or something like that to supplement the counter space. I am amused by the abundant closets and lack of room in other things.
The neighborhood is lovely and quiet and safe. The greenbelt and walking/biking trails nearby are gorgeous. There are so many trees, and I can see the mountains, and the air is fresh and smells good.
I had to go to four stores to find a shower curtain and a fifth to get the rings that I somehow forgot. I am so reliant on Googling everything that trying to navigate without it, or depend on my memory, is pathetic. I finally found the stores I was looking for and bought the supplies I needed, but I felt inefficient and a little vulnerable doing it.
My moving truck has still not arrived, and being without chairs is the most uncomfortable thing of all, followed by a lack of kitchen items. I do not want to buy duplicates of things I already own, and am determined to get along without as long as I can. Fortunately, the complex has a business office with Internet access, a laundry, and the stores are close by. I really want my stuff. "
In the year that we've been here, I spent the money I'd saved, and am now in the process of building it back up. Now that I'm debt free, and our expenses are pretty fixed, that shouldn't take too long. Although I've been looking at Real Estate porn lately, I know I can't realistically consider buying anything until I've saved a big chunk of money for a down payment, and these days I can think of lots of other things I'd like to do with my money.
I've got a good job. I've been there 90 days now, and I just received some great feedback from my boss on a project I'm working on. The guy that was causing me trouble succeeded in pissing off the project manager and the business owner of said project, and so the balance has shifted and he's no longer my problem. That's the best outcome I could have hoped for. I have found a person to be my mentor, and when I asked her if she'd be interested, she gave me an enthusiastic yes. So now I have to figure out how to go about that process. I am hoping I can find a good book to guide me.
My daughter has been going to a school district run summer program and has been active in lots of activities and field trips. It's been a positive experience for her to get to do so many varied things and get out in the community going places. School starts back up in three weeks and she'll begin First Grade. As great as the summer program has been for her, it is in the opposite direction from my work, which means an extra half hour of driving each way that I'll happily give up once school starts and I'm back to dropping her off at her school.
Buster has informed me via one of his incredibly short emails yesterday, that he did not find work in Colorado. This doesn't come as a big surprise, considering how the economic climate here has effected teaching jobs. What kills me is how oblivious he is to how this makes M feel. He continues to speak to her about things without talking to me first. I don't know how he expects her to have an adult's understanding of how things work when he hasn't a clue himself. He somehow found a position in West Palm Beach, Florida, "teaching computers in a high school." Those poor kids. He also told her that he'd love to have us visit them in Cape Cod next summer. Through the haze of my anger, I simply said it is too early to make plans for a year from now. He still has to get himself down to Florida, find a place to live, and get himself through a school year of teaching teenagers. Somehow I think that he will find this a challenge.
For a little while recently I was in a kind of funk, and I finally realized that it was a result of having been so goal-oriented and worried and busy for so long, and then having my plans fall into place. I was reeling with "what now?" and the disorientation of suddenly stepping off a long, crazy ride. I discovered that now I have to focus on living in the moment, enjoy things as they are, and let the "next thing" reveal itself in its own time.
When I think about the pattern of the relationships in my life, one obvious thing stands out (to me). I was so intent (subconsciously) to avoid an abusive man that I attached myself to men who were unable – for one reason or another – to fully engage. Not only with me, but with life in general. Somehow that lack of aggression was enough of a safety flag for me that I was willing to overlook all the other deficiencies: irresponsibility, isolation, lack of motivation, limited interests, and poor self-esteem. To varying degrees, the men that I’ve spent the most time with over the years have all been quite happy to let me do everything, make most of the decisions, and set the pace of the relationship. They didn’t have great jobs, but they didn’t hit me. They didn’t share a lot of my interests, but they didn’t violate my boundaries. They didn’t really want to know me, but they also didn’t try to control me. For the most part, they were affable, quiet, predictable, but severely limited.
While I was proud that once I left my parents' house I was never again hit or molested or yelled at, I knew that there were many things I was not experiencing. Unfortunately, it takes a long time to believe that you deserve better than you’ve known, even if you have been lucky enough to know inside that what you’ve known is wrong. While you are spending years learning a different way of navigating in the world, other people are going to college, starting careers and families, building the life that you envision from a distance. By the time I felt like most of my decisions were in my best interest and I had stopped taking three steps back for every one step forward, I was a lot older than I had started.
Maybe that’s why – besides the accident of genes – I have consistently been mistaken for someone a lot younger than I am. I am well educated and well read, so I don’t “sound” ignorant. But I am aware that I have retained a certain naive quality despite my accompanying cynicism. I’m sure it is as confusing to others to try to interpret as it has been for me to live.
Being smart doesn’t offer you a road map to normal. And it is desperately hard to learn how to behave with people who have not grown up with crazy beyond just the pretending that kids like me learn way too early. There are nuances that can make you feel inadequate that a person who hasn’t been abused just doesn’t fathom. Back in the day, “self-help” books were just beginning to appear and therapy was damned expensive. It is sort of like someone who hasn’t grown up with private school and money doesn’t really “get” how to feel natural in that environment, except that we don’t tell our children that “everyone” knows what wealth feels like. We do, however, paint pretty pictures in our culture that families are sources of love and comfort, that parents and siblings care for one another, and that there is no place like home. By the time that you find out that you are different it has already shaped you.
I vowed one thing: that I wouldn’t pass it on. That it stopped with me. And though it cost me, I have fulfilled that promise to myself and the universe. I am raising my daughter – although alone – in a home that has an even keel, lots of hugs and kisses (but no creepy ones), regular hours and consistent rules, fun, no yelling, treats, honest discussions, vacations, permission to be royally pissed off – but not to be mean, attention and oversight and involvement, but minimal trying to make someone into someone they’re not, and a concerted effort to be kind, real, and fair.
Even driving with her in the car, I can glance at her fresh, lovely face in the rearview mirror and feel so very thankful that she is here with me in my life. Because I do get so much vicarious joy out of making sure that she is safe, whole, and happy. She tells me about her concerns, and I rejoice in their mundane ordinariness. She is spontaneous and kind. She is interested in the world around her. I am doing right by her.
She does not hear from me that boys are something to fear (although we’ve had some interesting conversations about cooties and such). And I hope that she will have the confidence to form relationships with people who have a healthy amount of drive and ambition and involvement with people and issues and projects that appeal to them. I hope she will be able to meet her match – and that it will be connections based on mutual strengths, not mutual neurosis. I wish I could be a better example in that department, but I’m not magic. But our household is peaceful and loving, and that is light years ahead of my legacy, so I will glide on that for a while.
I am soon to be embarking on a new career challenge. My current boss wants me to find a mentor within our company and pursue a formal mentoring relationship. I mulled this for about a week, and coincidentally, we both came up with the same person in mind for the role. (We haven’t shared this with her, yet.)
It’s strange to be in this position, but we’ll see how it goes. I’m always up for something new. Heaven knows I haven’t ever followed the “traditional path.”
In other news…
I have a friend at work who shares a lot of my tastes- in music, books, humor, general outlook. He is a single parent of a young son. We email each other during the day and laugh at the same things. And he’s 32. Good grief. What is it about these young guys? I am old enough to be their babysitter. He doesn’t “get” the Eighties. He wasn’t alive – let alone understand the significance of – the 70s or the 60s. I am about to have my 49th birthday. Today, I said something to him about this disparity, and he actually used the C word.
No, not that one. He said “Cougar.”
I am NOT a cougar. Just because, for the past 15 years – or so – my relationships have been mainly with men sometimes as much as ten to fifteen years younger than me. I don’t have this intention. I don’t seek out someone younger than me on purpose. It used to come as a big surprise to both of us, and now it is something I’ve come to dread. I just meet some guy that I like. We get along. We talk. At some point, we start comparing notes, and then it happens. “wow,” they say, “you don’t LOOK that OLD.”
It happened when I was 38. It happened when I was 40. And 45, 47, and today.
“Gee, thanks,” I think. “You don’t seem that young.” And then I wonder what it is that makes me different.
On a typical work day, I turn off the alarm, get up, take a shower, and then stand in front of a mirror. I have no illusions about the passage of time. I don’t dye my hair or employ any special tricks. I think I look like I feel (which most of the time, is tired and preoccupied).
I hate that term “cougar.” It implies so much premeditation and predation. I am neither. I haven’t had a boyfriend since I broke up with my daughter’s father (who is nine years younger than I am). My desires as far as men are concerned are so far from what the culture says a cougar's are is laughable.
I’d like someone to “get” me: my sense of humor, the way my mind works, what is important to me. I’d like someone to share my interests and like some of the same things I do. I’d like to sit across from a nice man and share a meal. I’d like to be kissed on the back of my neck. I’d like to have someone reach out for my hand in the evening as the day comes to a close. I’d like to have someone to bounce thoughts off of.
I have none of those things. It has been years since I shared that whole part of myself with anyone. I feel like that part of me is on hold. I see myself getting older and I feel wistful, but I think that what I’m doing now is important, and that’s as far as it goes.
To be called a name that seems so far away from who I am kind of makes me feel that much lonelier.
Just because I like Indi music and look good in my jeans. Sheesh.
I had a long, hard, stressful week. By Thursday, I knew I needed to do something. More of the same just wasn’t going to cut it. I was facing a long 4th of July weekend at our complex, which had already sent out the warning about using illegal fireworks. The pools would be full of screaming teenagers, the street in front of us would be full of kids, and the same people would be sitting in their lawn chairs and talking. All weekend.
I hadn’t been able to get a camping reservation in time, and while this was a disappointment, the thought of crowds there too didn’t seem appealing. I was feeling rather disenchanted with my fellow man. I wanted to get away.
As luck would have it, I had an email from one of the web-based travel agent sites. It was advertising summer discounts at hotels. It got me thinking about what I really wanted from this weekend – quiet, beauty, getting away from it all. I thought about how there are so many places right here in Colorado that I haven’t seen yet. And I have a credit card.
I started looking for hotels up in the mountains. I found one in Aspen that sounded like it was just the thing: in the winter, during ski season, this hotel is situated so that skiers can “ski in, ski out” – which means it is up on the mountain and not in town. I could hear the Aspen leaves rustling in the breeze already. I booked a room. And then I realized that I’d have to go home and pack, because leaving on a Friday afternoon to head up I-70 is guaranteed to be crazy crowded, so I’d have to be ready to leave immediately after work.
As expected, the first hour of the drive was spent just trying to get from where I picked up my daughter in town to Idaho Springs, which is kind of a trail marker on the way up to better things, and usually takes about 30 minutes. Once we got past Dillon Reservoir the traffic lightened up, and I started to enjoy the scenery. Even the rest stops are pretty.
It rained for a while before we got to Glenwood Springs and the turnoff to Aspen. Glenwood Canyon is truly spectacular, and the road follows the Colorado River. I thought about how lovely it would be to be on a boat, floating along on the water. Clearly, I was seeking a respite from my busy life.
Glenwood Springs is a pretty town. I could live there, if I didn’t need a job. The road takes you past the towns of Carbondale and Basalt until you come upon Snowmass, and then Snowmass Village, which is actually just before Aspen. Between the Village and Aspen is the Airport. While we were watching a fancy plane land I missed my turnoff, so we got to check out the row of expensive airplanes parked at Sardy Field. My daughter loves the Fancy Nancy books, so we talked out how fun it would be to fly from Denver to Aspen.
Snowmass Village is all about catering to the skier. In summer, it is definitely sleepier, but this suits me fine. The surroundings are gorgeous; steep mountainsides of conifer and aspen, wildflowers and rocky outcroppings. Many of the shops are closed for the season, but the sporting goods stores have simply shifted their focus to mountain biking and hiking, and there are plenty of restaurants and cafes. It is still possible to spend an obscene amount of money, even without the snow.
We were given a condo in the building furthest up the hill, bigger than I had reserved, just because they had the availability and the front desk guy was being very nice to us. Our unit is nestled into the hill, and the living room windows look right out at the lush tangle of aspen trees. We have a large equipped kitchen, a wood burning fireplace (totally unnecessary right now, but would be so lovely in the wintertime), and two bedrooms (I had asked for one) and two bathrooms, both with showers/tubs. The “kid’s” bedroom has two twin beds and built-in bunk beds, which M thought was fascinating and had to climb up and inspect immediately. The whole unit has been (over) decorated in a Western/Cowboy/Ski theme, and is so kitschy and profuse that it is kind of endearing. Everywhere you look, there is an artifact or symbol of some kind, including the requisite elk head over the mantle (which was rendered in carved wood, thank god).
I brought groceries, so we have been just poking around, going for little walks, reading, watching movies, playing cards, and enjoying not having to care what time it is. This morning, we going for a short hike and may hit the pool, if it is warm enough. It’s been in the 90s in Denver while we’ve been up here in the cool mountain air, and I’ve absolutely loved being able to open the windows and not hear air conditioning running.
Not being in Aspen Proper, I couldn’t say how it compares with the surrounding towns. (The airport is a clue) but I’m glad we are here. The Village is full of tourists, many of them from outside this country, judging from the different languages I’ve heard, and it has a definite Vacation feel to it. Most people are walking around in hiking boots and shorts or bicycling gear, and so I am unnoticeable in my jeans and flip flops, hair up and sunglasses on. Heaven.
I’m deep in a big project at work that has high visibility and lots of pressure. I got brought in a month ago to “help” with the workload of a coworker. This guy quickly displayed some troublesome traits. He’s late to meetings and misses meetings. He’s late to work. He misses deadlines. He talks a good game but doesn’t deliver the goods. He is very interested in his own status and when he wants someone to take his side or help him out, he says he’s interested in their career, too. He gossips. He’s free with his negative criticism of other people’s work. His personal life is full of drama and excuses and lacking in boundaries. When something is “going on” in his world, he has to step out to take phone calls, expects everyone to work around his schedule, and “understand” that he has all these pressing problems. He’s also very talkative and charismatic, and flatters and manipulates people to get what he wants.
Before we were working together on this project, this guy had been nice to me and helped me get oriented in the new job, and I hadn’t seen any of this crap, so I had no reason to suspect he would be a problem, but a short time after I was brought in, I started to realize that I was doing the bulk of the work, and this guy was doing a song and dance, despite the assignments we’d been given. I got annoyed and talked casually to my boss about how I should resolve the work imbalance. My boss said I should just talk to him; that the guy was a good guy and we should be able to fix it. The guy made a big show of acting contrite and gave me a long speech about how his personal life had caused him problems, and he went on about how much he appreciated what I’d done and how much he liked working with me and so on. I thought “okay, we’ve got that straightened out, we should be good now.”
Turns out, he was just blowing smoke up my skirt.
Last week, we had three critical meetings. I had my stuff ready for the first two, but we still hadn’t seen anything from him for the third one. He’d missed two deadlines, but had promised he’d have his work done that week. We needed his stuff for the third meeting that was scheduled for Thursday morning and another piece that was supposed to follow. On Tuesday last week he and I started having heated discussions, because I was concerned that he didn’t have his stuff done and he was trying – again – to take up a lot of my time, and I had a full schedule. He left town – for our company – and promised he’d email his work later that afternoon. At least by this time the project manager was also concerned and was getting worried about the emails and voicemails – but no work – that was coming in from him and that the time was running out.
Thursday morning at 8, we got an email with his work for the meeting scheduled at 11. It was total crap. The project manager and I had to work until the meeting started to have something for the meeting (that couldn’t be rescheduled due to the tight project plan). We had to jam like crazy and it was not up to my usual standard. I was severely pissed off about that, plus having to work the rest of Thursday and all day Friday on his stuff, because now, he’d taken pre-arranged time off and was out of communication, and wasn’t slated to be back until today (Tuesday).
On Friday the project manager took me out to lunch and then we both talked to our boss together, letting him know what was going on and how we were dealing with it. All of our work was for a week-long huge project meeting that started yesterday. (I was still working on “his” work yesterday and this morning before the meetings started.)
The problem child came back today and was in our boss’s office at noon. We have a meeting scheduled for 9 am tomorrow with our boss – me, him, and the project manager.
I have a feeling that he did some more magic tricks and smoke and mirrors, and weaseled his way out of a large portion of the blame and responsibility. I suspect that tomorrow we are going to briefly witness him doing an impassioned mea culpa, and then I’m supposed to pretend that everything is fine and go on as if nothing happened.
I severely dislike being in a group of people where I’m responsible and hard working and other people aren’t. I don’t care if they want to be that way on their own, but don’t get it mixed up with my stuff. I don’t have any patience for it. I don’t have time for it. I have enough on my plate, thankyouverymuch, and I manage my time carefully so that I can get everything done. I take care of it myself if I don’t. I don’t pawn off my shortcomings on to other people and I sure as hell don’t want them doing it to me. This stupid guy at work has annoyed me no end, and I hate that I’m dealing with his inadequacy on top of everything else I’m trying to accomplish at the new job. I’m in a rotten mood.
I'm glad Father's Day is behind us for another year. It's a hard holiday for both me and my daughter.
She worked hard on making her father a 5 page card, all her own idea, complete with table of contents. All I did was help her staple it together, and mail it for her. After a few days, she asked me if he'd received it yet. So I sent him a short email, and he answered that he had. I heard nothing more from him. The way I see it, this was an opportunity - if he wished - to ask whether we were going to be around on Sunday so that he could talk to her. He didn't. Knowing him as well as I do, I believe that in his narcissistic little mind, he expected a call from her.
From the time she was a year old, he's only visited twice. Some time ago, we arranged for him to talk to her once a week on the webcam. This has worked out pretty well, I think, considering. Sunday is not his day. He has completely failed at respecting my time or my schedule in his requests for access to her, and I've had to change the night of the week once or twice, but for the most part, all the accomodation is on my part.
Sunday night at 7 o'clock my phone rang. She was upstairs. I let it ring to voicemail.
My daughter is pretty upfront about telling me what she wants and who she likes. She asks me about the people she cares about, and she has asked me to call her grandma (my mother) several times. She didn't ask about her father, and I am really over trying to help him make their relationship anything other than what it is. She's old enough now to have an opinion, and he's theoretically capable of making his desires known. When he visited in February he really pissed me off, completely disrespecting me and arguing in front of her, and the following month for her birthday he sent a pile of cheap crap after being explicitly asked not to. I decided I am through trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.
Tonight is webcam night. I suffered through Buster’s stilted verbal stumbling, trying to assist M with the computer while staying out of their call and tuning out their conversation (as much as one can with a six year old who expects me to be on top of everything and anticipate her questions).
His parents got on tonight and took up most of the time. They are actually pretty lovely to me these days, a 180 from when M was born and they bought the story Buster told them about me. Now that they see how I share her and make her accessible and that she’s so obviously thriving and wants to talk to them, they are much nicer to me than he is. So when they get on the call I do, too, when invited. They travel to Europe a lot and just sent M another present from Germany. Tonight’s call was a lot more pleasant than usual as a result.
I try really hard not to be petty or at least not to let my deep resentment of him affect my daughter adversely. I do try.
I know, too, that my attitude is not helped by my relationship with my own father. I called him on Father’s Day, and he couldn’t get off the phone fast enough. He was apparently pleased that I called, though.
He never calls me. Ever. Unless someone has just died or been rushed to the ER, or something similarly life altering. Otherwise, it is radio silence. He used to write me notes and letters, but not for years.
I don’t have any male relatives that I ever had a close or healthy relationship with. It always made me feel such a loss. I wondered when I was a kid why my family was so different and why some people just don’t get the goodies that other people get in life and take so for granted.
I make a deliberate effort to get my daughter around the nice male friends that I have as much as I can, so at least she can know that such a creature exists. The other day I was talking to such a man about this, though, and we started laughing because we realized that it sounded like taking a kid to the zoo to see the exotic animals. “Look, honey! A nice man!”
*sigh* Sometimes in my dark moments I fear for what would happen to my precious daughter if something happened to me. Having lost the only anchor I had myself at the age of seven, it is a real and persistent fear of mine, one of my worst nightmares. But I push it down to the depths from which it comes, and carry on with my Master Plan: the belief that maybe I’ve been through enough and the Universe is satisfied, and that my daughter will be spared the hell I went through and get to have a normal life. Whatever that is.
In my head, I often compare people to dogs. While there are always exceptions, certain breeds tend to exhibit certain behaviors, and in general, dog behavior is simpler to observe and analyze than people’s behavior. But sometimes people aren’t as complex as they think they are.
Having started a new job, I have the opportunity to be thrust into a new pool of unfamiliar personalities, politics, and power structures. An Org chart won’t tell you who is insecure, who is widely believed to be incompetent, who is overly aggressive, or who will smile to your face and talk about you behind your back. You have to find out these things on your own. Observing behavior is useful and entertaining, but some of the behavior I’ve been witnessing is already starting to drive me nuts.
There is a woman here who has a job in documentation. She is older than me, childless, married, and very conservative. She is tall and slender, kind of dry and brittle looking. She likes to stop at my cubicle to say hello and ask me how I’m doing, and then launches into a narrative about something that paints her in a dismal light. None of the information she shares has been solicited in any way, and much of it is deeply personal and rather embarrassing. Without “testing the waters” to any degree, she lets people know that she’s deeply religious, follows Glenn Beck, and hates the current administration and recent legislation. I know details about her extremely troubled and dysfunctional marriage, her husband’s Internet activities – including his search for a Chinese bride – and their financial situation.
It is clear that this woman walks around most of the time with her tail between her legs. She is exhibiting a chronic submissive posture, hoping to elicit others to like her, to include and accept her, or to simply not attack her.
The problem, of course, is that we are not dogs.
While I flatter myself that I am an Alpha Female, I am by no means in charge of our team at work or even of her. I want my peers to respect each other, and treat each other as equals, but the excessive groveling behavior is irritating. It makes me want to avoid her and not engage her in conversation, both of which I have to be careful with, so as not to be seen as unfriendly or “not a team player.” (which in the kind of office setting like mine can be the kiss of death)
Is it wrong that I so want to bite the scruff of her neck and shake her til she pees herself? Yeah, it probably is.
I am eternally grateful that when I was a teenager and a young(er) adult that there was no such thing as digital recordings made with handheld devices carried about on a day to day basis.
I’ve done so many foolish, frivolous, and forgettable things. I have made a royal ass of myself and many occasions. I have far too many memories that I’d sooner forget. I am grateful that the evidence only lies in still photographs, a few video tapes, and the distant memories of the other participants that would probably also sooner forget.
I had a painful and troubled childhood and adolescence. Worse than most, not as bad as some. I went through one-on-one and group therapy for about ten years, so I’ve heard enough stories to make a solid comparison. Before and even after I began counseling, I acted out a great deal. I’m not proud of my behavior, but I try to be compassionate toward my younger self; it took a long time to acquire the skills to deal with the lousy hand that I was dealt, and a lot of work to slog through the debris of what my life had become by the time I was ready to confront it all.
Fear can manifest itself as other things. I was lucky, in a way. I was able to get angry at the gross injustice of my early experiences, and so as a result did not entirely turn inward and punish only myself. Compared to those who let the pain completely eat away at them from within, or twist every arrow so that it pointed at their own soul, I was able to direct some of the energy outward, even though it took years to direct it at the correct targets. They told me I was strong, and that being able to get mad saved me from the most destructive of the hurt.
So, although I was self-sabotaging and lacked confidence and self-esteem, most of my antics were simply stupid. Not earth-shaking, not news-making, and blessedly, not distributed on YouTube or Facebook or – yet – ending up on Oprah. Now that I have a daughter, I am especially grateful for that. As I flailed about in my misery and despair, only the people who actually witnessed it are aware that it happened.
I listened to Sarah Ferguson discuss her recent embarrassment on tv, and I thought again, how fortunate I am that so far nothing I’ve done has surfaced on the Internet. But if it did, I can say with confidence that I’ve only ever hurt myself, that I never caused damage that was not easily mended, and that nothing irrevocable ever occurred. That is a lot to be thankful for.
I’m a lot older now, and – I like to think – a lot wiser. I wish I could go talk to my younger self, but mostly I’d just want to hold her and tell her she was lovable, and ask her to trust herself more. I’m glad that I am in a position to have stupid, embarrassing things in my past that no one cares about but me. I’m glad I made it this far.
My delicious friend Bev just awarded me a Blog Award - my first! I am excited to be included in such wonderful company.
There is very little I wouldn't do for Bev. She's just that kind of upbeat, fun, and warm kind of person. And she happens to also be MY top commenter.
So to go along with her request, I am answering the ten questions she posed (besides I just dig this sort of thing):
1. What is your most embarrassing moment of all time?
I agreed to participate in a skit in front of the whole High School that was unrehearsed and did NOT go as planned. And a picture ended up in the yearbook.
2. If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
3. How old were you when you had your first kiss?
1st grade. 6? Real one? Junior High
4. What is your browser's home page?
5. What color do you never, ever wear?
6. Are you a nature-lover or a city-slicker?
7. If you were granted 3 wishes, what would they be? (none of that "more wishes" crap!)
To live long enough to see my daughter have children
To stay healthy
To one day have a little place of my own again
8. Do you have any scars? How'd you get them?
Hell yes. Lots of little ones from dumb accidents and mishaps and a C-section scar that has actually faded nicely
9. Ever seen a ghost?
No, but plenty of monsters
10. What is your dream job?
Getting paid (a lot) to write creatively
There we have it. What kinds of things to you always want to ask?
I am so grateful to have a job. I want to start with that, because I don’t want to sound like a whiner for saying that I am soooo tired. I always take a while to adjust to change, whether it be daylight savings time, road construction, or completely changing your daily routine and taking on a whole new set of responsibilities.
Oh, and M’s dad has informed me that he is looking for work in Colorado.
I feel like taking a long nap. Experience tells me that all of it will shake out in time, even the PainInTheAss Ex, but right at this moment, I just want to find the remote for my life and hit the button that lowers the volume.
It’s good to be back at work, though. This new job has some freaky parallels with my last job, including a few people who are scarily accurate copies of one another. The job itself is similar to what I was doing before, but with an important difference. My last job was tied to the government, and many of the processes and the people where so used to the (slow) pace and the layers of bureaucracy that it was hard to get things done sometimes. I remember wishing I worked at a “commercial” shop, and now I do. Where I am now is a small-ish company that is growing fast. We’ll see how that compares over time.
I haven’t been paid yet, and I really appreciate my friend stepping in and offering a short term loan to help me bridge the gap. By the end of summer I should be back on track financially, and that is a really good feeling. I’ve worked so hard on my finances for the past ten years, and it is kind of discouraging to realize the impact that this move had on my Net Worth, but I know how good this was for our Mental Health, so I can live with the hit on my balance sheet. Still, I was thrilled to get a job with a company that is still contributing to 401k matches.
It is raining hard right now, and it is cold and grey outside as M gets ready for bed. This has been such a weird Spring; the weather has been all over the place. It is supposed to snow tomorrow, and this area is supposed to get around a foot of snow. Of course, the weather predictions can be completely wrong, but this feels very possible right at the moment. It has kept me hiding indoors, though, just when I feel like I could really use more time outside.
My daughter’s teacher had a baby a couple weeks ago, and so for the last month of school she’s got a substitute who is a terrible battle axe. I’ve talked to her several times, and her manner is aggressive and she had made up her mind about each of the kids after one day, labeling them all with negative remarks and dire predictions, and I hate her already. She starts every conversation with how she taught first grade for so many years, and she’s seen all this before, blah, blah, blah. In the meantime, the structure of the classroom has apparently gone all to hell, and I haven’t seen a homework folder for a while, and there is nothing coming home in the daily folder. It is sad that the last month of M's first school year is ending on such a flat note.
Happily, she will soon be in the Summer SAE program, and she knows the staff and most of the kids already, and they have tons of fun activities planned. It means extra driving for me for three months, as the drop off is farther away from our school, but I’m in Adjustment Mode, so I will manage. I think.
This will be brief, because I haven’t caught up with myself yet, having started the new JOB on Monday. However, it is amazing the amount of time and energy I am made to spend finding a route into and out of my workplace. Commuting is something I’ve become far too familiar with, and I am happy to report that my current commute is half what my last one was.
Still, the most direct path to my new place of employment was derailed by an 18 month Transportation project that started mere weeks before I was hired. I think sometimes that the gods enjoy fucking with me. I am willing to play along to a certain extent, but yesterday I was caught in the worst traffic snarl and I committed the Faux Pas of Daycare – I was late picking up my child. Okay, I was only late by 3 minutes, but that was the WORST drive home, and for the last part of it I was a total wreck because I could see that I wasn’t going to make it. I have never been late before. Ever.
It turns out that it is critical NOT to leave the Tech Center at 5 o’clock. Something evil happens right at 5, and the collective consciousness goes into some kind of alternate universe. I made the crucial mistake of getting into the Wrong Lane, and this misstep resulted in a critical loss of 15-20 minutes.
I consulted with my new coworkers, because I am nothing if not a consulter and collaborator on Shared Wisdom, and it turns out that it is Common Knowledge that you do NOT take the route out that we take in. I was told about the much better alternative, and today I sailed into Daycare to pick up M at the correct time. Thank you, my new work friend!
Which brings me to the part where I relate how there are some very nice people at my new JOB, and some of them go walking at lunchtime (something I enjoy very much), and I was invited to go along! The Tech Center has Downtown beat on scenery, hands down. There are miles of marvelously wide sidewalks among lovely landscaped office buildings, just suited for walking or riding bikes. I am able to get out of the building and use my lunch time to get some fresh air and exercise, and that makes me happy.
There is a lot to absorb, a lot to adjust to, and I am behind on all my “stuff” here at home because any change, especially a big one like this, sends me into a bit of a flutter trying to get into a new routine. But I will. I am looking forward to settling in. Oh, and getting paid. That too.