suit up and show up

Tomorrow marks a particular anniversary of my sobriety date. It’s been a wonderful journey, unlike any period in my life I can recall. It’s hard to explain. It has been like being born again, or being a child. I am less sure of myself but more secure and serene. Rigorous honesty, open-mindedness, and willingness.

I had the Willingness from day one, and for this I am so grateful.

And like someone new and picking through garbage, making missteps and being brave regarding things I’ve been frightened of – yes, there has been pain involved. My worst moment sober, however, has been hands-down better than life while I was employing other methods to cope. Depression, anxiety, fear, resentments, anger, over-excitement, a head spinning like a top, resentments (I put “resentments” twice because they are a Big Fucking Deal)… these things have been dashed to the rocks or at least incredibly reduced – in such a short time. All because I was ready to do a few simple things which I won’t detail here – but go into any of the rooms of Recovery, stick around, and you’ll hear all about them.

Life is beautiful. My children are the most incredible gift and to be frank, I don’t deserve them. So I just give Thanks. Daily they venture forth, these days with very little interference from me, and with a confidence and a joy of living and a love and care for other people. They remember names of strangers, they hug friends, they share their ice cream or their clothes. They are loving, caring people and it is a genuine pleasure to spend time with them.

At night my husband makes dinner and does the dishes and I have a few minutes to sew or knit or write. He takes better care of me now and (I truly believe) he takes better care of himself. Our family has changed. We are kinder to one another. We are more honest. There hasn’t been a yelling match or a nasty fight for quite some time.

But today one of the things that sticks with me is how precious and incredibly fragile life is. How all the days we can go about on the treadmill and be spiritually dead, or at least suffering so much our turmoil is loud in our ears and people say, “How are you?” and we say Fine, fine, and maybe we even think we’re fine, but we suffer so much. More scary still is the result of our confusion and isolation and quietude: others do not know know how much we suffer, how lost we are. In the last few days how many emails, how many people have expressed astonishment I had any kind of problem at all?

I am not going to diminish the mother of my children by negating all I did and accomplished, who I was, or how I incurred and attempted to patch up my bumps and scrapes (many of which I’ve written about here, publicly). The woman I was did the best she could. The woman I am today does the same. This woman, when the chips are down, I see her character and I like her just fine, about as much as God does I suppose.

May I always see her in this light.

***

By the way, I couldn’t wait until my Friday links to share this with you. Definitely NSFW, by the way. It made me laugh so damned hard. It also reminded me of my grandma, may she rest in peace.

bravery is being the only one who knows you’re afraid

Back in high school my closest girlfriends and I developed a system of “Badass Points”, an informally-tracked schema whereby each of us could earn group acknowledgement by doing something daring or asinine – and usually both (like skipping class and smoking with “the stoners” – this meant working-class or poor classmates who wore jean jackets adorned with Sharpie’d skulls and who listened to metal – or telling a teacher he had a sexy bum. Unconscionable but rather tame on that last one, I know, but in my defense we were seventeen and imprisoned in our family lives and school). I don’t remember our game running very long but it was much-beloved to me all the same. I liked the idea of being a Badass when most my life I’d invested in Good Girl, when indeed I was very afraid of many things. To venture out – only a bit – and be myself instead of the Convenience I was relied upon to be – felt grand.

In that vein, I don’t think I’d earn many points these days. I’ve become someone quite risk-averse because I’ve found my position oppressively policed by forces both tangible and many perhaps insubstantial to others’ eyes; I’ve found my Fearless ameliorated by events personally devastating that linger on. These days my “badass” mostly runs to deeply-committed-to concepts of fairness that are so inextricably wound up in spiritual practice and belief they are less individual instances of Awesome and more rewarding ways of life that I nevertheless continue to grapple with – for instance, trusting my kids in their wholeness and personhood

OR –

my “badass” consists of speaking up against oppressive social mores that are trite and common, yet devastating and ubiquitous: more wearying than acutely scary. Examples from just lately: this weekend in a group when a person wondered aloud how a missing girl’s family could have let the child out of their sight in the first place – and after a pause in the conversation I indicated my non-support for such victim-blaming and insensitive speech; another example, speaking out when my daughter’s hairstylist called skinny gym neophytes “gross”.

I know at least a handful of readers might think I’m badass enough given the above examples – and a handful of other readers will eyeroll at just how limited and cowardly I really am. Other people’s verdicts don’t matter so much – because what matters is I haven’t felt a Badass in some time and what’s more I feel it’s something I need.

Being a Badass isn’t about, for me, being a jerk to other people, or proving a point to someone else – it’s about doing something I want to do because I want to do it, and I’m a grown lady who’s allowed to make mistakes – right? – without looking around to make sure there won’t be a big scary reprisal, or wondering what my reputation (such as it is, because Who? Gives A Shit) will suffer. Why do I still fear things when I’ve survived through so much so far?

If I was Badass I’d stop running to spend my every last dime on my kids’ immediate needs and I’d “selfishly” buy myself some things I want – I’d let the kiddos have holey socks and stained clothes and I’d fix myself up with some slutty and awesome bra and panty sets and maybe a top that wasn’t an old band t-shirt. But on the flip side if I was a Badass I’d stop giving a damn for the folk who talk like it’s Empowering to collect Nice Things; I’d start saying “Fuck Off” (mentally) now and forever to those who speak prescriptively about those “must haves” that carry price points that don’t reflect my foursome’s economic reality and I’d say “No Thanks, but Good Luck With That” to those with worldviews that don’t concern themselves with the earth, with fellow man here and abroad, and with conspicuous consumption and the cultural heritage of being an American who just tramples and eats everything they see.

If I was a Badass I’d stop feeling crap about my bad habits. Fuck it. Seriously, I have them. They’ll lift someday, or they won’t.

If I was Badass I’d call up that friend who’s not been a friend and tell her, “You know what? You aren’t much of a friend, and it really hurts, and I know you’re busy, but you should know I have feelings.”

If I was a Badass I’d tell my friends, to their faces, I love you.

If I was a Badass I’d let the house be messy (OK, messier) and know that I would get around to fixing it at some point so let’s move on. Instead of what I do now, which is make sure to take care of that shit first, THEN decide what I want to do with the rest of my supposedly-“free” time.

If I was Badass I’d stop worrying about my husband’s health and trust him to manage his own self. God knows I do pretty right by him.

If I was Badass I’d seek more joy and maybe be a more loving and spontaneous and relaxed lady for this man. I’d quit working myself so hard.

If I was a Badass I’d sing loud in front of other people, because I love to sing, and the only people who ever, EVAR hear it are my kids.

If I was a Badass I’d stop feeling this weird shame we’re working class and have working class lives. I’d stop feeling it was my “fault” somehow, especially considering when I reflect on other people’s lives I truly grant them the same humanity and nobility inherent regardless of status and privilege or any lack thereof (or at least I really, really think I do).

If I was Badass, I’d stop feeling people have a right to give a damn or have a say about what food I feed my children, like I’m required to make sure they grow into some awesome consumers with prim and holistic eating habits I can put down to my awesome parenting. Truth is some days I love to cook more than anything, other days (like today!) I save my mental health and take a walk to the diner and get a veggie burger with my son, and it’s pretty funny how hot and cold I am on the whole good-housewife bit. I come nowhere near the mark on being good at this, the whole well-rounded awesome Mama routine, so it’s laughable I still put this pressure on myself. And yeah, I know people shouldn’t have that right to weigh in, but weigh in they do, and dammit, I let it get to me.

That’s part of my problem, maybe most of it. Deep down I keep believing people have the right to weigh in. On my worthDeep down I still really fear not being a Nice Girl. So many things I want to say but don’t. Or sometimes I do say them then later feel a very humorless shame because my words weren’t “Nice”, or they might have been uncouth or low class or “inappropriate” according to the voice (who?) of someone who, well the one thing I can tell you, is this person is not very fun anyway. The twisted thing is, I am a good (enough) person, and I’m a friend to many and do okay by those I take responsibility for. What am I really afraid of? And another really twisted thing is I know lots of “not-nice” folk and they are some of my favorite people and they’re not scary or horrid!

I’ve made it on my own steam, and that’s to my credit as well as the family and friends who support me so well and the privilege I was born with. But inside… inside I’m often cowering, afraid to lose things I probably don’t really need in the first place, cowering even knowing I won’t lose Me no matter what I do.

But you know. One last thing? I think just writing it all out, and letting it go publicly just what a coward I am?- like, PRETTY much, all the things I’m afraid of? All of a sudden, just now, feels pretty Badass. Hit “publish” – too late now.

It’s almost 2 AM and I hear my daughter giggling at something she’s watching (with headphones) on the laptop. You know what’s really awesome? That. I have her, today, and a sense of unabiding joy when I’m with her.

So I’m going to join her.

***

“Every man has his own courage, and is betrayed because he seeks in himself the courage of other persons.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

a class 5 vegan, i don’t eat anything that casts a shadow

It’s kind of amazing I’ve been able to speak a kind word to anyone the last few days as I have embarked (at a physician’s suggestion and with her oversight, yadda yadda) on a rather annoying allergy elimination diet. Or as I like to call it, the “I Can’t Have Anything Nice With You Kids” diet. Basically, think of something you like to eat. Picturing it in you mind? Delicious, no? Guess what, I can’t eat it. I can’t consume any wheat, corn or corn products, oats, gluten (seriously? I can eat amaranth and quinoa and rice. Yippie.), I can’t have sugar or citrus, or alcohol or caffeine. Hey, did you hear that last part? About no booze and coffee? Oh and guess what? Sugar (or HFCS), corn, and wheat is in – everything. Every goddamned thing. I tried to buy some beef franks and they had corn in them. I tried to buy some “natural” and low-ingredient salad dressing – sugar. I found another bottle – this time, lemon juice, also a no-no.

You know what this food plan really is about? It’s about Eliminating Joy. “These instructions will allow you to substitute highly nutritious meals consisting of foods you rarely eat. You may not like it, but you will not be deprived of any important nutrients.” Ha! Yes! Fuck yes! I am not really liking it!

I am particularly a bad candidate for this kind of thing as A. I don’t have a history of “dieting” (i.e. a pursuit of weight loss through calorie-counting or food eschewal), B. Deprivation takes the energy out of me, and C. I am responsible for cooking for four people and seriously? As if I want some extra caveats in the kitchen. Stirring a few tablespoons of butter into the rest of the family’s spaghetti tonight and the starchy-buttery smell just felt Right. I am in the Wrong for not eating that stuff up (I didn’t – I’m no cheater).*

Well, twatever, the thing has started. Monday I was just about paralyzed with abrupt caffeine withdrawl (upon consulting with my doctor on Day 2 I discovered I was not actually required to forgo the stuff; yet I have gotten over the hump on no-caffeine so I’m keeping it that way). Tuesday I was a bit low energy – hello, no bread, no sugar, no coffee? Of course. Today, well, I’ve felt pretty much myself. And I won’t lie: the symptoms I initially sought treatment for (nighttime anxiety and onset insomnia, stomach cramps, diarrhea, skin breakouts) are improving. Sleep has been transformed. No stomach pains. No hangover fuzziness. No drunken, raunchy sext messages in the middle of the night. Oh wait, I didn’t do those before.

Mostly though, I just feel boring. I cook for the family but making myself separate meals feels odd and uncomfortable. I’m earnestly looking forward to a “normal”, whatever that is. I have no idea what that normal will look like, but I pray it doesn’t involve having to eat like this for any long duration. Like right now? I’m actually looking forward to my dessert of a banana and soy milk. A goddamned banana! Who the fuck likes those? Nobody. This is what I’ve been reduced to, people.

LOL*sob*!

* By the way I am a pretty good cook and the fact I can’t cook things for myself makes my kitchen triumphs seem all the more precious. Tonight I made turkey meatballs infused with silken tofu – just a bit to give them body – and garlic, and fresh basil and bay leaves in a red sauce. I cook up the sauce from scratch on the oven about an hour, then saute up the meatballs put the whole business in my cast-iron casserole in the oven all day at 200 F. Butter beans and pasta for the rest of the family, a beet salad for myself. By the way, I made excellent meatballs and in fact no one can make turkey meatballs as moist and flavorful as I can.

(Thanks for the clip, Paige!)

it’s funny because it’s TRUE

Sometimes my standards are pretty low. Like, this morning at about 10:25 AM. My standard of life was: keep fecal matter off of clothes and face (hands were out of the picture since I was changing a diaper and unfortunately you still have to use your hands for that). Five seconds later, as I tried to steady the boy and pull his pants up, even my modest boundary had to go. In case you, dear reader, are wondering how I could retain human feces on my hands or clothes let me just say that changing a shitty diaper on the shitty floor of a shitty rec center without a fucking changing table – on a 18-month old child who thrashes like a wolverine and screams like a torture victim whenver I lay him flat – is one of the worst things you get to do as a parent (so far, in my four years). If anyone needs a diagram or further exposition, email me and I’ll fill you in.

But you know, I had to keep going with my day. What would I like to have done? I would like to leave my children, go home, strip down, take a hot shower, dress in PJs, crawl into bed, and cry. God, I don’t even know what I’d like. It’s been a while since I had it, whatever it is.

This afternoon my husband doesn’t bother calling to let me know he’s going to be an hour late. He calls about fifteen minutes before he’s due home. While I’m cleaning Horrendous Fecal Event #3 of the day (the first being abovementioned incident; event Number Two was a delightful Hey-Why-Don’t-I-Shit-In-The-Tub incident from this afternoon – by the way, shitting in a tub which was also full of newly-sanitized bath toys) – as I said, while I’m cleaning up shit just to maintain a safe household – my son finds a full pound of rice and dumps it on the floor.

But then I realize this is perfect. My husband was supposed to be home five minutes before the rice got dumped. So, I’m not going to clean it. In fact, I’m not going to go in the room at all. This wasn’t the plan. Right now, I should be in the kitchen making dinner as The Boy and Babydaddy are tidying up the living room. Yeah. I’m not cleaning it up. In fact, I’m not leaving this room unless I hear breaking glass or my husband’s voice when he gets here. And then I’m not speaking to him for a while, either.

Some days are just like that.

wait, come back! i… don’t know how to love.

I mocked it. I taunted it. I made a small voodoo doll of it and stuck pins in it. But now that it’s gone, I kind of miss it.

My husband shaved the ‘stache this morning.

He’d been growing it to be funny and, due to a big job-related downer he’s had to deal with over the last 24 hours (yes, we are not the only sources of misery in his life!) he told me today, “I just don’t feel that fun anymore.”

A sad day for ‘staches around the world.

In other family developments, we were forced to gently usher our oldest child into the sobering discussions of race, poverty-related violence, and really, really gay dancing with last night’s viewing of West Side Story. I seriously cannot watch that film without a constant giggle in my throat. Most notable, I feel, is the package on Ice, as played by Tucker Smith. Nice lift and separation, and an excellent emphasis provied by the fact his trousers are white (separating him from the many other well-displayed crotchal regions in the film). My husband hates musicals, but gets a lump in his throat during a few numbers, especially “A Boy Like That”. Me, I just like watching the dancing and trying to ignore the orange pancake makeup on all the thirty year-old men potraying high school boys. “Rita Moreno is a stone fox,” I say to my husband. He comments on the unflattering lilac-colored frumpy frock she dances in (it’s true, it isn’t that great of a dress). I further comment that the look of the high-and-tight fabulous bums on all the dancing “gangsters” remind me of his too-tight slacks he tried on the other day (no VPL). Not sure whether I’m turned on or kind of repulsed.

The Hogabooms go to bed vaguely confused about their sexual identities and bewildered by the trouser stylings of yesteryear. Sophie exclaims of the Puerto Ricans in the Sharks gang: “They all match!”

Did my post get a little too link-y? Perhaps a little pointless to those who are unfamiliar with this particular 1961 musical? Well, too damn bad. It is MY life you’re reading about, anyway.

Sheesh.