Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Vice Queen

I've been thinking a lot about vices lately, and the fact I hardly have any, and how wrong this suddenly feels. I've spent the last dozen years trying to eradicate vices from my life, and I have succeeded pretty well at this. And now that I am virtually viceless, and have navigated all sorts of pain and joy without the blessed soft-focus vices afford, I have to say being viceless may be overrated.

"So, what do you do when you break bad?" my mother asked me recently. I was stumped. "Um...well...nothing. Unless you count cussing. And eating potato chips in bed while I watch trash t.v."

As soon as I said this, I realized with a pathetic pit in my gut that I had somehow gone from being really young and wild with crazy, funny secrets to being just plain middle-aged with secrets that are best left untold, they are so lame. Oh goodness. This is not what I'd had in mind when I decided to quit drinking and smoking weed and cigarettes back in '99.

A couple of weeks ago, I went up to Walgreens and bought a pack of American Spirit cigarettes. Ok, first off, I am so...I don't know...I can't even break bad without doing it all organic and shit. And THEN! As if my all-natural cigarettes weren't dorky enough, I TOLD my husband. What the fuck? Oh, AND! I still have some. I hardly even smoked them. AND! (This is the real kick in the gut) I didn't really enjoy it that much.

I literally got the white picket fence, the two kids, the husband, and the backyard with a playset. But along the way, I must have sold my rock-n-roll soul, because I have a life devoid of well...SOUL. Well, I take that back: my life is full of soul. Lots of beauty and soul. Just not in a raucous rock-n-roll kind of way. More like a Beethoven kind of way. Sigh.

And I just don't know what to do about this. Something feels strangely awry.

Also. It seems that overnight I reached an age--a weird, sad little age--at which I do a lot of reminiscing about my youth, and the wild times I had, so as not to feel so old. Which makes me feel really old. Oh, and you know what else? Every two weeks a Rolling Stone magazine is delivered to our mailbox, and 90% of the time I have no fucking idea who that jackass on the cover is.

Oh, by the way, don't ever do this: drag a box of bikinis from ten years ago out of the attic and try them on for old time's sake. Even after an extensive tummy tuck, this is a very, very bad idea. All I could say to my butt and boobs was, "Wow. That is *not* where I left you."

And so, time marches on. Marches, sagging, right into the grave. Blam!

"Live today as if it were your last!" Yeah, RIGHT. Do you know how many dirty dishes are sitting in my sink right now?

Plus, I would be so pissed off if I had to live today like it were my last. Do you know how many fucking phone calls I would have to make, and how much crying I would do, telling everyone goodbye and how much I love them? I'd probably forget to eat; I wouldn't have time for a shower; and in between phone calls, I'd be dispensing random advice to my children. "Boys! Listen to me. Herpes is no joke..." It sounds like a really fucking awful time.

How about I live today as if it were my FIRST? Now that's an idea I can get behind! I'll sleep for 18 hours with someone holding me, telling me how beautiful I am. And whenever I wake up, a blissed-out, young woman will shove her tit in my mouth. Perfect. But that's just impossible. You can't buy that kind of experience at a dayspa. Or even a Vegas hooker ranch. Lame.

Which brings us back to VICES, ladies and gentlemen. See how very necessary they are? Recess for grown-ups. We NEED vices. I need vices. Just a couple. They can be relatively harmless. I don't need a meth habit or anything. Just something, puh-leeze, to get me through the day, to turn off my monkey mind, to help my whole body take a breather. Something to lower the fucking volume.

And if you tell me to take a bath, meditate, breathe, pray, write, play, dance, screw, make art, listen to music, light a candle, spread kindness, sing, garden, drink tea, take a yoga class, go to my psychiatrist, or go to an AA meeting, I will punch you in the face. THAT is what I have been DOING for twelve years, and it! ain't! cuttin' it!

But what other choice do I have, really? I guess I just have to do the decidedly unglamorous, tedious work of BEING. Gawd, it is unbearable sometimes. But the alternative is worse, I hear.

I guess the only thing worse than growing up is NOT growing up.

Although, there are some ways I hope I never grow up. Like I hope I'll never outgrow the humor of slapstick, my husband's politically incorrect jokes, my kids' totally nonsensical knock-knock jokes that invariably involve the word "poo poo", baby farts, dog sneezes, and playing ridiculous amounts of tag in the backyard with my little boys. And I hope I never grow up too much to enjoy the feeling of letting loose on a good old playground swing...

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

It grows, it grows

This is me, enjoying the last few moments of my long hair, before I cut it all off a few weeks back. Thirteen inches. Thirteen inches of motherhood: I had been growing out my hair since I gave birth to Caleb.

I loved my long hair. I've always been a long hair kind of girl, but I almost always cut my hair when I'm crazy with grief or just plain crazy. Which means I've had short hair quite a few times haha. And I almost always regret it. This time has been no exception.

I bet you are wondering what my hair looks like now. Well, so am I. I am waiting to be able to see it for what it truly is, even to perhaps see it through the eyes of people who tell me it looks fabulous and sexy. Maybe then I'll take pictures of it and post one. But for now, it looks kind of dumb and pointless to me, and very occassionally, I catch myself sort of liking it for about 17 seconds. Which is the way I feel about most things these days.

Sigh. I keep shrugging and saying, "Hair grows..."

I cut it because a. I'm really sad because I really, really wanted a daughter, and it looks like that may never happen and b. I decided to donate it to an organization that makes wigs exclusively for children. I want a little girl who has lost her hair to feel beautiful in mine. Whenever I think of this, I smile with a lump in my throat, and my eyes start to sting with tears. And this makes me happy.

As I sat in the waiting area of the salon, it hit me like a ton of bricks, this realization: I am giving away my whole head of hair to a little girl because apparently fate has decided I won't be giving my whole heart to a little girl. My beloved hair suddenly seemed like a sad substitute for love. But it had to do, because it was all I had to give.

My hairdresser, in a moment of sheer brilliance, took me in a back room, closed the door, and let me cut off each braid myself. With a blade of loss at my throat, cutting through the braids felt for a moment like a release. It felt like a secret, sacred ceremony. I cried as I marveled how the silky, limp braids felt like umbilical cords in my hands. My tears sprinkled the chestnut cords like a baptism.

People keep asking me if I'll ever grow my hair back. People. I do not know. I am so sad right now, I barely even know what we're having for dinner most days. All I know is that it grows, it grows. It grows when I'm mourning it; It grows when I'm not even thinking about it. It grows when I'm sleeping, the way my babies did, tucked away inside my womb.

I imagine every part of me is like that, just growing, in spite of myself, in spite of getting cut back, in spite of it all. Or maybe, just maybe, because of it all.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Sister, my sister

I wish you could see the poem of
the rain this evening. Maybe
you are here, living
in an untouchable sphere
just beyond the gauze
of my senses. Maybe
you see with summer eyes
the summer eve's
slate blue, how
drops fall from it
not like a brass band, but
the long, measured sigh
of a cello. Maybe
you're watching with me
the boards of our deck, their
shallow, long puddles collecting
concentric rings that go out, out
one into another. Maybe
I'm not alone at this
window, steamed with
butter and onions, green
peppers, salt, love in the pan,
thinking this sadness
is such a waste when
there's so much living
to do, such a waste without
you to tell it to. Maybe
right now you're whispering,
No part of you
was ever a waste

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I gotta stop doing that

Some days I get so weary of my obsessive, anxious, chatterbox mind, so slumped over by the dying beauty of this earth.

I think about this all the time: We are born, each one of us, onto a sinking vessel. We have so little time! Ever since I was a very little girl, this fact has, on a daily basis, broken my heart, scared the crap out of me, and opened me. "Oh God! What if I don't get life right?!" is, sadly, probably my most-used mantra.

I don't even know what it truly means to get it right. Who am I to say? But when I am kept awake at night by a picture of decapitated Mexican drug lords hanging by their feet from an overpass in what I remember as the quaint, sunny, flower-filled city of Cuernavaca, where I first learned to speak Spanish and fall in love Mexico and her generous, kind people, I am haunted.

I can't help but sleeplessly think, "The people who cut off those guys' heads did not get it right." But then I think, "Who am I to discern or judge the divine calculus of life? Maybe God understands it all, and He or She is okay with it. Go the fuck to sleep."

But I can't. "How many degrees of separation are there between those drug lords and me, really?" I think, "Who am I to believe for an instant I am immune to finding myself in a life that would end up like that? Oh no! Not only is life fragile, but my lifestyle probably is, too! One day you're in a recession in the most bountiful country in the world, and the next you could be prostituting yourself to drug lords, who knows? We definitely need to sell all our shit and move to Norway. I'm telling Jay first thing in the morning."

See? This is why I avoided looking at any kind of footage of those doomed, smoking, tumbling towers for SEVERAL YEARS after 9/11. I just knew. I knew I wouldn't be okay after that. It's also why I can't even look at commercials--commercials!--for horror movies. I cannot even watch--Oh God, this is embarrassing--"Scary Movie".

It's like everyone I encounter, even strangers in magazines and movies, is my corsican twin, and I feel their pain. It's one of those things that makes me a good healer. It's also one of those things that makes me a good crazy person.

Two years ago I watched a documentary on the 2004 Thailand tsunami. Yeah, that was a GREAT idea. It took my eyes three days to de-puff from crying. Ever since then, I think about this no fewer than oh, a hundred billion times a month: a mother and father telling the story of how, as water began to swell in their hotel room, the mother instructed their five year-old daughter to wrap her arms and legs around her, telling her over and over, "It's okay, Mama's holding onto you really tight! I'm not going to let anything happen to you!" and how a moment later the water ripped that little girl out of that woman's arms, and they never saw her again.

One minute you're on a dream vacation with your little family on the coast of Thailand and the next, all your dreams are washed away, leaving your heart to beat its broken rhythm all the rest of your days. Have a nice life.

"Note to self:" I had thought, watching that documentary, "Never go to Thailand. Or Indonesia." But I really want to go to Thailand and Indonesia! Which brings us to the next thought I had: "How could you forgive yourself if you never let yourself experience Thailand and Indonesia? Life is so fleeting! Carpe Diem! What are you waiting for?!" Aaaaaahhh!

You should have seen me when we had that earthquake a couple weeks ago. Ho-ly Shit. First of all, I grab the kids like I'm a fireman: I snatch them from their chairs at the dining room table, and I start running. In circles. Because I don't know what to do. Because we get earthquakes like NEVER. And we end up in the bathroom, because that's where you go if there's a tornado. Stop laughing.

And I'm thinking, "Their arms are too short to wrap around the toilet! They're going to blow away! No, wait. Crap! I've got it all wrong! The house is going to fall in on us! We should have run outside! We're gonna die because I'm a dumbass!" Meanwhile Tavish is laughing, exclaiming, "Mama! The house is WIGGLING!"

In a flash, the earthquake is over and I'm still holding onto the kids, squeezing the crap out of them, and they're like, "Ow!! Let go of me!" And I'm saying, "It's okay, guys, everything's okay! Everything's alright! Everything's okay!" And they're going, "Um, yeah, we know. Can we finish our lunch now?"

My hands were shaking so bad after that, I could not hold the phone to call my husband. For many, many minutes. I had some sort of Post Traumatic Stress response to something that didn't even knock our lawn chairs over.

Do not ask me how I get through one single day of living with myself. "You totally drive me nuts," my husband laughingly (and sometimes not-so-laughingly) tells me on a regular basis. "Oh yeah?" I say, "I drive MYSELF more nuts than you could ever imagine."

Do not EVEN get me started about my germophobia. It's not bad like those people you see washing their hands a hundred thousand times a day on those Discovery Health shows about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, but still, with two grubby little kids, I think about germs a lot. Or T.S. Eliot. Good Lord, I cannot make it through one of that man's poems without bawling my fucking eyes out, all his aching, mortal beauty of this world stuff making me re-think and regret 98% of my life. And Walt Whitman? Fuck.

By the way, if you are still reading this, bless you. I might have some pain medication left over from getting my wisdom teeth out--you'll probably need a little at the end of all this. Sorry.

You know what? I take that back. I'm not sorry. I say that way too much. I say it for things that aren't my fault at all, like if someone next to me drops something. Why? Why do I do that? And I apologize for things about myself I can't help, like crying at Hallmark commercials and sneezing.

I gotta stop doing that. I'm sorry I say sorry so much.


I almost don't know what to do with myself. I mean, except just love my quirky-ass self. Just about the only thing I know to do anymore is try to love. You know, really notice people, including myself, and try to set aside fear, and just pour love onto them. I'm pretty sure that's gotta be at least in the top ten on the "How to Get Life Right" list. So I'm sticking with that. A little more love, a little less fear...maybe that can be my new mantra.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Sometimes you're just THAT family...

Oh, I should have known.

My three year-old had his first official visit to his new school today--a 30-minute "small group visit" which consisted of a handful of kids and their parents converging on the classsroom to get acquainted with one another, the teachers, blah blah.

Well, first of all, we show up twenty minutes late for our thirty-minute visit. We show up late crap. You know, let's be honest: because I'm late everywhere I go, okay? My three year-old happened to fight me on every. single. thing. this morning, but if I had my shit together I would have *accounted* for that.

Our morning was a little slice of--wait a minute. Shit. He's not three, he's two. Christ, there's no hope for me.

Hell. I was trying to brush lollipop stickiness out of Tavish's matted hair when we were supposed to be leaving, because *somebody* forgot to give the children a bath lastnight. Ok, I didn't forget. I was just sort of being a little lazy. Don't judge.

Ok, so we finally get there and it's all going fine: they don't seem to notice how late we are, how dirty his fingernails are, etc. Tavish goes right over to a toy and plays with it contentedly for a few minutes. Then it comes time to actually ask him to do something and it's a bunch of pure three year-old-ness: "No! I don't WANT to!"

Then he marches into the adjoining classroom and trashes it in about 40 seconds, while I scurry behind him saying things like, "Buddy, let's clean up the 40,000 beads you just left on the floor..." Suddenly he stops what he's doing, and at the *exact* moment I'm saying, "Do you need to go potty?" he pees all over the rug and the wooden truck he's playing with.

Naturally I've left my purse in the car, which has extra underwear and shorts. After I remove his soaked overalls and Thomas the Tank Engine underwear, he runs away from me with his dingaling flapping all over the place. But I can't chase him because I'm cleaning up pee with those school papertowels that have the absorbency of oak leaves.

From the other classroom I hear him doing his characteristic scream-cry, and I rush in to find him trying to force his foot back into a sandal, which he had, for some odd reason, felt compelled to take off immediately after we'd arrived. (And when the teacher had quietly and politely asked him why he was taking his shoes off he'd yelled, "Because I WANT to!" Nice manners, Dude. Thanks. These people are going to think your father and I must be Neanderthals.)

As I run into the room, a well-meaning father I don't know is bending over in an attempt to help this apparently parentless child, but I guess he didn't know Tavish was naked from the waist down until he got down to his level because I see the man reaching out, saying, "Hey little buddy, can I help--" and then recoiling, mumbling, "Oh, gosh, uh..." "Hi!" I say to the dad, "We're the Mulligans!" And don't ask me to remember what he said his name was.

Then the head of the school comes in. She's friends with my parents and knew me as a girl, so I always feel a little compelled to show her how lovely my children are, but she always seems to catch me at the most awkward moments. Like this one: one of the teachers is gently offering my half-naked child some extra underwear and pants, and he's screaming, "NOOOOO!!! NOOOOO!!!" like he's being branded.

Everyone in the room is staring at us. I paste on a smile, scanning the walls for a clock, as I wrestle my kid back into his pee-soaked overalls. Mother of God, shouldn't this be over already? Then people start leaving. Oh, thank the Lord.

Then panic. Where the fuck are my keys??