Sunday, May 10, 2015

Who Run this Mother

Two years ago today I woke up in my bed alone and shell-shocked. The day before, I had discovered thousands of dollars of unauthorized charges on my Amex account, traced them back to my girls' dad, and unceremoniously kicked him out of the house. Yes, you read that right: the day before Mother's Day, when I was having my "break," aka an  hour of paying bills online at the Starbucks down the street, I discovered my partner, my boyfriend of nearly 5 years, the father of my children, was stealing from me. This, a few days after he accused me of cheating on him, because I wouldn't have sex with him. A few weeks after I had received a letter at my office from his business landlord, stating that he owed thousands of dollars to HER and was facing eviction. A few months after he had spent the night of our second daughter's birthday in jail for stumbling to his parked car after a pub crawl and putting the key in the ignition. A few years after he had promised I would be able to stay at home with my babies and then promptly quit his job.

This is, of course, a one-sided picture: I know well my part in the dissolution. I took him for granted. Was passive-aggressive. Withheld affection. Withdrew into myself and became unable to speak to him in any sort of productive way. In the months before our separation, he was living 4 nights a week in a city 2 hours away, in an attempt to take advantage of big city prices (hence the big city eviction notice). On the nights he drove home, as soon as I heard his car pull in the driveway I would race to the bedroom, dive into the bed, and pretend to be asleep. I couldn't bear the reunion scene. It was hell for both of us, I know this.

But then. There was the theft, and the kicking-out, and the waking up in the bed alone in the light of day. On THAT Hallmark holiday: mothers are to be exalted, fed brunch in bed, given flowers, etc.

I never expected quite all that, but I never expected THAT day to be my first day as a single mom, either.

But I woke up, then the girls woke up. Daddy was gone, but that wasn't that unusual. I made some excuse about work or something, I can't even remember now. I made our usual Sunday morning pancakes. We all got ready and drove to my mother's house for lunch. In the afternoon I built a fort for us out of Adirondack chairs and sheets and blankets and we laid on the grass together and I told stories of princesses who saved themselves from dragons. And then we had a simple supper and I put the girls to bed and after they were well asleep I stood in the shower and cried. How the fuck am I going to do this? How am I going to do this alone

(In a drafty-ass 1800s-era farmhouse on more than an acre with a fish a cat a dog six chickens and two girls under age 5.)

Here's how: Go to bed alone, wake up alone, make the breakfasts, make the lunches, get everyone ready, have a day. Play. A lot. Get a lawyer, get the papers. Get on OKCupid. Get a boyfriend. (For a while). Go to work. Dance. A lot. Play. A lot. Cuddle and tickle and fall asleep too late or too early. Shout. Shriek. Get overwhelmed. Find a therapist. Make doctor's appointments. Make teacher conference appointments. Make daycare arrangements. Get new shoes for everyone. Get groceries. Get a really good fish tank. Learn how to fix the toilet. Learn how to order fuel oil. Learn how to light the pellet stove. Learn how to make pancakes in the shape of a horse. Learn how to enjoy your rare precious time alone. Take your vitamins. Meditate. Cry in the shower. Cry in the car. Cry in the office. Cry to your friends on the phone. Make them come visit you. Go visit them. Learn how to pack for yourself and two kids. Take road trips. Take airplanes. Test your safety nets. Go to bed alone.

Well. Sometimes I don't wake up alone. Sometimes, like this morning. I wake up between two blonde girls. Who have stolen my pillows and covers. This morning these two, not-so-little blonde girls woke up as soon as I opened my eyes. I was given strict instructions to go back to sleep and "sleep in as long as I wanted!" Ten minutes later a very proud 6 year old appeared carrying a mug of coffee made just how I like it. Five minutes after that two very proud girls appeared carrying plates of strawberries and untoasted sunbutter and jelly toast. And then I got cards and presents. The girls did this ALL by themselves, unprompted and unassisted and six and three years old. And we spent a harmonious day and hosted our own supper.

(Lest we get too rosy a picture: ok. Bedtime was rocky but I blame that squarely on the chocolate pie I insisted we make. Sometimes we make our own beds.)

Single mom, sure. Alone? Not even close.

Just like that, we take back THIS day.


Thursday, April 30, 2015

With Your Feet in the Air

My friends, my reader. Last year kicked my ass. My former dance teacher, two of my uncles, and my grandmother all died of cancer. My best-ever-in-my-life-this-is-the-ONE relationship fell apart and together and apart in a most painful way (because I am overly optimistic, and romantic, and stupid, and stubborn. I have only myself to blame, really). My big kid octopussed herself to my leg every day before kindergarten for a couple of months, came out of the terror to triumph, and then abruptly became a shivering mass of anxiety at school again for a few months after that. My little one became terrified of HER school. The girls' dad got arrested, got broke, got broke down cars, got up late for Christmas, refused to see the girls in spite of the court papers, refused to pay child support, all the sordid Jerry Springer shit, etc etc etc etc. My mother revealed some upsetting news to me after an upsetting vacation with her and my dad, and effectively made my workplace a very uncomfortable place. Four of my chickens got eaten by a fox. My tomatoes got blight. My drier broke.

None of this is chronological, sorry, or particularly tragic, truly. Sick people died. A rebound relationship failed. Stupid baby daddy gonna be stupid, etc. Stupid chickens gonna get et. Secondhand drier gonna break. There are worse things. I know.

It was just one of those YEARS, you know.

I have opened Blogger a million times with a blog post on my mind and all that would come to mind is OW FUCK THIS ALL SUCKS WHY WOULD YOU EVEN WRITE ABOUT THIS IT SUCKS AND OTHER PEOPLE'S SUCKAGE IS BORING. And, thus, over a year passed since my last post. Sorry, anyone who has visited here! Hope you enjoyed the old content! No I don't want to learn more about penis enlargement kthanxbai!

In September, between deaths & parenting & relationship dramas, I auditioned for the Nutcracker Burlesque again. Folks, behold your most-certainly-oldest-ever Clara:                                                                                                                                                  
A week or so before auditions, I had a flash, a vision of sorts: me, front and center-stage, audience in front of me cheering, some standing, the cast spread out behind me hooting and hollering. I had my hands over my heart and tears in my eyes and I was exhausted and grateful. It felt very real and I honestly wasn't surprised when I got the news that I would play the lead. I already knew. Fucking weird, right?

And a couple of days after this photo was taken, that exact scene played out for real. I was exhausted, heart-sore and body-sore. Off-stage, life had been overwhelming, sad, and cold. I felt at a distance from my kids, my family, my friends, hopeless about a lot of things. No one that really mattered to me came to see the show, this manifestation of so much effort and time and one of my proudest accomplishments. But still, every night I gave my whole self to that largely anonymous audience. I flirted and joked and and remembered all my choreography and my funny bits hit and my lifts all worked. There I was, at the last show. I had done it. I did my fucking best, and my best was really, actually, great. Seven shows, 15 weeks, hours and hours and hours of work. The audience ALL stood up and cheered. I felt my castmates behind me, cheering and smiling and crying with joy. I had my hands over my heart and tears in my eyes and I was grateful.

Thank you my legs, thank you my babysitter, thank you my castmates, thank you my director. Thank you, cheering audience. Thank you, flexible job that allowed me to spend time with my grandmother in her last week on earth and take naps during performance weeks. Thank you, flu shot, for keeping us mostly well. Thank you, chicken hatchery, for my sweet new flock. Thank you, present moment. Thank you, everything, like a fucking Alanis Morrissette song

Predictably, I had a low period after the show. All of the mourning that I'd held off, all at once. Sweatpants and pizza and ice cream and Netflix and super cranky parenting. I tried to get back into dating, but got the dreads and shut that down before I even started. I mostly stopped exercising. The snow kept piling up and up and up and it was cold and dark and I was just dragging myself along. I took myself to Brooklyn, and the girls to Florida, in an attempt to distract myself from my self-pity party. I had some lovely moments but was in a cloud. I pulled in, trying to reconnect with myself, my girls, my house. And I rested. I needed rest. I never rest. But I couldn't help it, this time.

Really, I'm just barely sort of coming out of it. I don't quite feel like myself yet. Setting my attention back on this blog, on writing in general, is part of my prescription. I'm going to date again (UGH FUCK WHY DO I HAAAAVE TOOOOO), so you'll hear about that. I'm going to work through missing my grandmother, so you'll hear about that. I'm going to fall back in love with my kids and my house and my body, so you'll hear about that. I'm going to get over my fucking self and get out of my own way, so you'll hear about THAT. It's gonna be a self-help party up in this joint.

So! Sorry about the new content! You don't have to keep reading. But I discover, again and again, that I have to keep writing. I hope last year didn't suck for you. But if it did, come here. Tell me all about it. Let's get better together.

xoxo, A