A post in which I use a tired metaphor because my brain is tired and I can’t really think of anything else.
If I were a geologist, I would have seen the earthquake coming. Unless it’s one of those disaster movies (why do I love them so much?!) where the fancy ass scientists don’t recognize the warning signs and only the nerdy crazies know what’s coming but nobody listens to them. In that case, someone would have noticed, but I digress.
I should have. (Shit. Does that make me the obtuse and narcissistic scientist? Let’s pretend no.)
I barely got out in time. I am, if we’re sticking with this metaphor, still driving as the ground crumbles behind my back tires. But we all know that I will make it. You all know that that dusty truck ALWAYS drives toward the rainbow.
But now I recognize pieces of my life are beginning to settle into old and new places.
I am consumed with hope simply because it has been so long.
It’s itching at my clavicles and my heels. It was there all along.
This is new. Before, I drove and sobbed and contemplated and reckoned carefully. I am sure I am not finished driving and sobbing and contemplating, but it is no longer ALL.
And the aftershocks are coming, I know. I am going to do just what I always want my characters to do: keep my running shoes on, pack water, look up.
The Announcement: Time to preorder friends. My across-the-web friend, sister, and mentor, Glennon Melton of Momastery, is releasing her second book. Love Warrior. It is about marriage. But it is also about us. (Do you love that I’m telling you about this book I haven’t even read? I can do this because I have been reading with Dear G for so so long. I know the story that gave rise to THIS story, and I trust in G and her infinite wisdom and grace).
This is some of what she has to say:
“Listen to me: Some loves are perennials—they survive the winter and bloom again. Other loves are annuals—beautiful and lush and full for a season and then back to the Earth to die and create richer soil for new life to grow. The eventual result of both types of plants is New Life.
New life for annual and perennial plants. New love for annual and perennial loves. Nothing wasted. No such thing as failure. Love never fails. Never never. Are you still married? Your love did not fail. Are you divorced? Once? Twice? A third time? Your love did not fail. It made you who you are inside of THIS VERY moment. Love never fails.”
Some Bravery: Glennon (see above) has this idea that life is brutiful, the inextricable qualities of brutal and beautiful. I’m reminded now, more than ever, that they truly cannot be separated, and that one colors the other in a constantly shifting perspective.
Right now? Life is messy and complicated and heartbreaking. Life is beautiful and amazing beyond belief, and I wonder if this part of life is the psychological equivalent to what Phillip Petite felt like while walking between buildings, suspended directly in between beauty and freedom and impending death. I need to tell this story, yet, this is not all my story to tell. But I have learned so much. So much about addiction and love and mistakes; about my own capabilities, and the patience of my friends. I have learned I am learning I will be learning.
I, of course, know that big storms bring big problems, and that people and structures are put in danger because of these storms. I don’t wish that upon anyone.
What I am jealous of is the stop-everything-gather-food-and-family-and-do-not-leave-home imperative.
You see, I am a teacher and mother to one teenager, two rivalrous dogs, and far too many chickens. And even when everyone is at odds, I enjoy the moments when we are all home (when weather removes any chance of escape!) more than any others. Power goes out. Eventually we get bored. The dogs fall asleep, as does my husband. Or he and Colby both finally run out of any other option for entertainment and play board games with me. We sit by the fire, scrounge for food, huddle under blankets. We are present. There is nothing to do next, no place to go.
It is the end of January and we have had 0 of those moments this year. It has been endless and brutal. Lovely at many moments, but utterly exhausting.
Our lives are busy in the best ways: great friends, various interests, hockey and hockey and hockey. But when the busy is paused – man, those are the moments.
Friends, I hope you are all safe and warm.
And also that I will get at least one big snowstorm, preferably BEFORE April, this season. I mean – I don’t live in Maine for the mosquitos.
It’s been a doozy, friends. One for the books. A year to remember. Interminable, exhausting, exhilarating, and joyful. But sweet hallelujah — the school year is OVER.
Have I told you this already? With my endless bitching and moaning and OHMYFREAKINGGODAMIREALLYSICKAGAIN? book slamming? Sorry. Really. No one likes a Crabby Patty, and I ended the year like a napless five-year-old with uncomfortable clothes. In the classroom I was all smiles and “These things happen, guys” when my students were concerned. In the office and at home, well, not so much smiling – a lot more napping and stomping and unremitting diarrhea. But you know what? These things happen.
A student of mine had a similar year; it seemed like they couldn’t catch a break between crisis and injuries and illness. I’d like to write a revisionist history where I handled my setbacks in the same way as my student. However, I didn’t, but I learned a lot.
Some chronic health issues have colored the last few months. While untimely, it has forced me to examine the ways in which I spend my time and energy.
And the dogs. My God The Dogs.
Sam is recovering from surgery to repair her cruciate ligament and meniscus. Everyone is saying “poor Sam” but you know who you should feel bad for? Her poor mom. Literally. Poor. She’s being spoiled and loved and well cared for. Her sister is pissed.
Sam has doggie rehab/physical therapy once a week. Consequently, Bella likes to terrorize her at least once a day. Now Bella looks like this as she goes to doggie daycare:
Then they can snuggle like the best friends (bahaha!) they are.
Oh, and we’re trying to keep the chickens and garden alive. What? Oh yeah. By ‘we’ I mean Matt. Obv.
So between illness and runaway chickens and injured or otherwise assholish dogs, I nonchalantly asked Matt if he would want to go to the beach with us this weekend. July is a hot, uncomfortable mess with Colby going between our house and with his dad. I desperately wanted to do something fun – with all of us. I was so surprised Matt agreed that I kept waiting for him to come up with an excuse not to go. I was okay taking the kids to the beach on my own – I always have been – but I was really hoping for his company.
We made arrangements for a friend to come along (lest Colby be stuck with the old farts all by himself), and I packed the car last night. I took sandwich orders: pb with fluff and nutella (x2), gluten-free pb and nutella (x1 and g.r.o.s.s.), pb with nutella and a banana (x1). I packed drinks and four tubes of sunblock and hats.
I had us in the car by 8 a.m. and we were off.
We drove and listened to the radio and barely heard a peep from the kids. Thank you teenaged sleepiness and Nintendo DS.
As I scrambled up some rocks, it dawned on me that we are still in the sweet spot of parenting. (I’m sure you’ve heard me say this already – and I’m sorry if you’re not there yet. I’m not trying to throw this in your poor, sleep-deprived and over-stimulated face. I’m just letting you know: Trust me. It gets better.) I was ahead of the kids, not directly behind or beside them. I could climb a bit, stand ahead, and know that they were coming along (instead of being convinced of their imminent deaths). Matt and I could carry on a conversation EVEN IF THEY WERE OUT OF EYESIGHT. I knew that they were okay.
I run anxious already, but it’s like I never knew how debilitating it was until the fabric of worry and doom and danger that had covered me all started to unravel. I think I lost a strand in the third grade when Colby could finally tie his shoes. Another when we entered into a new school community. Another with some honest conversation. Another here, another there, until WOMP – here I am.
We got home from super-awesome-beach-day a couple of hours ago. Not long after that, Matt left with the dogs and Colby left with his dad. Even a year ago – the sudden absence of all of my people (yes, dogs included) from my immediate reach would have sent me into a vortex of nothingness: where I couldn’t concentrate on anything less something catastrophic happened and I needed to be ready to run. But – here I am, sitting on my front steps with a glass of Pinot and talking to you!
I don’t know if THIS is the result of Colby’s independence or my, uh, maturity (does that make me sound geriatric?). I guess I hope it’s both.
So I spent the day in thanks. Thankful for the warm air that felt better than my heated blanket EVER will, thankful for the company of my husband who will swim in the cold, cold ocean with me, the soft breeze and the sound of the waves. Most of all, I was thankful for the opportunity to read AN ENTIRE SECTION of the weekend Times, on the beach, knowing that my kid was just a half a beach away, and he was just fine.
Sometimes my work life and my home life do not complement each other.
Work, at 12:30 p.m. Students enter the classroom and simultaneously begin talking to me, all thirteen of them. Despite my best efforts, even after a gentle “heads down, make a pillow with your arms, breathe” time out, this continues. For say, ten minutes or so.
I teach in multiple rooms throughout the day, so as the verbal assault continues, I unpack. Take attendance, pull together late work, give reminders. In an attempt at proximity control, I walk the semi-circled desks and check in with students. Any problems with the homework? Where? All set now? Good.
I go back to my desk. Put lecture notes on the board, and begin. And as I talk THEY ARE ALL STILL TALKING! THEY ALL WANT MY ATTENTION AND TO TELL ME:
I GOT A HAIRCUT LAST NIGHT MY BROTHER’S COMPUTER CRASHED I FINISHED THE FAULT IN OUR STARS I LOVED IT I HATED IT HOW CAN YOU HATE THE FAULT IN OUR STARS YOU’RE A MONSTER! I pop in: No, we don’t call each other monsters. We respect each others opinions. Apologize. WHATEVER. SORRY. STUDENTS ARE ALL STILL TALKING: IS IT OKAY THAT I MIXED UP ACT AND SCENE AND ONLY READ THE FIRST SCENE THIS IS STUPID THIS IS BEAUTIFUL MS WEBB WHERE DO YOU LIVE CAN WE COME VISIT YOU? WHO IS QUEEN MAB? DID I DRAW ENOUGH PICTURES? WHEN IS THE FINAL? WHAT’S ON THE FINAL? WILL YOU HELP US STUDY? IT’S XXXXXX’S BIRTHDAY. YOU SPELLED HIS NAME WRONG! NO YOU SPELLED HIS NAME WRONG! MS. WEBB HOW ARE YOUR CHICKENS? CAN YOU TELL US A DOG STORY? ONE DAY MY DOG (every student tells a dog story then a cat story then whether they had a gerbilferretguineapig or goat, their story) HEY – MY NAKED WEAPON IS OUT? IS HIS PENIS OUT? WHAT FRIGGIN LANGUAGE IS THIS THERE IS NO WAY PEOPLE USED TO TALK LIKE THAT. WHAT’S A ‘MAIDEN HEAD’? OH – OHH! GROSS. DID YOU SEE THE BIRTH MOVIE IN HEALTH CLASS? IS THAT WHAT IT’S REALLY LIKE? HEY THERE’S A BIRD! BASED ON THE PRODUCTIVENESS OF THIS CLASS, CAN I GO GET A MATH BOOK? Me: Oh, no kid. You can start us off. Begin with Mercutio.
This ends with me finally locating the YouTube bypass code and showing multiple Romeo and Juliet episodes of Crash Course literature. So be it.
I love these dear, sweet, children. But when THAT occurs on top of regular life, when I’m trying to find time in my schedule like I try to find money in my bank account, and I have to go home to my own homework, one teenager (with his own homework), one husband with un-medicated ADD, two dogs (one injured), twelve chickens, and multiple gardens? I need a re-boot.
I had more to say, but I forgot. Here’s a picture of my chickens:
Our early parenting years are so eager. The babies roll over, cut their first teeth, they walk and talk. We’re always waiting for that next thing. Walking gives way to rec soccer and first instruments. Losing teeth gives way to shaving. Before we (ahem. me.) know it, the growth chart is gone.Baby book? Out the window. Creative lunches with notes? Uh – we forgot about that years ago.
Yes. My name is Heather and I am a slacker parent.
I actually have no clue how tall Colby is. Ask me and I’ll reach over my head as far as I can, shrug my shoulders, and say “eh, tall?”. I don’t know how to check his online grades, nor do I really care to. When people ask me what his schedule is, I purposely don’t tell them because I am TOO GODDAMN TIRED to remember. I just want to pretend there is no next game, no orchestra rehearsal, no doctor’s appointment.
Over the last two weeks, our already haphazard life fell apart. I couldn’t bear the thought of 1. cleaning my kitchen in order to cook, 2. cooking at all, or 3. Dirtying the kitchen all over again for a meal that would last ten minutes. I drove through Wendy’s on the way home from a basketball game. We ate at the table, yes, but ON THE WRAPPERS THE BURGERS CAME IN. It was both genius and disturbing. That span saw many similar meals, lunches of cheese sticks and crackers, and who the hell knows what anyone ate for breakfast. It seemed like there was a thirty-second transition time between any activity: gym-school-school-practice-game-dinner-orchestra-homework-momwork-bed. Not cool. I knew it could be easier.
Over the long, delicious weekend, I worked up the steam to actually . . . try harder, do better.
Here’s the week:
10 miles (so far)
dinner – actual dinner on plates with utensils
clean underwear ALL AROUND
lunches (Colby approved and assisted – I’m not a freakin’ maid! – packed before bed)
Clean dishes. No fights.
Each day I’ve worked – I’ve finished every task I set out to do. Granted we’ve only had two work days this week, but I’ll take what I can get.
Colby was on his way down after a basketball game last night. He was feverish and … compliant. We have midterms this week, so I knew I could pull off a short day and work from home for the rest of it. I puttered around the house this morning, prepped a roast for pulled pork, loaded the dishwasher. Instead of yelling up through the cast iron grate from the living room into Colby’s room, I walked my lazy self UP the stairs to check on him. Then back down and up to deliver a Gatorade. (Yes, most days it IS that difficult to propel myself forward OR up for that matter).
The day proceeded. More Gatorade, more stairs, more GETTING SHIT DONE.
After dinner, Matt started washing dishes and I joined to dry and put them away. I helped Colby study for his spelling test. I hadn’t helped him study for so long that I felt like a total poser, an alien in mom jeans and stretch marks. I still may not know how tall his is. These days I seem to know less and less – this is what happens when the babies start growing up and away. But today, I know that he likes pulled pork sandwiches and that neither one of us can spell plagiarism without assistance.
Here is a picture, even, to prove that I’m still alive:
I have actually FORGOTTEN how many ice storms we’ve had in the last two weeks. This pic was me, snowshoeing, directly after one of them . . .
The dogs and I are all sunk into the couch in front of the fire. Matt is prepping supper and Colby is upstairs claiming the last of his vacation time.
This is mostly how we’ve been since October. There have been big stories and little stories and mediocre stories that I have so wanted to share, but part of me is keeping these few months close. I wouldn’t have believed you if you told me this would happen, but life has shifted since the wedding. And it’s hard work aligning priorities and personalities and expectations and all that stuff that comes with sharing your very imperfect self with another very imperfect person.
The dogs have new bones and have been remarkably mischief free because they spend all of their time either looking for or gnawing on the bones. I’ve been running and am surprised at both how much I missed it and how easily I was able to come back. I signed up for a 1/2 in hopes of fitting back into my (not skinny, not fat, but AVERAGE) jeans. Matt has been busy fixing our cars and keeping the ice on our roof under control.
In all of this, we are growing and learning and loving. And I’m feeling a little possessive of these experiences. I think what we have going on is some post-wedding nesting. I only remember the word in terms of antepartum mysteria, but the ethos is the same. It is not just a fear of germs or dirt, but a narrowing of focus, a preparation.
There’s this saying, something about teachers being the worst students, and I’m so feelin’ it right now.
For my teacher training over at Om Land Yoga, we spent October focusing on the yogic principle of Ahimsa. Ahimsa translates into “nonviolence”, or as I like to think of it “loving kindness”. It’s what drives many yogis to become vegetarians, but the principle goes beyond that. Above all, it means to NOT do damage to yourself or others – physically or spiritually.
I am a quick learner, and usually do well with short, directive mantras. My favorite is Momastery’s “We can do hard things”. So I tried to keep the principle of ahimsa as simple as that. “Loving kindness”, I’ve thought. “You are a beloved child of God”, I’ve reminded myself, practicing loving kindness even when looking at that weird space where my ass meets my thigh and wondering just how it got SO damn close to the ground. I’ve looked at my child and husband and thought “He is a beloved child of God”. ‘Cause God doesn’t care if his beloved children load the fucking dishwasher, right? I keep trying to hold onto the thought, and it keeps slipping from my brain like that cornstarch goop seeps through a small child’s fingers. It’s there, then it’s not. I cannot find my kindness. Also, I kind of want to throw things.
I read one story about a monk and a snake and a village. The monk tells the snake to be kind and not harm others. The monk goes away, but returns some time later to find the snake all bruised and hungry and just NOT in great shape. He queries the snake, and the snake says that because he was no longer scary, the village children began throwing stones at him. Because of this, the snake no longer dared to leave to hunt. The monk responds, “I did advise you against violence, but I never told you not to hiss”.
My hiss needs work. Shouldn’t the hiss be preventative maintenance? That adult thing that communicates boundaries and expectations?
I’m all bite and no hiss, at home at least. Unless you count my refusal to let C purchase Call of Duty: Ghosts. I’m pretty sure that’s setting up some boundaries.
I manage, like many of us, to use up the best version of myself at work. I smile. I’m patient and diligent and thorough. I remember that my students are other people’s children, and that colors every interaction I have throughout the day. I’m having difficulty drumming up this same patience at home, and these are MY people! I am the absolute worst version of myself here. I throw words like irretrievable darts. I wait for a reaction.
I’m not sure this, my sharp tongue and impatient heart, is the result of my inability to hiss, to set expectations and boundaries, or frustration that the hiss isn’t heard. But it surely is NOT the embodiment of ahimsa.
But we are all works in progress.
And while I tell everyone, always, to be kind – I’m trying to narrow my kindness focus this week.
I looked over during the 8th inning, and found this guy. I don’t know when he fell asleep. One minute he was explaining a play to me, and the next he was silent. How exactly he ended up with his hand in my shoe, I’m not quite sure.
Around here, late October + Red Sox = late nights. I was sick last week and Colby was forced to yell play by play at my while I laid in bed surrounded by dirty tissues.
I loved this. Crackling fire, a good game, and my whole family staying up late together on a school night. Parents of teens and tweens – this struggle to get your kids in the same room as you – isn’t it exhausting? I palpably remember the days where my life was the exact opposite – when it seemed that my body was anything but my own, and I find myself wishing I had remembered just one moment of the overwhelming physicality that parenting young children brings. Just one snuggle.
In other words, I was pretty damn happy last night, hanging out on the couch with my kiddo.
I made it through the entire game, picking off chores during boring (or painful) innings and commercials. I folded laundry, set up my online courses, graded a few sets of assignments. Washed my face, brushed my teeth, packed my bag for the morning. I went to bed late, yes, but with more completed than on any normal evening.
A few other things caught my attention while I bumbled about my day:
Listen to this podcast – In #67, Back to the Start of Women’s Running, Another Mother Runner hosts Dimity and Sarah talk with and about some of the women responsible for OUR right to run. It’s crazy good, and will make you crazy thankful. Even if you’re not a runner, or a woman, you’ll appreciate just how much can be accomplished in such a relatively short period of time.
Also, read this opinion piece about the worth of writing and speaking.I found this excerpt particularly apt:
This is partly a side effect of our information economy, in which “paying for things” is a quaint, discredited old 20th-century custom, like calling people after having sex with them. The first time I ever heard the word “content” used in its current context, I understood that all my artist friends and I — henceforth, “content providers” — were essentially extinct. This contemptuous coinage is predicated on the assumption that it’s the delivery system that matters, relegating what used to be called “art” — writing, music, film, photography, illustration — to the status of filler, stuff to stick between banner ads.
Also, Jennifer Finney Boylan’s observations on costumes this Halloween season here.
I’m circling the proverbial drain here. It’s October and I’m a teacher. I just fed my family a perfectly reasonable meal and THEN I ATE GOLDEN GRAHAMS FOR SUPPER. We’ve been talking about symbolism this week, and I thought if my students could see that bowl of sugar cereal on my counter, well they would recognize it as a SYMBOL of a GIANT MIDDLE FINGER.
This week I actually had to remind myself that it is OCTOBER. And in October, we only aim to survive. The bright side here? I actually have been so in love this new bunch of students that I forgot to begin dreading October in the beginning of the month. And looky here – we’re almost to the end.
But here I am, at my kitchen table (which is actually not in my kitchen because it doesn’t FIT in my kitchen, but that’s a story for another day). Husband and kid are on the couch. Watching some godforsaken Halo move. CIRCLING THE DRAIN, PEOPLE.
*Side Note: If my child, who has participated in society just fine until now, becomes one of those people who talks only about Halo, watches only Halo movies and reads Halo books – I’m moving the damn kid to Alaska. I’ll go too. I don’t fucking care. I’m JUST NOT HAVING IT. I said ‘no’ to a book request for the first time in his WHOLE LIFE last week. Halo.
And yesterday. Sweet Jesus yesterday. Here’s the setup: I’m sick. I returned from my after lunch walk, grabbed my stuff for class and was cut off by administration with a student question to handle. DURING the conversation, there was an audible pop, and consequent crumpling of my shelf tank INTO my tee shirt. Conversation continued. I rushed to my class to find them all a’ frickin’ twitter. My carefully planned day was sitting exactly where half of my tank top was – halfway down my torso. Teaching that class was like trying to pick Skittles off an escalator. Dangerous, colorful, and oddly entertaining. As soon as the bell rang I ducked into the restroom, tied the strap of my broken tank top to my bra to cover my underdeveloped boobs and made it back with time to settle before the end of the day. Not a disaster, but not an ‘A’ day, friends.
I’m going to keep reminding myself that it’s October, and of my favorite Momastery mantra: We can do hard things. Hard things include: laundry, using a tissue instead of just sneezing into your t-shirt, and navigating difficult work situations. For now, though, I’m going to eat apple crisp, watch one inning of this ball game, and go to bed.