Posted on 8 April 2013 | No responses
I have taken a job. Not a normal job, mind you, but possibly the worst job I could imagine having.
The reasons for this are twofold: 1. I need income. 2. I need stories.
Having decided that the reason I can’t seem to write is that my life is limited in scope, as it were, to raising homicidal children and attending college classes with people who pronounce colonel just like it’s spelled, I made the move to apply to a certain well-known dining establishment, open 24 hours, seven days a week.
Today was the day to fill out paperwork and go over their policies, etc., and I was heartened to learn several things, which I’ve compiled in a list form to make it easier to process.
1. There will be armed security on site during my Friday and Saturday night third shift working experience.
2. The instructions for cleaning up feces and vomit are explicit and detailed, providing ample verbal imagery to fuel my nightmares.
3. I have to learn a whole new language, which, in order to preserve the company’s image (and honor the arbitration clause I signed today), I will then have to translate into a whole new new language for you, my lovely readers. This will be fun with a capital F! As well as the subtraction of the N and the addition of a couple of new letters.
4. I can wear a tie! Currently taking suggestions as to the most inappropriate neckwear one might be able to buy on Amazon.
5. Doc Martens are de rigueur, according to me. Nonslip soles FTW!
6. I cannot carry a concealed weapon. Killjoys.
7. Drunks are welcome in my place of business, and happily accept the invitation, particularly during the hours which I will be working. I look forward to practicing my twelve Al-anon steps twice a week, as I hope it will help me deal with both my childhood, and my current self-medication regimen.
Welcome, and be sure to tip your server.
Posted on 14 March 2013 | 1 response
“I was endowed with too many minor qualities, but with neither the will or the huge intelligence to bring them a life of their own.” -Assia Wevill, lover of Ted Hughes
I start with seeds. My heart flutters in my chest, like a bird, trapped, and I pace around the house, around my life uncertain and frightened with nowhere to put the nervous energy. I spot them in the padded yellow mailer they arrived in two months ago, when it was time to start planting them indoors, and now I’ve waited almost too long.
The spread of little cups is ready with its seed starting mix, already damp and smelling of earth, just waiting for me, for my actions. I make tiny labels, stick them to brightly colored toothpicks, “Amana Orange Tomatoes,” “Black Krim Tomatoes,” “Early Purple Broccoli.”
It’s an exercise in hope, but I don’t feel hopeful. I feel certain they will die, much as I am dying. But somewhere in between poking holes in the tiny plots of earth and explaining each seed to my son, I forget the punishment I was seeking for myself. I forget that I need relief, and relief is suddenly found.
One step away from future scars can sometimes be distance enough.
Posted on 22 February 2013 | 2 responses
A couple of years ago, I tried an experiment. I thought of it as “speaking gently,” as that seemed a skill sorely lacking in my home. I thought, maybe if I temper the anger I feel, maybe if I make my voice a little sweeter, some of the stress behind it would dissipate, rather than wear new grooves of hurt in this old brain.
It worked. My children seemed calmer, kinder. Their father was a little less rude. Whether it had just been me all along fueling this subtly terse life all along, or if my new, softer voice was creating a little haven of peaceful response, I will never know, but the results were wonderful.
Unfortunately, I got tired of always being the one who had to set aside the anger and frustration and be peaceful, plus my psychiatrist did some of his magical mystery medication tour switch up work, and before I knew it, I had stopped.
Wrapped up in this idea of speaking gently is the way that I speak to myself. Lately, it seems I catch myself like a girl in a badly written novel, eyeing my features in the mirror. Only instead of confidently assessing my gifts, my brain-voice mutters things like disgusting, ugly, repulsive. I say them out loud sometimes, when I talk to myself. I talk about my efforts in all things like this: FAILURE. WEAK. WORTHLESS.
I spoke to someone recently about my children, about how, on top of the autism that makes the middle child emotionally disengaged, I’m dealing with a little guy who rarely says, “I love you.” Who, upon becoming angry at me, says things like, “I hate you. You’re the worst mother in the world.” This happens several times a week.
This someone suggested that it was a little strange for young kids to be talking like this, that they must be hearing these things somewhere, from someone. At first I balked – no one would be talking about me so badly to my children, no matter how angry at me they may be. No one.
Except me. I do it all the time.
“I’m a terrible mother.” “I am the worst housekeeper of all time.” “I can’t do anything right.”
So this, finally, is what has moved me out of the awful things I say, to an awareness that I’m not the only one listening. I want my children to love me. Is it as simple and difficult as loving myself? As complicated and messy and sofuckinghard as talking to myself the way I want others to? Because, despite the fact that I believe my own words, I do want to be loved. I want to be admired, respected.
Today, I’m starting a journey. I feel goofy, silly, dorky. I look in the mirror and tell that internal voice to shut up, already. I’ve had enough. And I say, out loud, “You are competent.”
It’s a small thing, but my chest clenches, my lungs feel stepped on, my eyes water. Inside is a screaming voice saying “You don’t mean it. You’re lying and you know it!”
I ignore her, for now. She’ll always be there if I need to go back, but I have a feeling that quieting her will be the best thing I’ve ever done for my children, and for myself.
Posted on 16 January 2013 | No responses
Eight years ago, I was preparing to leave the job I’d worked so hard to get, the career I’d fought for with long days at school and long nights waiting tables, all while raising a daughter. I was leaving because it was my choice: being there with the baby I was about to give birth to was the most important thing for me, since I’d missed so much with my little girl.
Before I left, one of the secretaries gave me these two little leaves, split off from her own beautiful desk plant. Some kind of tropical thing, I supposed, and I hadn’t the heart to tell her I could barely keep myself alive, let alone a houseplant. She anchored them with a paper clip in a styrofoam cup full of soil. I didn’t even make it through the rest of the day before the paper clip had punctured a hole in the side. I nestled the whole mess into another cup and hoped for the best.
For whatever reason, the leaves grew. They sprouted roots and sent little shoots into the air, fragile leaves that somehow stayed green and, here’s the kicker, alive. I didn’t transplant it; I held a fear in the back of my mind that anything I did could only be bad. The thing was surviving, after all, so why mess with it? I watered it occasionally. And by occasionally, I mean randomly every three or four weeks or months, I can’t remember now it’s been so long. Am I exaggerating? I am not. Beyond all expectations, this thing has survived a move, months of drought, a house that is by turns ridiculously cold and then sweltering, and my complete and utter neglect.
It sits where it has been now for about six and a half years, above the kitchen sink where I wash dishes, where I look at the sky, where I wonder how many more days I can make it before I start wishing again to never wake up.
I’ve decided that some things are worth risking. I have this plant I’ve treated so badly, neglecting it at best, allowing it to starve and nearly die time and again before bringing it back from the brink. I’m buying a new pot for it. Nothing fancy, but maybe something pretty. Special. Pleasing to look at, with room to grow.
This plant deserves a chance. Sometimes the constraints we are in aren’t so bad that we can’t survive them, but they also don’t allow growth. They don’t allow us to blossom into our full selves, our spectacular, beautiful wholes. The right environment, the right care, can nurture a struggling being into something better, something worth being alive to fully experience.
Posted on 5 December 2012 | 2 responses
So even with all that she knows about me, the family skeletons, the personal demons, the stories about a violent home and an interrupted childhood, the thing that keeps me going back to her is Roger.
Roger lived in my town because his dad was a gone-drunk bastard and his mom couldn’t cope with him. He stayed with a doctor and his family, who never understood him and wore the right/wrong clothes and belonged to the club and drove fancy cars. When we met, we were 16. It doesn’t seem all that long ago, but it is. It’s lifetimes ago. And I was too stupid, too busy chasing my crazy skinhead boyfriend, or pining away for him when he kept leaving, to see who Roger really was.
He was my best friend. He lived in the Alateen sponsor’s dad’s house while they were out of the country, and we skipped school and went creek walking and drove his little Ford Ranger through the woods, into the mountains. I have a scar on my shin from that truck, when we stopped at the Fort Hill Shopping Center to check out a sign that seemed to indicate Christmas Trees: $1000. The lot was icy, and I fell before he could catch me, before anyone could have caught me, really, but not for lack of trying.
Roger loved me. I don’t know many teenagers who could keep that kind of thing to themselves very well, but maybe a lifetime of not rocking the drunk boat teaches us some good self-preservation skills. Me? It just made me mouthy.
It hung in the air between us, even with Fleming (the sponsor), gently nudging me in his direction. She knew us better that we could, in her spacey spiritual way. She thought we had unfinished business from another life and that we were meant to be together. I had other ideas, one of whom was named Jonathan.
But Roger stuck it out. He invited us to live below him in the house he rented the top of, and we did. We borrowed cups of sugar, yelled to each other from the foyer, I sang Tangerine while he played.
But then I grew restless. Jonathan and I moved out, slowly breaking apart ourselves, and I got wrapped up in my own life and Roger was wrestling with his own heartbreak over a girl who we all knew was mistreating him, and why couldn’t I just see past my own fucked upness and love him?
Then weeks went past, I had my own place, and when Jonathan left me a note telling me to call him immediately, I knew why. I knew the pain Roger felt that looked just like mine was too much, but how dare he hang himself there in our house, where we lived and cooked and played music and struggled to be grownups?
And all of this is so long past, one would think it wouldn’t matter so much, but the truth is, I still miss my friend every time I think of him. I would like to know how he would have turned out, because he was a fine young man. The very best kind of soul, if I believed in such things, which is the whole thing here, because goddammit if Fleming doesn’t think she talks to him. She thinks dreams have meanings and we can talk to our dead, and there was a time I bought into all that but I can’t do it anymore, and I would give anything – ANYTHING, to believe that there is meaning in all of this and reasons for who we are and who we come across beyond the drives of biology and human nature.
It’s dirt we were, and dirt we’ll be, but science, for all its limits on magic, also tells me about time. And right now, as I sit here typing this thing on something that didn’t even exist in Roger’s life, Roger and I are in our backyard in a torrential downpour in the hottest summer heat, drenched, dancing, laughing, holding hands, forever nineteen, forever friends, forever barefoot, happy, rocked by thunder and history and who needs more than that?
Posted on 30 October 2012 | 1 response
I don’t know why one has to choose between things.
Lying and standing, for instance, when truth will stretch out
just like anything on a bed,
in a hovel
In the dark of a room one shouldn’t be in.
These things swirl and twist inside like madness
or joy, but distinguished in no way.
Distinct in no way. One is as good
and if I could choose, I’d say
Posted on 29 September 2012 | 1 response
I am not supposed to be awake, writing at this late hour, losing my mind in that way I have that I know is creeping back up on me.
It makes me loud and outrageous, but only on the inside, I hope. On the outside, I try too hard, I act in public the way I think might be charming, or cute, or smart, only to arrive home later berating myself for being so fucking strange.
What kind of girl are you? I ask myself this. The answers vary from “regular weird” to “what the fuck is going on in your head?” It’s not enough to eat mangos with a pocket knife after all night jazz, it’s not enough to make love on the rooftops of broken-into buildings, it’s not enough to pretend to be a normal mother and wife. You can’t bury that shit deep enough.
So at night, when you’re supposed to be sleeping so you can get up and make pancakes like a regular person might do, you are up, dreaming, writing, making a spectacle of yourself even from the quiet dark of a lost bedroom in a hundred year old house, where wee ones sleep and ghosts dance, no matter how hard you will them away.
Posted on 8 April 2012 | No responses
Long drive ahead. It is noble to visit one’s mother for Easter. Visions of eggs, eggs on the side of the road, eggs strewn in violence across highways. Eggs blind the noble force that once was our destiny. Our destiny is eggs. Eggs filled with candy, and Jesus, and the dreams of men.
The children of our fathers eat sugar. They eat sugared treats and go to fight their courageous, child battles. In our homes, they fight. They throw the LEGOs, the yo-yos, the flying discs. The flying discs which are yet to be invented and called Frisbees®. The children break glasses. Glasses of whiskey spill, pouring out our lifeblood, leaving us weeping for unbroken glasses of whiskey.
The whiskey never comes. Only eggs. Eggs, and more cracking children. There is a long drive ahead. We leave with the dusk.
Posted on 29 January 2012 | 5 responses
What you think it will look like:
“Oh! Your son is amazing. We all just love him, and he is clearly brilliant. He has picked up reading in just the week he’s been here; we figured out exactly what the problem was and now it’s solved. And you were absolutely right – his math skills are much higher than first grade, so we are giving him a special curriculum to work on while the other kids do their math class. He should have no trouble settling right in here at school. It’s clear that you’ve done an exceptional job of teaching him at home. These issues of his are nothing you could have helped.”
What it actually looks like:
“Welcome to your child’s IEP meeting. Here is a list of goals for the coming year, which include writing his first and last name from memory 75% of the time, and writing lowercase letters with 75% accuracy. We have made accommodations for homework, which means he can dictate his answers to you and you can write them. He will have a picture schedule to help him know what is going to happen. He is allowed breaks when he gets overwhelmed, which is often.
“What’s that you ask? Yes, it’s possible that he will one day not need an IEP, but it is a good idea to always have one anyway, because even after high school he may need continued services.”
I turned my eldest son over to the public school system. There are some things I just can’t do by myself, I guess. The relief I feel is palpable, but so is the sadness of the boy who comes home after such a long day, so tired. So drained.
And I am sad, too. Sad that the plans I had, the amazing things we would do together, now have to be set aside, and sometimes understanding that you are doing the best thing is not consolation for the pain of failure.
Posted on 26 January 2012 | No responses
Weight loss/home organization plans:
1. Permission to read the internets is only granted while standing up.
2. Netflix can only be streamed while washing dishes.
3. No one buy a new laptop charger for me for my birthday so I have to continue to walk up and down the stairs to retrieve mine, which is never on the same floor (defying laws of probability).
4. Lock keys in vehicle when within two miles of home, forcing me to walk to avoid confessing that I did that. Again.
5. Drink too much, forcing me to walk to avoid…(see above).
6. Throw up the following day. This makes up for excess drinking calories, and forces me to clean the toilet and take a shower. Winning!
7. Run over a gypsy with his grandfather in sight so I get cursed to be thinner.
8. Ask Stephen King to write a story about hitting a gypsy and getting cursed with the cleaning type of OCD. Run over gypsy, etc.
9. Write more words. Their weight is killing me.