Thursday, November 19, 2009

Caught Up

Blank screen.

I have no idea what to write. Not a single clue.

Yet, my mind is filled with rambling thoughts, words willing themselves from keyboard strokes to the virtual page.

I hate when that happens.

I had a goal. I wanted to write a little every day. I thought my blog would hold me accountable to that promise.

It didn't. I got caught up.

Baby A is growing so fast. She used to fit between hip and knee, propped up with her head tilted as if listening to secrets instead of my sing song whispers in her ear.

JR is speaking to me. He was silent for so long and now he is all, "Mama, mama, mama." I cover myself with the warm cloak of motherhood with each mumbled syllable.

I find myself feeling heavy with frustration. I want so desperately to soak in my baby girl, to observe each twitch of bowed lips and shift of her slate blue eyes. I want to translate her melodic coos and chirps. Sometimes, I just want to hold her, to feel her heft against my chest or her soft frame curled within mine.

But he calls me. He needs me. I want to sit with him, watch him trace his fingers over the page, willing the words to come and bring the story to life. I want to guide him as he creates masterpieces of crayon, chalk and paint. I want to take his hands in mine and twirl him until we fall into a dizzy pile, legs entwined, locked in a loose embrace.

And then there is me. Mama.

Laura.

I used to know exactly who I was, what I wanted. I was passionate about so many things. I was fueled by an internal drive to succeed--to do something big, to be someone important.

I feel myself fading into motherhood and it is right where I want to be. I am big to them, I am important to them. I am enough as I am. There are things I want, but for now they can wait.

But so much will not.

She will grow out of the gentle curve of my body and leap out of my arms, never to return again.

When will the last day be? When will I last feel your squishy little body resting in my arms? I know there will be a last day . . .

I know his calls will one day be for someone else. The woman he needs will no longer be me. I get it. I do . . .

Do you need me? If you do, I'm here.

No, mama. I'm can do it.

That day will come.

It's OK. I want those days to come, to see my babies grow. To see them become independent, strong people of purpose.

But for now, I just want to hold them in my arms, feel their sweet breaths against my ear as we talk about how I love them "through and through." I want to stay caught up for as long as I possibly can . . . for as long as they'll let me.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Reason #354 on why Facebook Sucks

Click. Scroll. Click.

Nice. Swell. Awesome.

Today I have even more proof as to why I am the world's worst mother.

Flippin' Facebook. Oh, how I hate thee.

"Just took the kids to the apple orchard! The kids absolutely loved it! We're making homemade applesauce this afternoon and then we'll bundle up on the couch and tell stories about how much we love apples! What a glorious day!"

"Tanner's teacher told me how special Tanner is and that he incredibly advanced for his age. We are looking to have him tested for MENSA membership. We just adore our little one-year old. Wish us luck!"


"Just got back from a Safari in Africa. The children were ecstatic. We have some amazing photographs that were taken by a National Geographic photo journalist. He's thinking that our family would make a wonderful cover! Can you imagine? We just wanted to give the children the opportunity to actually SEE African animals and now we are going to be on the cover of a magazine! I'll let you know when so you can all pick up a copy.Maybe the children and I will fashion homemade frames out of bamboo for you to put the picture in. Wow, I am so full of ideas!"


"I just finished making 12 costumes for Ashley's dance troupe! I even weaved the cotton with my loom. It's so lovely. Later I'll be making a hearty vegetable soup (from veggies picked from our cooperative) that we'll deliver to our local soup shelter later this afternoon. All this and it is barely noon! I'm not even tired yet. Bring on the day!"
*

Really?

Seriously?

I get it. You're perfect. You have an awesome life. You have a busy life (really? 'cause I totally think some of you are lying or at the very least, exaggerating. If not, then you are bragging and that just sucks). But, do you really need to tell all 6,543 of your friends?

It has gotten so mind-numbingly bad that I'm back to wishing for more posts like this:

"Just picked a splinter out of my big toe. It was big. Ouch."

"Ate Wheaties for breakfast. Going to shower now."

"Anyone know any home remedies for hemorrhoids?"

I'm not perfect. I'm nowhere near a supermom. I wouldn't know the first thing about African Safaris -- but WE do look at animals in books. Occasionally, I'll follow JR around and growl. That's as safari as we get in these parts. JR is nowhere near being MENSA material. He bangs his head against the wall for fun and his best friend is a tiny toy car named Lightening McQueen.

Once, a long, long time ago, I lived in a bubble. It was a glorious bubble free from Facebook and mom's groups. It was a bubble that had me believing that I was OK. I was actually pretty darned great. JR and I colored, played with Playdoh, I chased him and tickled him silly, we watched Sesame Street together (I am an expert at imitating Cookie Monster--and eating like him, too), I read to him, and we'd dance and spin in the living room until we were dizzy. Sometimes we did absolutely nothing but sit on the couch where I would hoist him up on my knees and make up songs.

Damn, I was good.

I don't doubt that I'm a good mom now. Trust me, this isn't a whiny post where I am desperately searching for words of support and encouragement.

BUT, I can't like, Facebook can make it tough (so can blogs and Twitter if we really want to get down to it). There are super amazing freakishly perfect people out there . . . let me tell ya.

As for the rest of us, we're just . . . we're just, here. Trying our best. Day after day.
"I just brushed my teeth (it's noon). I'm hoping I'll be able to take a shower sometime today--or at least before my PJs start walking on their own. JR just smeared finger paints . . . oh, no, that would be a Sharpie, on the walls. Baby A is grunting something extraordinary in her diaper. And, I'm pretty sure my washer is dead. Yay me."

That's more like it . . . yup. Sure is.

*So, none of the above post were actually on Facebook, but you get the point. And quite frankly, some of the posts are even worse.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Survival Mode: Act III

I grab fistfuls of damp grass, mud crusts underneath my fingernails.

Not wanted. Discarded. Dead.

I want to scream, to sob, but I'm suffocating. I stand among the ancient headstones trying to figure out how to breathe.

***
"I just think we need to take a break." He disentangles his fingers from mine, my hands drop to my sides. Defeated.

"Why?" My voice shakes. His answer won't make a difference.

I stare at my feet. They don't move. I don't breathe.

"You know I love you, right?" His eyes search mine. His finger lifts my chin so that my eyes meet his, but I squeeze them shut. I can't look at him. I'm humiliated. Embarrassed. Lost.

"God. You are beautiful." I'm giddy. "Every time we go through a yellow light, I get to kiss you." I turn to look at him, at this boy who makes me burn with longing. So this is what it feels like? This is love? Lust? Whatever. He wants me. I search for a green light and lift my foot off the accelerator.

I finally inhale. I'm only eighteen. The lanky boy with the sand colored hair is my first boyfriend. I have no clue what I'm doing. How do you act when someone tells you they don't want you anymore? There are no instruction manuals on how to survive this.

"I'll call you later," he says. He heads for the door, leaving me on my bed, my chin resting on my knees. No words. No manual. Am I supposed to cry? Would that be better than dying?

Frantic thoughts course through me, pushing out logic, flirting with insanity . . . i love you so much. please don't leave me. you are the only one i'll ever love. why don't you want me anymore? didn't I do enough to make you happy? what is wrong with me? am I ugly? stupid? your mom loves me. i braided your sister's hair and went to your brother's wedding. what about this ring? i don't know what to do? please . . .

"If he truly loves you, he'll come back." They sit in circles offering up words meant to shake the sadness from my bones. But the hurt runs through the marrow, clinging stubbornly to my insides.

"I'm just not ready. Can we wait a little longer?" Although uncertain, my words fall like bricks. He leans back into his chair, defeated. His smile fades as he turns his attention from me to nothing. I wonder if he still thinks I'm pretty.

I'm desperate to purge. I cut up his picture. I burn the program from Otello, the Othello opera he took me too only months before. We had front row seats. I pledged my love to Shakespeare. Later that night, I pledged my love to him. I smell him. I taste him. I see him every time I close my eyes. I dare not dream. I can't breathe when I dream.

"One day I'm going to marry you." He slips the band on my finger. The tiny stone still manages to catch the light. My thoughts drown out the lectures of the day. I'm too busy scrawling my name with his in my notebook.

I call his phone. I hang up before he answers. I listen to his voice mail messages. Replay. "I love you. See you at lunch." Replay. "I love you. See you at lunch." Replay. I wonder where he is now that he isn't with me.

My middle parts turn soft. My pain feeds on food and rarely surrenders to sleep. I sit on my bed in three-day old t-shirt and shorts eating soup noodles, granola bars, and Tootsie Rolls I stole from my roommate's secret stash. A rule-follower to a fault, I chug a beer when I couldn't sleep. The next night, I chug another. My roommate finally thinks I'm cool.

"Tell me your dreams." No one has ever asked me that before. Our feet tangle in the cool of the grass. His fingers pluck at the strings of his guitar as he puts my dreams to music. An empty clearing in an old cemetery becomes our Eden. I stare at him and swear that I see everything.

"She's not even pretty," says my friend. She tries to distract me to no avail. I watch him take the girl's hand in his while they walk across the courtyard, his guitar slung over his shoulder. I try desperately to catch his eye. I need him to see me, to tell me that she doesn't mean anything, to tell me that her dreams don't make music. He never looks my way. I can't breathe.

My hand moves over the passenger seat in my car. I remember him there. I hear him profess his love. I see the ring. I see a yellow light. He loved me once. But no more. I can't see past the ache. The loss etches its reminders in my flesh, wrapping me in a foreign desperation.

I drive. My foot pushes on the accelerator. I see flashes of him in my mind--his face, the cemetery, his guitar, yellow lights, my hand in his. They are cold reminders of what I no longer have. I try to piece together what I did. What I didn't do. I can't make sense of it. How does someone just stop loving you?

I drift left of center.

* * *

"I need to see you." His voice is familiar, the desperation is not. It's been three years since I last saw him. After letting me go and pulling me back in, one cool summer evening I finally said goodbye. Suddenly, my goodbye seems transparent and weak.

I agree to talk. We meet for dinner which turns out to be a setting for two at his apartment. Nervous, empty conversation over spoonfuls of spaghetti. This is what we've become.

And I feel nothing. No hurt. No pain. Nothing.

He tells me about his job, school, his goals. I nod. I'm impressed and proud. Nothing else lingers. I don't want to be with him. I watch his lips move, but I can't listen. I'm preoccupied with trying to understand why I ever thought the loss of him meant the loss of me.

I have no answer.

"I want you back." Wow. The four words every dumped girl dreams of hearing. He holds my hand, rubbing the soft square of my palm. "I need you." His hand reaches to my face, tracing the outline of my lips and bravely descending down my neck. This is all so familiar. Too familiar.

I sit forward in my seat and gently take his hands in mine.

"But I don't want you. I don't need you. Not anymore."

And suddenly, just like that, I can breathe.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Why not?

I'm going for it. I'm going to attempt to write a blog post every single day in the month of November.

You know, I had a brilliant blog post written.

Then I realized it was nearly 3 AM (I started it before midnight, swear) and it just wasn't so brilliant anymore.

More like the opposite.

See you tomorrow.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Vanilla

Narcissist. How dare you think of yourself so much. Stop reflecting. These thoughts, they are cumbersome.

I've always thought of myself as vanilla bean (all natural, of course) with caramel swirl and chunks of oddly shaped fudge. Some days I would even top myself with tiny pastel colored marshmallows. I didn't think I was just vanilla. But, just vanilla I may very well be.

Cruising the Internets, I try on posts for size. I shake them out and dig between their lines. Wondering. Do I fit? Does it fit? I read posts on disorders, loss, heartache, revelation, anger, and how to get the poo in the potty. I read about days too long and lives too short. I read about blossoming affairs, too much booze, sexless marriages, and hurdling victimization. I read abstract poetry that bleeds and pleads on the page. I read words that creep up the bony edges of your spine and whisper tauntingly in your ear, "You are not enough."

I cringe at the thought. I bend under the weight of my insecurities.

I remember my first year teaching high school. Roomless, I pushed around a cart, peering over the tower of files while navigating the perilous halls of the ancient school where dirt covered windows cast long shadows and perilous doubts. I even had a horn on my cart. The students ate me alive; they greedily gnawed on my fear and devoured my pride. Knowing there was very little to eat, I let them.

"Fake it until you make it," I told myself. You are only at year one. What shit-laced advice to give oneself. I didn't want to fake it, but I desperately needed to make it, bills to pay and all. I smiled with full teeth. I laughed with my whole aching body. I showed not one ounce of weakness and sucked back frustrated tears. They only saw what I showed them--my flesh stayed hidden, my bones buried. The smile was a simple yet perfect act of defiance.

I push through this blog, these posts. Am I writing down the bones of my history? Am I reflecting on my fragile present and the lives I have birthed ? Am I picking at half-healed scabs, hoping the salve of written words will heal? If so, like the clinician evaluating his patient, you should all be taking notes. Copious notes. On imaginary paper.

The truth. I can't fake it. I can't exist in spaces that aren't mine, even while I long for comfort in the soft folds of experience. My own story only occupies the periphery of where I am. I peck at it with my words, I pull at it with phrases drenched in longing. Longing to be more than the sum of another's history. My history was never about me. I was merely the observer in waiting.

But the words, won't they shape the stories, the fictions and truths you ache to tell? Will they? Or, will they fall flat and tumble across the page, exposed and empty? Gentle words, how can I place such a burden on you to provide shape to my existence?

I tell my stories against the grain of other people's histories. I tremble with the realization that maybe I have not lived. Maybe I have buried my truths for fear that they will break, will bleed, or even worse, fade against the backdrop of stories too vanilla to tell.

You cannot be what you are not. You cannot write what you do not know.

Yet this is it, this is what I have. I cling to it, the writing. It is my oxygen and I have been breathless far too long.

I don't know yet what I am. I don't know yet what I know. But, I know those words, no matter how clumsy and forced they may be at times. I know they are me. Vanilla? Maybe.

For now.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Survival Mode: Act II

I dip my head in just enough--a modern Ophelia with no agenda. The world around me turns into echoes of twisted apologies. I close my eyes and focus on the stillness, the quiet that wraps around my body. The weight of the water provides asylum from all I don't want to know, from all I long to forget.

* * *

"Shhhh . . . " I found my voice pleading with the three faces before me. They angled their small bodies behind mine as I reached for the door knob, cold and hard in my hand.

Movement in the back room. I am not distracted. It is their fear that calms me.

"Hi!" I greet the man at the front door. My cheery disposition betrays the calm rage working its way up my spine, twining around my shoulders.

My eyes meet his. He looks down at his worn shoes, smoothing his gray pants as he hands me a small slip of paper. A folded reminder that we have no money. Now, no water.

"So, you're turning off our water? Right now?" I ask him. My baby sister works her way in front of me, curiosity beckons her. He looks down at the small girl, barely a child, much more a baby, and nods.

"Can you give me five minutes?" I plead with him in a low voice, masking my words from the ears below. They need baths. We need water. To cook.

"I'll give you 20. I have a few other houses to visit. I'll shut yours off last." He bites his lip, his head shakes with knowing. I suck in my breath. He has no idea what he's given me. Twenty minutes might as well be hours, days. Halfway down the walk, he turns his head to face the tiny faces that follow him. I turn away, refusing all offers of pity.

"Is he gone?" my mother asks, emerging from her hiding place in the back room.

I nod. I am 15 years old.

"We're going to take a bath." I guide them down the hall.

I let the water fall over their tiny frames as I work a soapy rag over their bodies. We stand in a stream of water, washing off the remains of the day. I know there is no water left for me.

There is no quiet, no stillness.

The bodies bounce excitedly past me, dragging their damp towels behind.

This is my asylum.

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