pandemic reflections

Day who-knows-what of quarantine and I am finally starting to love and semi-understand the me I have struggled to embrace throughout this pandemic. I spent the first fifty-or-so days feeling completely lost. Immobilized. I couldn’t do anything except sit and shame myself for doing nothing. And then I felt like shit about that. And then I did more of nothing while contemplating the same feelings of shame over and over again. For a long while there, it felt like the cycle of madness and sadness and inertia would never end. And then I got depressed about those feelings and thoughts.

I was neither patient nor kind with myself as I struggled and fell and scraped my knees and failed, failed, failed to be my best self. Or even a mildly recognizable version of myself. I judged and berated and hated and threw up on myself for every negative thought, emotion, and reaction that came through me. And you know what that bred? More of the same gross feelings about myself. That damn cycle of doom and gloom just kept perpetuating itself; shoulders heavier, moods darker, outbursts over more of nothing in the big picture of life. I felt lost in an infinity pool of hopelessness. I judged myself against every achiever who seemed to be excelling while I continued to derail. Every post I saw of someone mastering a new skill in one way or another just made me feel more inept. You bake bread, I clip a hangnail. You remodel your bathroom, I pluck a whisker. You feed the homeless, I finally cook a meal for my family. My successes had pretty much boiled down to showering more than once a week, remembering to wash my face in the morning, and not shitting the bed.

A writer struggling to write. An artist struggling to create. A lover struggling to love. An optimist hidden beneath a shroud of negativity. I honestly could not find an ounce of comfort within my own skin, soul, body, mind, or home. The house too full for my quiet mind to find solace in itself; the fridge too close to turn away food that I numbingly shoved in my mouth; the day-drinking hour steadily encroaching upon hours that some may perceive more as morning than afternoon.

The feeling of immobilization has been the weirdest thing for me. I have never in my life spent so much time sitting on my couch wondering what to do next. And then wondering why I am wondering about it instead of just figuring out what to do with all the time in the world available to me. And then doing a bit more of nothing while thinking about the fact that there is so much I could do. And, alas, still sitting on my fat ass doing nothing and being pissed off about it. Does that not fall within the definition of insanity?

At the point I was really starting to wonder whether this cauldron of self-worthlessness was my new normal (a week or so ago, give or take), something started to change in my mindset. I’m not talking big changes here – I am talking the simplest act of being able to smile a genuine smile at life rather than wanting to flip it off. I started to see little glimmers of hope here and there in my crowded, cluttered, messy life. Baby steps leading the way to acceptance of this new and strange reality; baby steps guiding me to compassion for all that is; a somewhat recognizable path back to myself. I think, maybe, the change came about because I decided to get curious about my feelings and question why I was allowing myself to have them if they did not serve me or my family well. I had somehow allowed myself to get so caught up in what wasn’t that I couldn’t see what was, and my gains during this time of shelter-in-place have been and are exponentially larger than my perceived losses. For someone who thinks she generally adapts to change well, this experience of absolutely everything about your life changing at once has humbled me into taking a closer look at myself and examining the true pillars upon which I stand. With the disintegration of everything that once was I could not find my center. Once again, I have been offered the opportunity to test the core of who I believe myself to be and re-erect myself into warrior mode.

Truth is, the stillness bestowed upon us by this pandemic has allowed me more conversation and closeness with my teenage kids in the past sixty days than time and schedules (and likely their desire) have afforded us for years. Truth is, the crashing economy stymied my normally traveling husband to a new job with a home base and for the first time in eight years we get to share space together every day rather than only on weekends. Truth is, phone calls I never used to answer because I “didn’t have time” are now the phone calls that I initiate. And I can finally see all of these things for the beauty they are even though the world we now live in still feels foreign. And I am grateful.

I finally managed to plant a little garden of beauty with my own two hands, metaphorically and in reality. Both bring me joy. And both calm my soul.

But I might die if I have to unload the dishwasher one more time.

checkmate

Pain and stoicism; loneliness and longing. This is how I describe you. Within these walls of “comfort” you built was ever there an eye to see and know you, a heart to understand all you felt and feared? The deepest parts of you threaten to burrow into the healed crevices of me and I ache for your emptiness.

Wrapping into self so tightly is a false cocoon of safety. The walls you mathematically built around your fears don’t protect what you think they do. I know; I lived in your space once and thought I was safe inside my concrete fortress, but it was a shell of an existence.

What happened, so long ago, that was fierce enough to shut out your light; make you feel as though you had to bite and tear and lash out at every part of a graceful life? Was there once a brightness and lightness in you that made you feel happy? Did you ever smile a genuine smile or laugh for the sheer joy of laughing? How did I become me despite being raised by you?

I’ve wanted to ask you these questions for the longest time. Recently, my curiosity piqued because I thought I had finally figured out some of the pieces of the puzzle that comprised you. And then, before I had mustered up the courage to try and learn you; to try and know you somehow; you had less than a month left to live, and I found myself flying across the country to care for you in your final weeks and days.

We had not spoken in nearly two years; still, you were more concerned with proving yourself to me than allowing yourself to be vulnerable or accept love of the purest kind. It was never easy or natural or normal – the relationship between you and me. It just kind of wasn’t… at all. How, then, do you say goodbye? How do you survive days and weeks of caring for someone you don’t particularly like while maintaining your sanity?

I don’t know how to feel about my feelings. Mostly I don’t feel at all when it comes to you. And then I feel bad about my indifference. That foundation of openness and trust; of mother/daughter specialness, was something you never wanted until I was an adult. But you cannot build upon something you have not yet erected. And I had no foundation with you; no desire for you; nothing upon which to build and grow and learn and love. So you and I remained stagnant in our false relationship while I raised children of my own and learned what it meant to be a mom.

The first twenty-four hours are sort of not completely awful and somewhat tolerable. You are determined to love this human being, flaws and all, as best you can through her remaining days. You kind of thought she was on the same page, but she can’t love you back; she simply does not know how. So you set your brain to survival mode; to the most primal of human needs. You work with the calendar that is uncertain with stage four cancer and live what is; you pack up your shit and fly across the country and live out of plastic bags for weeks because you care as a human, even though you do not know her at all as a daughter. Maybe you silently hope for something more from her; an epiphany to come with the knowledge that these are her final days on earth. You grasp at any glimmer of a real human beneath the facade.

The glimmer never materializes despite your best efforts to elicit. Instead, you get 24/7 servings of everything you hated about your life with her; the existence you ran from the moment you were able to make it on your own. You become convinced that you cannot make it through this. You have self-diagnosed panic attacks, difficulty breathing, and cannot sleep because nothing about your current life resembles normal, and you don’t even know in which bed or house you will seek respite on any given eve.

She is dying and paranoid and taking it out on you. You’re told by the professionals that these are the behaviors commensurate with someone knowing they are dying; unfortunately, though, they are also her core personality traits and you have a hard time discerning which is what. You hate them all regardless of their affiliation because they all just fucking hurt. You figure out how to function solely on autopilot so you don’t completely lose your shit amid the shit storm that is your present existence, and you realize you are losing a piece of your soul with each dagger she slings. But you smile and press on, somehow, garnering the strength of the real-life angels in your presence.

You end up needing to completely detach self from yourself because you no longer exist. You become dubbed a member of the micro-managing care team who has “great ideas” but they are not valid ideas, because “there are too many cooks in the kitchen” and she is the head chef. You sit for hours while she counts out each of her medicines for a twenty-four-hour period and laboriously places each one in a capsule that becomes increasingly harder for her to maneuver. You have learned by day four, though, to shut your mouth unless you want the process to continue for an additional hour because she felt she lost control and needed to reassert it. You become a shell of a human being, just like her.

You cry, occasionally, but the tears are displaced, and you don’t know whether they are for her, or you, or the relationship that never was.

And finally, it ends, after you have endured more hurt than you thought you were capable of enduring. You have no idea who you, as an individual, are any longer. And then you realize that you’ll never have to feel her projected disdain again.

And you breathe a sigh of relief.

It is finally fucking over.

And you are still standing. You are still standing. You are going to be ok.

stupid is as stupid does

It’s hard to believe that eight years have passed since I have been in this house instead of that one; this life instead of that one. These responsibilities in addition to those. Surreal, really.

There is no super to call when the toilets overflow or the fridge leaks, but if you have known me for any amount of time, you know that I see that as: Challenge Accepted. There’s just something about me that is oddly bent on doing things my way, and I don’t really know what that is…I just know it is and I must.

I don’t like details. Well, I do, but only when my brain deems them necessary. Which is absolutely random and always surprises me, to say the least. Somehow I have raised two children with only the big picture – the end result – in mind. Or maybe it’s with just the day-to-day in mind. There’s even too much detail required for me to figure that out, so let’s just say I’m not fantastic (to say the least) with details. As in, too many of them overwhelm me. Too many of them make my brain feel like flapping hummingbirds run amok. Too many of them just feel like too much.

Today, though, the details mattered. Today, the details ripped apart my fucking heart. Today, the details that took my breath away labeled my child as “stupid”. And my heart, mind, soul, and fists are ubiquitously on fire.

I understand fear. I understand fear because you don’t understand. That’s where it ends for me, though; scared with awful and mean don’t resonate in my understanding. Telling your child to refer to my chid as “stupid” because non-binary pronouns are confusing to you, or them, is a cop out. Your words a display of blatant refusal to open your mind to options other than what you are; the middle- or high-school bully that has killed so many souls. And flesh. Have you ever thought about the powerfulness of words? My guess is no, you have not. They fly from your mouth without a thought and you don’t understand who you kill along the way.

Shame on you. As an adult and parent you have a responsibility to be better. It’s an unspoken oath. We raise them to be above and better than us, not to succumb to our myriad insecurities and biases. You could have killed another child with your words tonight; but not this one. Never this one. They are stronger and more evolved than you could ever wish to emulate. They have no use for hate.

Your words fill us with wonder and anger – and then we feel sorry for your pathetic existence. And we hope you grow. You are missing out on a ton of greatness with your eyes closed.

nobody likes a bitch

She views things much differently than I do is what I said. I thought little of my statement in the moment. And then my analyzer kicked in, hours later perhaps, and I realized the ubiquitous difference between what I uttered and what I actually believed. And then I knew I had to write it out.

I had to write it out because I needed to understand myself; I needed to understand what was flooding through my brain and stealing me away from me and delivering meh to myself. Writing is the vehicle that gifts me my grasp of self  – the self that is too deep to unpack most often – as deep as my soul is willing to delve when thoughts and paper merge.

It is then, and only then, that I am free and alive and flying. Thoughts quicker than pen; feelings thicker than molasses; truth more real than non-fiction.

It is then, and only then, that I feel every sacred inch of my being purr and hum; exist in its own capsule; be steered by nothing other than its own idiosyncrasies.

It is so real it takes my breath away. Forces me to gulp for safety. Defies my plea for the benign.

But I digress, because I came here to talk about what I really meant when my words came out as otherwise, and actually sound kind of bitchy upon rewind. Their purpose was to protect something or someone, though I am unable to define that presently. Or maybe ever. I got so caught up in finding me that I forgot about finding the meaning that I had set out here to do with this prattling piece. My apologies (but I am simultaneously in love with where my writing brain is allowing me to travel right now!).

The interaction that actually elicited the afore-mentioned utterance was but a speck of dust among the whirring particles of every day life. And yet, also, the brevity of that moment carried the weight of judgment being held and shared.

Judgment being held and shared.

And that is what made me sick about myself in those few precious blips of connecting time that I had with my eldest child. Minutes that could have existed of who I believe myself to be were actually snapshots of qualities I do not revere nor care to pass on to my children.

What I am saying is that each and every second absolutely matters. And I thick-black-sharpie scribbled over a field of pastel wildflowers. And I can’t get that moment back to do it the way I intended. The way that is vulnerable and kind.

What I want is to make sure I am sharing all the wonderful and amazing things I believe about our human existence in general – that the world is full of good people if you set your mind to believe that. And strive your best to be one of those people that makes the world a better place. And that it is always better to be kind than be any other way, because nothing will ever take precedence over just pure and blatant kindness. And yes, love is all around; you need only to open your eyes to see its metastasized beauty.

Or watch Love, Actually. 

Truth is, it’s entirely up to you; how you choose to see this world of human existence, that is. It will meet you at the intersection of your choices.

Why not choose love?

#nonbinary #parenting #love

My child identifies as non-binary. I don’t know how long they have identified this way, but they told me about seven months ago. Sometimes they correct me when I use she, and sometimes they don’t, and sometimes I catch myself mid sh and switch to they. Luckily for me as a parent, my child is gentle with my misspeaks and oft-twisted tongue as I progress along the learning curve of learning them.

Parenting offers us a plethora of second-hand life experiences. I am sure my brain would be void of half the knowledge that now fills its crevices had I not signed up for this parenting gig. And who knows if I would have had the opportunity to live with and breathe the same air as one writing their own #identity and #individuality had this morsel of #perfection not been gifted to me some fifteen years ago.

As a musing parent so many things seem clear in retrospect. A-ha! moments cascade in pictures on replay through my mind, and allow me to make connections that scream everything real and true about this #creationinaction. I want to pick the brain of said child and see how much they remember about their everyday life – a life in which each moment they were them. I don’t need to connect any dots or find any understanding; I just want to know this human sunflower on a deeper level.

Have you ever seen a 12 week old fetus-in-utero throw up a high-five on a sonogram? I have; it was this child when I was sure I was having a miscarriage. Their uniqueness began with that gesture and has not once waned. They have never fit a mold of any type; rather, they have designed life to suit their preferences. This one refused to suck as a newborn and instead lounged lazily whilst being fed with a syringe. This one spoke English and signed ASL in three- and four-word sentences before the age of one. This child came to me with their own plans for everything, and I have spent the last 15 years simply trying to catch up with their blueprint for life. (Which is and has always been VERY specific).

I’ve always known that this piece of my heart and soul was special and unique and destined for great things – things that I could not even begin to fathom as just an average human being – but still with each new expression of themself – I find myself, again, in awe. How do 15 short years of life fill one with more knowing of and unwavering conviction in self than I have managed to muster up in 50+ years?

Keeping in line with keeping me on my mental toes, said AP, compacted math, tutoring-peers-since-fourth-grade-I-do-it-my-way child bulldozed me tonight with their ubiquitous uniqueness whilst writing an AP essay on the current political situation in the U.S.:

Mama, who was that dude who wrote the, what was it called…Declaration of Independence again???

Thanks, Trump, for providing the necessary fodder for a literary allusion. Thanks, Sunflower, for providing the necessary fodder for a life full of smiles, laughter, and sheer amazement at what is humanly possible.

I love you more, and I call no regrets.

if

If you’d just practiced more

You would have been better

If you’d just played better

He would have noticed you

If you’d have simply lost ten pounds

He might have acknowledged you

If you’d have known there were requirements to his love that made sense,

You might have:

Loved yourself more…

Never questioned your worth…

You might not have adhered yourself to the pain of non-existence…

If you were not so amazingly you,

You might not have:

Sobbed uncontrollably…

Held me tight…

Shared your exquisite beauty with me…

If I could shelter you from the pain, I would

If I could go back in time, I wouldn’t

Because then,

I would not have had YOU

how do you spell WEDNESDAY?

My daughter decided today that she wants to have a party, at our house, next Wednesday. For her whole class. That meant, of course, that she had to start making invitations this morning when she was really supposed to be preparing herself to be school bound. There are plenty of little tidbits to talk about here, aside from the fact that we’re not having a party and I’m afraid to tell her.

While she is supposed to be putting her lunch box in her backpack she is stuffing crayons and note papers in her kindergarten hands. You see, she’s going to make the invitations on the way to school. Our drive to school is roughly 3 minutes give or take 20 seconds, but again…do I want to argue about this?  Not so much it turns out. Part of me is avoiding any sort of Monday morning meltdown, and the other part of me just cannot wait to see what she is going to come up with. Her invitation paper of choice is about 1.5 x 2 inches, and she is a new and chubby handed writer…so she is lucky to get more than two unconventionally written words on a slip of paper; thus each invitation to a party that we are not having next “Wasay” requires approximately 5 sheets of said note paper.

Seeing as how when I picked her up from school today she promptly resumed invitation making, I had to have a plan a bit more effective than avoidance of the party. Sis, you spell it w-e-d-n-e-s-d-a-y and, by the way, how many syllables is that? Two mama. Right, but sis we are not having a party next Wednesday.  Or the Wednesday after that. Or likely not any Wednesday. At this house. With your class. And me. So… I know, how about if you make them all cards that you can pass out, and we can put them in cute envelopes? Nope, really want to have a party mom.  Shoot…when is your birthday?  F-e-b-r-u-a-r-y? That is when we will have a party! Mom, how do you spell Wednesday again?  Is it w-a-s-a-y?  The way I see it, I have a few options with my answer. If I say yes, I am encouraging her efforts while also ensuring nobody will be able to decipher the invitation and mistakenly show up at my house next Wasay when we are not having a party. If I correct her spelling I am making the invitation to a party that we are not having that much more clear. Do quick calculations and surmise that size of note paper times size of attempted letters has potential to equal at least 3 sheets of paper to write w-e-d-n-e-s-d-a-y. I can enhance spelling and have an un-party at the same time!

At some point in the evening, she retires from invitation making and starts reading from the book of old (her words, not mine). Book of old, in real people language, is the dictionary/thesaurus. She has taken to “reading” it, spouting out directions (which sound more like orders) which she admonishes anyone listening to follow. I don’t know why it is regarded as the book of old but I can’t even ask because I like having a book of old in my house. 

And the book of old says it’s time for bed.   

 

out-smarting the conveyor belt

I used to think life held some great destination that I was going to arrive at one day and have it all figured out. I had a mental list of things that needed to be checked off and then somehow I was going to stop growing. Because I had gotten there. Or something weird like that. I don’t even know that girl anymore.

I am so aware of the journey now and cannot even visualize a destination, because that would be limiting myself from so many possibilities. I am cognizant of what I am passionate about yet believe there are a plethora of other things and experiences I don’t know I am in love with because I haven’t yet been exposed.  And if I was only on board for the destination I wouldn’t be living the journey. And how do you ever realize your true loves if you don’t constantly have your eyes open to what you might encounter on your path?

I am amazed that I spent so many years trying to get there, but didn’t ever really know where I was going. My journey was more of a transport via conveyor belt through a tunnel with ten demerits for opening your eyes or asking questions. I’m not so concerned with how I got dead-bolted to the conveyor belt in the first place, but rather with how I took a free-fall off of it, with eyes wide open, and realized the journey was up to me.

Truth is, I cannot even ride those airport conveyor belts any longer because they take too much of the control away from me; how slowly or quickly I choose to pace myself, or what I want to pause and take in along the way. I had my eyes fastened shut for so many years I don’t think I even realized what I was not living.

I find myself overflowing with gratitude for my life. I am living the life I choose to live. And I get it now. That in itself is a celebration.

 

love > markers

O lover of sweet treats and markers; I am a lover of you. Even with your guilty face and conniving ways my heart is sold to “and when I get back in here let me see all the colors laid out and ready for me” and “when I put this broom away I will take some money and a sweet treat” and “wow, so you’re doing the outlining first right mama? I bet I could outline better with those markers” and then there’s the (in whiny voice-at breakfast time) “but I just can’t think of anything to eat other than a cookie..that’s the only choice in my brain”.  She is a sugar coated, double dipped, ride-your-bike-to-7-11-and-spend-all-of-your-allowance on candy-coated me.  

I purchased some new supplies this week for a project on which I am working, and you-know-who couldn’t wait to get her paws all touching everything. I said no. No wrecking my markers. You have 4 cup-fulls of them that I have so nicely organized for you, and those you shall use.  Well…I made it through family art session numero uno with my markers and paper both in my possession. With fine tips and miss scribble-scrabble not being such good bedfellows I am reluctant to say mi palette es su palette.

Tonight is night two of family art and she has, I’m pretty sure, been thinking about how to get those markers in her hand since family art session number one. And then, from the looks of it, she has been through law school already and I am no match for her arguments. Or candy-coated cuteness. But I do experience great laughter and joy, and think even she is starting to get herself. So, we are all working on our stuff, in their room, with the new lamp that nearly took out my right arm (and, unfortunately, left me looking like a cutter). And really, I guess it’s my fault, because I asked for her artistic input on my project. And guess what? It could only be added, you might guess, with MY markers.  Markers = 17.99.  True Love > everything else.

Sure sis, you can use these but be gentle with them.  And then miss bossy pants arrives on the scene. You can feel the glow of accomplishment and marker-love exude from her every pore. I think this marker score may have trumped candy and sweet treat love. She begins with admiring her new accomplishment.  Then starts bossing me about whose turn it is and what color we are going to use. Then comes the “turn the markers my way when it is my turn and I will turn it your way when it is your turn”. There is a lot of Quinn-loves-Quinn talk to herself about the markers. There are a few little prayers of some sort. There is a big-ol’-smile and an “I need my hair in a pony so I can concentrate” request (demand really, but I’m okay with it). And before anyone can scream out “I Love Sugar” she has full control of both my marker set and my sketch book.  

And my heart. Always and forever my heart. Sugar-coated-candy-lovin’-sweet-treat-i-only-want-cookies-for-breakfast-can-i-use-your-markers-where’s-my-money kind of love. And I love it when you pick me up mama.  Is your back better? I don’t care baby, I love you. Let me carry you to bed.

 

melting into me

Does too much to say make the saying harder to come by? Have you consigned your will to create with the words that entice you or are they challenging you to do more and better, forcing you to feel deeper and stronger? You don’t know how to write yourself out of what you have fallen into so you simply stop writing because, maybe, if you don’t write then you don’t feel each moment as though it has permeated your soul.

You could fastidiously gather the words you love and compile them to write your story, punctiliously fashioning each chapter. But through trial and error you have learned that designing the chapters is not nearly as exciting as letting the chapters bring you to life. So you have an experience and define what it means to you; minute by minute, day by day, month by month, and you take pause with each temptation to formulate the words that will make perfect your sermon to self. Trusting and living with intention provides words abundant with which you can tell your story. 

The words that are so much a part of you are simultaneously screaming to speak and begging silence. There are lessons learned you want to share; perhaps in hopes of precluding collective travels down the same path you have found to be lackluster by comparison. You are learning to welcome love and pain, to let raw emotion consume you as it provides the truest form of living you have experienced. You have feelings so intense that they threaten the pillars of strength you have built, brick by brick, which ground you. And as each step and misstep petitions for grace as it dissolves into your melting pot of growth, you see your authentic self with increasing clarity. 

There are so many questions but you don’t know where to begin. What path led you to this leg of the journey; which choice or un-choice to this outcome. And as you think about your life and attempt orderliness of the pictures and flashbacks, of the note cards and summaries and dissertations, your omniscient core knows that the questions are not yours to have, to beg, to postulate. Journeys happen and they take you where they may and you tiptoe, run, walk and sometimes crawl as best you can in the moment. 

Meanings are myriad depending on what you choose to believe in that moment and from that experience; to where you let it guide you, to what ensuing experience you let it lead. Life has many serendipitous happenings if your mind is open to receiving them. The relational nature of life becomes vivid when you seize what presents itself along the journey. Open-minded living is joyous because the surprise of the next serendipitous moment is looming… another opportunity to make a connection on your journey of here and now. 

Life is education on your terms: you hold the power to decide how you will let each opportunity color, change, mold and improve you. Life is an auspicious exploration of self; an offer to learn, grow and attempt to understand you. One day at a time. And one day at a time really means one moment at a time, one experience and then another to form an existence, to create a story, to live a life. 

Be in love with you. Be in love with life. Be.