Monday, November 30, 2015

A Pessimistic View of Optimism

The questions just are not answerable today. "Why do poor kids get less toys from Santa?" "How does Santa know to come to the Christmas party, do you have to write him a letter?" "Did elf come back from the North Pole yet?" "Can I play on my iPad?" "Can we watch a movie tonight?" "Is there anything you'd like me to do?" 
"I DON'T KNOW!" The truth is it comes out mean. I don't want to answer anyone about anything. I think they are trying to get me to tell them that Santa isn't real, that the elf (which they started not me) is a fantasy. And poor kids don't always get toys because nobody buys them any. I am so close to saying it, I have to just stay quiet. 
Dinner comes around and after a day of avoidance, I decide to come up with something."I think we should all practice being a bit more optimistic. Optimism is something we can learn, and you kids might have a little more to learn than other kids because you are being raised by pessimists. But we can teach ourselves to think about the good side of things, and it could be useful."
The reaction is immediate from the 10 year old. "Well, don't you think if everyone in the world only looks at the good side of things that we'll lose sight of how things can be improved?"
Having put a lot of thought into this idea myself, I was ready. "That sounds like a pessimist's view of optimism." She burst into a laughter I hadn't understood she was capable of.Perhaps it's to late? 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Little Voices

I forgot to set the alarm this morning, but it didn't matter. Charlie arrived by my bed at 7:10 in his underwear, shivering, and pushed me over for morning cuddles. Last month I found myself in a panic when he gave up morning cuddles, but halfway though being six, I finally admitted it was probably for the best. I tried several attempts to substitute morning chat and cuddles with my husband, but I think he was equally grateful to see Charlie back.

"Mom, you know in The Lord of the Rings how the ring calls out to Frodo to do things he does not want to do?" I perk up, my son is very chatty, but usually hides important points he wants to make in abstraction. "Sometimes I feel my senses are like that too." Years ago I told him he had special senses out of guilt for passing on the colorblind gene to him. I told him being red green color deficient made him extra aware of other subtleties, and gave him special senses that not everyone has.

"What are your senses telling you to do?" I can feel my arm hair standing on edge. Please don't tell me you want to do anything terrible, I can't take it, not today, not ever.

"Well, sometimes they want me to smash the TV, or scream at the top of my lungs, even in school." I sigh deeply, sometimes I feel like that too.

"I am glad you don't listen to those senses all the time. I would be irritated if you smashed the TV."

"Is dad going to make waffles like he promised this morning?" Dad perks up in bed and mumbles a vague rumble of words that sound something like "inaminit".

The school emailed this week and they are starting the process of testing Charlie for learning disabilities. This boy has charismatically charmed since the day he was born. Even the delivery nurses held him a little longer, smiling, "We love Charlie," they told me, and I believed them. His eyes penetrate, he loves people, people love him, always have. Born into a family of introverts, he hurdled us into a world where people enjoy each other, just for the sake of it. A world, until him, we often doubted was genuine.

As Charlie dragged dad downstairs to get started on the waffles I stayed in bed an extra five minutes. Sometimes I want to smash the TV too, and I certainly feel like screaming at the top of my lungs, even in school. We will just have to keep the ring in our pockets, Charlie.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Awaiting Step 8: The forgiving has not come.

In the beginning we were giggly. I was fresh from college, living downtown, landed a full time job in the curatorial department of a museum. Life was dreamy. He was older, wore fitted pants, few kites, and called me cute names.

In the middle we were still mostly giggly. We took road trips, ate ice-cream with sprinkles, chased butterfly migrations, and watched old movies. Every now and then he would disappear for a night, or show up a few hours late, but it never amounted to much, and it certainly wasn’t often. We were together every day, he called every lunch time, and he emailed cute e-cards from Blue Mountain daily at 3pm.

In the end it turned out he was addicted to crack. Somehow he fit a double life in-between the life I saw, and the life he lived. Somewhere, in the fissures, between the moments, there was time for crack. I was embarrassed not to know. I dropped him at rehab and over the next few weeks the so very many lies started to ooze from floor boards and trickle in through phone calls and loose ends. There were just so many lies.

I never picked him up from rehab. After two years together it ended at a brick wall, me tossing him a duffel bag and telling him to call his sister for a ride when he was ready to go. I needed to preserve myself.

Twelve years later, eleven years after he married one of the women, who worked at the rehab, I am still waiting for him to complete step 8. I don’t care if it is technically NA and not AA, but I want my apology. For years afterward I wondered when it would come, how it would be delivered, and nothing happened. I dreamed of the punch I’d plant in his face, the door I’d slam, the anger that would finally go away, and the doorbell never rang. I figure I’d probably end up being friendly and happy to have it over with, this step 8, which promises: he will have made a list of all persons he had harmed, and become willing to make amends to them all. Heck, maybe he’d just hand me a check, $700 would be nice, and I’d feel much better.

Well now the fucker has cancer, and the still hurt part of me hopes he dies. That will make amends, finally.

Deep are the scars I carry from this battle that was not technically even mine.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Introvert, Part Two

 “Take me past the magnet school the kids will be switching to,” my sister says as we head back to the soccer field to deliver the box of hot chocolate to the girls.

 “So this is the poor side of town? I think it is great that you are doing this, it is so, you.” She says, as I drive through a neighborhood of 1930’s detached single family houses with green lawns.

“I don’t think there is a poor part of this town, this neighborhood is nice.” Why am I such a bitch, why can’t I just give her a break?  I can’t stop myself from picking at her.

“My friend teaches at a school for gifted children, and she says it is so difficult that the kids have all sorts of emotional problems, are on medications, need therapy, she says it is awful.”

“Maybe the problem is in the kids chosen to be at the school. A gifted population may come with built in problems, it probably isn't just the school to blame.” I take a deep breath, can we stop now? I’ve got to figure out how I am going to deliver this hot chocolate to the team without having a nervous breakdown.  

We grab my chair, egg sandwich, and the box of hot chocolate from the car and head to the crowded soccer field. It is a clinic today, so there are ten teams mixed together. I am highly aware of the giant Dunkin Donuts logo I am toting through the crowd of suburban joggers. My sister gained a lot of weight after having cancer, and I need to lose some myself. Great, we are the fat people eating sandwiches, and the only people with a chair, nevermind the damn giant box of hot chocolate with a second donut box for the lids and cups.

“Let’s just sit here.” I feel disgusting. I give her the chair and I sit grounded to the grass.

“Look at that man taking; organizing soccer practice, he is an extrovert, he must get so much done.” I look up at the athletic, confident man. “Our husbands are introverts; I have been reading about introverts, it is fascinating, have you read anything about them?”

 “No.” I thought my direct statement might end the conversation, but instead it churns. “Actually, I did read half of a book before I realized it was written for extroverts who have introverted kids and are worried about them. I never finished it.” I am such a bitch. I need to get rid of this box of hot chocolate. I finally see another mom from the team.  “Let’s move over near some of the other parents and unload this box.” We pack up our chair, stuff our garbage into the chair bag, and migrate.

When the clinic ends I hand out nine cups of hot chocolate to nine smiling girls. Anna arrives with a huge smile telling me about the friend she met. One cup left.

"Mom, we have to give her a hot chocolate, I am going to get her," and off she ran. I quickly grab for my old coffee cup, dump out the last splash, pour two half cups of the remaining hot chocolate. I give both the quiet smiling girls a cup. "What are those black things floating in it?" Anna looks up at me.

"Oh, just marshmallows," I smile as a plunk a few in.

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Introvert, Part One

My sister is in town and offers to join me to bring my seven year old daughter to her first soccer clinic of the spring season. We arrive at the park and I pan the fields for any familiar faces. Her coach somehow manages to grab the pink uniforms, and the team is elated. Anna pulls on her number 11 over her sweatshirt, and kicks grass on the outskirts of the team cluster. I pat her head knowingly and reassuringly.

“When does this go until, can we go get coffee?” my sister asks. She got up late and rushed to be with us this morning, so I knew coffee would be in the mix. “Do you want a hot chocolate?” she proceeds to ask my sweet-toothed Anna, whose head frantically bobs a “yes”. Then my sister looks to the coach. “We are going to get coffee; can we buy the girls a box of hot chocolate while we are there?” The coach smiles and agrees, and she pivots toward the car as I pull away from my daughter, still kicking grass on the outskirts of the team circle.

“We’ll be back soon, stay with the team,” I whisper in Anna's ear. “It sounds like we are bringing hot chocolate.” As I drive away I peer through the side mirror, she is still too far outside the group, kicking grass. I am glad she has the uniform on.

Dunkin Donuts is busy and we wait. “Do you get health insurance through work?” my sister asks. An issue that has contributed so much thought and drained my family for years. I could swear she knows that already.

“No, we buy on the private market.”

“Oh, it must be cheaper that way.” I swear we’ve had this conversation before, please make it go away.

“If $1,200 a month with $45 co-pays and a $5,000 hospital deductible are cheaper than what you pay, then maybe.” Could she hear my irritation with the subject? I know so much about insurance, I could write a book, but I know she has a motive for bringing this up, I wait for it.

“I have never gotten a bill for anything, and this month I got a bill for $2,000 for my MRI.” It takes me moment to feel out if it is a statement, a complaint, or an ordinary proclamation. Should I blame Obama? I wait, but I do not get a follow up prompt.

“Well, is that all you will have to pay for the year now that you have met your deductible?”

“Yes, I called human resources to complain, because I have never had a bill in the years I have worked there, and now there it is. She said now that we have a PPO we have to pay $2,000 a year for a deductible.”

I stand frozen, thinking "boo fucking hoo." Is this why people don’t like me? Can they read my mind? I reach the counter and order an egg sandwich and box of hot chocolate. I pull out a $20 bill, grateful for the tag sale I had yesterday. This $20 won’t break us, but we don’t spend on extras and I am very aware of spending it. The woman hands me the box of hot chocolate, and another box with cups and lids. I feel the panic set in already. How will I distribute it? Will she do it for me? I hate this shit.

Update: Yeah Write Lurker's review! Thank you!
God save us from small talk. The Introvert is an admittedly unconventional post for yeah write. Doina’s daughter becomes the physical manifestation of Doina’s anxiety and introvert tendencies. Doina’s sister is the manifestation of every person who feels their opinions are so valuable, you’re just dying to hear them. Doina’s inner voice gives the reader insight into her true feelings. We’re left panicking with her about what to do with the soccer team’s hot chocolate. Impracticable distractions begin to over take her mind, but Doina, like you, me and most of our friends, is playing the go-with girl and suffering in silence for it. The delivery gripped me, not only because Doina is echoing my own inner voice, but it’s honest in that these sorts of mundane human dramas have no ending when you’re an introvert. The most you can hope for is a nap when you get home.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

I am Adam's Wife.

I stood shivering by the portable bathrooms, trying hard not to let my posture slip back into its natural slouch. I love when his artist friends get married. The spouse club is dissolved into a fascinating mix of personalities. Often unsuccessful artists ourselves, we hold our successful partners together behind the curtains. We vowed to forever support a fragile system, for better or for worse.

"I am not used to being the wife," she tells me. "I am me, I am not just his wife". I nod, sympathetically. She was only married last month, she'll find a place to put that thought. We married good people, we married artists. We are confident they will never think of us as merely their wife, they know better than that. It is in these groups, where strangers try to identify us, I become, briefly, "Adam's wife." A woman I am proud to be, yet somehow is grossly off kilter with who I am.

Someday I will be left unnoticed, the wife of the artist, but in truth, we are one.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Relay for Life

When my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer at age thirty three, I was twenty seven years old, single, and in a new relationship. I knew my life would be forever changed by mammograms, pink ribbons, and running events. The doors to the cancer club were forever opened to me, as the sister of a survivor. I’ve been to the big blue chemo chairs at Dana Farber Hospital, I’ve shaved the head of a thirty three year old on the same year she’d later be married. It is a passageway that often leads to inspiration to do more, yet, as with most things in my life, I never felt much like celebrating.

Seeing my sister’s life change overnight also changed me overnight. My husband and I mutually fast tracked our plans to be married. I was plagued by dreams of being diagnosed and facing the reality of not being able to have my own children. We were fortunate to have two children in the first two years of our marriage. When my son was seven months old, I flew to Guatemala with my sister to pick up her son. He was one week older than my own son, and I went out of gratitude. I went out of gratitude that she was alive, was adopting a beautiful son, but mostly out of gratitude that it had not happened to me. We left Guatemala City with my nephew and I returned home to embrace my own children. My son’s first tooth poked through that week, but returning from the grim situation in Guatemala City, on the cusp of adoptions being closed, I returned with renewed gratitude for every detail in my daily life.

I remember one day at preschool when I was picking up my daughter from room five, and my son from room seven.

“How close are they?” A woman asked as we waited for the classroom doors to open.

“Fifteen months.” I state as I pat my son on the top of his head, and smile quietly on the inside.

“Uggg, you must have totally freaked out when that happened.” I didn’t get any words to come out of my mouth before she hopped along down the hall chasing her daughter, but her words ripped me open. Another woman noticed I was upset and approached as I explained the comment and how it stung.

“We just needed them here, as soon as possible, we didn’t even think of waiting. What would we be waiting for? Cancer, Infertility? There are a lot of things that freak me out, but having my kids when I had them isn’t one of them.” It felt good to say it. I imagine it feels good to race, to fundraise, to wear ribbons, to be part of the group, but for me, it feels good to get clean mammograms, to play with cousins, and to enjoy all that I have every moment that I have it.