Making sense

Anne Lamott, on writing ...

"We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are. Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason why they write so little. But we do. We have so much we want to say and figure out.”

Thursday, January 17, 2013

No news really is good news

Operating on the theory that ignorance is bliss, I decided two days ago to start a news fast: no newspaper, no magazines, no talk radio, no television (inluding Anderson Cooper and Piers Morgan, two men I have begun to love deeply ~), no NPR, no MSN headline crap when my internet powers on.
I am one of those anxious and neurotic people who can't read obituaries without starting to hyperventilate. What do you mean, Cheryl A. Brown died suddenly? She was only 36. ONLY 36! I have lived 11 years longer. ELEVEN YEARS LONGER!
I am one of those people who feels compelled to start an ad hoc committee whenever I read an article about something in the community that is wrong, plain WRONG, and if only folks would gather together ~ none of us is as smart as all of us, right? ~ well, then, we'd find a solution to the problem. Only I lose interest thirty minutes after the idea springs to mind, because I've either all of a sudden got a hankering for stovetop pudding, the kind you have to stir nonstop for twenty minutes, or a dog needs to be let out, or my husband needs a load of clothes washed right now for his upcoming business trip, which is tomorrow.
I am one of those people who cannot watch any animal commercial that features dogs with missing ear bits and crusty, oozy eyes, especially if Sarah MacLachlan is singing softly in the background. Those sad commercials can set me back emotionally for hours and hours.
My two-day news fast has ended, and here is what I have found: I am not as stressed about planet earth and gun violence and missing children. I am, however, stressed that Something Big might have happened and I have missed it. My job now is to decide which feeling is worse.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Housework Haiku Part Deux

I loathe cleaning house
'Specially the dusting: ugh
Sneezing fit ensues

Vacuuming is fine
Go, dog hair, be gone for now
Shed some more tonight

Dishes in the sink
Detritus of a life lived
Suds will clean and shine

Dog snot on windows
Wiped cleanly with some Windex
Paper towel dried

Housework Haiku

Oh, washing machine
Your gurgles baptize our clothes
Purify our soils ~

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Lazy-ass, no-good, paranoid thinking

The trouble with having parents who died in their sixties is that it's easy to think the same will happen to me, which leads to shitty thinking: I only have twenty years left to live, might as well sink into the comfy couch and lick the cheese off Doritos while watching Anderson Cooper talk about his paranoia that flu spores have set up house in his lungs and he's going to be dead before spring comes to Central Park.
Look: Danger is everywhere. I have a news app on my phone that tells me every time a kid is killed by gun violence in Kansas City, which is happening every freaking day in this city that used to inspire me. The flu? Epidemic now, that's what they say. If calm-cool-and-collected Cooper is reporting this news with alarm, shouldn't I be scared? One month ago, that whackadoo kid in Connecticut opened fire on first graders and killed twenty of them in the space of a few minutes, and six of their teachers. What the hell? His mother bought the damn things, one firearm being an assault rife. Then the NRA fanatics spout off, zealousy, that guns don't kill people, why, it's people who kill people. With what? Guns. Guns, guns, guns, and more guns. I have never heard of a drive-by fisting. I have never heard of a child picking up a forgotten yo-yo from a couch and blowing his little head off his body by pulling the string.
I feel the world is getting crazier by the minute, and I am not embarrassed to say that I would not have been surprised one itty-bitty bit that the world might, just might, have ended on 12/21/12, that the Mayans had it right all along. Actually, I wasn't even that sad about contemplating it, because I'd been drinking and smoking and spending thousands of dollars on stuff that made me temporarily happy (makeup and home decor items and candles), thinking So What? if I am further in debt because the world is ending and who will be around to hold me financially accountable. Who? Oh, that would be no one.
And then there's Donald Trump, who has way too much money and thinks because he is a tycoon that anything he says must be Golden. And at the Golden Globes, weirdo Mel Gibson is lauded by the usually cool and intelligent Jodie Foster. She then goes on to deliver a rambling and ambiguous speech that confounds the hell out of me (so is she retiring from acting? does she have cancer and this is her final letter to the world?) and instead of other people (read: experts) agreeing that her speech is strange, the internet blows up with "She's a genius, that Jodie Foster" posts.
Let's not forget that in this great country of ours, the suicide rate is nearly three times the homicide rate ... oh, wait, guns don't kill people ... then someone explain to me why so many adolescent males and former soldiers are putting the barrel of guns into their mouths and pulling triggers.
So what do I do to feel safe in this crazy-ass world? I insulate myself: I overeat and cocoon myself inside a warm coat of flesh (but this is not working as well as I'd hoped, as my gut is large and the size of a seven-month gestation and therefore I don't breathe right much of the time); I sit on the couch with a warm blankie on my lap and stroke my cat; I shop on the internet and wait for boxes to go thunk on my porch (books and cosmetics and a new skillet, a Bialetti, which will make that sixtieth grilled cheese slide right out of the pan ~); I hug my children every time they walk by me; I snuggle into my husband's neck; I spend hours and hours trolling pinterest and facebook; I drink too much coffee.
And I feel sad. A lot.
Good thing there's only twenty years left of this life.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Losing My Religion

I have not been going to church and for this I am feeling guilty. How long has it been, this absence? Months, which is shameful to admit. I like to think that God notices when I go to church and He is happy. It makes me feel very bad to think that God notices when I don't go to church and that makes him extremely pissed. Is this what being a God-fearing Christian is about?
That phrase, God-fearing, has always confused me. If God is so loving, then why should I be afraid of Him? I worry that I will die while in this No-Church-Phase of my life, and when I get to the gates you always hear about, St. Peter (or whomever is there) is going to tell me, "Nah, you can't come in. You should've gone to church. Bet you're wishing you'd thought about that more now, huh, Missy?"
But then I think about Emily Dickinson and how she said Nature was her Church, and I think about my favorite brother-in-law, and how when his boys were growing up, they didn't attend church either; instead, they sat around as a family and read the Bible, and I gotta say, this BIL is one of the most God-fearing (?) men I've ever met. He can quote Scripture like he's telling you the Wednesday night ABC line-up. I think about how God came to me in my little room in Ruskin Heights, how my mother and dad never once talked about Jesus or God or church and somehow Jesus talked with me as I played with my Barbies, back when I was four or five years old and just learning about being alive in the world ~ that eating too much cake gave me diarrhea, and that when my parents yelled at each other, that wasn't a right way to act around me because it scared me and made me cry.
I think about the Catholic Church and how it scares me, that if THEY knew how I feel about abortion (right to choose), they'd kick me out. I am a fraud: I don't go to confession, and never have. I worry about that, too, on those days when I DO go to Mass, when I'm walking up to receive communion (which I love: it thrills me, the body and blood of Christ), I think I am committing an act of dishonesty before the Lord, that I should not eat and drink of Him when I haven't the balls to confess my sins to a priest. That's what we Catholics are supposed to do: Tell a priest what we do that's wrong, what's unholy, what's displeasing to God. Only I've never done it, the confession part. Even when I was going through classes to become Catholic (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults), which was to have culminated in making my First Holy Confession before my First Holy Communion, the line got too long and before I could get inside for quiet time, the opportunity closed. I meant to go the next Saturday, before Mass, but then that week got away from me, and the next, and before I knew it, I was Not Confessing for twenty-eight years.
Now, it seems too late. Doesn't it? Now, I feel that I should speak directly to God because that makes more sense to me. Doesn't it?
I have decided to confess here, to see if I feel better.
Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. This is my first confession, even though I have been a (sort-of)practicing Catholic for all of my married life. Lately, I have been doing all kinds of bad things, and I need to tell you that I am sorry for the choices I have made, for what I have done, and for what I have failed to do.
Yesterday, I sold a gold cross to a sketchy We-Buy-Gold place because I needed some quick cash.
I have had impure thoughts about other men, namely Bradley Cooper and that handsome man on the All-State car insurance commercials. Sometimes when I am with my husband, I think of Brad Pitt.
Throughout the years, I have occasionally regretted being a mother ~ because it's so damn hard, Lord, this parenting thing. Sometimes I really suck. I have wondered what my life would be had I never had children. Would I be a famous magazine editor? Would I have a closet filled with designer clothing? Would I be a size 6? Would my husband wear a suit and buy me expensive jewelry? Would I be happy or disturbed and suicidal?
This thought, the one about questioning motherhood, shames me the most, Lord, because I know children are one of your finest gifts to humanity, your most glorious gift to me, and I love my children, I would take bullets for my children (which is more likely to happen these days, considering the world is going crazy and a person can't see a movie without being shot), but sometimes I have thought, "I am not cut out for this parenting gig," and I feel that I have failed. (I frequently think of that sad, sad, SAD scene in Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood," where the lead character (Ashley Judd) puts on her fur coat and heads to confession, crying while she tells the priest that she just wanted to be famous, and that motherhood was killing her soul.)
I once thought of killing my husband for the insurance money, but that thought lasted only a few minutes. That was years ago, back when the children were small and I had to work from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. and my husband traveled six months out of the year (the hardest years of my life).
I feel resentment toward my husband, Lord, and I know this is wrong because he is a good, good man, and he is a hard worker, but why does he get to love his job and get paid well for it, and I ended up hating teaching and having panic attacks 'cause the undisciplined children in my class were such assholes.
Forgive me, Lord, for leaving teaching because it was too hard and I thought my principal was a supreme douchebag. I think often of the many students I loved, and how at times teaching was the best job in the world, but then I am reminded of the deranged seventh-grade boy who couldn't keep his hands off his winker and I had to give him Cheez-Its to distract him ~ how gross and stupid an idea that idiotic school psychologist had, and how unfair to the normal children in the room, who could keep their hands out of their pants but instead of being rewarded with little orange crackers had to wait until lunch to consume modified food products that gave them horrible gas.
Now that I am unemployed, I have become a lazy person, Lord, and have been known to watch television from 7 a.m. until 1 p.m., starting with "Good Morning, America," and ending with "The Chew." Meanwhile, dog hair and cat hair accumulate below the kitchen island and mold grows new mold in the shower and instead of taking care of household business, I am watching Carla Hall and Daphne Oz dish about chicken wings.
Lord, I have coveted my neighbor's goods. I would like to have a house on a lot that backed to the lake and have a screened-in porch like Celina and Paul's. Why does she get to have Pottery Barn furniture in her house and original artwork that isn't purchased from a direct salesperson?
I have failed to memorize Scripture like I promised. I know just a few passages by heart. I consistently pass over Bible posts while scrolling on Facebook. Apparently it is more important to my eternal soul that I look at first birthday pictures of my friend's grandchild, or note that parmesan cheese makes a great coating for chicken, if first soaked in Greek yogurt.

Mostly, it's the guilt that gets me. I know I SHOULD go to church; I SHOULD read my Bible; I SHOULD pray regularly and with great focus, but I don't, I don't, I don't.
To assuage my guilt, I tell myself it is my husband's fault, that he and I cannot agree on a church to attend, and that is why we don't go. I want the church close to our house, like 2.4 miles close, whereas he wants to go to some rural outfit that takes us thirty minutes on a roller-coaster hill to get to. I would be perfectly happy attending a non-denominational Christian church, but my husband insists our house of worship be a Catholic one.
There is the issue of sleep, and how I suck at getting up early in the morning. It has been a lifelong goal to become a Morning Person ~ I know I would get more done that way ~ but dragging my sleepy self out of flannel sheets in the a.m. has never been an easy task. I should do it for God, get up the first time the alarm signals. Get up! Stop being lazy! Realize that waking in the morning is a Gift and I should treasure it.
I feel pretty bad about writing this post, especially the part about not always being grateful for my children. For this I am deeply ashamed. I know, however, that God knows I am ashamed and He knows I feel bad. He knows that because I am human I am going to mess up. I am going to say and do stupid things. I am doing to think rotten thoughts.
Anne Lamott wrote about the Church of 80 Percent, how she had a friend who pastored such a place. For now, in the state that I am in mentally and emotionally, I gotta start going to that church. I can be good 80 percent of the time.
I think.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

2012 ~ Mommy train never stops

It was the best of times (MacDowell residency); it was the worst of times (Mom died).
When Mom died in March, my heart broke into eighteen pieces. When I traveled, alone, to New Hampshire, late September, for twenty-four days of colony bliss, my heart began to mend. At MacDowell, inside Mixter Studio, I had glorious hours of uninterrupted writing and thinking time. Time for reflection. Time for healing.
Early November, my beloved aunt, my mom's only sibling, died. Some of those bandaged heart wounds opened again.
It's been a tough year all 'round. Estee, my oldest (27) experienced numerous health scares and surgeries. She lives with me and her dad, and so every pain, whimper and moan, pre- and post-surgical, was up close and personal. When an adult child is sick and in my presence, my mommy anxiety kicks in and the relationship reverts to that of a parent/fifth grader. Not healthy for either of us. This child, a new B.A. English graduate (and therefore a barista at Starbucks), is desperate to move out so she can feel "like an adult," only she doesn't have the money to make it so.
Ryan, my middle (24), struggled to complete his thesis, which at times kicked his ass twelve different ways. Lots of anguished phone calls, double-downed pep talks. My youngest, Elizabeth, started her first semester at a small Mennonite college in the middle of Kansas. She is studying air traffic control. By May of 2013, she will have earned her private pilot's license. To see my party girl attending a Christian school reeks of irony and humor. Still, she is adjusting and her potty-mouth vocabulary is weakening.
Look. It's been a tough year to be a mom. The parenting hasn't gotten easier; actually, it's harder on the emotional front. Sometimes I look at young families who are out and about, all giggles and popsicles, and my negative side thinks, Enjoy it while you can. Because it's going to get hella harder. I have thought numerous times that people who don't have children must have a lighter stress load. I have thought that being a parent is not for the weak. Parents have to have titanium nerves and a Teflon-coated self-esteem system. Sometimes I am not worthy. The love, though, is Nile River deep, so I get back up when kid issues knock me on my ass.
Financially, our household budget took a hit: I left the classroom; my teaching income disappeared. I've had to let go of pedicures and manicures and just-for-the-hell-of-it shopping excursions. Can't afford to get my hair colored at a salon. Seriously thinking about doing it myself, like I'm seventeen years old again, trying to decide between Loreal's champagne blonde and honey blonde. Might just go brunette and let the roots take care of themselves.