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On Mothering, On Lovering

ON MOTHERING

There are only two things you can do when someone misrepresents/defames you. You can either go inward and try and ignore it and hope one day that truth wins out and that all slanderers tongues go silent as if cursed and all listeners of such things become keenly aware that they’ve been had–or you confront the lies and misrepresentations of your character head on.

That’s where I’m at. I’m too scared to throw chanclas these days; I fear they will boomerang back and hit me in the face.

On the micro level, I’m one day away from my divorce being final. I will be unmarried and 49 with two children who I thought I was doing a great job raising because of course I would because I gave it my all and all would be perfect.

I’m just as clueless as the next parent.

Sometimes I feel like I’m in a science experiment. I fed my kid organic food I couldn’t afford and was overly involved in so many aspects of their lives and they are fairing no better or worse than the controlled experiment group that subsisted on kraft mac n cheese and the tv for a babysitter.

I raised them to think for themselves. I raised them to be aware of social conditioning, consumerism, and patriarchal expectations. So naturally my daughter hates feminism and my son’s bedroom looks like a Hot Topic tornado hit it.

I wonder sometimes if I took the job of mothering too seriously, too purposefully. The kids go to other people’s houses —houses without books, houses without political opinions, houses without the dire impending doom fight of me. They seek respite there. Banality. Less overt battles. A place they don’t have to think. I wonder about these other places too. Wonder if I was too much for them. Did I have kids too late in my 30s? Was it all too purposeful?

There is no winning here. It’s a matter of waiting and hoping that somewhere you instilled something that might trigger something called responsibility. Something called curiosity. Something called living. Something about giving back to the world around you.

I mother singularly now. Not a single parent–their father still very much here. Checking in with the other parent in the hopes that we will be on the same page every day. Most times we are. But there’s some fundamental differences in what we see as happiness and success. I want my kids thoughtful and engaged and self-sufficient. He wants the latter true, but measures the other part differently.

I see glimmers of hope. I have to hold on to that. I didn’t hold my end of the bargain. I didn’t stay with their dad till the end of the line. My fault. His fault. The fault of time and distance and the chasm between.

I have to remind myself not to look at my kids instagrams if I know what’s good for me.

ON WIFING

I was reading a vague booked reference to me and didn’t of course recognize the hated person as myself right away. Hussy. Psycho.  A woman who does not know me’s use of those words on me. Got me thinking of the nature of our own realities.

In 1996, on my honeymoon with my first husband in a hotel room we’d spent all night getting to in Bratislava, I knew my relationship had ended and that we’d be getting divorced. I knew it wouldn’t last. Traveling internationally with those ill-equipped to go with the flow brings on these denouement moments. I didn’t tell my first husband that it was over; I barely told myself. But that moment in Bratislava never left me and I always knew that was the beginning of the end.

It wasn’t that I didn’t try to keep us together for the next 3 years (our divorce was final in 2001 but I left to go to work in Japan in 2000 by myself–and the year before was spent on friend’s couches).  We did many things to get away from each other. He went to seminary to become a priest and all of a sudden god was with us and I felt like a third wheel. I went deep into graduate school thesis project and an ex-lover.

I’m sure he would tell it differently. Most times, I don’t think it appropriate to tell it at all.

Likewise my second husband–our divorce final tomorrow–I feel the same way about. We got together when I was already writing. I try to keep him out of things. I only answer questions when asked about it. Every once in awhile I have that snap moment where he’s pushed my buttons and I vent–but it’s rare. I try to put it down to a sentence now. We got together when both of us really wanted to have children. That coupled desire works for a good long stretch but doesn’t work when you don’t have anything else (duh). So at least we will always be a family. And we can move on–he back to his lone wolf & cub ways. Me to being an artist without having to be chastised for it. It would have been sixteen years next week. That’s some sort of California longevity miracle. But a failure none the less–we were planning to break up after the kids graduated. We fell four years short. But really I knew we were breaking up 10 years a go. I’m just a chickenshit for facing failure. I didn’t want to admit that I couldn’t keep it together, that the differences between us really are irreconcilable. I broke in mind in 2016. I broke in body in 2017. I break in paper now.

ON LOVERING

But then there’s also this question of happiness. While wandering around in the PTSD of relationship malaise whose details I will not go into because KIDS, I started questioning the perceptions we guide ourselves by. I started wondering like all mothers who are still women and humans whether self sacrifice is always necessary. Why do we do this thing of making other people happy and leaving nothing left for ourselves? What does that teach our children?

My grandmother turned 96 last year and I turned 48 and I thought for a moment–what if I have another 48 years? How should I live them? Should I dare to be happy in that time? Should I be okay with being who I am rather than who I’m expected to be? Do I dare steal away a moment for myself? Is it okay to email a man I interviewed back to tell him how speaking with him made me come alive?

Last September I started seeing a man–but more than that–my twin. Anything I say after that sentence will seem completely corny and insipid and groanfully geeky. I now understand what all the fuss about love is about. I get it now. When you meet the person who gets you, who you can have conversations with instead of staring at the wall or having them in your diary, it’s like nothing else. When no one is putting up with the other but instead fully and totally in love and embracing the other…that’s a whole different type of love. People call it true love. I’m not sure what to call it yet. It’s different. It’s inspiring. And at this middle age of 49 it came entirely unexpected.

My man has suffered more years of vacant love than I have.

My ex goes inward–says little about us to people save for a few of his buddies and family who of course are feeding at a feast of a one-sided story. My friends and family have my own brunch I’ve thrown.

His ex lashes outward–gives women a bad name. She is a reminder that you can never help someone who doesn’t want to get better. Someone who has no self realization.

He spent years trying to conform to an identity placed upon him rather than one that was actually his. How well I know that feature of dysfunctional relationship. When someone demands your inauthenticity and you oblige–and then they call you a liar–and you are–because it’s what the role demanded. Because you didn’t have the guts to move on properly. I know this territory well. I am that territory. Sometimes self imposed–which is far worse.

Where do we go from here?

I take stock in my mothering, lovering. There are so many transferable skills. So much goodness I wish for them all. Even the exes.  Is it enough to just be who you are as a mother? Is it enough to just want to be present? There? Experience the moment and be grateful, appreciative, savoring and to give it all back in return? I think so.

And I’m hoping this thing called mothering and this thing of lovering will give me the strength and fortitude to help sustain the country from its self-propelled apocalypses.

But for this morning. I’m just breathing. Thankful and okay with myself. Even if I’m categorized as some psycho hussy by his ex. Even if my mothering is somewhat avant garde. Even if not everyone understands that my reality and theirs is not the same.

 

 

 

Categories
beauty and fashion

I (try) to Sing the Body Electric…

I (want) to celebrate the me, not yet to come, but the one who is here now who has had a long journey and is a bit tired and always slightly uncomfortable with the way I look.

I always think I’m taller (I’m 5’4″). I always think my eyes are less squinty than they really are (slightly cross eyed–it’s a family trait). But above all there’s my mom body. I was never a thin person nor did I care to necessarily be one. I don’t mind my hips or thighs or breasts or any other areas people complain about. I’m not sure that I love them–I’m not an overzealous person like that.

But I really appreciate the body positivity movement and the women larger than I that have the ovaries to put it all out there. I have the social conditioning of ‘but what if my grandmother sees this?’ that keeps me from doing such things. Sin Verguenza!

But I am envious of that sort of nerve, that sort of power of not giving a shit. I’m writing a book about it after two years of research on the topic. Throwing the Curve, it’s called. I’ve done about a dozen photo shoots now since I started the book. I’ve gotten more confident with myself and my image–even though I look like me.

Another thing throwing me is weight loss. I spent 2016-2017 on book writing hiatus because I was leaving my husband of 14 years instead. That in and of itself is an all consuming job. And we have teenagers who turn into asses frequently which is another full time job. With the depression that comes with knowing your life must change and not having a clue how to best go about it, I did two things: Some days I ate too much; most other days I didn’t eat at all.

And then people would say how great I looked what’s my secret? And I would say depression and divorce. Oh.

They don’t want to hear that. They want to hear about a fat girl’s new found appreciation for diets created by thin people and an adherence to thin people’s exercise regiment. They don’t want to hear that you were a vegetarian for 25 years and know a good deal about food and that you already exercise every day–you just added depression and divorce for that added temporarily gaunt look.

Well then…I met someone. And I’m not depressed and the divorce is final on July 12. And the kids would be asses anyway at their age. And I have good work to do, a play to produce, writing projects and the only thing that depresses me now is the Trump Administration and its crimes against humanity and the environment.

I still don’t know how I feel about my mom body. I’m still trying to embrace this idea about being comfortable with aging. I feel like Gen Xers just don’t buy into the idea of having to dress a certain way at a certain age. Be respectable. Etc.

So this was one from one of my last shoots. There are more of course but this one I really like. It’s the most like me I’ve ever been in a shoot. Minimal make up. Minimal hair. Me. I want to sing the body electric. Right now I’m clearing my throat and the first notes are whisper singing out of my mouth.

Categories
Uncategorized

The Ten of Swords

I pulled the Tarot card. There it was. The ten of Swords.

Mind you lately everything with me is the Devil or the Tower or the Ten of Swords. As if this is my trifecta–my constant reminder that I have not finished my transitions I thought I was making two years ago but am in the midst of them. I changed jobs. I’d changed so much in my life. Gone back to exercise and dance. Gone back to acting and singing. Gone back to writing more of what I wanted to write. But when I started that journey I didn’t realize that other things would be wanting change too.

My kids became teenagers and that right there is a change that I should have seen coming and totally didn’t see coming but my 17 years of teaching that bumbling age group of know it alls and dreamers and twisted little bunnies meant at least I was some what prepared–I’ve seen some of this before. I have written my own adolescence. I know somewhat where we are going and of course I’m trying to head off the big bad things at the pass.

I didn’t see the ending of my marriage now though. I’ve certainly sabotaged it through neglect and indifference and well exhaustion (as has he), but I always thought we of the broken home childhoods would try to keep it together. Our youngest child’s graduation from high school is 4 years off. I kept looking at that date as a ship on the horizon. Like this would be okay to do, but not till then.

Then is now.

I’m not alone of course. The mountains are peppered with women single with children. The families of two parent households are often filled with steps and fill ins not original line ups. The part of the father in this play tonight will be played by X not Z. That sort of thing. But it wasn’t my thing. At least I didn’t think it was.

Ten of Swords.

Ten whispers behind my back, in front of my face:

I demand too much attention.

I am not satisfied.

I want too much.

My eye wanders.

I think I have a higher calling.

How much time are you allowed to spend being you versus how much time you spend being what they want you to be?

Just what do I expect the world to give me?

Other women don’t have this problem…

Just accept that you’re old now. Your time is done.

When will you get a real job?

They are all there those questions. Those marital daggers. Those ten swords. Stuck in the ground, blood dried on the blade.

But those are my dreams pierced onto the dirt ground by those swords. Those are my dreams blunted by the steel. The steal. The time that got away. Elusive. Slippery. Almost gone. Pierced. If you can pull the sword out of the rock the sword is yours. The sword is mine. All ten of them.

I am single now. A surreal sort of state with swords strewn about. I pulled them out of the ground, out of the stone. Magical strength  I didn’t think I had. I collect them. I hope to clean them up, return them to their sheaths. I cannot ride with them exposed anymore, with them heavy and dragging on the ground.

To carry a sword, one has to stand tall, at the ready. To carry ten? Well…that requires tenfold.

There is a vision before me.

The ten are really one. One giant sword of concern and misgivings. One giant sword of the impressions of other people. One giant sword of regret. One giant sword of all doubts and expectations. They can be pressed together to become one—they can fight one epic battle.

It’s left me standing on this patch of earth alone. Bodies–my own and others strewn.

There’s a light in the distance–possibly the dawn.

 

 

Categories
literary

Rabble Lit & Happy May Day

When I first heard of the concept of this journal I was all in immediately. It’s something my work has always had to struggle with. Where do you fit as a literary writer when you’re kind of punk ass at the same time? Can you be academic when you’re throwing out references to children’s literature? Can benign neglect be a motif?

I do a good deal of writing about children in one way or another–maybe because I identify with being misunderstood and grossly misinterpreted and of all creatures on the planet, I think they own this more than anyone else. We are shaped by what we are born into –setting, family, etc. I happen to be born working class and I see no reason to shed that skin.

Rabble Lit acknowledges that and that American stories do not always have to be men contemplating their navels on the subway of an Eastern city with a paid off student loan or none at all. Thank you for providing space, Rabble Lit and its wonderful set of editors.

This short story of mine is up there now on their launch day–May 1st. Happy May Day! I’m humming the Internationale.

In a Far Away Land/ Margaret Elysia Garcia