Monday, June 09, 2014

Wendy from the block. But which block?

I often miss my family.

I had what felt to me like an idyllic childhood.  Many people I know give me a confused look at the idea of a life spent moving around the world - with the requisite changes of schools every three or four years - as idyllic, but it really was amazing.  I have an extremely close relationship with my parents and my brothers, and with so many of the friends I made growing up, including college and law school.

The problem is, most of them are on the East Coast, and I'm in Colorado.

I have soooo many close friends, from all of my various stages of life, who live in either the DC area, Charlottesville, Virginia, or Richmond, Virginia.  My parents are in northern Virginia, as are a number of my closest high school and college friends.  Plus my brothers are just up the coast, in New York and New Hampshire.  Easy train or plane rides.

I would love to live closer to my parents.  I would love for my children to live closer to my parents, who adore my kids and spoil them beyond all sense, in the wonderful way that grandparents do.  It would be amazing to have my close high school and college friends - people who are incredibly important to me and whom I really adore -- be a real presence in my life, instead of seeing them once a year when I go home for Thanksgiving, or at infrequent reunions, which leave me an emotional mess.

I think about moving back there.  I've thought about it for years.

But increasingly, I have a hard time with the idea of leaving Colorado.  I really, really love it here.

I love the climate, the intense beauty of the physical setting (and the ease with which we can take advantage of it), the proximity to the mountains and the abundance of activities like hiking, skiing, biking, and camping. The culture and the vibe of Denver.  My neighborhood.  My job.

This past weekend my neighbors arranged a block party.  There was amazing barbecue, kegs of beer, a bouncy house that the kids jumped in for seven hours, games of cornhole.  Music that takes me back to college and law school - the Grateful Dead, Widespread Panic, bluegrass, older stuff like The Band.

It kind of made me feel like I was back in Charlottesville.  We used to hang out like that during second semester of my 4th year - we'd go to Chris Greene Lake and sunbathe, listen to music, play music, toss a frisbee.  There was no bouncy house because there were no kids, but other than that, the vibe was remarkably similar.  People of different ages and backgrounds, all just happy to be together.

It felt so incredible, and incredibly familiar.

But do I keep that feeling by staying here, or by going back to what still feels like home?

The one negative byproduct of my upbringing, and one that I think a lot of "third culture kids" feel, is a difficulty with ever putting down roots anywhere.  We always feel the need to move on.  We're always looking forward to that new place, that new adventure.  Even places that we like -- there's a sense of, "yeah, this place is great, but there's new stuff to see and do!  Time to move on."

So is this my natural wanderlust talking, always seeking out change?

As well as I can usually read myself, I'm having a hell of a time figuring it out.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Technological and scientific advances will continue apace, professional soccer will be THE big money-making sport, Michael Jackson will still be popular, and there will be no fire

Zeke had his kindergarten "continuation" ceremony.  It's the term the school uses instead of "graduation," because I guess even they recognize how absurd the notion of "graduating" from kindergarten is.

And when I think about it, I really do find it ridiculous.  I mean, Colorado doesn't even have compulsory school attendance for kids in kindergarten.  You get to go to first grade solely by virtue of being 6 years old by October 1.

But, I have to admit it's really cute.  Zeke was SO excited about it.  The kids learned poems and dances and songs (including one set to Taio Cruz's Dynamite) and all week he's been asking me, "Mama, do you want to see the dance moves?  Do you want to hear me sing?"

"Of course!" I respond every time.

He even wanted Josie in on it.  I had planned to drop Josie at her school before heading over to Zeke's, but this morning he said, "Josie, do you want to come see my continuation ceremony?"

"Of course!"

So she came along as well.

My favorite part was when each kid gets to walk across the stage, get a "diploma" from the school principal, and then tell the audience what they want to be when they grow up.

I didn't take a specific count, but here's the general breakdown:

  • Fully one third of the kids want to be scientists;
  • About one fifth want to be teachers (including a couple who said they want to be science teachers);
  • A smattering want to be moms or dads;
  • Five boys want to be professional soccer players.  By contrast, only one wants to be a pro basketball player, and nobody wants to play pro football or baseball.  One girl wants to be a swimmer, and another wants to be a swim teacher;
  • There were a couple of doctors and vets, including a kid who wants to be an army medic;
  • There were at least 10 firefighters, plus one boy who wants to be both a firefighter and a policeman;
  • Three boys want to be "Michael Jackson dancers," about five want to be ninjas, one wants to be Batman, and another wants to be a spy.
As for Zeke, he walked up to the microphone and announced his intention to become a "shark doctor."  So he can help sharks out when they get hurt.

Ok, then.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof

I woke up this morning feeling inexplicably happy.  "Inexplicably" not because my life sucks and I have nothing to be happy about, but because I've been really agitated and vibrate-y the past few days, and the change in how I felt this morning was marked.  And as with depression, which manifests itself physically as a feeling of cold, heavy tension in my chest and gut, the feeling of happiness is physical as well - kind of a zingy lightness that makes it difficult to stop smiling.

It's kind of pathetic that I'm so used to being stressed out and nervous and worried about what's coming next that when I'm actually in the moment and feeling good, I don't quite know what to do with myself. I kept trying to analyze what was going on - why am I feeling this way?  What's going on?

I kept waiting for the feeling to abate.

But it didn't.  So I decided to just acknowledge the things I should be happy about.

I slept well and had good dreams, including one in which I was kissing a hot guy.  Sleep is good, and I've been sleeping better lately than I have in years.  And kissing hot guys doesn't suck either.

I had a great workout - lifted really heavy weights and felt energized afterwards.  Physically, I'm healthy and I feel fantastic.  I've been back on the slow carb eating plan, which I should really do all the time because it makes me feel so good - I have energy and I'm losing my layer of winter chub. And it's so clearly what my body needs - when I'm not eating starchy carbs and sugar, I don't feel lethargic or bloated and I don't crave junk.

It was a spectacularly beautiful, bluebird Colorado day.  I sat outside and enjoyed lunch with a friend from work whom I really like.  I've been reconnecting with old friends and making new ones, and it has made me appreciate how many smart, interesting, funny, wonderful people I am privileged to know.

My kids woke up chirpy and behaved themselves perfectly as we got dressed and got out the door -- no fights, no dawdling, no complaints.  I almost wanted to pinch myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming that part as well.

I spent some time playing the banjo and singing, which always makes life a little better.

I enjoy my job and the people I work with.  It's interesting and it makes a real difference in people's lives.

I have a family who adores me and whom I will see at the beach in 4 weeks.  Ten days of sun and sand and swimming and reading and being with people with whom I can be myself and who love me for it.

There is so much to be happy about every day.

Of course, I can't compete with the utter joy that my ghetto children get to experience when their daddy takes them to Cheesman Park after school and lets them prance around in the fountains in their underwear.

But I'll take what I can get.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

I want you to love me like my dog does, baby

Occasionally, the children's interactions with each other sound like this:

"ZEKE! Give it back!"

"You weren't using it."

"It's MINE!"

"I don't care."

"You're stupid."

"No, you're stupid."

"Mama, Zeke called me 'stupid!'"


It's annoying as hell.

But most of the time, I hear a lot of giggling and sounds of things crashing followed by "don't tell Mama!" and happy chatter.

I grew up with two younger brothers, and the age difference between Josh and me is the same as that between Zeke and Josie, but I don't remember playing with him as much as Josie and Zeke play together. I remember being more solitary in my playtime pursuits as a kid, though I could be totally misremembering some of the earlier years.

In any event, I love that they get to go through these years together, entertaining each other endlessly.  They even still want to marry each other.

Reading a book together (naked, of course)
Here are some of their favorite activities:

  • playing "mamas and babies."  Zeke is usually the baby.
  • bouncing on my bed, which for some reason also involves pulling all of the blankets and pillows from elsewhere in the house into my room.  They work flips in when they jump from the arm of the sofa in my bedroom onto the bed, and then have enough momentum to flip over or go crashing into the headboard (which is padded, thank goodness).  Lately they've added the stability ball into the mix, so they're bouncing on the stability ball on the bed.  Sometimes I feel like I should put a stop to this on the grounds that someone could get hurt, but I guess they'll figure it out.
  • throwing things off the second floor balcony into the front yard (they get in trouble for this, but they do it anyway). 
  • pushing each other around the house in laundry baskets
  • playing "roly poly," a game in which they sit on opposite ends of the hallway, set up obstacles between them, and roll a little blue ball back and forth between them
  • going outside to look for worms and slugs in the garden
  • going around the block, either walking or on their bikes (they're allowed to do this by themselves)
  • playing hide and go seek, or as Josie now calls it, "hide and go Zeke"
They're getting more creative.  The other night I was reading and they came into the room, naked from the waist down, holding ice packs (the kind you stick in a cooler) on their butts.  

"Hi, Mama."

"Hi.  What are you doing?" I asked.

"We're putting ice packs on our butts," Zeke explained.

"Yes, I can see that.  Why?"

"We want to see whose butt gets redder."


"Do you want me to get you an ice pack, Mama?"

"No, thanks.  I'm good."

I went back to my book.

Recently I heard Zeke say, "hey, Josie, want to play 'dog?'"


Turns out the game consists of Josie pretending to be a dog while Zeke throws things down the hallway for her to fetch.

"Aw, girl," I thought to myself.  "Grow some self respect."

"Josie, don't act like a dog.  You don't want to be treated like a dog," I implored.

"I like dogs, Mama!"  she responded.

OK, then.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Too many thoughts at the top of my head

A friend of mine who recently went through a divorce told me that when she was first separated, her therapist told her she needed to do three things.  She needed to spend time outside, looking up at the sky. She needed to take a two week vacation by herself.  And she needed skin-on-skin contact.

I've thought about that a lot lately.  When I'm outside, I make a point of looking up.  I see beauty, or turbulent weather, or birds.  Stars and clouds.  Possibilities.  I like it.

The two week vacation thing struck me as excessive, partly because the idea of being able to get away for two weeks feels impossible.  But lately I think I get why that was the recommendation.  

Because when you're going through all of these major changes in your relationship and your life, it's incredibly difficult to process it all when you're mired down in the day-to-day of regular existence.

It's so weird right now, because we made the decision to separate 5 months ago, and we're totally fine with it and taking steps to make the physical separation happen.  But we're still living in the same house, the same way we have for years.  And living this way was what made us want to split up in the first place, so sometimes I'll come home from work and everything feels exactly like it always has, and it makes me want to scream because all I want is for everything to be different RIGHTNOW.

Even as I'm having these feelings, I'm saying to myself, "Wendy, what the fuck is your problem?  Things are moving along and J is looking for a place and it's all going on the schedule we agreed to and everything is FINE.  Calm down."  

But I can't help it.

I'm impatient with the kids, even though they generally have done nothing to annoy me except to act their ages.

Or I'll alternately feel incredibly hopeful and then a minute later incredibly despondent, because who the hell am I to think that I can start over at 44 and I'm old and ugly and no one will ever want me and waaaaaaah. 

I know that's not rational. But it's still taking up space in my head and my heart.

I'm like a tuning fork.  I'm vibrating.  My senses are heightened.  My emotions are incredibly close to the surface.  I overanalyze every interaction with everyone.  

It's like that scene towards the end of Thelma and Louise when the women are driving through the southwest, and Thelma says that she's never felt so awake. That everything looks different.

I'm assuming this is a normal aspect of trying to process the end of a marriage, and the start of a new, potentially exciting, but also somewhat scary, phase of life.  But feeling all of the feels while also trying to maintain a household and transition everyone from the school-year to the summer activities and lawyer and do fitness coaching and everything else is really, really difficult.  

The vast majority of my waking time is spent taking care of other people.  My children, and even my husband, still -- I'm the one who's finding apartments on Craigslist, and figuring out the financial stuff.  I'm still making dinner for everyone every night.  And as much as J is a great dad, the kids are still at ages when they attach themselves to me at virtually every opportunity.  There's no let-up.

Wine helps, though I rarely drink more than three-quarters of a glass. Exercise and eating well helps.  

But I definitely have a much better understanding of, and appreciation for, the "two weeks alone" recommendation.  I don't even have two weeks' worth of leave right now (especially after going to the beach for 10 days with my family next month).  But after J sets up his own household, I am going to try to take at least a 3-day weekend away sometime later this summer so I can just think, and be, and not take care of anyone but myself.

As for the skin-on-skin contact...

Hmm.  That would be nice, too.