Thursday, March 31, 2016

Me and my head high, and my tears dry, get on without my guy

"Maybe you don't really want to be with someone."

I was talking to a friend of mine about my recent dating foibles, and this was her observation.

I was both surprised and not at all surprised.

The past couple of months have felt jarring and left me with a sense of disjointedness.  I had a birthday I wasn't thrilled about (although I'm as healthy as I've ever been and, as ever, it's better than the alternative), and then a week later Lori died, and then construction started on the kitchen, and now the kids have been gone for a week on spring break.

I feel emotionally pushed and pulled.  The past six years (and particularly the last two) have involved so much trauma, death, and heartache - it's hard to deal with it all while at the same time being a present and productive mother, daughter, sister, friend, and functioning member of society.  I keep thinking I'm old and washed up and nearing the end of my shelf life.  I don't know what I want.

She was so sweet and bubbly.  And I miss those South Park pajama bottoms.

I keep thinking about Emma and bursting into tears.  When I was in New Hampshire for Lori's funeral, someone gave me a picture of two-year-old Emma sitting on my lap on the porch of our beach house at the Outer Banks.  We are deep in conversation and she is telling me something interesting and I'm gazing at her like I can't stand how gorgeous or cute she is.  I love this picture, but it fills me with sadness.

And my physical surroundings do nothing to provide a sense of calm or stability.  The downstairs of my house is virtually uninhabitable.  The kitchen is almost done, but it'll be another four days or so before I can start putting things in cupboards and drawers, and before I can actually use it.  So everything is dusty and there are still boxes and appliances and plastic sheeting everywhere.  I have no idea where anything is.  The only place I can really hang out is in my room, which after a while gets depressing.

So I have almost compulsively kept myself busy and out of the house.

It's been relatively easy to keep my dance card full.  I thought, given that most of my relationships have made me miserable, why not just date for the sake of dating?  Keep it casual.  Be noncommittal. Have fun. And outside of one dinner with a guy who I found repulsive on every level, it hasn't been unpleasant.  They're all very nice and enthusiastic.  We have dinner and drinks and tell our stories.

But every time, I feel them start to get too interested and attached and anxious, and I reflexively pull away. This one has mannerisms that annoy me.  That one isn't dynamic enough.  The other isn't smart enough, though smart enough for what, I don't know.  It's my own intellectual snobbery at play.

At first it was fun to be so busy all the time.  But now I'm bored and I just want them to leave me alone.

I fucking hate that I do this.  Even just reading over what I've just written, it sounds obnoxious and awful.  My friend remarked that I should give one of them a chance.  But I don't want to.  When it comes to men, it turns out that casual and noncommittal is not in my DNA. As much as I crave both the emotional and physical connections, as much as I so enjoy the experience of hanging out with someone I respect and am attracted to, I can't fake it or force it when it's not there.  I wish I could just love the one I'm with.

But the truth is, I'd rather be alone.  I'd rather read and listen to Amy Winehouse's Back to Black album.  I'd rather get caught up on movies I've been meaning to see.  It feels less lonely than being out with someone I don't really want to be with.

This is a strange discovery to make at this point in my life.  But there you have it.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Rescue me

After all of the sadness and gloom, let's talk about something happy, shall we?

My house is a shit show.

Two Czech guys named Mirko and Andrej are in my kitchen making lots of banging noises.  Neither of them is wild and crazy; rather, they are polite and workmanlike and efficient.  There's nothing worse about construction than coming home and having everything look the same day after day, without any sign of progress - that's what happened with my Atlanta kitchen.  But every day, I come home and it's different.

The night before. Everything is cleared out.
The cabinets get delivered.  They sit in the front parlor.

Everything that was in the kitchen is now in the dining room. I'm living out of a mini-fridge and cooking via toaster, microwave, and electric skillet.  Which means I eat out a lot, because if I cook at home I'm washing dishes in the tiny sink in the bathroom.
Day 1. Demo.

Day 3.  Running the gas line to the other side of the room.
Day 5. Assembling the cabinets.

Day 7. Prepping the walls to hang the cabinets.

So everything is proceeding apace. There's no reason to assume that it won't be completed on time, in another two weeks.   

But in the meantime, I'm living in what feels like squalor.  The one room downstairs that was relatively habitable was the living room, but once the guys used the front parlor to assemble the cabinets, all the furniture in there was moved to the living room, so it's totally crazy now.  I am not a particularly neat person (I've gotten much better as I've gotten older, but it just doesn't come naturally to me the way it does to some people), but even I have my limits, and I passed them a week ago. T

To keep myself from going completely insane, I have kept as busy as possible.  Want to grab a drink? Dinner? Movie? Sure.  Want to come over and watch basketball? Most definitely. Will you come babysit? Yep. 

 Seriously, I'll fold your laundry or vacuum your car or walk your dog. Anything to be out of the house.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The final straw

So many cards were stacked against her.

Depression ran in her family, and it affected her.  While she was bubbly and funny and interesting on her best days, other days were a struggle.

I have been lucky in my battle against depression.  It took me a long time to understand the symptoms and to know how to deal with them, but I've gotten there.  Between that, regular exercise, and medication, it's managed. Now when I'm sad, it's because I have something to be sad about. But I don't get that amorphous, free-floating sense of anxiety for which I am unable to pin-point a cause.  I don't remember the last time I had that feeling of a heavy, cold metal ball lodged in my chest when it wasn't tied to an actual event.

She wasn't so fortunate.

And then tragedy struck.  First her daughter was in a terrible accident that almost killed her. And she - the mother - suffered tremendously.  She was traumatized and haunted by the accident, which she witnessed.  Day to day life was difficult.

And then, a few years later, at the point when she and the rest of her family finally felt like they could put the accident behind them - when they could finally relax and exhale and feel like they weren't constantly in the clutches of fear and anxiety of something bad happening - tragedy struck again.  Her daughter - the same daughter who had been in the awful accident - was killed in a car crash.

She never recovered.  She was incapacitated by grief, and her physical health suffered as well.

As an added twist, she was abandoned by her own mother.

Her father lived with his new family 6 hours away, and they were rarely in contact.  And her mother, also depressed but one whose disease manifested itself in an incomprehensible cruelty, turned on her.  When her mother wasn't ignoring her, she was accusing her of causing the daughter's accident and then her death.  And the accusations weren't oblique or simply implied - they were expressed and deliberate.

"It's your fault."  "She's dead because of you." "You must have done something to the car she was driving."

These are actual words her mother said.

I can't imagine anything more callous, hateful, or cold-blooded. To be treated that way by one of my parents would wreck me.

Rightfully so, her husband barred her mother from their house and their family.

In the end, the weight of all of the tragedy, trauma, and parental neglect crushed her.  In the end, the thing she needed as much as anything else - the thing that could have helped her deal with everything - was the love and support of her parents. And when she couldn't get it, it sealed her fate.

In the weeks after her funeral, her mother reached out to her husband.

"Can you forgive me?"

I guess that the feelings that would be familiar to most decent human beings started to nag at her. She felt guilty.  As well she should have.

But it was too late.  The answer was "no."

Friday, March 04, 2016

Adventures in Online Dating: the student becomes the teacher edition

I think my daughter is better at this shit than I am.

The other night I was in the bathroom with her while she took a shower.  She and I were talking as I handed her shampoo and conditioner, and she was talking about Adam, the kid in her class with whom she has an off and on relationship.  Apparently, after Nick was her boyfriend for a little while, Adam became her boyfriend again.

"Well, he was my boyfriend, but then he broke up with me."

"He broke up with you?  What do you mean?"

"I mean he's not my boyfriend anymore," she huffed, exasperated that I wasn't keeping up.

"Why did he break up with you?  How do 6-year-olds break up?"

"He broke up with me because he said I was disgusting," she explained.

Girl, wut??

"What are you talking about?  Why would he say something like that??" I demanded.

"He said I was disgusting because I suck on my fingers," she responded.  "But I can't help it! I suck on my fingers because I need to chew on something.  I need a chew toy.  Will you get me a chew toy?  Something I can wear around my neck or something?"

"Sure, I'll get you one of those rubber stretchy coils that you can wear as a bracelet or something. And you're not disgusting. I can't believe he would say that to you."

She shrugged, unbothered by it.

I clearly need to learn how to adopt this kind of DGAF attitude.  If someone I liked told me they thought I was disgusting, I would be devastated.  Fortunately, the men I go out with are far more tactful than your average 6-year-old, so it's unlikely to happen to me, but still.  I wish I were that cool.

And she is learning to juggle better than I do.

In addition to handling the scheduling issues that come with trying to date a few different people while also having 50% custody of the kids, I've never been one to date a bunch of guys at a time.  It's nice to have full dance card, but my nature is to fall for and want to be with one at a time.  I'm not going to have the red hots for more than one person at a time.  At heart, I'm a romantic and I believe in being a one-man-woman.

But Josie is unburdened by such concerns.

Turns out, she and Adam are back together.  He told her that he likes her again.  During center time when they're working on iPads, they draw love hearts for each other.

"Yeah, Mama, so Adam is my boyfriend, and Trina is Mark's boyfriend. And Trina kind of likes Adam, but I told her she can't be his girlfriend because I am.  But Carl wants me to be his girlfriend too."

"But you're not his girlfriend because you're Adam's girlfriend, right?" I need to keep it all straight.

"Weelllll, I kind of like both of them.  I kind of want to have both of them as my boyfriend."

This girl is my role model in so many ways.