I was talking with friends about makeup tonight, and we were all gently teasing each other. For example, my thing is lip color. I think we all need lip color. And I’m not necessarily meaning lipstick per se…just that if you make up your face, make sure you put something tinted on your lips.
But that was also pre COVID. These days my beauty ritual is about 5 minutes. At most, you’ll see me in concealer, eyeliner and a tinted lip balm (because my lips are also dry).
When I thought about that, I felt a bit weird. Shouldn’t I do more? I’m going to be 45 at 11:19 PM on 9/9. Well into middle age. Shouldn’t I try harder?
I watched my mother and other female relatives of the same generation spend so much time with hair in rollers and putting on full faces of makeup before they deemed themselves acceptable to go out. I don’t deny they looked great. But the time! The effort! The expense!
I’m not like that. I am certainly no beauty and have my flaws, but I just can’t do that. And COVID has helped (or not?) with that. I just don’t care. I’ll wash my face, put on moisturizer and concealer. Possibly eyeliner but definitely tinted lip balm. Five minutes. Done.
I LIKE having such a pared down beauty ritual. Maybe it shouldn’t technically be called that. I don’t know.
I’m going to be 45 tomorrow. I feel like if someone doesn’t like me because of how I look at this age, then it’s their problem. And I don’t mean to leave you with the idea that I make no effort; I just make very little effort.
And that is very freeing!
We’ve learned a lot since March of 2020. And if you don’t like my face as it is, minimally made up, then chances are you won’t like what I’m going to express or have opinions on.
And it is perfectly accurate to inquire: “shouldn’t you put your best face forward?”
To which I reply: “why?” Why do so? What does it matter? If you wake up with me, you’re going to see me in all my 45-year-old glory. How my face looks does not at all detract from my brain or my ability to think and express myself. “
This does not mean that I do not dress or carry myself appropriately. I just…I’m going to be 45 on Friday, and I’ve gotten used to a very pared down beauty ritual, and I like it. I’ll never say that I look as good as I could, but I don’t care. I look good enough. And that’s very freeing. I like that I can be ready in 5 minutes. No, I don’t look as good as I could, but I don’t care.
And maybe that’s the time of Covid. Maybe that’s my age. Maybe I’m just tired of it all. This is who I am. I’m 45 and say, “fuck it.”
Today is two years exactly since I took home my work laptop and prepared my spot at the dining room table as a “temporary” office. And prepared myself for Daniel to be home for “two weeks” as we were told.
Well, here we are. It’s 2022. Daniel is back in school physically, but I am still here at the dining room table in loungewear, Crocs and (hopefully) fun t-shirts. I’m shocked. Stunned. I never – like most of us – thought that something like COVID would happen in my lifetime despite devouring books and movies on pandemics and knowing it was simply a matter of time (theoretically).
And Daniel has not been immune – ha ha – from the experience. His concerns about cleanliness and germs have been heightened to an alarmingly and frankly annoying degree.
I used to mark each pandemic quarantine week on the wall calendar, but sometime last year, I stopped and never resumed. But I keep the paper calendars (from Biltmore, naturally) and they are a nice time capsule. I marked today as “two years exactly since quarantine.”
It’s…it’s been a rough two years as I’m sure most of us could say. There have been some highs but mainly a lot of lows. I wasn’t prepared for this. None of us were prepared for this. I have gotten through it via humor from YouTube, reading, memes, and well…interacting with as many of you as I could. And work. Work helped a lot.
I know I’ve had quite a bit of personal tragedy during the pandemic, but sometimes it becomes difficult to extract one from the other. Jimmy did not die from COVID, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to separate his death from the last two years. It’s all tangled up together and part of my pandemic experience and memory.
And as I acknowledge this milestone of two years exactly in being impacted by COVID, I’m also preparing to return to the office. No more time at my dining room table and my less-than-ergonomic dining room table chair. Starting 3/21, we will return to the office once a week, working up to more days in the following weeks.
I have a lot of mixed feelings about it. A lot has changed for me personally. And I love my loungewear and dining room table. But getting back to the office and seeing people – sans mask – could be very good. Also, I am craving the pho near my office. I’m not going to lie, though. I feel a bit like the people emerging from Plato’s allegory of the cave. And I also hope that COVID doesn’t continue to smack us in the face with “surprises” like the variants of the last year, but it has been a wily foe.
I did not have pandemics or spousal death or Russian invading Ukraine on my decade Bingo card. But here we are. It’s…a weird time. Weird.
But I might also be able to buy some new work clothes?!?! I haven’t bought new clothes in two years.
Still a weird time. I thought last year that maybe there would be return to normal. Now? No. We will return to…something. But it will not be the normal we have been used to. It will truly be a new normal, whatever that means. This pandemic has changed us. And I’m equally curious and trepidatious about what this new normal will be. I thought this article from The Week summed it up well.
Happy COVID-versary. What do you get someone for two years of a pandemic??
Well, here we are. The last week of October. I thought I’d be OK. In control. But I’m not as much as I’d like to be. I thought it was Mercury Retrograde weighing on me because I really felt it. Uncomfortable in my own skin. Pulled, contorted, strained, weighed down. But here we are. My own personal D-Day. I can feel my anxiety rising daily. I’m struggling just to keep it together when what I really want to do is burrow under the covers and stay there. House a mess? Check. No cooking? Check. Clothes unfolded? Check. Child late to school? Check. Oversleeping? Check. Irritation? Check. Sensitive? Check. Crying? Check.
And my thoughts are so jumbled and muddled. My therapist told me a few weeks ago that I intellectualize emotions and feelings instead of letting myself experience them. I try to explain what I am feeling instead of letting myself indulge in them. But I do feel them; I find it difficult let myself to be an emotional person. To be seen as someone who has feelings.
You know who I envy? People who don’t give a fuck what other people think. I’ve always cared too much. It has improved, but I still care too much. I had a conversation on Friday night about my feelings, and I’m not completely certain it went well (not the fault of the conversation, but talking about feelings can be difficult). But I know that I cried – like ugly cried – afterwards. The kind of crying that left my eyes extra puffy Saturday and experiencing an emotional hangover.
We all have history and formative experiences and god knows I have thought a lot about mine. Probably too much. Analysis is my forte. Feeling is not. I’m not going to subject any of you to my TED Talk on why I am this way. I guess I should get to the point. I think my thoughts are jumbled around vulnerability and shame (yes, yes, off to read Brene Brown). After that conversation on Friday – or frankly, any conversation in which I let loose like that – my first reaction is embarrassment. I’ve revealed too much of myself. All the ugly parts. The parts that indicate that no, I very much do not have my shit together. You know, the parts that reveal me as a flesh and blood human who is not perfect. And the fear about whether people will still like me or respect me if I reveal that I do have feelings. But I AM human! I DO have feelings! Why is vulnerability such a difficult state for us to occupy? How did we get here?
I think of this verse Rizzo sings in “There are Worse Things I Could Do” from Grease:
I could hurt someone like me Out of spite or jealousy I don’t steal and I don’t lie But I can feel and I can cry A fact I’ll bet you never knew But to cry in front of you That’s the worst thing I could do
And to finally, finally get to the point. I have a lot of thoughts about this week. Can I express those emotions? Should I express those emotions? Can I be that vulnerable? Is it allowed? And yes, I know it is technically. But am I allowed to feel and express these things truly? Or should I keep a stiff upper lip? What is the statute of limitations on grieving in our society these days?
It is funny to be writing this after last week’s somewhat “rah rah” “Entropy” post. Well. I feel what I feel when I feel it. THAT I have definitely learned in the last year. And I grapple with that dichotomy. I have good days and bad days. Last week was not a great week, and I have a feeling that this week may not be either. And I have to be OK with that. I have to accept that and understand that. More importantly, I have to give myself permission to feel. To let those emotions flow through.
This week is worthy of my feelings. If I feel dread, uneasiness, and anxiety every day, it’s OK. If I need to take a day and just be, that’s OK. From what I have seen, there is no manual for any of this (but if there is other than Kubler-Ross, message me?).
I’ll do what I need to get through it. Cry when I need to. And then “Shake it out” as Florence + the Machine recommend and prepare for Halloween. I have three pumpkins to gut (ugh) and carve (good luck?) and a child to make happy.
It’s possible I might be in an especially raw phase. I cried at least 5 times this week. I just finished crying in fact. And I might cry more. The jury is out although it would be nice if they would give me a heads up.
I blame Mercury Retrograde. Yes. We are in that lovely period in which Mercury likes to fuck with us. I have an entire post planned on it if I can get past this week because I have a lot of Mercury in my natal chart, so I am essentially fucked.
I hope you don’t mind expletives. I am quite fluent with them these days. I always liked them and used them before, but now, it’s like my native tongue. Makes me think of when I returned home from college the first few times. My aunts and my mom looked at each other knowingly as the expletives rolled off my tongue. A look I learned to decipher as, “oh, so cute! College girl thinks she has grown up!”
I don’t like to feel that anything is overwhelming for me. At all. But I’m also human and apparently have pesky things called feelings, and they can be hurt and trampled on too. That really destroys my vibe as someone who is above that sort of thing, but here we are.
And 12-year-olds are especially good…exquisitely good…at picking out your weaknesses and trampling all over them gleefully.
He’s apologized. I’m sulking and trying not to cry again. It’s fine. It’s fine. It’s all fine. I am both 15 and 44 and that’s a weird place to be.
It’s just…one minute you are going along thinking – not that you have it together – fuck no. Never that. But that you are managing things. You are getting by (that is a bar set very low). And then, something emotionally sideswipes you and you realize you have nothing together, your life is shit, and it’s like a bucket of ice-cold water has been dropped over your head. Everything you believed is a joke. You know shit. This week has been an entire week of this. And believe me, my expectations are very low. And somehow that hurts even more.
And when you try so hard to look like you have it together, that you are keeping everything together, it’s like an extra low blow. Especially when you are trying to look towards the future and try to make plans – you know “be optimistic”: the universe guffaws (maybe in a nicotine-deadened croaky voice), “ha ha ha. Why did you ever think you could do anything like that? Achieve anything like that? You are FUCKED!”
Like I said. Expletives are my lingua franca these days.
Just think of me as a crab: hard exoskeleton, soft underbelly. That’s what I feel like.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Today is Manufacturing Day. I’ve posted about this day for many years, but please think of the manufacturers in your area and thank them, support them, vote for legislation friendly to them. Manufacturing is so important to our economy and, frankly, fascinating! Someone said on a call today, “manufacturing has changed!” And that is so true. It is very different than what it used to be, and I want us to get to a point where we can visit plants again (damn COVID) so people can see what it is like now. I could think of a zillion types of tours to plan to showcase the various products made in NC, and I know my colleagues across the nation could do the same. I love Manufacturing Day. It inspires me, and I love trying to figure out best how to highlight what all we make. And the truth is that if we as a nation no longer make things, we are doomed. If I, a prissy English major who had never been exposed to manufacturing prior to 2000, can find it fascinating, I guarantee that you can too.
And welcome October. It’s time to get out my Halloween villages and set up a few things. I love October. I love the leaves changing. I love knowing we are getting to the end of the year and the shortest day of the year. It appeals to something primal in me. I have 20 pairs of Halloween socks. I love it. Today, October 1, also marks the 11th month since Jimmy died. I am stunned it is month 11 already.
Life and feelings ebb and flow. Flow and ebb. Emotions come and go. Go and come. You do your best. It’s all you can do.
And, well, fuck it, right? You knew I couldn’t end without an expletive 🙂
I try not to air too much dirty laundry, but, well, sometimes I need to vent and share, and I like to think this is my safe-ish space to do so. I have no interest in being the poster child for “getting by” because I have lots of raw, ugly emotions here.
I hate Mondays. I think we can all say that to some degree, and a friend turned me on to “I Don’t Like Mondays” by The Boomtown Rats, and it sums it up.
I used to blithely say it, but now I really, really mean it. Mondays now mean attempted school refusal because it’s a PE day (note to self: another call I need to make). Lots of meetings. And putting on three hats: job 1, job 2 (marketing) and job 3 (mommy). It’s a long day. And it includes garbage needing to be dealt with. It sounds silly, but I don’t know…garbage symbolizes so much, and it is a huge pain. Garbage night symbolizes to me one of those tasks that I didn’t have to do previously but now must do now. And I fucking hate it.
And my sweet boy. Mondays are a trigger for him because of gym class. He hates gym class. I hated gym class too. Do I look like someone who excelled in gym? Nope. Like I said, school refusal attempted. And then surliness at me. Demanding I speak to him a certain way. Nothing pisses me off more than being told to use a nicer tone or say “please” by my 12 year old. And this comes barely two days after taking him to a Lego festival, spending a lot of money and being told that it was the BEST day.
I am not good with this. I am too verbal and use too many words to be effective, and it angers me SO MUCH. This morning, once he agreed to go to school, he announced he was going to the woods. I muttered, “By all means, go live deliberately” and he shouted, “I don’t understand your slang.” I laughed and laughed.
And then after I dropped him off at school, I came home and cried and cried.
I mention all of this not to shame him or myself (though the shame for me is omnipresent) but to point out the reality of our lives right now. It is not all great. It is not often great at all.
I am lonely. I am alone. I often don’t know what to do. I Google a lot. We both have therapists. It’s just hard. And I’m OK with that being our reality because it is true: hard. But I wonder when it will be less hard. And I hope there will be a time.
I like to think I am doing my best, but when I don’t feel like I am doing my best at anything, I can’t believe I am doing my best at parenting either. But I know the tween surliness is developmental and I know that his rages at me are also due to him knowing I am a safe person he can rage to. I know that. Just not easy to take. And that all gets woven together with being the only parent and being alone and feeling alone and trying to do my job, and I just want to scream.
We went to the beach for Labor Day weekend – a do-over from a few prior rainy trips and a “last hurrah” to the beach as well as an early birthday present for me. And it was wonderful! But we did have a scary moment. The ocean was the calmest I had seen it in years and there were amazing sand bars that extended far out. Daniel and I played in the water, swam (me) and overall had a great time.
And then the scare happened: the closest sand bar disappeared suddenly. Daniel freaked out and wrapped himself around my neck. I knew we were only a few inches away from being able to touch, but the tide was coming in quickly and I had someone gripping me even though I tried to calm him down so I could walk or swim us closer. It was the scariest moment I have ever had in the ocean. Fortunately, there were swimmers close by that could help us progress the few inches needed, but I was devastated. Relieved. Humiliated. Grateful. Angry. I had talked to Daniel several times about not grabbing me around the neck if he was scared in the water. I know that panic occurs and how it makes our rational thoughts disappear instantly. But I could feel what could have happened, and it was terrifying. All I could think of was that this child who was berating me the night before for not doing something for him was now gripping me, hoping I would save him even though he could quite literally have drowned us both. We returned to our room, and I cried from the adrenaline and from feeling like a failure who couldn’t take care of her child and from feeling overall like a terrible mother and human.
So that’s where we are. If I’m not waving, I’m drowning. Sometimes literally; mostly figuratively.
And in the midst of all this other drama, milestones occur. Last week, on Sept. 22, I realized it was the anniversary of when I met Jimmy. We’ve always considered it a significant date, and it felt weird to me that it took me almost the entire day before I realized what the date was. We met in 1996, so it would have been 25 years. Then, on Sept. 25, I took Daniel to BrickUniverse and gave the credit card a work out even though I hate Legos at this point. September 25 was also Jimmy’s birthday, so I thought indulging Daniel might be a good idea. It was a good day. It was a good way to honor Jimmy because he would have loved taking Daniel to BrickUniverse.
I have lots of milestones this time of year: my birthday (9/9); our meeting anniversary (9/22); his birthday (9/25). Next month is the last week of his life at the end of October. Then we have the first anniversary of his death on 11/1. Our wedding anniversary is 12/1 and let me tell you what a gift last year was with the first month of his death arriving on our anniversary. I usually enjoy celebrating milestones and important dates, but I kind of want to put my head in the sand this year. The dates are a lot, especially as they come almost all at once.
I write this not to seek pity or even condolences. More of a rumination on what it’s like to be us … to be me mainly … right now. I try to keep a stiff upper lip, but to be frank, this shit is hard.
But I try. I try so hard every day (maybe sing that to Flock of Seagulls’ “I Ran.” That would be amusing). It’s all I have and all I can do.
I joke that many days I feel like Sisyphus, and that is true. But I also think of this video, and it makes me laugh and feel better.
A few months ago, I decided what I wanted to give myself for my birthday. It was…a bit radical for me. Despite my liberal beliefs, I am a bit conservative in some areas.
But once the idea took hold in my head, I couldn’t get rid of it. I wanted…no, I needed to do this. I made a goal to have it by my birthday, but it wasn’t possible. However, one week later, I did it. I fulfilled my birthday gift to myself.
I honestly never thought I would get a tattoo. I admired them, but I never thought I would get one. However, like I said, over the summer, the idea took hold in my head, and I wanted to do it.
I know a phoenix is a little cliche and possibly trite, but it spoke to me. What better symbol of rebirth could there be after one’s spouse dies and you are forced to figure out a new reality and existence? Plus Harry Potter.
And I love it. I do. I could not stop grinning for hours after I received it. It’s such a small thing, but it felt so transformative. So symbolic.
My tattooist was great – I think he is in his 80s based on what he said, but he has had a very colorful life (and I think he is libertarian based on his comments. That or slightly conservative?!). He had on classic rock in the background, and we had some good chats about the music. It also made me think of my father.
I’m not going to lie. It did hurt. About 75% of it was bearable and mainly resembled a lot of acupuncture needles being placed at the same time. The other 25% caused me to clench my jaw and grip the pillow. But it took only an hour.
I don’t know if it makes sense to be proud of myself for getting a tattoo. But I am. It felt like a radical act…for me.
I know we all likely know this line from Mary Oliver (and I’ve used it in this space before):
“What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
I want to live. To find me. To be me. And this tattoo felt like the first step in that direction.
It’s a cliche that every author of a semi-abandoned blog returns, apologizes for the absence and expresses a desire to dust it off and resume writing. Well, I am nothing if not a cliche.
I thought about blogging in March 2020 when we started quarantine. I thought about blogging a few months later about how much I hated wiping off the items from the grocery store and how my nails would never be the same thanks to Clorox. I thought about blogging the first time I left my house (July 2020) since March. I thought about blogging about how small my house felt with Daniel home and “attending” (read: not) virtual school, my husband on medical leave, the arguments and the three cats that draped themselves in front of me and on chairs while I worked. I know I had a few interesting Zoom meetings when one of them did something gravity-defying in front of me and my expression was one of panic or shock. I thought about blogging about the quest to make my dining room chair as ergonomically comfortable as possible since I spent all day, every day hunched over my laptop (still do!).
I worked my ass off, literally (we’ll get to that). I know some employers complained about a loss of productivity, but I have never worked so much (and still doing so) ever. But it was good work. Meaningful work. Taking my org’s mission and trying to identify manufacturers that could make PPE and match them to state and federal opportunities. I never thought I would find myself discussing Everclear in a work call, but it happened because the alcohol proof to be effective against COVID needed to be at least Everclear levels and we had to advise the local distilleries seeking to make hand sanitizer. Bizarre. But this sort of thing is why I love my job. You never know what you will need to research.
And I had anger. Lots of anger. And resentment. My house often felt like a prison. Trapped between a surly, increasingly anxious tweenager and an anxious spouse who often butted heads because frankly, they were so much alike. They both would come vent to me, and I would offer counsel, but I also screamed, “I am working here! I am the ONLY one in this house working. Figure it out for yourselves!” I fantasized about just walking out the door and leaving. Even 43-year-olds can run away from home, right? Sartre said that hell is other people, and I raise a glass to him because at that point, truer words had never been spoken.
And then came Halloween 2020 and November 1, 2020. I was in a foul mood. Everyone had been extra…needy that week. And it takes a lot out of you when you finally shut your laptop at 5 or 6 or whatever and have to shift to your second job of “keeping the fucking household going: cooking, cleaning, feeding the cats, laundry, etc.” Bitterness, resentment and anger? I had them. Old friends by that point. Best friends. I was feeling resentful and angry because I had to get everything ready for Halloween, including the pumpkins, dinner, candy, the costume, etc. And also guilty and sympathetic because Jimmy wasn’t feeling well. My goal was to give Daniel a decent Halloween because so much of 2020 had been a shit show: couldn’t go anywhere, beach trips canceled, nothing fun. The least I could do is take him to a few houses to trick-or-treat.
We went to bed and…the next day I woke up a widow. I’m not going to go into details because they are incredibly personal and awful. Just know that I saw things I cannot unsee. Ever. It was a terrible, terrible day. And Daniel was home, so I had to shield him as much as I could.
That was almost 10 months ago. I cannot believe it has been that long already. I’ve talked to more people on the phone than I have in years. I’ve written the first checks I’ve written in decades. I’ve filled out so much paperwork. I’ve dealt with tax issues and estate planning. I found yard people! I am dealing with a plumbing issue. I’ve carved a turkey (not necessarily well but that fucker was carved). I’ve dealt with the anxiety of being the “only” parent. Daniel and I have fought and made up so many times. I know he trusts me because he feels free to be a right asshole to me. I’ve upped my meds. I’ve cried many, many times. I found a therapist of my own. I work. In fact, my team has doubled. I try really, really hard to keep it all together, but I have also learned to let myself be vulnerable and to be seen as vulnerable.
And I’ve let people in. I have zoom calls with friends from high school. I have a monthly “happy hour” zoom with a former coworker. I have Zooms and a FB group with fellow IF friends and I now consider them among my closest friends. I’ve made new, special friends. I used to have few people I texted, but now I have so many that I forget to whom I have told what. I talk and talk and talk. Jimmy used to joke that he could tell when I hadn’t talked to anyone at work because I would come home and talk nonstop. I lost a lot, but I feel like I found a lot. I have been doing a lot of thinking and reflecting. Some days are unbearably lonely. Other days, I want Daniel and the cats to leave me alone after a day full of Zoom meetings. But these connections mean a lot to me. I’ve always felt chronically lonely and that was probably of my own making, but being able to talk to these people – realizing that they care – that they find me worthy & interesting is humbling and wonderful.
We have had a good summer. Several trips to the beach. Lots of freckles (me); whatever his heart desires (Daniel). I’m probably spoiling him a bit, but I’m OK with that. And I lost 40+ pounds since January 2020 (see “literally working my ass off”). Was not intentional. It turns out I am not a stress eater, and anxiety renders me incapable of eating. It’s a weird place to be. I’ve cooked less than I anticipated, but that’s OK. “Getting By” is the goal. Is Daniel fed? Are the cats fed? Have I eaten something? Then it’s all good.
So why tonight? Why resurrect the ol’ blog tonight? Well, I’m a sucker for milestones, and Daniel starts school – in person – on Monday. We are both looking forward to it. I’m not sure I can adequately explain it, but the last 18 months seem so surreal. Almost dream-like (or nightmare-like – pick your poison). Nothing seemed real. I’ve been working in a tank top and lounge pants. My beauty ritual has been whittled to 5 minutes. I joke I’m feral but it’s not really a joke. No, really. So resuming in-person school seems like a nice coda. Maybe now we can start to re-establish routines. Better bedtimes. I don’t want to put too much pressure on us, but I have some optimism about this. The world is still on fire (literally in several cases) and the Delta variant is causing trouble. Also, the first day and week of school have threats of protests by local groups who believe a piece of cloth is the worst affront to their rights they have ever seen 🙄 Overall, though, it feels like a whisper, a hint of normalcy.
I hope to revisit this space more. I NEED an outlet. And every day is not perfect nor do I expect it to be. But I am learning and growing as painful and wonderful as that can be. I leave with this quote from Keats:
Beauty is truth, truth beauty. That is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.
He’s knobby knees and sharp elbows. He watches Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and Doctor Who instead of Thomas, Peppa Pig and Super Why. In the car, he sits next to me in a booster seat instead of in a car seat in the back. We listen to the news, and he asks me to explain things like “hush money,” “witch hunt,” “flipping,” “stabbed in the back,” and “human punching bag.” I should probably change the station.
He is so tall, yet he cried when his bean plant died. He is both afraid of and in awe of his two kitty cat sisters.
He wants me to read to him still.
He is 9, and today he started the 4th grade. We are in a bit in shock. When did he get so big? Where did the time go? I can feel time’s inexorable march, but it is bittersweet. Right now, he still loves kisses and hugs, but conditions have begun to occur. Not at drop-offs. Or in front of friends. But at night, we can still hug and give kisses. Mostly.
Happy 1st day of 4th grade. Fingers crossed for a good year.
Today is our 15th wedding anniversary. What? 15 years already?!?! But it is true. Fifteen years ago on a similarly unseasonably warm day, I walked down the aisle, almost caught my dress on a pew and gripped Jimmy’s hands so hard that he joked the imprint of his ring would be visible on his bone.
You might think we spent this milestone anniversary having a nice dinner out or doing something special.
We did. Sort of.
First, I picked up takeout hibachi for about the zillionth time this year. Who needs the teppanyaki show when you can get the same food to go without the time commitment?
Then, we had normal nightly chores to do. School papers to sign for Daniel and practice for the next day’s spelling test. Lunches to make and kitty cats to be fed and treated.
Finally came the main task of the evening. We are having AT&T fiber installed tomorrow. Jimmy is very excited about it and we needed to do some wiring before the installer comes out tomorrow. And I use “we” throughout because I helped (not always graciously).
Our living room is in disarray because we took apart the entertainment center earlier in the week for the fiber installation. Our bonus room is filled with pieces from the entertainment center. The TV is in front of our coffee table. And in the middle of it all is our Christmas tree, begging, hoping to be decorated soon.
Tonight, though, was devoted to wiring. Tonight Jimmy was in the crawl space underneath the house after drilling a hole in the wall to the crawl space. I fed him 50 feet of a bundle of wires with only a tiny bit of discord (we don’t do projects like this well).
It felt like that scene in Poltergeist in which Jo Beth Williams is preparing to go into the other side to get Carol Ann, and the scientists see the rope and tennis balls coming through the ceiling covered in ectoplasm.
As I was feeding the wires to Jimmy, it took all my restraint not to start chanting, “Cross over, children. All are welcome.”
The wiring is ready, and even though the house is still a wreck, we will fix it this weekend. The tree will be decorated.
It may not have been the anniversary night one sees in movies or reads in books, but it was certainly real.
Today is my birthday, and I am 39. I’m having complicated feelings about it, the ones many of us have once you reach a certain age and the milestone birthdays aren’t quite as fun because of what they symbolize.
It has been a weird summer, a weird year. The first few months had stress and anxiety due to my husband being out of work, a house project that (predictably) went slightly longer than expected, work anxiety of my own, school decisions for next year, and health concerns.
We hoped that once summer came, coming with the end of the school year, another successful Listen to Your Mother: Raleigh-Durham show, health concerns allayed (although not necessarily improved), three beach trips, school decision made and a major change at my own job, we could exhale and detorque.
Instead, we felt unsettled all summer. I was never able to relax completely at the beach, and the summer flew by. Work stress continued – I have relearned the painful lesson that nature abhors a vacuum when it comes to drama. And worst of all, we had to put another cat to sleep, leaving us with an “only cat.” I feel down and blue and like I’m just failing at so many things.
We also learned that the upcoming season of Listen to Your Mother will be the final one, at least under its current branding and organization.
Those sound like major first-world problems, and I feel like I’m whining. I don’t know why this year felt the way it did. We’ve had other years that were truly terrible. There’s just something about this year that has felt and feels off.
But it is my birthday, and that’s a good thing. I have people who love me and a job that while frustrating and drama-filled more often than I would like, is interesting and stimulating. Daniel has adjusted well to his new school.
And Fall is coming. Pumpkins and changing leaves and holidays. The heat will break eventually, and maybe, just maybe, I’ll find a little energy and enthusiasm.