Projects

Where once there was a garden there was now an empty plot of land. The garden beds had been removed one by one, the screws backed out, the wood stacked in a dump trailer, the bottom wood ripped and torn and disintegrated by years of water and carpenter ants from the gopher wire below, the water lines cut and thrown away. The huge mounds of dirt and compost and old roots pushed and pulled and flattened by an enormous tractor until the space looked like nothing more than a large plot of dirt awaiting a horse perhaps.

From the kitchen window she no longer looked out upon boxes of dashed hopes and frustrated dreams but upon a what could be a sea of wildflowers come spring or a dirt track for her kids mountain bikes or a field of sunflowers, bright faces turning towards her as the day progressed. It was a relief, a major project tackled and completed and emotionally freeing one at that. She couldn’t imagine the house painting to be nearly as rewarding, nor the expansion of the chicken coop and the remodeling of the kitchen was nothing more than an expensive nightmare looming over her shoulder.

She was oddly excited about painting though. She was surprised as she wasn’t particularly good at it, not the taping off of a room, not the brush strokes nor the roller strokes, not even the choosing of the paint color which came far before any of that. Still, the idea of painting filled her with joy. Something about bringing a space new life, maybe…or making the space more hers, even as she prepared it for someone else. She shrugged, whatever it was she was most excited to tackle that next, but it was too cold now. The paint would take days upon days to dry rather than a few hours and with children about that simply wouldn’t do.

She considered paying someone else to come in and do the painting, taking the kids camping for a week and coming home to a new interior. Not a bad idea, really, except that as much as she wanted to paint next, the kitchen really needed to be seen to. The appliances were thirty years old or more and no longer worked properly or at all and the old porcelain sink always looked yellow-white even after a good scrubbing, and the tile countertops really dated the place. But there was no such thing as a cheap kitchen remodel, and the amount of money she knew would need to go into it was depressing. The idea of spending money on a place that wasn’t going to be hers anymore…ugh.

What it really came down to, and what she’d been trying to avoid, were the emotions. She loved the house even as she hated it. She had made many memories here, her dog had died here and was buried on the property next to a goat that had also died there. She’d birthed both babies in the back bedroom, despite the midwife’s fears and her own that they’d be delivered in the bathroom because she absolutely refused to move from the toilet for so long, it provided the perfect position for transition. She’d fallen in love with her husband under the oak by the barn. She’d married her husband at the foot of the rock stairs in front of the house. She’d come face to face with a mountain lion in front of the massive oak at the turn of the driveway, and she’d seen many a bobcat sunning themselves out the backdoor.

She was ready to leave, ready to move on to the next adventure, but she also wanted to take these things with her and feared a different location would be the beginning of the memories’ fade. And so subconsciously she delayed the big projects until she realized what she was doing, until she realized she was holding up her future for her past. Once the realization hit her there was no holding her back. Five minutes before she had to leave? Plenty of time to take a few screws out of the garden. Twenty minutes before she had to start dinner? Plenty of time to haul a few pieces of wood out of the garden. The garden became the thing she worked on any time she had time to work. And then it was done. And it was amazing.

To keep the momentum going she felt she had to tackle the next project right away. Get moving on whatever it would be as quickly as possible. Only she didn’t know what the next project should be, there were too many to choose from, and many of them would require planning, planning she couldn’t necessarily do because she didn’t have the knowledge. She’d found that out the hard way in destroying the garden space. There were things she knew how to do: use a drill, remove screws, stack old lumber in a dump trailer, cut off plastic piping, fold up old chicken wire and gopher wire. But then she got to a point where she had to figure out more intricate things like: closing off the electrical and water, and flattening the dirt from the beds.

It’s one thing to start an outdoor project when you’re not sure how to finish it, it doesn’t affect your day-to-day life, but to start an indoor project when you’re not sure how to start it or finish it, that could be disastrous. And so she simply froze. She looked down at the space that was once a garden and felt buoyed, felt strong and happy and satisfied. And she decided to just enjoy that feeling for awhile. No need to take on more than she could chew with another project when the glow of achievement hadn’t even worn off the last project yet.

She chose to be lazy. She embraced it. Knowing the time would come soon enough when she would be enmired in the next big project, she simply appreciated the now.

~~~That’s one hour~~~

The Puppy

Living in a small town there were always puppies for sale cheap or even free. It was almost a joke how often there’d be a large cardboard box in front of Town Hall with adorable little whippy tailed puppies in it, tumbling all over one another, biting ears and whining for attention. How many times had she come out during her lunch break to play with the puppies and give the owner a break to run to the bathroom. How many times had she left only to find the bitten cardboard box empty and soiled sitting by the stairs.

She spent her days answering the same three questions over and over again as new tourists arrived in town and needed to know where the bathrooms were, which place was best to eat at, and if there was anything for kids to do. Same questions. Every day. With a lunch break to put a hold on the monotony, and the near weekly set of puppies to bring her joy.

She never went home with a puppy. In all her time working there and seeing dozens of litters, more like a hundred different litters, she never once chose a puppy for herself. It didn’t seem fair to her to have a dog, after all she spent five days a week at work for eight and a half hours plus drive time. What would a puppy do during all that time home alone. Likely destroy her home, and with good reason.

She was surprised then when one evening after turning out the lights, locking the doors, and double checking that the outside lights were still on, she walked down the stairs to find a cardboard box that wasn’t empty. A lump of blanket or towel, perhaps, she thought to herself as she knelt down to dispose of the box. Upon closer inspection the lump of cloth was actually a lump of fur. A lump of very cold fur.

She picked up the tiny puppy, and felt the faintest of heartbeats in her thumb. Could be her own heartbeat, she thought, and then she heard a little whimper and knew the pup was still alive. She shoved the little body down the front of her shirt, using her bra to support its little hind legs and rump, her breasts to warm it quickly. She thought back to who had been there that day and couldn’t picture anyone. She’d come out at lunch as she usually did and there’d been no puppies. There’d been no box.

It was still early for a city but late for her little town. The vet would be closed. She could drive the pup to the next town over, they surely had a vet that would be open for a couple more hours if not an emergency vet. She walked to her car and got inside. Turning the motor on and cranking the thermostat over she waited for the car to get warm while thinking through her options.

The little fuzzball was moving now, it’s sharp nails scratching her skin. She gently gathered the puppy up in her hands and pulled it out to take a look. Being a creature of habit she looked to see if she was dealing with a boy or a girl puppy, and discovered this was a boy. He wasn’t opening his eyes but she suspected it was because he was so exhausted, not because he was too young. He was small, sure, likely the runt of whatever litter he’d come from, but he was old enough to eat solid food and he was probably very hungry and dehydrated.

She decided to take him home and bring him to the local vet the next day. He probably needed immediate assistance more than trained assistance, and she’d been a vet tech for a couple years before moving to the middle of nowhere. She could get the puppy by for one night. She settled him in the passenger seat and moved the air vents so they’d blow on him. Then she headed home doing a mental inventory of her kitchen. She for sure had chicken and rice and she probably had some pumpkin. All of that would make for a fine meal for this little fluff.

Once home she returned the pup to his nest inside her shirt and went about the business of fixing him a meal. She cooked the both a bit of chicken and rice and found a can of pumpkin in the cupboard left over from Thanksgiving pie making but not yet expired. When the chicken and rice were done cooking she made herself a plate and then found a sturdy bowl for the puppy. She put some chicken, rice, and pumpkin in a power blender and let it whir for a minute, then poured everything out into the sturdy bowl. She found a second sturdy bowl and put some fresh water in it.

Sitting on the living room floor with everything spread around her she took a bite of her dinner and while chewing dipped her finger in the water and brought it up to the pups nose. Anyone who tells you water has no smell doesn’t know their you-know-what from a hole in the ground. That puppy started licking and she went back and forth from the water to his nose several times before she decided to take another bite of her own dinner and try giving him a bit of his.

When she brought a finger full of mush to his face the puppy nearly bit her finger clean off. The poor thing was ravenous. She was able to get roughly a half a cups worth in his gut before he passed out. She set the alarm on her phone to go off in two hours. He might sleep for four, but she’d try to get him to drink some more in two. Dehydration was a more likely killer for the puppy at this point than anything else.

She settled the pup in her lap and finished her dinner, scratching away at the pups silky ears and engorged belly. When she was done she grabbed an old towel and made a little bed for the puppy, did the dishes, and picked up a book. No sense going to bed yet when it would be time to give the pup water in an hour. She read until her alarm went off, occasionally stopping to look at the puppy as he snored or farted. He was ridiculously cute and unlike any of the dogs that were usually found in the box at Town Hall.

Black and white with a scruffy beard, he looked like some kind of terrier mix. She tried picturing all the town dogs and couldn’t think of any that looked quite like him. It was possible one of the tourists had brought him up from the city and dropped him off, not wanting to pay a relinquishing fee to the Humane Society. Everyone who knew about her little town also knew about the puppies forever available at Town Hall, so it was possible. It made her heart hurt to think that anyone would abandon this puppy like that though. None of the local people would have left a puppy alone like that. They would have stayed til the last tourist left and then brought the puppy back home to return the next day and try again.

When the alarm went off she offered the puppy water again. She hated to wake the sleepy little guy, but dehydration was serious, and the puppy would certainly be able to fall back asleep. Sure enough he lapped up several more fingers of water and even opened his eyes. He had the sweetest deep brown eyes. When she decided he’d had enough water she took him out to her yard and set him down on the ground. He sniffed around a bit and she was worried he was going to lay down again and sleep, but instead he squatted down and peed. He walked in a little circle around it afterward and then looked at her.

“Good dog,” she said and marveled when he wagged his tail. “Let’s go back inside,” she said, patting her thigh and walking towards the house. He stared at her, unmoving. She made a couple kissing noises and he leaped towards her, his whole body wiggling with joy. It was then she knew he would be just fine and also that he was her dog.

“What are we going to name you?” she asked as they walked in to the warmth of the house, closing the door on the night behind them.

~~~That’s one hour~~~

Therapy

She realized she’d been jiggling her foot. She had no idea how long she’d been jiggling it. But there it was. Gyrating in front of her, a pogo stick at the end of her ankle sitting at an odd angle on her other knee. Despite seeing it, despite realizing she should stop, it continued. It took a forceable effort to slow it, then stop it, then shift her leg up and off her other knee, lowering the restless foot to the ground.

“Are you uncomfortable?” the therapist finally asked.

“No,” she answered, realizing it was a bit of a lie, but not entirely. She wasn’t uncomfortable in the office, or with the therapist, so no was a perfectly honest answer. She was, however, uncomfortable in her body, in her being, and so no was not entirely accurate.

“You aren’t usually silent,” the therapist observed, “is there something troubling you tat hasn’t been put into words yet?”

“That’s a good way to say it, I suppose,” she responded, tilting her head a bit to the right as she thought about the words to use. “I’m having a hard time,” she finally said.

There was another silence. She knew the therapist didn’t like to fill these silences, preferred that she speak or use the silence to work through whatever she needed to. She was a bit surprised the therapist had broken the last one, but then again, there weren’t usually silences for long and certainly not for nearly half the session, which is where they were at.

“I’m having a hard time being,” she clarified.

When it became clear she wasn’t going to say more than that the therapist asked for clarification, “being…?”

“Being. Just being. Existing has become difficult,” she said.

“What has changed to make it difficult?”

“Nothing. Nothing that I can think of anyway. I’m pretty sure everything is exactly the same as last week,” she looked down at her hands in her lap, they were fingers holding fingers, her fingers, hanging on to one another. She laid her hands flat and wiped them along her thighs. “It hasn’t just become difficult, it’s always been difficult,” she said, emphasizing ‘been’ by picking up her hands and pushing them together and outwards, like an offering.

“If it’s always been difficult why did you originally say it’s ‘become difficult’?”

She sighed, loudly, somewhat exasperated at the use of her own words being turned around and offered up as proof that she didn’t know what she was talking about. “Okay, fine. It has become more difficult,” she said, emphasizing the ‘more’ by drawing out the o and making it sound like a multi-syllabic word. She lapsed into silence again, this time crossing her arms over her chest, an unintentional protection of her heart.

“I see. Sometimes we choose words with our subconscious. Are you feeling threatened by me?” asked the therapist in the same flat tone.

“Threatened? No. Should I be?” she asked, somewhat surprised by a question that wasn’t a twist of what she’d said.

“Sometimes our body language communicates for our subconscious. I see that you’ve changed positions from one in which you were open and receptive to conversation to a closed-off and protective position. It made me wonder if you are feeling threatened by me,” explained the therapist.

Realizing her error, a second time in one sitting in which her body was giving her away, she quickly put her arms back down, hands in her lap.

“I get the sense that you have something you need to tell me but that you’re unable or unwilling to do so,” said the therapist.

She shrugged her left shoulder, “days like today I come here and I have no idea what I’m going to fill the hour with and I think maybe it’s time to stop coming,” she said, surprised at her own honesty, surprised that she’d been thinking that. Her foot came back up to her rest on her knee without her notice.

“People often get to a point where they don’t feel they need therapy any longer. That’s wonderful. It usually comes after they’ve gained some insight into why they decided to start therapy in the first place. Do you feel you’ve gained insight into why you started coming to see me?” asked the therapist calmly, no twitch in facial expression at the bomb being dropped, no change in tone.

“I honestly don’t remember why I started coming. And I feel like I leave every week not having gotten anywhere and wondering why I keep coming back. But today,” she took a deep breath, “today I just feel like we’re wasting each others time.” She noticed her foot was jiggling again, but didn’t try to stop it.

“Wasting each others time? You think I am wasting your time and you are wasting mine. You are paying me for my time, so there’s no waste to my time. Can you tell me how I am wasting your time?” asked the therapist, still calm, betraying nothing at the thought of losing a client.

“I came here for answers. It’s been, what? Six months? Six months and no answers. Nothing is different today than it was when I came in six months ago,” she realized she’d started crying and was surprised. She hadn’t cried in at least a year, not at a movie or a book, not at any of the horrible atrocities being committed everywhere on a daily basis. She touched a hand to her cheek and looked at the water on her fingers. Crying. Huh.

“Can you review for me the questions?” asked the therapist.

Like my very own fucking Yoda, she thought before saying, “why do I keep meeting the same horrible guys? Why do I keep dating the same horrible guys? Why do I keep falling in love with the same horrible guys? And why do the same horrible guys keep breaking my heart?”

“Yes, when you first came in you mentioned you had a habit of picking the wrong partners. I didn’t realize until right now that you felt that was the most pressing issue or the issue we’ve been working on all this time,” said the therapist. “We’ve discussed many issues, none of which have seemed to trouble you more than others. Can you tell me why this issue of partners is deemed the reason you started coming to therapy?”

“Nobody wants to be alone forever, doc. Nobody. I love having time to myself but that’s different than being completely alone. And it turns out I’m either dating the wrong guy or I’m alone. I don’t want to be alone forever, and I don’t want to keep dating the wrong guy. I can’t keep living like this,” she said, running her right hand through her hair and then slapping it down over her ankle.

“I agree. Why is the issue of your partner more important today than the issue we discussed last week of your self proclaimed ‘go nowhere job’?”

“Because I can always change jobs. If I really want to do something else, I can just apply and get a different job. But with guys, I can’t just apply for a new boyfriend after reading about him online.”

“Isn’t that exactly what online dating is?” asked the therapist.

“I mean, kind of, I guess….”

“So you can meet a new partner online and you can change your job online. Why is the partner issue more important this week than the issue we discussed a few weeks ago, your lack of motivation in the evenings and on weekends?”

“Because if I had a job I didn’t hate I’d have more energy after work and if I had a boyfriend I liked I’d be going out with him on the weekends,” she said.

“I see. So you came to therapy to find a better boyfriend and a better job?”

“Not exactly, I mean, yes, in the long run, yes,” she stammered, “I need to figure out why I keep committing to people and things that make me unhappy. But I’ve been coming in here for six months and I still don’t know why I do that,” she said, sitting forward, putting both feet on the floor, and opening her eyes wide as she realized she’d gotten closer to why she was there, why she was really there.

“I do believe that may be the core question,” said the therapist with a small smile, a very slight facial betrayal of what was an otherwise emotionless facade.

“That’s my ‘pattern,’ right?” she asked, “they always say you have to see your pattern to fix it, and this is mine, right?”

“I suppose you could call it that. I like to think of it more as the things and or the people we hide behind when we’re too afraid to know the truth.”

“So everything we’ve been talking about is connected? My job, the guys, the lethargy? It’s all the same thing? It’s all stuff I’m hiding behind so I don’t face the truth? The truth of what?” she asked, leaning forward eagerly.

“That’s what we need to discover,” said the therapist.

“You mean you don’t know?” she asked incredulously. “I thought that was your job? I thought I tell you all this stuff and you tell me what my problem is and I fix it?”

“My job is to help you discover what your problems are. My job is to help you discover what the fixes are. I can’t tell you these things, you wouldn’t believe me. My job is to help you see them for yourself. Your job is to see them and not run away from them.”

She sat quietly for a minute, thinking about this new revelation. She wasn’t making progress because she wasn’t willing to see the problems. She thought she was talking about the problems but really she was just babbling on and on about symptoms. What she needed to do was see the disease itself. Stop treating the symptoms like individual ailments that required medication. So what did all her symptoms boil down to?

“Why don’t I want to see, even though I am coming to therapy for exactly that reason?” she asked.

“If we can discover the answer to that question, you will have answers to all the rest.”

~~~That’s one hour~~~

Castration

As the youngest son, Joe’d been out riding fence for ten years, four years on his own. He remembered the first time his dad had nodded at him, handing him his reigns, no horse of his own, “you’re old enough,” was all he said. That day had been the proudest of his life. Delegated the job of maintaining the fence all on his own, he was sure he was just a few short months away from even more important jobs.

He spent that first morning taking extra care, looking over every section of fence as though they’d hired someone to put it in, even though he knew dad and brother put in the fence themselves a couple years earlier. Still, he rode the line occasionally jumping down to kick a post or yank on a length of barbed wire. He got home later than usual due to his thoroughness and instead of finding dad at breakfast as he’d imagined, regaling him with the story of sections that might could need a tightening in the weeks to come his imaginary dad beaming at him and patting him on the back, he found him instead out in the barn critiquing the mucking of the stalls.

“You know you gotta get all the way to them corners at least once a week. I can tell from here they ain’t been done in more’n that and you got a foal comin’ soon. Call me when you think you’re done,” he was saying over his shoulder as he walked away clenching and unclenching his gloved hands.

He was mad as Joe’d ever seen him, but Joe was sure he could change that around with his news about the fence. “Pop?” he called. He saw his dad raise his head and catch sight of him.

“You get lost out there? Your chores been waitin’ and breakfast was an hour ago,” his dad said.

Joe hung is head, no longer thinking his story was such a good one, sure now that his best bet was to get moving, “no, Pop. You need me to muck the coup after I feed the pigs, it’s been a week?”

“Pigs’ve been fed, they cain’t wait til lunch for breakfast. Why ain’t your sister mucking the coup?”

“She’s at that Granny Ulrich’s learnin’ the baby business this week,” Joe answered, “I don’t mind doin’ the coup unless you need me somewheres else?”

“Damn that ol’,” his dad grumbled before shifting his weight to his left leg and pulling off his gloves to slap them across his right thigh, “alright, you do the coup and then I need you up chuckin’ hay with your brother.”

Joe nodded, “yessir,” he said as he turned to get to work.

“You ate your breakfast?” his dad asked his back.

“Nah, too late, I got work to do,” Joe said, hanging his head.

“Git in there an’ eat your food fore your mama chaps my ass, the coup’ll wait.”

“Yessir,” Joe repeated, walking quickly towards the house. He got to the porch, knocked his boots against the deck steps, sure to get every bit of muck off of them before going inside. The screen door slammed behind him even as he was reaching out to stop it.

“You clean your boots?” his mama called from another room.

“Yes ma’am,” he called.

“Joe? That you?”

“Yes ma’am,” Joe answered.

“Where you been?” she asked as she came into the kitchen, a load of clean laundry in her arms, “your daddy was worried sick. I was the one convinced him you were old enough to ride fence alone, he about laid into me when you didn’t turn up for sausage.” She set the laundry down on the edge of the large wooden table, immaculately clean that served as both dining room table, family meeting space, and Sunday prayer circle.

Joe picked up his head at this, “sausage? You made sausage, mama?” he couldn’t contain his excitement, nor his hope that anyone had left some for him.

“Awe baby, go on, set down. I made you up a plate early so you’ve got a little of everything. Even without your sister here this mornin’ we got no leftovers.”

“Thank you!” Joe said as she laid a dishcloth covered plate in front of him then removed the cloth to reveal a heap of scrambled eggs, a couple of pieces of thick cut toasted bread, the butter on them making them soggy, and four sausage patties. He grabbed up his fork and started shoveling the eggs onto the bread, then stuffing the bread in his mouth.

“You eat like you didn’t get steak for dinner and I know you did cause I made it my own self. What’s got you in such a state?”

“Gotta get to the coup and the hay,” Joe said, his mouth full, the words sounding nearly like gibberish, but he knew she’d understand. Everyone talked like daddy ran the ranch, but Joe knew it was mama. Nothing happened on that place she didn’t know about.

“Joe Braithe, don’t talk with your mouth full, I know for a fact you weren’t raised in a barn,” she folded the dishcloth that’d kept his food from getting too stale as she continued, “I don’t want you in the coup today. Your brother cain’t recollect how to much a stall he oughta be the one cleaning the coup, a little reminder about how things work around here. You get to the hay after you eat but tell your daddy I need to see him before you get started.”

“Yes ma’am,” Joe said showing the last forkful of food into his mouth, chewing and rising from the table at the same time. He picked up his plate to take to the sink.

“Leave it, baby,” mama said, “tell your daddy to come in here and get to work.”

He swallowed, loudly and with a grimace, that bite had been too big, “yes, mama.” He kissed her cheek and flew out the door, grabbing it before it banged this time, for which he knew his mama would be pleased, and went in search of his dad.

The best way to find his dad was not to walk around the ranch, he’d figured that out long ago. You could walk round that ranch a hundred times and never find his daddy cause he’d always be a few steps ahead of you. Nope, fastest way to find daddy was to stand still, be quiet, open your mouth a bit and close your eyes to improve your hearing, and then just stand there awhile. It took less time and energy than walking the ranch and it worked every time.

Daddy was not a quiet man unless he was working a horse. Then he had all the calm and quiet you could want. Working a horse his daddy could stand immobile for hours at a time if necessary. Working a horse his daddy could knicker with a voice that made you wanna weep with it’s sweet love.

But daddy wouldn’t be working a horse today. Nope, he’d be doing something that required muscle, something that required sweat, and something that more than likely required swearing. In fact, Joe was pretty sure he knew exactly where his daddy was, but the stop, listen, and wait trick was worth a couple minutes to be sure.

“You don’t get that band on them balls in two more seconds and I’mma let you do all these calves on your own.”

Yup. Castration time. Daddy was down with the calves, and based on daddy’s tone and word choice it was Earl down there with him. Earl had been with the ranch for as long as Joe could remember. He wasn’t old although he was older than daddy, and he wasn’t young although he was a lick younger than Granny Ulrich. Earl was hard to figure out. He had all the patience of a broody hen when it came to helping Joe learn the ranch, and all the impatience of an unbroke horse getting a taste for it’s first saddle when it came to damn near anything else. He could castrate those calves all on his own in about the same time as he could do it with help, but for whatever reason he asked daddy to help him every year.

Joe was pretty sure Earl asked for help because he knew it made his daddy queasy. Joe wasn’t sure why, he understood that the basic anatomy of a calf and a human were the same, and he could understand how the thought of having your own scrotum rubber banded could cause you to feel a bit pained, but it wasn’t any different than any other chore on the farm, really. Killing the chickens wasn’t any fun. Debudding the kids was no picnic, especially with the mama goats wailing at them from the other side of the fence. Killing the pigs was just about the worst cause of the smell and the heat and the squealing.

If it were up to Joe, daddy could go move the hay and he’d stay and help Earl with the calves. But he knew Earl would never suggest it, and would probably fight him on it a little bit. He’d give in though, Earl would, he knew Joe was better suited to help, but he’d probably make a show of it, enjoying watching daddy squirm at the idea of having to stay when he was so eager to go.

“Daddy?” Joe asked, approaching the two men and the little calf that had just been banded and was jumping up and walking off with a bit of a buck in his step, unsure about this new addition to his body. His dad looked up at him, hopeful that he was about to get a reprieve. “Mama needs you up at the house.”

“Well hell, Earl,” daddy said, unable to contain the glee in his voice, “I guess I gotta go for a bit. I’ll be back though, if you’re not too fast, I might still be able to help you here.”

“I can help Earl, daddy,” Joe said.

“Well sure you can, son,” daddy said, proud of his boy for stepping in but even more grateful that he could step out. “I’ll be back soon’s I can,” he said, dusting off his jeans and walking off the way Joe’d come.

~~~That’s one hour~~~

Monthly Check In: February

As you know if you read my January check in, our whole family got sick at the end of January and we remained sick for, wait for it…THREE WEEKS! Unfreakingbelievable, but there you have it. So February pretty much did a number on us. Still and all here’s where I’m at with my NYR’s:

Continue Practicing Gratitude

I’ve been sending out thank you cards to all the wonderful people who bring me extravagant joy. I’ve continued putting lovely slips of paper in my gratitude jar at the end of the day and it helps keep me focused on grounded. I’m not sure I would get such a kick out of my kid saying things like “oh come on!” as he tries to lawyer up and finagle his way into something if I weren’t paying this attention, so I’m grateful for gratitude (too mushy? A bit. But still true). I’m in the black on this one.

February 2020: Gratitude Jar
February 2020: Gratitude Jar

Continue Spending Time With Family and Friends

Family gets a D+ on this one. We had to skip our family meet-up in February because we were sick. Friends are a little further ahead this month because I had my once a month meet-up with my very best girlfriend and we’ve managed to make it to some events with other friends around town. Unfortunately, we have still not reinstated the weekly dinners with friends because we were sick. So while we are once again not keeping up as much as I’d like, we are still keeping up and I say we’re in the black on this one, too.

Continue My Self-Care Regime

I am still somehow managing to get my 3 times a week sauna time, and I had my monthly massage in February. I also went on a short bike ride with the kids, and I’ve been doing a lot of walking and continued working on a project that includes carrying around heavy things and bending and stretching and stuff, so while I’m still not actually doing the exercise I had in mind, I am still exercising. My non-inflammatory eating has been getting back on track. Not only that but there were actually a couple days in February where I wanted to wear some eyeliner and mascara so I did (if you know me you know this is a huge deal as I never wear makeup). I’m in the black on this one, too.

Spend More Time Outside

We’re still doing the 1000 Hours Outside Challenge and except when we were all too ill to walk more than ten steps, we’re getting outside for a little while every day, and lately we’ve been getting outside for much longer each day. I still haven’t had a chance to see how we stack up to others doing the challenge, but I’m really glad we’re doing it and I think it’s making a marked difference in how our kids sleep and eat. We’re in the black on this one, too.

Write for One Hour Every Day

Eek! So, when we were sick I definitely missed two days. I missed two other days this month when I was just too drained to write. I’m not pleased with having missed four days this month, and I hope it’s a one time deal for the year.

Submit at Least One Piece for Publication
Each Month

As I said in January once I started looking into how this works I realized this was not a legit goal for me to have for this year. None of what I have written in the past is anything I’d want to submit currently and none of my #writeonehour pieces are eligible to be cleaned up and submitted because they’ve technically already been published here on my blog. So, kinda stuck. I’m thinking this is a better goal for 2021 and in the meantime I’ve adjusted the goal such that I’m reading and learning more about publication so that when the time comes I’m prepared. In fact, I went to a lecture at my local library tonight that was given by a literary agent and was all about getting published. She also recommended some books I’ve read and others I haven’t, so I ordered the ones I haven’t read. Thus, while I haven’t submitted anything for publication I am learning about doing it and I’m in the red on my NYR but in the black on my long-term goal.

Read at Least One Book a Month

I was only able to finish two books in February as opposed to the five I finished in January, but it’s still enough to keep me in the black on this NYR and I’m stoked.

Take a Stained Glass Making Class

I’ve discovered a local woman who gives classes to beginners and she has a class coming up in March and another in April. Sadly, my youngest isn’t prepared for me to be gone for a minimum of six hours a day two days in a row, so I can’t take her class this Spring. I contacted her directly and she suspects she will have another class in the late summer and another in the early fall, so I’m still hopeful I’ll be able to make this NYR happen this year; huzzah!

Summary

For as much as we were sick in February, I’m actually amazed at how well I’m doing on my goals. I’m very disappointed I missed four days of one hour writings this month but I’m also trying to give myself a little slack: being sick with two kids and a husband also sick is no freaking picnic and I was absolutely doing my best. In the red on five out of eight may not be great, but it was my best this month.

How are you doing on your New Years Resolutions? Are you meeting your goals? If you’re having trouble, take a look at my post on Achievement and let me know if it helps you!

Major Life Shifts

There were some kids at the playground today who have no problem talking to adults; you know the kids I mean? They’ve been raised by parents who treat them as equals, usually homeschooled, and they believe their thoughts have just as much value as anyone else’s regardless of age or stature. These kinds of kids are amazing, always blow my mind, always make me want to be around them and keep me on track to have my children grow up like them. At any rate, there were these kids at the playground today and we got to talking.

“What would you name your kid if you had another baby boy?” she asked.

“Oh, I can’t have any more kids. I had a surgery called tubal ligation that’s also called having your tubes tied and it made it so I can’t have any more kids,” I replied.

“But if you could, if you found out you were having another baby, what would you name him?” she asked again.

“I don’t know. I’m not really good with names,” I answered.

I could tell she wasn’t satisfied with my reply. I wasn’t entirely satisfied with it either but it’s true: I’m terrible with names. I had a dog named Boy. I had a fish named Blanca. I am not the queen of unique and awe inspiring names. But my dissatisfaction was more than that. Because lately I’ve been feeling overwhelmed. It comes from so many places, but mainly seems to be a convergence of the knowledge that I am currently nursing my last baby, there will not be another and I need to savor this time, as well as the feeling that this will never end and I will never have a life that doesn’t revolve around a booby vampire.

Which is ridiculous. I acknowledge and accept that it is ridiculous. It is also how I feel (and yes, I also recognize that incredibly long sentence does not constitute a “feeling”).

There’s this thing happening around me to the people I love, they are all experiencing major life shifts: divorce, publishing their memoir, buying their forever home, losing their partner to death. Major life shifts. And I feel like it’s all passing me by, there are no major life shifts for me. On the one hand: hooray! I don’t have to deal with all the stress (or excitement) of a major shift. On the other hand: eek! My life has stalled and I’m only forty.

Oversimplifying, untrue, and ungrateful. My life is amazing and I am very grateful: I have a husband I adore after never thinking I would ever want to be married, I have two children who are all things epic in this world after giving up hope that I’d ever have children, we have a roof over our heads, food in our kitchen, vehicles to get us where we want to go, the very best dog in the world, and a sauna to help us live forever. If I were to write the story of my life it would be terribly boring because there’s nothing to complain about.

And yet….

We all have things that get to us about our lives even when our lives are the kinds that other people would trade us for. It’s natural. When my first was born and we were having the most unbelievable nightmare of a time with his poor colicky self, when the first four months were quite literally a hell and neither my husband or I were getting any sleep and we heard phantom crying in the rare moments when the baby wasn’t actually crying, when we were deep in the trenches of this miracle we’d been gifted I posted something online about how I wasn’t sure when or if I would ever sleep or shower or leave the house again and one person replied to me that I should stop complaining because I’d wanted this and brought it on myself.

And while that tells you everything you need to know about that person (ie: they have zero sense of empathy and are highly likely an -ic personality of some sort), it also does something else. It tells you, or in this case me, that if I ever want anything ever again I can’t voice it or I’ll never be able to ask for empathy from anyone who knew what I wanted if the wanting once delivered is in any way sour. It effectively silences me.

Should the white privileged cisgendered woman who has everything be silenced? Probably, yes. There are too many of us talking when we ought to be listening. I get that. And also, no one should ever be silenced. We all have a right to be heard and more than that, we need to be heard, we need to be understood, we need to have someone say “holy shit, mama, that’s some craziness, I’m so sorry you’re going through that. Is there anything I can do to help? Want me to bring you dinner?”

And that’s all I’m thinking about when I’m talking to this sweet girl who wants to know what I’d name the baby I can’t have. The baby I don’t want, because I’m forty and I already have two kids, and I feel like there’s still so much I want to do with my life but it’s all on hold until these two beautiful humans have grown up enough to not need me, and I don’t want them to grow up and not need me because they are everything to me even as I need them to stop needing me so I can make some major life shifts happen even though they are the major life shift that is happening, and so we go round and round and round the crazy that is my head.

I recognize that most of the people who follow my blog do so for the fiction content. I appreciate that. I really do. I also hope y’all don’t mind these occasional forays into my life. There are just some nights where I sit down to do my one hour of writing and no one wants to come talk to me. The characters are silent. But my brain is bursting with whatever event occurred that day that I haven’t dealt with yet or whatever feelings came up that I haven’t worked through yet, and those days…if I try to write fiction I end up writing this tripe I can’t even handle writing it’s so awful. So thank you, I appreciate you, and the fiction will be back (but not tomorrow night cause tomorrow is the end of the month and I need to do the monthly NYR re-cap).

~~~That’s one hour~~~

The Husband

“I think,” she took a deep breath, “No, I feel like,” she let out an exasperated growl and took a deep breath letting it out audibly before saying, “My husband hates women.”

“That’s interesting,” the therapist said, tilting her head to the right a bit, “you are a woman. Does your husband hate you?”

“No,” she laughed a short, tense laugh, “No, my husband obviously loves me.” She stopped and put her head in her hands for a moment before raising back to a sitting position, head raised, hands and arms at her sides. “You’ve never met my husband so there’s nothing for you that’s ‘obvious’ about his love for me,” she said, using her hands to form air quotes around the word obvious, “I know my husband loves me. This has nothing to do with our marriage. It’s that,” she sighed, unsure how to continue in this new way where she is supposed to state clearly what she needs, wants, and means, rather than asking questions, deflecting and subverting to another, or couching her desires behind feelings that aren’t in fact feelings. “My husband loves me, and hates women, all women, even me, despite loving me at the same time.”

“How does that work?” asked the therapist.

“So, for example, I love my mother. I love her very much. My mother is also toxic, as we’ve discussed repeatedly, and I’ve had to remove her from my life. I still love her, but I can’t be around her. And it’s kind of like that for my husband, only, he actively hates all women, and he doesn’t seem to understand that it’s true. So even though he loves me wholeheartedly, he also hates me just by virtue of my being a woman, and he doesn’t even know it,” she smiled, not because what she’d said had been pleasant, it was anything but; she smiled because she’d just made perfect sense. She’d just said exactly what she was thinking and feeling without excusing herself or apologizing for herself or hiding behind words that made what she had to say sound soft and sweet instead of the harsh reality that it was.

“How do you feel, being married to a man who loves and hates you?” asked the therapist, in what appeared to be a moment of uncertainty.

“It’s odd,” she said honestly, rubbing her hands up and down the outsides of her thighs a couple times, a gesture that both removed the sweat from her palms and massaged the goosebumps that had appeared all over her. “I can’t decide if I’m going to stay with him or not.”

“That’s certainly something we will need to discuss, but you haven’t said how you feel.”

“Right, no, I just,” she licked her lips and her eyes flicked up to meet the therapists eyes before flicking back down, “I feel I married myself,” she was startled by these words, these words that were not feelings but a statement meant to sound better wrapped in the soft cushion of “I feel.”

“Do you hate women?” asked the therapist.

“No, not at all, I mean, I’ve always been a bit afraid of women,” she realized she was lilting so her statement sounded like a question. She cleared her throat and began again, “I’ve always been a bit afraid of women, it seems like we are harsher on one another than men are. And we’re much less predictable and honest, at times. I realize this is all generalization and clearly not fair to all women, myself included, but what I mean is, in my experience with men and women, I always know where I stand with men because they’re so transparent, whereas with a woman I’m always anxious that I’m only seeing what they want me to see.”

“Do you only show people what you want them to see?” asked the therapist, on solid footing again, knowing exactly the answer to the question she’d just asked but unsure whether or not her client knew.

“Yes, I do. And I didn’t even realize I do it until just recently. All these things we’ve been working on, they’ve allowed me to see that I am exactly the women I’m afraid of. I don’t speak my mind for fear of upsetting someone, instead I say things in an offhand way or ask things even when they’re not questions.”

“Have you always thought your husband hates women or is this a new idea born of the work you’ve been doing on yourself?” the therapist asked.

“I’ve always known he was a little afraid of women but it wasn’t until Hillary ran for president that it became clear he actually hates women.”

“How did Hillary running make it clear that your husband hates women?” the therapist asked.

“He was just so angry,” she said, shaking her head at the recollection, “he had no way to explain what he was so angry about and he hid behind things like ’emails’ and ‘liar’ and said things like ‘I’m all for a woman president, just not that woman,'” she said, emphasizing that with a scowl on her face, presumably the scowl her husband wore when saying the quote. “Ugh,” she grimaced and looked back up to meet her therapists gaze, “but now here we are, Elizabeth Warren is running. She’s a prime example of a woman who is calm, intelligent, has a proven track record of doing what she says, has a plan for literally every freaking thing you could ask for, absolutely destroys the other candidates in the debates,” she takes a deep breath knowing that she’s getting a little heated, a little excited in her explanation, “a perfect candidate not only for president but for our first female president, and what does he say?” she asks rhetorically, squinting her eyes a bit before sitting back against the chair and throwing her arms out, “‘she’s too aggressive.'” She throws her arms back down at her side, “how can you, I mean, what about,” she dissolved into a growl before taking yet another deep breath, “no one says Trump is too aggressive and the guy is a batshit crazy bullying asshole. And did you see that interview she did with what’shisname?” she asks.

“Chris Matthews?” the therapist asks.

“Yes!” she nearly yells, “if anyone had a reason to be ‘aggressive’ it was Warren during that interview and yet she didn’t lose her cool once, not once!”

“Is your husbands depiction of Warren as aggressive the reason you say he hates women?” the therapist asks.

“Yes and no,” she bobs her head, “that’s part of it, I mean obviously using words for a woman as a negative that are the exact same words you’d use for a man as a positive is a problem, but it doesn’t necessarily mean hate. No, but it’s all a part of it. Like a symptom of his disease,” she starts laughing, “dis and ease, that’s exactly it, he is uneasy with women and it’s also a sickness. Has there ever been a more perfect word?” she asks, again rhetorically, as she continues, “It makes me sad. And angry. I’m so sad that he hates women, I’m so sorry for whatever happened to him in his life that he hates women. And it makes me angry because how can I not take it personally? And how can I possibly stay with him, knowing that he hates me, even though he doesn’t understand that he does?”

“Do you know what happened to you that you were afraid of women?” the therapist asks.

She leans back against the chair and stares up at the ceiling for a minute before answering, “I’m not exactly sure. I can’t remember any women ever saying or doing anything to me that made me afraid. If anything it was all the warnings I heard from boys and men around me as I grew up, all the warnings they gave one another about women, said within my earshot or directly over my head or sometimes even to my face, a sort of, ‘don’t you grow up like that,’ sort of thing.”

“Would your husband have grown up hearing those same warnings?” asks the therapist.

“Oh, I’m sure of it,” she says without taking a moment to contemplate, the answer immediately on her tongue before the therapist had even finished asking.

“Does knowing that give you any empathy towards him?”

She nods, tears slowly falling down her cheeks, “yes,” she nearly whispers, her voice getting lost in a need to swallow, “I feel very sorry for him, and I do wish he could come to see it, but I also know he has no interest in therapy. I know he doesn’t believe that his problems can be solved by anyone outside of himself. And so,” she spreads her hands in a gesture of letting go, “I think I need to decide if I can live with someone who hates me because I know how much he loves me, or if I need to remove him from my life, like my mom.”

“This is a lot to think about. I wish we could continue talking about it because I think we could get somewhere better with just a bit more time. Unfortunately, I have another client in a few minutes, so we do have to end on time today. I’m going to ask you to promise not to make any major decisions over the next week. I know it may seem like I’m asking a lot, but this is very important. I’m asking that if you notice yourself moving towards a place of finality towards anything major a purchase, a trip, your husband, that you instead stop and consider it an experiment. Say to yourself, ‘what would happen if I pretend I moved forward with this decision,’ and then imagine the possibilities. Go down all the possible roads you can think of, but only in your mind. Is that something you can commit to this week?”

“I think so,” she said, stretching out the word think into multiple syllables.

“Excellent. Really. Excellent. Next week. Same time. No big decision until then,” the therapist said, hand on her shoulder as she guided her out.

~~~That’s one hour~~~

A Good Guy

She knew he was a good man, for reasons she could probably list if she had the time and inclination to sit and list them, but the reason she could always give if she thought anyone would understand was that he’d once patted her butt and been shocked and dismayed by the action. The look on his face and his stammering were all the proof she needed that he was a good man. Although a bit more explanation could help those who weren’t there and might not otherwise understand.

The thing was: he was her step-dad. Normally you hear of a step-dad patting a teenagers posterior and you think: disgusting, abuser, rapist. And all for good reason. The thing was, he had done it reflexively, out of habit, because that’s what he did to his wife, her mom. It was his silent and gentle, “I love you,” given usually when she was in the act of doing something that showed her love and appreciation for him: making dinner, bringing him a cup of tea, covering him with a blanket when it was chilly. A soft pat, pat, pat on her rump.

The night he patted her they were all three in the kitchen making dinner together. Rather than have one cook in the kitchen responsible for the whole shebang, they’d divvied up the chore such that he was making the main course, her mom was making the salad, and she was making the veggie side dish. They were all talking about their day, and she had gone to fetch her parents each a glass of wine. She gave her mother hers first and earned a “thank you, sweetie,” and hug for her efforts. She’d taken the other glass to her step-dad next and he’d said, “mmm,” taking a sip, “thank you,” and then patted her butt.

Everyone froze. He immediately began to turn red and apologize and then stammer through something that sounded somewhat like, “I didn’t mean…was that…I don’t know….” Before he started sweating too profusely she and her mother, both looking at each other the entire time a question in one another’s eyes, began to smile and laugh. “Was that okay? Is it okay to do that?” he finally asked. Mother and daughter looking at one another still, replied together with identical shrugs. “I guess so,” she said. “I think it’s okay,” her mother said.

Despite their affirmations that they both understood completely that there was nothing sexual or untoward meant by the gesture, despite their affirmations that they both knew he was simply using the only sweet and loving gesture he’d ever learned in a habitual manner on the incorrect recipient. Despite it all, he never once repeated the gesture. It had embarrassed him, shaken him to the core. The very idea of himself being seen or thought of as anything other than a good man was more than he could handle.

And while she was perfectly okay with it, aside from the fact that it was awkward because she understood that the gesture on it’s own could be construed as sexually intimate despite knowing wholeheartedly that it was not meant that way when done to her, she was also sad and relieved that it never happened again. She knew he loved her like a daughter. She knew he would do anything for her, just as he would for his biological children. She knew. And she knew he was a good man. Still. It had been nice for just a moment to know that she had received a token of his affection that his biological children never had. She had been treated extra special, just once. Even if it was comical and accidental.

It was not an event she could tell anyone about though. She knew that without anyone having to tell her. Not that her mother or step-dad would tell her she couldn’t talk about it, or imply that, or in any way ask her to keep it secret. They were good people. And despite it’s lack of sexual meaning, she knew that she could never tell someone “he’s a good man because he once patted my butt and was mortified,” because they wouldn’t understand. They might say, “oh my gosh, that’s too funny,” or they might say, “wait, he did what?” or they might say, “are you sure you’re okay with it?” But what they’d really be saying, what she knew they were really thinking was, “that’s dirty and I bet it’s just a matter of time before he tries something else.”

Which is why when she walked out of her room naked to go to the bathroom on a weekend when she thought she’d heard her parents leave for breakfast, and instead ran into her step-dad fixing the leaky sink faucet she’d been begging him to fix for weeks, and it was her turn to be completely mortified. She was also even more sure that this was a story she could never share either because people would say things like, “oh my god, I would just die of embarrassment,” or maybe, “dude, that’s super awkward, what the hell were you doing walking around the house naked?” or maybe, “wait, you did what?” But what they’d really be saying, what she knew they were really thinking was “that’s dirty and I told you it was a matter of time before he’d try something else.”

It wouldn’t matter that when she realized he was there she immediately “eep”-ed, turned around, and flew back into her room, slamming the door behind her, turning bright red and leaning her back against the door, her head hanging down in shame. It wouldn’t matter that he stood in the bathroom for a few minutes, trying to figure out what to say before walking towards her door (not too close), and saying, “hey, you know, it’s no big deal. I didn’t see anything. I should have warned you I was down here. That faucet is fixed now. I’m going back upstairs. It’s really no big deal,” and then walking up the stairs and away from the red-hot shame she knew could be felt for a mile around her person.

She knew he was a good man. She knew she could explain how she knew that if she was given enough time, but it would be things like, “he’s thoughtful about birthday and Christmas gifts,” and “he always asks if I need any money when I go out with friends,” and “he says I can call anytime for anything if I don’t feel safe or I need help,” and everyone would nod at those things and think “yeah, he’s a good guy, I guess. I mean, those are things a good guy would do.” But they wouldn’t really get it. They wouldn’t really know deep in their bones that he was a good guy. Because she’d never be able to explain it. No one would understand. But he was a good guy.

~~~That’s one hour~~~

Rules

She was so in love with him. It had only been a few months, but she’d fallen hard. She had all these rules in her head that she tried to live by when it came to love, rules created from past experiences where things had gone wrong and she’d decided to learn from her mistakes rather than repeat them. So even though it had only been a few months, and even though she’d fallen hard, she tried to keep perspective. She told her best friend all about him, of course. “Have you told him you loved him?” her friend asked.

Rule #1: Never Fall In Love Before Dating a Minimum of Six Months

She knew within two weeks that this man would be trouble for her rules. He was all the things she’d decided she needed in a man, and so many things she wasn’t sure she could handle. They met every single evening for dinner and drinks, their dogs by their sides on the patio. They discussed everything from religion and politics to children and retirement. They were so in sync with one another, even when they disagreed, that she began to understand why people wanted to marry their best friends. In a way, he was her new best friend. But not really, because she still went home and told her actual best friend more about him. “When are you moving in together?” her friend asked.

Rule #2: Never Think You Know a Man Before Living With Him a Minimum of Six Months

They decided to move in together, why not? They spent so much time together anyway, it was a logical next step. They discussed their respective separate spaces and chose to live in hers. They went through their respective separate spaces and decided which of their things they’d live with and which of their things they’d put in storage (they kept his bed, her couch, his coffee table, and her dishes). They were now able to have even more sex, which they both considered a bonus. Now there were opportunities in the morning upon waking, at lunch time if they could both make it home in time, the regular pre-bed sex, and of course all kinds of extra sex on the weekends and in the occasional middle of the night when one or the other had gotten up to pee in the freezing cold and they snuggled up together to warm back up. They were madly in love and after only four months felt they’d lived together forever and also like they’d wasted so much time not moving in sooner. “When are you getting married?” her friend asked.

Rule #3: Never Get Married

Every married couple she knew was miserable with very few exceptions and she could count those on one hand. She came from a “broken home” and so did he. They agreed neither one had any intention to get married. And that was that. But as the years passed and their love only deepened one or the other would occasionally remark upon why they weren’t married. The idea that getting married would automatically mean they’d begin to take one another for granted, or that their sex life would immediately cease, began to seem ridiculous. Marriage as an institution doesn’t mean any of those things, it’s the people behind the marriage and whether or not they can maintain appreciation for one another. They were married a month later. “When are you having kids?” her friend asked.

Rule #4: Never Have Children

They’d discussed kids enough times while dating. They both wanted them but were also afraid. Everyone they knew with kids never slept, had sex, or seemed to love each other anymore; their lives were all about their kids. And maybe that’s how it has to be in the beginning especially, with young children, but they didn’t want that. They debated and decided to leave it up to nature to decide. They stopped using protection and were pregnant within a month. It was fast. Perhaps a bit too fast. But they were both thrilled, reveling in the idea of a family, old traditions they could continue, new traditions they could create, the type of parents they wanted to be, the possibilities for who their child would be. They were confident they would do things better, different, they wouldn’t let their relationship fall to the child executioner. “Are you going to have time for me?” her friend asked.

Rule #5: Never Lose Sight of Your Friends

Anytime people start new relationships they seem to lose their friendships. It’s the excitement of someone new, the thrill of spending as much time as possible with this new potential mate, friends tend to fall by the wayside. It happens. But she’d refused to let it happen to her after it happened that first time. She’d learned her lesson. She always had time for her best friend, or made time. With the birth of her first child she completely lost track of days, weeks, months, a year. Her time was taken entirely by the little life she’d created and now nourished and bathed and clothed and held. She hadn’t realized how long it had been since she’d seen her bestie, hadn’t even considered that it had been a year, until she realized it had. She celebrated her child’s first birthday and the very next day called her friend. “You’ve survived! Are you divorced yet?” she asked.

Rule #6: If You Have to Separate Keep it Amicable

They wanted different things. He wanted sex every day and weekends with his buddies down at the lake. She wanted someone to take the baby for an hour everyday and someone to share the cooking. They’d fought about these things multiple times and finally decided they didn’t want to reconcile. They preferred to go their separate ways rather than try to repair the road they’d been travelling together. And so they got divorced. The most amicable divorce anyone had ever heard of: they treated one another the way they wanted to be treated, splitting custody fairly down the middle, splitting their assets fairly down the middle, agreeing to an every-other-holiday schedule rather than trying to split holidays in half. They’d long ago sold everything they had in storage so they decided who would take what (he kept the bed, she kept the couch, he kept the coffee table, and she kept the dishes). They sold the house. “Let’s go out this weekend,” her friend said.

Rule #7: Never Go Back

Their separation was so well executed that they began to wonder why they separated at all. They still loved each other, especially as they spent time apart, and time with their child who was so much each of them it was maddening. Perhaps they’d rushed into the divorce. But she’d learned from the past: never go back because there’s a reason it didn’t work the first time and that reason is still there. When it was her weekend without their child she spent time with her bestie. When it was her weekend with her child she spent time being the best parent she could be. She began meeting new people by virtue of her new free half-time, new parents, new single parents, new single men. She even dated a few times, but no one that measured up to her ex-husband, no one who could be half the father to her child that he was. “You just need to sleep with someone else,” her friend said.

Rule #8: Never Sleep With Someone To Get Over Someone

She was wrong. All wrong about rule #8. She ended up having a few too many drinks with a single dad friend and one thing led to another. The next thing she knew she’d had sex. With someone other than her husband. For the first time in years. It was a revelation. It was also awkward, and sloppy, and not actually the best ever, but it was also different and freeing and somehow snapped the anchor keeping her from moving on. She was suddenly free to see all the ways that her new life afforded her the things she’d been wanting or needing but hadn’t been able to vocalize. She saw clearly that what she wanted was exactly what she now had: half-time freedom. She could be the very best parent she could possibly be for half the time and the other half of the time she could read with abandon, fix popcorn and a glass of wine for dinner, and binge watch television, all with no repercussions. This was the life she’d never knew she always wanted, and now she had it.

~~~That’s one hour~~~

Life Gets In The Way

My youngest is surging toward a wonder week and driving my husband and I completely batty with lack of sleep; our oldest remains unaffected, as preschoolers often are. I obtained roughly two and a half hours of sleep last night. This is not the worst it’s ever been, but it’s the sixteenth night in a row that I’ve gotten four or less hours of sleep and it’s beginning to make me more than delirious, it’s making me see things and hear things and want to cry for no reason. This is not a big wha-wha post: oh, poor me, I have kids and don’t sleep and my husband left me and took the dog and there’s no beer in the fridge and my geetar broke another string…. It’s just a post to explain that #writeonehour every night is hard on nights like tonight.

Nights like tonight I’m done. I’m so tired I can’t read, I’m so tired I can’t think of a single thing to write about, I’m so tired I don’t even want to zone out in front of Netflix. It’s bad y’all. It’s bad in terms of first world problems though, and I know that, and I try to keep that in perspective. This too shall pass. The youngest will make a huge stride forward and sleeping will return to normal and in ten years I’ll have a hard time remembering just how little sleep I managed to function on. I get that.

This is not bad. What’s bad is laying in a hospital room with your toddler, your newborn at your feet, while you do your best to comfort your child who had to undergo emergency surgery after battling the worst kind of pain over and over again and being sent home each time, told it wouldn’t happen again, only to return. That’s bad. To wake up every two hours, crawl down to the bottom of the bed and contort yourself to fit sideways so you can breastfeed your baby where they sleep so you won’t wake them when you’re done because you want to be able to crawl back up to hold your toddler for another two hours before the baby needs your boob again.

The stress of your child in pain. The stress of not crying while your child is in pain. The stress of worrying your child doesn’t trust you anymore because you’ve been telling him what the doctors have been telling you which is that he won’t be back, yet there he is; over and over again. The stress of your child having to undergo surgery. The stress of not crying when they say your child needs emergency surgery. The stress of being in a hospital. The stress of your child being well enough post surgery that they want your child walking, and the screaming sound of his pain when you tell him he has to stand up. The stress of getting him to stop screaming, by sitting with him in his pain, begging him to take deep breaths before he throws up. The stress of telling him he has to walk, and going through the screaming/breathing/pain thing again. The stress of not crying as your child cries. The stress of your child finally recovering well enough to go outside only to step on a bee.

That was one of our worst moments. A moment that lasted nearly a week; months really if you count all the times we went to the hospital only to listen to our child scream in pain as they treated him, again, for this thing that would “never come back.” If you take into account all the trips leading up to the emergency surgery, it was six months of one of our worst moments. I debate whether or not that was our worst moment, and can’t be sure. The extended period of time that it took makes me think it wins. So much collective stress, and even now anytime I hear that particular scream I worry that the thing that can now officially “never come back” is back…why wouldn’t it be when we’ve been told so many times it can’t come back and then it does…like freaking Jaws.

The other debatable worst moment is when our oldest was jumping on the couch, which we tell him not to do, have always told him not to do, but which he was doing. And then he fell and slammed his chin on the edge of the couch, jolting his head backwards, hard. He began to cry and I rushed to hold him and then…nothing. Literally silence. He was floppy. He wasn’t breathing. I was convinced he was dead. I was convinced I was holding my dead child in my arms. My husband and I were both petrified. He demanded I hand the child over, which I did, but worried that I shouldn’t because we shouldn’t be moving him, because it could be a neck injury. My husband, who knows CPR, didn’t even consider doing CPR, because he was also convinced he was holding his dead child in his arms.

And then: magic. Our oldest came to, but wouldn’t or couldn’t open his eyes. And kept saying “it hurts” but couldn’t define where or what. Off we raced to the emergency room. Halfway there he vomited. Within a couple minutes he could open his eyes. Within a few more minutes he was talking as though nothing had happened. We debated going back home, but we were halfway to emergency and I was still terrified something could be wrong. We continued on our way, they did a scan and revealed no hairline fractures of any kind and sent us back home.

And of course we’ve had our share of minor cuts and scrapes and falls and tears and bandaids. We also have a roof over our heads, food in our bellies, and clothes on our backs. We have much to be grateful for. There is really very little to complain about, and is sixteen days in a row of less than four hours sleep really that bad? Yes. And no. Would I rather have eight hours of sleep tonight followed by a trip to the ER tomorrow or less than four hours of sleep tonight? I’ll take door number two, please and thank you.

This is our life right now. I knew coming into this NYR about #writeonehour that life might get in the way. And it has on occasion, like when our entire household had the flu and there were two days where I literally did nothing and writing was so far beyond my abilities that I didn’t even notice not doing it. I thought seriously about not writing tonight, about taking the youngest and going to bed and letting him climb all over me as he’s unable to sleep, because even with him climbing all over me I’d still be getting snippets of sleep. I seriously considered it. But then I thought about how things could be worse, how sixteen days in a row without sleep is not so bad, is not something that I should allow to derail me from my goals.

So here we are. You have a bit more insight into my life. As unexciting as it is. And hopefully tomorrow we’ll be back on track for a better post.

~~~That’s one hour~~~