I have been neglecting this poor blog all summer, but I’d like to think that I have a bit of a good excuse.
I was busy recording a spoken word album, working with a professional producer here in DC. This is how my life goes; when I take on a new project, something else gets neglected. I cannot get any less sleep than I do (5, 6 hours on a good night), I cannot spend any less time with my son or work less. One of my other creative or self-care pursuits must go.
This summer, alas, my blog had to give, as the recording schedule was rigorous: 2 sessions a week for much of July and August. I was often up late into the night reworking pieces, playing with GarageBand, recording and re-recording in my room as Sami slept, into the wee hours of the night, trying to get the cadences and rhythms nailed down in time for the studio the next morning. Many times in the process I would not be able to get to sleep; so excited and high was I on the creative process.
The album, entitled “Take Refuge,” is one of the things I am most proud of creating, probably second only to Sami. I can scarcely believe that it’s done. I continue to be amazed that I had a dream in February and gave birth to it in August. Different tracks have different imperfections, most of which only I would notice, but I am OK with those. The collaborative process was incredible; Bomani took the raw clay of my work and with his amazing technical skill sculpted it into something I never could have accomplished on my own. He was able to recognize where there should be a harmony in the chorus, where a bit of an echo effect on my voice would match a mood. His attention to detail was extraordinary and I am very fortunate for the opportunity to work with him.
I am very cognizant at the circumstances coming together that allowed me to make this a reality: the technology that allowed me to mix and record music and vocals in my bedroom; a grant from my generous, wonderful organization to pay the producer; flexible work schedules; and an impending deadline (two major fall conferences I will be attending and want to perform and sell CDs at) that caused me to be disciplined and just get the songs composed and recorded.
If any of these conditions didn’t exist, the album would not be done.
This experience teaches me that all things are possible with a vision and the discipline to make it a reality. Sometimes the conditions are right, sometimes they aren’t. But this experience has given me a much-needed boost of self-confidence and a new faith in the healing power of art.
On August 2, I turned 34, and soon after, had a mini breakdown. It could have just been really bad PMS, but it felt like more than that.
I am perfecting the art of the mini-breakdown. It involves a few days of intense crying jags, not feeling real, barely being able to work, calling all my trusted friends and telling them how scared and out of control I feel, and then miraculously pulling it all together in time to pick up my child. Repeat the next day, until the worst of it passes and I am somewhat back to my baseline level of sadness and fear.
Sami has a baby sister. A half-sister, who was born this week sometime - when exactly, I don’t know, because we don’t communicate on that level. My ex sent an email to tell me.
Just to let you know that we are at the hospital right now, they are inducing labor, so am not sure how my schedule will go for next week with Sami
just wanted to give you head up in advance so you can make alternative plans, I will keep you inform, but I don’t think I can pick him up this month.
This month!? I freaked out. I went into a tailspin. He just announces that he will not see his son for a month?
Turned out it was a typo, and he later said that he was under stress and apparently meant “this week.”
But I realized that I am always bracing, bracing for him to abandon Sami again, especially since he now has a new baby with a new wife. In a flash, I had already written him off, sure that this one month would turn into two and so on and so forth. I projected this into a world of hurt for Sami, of endless comings and goings and disappointments. I thought about going to court to get his parental rights taken from him. I called a lot of people, and cried as if it had really happened–as if he had abandoned Sami again.
And it was a typo.
A few days after that announcement, I got some bodywork done. My body was aching, not as in feverish-aching, but the bones and joints were all aching, and I still couldn’t stop crying.
The bodyworker told me that my Third Eye is blocked.
“Is there something in the future that you really fear will happen?” she asked.
This is a good dharma lesson if there ever was one. What is happening right now? For now, he is not abandoning our son. He has done so in the past, and he might do so again in the future, but today, he is not. He has said he will pick him up next week at the normal time.
Sami didn’t even ask about him this week. We had an amazing weekend together. We stayed busy doing tons of fun things - going to swim in the Chesapeake Bay, going to the pool, spending time with friends old and new. It is a real treat to have him with me all weekend - a rare occurrence. I am grateful for the time we had together, this weekend. Thankfully, my mini-breakdown was over in time for me to really, really enjoy myself.
At 34, I’m coming to a few realizations on things.
First, I am proud to say that I am over Mr. Unavailable. I am not even sure how it happened - I imagined being tortured by him for the next year or five or so, but just like that - the bonds of attachment snapped. I keep trying to summon up those feelings of longing and caring, but they’re not there. They’re just gone. I’ve allowed myself to be hurt, and continued to hurt myself, way long enough in this situation. I deserve better.
I also realized that I deserve better than Mr. Booty Call, who texts every so often wanting to hook up. The other night, a Friday night, I responded to his texts because I was lonely. Sami should have been with his dad but was not, because of the new arrival in the family.
We started to mess around (very preliminarily), and then I heard Sami in the next room call for me. I went into his room, fell asleep with him in his bed, and ended up staying there all night. Leaving Mr. Booty Call alone.
Around 7 am, Sami woke up and I texted Mr. Booty Call, asking him to leave, saying: “I don’t want to confuse my son.” I kept Sami entertained with some YouTube videos on my phone until I heard the front door close, signaling MBC’s departure. I have a feeling I won’t hear from MBC again any time soon.
I deserve better than random booty calls (that aren’t even really any good) and Mr. Unavailable.
I finally get this, on a raw, visceral level.
It is a good feeling.
I want 34 to be the Year of Leah’s Fierce Independence.
I want to say “I don’t need a man” and mean it with all my heart.
I am focusing on my son and myself and that is more than enough.
I am choosing to stop focusing on these dudes (Sami’s dad, Mr. Unavailable, and MBC) and handle my much-neglected mental and physical health.
One day at a time, one small step at a time, I need to re-invest my energy in my family, in our well-being.
I am going to stop running in futility from what I fear and have a practice again.
My wounds run deep, but they are not at the gangrene stage yet - they can still heal and they will not kill me. But they won’t heal if I don’t tend to them. I need to remind myself of this every day.
I am making a decision in my 34th year, to live into wholeness, to accept whatever the fuck I cannot change and change what is in my ability to change, to tell depression to kiss my ass, climb the hell out, to fill in the hole with nice, fresh earth, and jump up and down on top of it, triumphant.
My son is obsessed with band-aids. It all started with his school, when the teacher suggested that I try to provide some rewards for when he successfully used the toilet. I don’t really believe in motivating kids through bribes and rewards, but I felt pressure from the teacher to get the toilet learning going, and so I started offering the stickers and band-aids for successful pee-pees.
Somehow it has spiraled into an all-out fascination with kids’ band-aids - Spiderman, Transformers, Batman, even princesses to mix up the gender paradigm a bit. He likes to take five or ten band-aids out of the box and wrap them around his fingers. He insists on getting two or three each time he uses the toilet. There are never enough.
It is getting to the point where the lady at the CVS recognizes us, and asks me:
“How did he get into this?”
“I don’t remember…” I mumble.
“They’re expensive,” she observes.
I try not to project my own shit onto why my son is so into these band-aids. Is he trying to cover something up? Some kind of wound? It is so easy as adults, with all of our baggage, to make up stories about why our children do this or that. Lately, the “bad mommy” loop has been playing loudly in my head.
I feel so despondent that his father is only a once-a-week presence in his life (by his choice).
The other day I took Sami to the playground. He was watching a man throw a football to his son, was instantly intrigued, and started to ask the man to throw footballs to him. I was embarrassed, as I always am, when he asks such things of strangers, worried that they feel obligated to comply. But the man was incredibly nice, and showed Sami how to catch the football.
“You bring your arms in like this,” he demonstrated, hugging the football to him. “Like this,” he repeated over and over, patiently, explaining the technique.
“Are you a coach?” I asked him, out of sheer fascination.
“No,” he laughed. “I just go to all my son’s football games.”
He threw the ball to Sami over and over, and shouted words of encouragement. While I should have been happy that this man was so engaged with my son, and that my son was having fun, all I could feel was impotent rage and deep, deep grief.
I have thought many times of Football Dad since then and the same emotions well up.
Tonight I had the thought that maybe things would be better reversed. Maybe Sami would be better off living with his father and his step-mother and soon-to-be baby sister most of the time, and having partial visitation with me.
Maybe I don’t have enough to offer him.
Maybe he needs a nuclear family. One that I cannot provide because I am fairly convinced that I will never find someone to love and love me and my son.
I know it sounds crazy, I know single parents rock and are awesome, and that a nuclear family is not inherently better in any way, but I am feeling just that inadequate as a parent lately.
Nothing feels right to me. I feel bad about his school. Every morning he clings to me as I take him to school, grabbing on to my legs and hiding behind me, and he doesn’t want to go. But I have to work, and I don’t have very many other affordable options, so I drop him off. He doesn’t nap at school and so when I pick him up at 6 pm he is exhausted and cranky, and we don’t enjoy our evenings together, although I try to make the best of it that I can.
Today I talked to a mother at his new potential school, who told me that she had been worried about her kids doing ok for “such a long day,” from 8:45 am - 3:15 pm.
My son is in school now from 8-6 pm, five days a week. He’s three and a half.
How much of an asshole do I feel like?
Sunday is our day, and I do my best to find fun activities for us to do together. We spend time outdoors as much as possible, where both he and I feel most alive.
But it seems that everywhere I go I am bombarded with reminders of what I lack as a mother and as a person, what we lack as a family, or I should say perceived lack — and no matter how much self-talk I try to do, it never seems to work. These days, all I can see is that we are alone, I am insufficient, and he deserves better than me.
I don’t know how I am going to teach my son to love himself when I live with this much self-loathing.
I want to change this attitude of mine but I just can’t seem to get out of this rut. I feel it will take some kind of divine intervention for me to see life through different lenses again.
I just want a giant band-aid over all this hurt.
I want a partner who will love me and love my son and throw him a football in the park.
I want to learn how to be grateful for and satisfied with the blessings in my life, but if I said I was there I’d be mightily lying.
I hate the word “depression,” as I detest all clinical phrases. They serve to dehumanize and they also don’t get at what is really going on with people. A neat label does not begin to encapsulate the complexity of human existence, and I feel does it a disservice. But looking at the word depression in a non-clinical sense, there is the visual of the dark hole. I feel an inner sunkenness. A low-down-ness. That resonates.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not an every second of the day thing. I’m not debilitated by it. I work and I play and I do what I have to do. I water the plants. I do the dishes. I shower. There are moments when I smile, and it’s authentic. There are many many moments when I connect deeply with Sami, and every cell of my being is engrossed in playing with him and being by his side. Today I have laughed and felt inspired and been encouraged by friends.
Yet, the quiet desperation is there, hanging like a thick fog all around.
I realize how ridiculous it is that in my last post I can say that I love myself, but then refer to myself as a freak and other quite unkind words. I guess it is possible to both love someone and think of them as a freakish loser. Perhaps that is my relationship with myself these days. A true love-hate relationship.
It is the nature of this place I’m in, to where the kind words and love of others penetrates, but does not seem to stick. It’s as if it passes right through. The support is welcome, and appreciated deeply, but then I cannot hold on to the kindness of others, and sort of bounce right back to my baseline of extreme aversion to this way of life. I don’t even know if it’s aversion or resignation, but either way it feels like shit.
It seems like ALL my single friends are dating but me. I’m not exaggerating.
I hear them talk about people they are dating and my cynicism flares up. I recognize that infatuated tone in their voices, remember that spring in their steps, the fun, the hopefulness, the excitement of a new lover.
I want them to be happy, yet I am waiting for their shiny bubble to pop. Perhaps because mine always has. I am projecting my own shit onto them and it’s not nice. I now believe that the bubble is too fragile to last, and cringe in anticipation of the eventual moment of their heartbreak. I do not wish it upon them, believe me I do not, yet I feel so hopeless about relationships that it is hard for me to feel hope for anyone else.
I am still in love with someone who does not love me, a man about as accessible as Pluto, and it makes me ill. Yet I cannot seem to quit my longing for that unattainable person. It is visceral. An ugly addiction that keeps on hurting me. I despise this brand of suffering. It is truly a hell-state on earth, and I know that liberation is possible but from this vantage point, this down low vantage point, I can’t seem to figure out how to emerge into a more liberated place. Perhaps this is where I need to be, down in this trench, a war going on around. I am just trying to keep myself safe so I can take care of my child and do what I have to do each day.
This past weekend I went with a wonderful friend to receive the darshan from Amma, the hugging saint.
When I received the darshan, it was extraordinary in a different way. I did not tear up as I did two years ago, but I did feel a sense of inner peace and a relaxing of my clenched heart. A remembrance of what it is like to be unconditionally loved. What I enjoyed, even more than receiving the darshan, was watching her give it. She embraced each person with such total presence, you could see that every fiber of her being was focused on what she was doing, and then when it was time to let go, she let go with joy. She smiled! She let go!
How I wish I could do this in my relationships. I hold on, when the time for holding on is long past.
How I wish to turn towards the good, to leave this hole behind. I trust that I will, when I am ready and when it is time. For now it is time to endure this grief, it is time to hang out in places I don’t want to be, trusting that there is healing here, that liberation is possible, even in hell, and that somewhere in the world, Amma is probably embracing someone with all her heart and soul.
[I need to preface this to say that I don't hate my individual married friends, just married people as a group. It's a form of bigotry directed at the wedded.]
Today I am in just that kind of mood.
I took Sami to the pool today, and as it was Sunday, the pool was jam-packed with dads.
Pregnant bellies bursting with life.
I know I know nothing about these peoples’ lives, for all I know their lives could be hell on earth, but all this marriage and procreation makes me feel like a single, worthless, disgusting, unlovable freak.
I tried my best to be present for my Sami, and we did have a good time splashing and playing catch and jumping back and forth between the baby pool and the kids’ pool. But I would be lying if I said that inside I was not aching.
I love myself. I love and adore myself. I’m wonderful and amazing and beautiful and bright, I believe and know this to be true. So, I’m wondering why no one else will fucking love me.
Yes, I am well aware that I’m feeling sorry for myself.
I got into a fight with my 87 year old grandmother because every time she calls (this is every 2-3 days) she asks if I have found anyone yet. Or she asks me how my “social life” is, which is a euphemism for dating.
“WHEN I FIND SOMEONE, I’LL TELL YOU. UNTIL THEN, DON’T ASK!” I bellowed rather unkindly.
Goddamn married people keep friending me on Facebook. They are all married with children. One friend from my elementary school days. I keep crying when I visit his page. He has two cute little kids. I have not seen him since I was about 12.
Another friend from grad school friended me tonight. Married, with a gorgeous little daughter.I also teared up when I saw the picture of his smiling little family.
I feel so stupid being so whiny, when I have so much to be grateful for.
Shame on me for focusing on what I don’t have.
But this is my blog. Where else can I be honest in all my whiny purity?
Right now, I fucking hate married people and I envy the safety and security of their lives. Even if their spouses annoy them to no end, even if they are not having sex, at least there is someone there. Someone to come home to and someone to share a bed with, share life with and share the joys and stresses of raising children.
They are everywhere. The married people. They are out in force. In public, at every turn, flaunting their couplehood to us single losers, whose husbands left them and are about to have babies with other people. Why do I feel like I am in some kind of horrible nightmare? I just feel like such a freak, like something is quite seriously wrong with me because I can’t seem to find anyone to love and love me.
I literally feel the bile churning in my stomach as I type this. I know how immature and un-spiritual and ungrateful of a post it is. I know I should be practicing acceptance and looking for the blessing and staying present and breathing and all that shit.
It seems I can’t quite do much better than this lately.
Tomorrow, or this week for sure, I will write about my experience of seeing Amma, two years later and receiving the darshan. It actually was quite wonderful, but clearly I am far from blissed out. My journey these days is one of anger and bitterness. Dollops of hatred and splashes of rage. But the sweet maraschino cherry in this nasty-ass cocktail of discontent is Sami, my son, my light. He makes this vile drink of life bearably sweet.
“You’re the best mommy I never seen!” he exclaimed to me this morning.
Why is it that when I think of my dad, all I can think of is his death? I remember entering his apartment, like a scene of a murder, but there was no murder - unless you count years of forced psychiatric drugging murder, which it is. I remember the smell of death all around and a puddle of blood dried to almost black on his bedroom floor, in the spot where he died.
My aunt gave me his leftover unused pack of paper towels, and when I investigated them upon returning home, the smell of death had penetrated even those, deep into the fibers of those towels, and I screamed hysterically for my then-husband to throw them out.
I don’t want to think of these things when I think of my father. Though he did not raise me, and I didn’t really get to know him until adulthood, I want to think of his kind and gentle nature, his love of computers before anyone was even into computers, I want to think of how he used to call me “his darling left-wing daughter.” And all the fun little emails he would send me every day, just to let me know he was thinking of me. I want to think of him holding Sami as a baby, the proudest grandpa alive. Sami was seven months old when my dad died. He will never remember him.
Ah…if I went to therapy, I might talk about how perhaps my issues with men stem from not having my father around when I was growing up. His absence - perhaps the reason I fall for unavailable men - the more unavailable, the harder I fall. But I don’t go to therapy.
Today I tended to my garden. I bought a new rosemary plant, and a lavender plant, and scooped them into terracotta pots with fresh, damp earth. I remember someone telling me once that lavender is good for dealing with childhood wounds. Now I will have it growing wild and strong in my garden.
Obsessive thoughts will not stop swirling through my head - this pain of lost lovers, a lost father, my ex-husband having a baby with his new wife. Sami was not himself all day - quiet, lethargic, and listless, and I got lost in worry about that. “Can you give me a smile?” I asked him, as we climbed the stairs, and he turned around and gave me the slightest little smile - that was all he could muster.
By the afternoon, he seemed much better, even playing his favorite, quite energetic “hide under the covers” game. Seeing that he seemed back to his usual self, I tried to be brave and suck it up and go to that Father’s Day picnic to meet my single dad friend. I shaved my legs and tried to make my crazed, unkempt self look somewhat presentable.
But by the time we got there, Sami’s fever had spiked yet again, so I turned immediately around and took him to the urgent care. Two hours later, we had a diagnosis of strep, which I already feared by the foulness of his little breath.
I will have to keep him home from school tomorrow, I fear. Miss a day of work during a very important proposal-writing week, with deadlines looming large and intense. I think, if I had a partner, this would not be an issue. Perhaps my partner would help care for Sami while I got some work done. But in this situation, I am on my own. Don’t get me wrong, there is no resentment at caring for my sick baby boy. It is more the helplessness that I am only one person - my resources are limited. And I cannot, as much as I’d like to, be a superhero. If I care for my child, work suffers. If I work, my child does not get my attention. There is no one else to buffer between the worlds I must navigate.
I feel crazy, crazed, lost in memories of bloodstains on the carpet -my dear dad, dead. Too much pain to bear, so I move in other directions.
I am lost in memories of lovers lost, lost in obsessive thoughts of how happy they must be with their new partners. Sami’s father spent Father’s Day on vacation with his pregnant wife. I feel very dispensable, not very precious, more than a little flawed and defective. Why am I alone?
I hate this. I know that there is no good to come from resisting this. Yet I do, stubbornly, foolishly.
I want someone to slap me across the face like Cher in Moonstruck and say, “snap out of it!”
Tonight I sit with the crazies. I will put fresh sheets on my bed and cry into them, cry from all these men who have hurt me so much with their dying and leaving. And tomorrow I hope, I will awaken to face another day, staying strong, always, for the little man who means more to me than anything in this world, and always will.
A good friend remarked to me today that she thought my challenge was not single parenting, but relationships.
I do believe she’s right.
Not that single parenting is not without its challenges. I’ve wrestled with how much to write about my child, when he is too young to event understand the concept of consent?
For this reason I have held back in writing about him, focusing instead on myself, and this twisted tangle of relationships I have been in since splitting up from my ex almost 18 months ago. So much has happened in the space of time. My ex has married another and they are expecting a baby girl in August. They’ve selected a name, my ex tells me.
“Don’t you think it might be a good idea for me to meet your wife?” I blurt out. My ex stands at my doorstep, Sami is napping in his room, and it feels like an opportunity to actually have a conversation, which we never, ever do.”
“Why?” he asks. “For what purpose?”
And I do not have a good answer. “Because we are in each other’s lives, somehow - she is Sami’s step-mother. Soon to be the mother of Sami’s half-sister.” is what I thinking, but I stammer some incoherent responses that don’t seem to convince him.
This is the first time I have ever referred to her as Sami’s step-mother. In my mind, and all conversations, she was “the girlfriend” and now “the wife.” I don’t know if it is strange that I have never met her; from what I hear from other single moms, they do tend to meet the new spouse sooner or later. I try not to think too much about what Sami’s relationship is with her. He never talks about her, unless prompted. They clearly have not spoken to him about the baby. I wonder when they are planning to have this conversation? Do we need to have a conversation about having the conversation? I do not know.
“Is (I’ll call her Muna) Muna’s tummy big?” I ask Sami once.
“Yes,” he responds.
“Why is it big? Do you know?”
“Just because it is,” he says, nonchalantly.
“Since I’ve been single, I have learned that no one is going to take care of me but myself,” says a friend on the phone to me today.
It seems everyone is moving on with their lives - my ex, past lovers, and I cannot seem to find someone to love me. How unspiritual to say, but fuck loving yourself. I love myself as well as I can. I don’t want to love myself solo.
It seems life is pushing me to my “edge” as they say in yoga. I am being stretched way beyond my comfort zone here. I don’t like hanging out in this place, but yet, I know it is good for me. If I took the chance, I could really face some demons, produce some significant work, without the time and energy that goes into sustaining a romantic relationship. This I tell myself in an attempt to self-soothe. I’ve never been a very good self-soother.
I don’t know what is going on for Father’s Day tomorrow. There is a Father’s Day picnic being run by a single parents’ group I belong to - a single dad friend will be there and perhaps it might be good to go. But I also feel like it might be triggering - Sami will be without a dad, and all those dads might be too much to take in my fragile state. Or, it could be kind of healing to hang out and celebrate with some cool dads. This Father’s Day is hitting me particularly hard. All this man trouble. If I am not mistaken I was in a similar funk last year. Dead dads, a series of men who leave, generally for other women. I guess I have some abandonment issues.
I sit alone on a Saturday night, with a sick child asleep in my bed across the room, and I love him more than I can comprehend.
But my heart is deeply wounded. My heart has been broken so many times this year. This fragile heart of mine gets back up from every fall and steps back in the ring, slogging through this world in search of love. There is something that feels ever-so-slightly defective about being single in a world full of couples. The ghosts of past relationships haunt me. I thought I had gotten so much distance from the wounds with my ex. Then the revelation that Sami is having a sister opens it all back up. Everything festers at the moment, and I try to breathe and be present, and I can’t follow one breath, so loudly do my head and heart blare this pain.
Yet I know I will bounce back from all this. I’m a bouncer - look at me, standing in front of the club in my black leather jacket and shitkickers. I click from wounded to just this tough in a fraction of second. It’s how I protect myself from feeling too much at once. But it seems there is always more underlying pain to work through. Always. Life is not scarce in opportunities to learn from the suffering.
The joys are there too, but right now, it is very hard to focus on the positive.
I’ve retreated from the world a bit today as my child vomited throughout the afternoon. It feels good to be as unplugged as I allow myself to be, to finish reading The Soloist, thought to write a book or film review. I’m ready to move on to something to new - productive work is a healing balm to me as well. I cannot wallow in this. I feel, and then I move on, and when I am ready, I feel a little more.
I am a notorious killer of plants.
My body amazed and awed me by growing a baby inside itself and then birthing him out, yet I have never quite managed to keep a plant alive. Even cactuses would wither and die under my fierce neglect. I took my very non-green thumb as a mark of shame, and eventually gave up trying.
Until Mother’s Day this year, when my dear friends and beloved houseguests J and C gave me a gorgeous hibiscus. Upon the hibiscus plant they artfully hung pictures of Sami and me, and left me a note that read, “You’re an amazing mother. If this plant dies, it’s OK because you were busy focusing on your child.”
The card touched my heart, and I couldn’t bear the thought of killing this hibiscus - which boasts a single red blossom so fiery, so saucy, pure attitude with its boldness and flair. Then, not long after, I accompanied Sami and his pre-school class to the National Botanical Garden, and I saw how fascinated by plants and flowers he was. He took delight in every blossom and asked me over and over, “Mama, what’s this one called?” I dutifully read him the Latin botanical names off of tiny signs.
After the trip the Botanical Garden, I decided to take a plunge into completely unknown territory and to create a container garden on my deck. This necessitated a few trips to Home Depot and other plant/garden stores (some trips resisted and some acquiesced to by my child) and we procured several large terracotta pots, a very funky half-barrel, some potting soil for the flowers and some organic potting soil for a soon to be herb-garden. We chose locally-grown petunias of a hot pink hue, pink and red zinnias, a hanging basket of many different kinds of flowers, don’t ask me what, and some orange and yellow flowers with fat, rubbery leaves. A Sunday morning trip to the farmer’s market yielded some large-leafed, fragrant mint, a tiny but tenacious rosemary plant, purple and green basil, red and yellow cherry tomatoes, and peppers.
When the new hibiscus flower emerges (it just dropped off), I will post pictures.
To my surprise, I haven’t killed anything yet. So far all off my plants have survived the transplanting. Rain has been plentiful this early summer in my city, too.
I marvel at the feel of my gloved hands working in the soil, the loamy richness of the smell when it has just been watered, the weight of the giant, sloshing watering can in my hands. Sami loves to help, too, so it’s fun for us both.
In addition to the saucy hibiscus blossom, I adore the strength and delicacy of my twin hot-pink petunia plants, reaching out their leaves and flowers with confidence and trust. My entire back deck feels like a different place. It’s not just a deck now, it’s kind of a sanctuary. I completely missed why people garden.
Gardening types have always been an alien species to me. In fact, I was kind of annoyed with them, and their crazed love for their gardens and their pruning shears and those foam mats they use to protect their knees. Now I am kinda one of them, almost.
I find that the cycles of the hibiscus bud mirror the human experience - it opens fully to great the sun in full glory and folds sleepily in on itself in the night, for the duration of its life. And then another one opens to take its place. It’s a beautiful thing to witness.
Tending to this fledgling garden reminds me to tend to the parts of myself that need water, sunlight, and care. I turn inward and remind myself to open to the sun and grow towards it. To honor the cycles of darkness and light. To open to the fullest expression of my life.
The other day I listened to an NPR segment about “hooking up” - according to the report, the trend with many young people (they were talking about people in their 20s, but hey! I’m in my early 30s) is no dating, no relationships. Just a text, leading to sex. Rinse, wash, repeat.
For these folks, emotional intimacy comes from satisfying relationships with friends, and physical intimacy comes from, well, the hook up.
I swore to myself I was done with hook ups. And it’s not like I had an army of men beating down the door to hook up with me or anything, so the temptation factor was not super-high. Yet the other night I fell into a situation where a hook-up emerged with a perfectly decent guy - intelligent, cute, funny, not a stranger but a friend of friends. An ideal situation, right?
It was, nice. I guess.
If I’m honest with myself, it was less than nice.
Mainly because throughout the–ahem–act, I was haunted by a man I thought I once loved, still kinda do love, and still pine for. I couldn’t lose myself in the embrace of another, because I kept being pulled back to the memories of the few sweet experiences I shared with this unattainable someone.
It had been three months since I had been with anyone. I keep blogging about how I need physical intimacy, I’m a sexual person, blah blah blah, and I thought I was ready for this experience.
Clearly I was not.
I kicked the perfectly decent guy out at daybreak, and that was even a lot for me, as I did not wish for him to stay the night at all.
Afterwards, I did not call, did not text, did not email - and surprise! He is interested and wants to see me again this Friday.
I always tell myself that if I am cool enough, nonchalant enough, a man will be crazy about me. If only I had enough self control to pull off the act. Conversely, if I come on too strong, fall too hard, as I tend to do and am guilty of with the one I still long for - well, survey says - buh-bye. This has been my experience, over and over. Like a bad science experiment that I am compelled to repeat, always hoping for a different result.
Yet it is ridiculous to believe that there are hard and fast rules like this. I scoff at the books. Yet deep down, I want a formula.
Newsflash: there is no formula.
Now, I am in a holding pattern of wanting someone I can never have…unable to let go, even for what was supposed to have been one fun night between the sheets.
I feel sad as I write this, caught as I am in this craving. The Buddha has said that this clinging is the cause of all suffering. This is the Second Noble Truth, and boy, am I living it.
Yet I know that liberation is possible. It’s not just a theory. I’ve experienced it, at other moments in my life. And in really taking a pause to recognize this particular brand of suffering, to investigate it, on the page and on the cushion, to see how it all works - I am a bit closer to the possibility of some freedom and space from the suffering.
The reality is that I probably will continue to hold on for quite a while. Apparently I am not ready to drop it, though all it takes is a second to do so. But as much as I can, I seek to let go. There is nothing to be achieved by this maintaining this clenched heart.
Discipline is not my strong suit these days.
My sitting practice - more or less out the window.
Mindful eating/consumption? Not so much. My ass is slowly but surely expanding, a universe of its own, and I’ve moved to elastic waistbands for the time being.
Exercise? If you count carrying a kicking, screaming 42-pound preschooler out of Target, I guess I’m doing ok.
Writing? About as consistent as DC weather.
Yadda yadda yadda. I’m practicing being compassionate to myself through all this. But that doesn’t mean that I can keep slapping myself on the back for making the same old choices - (or non-choices) that aren’t serving me or anyone else. At some point, no matter how you love that friend who keeps doing the same thing and whining about it, you have to buy her a latte, shake her, and say, “Wake up, GODDAMNIT!”
I’m working on it.
Things came to a bit of an emotional head for me about 10 days ago, after the Missouri trip o’ tears (I was PMSing at the time, but still, even without hormones, it would have sucked).
It was on that trip that I realized that I had reached the limit, finito, in my current job. I really love the people I work with, but the travel. The rush to get to the office 5 days a week - the harried evenings when I had to cab it to Sami’s school at $10 a pop because the bus did not show in time. The last almost 8 months of this has been grueling. But you do what you have to do, when you have no choice - or when you perceive that you have no choice.
And then the choice appeared. In the form of a phone call, from someone I know and love, offering me a job at an organization that changed my life many years ago. And…get this.
No ridiculous travel schedule.
Excellent pay, with benefits.
Interesting, engaging work for social change.
I was told that if I wished, I could pick up my child early from school and finish my work at night, after he went to sleep.
I submitted my resignation from job #1 as soon as I got a signed contract from job #2.
My first official day on the new job is June 5.
The second best part of the new telecommuting job, after the flexibility and the time to be with Sami? The chance to take care of myself again. Since starting the job, I gave up exercising - when was I going to do it? On my non-existent lunch hour? Jump off the bus and walk to work? Didn’t work so well for me in winter. It would have been fine, until the summer heat kicked in, and I walked into my office drenched in sweat.
Maybe those were all excuses, but I could not find the time to fit it consistently into my life, no matter how much I thought of different scenarios.
Now, I actually can take some time for me after I drop Sami off at school, instead of rushing like a crazy woman to get downtown. I plan to start swimming at the local pool.
Life is all about movement - if I get bored or feel stuck, can I remember this?
Can I remember that sometimes great opportunities come out of the blue?
Can I remember that not everything has to be a monumental struggle?
Can I remember that big changes are often the result of small, daily actions?
Can I remember to remember?
Welcome to this blog - my chronicle of the illuminating, character-building path of single parenthood. I'm making this up as I go along. My life is my practice, and my five year-old son is my greatest teacher.