Monthly Archives: April 2011

’til "meh" us do part


in the past 12 months, i have heard from 6 friends that their marriages are on the rocks. 2 are already in divorce proceedings, with one just recently filed. the average of these unions is 15 years “old.” all of them involve children and all of them started with the intention and maturity of seeming adults entering a life-long union. many with examples of longevity despite the friction of their own parents’ marriages and challenges overcome; and some with the specter of their own parents’ divorce looming.

i knew one couple about 13 years ago where one of the spouses, who was about 28 at the time, uttered disappointment that the marriage wasn’t more like those in the movies. the sex wasn’t as passionate or as spontaneous. i had been married myself about 3 years at that point and i’d known my beloved about 6 years and we had recently introduced Thing 1 to the world. so while i was certainly no newcomer, i was neither sagacious. but i was crushed by all our naivete. i remember thinking, “she’s hot, he’s hot. they seem to be in love.” but i also had my suspicions. i didn’t think they’d make it; it had all the markings of an ill-advised union. for starters, i couldn’t find the church and we missed the ceremony entirely.

i will never profess to have any answer. each human being comprises billions of cells and atoms and myriad streams of DNA. then they have their personalities and preferences and interests. then we tack on the early-to-mid 40s, hell, the entire decade frankly, and a lot of that changes; perhaps even some of the DNA. (spend enough time in the sun or on a tanning bed …)

the one thing i do believe though is that people seem to be the same people they were when they first courted or married. they just suppressed it perhaps. i know i am just as neurotic and also as calm as i’ve always been — it’s just that now i feel safer to express both. i have learned to trust people and myself enough to know that being calm is OK and it doesn’t mean you’re dead. and feeling neurotic is OK because it doesn’t mean you’re dying.  these are choices. they come with age.

i have a good friend who used to say that she never wanted her husband to see her: 1) plucking her eyebrows, 2) clipping her nails, especially the toes and 3) ever in the bathroom — doing anything. she used to say that violating such a compact would “destroy the illusion.” while i laughed and mused with her about the lengths she’d go to enforce the contract (the more we talked about it, the most uproarious our imaginary constraints on our spouses) and the punishments as consequences, we both agreed that sooner or later, the bathroom restriction was going to be hard to enforce.

“what if you slip in the tub or fall in the shower?” i asked.
“nothin’ doin. i’ve got feel like a frog. they stick to everything.” she said.

“well, then i can understand your need about maintaining the illusion…” i said, looking away.

returning to the conversation i said, “what if you get sick? or pass out?”

“with him around? hasn’t happened yet; doubt it ever will. i simply won’t allow it. i’ll get one of those medic-alert bracelets… do you think Coach makes one?” she laughed. they have been married almost 18 years and she’s one of the funniest people i will ever know and her husband has a wonderfully dry wit. they have three kids and although i haven’t asked, i’m pretty certain he’s seen her in the bathroom.

but that’s the point. these mates of ours get to see us at our best, our worst and our most human. sometimes those qualities are one in the same and if we’re rational, we don’t mind.

in all of the stories i’ve heard from my friends, all of them have been from the female perspective and while i’m not into taking sides i have to say that the positions i’ve heard seem to hold water not only because i’ve seen the behaviors myself but also because they are so similar across the board:

1) exchange for a newer model
2) doesn’t love me any more
3) takes the meds on the business trips but doesn’t use them at home
4) is threatened by my recent awakening to myself (which can actually be empowering to the unit)
5) is bored

over the winter i read “The Awakening” by Kate Chopin. it’s a semi-cautionary tale about a creole woman who comes of age during a summer when i’m guessing she’s in her mid 30s (which happens to be the age when a woman’s libido apparently hits it peak, hence all the cougars running around i guess). her husband is indifferent to her, her children bring her joy, but she feels ennui, so she sets off to rediscover herself. the story is set in the late 1800s and it’s delicious from a female point of view especially when considering the time of the world; Chopin’s stance is quite on the vanguard. the ending is tragic because our heroine feels trapped and the freedom she chooses is unbearable.

the thing is: everyone feels evolution calling them. as a rule, women are not programmed to leave the pride. so the men do.

divorce, despite its sentiment of commonplace in our society, is still stigmatized. my lovely friends who were considered “safe” by their single or divorced friends when they were still married are now threats to them in their own hunts for a mate (despite the fact that many of my friends are no where near ready to meet anyone). to their married friends, they are considered threats because they are supposedly available and constantly in heat (which is rubbish) to their own unhappy husbands. the friends they started out with may not be the ones at the finish. many of my friends are so far away from considering another relationship that the mere idea of getting to know another man is patently absurd.

but the time will come.

and what of the divorced dads? according to my friends who know other dads or husbands, some of them are flirted with, suggested to and generally the recipients of slightly less-than torrid overtures by the supposedly unhappy still marrieds.

i used to think i wanted to set up all my single or divorced friends and marry them off. i don’t know anymore. i have two friends, neither of whom have been married, and i consider setting them up, but i know too much about both of them to do that to either of them. but maybe they’ll find bliss through me. … mmmmno. i’ll let destiny set them up.

i wonder what some people think when they get married — i know jennifer aniston and brad pitt thought that if it didn’t work out that they could always get divorced. i read that somewhere.

my parents have been together since before the dawn of man (1962). i know they have weathered their share of ups and downs; they have their own ghosts, some i will never (gladly) know about and some wonderful stories. they are partners. same with dan’s parents (1955) – those two are like turtle doves. they had 6 kids, several moves, and all sorts of great stories and their own share of woes and ups and downs.

my dad says, “you just deal.” he doesn’t understand this (my) generation of people who bemoan and cry and run to a therapist. “you deal. you get up, you get dressed, you go to work and you come home. you don’t cheat, you don’t screw around. you fix what you can about yourself and you try again. you buy nice things, go to nice places –together– but you just … be a man.”

i hear him, but i also recall several of his vintage who did screw around, some publicly. i recall several of his vintage whose wives became so depressed they never left their homes. and those wives scorned who dared to go on their own: they were castigated or definitely gay or Hester Prynne’d; you know, rational and fair things like that.  so to me, sometimes, “just doing” doesn’t do it. the just doing it has to be done as a team.

i was talking to dan about this the other day and i said, “i fart. i get sick. i can be a total crab. i am unpredictable. i have false grandiosity. i become priggish. i feel insecure. i change my mind and am opinionated. i can look like medusa in the morning and my breath smells. i can’t brush my teeth without my contacts on and i often miss my hamper. you snore and i nudge you. i don’t punch you.  i think i look way better with mascara, but not the next morning. i think i’m fat and i’m too hard on myself sometimes. i hate it when people interrupt and i get so angry sometimes i have to leave the room. i wish i were taller. sometimes you piss me off. you fart. you get sick. and oh! unfinished projects! sometimes i piss me off. i hate/love my home…. what do people think there is that’s better out there?…what the hell…? i mean… seriously?!”

far be it from me to suggest that what’s supposedly “bad” in life is something we have to endure, but every human being farts. i’m just sayin’…. i have friends whose spouses have died prematurely from a disease or a car accident or a cruel twist of fate and even with all their warts and farts you couldn’t find more bereft surviving spouses. i mean, these people were people: they drove them up the wall and they loved them anyway and have suffered inconsolably.

i know a couple marriages that were on the rocks just before 9/11/01 (one in NYC) and after that, they managed to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and start all over again. they are going on 17 years. i also know a couple that renewed its vows about 11 years ago and they still aren’t speaking to each other.

i am sad for my friends and for their marriages. i don’t know all the details and the attempts and counseling and if there is mental illness involved or outright deceit or personality defects that were never disclosed, but to me, short of someone committing crimes (and i mean really bad crimes), i want to say things can be worked out. everyone has to bring their little red wagons filled with all their stuff and prepare for show-and-tell.

i’d bet in a lot of wagons we’d find a lot of stuff that we got as we tried to fill The Holes. The Holes in our spirit, The Holes in our hearts, The Holes in our souls. The Holes from hurts we endured as children. as adolescents, as adults, as parents that remind us of The Holes we got when we were little. if we don’t figure out where The Holes are, what caused them and how to fix them, then we fill them with stuff (actions, feelings, actual matter, porsches, lovers) that doesn’t matter and the thing we’re looking for that we think will fill The Holes only makes The Holes deeper. we can chalk it up to age, or to feelings of emptiness (The Holes, anyone?). some people simply can’t bear the thought of doing The Work to learn about The Holes. you can count on it: the cycle will repeat. the marriage might have been a “stuff” too — and that can be a bitter pill.

what, spouse who’s run out steam after 20 years thinks that another model won’t fart? that he won’t have anxiety? that she won’t get sick? if we end up with a 24-y-o good luck with that. “classic rock” becomes “n’sync” or “menudo” and your mutual appreciation for politics boils down to the Nickelodeon Kid’s Choice award rant by Jack Black. want to talk about technology and how it has changed our lives? go for it – try to marvel over the rotary dial to touch tone metamorphosis or talk about 8-track to simple cassette to CD to MP3. you can talk about fruit. it hasn’t changed. lightbulbs have, so that’s out. cars too… you’ll have a better conversation in the mirror. i’m not knocking the 24-34 year olds. they’re best for themselves. they’re the gold mine demographic according to Nielsen and we’ve ALL been there.

doubt me?

remember you at 24 after college and in your new digs or your parent’s house. remember your roomates, your landlord. the car payments and the new job. the early days with the credit cards and how you might have thought they were free money? and how nervous you were and insecure and hoping that someone out there would find you and love you and accept you for who you are. someone you could trust, grow old with and fart infront of.

the pain of divorce is real. the effects of it on our children are hard. it is hard on our friends. growth can come of it, but not without cost.

it’s all about the farts. if you can fart infront of your wife or your husband and she or he doesn’t beat you up for it; you’ve already won the lottery.

at my house we call them toots. Thing 3 has the worst — SBDs (silent but deadly).

thank you.

shoulder height and the bittersweet bank of the heart


So I noticed today while walking astride Thing 3 who is 7 that my forearm can rest on his shoulder now. It can sit around the back of his neck letting my hand loosely hang off his other shoulder.

What used to be too distant for me to touch without crouching over, the top of his head, is now at an awkward angle for the palm of my hand to rest naturally. So I descend to the shoulder, with emotional resistance, a full six inches below. I think to myself, “really? has it come already?” It’s so bittersweet.

This wasn’t possible three months ago and it’s this benchmark and others that a mother, or a parent, notices as her brood grows up. While the awareness is instantaneous and the reaction is profound, the announcement is embargoed. We don’t want to actually broadcast this news or admit it’s true. It’s different from watching the numbers go up on the scale at the pediatrician’s. What used to kill my aching back, the hunching over to assist him while walking, is no longer necessary, no longer needed. These changes are different from changing the pant sizes or the shoe sizes, because you expect those to happen — they become a part of the financial budget and practical matters of the household.

But what no one tells you about when you first become a parent is the notion of transactions in the bank of the heart and soul. How the first sounds of a newborn’s goat bleating-like cries and shaky tiny fists and onion-skin fingernails don’t last forever. How the absolute purity and blessing of every innocent child’s fleeting little kidhood vaporizes before your eyes. That baby teeth don’t fall out forever. That training wheels only come off once. That velcro shoes are convenient but don’t foster bonding between parent and child. That even though the moments are trying, you need to make deposits during those moments of disagreement and those moments of bliss because they are all fugitive and the interest rate on them magnifies over time. Their values increase, but they can’t be cashed in; it’s not like you get to make an exchange in say 9 years for the disagreement about a curfew on the last time you picked up your toddler by the straps of his overalls like a six-pack… because you didn’t know it would BE the last time. So you didn’t make the deposit. That’s ok. But it stings.

This morning on the walk to school the sun was napping behind the clouds and the birds were chirping. They called to us in a pattern of 5 tweets … pause … 5 tweets …. pause … 5 tweets … and I decided we would stop for a moment and listen. I wished I could stop time. Thing 2 said, “They’re singing a song, Mom.” So he starts to beatbox and do his best non-Justin Beiber impression while Thing 1 opens his arms like an airplane and says something like, “tweet tweet tweet tweet tweet … … …  tweet tweet tweet tweet tweet … … … “

“C’mon Mom! We’ll be late for school! … … … tweet tweet tweet tweet tweet … … … “

He’s all about business; he can brush his teeth on his own now, Thing 3; but I like to pretend he can’t.  He makes his bed, in his own sublimely wonderful way, on his own. I like to give him socks that are too small so that I can pretend he still wears them. He likes to walk home from school without me but lights up when he sees me on the path and bounds into my abdomen where if I could, I would swallow him whole. I would swallow them all whole. Just to remember the safety and the security of knowing where he is, where they all are, at all times. 

“The world can be a cruel place,” I say without speaking, closing my eyes and deeply smelling his hair. Another day, another deposit in the bank of the heart.

Thank you.

ps – play with the fish on the upper right corner of this blog page. take your cursor and click on them to feed them. they will come to “you” and follow you. Thing 3 loves the fish.

procrastination is ennuithing

like that dog whose so-called trainer had a fabulous dessert sorta named after him, i sit here waiting at my computer for its bell sound effect to >ding!< that tells me i have a new e-mail message coming in. 
of course, i realize that not all of my e-mail messages are calls for interaction. many of them are news feeds that i subscribe to or dormant things i’m interested in. usually, it’s other writers getting their $hit done. hmm. i wonder if that’s a form of not-so-unconscious self-punishment…
but i won’t get any calls for action unless i put out feelers for action. seeking action. but why won’t it just come to me? i envision that little old lady character in all the Hitchcock films; the “aunt Agnes” type from “Bewitched” saying under her veiled church hat, “Molly? Oh, yes. I think she’s fabulous. She does this and does that, loves to edit, loves to write… she could write a book — certainly! People tell her often that she should write a book. Writing’s in her genes. Her father’s a writer you know; several uncles on both sides have written books… Oh, probably nothing you’ve read, but they’ve DONE it…” with her eyes widening and her hat tilting and a teency weency little “tcht” that thus ends that conversation
writing’s in my genes. so is procrastination. procrastination is in my genes. i come from a long line of procrastinators; and a long line of what i call “bootstrappers” – those who pull themselves up by their bootstraps and simply just do. and i’ve been known to bootstrap. but that’s usually after i’ve run out of excuses… it’s more of an “oh, all right. i’ll fepg s epru wodeo t agh thdh oahtt twi duh... because someone has to fepg s epru wodeo t agh thdh oahtt twi duh.”
ironically, the procrastination gene comprises a tenacious lot. i possess the energy and the fortitude to do things. what i lack is the confidence. that’s usually what it is. and to some of you who’ve dared to continue reading to this point, that might come as a surprise. that i lack confidence. funny thing is; by the time you see me getting stuff done, is when i’ve decided to do it. sometimes it’s a totally natural decision and takes less than a second. other times, not so much… 
i’m uh, still trying to figure that one out.
“oh, sure! i could run a 10k if i wanted to. i just don’t want to.” but i can tell you this, i would run if no one were looking just because i don’t want to face any criticism. would my time disappoint me? who knows. but then if i did well, i’d be bummed that no one saw me rock it out. 
so i think the real question lies in motivation. omigosh, did i just finally sorta figure that out? no. i’ve often aligned myself with the motivation concept — what we’re interested in doing, we do; but i think the larger “question” in this then would be: for me, the opposite of motivation is probably fear.  fear of failure or fear of success? 
i was sitting on the edge of my bed the other day and i said to my beloved, “i have no goals. i have no plans; no real niche. i can do a lot of things — sketch, paint, draw, sing, shoot film, run, write, bahhhh; there are many things that could use my help. but i don’t like to look for them. i want someone to come to me and tell me what i’m good at and then … >crash!< do it for me.” (in case i don’t do it right.)
i had lunch with a friend the other day and i regaled her (i’m sure) with the same story. she squinted, looked out the window, hunched her shoulders, hmmed, took a bite of her celery and said, “meh. i don’t have any goals either, but that doesn’t bother me.”
>ding!< excuse me…. 
hrpmh. it was the daily feed. 
why do i subscribe if i’m not going to read it? is it because cool people read Salon? i dunno. do they? 
oh, back to the lunch with my friend. 
so if it doesn’t bother her, then why should it bother me? well, i wonder if that’s because we’re different people (duh) but not only that, we are at different levels of satisfaction in our lives at the moment. she may be fully satisfied and that’s not a judgement, it just is. she may be fully aware of what’s going on or not in her life and has determined that it’s OK and it’s just where it should be.
does it mean i am unsettled if i am not satisfied? or is it even dissatisfaction? i mean, really – what IS it?
ennui |änˈwē| – noun
a feeling of listlessness and dissatisfaction arising from a lack of occupation or excitement.

there is plenty for me to “do” in this world. why, just inches from my keyboard is a stack of papers on my left that need editing and on my other left is a stack of papers that need to be tossed. then on the floor is a project that can be finished (or realistically — started and then finished). in my head but not yet on the computer is work for the PTA. 
i often consider that once PTA is over, the ennui will end. because, while i am proud of and have thoroughly enjoyed the programs that have come into being during my stint, i am frustrated by the levels of apathy amongst our parents. the 80-20 rule / principle applies: 80 percent of the work is done by 20 percent of the people. and in my experience, it’s 90 percent of the same people with a couple new recruits. but somehow it manages to get done; but seldom is any new stuff rolled out because we’re so busy just getting the old stuff done. 
the laundry in the basement. ohmylord. don’t let’s go to there. it’s all clean. it just needs to be folded, stacked and put away. my friend and i often joke that laundry is a 12-step program. i plan (see!) to write a book on just that.
aunt agatha turns from the doorway as she’s set to leave, “you’ll feel so much better, dear, after you DO something.” 
but apparently not until i get the laundry folded. and the PTA wraps up… 42 days…
thank you.