Tag Archives: friendships

Inadequacy and the Cleaning Ladies

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They’re back. I re-hired them after I let myself decide that it was ok to not give a damn about letting someone else clean my house. That if the funds are there, and the stars align,  I reasoned that I was keeping these women employed and I didn’t have to sweat my sons’ bathroom toilets and bed-making. They know my home, they know where stuff goes and in the future, I will likely employ them to help me purge.

So the funds are there, thanks yoga teaching, and the stars have aligned. The ladies have been back for months. What has returned with them, along with a lovely surprise I’ll get into shortly, is the sense of inadequacy and the reminder of my flagging mindfulness. At times, I’ve simply laid out the sheets on the beds to be changed. I’ve left my clean folded clothes in piles — it’s like I’m a transient in my own house: I don’t always put away my clothes. I live out of the familiar piles of cleaned shirts and undies and jeans and sock twins that are like small indicators of unfinished projects. They’re cotton archipelagos of inadequacy. What I need to do is vet out my t-shirts and gut about half of all my clothes. I have too many pairs of yoga pants.

“But there will be a funeral and I’ll need that dress.” “And that sweater to go over it.” “And those boots because I know we will go out to a bar again, one day, maybe after the funeral.” “There’s a wedding this fall…”

Lots of clothes I don’t wear anymore are tied in my former identity: corporate shill of corporate messaging. They were pricey then, nice wools, beautiful blends, “status” labels and now… I don’t wear them. I can still fit into all of it, but there’s this part of me which simply won’t move on. This part of me SO GETS MY MOTHER: that she would hang on to her gorgeous classic-hewn clothing because it never went out of style, and she was right.  Mom could rock a camel-toned cashmere sweater in May like NO ONE, other than Lauren Hutton.

I also know that clothes and books and things were important to my mother. I sense that after all her kids pushed off for lives of their own, and my father pressed on in his career, her drive to fill our rooms with things she’d never use, but things which sated her fears and sadnesses beat any fleeting sense of mindfulness or rational objective in acquiring such things. I’m sure it’s a combination of her numerous anxieties and predilections as well as a sincere interest in reading that book, or giving that gift, or using that purse, or wearing those boots that over time simply became too overwhelming to deal with. So instead of purging, she acquired more to quiet the noise. More things to hide the things she never used.

I can feel the sensations in my body: quickening pulse and a shallowness of breath when I look around my accumulation of unused or once-used items and shame myself internally for having them. I think of landfills and waste. “It’s a lot,” one of the cleaning ladies once said to me when I sighed at the house. And I think I’m relatively organized!

I don’t need 52 multicolored Sharpies, but there was a time when I did. The kids use them for school, still, but there’s this nagging sense of “USE THAT ALL THE TIME OR IT’S WASTE” mentality. I blame Costco. I’m mostly serious. You can’t buy three pairs of socks there, you have to buy six in a pack. You can’t buy 12 Sharpies, you have to get 52 — because if you buy 12 a la carte elsewhere, it’s almost as pricey as buying the bargain pack at Costco.

But the cleaning ladies come, and when they do, the house must be “in order” to a certain degree because they can’t access the table to clean and dust it if it’s covered in 52 Sharpies. I mean, they will put the Sharpies somewhere, but often their choice of placement is like a planter or a silverware drawer because they’re just here to get shit done and move on.

So here’s the surprise I’ve finally allowed myself to enjoy: when they come here, for at least the first afternoon, I will enjoy and revel in the quiet, the order, and the essence organization that reigns and it’s ok if I didn’t do much of it myself. I know I can; that’s not the point. It’s that I’ve allowed myself to let someone else do it and that I’m ok with it.

Even though I know and YOU know what’s really going on in that junk drawer, that for the moment, everything is chill and my home makes me look like I’ve got my act together. When they’re here, quietly tending to my home in a way that I certainly can, but I’ve basically abdicated, I do feel less alone. My heartbeat slows and my breath becomes mine again. It will get done. That’s the gift.

I read with great vigor A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin. It’s a collection of short stories. Many of them are memoir, some are written with disdain for the client / employer, and I shuddered a little upon reading Berlin’s observations about us, knowing when we’ve had our periods, or the last time we had sex, what we’re reading, what we’re still not reading, how we’re sleeping, or if our children eat in their beds, hoard candy in their rooms, and the secrets they have, but I get that. Other stories are deep, wandering tales about love, the oceans, sex with near strangers, and marriage. It’s a wonderful book as Berlin is masterful — both succinct and dreamy — and real. You can’t hide from her, she has found you.

I think often about these women who clean my home, Flora and Linda. They are sweet and obsequious. They banter in Spanish and usher tender giggles to each other upon encountering our dogs and marveling at how much my children have grown. I’ve worked with them for eight years. I wonder about their lives, about what keeps them up at night. Shortly after my mother died, they came to clean and I thought I was going to be OK. I hadn’t let the house get too bad between their visits. But Mom had died and I was a mess.

The moment they came in the door, my eyes welled up and Flora (the older of the two) saw my face. She knew something had gone horribly wrong between our last encounter. “My mother died last week…” and I wailed and bawled and cried heaving sobs into her neck as she held me and rocked me in her arms. She’s not that much older than I am, but I have an affection for these women that goes back to my childhood as I was basically raised by my cleaning lady, Betty Sortino.

Flora’s partner, Linda came in to help soothe me. And we stood there in my front hall for about a minute until I composed myself and told them what happened. Three weeks later, Linda’s husband also died. He fell off a scaffold at his worksite and died in the ambulance. He was 36. He and Linda have three children. She took a couple weeks off and then came back to work; she has no choice as she has to feed her children and her husband is dead. I wonder about her children. When I give away clothes, I give Linda and Flora first rights of refusal. Over the years, I’ve given them clothes, desks, dressers, books, and toys.

About a year ago I learned how much these women earned from my payment to their broker. $20 per house. I was paying many times that for the fee. If clients kept their appointments, they would clean up to four houses per day. They only got paid if they cleaned and I used to flake out on their employer all the time because I couldn’t get my house ready. Each house takes about 2 hours for them to tackle.

One day, I asked them if they worked on their own and that’s how we do it now. I’ve increased their rate and I believe that my paying them outright and directly rather than through the company whence we first found them does make a difference. When I pay them directly, I am less prone to cancel because I don’t have my act together because the house wasn’t tidied in time or appropriately. They don’t judge. They are eager for the work and I am eager for the respite from the visual chaos. It’s become more of a relationship which transcends the work and I trust them completely. I respect them and they get to keep the money I pay them instead of only take home a sixth of it when I paid them through their broker. I give them extra cash for Christmas.

Each time they are here, I promise to myself that I’m going to go through my things and really sort and donate. Lighten my load. I have a neighbor who’s moving this weekend. She’s more than a neighbor, she’s become like a cousin to me. She’s leaving for Florida and I honestly hope I go see her. When she put her house on the market, I helped her straighten up — I was literally a third pair of eyes added on to her own and her young friend who’s got a real knack for spatial placement of things.

She asked me to come view and give pointers. I admit I felt a little like a white-gloved Marine Corps officer running quarters inspection, but my advice, adjustments, and insight were helpful. I was impressed by how austere her home had become. It felt like a resort property. It felt like a rental on a beach and I envied that — the lack of shit crowding everything. Yet she felt it was too sterile, too antiseptic, no “life” or “personality” in her home anymore. She was right. The house had a “tone” now, not a feeling. We all agreed that the powder room needed to feel like a “spa” so I filled her glass vases that hung on the wall with neutral tone rocks, some branches from the wispy white pine tree in her backyard and clips off the rigid birch tree in my front yard and voila. Spa.

It sold in three days. For the asking price.

I will miss her a lot. More than I think either of us realize. She has quietly supported me — unconditionally — for our entire relationship. She has never passed judgment and has been a true cheerleader in everything I’ve ever ventured. It hurts that she’s leaving, but everything was in such utterly perfect cosmic alignment — like the kind of alignment you read about — that her staying here meant spiritual coma. You don’t get the kind of opportunities, conversations, situations and challenges thrown at you the way she has and keep things as they are.

She used my cleaning ladies before putting the house on the market. They provided her with the calm and ease they provide me every time they leave my home. It’s quiet. It’s clean. When they are here, I am forced to let them work, to stay out of their way. To leave with the dogs. When I come back, things are where they belong. Or at least they’re not in the way. The inadequacy ebbs and I don’t feel like such a failure. I know I perform a lot around here, it’s in the ways you can’t often see. At the very least, I have participated in readying the house for them.

In three hours my three boys will be home. I will be teaching little kids yoga, teaching them to learn how to calm themselves, center their minds, and know they are enough. I will not think about my friend moving to Florida and I will thank Linda and Flora.

Thank you.

 

Grief: Think of the Living

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My mother told me numerous times when we would talk about death or when someone in the family “went to God” that her own mother used to say “think of the living” when trying to figure out how to manage the myriad complex emotions, drives, urges, repressions, and crap that goes on in a person upon hearing the news that no one ever wants to hear.

“The living are the ones who are in pain. The departed feel no pain, they are in Grace,” Mom would explain. Grief is exhausting.

Last week, I wrote about my parents-in-law, and the day I first met them and tried to encapsulate the nearly quarter of a century I have known them. I wrote that post on Sunday, it went “live” online Monday. My sister-in-law read that post to her father moments before he was trolley’d off to an MRI. An MRI that would be his last, as Fate has it, and a singular and final moment of cogent consciousness they would share before he departed this earth.

That afternoon, my house phone rang with the news that Daddy-O was in a radically new and grave condition. My husband rushed home almost four hours by car, from the camp-out he had just begun with our youngest son the day before. He arrived in time to join his siblings and mother for his father’s final hours. I was teaching a yoga class, a restorative one, when I received a text from my husband to call him for an update.

After the class, I went home to check on my sons and headed to the hospital, for the end was near and I wanted to be with my husband to help him through it. I also wanted to bid farewell to an amazing man, one who showed me time and again how he embodied gracious living, kindness, patience and true gentlemanliness. True to form, Daddy-O lived that way until he died.

How did he do this? He simply waited. He waited until his beloved was ready for him to leave. He waited until she was taken care of: her feet, back and neck propped and rested; her form nestled in and under blankets in that frigid hospital room. Her hand holding his in a defiant and loving way, never truly “ready” to say goodbye. His passing was glorious and awful at the same time. I wept and shivered with sadness, sapping myself from the reality of what just occurred while at the same time praising God for my father-in-law’s legacy and many kindnesses.

There were no wails or outbursts. He wouldn’t have withstood it anyway. It wasn’t that emotion was not allowed, because he was a very emotionally available man. It was that grief is … exhausting, and the long and weary road to his final days had taken a toll on its own. I know he would urge us to conserve, to breathe and to accept. That’s who he was.

Are We Ever Ready?

I can think of a million things I need to do before I let myself relax. Walk the dog, sort the mail, fill the trash, wipe the counter, feed the kids, read a book, write a lesson plan, call a friend, write an email, check in with my father, fold some laundry.

Yesterday, we went sailing with longtime friends. Before we drove off to meet them, the house was in disarray (somewhat more than usual due to the flurry of life and death in the last few weeks) but the dogs were fed. I did not do my usual, “one more plate!” into the dishwasher and pressed Start or wipe down the counter before leaving. That could wait.

These friends — we were with them the night before my husband and I were engaged (and they knew the whole time, the stinkers) and we’ve been together for many of life’s huge moments. We are godparents to each others’ kids and we were in each others’ weddings. She was my first call when Mom died. She was my first call after Daddy-O passed. Our husbands often wax rhapsodic about taking off in a Winnebago one of these years to tour the nation, so it was absolutely the norm that they celebrated my FIL’s life at the Mass and later at the reception. Being on the water, away from terra firma and all her gravity was so satisfying. My shoulder and back pain of late completely evaporated.

It was a busy day in the harbor. The weather was spectacular and once we broke from the shore points and land masses, the winds picked up.

Floating on the Chesapeake Bay with absolutely no expectations other than a slight nagging in the back of the head forefront of the mind about the kids and their safety, but overall: nothing weighing us down, was exactly what we needed.

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“The parts of you that are not touching the ground, that’s when outer space, the sky begins, isn’t that right?” my youngest asked last week.

 

School of Life and Death

My children have looked back on this academic year that has passed and they sneer. The day before school began, they lost their grandmother Mimi (my mother) and the day before school ended, they lost their grandfather Pop-Pop (my FIL).

“What we learned this year, did not come from books,” my middle son said, stretching his arms overhead and looking at the floor.

“This year sucked,” said my oldest, with no shortage of disgust.

They had to grow up a bit faster this year. My oldest ended up telling my brother of our mother’s death. “That sucked big time,” he said and will likely say for the rest of his days. When he learned that his Pop-Pop was nearing his own journey, he said, “I’m not telling anyone anything this time.”

Between the “bookends of madness” a friend called it and continued, “were these pockets of life crap that you had to endure,” she said, alluding to the weirdness of friends who’ve fallen away, bullies at school, as well as some other stuff. “What a shitty year,” she said.

It has been shitty. But it’s also been great. I have to allow the truth of this: we had good moments peppered in this year too.

It hasn’t even been a full 365-day year for us yet but it has been layered with beautiful growth and moments filled with opportunities to enrich the lives of the living. Even though we severed ties with some people, we deepened and enriched our ties with others. That’s where death is completely amazing: it cuts through the garbage for you and you learn to put not only your own life first, but you learn to put first that which matters most. My husband and I each have fancy letters we can put after our names now as he earned certification in project management, which is a nice boon to his resume and I finished my yoga certification and started teaching. In fact, I just wrapped up my first 12-week session the night Daddy-O died, so that’s a bittersweet moment for me.

“Do you actually earn money by teaching yoga?” my mother-in-law asked sincerely a couple weeks ago. She and I laughed at the question, and I said “Yeah. I do. It’s not a ton, but it’s ‘mad money’ — I use it to pay for the kids’ haircuts, treat them to Starbucks or light car repairs or maybe buy a nice thing for myself…”

“Mad money, Tom… do you remember that?” she said, smiling as she leaned into my father-in-law. He smiled too.

“Oh yes! I remember it.” He said, leaning in to her, that small gesture speaking private, untold tales.

“We still stash it away, Daddy-O,” I said with a wink. Not that my husband has ever given me a real reason to stash away funds for the moment I decide in anger to split the scene.

So I think of the living. I am one of them, as are you. We struggle at times, don’t we? We don’t have to be grieving to struggle; but sometimes we don’t recognize we are grieving. It doesn’t take a death of a human in our lives to shake us to our cores and have us hole-up and cocoon for a bit.

I think of my mother-in-law and her children and grandchildren for whom this loss is so deep and profound.  Despite the fact that Daddy-O’s illness “prepared” us and we had the advent of time and health occurrences and complications to ease us into this most unpleasant of states, we were not really ever “OK” with it.

I have had two distinct — I feel like a cad for even mentioning this, for every life and every death is so completely unique and to be revered in its own space — experiences with losing a parent. My mother went suddenly with cardiac arrest and felt no pain (this is something I learned this year — I didn’t know the difference between cardiac arrest and a heart attack) but I knew intuitively that something was changing in her. My father-in-law passed quietly, peacefully, surrounded by loved ones in a hospital bed.

There is no “preference” for me. They both tore me apart. With my mother, I was able to tune-in to the intuitive messages I was receiving weeks before and I could spend some time with her on the phone and we could have some nice chats. With my father-in-law, I was given the gift of time and medical knowledge to help ease me into those final moments. I was able to actively grieve before him and accept (with great defiance) what was happening. Not everyone has that opportunity.

My mother showed me that death shows up no matter what. My father-in-law showed me that even though it happens no matter what, we can face it and let ourselves let it happen despite our many objections.

So if the point of life is to live it, that means feel all it — the ups and the downs, then live it we must. I won’t say “good” or “bad” anymore (or I’ll try to stop saying that) because what I’ve learned is that what I think might be good, could be seen as bad for someone else. It’s all a matter of perspective.

Humor Beckons

 

I decided yesterday on the way to the Bay to read Tina Fey’s memoir, Bossypants and I’m so glad I did. She is one of my favorite writers and performers. She is reminding me, even in her passages about her scar on her face, that not all memoir writing needs to be deep and intentionally profound. That when we just let life roll-out from us, when we sit with kindness and objectivity (as much as possible, some moments are easier than others) and when we actually learn from someone else’s perspective (that they are totally deluded or just have a kinder spin on things) that we can tell a more whole story.

Fey’s book is making me laugh out loud. She’s my age. Her recollections of style, music, popular culture and news are taking me back, moment by moment, to those crazy grisly days of prepubescence, full-on puberty, teenagerdom and I guess on to the rest (which I haven’t arrived at yet because I just started it).

I mentioned some of her humor to my husband this morning and he asked me, “Do you have any humor in your memoir stuff?” and I said with great relief, “Yes. I wrote extensively about rolling around unbuckled in the back seat of my grandparent’s car, a US Navy destroyer called the Oldsmobile Delta 88. My grandpa would take these sharp turns at 25 which would slam me into his black wooden canes or one of my brothers when we would kill time waiting for Mom during an appointment…  And how its upholstery made my thighs itch when I wore shorts.”

I also wrote about when I must’ve been in fourth or fifth grade when NY State law changed to allow “right on red” and how we as children were thrust head-first into a public awareness campaign as pedestrians and the defenseless because the law had ushered a new death threat from the driving populace… my grandfather a robust member therein. Ironically, it was his wife who told my mother to “think of the living” which is something he likely didn’t do much of while taking those hard turns in his land yacht…

It’s all of life, and the living, that we can keep in the forefronts of our minds when remembering our dead and how much they affected us when they were alive and truly living.

Thank you.

 

30 Days of Brené Brown — Day 19: #shame #debris #storm #backlash #relationships

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Welcome to Day 19 of “30 Days of Brené Brown.”

I can’t let another sentence get by without mentioning and offering a moment of remembrance to the events that occurred a year ago in Newtown, Connecticut. My heart goes out, still, to those families whose lives were changed forever. I try not to editorialize stuff like this; it needs it not.

I’m feeling a little off-center from a sequence of events which have dovetailed in my life in a very short space of the last 48 hours on an energetic level that I can’t even beGIN to comprehend. Wrapping my head around it boggles me. So I’m just going to not bother. I am saying all this because I might not be as “WITTY!” as I usually am. I am grateful for it all though.

Wahe guru!

Here is today’s quote:

If we share our shame story with the wrong person, they can easily become one more piece of flying debris in an already dangerous storm.(page 10)
― Brené BrownThe Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

This quote smacks. It just does.

Being a writer means that we write. There are some of us who write fiction; I can do that. I can whip up people, space aliens, rodents who speak, raindrops which sing in a matter of seconds based on where I am, anywhere; and what I’m doing, anything. But to make those characters relatable (which is the WHOLE POINT OF WRITING), we need to give them dimension: age, temperament, personal history, height, tone of voice, cadence of dialogue. The ability to do so is often a dream, a gift, and a curse.

I’m reading Pat Conroy’s The Death of Santini. It’s rich, as most of his work is, with fragrant passages and textured settings, and robust moments. I feel as though I am there with him, writing. Or at least watching. This “book” is hailed as a memoir; at least in the jacket. Memoir connotes nonfiction, does it not?

Interestingly (trust me, I’ll get to my point), in the book, the Library of Congress bibliowhatever page has a litany of categories enumerated at the bottom of the page: “Military life — Fiction. Domestic violence — Fiction. Suicide — Fiction.” and on and on. I thought it was memoir. Even in his own introduction, which I usually snooze through but never do in a memoir, Conroy said it was essential in The Great Santini, which was also a fictionalized memoir based on his father that he, “fictionalize my father to make him [seem] human,” or something like that. I’m hazy.

Does Conroy base his characters on the ether? No.

Writer or not: do you reference your life’s experiences and the people with whom you share them as though they are irrelevant to one another? Do you? Do you think that one event has nothing to do with another and that all events are not at all related? Even if YOU are the thread which relates them? Do you stay silent? Do you not share?

My point is this: Brown talks about releasing shame. But she also said, quite early on in her book, that sharing our shame with the wrong people puts us at risk of damage. I am so safe to someone who holds shame; I might share about it, because the release of the shame affected me, but I would NEVER betray a confidence.

In The Death of Santini, Pat Conroy wrote in his prologue of The Great Santini, “there were many things I was afraid to write or feared that no one would ever believe,” (p . 11)  when he first wrote it at age 30. It was his debut.

That fear is shame-based. While it’s organic and his; that projection: that no one would believe him or parts that he was afraid to write, wasn’t. It was externalized, as is most of the shame we all carry, based on the stuff (as in Shakespeare –stuff) of other people.

I have lost friends in the course of my lifetime whom I believe now, were only meant to be with me for whatever term they were. I was even accused of writing about one of them several times in this blog. The accusations were unfounded. I’m good with it all.

Never, however, have I been dismissed because of what I write about MYSELF: that I might share too much; that their personal comfort level with my content is difficult for them. Nor, have I been dismissed based on an unspoken fear that I would write about someone else –this is mine: in a way that would be so succinct, so crystal clear, that only the two other people who know I know this person would be able to determine, without a doubt, that I was writing about that person. I have tons of ambivalence about what I write all. the. time. Even these words, right now <–  –>these for a matter of fact, are choices I make fully aware that I’m letting my slip show. But every time I share I feel a little better about myself.

That dismissal implies that I am the ‘one more piece of debris’ in a dangerous storm.

Gah. People can be so fake.

It reminds me of NSA. The wiretapping or cell phone surveillance stuff. Here’s me: heck yeah! I write about other people all the time. I write about myself more. I write about how those other people affect me almost constantly. I write about how I’m so confused or amazed or impressed or enlightened or hurt. That’s what makes me human. That’s how I’m able to share my story. I have nothing I am ashamed of.

I have privacies, absolutely; I don’t share them because c’mon: who wants to hear about my toe fungus or my ear wax statues? But: do you want to hear about my ear wax statues OF my toe fungus? Sign me up.

I get that people, myself included harbor shame; but as far as nurturing shame?! Mmmmmno. But about 99.8% of all shame is bullshit. It belongs to someone else or it’s so OVER, so last century, so second grade, that it’s time it come out and guess what: when you do share it, people are either “me too!” or kind. Or… silent.

Shame is an epidemic; a scourge on our emotional and spiritual health: it keeps us isolated, fearful, judgmental and ironically: caustic. It engenders parsimony and the more parsimonious we are — with ourselves, love, resources, time, gifts, truths, etc., the more we allow shame to grow in us. Like toe fungus. No, like toe fungus on Ebenezer Scrooge. Before the three spirits. (Hey, it’s the yuletide season, I’m feeling it.)

eww. gross! a jacob marley head made out of toe fungus? who thinks of this stuff?

eww. gross! a jacob marley head made out of toe fungus? who thinks of this stuff?

So yeah, I was dismissed by someone this week. The fear was that I would write about us. I hadn’t yet, in any specific fashion. But I might now. Hmmm. No. I won’t. It was never that remarkable.

OOOOooooohhh! Burrrrrrrn!

Yeah, I’m being petty. I’m also full of crap; I don’t mean it.

The fact is that this person’s shame kicked me to the curb about two years ago, but I was never told. It wasn’t revealed to me, in fact it was repressed, until I asked about the radio silence that had deafened me to a point where I couldn’t think of anything else. I was hurt. The math didn’t add up. If anything, I am someone that anyone can talk to about anything. I’ll own that I’m not always super easy about it, but I eventually get my act together and rally. People are important to me.

I had known this person for about 14 years. The thought to share our relationship never entered my mind. I thought everything was OK and that things on that person’s end were just busy or whatever. For two years. After a major death in my life. Y’know… it happens.

OK ok ok. I felt that something was amiss; it’s just hard to be soft. It’s easier to be hard. But it was really apparent (enter: falling piano) when my mother’s death was comPLETEly blown off. I received nary a call, smoke signal, email, morse code, owl-gram, text, telepathy, sky writing, FB note or y’know… card from this person. Nada. Zip. Dilzh (that’s supposed to be “zilch” but I didn’t look when I was typing). That happened to me. My brother’s awesome friends FLEW IN from NYC just for Mom’s funeral and this person did nothing. I get it: death does crazy shit to people, but 13+ years of friendship means nothing?

Ok, I’m not being fair. Eventually, I did get a card. It was my birthday card, three weeks after Mom died, and it didn’t even mention her death. Just blasé plastic bullshit: “thinking of you [for this nanosecond of unbearable vulnerability] and hoping your next year is [who the (&@$ cares] is [superficial trendy adjective]. xo Bipsy.”

It should have just said, “Gee. Sorry your Mom kicked. Happy birthday.” But that would’ve taken too much blood from that cold fish. Look, if you’re going to drop the .22 cents for a stamp these days, why not use it on the card; or spend the .10 cents to call me from a pay phone.

The irony is, of course, that this person was no more perfect than you or I; in fact this person’s ability to flap the gums and chew the fat was on par with yours truly. So let me get this straight: TALKING about it, and I’m sure about me and our relationship to other people is OK, but my writing about it isn’t?!

So here I am, NOT writing about it.

As Anne Lammott said of writing,

“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”

Swear alert: fuck yeah.

I have NO clue if I attended to that quote or not. I just got hit with some debris.

Thank you.

When Real Life and eLife Intersect #Relationships

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I had the pleasure Sunday of meeting a real-life, organic follower of my blog.

She was so kind and earnestly interested in meeting me. We met after a church service where my brother deftly delivered a sermon on faith / love and trust / leadership wherein he managed to beautifully tie in the story in Exodus about Moses and the Burning Bush.

I am not a burning bush. I try to blend in; be a part of the scene because I dislike standing out.

Just before he spoke though, he said to the congregation, “I’m going to do something that will either give joy or embarrassment to these people, but I want to give a quick shout-out to my father, and to my sister, my brother-in-law and their three sons. They drove here today from more than an hour away just to hear me speak, so … say ‘hi’…” and in response I lifted my pearled tulle veil with my white kid gloves, and waved like the queen (elbow-wrist, elbow-wrist) from the balcony my throne chair.

I couldn’t see the boys because they were seated behind me with a cinderblock column dividing us, but according to my new friend, our sons “raised the roof,” flexed their biceps, and waved wildly, so to speak, upon their mention. In church. How nice.

Waking at 7am on a Sunday is a chore hideous, I’ll be honest. After shoveling a banana pancake and scalding my throat with coffee, we left our house at 8:45 to get to church by 10. At 11:30, when the service ended, my kids were hungry enough to take hostages. Thankfully, there was a small fellowship reception with chips, salsa and hummus set aside for the congregants to enjoy.

I made a bee-line for the chips. I unhinged my jaw, my sons swarmed me and we all ate like Mr. Fox:

While dumping an aluminum tray (large enough for, yet regrettably not filled with, lasagna) of round tortilla chips and salsa into my mouth, a kind woman floated over to us and asked me if I was my brother’s sister.

“I! AM! NOT! HIS! KEEPER!” I roared violently as I hoisted the tray over my head.

Coming to in my cell, I noticed that she wasn’t there.

The end.

No. Joshin’. I owned up to it and said I was. We look a lot alike, there is no wondering. She introduced herself and she told me, “I’m so glad to meet you! I’ve been following your blog. What you’ve been writing about your mother has been … just … so …”

“Oh! Wow! >chew< Fanks! Hau nife foo meet fou. Yef! >swallow< Weawwy, I apprefiate fhat fo much. >stuff face< And Fank you! Yef, it’f been hawrd. I — I fon’t pull many funches… Nefer have. Mom and I >chew< fere fomplifated…” I faid said as I wiped my hand of my flesh-eating saliva to shake hers.

“I just knew when I started to read you that you and I … we could be good friends… You say things and I can relate to them…” she said.

I nodded and was truly humbled and very happy. I will admit that it was the first time I’ve ever met a blog follower whom I didn’t know previously, so there was a moment of wee-oo wee-oo weirdness for me — when my cyber world intersects with my real world. I always assume that no one reads this stuff. I guess there are three readers now: my dad (sometimes), this person and my dog. I have exchanged emails with her and it will be so cool to have a reader friend!

What’s kewl about this whole scene, man, is that just last week I was scratching my head over the confluence of real and cyber life.

I was chatting with a flesh friend a few days ago and she told me this story about a strange contrived conversation she had with someone I used to know a few years ago. Things did not end well between me and this person I used to know. I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the fiction which was shared with me about the demise of the relationship. According to the mutual friend, apparently I “didn’t get the hint…” that things were ending.

It must’ve been her invitation to me for lunch that I misunderstood. It’s me, right? Usually people do invite people they don’t like anymore to lunch.

Didn’t get the hint…‘ I love that. It’s so … mature and authentic.

Mew…Rawr. I wasn’t exactly hot-to-trot with this relationship anymore; things had cooled and we were heading in different directions, but … I‘m sorry. I was 44 at the time and had grown to expect, based on our five-years and personal history, to have a discussion and conversation about any … issues that needed attention because we both used to shake our heads about people who couldn’t have difficult conversations. Was it irrational and crazy of me to expect to talk about things, especially when all signals and so-called ‘hints‘ were … um … completely contradictory to any sort of attempt at disengagement?!

It’s always entertaining when my reality clashes with someone else’s. But I grew up with chaos and a highly irrational woman as my go-to, so while my penchant for finding more of them and adhering to them was something I had eventually grown out of, the people (legacy friendships) were still there.

So the question arises: “How to shed the tone of the union, but keep the people?”

And the answer is: I have no freakin’ clue. Apparently talking about any problems is bad.

Lol: ‘Didn’t get the hint…’ It’s so comical and IRONIC.

Moving on.

I don’t think there is a way, honestly, to endure a relationship when one person has sought a different direction than the other with all intentions of not bringing that person along or that the other person doesn’t want to pursue. I have met people through toxic mutuals (interests) and when the toxic mutual fades away, and then the toxic mutual becomes the linchpin of discussion and healing… it’s not good. The mutuals have got to find something else in common or it all goes pear-shaped. It’s the same for alcoholics or addicts: in order to stay sober, they must find new ways of entertaining themselves.

Speaking of addiction: through my eventual growth out of several unhealthy legacy friendships, even the one more recently which I will detail below, I apparently have a hard time letting go of chaos and drama even though I know it’s wrong. It’s the only reason these women were in my life. They facilitated the lessons I needed to learn.

Y’see, for me, it’s a woman thing.

I have learned that Mean Girls become Mean Women and I simply don’t have the patience for that garbage, especially since my mother’s death. As such, another legacy relationship with a schemer started to go pear-shaped because I stood up for an unknown eFriend. In retrospect, it really had nothing to do with the eFriend, but absolutely everything to do with the legacy friend’s numerous toxic intractable behavior patterns and their reprise.

In the midst of the friendship’s default, my legacy friend played her favorite hand from way back: the silent treatment for more than three weeks. Back in the day, when I was 14 and knee-deep in familial dysfunction and maternal dipsomania, I’dve groveled and appealed endlessly for acknowledgement (sheepishly, I did a bit this time too, but mostly because I felt bad that there even was a misunderstanding) and it used to give her power; it used to work.

Fast forward a couple decades, and the three silent-treatment weeks (I still have to laugh at that). When communication was resumed, the disagreement for which I apologized and appealed for resolution was termed “whatever” (nice!) with no apology or wisp of an olive branch or hint at resolution by this legacy friend; she’d been busy. Right. It’s cool.

Keep in mind my mother is also recently deceased and this so-called friend had no problem cutting me off; I’m a little blown away. Some things never change. I don’t think I’ve changed either, I am still a nice person, but I’m just not codependent anymore.

What’s funny, is that I realized today that this old friend reminded me of the smug, sanctimonious and scheming Nellie Oleson from “Little House on the Prairie.”

Does it matter why I got the silent treatment?

Ok. “Nellie” was privately horrid to me about the eFriend and her METHOD OF PRAYER! on my phone, then via FB and then on my phone and then I think (I honestly can’t remember anymore, it was all so petty) again via FB. Remember: I am grieving; I don’t talk much about it here anymore because I am trying to be happy and funny, but I was not a little horrified actually, by the lengths Nellie went to be so odious and I expressed my confusion of the entire thing vis a vis, “Why are you telling me this?!” Really…. why??? Why could you possibly think I would be the slightest bit interested in your smug and patent nastiness toward a complete stranger?! WHY?!

In return: Nellie dug in her heels, said she was hurt by my accusations of calling her judgmental and then gave me the silent treatment.

Right. I know. You’re probably exhausted from just putting that all together. Here’s a pillow and some chips. Nellie drained me.

I chose the eFriend for two reasons: 1) because Nellie never changed: she still gossiped and I had no will around her, I engaged in it and I really hated that about myself; and 2) because the eFriend has always been kind to me and has always been supportive. Her depths, outreach and kindnesses have been a huge blessing to me in the scant 10 weeks since Mom died. Not so much Nellie.

I have found my eFriends to be very kind to me; we seem to share a depth and an understanding of one another’s journeys. They have sent me gifts, cards, emails and private notes. They are lovely.

I can’t help but share this:

Seeing this video and remembering those episodes makes me feel that I was quite like Laura and well, “Nellie” was like Nellie.

We just don’t fit anymore. We never really did. I just didn’t like being alone or talked about. I was afraid.

It goes without saying, but I will anyway: for a relationship to be healthy it needs trust and love and humility. Sometimes taking a few steps back, getting some perspective, allowing some truths (vulnerabilities) about ourselves to come to light and being honest with ourselves and others is what it takes to keep them going.

I say this more for myself than for anyone: I saw the signs of decay in both the relationships. I should have gently bowed out when I realized it. With the first one, I dialed waaaaay back. I was surprised by the lunch invitation, actually, but I had no hard feelings so I agreed; we even picked a date and time. Then she cancelled, but said we’d reschedule.

What’s my heroin? A dominant female personality who is angry.

Part of me has a real reluctance to let these legacies die because I don’t want yet another failed relationship on my shoulders; I interpret that “failure” as a mark against my soul, a blemish on my record. But the truth is: not everyone is right for everyone. The alchemy of the relationship is what is needed At That Time and no other time ever, for whatever reason, to teach a lesson.

My yoga would tell me to let it go, to be equanimous, to see the lesson, and to hear the message. However, my ego in both of these instances was in full effect. I did not let it go, I did not practice equanimity, and any insight I’d have into my own behavior, at the time, was scorched. I reacted and lashed out. While that was immature of me, I maintain that I have always been a person willing to go the distance as long as things make sense. On reflection, I know that for the more recent experience I was swept up in old patterns with a legacy experience. It was not unlike how we act when with siblings. The trappings are the same too, my ‘heroin’ was right there.

My ego was bruised. In light of all this I ask myself (in front of you): what’s better? To give CPR and be pathetic party to a false and withered relationship or to just let it be and die off? I could go superficial “heyhowareya?” but that’s not my speed with this one; I have too much anger for the Nellieness.

I once had a chat with my brother about this very thing. I said, “But we’ve been friends for so long; like all my life…” and he said, “That’s no reason to stay friends. Sometimes, Mol, these things just need to fade away.” Or as another friend said, “Sometimes a loss is really a blessing.”

But I hate the drama. Or I say I do.

Maybe I don’t.

Yikes.

No. I hate the drama. It’s just familiar, that’s all.

Now I’m babbling. Quick… put me in a box.

Thank you.