We had a decent therapy session. No drama, no crying, just a lot of ‘how can I give you more of what you need?’ And then a great dinner with a couple of glasses of wine. But he felt a million miles away. Yes, he was hungry. And maybe tired. And maybe he’s not thinking about anything other than those two feelings. Because he’s a guy. But isn’t that a copout? Isn’t that like saying I must only think about babies and rainbows? To be fair, I love babies and a good rainbow is something to behold, but still. Aren’t we better than this? Isn’t the goal to evolve, instead of grow further apart? Maybe that is what’s happening and right now I’m only feeling the processing part. I’m also pre-menstrual (thanks mother nature!) so that doesn’t help. Sleep will help. Sleep and water. Oh and hearing from my kiddo that he’s safe and sound. Those things are feel good certains.
A while back, in a fit of feeling sorry for myself, I decided that if I couldn’t spend one last big chunk of time with my son, I might leave my new husband and two bonus daughters.
So in January of 2016 I spent four glorious weeks in the Bay Area picking my son up from school, hanging out with him after school, being obnoxiously present on the weekends.
Fast forward a year+ and my son is at college in California – a decision that made me both heartsick and elated. I’d wished he would have chosen Wesleyan or Swarthmore, but he’s a California boy, born and raised – even though he has loved his bi-coastal experience. I recently came back from a visit and while its my son I go to spend time with, it is my friends who I equally need to connect with. I love my son. Deeply and unreasonably. However, there is a natural evolution to parenting… we raise them to become independent human beings that can connect in the world. To have humility and self-awareness. And eventually, to leave the nest. Whereas friendships, which we nurture and hone and develop, are setting us up for a different kind of security as we age. At least that is what I’m hoping from the friendships I have been lucky enough to have. There are periods of time when we are all busy in our tornados of life but even the brief respite of hearing from a friend can sustain me for weeks.
And then I come home, to New Jersey, where I know about one person, despite living here for almost four years. Sure, I ‘know’ my neighbors, but they’re not friends. I work in Manhattan. I spend most of my free time with my husband, traveling, or alone. Making friends when you’re old is hella different than when we’re kids, or have something in common like kids or husbands or work. I need to keep looking for new groups to spend time with, like minded people who can dork out with me.
I wanted to take Jason away somewhere for a surprise weekend away, and decided that since he’s never been to Kripalu and is on this crazy path of self-discovery that he might enjoy it. Or if he didn’t enjoy it he would at least get something out of it. That is, even if he didn’t want to do the personal transformation sessions, he might still be able to do yoga, or in the least go for a run in the woods.
Turns out he’s enjoying the personal transformation sessions and getting a lot out of being here. It doesn’t hurt that this building used to be some type of convent… he says he’s felt the presence of Jesus and then his eyes get watery. That’s his way of saying he cries, except for that he never says he cries. He gets very emotional about Jesus, and I’ve never seen him get emotional about anything else honestly. Oh sure anger or excitement yes but not raw emotion. Only Jesus gets to feel that. I sound jealous. I probably am.
The weather is gorgeous so we went for a nice walk to the beach and walk the labyrinth. I keep wondering if we’re going to walk away from this weekend feeling any closer. I feel like we’re friends, we’re still raw though. We have a mutual appreciation for that right now, and maybe we’re not going to feel much closer until we deal with our own shit. I have to remind myself this is all new for him. These emotions, this way of looking at life and himself, the type of relationship that is not skimming on the surface but getting deep. I also have to remind myself to be patient and kind because even though he gets excited and determined and wants to try something new, I have a lifetime of experience telling me that real, significant changes take time. Sometimes a long, long time.
While talking about relationships once with a lover I had from a restaurant gig, he said, “If the vase breaks, you can fix it. But if you keep dropping the vase, and gluing it back together, eventually, all you’ll see are the cracks. It will never be as strong as it once was.” He was a bit of a downer.
I’m trying not to break the vase but I like to examine the rawness and vulnerability of being human. Depending on who you’re with – that could amount to vase breakage.
When I began learning meditation, about 20+ years ago, the school of thought was that you could force your brain to be silent – that is how enlightenment would come. Stare at the flame of a candle, think blank thoughts… when I hear this now, it seems preposterous. Through decades of research, we have a better understanding of the human brain. Learning to achieve a cessation of mind chatter, a silencing, is like training a puppy. Which, anyone who has had a puppy knows, can be frustrating, annoying, and requires patience and consistency. And now that mediation, yoga, mindfulness, and any activity that is supposed to bring about a greater sense of self is all the rage in the Western world, the pressure to do so – especially here in our United States of Competition, is great and inevitably linked to failure. In that mindset, if you’re unable to achieve a pretzel body and a quiet mind, its more likely you’ll give up and go eat a bagel. At least, that’s what I do. Along with some general beating up on one’s self. ‘It’s not for me, I’m not good enough, I can’t do it,’ yada yada. What we don’t learn, what we can’t learn until someone has brought us up this way or taught us, is that it’s alright to forgive yourself. It’s imperative, actually.
I read an article recently about the founder of Spanx. When she was growing up, at the dinner table her father would ask what she had done to fail that week. He’d high-five her if she had a failure to share, defining failure as ‘not trying’ instead of ‘not succeeding’. We can’t grow or learn without struggle, and failures. And so, I forgive myself – for not meditating the last couple of days, for not making a blog entry yesterday, for overreacting to something my stepdaughter said last week, for not communicating to my man about my needs, for making a social faux pas with a friend. I used to hang on to all of these failures. Each and every one, and they would pile up and I’d feel that I couldn’t possibly achieve anything – good relationships, self-care, progress in my writing, or ever truly realizing what good I am to the world. It is a work in progress to let these things go, to realize I was lazy – which is a quality I abhor in others – and that everything is still going to be all right. But I’m trying.
I was supposed to go to a write-in. A place where writers come together, are given a prompt, they write for 15 minutes, and then are (positively) critiqued. I’ve been before and its ok, but last night I said I was going and I didn’t. I lied. I mean, I didn’t LIE LIE. I left on time, got on the bus, got off near Port Authority, walked to the building, and then just kept walking. The problem is that I knew that was going to happen. It was my plan all along. I’m embarrassed and ashamed, of course, but honestly I liked that no one knew where I was. I love the anonymity of NYC. I love that I can be at 42nd and 8th and its a hell hole, wall to wall people, and no one notices me. I loved that I didn’t have to be with my stepdaughters and our little family last night because I can only handle them in spurts, especially if the older one is having a tough time aka being a raging, irresponsible, bratty bitch.
So, I went to the one decent place for food (which I will not disclose here in case you all frequent it and then it will no longer be a safe haven for me,) and then caught a movie. I’ve actually done this before, just once. Maybe this makes it a habit now, I don’t know. Because I desire it. Not the lying part, just the being alone part. It would be hurtful to my man if he knew I didn’t want to be with them. Actually, him either. We have plenty of time without the girls, but we use that time to be together or travel or sometimes with my son. It strikes when it strikes, the need to escape.
I saw a police officer riding a horse the wrong way down a one way street. I heard bits and pieces of bizarre conversations. I smelled smells that made me hold my breath and cover my face with my scarf. I bumped into many shoulders and said many ‘Pardon me, excuse me’s. Best of all, I forgot everything I was worried about, everything I was thinking about, before I got there. I felt anger (at the throngs of slow moving people,) sadness (at the homeless, drug-addicted, and destitute strangers,) blinded (by the lights,) and a strange sense of calm that only comes from being still in the center of chaos. I wish I could achieve this at home, when the storms come, but I am too reactive, too emotional, too personal. It matters to me, and I need to take care of myself so that I do not explode, say all of the wrong things, have a negative impact on those kids.
So, since I can’t go much further than NYC because 1. we don’t have a car and 2. I need to be home at a reasonable hour, Times Square on a Friday night it is.
I joined a meet-up for Stepparents. I’m not a joiner, so this was difficult for me. I like to try new things, see what sticks, but once I decide to do something with regularity (re: yoga for the last 25 years,) I end up hating the joiner culture that surrounds it. Most would call this community, I do recognize that.
So, last night, I went back and forth in my mind of all the reasons why I wasn’t going to go – I would have to drag my ass at night to Manhattan, it was in a crap part of town, I didn’t know anyone, they would surely be lame, or god forbid, they would think I was lame (I wasn’t, FYI, I was hilarious.) And then, like magic, Jason called from his business trip to ask my what my plans were. I had a choice to lie, which in these circumstances I just call not-sharing-every-detail, but decided to tell him I was conflicted about going. He reminded me, as always, that it is good to push ourselves out of our comfort zone yada yada. He wasn’t the one going into a room full of strangers. But he is my mirror and he was right, so I went.
They weren’t lame. I mean, they were a little weird, some of them, but not lame. I did my brutally honest, self-deprecating schtick and they laughed out loud at points. Over the course of the two hours, though, I realized that despite all of our stories and backgrounds being very different, we did actually have a connection. A feeling of not being at home in our homes. A feeling of selfishness and helplessness. And a desire to learn skills and hear advice to make it work.
One thing that resonated with me was the moderator relaying a story about the conflict between her and her step-daughter. She was feeling frustrated and petulant (the stepmom,) and things were deteriorating, and she had to keep reminding herself of the golden rule – Always be the adult. Be. The. Adult. I heard those words and immediately got grumpy and defensive. But I don’t waaaaaaant to always be the adult. I am, always, the adult! I had to be an adult before I was an adult, before I had a child of my own to parent. I am independent and responsible (despite what my ex always feared,) and now, at 45, when I’m constantly having my buttons pushed by a 12 year old who mostly hates me (and herself,) I don’t want to be the adult!
And yet. I have to. I will continue to fuck up. My relationship with the girls may or may not get better or worse, but I still have to remember that until they are adults, I have to be the adult. Their mom and dad don’t actually have to be the adults all the time, because they are forgiven for their indiscretions and foibles and even their resentment or antagonism. Its built in, this forgiveness as children. Not me, though, not the stepmother. Even when I apologize, I am not forgiven. It is remembered, and it is shaping our relationship. So, do I continue to start each week with them walking on eggshells? Deciding to see how long I can not engage with them, for fear of saying the wrong thing? Forgetting how to be myself because I know the person I am isn’t the person they choose to be with?
I don’t know. I do know better, though.