Friday, December 14, 2012

Too much to bear

Today, I edited and uploaded a last-minute order for a client.  Then I went and had a massage with a friend.  And then we went to lunch, where we complained briefly about how they screwed up our order in so many ways, but in the end, made it very right. From there, I ran home, picked up my kids, grabbed what I needed and and hosted a really fun little party in my tiny office building.  It should have been a wonderful day.


 Someone went into a school and killed so many children.  And adults, too, but it's the children we'll remember.  Children who were the ages of our babies, or the ages we remember.  And it's in a town not very far from where my friend lives, my friend with a baby the age of the children who died, so it could have been her baby.  Or a town like mine.  Or a school like ours.  And I can't think about that.  I just can't.  

Because the thought that someone could come into such a safe place and destroy their lives, destroy OUR lives, is just... inconceivable.  It's real.  It happened.  But I just can't think about it.  Because if I think about it too much, I will go crawl into bed with my children and never let them go.   I won't let them leave the house, or leave the yard, or leave the neighborhood.  I will let the fear of loss of the most precious things in my life stop me from letting them HAVE a life.  Even now, just writing this, I want to go curl up with them and hold them tight.  I don't want to ever let them go.

And I'm scared.   Because we react.  We all will want to hold our children close and protect them.  We know that yes, it could happen to us, because it happened to THEM, and they are just like us, they ARE us.  What makes us so special that it won't happen to us, too?

 It could.  It really could.  And the thought of that possibility, to really think of it, with MY children... it makes my bones chill and my skin blanch and I want to dive for cover and stay there.  Forever.

 And as much as that scares me, what lurks in the back of my mind is, "how will we react?"  Will we let our fear drive us?  Or will we say, "This is rare.  This shouldn't happen, and it did, but will we let this fear determine our lives?  Or will we live - and encourage our children to live - through the fear, through the danger.  Will we tell them that yes, this was horrible, it was oh so horrible, but that you can't let this determine your choices?  That you have to take risks, you have to let people in, you have to live as if you will survive your adventures, because if you don't, you won't have adventures.  You won't have risks that you survive.  You will have a safe corner of a room that nobody comes into.  You can't be afraid.  You can't spend your days worrying that something bad might happen, just because it could.  Because every day that you do is a day that you've lost.  It's a day of your life that you've given to the monster known as Fear.  Fear can rule your life.  Fear can ruin your life.  Not as much as the person with the gun ruined lives this morning, I'm not diminishing that at all.  But that person, that PERSON, used fear, fed on fear, manipulated fear, to ruin lives.  

I feel sick when I think about what those families are going through.  I feel it for a moment, and then I have to stop feeling it, because it is just so much.  It is too much.  I can't think about it.  I can't feel it.  I can't let that thought, that feeling, take over my mind and heart.  I can't give that killer any more power over us.  

I don't know how to end this.  I started this with the plan to write about how I went through an ordinary day and something tragic happened in the middle.  And I did.  I worked.  I had a massage.  And I hosted a party.  And a horrible, unbelievably horrible, tragedy happened. 

 And it's almost too much to bear.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Great Expectations

My first comment, when it was over, was, "I SO want a glass of wine right now."

Except, really,  I didn't.  But I needed to say something, and it needed to be amusing.  Or distracting.  Or SOMETHING.  Anything but how I felt, which was discouraged.  And disappointed.  And tired. Wine is for celebrating.  For spending time with friends, and relaxing, and enjoying.  And by making my attorney smile a little bit at that, it made the moment a little bit better.

I expected to win this battle.  I thought, how could I NOT win?  It's so clear that they were wrong and we were right, and in a fair and just world, everyone would see that and make it all better.  It's ironic that I forgot the one thing I've tried so hard to teach my children:  it's not really a fair world.    Most things, if given enough time, work out.  Well, everything works out eventually... just not always the way you want.

The judge was great.  I really liked her.  If we were at a cocktail party, I would be hanging around her, wanting to be friends.  If she were on the PTA, I'd want her to be in charge.  She was smart, and fair, and had a great sense of humor.    And she did everything she could to be fair to both sides.  And though we lost one of our arguments, she gave us a bone and made it possible to keep fighting.

My attorney put the kibbosh on social media.  He advised strongly (accent was his) against me talking about anything.  So I'm not really talking about the case, beyond what I've just said.  This isn't really about that, anyway.

Losing, though.  I can talk about losing.  Because I didn't expect to lose.  I expected to be victorious!  By noon, I had hoped, so I could then hop in my van and drive to the beach for the weekend and hang out with my girlfriends and walk in the surf and read a book and ride my bike and shop at the outlet mall on the way back and have a lovely weekend.  It was a reasonable expectation.

But by noon, we realized we weren't going anywhere.  Not for a long while.  We got bumped to the end of the docket.   Which, really, was a blessing in disguise.  The early part of the day was spent watching the short cases  - the ones where they just needed a signature, or to agree on a new date for something.  The five minute cases.  They were pretty boring, really.  I had brought a book for that part.

We were supposed to be a 20 minute case.  I love how everything was structured by time management. The 30 minute cases came after us.  Well, before and after.   We were continued.  The 30 minute cases were fascinating.  There was a financial dispute - a man lost his house.  Then a mentally ill woman wanting a new guardian appointed.  There were broken bones involved.  And then a child-custody case, that was really about how the relationship between the husband and wife had deteriorated.  Suggestions of infidelity, tales of people smacking each other in the head with bottles (the mother in law!),  hints of lesbianism (accent mine, because it was said in the same way we used to whisper "cancer" 30 years ago... horrible, can't do anything about it, let's not say it out loud and maybe it won't be real).  And since this was all said by one side trying to increase time with the children, one might expect them to say horrible things that aren't real.  It was sad, really.  And the judge, who (did I mention I loved her?) said, basically, well, tough toodles, but you haven't shown me how this is any better for your children, and they are the ones we're talking about, so no, we're not changing it.  Good for her.

Watching these people, my problems seemed so much smaller.  So it was a blessing that I got to sit through that before our case came back up.  It helps to be a little more grounded in reality when you need to go fight the good fight.  And it helps when you lose.  Because you can say, "Well, at least my marriage is good."  and "I still have a house!"  and "I'm capable of caring for myself and don't need a guardian ad litum to protect me."  Comparison, it is said, is the thief of joy.  But sometimes, it provides the comfort of perspective.

So I went home.  It was 3pm.  My plans for hitting the road, avoiding the traffic, cruisin' down the highway with the windows open and the music cranked up, those plans took a little detour.  Scott asked me if I had seen the email traffic that day about our fight with the county school transportation department.  Yes, another fight.  Long story short:  we lost our bus stop, we want it back, and we've been fighting for it.  Our arguments have been reasonable, rational, and make perfectly good sense.  Which is why it is mind-boggling that we are losing this fight, too.

I hadn't seen them, because you're not allowed to have a cell-phone in court.  (Yes, that did almost kill me, thanks for asking.)  My phone had been exiled to a little locker across the plaza all day.  By the time I had freed it, I just didn't have the mental energy to check email and voicemail.  So the first email I saw was from a neighbor saying, basically, "Yay!  We have a new stop on our side of the park!  We won!"  And I thought, finally, some good news.  Small victories really do feel as good as the big ones.  And then I scrolled down, and saw the email denying my request.  Apparently, the first email, the new stop, was a mistake.  We didn't win.  Defeat, snatched from the jaws of victory, in the space of about 2 minutes.

Again, this is a little thing.  I have my health.  My home.  My family.   And this is when I have to stop myself, because this is so clearly a first-world problem.  We are fighting for a bus stop to get to a fantastic school that is a mile and a half away.  I recognize that I am spoiled, horribly spoiled, with where we live and what we have.  If you feel tempted to point that out to me, you don't have to.  I already know.

But damn it, I really wanted that bus stop.  

At this point, I quit thinking about the beach.  I start thinking about sitting on my patio.  It's a glorious day.  So I go sit outside.  I put my feet up, and return my mom's call.  I tell her everything that happened that day.  It's a long conversation, because I can't just summarize with her.  She needs the details, she's my mom.  I need to tell her the details.  Because then I don't have to tell my brother, or my aunts and uncles and cousins.  She'll take care of that for me.  And I'm so glad, because by the time we're done, I'm done.  I don't want to talk to anyone else.  I don't want to talk about the case.  I don't want to talk about the bus stop.  I don't want to talk.  Period.  I want to sit in the shade and drink my tea (yes, tea.  I know you expected wine, because it's ME, but again, wine is for celebrating.  Tea is the consolation prize.)

Oh crap.  I'm supposed to be at the beach.  I was supposed to be on the road by then.  And I just can't.  I can't do it.  When I feel like this, I don't want people.  I want my cabin in the woods, off the grid.  (My fantasy cabin has untraceable internet, no bugs, and good indoor plumbing... and is still off the grid.  It's a fantasy cabin.  I get that.)  I want to go inside myself.  And the friends I'm supposed to be spending the weekend with, well, this would not work.  I'm sorry, ladies.  I know I was supposed to be there with you, and before this, I really wanted to go.  But I just can't right now.  And this is not the first time that I have done this to you.  I'm really sorry.  Please don't expect me to be this loser every year.  I swear, next year, I am THERE.

So I watched Aliens with Scott and Ian and we ate too much ice cream.  I played on the computer and was horribly unproductive.  And when I went to bed, I slept for 11 hours.

Which, it turns out, was a very good thing.   I expected to feel better when I woke up, and I did.  Finally, something that goes the way you hope.  (Of course, I also expected to wake up several hours earlier than I did, but nobody complained, so I'm good.)   I went to the nature center, where there was a native plant sale going on.  I bought some plants I'm pretty sure are doomed to an untimely death.  I bought another button bush, which has these wicked cool balls on them, and this time, I swear, I will take care of it and nurture it, and it will grow and be happy.  Because I killed the last one.  Sorry, Rachel from the Nature Center.  I feel like I let you down.  I will not kill this one.

I think about everything on my list.  You know the list, it's that REALLY BIG one, that starts with "proof with these clients", to "sort Ian's clothes", "call lawyer", and somehow ends with, "gut the garden and start over completely."   I try to edit down  the list, but it grows as I write it.  In my mind, everything on that list is a reasonable thing to do.  And of course, I want to start with, "gut the garden and start over."  But I don't.  Instead, I start with, "buy plants".  Because when all I want to do is be inside myself, playing in the dirt feels good.   I know it will feel good later, when I start digging.   I get everything I expect from that.  I get dirty.  I get tired.  My kids come out and help by not helping at all.  I kill things.  I grow things.  Sometimes we eat them.   Sometimes, I just finish by being tired and dirty. It is everything I hope for.

So tomorrow, I dig.  And Monday, I will cross, "Call lawyer" off my list.

And I expect that I will feel a little bit sad about that.

And then I'll feel better.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Dear Selena Gomez...

Dear Selena,

I am writing on behalf of my daughter, Josie, who would like very much to attend a performance of yours.  She is madly in love with you, and has been for nearly a year.  While that may not seem like a long time to you, Josie is only six, and a year represents a significant portion of her lifetime.

When I say that she is in love with you, I am not exaggerating.  She has all your CDs, even that first one that was, well, not your best work.  (The latest, though... pretty good!  None of us complain about having to hear it in the van, even the third or fourth time in a row.)   When her friends come over, she makes them all watch your videos on the computer.  I tried to explain to her that not everyone wants to watch videos and sing along to them for the ENTIRE playdate, and she looked at my as if I had just informed her that puppies come from stars and rainbows taste like fish.

We look at your website and follow your twitter feed.  Or rather, she will regularly, if I can figure out how to use twitter.  She has her own feed - RandomJosie, which we never update.  Sorry about that.

She has your poster in her bedroom, and she is now making her own posters.  There are several of them in our house, taped to walls, the refrigerator, pieces of furniture.  All of them at about 3 1/2 feet off the ground (eye-level for the six year old groupie set).  They are all some variation of this:

I particularly like that you are both wearing crowns.  In Josie's world, you are both pop princesses.

I know that you will eventually go on tour again, but I urge you to do it soon.  Because you are the kind of pop princess I can totally get behind, as a mother.  You haven't gone Britney (crazy) or Miley (slutty), and I was thrilled to read that you had turned down the lead in the movie, 50 Shades of Bad Writing.  Good girl!  I know I can say without hesitation that your mother is very proud of  you for that.

I'm sure this seems a bit excessive, a mother begging you to go on tour for her six year old.  But it's not.  Not really.  Because I know exactly how she feels.  I know the depth of her adoration.  How do I know?  Because when I was very young, I was going to marry Barbra Streisand's son so she could be my mother in law.  Because I loved her THAT MUCH.  I knew all her songs.  I LIVED Funny Girl.  I have "Sadie Sadie Married Lady" running through my head, even as I type.

I would have given anything A N Y T H I N G  to have gone to a Barbra Streisand concert.  But alas, it was so far out of my reach as to be just a fantasy.  One that I indulged by copying all the Streisand albums from the library (onto a cassette, so I could pause it and write down the lyrics, so I could sing the songs better), seeing all her movies, and having brief crushes on Omar Sharif, Ryan O'Neal, and Robert Redford (but mostly Ryan O'Neal).

Just this past weekend, we went to see the Sound Of Music Singalong, and I sang, "The hills are alive... and it's pretty frightening", just as she did, in her live at Central Park concert.  The music of your first love stays with you forever.   You are her first love.  You were her first "grown up" CD.    My first grown-up song was the 45 of Devil Woman, when I was maybe 9?  I don't know how old I was, but I can still remember playing it on the boombox on the dining room table.

Memories of music have staying power and you will always be a part of her life.  It sounds silly when I say it, I know.  She's only six.  She's got a crush on a popstar.  How serious can it be?  It's serious.  You will always be one of her favorite memories of her childhood.  And I can't think of any better present I could give this child of mine than to take her to see you.

She asks me weekly to check your website and see when you are going on tour.  I do it, because I don't want to miss it.    I want her to see you, and more importantly, I want her to see you as you are NOW.  Before you've grown up too much.  While you still have the fresh-faced Disney Princess look going.  While you are still young and sweet and innocent enough that we can go to the concert and enjoy your music and your dancing and not have to worry about the show being too mature (see above notes about Miley and Britney).  While you are still both what she wants to be when she grows up and what your mother wants you to stay, despite your growing up.  Because Josie wants to be you when she grows up.   And I am totally okay with that.

Because even at 45, I still want to be Barbra.