Now is Good.

Just because life hands you lemons doesn't mean you have to suck.

Learning To Dance With The Limp. May 31, 2011

Filed under: Accomplishments,Change,divorce,New start,Realizations,Writing — nowisgoodblog @ 4:26 pm
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Last week on Facebook, a dear friend* posted the link to Anne Lamott’s amazing “Wisdom of Ages” and I’ve been haunted by parts of it ever since.  There is so much good in this piece of hers—how tough we women are on ourselves and the way we view our bodies, how age and experience deliver wisdom along with wrinkles, how some days that wisdom still isn’t enough to enable us to be gentle with ourselves, and how that’s ok, too, because at least those days come fewer and farther between.

My favorite part?  This:

Eleven years ago, when my friend Pammy was dying at the age of 37 we went shopping at Macy’s. She was in a wheelchair, with a wig and three weeks to live. I tried on a short dress and came out to model it for Pammy. I asked if she thought it made me look big in the thighs, and she said, so kindly, “Annie? You just don’t have that kind of time.”

We don’t have that kind of time.  I don’t have that kind of time.  None of us does.  If tomorrow were my last, would the things I’m worrying about today be all that important?  Probably not.  I’ve spent a lot of time these past few weeks worrying about things that are outside my control.  I can’t ignore those things—they exist and they must be addressed.  The crappy parts of life have to be dealt with … but they don’t have to be fretted over so strenuously.  Starting today (yesterday, actually), I’m going to try to box those things up.  I will fix what I can fix (dryers and faucets), deal with what I must (work and kids’ schedules and The Ex issues), and dig for the extra patience to wait out the resolution of things that are beyond my control (WHEN, not if, my house sells).  And I’m going to be gentler with myself on the body image issues, too, because self-berating for that chocolate indulgence or that missed workout(s) really doesn’t do anyone any good.

My next favorite part?  This:

I became more successful in my mid-40s, but this pales compared to the other gifts of this decade—how kind to myself I have become, what a wonderful, tender wife I am to myself, what a loving companion. I get myself tubs of hot salty water at the end of the day in which to soak my tired feet. I run interference for myself when I am working, like the wife of a great artist would: “No, I’m sorry, she can’t come. She’s working hard these days and needs a lot of downtime.” I live by the truth that No is a complete sentence. I rest as a spiritual act.  

This, too, rings true.   I may not be mid-40s yet (although I see it on the horizon), but I know that post-divorce, I take care of ME more.  I pamper myself as often as I can, I entertain myself frequently and make sure I have plenty of fun, and I force myself to relax and get as much sleep as I can fit in my schedule.  I know that I should forgive myself for that chocolate or that missed workout, but I also know I can’t let that happen too often because I need to stay healthy and fit for my kids and for myself.  These days, I try really hard to take care of ME, because I must.  I’m the only one who will.

Anne Lamott is a wonderful writer.  She is unbelievably gifted at turning a phrase that makes me cry and makes me think and makes me nod my head in agreement and understanding.  This piece is no exception—it’s chock full of those juicy bits.  As much as I appreciated the portions discussed above, however, I’m not sure I’ve ever read something of hers that rang more loudly or more true for me than this:

Rubble is the ground on which our deepest friendships are built. If you haven’t already, you will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of a beloved person. But this is also the good news.

They live forever, in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather is cold—but you learn to dance with the limp.

This one made me stop breathing for a minute.  And when I started breathing again, I cried.  Hard.

It’s coming up on two years since my heart was so badly broken and since the life I knew crumbled to piles of rubble around me.  The friendships I hold most dear today are built upon that rubble—the women to whom I now turn when I want to celebrate, scream, cry, or question are women whose friendships arose from or were permanently strengthened by those desolate days.  It’s been almost two years, and I am fine.  Most days, in fact, I am so much more than fine.  But you know what?  It still fucking hurts, and on occasion that has panicked me a bit.

When I read that last passage, though, it was as if a fog lifted.  I realized that maybe it will just always hurt.  I’ve been watching the weeks and months pass and waiting for that pain to go completely away … and is hasn’t.  Maybe it just doesn’t.  Oddly enough, I think I’m ok with that.  I think it’s ok that I miss what The Ex used to be (or what I thought he was), even though what he is now is so far removed from that as to be almost unrecognizable as the same person.  Maybe I’m becoming unrecognizable, too.  I like The Ex less, but I like myself more.  Learning to dance with the limp is tough.  It’s awkward and painful and just sort of weird sometimes, but it’s still dancing.

And I think I’m starting to get the hang of it.

*Thanks for the continued inspiration, JHS.

 

The Sound of Sunshine. May 24, 2011

Last week’s bad got worse before it got better.  In addition to all the other stuff I blogged about that had me frustrated to the point of frazzle, I unexpectedly had to deal with a burst water faucet at the new house (that spewed water into the backyard for four straight days without me knowing about it) and a clothes dryer motor that went kaput.  Neither has been fixed yet.  The house has shown numerous times in the past week, necessitating numerous cleanings and disappearances and interrupted routines, but I’ve received no offers. And I spent the entire first day of my weekend getaway glued to my laptop racing the clock with a work deadline that was necessitated by someone else’s failure to stay on top of things.  So … that’s the worse.

But then I had 48 hours of much, much better.  A group of sisters and friends.  Extreme fun and relaxation.  The Hangout Music Festival in Gulf Shores, Alabama.  Beach.  Beer.  Sun.  Music and much, much, much, much dancing.  Over two days I saw Cee Lo Green, Foo Fighters, Avett Brothers, Old Crow Medicine Show, Amos Lee, Michael Franti and Spearhead, and Paul Simon … most from such prime stage positions as this:

And I had a VIP pass, which meant that while most people watched while surrounded by the masses on the far side of the fence, I watched from this spacious sandy area on the near side of the fence:

Which meant that for 48 hours I pretty much looked like this:

Every single show was amazing.  The crowd was well-behaved, the bands were appreciative and energetic, and the positive vibe was palpable all around.  It was just a good, good time.  At one point, I told my sister that I really like my life … all of it.  I asked her to remind me of that when I needed reminding.  Reminder count in the less than 24 hours I’ve been home: 1.

The faucet is still broken.  The dryer is still broken.  The house is still showing and inconveniencing but not selling.  But for the moment, that’s ok.  There is equilibrium between the highs and the lows, the good balances the bad and we live to fight another day.

It’s gray and dreary here today, both literally and metaphorically.  But I keep humming this song in my head, and remembering Michael Franti dancing on my blanket (oh yes, he did) and signing my sister’s hat (while she was wearing it).  And that brings me nothing but smiles.  So I’m just gonna wait for the storm to pass—here’s hoping for a little sunshine coming down in everybody’s day today.

 

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. May 17, 2011

Filed under: Motherhood,Writer's Block,Writing,yoga — nowisgoodblog @ 2:54 pm
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The Good

Avery got braces.  And suddenly, what with the new metal and The Sex Talk and the fact that I just bought her some Clearasil face wash at the grocery because I swear that child is getting tiny little pre-teen pimples, I’m not sure I recognize my kid anymore.  But not in a bad way … more like in a, “Hello, I don’t know you very well yet and you’re a teensy bit unfamiliar to me but I can already tell I really really really like you and we are for sure going to be fast friends” kind of way.  And it’s beautiful.

Owen broke my heart in the sweetest possible way.  They had field day at the elementary school last week.  The Ex went up and did Owen’s with him and I did Avery’s with her (we’d done the opposite last year, and both kids were A-OK with this year’s arrangements).  At the beginning of the day, the kindergarten teacher had the kids draw a picture of what they were most looking forward to for the day.  O drew a bounce house.  At the end of the day, she had them draw a picture of what their favorite part of field day had been.  Owen drew this:

Translation: “Even that I was with my dad [The Ex’s name censored], I was still thinking about my mom.”  Be still my heart.  I’m not sure if that (and all that it entails) makes me happy or sad.  A little of both, I think, but it still goes in The Good column.

Amelia is Amelia is Amelia is Amelia, and despite what I’m going to say about her below, she always gets a spot on the list of The Good, just for being Amelia.

The Bad

With a great deal of emotion and sadness and angst and regret, I put my house up for sale.  I found a perfect smaller, affordable house to buy (not an easy thing to do in my community).  I bought.  My sale fell through.  I now own two houses, although the goal was to downsize and reduce expenses.  I’m holding on as long as I can, hoping that the puzzle pieces will still fall into place, but …. they may not.  And I don’t really know what to do about it.  And I am stressed.  I am stretched so financially thin I am see-through.  I am in limbo.  I don’t know if or when I’m moving.  I don’t know where to enroll my kids for school next year.  I am keeping my house in show-ready condition and I am vacating on moments’ notices and I am forcing my kids to live as though in a museum.  I am tired and I am cranky and nobody is getting the best part of me right now because the best part is buried under immense uncertainty and worry.

Amelia is three.  For whatever reason, my kids do not have Terrible Twos.  Their threes, however, are NIGHTMARES.  For the first time, I am dealing with some pretty serious tantrums from her.  I am dealing with grocery store meltdowns of spectacular scope (so severe that a witnessing neighbor came by later just to tell me how badly she felt for me when it happened).  We are potty training and doing fairly well, but dealing with the unexpected and monumental accidents that occasionally occur.  A new imaginary friend has arrived, and he is a little f*cker.  That kid does all SORTS of wicked things that I’m getting pretty sick and tired of.  I don’t want to wish her life away, but there are many days I feel like her fourth birthday can’t come soon enough.

I’m not writing, in case anyone noticed.  Part of it’s lack of time.  Part of it’s lack of focus.  Part of it’s this sense of befuddled bewilderment that surrounds me as I walk through my days lately.  Every time I sit to write, nothing happens.  And the very little I do manage to get on the page is kind of shit.  I keep thinking the slump is going to fix itself, but it doesn’t.  Or hasn’t yet.

The Ugly

That’d be me.  I’m feeling quite that lately.  A couple of months ago, having been wholly unsuccessful in losing the 8ish pounds I’d been trying to lose over the course of six months or so, I decided to do the high-protein/low-no-carb/low-fat thing.  I’d never tried it before and figured it was worth a shot.  It worked brilliantly … for about a week, and then my food self-denial resulted in a carb and chocolate binge that would’ve made the most severe bulimic proud.  So I went back to square 1 of the diet.  And the same damn thing happened.  Again.  And then again.  Which means that for the past two months my subsistence has alternated between: (1) egg whites and meat; or (2) egg whites and meat and copious amounts of chocolate.  Needless to say, those 8 pounds are still there, along with an extra pound or two on the post-chocolate days.  And I’m IRRITATED with me for being so weak and willpowerless.  Which of course mostly leads to more chocolate (because really, people?  those chocolate endorphins are no lie).

I am not running or otherwise exercising.  I could count on one hand the number of good workouts I’ve had in the past two months.  I am not practicing yoga.  The [not really] free hour I normally forcibly carve out of my day for that indulgence is now spent making beds and sweeping floors and cleaning bathrooms and having everything put away just so in case the house shows.

I swear I’ve aged five years in the last five weeks and I’m looking OLD.  All of a sudden, there’s some middle-aged woman appearing in photographs of me.  Out of nowhere, there are some fairly undeniable well-entrenched lines around the eyes.  I don’t think those were there a few months ago.  With 40 on the imminent horizon, I’m more than a little miffed that the wrinkles picked NOW to show up, like they had it on their damn calendar or something.

So.

I am aware that these are champagne problems (I’m healthy.  My kids are healthy.  There is food on a table and a roof (or two) over our heads.  The kids are doing fine with the divorce stuff and their dad’s upcoming marriage stuff and they’re making good grades, etc. etc.)—but these champagne problems are plumb Wearing. Me. Down.  I need some momentum.  Somewhere in my life I need to break free of this holding pattern that has me feeling like I’m just going through the motions.  The waiting is starting to drive me a little bit bonkers.  I need to sell this house or lose some weight or find some crazy yak placenta that magically removes wrinkles or discover a writing muse or SOMETHING.

So.  Again.

I have no wrap-up here—no positive spin, no solution.  Just a bunch of blah I’m dumping here solely to satisfy the “better out than in” theory.  Just gonna tritely slap a Google quote on the bottom here and call it a day …

“Sometimes you’ve got to let everything go—purge yourself.  If you are unhappy with anything . . . whatever is bringing you down, get rid of it.  Because you’ll find that when you’re free, your true creativity, your true self comes out.”  –Tina Turner

 

Let’s Pretend it’s Mother’s Day. May 10, 2011

Can we, pretty please?  I’m sort of begging here because if we don’t pretend, then I’m afraid this post will go the way of my numerous meant-to-but-didn’t-ever-get-around-to-it posts about my trip to Memphis, my current crushing bout of writer’s block, the unlikely and unpleasant turn of events that led to me owning not one but two houses (count ‘em!) that I can’t afford, the passing of my 2nd not-so-wedding-anniversary, my admiration for the remarkable women who sua sponte decide that they cannotwillnot date a man until he is 100% unentangled and completely divorced from his former wife, and a myriad of other thoughts and ideas and partial blog posts that are currently tangled in my brain doing nobody (particularly me) any good whatsoever.  In other words, if we don’t pretend that today is Mother’s Day and this Mother’s Day post is timely, then I just may never write again.  And I’m thinking that might not be good, since it’s come to my attention that my sanity might kinda depend on this.

So … Happy Mother’s Day!

My day started way too early with noises of three children clomping downstairs loudly SHUSHing each other, then plates and dishes clattering, then a bit of sibling argument, then a younger child’s injury and an older child’s attempts to make it better while simultaneously stifling the cries, then three happy faces standing by my bedside singing “Happy Mother’s Day to You” to the tune of “Happy Birthday.”  All by 8 a.m.

They dragged me into the kitchen, where I was met with this:

Toast (three pieces!) … and I totally didn’t care that carbs are currently off my menu.  Thumbprint magnets made at school that memorialize the current size of their tiny fingers.  Handprint cards, colored pages from coloring books, yarn-and-popsicle-stick art, handmade mosaic tile stepping stones … all completely useless to but utterly adored by me.  And there was this from Owen:

Which translated to: “I love my mom because she makes me good corn dogs and she is the prettiest girl ever and she took off work to come to lunch with me.  I love my mom.”  Which translated to one overjoyed and tearful mama.

By 8:29 a.m., the homemade gifts with the homemade wrapping had all been opened and admired and the hugs and kisses and thank yous had been sufficiently distributed … at which point Owen asked, “Can you go make us breakfast now?”  And the rest of the day was pretty much a normal working mom day.  I guess when you’re the only parent in the house, there’s not a lot of sleeping late and getting pampered and skipping out on the daily grind of cooking and cleaning and laundry and everything else.  And you know what?  That was fine.  In fact, that was better than fine, because for those first 29 minutes of Mother’s Day?  My kids were doing anything and everything they could to show me that they loved me and appreciated me.  Not because there was another parent prompting them to do it, but because it was just really, really important to them to do it.

And I’m really not sure how I got so lucky.

The kids and I also went to lunch with my fabulous sister Caroline (who took it upon herself to pre-plan some pretty nifty additional flower and gift surprises for the kids to give me) and our own fabulous mom. In case it doesn’t go without saying, I have the mom that so, so many of my friends have always wanted as their own because she’s just pretty perfect as moms go.

And again, I’m really not sure how I got so lucky.

I could’ve and should’ve written an entire post about my fabulous mama on mama’s day, but I didn’t (obviously) and I felt kinda bad about that most of the day.  But then before bedtime I read this gorgeous poem on a friend’s Facebook post and I ended my Mother’s Day with the same happy, grateful tears that began it.  I see both sides of motherhood now … I accept my inability to properly thank mine and I care not a whit about my children’s inability to fathom the depths of my love for them.  And so it goes, and we are all unspeakably lucky.

The Lanyard – Billy Collins

The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one into the past more suddenly—
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift—not the worn truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.

Included in the FORTHCOMING book (OCT 2005), The Trouble with Poetry.


 

 
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