“The F Word”

Stuck in graduation traffic selfie.

Since my Dad died last year, I have noticed an increasing lack of decorum in my writing, particularly, and sometimes in my speech. Perhaps, the portion of my brain that deals with trauma overtook the decorum center. I have never really been a cuss word kind of person, but, over the last year the “f-bombs” have been a-dropping.  I often edit them out later.  I am a gainfully employed by the public school in my area and would like to stay that way.  Also, I teach Sunday school…

In June, my daughter graduated from high school. She did NOT want to attend the ceremony and made sure I knew she was only doing it for me. Her graduating class was so big, the ceremony was held at an Equestrian center about 45 minutes from our town.  There was construction on the road leading to the venue. I factored all this in to our travel time and we left early enough to account for it, but it was awful and increased everyone’s anxiety, particularly my daughter’s.  She really, really didn’t want to be there.  Unfortunately, I didn’t realize how badly she didn’t want to be there until it was too late.

At one point, Siri steered on an alternate route that was supposed to save us some time.  As luck would have it, I missed a turn because I couldn’t read the road signs in time.  I found a place to make a u-turn in order to get back on track, only to be met with pedestrians.  I said it, loudly and with gusto.

“F***”

And then immediately apologized to my children, to which my daughter replied, “It’s OK Mom.  I say it all the time!”

Oh well…parenting does have a rather humbling effect on a girl.

Recently, my oldest child (officially my step son from my now defunct marriage.  He grew in my heart not under it) stopped by for a few minutes to give me money (he’s on my cell phone plan) and as usual stayed around to chat. I like it when he hangs out with us.  Mike was very excited about some podcast he is currently listening to.  It had something to do with aliens and creepy de-classified government hocus pocus.

As he read a transcript aloud to us, he kept saying, “‘F’ this and ‘F’that.”

“Mike, just say, f***.  It’s OK.”

His eyes widened.

“Right, David?  I say it.”

“I’ve heard it once.”  Most likely during the aforementioned “incident.”  Maybe I’m not as bad as I thought…

Mike continued to read the transcript…this time with “f***s” loud and proud.

At any rate, as my children have reached the age of maturity (2 down, 1 to go), it has been interesting to note how our relationships change.  They’ll always be my babies, but interacting with them as adults, having adult conversations, relating to each other about the b***sh** sides of adulthood (car/insurance payments anyone?) is definitely rewarding.  Standing back and letting them fail on their own two feet is hard…but necessary.

And…I get to say the “f” word!

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Saturday Morning

I’ve really enjoyed the time and energy I’ve had this summer to take care of my family; especially as I’m not overwhelmed by grief. The grief is there, of course. It’s like a broken bone that has healed, a part of you that will always need a little extra care, but, that doesn’t rule your life. The pain flares up, often at unexpected moments, but is now manageable and livable, no longer suffocating.

It feels a little like I need to really cherish this time. Ana is tip toeing into adulthood. She now has her own bank accounts, a car payment, and has independently scheduled her first doctor’s appointments. While she still lives with me and still asks for my advice, it’s clear that our relationship is shifting. It’s hard to define right now. I want to hold Ana close, like when she was an infant, breathe in the smell of her and keep her secluded from the pain that life can bring, but, I have let her go and grow, live and hurt.

David arrived home from his last year of summer camp. I’m certain he grew. My arms had to reach a little further to hug him yesterday. David is thrilled with this development, of growing up and away from me. His senior pictures are next week, beginning a year of “the lasts;” the last homecoming, the last concert, the last spring trip.

This summer feels a little like an intermission, a pause between movements in a symphony or acts in a play. I’m taking a few tentative step towards figuring out what my next act holds…prayer and passport applications. I’m also doing my best to cherish these moments, to give extra care and attention to my people. I do love them so…

It’s been awhile since I facebooked…

In the time since my last official post, I have managed to buy three cars. I totaled one, my daughter totaled the other (in a spectacular car flipping accident from which she and her brother were blessed to walk away), see one child into her age of majority (d—, I’m getting old) and send two off to proms at two different schools. Some of the details are on the blog. Most days, I choose sleep over self reflection. I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing.

I’m still not sure what to do with this facebook thing. “Social media” certainly has its place in today’s world. Unfortunately, for an introvert, it can be dangerous. It’s very easy to let online relationships take the place of face to face encounters. I’ve been thinking a lot about vulnerability and what that means as I consider what I want the rest of my life to look like.

My kids are almost grown. They still need me, but not as much as in the not so distant past, and I feel a void growing somewhere deep in my being. Filling it with facebook interactions is like eating a hot fudge sundae when what you need pot roast. The sundae fills the void, but disappears quickly. The pot roast has staying power and doesn’t leave you slightly slick and dizzy thirty minutes after eating it.

On the other hand, there are people here, people I value, that I only know via the ether. And that’s weird, but kind of lovely in its own way. It’s a chance to get know people I wouldn’t have otherwise and grow myself as person as my opinions and beliefs are challenged. I always hope I might meet you IRL, but the craziness (and lack of funds) prevent me from running all over the country to find you.

I’ve thought about de-friending all the friends I know in real life and only holding onto online friends. I’ve thought about deleting the app altogether. I’ve thought about facebook free days or facebook free hours. It really can be a huge distraction. And sometimes you need that…I snuck back and started to lurk again after my daughter’s accident when I just needed to think about something (anything) else than my life which at that moment seemed like the trash fire of the century.

But it’s so easy for an introvert like me to replace real vulnerability with people to typing words into a post and seeing what comes back. It can be addictive, especially when people react well to what you’ve written. But in the quiet hours between moon and sunrise, I’m alone and lonely, and this online sh– doesn’t matter at that point. No one is going to reach out from facebook to rub my shoulders or tell me I’m not crazy, and that whatever it is that I’m going through right this instant really is only an instant and not indicative of the rest of my life.

(I’m well aware of the irony, or is it paradox, I get them confused, in this post.)

Nothing has really changed. I don’t know where I’m going or what I’m doing or how I’m going to get there. I’m only working one job for the summer off from school and maybe my frazzled brain will figure this out.

End of my rope…

I once read a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt (I think) that went something like, “When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.”  What happens if you’ve tied so many knots that there is no  rope left to hang onto?

It’s been a rough month.  My daughter and I both totaled cars in April.  Her accident was horrific…the car flipped.  Both of my babies were in that car.  They both walked away.  You can attribute that to prayer, guardian angels, and the very well built Subaru Impreza Ana was driving.  All I know is that driving up on the scene of that accident was one of the worst moments in my life and one I hope to *never* repeat.  

In the  weeks since Ana’s accident, I have felt totally and completely defeated, like a complete failure.  One of my coworkers innocently asked me how I was doing last week and I burst into tears.  Thank God I was in the special education office with the most compassionate people in the building.  If you’re going to ugly cry, do it in front of special educators.  They will cry with you.

That moment of complete transparency was a bit of a turning point for me.  What happens when there is no more rope to hold onto?  You have to let go and realize that your own strength isn’t enough.  It never was.  People can say, “You’re so strong and brave” and you start to believe in the lie a little bit, even as much as you hate the fact that you have no choice but to be strong and brave.  Eventually, one just isn’t strong or brave enough to hold on alone.  You have to let go and trust your fellow humans, or God, or the universe, or all three to make sure that you land softly.  

Today, the kids and I jumped in the car to go to school and work.  We got about halfway to school when Ana realized she had forgotten her bag that contained her work clothes.  Turning around to retrieve it meant that we would all be late for work/school.  Not turning around meant that  Ana wouldn’t be prepared for work (and she would hate that).  So we turned around, got the bag, and took a picture of our “take 2” on the start of the day.  I told the kids “poop happens” is our theme song and we’re not going to sweat the small stuff.  Once you stop holding on so tightly, you can count your blessings and move on.

Thanks for being there to catch me when I fall…

It’s not me, it’s You

Zosimas_and_Mary_of_Egypt

Orthodox Christians just finished the 5th week of Lent.  In a very real sense, we are rounding 3d and heading into home.  One more week of Lent, then comes Holy Week (and it’s beautiful Alleluias) and finally, Pascha!  The feast of feasts! The eighth day!  The Day of Resurrection!

In the fifth week of Lent, the Great Canon of St. Andrew ) is served, usually on Wednesday evening, which liturgically actually counts as Thursday morning, if you’re keeping score.  The Life of St. Mary of Egypt is read during the Canon.  In years past, I regularly read her life for our church as she is my patron saint.  In the past couple of years as my life slowly turned in on itself, I haven’t read her life.  This year, I was asked to do it again. It is always a blessing. Each year, as I read her story, something new strikes me.  

This year, the following words struck me to the point that I nearly shed tears while reading:

“But from that time till now the power of God in numerous ways had guarded my sinful soul and my humble body. When I only reflect on the evils from which Our Lord has delivered me I have imperishable food for hope of of salvation. I am fed and clothed by the all-powerful Word of God, the Lord of all. For it is not by bread alone that man lives. And those who have stripped off the rags of sin have no refuge, hiding themselves in the clefts of the rocks (Job 24; Heb. 11:38).”

I don’t need to talk again about how difficult life has been for me for the past few years.  I don’t need to state that my bank account re-enacts the miracle of the loaves and fishes. Each time I make it to payday with a positive balance in my bank account, I do a little happy dance and figurative fist bump.  There’s no reason that I need to enumerate the many, many reasons that these words of St. Mary speak to me.

(Also, I try really hard not to sin by hating the Kardashians.  They are “influencers” and make more money than Croesus. I work my hind end off –not really, it’s still there, but you know what I mean–and I struggle every freaking day.)

But that’s not actually what I want to talk about.  The Canon is looong. I’ve helped to chant it on a few occasions.  It can last three or four hours. By the 6th or 7th ode, I usually give up fighting.  I just give my over to the prayer and the repentance and the mystery. Maybe at that point, I’m truly realizing my own puniness and really praying.  Maybe not. I’m no theologian.

At any rate, it’s a sort of “I give up.  It’s not me in charge any longer. It’s you God.  There’s not way I’m getting through this on my own.”

On Friday afternoon, I was very ready to leave work.  Honestly, all I could think about was getting home and into bed, where I might have just enough time to nap for an hour before having to get up again to take my son to work.  I had come off a grueling weekend with my Mom, helping her to prepare to to move to a senior living community. There was packing, and sorting through stuff, and tears. Many tears.

I was tired before I even began the work week on Monday.  And I had extra stuff. Reading St. Mary’s life on Wednesday, cooking on Thursday for the meal after the Presanctified Liturgy on Thursday, picking my son up from work at 10:45 PM when I needed to get up at 4 am for my side hustle.  It sucked.

So, I was exhausted.  And, I was in an accident on the way home.  Honestly, not even really on my way home. I was exiting the parking lot.  The traffic had stopped to the left of me to let me out, as they often do. The traffic on the right was also stopped, I presumed also to let me out.  The people in that area are often courteous to teachers as they head out of school. I pulled out and didn’t see the fire chief’s Ford Explorer flying up the road in the center lane as my view was blocked by traffic backed up in the center lane.

He struck my car on the driver’s side towards the rear of my car.  Fortunately, it was the 2004 Honda Pilot that I just purchased about 2 weeks ago.  The purchase of that vehicle is another story where I may have acted a little too willfully.  Nevertheless, I was able to move the car to the side of the road and walk away. Walk away. I walked away.  Maybe God can use even my willfulness. The fire chief also was not hurt. If it had to happen, it happened in the best way possible.  I was not charged in the accident. I honestly don’t know who was at fault. I didn’t hear a siren. I feel that if I did, I wouldn’t have proceeded into the road.  I did see his lights…when they were about 10 feet away.

Whatever happens now is completely out of my hands.  I feel as worn down as I do when chanting the Great Canon at around the 5th or 6th Ode.  I’ve cried about it. I got nothing left. I’ll wait to hear what he insurance company does/says.

It’s not me…it’s you, God.  I’m finished fighting.

“But from that time till now the power of God in numerous ways had guarded my sinful soul and my humble body.”

Swirling and curling

A few weeks ago, I was standing in Church with my children and realized that I was looking up at my son.  We’ve been about the same height for some time. In the business of life, I had missed the subtle shift from eye level to having to look up ever so slightly to see him. At a recent doctor’s appointment, the doctor looked at David’s growth chart, and reported that he had jumped from the 25th percentile to the 50th and can no longer predict how tall David will be since he’s jumping percentiles.  All of his life, he’s been one of the shortest kids in his class. This new territory of being tall is thrilling for him.

He emerged from the bathroom a few weeks ago and asked, “Are all the razors in the bathroom for you and Ana?”

“The pink ones are for us.  The blue ones are for you, when you need them.”

“Ok, I’m going to shave.”

“Alright…do you need me to come in there?  Should we youtube it?”

“I got it, Mom.”

And just like that, he went from smooth faced to sometimes stubbly when I lean in for a hug.  Yet, I still feel the need to defend and protect this man child of mine. A girl “ghosted” him and I wanted to scratch her eyes out.  

At a recent gathering for teen-aged girls at Church with Moms invited, Ana said something along the lines of, “I’m leaving you soon.”

“Nooo!” I responded…even though it is right that she should.  We only really borrow our children. Ana will start community college in the fall.  She says I’m her “person,” (thank you, “Grey’s Anatomy”), so I think (pray, hope) that we’ll always have a good relationship, but things are changing. We relate to each other more as women now. I still have a fierce need to protect her as well.  The other day, I spoke with her about her relationship with her boyfriend.

“I want him to cherish you as much as you cherish him.”

“I know, Mom.”

I’ve wanted to knee him in tender places a few times.  I haven’t. Sorry, Maury Povich.

I’m in North Carolina now with my Mom, helping her prepare to move into a senior community.  I have no real attachment to the house she is leaving behind as I didn’t grow up here or even really live here for any significant period of time.  We moved around growing up. I have a habit of not getting too attached to the physical space I call “home.”

At any rate, it has still been hard.  One of my jobs this weekend has been to help her sort through pictures and decide which ones to pitch and which ones to keep.  Seeing pictures of my Dad, and being smacked in the face with the fucking senseless loss of him has been gut wrenching. There have been many tears.  “Why, when he told me he loved me several times a day, did he leave me with this mess.”

“We’ll never know, Mom.  He was sick. That’s all I can figure.”

It’s also hard to think about Mom moving to what is likely her last home.  After packing a box of photo albums she wants to take with her, she said, “When I die, you can throw these away.”

“I’m not ready to be an orphan yet, Mom.”

And I’m not.  But, I’m also not sure what’s next for me. My kids are forward thinking…even my Mom. But,  I’m exhausted. My brain is not working like it normally does. I was completely self flagellating at work recently because I just can’t seem to stay on top of everything as I have in the past.  I know it’s due to the changes, loss, and grief of the last few years. I still feel ashamed by what feels like inadequacy.

So, this summer, even though it may be financially stupid, I’m only working one job.  I’ll teach the Chinese kids online and that’s it. I need to take my dog for long walks in the park and soak up sunshine.  I need to road trip towards the friends I’ve been wanting to see again for years. I need to find my feet and the direction in which they need to point. Mostly, I need to stop holding my breath and learn how to exhale again.

 

Keeper for hire…

Yesterday was a tough day. Today, I forgot my work bag and had to go home to get it as there were materials in there I needed. After I got back, I talked to a few colleagues and then made the obligatory mad dash to the bathroom before the day’s festivities began, only to discover I had put on my shirt inside out. These are the consequences of getting dressed while distracted. I had a good chuckle at myself. Life goes on. However, my Grandmother used to say that she needed a “keeper.” I’m beginning to understand what she meant…