Earthy, With Hints of Floral

Last night, we had my favorite agnolotti (which is prissy for ravioli) for dinner. It's nothing too exceptional; just some frozen thing you can pick up at any old King or Queen Soopers for like $5.99 a package, but it's really good. It's filled with a blend of ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan, Romano, and the very final moments of my marriage. 

For the first 16 years of our life together, he'd been home for dinner, on average, one night a week. I'd never been able to cook dinners that included him, and I'd never had help getting the kids settled for the night, because that's just not how the restaurant industry, or addiction, works. We wives and children to chefs and GMs are widowed and orphaned by Open Table. Add vodka and wine to that equation, and we were lucky to see him at all from Tuesday morning through Sunday night.

The new job he had taken in 2011 had him home for dinner three or four evenings a week, which was new for us - and quite nice in a normal-life sort of way. It wasn't very good in the hide-the-drinking-while-the-family-sleeps sort of way, which - as these things are wont to do - caught up with us with a vengeance eventually. 

The thing with co-dependency is that we want to believe so badly that we will twist and warp reality to make it believable to us no matter what pesky facts lie in our way. He had more late tables than any GM in the history of restaurant management, his drawers would never, ever balance, he'd have to work on national and corporate holidays when no one else is the entire company of hundreds was working, the makeup bags under my seat of the car were left by thieves digging through the car looking for change or ironic Robyn Hitchcock cassettes - and I'd find some way to believe it, always.  

I'm still not sure if I believed it because I didn't want to face the reality of what he was doing to himself and by proxy me and my children, or if I didn't want to face him when and if I called him on it. I'm still not sure it actually matters. 

So when he started working mornings, when he started coming home to us at night, I found a way to believe that we'd found the answer to our prayers. He was with us during the one time he could drink himself stupid; ergo, he couldn't drink himself stupid anymore. That's called science, bitches. It's logic. I beliiiiiiiiieeeeeved it. 

And I had hope. For him, for us, for my children, for his insane dog, for all of it. There was hope for the first time in a very long time. 

Because that's how addiction to addicts works. 

So this one night - after almost a full year of pure hell in which I had watched, listened, and smelled him nearly kill himself with vodka, watched my kids realize for the first time that their father had a problem, saw him physically hurt one of our children while he was drunk, saw him repeatedly emotionally hurt another child, dodged fists that went through doors instead of my face, asked for divorce, was denied a divorce, endured his long bouts of depression followed by long bouts of rage, given up all hope of saving him or leaving him - after all of that he got this job that made him feel useful and challenged amd secure again, one that had him home with his family more nights than not almost like a normal person, one that I convinced myself could keep him from drinking even though it was a wine bar and he had every key to it, and this one night I decided to bury the hachet, be a nice human being, make him a nice dinner, wear something cute, and welcome him home like I always imagined wives welcomed their husbands home at the end of a long day in a world that I didn't live in, but wanted to. 

So I made this dinner he'd never had before, this agnolotti (which is prissy for ravioli), and a big old salad that had all of his favorite salady-type-things in it. I put on a skirt and my nice makeup. I straightened my hair. I dabbed some perfume on. Then I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And he never came home

He never came home because if he couldn't drink at night, he was going to drink during the day, dammit, and drinking during the day means drinking during work and drinking during work at a wine bar means blacking out at 11am and not remembering anything until 7pm that night, across town, with no idea how you got there, were your car is, or how you are going to fix this. 

Because you can't fix this. Because this is your rock bottom. And it is mine, too. 

I sat on my corduroy double-wide arm chair that I loved more than just about any other earthly possession, the one I had to leave behind when we made our abrupt exodus from Texas because we didn't have enough money to rent a truck big enough to bring it, or any of my living room furniture that, I was told, was "just stuff" I "need to let go of". I sat on that chair under the warm orange glow of the table lamp I also don't own anymore and most of everything inside of me died.

It's funny how quickly fear gives way to anger, then humiliation, then resignation. 

By the time he came in the door, without a car or a job, I had already put all the children to bed sweetly and calmly, I had already cleared the table of his wilted salad and hardened pasta, and I had changed out of my skirt and sweater into the oversized sweats that had room enough in them for me and the waves of alternating panic and rage and sadness ebbing inside of me. It was over; the dream I had clutched in the palm of my foolishly-determined fist all those 16 years was finally over, and I'd finally, with finality, let it go.

He has no idea what happened to either one of us that night. I've never spoken of the details of that night with him, or with anyone for that matter. He never found the car he lost that night, and he never found the job he lost that night, and I never found the person I lost that night, the one inside of me that was willing, always, to give one last chance, to find one last reason to believe in him, in us, in that reality. 

On January 25th of this year, I made that same dinner again for the first time since that night, this time just for me and my children. I wore a skirt, I put on some makeup, I dabbed on some perfume, and I quietly counted the distance between that place I was a year ago and the reality I ended up living, 365 days later. 

Now we have it again on the seim-regular dinner rotation. It still tastes a bit like brown corduroy and grace, which will always be a bittersweet thing to swallow, but I think I am finally at the place where I like the taste of what is done, and what is becoming because of it. 

What I Haven't Got

Winter's change is the cruelest of all, for me. It is frozen and dark and offers no glimmers of hope, except those that twinkle reflecting off the frozen tundra, mirages in the desert of our lives holding out the distance sparkle of solace where the reality is that there is none to be had, and it is cold, and there is a long way to go before there will be warm, golden light.

Everyone is writing their end of the year posts this week. The best books they've read, the coolest places they've traveled to, the best pictures they've taken, the best goals they can think of for themselves in 2013 - this is the week that pretty much everyone looks in the rear view mirror, checks their blind spot, and changes lanes along the highway of their lives. People woke up on Tuesday - maybe refreshed, maybe hungover, maybe pregnant, and stared down a new day and a new year with the determination to do/be/write/love/act better.

More. Bigger. Differently. Something. 

These are the moments for which I hold my breath and wait for time to pass. These are the days I pray for forgetfulness or distraction. These are the times I wish I wasn't, and didn't, and won't. 

My year isn't ending yet. My year ends on January 7th when my entire world did. It ends again on January 25th, when the new house of cards I'd spent 17 years meticulously building up came crashing down. My year isn't restarting yet.  It begins anew on January 9th, just like it has every year since 1992 when I was shoved headfirst through an airplane jetway and into a brand new life. 

January marks the days of my mother - the day I lost her, and the day I left her forever. January marks the day I lost my husband and decided in my heart, if not my head, to leave him forever, too. January is not the month I reset or recharge or realigned; it is the month I die over and over again. January is a month of resignation, of giving in - letting go and letting whatever the hell will make this easier

...

But I am trying to change that. 

This year will be the first calendar year that I live start to finish intentionally, for myself, not in a way that I feel like someone else is making me live but in the way that I chose to live. I ended this year entirely too far over the edge of the precipice to let anyone pull me back into that old cycle, that old life that I keep setting myself up to live through and die from over and over again.  

I'm learning - no, I've always known, I'm trying to accept - how much of everything that has transpired is my own fault. I didn't make my husband drink-and-everything-that-comes-with-it, but he certainly didn't make me stay, either. I perceive requirements that don't always actually exist and customize my life around them, because I am a highly skilled, professionally groomed enabler, and that is what we do best. I've been so afraid of change that I found a near exact replica of my relationship with my mother and entered into a legally binding, contractual, lifetime relationship with it. 

Every January I mourn these losses that are in fact gifts. Twice in my life I have held my nose and stood tippy-toes-over a precipice, waiting and hoping for something, someone, god will anything just come shove me over? because I certainly have never had the courage to leap on my own accord. Twice in my life I have been given exactly that which I have wished for. 

And it is a gift. These weights I cling to are actually disguised wings. I just have to figure out how to use them to fly.

Nature vs Nurture

- This post was featured on HuffPo's {Parenthesis} and I couldn't be more blushy about the whole situation -

My daughter has this little friend at school, who's name doesn't matter, and he wants to hug her and squeeze her and keep her forever and call her George. I sympathize with him, I really do. I feel the exact same way about her most days. She's scrumdidilyicious. 

However, I still let her have friends. I don't bully the other little boy who also very much so loves her and wants to be in her company all. the. time. I don't intimidate her with threats if she defies my wishes or talks to other kids, and I don't lie to the teacher if she steps out of line, saying she said a bad word or hit someone so she'll be punished for making me angry. 

She's not afraid of me, is my point, but she sure as hell is afraid of Friend Who's Name Doesn't Matter. 

And it's really just depressing. I mean, she didn't even get to get drunk and meet this clown at some bar and project all her daddy issues onto him like it's her goddamn American right to. Oh no, he picked her out of the crowd like she was waiting prey.

Except she's not waiting prey. 

My mother used to warn me that the bad people could smell me coming. She said that they knew how to find the people like me, people who were weak, broken, vulnerable - that they could find us, and they would, and when they did they'd crush us. She told me to watch out for anyone who took an interest in me, because I was walking around with a target on my back. I wonder why I have trust issues. 

My daughter does not have trust issues. My daughter is the opposite of me in almost every way, because I did the opposite of what my mother did in almost every way. I whisper into my daughter's sleeping ear how amazing she is, how strong she is, how powerful she is. I read her Audre Lorde poems that sing of her strength as a woman and a child of the earth. I sing her my own odes of admiration and love. I tell her every chance I get that she is fiercer than the sun, and stronger than the ocean tides. And still, some little man-person with girl issues and cowboy boots who would certainly refer to her as woman if he only knew how to spell it comes along and tries with all his might to possess her. 

I must admit, it's slightly amusing watching him break himself against the rock that is her. 

But no matter how strong she is, and how secure she is, it is a total mindbleep (because I can't bring myself to say that word in a kid post. I'm losing my edge. I know it.) when someone you are totally emotionally invested in turns the tables over and exploits that investment for their own selfish gain. It's horrifying, watching my seven year old daughter have to navigate this pocket of humanity, watching the little heart I've so carefully guarded from any pain learn the hard lesson that people just ain't no good.

I am cautiously mindful of her reactions to this boy as the situation has progressed. I have tried to guide her decisions without injecting myself into the situation. Letting them have their own experiences, not projection of mine, is the hardest element of parenting I've encountered yet. I worry that she inherited my target along with my crooked toes and blond hair.  I worry that victimization is a recessive gene that you don't realize has passed on until conditions become optimal for it to manifest. I worry that it's instead something acquired through nurture, and that watching me waste the first seven years of her life trying desperately to please and/or appease a controlling, narcissistic alcoholic has told her that is what is normal and good and expected. 

So I watch her closely, I listen for the words I know all too well coming from her mouth that would tell me this boy is winning the battle against her sense of self. I never hear them. I hear honest words like, "I am afraid to tell on him" and "I care about him and don't understand why he cares about me all wrong" and I know that she doesn't have this thing that I have, this curse that keeps the amazing, brillant, powerful women in my family subdued by some man, some religious ideal, some terror of the unknown or the different or that which is difficult and brave. 

Today I was going to go into her classroom to speak to the teacher about Friend Who's Name Doesn't Matter on her behalf. Today, I had found my limit, had enough, decided that she wasn't able to carry this burden any longer. Today I also had a gazillion deadlines, so I didn't go in. Turns out, she did get one thing from me - her line in the sand. Today was her breaking point too. Today he pushed too far, and she pushed back. 

And he backed down. 

He treated her with some goddamn respect. 

He was even kind(ish) to her other little super sensitive man-child-friend. 

And I am so proud of this woman-becoming, who is teaching me more than I will ever in a million years teach her.

That'll Do, Pig

First off: Thank you all, so so so much, for this. I keep trying to do the math on how many vaccinations we've provided for kids in need around the world, but I ran out of fingers *and* toes and I think my abacus is still packed up in the garage. Which is more than half-way unpacked, I'll have you know, all by my own self.

#Blogust rages on, with a post today by my dear friend and fellow Coloradan Julie Marsh, who wrote an amazingly lovely post about science, bitches. I have the smartest friends on earth. Go leave a comment there. (We're shooting for 10,000 comments by months' end, yo, to get the full $200,000. No small feat, but it totally can be done. We raise $20 per comment on every post.)

Now.

My blog.

I have a gazillion mini post-its all over my house, covered in the scribblings of half-drafts, miniature inspirations, snack-sized ephipanies. And I can't stop sleeping. 

It's hard (but not impossible) to blog in one's sleep, but you know, this sleep thing is so good. I forgot, entirely, what rest felt like. I am hoarding it like it's all the cats on earth and I'm sure the end is extremely nigh. It's not boding well for my blog-life. 

But alas, I am a mommy blogger, or so they tell me, and my children insist of being smart and interesting, so I suppose I should say something about them. Contrary to the below posts, it isn't actually all gloom and doom around here. We have many more good times than uncomfortable ones, and I can't say we've had even a single moment of bad since I got home and we moved into our new home. 

Well, there was that day two weeks ago when I was moving my son's dresser in with him, and I went backwards, and now I think I have permanent nerve damage in the pinky where he rammed it into the doorframe with the edge of the dresser with just a little too much gusto - but other than that, everything's been pretty damn a'ight.

My daughter has a friend at school who is not named Caliber and she talks about him almost obsessively, which you and I know means one thing, but she just knows it means she's happy to like someone, and she wrote him a note the other day. The very last line of it read, "I have a very nice home."

She is currently being charged with second-degree murder of a parent, by a minor in cuteness. 

My middle son has a friend whom he walks home with every day, and a bit of a few love interests at school. He also has a full sized violin, which means he grew, like, .0016th of an inch in the past year, which makes him not the most tiniest person in his class. He is officially King of the World.

My oldest son actually speaks to me - almost every single day, in fact. For 14, that's astonishing. 

Life is oddly humbling. You spend all these years proving you can handle anything, take whatever gets thrown at you, do everything and anything on your own, and then one day you wake up and the universe decides it high time you unlearn all of that bullshit, or die trying. And by you, I mean me.

We're constantly out of money, but even that doesn't feel scary or bad. We have what we need, and we don't need anything else. Going to a single income family is a huge adjustment without factoring in a cross-country move, but I've had help from a few close friends when I absolutely needed it, and that is forcing me to learn how to ask. For help. Because I can't do everything on my own.

We have couches, finally, and hot water, which you really can go a long long LONG time in Arizona in August before you even realize you don't have any. I think I am very close to having a dining room table, which is great because I bought white couches because I hate being either clean or sane. I hate my washer and dryer because it isn't the washer and dryer I had to leave behind in Texas, but it actually works fine. So does everything else. 

So does everything else. 

I wanted to hate it here, but we kind of like it here. My kids love their schools. We all love this little rental house. We're excited for winter to come, for being able to go outside and play any old time we want without a coat or an umbrella or a car. We are snuggled up together in less than half the space we left behind, and it actually feels good. We are learning each other again, in the quiet spaces the tv and the XBox used to fill. (I opted to not get cable, and to seriously limit game-time. I couldn't really explain why, but I didn't have to. This guy went & said it better than I could have, as he is wont to do.)

In a lot of ways, it feels like time has slowed for us. We go to bed early, really early, embarrassingly geritolly early, and we wake up ready. We wake up unafraid. We start our days looking forward, not back, and we end them together, on the white for not much longer couches, under the just-big-enough roof, in the almost but not quite too hot desert. We are rebuilding our lives and each other very quietly, and with careful consideration, and I think that, for now, it is just enough. 

 

Vertigo

It's quarter to ten on a Monday night; I'm sitting on my friends' bed in their house in their state, working on some spreadsheet or the other until I am suddenly not there anymore. I'm in a wooden chair on an outdoors patio in front of the Pixies concert in Vancouver. I can see the lines of faces like they are here in front of me, and I can see his face right there, across the table, so close I can touch it if I close my eyes and hold out my hand.

The air is thick with the scent of his colonge, and heavy with the weight of the Marlboro red smoldering between his perfectly manicured, uncalloused fingers. The juxtaposition of the softness of his outside against the hardness of his insides always leaves me a little disoriented, even in my imagination, where he often times appears with neither cause nor warning. I am always sitting close enough to him that I can feel him without touching him, that I can drown myself in the scent of him, of us. 

Us. 

I miss us, and I can't always realize why, so I thought I should write it out while I can see pieces of it. That night at the Pixies show, or the night screaming in the plastic seats at the Avalanche game, or the nights in the Barnes and Noble when he would put his hand on the small of my back and nudge me gently through the crowd - those are the moments in which I feel most whole and least alone. We, he and I, have always been, as long as I have been able to think in terms of me. 

Most of my life with him was alone, waiting, worrying, wanting, but when he was there, even though it was almost never romantic or tender or intimate, there was always the comfort of we, of us, of being with the one thing in life that completed me, for better or ill. 

I know the scent of his skin like I know the feel of my own fingerprints. I know the gait of his walk and the sound of his breath and I knew that I would always and forever have a place by his side, a place no one else on this earth would ever have. He was nothing I needed to learn, but always had something for me to discover. I know him like he is myself and now he is gone and I feel like I am losing the half of my own heart. I feel lost all of the time. I have no idea where I will belong. It makes me dizzy, looking around and over and back again for something that looks like him or smells like him or tastes like him but isn't him, and sometimes it seems so futile that I just want to sit down until it all just stops.