September 10, 2014 § 7 Comments
So here’s how the last few months have gone down: I took a full time job that was a COMPLETE FAIL, which started me into a tailspin of ohfuckwhatamidoingwithmylife, my child started day care and hates it so much he’s practicing his first sentence, “go to hell,” my sister-in-law smacked her head and nearly paralyzed herself, I’ve gotten into a complicated emotional kerfluffle with my father and his wife, I drunkenly told my older brother off, and my younger brother lost his best friend in a car accident. Now none of these things happened TO me. They were all things that either happened by the course of nature, the actions of others, or I played a direct hand in making a mess of them. I’m not crying victim. I am simply setting the stage for what has been a very involved and emotionally fraught period of self identification, searching, and smoking menthols on a park bench like a crazy person.
My husband is sticking around because of the “for better or worse” clause, though he has made no secret of the fact that if I don’t get my shit together soon, he’s going to go find a nice Christian girl to settle down with. (He dated a Mormon once. I know he secretly fantasizes about those prudish, God-fearing types.) The baby pretends like he doesn’t know I’m a hot mess, but I can see it in his eyes. He knows that if I don’t get things figured out soon I will bring shame to our house and he will not be able to go to daycare without the burden of my failures. His meals, though mostly still up to snuff, have occasionally included portions of more pedestrian items and he has shown his dissatisfaction by lobbing them at my face or methodically dropping them onto the floor.
I’m well medicated, so I can’t blame all of this on my psychiatrist, though I’d like to. It’s even baffled my mother, who feels like the first question one should always ask when feeling an emotion is, “am I on enough medication.” Yes. I am. This situation is not about meds or situational depression, it’s about something much worse. It’s about LIFE.
I start most days with a list of consulting work that needs to be tended to and a checklist that includes things like “laundry” “kitchen” and “figure out what you want to do with your life.” For the most part, I treat them the same. I spend a few minutes sorting colors, a few minutes emptying the dishwasher, and a few minutes sitting on the couch wondering if I can come up with something exciting to do with my life. Something that makes me feel like I’m not just existing, working, and drinking rose and watching Bones on HuluPLUS. I don’t want a job. I want an all consuming, integrated personal and professional existence that makes me fell stimulated and involved and a little bit important. I don’t know why that’s so hard.
Carol is my therapist and she’s pretty much the only good thing going for my mental health these days. I have no idea how fucked up Carol’s own children are, but in my imaginings they are the most well adjusted, happy people in the world. They have to be. Carol spits nuggets of pure gold and has the kind of perspective that makes me feel disproportionately well adjusted and reasonable when I leave her office. I sit down a hot mess and leave a real human being— with perspective.
This week, I plopped myself down on the couch and told Carol to prepare for tears and not to comment on whether I smelled like cigarettes because I didn’t want to talk about it. She laughed and told me she wouldn’t hold her breath for tears, but was thrilled that she’d just bought a new box of Kleenex. (She nudged it at me, as much so I’d know it was there as to show me the really unattractive pattern adorning the box.) I proceeded to outline my case for the midlife crisis I was convinced I was going through and bemoan every detail of my existence.
(Sidenote: it’s very important to me that Carol know both sides of the things that I tell her so that she can try to provide me with more objective feedback in how I’ve mishandled (aka fucked up) a situation. This often results in elaborate recreations of situations, including live readings of text and email threads, Facebook interactions, and phone conversations. It could be mistaken as a one-man show.)
After I’d finished explaining why I didn’t have to will to go on, Carol sad something completely unexpected.
“Sounds like life to me.”
In the back of my mind, I already knew, really knew, what she was saying. I’d said it to myself. But hearing Carol say it so simply made me a little… deflated. If this is life, what does that mean for me? I told her I couldn’t imagine an existence with so many unknowns, so many unanswered questions, so many things I couldn’t control or understand.
“You need to better understand your expectations, where they come from, and why they matter. Then you need to learn to let them go.”
I’m going to give you a few moments to reread that, take it in, and then we will continue.
Though I’ve never really been able to understand how to actualize the feedback, it’s not the first time I’ve heard it. How does a person lower their expectations? Isn’t an expectation a natural and immutable thing? Isn’t that why it’s called an expectation? I countered with a similar argument to Carol.
“You’re angry and frustrated with other people because they haven’t met your expectations of them. Regardless of whether they’ve met their own expectations of themselves.”
So I thought about it. (Re: obsessed about it.) And I’m pretty sure that somewhere in that logic flow is the key to enlightenment. (Someone find me a fucking Bohdi tree STAT.) High or low, I enter into every situation with an expectation not only of the outcome, but of the people involved, their roles, their places, and their actions. When those expectations aren’t met, it crushes me. And then I need answers. I become obsessed with getting those answers. Why did you do it this way? Why didn’t you think to do it that way?
Not only do I judge others by these expectations, I define them. Friends I’ve known for years will never be able to reinvent themselves in my mind because of my expectations of their reactions, feelings, and opinions. Christmas will forever be an emotional shit show because of my expectations. I expect everyone to play the role in the manner I have outlined in my own mind. And if they aren’t going to, they better be prepared to exceed my expectations. Otherwise…
Theoretically, it’s a goldmine. If I were able to understand these expectations and adjust them, I’d probably be better liked, less stressed, more productive, more accommodating, thinner, happier, have thicker hair, better nails. God knows what. But in reality it’s something else entirely. It’s a terrible character flaw. I mean, seriously, who wants to be friends with that chick? Oh, right. NO ONE.
So what’s the moral lesson here? Absolutely nothing. There’s atonement to be had in recognizing that some failures were a failure of expectation, not a failure of competency. But there’s no atonement in realizing that you’ve hurt people because you judged and found them wanting based on a system of measurement they didn’t even know existed. There’s also no easy way to begin lowering your expectations of yourself. There’s not a simple method for saying, “it’s okay to not achieve that because you set unrealistic expectations for yourself.” Because unrealistic or not, they were expectations. And they are there. Looming.
And every morning when you wake up you have to sit on the couch during the time allotted for “figuring out what to do with your life” and try to figure out what your expectations should be when all you ever knew before was that they needed to be high.
August 26, 2014 § 1 Comment
There is some serious shit happening in Ferguson. The serious shit isn’t really about this one black kid named Michael Brown being shot by this one white police officer named Darren Wilson. Truthfully, the serious shit isn’t even about a black kid being shot by a white police officer, or a kid being shot by a police officer, or, to be really truthful, anyone being shot. The shit in Ferguson is about racism and generation after generation of lip service to an ideology about racial equality that is nothing more than that: lip service. It’s about the difference between telling your child that the handicapped kid is just as worthy as they are and them believing it. Ferguson is the conclusion to a very long, very political experiment about whether you can force equality through legislation instead of education.
Ferguson is also about white people like me, white people who are “totally not racist.”
So you had a black friend in college, eh? Or maybe you had a black nanny or house keeper and y’all were totally tight and you loved her like a mother. You work with a guy who is black, right? I bet you’ve been to lunch and drinks once or twice. And you’d totally sleep with Taye Diggs or Zoe Saldana. Hell, even Djimon Hounsou gets your blood racing. Wait, fuck that. YOU VOTED FOR OBAMA. You’re a naturalized lover of the entire African American community.
Except the part where calling someone African American references them being black by way of the continent of Africa, a general reference to American ties to slavery. Technically there is a ground zero ethnicity argument to be made, but it’s listed right next to “We’re all brothers from Adam” below the part about the Seven Dwarves. African American is a continental classification. Forget their country. Salma Hayek just became North American. Ryan Reynolds too. It’s not wrong, *technically* but it’s not exactly hitting the nail on the head.
But putting aside for a moment the “totally not racist” white person’s inability to say the word “black,” or the underlying ignorance that fuels our nomenclature, or the fact that no one calls me European American hundreds of years after my ancestors left the continent (which, was actually the country of England….), TNR white people are actually a huge part of the problem.
I read a great article on Quartz recently about racism, education, white people, black people, Ferguson– the entire cornucopia of buzzwords du jour was there. What struck me was how deeply my subconscious “me” vs. “them” feelings ran. Despite my “totally not racist” attitude towards the black community, I realized that I saw the entire Ferguson thing as another ignorant small town display of racism. Thank God I live in the city. Thank God I don’t have to worry about that shit here. Maybe I’ll go sit on a bench in Harvard Square and feel good about the number of white-looking African American kids I see roaming the Harvard campus! Yeah for me and my “totally not racist!” self!
But then I had time to think about. (Because, as you may recall, I have taken temporary leave of my employment responsibilities.) I have this small boy, you know the one, and I am constantly thinking of the million and one things I don’t want to fuck up about him. It’s bad enough that he is showing unprovoked signs of being a sociopath, I don’t need him to be a homophobic racists too. But what does that mean that I have to do differently over the next 20, 30, 40 years? What does that mean the country has to do?
Sometimes people of my generation celebrate the openness of the world we feel like we’ve helped to create for the next folks. We’ve fought for gay marriage and now my son can marry a boy and register at Bloomingdale’s and live happily ever after! THE END! But let’s take “the gay thing” and play it out like we did the “African American thing.” The constants are pretty much dead on. In addition to being “totally not racist,” I am also in the “totally love the gays” camp.
So now what? Totally loving the gays is enough, right? Ehh… Nope. I don’t think it is. And that’s the problem. If thirty years from now I continue to introduce Author to men (or women) as gay, I’m putting a subconscious qualifier on my introduction and my feelings. As long as I tell a story and say “this black guy” when I would never say “this white guy,’ I am creating a division between people. If I refer to “the handicapped girl” instead of the “redhead” or “the girl who played the mouse in the Christmas pageant” I am subconsciously teaching my son to identify and objective people by attribution. A little by little he separates himself from them. If he is black, then I am white. If she is handicapped, then I am normal. And when he is asked to pick a team on the playground, he’s going to see that if he wants people “like him” he better choose white kids and normal kids. (Though to be fair, he’d have to be mature beyond his years to pick the handicapped kid to be on his kickball team, so I’ll let that one pass.)
The Civil Rights movement (for blacks) marked an incredible advancement in theoretical social equality, but it didn’t mark an authentic chance in sentiment across the vast majority of “totally not racist” white people. We’ve continued to pledge our sincere devotion to anything that promises to eradicates racism, but we haven’t done the simplest things. We haven’t made an effort to confide in a black man or woman what we’re curious about, what fears we have, what we want to know. We’ve left questions unanswered and assumed that our differences are too great and our heritages too far apart. So while we are “totally not racist” we’ve created a divide so deep that we do nothing more than wave from a pedestal and feel intellectual outrage at a white cop shooting a black teen.
And truthfully, I bet Darren Wilson was “totally not racist” until he confused his misunderstanding of the clothing, the walk, and the lingo of the unarmed African American kid with that of a thug. A dangerous gang banger.
And he shot him. And it proved he was a racist.
April 7, 2014 § 3 Comments
I started this blog in 2007. Back then, it was little more than a blip in the blogosphere that represented– at least to me– a promise to myself that no matter how terrible things got (re: working in commercial real estate), I would keep writing. Through a combination of luck, perseverance, and some talent I’ve been able to spend most of my professional life in the creative services: writing and creating in some capacity.
When I no longer needed this blog for that purpose, it became something else entirely. Over the years it has shifted and changed to accommodate my life and what I need from the blog. (I hardly ever go back and read old posts; they truly make me cringe.) About two years ago the blog finally became something I was deeply proud of. No longer a ranting humor blog, it had finally turned a corner to become the thoughtful, unapologetic exploration of my life, emotions, feelings, and expectations. It’s been said of me that I lack a filter, but the truth is actually quite the opposite. My seeming lack of filter is my filter. I seek to engage myself– and those around me– in a constant conversation about what is true and what has value. I do not create content for shock value. I put myself out there in hopes that someone, somewhere will connect with what I am saying and think a little bit harder about how they feel. For some people it’s refreshing, for others, unfortunately, it’s offensive.
So what’s this about? Ugh. Right.
These are my truths; my thoughts and feelings about what it’s like to navigate life. Choices are a bitch: they elevate and advance us, but they also preclude us from so many things. My point in my post last week about the worthiness of parenting was not to vilify my tiny human, but to help others understand what a deeply challenging role parenting is, as well as what it means to choose the role of a parent over that of so many other available roles. I love my tiny human. I love him very, very dearly, but I cannot– and will not– say that his appearance into my life hasn’t thrown me into a tailspin of contemplation and questioning.
Author is loved. If I didn’t love him, I wouldn’t hook myself up to a goddamn milking machine every day for eight months, or roast tiny game hens and puree them up like poor people pate. I wouldn’t spend every last dollar I make on his nanny or cry myself to sleep over whether I can give him the future he deserves. He is loved not only by me, but by his “pups” and his Gami and his Mimi and Panda and Grand Bear, and all the other friends and relative with whom he Facetimes every week.
But like I said before, he can be a teeny tiny fucker. And if that’s too much to hear, you’ve come to the wrong place.
January 4, 2014 § 3 Comments
It’s only a matter of time before I leave you all for something bigger, better, brighter. For years I’ve toiled away on this blog, exposing my deepest insecurities and most intimate thoughts– for what? Your fleeting admiration? A few comments? The occasional like? It’s not a life I’m cut out for living. But getting free shit? That’s a life I was born for.
That’s right. I got a free thermometer. Braun sent it to me because I am so mather facking good at this whole mothering thing. I’m an influencer. (That means that right now I am infiltrating your brain and making you do things without even knowing it.) No, really. As it turns out, no one cares about me. All I ever needed to do to become popular on the internet was have a baby. If I’d gotten knocked up at 16, I probably could have skipped college, gotten in early on the Facebook thing and had a best seller by the time I could legally buy cigarettes. Wish I would have known. Stupid education.
But I didn’t. And it looks like it may not matter because even with that useless college degree, I got a free thermometer. The beauty of my free thermometer is two fold. First, if you’ve ever had to take a baby’s temperature, or stuck anything in your own asshole, you know that it’s not fun or easy. (At least not all the time.) As it turns out, as much as I adore the in-ear thermometer, baby don’t dig. My new, free, thermometer works by swiping it across your forehead. I have no idea how well it works on my child, but the two or three hundred times I’ve taken my own temperature, it’s been downright blissful. Plus when I thought I was dying, the hubs seemed to be able to swipe it across my forehead with similar ease. The second thing about my free thermometer (besides that it was FREE and incredibly validating) is that it’s a gateway thermometer. This is going to be my new life. Today it’s a free thermometer, tomorrow, who knows.
I have some ideas.
As many of you may not know, I have a very big birthday coming up. It’s divisible by ten and three. As someone with so much influence and savvy, it makes perfect sense that brands would be clamoring to send me the top items on my list. For free.
Why? I will tell you why. The publicity. The access to impressional folks such as yourself. I’m going to build a birthday empire. (DO YOU HEAR ME, BRANDS? WHEN YOU SEND ME FREE THINGS I WILL PEDAL THEM! I AM SHAMELESS! I WILL SAY WHATEVER YOU WANT!) Do you see what I’ve done for Braun? Do you see how many fractions of a thermometer I’ve sold?
So here’s the list.
All-Clad: You wonderful, wonderful stainless steel people. I need a 12 quart stainless pot. It’s a black-eyed pea emergency. If I have to make New Year’s peas in that shit hole pot for another year, I won’t need luck, I’ll need a good lawyer. You send me the pot and you’ll get access to all these people. And I’ll post my black-eyed peas with some hash tags. Sound like a plan?
Wusthof: I don’t usually do well appealing to Eastern Europeans. Something about my humor not translating. But let’s cross the bridge of friendship and hug overlooking Free Shit Lake. I need some good knives. Not a whole set, but a few good ones. I could have gone to Henkel, but I came to you. Because I know you want in on this. Danke.
Whole Foods: Truthfully, I’m a little offended that you haven’t reached out to me. I’m from your hometown. We went to high school together. I am loyal. I never complain about you. I don’t care where you source your fruits from. Yay Colombia! Yipee Peru! I think that a few well-placed gift cards could really boost your brand. And by well placed I mean in my palm. (Not to be confused with palm oil. Bad. Unless you stock products that use it. In which case we will overlook a few dead orangutans.)
Amazon: I have no idea what you plan on doing with all those newspapers, but while you’re figuring that out, why don’t you boost your online sales by throwing this gal some gift cards? I’m Prime. (Like actually, I am a Prime member.) I’m a mom. I’m hip. YOU CANNOT GO WRONG WITH THIS INVESTMENT. I will blog all about the things I am going to buy. And then when I buy them… I will post PHOTOS. You read that right. PHOTOS.
Design Within Reach: You are not within reach and we both know it, but you are within reach of the dozens of people who read this blog and with a simple gift of a Herman Miller Eames Lounger (black with cherry), you could boost your sales by a staggeringly insignificant amount. AND you’d be my friend. And I promise to start every blog post in 2014 with, “as I sit here in my Eames lounger from DWR…”
Let’s start there. I’m not saying I’m not open to other brands, but I don’t want to open the floodgates too quickly. There’s enough of my 30th birthday to go around.
Happy Birthday, me. And thank you in advance, All-Clad, Wusthof, Amazon, Whole Foods, and Design Within Reach. Gems, all of you.
(In all seriousness, though, I’d like to thank @Klout and @KloutPerks and the good folks at Braun (@BraunTherms) for the free thermometer. It really is a nifty little gadget that I do recommend– whether you’re a baby or have a baby.)
January 1, 2014 § 1 Comment
I have some ideas for you.
I don’t want to make you feel like you’re not capable of doing this on your own, but I have some wisdom to share. I did my term and if I knew then what I know now, I could have saved the girl a lot of heartache.
First, remember what you are: time. Give of yourself freely. Remind her that you are there for her to enjoy, not rush through. When she is on the verge of panic, give her the moments she has forgotten. The ones when the baby was small. She will remember to slow down and breathe. When she is happiest, stand still. Give her a second or two to be there with nothing else to consider. When she is in pain, fly. Go as fast as you can towards something brighter and more beautiful, but remember to give her enough time to heal. Do not give her to 2015 broken.
She has a big birthday coming. She loves birthdays. She loves birthdays more than anyone I’ve ever known. Call upon the years past to bring joy and celebration. But do not allow her to dwell. Encourage contemplation, but insist on optimism. While you may be only the present, remind her of the future and all the exciting things yet to come.
I did give her a baby, but I also took many things with me. Remind her to wear a supportive bra. Encourage her to love herself by working hard to be healthy. She’s going to fight you on that one, but be firm. Give her some good sleep and maybe she’ll be able to get up and go to the gym. Maybe.
As time we are unstoppable, but as people they are not. Be sure she spends time with people who matter, whose love and friendship can be grown and cultivated. Especially those who may not be here forever.
Give her a few seconds every day to find perspective, a few minutes to notice how the baby has changed and how beautiful her husband is, a few hours to do something that makes her happy, and a few days every now and then to play hookie.
Keep her safe. Carry her across weeks and months. You have no choice but to allow pain and suffering, but keep your cadence and continue your measured march forward so that there will always be a new day, a new light. Let her fall into your rhythm, find comfort in it, but do not allow her to cling to it. She needs your structure for strength, but she needs to find her own strength, as well. She’s a tricky one. She can be broken by the very materials that build her.
Love her as I have. Watch her closely. Be good to that little boy. He is small and perfect. Together we will make him big, but he can remain perfect. Teach patience through pace and certainty and resilience through chaos and uncertainty.
2014, I trust you with her. I will be sad to say goodbye. I made many missteps, sometimes allowing my ambitions to make me forget who I am, but I loved her and gave her so much. When you need help, I will be there. I will offer you my memories, my lessons, and my experiences, you only need to ask. I am not perfect, but I am what I am. The year is gone. I am done.
Take care. And good luck.
November 19, 2013 § 8 Comments
| This post may contain content unsuitable for children and the impressionable. |
Saying that parenthood is a club is obnoxious and makes all your childless friends want to kill you. Unfortunately, much like being a cancer survivor or divorcee, being a parent is something you really don’t “get” until you’re in the throes. You can intellectualize the experience. You can understand the statements being made by parents– “I think I’d rather be dead”– but you can’t truly internalize these statements until you’ve been there. How do I know this? Because I spent 29 years pretending I totally understood when my friends told me they wanted to jump off bridges. Turns out, I did not understand. Not until my little toesies were gripping the edge of said bridge did I reflect back on those friends and think, “oh my god. you were not kidding.”
But this is the circle of life. It’s a series of epiphanies about how someone else felt and guilt that you did not react appropriately. Your relationship with your own parents improves mightily when you realize what an assbag you are for complaining about not having the perfect childhood. You’re lucky you came out alive. So long as no one tried to diddle you, you’re fine. Now move on.
The hubs and I aren’t reading any parenting books. Primarily we don’t care, but we also don’t need any standards set that we know we won’t meet. Sitting in a mommy’s group last week I listened to one mom cry (CRY!) because she read a book about making her baby sleep 12 hours by 12 weeks. It worked perfectly for her sister-in-law, but 12 weeks had come and gone and her baby was only sleeping 6-8 hours a night. She actually used the word “failure.” Meanwhile, elsewhere in the United States, a woman is being arrested because her child was found eating herself in a cage. Let’s employ a little perspective here. Your cashmere swaddled bundle of 8-hours-of-sleep joy has the memory of a goldfish. Cage girl is going to be fucked up. It’s highly unlikely she’ll forget that time she ate her arm.
Aging has (in my experience) little to do with wisdom and everything to do with perspective. Maybe perspective and wisdom are actually the same thing… (ZING!)
I look back at pre-baby Caroline and I miss her, but I also think she’s a dumb ass. I don’t blame her, I’d be a dumb ass if I were her too. (Ha. See what I did there?!) But pre-baby Caroline didn’t understand her own reality relative to what it was to become. There is a legitimate grieving period that takes place when you take on a small child. The old you is gone. And while your life will normalize, it’s not going to ever go back. You have to say goodbye. And that goodbye is a big ball of hard. It involves facing your mortality and understanding the cyclical nature of all things, but most of all it just sucks so hard to realize that you will likely never feel okay signing up for the Santa Speedo Run again. Shit ain’t right.
But, there’s a silver lining. Seriously. Your brain actually changes.
I spent nearly seventeen years throwing up my food. I joke that I liked to have my cake and throw it up too, but obviously eating disorders are no joking matter. (If you or someone you know is suffering, I encourage you to reach out. Life if too short to be living in constant fear of food.) It started when I was in first grade and continued well into my twenties. I will not lie to you, to this day I think the sick Caroline looked fucking phenomenal, but I also know how much turmoil lurked within and I know that I don’t have the emotional or physical energy to be 130 pounds ever again. I used to dream of being pregnant, not because I wanted kids, but because I wanted a break. I wanted air cover to eat. I wanted to be able to put something in my mouth and not have to explain to myself what I was going to do to make up for it. Or figure out how to throw up in a public place.
Now let’s fast forward.
Yesterday I was at the gym. I look terrible. I was there in a feeble attempt to kick start the rejuvenation of my body, but I could not help but be distracted by the form staring back at me in the mirror. To be clear, this is nothing new. I’ve been looking at this alien form for a few months now. When I look in the mirror, I see a body of smooth lines and clear, youthful skin has been replaced by… lumps. Deep purple stretch marks make an interstate map out of my huge, efficient breasts. If my nipples could talk they would tell me to fuck off. Their once pink color is gone. They are dark and National Geographic like. Hours on a breast pump has pulled and stretched them to awkward protrusions. They are cracked and sore and angry.
The stretch marks don’t stop there. My thighs– the Carsey wonders that once never touched– are now smooshed together like two obese people on a JetBlue flight. My stomach is jiggly and shaky and deformed. My arms have little wings. When I wear pants (or pant, singular, as only one pair fits) the excess Caroline bubbles over and makes my shirts catch. (Which is only made more attractive by my breasts tugging at the top.) All in all, I’m a train wreck. And the silver lining? I really just don’t care that much. Not in a “I’ve given up” kind of way, but in a way that acknowledges that I made the choice to go whole ass with the Ben & Jerry’s during my pregnancy and now I’ve got other shit to do. The gym simply isn’t my biggest priority. Not by a long shot.
And when I see skinny 23-year-olds prancing around half naked, I actually smile and think “you go girl! You walk around half naked in 43 degree weather.” Because I know that one day they will cross the bridge. They’ll find themselves staring at a foreign body in a mirror and thinking about how fucking hot and amazing they used to look and feeling bad about giving me stink eye when I rolled past them on the side walk with my bulky form and screaming baby. Every thing comes back around.
It’s still not easy to be a plus-sized version of myself, especially not when I have to go home for the holidays, but for now I sort of see my body as a recovering vessel. The small boy used it to create a perfect little environment for baking to optimal cuteness and then left me with some broke ass shit. And it’s probably not the last time he’s going to pull something like that.
September 17, 2013 § 3 Comments
After realizing that Zooey Dechanel was actually a disappointing guest on Conan and it seemed safe to transfer the small boy from my arms to the bassinet, I got into bed. I laid there for about thirty minutes before it became clear that I wasn’t going to be able to sleep until I wrote some things down– epically important things: things that cannot wait until the morning. (Plus by morning I’ll be fucking miserable because I didn’t get any sleep and the thought of writing anything will seem unfair and terribly hard.)
If something were to happen, there are plans for the small boy. He’ll go live with our best friends, the ones who know us well and know what we kind of life and lessons we would want him to have. It’s a surprisingly difficult conversation to have, not because your facing your mortality, but rather because you realize you have to tell your family that you love them, but not enough to let them raise your child. The hubs and I thought a lot about who the small boy would go to, but the choice was pretty clear. Certain friends know you better than your family, and in a completely different way, and it’s those parts of us that we want him to be exposed to. Even if we’re not here. Plus I always thought it was weird and creepy when people lived with their grandparents. (I also wondered if they woke up every morning just a smidge nervous that someone was dead. I would.)
But there are other things that the small boy should know, things that need to be stated, things that may fall through the cracks or be assumed but never said and I need to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Dear Small Boy. (Or maybe you are now Big. But to me you will always be small.)
I want you to have influences. So many influences: good, bad, beautiful, ugly, gay, straight, white, black… even Asian. Grow up knowing that you are a city kid, a Boston-born boy with East Coast sensibilities, but never be of this city, this coast, or this region. Remember that you have Texas and California deep in your heart and soul and knowing the south and west will be a part of you. Weigh them with equal merit– don’t judge accents, your Mimi and Gramps have them, don’t judge sparkly flip flips, your Gami owns 100 pair. Don’t believe that buildings and sophisticated streets are better than wide expanses of endless earth, just know that they are different. One day you can choose one over the other, but you’ll do so knowing that you could make a life in either. And even though your Mama has always hated California, you should give it a shot. They have nice weather.
Fall in love with people before gender, age, or ethnicity. If you promise to do this, I promise to love whomever you bring through the door. Be true to your feelings, but always remember that everyone has their own feelings. Navigating the angry sea of conflicting emotions is not for the faint of heart, so learn to say you’re sorry when you are and never let anyone tell you that your feelings don’t matter. People who say that deserve to rot in hell.
Speaking of hell, while I hope you don’t decide to be born again or Mormon, the journey of faith is one that you get to take on your own. Don’t fall victim to propaganda and even in the throes of salvation, try to keep an eye on objectivity. No matter what faith you choose– even if you choose none– I know wonderful people who can help you down your path. And if you decide to be an evangelical, practice your witness on the homeless people on Newbury, not your parents. Everyone has religious freedom around these parts.
Don’t buy cheap toilet paper. And don’t buy Scott. I think it’s very strange to wipe yourself with a toilet paper named like a boy. Charmin is for bear bottoms and the preferred tp of this household, but so long as you’re not using Scott or CVS brand or some other subpar nonsense you are free to choose among the name brands. (If you decide against Charmin, I think Cottonelle or Quilted Northern would be good choices.)
Buy Viva paper towels. I learned this from your great grandmother. If you find yourself in a retail establishment that doesn’t sell Viva, you can get by on a roll or two of Bounty. After that you need to just order them on Amazon. You get free shipping on the 12 pack if you’re a Prime member. When you’re older and are faced with hiring a cleaning person, you will find that they use WAY less when provided with Viva as opposed to the cheap alternatives. So really you’re honoring tradition and making a smart financial move. Which will matter to you, as you’re a Virgo.
Marry a Tampax girl and never trust a Kotex girl. Whores, all of them.
And unless she has a Masters Degree from Harvard or some sexual magic trick, be leery of girls who use applicator free tampons. There are bigger things we can worry about keeping out of landfills. That’s practically masturbation.
Even when women are running the world and men feel belittled and emasculated, always open doors and offer your chair. It’s not about equality, it’s about manners. And no matter how digital the world becomes, get a pen and write thank you notes. The fate of the written correspondence is on your shoulders. It’s a beautiful art, don’t kill it.
Small boy, your name is going to drive you bonkers. It will be mispronounced and misspelled your whole life. There will be days– maybe even a lifetime– when you curse your parents for not just naming you Arthur, but your name belongs to you for very good reason. Every story begins with an author. You have a whole life to write the story you want to be your own. Make choices that make you happy, but always make sure they make you proud of yourself. Be inspired, take the road less traveled, read books, listen to music you love, even if other people hate it, and if there is something you are passionate about, be truly passionate. Find something that matters to you, no matter how small, and believe in it. There is no meaning of life, but there is always meaning in intention. Make bold statements, deliberate choices, and be self aware, but never self conscious.
Do hard work that pays poorly for at least one summer. Do easy work that pays well for at least one year. Neither is reality. For the rest of your years and summers do work you love that pays fairly.
Should something happen to me, small boy, you probably won’t remember all of these things. You might forget to buy the right toilet paper or use the wrong brand of sour cream. These things are forgivable. So should something ever happen and we’re not there to remind you every single day, just try to remember this one thing:
That’s all we ever wanted.