Dear Husband,

This weekend we had an anniversary. Our 11th. To be fair, we got married so young that we should be having our 5th, but we did what we did and we had our 11th. We’ll be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary before we’re fifty. We’ll likely be too young, too close to paying for an enormous college bill, to afford that GIANT new diamond ring I totally deserve, but it’s fine. Since we’ll be so damn young at our 50th, I’ll just ask for an obscene one then. And I’ll still have strength enough to hold my hand up and make people feel uncomfortable by it’s sheer size.

Or I’ll just ask for a new toaster. Your needs become relative as you get older. You know what I mean?

We didn’t really do much of anything for our anniversary. We didn’t go on a trip or buy something huge. We went to dinner. You rolled your eyes while I took photos of our glorious looking cocktails, and I urged you to buy the Snap On hat with the logo of the restaurant. Which, in the end, you didn’t buy because the really unattractive and obnoxious girl across the bar from us bought it and it changed the way you thought about the whole thing. It wasn’t cool to own a hat from a bar you went to on your anniversary. It was dumb and touristy. Fair. I mean, it was a good hat, but I can understand the reasoning. (Besides, we can always drive back to Woburn and get one if you feel like you really can’t live without it.)

I haven’t been blogging a whole lot this last year. I’ve reasoned that it’s because I don’t have much to say, but something about this anniversary, this weekend with you (because the child was in Maine — woot!) made it abundantly clear that the reason I haven’t blogged isn’t because I don’t have anything to say: it’s because I have too much to say. I have so many things weighing, clinging, considering, and wondering in and on my brain at any given moment these days that I feel like I can’t say anything. I can’t do anything. My brain is like a sunburn, a blister, a wet tissue in that game Don’t Break the Ice. Anything — the smallest thing — can feel enormous. Happiness feels like it gives way to immeasurable sadness. The triumphs of our life and our marriage — and that goddamned adorable kid — are constantly juxtaposed by the tragedy of what feels like the entire world. Our bubble of seeming perfection is silly, trivial even, when compared to the enormous WTF of everything going on around us. Sometimes I feel like when I go to talk about joy, I end up speaking about sorrow. When I want to explain my pain, I can’t get past my anxiety. I feel a permanent lump in my throat. My swallowing is labored by the very weight of existence in our world. It’s so damn hard to focus here, on us, when so much is happening there. And there. And there.

I don’t mean to ramble. What I mean to do is keep you moving with my mental narrative. Once we were talking to someone in an airport in Bermuda. It was a woman who was there alone, celebrating her divorce. She said that they “just ran out of things to say to one another.” At the time we were so young and we talked so much and I remember thinking, “Jesus Christ, we will never run out of things to say to each other.” And the good news is that it’s true. You and me, kid, we’ll never run out of things to say to one another. That won’t do us in. But I never foresaw (how could I at 26?) that we’d have a different battle, rooted in the same silly thing: words. Sometimes you don’t stop communicating because you’ve run out of things to say. You stop communicating because you have too many things to say. Where do you start? How do you lean in to the vulnerability of communication and give everything you’ve got to make sure that you don’t end up some woman at an airport in Bermuda, telling young married couples that you ran out of things to say, when what you really mean is that you had too many things to say and you didn’t know how to say them? Because anger isn’t born of nothing, right? Divorces aren’t born of empty silences. They’re born of huge, deafening, full-to-bursting silences.

Well not us. I have some things to say.

I love you. Goddamn do I love you. I love how you’ve changed as we’ve aged. How you’ve gotten more confident, but also crankier. I love that you are constantly trying to be more than you were the day before. You’re a constant gardner. You learn, absorb, adapt (slowly), and change. Not all at once, and not without pain and suffering (mine), but you do. You stand your ground, but you’re not blind to the affects of your stubbornness. And you soften. (You did, after all, dress all six plus feet of your body in a giant blue dinosaur costume last Halloween. You were a dick about it, right up to the end, but you did it. Because WE were gonna be a family of fucking dinosaurs. And we were.)

I don’t know what the future holds and it scares me. And sometimes I take that out on you. I confused uncertainty about the world, about work, life, Author, my parents, for uncertainty about us. I know who we are. I know who we are almost more than I know who I am. Maybe because, after all these years, there isn’t really a me without you. We’ve been an us for so long that separating us would cause me physical pain. I’ve joked that real estate prices keep us together sometimes, but that’s only partially true. What keeps us together is knowing that the very beating of my heart is tied to the beating of yours. Sure, I’d go on living if something tragic and Kickstarter-worthy happened to you, but my heart would be heavier, quieter. It wouldn’t be a heart worth listening to. Our physical, emotional, and spiritual selves are all blended together in this homogenous unit. Like Bennifer, only neither of the Bennifers worked out. And Coreline was some creepy animated film. But same thing. We’re a Coreline. Part Corey, part Caroline. But neither either. Even when it seems that I am blatantly ignoring you, I’m not. (On a macro level. On a micro level I absolutely am. I’m ignoring you a lot.) Every decision I make in a day, from when to wake up to when to sleep factors you in. For starters, what would my living room look like in a world without you? I want to pretend it would be thoughtful and warm and meticulous, but it wouldn’t be. Because our living room is only thoughtful and warm and meticulous because we are, not because either one of us, singularly is. (And frankly, I think I’d just get drunk and order things at West Elm that I would later regret.)

I hate how we fight. Mostly because we don’t fight. We wait until we are sad about something else, something that has nothing to do with US and we put a mask on that thing. And we assign it to us. And then we fight about it. And we think we’re fighting about US, but we aren’t. We’re fighting about the world. And our anxiety. And the mental weight of being born frustrated 1st world liberals. And that shit is for real.

You know how I know? Because when it comes down to it, we have a plan. We are on a train. And we picked the car, the destination, the schedule. We are thoughtful together. Way more thoughtful than either of us could ever claim to be individually. Together we have a sense of self that is so much bigger than our individual senses of self. (Which is saying something. Because my sense of self is, admittedly, pretty big.) We don’t know What We Want. But we do know what we want. And that’s something. In this crazy, upside down world, any sense of direction, any semblance of a True North is a gift. It’s something to hold on to when everything feels like it’s going belly up. We have that, you and me. And when we lose sight of it, we know how to use a compass. We know how to ask the right questions, talk, and figure out where that damn star is again. That’s not an accident. We’ve worked at that. We worked through round one of our friends’ divorces. We have street cred.

We also have a kid who is great. And he’s not an accident either. He was born all eyes and heart, but we’ve helped cultivate in him a sensibility about the world that reflects what we want for him. What we want him to want for himself.

In 7 years, which isn’t so far away, I’ll have lived my life with you longer than my life without you. All my formative, young adult (and medium adult) years will be by your side. And I’m better for it. You don’t make me a better person, you encourage me to make me a better person. You encourage and discourage me in equal measure, but you also let me be me. You give me roots that enabled me to grow and branch out. I don’t need wings. I’m not trying to take flight. I can reach the sky without them.

I have so much to say to you, Mr. Beaulieu. One day, maybe I’ll run out of things to say, but only because my mind is gone, my words no longer summoned by the moving of my lips. And by then we will speak with our eyes. And my eyes will say to you, “I love you. This was totally worth it.”

But not today. Today, I’m still talking. I still have so much to say.

Love, Caroline

How to Kill Your Mother

I recently had to explain to my mother that dying, specifically dying when you want to, was a lot more complicated than having me (her daughter) smother her with a pillow when her faculties were gone.

It was Mother’s Day, so naturally our conversation drifted to her death and what role I would obviously play in it, when the time comes. “Well, Carolina, this seems very simple. When I become a burden– or foresee that I am going to become a burden– I will simply inject myself with something or have you give me a cocktail of something quick and lethal.” To be honest, I just assumed that my mother knew about Right to Die States. Turns out, not so much.

“Well, mother, here’s the thing. I can’t exactly give you the lethal cocktail.” She started to give me the “I changed your diapers…” speech, but I interrupted. “It’s not that I don’t want to give you the cocktail. Nothing would give me greater pleasure– in a completely selfless and dignity-protecting way– but you can’t help someone die in Massachusetts or Texas without going to prison. And while my selflessness seems boundless, it doesn’t exactly extend to going to prison. Especially if you won’t be around to put cash in my commissary account.”

She was horrified, but also still very much my mother. “Well then. We need a plan.”

At this point you may think that I’m feeling weird. But I’m not. Because it turns out that in these confusing times, where you can’t die by your own hand, and your health insurance will either be working too hard to keep you alive or not hard enough, a lot of families are having to have this talk. One co-worker of mine shared that she and her mother had a plan that involved the woods on a snowy afternoon. With a few gummies, likely, and some painkillers. Another confessed that she and her mom talked about a “final swim in the ocean.” (Which, frankly, are both excellent ideas and I feel angry that I didn’t think of them. Because I don’t think you’re allowed to steal a friend’s death plan.)

But planning your mother’s death with her help is challenging. Because what you’re actually tapping into is that black hole deep in your psyche that watches crime shows on CBS and thinks, “I could definitely get away with that.” And it’s dangerous to tap into that dark hole. Because it’s so sick and twisted. And fun.

Ha! You'll never catch me!

(YOU’LL NEVER CATCH ME, GIBBS!)

There’s an added layer of challenge, which is that I live on the other side of the country. So my mere presence at the crime scene will put me immediately in the suspect pool. Whatever highly skilled officer of the law Caldwell, Texas, has to offer is unlikely to let the slick Yankee head back to the coast before he closes the case. And there’s going to be some inherent bias because, let’s level with each other, Texans (specifically the men) don’t like a lady in a blazer. They think we are lesbians or trouble. Neither of which do they like.

So you have a mother (in the future) with quickly deteriorating faculties, an inability to really do the act herself (she’s weak and unable to do anything that involves real strength or dexterity), and we’ve agreed (because of my mother’s OCD that extends to the afterlife) that we cannot do anything that’s going to leave a mess. She knows I won’t do a good enough job cleaning it up before the reception that is likely to be held in her own home. Plus, no one will want to come to the reception if they knew the crime had taken place there. And that pesky, small town officer is likely to have wrapped the place up in police tape.

We chatted a bit about a wild animal encounter, but it could leave her alive and maimed and that would really be going from the frying pan to the fire. Snake bites are equally uncertain, but certainly easier to pass off as accidental. She’s a klutz, which may be our ace in the hole, but again, the margin of error is wide on that one and we don’t want to make the situation worse. We could move to a Right to Die state, but it turns out that the requirements are still more stringent than “I’m ready to get the fuck out of here.”

In the end, the lawyer’s daughter in both of us came out and we agreed that a notarized suicide note and the lethal cocktail was likely our best plan. It would keep me out of it, or at least create a long and landmark court battle. But it also left us with a big to-do: find a notary in the state of Texas willing to notarize a preemptive suicide note. (The Post Office, maybe?) Ironically my mother asked if there was a readily available cocktail that puts people down. I reminded her that she lives in the State of Texas. And they practically specialize in that cocktail. Right, right.

As for my role, I’m in charge of letting her know when she’s getting to that point. I said I’d find a notary.

I deactivated Facebook. Then I thought of something funny.

Saturday night I fell down a Syrian orphan black hole that started on Facebook. It pretty much ruined the next 48 hours of my life. (Which, if we’re being honest, is deserved. If children are drowning while trying to paddle inflatable rafts to 3rd world living conditions, I can have a bad day after looking at pictures of the whole ordeal from my air conditioned condo…) It’s not Facebook’s fault that the Syrian children are slipping into oblivion. It’s not Facebook’s fault that they don’t have access to housing, food, education, or medical care. But increasingly I realize that the only reason I am so inundated with all the terrible, bad shit that is happening in the world is because of Facebook. It’s also the reason I’m starting to dislike actual friends of mine OUTSIDE of Facebook. There are things I can’t unsee (your support for Trump) or get over (the STARK difference in opinion we have about #blacklivesmatter and what someone should or should not have to do during the National Anthem).

Now, we can argue reasonably that I need to stay on Facebook because I need to be subjected to this kind of thing. But here’s the thing: no. I don’t. Because there’s a tipping point. There’s a point at which the focus is so much on the horrible tragedies that I feel hopeless. I am no longer inspired by what I can do; I am defeated by what I can’t do. I also need to stop listening to the opinions of every person with a keyboard and focus my attention on finding information myself. I need to care about the sources of my content. I’m not even sure where people find accurate, unbiased content any more. Unless it’s content about pandas eating popsicles. That I can find.

Also, people are absurd and I’m tired of their bullshit. So there’s that.

I decided to deactivate my Facebook account for 60 days. It coincides with my need to cleanse and reset other parts of my life, as well. The holidays are coming and I need to take some time to be present for the next few months of my life. You know, be a fucking grown up.

Don’t misunderstand me, though. I love Facebook. I’m not one of those people who walks away with two middle fingers up, yelling about how Facebook is just a bunch of petty fucks and obnoxious stay at home moms justifying their days. (Sidenote: quit doing that. I don’t justify what I do all day, you don’t have to either.) Unlike people who get down on themselves because of the rampant visual success of their friends and high school classmates, I own it. I own that my life is at least 60% worse than my Facebook friend set. And I’m okay with that. Facebook is a curation. You actually get to decide what to show people. If you don’t like what you’re presenting, I’d suggest changing it. (If I think you’re a hot mess, it’s likely because you’re posting a lot of hot mess-ishness. STOP.)  I like creating a caricature of myself that I get to feed with posts and comments. For these next 60 days, my blog is going to be like the tree that fell in the woods. Nearly 70% of my blog traffic comes from Facebook referrals. This decision takes me from relative obscurity to complete obscurity. It’s an unexpected blow to my self esteem.

At 11:30am I deactivated. Head’s up, Facebook makes it REALLY hard to deactivate. So hard. They have all sorts of pop ups explaining why your decision is a bad one. (If you have a weak will, you won’t make it to the end.) One of them is that you should not actually deactivate. Thanks, FB. You should just log out. Wha? Then all I have to do is log back in. They also remind you that you won’t be connected to all these amazing people. And then they tell you who they are and give you examples of the prime content you’re missing. Look what Erin is doing RIGHT NOW that you will miss if you leave! They really lay it on thick. Just getting to the actual deactivation is an act of god.

By 11:36am I felt the huge, social media-sized hole in my life. I felt like I’d quit smoking. WHAT WAS I GOING TO DO WHEN I WAS BORED? Be bored, apparently. Wonder what that’s going to be like. (I’m also currently between episodes on Candy Crush, so I don’t even have that to occupy me. I cannot do anything in the bathroom at work right now except for pee. It’s like freshman year of high school. Only without copying Jenni’s calculus homework in the handicapped stall.)

At 12:24pm I got a text of a horrifying looking featherless bird that was trending. Apparently I was missing some BIG SHIT on Facebook. Thank god for friends.

At least 16 times between 11:30 and 1:30 I thought of something hilarious that I wanted to post. Because obviously those things would make people LIKE ME MORE. But I couldn’t. I had to just think my funny thoughts and keep them in my head. Where they will likely fester and then cause me an aneurism.

Then I checked Candy Crush. Confirming that I still have 33 hours before the next level unlocks.

Then I thought about how much more present and thoughtful I am going to have to be. I’m going to have to put effort into making the people in my physical life connect with me. I don’t have an online alter-ego where people will always talk and respond and gratify me. OH SWEET CHRIST.

Wonder if my cell phone battery will last longer? 

Lunch helped distract me for a bit. I’ll probably need to call my therapist by EOD tomorrow to get more Xanax to cope with how many events I’m missing because I just don’t know about them.

What if no one ever invites me to anything again? 

Are other people as upset about the weather today? Or is there actually bad weather where they are? 

Who am I? 

What is the meaning of life? 

59.5 days to go…

 

 

We got this.

Ten years ago today, we got married. I was twenty-two.

Here’s the thing about being twenty-two: you don’t know anything. For all the pain you may have suffered (real and imagined), life experiences you’ve had, foods you’ve eaten, problems you’ve solved, fundamentally you don’t know anything. You may have theories, but you don’t have knowledge. Because you simply haven’t been here long enough. (And before we gather our pitch forks and start being mean to me, let’s take a step back. I value twenty-two year olds and think they offer a lot of enthusiasm and perspective. After all, I was one once.)

Truth be told, I don’t know what I thought about marriage back then. I know I wasn’t afraid of it. I didn’t feel anxiety about my choice. And that could have been because I was absolutely making the right choice, but it also could have been because I didn’t really understand the choice at all. I thought this guy was great. Sure, the rest of our lives sounded amazing. Kind of the same way eating ice cream for the rest of your life sounds amazing when you’ve had 3-4 bites. You’re completely incapable of really thinking about what it might mean to eat that for the rest of your life. It just sounds like a really great idea at the time.

Fortunately for me, it was the former. But there are many, many times it could have been the latter. Because marriage is the most natural unnatural thing in the world. Marriage is your greatest ally and your most cunning enemy. It lifts you up, carries you forward, but it also challenges you to grow and change and adapt. It challenges you to own up to your choices and your behavior. Marriage is a mirror reflecting back the image of what two people have done to one another, for better or worse.

If and when you become a parent, its so easy to see how your actions shape another. You see how your anger makes a child cower or become angry himself. You see how your joy and lightheartedness opens them up, makes them feel safe and happy. But as grown ups, I think we forget that the same is true of our spouses. Who we are affects them. Our belief in them becomes their belief in themselves. Our words have weight and meaning.

For my part, I know I’m a challenge to be married to. I’m fiercely independent. I struggle with compromise and collaboration. I can be selfish. A lot of my life is in words that live in very public places (welcome). I process quickly and act even quicker. I favor efficiency over thoroughness. I don’t like to be touched. (IT’S SO CONFINING!)

And then there’s the husband. He’s got his own list of weaknesses, but he is also the naturally more pensive of the two of us. He is metered and thoughtful. He takes time to consider options, outcomes, and possibilities. He wants there to be an “us” rather than two “mes” living in our house. He pushes me to slow down, quiet down, sit down, and be present.

And sometimes I want to kill him for it.

In theory, a marriage is a celebration of differences and how they can compliment two people. But differences are often misunderstood, vilified, and blamed for our inabilities to communicate. Ten years ago, I didn’t know what marriage was. I only knew what getting married was. I knew the logistics– one house, one life, do stuff together, maybe have kids, get old, the end. At twenty-two I was incapable of unpacking what that meant. I didn’t understand the responsibility of promising to stay with someone always. I didn’t realize I would change, or he would change, or our relationship would change. We couldn’t see the future. That’s the gamble of marriage. You bet on who you are at that moment with a necessary blindness for who you will become. That’s some risky shit.

Ten years from now I expect to laugh at my naivety today, but for now, there are some things I think I finally know. Maybe.

  1. You match each other annoying habit for annoying habit. If you want to start throwing stones at that glass house, be prepared the open the 7th seal and have ALL your annoying habits listed for you during a drunk argument. You’re both annoying.
  2. If you don’t get a cleaning lady, you’ll likely get a divorce. They are exceptions, but not many.
  3. There are things that you can’t take back. And while they may be forgiven, even forgotten, you will remember you said them. In some ways that’s worse.
  4. There are days that the logistics of divorce are the only thing keeping you together. And that’s okay. Sometimes we need the reality of real estate prices to buy us the time we need to calm the fuck down.
  5. People change from the day they are born until the day they die. Everyone. Your choice is to fall in love with the heart, adapt to the mind, and accept the body. Otherwise, your marriage will fail.
  6. Marriage is hard. So, so hard.
  7. Never let a week go by without looking your spouse in the eye and asking them honestly how they are doing. Like legitimately. Like, how is your journey on this earth?
  8. If you stop making out, it will eventually get weird and then when your spouse does eventually stick their tongue in your mouth again you will have a reaction that scars them for life.
  9. Acknowledge the difficult stuff. Say it out loud. Many marriages end because of the assumption that people can read minds.
  10. Stop comparing. Everything. Anything. Yes, someone does have a better marriage than you. And your kid is cuter. SO THE FUCK WHAT.
  11. Try to have sex. More of it than you want to or feel is necessary.
  12. Find a good babysitter <if applicable>. You stay a parent even if your child hates you for leaving them on a Friday night. You don’t stay a spouse if you lose your connection by remaining consumed by the duties of life.
  13. Don’t drink too much on weeknights. It starts a chain reaction of tiredness, misery, and agitation that leads to fights where people say things like, “WHY THE FUCK DO WE HAVE THESE GODDAMNED THROW PILLOWS?” and other meaningless, but vaguely hurtful, things.
  14. Be a good team. At home, in life, and at parties.
  15. Make sure you’re your spouses biggest fan. Because if you’re not, something has gone wrong. (And that foxy 21-year-old at his/her office is gonna be and then you’re gonna get dumped.)
  16. Laugh.
  17. Don’t start a blog. Definitely don’t start a blog where you talk about your life.
  18. Work really fucking hard to stay in love.
  19. Say I love you, but only if you actually mean it and not because you’re being a dick. Because I’ve done that and it’s received very poorly.

I’m a better person because I’m married. Personal growth is hard. Being reminded (lovingly) about your shortcomings is hard. But better to have it coming from someone you love than some anonymous asshole on the internet.

Corey Beaulieu, I love you. It has been a pleasure to spend these last ten years as your wife. You are half of all the good things about me and I hope you know that without you, I’d be a hot mess in a one bedroom with a lot of cats, eating Prego out of a jar with a spoon. That kid of ours is something else. We did so good. I hardly recognize the faces of those kids ten years ago, but I think I like our old mugs better anyway. You’re my favorite asset. 

 

I ruined you before 3.

Hey, kid. One day you’re going to learn stuff about your childhood that I’m sure you’re going to insist I explain to you. Things you’re certain ruined you, and you’ll probably be right, and I’ll have lost the sharp clarity of my reasoning over the years. So I figure I should write it all down now. Save us both the heartache.

Ruining you didn’t take long. By all accounts, I’d completely fucked you up by three. I didn’t wait until you were a vulnerable teen. I did it young, when you were still too young to ever have a chance.

This morning I read an article about how screen time is going to turn you into a homicidal junkie. Those hours I let you watch Finding Nemo and play that bug game that keeps you happy and quiet while I have a glass of wine and try to connect with my husband, it’s ruined you. You’re going to turn into an antisocial dick with no interaction skills. You’ll never date. You most certainly won’t ever have sex. Your father and I will house you and your collection of black socks and vintage Nintendo sets in our basement until you are imprisoned for life for a crime that could have been avoided if I just didn’t give you that screen. So I’m sorry about that.

Also, you have a TV in your room. You probably don’t want to hear the speech about how our house isn’t huge and there is only so much kid space and we wanted your room to be a place that kids could hang out, play, watch movies, AND STAY OUT OF THE ADULTS WAY WHILE WE TRIED TO TALK, but I can see how that doesn’t matter. We never should have put that TV in your room. If I’d have known it would keep you from getting your first job out of college, I’d obviously have made a different decision.

I stopped breastfeeding at nine months. You wont get into medical school because of it. I tried to make it okay by buying your formula direct from Germany, but I can understand how that seems like a cop out. What I should have done was continue to pump. Which I did. After that first 4-day-stay in the hospital with 5 clogged ducts, I kept after it. I hooked myself up to that machine for another six months, but in the end I couldn’t take it much longer. I was working these insane 12 hour days and commuting and you were spending so much time with the nanny. When I got home, I had to go straight to pumping instead of hanging out with you, so I stopped. Obviously I’ll write whatever letters to admissions offices on your behalf, but in the end, the damage is done. You’ll likely amount to nothing because of my selfish decision.

Let’s talk about your blanket. I read a study the other day about how kids with blankets after infancy are actually just emotionally crippled. They lack internal coping skills and can’t fully develop into productive adults. Women find these kind of men repulsive, which leads to feelings of sexual inadequacy. That wasn’t my intention. You love that damn blanket and its gotten you through some tough times. That blanket had you sleeping through the night at 3 weeks old. And when your dad and I had to leave you with strangers for 12-hours-a-day, your daycare report always said that you were happy and social as long as blanket was there. It may be hard to understand, but at the time we wanted you to feel safe and happy. We weren’t thinking about you as a sexually frustrated and socially ostracized adult. And that was short sighted. We should have taken away your blanket and left you there alone. What dumb, naive, first-time parents we were.

I don’t allow your toys out of your room. You’re not allowed to drag endless amounts of kid shit around the house, marking our whole house as yours. I’ve heard a lot of parents and therapists talk about how this will stifle your creativity. Your inability to adequately spread your thoughts around the house will lead you to be a CPA. God knows I didn’t want to raise a financial planner, but I needed to maintain something for myself. When you’re chained to your desk at tax season, cursing my name, I’ll understand. I should have known better. I should have given you more.

On your first birthday, I gave you real cake. It wasn’t made with applesauce or mashed potatoes. It was cake. Out of a box. I sprinkled it with cancer and type two diabetes and set it in front of you like the lousy parent that I am. I wanted to see you smash it and taste it and get super excited about the sugar rush. (Which you did.) But that was a silly memory. A moment in time that wasn’t worth poisoning you against beets and steamed broccoli. I never should have done it. But I did. And it’s done.

I let you drink a lot of juice. Not from concentrate or with sugar added, but juice nonetheless. In the morning I let you have green juice and after school I even let you drink chocolate milk. You eat about 16lbs of green vegetables a day, but those don’t matter. This isn’t about moderation, it’s about the shame and guilt I should feel for giving you juice. So let’s stay focused on that.

I bought you stuff and said yes when I was too tired to say no. So you won’t have a healthy relationship with material goods.

I was honest with you about money from the time you could talk. So you’ll obviously have a childhood riddled with anxiety and concern over the cost burden you add. Then be a hoarder.

I put you in timeout a lot. And let you cry. One time I even shut the bathroom door so I wouldn’t have to listen to your INSANE screaming. But I’ve since read that it causes you shame and you’ll never be able to express yourself emotionally. So, again, I’m sorry.

I referred to you by your gender. A boy. You had a penis so we went with it. You’re welcome to change your mind later, but frankly it was too confusing to try to wait it out and it seemed cruel to call you “it.” I can see now how narrow minded and confining that choice can seem, but yellow is my least favorite color and, at the time, you seemed just fine being a boy.

The list of things I did to ruin you is so long that I could go on forever. And anything I’ve forgotten will pop up in my inbox or newsfeed. Tomorrow I’ll get an article about what I did wrong or how I ruined you in a new way. I know we’re using the wrong sunscreen, bath products, toothpaste. We don’t eat enough organic and I think you had something with red dye in it last week. I’ve let your shoes get too tight, I once used real detergent instead of the eco-shit (that doesn’t work) because I’d just spent $36 on a shirt and you immediately got watermelon on it. I drank beer while I was pregnant. I ate sushi. I yelled loudly while I was pushing, so your entrance wasn’t the silent sanctuary that many psychologist believe is best.

But, kid, I swear to God we love you. I promise you that every day we wake up wanting to make you better, even if that means doing the hard work of making ourselves better. We are human, and we’ve fucked up many, many times, but the road is long. Someday you’ll love someone so much you’ll ruin them too. And I only hope I’m still around so we can have a beer and laugh about how hard it is to love someone so much.

 

Moderation, right?

I’ve recently been following a lot of fitness stuff on Instagram because I am attempting to suck the energy and motivation from these happy, skinny people and use it to force myself to quit being such a miserable fat ass. It works sometimes. A lot of times it doesn’t work at all. I start my morning (after commuting to the garage), riding the bus to my office and scrolling through photo after photo of egg whites, protein powder, neon colored workout gear, and high ponytails. #mondaymotivation #eatclean #getafterit #notimelikethepresent #eattolive #bethechange #gogirl #thintastesbetter #fit #imhot– the hashtags are endless and one of my favorite parts. I’m pretty sure I could start a satirical workout gear line based on hashtags. Because I definitely need some lycra leggings with #squatbitch written all over them. (BRB, I obviously just found my calling.)

But I digress. My new favorite is stumbling upon insanely fit, chronic selfie takers (who apparently own NOTHING else but coordinating sports bras and shortie shorts) who answer questions of from their fans in their IG posts. “People are constantly asking me: do you eat cake? YES! Yes, ladies. I LOVE cake. I don’t deprive myself of ANYTHING. But I do LISTEN to my BODY and do what makes me FEEL good. Sometimes that’s REST. Sometimes that’s a crazy WORKOUT. AND SOMETIMES IT’S CAKE! #eatcake #nodeprivation #fitmom” …or something like that. Occasionally I’m tricked by these posts and I find myself spending a hot second being like, “OMG. She really is just like me. She eats cake and is thin and there’s hope for me.” And then one of two things happens…

  1. The thin, fit lady follows up her cake proclamation with some BULLSHIT recipe for her favorite cheat cake and it looks something like this: 

Piper’s Perfect Cheat Cake

Serves: 1/2 a person

1/2 cup exotic nut “flour” (sometimes I use Kuelalala flour from the highest peaks of Japan– but only if I have to!)

2 cups gluten-free, cruelty free, organic oats

1/2 cup pureed acai berries (organic or nothing!)

3 TBSP coconut oil

1 TBSP macadamia nut butter (you can make this the night before)

16 organic avocados (buy local; I pick mine from my avocado tree in the back garden)

9 TBSP chia seeds (I can’t seem to keep these in the house– no matter how much I buy!)

3 dates, pitted

1 cup pumpkin milk

2 tsp cinnamon (ground yourself)

1/8 tsp organic, local maple syrup

Instructions: It’s so easy, y’all! Glaze the avocados with the maple syrup and roast for 3 hours on 250 until they begin to chant Om Shanti from the oven. NOT A SECOND LONGER. Simmer the pumpkin milk with the cinnamon and dates until it smells like a vegan Christmas party. Throw everything except the chia seeds and acai berries into a Vitamix Pro series and puree until completely smooth. If you need to sneak some batter, I totally understand. (But remember, that’s one less bite you get later! SACRIFICES!) Pour into a loaf pan– don’t panic if the consistency is “brick-ish.” Bake for 26 seconds at 325 to allow the flavors to marry. Let it cool and then ice with acai berry puree and sprinkle with chia seeds.

There you have it! My all time FAVORITE cheat cake. So good. Reminds me of the cupcakes my mama used to make!

(Obviously her mother was a loveless hippie with the kitchen skills of a cockroach. But whatever.)

2. I remember that when these ladies cheat, they do so once every 6-7 days.

Six days of eating roughage and egg whites, working out twice a day, and freezing to death in those sports bra outfits,  and they earn a fiber cookie and a half glass of zinfandel.  We’re not talking about moderation. Moderation is knowing that you should never go for four glasses of red on a weeknight. (Because only people who really hate themselves allow for that to happen.) This is something else. If I make it through breakfast and lunch without eating something completely shitty, I feel like I’ve earned something by 3 PM. That feels moderate. And I’m warm and comfy in my modern muumuu.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not disparaging these amazing women (and men) who have iron self discipline and bodies like gods. It’s really something. But like all media, I have to be really, really careful not to confused their goals and outcomes with my own, and therefore not confuse their habits with my own. I’ll likely never be skipping around town in a bra and wind shorts. (And if I did, the husband would have me committed.) I haven’t done that since the late 90s and even then it wasn’t my best look. I’m 100% sure that my before and after photos will not look anything like 99% of these folks. Not because I couldn’t (I couldn’t, realistically, but physically it’s probably possible if I REALLY committed), but because I’m not in that place in my life. Plus I’ve yet to find the Instagram account of the crazy fit gal who works 50 hours a week, commutes 3 hours a day, has kids, and still has friends who like hanging out with her. Because, let’s be honest, no one likes a sober gal who eats fiber cookies and talks about deadlifts.

So for now I’ll keep riding the bus, liking the photos, drawing inspiration from these otherworldly humans, and collecting design ideas for my activewear line. Starting with the sports bra emblazoned with #lovemycookies.

 

 

 

 

 

Two beers and an untold number of cookies

When I met my husband 12 years ago, I was a wee thing. A child. I’d had a string of completely insignificant relationships with random boys, but I was always just “one of those girls.” I didn’t really date. Partially my mother scarred me for life, implying that I would become knocked up and poor if I ever let a boy see my boobs, and partially I just never really liked it. I felt painfully awkward going on first, second, third, fourth– all dates. (I once insisted in sleeping in all of my clothes at a guys house. Like in his bed, in jeans, with my socks on. I turn crimson every time I think about it. Girls, listen up, sex is not that big of a deal. Don’t be a whore, but for Christ’s sake, please don’t shack up in a guys bedroom in all of your clothes and disappear through the fire escape after he’s asleep. You can’t recover from that. He’ll never call.)

When I met the husband, it was instantly different. I didn’t want to date him, I wanted to be his other half. I wanted to skip over all the awkward dating (we did), the boobie gazing (we didn’t), and arrive at the comfortable, compatible, for always stuff. I’d found my person. BOOM. Let’s move on.

Part of our courtship was fueled by an newly awakened desire to take care of another person. I wanted to make him happy. It was like a tortured, romantic fulfilling of Maslow’s hierarchy. I wanted to feed him, shelter him, clothe him. I wanted him to be happy and carefree and I would do all sorts of very loving, very out of character things to ensure those things were true. The biggest thing I did was cook.

I cooked things out of cookbooks. There were courses and sauces. I made dinner almost every night. After I was 21, there was wine. We got into a rhythm. I was the dinner maker, the grocery shopper, the planner. And that was that.

But here’s the thing… As it turns out, I really don’t like dinner. I don’t like making dinner. I think, more accurately, I don’t like to have any responsibilities after 6pm. Having a child was a real kick in the dick in this area. They need all sorts of things at all hours of the day and night. So Aut kind of puts me at my quota. By the time I commute home after a full day of work, orient myself in my house, and put all my shit away, I basically want to do the ABSOLUTE minimum between that moment and when I get into bed. Even if that means eating questionable cottage cheese over the sink and calling it dinner. My priorities are different now than they were over a decade ago.

When the husband is gone or busy, I get almost giddy. I think about the complete zero dinner I’m going to have and I’m set free. Calorically, it’s also a boon. If I don’t have to waste calories on proteins and health carbs (eye roll), I can use them all on a bottle of wine or sixteen pieces of chocolate. I can also just eat three spoonfuls of almond butter and go read for the rest of the night. Fuck. Yeah.

The bigger challenge is that I’ve started to feel anger towards dinner. Dinner mocks me and steals my time. When the husband says something like, “so, what do you think we should eat this week,” I get a little rage-y.

NOTHING. I want to eat NOTHING. I want to open the fridge and fine random treasures and eat them indiscriminately over six hours. A piece of cheese. A few nuts. A bite of something that’s been in the fridge since… who knows. I don’t want to be tied to a single, well balanced plate, for GOD SAKE. As for that child of ours, he can take a page out of American Childhood and have a bowl of cereal and some disappointment.

But that’s not how grownups apparently act. We have to meal plan. We have to shop. We have to prep things. We have to eat dinner. We have to feed our children. Ugh.

This is actually the number one thing I fantasize about when I think about my impending mental breakdown and my move to a ramshackle cottage on the outskirts of Reno. Sure, I’ll be living in squalor and painted as one of those disgusting women who left her child out of selfishness, but I will eat the shit out of nothing every. single. night. I’ll probably never go to the grocery store again. It will be magical. In it’s own sad way.

But this is actually a story about marriage. About how the precedents we set (even subconsciously) at the beginning of our relationships start to define our roles and our interactions. And even though nothing is set in stone, it’s hard work to accept the ways you’ve changed, harder still to accept the ways in which your partner has changed, and even harder still to break these cycles and find new normals. My husband doesn’t (by any stretch of the imagination) expect me to cook dinner, but the scheduling, rituals, and ingrained habits that have to change if I decide to write dinner out of my life are bigger than not cooking any more. There would have to be a shift in responsibility, a reallocating of duties and expectations. And that is really difficult to do in a marriage.

And dinner is a small thing. When I think back at the girl I was then and the boy he was, our paradigms were defined by such narrow experience of the world. Our belief systems have changed, our goals have changed, and at every step we’ve had to reassess, acknowledge, and make decisions about our relationship and our dynamic. It’s hard work. Necessary, but hard.

Twelve years ago, dinner was my language. In all the years since, I’ve found new ways to show my husband that I want to take care of him. (Or maybe I haven’t. You’d have to ask him. I could have also just become one of those drag wives.) And his languages have changed too. Frankly, he used to agree with me a lot more. But we make a choice, like all married couples, to keep trying to translate these languages into insights about where we are in life, what we need, and where we are floundering. Sometimes we figure it out. Sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we eat dinner. And sometimes we don’t. And like all things, it’s a compromise.

Some nights it’s a big kid meal, and other nights it’s two beers and an untold number of cookies.

 

 

Note: our child gets fed. So calm down.