I’ve had too much time on my hands for the past two months. Old habits are creeping back. I sleep too much. I eat lunch out too often. I obsess over things I want and sometimes buy them when I shouldn’t. I’ve been counting things and avoiding cracks but it isn’t alarming or OCD, just something for me to watch. I’m getting a little weird and I don’t like feeling weird. Too much time is almost worse than too little.
I had this boss years ago who was kind of a jerk but he did once say something perfect. He explained that when he first started the job his guns (an unfortunate analogy in these times, but still) were ablaze, cowboy fashion, and he was rarin’ to go. Two years later all they could do was go “pppppptttthhhhhppppp. ppppppttttthhhhhhhpppppp.” That’s how I feel right now. Deflated. A little despondent. Ugh, I think I’m having a mid-life crisis.
A person, well, this person, needs more adult conversation but I’m better at losing friends than keeping them so that can be a problem. I rely, as I’ve said on numerous occasions, heavily on my mother and sister and sometimes they aren’t available to chat. So I eat out. I go to our neighborhood thrift stores, and then I sit here doing fuck all. But that’s not really true; sometimes I shop. Last month my mom’s best friend gave me a gift certificate to an expensive store for my birthday and I bought a pair of nice black jeans. They look good, or at least better than the ones I’ve been wearing. When I got back I found discounted pairs online and bought them in two colors; a bright fluorescent green and a warm brick orange. They are snug without being tight. They are cozy, soft and beautiful and they make me feel attractive and put together which is no small feat. The first day I wore the green ones a Dominican man I know, a man who has never once given me a compliment, told me they looked good – that I looked good – and that was all the incentive I needed to race home to buy the only other two colors available in my size. Luckily I stopped at four pairs even though there are now more colors (oh, mulberry…)
Three weeks ago my kids both independently learned to ride two-wheelers just like that. In the midst of the pride and relief – I was feeling guilty that I hadn’t started to teach them – I had fantasies about starting to ride a bike again myself, something I haven’t done in ten years. I went to the basement to assess the condition my Rock Hopper was in. I bought it 24 years ago this July when I first moved to Boston. It looks like crap. It’s covered in dust and barricaded behind too much junk. The tires are flat and brittle. It isn’t pretty and it certainly isn’t sexy. I made the mistake of looking online at new bikes and became smitten. I wanted a bike. I wanted a DUTCH bike. I wanted a beautiful work of art of a bike. A hauler. A workhorse. I wanted it badly. They’re so beautiful with their fat white tires. With their ability to carry cargo or kids. They come in such lovely bright colors. I posted about it on facebook and daydreamed. I started to pine and lust after it the way I would with a bad crush. I resisted the urge (and insanity) and the desire has passed, thank goodness.
I wrote something and sent it out. An essay! I thought it might get published but it didn’t. I waited and waited and then got a very polite rejection email so I stopped writing. I entered a few contests with my photographs and nothing happened. I hoped I would be discovered but I haven’t been. Well-meaning friends post links on my facebook page to beautiful photo essays of people and their favorite objects – the subject I’ve been working on – by photographers who can travel to exotic places and know how to light things exquisitely. It makes my stuff look like crap so I’ve stopped photographing. It’s a pity that a tiny bit of rejection can put such a damper on one’s passion. I have to fight it. Fuck it. Really. Everyone deals with it. That will be my next project; toughen the hell up.
I got home from my first day at work yesterday and cried. It will take some getting used to but it will be okay. I will brighten the place up with a little plant, some drawings my kids have made me, and some photographs of my beautiful children. Maybe a small table lamp. The people are nice and the work will be something I enjoy; regularly updating a website, blog, and facebook page, and putting together and sending out weekly newsletters. I will answer the phone and I will open the door when the bell rings. I am not sure it’s where I thought I’d be at this age – cobbling together an assortment of jobs like I did in my twenties – but it gives me time to spend with my children and that’s what I’m after. It could be worse. Last weekend we went to NY for mother’s day. My brother Ralph and brother-in-law Tim politely listened to me talk about my anxieties about starting a job after not having had any real constraints on my time for 3.5 years. I complained about how the first day would be a long one. “How long?” my mom asked. “Six hours!” I answered. Ralph and Tim looked at me and just laughed. Oh please. Tim has to leave his family to work in NYC, two hours from home, and he works twelve-hour days. For weeks on end, when he’s busy, he only sees Catherine and their boys on weekends. My brother drives 70 miles to work and 70 miles home each day. I am being a baby and I will buck up.
Speaking of babies, my kids are great. I was complaining to our family therapist last night, in hushed whispers, about how I’m feeling like a failure. I’m barely getting by and it’s getting old. I’m getting old too. I am not sure who I am or what I want to be. He said “you are a mom, and just look at your children!” It helped me remember that the past year has been all about getting the three of us to a better place. We did it. We are here. I ran into the therapist they see at school recently and she gave me a giant hug. She got teary when she told me how extremely well they’re doing; how much progress they’ve made. They talk to her now, a lot, and everything they say is positive. They’re happy and engaged in their lives. We rarely yell or fight, though it certainly still happens now and again. Violet’s progress report was full of praise. “Violet continues to do very well. She is reading well above grade level and she got a high score on a fraction test. I am most proud of her social growth. She has learned to accept responsibility for her decisions and she can work in large and small groups. Violet, you have grown so much and it’s so nice to see you happy about it. You are moving to 3rd grade!”