Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Let me explain...No, there is too much. Let me sum up.

Dear Nick,

I woke up this morning thinking about how to write about 14 years of marriage.

When I was younger, even past the age where I thought my freckles would magically disappear when I was all grown up, I believed that marriage would make me happy. Like, the fabric of my universe would fundamentally alter and I'd be happy.

Even though I was unhappy much of the time--something that would change with therapy and meds. But not for years and years.

But marriage is like moving; wherever you go, there you are, and you can't escape yourself. And marriage is unlike moving in that you're you, with all your own whatevers, having to try to build a compatible life with another human with all of their own whatevers. 

And then you add small humans into the mix, and the various stresses of jobs and life, and harmony becomes further complicated.

It would've been helpful for me to know ahead of time that in our marriage we could have tremendous, enraged, yelling disagreements and still ultimately be OK. 

I wish someone had explained to me that there could be an entire year that would suck, but then a really good year could follow it.

Recently a photo from our trip to Maine in 2014 popped up. We were laughing, looking so happy. And I remember what a horrible time you and I were having that summer. In fact, that whole year was wretched. 

We discussed divorce. And then decided to affirmatively work on our relationship.

That was six years into marriage, and here we are eight years later.

Which is not to say that it's all been sunshine and puppies. More that we have ups and downs but agree that it's something we both think is worth working on.

Because, jeez, loving someone and being harmoniously married to them are two different things.

At some point you told me that me joking about stabbing you really bothered you. So I no longer joke about it in front of you.

(Although please understand that I don't actually trust women who never admit to feelings like this.)

But, anyway, the other night we were sitting on the couch annoyed with each other about, I don't even know, something, and you made a Lisa face and said in a falsetto, "I'm going to stab you!"

I laughed and laughed. I don't honestly know what we'd do if we didn't find each other funny.

Today it's been 14 years since we stood up in front of so many loved ones and promised to love each other forever and ever or something along those lines. I loved our simple vows; I just don't seem to have a copy.

Honestly, I think the idea of committing forever is a daunting one at the outset. I see how it promotes societal stability, but practically speaking, it's kind of weird.

Which is not to say that my goalwhich I know is our shared goalisn't forever. Our hope is till death does us part. We sometimes joke about the other going first and what we're going to do when that happens, and other people don't seem to find those conversations as funny as we do.

But back to forever: it's more like how do you pick one person whose jokes you'll want to hear, whose hand you'll want to hold, whose air you'll be willing to breathe for the rest of your life?

It's such a leap of faith.

And then a lot of work. I mean, I suppose if it's work to be together at all, then it's just the wrong thing. But it's work to communicate effectively. And to listen to the other person and try to understand where they're coming from.

And all the compromise. My hell, the compromise.

I think what I find most important, and maybe most interesting, is the ability to see you for who you are and accept all of you despite the parts that annoy or frustrate me.

The things I love and admire about you are the easy things.

This is not something I thought about prior to marriage.

I didn't anticipate having to grow so much. I had no idea I'd need to learn so many skills in order to advocate for what I want and actually hear-not just listen towhat you want. I didn't think about needing to work as a team to achieve shared goals, like raising secure children.

Who knew we'd need to work so hard to build something together? I'm still my own whole person, as are you, and then our marriage is this whole entire, I don't know, thing unto itself.

I don't actually care about cut flowers or chocolates or fancy dinners. Gifts, as it turns out, are not my love language.

I don't know what other marriages are like, or what other people like about their marriages. But one of the things I appreciate so much is knowing that you always, always have my back. I'm independent, but I'm not alone. 

We are in it—and what "it" is variestogether.  

What I want is to be seen and heard and loved for who I am. Because of and despite who I am, as an entire, multifaceted person. I want to feel secure in the knowledge that that love is not predicated on me looking or behaving a certain way.

And in this, I have what I want. (Although I'd never turn down chocolate. Or a ticket to Cartagena.)

I love you. Happy 14.

Lisa

Sunday, August 14, 2022

And now I am 53

Yesterday was a glorious day for a birthday.

I like to write a birthday post on the day, but the entire day was just so busy.  Well, the entire day up until 4:00 pm, at which point I commenced celebrating.

And I have learned that I do not have the fortitude to drink with a Russian.

Nick and I are currently headed to Maine, so we spent much of the day preparing to go, and getting the house/dog sitters acquainted with the house and dog. 

Plus I had to bake a cake. And get ready for my wee party. 

Initially I was going to let my birthday pass mostly unremarked upon, but a couple friends said I just had to celebrate in some small way. Which, honestly, I wanted to but I guess I needed some prodding. 

So on Thursday I sent an email to a few friends recognizing the last-minuteness of the situation and inviting them for afternoon drinks and snacks and cake.

The fact is that I'm an inviter, and I have great taste in people, (really, I do). And even though I regularly loathe humanity, I seem to meet amazing people with some frequency. 

That said, I'm also not a very good organizer. So being a disorganized inviter, I tend to wind up preparing for large parties in a state of utter anxiety.

Fortunately, Nick is a terrific organizer, and ultimately our parties turn out well because the people are so interesting and we have lots of food and drinks.

But! Being that it is still Covid times, and this is the first party we have had, and we all needed to fit in the shade of the umbrella on our deck, I kept it very small. 

Honestly, limiting a list is something that takes effort. Much like how I have to focus hard on the amount of popcorn kernels I pour into the pot so that I don't wind up with twice the pot capacity when it pops.

I've only managed the appropriate amount once or twice.

Anyway.

After a couple weeks of the kind of heat and humidity that gives a bad name to summer in DC, it was suddenly and inexplicably perfect. I mean, I guess it is explicable, in that I heard on NPR that this weather is coming all the way from Greenland (I think? Somewhere very north and cold.).

So instead of being soaked the moment you leave the house and then slogging down the sidewalk dripping, the morning was actually chilly! Or, maybe not for most humans, but my friend Meg and I like to text each other about how cold it is when it drops below 80.

I don't mean to go on about the weather but it's been a big topic because the heat has gotten so hot. Somehow we have been talking about how hot it is every single day. It's been so hot.

Not, like, Spanish vacation hot where the heat was coming straight from Africa we had no AC and I took to drinking first thing in the morning right after my coffee because everything was so hard. Or maybe it has been that hot, but we do have AC and no beach so we just stay inside.

Further anyway:

This past year has been one of emotional growth for me. 

You know how however you feel is your reality, whether or not it's factually real, and no matter how much your reality doesn't line up with other people's?

Like, not total fantasy, but maybe your perception of yourself and your place in the world is a yellow circle, and other people's perception of you is a red circle, and while there is some percentage of orange where they overlap there's still plenty of separation as well.

Inconvenient but true.

So, I think my biggest revelation is that I have always been loved, and never actually been alone, no matter how isolated I felt. So many people reassured me that I was loved and cared for, but there were many periods where I didn't actually believe that.

In my awake life, I feel confident that I'm loved, and that I'm surrounded by people who care about me.

In my dreams, I'm still regularly abandoned, and entirely alone.

Sometimes while still asleep I can remind myself it's not real, that it's just a dream. And sometimes I can't, and I awaken upset.

So I suppose I'm still processing. But on the whole doing so much better.

This was also the year I discovered the magic of Crocs. Who knew they were so cute and comfortable?

India and I share, and we've now gotten my mom into them as well.

Both kids have been at camp all summer, and while I'm so happy for them, their prolonged absence has been hard. I mean, yes, it's been a tremendous luxury to go to yoga every evening and not worry about dinner. Or to have a last minute have a date with Nick.

But my gosh, I miss them.

When they were younger and the physical and emotional demands were relentless, I fantasized about a kid hotel kind of like how you can board your pet for an extended period of time. Just for a break. 

But we have had an extended break, and I really miss their company. They're funny and interesting and old enough to be independent but still young enough to want to spend some time with us.

Nick and I pick them up on Tuesday, and I cannot wait to hug those little humans. Or big humans, rather, as Jordan is taller than me, and from photos it looks like he's grown more this summer.

Also, since we only communicate through letters, I get tidbits of information, and then I want more, but the subsequent letter doesn't necessarily provide the next installment. Like, why did Jordan and his tent-mates get in big trouble? What kind of trouble? Who is the mean girl in India's cabin? Did they ever figure out who stole Jordan's magic cards? 

The kids get candy once a week at camp, and our last request from Jordan was to send him candy disguised as something else. 

I'd sneak a shiv into prison for that kid, but on the whole I'm a first-born rule follower, and I'm most certainly not sending contraband sweets and getting in trouble with Aunt Laura.

And that's all I have to say about that.

Friday, July 08, 2022

Like a handprint on my heart

Sometimes you luck into situations, people, places with no particular intention. 

And they change you in some way, small or even fundamentally.

Later you have to think long and hard to remember how your life was before.

Back when I was internet dating like a second job, married friends would occasionally suggest that I was trying too hard.

"It's because you're looking. You need to stop looking."

"You'll meet someone when you least expect it. That's how I met my husband." 

They'd say some version of this.

One suggested I lower my standards.

And I'd silently be all fuck you very much and discuss with my similarly-single girlfriends how really, if we weren't looking, how were we actually going to encounter a man we might like to kiss, much less marry?

Anyway, my dating life is not actually the point of this.

The point is yoga. 

Sort of.

The fall before the pandemic, after I'd left my office job and had weekday flexibility, my friend Tracy told me that I should start going to Asrat's classes. He was, in a word, incredible.

So I walked into his class, with students of a range of ages, where everyone already seemed to know each other.

Asrat is like nobody else I've ever known. He has a huge heart and an intense personality. He was a mixed martial arts champion who, after years of competing, and ultimately injury, discovered yoga.

His yoga teaching mixes in martial arts, for those who are familiar with both yoga and martial arts, which I am not. It's power yoga, I think?, with his own personal twist on everything. Every time you master a pose or part of a sequence, he notches it up and makes it harder.

His favorite thing to say is, "Nothing is impossible." Said while asking us to do seemingly impossible things.

But I digress. This yoga, it was challenging. Because Asrat pushes you to challenge yourself.

It was hard in a way that resonated with me. I'm not flexible, but I'm strong, and I'm so very stubborn. Week by week, I saw myself improve. 

Incrementally, but still. It felt good.

And then the world shut down. 

I missed everything, as we all did. I missed yoga, and I missed my new friends. I didn't know anyone well, but I liked them. I felt connected.

Then Asrat started teaching online. So I did Zoom classes multiple days a week. We did this for months and months.

And at some point friend Kathleen was Zooming in from a gorgeous living room in a beautiful house in a spectacular location. Where, we all wanted to know, was this magical land?

MONTANA.

So we started joking: When the pandemic ends, we're going to do a yoga retreat in Montana. Kathleen, can't wait to come to Montana for our yoga retreat!

We talked about it regularly, in a low-key fantasy sort of way.

Then we started doing Saturday yoga in-person outside on an office roof downtown. I looked forward to in-person Saturdays so much. We did yoga in freezing temperatures in hats and jackets and in sweltering ones with copious sunscreen and sunglasses. 

Those who couldn't be there in person still Zoomed in. This is one of my favorite photos from the roof.

Eventually we started doing masked in-person yoga inside. At that point we were all vaccinated and there were only 2-3 of us at a time. Eventually we moved to unmasked.

Which, in Covid, took a tremendous level of trust.

And as we spent more time together, cheering each other on in both yoga and personal victories, and struggling together in increasingly difficult classes, we forged an intense group friendship.

I mean, being corrected in yoga is pretty personal, and being vulnerable and working so hard takes an immense amount of trust.

So when Kathleen said she was absolutely serious about hosting us in Montana, our little group started talking schedules and working to make it real.

For months it would come up every time we saw each other. We were giddy with anticipation.

And last month, five of us flew out to join Kathleen in the magical land of Montana. (One of us is included in my heart, but omitted, by request, online.)

It was glorious.

Tracy and I flew a day before the others, and we stayed a cabin just outside Glacier. 

Kathleen gave us bear spray for our hike. Bear spray! 

Here Kathleen and Tracy demonstrate, although apparently you want to use it before the bear gets that close.

(India later asked if you use it like bug spray and I was all, uh, no.)

We awoke super early, and Tracy, who is even less of a morning person than me, and less nature-y, and more food motivated, said, "OK. We go do The Thing in Glacier and then we meet our friends for lunch."

The Thing: hiking to Avalanche Lake.

And then we joined new arrivals for lunch and all headed to Kathleen's house. On a lovely, deep, clean lake

This view was ours for a week. I took versions of this photo every single day.

Only our morning schedule was strict: up at 6:00 am, yoga 7:30--10:30 or 11:00, and then we prepared and ate a large meal. We had down time, then a hike or nap or swim in the lake or really whatever. And then yoga again in the evening, then prepared and ate dinner. 

Half an hour per day of phone use. We gave our people Asrat's number for emergencies.

I feared this would be terribly hard. In truth, it was such a relief. When do we get to divest ourselves of the obligation to respond to everything?

I thought we might split up in our down time, but in fact we all wanted to do things together. We all went on hikes. We all wanted to see the waterfall.

One person headed down to the lake, and eventually, we'd all trickle down.

The only activity we didn't all do was the insanely hard bike ride up a mountain. We left that to Kathleen and Asrat.

I also thought we'd be in bed by 9:00 pm, ten at the latest.

But the Montana skies are delightfully light so late, and we all had so much to do, so much to say. We knew each other mainly in the studio or online. But we knew very little of each other's backstories.

And you know how much I love a life story.

Even the strongest among us has vulnerabilities. Otherwise we wouldn't be human. Or truly able to connect. And I love those moments of deep connection.

I never envisioned myself getting really into yoga.

When I told Wendy that I'd gotten so invested in my yoga classes she said, "That's really funny. I remember years ago asking you if you did yoga and you said it mostly seemed like a bunch of people farting in a hot room."

I don't remember saying that, but it does sound like me, so I'm willing to own it.

Truly, I don't know what I thought yoga was, but I wasn't looking for what I got.

I wandered into Asrat's classes looking for a workout. With my early foray into yoga with other teachers, that's more or less what I got.

But looking back to those classes, my form wasn't correct. My poses had no life. I really didn't get it.

I don't know that I totally "get" it, but I'm way closer. I still struggle with breathing correctly. I have not yet managed to visualize myself.

But in the wretchedness of the pandemic I found physical and emotional challenge while building a profound connection to a small group of people.

Asrat and this yoga community pulled me through some of the darkest moments of pandemic isolation and exhaustion and depression.

In a Covid world gone scary and weird and empty and often devoid of joy, I ceased to regularly change my clothes or bathe, but I always showed up for Zoom yoga.

So with the opportunity to spend a weekan entire, uninterrupted, glorious weektogether, we reveled.

We stayed up late, so late, talking and laughing. We laughed and laughed.

I mean, not every minute. One day I actually cried. Yoga pulled the anxiety out of my depths, up to the surface. Tracy said she looked over at me in class and was sure I was going to cry.

It was like a Dementor had flown by. I felt empty and joyless and utterly devastated.

I assumed it was because it was hour three and I was starving. But as it turns out, intense yoga will extract emotional pain.

After class I sobbed, while one of my friends, who is a therapist, hugged me. She said to just let it go. I cried until I was exhausted. And then I was lighter.

But overwhelmingly in this week, what I experienced was tremendous joy.

The laughter and joy stood out to those who saw us together. Several people we met remarked on it.

We just had all this great energy swirling around us like stardust.

One morning after yoga we took a field trip to a store called Booze 'N Bait. 

We entered as tourists, not even pretending not to be astounded by the volume of weaponry and taxidermy. We posed. We took photos of everything. We bought liquor and logo hats and glasses. 

We giggled.

I was checking out last, and the rest of our group had gone ahead outside. 

A man in the store said to the woman at the register, "That sure was a jolly bunch."

I will be honest; I wasn't looking for friends when I walked into yoga. I mean, I'm friendly. I wasn't looking for adversaries or anything.

I was mainly just looking for a workout.

Which sounds so trite, considering.

Now, on our retreat we did some very hard things. We each worked up to poses we hadn't thought possible. We supported--both emotionally and physically--each other into headstands, handstands, etc. Some of these are scary, at least for me.

Honestly, I felt quite proud.

But what stands out in my mind from our trip is not the physical accomplishment. It is the connection and friendship.

There have been times in my life when I've had to search deep to find something to be grateful for. And then there are times like this, where my gratitude spills over.

Sometimes we luck into what we need the most.

(And sometimes, let's be frank, we fart alone in a hot room. Or anyway, I do. But better than on a plane, I can tell you that for sure.)

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Running up that hill

Dear Dad,

You've now been gone for 13 Father's Days. 

I chose this photo because I'm masked. I must've had a cold. There we were, way back then, in India, using masks to prevent the spread of disease to the vulnerable.

Now Jordan is almost 13, and India is 10.

They're smart and funny and gorgeous. There was a long time where I was wondering if parenting was ever going to become fun for me. More than baby giggles, goofing around on the playground fun. 

I mean, I always loved them.

But they took so much work. They needed me constantly. Mostly, they were exhausting with periods of joy.

And now, now they're fun. I mean, sometimes pre-teen moody. But on the whole, so engaging and charming and enjoyable. They're great travel companions, interesting to talk to, just lovely.

And they're huge! Jordan's taller than I am! India now wears all my shoes. It's hard to tell our clothing apart. I got a new warm fleece, and Jordan is taking it to camp. Honestly, I love it.

Nick is a wonderful dad, and the kids love their nana so much. We really have a good little family.

I wish you were part of it.

Last week I went to a yoga retreat in Montana. I do yoga now. I know this is hard to imagine. One of my friends invited our tight little group to her lovely house, where we spent a week. It was phenomenal.

I almost didn't go. Mom was in the hospital the week prior. 

And I'll be honest: I was scared. Really scared.

I was prepared, of course, to cancel my trip. We'd been planning it for a year and a half, and through the pandemic it was the bright spot to look forward to.

But I would've stayed without hesitating. I would've been devastated, but family comes first.

And then dear friends who love me and love Betty--part of the family we've created for ourselves--stepped in. They said I had to go. I needed it.

(Oh, I needed it.)

They'd take over for me. Come to our house, spend time with Mom. Bring her food. Make sure she was OK. Nick spent a day at home to take her to the nephrologist (which I seem to confuse with phrenologist, which is completely different), who was happy with how she was doing.

My friends and Nick, and our kiddos, for that matter, took such good care of her.

She was in great shape when I got back. And in better spirits, than she'd been for weeks, maybe months.

I was so relieved, so happy. She was joyful, engaged, cared for. It underlined for me that she's so loved. I am so loved. 

And really, isn't that what we want most from family, from friends? Love.

I wish you were here to be part of our family. To know our friends. To love my kids.

I miss you.

Love,

Lisa

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Dear Dad, year 13

Dear Dad,

Today, 13 years ago, you left the house while Mom slept. We panicked, called everywhere, sat by the phone, bugged the police.

I stayed up late crying. Pregnant, uncomfortable, terrified.

Tomorrow, 13 years ago, we located you at the morgue.

I write this post every year.

The truth is, all these years of time and processing later, I'm OK most of the time.

Not the pretend fine that we grew up with. I mean like actually OK. 

Like, somewhere along the way I hit the point of being able to be more grateful for what I had than upset about what I've lost. (Let's be honest. This isn't always, every minute. But generally.)

I think I've said some version of this over the years, but I don't think it was actually true until now. It was more aspirational.

It's not that I don't miss you, or wish you'd gotten to know my kids. It's not that I never think of the what-ifs. Or that I don't wonder about details. It's not that I don't get mad sometimes.

But my grief no longer sits at the surface, leaking out all over everything all the time, pouring into the laps of strangers at the bus stop.

It's settled in. It will always be a part of me, I think. 

This expectation that you grieve and then at some point you're done is bizarre to me.

I think maybe that could be true if you hadn't lost someone really dear to you. Or maybe if you didn't feel intensely. It's been suggested to me that I feel more than others, and maybe this is true.

It's like colors--how do I know we're all seeing the same blue, even though we can all agree that a particular color is blue? So my level of love or missing is just my level.

It's like in the hospital when they ask you on a 10-point scale. My 7 might be way different than someone else's.

But anyway. I think my grief over losing you is just part of me.

And as May 15 approaches, as it does every year because time as we mark it is linear, my feelings work their way up through my body, till they're right under my skin. 

I can feel the shift.

Yesterday neighbor friends hosted a birthday party for their daughter, who is now one of India's besties. They had cake and lemonade out front of their place, with the revelry of good neighbors spilling onto the sidewalk.

They had champagne for adults, and it was one of the first nice afternoons in a long and wretchedly cold spring, which made it all the more fun and celebratory.

And so I had champagne and more champagne and my story just came pouring out.

I was wearing the tee shirt with this photo on it that I made for my Overnight walk years ago. And someone thought I was India. 

And all this information just fell out of my mouth, like it was just sitting there, waiting for me to open my mouth so it could leap out.

I know you hated how public I was with what you considered your information. 

Wherever you are now, I hope you are at peace with everything.

Anyway, I had lots of champagne after a day of very little food (which I'd forgotten) and as such, I was up watching Grey's Anatomy into the crazy wee hours waiting for it all to wear off. 

I looked at my phone and my dear friend Vik had texted, as he always does, one word: hugs.

Hugs. I see you, I remember. Hugs. 

It's beautiful to me. 

After 13 years with the facts being the facts, I have no new information, which frankly is fine, and maybe even better. 

But I need to commemorate this day. These days.

What has happened over the years is that more dear friends have lost parents. And one by one friends have said to me that they had no idea how devastated they are.

I've come to believe that regardless of how sympathetic a human you may be, it is impossible to really get it until it happens to you. And then you really get it.

And I've had conversations with our family friends about how truly lucky we were to have grown up in the communities we did, with the strong friendships our parents had.

You and Mom were dear friends with extraordinary people. What a gift for us to grow up with these relationships, and being loved and nurtured by them.

And now, there are very few of you left.

I know this is how life works, but gosh, I miss you. I miss you, Dad. I miss our friends. There are so many of you who have left us, and I hope you're all having a grand time together.

I was thinking how 13 is a teenager, and then I remembered that yes, of course, because my boy is going to become a teen in August!

It's always like this with the number of years you've been gone and the number of years he's been alive.

You'd be so proud of both these kids, I know. They'd make you laugh. You'd make them laugh. You'd play the piano and Wanda would croon, and then we'd all laugh.

I miss you.

Love,

Lisa

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

The moral fiber of the story

When you find yourself gently weeping and muttering, "low fiber diet" in Costco, you have to stop and take stock of your emotional well-being.

Which is to say that I don't know how long I've been in a not-so-great place, but here we are.

Also: I have a colonoscopy scheduled for next Wednesday. It's been three years since I had those back-to back colonoscopies, because, as Wendy said then, who knew I was so full of shit? 

Because I seem to be more attached than most to the contents of my colon, in addition to 48 hours of liquid diet ahead of time, I'm supposed to be on a low-fiber diet for this whole week ahead.

Do you know what this means? No fruit or veggies. No oats. No nuts. No seeds. No beans! You're basically left with meat and dairy and white bread.

Nick was like, "I don't see anything wrong with that!"

I was like, "It's basically your life."

Because as it turns out, my entire life is high fiber. And apparently fiber is hard to get out of the nooks and crannies of your colon.

Stuff like broccoli hangs on for dear life, while white bread happily slides right out.

So yesterday I was going down the shopping list and I was all, "OK, I'll get the Brussels sprouts even though I'm not allowed to eat them."

I was being rather petulant about it. And clearly feeling very sorry for myself because I think I started crying somewhere around the sweet potatoes. Muttering "low fiber diet, fucking low fiber diet".

But what I think is going on is that spring is fucking tough.

Every year I forget this. Maybe I should just put an annual reminder on my calendar or something saying, SPRING IS HARD. Little sticky notes. AZALEAS ARE BEAUTIFUL AND SPRING MAKES YOU CRY. SPRING IS A FALSE FRIEND!

Little motivational poster kinds of things.

And this spring, jeez this spring, which absolutely refuses to get warm. I mean, it's supposed to be in the damn 30s tonight. What the fucking fuck.

But it's like I slog through winter, and winter never my friend. So I brace for it. Winter. I can do it. Winter. Be vigilant, because winter is rough.

But then winter ends, and spring is all new life and flowers and baby birds and hope!

Except not so much on the hope. I don't know if it's the residual exhaustion from winter, or that it's brighter and days are longer so I feel like I should not be so tired but I'm just so very tired, or something else entirely.

Maybe winter is long and all my reserves are gone.

I had a therapist who said that even when you don't realize that a traumatic anniversary is approaching, your body knows it. And I know that April and May are linked with big trauma events for me. Maybe that's part of it.

I don't know. What I do know is that I have to start eating a fucking low fiber diet like now and then next week I have to  liquid fast for 48 hours while taking mega-laxatives.

I don't honestly mind diarrhea, but now I have anxiety about not having a totally empty colon for my doctor to examine. Like, she's going to be able to tell that I had oatmeal for breakfast today, even though I don't think I have to start until tomorrow.

But being who I am, which is an external approval-seeking a first-born rule follower, I don't want to fail this excretion test. 

Also, and more importantly, I don't want a little piece of spinach obscuring a polyp. So there's that. White bread for days.

On the bright side, at least I don't, as my friend Kristin envisioned, have to lie on my back with my legs up and my feet by my ears while they peer in my anus for the procedure.

That would most definitely be something to cry about.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Death and taxes: In which grief is like malaria and though it serves me rarely, as it turns out I'm an excellent shredder

This past weekend, Nick and I went to his office to work on taxes.

Well, he worked on taxes while I shredded documents.

The time had come to clear out old tax files. So we toted downtown everything related to taxes for us and for my mom from eight years ago and older.

When I was growing up, we burned everything with our information on it. Nothing identifying us was allowed to be discarded.

Lemme tell you how hard my dad embraced shredders when they became a thing. Pretty sure he gifted us all our own wee shredders.

I don't mind shredding. It's not exactly meditative, but there's something calming about the repetitive action and the hum. And it's sort of mindless but you have to pay some attention so you don't jam it.

Plus there's a rhythm to keeping it fed while not overlapping.

Such a good thing I went to grad school.

Anyway, Nick's office has an enormous shredder. It's pretty great in that it can shred wads of paper at once, and you can leave staples in. There's a limit, of course, and sometimes you have to pull really large documents apart. 

I guess I'm easy to impress?

Anyway.

There I was, standing in his hallway in front of the shredding closet on a Sunday afternoon, feeding documents in. 

And then I hit 2009. It was labeled "Betty's taxes 2009."

But when I opened the file, there was my dad's writing.

He was a leftie, with sometimes hard to read, distinctive handwriting.

I hadn't expected this.

But, of course he'd done the taxes, even though he attempted suicide in April and was expecting to die.  Unlike me, who always panicked right before taxes were due, Dad was organized.

And in fact, since he planned his death, though he died in May, of course he'd have done them early so my mom didn't have to.

I hadn't thought about that before.

My chest was tight and my eyes and nose were already prickling as I started leafing through the documents.

And then I came to a handwritten page listing their donations for the year. I don't know why it was the money given to WETA that walloped me, but it did.

Nick found me sitting on the floor of the hallway, sobbing. Absolutely wrecked.

I didn't have any whys or what-ifs. Really, I was just overwhelmed with missing my dad.

I wish so much I still had a voice mail. I wish I had a recording of him laughing.

The soundtrack to that moment was Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here".

"How I wish, how I wish you were here..."

Grief is so weird.

I feel like it's like how malaria can live dormant in the body for decades, and then out of the blue you are wracked with a high fever and such. 

Or maybe that's liver flukes. But I'm pretty sure it's malaria.

But really maybe I should just not make analogies and tell it for what it is, which is that I've been living with huge loss and the vicissitudes of grief for coming up on 13 years. 

In the way that grief is random, I don't always feel it. Long swathes of time can go by without it hurting. I can have memories that feel happy, joyful, without them being tinged with sadness or loss.

I can also be in a really healthy place, just going about my day, and then something completely unexpected rips open a little scab I weren't even aware of. All these memories and feelings rush out,  colliding and shifting, like looking through a kaleidoscope. 

They're all swirled together, in one big beautiful feeling of loss and longing.

For me they squeeze my lungs, stick in my throat, and leak out my eyes.

So Nick found me sobbing disconsolately, and I wailed about 2009 and my dad. And he enfolded me in his big old arms and I think I probably snotted on his tee shirt, but he didn't notice because he was wearing a cardigan.

I haltingly and hiccupingly told him that he would have to shred 2009. I just couldn't do it.

Part of me wanted to hold onto it, just because, but I reminded myself that I have myriad keepsakes and I don't need a list of charitable deductions.

Though I do fully support public broadcasting of any variety and I'll forever be grateful to NPR for towing away my albatross.

Tuesday, March 08, 2022

Runnering with scissors

I step out the door and I realize that I should've put on a hat as well as a scarf and I get all bitter that it's still so cold...

And then I'm all, oh, here I am on my stupid little walk for my stupid mental health, on my stupid little safe, bomb-free sidewalks in Washington DC, and I'm mad that it's not warm.

While there are people living in subways in Ukraine trying to avoid dying from Russian bombs.

And every disgruntlement or inconvenience is like this.

(Though I remain bitter that it's so cold. I just feel guilty about it.)

So.

We got a new rug.

Well, first we needed to get two old Persian rugs fixed. 

These rugs are nice, and they have memories attached. 

Prior to the revolution, we stopped in Tehran for a couple days on our way to Cairo, and our parents spent the afternoon looking at and haggling over rugs, drinking tea, chatting. My brother and I ate biscuits and climbed on mountains and mountains of carpets.

(Honestly, I use rug and carpet interchangeably. I don't know if this is correct.)

Anyway, I love these rugs, and they are old and pretty and hell if I was going to let the edges all fray off to nothing.

So I asked around, and a friend whose mom is Persian said she had a guy. He passed along the number.

This guy, now our guy, came over to pick up the rugs.

Naturally, as it's his business, he went from rug to rug on the ground floor of our house inspecting them.

He lifted them and expressed horror at the state of our rug pads.

Which, apparently, are a big deal. He explained why.

Also, he's Persian carpets or nothing, really. He has the goal of eventually "upgrading" all our rugs.

So we have a few good ones, and then, gasp!, a number from other places, like Afghanistan. Some purchased in Afghanistan, I might add.

The one in the kitchen, which I think rather horrified him, is a legit hand knotted carpet purchased on Craigslist. It may also be from Gasp Afghanistan or Pakistan.

(I didn't point out the Big Yikes IKEA one, but he spotted it anyway.)

So he said that if you're going to clean two carpets, which we had to do prior to getting them repaired, because they hadn't been cleaned since like the aughts, then you need to clean all your carpets at once.

He described these carpets as house filters. And once they get full of dust, you have more dust in your environment. You can't bring one clean one in with all the others full of dust.

Furthermore, he begged, don't buy the kinds of carpets with glue on the back. Because eventually the glue breaks down and then you're breathing in glue.

So there's that. We're unintentional glue huffers.

But in any case.

It kind of turned into if you give a mouse a cookie kind of thing. If you've read those books.

Soon they had all our rugs from the ground floor. Only one rug pad was left, because it was still in good shape.

Also, we've been destroying the old when my mom bought it at auction in Cairo hall runner because it's just not the kind of sturdy that can withstand the traffic. We need a new one for that space.

So not only is that being cleaned and repaired, but we're on a runner hunt.

Of course we went to his store and looked at carpets. We keep taking them home and trying them and bringing them back. We've been a revolving door of hall carpets.

We seriously visit him every Saturday now. It's becoming a running (runnering, heh) joke.

But in the meantime, the floors, they are naked.

This has Wanda perturbed.

Finally, one Saturday, we bought a new rug from him for the dining room. 

I mean, that wasn't where we envisioned it, but once we took the stained and deteriorating IKEA rug out of the black (glue huffing all the while) we had to reconfigure everything.

So we got this new and beautiful Persian carpet and I love it. I just love it.

Wanda also loves it.

She loves it so much she has urinated on it thrice. 

One time I saw her nonchalantly prance over to the rug and squat. I bellowed at the top of my voice, scared the crap out of her, and lost my everloving mind.

And if this whole story seems like a weird sidebar, let me get around to the actual point.

The point is that of course I'm obviously not cool with my dog peeing on my carpet. 

I love that Wanda, but I'm not gonna lie, she's broken my trust.

But I'm also like, oh, here I am with my stupid beautiful carpet, while people are escaping carrying their children and what, maybe some clothing. It's freezing, and the Russians are shelling women and children.

And Russian citizens are being arrested for protesting the war. Because they don't want it, either.

I've given money, because we always give money. To families separated at the border. To Afghan refugees. To Ukraine.

But I feel so powerless. So privileged and powerless.

The other day I rounded the corner onto our street, and the sun shone on the houses in such a friendly way. The sky was a spectacular blue with really interesting clouds.

And I felt guilty for enjoying the beauty and serenity.

I had to remind myself that I can simultaneously be upset about atrocities elsewhere in the world and enjoy the beauty of a beautiful day.

I have to remind myself of this regularly. Because the guilt and despair can paralyze me.

A friend said that we have to take the beauty when it comes, as it's the only way we can survive.

And maybe that is the perfect way to put it.

I need the beauty of a sunny day. I need to feel grateful.

What I would really like is to watch Ted Lasso on a continuous loop. I know Nick thinks it's weird that I'll finish with a show I like and immediately rewatch it to feel good all over again. 

I'm OK with this. I feel grateful Ted and his kindness. And also Roy Kent and his angry hotness.

I feel grateful for my family, for my friends, for sunshine.

I feel grateful for my little hound.

My little, rug-peeing, poo-eating, kibble barfing hound.

Apparently just the act of searching your mind for something to be grateful for changes your brain chemistry for the better.

So here I am, grateful. 

And also here I am taking my dog on a stupid walk for my stupid mental health and to reduce the amount of pee available for stupid peeing on a stupid beautiful carpet.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

The Nature Outing

Yesterday was glorious. Warm, sunny, beautiful.

The kind of day that gives a person hope that winter will not actually last for the rest of our lives.

February may be the shortest month, but damned if it doesn't last like eight years. Every single time.

But yesterday. Ohhh.

So Nick said, "Let's go for a hike! We'll go to Great Falls!" 

Our children, who turn out to be about as nature-y as I am, were all, "Noooooooooooo!"

They went boneless. They slumped on the floor. They groaned. 

And while it is true that if left to my devices I will have a nibble of the outdoors, like a nice run, perhaps, and then retreat to a good book indoors, I do recognize how much better we feel when we walk outside, touch a tree, connect with actual earth.

In the grim depths of the pandemic, I would drag the kids and Wanda to Rock Creek, and we would walk for maybe 30-40 minutes. On the path next to the water, we would stop and yell at the top of our lungs.

We'd return rejuvenated.

So we scraped the kids off the floor, and I packed water and snacks. We settled the kids and Wanda, who loves the rare car ride, comfortably in the back. We headed for Great Falls.

As did, unbeknownst to us, the rest of the DC metropolitan area.

As I said, the day was gorgeous. We were all immediately in better moods on the road to the nature!

The kids had snacks. We listened to music. We got into Virginia.

And everything slowed down. The road got narrower and windier. The traffic increased. Everywhere that there was a parking lot along the road was packed, with cars waiting for spaces to park.

It was stop and go. 

We were about a mile and a half from the park and traffic was stopped in our lane. We assumed it was a line to enter the park.

We had three hours until India's orthodontist appointment. And no desire to wait an hour to get in.

We decided to turn around. If there was a spot in any of the lots on the way, we'd park and take a hike there.

So Nick pulled a quick U-turn.

A few minutes later, Jordan started to yell. "Wanda's puking! Wanda's puking on my lap!"

Wanda, dearest Wanda, who has been terribly itchy for a while, who has recently started eating fish kibble, which has totally helped with the skin itching, puked that fishy kibble into Jordan's lap.

Which caused Jordan to retch. Which caused India to retch.

If this is reminiscent of an earlier incident, let me just tell you that regurgitated fish kibble is way better than poo.

Nick pulled the car down a small side road and parked in front of another car, also pulled over. Because, as it turned out, her small daughter needed to go potty.

She offered us wipes. Boy, were we grateful.

So Nick swabbed Jordan off, and mopped up the back seat with the wipes, while I walked Wanda in the big grassy area next to us. 

India saw what looked like the back of a tiny library and asked if it was OK if she went and looked at the books.

I was pretty sure it was one of those signs that tell you the name of the manor or horse farm or whatever property we might be trespassing on, but she was having so much fun running in the grass.

Seriously. She and Jordan and Wanda were frolicking.

Jordan was like, "I like this field! Can we hike here?"

I didn't have the heart to tell my city child I was pretty sure it was someone's lawn.

So we got our sunshine and prancing out, and then India checked herself for ticks, because The Nature has many dangers great and small.

And then we went home. And Jordan took a shower.

The end.