Monday, April 30, 2007

The Downfall of Broadway and Pine

Sometimes after the parent-baby class I take Audrey to, a few other moms and I invade a small grungy pizza joint around the corner with our strollers and small children. We did this today, and since Audrey was clinging to her pizza when it was time to go, I let her walk out of the place holding her food.

While we meandered up Pine Street at a very slow pace to our parking spot where the meter had expired ten minutes ago, Audrey stopped to pick up a flattened, chewed-on red straw off the sidewalk. I batted it out of her hand. "Ick," I said.

Normally, of course, I would direct her to the nearest trash receptacle and give her a big high five for cleaning up. But she was holding food, so my first concern was about cross-contamination. Further complicating matters, no trash receptacle immediately presented itself. From experience I knew that it would take a day and a half to find one at the rate we were going. So I, extremely dutiful citzen though I usually am, left the straw and kept walking.

"There's a trash can right here," I heard a voice behind me say. I turned to see a man bend down to pick up the offending straw.

"Oh, I didn't drop that...she picked it up..." I started.

"Yeah, and I saw you take it right out of her hand and drop it on the ground again." To further prove his point, which must be that people like me are a tragic drain on the patience of others, he bent down and picked up another peice of random garbage (with which I'd had no dealings)and stalked around the corner to deposit it appropriately. "You should show her where the trash can is so she knows where to put her pizza crust when she's done with that," he bitched, sashaying past us in a huff.

I stared at the back of his plaid wool blazer.

How could I explain that we would never waste good pizza crust?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Every Moment is a Transition

Those of you who know me know that I am not a happy housewife or a contented stay-at-home-mom (SAHM). Since I don't earn much money and I have two children, I really should be those things, but alas, my DNA, or inbred bad temperament, or something, prevents me.

Since admitting all of this two years ago and taking steps to remedy the situation, I have come to the point of being spoiled by adequate childcare. This means that when confronted with extended periods of responsibility for my children and dinner and laundry and the dog and all of that, my initial reaction is to try to get out of it.

This isn't something I'm proud of, or like to broadcast. But since you already know about my psychiatric medications and my drinking habits, why should I leave this out? One of my goals for this blog is to tell the truth about what happens to one's mind in mental breakdown/motherhood mode. I tend to identify rather well with Heather Armstrong's version of SAHM, which is Shit-Ass-Ho-Motherfucker.

Still, I often regret that I can't deal with domestic life in a more balanced, grateful, accepting way. Because in a global way, I feel deep gratitude for my life. If someone asked me to close my eyes and think of a time when I was happiest, I would say, "Now." And all of my jaw-flapping about practicing being present, and practicing non-attachment, and accepting the moment for what it is is totally sincere. It's just impossible to follow at home.

Or almost impossible. I am discovering a new way to practice non-attachment with the children. I tell myself that I am not in a hurry. And I practice not being in a hurry. When I am in a hurry, I am trying to escape the moment. The moment can be excruciating to stand, when Audrey needs to re-buckle her car seat after vacating it, or when Jonah sings songs while staring at the ceiling with his underwear halfway down his skinny legs and growls at me when I try to hurry him along so we can make it to preschool on time. During these moments, I would like nothing more than to be transported elsewhere.

Pema Chodron says most of our behavior is about running away from a feeling we can't abide. And yes, it's true, I hate feeling impatient and hurried and exasperated by my children. They don't seem to understand that the world is going to end if we don't follow our plans. I want it to be over. I don't want to be held captive by the dawdling and pointless resistance of these little people while I endeavor to get on with the day. The waiting and the dealing with petty problems en route to the front steps is hella boring. What am I supposed to do with my mind during these times?

I started to ask myself what would happen if I pretended the world wouldn't end if we were five minutes late. If Jonah went to school with no underwear once or twice. If the children brushed their teeth a couple hours after breakfast instead of the instant they swallowed their last bite of waffle. What would it be like if these transitions between events were the events themselves? If it was all one big event, or all one big transition?

In a Zen way, I could say that all moments are equally important, and equally unimportant.

Playing with this idea has been a tremendous relief for me, and for my kids. For one thing, it gives me something to do with my mind. And for another, it's having a good effect on the kids. Two nights ago, Jonah said to me, "Mom, you're not yelling anymore."

I looked up from my dinner and smiled. "You're right. I'm not. I'm really glad you noticed."

"Yeah," he said. "I think you're learning how not to yell."

I think I'll always be learning how not to yell. But that's okay, because I'm not in a hurry.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Drugs Don't Work (They Just Make You Worse)

There's a lot to write about. Two things are stopping me. These are:

1. My beloved has had surgery on his knee and is being utterly useless as he recovers. He feels really badly about it. Every time I bring him a tray of food he apologizes for his uselessness. I keep telling him it's okay, but I really have to go back downstairs now. "Are you mad?" he asks. "Of course not," I say. It's just that I'm simultaneously assembling French toast, bacon and strawberry smoothies while supervising the mud-making and rhododendron blossom harvest that's happening in the backyard. Gotta run.

2. The new drugs. They've sapped my desire to stay awake. The world feels muffled. I can't remember conversations. I can't even tell jokes properly. This is much worse than being somewhat reduced in the area of my intimate life. Now I'm reduced in all of my life.

As I write this, my two year old is sitting on the potty and insisting that while she has been there for 30 minutes, she still needs to go. It's after ten. I have read many books, settled a couple squabbles over toys, filled two humidifiers, sung about ten songs, rocked both kids in the rocking chair, argued about whether Audrey gets another drink of water, and now I am spent.

Will I ever get to go to bed tonight? Will Audrey ever get off the potty?

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Beer Night

"As soon as I'm a mom, I'm going to be drinking every day." -from hilarious new comedy, Notes from the Underbelly

My friend G and I get together once in awhile for adult conversation away from our four loud children. This usually involves me walking to her house, picking her up just in time for her to miss putting her children to bed, and the two of us walking to a nearby drinking establishment. We call this "Beer Night." The fact that we typically order foofy cocktails and dessert is irrelevant. G is a known lightweight and never drinks more than one beverage. I am a known lush with a sensitive stomach, so I keep it to two.

This Friday, while sunk into an Ultrasuede lounge chair at Liberty, I continued to drink. And drink. They were playing the Pixies and Al Green, for God's Sake, how could I possibly leave? Plus, we were getting into the juicy details of why it is deadly to belong to a social group of women, and how long we dated our husbands before certain relationship milestones were achieved, and other such topics that we mothers rarely have the opportunity to discuss in any depth due to noisiness of the children.

By the time I had reached the bottom of my third Sidecar, I slurred that I hadn't better drink anymore. G was on her fifteenth glass of water. She was ready to go home and probably ready to stop hearing me talk about whatever the hell I was talking about. We parted outside the bar, and, because I had been drinking, I walked over to QFC and bought a pack of American Spirit lights. While walking the ten or so blocks home, in the dark, and smoking one cigarette after another, I began to feel completely bludgeoned by drink. Naturally, I whipped out my cellphone and called a few friends. (One should never, never do this.)

Upon reaching my house, I stripped off my shoes and earrings and handbag and whatever else was on my body, trudged upstairs, and collapsed on the bed.

"Oh, Honey, you don't look good," said my beautiful and saintly husband.

"Yeah, I'n rilly fffucked," I mumbled. "Can I haff a towl a barff on?"

He ministered to me with water ("I need a sippy! I can siddpup. Can I haff a sippy?"), and a towel, and he lay beside me on the bed, chuckling and clucking.

"You're really attractive like this," he joked. I didn't even have the coordination to flip him off. I just had to take it.

I awoke to a rainy morning and a colossal headache. The alarm was going off. I had to get up and take Audrey to The Little Gym. I could not believe this was expected of me. But Matt, well, he was lucky enough to tear some ligament in his knee a few weeks back and so has to be excused form such duties. So I fucking went, in sweats and ponytail and hollow eyes, and took every opportunity to lie down on a soft mat. I began to develop a new understanding of why my parents never did anything like this with me. They were always hungover.

So, I've apologized to G, and the friends I called, and I hope I will remember all of this the next time I'm tempted to drink too much. Clearly my new meds have lowered my tolerance. Not such a bad thing, since I shouldn't really be drinking anyway. Too much alcoholism in my family, plus I'm a depressive, plus I have to get up in the morning and be on my game for the kids. Plus I learned some scary statistics from a psychiatrist I saw over the summer.

More on that later. For now, I must play with Jonah who is whining to be played with (he wears on me like a chronic disease), and shower and serve a nice brunch to my step mom and half brother.

Happy Spring.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Yoga in California

I'm standing on a wood floor under a peaked two-story ceiling. Sunlight is pouring into the room through six high, curved, Spanish-Colonial windows. Five professional yoga teachers and I have our mats positioned like the petals of a daisy. We stand facing into the center of the daisy, brains frantically working to make sense of what our teacher has just shouted at us to do. We are meant to take turns leading each other in a mini prenatal class. As students, we pretend to be pregnant and have some pregnancy ailment. Our teacher, Stephanie Keach, rings a bell. I spring into action like a dithering turtle.

"Ok," I say, frowning over my photocopied chart of prenatal poses and their possible modifications and adjustments. "Uh, so, we all have high blood pressure, right?" My my five phony, pregnant, pre-eclampsic students nod. "OK, let's stand in tadasana." Then I get all Aunusara-yoga on their asses, and start asking them to scoop their tailbones and spiral their thighs inward. "Keep your butt fluffy, though," I add. A few students smile, a few wrinkle their brows. I lead them into Warrior I. They sink into their bent front legs, and raise their hands high overhead like goddesses. Then I go around, and one by one, manually turn their upper arms inward to broaden their shoulders, then grasp the sides of their ribs and muscle their upper bodies up out of their lower backs. One by one, they groan. These are good groans. Thank you groans. I feel a great rush of satisfaction. I lead them into triangle pose, then rush to each student to do other adjustments. The bell rings, and my eight minute teaching session is up. Everyone bends over a scrap of paper and scribbles out an evaluation of my teaching. Now it's time for the woman next to me to practice her stuff.

She only adjusts a few people at a time. Mentally, I slap my forehead. Duh. Rushing around trying to adjust each student is silly. This is what caused me such anxiety when I taught creative writing to seventh graders. Attending to one while the others wait causes everyone to be irritated. Especially if they are seven months pregnant and hanging out in downward-facing dog until the next instruction.

OK, good, so I'm learning about teaching. Here are some other things the faux p.g. "students" have to say about my teaching:

"Nice and gentle, very joyful spirit." "No overall structure." "Good, strong, confident touch." "Perhaps you could guide us into poses more." These comments all make me grin.

After class, I tuck my rolled mat under my arm and walk to Cantwell's market to see about dinner. This is Santa Barbara, so the deli offerings include quesadillas stuffed with roasted eggplant and fresh basil. (California has a way of turning any food into something totally wrong but delicious. BBQ chicken pizza started here, as did sushi rolls that appropriate mayonnaise and avocado.) I get the quesadilla, a carton of roasted vegetables, and a large bottle of Fat Tire Ale. I walk back to the little B&B cottage I'm lodging in for the weekend, spread my foodstuffs out on a wrought-iron table on the patio, and have myself a little party for one. I feel relieved to have completed my first official yoga teacher training. I feel relieved to be alone in the garden of blooming red bouganvilla and heady jasmine. Alone in the fading sunshine. Wearing only a t-shirt in March.

I miss the children with all my internal organs, but not my brain. My brain is enjoying all this space, this blue sky, this nothing to do. It doesn't matter that I've got a long way to go as a teacher. It doesn't matter that my clothing is strewn about the cottage and I have to get up really early to board a plane and I don't yet know where to catch the bus to the airport. I slip off my shoes under the table and feel the rough stone of the patio under my bare feet. What a lovely place. The potted tea rose on the table rests in a tiny, white tart dish. There is a bit of rust forming on the table. A nippy ocean breeze sweeps through the courtyard.

It's the most perfect moment.