Wednesday, February 29, 2012

don't be a jerk.

so wingman goes to this lego engineering class about 35 minutes down the road in another town. for an hour and a half every week. i don't get a lot of time alone, so i really cherish that hour and a half. i sit and read in the car, go for a walk around the neighborhood. once i fell asleep and it was the best nap i'd had in ages.

so, there is this one mother who really really wants to be my friend. i have known this for awhile. and she is friendly and nice and she reminds me of a lot of the old hippie women i knew when i was a hippie. the thing is, she lives in another town. and my kid doesn't care for her kid. and she is much older than i am. and i could go on and on but it just isn't clicking for me. though we chat at drop off and pick up, i really just want my hour and a half. to myself. alone.

well, yesterday i was just dropping wingman off and i see her practically RUNNING up the driveway to get to my car. i could have pretended not to see her. i could have just driven away. but i didn't. i waited. because she was practically running. and there's usually a reason people run towards other people. and when she got to my car she chatted me up and then the inevitable came 'do you maybe want to get a cup of coffee sometime?' she seemed really nervous asking, too.

i didn't. i don't. i just want my hour and a half. to myself. i never have more than one cup of coffee. and i already had coffee. i just want my walk. i don't see this going anywhere because lego is almost over and my kid doesn't care for her kid.

i could have said next week, i'm busy, etc.

but i didn't. because she was practically running up the driveway. because she seemed lonely. and because if someone asks you to coffee they like you. and if there's no good reason to say no it seems jerky to say no. because it's just coffee. and sometimes it's hard for people to ask even just for coffee. so i said 'well how about right now? would you like to have coffee and a walk?'

she was so excited. 'oh yes. let's meet by the library and go to the coffee shop on the corner.'

so we met by the library and went to the coffee shop on the corner. wherein she declared she'd already had too much coffee. but by the time she did i had been standing at the counter for awhile waiting for the barista, a woman a bit older than me, to finish with the slowest least engaged customer service i've seen in awhile and acknowledge we were there. while her co-worker held the counter up and looked on.

so there i am in line, committed to the idea of coffee at this point, and it's obvious the woman who asked me to coffee wasn't going to carry the conversation. it was getting awkward. and i resisted grabbing my inner nice person and saying SEE! this is why you say NO to coffee!

instead i turned to the woman who asked me for coffee but wasn't going to have coffee or initiate conversation and smiled at her and said, 'hey. i hear it's supposed to snow tomorrow. i'm pretty excited about that.'

well the woman who was standing next to us snorted and sarcastically said, 'yeah. right. hasn't happened yet this year.'

i looked at her and smiled and said, 'well, i choose to remain optimistic.'

she stopped fiddling in her enormous purse and looked at me and gave a sharp laugh and said, 'yeah. you do that.'

so then the barista finally turns around, no smile, no apology, and looked at us and said 'who's next.'

she saw us come in. i made eye contact with her and smiled. i stood there for a good 5 minutes while the woman who was next to us hadn't even come in yet. she knows who's next but this is easier. lazy.

i smiled at her and ordered and she slapped down the cup and didn't point to where the coffee could be had. in case you're wondering, it's around the corner. practically hidden.

so i walked and talked with the woman who asked me for coffee and it turns out she has MS. (which made me glad i didn't drive away from her practically running toward me) and it turns out we home school very much the same. that she's never seen california and her dream is to one day live in a big victorian house. that when her boy was little she took him to an episcopalian church just to make sure he knew there were religious options out there and the people were mean to her. that her ex husband is a drummer and that her apartment's too small and her current husband drinks too much coffee. and she spends too much on used children's books but she loves them so much. and that her 9 bookshelves are out of space. so she stacks them on the floor.

and when we were done with the walk she said grabbed my hand and looked at me and said, 'thank you for the walk. this was really nice.' and she was smiling. and i was too.

i've been jerky in my life. i've not always been pleasant. i have not always been engaged in my time in customer service. but i was younger then. and i learned as time when on what it meant to be kind over jerky. to be engaged over lazy in my dealings with others. because that's what aging does, it teaches you things. if you let it.

those jerky women in the coffee shop were about my same age. and they both could have been having a bad day. but i'm just going to be a jerk here and say i'll bet not. because when someone is smiling at you and being pleasant and you throw back with jerkiness i doubt it's one bad day. i'll bet it's a string of bad days. probably from having a jerky attitude. from not letting aging teach you things. perhaps from letting aging take over.

i've been doing research on dating in your 40s (and by 'doing research' i mean that i'm actually doing research. not dating in my 40s.) and a lot of the articles and advice seem to suggest that as a woman in your 40s whatever bitterness you have you should leave it at home and off your dating profile or risk turning people off.

and that seemed a little presumptive, that just because a woman makes it to her 40s she's got this wellspring of bitterness that must be contained if she's gonna be successful dating. but i can kinda see what they're saying. if you are in a little clutch of women in a small town coffee shop in the middle of an afternoon and the weather is fine outside and someone is smiling at you and being pleasant and you can't NOT be a jerk in that moment good luck with the wild world of dating.

or something like that.

this world can be very lonely for some people. this world can be a dearth of interesting people or interactions or just plain and simple human contact for some people. i am blessed to have a loving family and interesting friends and do work that i enjoy. not everyone is so lucky.

so, yeah, i don't *have* to say yes to coffee. or smile at a rude barista. or keep myself from telling ms. tall nutella latte with non-fat to shove her shitty attitude into her seriously ugly ass purse.

but i do. because sometimes it makes just that little bit of difference. and sometimes that's enough. worth it. for the times that it doesn't. more than worth it, even.


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

and the best part is my ass looks great in snowboarding pants. dude.

so i went snowboarding. at 40. in dubious physical condition. and i didn't die.

along with a whole host of other things i vowed never to do, snowboarding was always at the top of the list. i'm not a snow sports kinda girl. i don't enjoy adventure of the icy fast kind. it's just how i don't roll.

but my husband LOVED snowboarding when he did it. and the duke joined the snowboarding club at school and learned how and LOVES it. and wingman has always wanted to try it. so i said great, they can all go together!

but then i started thinking about it and i realized that if they were all off doing something fun together that i wanted to be part of it. as the duke gets older his interests become more his own. fueled by invitations from other kids and the interests of his peer group. and i started thinking about how much i want to have something fun to do with him. separate from the parent/child things we do. something that wasn't eating dinner together or running errands or helping him study for his tests. i want a bridge with him. a shared interest. especially as he begins the age appropriate process of separation from us. so. i made the decision to learn to snowboard.

and yes. it was the worst decision i ever made. it sucked. it hurt. i hit my head. i fell on my ass. i simply could not understand anything the instructor was saying. he was kind and patient and bless his heart for holding my ass up for longer than anyone should have to. and thank god he was a big guy. and that i didn't get the hippie bird lady instructor. but i just didn't get it.

what am i doing here i wondered more than once. i can walk away from this right now. and should, i reminded myself more than once. nobody would think ill of me. i tried. it was hard. i could. i could walk away.

it started with the boots. the learning curve with the boots happened in the bathroom when i went to pee. did you know your ankles don't move in snowboarding boots? yeah, see, i didn't know this. i discovered it when i landed on my bare ass. hard. bruise #1 of the day.

the goddess mother decided to take the class with me. her two kids and wingman were all taking instruction, too. we gathered up. and right then i saw a penny lying on the ground. stupidly i took it as a lucky sign. but after the debacle in the bathroom i didn't dare try to bend over and pick it up. we headed out. and from the minute that board was strapped to my feet i had no fucking clue what was going on. it's like everything that instructor said was in a whole other language. i was completely out of my element. i fell and hit my head so hard i thought i was a goner. okay. not really. but i thought it might get me out of the rest of the lesson.

meanwhile the goddess mother is totally awesome. she's falling, but she's getting it. i could not get it. and i could not even stand up on the board without the instructor holding me up. and the minute the board started to move a fear gripped me like nothing else. i was 100% out of my element with no control whatsoever.

i discovered i did not like inclines or speed. just as i suspected. and told myself all my life. i couldn't even *get up* off of the snow let alone mosey down an incline without intense fear and a total fucking wipeout. what in the fuck was i doing out there i kept asking myself. what am i doing to my body. this is so hard. and i am so scared.

it was my mantra all morning. i called it the mantra of the damned.

then right at the end of the lesson i discovered two things:

#1 i was getting up the hard way. as in not able to get up at all. i kept trying it the hard way and the instructor didn't push me to do it the easy way. he just kept pulling me up. i discovered the other way was the easy way. and if you saw the 'easy' way you'd laugh your ass off. easy, no. easier, yes. so. i could get up. finally.

#2 i was riding all wrong. i was leading with the hand i write with like they told me. but that's not the dominant side of my body. i was riding regular when i should have been riding 'goofy.' truer words...anyway. i discovered this by complete and total accident when the instructor let me go and i lost all control and got turned leading in the 'wrong' direction. and even though i was out of control and had no clue what in the hell i was doing, it was the first time that day i didn't feel total abject fear. and then i got going too fast and wiped out so spectacularly and painfully. good thing that fence was there.

so. i could get up. and i wasn't riddled with total abject fear. baby steps. jesus.

it was lunchtime and i didn't know whether to cry or throw up. i was so miserable. despite that small bit of progress i could not understand why i would put myself through this. this is awful, i said. this is expensive and horrible and why people do it i don't know, i said. and the pain, the pain i said. i was near tears the whole time we ate lunch.

but you sure look cute in your gear, my husband said.

my father would say that's half the battle, i answered. cracking the first real smile of the day.

so after lunch no more lesson. but my husband said he'd work with me. we switched my bindings around so i could ride goofy. and even though i could now get up, i just slid. i had no control at all. i could understand my husband in a way i didn't understand the instructor, but i wasn't getting it. at all. i sent him off with the duke to have some fun. wingman was getting the hang of it and there's the goddess mother heading up to go down the big hill!

her little kids were kinda done and so was i. i'll just hang here with them, i said. at the bottom. safe.

and i watched wingman doing it. from the bottom. safe.

i did this for awhile. and then i did it for longer.

and then i got mad. mad at myself. because i stuck myself at the bottom of the hill. because that's what i do. that's what i've done. my whole life. played it safe. down at the bottom. i don't risk anything that way. not public embarrassment. not failure. not doing something hard that i may be horrible at. when everyone around me is good at it. i stay in the boundaries i draw for myself.

which is what my father did. his whole life. until he fucking didn't. and went off every rail there was, never finding a balance.  and i got very angry. for falling into that (the boundaries around, not the going off the rails.) and i thought about that lucky penny on the ground i didn't pick up because i was afraid of falling. god dammit. here i am again. here. and i looked up into the sky and i said, dad. i'm gonna do this. please watch over me. because i'm really scared.

and so i grabbed my board and hiked up the stupid little incline. and i sat at the top and strapped on my board. and it took forever to get the bindings all squared away. and then i dug the top of the board, with me strapped into it, into the snow and hoisted myself up and over and landed on my knees. and then i got up. the easy way. and i used my toes and dug the edge of the board in the snow and i didn't move. i got up and i wasn't sliding. how i did that i will never know, but something clicked. and i understood the words of the instructor. finally.

but now i was facing the hill with my back to the bottom of the incline and i needed to turn around. so i went easy. tiny movements. and i saw wingman. WHAT DO I DO NOW i shouted down. TALK ME THROUGH THIS. he told me to bend my knees, and reminded me what my husband had told us both, lean your shoulder in the direction you want to go. so. i did. and i wiped out and slid. and it hurt. but i made it a few inches, with no one holding me up before i fell. baby steps.

i got out of my bindings and grabbed the board and hiked back up the incline. and i went through it all again. and i got up. and i didn't slide. but i couldn't figure out how to get down the hill without falling.

and then i remembered what my husband said before leaving me to go to the chair lift. he told me that i was thinking too much about stopping. stopping and how to stop. that i needed to think more about moving. how to keep moving. how to move down the incline.

so. i did. i thought about moving. and then i was. and i bent my knees and leaned my shoulder in the direction i wanted to go. and i was about to wipe out but i was able to touch the ground and push myself back up. and i made it down the stupid little incline. and fell spectacularly at the bottom. and heard wingman cheering me on.

i got out of my bindings and grabbed the board and hiked back up the incline. and i made it up. and i made it down. and i fell. a bunch of times. more than a girl my age should be falling. but i made it up and down and i did it.

it was hard. and it sucked. and then i got it. and it was still hard. but it didn't suck. and i wasn't afraid anymore.

i have spent a lot of my life afraid. afraid of trying and doing. afraid of looking stupid. or being bad at something. i limit myself with ideas i have about what i can and cannot do. i hide behind an old neck injury that actually doesn't bother me anymore. i hide behind my age. my physical shape. i hide.

what i don't do enough of is tell myself about the times i haven't hid. about the times i took the leap of faith. made the jump. sometimes literally. the times i tried. i jumped out of an airplane i said 'i do' twice i held the hand of a dying friend and watched her take her last breath i gave birth a second time after nearly dying the first i forgave the person who hurt me the absolute most in the world i lost my house and found my way forward i lost my father and i'm still getting up everyday.

i don't want to live the next half of my life at the bottom of the hill. where it's safe. where i have convinced myself i belong. because it's easier that way.

because the thing is, it isn't any fun. because more often than not, you're down there by yourself. and i can't build that bridge of shared interests with my rapidly growing older kids if i'm down at the bottom.

so we decided we were done for the day. and as i was taking off my board i looked up and saw the guy who had been running the magic carpet along the incline (which i did not ride thank you very much) giving me a thumbs up. he had been watching silently the whole time i was huffing it up and down the incline. all the times i was cursing and near tears and falling and then not.

and after we turned in our gear and were leaving i walked over to where i had seen the penny earlier. and sure enough there it still was. and i decided it was indeed lucky. and i picked it up. and said what you say when you pick up a lucky penny. and i thought about my father. about how he didn't try and how he did. and i thanked him for helping me get down that incline. all the inclines he helped me down.

and the ones he helped me up.

and i missed him profoundly right in that moment. and i was so proud of myself right in that moment.

so. i guess i've picked up snowboarding. at 40. just like that.

and it turns out it was one of the best decisions i've ever made.

and like my father would say, isn't that something?


Sunday, February 26, 2012


i listen to church on the radio on sunday mornings. more often than not i also clean the kitchen during this time.

and during every service there is a time when they invite people to pray as they are able. standing, kneeling, sitting, etc.

this morning when they issued the invitation i was scrubbing the pan i used to roast the veggies in last night for the friends we had to dinner. thinking about how even our leanest times when we had so very little and everything was hard and tenuous we have always been able to eat. to feed our children. to feed others. how lucky we have been. we are.

i was washing the champagne flute that my friend ingrid used last night. carefully wiping the remains of her lipstick from the rim. thinking about what a beautiful person she is, inside and out. how i am so happy to know her. how lucky any of us are to have friends, let alone such precious ones.

i scraped the remains of the sauteed kale from a dinner plate. thinking about how lucky i am to have such wonderful sons. sons i can say, hey, can you prep the kale for tonight and they do. they can. they understand exactly what i mean. they do not fuss. they do not protest. they prep the kale and mop the floors and tidy the living room. i work and they work so that we can have friends over and no one person is stuck with all the tasks that involve having friends over.

i washed my husband's beer glass and thought of how he helped with dinner and cleaned the bathroom and at the end of the night he put me to bed after too much fun and way too much wine. and then before he went to bed he went downstairs and broke down the extra table and put away the extra chairs and the leftover food and washed the grossest pan and stacked the dishes and tidied the kitchen then woke up and made me coffee and breakfast. how he works so hard and supports so much. how lucky i am. we are.

in this way, i pray. i assume the position that is most comfortable to me. in the place i spend so much of my time. i think about the people i love. i think about the foods i make to feed these people. i think about the mess that comes from gathering people together, dirty dishes, a cracked champagne flute, a lost DS game and how easy it is to say aw, why bother. people don't bother. it's easy with e-mail and facebook and smart phones to bother less and less.

and as i dump the dishwater and rinse out the sink and take off my gloves and take off my apron and wash my hands and finally put lotion on i walk into the dining room and see them. three juice glasses, a coffee cup, and the platter with leftover breakfast potatoes.

i take a deep breath and prepare to get really irritated and just then i remember what i heard earlier on church on the radio: we don't love someone because they are perfect. we love someone because we do.

life isn't perfect. life is messy. feeding people is messy. cleaning up after takes a long time. it'd be easier to just not bother. so i take another deep breath and i grab the three juice glasses and the coffee cup and the platter with the leftover breakfast potatoes. and i put the potatoes in a tupperware and i wash the juice glasses and the coffee cup and the platter.

and i wash my hands again. put on more lotion. glad that i bother. lucky.