My hound’s nose is nestled against my left foot. I am shoeless, wearing black, red, and yellow plaid stockings (they’re not as obnoxious as they sound), so she can sniff to her heart’s delight my foot, freed from tight shoes all the day long, which is just about her favorite thing to do in the world. She collects our socks too, of course, pulling them from where they’ve been tucked in shoes or tossed in hampers. We have the biggest missing sock collection ever.
I don’t want to write about my hound tonight though, as adorable as she is. What I want to write about is impermanence, is the fleeting joy of life, is the challenge we, or at least I, face to inject meaning into life as it pours by in the torrent that it is.
My dad died in June, and I didn’t write about it. Thanksgiving happened, and I didn’t write about it. Christmas happened, and… ditto. And New Year’s Eve and Day. And now here we are. Here I am, seated on the gold couch across from the Silvertip christmas tree, loaded the way I like with all manner of ornaments from the ‘30’s (Beth the German hairdresser’s ornaments) to the ’60s (my mother’s time-worn collection of Raggedy Ann and Andy, Snoopy, and Sesame Street ornaments).
The tree is still lit, because I don’t care that Christmas is over. I’m still enjoying the tree, and will keep it a while. It makes the room prettier. It’s dainty and perfect. And it soothes me.
The jazz oasis on KCSM 91.1 tinkles in piano chords from the kitchen. The heat thrums. My kids are not home, a rare thing indeed. I listen to the applause from the jazz concert playing. To the heat thrumming. To the car tires on the asphalt outside, returning their owners to their homes.
What I want to say is, I have a wish.
I have a determination.
I’m afraid to speak it aloud, afraid it will disintegrate as soon as I say it.
My son said recently, “Mom, don’t look for a husband. Improve yourself. Then, someone will come.”
Improve myself. That is what I want to say. I want to say that I want 2020 to be a year of committing to myself, improving myself, banishing negativity and depression.
I’m not SO negative and depressed. In fact, that’s the funny thing. I believe most people who know me would be astounded to hear me say I suffer from negative thinking or depression.
It’s my little secret.
I’m lucky that way. Like a maintaining alcoholic, I can keep my little secret… secret.
I don’t tell very many people I’m depressed. And when I do, I quickly assuage them from any kind of helper role. I brighten up and say something glib and change the subject and return to listener mode.
I know that my “depression” is nothing like some people’s. Some people I know quite well, in fact. Like my ex, my dear B., the father of my children, who suffers and has suffered for the last four months from a depression so monumental, so monolithic, that it can’t be wriggled out from. That it can barely be breathed through.
I’m not depressed like that.
For me, it’s more that I can’t really get out of bed some days. Okay, a lot of days. It’s hard for me to rally. It’s not just tiredness. It’s a “What am I doing this for again?”
That’s why I need to keep writing.
Maybe I’m actually depressed because I’m not writing. I think that’s quite possible. It goes round and round, a self-fulfilling prophecy. I don’t write because I’m depressed. I’m depressed because I don’t write. And it goes round and round… and round. It’s exhausting.
I’ve done it before, but I’ll do it again. I’m committing to you right now, whoever you may be, to write daily here, to make this my column, my task, my responsibility. My responsibility to myself. It doesn’t matter if anyone or no one reads my work. I need to write anyway. I know that about myself.
I have so much to say.
And yet when I don’t write, I feel I have nothing to say. All color drains away.
When I write, I realize that one of my problems is that I lack the discipline to know what to write: to latch onto a subject, to deliver “what my audience wants,” as I’m supposed to do. I know from experience that my audience wants me to write about dating and sex. And the truth is, I like writing about those things.
But I do still have kids in the house, so I can’t go too far off the limb.
What I want to say is, here is my particular situation. I’m a woman, a mom, about to be 52 years old, as incredible as that is. As incredible as it is, it is happening. I am a sensual, sexual being. I loved men. I love men. Good men. Sexy men. Men.
I’ve had the joy of being in love with many good men and romping with many good, handsome, funny, and kind men.
But, that’s not the point.
The point is, I’m a mom, a mom of an 18-year-old and a 21-year-old. These fledglings of mine have wings now. They have feathers. They are both considerably taller than me. And certainly stronger.
I take care of them still, and I like it that way.
But it’s finally dawning on me that they really will take flight, and soon. In fact, it’s quite possible both will leave in the fall. One certainly will, and the other may too, if all goes accordingly to plan. I will be a double empty nester in one fell swoop of their beautiful, glowing wings.
And I’m scared.
I’m going to be very lonely.
I hate eating alone.
Cooking for my kids gives me enormous satisfaction. I love it.
Cooking for myself alone… I have not been good at it, though I am getting better, on the few and far between practice nights the kids give me. (They’re not giving me those intentionally; it’s random.)
I have tango, so I will survive. I think.
I almost lost tango too. I haven’t danced in months. But I showed up at my local milonga on Saturday night, and I was not half-bad. In fact, neither I nor my partners could tell I hadn’t danced in three months. What an enormous relief. I am making my way back.
I dreamt last night that B. died. I dreamt I told my son his father had died, and then I said, it was my fault. It’s my fault he died.
I’m carrying that around, and it’s silly and unwarranted. It’s not my fault B. is mentally ill, that he suffers from bi-polar disorder, that he always did. I did not give it to him. The problem with me is that I have to tell myself this over and over and over again, and I don’t even believe it.
Logically, of course, I believe it. Cognitively, I believe it.
In my bones, however? In my heart? No. I do not believe it. I believe B. is willing to kill himself, to let himself die, of a broken heart. I blame myself for taking his family away. Which in fact I never really did, my friends will quickly remind me. But, yes. Of course I did. I took the nuclear family away from me too. The second we tore ourselves from one another some fifteen years ago, we ceased being a nuclear family.
And that is a blow, as any divorced person will tell you. One that never really heals.
And of course, the tapes that play in my head and heart are straight out of my childhood, trying to rescue my alcoholic parents. Being blamed, taking the blame, for this mighty act of literally condemning by mother to death by way of alcohol. It amounts to a kind of Jesus complex. It’s really weird, truth be told.
I’m afraid to say it here, because it amounts to a commitment. I’m committing to write daily. Because it’s healthy. And to shaking off this cloak of depression that I’ve been carrying for months, years, possibly decades. This THING that weighs me down, this thing that won’t allow me to get rid of the boxes and boxes of my parent’s stuff in my basement and garage, that won’t allow me to shed the furniture I don’t need… this guilt.
This Irish thing, this belief that I am guilty.
Enough. Basta. I’m fucking 52 years old. If I don’t claim my life now, when will I?
It’s over. Youth is gone, and I mourn its loss (I can write about that; I have a lot to say). The kids are on the cusp of gone. (I can write about that. I have a lot to say.) Money is on my mind: how to afford retirement, where to retire, how to retire, can I even retire? Where can I retire? What will retirement look like? Wealth-building, which I came to quite late. I can talk about that. I can bring my readers along with me. I have a lot to say. A lot of learnings. A lot of questions.
Dating and sex. Yes. I can discuss that.
And food. And cooking. Music. My hound. My neighborhood. California. Fears, worries, joys. A gratitude journal.
Let’s do it.
2020 here I come.