A List and A Prayer

December 15, 2017

The other day, I was putting off writing these words, and I went to CVS, a great place to go when there are ten blank pages weighing on my brain. (Relax, the outcome was more like five. And I talk fast.) The woman behind the cash register was brand new, but she was familiar because she had been ringing me up at 7 11 for years.

I don’t know why, but seeing the person that I’d been buying coffee from since 2010 working in the drug store right down the street thru me for a loop.

You know the feeling? You’ve had it. That moment when something or someone changes, and you weren’t expecting it. When one of your favorite people announces they’re moving out of state. When two people that you love tell you they are getting divorced.  When you find out someone is sick, or wake up to discover someone unexpected was elected president, even though everyone said it could never happen.

There are great surprises in store too- there will be babies, amazing job offers, or full scholarships to top notch schools. Your favorite band might get back together after a nasty, public, breakup on Twitter.

Even considering the good kind, I am still not a huge fan of change.

When I’m going to the Cape, I immediately move all the way to the left, to the lane that merges with Route 3, so I can stay in the same lane for the entire trip. When our neighbors move, even if I don’t know them, even if I don’t like them, I grieve. I still watch Gray’s Anatomy.

For those of you that are like me, I’ve put together a list of things I use to help cope with the endless fluctuations, cancellations, and curveballs life will throw at you. If you have any to add, please feel free to email me. I mean it.

  1. Go to the gym. Ride your bike. Or take a walk. Do something with your body that helps you stay strong for all of the mind blowing, fantastic, and terrible stuff that is to come. There are so many options, from yoga in straps, to hiking, lifting weights, kickboxing, dancing- explore. Mix it up. Ruts are for the unimaginative and lead to other ruts.
  2. Get off the phone while you’re at the gym, riding your bike, or taking a walk. Okay, listen to music. Just don’t scroll thru life. No matter what you have heard, it is not necessary to tell your 872 Instagram followers every time you pick up a weight or climb a hill. It still happened. If you are going to deal with the world, you have to be in the world, not watching it go by on your newsfeed.
  3. Decide who matters to you. Make a list. We don’t have all the time in the world. Choose your people and choose well.

4.  You are driving your own bus.

I was planning my wedding with a good friend of mine. I complained that I was going to miss a concert that weekend. She pointed out that I had to get married right away I was six months pregnant. It was my responsibility to make sure that the baby wasn’t born out of wedlock. I agreed and stopped whining. Eighteen years after that wedding day, I’m still pissed I missed Springsteen.

If you want to go to a show, or out to restaurant, or to a ball game, on your special day, listen to that inner voice. YOU ARE IN CHARGE OF YOUR OWN LIFE. People will try to hijack your plans, or the route you choose, but remember- No one else should be driving your bus but you. You can ask for directions, you can give people a ride, but at the end of the day, it is your journey. You are going a long way. Don’t let somebody else take the wheel unless you trust them, and even then, sleep lightly. It’s your damn bus.

What does public transportation have to do with the roller coaster ride ahead? If you are in charge of the changes in your life, you own them. You can’t be in charge of everything- someday you might get laid off, at some point you are going to lose someone you love, but wherever and however you can, don’t let life happen to you. Be proactive, noisy, daring, decisive, and brave. At the end of the day, it’s nice to know you were the one that chose how it was spent.

  1. Be flexible. In yoga, or pilates, they tell you to keep your knees slightly bent during the balance poses. This helps you find stability, keeps you from falling on your face. Flexibility in life means you don’t freak out when the movie you planned to see is sold out, when someone cancels last minute, or when your landlord texts you to tell you they aren’t renewing your lease and you have two weeks to find a new apartment in October in a city that caters to college students. Let’s be realistic, a minor freak out is expected for the landlord thing, but after you’ve done some deep breathing, maybe gone to a yoga class, you’ll figure it out. Spinning your wheels happens, just don’t get buried.
  2. Choose your traditions and embrace them.

The other night, I decorated the Christmas tree alone. I’ve always loved placing the ornaments collected over the years on the branches, and the ritual has been a big part of our holiday since the kids were old enough to stab each other with the little hooks. This year, we tried to coordinate a night to decorate together. Their father was working. Katy had flute lessons. Colin needed to stay after school. Colin needed to go out to eat. Colin needed to spend time on his Snapchat Anyway, Friday night, the only creature stirring was Michael the three legged cat. So, I decorated the tree by myself. It was a little bit sad, not having the company of my family. But at the end of the evening, the tree looked beautiful, Colin and Katy had a wonderful time fixing all of my horrible decorating decisions, and all was right with the world.

You will find traditions, create new traditions, and then they will change as your world changes. But it is wonderful to have touch stones to honor the past, whether it’s your personal past, your faith, or your family. It’s a thread that allows us to step back and appreciate where we have come from and where we might go.

 

  1. Stop looking around. Every single one of us is obsessed with how everyone else is doing. When you were little, your mom was checking out the toddler next door, and going a bit crazy because Jaimie started to speak five months ago, and you were still blowing bubbles and staring at your feet.

This attitude, this constant need to check in on whose doing what isn’t a true or even a semi true, yardstick of where you are at. Joe is killing it on Wall Street, but he’s not posting pictures on Facebook of his partner handing him divorce papers. Jenn just crashed a computer system at work, and is talking about going back to school to learn sign language. All the little pieces of information of how everyone else is doing, what they’ve accomplished, what they’re wearing and what car they are driving, have this incredible power to make us feel better, or worse and have nothing to do with where we are at.

Pay attention to your own path, and you won’t end up face planted on the sidewalk, wondering if someone is going to step on your head or come along and pick you up out of the dirt.

In closing, let me fill you in on the outcome of the uncomfortable interaction with the woman that inspired me.

While I waited in line, I wondered- was it her presence at CVS that made me uncomfortable, or was it the fact she hadn’t mentioned she was leaving 7/11 during one our conversations about Scratch tickets?

.  When I stepped in front of her, I asked why she’d switched jobs. It turns out Gwen, (we exchanged names during our conversation., thank God there was no one behind me,) had been studying to become a pharmacy technician, and the chain had hired her to work the retail side while waiting to pass whatever test pharmacy techs need to pass. So in a couple of weeks, Gwen will be the person I see when filling a prescription for penicillin.

Our lives are as big or as small as we choose to make them. People will come and go, or change positions, or we’ll change the way we define our relationships with them- from lover to ex, friend to best friend, to Christmas card recipient.

Some of you probably love the roller coaster of it all- not knowing what’s to come.

For the rest of usLean in. Reach for the commotion and the havoc.    Uproot everything you know to explore the unknown. Be a part of the changes you’re scared of, embrace the ones that are out of your hands, endure and learn from those that feel like they might break you forever.

     Find faith, and know who you are in this moment.

    Don’t be a person that clings to one system of beliefs, and one way of doing things, but recognize and build on the wisdom around and within you.

     What you discover in the years to come has the power to change you, and transform the world around you.

     Right now, the world needs changing.

     I trust all of you are up for doing your part.

     

 

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Humbled

November 13, 2017

I can tell the temperature,
within a degree or two,
first thing, every morning,

when I open the door
to let the cat in.

When I hear my best friend’s voice
over the phone,
all she has to say is hello,
and I know if it’s time to reach for my car keys,
make some soup,
or find a spot to listen.

I read body language,
talk to dogs,
and understand why
the three year old boy next door
finds poop endlessly amusing.

But I don’t know what’s going on with my 17 year old son.

I know where he is-

a flight of muddy stairs
a damp towel outside
a closed door.

I eavesdrop on his conversations,
Not to hear the words,
But to try to recognize his voice.
It hasn’t worked.

He is steps and oceans away.

I am here,
with clean laundry.

Orangetheory and ME

November 5, 2017

I go to the gym almost every single day. Working out gives me the chance to listen to silly pop music and use the immaculate showers when  finished, (I live with two teenagers).

As you’ve probably guessed, I’m not  a gym rat. I’m as coordinated as a newborn giraffe. I carry baby weight 17 years after having the baby, and living with the teenager has probably added a late night when-the-hell-is-he-going-to-start-packing-for-college Breyer’s induced pounds. I wear glasses, my hair refuses to stay in one of those adorable high ponytails, and my torso, when tucked inside a yoga top, looks like a well stuffed sausage.

When a person acknowledges they go a health club to listen to Shakira and hit the steam room, it’s an indication this person should take their workout up a notch. When I received a chance to try out something new, I took the leap.

I was curious about Orangetheory, a fitness studio that opened a year ago in Quincy Center. There are about two hundred franchises nationwide, and the chain is growing rapidly.

Each gym is set up the same way, with treadmills along one side, a large area in the center for rowing machines, and an open space for strength training that includes TRX cords, free weights, and gravity balls. The colors are- you guessed it- tangerine orange, and slate grey.

Along the wall in the separate workout areas are flat television screens that flicker on when class begins. Every participant has their first name listed alphabetically on the screen in day glow letters. During the workout, people can track their heart rate and  see how they measure up because of a special Orangetheory heart rate monitor strapped on their arm. The studios are dark, and the music is loud.

I knew all this beforehand because I’d been peering thru their window for weeks, while sipping coffee from the cappuccino shop next door.

On the day of my visit, I went to the Friday afternoon 4:30 class. As soon as I opened the door, I was surrounded by three different employees.  All of them greeted me with the enthusiasm shown for adorable babies wearing cute hats and tiny little athletic shoes or socks with bunnies on them. They knew my name, were eager to answer all my questions and, four separate times, assured me I didn’t need to be nervous

This made me nervous. After they strapped the heart rate monitor onto my forearm and led me to the waiting area filled with female twenty something fitness models wearing perfect ponytails and shiny spandex and one very male body builder type, I was very nervous. Looking at the body builder helped a little.

My trainer decided I would start on the treadmills, and explained that even though most (all would have been the correct term) of the others were runners or joggers, power walking was fine. I walk fast, and I stroll, but I have never power walked.

Power walking was a thing in the eighties. Today there are occasional outbreaks at the mall before it opens because some brilliant activities director at an assisted living facility is nervous about residents wandering around the parking lots trying to get their steps while dodging cars, dogs, visitors, and wheelchairs. It came back yesterday to downtown Quincy, Massachusetts, thanks to me, because I only jog when I’m running outside to chase Sophie The Best Dog Ever, (obviously there might be a better dog that doesn’t slip out the door for a game of tag during rush hour,) find the newspaper, or realize someone is driving away with my phone.

Megan went over what my target numbers would be,and explained about the incline, monitor, and large tv screen where my name was right in between Jenna and Kylie. Somebody turned up the music, and I checked for the fourth time that I’d double knotted my sneakers.

During those twenty minutes on the treadmill, I worked really hard. When using the elliptical, I have access to the same data that flashed over my head at Orangetheory, heart rate, calories burned, and distance traveled. What made me work harder than I ever do at my gym- the data is posted in different colors, according to what your heart rate is. I really wanted to make my numbers RED.

I wanted to make my numbers red so much, I jogged. I even ran. It felt like running anyway.

After twenty minutes on the treadmill, we headed over to the water rowers. There is something significant about these rowers because they are powered by water, but they just seemed like nice looking rowers to me. Rowing is hard, but since I knew everyone could see exactly how much effort I was putting into it, I kept up. When I rowed, I rowed like I was actually trying to go somewhere. (I’ll remember that for next time.)

Because of my unique approach, the fact that it took me about two minutes to strap my feet into the pedals didn’t do too much damage. It only took me one minute to unstrap my feet out of the pedals because I was looking forward to the strength workout.

I’d had the chance to watch two groups rotate thru the exercises posted for us this part of the class, and felt pretty confident I could handle them. After all, I had jogged. I’d figured out the buckles on the rowing machine. I wasn’t wheezing, or asking someone to call my mom.

There are three different sets of exercises during the strength interval, designed to work most major muscle groups. The first set of exercises were one legged deadlifts, spiderman arms on the TRX, and pushups. It’s hard to do one legged deadlifts in a dark room with a Techno soundtrack, especially after running and rowing. I wobbled a bit, but didn’t fall down, so I’ll call that a win.

For the Spiderman arms, I had to position my body at a forty five degree angle, leaning backwards, while I clutched onto cables. I had to use my arms, like hinges, to pull my body up, one arm at a time. My moves were less Spiderman climbing a building and more clumsy person flails on resistance bands. But I flailed less with practice.

Finally, I made it to the pushups. I kept my back flat. My eyes faced the top of the mat. I didn’t bend my knees. I completed five of the best pushups ever before realizing everyone was back up doing the one legged dead lifts again.

At the end of the workout, everyone came together to stretch. I looked around the room, and realized that I hadn’t noticed anyone during my hour session, except so I could figure out what I was supposed to be doing. I  had run faster than I have ever run in my life. (As a child, my games of choice was not tag or soccer. They were backgammon and reading books; the latter isn’t a game and might explain a lot about my lack of coordination.)

The next day, they sent me a wrap up of my work out-

484 CALORIES BURNED
146 AVG HR
83 % AVG
29 SPLAT POINT

Am I a horrible person for pointing out the expected goal for a first time clients is around 12 Splat points and thatthe numbers are cut off, my Splat points were 29? Splat points refer to the amount of time spent in the red and orange zones, when the heart rate is elevated. Of course, my heart was racing! I ran, and I don’t run, I rowed, and I even ended the workout doing mountain climbers. (At my regular gym, I usually just hold a plank. Not a climber, either.)

At the end of the day, what I’m most proud of is that I took on something new, in a room full of people I didn’t know, and I did things I decided a long time ago I don’t do.

It’s really nice to surprise the world. It’s even better when one of my kids looks at me with respect and says ‘Mom, you’re doing such a great job.” But what I learned at Orangetheory is how wonderful it feels to surprise myself.

Next week, I’m going to try Acroyoga. I’ll let you know what happens.

 An assignment for writing class (in other words, I don’t usually define myself in the third person).

Julie is 50 years old. She was happy to hear the instructor refer to a demographic as 25 to 54; it made her feel better to be part of a group that includes 25 year olds.

Julie is a mom, a daughter, an employee, a writer, a walker of dogs, a lover of pop songs, a gym rat, and a couch potato.

Julie is funny, selfish, kind, creative, moody, optimistic, outgoing, and introverted. She is concerned about social justice, global warming and Justin Bieber’s tattoos.

She spends too much time worrying about whether her baseboards are clean, or if her kids are wearing wrinkled shirts. She spends too little time worrying about the floors, or cleaning out her refrigerator.

She spends too little time in the woods, and, according to her dog, too little time with her dog.

She spends too much time outside, and, according to her cats, too much time with her dog.

Julie has room in her heart for her cats and her dogs, her kids and her mom, but will never find a space to appreciate the bliss of clean cabinets, or drawers that make sense.

This is Julie in October 2017, on a Tuesday night, writing for a Communications class.

I remember when I first started writing my blog and began my relationship with Facebook, I’d post vignettes about snow days, dancing the kitchen, swim meets, football games, bedtime rituals, and photographs of first days, holidays, days I had the phone close and the lighting was right.

Then life got more complicated. My children, who had been the focus of my world, who were still the focus of my world, didn’t really want me to talk about them anymore with the world.
I did anyway. I mean, cold turkey?

Lately, I’ve been pretty quiet.

Life is hard right now, glorious, exhausting, magnificent, heartbreaking.

And, then there’s the politics piece. No matter what side you’re on, most of us are carrying around a lot of rage, with a healthy side of fear.

No one expected we’d end up here. It’s the coldest war, inside our own country.

So lately, when I update my status,
I tell everyone to-
Look at the moon,
Listen to this song,
Check out what this guy had to say-(third grade drop out story, google it),
Read my friend’s book.

I am not the only one sitting on the front stoop,
looking up,
barefoot and reverent.
Even though the only sound is the breeze, an occasional car sliding by, and Sophie’s sigh.
Others have taken a moment to watch the night sky;
I have company.

When I sing along to a song in an off key soprano,
I am singing along with the writer, the singer, and everyone else,
Whose been swept up, for a moment or three,
Inside the melody and bass guitar.

On the late afternoons,
while I immerse myself in a novel,
or weep when I hear an old man’s tale of his father,
I have company.

I’d like to be here
for those that need more than the
moon or a pop song
To get thru the night
And say
Thank you for keeping me company.

 

 

Two weeks ago, in a communications class, I led the discussion about Society and Politics. I spent twenty hours to prepare for one hour in front of the class- reading, looking for the most up to date and accurate, information, struggling with google slides, putting YouTube clips inside google slides, putting anything other than youtube clips inside google slides- get the picture?

I was intimidated by the material. In light of recent events, everything in the textbook seemed outdated or irrelevant. At the end of the class, the professor asked how anyone could feel hope in light of current events. The world has become a dark place. The bad guys are winning, our population is under a constant state of attack we aren’t even aware of, and, realistically, it appears =it might be virtually impossible to overturn or overcome current events.

I answered his question by saying that although I agreed with everything he just said, I am able to find optimism in the course of my job and day to day life. I work with students, non profit organizations, and older people trying to find a way to become relevant in today’s world. I need to find hope, because the people I work with need me to believe there is a point to what they are doing or plan to do.

Quite a few of the people I work with are international, many are undocumented. The majority of these people are coming to Quincy College, a two year college, after they have completed their doctorate, or master’s degree in their own country. Dentists hoping to become dental assistants, doctors registering for the Certified Nurse Assistant program. Last week, I worked with an economist from Nigeria to find the resources to study for the TEAS so she can enter our LPN program.

I stand by what I said about needing to feel hope so I can offer my optimism, like a pen or an apple, to these people when they step into my office.

Last week, I had to lead the class in a conversation about the Global Media. Half way through the chapter, I realized I need to do so much more.

I had always thought ]when I welcomed a woman from Haiti, leaning over the table to listen to her words through her accent, and answering her questions, clearly, with the program sheet between us, as a visual guide- that was doing the right thing. Calling upstairs to see when the next TEAS preparatory class began,  also the right thing. Personally showing her the campus, introducing her to the Dean of Nursing, directing her to the most sympathetic staff member in our Financial Aid office, I felt like a rock star.

Welcoming people from other countries and helping them adjust to the area, navigate their way through job searches, higher education, even helping them help their own children make the transition, is important. But wouldn’t I be so much more effective if I knew something, anything, about the world these people are coming from?

Since Wednesday, I’ve made a priority to spend about twenty minutes looking outside of Western sources for the news. Columbia, France, Brazil, Canada,, Africa, Egypt, Qatar- the world is huge. I thought catching up on ‘Game of Thrones’ was going to be a process.I

I don’t know anything about ransomware, triple talaq, the recent rescue in Italy or spread of cholera in Yeman.

 

I consider myself an ambassador for higher education in the United States and I know little or nothing about where these people’s stories began.

Since then, I search out the international news mid-day. Over coffee, it’s too much. Before bed, I would never,sleep. Middle of my work day, I take a few minutes over lunch to seek out global news, not just from my half of the equator.  After reading a story like ‘There is no justice for the poor in Brazil’  or ‘Pentagon wants to boost US troop numbers in Afghanistan’, my ongoing issues with the copier machine seem a little less dire.

It’s sad, often, the state of the world, but it’s also enlightening, to feel like I’m becoming, bit by bit, more aware of what is actually happening in the whole world- the whole world. I’m aware and beginning to understand different points of view. I’ve had the opportunity to glimpse at a different landscape, politically, emotionally, socially, and   outside my own window. (Honestly, it’s been a week. I know enough to know I’m going to be without a clue for a while.)

I’m never going to have time to catch up on Game of Thrones.

Dealing

April 23, 2017

I’m the parent of a 13 and 16 year old.

It recently occurred to me how much time i waste looking at old snapshots of my kids, tripping down memory lane.

Every time i see Colin or Katy, anytime between the ages of two or ten, in a random picture, I grieve a little. The chubby, flushed cheeks. The easy smile for the camera. The giggle just below the surface, and the memory of the easy hugs, the non stop conversations at dinner, during which I would count the moments till they were in bed.

Then there is the time spent where I reminisce with other parents, friends, or any random tired strangers approximately my age standing in line at Target with a cart full of slim tampons or Axe body spray, about when we were young. There was no Instagram, pot was mostly worthless, porn was Playboy, and everybody played outside. In those days, teenagers didn’t spend all of their time looking at screens. while making really bad choices and posting pictures about the entire experience.

How much time have I wasted missing my own children, albeit the smaller, less complicated versions? Yes, preadolescence is really cute. Everybody under 12 looks adorable, especially to the people that met them as tiny, pink faced, noisy blobs of anger and insatiable demands, wearing silly tee shirts, tiny socks, and the most necessary underwear ever, diapers.

Even the tortured debates- karate or saxophone? Hip hop or girl scouts? Do they stay at the table till they have eaten at least three brussels sprouts or do they go to bed without ingesting anything with nutritional value at all so I can take a bath before Sex and The City? Even in the middle of these meaningful conversations in my  head,  I knew I was playing house.  My policy on vegetable consumption was as meaningful as the decision not to enforce the pants with zippers on holidays rule.

I’m sure both my kids have spotted the look on my face, peering at an earlier versions of them, in photographs carefully placed in CVS frames. They know I miss the days before pimples, charger wars, intelligent arguments that refuse to end because I say so. They can tell there are times when I see them as taller, paler imitations of my babies, my children.

Shame on me.

If I was so entranced with the early years, and not prepared to step aside to celebrate them in all the horrible glory of early adulthood, then I should have signed up to be a preschool teacher and skipped the rest.

As for the rest of it… yes, times have changed.

There is the internet. A million tv channels. Kids have their own damn phones and we don’t have to share one line.The porn is ruder than it ever was, I think, or it’s more easily available.

My kids are growing up and in the present, they can record everything stupid thing they do while the world watches.

I can mourn the way they were and the way things used to be or i can step up.

These changes, and the crazy stuff going on in the world, have given me a thousand opportunities to talk to the beautiful aliens across the kitchen table. They aren’t always in the mood, but sometimes bribery, in the form of expensive chocolate or a trip to an outlet store, works. Sometimes, they take their plates up to their rooms and the phrase ‘thousand opportunities’ seems as outdated as Mister Rogers and Peace on Earth. And sometimes we linger, night falls, our voices carry out over the radio. Sometimes, we listen, while the other one speaks.
.
If I continue to wallow in old snapshots of tiny toddlers, or vague memories of simpler times when I had to cross the room to turn the channel, I’ll only be looking over my shoulder.

Chances are I’ll get hit by a train, a tangle of smelly laundry, a bag of hula hoops and sidewalk chalk, or a thousand pairs of outgrown cleats and basketball sneakers.

I’m better off looking forward- leaning into the hugs and the angry debates, ducking the garbage and ignoring the hormones, and looking ahead].

I’m scared to death and I can’t wait for what’s next.

It all started with church,
This idea of getting ready for Monday-
To try on a different approach
To first light morning chaos.

I’d become one of those people
Who write hymns to their crockpots and can tell you
Which days the children
Need gym clothes.

(I am also a person who knows
Anything
Can happen.
Just because I’ve located
My stockings and checked them for tears
Does not mean I believe
I have control
Over tomorrow
Or anything else,
For that matter.)

I head to the gym for
A swim, some sweat,
and some space
To reach and drop
Stretch and bend.
I think about summer.

Maybe next Sunday,
I’ll schedule a pedicure
to get ready for spring
Or my next time at yoga.
At least once a week
I find myself surrounded
By well groomed women
In two tone leggings
Doing down facing dog.
In position, I’m faced with
Feet that scream neglect
Even louder than my kids
When I suggest last week’s
Corned beef and cabbage for dinner.

This evening-
One extra load, one last check with each kid
Do you need pencils?
Do you need a ride?
Tell me now because
You are old enough to know
I have no idea
When your recital will be, except that it will probably happen between now
and the first week of May.

Let me know whether your first game is at home or away.
Tell me, or text me,
Then tell me, or text me again.
I don’t care you don’t want me to be there.
I’ll put on sunglasses,
Wear the other team’s colors
and probably show up twenty minutes
After it’s over.

Coffee is measured,
Fruit is sliced,
Clothes selected, inspected,
Heels lean in the hallway.

Lunch is tucked inside tupperware,
This is good.
It won’t go bad
When I forget it tomorrow.
The world won’t come to an end.

(I know this because
I’ve devoted most of my life
doing everything I can to avoid
getting ready for anything
and so far… well, look outside.
You know what i’m saying?)

I spent an hour an a half doing
Everything I do every morning
in about twenty minutes.

And I still haven’t brushed my damned teeth.

or had a drink

or read the Sunday paper.

I’m ready for Monday
Though I’m carrying a bit of a grudge.

I like now,
Sunday night,
the moments before the alarm.

I like now.

.

There were rides in the Cadillac, top down
Beatles loud on the radio.
After intense arguments
With my brother over
Who got to sit behind
Our father.

There were meandering walks on tree lined streets at the age of 15,
Giddy, stupid, and hungry
For bagels or cookies
but afraid
To go home.

I should have been home.
I should have worn shoes.
I should have followed everyone
else to college.

There was saying goodbye to my dad
For ten years.
There was speaking to my dad In the dark,
ten years after he died.

There were parties, so many parties.
There was takeout for dinner
On nights we weren’t picking at meals in restaurants
With cloth napkins served by waiters
We’d see later on
at the club.

I didn’t make choices,

I was along for the ride. In                                                                                                               between,
I slept like the dead in a
Bedroom cloaked by
Tightly closed, thick velvet
Curtains.

Then, came my son.
I didn’t choose him
any more
Than I chose anything else
In those days.

It took time
For me to make the transition.

For a long time, I was a daughter
Who mourned and drank
And wished she’d said goodbye
And I love you
While my father still knew who I was.

It took too long for me to
Step. The. Fuck. Up.

My dad has been gone
Forever.

I’m losing my son.

It seems like it was five minutes ago
I recognized I was his mother.

He’s known all along and
While he was waiting
For me,
he grew tired
And found
Ways to pass the time
On his way to becoming
A man.

I’m here now.

His shoes are in the hall.

His world is private,
On instagram
Riding shotgun or crouched in the backseat of an uber,
Or inside his dreams.

When I wake him up,
He always sounds surprised by my voice.

He used to cry
As easily
As some boys
Laughed at spongebob squarepants.
He doesn’t cry anymore.

I hear pop songs
About love
And I think of my son.

I want to tell him
Everything
But he’s
Already gone.

I wasted a long time
Waiting for a dead man
To speak.

The rest of my life
Belongs to the living.

When he comes home
I stay as close as I can,
Noting his tone,
Holding my cheek for a kiss,
Watching him as he moves
thru the kitchen and
Smears peanut butter on
bread.

Sometimes,
I don’t know him at all-
His voice belongs to a stranger.
When did he decide
he liked Pad Thai?
Extra spice, light on shrimp.

Once in a while, I see the smile or the way he holds his fork,
And I know to bring him milk
Or suggest he get some sleep.

It was easier,
In the days of
Gimlets versus Cosmos,
South End versus Brookline,
Backgammon or silly conversation.

But upstairs, right above my head,
There is a boy.
He is angry, sweet, and funny.

He calls me mom
even though
He believes with all his heart
I am an idiot
Who doesn’t understand a thing,
And tortures him by insisting
He put away his clothes.
He puts away his clothes.

I hope I am here
To witness
The best of him-
Which is going to be amazing.

My son, by age sixteen,
Has taught me more
Than everything I knew
Before him.

It’s Monday night, the night after Christmas. In case you didn’t see the family photo tagged with our location, we traveled over the holiday. I told the world and myself I wanted us to have a chance to reconnect as a family. Truth is, it was all about spending some time with my boy, my sixteen year old son.These days, he walks out the door more frequently than he walks in. I spend too much time wondering every time I hear a car drive by or a siren shriek.

I’ve finished unpacking, almost finished unpacking, well, I’ve started unpacking and can say that all of my shoes are where they belong.

I’m scrolling thru Facebook, and I see all the happy family photos. My heart swells with pride at the likes under ours taken by a very kind, patient hostess. We are standing in front of a fireplace, arms linked, smiling.

It wasn’t really like that at all.

Well, parts of it were. There was tubing down Cranmore with C, legs linked, tires spinning. I screamed, he laughed.

There was s’mores by the fire after a sleigh ride. My daughter sat next to my son. He went into the lodge and got her hot chocolate.

There were the moments before we had to leave for the sleigh ride, when his dad had to stuff his feet into his brand new boots because he didn’t want to go.

There were arguments over phone chargers, pillows, homework, bad language, and whether or not one should stay in a jacuzzi for an hour at a time.

In other words, it was like being on a vacation with a toddler that has far more words and muscle at his disposal when he wants to take a stand.

On our way home, we stopped by the outlet store. He walked over to me, held out his arms and pulled me close. He said- “I’m glad I came. I had fun.”

He finds joy in a Nike store, and bliss when he knows that moments after we leave he will be swaddled in a new Nike sweatshirt and sweat pants.

I’ve probably crossed the line here, but I’m giving myself a pass this time.

I’ve decided it is time to stop rambling on about the challenges we face.
They are his challenges now, He deserves privacy to be who he’s going to be and figure out what he needs to figure out.

I will take a step back to find my place in the audience while my son goes about becoming a man.
It won’t be easy.

I remember wondering if things would have been different if I’d read him more bed time stories or made him join Boy Scouts.

You reminded me that one less chapter of Harry Potter, or four more camping trips probably wouldn’t have made a bit of difference.

Some of you let me know you are dealing with some of the same problems; and that you are as lost and confused as I am.

Sometimes it’s incredibly easy to feel totally isolated, in a room full of people, in a community of millions, at the dinner table with family.

We are as connected as we allow ourselves to be. We are not alone.

Neither is he.

I hope he figures that out.