On Titles – Or, Let Me Tell You What You Are

This is a short post because I am obviously a Very Busy Person, and also I am caught up in a Netflix documentary about a bank heist and I can’t stop thinking about it long enough to put something really cohesive and deep together.

I got into an argument with someone today. Those of you that know me know how deeply unsurprising this fact is. I could argue with a lampost, and I probably will end up doing exactly that one day, when Moe gets tired of my shit and leaves me and I end up living in a dark apartment with a lot of cactuses (cacti?) as pets because I cannot even be trusted to care for a cat or a gerbil.

The disagreement was about Moe’s daughter. More specifically, what “terminology” I use when referring to myself in relation to her (does that sound as confusing as it actually is, or does it make you roll your eyes and think “who fucking cares?” because, yeah, same).

But you and I are amongst the minority of people who think this when it comes to fascinating subjects like Adult Co-Parenting Terminology.

The point here is that human beings are :

1 – nosey – and –

2 – bored

On several (at least four) occasions, people have referred to the small person who lives with me as my daughter. If it’s a store clerk or a waitress, I don’t bother correcting them because that would encourage conversation and questions, two things that I loathe equally. But when it’s someone I know, and who knows me, and who knows that this tiny individual has a mother who is lovely and amazing and adores her children, I feel like I have to take issue with that. First of all, I didn’t push her (or anything – *shudder*) out of my body. Secondly, I am not a mother. I don’t want to be a mother, and if I did want to be a mother to anyone other than my furry Beast of a dog, I would have no problem being referred to as one. Since, (see above) I would have pushed a human being out of my body (nothankyou) and thus would have earned that title.

I don’t call myself her stepmother, either, because it has so many bad connotations. I don’t call myself her anything. I just exist as a (half-functioning) adult who makes sure she eats food and doesn’t fall over suddenly and has some good times doing the things that kids are supposed to do. I don’t make or enforce rules very often, I don’t raise my voice, and I keep my nose out of parenting issues unless they are immediate and I am the only person around to take action (Hey google! Child has a fever, should I place them in a tub of ice?).

I still don’t know if my approach is wrong or right or somewhere in between. So far, it. seems to be working to everyone’s advantage. Moe’s daughter rarely falls down unexpectedly, I know now that a fever requires only children’s Tylenol (NOT ADULT’S EVER) and some rest, and, (bonus!) I have yet to deal with cleaning up barf. She and I co-exist peacefully, and I hope she grows up seeing me as an adult who cares about her, wants the best for her, and who is cheering her parents on from the sidelines, ready to step in if required. Like an awkward, scrawny, adult relay-racer.

I’m sure, when the teenage years hit us straight in our unsuspecting faces with an aggressive uppercut, this dynamic will shift. If karma actually exists, I will be paid back in full for the total roaring asshole that I was to my parents as a teenager, and I will look back on this blog entry fondly, laughing at my own naivety through a haze of rage-fueled tears.

I will end this now because I just caught myself staring at the wall thinking about how many episodes might be left until we find out who was really behind the bank heist. It involves a collar bomb.

A collar bomb!

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On Convention. Or, Lost is the New Normal. 

I’ve tried about 13 times to go to University, and once to college. Each of these times, I have found a reason not to finish. I was bored, or broke, or both. I hated the coursework, and the professors annoyed me because they were often stuffy and I felt like they lived in musty old houses with many cats and drank weak tea and had no time for the actual students they were meant to be teaching who were paying for this pointless course on 18th century writers that no one ever actually cared about with the promise to surrender their firstborn child. 

I am still one school year away from completing my University degree, and every once in awhile I get spasms of sheer panic that accompany a dialogue that goes something like this: 

You have to finish school. If you don’t finish school, you will be a waitress forever and you will get varicose veins and seriously it is time to grow up and just finish something and you can do this (no you can’t) look at all of the people out there who finish degrees when they are like 78 years old and go on to be wildly successful for the last 7 months of their lives it’s never too late to go back to school. 

This continues for a few months, and then I forget about it, and go back to the job that I really like and just sort of plod along in life like I suspect most of us are doing, regardless of our job titles or our annual incomes. 

I respect the people who have done things the right way, and I also feel a little envious of them. Having a life that has followed a straight line to an acceptable and normal outcome is something that I applaud. School, more school, job, mortgage, spouse, child, retirement, cottage, death. For many people, this is the trajectory of life, with the occasional surprise or setback thrown in. And I think this is great. It must be, right? Because this is what we are taught, as soon as we can get our heads around the concept of convention. Do what you have to do in order to have a life that is comfortable. But do it quickly, so you can work as many years as possible, in a job that is suitable and stable, so that you can have enough money to buy stuff when you are old. 

While I applaud this convention (cautiously and also sort of sarcastically) I have also spent most of my adult life ignoring it. 

I live in an apartment, I don’t have any kids, I have no interest in a mortgage or a yard or in owning mechanical things that are used to cut grass and blow snow and essentially make me miserable in climate conditions that I prefer not to be outside in. I have a lot of tattoos, I still dress like I am 17, and I often speak my mind when the socially advisable thing to do would be to shut up. My spouse and I work in an industry that is gruelling and leaves little time for family life. We sleep in separate bedrooms by choice, we don’t ever want to have a wedding, and we hate all-inclusive vacations for the very legitimate reason that they feel exactly like what I imagine a real-life Groundhog Day would feel like except with palm trees and shitty booze. 

I spent years being uncomfortable with most of these things. I struggled when I saw that people I went to high school with were living in enormous houses or becoming doctors or enjoying their vacations. I felt like I was doing life wrong because I didn’t want any of the things that everyone else seemed to. Pregnancy and childbirth actually alarm me so much it’s embarrassing – your body does what? And you did this on purpose? And you’re going to do it again? 

The amount of people – sometimes people who are little more than strangers to me – who feel entitled to ask if I own my home or rent it is staggering. These are the same people who are shocked and, inexplicably, saddened to learn that, no, I don’t want kids, I never have, and my ownership of female reproductive organs doesn’t really make me feel like I have to guiltily slink into motherhood with my head down simply because it’s what I am (supposedly) biologically engineered to do. 

As I get older, I am learning to stare these people down and hold my head up a little higher. I don’t know if this is because I am maturing into someone who is proud of who they are for reasons that are not dictated to me by other people or if I am just generally too exhausted to give a fuck what anyone else thinks about my life. Either way, it feels a lot better. There is no conventional life, anyways, I don’t think. I think a lot of people are struggling, even if they took the right path, the one that was properly timed and didn’t have too many detours. 

I see a lot of humanity in my line of work. Some of the happiest people I know are filthy rich, and some are just getting by. Others have families so big it actually makes my head hurt to comprehend what it costs to feed and clothe so many individuals, but they are so blissful and content with their situation that it also makes me smile for them while at the same time feeling immensely relieved that I am not them. I see regular folks who seem sad or angry or discontented, and I see husbands and wives who have been married since probably 1918 and are clearly still in love. I watch young people who are so obviously unprepared for the life that is coming at them and hope that they take their own route to get there, even if it seems messy or wrong or unconventional. 

I still don’t know what I want to be. The long road from divorce to happiness seems, in a lot of ways, like the biggest victory I could ever imagine. Also that I have found someone who seems to want to tolerate me indefinitely is definitely something I didn’t expect to happen twice in one lifetime. In the meantime, I’m happy to wander along my little path, screaming at people who don’t understand me along the way until I have offended so many well-intentioned strangers that eventually no one will ever go out of their way to speak to me ever again, until I reach the place where I am supposed to be, with Moe beside me, rolling his eyes and rubbing his face at the sheer level of frustration I bring to his life. I could have ended up a lot of places (most likely under a bridge talking to myself), but the fact that I am here, right now, in this life, is enough for me. 

And we pay $1400 a month in rent. If you’re wondering. 

On Anxiety – Or, It Will be OK, Jay-Z

I want to know if Jay-Z gets anxious about things. Does he lie awake at night wondering if he should have taken the garbage out before bed because leaving it until 7 am the next morning is cutting it close and last time he forgot and missed the garbage truck entirely and then his garage stunk for an entire week due to the excess of trash stuck in there?

Does he worry about his parenting skills? Should he be making his kid eat more vegetables even though ALL she will bloody well eat is cucumbers? Should he have named her after a primary colour?

Do he and Beyoncé have pointless arguments that leave him feeling wrung out and tense for hours after about how much time they spend together, and is it the right amount of time or is it too much and what should they be doing with their time together?

Is there a little voice CONSTANTLY in the corner of his very busy mind telling him “pick up the dog shit before it rains, Jay. Last time you didn’t it got all soggy and smeared into the grass and you were pissed and you can avoid that scenario AND shut me up if you just go pick it up NOW stop thinking about it and just do it seriously all this thinking about it just makes it even worse and now look at you you are immobilized by the thought of picking it up and ALSO by the thought of not picking it up”?

There are two things that are important to note here.

One – I spend an inordainate amount of time thinking about Jay-Z and it is not normal and probably borders on behaviour that can be classified as “unhealthy” or “stalkerish”.

Two – I don’t think anxiety cares who you are, how old you are, what your gender is, or which former Destinys Child member you happen to be married to. I think anxiety is generous in who it befriends, allowing each of us who meet it to become very attached to it until one day it is essentially running our lives like that friend we all had in high school who bossed you around and made you steal brown lip-liner from the drugstore and you did it even though you knew your dad would (figuratively) kick your ass and (literally) confine you to the house until you were 27 and your mom would cry and as a teenager seeing a crying parent is mortifying so you just prayed you never got caught. And, like that friend, you want to tell anxiety to fuck RIGHT off but you can’t. It’s part of you now, and it knows you so well and besides no one else’s parents let you drink in their basement. On school nights.

I don’t know where my anxiety came from, and I’ve never been officially diagnosed with it by a medical professional and also “officially” feels like the wrong word here and should probably be reserved for statements more like “you are officially the chess champion of Delaware” not “you are officially a basket case”, but I can’t think of another word and it sort of makes anxiety sound like a bit of a fun prize or a blue ribbon or something.

Realistically, though, it’s anything but fun. Anxiety makes you live inside of your head, and everything else – like the actual, physical world around you – is secondary. Your thoughts are constant and blurry and impossible to detangle sometimes. It is not a tangible thing, but you come to think of it in terms of a possession that you are required to have with you at all times, as in – “off to the grocery store! Better make sure I have my keys my wallet my coupons that annoying token I need to unlock the carts because some people apparently steal them and now we all have one more tiny thing in our lives that we have to keep track of and my anxiety. Where is my anxiety again I almost forgot it last time – oh there it is under my coat. Phew”.

Sometimes, anxiety is a sneaky asshole and disguises itself as worry (also not constructive) or rage (something I am very prone to especially when behind slow walkers, shitty drivers, or people who have 72 lottery tickets to check when I just want to PAY FOR MY GAS don’t they KNOW they can check their numbers in the paper or ONLINE). But even when it’s hiding behind one of these other lovely afflictions, it can still debilitate you at a moments notice. Suddenly you’re in the middle of the cereal aisle and the choice between Cheerios and no-name wheat-o’s is just too much so you end up back at home with no groceries and the daunting prospect of having to do it all again tomorrow because children apparently need food.

Where is the relief? Is there relief?

I’m sure there is relief to be found in pharmaceutical drugs but my personality is one that is best kept far away from anything addictive and / or in pill form. I regularly remember to be grateful that crack wasn’t big in my hometown because if it had been I would be writing this from under a bridge somewhere.

For now, I quiet my own voice by walking The Beast and writing. I have also rearranged the furniture in our living room so many times that Moe finally, in a very firm, un-Moe like manner, said I had to stop because it never felt like home with everything constantly moving and also he had walked into the coffee table three times because he kept forgetting where it was.

I also try to stay calm by constantly reminding myself that I am not alone. Many, many people deal with anxiety, and many are not lucky enough to be able to talk about it without feeling shame or isolation. More still deal with depression and self-harm, anxiety’s evil, mean-as-fuck sisters. These people are champions, battling something that can’t be seen and sometimes can’t even be described. My issue is mild in comparison, and I am humbled by those that fight against those asshole sisters every day.

I want these people to know that I’m behind them, even though I am literally zero help in any given situation unless it is giving advice on how to nap properly (light but warm blanket, dark room, fan or open window giving a slight breeze and little to  no light).

I also want Jay-Z to know that I, too, frequently worry about picking up dog shit and put it off until the last possible moment. You are not alone, friend.