Suffering in Silence

October 5, 2011 § 2 Comments

This is the third day in a row that I have had no voice. And today I learned that when you have laryngitis, you’re really not supposed to whisper, either. Normally, I’d welcome the opportunity to “practice silence” as some kind of spiritual exercise. (Normally? What am I talking about? What is this “normal” life that my current life is just a temporary break from? Hello! Don’t you remember what the nice man with the shopping cart told you? YOU’RE A MOTHER NOW! YOU HAD YOUR CANDLELIT DINNER, NOW YOU HAVE HER!) But anyway, today I am finding that not being able to talk is 1) super inconvenient for obvious reasons, and 2) fucking with me mentally for reasons that may not be as obvious, so let me elucidate for you below.

I usually put my daughter down for her nap with a lot of verbiage to smooth the transition. I like to get her on board with what’s going on. If she says she doesn’t want to take a nap, for instance, I tell her about how nice it feels to sleep cuddling her stuffed animals. Usually she gets pretty psyched when I remind her of those guys. If she’s really resistant, I tell her that when she’s 5 she can stop taking naps, but until then she has to, because she’s 2 and 2 year-olds take naps. And then I name all of her friends who are napping at that very moment. This pretty much always does the trick. The day they stop working, I’ll have to come up with some new material, but so far these (excellent) points are enough.

Today, though, I couldn’t say any of this stuff. She went down for her nap crying, which is very rare for her, although I know that there are lots of kids who cry-it-out all the time and I am not judging their parents ok so BACK OFF. I just don’t happen to do it that way, and my daughter’s not used to it, and when it happened today I fucking hated it.

If I thought there were things I could have said, short things, I would have whispered them despite the fact that I’m not supposed to. But honestly, my points are all multi-word sentences, and usually along with the points themselves I have to supply answers to her counter-arguments (“But why?” being the main one). That’s a lot of whispering for something that isn’t even guaranteed to work. And ALSO… being sick is making me really tired and irritable, and I was just eager to get out of there and come make myself a cup of tea with honey and write a blog post about how bad I am feeling.

But mostly I feel shitty because there should have been some way I could have communicated with her non-verbally, like through mother-daughter telepathy. I mean, are we not close? I made a point of putting her naked newborn self on my naked chest as much as possible when she was born, because it was super snuggly, but ALSO because I was under the impression that I was establishing the kind of connection that a silly bout of laryngitis could never disrupt. I just wanted to kiss her forehead and have the words “You’re 2 and you can stop taking naps when you’re 5” just sink through to her brain. Or even just the 2 and the 5, and she could fill in the blanks. I would even settle for a general sense of love and sleepiness washing over her like some kind of wordless cotton candy-colored mist. Oh well.

Anyway, she eventually stopped crying and fell asleep, but when she did, instead of feeling relieved, I felt… lonely. Isolated. It is odd to be unable to talk to someone on the phone if you wanted to (even though I hardly ever talk on the phone when she’s napping because our place is small and I’m afraid of waking her up). And I kept thinking that if someone came to the door selling magazine subscriptions, I would have to just stand there listening to them because I’m pretty sure that they are trained to stay until they are explicitly told to GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY FACE I AM NOT GOING TO BUY ANY OF YOUR SHITTY MAGAZINES BECAUSE I DO NOT EVEN KNOW HOW TO READ OKAY? And that just wouldn’t ring true if I wrote it down.

It’s also been odd these past few days to not really be able to talk to my husband. Not to be able to clarify WHY I want fresh chicken soup from the grocery store instead of canned if they have it. He thinks it’s because of the noodles. He keeps asking me if the noodles are okay in the different kinds he’s gotten me, and I smile and nod but the truth is, it was never the noodles that were the problem. It’s the chicken. IT’S THE CHICKEN!!!! The chicken in most canned chicken soup is weird, dried out chicken by-product. The fresh soup at grocery stores *sometimes* has better chicken. But when you can’t talk, you have to let some things go unsaid. Maybe I’ll tell him when I can talk again. I’ll probably forget though!

Beyond my husband and daughter, I haven’t even tried to talk to anyone else. Except, oh yeah, the doctor who gave me a strep test. That was pretty awesome. (It came back negative.) The visit and the test cost $119. That’s WITH a discount for not having health insurance. I don’t even want to talk about it. Luckily, I guess I can’t.

But anyway, the worrisome thing about this whole laryngitis experience is that I am turning more and more inward. And, not surprisingly I guess, when I turn really inward I start seeing things I hate. Like, I’ve noticed that I’m lazy. Do you know that I would much rather sit than stand? Also? I would much rather lie down than sit. Being sick, I have a lot of very recent evidence to back this up. Therefore: it is the truth about me. Also, it’s why I’m not skinny. And it’s also a metaphor for why I’ve never “gone for it” with any career plan. And don’t even get me started about what this means for the example I’m setting for my daughter. I might cry if I thought about that, and there is a lot of nasty mucus going on in my body already, and my throat is killing me just sitting here and not doing anything with it, if I start crying I will be pretty much inflicting terrible pain on myself for no reason and that is so stupid it will make me cry harder and isn’t that just like me? To get stuck in a spiral of crying and stupidity?

Like I said, not being able to talk is fucking with me mentally. That was the whole point of this blog post, so if it was meandering and self-pitying, that’s kind of okay because it just proves my point. And I would rather be right than dignified. (That’s another truth about myself that I’ve noticed since having laryngitis.)

Meanwhile, make sure you tell me to feel better soon. You do want me to feel better soon, right? What? You could care less? Okay, well that doesn’t make any sense. I think you meant to say that you couldn’t care less. Think about it. See? I’m right.

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My Wanting Mind: Le Creuset

September 25, 2011 § 3 Comments

Le Creuset 7.25 qt. Round French Oven in Caribbean

$269

VS.

Lodge 7.5 qt. Dutch Oven in Caribbean Blue

$69

These pots are very similar. But one costs $200 more than the other. Can you guess which one I want?

I’ll give you a hint. I hate myself for it.

The thing is, people who own Lodge pots will tell you that they are exactly the same as Le Creuset, just without the fancy name. Because they need to justify their choice.

At the same time, people who own Le Creuset pots will tell you that nothing compares to the real thing, and that you get what you pay for. Because they also need to justify their choice.

But do you want to know what it comes down to for me? Really, honestly, why I want the more expensive one? It’s not because I think it cooks better. It’s not because I care that my pot be made in France and not in China. It’s not because I think it will last longer or have a better resale value or fit in better with the high-end dream kitchen I someday plan on having.

No. I want the more expensive one because it is a prettier color.

(And yes, I have seen both these colors in person. The pictures above can be trusted.)

I mean, look at the perfect blueish greenish color of the Le Creuset. They were right to call it Caribbean. I’ve seen the Caribbean, I should know.

Lodge, I do not know what you were thinking with the color of yours. It hurts my eyes to look at it. If I had to cook food in it I would throw up.

And I cannot BELIEVE you had the gall to call it Caribbean Blue. There is nothing even remotely Caribbean about that color.

How does this happen? Who is picking out these colors? Do these companies hire color-picker-outers who charge based on how good their taste is? So, like, Le Creuset can afford a better color-picker-outer, and consequently all their colors are amazing? And Lodge can only afford a shitty color-picker-outer who can only pick out shitty colors?

Or, maybe the color-picker-outers at both companies are equally good, it’s just that they’re each deliberately choosing colors that they think will appeal to their company’s customer base. Maybe the folks at Lodge know full well that their colors are butt ugly, but they think that YOU have bad taste and will like them. You know, because you’re poor and stuff.

Or, could it be the paint industry, hiking up the prices on the colors that are more pleasing to the eye, and offering colors that no one wants to look at at bargain basement prices? Colors that have been scientifically proven to induce vomit are practically free.

Or, does Le Creuset have a patent on “enamel-covered cast iron cookware in dope colors” and Lodge has to make its colors terrible just to avoid being sued?

I WANT ANSWERS PEOPLE AND I AM NOT ENTIRELY KIDDING.

The whole thing just pisses me off miserably. I don’t have $269 to spend on a pot, and now Lodge has ruined my chances of being happy with a cheaper knock-off.  (A cheaper knock-off that, I might add, is still expensive enough to me that I would need to be at least 85% in love with it to actually get it. I’m not spending $69 to walk into my kitchen every day and throw up. Sure, over time, it would eventually spread out so I was only paying $3 each time, and over even more time it would get down to a matter of cents, but still. I hate throwing up.)

BUT THE REALLY FUCKING FRUSTRATING PART IS THIS: even if I were to save up the money or ask for the Le Creuset as a gift, I’d still have to feel like a total tool knowing that I am essentially paying, or asking someone else to pay, $200 for a color. I can’t do that in good conscience. Not while there are starving children in Africa. Some of whom are colorblind.

Clearly I am fucked. There are just way too many obstacles standing between me and no longer having to halve my chili recipe because I’m afraid it’s going to overflow my 4 qt. Le Creuset pot. (What? Did I really forget to mention that earlier? Because I could have sworn… Well FINE, I’ll tell you about it now: it’s cherry red and it’s BEAUTIFUL and it was a gift and I really don’t think that the fact that I already have a Le Creuset pot should in any way affect the way you feel about the rest of this post. I am still very, very downtrodden and personally insulted by the Lodge brand’s abysmal color choices, and I deserve to be happy and have everything or at least most of the things I want because I hardly ever want things and I have always been a remarkably good girl and there are people out there who own entire SETS of Le Creuset cookware and they take baths in Le Creuset bathtubs and take shits in Le Creuset toilets and I don’t need all that to be happy. I’m really very simple and down-to-earth, you know. And I just happen to really love when the color of the actual Caribbean appears on a pot of about 7 qt. capacity. Is that really so wrong?)

If you think I’m bad, fine, but you know who’s WAY WORSE? The people who buy Le Creuset pots, but they buy them in this color:

It Takes a Village

September 22, 2011 § 4 Comments

Today we were walking home from the library with some friends, when L decided that she could not wait till we got home to read her book. She sat down right in the middle of the sidewalk and opened it up, this giant colorful board book about Elmo brushing his teeth even though he doesn’t have any.

So as our friends walked ahead a bit, I crouched down and tried some strategies to get her to stand up and come along.

“We can look at your book when we get home.”

“Look, our friends are waiting for us!”

“Come on, let’s gallop home! You’re such a good galloper!”

Her response to all of this was to scream, “NO NO NO I DON’T!!!!” and a bunch of stuff like that.

At this point, I would totally have just picked her up and carried her and the book, in spite of her screaming, but there happened to be a man and a woman with a shopping cart standing right there. (Are you getting this picture? Did you just adjust the way these people were dressed in your mind when you read that they had a shopping cart? Can I get away with just saying that, and not alluding to their social class in any other way, not presuming to know if they have a place to live or not, or anything about their mental health? Can anything bad you think about them just be your fault?)

(But wait, you say: aren’t you kind of depending on their shopping cart to make this story worth telling? I mean, isn’t there, in every story about something a bum said to you, this inherent, automatic storytelling value in the fact that he even dared to utter something to you? It could be something totally mundane, but if a homeless person said it to you, it becomes an anecdote. But please, by all means, finish your story.)

So the couple with the shopping cart are finding this funny, and the man says to my daughter, “What are you doing? What’s going on with you?”

Miraculously, she stops screaming and looks at him, and in a very calm voice says, “I want to read my book.”

“Well, mama!” he says to me, “Looks like she’s gonna read her book!”

And the woman chimes in, “They’re gonna do what they’re gonna do.”

Inside I’m like, Yeah, but OUR FRIENDS! Our friends are down there! They’re waiting for us! But I don’t really want to say that out loud; I’m not going to let complete strangers mediate a conflict between me and my toddler. (Or am I just afraid they’ll be on her side?) So I just look to where our friends are standing and mouth a super-exaggerated SORRY!, hoping that the couple with the shopping cart will pick up on that. But they are busy telling me more things.

“You’re a mother now,” says the man. “Sometimes you gotta get down and read with her. How old are you? 25? 26? You had your candlelit dinner. Now you have her.”

Of all the mistaken assumptions in that sentence, the one I choose to correct is, of course, my age. Because I’m betting that if I say I’m 30, he’ll say something about me looking younger, and more important than defending my pride as a mother is affirming my attractiveness as a female. I can totally cash in here! I can double the ego-boost of what was already a compliment by forcing him to reiterate it more explicitly!

Except he doesn’t say that– he just says, “Well, I was close.”

Ok, dude. It’s all about YOU now I guess.

But anyway, just so you guys know, for the record, let it be said, because I think it’s really important: there was no candlelit dinner involved in the making of this child. Not even somewhere along the way. Because I’ve tried that once or twice, and it turns out I don’t like not being able to see my food that well.

And oh yeah, I guess I should ALSO point out that I get down and read with her all the freaking time. Just not on the sidewalk. When people are waiting for us. And maybe we all could have sat down on the sidewalk and read together, except that the kiddos needed to eat. And take naps. And well, she can’t always do whatever she wants. And it’s part of my job as a mom to teach her that. Right? Kind of?

“Okay,” I say to my daughter, “As soon as you get to the end we’re going to get up and keep walking.” She is like, one page away from the end at this point. But she’s smart. She flips the whole book back to the beginning. Ooooh, she is bad!

So I start prying the book from her hands, which of course results in screaming and yelling, and so the man says, “Hey! Your mama’s gonna give you some milk and cheese. Mmmm… and some bread. And some GRAPES!”

Suddenly she springs up. “GRAPES! GRAPES! I want grapes, mommy!”

“And there you go,” the man says. “See, I know what I’m talking about.”

The woman laughs and says, “Now you gotta go to the store and buy some grapes!”

Grrreeeat.

Yeah, no, not doing that. Just going to go catch up to our friends and hope she forgets about the grapes before we get home. Remind me to tell you some time how I’m a terrible mother who deprives her child of fruit. Fruit! Seriously, I’m pretty sure that if I went to the store nearest our house and bought grapes it would be like $12.

But thanks, shopping cart couple, for the parenting advice. And the anecdote. I went home and blogged about it. I am an asshole.

Words Not to Live By #1: “Do the thing that scares you.”

August 23, 2011 § 3 Comments

There are some things I’ve heard in my life, mostly as a child, that I’ve really taken to heart. Actual phrases that I’ve built my life around. And sometimes, when I find myself suffering from the unsatisfactoriness of my life as I see it, I realize that really, it’s these words that are to blame, and the people who perpetuate them, and I get very mad at everyone I’ve ever known.

Do the thing that scares you? Step out of your comfort zone? I guess that for some people, this advice gives them the needed encouragement to go from comfortable and bored/boring to comfortable and occasionally thrilled. Great for them. But this advice is crazy dangerous in the hands of people who are already anxious and obsessive and masochistic.

This advice gave me the ridiculous hope that if I just kept hurling myself into situations that terrified me, eventually I would become brave. That by ignoring feelings like fear and dread and panic, I could conquer them.

I wish that instead I had been told, “Find something that doesn’t scare you, and do that. Find a place where you feel safe, and just get nice and cozy because life can be sweet and some day you will die.”

I have run myself through the mill in the name of personal growth. I have denied myself the opportunity to even learn what it is that might come naturally to me, because I have been so busy deliberately pursuing things that do not.

Looking at my resume, every single job I have ever had is a job that would be tons of fun for a “people person”. But I AM NOT A PEOPLE PERSON. I do not understand most people, I don’t know how to interpret the things they say, I am terrible at reading their minds and I resent having to try. I am pathetically, relentlessly, eager to please. Yet I am not sure how to be warm. I am not sure how to be there for someone, what exactly to say, or whether to be quiet, or whether I’m being too quiet. I don’t know how to further or deepen a friendship, (and the few close friends that I have, I am so thankful to, because they’ve been willing to take the lead on that and if not for them I would truly be up a creek). I am also excruciatingly indirect. My desire to avoid interpersonal conflict leads me to tell everyone what I think they want to hear, then scramble myself up trying to make it true.

I have always wanted so hard to be the other way. I want to have an ease with people, to be comfortable in my own skin and totally accustomed to the whole range of human interactions that come up in life, the laying down of expectations, the negotiation of fees, the command of a classroom, the simple, natural flow of chatter between shopper and cashier. I have tried the “fake it till you make it” approach. But I’m 30 now and I’m beginning to think that if it was going to work it would have started to kick in by now.

And I know it’s not easy for anyone else. I know that everyone struggles with what they want from themselves. I guess I’m just saying that maybe shy people should do shy people things, and not have to feel guilty about it. There are some awesomely outgoing people out there– let THEM be the teachers, and the managers, and the bubbly, lovely leaders. There’s no reason for people like me to get mixed up in that shit.

And the thing is, now I am left with no experience doing anything that I actually am comfortable doing. There is so much out there that I’ve never even considered.

Pushing aside all judgments and wishful thinking…

I think maybe I could be happy being an editor or a proofreader. Or a librarian. I think I might like to deliver the mail. I also like math. Something where I put numbers into little boxes and no one expects me to have charisma while I’m doing it.

Something where I get up and check my e-mail in the morning and I don’t have to be biting the inside of my mouth because I’m afraid that someone has quit the thing I have tried to make so fun for them, or someone doesn’t like the way I do things because they can tell that I am only playing at being a people person and actually I am a freak. An e-mail where I have been discovered and they want their money back. Wherein they explain that they know that I say bad words and live in squalor and occasionally think about sex, and they think I have no business ever associating with kids.

Do they still need people to live in little cabins and watch for forest fires? What about someone to test crossword puzzles to make sure they work? Is there still work to be had in bean counting? And would I need to get a Masters? Please advise.

Everybody Loves Portland

August 9, 2011 § 3 Comments

Have you talked to people who live in Portland? They tend to say things like:

“I love Portland.”

“I never want to live anywhere else.”

“I feel like I belong here.”

and

“You should totally move to Portland!!!”

I live in Portland. I’ve been here for 5 years. And I have said all of these things and more. In fact, I have said these things so much that I don’t even know what I’m talking about anymore. It’s just this bullshit that comes out of my mouth when someone presses a button. It’s a mindless chant on repeat in my brain to help me cope with the miserable winters, constant guilt, and frustrating interpersonal encounters that inevitably arise because the people here are ridiculous.

Talking about how much I love Portland has become a way for me to establish permanence, and with that comes security. I cling to the idea because in truth I am afraid of the chaos that really goes on in my mind, the dramatic fluctuations of mood and opinion, my unnerving susceptibility to suggestion from every imaginable source. There is a “me” that can be counted on to reappear each morning when I wake up. And that “me” loves Portland and always will.

I have been afraid to question this. I remember feeling similarly when, in past relationships, I would refuse to allow uncertainty to crystallize into actual words in my head. I was afraid to entertain the thought that something might not be right, lest the inkling of doubt break the spell. Would my love for Portland dissipate from questioning alone, never to be reconstituted, fragile little cloud that it was? And if it did, where oh where would that leave me?

I don’t know.

But the damage is done now, I’ve thought it AND written it, and am publishing it on my blog, so we’ll just have to wait and see if I can keep living here or not. I’ll have to revise those statements I have become so used to spouting at the slightest provocation.

Instead of:

“I love Portland.”

I’ll say:

“The way I feel about Portland at any given time depends on a lot of factors, most of which have nothing to do with Portland itself.”

“I never want to live anywhere else.”

becomes:

“I choose to live here right now, but who knows what the future holds? I’m CRAZY!!!!”

Instead of:

“I feel like I belong here.”

I’ll say:

“Sometimes I feel a very sweet sense of belonging because I know a lot of people in Portland and have found some true friends here. Other times, I feel out of place because I let my daughter watch TV and I haven’t ridden my bike in 3 years and I suck at gardening and we eat too much pizza, and it seems like everyone else here is skinnier and outdoorsier and inexplicably richer despite seeming to hardly work at all. It’s weird.”

And rather than say:

“You should totally move to Portland!!!”

I’ll say:

“You should totally move to Portland!!! But, like, only if you really want to. You’re still going to be the fucked up person that you’ve always been, with all your stupid problems, you’ll just be in Portland instead of where you are now. And you’ll be able to hang out with us. But not, like, every day, okay? We’ll get sick of you.”

Today at Dance Class

July 1, 2011 § 4 Comments

L stood scowling into the mirror, arms crossed in front of her, mad as a little girl could be. The room was a mess of noise and movement behind her, as parents awkwardly danced to terrible music and implored their toddlers to wiggle along so that they could look a little less stupid. But L would not be distracted from her brooding. A few parents laughed at how serious she looked.

“What’s wrong with you today?” the teacher asked her. “This isn’t the L that I know!”

I fought the urge to give some excuse, like “She didn’t get much sleep last night,” or “She forgot to take her meds”. I could say something like, “She is not herself today,” hoping everyone would revert to the image of her that they had constructed from the previous 2 classes, and throw today away as a fluke. Those other times, she was “The Real L”. Today doesn’t count. Just move along people, nothing to see here. You may continue hopping around like kangaroos. As you were.

But who is this “Real L”? She’s not even 2 years old and she’s already pigeonholed. It’s a good pigeonhole, it’s flattering and has all the amenities that a modern-day pigeon could want, but nevertheless, it’s a pigeonhole. Is that what a pigeonhole is? A hole for a pigeon to live in? Or is it the butthole of a pigeon? Either way, pigeons are the worst. They are idiots and they have no souls. But I digress.

“The Real L” is supposedly this super-extroverted, enthusiastic, life-loving little bundle of cute. She’s got “charisma”, commanding attention everywhere she goes. She’s “popular”, like, people know who she is when we go to the playground. She’s not particularly obedient, but that just adds to her charm– “She’s got a mind of her own, that’s for sure!”.  I keep waiting for someone to call her “spirited” (mostly so that I can get offended and passive-aggressively lash out at them on-line, and then immediately get some books out from the library like “Disciplining Your Spirited Child”).

Disobedience aside, this vision of “The Real L” has sweet implications for me as her mom. Her friendliness has made me popular by association, since we are a mommy-daughter couple, and people assume that, to have a kid who’s that secure and outgoing, I must be doing something right. There are lots of great reasons to cling to “The Real L”, to smile when she’s like that and frown when she’s not, to tell her that she’s like that and that she’s not being herself if she’s not, to describe her to others like that and continue to do so for the rest of her life no matter how she changes. And if I do that, she’ll have lots of great reasons to despise me and my influence on her life when she gets older, assuming she’s smart enough to figure out what I did, and she will be, of course, because, didn’t you know? Intelligence is definitely a cardinal trait of “The Real L”.

I honestly have no idea what set her off this morning in dance class. One minute she was smiling and stomping her feet and shaking what supposedly I gave her (although it’s a lot cuter than mine) and the next thing I knew she was scowling into the mirror like a teenager with PMS and a penchant for murdering. Maybe another kid looked at her wrong. Maybe she realized that the music was shit and the dancing bore no resemblance to what she’s been watching on reruns of Soul Train and trying to copy in our living room. Maybe she felt the weight of everyone expecting her to do what she “always” does [based on two (2!) previous times], and decided to take a good long look at herself in the mirror and figure out some stuff.

“This isn’t the L that I know!”

Well, then it must be the L that you don’t know. Because you know what? She’s not just one flavor. She is actually 32 flavors. AND THEN SOME. How many? I don’t know. I lost count after 32. And then I got confused because there was Vanilla, and French Vanilla. Do these count as different flavors? And what about Vanilla Bean? She’s a lot of flavors, okay? Not just one. Damn, now I want some ice cream.

My Wanting Mind: Toe Shoes

June 29, 2011 § 4 Comments

It’s funny because I had the inspiration a few days ago to compose a post about these shoes:

and the main point was going to be about how I saw a guy wearing them and thought, “God, what a douche!” and why do I think that and why can’t I love everyone and aren’t I really fucked up inside and what is my fucking problem???!!!!!???? But also, these are kind of douchey, right????

But in the time between then and now, I have not been able to stop imagining the feeling of walking around in these crazy things. My feet actually tingle at the thought. My toes start wiggling involuntarily, each one asserting its independence, or trying to, at least (they resent how the Big Toe seems to have more pull than the rest). I feel strangely warm and energized, and that’s just from thinking about wearing them. Oh, to be barefoot without the risk of stepping on shards of glass or developing unladylike monster callouses or being denied service at a gas station mini-mart!

With these shoes, these non-shoes if I may, you can return to nature. You can be footloose AND fancy free. And the best part is, you can do it all without bothering the people who hate hippies. The only people you will bother are the people who hate douchebags who walk around flaunting their freak shoes just hoping you’ll ask what the hell is on their feet so they can tell you how great they are.

There are health benefits and anatomical diagrams and stuff.

I figured they were like $200 but really they start around $75.

Also, they come in pink.

What do you think? Have you seen people wearing these? Was it hate at first sight? Do you think it’s more forgivable on a woman? And what is on your Wanting Mind these days?