2020 so far feels like tepid coffee, or that moment when someone drops a box of raisins into your Halloween bag.
All around me, everyone is melting down into childish temper tantrums, or vomiting. I’m trying not to join them, with only moderate success. Actually that’s not true; I should give myself more credit. I’m succeeding, on the surface. My heart isn’t in it though.
Maggie slept on the couch in my bedroom last night, because she was upset about something that I wish I wasn’t involved in. The trouble with divorce — or one of the troubles — is that you and your once-partner get to keep having many of the same maddening conversations but none of the sex. In theory, these conflicts should get under your skin a lot less, because you have detached yourself emotionally from the other person. So when, in the midst of just such a conversation, he accuses you of something small and ridiculous*, you’re not supposed to think about what exactly he meant by that. Because you know damn well what he meant by that, but you’re supposed to be able to shrug it off, and NOT spend your entire morning turning it over in your mind as you make breakfast, twice, and lunch, twice, and clean the kitchen, twice. You’re not supposed to direct all of your emotional energy toward trying to figure out exactly how to demonstrate that YOU are the adult, here. To prove that You’ve Changed, and This Is Just About the Kids.
Because you have, right?
But if he doesn’t think you have, maybe you haven’t. All of this striving starts to feel like I’m still running a race after the medals have already been awarded. Everyone else has gone home, and I’m circling the track like a lunatic. Who’s going to tell me when to stop?
It struck me this morning as I spread peanut butter on things that I need to stop turning to people who have made me feel terrible, to make me feel good.
Yes, I know, no one can MAKE me feel anything. Shut up, Oprah.
Between peanut buttering things, and after I got one kid out the door (the kid who, when asked last night if anything wonderful could happen for you this year, what would it be? responded, “Being immortal! Or you and dad getting back together.”), I walked into my bedroom and started loudly making my bed. “Good morrrrrninnnnng!” I sang out, to the sad kid. “I’m going for a quick walk around the block. You can come, or stay here.”
She took forever just to sit up. By the time she had poked one foot out from under the quilt she’d dragged into my room, I had finished making the bed and swapped pajama pants for leggings.
I whipped off my shirt. “Seriously, I’m going, as soon as I finish getting dressed. I’m not waiting for you.”
“I’m coming,” she insisted, not moving.
I did wait. I started kitchen cleanup #1. I mentally drafted and deleted the first paragraph of a hypothetical email, several times. I wiped crumbs off the counter. I asked myself whether I should just shut up and stay out of it. The truth is that personally, it matters to me zero. But it matters to her, a lot. I’m just trying to be helpful. I’m also just trying not to be insulted, again. I put things back in the pantry and imagined his responses. He knows exactly where to land a punch; he is, in fact, so well-trained in our emotional combat that sometimes I do the work for him, before he even has a chance. I’m just walking around hitting myself in the face.
He’s going to say I’m _____. I mean, I can’t blame him. Maybe I should lead by apologizing for all the other times I was OH MY GOD am I really thinking about apologizing to him?
I threw more things in the dishwasher. Kid shuffled downstairs and put a coat over her pajamas. I chose not to point out that it would be light soon, and she’d be walking down the street in a nightgown with a cat on it.
We were only half a block from the house when I sent her home. “I told you, you need to keep up if you’re coming.”
“I’m trying to catch up!”
“In order to catch up, you’re going to have to increase your pace, because I’m ahea — just go home.”
I’m late to work, which I tell myself is fine, because I was working at 11:30 last night. One of my colleagues stops in my doorway to say good morning. “What’s up?” he asks me, and I feel like he’s looking at my hair. I didn’t have time to wash it.
“Is there some astrological thing happening?” I ask him. “Everyone is so meh.” This is definitely not the 2020 envisioned by Barbara Walters.
“It’s the week after the holidays. Everyone feels fat and has high credit card bills.”
“OK. . .yeah.”
I draft and delete the first paragraph of an actual email to Ben, several times. Then I send a note to a good friend.
If I really love her, I should say what I think and be willing to risk him ripping me a new one, right?
I’m not sure that’s right.
*so comical that in an earlier draft I specified what it was, but upon further reflection I feel like that may be pulling the veil back a little TOO far, as though I haven’t, already.