Just spreading more words across more platforms to…bring it all to the same platform…I guess?
I’m linking to my company blog, here, as I wrote about making some rookie mistakes and *trying* to take it in stride.
Just spreading more words across more platforms to…bring it all to the same platform…I guess?
I’m linking to my company blog, here, as I wrote about making some rookie mistakes and *trying* to take it in stride.
I’m astounded at the level of learning my second grader is experiencing. I don’t remember reading chapter books in second grade. I barely remember knowing my ABC’s. I certainly didn’t know how to calculate complicated word problems with the inexplicable American coin system, and I sure as hell wasn’t doing multiplication.
So I’m impressed.
As my second grader grows every more independent (read: irascibly defiant), I constantly think, “Was I this way in second grade at age seven?”
And then I remember: I have very little recollection of second grade, because for me, second grade was dealing with a father who was at death’s door from his long-suffering cancer and a mother who was loving but tremendously distracted, as well. And after my father’s death in November of second grade, the rest of the year was dealing with being “Gavin, the kid whose dad died, this year.”
That’s quite a realization I’m trying to absorb.
Every single time I say the two words, “second grade” I’m transported to a year of sickness, accidents, falling, crying, emptiness, and just wanting it all to be over.
I’ve already hit the mark where I lived longer than my father’s stunningly short 38 years. That was a big deal.
But now?- to watch my child reach the age I was when life changed so drastically for me? That’s a whole different can of worms.
My second grader has embraced the word “No” in stunningly admirable ways: looking me dead in the eye and saying, “No” in response to bedtime, wearing jackets in January, and apologizing for hitting the little brother.
The other day, her little brother was stepped on by nothing less than a ski boot and she said, “I don’t care.”
I’ve stopped dead in my tracks several times as I ponder, “WTF did you just say to me?”
And I realize more and more that my threats of taking away privileges or screen time or whatever punishment that once held such sway are having less and less effect.
Meanwhile, when I was that age, I was helping my mom lift my 250 pound father from the floor after a cancer-caused fall; I was asking questions about how we’d pay for food when my bread-winning father passed; I rode in the back seat on countless trips to the doctor across town, avoided eye contact when my dad dissolved into tears at the dinner table, and generally hold my head down to avoid whatever latest thing would be broken or emotion rattled thanks to the horrid ravages of cancer.
None of this ever leads me to say to my child, “You don’t realize how good you have it,” trust me. But it all gives me pause.
I’m coming out of my negative association with the term “second grade” and slowly seeing what a magical year it is for educational development and for my kid’s personal development. I’m liking it more and more.
And being able to recognize my internal recoil when I say “second grade” is enough to acknowledge and move on.
Crazy what my younger self experience, crazy what my father experienced, but now I’m focusing on how crazy it is what my child is experiencing. That’s the here and now. Feels good to be there with her.
I’m a rule-follower because I think society operates better when we are all on the same page.
And at the same time, life’s tough; we all need to give each other a little help from time to time, right? And sometimes rules need to be bent.
Check out my entitled rant…
I rode my kid to a swimming lesson on our Yuba bike. For once, we were on time. The swimming lesson takes place in a community college swimming pool, so 7 year-olds and their dads are not the top priority.
Upon arrival, I realized I’d forgotten my bike lock key. (Long story, but I ride this bike so rarely I stupidly took the key off my keychain thinking “I’ll definitely never forget to bring this.” And for me to ever say “’l’ll definitely never forget this” is a laugh line to beat all laugh lines.”)
I walked into the pool entrance and charmingly asked the security guard, “Could I please stash my bike in the corner, here?” Readers – I promise you, it was basically a garage back entrance and there was ample room and we’d only be there 40 minutes and the bike would be out of the way and just…come on, man.
I knew it would be breaking the rules and this was a community college, above all. Like…nothing but rules because if anyone needs to be regulated, it’s hormonal college students.
But I held out hope that this guy would take pity on me.
And boy did I play up the “I’m just a stupid dad and I’m out of my element and surely you’ll take some pity on me?”
Yeah, I played into a trope I loathe (the incompetent dad) in order to garner sympathy. I might as well have started crying to a cop after being pulled over.
The man smiled and said “no.”
And I immediately pulled the “really? Because allllllll these people around us will be inconvenienced?”
Yeah, I went to bitter sarcasm uncharacteristically early.
The man said, “let me call my supervisor.”
Oh, no. This was not going to help.
“Hi, Boss,”he said, “There’s a guy here who forgot the lock for his bike and wonders if he can store it near the door?”
The guy listened, laughed, and then hung up.
He looked at me and said, “He said ‘go to a store and buy a new lock.’”
I was not amused.
I stormed away with kid in tow, leaving my extended bike that’s the equivalent of a minivan to be stolen by a college student,.
“Daddy? You’re really angry, aren’t you?”
“Yeah, buddy, I am. Because life is hard enough and I don’t think it’s that big a deal for that security guard to be just a tiny bit helpful. We are all in this together. Couldn’t he do me this tiny favor and let me store the bike just inside the door during your lesson?”
My kid was silent while I fumed.
I delivered my kid to the lesson and returned, much calmer, to say to the security guard, “I’m sorry to be frustrated, but life’s hard enough, can’t we all just bend the rules, once in awhile to help each other out?”
He smiled and shrugged.
I needn’t bother this guy anymore.
I realize I’m being completely entitled, but I feel strongly that seriously, folks, once in awhile we need to act like a tribe, a community, a small village My bike was not going to clog a 30-foot-wide exit. Couldn’t he just gimme a break?
I’m raising my kids to know we all need to have each others’ backs and give each other a hand.
Follow the rules.
Except when dumb dads just need a tiny bit of help.
Then we need to bend them.
My blog started out as a fashion/parenting blog of unsolicited opinions.
Then, I got distracted by just complaining about how difficult and needy was my youngest son.
For the last year, or so, all I do is talk about my older kid.
And not one of you has requested updates on my younger, needy little tyke.
How dare you.
But so I don’t seem like my entire world is consumed by my older kiddo, let me report to you: my youngest is the bee’s knees, the cutest, the cuddliest, the most sickeningly adorablest, smiling-est, most wonderful little kiddo in the world.
I’ve never been the type to state, “I could just eat him up.”
But truly: I wish I could devour this little guy.
I love both my children equally. (Yeah, right, you’re snidely thinking….and justifiably.)
But my little one gets extra points for sheer cuteness.
He sits in our laps to read books, climbs in bed and snuggles in the morning, has an impish grin that melts hearts the world round.
Years ago, my French mother said, “He is such a flirt, such a seducer. He just charms everyone around him. Like Bill Clinton.”
Mm-k. Two things:
Two and a half years ago, when he was an intolerably needy monster, I probably doomed him to lifelong therapy since I was so clearly frustrated by his #tearlesscrying. He grew to repress his tears.
Definitely my fault.
Was I a monster? I’d say only partially. Even close friends of mine with children could attest, “Yeah. He’s tough. Real tough.”
But now when he’s upset he runs and hides in the bathroom where he delivers a sniffling diatribe/soliloquy recounting his frustrations to the bathroom spirits. Yep, just a muffled, whiny monologue that goes something like, “And then Daddy said I can’t have another fruit snack and then he only gave me a carrot and he got mad at me when I got mad because I just don’t want a carrot…” etc etc.
And he stays in the bathroom to have his moment. I can usually cajole him out, easily, and smother him with hugs and an explanation that no, he may not have two fruit snack packs in a row twenty minutes before dinner.
But people: as cute as his bad times are, his good times are adorable-er.
And his challenges clearly don’t require me to go venting my insecurities to the entire intrawebs like when I first started this blog (at the height of his monstrous behavior.
(Don’t challenge me on that, little buddy…please?)
But this all reminds me how so many friends said to me 18 months ago – It WILL get better.
But they probably could’ve added: But not soon.
Yeah, that took awhile. And it was absolute hell while I was in the middle of it.
But now? It’s a distant memory…
…to which I never, ever want to return.
(Disclaimer: this is a long overdue follow-up to my ballet missive from a few weeks ago…reading that first will make a helluva lot more sense.)
And then I think, “Wait. I don’t even want my kid to be a ballerina/o. I’m just a cheap SOB who wants free lessons at the most prestigious ballet schools in the country!”
(Also, it’s fun to take lessons in the same building as Julliard.)
But still – ballet teaches total conformity. No one may stand out, you’re a member of a corps-de-ballet and complete anonymity is the name of the game.
I have even experienced that in certain Broadway shows – when you’re part of an ensemble, there might occasionally be time for showing acting expression. But in big dance numbers, wrists need to be uniformly flexed, arms inconspicuously stretched, and jumps need to be measurably consistent.
The ensemble often is not a place to stand out – and certainly not in ballet.
In my tiger dad moments, I obsess over wanting my children to be leaders, take risks, defend themselves and forge their own paths. Meanwhile, ballet demands rigidity and tradition in which everyone does exactly the same thing. Hell, it seems to be ballet dancers don’t even get to smile.
Sure, there are those that stand out from the pack and become the principal dancers. But what percentage of dancers become those types? And even then, principals or ensemble are trained never to talk back to their leaders and wordlessly agree to extend themselves to employ the director’s vision, no matter how uncomfortable or taxing the choreography and no matter how abusive the language coming from the leader.
So I’ve been conflicted about the ballet journey from the get-go. I know my oldest loves to dance. But her kind of dance is bouncing and twirling and kicking high like a showgirl and “ticking” (I know – I had to look it up, too) or vogueing as in my (now closed) show, Head Over Heels. It’s not exactly doing pliés for forty-five minutes or repeating 1st, 2nd and 3rd positions for another twenty.
And thusfar in her experience with bougie ballet, my oldest complains about her feet hurting.
Are her shoes too tight? Or is she bored with an hour’s worth of the very basics?
Thusfar, my preoccupation that she won’t like the uniform has yet to bear fruit. She has to wear black pants and white shirts with the other boys because, well…biological birth.
Surprisingly, that hasn’t bothered her too much.
But still…I’m not sure this is about me or about her.
But I don’t even WANT to encourage my kid pursuing ballet as a career goal. I’ve seen too much heartbreak on that end.
So why are we even doing this fancy-pants ballet? Image. And economy. I mean, come on, free ballet lessons at Lincoln Center? Who wouldn’t grand jetée at that?
Still…trying to figure it out…
I’m nice and I strove to please my teachers.
But nice people who please teachers don’t paint the Sistine Chapel. They don’t break sound barriers. They don’t develop Apple Computers, right?
Crazy people who break rules and smash conventions do big
I say that I just want my kids to be happy.
But also kind. And smart. And independent. And creative. And change the world. No pressure, kids.
Of course I want my kids to be trailblazers.
Like the kids about whom the teachers throw up their arms and say “what am I going to do with you?” And then they end up being Einstein.
But aren’t genius/artistic/world-changers often miserable, asocial sad-sacks destined to substance-abuse who cut off their own ears and live within prisons of their own artistic genius?
So then will they be happy?
Maybe we should just hope for nice.
But am I trying to raise nice kids? Those rule-following, vanilla, boring goody-two-shoes?
(Who wants to be nice, anyway? Nice is so…insipid. Do you ever want to share a drink with someone first described as NICE? Zzzzzzzzz.)
This reminds me of a hilarious recent tweet I saw: “Parenting looks so hard. You need to raise your kid with just the right amount of trauma so they end up funny.”
Because funny is more interesting than nice.
I’ve been thinking about achievement in the context of my older kid’s soon-to-be immersion in the ballet world. He is going to begin the first ballet classes of his life and, while I’m excited for him, my Libra nature has invented this dilemma: “Do world-changers come from ballet class?”
Think about it: the point of classical ballet is to conform, to dress identically as surrounding dancers, to dance with perfection so that not one pinky finger is ever out of place.
The dress code for these classes is rigid, for both boys and girls. (More on that in my next posting because do not get me STARTED about the anxiety I’m feeling in saying to my kiddo, “sorry. No tutus in this class. It’s white t-shirt and black pants.”)
At least there’s no hair protocol for these little boys. I guess my little gender renegade will be able to rock a ballet bun.
My French sister (the witch) talks about the point of nursery rhymes was to separate European society from nature so that Little Red Riding Hood stays always to the path (dictated by the church) to never stray (citizens shouldn’t color outside the lines) and to always fear the woods (because nature is bad) and always be nice.
Oh, and sex. Because duh. Nature = sex and sex is bad and the church and society need to tame sex and pleasure. Because people should be worshipping the Church’s appointed dogma, fighting wars, and making stuff for the nobles. Not having sex.
(And of course – burn the witches. )
And I see her point. Nursery rhymes teach children the way to be good. To follow rules. To conform. To obey. To be the perfect ballerina/o in the back line.
Now…we all want our kids to be good and obey their parents.
But it’s true – the world is more colorful with the rule-breakers, by those who stray from the path, think differently and write their own destinies.
I suppose it’s all a balance, (Please reference
aforementioned Libra nature.)
My kiddo already writes her own rules evidenced by her entire comportment.
So maybe classical ballet will be the perfect balance for her? You gotta learn the basics…
So then you know what rules to break and re-write.
(Apologies to grammarians for this post’s title ending with a preposition. “Of what are you so afraid?” or “You’re afraid of what, you pansies?” didn’t seem sufficiently direct.)
Seriously: what are you so afraid of?
So the Supreme Court has upheld Trump’s banning of the trans community from military service.
I’m confident this will be over-turned by lower courts since it’s fundamentally backwards and history progresses forward.
(I also fundamentally believe that Trump loves to battle the trans community so he can fire up his base in the midst of the Mueller investigation, emoluments, family corruption, etc etc etc. It’s distraction by the master-distracter, himself.)
And Trump needs to whip up a frenzy of fear in his base. Because this is all about fear. But fear of what?
The entire Republican paradigm is about fear…fear of change, fear of whatever might be un-American (defining “American” in a very narrow context, fear of Iran/Chinag/North Korea/everyone, fear of others, fear of not being the biggest/strongest/fastest, fear of strangers/immigrants/boogeymen, fear of not facing their own demons and whatever else can be feared.
This fear comes from insecurities, the unknown and not being honest with themselves.
Sort of like the adage, “Republicans love their country like children love their parents, and Democrats love their country like adults love their parents,” being so afraid is juvenile. We, as a country, need to go out into the world as citizens, link arms with every other world inhabitant, and strive to collectively save our world from turmoil and roasting to death.
And stop being so afraid of NOT being the biggest/fastest/strongest.
But back to gender.
What are Trumpettes and the anti-Trans fanatics so afraid of? Realizing their own variances in gender?
You people do realize that LGBTQ rights are just about people speaking their truth, being honest, and loving themselves and their fellow humans, right? They/we aren’t trying to convert or recruit you.
They’ve already gone through a tremendous amount of tortuous self-questioning and discovery to know that going against the conventional grain, no matter how socially painful, will lead them to be happier, more productive, compassionate people.
Trumpettes fear the perceived undermining of their own “social masculinity”. What do I mean by that? Be they men or women, our American over-inflated culture of toughness, independence, dominance and competition; our cultural masculinity that has been so bastardized that we’ve completely fucked up the definition of masculinity.
This cultural masculinity is based on insecurity…like grown men fearing they’re losing their dominance and virility. Thinking the only way to be powerful is to dominate; being petrified of being replaced by the younger, quicker, and more handsome.
That’s the GOP in a nutshell: domination, competition, and fighting the other (even an invented “other” to feed their own insecurity) and fear fear fear.
These men and women follow Trump and buy into beating down the weak in order to compensate for their own insecurities that have stunted their own emotional growth. They go after the wusses and wimps and (let’s face it) gays. Basically, anything weak: meaning feminine and/or gay.
Well guess what, folks? The wusses and wimps end up running businesses, media and empires. Pussies conjures the strength and badassery of being a woman. And the gays? Well, don’t fuck with the gays.
And the trans community? Their honesty, passion, love and forthrightness will absolutely trump Trump and his Trumpettes.
Because all of these humans, both binary and non, are secure in their own truths, have their priorities straight, and are on a mission to spread love and acceptance throughout the world.
So I ask, again, bigots and anti-LGBTQ folk and Trumpettes: what are you so afraid of? A bunch of pansies trying to make the world a more honest place? You’re afraid of honesty and love?
You sound like real wusses.
After she died, cleaning out the house was entirely myjob (being an only child). And while previous to that I’d always thought, “That’sgonna be a horrible job”, I ended up loving every second of it. Going throughthe rooms and closets and chests and drawers was a surprising delight of mypersonal museumization.
I was able to get rid of most of the stuff. In fact, Ireduced a 1400 square foot house packed to the gills down to a small U-Haultrailer. And most of the stuff in the trailer should’ve just been dumped.
But it’s hard to do that when you’re genetically predisposed to sentimentality.
But we’ve hit a limit. My family lives in a NYC apartment.We have no space for sentimentality. And there’ve been some ridiculous thingsI’ve clung to if only to laugh with you, dear reader, about my absurdity. I’dlike to think I’m not a hoarder, but the items, herein, might make me look likeI’m ready to have a collection of dirty pizza boxes crowding the 23 cats’litter boxes.
But it’s OK to let things go, too. (Mind you – Istarted composing this email long before Marie Konde’s Art of Tidying Up lit up our Instagram feeds. I was just late inpublishing it cuz I was certain I’d find new items to add to this post.)
For example, this felt like my own personal stuffedanimal massacre. I searched online for a (for lack of a better word) humaneway to recycle or up-cycle my kids’ neglected stuffed animals. Seriously, theynever gave a stuffed rat’s ass about Elmo. Isn’t that crazy? Elmo never figuredinto our lives. So even though I thought it terrible to trash him, I did it,anyway. And though I felt guilt walking away from trashy Elmo, I haven’t givenit much thought, since. Oh, and as for upcycling, there’s a lot of suggestionson pinterest for turning stuffed animals into chairs and furniture (no shit)and then one non-profit that sends them to child victims of hurricanes andnatural disasters. But when a dear friend who’s brother survived Caribbeanhurricane Maria and told his sister (my friend), “We need water, but people aresending fucking stuffed animals!” I nonchalantly made a mental note notto send my kids’ discarded Beanie Boos to St. Thomas or San Juan.
My Star Wars sheets.
When I pulled these out of my mom’s massive pile of“Gavin’s childhood stuff with which I just can’t part”, I was thrilled to findthese Return of the Jedi sheets. They might as well be sand paper attheir 40-or-so thread count.
I remember the time at Target when I begged my dad forthem, and because my frugal mother wasn’t there, he acquiesced, but sort ofmade me look away so I wouldn’t see them in the cart. Not sure what the pointof that was, but I vividly remember being forced to walk in front ofthe cart so I “couldn’t see the sheets” and Dad could gift the sheets to me formy birthday.
And I was able to put them on my son’s bed for awhile.And then the little asshole ground silly putty all over the corner of thesheet. And I just can’t even with the “googling how to remove silly putty fromyour vintage Return of the Jedi sheets that your dad gave you.”Because sometimes it’s just time to say goodbye.
This Orange Raincoat
This over-priced rain jacket was a purchase from a verystressful time of my life. I bought it, impulsively, when I was going to Alaskato hike with a friend to temporarily escape a confused chapter of my life. Myhiking friend had most of the equipment and a place to stay that we could callhome base as we hiked/camped for a week on the Kenai Peninsula. And because Ionly needed this jacket one day during a glacier-viewing cruise, I actually hadthe gall to try to return it. (The store manager rolled his eyes at me.Justifiably so.)
I wore the jacket for about eight years. But when therain started seeping through every single seam to the degree that I felt likeit was actually pooling inside the jacket more than it was repelling the wet, Isupposed it was time to say, “peace out”.
Just – what was I thinking?
In a way, just “documenting” the life (and my memories of) these items allowsthem to live on in perpetuity and (and provide endless laughs).
But I like having a de-cluttered apartment, more.
This Plastic Trumpet and My Childhood Cereal Bowl.
Here are two items made from 1980’s plastic that survived storagefor a very long time and with my own kids for a much shorter time. But I mean:antique plastic, right? I was mildly annoyed but didn’t get upset when, in one day, both items were broken by the jerk-face kid. (I don’t even remember which one it was.) But I suppose just because I keep something for 30 years doesn’tmean it’s meaningful to anyone else. Meanwhile, they were both having fun with the trumpet, still, despite the broken mouthpiece was basically a shard of plastic just waiting to stab toddler gums and lips.
These have already gone bye-bye.
This stash of gift bags I’ve shoved into a bedroom corner:
I kept dozens of gift bags from our baby shower and subsequentbirthday parties. Seriously: will I ever actually re-use them? Not only do theylook creased and smashed, but I alwaysforget to use them.
This reminds me exactly of the extra bedroom closet in which mymother stored recycled wrapping paper and bows. I found it so unsightly the wayshe would fold and preserve wrapping paper and then I’d have to sift throughthe scraps to wrap things, myself. But now I applaud her giftly conservatism.I’m just unable to even with this 5-year-old stack of gift bags that I neverremember to use.
Hopefully they can be recycled. Fingers crossed.
This Dated Suit
I bought it to attend a wedding in 2007. Just because it still fitsdoes not mean it should be worn,again. Aren’t the ravages of fashion trends the worst? This was a perfectlycool linen suit for summer weddings when I bought it.
But when I dusted it off for a wedding, last summer, I looked like aclown. It just doesn’t fit according to 2019 fashion rules. And no: no oneneeds to be a slave to fashion and trends. But seriously – look at the rumpledlook at the ankles. Did I ever lookgood in this?
So life will be easier once I retire (trash) these items and withouttheir nostalgic weight pressing down on my shoulders. They’ll live on inintrawebs infamy, instead.
On Christmas night, the screen time my kids chose (for daddies’ down time) was “Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown.”
I was happy to hear the familiar music and dialogue in the background as I sipped bourbon and stared at my phone.
Around the fourteenth time Lucy declared, “You blockhead, Charlie Brown,” my older kid asked, “Why does everyone hate Charlie Brown?”
And it gave me pause. Why does everyone hate Charlie Brown?
In the Christmas special, Charlie’s the Christmas pageant director. Leadership often brings up conflict. But all Charlie’s trying to do is focus collective effort on getting the damn pageant done. But just because Charlie can’t control the cast doesn’t justify the near-universal derision of his peers.
It’s not like Charlie’s leading acting exercises that force Lucy to dredge up that time a teacher told her she’ll never amount to anything after which the class bully looked over and said, “you smell like shit and you’ll never find love in life and you’ll end up with warts all over your nose and children will run screaming from you for the rest of your life” so that Lucy dissolves into insecure puddles of whimpering actor-y neediness with the theoretical goal of rendering her a better actor by revisiting childhood trauma.
But I digress. That’s never happened to me.
Later, Charlie buys his infamous Christmas tree out of sympathy for something authentic in the miasma of seasonal capitalism. I mean, sure…a 9 year-old who chooses authenticity (however decrepit) over simulacra would probably earn mockery from his fellow 9 year-olds.
The gang mocks him for his lack of football skills, his inability to cut holes in a sheet to make a Halloween ghost costume, his unlucky kite-flying, his everything, he questions human short-comings, can be a little soap-box-lectur-y, and is definitely a debby-downer. But isn’t Lucy the hateful one? Isn’t Sally the selfish one? Isn’t the “naturally curly hair” girl the one worthy of face-on mockery?
But Charlie’s sorta maladroit and he receives all the vitriol. What’s up with that? Why does everyone hate Charlie BrownIt all makes me think that, ultimately, within almost every human group, there’s that guy who ends up the target of being, well…that guy.
I don’t know how or why it happens, but there’s one person who’s the know-it-all, the naïf, the idiot, in every group I’ve ever joined as a child or as an adult. And that’s the person that none of us want to be. In order to avoid ever being that guy, people (especially children) dump their negativity upon this undeserving soul to keep the down-trodden trodden-upon.
I was desperately afraid of being mocked for, well, anything from the ages 7 to 43, er, I mean 23. To avoid perching on that lowest wrung, I’d manifest my superiority over those I saw as a titch below me. I wasn’t a bully, I wasn’t overtly mean, but I did find ways to cement my social superiority. . with dismissiveness at the lunch table, mockery behind-the-back, or snobbery face-to-face when these few people were being nice to me.
Ugh. I hate myself for having created these memories.
Would I have kicked Charlie Brown just to make sure I was a wrung or two above him? I’m not proud to say I probably would have.
Now, in an era of aggressive anti-bullying, I can’t see that my kids are yet preoccupied with social hierarchy. But they’re young, yet. I won’t be surprised if I sense a cultural domination game seeping into their lexicon.
Maybe I can justify more screen-time to foster discussion of “You’re right. Why does everyone hate Charlie Brown? Has he done anything wrong?”
Anything to turn that television back on and settle in with my bourbon and phone-staring time.
I was privileged to be in an exclusive screening of Julia Roberts’ latest movie, Ben is Back, thanks to @themomsnetwork, a network of moms mutually supporting each other in their entrepreneurial endeavors and motherhood. (Nope, not a sponsored post. I’m not influential. Just a shout-out.)
The movie was excellent, all about the trials of a mother dealing with an addict son and the many ways he lies and steals and abuses drugs. Julia turns in a star performance, though I admit I’m in awe of her very being. But I’m pretty sure I was able to see through my star-struckness to say it was a powerful performance.
But what the movie really made me think about was holidays and sadness.
Pivoting in this post, the movie reminded me of a particularly powerful moment of connection I shared with my mom within holiday melancholy.
During a visit home post-college, I was exhausted by my own frantic running around and lunching/drinking with old friends. Further, I was feeling down about my frustration with my career, place in life, etc. In a moment of calm, I said to my mom, “the older I get, the more the holidays just feel like a pain in the ass.”
She smirked in a way I’ve come to realize was aged wisdom, nodded and said, “Now you understand me just a bit more.”
Holidays were tough for my mom. She put her all into making them “perfect” for me. She didn’t practice mindfulness or yoga or remotely take a moment for herself. And she was burdened by losses like my father and grandparents. But she charged forward meeting holiday clichés and obligations – baking, visiting, Churching, primping, buying, wrapping, and all the things.
I could see she was at her wits’ end, but my mom was all about presenting to the world her Donna Reed best – always smiling for the public, hiding any hurt, living as the right people are supposed to live. She had healthy emotional breakdowns with her best friends, but I was taught we show happiness and control all the time.
And now I call bullshit on that. Because all any of us are really trying to do is get by as best we can. Especially at the holidays.
The holidays magnify all of our Martha Stewart freneticism. Social media feeds make me want to puke candy canes as I watch people out-Santa-fy each other with baking and decorating.
To be clear, I try to do a batch of Christmas cookies every year, but I struggle to enjoy the baking and be in the moment. I’m a little…I dunno. Distracted? Preoccupied with the clean-up? Policing the licking of spoons and stealing cookies.
And over all, with the holidays, I fret about still living my life, pursuing stuff AND buying presents we shouldn’t afford and hoping we’ve done enough to create magic for my kids.
And add to that the sense of loss that many of us (like me) feel, having lost parents and family and friends to death, I don’t always feel merry.
And I’m lucky to be in an age where I don’t feel like I have to pretend I’m sweating sweetness through the season.
And I have full sympathy for those further depressed by all the frivolity.
Julia’s (cuz we’re on a first-name basis) Ben is Back isn’t really about depression and holidays, but my takeaway was how the holidays are all that much more stressful for all of us.
And is it necessary? Must we force ourselves to feign cheer?
Well, if we didn’t have a change of seasons or emotional roller coasters and a corporate color palate change, well then seriously…how boring a world it would be.
The highs and the lows give us texture in our lives. I just hope all of us could try to avoid pretending to be so high when we all need to commiserate more often in our lows.
That’s what life’s about and what we’re all trying to do most of the time: just get by. It’s important that we do not feel alone.