A Thursday Morning in February

I can’t spend another moment reading the news of politics, or tuning in to Drama Queen Chris Cuomo or perennially outraged Don Lemon. For the record, I don’t usually anyway. The lead-up to the certification of the election and the circus led by you-know-who and his Mango Militia had a need-to-know urgency that has now fallen away to an all-out effort to preserve my sanity. Sanity is linked to joy. Joy is linked to serotonin, which is linked to less anxiety and more …. Joy.

The morning begins with the usual rituals, of alarms buzzing and bodies stretching – followed by canine stretches and rattling tags and general melee. I keep my eyes closed in an effort to fool them and perhaps they’ll lie back down. Not happening. The two youngest have the enthusiasm of a three-year-old at a Chuck E. Cheese and anybody worth their weight in tokens knows we aint getting out of there without chaos.

Shuggie creeps up on my side of the bed. I keep my eyes closed as the sniffling muzzle zeros in on me, which is soon followed by a hearty “sneeze.” I wonder whether there’s now a slimy spot on the side of the bed.

I hear the rustling of bed covers and soon Todd is sitting up, tousle-haired and a bit dazed. I wonder if it was another broken night of sleep. There’s suddenly more thundering motions on the floor and sneezing and jostling tags. Soon, the commotion fades into the hall and down the stairs and I lie there a while, eyes closed, enjoying the softness of the pillow under my head and the heaviness of my weighted blanket. Negotiating with myself whether I can lie there a bit longer before my cells begin to race and the tabs start opening up with multiple, pressing tasks.

By the time I sit up, the rumpus has returned to the kitchen, where the ring of kibble falling into porcelain bowls commences and the coffee is brewing. I pad out to the island, the coffee maker sputtering its final breaths of water through the brew basket. I remember I’m out of Coffeemate, which my stepmom has ordered me to avoid at all costs but like a petulant child I refuse to give up this vice. There are worse addictions, like smoking, cocaine, devouring an entire Entenmann’s Cake, and animal hoarding.

“You shouldn’t drink coffee,” my son used to say, “it makes your teeth yellow.” There are things I used to tell him not to do, like never disrespect your mom, but apparently he learned to do it anyway and now he’s not speaking to me. I try not to think too much about it. He’s caught in an unfortunate web of legal proceedings I have to believe he never wanted to be part of, but he’s an adult who has made his bed.

I never taught my kids to burn bridges, and yet they both seem hell bent to do just that. I refuse to close the door and eliminating a path “back,” like the historical foot-bridge they took down around the corner from mom’s house. They can always come back, even if it’s not by way of that bridge. Blood is thicker than the water under that bridge.

I believe in second chances. I mean really? Every morning I wake up next to my second chance. A mother will give her children a million second chances, even as it’s killing her softly.

I take a long sip of my coffee – with a spot of cream – and gaze out the window beyond my screen. The sun is bright. I’ve taped a piece of cardboard to the top window to block it from blinding me. The snow is beginning to melt, like my resolve to keep fighting bullshit. I am not a fighter, but I will not give up what is right, especially if it means preserving someone else’s well-being.

It begs a new question: how long can a person try to destroy another before their own soul is destroyed? What drives a person – is it the thirst for being right, or for punishing another for making them wrong? How long before that person has exhausted themselves? What happens to the relationships around them while they pursue this?

Someone once said, we’re all broken. Maybe. If this is so, when did we become broken? The child who grew up in a disjointed home with an alcoholic, abusive father and a disconnected mother. The 16-year-old who lost his father and had to take over as head of household for his mother and five siblings, quitting school and getting a job.

Am I broken? My childhood wasn’t terrible. In fact, I would rate it quite happy. Was it a relationship that broke me? Did I give too much of myself to the undeserving? Did I accept less because it was easier? Doesn’t everyone make this mistake, at least once? Which one delivered the final blow? I know the answer to this, so it’s not really a question.

It’s later now. I’m sitting at my desk with my lunch, awaiting the start of a conference call, having carefully muted myself so they cannot hear the sound of my fork tapping my plate as I stab the lettuce. One can say, after nearly a year of pandemic adjustments, we’ve all learned the fine art of muting on conference calls.

I love my job. For all the sarcasm I share in its regard, it should be known that the intention is always humor. It’s not a “career,” per se, but it’s a place I go several days a week to be a productive member of society. I enjoy the people I work with. I don’t know that I’d love my job as much, if not for them. I enjoy being kind to others, the reward in having someone say, “thank you so much.” (“Oh my God, you’re the BEST,” though heard way less often, ranks up there too. LOL). I don’t bring my work home with me. When there’s stress, it happens there, in the moment, and then it passes. I don’t lose sleep over it.

Instead, I lose sleep over the myriad things that cause me anxiety on varying levels. That I’m battling for custody of a child who seems determined that I should lose does not make for restful nights. And then there are issues with the car again, the dryer that is squealing louder than a pig in Deliverance, a laundry list of home renovations that – after 11 months in quarantine – should not be this long, and a quickly receding timeline for getting a rather large hole in the ground.  

Feeling squeezed. It’s not from stress but rather from … procrastination… which begets stress in the end. Ah, damn! Procrastination is one of my weaknesses, and I failed to mention that in the questionnaire. I guess I prefer to forget about it which is, when you think about it, the nature of procrastination. It’s too late to add to the questionnaire. It took me three weeks to answer – to my eternally overthinking satisfaction – all 88 questions. Three weeks. And of course, knowing myself, I had to read and re-read and edit, and edit again. And I STILL forgot to mention the everlasting flaw.

It’s after one o’clock now. The meeting is over.  I take a long drag of water from my Iron Flask, and look around the sunny room. The dogs are sleeping and it is I who does not want to disturb them with housecleaning. I have to leave. I’ve procrastinated about grocery shopping until today, which is deemed The Last Day to prepare for a casual dinner I have planned.

I discovered a thing. It’s call Buy Nothing, and several counties and areas have pages on Facebook for posting or seeking things for free. So yesterday I got fed up with looking at the humidor that’s been in my dining room for seven months, and posted it on my local page. I have a taker and we’re meeting at 2 – AT the grocery store so I can kill two birds with one stone. Because if nothing else, I am organized.

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