These incremental days are the hardest. The days where you feel like you’re sitting on the lip of the Grand Canyon watching tectonic plates move. Glacier Days. For every three things, two will be wrong and one will be a horrible Pandora’s Box where you discover 30 extra steps to do before you can even tackle the one you had on your list for this afternoon. Get the picture? Not alone in this of course. The whole world feels like they’re emotionally constipated, have forgotten their manners, and need a giant enema and frankly, I’m just The Broad to give it to them, Grrrr. Half-kidding and thank God for clarity. Life is full of days like this. Momma said there’d be days like this. Millions of days if you’re lucky. It ain’t just a song by The Shirelles, people. Life is tough and you got to show up for it most of the time. We’re all just a little fucking TIRED at this point.
Today, however, while just as frustrating as yesterday, also deserves a giant moment of recognition, gratitude, and respect. September 18, 2018, I drove away from my old life with both middle fingers upraised and Sia’s “Breathe Me” blaring out of the truck at top volume because the finale of Six Feet Under is still my favorite hour of television. Fuck you all, Nae Nae needs to shake some dust. Five years ago I left my marriage and never looked back. The beginning of a great journey which yes, included many days like this one. Days where you build and build and build some more and hope you look back one day and see a lasting foundation. I’m a visual learner so the wall in the Shawshank movie is always close to the surface, but you use your own dreams for this metaphor, which I find works well. When I was stuck in a beige divorce rental for 2 years awaiting paperwork, I dreamed of a house by the sea. Now I live in Florida. You do the math, darlin’. Manifest that shit.
So many people have told me no. So many times about so many things. I’ve put together so many pieces of furniture, thrown away hundreds of pounds of packing, wrapping, instructions, labels and all the ephemera which comes from setting up house. Endured dozens of bruises, cuts, scrapes, broken toes, and new scars all over my fingers and feet because I wasn’t paying attention, but thinking about what I need to do 3 weeks from now. I ground my teeth so much I needed 5 crowns in a year. Failure has ridden my shotgun seat every single goddamn day. I’ve put my foot in my mouth so many times I probably need my jaw rewired.
I’ve spent money on foolish things, let people stomp all over my heart, and laid in bed at night wondering if all this wasn’t some sort of big mistake. Maybe I should’ve listened to what everyone said I SHOULD do. Faced the facts. Which was stay home and enjoy your beautiful little house in the big woods, Laura Ingalls. You’re married to a medical professor, why on earth can’t you be happy, young’un? We all know how that turned out. Depression and addiction to alcohol and any pill I could find. Because the whole day I’m overthinking. Wondering where my life is outside this arrangement. Outside of “Professor’s Wife Who Podcasts About Food” who the fuck am I? You want that story, my first book is entitled “HAG” on Amazon, but I’m glad to hand you a copy. Just ask next time you see me, they’re probably in the car.
I’m good with numbers so there’s a chance I may never forget September 18, but I hope I do. I hope this rest stop of recognition gets so far in my rearview I’ll experience it as just another day, a week after 9/11, the day after the birth of my parents and yeah, that’s a true statement, and that’s in my first book as well. They got married because they shared some numbers. Turns out all that did was act as giant emotional bookends bringing everything to a judgmental standstill of criticism, name-calling, and yelling with everyone in between receiving the shrapnel. Not here to accuse, that book is written already. The one I’m working on now is more rose-colored in its perspective because I truly believe my parents were not only a product of their birth DATE, but of their circumstances. The ingrained culture which by this generation runs like a ripple through every vein and artery. To dig it out would mean total transfusion.
Neither were as aspirational as they were told they should be. Both were philosopher-artists who danced to their own beat, but also did their best to follow the status quo. At the same time while alighting my younger sister and I with their own brand of glitter to make their own unique marks upon us. Momma couldn’t paint with two babies running around, so she designed elaborate tablescapes for weekend dinners and holidays. Dad took us to ball games and on nature walks. Momma supplemented our meager Southern public school education with trips to the museum as well as high-end window shopping to understand luxury, and concerts, ballet rehearsals, play practice, color guard, and everything else a Momma does when all she really wants to be doing is creating her next painting while drinking red wine. Instead she spent 20 minutes in a football field one Saturday morning finding my left contact lens. Yep, that’s all the time it took, and I still think the whole experience was a dream, and my friends to this day still don’t believe it.
All Dad wanted to do was watch baseball and golf, eat simple food, maybe drink a beer or some gin once in a while, smoke his pipe, and make love to his wife. Laugh with his girls. When he met Brenda later on, the true love of his life, he found his art again as well as poetry, songs, and outspoken philosophies of love poured forth from his heart and played on the tiny Casio he got at a yard sale for $1. Everything was always, “Only $1!” He could care less about fancy cars, everything was from the thrift store and yeah, Momma threw out those plaid trousers (I just said trousers) which he always fished out when she wasn’t looking. What a pair they were. The pants too.
I left my ex-husband to save my own life. I also did it for my parents who sacrificed much of their own brand of happiness to conform to Society’s notion of what a family should be and do with their time. What goals they should have. Both were the first generation to graduate college. They wanted to give us a better life with more opportunities and yadda yadda yadda I cannot BELIEVE I just wrote that brand of American PAP which has been shoved down our throats all these years.
Think about all the reassuring lies we tell ourselves when we’re lying in bed deciding whether or not to go in because the City of Richmond just called AGAIN at 3am with changes to the gas bill program they’re implementing and the folks under you can’t understand your streamlined design. That happened to my Dad, time and time again as a systems analyst. And he always got up, got dressed, and went in. At 3am. Parked 12 blocks away in his beater car because it was free and walked. Even in February. Eventually, it made him retire early, taking a cheaper pension. After all, this workhorse had found his ladylove. All he wanted to do at 3am was roll over and feel assured she was there. The City of Richmond worked him to the point he was willing to take LESS MONEY for a lifetime of work. And he did.
Dad complained about his job a lot. Especially to me on Saturday nights after a few drinks. Down in the den in the dark with his highball hunched over like a grouch in his recliner, pontificating to the air and calling upstairs for his daughter to, “…get down here so I can tell you some things!” Going always seemed like a trip to the gallows although these moments were physically harmless. Read that sentence again please, I’ll wait.
I can see now he just needed to unpack. It was his way to process feelings out to someone he felt sympathetic to, a good ear. Back then, it felt like a lot of crazy ranting with a “…woulda, coulda, shoulda,” flavor, the stuff I didn’t want to listen to, because I’m fresh out of the oven and want to be free to go and fuck it up all by myself without any advice from you. So I’d sit there and pretend to listen. His favorite captive audience. Sent downstairs by my mother who just wanted some peace so she could finish making dinner. Which he would complain about because it was too fancy. And he couldn’t see anything with these candles, could we please turn on some lights? This from the guy who just spent the past 30 minutes telling me how he coulda been somebody, a contender, while sitting in total darkness like something out of Apocalypse Now. Wow, I just mixed metaphors and movies. Look at that layering!
Okay, timeout. Had no idea that would come up, but I guess it needed to. On the anniversary of the day I upended my life and even decided to change my birth name, let’s let go of yet one more piece of packing excelsior, this time EMOTIONAL. Put that shit right in the garbage and never look at it again. Dad dumped on me and I carried it around 45 years. Makes you think. Maybe by writing it out today, on this important anniversary which also falls near the new moon, I can finally let it go for good. I hope so. At the very least, I got to use the word “excelsior and that makes it a very good day indeed.
So many people helped me get here. If you’re reading this, you’re one of them. Thank you. If you’re reading this and we don’t get along, thank you. My life’s tenet is that every single person is there in that moment of your life to teach you something. Even those folks you don’t get along with very much. Spent today thinking about that, especially the ones who maybe think I’m too loud, too this, too that, or I’ve said something which agreed with the story in their head about me or I reminded them of somebody who hurt them, or whatever.
I spent a lot of time thinking about the people I don’t get along with, who I know for a fact don’t think much of me or if at all, and I sent them gratitude. I know their pain isn’t about me. I sent them even more gratitude than the ones I love. Because while I will see and talk and laugh with the ones I love, the ones who don’t love me so much I will probably never connect with again. But they got me here. I learned from them, even if it was only to set a stronger boundary for my own inner peace. I’m grateful to them. Even the haters, the trolls, the nasty stalkers, the creeps. They’ve all provided rocks in my river, places to jettison off of. I learn from them. I learn what I deserve. I look back at my old self who put up with all of their bullshit for too long and I remember who that girl was and how she was like a shelter dog, always looking for someone to “please like me” I remember that girl and I remember I deserve more than I’m currently getting. And I make changes and jettison off this particular rock. And I’m grateful for the tears and pain which acted as fuel to this brand of emotional lightning speed. Grateful for that most of all.
Take time to mark the important anniversaries, y’all. Even now I get to the end of a workday and think I didn’t do enough. Be enough. Share enough. Create enough. I’m a bad person and lazy and all the things. But guess what? Today, five years on, when I look back, all I see is a great foundational stone HOUSEOFNAE. A life that is all me. Built by me. A woman handling her shit. I love you. Thank you.