One finger

One finger

I slammed the front door. 

I threw my dusty garden gloves on the floor and collapsed onto the stairs, hot tears flowing. 

“What’s wrong?” Keith put hand on my shoulder.

“I’m all gross. I wouldn’t touch me.” I’d been working on my lawn for 4.5 hours. No…not “lawn.” It’s a hill of dust and clay, covered in mounds and mounds of leaves. There is nothing “lawn” about it. 

“Did you hurt yourself?” He kept rubbing my shoulder. 

My lower back throbbed. I shook my head, which was buried in my folded arms, resting on my knees. Then I lifted it up to answer. 

“Well I was just about finished up with raking leaves and tilling up the stupid dirt and fertilizing and putting out grass seed and watering…well…and some of the leaf bags were barely on the road…because I had just watered the dirt below them, but I was going to move them back…but then this guy drives by and hits the bags on purpose with his truck and one busts all open! And he lives right there.” I point through my closed front door. It felt so mean, mostly because I was just so drained.

“The house on the corner?” Keith tried to see through the wall. 

“No, the one next to that.” I opened the front door and corrected my pointing. “That black truck.”

“Babe I’m really sorry. I mean technically you’re probably not allowed to have the leaf bags on the road at all.” He tried to be fair about his assessment. 

“People park all over this road. They put their trash cans on the road. Kids play basketball in the road. It’s not that uncommon for some obstacle to be on this road. They were barely on the road and I was just about to move them off. He ran into them on purpose, and he didn’t have to do that. Why would he?! I would never do that to someone out in her yard, working her ass off!” I cried some more angry tears. 

“No. He shouldn’t have done it.”

“Well…I marched up to the corner of the yard and flipped him off, but he never even looked up at me as he checked his mail. So then I said, ‘Sir…I think you need to have your eyes checked. You accidentally ran into my bags of leaves. I’m worried that you may not be safe on the road.’ And he just looks up at me and yells, ‘Keep your leaves off the road. I was in my lane, and they were in the way.’ Then he just walked off so I came inside.” Revenge is human nature…and plenty of ideas ran through my head. 

I wouldn’t do anything back to him. I know myself. I’ll calm down. It just hurt my feelings and pissed me off. And I’ll admit I shouldn’t have flipped him off.  I shouldn’t allow anyone to make me lose my character, no matter how cocky and rude they are. 

“Well…there’s nothing you can really do about it. I’ll move the bags off the road. Go take a shower.” Keith was calm and sweet. He went outside. I sat back on the stairs. 

I wanted to call the courtesy police of common decency to plea my case. It was just mean. And I didn’t know this guy, and was fine to continue my existence never having to meet him. Why would he introduce himself to me in this way?

“Well I went over to talk to the guy.” Keith came back into the house after moving the bags of leaves. 

“You did? What’d you say?” I love Keith.

“Well I was just going to talk to him calmly, but he came out of his house already mad and ready to argue, so I said, ‘Listen. I don’t appreciate you being a dick and making my wife cry. You could’ve handled that in a number of different ways besides the way you chose to.’ And then he was all, ‘Well there are kids on skateboards all over this road. I wasn’t about to drive into the other lane to miss the leaves because there could’ve been a kid on the other side of the hill.’ And so I asked him…okay, if the bag of leaves had been a kid if he would’ve hit the kid because it was in his lane. And he goes, ‘Well…no.’ And I asked if it had been a parked car, would he have hit the car…and again he said no. And I asked what would’ve been wrong with stopping and asking you to move it if he felt like he couldn’t safely drive past it. But he didn’t have an answer for that, just said your leaves shouldn’t have been on the road. So I looked him in the eye and said, ‘It was a dick move. And you know it.’ And then I came back over here.” My hero. I know if I was a guy, I wouldn’t want Keith as an enemy. 

“Thanks for sticking up for me, even though I guess it was my own fault for having them on the road.” I couldn’t have stuck up for myself in my exhausted condition. I would’ve just cried. 

“I love you. You’re my wife. I’m not going to let some asshole make you cry because he had a bad day at work or something. Come here.” He didn’t care that I was all dirty and sweaty. 

God, yes I did flip him off in anger, and I shouldn’t have done that. I’m sorry I did that. Did he deserve it? Well…maybe I felt he did, but I’ll let you sort that out. Please, please still bless my yard of dirt and help some grass grow. 

___________________________

So when I hear a story of one finger on a girl, I can’t exactly say that I cover my mouth with one lace-gloved hand as I fan myself in astonishment with the other. 

There was a recent incident at a school event involving a child and a rude gesture. Unfortunately, emotions often run high in sports, and I can’t even begin to compile a complete list of inappropriate things I’ve heard the adult fans say. 

It wasn’t the first time, nor will it be the last, that a student athlete (male or female) has used inappropriate language or gestures. And each time this happens, the students are rightfully chastised–whether by a ref, their own coach, their parents, the principal…or all of them. Her decision was unsportsmanlike, and she was properly punished by school officials. 

That’s it. The end. 

She is a child. If she is not your child, then concede to the proper authorities on this one–her school and her own parents only. She doesn’t deserve to have anyone else stand in line because they feel entitled to punish her further. It’s not your place. It’s been dealt with.

If some time in the future, some tables turn and I hear adults chastising your child and her character based on a poor choice, I will be the first one to jump in between. Poor choices are pretty common, but sadly compassion isn’t very common. 

If you look around for some moral high ground to prance around on, you might notice that it’s pretty crowded up there. If you’re honest with yourself about your own bad choices as a teen, you might find some empathy in your heart. Humility is a beautiful thing; pride not so much. And as for myself, remembering my own recent finger, I decided I better just take a seat right next to her. 

Advertisements

Am I allowed to say that?

Am I allowed to say that?

I don’t know where I stand. 

I don’t have a political passion. I don’t know what I think. I step back and take it all in. And I am not eager to jump in and scream alongside either group of nuts. Yes. That is how most of it looks to me–you’re all nuts. 

To be completely honest, I don’t see much difference between the extremely loud, self-appointed spokespeople on either side. But there are always a few quieter souls on each side, who speak wisdom and sense. And these are my people. 

Back in the early 90s when I was 12 years old, I listened to my 12 year old peers mouth loudly about “their” political views. I remember on one particular occasion, one friend said about a candidate, “He’s completely ignorant! He’s been quoted as doing a complete 180 on so many issues.”

Is that ignorance? To see both sides of issues? But isn’t ignorance…not knowing? The more information I gather, the more I understand both sides–the harder my decision becomes to choose where to stand. Which group of nuts? THAT is ignorance? Indecision?

And then my most respected, favorite teacher responded that she sees the wisdom in changing your mind. I always find myself somewhere very close to the middle, yet somehow always strategically positioned away from both sides. Yes, both. 

Every major decision/position becomes more difficult for me the more I read both sides of the actual issue, after filtering through piles and piles of fear propaganda, which inevitably floods both sides. Yes, both. 

I just want to back away slowly to some third location. No marching, no signs, no political memes, no snark, no anger, no gloating, no mocking, no blaming, no rudeness…just…over here. Looking for an actual action to engage in and not merely the appearance of positive action. 

I’ve read some and watched some and thought some about what life was like in the U.S. for the slaves and the brave few who risked their lives to help them. And also about the Jews in Nazi Germany and the brave souls who helped them. 

I would be one of those brave souls if I lived in those times, I’ve always told myself. Probably many of us thought this same thought. But…would I have been? Would you? Would we? 

And what about now. Are there opportunities to be brave and do something real? I don’t mean walking around with posters or laughing at memes or social media activist arguing or blog posts (tongue in cheek) or yelling that someone else is ignorant. 

Who is being brave? I don’t mean loud. I mean real action. Who is brave? Am I? Are you? Are we?

I’m not.

I had a complete stranger bark at me the other day that I should “just keep on making those babies” and just keep on “adding more people to an overcrowded world.” She loved to dictate what I should be doing with my life, and I certainly could’ve returned the favor. 

You know…it is overcrowded in my 1800-sq ft house when I have all of our 8 children here. My children are fed, loved, housed, clothed, but yeah it’s a little crowded. Should I stop feeding them to feed someone else? Could we find a space to take in more people? I considered it. 

And how about this stranger who wanted to ridicule me? Is this girl brave? Not married, no kids, screaming at me, a stranger to her, about our social obligations. How many people is she personally responsible for feeding and clothing and housing? If only herself…then is she at least signed up to host some of the Syrian refugees? Let’s hope so. 

She had already decided she would not have any kids out of social responsibility. This announcement was possibly meant to make me feel ashamed of my large, blended family. It did not. But it did make me wonder how many people she was feeding and housing between her selfie posts with perfectly applied makeup and styled hair and her angry, dictating  rants directed at strangers…who was she feeding…

So how many of my friends have signed up to host a refugee family? How many of you? Be proud of your decision. Let us know you are one of the brave ones.  Show others how they can sign up, and if not host…where do I meet you to volunteer for a worthwhile cause where people are doing something, not only complaining?

I filled out half of the “register to be a host” form, and then stopped. Will I go back and finish signing up? I might. You don’t know me. I just might. 

I probably won’t. Should I myself host…or should I pick out strangers that I think should host, and sign them up…

One link to get information about hosting refugees…

https://paih.typeform.com/to/dl4g60?

And now for myself… 

<Google search–birth control…what…is…that…>

Walk

Walk

It’s not the casserole. 

I am an audience member of my once-life. It’s that. Watching someone else play me. That. 

I don’t remember how to ride in the backseat. I know how to get out of a car at a stoplight. And I know how to walk. 

I know how to walk in painful shoes and not wince. I know how to step on a rock, twist my ankle, crumble to the ground in the middle of a busy road. I know how to get back up and keep walking. And keep walking. 

I know how to walk. And walk. And walk. And walk. 

Ask him. 

I don’t know how to hurt in socially acceptable ways. I don’t know how. 

Don’t expect me to ride along. I know how to walk.

I know how to drive myself. I know how to get away when I need to. I know how to walk away. That. 

I know how to feel invisible. I know how to feel invincible. That. 

Don’t look around, unless you can handle seeing that I’m here. And I’ll be here. And I’ll be there too. 

It’s not the casserole.

It’s the backseat. 

Did you…

Did you…

Did you think you weren’t my favorite daughter? Because you were. You were, you were. 

Please don’t ever think that. 

_____________________

“I hate you!!!! I hate you, Mom!!” Her feet are close to the edge of the broken floor tile. Her face is red rage and tears. 

“You can’t act this way, and it’s my job to make sure you know that.” I pick her up and carry her to the dining room and place her firmly on a chair. She doesn’t know that I’m getting her foot away from the tile. She doesn’t know that I’m getting her 4-year-old eyes out of the kitchen. 

“Aaaaaaaaa!!!!” She swings and kicks her legs so much that the chair bounces around.

“You. Better. Quit.” I kneel down in front of her, place a hand on either side of the chair to steady it. My face is calm. My heart is racing. She looks away first. 

“I hate you!!” She screams to the back of my head as I walk into the kitchen. I put a new, clean trash bag into the trash can and bring it back to the dining room. 

“Take off your new dress and put it in here. You will not be allowed to scream at me and hit and kick me wearing this dress I just bought you.” I hold the trash can out toward her. 

“I don’t care! I don’t want it! It’s ugly!” She takes it off and throws it in the trash. The giant jewel on the top of the dress hits me in the knuckle; I clench my jaw. 

“You won’t need this baby doll with a matching dress either.” I pick up her doll off the table and drop it into the clean trash bag. 

“I don’t care.” She opens her mouth slightly again, then closes it. Crosses her arms. 

“What’s it going take? Because I can keep going.” I can’t keep going. I can’t, but I will. 

My methods are probably all wrong. I don’t know what I’m doing. We don’t usually say it, but most moms…we think it. We don’t know what we are doing, or if it’ll work. 

I pick up her new iPod touch, drop it loudly into the trash, never looking away from her eyes. She doesn’t care. I don’t know what else to throw away. I don’t know how to break her rebellious attitude. 

Freddie bounces his way into the dining room, unwittingly. Her sweet, fluffy gray kitten. He bats at a dust particles swimming around in the light from the bay window. I scoop him up. 

Her eyes look worried.

“I guess you won’t be needing your kitten either.” I place him gingerly onto her dress in the trash can. 

“NO!! Please NOT Freddie! I’m sorry.” Her sob changes, her voice softens. “I’m sorry, Mom. I’m sorry. I don’t hate you.”

She reaches for me. I can’t pick her up fast enough. I fold my arms under her baggy Dora panties. Her tiny butt rests on my forearm. 

We bend down together and pick up Freddie. He’s not worried. He wants down so he can attack the dust again. 

I collapse onto her chair and we hold on and rock each other. Paper mache streaks of snot-glazed hair.

Shh, shh…you are my baby forever. You are my favorite. 

I hold on. I rock. I think of all the things we never did do together, all the things I should’ve done better…

____________________

If you think a person can’t have five favorite daughters, then you obviously don’t have five daughters.

Ripple

Ripple

Even a pebble makes ripples, Dad says.  But I didn’t drop a pebble in the pond, did I, Dad? It wasn’t a pebble. 

It was a boulder, wasn’t it? It was two boulders, maybe. It was…a landslide. And the water may never be still again. 

Our life was a series of pedestals, and we tiptoed around on them. I guess I never did belong up there, trying hard to balance precariously alongside people who proudly live on pedestals, who look down at people below who never deserved to be up there. 

Who is a good person? Who? Who has a good heart? The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; who can know it? Only God. Not any person on any worldly pedestal. 

We were kids, 17 and 16. I remember well. Funny, smart, hardworking kids. Making bagels. Scrimping. Making plans. Listening to Radiohead. Thought we had the bull by the horns, maybe we did for a while, but no. I guess we caught the tiger by the tail instead.

People like wrapping loss up in little justification packages–

The problem is…I married an asshole. The problem is…she turned out to be crazy. We just, we didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into…

Bullshit. 

You know it is, and I know it is. 

There was love. There was more than one betrayal from both of us. There was forgiveness. There were hurts. There was a lot of interference from people who didn’t belong between us. People I let in; people you let in.  There was apathy. There was triumph. There were so many laughs. There were cries. Sure. 

Every marriage is two sinners who buckle down and refuse to give up on each other, against whatever odds they have both brought to the table. And we did that. For 15 years, we did that. 

I cannot tell you how many inaccurate, blatantly ignorant comments have been made to me over the years by so-called friends regarding my first marriage. 

“I think maybe you just never loved him.” “I didn’t know your marriage was a facade.” “Don’t say hi to me in public, Emily, because I’m not ready for that; I know what’s really going on.”

Oh do you? You all knew the intimate intricacies of my own marriage better than I did? Interesting. 

Where were you when we decorated our first apartment? Where were you when we took care of each other when we were sick? Where were you when I cried about his betrayals? Where were you when we held hands as I pushed our daughters into the world? Where were you when he forgave me for my betrayals? Because I don’t remember any of you being there for any of it. So you go ahead and believe your shallow lies. 

We became the ending only.

If every marriage is a refusal to give up, then every divorce is…giving up on each other. We did that, too. And none of you were a part of any of it. 

 “I will kill every feeling I have for you. You will mean nothing to me. Nothing.” You said it. And you meant it. And you live it. Fifteen years of mostly good memories, but none of it will matter. 

Used to was: I could do no wrong in your eyes, even at times when I knew I was so wrong.

“Emily, I’ve always been on your side. Even when no one else was. It was me. I was. You know that’s true. Even when we separated, people would tell me how it looked, what you were probably up to…and that’s never how I saw it. Not my Emily. No. ” He loosened his tie and unbuttoned his collar. Choked it back. Not one to cry.

But now. It seems I can’t do anything right. Every way that I handle things, you have a judgment, a criticism, a remark, a request. You see me through crap-tinted glasses. Everything about me is shit now. Okay.

I became the ending. The fleeting backstage deceit made the spotlight years a lie to you. My name becomes a knell that few dare to toll in your presence. Or maybe a joke…Yeah, probably a joke. 

I did do lots of wrong. And I’m sorry. Do you even know that I’m so sorry? I’ve said it, but you aren’t one to acknowledge any emotion. I remember your brother sobbing at your grandfather’s funeral. And you leaned over to him, “You don’t have to think about anything sad, and then you won’t cry.” Your solutions. 

Would it make me a better person to pretend my heart never loved you before? I don’t really trust people who do that. To turn every speck of love into loathing? Erase every photo. Block every memory. Never happened.

Should I pretend we don’t know each other? Maybe we don’t anymore. But we did. 

Tell it however you want to. No, you will choose to say nothing. You do that. I will keep the photos and memories and stories.

If I die first, don’t worry, no one expects you to cry. But when you die, I will quietly sit on a back row at your funeral. And I will cry. I’ll remember the full story. And I will cry.

Two minutes with a Toddler: Chocolate Milk, Anatomy of a Tantrum (with video)

Two minutes with a Toddler: Chocolate Milk, Anatomy of a Tantrum (with video)

She’s sweet, she’s sour. This is the full tantrum (video at bottom of blog). She’s gotten faster at getting back on track. She’s even had a few that were much faster than this one. And she has DEFINITELY had longer tantrums. 

Toddler wants chocolate milk: let’s break it down. Every tantrum, every fight at our house can be divided into these same parts–unacceptable behavior, gentle chance, a firm and predictable punishment, an apology, forgiveness, makeup. 

That’s it. It can be over that easily. You know…in theory. 

Part one–Unacceptable Behavior I didn’t get it all on video. She just woke from a nap and demanded chocolate milk in the her whiniest voice ever. No. Not a chance that I will reward that. 

Part two–Gentle Chance I explain how she’s acting and give her a chance to change her mind quickly. Sometimes it’s over RIGHT then, and we skip part three. Other times, part three is the longest step…her choice. 

Part three–Clear Punishment (or Consequences) If she chooses not to change her behavior, she will be punished–go sit on the couch. She tested me because I was filming, and she will usually test me if someone else is here as her audience…or if we are in public. 

Ideally, and theoretically, she gets ONE chance to obey. And if her mouth or body language “tell me no,” then I will go pick her up and put her on the couch. That’s “yes.” 

(But to be honest, I don’t always get up when she doesn’t obey the first time…as you see in the video. But if I’m making eye contact and I’ve told her TWICE, and she disobeys a second time…I will get up. Trust me. 

I have had to place her on the couch many times. I’ve had to catch her trying to run off as many as 12…possibly 20 times in a row, and I sit her back down, and back down, and back down…until she stays. 

Part four–An Apology She knows when she can get up. All she has to do is say, “I’m sorry.” This particular time, she chose to say it quickly. Cool. Fine by me. 

I have done things like set a timer for 5 minutes and ignore her until it goes off, and then give her the opportunity to apologize or sit longer. 

Clara is 2 years and 9 months now. She doesn’t usually need a full 5 minutes to change her behavior. Sometimes she chooses to take that long, but not often anymore. 

I learned a long time ago with toddlers–give them a choice, and make sure YOU are fine with either option. Example–Get yourself dressed in the next 5 minutes…or wear your pajamas to the store. It won’t embarrass me. 

Apologize…or sit there. Either way, I’m fine. 

Part five–Forgiveness I have a long list of personal habits that I hope my daughters don’t remember or learn. If they only remember one thing about growing up with me, I hope they remember my capacity to forgive. 

For practice with my toddlers and children, this is an unskippable step. And under my rule, unforgiveness will often get a punishment. 

Definitely at least a lecture–unforgiveness is your biggest character flaw, _______ (insert name). You need to learn not to do that, especially to your sisters. 

Part five–Makeup Remember it enough to learn from it, forget it enough to move on.  Making up usually looks like a hug at my house.

Forgiveness can be that quick with adults, too, but usually isn’t. 

As adults, we often get hurt by grudges, judgment, moral superiority, scoffs, repeated mistakes, jabs, criticism, gossip. But to be hurt, we have to consent to allow any of those reactions to hurt us, which has been an incredibly liberating realization for me. We don’t have to be hurt. 

Probably why I get along better with kids, and probably always will. I prefer their simplicity. 

Hoard

Hoard

My garage. It was the grossest space in this old house, and that was a hard trophy to win. 

All cabinets were seafoam green, with work surfaces of grimy retro linoleum peeling up in every countertop corner. 

There was dust crusted onto everything, not dry and loose–crusted, 40 years thick. Not “flutter the feather duster over it  in my maid costume” dust, but “powerwash it, scrub with bristley brushes, ruin your jeans, ruin your hair; find out what you’re made of” dust. That kind. 

My dryer vented into the garage, regularly keeping the air steamy, and I imagine…remoistening new dust layers day after day after month after year after decade. Dust, moistened dust, dried dust, new layer dust, moisten, crust over…

I don’t know the exact nuances of making a 40-year thick crusting of dust. I only know the state of my garage when  I moved in. I only know how much scrubbing and scraping it took. 

The rickety garage door, also seafoam green, was not well insulated, was not properly sealed at the bottom. It was freezing in there unless the dryer was steaming it up, or the tiny hazardous gas heater was on. Flames shot out of it several inches high, more than once I saw dry leaves meet their demise to that fiery little beast. 

This is probably dangerous, I would think as I rubbed my cold, bony fingers together in front of flames. When did my knuckles get so wrinkly? I can pinch the skin of a cold knuckle and it will stay pinched…then slooowly, lazily melt back into place. 

The weather-stripping on the bottom of the garage door was flapping off and severely gapping in many spots. They say to build your house on a hill, to sit there majestic and wise. People can lean back and look up to admire it. A shining example on display, make it glass even. What’s there to hide?

My house was built at the bottom of a hill. My driveway serves as a slide for rainwater, nothing to slow its flow toward the busted weather-stripping. 

Muddy rainwater never flooded the garage the 4 years I’ve owned the house, but it would seep in and settle…dry slowly, leaving behind only the dirt residue. Charm…adds a bit of charm, an optimist might say. Dirt is character? Yes. Sometimes. 

I walk into the garage. I feel the weight of this project grip me, pull me under water. 

I need this crusty garage to be usable space. Dear God…where do I start…I look around for a welcoming place. I don’t find one. 

November is too cold. I was born in Wisconsin, lived there til I was 4. No, Arkansas November isn’t as bad as Wisconsin. Think positive, brain, and stop singing “November Rain” by Guns N Roses. 

So I pull everything out of it and onto the driveway. Every cabinet, every rusty paint can, every gritty ziploc bag filled with every jingle of unorganized nail and bolt and crazy unknown bits of metal. Keep these? I should keep all these, right…? I will need these old nails one day…

I try not to think of the old man who lived here before me. He and his wife were the only owners, from 1972 when the house was built until 2012 when I bought it. 

I know he was 86 when he passed. I found his obituary. His daughter gave me the keys to the house at the closing; the keychain has some small, clear plastic prism hanging from a short, beaded metal chain with a cylinder clasp. I don’t know what you call it. You place the last bead of the chain into the opening on the cylinder and press. I should keep this keychain in his honor. 

I shiver. November chill? Or thoughts of which room did he die in? Was it in here? A hospital? What’s with all the plant hooks on the ceilings? Why did one have a thin leather dog collar hanging on it? What is this blackish-brown smear on the textured paint of the wall right next to the basement toilet…? 

I enlist help to clean the garage–to power wash, to scrub, to paint. My nephew and my three oldest daughters spend hours on it with me. I buy wafer board and have it cut to size for new countertops. My dad screws them onto the old wobbly cabinets for me. 

And I don’t care how the paint job looks, anything will be an improvement. I do not care, just get it covered. We use the leftover paint that I already have.  

I have my girls slop espresso-bean colored paint on every cabinet and countertop. The cabinets are sitting on visqueen in my driveway. The paint glues the plastic to the bottom of the cabinets. I have to hold the visqueen down with my old cheerleading Asics and lift to peel the cabinets free. Obviously, I never got rid of these Asics from twenty years ago because obviously I am going to be working on my toe-touches and herkies some day soon. Any day now. 

My nephew and I paint all walls gray–two dark gray and one light gray. Maybe it looks artistically chosen. Ah, my accent wall…yes. And here we have one set of 2×4 shelves nailed together shoddily, we chose to paint these a bright Caribbean blue. It’s beautiful…it was meticulously planned and designed. It was…what we had. 

Nick (nephew) brought his music, and I bumped that shit. I made up my own lyrics and would not be dissuaded. I forget the band name; it was a bunch of letters, like SKBRTKB…you should get their album. I especially enjoyed their song that goes–“My girl’s gonna sit in the mud! My girl’s gonna sit in the mud!” 

Now, Nick who could barely breathe during his explanation, he wanted me to believe they said–“My girl’s got a city to run!” But shhh, shh…shush, Nick. Don’t ruin my moment. I dropped it low and sang along. Me in my old Asics, dropping my ass into piles of dust around the garage–“My girl’s gonna sit in the mud!”

I still got it. Maybe I can do a toe-touch in these jeggings? Hang on. Kick this leg up, then kick that leg up. Okay, they wouldn’t bust. Hop a little…eh…it’s too slanted out here. Otherwise, I’d kill it. 

I leave all the cabinets and crap on my driveway overnight. You don’t really have to be in a hurry to move stuff until you get a notice from the city. Shockingly, no one stole any of it over the two nights it sat out there. 

It was November 2014, and I didn’t sleep a lot most nights since the end of September, when Demetrius left. Might as well get up super early and buy garage floor paint. I got a midnight blue, and some paint flecks to sprinkle on top like Christmas cookies–a variety of grays. 

Nothing like good honest work to occupy a mind in the middle of a divorce, to tire an already tired body and soul. The high-gloss topcoat is moodier than I am. It only wants certain temperatures. But…I don’t have time to wait til Spring. And I suppose this is why it dried cloudy. Good enough. Better than it was. The clouds add some depth, an unexplored galaxy of paint specks. What new adventures are in store for the garage’s next 40 years…

I order a $2700 new garage door. It is so ridiculously out of place on this house. I don’t give a crap. To my credit, I have great credit. If I say I will pay you, you will be paid. I don’t care if my choices make no sense to someone.

A jewel in a pig’s snout: my lovely new well-insulated garage door, I will pay it off before the accrued interest ever hits. There are worse choices to be made in life. I’ve made plenty of them before, and now I’ll leave those worse ones for someone else. 

I put everything back into the garage very neatly. I had a lot of extra furniture, a big tv, all our bikes, bookshelves and books and books and books, sports equipment, lawn mower and crap, paint and hardware. 

Demetrius messages me some days later that he’s going to bring over the last of my boxes. What’s even left of mine there? A truckload. What’s in the boxes, I can’t even imagine or care. He piles them into my newly cleaned, freshly painted, just organized garage. 

Holiday decorations, photo albums, candles, picture frames, the weird platters and dishes, electrical chargers and cords that go to…who knows what… 

Piles and piles of crap. And my irrational attachment to them. NO! I’m going to use that one day! Won’t I? Does this have a good sentimental value to me? 

I can’t do this yet. I can’t look through it.  I just leave it all in there. I know I will hang on to things I need to get rid of. Unopened boxes of memory in my garage, in my heart. I thought I cleaned this place…

______________________

“Emily?? What’s wrong? What is it?” Keith approaches me in my garage. It is March 2015. We just met February 16. 

“This shit is breaking me. I don’t know what to keep, what to burn, what to sell, what to do with any of it.” It is too early in our relationship for a breakdown, but I am who I am, and I feel what I feel. 

He wraps his arms around me, pinning my arms to my sides with an upward, lifting force. I sink onto him. 

“I had to do this, too. It’s hard to go through everything, but you will be glad when it’s all done.” He rubs my back. We don’t hide from each other. 

“I don’t want you to see me like this, but I can’t go through all this stuff and not cry. I know I won’t be able to.” Phony is not my forte, maybe at times in my past, it was. But not now. 

“Well…do you want to be alone while you go through it all? I can go somewhere.” He releases his hold and backs away some to see my face. 

“No. I don’t want do this alone. I need help deciding what I should keep. But I will need you to be understanding, too. I will explain exactly what’s going on in my head or heart, and I will need you to understand and not be upset.” I look at him. My eyes say–I don’t want to go through it alone. And also…I don’t want to go through it alone. 

“Okay. I can do that.” Keith takes me back into his hug. 

He is going to keep me off the show Hoarders when my kids move out. He is better at explaining what needs to go. I trust him. I don’t always listen, but he is right. 

I watch episodes of that show Hoarders, and yeah, these people are extreme cases, but their words don’t always sound crazy to me. Most people who watch are probably like–whoa, they’re insane!

But I have to admit that…their logic often makes sense to me. And when people go through so much emotional trauma in their lives, I can understand that they might revolt in these sad, severe ways. 

We watched an episode recently of this old guy living in his yard instead of his house. He had piles of clothes; he slept on a pile of blankets with a tarp covering him. He was a tough veteran, and I could see myself getting along fine with him over a cup of coffee…in some place other than his home. 

Prideful, stubborn, unconventional, thrifty, resourceful, unconcerned with pleasing society, lovers of personal freedom. I do relate to some personality traits of some of these people on SOME levels. I’m not saying these feelings are all GOOD; I’m just saying I can empathize. 

Bugs, rodents, unworking plumbing, no livable spaces, room upon room of no walking room …now I can’t get on board with any of THAT

My dad always said to us–the order of your bedroom is a reflection of the order of your mind. I think about that a lot, especially when I am holding something, looking at it, deciding if I should get rid of it. 

Keith rallies for me to let go of things. He’s right. Will I ever watch these VHS movies? I mean seriously. 

Keith arrived in my life during a transition period. I guess I could’ve pretended that I had been healed for months, but that’s not how I am. 

A wound doesn’t heal completely when you keep ripping it open together. And that’s exactly what Demetrius and I did September through January, kept it all ripped open. 

Ripped open through his cheating, through my obsessing, through the separation, through the sleepless nights, through the move, through him pushing me away, through me pushing him away, through him clinging o me…trying to keep hold of some part of me, through me clinging to him…trying to keep hold of some part of him. 

Hard to heal with that much overlap of big life events; it takes a lot of honesty. 

February wasn’t long after all of this. I had been slowly facing the truth, but that doesn’t mean Keith entered my life when I was healed. 

I wasn’t entirely healed, but I wasn’t a broken half-person, desperately looking for someone to fill a void either. I was a complete person in my relationship with God, but still a very hurt person. 

I needed a strong man, who has a kind and understanding heart. Someone I could be completely honest with. 

Someone who could help me understand what to hold onto in my life, and what to let go.