Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Fear’

Alternate History.

Read Full Post »

Today I woke up feeling overwhelmed.  It usually follows a night of dreams fraught with all the stuff I haven’t done or finished or even started yet.  I rarely remember such dreams other than a tangle of dark shadows and frustrated emotions.  I don’t really want to remember the specifics.  It’s enough to wake up feeling overwhelmed.

Seeing as no one else is awake, I jump in to tackle some of my “undones,” hoping to resolve the mess of anxiety roiling in my gut. As I start working on a client’s blog article, my son trails in, tears already on his cheeks because he was so tired last night he and his dad didn’t play the game he’d wanted to play.  My first reaction is to snarl in frustration: I’m not going to get anything done at this rate. But I shove that nasty part away from me, pull him to me so he’s snuggled up against my side (at 11, I wonder how much longer he’ll be willing to lean on me like this) and we talk about why he woke up ready to doom the day.

Genetics?  Environment, growing up in a house where Mom wakes up overwhelmed and, in the past, didn’t handle it so well? It doesn’t matter.  What matters is I focus on the weight of him, the sound of his breathing, his constant 11-year old fidgeting.He gets into the open notes on the laptop in my lap and we talk DNA testing methods.  Apparently comforted, he wanders off to find his dad and see if some of their aborted plans from last night can be resurrected this morning.

Before I can dive back into my work, my daughter flies in on a few thousand sentences and half of a song.  The definition of a morning person, she rarely wakes up on a tide of anxiety or distraught emotions.  Those come later in the day, usually when she stops moving long enough to think about all the things she wants, longs for, dreams of, can’t have. But in the morning…she wakes up as if the day started awhile

 ago and the rest of us are slow to catch-up.

She wants to go to a park. She wants breakfast. She wants to watch TV. Did I notice the sun is out? She wants to know the plan for the day. She doesn’t want to do anything. She wants to play with the dogs. Can she eat the last donut in the box or will her brother get mad?

I stare at my notes, the blank page for my article. I think about the garden that needs weeding, the bookshelves that need moving, the family room that I’ve started priming for paint, the grocery shopping I need to do, the ribs I need to get cooking, the 100 pages of my novel I need to print so I can ready the package for Interested Agent #3….

My heart beats faster and my chest constricts.  It’s not even nine a.m.

My daughter is whirling around the house, dashing from her room to the kitchen, chasing the dogs, singing a song…the sun is shining. She is full of life and zest and…I breathe, focus on the sound of her voice, the memory of my son leaning into my side.

Life could end tomorrow. Would it be any better a life if all my “jobs” were closed out, completed?

I shut my laptop and breathe.

Read Full Post »

You don’t often hear that one word in combination with that one name.  But I couldn’t help but feel like I was repeating myself earlier this week when I had to have the “ZIP IT” conversation with my son in regards to his recent epiphanies about Santa.

My son loves knowledge. No matter how heartbreaking or sad or pitiful the subject might be to his personal world-views or the world in general, he absorbs it, finds it enlightening, longs to spread the word with anyone who will listen.

Most of the time, we encourage his desire to teach the world. It can’t hurt to know the facts and figures associated with the Battle of Normandy, or the back story to the Stargate TV series, or the reasons why some physics theorems will never work. But some knowledge CAN hurt. Or at least, maim a little bit.

Both Santa and sex fall into this category for me.

I was twelve when I found out about Santa. It was by accident–my father assumed I knew, and who can blame him? I was twelve–but it still dropped me off a precipice and changed forever the way I saw the world, my parents, and life in general.

I felt the same way when I found out about sex.

My son, having the voracious appetite for knowledge that he does, has suffered no such issues.

He did writhe and moan and gag and fake-vomit for several minutes when he learned about sex for the first time, but when he was done, he was cool about it all. We went on to discuss the responsibility of such information, and how it wasn’t necessarily something he needed to share with his friends or his sister in any situation unless they asked. And if his sister did ask, he should choose his words carefully and forward her to me.

Last week, I found myself saying similar words when he finally stopped using the air quotes he’s been using around Santa Claus’s name and outright announced in a room of others exactly what he knew to be true regarding this tradition.

“Hey,” I said. “Come here for a minute.”

“Huh? Why? I didn’t do it. I wasn’t even in the room where it happened.”

“You’re not in trouble. I just want to talk to you about something.”

“Oh, no,” he groaned. “Can’t I just say I’m sorry and move on?”

(Really, he’s a very well-behaved child and doesn’t get into trouble nearly enough to warrant his fears)

He wouldn’t budge off the couch, so I sat next to him and whispered, “Remember how we talked about some information being for everyone, and some information being private, or at least only for certain situations?”

“Uh-huh,” he nodded.

“Santa is that kind of information. Everyone deserves to decide for themselves when they’re ready to know some things,” I said.

His eyes went wide with understanding and he nodded. “Like, you know,” he said. “Sex and stuff.”

“Exactly,” I said, a little sad that he’d reached this threshold, but relieved, too, that it’s apparently painless for him, in regards to both topics.

It should go without saying that I did come to accept the facts about the birds and the bees.

I wish I could say the same about Santa.

Read Full Post »

Today, I discovered that my Chapter Thirteen was actually Chapter Nineteen. Aside from the literal number issue, this is a big difference in terms of story arc. For me, it’s a wonderful big difference: I’m in the process of editing what I consider the “middle” of the book, where a few key pieces of information come to light and also a couple of key plot points evolve. And I was trying not to be horrified and shocked and anxious because the “middle” was not happening in the middle.

Then I discovered my counting error, and the heavens opened and the angels sang.

Briefly, because then I realized that the END was coming up…soon! And I could no longer delay it by playing around with my overall “big picture” arc on the excuse that my middle wasn’t in the middle.

I want to put this book to bed more than anything, and yet I am terrified of what comes after even more than anything.

What in the hell will I do when this book is done?

Don’t tell me to relax. I’m not good at that.

Sure, I have two more book ideas hanging out in my head: one I’ve already written half of, and the other I have an outline for. But I’m not going to be able to go to either of them right away. I’m going to mourn, for a bit of time. This book and the characters in it have been part of my every waking thought–and often dreaming thought, too–for several years now. I’m tired of them, and I want to be done with them, but I will miss them, too.

They’re like my best friends, if me and my best friends went vacationing in a teeny tiny cabin far out in the middle of nowhere and got snowed in for several years.

It’s not even about the time it will take to hear from any agents I’ve submitted to. After years of submitting short stories and poetry and not hearing from editors for up to a year, waiting doesn’t bother me. I just tuck all of that away and pretend it’s not happening, kind of like how I don’t see the dirt on the living room rug when I don’t want to. But thinking about the days when my imaginary best-ies are gone from my daily rituals is both a relief and yawning wide open with quiet desperation.

A good friend of mine, who is the president of the PTSA at our kids’ school, assured me she could find stuff for me to do, if necessary.

I’m glad I have something to fall back on.

For now, I’m off to continue muddling through the middle while not thinking about what comes after.

Read Full Post »

I am locked in a metal cage that is spinning around several hundred feet up in the air. It could be several miles–I’m really bad at distances and measurements–but I don’t really want to think about it too much. My teeth are clamped shut and my lips scrunched up together. My legs are splayed, straining for purchase against the metal floor, and my arms are locked in front of me, my hands flat against the grid through which I can see the trees and neighborhood school and the road and the blue, blue sky flying by.

My eight year old son is next to me, and he has control of the metal bar that spins our personal cage around and around even as the creaking, shrieking machinery spins around the wheel we are attached to. At one point I did try to wrestle the bar from his control, but at eight years old and as a budding karate master (he has his purple belt), he has become suddenly, sometimes frighteningly, stronger then me in many areas. Holding on to this bar is one of them. He pushes on the bar even as I am using all my might to hold it back so that we don’t spin. And he lets loose a battle yell as our cage turns over, hanging us upside down, as the giant wheel we are attached to spins us into a descending ark.

I want to scream, too, but I clamp my lips even tighter and hold it in, afraid that if I start I won’t know how to stop.

All I can think is, I used to live and die for amusement park rides. What happened to me?

I remember my dad telling me, at some point, that amusement park rides were no longer fun for him, that he thought too much about what could go wrong. I also remember thinking, “You are so old. How sad for you. I will never be you.”

Of course, he also taught me to “never say never,” and recently I’ve started saying that to my kids.

Only the summer before, while watching my kids go on one kiddie ride after another, I was longing for the summer when my kids would be old enough to go on a “big” ride with me.

Now, here I was, with an eight year old so excited to finally reach the height requirements that he could barely speak, and all I could think of was, “Oh! God! Jehovah! Zeus or Athena! Don’tLetTheMachineLoseANutOrBoltOrAnythingImportant!” I can’t even open my eyes, for Christ’s sake! I’m not that old yet, am I?

Was that it, then? Had I reached the magical threshold when I could no longer find the simple thrill in freefall?

Maybe.

Maybe, I think as our cage comes out of freefall, coasts across the platform, begins another slow ascension and my son promises not to rock the cage if I open my eyes “just for a minute,” maybe we all reach a certain point in our lives when there are so many little thrills we don’t need the big ones.

I shake my head at hum and purse my lips. I can’t even talk, I am so terrified of all the things that might go wrong.

Of course, the last time I climbed into any sort of amusement park ride, cage or otherwise, was before I had kids. Back then, I didn’t care about school bombings or the economy. Pedophiles and kidnappers were bad people, but I was too old to take candy from strangers and, not coming from old or new money, I really doubted anyone would kidnap me. Let’s not even get into drivers who thought the neighborhood streets were the Autobahn, schoolyard bulllies, black market handguns or suicide bombers on planes. The bottom line was, if anything bad did happen to me, it happened to me and ME alone (my husband and parents and friends and family–they would have been heartbroken, of course, but they would have survived).

No, before I had kids, the most thrill I got out of my day was when a male friend was late to work one morning and the admin called up to ask me if I knew where he was. We came from different directions, and we took different trains, but the insinuation was that I knew where he was because we PLANNED coming in at different times. You know, like celebrities leave restaurants at different times. Gosh darn it, I said, you figured us out.

I (and my friend) had a lot of fun with that one for a long time.

But in the end, it still wasn’t nearly as much fun as whipping around in the Scrambler at Great America, or climbing the biggest roller caoster knowing that two seconds after you’re hurtling down at 80 miles per hour, you’re going to flip upside down and for a moment, just a single moment, feel like you’re flying.

No, before I had kids, I didn’t have the daily thrill of wondering if my son would finally choke on his food, he was laughing so hard. Or the constant excitement of waiting for my daughter to flip off the swing and go flying across the patio because she refuses to hold on with both hands. Of course, I also hadn’t experienced the edge-of-my-seat tension watching that same daughter, just younger, let go of the couch and walk across the room by herself for the first time. Or the pure trill of elation when my son received a Certificate of Recognition from his school for “displaying great teamwork with his classmates and table group”–teamwork being one of his…ummm….troublespots.

So, maybe it’s not age so much as the lifestyle I’m now living. Maybe I’m just overwhelmed. Maybe my thrill-o-meter is full to capacity.

Maybe I’m just afraid that if I think about how all of that stuff makes me feel—really, really makes me feel–I’ll start screaming and never stop.

I open my eyes and look over at my son. I don’t think I’ve ever seen his face quite so animated, his eyes so alight with excitement. His smile is so wide it’s gotta’ hurt. Or does it? I don’t remember my smile ever hurting when I was a kid. It only started hurting after college when I had to smile all the time at work.

“Oh man, oh man oh here we go, Mommy, here we go again!” my son yells. He is literally foaming at the corners of his mouth, he is that excited. He braces his legs against the floor, but not out of need to feel ground under his feet, I can tell. Simply so he can get better purchase on the controller-bar. Oh yeah. Here we go again, all right. We’re at the pinnacle of the ride again, about to go into freefall, and my son is going to flip us upside down and right side up and every which way in between. He pulls back on the bar and we start to tilt forward.

For a very, very long second we are hanging like that, perpindicular to the ground while the big wheel we are attached to stops to let a rider in at the bottom.

All the bad stuff starts to fly through my mind: the nuts and bolts than can fly off at any moment, the carny not paying attention, the economy, terrorists, the state of our checking account–then we are falling, heading straight for the ground even as my son is pulling back hard on the bar and we are rolling around in a jerking circle.

His screams roar out of his belly like a hurricane, and for the first time, I understand there is absolutle terror beneath his delight. But instead of suppressing it, instead of fearing what his fear will breed, he releases it as easily as our cage is pulled down by gravity.

My stomach flip-flops. Our cage begins its plummet downwards. We are upside down, my ponytail tickling my nose, and even I’m pretty sure I’m going to die, for just a moment, just a single second, I feel like I’m spinning, free of everything, elation and joy co-mingling with the fear until I can no longer tell the difference.

Without the one, how can there be the other?

I open my mouth and, inching my fingers over my son’s so we are both pulling back on the bar, I scream.

Read Full Post »

A few months ago, after my son and husband caught the new Indiana Jones movie at the theater, my son put together his very own Indiana Jones outfit. For most of the summer, dressed in his overly long tshirt (worn backwards so only the white, not the brand on the front, showed), long-sleeved brown checked shirt that stands in for Indy’s leather jacket, and his floppy sun hat (REI calls it a ‘Research Rambler’), he ran around the yard singing the Indiana Jones theme song and lassoing trees with the homemade whip which he made from stripping a jump rope of its plastic handles.

The best part was that he kept his rope stuffed in his shorts. Not in a pocket–inside his shorts. Even now, several months after the Indy costume has been put to bed, I can still get a giggle at the memory of the looks on others’ faces when Liam would reach into his khaki shorts and pull out that rope. It was a good thing his tshirt was so long.

I didn’t ever have the heart to tell him that some moms were moving their children to the other side of the park when he dove into his pants and came out with a length of rope. After all, even if most of the kids were momentarily stunned when he reached into his waistband for his whip (ha-ha), once he had the whip in hand, they all looked a little envious that he had a whip in the first place, not to mention the handy storage space. Kids don’t, after all, have our framework to find humor or dismay in such behavior.

He was really proud of his costume, and I was, too: this is the same boy who had always refused to dress up until moments before we were leaving the house to Trick-or-Treat. He never got into the whole costume thing that some of his peers did when they were toddlers, and the closest he’s come in recent years to dressing up when it’s NOT Halloween is playing ‘Pretty, Pretty Princess’ with his sister (the game requires players to wear jewelry as they win it). So, maybe you can understand why I didn’t tell him to find a new whip storage, or ask him to take off the outfit completely, even when I realized he was sleeping in it.

I was afraid that if I asked him to take it off, he would never put it on again, and I wanted to enjoy this usually wise-beoynd-his-years boy who, for that brief moment in time was just young. In short, I was afraid if I made him take it off, even to wash, he would never become Indy again. Turns out I was half right.

The last time he was in full Indy gear was a very hot day, at least hot for us in the Pacific Northwest. The kids and I were walking to the park, only three blocks away, but Liam was, as I said, in full Indy gear. When my just-short-of-an-order suggestion to take off his “leather jacket,” was met with point-blank refusal, I tried logic, which usually works on him.

“It has to be 85 degrees out,” I told him, “and it’s humid today.”

“Indiana Jones doesn’t take off his jacket, and he doesn’t take off his hat,” I was told.

“Indiana Jones isn’t real,” I countered.

“Don’t care. Not doing it.”

I suppose, in retrospect, I should have forced him to take it off. But as I said, I was so very reluctant to do that. Worst case, I figured he’d get hot and take it off himself. I guess I didn’t realize how very wedded he was to being Indiana Jones.

Despite the abundance of shade at the park, my son chose the most sunniest area in which to run around and whip out his…whip…(sorry, but the puns and little jokes are endless, here) for at least half an hour. He had a drink of water, and then climbed onto the tire swing with his sister, who can easily achieve a Guiness World Record of Tire Swing Spinning, even after a full meal. He did this several times: play, swing, play, swing. Then we played a game of “Icebergs and Boats,” which he made up and included lots and lots of running and lassoing. It only lasted ten minutes, if that, because I felt the ruless were slanted in the boats’ favors (I was the iceberg, of course), but it was apparently long enough.

My son climbed back onto the tire swing with his crazy spin-addicted sister and within minutes he was pale and clammy and begging me to stop.

Two minutes later, despite moving him to the shade and having long drinks of water, he was close to vomiting. At that point, I forced him to give up his “leather jacket” so I could soak it in the drinking fountain and put it over his head.

“Nooooo!” he cried in outrage, but when I reminded him of the scene in one of the Indy movies where indy was riding through the desert and tied his shirt over his head, Liam agreed that it would, in fact, be something Indy would do. Still, he fell into a quiet which disturbed me.

We made it home. I tucked Liam onto a picnic bench in the shade and my daughter and I half-ran, half-walked up the three blocks to the house. We arrived just as my husband was pulling in, so we piled into the car and drove back to pick up Liam, who was still clammy and pale and very, very quiet. That night, he went into his room and, for the first time in months, undressed for bed.

His Indy outfit was in the hamper, and it wasn’t just a holding place for the next morning.

Liam has gone on to play Indiana Jones since then, but without the outfit. He has decided to be Indiana Jones for Halloween, even. But instead of resurrecting his homemade outfit, he chose a store-bought costume.

“Yours is much better,” I told him. “Ehhh,” he replied. “I can’t wear that anymore.”

I didn’t press, because I sensed he wouldn’t have been able to put his feelings into words, anyway. Much like that alien skin that crawled onto Peter Parker in the second (or third?) Spiderman, that outfit was a whole unit for Liam. Unlike an alien skin that can regenerate, Liam’s alter ego–the illusion he created for himself–was destroyed once a single piece was taken away from it.

“I’m sorry,” I whisper to him sometimes at night, when he is fast asleep and there’s no chance of him hearing me. Even as I’m doing it, I know I am neither the first nor the last mother to be sorry for having to do what is necessary, anymore then this will be the last time I will wish I could have done something different.

“I’m sorry,” I tell my sleeping boy. “But sometimes Mommy’s gotta’ do what’s she gotta’ do.”

Read Full Post »

As I write this, I’m in the library with all of my worldly possessions at my feet. Or at least my cell phone, keys and credit cards. In today’s world, one could make a go of it for awhile with one high limit credit card, and since I have at least two on me, I figure I could stick it out for at least a week.

Do you think a week would be long enough for my children to mature beyond their ages and STOP WHINING?

Probably not, but a mom can dream. The last few days, I’ve felt that my dream of a light at the end of the whiny kid tunnel is all that’s kept me sane and relatively patient.

In truth, my kids are amazing. They are fantastic. They are both smart and funny and silly and beautiful. Never in my wildest imaginings did I imagine I’d be blessed with kids like these. Most of the time, I don’t want anything to change. I want my daughter to run into our room and climb into bed with us in the middle of the night, wiggling in between me and my husband, slipping her little legs through my own, wrapping her warm arms around me and pulling me close for always and forever. I want to watch Jurassic Park with my son over and over so his laughter at the lawyer’s attempt to hide from the TRex in the bathroom will resonate within my heart for eternity. I want time to stop so they will stay eight and four forever, and since I felt that way when they were each newborns, and again when they were each one, and two and every day in between, I know I will always feel that way, even when they are fifty-five and telling me I can no longer drive.

Most of the time, I know I live my life better because of them, and with them, and for them.

Most of the time.

Then there are the days when I want to run screaming from my house. “Mommy can’t hear you,” I tell them, when the yelling and the whining and the crying and the fighting becomes overwhelming. “She’s going to Aruba.”

Of course, I’m not really going to Aruba. I’ve never been to Aruba, and to be honest it’s not even on my List of Places to See Before I Die. I’ve been to Hawaii, several times, and I figure Aruba, Hawaii–they’re both probably very similar, what with all the sand and the water and the sun. I’d tell the kids I’m going to Hawaii, except the kids have been to Hawaii with me. Just the very mention of Hawaii would stimulate my daughter’s Hawaiian memories, and her monologues have been known to last for hours.

For some reason, telling the kids I’m going to Aruba shocks them out of whatever crabby state they are in. Usually, it stimulates pure, deep laughter from my son, who never ceases to find it hysterical that he could actually drive his mother to a point where she has to run away in her imagination. My daughter loves the word: “ARUBA.” She often begins to make up words that rhyme with Aruba, which only pushes my son’s laughter beyond hysteria (try it: Aruba, Gabluba, Jofluja), which in turns makes me laugh.

There are a few times, though, when even “going to Aruba” doesn’t work.

Today would be one of those times.

Today, I was prompted to run away for real after a very long week of my eight year old acting like a cranky two year old, my daughter’s constant whining (and not just the usual kid whininess–but whining like she thought she was part of those old SNL skits with Wendy Whiner and her family. That skit used to annoy me even before I had kids), and a cloying clinginess on the part of both of them that was odd even for my daughter, who tends to be demanding on the best days.

It doesn’t help that the temperature out here hasn’t risen about fifty in many weeks. I’m still wearing my Uggs and my winter sweaters, and when we see the sun during brief moments of the day, none of us are sure it’s not a hallucination. On top of all this, due to an abnormally busy schedule, I was constantly running from the house to the car to wherever, back and forth all day long. One morning, my daughter and I came home for fifteen minutes before we had to leave again. I don’t even know why we went home. It was more out of some obsessive need to be home, if only for a few moments.

Now that I’ve written it all down, I understand why I bolted out of the house this morning after my son began yet another more-appropriate-for-a-two-year-old emotional outburst during a game.

“I’m going out,” I told my husband, “and I don’t know when I’ll be back.”

“I’ve got it,” he said. “Take your time.”

He is the best husband and father ever, and it’s times like these I wish I would remember when he forgets to do something.

In my head, I was going to Aruba for real this time. I could drive to the airport, I thought, and buy a ticket on the next plane out. Sure, I didn’t have clothes, but I could get a job at a resort or a bar or a fishing boat. I could work and earn money for clothes and food. It would be nice to see the sun, and all that work and not very much money for food would be better than the treadmill five days a week.

I thought about it while I worked out at the gym. I thought about it while I shopped for despeartely needed jeans. I thought about it when, having nowhere to go but no really wanting to go home just yet, I drove here, the library, where I hauled out my computer and surfed EOnline. There would definitely be sun in Aruba, I thought, and it would be nice to have a job where my expectations, duties, and lunch breaks were clear.

But I would miss my kids. I would miss my daughter’s face when I pick her up from preschool. I would miss my son’s flying leaps onto me when I was least expecting it. I would miss the four of us, me and the kids and my husband, driving for hotdogs on Saturdays, singing silly songs and making jokes about porta-potties (singularly the most hilarious idea according to my kids).

I would even miss the tears and the tantrums and the fears and frustrations, because without all of that, none of the joy would give me that sweet, heady sense of success. Serving drinks to drunken, sunburned Aruban tourists would definitely be easier. But none of those tourists would bring me a handwritten letter that said, “I still miss you at skool. But I am funding waas to handel it.” None of those tourists would say, “I need to tell you a secret. You’re the best friend ever!”

I would miss being a mother.

That said, it’s time to go home.

Read Full Post »