Me, tonight, to B: “You know, if I got offered some editing work in the next few weeks, I think I’d take it. It would be nice to make some extra dough. It might be stressy for a bit around here if I was working a lot more, but no big deal.”
B, wryly: “Yeah, how much more stressy could it really get?”
I had a good belly laugh about that one.
Sure, life could get a lot more stressy (have I mentioned I love slang? That I adore words like “spendy” and “janky” and “stressy”?), but resolved am I to be more positive.
Some people are very clearly optimists. My mother in law, for example, can look down the face of climate change, recession, and world tragedy and declare it a really exciting time to be alive, because the world is in great turmoil and it will be fascinating to see what happens in the next twenty years (!). My dad, on the other hand, can order the wrong thing at lunch and be bummed out about it for the rest of the day (!). I find that I waffle pretty reliably between optimism and pessimism. Small things tend to really get me down (I have a lot of my dad in me), and on the other hand, I am sometimes capable of impressive grace and positivity. When my brother’s wife left him, for example, my mom told me I was a “rock.” I felt like one. I took my brother out to get drunk and wander around North Beach, then I called my parents and assured them he was going to be alright. (Then I let him sleep on my couch for three weeks, and phoned my parents with updates until everyone felt a little better.) The whole rotten experience made me really grow. It was nice to be needed in that way by my family, especially as, a), I come from one of those families where, knock on wood, things don’t fall apart too spectacularly that much; and, b), my parents tend to really be the rocks for their kids and sometime, you just gotta repay that favor.
Over the weekend my mom sent me a video by a guy we know who has cancer. This man has always been one of those extremely full-of-life, happy-go-lucky guys, and he got hit with a real doozie: metastasized esophageal cancer. Man, this video was uplifting. He details all the treatments he’s undergoing, traditional ones like chemo and non-traditional ones like acupuncture, Chinese herbs, qigong, and a macrobiotic diet. He’s talking about everything very cheerfully and calmly–much more calm than I knew him to be–but with this wisdom, just this wisdom. And then he says, “you know, this is really a spiritual journey.” His grace moved me so much. To look at your own possible death and see a spiritual journey? That’s extreme optimism. I hope I would have the strength.
I think sometimes, lately, I have been falling too heavily in the pessimist camp. It’s not that I’m ungrateful for what I have, or that I don’t see my extreme luckiness in the scheme of things. I do. I am grateful for so many things: my health, my family, my job, my home, being a mother–and having an incredible community of friends, good childcare, Netflix, a hook-up for some great wine at low prices, a bike with a seat for L, good books, good food, a future wonderful sister-in-law for my wonderful brother, oh and a brand new nephew–not their kid!–but I also think I feel things deeply. I always have, and since having a child I’ve felt in some ways opened right up, to more joy and to more heartache. I find myself crying when I listen to NPR or B looks at me the wrong way, or the right way. Then two second later I’m laughing. I’m a maniac. And like this blog post–what the hell is it really even about? Oh right, it’s about how I’ve been worrying, dear readers, that I sound like sour grapes all the time.
And it’s about this. A very small thing. About eight feet long by three feet wide. It’s not, yet, very fecund or impressive. It does not make me weep or shout with joy. But it has made me want to get up in the morning to see what’s new. And when we get off the bike after daycare or coming home from the playground, L and I go to see what we’ve missed, which creatures have come to threaten it, which ones we’ve staved off, and which tiny little sprouts are starting to push their way up.
Two weekends ago we took an old flower bed and excavated it. B handily sawed some boards and dug them in. We added compost and fertilizer and tilled it all, and planted cooking greens (collards and Chinese broccoli, to go with the chard and dino kale already there); lettuces (mache, red leaf, baby romaine); and seeds for green onions, two kinds of carrots, and some beets. This adds to our volunteer parsley, the huge bush of rosemary and oregano, some arugula, some thyme, and some mint.
I have a sleeping child. I’m so much calmer when L takes his nap. He didn’t, yesterday; instead, he took off his diaper, peed all over his crib, and then drove me crazy all afternoon. Around 5:30 I was heard to mutter sotto voce, “you’re a real pain in the ass, you know that?” I’m not sure he heard. Let’s hope he didn’t.
Funny story: we have a bad habit of leaving a wine glass out on the kitchen table or coffee table and the next morning our long tall drink of an L discovers it, drinks a sip, and then comes gleefully in to tell us all about it. “I drinking wine!” he said once, with a purple mustache. Oops. You think we’d learn, but no: this morning there was a (luckily-almost-totally-empty) glass on the table. L comes into the bathroom where I was just getting out of the shower.
L: “I drank some wine, Mumma.”
Me: “You did? Sweetie, wine is for grownups.”
L, cheerfully: “Oh, it was just a little bit. Don’t worry ’bout it.”
This is not L.
In moments like those–and like this afternoon, in the car on the way home from daycare, when L told me “I need a snack and I can’t hold my horse”–he is an utter and complete joy to me.
This morning I had coffee with MB, the husband of a dear friend from college. They live out in the sticks in Colorado, where they have a farm, and he’s in town doing some music gigs at local open-mic nights and the like. Some of you remember that lately I have been lusting after the “simple life,” and I found myself peppering MB with questions. I hope he didn’t mind. It was pretty wonderful to hear about their plans (to support themselves, and when they need a little more money, sell some wool/mutton/chickens/garlic/eggs); their sheep (five of them!); and their childcare woes (1+ hour drive to school every day). Lately I’ve been really interested in farm stories. Two books recently have been rocking my world: The Urban Homestead, which is a how-to guide for turning your small urban rental into a miniature farm and canning, harvesting, and eating your way to the good life; and The Dirty Life, which is a memoir by a woman who falls in love with a farmer, moves to upstate New York, and starts a full-service farm, which is to say, a farm that supports up to 30 or 40 local families with everything they need: organic vegetables, meat, eggs, beans and grains, dairy, and maple syrup.
I think farming and urban homesteading are hip right now, and I can get into what’s hip, so maybe that’s the reason for my interest. More, though, I think I have been so in my head lately I’m likely to topple over. I think I’m really craving more manual labor and physicality and less cerebral work. I’m no couch potato–I have to exercise fairly compulsively or else I explode, and I’m back into running again–but when MB sat down across from me at a very urban coffee shop and told me being in the city was freaking him out, and I could see how much time that man spent outdoors working hard, I felt a little jealous.
I’ve decided to take a yoga workshop this weekend! I’m so delighted. It’s called “Yoga & Creativity: Building a Practice as a Writer or Artist” and I saw a flyer for it when I went to a Pilates class this morning. It’s a short one (essential, when you have a 2-year-old and your husband thinks he has to spend some time at the office) and I thought it might be a really good way of moving the energy down from my head and into my body a bit. I have this sense that if I can feel my book more than think my book, I’ll have some success in moving from a very stuck place to a more open one.
I know, I know, I sound so California.
Speaking of which: L was hamming it up at the produce market yesterday (un-napped, the kid turns into a madman). He was dancing and twirling and frenetically being crazy and this very eccentric woman came up to us and said, “Oh! What’s his name?” I told her. “Is he a Leo?” she asked. I confirmed that in fact he is a Leo. “But what’s his moon sign?” she asked. I told her I didn’t know. She put her hand on my arm and said in this very conspiratorial voice, “You have to get his charts done. There’s something else in there besides Leo. God, he’s just darling!” (L was dismantling the juice machine at that point. This was about 15 minutes before the pain-in-the-ass business.) She couldn’t take her eyes off him and gave me her card. Now, cynical B told me that of course she was just drumming up business, but I have to say that this is the third or fourth time a total stranger has come up to me and told me how…X…my kid is. One dude, who also put his hand on my arm and stared into my eyes, said, “I just have to tell YOU about the intelligence simply exuding from that child.” Not sure why he needed to emphasize “you.” Maybe he thought I didn’t already know?
Yesterday morning I had a little crying jag, and called B, as I always do (what did I do before he came along?). Last night he brought flowers and I promptly started to cry again.
B: “Whoa, it must be a long time since I brought you flowers, if they made you cry!”
Yeah, well. Tears of joy, I guess.
I'm working from the premise that motherhood is not just all diapers, tantrums, and setting limits. It's interesting. Okay, sometimes.