Entertain

“Entertaining a notion, like entertaining a baby cousin or entertaining a pack of hyenas, is a dangerous thing to refuse to do. If you refuse to entertain a baby cousin, the baby cousin may get bored and entertain itself by wandering off and falling down a well. If you refuse to entertain a pack of hyenas, they may become restless and entertain themselves by devouring you. But if you refuse to entertain a notion – which is just a fancy way of saying that you refuse to think about a certain idea – you have to be much braver than someone who is merely facing some blood-thirsty animals, or some parents who are upset to find their little darling at the bottom of a well, because nobody knows what an idea will do when it goes off to entertain itself.” – Lemony Snicket

I’m all out of ideas. I haven’t had a really good idea in a long time. Maybe it’s because I refused to entertain so many of them. They just didn’t seem right at the time, or I was afraid, or I decided someone else would be a better candidate, or whatever. There was always a reason. I can’t do that, I have to take care of my babies. I can’t do that, I have to work. I can’t do that, I don’t have any money. I can’t do that, I don’t have time. I can’t do that, I’m not qualified. There was always a reason.

So the ideas stopped coming. They dried up like mother’s milk. If you don’t use it, you lose it. The brilliant ideas that were meant for me moved on to someone who would entertain them, all because I was too busy spinning my cocoon of comfort and stability.

And now I’m 41 and I’m sooooooooo bored. Work, laundry, dinner, ball practice. Wash, rinse, repeat. And the only thoughts I have beyond scheduling and budgeting and caring for my family is “How can I possibly make more money?”

I’m bored and I’m boring. Trying to envision a big, bold life, but it’s just this nebulous idea I can’t grasp. Maybe I need a vision board. But a vision board implies that you have a vision to begin with. Maybe I need to meditate. I can do that while I fold the laundry or wash the dishes. Maybe I need to journal.

Whatever it takes to attract the muses back. I promise to entertain them this time.

 

 

via Daily Prompt: Entertain

Advertisements

Doubt

A seed

in a wayward wind it blew,

it lit on me

took root, and grew.

The soil was rich,

and fertile, too.

And from that seed

a vine did sprout-

a pesky weed,

a creeping doubt-

came winding in

and winding out.

It grew so fast

and so complete,

it bound my hands

and bound my feet-

I can’t advance,

I can’t retreat.

This pestilential plant I’ve found

has got me rooted to the ground,

but I can’t make a single sound.

I just let it take me down.

Doubt is such a tricky thing. Even the spelling is tricky. Pretty sneaky, silent b! Doubt is an uncertainty, a mistrusting. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I mean, I believe it’s important to face life with a healthy skepticism. You know, take everything with a grain of salt. What I have, and what this poem is referencing, is a crippling self-doubt. A doubt in my abilities, a doubt in my intelligence, a doubt in my worthiness. And this feeling persists regardless of any evidence to contrary. No amount of success has been able to erase it.

Apparently this feeling has a name- impostor syndrome. It’s the feeling that any achievement or success a person may experience is based on luck, or charm, or any other factor rather than actual knowledge, experience, competence, etc. I cannot believe or accept that I’ve earned or deserved any award or accomplishment I’ve received in my whole life ever. All my degrees and certificates are shoved in a box in the back of a closet somewhere because they aren’t real, they are meaningless, and I don’t deserve them. I always feel like I’m in over my head, but at the same time I have to keep pushing myself to do more and be more because I crave validation. Gold stars, pats on the back, affirmations, whatever. I’m a big black hole of need. So I work too much, I take on extra responsibilities, I over-prepare and yet the cycle continues. Nothing is ever enough, nothing satisfies. The voice in my head tells me, “You don’t deserve this.” “Don’t get a big head- nobody likes a know-it-all.” and the one that makes me the most sad, “Who are you to want this, to dream this?”

So in a weird way, impostor syndrome pushes me and holds me back at the same time. I feel like I excel at being mediocre. I’m afraid to try new things because I don’t think I’ll be successful, but even if I was successful it wouldn’t be good enough. I think even if I won a Nobel Prize, the voice in my head would say, “So what? Anybody could do that.”

OK, so you have a problem. But what to do about it? I did some reading and research (because of course I did…) and I found this article from The Muse to be helpful. I need to be more mindful of the way I think and speak about myself and my accomplishments. Stop seeking external validation, and learn to cultivate internal validation. Take risks, try new things, and focus more on the process, not the product. Screw up and be OK with it. And finally, make friends with that inner voice. If I can’t shut her up, at least I don’t have to listen to her.

To this end, I’ve decided every month to try something new, something that pushes me out of my comfort zone. Something I might even (gasp!) NOT BE GOOD AT. Something at which I might even (gulp!) FAIL. I have no idea what this will look like or how it will unfold, because I’m so deeply entrenched in my comfort zone that I can’t even see beyond it. So in the coming days and weeks I’ll be doing some soul searching and reflecting. What is something I’ve always wanted to try? What would I love to do if I wasn’t afraid? Amazingly, these questions draw complete blanks. I have no idea. So I guess this month’s adventure is compiling a list. Which on the surface seems boring and stupid, but hey, you have to start somewhere.

And I’ll learn to embrace my inner impostor along the way.

Where does the time go?

This time of year is typically all about making resolutions and setting goals, but I haven’t set any goals in a long time. I think I became jaded after failing to accomplish just about everything I set out to do; get fit, eat healthier, read more books… I haven’t done any of these things, and it always comes down to one reason- I don’t have time. So this year I want to address my time management skills, because not having time is really just a big fat lie I tell myself that keeps me from being successful.

So where does the time go?

The majority of my time is spent at work. Every teacher knows that a 40 hour work week is difficult to achieve. I easily put in 50+ hours every week. Some of it can’t be helped- I sponsor an after school club every other Tuesday, and I teach in the after school tutoring program once a week. So I need to look at the rest of that time. I have to plan and prepare, but how can I be more efficient? Firstly, I could make use of my amazing parent volunteers. I have the best parents this year! They could help with the cutting out, making, and organizing of all the center stuff and the materials for crafts and  lessons. They want to help. I should let them.

Secondly, I need to stop allowing myself to be interrupted and stop interrupting others. This one is hard because I love my colleagues and I love to visit with them. Adult conversation is so rare and precious in teacher/mom life! But so often it happens that one simple question will turn into a 30 minute chat session (or gripe session depending on the day), and before you know it it’s five o’clock and my work is not finished and I still have to go home and be mom. Not to mention the fact that my poor children are at school All. The. Time. My goal for the rest of this year is to be out the door by 4 p.m. at the latest on days I don’t have club meetings or tutoring. My action steps are to stop running my mouth so much and delegate the things I can.

My next biggest time waster is social media. I spend much too much time checking Facebook and Instagram. I don’t post so much as I just mindlessly scroll through my newsfeed, reading status updates, looking at my friends’ photos, reading articles and blogs…for way longer than I should. This obsession is fueled in part by FOMO, in part by the loneliness of motherhood, and in part by the sheer exhaustion of carrying the mental load. Mindless scrolling is just that- mindless. Not having to think about anything for a few minutes seems like it should be relaxing, but what I’ve found is that being plugged in to social media all the time rouses feelings of competition and jealousy, and an overall dissatisfaction with my life. Why do we never go on exotic vacations? Why can she lose her baby weight and I can’t? Why does everyone else seem to be flourishing and I’m barely keeping my head above water? Even though intellectually I know that Facebook and Instagram are only showing the highlight reel and not the struggles, it still gets to me emotionally sometimes. To combat the urge to check in constantly I’ve removed Facebook and Instagram from my phone. I won’t go so far as to deactivate my accounts, because it is nice to keep up with family and friends and I like my groups, but logging on once or twice a day is enough.

And by that same token, no more taking the phone into the bathroom! Not only is this habit gross, but it’s also not good for you. Time was, the average magazine article or back of a shampoo bottle never took longer than the average poop to read. Now I have this portable computer with an endless supply of news articles and games to keep me entertained on the toilet for as long as I can stand it. Til my legs fall asleep even. Taking the phone into the bathroom is not only gross and a huge waste of time, but it’s also really bad for your bunghole. (Hemorrhoids anyone?) So enough of that already.

My hope for the new year is to make better use of the time that I have to play with my kids, pursue hobbies, and generally enjoy more of all that life has to offer.

So 2018, this is me (in the words of Maxine Waters) reclaiming my time.

How a Pool Noodle Changed My Life

(This is a repost from a blog I had several years ago, but it was a good lesson.)

First of all let me preface this by saying I’ve never been a particularly religious person. My faith is  sort of an odd patchwork of ideas I’ve picked up in various churches, passages I’ve read in books, lessons I’ve learned from people I’ve met, and maybe there are a few ideas of my own thrown in there, too. It’s quite possible I’m going to hell in a hand basket, but I don’t know.  I just like to think of myself as a weird little soul just fumbling around through this life trying to learn and grow through experience. So there’s that, for whatever it’s worth.

That being said, I do like to acknowledge when God, the Universe, or whatever IT is reveals something to me, and I take these lessons very seriously.

This is a story about a pool noodle. A pool noodle very much like this one, but not this one.

I had taken the boys to the pool that day, and the oldest, having no further use for his noodle, left it to float away freely. No big deal, there weren’t many families there, and it was only a noodle after all. When we had finished swimming, I gathered up my boys and our belongings and headed for the playground to play in the sun and dry off a bit before getting into the car.  That’s when I saw another child playing with our free roaming noodle.

“No big deal,” I thought to myself. “He can play with it until we are ready to leave.”
Then I gave myself a mental pat on the back for being so decent and sharing my noodle.

All was right with the world until, out of the corner of my eye, I spied the boy taking my noodle and putting it in the chair next to his mother.

OH. NO. YOU. DIDN’T.

I felt my pulse quicken, my chest tighten. I had to investigate further. Surely this kid was not thinking of taking my noodle. I did a quick stroll around the pool just to be sure there were no other rogue noodles before I marched up to his mother to (very politely) demand my property back.

“Excuse me, ma’am. Is that your noodle?”

“Yeah, we just picked it up at the Dollar General on the way here.”

“Oh, OK, because we have one that looks just like it and it’s missing.”

“Sorry.”

That was the confrontation. I’m not one to start fights at swimming pools over toys that cost a dollar, but I was angry. And the more I thought about it, the angrier I became.  Not only did these people steal from me, they lied about it. So the whole time my kids were playing, I’m staring at this woman sunbathing next to my noodle, and my anger is growing into rage and taking on a life of its own. Inside my brain is a viciousness, a steady churn of hateful thoughts. “You’re a lying liar and a thief, and you’re teaching your kids to be dirty lying thieves, too!”

I had to explain to my kids that our noodle was gone. Of course there was some whining in response, and a chorus of “Why? Why?”
“Because we didn’t take care of our things. We need to write our name on our things next time, ” was my response. But in my mind was a litany of swear words, all directed at this lying, thieving woman and her lying thieving kids. They are what’s wrong with the world today! They are the reason good, decent people can’t go to the pool and have a good time without worrying about someone stealing their stuff.
We gathered our snacks and towels and began our noodle-less walk toward the exit.

That’s when I saw it.

A little girl popped out of the water, noodle in hand, and made her way to the lifeguard stand. She placed the noodle, MY noodle on the ground next to the lifeguard and jumped back into the water.

I glanced back over at the lying thieving woman and her kids and HER noodle and I immediately felt very small.

I was wrong. I sent my son to go retrieve our property and I stood there, alone in my shame. We left the pool with everything we had come with and went home.

All’s well that ends well, right?

Well, not really. Not for me, anyway. I just couldn’t get over how angry I had become, and how quick I was to blame this woman, whom I had never met, and how quick I was to hate her. I mean HATE. I hated her. I thought the most horrible things about her and I was so self-righteous and justified in my anger and hatred of this woman. All over a pool toy that costs a dollar.  So much ugliness, all over a cheap, piece of crap pool toy.  It was as if God, the Universe, or whatever IT is held up a mirror in front of me and showed me the mean, bitchy, hateful side of myself that I like to pretend doesn’t exist. Oh, it exists, all right!

I was humbled. I was humbled by a noodle.

So from now on I will not be so quick to rush to judgement, so quick to anger,  or so quick to hate.

And thank you for the lesson. I needed it.

Looking for the Silver Lining (or, is there such a thing as Viagra for my self-confidence)

Like many children of the 1980’s, my brother and I were latch-key kids. Every day after school we would let ourselves in the house, dutifully call our parents and let them know we made it home, then feed and entertain ourselves for a couple of hours until our parents made it home from work. We didn’t have cable, and back in those days we only had about four channels to choose from. And even though PBS had quality children’s programming, for some reason we watched a lot of divorce court.

I don’t know why this particular memory decided to surface today, but I remember so vividly this episode, this divorce. The wife had said the husband was impotent. I didn’t know what the word impotent meant, but I understood from the context that it was a bad thing. I remember so well Judge Keene’s scathing rebuke of the husband as he handed down his decision. “Not only are you physically impotent, but you are morally impotent…”

“Boy, I wouldn’t want to be that guy,” thought my nine year old self. I still didn’t know what that word meant, but from the emotion surrounding the entire episode I figured that being impotent must be about the worst thing a person could be. I held fast to this new knowledge and waited until the time was right…

We were visiting my grandmother’s house. My brother and I were arguing and fighting, as we always did when we were together, and I decided to use my new weapon. I can still feel the sneer on my face as I growled through clenched teeth. “You’re IMPOTENT!!”

I couldn’t wait to see how my insult had wounded him. Instead I heard a sharp intake of air from my grandmother, and then shrieking. “WHAT DID YOU SAY??? WHERE DID YOU LEARN THAT WORD??”

Wow. Judging from my grandmother’s reaction, this word must be more powerful than F. But it remained shrouded in mystery, no one would explain the meaning to me.

I eventually learned what it means to be impotent, and I think I understand why this memory came to me today. It’s because that’s the name of this feeling I’m experiencing.

I’m feeling impotent. Powerless.

I found some baby birds and I tried to save them but they died. Natural selection is a bitch.

My husband has been out of work for a couple of months and I can’t provide for my family on my salary. Music lessons? Sports camps? No, no, no. Why does everything have to cost so much money?

My sweet children are being corrupted by their peers and I can do nothing. There are some words I just don’t want to hear come out of my child’s mouth. I know these things happen, and I remember being this age and being fascinated by the world of adult language. I’m just not ready for this.

Every now and then we all feel overwhelmed by life, don’t we? My initial response is just to lie there flaccid and let the chaos consume me because who the hell thought it was a good idea to put me in charge of anything anyway. When I think of all the things I have to do, everything I am responsible for, and all the myriad ways I could screw it all up I get that sick feeling in my stomach like when you’re walking and you miss a step and for a half second or so you’re just free falling into the abyss.

Powerless. When it seems that everything is out of control it helps to remember that nothing is ever really under control anyway. Put the blinders on and focus on what you CAN do instead of what you CAN’T do. Your power lies in your response to what life throws at you.

I couldn’t save the baby birds, and while it was sad, it did introduce my children to the fact that death is a part of life. This is something they need to know, and I’m grateful they learned it from these birds first, before a beloved pet or close family member. Baby steps, you know.

My husband will find work again, and in the meantime we will just have to learn to live on less, another important lesson for our children. I’m grateful that even during this time of hardship, my children have never been hungry. All they know is that we can’t go to McDonald’s right now. Even at our lowest we have it so much better than so many. And the biggest blessing of this hardship is that it has made us more resourceful and forced us to lean on our friends and each other.  We truly are each other’s keepers and therefore we take care of each other.

As for my children being corrupted, well, it’s just time to step up and prepare my children for the path. And for all the punks and assholes they will likely meet on that path. This is perhaps my hardest task, because everything I want for them runs counter to what the world seems to expect from men. Having empathy and compassion for others, not wanting to take stupid risks, these things do not make you a pussy no matter what that kid down the street says. Don’t play with him. He is not your friend.

I suppose I’m fortunate in that my impotence is largely imagined. All I needed was some gentle coaxing and a few positive strokes, something we all need from time to time. We may be powerless to control life’s ups and downs, but we do have a choice as to how we handle the situations that we face, and how we handle each other in the face of those situations.

We are only impotent if we choose to be.

Dog Days

“Get a dog,” they said. “It’ll be fun,” they said.

Actually no one ever said that to me.

We got a dog because my children were growing up and becoming more independent and for about 5 minutes one day nobody needed anything from me and it created a great void in my heart that I decided I had to fill with a dog. That, and I thought a dog would be great for the kids. You know, she would be their best good friend and they would learn responsibility, compassion, and empathy through the care and keeping of a pet. Looking back, I think that’s a pretty tall order for an animal. Also I sort of left myself out of the equation.

Molly came to live with us back in March of this year. We adopted her from a local pet rescue. She had been found wandering the streets, living off scraps and garbage. The lady from the pet rescue said we could keep her for two weeks on a “trial basis”, but we knew as soon as she was in our house she was ours. The kids wouldn’t let us give her back. So we welcomed Molly as a new family member, and thus began my journey to becoming a ‘dog person’.

dsc_0009

My first lesson was about dog food. I had researched and decided that I was going to feed my dog grain free dog food because it was supposed to be the best for them. In nature dogs don’t eat grains. However, I wasn’t prepared for how expensive grain free dog food actually was. The lady from the pet rescue said that Molly had been eating Fromm dog food, so I picked some up from the feed store. At the time I didn’t think $35 a bag was going to be a big deal. It was a big bag and it would last a while. But soon I noticed all the other things my dog would rather eat than her dog food. I couldn’t keep her out of the garbage or the cat’s litter box. She eats anything she can find, leaving her dog food untouched. We have pretty well solved the garbage problem, but the litter box is another story. I thought about a baby gate, but I don’t believe my fat, old cats would be able to make the leap every time they had to go. I also think it would be one more thing they would resent about the dog. They started crapping on the bathroom floor in protest as soon as she arrived. Ah, pet life. Never a dull moment.

My next lesson was what to do with her poop. We live in a zero lot neighborhood, so my tiny yard fills up with poop pretty quickly. I bought a scooper for the back yard, but the idea of scooping up biodegradable dog poop and putting it in a plastic bag in the dumpster just doesn’t sit well with me. If I leave the poop where it is, time and weather will work their magic and the poop will become part of the soil. If I put it in a plastic bag, it will sit in a landfill indefinitely. It makes no sense to me. I did some research and I learned that biodegradable poop bags are a thing, but that just irritated me. I understand at the dog park poop can become a problem. I mean, no one wants to step in it, and I sure don’t want my dog to roll in it, so I thought a nice compromise would be to bring a garden trowel and throw the poop over the fence. If I’m taking my dog for a walk and she poops on your nicely manicured lawn, I will pick up the poop, but understand that you and I can’t be friends, because our values are just too different.

The dog park has been another learning experience. I’m OK with dogs, it’s people I don’t like. When I take my dog to the park I like to let her run and sniff and play with other dogs while I read or catch up on school work, but occasionally I feel obligated to interact with the other people there. They do weird things like voice-over the dogs’ playing with one another. “Look! Barkley’s saying, ‘Let’s play!’, but Chopper’s like, ‘No! This human has treats!’ Ha ha ha!” I just stand there baffled, feeling like an outsider. My dog is better at communicating with people than I am. Dogs are so loving and accepting, which brings me to my last point. No one in the world loves me as much as my dog does.

From the moment Molly entered our lives, I felt that she wasn’t just looking at me, but through me. She can see into my soul. I had always heard about the friendship and loyalty of dogs, but the way this dog loves me is more than I deserve. I have a lot to learn about being a dog owner, and I may never be a full fledged ‘dog person’, but knowing that I have my dog’s unconditional love and acceptance makes the journey worthwhile. Now if I could only break her from eating cat turds…

dsc_0012

 

 

The Lesson of the Butterfly

I went walking

in the early hours of a day

of a dying summer,

and I happened across

a butterfly.

So beautiful and delicate,

the vivid black and yellow

of a tiger swallowtail,

fanning wings in the

early morning sun.

So struck was I

by its loveliness

that I almost didn’t notice

that it perched atop

a steaming pile

of dog shit.

And I thought to myself,

“I, too, have landed

in unfortunate circumstances,

either because of bad luck

or poor decision making,

but it was always up to me

how long I stayed there.”

The butterfly lingered

longer than I felt was appropriate,

only taking flight when

my dog went in for a sniff.

I walked away, disgusted,

acknowledging that

there is just no accounting

for taste.

Butterflies

Yellow butterflies

flutter on a summer breeze

Harbingers of Fall

fullsizerender-2

It’s the end of the summer and these yellow butterflies are everywhere. I did some reading and I learned that they are Yellow Sulfur or cloudless sulfur butterflies, and they are migrating. And they are damn hard to photograph.

Oooh, look! Here’s one!

ygjo8888

Ah! Here’s another!

htkk8481

Look at this one!

fullsizerender-3

I finally managed to catch one in my dad’s azalea bush. So lovely…

fullsizerender-2fullsizerender

I think they overwinter in Florida. I’d like to go with them.