Wednesday, December 23, 2015

An Olde thing with Thoreau references

Seems I only ever post poems on Xtide.  Kids left today to stay with their grandparents in Illinois.  For me now it is the dark time.  The belly of the year. 

The last stanza of this thing (written 12 years ago) sums it up nicely.

Life in the Woods

I woke up out of a dream this morning.
I had been in a terminus of some sort;
there were carriages and horses
all manner of people, luggage,
and a countrywoman trying to get to Truro.
I knew, smugly almost, that she couldn't get there
from here and I felt pity for her
as I walked away

into this morning.
The light grey even though I had overslept and it was late,
clouds smoke dirty in the sky
and tree trunks black as soot.
I stood at the only window, feet already cold on the wood floor
already dusty from the ash that blows
out of the fireplace as wind breathes back down the chimney overnight.

I thought of how free I was.
I owned nothing.
I lived in the woods by a pond; I farmed nothing.
I had time. My time.
I was not a machine.
I felt a drop of cold water collect at the end of my nose—
(Where does it come from, that cold water?
Not mucus, not illness, just the coldness
of my nose's own persistent distillate).
I wiped with the back of first my right hand and then,
because the nose was still not dry, my left.

It was late already.  Past 7.
The fire needed to be lit.
I needed to find wood. (I had been too busy writing yesterday,
pausing only occasionally to rub my feet, cold in their socks, against my shins, marginally warmer in their trousers.)
I needed to put on something warmer than baggy flannel pyjamas.
I needed to pee.

Instead I went to my desk,
picked up the notes from yesterday:
"I Do Not Propose to Write an Ode to Dejection" I had written--
big capital letters and a strongly penned hand--
"But to Brag as Lustily as Chanticleer in the Morning."

There were bread crumbs on my desk: irritating.
And dust too.
That damn fire.  I can't keep it going; I can't keep it from blowing
its grey dust over everything.
If I had a mirror I would probably see ash in my hair too.

I put a hand to my head, checking:
the hair, greasy,
folds out to the left
like a crazy feather.

Today I would write about desperation.
"The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation"
I had concluded yesterday.
And this morning,
once I had:
found wood,
lit the fire,
eaten some leftover bread,
drunk one glass of water,
cleaned ash and crumbs off my desk,
and mixed ink

I would write about the desperation of men who lived with attachments
and obligations and jobs that forced them into routines and dulled their brains
and made them like the machines they cajoled all day before they went home to warm meals and soft wives and mewling children with ear infections in the night.

I hunch awkward over my desk,
yesterday's writing in my already cold left hand,
my back stiff and threatening to twinge.
The fly of my pyjamas, I notice, looking down,
is misbuttoned; it gapes. 

Aslant, forgotten, in a left-hand corner,
slightly smeared, I had penned

"I long ago lost a hound, a bay horse, and a turtle dove--"

The woods are dampened.
As I stand, silence expands,
dripping from wet leaves,
aching on emptily.

Is it easier to lose than to be lost?
I wonder--
Easier to choose the crust in the woods
than to be forced?

In pencil in the margin underneath the askant words, I add
"However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names.
It is not so bad as you are."

I go back to bed,
double myself under the scratchy grey blanket,
both palms pressed between my thighs
for warmth.
Staring at the rough board wall--
almost like sleep--
I know I will not write about this empty time;
I cannot even think about it.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Tomorrow: optimism; Today: bile

I recently clicked on a story in my FB feed about happiness.  Apparently, according to Dr. Steve Parsons, your synpses grow closer together over habitual neural pathways.  Always think miserable thoughts?  Over time you'll think them faster.  Always think happy ones?  Over time you'll think those faster instead.

Using a Buddhist-esque set of four choices can lead one down a path to bliss, apparently.  Love or Fear?  Acceptance or Regret? Drift or Desire?  Optimism or Pessimism? (Clue: always choose the first option).

Meh!  I feel myself in the negatives.

Love or Fear?  Maybe not so much fear (oh that's a lie actually.  I fear for my children.  I want them to be well, and I want them to love me.  I am scared they won't, especially because I moved out and made them have two homes: one with their father and one with me and BF and his kids.  As for the new home?  I fear that in the end I'll have worked my ass off in the new home like some stereotypical drudge and that everyone will hate me because I'll be the cranky-ass tired Witch of an Evil (Step) Mother).
So Q 1?  Fail.  (Miserable Witch)

Acceptance or Regret?  Hmn.  Well, not acceptance.  I am always chafing for things to be other and better.  I'd like for there not to be a mouse in the living room at 10pm now that for the first time in my life I have no cats.  I'd like the pug puppy that was supposed to come home today, to actually be able to come home today (not on Dec 30 as now scheduled because it is on antibiotics and the vet won't release it to me until those are finished and the dog can be neutered) so that I have a happy-making distraction for myself when my kids are away over Christmas.    I'd like for the car not to be at the mechanic having its shrill squeal diagnosed.  I'd like every Issue to be resolvable (including that Neon Pink Electric Elephant in the room, the one with festooned in beer bottles).
Q 2?  Fail (Non-Acceptance)

Drift or Desire?
I want the damn puppy!  I don't care if it has a rash!
I want the moving boxes to be unpacked and the car to work and for the house to keep out vermin.  I want Christmas to not exist.  I want to live at the friends' house I visited yesterday with its homey Maine-y decor, functional rooms, open kitchen and trampoline  and I want new undies and socks.  I want a good, attentive, massage.  Or a good, attentive, conversation that leads to me laughing a loooooong time.  I want to laugh.  I want not to have a thick mucusy cold.  I want to be at work, not listening to some drilling noise outside my house while waiting to hear about the car.
Q 3? Fail (Wanting)

Optimism or Pessimism?
Deep breath
The mechanic will call and say the squeal is a plastic fork kicked up off a city roadway, and wedged such that it squeals when the front passenger wheel turns (easy fix).
The vet will say "OH, but you have adopted several animals over the years and all have been neutered and none have died of neglect.  Here!  Have a cute puppy!"
Grading will take me two seconds.
The mouse will have found a way out and is long gone and did not have friends or babies in the house.
The Pink Elephant will introduce itself to everyone and then shuffle off only to return on designated and predictable occasions.
Christmas will be somehow, miraculously, Godknows how because I can't seem to make it this way, better than expected and I will not want to hide until its over.
Q4 Pass (delusional)

Oh, and if you are still reading this far down, there is loving news!  Big Smiles said that when I die he'd like to have me mummified and kept in a gold sarcophagus so that I don't decay, ever.  He wants me to stay around, always!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Stepmoother, Strepmurther

Turns out, yes, that I am a stepmother and there's a whole world of self-help literature out there which legitimates the Evilness of Stepmothers (Wednesday Martin's Stepmonster, for instance, which points out, among other things, that while kids don't want a stepmother, most women don't set out in life wanting to be stepmothers either) or which argues that stepmothers have some awful issues with boundaries, norms, and resentments to traverse (see Katz's The Happy Stepmother which paints a picture so bleak about stepmoms feeling disenfranchised, shut out, and reviled that one amazon reviewer says she read the book and promptly broke up with her boyfriend because he had kids and she didn't want all that bad stuff to happen to her).

Really the issue du jour for me is how BF and I interact with each other and continue to treat each other as the apples of each others' romantic eyes when there are children present.  Maybe it's an impossible thing: if kids are there, they are paramount.  My kids are paramount to me; his kids are paramount to him, especially because we miss them so keenly when they are at their other homes, and especially because we feel so guilty about making them children of divorce.  To a certain degree, if my kids are home, I ignore BF; if his kids are home, he ignores me.  "Certain degree": how much should this happen?  How much should it not?  I don't know.

But but a troubling ugly truth is that my kids are not paramount to my BF, and his kids are not paramount to me

Therein a big difference between our relationship and that of a couple who biologically shares children . . . For the bio-sharing couple, it's easier to make sacrifices for the kids and for the adults' needs and emotions to take a back seat to the needs and feelings of the kids because "the kids" belong to both.  Also the bio parents have tolerances and blind spots for their progeny, a generosity and non-judgmentalism borne out of deep irrational filial love.  Stepparents see too clearly the small naughtinesses, deceptions and flaws in the behavior of their lover's kids.   

Ugly truth #2: self-sacrifice for someone else's kids, even if you like them well enough and might even love them as time goes by, is hard.  Or at least it is hard for me.

I think I am a selfish person in wanting to be important to BF even if BF's kids are home.  But I Do. I think I am fairly good to his kids and am lucky that I like them, that on the whole they are funny, quirky, interesting beings that I am happy to talk to, happy to be curious about and feel sincere affection for.  But also, I conceal too poorly my irritations about things they do differently from my kids, and differently from me.  

Anyway, there is much to think about.  And much literature out there.  And I am not alone, which is a pity because company in such astringent emotions means there're too many edgy stepmoother, strepmurther, stepmonsters out there and the challenge (from where do the resources come??) is to be more like a Fairy Godmother (to my stepkids), UberMom (to my biological kids) and Wonderful Girlfriend  (to BF) all rolled up into one package.   

Truth #3: Good Luck with that; it seems there are few precedents.