Last night, while making a right hand turn at a busy intersection (during rush hour no less), I was so anxious having a little cry and panicking about paying the bills that I drove into a snow bank, went into auto-pilot and put the car in neutral, and then stepped on the gas (while still in neutral), and basically scared myself back to sanity. I did not shit my pants and I consider that a victory.
Where do you think you’re going? Nobody’s leaving. Nobody’s walking out on this fun, old-fashioned family Christmas.
Any single parent knows how difficult it is to keep the ship afloat at home. You finally get a little savings packed away, and voila, an emergency and then POOF, it’s gone. It feels like a really blue collar Harry Potter life without the magic of cool creatures.
No, no. We’re all in this together. This is a full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency here. We’re gonna press on…
I love Christmas, and I love celebrating it. The reality is a single parent home is a vortex of anxiety and stress during the holidays. The best you can do is try to breathe deeply, and most importantly, remember that you always get through it. Always.
Now, getting through it this year has been a bit easier as we’ve had some exciting and positive distraction in our home thanks to my fabulously awesome kiddo. I’ve also had a lot of practice throughout the years, so keeping that in mind helps to relax me a bit. If you have little ones at home, trust me; it gets easier. Not that the pressure eases, no, it actually gets worse. You become more graceful about it as the years pass if you try.
…and we’re gonna have the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny fucking Kaye.
The truth is I get through the holidays with a few vices. Tipples in my morning coffee when I don’t have to go to work or be out on the roads. Knowing I can play my ukulele for distraction despite how badly I suck at it. Baking, stitching, and staying under my cozy blankets on my days off for as long as possible to meditate by counting my blessings. Oh, a fabulous drug plan, and a good therapist go a long, long, way to always having a ho-ho-hold the stress holiday.
Mostly though, it’s counting my blessings and appreciating all of the fabulously weird, wonderful and kind people that I am proud to call friends.
And when Santa squeezes his fat white ass down that chimney tonight, he’s gonna find the jolliest bunch of assholes this side of the nuthouse.
A rogue wind gust smashes through the window and sucks the ashes of her ancestors from their urn, scattering them back out across the vast, midnight landscape…and so the protagonist knows that finally she is home.
Sounds delightful doesn’t it? Knowing that you are home. Forever. Where you are meant to be.
Actually, I find it a bit terrifying. I know better. I’ve witnessed it thousands of times; people who think that life will never change. I don’t think I’ve ever felt that forever-at-home feeling.
Perhaps I should elaborate; I feel at home everywhere and nowhere. I have a gypsy soul and have a tendency to want to wander. I’ve lived close to the bone, just surviving with enough, and according to the stages of my life; student, young wife, mother, mother of a teenager…and soon, just me again.
This past year has been a combination of settling in and hurrying up to wait. And it’s killing me. Seriously, I am not a patient woman.
I am decisive and spontaneous, and quite frankly sick of the daily, commuting-to-barely-pay-the-bills-soul-sucking-grind. In light of not having a partner in adventure to plan the next grand project, place or party, I’m preparing to pack up my parlour and part. But all in good time.
As my Mumster would say,
My body is still here, but my spirit has moved on.
I get what she means. I’m restless and dreaming, and just fed up enough not to be nervous, which actually does make me a little nervous.
To anyone out there who thinks things don’t change, don’t kid yourself. To those of you who have a spirit of adventure, I wish you speedy decluttering, friends to help you unpack and courage.
I’ve been darn lucky to raise such a really good kid.
I spent a lot of days worrying about how I would put food on the table, afford medicine when he got sick, and whether or not I was doing all I could to give him what he needed.
I stayed home for so many sick days I thought I’d lose my job. I stayed up late cooking and putting loot bags together for Hallowe’en parties and Valentine’s day parties, and Santa surprises. And I loved every single minute I’ve had with my child.
As one of my older and wiser gal-pals told me one day while I was laying like a beached whale on the sofa, pregnant and sick, “Guilt will be a constant for you once this baby is born. You’ll feel guilty about everything. You’ll always think you can do better.”
I remember thinking that I wish she would just shut up. I remember thinking that all of these little nuggets of wisdom were huge warning signs during what should be the happiest time of my life. But they were right. As a mother, you never stop worrying that your child is happy, warm, well-fed and as they get older, not being a little shithead.
Becoming a mother was the single-most amazing and terrifying thing that ever happened to me. I felt strong and fierce and terrified and vulnerable all at the same time.
So here we are, on the cusp of having this child officially become an adult, and it’s all been worth it.
Luckily both parents get along as well as possible, and I believe we’ve provided him a good solid foundation for making decisions and embracing life.
Friends have been a wonderful support, surrounding my son and I with time, listening ears and rounds of congratulations.
But as a single parent even moments of joy and success have been bittersweet. For the most part, I attend all of his activities alone. I feel great pride, joy and a sense of accomplishment with no one really to share it with. Information about new opportunities comes and goes, and at the end of the day, it’s on my own that I wonder about them, rationalize, hope and dream for my child. There is no partner to turn to for another perspective.
What I have learned during the past few months is that not only have I done my best as a parent, but I’ve done well in general, helping my child make decisions that will hopefully result in greater happiness and success for him.
You will walk home from first days of school with no one to reassure you that they will be ok. You will send them out on their first time away from home, watch them perform in plays, the band, sports, on their first date, taking the car for the first time, with yourself being the only cheering section. You will do this alone, with no one to witness these passages from child to adult. Sharing great joy is what makes joy so wonderful.
If you are on your own I have two pieces of advice; don’t second guess your intuition when it comes to what’s right for your kids, and don’t settle for good-enough. It’s all worth it. Every single minute that you worry and wonder, and spend alone.
Let me tell you a short story. Today was my day off. I work long hours, at a very (physically & psychologically) demanding job (which I love). Even so, I L-O-V-E my days off.
No-alarm-clock days are luxurious. After all darlings, I have mastered the art of living and relaxing. But today I set my alarm for 6 a.m. You see, my kiddo had to get up and out before 7 a.m., and I wanted to give him a drive.
Yes, he’s old enough to get there himself. Yes, he knows how to pack his own lunch, cook, clean and do his own laundry. Despite the kiddo’s protests, “Mom, why do you want to drive me? I’m fine on my own. Go back to bed“, I often get up even on the days I work a late shift.
Why? Well, as any parent will tell you, they cherish those moments with their children, and those moments come fewer and more far between as our children grow up.
The Christmas season offers many opportunities to argue, fight, and to feel annoyed with one another.
When we want to be with you to decorate the tree, have dinner with friends, and participate in family traditions, please remember that it’s not intended as a form of torture.
When we ask how your day was, we’re not so much checking up on whether you were a stand-up human being, we want to make sure you’re ok. Ok as in, we’ve been there, and we know that the world can be cruel and hard. We want to make sure you never leave for the day, or go to bed at night feeling, ‘less than’.
When we pack you a lunch, or suggest you take more food, we’re not criticizing your menu choice. We don’t want you to be hungry.
When we make sure you have a winter coat for the season, and suggest you take a hat or gloves, it’s not because we want to send you out looking like an over-grown toddler or out of style. We don’t want you to feel the cold.
When we ask you about your first crush, we don’t want to give you a moral lecture on sexual behavior. We want to know if your crush is treating your tender heart with care. We don’t want you to feel heartache.
When we ask you what you want to study or what you want to be be when you grow up, we don’t care if you have a definitive answer. We want you to go after your dreams.
We don’t want you to suffer; to feel pain, cold, hunger, loneliness or sadness.
No matter how old you are, if you are lucky, you will always be someone’s little boy or little girl. At a certain point in life, the roles reverse, and like I feel about my mumster, you’ll want to swaddle us in protective love too.
Ironic isn’t it? Virginia was my intentional first name, but my father got it mixed up, and I was christened someone else. Strange that, as I’ve always felt I was mixed up at birth anyway.
Following a little bit of a ranty post, “Things I’m NOT Thankful For”, my pal, and one of my wonderful mentors sent an email, gently asking what the heck was up with me.
You see, even from across the world, she, like me ‘gets it’. Being sensitive is not an easy thing to be in this world. Not at all. We may feel joy more intensely, but we feel our lack as intensely as well.
So, sitting in the midst of my writing squalor, I took a look around, and thought, well, for one thing, my writing area is a cluttered mess which, metaphorically of course, makes me feel like I’m drowning in paper. Drowning is a familiar feeling in the world of finance, romantic comraderie and life in general for single-parents. It’s a feeling I can sweep under the rug until I take one giant gulp, and have to wave my hands for help.
So, Virginia saw my hands waving, and asked a few gentle questions.
Was it my latest disappointment in the world of dating douchey-men? Perhaps the bills piling up and my panic over constantly trying to make ends meet? Maybe….
But then I decided quickly, “No, I can deal with all of that stuff”.
“Try visualizing the life you want….”
I didn’t have to look around, or think too very hard. I knew. My creative self has been drowning. Ironic that as a writer, it’s drowning in words on paper. Ha! Ha-flipping-ha-ha-ha!
Someone pour me a mimosa.
Ironic also that I work in the death and dying ‘industry’, and have been internally hyperventilating since my editor and friend died suddenly last month, making my unchecked manuscript that much more of a guilty reminder that I had yet to review his preliminary edits.
On the outside I look like a force of, “Boy, she’s got it all together”, but on the inside,
I’m a calm, braless, intellect addict dressed in batik, listening to early Bob Dylan songs, painting and writing all at the same time in my seaside cottage, while my five cats lounge in the sun, and my young, naked lover cooks my breakfast.
How’s that for visualization Virginia?
So, as the rest of Canada slips into a tryptophan comma, I shall begin digging out from under the piles of paper, articles, flyers, lyrics and poems that have gathered in my very tiny, intimate writing space. Following which I will settle down to methodically put together my novel with the ghost of my brilliant editor guiding me.
Thank you Virginia for having the good sense to ask the obvious. As always, this Thanksgiving, I AM thankful for the wonderful women in my life who raise me up and carry me along when I’m too dog-tired to do it myself.
“Blaze your own trail”. That’s what my inspirational evening post from Beringer Vineyards offered up by way of inspiration tonight.
Two glass of pinot grigio framing a distant, ethereal view of the Eiffel Tower. Beautiful, dreamy, and decadently inspiring.
Odd that I just spent a lovely visit with two of my friends who served me this very same wine following a rather long, cold day at work, isn’t it?
Odd that my cuddly male companion mentioned the same vineyard Friday evening? Coincidence?
Perhaps, but I don’t really believe in coincidence.
I believe in meaning, and paying attention to signs.
Years ago, a series of bad decisions lead me to Beringer Vineyards. They were bad decisions, but they were also what I needed to launch myself from a history of loss and bad relationships. I didn’t see it that way when it was happening, but in retrospect, my decisions catapulted me into a life with purpose, meaning, and genuine friendships.
But hindsight is perfect isn’t it darlings? They say living in the future makes you a dreamer. I’m not so sure about that though.
Tonight, I blazed a bit more of my own trail. One that no other person on this earth will ever walk in the same way, the same time, or in the same company as I am.
Without at least a few bad decisions, my trail would not have been blazed. It likely would have just been the same rutted, ankle-twisting path that most people follow.
I indulge myself in seeing signs that indicate I am on the right path for me, even if others would call it mere coincidence.
Now, I must pay attention to the other signs too. You know, the ones that are a warning.
I consider something ‘a sign’ when it comes to me three times within a short time frame (say a few days). So, my warning ‘signs’ this week, that have come in three’s via social media or email are;
Tonight, as I was preparing for a bit of ‘Blazing’ in my industry, I had an opportunity to take a quiet moment and catch up with a friend. She told me that she’s excited to be moving in with her boyfriend of almost a year.
Now, to a middle-aged-single-parent-career-woman, that is trailblazing.
Perhaps I need to consider the signs again. Are the men in my life Knights or Aluminum Foil Assholes?
Do I really need to be focused on a hobby or work, or should I exhale and take a chance on love?
Time will tell. Of that, I am ever so sure.
Sometimes we must look back in order to move forward. But it is merely a glance over our shoulder if we know we’re headed in the right direction.
Please, send me a sign…..and another glass of that delicious pinot grigio….
Disclaimer; Please do not read any further if you are easily offended.
Ok, you’ve been warned.
Today, in its proximity to the wonderful and pressure infused Christian holiday known as “C”hristmas, is day 9 on the “C”ountdown to my precious holiday. MY holiday…16 blisshful days off.
Day 9 was a “C” word day.
Today was brought to me by the letter “C”, and the words “Clusterfuck” and “Crotch” (known in less refined circles as the very, very bad lady-part “C” word).
Today started out like any day. I was fortunate to enough to see a “C”ool pal at a meeting who is going to be a guest at my “C”hristmas party, and to have the ear of a “C”reative, “C”aring, “C”olleague.
Somewhere along the way, I had an interaction that frustrated me beyond belief with a “C”rotch, adding pressure to the single-parent-pot that simmers almost to boiling at “C”hristmas.
My Jewish pal said to me, “You know, I feel sorry for “C”hristians at “C”hristmas. There’s a lot of pressure.”
Despite my efforts to keep things simple, my “C”ar has had different ideas, “C”osting me a pretty penny this week. My “C”at is also feeling the pinch.
After a very, very frustrating day, I came home, put some music on, hugged my kid and caught up on the kiddo’s news. I puttered with the laundry and taking the garbage out, and then settled in to “C”ook dinner. Not before settling into something “C”omfortable, which involved removing my bra and letting the “C”oconuts sway.
Since it was a “C” day, “C”hicken sounded like a great option (and I’d taken it out of the freezer this morning – was that an omen?). At the stove, bopping to Blake Shelton, and letting the day drip off, I began cooking our butter chicken.
Knock, knock, knock.
“Mom, somebody’s at the door.”
“Ugh. Don’t answer it, I’m not expecting anyone.” I “C”ontinued to sip my wine and sing along at the top of my lungs to Mr. Shelton…”Who are you when I’m not around? When the door is locked and the shades are down?…..”
Knock, knock, knock.
My kiddo looks and sees someone tapping on the door. From the kitchen, we couldn’t make out who was gracing us with thier presence in the trickster light of dusk.
In my ‘relaxing clothes”, coconuts swinging, I walk to the door to find my “C”ute neighbour. Now he knows who I am when the door is locked and the shades are down. He and his wife are acquaintances, and he’d come to ask a question.
I, in my nightie, and he in his cap, settled in for a long winter’s gab……and the butter on high, simmered on the stove top, forgotten by the “C”ook.
After our visit, I went back to the kitchen to find a room full of smoke, and a burned pan. We turned the fan on, opened the patio door and the front door, “C”ountbalancing the constant reek of my neighbours marijuana habit with burning milk fat. I dared my “C”rappy neighbout to “C”omplain with my hand on my nightied hip, coconuts swaying, and wine in hand.
“C”razy keeps the rif-raf away ladies.
I transferred the burnt pan to another burner, filled it with water, and started to heat it up again in an effort to loosen the charred butter.
POOF! The burner ignites with fire. Yes, yes, ’tis the season of light’.
Blake continued crooning, “…the more I drink, I’m the world’s greatest lover and a dancin’ machine…”, as I danced around the kitchen sprinkling baking soda and calling to Jesus “C”hrist. The smoke alarm chimed in, and my kiddo used our Christmas themed dish”C”loth to wave the smoke away.
Supper salvaged, “C”ontent with our butter “C”hicken, we settled in to watch the news. My cat, finding his moment to shine, “C”asually sauntered over to the “C”hristmas tree, engaging me in eye “C”ontact all the way.
Never taking his eyes from mine, the “C”at takes a swipe at an ornament, with a look on his face that says, “Hey “C”rotch, whatcha gonna do about it? I need some attention over here!” The ornament flies through the air, and lands in front of me on the “C”offee table.
With very little “C”oaxing, the “C”at comes to me, and “C”urls up on my lap, taking his rightful place, and “C”laiming the attention he’s been waiting for all day. All three of us are “C”ontent and “C”uddly, ready for the nightly news.
Well, wouldn’t you know it? The first story is about “C”hristmas. How wonderful!
It’s a safety message informing us that with the advent of “C”hristmas comes an increased incidence of fire in the home. The scene flashes to a pan igniting on the stove.
My son and I look at one another and burst out laughing.
So, despite the natural “C”lusterfuck that is life, and increased pressures of the season, remember to “C”huckle. Oh yah, change the batteries in your smoke detector, and stock up on “C”abernet, “C”hardonnay and “C”hianti. Be sure to book a “C”uddle or two.
Day 9 of the “C”hristmas countdown was brought to you by the letter “C”, and the word of the day definitely wasn’t “C”ookie.