painting [him] to the senses

I’ve been sober almost two years and I’ve probably had a drinking dream a half dozen times. These episodes have a similar pattern; gradually I realize I’ve been drinking, having no idea how I started. I discover a glass in my hand and realize I’ve only had a little. I know I must stop, but I feel I’ve made a grave mistake. The sudden onset of hopelessness and shame is profound.

In last night’s dream, I was drinking some form of moonshine – undoubtably this was influenced by the episode of “Archer” we were watching last night. But in the dream this moonshine tasted far better than any liquor really tastes – it tasted of what we imagine these libations to taste like. Something out of this world, intoxicating yet poison, delicious poison. It’s the mouth-feel of that first drink, the one we chase. That first hit at the end of the day, before that moment when the futility strikes like a tuning fork in our heart. That sense, however slight, however we try to push our knowledge away: the sameness, the chase, the craving and the revulsion, that sense of drowning. The cycle of grasping and flight and gasping for air and succumbing.

Just because I don’t have to live that way doesn’t mean I don’t remember how it works.

But: it is, in this case, after all, just a dream. An illusion. I wake up and know I’m still clean and sober and I feel such a calm gratitude. I make an offering at my little shrine and get on my knees and thank the Universe and submit myself to its care, once again.

***

My son is getting fitted for braces on the 10th of next month. I have feels about this. I like his messed-up teeth and I think he looks wonderful with them. As a young person I didn’t receive orthodontia, nor my husband, so braces are a new territory for us. The bill, well all I can say is this first round of treatment will be paid off before he needs more. What else can I do? It is satisfying to have priorities. I simply care for the children as best I can, no matter what.

But: my son isn’t worried. While we wait for the technician to prepare the equipment to take a tooth mold, Nels looks at me. “So I need braces?” he asks in surprise. I nod and his eyes darken and his brows knit, and he says, “Bring it on.”

Nels, Initial Consultation For Orthodontia

Nels, Initial Consultation For Orthodontia

Nels, Initial Consultation For Orthodontia

wash, dry, rinse, repeat. try not to drink too much.

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that when I can articulate a problem – often here in this journal in writing, but sometimes in person to another live human being or several live persons – the problem is almost always facilitated, solved, or changed in terms of importance and urgency.  And I do mean pretty much every time. So let’s be honest, I need to own a problem I’m having which is:

I’ve been feeling utterly defeated by my responsibilities in life. Very suppressed.

Because the fact is my kids need me right now (and so do, to varying degrees, my husband, my cats, my chickens, and my mother’s dog who is our ward at the moment and also ill from a possible allergy and confirmed infection). They need me and for about a week I’ve been suffering, because I haven’t wanted to give what they need. Reluctantly, reality has won out, and I’ve shifted. The last several days my sewing room lay fallow as I’ve spent my days looking to all our needs – the care for, feeding of, cleaning, administration of medicine and attention and affection. This has always been a lot of work – and it is necessary work. Right now my family is relatively high-need, as far as my family goes. I wish I would have tuned into their needs a wee bit sooner as the last week or so I’ve suffered a lot as I’ve tried to avoid my small dilemma.

Honestly?  With two children aged five and seven, there was a part of me that had been behaving as if life should be easier than when they were, say, one and three. I should have been considering the time I had to myself in my sewing room as blessed, fortunate, wonderful, and definitely not a given – not any more than anything else in life. I should not have allowed myself the envy and despair that reading the handful of craft and sew-blogs I do inspired in me. These assholes with their one-to-one income ratio! Their lack of mouths to feed! Their ability to buy fabric and go into a room and listen to music – not listen to their kids tear apart the house! Yes, these last few weeks I’ve been pining to sew; yet in the few minutes I’ve had to do so I’ve felt crushed with the sense of responsibilities elsewhere: I need to spend more “quality time” with the kids, wash the dishes, put away the laundry, plan for, shop for, prepare the meals – but especially, spend time with the kids.

What I know about my family life is things change, evolve. There have always been times of sweet solace and rest since I’ve had my children. In fact, since we’ve become a family on one income, I would venture to say rest and respite have been there for us – albeit in unexpected ways – more than when Ralph and I both worked. But there have been times like now: where the needs of my children are pressing and it is foolish to pretend otherwise or to spend time wishing it wasn’t so. As babies, their needs were physical and intimate. Breastfeed a baby and you are more or less forced to sit or lay down; you cannot also scrub the bathtub or drive to the store while changing a diaper (even if, sadly, you allow yourself to feel intense pressure to somehow have resources you do not). These physical needs were so intense in my childrens infancies. I have come to believe these requirements were both a boot camp-style lesson in the rigor and hard work I would find inherent in caring for my children – but also, they were opportunities for me to see my life changed for a number of years. I know it was wrong and foolish for me to expect my children not to need so much from me – just because they are toilet-trained and can read and take walks to the grocery store. I stand corrected, and now that I’ve altered my perception, I expect to suffer less; I also expect that soon enough time will open up, and I will be back in my little sewing room crafting from wool and cotton and lovingly folding yardage. As it was, so it shall be, all in good time.

Today the children and I sat on the floor of their room and played a rather involved game of Legos. I had to accept that sitting on the floor with my kids was good for all of us: it wasn’t “less than” my long chore list in the day. It was so hard not to jump up after a few minutes to do the dishes, or IM my husband, or knit on the hat I’m still making. Over a period of an hour and a half I grew to enjoy our time together; my kids liked it even more still. They are so incredibly creative and clearly loving; I even found myself interested in the construction of a small ship and the character of an Intergalactic Horse Thief. I don’t know if I’ll ever reclaim my long-buried (or lost?) sense of Play; but I know it is in there, somewhere. The important thing for me in sitting on my kids’ room floor and playing wasn’t that I try to be someone I’m not; it’s that I show up for my kids with who I am, and really be that person with them.

My Fathers Shrine

disturbances

Im not really into shrines, but I guess my mom is.

I'm not really into shrines, but I guess my mom is.

Last night I had the most graphic dream.  I was with my father in a hospital and we were wandering the halls.  He knew he had to die but we were electing to remove his current cancerous mass so he could die later. It was as simple as that: remove this tumor, and another would crop up somewhere else, somewhere more pleasant perhaps, and then he’d let go.

The two of us ended up in a dark room that contained some kind of machine reminiscent of a CAT scan. Instead of a technician coming in to diagnose him, he laid back and expertly reached into his body to expose the tumor hidden within.   It was a huge, shining, ten pound mass enclosed in the epithelium of his body cavity.  I was not at all alarmed but, poised with scalpel in hand, I did not believe I could do the job myself and I wept.  In the moment I was not at all disgusted or afraid at seeing the body’s mysteries we are never to see, the violation of a beloved body.  I was, as I have been in such horrific circumstances, brave if a bit in awe of life’s terribleness, surprised and broken that I could not conquer the task myself.

My father sat up and thanked me for my efforts, and we left to find a surgeon.  As we stepped into the hallway I reminded my father to wash his hands.  Because I am a mother, now and forever.

I spent most of the day feeling like I’d actually been with my father.  It was in a way difficult to remind myself this episode had not indeed occurred.  I don’t believe in communication beyond the grave, but it was nice to see him again.

a muffled morning

When I find the time, I need to remind myself to feel guilty about how much rest I get. This morning I slept in until about 10:15; and it wasn’t one of those “hop out of bed” refreshed wake-ups. This was more like the slow-motion crawl, swimming to the surface, gee-I’ve-been-sleeping-for-a-long-time slow, sloooooow wake-ups.

My dreams just prior: intense. My family somehow withholding a letter from my father. My nicest aunt writing a mean email about me! My grandfather, my brother, both being, well, kind of dicks (they aren’t IRL, I swear). And always, permeating the nocturnal dreamscape: missing my father a lot.

Last night found me at a Ladies’ Night at the Deli. Good times. Amazing food, more bottles of wine than I’ve ever seen in one spot (I did not partake; I get high on life), those games where you make a fool out of yourself, and a silly movie. Cost: $10. Ridiculous(ly cheap)!

Thursday nights my mother has been taking the kids for an overnight, and Fridays I work at the Deli for a few hours. This for me is a nice little adventure; serving grownups instead of my own wee ones, great food, a paycheck now and then coupled with tip money I use for groceries, gifts, or occasionally saving up for something practical (Keen rain boots, check!). I don’t kid myself that this little reprieve is due entirely to the gift of my mother: quality, guilt free, wonderful care for our little ones. HQX has given us some decided advantages.

red eggs

This morning’s entry in the dream diary (the kids dictate, I write, they illustrate) Nels tells me people entered the library elevator and turned into square eggs. They emerged as round eggs again. Then “they turned red, and cracked, and had mean faces” and “followed” (here meaning “chased, and attempted to kill”) the terrified library patrons.

Sophie’s dream involved a vampire fish and mine a large, leggy spider. What was it about last night that fostered these horrors?

Afterward, Sophie reads three library books to Nels in the kitchen while I cook. I set up the pressure cooker bottom and the stock pot, the latter half-full of water, the other with a tablespoon or so of coconut oil and butter. I saute garlic until soft then add one bouillon cube, water, a can of broth, garlic powder, nutritional yeast, and a snapped bay leaf. Bring to a gentle boil and add whole grain tri-color pasta. While I wait for the pasta to cook I pick through and wash the last of our tender spinach. I blanch a last, lone tomato in the boiling water, then lift out, cool, peel and slice into the soup. Lower a half-dozen eggs into the water and take a spoonful to whisk up some red dye. We’ll make Nels’ villianous poultry product this morning.

To the soup I add the spinach, cover, and turn the heat off; when the kids are hungry we’ll have it with grated parmesan. While Sophie sits to her schoolwork I ask Nels to build a red egg with his Legos (to keep him out of her hair) and I complete the egg dying process, placing on a cloth napkin to dry before the application of their horrid little faces.

a bedtime story from me to you

I’m laying next to Sophie in her room, holding her close. This weekend she had lots of kid company and a busy day so thus a hard time calming after bath. I hold her and soothe her and soon she is curled up, legs intertwined, peaceful. We breathe together for a while and my mind wanders. Then:

Sophie: “Mama, you know what crab’s mouths look like?”

Me: “What?”

Sophie: “Crab’s mouths. You know what crab’s mouths look like?”

Me: “Um…”

Sophie: “They look like pinchers. Like this.” [Soft, clopping sounds as she snaps in the dark. I am speechless.] “I’m going to have a bad dream where I’m on the beach and I’m barefoot, and I’m running and there are crabs buried with only their mouths out and they bite me on my feet.”

[Silence]

Me: “Sophie, that’s really scary.”

Sophie: “Yeah well, I guess I’m going to have that dream.”