BE HERE NOW

Friday, January 19, 2018

When I think about Sadie learning to drive, I think about Sadie helping me deliver papers up and down Centennial Ave when she was five years old. It was Molly's paper route officially but she was 13 years old with huge hoop earrings and a bad attitude and we were broke so delivering the paper was my third job most days. Sadie would help. She was the oldest five year old I've ever known. Molly could pay her a quarter to clean her bedroom but she would have done it for free.


When Sadie was 7 years old she went through a sleep walking phase. Two AM would roll around and there would come Sadie, looking like Chewbacca, strolling past our doorway, undecided and forceful in her footsteps, as if she had a place to go. Always moving, Sadie. When it came time for swim meets Sadie would lose hours of sleep. She'd spend days asking questions like, "If I sink to the bottom and I'm in the middle of the race, will someone save me?" and "What if I come in last?" Always the planner, ready for the next firestorm, big brave eyes, Sadie. The day I asked her if she wanted to try an overnight camp in the woods in Maine, she was pretty sure that would be ok. She nonchalantly said yes and then asked for a ride to Annie's. I enrolled her in 10 days in nature without any ability to reach us and nothing was mentioned until the night beforehand when she cried so hysterically in the driveway that I thought maybe someone could die of fear. But she got in the car the next day, travelled with me to the Campsite and waved as I left her behind, with strangers, to come back to Gloucester and move away to begin divorcing her father.
Sadie came home from camp and did a lot of wilderness time after that. Sometimes I would not be able to find her and her cell phone would be left behind and she would be on a journey somewhere in the woods, in her head, working something out.
It took  Sadie a long time to figure high school out and then all of the sudden she did. I found myself no longer the consoler. No longer the advisor. She was navigating life like she put together 1000 piece puzzles, with care and determination and self sufficiency.
Now she's learning to drive and we find ourselves on car rides where I feel free to listen to music and I imagine her less and less the little paper carrier, the little side kick who always accompanied me around town. Sadie has become
more of a peer, a friend. As she learns to take a left hand turn in on coming traffic and to make friends she really clicks with, and to feel disappointment, loss and betrayal and still get up in the morning and do it again, I hope she remembers me. I hope she hears me cheering for her like a recording of a soccer game from the 3rd grade, or maybe last year. I hope she gets the big tips and the cars slow down for her and the weather is always dry and 70 degrees.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

The snow greeted us later than projected but we were ready. We are New Englanders, after all. A little snow never gets us down. Todays snow was called all sorts of names like Bomb Cyclone and the meteorologists  used words like thundersnow. I don't know what any of this means but I do know that it was deep, fluffy, windy and beautiful. It was annoying and frigid and relentless and then it was so quiet. Pebbles and I walked down our street at the very tail end when it is neighbors and awakenings all around. Lights were on, the next door neighbor was wasted from a day long of uninterrupted drinking and we were bleary eyed from too many episodes of Shameless, sleep and the types of conversations that you have on days like this.
Some years winter has bothered me. The darkness envelopes me calling me in to its long cold arms and telling me lies, in my own voice. Some years I have rallied around a few days of snow, the break, the cookies, the sleep and the snowball fights. But it has to be like just a perfect amount and with the immediate promise of some warmer weather soon.
The winter of 1994 was right around the time when drinks became more than social softening for me. That winter we had what felt like record levels of snow but I don't know if that's true or not and I was only 22 years old. I remember I had just walked out of the campus of Boston College and quit, just like that. And I remember that I had no job or maybe it was just a stupid little job I don't really remember and that didn't really mean anything to me at the time. And there was the relationship I was in at that time which centered on drinking and youth and missed opportunies. And that was the winter I kind of went crazy or maybe I got sane. Either way I got sober.
The winter of 2015 some probably say I lost my mind. It snowed so much that year that people used words like "Snowmagedden" and one day during maybe our fourth or fifth snow storm in a row the US Army dispatched the Nation Guard. It was the War on Snow in Gloucester. Every week, always on Mondays we had a major snow storm. There was so much snow up there people lost direction, gave up hope and just stopped shoveling.
I had given up hope a long time ago in a lot of things. Mostly my marriage. But I kept it locked away hidden in the house on the hill and somewhere beneath about 18 layers of snow gear. I had planned a trip to Costa Rica and that was going to be the solution to the snow problem and the marriage problem and my problem.
But it wasn't and it wasn't like the day I got back that I realized that. It was in the airport staring out the window at the airplane which was seated on a bed of ice and snow. People were celebrating their escape from New England and I couldn't breath.
Looking back on that year, three years later and on days like today I am reminded and I mind and then I remember that I can breath.  The weather is malleable like everything, so changing and evolving. The New England snow fall will make way for the longer days and the bulbs I planted in the fall will fill my yard in days to come. There is no place that I need to run to today because I am already here. Its hard to believe that that winter made way for the heat of the summer of 2015 where Jeremiah and I learned the back roads of Beverly on foot and bike and where I taught myself to cook in a tiny apartment the year I left everything in Gloucester and ran. With a clear slate and a clear mind I found piece by piece the life that I had wanted all along. It was right there under the layers of snow, just waiting for the sun and some water and time. Lots and lots of time.



Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Tuesdays
There are many things that the people, young and old, in our home do not agree on. We agree on the Patriots, Saturday night Live and reruns of the Simpsons.  We have to take turns with the Bluetooth to listen to music in the car. The whining that  happens in the car when a song happens to pass the five minute mark is almost unbearable.  And food is sporadic and plenty, picked apart and thrown away so quickly,.
When it comes to Tuesday though, we all agree. Tuesdays are the worst day of the week. I am sure we are not the only family to feel this way and it never seems to get easier. Even on a vacation week like this where we all had Monday off! I was sure I would wake up and dance through the day with the vigor and energy of renewed Monday. Monday, that day that promises a fresh start. The day that means that children go back to school and I can resume getting paid for work (rather than that voluntary job of parenting).
But by Tuesday most people have already thrown in the towel. And its only Tuesday. And there are still three more days left until the weekend. And no one really likes Wednesday either so you can't just go to bed early and get to the next day. Tuesday you are stuck idling outside a Ninety Nine waiting for your food when you really want to be sitting at the Ritz. It's just crappy and unfair. I try and mix it up with Taco Tuesday, and overdramatized episodes of This is Us and promises of things to come.
This Tuesday Jay had overtime. He has overtime all week. And he hates his job, a job that is tedious and exhausting and frankly just soul sickening. So he didn't get to the gym and he didn't go to the meeting and its like -5 degrees out and my lovely son pounced on him like a tiger the second he walked through the door. Tuesday.
I got to the gym and went to the meeting and started my day off bright and hopeful. At 1030 I learned that a young woman I had been trying to help in AA had impulsively thought that there was something left in a high to get her through something, maybe the thought of Tuesday. And died. A little light going off in Danvers, a 12 year old girl left an orphan and a mother left devastated. Again. I drove through Wenham and then right past my patients house into Topsfield all the time thinking about how that little girl with the ponytailed hair and the pajama bottoms could be dead.
Yesterday I looked in the obituaries because that's what you do for fun when you work for hospice or are Irish or are just a little dark and morose. There was a picture of a three week old baby right next to a lovely photo of an 103 year old woman and then there is Glenna. It doesn't make any sense.
Tuesday Sadie got in to her first choice college and we all cheered! Nora had a friend from school over and we watched the news guy tell us that there is snow in the forecast.
A snowday.
Now that could shake up Tuesday.
A snowday on Thursday gives Tuesday a little hope.
Just for awhile.
When the snow falls I'll think about Glenna. I'll think about her beautiful laugh and the way that I saw her eyes light up when she talked about her daughter. I'll smell the season, the clean air and the cold on my cheeks. My children will be happy. Or maybe they won't but at least it won't be Tuesday.

Monday, January 1, 2018

A third holiday season has come and gone in our new formation of what is now the Sullivan/Backstrom family. I tried to rally us all out the door at a NYE party last night as the Backstroms and caught myself quick. I liked that, for years I knew that I had no problem changing my name when I got married because I liked the idea of a tribe. I had never really had one growing up. So we would be the Backstroms and just that alone would be enough. It would get us through dark times and it would identify us out in the world. There they are, those whacky Backstroms. We're not the Backstroms anymore. I mean, some of us are not. When I go over there to visit or pick children up  (those people who are now bigger than me and still I call them little children) these people are the Backstroms. Maybe like the Backstroms minus one. Jeremiah and I are the Sullivans. Maybe like the Swinging Sullivans or the Sullivans Two, but it is just us in that mix.


I ran into an old girlfriend in Target who I have chatted with a few times since my exit from the Gloucester life, my divorce, but never at length. She told me she'd love to sit and talk sometime, she never really understood what went wrong in my marriage. And there it was just like that, this feeling like no one on this earth knew me at all for so many years and all the waves that fall after that summation, the realization, the emotion and the lonliness. Today I swim in honesty for the most part. I talk about my struggles and I catch myself when I aim to play perfect. It's a hard game to surrender to when the entire world is yelling at me in advertisements, TV shows and Facebook posts. Look at me, look at me, look at me. I don't want to be looked at anymore. I want to be seen.


And so it is my New Years resolution to write more and here I sit, up in our bedroom while the girls slumber in the living room having spent the majority of the night up talking with their friend who rang in the New Year with us. While Jonah somehow manages to sleep with the music still beating through his radio all night long. And while Jay takes his coffee down to the basement to watch the football recaps begrudgingly, already thinking about the overtime he has this week. I work out my week in my head and I am fairly pleased with the results. The kids seemed to have a good week and usually if they are good, I am good. Gary and I took the kids to Christmas Eve mass as we have done every year for 18 years. I don't remember how we decided that we would do this but there was something so sacred about Christmas Eve for both he and I, that it called for the Backstroms to get the band back together again. Mostly we all enjoy the singing and seeing people we haven't seen all year long. Maybe I enjoy people bearing witness that "Look, I didn't ruin our family after all! Dammit." Hopefully it is more of a caring gesture. I hate leaving Jay though. And I hope that next year brings a woman for Gary.
Jonah whispered to me as we were leaving the Church, " I like that you and Daddy still like each other so much." And all the planets and elements in my celestial universe aligned. It's the thing I remember most about the week.


My family is not perfect. And neither am I. Weight and food still daunt me like an old cranky neighbor, throwing glances over at me every morning because my lawn's a mess. I still have that incessant monkey on my back reminding me of the more I need to get done that day, and the less I somehow am. The voice is a little quieter today. I am trying to cut sugar and food that acts like poison out of my life for today and to sit with myself a little more. Sometimes that works. And when it doesn't, it doesn't.
I can hear Jonah opening the cage of his new guinea pigs and I know my day is beginning. My children are not perfect either. I hope they know all the things I know. I hope that their bodies are filled up with some sort of feeling of God or faith or peacefulness. I hope they only carry the jiggling jello like insanity of worry around with them for little bits of time and that when they do they know they can certainly come to me. Loving children is a constant heartache because its the kind of love that would break the most sturdy of buildings and tear down the great pyramids in one moment.


At the end of today I will be here again, with him. My life with him is not perfect too! It is the kind of love that everyone should have at least once in their lifetime. It's honest and enduring and real. It's amazing and fun and difficult and dark. I remember when I first fell in love with Jeremiah, telling my friend Chris that I had met someone who was the male version of me. There's nothing I've told Jeremiah that he doesn't already know, of the world, of me and of himself. And he still continues to text me that he misses me from the basement while I write this. And I miss him too. So we'll end the holiday week like we started, just the two of us trying to stay awake past nine, talking to the dog and waking up throughout the night to see if it was all real.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Sleep
2:30 am is starting to feel like an ok time to get up. This is what all of those menopausal women talked about years ago in that yoga class when I was just 25 thinking they were exaggerating, maybe even crazy, too much time on their hands, rich, home all day, of course they were awake all night. Now I arise like so many night animals on the search for something and yet I almost know what it is but then I forget by the time I get downstairs and start the day's cleaning. The dog again accusingly looking up at me and then back down to sleep. Animals can sleep their whole lives away.
I have never been a big fan of sleep, seems such a waste of time with so much left to do and this is the season when I get most things done so mind as well take advantage. Those long dark cold days of winter and dread and achiness and slothfulness are over. Bring on the spring with new hopes and dreams and energy and with it sleeplessness.
I wish I still had some of the dreams I had in those younger versions of myself. Now when I start a dreamed up dream I quickly dismiss it, too old, too settled, too expensive. Why can't I just settle in to mid life? I look around at all of my mid life friends and they are happy to clean the house and grocery shop and stay still. My ex husband was so happy to stay still. I never want to stand still, I am always restless, ready to go, on your mark, get set, GO.
Jay likes to race me in the pool and all the observers around us must think that we are 25 the way that we laugh and carry on about it. Until they look closely and see the creases in our faces from a lot of worry, and sleepless nights and hard living and laughter and life because Jay likes to live like I like to live and when we were younger that was not so pretty.
Now we both kick each other at night with restlessness, wake each other up gently and then not so gently with, "Are you awake?..." "ARE you AWAKE?" until the other stirs. We wander around and think of things to do and talk and talk and talk.
I met myself in him.
It's 6:10am now and the house is still so silent. The kids will sing in their concert with Gary today and I will watch in the audience and it still makes me sad. I miss the community of singing with the folk chorale. One of the many loses to my divorce and choosing this life over the other. It's true what so many people told me a year ago, I might suffer this lose and so many others that I could not understand by leaving my marriage and I have and I continue to realize and recognize new and sadder loses.
Sometimes I mourn these things and then sometimes I tuck them away somewhere dark and out of view that maybe I'll come back to tomorrow or when I'm 90 or maybe never.
I watched Nora teach Jay how to use apps on his phone yesterday in the dark of our living room while we were watching a movie and it touched me, their friendship. They are like two peas in a pod, both a little funny, a little dark and awkward with each other and the world. She's his favorite and everyone knows it and we are all ok with it. She can get him to give her money, treats, rides, smiles and time. Mostly he gives her a lot of time. He tells me she reminds him of his twin sister, the middle one. Sometimes when we are all bunched up talking at the dinner table or in the car Jay will say, "wait, what Nora? What did you say?" As if he is the only one that can hear her to begin with, so stuck in that role of the middle child in between the overachieving older sister and the only boy. The boy, as Jay calls him.
I wouldn't trade anything for this life, not the wretched year I had, the money I lost, the home I lost, the community, the singing, the lawyers or court time. I could almost say, it happened for a reason... if I believed crap like that.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Saturday morning

Saturday mornings as I get older seem to get earlier and earlier. What used to be a definitive clear cut separation of day and night is now very murky. Does 3 AM count as the night or the day anymore. Lately it's the day and I am up. I remember this every spring and then I forget again in later winter. My insomnia is the worst in the spring and then every year it gets worse and just when I think that I can't believe I can live on 5 hours of sleep I find myself living on 4. It's my age, people tell me, usually women who are a little bit older than me. I'm cold all the time and when I wake up it is like a train is flying through my head and it's already had a head start before I am even conscious, already heading towards my 50's retirement, empty nest, disease, poverty, death, world hunger, wars, the Hunger Games.
I watched the Hunger Games twice this week. I won't bore you with the details of why but suffice to say I was stuck somewhere I really didn't want to be with all of the sudden, A LOT of time on my hands. No cell phone, no distractions, no kids.
Time and lack of distraction are not my friends.
The kids will be here later and I haven't seen them all week. And they just keep getting older. The dog isn't even up with me at this hour. Occasionally she peeks her head up accusingly, like I have interrupted her secret place, her quiet slumber. Jeremiah is up there probably tossing and turning, buying time before he will come down, knowing I like the stillness to read in the morning. He can't sleep either. He's like me. Our brains move faster than our mouths and so sometimes he chatters on and on and I can't open my mouth for fear of the rambling that may fall right out of there.
I have to shop and I've forgotten how to feed myself. I'm not sure when that happened again either. I am sure that mid life is not going to be good to me, so restless anyhow, like an engine, permanently running, no tune up necessary.
I wonder about the sun and when the sun will decide to make it's appearance over the skyline of our new house.
Jeremiah is awake and hopping through the house.
I wonder if our neighbors can see and what do they think of this all happening in the dark. The dog is up and resigned to her insomniac roommates, family, parents.
Music and books and thoughts about the future and I remember that this is the best time to be awake. The time before everyone else.
The time when it's just the two of us, ok Pebbles, three.
And then the sun shines.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Walking Through

More time alone. Sadie and Jonah are both in the woods of NH for most of the month of August hopefully having a great adventure. I am secretly envious and forlorn at their absence. When I am in Gloucester I am left with 12 year old Nora, who is a sweet child, but much more quiet than the other two, very similar to Gary. Long stretches of time go by where we don't say much. This is probably very good for me. This feels very uncomfortable for me. Yesterday I came home from work ready to spend time with Nora. Excited to see her as I had been away from her all weekend, looking to make up for lost time. This is what divorcing parents do (at least I think it is, I'm still a novice). They make up for lost time, they buy things to win people over, they say " I love you" way more than they used to in an effort to convince the unconvinced. They check in, and then recheck in to the angsty tween's dismay. Yesterday we went down to the dock. It is hot here this week, humid, we are finally getting a summer week at the end of summer. Nora found some kids her age and as should be expected, abandoned me on the dock, for joy, for fun. I jumped in with my new athleticism, wondering how far I could swim and still be considered a good parent. I had already swam a mile and a half earlier in the day, in the pool, but I could have swam an ocean to get away from these feelings, the tape playing in my head, "you are a bad person, you are stupid, you are selfish, you are alone, everybody hates you, you can't swim....."
I actually can swim pretty well. I learned that this year. It's been nice to build my body into something very efficient and strong but as the summer comes to a close I recognize, my mind remains the same.
Jeremiah tells me I have a case of alcoholism and he's right.
He says its the serial killer in my brain that wants me dead and he's right.

So Nora wanted to come back up here right after the kids left and so we did, me dragging behind, not feeling that super " I can conquer anything" feeling that I have held on to for about 4 months now. Feeling totally alone, to be honest.

I gave Nora lots of space and cooked a pretty good meal. I called Ashley and of course felt better. It always is a good idea to call Ashley. Some day I'll write a whole entry about Ashley but for now, it is safe to say, she's the best thing in my life as only a best girl friend can be.

We ate and chatted a little. Me trying to be upbeat and perky and then checking in, and rechecking in, as only a guilt ridden newly single parent can. She says she's fine, tired (she is always tired these days ) and agreed to play a card game with me. She asked me to start her gimp bracelet and I got a flash of panic, remembering what a terrible art and craft mom I am, really bad. I get an F everytime but in light of trying new things I was going to conquer that thing so I watched youtube videos where little children whipped together the basic beginner version of gimp and I cursed and bit my lip and all the while Nora stared at me probably enjoying this moment of my complete ineptitude. Finally we both decided that for the sake of our sanity I should put the gimp down and we resumed cards.

I went to a yoga class and gave her more space and came back to her bracelet half done, gimp puzzle solved. She didn't need me after all.

This is the thing about my children right now and it really has little to do with divorce or parenting or anything other than their age. 15, 12 and 10 year olds need their mommy less and less for the day to day and actually probably do better without my intrusive overbearing watchful eye 24/7. This kind of makes me feel elated and despairing at the same time. It's confusing. What is motherhood anyways and why can't I be like those pleasantly plump soccer moms who always remember the right snacks, spend countless hours cleaning the house and waiting for their children and husbands to come home so their purpose in life can continue and they can feel complete.

I've never been that mother.

Even when I was homeschooling and trying to push my square body in to a circle mold and make myself have feelings I just didn't have, I was not that mother.

I am the mother that gives great advise. At any hour of the day if Sadie or Molly calls me I can guarantee that I will have good solid advise and something that resembles the old Saturday night live Chris Farley "Down by the River" motivational speeches. I will drive you pretty much anywhere. I will. I love to know that my children are happily doing something they love and so I will get in the car several times in the day to take them there and then I will usually stay to watch. I am the working mother and I really love to work. I love to get up early, dress up in pretty clothes and talk to adults all day. I love to financially support my family. I really do.
I am the mother that loves to move and travel. I hate this house, not the house in particular, but being in the house. I love to be outside, hiking, swimming, watching their games or at the movies. If you want to do something, I am your go to parent. I am a funny parent. All of my children generally think this and enjoy laughing with me. When we went to see the movie "Inside Out" which was a fantastic story, my children all agreed that I was joy.

But, I am busy. I am restless. I like to move and change things around and I'm quick to anger and frustrate easily. I have "low frustration tolerance" as we say in therapist world. I am also the only morning person in the house and by 8 pm am completely useless. I am annoyingly happy in the morning, much to all of my children's dismay.

I am a faithful mother. I have my children's backs no matter what. They can guarantee that whatever decisions they make, I think they are right and I love them. That is just sewn in to me. I am not sure where I got that but it is part of the fabric of who I am. It makes me completely unable to be objective and I don't care because if you can't have one person in the world who totally and unconditionally believes in you that is going to be a scary ride.
It was for me.
And still continues to be.

The hardest part about divorce is the voices inside my head.
And then when those voices are validated in any way by anyone out there, they set up shop, pull up the sturdier camping gear and get a fire going, this is going to be a long visit this time.

And so the only person I can convince is this one here at the screen. You are a good person. You try your best. You are having a tough day and this too shall pass.
Monday Molly will give me my 6 year medallion. I'm also a miracle.
And so are you.