We're nearly halfway through the summer, and as luck (grace) would have it, each of my children is at camp this week.
I thought about cleaning house as I often do on Mondays, but the sun was shining and my book suddenly got good. So that was that.
Yesterday, I walked and began with ballet. I beheld breathtaking views of the Seattle skyline from Kerry Park for a long while. With eyes wide and mouth slung open, I huffed and puffed and hiked the regal neighborhood hills of Queen Anne. I went gallery hopping and sipped a latte in Pioneer Square. I returned to the Island, watched a bit of soccer practice then went to yoga outdoors. I spent a blissful day on my own, on my schedule, at my pace and left to my own devices. Blessed solitude.
And today, it's raining -- the torrential sort.
For the last six weeks, I've played and lazed for long days in the sun. I've spent a lot of time with my kids, and it's been mostly good. But in this momentary lull of today's tempest, it hard not to note an arrhythmia. For six weeks, I've also been a little out of sorts and unclear; I've been creatively constipated.
Today, is the first full day I have been home with neither the constant nor eventual companionship of at least one of my family members. I woke up with no where to be, with no one to host and with neither obligation nor desire to spend the day out of doors. I rolled over in bed this morning and felt poised and compelled to write.
I've never been more grateful for rain.
But with freedom comes responsibility. And with camp comes the necessity of sack lunches, which I neglected to pack last night. So before I'd even brushed my teeth, I began this day with a lunch pail and ziplock bags... and with the laundry I neglected to fold and put away last night... and with the dirty dishes I left in the sink. Ah, blessed solitude.
And Cole and I danced the getting-out-of-the-door dance -- Have you brushed your teeth? Did you grab your lunch pail? I think you might want your rain boots today. Will you grab your raincoat? Good morning and I love you, by the way.
-- I can't find it, he says.
-- You can't find what?
-- My raincoat. (It hasn't poured rain in months.)
-- OK, look in dad's car, and I'll check your room.
And that's when I realized that this summer, I've also been in denial.
The search for the missing raincoat this morning, took me to a sore spot in my home I have successfully avoided since Spring.
I wish I would have been of the mindset this morning to photograph what I found when I ascended Cole's stairs (it wasn't his raincoat). This is where I would insert the image to document the magnitude of the mayhem. Let's see if I can paint a picture instead.
Imagine -- if you will -- utter chaos.
The place was ransacked -- clothing strewn about and Legos littered everywhere. The floor, the bed, the chair, the dresser, the desk, the corners, the crevices -- they were covered in toys and trash and wrappers and crumpled papers... Empty hangers, hamper and drawers relieved of both dirty and clean clothes... A sleeping bag, a sleeping pad (why? don't ask me), an overturned lamp... another one. Books and magazines... Legos and more Legos... A half eaten sandwich. An unidentifiable smell. An unidentifiable stickiness... (marshmallows, of course).
It was anarchy. Armageddon. Play land pandemonium. It was a jaw-dropping, stomach churning display of destruction and consumption far exceeding usefulness, anxiety invoking and sickening. I was speechless -- appalled and on the verge of dry-heaving -- as I came back down stairs.
-- Mom, I found it!! (It was in the studio -- naturally).
Paul took Cole to camp, and I spent the next four hours of this perfectly good writing day in purgatory.
Enough, I said through gritted teeth to no one in particular as I indiscriminately purged. With minimal regard to sentiment or frugality, I swept piles and heaps from the surfaces of Cole's room into 13-gallon black garbage bags. I'm not sure if I was madder at him or at myself.
You see, this is not a first for us; these are the steps to another one of Cole's and my dances. For a long while I just picked up after him -- constantly. I would clean up, and he would mess up. I would get mad and stressed, and he would get busy at being a highly-spirited kid. So, I tried to teach the young man to fish (and blissfully unaware, he left the fish out in the sun to rot and die). So I purchased more containers, which he eventually upended and turned into galaxy destroyers. I have encouraged... and I have threatened... and I have desperately tried to teach my son the virtues of responsibility and respect along with cleaning-as-you-go and putting-back-what-you-bring-out.
And I have realized the less time I spend in Cole's microcosm of chaos, the less mad and stressed I feel. So when I could no longer keep up, I backed up, backed off and assumed a hands-off style of parenting where that bedroom is concerned. (And clearly, that's working out really well for me).
Twenty six gallons of waste, four loads of laundry and another 13 gallons to Goodwill later, Cole's room is clean, and I'm finally writing.
To be frank, 1.) I feel clearer today than I have in weeks. I don't think I realized how much I needed a break and to play by myself and to write and to bring momentary order to the disorder in the bedroom above mine. 2.) I am at a loss. I know that what I did today was hardly a solution. It was like gingerly placing a band-aid on an infected war wound.
But it's gotten me thinking.
The longer I live, the more subscribe to the philosophy that less is indeed more. I've attempted to live this out and to impart it to my children. At times I have felt relief and found success, but other times, I have failed miserably. And I feel gross and full and stuck... and constipated.
I have tried to stand up to the seductive voice in this culture that whispers, more, MORE. Believe me, I have tried to simplify in this age of bigger, newer, faster, sleeker and stronger alongside our generous family and friends who just love to give, and get rid of and to give more. Christmas, birthdays, Wednesdays... there must be another way.
Because here's the thing: my son wears two shirts. TWO. He has (had) at least FORTY! This is a problem -- his problem AND my problem.
This problem calls for moderation, yes? Isn't it a means by which to step beyond the ugly cycle of bingeing and purging?
I'd love to hear for sure from the therapist, the mindful, the spiritual, the super-parent or the everyday anybody. I've lived and parented at unsustainable extremes, and I know for sure I'm done with that. Beyond that, I'm not so sure.
23 July 2014
I heard from an old friend.
I'm not sure if you remember me, he wrote.
Way back when, he was a senior in high school,
and I was his Admission Counselor.
I know we weren't supposed to have favorites,
but without a doubt, he was mine.
How could I forget?
He didn't have a lot, but I believed in him anyway.
I said yes when others said no.
I fought for him.
And sixteen years later, he came to Washington.
He told me that it mattered. That I mattered.
He told me he is healthy and happy and traveling and in love.
He told me he earned a PhD, and he is now a professor of Literature.
And I wept.
Oh, how I wept.
It turns out I was right.
And I couldn't be prouder.