Because it sure is surreal sometimes

Because it sure is surreal sometimes

Monday, October 15, 2012

Life is Anything but Short

Who are these people who believe that life is short? Life is a long ass time. Name one other activity that you might do that could be categorized as short, if it lasted as long as an average lifespan does. Think about it.

“Mom, I’m going out to ride my bike.”

“When will you be home?”

“Uh, in about 72 years.”

“Take a sweater!”

And you’d never hear this conversation, for that matter:

“Honey, my parents are coming to stay with us.”

“For how long?”

“Just a short visit—maybe a year or two.”

“I’m going for a bike ride.”

A movie is short. A red light is short. A marriage is sometimes even short, and in many cases, not short enough. But life? Life is not short, unless it ends prematurely. That is, before you’ve had a chance to burn your diary. A normal lifespan of between 65 and 80 years is not a short amount of time, unless you’re sitting on life’s bench, watching it being played without you. And don’t try and tell me “length is relative.” People who think length is relative ought to get out more. Short is short, long is long, and size matters.

My point is that there is plenty of time to do plenty of things. In fact, life is so long, there is even enough time to balance out the bad times with good times. Today sucks? Don’t look now, but it’s almost tomorrow. Week from hell getting you down? Next week’s coming, baby. Having a bad month? Flip to the next page of the calendar. See the big box with the number "1" in it? Have a better month starting on that day! Make a list of all the crap that didn’t work for you this month and implement some changes. Was last year a total bummer? Get ready, because more than likely, you’re about to get—wait for it—a brand new year!

Shitty childhood? Don’t look now…but you get adulthood! Unpack those bags and be a grown up!

I’m not suggesting that life can be undone. I’m merely pointing out that for virtually any increment of time, there is still enough time for a do-over. Until, of course, we get to The End. That’s when you’re either looking back and saying, “What? But I didn’t….and I forgot….and I was afraid to….” Or, you’re marveling at the epic nature of your 50, 60, 70 or 80 years with your mouth hanging open, wondering, “Wow. I did a lot of shit!”

There’s a management technique that is often used in manufacturing, as well as many other industries, known as Kaizen. It’s the practice of examining one’s processes and systems and making continuous improvements, or “good change” at all levels of an organization. It works for individuals, too. Be on the lookout for the energy and productivity dams clogging up your world. If it's a simple letting go, then as my kids say, “Build a bridge and get over it.” Note: Some bridges are a wooden plank thrown down between two creek banks. Others take engineering, sweat and toil. Or if it's a little more complicated than that - if there is something that needs to not just be "gotten over," but changed, then face it. What didn’t work today? Last month? This year? Kaizen it right out of existence, baby. But you have to be willing to look—continuously. You have to be able to face what isn't working and make a change for the better, no matter how small of an issue it is.

Getting back to time, and how we perceive it, I’m also not plugging into the “my kids are growing up so fast” mindset. They’re growing up, period. I did, you did, and now they get to. Be present in each moment (wine optional) and you’ll be surprised at how long they seem to last. I am, however, bracing for the day my kids leave by reminding myself of all the fun I’ll have while they’re out in the world having all the fun they can have. My fun will be a little different than theirs, because I’ve already had the kind of fun they’ll be having, and it made me tired. My fun will be napping, and reading, and eating without interruption, and traveling at a moment’s notice, like I did when I was 20. Jumping into the car and just going. I’ll clean something, and it will stay that way until I decide it’s time to mess it up with my own stuff. 

When my son was nine, I felt a startling sadness because I realized that my time with him was half over. It kind of freaked me out. I don’t like being freaked out. Now, at 15, he’s just a few years away from not living under the same roof with me. If I cling to that, feeling like it’s almost over, I’ll go crazy.

Instead, I'm trying to look at it like this: I get three more years with him. I get four to five more years with my other children. I can’t think of anything else I’d want to do for that long. Not even this:

“Honey, I’m going to make love to you.”

“For how long?”

“Three years.”


Or, this:

“Want to go to happy hour?”

“Sure. What time does it end?”


See what I mean? Life is a really long time. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Dirty is a Relative Term

Just when I think, “I’ve really got nothing to write about,” I trip over a conversation with my son, at bedtime, when I “tuck” him into bed. I don’t actually pull his covers up and smooth them out across his chest, ala June Cleaver, as she did for Wally and The Beav in their little single beds. That’s because my son climbs into a cluster-fuck mound of sheets, comforter and pillows. The feather bed under his bottom sheet is generally half-hanging off the edge, like a giant, bed-sized tumor that really needs to be seen by a specialist. This, because my son is far from motionless during the night; if he’s not walking around, taking things like his clock off the wall for no apparent reason, he’s wrestling with an invisible, nocturnal sasquatch—at least that’s what it looks like in the morning. I really don’t want to get too close to his sheets, anyway. I really don’t want to get too close to his room at all, but I do, and I’ve lived to tell the tale, as documented in this blog from time to time.

In my opinion, more parents should be tucking in their teenagers, at a decent time, with a wish for a good night’s sleep, a little rub of the head and a promise that tomorrow, there will be more pain and suffering until eventually, you die. Wait. Scratch that. I simply mean that I enjoy helping my kids complete the long day’s journey into night. And from what I can tell, they like it too. A quick convo, and all of the day’s grime is washed away—mental grime, that is, as I was reminded of recently.

 “Mom, I’m going to bed.”

“Ok. Be there in a minute.”

I padded through the kitchen toward his bedroom, wondering if I’d actually get any writing done, or instead settle in for a little TV. Turning the corner into his room, I had my answer.

“Oh my god. What are you doing?” I put my arms straight out, hands flexed, knees slightly bent, like a cop directing traffic in a busy intersection. If I had a whistle, I’d have blown it—hard. There he sat, on the side of the bed, preparing to snuggle in for the night. Toes lifted off the ground, ready to rotate 90 degrees onto the bed, where he would do the little foot wiggle so he could burrow his long legs under his covers.

“Getting into bed,” he said calmly—referring to the very same bed that just one hour prior I had put freshly laundered sheets on, right in front of him as he did his homework. Clean, white, fresh-smelling sheets. The problem? Soccer practice was climbing into bed with him, in the form of mud-crusted, grass-stained knees and shins, not to mention the very same soccer socks that he had worn at practice earlier that evening.

“How can you crawl into bed like that?” I said, barely able to mask my horror, bringing my hands up to my cheeks, ala Munch’s The Scream.


“Your knees! And your socks! You’re going to put those socks into the bed with you?” (They still had grass particles stuck to them, and more than likely, gobs of flesh-eating bacteria.)

“I’m so tired, mom.”

“I know, but….well, oh god, all right. Never mind,” I surrendered, feeling all of the mom-tension flow out of me and the resignation seep in: He’s a boy.

“No, that’s ok, you’re right,” he said, as he climbed out of bed. I surged with a rush of relief. I had won, and it was easy! He won’t wallow in his own filth like the rest of his people seem content to do. My boy is different.

“I’ll wipe them off with a wash cloth.”

“What? Wait! What about a shower?”

“I’m tired,” he said again.

I didn’t argue. Shit, I was tired too. What the hell? It’s just dirt. It reminded me of when he was three, and he still used a pacifier. Someone asked me if I was concerned. I said that I was not—that I had not as yet seen a high schooler, much less a Kindergartner, walking to school with a pacifier in his or her mouth. In other words, this too shall pass. A little dirt never killed anyone.

Edvard Munch's The Scream
A moment later, an alarmingly brief moment later, he re-entered the bedroom and stood holding the once-white wash cloth, looking….confused.

“What should I do with this?”

“Geez, I don’t know, put it in there, maybe?” I said in my gentle-only-because-it’s-bedtime snarky tone, as I pointed at his laundry basket.


“Whaddya mean, ‘Ewwwww.’ It’s the dirty clothes basket.”

“Noooo. I don’t want to put it in there on my clothes.”

“But that’s where dirty clothes live. What’s the problem?”

“I might need to get something out of there tomorrow.”

And there you have it: no such thing as dirty, just varying degrees of clean. I’ll try to remember this the next time I walk into the kitchen and see not my countertops, but snow-drifts of crumbs, jelly smears, dried egg yolk and butter glops.

Next Up: Christian Gray, Housewife