Liam and Kellen finish up the remnants of their muffins and yogurt. I direct them to the bathroom to wash their faces and brush their teeth.
“And use mouthwash?” Liams eyes light up. You would think I had promised he could rinse with a Capri Sun. Kellen responds that mouthwash tastes like dirty medicine. But to Liam, mouthwash is the new hotness- something introduced only a day or two ago, still a cause for excitement. I tell him to knock himself out- brush his teeth AND use mouthwash. He skips to the bathroom to complete his morning routine.
His enthusiasm reminds me of all the good that is my life. To stop being an asshole and get back to seeing the beauty. Get back to the dazzling possibility of mouthwash.
Yesterday was a down day. I’m old. And fat. And I wasted the potential of my youth. I haven’t done anything with my life. I’m in stay at home mommy limbo- the time when my kids don’t need me every second of the day, but are not old enough to care for themselves so I can return to work. Even if I did return to work, what would I do? I’m pathetic and still trying to figure it out. And Chris. I still miss Chris. It doesn’t really go away.
One of the strange benefits of not taking antidepressants is that my emotions are very present and I have no real choice but to deal with them. When I was in high school, I was on the Forensics team. One of the categories I competed in was Original Oratory, in which I wrote and delivered a speech. I won the State Championship in this category twice, in part because I had a trick up my sleeve. I would scrap my nails across an onion to get the residue under my fingers. When the time came for the dramatic cultivation of the speech, I would rub my eyes and cry on queue. I find this funny because I struggle not to cry in public these days. I can’t seem to turn off the waterworks. (I had an old boyfriend who would say this when I cried during arguments. For the record, telling someone that in the middle of her crying REALLY helps.)
While I don’t like making a spectacle of myself (ok, I sort of do), exorcising my feelings allows me to work through them faster, and I get to see in practice what an amazing life I have.
I started the day texting with a girlfriend. She sent me photos of some jewelry she had made. The pendants featured plumeria. She remarked that she was trying to grow plumeria, despite living in a colder climate. I told her about a friend of mine who is part of a plumeria club and could offer some tips. Just random chit chat.
I wrote her to say I was going for a run. I could have ended the conversation right there. But because I have known her for most of my life, I continued. I was going for a run because I was trying to regain motivation. I haven’t been exercising. I’ve been eating too much of the wrong things. While I’ve been getting up and taking care of my sons, doing my job, I haven’t had much gumption to do the extra things for myself. I’m still working through the loss of Chris. Still, still. She, too, has lost a sibling. I asked her about it. Did she feel the way I do?
We exchanged words for a bit. I feel a lot of guilt about Chris. Yes, he died of a heart condition, but I can’t help but think it was exacerbated by his weight and his drinking. There were many times over the years that I talked to her about Chris’s drinking, both concerned and annoyed. It’s not like I never talked to Chris about it, but I also figured he was a grown man. He was going to do what he wanted to do. Did I not try hard enough? Should we all have tried harder to reach him, to help him? If I was so concerned for him, why did I party with him when I saw him? Why did I love those times? Did I feed into his need to be the party guy, the center of attention? Mostly, why did he drink so much? Was he sad, depressed and I wasn’t there for him? What could I have done to change this? So many questions.
The thing I appreciated about our exchange is that she didn’t give the standard “It’s not your fault” and “Time heals all wounds” answers. She told me she understood my guilt and that it wasn’t going to sit well with me for a long time. She told me I’m going to feel this loss for the long haul, that it will get easier but its not going to go away. Something in her honesty helped me. This is life now. This is just how it is and is going to be. There are going to be more days like this.
I went for my run and then met a friend at a yoga class. She knew I was off. A few days before, she was out of sorts, and I watched her kids so she could have a little time to herself. Today was her day to care for me.
The yoga I attend is at a brewery, so after the class, we sat down for a beer. As we talked, I fought to hold back tears, which of course meant I was blubbering all over, blowing my nose with gusto, then dipping my snotty hands in the communal popcorn- you know, making a pretty decent spectacle of myself. She just got me some tissues from her purse and let me blather on.
“Now one wants to see my tits anymore,” I complained.
She looked perplexed. “Did you try to show them to someone and they said ‘put those things away’?”
No. I had put on a shirt, a cleavage revealing shirt, and realized I looked like an old woman showing off old dusty goods that no one wants to see. It was a shirt I liked last year and now hated. It was the type of shirt I had many of and now the shirts do not make me feel comfortable or attractive. I no longer know how to dress myself.
Of course, my rants was not about my old tits. It was that I felt unattractive as a whole. And I’m getting older, and I don’t know how to deal with that. In my youth, I would have flirted with someone, got the ego boost, and felt fine about myself for about five minutes until I needed another dose of affirmation. But that is not how things work now. I am married. I don’t generally get hit on anymore. And that is only going to get worse- not that I want to be hit on, but it is nice when someone thinks you are attractive. It makes you feel good. No quick fixes, just the reality of age and the need to find more lasting solutions. I have to grow up and I really don’t like it.
I don’t remember exactly what she said. But I remember the conversation. We laughed. We cried. We commiserated. I was not alone. At one point, I asked if she wanted a second beer or if she needed to get going. She said she’d love a second beer, that drinking a second beer with me was exactly what she needed to be doing.
That evening my husband made dinner, which always improves my mood. He is a much better cook than I am. He had grilled some meat on our fire pit, and the fire was still going after the meal. Our boys sat down to roast marshmallows. He grabbed me by the hand, and we started dancing the two step around the backyard. He doesn’t always know what to say when I’m in a mood, but that moment of dancing was just what I needed and he understood that.
In the midst of my bad day, I was reminded that it was a good day. I had won all the prizes at the fair. I have a handsome, loving husband and we have built a beautiful home and family. I have good friends who will drop what they are doing to help me work through my emotions and get to a better place, even if it means eating snot covered popcorn. I’m older. My body is aging. But it is strong and good and does everything I need it to do. I lost a brother. But I also knew him and loved him and got to have him in my life. If I’m lucky, I will have many more days to cry in public, watch my tits get even older, and finish up dancing around my backyard.
I am thankful for what I have. I am incredibly blessed. Today, I got to use the mouthwash.