Good-bye, Hello: The Green Study on Break

The Green Study will return to regular posting on September 1, 2015

canstockphoto10226535It might have been the all-nighter I just pulled trying to help my kid through a painful orthodontia transition. Seriously, look up Herbst device. Marquis de Sade would have been impressed. It could be that Japanese beetles are now devouring my gardens. They eat 200 species of plant. Welcome to the salad bar, you little bastards. It might be the impending kitchen remodel, which will nicely suit my lack of desire to cook anything that doesn’t require a microwave. Or it could be that it’s so hot, my hot flashes seem inconsequential. Whatever it is, I need a break from all things.

Let’s slap a smiley face on this break and do something different. I’ve held on, trying to post regularly through the summer and as a consequence, have noticed an uptick in legitimate readers (Hello buysexforcheap!). It helps that so many other bloggers have taken a break. My blog has been remaindered with a black tick mark on the spine. I guess I’ll read that one, at least it’s cheap.

At this point, my blog’s ever-shifting, ever-questionable numbers put subscribers at around 8,600. At least 137 of those are legit readers who would love to see what other blogs are out there.

In order to not let this space go to waste for the month of August, let’s introduce ourselves. Every week, I’ll post a list of blogs for you to check out. Here’s how to get introduced:

  • Use this comment section or my Contact page by August 10th. Send or comment with a summary paragraph of what you or your blog are about, along with a list of 1-3 posts you’ve written that you think would best introduce you to readers. I’ll include links in the final post.
  • Since this is still my little piece of real estate on the internet, I retain subjective editorial control. Blogs for the sole purpose of promoting products, hate speech or anything that I’d be embarrassed to be seen with at a party, will likely not be introduced.
  • Introduction posts will be published on Wednesdays throughout the month of August.

Enjoy the rest of your summer!

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Filed under Blogging

Road Rage with Marcus Aurelius

canstockphoto20499175She came through the parking lot at high speed, cutting me off and pulling in front of me at the drive-up ATM. The only lessons I have faithfully adhered to through all my driving years is that you go slowly in parking lots and assume everyone else is a bad driver. She was the not-so-hypothetical reason for both rules.

Begin each day by telling yourself: Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness – all of them due to the offenders’ ignorance of what is good or evil.

Meditations, Marcus Aurelius, Book II, 1, trans. Staniforth

The sun baked me at 90° F, magnified to 140°F through the front windshield. Even with the air conditioning on, I felt like breathing was an effort. My stomach growled, as it was getting closer to lunchtime. I watched as she conducted transactions with not one, but three debit cards. I was beginning to sweat. The air conditioning wasn’t able to fend off the burning rays. I shut it off and opened all the windows.

She pulled away from the machine, but stopped 15 feet up from the ATM. She was on her cell phone. I finished my transaction and realized that I would have to squeeze through at an angle to leave. Hot, hungry, frustrated, I navigated around her car and then yelled “You could have parked your ass in a better place!” And pulled out of the parking lot.

canstockphoto2020697While I am often a mutterer, grumbler and cusser in the car, I am not a yell-out-of-the-open-window kind of person. What people call “Minnesota Nice” here, is really Minnesota Passive Aggression. Anger is kept under wraps unless you’re a yahoo with no class. Which, apparently, is now me.

I felt immediately ashamed of my out-of-control raging. This is not the person I want to be. I often joke that I become someone entirely different when behind the wheel. It didn’t seem that funny now. I’ve been in checkout lanes with angry people, I’ve heard the muttering and cussing and surly undertones used in post offices and restaurants. I’d think give it a rest, it’s just blah, blah, blah. And wow, they need some anger management lessons. Yes, Hypocrites R Me.

If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself but to your own estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.

Meditations, Marcus Aurelius, Book VIII, 47, trans. Staniforth

When I tell stories like this, people always say “you’re being too hard on yourself”. I assume that they’re being magnanimous because they’ve done things equally awful or worse. Perhaps, in the scheme of things, this is a minor incident, but I’ve been thinking about the roots of violence and aggression a lot lately.

canstockphoto1604923Our knee-jerk response is to beat our drums about mental illness and guns and racism and misogyny. When stories like the latest shootings at a theater in Louisiana and the military base in Tennessee hit the media, the response is predictable and ultimately, empty. Throw out something about the 2nd amendment, about the mental health crisis in our country, maybe the word terrorist. Next.

For a long time, I wondered if violence is endemic to human nature, despairing that the problem was too complex to ever find a single concrete solution. Because that is what we really want. We want there to be a magic reason for violence that would only require a quest, some passion, a petition, and maybe a few hashtags to solve the problem.

Sometimes I think about the steps between thought and action. Every premeditated act of violence begins with a single thought.

What is that thought? Was it a niggling sense of entitlement or anger at injustice? Was it a minor incident that snowballed in the person’s mind? And when did it progress – online in an open forum? At work with acts of petty vandalism? Did this person find people along the way who agreed with the lesser points, supported the jokes about killing ’em all? Laughed about blood and guts in some sort of adolescent gaming exchange?

Put from you the belief that ‘I have been wronged’, and with it will go the feeling. Reject your sense of injury, and the injury itself disappears.

Meditations, Marcus Aurelius, Book IV, 7, trans. Staniforth

Or was it the media and entertainment, where killing and crime scenes hook our morbid fascination? Was it the collapse of a relationship? Or financial distress? Was it that the only kind of attention people seem to get is not the kind they really need? The murderers who get dissected by armchair psychologists and talking heads, a punditry that melds both ignorance and verbal abilities?

It’s too much to parse. We continue warily into the world. But I can’t shake the idea that violence and aggression have roots, even if just a tenuous thread between thought and action. Or in my case, words and action. I was aggressive and angry towards a stranger.  I did not know her story. I did not know her burdens or her joys. Maybe my action was a last straw for her. Maybe my aggression only fed hers. Maybe it will be something bigger than I can imagine.

canstockphoto18256337My evening walks don’t always entail philosophical meanderings. Sometimes I just spend the whole walk thinking “Ow, my knee hurts. What just popped? Do I look as hot and sweaty as I feel?” Last night, though, I thought about my own seeds of violence and aggression. How easily I fertilized those thoughts at the ATM. It took only a few uncomfortable circumstances, heat and hunger and impatience, before I acted upon them. Do I only differ from a murderer by where I am on the continuum of aggression and violence?

Try to see, before it is too late, that you have within you something higher and more godlike than mere instincts which move your emotions and twitch you like a puppet. Which of these is it, then, that is clouding my understanding of this moment? Fear, jealousy, lust, or some other?

Meditations, Marcus Aurelius, Book XII, 19, trans. Staniforth

Your mind will be like its habitual thoughts; for the soul becomes dyed with the colour of its thoughts. Soak it then in such trains of thoughts as, for example: Where life is possible at all, a right life is possible.

Meditations, Marcus Aurelius, Book V, 16, trans. Staniforth

Choose the seed. Choose the habit. Choose the kind of world I perpetuate. I have some work to do.canstockphoto4439665

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Filed under In the News, Personal

Walking through Storyland

canstockphoto15817518The most irritating writing advice for me is write what you know. Once I’ve written that paragraph, I sink into a morass of self-pity and caffeine. I wrote about finding narrative on vacation. Sometimes a change of scenery is the jolt needed to wake a person up from the glazed coma of being in one place for too long. Upon return, things look a little different.

Last night, I took a stroll around my neighborhood. With the latest addition of a grocery store, my neighborhood is like one of those preformed children’s city sets. I had a moment when I realized how lucky I was to live here, about two seconds before writer’s angst kicked in – could I create from such a comfortable and comforting kind of life? But wait! There’s more.

Welcome to the calm seas of a suburban life rendered into the turgid waters of human existence. Let’s take a walk.

I live in a neighborhood built in the 1950s, each little ranch home a duplicate of the one next door. Except that these houses have stories. Our neighbors on one side have home schooled their six children and the driveway is chock full of cars, as each child gains a driver’s license. Years ago, the husband got booted for smacking his wife. He’s back, contrite and polite. I watch for signs that he’s actually learned his lesson.

canstockphoto15722695The children all turned out a bit weird. One walks the dog sullenly, barely making eye contact when I say hello. The youngest has grown his hair as long as my daughter has had hers cut short. The next youngest used to follow me about the yard asking me if I was a Christian and telling me that the raspberries I picked were “God’s juice boxes”. I’m hoping the kid that keeps showing up on the weekend in camouflage is part of a well-regulated militia. And while they sound like a version of creepy Quiverfulls, they’re pretty good neighbors who don’t spray their lawn with chemicals. We share weeds.

The house that sits on the curve was thankfully bought after a brief time as a rental property. It worried us. They had pit bulls that occasionally got loose and the Sheriff showed up once a week to follow up on warrants for the son, an ex-con who was still dealing drugs. Cars would pull up at all hours of the night.

canstockphoto28260950I walk around the high school near us and pass a house where a couple of years ago, a man holed himself up with his shotgun and girlfriend. Eventually he surrendered, but we listened to the choppers all day.

John’s house is on the right. He is a veteran of the Korean war and following a valve replacement, would walk every night down our street. When I saw him coming, I put down my gardening tools and met him halfway. He’d lived here since the beginning and always had a new story. He has Parkinson’s now and I sometimes catch glimpses of him in the evening, slowly walking to his mailbox.

As I walk a few blocks away to the city park, I feel a moment of silliness. I’m in Lego Land. There’s city hall, the police station, the firehouse, the public pool. I think whimsical thoughts about how, if like Lego people, we could all turn our plastic hair backwards, everyone would look like Donald Trump.

There’s a gangly boy using the skateboard park. I always fear that I’ll be witness to a noggin being cracked open every time I pass the park. This kid’s not wearing a helmet and seems light on skills. My pace quickens.

At the outdoor amphitheater, they’re in rehearsal for “Oliver”.  A woman is warning them that four days is a long time without practice and that they need to keep at it. My daughter, years ago, took a summer acting class at this theater. They made the kids wear stage-worthy makeup which smeared in the August heat. She was morphed into a melty butterfly whose lack of interest in stage direction was only eclipsed by this summer’s soccer apathy.

Behind the firehouse, the police and firefighters are having a family picnic. The officer I talked to that morning is there. Two police cars and a fire engine had pulled up in front of our house before 7 a.m. I could see up and down the street, people looking out windows, strolling to the end of their driveways. Hovering at the edges with the odd, wary politeness of midwesterners. I watched officers break into the home across the street.

I used to joke that the guy was either a unabomber or that bodies would be found stacked like Jenga blocks in his basement. It seemed like he waited until no one was outside before getting his mail and his windows were always covered. After having a child, I decided that this was too weird. I started waiting for him to get his mail. And then I’d go out to check mine and greet him with a loud “hello” and big, fake smile. Who’s scary now?

It turned out to be a natural gas leak and he’d moved out a while ago and was just renovating his elderly father’s place, in order to put it on the market. Nothing exploded and no bodies were discovered.

canstockphoto2595648I was glad to see the officers and firefighters at a happy event. They deserve it. Earlier this year, after two new officers were sworn in at city hall, a man entered the building and fired on them, hitting the new hires. They survived. The shooter did not. One of the worst first days on the job ever.

Behind the pool there are tennis courts. A young woman is teaching tennis to a group of elementary kids. Only one parent stays. He watches as her tennis skirt sways and flutters upward during a demonstration for the kids. I slow down as I walk past him, making him unconsciously lean left and right to keep his view. Sometimes I can be a jerk.

One and a half miles of the human experience. Subject to a thousand interpretations, waiting for a writer to take hold and grapple with the stories on paper. To say we don’t know what to write has as much veracity in my ears as my kid saying I’m bored during the summer. My response is the same: Go for a walk.canstockphoto7444328

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Filed under Creativity, Personal, Walking, Writing

Summer, I Think I Heard Someone Calling You

canstockphoto6646539People scatter across the lawn, some sitting at tables under canopies, others wandering from group to group, all of us just a little older and fatter than the last time we were together. Conversations are echoes of conversations we’ve had before at some wedding or funeral or anniversary party. Children are now gangly teenagers, one of whom has graduated high school. That woman’s braying laugh, an unappetizer at every occasion, carries across to where I sit. I have four more of these large scale occasions this summer.

I find a chair near my family and hunker down for the duration. Since going vegan, I am unable to stuff down my rising anxiety with fluffy whip cream salads or bars loaded with two kinds of chocolate and butter that leaves grease stains on napkins. There’s beer at this party and I remember fondly the early days when I could wander about similar functions in a fuzzy, friendly haze. But I am driving and I love the people who are my passengers. And there would be no end to the drinking once I started.

Several days this week, I bathed with strangers in my underwear, or as normals like to call it, swimming at the public pool. I do it so that my daughter is not me, that she has a chance at living a normal life. I see hints of me in her and it feels like fear and pride all at once. She meets her friends there and I hang about at the shaded edges of the pool, not completely ready to let go. The heat leaves me breathing shallow and unwilling to move.

canstockphoto6872297The pool reminds me of growing up, the breastless days of trying desperately not to smack into people while swimming. It becomes a whole different experience when you need glasses. I swim over to a group of friends, bobbing there stupidly, once I realize that I didn’t know any of them. My actual friends fill out swimsuits in ways that always have one boy or another splashing them in a mating ritual. As the late-blooming sidekick, I get splashed as well and sometimes imagine it was intended for me.

The spinach in the garden went to seed this year while I wasn’t looking. The heat is starting to hit its stride and I hear the whispers of autumn in my ear. Just die already. July is too soon for those feelings. I know I must dig back in, water things, weed, try to look like a gardener who hasn’t gone to seed.

Soccer season has finally ended, except for the insistence that we have an end-of-season picnic. The last game was delayed, because our team’s home field was littered with fireworks and garbage. The other team refused to use the field. We spread out and groomed the field, picking up old sparklers and bits of glass. They played because a forfeit would mean they’d lose the #1 ranking in the league. We watch them unfold their players’ bench. Our kids squat on the ground, pretending to listen to the coach’s urgent whispers. You can hear a collective sigh from the parents. It’s going to be a long hour.

In the summer, I am rarely alone. It’s a dangerous time for me. My hostility and inner turmoil grow exponentially with each degree Fahrenheit. Eventually, I turn an accusatory eye towards myself. Why can’t I just relax? Why can’t I just agree? Why can’t I be okay wherever I’m at? I am, in so many ways, my mother’s daughter, my grandmother’s granddaughter. But I’m a lightweight version.

My social anxiety is not the rising tension of just being there. My anxiety is that at some point I’m not going to want to try. That someone will attempt to hug me and I will shriek at them “get the f*** off me!”. I will be listening to someone’s tale about their cabin or their kid’s college plans and just simply walk away because I am bored. Social conventions, like manners, are needed. There’s too many of us not to be polite or show an interest in one another. I am not special. I do not get a pass because I find it all tedious. I just wish it wouldn’t get harder, but it has. I am sometimes afraid of myself.

After the twentieth well-meaning hug from one of my husband’s cousins, the I know you don’t like hugs but I’m going to hug you anyway ritual is starting to wear on me. I joke wryly, trying to push down my revulsion at the cocktail of perfumes now clinging to me. “You people never learn”. Jovial laughs all around. My husband said there will be an asterisk by my name in the family history.

canstockphoto25034608I am getting weirder as each year passes. I would not know this except for the expressions on other people’s faces. For each step I take away from them, I step closer to my wild self. But my wild self is not a willing, kind creature. It’s a little bit mad. I know that I live in a world not well-suited for my version of quiet madness. Long periods of solitude marked by one-on-one conversation, connections that feel grounded in truth. I do not want to be fixed or transformed or cured. I just want to exist, like a surprising, unkempt garden you stumble upon. And when you come, we will talk, until you know it’s time to leave.

Take a hint, summer.

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Some Disassembly Required

canstockphoto20505774My mother-in-law likes to tell me how my husband tore apart household appliances as a kid, just to see how they worked. I suspect she’s still bitter about a toaster or two. Now an electrical engineer working as a programmer, he continues to take things apart to figure out what’s broken. His great skill is in coming up with non-linear solutions, which is sometimes delightful, other times irritating, if you have any aesthetic sensibilities at all. Nothing ever looks the same again. But it works.

There is a level of fearlessness required to take things apart. I’m often bound by a fear that I will break something while trying to fix it and it will never be useful again.

For the last year, I’ve been struggling to reshape my life, to give it a makeover that reflects my intentions. I made some big moves, like cutting back on volunteering and moving to a vegan diet.  I made some smaller changes, like working out less intensely and working a little harder at managing my time, trying to bring more focus to writing and attention to the moments with my family.

Despite a little progress, everything has started to go to hell in a million different ways. Fear has been seeping out everywhere. I feel such a high level of anxiety running like a fetid sewer under everything I’m doing these days.

As we waited for the train to go on vacation a couple of weeks ago, I realized that I’d left all my identification and credit cards in the photocopier at home. My lifelong habit of photocopying everything in my wallet before I go on vacation, in case of loss or theft finally bit me in the ass. We were fortunate to have our tickets.

I sat on the train, wondering aloud if I’d had some sort of stroke. I am that person – the one who organizes, schedules, packs, plans. Lists are my bailiwick. What was happening? Why this sudden spate of forgetfulness and imbalance over the last few weeks? Structure, schedule, lists, goals. Always do the unpleasant, must-do tasks first. Life would be manageable if only everything were clean and put away.

canstockphoto8171921I’ve been getting lost a lot while driving, trying to get to my kid’s soccer games at fields all over the Twin Cities, swearing in frustration. We discovered later that our car navigation system had reset to a default of western states (we’re in the Midwest). It mollified my pride a bit, but nothing takes away that bitter, helpless feeling of being lost, while so close to one’s destination.

This last week I dropped a jar of barbecue sauce which hit one of my pinky toes, now blackened and I suspect, broken. It has found kinship with the toes next to it, still recovering from running stress fractures. I’ve named it Quasimodo. And the joy of eating summer cherries was brought up short when I broke out in hives all over my face, neck and arms. The last time I got hives was the night before my wedding 15 years ago.

Taking my mother-in-law to see a dying friend, I blew a fuse when she told me for the fortieth time that it didn’t look like the right house and asked me if I knew where I was going. It was and I did, but my mother-in-law has dementia. What kind of jerk yells “Well, it’s a good thing you’re not driving!” at someone with a cognitive impairment going to see a friend in hospice care? I felt marginally better when I saw the satisfied look on her face. Now we’re family.

I turn 48 in a couple of months and unlike most birthdays, this seems significant to me. Somewhere in all my late bloomer rationalizations, I really thought I’d have my shit together by now. And I really don’t think I do.

Some friends joke about middle-aged brain. But I think things, namely me, are just falling apart. And despite my fears of being in some sort of menopausal decline, I suspect that breaking things and falling apart and generally being in a chaotic state are part of a bigger process.

I remember that old Army saying about how they’d break us down to build us up. It was a euphemism for we’ll turn you into a bunch of chain-smoking binge drinkers who will follow orders because you’re too damned tired and hungover to do anything else. Maybe that was just me.

There is something to be said for everything going to hell. We cling to our habits and processes like security blankets, until those soft, comforting blankets become concrete prison walls, beyond which we seem incapable of moving. Sometimes things just have to break so that there is room for new ideas and perspective to work their way into our lives.

Things haven’t been working for me. My goals are often diametrically opposed to my habits, leaving me frustrated and depressed. My constant striving for perfectionism eats away at my resolve. I am disciplined and structured until I make a mistake and then I go completely off the rails. I binge-live.

canstockphoto27947584So if my posts seem more like diary entries these days, it’s because everything is raw. I don’t have the energy to fine tune things with wisdom and perspective. It feels as if I’m a disassembled mess, bits and pieces strewn about on a workbench. I only hope that when I get myself back together, nothing looks the same and it works.

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Looking for Dad

canstockphoto23635321Years ago, Father’s Day seemed to be mocking me. I had matured just enough to see that it was another holiday designed to sell more shit. My father had left when I was five and committed suicide later in his life. My stepfather was a mean and sometimes dangerous drunk, now also dead. I have never called anyone dad. It rolls off my tongue like a foreign word, unusual and exotic.

Anyone who has read this blog knows that I’m not a perky ray of sunshine.  I am, however, a believer in our ability as humans to see things the way we want to see them. My life is a series of truncated and isolated phases. We moved a lot. Connections were broken, addresses lost, time passed. I have forgotten much of my history out of necessity or neglect, but there are some people who have stayed always in my heart. And it’s an important lesson: We can make such a difference to each other.

An Appreciation of Nature

When I was younger, there was an older couple from our church who used to invite us over after service. My brother and I were 8 and 10. The couple were in their 60s. At the time, they seemed ancient. She was plump and severe, often chiding us for getting into things. He was always in motion, starting up the fireplace, walking through his garden, fetching this or that for her.

canstockphoto4041752Sometimes he would take us out to a local lake and even canoeing, if we were lucky. We would hike trails, scramble over logs, tromp through the mud. He knew a lot about plants and animals, always pointing out Dutchman’s Breeches and poison ivy along the paths. He narrated what the animals did and why. We’d look through his giant binoculars at birds, excited by a flash of color. He was interested in everything outdoors, as was I and we often poured through his bird guides to find something seen that day.

As I sit here now, birds are calling outside the study window. Behind me, on my bookshelf, are ten worn and tagged guides for plants, birds and animals. On top of them, a pair of binoculars.

Valuing What I Have to Write

canstockphoto23683471As a painfully shy 5th grader, I had the great fortune of having a teacher who saw me. Always quiet, reading, well-behaved, I learned to fly under the radar as much as possible. Mr. Dunn encouraged me to write. He put one of my poems in the town paper. He encouraged me in writing a parody, the now classic “Snow White and the Five Dorks”, which my classmates were all too happy to perform. My sense of humor had not been honed by subtlety. And still may not be.

I had begun prodigiously scrawling poetry and essays, filling notebooks with inane thoughts. Because I thought it mattered. He made me believe that it was worth doing. It was a kindness that impacted me immeasurably.

Pick Your Battles

One of the most important father figures in my life was my grandfather. He thrived on military history and knew how to do battle with all the women around him without making them mad. At least not for very long. He was gentle, kind and a fantastic storyteller. I miss him greatly.

canstockphoto14359271

I think of Father’s Day with gratitude now. I think of the men who I was so lucky to have met along the way – they were kind, dignified, compassionate and good human beings. I see the relationship of my daughter and her father, knowing that without these examples along the way, I might never have recognized my husband for the friend and mate and the parent that he has become.

It’s easy to get lost in the hostile gender rhetoric of social media and the entertainment portrayals of men and women, that are as baffling as they are unrealistic. In this world, where humans are working so hard to define individuality to the point of isolation and defensiveness, we still need to feel that we matter, that we are valued, that who and what we are has a place in the universe.

You may swiftly forget that moment when you were kind to someone, when you taught them something, when you singled them out and made them feel important. For me, those moments lifted me out of despair and I will carry that gratitude with me always. Happy Father’s Day to you all.

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Filed under Parenting, Personal

The Reluctant Soccer Mom

canstockphoto3458322This is the first year that my daughter has played competitive soccer. Whatever her skills are, I discovered right away that I’m completely unqualified to be a soccer mom. A group of mothers were standing around talking about how they hoped the coaches were good this year and about the league and volunteering. After several minutes of this, I could barely control myself and blurted “I just hope my daughter has fun.” I got the oh lady, that is SO rec league look. I skulked away to talk to the team manager.

Enforced volunteering is apparently a thing with these leagues, which cost several hundred dollars for our precious snowflakes to play in. Um, I’m sorry, but my kid is no Pelé or Eusébio and unless you’re carrying her around the field and kicking for her, no “game” should cost that much. Unfortunately, as kids get older – and older becomes a relative term (meaning 10-year-olds are being scouted), recreational leagues aren’t available. And I like my kid moving and active. We just had a long conversation about how playing a skateboard video game is not actually exercise.

I paid to get out of servitude. I grumbled, too, when I did it, saying “When did my kid’s activities become my life?” The manager chuckled and said “Yeah, my dad used to just dump me off at the ballpark with a bat and glove and that was the end of it.” Of course, I felt a little shitty about grousing. The manager is a volunteer.

It might be that I’m an older parent and have spent many more years being single and not a parent than I have been married and maternal-ish. I never daydreamed about a wedding day or found babies to be particularly interesting (most of them seemed to cry when I was around).

Even now, 15 years after getting married and 11 years after having a child, I still get a little phased by this fork in the road. I was going to travel the world and have brief, unsatisfying affairs with non-English speakers. After they would leave in incomprehensible huffs in the morning, I’d brew some coffee, unfold my New York Times, see which slot my novel was in on the bestseller list and then lean back and stare out at the ocean from my balcony.

All my friends got married, some of them for a second time. Baby announcements arrived regularly. I got a degree that would land me squarely in academia. I took dead end jobs, wrote a lot of unfinished stories, had unsatisfying affairs with native English-speaking transients, and one day, decided it was time for a change.

I moved to a bigger city, got a better job, met someone who didn’t irritate me and vice versa, got married when I was 33 and at 37, became a parent.

I wasn’t overwhelmed by a sense of fulfillment, even after having a baby. In retrospect, I was likely suffering from mild postpartum depression. I remember thinking I wanted to pitch her out of a window just for some peace and quiet and a long nap. Yeah, nobody tells you that thought might occur to you and that it’s okay – as long as there is no actual baby-pitching.

It seems that no matter what one chooses, that stereotype machine does its best to suck us in and spew out carbon copy humans. Or at least humans other people can categorize, so they can sleep well at night. Because I now fall into a demographic that is rife with stereotypes, it sometimes sends a shiver of fear up my spine. I used to mock people like me.

But here I am, able to check off many boxes for the middle-aged middle class white lady demographic. It takes two seconds on the internet to tell me what’s wrong with me, what I should be wearing, just how much of a racist/feminist/sexist I am – a liberal hippie Prius-driving nitwit with privileges falling out of my ass. And there’s no end to the child-free/child-shackled screeds or why I should be popping out a few more. For farmhands, apparently.

Sometimes the messages of social media and wingnut parents get to me. I’m standing on the sidelines at a soccer game and it hits me, how did I get here? This isn’t what I planned at all. But then I see my daughter, who was never pitched out of a window, out there sprinting down the field with fierce determination on her face and I think, who gives a shit if I’m standing here in my mom jeans at the edge of suburbia? This is awesome. It’s moments in between clichés and preconceived notions that remind me I’m right where I want to be.

NEW CONCLUSION

 I wrote this post earlier in the season and I was wrong about a few things. The soccer team has lost every game. Soundly. My daughter now stands in the middle of the field, chewing her fingernails and moving as far away from any ball action as possible. The rotating coaches and lack of focus in developing the girls’ team is disheartening. A large angry man who showed up to be their coach last night and spent the whole game yelling at them has been endemic to the season. Adults ruin everything. Even a game.

I want my money back.

If my daughter ever plays competitive soccer again (highly unlikely), I’m volunteering to do whatever it takes to ensure she actually learns about soccer skills, technique and strategy. I don’t care about the winning. I care that my kid isn’t fodder for sadistic dipshits who don’t have an investment in helping kids grow in their abilities.

I’m going to be the soccer mom from hell.

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