( in other words: this is me and I can do whatever the f*@K I want)
I started cleaning house last January when a series of unfortunate circumstances forced me to look at life in ways that work best for me and my daughter. The roof was leaking, had been for a while unbeknownst to me. This was right after the pipe burst in the basement. It was the waste water pipe. I’d like to say the floor mats I put down were the saving grace, but the mats were just saturated with waste water and rusty particles of an old iron pipe, only adding to the clean up which had to happen before I could get the plumbing company to change out the pipes. It was sheer luck the fuse blew which took me to the basement to flip the circuit and step onto the saturated floor mats. Stepping into saturated waste water.
I am still cleaning house in fits and starts, sometimes by my own volition and others times when another unfortunate circumstance comes knocking at my soul. Or the parts of the porch ceiling collapse, or the stupid latch on the gate refuses to catch. My Grandaddy Brown said he could always tell when my southern steel magnolia of a Grandmama was angry. She would get to cleaning. I do the same. I clean with a fury. Clean to work out something in the dark crevices of my mind just as much as I attack the dust. I purge.
We will take things as they are until they no longer work for us, given our growth(hopefully) and the realization(eventually) that life is short and our relationship with time is distorted. We get but a sliver of time in this life. Add in a pandemic and that realization slaps us silly into being done with the bullshit. We get done. We sort out what we can no longer tolerate. We name it. All of it. We open up the windows- all the windows– fling open the door and the breeze of new beginnings eases through, allowing the curtains to dance, distorting the veils. If we listen and if we are lucky, something catches our ear and whispers a word of advice:
I can hear it now.
We get to say, enough.
I have had enough.I quit. I looked to the left and I looked to the right. I held my breath.I exhaled. I decided there was no sense in pointing out the obvious. Moving the mark a little higher up on the human condition meter is not for the faint of heart. I made that mistake.More than once. Coming to understand that meeting people where they are might just mean, the meeting is over. For good. Or as my high school history teacher used to say:
That dog don’t hunt.
Or as a mentor of mine used to say in a heavy southern drawl:
Gloria, sugah, you keep invit’in people to the dinnah table who are not ready to eat what you are serving.
Or as my mother used to say:
When the horse is dead, get off.
She also said:
it’s like screwing to get your virginity back.
But I think that was the morphine talking.
In one of the final conversations I had with my mom in the month before she passed away, I asked her what she learned along the way. In her 73 young years, through a brutal divorce, cancer and multi-infarct dementia, I asked her what it was she learned and how she survived,held onto her goodness, her wholeness. We were sitting on the porch of her beloved beach house, her blueblue eyes focused out on the Atlantic Ocean, the sun hitting her face just right.
I made the mistake of thinking that everyone had my same moral compass. My sense of what is good. My sense of what is right. Some people just don’t. Some people would rather not know better.
And then I let her smoke a cigarette because, as she said.
I love smoking. I gave it up once, but now I am dying, and I want to smoke a cigerette.
Who was I to argue?
People will only see from their own lens, and that lens is often dirtied with the residue of regret, anger, unmet dreams, broken hearts and broken homes.People will only respond from the foundation of what they know, however limited or limitless. People will blame their mother, their father, the system, myriad excuses for myopic vision, giving way to one sided responses and reactive behavior. Do we survive the betrayal of false friends? Maybe. Do we survive things we did not choose? We can. But it sure does leave a mark. Can we care enough about where we live to want to make things better? For education? For everyone to benefit? Maybe. It’s not easy. Do we grab hold of the lightening bolt? Or let go? Do we grab hold of the safety net? Or leap? Do we fall on our sword too many times, and give way to the wounds?
Soul tired, bone tired, heart tired, brain tired, mothering tired, woman tired, sister,daughter tired, self tired, labeled tired, mega narrative tired.
We get to choose what is best. We get to choose what works for us. Easy is not in the mix, but choice is. Clean the house, move the earth, fine tune the sound of your voice.
“Contrary to popular opinion- quitting is for winners. Knowing when to quit, leave toxic situations and people, demand more from life, give up on something that is no longer working and leaving behind people who are too damaged is quitting.It’s winning. Move on. Quitting is a source of discernment, discerning is a skill that is important for what works best for you and those you love. Quitting and cleaning house is a skill that people who win at life seem to have.”
I wish I could remember where I saw this quote. I have a habit of writing down quotes and often forget the source.
I have seen a lot. I have seen too much, maybe. I have learned the angst of a child is often the angst of a parent. And the truth of a child is often the untruths of a parent. It’s not a pretty cycle.
There was the mother who insisted her daughter wear her worn out blonde wig in a theater production. Insisted. The mother insisted her daughter wear the same wig she had worn while receiving chemo while recovering from cancer. The wig was in rough shape. So was the daughter.I explained to the mother I was having a wig made for her daughter and there would be no need for her daughter to wear a wig that might have different meanings attached to it.
Let’s start fresh with something new, I said.
The mother was furious. Furious with me. Her anger trickled down to the child, which trickled down to the rest of the cast. It was difficult to watch a devouring mother turn her own anger and fear towards her daughter.
That experience shifted the way I do things when working with adolescents and young adults. I did not want to continue meeting devouring mothers along the way. My focus shifted to serve a different purpose.
Most recently, I was introducing myself to a group of others in an ongoing class. We were asked to say a little something about ourselves. I jumped into the same ole same ole, and suddenly it no longer felt right. It no longer fit. And that led me to look at making changes to my own narrative. My own labels. My own story. I looked at what I need to leave behind and I looked at what needed to serve myself.
Done listening to the noise of the world, done questioning my motives and my intentions, done striving and forcing and pushing. Done widow-ing. Done being sad at being a widow. Done with those who tell me to be something I am not. I like the alchemy. I like the process, I like the dark recesses, just as much as I like the other stuff. Done questioning myself and asking for permission. Done with the battle, but still willing to pick up the lightening bolt, the sword and safety net, as needed, on my terms. Done apologizing. Done shoulding myself. Done with the inner critic. Done judging( myself and others). Done being angry. Done. Done. Done.
I know this woman. I know her. It’s time to listen.