As many of you have noticed, Act Two didn’t start out the way I expected. Shocker. I thought I’d be flying along like a balloon let go at the county fair, giddy over the view and nothing but smooth sailing ahead until I eventually popped. How could it be any different? Look how centered I am? I’m so centered the world could measure longitudes and latitudes off my belly button with absolute accuracy. I could be hit by a lineman and remain upright. I’m the new Weeble Wobble.
Or wobbly. And a hair’s width away from toppling over.
Something wasn’t quite right between Sunday and this morning. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I knew I was out of sorts. My emotions were at the surface, running the show. I had so much on my mind. I felt like I was just keeping up with life, not taking the lead.
At school pick-up I saw a Mom hugging a boy who was around 15 months old as she waited for her other child. I was whipped right back to when the little dude was that age. That sweet age that I struggle to look at fondly these days. Truth be told, if you want to see me rapidly disintegrate into liquid ask me to think of the first four years of the little dude’s life. I haven’t figured out a way to separate the joy of his first days on the blue marble from the muck of The Genius’ affair.
I was hugging a little dude just like she is and The Genius was hugging The Happy Dance Chick. That single thought took all the joy out of witnessing a mother’s love, leaving me in tears.
My gaze settled on a Mom gathering up backpacks and lunch boxes. She laughed with her son. I imagined her heading home to make dinner that would be shared around a table, with a Dad present. Joy duly sucked out of happy moment.
What if I have to move? What if I can’t keep the boys in their school? Will they resent me for that?
I thought about what it would feel like to go all Brady Bunch with a man, merge our families. It just seems like an impossible task. What if I make the wrong choice and shack up with a lunatic? Too fraught with danger, too risky. Better safe and alone than sorry.
Between The Genius and me someone has to be the adult on duty.
Why am I the one that has to be cordial to The Genius when he’s such a critical prick to me? (Prick has quickly become one of my favorite words. Of course, I can’t say it often, but I do think it!) Why do I still expect him to wake up one day and decide to go the extra mile to right his wrong? Doesn’t he realize that I don’t have the insta-family? That come Christmas time, when he’s lounging in his sweatpants (I so don’t miss those.) with The Happy Dance Chick laying at his feet, the children opening presents (Bets on HDC buying the tall dude a Mt. Shasta t-shirt, my next big climb.), I’ll be Mom. Just Mom. No insta-family for the boys to play within. No love of my life sitting beside me.
What, pray tell, will my life look like in a year?
All those thoughts? That’s just a small sampling of what ran through my brain in the 15 minutes it took to pick up the little dude from school and drive home. I arrived at the house exhausted and depleted. Somehow I managed to play a game of Uno and win, even though my 5 year old competitor makes up new rules with every turn, supervise homework, and talk the little dude into helping me mop the floors.
I still felt like I wasn’t accomplishing anything, and I felt crummy inside. I needed to print out documents for the divorce, but the printer bailed. I had booked a babysitter for a few hours so I could focus on completing the paperwork needed for our next collaborative meeting. She forgot. My afternoon was not working out as planned.
My thighs look big. And jiggly. My goggles are aging my eyes big time.
The temperature spiked in the afternoon. The boys suggested a swim to cool off. We quickly gathered our gear and headed to the pool. A mom was feeding her baby at the entrance. I thought about crying. Those sweet, innocent days. Tiring, unending, but magical. I thought they were magical, anyway.
I was subdued in the pool. Preferring to hug the boys and cradle them in the water as opposed to our usual throwing, dunking, splashing, laughing selves. During the 10 minute adult swim I attempted some laps. My stroke was off, I was wiped after four. My goggles leaked.
Only thing missing was getting my period on the flip turn. (When will it show up again? It’s been months!)
The boys had homework so they went to the ‘kids club’ to get started and I left the family pool and went to the adult pool. Maybe that would help to settle me; less family, more gray hair.
All the lanes were taken and some bombshell in a bikini was lounging with book in hand, eating berries, one by one. I swear.
I scanned the lanes, trying to get a sense of the right one to share. The one with a swimmer whose pace matched mine. The lady on the end looked like a good fit. I waded in and waited for her to complete her lap.
May I share your lane?
She pulled her head up, her mirrored face mask hiding her eyes. She paused.
I saw myself flinch in her lenses, my eyes widen. I bit my lip.
I mean, I’m not good at that. And this lane is pretty narrow. My expression didn’t change.
I turned and walked up the stairs, making my way to my towel, ready to take it and throw it in on the day. Instead I picked the center lane, politely inquired as to whether or not I could slide in and hug the lane line. She wasn’t stoked, but at least she didn’t say no.
I felt like crying, but what’s the point if you’re in the pool and can’t feel the tears? Kind of takes the fun out of it. By the time half the length was behind me it hit me:
You’re being a baby. Every single wrinkle in a day is a chance for a change of direction. The shredding of your family fabric has let you see through the tatters to the view beyond. Really, Cleo, would you rather be back pre-Pocket Call? Living with a callous person who thought nothing of lying to you for years? Who literally didn’t care about you at all?
I did a flip turn. And for the next 20 laps I talked myself down from the ledge. I had the lane all to myself by this point. Pausing at the end, I grabbed my water bottle and chugged between labored breaths. Through my goggles I watched the woman who spurned me make her way to the end where I rested. She stood up when she reached the wall. I could sense she wanted to say something to me. I started to turn away. Why give her the satisfaction, right? I don’t have to let her apologize.
My shoulders squared to hers. She took off her face mask and made eye contact with me.
I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean for it to come out like that.
I smiled even though I didn’t want to.
Thanks. It’s okay. Enjoy your swim. I continued on with mine, finding my grove.
I had some not-so-kind thoughts about that woman as I pushed through the last half mile. But the presence of mind to realize that they weren’t fair, and I shouldn’t be thinking that way. It’s toxic.
Holy arachnid! I flipped over on my back half way down the lane and floated. All I am doing is thinking. Presence of mind? How about omnipresent? My brain took over like ivy to a haunted house. All in 48 hours. I felt constricted, not as optimistic, drained not energized. I looked for the sad lining, not the silver lining. And I’m finding it’s not easy to power this puppy down.
I wonder if drinking a milkshake really fast would help.
For the balance of the swim I tried to get to the root of my mental state. My mind is on hyper-overdrive, trending toward the negative. How is that possible? Nothing has changed from last week. No bad news delivered, no crazy upheaval. It’s got to be the pending divorce meeting. I don’t want it to happen. Well, I want it to happen, but I want a stand in. I want someone who’s going to play me. Do it well. And let me know how it went down over a Clear Conscience, next to an outdoor fire pit.
And that feels like crap. Why wouldn’t I want to be in it every step of the way? Why would I want to hand over that experience to someone else? That’s not standing up for myself. That’s shirking my responsibilities. We all have to do things we don’t enjoy, but in this case there’s a real payoff. My freedom.
I should be popping out of bed at 5 in the morning, grabbing my laptop and plugging away on the final paperwork (which I totally detest doing) for the divorce in the short term, and then, for the next several months, working on my novel. I’m procrastinating and it’s making me sick. This is not who I want to be. I know that finalizing the divorce and writing the book are two projects, that when completed, will make me exceedingly happy and set me free. So, really, what more of a catalyst do I need?
A hot iron?
All this procrastination and my ‘barely organized’ state has got to end. Now. I know it’s doable. I don’t know how to do it, but all through out time people have gotten their s…tuff together. I’ve got to stop that excuse-making mechanism in my skull and channel my inner Martha Stewart.
Which doesn’t exist.
Time for Plan B.
Where did I put Plan B? Ooh – I don’t think I have a Plan B.