It’s not been a great week.
The guy I’d been dating for three months, who lovingly gazed in my eyes and told me I could trust him and I was “safe” with him, morphed into someone out of a Patricia Highsmith novel almost overnight.
Two of my kids at work had to be hospitalized for 5150s, one of whom was abruptly removed from our facility by the court, without any proper termination.
The cold I’d caught the week before fuzzed up my head and kept my bedraggled ass from finishing my Christmas shopping.
And then yesterday I stepped into the empty apartment to which I will be moving next Saturday, the one that had been gorgeously staged when I was shopping new rentals, and I completely and utterly freaked out.
Without the staging, it looked like a shabby box. A box the size of which I haven’t lived in for 25 years. While spacious, the living area is way too small for all of my furniture, and no matter which way I turned I couldn’t figure out where I could fit my dining room table, which, I discovered, is a foot too long to fit in the building’s elevator anyway.
My dining room table isn’t just a dining room table. It’s an heirloom, one that has graced the dining room of every place I’ve lived for half my life. It’s been the centerpiece of countless parties. It’s where my kids and I eat every meal. It’s where I serve my friends soup when they come over. It’s where Franny does her homework, where I often sit and blog, where Luca once carved his name with a butter knife.
It was at this point that I felt seriously unglued. A trail of realizations led me further into despair. I’d have to rent a bigger, and more expensive, storage space. I’d have to take the elevator down eleven floors to reach the laundry rooom (this will be the first time I haven’t had my own washer/dryer in 25 years). I’d have to put the outdoor cat on Prozac. I’d have to shrink my dinner guests down to a size manageable enough to fit around a breakfast table.
As I stared out the window and gazed ten floors down to the street, I felt claustrophobic. My life, which had once seemed boundless, now felt way too small. Too small to fit both my kids, which means I have to put Luca in storage over at his dad’s.
One way I’ve kept my psyche afloat since my first divorce has been to turn each of the four places I’ve lived into a sanctuary. I decorate well, and I’ve been able to make each home feel like a home. I’ve been able to provide a bedroom for each kid, and a place in which guests like to gather. I’ve been able to walk through my front door and feel like my life is somewhat normal.
I’ve Scarlett O’Hara’ed my way through every day. I’ve turned curtains into dresses. And I’ve told myself, I’ll think about it tomorrow.
But I don’t know how to Scarlett O’Hara my way out of a life that appears to have completely caved in on itself.
* * *
I realized I was going to be late getting Franny to her hair appointment and darted out the door. When I picked her up from her volunteer job at the local pet adoption, I lost my shit. I said bad things about the person who doesn’t pay child support, and the job that drains me, and how tired and sick and alone I feel, and how I just can’t do it anymore. I didn’t just say these things, I screamed them, and pounded the steering wheel.
Driving back from the hair appointment, I glanced over at a blanched Franny, who looked the way I felt at her age when my mother descended into hysterics. With an older sister out of the house, and a father who disappeared into his office, I became the go-to person for my mother’s weekly melt-downs. By age ten I felt, in Anne Lamott lingo, like I was carrying a full caseload, and a clipboard.
I don’t want the same experience to derail Franny’s childhood and turn her into a therapist. So I vowed to pull myself the fuck together, and I apologized.
When we got home, I left Franny to be picked up for a sleepover and went for a jog to clear my head. When I returned, I found a note telling me she’d emptied the trash and unloaded the dishwasher. I felt immense gratitude for my thoughtful daughter, and immense horror at memories of myself at her age, frantically emptying trash cans, trying to keep my mother from falling apart.
Yet only a few hours later, after discovering Luca had left a trail of chips and salsa all over the house, I lost my shit again. Luca is much more fragile than Franny, and he’s spun-out enough over the prospect of living 100% of the time with his dad, who, he has informed me, threatens to send him back to wilderness camp every day.
I stood in the kitchen yelling at him to clean up his mess, which of course prompted him to yell at me about downsizing him out of a bedroom, and I realized I had to put myself in time-out. I poured myself a glass of wine, barricaded myself in my room, and wrapped stocking stuffers with trembling fingers.
What would Scarlett O’Hara do? I asked myself. What would she do when she runs out of curtains, and out of steam?
To be continued…