Sunday, October 28, 2012

Fairytale Endings.

Her: “If I wasn’t “in my own world” all the time even I might be intimidated by you…”
Me: “I am so not intimidating …”
Her: “I think you are to some …”
Me: “I’m short … not intimidating”
Her: “So was Napoleon.”

My strategy is all wrong.

As little girls, you are surrounded by prompts that program you to believe that being pretty and having a brain, treating your life and all who enter it with kindness, and having the strength and independence to stand on your own two feet are attributes that make you desirable as a friend and a partner. And that Prince Charming, wherever he may be and by whatever horsepower he might be driven, will sweep you off your feet and carry you over the threshold of a suburban castle.

Pardon me, Misters Grimm, but I call bullshit on your so-called fairytale ending.

Because while Sleeping Beauty was asleep, she got raped and knocked up. The Little Mermaid killed herself over a man, and Cinderella went from scullery maid to spoiled princess. Goldilocks was an old hag who broke her neck falling out the window and Snow White was meant to be dinner long before Hannibal made liver luscious. And Rapunzel? She lost her locks and watched her prince fall to blindness on the thorns below.

They did not all live happily ever after. Unless they had access to exceptional therapists, lawyers and Xanax.

Which brings me to my modern-day fairy tale. Girl meets boy. Girl gets devoted husband, two cherished children and a thriving career. Boy makes early and unauthorized exit. Girl recovers.

Girl discovers how many frogs are on the road to finding a prince.

It’s not that I claim to be the next cover contender for the annual swimsuit issue, and I don’t expect a Nobel Prize to arrive in the mail anytime soon. And anyone who has seen me at the end of a work day—or spent time with me at boarding school and college—knows that I am not exactly destined for sainthood. But I am, despite all faults and blemishes, reasonably attractive, smart, independent and financially sound.

Which is, apparently, the wrong hand to be holding if you are wearing my 3.5-inch glass slippers.

Because fairy tales are generally about the weaker of the weaker sex. And according to friends and family—even my son—I am not an appropriate fairytale princess.

For the Iranian-born doctor looking for a woman to take care of him during his three years of residency. For the man who manages three restaurants on the other side of town and didn’t understand why I can’t just find a sitter within 30 minutes. For the widower 20 years my senior who, having never met me, believed we were kindred spirits. For all the men that have inquired as to my financial status, whether I landed a fat inheritance, and asked if I had pursued a successful lawsuit … on the first or second date. For the wrestler who told me I was the perfect size for spinning. And for the reformed felon that couldn’t quite place my last name.

I am, however, perfect.

For the man that wants me.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

She's Gonna Blow.

A woman is like a tea bag. You never know how strong she is until she gets into hot water.

Eleanor Roosevelt was right. But I am not Eleanor Roosevelt. Or Jackie O. Or Princess Diana. Or Mother Theresa. Or Oprah Winfrey. Or any of the women I have met and those I haven’t who have had the dignity, strength, grace and stamina to rise above where they came from or what life handed them.

I am me.

And I can’t take it anymore.

“I heard that it was complications from the surgery? Is that right? I don’t know if I ever met him, but I remember that morning and seeing all the cars in front of the house. Why was the Sherriff’s office there? He was a police officer, right? So why would the deputies be there?

There is not one minute in the past four years where I have had a moment of my own. A moment when I haven’t been suffocating under the weight of phone calls and texts and emails and questions and housework and bills and yardwork and sleepless nights and homework and grocery shopping and sluggish mornings. When I haven’t been watching the eyes watching me, looking for signs of weakness. When I haven’t been listening to advice and fixing things big and small and beyond my ability and my patience. When I haven’t been alone in a room filled with people.

“Have you met a special someone yet?”

When I haven’t been fending off questions and curiousity. Because four years have taught me that the only thing more interesting than how, exactly, my husband died is whether I have found someone new with a pulse.

For 72 hours I have juggled hockey and basketball practices and games, grocery shopping two weeks overdue, parent-teacher conferences, disciplinary calls from teachers, piles of laundry, work deadlines, unexpected and expected doctor’s appointments, a sea green pool and the search for Halloween costumes. Messages left unanswered. Cutting emails ignored. Another year gone.

After a day of mayhem that ended in my own personal meltdown and my children’s sobs as they cried themselves to sleep, I sat in the quiet emptiness.

And imagined the lonely away.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Shooting Stars.

“I hope that you find time to let your hair down. You’ve taken care of everyone else – it’s time for you to live again and to focus on you.”

Sitting in that Parisian cafĂ©, I knew she was right. A trip to the famed city of love to close the door on the past and embrace the future, and she had gamely stepped up to the plate. For nine days we soaked it in, traversing the Champ D’Elysee, mulling over Monet’s flowers and putting aside fear of death and decay to descend into the catacombs. We listened to the wind howl in the dark across the quicksand and gorged on mussels in ancient cities. We laughed over memories and raised glasses to ones yet to be made. And on the last day, I raced 600 stairs into the sky and stared into the horizon and wondered what it held.

A year later, her words echo in the voice of another.

“Everything you do is for someone else. You’ve worked hard to get the kids in a good place. It’s time for you to be happy.”

I’ve lost four years. It vanished. In minutes that stretched on for hours as winter descended and time froze around me and grief soaked my bones in cold. And with spring, the sands in the hourglass began to thaw. A slow bleed, minutes became hours and hours became days and days became weeks and weeks became months.

And suddenly I was no longer sitting in the darkness in the dead of night while the hands of time ticked slowly by. I was fighting to stop time from racing away. 

And they are all right. Driven by grief and mother’s guilt and loyalty and responsibility, my children consumed me. From the moment I broke their heart and shattered their world, I silently vowed that I would stop at nothing to bring them back to life. They would have the life we had dreamed that would be. I would hear their laughter ring again, like winter bells across the snow. We would cry and mourn and remember.

We would rise glorious from the dead.

Reborn from the ashes we have come back to life in vivid color, forever changed by what we should never have known. We are stronger for it and weaker, too. We live in each moment, like stars shooting defiantly across a midnight sky. And deep inside we fear that loss will come to us again.

I do not regret the choices I made and the opportunities I walked away from. Desperate to be touched and to find love again, the years of my lost life unexplored. Each decision grounded in love, they will never truly know what I lost in giving them new life.  

“Mom, I saw a shooting star and I want you to be happy again. You need someone who loves you and to take care of you. But he has to like sports. LOTS of sports. And movies. Definitely movies. And Lego.”