Sunday, February 19, 2012

People Don't Behave, or Is There Another Adult in the House?

Runners are irritating.

Not in general, just specifically at 7am Saturday mornings at my downtown Starbucks, where a large group of them commune before heading out en mass for their morning mutual endorphin rush. They don't buy coffee, who needs it with utility belt loads of little Goo Gell bottles strapped around their Spandex bound bodies in a manner that would make Batman jealous? One by one their gang accrues, the front door constantly opening to admit yet another Spandex garbed member. My seat by the window gets a constant chilling breeze, which on it's own is not so bad, but my extra dry cappuccino in the lovely porcelain cup lightly sprinkled with chocolate is cooling at a faster rate than I would like.  This is suppose to be my morning getaway. When I have to drive my son in for his early Saturday morning detentions, something that is fast becoming a weekend tradition for us, I like to find something soothing for me to do while I wait to pick up my increasingly truant boy. Having long been on a first name basis with his guidance counselor and the school social worker, this year I am adding his Dean to my frequent call and email list.  So, when I arrive, at 7am to what is suppose to be a quiet escape in a coffee shop to mull over my overwhelming parenting responsibilities it would be nice to do so without a parade of Spandex covered backsides.

I am not, strictly speaking, a single parent, but I am the one that organizes, delivers and cares for most/all aspects of each of my three teenagers busy lives. I keep things running smoothly, but with an exponentially increasing load I have become exhausted with being the one in charge, the one who bears the brunt of their frustrations, and the one who has, bit by bit, given up chunks of my life to make sure my family is taken care of. I sound like an overwrought soccer mom. I'm not. My kid's extracurricular activities are a drop in the bucket, what is spreading me thin is the four nights a week of  three hour outpatient therapy with the 30 minute drive there and back that I take my son to, the 3 meetings a week he also goes to, the life coach and social worker appointments, the continuing dialogue with his teachers, counselors and Dean, and yes, I get him to Hapkido 2 or 3 times a week. And this does not include dealing with the defiant, difficult, manipulative and confusing behaviour at home that comes with living with a newly recovering addict. This is just one of my children. My worries for the other two would likely feature more prominently in my mind if I could manage it. As it is my oldest is becoming the stunt mom for my youngest, getting her to appointments and activities. My oldest, who is spending her first year of college at the local junior college and living at home; something I thought was a huge failure on my part, has become a lifesaver for me these last 6 very difficult months. So. Is it too much to ask, that when I find 2hours for myself, abet early on a Saturday morning when I really could use the sleep, for my sanctuary not to be overrun by endorphin junkies?  This is a place for caffeine junkies, a place where I can purchase a 500 calorie pumpkin scone and pick all the icing off while I scribble madly in my journal. The place for $200 running shoes, TMI Spandex and utility belts is the park around the corner, go there and do your pre-run cluster, and leave curmudgeonly me to my warm quite cafe.

Eventually they leave, nearly freezing me with the door held open for the mass of them to exit. They'll be back, red faced and, smug and steaming sweat from their moisture wicking active wear into my drama free coffee drinking refuge, where I have come to get away from all things annoying (read: people who do not behave the way I would like). I do not say anything as I look up sulkily from my coffee foam at the irritating  runners; they are a safer target for my frustrations. The thing that sends me running (ironic word choice) from my warm bed out into this cold morning so I could be anywhere but home, where I could be somewhere where I'm not the one who has to "mend lives", where I could have a moment before I am drawn back by their "pitiful cries" is sitting in a detention room at the school now, are at home in warm beds, is NOT here, except that I bring them with me. Like the Ghost of Christmas Present, they are the pitiful things clinging to my legs that I constantly carry. The runners have not had me out of my bed after midnight driving around in my pajamas searching, they have not dumped all their collective angst on me, they do toss thoughtless comments my way, that is why it is easier, right now, to spend my frustration on them. They are just as oblivious to the good I try to do, to how I work myself to stuporous exhaustion, that if I eat, I do it standing while accomplishing other tasks, to the fact that I am driving, always driving, just as oblivious to this as my family.

The Journey
by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.

It was pointed out to me recently that "we carry our burdens alone, and if we are really lucky, maybe with a friend or family member". This idea has been bouncing around in my head and more and more, and I realize it is true. That I am alone in this, to wish for it to be different is to invite disappointment; expectations are just resentments waiting to happen after all. For all intents and purposes I have no extended family, and the friends I have here are busy with their own lives. This makes me sad but also relieved. If I am alone, I can stop putting on the "Happy Mask", can stop having the 30second "how are you coping conversations". I can put my head down and 'chop wood and carry water', or as it translates in my life, drive, feed, organize, counsel and "mend their lives". I hope I will be softer from this suffering, I hope this will not make me brittle with resentments from unrealistic expectations. One day this will change, everything does, and I will be changed as well. One day I will walk out on that road. One day I will be able to see the stars, to hear my own voice. One day, I hope.

 I hope. 

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