I don't think I've shared this news with all of you here...God knows I bragged it up to the poor souls I interact with in "real life" but for those of you who know me only through this blog, I have something fun to share: one of my essays has been published in Family Circle again!
It's in the December 2015 issue, the one pictured above. In the magazine the essay is titled "Present Tense" (which I thought was brilliant, by the way) but those of you who have been around for a while will remember it as the feisty declaration I called "I'm A Divorced Mom, And I'm Taking Christmas Back" or something similarly way too long. It's been tweaked a bit to better flow with the Family Circle way, but I still love it.
If you are so inclined, please pick up a copy the next time you're out and about. Just please don't do as I did and torture everyone within earshot by shouting "HEY I WROTE THIS! THESE ARE MY WORDS HERE IN THE FAMILY CIRCLE!"
While I am so pleased and proud and honored and all that jazz, I'm also feeling kind of sheepish. Because a lot of people liked that essay when it first appeared here and on Huffington Post. It gave them hope that they would also relearn to love the holidays. I'm glad about that, you should know. Any time someone says that I've helped them cope or move on or just plain forget about their worries for a bit, my tiny hard heart grows a little bit. It's validating, y'all.
Here's where the sheepy part comes in: I am currently feeling blah. Not just the "meh" blah, but a deeper one. A darker one. And it's scaring me a little bit.
See, I think Christmas was the easier of the big holidays for me to tackle. Most of my demons fly the coop by December 25th, it was just a matter of me reclaiming that whole FA LA LA thing and pulling myself up by the proverbial boot straps and dammit, taking it back.
It seems to me that the bigger issue might be this week. The week of Thanksgiving. I started feeling angsty and sad a couple weeks ago but chalked it up to PMS and me being a flake in general. But the past few days have been tough. Not going to lie...they've kind of sucked.
If anyone knows how to put on a happy face and smile through the downpour, it's me. I should teach classes at this point. "FAKE IT UNTIL YOU MAKE IT 101" or something like that. And here's the kicker: it usually works. Normally I can outfox those stupid sad feelings and convince them (and myself) that they are nothing. Dust bunnies in my brain, is all, something a little Swiffer action and some good old Midwestern laughter will take care of in a jiffy.
This time it's not so easy to shoo away. The smiles are harder to force, the laughter doesn't come as easy. And oh my god...I'm crying again! Yeah, tears are never far away with me but I'm talking about real crying, like the kind that screws up your face and leaves you with those weird post-cry hiccup things.
For instance: today was a relatively warm day, given that it's late November in Minnesota. We haven't had any snow yet, therefore the deck furniture has not been put away. Today, I did it. I put on my boots and some gloves and also a bra and heaved all of the ancient teak chairs into the garage. Covered up the fire pit and tucked it away. Stacked up the plastic Adirondack chairs and moved the firewood under the deck where it will wait until that first kinda-warm spring night in 2016.
It felt good, to be outside, to be moving, to be accomplishing something. Which is why I was so surprised to find myself stifling sobs in the garage. It wasn't a prolonged weep session, it passed in just a few minutes, but that fact that it happened at all is puzzling and bothersome.
Aren't I the strong one? The warrior who has battled long and hard and came out smiling? The independent lady who doesn't need anyone or anything to make it?
Apparently not. It seems as though I am just as soft and weak and vulnerable as ever. Only now, I know this:
It's okay. Crying isn't surrendering, feeling sad isn't giving up. It's a sign, though. That maybe things need to be looked at, adjusted...like the essay in Family Circle, maybe something in my life needs to be edited. Just a bit.
This week is hard because it's the week of the dreaded wedding anniversary. It's on the 25th and I preemptively bought a ticket to a concert that night, hoping to dance and sing away the darkness at my door with some friends and a legendary Minneapolis band. But I still can't help looking at those numbers on the calendar and feeling some loss. I know, I know! GET OVER IT ALREADY! Lordy. I'm trying. I really enjoy being happy, people.
This week is hard because it's a time for family gatherings. For far-away relations to walk through the door, stomping the snow off their feet and holding out pumpkin pies covered with tinfoil and for warm flannel hugs and catching up with Uncle Steve and Cousin Sue. It's time to hold new babies and give out lame parenting advice to people who smile politely like we once did.
I don't have family like that. I do have a sizable troop of friends, however, and was once again invited to an annual gathering with some of them. And that's good news, right? The kids are with me, as far as we know...they haven't heard from their dad and I forgot if I had even or odd years a long time ago. But again, with the loss. I used to have that family. I used to get and give those hugs and sit around and talk about the kids and life and my dog's persistent ear infections.
Life is always changing, isn't it? I think, though, that as we get older, as our kids get older, as the world gets older- the change becomes more obvious. Time has acquired a sickeningly speedy gait and I can see all of it, all of this change, the flux of it all, so clearly now.
When the kids were little and even when they were not so little, time did that odd crawl/fly thing where the days would take forever to pass but you'd look around and suddenly one kid was almost as tall as you and the voices were deepening and oh, sweet Hay-Zeus, the shoes you tripped over were getting so big.
But now? Now that they are 21 and almost-20 and 18 and 15? My God, you guys. It's incredible to see them grow and change right before your eyes. It's beautiful and heartbreaking all at once and crap, here come the tears again. Trying to hold onto this silken strand of time is one of the most arduous tasks I've ever attempted and even as I feel it slipping through my clenched hands I am acknowledging the loveliness of it all. Even through the weeps I see that this is the way it's supposed to be and while I know this is it, the end goal, the reason I became a mom in the first place, it's so freaking bittersweet.
And for some reason, this week amplifies all of that bittersweetness (not a word, by the way, but I'm using it anyway).
So what's a bummed out lady to do? I suppose I could mope around, really get my hands dirty in all of these feelings. I could cry some more, and probably will. I could put that giant fake smile on, and when someone asks me how I'm doing I could answer with my usual "FABULOUS! HOW ABOUT YOU?".
What I think I shall do is this: a little bit of all the above. Let those feelings flow along with the tears. I'll go to that concert and laugh with my friends. I'll whip up three batches of my famous Roadside Potatoes and take my kids to the friend's gathering on Thanksgiving and count each face there as a blessing in my life.
The flux is scary. But I've faced scary things before. Scarier things, just like some of you. And I think we're all going to make it through this just fine.
And just because I love you, here is my Roadside Potato recipe. It's literally gone in minutes so this year I'm tripling the recipe. Yes, my arteries hardened as I typed that, and not in a good way. Happiest of Fluxgivings to you, my friends.
JUDY'S FAMOUS ROADSIDE POTATOES (who is Judy, you ask? A former boss of mine.)
1 (30 oz) package frozen hash brown potatoes, thawed
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (I use sharp)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup half and half
1 medium onion, grated (I just chop fine)
paprika (I use an all purpose Penzy's spice)
additional 6 T. butter
Combine potatoes, melted butter, cheeses, cream, onion, salt and pepper. Spread mixture in a 9x13 inch well-greased baking dish. Sprinkle with paprika, dot w/ butter. Bake 350 degrees for 1 1/2 hours. Tastes like butter and self loathing.