Packing baggage.

November 14th at 5:30pm my new life started. It feels a lot like my old one. I understand the term baggage more clearly now. It has nothing to do with my three kids and all their things. It has nothing to do with the large, overstuffed sectional I often wonder about fitting into my future home. A home that will be much smaller. These bags are imaginary but they are as real as the birds who sing outside my window in the morning, the ones who shit on my car. They are full of self-doubt, self-loathing. They are heavy with distrust. There is resentment tucked into each one. They aren’t even sealed shut because I keep going through them. What do you keep after a ten-year marriage. What do you throw away?

How do you move on? A yard sale? Who wants my past. All the memories and the feelings to go with, I can’t name a price. I don’t know their value yet. I want to line them all up and look at them, over and over, tell people they aren’t for sale, get the fuck away from my stuff.

Sometimes I find myself back in the middle of those painful ones. I reexamine myself that way. I look at the way I was. I wonder if I could still make it right. I know I can’t go back and rewrite it. Memories of aftermath. Near the end, of waking up to see a door completely reduced to splinters. My hands the culprit. What have I done?

Fists through walls, through doors, into each other. Into each other through doors. Black eyes. Tears. Yelling. Screaming. Couldn’t pay someone to take those. Wouldn’t want to. But even those ones are hard to throw away.

At 19, I moved in with him. I brought a runner, a rug. It was a shitty, worn, old rug full of memories. I remember at about five or six years old, watching my dad pull out the nails that held it to the stairs at my childhood house. He vacuumed the stairs and re-installed the rug. There was some sort of hypnotic energy there, watching him hammer the nails back in. It was loud. And I couldn’t turn away. I stood staring through the thick lenses of my glasses, my mind surely slipping into some gossamer, imaginary, existence.

I came home from work and the rug was spray painted. It was a shitty, worn, old rug anyway. 

My marriage would eventually become that rug. Maybe it already was that rug before it was my marriage, an element of a child’s imagination. In any case, my resentment was born there.

Hot and cold.

The muddy boots on clean carpet.

The kitchen ware disappearing only to be found as a new catch for garage liquids.

But then there was the laughter. We were a team, sometimes.

My art space going from a corner in the apartment, to a shelf in the garage, to Goodwill. Watching my own two hands hand over my easel. I was giving myself away. For what?

Then nights, after I put my kids to bed, spent together, dreaming up a future. Those nights gave my resentment pause.

There’s something to be said about simply existing. Quietly, in a corner, or on a dusty shelf. I became that coffee mug in the back of a cupboard. Nothing gave me more joy than seeing the door opening, the hand fumbling around, pushing me back further, but touching me. Wrapping its fingers around my handle. Pulling me out into the sunlight. Filling me, lips touching me. Using me.

I grappled with my resentment as it continued to grow. How do you stop something that is already in motion? How do you say it? I’m not happy. I guess, like that, you just say it. Well, I couldn’t say it. I didn't want to believe it.

I used to paint. Ten years ago, I told Andre, an artist, in his studio filled with the smell of paint thinner and used brushes. The familiar dry smell only a canvas can bare after the paint 
has dried for two days, even after a decade I know it. My eyes drawn to the background, a mug, one that holds thinner. I know how it feels, used and useful.

Only I’m not a mug. I never was.

The morning our daughter was born. We became parents together, there in that hospital room, I was scared as hell. He had taken a picture of me in the afternoon, the day before, my belly resting on my knees. The middle of summer. A young mom.

Memories of waking up in the morning to make him lunch and see him out the door. And years later, in a fight, when he told me he hated my fucking sandwiches. By that time, I hated those fucking sandwiches too. I resented him for taking them.

I resented the mud on the carpet, I resented the dishes in the sink on days when I was exhausted. I resented him for not being the friend I desperately wanted, the one I wasn't even being to myself. I resented the broken promises. I resented the false hope. I resented myself for hoping. I resented myself for waiting. Most of all I resented myself for being angry and for allowing my anger to cross lines that should never be crossed. My lack of boundaries worked against me and against him too.

I want to close this book and set in on a shelf and write a new one. I told him that in February when I knew I was done. I imagined I’d write a new one and he’d be in some of the chapters. But he’s someone I don’t know. And I am someone new too.

I think that’s the baggage. The memories.  

So, maybe I see these memories again, at Goodwill, on a sunny afternoon, a rolled up old rug on the floor, a mug nestled among the others, a book filled with words and a past. A studio easel. No more resentment, no memory of it. 



Og girlfriend vibes.

I can be an asshole of the grandest kind
I can withhold like it's going out of style
I can be the moodiest baby and you've never met anyone
Who is as negative as I am sometimes

I am the wisest woman you've ever met.
I am the kindest soul with whom you've connected.
I have the bravest heart that you've ever seen
And you've never met anyone
Who's as positive as I am sometimes.

You see everything, you see every part
You see all my light and you love my dark
You dig everything of which I'm ashamed
There's not anything to which you can't relate
And you're still here

I blame everyone else, not my own partaking
My aggressiveness can be devastating
I'm terrified and mistrusting
And you've never met anyone as,
As closed down as I am sometimes.

You see everything, you see every part
You see all my light and you love my dark
You dig everything of which I'm ashamed
There's not anything to which you can't relate
And you're still here

What I resist, persists, and speaks louder than I know
What I resist, you love, no matter how low or high I go

I'm the funniest woman that you've ever known
I'm the dullest woman that you've ever known
I'm the most gorgeous woman that you've ever known
And you've never met anyone
Who is as everything as I am sometimes

You see everything, you see every part 
You see all my light and you love my dark 
You dig everything of which I'm ashamed
There's not anything to which you can't relate
And you're still here

(You see everything, you see every part)
And you're still here
(You see all my light and you love my dark)
And you're still here
(You dig everything of which I'm ashamed)
(There's not anything to which you can't relate)
And you're still here...



Different is okay too.

Here it goes. I'm anxious, the good kind. Life's about to take a turn. One path, grow old in this house, maybe watch my children's children play under the trees, miniature golf course in the front yard.. all of that is gone. It won't happen. I couldn't have promised myself it would happen anyway. I was grasping at ropes that were frayed. Frayed by money problems, frayed by drinking problems. Frayed by lack of sleep, then lack of sex. Frayed by stress and not enough friendship. Frayed by resentment and ultimately the rope broke, even though I trusted it. And it was my choice to walk away. I don't doubt it wasn't what is best for me and for him, even for our children, for me to end it. Some relationships end. 

I thought I was in it for the long haul. I certainly feel like I gave it my all. In fact, I gave it more than that. I gave up on myself for it. I lost myself in it. I was consumed by it. I was in a constant panic to save it. I was so invested that when it ended I was nothing. I had to rebuild myself, completely. I was nothing but his wife and their mother. 

And now that it's done, I don't panic. After the grief, I woke up. I saw her again. Me. 

Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if she had stayed from the start, would it have ended sooner or would it have made things work? 

Would he have respected me the way I really am? That's a hard one.

The other path, I'm on it now. I take her out. I climb peaks. I ride my bike. I read. I write. I absolutely, without a doubt, cherish motherhood. I embrace that role knowing I am one lucky mother. I cry sometimes, not as much now, for what I've lost, but I know it was lost long before I walked away. My marriage and myself.

You know when there's a disconnect. But it's easy to stay and hope. I know now that the only path a person can change is their own. So I did that. I changed mine. I walked away. I will walk away from this home, my dream home. Months, hundreds of hours spent searching for this place. A place with old trees and a garage. More hours spent consulting with banks to obtain the loan. Paperwork. Leg work. It's easy to feel like it was all a waste. But easy isn't the way to describe any of this. It's all terrible, devastating and difficult. It's sad. It's a loss. 

And people like to tell me I'm better off. People like to think they might know how it feels. They don't. Divorce is a special hell. 

I was climbing down a peak and I got lost, stuck. I couldn't climb up and I couldn't go down because it was a straight drop, the leg breaking kind. I stood there. I started shaking and tears were on their way. The tear factory was thinking it was back in business, they'd had a very profitable year after-all. But she was there with me this time. Don't panic. Just think your way through this. 

I knew to head west. The path I had strayed from was west of me. So I hugged that peak and I inched laterally, slowly, as far west as I could. Then I tucked my fingers tight around the edges of the granite and I hugged the mountain and I lowered myself down, testing ground that kept coming lose. I could hear it give way and roll down the mountain. I tested and tested until I found something I could trust. I let go and felt myself drop. The ground was loose but it held good enough. It would work. I inched west. I did that over and over. 

Eventually I came to a clearing. Looking up at where I'd come from after almost an hour made me grateful and proud. It also made me really damn mad at myself for getting off the path. 

I stayed in the clearing briefly and decided to head west again over a ridge. There was the path! 

I walked down to the path and I sat. That's when I decided I can't beat myself up anymore about what I should have done. Or how it should have been. Or what could be. 

I will be fine. I can think through this. She is with me now. I am her. I will be okay. Even when the path is scary. 



They're doing it again. The thing kids do best. They're existing within an elaborate, invisible reality. I can't see any of it but I know it's there. I see them running around in their baggy legged pajama pants, bare feet, with messy hair. They are police officers, they are knights, they are monsters, they are ninjas, they are going on vacation. They are a family, they are friends. They are seamlessly flowing through the story line that is coming out of thin air.

And then as easily as they slipped into this other-world, I see cracks. I see the fabric wearing thin. Oh no, their stories aren't lining up. The ninja wasn't ready to become an ordinary little boy, the queen's son or the brother waiting at the airport. The girls vacation lasted a little too long. The sword got bent. Someone was standing in the closet waiting to be found, but the story took a sharp left. The monsters are hungry. All at once the line of children going up and down the stairs, shouting out the narrative interlaced with excitement and giggles has become a broken tangle of opposing directions, they don't agree.

And now they are eating lunch, their minds drained. But if I pay close attention, I can see the second their minds start to rework some stories, write new narratives. Almost ready for another round of visiting the place adults rarely ever go. Kids are magic.




There was poetry in my gas station coffee, it touched my lips this morning and I sank into my seat. Construction on the freeway. Watered down, lukewarm coffee. Ten cents in the bank until tomorrow. Not my usual coffee, only the usual drive.

I'm heading toward the city, I stop short and some of the cofffee spills over into the lid. Stains on the white plastic outlined dark, the middle of those loose circles, light. I lick all the way around it, then suck the liquid from the lip. I sort of regret washing away the proof of life there. It's not always meant to be so clean. God bless you please Mrs. Robinson, heaven holds a place for those who pray. Hey, hey, hey. 

I'm humming, red lights, I sit and wait. I feel a smile come from my toes, rising, it rides up my spine, passing my heart, straight to my cheeks. I look at her in the rear-view mirror. We smile. I'm drinking my gas station coffee on a Tuesday. Here I am, she is here too. Look around you all you see are sympathetic eyes. Stroll around the grounds until you feel at home.

Someone bikes out into the street, timing his route to miss oncoming traffic. First one way, then the other. A daughter keeps snatching a cigarette out of her mother's mouth each time she tries to light it. People going to work, people out for a morning walk, people grabbing coffee, people with homes, people without. Laugh about it, shout about it. When you've got to chose, every way  you look at this you lose. 

I see a friend and wave, head into the garage and spiral up. Run up the stairs and type this. Sip the last of my gas station coffee and toss the cup.


Head in the clouds.

We stood out there in the rain because there wasn't a reason big enough to make us run for cover. We enjoyed the cool water soaking our clothes and our hair. The socks inside of our shoes. The taste of the air that day was full of life and that rain was just a sampling of it. 

Those clouds usually so high above us, we could touch them and the effect was grounding. 

Isn't it funny, maybe the most meaningful moments come along when your head is actually in the clouds? When you are connected to that vast wide open, usually blue sea of the sky, and the ground below feels so magnetic, charged almost. You can stick there. Right there. Not move. Let yourself get soaked. Let the water baptize you. Let the earth below support you. 

And watch everyone else duck for cover. They don't know that they have missed something magical. They don't care. But maybe next time, or the one after that. They will run out into the rain and let everything come to a balance too. They'll be lucky they did. 




Where do I go from here? I can’t stay in the warm, half on the floor now, perfectly messy sheets of yesterday. The pillows are all smashed down. So, I sit up, blink my eyes and step into today. I turn on the shower and let the water stream down through my hair, along my neck and over my shoulders, down my back and around my feet. I used to want to paint this picture, when I was in college. This image of my feet and the water, and the tub floor and the sun shining in the window and the birds singing outside. Morning. I bargain with myself, what are the chances I can just stay here for another five minutes, maybe ten. What about all day? An all-day shower.

I block the drain and start to fill a bath for my kids. They make their way in and I let them play and ease into the morning. Now I’m awake. Putting water on the stove to boil. Yelling into the bathroom, what kind of cereal do you guys want? Hannah changes her mind at least five times, so she usually ends up pouring her own. Then the blood is on her hands when she changes her mind exactly the second she is done pouring milk into the bowl. Too bad kiddo, you’ve gotta eat that kind now.

I pour boiling water in the coffee press, indicating time is up. We all need to get out the door. Brush your teeth, spit most of the toothpaste out into the sink, get your shoes on, turn off the lights and please put your laundry in the hamper. I know when I get home tonight I’ll find wet towels on the floor by their beds. Ada, you still aren’t even dressed? Nice. I wonder what she’s been doing for thirty minutes, little time escape artist. Laying on her bed under a towel staring into space.

Otto is requesting to shoot some hoops before getting in the car, he runs out the door unanswered. I think maybe he doesn’t understand the concept of asking and telling. The girls and I are sitting there in the car watching him. He’s determined, just like he was yesterday and just like he will be tomorrow, to get that ball up high enough in the air. Half way there, bud.

I start the engine and he tosses his ball over the fence and climbs in. Here we go.