This email contains a funny excerpt from my book which I hope will finish one day. As well as information on my shows in Bowen, Salt Spring and Toronto! Grab a ticket for you and a friend.
Most days there is nothing holy to be found in mothering.
I used to say I didn’t know I was in a bad mood before I had kids. When I lived alone, if I woke up crabby I could just take it out on myself. If I went out in that state of mind I could be kind to friends and colleagues because, after a few hours, I went back to my own house alone. But having a family is different than even having a roommate, they never move out. The lot I was living with wanted honesty and kindness from me every single minute of every single day. I was always failing them. I don’t know if I minded falling short of my ideals as much as I hated all those witnesses.
Stephen Levine, the Buddhist teacher, said, “There is no one practicing meditation harder than a mother!” A truer sentence was never spoken. When you have a family, you are consistently withdrawing from the emotional bank account, and it doesn’t take much to go into overdraft. After a few nights with no sleep or a bout of the flu, my relationship with my inner wisdom went out the window.
Plus, children are mean. No one warns you about this when you take them home. They just hand them to you at the hospital with no warning that they will hit, bite, walk, and pee all over you while you’re sleeping. If they did, there would be hundreds of children left in the nursery at the hospital. They pick at you all day like birds. They back you into corners while trying to get their boots on, kicking and hollering hateful things at you. Letting them into your bed at night to sleep with you requires a bicycle helmet. I ended up in the hospital twice from my daughter hit me in the eye with her bottle. She was nine months old and had the swing of a prizefighter. It’s hard to buoy yourself up with positive self-talk when you’re wearing an eye patch.
I tried to keep up with my daily practices. At night, I lay in bed and tried to meditate, but I’d doze off before the second exhale. In the middle of the night, was when they attacked. I’d be finally asleep and they are crying and chatting merrily. And sometime around 3 in the morning, I’d go off my head, spitting and spewing venom in some narcoleptic-induced blackout. “Why are you still awake?” And in the morning, I’d feel so guilty and then was journaling and promises to myself that if they woke me up again I wouldn’t be the exorcist mother. I never had a moment to connect back to myself. If I woke up at 7 a.m., my son would wake up too, demanding cereal. I tried to get up at 6, to get ahead of him, but he turned back his internal clock too. The only semblance of peace I got was the five minutes in the shower, somewhere between shampoo and conditioner.
I prayed on the go. I’d get a take-out coffee and say the Serenity prayer on the fly. I did positive affirmations next to a very noisy dryer and in a desperate act for any agency over my own life, I joined the VIP section of the Y, which cost double the price as the regular membership because they had muffins and a nap room. I loved that nap room. I’d put my workout clothes on, head to the gym, get a muffin the size of my head and have a good power nap. It was the only time in my life I can say I loved going to the gym.
My head couldn’t keep up with all the changes that had happened to me. In less than two years, I’d gone from being a party girl to becoming a Super Mom.
Up to this point, I had been doing everything wrong and now I was trying to get it all right. People called me a perfectionist. Ya? Well for a perfectionist I am not very good at it.
House cleaning was the thing that would do me in. The people I lived with, or “those filthy pigs” as I liked to call them, never picked up a thing, and I could hear Owen’s voice in my head every time a dust bunny rolled by me. “Why is this place such a pigsty??”
I learned how to clean from my mother. If she had bowed down to one of Ruth’s goddesses, it would have been Hestia, the queen of the hearth, the deity in charge of dust bunnies. The relentless goddess, who is only happy when you are pushing an Electrolux up a set of stairs.
When I was a kid, I hated my mom’s crazy rules about housework. She had this notion that it took twenty minutes to vacuum the basement. Was this amount in some mothers’ handbooks? I found it a ridiculous amount of time so I’d vacuum for five minutes, leave the vacuum running, and spend the rest of the time hosing my body parts. Oh, the cheese stands alone on that one. I’d make vacuum hose hickeys all over my body then come up with the vacuum hose wrapped around my neck- looking like Medusa, panting like I was worn out from working. She’d come over and sniff me, “I hope you weren’t down there vacuuming your body parts, again?”
“Look you better not be lying to me or you’re going to hell.”
“Fine.” Then I’d march back down to the basement and pretend to vacuum again for another twenty minutes.
Despite the fact I had promised myself to do it differently with my kids, the same Goddess ruled me.
Saturday morning was the day she demanded worship. During the week, I was a mom who didn’t mind a mess. I loved the art on the table and making crafts and the kids pulling the pillows off the couch to make it a theatre or a pirate ship.
On Saturday morning, there was a hostile takeover. Hestia would descend upon me with her Herculean colour-coded to-do lists. At 7:30 in the morning, I’d enter the living room, the vacuum cord wound around my neck, looking like the head of Medusa. The kids would be splayed across the couch like their spines had been removed. David would be watching cartoons, laughing, and eating Frosted Flakes dripping in milk like some man-baby. I’d start screaming. Is there anything more infuriating when you want to clean than seeing your family enjoying themselves?
“Today is the day we are going to get this under control. We are going to take the bull by the horns.” Do you know what happens when you take the bull by the horns? The bull wins. The floor was covered in puzzle pieces and tiny furniture from Polly Pocket (pieces so small that when stepped on, they would make a kidney stone feel like a picnic). I began to vacuum around them and sigh (oh, the sighing!). By 8 a.m. I’d be making threats I had no plan in keeping. “I am going to leave you and get my own place – a place where people like you aren’t allowed to traipse dirt all over the floors – a place where I don’t have to always be the bad guy.”
“Why am I always the bad guy?” yelled every mother since the beginning of time. Earlier that morning I affirmed that I would be patient, but within 30 minutes of opening the bottle of Mr. Clean, I’d be screaming at them. “Just forget it! Take them to a movie!”
They’d all look at me like, “Is this a trick?”
“No, it’s not a trick.” If I could get rid of them, maybe I could work in peace. “And get them some popcorn.” I’d yell as I watched them leave the house to go to see a movie that I’d wanted to take them to, and I was left alone to scrub and bleach things. Full of tears and self-pity. I didn’t even care about cleaning that much. Most days, they’d be barely out of the driveway, and I’d be back in bed asleep from exhaustion.
Sometimes I could short-circuit a blowup by giving myself a grown-up time-out I stood in the closet. A lot of friends were coming out of the closet, but I was going into it. I now saw why my gay friends liked it there, no one could see who you were.
I found the bedroom closet most calming. It reminded me of Temple Grandin’s squeeze machine. Temple is an animal rights activist with autism whose mom made her a contraption when she was young that would contain her energy when the world felt like too much. Temple’s mother called it the hug Temple couldn’t let herself receive. My closet was the hug I couldn’t ask for. What did I do there? Nothing. Did I think of anything profound? Negatory. I stared at clothes on a hanger and wondered why I had ten white shirts.
Standing with my back against the wall, I’d hear children go through the house yelling for me. “Mom! Mommy! Where are you?” while I held my breath and prayed, they wouldn’t find me. The dog Shorty sniffed me out first and would whine while pawing at the glass. Soon the kids joined him outside whispering about my mental state. Yes, they always knew I was standing in there. But we all pretended it was a surprise. This was especially embarrassing when they had friends over. Especially Devon. All kids have a friend like Devon, a kid whose mother hung on every word he said like he was a Messiah. He was so pampered we were convinced he’d turn out to be a criminal. Which he almost did, as he ended up being a Senator. An Ottawa Senator for the NHL. One of the goons that took the good players out.
“Why is your Mommy in the closet?” Asked Devon the future third-draft pick.
“I don’t know,” Laurel shrugged in her wise old woman way. “It makes her feel better.”
“When will she ever come out?”
“Maybe later.” Laurel was smart.
But Devon wouldn’t leave it alone. He’d put his jam hands on the mirrored closet door and repeat “That’s weird. That’s just weird.” repeatedly.
Well if you want to talk about being weird, Devon? You go insane if your peas touch your fish sticks.
( from my book WFG which I am in the process of trying to get published.)
Want to hear some great stories and some really funny jokes come to my new show Overnight Sensation.
First Salt Spring Island, then Bowen and back to the big smoke in Toronto on Feb 18th, 2022. Click here for tickets! They are going fast
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