One of the good things about suffering from panic attacks (Not that there are lots of good things about it. There are maybe two. One is getting out of ladies nights or yet another invitation to an Arbonne spa "party".) is that eventually you come to know the early warning signs of an impending attack and can take measures to dampen or stop it all together. The same is true of depression. If you live with chronic depression (as I do) you learn what the signs are that you're headed for another tailspin. For example, hypothetically, it may be fantasies that you'll get T-boned by a semi. You gleefully imagine that after impact you and your car spin serenely, and in slow motion, through the intersection before you lose consciousness completely and forever. Or, just say, it's a persistent and bizarre intrusive thought of getting shivved in the right kidney; an image that increases in frequency until it dominates your thoughts and you can't even jam out to "Hunger Strike" by Temple of the Dog with your three-year-old without thinking about it. Or maybe it's that you start thinking about what a loser you are and that no one loves you and you'll never be cast in another show because you can't screlt and your voice generally is just okay, and then what will you do because you already quit the business once and you don't want to be that guy that's always quitting the business, and do you really think you can be a successful therapist as a fall back if you are this crazy, and what will your child do without you and you shouldn't have had a child in the first place, what were you thinking? Just, as an example. So, when you start having these thoughts you know your meds aren't working and whatever you're talking about in therapy is probably garbage. And hopefully then you can head it off at the pass. Because if you don't you'll end up under your covers for days and you have a child (or a job, or just basic adult responsibilities), so that's not exactly an option.
Last December I had a panic attack in the produce section of the C-Town in Park Slope. It came out of the blue. I mean, my life was far from stress-free, but I had just booked a big gig I really wanted, my kid's father had landed a decent job, and we were finally going to be moving into our own place on the first of January. But, as I stood in front of the lemons I suddenly got very hot. I took off my jacket. I peeled off my scarf. I took off my sweater. I just kept getting hotter. I sat down on the edge of the dairy fridge and put my head between my legs while keeping an eye on Monty. My chest tightened. My breathing got really shallow. Quickly I was hyperventilating. My dad came back from the cereal aisle. Monty gasped.
"Look, Mama!" He said. "Cheerios!"
"Awesome!" I said, my head starting to swim.
"Uh huh." I turned my head to my dad. "I need help." I mumbled.
"What?" He asked. And then, "Are you alright? Your face is white as a sheet."
Thankfully the brave men from FDNY Engine 239 were doing their shopping at C-Town, too, and it didn't take long before I was surrounded by firemen (a personal fantasy, by the way.) taking my pulse and giving me oxygen.
One ambulance ride of three and a half blocks later (for which I was billed $600, which is remarkable when you consider that most EMS workers make about $11-an-hour.) I was sitting in the Methodist Hospital E.R. waiting to be seen by a doctor. Two hours later I was still waiting. I asked a harried nurse for an anxiety med. He said he we would to get the request approved. An hour later I realized that I had my own anxiety meds at home that I wouldn't have to wait for the request to be cleared on or pay $250 for and also I still hadn't seen a doctor, so I left. What was the doctor going to possibly have to say to me anyway ("Try to reduce the stress in your life.")?
In the following seven months I had some near misses, but always managed to head my anxiety off at the pass by taking half a Clonapin and removing myself from my child's presence whom I love immeasurably and would die for, but who sometimes makes me regret being alive. And once I took myself to a nearby bar for a double scotch, listened to a true crime podcast (www.swordandscale.com, by the way, which if you haven't listened to it go now and start at episode one and I'll see you back here in a couple of weeks), and played Candy Crush until I was ready to rejoin my life.
A couple Mondays ago I was in the city to teach a class. Monty's dad and I are separated, and I have Monty most of the week while his dad works. We're staying with parents of a friend out of the city for reasons that are too complicated to delve into now. So, I had Monty with me. It was easily 6000 degrees out. I had my suitcase and Monty. On Metro North on the way in, Monty had a full on melt down, screaming and hitting me repeatedly. Hard. I'm doing this weird thing where I don't hit him because I believe people who hit their kids are monsters. And I try not to scream at him unless he's about to run into the street or put his hand on the stove. So, I'm hugging him and telling him I love him and that when he hits me it hurts me emotionally and physically. I'll admit that finally, out of frustration, I told him if he hit me again I would leave him on the train which I KNOW is basically just as bad as hitting him and I'm officially the worst. I'm sure the threat of abandonment is just as scarring as actually scarring him. But you know what? It worked. And then I apologized for saying it and explained that sometimes I get so frustrated that I say things I don't mean. And then I gave him a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and all was forgiven. Or maybe it wasn't. I don't know. It seemed like it was, but he'll probably bring it up in therapy when he's in his twenties. Also, I called him "Mein Fuhrer." The worst.
I'm well aware that my problems are nowhere near as bad as most people's in the world, but they are mine and pain isn't relative and I'm not trying to belly ache about how hard my life is. I'm just trying to set the stage. So, the stage is set, right? I'm stressed out.
My friend, and hero, Eve, met us at Grand Central to watch Monty while I went to teach. When I got back from teaching I knelt down to give Monty a hug and a kiss and got extremely light-headed upon standing. I chalked it up to old age and not the fact that I hadn't had much to eat or drink all day (except for a 32 ounce mocha coolata from Dunkin' Donuts which, in my defense, I was told was the "yummiest value."). Monty and I parted ways with Eve and headed to the shuttle on our way to Grandma/Grandpa's place in Brooklyn. Near the beginning of the tunnel to the shuttle my head began to swim again. My chest tightened and I started gasping for air. I knew there was a newsstand toward the shuttle and decided I just had to make it there and get some juice. Pushing Monty in his stroller and pulling my rolly suitcase, I managed to get to the newsstand where I stumblingly bought an apple juice and some almonds and then collapsed on the ground next to Monty. I considered taking a Clonapin, but I had to weigh the option of completely fogging out from anti-anxiety meds against being awake enough to still parent my toddler.
I called my father. I wasn't sure what else to do. He told me to call 911 but that felt a bit dramatic. I chose, instead, to flag down an MTA worker who said they would go get the police. And then I waited there for 20 minutes hoping to god someone I knew wouldn't walk by and see me being all anxiety-y. Though don't think for a minute that I didn't compliment a woman walking by in her fierce two-piece outfit. No doubt she went home and burned it. No one wants to wear something a crazy lady from the subway floor complimented.
The only person I alerted, besides my dad was a friend whose brother is a cop. Basically I was just like, Uh, can I go up to a cop and just be like, I'm having a panic attack? He called. I didn't answer. He texted. I didn't answer. I know people who call friends at the slightest hint of a rough time. Everything constitutes a crisis. I, on the other hand, having an actual crisis, didn't want to bother anyone.
Monty asked for gummy candy which he NEVER has, but at this point I would have bought him a bag of sugar to distract him from what was happening. He finished the gummies and asked for more. I got him another pack.
"Are you sad, Mama?" He asked me.
"No, baby, I just don't feel well." I told him.
"You want a gummy? It'll make you feel better."
He gave me his candy. Then he emptied the rest of the bag into his hand and said, "That's it!" and gave them to me.
My son is a god damned champion.
The police finally showed up. But not before I folded and called 911. There were cops all over Grand Central Station and I had to call 911. It's like the one time you actually want Starbucks and there is nary a Starbucks to be found. That said, the two officers who eventually showed up were helpful and brought me out to the ambulance. While one EMS worker, who looked exactly like Alan Arkin (He got it all the time), took my information, the other, suggested they take me to the hospital. Apparently I didn't look so good, which, I know, weird, right? My dad suggested that the EMS guy was compelled to tell me to go the hospital as part of his job. Like he works on commission. An extra 10% for every sucker he actually brings in. I figured giving Monty a ride in an ambulance would be better than passing out in the back of a cab and waking up somewhere deep inside Queens, hog-tied in a basement. I may have some trust issues.
So, Monty got a ride in an ambulance to NYU Langone. He pushed all kind of levers and buttons that I'm sure I'll receive a bill for somehow.
Emergency Transportation $850
Entertainment of Toddler $6000
Total $10,436.72 (including composition of bill, time, and postage)
I was attended to immediately by both a nurse AND a doctor, as well as a tech who gave me all kinds of beepy boopy tests. When I gave my pee sample Monty asked if it was apple juice. When a nurse gave me apple juice Monty asked if it was pee. Another patient walked by with her pee sample which looked like pomegranate juice. I felt fortunate to only be sick in the head. Two orthodox Jewish men walked by and Monty said,
"Look, Mama! Jingle bells!" Really loud.
My doctor was cute AND Jewish. Unfortunately he was wearing a wedding ring, which, honestly, how would we have told the story of our meeting at our rehearsal dinner? "She was a broke, harried, crazy, single mom. I was a successful doctor. She came to see me for a panic attack. It was a meet cute!" Clink clink.
Anyway, he made me drink two buckets of water and told me to try to reduce the stress in my life...
So, here's the conclusion, I have had to write and re-write much of this piece over and over because of bugs with the app. Monty and I fought about 10 times today. Let me break that down for you. I, a 36-year-old MOTHER fought with my three-year-old son. Because I'm an adult. And he is threevil. He is currently in the other room watching complete garbage on my phone because I can not bear the thought of fighting with him again right now. And it gives me five minutes to "end" this piece. And it prevents me from completely breaking down. Again. Although tonight, when I'm trying to go to sleep, I will lay there wracked with guilt over fighting with my child. I'm supposed to be an endless source of joy and enthusiasm for him. I should be happily giving up my life to play train tracks with him. Or watch him "perform" The Dream Police for the 7000th time. I just can't.
And tomorrow it will start again first thing in the morning. He will throw a tantrum because the banana has a bruise on it. Or I won't let him watch Mickey Mouse Club House or I'll ask him to take his diaper off. And I will try to remember to breathe and try to remember that he is still a baby and won't be able to fully reason for another 23 years. And I will spend the day debating whether or not to take a pill or part of a pill until it's finally the end of the day and he screams and yells for me to sleep in the bed with him which I'll do because I'll just be too tired to fight him again. And anyway, going to bed at 8pm is highly underrated.
I haven't posted in maybe six months. I was having trouble with the Weebly app and got frustrated with not being able to post from my phone, Also, I got very busy with holiday stuff, looking for a place to live, and prepping for the concert of The Secret Garden at Lincoln Center in February, I got sick with a cold on the first day of rehearsals and here we are, two months later and I'm still sick. Pretty sure I'm dying but everyone else is like, "Get over yourself. You have a cold."
Kurt got a job in December working for the Devil's spawn and his dung beetle of a wife. He is a war profiteer and she used to be the head of a major cable network, though how anyone ever stood being in a room with her for more then two minutes is beyond me. They have three children whom they're raising to be just as shitty as they are.
He was hired for a specific job, with very specific duties that were expressly laid out before he agreed to take the position. They wanted to make sure he knew what he was signing on to do. Then, maybe two weeks in, the Mrs. decided she really wanted a butler and was angry that Kurt wasn't one. She was like, "Ugh, were you raised in a barn?" during his first dinner service when he served the water from the wrong pitcher. She texted him at midnight on his day off demanding that he go to their Connecticut residence in the morning (also his day off), pick something up, and deliver it to their Greenwich Village residence. And what was the item that needed to be delivered? Like, a really important flash drive, right? Or an envelope with a ton of cash. Or a fucking Faberge Egg that they were auctioning off that day. No, no. It was a white, crew neck tee-shirt. To be fair, those are a very hard item to find. Especially in New York City. So, I get it. Their oozing puss stain of a daughter, who was all of 11 years old, ordered him out of the kitchen when she went in to get a snack. Because that's how you treat people.
Anyway, he lasted two months before being summarily dismissed for not doing the job he wasn't hired to do. So, that was a two month respite from nearly two years of unemployment. You know how on the news you hear about people who have been out of work for two years and you're like, how is that possible? Or you're like, how are they feeding their children? Yeah, that.
Monty is going to be three next month. He is still an amazingly terrific kid. But, man oh man, that boy can be a dick. JEEEEEzus. I'll say, "Hey, how about we go in the backyard and ride your tricycle?" and he will scream at me like I suggested we cut his penis off. And that will go on for a half an hour until we somehow finally manage to wrangle him into clothing and then he'll go, "Can we go to the backyard and ride my tricycle?" all happy-like, like he's just coming up with the idea. OH, MY GOD, WHY DIDN'T I THINK OF THAT? SOMEONE GET THIS KID A FULBRIGHT SCHOLARSHIP.
He's in school three days a week because that's what we can afford. Honestly, if I could have him in school seven days a week, I would. And I KNOW that he's an easy kid. I have met other three-year-olds. Generally speaking, as a group, they are fucking awful. Snot-nosed, scowly, screamy little shitheads. And most of them have the personality of a bowl of oatmeal. Their just like, "Look at my Thomas train!" and you're like, "I'm in my mid-thirties. You really think I have any interest in your stupid train?" But of course in real life you have to be like, "Wow! What a cool train! Oh my god. Amazing!" At least Monty's interests center around things most adults can get into, like David Bowie and The Hives. On the other hand, he's really into that awful Mighty Mighty Bosstones songs right now. You know, their one hit. And he's found that god awful "I would walk 500 miles song." Sometimes, if I catch it early I can convince him a song is garbage. But it really has to be the first time he's hearing it.
Honestly, I think most parents can agree that for a lot of years, their kids are really only tolerable to them. Anyway, my point is that I know Monty, compared to many kids his age, is relatively easy. He has never thrown himself on the supermarket floor because we won't buy him some crap with Elmo on the box. His tantrums are fairly mild and usually, if he does need to throw something, it's more like he's placing it firmly. Sometimes I use his tantrums as an opportunity to remind him that "no means no" and if someone asks you to stop doing something to them, you have to stop. Even though I'm fully aware that his brain is not functioning normally during a tantrum and he can't really process what I'm saying. But, you know, consistency is key. Or something.
So, Kurt is unemployed, I'm unemployed, and Monty is a toddler. I would say we have our fair share of life-stressors right now and some measure of depression is to be expected. The problem is that I suffer from chronic depression. So, when a normal person gets depressed they feel sad, tired, angry. Maybe a little hopeless. I think for most people a course of talk therapy or a low dose of anti-depressant will help them through it (Although I take issue with people taking anti-depressants for situational depression. Emotions are normal. Sometimes they suck. Work it out.). For me, because my base-line is depressed, when I am dealing with major stressors my depression becomes almost unmanageable. And that's where I've been for the past couple weeks. Constant spiraling thoughts of failure and shame. A conviction that I will never work again, everyone hates me, I am a terrible mother, etc. Panic attacks. And not your cute "Oh my god the line for Star Wars went around the block. I swear I had a panic attack" panic attack. Like, hyperventilating at the grocery store and being taken to the ER panic attack. The kind where you wait in the ER for two hours and no one helps you and you ask for an Ativan but have the wherewithal to realize that when and if they finally do bring you an Ativan they're going to charge you $500 for it, so you just leave and take the Ativan you have at home and then you get a bill for $608 for the ambulance ride from 9th street and 6th avenue to 7th street and 7th avenue. Fortunately I've been dealing with it for so long in my life that I know what the signs are for when I'm headed into hospital-level depression and I can do things to keep it at bay. For example, one sign that my depression is getting bad is when I find out a friend is in the hospital with pneumonia and I'm like, "Oh my god, they're so lucky." Because, like, mandatory vacation from life, am I right? Or near-constant fantasies of being stabbed in the kidney. A coma sounds like an awesome nap.
I worry about sharing this level of detail about my illness because I'm afraid it may hinder me from getting work. I can understand someone being hesitant about casting me because they're worried my mental health might be a liability. The truth is that my depression only affected one job in that I had to turn it down because the subject-matter was gruesome and I had just gotten out of the hospital after a major depressive episode. I'm healthy enough to know when I'm healthy enough to work. I tend to be pretty emotionally healthy when I'm employed. Because, like everyone, my self-worth is directly tied to getting a paycheck. And also, if we continue to keep the truth about mental illness to ourselves we perpetuate the myth and shame of it. So, I guess if it costs me a job, so be it. I know that when I've been honest about my situation before, people have thanked me for my honesty because it helped them feel less alone in their own illness. So, you see, I'm sacrificing my well-being for YOU. You're welcome.
This morning I managed to get up with Monty at 7, make him breakfast and lunch, and get him out the door (with Kurt's help) by 8. I realize this is, like, bare minimum parenting, but for me, it felt like a victory. Now, here it is, not even 9:30 am and I've earned myself a nap. Right?
I've been thinking a lot about wheat. (It's a fascinating party in my head all the time). Remember the food pyramid we grew up with? I would post an image of it but the new Weebly app has this neat feature where it crashes anytime you try to add a picture to a blog. Anyway, in the 90s the entire bottom level of the pyramid was wheat and grains, in other words, the bulk of our caloric intake was supposed to be that straight carbs. 6-11 servings a day. They were all, "Eat all the cereal, rice, and bread you possibly can! It's great! It turns right into sugar in your system!" And we were all, "Duuuuuuuuuuh okay!" Then, at some point recentlyish they decided fruit and vegetables should be at the bottom of the pyramid and wheat was moved up a scootch to the second tier. So now it's 4-8 servings, which is sort of less then 6-11?
So, I have this small human I'm trying to, you know, keep alive and make smart and stuff, right? At breakfast it's oatmeal or Cheerios and fruit. So, there's one serving. At lunch it's a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or pasta or whatever the hell we happened to have remembered to stock our pantry with. That's got to be at least a serving and a half. Then there's crackers or whatever for a snack. Now we're up to, what, 3 and a half at least? And then dinner? Jesus. Pasta? Rice? Some sort of grain? I already give myself and Kurt kudos for giving him homemade food three meals a day almost everyday (You should see the pile of dirty dishes.) and largely organic and blah blah blah. So, I can't really get on my own case for not being Paleo or Macro or whatever gluten-free, grain free thing the kids are into these days. But it does feel like I'm dumping a bunch of empty calories into him for a couple hours of non-hungeryness. And it is only a couple of hours. Feed the kid oatmeal and an hour later he's asking for a "Peabudder samwich!" And I know we're still within the guidelines, but in five minutes they're going to say no wheat or grains EVER AT ALL EVEN FOR YOU NORMAL-EATING PEOPLE! And then I'm the asshole feeding my kid quinoabread.
Fucking wheat, man. And don't even get me started on sugar...
I've been thinking about this kid I went to elementary school with. I don't remember his name. He was super smart. The kind of kid who knew how to spell the word "people" way before anyone else. Nerd. So, one year on our last day of after-school we were going around the circle saying what we were going to do over the summer. We were all saying reasonable things for a bunch of 8-year-olds, like, "I'm going to summer camp." or "I'm going to eat Popsicles til my insides freeze." or "I'll be spending most of my days rubbing elbows with the heroin addicts of Coney Island while my father runs a dark ride there." You know. The usual. But this kid said, "I plan on reading all of Webster's Dictionary." Seriously. That's what he said. Come on. That's not a thing ANYONE does. Let alone an 8-year-old. Just knock it off, Whatsyername.
About seven years later I ran into him at Washington Square Park during the pot parade or whatever it's called. I hated smoking pot because it made my brain end up in a foetal position inside itself. Within a few minutes of smoking pot no matter where I am or who I'm with I'm convinced that I'll end up homeless in the gutter by the end of the day. But all my friends smoked and I was so desperate for friendship that I would have jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge if they did. Or, even if they had just told me to. It wasn't a time I look back on with any fondness. So, there I was in Washington Square Park, stoned out of my mind, trying to make it look like I didn't feel like my body was covered in ants, and Mr. Dictionary points at my shoes and says, "Haha. You double-knot your laces." I said, "Yeah," because I did. It was an accurate observation. I generally find double-knotting my shoelaces preferable to having to re-tie them all the time. It was less a fashion choice and more a decision of convenience and efficiency. I had missed the memo about shoelaces. Apparently the less they are tied the cooler you are. Mr. Dictionary had deduced that I was a nerd because I didn't want to deal with the annoyance of repeatedly re-tying my shoelaces. Like I said, he was SUPER smart.
For years I was embarrassed that I had double-knotted my laces that day. I just wanted to be cool. I could never get it right. And here was this really cool guy calling me out. I mean, he didnt look cool or anything but he knew the exact definition of the word, so he must have been cool. He read the dictionary. Even if he didn't make it all the way through, it's likely he at least got to "cool".
So, that's something about me. I let a kid whose summer activity when he was eight was reading a dictionary make me feel like a nerd because of an arbitrary fashion preference. I think about it almost every time I tie my shoes.
I have a troll that lives in my head. I'd like to think that it's male, but I keep thinking of it as a she. It's not that I like thinking there's a dude living in me. Monty is the only guy I'd ever let live inside me. And I evicted him over two years ago. But a male troll seems more likely than a female because people who have trolled me online have mostly been men (except for that one chick who was angry at me when I was angry at her for trolling me because, you know, that makes sense.) Plus, I'd hate to think there's some shithead woman in there just being shitty. I'd like to think that if there were a lady living in my head she would be an awesome, bad ass chick with great hair who knew about metaphysics and could explain black holes and where the universe is and stuff. Not some crusty twat who tells me I suck.
So, anyway, there's a troll of indeterminate gender that lives in my head. It tells me all kinds of awful shit. Mostly it's versions of trolling nonsense I've read about myself online. Which I shouldn't admit because isn't that what a troll's goal is? To get in your head and knock you down? But there it is. So, good job, trolls. You won.
When I was in the deep throes of postpartum depression and I would sing to Monty the troll would whisper in my ear (I realize I said it lives in my head, so it shouldn't have to whisper in my ear, but that's what I'm going with.). I would be singing "I Will" and I would hear, "I feel bad for Daisy Eagan's kid, having to listen to her awful voice all the time." Isn't that amazing? Alone with Monty and some schmuck is poisoning my brains. It's also completely the opposite of things I actually have read online. Which is not to say I haven't read really mean things about my voice online. Just in regards to singing to Monty I've read nothing but lovely things. It's basically like my brain troll crossbreeds various quotes and creates new versions that I can use to feel shitty about in specific moments.
The troll also tells me that everyone in New York hates me, which I KNOW for a fact isn't true. First of all not everyone in New York even knows me. But even if everyone in New York did know me, why would they all hate me? I'm not that bad. I'm sure there are one or two people here who hate me. And that's cool. I hate a few people myself, so, you know, it all comes out in the wash. But also, the main thing is, people are not thinking about me nearly as much as I think they're thinking about me. And that's a huge relief. Relative anonymity.is a comforting thing.
Except when my troll takes my relative anonymity and turns it into "No one knows who you are and no one cares and no one's reading your blog anyway. Nana nana doody."
It would appear that my brain isn't equipped with a block button. I'll be all, "Block. Block. BLOCK. Blockblockblockblockblockblockblock!" and the troll is still prattling on some nonsense. But, if I'm very quiet and wait for it to shut the fuck up, sometimes I hear another troll. A smaller, awesomer troll. That troll is going, "Hey, hey! I think you're scared. It's okay. I get it. Guess what. We're all scared. You're doing great! Some people love you! Some people don't! Some people like you! Some people tolerate you! Some people don't even know who you are! Isn't that great?! Sing louder! Write more!"
And then, if I'm really, really quiet, she says, "We are all just energy. Black holes have something to do with gravity. And the universe is everywhere and nowhere! Isn't my hair awesome?"
I'm at the 9th Street playground watching Monty weigh the pros and cons of eating sand. I grew up going to this playground. Back then it had one swing set, a sandbox, a small jungle gym, and a large dome shaped monkey bar thing. My best friend Carrie and I used to climb the dome, hook our knees around a bar and hang upside down. We came with a big group, so I guess it must have been pre-school. I'm surprised I remember that far back. Carrie went on to learn special effects makeup and built monsters and stuff for a couple outfits in Los Angeles. She lives in San Antonio now with a husband she adores and her first baby on the way. I went on to do a few things, too. And now I live somewhere in New York (not quite sure where, yet) with a great guy and a two-and-a-half year old. Weird.
Anyway, the playground is all redone and has a music theme. Because playgrounds now have themes, I guess? Monty loves it but there's something about the whole thing that makes me sad. I know I run the risk of sounding like one of those old guys who say, "Why, in the seventies people got raped and murdered about a million times more on the streets of New York City, and we liked it!" I understand that New York is safer now, and that the streets of South Park Slope aren't littered with crack viles, and that you can walk to the 4th Avenue subway stop without stepping over people who have stumbled out of the methadone clinic, and that no kids have been shot on the corner of the street I grew up on since the mid-90s, and that these are all improvements. And I know it's kind of mentally ill of me to still consider stores that opened 20 years ago interlopers. But I'm angry that I've been completely priced out of the neighborhood I grew up in. This playground is a reflection of the extreme affluence the neighborhood houses now and I guess it makes me nostalgic. Homesick for a place that no longer exists. And resentful. And I wish I could wear a sign that says, "I grew up here!"
Monty is clearly the oldest kid here because most kids his age are in school already. I'm getting increasingly worried about where and when we're going to settle because Monty really needs to be in school. He doesn't know how to play with other kids. He's a bright kid and I am not equipped with the tools to keep him challenged. I don't know how kids work.
Also he needs to go to school because I'm about to jump of the roof. I love him to pieces, but I need a break. I have, like, things I need to do. If I catch my mind wandering to things I need to get done while I'm playing with Monty I instantly feel guilty that I'm not "relishing each moment" because "it all goes so fast and next thing you know, you'll turn around and he'll be going off to college." And then I'm angry at the idiots who say shit like that. There's no way you can relish every moment. Especially when the moment is singing the 75th verse of She'll Be Coming 'Round The Mountain When She Comes or trying to get your kid to "wave bye-bye to the poopy and wash hands!", and you have a deadline you have to meet and you really just need to get back to your writing. I KNOW I'll be sad some day when he won't cuddle on my lap anymore, but mommy has to get grown-up things done. Mommy has to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up. Mommy needs to figure out where we're going to live that is out of the city, highly commutable to the city, affordable, and has good schools. And mommy needs a nap. Mommy is exhausted. And no, Monty, don't eat the sand, it has rat pee in it. No, don't do it. I'm not kidding. Monty, this isn't a game. Put the sand down. No, don't throw the sand. Just put it down. Thank you. I relish you. I relish this moment. LOOK AT ME! I'M RELISHING!!!!
I spent an hour on an blog entry on Wednesday night and it disappeared to god knows where. It was a good piece and I was so frustrated I punished my blog by not returning to it til now. That'll show it.
I was very out of sorts in Brooklyn. Last year at just about this time I had an epic fight with my parents that was life and relationship-changing. I suppose I didn't want to be in the house on the anniversary of "The Fight." There are enough ghosts in that house. I don't need to hang around with the one where my parents tell me I'm a failure. We headed to the Upstate house a day early, which will be our primary base until one or the other of us obtains gainful employment, and since I'm an actor, that burden basically rests on Kurt's shoulders. Even though the Upstate house was were I got married to a man I didn't love, twelve years ago (Twelve years exactly, actually. We got married on August 30th.) this house holds fewer memories. I can even look directly at the spot on which I said, "I do" and not feel a thing. Plus Kurt and Monty and I are alone up here (most of the time), so it's significantly quieter than Brooklyn.
I feel compelled here to clarify my feelings toward my parents' Brooklyn house and, for that matter, toward my parents. I dislike neither. In fact, I love both my parents and the house. It just sometimes feels like... a lot. It's a small house and they have two dogs including a Greyhound, and when it's me and Kurt and Monty and my parents and my sister and the dogs it's... a lot. One of the results of "The Fight" is that I've become more introspective, more guarded, and slightly less trustful. It's unfortunate, but true. I am aware that this is going to pain my father to read, but there it is. I don't know if I'll ever truly recover from it. And, in a strange way, I'm okay with that. Also, I should say, for the record, that when we are with my family, caring for Monty is significantly easier as there are three extra adults to make sure his head doesn't fall off. It allows for time to write. Or nap.
So, to sum up, I love my parents and am grateful for their warmth, love, generosity, and hospitality. I love my childhood home. But on the heels of the most stressful year of my life and moving across the country in a car with a toddler, I needed some peace.
The Upstate house is pretty far from they city (about 2 1/2 hours), which makes it not practical for commuting. But it is so peaceful and idyllic. Yesterday my step-mother took Kurt on a walk around the property. He came back and said, "When I was standing in that meadow I felt like I was in a painting."
"Excuse me. Meadow?" I said.
"Yeah, the meadow on the other side of the trees," he said.
"There's a meadow?"
There's a meadow. I had never walked the property in the 14 years that my parents have owned this house. I assumed the property ended at the tree line at the back of the backyard. So, Kurt took Monty and I up to the meadow and beyond. There's a fucking meadow, guys. A few of them. And a creek. With water. Do you understand?
I was honestly trying to figure out how we could make farming work. Suddenly I was thinking about bringing professionals in to clear some of the forest to make a path for fucking cows and sheep and goats. And I was telling Kurt that we would have to get one of those movable chicken coops. And I was sure I was going to become a dairy farmer and make artisan butter that I'd sell at the Union Square Farmer's Market. And occasionally someone would say, "You look familiar." And I'd say, "I'm not Lena Dunham!" And we would laugh and then I'd tell them about the lavender butter and how good it is on blueberry scones.
And here's the thing: My parents are selling this place. It's too far from the city, and all the neighbors are virulent Right-Wingers (The kind that hate gays. And women.), and they don't come up here often enough to justify having to pay the property taxes which have increased since all the small dairy farms are dying off because they don't get the subsidies that giant, mega, factory farms get. Some prospective buyers came to look at it today, but when the dude stepped out his Chrysler, wearing purple leather loafers with no socks, my fears of having the house bought out from under us vanished. For today, anyway.
When the apocalypse comes and water becomes a serious issue, they're going to regret having sold this place. Mark my words. Well, they'll probably be long gone by then. But Monty will be like, "What the fuck were they thinking?!" And I'll be like, "What, dear? Hand me that bottle of sleeping pills, a plastic bag, and some duct tape. There's $500 stowed away in the back of the armoire. It's all I have left. I love you."
And now comes the irony. My good friend has opened a daycare in Hamilton Heights and has hired me for a reduced hourly wage in exchange for daycare for Monty. And he wants me there full time. But I can't take the job because I can't commute to the city every day. So, I'm literally being handed a job and I can't take it. Amazing. And no, I can't stay in Brooklyn full time (Please refer to aforementioned Fight.). So, that's a conundrum.
Monty continues to be the best human ever. I know that sounds hyperbolic, but it's just facts. He says "Thank you" when appropriate. He greets everyone with a cheery, "Hiya!" He RARELY tantrums, and by rarely I mean I can't remember the last time he did. He now says, "I love you." and it seems to come from a genuine place of love. I don't know how he knew how to label that feeling. I suppose after the millionth time I grabbed him and hugged him and told him I loved him he realized that one went with other. We took him to a diner tonight and my sister put "Jailhouse Rock" on the jukebox and Monty stood on his seat and air drummed. At the end of the song he yelled, "Rock! And! Roll!!" I mean, come the fuck on.
In other, less personal news, I was trying to come up with something to say in the wake of the several recent shootings. I am profoundly distressed by the state of the gun control debate in this country. I am furious that when I think about sending Monty off to school I now have to worry that some maniac with a gun will take some convoluted frustration out on Monty's class and I'll never see him again. I'm furious that ANYONE has to worry about that. We are completely out of control. Someone tweeted recently that the gun debate in this country ended with Sandy Hook. When it becomes acceptable to kill children, we have lost the fight.
Also, I'm reading an interview with Maya Schenwar who is a prison reform advocate and while I already knew the prison system is a complete failure, some of the shit she talks about makes you want to commit hari kari .
George Carlin said he wasn't interested in making things better or working to change the world because we had already fucked it up so profoundly that there's no going back so we might as well just ride it out while we're here. When you think about the fact that as a species we could have set up life any way we wanted and we designed what we designed it is the most nonsensical thing ever. We somehow decided that life should be a series of responsibilities all meant to pay someone else to make it possible for us to continue meeting our responsibilities.
We can't keep going like this, right?
P.S. I'm aware that I sound more discouraged than normal right now. But I'm actually feeling pretty hopeful and happy. No need to worry. I'm on my meds and looking for a new therapist. Everything is great!
Here's where I spout my brilliance.