Piles

I tossed a bag of bread into the darling basket labeled bread, only filled with everything but.
 

What the hell happened to just plopping the bread on the shelf, America? Why does everything have to be so catalog cute? 

I looked around this too big house that has homed us for a year and felt how I do most days, like a child playing grown-up.

Since I’ve been able to form thoughts, I’ve been a square peg in a round hole, a slippery fish out of water, an occasionally inept girl whose britches are way too big. I have lived in doubt, managing to be just loud and self-deprecating enough to somehow convince the world otherwise.

I can be chaotic and that’s an understatement. My thoughts are scattered far and wide. The state of my closet mimics that of my mind — reasonably accessible but sort of all over the place — piles of clothes and thoughts shoved into corners in the hope they’ll dissapear, if only for a minute. I am forgetful and I procrastinate and I don’t always love to cook dinner. I lack a filter and walk around most days with my foot planted firmly in my mouth. I don’t know when to shut up. I am all or nothing. I can be defensive and a know it all and exhaustingly mistrustful. Some might even say that I’m a bit of a handful. I prefer work in progress.

***

When I moved into this house I ran as fast as I could from the old one, and even faster from the girl who had lived there. The girl who’d been duped into believing it was she, rather than her relationship, that was defective.

In an effort to be loveable, I knew I had to get my shit together. So I organized my house with the sweetest bins and baskets, and held tight to the hope that my mind would soon follow. I tried my best to close cabinet drawers and doors, and labeled everything I could think to label — myself included. I hung up the piles of clothes and threw the thought pile in a box labeled “fragile handle with care.” I bought a huge calendar and wrote things like “soccer practice” and “snack day” with a pretty new Sharpie. I signed up to be room mom for both boys’ classes, which seemed like a lot but still totally manageable, considering I had that new calendar. I tried fitting myself into so many boxes.

Each morning I carefully put on my gosh she sure does has life by the balls mask. I was Allison 2.0 – now with less shit show! I went to the grocery store to buy responsible adult food I wouldn’t eat, but had already made a god damn label for.

I played the role of proper adult well, despite how fast my head was spinning.

Once I had everything all nice and prettied up, I went out on cookie cutter dates decked out as the new improved lovable me. The men I dated matched me perfectly on paper. Between that and my foolproof plan, I was sure to find my prince.

I waited behind my towering wall to feel the magic that had always eluded me.

And waited…
And waited…

And waited…

Just as I was about to throw in the towel, I met a man who felt different but incredibly familiar. He was nice. So nice, in fact, that I erred on the side of extraordinary caution, because I’d already seen that movie a few times and the ending sucked.

Initially, I kept myself tucked safely behind the wall, but over time I grew bolder and began peeking over more and more. But with every peek, I inadvertently exposed more of my real self – the one with all the unlovable piles. After each exposure, I waited patiently for the inevitable fallout. Oddly enough, however,  every time I peeked over the wall he was still standing there and even closer. With every slip of my mask and break in character, he laughed louder and held me closer. It was almost as if he actually liked the real me — even, or maybe especially, the messy unlovaeble parts I was trying so hard to hide from him.

Slowly, I grew more confident and showed him more of my unlovable.

“I am broken and terrified. You should run.” I told him.

And he did run. Only he ran towards me, rather than away. Through it all, he held my fears softly and patiently until I was ready to let them go. He knew I needed more assurance than any confident women should, and he gave it to me time and again with a smile.

“I’m not going anywhere. Period.” he has said to me more times than I can count, without an ounce of annoyance.

It’s like he’s hell bent on sabotaging my self-sabotaging or something.

In time, his side of the wall began feeling much safer. And considering I could be myself, hot mess and all, it was also much less work.

I’m still getting used to being with a man who always puts me first, even when it’s not the most convenient; a man who accepts all of me, even those parts I was convinced were defective; a man I’ve been searching for my whole life. He is kind to his core and honest. He is better to my boys than I am. He makes me feel safe. And it doesn’t hurt that he’s hot and makes me belly laugh like no other.

I still apologize more than I should. The fear that I’ll lose this still creeps up, albeit less and less. But, this place that I am in — oh this lovely place — has me being kinder and gentler to myself, and inspired to jump back in to all the things I love.

***

We are moving again next week, to a smaller house on a street where the boys can ride bikes…to a house that feels like home, much like he does. This house will have piles on the closet floor, but it will be free of masks.

And this time around I’m taking myself along. Turns out, I’m not so bad after all.

Whiskers

Yesterday, a few hours before dismissal, I received an email from Luca’s teacher. She had taken the time to send it to all the parents, something for which I am so grateful.

_ _

Dear Families,

Our classroom pet, “Whiskers,” the hamster, came to the end of his lifetime this morning. He was an old hamster; here before many of the children began attendance in the classroom. We explained to the children that he had come to the end of his lifetime and is no longer living. Death was explained as a cycle of nature – that his body was not alive and that it would change, get smaller and go back into the garden to give back to the trees.

We will read from a book, “Lifetimes” by Bryan Mellonie. Your children’s questions may bring an opportunity for you to explain your family’s perspective and faith.

_ _

I knew the day, the one I’ve been dreading from the moment I had kids, was coming. And, sure enough, it finally came, in the form of a dead Hamster named Whiskers.

I made sure to be at the front of the dismissal line earlier than most days. I was going over questions he may ask in my head, and reminding myself not to project my fears onto him. Just because I’ve always had this great fear of death and loss, doesn’t mean he will.

He was okay when he hopped into the car, smiling even.

I waited a few minutes before bringing it up.

_ _

So, I heard about Whiskers, buddy.

Yeah, he died.

Yeah, your teacher told me. How do you feel?

Sad.

That’s what I figured. I feel sad, too.

Mommy, every living thing dies, right?

Yes. All living things die.

Except for people. People don’t die right?

No, people die, too, buddy. But, people live a long time, a lot longer than they used to. It’s not something you need to worry about, okay?

So, people will die when they turn 1,000?

Well, it’s different for everyone. There’s no exact number – but, usually, it’s when they’re really old.

< Lots of silence and thinking on both our parts >

Hey, how about we go to the bakery and buy a cake for Whiskers?

But, he’s dead, mommy.

I know, but we can still celebrate what a long and happy life he had? It will be our Celebration of Whiskers cake!

_ _

We got home with our Celebration of Whiskers’ Life Christmas cake and, immediately, cut ourselves a huge slice.

Then,  we clinked forks and shouted, “To Whiskers!”

_ _

To Whiskers, indeed.

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