Thursday, October 29, 2015

I have a dream

One of the toughest things for me about being a mom is watching my house constantly refill with crap, like some kind of 7-11 Big Gulp cup.  There must be some kind of genetic aversion to clutter and chaos, and I have a very bad case of it.   It is slightly situational in my case.  If something completely belongs to me, such as my desk at work, I am not nearly so anal, and in fact, my co-workers may even call me disorganized (shocking!).  But sharing a space with other people who do not also share my vision for home organization is enough to send me over the edge.  As my kids have gotten older, I don't think it's the disorder so much that drives me crazy (although it has increased exponentially), it's the fact that they have independent means of acquiring crap and scattering it all about the house.  In sum, I think it's pretty obvious that the root issue is CONTROL.  I don't like feeling like I have none.

The solution to this is of course to work on myself and my need to feel in control of my environment, because clearly, I am the problem, and more specifically, I am the only part of the problem that I have any chance of solving, because let's just face facts, it is more likely that Donald Trump will inspire a new trend in men's hairstyles than my children will start organizing anything.  It ain't happening.  But allow me my fantasy for just a moment, to imagine a world where all the people work together to make me less crazy.

Fantasy #1: Parents stop sending goody bags home from parties.  Oh my sweet angel Gabriel do I despise those things.  They are engineered to produce parental insanity.  They usually consist of:  a ring pop, in order that your child both rot their teeth and ruin your sofa at the same time, would that the federal government operate with that kind of efficiency;  a pencil, a useful item in theory, but when your child already has 107 unsharpened pencils laying around the house, not so much, unless you are planning to build a tree house or refloor your house with them; an eraser so tiny, it is guaranteed to end up wedged between your toes if not in your butt crack and has no hope of erasing anything bigger than a pencil lead molecule; a roll of stickers that your child immediately decoupages your dining room table with; several plastic Chinese-made items, the most popular being tops that don't spin, spider rings that don't fit on anyone's finger, sunglasses that melt in the sun, bouncy balls that don't bounce or else bounce so vigorously they take out several windows within minutes of entering the house.  Extra-special goody bags include tiny stuffed animals that come undone and leave a gruesome trail of polyester intestines in their wake; tiny tubs of play dough, which will inevitably be left on the floor with the cap off overnight and provoke a massive fit the next morning when you are unable to make the play dough elephant your preschooler requires for survival from the pile of dried out crumbs that remains; and tiny boxes of poor quality crayons that are probably made from whatever is left from whatever they make hotdogs out of.   This fantasy could actually be a reality if all parents came together and just said NO and started doing what I have begun doing, because I am just that awesome, giving books out to party guests, who probably already have too many books and aren't terribly enthused, but at least books are less likely to turn a perfectly lovely mother into a some sort crazed drill sergeant who roams through the house compulsively throwing things into a trash bag.  

Fantasy #2: Schools stop sending home paper.  The digital age has arrived everywhere except America's public schools.  Correction, the digital age has arrived in America's public schools if you are talking about issuing iPads to kindergartners so they can read the very same book that is on that shelf over there on an iPad and parents can be forced to pay for the iPad when their kindergartner breaks or loses it.  God forbid we use the iPads to email things to parents instead of killing a rain forest or three with a stack of flyers, letters, announcements, and of course, forms that stacked altogether could build a paper bridge to Mars to save Matt Damon.  That would be a bridge too far (I KILL myself).  What is really, really offensive its that children's backpacks seem to have replaced the US postal service as a conduit for junk mail marketing.  How is it a good use of teachers' time and parents' sanity to be stuffing flyers for the YMCA fall festival or ads for custom clothing labels in my kid's backpack?  ENOUGH.    

Fantasy #3: People stop giving my child craft sets for their birthdays.  I know I sound like an ingrate, but my soul just can't handle these.  If my child could make an adorable sock puppy all by herself (or wanted to) that would be one thing, but let's face it, I'm gonna end up making that damn puppy AND THEN I'm gonna end up with a button eye in my butt crack, along with the tiny eraser, when the dismembered sock puppy ends up in my bed.  I've said it before and I'll say it again: I DON'T DO CRAFTS.  And a big reason why I don't do crafts is that after you do crafts, you have to DO SOMETHING with the crafts, unless you are so talented that you can make something you would actually want to use or display long term in your home or on your person, like a refrigerator or a diamond necklace.  If my child and I could make a refrigerator together (with ice dispenser, because I actually do need one of those), then you may give me a craft set.  Alternatively, if you plan to come over to my house and do the craft set with my child and then remove the finished product from the premises, you may give me a craft set.  If this is not how you want to use your Saturday, I beg of you, no craft sets of any kind.  Please, I sadly don't have that kind of mental health.

Fantasy #4: My children actually put away their toys.  Ideally I would add "in an organized fashion," but that is a dream too big for my brain to dream, at least until the day that I become BFFs with Bono, Oprah, Tina Fey, and Stephen Colbert, and we all retire together in adjacent tiny houses surrounding a central clubhouse with a pool and gourmet chef on an island in the Pacific purchased for us by Oprah.   When that dream comes true, then I will allow myself to consider an existence in which my children grasp the brilliance of the bin system I have going on and become my partners in its maintenance.  Until then, I would actually just settle for them keeping the toys in the 3 rooms that belong to them.  How hard is that?  In Africa, families of 15 live in 3 rooms, but that is apparently insufficient lodging for my children's toys, like they are some kind of family of Dallas ranchers or late 19th century imperialists with sprawling ambitions.  

Fantasy #5: My husband keeps being the funny, sexy, brilliant best friend that he already is.  And that he keeps his toiletries on his side of the vanity.  And occasionally puts his change in the designated receptacle. And throws away his receipts and pocket litter, puts his shoes inside this closet, and keeps his closet in such a state that I can actually open its door and put away a shirt without having a panic attack.  Honey, it's not you, it's me.  You already confine yourself and your stuff in an area of the house so small the tiny lego people that also end up in my butt crack at night, along with the tiny erasers and the sock puppy eyes, could not make a comfortable home there.  I full acknowledge that I am a complete head case.  A complete headcase with a dream, nonetheless.

Fantasy #6: No one in my house has any shoes or any coats except for me.  I, of course, have as many as I like, which I keep organized in their own room. Also, that fruits and vegetables never go bad in my refrigerator. And, nothing ever breaks or needs repair or cleaning in my entire home.  Lastly, that Robert Mugabe just goes ahead and dies.  And Donald Trump and Kim Kardashian run away together to live out their days on a remote Mongolian steppe.  This one is a catch-all fantasy.  

Basically: I have a dream today, to one day live in a Pottery Barn catalog with no other people anywhere in the vicinity but that I somehow never get lonely or need anyone for anything and my diapers will magically change themselves when I am 90.  Then me and the tiny lego people and the sock puppies can all join together and sing, me from my Pottery Barn house and they from the trash can where they will live for eternity, Free At Last, Free At Last, Thank God Almighty, We are Free At Last.  And a little bit bored and lonely, quite frankly.  But mostly free.  

Monday, October 19, 2015

People I Judge and Why

It is human nature to judge others, probably because it is more fun than watching monkeys pee on people from trees (which is so much fun, unless it's you being peed on).  For the brief moment you are judging, before you realize what a horrible person you are, you feel like you are the most amazing, talented, beautiful, and righteous person on the planet.  In your mind, you are strutting around like a peacock and everyone is thinking, wow, that is one super awesome peacock.  Then of course, you do indeed realize you are a horrible person, unless you are a really, really, really horrible person (or an actual peacock), in which case this fact never dawns on you.

A lot of people get confused as to what it means to judge.  Some people think it means you can't say someone's behavior is right or wrong, while other people use the excuse of judging others' behavior to feel awesome about themselves.  So let me clarify--To judge others is to say that given that other person's genetic make-up, socioeconomic status, educational level, family and environmental influences, their everything, you could do so much better than they are doing.  It is when you compare yourself to others, and you come off looking all hot and awesome.

And we want to feel hot and awesome, because deep, deep down, we really don't.  For some people, these feelings of self-doubt and inferiority are buried so deep under judgment of others and repressed emotions and memories and probably some old pizza boxes and a bunch of other crap, they never realize that's why they are judging.  Well, I'm WAY more self-aware than those people, and I totally can identify that I'm judging and why (see how easy and fun that is?).

So here are just some of the poor folks I routinely judge and what's really going on.

1) Women who have bunches of children (by choice).
What I say to myself:  OMG, I can't believe that woman is pregnant with her 4th child.  She is obviously crazy, has no other real interests or talents other than breeding, and/or is a victim of patriarchal assumptions about women, either explicit or subtextual.  She has no idea what subtextual means, obviously.  And she so better never get on a airplane I'm on with all those kids.  If she does, I will spend the entire flight thinking judgy thoughts.
What is really going on: I suck.  I have to be on medication and talk myself through several panic attacks per day just to (badly) raise my two kids, and this woman apparently finds motherhood so easy, she is voluntarily gonna double that.  Like a BOSS.  I bet she doesn't even own a television.

2) Women who breastfeed.
What I say to myself: Why do women keep subjecting themselves to a form of human slavery and barbarism in the 21st century?  OF COURSE women are never going to make as much money as men, when so many educated women are choosing to make milk instead. How convenient for their husbands, they just can't lift a finger to parent because, sorry, honey, I don't have boobs.    And how they lord it over everyone, like, oooh, look at me, I can keep my child alive without a grocery store nearby.  As if that is even a real talent.  You don't see Miss America contestants lactating on stage, but if these tyrants have their way, I'm sure it's coming. Gross.
What's really going on:  I suck.  I have failed at the very first test of motherhood.  I am unable to do what women have been doing for like a million years.  If it weren't for formula, my genetic line would die right here, right now.  Nature is telling me, nope, your kind aren't fit to perpetuate the human race. You're fired!

3) Women who have babies without an epidural.
What I say to myself: Those women are absolutely nuts.  There is no proven medical reason to put yourself through that.  The only reason they are doing it is to feel all superior.  No, ladies, you aren't superior, you're just crazy.
What is really going on:  In this case, nothing.  I honestly don't understand why anyone would forego an epidural.  Sorry.  I'm sure you are awesome people and mothers, but I can't for the life of me understand your decision-making.

4) Parents who don't allow screen time.
What I say to myself: Oooooh, aren't they all perfect and overachieverish.  They are probably already working on little Johnny's college entrance essays.  Well, he may get into Harvard, but as soon as he's there, he's gonna start binge watching Netflix to make up for years of deprivation and have to be forcibly removed from his dorm room by psychiatrists.
What is really going on: I suck.  I am turning my kids into zombies just so I don't have to sit in the floor and play legos.  What is so bad about legos?  You can make really cool stuff, like a block of legos.  I don't know why I can't just suck it up and play some legos.  Or do a craft.  Kids need crafts like they need air.  Get some cotton balls and glue and crap and see what kind of childhood magic unfolds.  My kids are totally ending up in an institution run by Johnny.

5) People who do all kinds of charity work.
What I say to myself:  The fact that I know they do all kinds of charity work is proof that any good they are doing out there is negated by all their bragging about it.  Jesus said to do all this kind of stuff in SECRET.  That's what he said, so those people are disobeying Jesus.  Me, I don't do diddly squat for my fellow man but at least I don't brag about it.  And Jesus loves me no matter what, y'all, for the Bible told me so.
What is really going on: I suck.  My idea of charity work is to not scream at my kids for a few hours. There are people starving out there, and I'm over here internet shopping and snorting Zoloft.  What an over-indulged American life I'm leading, when I totally know better.  Yeah, Jesus loves me, but he probably also thinks I need to get off the couch.  Sorry, Jesus.  I'll do better when I'm less crazy.

6) Really, really political people (left and right)
What I say to myself: You people are the reason this world is so messed up.  All you do is yell at each other and talk about how awful the other side is instead of compromising and coming up with realistic solutions so we can get some stuff done around here.  Plus you really are incapable of seeing the nuances of the moral universe we live in.  Life is complicated, and you just come barreling in here like you have all the answers. What arrogance.
What is really going on:  I suck.  True, the yelling and screaming and not compromising is annoying and not terribly productive, but at least those folks are engaged.  I've basically opted out because I don't like confrontation.  But the yelling and screaming and not compromising is pretty awful, I just have to say.

7) Really beautiful people.
What I say to myself: Well, it's gotta be nice not to have to use your brain or have any talent and have the world handed to you on a platter just because you look amazing.  I am such a deep, substantial person that I don't even focus on my appearance.  Plus, we are all going to be old and crinkly soon.  I almost feel sorry for the beautiful people, because that's all they have, and they can't keep it.
What is really going on: I suck. I so want to be pretty, and I'm really not very pretty.  I know it's dumb to feel that way at the age of 40, but I really do.  Maybe if I buy another new dress, people will think I'm pretty, too.

8) Really beautiful people who are also smart and talented.
What I say to myself: Welp, don't they think they are God's gift to the universe.  People like that can just be as vile as they want to be, and that is too bad, because they are probably gonna die alone, whereas I will be surrounded by cats if nothing else.  Cats can tell when a person is nice. They are not going to surround a dying formerly beautiful, talented, but mean person.
What is really going on: I suck.  I also want to be pretty and smart.  I have never seen myself as very pretty, but I've always thought I was at least smart.  That person is proving you can be both, and that just makes me feel bad.  And cats are just OK.

9) Really beautiful people who are also smart, talented, AND genuinely nice.
What I say to myself:  I HATE YOU!!! YOU MUST BE DESTROYED!!!
What is really going on:  I SUCK!!!  I CAN'T EVEN HATE YOU!!! I AM A FAILURE AT EVERYTHING!!!!

That is, sadly, just a partial list.  The good news is that I find when you stare your judgment in the face and look at its roots, it starts to whither just a little bit.  And as you judge others less, you can love them more.  And as you love them more, you think less about your own failings or even your own awesomeness. And as you think less about your own failings and your own awesomeness, you start to see yourself as God sees you, a being with inherent worth.  And that is Grace, my friends.  It is the foundation of what I believe.  It's all about facing the truth and being set free. It's a process.