Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Little Puffs

(Note: it's a long one, but I really wanted to try to capture the raw emotion.)

Although I'm sure we all came from Love originally, somehow on this physical plane-world I chose to take on the path of learning love deeply, amplified by there being a (perceived) big gapping hole of it in my formative years.

I've written about the black hole before. It stems from a deep wound of insecurity, of not feeling loved, of not being accepted. Of knowing I wasn't wanted and being told that repeatedly by the parent who stayed.

Most of the time I've been able to deal with this lack well enough, having become quite resourceful, adaptable and resilient in the process. I'm also a "doer." That helps me enormously. You see, productivity equals value, and value equals love and acceptance in my book.

But this weekend, perhaps weakened by the deluge of (unpaid) activity from the past few months, coupled with feeling just plain squeezed out and exhausted, that damn black hole rose up and bit me in the ass. Like some sugar-crazed hormonal insomniac, the black tide rose up out of nowhere and dragged me out a few hundred yards. Choking and gagging for breath, it's all I can do to get to shelter.

* * *

I'm sitting in a lovely garden surrounded by lovely people sipping lovely cocktails while nibbling lovely carb-ridden hors d'oeuvres when all of a sudden I feel the tide rising in me to an uncontrollable level of not being able to breathe. No amount of makeup or wearing the costume, a form fitting black sweater set over a long linen skirt revealing bejeweled sandals and a shiny deep cinnamon pedicure, can assist me in feeling the part in this verdant oasis.

Seated on a scrolled wrought iron bench with lushly upholstered white cushions amidst every shade of possible greenness, birds tweeter gently to the sounds of trickling water. The air hangs heavy with dewy foliage and I am encircled in light cocktail banter. I should be in paradise. Instead, the woman seated next to me on the bench keeps her back to me for 20 minutes barely acknowledging my presence despite several polite attempts to join in the conversation. She nearly hits me several times with her gesticulating, yet never turns to fully acknowledge or include me. It's not like she doesn't know me. We've spent the last two years together at the same preschool.

Her affluence finally gets the better of me when I hear her state she would rather have spent the $2000 a night lounging with her family at the Four Seasons than stay on the horrifically rustic adventure they chose for their summer vacation. Well gosh. I, on the other hand, have thoroughly enjoyed my days in town spent at the public sprayer pool with my daughter and a zillion other "public" children, getting in for free with my public library card while my husband goes out of town every handful of days with the band.

I have never felt so invisible in my life. Except maybe growing up. Invisible. Needs not met. It's the combination of wanting to be noticed and failing to get the attention. Solution? Remove the need = not being disappointed. No needs here.

Even getting to the party, which doubled as a school fundraiser, was difficult. It almost didn't happen. Because my husband was playing a concert that night it was up to me to find "coverage" for my daughter so I could go to this event. Exhausting our entire babysitter list and even desperately calling around to the neighbors with kids to see if one of them could watch her for a couple of hours this Saturday, I got nowhere. Then, when I was just about to signal defeat and cancel, another mom who was going to this event offered to have her sitter watch both our daughters together, which was such a blessing of generosity when she suggested it, that I almost started crying on the spot. I never would have thought to bother her with my problems.

I have to interject here that many a time I have cast an envious eye on those with family close by who just drop their kid off at grandma's when they need to, or call on the sister across town, or have a high-school-aged cousin look after the kids. Or the more affluent ones whose nannies do much of the drop-off and pick-ups at our school, accompany the kids to weekend birthday parties and such so their parents don't have to. I suppose extending the nanny's shift into the evening some nights is probably not a huge deal if they're already on staff and you can afford it. Or, some smart parents hire a sitter for an ongoing weekly stint--say every Friday or Saturday night --regardless of plans. One babysitter I called told me her Saturdays were usually booked 2 months in advance. Two months? We hardly know what we're doing next Thursday, let alone a few weeks from now! But that's smart shopping: Book the sitter, and the date will surely come. But at the going rate of $12-15 per hour, you'd better have a reason to go out! It adds up quickly.

A little pang of economic inequity coupled with parents who've let me down begins to fester inside. I know I have a lot to be grateful for but we've been the juggling do-it-yourselfers from day one. We've had to be. And usually when hubs works at night, which is frequently, I'd just stay home forfeiting any personal plans.

I gratefully accept the kind help my mom-friend has offered, feeling somewhat less-than and loser-like. Oh, here's the DIY mom who can't get her shit together, sitter-wise. Yet my friend insists it's totally fine, please don't worry about it, and she won't take my money.

So I'm sitting in a luscious garden of abundance all around me yet I can't help but feel like a wilting imposter, like I don't belong, like if I stood still for 30 minutes, not one person would come up and talk to me at all. I know I am creating this projection, and I know it's old business, but here it is nonetheless. I am weak and susceptible. The howling in my head is growing like a cancer. I'm feeling diseased and pitiful. Me, the "uber-doer" parent of the bunch. The recently-coined "highly functioning, high performing" school parent.

Waiters come and go, and the host refreshes another woman's drink across from me. He comes up and generously offers to bring me a glass of Prosecco, then sends the waiter back this way who instead ignores me and refills everyone else's glasses. See? Invisible. Pathetic. Two trips later and I'm thinking the waiter just got it wrong since I don't have a glass to fill, but the host is happily ensconced in dialogue elsewhere, forgetting his offer to me.

I'll just get my own glass, thank you.

Hurt by this ridiculously petty injustice, the anger rises to its whip-slap reaction. Emotions whip out of control like a windstorm on the beach blinding me with sand in my face. I can feel my imbalance like a chemical reaction, yet I am powerless against the internal storm. I am nothing, not even worth remembering. I don't deserve a drink like the rest of them do. I must not be likeable. Not worth fussing over like that other woman in the glamorous dress.

I feel more at home in the laundry room where I painstakingly blotted that red wine stain off the nice woman's expensive white shirt, or doing an unofficial garden tour identifying different varieties of herbs, citrus and vegetation. I feel more at home in the kitchen where two waiters and a nanny bustle around cleaning and baking off platters of thinly-crusted spinach pizzas or miniature roulades of puff pastry and tapenade. Little puffs of air…

My eyes follow the spiral of black tapenade against the gold and I fall into the pastry, comfortable and in my element. My mind starts to envision different fillings and colors. Anything goes with puff pastry. It's so light and accommodating. You could fill it with just about anything…sweet, savory, textured, puréed…something more substantial.

It occurs to me that I spent a good deal of years being "the help" in the kitchen, not the celebrated guest. It is uncomfortable for me to not be "doing" something. If I am not productive, I feel like I am not fully alive, not worthy of just being for being's sake. Although irrational, I know this is a deep wound.

I remember the words of a therapist who once wondered out loud what my life would look like if I had truly felt loved and accepted for who I was and had nothing to prove. Hmmm…would I be the happily married hostess living in the same town as my family wearing a lovely party dress throwing delightful garden cocktail parties never raising my voice at my children or feeling that desperate, burning need to succeed and "BE SOMEBODY?!"

Could I EVER feel like who I already was, was enough already?

I've been walking through my life off-kilter, grown lopsided from accommodating this sense of lack, finding ways to over-compensate and cover the hole.

I feel the lump rising in my throat as I sink further, knowing that the sting of tears behind my eyes is on its way to the surface. Damn. Thought I'd gotten over this one. It's so ridiculously transparent but I'm caught.

Suffocated by listening to bland niceties and feeling ignored, I check my watch and realize it's already 10 minutes past my daughter's bedtime.

Screw pouring my own drink. Screw trying to fit in where I feel out of place. Screw the carb overload, I'm hungry for protein. Shifting my focus on not wanting to take advantage or poach another family's sitter, I grab my bag and dash away, barely throwing goodbyes behind me. I exit stage left under the auspices of picking up my daughter despite there being no real need to, except for my own perceived inadequacies.

I can't get out of there fast enough as the tide crests. I get in my car and rev the engine while opening all the windows. (Damn air conditioning's broken.) Aaahh, air. Motion. Speed. Wind blowing my hair every which way. Cool me, save me, be the salve on my skin. Blasts of air, though empty, somehow are healing now.

I feel miserable. Hungry. I should feel happy and full.

I don't.

Instead I race away to my daughter. This time I need her more than she needs me.


riversgrace said...

Brilliantly written, painfully rendered.....but so keen, so acute. You got it. Who is the one who watches the scenario unfold, who can speak for all parts? That's the one I know.

It's a glorious thing to unabashedly describe the unraveling of a survival strategy. And there is a strong fire behind the one who can do that, and needs to do it for redemption. Because the trap of the strategy is more painful that the original pain underneath it. That's what I see you throwing off. The suffocation of trying to be something you're not, but the very impulse itself, from within the strategy, appears to you as a pathetic weakness. I feel it as a soulful gesture. That breaking out and breaking away and resisting the mold of 'togetherness'. What's so interesting about having wealth or graces? Nothing. More isolation.

I kept seeing myself in your story (like in that Julia Robert's movie where Rupert saves her at the wedding) on my cell, saying, "You're blowin out of there? Ok, see you in ten, let's have a burger!"

Thank goodness that your daughter has exactly you as her mother. It's a beautiful deal all the way around.

And I get it. The suffering.

Karuna said...

Hey mama, looking forward to talking to you about this one in person. My favorite topics in the post: being a desert island, building new roots, the Joneses (both the nice ones and the nasty ones), the removal of need. Let's have coffee!