The other day, when I arrived home after doing something amazing (because I was alone, so whatever it was, it was amazing), Georgia yells “Hey mama! Look what we have in the backyard!”
I look out the window and see two puppies out there, just chillin’, as if they were home.
“Um, why do we have puppies in our backyard, dearest honey pot?”
I receive only a slightly nervous smile from the “dearest honey pot” (dripping in sarcasm) in question.
“Can we keep ‘em? Can we keep ‘em? CAN WE CAN WE CAN WE?” The kids are like straight out of a movie.
They were abandoned at Mac’s parents’ ranch. He brought them to our house knowing they would probably have to go elsewhere, but I’ve been with the man almost 15 years. I know that look in his eye. If he had his way, we would currently have 3 dogs of questionable intelligence instead of one.
And I would be training them.
Later, I check the mail and open a package of tiny compasses and other tiny gadgets I don’t understand. That’s because Mac and Rocket and are making tiny survival kits that fit in Altoid containers. Obviously.
There are approximately one-thousand-three-hundred and forty-seven empty Altoid containers in my house.
I hate empty Altoid containers.
In my garage, there was a bin with a deer hide in it, soaking in an unknown liquid, because Mac and the kids are “making moccasins.”
As in, from scratch.
There are 4 knives on my mantle because they made knives a few months ago out of saw blades. They still need to carve the handles. They will probably never carve the handles. Saw-blade-knives will probably stay on my mantle forever, because where the fuck does somebody put such a thing?
Yeah I don’t know either.
For 2-9 months there were long pieces of taped wood leaning against walls in various locations in the house and garage (including the bathroom) because Georgia found a rocking chair in a magazine that we couldn’t afford, so Mac is making it for her.
There’s a rabbit hutch and chicken coop in the backyard. I’m 90% sure nobody has cleaned beneath them since they arrived, a year ago.
These are not my projects. These are their projects, and I’m not going to lie, sometimes I hate them. It sounds so cool in theory, and it sounds so cool when I tell you about it, but honestly sometimes it just feels like one more thing, one more mess. One more Thing to Put Away, to deal with, to figure out, and I don’t have any reserves, you know? Like I feel already worn to the bone, and I can’t quite handle a wayward, random deer hide in our this-house-was-clearly-built-in-1948 garage.
They start a new “project” before the last one is done. I feel a vague sense of dread and rage.
They huddle together on the couch sitting on the arms and chest of their dad, watching YouTube videos on how to do the next project. They watch video after video.
I’m probably cooking dinner or doing some other thing I think needs to be done. I’m probably cleaning up or emailing or paying a bill or doing some other Thing that I think just must get done now. I’m doing something IMPORTANT. I’m obsessed with IMPORTANT SHIT.
Sometimes I get mad at Mac for the abandoned projects, the messes made and left for how long? HOW LONG? Who knows. They’re still there.
Then I get mad at myself for getting mad about things that don’t really matter (because it all eventually gets done or cleaned up), and sometimes I wonder how or when or at what point I became The One who feels compelled to be the mess cleaner as opposed to the mess maker. The project asshole as opposed to the project beginner.
This stuff he does, it’s so damn cool: The time with their dad, learning that they can DO THINGS if they just DO IT. Realizing they can have an idea, learn how to execute it, do some work and make it happen. It teaches them patience, endurance, how to get dirty and irritated and inconvenienced. They use their hands. They use their heads. They get creative and active and frustrated and satisfied.
I know all this. I know all of it with all that I am, but it doesn’t matter in the moment sometimes, when I’m 4 days down on sleep and I’m making dinner and thinking of all the things he and the kids “could” be doing and the mess that will be left and even though we clean on Saturdays and maybe Sundays and my husband helps ALL THE DAMN TIME, there’s always more.
There is always, always more.
You know, my life really started 6 years ago, when I got sober. Before that, I didn’t grow or develop or move through things, becoming a new and better person over the years (that’s how life is supposed to work, right?). I pretty much just drank and hoped for the best. Eventually, I didn’t hope for anything at all. I never “moved through” anything in my life. You can’t move through things if you don’t feel them, if you fall unconscious on your pillow each evening, if your reactions are purely self-centered narcissism rooted in attempts to control others in hopes it will fix you. And fear.
But since the day I woke up on March 5, 2009 and realized I was 100% wrong about every aspect of my life, my life has really just become a series of discovering new things I’ve been wrong about. I was always so determined to be right. Oh, shit I’d fight to the death to be right. But I learned through nearly dying of alcoholism that life is really about figuring out how I’m wrong. All the things I’ve been wrong about. One more thing I thought was true that is just not true.
That is where the freedom lies. That is where the growth comes. That is where we find better ways to live and be of service to others, ourselves, our families, our lives.
And I realized recently, due to a trauma to my family, that I’ve been wrong about the shit that I thought mattered. I was very, very wrong.
I’m done being the asshole who’s bitching about the messes. It matters. Yes, it matters, to clean up after one’s self, to treat your belongings with respect, to contribute to the house in a way that teaches you to be a decent human and member of the home, and community, and earth. WORK, matters.
But I’m done using every fucking spare moment to straighten, clean, pay, arrange, organize, text, email, accomplish necessary tasks. I’m done using every spare moment “engaged in a productive activity.” I’m done looking around this house and seeing only and all that’s wrong. When did I make that “my role?”
I’m fucking done.
Tan the deer hide, kids. Sure, start the damn fire with flint and steel. Good thing there’s 75 pinecones by the woodstove (George collected kindling). And yes, I’ll pick out the fabric for that rocking chair. Just stick it on the end of the kitchen table. We’ll push it aside at dinner. Again. And sew it in a month or two.
I still won’t say “yes” to a couple more dogs, and I’ll still care about chores and work, but I’ll get on the floor for a few minutes with my kids, even though there’s 9 days of laundry in the living room, and I’ll forget about the fucking laundry in the living room, because I can, because I CAN.
I’ll still get irritated, and I’ll still make people clean, and I’ll still bitch and moan. SOMEBODY HAS TO BE A FUCKING GROWN-UP HERE PEOPLE. See? Oops.
Yeah, I’ll leave the perfection to those deeply spiritual Zen mamas (that allegedly exist). But I’m done focusing on the work, the mess, the “problem” so acutely that I fail to see the meaning of what’s happening, the life right here in front of me.
I threw the ball with George for 10 minutes in the front yard. I tell you people she damn near fell over from the shock.
Because you know, these kids are HERE, NOW, and they’re safe, and they’re mine, and it isn’t about “embrace every moment” (impossible), or some “some day you’ll look back and remember the deer hide fondly” theory. Maybe I will or maybe I won’t. It’s about the fact that I realized recently that the joy, life, innocence and cohesion of this very family right here is sacred, and it’s always already at risk, and there’s a whole world out there of pain, threat, tragedy and beauty, all of which will come my way, and theirs, so each fucking chance we have to make Altoid-container-survival-kits is a chance to live, together, in all this mess.
And really, in the end, I don’t have much else.