The Swirling Reality of Everyday Life

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I watch the white world spin outside the third story window. Flakes, long absent, now twirl in a late winter dance, clinging to bare branches, reaching for a new hope.

I catch glimpses of the video–an analytical description of the autonomic nervous system. It is both too much and too little for me right now. The primitiveness of the hunt, the threat that is ever-present in our lives, has put me on this graph at full activation–State 1–always ready to react.

I want to be outside. To feel the flakes on my face. To bite the cold with shivering teeth. To pretend that winter will stay.

I want to be those bare branches, gathering snow in my arms, soaking up every last bit of moisture after too many days of drought.

The sky whitens as the swirls make their way across the city. The video provides a relatable example–how we react when we’re driving a car on a snowy evening and slide on a patch of ice. I giggle, minimally, and my co-worker turns her whole body towards me to be sure I see her how-dare-you? glare.

Does she not understand the irony? After a winter without snow, we’re watching a video with this particular example on a snowy afternoon?

Later, State 1 follows me as I rush out of the building, late to pick up my youngest. I find a parking spot half a block away and rush against the crowd of parents and children leaving the school. I stomp through the slushy parking lot and round the corner of the building as the first grade teachers close their doors. There she is, the final student standing in the cold, holding her hood around her eyes and huddling against the brick wall.

She asks for both of my gloves before we arrive at the car, blasts the heat, and turns on the heated seat, but she doesn’t complain. For once, she doesn’t complain, and I find myself breathing in, breathing out, like the wild animal described in the video, ready to let go.

But I can’t let go. It’s the drive on ice in swirling snow, the counting of thousands of cookie dollars when I get home, the friend over, the constant mess, the story told of the one day the older girls caught–and almost missed–two city buses, the trek across town to the bank, the grocery stop, the endlessness of the swirling snow and the swirling reality of everyday life.

Before I jolt across the parking lot that separates the bank from the grocery store, I hear the sirens. The sound of panic, the crashing of metal. The slipping on ice.

I grab the few frozen items I need off the shelves and make my way back into the snake of traffic. It twitches and slithers in the shadow of blinking red and blue lights. The accident, less than five minutes behind me, four cars splattered in pieces across the intersection, firefighters fighting the good fight.

That could have been me.

I think about the graph in the video, the curving line, the constant dip that we find ourselves trapped inside, unable to get over the hump that could save our lives.

The panic that sets in when our kids won’t listen, when we’re running late, when we fuck up an interview, when we slip. On ice.

I make my way into the snake. In slow motion, we weave through the mess of the accident. I breathe in. Breathe out. Think of the words I will write. Of the children I will hug.

Of the irony of this swirling reality of everyday life.

And I laugh.

(No one glares at me).

Heart In Time

day’s small victories:
 video discovery,
 love hearts updated
 
 (these little remnants
 of jam-packed, drama-filled day
 make my heart smile)
 

Closing Thoughts on 2016

The year closes with a slew of celebrity deaths, a frightful president-elect, and the hovering window of how hopeless humanity can be as we watch the genocidal and refugee crises erupt around us without comment, without help.

The year closes in my personal life: a new principal at my school, the second daughter in middle school, the first daughter preparing for high school, the third daughter closing out our family’s elementary education. Tumultuous tumbles with family and friends that make me question everything: what I write, what I think, how I speak, how I feel about the issues surrounding me… and whether or not I should publish it “for all the world to see.”

The year closes on my habits: in many failed attempts at fulfilling resolutions, such as writing every day and ditching dairy, I have at least wholly committed to one–not a drink, not a drop, of alcohol for 2016.

And here I am, posting this. Am I an alcoholic? Are any of us? Would anyone be willing to admit it if they were?

Here are my haikus from 13 January 2016, in a moment of reflection and redemption:

reasons why i stopped:
one–brutal voice in writing,
uncensored anger

two–not much laughter,
too much crying to count
(my tear-stained regrets)

three–exhausted sleep
from too many restless nights
swimming in nightmares

four–so much good lost
on the desire to numb,
to not fully live

five–waste of money
in times when we had little,
in times when we’re rich

six–lust and lack of
mediocre love-making
blurred by consumption

seven–fat belly
of someone too far along
to give up this quick

eight–every bad choice
i have made as an adult
came from that bottle

nine–joy i once felt
disappeared on icy rocks
of my lost chances

ten–my daughters’ eyes
watching every move i make
(and i’m making… them)

The year closes with sadness, with darkness, with fear. I lost friends, I came to realize how few I have, and yet… hold them in such a greater light because of their proximity, their understanding of me. I reconciled with my sister and mother. I worked through difficulties in my marriage. I, as always, struggled through the intricacies of teaching teenagers and raising them. I got a new new kitten… and lost her a month later.

I watched the world witness the election of an evil demagogue.

I cried and I cried and I cried.

I wrote less and worried more.

But I didn’t drink. (I didn’t go to AA either. I didn’t need to.) I just wanted to see what the world was like again without the rose-colored glasses.

And the world is a hard, cold place. Filled with people who only think for themselves. Who send text messages to end friendships three years in the making. Who disregard human rights to save themselves a buck. Who turn their backs on those in need for political safety nets.

And the world is a bright and beautiful place. With young eyes that light up and demand that the future sees them for the beauty that they are: conservative Muslim, flamboyant LGBT, bleeding heart liberal, hopeful to no end. With city lights and mountain views, blue skies and snow. With full moons over lapping waves and pink sunrises over quiet urban neighborhoods. With ancient ruins and family freedoms. With girl power and urban schools. With everything that surrounds my bubble of humanity, my hope for human rights, my need to know that it. Gets. Better.
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The year closes, and my eyes have opened. I have come to realize how infiltrated in our culture drinking is (this never quite occurred to me before) as I enter restaurants and am immediately offered cocktails or beer; as I go to book club and happy hour and parties and barbecues and hanging out at anyone’s house; as I navigate the simple sentence, “Water for me, thanks.”

The year closes, and I haven’t been numb. I have been fully awake, fully aware, of the pain that sneaks up when your youngest hasn’t done her math homework in three weeks, when your oldest can’t answer a question without a smirk, when your middle child talks back as easily as she grins, when students refuse to relinquish phones and family members whisper and rejection seems to lie behind every unopened door.

The year closes, and it may have many mistakes. It may have many moments of hollowness. But it does not have a single moment of regret.

Because it has been me, uncensored, unaltered me, in every last word, every last post, every last turn around the long journey through life.

The year closes, so let me hold up a glass: Cheers to a new year, a new tomorrow, a new hope… cheers to a new way of looking at the world. Drink… or no drink.

Cheers.