January 2011


Last week, my baby sister (who’s 27), said (more sweetly than it sounds) that she wished I’d make a mistake.  As in, a big, messy, life mistake.  Her point was that sometimes the most wonderful things happen as a result of something unexpected, unplanned, or just FUBAR-ed.

“Of course I’ve made mistakes!” I replied.  “Let me think…uh…um…”

Okay, so I know the inability to find big, glaring MISTAKES in one’s life isn’t such a bad thing.  But suddenly I felt deficient.  Had I been missing out on the roller coaster of life’s thrilling twists and turns?

If you know anything about me, you know that’s far from true.  But even making the decision to move across the state and have my toddler nephew move in with me was a conscious decision that I made, no matter how messy it got later.  My decisions have always been made deliberately, whether with my heart or mind.  I try not to have any regrets, really.  Sure, some of my decisions were poor (like dating that self-absorbed writer with the hernia) or drunkenly-informed (like that wrestler in Boston)…okay, wait.  I MUST have poor decisions not related to men.  Uh…I eat too much.   I turn in library books late.  I used to overdraft my checking account into my credit line.  But see?  I had a credit line.  I’m no good at this messing-up thing.

I think my biggest mistake has been not taking the risks that would allow me to make mistakes.  (Granted, the credit line was a good idea.)  In the past, if I didn’t think a guy wanted to date me, I wouldn’t pursue him.  I wouldn’t audition for anything that I thought was over my head.  I wouldn’t do things that I didn’t think I’d be good at.  I wouldn’t challenge people unless I thought I could win.

So verily I say: fuck that.  It’s 2011, and I’m going to make mistakes.  I’m in a show and I may not be good enough for Broadway, but I’m going to nail it or die trying.  I’m going to knit even though I may never get past making scarves.  I’m going to learn guitar if all I ever do is a C chord.  I’m going to be myself even if I come across as a real dork.  I’m going to misquote the news and somebody is going to haughtily correct me.  I’m going to fall on my ass.  And laugh.

I hope this works…

I lamely stole this picture from google images without figuring out who to credit.  And I should have written “whom” there.  Ha!

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One of the concessions that I had to make in changing apartments was to lose on-site laundry.  All things considered, it was worth it, but it had been years since I’d had to go to a laundromat.  There’s one the next town over that a friend recommended, and now, months later, it’s become something of a ritual for me and my son. 

I’ve tried to figure out a pattern in discerning the best time to go, but all I’ve figured out so far is that it’s unpredictable, and the best time to go is just whenever I feel like going.  I haven’t run across anyone fighting over washing machines just yet, but I have had a grumpy moment or two when my mentally-reserved washing machine has been grabbed by someone else.  Mostly, the place is moderately full and we get in and out in under two hours.

I like going there because I never know who I’m going to see.  The people are interesting.  The last time I said this, my neighbor replied, “Yeah, not a lot of white people” and chuckled.  That wasn’t what I meant.  I mean, it’s interesting.  People bring their laundry in tupperware bins, in sacks and baskets and even garbage bags.  Some people are authorities on the place, and eager to show off their expertise.  Others make it clear that they aren’t a regular; they’re only here because their house is being fumigated.  There are a lot of families.  Kids weave in and out of the folding tables, play tag or sit on the sidelines with their Gameboys and DSis.  There are a lot of single folks, and I imagine them chit chatting over wash cycles and finding love, but they never do.  There are some obvious divorcees…men whose laundry I just want to fold for them, they look so lost.

But my neighbor is also right that it is a very diverse place.  I hate that he was being divisive about it; I actually love it.  My son is growing up in a very “white” town, and although I was raised somewhere similar, I want him to have a broader world view.  Today while I did laundry, he sat with a Mexican kid, and they played their portable games and gave each other tips.  I tried to get him to use his Spanish to talk to him, but he was too shy.  But it really didn’t matter, because they were together, enjoying themselves.   I feel ignorant when I go there, listening to people speak Spanish and Portuguese and other languages around me, and that’s a good feeling, because it makes me want to learn.  I want to talk to them, even if it’s just to tell them to press the coin return button when it gets stuck or that the change machine, indeed, takes $20 bills. 

Because people there are nice, really.  Life would probably be easier with laundry in my basement, but then, I’d be all alone in my basement.

In the meantime, for fun, my favorite laundry song ever:

Last night, I took my son to a wake.  The mother of an acquaintance of mine had died.  I wanted to pay my respects, but, selfishly, I also wanted to give him a chance to experience death at a distance.  I see death as a part of life, although growing up in New England, it was always treated with our typical Puritanical cleanliness.  I don’t want him to be scared of it.  I want him to understand how people mourn, depending on their religion.  I want to teach him before he has to know – before someone in our family dies.

First, I explained who had died.  I told him about the wake, a little bit about what to expect, and offered him the choice of going.  At first he was hesistant, and I called to arrange for him to go to a friend’s house.  Shortly afterward, he came back to me and said he’d decided he wanted to go.

As we got ready, I talked to him about the place we were going.  I talked to him about showing respect through how we were dressed and how we would act.  I told him about how the casket might be open, and how it would look like the person was sleeping.  I explained how some wakes were a celebration of a person’s life and others a more somber event.  I prepared him to expect that people might be crying.  I told him about kneeling in front of the casket, and how even though I wasn’t religious, I would still say some nice words in my head about the person, and how I hoped he or she was at peace.  I emphasized that if he just wanted to stay in the foyer, he didn’t have to do more than that.  Of course, I have a very curious boy.

When we arrived, I whispered to him what was happening as we entered.  How there were little papers telling about the person’s life and including a prayer.  How there were envelopes to give money to a favorite cause of the person.  We hung up our jackets and signed the visitor’s book.  I peered into the main room, and was honestly relieved that the casket was closed.  I asked him if he wanted to go with me, and he said yes.  We kneeled, and I showed him how to fold his hands and close his eyes for a minute.  As I walked through the line of family, he stayed behind me, trying to figure out exactly how solumn he should be acting.

We sat for a little while as people chatted around us.  He was surprised that they were talking about the weather, and other mundane things.  It appeared that the death wasn’t wholly unexpected, since people weren’t openly crying.  After a bit, he asked me if people were allowed to go kneel at the casket twice, and I replied yes and asked him why.  He said he’d forgotten to say something.  He went back by himself and kneeled for a minute, then came back to me.  We left shortly after.

I fear it’s not exactly kind to use someone’s wake as a learning experience for your child, but I also don’t want him to feel as I did when I was his age: that some things in life were hidden from me.  It confused and overwhelmed me.  I am very blessed to have a healthy family, but it will not always be the case.  When he needs to deal with death on a personal level, I don’t want him to be confused.  I want him to be prepared for what to expect, at least minimally in terms of our ceremonies for honoring the dead. 

I wish I lived in a culture that celebrated people’s lives more than it dragged itself down into misery.  I would truly like my wake to be a raucous affair, an all night party of drink and stories and dancing and love.  I hope to live a life that merits such a party.  And I hope he’s there to lead it.

I recently bought Volume 7: Brief Lives in the Sandman series, and in it, it’s suggested that we already know everything, but we act like we don’t know everything because it’s easier that way.  I know so much right now.  It’s strange.

This year, things will be more normal with my family than ever before.  I do actually think “ever.”  There’s little tension regarding the past at this point, and what there is is probably just in my head…remnants of fears I once held.  My father bought me a Kindle for Christmas, which to tell you the truth isn’t something I wanted (I prefer the feel of paper), but considering how much I like to read, it was actually quite thoughtful. 

(It actually hurts a little when someone who broke your heart does something kind for you.  It’s hard to process.)

 This year, I will go out dancing more.  I feel most at home when I do; most myself.  I’ve lost the insecurities and walls I used to have when I clubbed, and now I find I enjoy it more because I am open and kind and talkative.  I have no interest in the scene or its drama, just good conversation, strong drinks, and feeling the music on the dance floor.  After about 15 years of knowing the dj for this club, he spoke to me for the first time on NYE.  He told me how nice I looked, and how happy I looked dancing.  He was right.  I was very happy.  I want to feel that more.  I need to.

This year, I will find outlets for my creativity.  I am in the show I auditioned for (they changed the rehearsal schedule to accommodate me).  It goes up in February.  Today I wrote in my writing notebook outside in the rain on my front step with a cup of coffee at my side, watching the traffic go by and listening to teenaged boys yelling in the street.  My left pinkie finger is covered in ink and I love it. 

I’ve become too good at putting up my own roadblocks; this year, I pull them down. 

This year, I will find a job where I can be in touch with more people.  My soul needs it.  I need to feel like I’m of more consequence than I do now.  I don’t want to leave this job, but I think I need to for my own sanity. 

These are not resolutions – they are things I know.  And yet I do not subscribe to destiny.  Already this year has hit me with something unexpected, and I am letting the feeling run rampant.  I may have doubts, and arguments, and fear, but I will still sit and let the feeling wash over me.  There are some things I do not know, after all.