Life Is Difficult

Life is difficult.

M. Scott Peck opened The Road Less Traveled with that line and I don’t guess I know anyone who’d disagree. A few weeks ago, when my family was in the midst of yet another minor crisis, my dad asked me, “Aren’t you glad you gave up on waiting for life to finally calm down and get easy?”

Yes, I am. Very glad. That was exhausting, when I thought that eventually, the universe would finally bestow upon me the easy, angst-free life to which I would like to become accustomed. It was like hiking, and I’m climbing the hill, and I’m convinced that when I reach the summit, I’ll finally see the lake spread before me, but no. Every hilltop grants me the view of another hill to climb. Surely this one? Nope, another hill. And another.

The hills are less steep now, the hike less arduous, but I don’t quite know how to stop climbing.

If I had to guess (It’s really only a guess; I used to think self-awareness was an achievable thing and now I know self-awareness is the narrative I tell myself, about myself, and as soon as I think I have myself all figured out, something will change and I need a new story.), I’d say I’m in a very late process of growing up. My adult life has been defined by nothing so much as chaos, some of which happened to me and some of which I happened to create. The past three years have been the calmest I’ve ever experienced and while that doesn’t mean life has been easy or quiet or calm, it does mean I’m face-to-face with myself. For two decades, my life was dominated by turmoil: a bad marriage and the subsequent divorce; single parenthood; trying to get an education while parenting; blending families; unemployment and financial challenges; our youngest son’s disabilities; alienation from my two eldest children; protracted, bitter battles with extended family; and my own mental illness.

Now. Now, for the first time, though life is still difficult, we’re not living in perpetual chaos. When the crises come, they recede. Life has as many challenges as ever, but far fewer emergencies.

I am grateful. Deeply, extraordinarily grateful, but I don’t know how to live now. I’m not depressed, exactly, but I’m lost. I have what I wanted all along: for life to stop demanding I put out one fire after another after another and give me some space to breathe and create a life that revolves around spirituality, family, and creativity. Now that I have that space, though, I find I’m calibrated all wrong. I don’t know how to show up for life when there’s no air raid siren demanding anything of me.

I Now Pronounce You MARRIED

Yesterday, New Mexico State District Judge Alan Malott issued the order: all clerks in Bernalillo and Santa Fe counties must begin issuing marriage licenses “without regard to the couples’ sexual orientation or gender” by today at 8 am, making them the second and third counties in which same-sex marriage is legal.  As of this moment, 6 pm on Tuesday, August 27, 2013, same-sex marriage is legal in a total of 6 New Mexico counties: Bernalillo, Santa Fe, Doña Ana, Valencia, San Miguel and Taos.

I promised myself years ago that when marriage equality came to my city, I wouldn’t miss the party. Equality New Mexico and the Democratic Party of New Mexico hosted a mass wedding celebration at Albuquerque Civic Plaza at noon, so I went there. Early.

Very, very early.

But it could not have been a prettier day if we’d ordered it up special, so I found a shady spot where I could see happy couples emerging from the county clerk’s office and settled in with my Kindle.

Soon, people began to arrive and prepare: flowers, a sound system, and excitement.

And media. Lots of media. Since I was there so early I’d staked out my spot. I think it may have been physically painful for the media people to see me, with my little Canon PowerShot, in the prime photographing spot while they jockeyed for position with their giant cameras.

There were lots of people on hand to perform weddings. The man on the right is Rabbi Harry Rosenfeld of Congregation Albert.

It’s always good to see bored cops at events. The opposition (Which is a funny way to put it; what do they oppose? LOVE???) was one man with a sign. He had three friends with him. They gave up and went home not long after they arrived.

Showing off the piece of paper that represents all that has been denied them for so long. It looks just like mine! Hooray equality! Hooray love!

Judge Jason Greenlee begins reading the vows, using spouse throughout. He declared everyone married and the crowd erupted with joyful shouting and whistling. After the mass wedding, some of the couples peeled off to request vows with clergy of their own faith tradition.

There were a lot of people shooting out flames of happiness.

I’m so proud of my city, and so happy that we have taken this giant step in the direction of real equality for all our people!

I’ve been waiting years for my own marriage to stop being a privilege that is vaguely tainted by others’ lack of access to it. Today, here in my city, my marriage feels cleaner and lighter because any two adults who want a marriage can have one. That doesn’t weaken my marriage; that strengthens it.

It’s a good good good day. Congratulations to all the newlyweds (though of course some of you have been married in all ways except this one for much longer than I have). May your lives together be filled with love and laughter and all the recognition that many of us take for granted. Congratulations New Mexico!

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BlogHer Voices of the Year: The Videos

Alternative title: The Most Fun You Can Have While Reminding Yourself Not To Lock Your Knees

The good folks of BlogHer put the videos of the 2013 Voices of the Year readings on YouTube today and I just finished watching the whole event, top to bottom. Can I just say, holy wow. I mean, it was fun. It was thrilling. But to see it now, I’m more amazed and honored than ever to have been in such talented, brilliant company. There are two videos below. The first one is my reading; the second is the entire event and you don’t want to miss a minute.

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That was so much fun I’d like to do more of it. Lots more. Call me, OK? Let’s set it up. I promise I learned my lesson about touching a podium with a mic on it.

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Like I said, wonderful. Did you hear the part where Queen Latifah used my name and said I had power? It’s at 45 minutes and 0 seconds in case you want to listen to it 20 or so more times.

*I totally didn’t do that.

**It was more like 25 times.

 

Eyes Open, Eyes Closed

Carter doesn’t talk about his illness. Not ever. Not to his dad and me, not to his therapist, not to his psychiatrist, not to anyone.

If asked why he goes to therapy, he says, “I go to talk”

If ashed why he takes medicine, he says, “I need it,” or, “My mom tells me to.”

We have tried, on occasion, to discuss the matter with him. Or rather, to test his curiosity about it. It seems that he has none.

No, that’s not quite right. It’s more accurate to say that he is anti-curious. When any of us (parents, grandparents, therapist, siblings) tests the topic Carter reacts almost violently. “I don’t want to talk about that! Don’t talk about that where I can hear you!”

So, OK. That’s fine, except that I don’t understand it even one tiny little bit. I am endlessly curious, and so possessive about my own internal life that I’m rendered furious if anyone thinks they understand something about me and I don’t agree with them. I gauge my internal environment constantly. Even when I was a child I explored my mind and my behavior for clues to my motives and feelings.

And if someone thought they knew enough about me to hang a diagnosis around my neck? I damn well would have wanted to know what that diagnosis was, what it meant, what I could do about it, and what the prognosis was (even if I didn’t yet know the word prognosis).

Not so for Carter. We do know that he has put together a few things (like the fact that among his medicines are some that are meant to make the “little guys” go away), but he refuses to let us tell him more. His therapist says this anti-curiosity could be a result of the trauma he experienced two years ago, when he was so deeply ill that his own behavior terrified him. His psychiatrist says his anti-curiosity could itself be a symptom of his mental illness, or that it may have to do with a delusion or hallucination.

Me? In a stunning impulse to look on the bright side (something I usually have to tie myself in knots to accomplish), I’ve decided that he knows on some deep level that there is a whole vocabulary swirling around him, and he’s not ready to know those words and their meanings. Once he hears and understands the words bipolar, psychosis, borderline IQ, generalized anxiety disorder, and all the rest, he can’t un-hear them. He can’t un-understand.

When he wants to know more, I will tell him, but until then, I’m glad that some instinct has helped him maintain what little innocence he has left.

This post originally appeared at Hopeful Parents.

I guest posted at my friend Katie’s blog today. She’s one of my favorite people in the blogosphere and if you don’t know her, you’re missing out on an extraordinary woman. Come on over and read Naked Broken Afraid.

All this, and yet…

My dogs knocked over the kitchen trash during the night last night and spread tissues and coffee grounds all over the house.

Infuriating.

I took Carter to get blood work done this morning and the orders weren’t in the computer system, so we have to go back again tomorrow.

Frustrating.

It took me over an hour to pair my Droid X to my new bluetooth keyboard.

Annoying.

I went to lunch with my grandma today and her mental status is declining precipitously.

Heartbreaking.

I went to get my haircut and they were piping hip-hop music into the salon.

Aggravating.

Carter barfed twice this evening, which he’s done most evenings lately after a long, long period during which he rarely puked at all.

Discouraging.

Abbie didn’t return my call or my texts.

Depressing.

I didn’t realize until after I put the pasta into the pot that Brian used the last of the spaghetti sauce.

Maddening.

And yet.

Life is still better than it was in November when I was so depressed I could barely get myself off the couch.

Hell, I brushed my teeth today. I’m calling it a win.