Expression Suppression

This post has the potential to go in a million different directions. I will try to stay focused.

Often I am told that you can read exactly what I’m thinking by looking at my face. I do not have a poker face. In meetings, during conversations, at lunch with a friend…whatever I think, I show. I’ve been asked to work on this debilitating condition. I practice. I look into the mirror and try very hard to think about the dumbest idea possible and not show any expression.

Like when the doctor asked a friend at an appointment to which I accompanied her, “When was your last menstrual cycle?” after she responded to the previous question “I don’t have a uterus.” Sometimes you can’t hide that you think the speaker is an imbecile or at least that their words are idiotic.

This is a work in progress.

Last night, I met someone who perfected the art of suppression of expression. Actually we didn’t officially meet, but when I turned to see her quietly standing to my right in full ghost garb, we connected. “You scared the crap out of me.” I yelled at her (I confess, I may not have actually said crap). Nothing. She offered no smile, no laugh, no “gotcha”. Nothing. With racing heart and bumpy arms I waited seconds (that felt like hours) for the light to change permitting us to cross the street and move away from the image of death. Others commented on her ghastly ensemble and to them she also gave no hint of life.

I had never been out on Halloween and actually, had I realized it was being celebrated on Saturday, I would have never accepted my girlfriends invitation to meet. I am extremely scary. I jump at everything. My nerves are nearly nonexistent. Horror movies and I have a wonderful understanding. I don’t bother them and they don’t bother me. There were several other frights that night like the rugby player in the leopard print Kim and Kourtney one shoulder asymmetrical number, the inebriated member of 27 dresses who like a weeble-wobble went dow and bounced right back up, grown people in Sesame Street caricature throwing back shots and the joker who resembled too much for my liking, Heath Ledger in the Dark Knight (voice and all). None impacted me like the figure in mesh who appeared to glide and glow.

I enjoyed my experience but my shock-sensitive self will probably not allow me to attend such an event in the future. I’m much more comfortable with the miniature Superman(s) and Cinderella(s) who want your candy, not your soul.

And having expression is not such a scary thing.

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Forgive and Forget

I was sitting on my bed this evening, trying to formalize my ideas on tonight’s post. Typically, I wait and write when I’m inspired to do so, but seeing as how my traffic was low today, I need to increase momentum. It was after starting and deleting text three different times that I heard the argument pursue. I called down to the floor below half frustrated over my inability to create and half frustrated that I rewarded my offspring with an hour on the PS3 and it resulted in an argument.

Note to self: Stick to the rules-No video games on school nights!

While I’m still not certain what the fight was over, at some point the older hit the younger in the eye and the younger hit the older in the nose. There they stood in front of me, hands cupped over their respective injuries, explaining through tears. I dismissively listened and sent them both to take showers and get ready for bed.

As I tucked them in and kissed them both good night the older made no motion of affection. After some prodding, he explained that he was upset with me. A year ago, I caught him beating up his little brother and he felt like ever since that day I always assumed he was the culprit and never took his side.

Wow. I was amazed at how well he articulated how he felt and ashamed at how true his perception was. I admitted to him that I had been unfair and with sincere apology I asked his forgiveness. I sat back on my bed thinking of all the times I had done something wrong and felt like I was being convicted of those wrongs over and over again. I thought about how other’s experiences with my own transgressions made them quick to judge me while dismissing my case.

I confessed to my adoring children that I am not the perfect mother they wish me to be. I acknowledged that I make mistakes and often times I will go about this parenting thing wrong. I also explained that in no way do I want them to feel judged by me; they will get enough of that outside the safety and security of our home.

Tonight I learned to forgive and in a way, I also learned to forget.

 Note to reader: Feel free to send some traffic my way. Your support is appreciated.

‘Til Death Do Us Part…

In just a few days I will celebrate the birth of my marriage or mourn its death, depending on how you look at it. It would have been ten years. Instead it’s been two and a half years since my divorce. I am reminded of this as the left turning signal on my vehicle is out. There are quite a few other things on my ‘honey do list’. I have learned to do a lot of them on my own but I refuse to clean the garage solo in the aftermath of last week’s snake sighting.

I remember the first time I ever took the trash out. I was the military wife of a deployed soldier. Having three brothers, I was always taught that there are male specific chores and female specific chores. Growing up with a mother and father in the household affords you that knowledge. When I married, I was fully educated on how to live with a partner. I was not educated on how to live alone.

No knock against my upbringing, but my parent’s generation, just as the ones before them were dedicated to the idea that daughters would one day grow up and marry. Checking divorced or single in response to questions that have no bearing on getting a root canal or pap smear was unheard of. I was prepped for washing dishes, cooking and decorating for the holidays. I was not prepared for mowing the lawn, changing a flat or cleaning the grill. Ironically, boys are taught to live alone. Mothers are often overheard advising their sons to learn how to cook and do laundry so they don’t have to depend on a woman. Girls are taught to depend on a man, be it their husbands or fathers. I am teaching my sons how to coexist in a healthy relationship as a respectful partner but I am also teaching them how to exist by themselves.

Gender roles have evolved. The family unit does not consist of a mom, a dad and two and a half kids any longer (which is morbidly disgusting because I often visualize the bloody upper torso of a toddler when I hear that term). But as much as things change, they stay the same. While it has become the norm to be single or a single mom, it still isn’t completely acceptable as evident by the stares in PTA meetings and doctor’s visits. I am often asked by teachers and the like “What is your last name.” Experience has taught them to ask. I live in a community where unmarried mothers are automatically assumed to be “baby mama’s” not divorcees. I think. Or maybe that’s my own insecurity talking out of discomfort from feeling like the only single mom in the play group or at the school play. I am sure there are others. The statistics say so. I am also sure that some of those wedded mothers wish they were not.

I have chosen to celebrate the union that brought forth two incredible little beings.

In Memory of Antwon Merritt

Homecoming!

It’s that time of year when you gather with former friends and old flames to celebrate the camaraderie established years and years ago. Tied by an alma mater and stories of days wild and co-eds young, homecoming reconnects and renews. It’s a time when adults, burdened with familial obligations and financial responsibilities put their lives on pause to return to their past.

I remember during my freshman Homecoming, being visited in the dormitory by two ladies rich with wisdom from experience in the decades post entering the “real world”. For several minutes in complete silence they searched the room with history in their eyes, remembering their residency in the cement box. One turned to the other and said “If these walls could talk” and they erupted with laughter and stories. I wanted them to leave. I had a class.

I’ve looked for them every homecoming since.

Homecoming is different when you are an employee of your alma mater. Every day is homecoming in a sense. Every day I look at the young women, fresh out of high school and full of every bright idea imaginable and remember how I was then. Every day I look at the young men, still receiving care packages from home, ready to take over the world and remember the boys I loved. I envy them in some ways. I wish I could go back to when I was fresh out of Athens Drive High School and tell me what I know now. I also wish I would listen. I know I wouldn’t.

It’s during the hype of festivities like fashion shows and pre-dawn parties that I am reminded of Homecoming, 1999 and Antwon Merritt. My abrupt exit from a step show in the gym sent me across the bridge just as the paramedics and firemen were loading him into the ambulance. No one knew the severity of his condition. Time stood still that night. In the cold of the November night no one moved nor shivered nor spoke.

Within the days to come, after the flags and signs welcoming alumni came down, mourning took over our family. Those who didn’t know him at all grieved just as much as those who sat next to him in Freshman Studies. All you could do was shake your head and close your eyes while sitting outside the Union staring over at the cement yawning.

This week I told every young man I could the story of Antwon Merritt in the hope that his memory would live in this the season of his death. I wished them all a safe Homecoming week. I was a little more compassionate and took time to talk with the guys I pass every day, just as I probably had a young freshman from Virginia eleven years ago.

Happy Homecoming Alumni.

Happy Homegoing Antwon.

Balance Beam

My cousin is tatted down her spine. Equilibrium. She has an eloquently rehearsed reason for getting this tattoo. She is finding balance in life. She is a double major in genetics and biology, works at the mall, maintains an impressive social life and juggles finding herself within it all. The black letters perfectly centered along her latte color reveals its own sense of harmony.

Equilibrioception refers physical balance, the ability to stand or walk or move without falling over. It is disturbed by disorientation and dysfunction. Many physical ailments can cause one to be unsettled, nausea, vertigo, an ear infection and so forth and so on.

What has you discombobulated mentally, emotionally, spiritually? What has you stumbling over trying to walk a straight line?

I’m trying to balance single motherhood with single womanhood. Eager student with educated teacher. Cooperative servant with furious leader. Social butterfly with shrinking violet. The balancing act is all-consuming and ever transitioning. What I am balancing can completely differ from week to week.

In an effort to balance chores, I’ve adopted a routine of doing one chore a day. On Mondays I clean the bathrooms, on Tuesdays I vacuum, on Wednesdays I clean the kitchen, and on Thursdays I clean my bedroom. This new plan eliminates housework on the weekends and involves daily tasks to be completed by the fruits of my loins. Chores balanced.

In an attempt to balance school work with blog work with work work, I’ve cleverly designed a diagram that allows time for each throughout the week (of course 8 full hours a day are devoted to tasks surrounding my employment and the duties assigned therein). The only dilemma with this is that I write, when I’m inspired to do so therefore it’s hard to calculate when inspiration will hit but for the most part….work balanced.

That leaves me with relationships (deep sigh). I am not battling the parent-child relationship because I radiate in that area. Nor am I competing in professional situations because I gleam there as well. I am referring to friendships, specifically those of the romantic sort.  I have lost my footing in affiliations of the personal kind. I find that I give too much of myself and do not demand as much as I should or I’m easily dismissive and give too little. I don’t know how to categorize this balance into a mutually acceptable chart of expectations that minimizes disappointments. Relationships imbalanced.

This is where I solicit suggestions.

Creepy Callers (and good ones too)

I’ve just gotten over the chills from my uninvited intruder some thirty-one hours ago. I tried to write about him last night but was still a bit overwhelmed by his presence. I’ve noticed myself looking under couches, the television stand, beds, anything not flush to the ground for a mate or an offspring of my spiraling visitor. I keep looking to where his carcass lies to make sure he has not been reincarnated.

Bright and early this morning, I received another unexpected transient. She delivered a beautiful fruit basket from my church family. It was sent in sympathy for the loss of a family member. This visitor was not unwelcomed and she was not slithering. She apologized for waking me up. I wanted to tell her that the dreams of being in an ancient Indian serpent cult awakened me hours before her arrival.

Mid-morning I had yet another unwanted guest, in the form of the little boy who rings my doorbell almost every day to ask my boys to come outside. I told him the same thing I told him yesterday, “They aren’t here. They’ll be back next weekend.” I wanted to hold up my fingers and ask him to count with me one, two…seven days. Usually he shrugs and rides away but today he asked “Do they still live with you.” Through laughter I began to explain to the eight year old on the blue bike that they were visiting their father while they were tracked out (we are year round school attendees). I’m certain we have had this conversation once, twice…a hundred times before.

Minutes after Curious George rides off, the boys are returned to me. Early. This makes my fourth unplanned “visit” in two days. I’m sure that George will see them unloading from the car and will think me a liar. For whatever reason, I am worried about what he thinks of his friend’s mother. Probably more of what his parents think of his friend’s mother.

A snake. A courier. A chimpanzee. My kids.

I should have gone out-of-town for the weekend. Definitely.

The Menstruation Situation

Yesterday I had to mediate a disagreement between two parties.

Various companies send promotional products to the college campuses. On my campus, in a co-ed dormitory was a box of sanitary napkin holders in cute and colorful purses. On immediate glance, one would not know what the packages were, as I witnessed when a male student grabbed one, ripped it open and then tossed it back into the box. One student in particular, a male, was offended by the display and asked that the items be removed. A female resident argued with him about how those items are sold in stores and should be permitted in the dormitory. And so they went, back and forth. The argument escalated, verbal assaults were made and thus they landed in my office.

We were able to come to an understanding and both parties apologized for their behavior. But the issue troubled me on a deeper level.

Having a menstrual cycle is just as natural as shaving (there are currently shaving kits for the male residents). Why is there such a stigma on feminine products? And not just with our menses-free counterparts. It was years after getting my cycle that I first purchased “items” for myself. I was embarrassed every time I had to go in the store with my mother to make the monthly investment. It was the last thing we would place in the cart and I would try to cover them with other groceries. When we got to the checkout counter I would bury my face into a magazine and avoid eye contact thinking everyone was staring at me because my Aunt Flo was in town.

Why is being on the rag so taboo? Without it no one would even exist. It’s the myth that it’s some dark and scary secret that keeps women in this shrunken state. I can remember a time being horrified that my ten month old had pulled a tampon out of my purse and began teething on it. Mind you, we were in church and sitting toward the front but so what, I needed it and I would have been far more humiliated had I not had one (flashback to riding the bus home with two jackets and a book bag covering my red rear).

It’s time we unveil the mystery because when we do, men and women alike can become more comfortable with the idea that we have a concurring issue of sanguine fluid that is accompanied by additional physical and psychological complications. I get a period. I get emotional. I get bloated. I get hormonal which brings on constipation and…you get the idea. Now get over it.

Women, wave your tampons! Flaunt your pads! Embrace your weapons of mass protection.

We are bleeding!

We are crying!

We are menstruating!

And in four days, we will be fine.