You have a bad memory, while I want to rest on a flower (Week 49: Mothers and Caterpillars)

I have in my notebooks, Word documents, half a dozen sketches about this week. Reflections on consent, privilege, and race. Reflections on social media, connectivity, and mob mentality—and Facebook in particular—I think I’m opting out, by the way, loves, but more on that later in the month. Reflections on teenagers and their pain and beauty. Reflections on the second adolescence that is my forties, and perhaps yours. Narcissistic reflections on what I want, what I don’t want.

Not very much angst about who I am. That, I know and you’d think everything would just flow from that. Yet, it doesn’t.

Ender: You are my Mama.

I am. And so many other things, my little love. But always your Mama, yes.

This little love of mine is nine, but when he curls up in my arms he might as well be three. I wonder if all third or last babies endure this prolonged infantalization. Sometimes, I fight it—I wish he was a tween—fuck, what a terrible word, btw, made up, imagined life phase, too-fleeting and ephemeral to matter except to marketers. And sometimes, I am so grateful I still have my baby that I am still the mom who can fix almost everything with a hug and a kiss.

Not as easy any more with the teenagers.

Sean: They’re good kids.

They’re amazing kids. But they are now metamorphosing caterpillars, caught in the limbo between childhood and adulthood, a time that was never easy and that now seems impossible.

When I meet people nostalgic for that first bloom of youth, that first adulthood, I always think they must have very bad memories. Who on earth would miss that excruciating pain of that first self-discovery and those first attempts at self-actualization?

It’s bad enough the second and third time around.

You: You in a cocoon, metamorphosing again?

I wish. There is a certain appeal in being recombinant liquid swooshing around into its next incarnation in the protective cover of a chrysalis. No. I’m no not metamorphosing. That metaphor does not fit right now.

But I’ve been running, flying very hard and I need to take a break. Rest on a flower.

Her: Just one? You’re not lusting after a meadow full of flowers?

A meadow sounds nice. Sunshine.

This week, the notebooks are full of sketches like this. This one is no better or worse than the others; representative, I suppose. And probably should not be shared either. Technically, it’s just not very good, and I’m paying a lot of attention to technique these days.

Still.

I’m also committed to a certain production schedule and deadline.

So there you go.

“Jane”

2018

The year started with a Monday; so does every week (Week 1: Transitions and Intentions)

Easier than you think, harder than I expected: a week in eleven stanzas (Week 2: Goodness and Selfishness)

A moody story (Week 3: Ebb and Flow)

Do it full out (Week 4: Passions and Outcomes)

The Buddha was a psychopath and other heresies (Week 5: No Cohesion)

A good week (Week 6: Execute, Regroup)

Killing it (Week 7: Exhaustion and Adrenaline)

Tired, petty, tired, unimportant (Week 8: Disappointment and Perseverance)

Professionals do it like this: [insert key scene here] (Week 9: Battle, Fatigue, Reward)

Reading Nabokov, crying, whining, regrouping (Week 10: Tears and Dreams)

Shake the Disease (Week 11: Sickness and Health… well, mostly sickness)

Cremation, not embalming, but I think I might live after all (Week 12: Angst and Gratitude)

Let’s pretend it all does have meaning (Week 13: Convalescence and Rebirth)

The cage is will, the lock is discipline (Week 14: Up and Down)

My negotiated self thinks you don’t exist–wanna make something of it? (Week 15: Priorities and Opportunity)

An introvert’s submission + radical prioritization in action, also pouting (Week 16: Ruthless and Weepy)

It’s about a radical, sustainable rhythm (Week 17: Sprinting and Napping)

It was a pickle juice waterfall but no bread was really harmed in the process (Week 18: Happy and Sad)

You probably shouldn’t call your teacher bad names, but sometimes, your mother must (Week 19: Excitement and Exhaustion)

Tell me I’m beautiful and feed me cherries (Week 20: Excitement and Exhaustion II)

A very short post about miracles, censorship, change: Week 21 (Transitions and Celebrations)

Time flies, and so does butter (Week 22: Remembering and forgetting)

I love you, I want you, I need you, I can’t find you (Week 23: Work and Rest)

You don’t understand—you can’t treat my father’s daughter this way (Week 24: Fathers and Daughters)

The summer was… SULTRY (Week 25: Gratitude and Collapse)

It’s like rest but not really (Week 26: Meandering and Reflection)

It’s the wrong question (Week 27: Success and Failure)

On not meditating but meditating anyway, and a cameo from John Keats (Week 28: Busy and Resting)

Hot, cold, self-indulgent as fuck (Week 29: Fire and Ice)

In which our heroine hides under a table (Week 30: Tears and Chocolate)

Deadlines and little lies make the world go round (Week 31: Honesty and Compassion)

That’s not the way the pope would put it, but… (Week 32: Purpose and Miracles)

And before you know it, it’s over (Week 33: Fast and Slow)

Ragazzo da Napoli zajechał Mirafiori (Week 34: Nostalgia and Belonging)

Depression is a narcissistic disease, fentanyl is dangerous, and knowledge is power, sort of (Week 35: Introspection and Awareness)

I’m not gonna tell you (Week 36: Smoke and Mirrors)

Slightly irritable and yet kinda happy (Week 37: Self-Improvement and Self-Indulgence)

It’s not procrastination, it’s process (Week 38: Back and Forth)

Pavlov’s experiments, 21st-century style (Week 39: Connectivity and Solitude)

The last thing I remember (Week 40: truth and um, not really)

All of life’s a (larval) stage (Week 41: Stagnation and Transformation)

Damn you, Robert Frost (Week 42: Angst and more Angst)

Speaking of conflict avoidance… (Week 43: Fight of Flight)

Halloween, Samhain, All Saints Day, Day of The Dead, Candy (Week 44: Neither Here Nor There)

Again with the silver-tongued Persians, and other stories (Week 45: Silence and language)

War, Famine, Pestilence, Mornings (Week 46: Mornings and the Apocalypse)

Time flies but the Christmas tree is up (Week 47: Status quo and Change)

I didn’t kill anyone–it just smells like it (Week 48: Guilt & Poison)

—->>>POSTCARDS FROM CUBA

nothingbythebook @ gmail.com

All of life’s a (larval) stage (Week 41: Stagnation and Transformation)

i.

When I am unhappy, and strangers on the street tell me to smile—or well-meaning friends tell me to focus on all the good things that are happening—I want to throw things at them.

When you are unhappy, I tend to tell you… to focus on all the good things that are happening.

Hypocritical, I know.

I think the lesson of all this is when we are unhappy—we are best unhappy alone.

No, no, wait.

I know—you know—that’s not true. That’s what the demons want you to think. They want you to stay unhappy alone, isolated.

So when you are with me when I am unhappy, when I am with you when you are unhappy—let’s give each other’s pain and grief and sad the space it needs.

“I know you’re suffering, and I’m here for you.”

(one of Thich Nhat Hahn’s mantras of loving speech)

That’s all I need. That’s all you want.

Fuck, why is that so hard to give?

ii.

The teenagers, my caterpillars, are going through some ups and downs these days, and my biggest job is JUST TO BE THERE, and I don’t think I’ve worked this hard at parenting since they were mewling, helpless babes in arms, except back then, I could solve almost every ill through the insertion of nipple into mouth.

There are no solutions now. There is only—“I am here for you.”

Confession: being there for you is really exhausting.

I want a mocha, a cigar, chocolate, Hafez.

Sean brings me Leonard Cohen.

It helps.

iii.

If the teenagers are caterpillars, Ender is still a pupa or larva. I’m mixing my insect metaphors a bit, and I can’t remember which comes first, the pupal or larval stage—and I’m pretty sure these don’t occur in the creatures that then metamorphose into butterflies. Anyway. He’s still my pupa, and most of his problems can be solved with a hug or a kiss. But while his existential angst is still in the future, what he wants most is… my presence.

Here I am.

iv.

Cigar. Turkish coffee. Cuba.

I’m daydreaming about Cuba.

Trying to figure out why it was so much easier to give them all my presence there.

And I’m still not sure. What is the expanse of silence? The relative lack of responsibility? The fact that I really did not put any pressure on myself to perform, to output, to create—to do anything other than be there, with them, and with the experience… and yet I created anyway?

Can I go back to that place again?

v.

Flora: Your blog is really boring now.

Jane: You are sentient and read it now. You’ve affected what I can write about, what I can share.

Flora: Thank you.

Jane: Of course.

vi.

I am preparing a writing workshop. One of my points—my big lesson to writers—is—ready?

“You’re just not that interesting.”

Writing about self is excruciatingly boring to read.

I’m sorry. 😉

The kids won’t let me write about them.

And I feel too aware of the transience and fragility of all things to get on a soapbox and dispense advice.

Don’t worry. This year only has 11 or so more weeks. Next year, I’m only going to talk in pictures.

xoxo

“Jane”

PS The pupa just turned nine. I be in shock.

2018

The year started with a Monday; so does every week (Week 1: Transitions and Intentions)

Easier than you think, harder than I expected: a week in eleven stanzas (Week 2: Goodness and Selfishness)

A moody story (Week 3: Ebb and Flow)

Do it full out (Week 4: Passions and Outcomes)

The Buddha was a psychopath and other heresies (Week 5: No Cohesion)

A good week (Week 6: Execute, Regroup)

Killing it (Week 7: Exhaustion and Adrenaline)

Tired, petty, tired, unimportant (Week 8: Disappointment and Perseverance)

Professionals do it like this: [insert key scene here] (Week 9: Battle, Fatigue, Reward)

Reading Nabokov, crying, whining, regrouping (Week 10: Tears and Dreams)

Shake the Disease (Week 11: Sickness and Health… well, mostly sickness)

Cremation, not embalming, but I think I might live after all (Week 12: Angst and Gratitude)

Let’s pretend it all does have meaning (Week 13: Convalescence and Rebirth)

The cage is will, the lock is discipline (Week 14: Up and Down)

My negotiated self thinks you don’t exist–wanna make something of it? (Week 15: Priorities and Opportunity)

An introvert’s submission + radical prioritization in action, also pouting (Week 16: Ruthless and Weepy)

It’s about a radical, sustainable rhythm (Week 17: Sprinting and Napping)

It was a pickle juice waterfall but no bread was really harmed in the process (Week 18: Happy and Sad)

You probably shouldn’t call your teacher bad names, but sometimes, your mother must (Week 19: Excitement and Exhaustion)

Tell me I’m beautiful and feed me cherries (Week 20: Excitement and Exhaustion II)

A very short post about miracles, censorship, change: Week 21 (Transitions and Celebrations)

Time flies, and so does butter (Week 22: Remembering and forgetting)

I love you, I want you, I need you, I can’t find you (Week 23: Work and Rest)

You don’t understand—you can’t treat my father’s daughter this way (Week 24: Fathers and Daughters)

The summer was… SULTRY (Week 25: Gratitude and Collapse)

It’s like rest but not really (Week 26: Meandering and Reflection)

It’s the wrong question (Week 27: Success and Failure)

On not meditating but meditating anyway, and a cameo from John Keats (Week 28: Busy and Resting)

Hot, cold, self-indulgent as fuck (Week 29: Fire and Ice)

In which our heroine hides under a table (Week 30: Tears and Chocolate)

Deadlines and little lies make the world go round (Week 31: Honesty and Compassion)

That’s not the way the pope would put it, but… (Week 32: Purpose and Miracles)

And before you know it, it’s over (Week 33: Fast and Slow)

Ragazzo da Napoli zajechał Mirafiori (Week 34: Nostalgia and Belonging)

Depression is a narcissistic disease, fentanyl is dangerous, and knowledge is power, sort of (Week 35: Introspection and Awareness)

I’m not gonna tell you (Week 36: Smoke and Mirrors)

Slightly irritable and yet kinda happy (Week 37: Self-Improvement and Self-Indulgence)

It’s not procrastination, it’s process (Week 38: Back and Forth)

Pavlov’s experiments, 21st-century style (Week 39: Connectivity and Solitude)

The last thing I remember (Week 40: truth and um, not really)

All of life’s a (larval) stage (Week 41: Stagnation and Transformation)

—->>>POSTCARDS FROM CUBA

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I want to know. Everything. Anything. How about you?

I.

I’m north and west of the middle of nowhere, and there’s a fire burning, and I’m drinking gin and being baited by a Wise Wild Man of the Woods.

Wise Wild Man of the Woods: Humans screw everything up by wanting to know. You know? Taking the mystery out of everything. Why is the sky blue? It just is. Can’t we just accept that, enjoy it?

It’s tempting, isn’t it? So is religion. Certainty. Any dogma offers comfort… But, see…

Jane: No. No, we can’t. Because asking, questioning, wondering, learning—that’s the most human part of us. That’s the sapiens in Homo sapiens. Once we stop asking… we become these horrible, static, smug, dogmatic, unbearable creatures. Do you know any people who’ve “figured it all out” whom you actually like? I bet you don’t… The thing is, though, every answer we find should lead to another question. Right? That’s the process; that’s the journey.

Wise, eh? There was something in the air.

And in the company.

II.

But what this story is really about is this:

Flora: What does IRL stand for?

Jane: In-Real-Life. As in IRL friend—in-real-life friend—versus Facebook friend.

Sean: How did you know that?

Ender: Because Mommy knows everything!

Ha. If only… Mommy knows nothing.

III.

That’s not true, of course. Mommy knows some stuff. And, because she’s older than he is, she knows more than the four-year-old who is finding out and learning everything for the first time. But in the most basic way, the four-year-old knows he knows more than I do. I’m not talking about innate, natural wisdom here… I’m talking about certainty. When he knows something, he knows it. No ifs-buts-maybes. His life is all about certainty and black and white; there are no fuzzy edges. Bananas are delicious and hot sauce is yuck. Cars have four wheels. Boats float, planes fly. Dogs bark because they’re dogs. Mommy knows everything, Daddy can fix everything, Dziadzia’s the strongest man in the world. Exceptions are irrelevant; grey areas do not exist.

It’s an enviable place to be in. Do you remember it? Just knowing things, and being sure something is true, just because?

My nine-year-old is in the midst of losing that certainty and she’s fighting it tooth and nail. She wants to know. She wants absolutes. I thwart this desire of hers, inadvertently, in every conversation.

“Mom? It’s important to always tell the truth?”

“Well… what do you mean by truth?” her mother responds, because she knows that the question stems from someone at the playground saying something nasty and cruel and defending that statement as “true.”

“Mom? Cars are bad for the environment and everyone should drive less, right?”

“Right. But you’re asking me this question in a car, as we’re driving to a store to get groceries…. Which arrived at that store in trucks and cars and maybe planes… So it’s a much bigger, much more complicated…”

“Mom! Can’t you ever just say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’?”

Apparently not…

She wants to think I know everything. And that she knows—or can know —everything. And she’s so angry when she sees I don’t… she doesn’t… she can’t…

IV.

My 12-year-old is on the cusp of that life stage when he will question everything. I am so very excited. Do you remember your teen years? This is what happens: you lose faith. Utterly. In everything. Your parents become fallible, so fallible. They know nothing. They’ve fucked everything up—their lives, the world, you. They understand nothing. Society sucks. Everything’s wrong with it, nothing works. And so, you question, search, rebel. Reinvent the wheel: lust to change the world.

If it weren’t for this click in our brains, this period of chaos… nothing would ever change, there would be no progress.

We would not be sapiens.

V.

As they move from 13 to 17+, teenagers become dogmatic, peer-oriented, convention-bound because a state of chaos-not-knowing-always-questioning is exhausting, and certainty—of something, anything—is seductive. Soothing.

I get it. The idea of embracing uncertainty as a constant, not-knowing as THE thing… terrifying.

But I do like this concept: every answer leads to a new question.

Even though constant questioning is exhausting…

VI.

Flora frowns. “I don’t know,” she says. “When I say ‘I don’t know,” when I feel, ‘I don’t know,’ that’s pretty much the worst feeling ever.”

Yeah…

VII.

You, you’ve embraced this pain, fear of not knowing. We’re walking down the street and down Memory Lane, talking about who we were 15 years ago, 20 years ago, and you say, “I still don’t know. I think I’m still as lost. I’ve just made some choices, walked some paths. But do I know where I’m going? Or why? I don’t know. But I think the difference is I’m ok with not knowing.”

You are wiser, further on the path than I am. I’m not ok with not knowing. But I’m working on it.

VII.

No, I’m not ok with it, not at all. It totally sucks. I really want to know SOMETHING with utter certainty. ANYTHING.

I sit down on the floor with the four-year-old. Cars have four wheels, and boats have none. Rocks fall when you throw them. Feathers float on the air for a bit, because they are lighter than rocks. Dogs bark because they are dogs.

“I love you so much.”

“I love you more.”

“Impossible. I love you more.”

Of this, I am certain.

photo (14)

xoxo

“Jane”