I have begun teaching First Year Comp at the Large Purple School in Fort Worth, and one of the things I tell my students is that as we write, we figure out what we think.  So here I sit, at almost 9pm on  a Tuesday, in the library, and I’m writing to figure out what I think.

Chris and Mandy have screwed up their lives in mammoth proportions.  Chris is getting chaptered out of the army, and he and Mandy are splitting up.  At least, that’s what I understand as of yesterday.  I am so tired of worrying about Chris that I hardly know what to do.  I suppose I have reached that state that is so important in both fundamentalism and in Alcoholics Anonymous:  I have reached the point where I have to acknowledge that I am completely powerless in my life and in Chris’ life.  I have tried everything that I can think of, but he’s just not going to behave like a grownup.

As a parent, it’s so hard to sit and watch my child making decisions that are going to bring him pain and hardship.  I am so upset by all this crap that I have emailed Chris’ dad and asked that he intervene.  Whether or not he does is really beyond me, and it’s beyond my ability to guess whether his words will have any weight with Chris.

I’m angry at Chris, too, because over the course of the time that he’s been in the army, I have been able to see the person that he COULD be if he chose to actually do what he was supposed to.  I feel like I’ve been robbed, or cheated, or something out of the adult son that I could have had.  Of course, this then leads to the ever present thoughts of my less than stellar parenting.  All parents are less than perfect, I realize that, but it’s at times like these that I tend to become hyper critical of the past…something I can’t fix or repair or do anything at all about.

Sort of like anything else with regards to Chris.

Powerlessness is not something I am comfortable with, and it’s not something that I really know what to do with, actually. It’s just so hard to sit and watch a kid’s life implode, even if that implosion is something that has been ongoing since he was little more than a little baby.

As is human nature, I’m making this about me, to a certain extent.  I’m not proud of that, but I’m worried about Chris while simultaneously pissed off at him because this is also going to effect the relationship I (hope to) have with the baby.  Hello, idiot son of mine, this is my first grandchild and you can’t even be bothered to work on your marriage enough to stay married to his mom until he’s even in a diaper??

Yep.  Apparently “pretty pissed” is what I’m feeling/thinking.

Having just moved into our totally awesome, incredibly expensive but incredibly incredible new digs, I have had more than plenty of time to reflect on a whole host of things. In no real order, I’ve had these thoughts rolling about in my head recently:

–This is the break I was looking for LAST year after I finished my thesis…but I’ll take it this year instead.

–Our old place was really, really dingy. Really. It was dark, dusty, and depressing, also.

–There is a frightening lack of diversity in this complex…which may have something to do with the frightening lack of diversity at most private schools, one of which I will be attending and teaching at come fall. Which, scarily enough, is right around the corner.

–I don’t write enough for me (and I am trying to include this blog in that consideration, which is a challenge, seeing as how it came out of a project related to my thesis, and the act of creating said thesis nearly caused me to fall into alcohol poisoning).

–Just because things weren’t as bad as they could be doesn’t mean that they weren’t bad.

In keeping with that last thought, it should be obvious to me by now that I am a real stickler for this whole binary way of thinking, even as I decry it to my students and try to shoo it out of my own head. If I can’t do the Couch Potato to 5K program TO THE LETTER as it is described on its website, I am a failure. If I drink one beer after a difficult day of writing/editing/whatever (or just because I want said beer), I am a failure and might as well drink some more. If I eat a little ice cream, I am a dietary failure and might as well…oh, you get the idea.

This is something that I have been fighting with for a very, very long time, and I **think** I am getting better at it. Not sure, but I’m seeing progress. When it comes to the exercise thing, I don’t just throw in the towel and quit exercising (or at least I haven’t with this iteration of the Couch Potato thing…which in and of itself is revealing, yes?), but I do feel like a failure if I have to stop and walk before the little voice on my ipod tells me it’s time to walk. I know that every day is different, and some days just lacing up my running shoes is about as cardiovascular as I am going to get, and that high intensity lacing should be applauded!

Why are we so hard on ourselves?

I find myself falling into that trap with other things too – before the move, we recycled like BANDITS. We were the Al Gores of our complex. We put MAYBE one bag of garbage in the dumpster every two weeks. MAYBE. But the recycle place was convenient to us, and we could load our paper, cardboard and all the empty cans of Jak’s green beans into the car and dump them regularly, without going out of our way.

Now, not so much. But we are paying a higher premium for our electricity, and it comes from 100% renewable resources. So now all our trash goes into the garbage, much to my chagrin, but I console myself that we are using our electricity more responsibly.

So just because I’m paying high dollar for renewable electric sources, I can’t recycle anymore? It’s all or nothing there too? I caught myself thinking, “Well, if I’m going to pay out the nose for my electric, I can throw all the trash in the dumpster.” THIS IS BAD NEWS PEOPLE.

I am working really hard on my ways of thinking – this is going to be a semester of growth for me in more ways than one. I want to stick with my exercise routine – I want to have biceps and name them Thelma and Louise. I’m not looking to be a size 2 or anything (I don’t even wear toe rings that small) but instead I want to take care of myself, of me, I want to remember and live the lesson I thought I learned eons ago, that if I don’t take care of me, nobody else will. I don’t have the little boy depending on me like I did then, but that doesn’t make ME any less important in the equation. At the time that I was learning the above lesson, it had a caveat to it: if nobody takes care of me, then there will be nobody to take care of Chris. Now that part of the lesson can fall by the wayside, because Chris is an adult now, and I am only marginally a safety net (“Here son, have some cash for your trip home,” or “Yes, of course I will bail you out of jail, you dumbass”). He’s on his own. So am I.

Why are some lessons so hard we have to learn them over and over again?

We are moving to Ft. Worth, because I have a FREE RIDE to get my Ph.D. from Texas Christian University, and I am TERRIBLY EXCITED about this. I am not, however, so excited about all this bloody packing we are having to do.

Why do I need all these clothes? I mean, really. Why? As I do each time we move, I go through my things, and I winnow out stuff that I don’t/can’t/won’t wear, and I donate it to various places (sister, daughter, daughter-in-law, then Goodwill, etc.). When we drove to the drop off point at Goodwill the last time, I was appalled. A-FRICKIN-PALLED, people. The amount of junk that we produce as a country is unbelievable. There were stacks and stacks of stuff behind the Goodwill building that they just had not gotten around to bringing inside (or, judging from the ceiling high mountain of clothing) they had no room for it. The place was a barely organized, overflowing, dump of personal goods. What makes us think that it’s a good idea to have this much stuff? We have so much stuff that it’s okay – even necessary – to dispose of the least desired of our stuff like this?

I’m not saying, of course, that Goodwill is bad. It’s not. I’m frustrated with our focus on STUFF. I’m secretly not so upset about the gas prices, to be honest. Nothing is going to change in this country until people are shaken out of their mindless drone mentality, and high gas prices are one way to do that. Just like I think having a draft might bring a speedier resolution to the war – although I would prefer an iron clad draft, one that the silver spoon clutching Senators’ children could not escape.

I think that packing has made me curmudgeonly.

I’ve been thinking alot – ALOT – about hope recently.  A friend wrote not too long ago about hopeful writing, and that really appealed to me.  My previous blog was generated from a much less hopeful place – Chris was gone, missing, I hadn’t heard from him in many months and then suddenly there he was, back again, but headed out for basic training.  I had come to something of a sad grips with the possibility that Chris and I might be estranged for some time, but that never kept me from heading straight to the mailbox as soon as I got home, hoping for a letter from him.  Whoever said “Hope springs eternal” was thinking specifically of mothers of wayward boys, I think.

I think I am much more hopeful now – I am happy with where Chris is, currently, although that will change soon enough (September, to be exact) when he deploys to Iraq.  I’m finding that, oddly enough, I’m not really as worried about it as I was.  Either having faith and hope is having a positive effect on me, or else the meds are kicking in.  It’s not that I want him to go, hell no, that’s not it at all.  I would as soon go myself, and keep him here, before I would WANT him to go.  I do, though, trust in (believe it or not) God/Goddess/Krishna/Hope to bring him home, as undamaged as possible.  Hell, he lived through life with me and his dad – what war could be much worse? (That’s sarcasm, I promise.)

When he went to basic training, and had so much trouble with the running (Chris is so much like his dad and me both – he’s short, like me and his dad, and he’s top heavy – it seems all his muscles are in his upper body), I realized that I could have at least an imagined bond with Chris by running too.  So I started running, as I began writing my thesis, and I found that it helped immensely.  I imagined him encouraging me in that dry tone of his that he uses whenever I attempt anything that he can’t imagine a Mom doing.  It helped.  It helped alot.

Chris went on and finished basic, and AIT, and on the same day that he was to graduate from AIT, my father-in-law passed away.  I made the drive to another state to pick him up and attend his graduation, all while mourning my wonderful father-in-law with all my heart.  Duane was a soldier, too, and I dedicated my thesis to him and to Chris.  It was a real loss when he went, but as is the case with older folks, he was beginning to weaken and become frail.  But he stayed sharp to the end, and was always full of love and hope that someday, that jack of a President would get run out of office.

Sitting through Chris’ AIT graduation, and watching the film about being a soldier (nothing but the boldest war propaganda you ever did see, and I knew it for what it was, but I shook and wept nonetheless) alone was pretty hard.  But he was coming home!  Home for weeks, and we would have time together!  We planned to drive home to visit with my family and then for him to go on to his dad’s and visit with them.

The visit was very nice, with the exception of a terrible cold I got, right over Christmas, but this didn’t keep me from going to the Christmas party at my ex-husband’s house to tell Chris goodbye as he headed out to his permanent duty station:  Ft. Carson, Colorado.  I was happy he was going to be someplace so beautiful, someplace no one in our family had been, and hoped that he would be happy there.

Fast forward – I finish my thesis, I graduate.  I teach for a year as an adjunct and find my work sprinkled with opportunities for hope:  the student who approached me for help with an abusive  boyfriend (happens every semester); the wad – the veritable FISTFUL – of voter registration cards turned in to me, filled out and ready to mail; the students who didn’t just blow off my lectures about voting, but who went, who voted, and who caucused and then came to class asking that I check again online during class to see what the current tally was…all of these things brought me hope for me, hope for Chris, hope for the country.  The kids are alright…and hope is everywhere.

Chris buys a car, falls in love, marries…child is expected.  I stop coloring my hair, and am soundly offended by the amount of grey that appears.  I begin coloring my hair again, stat.  In other words, life goes on.  Chris’s unit prepares for deployment, and word filters down that they will deploy in September.  This is, of course, after word filters down that they will deploy in May, October, and December.  I continue to mentally prepare myself for his deployment, and Mandy and I both begin to take anti-depressants (hers come from a doctor, mine are of the herbal variety).

There are a lot of factors at work in my life right now to keep me from being hopeful, but hope sneaks in no matter what.  I am, after all, no spring chicken, and I’ve been through some nasty times as we all have as we begin to approach the golden state of “being a grown up.”  I know what I am capable of, and what I am incapable of.  I know that I need to look inside me, and take stock:  what do I need to do to prepare?  I have been working on this since he went to basic training, and can now discuss with others his pending deployment (I am approached regularly in the store, etc. when I wear my dog tags he gave me, or my shirt that says “My Son is a Soldier”).  I can discuss plans with Mandy, with strangers, with family, and I can do so without crying – a seriously firm and strong step in the right direction.  This was something I couldn’t do before.  I am able to do this because I hope.

I have made other changes in my life – changes that I previously thought were impossible.  I am working on myself healthwise, and chucking some very, very dangerous and bad habits.  No more alcohol, no more meat, no more late nights (okay, so there is the occasional late night with Rock Band and the kids), I’m cutting down on my news consumption.  I’m shutting the door on those things that do not make me healthy, that do not make me strong, things that will hamstring me if I let them. I did this once before, a long time ago, and I reminded myself of the positive things I was doing by writing on my mirror in eyeliner that I control who comes through my front door (this was right after my ex and I separated, and I had the obligatory nightmares about him coming back and me not being able to make him leave).

I hope that this blog will be my mirror.

Hope

Yo…yo…is this thing on?  🙂