Saturday, September 15, 2018

stress, management

This week I attended my first management training ever, with my coworker Miranda, in a tall building next to Pershing Square. I was excited because I’d heard good things about this particular training, and because management—like so many other parts of nonprofit work—is something my boss and I had hoped I’d be good at without any training or guidance, only to be unpleasantly surprised.

I’m not a terrible manager. I listen and I don’t micromanage, and I have a good understanding of how various tasks fit into a larger picture. But there are so many other parts—clarifying roles and expectations, managing up and across, being proactive instead of just saying “What do we do now?”

I’ve always shunned management culture because I fancy myself an artist or an activist or something. Management sounds so capitalistic and boring. It belongs to the world of khaki pants and TPS reports. It’s for people who can’t just all be cool and get along, and sometimes fight and cry and hug it out.

This is, of course, ridiculous.

William Carlos Williams said: “It is difficult/ to get the news from poems/ yet men die miserably every day/ for lack/ of what is found there.”

It’s difficult to get poetry from management. Yet people suffer every day for lack of what is found there. Management is just couples therapy for groups—a form of clear and fair communication that makes it possible to be in the world with other humans. And we all know how I love therapy.

Look, bizness people doing bizness things. (Photo by rawpixel via Unsplash.)
I’ve been at 826LA one year as of this weekend. For the first few months, I came home with what I dubbed a learning headache. Then we reshuffled our department, and there have been a lot of growing pains. Sometimes I doodled angsty poetry in my notebook during meetings.

Look, we’re all adults here
walking around in our dead-bird skins
tissue paper in our eye sockets.
I’m tired of listening to my self-esteem playlist
every morning while you
light the gas lamps every afternoon.

Sometimes I think I still know nothing about fundraising. Sometimes I wonder if I want to. Other times I imagine myself as both the lever and the thing being lifted, constantly cranking myself to new levels. I’m leaps and bounds from where I was a year ago.

I have a learning hangover. In the past six months, I gained back the weight I Weight Watchered away last year. I never worked late enough, but I was often late to pick up Dash.

That fine line between baby bird and crazy dinosaur. (Photo by Joy Stamp via Unsplash.)
He had literal growing pains—spontaneous and short-lived evening leg cramps—twice last week. At least, that’s what I and the Kaiser nurse hotline think they are; WebMD says they’re nearly textbook childhood leg cramps or leukemia, because WebMD.

He switched classrooms recently and has been a little more clingy, a little more likely to pretend to be a baby bird, a little more likely to pee on the porch, then run inside and announce “I didn’t pee on the porch.”

My 826 predecessor, Carolyn, has always been generous and helpful to me, so it was no surprise that when I posed a question in a local moms’ Facebook group about a baby swing (for AK’s sister, who is due momentarily—stay tuned for auntie updates, y’all), she was quick to offer hers to us, for free.

Despite—or perhaps because of—her general awesomeness, it has been hard not to feel like the Second Mrs. de Winter to her Rebecca. Today Dash and I went to pick up the swing, and I was not surprised to find her house pristine despite the fact that two young children lived there. She was wearing a breezy linen jumpsuit and sorting through her youngest’s books. She was sweet to Dash, and gave me some friendly, practical, down-to-earth work advice. And the swing.

There are no evil housekeepers in my version, and my Rebecca is alive, so it's not really apples-to-apples.
I was just grateful Dash didn’t pee on her floor.

My friend Holly recently introduced me to Amanda Palmer’s song “In My Mind,” which just about sums it up:

In my mind
When I'm old I am beautiful
Planting tulips and vegetables
Which I will mindfully watch over
Not like me now
I'm so busy with everything
That I don't look at anything
But I'm sure I'll look when I am older
And it's funny how I imagined
That I could be that person now
But that's not what I want
But that's what I wanted
And I'd be giving up somehow
How strange to see
That I don't wanna be the person that I want to be

I want to be like Carolyn and also I don’t. I’d like to be a version of me with tidier countertops, who doesn’t sometimes stress-eat fifteen cookies in a sitting, who is a more diligent reader and prolific writer. (I was prolific once upon a time.) I sort of hope/feel like I am turning a corner at work, but I also know I am prone to now-everything-will-be-easy narratives, and that cancer check-up season approaches, which is never easy.

I would like to bring some effective management techniques to my life as well as my work, but I hope the messiness of my learning process adds some nice layers, like the oils in a cast iron pan. Not that I would know how cast iron pans really work, because I mostly cook pasta and pre-made things from Trader Joe’s. That’s fine too.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

open letter to my sixth grade self

Dear Cheryl,

This story takes place thirty years from now. Can you believe you'll ever be 41? You sort of almost didn't make it to that birthday, but that's another story. In this one, two board members at the organization you work for are Hillary Toomey. They think of you as a well-intentioned flea who is not great at gala event seating. They're not really concerned with you one way or another, but in their wake you feel small and frumpy and rejected. This is how you feel every day in sixth grade. You are too tall and have bangs that don't cooperate. You make jokes that fall flat. You are gay and trying not to be, because gay is just another way of doing everything wrong.

The Hillary Toomeys of your future like your coworkers, who are Bonnie in this story. Two different coworkers represent Bonnie--both the conscientious, imaginative Bonnie who will be your lifelong friend, and the sixth-grade Bonnie, who is wooed by the opinions and charms of the mean, popular kids. You wish the second Bonnie would have your back a little bit more, but she is muddling through her own insecurities.

If only your hair had looked this cool. (Photo by Annie Spratt via Unsplash)
Thirty years from now, you will wilt, at least initially. You'll cry into your lunch in the park and wonder what the fuck you're doing with your life and why you care about things that aren't on your official list of Things Worth Caring About.

Your therapist will suggest that perhaps you care because all this work drama taps into a younger narrative. Duh. That's what therapy is all about. You will spend five or six years talking about how (spoiler alert, and condolences) your miscarriage reminds you of losing your mom to your baby sister when you were three. It makes no sense. It makes perfect sense. It is something so young that you can only feel it with your body, which might be why you spend months diagnosing yourself with diseases you don't have.

This board member thing, this resurgence of Hillary Toomey, will tap into an older young narrative, one in which you are bowled over by the injustices of adolescent power dynamics, which are also the power dynamics of the world. It feels different. It doesn't live in your body unless you count the months you spend on-and-off binge-eating, which is also a thing you will discover a year from now, when you go on your first diet as a tall, skinny seventh grader who hopes that living on 900 calories a day will make your boobs disappear.

Or, you know, eat what stuffs down your insecurities and allows you to simultaneously reward and punish yourself. (Photo by Jon Tyson via Unsplash)
This is your survival toolbox as a sixth grader: parents who love you, a stable home life, academic ease. Those things aren't nothing. You will hear so many stories, later, of kids in violent neighborhoods with addicted parents who experience some "small" social slight--the nice family next door pretending not to be home so the kid wouldn't crash their dinner once again--and ricochet like a bullet into the nearest gang. These are kids who wanted to be loved and popular just like you. Yet because it's 1988 and you live in Manhattan Beach, you are terrified of them. You have nightmares about gang members waiting for you on your lawn. You have a lawn.

Your survival toolbox as a 41-year-old is even bigger: a family who loves you, a therapist who's been helping you work through this shit for 15 years, friends who say you're a good writer and a good friend. You're dumb sometimes, but you're smart enough to listen to them instead of yourself. You're smart enough to listen to your badass, down-to-earth coworkers, even if you're embarrassed by how much you need their pep talks. You're smart enough not to listen to the Hillary Toomeys, and to know that they and even Hillary Toomey are just an idea, just a projection of their own fears and inner sixth grade selves. Right? You're smart enough to know that, right??

We're all just sad little lava monsters.
Look, it's like the final scene in Moana, which you will watch almost every morning with your son, who says, "I was thinking just one yiddle bit Moana."

Moana sees that Te Ka, the angry lava monster, is actually Te Fiti, the green goddess of island creation. She says "This is not who you are" and Te Ka's fiery bluster fades to ash. She sees Te Fiti inside Te Ka ("the part when Moana is Te Fiti's therapist," as your esposa will describe this scene).

She can only do this because she summons the strength of her grandmother and her ancestors. The part where she sings "I will carry you here in my heart to remind me that come what may, I know the say" gets you every time, right in your green spiral ocean-heart.

In the wise words of Moana, you are everything you've learned and more, Cheryl. You are a nerd and honestly your hair still does weird things, but you are loved. Go get 'em.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

the officer in charge

We said goodbye to OC yesterday. I knew him for sixteen of his seventeen years, which is longer than I’ve known anyone else in this house. He lived with me in three places prior to this one. He was the last of the pets who knew my mom.

Once, we assigned jobs to our cats. Ferdinand was a DJ and Temecula was getting her PhD in neuroscience; her dissertation was titled Why Do Some Cats Talk So Much? OC was Some Cats. His job was town crier.

OC had a lot to say, and he believed that all human hands should be petting him at all times. B and I met him when, in a cage full of cats at a rescue event, he wriggled his orange nose under our extended hands. He was persistent to the point of being annoying, and endearing in his lack of guile. I could learn a thing or two from him.

He was always beta to Ferdinand’s alpha, although Ferd backed off once OC got sick; I think cats know. But he was strong as a chimpanzee, as I learned the one time I tried to give him a bath, and up until a week or so before he died, even when he was just bones wearing a fur coat, he was scaling fences.

I could never pet him as much as he wanted, but he never held it against me. When Dash came along, he was the only one of our three cats not to cut and run when he saw a small human ball of energy and hands and mouth hurling toward him.

Dash adored OC and, as in any sibling relationship, was sometimes heart-meltingly sweet and sometimes hit him for no apparent reason. Since learning OC was sick way back in the fall—kidney failure, which the vet later re-diagnosed as possible lymphoma; I resisted diagnostic rabbit holes, which is a thing I’m not strong enough to do for myself and the humans in my life—I’ve wondered how to talk to Dash about OC’s death.

Dash knows my sister’s cat died, and that my mom died before he could meet her. He’s confused about whether my mom died at the vet, and whether that’s where everyone dies. After many, many conversations, he now understands that DYING is different from DIVING, because dying is when your body stops working and diving is when you jump in the water. I just hope we never know anyone who leaves this world via diving accident. You know, for multiple reasons.

We talked about how OC was very old and very sick and would probably die soon. And also about how some cats/people are old and healthy, and a lot of cats/people get sick and then better. I asked Dash how we could show OC we loved him.

 “Maybe a video?” he said, but it was a little unclear whether he wanted to make one or watch one.

I thought of a bunch of rituals we could do, but in the end time got away from us, as it does. In the end, I gave OC some tuna and sat with him on the kitchen floor and petted him and cried while Dash told us “Don’t be sad!” and AK and I told him it was okay to be sad, that we could be sad for a little while and still take care of Dash. He ran around the house and I made a video by myself, of OC licking my breakfast bowl, until my phone ran out of storage.

That’s how it goes. You do your thing until you run out of storage.

There were still many hours before our appointment at the vet, and I took Dash to the Summer Train Festival at Union Station. The specter of 2:30 pm hovered over all of it, and the crowded train station and Dash’s delight at all the miniature landscapes with model trains was extra fun and poignant.

I recently read a graphic novel adaptation of Anne Frank, in which she writes about how her mother always finds solace in the fact that they’re not on the “trains heading east.” Anne observes that this doesn’t seem like a good place to fix one’s hope, because what if you’re on the train heading east? She prefers instead to look at the immovable sky.

It’s brilliant and true, but I know I am Anne’s mom in this story, appreciating my life especially in the wake of death and sadness.

We were waiting for the Gold Line when Dash announced he had to go potty, so we trekked back to the bathroom. Then he wanted to look at the fish tank and the fountain, and I stopped delighting and started resenting him for taking time away from my last hours with OC, which was unfair, because how many times had I thrown OC off the bed just because I didn’t want him sitting on my hair? I’d had my time.

I hate the feeling of not having space for things; I hate how frequently both happiness and sadness get squeezed out of my days to make room for obligations of all varieties.

Before T-Mec died, we scheduled a vet who did euthanasia house calls. Physical space is so important to cats; it seemed like one last kind thing we could do. But with OC, we hauled him into the car and drove to Lincoln Heights. Because it was the easiest thing. I cut so many corners these days. I’m sorry, OC.

Dr. Bandele was as kind as he’s always been, to OC and to us. Once he asked if OC stood for Officer in Charge (I’m not sure where Dr. B is from; I decided Nigeria at some point based loosely on his accent and the fact that I like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and I also like Dr. B). The first time he saw OC step out of his carrier he said, “Oh, a blond!” Today he said, “It’s hard when they’re still eating.”

And I wondered again if it really was the right time. I don’t believe in killing an animal too soon, just to prevent my own suffering in watching them suffer. But also he had a torn cornea that Dr. B thought was causing him pain, and he seemed to get a little more tired every day, searching fruitlessly for the thing that might make him feel better. Standing in the dishwasher? No. Sitting in the cupboard where we keep the dishtowels? No.

It felt like a shrug of a decision. Why this day? Why not this day? Sometimes I feel like life is one big shrug. We love hard and we hurt each other. Things are beautiful and frustrating and terrible and dumb and silly. And then we call it. Now or later. And then we go on to whatever’s next. I think something is next, although I’m not telling that to Dash, because the concept of an afterlife is pretty confusing for someone who regularly asks if he can invite Moana to his house.

Holly, Joel, and Wendell stopped by with little succulent a beautiful, simple book about death that doesn’t assume any particular religious beliefs. Dash was a jerk about sharing his fire truck. They left and we watched The Incredibles and I put out just two bowls of cat food.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

nerding out with a hundred beautiful nerds

This week I’m at 826’s national Staff Development Conference, a welcome breath after many days of worky work. It’s been a pleasant roller coaster ride of inspiring speeches, helpful workshops, information overwhelm, and good chats with universally awesome coworkers. Topped with a sprinkling of my own white fragility because I like to swing between wild fear that the government is coming for my little queer family and unproductive worry that I Am The Problem. Blah blah blah. But I know this: 826 is the right place for me. That’s a good feeling.

Anyway, one of my favorite parts was when poet Nate Marshall asked us to write a variation on Idris Goodwin’s “A Preface.” I riffed on my one true identity.

Nerd on consent.
My parents were nerds
which is to say they studied hard and delayed
or their gratification was in sacrifice
but also knowledge.
They are not to be confused
with academics,
because they went to state schools.
They are not to be confused
with tech geeks,
because it was the ‘50s.
My dad’s eventual career
with lasers didn’t exist
when he started college.
He wanted to be rich
and maybe today he’d invent an app
but in the ‘80s he invested
in real estate which in the ‘80s was
a thing a middle class person could do.
They weren’t fan-kid nerds
because they were lonely.
I’m a nerd
which is to say in middle school
I made lists of ways to become popular
and failed.
I have never been quiet, although
I will always be shy
and clouded with doubt.
I wear glasses. I am a striver.
I will leave you with this moment
from The Last Days of Disco:
Josh: I love the idea that there’d be all these great places
for people to go dancing
after the terrible social wasteland of our college years.
Tom: You’ve been to a lot of discos?
Josh: No. In fact, practically none.
For me, law school wasn’t easy
and I haven’t had much of a social life
since coming to the City, either.
But, I still consider myself a loyal adherent
to the disco movement.

Friday, June 22, 2018

trigger warning for anyone not wearing an "i really don't care" jacket

All week, I've had a tightness in my chest and stomach. I tried to breathe like that chiropractor taught me in 2011, a year that was essentially a slow-motion panic attack. I thought it was about work, which has been a little bit intense. I felt frustrated with myself for letting something so banal--something that on balance is a positive in my life--get to me on such a visceral level.

Then, yesterday, I had a great day at work, chatting with our spirited new intern and leading a writing prompt for our Summer Writers' Workshop. During my nightly plummet into social media, I soaked per usual in the day's headlines and outrage, and my stomach clenched again. It finally dawned on me.

On Tuesday night, Dash woke up around 3 am, and I dragged him into bed with AK and me. He promptly fell back asleep while I tossed and turned and chased the blue light of my phone for hours. I kept thinking about what everyone not wearing a jacket announcing their lack of empathy is thinking about. Then I fell asleep and dreamed I was driving to the border to do...what? I didn't know. On my dream-drive, I fell asleep at the wheel and woke up on the 5 South, terrified and guilty and amazed I'd only caused a traffic backup and not a crash.

So yeah, I think that situation is causing me some anxiety. Poor me! I'm so anxious about a thing that is mostly theoretical to me! But hey, this is my blog and it's where I work my shit out, so here goes.

My friend Wendy is a writer on Bob's Burgers who is in the process of fost-adopting two little boys. She raised a shitload of money for childhood cancer research and wrote this piece a couple of years before #MeToo, and she regularly trolls our troll of a president on Twitter in ways that are cutting and sincere and hilarious. Clearly I want to be her when I grow up. She tweeted:

My husband & I have cared for a child old enough to know when he was separated by DCFS but too young to talk. When he first arrived, he’d scream all night. One of the only ways to calm him was to take him outside to look at the moon. These poor babies have no one to hold them.

Baron Vaughn tweeted:

Creating a large population of children traumatized by a country dividing them from their parents couldn’t possibly backfire.

If you've spent five seconds in DCFS circles or reentry circles or you've talked to your therapist about attachment and trauma, you know where this is going. You know that American greed is creating, among other things, a massive public health crisis. Gang membership numbers peaked in the '90s and have dipped since, but mark my words, we're going to see a spike for a number of reasons in another ten years.

But this isn't about public health or my under-informed predictions.

Here's what I posted in the small adoption FB group I'm part of. (In the fall, I quit the one I was in for years after a fallout with two MAGA moms over, guess what, immigration.)

Like most people with a heart, I've been having nightmares about family separation at the border. But do any of you feel like being an adoptive parent brings an extra layer of...something? I just keep thinking of what a huge trigger these headlines must be for birth parents. I know there's a difference - all the difference - between voluntarily and lovingly placing a child and having your kid kidnapped by ICE, but....

If I and every parent I know, including bio moms who never miscarried or pined for a child, feel gut-busting panic about the possibility of being separated from our children--if we feel like the things that are most true in our lives are subject to review at any moment--how do people who've actually been separated from their children, for any reason, feel?

The replies to my post helped me clarify my fear/outrage and its corollaries. One mom noted that lots of adoption boards are overflowing with comments about "How do we foster or adopt these babies?" As my friend Sarah said, "You don't! They have families who desperately want to be with them!"

I flashed on the days when I wanted a child so bad I had kidnapping fantasies. I even wrote a short story about it, because writing is a healthy alternative to kidnapping. (Try it, ICE!) I admit--and it brings me deep shame to do so--that the feeling of "Hey cute kid, I wish I could take you home with me" was stronger when I saw babies and small children of color. As if they were somehow more available for the taking.

The taking of children of color, and the erasure of their parents, is nothing new in America. That thought I had was the legacy of slavery, end stop. Even in relatively politically neutral circles of Head Start, etc., the stuff we can all more or less agree on, I sometimes sense an undercurrent of "Kids are okay because they haven't yet embodied the fallout of all the shit that society has piled upon them. But grownups with their messy problems and cultural differences, ugh."

I think there's some of that going on right now. We want parents to be with their kids, but I want us to want it not just for the kids--but for the parents. The ones who did something right and necessary by getting their families out of shitty, colonialism-generated situations in their home countries, but who maybe also make mistakes or snap at their children or smoke cigarettes. All of that stuff is okay too. You don't have to be blameless to deserve basic human rights. There's a billboard around L.A. urging people to become foster parents, and it says: You don't have to be perfect to be a perfect parent. It speaks to me because for a long time I thought I did, and filling out a thousand forms to prove I was worthy didn't help matters.

I know this post is a fucking mess. I'm a bit of a fucking mess right now. Because I had a busy week at work and am thinking about some stuff I went through in 2011. Can you imagine what I'd be like if someone stole my kid this week?

Saturday, June 09, 2018

death of the author


I spent the last couple of weeks preparing for 826LA’s big gala. My coworker Shawn—a woman whose superpower is asking people to do hard things in the most graceful, inspiring way, a skill I wish more powerful men would watch and learn—led the charge, but I was second in command. It was all sales and numbers and making multiple donor management databases talk to each other, none of which is my jam. Toward the end, I was working 12-hour days. Also not my jam. My eating habits tanked. My parenting was meh. I relied on AK for a lot and didn’t give much in return.

The night of the event, I worked registration in the role of “trouble shooter.” At Homeboy’s gala, if a name wasn’t on the list, I just sent that person down the line to the Lady With The Laptop. Now I was the Lady With The Laptop, which was mildly terrifying. I went in feeling rather proud of my meticulously devised and revised seating chart, and I finished in tears.

Being the Lady With The Laptop at a gala event is like carefully packing a U-Haul—everything is boxed and labeled, and maybe the last couple of boxes are sort of wonky, containing a spatula, a skirt, and some mail you grabbed on your way out.

Then you have to parallel park the U-Haul.

Then a giant flock of wealthy chickens descends upon you and begins to peck you in the face.

Don't mind me. Definitely not judging you. (Pic by Jehu Christian on Unsplash)
You realize that the two boxes you forgot to pack contain all your family heirlooms. The chickens are nice, but they have been sitting in traffic and would like to get a cocktail. You don’t want to parallel park this thing, and they don’t want to watch you. The door of the U-Haul falls open. You want to run away, but there is a U-Haul to repack. You throw random shoes and plates and hope for the best, feeling very conscious of the underpaid people who have to clean up your mess.

(This is a metaphor I’ve been honing over the past several days of reckoning with PGSD, or Post Gala Stress Disorder.)

I believe in miracles. (Pic by Benjamin Voros on Unsplash.)
But then something miraculous happened. Everyone went into the old downtown cathedral that was our event space. They ate and drank and listened to our students talk about the sacrifices their immigrant grandmothers made so they could go to Berkeley and Stanford. They gave generously, because wine and grandmothers. The room became more than the sum of its parts—more than my flawed databases, more than a celebrity’s name stamped on our invitations, more than the 400 chapbooks our beleaguered designer had to assemble the weekend before the event.

Miracles are made of the mundane. To me that doesn’t dull their luster; it enhances it. It’s humbling and comforting to see how we’re all just cogs in a machine, but if you’re fortunate enough to find the right machine, your grandson will go to college and your event will shimmer like a Los Angeles sunset.

2. sherlock holmes and roland barthes

Slate’s Decoder Ring had an amazing episode about Sherlock Holmes as historical epicenter of fan fiction. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the creators of the BBC’s Sherlock have felt both sharp edges of popularity’s sword, as fans create and demand alternate outcomes to their stories.

Although most of my books’ Amazon reviews are written by people I know, I still feel those guys. I love writing because it’s the one space where I have complete control. But I also know that control is a myth—not just because, to paraphrase the wise Michael Cunningham, I’ll never be able to successfully translate the ball of fire and passion in my head into words, but because readers project their own experiences and ideas onto whatever I write.

(Roland Barthes wrote all about this phenomenon in The Death of the Author, but podcasts about Sherlock Holmes are where I’m at these days.)

But what readers and viewers bring to a thing is also its magic—the other edge of the other edge of the sword. I used to love the moment in writing workshops when my classmates debated what one my characters might do, as if that person was real. I’d stitched a scarecrow, but they were making it dance. It was magic, alchemy, a glittering night in a cathedral.

3. reality, projection, and projection as reality

I never read anything by Anthony Bourdain; I knew him vaguely as a food guy who liked meat? I liked Kate Spade’s designs but couldn’t have told you that she sold her company ten years ago. But watching people in my feed react to their suicides has been touching and fascinating.

I don't know when that handbag is from, but I can tell you that's a 1957 Thunderbird. Thanks, Dad. (Credit: Patrick Jasin.)
Some people saw it as an opportunity to post suicide hotline numbers and remind friends they weren’t alone. (I’ve never been suicidal, but I’ve been to places dark enough that I would definitely read those lovely posts and think: Yeah, but you don’t mean me. You mean your real friends. You’re probably cuddling your baby in one hand and writing your best-selling novel with the other, so of course you can be charitable toward me as I spiral into the abyss.)

Others have said, more or less: It’s not about mental health, it’s about a fast-paced, fragmented society that is rampant with cruelty.

Even in their deaths, these creators became projection screens.

My own projections were most in keeping with those of Molly, a writer who maintains a brutally, beautifully honest blog about living with stage IV breast cancer. Her diagnosis makes certain questions more immediate, but we’ll all face them eventually: What will I leave behind? Does what I leave behind matter more than what I do while I’m here? Is there a point in process without product? Is there a point in product if you don’t enjoy the process?

Who said Only connect? Because yeah, that. But I still want to publish another book before I die. I still want to be famous, even as I see how hollow fame is.

I’m spending most of the weekend at my dad’s house, trying to catch my breath from a fast-paced, fragmented life (albeit one rampant with kindness). I’m going to try—again—to dive back into the memoir that I believe in and don’t, which I enjoy writing and avoid writing. This post has been my warm-up. This has, too, been the real thing.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

our night selves

Artist Minna Dubin started making #MomLists as a way to continue her artistic practice when time was fragmented but her parenting experience called out for documentation. She encourages others to make them too. 

Photo by Nong Vang / Unsplash
1. Our routine is already haphazard. You ate peanut butter crackers and a cookie for dinner. Can I even call it a routine? Or dinner?
2. Neither of us is good at this—the pivot from semi-solidity into liquid night.
3. Your other mom works late. We Facetime with her and you cry into the camera.
4. You shift again. We sing “The Scientist” (the Glee version). Your voice is sweet and I marvel that you already carry a tune better than I do.
5. Your bedtime babble: a pastiche of airplanes, police dogs, your school friends’ catch phrases.
6. The negotiation phase: You run to the living room for “one toy!” I eat the quesadilla you abandoned next to the bed.
7. Yes, we eat in bed.
8. You are distraught. It was your favorite “taco.” I make another one, but the tortilla crumbles like my will, and you want yellow cheese, not white.
9. Neither of us is good at this. You kick and howl and hit me in the face.
10. I text Mama: I’m a jerk who does not know how to put a child to bed. I shouldn’t have eaten that tortilla. She says: He’s three. I say: Am I one of those parents who, if my kid came out as gay in 1975, would sob “WHERE DID I GO WRONG?” like a martyr/narcissist?
11. When I was a kid I would stop my mom in the doorway after she kissed me goodnight. I lobbed the big questions like a slap: Am I normal? She always said yes; I always suspected appeasement.

Photo by Larm Rmah / Unsplash

12. Sleep comes. It is heavy, graceful, fickle.
13. My night self is an addict: for the blue light of my phone, the dopamine rush of its games, the thumb-flick of scrolling.
14. For handfuls of Goldfish crackers and time alone, off the clock for the first time since 6 am.
15. You half wake, angry about a handful of toy cars I put away. 
16. Our night selves suspect we are powerless—to the control of parents, the creep of disease, the threat of apocalypse. To dream demons.
17. Our night selves are not wrong.
18. Daylight always comes, but so does nightfall. I suppose it’s good that nature can find a rhythm, even as we fight it.
19. “The sun is up?” you say. During the night, you landed in our bed. My hand covers most of your chest.
20. We peer between the curtains. We see roofline and palm trees and sun.

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