The mess, the whole mess, and nothing but the mess

I am many things, but naturally neat and tidy I am not. My habitat quickly matches the chaos of my constantly addled mind. Papers, pens, shoes, discarded children’s socks, toys, and my sunglasses seem to creep like ivy and move around of their own volition until my house looks like a windstorm swept through it. Keeping the main thoroughfares free of tripping hazards, and the actual cooking surfaces free of fire hazards, is generally enough of a steep uphill battle for me. With selective tunnel vision, the disorder of my house almost doesn’t bother me. Almost.

Like the burst of motivation from a New Year’s resolution fad dieter, I occasionally become tyrannically devoted to cleaning. I whip the house into shape, and if your beloved objects end up in the bin or donated, well it’s your fault for not taking better care of them in the first place. Then, like the fad dieter, I return to my bad habits and my mess grows ever fatter. Sometimes, like the poor resolutioner might do at the gym, I overdo it in my zeal for cleanliness and order. Instead of sore muscles keeping me from exercising again, I develop a relentless apathy towards the growing mess.

About six weeks ago Luke had a birthday party at home. Ahead of the party I cleaned the house so well that my husband accused me of hiring a cleaning service on the sly. It was a terrible mistake though, because I have not lifted a finger since.* If you’re wondering what a house looks like after six weeks without intervention, the answer is NOT GOOD.

Our walking paths are not clear of tripping hazards. In fact, this gigantic bear has been lying in the center of the living room for weeks, directly in the pathways between my desk and the kitchen, and the couch and the kitchen.

In the way

My husband is a good and patient man. If one of us cared more, our house would be tidier, but alas, neither of us care more than we don’t feel like fixing it. He has tactfully refrained from mentioning the state of our home.

At the same time our house waves the white flag to entropy, we have experienced a minor miracle. The Dollar Store helium balloons we bought six weeks ago are still aloft. They had enough helium for maybe six days, but to last six weeks? I’m tempted to bust out the menorah. Now stringless, they litter our ceilings and we are forced to wait for the helium to slowly leak from the surprisingly impermeable balloons.

Miracle

The balloons have been there so long I no longer really see them. They’re just part of the house like the lights and fans. Yesterday, however, Tim brilliantly summed up the current state of our house: “I’m so happy that we figured out a way to also have trash on our ceilings.”

So, there you have it, folks. I’m the mom who makes you feel better about your messy house. The things I do for you.

*Confession: I have cleaned toilets and sinks.

He wins every time

“Mommy, can we please use your makeup?”

“No, kids.”

“But please? We asked really nicely. We want to play nicely together.”

“That’s sweet, and you did ask nicely. Thank you. But the answer is still no about my makeup. I’m sure you can find something else to play nicely together with.”

“But we really want to use it and we never get to and we’ll be really careful and we’ll be good for the rest of today and we’ll go to bed really early and not come back downstairs and we’ll be good tomorrow too.”

“I’m sure you’ll do all of that anyway because you’re such great kids. The answer is still no. I’m not going to change my mind.”

“But why, Mommy?”

“This isn’t open for discussion. I said no.”

Luke has a hard time with no. Many kids do, I realize, but every other kid on the planet (I’m pretty sure) will drop it eventually. Not Luke. He will take this to the nth degree. I don’t want to engage. I have a nice evening planned and I don’t want to have to take it away. I want to drop this so we can move on. So I’m staying calm, remaining firm, and not giving him any reasons why. That’s what I’m supposed to do, right? That’s what the books say.

“Please?”

“No. Please stop asking me.”

“But why?”

“This isn’t open for discussion.”

“But just tell me why. Why can’t we?”

“I’m not changing my mind and you’re going to make me angry. It’s time to drop it. Luke, really, stop.”

“But just tell me why?”

I don’t answer. It’s over if I don’t say anything, right?

“Mom? Mom? Mom? You can’t ignore me. What if I got a knife and cut my head off, would you ignore me then? Mom? Why? Why can’t we use your makeup? Why? I don’t get it. You’re so mean. Mom? We’ll be really good. We just want to play together. Isn’t that what you want? That we play nicely together? If you don’t let us use your makeup I’m going to punch Sally in the face and break her things and it will be your fault. Would that make you happy?”

“Luke, this is me warning you. I’m starting to lose my patience. You need to stop yourself. Now.”

“Just tell me why!”

“This is the last warning. I’m getting angry. Do you understand?”

My voice is still calm and even. I am going to diffuse this fucking thing if it’s the last fucking thing I fucking do. He storms away, knocking a book to the floor. I let it slide, not needing to lock horns with him now over picking up that book. I hope this is over. It’s not. He comes back with a note that says: “You are a jerk.”

“Go to your room.”

“No, I’m sorry. Why? I didn’t say anything. I didn’t mean it. It’s not about you. No, please no. Please, please, please no. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”

“I’m angry now like I warned you. Now go to your room please!”

Speaking sternly, but still not yelling. I’m going to fucking win this fucking thing!

“No I’m really really really sorry. Here, I’ll write another note about being sorry.”

“Luke, go to your room!”

“Jerk.”

And there it is, folks. The last straw. He hasn’t budged towards his room. He is staring me down. Calling me a jerk to my face and defying me. I’ve been here before. There is only one way to get him to actually go to his room. The only thing that works. Why did I put it off for so long anyway? I scream at him:

“YOUR ROOM NOW, LUKE! GO! GO! GO! NOW!”

“I hate you! You are such a jerk!”

He stomps off to his room.

And this is how it goes here. I can’t win. No matter my intentions or mood to start, no matter how calm I remain through so much disrespectful behavior, he eventually pushes me over the edge. Every time. If I didn’t blow up then he would have escalated further – hitting his sister and destroying stuff. He will always get the reaction he wants eventually.

He wins again and I lose. Of course his win is a loss for all of us.

I did, and would do it again

Originally posted 3/21/2014

I’ve been thinking about weddings and marriage a lot lately, in part because tomorrow is my eleventh anniversary! It’s hard to believe that eleven years have passed since that day in that lovely dress when I enacted what is easily the best decision I ever made.

Is marriage everything I thought it would be? No. It’s almost nothing I thought it would be.

I remember planning the event, consumed with all of the wedding details. They felt so very important. Whenever I approached Tim stressed over choices of things like tablecloths, he said, “The wedding is just one day. The marriage is forever.” Naturally, this pissed me off. “You aren’t helping! I know that the marriage is important and blah blah blah, but do you like the medium-red, the dark-red, or the medium-dark-red roses better?!”

Like many grooms, Tim did not take part in so many of the planning details, and he’s probably quite unaware of how many details our wedding entailed. Does he know that I had to decide on little things like the various sundries for the baskets I placed in the bathrooms? (Does he know there were baskets of sundries in the bathrooms?) Does he know that I picked the chairs? Does he know that I labored over fonts, paper and the type of printing we used? Now when I think of how much money we spent on items like our invitations it makes me a little sick. At the time, setting the tone felt important.

If I could go back, I’d do so many things differently.

But not everything.

I’d still marry Tim. I’d marry him over and over again regardless of what freaking paper we used to invite our guests. I’d marry him with different flowers, the cheaper chairs, and the other tablecloths. I’d even marry him with without the band and the passed hors d’oeuvres. And if I had to, I’d marry him without the fancy dress or open bar. (Thankfully, I don’t have to.)

Our wedding lasted a few (fabulous) hours. Our marriage has been every day since. It’s been great days and stressful days. It’s been sickness (man colds) and health. It’s been joyful moments and moments when everything felt wrong. It’s been a million and one different moments but one thing has never changed: Tim has been by my side and I his.

Our future stretching before us is unknown and uncertain. As much as we like to think we’re in control, we really have little power over what is going to happen to us in the days and years to come. Tragedy or dumb luck can strike at any time. One thing I can control is my half of my marriage. Each day I choose my words and actions, how to be a wife and partner. I don’t always choose wisely. Luckily, Tim chose to marry an imperfect creature so he knew what he was getting into. Imperfections notwithstanding, each day I choose Tim. Again and again.

Eleven years later I can’t remember which tablecloth I ended up with and I couldn’t name my flowers if my life depended on it. I’m certain that my wedding guests can’t remember what they ate or what my invitations looked like. And none of that matters. My husband was right.* The wedding is just one day. The marriage is forever.

*I will neither confirm nor deny if he’s been right about anything else since.

love