Buying into the idea that life begins all over again at forty...

Buying into the idea that life begins all over again at forty...

Monday, October 29, 2012

If You Give a Louse a Cookie...

At just almost the stroke of midnight, my daughter threw up and then shouted my name, waking me from what must have been a dream about Gerard Butler showing up on my doorstep and vowing his undying devotion. 

It’s now 12:46 a.m., and I have the choice of lying awake and listening to her stomach gurgle next to me (yes, she needed to get in my bed), wondering when the next episode will begin, or I can get up and do something. I have so many different thoughts whirling in my brain tonight, I might as well blow the dust off of this old blog and try to do that crazy thing called writing again. I hope I can remember how this all works…

So, the 40s, apparently, are all about figuring out your own shit. I know I have heard this before, but I really didn’t buy into it. But, I am here to say that maybe there is something to it after all. Because the past six months have been jam-packed with the most random-yet-profound realizations about myself. Blog gold, I tell you!

Tonight, hours before the up-chuck heard 'round the world, my daughter and I went to a skating party with her girls' organization that sells boxed bits of sweetness, whose members wear brown patchy vests. You know the one, right? 

At the rink , I bought our tickets and walked in, ready to strap on my wheels and get down to a little One Direction action, when I bumped into a few moms that I knew. Each had the awkward glance at my ticket, followed by the same question for me, “Uh, are YOU skating too?”

I felt like dorky at this point to admit it. But, it had never occurred to me NOT to skate with my daughter. A few told me that they didn’t trust themselves to not break their neck out there. Another told me that her daughter had emphatically forbidden her to go near the skates at all. I guess I considered myself lucky that mine hadn’t acted this way at all—she was genuinely excited that I wanted to come and skate. And, so I did, until I felt like she'd transferred enjoying skating with her Mom to her pals more, and then I faded into the background like a good little Mom.

During this fading, I was approached by her leader, who also happens to be the closest person I have ever had to a nemesis in my life. I am not one to make many enemies or have volatile relationships often. I have a lot of general friends, and a very few close friends. When one of those closer connections falls by the wayside, I have always been the one mourning the loss and wondering what happened. After going through a divorce and the weird shake-out that happens with friends post-split, I have realized that I need to let go and appreciate the friendships I still have and the people who chose to stay. The others are gone for a very good reason and I no longer worry or think about them...much.

But, back to the nemesis (let’s just call her Nemi, for short). This is a person who has actually wished me ill-will. A person who has bad-mouthed my children when they were younger, and then turned around and hugged them as they ran to her--so happy to see her. (I am not exaggerating here. I could write volumes on all that transpired. It got freaky weird, people. Trust me.) Years ago, when all of this came to light for me, I thought…wow. Evil. Evil and not someone I care to know at all. the...bye.

But, proximity and the friendship of our kids seemed to keep throwing us back together. Now, almost a decade later, we are only in contact because of this one activity. This group happens to be a really lovely group of girls and equally lovely mothers involved. The only hitch is that Nemi is in charge of the group…which has always given me pause. I have several friends who know of all the things Nemi pulled years back, who marvel that I still have contact at all. But, my daughter truly loves the group.

Lately, I have noticed Nemi has being overly attentive and complimentary of both my daughter and myself. Each time, I have felt that nag of knowing something was coming down the pike. Then, she chose that moment at the skate rink, while I was sitting alone, to make her intentions known. She asked me to be in charge of the most significant activity a group of girls in brown vests participates in for this organization. The one that everyone knows about, because everyone has a box or two of those thin things hidden in their freezer for late night noshing and moments of extreme PMS when nothing else will do? The one that runs from now until next Spring and involves hours and hours of work?

Yes, I got the fully recruitment pitch…the girls would not be able to do it if I did not take it on, and why she absolutely can NOT do it. Yadda, yadda. Even when I mentioned that I work fulltime, she came back with that all the moms do in our group do now…and that was a lot of the issue. But, I knew the job from having been popcorn mom for my son's troop for three years, etc...

Unbelievably, as I sat there, I actually started considering taking the job. I thought about my daughter and her friends not getting their patches this year, and how much they’d be disappointed. I almost let Nemi talk me into it. I even told her that I would think about it.

Flash forward this evening and a late night call with my mother once the kids were tucked in. I told her about the conversation and she laughed. “Well, you’re not doing it are you? I mean, you can’t seriously consider taking this on too, can you? Not for that woman!”
Moments before this, my mom and I had chatted about a few of the more narcissistic family members in our clan. She’d commented that she guessed being the complete opposite of self-absorbed can be a problem too…then kind of paused.

I knew why she was pausing. 

She had just described me. At least, the old me. OK, maybe still me. After all, I had taken on volunteer duties with my professional group after swearing that I was going to take a break from years of service to the group. Just this one event, I thought to myself. And, just that very day, I’d volunteered to co-teach a class in my church the next fall, helping others through divorce.

However, each of those things, I’d willingly wanted to do. The short volunteer commitment to my organization was a great way to cap off years of service and a fun event to plan. The church thing was something I’d been praying on for weeks, and I truly felt God was calling me to help with this ministry.

But, after actually considering if I could take on even part of the task to head up this major fundraiser for my daughter’s group? All because someone who had done nothing but be vicious and gossip about my family for years, was asking me? And, tell me again why I hadn’t laughed in this woman’s face? What in the heck is wrong with me, I wondered!

There are times when you realize things about yourself that change you forever. This was one of those times.

I seriously needed to give UP this “over-giver” side of me and fast. I was getting way too old for this sort of ca-ca-doody.

I realized that, while I wanted to help my daughter and that some level of guilt over the divorce still hung over me, taking this on would only be taking time away from my children. I only have my kids for half of each week as it is, due to split custody. And I would only be helping out the ONE person who had been openly and unapologetically cruel to my family.

So, as I lay awake this evening, trying to go back to sleep while listening to the gurgle of my daughters sick tummy, I instead began to compose my email to Nemi declining the request to take on the job.

I’ll admit, my brainstorming emails were way better than the one I will send simply saying, “I have so little time with my kids as it is, and I just can’t take on another job. Sorry. And, I hope that you find someone.”

No, the message that I send will not include the phrases, “Listen here, you manipulative and conniving gossip-monger. You will NOT use me for this. You will not play upon divorce guilt to talk me into doing something for you that you will later use against me somehow because you have no life and you are a pathetic excuse for a person!” I will also not include the phrases, “You have a lot of kahones, Nemi,” or “Give me a f-ing break! I hope you choke on all the PB patties.”

But, it sure was fun to think about it. Strangely enough, my friends, that is how I wind myself down and back to sleep...