How to Throw an Awesome Pity Party


I’ve been feeling down lately. I mean, really down. Like so far down into the turnpike of the blues that all I want to do is cry, sleep and zone out with mindless TV. I know I’m not alone. I mean, I feel alone. I feel like no one cares and that my purpose in life is questionable. But, I know that I’m not special in this feeling. Others have felt this way a billion times over. It’s not a condition unique to me.

But it’s dumb. It’s not like I have a real reason. No one in our family is dying. We aren’t refugees forced to flee our home. No one has been indicted for a crime they didn’t commit. Heck, at the moment, I don’t even have a hang-nail, a paper cut or a neck spasm (which is rare for me, truly). But even though times seem fortuitous and everyone in my house is clothed, sheltered, fed and in good health, I just can’t get out of this funk.

So, despite all of this, in the thick of such deep emotions, I have felt it necessary to have a party. A pity party, no less. And, since I’m throwing one on a semi-daily basis, I thought it would be helpful to put together a “how-to” guide for all of those awesome people who have never indulged.

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Step One: Make a mountain out of a molehill 

Now, for those who don’t already know, molehills are small and mountains are big. So, your goal is to take something really tiny and make it the size of the sun. But, make sure there aren’t any cracks in it or the mountain won’t maintain its height. And, you’re going to need that height in order to scale the madness like a martyr and make a non-issue into an issue.

Step Two: Read between the lines

So, there are things that people say. And then there are the words, hidden between parsed lips, that hold the real meanings to what they have said. Learn to differentiate between the two. For example, when one of the insanely involved PTA moms says, “What have you been up to lately?” she is really asking, “Why haven’t you volunteered more, you lazy cow!?” Understanding the subtleties of hidden language and learning how to decode it is key to the pity party process.

Step Three: Make connections where none exist

Remember last Tuesday? Some of your friends were talking about a yoga class they all attended en masse. And they didn’t even think to invite you! Clearly, it can only mean one thing – they hate you. But that’s just the beginning.

The book you’ve been trying to get published has been rejected, again – so, you are a talentless twit. A thoughtful meme you posted on Facebook didn’t get a single “like” – you have no friends. Your house has been on the market for five months and hasn’t sold – the universe must hate you, too. Your kid didn’t get a part in that school play – you failed them on every level. Be sure to notice how one thing has a cross-connection with something else. Always. And, even though, in a court of law, your opinion could not be backed with any traceable form of proof, you feel like it’s right. So, golly, it must be!

Step Four: Hold unreal expectations

This is a great step because it is really the key to having an epic pity party. Maybe you always dreamed of being a CEO by the time you were 40, but instead you’re 38, pregnant and folding your family’s towels for the 9,077th time. Maybe you feel like there is some unspoken rule about iPhone etiquette in the presence of company that your friend just doesn’t follow to your liking. Or perhaps you think your husband should finally, after 20 years of marriage, know where the Lysol resides in the cabinet. But he doesn’t. And he never will. Holding on to unreal expectations, in any setting, can bring about the biggest disappointments in life (read: the best fodder for the blues).

Step Five: Dwell on the negative

This is the final step, and without it the party would not be complete. Hold on, with vigor, to all things morose and grim. When something good happens, wait for something bad to take its place. When something bad happens, wait for things to get worse. And if they don’t get worse, keep waiting. But, while you’re waiting, reflect on all of the other bad things that have happened to you. Ever. And try to go back to step three, just to see if there are any new, negative connections you can make that haven’t already been visited before.

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After having done all of these things, let me assure you, a pity party will be epic and unavoidable. Probably the best one of your life. And, by best, I mean ABSO-effing-LUTELY worst. Party. EVER! So, go solo. Bring a box of tissues. Hang out in your comfiest pajamas. And cry until you’ve gotten it all out of your system. And then, when you snap out of it, maybe you can throw a party. For real.

Life (A Poem)


I’m not usually one for poems, but I dug this out of a drawer – something I had written while in the depths of despair and loss years ago. I hope to send it along the channels for those who have been touched by loss in Orlando and beyond. Life isn’t fair, it’s true. But, when we find the goodness in our communities, there can still be much for which we can be grateful.

rainbow-heart

Life isn’t fair
and it never will be,
but it continues on
like the old oak tree.
Its branches swing
in the cool, crisp air.
Its leaves grow anew
without any care.
Its roots grow strong
in the deep brown soil.
And it always carries on
regardless of turmoil.

 
Life isn’t fair
though we wish it were.
We weep and cry,
console and confer.
When times get hard
it’s difficult to see
that there is a reason
for this life, for you and for me.
We sometimes drown
in an ocean of despair,
for a time so endless
it seems without repair.

 
Life isn’t fair
though we try to make it so.
We do our best to live
until it’s time to go.
We try to rise up happy
and grateful for each day.
We aim to make a better place
for those along the way.
Often despite our efforts
we come upon a wall
and find that our best actions
are no help when others fall.

 
Life isn’t fair,
no complaint will change this fact.
It’s a truth, inconsolable,
not hypothetical or abstract.
Life has no senses,
it cannot see or hear.
It doesn’t worry over things
or cower under fear.
Life is just a progression,
the growth of everything.
It moves with an even ebb and flow,
but it pauses for no one, for nothing.

 
Life isn’t fair
and it never will be
but it continues on.
Watch and you will see.
A place is made for all
though temporary it will last.
What is here today will
someday be the past.
What will come tomorrow
will be a question mark.
A riddle with no answer,
a shot in the dark.

 
Life isn’t fair
but it reveals this –
when our dreams are lost,
when our best intentions miss,
when we come up short
and lose along the way,
when we fall apart
and wish not to stay,
when it gets too big,
too much for us to hold,
when our greatest senses
are left out in the cold –

 
Life isn’t fair
we shouldn’t expect as much,
but life can still be worthy
of our gentle, human touch.

 

 

 

The Opposite Of June Cleaver


june cleaver

Yesterday I reached an epiphany, an awareness about myself that was as startling as it was obvious – I am the polar opposite of June Cleaver. My hair is not set in any particular style. In fact, I am lucky if it sees a brush once a day. I do not clean house in dresses and heels. Actually, I rarely wear anything other than pajamas and bare feet. Pearls never drape around my neck. Only burp clothes caked with dried snot and baby food. My house, though tidy-ish, is not necessarily “company ready” at any given second. I usually require advanced notice of a day or two before someone “drops in.”

My meals, though the aim is nutrition, sometimes burn, sometimes fail and sometimes come out of a box. I’ve never made a roast anything. I’ve never been successful in getting my family to eat their peas. And, sadly, our dining table is a mere charade filling a void in a useless room. We eat our meals – all of our meals! – hunched over the coffee table, in front of our TV, just as I always vowed I would never do.

And that is just the surface stuff. My list of failures and low-points could trail on in a seemingly endless barrage of pathetic details. Episodes that would be funny were they not true.

Yesterday held one such example. During his afternoon nap, my nine-month old son managed to grab an almost empty lotion bottle from his changing table. I had no idea his small arms could reach so far – but they could, and they did! When he awoke and I got him out of his crib, I noticed the bottle in his possession. Then I realized he had apparently had his way with it and had (I assumed) eaten a small portion of the remaining lotion.

In a frenzy, I told my daughter to go play in her room while I did something for a moment. I didn’t want to tell her what was going on because I didn’t want to scare her. More honestly, though…I really just didn’t feel like answering her potential questions. (What happened? What are you doing? Why did he eat the lotion? What’s in lotion? What’s going to happen to him? Is he going to die? If he does, can I have his room?) So, I left her in her room, with my son in my arms, while I went to call Poison Control.

As I sat on the phone with a wonderfully calm professional, my daughter started to yell in the background. It wasn’t a cry for help, though. Instead, it was that all-too-familiar yell for “Momma!” In the background, it grew louder and louder, increasing in pace as much as in volume, with no feasible break in between for me to helpfully reply. As her screaming for me grew more and more desperate, my embarrassment grew with it. I imagined that the man on the phone from Poison Control thought we lived in a crazy house. All of that yelling. The sounds of an unhappy and restless baby. A mother asking, in frazzled tones, about her child eating lotion. By the end of it, I was almost certain that he had one finger on 911, just in case this picture turned ugly.

Sure, I wanted to attend to my daughter. But with no break in her screams, and my intention to make us seem decently normal for the man on the phone, I did the only sensible thing – I shut doors and burrowed further down the hall of our house, as far from the yelling as I could get. By this point, I had made my way into the laundry room, completely at the other end of the house. Any further, and I would have escaped through the back door. It was pathetic. But the worst part hadn’t even come yet.

After I got off of the phone (and after finding out that the lotion would not harm my son), I ran into my daughter’s room to see exactly why she had been yelling. She replied “Nothing. I just wanted to ask if we were going to have dinner soon.” Really?! The yelling, the banshee screams, the frantic shouting of my name while I was on the phone was for that?! THAT??? And that was the moment I lost my shit. Big time!

I lashed out at my six-year old baby girl. I growled at her in a voice so guttural that even a demon would have been scared. I shouted the worst, most horrible profanities that even a drunken sailor would swear were cruel. And, the anger, the overwhelmingly uncontrollable ire, just poured out of me like water from a broken dam. In that moment, as I delivered such a horrible display of parenting, I stood beside myself in angst, living an almost out-of-body experience. I knew it had all gone wrong right as it was unfolding, and yet I couldn’t stop any of it from happening. The tone, the words, the whole moment was something that had spilled out of me too easily. And it was a moment I could never take back.

She and I sat in silence in her room, unsure of how to proceed, for a few minutes following. Just awkward and hurt, disappointed and upset. And sad. We both shed many tears over the incident. We both made our apologies. We hugged and moved on with the day. But, even after we returned to smiles and happier times, I still couldn’t shake what had happened. And that was just one day. There were other times. Other things. My weaknesses, my impatience, my desire for control, my inflexibility – all of them, causing conflict, upset, discord, problems. It seemed a constant and recurrent theme.

And then June Cleaver appeared. On TV. There she was! “Leave it to Beaver” was on. Barbara Billingsley stood, reprising her famous character – the nurturing, loving mother. Buoyant. Chipper. Flexible. And endlessly patient. No. Matter. What. Though fictional, her representation of motherhood was one that I could recall from childhood, steadfastly holding it in my tiny mind as the ideal. The goal. The patron saint of matronly endeavors. So, after the defeat of the day, I did what came naturally. I said a little prayer to June:

Mrs. Cleaver, June, mother of all mothers, please help me to be wise like you.
Coif my head with gentility and open-mindedness.
Line my lips with a darker shade of self-control over my words.
Help me to stand tall in the heels of better judgment.
Give me the courage to wear a smile that bears true happiness behind it.
Lend me an apron to shield me from the messy nature of life.
And, endow me with pearls of wisdom that will get me through situations gracefully.
Though I will never be like you, please help me not to be so much like myself.

However, it took me a full day, when I finally wrote out the words of this little prayer, before it finally dawned on me – the difference between me and June is not that I’m a failure and she is not. The difference is that I am real person and she is not! If I had stylists making me beautiful, wardrobe artists dressing me up, set designers arranging my house, writers crafting my dialogue, and directors instructing me on how to act then perhaps I would have a picture perfect life, too. Our TV culture has done us in by the way of offering false realities for us to compare ourselves to. And I have bought into it, just as much as the next person.

Well…no more! Though I still love “Leave it to Beaver,” and though I still idolize how easy June Cleaver makes it look, I now realize that I should not compare myself to her any more than I would to Botticelli’s Venus or Michaelangelo’s David. Yes, I make mistakes. In fact, yesterday I made a big one. But, for every one of those moments I have hundreds of other more picturesque “good Mommy” moments that go unnoticed. Times like last week when my daughter and I made cookies together, laughing, licking wayward icing off our fingers. Or a few days ago, while I was holding both of them in my arms, reading them a story, spontaneously kissing their foreheads in between words. Or the airplane motions I have to make with my son’s spoon in order to coax another bite. Or the bandaged boo-boo’s I clean with the care of a surgeon. Or the love notes I pack in my daughter’s lunches. Or the countless games of Go Fish. Or hide-and-seek. Or peek-a-boo. Or listening to the same Barney song for the umpteen-millionth time! My love for them is everywhere. And my love for them is real. Because I’m a mom. Their mom!

Yes, I am the opposite of June Cleaver. Not because I’m a failure. But because I am real. I am what motherhood really looks like. And, barring a few exceptions, for the most part I’m pretty good at it. In my actions, even my worst ones, my children learn that a mother, like all people is a person who makes mistakes and gets back up, someone who is constantly analyzing, learning, trying to be better, though sometimes failing. A mother is also a person. And people have feelings. I am not so stoic that their bad behavior goes unnoticed. And I am not always so flexible to work around something that goes outside of my plans.

I’m trying. Every day I keep trying to be better. Every day I say a little prayer for improvement. However, from now on, those prayers will no longer be to fictional characters – and they will no longer be prayers to help me not be so much like myself. Instead, they will be prayers to help me to be my best self. When it’s all said and done, that is more the ideal, the goal of parenting, than any false image or TV reality.

Wilson


wilsonWhen I was a kid, I used to talk to myself. As an only child with few playmates and friends, this act grew as much out of necessity as it did out of imagination. And when I relate this detail, that I talked to myself, I don’t just mean here and there, bits and pieces, occasionally and only during certain types of play. I mean I would carry on long, full-blown conversations with myself – or, creatures I would call my “imaginary friends” – all day, every day. In truth, I knew there was nothing there. I didn’t even pretend to myself that there was anyone fictitious on the other side of my words. I just kept up the pretense so that it wouldn’t seem *as* crazy to others that I simply liked the sound of my own voice. The bonus was that some family members even thought it was cute. For a while, anyway.

Ultimately, as I grew older, it became less amusing to have a fictitious world of imaginary souls floating around me. This was a truth I knew quite clearly. So, despite the fact that this talking to myself continued, I kept it very much hidden from the world. And on some days, it was a mighty task indeed keeping my running dialogue silent and hidden in the gray matter of my mind.

Flashing forward several decades, I feel as though nothing much has changed in my persona. I still talk to myself. I still hold true to my more formative ways of being. Only now, instead of thin air, the exchange of words resonates and booms within the earshot of my infant son. Of course I include him in the discussion. He is, in fact, my imaginary friend come to life. Only capable of crying or smiling, his responses are nil and remain, therefore, akin to my childhood “friends” – in other words, malleable and open to the interpretation of my thoughts.

I often am asked by my contemporaries, other stay-at-home moms, if I feel what they feel – a deep loneliness that can come from being in the company of a baby all day. Since babies don’t speak, their houses often remain quiet – barring, of course, the random speckles of shrieks and screams that splotch the day. They confide that they are bored to tears, utterly anxious for naptimes to end so that they can pack up the kid and stroll around the mall just to feel like they are part of humanity. I, on the other hand, never feel this way. I just don’t. Don’t get me wrong – I do need people. I need them to fix my transmission, unclog my drains, ring up my groceries and mass-produce my jeans; but, I have never, ever needed them to fulfill that one human necessity – conversation.

Since dialogues and discussions can be reproduced to simulate the real things, I have never felt deprived of this sort of interaction. Call my crazy, but I guess you could say I’ve lived by the mantra “fake it until you make it.” The only thing is, I’ve never tried very hard to “make it.” One-sided conversations have become my new norm. So much so that I almost feel like I’m having an awkward out-of-body experience when I am forced to chat with a real person.

Having thought a lot about this way of being, I decided that it has become a survival technique of sorts. It got me through grade school when tormentors called me names and classmates excluded my very presence. It got me through long summer days that would have otherwise been spent watching a barrage of overblown soap operas with my mom. It even got me through a trying time in adolescence when I couldn’t quite cope with my changing body, the loss of a loved one and a horrific car accident. In essence, talking to myself got me through times when I felt displacement and detachment from the rest of the world.

If this were a deserted island situation, you could chalk it up to the fact that there are two kinds of people: those who would hurl themselves off of a cliff because they were driven insane by the desolation and the ones like me. My kind are the ones who live, regardless, even if they do so differently. To call it the same as being a survivor sounds like a pride-laden word that doesn’t quite describe it fully. No. People like me are merely vessels reminiscent of Tom Hanks in Castaway.  He got through tough times because he spent half of the movie gabbing away at Wilson. Wilson was, for all practical purposes, his saving grace; but, to the rest of the world he was just an anthropomorphic volleyball. A prop turned human. Because of this, his lack of flesh and blood, there were a lot of people who didn’t shed a tear when he was carried away by the waves. But, I did. I cried a lot. In fact, it was one of the most poignant moments in a movie. Ever. It really evoked great emotion in me – and, now I think it’s obvious why. My baby is my Wilson!

In my current state as a stay-at-home mother of a baby, I can draw more parallels between my life and Castaway than ever before. There are many times when I do feel as though I am on a distant island, far removed from my fellow humans. And most days I do feel as though my baby and Wilson are one in the same. He goes with me wherever I go. Of course, I have to carry him in order to get him to those places. I talk to him all day long. Occasionally I even wish that he would talk back to me. But, unlike Wilson, someday he will. My only fear is that, after years of breaking the silence only for survival’s sake, when I reenter the “real” world of conversations, when I am rescued from my metaphoric island of mothering an infant, that I will still remember how to converse with my child instead of just talking at the air around him.

In a way, I am glad that my childhood was so fraught with social awkwardness otherwise I may not have been so prepared to be alone with my baby each day. It’s kind of nice to hold “adult” conversations and use regular words with my infant son. I feel that it will allow his brain to develop and his words to build nicely in the running dialogue of his brain. Perhaps he will be an orator. Perhaps a lawyer. Perhaps just another of the countless souls in the world who love to hear themselves speak. But, whatever the case will be, I just hope he will know that he was my saving grace on days when I otherwise would have sunk into a pit of loneliness. That he was my salvation. That he was my smiling ball of hope, dangling gently from the raft of my life. And when he someday slips into far and fleeting waters away from my grasp, that I will cry, I will miss his constant presence, but I will be ever grateful that I had such a wonderful package along for the ride during this amazing voyage.

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Seriously, folks, if someone…anyone…is reading this, please leave me a comment. No matter how small. No matter how meaningless…it would just be nice to know if my words are finally being heard (or read) by an outsider. After all of these years of being in my own head, it would be nice to hear the words of others…

Thanks!
-Maya

Never Enough Time


Today we lost a dear family member. We knew it was coming. It wasn’t exactly a surprise. But, when we got the news, it stung like fire to think that this planet would be lacking in such a colorful personality. The void was immediately felt and the tears could not be contained.

The funny thing about death is that it’s everyone’s end game. It’s the direction in which we are all headed. It’s our future. It’s our inevitability. Yet, ironically, we forget this fact almost daily. Only when someone around use dies does it re-enter our minds as a jarring reality yet to be faced.

Turning on the news this week, there were other deaths which struck a chord in me. 88-year old Delbert Belton, a man who took a bullet for this country in Okinawa, died because a couple of fools couldn’t come up with better evening plans than, say, beating a man to death with flashlights. And then there’s the 22-year old college student, Christopher Lane, who was gunned down by a threesome who were as unworthy of life as they were “bored.” Sudden, terrible, unjustified, unwarranted deaths. Old or young, it’s all unfathomable. It’s all tragic.

So, when I sit at home after hearing of my loved one’s death, is it any less difficult or tragic because it was something we were all expecting? Simply put, no. There is never anything easy about death. No matter the age, no matter the means, it is all hard. It is all emotional. And, to those who love the one who has been lost, there is never enough time to throw in the towel and say that it has been a good run. Whether a person dies after one year or one hundred years, whether it’s after a long drawn out illness or a sudden traumatic event, it’s never enough. And it never will be. That’s just how death works.

It’s where we are all headed, but we do so kicking and screaming. No matter how much we hate mosquito bites, mullets, asshole waiters, or waiting in line at the DMV, we would much rather endure any of those things than die. No one wants to face our inevitable fate. No one wants to come upon this great unknown. Death is our last unknown. Our final question mark.

I can’t say that when my time comes I will be anything other than full of dread and fear. Maybe fatigue. Maybe fulfillment. Hopefully full of love. But, there is one thing of which I am certain – I will never feel like I had enough time. Because, really, does anyone?