Post soundtrack: No Surrender by Bruce Springsteen. An alternate post title I considered was “There’s a war out there still raging; you say it ain’t ours anymore to win,” but the battle isn’t only out there — it’s also in here. It’s everywhere. It makes me tired.
I’ve been having a lot of vivid dreams lately. The other night I dreamed I was back in my childhood bedroom rushing to get ready before I missed the school bus. (Spoiler alert: I missed the bus, because 8-year-old me had way fewer last-minute things to do before leaving the house than adult me, and I was an adult/child in the dream.) I was struck by how detailed the dream was. I could smell my bedsheets, a combination of Era laundry soap and Bounce fabric softener. I could feel the warmth of the sunlight radiating through my window blind, and see all the loose threads in my Cabbage Patch bedspread. I lived in that house for 8 years. Not the shortest amount of time I’ve spent somewhere, but I’ve lived other places longer. I haven’t set foot on the property in more than 30 years. Yet when my mind goes home, it goes there.
I haven’t dreamed of that house in years. But right now a part of me is crying out for the security I had at 8, when the worst thing I could possibly imagine was missing the bus.
My ballot just came in. Which has prompted me to ask, as I’ve asked before: Does it really matter if I vote? I live in a red state. My neighbors don’t just have Trump signs; they fly Trump flags and have scary bumper stickers featuring liberals and guns.
Side note: I am amused that this twitchy, trigger-happy crowd is so quick to yell “Faith, not fear!” They’ll go unmasked in public during a global pandemic because God’s got their backs, but they’re reaching for their guns if someone dares knock on the door of their suburban McMansions on a Tuesday afternoon. What, God doesn’t do intruders?
This weekend, Anya and I passed a Trump support motorcade that was at least 10 miles long. The electoral college vote in this state will never represent mine. Setting aside his bizarre claims to become a squatter if the polls don’t go his way (and the man pried his sick old butt out of a hospital bed to return to the White House, so I’m doubting he’s going to allow a little thing like a lost election to budge him)…what does my vote accomplish? He lost the popular vote last time, yet here we are.
I voted, on principle. But I don’t have any faith that it matters.
I have stopped telling myself that things could not possibly get worse, because clearly they can. Will it get to the point where someone bombs us to right our course? If so, who will do the honors? These are the thoughts that come to me as I lie awake at night. If the pandemic doesn’t kill us, it’s possible our president will.
We had Anya evaluated for dyslexia, and it came as no surprise that she has a host of language processing disorders. The SPED teachers at her school are sympathetic, but the bottom line is they are stretched too thin to offer much additional help. (Fun fact: Twenty minutes before our IEP meeting, I was writing a summary of an article about the rights of children with disabilities to a free accessible public education. It’s free, yes, and public, but accessible? Meh.)
There’s a private school that I think would really help her, but she turns into a trembling ball of squeak when I talk about transferring her. Also, the annual tuition would buy you an economy car, and we really need a new car. So we’ve decided to homeschool for the time being. One of the homeschooling programs I’m looking at says that 3rd graders should expect to spend no more than 4 hours per day on schoolwork. We’ve been spending 12, usually part of that in tears, and not even getting through everything. Four hours? Where do I sign?
There is a tremendous push to get all the kids back in school — even as local cases among school-aged children are on the rise. I know for some kids, school is necessary for their well-being: Home is not a safe place. They don’t have enough food. Their parents need a free place to send their kids so they can work. However, those issues do not apply to us. Anya does miss the socialization, but we can and are socializing her in other ways. As for the education itself — what the hell is so wrong with writing off this year, and possibly next, and tacking on the extra time at the end of her schooling? I mean, would it be the worst thing in the world for her to graduate from high school at 19 or 20, if it meant she lived to see 20?
In advance of family pictures, I took both kids to the salon. Separately, of course, both to minimize their exposure risk (we are still very much sheltering in place, even if the rest of the world has moved on) and because Tween Anya feels too old for the kids’ salon this year. So we opted for the grown-up salon for her — and, due to some glitch in the online scheduling system, making her appointment required I make one of my own. I’d just trimmed my hair, but my roots were in desperate need of a touch-up; I’d been putting it off because the semipermanent color was no longer cutting it and I didn’t know what to try next. So I put myself in the hands of a professional. And I’m so happy I did. I just look better with dark hair. Like my childhood self, if my childhood self were left in the dryer overnight.
The weather here has been absolutely luscious (though it sounds like that’s about to end), and we’ve visited the botanic gardens multiple times. It’s simple to socially distance at the botanic garden because the place is huge. Plenty of room for everyone.
During our most recent visit, I heard some people behind me discussing amongst themselves the fact that the kids and I were wearing masks (I assume they were not; I did not turn around), and opting to walk in another direction rather than pass us and risk being asked to put masks on. After the brash, tone-deaf energy of the motorcade, that small measure of consideration was almost enough to move me to tears. Even if it was less about our feelings and more about not wanting to be confronted, it’s a greater level of empathy than I’ve encountered regarding the issue — regarding any issue — in quite some time.
Today’s happiness quote from Gretchen Rubin is this:
“There are unheralded tipping points, a certain number of times that we will unlock the front door of an apartment. At some point you were closer to the last time than you were to the first time, and you didn’t even know it. You didn’t know that each time you passed the threshold you were saying good-bye.” — Colson Whitehead, The Colossus of New York
Most of my goodbyes have been more good than bye; not that I’ve never had sad goodbyes, but if we were weighing them on a scale, the ones that led me to a better place far outweigh the ones that didn’t. But right now — awful as right now is — is about the most content I’ve ever been. More so even than I was as a child. The world outside my door is going to hell, I mean, but inside these walls we’re doing fairly well. I’m not ready to think about the goodbyes to come. I worked damn hard to get here; I want to stay here a while.
My Fitbit says I’m sleeping more these days, especially on the weekends. Partly because I have less extra work these days, partly because the temperatures have been cooler in the morning. Mostly, though, it’s because snuggling with my kids in a chilly room that’s slowly being warmed by the sun glowing against the blinds gives me the same sense of security and peace I had in my childhood bedroom. We all snuggle close under the blankets and drift in and out of sleep until mid-morning. The extra lie-in makes my body stiff and sore, but it’s worth if if I can hold off the sky falling for a while and just…rest. Be at peace.
We all need more peace right now.