“Be Here Now” Club

There were just three days left in my 365 writing project and my daughter is home on winter break. My husband, off to work, suggests I put on a movie for her so I can write. He knows I feel the impending heat as I am inches away from typing an imaginary “the end” on a non-traditional manuscript in a category of its own: organically, unplanned, spontaneously-transcribed, incomplete pseudo-memoir in essays. 

Today, though, I stared into my daughter’s big brown eyes and committed to spending a day without breaking eye contact. All year I’ve prioritized my writing and I vowed today would be all about her. I lingered in each drawn-out moment of her day and stayed with her for as long as it took for her to eat breakfast because she had a five-minute story in between each bite. I played the Princess Cupcake game with her, having mini imaginary adventures as we assembled the rubber cupcakes. We played six rounds of Connect 4, where she claimed victory five of those times. We colored together, side-by-side, in one of those thin-lined, adult coloring books filled with details, where the pages seem impossible to complete. We ate string cheese, literally one string at a time, and drank ice water, eating crushed ice one at a time. We watched My Fat Greek Wedding 2, me explaining some of the vague reference but then using the infamous, “it’s Greek to me” when she asked about the sex references. I painted purple glitter polish onto her nails and icy blue with silver swirls and dots onto her toes. We Skyped with my sister in Maine where my daughter modeled her new Hamilton t-shirt and showed off her custom-ordered Hamilton-quote necklace.

I didn’t bother with my phone all day and saved my writing until later. I lived completely in every minute, savoring my daughter, who exhibited perfect behavior, appreciative and cooperative all day. 

At day’s end, I reflected on how I successfully lived in the now all day. Something I’ve perpetually struggled with my entire life felt so zen, yet I didn’t recognize the sensation. On various vacations throughout my life I’ve dipped my toe into the realm of relaxation, but it’s a foreign, uncomfortable feeling. However, had I spent the day on my default multitasking setting, stressing about what needed to get done, or focusing on writing while ignoring my daughter, I would have not only short-changed my experience, I would have inadvertently diluted the light I exude. Another by-product of being fully present was time stood still. I was not as obsessed with the ticking because my attention wasn’t directed at the time; it was on being.

Being in the now is a philosophy, a religion, a practice, a habit, a way of life; kind of like being vegan. My husband, the Eagle Scout, loves to recount the Native American philosophy of eating, which should be done in silence to dutifully honor and respect their food. Truly being present means tastes are saturated. Being in the now means I should focus less on the perpetual loud ticking of life pressuring me to hurry up, write more, accomplish more, travel more places, get more massages and manicures and focus more on directing all five senses towards BEING RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW with every single thing I do.

I’ll chalk today’s epiphany up as an another example of an intangible profitable consequence of writing every single day. In fact for the rest of my life (or perhaps just the foreseeable future), I imagine there will be many occurrences where I will find myself saying, “I learned this from writing every day…”

“I’m OK with a B Grade” Club

Throughout my academic life, any grade I brought home shy of a 100 percent on a test or an A on a report card was questioned. My parents didn’t come from the “good job” school and rather were more of the “you performed just as expected” school. If I scored a 99% on an exam, my parents would inquire about the other 1%. Maybe it was the Russian in them – not “Tiger parents” exactly, but maybe “Bear parents”?

What do you call the anti-helicopter parent? They were those; they didn’t want to do any more than they needed to, and with good reason, they had already moved me across the world so I could have freedom and the American dream. When I assured them “I got it” about the whole high school and college section of my life, they were glad I grabbed the reigns to steer my life so they could focus on redirecting theirs.

I graduated college with a 3.75 GPA, Magna Cum Laude, which sounds like the highest honor, but it’s not. Summa Cum Laude, which you needed a 3.8 to get awarded was merely .05 points away and after 20 years it still pisses me off when I think about the one “A-” which could have been an “A” and altered the course of my Cum Laudes.

And of course, changing the course of my life not at all.

Getting an “A” wasn’t so much about mastering a subject, bettering myself, or stretching my brain. Getting an “A” was akin to winning a game. An “A” was the goal, the finish line. Getting a “B” meant coming in second; it meant someone was better than me and that didn’t settle well with me.

My son attends one of the country’s elite high schools where the curriculum and the manner in which his school is run is very collegiate. On his last report card, he had a couple B’s, a couple B+’s, and an outstanding accompanying narrative from every teacher. He starred in one of the leading roles in his first high school play and kicked ass in Honors math and geometry and wrote a steampunk-themed science fiction short story which made me question if I should bother writing another word because my 14-year-old son is already better than me. [Forgive the oozing comments of ruthless insecurity.]

When I scanned the report card, my eyes habitually searching for the A’s, I felt a tiny kick in my gut. I would have been devastated by these grades yet he told me he was proud of his first trimester grades. I told him I was proud of him too and gave the subject of grades a thought beyond what I was brainwashed to believe. I know at a “regular school,” he’d be a grade ahead – and why? What’s the hurry? Why advance, advance, advance? Why is the MO to breed students who compete with peers? Why do grades have such lasting impact and how can a human’s education retention vs. deeper understanding be measured? How can we really judge how much people learn?

Theoretically, if you get a 90% on a test, it means 90% of what they asked (which was an even smaller percentage of what was taught) was answered correctly. Today, at 42 years old, after I’ve written every single day for 350 days in a deconstructed daily memoir, it dawned on me: maybe 90% of trigonometry or European history or plant biology is just fine. In fact, maybe it’s great! Add years and minus a few percent for memory holes and the percentage would be substantially less, but what percentage do we use in our adult lives?

As we become functional adults in society, our brains get bogged down with survival minutia which trumps the academic curriculum once embedded in the folds of our cerebellum. Our brains focus on remembering to pay the mortgage, heat the house, keep food in the refrigerator, and make sure our children don’t die of smallpox. We plan road trips and vote for Presidents and pursue our dreams and fall in love and make sure our kids are stimulated with piano lessons and dance lessons. Our high school A’s in geometry often falls short of solving the problem of the day.

I’m not sure what it was about today when this pivotal realization moment occurred; when this notion, which seems so obvious now, just clicked in me. For the sake of my son and my daughter, I hope this newfound ideology becomes cemented on my cerebral cortex and forever redefines how I look at another report card or grade.

“The Power of an Apology” Club

I was never one to give much weight or validity to an apology no matter how sincere. I am a proud Leo who has always struggled with apology and forgiveness. I work hard to do everything right all the time and my sense of virtue and justice hovers over me as an identifier. I’m aware I have to loosen up in terms of both.

In history and in the media, I’ve witnessed an abundance of apologies. Politicians who have been caught in crimes and misdemeanors can get off scot free with a well-written, carefully crafted apology. I’ve often marveled at this precise brand of speech writing skills.

Last weekend after my son’s final performance in a lead role in his first high school play, my son’s adrenaline together with peer encouragement got the best of him and he ended up punching a wall in the school’s dance studio. To his credit, his cast mates egged him on by chanting, “punch a wall, Jacob!” This punchline (no pun intended) had been the mantra throughout the three months of play rehearsal. Coasting on the exhilaration of four nights of standing ovations in a row, my son didn’t realize his strength and actually punched a hole in the wall.

As we meandered to our car after 11 PM on Saturday night, after the cast party, he confessed to the punch in the car. He genuinely felt bad and I couldn’t think of a time where he acted more “quintessentially teenage boy.” The next morning, with the hole in the wall clearly pressing on him, he volunteered to write an apology.

It wasn’t my intention, but the inner apology speech writer marched forth and formulated a few sentences – as a mere suggestion. I read them aloud to my son and he said, “YES!” 

“It was irresponsible of me not consider the potential repercussions of such an emotionally energized action. Throughout our weeks of rehearsal, we had a running gag, “Jacob, punch a wall” and all along I did it jokingly. I never thought it would make any damaging impact.”

The dance teacher wrote back instantly. She was understanding and grateful for the thoughtful apology and had said it was not necessary for my son to repair or pay for it. The teacher also noted she would hold my son accountable for channelling his rage elsewhere.

When he received the email he ran in immediately to share the positive result. With pride in his eyes and a small smirk, he shook his head in disbelief.

“It got me off the hook” he sighed. I hope he never forgets the power of an apology.

“I Hate Daylight Saving’s Time” Club

I never appreciated the extent of how awful the idea of Daylight Saving’s Time really is until I had a baby. The authorities on time declare the main purpose of Daylight Saving Time (called “Summer Time” in many places in the world) is to make better use of daylight. I call bullshit on this whole operation.

Once I understood the important impact a regularly scheduled baby would have on my well-being, I savored and rationed my nap and evening hours like they were fine chocolates I received in a monthly subscription club.

The first Daylight Savings time of motherhood kicked my ass and gave me a time hangover for at least two weeks. Every day I was catching up and it didn’t feel like I lost (or gained) an hour, but I felt like I was recovering from a college all-nighter with no term paper or final exam to show for it.

Flash forward 14 years and it doesn’t take two weeks for my kids to adjust to the new time, but the 4:30pm sunset is not boding well for my seasonal affective disorder nor for my productivity. As the sun goes down, it seems to take my eyelids magnetically with it.

I can understand there is nothing we can do about Trump at this point, but perhaps while the country is energized to take change into our own hands, does anyone want to start a “fuck daylight savings time” petition?

“I’m a Jew Who Loves Christmas Songs” Club

I didn’t grow up in a religious home; I knew I was Jewish and knew it was important that I know that. Together with my parents, I came to America as a refugee from the former Soviet Union in 1979. The anti-semitism drove my parents out; they wanted to live in a country where their religion didn’t prevent them from going to college or getting a job or procuring an apartment.

In New York City, home to over one million Jews, my parents felt free to wear Star of David and Chai necklaces but never stepped foot inside a synagogue unless it was mandated for a Bar Mitzvah or wedding. When it came time for the December holidays at school and kids did the “Are you Christmas or Chanukah” survey, I was proudly “Team Chanukah.”

In junior high school, I was in the chorus for two years (got in by singing the theme to the Brady Bunch) and had the opportunity to perform at the Staten Island Mall for the holidays and at the iconic Pan Am Building (now the MetLife building) as well as Carnegie Hall. In those years, I learned dozens of Christmas songs and loved them all, excited to be able to sing along to a month’s worth of radio as I wiped down counters at the family donut shop.

Initially, I felt a sense of guilt for loving the Christmas songs so much; almost like I violated my religion. I didn’t keep kosher so eating BLT sandwiches never felt as much as a breach of religion as how much these Christmas carols could penetrate my soul; Ave Maria and Silent Night get me every single time.

Last week my daughter came home from her musical theater class telling me they were working on a Christmas song, “Don’t worry mom, it doesn’t have any Jesus or Santa in it, it’s just about winter.”

“Oh that’s OK,” I said, “I love Christmas songs!”

“You know,” my husband chimed in, “many Christmas songs were actually written by Jews. The song you’re doing, Winter Wonderland was, as well as Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow, and the one of the most famous ones, White Christmas, which is the best selling single ever.” 

“You know, our teachers asked if there is anyone in the class who didn’t celebrate Christmas and I raised my hand,” my daughter explained. “Then she said, ‘Really? No one in your family celebrates Christmas? Not even your parents or grandparents?’ She was so shocked and I said, ‘No, no one at all.’”

I laughed. It’s funny in 2016, living in such an urban multicultural area, with plenty of Jews, there are still people shocked to learn Jesus’ birthday doesn’t mean anything to us. We don’t feel nostalgic for three wise men or yearn to sing hymns or gather around the table, heads bowed for grace. It’s just a day off, no more sacred to us than Columbus Day or President’s Day.

The songs, though often deity specific, cross religions and cultures by creating a feeling of camaraderie, warmth, celebration, and joy. I say cheers to Christmas carols. 

“My Son, The Theater Star” Club

When I first learned my son got a starring role in his first high school play, I was ecstatic. Not just because I was living vicariously through him, but because he had finally found something in which he felt not only did he excel, but he passionately enjoyed. After two months of intense rehearsal, I was an eager mama, armed with tickets for three of the four performances. I missed the penultimate performance (because my sister came to town from Maine to see Saturday night’s show), which OF COURSE (my son says) was the BEST one.

I knew I’d be washed over by a fog of pride; I wasn’t sure how objective I could be, but history dictates I could be a rather harsh judge.

Living in New York City most of my life equipped with an innate love of theater and drama, I’ve had the tremendous benefit of attending Broadway and Off-Broadway shows. After seeing hundreds of shows over the last 25 years, and having spent five years in the theater industry, I feel this cumulative theatrical viewership justifies my theoretical theater critic’s resume.

The lights went down and the cast, clad in their period costumes came on stage and my heart rate accelerated. My little boy is on stage playing a 26-year-old scientist who will seduce the servant girl character. I’m staring at him, hanging on his every line, watching his every mannerism. He’s so handsome, so talented; his presence on stage not only palpable but powerful.

The sense of joy and pride I felt was beyond him just doing a stellar job as an actor. I wanted to give him a hug which had snowballed from my heart for the last 14 years. Here he was on stage, a part of something grand, a performance which will be historically documented on the walls of his elite school. He stood as a fundamental, present member of the cast, who was supportive, encouraging and considerate of his peers and cast-mates. His strong work ethic was obvious from the day he brought home the script, highlighting his lines, memorizing them immediately. Mostly, I was brimming in a sea of warm euphoria as my son, more than anything, exhumed the passion he had stored up for all these years. Not only did he put his brain and heart into his role, he did what I think is the hardest part for an artist, he received and responded to the director’s criticism (“notes”) after each performance). I was proud of his commitment, his performance, and to see the illumination of his inner wick.

My son is fortunate to attend a prestigious private school, one of the best in the world, and he is blessed to have this tremendous institution with its dedicated dramatic arts programs and phenomenal educators guiding them to parallel A’s in physics, geometry, and calculus while playing sports, instruments, and programming robotics in their spare time.

The plot of the play (An Experiment with an Air Pump) focused on lofty discussion of morality and scientific ethics and took place over the course of two time zones: 1799 and 1999. The stage design was constructed entirely by students, primarily one genius who conceptualized the turntable-centered set inspired by Hamilton. The costumes were era-appropriate, worn by the teenagers as if they were seasoned actors who had honed their craft over years, not just two months of 3-hours of rehearsal, 3 times a week.

My son played the villain in the play and has several amorous, mature scenes opposite a girl, who was a senior. In one scene, he kisses her passionately and while it was the PG version, I felt on occasion it bordered on PG-13 because there was a succession of kisses and it seemed some extra credit groping. During the second performance I attended, which was filled predominantly with classmates and friends, the romance scene got the rowdiest reaction. Also, the scene where my son says the word, “erection” earned quite the uproar.

Can you imagine your first kiss on stage? I feel like I’m witnessing the live preamble to a famous actor’s memoir. (Will my son write me a dedication or will he let me pen a chapter? No pressure.)

After the show, the girl my son kissed, came over to introduce herself. She was quintessentially sweet; a senior who is kind, humble, and smart. “I had my first kiss on stage in 9th grade too,” she said and I held onto that precious nugget. I’m witnessing my son plant the seeds of his story.

“He’s going to remember you forever,” I tell her and imagine my son telling his kids a la Ted from How I Met Your Mother about how his first kiss (or 100) was to a senior on stage. Imagine those butterflies.

Last week after the final rehearsal, I asked my son if he feels truly cool. I mean, a freshman kissing a senior in the high school play?

“Yeah,” he said without looking up. “Totally.”

After the performance, the kids had a celebration where the seniors presented the cast with gag gifts based on the character. My son, who portrayed an immoral scientist pervert got a book called Always Jesus and a box of condoms.

“Wasn’t It Just Yesterday?” Club

I feel too young to hear myself say it, but as I drove to pick my son up from play rehearsal at 7:30pm (gasp!) from HIGH SCHOOL (double gasp!) I inhaled deeply as I pulled off the exit and exhaled loudly, as my mind, obviously plagued by too many Hallmark cards, commercials, and TV movies, thought, “Wasn’t it just yesterday that my father was picking ME up from high school? Wasn’t it just yesterday when I sat on the passenger side, craning my neck towards the back seat to gossip with my best friend?”

How did it happen that parenthood became a one-way ticket to every cliche? “It goes by so fast; in the blink of an eye. I wish I could hit pause, I wish I could slow it down.” I’m feeling the same thing every mother in the history of time has felt: shock, nostalgia, longing, impending mortality, and a clock which ticks louder with each day the children grow.

My brain queued Sunrise, Sunset, and I teared up as I pulled into the car line with other parents, idling with their hazards on, waiting for their extracurricular kids. He’s so grown up. He was born wise beyond his years, his large brown eyes born to peer back at me, challenge me, keep me honest, and keep me in perpetual awe of him. He’s always been mature, but his demeanor is evolving; he’s transitioning slowing into a man and I’m witnessing it in a slow motion, fast forward.

Wasn’t it just yesterday I brought him home from the hospital? Less than seven pounds of warm, soft human I didn’t understand. I didn’t comprehend the intensity of love my heart can squeeze until his first cry. Before he was born, I didn’t entertain false romantic fantasies of motherhood; I imagined, quite realistically, hard days and gritty days and days I’d want to speed up as much as slow down. While I contemplated the physicality of the human I would create, I never envisioned the journey, the life lessons sprinkled throughout the road, insightful bread crumbs your kids leave for you.

Wasn’t it just yesterday I worried about breastfeeding, about percentiles, about tummy time? Wasn’t it just yesterday he learned to crawl, to walk, to ride a bike, to swim, to ski, to surf? Wasn’t it just yesterday I carried him on the bus ride after a full day in Disney World? Wasn’t it just yesterday he wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning without asking? Wasn’t it just yesterday I sang John Lennon’s Beautiful Boy to him every night?

It wasn’t yesterday, it was 14 years of yesterdays. He comes into the car, donning his black leather jacket, backpack slung over his shoulder and smiles.

“How was the dress rehearsal?” I ask.

“That was the shitiest run through of all time,” he says, and I beam proudly because he sounds just like me, “But the good news is, I love my costume.”

“I’m a Planner” Club

I’ve made plans for as long as I can remember and for about just as long, I’ve learned to spew John Lennon’s “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” quote. Or else there’s Woody Allen’s “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.”

I’ve learned even the best-laid plans get screwed up. The more you diligently plan, the more disappointed you get when the whole thing gets ruined. Over the years life has taken detours like a labor I didn’t anticipate and getting divorced and getting fired and getting my apartment flooded. I plan anyway; it’s a personality trait not easily shaken. Planning increases my odds for whatever I’m doing. If I arm myself with knowledge about where I’m going and what to expect when I get there, I feel more prepared and in control. Planning = control and I like control whenever I can get it.

September was earmarked to begin book compilation of my 365-Project. Only instead, a refrigerator pipe two floors above had another prerogative and now so do I. Instead of organizing 284, now 285 autobiographical essays, I am looking at under-mount sinks, pull-down faucets, subway tiles. I’m tired of finding the best of all of the above. I don’t care if it’s a subway tile or an arabesque or Mosaic; if it’s porcelain, ceramic, or glass. I don’t care about the radius on the sink; if it’s chrome or nickel or silver plated or stainless steel. IT’S ALL SILVER!

I love words and yet the convoluted jargon surrounding every element of a kitchen renovation is exhausting. I need a “Kitchen Renovations for Dummies (and Control Freaks)” with a free copy of “The Best Kitchen Choice for the Best Price” almanac.

Meanwhile, I’m planning like it’s practice. I’m ripping out cabinets on Thursday, hauling junk on Friday, floors laid on Monday. My mind races each day, though. How many days left of the renovation? How many days do I have left in the project?

Sometimes I think of planning as if I’m the understudy for a role. You have to know all of the lines, but won’t always have the opportunity to perform them. Better to be prepared.

Occasionally I get rewarded and planning works out perfectly. (Validation and brain ammunition to encourage me to plan next time.) I texted my son to meet me outside of school at 5:45 because we had a 6:15 dinner reservation on the Upper West Side. I pull up, and he walks out at exactly 5:44. There’s no traffic on the West Side Highway and we find a parking spot directly in front of the restaurant. In fact, it’s not just an ordinary parking spot; it’s the one parking spot on the block you don’t need to feed the meter. Incidentally, this was on the day when my “life was in retrograde.” Yet, with a little planning, I was able to enjoy a delicious cherry on top of the mediocre Tuesday.

Like a careful account manager I am plotting next month’s calendar trying to carefully coordinate the electrician appointment with the plumber’s and ensure the appliance hook up happens after the cabinets, but before the counter and the tiling. I’m thinking about the water line to the refrigerator and the water filter under the sink and the mortar and the grout … and in what fucking color?

I plan and I plan and all the while, friends and family remind me with a snicker, how the only guarantee is that it won’t go according to plan.

“My Daughter is the Non-Immigrant at an Immigrant School” Club

Five months after I landed in New York City from the former Soviet Union, I had my first day at the public school across the streets from the projects in which we settled. It was an average school, (although I didn’t know the difference) and it was filled with kids just like me: fellow immigrants. We were Russian, Chinese, Korean, Indian; a quintessential New York City melting pot of culture. I wasn’t interested in the other cultures; I focused on the all-American kids: the Jennifers, Michelles, Matthews, and Davids; the ones I saw on Growing Pains and Who’s the Boss and Facts of Life. This was way before ABC saturated the market with a rainbow of sitcoms to accommodate many cultural demographic.

I was in awe of the “Amerikanskiye” kids, whereas my parents were often quick to point out all their flaws. I was jealous of their PTA-participating moms, their fashionable clothes, their modern lunchboxes, and their in vogue hairstyles. I was only in kindergarten and I already recognized my blatant differences. Aside from a name I would have to repeat a dozen times before they got it, I had toast with cream cheese and tea for breakfast rather than cereal with milk. I would drink my tea out of a “blyoodeechka” (saucer) so it would cool down faster.

Fast forward 35 years and my daughter is off to kindergarten and we live in a neighborhood which is also predominantly immigrants, only the difference is it is one-dimensional: 52% of our community is from Korea. We’ve enjoyed our emersion in their culture, eating Korean tofu soup, kimchi, spicy cucumbers weekly. 75% of my daughter’s class is Korean. She has Korean friends as well as Chinese, Indian, and Arabic friends but at one point, she confessed, “I wish there were more Jewish kids in my school.” While I felt a pang of guilt (not sure why), her comment actually validates my suspicion that most children will eventually go through the rite of passage of feeling like they don’t belong. Hopefully, it’s a transient learning experience.

This year she had a boy join the school who just came here from China. “He doesn’t speak any English,” she explained to me. “Not even one word. He doesn’t understand anything I say, especially ‘NO!’” I had to explain to her how hard and alienating it feels to be an outsider. Over time he’ll blend in and being an immigrant will just be one part of who he is – just like it is one part of who I am – and just another way in which humans connect, identify, and relate to one another. (Immigrant Club.)

I told my daughter about my first day of kindergarten. I didn’t speak any English and was terrified to be left alone without my parents. My grandmother, who at 87 still speaks broken English, was my translator for the day. I clenched the bottom of her dress for dear life, sobbing, begging her not to leave. My daughter laughed at the idea that “Baba Maya,” her great-grandmother, who needs a translator to communicate 98% of everything, would be MY translator. This notion that I was a scared, lonely child helped trigger an intense empathetic reaction.

I wonder how her experience will be different. I look at her and see her as the “cool and nice girl,” the one for whom reading and language and communicating is so easy, such an afterthought. Children have always been drawn to her; making friends comes easily and naturally to her. Her default is to love everybody and be inclusive. I was such a starkly different creature; born pragmatic realistic, full of doubt. My iron feet don’t lift from the ground while she floats on clouds gleefully.

Her exposure to the diverse cultures helps her understand differences and develop tolerance, which she will hopefully carry throughout her life in our global world. I imagine she is gaining an understanding of the idiosyncrasies in communicating with different cultures – with empathy and kindness rather than with ignorance and entitlement – and this will only serve her in life. I don’t want to raise a child who travels to France thinking they’ll speak to her in English.

Additionally, I have the parent perspective. Now I’m the “American” mom, which is baffling and makes me chuckle. At school pick up, I am the minority once again, a blonde in a sea of Koreans. They smile at my face of exclusion and giggle, but it feels polite and superficial and never quantified with anything beyond a smile and “hi.” In an ironic twist of fate, life has made me an outsider for the second generation, only, this time, I know better.

“My Messy House is Getting to Me” Club

The amount of anger I feel when I wake up to a messy house is unreasonable. I’m not in any physical pain, yet within minutes my insides are scorching. My soul is on fire; the rage radiates directly from my heart – I swear I feel it – and extends like an asterisk to the tips of my fingers and my toes. Call this OCD or call it neat-freak, I call it biological common sense. No, I won’t die from the mess (but the stress may kill me). My kidneys will not stop suddenly, on strike, because the dishes are in the sink. My pancreas will not go on an insulin boycott and my heart certainly won’t STOP beating because there are two inches of dirt on the floor. No, I will continue to function, but the mess in my house is fucking pissing me off.

I can’t expect my husband, my teenage son, or my 6-year-old daughter to want to clean. What they don’t understand is I don’t WANT to clean either! I want it clean, I like it clean, and I’d love if someone else did it (according to my criteria, of course). It is scientifically, sociologically, and anthropologically proven that “clutter in your house is clutter in your life.” 

The brown rings get darker and spread like a bacterial infection in our toilet and while I’m not testifying it will eventually crawl up my ass and give me toilet cancer, I wish they’d see it as DISGUSTING. Instead, they don’t see the apartment in shambles at all. Instead, it makes me unhappy, crabby, and frustrated especially at the excuse I get: “It doesn’t bother me so why should I clean it?

I’ve tried playing along with this reasoning and try to let it not bother me. 281 days of writing and one of the big concessions I’ve had to make is to loosen up about a keeping a meticulously clean and organized house. Just for this year, I knew I would have to overlook the socks mysteriously multiplying under the couch and under the dining room table and anywhere other than a hamper.

I thought it would be easy to jump on the family’s messy bandwagon.

To be fair, my husband tries really hard to clean up and sometimes I believe him when he says he walked past the eight scattered books on the floor, the seven pairs of mismatched socks, and the crumbled up receipts without noticing. I genuinely want to give him a little head rub and say, “aww, I know you noticed the garbage has been full for two days and you keep meaning to do it. That’s ok, I’ll do it huffing and puffing and you will come running.”

I just want them to do it without being told over and over again. I want them to do it not because it bothers them but because it bothers ME.

As a mother, I astound myself with how much I can accomplish in a day and don’t understand why everyone else doesn’t function at my speed. I’m non-stop from the from the time my eyelids open and I think I can do it all, but sometimes I remember maybe I don’t have to. After all, my husband is quick to remind me that no one asked me to do any of it. They’re happy to eat take out in their house of mayhem wearing stained clothes. I’m the picky one.

I know the flood and delayed insurance payment and incompetent contractors have not helped. While it’s awesome that our silver lining is a new kitchen, the mess I’ve been dealing with all year has multiplied by a thousand and I think it’s inching me closer to challenging the common understanding that “no one dies of a messy house.”