Much of this past year has left me convinced that there exists somewhere a Melanie-shaped voodoo doll absolutely festooned with hat pins. Politics has me in a delicate state, mentally limp on a couch, just like poor Beth in Little Women. You would think the Universe would have pity on me, but nooooo. Resident teens have had me on the verge of a nervous breakdown more than once. Referals took months upon nail-biting months to track down. Our air conditioner broke. Our washing machine broke. Our car developed new and fascinating tics. Now that it’s colder I turned on the furnace and… it’s broken. Of course.

We had a mouse infestation, a rat infestation, and when one of the damn things died in the wall behind the kitchen cabinets, so many flies filled the house that you would have thought that we were living in the Amityville Horror home, or that my suspicions were correct and at least one of these kids is actually the spawn of Satan. At the very least it seemed plausible that someone was working a mighty curse upon us.

And yet, so much learning! So many opportunities to exit the situation wiser than one entered it. At least, that is the slippery silver lining that I’ve been reaching for. “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade” and all that…although I’d prefer it if life would hand me Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, but you work with what you’ve got.

So what have I learned, lo this past year?

  1. You’ve got to let the little stuff go. Seriously, there are too many truly traumatic events happening seemingly every day. You will never, ever convince the teens that they can use a towel more than once, or that one towel a day is sufficient. (Why? What can you possibly need all those towels for?? On second thought, I don’t want to know.) Furthermore, you will not be able to convince them that their apathetic attempts to clean the bathroom, that those broadly spaced, feeble swipes of a disinfectant wipe, are anything less than adequate. Not even when you point out the penny in the corner of the floor, the one that you have been watching with grim satisfaction for upwards of three weeks and which has not moved ONE INCH in all that time. Let it all go— you can worry about the flesh-eating virus growing behind the toilet when life settles down. For now, squirrel a couple towels upstairs and be damn glad you have your own bathroom.
  2. Contrary to popular belief, money can buy happiness…or, at the very least, a brief respite from stress. This is the Target Corporation’s business model, I believe. It owes its continued success to this exact fact; doubly so if you are lucky enough to live in a state that allows them to sell alcohol.
  3. “No feeling is final.” That’s straight from the poet Rilke, because I’m fancy that way. Everything is going to happen. Every feeling will be felt. But it won’t last forever. Feeling stressed out? Don’t worry, tomorrow will be better. Things going swimmingly….? Ho, boy. Just you wait.
  4. And finally, there is no curse. These things that happen, happen because of life, not because of your moral failings. Your kids don’t make bad decisions because you are an unfit parent whose passionate commitment to getting eight hours of sleep a night constitutes neglect. Your kids make bad decisions because their immature frontal lobes are capable of the same neurological activity as a fish stick and because they erroneously believe themselves to be invincible. Rodents did not move into your home as a divine judgement against your lax housekeeping. They came because your house is warm and cozy and fully stocked with chocolate sandwich cookies. If anything, it’s a compliment.

So, no curse, just life in all its confounding complexity. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to burn a little sage, I think. Or offer up a little prayer:
“Dear Lord, please just don’t let the raccoons come back. Amen.”

The Rise & Fall of a Momocracy

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