vendredi, octobre 07, 2011

Dignity -- S(he's) got it -- or s(he) don't

In counseling class we've been talking a lot about self-disclosure.

It's a group dynamics class, constructed to help us understand how groups work. We're acting as a group -- and the clear, if implicit expectation, is that we'll share more, become more intimate, as the weeks go on.

I like the folks in the class, most of whom could be my children.

Yet, as I said to the class on Wednesday, I find it restful NOT to reveal a lot. It's a break from the 24/7 domestic drama that is my life right now.

I did share in class that I'm curious by how much people reveal about themselves online now -- often inadvertently. What does disclosure mean in a society where so many of us are letting it all hang out?

What you choose to share in comments on a blog, in a Facebook status update, a chat room comment, or what you dig up from the Internet and offer to readers on a website can tell readers an awful lot about who you are.

Sometimes it tells us that you may be one standard deviation (at least) below the mean (which may be the sum total of what I understand about statistics).

Dreck often reigns over brilliance.

I am a professional discloser. I do that in commentaries, in blogs, and sometimes in tweets (though rarely, nowadays). So it may seem like a contradiction to say that I hope that when I share, I do it with appropriate boundaries.

A few weeks ago, however, I had an experience that chastened me -- and served as a warning. Although it all got straightened out in the end, I learned a lesson about mouthing off in virtual reality. I hope I learned a lesson, anyhow.

We're all being watched by others -- and judged, whether we like it or not. What we say is a pretty good indicator of who we were -- judgmental or merciful (sometimes both), patient or sharp (sometimes one follows the other), joyful or depressed...shallow or deep.

It pays to think before you post -- though we're all probably going to look back and shake our heads at our own foolishness. That's the price we pay for liberty -- the freedom to be stupid -- and the tolerance to let other people do the same.

mercredi, octobre 05, 2011

The land of despair

This is one of the darkest days thus far in my life as a parent.

And I can't imagine how it's going to get better.

I hope that's a failure of imagination.

I doubt. I doubt. I doubt.

The legal and emotional implications of cutting loose my daughter

It was the email from her English teacher that tipped me over the edge this morning.

The DQ had only done the beginning of a paper. She'd failed her reading test.

When asked why, she'd told her teacher that her dad was in the ICU, and she was upset -- after a week and a half at home and in class to write the paper and prepare the assignment.

It's normal to be distressed when your dad is in the hospital. But she uses this kind of excuse often, and in many less tough circumstances.

I've been working every day to stay on top of her assignments (something many parents don't have to do with 16-year-olds).

When I saw the email, I called the DQ and left a message -- no privileges unless and until she starts getting her work done. And, by the by, how dare she use her dad as an excuse? Had she no shame?

Almost immediately a text came back: She would emancipate herself. I wasn't her mother! I would NEVER be her mother!

I have to admit, I enjoyed the idea for a few moments.

Then common sense kicked in. I don't think she could actually get "emancipated." There's no neglect, no abuse -- bickering and tears don't constitute grounds for emancipation.

Not to mention that I want her to succeed -- and she still needs our help.

I'm not the wisest mother, nor always consistent.

But I'm making a full court press to follow through.

And her dad and I have seen evidence of change -- teachers report a polite, engaged, and responsive teenager.

Except when it comes to classwork, and homework.

The DQ does have to emancipate herself. But right now she seems to think that this is about failing to live up to the expectations of others.

Instead, it may be about freeing herself to truly explore and appropriate her deep potential.

I can't do that for her.

But darn it, I'm still her mother. And I have to act that way -- whether she likes it, or not.

Whether I like it, or not.

Guess what kind of day it is today.

mardi, octobre 04, 2011

My fantasy dinner

This past few weeks I have been up to something that is becoming depressingly normal -- telling otherwise eligible men that I can't possibly date them. I'm fairly sure that one otherwise cool guy has thrown in the towel after the aforementioned child hives incident.

Travel on vacations -- impossible.

Long-distance relationships -- New Jersey might as well be Canada.

Guys without kids -- enjoy the life of the bon vivant! Write and tell me how it goes.

You'd think that this would be good for my ego. I'm totally sick of it. I guess it would be worse if I attracted no attention, so I'm not complaining about that.

I'd love to go out to dinner with a hot guy -- if I could somehow get past the preliminaries.

I was very aware, at a lunch last week (which seems like a century ago) that I was being sized up, evaluated, even perhaps undressed (which really isn't something I even consider on a first date, but I'm not a man).

I'm totally starved for frivolity and relaxation, not to mention flirtation.

It doesn't matter where my fantasy dinner takes place -- a diner or a classy Main Line restaurant would be equally fine.

We'd already be comfortable enough with each other that everything and anything would be on the table, as it were.

Gentle joking would be par for each course, and occasional blushes would cleanse the palate for the next rejoinder.

Silliness, even giddiness would be accepted in the spirit of friendship -- and now and then, something a bit deeper.

We'd know one another's weaknesses -- and it would still be O.K.

Maybe now and then we'd hold hands, or exchange a kiss -- no pressure, no calculation.

I feel my lip beginning to curl -- which tells me that right now I'm not even in the ballpark, let alone on the field.

First I have to start saying "no thanks" -- and it's going to be a while before I can.

But boy oh boy, I am ready.

Crushing burdens -- and baffling silence

This isn't a pretty topic.

But putting it on the screen in black and white may help me figure out what's happening -- and change my own behavior.

I've been puzzled by why, as I strive to maintain a grasp on complications too much for one person's shoulders, I have felt so alone.

With a few shining exceptions (a neighbor who has befriended the DQ, a Boy Scout father, my son's coach, an unexpected friend), no one has offered a hand. Emails updating friends and family have gone largely, though not totally (thank you!) unanswered.

There may be multiple reasons for this.

I'm not a good enough friend in a crisis myself. Maybe I need to pick up a mirror.

We live in a very atomized society. If you don't have local family in the area, no one thinks to offer help.

I'm extremely independent. Perhaps I give off signals that I don't need moral or physical support.

Lots of people have their own burdens, and are not in a position to take on another responsibility.

I'm not connected anymore with a church community in which folks would gather around and make casseroles, or offer to take kids for an evening.

There are so many possibilities -- and, I suppose, lessons to learn. When we're past this, I hope that I figure out how to be a better friend, more willing to offer help, and more open about needing it.

In the meantime, I just have to lift my chin, put my shoulders back, and move forward. Pity is not an option. There's too much to be done.

lundi, octobre 03, 2011

Living that townhouse life

It was 52 frustrating degrees when I got into the house this morning.

I have a heat pump, but it doesn't work well without insulation.

Realistically, that's a month or so down the road.

This morning, my hands chilled against the keys, I'd rather be in Exton.

The kid's father is letting us stay down there while he's in the hospital.

That's given me an exposure to townhouse life that I've never really had prior to this.

I've never been a big townhouse fan, and it's mostly due to life experience.

They weren't popular in Park Slope, Brooklyn, when I grew up -- our 1902 brownstone (though similar on the outside to its neighbors) was the antithesis of a townhouse.

When I moved to D.C., the suburbs made me so crazy, with their bland sameness, that we picked a late eighteenth-century Bryn Mawr home to rent when we moved back, to the Main Line.

As I've said in previous posts, my realtor, a friend, told me it was hard to figure out WHAT kind of house would be appropriate -- I didn't fit the single mom, townhouse profile.

Of course, there is no profile. People live in townhouses for all kinds of reasons. Maybe they don't like mowing the lawn?

But I'm learning that townhouses have advantages.

Heat, for example.

Seriously -- the kids can walk to their friends houses (though my son doesn't have friends near his dad's home and my daughter has radar for inappropriate older male renters).

I see teens move from court to court on the path that circles the development -- and standing waiting for the morning bus, where they can get to know each other.

There's a tennis court and swimming pool.

As I walk or run the loop (close to a mile and a half) I look fort signs of individuality. Someone has LED pumpkin light faces on their deck, another has flowers in the back.

The smell of steak rises from one home, the odor of woodsmoke in another court.

Very different lives go on within the very similar walls.

I know that. And I'm grateful for the chance to experience the townhouse difference.

I just wish, sometimes, when I'm walking, that someone driving by would stop and say hello, or recognize me.

Then I realize that I'm not at home, and these folks don't know me.

I'm a stranger in an odd, in-between land -- and grateful for the shelter.

Back here, it's edging up to 54 degrees. Off to look for mittens.