burnt.

That first morning I made fried eggs. I scooped out a glob of coconut oil and watched as it seeped to the corners of my grandmother’s cast iron skillet. The heat, turned up too high, made this short task an emergency.  I frantically fanned the shrieking smoke alarm with a nearby cutting board, quickly switched the stove vent to HIGH, and uttered a concise expletive underneath it all.

The next morning my stove demanded a repeat performance. The children cried, covered their ears.
The third morning my youngest asked if maybe we should just eat cereal. I turned to the fridge and held tightly to its door. Crying silently, I promised myself it was just a stove, it was just a breakfast.
It felt like failure. The stove mocking my inability to perform this small task.
I opened the fridge cautiously and felt its coolness hit my face. I searched longer than necessary for two more eggs and reached again for the oil.
—-
It was the only shirt they had. It’s tag said “large,” but it was a medium. It sat in my closet a month before I had the courage to try. Today, courage or not, it needed to be worn.
I put it on.
Turning, I realized he was nearby, eyes glued to his phone.
Me: What do you think?
Him: (glances up briefly) It’s a nice goal shirt.
Me: goal shirt?
Him: yeah, it’s ok, it’s good to have a goal.
——–
His skin held the soft sweetness that only a newborn baby’s could. His eyes a clear blue that lit up with every smile, every sound. His feet kicked to show off their feetness, perfect toenails on perfect toes that I often kissed for no reason.
He wiggled on the changing table as I struggled to redress him from his latest catastrophe. My abundance of caution wasn’t enough, my wedding ring left a red mark on his back, which scarred me more than him.
I finished my task, and carried my sweet boy with me the five short steps to my room. I placed him gently on the floor, took the rings off- leaving them in a small wooden box on the dresser- scooped him back up, and went downstairs to start dinner.
That night after the house was quiet, I turned to him-
Me: I took my rings off today.
Him: oh, ok, why?
Me: Because when I was changing our baby it scratched him and I don’t want to keep doing that.
Him: oh ok.
Me: So it’s ok?
Him: Is what ok?
Me: To not wear the rings.
Him: yeah, it’s fine.
Me: You’re not worried?
Him: Worried about what?
Me: That someone will, you know, come on to me.
Him: Come on to you?
Me: Yeah, like pick me up.
Him: Pick you up?
Me: Yeah, like flirt with me. Because I’m not wearing a ring.
Him: So where would this happen? This flirting?
Me: I don’t know, at the park or something.
Him: So wouldn’t you have the boys with you?
Me: Yes.
Him: Then no, I’m not worried.
Me: Why?
Him: Because you have two kids. No one would want you knowing you have two kids.
———
On the fourth morning everything worked. The eggs were crisp and slightly browned. The pineapple had been on sale and was ripe enough to be easily cut. I also had revived my tiny French press, now perfect for my small breakfasting. The children congratulated me on a quiet morning in the kitchen. It was finally my preference to open the blinds and welcome in this sun and its brilliance.
If there was any particular moment to exhale, it may have been here. There was a simplicity to that morning, that seemed to beckon to me, like an Alice in Wonderland note left prompting my next move. But this moment, was everything but simple, everything but calm. Inside was a cacophony of thoughts, hurts, misgivings, fear.
How did I get here?
The words would burst into my skull at every imaginable time. It mattered not the situation- times when eggs are cooked perfectly, and the house is clean, the children snuggled in close for a night of movies and popcorn. Or after the only dinner choice that needed to be made was- which type of cereal- or when I realized how fun it is to sleep diagonally in bed, and wake up to the sweet silliness of my boys and their requests for tickles.
These words would echo also at times when the pain overwhelmed. Like when my children ask me why I always cry after seeing daddy, or when my house is empty of their giggles and prancing feet and dirty clothes. When I miss their tiny hands and neck hugs so much the inside of my throat feels like it will swell shut and when it doesn’t, it is only replaced with an emptiness that doesn’t even try to apologize for its presence, taking residence and unpacking and settling in for a long uninvited visit. When those sweet voices ask why I don’t want to be around daddy anymore, and when am I coming home, or can I just live in the basement and him upstairs, and why are there now two houses, and can they have another kiss and another hug and mommy don’t let go, please don’t ever let go.
How did I get here?
One day, in the middle of all of this, I remember he said- “they’re so young.” And he was right, he is right, they are, so young. But he said it as though this is a job, and it would one day be over, and that I should stay until it was. And that felt silly, that my job to them would be ever over, or that I could only do this job in this house, on this street. So this, this being mommy, is a thing that I will be always, at every hour and every minute of every day. To be the best mom to them, I need to be the best me to me, and in this instance, to put them first, is also to put myself first. To stand up, to insist- on change, on health, on honesty, on love. Tell me, when, when is a good time to fight for the value of ones life? That somehow, amidst all of this, I am losing additional points for the inconvenience of inappropriate scheduling.
They are so young.
I, too, am young. I consider how many years I have given to this path, to this life, to his life. And I, too, matter in this awful equation. There is no life that matters more than another. Each of these lives- mine, his, theirs- we all matter. I am so desperately trying to choose life.
Somehow in all of this, my life became lesser, and my motherhood and wifehood trumped my personhood. Instead of having mommy be a thing I am also, it was a thing I am only. I should be so proud to live in his house, drive his car, be his spouse. Only his desires matter, his aspirations, his goals. Mine classified as a terciary request, and then only if my chores are done.
What really happened, when you sort past all the…stuff… is actually quite simple. I requested respect. I requested to be valued, considered, and loved. In a way that doesn’t equal me crying on my side of the bed while his snores mocked my misery. I wanted to be wanted for more than what my body could offer to him at his desire and not mine. I wanted to be acknowledged for my contributions. I wanted to be seen and cherished and valued and loved and adored and can’t ever be lived without. I wanted his September promises to be true. I held mine. For years at sea and years at home, for finances kept and dinners made and diapers changed and visits to his family. I held my promises. And in return- in return I was ignored. In return I was laughed at. In return he never called. In return he didn’t care. In return I was never enough. In return I was left alone.
So I am alone.
But in aloneship I have been for some time. This isn’t new for me, this state of aloneship. What is new was that it was uncovered and exposed in an unexpected way, in an unexpected place, with an unexpected outcome. But that’s not what will be remembered. The pain I’ve caused, the lives I changed, the dreams I smashed, seeming picture perfectness disrupted. This is what I’m now buried in. Here I stand, in this uncomfortable intersection, it’s bright, there’s no where to sit, I don’t know what to do with my hands. They fumble, holding my crimson vowel, I’m now just a sad accident where passersby shake their heads and say unhelpful things like- maybe she should have focused on her marriage, or maybe she is just selfish, or maybe she is a bad mother, or maybe she’s just depressed, or maybe she’s unstable, or maybe she doesn’t deserve her kids, or maybe she was after him, or maybe she should apologize, or maybe she should never come around here again… thank goodness she hasn’t come around here again, or maybe she’s not a real Christian, or maybe she never was, or maybe it was planned, or maybe we should stop taking her calls- we were never really friends, or maybe she won’t notice if I just never text her back, or maybe I will call and maybe she will want to hear how awful I think she is, or maybe she will tell me something I can go tell someone else, or maybe I should send her a card with a bible verse about forgiveness and also include how disappointed I am in her, or maybe if we don’t make eye contact she won’t see us here, or maybe she doesn’t know how this hurts us too, or maybe she’s tried this before, or maybe this is just her character, or maybe she is just a bad person, or maybe this is the evil we have all been warned about.
Maybe you have no idea.
Maybe you have no idea of all these years, all these memories, all this hurt, all this sadness and guilt and pain and anger and loss and insistence of being told what I wanted, what I needed, didn’t exist, and to please calm down, and by the way, what’s for dinner, and have you steamed my shirt?
Maybe you don’t know how burnt into my soul is the feeling of him saying- Why are you still crying? Why do I have to call you? Why does it matter where I am? Why are you still thinking about that? Why do you want to do that? Why do they care what you think? Why do I have to kiss you goodnight? Why don’t you just sweep this under the rug? Bury this deep.
And so I did.
And so I was.

leaving plants.

I love the smell of Home Depot. Every time I walk in a take a big long, deep breath. Trying, of course, not to appear insane, which is really difficult to do.  I never know where the thing I need is in that store, and that’s okay. I don’t mind. Because it just smells so gooood.  I say “no thanks” to offers of help from the apron people because I like to wander their aisles, pondering the possibility of redoing my mailbox with fancy numbers or wondering if it would be wrong to use an outdoor pillow inside.  I sit on their bench swings and close my eyes for just a moment, maybe two. I wander to the aisle where they have all their products to clean stuff and I stare in amazement while thinking I have probably been cleaning my whole house ineffectively for possibly my whole life.

Once, after just having moved to Maine, I was in Home Depot looking for a new filter for my humidifier. Actually it was for the toddler’s humidifier. I thought there should be a section for it, and I found myself in the de-humidifier area. Commence conversation with Home Depot Apron Guy just trying to help:

Him: So can I help you find something?
Me: Yes, I’ve been looking for a filter for my humidifier.
Him: Oh, well you’re in the right section!
Me: That’s fantastic. So… where are they?
Him: They’re right here. (Looking at me like I’m an idiot.)
Me: That says “DE-humidifier.”
Him: Right.
Me: I want to humidify.
Him: Wait, what?
Me: I want to humidify.
Him: No one humidifies here. Are you new?
Me: Well, yes actually.
Him: Then surely you’re confused. We have the humidity here. We don’t want it.

Cue sneezing, coughing toddler.

Him: OH, you want to humidify him!
Me: (trying to hold back giggles) Yes, and, please.
Him: Yeah we don’t have those here, try Bed, Bath, and Beyond.
Me: Of course.

But the trip was not in vain. It was summer. And summer meant the garden section was in full bloom. As much as I love the general smell of Home Depot, I think I just may love their garden section a bit more. I love the beginnings of their spring and summer when their perennials and hanging baskets overwhelm the aisles and greet me in the parking lot. I love looking at what plants need only 25% shade or which ones do best inside. I inspect the tiny pots of spices- the parsleys, cilantros, and rosemarys- their aromas fill my nostrils and my heart with pure joy.

I want every one of these beautiful plants. I want the flowers. I want the extra soil. I want the gardening gloves and shears. I want the big floppy hat. I want to know what to do with fertilizer and when.

I have to force myself away from this space because this longing for horticulture begins to tear at the edges of my soul.

I don’t know why I insist on visiting my little sanctuary in Home Depot, knowing that I will buy not even one tiny potted plant. I will purchase neither garden hose nor garden troll. I literally go to Home Depot just to stop and smell their silly roses.
And then I cry a little.
I cry because if I buy a plant, I will plant it. I will plant it and water it and love it. I will wait for it to bloom. I will cheer it on as though it’s my full time job. I will pray for it and hope for it.  I will take pictures of it and log it as noteworthy on all social media outlets to which I am a part. I will credit myself- gardener extraordinaire!- when the thing blooms or doesn’t just look completely sick and wretched. I might even name it. That’s not weird, right? Well let’s say I don’t name it, but I consider it mine and I wish it a lifetime full of happiness.

And then, I will have to leave it.

I’ll have to leave it to someone else, or worse, nobody else. Because it can’t come with me, and I must go.

Because this is the life we/I chose. The life of moving. The life of service.  The life of leaving plants.

I just can’t bear to leave any more plants so I just don’t buy them. I don’t have it in me to spend that kind of time. Make that kind of commitment, just knowing that the next person who lives HERE isn’t going to care about my PLANT. They won’t realize that this PLANT was all that I had, that it was the one thing keeping me going while I was waiting. Waiting on a phone call, waiting on the hope of an email, waiting on a letter, waiting for a boat to leave, waiting for a boat to return, waiting for orders, waiting for promotions. In all these years I’ve been keeping dinner waiting, keeping a baby waiting, keeping a toddler waiting, keeping family waiting for news of news, of life, of excitement, of anything that might convince them that yes, I did get married to a person that does exist and that I haven’t been living in an elaborate scheme designed only to get myself a full set of dinnerware and new towels.

After waiting on my person for so long, waiting on a plant seemed predictable and easy. And I need that. I need predictability, reliability. I need to know that something I’ve nurtured is going to be okay and not be relocated or told it’s not good enough or it isn’t working long enough or it didn’t do enough to get the job done. I want my PLANT to know it is good enough just because it is my PLANT and it is there, being beautiful, creating CO2

So I can’t go to Home Depot anymore. But because the universe has a snarky side, I can’t seem to really get away from it. Trees, shrubs, and hanging plants accost me as I make my way to the local warehouse store for my weekly collection of three half gallons of soymilk, two gallons of skim milk, and one gallon of almond milk, amongst of course, other necessary and important warehouse purchases.

I must also endure my neighbor, right across the street, endlessly pruning and planting, collecting and gathering so that her space is a specimen of yard perfection. She seems like such a sweet woman and I want to ask her for advice, but I can’t even walk across the street because my contempt for her safely guarded lilies and violets makes me only want to vomit a little in my mouth.

What once was just a thought, a mere- ‘won’t it be nice when we get out and…’ has become a gut wrenching, heart pounding, nerve wrecking, hamster wheeling, mind exploding heartbeat of ‘I can’t wait to be done with this lifestyle’ melody that repeats over and over like a certain song that never ends.

The root cause of the disintegration of my little world actually has roots.

And I want them too.
And I want them now.
And I’ll take an Oompa-Loompa and a Golden Egg while you’re at it.