I fucking hate this season. Every year I’m bewildered by all the sunshine and cheerful people dancing around and saying pointless things like “Isn’t this weather great?” I always smile and say, “Yes, it is!” but I don’t mean it. I miss the gray skies and drizzle.
Much like my fear of Seuss, though, I don’t usually volunteer my loathing of spring to just anyone. (Except, apparently, the entire Internet.) When I do, they keep an eye on me as they slowly back away, then run down the street as though they’re on fire. Or headed to put out a fire. Or maybe start a fire.
I’m not sure why I get into this annual funk, but I suspect my parents waited until the end of each winter to do their most exciting parenting. Perhaps the sun and warmer weather reinvigorated their feisty tendency to punch each other. Maybe this was their unique way of celebrating spring instead of hunting for Easter eggs, dancing around maypoles, and saying prayers to a guy who rose from the dead.
If I were to give their spring traditions a name, I’d call it “Punch-a-Palooza.” That sounds festive, and I think if I’d been culturally sensitive as a kid, I could have appreciated their customs more.
I got tired of celebrating these rituals decades ago, but I don’t feel any remorse about not keeping them alive. Evidently I used up all my guilt when I became an ex-Baptist.
But I actually do revel in my own way. My spring festival is “Reverse-Punch-a-Palooza.” When someone remarks on the beautiful weather, I celebrate by refraining from laying them out before they can put a period on the end of the sentence.
Maybe I’m like a high priestess of Reverse-Punch-a-Palooza. I wonder if the position comes with a cool outfit and a scepter. Maybe even a crown.
I’m in charge of our household budget. To me, this statement is as frightening as “Nuclear missiles are headed to Seattle.”
Mostly I do okay, but last December I accidentally paid the mortgage twice. Then I did great for three whole months, and just this morning I accidentally paid an extra half-mortgage payment.
I know what you’re thinking: “How does someone accidentally pay extra on their mortgage?”
Why the hell are you asking me? Haven’t you figured out I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing?
After I confessed my newest interesting financial move, Paul and I figured out the necessary adjustments to our accounts, and we’re fine. But I’m freaking out. I keep thinking, “What is my next mistake, and how big will it be?”
(I do understand that there are far worse financial errors I could make besides accidentally paying extra on our mortgage principal. I’m not stupid, entirely. But still.)
After the latest mini-crisis, Paul and I had this conversation:
Me: So do you still trust me with the finances?
(Translation: Please take this shit off my hands.)
Paul: Sure, I do! You’re doing great!
(Translation: You scare the crap out of me, but I sure as hell don’t want the job.)
Me: Well, okay. But at least you’re checking the budget spreadsheet updates I send to you, right?
(Translation: I’m totally alone in this, aren’t I?)
Paul: You bet! Well, I skim them at least. Mostly. From time to time.
Or at least sincerely offered support for the endeavor.
One of the fun things about mining my life for memoir material is that I thought it would be about dishing up dirt on those who’ve wronged me or I was sure intended to wrong me or at the very least would wrong me if they thought of doing it and had the chance.
But I’ve gotten some advice about including more than just revenge-based tales: “Allow yourself to be vulnerable. This lets the reader empathize and feel connected with you.”
I took this to mean that there will be sections in my memoir where the reader will become misty-eyed in wonder at my courage through such trying times.
This was going to be fantastic. As emotionally walled off as I can be in person—despite how much I blab about myself—this memoir stuff would let people see the softer side of Cindy. I’m a bit uncomfortable about it, but I’ll try.
At least I felt like being a sport until I realized, just this last weekend, that an honest memoir lets people see the shitty side of Cindy too. It’s as though someone’s thrown a bucket of cold water on my burning cross.
Despite this shock, I’m going to try the honesty thing about an incident I’ve been telling myself “really isn’t relevant or potentially interesting to readers, but I don’t feel this way because I’m ashamed. I respect people’s time, and why bore them with”—you understand the kind of horseshit I’ve been shoveling.
When I left my second husband, the air force officer, in 1988 and moved back to Seattle, I naturally moved in with an ex-con. It made sense to me because Brad the Felon had done his time, so that would make him honest. He was charming, skilled at reading people, and manipulative. I was so desperate for someone to love and care about me, I’d do anything. It was a great match.
Shortly after he moved in with me, Brad got into an argument with my landlord. I was a loyal girlfriend and stood up for him. So everything worked out great for the landlord when he evicted us and I went bankrupt from attorney’s fees that Brad didn’t help pay—because he was busy relaxing at the end of a workday while I took a second job as a stripper—and my credit rating went from triple-A to in-the-crapper.
If you’re at all under the impression that I’ve just confessed the shameful part of this story…
Even after this episode, plus his late-night gambling-and-whoring escapades while coming home and calling me his “plain Jane” in a tone that nearly approximated affection, I was still so craven in my need to be loved, there wasn’t anything I wouldn’t do to impress him.
One day Brad told me he and a buddy from prison were working on the details for robbing a casino. I raised my hand like Hermione in class and begged to be included in the caper. And there’s my shame.
It made me nauseous to even imagine committing a crime, let alone having to pee in front of someone in prison. But in those moments, I had an overwhelming fantasy of sitting in separate prisons but mutually in love at last because he’d finally realized what I would do for him. Sort of Bonnie and Clyde with hopefully way less murder.
I don’t know if Brad ever hit the casino, and he’s dead now, so I can’t ask him. I don’t really care either way anymore about either of those things.
I do know that he saved me from myself. He declined my offer of assistance—which hurt like hell at the time, but seriously reduced the nausea—because I’m a world-class oversharer. Great for blogging. Bad for crime.
My office walls are sad. I mean in the sense they are pathetic, but if they could cry, I’d have toxic mold. I’m looking at this beige expanse behind my computer, and all I see are a couple of nails and a PAWS calendar.
As unevolved as this may be, I feel a sense of chick-based pressure to be amazing at decorating. This despite the fact that I work in ratty pajamas and Paul’s hand-me-down shirts in my home office every day. What makes me think my home should look better?
My first defense: I grew up in the ’60s and ’70s. Although Virginia Slims gave women the confidence to burn bras while dropping acid as a birth-control chaser, there’s still this lingering guilt in my mind that I should be a classic homemaker. Apron, tidy hairdo, Laura Petrie figure.
It doesn’t help that seemingly out of nowhere, Paul recently blurted, “You want to nest, right?” He sounded a little desperate.
In fairness, I don’t believe he’s totally asking this because I’m female. I think it’s about the two of us. We’re lazy bums who keep hoping the walls will magnetically suck pictures onto them, in a tasteful way.
My second defense: Paul’s got the aesthetic eye. I mean, he paints and draws. Stuff you’d recognize. I’ve even hung a few pieces on the wall (and my pride over this is way out of proportion to the achievement).
I, on the other hand, paint as though I’m drunk. On a roller coaster. And I’ve just vomited all over the canvas.
My third defense: So why isn’t he nesting?
As I sit here in my blank-walled office, I’ve made a decision to stop apologizing and self-flagellating (at least about this). I’m going to enjoy my non-cluttered space because I have a style. I’m a minimalist.
I just lost another round of Compare Yourself to Someone Else: You’re sure to win this time!
Yesterday one of our condo board members was distributing new building keys, so I went to his unit. I like this guy, but I hate his place. Everything is impossibly aligned with everything else. Knickknacks are set askew with perfection, and I think he organizes his shoes in the entryway with a T-square.
And everything’s so clean. It’s blinding. Even the floors. He could employ a five-day rule in the kitchen.
Then I come back to our place, with the empty plastic litter bins lined up in the front hall, judgmentally waiting for someone to recycle them.
There’s the occasional piece of kibble that bores into my heel when I step on it, sixteen feet away from the food dish because Molly enjoys her dinner to go.
I accept that I’ll never be like Martha Stewart, even if I had a rap sheet, but I’m afraid of dying in this mess and somehow still managing to be embarrassed when people discover my body nestled between a mountain of dirty laundry and a pile of clean, unfolded clothes.
I’m angry at my ass. It isn’t downsizing on its own. At least not anymore. After I gave up sugar last August, I lost eleven pounds and even kept them off for a long time.
It seemed true what no-sugar guru David Gillespie says. The pounds will just fall off if you avoid that evil, sweet, delicious poison. Plus he says that being off sugar doesn’t mean I have to totally give up wine or spirits. Just no sweet wine or mixers. This made my brain swoon.
We’re eating whole fat everything now because—and you probably know this—“low fat” is synonymous with “We’ve dumped a shit-ton of sugar in this in order to make you feel great about avoiding fat. It’s going to turn you into a dirigible. Enjoy!”
I’m loving the butter, whole milk, and fatty-mcfat-fat sour cream. Plus the good-Lord-you’re-full-so-for-the-love-of-all-that’s-holy-stop-eating-now mechanism works again, so I don’t overeat. Well, I didn’t at first.
My translation of this new-to-me information is: Have all you want, as often as you want. It’s a party! Crush that baked potato under a brick of butter and wash it down with a half-liter of chardonnay. Every day. What could go wrong?
Then the weight loss stalled, and I even gained a few pounds back. Still. Off. Sugar. Except for that cake I ate last week, but it was for my birthday. So wisdom can just fuck off.
After a few months on my latest plan of action—Wait and See if Anything Changes, Part 654—I realize I might be missing a point in all this, but my hope remains: Magic will handle everything. I’m frustrated that this isn’t easy. And a little angry.
All these months later, I see that my enjoyment of gallons of chardonnay, truckloads of butter, and nearly zero exercise have not transformed me into a super model. Now I realize effort is required in order to feel healthier and look better. Was that always a thing?
Doing something good for myself just because it’s the right thing to do is in direct conflict with my assumption that I deserve nothing good. Paul goes rowing because it makes him feel good and keeps his weight down. It’s as though he believes he should be treated well, even by himself. I don’t get it.
I guess I’ll walk the whole block to the gym and do something. Tomorrow. For sure. My brain just hissed, “Liar,” which is fair enough.
I’ve got the bread in the oven. I’m getting the beef bones and veggies ready for roasting. Then I’ll simmer them for eight hours. I love doing this stuff, but now I’m getting flashbacks to the last time I did more than one thing in the kitchen at a time.
Ever since I cut out sugar five months ago and (most) alcohol somewhat more recently, I’ve got more energy and clarity than I’ve had in years. I hate it. I feel like I’m supposed to achieve amazing things now. I imagine blogging about my amazingness, but in a humble way, and my followers can’t get enough of me. I’m so inspiring.
I work at home, and time is flexible. It seems like everything is possible. But I’m haunted by my history of starting projects, especially buying all the gadgetry that goes with them, while finishing nothing. In a sense, I’m being true to my life motto: “If it can’t be overdone, it’s not worth doing.”
But I’m fifty-seven now, and I want to be more mature, or at least appear that way. So I figured I’d be sensible and start with just one or two goals. I feel in charge, mature, balanced.
Now the couple of goals have grown into:
Make bread, salad dressings, and broths to avoid processed crap with all the sugar and chemicals, while feeling smug about the poor saps stuck with store-bought junk. Check out my awesomeness:
Crossword my ass off in a book so large that the editor, Will Shortz the authentically amazing, questions the sanity of anyone buying so many puzzles at once.
Crochet snuggle blankets for animals in shelters. Current status of Blanket #1:
Start a cross-stitch project I’ve owned for ten years and just broke out of the packaging. What it should look like:
Learn to knit:
Tidy and decorate the house:
Write my memoirs:
I suppose this is all just a different kind of obsession, but I seem to be kicking domestic ass today. And there’s the red flag I always miss. Just in case I forget about it when the broth is ready to strain tonight, I posted this above the kitchen sink:
Maybe I’ll do okay. Today.
"I've always found paranoia to be a perfectly defensible position." – Susan Lowenstein, The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy