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An Open Letter To My Son

19 Mar

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My Sweet Son,

I know there are things you are anxious to try: things that your friends might be doing; things that are wrong. Please wait.

You may not realize it but you are still a child. You have your whole life ahead of you to do grown-up things. I know you may think you’re ready for these things. You are not. You only get one childhood. You should live it as a child.

I wonder if you also know how dangerous some seemingly innocuous things might be. Perhaps even lethal. There are multiple reasons why some activities have minimum legal age limits. One good reason is because your mind and body are not mature enough to handle them. You should respect that. And while we’re on the subject, you should respect girls too. Listen to what they say and remember to be kind always.

It is ok to say “no.” Don’t let anyone ever make you feel like you are lesser than they because you won’t try something stupid. If you say no and that person gives you a hard time, you should lose them as a friend because they are not your “friend.” A true friend would never do that.

I know you are bound to make mistakes in life and it is my job to let you fail and make them. It is the only way you can learn. But you are too young to make some mistakes you may be contemplating. You are too young to pay the price of such errors. You are too young to learn these lessons. Trust me. I am your mom.

Most important, if you do make some wrong decisions, or if your friends do, your father and I will always be here. We respect honesty and will always have your best interests at heart. If for any reason you feel you or a friend is in jeopardy, please call us at once, even if you are unsure. I am more concerned about the safety of you or a friend than lecturing you on a rule you may have broken. I promise.

I’m not going to tell you about the innocent days of my youth when none of this existed and everyone just rode their bikes around until they left for college. That did not happen. There were plenty of ways for kids to get into trouble, just like there are now. And I’m not going to tell you about the car accidents, hospital admissions, and deaths of people I knew who made such decisions. They speak for themselves.

I’m just going to tell you that I get it. That I’ve been there.

Life is full of crossroads. No matter which ones you may reach, I am always here to guide you and to love you, even if you make wrong turns along the way. But please, do not make those turns just yet.

Love always,
Mom

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The Evaporation of Time

19 Nov

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4 am is not my friend.

It is the hour when I sing my anthem for self-flagellation.

It is the time, if I happen to wake, that I tell myself I am a loser. I am doing nothing with my life. I am not living up to my potential. I am wasting my time and talent. I am not taking care of the gifts I was given. I am going to be 90 in a minute and then I’m going to die. Not really but still.

Time is evaporating and I do not like it. Years turn to mist as I approach another birthday. This 4 am behavior always ramps up prior to and just after this annual anxiety-producing event. It is like someone turned over a heavy hourglass and I cannot escape the weight of its sand.

And it’s not just me and my time that I’m afraid of losing; it’s the people I love and their time too. I have been listening and crying to, on repeat, Bonnie Raitt’s “Nick of Time:”

I see my folks are getting on
And I watch their bodies change
I know they see the same in me
And it makes us both feel strange

No matter how you tell yourself
It’s what we all go through
Those lines are pretty hard to take
When they’re staring back at you

Scared to run out of time.

Oh, Bonnie Raitt, why do you have to be so wise?

I don’t know how to measure success. And I certainly don’t know what defines it either. I have had professional successes in different fields and yet I still feel totally unfulfilled.

Or, perhaps, success is being content with your personal life and that I am. I love my husband. I love my kids. I love my parents. I love my friends. If you can pick your successes, I would rather it be in the area in which I’m already thriving. After all, you cannot spoon with your career and if you can, please send pictures.

And yet that hourglass continues to be so cumbersome. It occupies so much of my mind and self-worth.

When did the choices get so hard
With so much more at stake
Life gets mighty precious
When there’s less of it to waste

Wasting time is a horrible regret to live with. I need to make promises to myself that I won’t break.

Looking Up

12 May

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There is a reason I’ve never tried Candy Crush. Or Farmville. Or Meth. I know myself well enough to know that those things, like their predecessors (except for the Meth) could become obsessions.

One summer during college, I became a basement-playing Mario Brothers freak. (On ColecoVision no less.) Every day, I made my way downstairs and played endlessly in the darkness. I was late to my waitressing job. I messed up orders because I was singing the Mario Bros. music in my head. I grew thumb callouses. I had a problem. I don’t recall if it ended because I developed a Vitamin D deficiency or because I could have been mistaken for goth or because my mother finally ripped it out of the wall. Regardless, I was one step away from an intervention.

In law school, I became hooked on Solitaire. Once again, I was up until 3 am feeding my new bad habit. I even missed a few classes due to oversleeping after a late-night solitaire binge. Different hands were laid out in my mind as I would try to study. The warning signs were all there. One night, I took all the cards in my apartment, like a loving relative collecting all the drugs they could find, and threw them down the incinerator. It was time to get out of that crack house.

A few years later, as a working attorney, I found myself playing solitaire, but this time on the computer (no shuffling! twice the fun!). Although I had important things to do, like write memoranda of law and conduct depositions, Solitaire was pretty important too. Until I realized, once again, I was becoming a terrible Lifetime movie. I called the MIS Department and advised them to remove the game from my computer. “And make sure you really get rid of it because I’ll find it somewhere if it’s just hidden in another file or the recycling bin.” It was finally gone. Ridiculous.

In 2004, my mind started to soften after having children. My husband suggested I try Sudoku. He should really have known better. I became super good at Sudoku what with all those hours of daily practice I was getting in. And of course, it wasn’t long before my husband had to ban all search engines from retrieving any result with the word “Sudoku” in it. That was a close one.

In 2009, I became a Brick Breaker champ. With sweaty hands, at 2 am, and a house full of sleeping normal people, I finally beat all the levels. I wanted to wake my husband and tell him. But I also wanted to live. I waited until 6 am. He didn’t see it as the accomplishment I did but he was a player himself. It made him more competitive Brick Breaker-wise but I was over it. I went to the Verizon store (which shows just how desperate I must have been because that is a trip to hell and back), and had them remove Brick Breaker from my phone. They had never done this before and had to call headquarters for instructions. Then again, they probably never met a loser like me so it was a day of Firsts for the Verizon lady.

Most recently, and probably not as surprising, I have developed a small addiction to the internet and more particularly, social media. I am not proud. This addiction comes at the expense of my family. It is certainly fodder for jokes but I cringe to think of moments I may have missed, memories I could have made, smiles I could have seen, talks I could have had. There have been too many times I have gotten lost in the lives of strangers instead of those of my own children. I have been looking down when I should have been looking up.

Last week, I was working on the blog post “Thank You For Being a Friend” and my 11 year old son called for me. After the 3rd or 4th time he screamed “Mom” I tiptoed into his room (where his twin brother was soundly sleeping) and crawled into his bed. He turned his back to me, and in his small voice said these words that I will not forget:

“Mom, I kept calling you. You keep saying one second, one second. Eventually, I’m not going to trust you anymore.”

And there it was: a ColecoVision console; a deck of cards; a Sudoku grid; a roving Brick Breaker ball bouncing off meaningless blocks and taking time away from the people I love the most.

He was right and it broke my heart. Trust is a funny thing. Some people come with it, some people have to earn it. To me, it is a commodity in all respects. It should be a given, however, that a boy can trust his mother. If he lost that trust, could he regain it? I can’t even contemplate the genuinely sad different scenarios that could play out. And I won’t. Instead, I will change. I don’t want to lose any more minutes with this boy who writes me love notes, enjoys my fondness for pranks, and waits up every night for me to sneak into his bed for one last cuddle.

My son is pretty damn smart. In one sentence, he summed up a horrible failing of mine and I hadn’t even put out a suggestion box. And thank goodness because I have years ahead of me to enjoy him and his brothers and my husband and a beautiful sunny day and a great song and the perfect grilled cheese sandwich. From now on, the only obsession I will allow myself to nurture is my family. I’m not deleting the internet just yet. I’m just going to look up.