Grow Up

Early February 2020

As we wait to hear my NPR friends solemnly announce no witnesses will be heard and then an acquittal is imminent, I blow my nose and clear my throat.

This idea of the end of dreams is marryanating in my body. (I know the word is marinating but Iprefer to pronounce it my own way.)

Writing class was wrapping up. Shoving my papers into a bag. Remembering that I have a family at home. Sobering up to the realization that no one will have put Mim to bed. She hasn’t had her medicine.I bet they didn’t give her a bath. George and Dolly will be busy with homework and Iphone viewing. Walt was in charge tonight. He feeds them early and returns them to my house. Speed is his specialty.

We have just workshopped Sharon’s piece about desperation in living life with trauma and not being killed by the trauma. She pronounces her name Shuhh-rone. She is Israeli. She writes of bombing in Tel Aviv and near misses and then more near misses at The University of Texas and then fearing for her children’s safety living in Atlanta, Georgia with school shootings and open gun carry puncturing us with anxiety. She has protested. She has fought every good and pure fight and yet we stand here with Trump flying hatred, bigotry, and corruption in our face.

Good is dwindling.

Good is losing.

How many more protests to no resolution can we attend?

How many more calls to answering machines of Georgia Senators with no response?

How many more tears can I cry for our children? the whales? the people experiencing homelessness? the trees?

I got a Christmas card from my ex-sister-in-law and she quoted a priest. Do you think the world will change because of your protest? And he replied wisely, I protest so I will not have changed.

Sharon wondered and cried out in her piece Are we looking away? And while we look away the world will be corroded. How do we not look away from tragedy after tragedy after more tragedy? We are now triaging tragedies. Will Kobe Bryant be the main news story or a school shooting in California?

The teacher of the writing workshop who is younger than me said “we are growing up.”

She interrupted the group to fervently remind us, “we are growing up. It is time for the young to protest. WE ARE RAISING CHILDREN. WE ARE CARING FOR OUR ADULT PARENTS.” The young will protest and we can do the work.

The last time I heard- we are growing up, was at least a decade ago. My friend Julie and I huddled near our neighborhood playground hoping our children played much longer. We were married to creative ambitious men who grew up with money and privilege. They both worked in DC at hard working successful firms of a social science nature who were doing good for the world- which meant we made less money than our Alexandria, VA peers who worked for telecom conglomerates or lobbyists. Our husbands had traveled worthy paths and had great jobs. With dreams in their hearts they wanted small business ideas to take off and explode. Julie’s husband had a vegetable wash. Mine would have been amazing at owning a restaurant. Leaving their steady jobs while owning houses and raising 3 to 6 children was dubious.

I encouraged my husband. I dreamed his dreams. I hoped without having money to back him. I prayed while I nursed a baby and then carelessly forgot to affirm him when I fell back in bed. I prioritized getting the can opener to turn and open the mandarin oranges without added sugar. I prioritized dabbing tea tree oil at the base of their hairlines to fend off lice. I prioritized providing mothering to the highest standards I could set for myself. No Barbies. No weapons. No TV. Attachment parenting. Breast feeding. Public schooling. Baby sign language. Homemade playdough.

Julie told Phillip, “Grow Up.” You can’t quit your job. This is life. At some point you get over your childhood dreams and you raise kids, pay a mortgage on a town home and you take the train into DC everyday for a solid bureaucratic job. You just do it. This is adulthood.

I’m so impressed with her honesty. She understood the truth of it. It is time to grow up. We can’t dream the same dreams we fostered as children. Get over it- go to your job. Show up. Make it your best life. That is the great choice we have. Given what we have, can we love it? Can we make this life that we are living beautiful and fruitful. It isn’t out there. It is in here.

Trump is president. We have jobs that we can’t quit. We have children to support and roofs to cover our heads that have to be paid for. Grow up. Can we live this life and be happy?

I am not inside Julie and Phillip’s house or marriage but from the outside, they grew up and raised three beautiful girls in a gorgeous 1930s town house on the edge of Old Town. I think he sold his veggie wash with his sister on the internet while being a faithful bureaucrat. They made it. The town house is worth close to a million. She faced the truth for them both. She told him to grow up, while I kept resuscitating old dreams. Telling myself, I could make him happy if I just said or did the right thing. If I spent less money, If I moved across the country, if I didn’t notice how many drinks he had.

It didn’t work. I didn’t make Walt happy and instead of growing up, he found his own way to never grow up. Live in a one room apartment, date the masses, build a teeny tiny house to escape anytime. Compared his own dating to our 21 year old son’s. Complains about the city of Atlanta- can’t wait to get out of the South.

And I’m still protesting and advocating but my children are far more fervent and activated than I am. Trump may be president but Jimmy Carter still lives.

I can wonder what if. I could have told Walt to grow up. But our relationship was built on forward movement. He would say we are snowballs. We thrived on change. In search of the good life. I started settling in. I was fulfilled by our own family and propelled to find Addy healing from her disease. Trump won’t be found guilty. Justice will slip right through our fingers. And the sun will rise tomorrow.

Are we looking away from evil to avoid pain? Are we searching for beauty or ease? We will all pay a hefty price for this presidency. Evil is real and pervasive. And the dishes have to be done. I am a woman requiring contentment and growth. I am a woman. I grew up. I have dreams and ambitions.

When I was new to high school, I sat in a large circle in a candle lit room. A parish meeting room with the folding chairs and tables moved aside. A senior named Lori spoke words that I remember today. When asked the best and worst characteristics she possessed, She answered “My best and worst characteristics are the same.” She spoke of her sensitivity allowing her to understand others’ hurts and yet, causing her to be so easily hurt. At the age of fourteen this was an astonishing idea. What makes us special can also cause us pain. The good and the bad wrapped up together.

Our dreams and throwing caution to the wind made Walt and I magical. It got us six lovely children. Our powerful and virtuous democracy got Trump elected. We have all grown up and sobered during this presidency of derision. Let’s divorce Trump. I want him in jail. This knowledge of evil reveals so much hatred and yet we are enlightened by it.

Opposites tied together. I know the importance of healthy children because I have a sick child. I protest racism because I know the truth of equality. Water is fundamental for life and it drowns us. Could Walt and I have been good together and now bad together? It sort of makes my head hurt to see these truths and the divinty of it all.

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