cafe mama

a domestic realist blog

just breathe . 06 august . 2013

Bullitt at the Fiets of Parenthood, with Sarah Gilbert, photo Ethan Jewett

I'm standing in front of the crowd here, and it's been hard this morning. Not everyday-hard, but extraspecial-hard, I've been emotional lately and not for the usual reasons. My husband's coming home soon from three years in Kuwait, and transitions are terrifying. I'd rather do anything than transition, and I'm trying to just box that up, put the thought away and seal it with a piece of duct tape, deal with it when I know when his flight will come in. That's how I usually do things, wait until they're right in front of me, then take a deep breath. And GO.

Somehow I know that won't work this time and so I've been trying. Delving into it, then coming up for air and trying to tread water as long as I can. Look a dragonfly. Look a kid giggling. Look it's time for a snack. Get out, dry off in the sun, we'll come again to this pretty deep pool because you love it and so mama can think.

Dude, mama's afraid to think, honestly, and don't think I haven't noticed the spate of mid-life crises and ups and downs of my friends' lives and healths and -- see, I'm not even saying what I'm thinking. I'm saying what someone else thinks. If I could I'd just write this all in fiction. Change the names. Tell you what Sally, or Sabrina, or Lara is contemplating on this hot August Sunday.

So what was right in front of me this morning was Everett, who's going to a weeklong overnight camp. He's going for the second time in his life, but last time I was there to drop him off and say goodbye. This time I had plans -- this event -- and called his babysitter to do it. Called again this morning to figure out what time he could pick Everett up, only the babysitter was at the beach. OK so then 'never.'

It's the last minute and of course Emily can help and he rides his bike down the hill with his backpack stuffed and his sleeping bag bungeed to his back rack. He's awesome. He's awesome, and proud, and I think everything's going to be fine but evidently when he gets dropped off with his health forms and instructions as who's to pick him up in his pocket he neglects to say his health forms and instructions are in his pocket and I have the mic in my hand, about to start hours of color commentary in front of the Portland Art Museum on this emotional, world-changing event I helped dream up and put together and I get a phone call. "Can you come over and sign me in?" he asks. I have to say "no can we figure something out?" and evidently this is when he starts crying. I don't hear about any of this until later.

I've been crying too, at how amazing it is, all these families on bikes riding up the hill past the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall and the Oregon Historical Society and to Park Avenue, this storied most elegant part of the Portland Park Blocks, and we're here in this big sweeping gesture of, I don't know, this is normal or maybe actually this is AWESOME! and now I have to shut all this emotion down and be present. Just breathe.

So I take my breaths and I do my emceeing thing and I keep thinking about Everett. I miss a call and I call back (no answer) and Monroe gets lost for almost an hour (but he's here the whole time) and I'm feeling like the world is expanding, collapsing, expanding again. I'm part of this amazing event and yet I totally blew it as a solo mom and I won't be one for much longer and the world of my emotions is pulsing around my head and I'm a failure and a success all at once.

I think at some point I hold my breath and I wonder if I've dived again, or if I'm just imagining a dive. How long can I hold my breath. How long can I put off thinking. I don't know. Can I try?

I tell myself, "Just breathe." But I don't know if I'm ready yet. Maybe I can hold it a little longer.

Photo Ethan Jewett. This is part of Heather's Just Write campaign, #96, the first time I've taken part!

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read my previous post . wrong . 02 august . 2013