Today was a bit of a bizarre day in which I visited the me of five or seven years ago and it stood in sharp contrast with the me of today.
My birthday is Monday. I'll be 37. Maybe I just feel old.
Since I've become a parent, and especially in the last few weeks, I have felt maxed out. I'm filled to capacity with obligations, work, facts to keep straight in my head, problems to solve. I have no reserve. Nearly every minute of my time is scheduled. I don't know if it is age or overwork, but I forget things more lately. I let things go. I unintentionally blow people off. I forget what I'm doing and get almost panicky at how behind I get.
I had a lunch date with a guy that I haven't really seen in 5 years today. It wasn't a Date with a capital D and we've never dated and never will date. It is probably the weirdest relationship I have with anyone. We have nothing in common. He is, I think, 15 years older than me, we met through skating many years ago. He has no interest in kids, dogs, cats, or social justice and has spent the last 10 or so years doing nothing but day trading. All of which is contraindicated to having a relationship with me. He is not unattractive, but neither of us are hugely attracted to each other. But he is funny, and witty, and smart and a genuinely good person. We email each other every few months and never spend any time together even though we live relatively close to each other. I'm not sure why I keep in touch with him except that I sorta have a special thing for him. Not really THAT kind of special thing. Just an affection for him. D says we are just interested in each other because we don't know anyone else like each other. Could be. He is conservative (not politically, but otherwise) and I think comes from old money and sort of uptight and anal. I am radically liberal on almost all levels and come from not really any moneyand am flakey and laid back. Out of left field, I dumped a load of stressful crap on him a couple of weeks ago, and he responded by inviting me to lunch.
So, here is where my day of contrasts with the old and new me started. The old me had all of her shit together. The new me had no laundry done and had totally forgotten to get any cash for either the lunch or the babysitter. The old me would have paid some attention to fashion and hair and makeup. The new me got baby poop on the first shirt I had on, and due to lack of laundry, my choices became either old scruffy T-shirts or another shirt that required me to think of 14 different ways to corral my breasts that have since run rampant post pregnancy. (I'm probably one of the few women in America that would rather have smaller boobs. They got in the way of everything I thought was cool. Ballet, skating, swimming, cute demi-bras...). The old me would have had cute shoes and accessories. The new me had two Elmo and Cookie monster band-aids on a blister on my heel and a piece of D's duoderm tape on a hole in my shoe. The old me would have done...something...with my hair. The new me, ponytail all the way.
But it is more than cosmetic. I officially have a bad case of mom brain. I used to be able to talk politics. Today, I couldn't come up with a single coherent sentence. After the 2004 elections, which were right before my kids were born, I kind of burnt out from disappointment and disgust. I'll get back into it, but lately I've only had time to skim the headlines and read only the niches that interest me. Which lately have been disability politics, kid/educational politics and rape politics (mostly thanks to my fangirl crush on Twisty Faster). None of which are easy, breezy lunch topics. I told D not to let me loose on the public again without giving me a full CNN headline news style briefing. I hate being dumb about stuff like that. But who has the time? In these early days of momhood, when the job is so incredibly time consuming and intense, I feel a little--a lot--cut off from the world.
Then there is the disability contrast. I am more disabled today than I was 7 years ago. It is strange to see people that you haven't seen for a while and remember how you used to function. They still think you function the old way, and you don't. And you forget that they don't know and they, well, even if you tell them, they just don't know. D and I have talked about how much better friendships and relationships are with people we've met post disability. It is not impossible, but difficult to bring the old friends who knew you before along for the journey. With D, it is easier in a way because he has an exact BC/AD to his disability. Mine is slower and more subtle. And also harder to understand. D and I are so spoilt by having our 13 year relationship together where we know and can anticipate each other's needs. I can give D a sideways glance if I can't hear someone and he is right there to facilitate communication. As for him, I know exactly when he can carry something and when he can't. When he is on too many drugs to function and when he is fine. I don't expect anyone else to be able to do this. It takes time and effort to get to know what I need. It isn't something I can just tell you in five minutes or less how to accommodate my every need. So, when you see people who knew you when, playing by the old rules, it reminds you of how you used to be.
I remember going to parties and even bars and being able to communicate and participate. I remember sitting in a busy food court overlooking the skating rink and communicating with my friend and a few other skaters with little problems. Today, just me and him, I struggled every minute of the whole conversation. Exhausting. Not his fault, not my fault, just the way it is. I have a lot of online friends who are great. But I've come to realize that if I am going to be able to socialize with people in real life, I'm going to have to reach out more to the deaf community. They are fast becoming my main option. As for nondisabled people, I think I can have relationships with them, but they are going to have to put forth effort and be in it for the long haul, and be committed to learning how to help me out and let go of some of the social norms they are used to, like phone calls or going out to lunch and just come over and sit in my goddamned house and talk to me. Either that, or be willing to assist in my public communication like D does. I can go out in public, mind you, but it is too exhausting to do a whole lot of without someone who can sort of watch my back in the communication and vision department.
But despite my fog brain about politics and my lousy listening skills, J is a nice guy and it was an okay time and there you go. I probably won't see him for another 5 years. He dropped me off at my request in my old neighborhood where D and I used to live together. I had some errands to run, and it was weird to do it without the kids. In that neighborhood, I have put on many miles with my guide dog. I walked to many of our old places using our same old routes. I even stopped by our old apartment complex. I sat in the playground of the yard I had taken her several times a day and we, even the landlords, called it "Mara's Yard." Things were not always easy then either, but they sure were simple compared to life now.
Then, I stopped and bought food (I finally got cash), for my second date of the day, with D. I was supposed to meet him and help him mail a package, but he didn't have it ready in time so I just stopped by on the way home. Even then, deja vu to the way it used to be. Me, him, takeout food and the cats. No kids. Relaxed, full of funny banter, no hearing issues. He knows when things need to be repeated and when they don't. I don't have to work hard to communicate with him. We don't spend a lot of time together anymore without the kids. Well, any. We have really struggled at times since the kids have been born. Mostly because of the "BIG FAT LIE ABOUT THE FOOT" thing, which pissed me off to no end and took me a loooong time to get over. And also struggling with him about attendant issues, where he seems to have several stories going at once depending on who the audience is. These are things we are still trying to work through, but we are committed to parenting the kids together and working through our problems. Still, it was nice to have some time alone with him and remember how it was when it was just two of us.
Despite my reminiscing about the past when life was easy, and child-free, and my body functioned better, it was my third date of the day that was my favorite. I got home just in time to get the kids up from naps, and since I already ate with both J and D in a three hour period, I was stuffed and so just fixed the kids an easy dinner of chicken nuggets and fruit. My boys and I just hung out. I had missed them all day, even though I know I needed a break from them. We read books and talked about the day and made tents in the couch and practiced our signs and all the other little 2 year old things we do. They were in good spirits and we had a laid back evening.
I'm glad I had 15 years of adulthood to screw around and go to college and date and be single and read the paper and do my hair. I'm glad I skated and had a career (that I haven't totally retired from) and met J and got to hear music and see the ocean. I sometimes get sad that I'm not that person anymore. But I like the new opportunities that have opened up for me now. Without loosing my hearing, I would have never learned sign and taught the kids to sign and met some of the people I know who sign. Without biting the bullet and having kids, I wouldn't get to go swimming with them and sliding with them and running with them and dancing with them. Without chucking my career to essentially be a SAHM, I would never have felt so useful. Without choosing singlemomhood, I would never have had so many days filled with so much stuff that I can't keep track of it all. Much better than the single days of notmuchtodoaboutnothing.
There is stuff from the old me that I will probably find again eventually. Maybe I will find time to read a newspaper and know who Bill Richardson is. Maybe I will resurrect some sort of career. Maybe I will get cochlear implants. Maybe I will find a curling iron again. Maybe I will proofread my blog. I'll keep my social Marxist tendencies. I'll even keep J. But I like my life now how it is. I'm glad my life turned a corner and I'm not still on that same, straight path. I'm glad I get to come home to a house and a family and a life that I did my best to create for myself.