What to do when a bird gets stuck in your house

Chosen families, of
21 August 2012, 2:53 pm
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The plea:

I should be happy they support each other – they are alike in so many ways – they have needed someone to validate and reaffirm and complain to. They have found that in each other (I say as the voyeur, because neither one of them talk to me.  Ever.)  But I hate the word “should,” so instead I am thinking of the hours I spent on the phone – where is the recognition for that? – and of the constant struggle to show understanding, to be patient, to be there, to know that I think she is making terrible mistakes but they are hers to make, not mine.   I think of the pain and the heartbreak year after year.  The disappointments, the embarrassment, the let downs.  I feel deep sorrow for not being included in my own family, like I’m just looking in through the windows.  I feel petty and mean and jealous. My ideal, enlightened self feels far, far away.

So here it is.  I feel terrible.  I don’t know what kind of pep talk would get me out of this.  I don’t even know if there is a pep talk to give, maybe I’m not done being in it yet.  I had a yoga teacher who said that you need to acknowledge and honor negative feelings and emotions before you can let them go.  The acknowledging part is easy.  This honoring business sucks ass.

I was going to end this email by begging you grrrlz for help, because my well of wisdom feels dry and I know yours are always overflowing.  But even just getting here, to today’s end to the long, stupid chapter of the story that is my family’s life, has felt enormously helpful.  That said, got any wisdom to spare?

The response:

Overwhelming.  I was wrong.  My ideal self is never far away.  There are three of them, in fact, and one email has all three tapping on my shoulder, reminding me of who I am, who we all are, our little chosen family.


snow bird

Earlier today, I stumbled across the question: can you define this shade of pearl?  There were hundreds of responses to the original post, each competing for the chance to win some kind of blog-promoting trinket, weaving together the poetic (sleeping dove) to the ironic (disturbed domestic).  I couldn’t come up with words, though; only silence.  Only soft; snow on a skylight. 

Ah, the perils of December.  We moved; no more crossing guard, no more drunks trying to rip our back bumper license plate off the car.  Though still firmly urban, the shade of pearl that surrounds our new abode is striking in its difference.  I feel that we have grown up now; I feel like the pauses between our sentences are laced together with a slate-like permanence.  We once heard the cat purring in the other room.  We had no idea that our cat could even purr.

A garage, too; masking our inability to fully unpack.  Even as unpacking, in and of itself, is therapeutic.  Whisking away a slim volume here, an extra wooden spoon there.  I once fit everything I owned into a bag I carried on my shoulders.  Every once in a while, I look up at that skylight and squint at the blurry sky on the other side.  Gravity works differently now, edging towards another decade.  We are complicit.  We are okay with one another, the cliff jumping wars abated, the ground enjoying the feel of my feet and my body happy for the respite from falling.

16 October 2008, 9:43 am
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NOT my crossing guard

NOT my crossing guard

I walk to work. 

It takes about 45 minutes each way, and I’m pretty relentless about going every day, no matter the weather.  There’s something nice about the movement, the Zen-like state you can work yourself into, the constanties and the subtle changes.  There’s the older man I see by the elementary school and over the years, we’ve gradually moved from nodding at each other to some exchanges of greetings to my own personal quest to figure anything – anything – about this man’s life at all.  I know what kind of car he drives – a spotless blue Ford Taurus – because I’ve seen him as he puts on his safety orange vest and pulls his flag out of the trunk.  And I’ve seen him once or twice driving north to the school.  But other than the cleanliness of his car and a general feeling that he lives south of me, I know nothing.

Not that I haven’t tried.

Some sample fishing-for-info lines:

“So, any big plans for the weekend?”  “No, no, just staying at home, probably.”

“It’s always fun seeing the kids go back to school, don’t you think?”  “Yeah, these kids, they keep me on my toes.”

“Spending the new year with your family?”  “I think I’ll just fall asleep before midnight, like I usually do.”

Yes, I know.  Were I of the more direct ilk, I could probably just ask him details about his life and find out what his deal is – how he came to be the most (pardon the pun) unflaggingly consistent crossing guard I have ever seen.  There every day, rain, snow, beautiful fall or disgusting winter.  I know because I am the most unflaggingly consistent pedestrian I know, letting neither weather nor running injury nor general malaise with the world keep me from walking in.  I could just ask, if only my slight repulsion from feeling like I’m being nosy weren’t in the way.

The thing is, people secretly (or not so secretly) just want to spill their guts, I think.  They want to tell you about the horrible breakup they’re suffering, or the embarrassing medical problems they have, or why they got that unusual tattoo on their forehead.  It’s something I’ve noticed hanging out with my sister, whose bold questions (how old were you when you lost your virginity, to the girlfriend of a friend-of-a-friend at a barbecue one summer) make me blush.  I like to wait for such pieces of people’s sense of self to be offered on small plates at regular intervals, to be looked at under the right light and with the right tone of voice.  But when Marie bursts on the scene, she sweeps the plates off the table, jumps up and fixes her green eyes on her target, and asks, unflinchingly, “Have you ever cheated on your boyfriend?”

And they respond!  Maybe they’ll shift their eyes away, or become suddenly intrigued with the napkin they’re twisting into knots, but the glee eminating from the confessee is thinly veiled as they spill it to this charismatic stranger confessor.

Of course, the crossing guard doesn’t need someone to jump on the table, and maybe he’s genuinely (uh oh, here we go again) guarded or unwilling to share, or maybe he’s shy, or maybe (probably) this all means much much more to me than him, but still.  Sometimes I wish I could tap into Marie’s green-eyed bolditity and spill the contents of this man’s life on to small plates.  To look at, sigh over, admire.