Mar 20, 2010

So, what do you do all day?

It's difficult to be moody and introspective on such a spectacular spring day in Portland, especially after a peppy forty-five minute walk with Brady: sunshine, colorful blooms everywhere, sweet smells and a bag of warm poo in my hand. (And getting whistled at — twice; I wanted to stop them and ask, "Really? Still? Because I've been feeling a bit frumpy lately.) But I started this post a few days ago and would like to be done with it, so I will sit at my desk and grind it out so I can move on to more interesting things, like dishpan hands.

I've never defined myself by my job, but lately I've been defining myself by my lack of one. (Sure, I'm Grace's mom, but she goes to pre-school four days a week so that she won't lose her spot if I ever find work.) Also, when pressed, I can always trot out the "I'm a writer" bit. But there's something about a protracted period of unemployment that messes with your psyche; I'm starting to feel unemployable. I've never really had to look for work before; jobs have sort of found me. And now I'm looking like crazy, and nothing is happening. Yes, I know a lot of other people are in the same boat, but I'd like to be among the first rescued.

I may have mentioned that Grace and I now live right around the corner from the first house John and I lived in when we moved to Portland. (We lived there when Grace was born.) There are so many things I love about being back in this neighborhood, I couldn't possibly list them. I have always loved to explore the streets of Northeast Portland and look at houses; I used to jog for miles indulging in serious house envy. I have one walking path that takes me north on 39th (sorry, I mean César E. Chávez Blvd.) up to Wistaria right before you get to Alameda Ridge. My reward for the hill? Gawking at my dream house at the top: a three-story remodeled Mediterranean stucco deal with a gorgeous copper balcony. Then we hang a couple of lefts and head back home on 37th. Portland has some beautiful homes, and I never get tired of looking at them. I'm not talking about big, showy mansions with professionally tended gardens; the houses that captivate me most are tidy little bungalows or cottages that are obviously well-loved by the people that live there.

When I walk Brady now, I'm acutely aware of how things have changed for all of us. I used to covet the houses and gardens, but now I envy the families that live in them. I've had nice homes; they come and go. But that sense of hope and optimism we had when we started a family feels like it's gone for good. That sounds more depressing than I want it to, but it's just a fact: we are no longer a traditional, nuclear family. Grace will likely bear the brunt of this reality; her future looks quite a bit different than it did when she was born. John and I planned to have a baby, adopt another child and at some point live in a foreign country so that our kids could be bilingual. We were going to be different parents, always open to new adventures. That's not going to happen now, unless John and I achieve some sort of unprecedented ex-spousal state of harmony and selflessness.

Grace and I have everything we need for now. By global standards, we're rich in so many ways. Still, I hope our situation is temporary, not because of our standard of living, but because being a single mom is lonely and that trickles down to Gigi. It's just more fun to have someone with whom to share, every day, Grace's milestones, her setbacks, my own frustrations and joys. It's difficult, and scary, to be that adventurous parent when you're by yourself. Then I remind myself that my worst nightmares have always centered around finding myself alone. So — clichéd as it may be — I'm doing the thing that frightens me the most. (That's good, right?) And it's not so bad, because I'm never really alone, and I am so grateful for the people who reach out to let me know that, from my sister-in-law, to internet friends I've never met, to old high school and college buddies, to my local posse of girlfriends. And family, of course. Tonight, my brother came over with pizza, beer and a movie, and rescued us from a Friday night of cranky, headachy mom meets tired, disgruntled howler monkey.

It's not the same as raising a child with two parents, but I hope Grace will some day appreciate the huge, diverse crowd that took part in her upbringing. One of the things we sometimes do at night when she seems adrift is to list all of the people who love her, and that she loves. Lately, it takes longer and longer. That gives me hope that, job or no job right now, we're going to be okay in the long run.


Girlbert said...

Moody and introspective on a spectacular spring day? Who, me? ;-)

(Happy spring equinox, by the way!)

There is a reason you don't have a job right now. I don't know what it is, but the universe considers it perfectly valid. Maybe it's so that you could be there for your dad, hang out with Grace more while she's still little, move six times in three months (!?), or just plain do some shit that you wouldn't have been able to do, had you been working full time.

You'll be stronger and wiser for having gone down your path. Grace will be stronger and wiser for having a mother who had to struggle through some things. She will floor you with what she learns and who she becomes, regardless of what you have to offer her in terms of material things and amazing, worldly experiences right now.

You're in your boat for your reasons. I'm in mine for my reasons. And I've decided to stop paddling upstream for a minute and enjoy the view. Maybe I'll work on my tan, too!


Anonymous said...

My co-worker and I enjoy your blog so much, we bought your book today. I also suggested it to a few book clubs, so hopefully it'll grow like wildfire here on the East coast. Keep on keepin' on :-)

mama neeniebelle said...

First off, wonderful post- you are such a great writer, that never leaves you whether you end up doing some other "job" or not, you ARE a writer!
Secondly, I agree with Girlbert and can't possibly say it more elegantly (or with more personal expertise-that woman is such an inspiration, indeed!) This time has been given to you for a reason, take pleasure in these days, you can spend a lot of time wishing you had a different life but this is a rare opportunity to get tot he heart of your own matter without having to worry about someone else (aside from Grace, obviously) so use this gift and know you deserve it! XOXO
Thirdly, I also agree with Anonymous: Keep on, Keepin' on....

Abby J said...

I completely understand the "What do you do all day?" question. None of your GD business, is what I want to say. I also understand the feeling "unemployable" scenario. I used to think, "I'm smart, fairly sociable, I've got some skills, I can do whatever you need me to do". Well, now there's someone who has a Masters Degree in "Whatever You Need Me To Do", so I'm no longer being considered for that position.
Hold tight, stay strong. Things will come together... they must. They must. They must.