The little black kitten of jealousy

kitten

My phone dings and I look to see a dozen pictures of the sweetest little black kitten.

This darling new addition to my friend’s family, which they are calling Faun, causes me to start ahhhing loudly.

The kids come running.

“What is it?” they ask.

I flip the phone around and show them.

My girl immediately starts crying.

Not just little tears either.

Big, fat ugly tears which quickly turn to sobs.

Oh no.

As much as I’m aware of her wish for a kitten, this possibility didn’t occur to me.

I feel mean, as if I’d done something to hurt her on purpose.

The jealousy and anger pulse from her. She tries to calm herself, but the feelings are beyond containment. I let her cry and rage until the intensity ceases a bit.

“You are jealous because you want a kitten,” I say.

She nods and cries a bit more.

“I feel like a bad friend,” she says through her tears. “Have you ever felt jealous?”

Have I ever. I tell her about growing up and being incredibly jealous all the time. My friends got more presents at Christmas, had prettier hair, more boyfriends and took elaborate vacations my family would never be able to afford. I didn’t even fly in an airplane until I was in college.

I know a little about jealousy.

“Did you grow out of it?” she asks.

No. I have to admit that I have moments as an adult where I feel the pang and sting still. More moments that I care to acknowledge.

I want a kitten too. I want a new laptop. I want a real summer vacation. I want to be smarter, more successful and drive a nicer car.  I want to be skinny.

Longing for things you don’t have is as human as it gets.

“What do you do about it?” she asks and hugs me tight.

I can feel the desperation in her voice and I know I have to get this moment right.

I pull back a little and look in her eyes.

There are different kinds of emotions, each balancing the other out, I explain. Like in the movie, “Inside Out,” where Joy can’t exist without Sadness.

She nods.

“When I think about jealousy, I picture purple,” she says. “Like grape jelly. So I picture her being purple with a pale green dress on.”

“Sounds good,” I reply. “Who balances jealousy?”

I ask this question and realize I don’t have an answer. My emotional growth is about the same as her in this department. Well, maybe a bit better. I don’t cry all the time. Not all the time.

“I don’t know,” she says.

We both sit there for a few minutes thinking about it. Jealousy makes you want things other people have. What is a word for being happy with what you got?

“Contentment,” I finally say. “I picture her as wearing all pink and having a sweet voice. She says things like, ‘my room is so beautiful’ and ‘I love my family so much!”

“Yes,” she says. “Contentment tells me ‘I’m lucky to have a mom that rubs my back and talks to me’ and ‘I have awesome red hair.’”

Exactly.

We list off more and more things which make us feel content.

It feels good and the ugliness of the longing for what others have starts to fade for us both.

We cuddle up closer. She points to the picture on her wall of us nursing when she was a baby. She tells me she looks at it every night as she is falling asleep.

“I just pretend you are laying next to me,” she says. “Then I fall right asleep because I know you love me.”

My heart does complicated leaps of joy and sadness.

I tell her jealousy won’t go away and will be with her the rest of her life.

“Just be sure to let contentment have a voice too,” I say.

We agree to keep this conversation going.

“Maybe when I’m in college I can Face Time you,” she says. “Might even have holograms by then and I’ll project you laying right next to me.”

“Absolutely,” I say.

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Dead rosebushes keep you busy

They had to go.

They were all dead and no amount of water would bring them back to life.

As I started pulling the first one apart, breaking off the dead limbs of the once beautiful rosebush, the tears came.

Stupid. Weak. Tears.

I was transported back to the very day it was planted. My boy was only a few months old and we had a wonderful gardener. He was a young veteran trying to find his way back into civilian life. His excitement about my yard was contagious and he was so hopeful and filled with joy.

I remember holding baby Cooper in my arms as I watched him dig the holes and plant the rosebushes around our tiny tree. Red. White. Red. White. Red. White. All in a circle.

A new baby. A new yard. A new start.

That was a long time ago.

The white bushes died years ago, a casualty of broken sprinklers and neglect. They have been waiting for me to do something, a nice visual symbol of regret and guilt right in the center of my front yard.

I decided this week it was time.

They had to go.

The first two bushes came up easy, but the third one decided to give me a fight. When pulling didn’t work, I resorted to kicking and shoving, sweating, crying, filling more and more with rage and sadness.

Give. Up. You. Stupid. Dead. Plant.

I finally cut the roots one at a time with hand clippers until it released its hold on the ground. Shaking, I threw it into the bucket and stood up.

It was done.

***

For over a month now, I’ve been burying myself deep.

I’ve taken on a multitude of new tasks/roles at my children’s school. I challenged myself to crochet an enormous number of shamrocks. I cleaned and organized every closet and cupboard in my house. I’m learning to watercolor paint and play ukulele.

Waking up each morning I make myself a list of things I need to get done. I check them off all day, but never get to the end. Every night I go to bed feeling upset that I didn’t do some task I set for myself.

I know it is crazy.

I see it.

I feel it.

I’m avoiding doing the things that I need to do like write, exercise and pray. Those things are hard and require me to face what I am avoiding.

So I keep moving and focusing on all the things I have to get done. I ignore the sadness that tugs at my sleeve by giving it jobs to do.

There is always something more to be done.

Then there are nights like tonight. My body is exhausted, yet sadness ripped me out of bed and is tormenting me. It repeatedly whispers its familiar tune.

You aren’t good enough.

Everyone thinks you’re a joke.

You’re such a big disappointment.

Today was a great day. I helped with my son’s dress rehearsal, had a delicious lunch with a friend as we brainstormed ideas for the next school year, cooked a healthy dinner for my family, watched my son’s class play and even had ice cream.

Yet tonight the sadness is big.

Glacier size actually.

I am longing for things that can’t be.

I am mourning my own weakness.

I am wallowing in my childish wish that I can make everyone happy.

No amount of tasks in the world will ever erase the way I feel. It is a hurt that is deep in my soul and all I can do is feel it when it comes and let it wash over me.

I can also write. I can turn to you and tell you that I am broken, yet I love you. I am weak, but I am still here. I don’t have much to offer, but I will give you what I have.

I will get up tomorrow and I might have to bury myself again to make it through, but it really is OK.

I am not alone and neither are you.

This warrior is going to cut out her bit of sky

Tears flowed easily all morning as I felt pain radiate from my burned hand and crawl all over my body. It coursed like blood through me, stabbing me with the overwhelming sadness that has become my default emotion.

I made myself get out of my car and sit under a tree in front of my children’s school. No more tears, Bridgette. Just write your sadness.

My injured hand jerked across the paper as I wrote sappy poems about the meaning of life, letters to my younger self and declarations of finding happiness.

Then I looked up and one of my friends was standing there. The sunlight shining through the trees framed her face and she looked like an angel.

“You looked sad, so I thought I’d come over.”

We chatted for a few minutes about the book she just completed, our children and the power of music.

This is life, I thought.

Connection.

Love.

Compassion.

She picked up her boy from kindergarten and then brought over a CD of the band we had been talking about. As she pulled away in her truck, she and her joyous boy called and waved to me.

Thank you for that act of love friend.

You pulled me back.

Sometimes I feel like a caricature of sadness, like I have one of those little storm clouds drawn over my head with rain falling on me.

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It’s ridiculous and I want to slap myself awake.

But it is what it is.

I have been using that expression for weeks now. During that time, I’ve barely written anything. I’m not running. I’m impatient and being a crap wife, mother, daughter and friend.

It is what it is, though, right?

I’ve been telling myself that I’m using that phrase because I’ve reached a place of acceptance.

Nope.

It’s just another excuse. Another way to say “poor me” and not make myself accountable for my actions.

It is what it is.

Blah.

Enough already.

Time to fight.

That CD my friend gave me is a band called “Nahko and Medicine for the People.”

This is the stuff.

Seriously good medicine.

One song in particular, “Warrior People,” has become my rallying cry. I’ve been listening to it about a dozen times a day and singing it loudly until my voice cracks. Some of my favorite lyrics:

“I’m just a human being on another fucking journey.”

“I teach my children who to trust and how to listen.”

“I will learn to be peaceful but I keep my knife at my side.”

“Used to be restless, now I am relentless.”

“Everything you do in life is definitely relevant.”

I’m really getting bored and tired of feeling like an injured puppy lying around licking my wounds.

Time to be the warrior that I know I am.

As I write these words, I can’t help but feel like a broken record on repeat. I’ve said them before. I’ve been in this place before. I keep feeling stronger, but then…

It’s always something.

There is always another stumble down the stairs of sadness.

Always.

And it’s OK.

I have lots of fight left in me.

As I struggle along, I keep my eyes upward these days. The sky has become a beacon of hope for me. I stare up and remind myself how small I am and how truly out of my hands some things are.

“He built himself a house,
his foundations,
his stones,
his walls,
his roof overhead,
his chimney and smoke.

He made himself a garden,
his fence,
his thyme,
his earthworm,
his evening dew.

He cut out his bit of sky above. And he wrapped the garden in the sky and the house in the garden and packed the lot in a handkerchief and went off lone as an arctic fox through the cold unending rain into the world.”

–“Fairy Tale”, Miroslav Holub

sky

Even at Christmas, you can’t always get what you want

Putting away the laundry I noticed a note on my husband’s nightstand. It was addressed to him and included our full address and a drawn picture of a little dog next to a tree. I opened it up and this is what I saw:

dog

My heart dropped and I sat down and cried. Just a few quick tears. Then I wiped my eyes and finished the laundry.

Sometimes you have to break your kids heart and it hurts.

For years he has been asking for a dog. Lilly was our neighbors dog. She is an adorable white mutt who is in love with my boy. She used to dig under the fence and come into our yard anytime he was outside. She would cry at our door for him to come play with her. Then the neighbors had to move. They could not take Lilly with them and noticed the bond between boy and dog. They gave him Lilly.

Dad said no. He does not want a dog. Trust me, he will not budge on the subject.

So Lilly went to live with grandma. My boy loves staying at her house and seeing his dog. Almost every time he comes home from a night with his dog, he cries and tells me how much it hurts that he can’t have Lilly. The dog also seems to cry and grandma says she mopes for days after he leaves.

I have had more conversations/arguments about this dog situation with my husband than I care to admit. He is very set in his decision. It is hard and heartbreaking. He is a loving and kind man, but his inability to see how much pain this causes his boy drives me to no end.

My boy never tells daddy how he feels. He rages and cries at me about the dog situation, but never his dad.

This letter was the first time he really tried to tell daddy how he feels. I was sad and proud at the same time.

He wrote to Santa too and said all he wants for Christmas is for his dog to come home to him.

It is not happening and Christmas morning he will be sad.

But he won’t be alone.

Although this seems like a huge deal in my heart, I know there are kids out there asking for things far more precious than a dog. There are kids that ask Santa for a mom or a dad, work for their parents, food to eat or a home. Other kids ask for peace in their lives or for a family to be whole again after divorce.

All of these things break my heart. I wish I had the power to take pain away from all children.

But I can’t. I cannot even give my boy what he wants most.

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But I do have the power to be positive and to not make him resent his father for his choice. I can make his Christmas special by focusing on love, togetherness and family. We are blessed in ways that my boy can’t even comprehend.

My dearest friend is facing her first Christmas since losing her mother. My grandfather is suffering from terminal cancer and is facing the reality of this being his last Christmas. A close family member is fighting to keep her family together and struggling with mental health issues. So much sadness.

Not getting a dog seems pretty small compared to all that.

So I will choose happiness and joy for Christmas. I will focus on all that is good. I will surround myself with friends and family and love up everyone I can.

It might just turn out to be a Merry Christmas after all.

Just a glimpse out the car window

He was sitting on the top step of the porch. He had no shirt on and his tan skin stood out in contrast to the stark white house. His jeans were dirty and he held a cigarette in one hand. His arms were crossed and he was leaned forward with his elbows on his knees. His blonde hair was sticking up in spots. His bare feet were on the step below him.

The light turned green and I stepped on the gas pedal. I took one last look at him and he lifted his face. Our eyes locked. It was just a second. Just one breath. I could feel tears in my eyes and I suddenly found it hard to breathe. The intensity and sadness of those blue eyes. The pain. The distress. I fought the urge to turn around and go to him.

“Mommy,” my girl said from the backseat.

“What?” I said swallowing hard and trying to concentrate on driving. Just a few more blocks and we would be to school.

“Did you see that man?” she said.

It was then that I looked back at her in the rearview mirror. She was clutching Panda, her protector bear, very tight. Her knees were drawn up and her eyes were wide.

“I did,” I replied trying to sound calm.

“That was so sad,” she said. I could hear the tears threatening to come.

“What man?” my son chimed up cheerfully. He had a bag of his sisters hair bands on his lap and was busy making bracelets for his friends.

“The sad man with no shirt,” my girl answered. “I hope he will be OK.”

“He will,” I told her.

“Good,” she said loosening her grip on Panda. Her head slumped to the side of her car seat.

“I’m tired now,” she said and yawned.

“Me too,” I said and reached for my coffee cup.

“What man?” my son said again and strained his neck to try to look behind us. Of course we were several blocks away now and almost to school.

“He’s gone,” my daughter replied. “But he will be OK.”

The rest of the ride to school was silent. We parked on the street and walked brother to class. After saying our good-byes and giving kisses we walked back to the car. Her kindergarten is at another school a few minutes drive away.

“Why do you think that man was sad?” my daughter asked as I started to drive.

“I have no idea,” I said.

“I think someone died,” she said. “But it will be OK. That person is in heaven and he will see them again.”

“Yes, that’s true,” I said.

“I love you mommy,” she said.

“I love you.”

We parked at her school and held hands as we walked to the play structure. She ran around happily showing Panda all the things she can do now.

Her teacher played the flute and she ran off. Panda and I both waved good-bye.

She is going to be OK.

I’m going to be OK.