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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Sometimes being a mother breaks my heart

Today wasn’t a good one. I can’t and shouldn’t measure my mothering skills by what happens in one day or even one moment. However, I can’t help but feel I’ve let them down. Again.

I know tomorrow I will wake up and all the pain of today will have lost its luster. The tears we cried a memory getting fainter as the days go on.

But tonight I hurt.

I ache.

I bleed.

My heart breaks for the pain you felt today. The pain WE felt today.

When I saw you both all packed up and ready to go ride bikes, I could tell there was more.

I felt it.

You said the food you packed was in case you got hungry. But I saw the look you gave each other and I knew it.

I let you go anyway.

I stood at the window and watched you go. I prayed you’d be safe and knew you’d come back.

I didn’t really know. Couldn’t really know what you’d been plotting while you sat on the swing last night together. I thought it was something like hunting for fairies or looking for magic doors.

When you came back less than 10 minutes later, hot and defeated, I could sense it was so much more.

You both started crying within seconds of coming through the door and my heart dropped. It took some time to get it out of you. The plan. The secret. The wish.

Your plan is adorable and heartbreaking at the same time. Ride your bikes to Pet Smart. You’d wave at a stranger, pretending they are your parent, fool the staff. You’d adopt a kitten and a puppy. Ride home with the pets in your backpacks. You’d keep your little babies in the playhouse in the backyard. You’d feed and care for them when we aren’t looking.

You’d have the pets you so long for.

My heart breaks.

I hold you both as your tears flow and mine join in with yours.

You’re probably wondering why I don’t run out and buy seventeen kittens and puppies.

I want to.

My husband is allergic to cats and refuses to get a dog. Its been an ongoing topic of discussion and every few months it rears its painful head again.

I support him in front of them, but argue with him about it frequently. His list of reasons is short, but he will not budge.

My heart breaks.

We leave the house and go shopping to break the moment. I try and distract with humor, new books and a shared cookie.

It helps for the moment.

Later in the day though, it surfaces again. More tears. This time rage and anger. You fight with each other and get violent. You hit me. Hit each other. You scratch me. You tell me I am awful. You shake with frustration.

I listen. I hold you. I talk to you.

We talk about better ways to vent our anger so it doesn’t hurt others. You ask why I’m crying too, and I tell you I hurt when you do.

You cry more and I apologize.

I should not have cried.

I should be stronger.

We make it to the end of the day and when daddy comes home we try and hold it together. I want to rage and scream and scratch, like you. I want to make him feel the pain you do.

I don’t.

Of course I don’t.

Someday you will see I am protecting you. Marriage isn’t easy and being an adult is about compromises and sacrifice.

Or maybe you will be in therapy someday telling them you wished your mother were a stronger person.

I don’t know.

We snuggled before bedtime and I told you I loved you more than you could ever imagine. I read to you and kissed you. Tomorrow will be a better day, I say. Tomorrow we will do something fun.

You look up at me with wounded eyes and I want to cry again.

Sometimes being a mother breaks my heart.

There are moments when the monster wins

Walking up the stairs with my arms full of laundry and my coffee cup balanced on the top, I tripped.

I didn’t fall, but my knee hit the stairs and I dropped everything. The hot coffee burned the front of me and also managed to get on most of the newly cleaned white clothes I’d been carrying.

On another day, I’d probably laugh or curse. Or maybe I’d do both.

Not today.

Today the tears I’d been holding back came rushing forward violently. Before I knew it, I had to sit as my body convulsed with sobs, the deep kind that take over every inch of your body. I felt like my insides were ripping apart and that nothing could ever be right again.

After a few minutes, I stopped.

Grabbing a white sock to dab my eyes, I started to clean up the mess. I’d have to wash all the clothes again, spray clean the carpet, wipe down the walls and put burn cream on my chest.

I moved through the motions trying to squash down the pain inside and just go forward, but I could feel it clawing at me. Its talons scratching my gut, begging me to just succumb to it.

So, I made my way to my bed. Pulling the covers over my head, I let it come. The pain didn’t disappoint. It was faithful in its ability to crush me and tear at me. I buried my head in my pillow and screamed.

This happens sometimes.

The weight of life just crushes me and everything just becomes too much.

My mind becomes a prison in which I am stuck reliving decisions and fighting against my own reality. Over and over the same records play until I want to smash them against the wall.

Then the fantasy takes over and my mind becomes a blur of alternative realities where I’m not here in this bed screaming in pain, but I’m happy and living a completely different life constructed from dreams of what might have been.

Sadness, disappointment, grief, regrets, guilt and fear all swirl around until it almost becomes a game to see how deeply I can feel.

Then it just stops.

The tears cease, my gut unclenches and I roll onto my back and look at the ceiling. I will myself to slow my breath and to be calm.

I roll onto my side and look at the green walls of my bedroom.

Flashes of the day my husband and I painted it run through my head, along with images of cool forests and tall trees.

I stare at the walls and concentrate on being here.

I’m right here.

Scanning the room, I take in all the little mementos of the life I have.

Moon lanterns made at camp, my collection of old perfume bottles that were my grandmothers, a painting of a creek running through a forest that hung in my childhood home and two large pictures of my children as babies.

My boy. In this picture he has this little drop of drool right on his chin and he is staring straight at the camera. I love looking at those sweet wispy curls and I still get lost in those amazingly bright blue eyes.

My girl. She is wearing this adorable pink knitted bonnet and dress that her grandma made her and is lying on her tummy. Those soft and chubby cheeks fill the picture and I remember how I couldn’t stop kissing them.

Nothing is so bad that I can’t endure.

Sacrifice.

It’s what being grownup is all about.

Sarah: That’s not fair!

Jareth (Goblin king): You say that so often, I wonder what your basis for comparison is?

–Labyrinth

Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.

–The Princess Bride

I’m up and writing, but that monster is still calling me back to bed. I can feel its pull, almost hear its talons clicking together in anticipation of ripping at my gut some more. It doesn’t always give me a choice, but today I have some fight in me.

I’m going to fight.

Time to shower and leave my home.

Reinforcements, a good book and coffee, are greatly needed.

Sadly, I am acutely aware that I am not even close to alone in this battle and that so many will relate to this piece. Know that although I am often lost in my war, I am here to support yours. If you need an ally, you’ve found one.

I’m still here.

bridgette