Impermanence

I had no idea until last year how much I needed semi-anonymity in order to keep writing; no different than the editor hovering over my shoulder when I’d try again and again to write a memoir– even if I’m scrupulous at turning the lens back and back to myself there is always the risk that in your truth lies another’s pain. I’ve never been a great advocate for myself and in fact the only real recourse I had as a child was to feign invisibility. I keep thinking of that image of Sylvia Earle at the ocean’s floor — submerged beneath what storms rage above. We never really change — the people we were as children. I see it in Z, or think I do, there is an open approachability in her — an open-heartedness that doesn’t expect rebuke or rejection. A flicker of concern passes her face when, at a play date, the other two girls play exclusively without her — the two other mothers (neighborhood acquaintances) tending to the younger siblings — both boys a year and half or so — and I worry, of course I worry. She’s a noisy advocate for herself though — she admonishes with hands on hips and wagging fingers if she needs to. In this case she just bulls her way into the too-small kiddie pool and watches the others walk away. She plays alone then, watching them, idly filling up a water gun and spraying it across the yard. Later she and one of the girls will recline in the small ball pit — laughing and nestling into the space together. The reconfiguration of social lives that will happen her entire life. I wish, for a moment, she had been born a boy — their social lives seem cut from a different fabric — free of the kind of dramas and intrigues of girls — but then I remember how when our son approached the fourth grade how we could see the mask of masculinity descending — the vulnerability replaced by the face he thought the world expected of him. I have kept my word on this blog — writing little about my blended family or the challenges there but for those of you who have read my blog since the beginning you can imagine the challenge as we enter a new phase. W has made the choice to live with his mother full time.

Today our neighbors are finishing a high cedar fence on the south side of our property to keep their Rottweiler from menacing us. We lost our pines on the north side — and then our neighbors — in order to put up their fence — razed the fifty year old corridor of ash and mulberry, the tangle of lilacs — it is nothing now but a hole in the sky and my shade plants burn and wither — gone are the ideas I had of a shady tunnel lined with flagstone and forget-me-nots –in a matter of days the whine of the chainsaw takes this lot back to its charmless start.

I’ve been reading my Tricycle Magazine, a buddhist publication, at night. Last night I picked up Sharon Salzberg’s Lovingkindness. Everything is impermanent. Alicia’s death. Our trees. Our very family structure — all subject to flux and change. Z starts preschool next week and I am focusing on that so I don’t feel the emptiness of the house or begin to project on her the grief of family reconfiguration — last night I couldn’t help but remember that I was her age when my middle-brother left our home — and that I would see him only sporadically for the rest of my life — and how I howled with grief when he left, begged him to take me with him — how that shapes and changes you. I try not to spend time obsessing over my many failings and how things might be different had I just. What? Been a different person. That is a life’s song I’m ready to stop singing now. The mulberries won’t droop over the yard making it impossible for the grass to grow. The dog won’t gulp them greedily and laze around with regret, the squirrels and birds won’t make themselves drunk with the fermenting berries. There are no more boughs and less chaos — the grass will grow and the wild tangle of underbrush I’d let go will have to be pulled now — looking errant and untidy instead of wild — like a mountain girl in hiking boots and long scraggly hair standing in the middle of hipsters — the world around you has shifted and changed and you no longer belong there; where you once looked a part of the landscape you now stand apart from it. The fence line maybe will become like every other suburban fenceline — mulched and gardened in particular patterns and it won’t be what I dreamed of but it will be okay.

***

I looked on my other, long-defunct blog for a post about step-parenting — I didn’t have much as I inadvertently deleted it all in a panic last year — but I had kept this one — and I remember it for a few reasons — one of them is that it connected me to one of my blog friends, Nancy, who has died now. It was a post when my stepparenting blog-friend — Lou was still alive — but she died of Melanoma years ago now.

Plum in the Snow

3.1.08

Plum in the Snow

“The bamboo for prosperity,” a Japanese friend explained to me, “the pine for long life, the plum for courage –“”Why the plum for courage?” I asked, picturing courage as a great oak.”Yes, yes,” answered my Japanese friend. “The plum for courage, because the plum puts forth blossoms while the snow is still on the ground.”

From Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s North to the Orient

The chair hits right at the sweet spot between the back of my knee and mid-thigh, alone, swaying above the snow laden trees and the sun is hidden today, the sound of the ice, the green posts, the cable, the chairs hooked along it, the wind. How many times in my life have I taken this trip – the glacial valleys of the midwest, the short and icy runs of my childhood, my mother humming to herself in front of me, following in her snowy wake, the sunniest days at the bottom of the hill, skis propped in the snow, face titled up to the spring sun, layers shed behind me. I watch G. & W. a few chairs ahead of me, W’s snowboard off to the side, G’s arm around him. It is all so familiar to me, my body is at home — this is the constant love of my body and the snow, and the ache looking up at the run not taken, the hunger. I’d forgotten the hunger of something you do well — something you could do for hours and hours and never tire of it. It may be the only pure thing left me.

This is one of those incongruent things about me — my mother kept me tied to the life she’d lived — skiing, sailing, horseback riding — summers at the lake — stringing our lives out paycheck by paycheck, but always, always giving things far beyond what she could afford.

At my mother’s place in the U.P. – ‘The Falls’, we slept in the larger loft of the ‘A-frame’ — W tucked in a trundle, G fallingasleep on the firmer bed above him, the dog and I slept in the old brass bed with the sagging mattress. My mother lives with a friend in the cities, but this is her primary residence — the place she hopes to retire to, the place that’s utterly her own. Our old record cabinet from the apartment that I used to sit in front of and pour through her albums – Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, The Kingston Trio, The Essential Ray Charles, Joni Mitchell’s Miles of Aisles (my favorite). She has the wicker chair from the cottage — the sort that languished on summer porches in the twenties — wide broad back and arm rests, a footrest that slides out. My grandmother found it in some junk store ‘up north’ as they said in Michigan. There are the black and white pictures of my grandfather on the seventeen, main sheet loose in his hand.

On the sloped wall of the a-frame there’s a black and white photo of me. I studied it while G & W snored gently to the Cars dvd. It must be 1979. Our second summer after my father’s death. In the blurred background there is the lattice against the stucco of the garage. I am sitting on the picnic table that was in the small backyard of our duplex, the deep red slatted fence that separated us from our neighbors, and my best friends. It was a double bungalow — a living room and kitchen in the back — a narrow staircase that led to a small bathroom, my mother’s room and mine. It was the first place we lived in Minneapolis. I remember the old gas stove, the brass doornobs, the worn windowsills, the wood floors. I remember dimly my mother’s crying at night. Patricia and Mark lived in the other side of the duplex. They had a black cat named Stella and naked photos of one another that they’d taken laying around on side tables, small square photos of Patricia in her stark whiteness, the darkness of the hair under her arms, between her legs. I wasn’t shocked particularly, but I understood that they wouldn’t like my looking at them. They were students at the University I think. Mark took the photo of me.

I am sitting on the picnic table, my hair is in two braids, coming out enough so that my eyes are hidden, you see my face in profile, the slope of my nose, my torso is twisted, as if I am setting the table, something in my hands. I notice the perfect proportions of my shoulders and arms, my legs, well muscled, but rounded. On my sockless feet are dark unlaced tennis shoes with snoopy on them. I am wearing a tutu. It has seen better days. I am about to turn seven. I got that tutu from my grandmother the summer I was four. There are pictures of me in it — I am on the brick patio of their house on Goldengate — a tiara on my head, my grandmother in her alligator shoes — I am twirling around with a smile on my face, her hands in mine. It is pink with netting and sequins.

On the picnic table I am lean, and the straps are off of each shoulder, the netting sagging and, I remember, dingy. It is a picture that is both unbearably sweet, and incredibly sad. I want to sweep that little girl off of that picnic table — hold her in my arms and tell her that her mother doesn’t mean the things she says in her rages, that she isn’t herself, that she can’t make anyone else happy — that it is only herself that she must make happy. I want to tell her something to keep her from the years that come when those voices will echo in her head for the rest of her life, and the bittersweet love between her and her mother — the only person she has left — a woman who loves her more than she can love herself.

On the lift the next afternoon W. looked back to me, smiling, happy. I thought with an ache that maybe this was what I was put on this earth for, to be who I am to this little boy.

I have been struggling with my own journey through the questions of assisted reproductive technology — which is strange in ways because it isn’t out of any kind of ideological stance — rather I am all about technology — but somehow there’s this hesitance in my own heart. I keep wondering if I am not meant to give birth to my own children. Is this some remnant of dormant religious upbringing of mine? Or more accurately has this decision, of seeking reproductive help, brushed up against my own cosmology – the thing that I have had to tell myself to make peace with my own life — which is that everything happens for a reason — all of it is to some purpose, somehow. I have something to learn, something to make peace with, something to resolve before I move forward.

At The Falls, on my mom’s bookshelf I found an old copy ofNorth to the Orient — Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s reflections on the exploration of the air route across the Yukon, Alaska, into Japan and China that she and her husband take. Its cover blue, silver font scrolling the title on the binding, a beautiful, simple etching of a float plane from above on the center of the front. It has surprised me in the beauty of the prose and her close observation of the land beneath her. My favorite chapters so far has been her chapter on Japan. She says that in every Japanese there is an artist – in the kimonos, the parasols opening in the rain, in the dishes for everyday use. When they arrive at their host’s home they are ushered into a room with scrolls of autumn grasses on the wall. They hold small blue teacups that fit in the palm of their hands. They listen to the trees brushing against the porch and the cries of the boys in the park below. She has left her young son behind in Maine with her parents. I’m struck by the next moment when after watching the boys chase dragon flies with long pointed bamboo sticks her host asks if she knows the Japanese poem about the mother whose little boy has died:

How far in chase today
I wonder
Has gone my Hunter
of the dragon fly!

She writes of her reflections after witnessing the Tea Ceremony : If only I could stay here long enough, I thought, going home in the rain, I would learn to see too. And after minutely watching the surface of things I would learn to see below the surface. I would see the essence of a thing, what it has in common with other things; that is, I would learn simile. I would see that a certain wet stone (as my Japanese friend said) was wet as a new-peeled pear. Then I would learn metaphor and see in my little boy “My hunter of the dragon fly.” And finally I would learn symbolism. “The bamboo for prosperity…the pine for long life, the plum for courage”

Thinking about how I feel on the ski slope – so much myself. How I feel with G. How I want to be able to be fully myself before I give my entire self over to another being. That is the courage of the plum tree, I think — to blossom in the snow — the spring is coming, the thaw has begun, the snows receding — and its blossoms break open in anticipation of the warmth to come. To come back to yourself. The beauty in every moment. To see that essence. To remember it.

I bought a book on triathlons. Now, before you begin crowing in disbelief out there I have to say that its written by Sally Edwards — a woman who’s spent thirty years as a professional athlete. She makes an excellent point. She asks you what it is you are doing it for. The difference between the amorphous ‘exercise’ — and the goal-oriented training. I have always exercised — but I have never really trained. I am terrified of running in a crowd, let alone swimming. I have a goal with my writing — and I felt that in order to live the life I want to live I need a physical goal as well.

Von muses about the interconnectedness of it all for her own life — in a beautiful post about embracing one’s own spirit — and that in recapturing our spirits — the life we’re meant to lead unfolds.( ** Sadly, Von’s wonderful site, “Murphy is a Bastard” has long shuttered its windows.. and so the link no longer works –.but it was a great blog)

Happy New Year to us all!

Hillock not the Tree

Deathstar asked me, as only a best friend and teacher can — “I’m wondering what lessons you learned or are learning from all of this.”

The strange thing about my own life unfurling is that I suddenly look back upon these decades of experience — the last two in particular where I feel I at least had begun to work consciously on my own heart, often failing, but beginning to awaken. I can barely recall now the young girl I was — so frozen in my own body and mind really — my entire family recalls my cautious nature from toddlerhood — wary. Ever wary. Searching. Watching. Assessing.

I wrote yesterday about Sylvia Earle, or “her deepness” — the nickname she earned after her solo walk on the sea floor.

credit:Bates Littlehales © 2008 National Geographic.

credit:Bates Littlehales © 2008 National Geographic.

If you search for it in the show archives you’ll find this description: The pioneering oceanographer and explorer describes walking on the ocean floor under a quarter-mile of water where light can scarcely reach.

I couldn’t shake the image of the darkness and the pressure — that Earle describes with incredible wonder and eloquence.

***

I spent the first few decades of my life feeling as if I were underwater — barely breathing, surrounding by pressures and currents I didn’t fully understand except to know they were dangerous. It’s only now that I feel myself to be surfacing, only now that I have learned to breathe — and even now I forget.

As a young woman — in college — I was so desperate to feel loved and safe that it colored everything else. None of my life’s work could begin, really begin, until I felt that — and I didn’t feel that until G and I began dating. I was thirty-one. That desperate search for home would have looked for a while like autonomy — heading into the backcountry alone, taking near strangers up on motorcycle rides through the Bitteroot, hitch-hiking in a land of tumble-down barns and broad rivers, driving long stints into the mountains commuting to the tribal college where I worked — 45 minutes on a two-lane highway with blind curves and logging trucks. My other job was in the University town going from school to school teaching poetry to children — many of them in desperate places. I remember a child writing a poem once about his father shooting his pet – not because it was sick or because they couldn’t afford veterinary care but as a punishment. I saw them, knew them, recognized something in them — the children who had to sit so close to me when I was reading — as if warming themselves by a fire — the ones with rings of dirt around their necks and hair untrimmed with long raggedy cuffs. I was in my late twenties and it would be in those years that I realized I had it all turned around — that writing wouldn’t save me, a novel wouldn’t save me, whatever misplaced notion of literary fame I’d concocted wouldn’t even save me — but having a family just might.
***

What I’ve learned. When Alicia died I had a moment that I’ve had periodically over the years of everything stripped bare. A place that words couldn’t reach. A sense of “this is all there is.”

If words are worth anything its in their ability to tether us to one another. We live in a time where, for much of the world technology has allowed us to believe that words are cheap — we are throwing our voices out into the chasm — a flood of words, a clamor, a din. I realized that I wanted to measure my words.

***

I learned that we are insignificant. The world doesn’t stop. Our workspaces where we once buzzed along — an indispensible part of a team — pause for the briefest of moments — right now birds are still gaining wobbly purchase on the dogwood, hopping beneath the juniper — the new sod rolled out like carpet over the earth uprooted by the loss of our old pine — a lush green island that a new couple someday will look out to and know nothing of the tree that once stood there — just the hillock.

Of course those who’ve loved and known us best — our mark on them is indelible — the places where we’ve walked hard along the earth.

***

Trite I guess. This moment is all there is. There is nothing that will make us happier — no amount of things or accolades — no number on a scale — and that the irreplaceable are those who, for some mysterious reason of chemistry and time and luck, we’ve chosen to stand bare in front of — and they’ve held our hearts.

Back to the Page, Diving, and Things

It’s nearly midnight and G is away on a fishing trip in the UP — knee deep in streams plucking trout out of the Escanaba.  

My mind has been wandering all over the place this summer — I’ve spent alot of time listening to Krista Tippet’s On Being — a show aired here through our National Public Radio.  Each program I choose I keeps circling back around the same things in my life: how to reconnect my body and brain  — to be embodied in my response to life — and by that I mean living with a full and kind heart and not finding refuge in my brain — a place so adept at intellectualizing and severing me from my own heart.  Every day seems like Buddhist practice to me — every day that I am parenting either child at either stage — summoning the compassion and remembering what it felt like to life in the household of a mother who, at times, could be so far removed as to be completely and utterly absent — whether by design or default.

I listened to a program just yesterday about Sylvia Earle — an oceanographer famous for being the first person to walk untethered on the deepest depths of the sea floor — and I marveled at how she, a woman seven years older than my own, had the wherewithall to believe she could do it — that she was capable of it.  I spend a great deal of time reflecting on my own mother’s regrets and trying to follow the unraveled thread back … all I come up with after all of this is that parenting, and in my specific case — mothering, sets the foundation for so much else — that seems simple, right?  I mean, of course it does — but the belief that the world is a solid place, that people are inherently good, that there is possibility — what greater gift than that?  

Before I go to bed and when I wake up in the morning the first things that usually float across my brain have to do with the last weeks of my friend’s life. A look on her face.  A tone in her voice.  The light behind her at lunch when she dreamt about the summer she would never see.  I was just in bed reading the recent issue of Tricycle Magazine when I read Katy Butler’s article on her father’s long decline — and how modern medicine and technology have allowed for our bodies to tick on in some cases far past the point when they perhaps should — and she writes beautifully about her family’s anguish over the ethics surrounding his death.  It was reading that article that got me thinking again about getting back to the page.  Any page.  This page.

There’s a section of the magazine that has brief teachings — and in the piece Cutting the Threads by Subhadramati she writes “In his elegy to a poet friend, Don Paterson says that death came and “gently drew a knife across the threads/that tied your keepsakes to the things they kept.”

I reread that three or more times.  Thought about how lately this house has seemed so insurmountable — things spilling out of closets, from out of baskets — thousands of sheets of forgotten papers and forms — old drum kits and broken vases — ten years of outgrown clothing.  It can be made sleek on the surface — all of this — glossed and vacuumed — doors shut, drawers slid closed — but turn around and the weight of it — and then I see it for what it is.  I can’t sleep for thinking about her things — the knife gently across the threads — and how empty the spaces without her are.  How all of us fill these spaces with such vitality and we stop seeing one another.  Our spouses, our friends, our children.

 

The Unfinished Post

This was the post I was working on the morning that she died:

For months I stared into my phone at night looking for studies and stories and message boards, anything that might give me an idea of what to expect. She would call me with terms and updates and medications — with symptoms and counts and tumor biology. “Have you written anything for your boys” I asked her at lunch after her first dose of Methotrexate but while she could still walk, stooped and slow. “I can help you. When you’re ready I can help.”

And that’s where I failed for who is ever ready to die and leave your two small children — 7 and 9 — raucous but fragile boys who have her wide lips, brown eyes, fair hair.

I came home from the hospital the night before last and my husband asked me “did you see things you’re never going to get out of your head?” And told me when I asked about placing his hands on the head of the dying mother of his high school love as she took her last breath. He was 19. “It is never an easy death” he said to me. His father died of cancer in 2002 deep in hallucinations and speaking his mother tongue. G had left the hospital to go back to work to finalize some things in getting his father home to die — and he got the call to turn around and come back, that his father had died.

She’s fighting it. Terrified with no guide. She wakes at night and her mother tries to soothe her but its only the anti-anxiety drugs that drag her under again to the place where she sleeps with a furrowed brow and tremors. I watch her as I used to watch Z as an infant — she’s bruised and pale, the three pocks on her face from a dogbite as a child and I can’t help but look at those dancer’s feet. Her thumbnail that was always thick like animal horn from some accident she’d had — and how she always would pick up my hands and stroke them, remark on the long nail beds that meant I never needed to grow my nails long — hers short and wide.

When I saw her earlier in the week when she was still lucid — I walked into the room and she lay there — an oxygen mask hooked around her ears — she has pnuemonia and a grapefruit sized blood clot in her lung. At that point she hadn’t eaten for almost a week — she was only being administered saline and antibiotics. She saw me and her eyes widened — she made an involuntary “oh” and lifted her arms in my direction. I asked if I could climb up into bed with her — one knee up and one leg on the floor as I reached toward her “hello beautiful” I said suffused with this profound sense of love — she looked into my eyes and I into hers and with such sorrow she wiped the tears that were running down my face — and then she barked out “this sucks” and we both burst into inappropriate laughter — and I sat in the chair next to her and she held my hand as she closed her eyes again — at times squeezing it hard hard hard. Such strength. At one point when she was being wracked with breakthrough pain and her father had gone to fetch her husband she looked at me and said “make them understand. Make them see.” Your boys? I said. And then I realized, the caringbridge site — where I’ve given her voice when she couldn’t.

I promised I would. When I leaned over her — wanting to give her some rest — I promised I would come into say goodbye.

I walked into the chapel and I fell apart. Her mother came to me and I lost it and she sobbed and we sobbed in this swaying clutch — and has seemed to me since so profoundly female an experience — the mother to an only daughter — and the daughter’s best and oldest girlfriend — the loss so specific to some definition it seems to me now in womanhood — and in the clutch of grieving I thought we could be on the highlands hundreds of years ago, or at the edge of some spare and scrubby woodland — it seems to tear the very fabric of everything apart and you are just inside the elemental human grief.

When I went back in she was awake again. I was lucky that day. I looked into her eyes and she looked into mine — all there. I love you so much I told her. You have always been with me and you will be with me forever. We will see one another again. Did I hold her face or does it just seem so now? Did I clutch her hands close to my mouth and kiss them?

A miracle happened then but not the kind you might think or hope for. I woke up the next day sure I couldn’t navigate the grief. I understood for the first time the phrase “mired in grief” because that is how it felt — everything was slow — my thoughts, my body — I couldn’t imagine how I was going to get through the days mothering Z — and I wrote a few things on twitter, on my social media feeds — and little drifts of notes kept coming back to me — like the prayers tied to the bushes at the greasy grass — the notes fluttering outside temples like cherry blossoms — that was the miracle — that people I have never met prayed for me and for her — held me in my grief, thought of me wherever they were — and I have to tell you — I’ve never experienced anything like it — to feel buoyed in this world.

I made the monumental error of watching the finale of Showtime’s The Big C. (Spoiler alert) I watched that last scene where the camera pulls away and you see her in the sunlit parlor of her home, her knees tucked to the side — seemingly asleep after having done all she hoped to — reconciled with her father, witnessed milestones for her son, ushered everyone she loved on to a better place –and I was so angry because that should be everyone’s story — and it isn’t.

I had read one message board about a woman’s sister’s battle with the same cancer my friend has — triple negative breast cancer that has metastasized to her spinal fluid — something called leptomeningeal metastatses — it used to be more rare — but now that interventions are addressing so much of the systemic disease in metastatic patients doctors are seeing it more and more in late stage cancer — particularly ovarian, breast… This woman’s sister, like my friend, had bone mets all along her spine and into the sacral sac — the nerve bundles at the base of her spine — the cauda equina — she said that they didn’t get her to hospice soon enough — that she first started vomiting uncontrollably and then they couldn’t get the pain under control and she suffered for days before they could. At one point, at least as it was told to me, my friend’s care management team was split. Her palliative team said it was time for hospice but her oncology team said there was still time and strength to fight.

What it has robbed my friend of is the time, with managed pain, to come to terms with what it means to die and with the very fact that she is dying. We never really talked about that part — she would walk to the edge of it but back away again, never ready. I am a chatterbox, and over-researcher, greedy for words and numbers and things in the attempt that knowledge of it might protect me, but she never has been. She is embodied –her long, strong dancer’s legs and her powerful singing voice and her lips always painted bright red — her hair at one point short and spiky — platinum blond. She has always been a quietly tenacious fighter — and those two boys.

An Invitation

Are you on Instagram? Jjiraffe mentioned quite awhile ago that you could follow my progress there… Zoebsmom. Just send a follow if you’re interested. I’m finding it far easier to take a few pictures and write a few lines than to gather my thoughts lately.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the new face of the blogosphere. I’ve been thinking about literary fiction. I even made the mistake of looking at the Chronicle of Higher Education yesterday where I realized that my dream job had opened and closed and that I filled all of the criteria except that one big glaring hole in my CV– A published book of fiction.

I inadvertently discovered Mary Jane Butters yesterday having picked up a magazine at the grocery store up north. I am still trying to puzzle it out. I’m in on so much of the organic, the slow living, this has been my aspiration and my comfort zone for so long but what seems so surprising to me is the commodification of it. The branding of it. The old hippie in me, the daughter of a hippie really can’t make sense of the juxtaposition.

Jjiraffe Recently wrote a post that made me think about the Pinterestification of blogging… I have a post brewing about that. What I’ve decided is that what has really happened in the world of blogging is that it has become commodified. We wouldn’t blame Martha Stewart for presenting her life as if she had no problems, as if she never went to prison, we pick up the magazine understanding it is an escape, a fantasy– we don’t look to lifestyle magazines to reflect real life. I think Jirraffe used the term aspirational versus inspirational once…

It takes me back to the days when I was teaching and my students always bitterly complained about the literature I would choose… If they wanted to read about real-life problems and heartbreak and tragedy they would look to their own lives… What they expected fiction to do was to create an escape… And that’s the difference I would argue, between entertainment and art.

Not that there isn’t art in creating those pieces of fiction that are escapist but you know what I’m saying. Perhaps everybody is creating the world they want to live in and are transmitting them out into the ether –all of these picture-perfect snapshots of what their life could be.

Mine certainly isn’t… Even if you were to look at my Instagram feed and think differently. I wake up every morning with the loss of my best friend so glaring in my life. My laundry is piled to the ceiling. Many nights I go to bed with dirty dishes in the sink. G goes off to work and comes home fretting and sleepless with anxiety over the ebbs and flows of self-employment. Our 13-year-old is in the grips of the culture and it’s hard to wrest him free.

Life is hard.