Birthday weekend li.st

Dear BJ Novak and Dev Flaherty,

I wish your li.st app offered greater compatibility with non-mobile devices. What’s the technical term for computers again? I dunno, and as I said in the last post, I’m still high. Maybe it’s worn off by now. It probably has. It was only a few small puffs, an hour back, but then again, it’s 11pm and I’m about to eat Honey Nut Chex cereal, so I might still have some lingering effects. Apologies, I’m digressing a bit.

Anyway, if there was a way for me to write this post as a li.st, I would do so. But alas, it’s too complicated to figure out, and perhaps the design was intentional, so I’ll just voice my complaint here, where you may never venture. I’m pretty invisible to the Internet gods, to the point my Weed Husband once googled “high mom” only to stumble upon some filthy porn, although I suppose anything is better than cake bukaki. Again, I digress.

I want to write about the past weekend, but I don’t know if I have it in me to weave one of my long-winded, non-epic epics. So, instead, here’s a non-li.st list–to be edited, a million times, at leisure, on the comfort of my laptop–of observations, memories, quotes, etc. from my birthday weekend:

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What’s the word I’m looking for?

Nothing especially witchy happened last night, but that doesn’t mean I’m not a witch. I mean, I might not be a witch, but I don’t think it depends solely on yesterday. I feel like the witchyness emerges on more than a single day. Or maybe all women are born witches and they just choose to embrace their powers at 33. I haven’t really thought the theory through.

Also, I think it’s good to acknowledge here that I’m being fa·ce·tious. (Copied straight from a Google search, hence the dots). I can never remember how to spell facetious or what it means, but it’s defined as “treating serious issues with deliberately inappropriate humor; flippant.” Turning into a witch is not generally considered a serious issue, so perhaps there’s another word I should be using. I’m not sure. I’m also high.

There’s definitely a correlation between the witch thing and the weed thing. I feel like I connect on a deeper level with the universe and everything in it when I’m high. I also feel like I’ve been turning into more of a pothead lately, and I’m not sure how I feel about that. Enrique and I were conversing over a bowl the other day when I asked if there was an acceptable frequency for getting fucked up. “One-third of your free time,” he said after a minute. “Well, pretty much, if you find yourself getting fucked up for more than 33 percent of your free time, then it probably controls you more than you control it.”

Thirty three. Point three.

Drugs are a powerful force in the universe, and they scare me. Everything in moderation, Mr. D’s dad used to tell him, but he was speaking broadly.

I interviewed Mr. D’s uncle back in December because I wanted to write about his father. That was going to be my Christmas present to him, but I never wrote it. I’ve had so many things I’ve wanted to write, and I haven’t written them. Simon and Garfunkle’s Concert in Central Park, and how it serves as the soundtrack to my childhood and my parent’s immigration experience. The love story for my bride-to-be friend. My next project at work. Is it simple enough to say I’m scared of falling short? Is that even the answer? I don’t know. “The truth is rarely pure and never simple.”

Enrique and I were stoned and looking through magazines the other day when we decided the best writing is subtle. It’s the kind that pulls you in slowly, seductively, so smoothly you don’t even realize how deeply entangled you’ve become. Writing takes you on this strange trip to faraway places in other people’s brains, lost not in the tunnels of a writer’s mind, but in the minds of the characters they create. How wild is that?

Writing is my favorite drug. Maybe that’s the anxiety I feel. That I’m not doing it enough. Dan Jones, the editor of the NYTimes Modern Love column says writing is about discovering what you don’t know, not showing what you do.

I don’t know enough to be a witch.

I know I’m grateful, that not a single day passes by where I don’t thank the universe for my girls and Mr. D, and my parents, and my job, and my health, and my life. Nothing magical happened on my birthday, except for the fact that I spent it with people I love. There’s no force in the universe more powerful than that.

What’s in a name?

I wasn’t dreading the bachelorette party. It’s just… drinking isn’t really my thing, and I didn’t know the majority of the other ladies, despite the fact that I’m in the wedding, and I’m really only in the wedding because I’m one-fourth of The Dinner Club, and two of the other Dinner Club members weren’t going to be there, and… I just don’t know. I love the bride-to-be. She’s sweet and fun and eternally charming, but she’s also part of a larger group of friends whose massive social circle often resembles Game of Thrones, where the relationships are deep and complex and almost impossible to comprehend at first glance.

I realized I didn’t belong when I forgot the name of the Bride’s aunt during dinner. “Aunt B,” she told me when I asked, and I—a woman who has defecated myself, twice, as an adult, and can relate that anecdote now, with zero shame—felt mortified that I thought she was Aunt J. That’s how out of the circle I am.

But the night was fine. It was better than that, actually. It was fantastic.

The Bride was like a beautiful, brunette Malibu Barbie. She danced and drank and relished in her much-deserved weekend of celebration. Her maid of honor, four months pregnant, showed me that some women are just destined to be great mothers, and that the life growing inside her has been blessed by this great universe to belong to someone so kind and selfless.

I ran into a dear friend from the short-lived “party days” of my 20s. Her presence reminded me of the White Chocolate Macadamia Nut cookies from Insomnia. The first time I bit into one at the store’s Center City Philadelphia location, I asked the lady at the counter if the exotic flavor in my mouth was coconut. She nodded, and I gleefully devoured the remaining bites. “Oh Mr. Coconut,” I exclaimed with joy. “You’re like finding an unexpected friend at a party! Such a delightful surprise.” That’s how I felt about my long-lost bar friend, who I hadn’t seen since our wild Thursday nights in 2008. Ms. Coconut didn’t drink much either, but she danced and partied, and somewhere around 1am, she drove three hours home to spend some precious Time with her seven-month-old daughter before heading to work the following morning.

All of the girls were fabulous, and I felt silly for my earlier anxiety. It turned into a great night. Especially after I smoked up.

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Sober thoughts on St. Patrick’s Day

I’ve always viewed alcohol as the drug of the insecure. A way to shed inhibition and become a looser version of yourself. You, but askew. The You you want to be, but can’t quite get to on your own.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I’m all for a glass of wine. It’s just not my drug of choice.

I much prefer the introspection of marijuana. Of creeping into the weird and winding corners of my brain. Finding comfort there, along with other dear friends. Humor. Peace. Gratitude. Time. Always, Time. Where marijuana slows it down, alcohol speeds it up. Nights lost in darkness.

I’ve reached those blackout points myself on a handful of occasions, and they’ve always left me shaken. Horrified of the could-have beens. I could have been the victim of something awful. I could have driven home and killed someone. The possibilities are endless.

I say all this not to judge the drinkers. I get it. I’ve done it. I do it still.

I’d just prefer to spend my St. Patrick’s Day smoking green instead of wearing it at the bar.

Are you there, God? It’s me, High Mom.

I’m taking a stab at high writing, though it’s hard to tell how high I am or how it will affect the quality of the prose (for better or worse). I hit the bowl before putting the kids to bed, and now I’m trying to make sense of all the thoughts I had throughout the day. I know there were a few good ones in there…

When I’m high, I often find myself taking the same walks in my brain, down the same, familiar paths. Like, Oh, I’ve been here before. I know this place. The insecurities, the desires, the feelings of Anxiety and Gratitude and Contemplation, emerging like old friends from the murky shadows of my mind. Is this my religion, I wonder? I think about religion a lot when I’m high.

I met an expert in religious studies today. I’ll call him the Fox. He is shortish, with a slight paunch and an inscrutable expression. As a philosophy professor at a nearby university, his Intro to World Religions course is one of the most popular courses there, but never once in his 27-year tenure has he divulged his personal beliefs on religion. Then again, he doesn’t really believe in beliefs. He’s an open-minded skeptic who thinks faith is a bit of a cop-out. He’s not all that interested in organized religions and much prefers the sacred texts of thousands of years before. The Secrets of the Universe. Man-made (“Because if God did it, you’d think it would be a little clearer.”). Ancient man, with ancient scrolls and ancient methods of communication, indecipherable to a Google search, so complex and esoteric that my head hurt hearing him explain how to read Buddhist poems (or something like that).

The Fox doesn’t share secrets with the lazy. He wants his kids to work for them, to unlock the mysteries for themselves. He wants his students to read. Original sources, preferably. To learn from them how to argue, to reason, to critique, to think. He’s paranoid of a larger conspiracy to dumb down our young. People are all too eager to be told what to think, and it terrifies him. After all, stupid people are easier to control.

The Fox loves the subversion of teaching college students critical thinking through religion. “Like taking a 2×4 to the head. Because it’s is the one thing you’re taught not to question.”

So what exactly is religion? He defined it as the connections we make to things larger than ourselves. He couldn’t define God. The problem, he said, is people think they can.

I told the Fox that I grew up without religion, but that I wish I better understood my Hindu roots–and that I think about religion more, now that I am a parent. He said that happens frequently.

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I am not a witch

Remember when Christine O’Donnell went on national TV to say that? Why be so ashamed, Christine?! Embrace that shit!!

Except, of course, you spouted Tea Party nonsense, and I’m digressing completely. I might still be high.  Maybe I should do more high writing. Although I’m hesitant to, because my brain sometimes moves too fast for even me to keep up. Like Writer Me and Stoner Me and are having a weird confrontation.

Gah! See, right there. I’m high writing my thoughts. My dad told me today that my style of writing was “too conversational,” and I thought, “Whatever. It’s still good.” I get my arrogance from him.

But anyway…

Today. What a day. I think it was the Universe maybe rewarding me? I think Spiderman’s prophecy may have just come true. I’m still kinda like, whoa, wow, holy shit. In a good way.

All this time, I thought that if I worked really hard and poured my time and attention into the blog, then I’d get rewarded with an essay in the New York Times and a bunch of book deals in my inbox. As if that’s all it took. I was hustling without knowing the first fucking thing about the hustle.

The hustle starts with humility. If you want to be great, it begins by knowing that you aren’t, that greatness isn’t a state of being, but an existence that looms forever out of reach. The hustle is in rejection. It’s the job you thought you landed but didn’t get. It’s the “thanks, but no thanks” from the Times. It’s the 12-page project you completed overnight–the one that sat on your boss’ desk, unread, for weeks, as your dog died of cancer–only to be told that you never met a deadline in your performance appraisal the following year.

The hustle is nothing without the heart. The heart is honor and compassion and gratitude and kindness and all the good you aspire to be, even when you fail.

In two weeks, I’m going to have a new boss. I’m going to have everything I dreamed of happening at work, finally happen. (For the record, I didn’t just hope, I hustled.) Ms. Mahogany shook her head when she heard the news this afternoon.

“You strategic little bitch,” she said.

“I didn’t think it was going to happen,” I told her. “It’s new and crazy for me, too.”

“How are you feeling about it?”

“Excited. Nervous. I successfully orchestrated an office coup, and now I’m wondering if I did the right thing.”

“There’s a Bible verse you should remember: To whom much has been given, much is required.”

I don’t know if I fully understand what she meant, but I’m grateful for the words. I need the wisdom of her counsel and the goodness of her heart.

I need to kick ass in this role. I need to hustle. I need to kill it unlike anything I’ve ever killed it before. And I probably need to start blogging less about work.

On that note, I hid the post about the time I thought I was turning into a witch and did that whole thing at the holiday party. I thought it was my $333 ticket to a book deal, but that may have been a bit foolish.

I am not a witch. Or maybe I am. Who the fuck knows.

(Note the change in Bitmoji attire… I’m dressing for the job I want and committing to be a more professional me!)

The mama waterskunk

“Why do the dumpsters have locks on it?” Big A asked, as I threw our sandwich wrappers and wet wipes away.

It was our last full day in Colorado. Just a few months before, Mr. D and I were misty-eyed in an Austin Imax while watching a documentary on the 100-year anniversary of the natural parks.  “The greatest natural wonders belong to no one: They belong to us all,” Robert Redford’s voice narrated. “They belong to all.” As we left the theater, I admitted how choked with emotion I felt at the sight of our purple mountain majesties. “I teared up, too,” my husband admitted. “We should do more stuff outdoors.”

Then we came home. Work piled on. Swim lessons and gymnastics and drop-offs and pick-ups and life in general resumed its unrelenting, unapologetic pace. I fantasized daily about quitting my job, wondering if my boss would continue to take credit for my work, or if she would, instead, give me the one thing I had asked for and unquestionably earned. But she didn’t acknowledge my question, let alone provide an answer, and I found myself averaging three hours of sleep on a good night. About a month after my suicide joke fell flat in a staff meeting and probably a week before my inevitable mental break down, Mr. D bought impromptu tickets to Denver. “It will be good for us,” he said. “It will be good for you.”

It was perfect. It was exactly what the doctor ordered, right down to the weed. The girls, Mr. D and I hiked mountains and stepped off the beaten path to climb rocks and explore nature on our own. By the time we polished the last of our PB&Js at a picnic table in Rocky Mountain National Park, I decided I could very happily relocate to the West. We’d just need to get used to the whole snakes and bears thing.

“That’s why you’re supposed to lock the dumpsters,” I explained to Big A. “So bears can’t get in.”

“Bears?” Little A asked in her sweet whisky voice. “Will they hurt us?”

“Um… well… hopefully we won’t see any. But sometimes bears can hurt people. Especially if it’s a mama bear who wants to protect her babies.”

Little A lost interest in the bears, and we proceeded to circle around a spectacular lake, its crystal clear water reflecting the towering rocky mountain ranges from beyond. We climbed more rocks and walked across logs and even hopped over stones to explore the other side of a babbling brook. As we headed back to the car, Little A began to tell us a story about “a waterskunk family,” prattling on in her usual long-winded way, mundane details and indecipherable ones all piled together as my interest and attention drifted elsewhere–to the trash collected in our car, to the bathroom stops we all needed to make before we left, to the flight we had to catch tomorrow. The sweet whisky voice continued to drone on… and on… until finally, in her same casual tone, Little A said, “And then a man came, and he tried to hurt the babies, so the the mama waterskunk killed the man.” Mr. D and I both stared at each other blankly. “Kill the man?” I mouthed to him, as he laughed and said, “Well, that took an unexpected turn.”

We drove to another lake, and stopped again at the bathrooms, and admired a herd of moose crossing the road. We all fell asleep early that night, and I slept sound and deep and long.

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The Lotus Eaters

I loved him before the drugs.

Sitting in the corner of Mr. Pierogie’s 9th grade, Honors English, we’d pass each other notes, handfuls of which I still have saved in a frayed, decades-old Victoria’s Secret box. There are the snarky one-liners about the class know-it-all; the fear we harbored for the wobbly barstool upon which our sweet, fat teacher would sit; the exchanges that said nothing and everything about life at 13.

When I try to pinpoint the exact moment I fell in love with D, I return to that classroom. We had finished the first half of The Odyssey, and from his precarious perch, Mr. Pierogie asked us which of Odysseus’ challenges had been the most dangerous. “The Lotus Eaters,” D whispered to me. It seemed an odd choice, only a few small pages about a flower that forever trapped its willful victims, certainly less exotic or action-packed than some of the other stories in the epic, and my face must have reflected my bemusement. He smirked and added, “It’s the only one I actually read.”

When the know-it-all raised his hand to make the same argument—something about hopelessness, loss of willpower, how those who ate from the flower abandoned desire for all else—I fell madly in love with D’s smile, the free-of-arrogance, I-told-you-so expression that said, “So what if I got lucky? I’m right.”

Shortly after our initial drunken kiss some 11 years later, after we went from being friends to being more, I asked Mr. D if he, too, knew the moment he loved me. “We were in the cafeteria,” he said, going into explicit detail of watching me, wide-eyed and open-mouthed, as I devoured what must have been a very delicious popsicle. “That’s the girl I’m going to marry,” he joked, and we both cracked up.

We didn’t share another class until senior English, and our casual connection continued through college. We’d hit the bowl in his dorm, exhaling pot smoke into an empty water bottle filled with dryer sheets to mask the smell. Once, I accompanied him and his girlfriend on a blunt ride behind campus, grabbing the closest available beverage to soothe my throat, only to gag as the gin-laced juice seared its way to my stomach.

We went to parties in the seedier parts of the city. He taught me how to hock loogies and download songs off illegal websites. We took statistics sophomore year, our first shared class since high school, though he’d eventually fail the course and drop out altogether. After that, it was years before we saw each other again.

When we did, it was at my wedding. Newly single, D came alone and caught the bouquet. At 22, I had married a former pothead who smoked with me on our first date but never touched marijuana again. The sex was mediocre. When a friend once asked what it was that I saw in him, I apparently replied, “He has D’s sense of humor.” She’d remind me of that after the divorce, after D and I became “more,” after my corny remark of always loving him and after the chorus of duhs from our mutual friends.

We were potheads that first year, but D was more, and I didn’t realize just how debilitating more could be. D knew. He had called it eleven years before, in freshman English.

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Is this marriage?

Mr. D says I have a tendency to project my stress onto our relationship, and he may be right. Sometimes when we smoke at night, I find myself unable to get comfortable in his arms, or on the couch, or in the bed. I just sit there, on edge, anxious and tense, wondering why I can’t relax, and it compounds the already growing feelings of inadequacy and insecurity that mar my Groundhog’s Day existence, where every day is the same, and I never feel good enough at home or at work, and I wonder if I’m arrogant for wanting more for our life, or ambitious for dreaming big.

I told Mr. D that I was sorry if I take my woes out on him, and he said it’s okay, that at least I don’t express it on the kids, or at my job, or with my parents. And then I wondered, is that marriage? Is that what we do for the ones we love? Absorb some of their stress while they get their shit together?

If so, I’m grateful for it. If not, I’m tipsy (I hate alcohol), and these are all thoughts for an essay on another day.

Dogma

Angelina Jolie once said it was her son Maddox who adopted her, and not the other way around. That his three-month-old smile gave her a confidence she had never known.

“I held him for the longest time, and finally he woke up and stared at me, and we stared at each other, and I was crying and he smiled and I felt… my discomfort with children is because I assume I can’t make them happy, because I’ve been accused of being dark I wasn’t sure I’d be a great, loving, perfect mom even though I wanted to be so bad. Could I make someone comfortable and happy? But he smiled and we hung out for a few hours, and I could make him happy, and we felt like a family.”

That was from a 2005 Vanity Fair interview to promote Mr. and Mrs. Smith. I thought of it a year later, at the Humane Association, when a scruffy mutt nuzzled its way onto my lap with such boundless affection I felt confident in my ability to be his mom. “I want him,” I told my husband.

I was 22 and married to a man who I disliked far more than I loved. We bought a house the week before our wedding and adopted Grizzly the month after.

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