>My husband and I watched The Curious Case of Benjamin Button the other night for the first time. This decidedly curious movie is about a man who is born old and lives his life growing younger. The story has a certain Forrest Gump quality to it as Benjamin passes through the lives of various characters, who are all aging normally, while he’s aging in reverse on his way to his own infancy and death. The movie explores in a unique way the seeming randomness of fate and the inevitable pain of loss juxtaposed against the fleetingness of joy and the eternal immutability of love.
My daughter teased me recently that I was never going to write “How Chloe Got her Groove Back” because God just kept putting things in my way. And it seems true. Frankly, I haven’t felt consistently groovy enough to write such an audacious series. I’d start it only to have my efforts collapse with the onslaught of some new crisis. I can’t tell you how many drafts of this dagblasted series I have sitting in my edit posts queue, but trust me, there are a lot. I decided after watching this movie that I better just sit down and write this long advertised series before I forget how I got my groove back and have to resort to writing, “How Chloe Got her First Set of Dentures and Bought her First Box of Depends.”
So what does Benjamin Button have to do with anything? Well, while I guess I’ve always subconsciously thought of life as a flowing river coursing from one day into another until at the end you have a mucilaginous Life Story, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button helped clarify some vague, suppressed sense I’ve been having lately that, instead of a steady river, my life is a series of seemingly disjointed phases with specific juncture points where I leap from one self to the next. This thought has been so uncomfortable that I haven’t been willing to look at it mainly because the whole thing makes me think I’m probably insane. And I’ll explain how I got clarification about that in a minute.
I must admit that one of the ways I’ve been coping with everything that has happened is by refusing to examine anything uncomfortable that I don’t absolutely have to examine. Do I really have to examine whether I’ve lost my mind or not? I’d honestly prefer to avoid that altogether because it makes me anxious (like so many things do these days). But the problem with the avoidance anxiety god is that he is never satisfied. The more you avoid, in your desperate attempts to appease him, the more obeisance he demands until finally you can’t even get out of bed anymore. He is a terrible god and I struggle on a daily basis to resist the worship through inertia he seems to demand. One of the many ways I disobey this terrible god, and one of the most important ways to getting one’s groove back, by the way, is by cultivating friendships.
Last month, I was in San Francisco for four days with three awesome and lovely friends. Here’s a picture of us standing outside the Orpheum getting ready to go see Wicked.
During the four days we were together, Susan, the smokin’ hot redhead on the end, invited each of us to tell our stories. I really didn’t want to tell mine and I think I gave as truncated a version as I could to the group without seeming as though I wasn’t holding up my willingness-to-be-vulnerable conversational end. I purposely made it boring so I wouldn’t have to tell it any longer than was absolutely essential for the spirit of comadarie. I loved hearing the other stories; I just wasn’t in the mood to tell mine. Anyway, they already know the most important parts and the rest is just boring.
But the truth is that I’ve been letting the weeds overtake my memories. I’d need a machete to walk down the Amazon jungle of a memory lane I’ve got now. I remember things, when I do remember them, almost as though they happened to someone else. I can’t articulate why yet but I think it might have something to do with perspective, and I fear that I’ve lost mine. I’ve always been able to assess my life through a firm perspective of one sort or another and that firm perspective always created a sense of reasonableness, rationality, yes, purpose, to the story.
Today, the story doesn’t seem reasonable or rational to me anymore. It’s like my life is a collection of short stories written by the same author but without any other discernible connection or purpose. I’m hoping this is due to a sort of Post-Traumatic Stress situation that is going to pass. It actually frightens me though because I wonder if this loss of mental flow to one’s memories is the first step on the long road to senile dementia. I’ve been doing crossword puzzles in a desperate and maybe vain effort to save my mind just in case that’s what is happening. Spending time with three very wonderful women who can tell their life stories in a cohesive fashion did make me wonder though about my handle on sanity.
Anyway, I say all of this to give some explanation as to why it has taken me so long to write this blog and to give a framework for where I’m coming from. I’ve been putting this off because, first of all, the story is irreverent, and, second of all, I’m not sure I have a cogent story to tell. I’ve decided to go through with it because I realize how short our valuable time on this earth really is and I shouldn’t waste any of it any longer giving a shit what people think. I decided that if I read my story I’d feel better about me, so just in case somebody else needs to read this I’m going to write it. I’ve decided that if this story makes no sense then so be it. Right now, my life doesn’t really make any sense to me. It just is, just like this story.
We, humans, spend too much of our life old and infirm and too long childish and dependent for it to make any freakin’ sense. What is the point of that? I now find myself straddled between young, vibrant womanhood and looming cronedom. I’ve got my beautiful, youthful, hopeful and exuberant daughter on one side to remind me of the times that are past and never to come again, and a frightful vision of a mother looming in front of me portending to things unpleasant and nightmarish yet to come. Yet again, here I am at another juncture point in this collection of vignettes called my life, but this time with no palatable jump off point in sight. It sucks. But before it is too late and my groove is gone forever, I will now commence to write about my phasing from frumpy homeschool mom to where I am now. I’m afraid it’ll come out as disjointed as I feel, but here goes.
When I was 42 I came to yet another one of those aforementioned juncture points of me. I’d spent the preceding 10 or so years hiding myself under oversized, frumpy clothing bought at the clearance rack at Ross and trying to fit into the conservative Christian homeschooling community. Two years previously, at 40, I’d failed Christian Homeschooling Momming 102 by becoming permanently infertile. That was a terrible blow and a huge personal setback and the pivotal point to which all things that have come after are tied.
First of all, it was the first time since I’d become a Christian where I didn’t get my way. I had developed this notion that somehow I was one of God’s personal little chosen favorites set to live under a blessed star. I was shocked to find out that my cherished little notion was a false one. I had been operating under the belief that if I did things the “right way” things would turn out the “right way.” Do right, get right. And I’d listened to all the major homeschooling gurus and read all the right books to tell me it was so. My life was a performance piece dedicated to legacy and a glowingly perfect outcome; my children were my own little personal pet projects. If they came out alright that would prove that I’d done it right. I’ve written about this ad nauseum before so this is nothing new.
The new part of the story that I’m going to tell is how my “legacy” mindedness was tied into being frumpy and asexual. Falsely, I believed that I could keep my children from making the same mistakes I had if only I comported myself in a certain way–the right way. Now don’t get me wrong, I am a true believer in Jesus Christ and someday maybe I’ll tell that story, but the fugly clothes and somewhat extreme sheltering of my kids and myself had waaaaaaaaaayyyyy more to do with fear and insecurity and a false belief in my own power in directing our collective destinies than with my very real love of Jesus.
Also, don’t assume I’d do things differently because I can’t say as I would. I still believe that children do need sheltering from some of the more wicked aspects of our modern American culture, but at 40 I realized my motherhood phase of life was definitely not going to last forever, and at 42 I began to come into the realization that this phase of my life was ending with nothing to replace it. I had no idea at the time how really near the end was, but I sensed it was coming nonetheless. What I didn’t sense is what a pompous ass I’d become in my pursuit of righteous and religious maternal perfection. It took a matronly saleslady in the lingerie department at Macy’s to show me that.