On pie, the fetal position, and catching lightening in a bottle.

Thanksgiving crept up on me. By the Wednesday before, I was disappointed in myself for a barrage of reasons: I’d worn a ponytail for the third consecutive day that week (assuming the calendar week starts over on Monday). I was wishing for a nap. I was wishing I didn’t have to wait another day for pie.

My Facebook feed was cluttered with people giving thanks, which I liked. It was a nice break from the political monotony that had sabotaged my fragile disposition upon so many logging-ins previously that month. In my mind, I tried to come up with some witty list of my own.

I had a difficult time.

Not because I’m not thankful — I am, times a billion. It’s just that it was a long week, and I was feeling sinister in a clever-ish sort of way. In a turn for the worse, I maniacally brewed over all the things I’m NOT thankful for in 2012, namely:

1. Gangnam Style.

2. The iPad Mini.

3. 50 Shades of Grey.

3. Von Willebrand Disease.

4. Kelly Romirowsky’s stealth photography.

5. Delaware.

6. Growing out my bangs.

…and a few other minuscule hiccups not worth mentioning. But then I felt guilty, and I went the obvious but logical route and started listing items I am indeed thankful for. And then I scrambled them all up so that they appear in no particular order. Because you’d get jealous.

1. Carter Bird. Little toddler messes all around my house. Face grabbing kisses, backseat singing, and a one-inch vertical. Pants that never fit, an affinity for girls’ shoes, and bath time. A love for reading. Man-child laughter. New words every day. For being a 2 and 1/2 foot genius. For occasionally letting me sleep. For “Goonight, Mommy” and “Lub you too”.

2. Old friends.

3. New friends.

4. My parents. I would  probably curl up in the fetal position and disappear if it weren’t for my parents. Sometimes I do that anyway, just for kicks, so you can imagine how godawfully I might hold up without their support. For being my strength and my protection and my wisdom. For letting me raid your cabinets and sleep in your bed.

5. I’m thankful that I have more than I need. Life can’t be so tough if it takes me and Carter a month to go through a loaf of bread. And by go through, I am stating that we have to throw nearly full loaves out because they go bad.

6. For Ashley Butler and all that comes with her, namely Tom, her nectarine-sized fetus, Luna, her parents, her Harry Potter wall, the easy access to the printer in her room, and her cupcakes. The pumpkin ones most of all. Or maybe the strawberry ones.

7. My Uncle Jim. For the advice and the logic and for being there.

8. Patrick and Megan.For being the best roommates a lady and a 1/2 could ask for. For late night snacking, Dance Moms, couponing, Patrick waking me up screaming into his XBox headset, and that one night we went to Zumba and Megan came back pregnant.

9. Michelle. For telling me to get smarter and to use my head. For the best advice of the year award. For being a rock.

10. For Mi.

11. For Lu.

12. For little Sean Patrick, who made a ruckus getting here. For being seven pounds even with soft little hair and sweet little lips, and for having a mother who takes you on daily walks. For evening the boy-girl grandchild ratio.

11. Erin Renee. For half-pumpkin, half-chai and couch-sitting and ladies’ nights. For baby-showering and cooking and for all of the company. For perfect bitty Kami Rose. For FJ forays. For telepathy.

12. For Hawaii.

13. Katie Rodgerson. For the strawberry cookies in the mail and for just knowing.

14. Lynds, for knowing I wasn’t crazy the whole time, and for telling me. For that one night. For yoga and breakfast crepes and farmers’ markets.For being the most positive and thoughtful human, and for hopefully rubbing that off on me.

15. Jesse. For being both handsome and handy. For handling things. (How many times can I repeat hand-words?) For the lime tree and high on summertime. For how wonderful life is now you’re in the world. And, if we’re being honest, for Plex.

xmas 005

16. Thankful for all of my work ladies. Natalie, who has given Carter a new wardrobe time and again as Van grew out of his stylish duds. Heidi, who always listens patiently. Debra, whose excitement for life (but mostly for lunch) is catching. Melinda, for helping build my badass backbone — and for returning my “WTF is that kid wearing?” looks between passing periods. Brenda and Renee, for their love for the Core kids and their educational philosophies that just… make sense.  Kelly for making me laugh excessively. Ok, for all of my better halves on campus who I see on the rare occasion I do get to pop out of my hole — I work with some pretty rad folks.

17. For Game of Thrones, Dance Moms, and Sons of Anarchy. Thanks for the endless hours of escapism.

18. For church. For the ritual. For the dark seats in the back. For Chandler in the nursery. For time spent breathing, or taking notes, or getting my hand held.

19. For Jennifer Steele Rolland.

20. For my grandparents’ love.

21. For Jesse’s parents. For knowing exactly how to play with an 18-month old maniac. For being really, really good at making someone feel at ease. But not for taking that picture of me at Babushka’s.

22. For a really efficient TA. She deserves a medal.

23. For Dr. Lauren Marie Coletta Andrade and her husband. For “turn the lightbulb”, tossing and turning like the cutest bride she was, for “Call Me Maybe”, for introducing me to Liz and Darren, for a last chance to see a close friend, for the most needed vacation.

24. For Megan Kelleher, and for that really sweet note that she wrote.

25. For a huge, nutty family.

26. For Jessie Smith. I miss your guts.

27. For the blanket that Cracker gave me.

28. For The Hunger Games.

29. For Brandon and Janie.

30. For all of “The REAL Cool Kids”. For waking me up when I forgot to disable comments. For LGO and for Groupons. For Cards Against Humanity, Lime-a-Ritas, a lot of car-talk, the lake, trolling, and being the easiest people to fall in love with.

31. The rain.

32. For djdust5. For Livejournal, being my musical soulmate, Suns games, Mean Girls, Cabin Coffee, book club, Casablanca, and that one time we hung out on the swings at Kiwanis Park and found out that I can jump farther than you. Also, fuck Genet.

33. For Instagram. #sorryimnotsorry. Oh, and for Pinterest, too.

34. For my students. Even the ones that write about how strict the Protestants were in The Crucible, how Abigail Williams is a sex addict, and how John Proctor is just like Jon Gosselin.

35. For Champ, even though he sucks.

So there it was, this list that kept on listing. It felt bizarre, all of these blessings stacked in crooked juxtaposition with all of the disappointment and frustration and fear. How was an overthinker supposed to make sense of all of that?

Life wasn’t at all going where I had pictured. Between you, me, and The Internet, my life the past 12 months can generously be described as an egg falling from the roof of a three-story building. I mean, in all fairness, mine was a fine, fine egg. Not one of those half-stuck to the carton suckers with a fast-approaching expiration.

We can think of it as a Humpty Dumpty of sorts.

January fell into March, which tumbled into August. October had never felt so wrong. At least Good ‘Ole Humpty only fell once, so far as I’m aware. Each time I felt convinced of my own personal political slogan, “Things are getting better”, I found it more realistic to agree with the ever-persistent mantra, “Every time I think it can’t get worse, it does”.

So I taught myself what I thought was my most necessary skill set: an on-off switch. I’d feel the electricity wane and then stop flowing, and then I’d not be scared any more — or nervous, anxious, expectant, joyous, or hopeful. Just like that, I shut off. Done.

It’s simple, really. Adaptibility. Survival of the fittest.  And while I know so well how to do it now — like the back of my hand, like a well-traveled surface street, like auto-pilot — I’ve begun to wonder if you can unteach yourself a skill like that, because I for one never wanted to acquire it.

It’s just no way for anyone to live. Life, it goes on, and even while you’re busy running hard and fast just to find a place to catch your breath, you’re really just busy getting stronger. Bandage the damage and keep moving forward. Sooner or later, it heals.

2012 taught me that resiliency is humanity’s most underrated quality. It taught me to laugh out loud without covering my teeth. It taught me that I’ve been one tough cookie (but a tasty one!) all along. It taught me that’s it’s ok to be both the umbrella and the rain, and not to close your eyes during a thunderstorm, or you’ll miss the lightning.

Would you like to come in, out of the rest of the world?

For long moments after the bell had rung, I sat behind my desk with the door locked and pulled tight. I sat behind the door, behind my desk, behind my barrier of half-full cups. (I buy myself drinks as a coping mechanism. I get this from my mother.) I sat and I closed my eyes and I let one expectant minute slip past, and then another. But then, as I was bound to do, I got up, walked to the door, and allowed the waiting herd in. And then the bell rang, pulsating and loud, and class started. Wednesday went back to normal.

Some days, it’s like that.

I recall exactly what as a child I thought adulthood had in store for me. The dream resurfaces easily. In it, I live in a smallish house, a house with a finished attic, and have three children, two boys and a girl. I cook simple things for breakfast: oatmeal sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar, wheat toast with cream cheese and jam. I comb the boys’ hair to the side and cuff their pant legs. I french braid the girl’s and tuck the wispies back behind her ears. I have a bin under the bathroom sink designated for skinned knees. In my stolen time, at night before bed, I read books. I write.

At some point, time began to move faster. Life became a to-do list. Check. Check. Check.

Is this what my mid-twenties is about? Caring too much about things that don’t matter?

I spent tonight in glorious fashion. I curled up with The Smiths and a cherry limeade and alternated between surfing the internet and reading Julia Alvarez. I felt snug in my worn college sweats and cozy by the single bulb of a lamp.

I guess what I’m trying to scratch at is the knowledge (not the realization, because, let’s face it, this is the story of my life) that I need to do more of the things I enjoy and can feel stretching and warming my soul, and less worrying and hustling and bustling.

I wish I were an old woman. I wish I had more answers.