Redeployment, Part I

It was finally the day. He was coming home from a year long deployment to Syria and Iraq. So naturally I vacuumed the house, wiped dusty baseboards, cleaned both cat boxes, swished the toilets, and corralled loose, scattered toys into baskets downstairs. I had flowers on the coffee table and new guest towels folded in thirds in the bathroom. I had recently ordered a box of vintage Waterford wine glasses, so I took off the stickers and hung them in the china cabinet. I was a grownup, damn it, and determined to look like I was pulling it off. Forget that just a few days prior I found hopelessly stale and hardened pieces of chocolate chip waffle under the couch, often spent depressed mornings sleeping in jeans under a pink, fluffy afghan, and that I got to the point that buying a whole new stove seemed vastly preferable to attempting to clean the dried gunk puddles around the gas burners. I was going to do this. It was going to be a happy day. I had patriotic mylar star balloons that read “Welcome Back!” and spent fifty dollars on a single layer, round chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting from the fancy bakery on 17th Street. I realized I needed to leave a bit more time for getting ready, more than my usual routine of topping braided, unwashed hair with a gray denim radar cap. So that morning I showered, curled just the ends of my hair, and wore smudgy, purple eyeliner. Prepared, organized women have time for eyeliner.

The kids were up early as usual. I was so focused on frantic, last minute cleaning that I didn’t technically feed them breakfast and felt a little guilty about it. I stepped around their board game on the floor and noticed my youngest was eating honey dijon potato chips from a wooden bowl. I reminded them to eat strong food, trying to remember if I still had a bag of organic cinnamon graham crackers in the console of the Jeep, as I circled the room gathering napkins and an armload of things that belonged elsewhere. My eight-year-old looked like she was ready for the floor show, dressed in a silver and black sequined shirt with only one transparent long sleeve, black tights under shorts, and a glittery stars and striped top hat. My youngest wore his red shirt that said “Remember Everyone Deployed” in large letters over a picture of a Blackhawk helicopter. Of course it was raining in Portland that morning. We donned our hoods, loaded the balloons in the car, and headed for the airport.

Self Care and Coffee.

I don’t often get time alone. I stopped in the cafe for coffee and a sandwich. I am a pseudo-single mama, stuck in marital separation limbo. Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” was playing, reminding me that long ago I was a kid. My daughter looks like me in the 80’s. Apparently neon and ruffled skirts are back.

I went into the cafe stressed and tired, slightly sick, deepening the horizontal line I’ve been etching into my forehead. One might think a mama out alone could order a sandwich and coffee and eat in peace, but I made my own internal noise.

There was an old woman at the table across from me, with perfectly round, fluffy white hair. She was wispy like a wishing dandelion, quietly sipping coffee from a chunky white mug. She had passed the worrying years, while I am in them, trying to keep a clean home and plan meals, worrying about money, avoiding Pinterest because it makes me feel less than, hoping my children are happy, feel loved, sleep enough, get time to play, dig in the dirt, run in the grass, eat enough vegetables, and know that I love them until the stars turn to fish, even though I feel like I’m screwing it up nearly every day. Just drink the damn coffee, mama, I told myself.

My children want their dad to live with us in our house again. They don’t understand that sometimes parents need a vacation from one another and need space.

The coffee was supposed to be relaxing. Self care. But it is not self care to sit quietly and mentally beat up one’s self. The dandelion lady was gone. A fresh-faced, blonde haired tween in skinny jeans and Ugg boots took her place, coffee in one hand while the other picked an enormous muffin apart into manageable chunks. She licked her fingers between bites and said “like” every ten seconds. She was happy and talked with sticky muffin hands. I am somewhere between the muffin girl and the dandelion lady. My coffee got cold.

I Did Cold Yoga. Slow Yoga.

I’ve been feeling lost since my beloved bikram studio closed. I cannot use hot yoga towels for anything other than hot yoga, damn it! And I have two rolled up at home eyeing me, clean, ready to go, and silently shouting, “Use me!”

Alas. No more bikram for this mama. For now. I had a choice. I knew I could easily weep, gnash my teeth, and rend my shorty shorts, but I decided instead to try a yoga studio quite close to my house. But it was regular yoga. Flowing yoga. Probably with silk eye pillows and sun salutations. Likely with music and poses that seemed more like a soft dance than a workout. I wanted to sweat. I wanted to work. I wanted to push and growl at myself in the mirror and flex. Yet the class descriptions online listed “Yoga for Athletes”, so I figured I’d give it a go and bought a Groupon for an unlimited week.

Mistake number one: I must have mixed up the calendar. I showed up expecting to find Yoga for Athletes and found myself right on time for Restorative Yoga instead. The teacher was gracious. The space was cold and dark. Several students were already on mats, each with at least two Mexican blankets, foam blocks, round bolsters, and a long cotton strap. One student was wearing a cardigan. Oh Toto, we’re not in bikram anymore. We stayed in each pose, completely supported by the blocks and bolsters, for several minutes. No need for the muscles to do anything. Relax, muscles.

Mistake number two: I wore bikram clothing to cold yoga in December. When I should have been breathing and otherwise restoring myself, I spent my time envious of the girl next to me who knew enough to wear sweatpants, wiggling my cold toes, and making sure the blankets were tightly tucked around me.

Inwardly I dubbed the class “Sleeping in Yoga Poses”. The studio was clean and well appointed. The teacher and students were welcoming and kind. But I have been using yoga to figure out my life, or to escape it. I have been searching for answers. I need yoga to be a strong presence at a time in my life when I don’t feel strong. I need it to move through me and make me change. This particular style wasn’t for me.

My husband rents a little house nearby so he can still see the kids. They are happy and loved, but I know they feel the effects of the separation. He travels for work, and they miss him so. As much as I need restoration, I think I must do it the hard way.

 

 

 

It Started At The Greek Restaurant.

Back in November of 2012, over plates of souvlaki, while my mother took Herself to the ladies’ room and Himself was too young to understand, I told my husband I wanted a trial separation. As it turns out, I didn’t really need the crowded restaurant to help me avoid an awkward conversation, because he didn’t have anything to say to me. Later he agreed. Even later he blamed me.

In May 2014, we finally separated, two months before our seventh wedding anniversary.