Thursday, May 19, 2005

Existential Questioning of Life Direction

I lay in bed this morning with every intention of going through the "Groundhog Day" morning production:

  • 6:00 a.m. elliptical
  • 40 minutes of clumsy huffing while balancing the paper, reading in spinach order--front page, Metro, save Style for last. Front page is a little bit boring, skip to the op-ed page, rarely read the editorials. Favorite op-ed writers, E.J. Dionne, Richard Cohen (don't like him but I like his opinions)--those are the standouts.
  • Then come upstairs to the ceaseless demand station manned by 2 1/2 year old son Ian. "Mommy I want..." Lots of things. "Milk on cereal, change channel, change diaper, get dressed, come here, another piece of toast, sippy, I don't like 'Arthur,' Nick hit me...."
  • My response(s), "Ian, Daisy is still sleeping, go sit down, Nick change the channel! Is it on PBS? He doesn't like 'Zoom,' he wants 'Teletubbies'..."
  • Shower, delight in new shower stand with organized cleansing products, soap effectively dripping water off through the slotted holes in the triangular shelves, a moment of bliss in the satisfaction of wrangling order out of former chaos, brief thoughts of bathroom guests thinking, "This is such an organized, pleasant bathroom. I feel like I'm in a hotel!"
  • Back to reality, dry off, face the clothes gauntlet. Slide the closet door. Unsatisfactory, skirt-heavy closet filled with black clothes, all the no-brainer outfits are rump-sprung or I don't like them anymore; the awful transitional season of endless spring where it's supposed to be warm and 70 degrees, and yet it persists in hovering in the 50's and 60's so every warm weather outfit becomes a dare; a bad gamble. If I wear this, I will be freezing all day. If I wear that, the perspiration will cut through the cement layer of Dry Idea and create a soggy, odiforous film on my underarm.

I decide, completely spontaneously, to stay home. Once you make that decision, it is like an entire planet has been lifted from your chest. "I will not go in today. I will stay home." I had to leave work early yesterday because my nanny had an appointment. I brought my work home on a thumb drive, as well as a plastic bucket full of paperwork, so why go in? I can "work from home," the stepchild of the office world. The thing no one believes. Yeah right, "work" from home. NOT.

When I say it, though, I usually mean it. But something has happened to me of late. That free floating depression-edged anxiety about "what am I doing with my life?" That old saw. I had gone through a professional invasion-of-the-body-snatchers of late and been a "busy girl." Busy all the time, working to meet deadlines, reveling in being counted on, getting things done and then all of a sudden, about 3 days ago, I woke up from the office hypnosis and remembered that I didn't want to be an office drone. I had bought into the whole thing wholesale.

I was a working gal, listening to a radio morning program on the drive to work, knowing all the "talent," laughing at repeated "bits" like "10 questions," that a listener has to answer and of course it gets raunchy, "How many sex toys do you have," and all that. And I sit in my car on the Beltway (the BELTWAY!), which I swore my whole life I would never drive to work, headed for 270--the wretched Interstate that heads toward Pennsylvania or something, drinking coffee out of a metal thermal mug and that's when the Life Camera peered into my windshield from the aerial helicopter shot and I saw myself, sitting in my car, a horrendous numbered stereotype--office pawn, drone, plebe. And it's not what I want.

But I'm afraid of being a "stay-at-home-mom" too. That term makes me want to puke. I remember the first time I heard it, it sounded like heaven on earth. My friend's wife, who is independently wealthy, was the first person I ever heard utter those words. I, naively, asked, "What do you do?" And a beatific smile crossed her face and she said, "I'm a stay-at-home- mom." Back then, that was like saying you had just won the lottery--just pulled the wool over everyone's eyes and managed the mean hat trick of being able to afford to stay home with the pups. A life of Gap stretch pants, jogging strollers, distracted purpose, endless coffee, tepees, macaroni and cheese, refrigerator magnets, construction paper, Elmer's glue, early meatloaf dinners--a wholesome, relaxing, fulfilling life. And the fact that we could not "swing it" made me something I try never to be: bitter. It was the Holy Grail and it was so far out of my reach.

To be continued...


Cynicism is another word for reality

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