the long bonds

She started sparsely and ended up abundantly

A Marriage Is Up Against…

Photo by Crystal Tillman

Sometimes, you’re trudging along mostly outside of your marriage.

For the both of you, the everyday is long and apart and when you’re finally together, you sometimes gratefully, sometimes begrudgingly, spend what’s left of your collective energy on making and managing a family dinner, bathing the kid, pajama’ing the kid, reading books to the kid, lying down with the kid, and finally breathing in the kid’s infectious kidness one last time before tip-toeing out of his bedroom and into the living room where you punctuate it all with three long episodes of Game of Thrones.

I know in my heart that I love these everydays—I live for them—and, quite possibly, one day, I will look back on them as the sweetest of my life.

And yet, life isn’t an epoch, a gingerly repackaged moving picture, a watercolor of nostalgia. Life is the everydays. 

So I’m left terrified that all of the things that go undone and untouched in a day will soon turn into everyday. I think a lot of us are because it happens all the time. A marriage is up against kindness atrophy, intimacy atrophy, empathy atrophy, et al.

This move we made, which looked so rosy and refreshing from afar, has turned out to be understandably hard on our family. Here, Adam began to reap the benefits of all of his hard work; he became a serious student on an exciting path. He’s exactly where he should be, doing exactly what he should be doing, and it’s explosive. I know in my heart that each and every day he goes to battle to fight the shock of all that he’s manifested for himself, and to protect it with all his might. I know it’s a lot.

But here, I continue forever searching for a path of my own.

Unfortunately, a lot of the time—squashed between the things and the hours and the milliseconds of the everydays—I find myself less than supportive of my husband, increasingly impatient even, and sometimes, I’m straight-up unable to stomach another piece of career-furthering good news unrelated to what’s in it for me.

Yes, somewhere inside of me, where all the goodness seems to go and hide to service my internal virtue to spite my external self, I know that what’s in it for him is what’s in it for me, in it for Bastian, in it for all of us, for our family.

And yet.

Last night, I was doing what I do when I’m craving connection and inspiration. I scoured StyleLikeU. Though Elisa and Lily’s portraits can feel limited to so many interesting artists—working no less—in great cities, I love few things more than watching video profiles about real people. Even when the subjects are posturing, which happens a lot, even then they’re so goddamn fascinating.

Here, now, in Madison, as I am, I people-watch on StyleLikeU. Ugh.

Anyway, last night, I watched A Love Story: Amanda Charchian and Guy Blakeslee, and was struck by this pearl of wisdom:

“It’s clear to me that being together is the way to evolve, more. It might create more resistance within me but it would also be just that much more worthwhile to work through that. And I think if you go back to, like, what marriage or commitment is; being willing to work through everything and stick to it and you’re gonna grow more from that.”

It’s simple and it’s real and it’s exactly what I needed. Tomorrow, I may make all the same mistakes, but I’ve proven myself willing to work through my marriage and stick to it, and I am forever growing as a result. There’s so very much work left to be done. On a good day, I feel like I’m on the very bottom of the love totem pole, ignorant as shit. On a bad day, I feel like I might not have it in me, that I just might not be a lover. So it feels good to hear another person say that it’s hard to be together, that it creates resistance, but that it’s really fucking rewarding. Yeah, it feels good to hear that.

A trail into a rut.

“Habit is necessary. It is the habit of having habits, of turning a trail into a rut, that must be incessantly fought against if one is to remain alive … one can remain alive long past the usual date of disintegration if one is unafraid of change, insatiable in intellectual curiosity, interested in the big things, and happy in small ways.”

- Edith Wharton

For me, attending a party can go one of two ways. Either, it lifts me up, which is when conversation and interaction occur seamlessly, and then, through others, I can see flickers of my worth and also fall back in love with the human race. Or, it truly deadens me to the world. 

When people get us, we give of ourselves. When we feel judged or misunderstood, we retreat. Am I right?

Well, as a mother, I feel like less and less of the people I’m running across seem to “get me” and more and more strangers, usually unintentionally, judge and offend me in conversation.

There is the question of what I do. Well, I stay home to focus on raising my three year old son, which is the only way I know how to do so. I also write fiction. If one more goober asks me what kind of fiction I write or what my latest piece is about, I’ll cry crocodile tears into the only good thing about the damn party, my wine.

The problem is, I get excited for these parties. I get to wear real clothes and BE SEEN. I get to talk to people above the age of three who aren’t also trying to wrangle a toddler and maintain an adult conversation at the same time. I get to eat food I haven’t cooked and drink wine I don’t have to feel guilty about spending money on. I get to listen to a lot of different kinds of people talk about different kinds of things.

It’s just this damn RUT. It’s no one’s fault. I’m just begging the universe for a little kickstart. A stimulating conversation with a new person who I get and who gets me. A conversation at a party where I don’t feel weird and suddenly self-conscious of the life choices that I’ve CONSCIOUSLY and CONSCIENTIOUSLY made. An invitation to a party that has nothing to do with the University of Wisconsin-Madison or bloody Sociology. A friend.

The quote above is a great comfort because usually when I’m feeling most alone, my brain goes into overdrive to seek stimulation through the big and small things, outside of motherhood, that fulfill me. Fashion, literature, scent, film. I’ve spent a great deal of my thirty years on this planet in rooms by myself with my thoughts and ideas. Perhaps it is time for me to find my truest habit and start letting go of my habit of having habits…?

A first: Donald the Tattoo [Bastian named him]

A first: Donald the Tattoo [Bastian named him]

SUN4lyfe.

SUN4lyfe.

"Toys" -- Roland Barthes

"Current toys are made of a graceless material, the product of chemistry, not of nature. Many are now moulded from complicated mixtures; the plastic material of which they are made has an appearance at once gross and hygienic, it destroys all the pleasure, the sweetness, the humanity of touch."

Thee day bawth.

Thee day bawth.

A Dirty Slate

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A new year really is nothing to be taken lightly, and yet, it is the exact sort of thing a person should take lightly.

It is, by definition, a milestone. As a matter of fact, let’s take a look at that word:

mile·stone

ˈmīlˌstōn/

noun

noun: milestone; plural noun: milestones

1. 
a stone set up beside a road to mark the distance in miles to a particular place.




2. 
an action or event marking a significant change or stage in development.

(I have a strong distaste for when people use dictionary definitions like this, probably because I started most of my high school essays that way, but, moving on, because I’ve done it.)

On second thought, is a New Year an Event marking a Significant Change? I’d say that changing a digit in the year is a significant sort of change. I don’t know that I’d agree that a New Year marks a significant change in development, however. Time is, after all, a rather arbitrary factor when it comes to development. Or, is it?

We can choose to look at time passing as us, say, dying, I suppose. Or, we can choose to look at time passing, years dropping, not as random, per se, but as conventional wisdom, i.e.: a preservation of the status quo.

New Years’ Resolutions are certainly that though, aren’t they? A way in for places like gyms and cook book publishers to exploit our obsession with—our dutiful internalization of—both the status quo and the clean slate.

The way I’m looking at it, this year, which is precisely how I chose to see it when the clock struck midnight, and I didn’t choke up or get all nostalgic or feel much of anything really, which is what I have done nearly my whole life prior, is that I came to the sort of brutal conclusion that a lot of my life is set.

And I think I’m finally good with that.

I can throw things up in the air: apply to graduate school at thirty, delete the Facebook app from my iPhone, log out of Instagram, and implore myself to be a stronger, much less lazy individual. I can do those things, and one of those things might even stick, but who am I to demand resoluteness at this stage in the game?

What I do know is that I started 2014 as a better writer. I spent the tail end of 2013 revising a story to life and reading more than I’ve ever read, and something, by golly, came of that. I engaged in a process and emerged the victor. That’s good for me. Of course, I’d like to get even better and read even more, but that’s just the next step in what I’ve committed myself to and should ideally come somewhat naturally, if I permit it.

I would still like to engage in the process of becoming a better mother; one who’s not constantly battered down by, dependent on, and at the mercy of technology.

I’d love to engage in the betterment of my physical self. I’d like to eat better despite this newfound dependence on the nutritional barrenness of the Midwest. I’d like to engage with other humans. I’d even like to shower more.

More aptly even, I’d like to refresh The Long Bonds into something that expects less, something that is more realistic, and something that is even a bit uglier. I’d like for The Long Bonds to become a conduit for all aspects of my life, not just the ones that depict a grateful and contented mother, but those other ones too that document a whole woman. This is, by definition, the story of The Long Bonds of one woman’s life, and I’d like it to start looking like that.

I started this blog as a new mother, an unhappily working mother, who pined for her child, constantly, and who was also luxuriating in the newfound creativity this planted within her. In that year or so, I started this blog and blogged often, I wrote and published a short story, I secured a paid freelance opportunity—I am not afraid to say that it was in this vibrant life moment that I became: a writer.

I owe a lot to that woman who took what she had been given and blazed a path for herself. I owe her my life. So, in honor of her, I’m breathing new life into this space. For 2014, The Long Bonds is a place for me to either stop in briefly, eloquently, sloppily, or maybe in a flash—an image, a moving picture—a slab of fiction, a poem, or someone else’s song. I’m struck daily, I think we all are, and since I have this beautiful, dirty slate to share it, I’m going to do just that.

Happy 2014, no matter how you cut it.

A note to remember it by.

Here we are. About a month and a half to go before we leave this place. This place. Most of the time, this city feels like all I’ve ever known…

because I guess it is.

My world swelled and imploded and came to final, crushing blows here. I crashed and burned, held on tight, fell in and out of love with so many things, and took my first adult steps on the ragged path of figuring out what it means to be human and why it’s probably pretty worth it – despite it all – here.

I met best friends here, and my husband, and our baby boy. I grew out of friendships and philosophies and obsessions and into new ones, here. I discovered art here, and quite a bit of myself. I lived with and worked with and drank with and did stupid and beautiful things with all the key places and players in each of the many drunken, befuddled, spastically social and lowest of the low phases of my 20s, here.

Whether in Chinatown, Goose Hollow, Lower East Burnside, North, or finally, Nob Hill, this city ate me alive, and I, it.

In a lot of ways, this is where I landed. And now I’m leaving.

I’m comforting myself with thoughts that this place, my city, has outgrown its britches. The birthplace of so much dirty beauty, Portland is now a place of spit and polish. As storefronts change and neighborhoods gloss over almost into parodies of their former selves, I try to remind myself that if Bastian were to grow up in Portland, he wouldn’t be growing up in my Portland or the Portland before me. He’d be growing up in what Portland is now, which is maybe going to be like growing up in San Francisco or Brooklyn. These places that are still great, surely with hidden corners where one can still sorta get lost, but no longer grimy little beacons of bedlam with so many dark and exquisite secrets.

So, we many be uprooting him at an age too young to remember the great city he’s leaving behind, but the Portland we’re leaving isn’t the same Portland I came to be in, and Bastian’s journey will be a lot like the one I’ve encapsulated here, just somewhere else. And I’m okay with that.

When I catch the spark to take photos in this last Portland apartment of ours, I remind myself that these are some of the last here. These are photos Bastian will look back on, the ones that will mark his time as a baby born in Portland, Oregon, and that thought is a hard one. But I just try to feel proud that I’m taking the time and energy to capture his growth here, his beauty, and that this is one of many gifts we’re preparing for him to remember it all by.

So, this was your time in Portland, baby. In our teeny tiny apartment smack dab in the center of the city, where our days were filled with trips to our parks and our markets, to the library, the Children’s Museum, and to Friendly House. Where all of our living, even our eating, was done in that one cozy (ha!) room when we were the entirety of your world. This time was very, very special. Now blow it a kiss… catch!

A boy’s mama.

It’s a special sort of painful joy, raising a boy. A boy who will grow and one day be, in a lot of almost inevitable ways, forced to see and exist in this world through the eyes of a man.  

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Having just finished Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, not for the first time, but this time, after experiencing something different and huge, I now have strong new thoughts on boy-rearing.

Around the middle of the book, I took note of this: “because here we are dealing with the pit and prune-juice of poor beat life itself in the god-awful streets of man…”

Moriarty and Paradise both fight restless souls in one of the same ways; they move. There is something of the two, something tender and festering, that won’t let them settle in any one place with any one person.  

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Whereas Dean almost comically but utterly tragically refuses to commit by way of committing his desperate and sour heart all over the place, Sal genuinely and mistakenly thinks he yearns to. Still, they are but two sides of the same coin – American boys saddled with itchy souls too heavy to do things conventionally. They are beautiful, compassionate, feeling thinkers who cannot help but wade thickly in the ways of hard-fought enlightenment and forever impending self-destruction. They are ruthless in living. They are savagely beat.

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I want nothing more than for Bastian Wilde to grow into a man who is comfortable and dedicated to loving. A man who is comfortable caring for himself and his loved ones, a man who plants roots. I believe that there is nothing more important in this life than investing ourselves in what and whom we love, and that this is the only path to fulfillment.

But I also aim to raise a man who fights for life and drinks it all in, in this one and only ferocious gulp we are given, because when it’s gone, all is gone. It is a forever goneness that feeds and maintains the roots of our children and their children and theirs. It is an inevitable coming for all, and indeed, all that will be left is the consequence of our lives’ choices.

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I intend to raise my boy into a man who chooses to live fully and robustly, and who, like his father, eventually chooses wisely.

A Recap…?

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The thing about having a blog that you don’t want to give up but that you can’t seem to get yourself to prioritize updating regularly, is that when you do sit down to post, you want to write about EVERYTHING, and you can’t very well write about EVERYTHING without rambling and eventually losing steam, so you get kinda stuck.

Hence, this. What’s on my (our) mind(s):

  • Finding an apartment in Madison that we can see ourselves enjoying for at least a few years because we MOVE there in, oh, three months!

  • Choosing a method of transportation for all of our shit; shooting for something that doesn’t cost a fortune or require Adam to drive alone and in a hurry (AKA, U haul)

  • Taking care of my damn self, ie: I’ve been in this weird funk where I’m craving crap and alcohol, which is strange because I had been eating so well and thinking that I’d come to the realization that alcohol is really wasteful and, quite literally, exhausting

  • Giving the iPhone the real and true boot because I genuinely can’t figure out if it enriches my life or if it’s a total mind-zapping waste of time and energy, and the very idea that I’m torn between these two incredible extremes is mildly terrifying

  • Biding time, man

Tensions have been a tad high around here the last couple of days. Adam is working so very hard to coordinate all the wants and needs for our move and subsequent lives in Madison, and I am seeing how difficult a task it is written all over his beautiful, tired face.

We’re all so excited – even Bastian asks us daily if we can go to “Medicine” – but this is one helluva limbo, and has been for a couple years now, so I think we’re all just ready to get where we’re going and be there a good, long while.

I think what I’m most looking forward to is meeting new friends. Friends from all over the place, different kinds of people, who I can cook for and just be comfortable with. It’s time for those good things.

I would also like to hit another stride with this piece I’m working on so that I can do something with it. I’m ready to publish again. I’ve only published once, and if it doesn’t happen again soon, I’m calling fluke.

So, that’s where I’m (we’re) at as of late. Oh, and we’re also at the park, swinging and stuff. A lot.