Monday, November 30, 2009

Christmas moment

I don’t have much use for holidays. That’s not true: I just usually spend them depressed or grief-stricken (like 80% of Americans). So despite my efforts to keep myself above the water, so to speak, on Thanksgiving, I did not succeed and sank down again into a lot of hard feelings: of being completely alone in life (despite the fact that I did not spend the holiday alone, but with my ex and daughter); of being bad at creating emotionally warm situations, hosting, or holding anything together without huge amounts of stress; of past holidays with my grandparents which were full of people and food-abundance and champagne, and a world that only lives in my head anymore. I made an effort by having rosé champagne and making pasta, the food of Italian forebears, and key lime pie from a recipe I’ve had since 1992, from my grandmother. It’s on a postcard because she always used to mail me such things: postcards, comic strips, newspaper articles, on which she would make some cheerful commentary, her writing full of underlines and exclamation points. She possessed constant energy and enthusiasm and was able to relate fabulously, instantly, to anyone. These are not qualities I inherited.

So, Thanksgiving, and now we’re all about to wash up on the shores of the next holiday—and I inhabited a moment of a holiday feeling last night that surprised me because it was nice and reached back to things I used to feel. Sara and I were walking to the car from the Mexican restaurant we often go to—she eats the guacamole with a spoon—and the night air smelled of some delicious, faint smoke similar to sweet piñon smoke (I remember from living in New Mexico; it seemed the winter months were full of it). It was about 65 degrees out, but due to the humidity of this place there was a chill that felt wonderful. As we’re walking, we hear bells from a nearby church. I ask Sara about the bells and she says they’re “singing.” She wants me to carry her, so I do and once we reach the car we just stop, with me still holding her, and stand and listen. She is not squirming or fidgeting for once, so we can have a moment of not fighting, of just being together, physically close and under the same spell. We can see the church: grayish, stone, beautiful; and the music that is impossible to describe but sounds like any church bell, an old, delicate sound that doesn’t quite belong on this earth. I had a thought that this is the kind of parent I can be. There are things, so many things, I can’t do well: but I can do this. I can enjoy beauty with my child. I can stand here and be here and somewhere else at the same time, somewhere that is about beauty and imagination (my true homes). It’s something. There were also blue icicle lights hung on the porch of the shotgun house across the street. The house was dark so there was just the peaked shadow of its shape, and the mysterious soft lights creating a little space of privacy and joy.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Structure of a new life

I miss J. His chest that I would rest my cheek on at the end of the evening.

There are yellow flowers on my table that were dying on the sidewalk, brought home from Sara's and my walk through the Irish Channel neighborhood a few blocks from here. We also saw a house with a stained glass window that had a large, bright sun, delightful and arresting.

My apartment, one half of a shotgun-style house, has windows on 1 side only. Getting from one end (the living room) to the other (the kitchen) takes an absurdly long time and I feel like I'm jogging through connected train cars.

Sara is my life, lying in her bed with her new little stuffed duck.

News of a friend's miscarriage over Facebook. What do you say. I give it space here in this room.

The stray cats on the porch act like they shouldn't exist, or like no one thinks they should. They hustle and slink away, heads lowered, eyes scared and knowing, no matter how often I put food and water out for them (along with my neighbor, who has been caring for them for years). A world has not wanted them to exist, and they are living in it. And I live in it, and don't want to.

I can't remember dreams lately.

My mother gave me a mother, Heather said. How is Heather? The other "mother"--from an art gallery in rural Alabama--is a wooden statue over a foot tall, made in Guatemala, with black dots of eyelashes around her eyes, a blue robe, and elongated, flat toes. She actually kinda looks like my mother.

My daughter can identify ice cream and goats by their pictures (which I hope will prepare her to do well in school) and she can speak in other voices, try to be Other. Yesterday she went down 3 slides when we were alone at the Annunciation Street playground. The slides had water, a very little bit, at their bottoms that I wiped away with too-small napkins from my purse, so just smeared the water. The look of grave joy she gets sliding down, her arms raised.

She asked where were the swings but there was a swingset without any--just bare poles, a structure there.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Letting my arms down

Since moving to New Orleans at the end of July, I have had my car broken into, contracted scabies, broken up, with great difficulty, a 4-year relationship with my child's father, and had one housing disaster after another: brief homelessness (through which I had to stay with my ex, who I had just left). Water shut off. Paying for 3 apartments at once, for over a month now: this happened when my ex and I sought separate housing. I couldn't move into the first one because I found out the neighbors were crazy and generally (possibly dangerously) invasive. I guess that wasn't a good enough reason to negate the lease, because I have now lost almost $2000 on a place I never set foot in for more than 10 minutes--a fact that keeps me up at night. I've talked to a lawyer but there is no clear way for me to get anything back; meanwhile the landlord keeps saying things like "Everyone in this situation is trying really hard" (to re-rent the apartment). Yes, but only I, out of all these earnest people, have lost $1800: so forgive me if I am not impressed with everyone else's "trying." Oh I'm sure they really, really care... The second apartment is the one Jon and I moved out of, for which we, too, have not been able to get new tenants since it's between semesters. Our daughter Sara has been sick 4 times in less than 4 months, including hospitalization with pneumonia. I have not been able to find a job and instead have found ever more elaborate ways to not find a job, such as joining ifreelance, a website where you bid for freelance jobs...against many, many people who are IDEALLY qualified for each job that comes up.

I've made this list lately in emails to friends or Facebook updates (that's how unhinged I'm getting...crying for help via status update) but I'm making it now from a different place. Maybe I'm not supposed to live in this town. Maybe it's not a safe place for a single mother and her 2-year-old. One could say that a job, a support network of friends or new love, and whatever else will all come in time. It could take years (as I know from experience in other towns), and I am starting to feel that I'm not up to it and do not want to keep subjecting Sara to this chaos. I say this because even as I have been--it feels like pelted with the hailstorm of New Orleans bad luck, there are many things I have been swooning over about this place. THE WEATHER. It's a bit nicer, especially in winter, than what I was used to in Ithaca. The luminously gothic, gorgeous-in-even-the-worst-neighborhoods architecture, coffee shops, culture, sheer variety and diversity of people and things to do. It's intoxicating and luring, like a love affair you know you shouldn't get into...rather than a nurturing partnership that will sustain me and my 2-year-old. Isn't it? I now live in a great apartment that is half of a house--a shotgun double--with a mantle/fireplace in every room, wood floors, a front's beautiful and fits all my furniture perfectly. But I am so depressed and broke I don't know how long I can stay here or how to enjoy it.

Today I feel tired and like...this is something a college ex-love used to say...letting my arms down. I think he meant it to denote some kind of surrender, admitting you're part of the human community; not being solitary and stuck. I'm sick of saying this will get better soon or is no big deal or I just need to fight, fight against every large external force to create the life I want. It shouldn't feel this hard. When I was packing to leave Ithaca, which I loved, in July, a thought floated across my mind that what I would learn in New Orleans is the pain of not listening to one's instincts and truth. I felt palpably that I should stay there, where I had a great support system of women, and family nearby; I knew the relationship wouldn't last despite all the complex reasons I still wanted it to...the relationship that I was following across the country with my cat, child, everything I owned, and no job. Four months in I still feel raw and scraped. I have discovered a lot of things, such as that the job I had in Ithaca (which I liked, but not the pay) was the best job on earth for the best salary ever and I cannot possibly do better as I appear to have no marketable skills, even after 12 years out of college; and now that job is gone. I've learned that boring can be good, if "boring" means continual access to the electrical grid and running water. I've learned that I have to create my life but it works better in happy, fertile soil rather than a blasted landscape of continual opposition. I've learned that romantic love, once and for all, won't save me though I have spent my adult life making plans that always put me off to the side somewhere, and the beloved in the center. I don't even know where I am anymore. And I need a lot of time, electricity, running water, and paychecks to find out, and then we'll see.