I am an octopus on roller blades, a multi-armed being going in eight different directions. The hemispheres of my brain fire away, moving limbs, tending, caring, washing, putting away, taking out, ignoring, monitoring, wiping, wondering, walking, sharing, singing, scrubbing, bubbling, rhyming, loving, giving, loving more, wanting, balancing.
By midday, I crave time to check in with myself, to uni-task (mono-task?). I long to be in my head. To hear my thoughts. To screw my melon on straight. To quit my stinking thinking, if there is any. To shift my paradigm, replace my cheese, review the ol’ mission statement, outsource my stress.
These goofy euphemisms for sex meditation let me wiggle my piggies in the spiritual zeitgeist of our time. However, I have too much Mama Guilt to set aside time to stop and think and breathe between the hours of 6 am and 7:30 pm, with a brief nap time respite. Not my nap, mind you. I like meditation. I try to get around to it. Usually, I put “Meditation” right after “Thank You Notes” and “Ironing” and “Nap” and “Get Rid of Sugar Ants Holding Court by the Toilet” and “Wash Myself” on the “Things To Do When the Boys Nap” list. Besides, I need more than one twenty-minute gig of what my ancestors would call “Good Ol’ Thinkin’ Time” (if my ancestors were indeed The Clampetts. They weren’t.)
Good mothers don’t meditate when they have a moment. They may stop, they may workout, they may take the popular “me time,” but meditation? Doing one thing? At a time? Alone? Famous Good Mothers don’t do that. Famous Good Mothers of Multiples are busy, if not multitasking.
Look at Crotch-Pez Octomom. Lord knows if she’s not tending to her brood, she’s brooding about her brood on Oprah, or getting plastic surgery and then brooding about that on Oprah, then brooding about Oprah on Dr. Phil. She’s spending her time bettering herself for cash her kids and her idol, Angelina Jolie.
Speaking of Marriage Ending Crotch-Pez Angelina, she’s another one who probably doesn’t meditate. If she’s not spending quality time avoiding the paparazzi with her children, she’s avoiding the nanny, making a movie, ambassadoring for Goodwill, getting tattoos, making out with Brad Pitt,, or her brother or possibly Brad Pitt’s brother.
If these busy moms of multiples cannot afford the time to focus on one thing, namely focusing, who am I to do so? I must do what is unnatural to me: resist the urge to think about one thing, to do one thing and multitask:I can make Chicken Jamaican, Load the kids in the van, And never forget my degree’s worth less than a man’s…
(I refuse to apologize to Lieber or Stoller. It’s their own fault that song gets stuck in my head and mutilated in the rinse cycle)
I don’t want to give up on the idea of meditation. Full-on meditation legitimizes me as I fall asleep on the well-matted carpet in my office. If Huzzy bangs on the door asking, “What are you doing?” “Meditating” sounds a lot more important than “Snoozing” or “Raising your children.”
If focused meditation is good, multitasking meditation must be better because it accomplishes both peace of mind,(body and spirit) AND something else on the to-do list. This catapults me past J-Lo on the Good Mother of Multiples List; even though she is indeed multitasking at any given moment (Singer! Actress! Mother! Beard for Mark Anthony! Beard for “singers” on American Idol!), she kind of stinks at most of it. I plan on only stinking at some of what I do when I multitask. Take your block and shove it, Jenny. You never invited me to any of the block parties anyway. (Love her, though. She is insanely beautiful and most ridiculous in nature.)
The Multitasking Meditation involves repetitive motion and little thought. I usually take the boys for a walk…the meditation tends to start about fifteen minutes in (once they’ve stopped protesting not being allowed to roam free in traffic and have dozed off). Alternatively, I bake. The chopping, blending, stirring, and beating can be monitored by a small part of my brain while bigger life questions pop out of larger sections. These thoughts often inform whatever I’m making. Life Plan Flan! Future Goals Rolls! Classes I’m Gonna Take Cake! I Have Issues With Relatives Cassoulet!
Much is creeping around in my noggin, and the other day I planned for two Multitasking Meditations: walking with the boys and making a strawberry-rhubarb pie. That makes me twice as spiritual as normal. I gladly accept two points from whoever is keeping score. God, is it? Fox News? Whoever is only getting one spiritual point today? Let me know.
I love strawberry-rhubarb pie. It heralds spring for me. Huzzy made a special trip to the store once I was alerted to the fact that rhubarb was in stock and on sale. Huzzah, Huzzy! I would get the benefit of focused thought while baking, and the whole family would get the benefit of eating. The walking? I’m not as much of a fan, but with my 20th High School Reunion coming up, it seems an almost requirement to pretend to do something about my weight, especially if I’m eating most of said pie. Mostly, I just complain about it. The weight, not the pie.
My little Freedom Riders put up their usual protest about being buckled into their high-end stroller. Cup holders! Sky lights! Rack and pinion steering! I think we got taken on that last one. The monkeys love to have the option of getting out and running in the driveway upon both departure and arrival. They don’t get to exercise that option when it’s only me taking them for their daily Nature Appreciation Session. Besides, they spent the morning making demands, mostly for hugs, books to be read, and “Jooooooos” (which is usually some hideous concoction of 97% water and 3% juice. Excuse me, Super Juice. Welch’s upgraded to acai berries. Fancy. I like to give the boys “darker” juice because it looks like they have more than they actually do. The stinkers examine the cups to make sure I’m not only giving them 2% juice. They’ve drunk a third of Lake Michigan.) We read Eric Carle’s My Very First Book of Colors thirty times. I tried to get the boys to match the red swatch of color to the red fire truck. They didn’t. Monkey J. just wanted to see the picture of the shoe. I couldn’t maneuver the top half of the book (with the colors) and the bottom half of the book (with the items) and keep both of them balanced on my lap while avoiding what appeared to be a growing puddle of, oh let’s hope it’s joooooooos, in the back of their pants. This may be My Monkeys Very Last Book of Colors.
If I walked away to wash a dish or use the bathroom or get some grit out of my eyeball, Monkey J. attempted to bang his head into something wooden and see if I’ve was watching. If I was, he cried. If I wasn’t, he laughed, unless he hurt himself. Vicious game. If J. was remiss in distracting me this way, Monkey L. ran up, raised his arms to me, and said one of his few words, “Up.” I picked him up only to have him indicate that he wanted to touch, eat, or shred everything on the counter. I try to avoid having him touch too much in the kitchen. He is a sticky katamari . Initial scrambled eggs requests quickly evolved into cheese requests (granted) then strawberry requests (also granted) then cookie requests (considered, but not granted. Mental note made to tell Mom to stop bringing cookies to the house.) Dog barked at vacuum, arguments over who gets to sit in my lap and have his shoes put on first, and I think someone put kibble down my shirt.
So, yeah, they get buckled into the stroller. All protestations should be addressed care of Kiss The Tush in My Not Your Daughter’s Jeans.
I want my quiet contemplative walk. I don’t get it. Monkey J. is my stubborn one, the one who when he is a teen, will keep pushing the same buttons, waiting to see if I crack. He screams for twenty minutes, straining against the straps. He stops screaming when something captures his interest, like a truck or a butterfly or some treasure in his nose. He smiles and laughs and points in spite of himself. He catches me catching him and, ever the professional, gets back into character and starts screaming again. This makes Monkey L. laugh. This makes me want to jab something sharp into my ear. Dear Monkey J., stubborn like his mama, has focus, unlike his mama, who is about to lose her cool. Despite my pointing out every blessed leaf, car, door handle, and designer breed dog in the neighborhood, he continues to cry. He’s listening, though, because when I point things out, his crying dulls to a quieter, pin-sharp wine. He is a magician, transforming me into a twisted aural nerve standing at 5’3 and whatever weight my driver’s license says.
After thirty minutes we are home. He wrenches himself from my arms and runs to the windows to point plaintively out the door. He gives in only after I promise to get him cheese and to wear a sandwich board proclaiming my inability to parent effectively at my first PTA meeting.
Joke’s on him. We only have PTOs here. L. wants cheese as well. “Cheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeez,” he cries, looking at Monkey J’s cheese like I’ve given away his birthright. Even after he is squishing his cheddar in his hand, it takes moments to compose himself. Large, dramatic, pained sniffs, tears dry on his face.
“Gabba?” J. asks hopefully.
“Gabba!!!!!! Gabba! Gabba!” this is now some sort of curse or chant or magic spell. J. seems content just running around saying the word, occasionally stopping, posing, and dooming the ducts to a life of “Gabba!”
Pie, the Meditation Pie, the Pie of Quiet Justice and Contemplation, the Pie of Repose is now a necessity. It will center me, point me north, get me home, program my DVR. Huzzy is done working for the morning. The peals of delight from the boys at the mere sound of Huzzy finishing a business call bring him forth. The male bonding wrestling ticklefest that follows seems to be negated by my estrogen, so I decide to take the few minutes to start the pie.
Chopping, washing, sugaring. Easy. The rhubarb is ripe and fragrant. The strips of peel I remove make gorgeous silken ribbons of red and lime green in my sink. They will eventually make a lovely silken hairball in the disposal which will need to be untangled from the blades. But for now, they are as beautiful as they are staining. My hands look like I’ve murdered a roving gang of pistachio nuts. I almost exhale when the boys run to the piano to bang on it play something that reminds me of the time we were invited to a concert a wife commissioned for her husband. Modern. Sounded like Looney Tunes music when a character was creeping across the floor. Then stopping. Then creeping. Then killed in the shower. Huzzy and I couldn’t look at each other for the 45 minutes during the concert. I got the church giggles. Just saying “Pieces of Syd” to me will make me laugh. However, this wasn’t funny. It was noise. It was putting unnecessary noise in my pie. I don’t want Noisy Pie. (Yeah, I know, that’s what she said.)
Annoyed. Annoyance Pie. I should have waited to do this when they were napping. No, nap time is reserved for writing and working on monologues and laundry and floor cleaning and bathroom scrubbing and email writing and Bowflexing For Reunion. Besides, the pie needs to rest after baking for five hours for maximum effectiveness.
The pie needs to rest for five hours. Lazy pie. You’re no Angeline Jolie.
The strawberries and rhubarb need to powwow with the sugar and cornstarch and cinnamon and the lemon juice. I let it meditate and get to know itself. All I have to do is poke it every few minutes to make sure it’s all joining together in a flavor cult. I glance at my computer. I notice ten Facebook updates from friends and acquaintances all doing shows, writing shows, auditioning for shows. More updates let me know that other friends write and work and change the world. More updates from mothers enjoying their little ones, no matter how musical. My update this morning was an intentionally bad haiku. One of these things is not like the other. One of these things doesn’t contribute much at all.
I work on making a passable crust. My thoughts sputter out from their hiding spots. Olly Olly Oxen Free. They are worrisome. They are my issues. I don’t want Issue Pie, but I don’t push the thoughts down. I’m sure they’ve been trying to get at me through my gritted teeth and sippy cups and sloppy hugs and terrible renditions of “Bingo” all day.
I think about Humanities Class. Someone asked early on when we were reading Kant why we discussed this (I’m sure Kant would have appreciated the question.) The professor said that we will spend the rest of our lives talking about small things. This (college) is probably the last time we will ever be able to talk about big things.
I look over at my boys, who are being lovingly fed by my husband. They are covered in what may or may not be butternut squash.
I think about shows I’m not doing, improv that made me feel talentless and that my twenty-year dreams were a farce. I want to talk Big Things right now, just for a few minutes a week. I want to argue solutions and motivations. I want to discuss humanity. I am sad, lost, concerned. I feel like I am nothing but wasted potential. Wasted education. Wasted talent. Lost time. Pie maker.
The boys are oblivious and happy, and their laughs muted only by a layer of … what is that, yogurt? L. motions for me to give him a kiss. I do. J. wants jooooos. I give him 4%. They are the Little Things I focus on. They are my potential. For now. I love the feeling of fulfillment they bring to my life. I love that they are my Almost All. I can’t give them everything. That’s not healthy for any of us, but I give them my most. I give them my best. In time I can talk Big Things with them.
I place the crust over the filling. It’s not pretty, but I am trying to let it be what it wants to be. I can always claim I was going for the rustic look. That’s also what I say when I’m wearing two different colored shoes, smudged mascara, and hair that has bits of oatmeal in it.
I wonder if I’ve been lost. I wonder if I’ll ever be enthused about anything other than making pies and caring for my boys…as enthused as I was for improv once upon a time. Actually twice upon a time… I wonder if I will ever put as much effort into anything else. I wonder if it’s ok to have my baking meditation, or if I am disappointing our pioneering mothers and sisters who came before me and fought for me to be able to use my mind and get out of the kitchen. I don’t think Betty Crocker was in the third wave of feminism. I wonder if how my boys will be? Will they grow in my love? Will they burn in its heat? What legacy do I leave for them? For myself? Do I want more? Do I want less? What do I want? How long can I avoid the trip to the local Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop?
Huzzy brings out a roll of toilet paper from the bathroom, his eyes dancing. Mocking Silence of the Lambs, he glares at me “It puts the toilet paper on the roll.” I forgot. I also forget to laugh.
The monkeys bring me their shoes, and I put the filthy Keds on my head for their amusement. They want to see what I’m doing on the counter. I lift them up (one at a time) and show them the strawberries and rhubarb. We talk colors and shapes. Monkey L. just nods. Monkey J. repeats most of what I say.
It is time for their nap just as I put the pie in the oven. I feel both bitter and sated. Bitter satisfaction conflicted pie? That ain’t gonna taste good.
I clean methodically. I plan what books we’ll read and what songs we’ll sing this afternoon. I stop planning and will let them pick.
All would be wrapped up beautifully if I said the pie was bitter and I didn’t feel any physical benefit to the walk. But life isn’t beautiful. Pie is, though. Always. Even Disappointment Pie, which tasted much less lost than found.