Thursday, August 6, 2009

Looking For A Soft Place To Land

I’ve started reading in my closet.

Just this week, actually. Eight years in the house, and only now has it occurred to me that my humongous closet – which is bigger than our first apartment – would be an ideal place to sneak off to on those nights when I can’t sleep.

My closet is where all of our quilts and extra pillows live. Of course, they’re supposed to stay on the shelves we installed a few years ago. But every time our kids need an extra blanket or a pillow to take on a road trip or camping, they pull one off the shelves.

Sadly, as soon as this happens, they reformat their hard drives, and when it comes time to put everything away, the kids make it as far as the closet and then give the bedding an unceremonious launch, like it’s a giant patchwork pigeon they’ve nursed back to health and now want to get rid of quickly before it does something embarrassing on the couch.

“Fly,” you can almost hear them say as they fling the quilts toward the shelves, “Be free.”

So, now that scout camp, girls’ camp, and the family reunion at the Sun Valley 4-H camp are over for the year, I have quite a collection of pillows and blankets piled on the floor of my closet.

And when I realized that this would be a great little hidey-hole, there was this cozy nest just waiting for me and my David Sedaris book.

I love David Sedaris. Love his honesty, love his humor, love his ability to cross that enormous gulf between “smoking, drug using, alcohol abusing gay man” and “Diet Coke guzzling middle-aged Mormon housewife” and manage somehow to speak to me. I can’t in good conscience recommend him to my LDS friends, because there are moments…

But I’m a huge, huge fan.

Anyway, I wouldn’t have to read David Sedaris or anyone else in my closet if my children weren’t a bunch of nocturnal house marauders who don’t really hit their movie watching, kitchen raiding stride until after midnight. While during the day there are all sorts of empty spaces throughout my home, perfect for reading a novel or honing one’s Sudoku skills, at night the kids fill every square inch of the place, watching two televisions, Facebooking at the family computer and nuking popcorn by the pound.

So my husband – who still has to get up at six a.m. – and I close and lock our door around eleven in the hopes that it will be enough to keep the night stalkers at bay. Occasionally we’ve been known to hang a bit of garlic from the door handle, just in case my worst suspicions are confirmed and the offspring are actually badly scripted sparkly vampires. It would explain their aversion to daylight, not to mention their inability to locate a hairbrush or maintain a credible plot line.

But back to my nest.

The first night, I went to bed and tried to sleep. When I realized I had probably traded a good night’s rest for the gallon or so of Diet Coke I’d drunk that day, I sat up and pondered the conundrum of having nowhere to go where I could read until I was drowsy, the house being swarmed by the aforementioned ‘children of the night’.

When the thought of the closet came to me, you could practically see the light bulb go on over my head.

But rather than organize things a little, maybe, for example, move the thirty or forty shoes that were under the mass of blankets, I just kind of plunked myself down on the pile, determined to make myself comfortable as-is. I wound up with one hip a good three inches higher than the other, and the opposite shoulder nearly on the floor, looking for all the world like a cubist painting: “Woman With Book Atop Quilt Heap”.

The next night, I rearranged things enough that I wasn’t actually sitting sideways. This involved digging down beneath the quilts to find the mysterious corner that had been jammed into my kiester the night before. Remarkably, when I found it to be a laundry basket filled with last year’s purses (don’t judge), I merely shifted things around a bit and then replaced the blankets. And I sat back on the pile, laundry basket and all.

Why? Why wouldn’t I just clear out the space, stacking the pillows and bedding in such a way that it created a truly comfortable spot to sit and read?

It’s likely that the answer is simply that I’m lazy. However, since I’m pretty sure I’m having a mid-life crisis, every new behavior is under suspicion until I get to the bottom of things.

So I have to ask my inner psychologist (who really isn’t very good at her job and mostly just tells me to quit whining and bring her a donut) what would possess a relatively sane woman who has made no secret of her almost pathological need to be completely propped and pampered in any and all circumstances – and I’ve been known to take more reading material, TV remotes, and five course meals TO THE TUB than most people require for extended hotel stays – to resort to a place of indulgent seclusion and then DELIBERATELY leave it lumpy and uncomfortable?

So far my inner psychologist has come up with, “Beats me. Hand me a bear claw.” So she’s basically useless.

The closest I can come on my own may have something to do with what I find myself thinking about when my mind drifts between chapters.

I told you a few months ago that I had resigned from the Las Vegas Mormon Youth Symphony and Chorus, and that it was the hardest thing I had ever done. Well, I didn’t mention that it had been a rather unpleasant parting, and that it pretty much rang the bell when it came to drama and that most obnoxious of game shows, “Mormons Behaving Badly”.

So while I really miss the kids, I can’t exactly say I miss the grownups.

But it has been kind of tough to move past some of the hurt that came from that mess, particularly since it really isn’t going away, at least not for me. My path keeps crossing that of some of the other players, and every time it happens I’m surprised at how bad I feel for days afterward.

See, I’ve never been through a “break up” before. Never had a boyfriend dump me, at least not outright, never had an ugly scene with a former friend, never been betrayed by someone I loved and trusted.

So a lot of this was new to me. And I’m beginning to understand how after such an experience people can say, “I will never allow myself to get that close, be that vulnerable, or give that much ever again.”

The problem for me is that I left without having anywhere to go. It wasn’t like I’d found a new symphony and chorus to direct; it turns out they don’t exactly grow on trees. And while I have some wonderful interests that keep me busy – like the work I do in the church and my writing – I haven’t really found a place to focus my attention and energy that even begins to compare with the last nearly five years singing and playing with those kids.

But more to the point, it has led me to re-evaluate a few of my relationships. I’m seeing that, like my deliberately lumpy nest in the closet, I’ve allowed myself to remain in ‘friendships’ that are actually kind of painful. Certain people I’ve given my heart to who don’t really seem to have the same standards of loyalty as mine. Believe me, I’m not a needy, clingy friend. And I don’t need any yes-men in my life. But this experience has opened my eyes to the fact that, in terms of some relationships, I’ve piled a bunch of soft blankets on top of an edgy, unsympathetic laundry basket, and it’s giving me the bends.

Like my donut-fattened inner shrink, I don’t have any answers at this point. Don’t really even know what questions to ask, beyond, “Well, DeNae, where do we go from here?”

But one thing is clear: If I have to be on this bumpy road for a while, I'm going to make myself as comfortable as possible. Spend more time with people who bring out the best in me. Find fulfillment in carrying out my duties as a homemaker and mother. Pay better attention to my health. And invest myself more in the callings and other activities that bring me so much satisfaction and purpose.

And perhaps one of these days I’ll be ready to come out of that closet, a new person with new prospects, healthier relationships, and an optimistic vision of my worth and potential.

Heck, if David Sedaris can do it, then so can I.


Kristina P. said...

First, I wish I had a closet big enough to do anything in, other than turn around a full 360 degrees.

Second, I'm sorry that leaving the chorus was ugly.

And I HAVE broken up with a friend before, after realizing that the relationship with her took more hard work than my marriage. That happened 8-9 months ago, and she's still friends with a couple of my really good friends, and sometimes I miss her. But then I realize that my life has been fabulously drama-free without her.

brudcrew said...

Gave up a walk-in pantry in my new house. Thanks for the idea! Now I just need to stash the dark chocolate in my walk-in closet! It's what keeps me sane and overweight.

TheQueen@TerrorsInTiaras said...

Well, after reading this, I'm rethinking the storage of pillows and blankets in my daughter's closet. I think maybe they should be in mine. Also, I sort of feel like eating a doughnut.

Loved the essay, though. Very well written. Good luck with all the rearranging of the friends.

KC Mom said...

You seriously crack me up...but wait I have to go...gotta go rearrange my closet and look for Sedaris on Amazon...:)

Motherboard said...

I'm a closet hider too. Big time. I'm afraid of coming out.

I've experienced the break-up, the lay-off and kicking to the curb that you have described... some self induced others not. Either way, its painful as hell. I'm sorry, my sister from another mother.

David Sedaris is my gay boyfriend. I ♥ him almost as much as I do the nectar of the gods and chocolate.

I do however ♥ you more!

damselindisdress said...

sweet post.

Your house sounds frighteningly like everywhere when I need a quiet corner to read, and the husband likes it dark and quiet in our room, which yes, we lock ourselves in at 11.

I got one of those, uh, I think it's called Booklight? and it works pretty well. But reading in the closet sounds more fanciful.

Melanie J said...

1. Our baby lives in a walk-in closet. We realize it's just a minefield of jokes waiting to happen. I can't wait!

2. I had to fill out my occupation on a medical form last week. Usually the occupation line stumps me. But this time without any hesitation, I put homemaker. I absolutely love that expression.

3. I'm sorry parting wasn't sweet sorrow. I hope in time it doesn't matter so much anymore. It's hard when other people won't let something go, though. Hugs and besos.

Homer and Queen said...

I thinking stronger drugs...also life IS so much better without the high maintenance friends! Clean 'em out but don't clean out that closet!

AS Amber said...

So many times we find comfort in the least likely of places. You're a brilliant musician and have always been very resourceful. I have no question you'll emerge from your closet happier and stronger and with more direction than ever before!
Love you, sister!

Migillicutty said...

What a beautifully written post! I hope you feel better (if ya know what I mean) soon.

Goldibug said...

LOL! I truly needed to read this today. I'm just like you in the sense that I try to make the uncomfortable comfortable. In fact I'm doing so right now while living with my inlaws. I broke down today and due to blogging it's gotten better. I hope the same goes for you too. )))HUGS(((

Chief said...

So I went through a similar thing last year. I call it my mid life crisis. It stemmed from very close relationships being re-evaluated. It was painful for me to come to the realization that I may have valued and given more than I received and it wasn't necessarily everyone else's fault. It was mine.

Beautiful post!

Good luck with your journey.

M-Cat said...

What a great post! Having been on the dumper part of a relationship that at the time I thought was tiring, in hindsight I made a terrible mistake. But guess what? No do-over. No forgiveness. No going back.

Now, I tread very lightly as to who I let in my inner circle both for my own mental safety as well as theirs.......

The Garden of Egan said...

I'm bringin a quilt, move your bearclaw butt over! I've got some books I want to read and I don't want to be bothered.

As far as the emotionally draining experiences...well, you enjoy yourself. Have another bearclaw and turn the page. (that's very profound by the way....just in case you missed it)

Lynne's Somewhat Invented Life said...

Dear donutcrumb'dclosetlurker,

I'm sorry for the nasties that you run into now and then. Those bums don't have what you have. Talent and humor and great writing skills and a housefull of fun. Your kids will grow up healthy and happy and with great memories of a mom who suffered through some tough times and made others laugh all the way through. More power to you. You are woman! I wish I had half of your attitude.

MommyJ said...

I love this post and can totally relate. I've always struggled a bit with unbalanced friendships. It can be draining and well, just not any fun. I've learned that sometimes you just have to say, "it is what it is, and I'm not going to poor anymore heart into it"

MommyJ said...

okay. I CAN spell. poor should be pour.

I'm a dummy.

InkMom said...

1. I love David Sedaris. He's one of my favorite contributors to "This American Life".

2. You need a Kindle. I don't have one myself, so I tell you this with ZERO authority, but still. You could read in bed then without disturbing your beloved.

3. Kick 'em to the curb! (Harsh, I know.) It's amazingly empowering to realize that you are, actually, in charge of your life enough to rid it of things that hurt you.

Excellent, my friend, excellent!

Soul sisters, I'm telling you!

Brooke said...

I've got a few of those lumpy friendships too. And I'm pretty sure that I'm a lumpy friend to a few people who are too polite to tell me to bug out. Honestly, I don't think we're supposed to create a life in which all of our relationships are smooth and comfortable. That sounds kinda boring to me.

I say acknowledge the awkward relationships in your life, but also hold on to them. Who knows - as you change (and they change), you may find your next close friend there. And if not, at least they'll provide you with some great blogging material. :-)

zannyzoozoo said...

I feel your pain. I'll avoid confrontation at all costs and bend over backwards to make everyone comfortable but then when left alone with my thoughts those painful acts/comments by others sometimes come back to haunt me. Just last week a friend said something so hurtful to me and what did I do - say something to her to make her feel comfortable - to diffuse the situation. I could learn a lesson or two from you, girl. I know I need to stand up for myself more often ... but that might make someone "UNCOMFORTABLE".

Isn't life great? I don't think Father is going to let me come home to Him until I figure this out...which means I may live to be 150 :-)

Share what you learn along the way and hang in there!!!

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

Like Kristina, I'm just jealous you can actually GO INTO your closet. Mine doesn't even have stepping in room. Sob. But this post wasn't about me was it? So I'll just say that I've thought recently that either I'm totally clueless or I've never really had enemies before (except for that hootchie that stole my love interest when I was 15). But I'm noticing that lately, in some of my increased responsibilities at Church, that some people do not like to be challenged, and I do not like to back down from what I believe to be right. I think that the Lord is trying to teach me a lesson that sometimes "good choices" create enemies and I need to learn to be okay with that. Not creating enemies, but being considered one. If I'm doing the best I can, I need to stand confident before God and know that's enough. Rambling, I know. Hope I squeaked my point out.

Jami said...

Rather late to this post, but I just wanted to let you know that I feel for you. A nasty breakup with a group to whom you've given your heart hurts way more than you'd think it would. I'll be keeping you in my prayers as you look for your "what next."

MS Anita said...

My kids still find me in there!

You are one of the most Awesome institute teachers ever. YOu have the ability to help those of us who attend to come to a better understanding of the scriptures.

Just wanted you to know that.

jthull said...

I had a friend-divorce and it still bugs me to this day. She'll run into my husband and talk and talk but never return my calls. I even decided to go to her house and let her have it. Well, her car was home but she wouldn't answer the door. So I yelled all the way home in the car (hope it looked like I was singing or something) and cut her out of my life and thoughts. Yeah sometimes I still have a twinge but not many...
I also had a "club house" when I was a kid. It was really "poor" as G'Ma Christensen would say, a blanket clothes-pinned to the water heater. And I had a flashlight and books, that was enough. Today I require black licorice or it just isn't worth hiding out.

Smith Family said...

Loved your post. Thanks for being real.

Hel said...

Admittedly I am one of those people who is friend frugal. To be my friend you must be low maintenance with the ability to have a high maintenance time with me if the need arises (or more to the point - if our spare time coincides!).

I put this down to moving so many blessed times when I was a child that I "acquired" too many friends. There must have been a point when I decided to cull the friends and start looking for meaningful friendships that didn't suck the life out of me.

"May you always find balanced friendships and leave the life suckers behind" - a Hel quote

charrette said...

We're David Sedaris fans too. Youth In Asia? That one's awesome. We laughed till we cried.

And this line? "that most obnoxious of game shows, “Mormons Behaving Badly” just made my night.

But my friend, that part about leaving the symphony and chorus made me so sad I can't even express it. You were the conductor? And somebody back-stabbbed you? I want the back story. Every sordid detail and petty little drama of it.

Oh, I wish such ugly things didn't happen to such good people! It probably would be a positive step for you to find another creative outlet, huh?

But in the meantime I'm glad you have your closet full of pillows and quilts. Whatever works.

Sending hugs your way...

Mommy said...

What a beautifully written post. I'm rarely envious, but I envy your writing talent. :)

I could write a whole book about pain and struggle, and I'm sorry you have to enter that world. Without being too inelegant, I'll simply say IT SUCKS. I hope you are able to emerge from it quickly with grace and understanding.

wonder woman said...

I love that this post had such a fantastic blend of humor and poignant self-reflection.

And now I'm off to the library to look for David Sedaris. I blame you if I'm offended. ;)

Kim Almond said...

Hi sister! Just wanted you to know I was reading your posts and that I'm sorry your break up with the M Y still causes you pain. Good luck with getting D and N off to school! Love you and I'm looking forward to Girl's Weekend! :)