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.