31 days of gratitude, extremely abridged grumpy edition (days 21 to 26)

Merry Christmas and all that, a day later than I anticipated, because (thankfully) I decided to enjoy a bottle of champagne with Anthony last night, Christmas night, instead of sitting at a computer screen gratituding. So a dollar short and a day late, here is a week-ish of grumpy gratitudes.

* * * * *

Anthony and I spent more than an hour yesterday trying unsuccessfully to find Jesse’s iPhone (which she had apparently sent through a portal to an alternative universe) so that I could set up her new iPad (a Christmas gift from Little Grandma).  We hunted because in order for Jesse to set up the iPad with her existing Apple ID, she needed to enter a verification code that was sent to her iPhone, which was dead and had been transported to an alternative universe, and was therefore incapable of delivering the verification code to her.

Technology security winning! And on Christmas day no less.

Jesse’s phone was in my purse for more than two months because of some extremely inappropriate texts that were passing around a group of peers (gratefully, Jesse did not participate in most of the gross and ew and OMG how do 8th graders know this language). I gave the phone back to her a few days before Christmas, thinking it was time.  She laid down in bed and played with it for six consecutive, catatonic hours until the battery ran out and then, instead of plugging it in, promptly lost it.

We ransacked her bedroom and found nothing. She insisted it was in the house. “I remember it died, and then I put it down on a flat surface.”

Helpful. The aforementioned flat surface must have constituted the portal to the alternative universe, because that phone was gone.

We had to decide whether to go on a deep dive into every corner of all three stories of our house to find a tiny device, or whether to just take Jesse off our phone plan.  The choice seemed simple. I’m thankful for simple choices.

But an hour after the hunt ended, and after I set up a new email account for Jesse and then a new Apple ID using that email, and entered five unique 6-digit verification codes — which were sent variously to my phone, my computer, my email, Jesse’s email, and the silicon chip embedded in my brain by space aliens — into 5 different devices, for security reasons, and after I used the new email and Apple ID to finally set up Jesse’s new iPad successfully —

After all that, Anthony called to me from the living room.

“Hey Carla.”

When you’ve been together for 500 years, a lot can be conveyed by “hey [insert call sign].” I knew instantly that he had found the phone. I walked into the living room and there it sat, in plain view on top of our dog Everest’s huge crate – a crate we had shoved around the living room repeatedly on Christmas Eve as we set out gifts and such, never once noticing the phone on top. We stood for a moment, blank, just staring.

I’m grateful we found the phone. But more than that, I’m grateful that we found the location of the portal to an alternative universe, right on top of Everest’s kennel. We need to be very careful around that spot.

* * * * *

This was a year of evolution in Christmas for our house, because our kids are both unbelievers now. I’m thankful that the myth of a white male Santa is finally destroyed completely, and that the kids know, without any doubt, that Santa is actually me and Anthony. Now we can have really direct conversations about things I’ve come at gently in the past. Like, say, why Santa doesn’t go to Jewish households. The answer now is just, duh. And I can proffer hypotheticals like: imagine what it’s like to be Jewish or Muslim, and you walk into a store where you are greeted by a 20-foot-tall blow-up white hairy Santa and a bunch of clerks muttering “Merry Christmas” while eyeing you suspiciously. It’s kinda creepy. We may not be a religious family, but when we celebrate our secular Christmas we are still supporting the Christian hegemony in America, and we should be very aware of it.

Of course my kids don’t know what hegemony means, and they’ve never asked when that word comes out, because it only comes out when I’m a little, um, worked up, and probably feeling smug. It goes without saying that only smug people use words like “hegemony,” even though it is a really great word.

Thankful for a solid vocabulary that confuses my kids sometimes.

* * * * *

A few days ago as Jesse and I drove off to therapy, I asked if she wanted to hear a song. Her answer was dry, tinged with a certain fatalism.

“Not if it’s just you singing it.”

I was filled with a deep joy and love for my daughter’s dripping wit. I reached for the radio button and bit my tongue.

* * * * *

I was grumbling to my therapist recently about how much “mindfulness” annoys me. It’s so jingoistic these days, like keto and yoga pants. Folks are walking around being Mindful and Present in the Moment and just as goofy and nasty as ever. Plus, I cannot do group mindfulness. When peeps try to lead me in a mindfulness practice, I just want to throw spit balls.

My therapist made a passing remark, to the effect that mindfulness basically grows out of Buddhist traditions, which are rooted in the fundamental notion that all life is suffering.

Oooooh. Maybe my resistance is misplaced. If mindfulness is about universal suffering, then mindfulness is, in its essence, grumpy.

I can work with that.

Grateful for deep insights.

* * * * *

On the morning of Christmas Eve, I hit the grocery store to stock up. As I was filling my trunk, a cheerful, blond, slim Amazon rolled her own shopping cart up to the car next to mine. By the time she had unloaded her own stash, returned her cart, and walked back, I was just finishing up with my own 400 bags and boxes.

We made eye contact as I closed my trunk. She smiled a cheerful smile and offered to take my shopping cart away for me. She was so confident and firm, and also two feet taller than me, so what could I do? I offered a hearty “thank you, how kind of you!” She wished me a jolly merry Christmas as she marched off with my empty cart. It was a cheery moment.

But as I watched her walk away energetically, thoughts tumbled unbidden into my mind, breaking the sound barrier in their rush to fill space. She wasn’t actually being nice; we were parked tightly next to each other, and it would have been awkward to get out at the same time, so taking the cart away broke the likely impasse. She saw how short and fat I am and thought I needed help. Maybe I look so old and tired these days, she thought I was a miserable wretch and took pity on me. Helping the stout little half Asian lady assuaged her guilt over her white privilege and wealth. She needed to meet her quota of 10,000 steps and I was the right excuse for 80 more toward that goal.

All this and much more raced through my head in the 5 seconds it took me to get in the driver’s seat. I turned on the engine and drove off quickly, marveling at my grumpy.

But I found myself shaking it off quickly. It was kind of weird. Positive thoughts came into my mind, along the following lines:

I’m grateful for my child with big needs. Thanks to Jesse, I’ve found my way to therapy, and profoundly accepting friends, and compassion, and kindnesses big and small, and perspective.

These things have slowly been filling my empty and grumpy and cynical cup for nearly a decade as we’ve soldiered on, picking up all the broken pieces again and again, hunting for courage to meet the challenges our family faces. These things have taught me that my automatic cynical thoughts aren’t always my friends. Sometimes they’re just bullies.

Everything I thought about the Amazon’s motivations may or may not be true, but it doesn’t really matter. Her smile was deep and infectious, and the laugh lines around her middle-aged eyes seemed true. She put a smile on my face, and I appreciated her jolly aid. It was more than I could ask from a total stranger, really. I accepted her gift as I drove home, chuckling with rue over my grumpy tendencies.

Sometimes I don’t even know myself anymore.


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