Sunday, February 21, 2010

You Do the Math

Today my husband cleaned out a bunch of junk from the garage. One piece of detritus he found? A rental agreement dated exactly 12 years ago today, with one of my previous names on it. I stood looking at it, absorbing the serendipity of the date, trying to calculate many things, some of which remain incalculable.

Twelve years ago today, I rented my very first all-alone apartment. Twelve years ago, I walked away from a bad relationship, moved into a studio apartment, and thereby proclaimed I would NOT settle for less than what I wanted for my life. If I couldn't have a meaningful, truthful, passionate, satisfying relationship, I would rather be alone. The risk scared me. It scared me often, and in waves, and cyclically, hormonally, on full moons, and whenever I had a bad date, or no date at all on a Saturday night. But some of the time, I had an inkling better days would come, and I knew that I had to believe in myself, be true to myself.

My very favorite memory from my little studio apartment -- and I made MANY happy memories during my two years calling it home -- came the night I first spoke on the phone with a guy I had met online. I had one cordless phone then, just before I got a cell in 2000, and we talked so long that the battery simply gave out. That had never happened to me before. I distinctly remember the butterflies in my stomach as the phone began its warning beep and I told J how much fun it had been to talk, but we'd have to catch up again tomorrow, if he would give me another call then. Then, I waited five minutes, staring at the clock, for my battery to recharge enough to call my best local girlfriend and blurt out hurriedly, "My phone is dying but I just had to call you and tell you that I just had the best date of my whole life... on the phone! I have not even met him! It's crazy! He's probably an axe murderer or something I am sure so I will NOT get my hopes up but we (waving arms to keep away the motes) talked for TWO HOURS like we were in high school or something but it was all real stuff and interesting and ... OH! There goes my stupid phone! I gotta go!" By that time, I had already started looking for a bigger apartment, so by the time we were officially dating -- the live, face-to-face kind, J -- who I married in 2002 -- never saw inside that studio apartment that I came to love before I outgrew it.

Among the calculations I toyed with today, I wondered how many times you could fit my tiny apartment into our small house. Several, to be sure. I also figured that our mortgage costs nearly five times my old rent - Yikes!

And, of course, because I tend to spend a lot more time worrying about the future than I do mulling over the past, I pretty quickly turned to future calculations. I wondered, if I make it through another 12 years, how different will my life be from now? I will mark my half century, my daughter will be almost old enough to drive, and my son will be just shy of 18.

That kind of froze me in my wondering tracks.

A lot can change in 12 years. I know from personal experience, for example, that if a girl proclaims to the universe, deities and all, "I will NOT accept abuse or mediocrity, I choose to pursue my dreams," that good things CAN happen even after a series of bad breaks. In the 12 years since I signed that faded rental contract, a whole heck of a lot more than just my small life has changed monumentally. When I moved to my studio, Bill Clinton was president, the World Trade Center thrived, and I hoped in my lifetime America would elect a woman or a person of color to the presidency, but I never would have believed for a second that I'd so soon see an election between one of each.

After a few minutes of standing speechless in the garage, I tossed the contract into the trash, and went on to spent much of the afternoon bribing the Rooster to work on bits of academics here and there. Hundreds Day is coming up at school, and so we had a display to make out of 100 Skittles. My boy has no concept of numbers, and our next diagnosis is sure to be dyscalculia. He can mostly count out the 100 candies okay, if you correct him here and there along the way (like when he always skips 21), but if you tell him you have 20 red candies and he has two orange, and you ask which one is greater (more, or a bigger number), he will simply guess in the hopes of avoiding the zillionth explanation of greater than and less than. Quantity simply means nothing to him. Lately I've been fearing that he will never get math due to his dyscalculia, never get reading due to his Irlen's Syndrome, never get school due to his ADHD, never get socialization due to his autism... That's a lot of nevers to worry about. If you buy into them, if you believe those nagging nevers, you have to give up the hope that this bright and loving boy will find a way to thrive, that he'll have friends, that he'll succeed at school, that he'll learn to drive, graduate, get a job. The fears nag at me often, late at night, and early in the morning, and when I'm at work and see a class of kindergartners writing addition and subtraction facts... But most of the time I do realize that my Rooster is right now just a kindergarten boy with a lot on his plate and some wonderful resources to help him navigate his challenges. And I know, more importantly, that a whole heck of a lot can improve in twelve years if we all stay true to ourselves, believe in our possibilities, and refuse to settle for less than we deserve.

Thank goodness for that.


redheadmomma said...

Thank you so much for writing this - what an amazing post. You went around the world & back, and ended with hope. Thank you. XO

phenry said...

Wow! I remember that studio apartment. I slept on your pull out twin bed. I also remember too well the pain you went through, and I'm so glad that time has flown by like it has. I can't believe it's been 12 years. Wow! Oh what a strange trip it's been!