Hates Naps: Afraid She'll Miss Something

I am a grass is greener kind of woman. My husband, who will generally sing my praises as long as it's not about money, will tell you that this is my fatal character flaw. You and I can both order dinner a restaurant known for its delicious tacos, and I will look at your tacos and wish that they were my tacos.

I brought some boxes home from my trip to St. Louis a few weeks ago. I'd stored them in my mom's basement for almost a decade, convinced when we moved to New Orleans that evacuation was too risky for a baby blanket my mom sewed herself. I  haven't gone through them yet, afraid to see a landscape I no longer recognize in my family.

Right on top, though, is a baby book my 20-year-old mother fastidiously completed until my 6th year. Each line is embroidered with the lace of her delicate handwriting. My mom has always had the graceful looping handwriting you see in movie love letters or as a font in a pretty graphic. On every page for each year, my mom records my sleep patterns in the blanks with this:

"Hates naps. Afraid she'll miss something."


Shape Shifting & Trying on Lives

 Itty bitty beach baby. Florida, about 3 years old. 

Itty bitty beach baby. Florida, about 3 years old. 

We moved constantly throughout my childhood, the baby book revealing moves I don't remember. Age one, we're in Naples, Florida, age two back to Illinois. At age three, we try Florida again. Then California, more of Florida, Kentucky, too many towns in Illinois to count.

I loved moving. Each time we packed our belongings, I got to start a fresh story of my self. In one town, my real father may have been a professional tennis player, but in the next place I might not have a father at all. I could invent the friends I didn't have previously in an effort to fool a new playground into believing I was someone worth knowing. At one school, I layered a metal barrette over my top teeth, desperate for braces that signified wealth to me, and refused to admit my deceit even as everyone, including teachers, told me to take the damn thing out of my mouth.

Rambling Woman DNA

On one hand, my fear of missing something important seems to be an innate trait, maybe passed from the mystery genetics of my biological father's side of the family. Pair this tiny code of DNA with our constant restarts, and my infatuation with what else there might be is born.

These fantasies of other lives flicker like movies in the dark theater of my mind. I meet men and think about what kind of lives we might have if we were married. I meet women and think about where we'd live if we were lovers. Careers, degrees, cities, houses, cars, sweaters, dogs. To each tiny object in my life, I turn and think, "Not enough."

In recovery speak, these kinds of moves are known as geographical cures. My parents, although I'm not sure they would call it this, both struggled with addiction back then, and they perpetually indulged the fantasy that we'd pack up our things and outrun ourselves. Of course, we always brought ourselves and problems with us.

Now, I don't pack up and move across country, ditch boyfriends, or drop friends. My geographic cures have shifted into things more stealth and insidious. Patterns I don't easily recognize.

The Restless Season

 Mike says I can't put pictures of him on the Internet. So here's me and  Junot Diaz.  

Mike says I can't put pictures of him on the Internet. So here's me and Junot Diaz. 

I slip into these, I don't know, cycles? Seasons? I don't have the vocabulary to accurately describe what happens. Basically, I'm fine, I'm fine, I'm fine, and then I'm a bit restless. I start to think about the futility of my work, of writing, of making a mortgage payment when the world is going to shit. I think I must have veered off my path somewhere. Then I think that this isn't the life I'm supposed to be living, devoid as it is of bohemian drama, no creepy artist dudes living on my floor and talking bullshit about writing the great American whatever while living off his parents' credit card.

Then, out of nowhere, for no reason, I look at my partner (in crime) and think, "We should not be together."

Waking Up Mad

There's a joke my brothers and Mike share about the time my middle brother told Mike that sometimes my mom just wakes up angry at him. A lightbulb of recognition sparked in Mike as he said, "Jamie does that, too!" Of course, I resent any link between my cultivated self and my mother's behavior, so I slapped both of them. But he's right. Sometimes, for no reason, I wake up mad at him.

And this almost always leads to me strolling by the neighbor's house checking out their green, green grass. Comparison is the death of love, for self and for others, so I bring home even more expectations that he can't fulfill because he's not those people, reinforcing my original hypothesis. It snowballs. I flirt with other men to get attention and further reinforce this idea. This is an old pattern, one of which I'm ashamed.

Learn & Forget, Again & Again

The other day, I was scrolling through Instagram in one of these fits, and this Diane LaPorte quote rolled into my feed: What do you want that you already have? Mike was in the kitchen loading the dishwasher. He'd just cooked for me because I had to work late. When I say cook for me, I mean that literally. He won't eat the foods I have to, so he cooked a week's worth of meals he wouldn't touch. When he finished, he came over and kissed the top of my head, told me I smelled good, and took our dogs out for their final bathroom break, something I hate doing for no good reason.

I looked around after he'd gone to bed, the lens of my petty grievances lifted. We had peace, cultivated over years together. We had trust, full and absolute. And the greatest gift, unconditional love from our very first moment together. All the things I wanted, I already had. Accessing actual gratitude for those things felt like honoring them, and honoring him, too.

I think sometimes how hard it must be to live with me. He's managed to do it all these years, allowing me full independence to make as many drunken fuck-ups as I needed to get sober, without ever telling me I had to get sober. He's let me pursue every single opportunity I wanted, even when it uprooted his life. I've talked him into apartments, dogs (he's welcome), jobs, and who knows how much spent money on junk he doesn't care about. We share few interests, approach the world in opposite ways, but it was a powerful moment to know what I wanted was already in my life. I just had to open myself to it.

I learn this lesson over and over and over again because leaving is deeply ingrained in my brain. Staying is not.