I had a rough day today. The kind of day where I felt always and forever a step behind, like I was playing catch-up all day. I met a new friend for brunch, but didn’t have time for that. Plus, the food wasn’t good, and I had a sharp pain high in my abdomen the rest of the day. I was reactive instead of proactive in my work. I was breathlessly busy, but accomplished nothing. Worst of all, I attended a meeting in which I understood little of what was transpiring. Business talk mystifies me. It’s like everyone around me is speaking a foreign language.
Soon, afternoon was upon me. Friday afternoon. Should be a good time, no? But, when the gloaming began — when the sun faded and night was beginning to draw her shade — I found myself overcome with anxiety. I had had made tentative plans early in the week to have dinner with an acquaintance who’d been interested in me years before. But, as the days marched on toward the weekend, I began to feel uneasy. I didn’t want to start anything up. I’d already decided this man wasn’t right for me. I saw the yawning waste of time sure to transpire. That sounds so harsh, I realize. What I mean is, I knew we’d have fun. It would be fine, it would be fun.
The problem is, I don’t have all that much time or interest in fun for fun’s sake anymore. I explained to this person a couple of days ago that if my daughter didn’t have plans, I would probably stay home with her. I was openly hesitant all week. When I finally let my friend know last night that I wasn’t coming, he sent a cold text message saying there would be no raincheck and that I should “get my story straight,” or some such thing. He thought, I don’t know, that I was lying or something. I wasn’t lying. I was just uncertain. He felt toyed with. I can understand that. But if I was toying with him, I was doing the same to myself.
The truth is, I think I need to commit my time and attention to people and activities I am 100% sure I want to invest in now. The truth is, if my kids are home, I’d rather be here, with them. My son is studying for the SAT. He’s been studying for weeks and takes the test tomorrow at 8 a.m. I didn’t even know that when I was pulling away from my “date” tonight. But I’m so glad I was here when he told me. My daughter is home too. I didn’t know she wouldn’t have plans. Turns out she didn’t.
I reheated a roast chicken I’d made the other day. Made lentils and rice. Roasted potatoes, fennel, and red onion. Sauteed kale and garlic. Made Persian tea. Made tapioca pudding.
After dinner, my son wandered in the kitchen asking for a second cup of tea. Then, he said, “Actually, can I have a hot cocoa?”
I made hot cocoa.
You see, these things fill the void, and rather nicely. As does a single, perfect Manhattan cocktail, which I also enjoyed tonight, with two Luxardo cherries. And talk about taking the edge off. By that point, the edge had her fangs something fierce in me.
I felt bad about the guy’s mean text. I understood he was hurt, but he’d lashed out at me. Work sputtered. I felt useless. I had a tango lesson scheduled for 4 p.m. and forgot about it. And I’ve been down on my beloved tango lately.
Which leads me to the lovely Greta Gerwig, whose “radical confidence” I read about in the New York Times this evening, as the sky shook itself from dove to charcoal grey. I read the article with eagerness, thinking how utterly boring and cliche it is to be a woman with shaky confidence, especially in middle-age. Boring beyond belief.
I knew and know it’s up to me to grab myself by the shoulders, straighten my spine, and own my life, full-stop.
I had forgotten about my tango class. I was caught up in work. A meeting went late — the meeting where I understood little, which is so embarrassing and confusing.
I could still have been on time for half the class. I grabbed my shoes and jumped in the car, but half-way down the hill, I was overcome by a wave of utter lassitude. I couldn’t make myself care. I saw an ambulance with lights blinking on and off. I saw streams of traffic. I entered the on-ramp and got off at the very next off-ramp, turned around, and went home, with my tail between my legs.
I haven’t been to tango for two weeks. Ever since the partner who invited me to join him in a “showcase” dropped me after the first event. I had emailed him a couple of days before the second event to learn what time he needed me the following weekend and where we were meeting. He took that opportunity to quickly assure me I didn’t have to come, he knew it was a long way for me, he was good, he was all set, in fact.
On the day of the event, he sent an email to the group alias chiding folks who apparently hadn’t checked in.
I had checked in.
He clearly had a new partner though. I saw her name on the list.
I was hurt.
I know I’m not a good dancer yet. I was very well aware I was the least experienced dancer in the troupe. But, he knew that too. He asked me, invited me. He’d danced with many a time and knew exactly what my experience level was. It was hard for me to say yes, show up, and dance on a stage for an event. But, I did it. Maybe he didn’t like my dress. It wasn’t as showy as those of the other women.
Anyway. Since then, I’ve soured a little on tango, something that I’ve loved and devoted considerable time to over the past four years.
All of these things made tonight hard. I paced in the house. I knew I should go for a hike with Daisy, but I tortured myself by not going. I kicked my shoes off, wandered into the dimming kitchen. I googled movie times. I decided I would take my daughter to a movie… By then, was climbing the walls. I felt I had to get out of the house. But said daughter was not yet home from soccer practice, so I desultorily began to make dinner.
Thankfully, that cheered me up. I played the Joan Armatrading station on Pandora. I made myself a Manhattan cocktail with not one but two Luxardo cherries. I smashed garlic cloves.
I envy Greta Gerwig, who relates the story of not one but two female directors giving her, out of the blue, a pair of shoes they didn’t want. Greta understood the Universe’s message immediately and handled those shoes with all the pomp and ceremony they deserved, wearing them on the set of the first movie she directed (which she also wrote) with a mystical reverence. Pulling strength and confidence from them.
I need shoes like that.
Follow your heart, people say. Live in the present, people say.
I’m in the business world where I feel like a fish out of water much of the time. The truth is, I have serious responsibilities and many people depending on me. I’m running a big operation at home. I live in the one of the most expensive cities in the world, and I’m a single mom with a single income and no child support.
I can’t make a false move. I must be careful. But stories like Greta’s, and another one — Frankie Shaw — profiled in The Single Mom’s Guide to Sex, Love and Basketball — inspire me. Like Greta, Frankie is a woman — and a single mom — succeeding as a writer and director in Hollywood. I’m pushing 50 and mired in a career that may be slightly ill-fitting, but I’m deeply grateful for my job which keeps us safe.
The trick for me will be to keep the job and do the best I can. To banish the ghost that rises in my chest when I’m stuck in the house of an evening. The trick will be to grapple with that anxiety, rip its veneer off, face it down. The job for me will be to rise up and fill my own damn shoes. Then, set off, with a killer stride that eats up the miles, just as Lassie did as she made her way through depression-era England, to where she belonged.