I’m always shocked at the steals I find at Goodwill.
I mean, who thinks to donate battered three-ring binders to a thrift store? I couldn’t tell you, but I’m sure glad they do, because as I stood there gazing at them, amidst plastic bags of children’s toys and souvenir coffee mugs, my next steps became crystal clear.
I paused, lost in thought, as a man in a faded red ball cap and blue striped track pants rounded the aisle pushing an empty shopping cart, humming an indecipherable tune just loud enough for me to hear. I like to think of myself as a “woman of the world,” but honestly, I maintain a pretty sizeable personal bubble. I’m easily unsettled by strange, overly-conversational men in thrift shops, or anywhere, for that matter. And today, I was in no mood to make chit-chat. Oh God, pleeeeease don’t talk to me. I’m game to either stomp your nuts, or burst into tears.
Earlier that day, I awakened to yet another overcast, gloomy Missoula day, except that on this particular morning it was also snowing. Again. A giant middle finger aimed (quite personally) at my slouchy, dehydrated heart, unspeakably desperate for Spring. Heaving a dramatic sigh, I stumbled into the morning routine, because ready or not, it was happening. The kids were already awake and jonesing for their breakfast – waffles, always waffles.
Sluggish but steady, my husband and I wrangled our offspring from one task to another. Eat, play dinosaurs, potty, brush teeth, get dressed. Negotiate with my son to please wear less soiled pants. Get dressed again. Intermittently, we poured black coffee down our throats, flashing one another “why-the-f*ck-did-we-make-these-humans?” glances as our dormant brains slowly caught up to our moving bodies.
When we encountered the inevitable moments of tension – my son wearing his striped pajama pants for the third day in a row, my daughter announcing she’d “made caca” with no apparent intention of allowing us to remedy the situation – we soothed ourselves with our hump-day mantra: “It’s Wednesday. It’s Wednesday. It’s Wednesday.”
Wednesdays are our jam. With no family in town, it’s our mid-week breather, when both kids are in daycare from 9:00am until 5:00pm, while we get to run around painting the town red: (hiding wine in my purse and) going to Home Depot to stare at microwaves and drawer pulls. (Hiding wine in my purse and) browsing thrift stores for Cosby sweaters. (Hiding wine in my purse and) catching a mid-day movie. Swinging by the drugstore to replenish my purse wine.
There’s usually a lot of excitement building as Wednesday approaches, right up until the moment we shove our kids into daycare and beat a hasty retreat. At that point, we realize there’s f*ck-all to do in late winter Montana with an ever-shrinking eight-hour time window. Our spirits grow dampened and defeated, and we turn our disappointment onto each other, because who else is around?
On this most recent Wednesday, our heightened emotions took the form of a meaningless spat about my sloth-like nature. I’m slow as molasses. It’s just the truth, and probably always will be. I’m a living, breathing contradiction – in my work and home life, I thirst for efficiency and order, but in social situations, I become the ultimate procrastinator. I meander. I putter.
When I drop the kids at daycare, it often takes more than a hot minute. I make conversation with the daycare ladies, help my kids out of their coats, banter a bit with a passing toddler, and mine the cubbies for forgotten treasures. I like to think that this endears me to the teachers enough to earn special privileges and treats for my kids, or at least a look the other way when I’m running especially late to pick them up. In hindsight, it more likely irritates and disturbs them.
My husband, on the other hand, is the drop-and-run type. The kids are barely buckled into their car seats for delivery to school, and he’s already forgotten their names and faces. He balks at my behavior; what I view as “friendliness” and “being personable,” he views as a needless waste of time.
In the time it took to drive one block to the Goodwill for our weekly childless thrift store jubilee, our disparate perspectives about the necessity of small talk had reached a boiling point, and we were no longer speaking. Before I even shifted into park, my husband dove out of the car and bee-lined for the front doors like a spy in a Jason Statham movie. I huffed, casually taking one last sip of my coffee and replacing it to the cup holder, turning off the engine, and pilfering through the backseat wasteland to collect my wallet and purse. And a handful of wet wipes. #WetWipesAlways.
In these moments, I miss dating.
Specifically, I miss fighting with a boyfriend. I miss long drives on winding coastal back roads, alone with my thoughts, John Mayer blaring on the stereo, tears welling up as I free-fall into full-blown melancholy. I miss melancholy. I miss hours and days of wallowing in my worries, really chewing on each emotion, tasting the bittersweet, delicious sadness, and fear, and confusion. I miss surrendering to total aimlessness, and floating in a pool of uncertainty and inner chaos, surrounded by more questions than answers. I miss pondering the meaning of it all, and feeling extremely, heinously sorry for myself.
These days, there isn’t time for such a dramatic display of colors. I’ve got shit to do. There are dinners, dishes, writing, dirty clothes, lovemaking (ha!), errands, more writing, bedtimes, arguments about a deficit of lovemaking, and an endlessly neglected Netflix queue needing attention. And amidst all of the hustle and bustle of living, I sorely long to jump in my car and wander until I feel all the feelings.
I suppose it isn’t exactly the driving I miss, nor the melancholy. It’s the ability to allow myself space to feel, plenty of elbow room to languish in whatever the hell my soul needs at any given time. Adult life tends to crowd out that sort of space.
Being over 30 makes you feel silly, or impulsive, for taking that kind of breather.
I read recently that French women don’t work out on a schedule. I’m probably over-generalizing and paraphrasing any semblance of truth from the article, but according to what my clouded mom brain remembers, French women sort of do whatever the f*ck they feel like doing. Want to hit the gym and sweat out some stress? Let’s go! Want to lounge all day in yoga pants drinking coffee and eating pastries far smaller than makes logical sense? Let’s do it.
Whether or not the article projected a realistic picture of a French woman’s existence, the idea behind it got me thinking: what if I gave my soul a voice every once awhile? What if, instead of waking up in the morning and flooding my mind with a task list of things I “should” do, I just went with the flow?
Somehow, my very American, well-meaning, Southern Protestant upbringing left me with the impression that my innate desires aren’t to be trusted. Inevitably, they’ll lead me astray. Give them an inch, and I’ll be lost, fat, drunk, and alone (and smoking POT!) Well, half of those things are already true, and I’m beginning to think there’s a conspiracy afoot to convince us (ladyfolk) to ignore our intuition. An intuition that, I believe, is God-given, and usually completely right about what we need. And intuition that, when ignored, leaves us empty, drained, and thirsty for something real.
So, I’ve decided to practice giving my intuition a little more floor space.
I’m going to the gym (or not) when I feel my body telling me it’s time. I’m taking the long way home from the grocery store, hitting up an old friend on a whim, taking a leisurely walk with my husband on occasion, and wearing platform sneakers. OMG.
And I’m listening to that inner voice when it tells me that a childless day with my husband is worth more than preserving my pride. When we happened by Goodwill on this fateful Wednesday, and I stumbled onto a well-loved three-ring binder that my husband needed for his impending adventure into the world of harmonica lessons, I considered saying nothing of my discovery.
But my inner wisdom knew better. She recognized the opportunity to break our stalemate with a peace offering. For a moment, my mind traveled down well-worn canyons, John Mayer at my side as I nurtured my inner Drama Queen. She gets so little attention these days. But then, stirred from my reverie by an older gentleman in a baseball cap and track pants, I threw the car in park, bid Mr. Mayer adieu, and returned to life as usual, making sure to save a seat for Intuition.