The insufferable Marin Power Mom, bedecked in high-end technical fabrics and $200 running shoes, is doing plyometrics while barking orders at her two sons playing their iteration of something approximating bocce ball. Rather than play with them or join them in the merrymaking, she does burpees, cardio kicks and squat-knee-slap jumps (there's no doubt a better descriptor), demarcating her Self-Care. This exorbitantly overpriced 48 hours is her time too! Her Apple Watch and premium Fitbit Versa securely adorn her wrists, measuring her steps, her successes, her self-worth. She monitors her metrics more than her children, one senses, not just now but most hours of most days.
"Yes, Bryce!" she shrieks (oblivious to the post-vaccinated person, namely me, 30 feet behind her on a patio attempting in vain to meditate, having carved out a corner of should-be silence in a sublime setting at 7:30a for the first time in what feels like ... eleven months). "That's a great strategy -- you want to knock his ball away from the yellow** ball, so your ball is closer!"
It's never too soon -- her boys appear to be four and six -- in this privileged pocket of the world to foster an unhealthy sense of competition. To show who's who is boss. Ignoring the gyrating mother's coach/control/ing, the boys eventually start throwing the balls at one another. I'm admittedly pleased enough with this inevitable turn of events to pause my Insight Timer so I don't miss the teaching moment (for the mother of course, not the boys). With this development, however, she is perturbed, not because they aren't properly mastering the sport by heeding her helpful tips but because she has to cut her workout short.
Stomping through the wet grass, she grabs the older one's sleeve and frog marches them to the resort office where she loads up on "complimentary" coffee, continuing to fill the hole that is her soul with something outside herself, having long since cordoned off the funny, engaging chi within -- along with the perfectly imperfect human that created these two beautiful children.
**She meant pallino ball.
/// Flip side ///
How's That Working For You?
She'd been up most of the night again, unable to quiet her monkey mind. Her younger son had crawled into bed with her at some point, a no-no at home but she was too exhausted on this, her first "vacation" as a single mom, to object. Instead, she stared at the ceiling, afraid to move lest she wake him up. Limbs akimbo. Frozen and fretting. After 10 years of sleeping/not sleeping with her sons' father, she was not yet accustomed to sleeping/not sleeping without him.
This weekend respite was designed to offer solace to her boys, to let them know they could and would be okay because mom could and would be okay. Her therapist had repeated the research findings gently -- if the mother tanks post-divorce, the children will follow suit. The word behind the words, that she was beginning to hear everywhere, was that the children of non-intact families irreversibly swerve off into some trajectory other than overachieving student athlete and this, too, would be her fault. Everything would be her fault.
Never mind that her soon-to-be ex had been depressed for ten years. Never mind that he had not initiated sex for the last two years of their ostensibly perfect union. He was too tired, too sad, too stressed, too ... self-absorbed. He could take it or leave it. She could not. Leave it, that is. She had her theories, including but not limited to his eggs having been scrambled by a controlling, nightmare-of-a-mother, whose addiction to painkillers and elder anorexia were topics not to be discussed. Ever. That his mother treated his father like a servant (a pattern he was destined to repeat in their marriage) was likewise off the table, even during their half-hearted attempts at couples counseling.
Last week during EMDR, she was instructed by her therapist to imagine him as a young boy, afraid and alone despite being the youngest of five brothers. Imagine being raised in a family incapable of conveying warmth, vulnerability. In the movie in her mind, they were the cast of Ordinary People.
This helped her feel compassion towards him for up to 24 hours, until he would invariably pull a prick move, like refusing to pay his half of their sons' therapy.
"You were the one who left," he texted, "You pay for the mess."
Her range of possible responses to that text were obsessively occupying her thoughts when her older son, Auden, who had just turned six, wandered into the bedroom from his assigned pull-out couch. It was before first light, but she again gave in. She felt like she'd been hit by a Mack truck, despite assiduously abstaining from alcohol and sugar -- which didn't mix well with her cocktail of antidepressants and psychotropics designed to drag newly divorced people through the morass that would be Their Lives for at least three years.
The only way she would survive this day as a single parent would be by way of a lot of caffeine and what had become her half-assed, pathetic workout, a kind of Jane-Fonda-meets-Richard-Simmons routine she was relegated to doing for 20 minutes while the boys, God willing, occupied themselves in a way that didn't involve turning household objects into weapons or someone losing an eye.
She managed to belt half a cup of truly horrific coffee, get the boys dressed and herd them out the door into the pristine resort property, replete with Buddha statues and olive trees. They sprinted to the bocce court before she could object. Yes, it was early, but this was yet another battle she would forgo that day, saving her limited stores of energy for later, when they would be hangry, overtired and overtly hostile, missing their father.
She was sure they were alone when, about halfway through her one-armed burpees, she noticed the pinched, older woman shooting daggers at her -- no small feat, given that she appeared to be meditating.
How's that working for you? her sardonic self wanted to ask.
Instead, she was formulating her apology when Auden pelted Bryce in the chest with a ball, point-blank range.
Glancing over her shoulder as she ushered them quickly to the office, having remembered the free life force that is more and better coffee awaited her there, she hoped to make a connection by way of contrition with the meditator, whose eyes were now covered with a sleep mask.