“I can tell.”

She’s so smart, our girl. She can come in to the living room after bedtime and ask us questions about the nature of sand and waves–deep, serious, questions that her teacher could not answer in the moment our daughter posed them in class… and she can confide.

“I’m a little worried, because I can tell that my friends have a new friend to replace me. I can tell, Mom. I don’t think they’re going to care about me when I’m gone.”

What do you do, exactly, when your 9-year-old daughter can encapsulate, with eloquence and clarity, the sum of nearly all my fears?

“People keep going, honey. They make new friends, but that doesn’t mean you’re not there. You’re just not in front of them.”

As I said to my husband: we are so lucky to have a child who can sense, who can put words to her feelings and then actually use her voice to express them, so that we can help her.

Or so that she can help us.

the new girl

I wrote this post nearly two years ago, describing how when I was new to this town I’m now in, I insinuated myself into the lives of two of my now dearest friends. (Tonight I get to hang out with them. I’m counting down the minutes till 5:45, when I’ll head out.) 

I’m going to be 44 in June, and I’m going to be the new girl in town. Our daughter is kind of hoping we move before the school year ends. “Everybody wants to be friends with the new kid,” she asserts. 

I can only hope that I meet women like I’ve met here. T. and M., referenced in the story I link to above… I can’t say enough about them. T. brought us fresh strawberries and baked a pan of stuffed shells for us in those first days. She collected phone numbers and made sure we were all connected (the two of us, M., and another neighbor, P.). I was dumbfounded. I had never met — never thought it was actually possible to meet — anybody as extroverted and friendly and open as… as… Me. And she’s better than me. She’s generous with her time and her heart. I try to be more like her. Regularly.

A few months later we all went to a surprise party for another neighbor, J. J. turned 50. I sat next to M. M. and I had never really had a long conversation, but we seemed to click well enough at the birthday brunch. She’s just so beautiful. We got to talking about movies and I learned she adored Matthew McConaughey more than I did. (Didn’t think that was possible, either.) I told her she had a total Salma Hayek vibe about her. Because she does.

It took time, but over those first two years of our residence here, I got pretty tight with T. and M. 

T. rescued me from a frog that had jumped into bed with me. M. dispatched her son and his friend to remove a dying palmetto bug from our patio (read: prehistoric flying three-inch-long-just-the-thorax cockroach). Thanks to T. I learned to downhill ski. Thanks to M. I learned that being myself in new surroundings is generally better than being a chameleon. T. held my hand when I dislocated my knee. M. listened patiently during a particularly trying time as I contended with my mother’s illness. T. remembers our kids’s birthdays with balloons. M. gave me the best and most apt nickname I’ve ever had: CFO (which stands for Chill the F*** Out. Man, did I earn that).

There are so many ways that they’ve gotten under my skin. It’s hard to get under there, you know. And there’s no getting out. 

I turn 44 in June. I’m going to be the new girl in town. I’ll make new friends. But they’ll have to pass muster with T. and M. I think they’re planning to visit…

It’s 5:35. Ten minutes to go.

how to find the right answers

Man. Work, homework, housekeeping, volunteering, relationships, parenting, politics, interpersonal drama. There’s been a whole mess of it over the past several weeks, and I am tapped out. And I’m not nearly done with all that I need (or that I committed) to do.

I hate feeling like this: so busy, and not necessarily overwhelmed, but just at that point where you sigh a lot and think “oh for pete’s sake could I just have ten minutes of nothingness?”

I feel like this, and I have just two kids, a pretty nice amount of time, and the ability to say “no” to anything. I have so much control over my own stress level that I have no excuse to feel this way. And yet I do. I do, and that feeling tricks me: I catch myself thinking that my experience is somehow equal to that of another. And then I stop seeing another person in front of me, I only see me. Then I act or speak, and then I make a mistake, and morph into a fool.  

It’s this thing we do to ourselves. We think we know, and then we act, and then we err.

Our daughter — when she does her homework, sometimes she moves too quickly through her reading of a problem, and thinks she knows the answer, and writes it down, and then oops, she makes an error. She has to teach herself (and we try to help) that she simply must slow down, look at each word in front of her, never assume she knows everything she needs to know, and then, and only then, try to solve the problem. Then, and only then, will she find the right answer.

I talk to her about this, and I tell her, “I used to do the same thing, I’d think I’d know, and I’d be wrong.”

I still do the same thing.

Man oh MAN, I hate that.

But it’s temporary, right? Our ability to be wrong isn’t permanent. It comes and goes, just like our ability to be transparent, and reflective, about what and why we do whatever it is that we do. I know I can strengthen the preferable ability, but it’s hard to remember when I’m tired. Being tired makes me a bit more self-absorbed.

So here’s my reminder.

“There is only one important time, and that time is now. The most important one is always the one you are with. And the most important thing is to do good for the one who is standing by your side. . . . This is why we are here.”