Friday, May 13, 2011

cocktail waitresses and mothers

back when i thought my life was my own, i spent some time as a waitress. one thing you learn fast is that when you're carrying a tray of drinks, you shift your weight so that when someone takes a heavy glass off the tray, it stays balanced. you learn to stop sometimes to re-arrange everything on the tray so it won't topple over when the next thing goes.

these days, as sasha prepares to go to college, i can feel our family shifting as we get ready to lose a cornerstone. sasha and i moved back to nyc on our own and every decision i made after that - where i'd live, who i'd marry, the work i did, what sort of food i'd eat - was based on being sasha's mother.

it seems like five minutes ago, sasha was so new that when someone said to me, "i just met your daughter!" it took me a second to realize who they were talking about.

james didn't just marry me, he married us. i always believed he liked the idea of getting a little instant family. so sasha set the tone for everyone else. she chose the first toys and then the other two got matching ones. it was her developing fashion sense that dressed the others. if she wanted to see a movie or take karate or ballet, then everyone else came along for the ride.

all three went to the united nations international school, because it seemed so perfect for sasha. all three took ballet and piano - but no one else took karate because she'd lost interest in it by the time they were old enough.

first, zarina and then rara wore sasha's hand-me-downs (of course, now zarina is taller, has expensive taste and loves shopping, so we all wear HER hand-me-ups).

zarina is becoming more responsible and serious and moving up into the oldest sister position. rara is becoming more defiant as she stops being the baby. we're rearranging the places. and realizing that, in 2 years, zarina will be gone, too. the family dynamic we developed over the past 12 years is evolving.

sasha's acceptance to her first choice of colleges gave her the confidence to make a series of rapid psychological leaps in a month that many less cautious kids made over the past few years - she's learning to cook, reading the newspaper, opened a checking account. without being asked, she walks to the supermarket and buys the missing items from the fridge or walks the dog or cleans up the kitchen. she's eating salad instead of cookies.

on the other hand, she comes home later and later at night. she tests out new nightspots (but, at least, she also goes to museums). i watch her nervously but i don't place too many limits right now. if she's going to fall, i'd rather have her do it here where i'm around to pick up the pieces then when she's far from home for almost the first (long) stretch of time.

so these days, i am adjusting the tray and wondering how i will balance the sense of liberation with the empty space (soon to be filled, i'm sure).

Sunday, May 1, 2011

if you're happy and you don't know it...

i read somewhere - i wish i could remember where, maybe o magazine or maybe ode - that just the act of smiling changes your state of mind.

so as we drove back from syracuse on friday and we hit one road block and construction detour after another, i forced myself to smile.

sasha was playing a bunch of oldies on her ipod so that cheered me up, too - but i would have been swearing and stressing out and slamming on the brakes every 5 minutes - and i wasn't.

not that i was a jolly bundle of joy either, but i did arrive home after 9 hours of driving, without tense neck and shoulder muscles or back spasms.

"they" (whoever that was) say that the muscles in your face make the rest of your body relax and calm your mind and so they did.

my friend janan delgado once told me that there was a hadith (saying of the muslim prophet muhammad pbuh) that if you are angry, sit down. and if you are still angry, lie down.

since i've tossed and turned at night, seething over some perceived injustice, i know this doesn't work for me - but it's the same theory. if you smile - REALLY SMILE - not just a forced, pretending to be polite pained smile; let it soak in and feel like you're standing on a beach listening to calypso and smelling tropical flowers, you WILL feel better.

just results of my test.