This year

has been unprecedented, of course. But it’s had some lovely little moments. I’m finding joys in domesticity. My kids are the age of board games and reading chapter books and piecing together puzzles and walking to the park or the lake and beside that baby cuddling (which yes, I crave again with every ounce of my being) and marveling at all the new things toddlers learn, this part of child rearing must be my favorite.

They come home from school a little smarter each day, a little more clever, with a few more friends. Brandon can make Powerpoint presentations, is perfecting his comedic timing, and knows all about video games and animals and researching is becoming a new passion. He is working on handling his emotions. He feels so hard. I get it. It’s hard to keep riptide emotions socially acceptable at times.

I watched this training video for my slam poetry coaching gig and it talks about how we teach children hard skills but only reprimand them for not knowing how to behave. And I felt guilty, because yes, I parent that way too. So we’re putting aside days to practice being good sportsmen and taking our emotions away from other people to process them. We’re practicing how to treat other people and ourselves like we would practice handwriting or playing an instrument.

Holden dances for his friends and makes up the most ridiculous stories and games and talks constantly. He is working on his sounds and can say his Ls now. He over enunciates so hard and I love to ask him to say “Luh-izard” or “ha-PENS.” He recently decided to become healthy and strong. And then he tacked on that he would be a vegetarian. Today he slipped up and had a cheeseburger at lunch but he will return to vegetarianism tomorrow.

And I’ve been with this lovely partner of mine for nearly a year now. We have settled into a comfort of our own, despite our separate lives. This is my first time dating another divorcee, another parent. And it suits me. He has his kids, I have my kids. A lot of times we are separate from each other but connected by sharing little nothings over text or calling to hear the other’s voice. Sometimes we hang out while one of us parents. A couple times we’ve taken all our kids somewhere together. And sometimes, one of us parents and the other one spends some time doing our individual things.

This summer my friend and I spent a lot of time at the river. It became our spot and I would bring snacks from Target after my shift ended and sometimes we would sit in the river for hours or sometimes I’d fall asleep on her blanket or sometimes we just talked and listened to music from her bluetooth speaker. Sometimes I beat her there and I read library books or started poems. A couple weeks ago we were there while it got dark and we stood in the river and watched the moon across the ripples and then last week we spent a night camping there. It has been the summer of the river. I empty sand out of my clothes and wash it off my skin.

This year I have contemplated mortality more than ever. Between Chad’s diagnosis and a writer and friend I loved the second I met her at the MFA program being hospitalized without hope of recovery, I have cried over the fleeting of life, the unfairness of death’s selections.

There was so much despair at the beginning of quarantine, at the horribleness of humanity, at the bleakness of my own small life.

But there has been so much tender love. I haven’t seen my best friends since February but we see each other a few times a month over Zoom. We read together, write together, shoot the shit. We cheer each other on through group chats and send care packages. We keep ourselves connected as best we can. Another friend of mine from the MFA program is teaching me to knit. I made a budget and took an office job that offered to work around my schedule of dropping off my kids at school, picking them up, and coaching a slam poetry team. The other girls and I share office banter and on invoicing day the boss buys us lunch and we have perfected water cooler talk.

Everyone is proud of my sobriety, of my most stable job since divorcehood, of my new slant toward safety. And I am proud too.

I am writing honestly and falling asleep by ten. I am making playlists and not reading as much as I should or exercising but each day I lie down and think I have lived well today. There is joy in these smaller pleasures, too. In domesticity, in quiet. I eat takeout instead of at restaurants and I pick up my groceries curbside and I don’t miss the public save for poetry readings. I have my boys and my man and my art and my friends and this humble little life and this is plenty.

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