Every morning my Google Calendar alert says “you have no events scheduled today.” This used to be my favorite part of my email, but my prayers for permanent lockdown went unanswered, and my brother did shared screen to help me book a flight and he saw I have no calendar and he lost his shit.
1. Listen to other people. They’ll see the dead end before you do.
He asked me how I keep track of my schedule.
I told him I agree to very little and when I do agree I tell people to call me when it’s time.
He told me this is not an effective way to be an adult.
I think: Whatever.
He told me this is really inconsiderate.
I care about that. So now my email reminds me each day to check my calendar. Which is just as well because I had also been using Nino as my calendar but he doesn’t live with us anymore. A year ago the kids staged a rebellion and Y said, “Just be the adult and get him to move out.”
2. Goals that emphasize what’s working well will evaporate a dead end.
Nino moved out, but he still comes over three or four days a week. He drives the kids to doctor appointments which is good because I totaled three BMW SUVs in three years because I don’t have an attention span for driving. Also, as we have established, I don’t keep a calendar, and it’s not like I can make a doctor appointment and say Call me when it’s time.
Nino breaks late so the car jerks to a stop. I try to ignore that and just be grateful that he’s driving. You can tell it’s difficult for me because I also told myself that if I’m going to write about Nino I have to write about his good parts. I don’t think we would have gotten a divorce if I had shown him more gratitude. Or any gratitude.
In relationships we can choose gratitude or disdain. What is my fucking problem that I show gratitude to my parents for my childhood and disdain to Nino for our marriage?
3. Test options that looked bad before – they might look better now.
I am not solving this problem while I lay on the sofa with my computer and Nino lays on the opposite sofa with the dog. Nino meant to get to the apartment later and I meant to leave earlier. Each of us has a little plan for how to not end up spending the day together. We have failed.
Z asks us all the time what we will do when the kids are gone. I think we have our answer: I’ll cuddle with the computer and Nino will cuddle with the dog and I will pretend to not write about him but I will write about him because I don’t know how to love someone without writing about them.
I test what he’s willing to talk about with me. I look at my laptop so it’s casual but I want to know how much he still hates me. I ask about work. I ask about his parents. I ask if he wants lunch. Normally I make lunch for Nino and Z but it would be taking another big step for me to just make lunch for Nino so he says no.
Z will eat lunch at work. There are a lot of ways I can tell there’s a labor shortage for restaurants. One is that Z’s first job took him literally one day to get and he’s making $15/hr. Another way to tell is that the chefs make food for the employees every day. When I was a scooper at Baskin Robbins I wasn’t even allowed to make myself a sundae.
4. Look at the situation from other perspectives.
I work on my calendar. I add everything I can think of. It’s important to make sure I do not annoy my brother with subpar calendaring because he helps me a lot in navigating life. Like, I’m pitching a new company to investors and I’m out of practice and I didn’t know the conventions for sending a Zoom link — do I send it or does the VC? So I have to ask my brother questions like this, which I used to answer for him twenty years ago when he was an intern at my startup.
I tell him, “It’s so hard to pitch when I’m no longer young and hot. It’s easy to do anything when you’re young and hot.”
He says, “I think I know women who would disagree with that.”
(My brothers are always clarifying my black-and-white proclamations. If I let them have dialogue in every blog post I would have nothing left to say that’s interesting. What I mean is that pretty much anything you want to do is easier to do if you’re young and hot. Which is a duh. Okay, fine.)
Nino brings up a topic: “When will Y come have dinner with us?”
I look over at him, “Are you joking? How often did you go home to your parents’ house for dinner when you were at college a few blocks from them?”
Nino thinks about it. “I guess never.”
“So why would you expect things to be different here?”
“Because I’m the dad and I miss him.”
What the fuck. I have to write so I don’t start lecturing him on how stupid it was for him to leave the family when Y was four. I appreciate that Nino doesn’t lecture me on how stupid it was to miss so many doctor appointments for so long. And dentist. Z had six cavities. Nino only lectures me on that I ruined his life. But that was fifteen years ago, when we got a divorce. Since then he’s never lectured me. I am trying to return the favor.
5. Reframe the situation so you still have the power.
Z calls to say he’s working an extra hour. I used to get snippy about working too many hours, but he speaks Spanish 90% of the time at his job and his best friends are there. I tell myself to be grateful for how many problems this job solves for our family and not worry so much that I don’t believe in kids working a dead-end job instead of developing a passion.
Nino walks the dog. I wonder what Nino says when people invariably say, “Your dog is so beautiful. Can I pet her?”
I always say, “No, she’s not that friendly.”
Then they say, “Oh, is she a rescue?”
And I say, “Yes,” because I can’t stand admitting that we had every opportunity to have an emotionally balanced dog and I blew it.
The dog bursts in the door with licks and a stick from outside. I ask Nino. He says he tells them you shouldn’t pet her and walks away so he doesn’t have to talk with anyone.
I tell him people will hate him and the dog if he’s rude.
He says people already probably hate him. He turns to the dog to trade a ball for a stick.
“Why do they hate you?”
“People ask me if I’m your husband.”
“Oh God. What do you say?”
“I say no.” The dog hears no and tilts her head.
“That’s absurd. Do you want them to think you’re some random guy hanging out with my kids and walking my dog? You just back yourself into a corner.”
“You think everything’s a dead end.”
“Well I definitely think this one is. For you.”
“You thinking it’s a dead end doesn’t make it a dead end. It just means things aren’t going how you planned.”
The dog does a circle and sits at his feet like they’ve both just won a prize.