The box arrived Thursday night; I knew not to open it. Even though the next day dear daughter would be picked up by her dad and not return until New Year's, I figure waiting that long for more presents she didn't know existed would be a small price to pay for my mental sanity.
I was still psyching myself up to run in a marathon, even though my attempted 20 mile training run over Thanksgiving was shot all to hell: I had stopped and came home shortly after 13 miles, at the start of my third lap. I directly attribute my lack of focus to an email I had received that week instructing me that I was "welcome" to go to my mother's over Thanksgiving if my plans permitted. I also attribute a psychologically-laden gift package which arrived for my daughter's 4th birthday in October.
Knowing my training wasn't the best toward the end, my hopes gravitated from ridiculously optimistic (sub-5!) to somewhat realistic (5.5hrs -6! walking some...), to hail-mary pessimistic (I just want to finish, I'm glad the time limit is all day).
I was surprised to find that a former co-worker was also running the race. If he hadn't been there I would have either 1) been an emotional wreck when, after 16 miles, I threw in the towel and cut across to the finish line to concede my race, or 2) kept going, however slowly, until I finally dropped to the ground.
Instead, after about 15.5 miles, my body began to work against me, the blood drained from my skull. I would stretch to the ground to get my focus back and be able to run again for another 100 yards or so, feeling pretty good. I thought I might have kept that up, jogging then stretching, until my lungs decided they had had enough and contracted like an asthmatic. The thought of passing out scared me, my fear affected my breathing, the thought of quitting made me want to cry. I was about to have a panic attack, but I kept my wits enough to realize if I were incapacitated on the trail, it would take the kindness and resourcefulness of other runners to get me help. If my friend lapped me and came to my rescue instead of finishing, I would be heartbroken for him. The organizers could have done a better job of monitoring the field--just sayin'.
So instead of my own "failure" and all that went into it, I focused on my friend. I was glad to see him and would be glad to see him finish. I thought that even if I were conditioned to finish I would likely miss out on chatting with him afterward, as he was about an hour faster than I would have been. Satisfied with my consolation prize, I was able to break off the trail and stagger slowly toward the officials booth with minimal emotional drama.
Finding my bag, I laid down on it, finally happy I made the right decision.
* * *
Returning home, I found Pandora's box still waiting to be opened. I wonder how its presence in my home affected me for the two days before the race.
Inside I found a tiny bag of Lindor truffles. Seems she is still defying my edict not to send candy. If it were cheap crap it would go in the trash, but I figured it could find a candy bowl at work.
A Christmas card with a wad of cash. "Apparently I'm not good at buying Josie presents," it read in my mother's hand, "So there is 50 dollars here for her, to save you the step of returning things." I rolled my eyes and put the cash on the counter, $150 total, wondering what I could spend it on instead just to piss her off. My suburban needed an oil change. At 170,000 miles, I'm sure it could also use a flush or two.
There were three wrapped gifts, one for me. I opened it to find a Scentsy stuffed animal--a lamb--but no smell-good to put inside it. I sighed and plunked it in my daughter's toy cubby. It obviously wasn't purchased for a thirty year old woman.
My daughter's gifts I left alone, they will wait for her return. I wondered if such a prolonged season of unwrapping presents, would she grow bored of the formality.
* * *
After a fretful night of half-sleep with sore legs, I got up around 11am to a sink of dishes. Mindless scrubbing seems to let my mind figure out shit, and I imagined speaking to a friend about my troubles with my mother.
"I'm a perpetual child to her. She can't acknowledge me past the age of 16."
"Did she actually think a stuffed lamb was an appropriate gift for a grown woman? Did she even buy it for me? Or just slapped my name on it? She bought it for herself, is what. Saying it was for me is just justification. She could have just said it was for Josie; the result would be the same. Why bother with the pretense?"
"The card is dripping with attitude and self-righteousness. She is not attempting to be nice."
"Something about the food. Sometimes it's like she's daring me to throw it away or to eat it. And now the cash. She's daring me to use the cash...to obey her or not."
"She's a fifty-six year old woman still telling a thirty year old woman what to do."
I stopped washing dishes. I dried my hands and grabbed Pandora's box from the utility room. The Scentsy lamb into its own box and into the larger, Josie's presents still wrapped were packed again, even the torn wrapping paper with my name on it. The tiny bag of Lindor truffles. On the front of the card with a sharpie, I wrote: You are not entitled to my life or my child. Keep your money. Stay Away From Me.
And into Pandora's box I packed my hope that she will one day change her regard for me as a grown woman. That she will see that to earn a place in my life she must treat me as any other grown woman on this planet.