Yesterday I lost my favorite bracelet. This bracelet is a simple braided black leather band. The clasp, however, is distinctive: two silver dragon heads, each biting down on a silver circle that resembles the leather band. My husband gave it to me the Christmas we went to Tahoe for Eldest daughter’s wedding and it quickly became a signature piece for me. I like dragons. Dragons capture our imagination, fueling our fears yet giving us power. When I taught middle school, I taught a dragon unit to introduce research skills and teamwork. Seventh graders like visuals, so I bought a dragon toy. Dragons multiple mysteriously. Soon I had a collection of toys, including a kite. I had a collection of dragon picture books and posters. I had a dragon weather vane and a dragon sculpture for the garden, (neither was used in the classroom). Dragons are mysterious, wise, powerful, yet primitive. Dragons are forces of nature. Wearing the bracelet signaled that I was the dragon lady, not to be underestimated. If I wore black, I wore this bracelet. I wore it often.
This is how I lost the bracelet. Yesterday morning I was rushing my morning routine because I had agreed to go to the doctor’s with my daughter and grandson. I knew my daughter wanted to leave and there I was, dillydallying at the jewelry box. I put on my necklace and earrings, selected two bracelets and put them in my pocket so that I could put them on in the car. When I got in the car, I forgot the bracelets were there.
I forgot because I was looking at my Blackberry. Several times it had beeped that morning, but I could not look at it because I had to get chores done before I could get ready for the doctor’s visit. This is my routine: I get up, wash my face and dress in sweats. I put electronic collars on the dogs, shut the doors to the rooms with cat boxes, make a pot of coffee, let the dogs out, walk up the driveway with the dogs to get the papers, clean up the dog messes, go back into the house to feed the dogs, clean the downstairs cat box, empty the dishwasher, make another pot of coffee, and finally eat breakfast, skimming the New York Times. If I don’t empty the dishwasher first thing in the morning, I have a sink full of dishes by lunch. Mother’s Day I had a break from this routine and the dogs emptied the downstairs cat box for me. Monday morning lawn cleanup was interesting. So since my daughter was driving, I finally had a moment to look at FB, read a blog, read the NEA Morning Update, and relax. I didn’t remember that I meant to slip the bracelets on in the car.
I didn’t remember the bracelets until my daughter took the baby out of the car seat to put him on the exam table and I leaned against the exam table to remove the car seat. I could feel the one bracelet in my pocket. I pulled it out and remembered that I had two. The dragon bracelet had fallen out. Where? The lobby? The street? The parking garage? The car? I looked everywhere. It was nowhere. And we had other errands.
Off we went to get a birth certificate for the baby, but the loss of the bracelet made me sad. I texted my husband, mourning the loss. As I walked the corridors of the Hartford City Hall, soothing my grandson, I tried to analyze why losing this bracelet made me feel so blue. I admit that I overanalyze myself (and others) all the time but this is my theory: Losing the bracelet was like losing part of myself. I feel myself fading away each morning as the demands and chores increase like Sarah Sylvia Cynthia Stout’s garbage. In December I woke up, put on my sweats, fed the dogs, ate a light breakfast, went for a run where I thought about the day’s lessons, and then got ready for work. The dishwasher needed to be run just once a day. The one cat box was in a spot where the dogs couldn’t get it. My husband made the coffee or we used our Keurig. I had routine. I had purpose. I had a job that required planning and creativity. I had a job that required organization and concentration: believe me, I had 156 papers to read every other week and 30 to read every week (true confession: I don’t miss this aspect of my career). But I had a focus to my day that was not interrupted by others’ demands (admittedly there were administrator, parent and student demands but there was also a union to limit demands). I came home and relaxed by fixing dinner for my husband and me. Now cooking is becoming a dreaded chore rather than a hobby: “I can’t eat this.” “I don’t like that.” “We shouldn’t have ____.” “______ doesn’t like _____.” “Can you make ___?” Somehow I have become the personal chef, the housekeeper, the chauffer, the babysitter . . . Where is my time? Where did my career go?
Where is my life? Where is my energy? My creative drive? All my time seems to be sucked up by vacuuming, dusting, picking up after other adults, and chasing the cat out of the garage. I didn’t know it would be like this. I spent sixteen years home with my children, but that was different. While those years were not all sunshine and rainbows, the smiles and laughter made any personal sacrifice worthwhile. (And my husband and I fought constantly then about how little housework I got done.) This is not the same. I have no playgroups (which are really social events for moms). I have no impromptu school parking lot visits with friends. I have no sense that what I am doing is important or meaningful or even my responsibility. Instead I am drained of energy by menial tasks. I am drowning in others’ expectations.
I found the bracelet when I got home. It was at the bottom of the stairs in the front hallway. Now can I find myself?