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My mother has been visiting once per week to “help” me in my efforts to juggle my business with my new role as a mother. My sarcasm is due to the fact that she and I both know these visits are actually about being able to spend time with my son, Max – not about making my life easier.  The truth of the matter is that my perpetual to-do list is always at least 20% longer after one of my mother’s visits. So if she assists me in knocking two things off my list but adds five onto it, is that helping?

There are a lot of ways in which my mom actually does make my life easier: she brings new clothes for Max to replace those he outgrew, she cleans the dirty dishes piled in the sink, and she attends to Max so I can work. In return for her kindness, I am subjected to an endless list of recommendations, suggestions, and improvements that should be made, all of which can be supported by articles she clipped from Good Housekeeping magazine or the Star-Ledger. Some of these contributions are useful and some are, in fact, critical. The issue is the magnitude; there is only so much a person can digest in terms of things he or she “should” be doing at a given moment.

If I get frustrated with my mother, then I feel guilty and unappreciative because I know she means well and she cares.  On the other hand, sometimes she crosses the line into the territory of being controlling. Over the last nine months, she and I have discussed – okay, argued about – how to balance her need to tell me all of these things with my need to be left alone. I’m happy to report that we finally seem to have a process, a coping mechanism if you will, that seems to work.

Every time my mother gives me a suggestion or direction that I don’t have the energy or desire to deal with, I simply restate it with the words “…your face.” For example, when she grabs me between client meetings to tell me that I should clean the baseboard heaters, my response is “Maybe you should clean your face.” Or when she asks me if we have debt, I simply ask “I don’t know, does your face have debt?” Depending on how stressed or irritated I am at the moment when my mother gives me the unsolicited advice, I might choose to replace the word “face” with the word “butt,” as in “Maybe you should clean your butt” or “Does your butt have debt?”

It’s completely immature, but it makes me snicker (yes, I laugh at my own jokes) and it confuses her long enough for me to escape back into my office. I am not sure how many more times I’ll be able to get away with this approach for deflecting my mom’s endless suggestions, but I will definitely milk it for all it’s worth.

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The following is an actual conversation I had with my husband when I was eight months pregnant:

ME:   I want to go to the city on Friday to visit the energy healer, but I’m nervous. (Author’s Note: File “I want to…visit the energy healer” under things I never thought I would hear myself say.)

MATT:   Why would you be nervous?

ME:   Because. What if someone sees me and realizes how pregnant I am? Then they might kidnap and kill me and cut the baby out and sell him on the black market.

MATT:   (Pause.) What? Why would you think that would happen?

ME:   That sort of thing happens all the time. It’s not uncommon. I heard it happening recently in the news!

Matt’s incredulous, wide-eyed stare indicates that he is weighing the pros and cons of making his next statement….

MATT:   Ummm…Baby? I believe that was actually a Law and Order episode.

I was speechless for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was that I had been completely serious in my concern that someone might steal my baby. I was also stunned when it hit me that I had been watching so much TV that the lines between reality and my fantasy-TV-world had become so blurred. I was impressed at how brave Matt had been to break the news to me, because it was entirely possible that in my anger at myself for being such a big loser, I might have shot the messenger.

Reality-check in Aisle 5, please.

In fairness, Law and Order episodes are “ripped from the headlines.” If I was honest with myself, though, the true cause of any confusion was the fact that I had been watching about four hours of Law and Order a day for the previous month. I blame TNT for allowing this to happen – damn them and their beautiful syndication!

Yes, I know there is research that television is bad for you: it’s linked to obesity, depression, homicide, suicide, acne and excessive spending.  So I made some of that up. Nonetheless, most people agree that doing things is much preferable to watching imaginary people do things. But when I am stressed and tired and life is getting me down nothing makes me feel better than snuggling up to my flat-screen high-definition television and some wonderfully cheesy Lifetime movie.

Am I the only one who gets so invested in the television I watch that I sometimes start to think about these people as real? What is it about watching a series regularly that makes you feel as if you know the characters personally? Cheers and Seinfeld, two comedy classics, were hilarious partly because the characters were so well-developed that you could actually predict how they might act or what they might say in a certain situation. This familiarity created anticipation that heightened the comedy, and it also made the characters become friends-in-your-head.

Then there is the consideration that these characters come into your home. They visit you weekly or nightly or even four hours a night like my friends Briscoe and Curtis. They can be in your life for years, especially if you’re willing to mindlessly sit through reruns. In fact, some of my TV friendships have lasted longer than my friendships with real people. As life gets busier, it’s just easier to stay in touch with the friends you can record on your DVR.

Five years ago, when I was going through a divorce and I was feeling very low, I had no energy to do anything other than go to work and pretend that everything was fine. By the time I got home I was completed drained; as a result my evening ritual consisted of sitting on the couch eating Mexican food and watching reruns of the Gilmore Girls. If you need to escape a sad reality, why wouldn’t you go to a place filled with eccentric characters who say witty things while hanging out in a diner? Why wouldn’t you want to visit with people to whom bad things don’t happen, where the worst thing that ever happens is that the main character gets into a fender bender with the car her boyfriend gave her? I can think of worse places to visit than Stars Hollow, and my spending time in that imaginary town went on for months.

So it should come as no surprise that, as I was walking through town with a friend last Friday, I had another mix-up. I started to wave at someone before quickly retracting my hand.

“Do you know her?” my friend asked.

“I thought I did, but it was someone else,” I replied. I had thought it was Lane Kim…one of my friends from the Gilmore Girls.

How pathetic.

About Me

The purpose of this blog is purely self-expression - being creative for the sake of being creative. It has evolved into a collection of non-fiction essays.

All of the anecdotes and incidents you read in this blog are completely true and not exaggerated, no matter how sad, pathetic or unbelievable they may seem.

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© Operation Peace and Serenity, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Operation Peace and Serenity with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.