My Million Dollar Baby

Questions of security. Illusion. Hope. Fantasy. Living in an imaginary future, for better and for worse. Things have been in rapidly changing mode for the past couple of weeks. Thank God our kids are healthy (spit over my shoulder), and we are in our home with our animals in a town filled with real-live friends in a world filled with benevolence, I have to believe this. But the pressures, the disappointments, the risks, the stakes, the tensions, the losses, the rocky waves and cracking ice – it has all been growing, almost to the point of too much, of raging, of breaking.


Ice-skating this morning after each of us had had our turn at tears or near-tears was a good thing. We had Mallett’s Bay all to ourselves, and found just enough smooth patches of ice after last week’s big melt to glide. Never one to miss a metaphor, I couldn’t believe how fitting it was; there I was, trying to maintain some semblance of grace, of balance, on ice that was mostly bumpy and uneven and in places, unpredictable. There we were with our kids on a frozen lake on a day devoted to love, having some good, free fun. Aviva hasn’t skated much, and I have to say I was impressed by her fearlessness and speed. Pearl desperately wants “big boy skates” of her own, but for now she was the “boot person,” pulling all of our stuff around in a sled. And Greg and I – the skating past each other, around each other, being in each other’s presence, in motion, without having to talk all that much – well, it was a good bridge to the processing and strategizing I am anticipating us having to do.

Afterwards, Aviva and I both squatted behind a big concrete barrier to pee, hoping the ice fishermen on their funny, fat motorcycles wouldn’t notice us. By then, Pearl had stripped down to her race-car pajamas. On our way back to the car, Greg leaned over to me and said he had a crazy proposition for lunch. “There’s a McDonald’s nearby…” I looked at him crazy. “Are you serious?” Which he so clearly was, and the girls were thrilled and humming with the chicken nuggets and they called their grandparents and announced their whereabouts and chatted happily, and I marveled at how much work family life is. Just a few hours earlier, we were imploding as a foursome, that domino effect that happens when one person is off, grumpy, negative, difficult (I am not going to name names here), and then that second person finally snaps and throws a piece of heart-chaped challah french toast across the room, then when the first person finally pulls it together, the third party falls apart just to balance things back out, when finally, the second person pushes the fourth person’s buttons and she topples, the queen knocked right off her throne, people. (That would be me.)


We used to feel shielded from “the economy” here in Burlington. But “the economy” is dying on a vine here as everywhere, and we are feeling it. I won’t go into details, except to say that we have been moving towards something for many months that is not going to happen, at least not now in the way we had imagined. So we are adjusting to the new reality, which in reality is absolutely no different from the old reality. Only the future has changed, and the cockamamie part of all this is that the future hadn’t even happened yet. So really, it is the kind of loss where much of the letting go is of an idea.

And the other truth is that things are never static; just as our morning underwent such a thorough transformation in the space of hours, so too will our work/business/financial situation continue to change. Some of it is about the effort, the commitment to trying, to working at it – like family life, it is not easy. Easy, in the moment at least, would be to bail. To throw in the towel, to succumb to anger, or the couch, or the woods alone, or worse. Staying with it, moving forward – these take everything, this is the real work, on every front.


I have had some good storms the past few days, storms alone, alone in my room changing the sheets, storms punctuated by lovely Shabbat dinners with friends and construction-paper-Valentine’s Day-heart-making sessions on the living room floor, storms interrupted by pick-ups and drop-offs, storms separated by gymnastics classes and violin lessons and falling asleep so early and seeing a medical intuitive three times in nine days (something, by the way, I want to write about here at some point, to share, an incredible resource). And some calm pockets, too, as much as I sometimes don’t want to let those penetrate. Like now, Greg’s asleep, Pearl’s asleep, and Aviva is playing with her very best friend from three houses away.

This is a roller-coaster ride, indeed. And for the record: I don’t like roller-coasters. It might be time to check out the boxing gym down the hill in Winooski, find a place to express my Million Dollar Baby, my one-two punch, my float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, writing the kinds of poems that sweep you up and land you right back on your feet again, land me right back on my own. Time to find ways of keeping the faith, the home-fires burning, to keep believing, to keep it together even as some things fall apart. Time to take it one day, one step, one discussion, one moment, one breath at a time. This I can manage.

Especially if the sun is shining.

7 thoughts on “My Million Dollar Baby

  1. GailNHB says:

    You have a way with words, dear Jena, a way of describing, retelling your stories, a way of realigning, rearranging my thoughts in the least expected, but perfectly necessary and much needed way.

    Insecurity, pressures, disappointments, tension, loss, tears, meltdowns and fear about the future and dreams deferred… yes, yes, yes. But good food and laughter and poetry and faith and fearlessness and hope and fulfilled wishes too.

    Thank you for this.


  2. Nerdy Renegade says:

    Amazing, honest, heartfelt post, dear Jena. *Love* your stories and the way you weave what we are all feeling these days into tales of truth and beauty, even in the midst of your storms.

    We are with you.




  3. Rowena says:

    Life is hard. I am beginning to think that it shouldn’t be easy. We too have had a whole heap of struggle lately, and dashed hopes are really hard to deal with.

    But I think the key to getting through the tough times is to be here now.

    If you’re in the moment, then you can’t freak out about the future or regret the past, or wish you were in some alternate reality, you are just living.

    And anyway you slice it, isn’t living pretty awesome? (if you can get out of your own way.)


  4. The Other Laura says:

    It’s good to hear someone say “out loud” that family life is hard and also that it can be magically transformed when we least expect it.

    The economy crumbles around us too. We are planning a larger spring garden (I call it our victory/economic recovery garden)and belt tightening where we can.


  5. She She says:

    I love this video. I imagine you watching it in 5 years and seeing only the sweetness. (It’s all sweetness.) And look how graceful you are!



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