I’m Not Pretending

1168695fc86a72f4724d2b5ad773b270“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” – Kurt Vonnegut, from Mother Night

I’m not pretending I had the patience to let the spinach-egg-cheese mixture sit in the fridge for an entire hour.

I’m not pretending I can’t wait until you can cook for us again.

I’m not pretending I know how to parent a pre-adolescent girl but am doing it anyway. I’m not pretending when I say, “Because I said so,” or when I say, “Because I love you,” or when I say, “I’m sorry you’re having a bad day,” or when I say, “Woah, that movie really blew your mind, huh?”

I’m not pretending to brush the phyllo dough with two sticks of melted butter.

I’m not pretending when I open the driver’s side door and the snow all falls onto the seat and I groan because suddenly, winter feels long and deep, my jeans are wet, and I’m ready for spring.

I’m not pretending when my energy is exuberant, an exclamation point.

I’m not pretending when I’m out of juice and the mind is just blank, and I feel I have nothing useful to write. I’m not pretending to play Candy Soda Crush.

I’m not pretending when I read the Naughty Little Sister stories at bedtime and whisper in her ear that she has such a kind and generous heart, and I’m not pretending to keep reading aloud even after she’s asleep, because I want to see how the story ends.

I’m not pretending when I say I never want you to silence yourself.

I’m not pretending when I say I felt silenced, and this probably explains why I confuse setting clear boundaries and expectations with fear of shutting them down.

I’m not pretending when I say tonight I feel like the man. Not The Man, mind you. But your man, yes. Leonard-Cohen style.

I’m not pretending when I go out without showering and my hair looks like the squirrels’ nests in the winter pines.

I’m not pretending when I read a magnificent essay that moves me to tears and makes me think, “Damn, I wish I’d written that,” and “I am so grateful she wrote that.”

I’m not pretending when I have a pang of envy chased by the flick of a switch that says, “I am so happy for her.”

I’m not pretending when I wake up filled with last night’s words, or last night’s dreams, or last night’s loving.

I’m not pretending when I prepare the espresso pot the night before, so that all I have to do in the morning is run naked into the kitchen to turn the burner on high.

I’m not pretending when I pull over to take a picture, because the light is stunning.

I’m not pretending when I say I am glad your future self resembles Audrey Hepburn, and yes, our bedroom should face the ocean.

I’m not pretending when I wonder if I can possibly keep up. I’m not pretending when I question myself. I’m not pretending when I know where I belong. I’m not pretending when I know where I don’t.

I’m not pretending when I press my face against your back and tell you I really, really like you.

I’m not pretending when I poke my head into the living room to say, “I come bearing good news: Snow day tomorrow!”

I’m not pretending when I dream about the house under construction the same night you dream about the house where your hair is wrapped high atop your head in a gorgeous scarf and the same night a kindred spirit in Iowa dreams she came to visit us at our house and we are selling art, and we are all so happy to see each other and hug in person.

I’m not pretending when I thank God in the grocery checkout line. When I remember being nine and instantaneously go a little easier. When I ask, “What’s on your mind?”

I’m not pretending when I am doing my best and when I say I’m so far behind, I’m ahead, and when I say where’s the manual, and when I remember the future and when I see today in retrospect yet can’t possibly know in this moment how to do things better or differently, other than to try things on, throw things out, and stay willing and awake.

I’m not pretending to live or pretending to love or pretending to parent or pretending to write or pretending to work.

I’m not pretending I don’t stumble and trip in the same deep grooves. I’m not pretending when I’m in a great mood and I want to hug everyone. I’m not pretending when I cross over into the next aisle over to avoid chatting. I’m not pretending when I ask the bagger how his day is going.

I’m not pretending when my legs are trembling and my arms are shaking and I lose my balance three times in a row. I’m not pretending when I tell them they need to wait twenty minutes. I’m not pretending when I say, “I’m all yours. Tell me.”

I’m not pretending to know how. I’m not pretending to fail. I’m not pretending to succeed. I’m not pretending to predict or speculate, and I’m not pretending the past was or the future will be better.

I’m not pretending to be here.

I’m not pretending to know what’s it like, to be you. But I want to know. If you try to show me, tell me, I will put down my phone and close the computer and stop doing the dishes and sit down.

I will not pretend to pay attention. I will not pretend to listen. I will not pretend to understand if I don’t. But I will show up, for as long as you don’t pretend to let me.

**

I just decided, in the writing of this, that my next blog post will have to answer to this one, turn it on its head by considering all the ways I’m pretending. Because both are a kind of truth and freedom and need. And there is, has to be, room for all of it.

8 thoughts on “I’m Not Pretending

  1. Nicki says:

    Thank you for reminding me of My Naughty Little Sister books! Must get for my Sage.
    Jena, this. You. Love.
    (something on the theme of “pretend” would be an amazing prompt)
    xxx

    Like

  2. universalgrit says:

    You. Raw, real, talented, your words and prose nudge into my thoughts and being. (You have, and could and will continue to write things that I simultaneously adore and wish that I had written. :) ) xo

    Like

  3. Nina Badzin says:

    Excellent concept– the NOT pretending and then turning it on its head. I’m going to be looking for that one! Adding you to my bloglovin feed because I really thought you were already on it!

    Like

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