Like Oprah says (although really, what the hell does she know about it?) being a mother is the hardest job on earth. Some days I am at peace with it, but others seem endless. And I enjoy it in many immeasurable ways and take an enormous amount of pleasure in what I am able to witness in the kids during the day, but it is also the hardest thing I have ever done. I think it’s even harder than things that I haven’t done but can tell are hard. Like roping cattle or, God help me, manning a submarine. Maybe I am wrong in thinking that some people are better equipped for parenthood than I am. Now that doesn’t mean I think I am a bad mother or anything, just that, well, some days I just want to be alone. Or at the very least to have some physical space and the ability to pee without discussing my vagina.
I’ve had a total of 33 jobs in my life. 33. And they all felt exhausting and awful at some point in their own special way. Well, all except one really. The first job I had was the coolest job that any 12-year-old can have. Don’t even think for a second that your first job was cooler. If you can beat being Mr. Kool-Aid for a kids’ birthday party for, like, one hour and making $100 then maybe your first job is passable. Even cooler was the fact that my costume was gigantic. So gigantic, in fact, that I needed to be deflated just to get through a door and then reinflated once inside. I seem to remember that happening a few times. And I am pretty sure that my sister and her friend had to dress as Barney and Fred also. I wish I could remember what the hell kind of whacked-out children’s birthday party this was, but all I really remember is that all of the kids were on the fence about me being the real Mr. Kool-Aid.
Besides that one golden moment, I have to say that most of the others on the list were pretty awful. Some were predictable, like the overnight shift at Dunkin Donuts, where I made the doughnuts (for reals) with a depressed alcoholic woman in an abusive relationship. That sucked. And now that I know how doughnuts are made, let’s just say that dream was shattered. And there were some that were painful in some ways and wonderful in others. One gas station job that I had (yes, there was more than one) allowed me to drink coffee, chain smoke, and gab the day away with a wonderful coworker-turned-friend, but we had to do that chatting in front of array of pictures of scantily clad women bending over and holding their breasts and coyly looking over their shoulder. The owner was a perv. A total perv and, really, a big, fat asshole. Oh! And one time? A bat flew into the gas station and flew at my head, getting stuck in my extremely large and sprayed hair. I shook my head so hard that the bat flew out and I pulled a muscle.
Imagine my heartbreak when I found out that an employer of mine had a grading process that he used when hiring the staff. It involved a letter grade which he wrote at the top of the application next to things like “nice boobs” and “attractive face, hair too short.” And “bad teeth” and “great ass,” too. Sadly, I remember that I got a B+ while a friend of mine received a whopping A++. I would tell you the whole story, including how I know this, but then I would have to kill you. Two things made this even worse: (1) he was about 123 years old and loved to flirt and slow dance with the front desk workers (those deemed attractive enough) and (2) he had a younger brother who gave everyone nicknames, including one of the counter girls, whose nickname (“Tits”) motivated me to try and sue them.
I thought that once I had found my place in the massage world things would be easier. Not so, my friend, not so. If you ever want to feel humiliated, try getting hired because someone’s homemade pendulum told them to hire you. I wish I was kidding about this but, really, I couldn’t make this up, it’s so good. I was interviewing for a teaching position at a massage school, and it seemed that, although I had experience and a referral from the instructor leaving the position and I am pretty sure there were no other candidates, the person interviewing me said, “Hmmmm. Give me a minute to meditate on this.” That was fine with me, until she shut her eyes for three full minutes and then opened them and said, “I need to consult my pendulum. Where is it?” As she rummaged through her drawers, I did some meditating of my own. It went something like this, “What the fuck? Is she serious? I’m right here!” And then! THEN! Then she pulls out her telephone headset and a roll of tape. She slides the roll of tape through the cord of the head set and begins to mentally ask it her questions while she lets it dangle. And I am Right. Fucking. There.
Anyway, she hired me. I could have told her that was going to happen.
I was driving down one of the main roads here today and I saw something I see a lot. A person, dressed in a uniform (pants and a polo, usually) holding a huge sign advertising some store closing in town. It’s 110 degrees. One hundred and ten. You dig? A freakin’ sweat box! And if anyone out there is thinking to themselves, “well, it’s a dry heat!” you can just suck it. Because if someone told you that you either had to spend your 8 hour shift (for like, $6.75 an hour) either clothed and in a sweaty armpit or clothed and in the oven I’m pretty confident you would choose neither. I get that there are jobs that you take because they are mentally easy or because it is a means to an end. When I cleaned hotel rooms at the Red Roof Inn, I wasn’t fulfilling a dream or anything. I needed the money and I wanted to do something that would get me out of my head. But after cleaning up other peoples blood, vomit, and diarrhea, I realized that I would much rather be in my head. Pulling back the covers to change the sheets and finding a .357 Magnum was intriguing, but the cracked skin around my nails from the intense cleaning fluids sucked. And there was something sort of familial about working with the other cleaners. They outwardly rejected me at first as some rich kid (which I wasn’t) just there for a week until she realized how hard the work would be but when I was still there months later, they began to accept me, and I have to say: it felt like a nice achievement. All that was great, but when Willie Nelson stayed there and left me a $5 tip for cleaning his room I wanted to poke him in the eye. He could have at least left me a joint.
And now there is massage. I absolutely love my career. I’m pretty sure that I’ve mentioned that once or twice. It is one of the best decisions that I have ever made, and when my thumbs finally give out, I have absolutely no idea what I will do with myself. I’ll have to learn Ahshiatsu, or maybe I can strengthen my pinkies. It’s the most satisfying part of my day, since being with the kids, which is a blast and a half, always leaves me unsure and wondering if I have just scarred them emotionally in some way. With massage, I have few concerns. There is a specific beginning and end, a goal that needs to be reached that is clear and attainable, and since most of the people I work with have been in my life now for years, it is like being with family. Family that doesn’t need their butt wiped or to be put in time out five times a day. No matter what, in bodywork I have found my people, I have found peace, satisfaction, and such an immense amount of all that in return. I would marry it if I could.
When I started this post I felt like a used tampon. Just full up with mess. But now, as I wrote the last paragraph, Luca came up to me and quietly (which, truth be told, is totally out of character) said, “Hi, I need you! I want to hold your hand,” and my heart just sort of popped. Maybe it’s the writing that is cathartic enough to give me the perspective I need. Or maybe it’s just that really, being home with my kids is exactly where I want to be.