Suggested pairing for this reading: The Hemingway Special
2 ounces white rum
1 ounce Blue Curacao
2 ounces pineapple juice
1 ounce grapefruit juice
Splash of lime juice
Splash of Grenadine
Pour all ingredients into shaker over ice. Shake until chilled and combined. Serve in a chilled glass over crushed ice. Be like Hemingway: “drink to make people more interesting.”
I am putting the world on notice that I have officially had enough. I have had enough of my ex and his unrivaled ability to do absolutely nothing. I have had enough of seeing my son grow up without a functional father. I have had enough of always following the rules and doing what is right and having my efforts met with the exact opposite. I have had enough of refused visitation, ignored emails and withheld child support. I have had enough of hearing sob stories, seeing my son cry and smelling bullshit.
Enough is enough.
But when is enough really enough?
I know for sure when enough is enough with regard to a few things. Three glasses of wine is enough. Conversely, three cups of coffee is also enough. Four Advil is enough. (Unless, of course, three glasses of wine didn’t seem like enough the night before.) One Polar Bear Plunge is enough. Four dogs is enough. A job that fulfills me, a house to call home and a family to love is more than enough.
I am also well aware that there are certain circumstances that arise when enough is never truly enough.
The first and most obvious is cheese. As far as I am concerned, there is never enough cheese. Ever.
The remainder of the never enough category has become increasingly more obvious and equally impossible to ignore as we get older and wiser and acutely aware that the time we have on this Earth will never, ever be quite enough.
Ernest Hemingway once said, “Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell. And when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.”
I am earnestly practicing Ernest’s proposal of breathing deeply but, lately, my deep breathing has been more like huffing and puffing and wanting to blow a certain someone’s fucking house down. I breathed in, filed a one hundred and fifty page court motion, and breathed out. I breathed in, anxiously awaited his response and didn’t get one, and breathed out. I breathed in, anxiously awaited our court date, only to learn that the judge would rule without oral argument, and breathed out. I breathed in, and now am holding my breath for the order to arrive in the mail, and I’ll keep you posted as to when I have the opportunity to breathe out.
Ok, so the deep breathing exercise, like all forms of exercise, seems to be something I have yet to master.
With regard to the second and third aspects of Hemingway’s revelation, however, I am a fucking rock star. Tasting food I have locked down. Whether it be a bag of Cape Cod chips and a bowl of onion dip, a cheese plate, a sushi boat, a medium sized bag of movie theater popcorn or a gallon of Turkey Hill Cookies and Cream ice cream, trust and believe, I got this. I live for food. I love it, I cook it, I dream about it and I will eat pretty much anything and taste the shit out of it. Hemingway would be so proud of me. I sure am.
The one and only thing that trumps food is sleep, and sleep trumps everything. I like to think that I am experiencing motherhood sleep karma at this stage in my life. For the vast majority of the first four years of my son’s life, he didn’t fucking sleep. Like ever. When he did, it was for approximately two to three hours and/or while I was holding him. Have you ever tried sweeping floors with a broom in one hand and a slumbering infant in the other? It looks idiotic and proves unproductive, but it does strengthen bicep muscles and single-parenting skills. My one-armed baby bandit days are over though, and I am absolutely making up for lost sleep. My sleep schedule begins no later than nine pm each evening and lasts until six o’clock in the morning. That’s right bitches, I sleep for nine hours a night, sometimes more. Nine glorious hours of uninterrupted, restful bliss, and I have earned every single second of them. I don’t care if “Making a Murderer” is on television, or if my best friends are having drinks at my favorite restaurant or even if there is a personal chef and a professional masseuse knocking at my front door; if it’s happening after nine o’clock, it’s not happening with me.
Trying to be wholly alive, however, is easier said than done. We are all so busy and bogged down and burdened with bullshit, sometimes being wholly alive is enough to kill you.
Existing is not at all the same as living. We exist day to day, waking up, going to work, running errands and repeating until the days we are alive become a blended string of successive repetitions with little to no meaning whatsoever. That is, until the universe throws a wrench in the machine we call life, and forces us to take inventory and take notice. These worldly wrenches typically come in the form of death, and rattle our sense of security and viewpoint on values. Nothing reminds you of what’s important quite like losing someone who is just that.
A year ago this past October, we took in a twelve year old rescue dog named Bear. He was a gorgeous Chow-Rottweiler mix from Pittsburgh who was in a pinch because his life-long owner was sickly and elderly. If no one took him in, there was a looming likelihood that he would be put to sleep, and I couldn’t stand to see that happen. Fast forward a year and here we were with a sickly and elderly dog, and a looming likelihood that he would have to be put to sleep. He had begun to have difficulty breathing and walking, and I was left with no choice but to bring him to see the veterinarian. The prognosis was poor and he was in pain, and I left that day with a heavy heart and an empty passenger seat. I also left that day with an overwhelming sense of guilt and a gut-wrenching emptiness. I left asking myself over and over if I had done enough.
And the truth of the matter is that I hadn’t.
Yes, I took him in when he needed a home. I cared for him when he was ill. I gave him kisses and hugs and treats galore. I spent time with him when I could, and loved him like I love our other four dogs. I loved him enough to let him go.
But it wasn’t enough.
Because, when it comes to love, it is never enough.
Too often, we take for granted how fleeting our stay is in this world. We disregard the rapidly ever-shortening calendar on the wall and maintain our position in a futile race to the finish, where we all realize the same fate. We forget to slow down and take breaks and appreciate the simple and the beautiful. We love each other, but naively expect that we will be granted an infinite timeframe to express that love, and when the door closes, we are sad and angry and empty. We are slapped across the face with the harsh reality that, not only was our time with our loved ones not even close to enough, no matter the amount, but also that we hadn’t done nearly enough to appreciate them while they were here.
Being wholly alive, as Hemingway proposes, requires that we be present and positive, grateful and available. We should be our best at all costs, for ourselves and for the ones we love so much.
Sometimes it proves damn near impossible to be our best, especially in the face of adversity or in the wake of loss. These are the times when it is essential to remember the “laugh like hell” component of Ernest’s eloquence. Laughter has become the best medicine for me. Maybe this is because I’m Irish or maybe it’s because I can’t afford therapy but, whatever the reason, humor is my go-to outlet for coping with crap. We should laugh at struggle, and stress and shitty ex-husbands. We should laugh at family conflict, and funerals and fucked up situations. We need to be able to laugh at our failures, our losses and, most of all, ourselves.
The anger part I have down, but I am becoming increasingly frustrated with myself for being angry lately. I am making half-hearted attempts at forgiveness and good ole Christian love thy neighbor shit, but I have yet to be successful in this department of self-destruction. I am angry. “Good and angry”, as a matter of fact, and it doesn’t seem to be getting me anywhere at all except, of course, more angry. I feel spiteful and vindictive, and a need to prove a point to my ex about where he has gone wrong and what he needs to do to fix it, and even though I dress these desires up as a warrior in my son’s army, in reality, it’s just a little girl crying over spilt milk. And again, this makes me angry. But I think I’ve been angry enough for a lifetime, and it’s time to move on.
And so this brings us back again to being alive, which is what I intend to be for quite a while, but despite having the best of intentions, I might not be. Whether we are here, living, for a minute, a year, a decade or a century, we need to be alive and aware of the fact that our time will never be enough. We need to do enough and love enough and live enough to make the most of the moments we have.
We should hug our children and hold onto our parents. We should build lasting relationships with friends and Legos in our basements. We should read books and write them, and leave legacies of love and progress. We should say what we feel, say what is true, and say the f-word for fuck’s sake. We should be honest and kind. We should be brave and bold, and a force to be reckoned with. We should be here now, be ourselves and be thankful for every second we are given to do so.
We need to be the best parents, the best children, the best siblings, the best friends, and the best all-around versions of ourselves as possible because, eventually, we won’t be anything but a memory.
Do everything you can as thoroughly, thoughtfully and thankfully enough as possible because, truth be told, enough is never going to be enough.
So, my advice, based upon Hemingway’s advice, is to live. Eat the cheesecake. Pick up the phone. Kiss goodnight. Dance on tabletops. Forgive the assholes. Stay up late. Love everyone. And forget sleep trumping everything. We can sleep when we’re dead. And according to the aforementioned author, “we’ll all be dead soon enough”.