As hard as it is to be related or married or work for a Virgo (which being married to a Virgo feels like), imagine how hard it is to actually be a Virgo.
Virgo victims tend to feel always criticized by the Virgo in their life. If Virgo victims feel continually on the verge of a full-system critique, they don’t realize that Virgos live continually with being a disappointment to themselves. Virgos are trapped within their own unrelenting perfectionist-driven scrutiny. Even asleep, I’ve criticized my own dreams, then begged them not to leave me when they go away.
Sadly, OCD meds do not cure a full blown case of Virgo. There is no pill for being anal, nitpicky, bossy, interruption-prone, a back-seat driver and compulsive spelling and comma corrector. My husband’s coping mechanism is to sing “Like a Virgo, being judged for the very first time…”
While I can’t be sure, I’m gonna assume that Virgos created list-making. My lists were crafted in my Franklin Covery Day Planner. Then, in case I couldn’t find my Franklin Day Planner, I’d replicate them on a Post-It on the fridge. Then, if I somehow overslept (never happens. I always wake up one minute before the three alarm clocks I have go off) I’d notate my list on my hand. Hard to lose a hand while trying to sleep.
Then comes baby. Then comes Momnesia. Then comes chaos. Before Grace I worried that being a professional (Virgo) organizer would make me a bad mom because I get hot flashes if I think I might be ten minutes late for anything. I wasn’t flexible or able to roll with enormous changes at the last minute. Then I became a mom with one month’s notice– after losing our pet dog, cat and our home in 9 weeks flat. VIrgos don’t take losing things well, which is an understatement.
Adoption leaves you no choice but to give all your alleged control over to who or whatever you believe in. Never did I let go of so much so fast. Then I was handed a six pound baby girl to raise. Of course my Virgo did flare up at first. After 3 weeks of scrubbing all available window screens with a bleach-covered toothbrush, I stopped being afraid of loving my child and let chaos reign. And it was awesome. Sure there were list-making lapses or attempts to accomplish more than one task a day but then I’d lose the list, forget I wrote it, and then forget the task. I lost my wallet four times in five months. That might not sound like chaos to you, but it’s this Virgo’s Kill Bill.
The Wednesday of record, aka WWW, aka the Worst Wednesday Worldwide (in this Virgo’s house, anyway) starts innocently enough. I wake up early to meditate. Meditation is my 20 minute vacation from me. Then, full of zen-gratitude, and with Grace blessedly still asleep, I get a chance to love up Edie- our gentle, patient deaf dog. As I stare meaningfully into her mismatched blue and brown eyes, a flea migrates across her snowy brow.
I’ll carry a spider outside on a (long) wooden spoon, because I believe everyone deserves a gentle exit, but fleas deserve no mercy. Any creature requiring sanctioned bombing to be completely eradicated is inherently evil. As a flea bomb survivor, followed by a house permeated with chemical odors and having to re-wash every spoon and plate, I swore a blood oath long ago that never again would another flea force me to bomb my own domicile.
I scream “FLEAS!” at my poor husband who barely flinches when I bark out his name like a curse. He digs out the flea meds that have somehow slipped off of our monthly checklist of preventative steps that make living with pets much more bearable.
Because I barked about the fleas, Grace wakes up. As Andrew dosed the dogs, with pills swaddled in hot dog chunks, I tend to Grace, sweaty from sleep and hungry for everything. Grace insists on wearing a Hawaiian shirt and baggy shorts and thick sneakers with Velcro straps that look like my dead grandfather’s last pair of sneakers.
When fully dressed, Grace resembles a miniature Trader Joe’s store manager. Of course, it’s all my fault- I dress her gender-neutral in a anti-consumer attempt to avoid the Princess Phase. If only I had known she was going to take my ball and run with it all the way to Lightning McQueen and Mater underpants, shirts, hats and backpacks, I wouldn’t have shown her Cars as if it were the antivenom for Frozen overexposure. But that’s another story.
Now begins the morning stress test known as making Grace breakfast while freaking over making Grace lunch. Hurriedly opening the trash can, I gasp. Our Simple Human garbage can is alive with maggots– blindly worming their way up to the lid, where, when I open it, spills dozens of maggots to the kitchen floor where they begin their inexorable journey to wherever maggots like to go. I bark for Andrew, who is the only man I could find who was more of a man than me.
Andrew’s showering– so I try to keep Grace away, as I grab a pile of paper towels and try to stop the second plague of the day. For the second time in 30 minutes I’m faced with the worst inhabitants of nature invading my home, and I kill, kill and kill while holding my breath and trying to keep my kid from absorbing my nausea/panic. She peppers me with questions, which I brush off or ignore, trying not to throw up in front of her. Running outside with the trash bag of parasitic life, Andrew’s temerity for taking a shower is silently cursed and judged.
Then Grace has a tantrum because I wouldn’t show her what I threw away. She becomes a full on fury for about 20 minutes because I didn’t traumatize her with a trashbag full of hot teeming blind white worms. Since I always forget to add ‘possible tantrum’ on my daily list, today’s meltdown adds 20 minutes to our morning, but gives me time to quickly make & pack her a nutritious lunch that she won’t eat.
After dropping her off at school, where she Velcroes herslf to my thigh for ten minutes, I return home 45 minutes late, leaving me 15 minutes to prepare for an hour long poetry class I teach for at-risk kids.
While Googling teen poetry dark enough to inspire self-expression but no so bleak that it inspires self-harm or depression, Andrew returns from hiking the dogs to announce that Edie threw up in my car. The last of the flea meds and the hot dog chunk that housed it is now in a pile of yellow bile on my car floor mat. During a heat wave. Tremendous.
Running late, sweating freestyle, I yank the floor mat out of my car and dump it in the front yard, hoping either Fern, the dog prone to eating her feelings will hoover it up, or that Andrew might hose it down. Then I hightail it to South Pasadena where it’s hot enough to hate people for living there.
Class is brutal and tender. Most kids skipped because they don’t want to evacuate the pool. The staff, all earning minimum wage to care for troubled teens, don’t bother fighting them.
The few who do show up fight over who gets to read a poem aloud. Seven year old Bryecia, with more braces than teeth, starts crying, so she gets to read Langston Hughes’ poem, Theme For English B. (that was a link to read the poem. And you should. Just saying.) The teacher in me loves when kids want to read aloud even if they can barely read, but the writer in me aches to hear beautiful poetry mangled by a young mouth. We discuss what the poem’s about.
Then, in front of the white librarian, me, Hispanic, Samoan, Armenian and black aides and the many different races of students, all parent-free for various tragic reasons, Bryecia, of the be-dazzled teeth and perhaps 7 years of life, asks: “What’s racism?”
A sudden hot flash produces a serious case of swamp ass. After 45 minutes of trying to get the kids’ attention, now I have it and don’t know what to say. After asking the other kids to define racism and watching them all shake their heads, words begin to escape my open mouth.
Me: “Um. Good question, Bryecia. Racism is where some people are afraid of other people, mainly based on skin color. There are people who fear anything that isn’t exactly like them. And no one likes to be afraid, right? So some people hate what they fear, because hate feels like power over what they don’t know or understand. Remember that young white man who killed nine black people in a church? He was sick and decided his problems were black people’s fault. Well, that’s racism, which is compounded by ignorance and hate. And even though I’m as white as that sick man, my daughter is black and–“
Now everyone stares at me more, and the black kids eyed me differently, as if I might not fully deserve the crap they’ve been tossing at me all class. Since no one else talks, I tremble on- telling a young black girl why people hate her.
Me: “And I want her, and you, and all of us, to have lives that are in no way damaged by what we look like instead of who we all are, which is human.”
After class, one of my two Destinys hands me a little paper lion for no apparent reason. The highlight of my day so far, I hug her (against the rules) and run off into the simmering afternoon, desperate to meditate (another 20 minute vacation from me) before picking Grace up and taking her to a play-date with a family who have enviable central air.
I was terrified of play-dates before I met seriously cool moms who I couldn’t believe wanted to play-date me. Play-dating is so much better than dating. Because while your kids play, you get to hang with a great woman and quite possibly finish an entire sentence without toddler interruption. However, since Grace hasn’t eaten the lunch I slogged to make, she is crazy rude. Therefore, instead of mom-chatting, I end up refereeing MMA battles, until I surrender and drag her home kicking and screaming. I let her tantrum it out while counting the minutes until bedtime, because I have a conference call with an East Coast friend helping me edit a story. When you are looking forward to receiving criticism on your hard work, that means you really want your kid to go to bed.
Electricity is funny–we don’t know how much we use it till we lose it. I’ve often thought of us as almost off the grid- we don’t have cable, we have a Prius and we never turn on the TV (because we don’t have cable). But since a dog next door barks incessantly, we use a sound machine and an iPod to muzzle the world so Grace will go to sleep and stay there all night. As Wednesdays are Andrew’s therapy nights (due to having married a Virgo) bedtime is on me. No doubt because my conference call was scheduled for 9pm, Grace is still up at 9:45. Then, just as she falls asleep, our electricity goes out.
Nothing like sudden blackness and abrupt silence to make one instantly wake up. Grace sweatily and whinily demands light and music. Unable to get her back to sleep, I give up. Andrew is back, and searches for the flashlights which we stowed all around the house just for blackouts, but the ones we find don’t work and we can’t find the ones that do work since it’s still pitch black.
The whole neighborhood is out of power, so nothing is all we can see. Grace excited by the drama and cherishes getting her own flashlight. Since it’s after 10pm and my conference call is long forgotten, we head upstairs, thinking she might sleep with us, since we can’t do anything but sleep. Grace goes into our bedroom first with the one single flashlight, shuts the door in our faces, laughing, then locks the deadbolt.
Since I instinctively yell for her to open the door, she forgets how to unlock it and panics, screaming “Mama” over and over. Hope I never feel this helpless and scared for her ever again. Panicky, Andrew tries to pry the doorknob out of the door, then runs off looking for tools with a dead flashlight. Miraculously, Grace manages to undo the deadbolt. I push the door open and she rushes into my arms, clutching me fiercely.
We get her back into her bed, in the darkness. She begins falling asleep, then asks for her lovey. This little blue square of chenille and flannel totem is her Ambien, melatonin and pacifier all rolled into one. Sleep is unfathomable for Grace without this fucking filthy, stinky square of chenille fabric with colorful tabs. Heaven help us if we ever lose this last one, handmade by her Canadian Nana.
Feeling around frantically, I realize lovey is not in bed with us. And finding it in a power-free house is basically going to impossibly suck. But as Grace’s panic grows, we climb out of her little bed and re-search the house for her lovey. After 25 minutes or so, it is found upstairs on our bedroom floor, forgotten in the panic of being locked in/out/away from her parents.
All hope of work long gone, I get her into bed for the third time in one night and as we both fall deeply asleep on top of each other, both of us crazy exhausted, the electricity comes back on. Full volume on the iPod, full light on overhead is shocking. The sound machine sounds like a machine gun. Momentarily terrorized by the sudden disappearance of sleepy, dark, silent night, Grace and I gape at each other. Then we start laughing. It takes many minutes to stop laughing and re-enacting how shocked we were when electricity returned to our lives. Then finally, deservedly, deeply, sleep clobbers us with a heavy sock full of Mr. Sandman, and we sleep hard, putting night between us and the suckiest day on record.
It was the worst day for being a Virgo but the perfect day for being family– it began with cuddling a dog and ended with laughter.
Everything that can possibly go wrong, will do nothing else but go as f@&*ing wrong as it needs to. What you are left with is the group of people you can’t imagine going through any of this with or without. Family is who when you are at your level worst, they welcome you- maybe not even happily, but they accept you, the way you kind of have no choice but to accept them–warts, fleas, maggots, vomit, sweat, lovey, fear, racism, darkness, tears, fears, chaos, Virgo and all.
A gift for all the Virgos & Virgo-victims out there: the best a Virgo can accomplish.