"Will you accept?"
I knew a release was coming. Was kind of looking forward to it, actually, though I would miss the chaos and left-field ramblings and missiles of my Valiant 10 class.
"Of course I'll accept it." I told Arn, then grinned. "Tasha is going to be so annoyed that I've got another weekly calling."
Arn did his patented 'You and Tasha are impossible, you know that?' sigh and head shake, then admitted "I know." Then he straightened up, said "Thank you for accepting the call to serve, Sister Mee. The Lord will bless you for your service."
Less than half an hour later I was standing on Arn and Tasha's nature strip, having bummed a few allergy tablets from them, and breaking the news about my calling to Tasha. "But that's MY calling!" Tasha wailed in mock grief and some genuine frustration, then we chatted and commiserated and worried in tandem about our sons' class, our callings and just what else was coming up, unexpected or otherwise.
"At least you have a date to look forward to," she said as I prepared to leave. "And we get to hang out in Relief Society together when I get back from my holiday!"
She got back from holiday yesterday. And was called as the new Nursery Leader today.
Next week, I'm on my own in the deep, scary ocean of Relief Society. Without a lifeboat, or handy inflatable life vest.
I'm way out of my comfort zone once again.
Riding shotgun, Wong chattered about whatever floated through the goldfish bowl of his mind. During a pause for breath I slipped in "How would you feel about my starting to date?"
"Huhn," Wong grunted in surprise, then - immediately after - "Cool!"
"What qualities do you think I should look for?"
"Well, he has to be a Mormon, of course" came the swift reply.
"Second, he has to like chocolate."
"And he has to like Doctor Who. It just won't work if he doesn't."
"So if he doesn't like chocolate it's a deal-breaker? Wouldn't it just mean there's more for us?"
Wong pondered this very important and complicated scenario.
"It's okay if he doesn't like chocolate. But I'm not sure what we'll do if he doesn't like Doctor Who."
Wong thought some more, and I chewed on my smile, the conversation and swallowed laughter sweet against my teeth.
"Okay, it doesn't matter about chocolate, and not that much about Doctor Who, but he has to like kids."
Wong wriggled happily in the seat beside me, drummed a quick fanfare against his knee then announced-
"You know the best thing about you dating? Is that you get a good husband and I get a new Dad!"
Right. No pressure then.
I posed the same question to Hatro. "How do you feel about me starting to date?"
Hatro's eyes widened, and his curls bounced against his forehead as he nodded emphatically.
"What qualities do you think I should look for?"
He shrugged, trying to act casual, but failing spectacularly.
"He should be a member. You know, priesthood."
"Nah. Just treats you good."
The opportunity was too good to pass up. "So... any young women have any qualities you like?"
He grinned, all coy glances and bravado. "No comment."
"Any that you find particularly attractive?"
At this he raised an eyebrow, shook his head and said "Now, now, Mumsy, you should not look on the outward appearance, but as the Lord looks - on the heart."
"Ouch - scripture slammed by my own son!"
He grinned, and I again realised how tall he's grown, and that next year he'll be dating age. Then I wondered if I would be dating at the same time. Yeah, let that thought roll around in your head a little... ugh. That's just wrong....
So in true mature fashion I stuck my tongue out at him, pulled him in for a hug, then left him to his Saturday afternoon routine of as little as possible.
I'm not looking at the outward appearance, Lord. I can't even really remember what the guy looks like. Yeah, that's not a disaster waiting to happen....
I went on my date on Friday. Tasha - still on holiday - rang Friday morning to bluntly demand "You freaking out?"
"Thought so. So that's why I'm ringing, to talk you down."
In the end, I decided to approach the date as not quite an experiment, but as an exercise in obedience. I'd been prompted to ask a certain guy out, I had, he'd accepted, we'd arranged a time and place, so once we'd both left the stated time and place, I could put a big fat relieved tick next to the box and claim "Done!" If it was awful, at least I could still mark it off as accomplished, and if it wasn't awful, then that would just be a bonus in addition to the eating of pancakes.
So off I went. I arrived way too early, but that gave me a chance to enjoy some Brisbane architecture, share it on Instagram and take some slow deep breaths in the quite impressive surrounds I found myself dating in.
See what I mean?
About five minutes after twelve, still no date. I was in the midst of mentally working out when I could accept I'd been stood up, when a waitress came up to my table. "Is your reservation for Selwyn?" she winced. "Yep." "Oh, excuse me for a minute" she replied, wandered off and returned with the guy... who had been seated at another 'reserved' table a few tables away.
Yeah, a little awkward. But conversation slowly built up, and carried on quite smoothly. We spoke about all sorts of things, like soccer and brickwork, root beer and General Conference. We explained what we each do for work, and found out we work on streets which branch off the same main road. Our kids were mentioned briefly, repeatedly, as well as our schedules, and in all it was an enjoyable meal. Halfway through the meal he asked "Have you been to Mount Somewhere before?"
"No, but it's on my list of places to visit" I answered around sour cherry pancakes.
"It's a great place for a picnic. Maybe next time we can go somewhere not so much in the city" he suggested.
I froze, mid-chew, a djinn in my head desperately banging a wall shouting HE SAID NEXT TIME!!!
"That would be lovely," I smiled. "Picnics are great." Then I smacked the cartwheeling creatures onto their butts, and the conversation carried on to other things.
Our meals finished, I thought we were done. "Would you like to play a game of pool?" he shrugged, nodding towards a table I'd not seen behind me. "Have you played before?"
"Uh... Sure. But it's been...." math math, what year is it again? "um, fourteen years or so since I've played, so I make no promises about how awful I'll be."
So we played pool. He had no problem with explaining rules I was hazy on, and was just as relaxed when the conversation wandered into areas which I knew more about than he did. He won the game (though I potted some shots, so wasn't a total quamby), and then asked "May I walk you back to your car?"
Turns out he was parked in the opposite direction, but still walked through the lunchtime CBD crowds to take me to the lift near my car. I know it was only a date, ("only" - sweet baby rhubarb, understatement or what?) but I'll admit that he scored lots of ticks in many boxes, the walking me back being just one. That he was fine with me having and using my brain filled in several boxes. Being happy for grace to be said before lunch, and thanking me for saying it are cheerful, thick upswings in his favour.
It was a good date. Which Tasha worked out really quickly when I couldn't string a lucid sentence together during our phone conversation five minutes after the guy and I said good bye. I couldn't stop laughing, stuttering and... "giggling" is what I was doing.
I couldn't recognise myself. Tasha couldn't either.
I was so far from the warm, calm rock pools of my usual life I couldn't see land - but I was floating, buoyed by unfamiliar, yet almost welcoming, eddies carrying me along.
The next morning, life was back to normal, and I was helping Hatro tidy his room. Wiping down his desk, a piece of paper crumpled against my hand right at the back of the pull-out shelf. Sliding it out, I stared dumbly at it for a couple of seconds. I recognised the handwriting. Turned it over - "Dad" it said, and his address. I pulled out the birthday card inside the envelope, and a $20 note fluttered out and a weird coin slid against the cardboard.
Hatro's birthday was over a month ago.
Hatro walked back into the room, so I said "Hatro - look, I wasn't snooping, I was just dusting, and I found this-" holding up the envelope.
His nose wrinkled and he shrugged.
"When did it arrive? In time for your birthday?"
"Oh." I continued wiping down any surface within reach, trying to act relaxed. "How'd getting it make you feel?"
Hatro glanced at me, then away out the window. "Kind of annoyed me actually."
"Planning on spending it?"
He looked me straight in the eye - "Nuh." Stated flatly, definitely, something like revulsion or hurt crisping the air around his words.
He still hasn't spent it. He's not saving it, but he's not spending it either. He told me he's paying tithe on it, but with his next lot of pocket money.
I have no clue about what to do for him, or even if anything needs to be done.
Being the parent keeps me up too late at night, both physically and mentally. The ship is rocking beneath my feet, as if the waves are being pulled by a handful of demanding moons, and I have no idea which way to go or what to do to be the Mum - the parent - the boys need me to be.
My hours at work are long and tiring. I'm told I'm being made permanent (hooray!) but I'm yet to find out details on hours, times and what my role will actually be. I cannot - and will not - continue with the hours I've been working. I had a melt-down last Friday. An ugly "I've had it and I'm hot and sweaty and forgot to take something out of the freezer for dinner and I don't WANT to cook dinner and my house is a mess and I'm TIRED TIRED TIRED TIRED SO BLOODY EXHAUSTED" kind of meltdown. I yelled at the boyos (parenting fail), threw my work boots across my bedroom (temper fail), had to scrub my fresh sunburn to get the dirt and grease off (of which - I realised the next day while out shopping - I had missed two significant areas, so major hygiene fail right there).
Tasha rang during the evening, and gave me a well-deserved rousing and bollocksing*. She said something which right up to that moment I'd forgotten from my setting apart - "You cannot do everything on your own."
"What can I do for you? What do you need? What can I help with? Why couldn't I have taken Hatro for his blood tests? Huh?" As I told Tasha, it hadn't even crossed my mind that it was an option. "What do you need? Dinners? Washing? What?" I have no idea. I just do what I do, what needs doing. I don't think about it, apart from scheduling it all in my head, I just move and try and get it all done. "You have to realise we don't live in a Branch anymore. We don't have to go to every single thing. You don't have to go to the Primary breakfast tomorrow! You're not in Primary anymore! You don't have to go to the Stake Pool Party tomorrow night. Just take the weekend and do nothing. NOTHING! You've overdone it, dude."
It was a shocker of a week and day. By the time I crawled into bed, I was scraped empty. Nothing left. No tears, no temper, just the hot acid wash of failure and exhaustion. Saturday was only a little bit better. Saturday was when I realised just how seriously I had overextended myself. I did the grocery shopping, took Hatro for blood tests, and that was it. My energy was nonexistent - I was fried.
Sunday I felt a little better. My floors were unswept and sticky, laundry was piled in five separate mountains, but I had slept in until 8am, and woke to rain dancing down the roof and grey clouds kissing my bedroom windows. I didn't emotionally or physically feel like I was slogging through a mangrove swamp. I lay in bed for a while, chiding myself for the past two weeks' stubborness and failures, cautiously tested the ever changing borders of my comfort zones, then did nothing but enjoy the sound of rain and the feel of stretching on a slow Sunday morning.
*Halfway through the conversation - and a result of part of it - I found myself texting the lunch-date guy as I'd been nudged to do all week, Tasha helping with the phrasing, then hit send. To date, no reply. But it was another reminder that I need to stop overthinking things ("Rip the band-aid off quickly" as Tasha says), and feel better as a result.