Sometime before now and yesterday and two months ago and six or seven or one hundred billion years ago, I was organized. I remembered things. I remembered everything. I remembered too much. I was on time, and thoughtful and appropriate and meticulous about where things went and hated play dates because oh my god is your kid seriously sucking on my baby's puzzle piece? I put papers where they were supposed to go and wiped dust off the dashboard of my car and picked up old juice cups and folded hooded sweatshirts and remembered everyone's birthday. I circled incorrect homework answers with colored pencils and never just shoved them mindlessly into backpacks sitting on kitchen chairs with a coffee in one hand and a cell phone in the other. I didn't sign my kids in late to school not one but two actually it was three days in one week with sunglasses covering the lines of my exhaustive sleep and the salty sweat left from swimming in dreams glistening in the blinding morning sun. Sometime before now and this morning and last week I would set out breakfast bowls and cups to make the morning go smoother and sign tests right away and offer up juice boxes for a classroom full of clammy handed kids with untied shoelaces. Bills were stacked neatly and debit card purchases were scrawled smooth and black in a check register like art and I never just shoved receipts into my bag until they were full and spilling and rustling in the ears of the people behind me in a checkout line and-
I never let my driver's license expire.
But mine did. In May. And I knew it and then I didn't know it, and I remembered and then I forgot and on the days I remembered I couldn't, and the days I forgot I probably could have and so it goes that I drove around on this round little earth of ours like a bad ass with an expired driver's license. Expired. Worthless. Invalid. And I didn't care. More accurately, I basically didn't give a shit. Or maybe two. Because Life had turned upside down. Yet it seemed, most likely because I was aware of my Invalidness, that a police car would inevitably find it's way behind me at least a few times a week, at which time I silently played out scenarios with imaginary cops involving this Horrendously Expired Invalid and Worthless license of mine where I said things like Oh I'm sorry, it's just so crazy right now I completely forgot and sometimes everything is sad and it's hectic and you know, someone in my family has cancer right now and it's so hard and sad and it's just so crazy -and then tears and the growing potential of a panic attack would lend itself to me being on my merry way.
There is something about January-something about the new year, about the reassessing of one's Life, something about the mental checklists and validations and affirmations of where you are, where you were, where you want to be...I suddenly felt panicky about driving around so...illegally. I felt as if neon lights were flashing in zig -zag patterns of purple and yellow in a nauseating stream of words like Loser Frazzled Mom can't even find time to renew her driver's license and mostly doesn't give a shit pull this bitch over. I stopped playing out fun scenes of my bad ass self and started imagining the cop sneering at me over a pair of cheap black plastic sunglasses and mocking me to to the beat of his chicken scratch tickets for Driving with an Expired License, Failure to Renew Driver's License, Failure to check homework appropriately, Failure to get kids to school on time, times three, times a million, Failure to accept your award for Shittiest Person Ever.
So, last week, I resolved to make time to waste an afternoon waiting around at DMV just to get a new card with the same information as before now and the time before that, except this picture showcased an older, more exhausted, less lively or giveashitty version of myself. And it felt good. In fact, I felt on top of the world. I left feeling like I really had my shit together. Like this would be the beginning of the old me, the organized me, the nothing will stop my Type A not even anything me.
I stopped for a coffee on the way home, at the same place I get coffee nearly every day, and so when the cashier-who happens to be one of the only other adults I speak to some days -asked how my day was I beamed, smiled big and in my best teenagery voice replied "Great! I finally renewed my driver's license today. I feel accomplished."
"I bet. I do too, I just hate going to DMV."
"Yeah, well...I had no choice really. It was...very expired. Like six months or so expired." I slipped my debit card back into my wallet.
"Oh my god, woman! What the hell? Why'd you wait so long?" she laughed and reached her thin, color blocked sweatered arm out to hand me my receipt.
I paused. I realized I had no answer, I mean, not a real one anyway.
"I...don't...know," I said lightly. "I just had other things I'd rather be doing I guess," I shrugged. I felt sort of like a child and suddenly wished that no one could hear me for fear I sounded like an asshole.
As I drove home I thought about why it had taken me so long. And I realized that my license expired in the middle of the chaos that was the beginning of the telling of my sister in law's cancer. And Everything had stopped. All of Us, we All stopped. And it was what kind where what stage what's the treatment will she die will she live what's going on holy shit I can't believe this is happening to her to him or him or us or everyone what the fuck.
And even though the cancer is still here, and new cancer things are still being told, and we are all still scared and confused and brave and strong and stoic and a mess, Life is beginning to move. It is moving and the cancer is coming with it. We have to take the ride, it's taking us along whether we like it or not. Seems a good a time as any, then, to get my license renewed.
I pulled in to the gas station, hot coffee in my right hand, holding tears back, feeling relieved.
"Thirty regular," I handed my card over without looking. I sipped coffee, sat back, closed my eyes, took a deep breath and-
"Excuse me, Miss?" My body jumped, I looked up. "This your vehicle?"
A cop had pulled up next me and was leaning over into his passenger seat, smacking a wad of pink bubble gum around between his teeth and shouting out the window.
"Yes..." I blindly fumbled around with my fingers to pull my shiny new license out of my wallet because I was sure it must not be updated in the system yet or something...
"You just set off my radar when you drove in here, the registration on this vehicle is expired. "
Like I said, Life is moving. And it is disorganized. It is stoic and messy and confusing and fast and hard and easy and serious and funny, but moving, always.
"Huh." I breathed out. "Isn't that funny...let me uh...let me call my husband..." I pulled away from the gas pump and into a parking space in front of the station convenience store, dialed, waited. "Hey," I said in my best teenagery voice. You'll never even guess what just happened..." I traced the edges of my new driver's license with my fingertip as I told him the story, around and around as I talked, tracing the edges of this version of myself...
And then I laughed until I cried.~
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