Thursday, February 9, 2012


In the car on the way home from school, Merrick is full of death -- real for him for the first time. Death orbits his household, his clear joy-lit life marked by a new uncertainty, a far off recognition that there is something about which he must be concerned. Someday.

Merrick: "Mom? Some people believe that when you die you'we bown again in a new life."

Matron: "True. That's what Buddhists believe. That the spirit lives forever and just changes forms. We're all part of each other and everything."

Merrick: "I don't believe in that. I'm me. I wish I could know I get a new life, but I don't."

Matron: "That's okay, honey. Nobody knows exactly what death holds because nobody has been been there."

Merrick: "You know the good thing about getting a second life would be?"

Matron: "What?"

Merrick: "I wouldn't wemembew you, or Stwykew, or Scawlett ow Dad. If I don't wemembew that I lost you, I can't be sad."

Here, the Matron cannot speak.

Merrick: "But let's pwomise. The big kind."

Matron: "Okay. Promise."

Merrick: "If we get anothew life, we will know each other."

Matron: "Promise. I'll give you a signal. Like a special smile."

Merrick: "Pewfect. Because I'll know that."

And they both smiled.

Firefly life. Eternity unfolds in us daily and then, we are gone. No, she is not yet mourning her friend. Brittled by pain -- but still holding life's sheen. Hang on darling. The world is with you tonight. Especially Merrick.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Yes! Yes! Says She Who Means No

Readers. Wait, no. Friends. Sisters-- in Crisis and Anxiety. Ever find yourself in a similar situation?

Fellow Parent at Child's School: "Would you be able to help chaperone the museum trip?"

slight pause * opportunity to galvanize myriad reasons why not

Fellow Parent: "Because we're really short and I'm running out of options."

Matron: "Of course I can help with that!"

Or at work . . . .

Not Supervisor but Superior: "We really could use someone with your expertise and skills on this committee."

Matron: "Well . . . if you put it that way . . . sure."

The encounter can also be indirect. A sign up sheet! Stealth volunteer coercion! Sign up for cookies, potluck, volunteer opportunity, donate to gift pool, bring a neighbor a meal, shovel the elderly's sidewalks in January, pledge for the cancer walk, buy stale cookies from a child.

No one is there to force thy hand. No. Instead, thy hand moves on its own!

Yes, yes, yes! Sign her up!

Nearly nine months ago, the Matron experienced Complete Psychological Collapse. She didn't blog about this because, well, breakdowns (unless you're Heather Armstrong) are sort of un-bloggable. Ordinary. She's of the opinion that every single life on the planet can be summarized and assessed in terms of its collapses and repairs.

Among the many things that renewed the Matron was her willingness to learn a new language.


She also learned a key characteristic of that word.

Just because it is a short word, 'no' does not need accompanying information. No stands on its own. It is self-sufficient! This linguistic lesson was nothing short of miraculous for the Matron.

No. It's not only enough, sometimes it's perfect.

But the staggering data that the Matron has collected? ! She is astounded -- astounded -- by what she is sometimes asked to do. Now that some of these requests are bundled tight in the "No" pile, she has a better view of them.

Let's just examine a couple. Two, because they're so eye-opening, from a distance.

Recently, the volunteer coordinator of an organization for which the Matron volunteers A LOT called the Matron (she gives money too which shouldn't matter in this equation but does to her anyway). Not unusual, but instead of asking the Matron to volunteer for the organization, the coordinator asked yours truly to volunteer for HER personally. Would the Matron meet with the coordinator's husband, whom the Matron had never met -- for a couple of hours -- to help him 'through the hump' of a long overdue college paper. These people are in their fifties.

Coordinator: "and he just needs a couple of hours. A morning maybe to get over the hump of that overdue paper."

Matron: "How overdue?"

Coordinator: "Three years."

Matron: "What kind of hump?"

Coordinator: "He hasn't started."

No! No! No! said the Matron.

2. Actual Student Email

Dear Dr. Matron,

You were my favorite professor at College XX. Now that I've graduated and am in University YY, I'm wondering if you would mind editing a few of my papers? It's been recommended to me that I find someone to edit and thought you would be perfect! The first two are due on Monday so I would need the editing done by Friday since I have to work this weekend. I think you'll enjoy my papers!

Readers, Friends, Sisters: the Matron actually received a longer version of this EXACT EMAIL from a former student TODAY. She is only capable of capitalization here. Because she mostly wanted to scream.

"Enjoy my papers?"

No, no, no!

The gift of the "No" pile is not in rejection, per se. It is the instruction that the "No" offers. Because if she didn't say 'no,' she would be helping the husband over his hump and editing those student papers. She would be organizing a fifteenth technology training for colleagues who had the opportunity to take the first fourteen she offered. Instead of watching her son's school choir concert, she would be ushering other parents to their pleasant seats or monitoring infants somewhere else.

Is this a uniquely female characteristic? In an essay, Joyce Carol Oates says that she can't understand why women drink at the well of masochism. Self-sacrifice and denial. The Matron can't speak for you, dear reader, but the Matron will acknowledge that she is familiar with that well.

The final beautiful quality of "no"?

Sometimes it frees up the "yes" in search of dream and desire. Yes.