The End of Forever

The people in this picture had a special, epic love. Regardless of what anyone else ever says or thinks, you can see it in their faces. They believed in forever. They believed in each other. They believed in their ability to find their way in the world, together. They stood on top of a mountain in Fort Mountain State Park in Chatsworth, Georgia, in front of their friends and family and a judge. They took vows and made promises. To love, honor and cherish. In sickness and health. For richer or poorer. They also made some declarations and promises that were more personal to them. She told him: “only you could coax such a fragile flower to bloom”.

And he did. He loved her and she loved him and they grew up together. They had victories and defeats, they fought and made up, they loved each other more than they could stand, and sometimes they couldn’t stand each other. They made countless wonderful memories together, memories one can’t help but cherish for a lifetime. There are bad memories too, and some of those are as truly awful as the best memories are wonderful. For the longest time, it was them against the world.

It would be too simple to say that the world won. There certainly is a lot of truth to it, but it was more than that. They were very different people, and that was a good thing and a bad thing. It was wonderful when they brought each other balance, came to one another in kindness and love, and showed the best side of their differences to one another. It was horrible when they pulled and pushed against each other, instead of together. When they let their differences become flaws, resented instead of appreciated. When one extreme drives another until they were further apart then they’d ever been.

That being further apart created space between them. Space that they filled with anything and everything, until they were eying each other suspiciously over a minefield wasteland of people, things, activities, decisions, problems, and disagreements. All the things that they put in that space, not out of spite, not out of a lack of love or respect, but out of a gnawing desperation. Having had love at its best, they simply could not endure the pain of having that love at its worst.

Neither one of them liked the look on the other person’s face. So they heightened the pile of things between them, until they couldn’t even really see each other anymore. They were, instead, staring all the time at their wall of things, maybe peeking through a crack if they were feeling brave but consumed by what had come between them. Because they were tired. Because they were scared. Because it hurt too much.

Living behind those walls, something changed, and that something that changed? Changed everything.

As much as they might have liked to pretend that nothing was different, that nothing was wrong, that everything would be okay, no matter what, they couldn’t. As much as they were tempted to hold on just a little longer, just to make sure, just to know in their hearts that they didn’t give up too early, they couldn’t. They just couldn’t.

So she set them both free. She slid her ring off her finger and placed it tenderly in the jewelry box he made for her so long ago. They talked, quietly, and honestly for the first time in so very long. On the screen porch he built for her, not too long after he carried her over the threshold of their first home. And so a love that began with a passion and intensity such that it could hardly be contained ended with a near-whisper in the dark of night.

The woman in the picture will be fine. She is strong. She can and will take care of herself. She’ll pursue her goals, her hopes, her dreams. She will try to be the best person she can. She’ll cherish her friends and family and the life that she’s built for herself. She’ll search for peace and wisdom and security, and because she’s so determined, she will find all of those things. Maybe someday she’ll find someone else to love, to love her, and she’ll know again what true love looks like.

The guy in the picture will be fine too. He’ll build a life for himself, one that he can cherish and enjoy and protect. A life worth defending. He will be happy and relieved to have the freedom to follow his heart’s calling; chasing a daisy in a far flung meadow. They both know that he will always remember to his dying breath, whether he wants to or not, the captivating scent of an orchid in full bloom.

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No Matter What

Much of the reason I didn’t post was that I was resting. Life has been a little much for me lately, and I had not done enough eating or sleeping in weeks.  I found some peace and serenity that I had gone without for far too long.

What it comes down to is this. I’m going to be okay, no matter what. My family will help me the best that they can and they will be there for me, no matter what. MH and I are going to get through this. Together. No matter what. My friends, the people I love so much, will stand by my side. No matter what.

That kind of finality is a double edged sword, of course. Mark is gone. No matter what. My sister, who is doing well considering her circumstances, is changed forever. No matter what. My Mom is who she is, sick or well, no matter what. My Dad will inevitably mark all occasions with a trip to the liqour store and won’t see a need to leave a drop of Grand Marnier in his bottle when he leaves town. No matter what.

I didn’t realize just how bad my general state of being had become until I heard those words. I worried and rung my hands and sweated buckets thinking about talking to my Dad about our financial situation, fearing his reaction. Fearing more than anything that he wouldn’t be able to help us. He was not in the house five minutes before he started the conversation. He just knew. He just knew that it’s the end of the month, that things have been hard for us, that I hadn’t been making my usual volume of calls to my Mom (who had boarded the crazy train again, meaning that there was no way I could handle her and my own situation and especially not her being crazy-face about my situation), and he knew. He knew what I needed, knew how much I needed, and within a few minutes of getting a good look at me, how scared I was. So he just came out with it, and he gathered me up in his arms, and he told me.

“I know where you’re at. I’ve been there before. I understand. I don’t want you making yourself sick anymore. I’ve got you covered. No matter what.”

In that one moment, all the stress and shame and pain and angst lifted. I felt normal again. Actually, I felt so sleepy and hungry that I couldn’t hardly stand it. So I took a nap, and then Dad took us out to dinner, where I proceeded to demolish a huge steak and all the trimmings, and washed it down with a few vodka and cranberries. They were, of course, of somewhat subpar quality, because my sister was seated across from me and was not behind the bar.

My sister. She takes my breath away. To see her surviving, thriving in some ways, through this tragedy. To see her in her element- behind the bar, shaking and stirring, snapping her fingers at the servers, cracking ass in the kitchen when she’s running food. Every movement precise, but not planned- there’s no time for that. Seeing the respect and affection that she inspires in her coworkers and watching the way that her boss looks at her, with pride and gratitude.

There were, of course, comments from all over about how much we look alike. This was compounded by my father’s arrival. I have his smile.  I was asked if I also have his temperament, and answered in the affirmative without hesitation. All weekend long, the three of us- I can’t believe that, even when we were little girls, there was a house big enough for the three of us. There are these moments, like the one I shared with my father, at every turn- moments where it becomes undeniable that we truly are family. Looking in at a face and into eyes that are a fun house mirror of your own- almost the same, but not quite. Knowing what they are thinking or feeling, and that opposite eerily comforting feeling of knowing that I cannot hide much from these people who have been reading out of my book for the better part of a quarter century.

Add to that a husband, who as a matter of survival, has gotten just as good or better at taking my emotional temperature. Who has his own decade-plus of history in our family. Watching my husband care for and comfort my sister was quite possibly one of the most incredible things I will ever witness. Second only to watching her gracefully and gratefully accept it from him. He is there for her, no matter what. She is there for us, no matter what.

We are all going to be okay, somehow, some way.

No matter what.

Friday Salad

I was driving to work this morning, in my still-damp car. (If you’re my friend on the Facebook, or you follow me on Twitter, you already know I left my windows down during the mother of all thunderstorms yesterday afternoon.) My CD player was screwing up, so I switched CDs, since this usually “fixes” it. (I’m a girl, with no mechanical inclination.) The CD I pulled out was an old favorite from my childhood, and no, I will not tell you what it was, because it’s irrelevant and embarrassing.

The music poured out of the speakers- music from the long, long, long ago. Before we moved from Michigan to Atlanta. Before I lived without my Dad for three years. Before high school.  Before having to start over in a new region, a new state, a new city and a new culture. Before MH. When I was a child. When I was still a child (as much as I have ever been a child, which is debatable.) Before moving out on my own. Before marriage. When there was no cancer, when there was no mortgage (for me to pay at least), when I still thought I would be a teacher or a flight attendant when I grew up. When things were a lot more simple. Or at least they seemed that way.

My thoughts wandered to my sister. To the one person who would understand these songs, the lyrics, the words. To the one person who would dance with me to this music, who has seen nearly everything I have since then, albeit through different eyes. I thought about my upcoming trip to Atlanta, back to the little town I finished growing up in, back to my sister. To be there for her as her boyfriend’s urn is interred in the local cemetery.

We’ve been taking care of each other for twenty four years now, since she was born, and while I’ve done most of the care taking, she’s held her own. We’ve certainly had our differences, and when we have, there hasn’t been enough space in one state for the both of us, much less one room or one house. In trademark style, however, we are now as close and protective and supportive as we once were embittered and mired in resentment and hatred.

When I think of that, I can’t bear for one second the thought of only ever having one child, and preventing them from ever knowing all that I’ve learned and have in our sisterhood.

This trip already feels epic. The reason we’re going- the last step in putting someone to rest, and another step in helping someone find some peace. Reuniting with old friends, after years of living our own lives and having only memories between us. Realizing that those connections to the past run a little closer and deeper than we thought. Seeing my father again, oh, it’s been too long. Way too long. This is MH’s first visit since April’s tragedy, and though that pain has lessened some, there’s still just a little unfinished business there that he will attend to, I’m sure. Having him there somehow rights some of the wrong I felt in being there alone last time.

A friend from the blogosphere is doing something incredible for me. I can’t and won’t discuss it yet. It amazes me sometimes, the way that people take care of each other. The way that people take care of me.

The present and the past and the future are all melding together in some sort of cosmic soup that is comforting, yet strange, welcome, yet frightening. The overriding emotion I’m left with is a mix of nostalgia and gratitude, with a touch of wonder.

The people in my life are incredible and amazing. My family (most of them, anyway, and most of all my husband), my childhood friends, my long time friends, my new friends, friends I’ve never hugged or shared a knowing glance with but that have carved out a place in my heart. People I’ve only just met whom I already adore. Friends that I’m getting to know better and love more.

Whatever else I don’t have, whatever else I’m in danger of losing, I can’t help but weep with gratitude to have such incredible people in my life. Having their support as a shield from this often cruel world, and their love as a balm for my wounds is what makes me believe in tomorrow, in forever, in love and luck and fate and meaning and justice. They are my faith and my hope, and those are two things I’m holding very dear lately.

Turning the profound meter down a few notches, we have weekend plans. I have no idea what we’re doing tonight, and I’ll tell you- as much as I love me some planning, it’s kind of nice to not already know how the night will turn out.

Tomorrow night, we’re going to another bonfire. Because last week’s was too much fun not to do it again, you know? Of course you know.

I’m out of the office all next week. This is incredibly exciting, if only because I’m my own timekeeper. I love a good break from the rat race.

We don’t leave for Atlanta until midweek, so that’s four days of lazy homemade bliss.

Don’t worry about missing me, lovelies, because I’m taking you with me. I could never leave you.

What I Want

Okay, internets. It’s immaturity time. I put all that wisdom in my hope chest, today it’s time to make a list of things I want. Just in case God or the Universe or some rich person that is just smitten with me is reading.

  • An entire day spent under hot sun, near cool water, with a bottle of Banana Boat tanning oil, a comfy lounge chair, soft fluffy beachtowels, and a neverending vodka and pineapple juice. Fuck the book- I don’t even want to exert that much mental energy. The entire purpose would be to soak in all the vitamin D possible, and taking the “office chalk” skin down to a “she was outside, once,  at some point” level.
  • To place a $50 order at drugstore.com that has been wish listed for eons. I just wanna send the whole list to my cart and hit CHECKOUT.
  • I want a hot tub. Because if I could come home from work and get into a hot tub every night? I might be the happiest girl in the world.
  • I want an extra $800 a month that no one in the household has to work for. Rich people have this- they just get random checks for shit. Assets and investments and stuff.  Sign me up.
  • I want everyone, including me, to have a light planted in their forehead. It would activate when you were looking at someone, and if you were happy with them and you cared about them, it would light green. If you were getting on their nerves a little, but they didn’t totally hate you, it would be yellow, and if you were trying to engage someone in conversation that was just absolutely annoyed and disgusted with you, it would be red. So you could walk up to people, look at the light, see it being red, and turn right the hell around. Think of how much time we all could save. And awkwardness.
  • I want to take a cozy, half naked, favorite blanket nap, in the middle of the afternoon, and I want to be woken up to a yummy dinner. Don’t care what dinner, as long as it’s the first thing I smell when I get woken up, and it’s easy to clean up.
  • Pretty, comfy, non flip flop sandals to wear to work.
  • A few sundresses.
  • For all the animals to be happy and healthy all at once. No worms, no boo boos, no fights, no getting stuck down in the basement and wailing at the top of their kitty cat lungs.
  • For my friend to get out of the hospital so that I don’t have to go visit him tomorrow and see him all tubey and sick and wormy.
  • For my Mom to be stricken with some strange ailment that prevents her from speaking. EVER.
  • More than one pair of shorts.
  • A whole day with my friends- going out to breakfast, window shopping, pedicures, and sushi. Booze, too.
  • Prescriptions that never expire or run out of refills for Ativan and Flexaril.
  • A credit account at the ABC store.
  • A large, lush herb garden.
  • Some kind of foot cleansing device that would prevent me from bringing pet hair and rhododendron bloom trash into my tub on the bottom of my feet.

What do you want?

Wonderful Horrible

I’m a person of extremes. I run hot and cold. There’s an oscillation from productive and organized to melodramatic trainwreck that I go through. The crazier things are, the quicker and steeper the cycles. When my life is calm, the wavelength slows until stiff peaks stretch into rolling hills.

Life is crazy right now, for so many different reasons. This year, thus far, has been wracked with pain, loss and sickness, financial strain, and heartache. Sadly, I’m not speaking only of myself- it seems far reaching and all-encompassing, a blanket of misery, thin but still heavy, laying over everything and everyone as far as I can see. It’s gray and dingy and scratchy. The warmth of it is a little too much, like when you wake up with a light film of sleep sweat on your skin. Getting out of bed gives you the chills because you’re actually damp all over.

Despite how dire and dark things have been, incredible things are happening all around us. There is love, there is comfort, camaraderie, the depth of old friendship, the sweetness of new friendship. Stolen moments full of fun, or meaning, or the simple pleasure of existing. Windows of hope in a sea of futility. How does one process exquisite pain and joy at the same time?

My house, figuratively and literally, is too small not to bump into pink elephants. The strange thing is that the peaks and valleys are overlapping each other, running in together, coming so furiously and with such force that I often feel weather worn by the end of the day.

I would suppose that the former drives us to the latter; we look for comfort, meaning, camaraderie and fun in the midst of uncertain times. Somehow that doesn’t lessen the intensity of the experience. If anything, it magnifies the sharpness of it all. I am deeply grateful for my life, filled to the gills with worry and sorrow, and fiercely determined to keep it all from collapsing at my feet. All of that fitting into one ragged breath and racing pulse, over and over, all day and night.  A constant ache as the gratitude and fear keep my heart strings pulled tight.

Just like a harp, or perhaps more fitting, a fiddle, the sounds made by pulling those strings is hauntingly beautiful. A ballad fully formed, with love and hope and sorrow and desperation in a few chorus and verses. The kind of song that you listen to with the windows thrown open on a late night drive, letting the lyrics and melody bring tears to your eyes and a lump in your throat.

There’s a time warp quality to it, as weeks seem to take days, but minutes take hours. There’s an inertia, a resistance in every detail. Knowing that insomnia will only make things worse, but being unable to will myself to rest. Knowing that emotion and panic will drain my energy, but being unable to stand as the waves of desperation and frustration knock my feet out from under me and drag me face first into the shore. Understanding that I need to eat more, to eat better, but not feeling well or not hungry for anything.

Moments of respite come in irregular intervals. I’m hungry and everything tastes good, I’m sleepy and tired and the bed feels perfect underneath me, the weight of the covers calms my thoughts and I sleep long and deep. Distance is gained from the emotional storm and I’m offered a logical aerial view of my life, thoughts and feelings. Hope bubbles just under the blanket, a strong current pushing against it but doing little more than creating pockets and ripples that lack the force and fruition to peel it back, wad it up, put a good hole in it.

When people ask me how I am, or how I’m doing, and they really want an answer, I generally say that I’m here, or that I’m hanging on, or that it could be worse but it sure as hell could be better.

Would you understand what I meant if I just said wonderful horrible?

The Ties That Bind

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about love. What makes people love one another? What makes that bond strong enough to overcome conflict, loss of proximity, difficult circumstances and individual growth? Marriages, friendships, romances, family- what’s the magic sauce that keeps people together and happy about it?

My relationship with my parents has been rocky, to say the least. My father and I have had our differences, but there’s always been a strong bond between us. My mother is a whole other story. I made the decision to love her and honor her regardless of the checkered past we have, and I had to do that first, before real forgiveness came years later (for the most part). Our bond is stronger now than I think it’s ever been, but it still doesn’t hold a candle to my relationship with my father.

I fell in love with MH hard and fast. There was this incredible chemistry between us instantly, the first night we met. It had to be mostly physical attraction; we did not have a basis at that point for much of anything else. As we started dating, talking, doing things together, doing nothing together- that chemistry deepened and widened.  We talked about everything- everything- and began to find that we fit together like pieces to a puzzle. Our compatibility is in the major things in life, and our differences are in the details, in our daily lives, in our reactions and perspectives and personalities. One of our inside jokes is that if for some reason we ever divorced, that we wouldn’t ever stop sleeping together and talking all the time. That’s how strong our bond is- he is my husband, and will always be, but if he wasn’t, he would still be a part of me.

I have friends, a wide variety of people, with varying degrees of closeness. Some of those friends are old, old friends. Some are pretty new. There are people I’ve stayed in contact with, or reestablished contact with after losing physical proximity. There are those friends that you can call after not speaking for months (or years!) and pick up right where you left off. There are those few, precious friends who can read my heart by looking in my eyes. Friends who make words unnecessary, friends who hold my hand figuratively even when it isn’t literally possible.

There are other friendships that have faded over time, that distance (physical or emotional) or circumstances or conflict have taken the life and breath out of the relationship. What’s the difference? What makes people bond so well, or not at all?

I like to have an answer, or at least a theory when I post about the deep stuff. Somehow it doesn’t seem fair to pose a question and not throw my answer out there. The problem is, I can’t bring that feeling of being connected into words. There’s something ethereal about it; it’s a palatable feeling that is either present or absent. It’s one of the most important things in life, that’s for damn sure.

Lucky Duck

If you’re friends with me on Facebook, or you follow me on Twitter, you may already know that I’m taking a pay cut for the remainder of 2009 at least, along with the rest of my entire company. This blows. Hard. It, along with other pressures, puts my trip to Chicago in jeopardy, as well as affecting many things that are much more important than the Ultimate Meet Up (though that’s a damn short list, if you were wondering). Suckola.

Know what, though? I’m in a good mood today. I’m happy. Better than that, I’m lucky. Yep, I said it. Here’s a handy list of reasons I am lucky:

  • MH is doing anything and everything he can to save Chicago and right my world at large. He wants this trip for me as much or more than I want it for myself.
  • Because he loves me  and knows what is important to me.
  • Because he thinks I have actual, real, writing talent and wants to see my writing and my relationships and my bloggy goodness nurtured.
  • Our lettuce is kicking major ass, adding mostly free salads to our menu.
  • The onions and potatoes are rocking right along, which means a winter full of soups and mashed taters and yummy garden goodness.
  • I have a good job, that is mostly safe, and even with the pay cut, I’m treated pretty damn well.
  • Barring any surprises from the lab, I’m certified healthy (if not organic) by my new doctor..
  • My doctor rocks. He listens, he cares, and he’s on the ball, yo.
  • I’m the apple of my Daddy’s eye, and he called me last night to remind me.
  • Thanks to B, I’m eating organic eggs for free, now with extra beta carotene, which might actually keep me from going completely blind by 40.
  • LiLu is my friend on Facebook. SQUEE!  😉
  • I have the best freaders ever, in the whole wide world, and probably the universe, dimensions known and unknown.
  • Today is Re-pot Your Office Plants day, and mine need some love….
  • Re-pot Office Plants Day = cuttings for everyone= FREE PLANTS FOR ME.
  • I live in one of the most beautiful places in the world.
  • I might just have some friends,  I might love them, and they might love me too…
  • Between now and December I have:  four weeks of vacation, 3 three day weekends, a 4 day weekend, and a whole week of paid holidays.
  • MH + Daddy + my Uncle + CB + MH’s family + Matthew = a lot of men of varying talents who care about and look after me. There’s a girl’s list too, but I have a weakness for the boys.

I just wanted to remind myself how much I have to be grateful for. Happy Friday lovelies!