Retreat

I’m sitting here, working the fringe benefits allocation and the FICA allocation, and it is taking all of my willpower not to just get up and walk out. I’m not talking about quitting. I’m talking about Just Not Being Here, and I’m not just talking about work. I’m talking about everything.

If I had a magic wand, I would move a week of my vacation time during the holidays to next week. I would spend the next ten days in complete and utter solitude. At home. With the dog.

The exhaustion that I’m suffering right now seems endless. I can’t hardly keep my eyes open, even after a full night’s sleep. I could sleep for a week, I think, before I felt better.

As someone who has stood on the very edge of sanity and looked over the ledge, I can tell you that while I’m okay in the sense that I’m not a danger to myself or other people, I am losing my mind.

There’s a paranoia welling inside me. I take things the worst way possible. When people speak to me, I question their motives. I question their loyalty and allegiance. When I don’t hear from someone, they’re ignoring me, they don’t care anymore, they don’t want me bothering them. When I do hear from someone, I feel pressured. I hate the constant stream of panic and frustration I’m dealing with right now, and I hate exposing people to it. I don’t want to spend all of my free time completely alone, but I fear companionship. I fear making a fool of myself, I fear being talked about behind my back, I’m afraid of becoming- no, I’m afraid that I’ve already become that person, that girl, the subject of irritation and pity and duty.

The slightest imposition, say, my boss expecting me to do my job, or a coworker needing some information, or a two minute chore for my second job- these things make me seethe with resentment and I’m overwhelmed by the pressure to perform and not let this ordeal affect my performance. I don’t want to go to school, and I don’t want to do my homework, and I don’t want to read my textbooks.

So the only thing that gives me comfort right now, that brings me a sense of calm and well-being, is retreating. Hiding from my life, its pressures and demands. Giving up on my social life in hopes that my attachment to people will fade, so that everything can end quietly and be easy for everyone and I can avoid the humiliation and drama that will come from figuring out that people are rolling their eyes at me and hoping I don’t show up to parties and not telling me about events on purpose.

If I have to calm my Mom down one more time, I’m going to quit taking her calls. I know she’s worried, and I know that she’s going to rightfully react with anger when she feels I’ve been wronged, but her energy is AWFUL, HORRIBLE and TOXIC (see, it runs in the family! i just have the sense to see and admit it), and I. CAN’T. HANDLE. IT.

People want to know what’s going on, and I want to tell them, but I get tired of relaying the same awful information over and over and over again, and I want them to want to know, but I find myself wishing that there was just some way to make them know without having to talk about it ALL THE TIME.

I’ve grown to hate talking on the phone. I wish that people would just come see me, come sit on the porch and have a drink and talk about what color I should paint the living room and whether or not we’ll have a lot of snow this winter and what are you doing for the long weekend. My house is pretty far out from town, though, and people don’t come out. A few people come out sometimes, but for the most part, I don’t have company.

So, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to finish these entries and call my HR rep and see if I can’t plan a retreat, before I end up in a straitjacket in the psych ward.

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My Old Man Was Born to Rock

So, maybe you saw my twitter fit on Friday night. If you didn’t, all you really need to know is that I came unglued. After I stopped tweeting, I started sobbing and hyperventilating and just losing my shit in general. I called my sister, and she talked to me for awhile. I went to bed.

The next morning, my Dad called. He said two sentences. “Are you ready for some company?” and when I replied in the affirmative, “I will be there in ten to twelve hours”.

Twelve hours after we had that conversation, he was sitting on my porch with me. We were up till 3am, drinking and talking and drinking and talking. I laid my soul bare, telling him stories he never heard, hurts never admitted, fears unspoken. All of my pain and hurt and bewilderment spilled out of me in a steady stream. I listed off my frustrations- simple things, like learning how to use the grill, what’s wrong with the toilet that won’t stop running, and if my internets don’t get fixed soon I’m going to break out into hives.

Over the next few days, he fixed things and cleaned things and taught me things and made lists for me. He showed me how to grill a steak- the way I eat steak (rare medium rare), and not the way he likes steak (shoe sole). The internet connection problem meant him crawling up into my attic (not the greatest place in the world) through a trapdoor in the closet ceiling not once, not twice, but six times to get everything working properly with the best signal possible. He cleaned all the windows in the house and my car.

As we worked on all of this, he helped me sort through all the anguish I laid at his feet that first night. It was something that only he could have done- at least just the way he did it. We’re so much alike, and he knows me so well. His words held a weight and a meaning above and beyond any other person’s, simply because he has a better understanding of the dark corners of my heart.

This morning, we left at the same time. I left to come to work, to do the closing, to go to class- to be me and do what I have to do. He left to drive twelve hours home, to his wife (who was NOT. PLEASED.  with this impromptu visit), so that tomorrow he can take her to have her blood drawn and Thursday he can take her to her chemotherapy treatment. He left to be him and do what he has to do. He followed me out to the gas station, we each got a cup of coffee and said our goodbyes in the parking lot. He turned on to I-40 West, and I turned on to I-40 East, both headed towards lives and destinies of our own.

The tears slipped quietly down my cheeks, much like the soft rain running down my windshield. I know that he has to go. I know that Mom needs him, that he is hers, and I know that I have to accept the new order of things. That everyone who tries to fix my weedwacker or takes trash to the dump for me or fixes my lawnmower is just helping out where they can. I am alone. I have to accept that position and become comfortable with it. Deciding what to attempt myself, what to hire someone for, when to ask for help and who to ask, and what to do if they tell me to fuck off and leave them alone.

I think that was why I needed him so desperately- I find it unbearably hard to borrow my friends’ husbands and boyfriends, to ask them to take on the littlest thing for me. I am not their responsibility. It would be far too easy to depend too much on Daddy if he were close enough. That wouldn’t be good for me, and it probably wouldn’t be good for him. It wouldn’t be good for Mom either, but that’s in the “pro” column, if you ask me.

So I will walk down the road in front of me, my steps a little lighter for having some of the obstacles in that road moved out of my way, but mostly for knowing that someone in this world knows how it feels to be me.

Let me run with you tonight
I'll take you on a moonlight ride
There's someone I used to see
But she don't give a damn for me

And turn the radio loud, I'm too alone to be proud
You don't know how it feels
You don't know how it feels to be me

People come, people go
Some grow young, some grow cold 
I woke up in between
A memory and a dream

And you don't know how it feels
You don't know how it feels to be me

My old man was born to rock
He's still tryin' to beat the clock
Think of me what you will
I've got a little space to fill
And you don't know how it feels
You don't know how it feels
No, you don't know how it feels to be me

-Tom Petty

Wishes

My Mom was asking me if there was anything I needed. There isn’t really anything I need, and that’s what I told her. She argued with me, and I explained that there are some things I want, that would help me out, yes. Need, no, want, of course. Then she said this:

“I really wish there was some place, online, that you could make a “wish list”, and I could go in there and pick something out when I had the extra cash.”

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! I asked her if she wanted me to set up an Amazon wish list. She did. So I did. This morning, I came into work and pulled the list up to see if I had added something yesterday- I couldn’t remember. I had added it, but I also noticed that a book I really wanted was no longer on my list. Thinking I had lost my mind, because I thought it was the first thing I added, I looked at the list filters to see if my settings were messed up. Nope, the only filter was “unpurchased”. Wait, what?

Apparently, the hot minute my Mom got the email notification about my wish list, she whipped out her debit card and bought me the book. I’m too excited- it’s a book about learning to live alone, and it was written by a widow, so no bitterness or divorce crap, just “How to Move to the Middle of the Bed”. Exactly.

Needless to say, I’m now loading that list the hell up. If Mama wants to flex her debit card muscles on my behalf? Let’s not have her running out of ideas!

Beach Envy

I ended up coming into the office far too early this morning to think about profit and loss, adjusting entries, accruals, and all that other good beancounter stuff, so I thought I’d squeeze a post in.

It would appear that anyone and everyone is headed to the beach. Or at the beach. Or is planning a beach trip. Everyone, that is, except me. Though I have been invited to tag along for a few days in a few months, I haven’t decided whether or not it’s possible. It’s left me with the worst case of beach envy I’ve had in I don’t know how long.

When I was a little girl, we went to the Florida Keys every August for a week. Mom would get us up in the morning, and we’d pack up and head out to a beach on the Gulf, on Little Duck Key. We’d lay out until we couldn’t stand the heat, then wander out into the water, looking for shells and swimming while Daddy fished. In the early afternoon, when the sun was high and the heat was blazing, we packed up and headed back for lunch. After lunch, we headed out to the pool for an afternoon nap and maybe a few drinks (mostly Shirley Temples for me, back in those days), before it was time to shower and get ready for a long and decadent dinner.

Those are by far some of my fondest childhood memories. Chasing crabs. Feeding raccoons and seagulls. Letting the sun bake my skin to a beautiful golden brown, while the saltwater turned my hair from it’s mousy brown to a thousand shades of blonde. Feeling the salt dry on my skin, and the taste of seawater in the back of my throat.

Daddy used to grab me up by my ankles and dangle me headfirst over the canals that ran through our timeshare property, dipping my head in the water and threatening to feed me to the barracuda swimming below. I used to sit with him for hours while he fished those canals, bringing up the most beautiful and strange colored fish- nothing like the perch we so often caught in the lakes at home.

At least once during the week, we took a day trip to Key West, with a detour for a few hours to let him fish off of the old Seven Mile bridge. He and I would pick out a spot and set up shop with a drink cooler and a bait cooler and a few rods. I honestly don’t remember ever catching anything off that bridge, but I will never forget sitting next to him and watching those lines for the slightest twitch, the tiniest sign that maybe something was nibbling on the cigar minnows we put on our hooks.

When we did finally get to Key West, there was shopping and ice cream and getting caught out in the rain. Oysters and a few sips of Mom’s fruity drinks when no one was looking. We always stayed to watch the sunset, and we always went down to the pool late at night when we returned. Mom used to be terrified that the heat lightening was something more sinister, and would frequently try to call us out of the water. Not that it ever worked.

As I watch my friends take off to capture some of that for themselves, I find myself with a case of jealousy so fierce that if it were expressed openly? It would look like a toddler’s tantrum. I can’t help but wonder, though, if it’s the beach I’m craving or the simple innocence of youth.

Staycation Salad

  • Vodka + cream= trouble, even if it has Caramel Bailey’s in it and tastes really yummy.
  • Don’t let old guys buy you shots at the piano bar.
  • If you pack an overnight bag? Maybe you should see that you have it at the place where you spend the night.
  • The cell repeater is out at the house, so that’s why I’ve been kinda MIA this week.
  • Don’t give your bestie a bite of your rocky road ice cream if she’s allergic to walnuts. Killing the bestie= bad move.
  • Good friends will invite you out on the town. Excellent friends will put you to bed on the couch after.
  • Sometimes you can get away with parking in a tow zone.
  • Don’t break things in bar bathrooms. If you do accidentally break something? FLEE.
  • I have a personal fashion consultant now. No more buying clothes without prior approval. 😉 Particularly bikinis.
  • When your friends call you off of the couch, even if it’s your third night in a row, even if you can’t drink because you’re taking Sudafed for the sniffles, GO. Because street festivals only come once a year, and the next thing you know, you’re giggling over hashbrowns and thinking to yourself “Thank God I decided not to stay home and watch SATC reruns.”  😉
  • If you have so many family and friends checking in and checking up on you that you can’t hardly keep caught up on your correspondence? You’ve got better problems than most.
  • When your Auntie sends you pocket money, go get ice cream with a friend. Because that’s what pocket money is for.

Fifty Nine and Thirty Three

Happy Birthday, Mama, and Happy Anniversary. You’re fifty nine years old and have been married for thirty three years. Those are two huge accomplishments.

How did we get here, Mama? How did we get to the place where I call you to wish you a happy birthday and happy anniversary, and then proceed to discuss the ending of my own marriage? The place where you enjoy your day not just because it’s your birthday and your wedding anniversary, but because tomorrow you will go and have your body pumped full of poison that will take almost the whole three weeks you have between treatments to release you from it’s side effects? What happened to the world? What’s happened to us?

Speaking of us. How did we get here? How did we get from near enemies to supporting each other in our struggles and loving each other again? Will it last? Or will I call you in a few weeks to hear that strained tone and pointed questions and backhanded comments? Sometimes I wish I knew. Other times I understand that if I did know, I couldn’t enjoy you when you are enjoyable.

For today, though, it was enough to have the side of you that I love so much. To call and hear your warm and happy tone of voice. To know that you are as healthy as you can be. To soak in your kind words and your loving concern. To hear you interrupting and correcting Daddy when it’s his turn to talk. To hope, with good reason, that there is a fifty and thirty four, and a fifty one and thirty five. Today, all of that was enough. It was more than enough.

I love you, Mama. I can’t send you a trinket to open, but I’m sending you love, gratitude, relief and hope in bucketfuls. Happy Birthday, and Happy Anniversary.

M. A. C.

The day we put him in his final resting place was bright, clear and hot. We gathered at the cemetery in the late morning, before the heat of the day, and still the air was damn near unbearable, wet and hot and heavy, like a dryer full of hot wet towels.

The day before was the first day that I had stopped at the scene of the accident. It was everything I was afraid it would be. Heartbreaking. Standing on the side of the road, reading the spray paint markers left for the investigators. Seeing the permanent marker my sister’s friends placed- a cross marked simply with his initials and the day he was so cruelly taken from us, wound with English ivy. Looking at the entire scene and wondering what might have been.

If only that woman had taken one more look, if only she had hesitated before pulling out in to the road at the top of a blind hill. There is no other conclusion to come to, not after looking at the intersection, looking at the spray paint marks- the line with PoI written underneath, and five feet from it, another line, marked F and a circle marked Helm., as if the shorthand somehow erased the obvious. “Look Twice, Save a Life”- it really is that simple. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t take some pleasure in the permanent marker being perfectly situated so that this woman sees it every single time she leaves her neighborhood. Even that is a light sentence, compared with my baby sister, who is reminded in every breath and step that she’s alone in this world. Look twice, save a life. But she didn’t. She didn’t.

And so that is why we were all standing in the marble walled courtyard of the cemetery, shielded from the road but also the breeze, and grateful for the small patches of shade afforded by the stunning Japanese maples planted in the center.

The ceremony is short. We all cry quietly. We file out one at a time, each of us stopping to lay a flower at the foot of the wall, to say goodbye before the urn is sealed in the vault and the nameplate is installed. My turn comes, and I can feel my chin quivering as I lay my rose on top of the pile. It is both comforting and disturbing to see that blue marble urn tucked so carefully into the vault space; knowing that his remains will be here forever, and disturbed to see his earthly body fit into such a small space. The irony of that. His spirit, his energy, his smile, his heart- these were all far too large to fit in there. Mark was like the smell of perfume in the air- he expanded and dissipated through out the entire room, his energy filling every available space.

I know that his spirit and energy do not have to fit inside that vault. Thank goodness.

We stopped outside of the courtyard to wipe our tears away, to take deep breaths and give and get hugs and to give my sister a few moments alone with her beloved. She came out of the courtyard, and that was it. We went back to the house, where she showed people to carefully sorted piles of his things.

And so it goes. The troubled but promising and stunningly vibrant life of a 25 year old man ended on April 12th, 2009. He was laid to rest on June 27th, 2009. Quietly and privately. Soundlessly, almost. In those single moments, a handful of lives were changed forever. He will be remembered fondly, and is already missed so very much. What I wouldn’t give for one more glimpse of that thousand watt smile directed at me. To see my sister’s face shine with happiness, love and pride.

Look twice. Save a life.