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I’m going back. One appointment scheduled for Saturday—“move it,” my inner voice whispers. I open another window, find the hotel and click on “reserve.”
A sense of longing fills me—longing for it to be now, not then. Eighteen months. NO. Seventeen! We’ve turned a calendar page!
I tell him I’m squeezing me time in before my trip out west. Resting, he says—before the trip. He understands. You don’t HAVE to go.
I don’t? You don’t HAVE to go, he repeats. Tell me again. Please. You don’t HAVE to go. As I see it. I don’t?—I repeat.
It’s late now. I’ve found a quiet moment at the end of my day. I like to write in the morning but have no time and therefore leave it until the end. It seems I did that with my life as well.
I hear the hum of the printer, the soft, comforting hum of the refrigerator, the jingle of the dog tags attached to my dog’s collar as she sleeps beside me on the rug placed there just for her.
I have no music tonight. I came in, wrote e-mails, made exasperated calls and settled back to my me time.
I heard on the radio that a man died today at ages 73. He was a famous man but I can’t recall who he was. What caught my attention was his age.
I panicked. I felt a crush of immediacy pushing the breath out of me.
What to do? What to do? What to do?
My mind played quickly over people I know. I thought about what they were doing and about the waste of their precious moments—MY moments!
How did I get HERE when I started THERE? Life rushed me here, spiraling out of control to the end.
Shall I begin the day? Or shall I take a moment. A moment to think. The e-mails have already started coming in.
The birds outside my window bring me back to myself. No music yet this morning, I hear only the birds. I’m not feeling well. I haven’t been for a while now but no clear demarcation.
I finally managed to purchase health insurance. The list of service providers is long—daunting even. It’s here. On my computer. The list. Perhaps if I add the phone numbers it will push me to make the calls. Set up the appointments. Perhaps.
I found the aging letters inviting me to call for an appointment. I organized them. Looked at dates. In a word: I procrastinated further.
I’m past due for my mammogram. I gave her my name and birth date, confirmed my address and phone. You haven’t been in since May 2007. I know: No insurance. Where do you want your results to be sent? I listed off my oncologist, surgeon and general practitioner. Dr. Young has retired.
You’ll need afternoon since you’ve had a lumpectomy. That’s fine, I like afternoon. The latest appointment you have, please.
I hung up the phone.
I moved on to the next. I’m past due for my colonoscopy. Did you get a letter? Yes – a year ago. I have insurance now. Who is your doctor? His assistant will call you to set up your office visit. Do I need one? Well, maybe not. She’ll call you to set up the procedure then. What is the best day for you? Monday, I answered. That gives me Sunday for prep. What’s her name? Amanda, she said.
I reviewed the list again.
The oncologist will want the results from the others before I see him.
Ok I’m doing this.
It was early. I had to make yesterday’s bank deposit. Five o’clock comes before I can get there. I got dressed and drove to the bank.
Coffee—today I’d do it. I’d go to the coffee shop we went to. Well we didn’t go—he’d give me the two bucks as I dropped him off at the grocery store. I’d smile my thanks. He’d smile his pride at being able to.
I’ve not been able to go there – not even the drive though since he died.
After the bank, I turned in. The shop was gone. They were selling mattresses.
It’s the unscheduled, unexpected moments, amidst the frenzy of busy that knock me back—the transition times.
I know I should be past this—nearly eight months—but no difference. I’ll call him, I think, to see if he’d like to…but then I realize he’s gone and I fall apart. The tears of empty come—I try to push back this sense of alone, but it stays with me, overwhelms me—takes me over.
Music... then different music, then grabbing NPR to take my mind elsewhere, but of course I find the Ira Glass and his interviews make me cry.
Sixty years of getting through it. I wonder when I felt safe. I try to remember childhood. I don’t recall fear or even concern.
I was a blasé kid. I drifted. I was buffered by parents who owned the worries.
I’m a blasé adult as well. I still drift. I yawn where others panic. I stress—OH how I stress—but worry? Somehow that isn’t in my repertoire. I work ‘til exhaustion takes me over to sleep. Then I’m awake until the sun begins to come up—I peek at the clock – I turn up the music….snuggle in…and sleep again.
My son suggested that if I had begun my job two years ago, before the current economic crisis, that my marketing expertise would have put the company in better shape to weather the storm.
I looked at him and without malice stated that if I’d been hired two years ago, I wouldn’t still be working there.
He didn’t understand and so I rephrased. Eighteen months is all I can contemplate for any job. Two years feels like a life time commitment to me.
I strive for six months, knowing I MUST, but it is nearly more than I can bear.
I feel I’m nearly there… I’m in the 18 month window now.
Will this job I’m in take me there? I’m grateful for this job. I was without for a long time—struggling.
The changes happen quickly here—I float free and say yes. I rail against the changes [but only in my mind and to a friend who’s close to me and understands.] My paychecks keep me safe.
I don’t struggle but I wonder and under the wonder is the panic. Under the panic is the stoic.
Under the stoic is the peaceful knowledge that it will be ok.
I'm tired now. And cold
I look around the room that calls out for my attention: The computer components strewn about, the mail in the pile beckoning, the newspapers from last Sunday clamoring for attention, the dog requiring but not requesting a bath, the plants gasping for water, my briefcase stuffed with half accomplished work, the trip to California off in the distance, but only days way. The birthday card, purchased but not sent, e-mails gathering, with no reply.
My bed now beckons as well—the bubble bath, the hot tea with lemon, the music that invites me to dream.
I live alone. It hasn’t always been that way. This line from the pop poet Rod McKuen slips though my consciousness in ways it wasn’t meant to do.
I don’t live alone.
I am alone.
Alone means taking care of one’s own needs.
Alone means relying on one’s self.
Alone means having no safety net.
Alone means being alone—even when not alone.
I said at the beginning that it hasn’t always been that way.
It has, though. There has never been a time when I had a person to depend on in any way.
I live alone.
I did have someone.
He depended on me.
I was the strong one.
He cooked—the food I bought.
He was careless.
He needed care.
His pain was more than he could bear—actually more than I could bear.
I’d insist he go to the hospital. He refused.
He’d pass out in his chair. [Bud’s chair!]
Should I go? Should I stay?
I go. I’d return.
Our roles began to shift—subtle shifts.
I begged him to become more independent.
I was his independence.
I became dependent.
He died in June. So did I.
We speak of priorities—off filling our box, of sorting.
We speak of the meaning of our lives.
Basic needs come first.
That’s where the alone comes in.
Everything beyond survival is fluff.
Just ask someone who is struggling.
They’ll tell you the music doesn’t matter, nor does the clothing or the way you wear your hair.
They’ll tell that how you cook your food or even where you get it is of no importance.
Priorities – hell.
Life = Struggle.
Ask the strugglers about priorities.
They have no doubt.
There is no nuance.
There is only need.
I can’t seem to break the mood – it goes on and on.
Am I going back there?
To the darkness behind my eyes?
I function – until I don’t.
The don’t is when I’m alone or driving and thinking. The music helps – but sometimes it makes it worse.
I plug in one CD after another. I give that up and try the radio. Nothing. Nothing breaks the mood. Will I get there before the despair takes over?
So far, I always do.
Weekends are the worst.
Or transition times – times when I have time to think.
I made the plans months ago—well always, actually, but I did reservations months ago.
It’s difficult to write without thoughts of who might read this—what goes deeper than the surface must be couched in vague. This is an inhibitor and yet, I write. I edit, but I write.
But as I do, I digress.
I’m in the air now and flying to see my sister. My sister. We’ve had a less than idyllic relationship throughout our lives. I watch my two adult children struggling with their own relationship(s) and marvel at the rituals we each must process through.
Surprisingly I’ve found a connection with my wireless card enhancing the capability of this aging dell purchased on e-bay in 2005.
It’s been a while since I’ve flown and they’ve lowered the security panic allowing pre-purchased beverages on board. I grabbed a cranberry juice –my goal to be the last person on clearly in mind.
I type with screen pressed nearly down upon the keyboard by the seat back, clearly reclined, in front of me.
But I type—turbulence now, I keep at it. Typing now with one hand slid in between the screen and the keyboard I give up.
When do I stop being grateful? Not yet. Not yet. I was out of work too long, Even with no security in my job—any job, I feel the relief of knowing the paycheck will be deposited into my account and I’ll be able to pay my bills…at least for now.
My job was to be a lofty one: Regional Marketing Manager—finally!
It’s changed. The marketing I do is minimal. Two additional jobs were dumped into the first. It was in my contract – to fill in as needed. Then a third—my boss knew this FINALLY was beyond reason.
This time it was different. His offer—is it an offer when there is no choice involved? He linked it to the assistant—I’d asked for one when the one job became three.
I already have been paying an assistant—when the other two jobs were dumped on the first, I knew, to function, I’d need help. I’d made a proposal to my boss about this—he said he’d bring it up to the owner. I mentioned it a few more times when the stress load put me into catatonic mode.
The third extra job seemed to get his attention.
I wasn’t surprised.
The fourth job won’t be mine – at least now. I’m on vacation. Timing.
It took me a bit to regroup—to realize that I need to keep doing what I’ve been doing. I’ll pay my own assistant. Keep my sanity. Enjoy my life. Be grateful.
When I return there will be more to deal with—but that’s ok. My assistant will make some calls—keep it together.
I am grateful
I have a job.
I pay my bills.
I don’t feel so close to the edge.
He’s excited about his business, my son.
He’s ordered his workout mats and he’s researched locations. He’s arranged to do demos. He’s scheduled to teach Self Defense at the community college—name in print in their catalog! He’ll market this as well, giving instant creditability by virtue of location.
We’ve discussed finances and logistics. Networking only goes so far, I cautioned. Let’s consider giving 10% back as incentive.
He agreed. He’s not a sales person. This now has become a business proposition to his referral sources, not as flimsy as merely a referral.
His contacts and mine blanket the city.
I attended a course today where my sister lives in California. She’s been taking these courses for about five years—enrichment for the over fifty crowd.
I looked for them in my local area but the closest program is at Duke University and another at UNC Wilmington. When I was out of work it seemed appealing, now that I’m working it’s even more so, but I don’t have time…time…time.
I did check the schedule to see if anything was offered on the weekend. Yes. I found. Wilmington has a movie screening one. Watch the film one week—discussion the following.
I’m sooo tired. I flew here yesterday, exhausted before I began. I was sick last night. I woke at one o’clock and perhaps the stress took me there, but there was no respite for me stress induced or not. I took pillows and blanket to the bathroom floor. I ran a hot bath thinking that might help.
Every time I entered the bedroom it would come back over me and I’d have to go back to the bathroom. Misery.
Finally at seven o’clock I woke. In bed. I realized I’d slept for two hours. TWO hours of sleep. What relief.
We got the e-mail today from our step-mother. Her son has been in the hospital for months, was discharged to her home to die, recovered to return to his own home—only to return to the hospital.
This time it was not pulmonary or liver or his lungs. He’d had a liver transplant some years ago—a donor.
This time he flipped his truck—fiery chaos—pulled out unconscious through the windshield with third degree burns. This time we lit a candle, my sister and I. This time we felt helpless against the certainty of his pending death.
I spoke with anger and resignation—yes both—about the behavior of my father’s wife leading up to his death and since. I find it interesting that my sister, who unleashed her fury when they first married, later mellowed to include annual trips with them. The first ten years of their marriage she didn’t exist in their world. Her choice? Or was it theirs? Difficult analysis this. I took a laizzez faire approach, knowing my own life would be easier if I gave them a wide birth. Only when the angst came did I come in close contact with them.
She sees only black and white. I don't have conversations with her—she prefers e-mail now and I prefer not having conversations with her. Black/White people leave no room for conversation. They state their obvious and there’s no where to go from there.
The time I spend with my sister seems to be beneficial to us both. We don’t meet often and know each time we do it may be the last. And so we speak of things we’ve left unsaid before and we touch on matters that there is no reason now to leave alone, even if painful.
I’m glad I came here. Changing patterns is difficult but essential.
He’s welcome to stay—safe haven. I’ve discussed this with him on the phone. He says he’ll come. How long? I have no idea. He has a plan, but it’s a loose one.
Give me time with him. Time to hold him and love him and let him know I know his value. He’s fragile, this one. His pain is also behind his eyes. Let me hold him for a while. Let me let him know. Before he goes.
Yes. Begin with me, my darling, nephew. Begin with me.
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