The Greatest Fear: a journal entry in real time

There will probably be some typos, cliches, run-on sentences, and disjointed thoughts here. You’ve been warned.

My husband is asleep in the next room after being home all day, sick. He will not love this post. I have to write it, because I have to get it out of me, and he will not love it, but he will still love me. You cannot know how long it took us to understand that.

This is not about that journey.

I am writing this while he is asleep, not because I wanted to be sneaky or because he cannot know. He follows me on Twitter, for pity’s sake, where all of my posts are broadcast. He will know.

I am writing this while he is asleep because I cannot sleep. Typically, that is true because I have insomnia (thanks, Crohn’s and all my other issues!) and because I have always been more of a night person than a morning person. Tonight, it is true because I have experienced the adrenaline rush of all adrenaline rushes and the only way to come down off that is to crash, and I haven’t crashed, yet. If the good Lord is willing, I will crash very soon.

I have not crashed, yet, because tonight, about 20 minutes before 7 PM, my husband got a call that his daughter did crash. She was not injured, thank God, but my heart stopped anyway.

I need you to understand something before I go any further. I exaggerate. I admit it. I also admit that I love to exaggerate. I’m a storyteller, people. It’s what we do.

So when I say, “my heart stopped,” some might consider that hyperbole – an expression, a figure of speech. Most people use that phrase or a similar one as such.

It is one phrase I do not use lightly. I have enough health issues that I have felt my heart “skip a beat,” as some are wont to say. I have a mild arrhythmia, so it happens more often than I care to admit. I also have a plethora of immune system issues, the least of which presents itself as severe allergies with a side of asthma.

If you’ve ever had an asthma attack, you know what my Christmas Day turned into when I had one (and of course I didn’t have my inhaler). Not only does the feeling of not getting enough oxygen make me want to panic, it also has the side benefit of making me hyper-aware of my body and what’s happening within it. When the attack started, I could feel the weight on my chest as my lungs filled with mucous and my airways tightened. My nose and ribs expanded, painfully, because I was desperate for air, even though it was all around me. I calmly told my husband that as long as my face was just tingly and not totally numb we were good to go, then I asked him to go a little faster down the interstate. I didn’t tell him why. It was because my face was tingly, true – the pins and needles feeling you get after a limb falls asleep and you start moving it to get blood flowing – but I knew I was in trouble because I had completely lost my vision. He figured that out by the time we got home and I couldn’t get out of the car and onto the porch by myself. I couldn’t see and I couldn’t walk. He mostly carried me inside to my inhaler, and down the hall to our room after. (It was heroic.)

For those who have ever wondered what it might feel like to drown, ask someone who has had an asthma attack. Fluid (mucous) fills your lungs (yes, you can feel it), you breathe but you can’t get air, then you get tingly (usually your extremities or your face), you get tunnel vision that quickly worsens, and eventually, right after you can’t see anything but you’re still conscious, you go completely numb. Then, your body forgets how to operate and you can’t walk. It’s at that point that the true danger is apparent, but the problem is that you’ve already gone through the other stages, so you just don’t care anymore. The wheezing stops, so everyone else assumes the danger has passed. It’s called “silent chest.” That’s bad.

I’ll spare you the details. We got home, got to the meds I needed, I didn’t go to the hospital (no point), and I’m fine. The end.

Where was I?

Right – heart stopped.

Fast forward a couple of days, and things were going well. Work hasn’t been too busy, and other than an internet outage that shut us down for an hour or two, nothing major to report.

And then we got a call.

My step-daughter had been in a wreck. Her mom and step-dad live farther out into the county than we do, so her mom called my husband to tell him and we left immediately. I didn’t hear the conversation, but I saw his face and heard, “What happened, where is she?” and I grabbed the keys and my shoes. My heart stopped.

When I was younger, my step-dad and his family would loan the teens in the family vehicles if we asked. They didn’t hold back, but they always held the keys just out of reach and said, “Be careful. The car/truck/convertible is insured and replaceable, but you can’t be replaced.” I knew they meant it, because one of the boys wrecked an Escalade and it wasn’t a big deal after everyone knew he wasn’t hurt. Don’t get me wrong; no one was thrilled that it was totaled, and I’m pretty sure he worked for a while to pay at least a token penalty, but no one made a big deal out of it and all was well. I now know what it must have been like to say that and mean it.

Tonight, the 15 minutes between getting that call and getting to the scene was scarier than all of the following, which I have also experienced: being stalked, being threatened, getting a phone call about my brother (a police officer), getting a phone call about one of my step-brothers (both Marines), getting calls about parents/grandparents, almost drowning (there was one actual time in water that I remember, two others I apparently don’t remember – my childhood was… well), asphyxiating, being put to sleep for major surgery, repelling down the side of a 7-story building, cliff diving, enduring a fever of 107 for over 8 hours (3rd grade was rough), PTSD, paranoia, and basically anything else I can think of right now.

There are no words.

I know her mother felt the same thing, if not more acutely. (Fact: it is incredibly difficult for me to imagine that, because I am incapable of imagining a bigger hurt or fear than what I experienced tonight. I may never fall asleep again, and at this rate I’ll be wrapping up this post and alphabetizing all of our dishes and canned goods throughout the night if I can’t get some sleep. I am not a big enough egomaniac, though, to think my feelings are any deeper or purer than another human being’s, let alone her mother’s. I love this kid like she is mine and there is nothing on this earth that will change that, but I am not the only part of this equation. That is another journal entry or ten (thousand) for another day.)

I can say I also saw the differences in parents, tonight. The dads (it’s just easier to say that) were focused on logistics, next steps, process, etc. Her mom and I showed up at different times and went straight to the hugs, the letting her cry while we held her, the assurance that not a single one of us gives a flying flip in space about the car, the stuff in it, or where the money will come from to get another one. The only real thing that matters is that she’s okay. (And yes, she is okay. I may never be the same, but by the time we left her mom had talked her into food, a hot bath, and some ibuprofen, so she’s good, y’all.)

There is no greater fear than that of a parent for their child. There is no greater relief than that of holding your child safe in your arms.

I don’t care if you’re a biological parent, adoptive, step, surrogate, whatever. And I don’t care if your kid is 2 years old or 20. It doesn’t vary. At one point, I was dumb enough to think it might – that I would worry less the older they got.

I was an idiot.

Ask anyone who has lived through a heart attack what it feels like and the answers will vary. Ask anyone who has had a near-death experience what it was like in their mind before, during, and after and you’ll hear harrowing tales of darkness and redemption.

I have felt my heart stop, skip a beat, and start again. I have watched the light fade as I ran out of oxygen and I have come out the other side. I keep telling God there must be a reason he keeps saving me and he’s welcome to show that to me any day, now. It cannot possibly be only to nag my husband and his son to scrape and rinse their plates before they leave them in the sink. And yet…

I can tell you without hesitation that if – in that moment – I would have had the choice to put myself bodily between my step-daughter’s vehicle and the other one, I wouldn’t have asked questions, I wouldn’t have put in a stipulation that I would do it only if the collision were going to be fatal, I wouldn’t think, I wouldn’t wait, I wouldn’t blink or even twitch an eye before I chose to step in and keep her from going through this. I would lay down in front of a moving train. No take-backs.

There is a saying that having a child is like watching your heart walk around outside your body. Maybe for some that’s true.

I’ll tell you this.

That child is not mine – not really. Her mother is alive and well and very present, and forced to loan her to me for this lifetime. That cannot be easy. They enjoy a pretty good relationship for a mom and her teenager. I came into the scene when she was six years old, long after their history had been established.

And that girl, with her knack for high drama, her mama’s nerves, her daddy’s dimples and sense of humor, with her snark and her brains and everything else, is more than my heart walking around outside my body. She and her brother are worth far more than just my heart.

I have desperately wanted my own child for over a decade, but after tonight I am re-evaluating whether I can do all of this again. Her brother is only 13, so we have just now entered into the valley of darkness with him. I’m 35, but after tonight and what small indication I have about how the next 5 years will go, I’m pretty sure that by the time he’s 18 I’ll be 90.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some alphabetizing to do, followed by a collection of 1273 classic works of fiction I just found on my hard drive that I was supposed to move to my Kindle. If that doesn’t put me to sleep, I might even learn a new language.

Has anyone seen my inhaler?

Of Grass, Glass, and Neighbors

This is NOT an old draft. Repeat, this is not an old draft. This is new – from today. You’re welcome. (Or, I’m sorry – but I’m not really sorry, so ha!)

I experienced a selfish delight today that I didn’t even know existed. I’m not sure if I’m proud of it because I haven’t had the chance to examine it closely. I probably won’t examine it closely – I don’t love admitting I might be slightly, morally wrong. It’s a thing – go read the earlier posts.

Backstory: I loathe, hate, despise, abominate, and all-the-other-synonyms-for-hate doing dishes. I would rather run unclothed through a rose bush in snow. That will be important in a few paragraphs.

dirty dishes on the sink
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Also, we have neighbors who are retired. The husband tends to stay inside or keep to himself, but the wife helps another neighbor across the street with an adult, special needs son. I know it must be a struggle for them, and my heart goes out to our across-the-street-neighbor and the challenges she faces, especially as her son is non-verbal, so he gets frustrated, too.

I’m not sure what my next-door neighbor does to help my across-the-street-neighbor unless she’s administering meds or some sort of home health care. She does wear scrubs a lot, which makes me think she is a retired nurse or works PRN to pay bills because she rarely leaves the house other than to walk across the street. I asked her once what she did for a living (or had done), and she told a story that had so many twists and turns that no author from O. Henry to Chuck Palahnuik to Jodi Picoult could follow it. She never did answer the actual question. Doesn’t matter.

She’s into everyone’s business, and while it does – occasionally – appear helpful, that doesn’t mean it’s necessary. She also still has a grown son living with her who can’t figure out how to keep his pants above his crack even with a belt, harbors another human who is possibly one of Crack-Attack’s kids, and whether it’s the grown son’s kid or not, the grandson is uber-annoying because he sits in his car, thumping Eminem songs from when I was in high school, and does nothing but vape. Any time we hear the thud and rattle of Y2K’s illest base, I guarantee it is followed by the gentle waft of Blu Raz Cotton Candy or the sweet zephyrs of Smurf Cake.

I’m not joking, that’s the actual name of it.

This is annoying on two levels: (1) I work from home and his busted speakers turned to a volume level of eleventy-five are disruptive and distracting, and (2) on the four nice days of the year when Kentucky weather cooperates and I can open the windows all day, I don’t need his second-hand vape offal ruining the fresh air. It triggers migraines from all the chemicals and reminds me why humans are distastefully unappealing – at least the ones who are incapable of adulting or who are not yet at the age where adulting is feasible. For a bonus, (3) I might suggest it would be better for my neighbor lady to focus her loving attention on raising her grown son and his vaping, maybe-progeny (he’s got to be someone’s kid) rather than butting into the rest of the neighborhood’s business. But I’m not in charge, so, the first and second will have to suffice.

Overall, they’re not horrible people – they are actually quite nice compared to some former neighbors we’ve had – but annoying on a few levels and each in their own way. The lady, though – I just… she’s not awful, she’s nice, but… this is going to sound petty, and it probably is, but…

Well, she mows her yard twice every week from April through October and every. stinking. time. she decides to use her lawn tractor instead of her weed-eater (that’s a weed-whacker for the northern bunch) and she mows a crooked line IN MY YARD. It looks like someone turned a blind zamboni driver loose on the rye – the liquid kind and the rooted kind.

She has been doing this for at least 6 years. I have asked her to stop at least twice, point-blank.

Let me be clear: it is not her yard, nor is it even the “property line.” She legitimately crosses the property line, which is helpfully marked by trees planted by the old man who used to live there, and who gave her a tour and pointed out the tress ON the property line (I was there – I heard/saw it). She is the human equivalent of Mr. Magoo and drives that lawn tractor like George Jones down a back-road before the hangover sets in. She smiles while she does it. Her blades are set so low that she’s scalping the grass, so there is no way to cover up the serpentine stripe she scrapes across our side yard.

So, so strange. (Yes, my problems are stupid.)

Also, we have our mowing crew mow all the way to the property line, do all of the edging professionally – including around those trees – and have told her at least twice that we do that in addition to me asking her to stay on her side. She still mows that blankety-blank crooked line down the yard twice per week. Do I care that much about the yard? No. I bought this house because it is next to a field that can never be added to the subdivision, which means it will always be on a dead end and I will only ever have neighbors on one side. My introverted heart delights in the thought. It has a giant picture window that is great to read by while saving money on the electricity bill, an open floor plan that flows easily from kitchen to living room so it’s easy to spend time with friends and family on the rare occasion we invite them, and it has three bedrooms of generous size for a house this small, along with two bathrooms.

And separate bathrooms save marriages. (Feel free to write that down somewhere so you see it often. Trust me.)

I care because – again, two reasons – (1) my husband goes bonkers every time he sees that loopy line, which means I have to hear about it and I can’t do anything to fix it other than go nuclear (not a great way to treat neighbors, and probably-most-certainly NOT what Jesus would do), which means I have to see it AND listen to why it’s so hideous all the time, and (2) she always mows it in the middle of the morning when I’m working. She even asked me about my work schedule, then proceeded the next day to start mowing at exactly the time I explained how busy I am. I kid you not.

Fast-forward: today was one of the four nice days of the year when I could open windows for more than 30 minutes because the temperature was under 80 degrees but above 60.

She was not mowing, thank goodness.

I had to run the dishwasher a couple of times to get through all the dirty dishes that have piled up over the past week (maybe two), and I had to do a few of them by hand, because I like my expensive cooking utensils more than I hate dishes. It’s a close race, in case you were wondering.

Our dishwasher came with the house over 12 years ago and needs to be replaced. The detergent dispenser lid is broken so all the soap gets used too quickly, making pre-scrubbing a requirement. The spray element thingies are a bit clogged – probably from mineral build-up, but there are other options I prefer not to explore. Most of all, though, it is loud. I don’t mean loud in the way you can hear some dishwashers splash water along the plates.

I mean when the wash cycles start, it’s loud in the way an industrial wood-chipper sounds when fed enough sheet metal and plate glass to outfit a two-story building, with the added grinding noise of a blender slogging through modeling clay.

*Note: Please don’t ask me how I know what that sounds like. My childhood was weird and we probably should have been better supervised, but hey – natural selection was at work, and none of us died, so that’s good, right? Thanks in advance.*

I complain about it all the time and have asked for a new one for Christmas if my husband would rather buy that than the jewelry I wanted, it’s that bad.

Anyway, I started a load of dishes after opening the front windows today. Our next-door neighbor was outside in her driveway, having just come back from the across-the-street-neighbor’s house.

She was tending her mums.

If I’m being authentic and if I don’t self-reflect from a moral standpoint, I will say I took great delight in seeing her jump every time the wash cycle circled back around after a rinse cycle. It startled her. She even looked over her shoulder a few times, vexed and wondering what was happening behind our closed front door. If she’s half as neurotic as me, or anything like Mrs. Kravitz, she was imagining all kinds of scenarios and nefarious plots.

I smiled and waved from the picture window.

If it keeps hitting anywhere between the upper-50s to mid-70s, I might start doing dishes every day.

I’m so excited.

nature garden grass lawn
Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

Ginger Ale and Funeral Plans

Look! I found another blog post I wrote at least a year ago and never published! It’s like Christmas in October, but not on the Hallmark Channel! Cheers!

There is something deeply unsettling about realizing that if you were asked the age-old question about what you would take with you if you knew you were going to be stuck on a desert island, your answer is – immediately and without hesitation – toilet paper and ginger ale. And that if you had to choose just one, you’d be hard-pressed to choose between the two. I used to think that I’d choose a book, or maybe some sort of lip balm, since I’m hopelessly addicted to both.

But when you spend an entire week with your head hanging over a toilet puking up the entire contents of your stomach – including blood (no, I didn’t go to the hospital, and no, it wasn’t really that much blood, and yes, I know it was blood and I know why I’m puking it up) – and then you spend that same amount of time again in the bathroom (I’ll spare you the details) continuing to be sick for no other reason than your DNA structure, you start figuring out what your simplest priorities are.

And mine, sadly, are toilet paper and ginger ale. Those are my needs.

I’d prefer if said ginger ale came in canned form, and while I do have a particular brand I prefer, any made with real ginger would do. I figure with as much of it as I have to drink, I could use the cans structurally once they’re empty, weighing them down with sand so they’re more stable. I have plenty of time to think of these things in weeks and months like this.

For example, I’ve decided that when I die and my funeral is planned, I don’t want flowers on my casket. Everyone does that, and it’s predictable. I want a party, dang it. And everyone knows that at parties, there are balloons. That’s right, balloons. Multi-colored ones. The hubs would tell you my favorite color is Roy G Biv, and I expect my funeral to live up to the occasion (pun completely intended).

Instead of flowers and that weird apparatus they use to lower (drop) the casket into the grave, I want a ginormous bunch of multi-colored balloons tied to each corner of my coffin and then a bunch in the middle on each side – basically every place there would be a pall bearer. I will be weirdly levitated from funeral service to grave (which is quite considerate, I think, as it takes the weight off the pall bearers – my final act of selflessness). When it’s time for the family to “throw their flower,” I want each person at the funeral to take a balloon from alternating locations on the box, so that my remains are slowly and awkwardly lowered into the ground. The beauty of this is that (a) it is irrevocably strange and uncomfortable, and (b) there is guaranteed to be comedy, because eventually, the weight of the casket will overcome the force of the balloons, and I’m bound to drop crookedly and suddenly into the pit that will be my body’s final resting place.

And if you don’t think that’s funny, you’re probably already dead.

Seriously, picture it: a bright but overcast day, a slight drizzle – even a misty fog – shrouding everything in sight. All five of my friends gathered with my husband and family, reliving their favorite moments shared with me: baking chocolate chip cookies, arguing with my brothers who always wanted to be right but never were, the way they would call or text and not receive a response for days because I didn’t check my phone regularly and couldn’t be counted on to watch for social media notifications (true story), and so on. The preacher closes with a prayer, and one by one, the gathering steps up to a gleaming mahogany casket surrounded by a halo of balloons that would put all the birthday parties up to that point to shame. Everyone gets to take one balloon from the bunches, making their way around the perimeter like a twisted game of Duck-Duck-Goose. (And you only get one balloon – if you let yours go and it floats to the sky, well, that will teach you to hang on to the things that matter, won’t it? You never know when they’ll float into the ether.)

Slowly, the casket drops into the grave, completely unbalanced and with a lurching, drunken sway, to be honest. This probably wasn’t a good idea, someone will whisper. I know, someone else will agree, but it’s what she wanted.

Indeed.

Suddenly, the groan and creak of the box accompanied by the hissing, disconcerting sound of its contents (me) shifting to one end. Gravity overtakes helium. I make one final, crash landing into the abyss!

Macabre? Sure.

Hilarious?

YES! And totally worth it.

I’m not 100% sold on everyone taking a single balloon. We could make this far more interesting and turn it into one of those carnival dart games where everyone gets three chances to pop a balloon. We just have to make sure someone is there to officiate – the game, not the funeral – and clear the other side of the casket to avoid injuries. People shouldn’t have to worry about getting hurt at a funeral, you know.

Anyhow, that’s what I’ve decided I want instead of the usual wake. I feel like that’s fair if I have to spend so much time locked in a 3 x 5 room staring at porcelain only to spend all the time after my time in an even smaller space lined with satin. (Whose idea was satin, by the way? Of all the non-breathable, expensive, impractical fabrics out there, we thought the underlining of a 1960s prom dress was classy and appropriate for the afterlife? Really? How ’bout some good old fashioned cotton or linen, like the Egyptians? They figured out mummification pretty well – I can’t see how satin is an improvement.)

Meanwhile, though, I won’t be planning a trip to any desert islands in the near future. I don’t think banana leaves and palm fronds are a good alternative to Cottonelle. I also don’t know how to make my own ginger ale and I honestly don’t know if ginger is native to desert islands – probably not, if I had to guess. Otherwise, why would Canada lay claim to it?

balloons calm clouds colorful
Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom on Pexels.com

Your Problems Are Stupid

GUESS WHAT!? I just realized this week that I still pay for this domain and that I’ve written a ton of blog posts that I never published. (Yes, that’s silly.) The following is one of them from either last year or the year before, because I have also decided that paying for a domain where I write blog posts I never actually post is ridiculous – almost as ridiculous as a politician with a Twitter account. (Please don’t send me hate mail or post ignorant comments disagreeing with me or mouthing some vitriol about politics, freedom of speech, etc., etc.  – I don’t read them, I don’t care, I do vote, you won’t change my mind, I will almost certainly block you, and it won’t bother me at all. INSTEAD, go use that energy to donate a dollar to the Red Cross or to a clean water initiative for countries who need it and use your powers to make a positive impact instead of no impact at all. *Thanks, Management.) So, here is one of those drafts, and I have decided that October 17th will be my January 1st and that I will purposely be posting far more regularly. Otherwise, why the h-e-double-hocky-sticks am I paying for a blog domain? Enjoy!

I’ve been traveling lately, I’ve been around more people than I would normally interact with in several months’ time, and I’ve been exhausted by it. It’s been draining, frightening, confusing, exciting, interesting, wonderful, and enlightening, to say the least. I’ve come home with some new perspectives on my day-to-day actions and decisions, I’ve started to find new ways of doing things based on what I learned from some of those interactions, and I’ve also thought of some creative solutions to challenges I’ve been facing for a few weeks, all because I traveled.

Granted, it was business travel, so that was kind of the point – to interact with peers and colleagues who could share with me their point of view and open my eyes to see things in a way that isn’t always comfortable for me. I hope I had the chance to do the same for them. I also got to hear some amazing stories of overcoming obstacles that I allowed myself to get temporarily warm and fuzzy over and then swept to the side so I could focus on my productivity. But when I came home, I started thinking back to some of those stories and reflecting on them. I’ve been getting a little (a lot) philosophical about life and how it should be lived, and I don’t know if it was the lack of sleep (I got almost none, mostly because I don’t sleep well in strange places and tend to just lay there and contemplate the universe, but also because I was in a different time zone and worked different hours and it jacked my system all up, let me tell you.) or the creative juices that started flowing, but here’s what I’ve decided:

*wait for it…*

Your problems are stupid.

I know that’s upsetting, but it’s the truth. And what’s even more upsetting is that my problems are equally stupid and when I think about them, not really problems at all compared to other people. I mean, as far as I know, I don’t have any type of cancer I’m fighting while also working while also raising a family while also going to school while also dealing with home repair issues and transportation issues. I do have a job, which I love, I have a family, whom I love and sometimes even like, and who I like to think cares at least a little about me. I have friends, though few, which is by choice and not because I’m a hideous bridge troll who sucks the life out of everything I touch (at least, if I am, no one has told me – and ignorance is bliss, so I’m cool with that). I have a home, and even though it needs some work and if anyone came inside they would think we were hoarders who got robbed but the job didn’t get finished, it’s a roof over my head. I have clothing (far too much of it if you ask anyone else in my family, but what do they know?) and food (including a lot of mac-and-cheese) and clean water. My bills get paid. Our dogs get fed. And my neighbor only mows an indecently crooked line up the side of my yard once per week because she either can’t see straight or hates me and grass.

I have problems, don’t get me wrong. But they’re not horrible. I mean, I could compare myself to my great-grandmother for some perspective. That woman lived through the Great Depression, WWII, buried two husbands and a couple babies before she was 37, raised her other children alone, and lived to be just shy of 100 years old. She was wise, caring, tough, and when I was old enough to understand – hilarious.

So yeah, we all have problems, but when I take some time to consider the problems I don’t have? My problems are stupid. All of this to say, this is a preface to another post where I’ll probably talk about my problems – namely, Crohn’s disease and the issues it causes. What’s awesome about that is that I can totally do that and contradict myself (because it’s my blog – kind of like that whole sales game where “it’s my bat, my ball, my rules”). So stay tuned for a glimpse of what life is really like for people with weird, gross, annoying illnesses for which there is no cure.

But please understand that I, of all people, do know that compared to the majority of the world, my problems – and probably yours, if you’re a citizen of a first-world country – are pretty stupid.

 

 

Under Attack

(I know, I know. It has been forever since I posted. You’re fine. Deep breaths.)

I just waged war against the animal kingdom. I’ll keep you posted on whether I win or not. In the meantime, know that it started with a hard-fought battle in the wee hours of the night and that many, many lives were lost. Countless, even.

I maybe cried a little.

Okay, I totally cried. A lot.

To be fair, I have been ill, in pain, and very tired. Like, I could get on board with a six-months-long-medical-coma tired. I got overwhelmed. Waging war is stressful. I hear it ages a body. I may need to call my hairdresser.

I used well over half a can of Lysol spray, because there is no reason war has to be both messy AND unsanitary. None.

Also, Lysol works almost as well as pyrethrin in a pinch.

Those ants will remember this day. Or they won’t and they will send more troops and I will be ready. (I won’t be ready.)

I will protect.this.house. (I will cry again and make my husband – who works in pest control for pitysakes – get his @$$ out of bed at 11:30 PM on a week night and help. And by help I mean stand there, frustrated with me, and be awake at the same time I am while I haul clothes and garbage out of my bathroom with one hand and wield a deadly can of lemon-scented Lysol with the other. I will wipe up the carcasses later. And when he asks why I woke him up I will tell him it was because I need a hero, gosh dang it, and by hero I mean someone to carry the 4 baskets of laundry to the utility room and to be awake with me. I mean someone who works in freaking pest control who takes care of this BEFORE it happens so it doesn’t actually happen. And I will ask him why in God’s good name we have ANTS when he works in pest control, and he will promise to show up tomorrow and not only pick up the fight where the Lysol spray left off but he will also bring ant gel, more spray treatment, and by God he will crawl under the house and find that trail and he will avenge me!

I will promise to think about trying to remember that my husband, too, has a day job and a part-time night job and that he cannot be my hero if I refuse to get out of his way. My bathroom is only big enough for one person at a time, and even that is a stretch. There is a reason bathrooms are sometimes called “water closets.” This one is more along the lines of an airplane lavatory. But I digress…

He will smite those ants Old Testament style!)

Whew! Longest parenthetical thought EVER. Eat your heart out, Faulkner.

Anyway, I waged war. I am also incapable of not scratching my head, which feels creepy-crawly after all those ants died at my hand. This is psychological only, I know, and yet… so itchy. That is weird, as ants are clearly not lice, so there is no reason for my head to suddenly be itchy. (Stop scratching – you know you are!)

I shall keep you posted. Meanwhile, I shall rest when I can and buy a new toothbrush tomorrow, as mine was gunned down in friendly fire.

It had a good run.

Tomorrow we shall fight another day! (Cue “One Day More” from Les Miserables…)

Ants. Ick.

Goddess of May

In late April a few years ago, I was coming home from work and noticed something. With the windows down, driving over the ridge just past the river, I noticed that the coltish, freshly bloomed youth of Spring in April was giving way to something more mature, something richer. Over the past few nights I saw the same thing happening, remembered a journal entry I made those years ago at the end of April, sensed the change in the breeze and in the way lavender clouds floated in front of an orange sherbet sunset just before a Spring storm. It was like traveling in time.

I watched the sky in the distance as the storm front passed my area of the county in favor of the county to the northwest. Fading blue sky laced with molten orange met misty anvils and the blue-gray cotton candy of a twilight storm. Flashes of light danced behind the gauzy curtain, outlining the thunderheads in bright and pale pinks, lilacs, electric peaches, and blue fire. All behind the ridge – the spinal cord of hills and trees separating our neck of the woods from theirs (the other county). Magnificence.

Just before I turned into our small community of neighborhoods, I was driving straight toward the storm. Had I kept going I might have found myself struggling to share the stage with it, said stage being made of pitted asphalt and painted with the faded yellow of warning. But just after that right turn home, I breathed deeply and caught the essence through my open windows of something I haven’t smelled since the first few months I lived here, the smell of the country – this particular countryside – before it rains. I love that scent.

It’s the hint of refreshing rain mixed with the heavy-sweet flavor of balmy air – air full of the gossip of buzzing insects working in the bulb flowers and of the mingled breaths of newly blossomed, developing trees, musky with youth and dewy with the syrup of honeysuckle, air full of electricity and life, seduction set free to fly without restraint through the atmosphere.

That moment is when spring is real, when life matters. That’s all it takes, just that smell. It is how my ancestors predicted heavy rains before Doppler and before TV.

It is the beginning of a new relationship, a time when we usher out the fresh, shy bloom of April, say goodbye to the chaste whispers that draw the wild things back out into the open and welcome with open arms the more mature, more unabashedly sensuous May.

April is gangly, a bit clumsy as she grows into herself. She is blooming, warm but moody – going from cold to hot to cold again – like a teenager coping with hormones. She is beautiful, but not quite filled out in certain places. But May…

May teases for a while, with a glimpse of bare leg through the back-lit curtain, only to burst through, fully, mere moments later. May is April after she has learned to appreciate her conquests, after she learns to ply her trade of seduction, reveling in every stage from the introduction to the afterglow. Still youthful, still fresh and still sweet – but something more. May is fuller, richer, warmer, calling gently with the first light of morning, softly singeing during the day – just hot enough to burn but then soothing your skin with her sighs – and languorously drawing you in at dusk with her mystery and the promise to reveal it.

May is pleasure incarnate.

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Lovely & Hateful Things, Parts Dos

Things I Hate, continued…

  1. (really #47, but I’m too lazy to figure out how to start back a cleanly numbered list at 47 and not 1) hearing people chew (it’s just gross)
  2. know-it-alls (This is so hard for me, because I am one, and I know this, but I don’t like it when other people are know-it-alls, which is a problem, especially when you read the next item of things I hate, which I beg you to take tongue-in-cheek because I just can’t not write it because it’s a real thing.)
  3. hypocrites (Yes, I’m hanging my head in shame, here. Don’t judge me.)
  4. the ambient sound of the interstate under the buzz of cicadas in my back yard at night (I want to feel like I’m in the middle of nowhere instead of in other people’s laps all the time, and like the lady next door is absolutely not going to mow a GIANT CROOKED LINE down my yard this morning because she’s under the impression that our shared property line is  magical easement where visual aesthetics don’t exist. She is the reincarnation of Mr. Magoo.)
  5. the fact that I have lived in suburbia long enough that I just referred to any part of my yard as having an aesthetic appeal (help)

Things I Love, continued…

  1.  (really #56) Christmas songs (preferably starting around July or August – nowish – and running through January)
  2. old comedies (preferably from the 40s, 50s, and 60s – and if it’s a musical that’s even better!)
  3. cartoons (Fine. I confess. … I kind of secretly love Teen Titans Go.)
  4. walking our dog in the park on a nice day (I want to put that I love walking him on a nice day in winter because there are no bugs in winter, but since it’s currently the middle of summer and the bugs are everywhere I’m probably biased. I know I complain about walking him in winter, too.)
  5. when friends send books in the mail that make them think of me (I should worry that this is what made them think of me, but it’s just the best, funniest gift.)20160801_170312
  6. my morning bowl of coffee
  7. Gilmore Girls (Is it any wonder, considering I drink coffee by the bowl?)

 

And I’m sure these will continue now that I’m into list mode, which is a dangerous and addictive thing for me. But now I must adult (read: work).

Things I Love (because life should be balanced and because I was told I have to write this next)

  1. Starburst jelly beans
  2. cheap wine
  3. expensive wine
  4. the fact that just because I love wine people will think I’m a lush (I’m totally not. I have a glass – maybe two – every other day or less. My doctor told me it’s one of the best things I can do for myself as long as I’m not averaging more than one per day. Plus it feels like something an adult would do, ya know? I sip and enjoy. I don’t overdo it.)
  5. nonfiction essays (especially humorous ones)
  6. Romance novels (not, like, lady porn or anything – just some fluff every now and then… and maybe a good cozy mystery)
  7. Classic novels (for when fluff and reality won’t cut it)
  8. comics
  9. basically, to read stuff
  10. brownies
  11. when little children laugh
  12. dogs
  13. horses
  14. birds
  15. fine, all animals, then
  16. cooking (especially old family recipes when I need comfort food, and also trying brand new ones that are more gourmet)
  17. comedic movies
  18. action movies
  19. my best friend (who told me I had to write this list)
  20. music (pretty much all of it)
  21. family
  22. sunsets (I’m far too lazy to get up early enough for a sunrise, if I can help it.)
  23. trees
  24. climbing trees (I don’t get to indulge in this often enough. I’m told adults don’t climb trees, to which I say, pfffft.)
  25. singing
  26. driving (especially road trips)
  27. traveling! (though I rarely ever get to do so)
  28. writing
  29. my job! (for reals – and how many people do you know who can say that?)
  30. the fact that only about 3 people read this blog but I love the heck out of writing it anyway
  31. people who use proper grammar and spelling (this is a personal problem I’m working through)
  32. people who are willing to do my dishes (see “Things I Hate”)
  33. peanut M&Ms
  34. fishing with my grandfather
  35. inside jokes
  36. laughing at myself
  37. making people smile
  38. quiet time
  39. the beach (pretty much any beach)
  40. almost any natural body of water for that matter
  41. heights (that’s right – I love high places)
  42. bright colors
  43. drawing
  44. baking (not to be confused with cooking)
  45. flowers (except the ones that smell like dead things or funeral homes)
  46. resilient people
  47. doughnuts (I’m starting to wonder how I don’t weigh 400 pounds the longer this list gets.)
  48. Greek salads! (HA! I DO like one healthy thing!)
  49. a clean house, especially if I didn’t have to clean it (*dreeeeeeeeeeam….dream, dream, drea-eam….*)
  50. rain
  51. also, thunderstorms
  52. hugs (but ONLY from a very select few people, because I have a personal bubble of space that tends to be wider than most other people’s and I like it that way)
  53. finding ways to fix things that are broken and make them better (This can also be on the list of things I hate if it’s something I feel like I have to do all the time, but I like the challenge in general. This is not effective or fun when dealing with broken people, who I tend to avoid.)
  54. the fact that I’m much more comfortable now in my majestic awkwardness than I was a decade ago
  55. getting letters the old-fashioned way, via snail mail

 

…and lots of other things I’m sure I’ll add at a later date.

(There! Now I’ve balanced it. Better?)

Things I Hate (or, that make me want to poke my eyes out) Part One

  1. feelings (see previous post)
  2. hamburgers (Okay, so once every three or four months I’ll crave a thickburger from Hardee’s or something, but then I’m done.)
  3. also, meatloaf (only bread should come in a loaf)
  4. pushy people
  5. doing the dishes
  6. having plans made for me without being consulted
  7. being told what to do (see #4)
  8. being ignored (this should go without saying, right?)
  9. licorice flavored jelly beans
  10. fake people
  11. having to be nice to fake people
  12. not saving money
  13. eBay (I just… I don’t know. I’ve never liked it. I don’t know why. It may or may not be related to being forced to attend lots of car auctions in my youth. I’m not an auction person, okay? I just want to pay for something without having an argument or a competition over it.)
  14. mesh clothing (I mean, really, what’s the point?)
  15. baseball caps on the kitchen table
  16. 80s synthesizer music (this should probably be closer to number one, but I’m writing this as they come to me, so keep that in mind)
  17. Axl Rose (but Slash is amazing)
  18. the janky carpet in my house that I want to replace but can’t
  19. flan (yet I love creme brulee, and they’re really similar when you think about it)
  20. Michelob Ultra
  21. Sports Talk Radio
  22. any talk radio
  23. anyone talking on the radio, actually – I just want them to play songs. Is that so much to ask?
  24. ambiguity
  25. Outback’s Bloomin’ Onion (Sadly, I’ll probably get more flack for this than anything else.)
  26. when people misuse apostrophes to make things plural (An apostrophe is meant to show possession and join words into contractions! That is ALL. IT NEVER MAKES THINGS PLURAL. So stop it.)
  27. when people use the wrong form of a word (this one I can let go occasionally – the apostrophe thing I can’t)
  28. small talk
  29. ‘touchers’ (You know – the handsy people who touch everyone or have no concept of personal space so they’re all up in yours? I can’t handle those people. And that’s weird because I’m fairly affectionate with people I love. But if I don’t love you, don’t touch me.)
  30. gratuitously violent movies and TV shows (I’m a comedy person.)
  31. people who aren’t dog people (I don’t trust those people.)
  32. whiny voices
  33. complainers (Yes, I see what I did there.)
  34. hypochondriacs
  35. negative people (This is not the same as complainers. There is, of course, some overlap, but there can be a difference.)
  36. incredibly loud places (or at least for ridiculously long periods of time)
  37. the teacups at Disney (just… no)
  38. Nascar (sorry Dad)
  39. cigarette smoke (I’m allergic to it, so obviously it bothers me.)
  40. poison ivy
  41. mosquitoes (why do they even exist?!)
  42. people who litter
  43. people who don’t say “please” and “thank you” and hold open doors for other people
  44. Chanel No. 5 (I’m pretty sure my grandmother wore this. And I loved her. But I hate this stuff.)
  45. fart jokes (there were far too many of these growing up with brothers)
  46. people who keep their phones in front of their faces all through dinner

 

To Be Continued… (probably)

We Don’t Do That Here

I’ve been exploring and talking a lot about my feelings over the past couple of weeks. I hate doing that. I’m not good at it; it’s incredibly inconvenient because if I talk about them I have to reflect on them and if I reflect on them I have to admit I’m not perfect and that I really do have the feelings even though I don’t do the feelings. Who has time for that? I’m not a starving, mediocre poet writing lines about the trash on the sidewalk. I’ve got bills to pay.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m totally fine talking with other people about their feelings. I’m quite good at that, actually, and make my living helping other people explore their reactions and why they have them and then overcome them so we can get stuff done. Because after the feelings have been felt, there is still stuff that has to get done in order for the progress to continue. And I am all about progress while I still do care about the feelings of others.

Unless the progress is mine, apparently. That’s what I’ve learned while feeling my feelings over the past few weeks.

I have made very little progress toward my own goals in life. I’ve rah-rahed and fist-bumped my way through team-building exercises and I like to hope I’ve inspired other people to reach their potential, or at least think they can. But if life progress were measured in speed and miles I’d be a flea in a rusted go-cart a couple of inches from the starting line.

“There’s nothing wrong with feeling things,” I’ve been told, usually by people who have their lives together and don’t worry about all of the many possible scenarios that have literally and will likely never happen to them in this life, which is one of the things I catch myself doing. (I legit waste a lot of free time having imaginary arguments in my head that never come to fruition – line by line, action by reaction. I’m told this is one of the trademarks of a true INTP. Of course it is, because I wouldn’t have a useful trademark like making friends easily or being naturally athletic. No. Instead, I’m one of the lucky ones who has a high probability of being recommended for new anti-anxiety drugs and clinical trials to help alleviate ADHD symptoms.) And that’s great for them if they like to get worked up over their emotions and really engage with that mess. I hear there are also some people who love kale smoothies in the morning. I’m happy for them.

I would rather be stripped to the skin, drizzled in honey, and tied face-down to the top of a fire-ant hill (is that a thing? do fire ants have hills?) than talk about or even acknowledge ‘the feels.’ I feel the same about kale breakfast smoothies, to be fair.

Unfortunately, through an ongoing series of events (and we’re talking years here) and because of some of the books I’ve been reading lately to add some ‘tools to the tool-belt’ for work, I’ve been reflecting on my feels and dreams and hopes and wants and expectations and hang-ups and fears and co-dependencies and I’ve realized I’ve got diddly squat compared to what I have the potential to have, and worse, compared to what I expect(ed) to have at this stage of life. I’ve been forced to look in the mirror, stop having imaginary arguments for a minute or two, and tell myself, sternly, what I always hated hearing from grown-ups when I was a child: I am so disappointed in you.  I thought you were better than this.

I don’t know if you’ve ever sternly talked to yourself in a mirror before, and if you have I hope you had the sense not to do so as soon as you rolled out of bed and before you’ve combed your hair, brushed your teeth, or wiped the previous night’s mascara out from under your bloodshot eyes and the flaking-off drool from your chin. Regardless, it ain’t cute.  It’s downright ugly if you do talk to yourself in the mirror first thing in the morning like I did, but at any time it ain’t cute – not if you do it right.

The crux of the issue is that I’m disappointed in myself for being less than what I know I can be because I’ve spent all of my time ignoring my own feelings, needs, goals, and dreams in order to take care of other people’s feelings and apparent needs. Were they real needs for those people? Possibly, but I didn’t have to be the one to provide for them or fix them. The fact that I felt compelled to do so was a disservice to them and to myself. I tied my self-worth to the validation I felt when others needed me, or at least appeared to need me, instead of to what I know is true about me. I believed I could only be worthy of love or friendship or success if I could prove how useful I was. I watched dream after dream after dream of mine fall by the wayside, fiery meteors of death and devastation crashing to the earth around me. I let go of little pieces of myself along the way, minute by minute, dust particle by dust particle, until I lost myself. I lost friends, time I would’ve loved to spend with them and with my family, the balance I felt when I focused on things I loved like art, writing (see? I’m slowly getting some of my own back), the outdoors, and anything I could possibly get my hands on to read. I lost money, and gave up my goals to travel, and at one point my dumb@$$ gave up the chance at a MacArthur Fellowship.  (Yeah. I’m an idiot. I got that.) I gave up everything I loved about me, everything I loved before I decided I needed to be needed.

All of it. Gone.

I tried to replace it with taking care of people and working my tail off and fitting into a mold that I thought my family expected me to fit into. I tried to tell myself that it was worth it and that maybe this was what I was meant for – to be last in order to gain my ultimate reward. Isn’t that in the Bible, too? “The last shall be first and the first shall be last” (Matthew 20:16)? (FYI, it turns out that verse isn’t about being a martyr like I thought. It’s about a landowner being smart with his resources regardless of what others do for him or how much they think they need from him or deserve. Let that sink in a bit.) And while during some of that time I learned some new things about myself, about how strong I am and can be, and about what I can tolerate and withstand before I’m ready to start slamming faces with a baseball bat, I’ve finally realized something deeply, exhaustingly disturbing.

I was wrong.

And I know I said that the crux of the issue is that I’m disappointed in myself but truly the crux of the crux of the issue is that I was wrong, and I really, completely, totally, wholly hate being wrong. (<— And that is the true crux of the issue. I’m petty that way. I know my truth.) It makes me feel stupid, worthless, and embarrassed. And you know what? I don’t like to feel my feelings, at least not those feelings. Those feelings suck like a stoner siphoning helium from a birthday balloon behind the local Chuck-E-Cheese.

Now, the heart of the crux of the ocean of issues is the fact that I have to make a decision to do something about it. And that means I have to confront my feelings and then talk about them with the people I’ve given so much up for, and we don’t do that here. We don’t fight, we don’t disagree, we don’t stay mad at each other, and we don’t talk about how unappreciated I feel because of everything I’ve given and done and everything I haven’t gotten in return.

We don’t do ROI (that’s Return On Investment for you non-business people) discussions and we sure as heck don’t rock this boat we’ve been patching with peanut butter and holding together with frayed bungee chords while we’ve been navigating the stormy seas of the hurricane we’ve been in for a decade. We talk about how we’ll pay the bills and feed the kids and how in another decade we’ll go on an imaginary trip overseas so we can do more things I really couldn’t give a flying flip about but that I support because it’s what I thought I was supposed to do.

And again, let me be clear: I did this. This was me. There is no blame to be laid but at the door of my dilapidated shack of self-efficacy, washed-up dreams like fragments of seashells and plastic can-rings left by the tide as it washes back out to deeper, bluer, livelier places. I’d love to be able to end this by saying I have a brighter outlook (I do, I think, but I’m hesitant to hope) or with a witty turn of humorous phrase. But I can’t, because this is serious stuff I’m addressing.

And we don’t do that here.