Saturday, June 4, 2011

no such thing as time, only change

I am making this mental list today of things to do with the next six months and the next 40 years, the short and long-term. Alice graduates from high school tomorrow, leaves for college this fall. I’ve been toddling kids out my front door and shuffling them off to school for 25 years. The career I have, though it’s morphed over the years, in various exciting ways, I’ve done for the same amount of time. I’m here now where I always thought I would be with the freedom I NEVER THOUGHT I’D EVER HAVE! It worked. I had a family, raised my children and had a career I loved, at the same time! The ME TIME is now here, what the holy fuck?!!?!?! I might piss myself sideways!

And yet there are a few constraints a few loose ends, my own right hand surgery for the arthritis lest my thumb just achy-breaky falls right off! (Oh, and then I can fish, and ride a bike [and use the hand brake again!]), the left hand surgery that will have to follow though not as soon since the right hand is much worse. Even still, I'm postponing this because you can't drive a kid to college, one-handed, nor can you hold a new baby (Sara's), so this winter yet, but soon, the surgery, the time off.

There’s the management of my overflowing client list and what to do with my workload and my me-load (writing, art and other) since I really haven’t settled into this house yet, not really and never (if you really, really look at what’s really “unpacked" specific to my "self."

We have to move Ali out of her room, into her college "stuff and such" mode, we have to unpack the basement, repack it and get it ready for the remodel. There's a rummage sale planned for July, a graduation party in August. My office needs to be moved upstairs in final process, to it's be all/end all space.

There’s the logistics of Mark’s parents and their continued needs, the second job (that really isn’t a job at all) that I adore, but the second chore of it (that isn’t really a chore at all) that their health is failing (his mother especially, my “mother” especially). Her palliative care situation will go hospice care at some point, which will not be my first experience in that realm, but I’m in constant denial about it because I feel like losing my big brother this year I should get a “get out of jail/death of a love one free card” for a while yet.

I like to tease Mark that he and his family aren’t ready for the continued aging of their parents, but I’m not ready for what’s happening to his mom right now, and all the puppies in the world aren’t helping.

I’m trying not to steel my heart while I regroup for what’s next, this six months and how that affects how I see the next 40 years inside my own leftover self.

Staying too strong, you miss important shit, you’ll wish later you hadn’t missed, but some of this is very difficult right now, even for stellar stoic me. I spent March and a good portion of April crying. The latter part of April and all of May, I couldn't work up a tear if you pinched me. I've begun to preface things, in therapy too, as "we can talk about that in a bit but right now I don't want to cry."

I don't have wiper blades the likes of which is needed for the winter slimy sleety mixed rain and frozen shit storm that's up ahead. I can see this going in, this shit that no one can see going in ... yeah, that shit, it's bat shit scary.

I’m trying to spend time with my father in the clever way that we used to when I was a child, the stolen moments when Mommy Dearest wasn’t in the room, and this has brought with it a series of fairy tale moments the last several months that have also brought with them a number of “small notations” in a mental flip memo pad that say “be sure to touch on THAT ONE in therapy.”

I’ll never be a Toys [backwards R] Us Kid, and it irritates me that a person has to pay by the hour just to re-realize that.

What’s the point?

You live, you learn through it? Why do you have to choppity-chop your heart back up, saute it in a pan, cool the contents, prod them with a wooden spoon and then look doe-eyed at your MD/PhD and go, "That's exactly the size of it, only smaller and a bit burnt around the edges, but yes that's it," but I knew that before we threw that shit all over the table in his office and went back through it.

It wasn’t my heart the woodcutter brought back in the box, hello? But Mr. MD/PhD would like to talk about the stuff OUTSIDE THE BOX, of course. It's like he doesn't have cable therapy sessions, only weeks and weeks of boring regular channel sessions and he'd like me to go all cable therapy session on his butt for just one session, just for fun, just so we're not bored. Okay, maybe, so that's on my "to do list."

Oh, and I hate what the math of suicide and death has tried to do with my brothers, the sibling count. There are three of them and thus four of us, or should be. Me, one sister and then three brothers, one older and two younger. However, by high school since they all became GIGANTIC,I ended up being the "little sister" by default, and then in March Jamie killed himself and now?!?!?!

I never did like math. If his being dead somehow makes me the older brother, I guess I’m even sadder, madder and more afraid about this situation than I was before. Not to mention confused and slighlty terrified.

We’ve gone nowhere any such remarkable distance down the grief path. We are not even going in circles. A circle would be an improvement; a maze, even, would be a relief, as if there was some sense to it. We are still in the fucking brambles.

But, I digress, and this morning I woke up because the dogs were barking, and I heard Mark’s voice outside the bedroom window saying, “ WIDGERS!” (His nickname, for them … don’t ask me! He also calls them “The Body Walkers” and “The Sniffers.”)

I woke up thinking, “Ugh! Fuck, Ah!” I just wanted sleep, no alarm, a wake up on my own time without a "50 things to do in the first five minutes list;" it had been a very, very long week and a very, very long last 72 hours.

A few moments later, I walked bleary-eyed out to the open-concept fabulous home we’ve managed for ourselves (with our past histories before us, and much shared history now between us).

Mark came in off the deck, sunshine behind his silly grinning face and cropped curls, and the dogs ran to greet him. I could not help but smile, but didn't.

All I saw was the deck behind him, a sea of green and the empty coffin-size planters (I have and zero-time this last several weeks to attend to the house or gardens).

“How are you this morning,” he teased.

I replied in a pissy growl, “I just would for once like to wake up, in and of myself, without being on someone else’s shit-ass joking schedule.”

He replied, with a perplexing, “Huh, I had to get up and get an early start on things?” (The guy across the street and he were on a mulching deal/schedule this morning/early … I was intending on sleeping till 9:00 or hoped.)

I said, “Yeah, I know, but did you have to come around to the bedroom window and wake me up and get the dogs barking, I just wanted 8 hours of sleep, for once, all in a row on the same night, which is why I’m going to see if I can go get my old apartment back.” (When Alice was in 6th grade, I downsized out of the “big house” since she was the only kid left, and took an apartment, which of course is when you end up “upsizing” right back into the thick of it again.)

Mark said,“I wasn’t trying to get the dogs going to wake you up, I was out there quietly spraying weeds, and I was trying to get them to be quiet, they were sleeping with you but they popped up, and saw me through the screen.”

“Oh,” I sheepishly replied, and tried to unscrew my face, and shove the Craigslist rental ads for country shacks with barely any running water, one light bulb, one power cord and WiFi service, and a tiny fenced yard for the dogs out of my head, “I’m sorry,” and trailed off in my bare feet to find “real clothes” for the day.

I’ve been wearing “real clothes” a lot of late, and “real” shoes and socks for months now, and I’m exhausted!

He said, “I know, you’re thinking about places in the woods again, for just you. Why? Why, when we have such a nice place, look what we’ve accomplished.”

“Yeah, I know, but it’s too big, and I don’t feel like cleaning it, and the idea was I could live and work anywhere and now look where I am," as I expanded my arms to try and encompass my beautiful home the whole time looking like a bird shit on my head.

Yeah, I know, what a bitchy ungrateful thing to say, because the thing is, where I am is pretty damn good and I have worked a lifetime to get here, but old stories play in my head that say you can’t depend on anyone but yourself, and everyone is going to leave, die, or piss you off somehow, or worse yet blame you for shit that’s their fault in the first place, or leave you stuck holding a huge bag full of their shit that really stinks and when you finish cleaning it up there will be no thanks and sometimes for shits and extra giggles they shit on you some more, but Mark hasn’t done that, ever, which is why I wear stacks and stacks of engagement rings and can’t bring myself to officially marry him because the dude just won’t quit.

Yeah, that makes sense, plus sometimes I still really, really, really WANT TO LIVE IN ALASKA! I have had that dream since I was seven years old, which is why I hoped they’d develop the internet so I COULD LIVE AND WORK ANYWHERE!

I joked in the garage this past weekend, when I relinquished my relationship with Mark over to his friend Dave for the Harley weekend riding season, that it’s never hard on me because my “preference is to be alone,” and Dave said it was utter bullshit, “that women aren’t really like that,” that I wasn’t like that, that I was too much fun, too much of a “people person,” too much everything, and too interested in too many things, and I begged to differ, over and over and over.

Finally, Mark looked up from whatever cranky case he was working on (truth be told, I don’t know what the fuck they were doing to the bike), and said, “No, Dave, it’s true, that’s the thing about Anne.” [And this “thing about Anne” is one true character map point that is true about me “before” and “after” the stroke, which is nice, because I need those touch points, those things that remain me, unchanged, good or bad. Good or bad, truth be told, I DON’T NEED ANYBODY!]

Anne can take it or leave. That’s the spooky thing about me. I’m perfectly happy all safe and sound up inside myself, my work, my writing, my art and my solitude, but I can also be the “life of the party” even though at the same time I’d rather be “all safe and sound up inside myself, my work, my writing, my art and my solitude.”

I’m a tough nut to crack and even when I’m cracking up, am I really? The “cracking up,” the getting in and getting through is something I save for family and close friends and confidants, and there are those of them who still have to use a nutcracker or a fence post over my head a times to get through.

“Isolating and insulating” is a way that it was once described to me, about me, and I was all like, “Cool, thank you. I had never heard it called that before, thanks.”

And then the person said, “Anne, that’s not meant to be a compliment.”

Oops. Yeah, so I’ll work on that [in my cave, next to that field of wildflowers, now get the fuck out of here and leave me to it!]

So these are all the things I’m thinking about today, growling, over-tired, premenstrual, and looking at a stack of work paperwork, writing, art, billing, invoices, insurance paperwork, medical files for Ali and myself, college stuff, tax filings, work metrics, healthcare information for the elderly, unopened mail, photos and “save the date” cards for Ali’s end of the summer graduation/going away party, stuff for niece-daughter’s Sara’s baby/baby shower, stuff about the little girls/summer plans, Jamie’s thumb print medallion wishing it was a whole Jamie instead of something I’m supposed to put on a bracelet or a string, calendars, vacation requests, medical leave stuff, trying to get it all situated for the short-term/long-term plan for the next 6-month and the next 40 years (what I kind of promised my girls and what health and heredity well might afford me) because tomorrow is all about Alice as she graduates and I don’t want to be farting around with this bullshit, and the next day is the first day of the second half of the rest of my life.

Be there, or be square.

I’ll be there, though old habits are hard to break, and I’ll be there in my usual stick-up-the-ass, insulated and isolated fashion.

I’ve been up for hours now, and while I remain exhausted, the house is quiet, cool and calm. It is, as stated previously a fine castle. Mark and I have worked hard (prior to meeting each other in various fashions and collectively these past years). We are very, very lucky. The dogs are napping. Mark is out riding. I’m going out to dinner later with my sister-in-law; with or without my brother we force ourselves to do these things.

I’ve worked hard, we’ve worked hard. I woke up crabby, but for now I’m not renting any silly apartments or one-room cabins with singular light bulbs, frayed extension cords and WiFi, but a gal can dream; I’ll just dream, bigger and wider and use plane tickets, train tickets and automobiles and this as home base, doy!

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