Friday, February 21, 2014

Fall Down Seven Times, Stand up Eight

I'm sitting here with a migraine thanks to the huge barometric shift that moved through the area last night, but since I still have an obligation to the family reading program at the public library tonight, here I am, in my office, trying to stagger through the day. We're having a professional development day at work, but I'm too sick to sit through the workshops- faculty meeting just about did me in, and there's a minimum of sound, light, and movement during those.

I've been riding the tides of emotion in my personal life. A cousin younger than myself is dealing with her mortality and the rest of us are fighting for composure- and I am haunted by her question to my sister when our mother died: "Did she suffer?" We didn't realize at the time why she was asking, because we thought her cancer was under some modicum of control. Wrong. Terribly, desperately wrong.

Mom's remaining brother is also facing some serious health issues. I've arranged to be out the day he's having surgery next month.

My other chaos, while it takes the wind out of my sails and hurts like the very devil, takes a back seat.

There are lots of little affirmations and positive quotations circulating in social media, and I've found many of them very much of the essence lately. The ones that resonate most are about the nature of true friendship and the people who honestly care about you. I've realized the last handful of years that there are some folks from back home to whom I was not especially close growing up who've turned out to have my back when it counted. There are others, still, in whom I placed a great deal of faith and trust who walked away when I needed them most. This is not anything terrifying or revelatory at this point in life, but it's disappointing...and proof that we can't manufacture a bond that doesn't "take" on its own.

It's time to take stock of who's really there, and who's only there when it's easy. These things tend to sort themselves out with time.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

We Always Come Home

Things have been rocky for several days, and then, well, we had a Monday holiday followed by what I like to call, "Second Monday", i.e., a Tuesday from Hades. I had computer gremlins coming and going. On the whole, it was somewhat chaotic.

The big ol' cherry on the top of my day occurred when I was unloading groceries at my house after work last night. A carload of teenagers sped past on the main drag, and the young woman in the front passenger seat yelled, "You're too f****** fat to need food!" I was stunned. Logically, I know it's immaturity, lack of couth, and no reflection on me whatsoever, it was just plain mean and nasty.

I posted a sarcastic status message about it in social media.

This morning, I had a really sweet note from the pastor who was my upperclassman in marching band, reminding me that the people who love us don't care about what we look like, and it's what's in your heart that matters.

Todd's the bomb, what can I say?

What came to mind is that although I live sixty miles away, Smalltownland is my home. It's not just my default when things go south, it's a lodestone for many of us. I don't have enough fingers to count how many of my friends have returned there after some blistering, awful letdown in life. Even those who have not returned make the journey to touch base when the world slides off its axis for the rest of many of my childhood friends came to the church when my mother died. The parents of others who for reasons of distance or work could not come, showed up to convey their condolences.

I won't claim that my hometown is perfect, but it is home. It isn't the place, it's the people. It's the feeling. It's where we're grounded.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

That Roadkill Feeling

Sometimes I find that I'm hanging somewhere between "Do I really care what people think?" to *sniff,sniff, blargalarglargle, waaaaaaaaaaaaaah*.

Mom kept me from sliding off into the latter quite a lot, and unfortunately, I find that I'm a little more susceptible to it at the moment than I should be.

I'm a fan of Randy Pausch, and a young lady I've known for very many years recently blogged about the influence of The Last Lecture on her life. Pausch was a computer scientist who died of cancer at a relatively early age (48), and this piece is nothing if not very insightful and profound. One quote she highlighted was this:

“Look, I'm going to find a way to be happy, and I'd really love to be happy with you, but if I can't be happy with you, then I'll find a way to be happy without you.”

She went on to write that she knew lots of people were struggling with Valentine's Day and she wished the best for them, whatever the outcome of that struggle.

Something else that I've touched on and written about previously is the short leash on which I have to rein my emotions. When I was about thirteen, I realized that my volatile temper and sharp tongue were just not nice, so I made the effort to systematically control them. I don't feel that I was successful at it until I was in college- and once those were under wraps, I started working on not showing pain or vulnerability either publicly or privately. That got most seriously underway as I was turning twenty-one.

What I had learned by that point was that letting people know that they'd gotten to me, especially if their responses or reactions were hurtful, was a bad thing. The downside is that it's difficult to balance letting them know I care against exposing myself to potential heartache. The last several days have demonstrated that I wasn't as good at it as I thought, so I've retreated to nurse my wounds. That this happened during a vulnerable time in my life, well, it's my fault as much as anyone's...

As I was writing this, one of my co-workers brought in the mail. In it was a small package from a friend that contained a butterfly ornament inscribed with "One Day at a Time". This is what we used to call a clue-by-four, i.e., when the 'sign' you've been waiting for has been there for a long time and you just haven't noticed it, the Powers that Be will whack you over the head with it.

I will find a way. I will find a way. I will find a way.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Dammit, Hopkins, Not Again.

So, anyway, Hopkins, as in "stood up by for Valentine's Day". Old news. Same thing, different day.

We're not dating, but that doesn't stop me from taking this a little personally. He's gone to every one of my friend Stefan's early evening improv shows with me since last summer, and then this one...this is the one he decides he doesn't want to attend.

Not that I didn't figure it would happen at some point, and I guess he's been such a prince over my mother's death that I really didn't anticipate that this is when he'd let me down, as in "drop me flat on my butt without warning". Yes, there's a show on the day after Valentine's Day, with a superhero theme, in a comic book shop...under most circumstances, that would have every appearance of a win-win. Not so.

I'm going to the show, but now I'm going alone. Hopkins bailed. On this one. Way to go, dude- it's not like we don't have some longstanding rejection issues between us or anything. Not like I'm in a pretty fragile place, or that this holiday is a major source of perpetual annual suckage in my life-

Valentine's Day is a time that many of us aren't basking in the pink-and-white glow of flowers, candy, and expensive tablecloth dinners by candlelight. It's a time for some of us to relive the repeated rejection that's amplified by being left out on this holiday. It's a time that we try to escape that pain by doing stuff with friends and trying really hard not to feel lonely. There's just something about feeling extra-unworthy, even if all you're doing is an 'alternative Valentine's Day activity' that falls outside the typical hearts-and-flowers greeting card sentimentality, if your friends bug out on you.

...and I knew, I just refused to believe he'd do it again.

My mom was the one who tried so hard to keep me from hating myself every year on February 14th. This is a big "first" post-Mom for me: she's not here to listen to me cry on the phone and then reassure me that it's not as bad as I think. See, this is a holiday that flays me alive. It is not meant for someone like me- by virtue of its nature, it casts me adrift into a level of self-loathing that's hard to escape.

I just wanted to do something, not by myself. 

There's a reason people leave, and there's a reason we should let them leave and stay gone, no matter how much we love's to keep us from continuing to hurt ourselves.