Monday, January 16, 2012

Annual Asswhoopin'

I go a little crazy every January.  My judgement leaves me.  I bounce checks, cyberstalk old boyfriends and high school crushes on Facebook.  I cry in the shower.  I eat only chocolate.  I probably shouldn't drive. 

I play my Elvis Costello & Burt Bacharach CD over and over, marinating in the perfect melancholy captured in their collaboration.  I crave physical contact. I follow my husband from room to room, wordlessly stalking him in search of the reasurance his presence brings.  I don't think he knows this is what I am doing. 

The rooms in my house are in various stages of  Christmas undecoration.   I wander from pile to pile, looking at the decorations and feeling at a complete loss at how to begin to pack them away.  I am normally very organized, methodical, even, in this annual necessary, but, nonetheless depressing event. My husband, always patient with me, finally gave up and finished deflowering the artificial tree, packed it up, and took it down to the basement today himself.  It is the latest I have ever left up my Christmas tree. 

I itch to purge my home of everything unnecessary, to fill boxes for delivery to my church's outgrown sale.  In my mind I am busily working my way through closets and drawers, feeling lighter with each item I happily toss into box after overflowing box.  I don't do any of this. I sit, staring into space for seemingly hours. My leaden limbs are heavy, rendering me inert.  My body aches with the the smallest of efforts.  I tire easily.  This is my life, for now, as I  exist on the edge of the shitstorm of grief that is inexorably bearing down upon my coordinates here on the sofa.

I am easily overwhelmed.  I sigh.  A lot.  I have not decided if they are the sounds of defeat or surrender.  These sighs are big--comparable to the sound emitted by a 15 year old girl whom, as she sighs, blows the bangs out of her face.  She sighs, with accompanying eye roll, at the suggestion from her mother that she pull her bangs out of her face.  I have not heard these sighs for 12 years.  Why they arrive this year, I don't know.  Do they always come to visit me in January and I just don't remember? They are the sighs of inevitability, in preparation for the annual asswhoopin' I know is to come. 

My husband and I lost our 3 day old daughter on a dark January night 12 years ago.  She never saw the pretty room we made for her.  I never rocked her to sleep.  

In the years since, I've learned to push aside the grief, to work through it, to function with it and in spite of it.  Most days I succeed.  But, every January it returns and WILL NOT be denied it's due.  It rears it's ugly head and makes a beeline for my heart.  It sits on my chest, pinning me to the couch for weeks.  It cuts my phone lines. It flushes my libido down the pooper.  It averts my eyes and erases my smile.  It will not relent until it deems me sufficiently isolated and demoralized.  

Do not despair, Readers Dear.  This is only a temporary state of being.  I am certain I will emerge into the blue sky waiting on the other side of this, I always do. I face the upcoming days and weeks knowing that though they will be difficult, they are nothing compared to what I've already lived through. 

There is unshakable peace in knowing I have already survived the worst day of my life.  

Monday, January 9, 2012

Is Everyone Having Fun Without Me?

Midlife meltdowns are more fun to have than to watch, I think.  

In recent years I have watched 2 friends morph into versions of themselves which are all but unrecognizable to me.  I am completely bewildered and a little shaken by this new state of affairs -- "affairs" being the keyword here.  The path of destruction is wide and long, inventories of the wreckage are still being taken.  I could sound off about the immeasurable damage, the broken families, the wounded children, left bobbing in the wake. But, not today.  It doesn't make anything better.  

Today I want to say that, damage aside, in a world without consequences, it might be nice to have a midlife meltdown of my own.  I completely understand the urge to just sit down in the middle of everything, throw a hissy fit and say, "I want something else!  I've been given everything I thought I wanted but now I don't want it!  I want something else!  I don't want to be a responsible adult anymore!  I don't want to unload the dishwasher every day!  I miss my old job!  I wish I was still young, single, in college, partying more than studying!  I want my 20 year old body back! I ....WANT!"    I get it, I really do. 

I continue to put off my hissy fit however, because I DO live in a world of consequences and I DO have children counting on me to unload the dishwasher so they can have their after-school snack on clean dishes.  I AM a responsible adult.  I am no longer a single, dancing-on-the-table (I'm told this goes on in college bars, though I,  personally, have never experienced it) , 23-year-old, size-6-wearing hot chick.   I miss that girl.   And I envy her.  

There is a part of me that envies my meltydowny friends too.  How nice for them that they were able to put themselves first.  After 10+ years of marriage they could walk away, go look for someone else, go find themselves.  How nice for them. How were they able to not worry about the consequences?  How did they weigh their childrens' happiness against their own and choose themselves?  I'm not being judgemental, I'm truly curious. I want to know how they did that. What did it feel like?  

I don't have that quality in my genetic makeup. I worry about EVERYONE's happiness.  I want my single friends to find love.  I fret over children caught up in tsunamis and earthquakes.  I donate to the local food bank.  I volunteer my time at my childrens' school.  When will my "ME" gene make it's presence known to me in a way so undeniable that the only answer is to throw that hissy fit I've been dreaming of and putting off?

Tomorrow I will turn 40something.  If I live to be as old as my beloved grandmother, I am smack-dab, center in the middle of my life. My hubby and I just celebrated 19 years together. We've been through hell, lost our first-born.   I have yet to walk away.  I'm running out of time to have my midlife meltdown!  But, wait, I'm already having an affair....

With my hair!  Woo Hoo, I'm living on the edge.  I love my hair, it's my favorite thing about myself. At the roots of my varying shades of red, auburn, strawberry (pick a color, any color, it's different every time I have it done) is the brunette I was born with mixed with the grey I am acquiring along the way.  I haven't looked lately, but I think the grey is winning.  It is naturally curly. I waged war against my curls for the first half of my life until I saw Julia Roberts with her unforgettable mane of red curls in "Pretty Woman."  "Bing!" went the light bulb over my head when I realized I could have that look everyday, and, in less time than it took to wash, gel, blow dry, and otherwise beat my curls into submission.  Although, lately I have become quite enamored with my "InStyler" which polishes and smooths my hair into the glossy, bouncy strands I always longed for in high school.   I wear my hair long these 40something days. It's a little past my shoulders.  Some (my mother, perhaps?) might say it's too long, unflattering for a woman of my advanced years.  But I adore it.  I toss it, flick it, twirl it around my fingers -- I'm thoroughly obnoxious with it. And my 40something hubby of nearly 20 years likes it too.  

When midlife hits, some men buy Corvettes and go on the prowl for a new trophy wife,  some women leave their families and begin to sport that "mutton dressed as lamb" look.  Me, I have become an obnoxious hair-flicker. The most dire consequence of which is a potentially clogged shower drain.   Don't worry, I'll put it up in a scrunchy when I decide to throw that hissy fit.  


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Still Waters and all That...

I attract chatter boxes.  I am, by turns, dismayed and amused at this. I'm one of those "quiet ones". I like to think,  however,  not in a disturbing loner/sniper-on-the-clock-tower-way. And right about now, Readers Dear, you may be thinking to yourself that this cannot be accurate because I seem to have so much to say--so much to say that I started a blog.  Ahh, but, you see, I am not the one doing the talking here.  It is the Hamster.  If you were to sit across from me with a cup of coffee, you would not find me so riveting.

We relocated to our current city of residence about 8 years ago.  In that time, I have labored, and I truly mean labored, to make new friends, a network of connections to be a safety net for myself and my family as we have no family of our own nearby.  It's been tough.  I feel weary just thinking about how hard this work has been.   The longer we live here and the older I grow... the shyer I have become.  With age, I have learned a few things about making friends.  

  • I can learn much by listening to someone.  Not just about her, but about how she sees me.  Does she speak only about herself?  Does she show some interest in me? When getting to know someone new, I ask her the basic, small-talk questions about family, career, place of origin, etc..  If she answers my questions but does not reciprocate with any interest in knowing my answers to those same questions this person doesn't care about getting to know me.  She doesn't even care who she talks to--she just likes to hear herself talk.   Forget it, she is off the list.  
  • I am constantly sizing potential new friends up for their "D.Q." -- "Drama Quotient".  If her conversation is peppered with phrases like "I threw a glass of water at my mother-in-law at the Christmas dinner table" or "So I said to the salesgirl, 'Honey, I'd like to see your boney butt just try to make me leave this store'."  Forget it, she is off the list.
  • Actions speak louder than words.  It's a cliche, I know, but cliches become cliches because they are TRUE!  If a new person in my life is promising to get together but never picks up the phone to make it happen or never returns my call when I try to make it happen-- forget it, she is off the list.  I am entirely too old and weary from raising two children to run after someone who is not interested in me.  
  • Does she share my values?  Does she seem to be a good mother?  Is she materialistic? Is she constantly bitching about a personal problem but taking no action to solve it? Is she rascist?  Elitist? Compassionate? Intelligent? The answers to these questions and others will determine my interest in pursuing her as a friend.
  • Does she laugh at my jokes? Does she "get" my references? Seriously, this is important, because I have a weird sense of humor and it may not be for everyone.  It's not an ego thing, I just don't want to have to tiptoe around her and censor myself in her presence.  
  • Is she happy in her life?  If she is expecting me to come along and make her happy, fix her up? Then, no, I don't want that job.  It's not a cold-hearted thing to say.  It's just practical.  I'm a softy and I've learned that people take advantage.  I'm over 40, as most of my potential friends are.  If she doesn't have the basics of a life, i.e., finances, relationships, belief system, well in hand at this point in time I tread cautiously.  I may lend an ear and, if asked, offer what I hope is sound advice.  Then, I'll sit back and watch to see what she does.  Her actions will determine how much more emotional energy I want to give her.
So then, with all of these filters in place, does it surprise you, my Readers Dear, that in 8 years' time I have accumulated less than a handful of new close friends?  I am discouraged by this at times, but I guess this is the choice I make.  I can over-populate my life with fickle, flighty people or invest in true, solid friendships.  I choose the latter.  I think I'm worth it.  When I sit across the table from you at Starbucks, I may not say much.  Until you ask me.  I hope you'll think I'm worth it, too.

Behind the still waters of my big, brown eyes there runs some pretty deep water.  And in that water happily swims a hamster with much to say.  Stay tuned for more...

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Wine for my Horses, Chocolate for my Girls...

I once had a boyfriend.  I use the term "boyfriend", loosely, and only in the stead of other more suitable, yet unprintable words because both my mother and my pastor read my blog.  This man was neither a boy,  (I was 23 at the time-- he was 45), nor a friend, as he was not very nice to me.  Insert Linda Richman reference here:  "Stacey's boyfriend was neither a boy, nor a friend--discuss".  He once said to me, "Stace, you're such a WASP, I bet you get out of the shower to pee."  To which I replied, "Well, YEAH.  Duh."  -- Totally not getting the joke, as usual, was on me.  For this remark, and other reasons, he became my ex-boyfriend.  I bring this up not to give him precious blog space, but to illustrate to you, my Readers Dear, that yes, indeed, I suppose I am pretty WASPish.  My WASPish state of being is not unique, in fact, some of my best friends are WASPs,  (actually all of my friends...).  However, my WASPishness is part of what makes my friendship with Hend so unique--the other part being the fact we have yet to meet.  (Refer to my previous post "Sloppy Seconds?" to read more about Hend)  The topic question of the Real Simple blog contest was "Who Are You Most Surprised To Be Friends With?"  Hend was the first person to come to my mind. I dashed off my response in a matter of minutes, spent a day tweaking it and with high hopes and a little tingle in my tummy, sent it off to the editors of the magazine.  

Since then, I've been thinking of the other unique friendships God has gifted me.  I'd like to share with you now, Readers Dear, a group of girls I call "The Pennsylvania Posse".  The PP began on the RESOLVE message board 12 years ago and continues today. (If you don't know what RESOLVE is, you are truly blessed.  If you want to know what RESOLVE is, Google it; or, as my dad would say, "get on the Google") It consists of 4 members, surely too few for a proper posse, but it works for us. They are:  Cindi, Jenny, Jennifer and me.  To save you the confusion of two Jenny/Jennifers, I will, from here on, refer to Jenny as "Pottymouth" and Jennifer as "Sister Mary Jennifer, or SMJ.    We were all in various stages of grief, frustration,and hopelessness when we discovered we all lived within an hours' drive of each other in northeastern Pennsylvania.  So we began to meet up.   First, at restaurants, then for daytrips and sleepovers.  The bonding was immediate and the laughter, unending.  Over ice cream sundaes, antiquing trips and one fateful day when I made the mistake of wearing a brand new (read:  profusely shedding) pink chenille sweater beneath my black winter coat to Baltimore's Inner Harbor and the Posse let me walk around all day  looking like I had been dipped in a cotton candy machine without telling me, we traded Top 5 Lists and reproductive histories and teased each other about our days of being "Superfreaks", as we are all 80's chicks.   We even gave each other "Captain Underpants" names.  (Get on the Google for that)  Within months the laughter we shared proved to truly be the best medicine.  

One by one, our long-suffering and much put-upon hubbies knocked us up!  What joy! What Bliss! However, bliss is always short-lived, that is it's nature.  I'm sorry to tell you, Readers Dear, that Cindi, Pottymouth, Sister Mary Jennifer and I all experienced miscarriages within months of each other.  We were the walking wounded.  At least we still had each other. 

I went to church this morning, where my pastor did a sermon on Ecclesiastes 3:1-13, better known as the "To Everything There is a Season" verses.  Bliss, grief, they are simply seasons which visit all of us from time to time.  The dark, tear-heavy clouds accompanying our season of grief  lifted for us again as one by one, 3 of us announced our miracles, this time for good.    First, Pottymouth shared she would be delivering a baby in January, near my birthday!  We lovingly christened her bump: "Chenille Lynda Carter".  The reasons for this, I cannot remember anymore, so if you ask me why I will only shake my head and tell you there was the lingering scent of fertility drugs in the air at the time.  Then, Sister Mary Jennifer announced she was expecting TRIPLETS!  Triplets for God's sake!  Due, no lie, on 3/3/03.  Upon their arrival, on 3/13/03 we welcomed them as "The A Team", for all of their first names began with "A".  Last was me. After five years of monthly trying and crying, prying questions, insensitive remarks, avoiding baby showers, and dreading christenings--a baby girl, delivered a day before Mother's Day in 2003.  Finally, a Mother's Day that didn't suck.    Well, at least it didn't suck for ME.  For Cindi?  I can only guess how much her heart was aching that Mother's Day...

For whatever reason, only God knows why, Cindi and her husband remain childfree.  Worse, as Pottymouth, Sister MJ and I floundered through our first few years of young motherhood, we lost touch with Cindi.  I know, I know, my Readers Dear, you are shocked and outraged, as well you should be.  I'm still embarassed and ashamed about it.  After a second baby and a few years of treading water in the seemingly uncharted ocean of motherhood,  I wrote and sent an apology to Cindi. And SHE FORGAVE ME.  She still loves me.  And now, through the miracle of modern social networking, we remain in touch, still cracking each other up, long distance.  Recently, she gently suggested to me that I should stop praying for a baby for her.  She would rather I pray her through menopause instead, she said, but left the decision up to me. 

The Pennsylvania Posse still rides.  For now, only via email and Facebook and in my dreams as I picture the 4 of us, barefoot and toasting a red sunset.  Maybe someday, when "La Petite Posse", as we refer, collectively, to our offspring,  have become college-aged, we will saddle up and ride for real,  together again.  I'll wear my pink chenille sweater...