Tuesday, January 27, 2009

keep writing

I recently heard from an old teacher of mine, my speech and debate coach actually. A brilliant, witty man who challenged me intellectually and showed unwavering faith in my abilities. Not only did he teach me how to speak (and speak well) in front of a room full of people, but he also taught me how to walk in high heeled shoes.

When I graduated, he gave me a copy of the book "For Writers Only" and inscribed it with the following words, "Keep writing! I am so proud of you. You can and will do anything you want to do!"

I wanted to get married and have a family. I've done that.

I wanted to write for a newspaper. I've done that.

I wanted to run a newspaper. I've done that too.

I wanted to write a book. Hmmmm...guess I need to get started on that.

Monday, January 26, 2009

why can't frumpy be glamorous?

I wish I could be more stylish. Always have. But it's just not me.

I have several friends who always look as though they just stepped off the cover of a magazine.

My best childhood friend, whom I've renamed Suzie for the purposes of this blog, is one of those women. Her hair is always perfect, stylish and chic and her makeup accentuates her best features. Her clothes fit just right in all the right places and she always looks so well put together. She doesn't even have to spend a lot of money doing it. She can take bargain finds from Family Dollar and make them look like a million dollars.

I don't have that gift.

Growing up, I used to love watching her get ready as she meticulously applied her make-up and fixed her hair. Even now, I perch on her bathroom sink and watch her.

I would love to look that stylish when I go out, but I always seem to fall short. Frumpy is probably the best way to describe my look. I feel most comfortable in jeans and tee-shirts. Even when I get dolled up, folks may say I clean up well, but I could never pass for stylish.

A lot of it is the fact that I hate to spend time on beauty rituals. I enjoy my sleep and most days I crawl out of the bed, brush my teeth, run a brush through my hair and throw on the first thing I grab out of the closet.

When I do take the time to look a little better, I feel like a complete phony. Curl my hair, apply some make-up and I feel more like a silly little girl playing dress up than a fabulously stylish woman comfortable in her own sensuality. Especially lipstick and fingernail polish. I hate wearing them both and while I may occasionally smear on some lipstick, I never paint my fingernails.

There are times, when I dress more like a stylish, trendy kind of woman instead of the frump that I am, that I can look in the mirror and say, "yes, I like that, I look nice." But the moment I walk out the door I feel as though I'm crawling in my own skin as though everyone around is looking at me shaking their heads and thinking, "who does she think she is?"

Suzie has tried for years to get me to come out of my frumpy little shell, but as much as I sometimes think I'd like to be that stylish, trendy put together kind of woman, I think I'm much happier being comfortable in my own skin.

Of course all that being said, I'm really excited about getting my hair cut tomorrow by one of my super stylish friends! Maybe she'll be able to add a touch of glamor to this old frumpy bag!

discontent

"You seem content," he wrote.

I replied that yes, I've managed to find a measure of peace.

I wanted to scream, "NO!! I'm nowhere near content!"

But of course I couldn't do that. I couldn't tell him that I had only felt truly content for two brief moments in my life, both in his presence. I couldn't tell him that I was certain that even that sense of contentment would have proven a mirage if given enough time.

And I couldn't tell him that I realized a long time ago that I would most likely never be content, although I still struggle to accept that realization.

I don't suppose this constant sense of being discontent, of being unfulfilled, is entirely a bad thing. I often believe it is that incessant search for contentment that keeps me pushing, keeps me putting one foot in front of the other.

Of course it's also what keeps me awake in the middle of the night.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

aha!

I bet I have the full attention of the men folk in just a few minutes.

I'm headed to the kitchen to fire up the griddle so I can cook bacon and pancakes. Nothing like bacon to get the attention and undying devotion of men folk...and dogs.

UPDATE: I had the attention of my men for the full 30 minutes it took them to wolf down dinner. On the up side, my dog has now joined me on the couch even though she didn't get a single crumb of bacon!

background noise

So I'm sitting here being annoyed, which seems to be the norm these days. It's weird, I've been fluctuating between a state of calm, closely akin to auto-pilot and a crawling out of my skin sensation that makes me want to strangle everyone around me.

The husband and the boy are watching football. Again. When they're not watching football, they're playing a football video game. So much for getting any relief once football season finally ends. I do at least have my Saturdays back now that the college season has ended, but it's amazing the crap they will find on TV in order to avoid having an actual conversation or doing any chores. Ugh!

So I sit here, in an effort to spend "quality time" with the family, my work laptop in my lap since my wireless card in my personal laptop is on the fritz. I figure I should at least make the effort to be in the same room, but it seems as though we're still worlds apart. So, instead of being holded up in my cave, where I usually go to hide when I don't seem to exist to anyone else living in this house, I'm sitting on the couch in plain view, playing Stack 'Em and Scrabble on Pogo.com, the voices of the announcer and the menfolk of the house providing the background noise.

I suppose I should be grateful that I have background noise. But sometimes it's easy to forget how much I hate the silence.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

one fuzzy little sheep, two fuzzy little sheep...

I should be sleeping.

I have a long day tomorrow starting bright and early.

But instead of sleeping, I've been laying in bed for three hours, my mind insistent on keeping me awake. If it were afternoon instead of after midnight, I'd be out like a light.

My husband on the other hand, started snoring as soon as his head hit the pillow. I'm jealous.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

you may incur a small processing fee

The letter finally arrived.

I'm taking down the Christmas decorations and doing laundry - a sudden flutter of activity as I begin to process all I've been told.

distracted

I should be working.

I should be taking down the Christmas decorations, or cleaning this house, or finishing this book I've been reading since Thanksgiving.

Instead I'm practically sitting on the damn mailbox. Waiting.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

disconnected

I'm feeling a bit bitter today.

Fortunately for those who must deal with me, it's not really a bitchy bitter, but more along the lines of a disconcerted, "you dipshit" bitter, tinged with just a touch of sadness.

I suppose most of us have come across that "one great love." You know the one - the moment you meet them you know your life will never be the same - the one you recognize immediately as an intricate part of your destiny - the one you know you will love forever.

I met mine when I was 13. He is the one who introduced me to the boy who would become my best friend who would become my husband.

He was also the first one to break my heart. Repeatedly.

He was a complete fucking asshole to nearly everyone around him, one of those troubled, tortured types I always seemed to have a thing for. He was distant and cynical, always sure to keep everyone at arm's reach. He seemed to have a soft spot for me.

The first conversation we ever had ended when I hauled off and smacked the shit out of him. Our second conversation ended with him grabbing my hands and kissing me. We spent the next year holding hands and arguing.

Then, my freshman year, he disappeared without a word, whisked away with his family to another state. I was crushed. Still to this day, it's all I can do to keep from tearing up when I hear that damn computer generated voice drone, "we're sorry, the number you have reached has been disconnected. If you feel you have reached this recording..."

It would become a pattern. Over the next couple of years, as we both struggled through adolescence and each moved a number of times, he would reappear, only to suddenly disappear again, without a word. My letters would go unanswered, phones would be disconnected and I was left wandering what horrible fate had befallen him. At that time in my life, I was absolutely starved for love. Each disappearing act dealt a heavy blow and I was torn between loving him and hating him.

By the beginning of my senior year, we seemed to have struck a balance. In fact, that was one of the happiest years of my life. He was still two states away and we hadn't seen each other since freshman year, but he managed to stick around for the full year and we both ran up enormous phone bills talking almost daily.

I will never forget that Christmas, staring at the lights on my grandmother's tree as we shared a long, hushed conversation filled with plans and promises. We were in love. He wanted to marry me. I wanted to have his children.

I can still see the dress so clearly in my mind, high neck, fitted bodice, a soft cream antique lace, long lace sleeves that came to points and hooked around my middle fingers and what seemed like hundreds of pearl buttons.

Spring came and with it the senior prom. I don't think I really believed he would come until suddenly, there he was, standing in my grandmother's living room, my Papa helping him to straighten his tie. I think I spent the first 30 minutes in the bathroom barfing.

Once I got over my nausea, we enjoyed one of the most magical nights of my life. There were teary goodbyes the next afternoon and assurances that it would only be a few more months.

But, a lot can happen in a few months. I was terrified of moving to the side of a mountain and he was terrified to leave it. It's ok, we'll figure something out.

Then, suddenly, a phone number dropped into my lap. My best friend, the one who'd held me so softly as I cried in those months after that first disappearing act, the one who had pledged to love me forever in spite of my insistence that there was simply no room left in my heart.

We had lost contact with one another after my first move. Great Love's sister (who had dated him for a while) actually called me one day not long after my move in hopes I knew how to find him. We promised each other if either of us spoke to him, we'd share the other's information. That was two years before I found fate had planted him 20 minutes away from where I was living.

All hell broke loose and it broke loose quick. Phone calls were suddenly filled with arguments and jealousy. "I don't want you calling him because I know he's in love with you, he always was."

But he's my FRIEND!! Why can't you understand that??

I called of course. He sobbed at the sound of my voice. Explaining as he composed himself that the sister had gotten in touch with him two years earlier and told him I had died, committed suicide actually, which was believable enough given my state of mind at the time.

I was livid. Even all these years later, I don't know that I've ever been more angry in my life.

My world was suddenly filled with accusations, denials...heated arguments that probably would've turned violent had we not been separated by two states.

Then came the ultimatum. "Choose, me or him. I will not share you."

The wedding dress was left in the little shop, the final two payments never paid.

For me the choice had been clear. Best Friend became my husband. I would only speak to Great Love once more over the next seven years. I was five months pregnant and my husband was suddenly terrified of becoming a father. He told me he wasn't sure he was really in love with me at all. That night, I stood sobbing in a gas station parking lot dropping dime after dime into the pay phone to make the long distance call.

I didn't tell him I was pregnant, nor did I tell him we were fighting. He begged me to tell him where I was, to let him come get me.

"Just tell me if you ever really loved me."

I could have sworn he was crying when he assured me that he always had and always would. I hung up, dried my tears and drove home.

My husband eventually snapped out of it, assuring me he truly did love me, although it would be years before I forgave him for ever placing that doubt in my mind and in fact, I'm not sure I fully forgave him until after he died.

Over the years as we battled his seizures and his depression and his self-destructive ways, I carried an enormous sense of guilt. I loved them both with all my heart and felt I was somehow betraying them both. My husband had once told me, a couple of years after we got married, that the two of them had made a pact in high school. They each promised the other that whoever ended up with me would love and care for me well. I had chosen to spend my life with the one and I assumed I would spend my eternity with the other.

When my husband suddenly died, I couldn't help but wonder if I'd somehow fucked it all up and gotten it completely backwards. I remember being so angry with him for leaving, so angry that neither of them had kept their promise.

Two years later, I was facing a hysterectomy, and still haunted by the notion I'd somehow fucked up fate. I was in an off cycle of an on-again off-again relationship so I decided to give Great Love a call.

It just so happened he would be in the state with his mother and brother in a few weeks. We met for a weekend in the mountains. It was pure bliss. It was decided we'd give it another go.

"But, if you're in my life, you need to be IN my life, don't leave me hanging around waiting several months to hear from you."

He promised. True to his word, he sent a heartfelt email the day they returned home.

True to his nature, it would be several months before I heard from him again.

No, I'm sorry, I've been down this road with you too many times, I'm not doing this shit again. While you've been wrapped up in your own little world, mine fell apart and Mr. On-Again Off-Again was the one who helped me put it back together - all he's asking for is a fair chance and I owe him that.

He made no bones about it when he informed me he didn't want to be my friend. It was all or nothing, which did I choose?

Again, my choice seemed clear, the greatest love on earth isn't worth squat if there's no friendship there to back it up.

I wrote to him every year on his birthday for the next several years, but of course I never received a response. Needless to say, Mr. On-Again Off-Again and I finally called it off for good and I met my current husband.

I wrote once more, to tell him I had remarried.

His birthday rolled around in November and as always, I thought of writing, but I didn't. But this year was different. This year I couldn't shake the nagging sense that something was wrong, of "needing" to write to him. So, just before Christmas, I sent off a letter to his last known address, not expecting a reply.

"I think of you often and hope you are well. I am well and happy and continue to pray you have finally found a sense of peace in your life. Blah blah blah."

Imagine my surprise a few days ago to get a call from his mom. Apparently, a year and a half ago, his famous temper and a night of heavy drinking left him with a bullet in his leg and a mandatory three-year prison sentence for assaulting a police officer. I can't say I'm surprised. Quite frankly, I was certain he'd self-destruct before he was 21 and I'm almost ashamed to admit I was confused and angry as hell years later when I realized my "safe" choice had been the one to self-destruct and die while he was still plugging right along.

His mom filled me in on the years that have passed - his hateful, needy wife who now has a boyfriend, the giant rift she caused between he and his brother. The sister who's been diagnosed as manic depressive. And how happy he was that I had written. He asked her to call me, because "she's my friend, she's always been my friend. She'll write to me, but will you make sure it's not going to cause any problems with her husband?"

Mmm-hmmm....so now that he's at absolute rock bottom with no one but his mom to give a damn, NOW he wants to be my friend.

Of course I will write to him, because I still love him just as I've always loved him, but no, it will not cause any problems with my husband because I've already made that choice. Twice.

This time, any choice made will be his...have me as a friend or have me as nothing. At this point in my life that's all I have to offer. At least you know my number is never disconnected.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

a random glimpse

My mind is not cooperating, but in keeping with the whole "blog more often" thing, here's a random glimpse into the recent going-ons in my world:

* The holidays were a bit tense as both my mother and grandmother had hefty doses of the blues. I set about to enjoying the season anyway, without them. I made enough sausage balls, cookies and cheese rings to feed a small army, but apparently the folks in my house eat more than a small army.

* I still have not taken down my decorations. This is one of the drawbacks of having an artificial tree. If the tree's not turning brown, shedding and creating a serious fire hazard, there's no big rush to take it down. I love the lights and the coziness of my den when it's decorated for Christmas so I figured I'd enjoy it a bit longer. I've promised The Husband I'll take them down this weekend. Yea, we'll see how that goes!

* It seems to have been raining non-stop for the past few days and my dogs insist on tap dancing through the mud every time they go outside. Luckily their muddy little paw prints seem to be contained in the laundry room, but there's not much that can be done about the scent of wet dog hanging over the house. Uggh! There's a reason most people refuse to allow long-haired dogs to live inside. Those mutts better be glad I love them!

* I received a call last night from the mother of a very dear friend whom I haven't heard from in ages. It seems as though his temper and a good deal of alcohol cost him a three-year stint in prison. I'm sure I will write more about this once my mind has fully absorbed it and mulled it over a bit.

* I have begun an EMT course and am confident I have the people skills, compassion and self-control to do the job. I am not, however, at all confident in my ability to ever be able to find someones pulse in their wrist! I am equally unsure of my ability to drive an ambulance in the snow and ice. This will surely be a recurring topic over the next six months.

* I have become very attached to someone who was previously a mere acquaintance. A series of candid conversations through email has inspired a friendship that I hope will last for years to come. It's funny how two people's worlds can exist so close to one another for so many years and then one day they collide, allowing you to discover how similar your struggles have been and reminding you that "good peoples" really do exist close to home.

* I've managed to re-organize my massive walk-in closet, but for some reason my desk is still covered with paper, books, notebooks and various folders that are probably filled with work I should've done months ago.

* Good things always seem to happen right about the time I've quit looking for them. I'll explain this one later as well.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Welcome to 2009!

I've never understood the fuss about New Year's. It's not as though anything really changes other than the last two digits of the number signifying the present year. Tomorrow will simply be a continuation of today, much like today has been a mere extension of yesterday.

I suppose I can easily enough grasp the symbolic nature of it all. A fresh start, a celebration of having survived another year, blah blah blah. I will at least concede that it's a great time for cleaning out closets and reorganizing and, of course, it's an excellent excuse to consume massive amounts of alcohol with friends.

I've never been one to make New Year's resolutions, partially because of my "take it or leave it" attitude regarding the milestone, but mostly because I don't see the need to set myself up for failure.

Of course, now that I'm thinking about it, I'm not really that much of a goal-oriented person anyway. I don't set long-term goals for myself, I simply decide to do something and go out and get it done.

But in an effort to get into the swing of this New Year's thing, here's a short list of things I'd like to accomplish in 2009:

* Complete the EMT-Basic course and pass the state certification the FIRST time. I've heard that a lot of folks fail the first time but I refuse to be one of them.

* Make myself go to church EVERY Sunday (unless of course I'm sick.) As much as I enjoy going and even miss it when I don't go, I still find excuses to to go about once a month.

* Blog on a more regular basis. I've gotten slack in my blogging, primarily because my mind has been filled with shit not fit to see the light of day. I have this wonderful outlet, I need to use it. Of course, this may mean that I ramble even more.

* Get my teeth fixed. My teeth are a nightmare and in major need of some extensive dental work. I have dental insurance, but I'm a complete wimp when it comes to having dental work done and I'm too cheap to spend the money. I have a hard time justifying it as a necessary expense if the tooth isn't hurting.

**********

As long as we're at it, I suppose I might as well go ahead and recap the primary lesson I learned in 2008:

* There's no need in worrying about that which you cannot control. My logical self has always known this, but I never really applied it to my own life until this year. Leaving my job, a second surgery, extremely tight finances - things that would've all had me in basketcase mode in years past - seemed to roll right off my back this year. Granted, I was often stressed about how we would pay the bills, but I paid what I could with what I had and refused to let it get to me.

***********

As I look around the world at the beginning of this new year, I have a very difficult time mustering up any grandiose hopes for peace, prosperity or progress. It seems as though there are more people hell-bent on destroying each other than interested in cooperation.

Our own country is gripped in the throes of bipartisan fear-mongering that has rendered our government virtually incapable of of any real change, although it can be assured, the beast that was intended to be by and for the people will continue to bleed us all dry to finance continuing greed and corruption.

Somehow I have still managed to retain a belief in the basic goodness of man. It's sometimes difficult to do when I see how man treats one another. One has only to look at the comment section of any news story to see the hate, distrust, cruelty and often utter stupidity that festers in the hearts of so many others. Sometimes I begin to wonder if the human condition has deteriorated so much that it is beyond the point of salvation. Civility seems to have gone out the window and in this "me first" society, it's sometimes hard to remember that there are still people who care. There is still kindness, compassion, generosity, love and integrity in the hearts of many of our neighbors. You just have to look past the surface scum of our society in order to see it.

So as we venture further into this new year, I am doing so with a loving heart. We're all we have on this earth and I'm hopeful 2009 will see more of us reaching out to take the hand of those beside us.