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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

One is the Loneliest Number

Yesterday was the four-week mark since my surgery. I am miles behind at work. I have another four weeks before the final tax deadline, and last Saturday marked the corporate one. I told my clients I would not be at my best and I might have to file extensions for them. Saturday I filed two. I'm sort of terrified I'll be filing more next month. I don't know why my clients came to me when I gave them referrals--knowing I might be late. I had hoped to be able to do lots of work this week, but physical therapy took a turn for the worse when we began working the muscles surrounding the place where the titanium post was pounded into my thigh bone. I could barely walk for a day and I'm still sore today.

Then I got the stomach flu. Insult to injury?

Today I'm feeling slightly more human. I'll go to work in a little while. I'm supposed to go to the gym and ride the stationary bike and do my PT exercises (which I have not done since my last session--and given the stomach flu and pain level, I'm not sure I could). I'm pondering if that's going to happen or not. Right now, tax clients seem more pressing.

I had lunch with a friend on Saturday. She's my age. Our oldest children are near the same ages, but she has two more that are younger than mine. One of those younger ones is a baby she had five months ago. He's very cute. My friend and I talked about our lives. I kept looking at that baby. He makes me feel exhausted. Tabitha pointed out that it's probably because I'm already exhausted. I think it's because parenting is not something that was easy for me. I love my kids. I think they're amazing. But I don't want any more. I don't know how my friend does it.

In my last post I talked about how I feel my siblings avoid me. So I called them. I asked why they don't try to visit--why they rarely contact me. I was told that they feel I have no interest in them. I've spent the past four years going back and forth to Utah, where most of them live, and not telling them I was there, not visiting with them. I've stayed with friends instead. I tried to explain; what I was going through personally, felt too difficult to talk about--and they wanted to talk about it. Tabitha's issues involved abuse by one of my brothers--and my other siblings met me with disbelief and attempted to tell me why Tabitha was lying. But the bottom line is that, regardless of what is true, Tabitha believes she was molested by my brother and I have to support my daughter. Talking about it with my siblings solves nothing. I don't want to do it.

But my siblings are correct about my avoidance issues when it came to visiting them. And I can't really blame them for thinking I didn't want to see them when they came to visit my parents, either. I don't really know how to change the status quo. I just told them I was sorry--that sometimes things happen and I didn't expect understanding, but I hoped we could try again. I received a lukewarm response, which is more than I expected.

Loneliness is odd. I feel it keenly today. It really has nothing to do with being loved or spending time with others. I think it's more about knowing how you fit in the world. Right now, in this moment, I'm not sure how I fit anywhere. I think when I'm lonely, the greatest help to me is the reassurance that, even if I can't feel it, I have a place in someone's life or heart, that I'm needed and wanted, and that this moment of feeling lonely won't last forever.

And then I go do something.

So right now I'm going to go to work. And then I'll do my prescribed physical therapy and get stronger. And I think I'll eat a cookie, too.

And you should watch this video of old guys singing with a live orchestra--no auto-tuning here, and these guys were popular long before I was around:

Friday, March 14, 2014

Stomping My Foot and Having a Tantrum

I am recognizing as I write this that there are a few things I need to remember:
1. It has been only three weeks since surgery and I'm still feeling tired and over-emotional--and even, perhaps, a bit depressed.
2. I'm not yet able to expend a great deal of physical energy which has been a large contributor to PTSD management throughout my life.
3. I'm tired and frustrated most of the time.
4. There have been some unusual significantly difficult emotional obstacles that have presented themselves in the past four weeks including the death of a very young family friend, some mishmash crap with my mother, and an attempted suicide of another young friend who has been like a part of our family for nearly 12 years.

Given such circumstances, while I feel a great need to write this post, I may also, in a matter of days, also find the need to disappear it as I reevaluate. Then again, I might not.

It's no secret that, while I have always felt self-sufficient and capable of caring for myself, I've also always wondered about people who have close friends and family--people integrated into their daily lives; ones who live near or who communicate frequently; the dear ones who fly out to take care of a sick friend or family member, or who care for the kids when Mom and Dad are struggling, or friends,couples, or families who want to spend vacation times together. They mystify me. I know people like that. I believe there have been times in my life when I wanted to be those people.

But I'm not.

I live three blocks from my parents. My siblings have been known to stop to visit my parents for a weekend without notifying me that they were there. Sometimes, (because I feel obstinate and I believe that because we're related, they owe me an hour or two of their time every couple of years), if I am inadvertently alerted that they're visiting, I've dropped by unannounced. They always seem happy to see me. They're happy to visit with me. I'm the one who cuts the visit short when I've had enough of being with people. This confuses me. If they like me--like visiting with me--why do they come and not tell me. They know I'm not one who monopolizes, nor do I like crowds, so it's likely my time with them will be lovely, but brief. So...why?

There have been a few times when I've bought into the "close friends so we should live by each other" thing. I had a roommate in college who became a very close friend. After we were both married, we planned a couple of vacations with our spouses, and later, with their children (Darrin and I didn't have any yet). The vacations were fun and filled with laughter. We talked about how wonderful it would be if we could live near one another. It didn't happen. We tried to find jobs in the same area, but our vocational interests were different and in the end, perhaps it was all for the best. We rarely talk anymore. I've not seen them in about four years. They've made no effort to contact us, and I've been too overwhelmed with my life to contact them. And I don't really miss them.

When I realized how much I enjoyed spending time with some of my online friends, I made certain that when I was near where they lived, I visited. I wasn't really invited--I just did it. I let them know I was in the area and I'd like to see them and if they agreed, we'd go to lunch or I'd visit in their homes. Edgy was the only one, really, who was insistent that we have a standing lunch date every time I went to Utah--I loved that. I don't go anymore, though, and I miss him. There's something extremely validating in knowing someone not only makes time for you, but they expect you to do the same for them. It feels concrete and safe.

While I know I wasn't unwelcome, I always felt I sort of forced myself on AtP, Ambrosia, Boo, and Tolkien Boy. I remember telling TB, when we'd spent about two months getting to know one another, that any time he was in Utah, I would arrange my schedule to see him. He didn't ask me to--and I didn't ask if he wanted me to. I just wanted to see him. It was the same with AtP, Ambrosia, and Boo. I've also been known to let them know that, not only was I visiting, I was spending the night. Yes. I invited myself. And they weren't the only recipients of my assumed welcome.

I admit that with Josh and Tolkien Boy and AtP, I've always sort of wished we lived closer. I've wished that with lots of people, but always with the knowledge that they would probably be unhappy living by me, and I"m in no financial or emotional position to relocate any time soon, and I would never want the people I love to live in a place that made them feel unhappy.

 Josh, though, seemed as if he and his family weren't quite settled. I thought they might like one of the nearby cities and opportunity seemed endless. Then I realized the climate would never be a good fit for his wife and the pipe dream was probably best left being just that.

AtP toyed with the idea of attending a nearby nursing school. He was serious enough to come for a tour and stay a couple of days with me. In the end, though, leaving Utah wasn't for him. He met his husband. They now have a family. Someday, when I'm better, I'll go visit again and insist they have dinner with me. Utah will have to be near enough.

When Tolkien Boy was single, I confess to wishing a few times that we lived closer. I told him that I wished it. I knew the wish was not reciprocated. It didn't matter. Wishes don't just go away. For awhile, even after he was no longer single, TB talked about leaving Seattle, living closer to family, being in a place with more sun. When I suggested living near me, he didn't swipe the idea away. I understand now that it was because he understood better than I, that moving from Seattle was his pipe dream. He didn't have to discuss the possibility of living near me because it was probable that moving was simply not going to happen.

I feel a bit nonplussed that I ever entertained the idea that a family member (yes, there were a few of those that I wished for) or friend would live nearby and be a part of my social and emotional life. It's not like I've not survived a life without that. Nor is it likely that I'd even be able to manage such a thing successfully. I'd probably hate it.

I had a recent conversation with TB, in which he was supposed to be expressing his opinion but was asking me questions instead, in which he said, "It sounds as if you feel you don't want to need people anymore?"

I sort of wanted to punch him for saying that.

The answer is obvious. Of course I don't want to need people! They're unreliable and misleading. They say they love you, and they do, but being a priority (and yes, there are times when I wish I was a priority) is not an option. They're interested in you as long as they don't have more pressing matters demanding their attention. A marriage contract is the only thing one can call upon to say, "Hey! We chose each other. Sometimes I need you and I need you to need me. And it might not be convenient or comfortable, but that's the way it is and as long as we're married, that's how it will be."

You can't say that to a friend--to "people". Not ever. But sometimes you wish you could. Sometimes life overwhelms both you and your spouse and you need someone else to step in and hold you just for a while. But you can't ask. There's no contract or commitment or promise.

So, yes, TB, I do not want to need people. I'm happy to be a part of their lives. I'm happy to give every shred of love and support I can when they're in need. I'd even be delighted if some of those people I love lived near me, and would come have dinner with me whenever they wanted. And maybe, every once in awhile, someone whimsical would build a blanket fort and sit inside with me while we read books and ate cookies. But I don't want to need it. Not ever. And I'm frustrated, embarrassed, and a little bit angry that I have needed people in the past few years. I've been through some awful things--things I would wish on no one.

I've been blessed that there were incredible people who responded to my needs. They collectively fed me, housed me, visited me, talked to me, prayed for me--I needed those things so very desperately. And I sort of hate myself for being so needy. I gave nothing in return. I was emotionally and very nearly financially depleted. And I was in more pain than I ever want to think about again.

My hip surgeon is a competitive body builder. He has trophies. And he's big. He understands pain and endurance. After my surgery, he said to Darrin, "She waited far too long to have this done. Her cartilage has been gone for at least nine months, so she's been working with bone against bone every time she moved, and one of those bones, at the time of surgery, was in eminent danger of collapse. I have no idea how she was walking--let alone going to the gym daily to lift weights, swim, or run on the elliptical. That's pain I can't even comprehend."

Darrin said to me, later, "You told me it felt better to go to the gym."

I wasn't lying. It did feel better. I felt less helpless. Going to the gym brought emotional relief. But I won't lie--I was always glad there was a bathroom near the elliptical I was riding, because the physical pain really did make me worried that I was going to vomit at any moment. In the month before surgery, I could only tolerate a 30 minute workout on the elliptical and there was one day when I lost consciousness while I was cleaning the machine. There was a "Call 911!" flurry, but I was only out for a few seconds and I assured everyone I was fine--I just forgot to eat before I worked out that day--and as I seemed to be just fine as I headed for the locker room, everyone put their phones away. That was the Saturday before surgery. I thought it would be prudent not to go back until after my hip was replaced.

So yes, it hurt, but it also made me feel better. I can't really explain it.

I feel a little angry right now. I feel angry that I ever wanted people in the first place. It's silly, because those who care about me have done nothing to warrant that anger. They've loved and supported me and cared for me whenever possible. I think I'm angry though, because they're not mine. They're not my parents or siblings. They get to leave whenever they need to--not that my family has ever been there for me, but they're supposed to be. And I'm angry that I needed them, too. I want to take care of myself. I can never leave me. I will always be there when something happens and I will always be responsible for finding a solution. It's in my contract with myself.

In the meantime, I have to admit that I'm really bad at giving myself hugs, and sometimes I'm not the best conversationalist, and just forget harmonization when I sing. It doesn't happen. So maybe I can't do everything for myself. That makes me mad, too.

Monday, March 3, 2014

What's Good for the Goose is Good for the Gander

I've often stated that I hate make-up and rarely wear it. That doesn't mean I don't own it. Every once in awhile I think, "I'm a woman and maybe I should try some of that creamy stuff that will make me look ravishing and irresistible and everyone will smile at me and think I'm beautiful. After all, it has all those ingredients in it that are supposed to make your skin healthier and smoother and  younger--and I'm not getting any younger. Besides, it's supposed to help cover up zits and even though I never get those, you never know--someday I might get one and I'll need this stuff because apparently a zit is a social disgrace and I wouldn't want to be one of those."

So I buy some. And I use it once or twice and see no visible difference. Besides, it takes time and I hate wasting time trying to look like something I'm not. My skin is my skin. End of story.

I do wear sunscreen, however. Religiously. My family has a history of skin cancer and I'd rather not have that. It's painful and can be malignant, so I'm trying to take care of my skin. Naturally, this means lecturing my children to the point of watching them pretend to gag as I go on and on and on...

They've listened to me, though. I have a tube of very nice, expensive Neutrogena sunscreen for faces on the table near the door, and I watch as they apply a bit to their faces and the backs of their hands when they leave the house, so clearly the nagging has gotten through a bit (or maybe it was the fact that their grandfather just had to have a large portion of the skin by his ear and cheek removed and the stitches and swelling look painful).

Adam came to me a couple of days ago and said, "I like the sunscreen in your bathroom better than the stuff you put by the door. I've been using it for a couple of weeks and my skin looks better and I really like the way it feels."

I wracked my brains for a minute or two, trying to figure out if I'd left some other brand of sunscreen in my bathroom. Unable to come up with an answer, I asked, "Why do you like it better?" He answered, "I'm not sure. I put it on and it smells like grapefruit and my skin looks really smooth and nice. I really like it."

I thought some more, and then the light bulb went on. I said, "Are you sure the bottle said it was sunscreen?"

"I think so," he answered, "I didn't really look that hard."

"What color was it?

"Sort of tannish--it matches my skin exactly."

I waited a moment, trying to figure out how to let my son know that he had been using a vitamin C infused foundation I'd bought on a whim a few months ago. Finally I decided just to be blunt.

"Adam--that's not sunscreen. It's make-up."

Adam thought for a minute, then said, "Huh! No wonder girls like to use it. It's nice."

This was not the answer I expected--nor was what came next: "Is it okay if I keep using it. I really like the way it smells."

Why not? I thought. I'm not using it. So I gave my permission and Adam went away feeling very happy.

So if you happen to pass a very nice looking young man with flawless skin, be sure to say hello. It's probably Adam. And at some point I have to let him know that his make-up doesn't actually have any sunscreen in it and he'll have to use both. I'm thinking this is not really going to bother him.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Saying Good-Bye to Annie

Annie and DJ were born on the same day. DJ is older by four hours. They met for the first time in my piano studio when they were nine years old and hated each other on sight. Annie was loud and constantly vying for attention. DJ was quiet and loved group lessons where we played games and learned about music history and performed music. They would sit at opposite ends of the studio and glare at one another.

About a year after Annie began studying with me, I had need to reduce my studio. Darrin had gone back to school and I had taken a job teaching general music in one of the local elementary schools. Annie was one of the students I referred to a different teacher, mainly because I thought it would help reduce DJ's stress when she was present. I actually enjoyed teaching Annie. She was incredibly talented, though undisciplined, but she had a lovely enthusiasm for life, and she always had a song she wanted to sing for me. She was a joyful person.

As often happens, Annie and DJ continued to cross paths. Both being talented musicians, they performed in the same groups; being the same age, they shared classes; and their pool of friends were basically the same, so around their thirteenth year, they called a truce and decided to be friends. The friendship flourished. They began a tradition of celebrating their shared birthday together--going to lunch or exchanging silly gifts or just spending time with their friends.

By the time they graduated, DJ and Annie were fast friends. When an opening at the cut-rate theater where Annie worked became available, she made certain that DJ was hired--not because he needed the job, but just because it would be fun to work together. There was never a spark of romance, but always a closeness of knowing they somehow were bound together and that life was better because of that.

Last year Annie began acting strangely. She forgot important events (like work schedules and the DJ/Annie birthday celebration). DJ was frustrated. She wouldn't talk to him, and denied that anything was different. Then one day Annie's sister called the theater. Annie would not be coming into work. She had seen some doctors that day and was diagnosed with stage four brain cancer. People don't often survive stage four brain cancer

I didn't know how to talk about this with DJ. I asked how he was feeling. He hugged me in his huge bear hug and said, "It's okay, Mom. I've fasted and prayed about this. Annie is going to be all right. I know it."

I didn't tell DJ that sometimes "all right" still means people die. I just hugged him back and said to be sure to visit her often and help her stay encouraged and strong. And for a year, DJ did just that.

Six weeks ago it became obvious that Annie was dying. I watched as DJ struggled through anger and frustration, and sorrow. Annie passed away the day I came home from my surgery. I had no opportunity to visit prior to her death, but probably that's okay. She was overwhelmed with pain and had little knowledge of who was with her or what was happening.

I told DJ it was okay to feel whatever came--no matter what that feeling was. And I told him to find the places he felt safe and be sure to cry for his friend. He said he would.

DJ was asked to give the eulogy at Annie's wake. He wrote a beautiful tribute to his friend listing all the things he learned from her during her short lifetime. But he was worried about being understood as he spoke, knowing it would be difficult not to cry as he delivered the eulogy and he wanted his words to be heard.

The day before Annie's wake, a neighbor brought dinner for our family. She included a bag of miscellaneous "stuff". She said, "Probably you don't need these things, but they're kind of fun and I just felt like giving them to your family." There was a terracotta garlic keeper, a mortar and pestle, a whisk, and a tiny green wind chime shaped like an owl. As she had said, they were kind of fun.

DJ walked in as I was going through the bag. I saw his hand reach out and take the wind chime. His eyes were larger than normal, and he said, "Mom, can I have this?" I laughed. DJ has always collected odd things. I said, yes, and asked why he wanted it.

His answer: "Annie collected owls. We usually exchanged them on our birthdays. This can be my present from her this year."

So DJ delivered his eulogy the next day, his hand curled around a tiny green owl given to us by a neighbor who had never met Annie and had no idea the impact her miscellaneous gifts would have.

I don't know what other people believe about God or no god or kismet or the universe or coincidence, but in my heart, I'm really glad that someone or something knows the beauty of my Dj's heart and they're looking out for him. Who knows? Perhaps it's Annie.