Three “R”s and the Friday Effect

06-02 Relaxing
Relaxation… taking in the moment is good

I haven’t always been grateful for my life and I still struggle with being thankful for a life that isn’t what I wanted, or imagined it would be.  The good news is, I’m finding when I stop “doing” and focus on “being”, I can catch some much-needed moments of peace.

It’s easy for me to get caught up in my “to do” list and finding worth in the number of items I cross off it.  After going to the grocery store and putting the groceries away (crossed that off my list!) I decided to take a few minutes and rest on my front porch.  The sun had already set, but darkness hadn’t taken over yet.  The wind chimes hanging over the edge of the deck made beautiful music, which helped me relax in the moment.

My gaze went past my feet propped on the railing and through the thick tree branches.  Instead of dwelling on the things that bring me down, my thoughts went to what is good.  In those minutes alone- taking in the breeze, listening to wind chimes, as the light gave way to darkness, I became conscious of the thought that I was thankful to have a house with a deck, with beautiful trees in front of me.  I looked to my left and saw my continuing project.

06-02 Rocks
Rocks… this pile will line drainage paths – before monsoon rains come, I hope!

And then I thought how thankful I was to have the money to pay for the rocks.  I don’t have the money to pay someone to move it for me, but that’s okay.  At least I am able to do it myself.  Look at that, another item for my mental after-sunset “thankful” list!

It was after 8pm when I went inside.  I debated about whether to fix something for dinner.  Since it’s just me and I didn’t have the kids, I decided to be cat-like in my choices…

06-02 Roxy
Roxy… snoozing on the counter (like she’s not supposed to) because no one was looking

… since no one was looking, I had an ice cream sandwich for dinner.  I don’t eat those often, so it sure was yummy (and I can be thankful that I can work it off tomorrow!)  Not even the prospect of getting outside by 6am to make the rock pile smaller dampened my mood.

Maybe it’s the Friday Effect (no work for 2 days) or maybe I’m finally seeing a shaft of  light at the end of my long, dark tunnel. Either way,  I’ll take it 🙂

Have a beautiful weekend!

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Should’ve Known Better

My stubbornness isn’t news to me.  I’ve often joked that, “stubbornness is associated with my astrological sign, but I refuse to believe it.”  But it’s only in hindsight I can really see how strong my stubbornness is.  Sometimes stubborn is good – it can mean perseverance in difficult times which leads to triumph.  It can also mean a refusal to see what should be obvious.

None of these last few posts have been easy to write, but this one literally kept me awake at night because I knew I needed to write it, but I don’t really want to.  It’s 3 am and after being awake since midnight, I gave in and fired up the computer.

Several years ago, an old friend from high school stumbled upon my writing blog.  It was a crazy coincidence and we emailed periodically.  Things changed a couple years later when I started writing about the end of my marriage.  In particular, a poem about the drinking caught his attention.  He admitted that he, too, had been an alcoholic. He revealed more about his life that happened in the 23 years we weren’t in contact and I admired his honesty.  As I struggled with the decision of whether to end my marriage or continue the lie, he encouraged me to seek God for the answer.  This was always a struggle because God hates divorce, however, my marriage was destroying what little was left of me.

It wasn’t until after I filed for divorce that my friend revealed that “he cared for me more than the world says he should.”  I didn’t know what that meant.  He told me that in high school, he always went to the fast food place I worked at to see me.  I just thought he liked cheap food – I really had no idea.  He told me that he always liked my hair and my smile and when I laughed, it made him happy.  He graduated a year before me and went into the Army.  We wrote for a while (he still had the letters) but then drifted apart.  My senior year, I wrote a poem about him that was published in the school district literary magazine.  It was about feeling more than I should for my friend.

He lived across the country but I saw him in 2015 when he came to visit his parents.  We met for lunch,  I had hoped that seeing him would put an end to the crazy attachment I had for him.  He mentioned several times he was overweight, or his shape was round.  My ex had gained a lot of weight and I found it “gross”, so I figured when I saw my friend’s appearance, I would get past what I thought I felt.

I didn’t.  I saw him for the first time in 25 years and he hugged me.  My world was crumbling around me, but when he hugged me, I felt like I would be okay.  I felt safe.  I’d never felt like that before and I knew I loved him.  He said he’d never forgotten me all those years, and had called my parents’ house when he filed for divorce in 2000, but he thought my dad said I’d passed away several years ago.  My dad mumbles so I think he might’ve said he gave me away several years ago.  It was like my childhood fantasies were coming true – I was beautiful to him and he would rescue me.

There were several problems though.  The biggest:  he was still married.  He didn’t get divorced in 2000.  He said there was no chance for his marriage and it was “empty”.  I told him to keep praying for his marriage because God can work miracles.  I stopped contact with him several times – I really wanted him to work on his marriage because it would spare me the guilt over my feelings.  That didn’t happen.

In 2016, he applied for a job in Arizona with his company and he got it.  He would live about two hours away from me.  We went hiking a few times and met for lunch, and he helped with some things around my house that I couldn’t do myself.  I was bothered that he said his marriage was done but his wife was still moving with their high-school-age son (their daughter had already moved out).  However, I could understand he wanted to be near his son.  I couldn’t imagine living across the country from my child.

Things went too far last summer.  His wife knew and contacted me.  I avoided her.  I had no explanation and I knew I was wrong.  I thought that would finally get things out in the open, and bring about some honesty, but no.  They didn’t talk about it and are still married today.

I stopped contact with him again in February of this year.  Then I got a mother’s day card in the mail from him.  I was hurt/angry/shocked.  I ripped it to shreds.  The next day, I emailed him (I deleted his contact info but I remembered his email address.)  I told him that if it was him, I didn’t know why he would do that.  He did admit to sending the card but didn’t sign his name because he didn’t know how I would take it.  He said the more he tried to talk himself out of sending it, the more he felt he needed to, and he hoped I enjoyed the card.

Oh, he had no idea!

I told him that I knew there was no future for us and I hoped that he realized the same so he could stop being stubborn and stupid, and work on his marriage.  I told him I felt like he played me, took advantage of my vulnerability, and used me.  He had nothing to say.

This has been a painful lesson, but I’ve learned a lot from the experience.  I’m accepting that there is no one on this earth that can/will rescue me.  That was a foolish, childish dream.  As much as I wanted to share my life and grow old with someone who truly loved me in the way God intended for love to be, I am letting go of this idea so I can be focused instead on what God has planned for me.

If there is a silver lining in all of this, I would say that it has broken my stubbornness.  By removing every crutch, eliminating all chances of denial and forcing me to evaluate myself honestly, I can finally stop hiding and can let go of all these things that have burdened me.

Oh, and of course my parents don’t know about any of this either. My mom likes to tell the story of how my grandpa (her dad) used to pick on me as a child and get me riled up to argue.  My mom asked why he did that, and he told her ‘because it’s a tough world out there.  If she’s too nice, she’ll never survive.”  I hear this story almost every time we talk.  I know she likes it because it helps her remember her dad fondly.  While I can appreciate the love behind his actions, I’ve grown to dislike this story because it reaffirms the deep feeling that I was never right and needed to be “fixed” or changed from the very beginning.  I love my parents and I think they did the best they could, but I think there will always be a distance because of the disconnect between the daughter they wanted and the daughter they have.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

At least I’m not alone – my kitties are the bright spot in my life, and I’m thankful for that!

05-29 Lizzy
They love me…
05-29 Skye
and make me laugh! 🙂

In the Beginning

A while back, I started to write about the disaster of my marriage.  I stopped.  I didn’t know why.  Now, I think I do:  the end didn’t start there, it was just an easier (more socially acceptable) place to start.

I don’t like to remember my childhood because there weren’t too many “good” moments, and for some reason, the truly painful ones are the memories that stick with me.  My parents divorced when I was three, after that, my mom, brother and I moved in with aunt and uncle in Colorado.  My mom met the man who became my dad and they were married after knowing each other a few months.  (He was a friend of my uncle’s).

My biological dad didn’t have much to do with my brother or me.  When I was five, he was going to have us stay with him and his new family for a weekend and I was scared (crying hysterically) because I’d never been away from my mom.  They stopped the car and let me out, and my brother went for the weekend.  As months and years went by, I regretted my “being a baby” and said I would go if he asked again, but he never did.  I made a comment to my mom once that I missed dad.  I was young, maybe 6 or 7. She snapped back, “You can’t miss him; you don’t even know him.”  The harshness of her tone caught me off-guard and I learned to keep that stuff inside.

My mom and my new dad fought a lot.  In my house “go to hell” was like a term of endearment.  I never liked loud noises.  My aunt told me that when I was little, I would cover my ears and cry every time an ambulance siren went by.  So, imagine the anxiety I felt when doors were slammed so hard, door jams came loose, heavy wooden tables were thrown, or I saw my dad pin my mom against the wall with his hand around her throat.  I was terrified.

School wasn’t any better.  I was extremely shy and an easy target for bullies.  No matter how much I tried to be invisible, they would find me.  There’s the stupid saying that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”  That is a total lie – a physical beating would’ve been a relief.  I have always liked cats, and one day, I wore a button with a lion on it and it said something about pride.  Tracy pulled at the button and said “what pride” and they started laughing.  One day, I tried to stand up for myself when they told me to move, they wanted to sit where I was sitting at the lunch table.  I said “no”.  They picked me up and moved me to the floor.  It was humiliating.  Even worse, were the times people would be nice to me and act like my friends, only to take advantage of me (get me to do homework for them, steal my necklaces during hopscotch games, etc.).

But this wasn’t the half of it.  The worst betrayal came from my own family.  I’m told that when I was little, I adored my older brother.  I would follow him everywhere and looked up to him.  When I was six my brother started touching me, and having me touch him.  I probably knew it was wrong, but I trusted him.  I don’t remember a lot of the details, I blocked all that out, but I remember it was ongoing- until my parents found out.  My mom told me she was ashamed of me and disappointed in me.  She told me my aunt and uncle were thinking of adopting a child, but after this, they didn’t know if they wanted kids. (I was horrified that she told them, and that I was so terrible they wouldn’t want kids.)

Every time my parents left the house, they told us to “behave” and that would make me feel disgusted all over again.  I spent a lot of time alone in my room.  I created imaginary worlds that were much better to live in.  A lot of scenarios that played out like a Disney movie- where someone would find me beautiful and rescue me.

When I was nine, I was befriended by a girl who was a year older.  I was happy to actually have a friend.  I’m not sure how long we spent time together, but I remember the day that stopped.  I was at her house and we were having a contest to see who could blow the biggest bubble (Hubba Bubba banana bubble gum).  I’m not sure if I won, but my bubble was so big that when it popped, it covered my face, my glasses and got stuck in my hair.  Diane took my glasses and and went to the bathroom to clean them.  Her dad picked at the gum in my hair and told me it was going to be okay.  He was overly soothing – I wasn’t that upset.  He sat me on his lap with my back to him and wrapped his arm around my waist.  I tried to get up but he held me tighter and put his hand where he shouldn’t, quite firmly.  I tried to get out of his grasp and I couldn’t.  Then Diane walked in.  She paused and didn’t say anything.  Her dad let me go and I grabbed my glasses and ran out of the house and never went back.

I told the neighborhood girls what happened and warned them not to go to Diane’s house.  They laughed at me and told me I was lying and that I only wished it had happened.  I didn’t tell my parents because they were so disgusted with me before, I knew it would be worse if they knew it happened again.  I was sure there was something wrong with me because now it happened twice, with two different people.  And no one could ever know.

My brother didn’t touch me for six years, that I know of.  (Years earlier, I started wearing 2-piece pajamas instead of nightshirts because sometimes I would wake up uncovered with my nightshirt up and I didn’t want to be exposed.  I still wear 2-piece pajamas to this day!)  That lasted until I was 12.  My uncle was in town and invited us to swim at his hotel.  My parents and uncle were in the hot tub and my brother and I were in the pool.  I don’t remember what led up to it, but he said, “what would you do if I did this” and he grabbed my crotch.  I screamed “no!” and backed away.  The adults all looked over and my mom asked what was going on.  I panicked and said “don’t dunk me!”  I didn’t want to disappoint them again.  At that point, I wondered if maybe I wasn’t a restless sleeper, but maybe he was looking at me.  That thought unnerved me, and I told myself I was being paranoid.

Needless to say, my brother and I aren’t close.  Sometimes my mom will try to guilt me by saying things like, “I wish you guys were close and we were a real family,” or “I don’t think I’ll do holiday gatherings anymore since no one talks to each other.”

Seriously?  It’s like no one remembers what happened.  Sometimes it makes me feel crazy like I imagined it all.  When he had his first daughter, my parents were all excited to have a grand-daughter among all the grandsons.  I was freaking out.  Was I the only one that thought having a young girl in his house was a bad idea?  Every Thanksgiving and Christmas, I have forced myself to make small talk and pretend like life is just great.  I have tried to give her that.  In reading the book the therapist gave me, I see my family role as “peace-maker”.  But this was at a cost to me.  This role led to more misplaced trust and bad choices, which I will write about later.

Jesus said to him, no one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God –Luke 9:62

I’m A Christian…Does That Mean I Have To Be A Doormat?

03-11 Lizzy
To be walked on, or stepped over… that is the question…

In the month since my last post, life has continued to keep me busy.  My younger son ended up getting steroid shots in his TMJ (jaw) joints last week after his MRI showed active inflammation.  He’s still on a soft diet, and I’m still experimenting (sometimes successfully) with new meals that are easy to eat.  Funny thing is, he doesn’t complain about all the doctor’s appointments, he just accepts it as “what is.”

I could learn a lot from him.

This last month, I became a member of the church I’ve been going to for the last 3 and 1/2 years.  This was big for me, because I’ve never taken that step.  I’ve always stayed on the fringes, so I could come or go unnoticed.  I still don’t feel like I belong anywhere and keep to myself, but I’m praying that God will encourage me to be more outgoing.  I’ve sang with the church band on two Sundays and it was amazing.  I don’t feel self-conscious when I’m singing because it’s all about praise.  Now, standing there during the announcements, that’s a different story.  Awkward!

This last month has also been about me trying to show love as Jesus would, but I have to admit, I’ve fallen short.  If this were a marathon, I’d say I ran backwards!  I’m struggling with setting aside resentment and anger, and getting past the stubbornness that is surfacing because I’m tired of being a “doormat.”

Event 1:  My ex asked if my dad could get him discount tickets for a theme park in case he wanted to take the kids (this was after I got tickets so I could take them over spring break).  I was annoyed, but decided I would ask anyway.  My dad (reluctantly) agreed and I was encouraged that I did the “right” thing.  That feel-good moment was short-lived, and keeled over the instant the kids told me what happened last weekend: their dad’s girlfriend said (in front of them) that it was kind of weird he was inviting them (my kids) because the trip was supposed to be for them (and her 5-year-old son.)  I’m livid that 1) he didn’t say anything to reject that idea so now my kids feel a distant second, and 2) he apparently tricked  me into getting discount tickets when they weren’t intended for the kids.

Event 2: I have this friend who talks to me only when it is convenient.  If there are other things going on, or other stuff to to be done, I don’t hear anything.  I’ve always lent an ear, but resentment is creeping in, so I may not be listening much longer.

Event 3: My ex shifted schedules at the last minute on several occasions (most recently, backing out of taking my older son to the dentist and picking him up from school when I was in Phoenix for my younger son’s TMJ injections.)  He skipped out on the dentist appointment because he was too busy at work (I’m busy too!) and I was baffled by the picking him up at school because he said he would get him at my house – 5 minutes after school was out (so I’m not sure why I had to go pick him up after driving 170 miles that day). It almost seems like a control thing or a power play, but it irks me that he feels I’m at his beckon call.

Event 4: My son asked me to make 3 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for a Boy Scout hike on Saturday.  I asked him if he was really hungry and he told me it was one sandwich for him, one for his brother and one for his dad.

Um, no.

I told him I wasn’t making a sandwich for his dad, he could make his own.  Then he said his dad told him to have a lunch for him (figures.)  Then my older son said I could just make 2 sandwiches and he’d give dad his sandwich.

No, again.

I made my younger son a lunch with roast beef (because it has additives that give his dad headaches so I knew it was safe.) My older son made a sorry-looking pb&j for his dad and packed different snack-type items for himself.

Event 5: On Friday, my ex lied to me (twice) in an attempt to manipulate a situation involving my older son.  I called him out on both lies, which he refused to acknowledge as lies and continued to be obstinate (nothing short of his way would be acceptable).  Of course, things weren’t resolved and I was left angry and frustrated- and disappointed that I ignored my therapist’s advice to not engage in his “baits” because “you can’t change stupid.”

These (and many more encounters) have left me wondering if being a Christian means I have to be a doormat.  Because honestly, I feel like I’m often taken advantage of, and I get resentful.

So I turned to scriptures.

Matthew 5:38-42- You have heard that it was aid, ‘Eye for an eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person.  If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.  And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.  If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.  Give to the one who asks you and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

Luke 6:27-29– But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

Proverbs 25:21-22– If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.

I think the fact I smiled at the “heap burning coals on his head” and imagined literally doing just that is a sign I have a loooong way to go 🙂

So, it seems the simple answer to my question posed in the title of this post is “yes” – unless I can change my perspective.

Some time ago, my younger son complained that life wasn’t fair.  I agreed and told him it wasn’t… when we look at it from an earthly point of view.  I added that I thought God sees things differently; that we are given certain struggles, afflictions and experiences so we can be greater testimonies for God’s grace and goodness.

My resentment and anger won’t change the “takers” in my life one bit.  My prayer today is that God will continue working in me so I can overcome my tendency to weigh the “fairness” of interactions.  I pray that He will soften my heart so I can not only accept these circumstances, but continue to show love as Jesus did, unrestrained and undeterred by perceived unfairness.

03-11 Roxy
May God give me the strength to love even if it means I could get stepped on

Have a beautiful Sunday!

 

Silence Isn’t Golden; It’s Yellow

2016-01-16-frozen-water6
Partially frozen rainwater… looks almost like a frosty mug of beer, haha

This post title is borrowed, but as soon as I heard the words, I embraced them as my own.  They are appropriate here because I see my last post was January 4 (good thing I don’t make New Years resolutions, because if writing were one of them I’d be a failure at this point!)

It’s not that I haven’t thought of writing- I have.  I may actually get around to doing some of those posts, if they feel right.  The point of this blog was for me to put conscious effort into finding “me.”  In a vacuum, that might be easy, but let’s face it, life isn’t easy.  Even though some days have been a blur, I am lucky to have a quiet evening to reflect on the last few weeks and that does tell me a little about who I am.

A couple weeks ago, my younger son turned 11.  I had taken him to dinner before then because his actual birthday fell during his time with his dad.  I was okay, I thought, until my ex’s girlfriend texted me pictures of her youngest son and my kids on the outing.  I didn’t realize his girlfriend and her son were going so it caught me off-guard.  The pictures kept coming – 23 in all and I ended up pausing my run to sit down on a curb and cry.

It wasn’t a delicate cry.  It was the ugly I-wish-I-had-a-tissue-but-I-don’t-so-my-shirt-sleeve-will-have-to-do kind of cry.  When I got home, I called my best friend (who doesn’t have children) but she put words to my pain.  It wasn’t that I was upset my ex is with someone else, it’s that she gets to experience memories of a milestone that I won’t have. So I was going to write a post about it titled “Learning to be okay with not being okay” but obviously, that didn’t happen.

Instead of writing a blog post, other words flowed in melodic form.  As I jotted them down and recorded them on my phone so I wouldn’t forget, a song emerged.  Over the next few days, the words kept coming and not only spoke to my deepest pain, but also offered hope, as it became a prayer to God, straight from my heart.  (I do have to also give credit to the pastor at the church I go to – a message in December about how we are prone to think we would be better if our situations were different stayed with me and I remember it when I’m discouraged by my circumstances.)

God.

The message the pastor delivered today included the words I used for this blog post title.  He said when it comes to the Good News, silence isn’t golden; it’s yellow.  That made me think of old westerns where cowards were ‘yellow bellied’.  I’ve been different shades of yellow my entire life.  Fear has had more power than faith.

That needs to change.  Fear isn’t a good reason for silence.  So, I’m taking the ultimate stand against silence by providing a link to listen to the “song” I wrote (and I’m going to publish this post immediately and sign off before I change my mind!)

I’ll end this post with the words to the chorus and look forward to writing again real soon!

Lord, help me remember your blessings;

not distracted and longing for things I do not need.

Lord, ease my fear and help me let go;

to be satisfied now, and trust the future you know.

If You’re Sensing a “Leave Me Alone” Vibe… It’s Not Me- It’s You

01-03-roxy
Head tucked, eyes covered = Do Not Disturb

A few weeks ago, I wrote about an uplifting experience as I began to carry out my younger son’s vision of helping the homeless.

As usually happens with my life, the “awwww, that was great moment” has turned into “awwww, what the &%$* happened??!”  Just like with my marriage, hindsight reveals exactly where I went wrong.  Yep, I know precisely why that feel-good train jumped the track and now I’m left pinned beneath a mountain of guilt, picking off the shards of good intentions stinging my skin.

Here’s what went down…

Nine days after meeting Lynn, I got a call.  They were cold, broke and needed to heat the tent I bought them.  Her husband had started work, but hadn’t gotten paid yet.  I went to them, my younger son came along since he was on winter break.  She said they had contacted churches in the area looking for a sleeping bag, but there weren’t any (I know, that was a hint… I sidestepped several along the way.)

Anyway, after buying enough propane to heat their tent for a few days, we ended up at Wal-Mart to get her a hat to keep her ears warm.  That turned into getting some hand warmers… then a sleeping bag… then a no-contract phone and a $45 one-month plan…vodka… a pack of cigarettes… and I don’t remember what else.  Afterwards, I drove them to their campsite and they showed us their tent.  I had already decided I wasn’t comfortable with how freely she asked for stuff.  As we left, she pulled me aside and asked if I would check pawn stores for an acoustic guitar she could give her husband for Christmas.

Yeah, that was it.  In that moment, the doors of the Bank of Me officially closed.

But wait, there’s more!  (My life is like a ridiculous late-night infomercial.)

Two days later, she left three “urgent” voice messages asking me to come get her.  They had stayed in a hotel the night before at $70 a night, they had to be out by 11am, they had no money and no one else to call. I didn’t call back, but did send her a text later in the day to let her know my aunt had passed away and I was dealing with family stuff so I couldn’t help her.  

A couple days later, another message.  This one, just asking about Christmas.   I sent a text back (with the photo I’d taken of her and her husband) and wished her a merry Christmas and joy in 2017.  I thought that was closure and the end of it because that picture was the only thing I promised her.

I was wrong.  I’m getting used to being wrong.

On New Year’s Eve, she sent a text asking how I was.  Again, I wished her a much better year in 2017.  She thanked me, said she was praying for me, and mentioned she was cold.  (Another hint).  She left three voice mail messages on Monday, which I did not respond to. The last one, at almost 11pm.  Then, she sent a text at 2am.  Then around lunchtime on Tuesday, she send a text asking how I was.  I finally responded several hours later that I was fine, but had a cold so I rested when I wasn’t working. I ended it with, “take care”.  She replied that she was praying for me and trying to stay warm (ah, yes, yet another hint.)

I know you’re probably wondering why I don’t just tell her to leave me alone (my best friend sure is!)  Simple… I don’t want to be mean.  I have compassion for her because her life is difficult at the moment.  I don’t wish anything bad to happen to her and truly hope things turn around in her life. It makes me sad if a stranger really is her only “go to”. My older son asked why I don’t just block her number.  Smart boy.  I’ve thought of that, but I won’t because I find human behavior fascinating, and I need to know how this plays out.

I can imagine what you must be thinking…. So you endure the harassment so you can “study” human nature?  That’s like dropping a brick on your foot to see what happens.  That’s twisted!

Yeah, it’s kind of messed up.  But, in my defense, I don’t hide the fact I’m not normal.  Not only do I find the not-so-subtle hints interesting (it’s less presumptuous to hint until someone offers rather than straight-out asking for something), I am curious about my own reactions and responses as well.

After 43 years, I know a few things about myself. Like, I will give up something so someone else doesn’t have to. Although life isn’t fair, I do my best to be fair.  I will befriend someone that no one else will, because everyone should have a friend (that has bitten me in the behind more than once.)  Often I do things I don’t want to because I’d rather take on something rather than burden someone else.

Do you see a trend here?

I do.  And I know what happens…eventually: my toilet gets full and I have to flush it. (Ironically enough, that statement came from my ex, when talking about his mother… that’s another story for another time!)

I’m realizing that like flowers attract bees, giving invites takers.  I need to know that I can be be assertive enough to communicate “I’m done” if I feel used and my hints continue to be ignored.  I must find out if I can abide by my gut feeling that she’s trying to take advantage of my kindness and not cave to guilt (because I have a roof over my head).

Most of all, I have to know that I can deliver a kind but firm “no” and not apologize for it instead of allowing myself to be a dumping ground. 

This experience has changed me in ways I didn’t anticipate, but that seems to be how God teaches.  I will continue to keep my heart and eyes open to help those in need.  However, in the future, my name will be fictitious.  And, under no circumstances, will I provide my phone number (or that of any former friends).

I may not be normal, but I’m not completely stupid, either!

Outrunning The Storm (Semi-Fiction)

12-27-storm

“You know we don’t have to do it.  It’ll wait.”  Vee’s forehead creased with concern.

I shook my head as I stared at my cell phone, the screen still lit from the ended call.  “No, I will feel better if we get it done.”  I glanced at my phone:  8:39pm.  “I would like to wait until morning to start, though.”  I thought it strange that I didn’t cry.  I knew the heart was a muscle, and it seemed mine had become taught like the limbs of a champion body-builder- if not a chunk of stone.

We spent the next two hours watching videos on You Tube.  Immaturity took over as we doubled over with laughter several times during the Squatty Potty Infomercial.   Something about a unicorn pooping rainbow-colored ice cream cones is just wrong… I may never think the same about unicorns or soft-serve ice cream cones.  When the conversation lulled into stretches of silence, Vee said goodnight and prepared for bed.

Sleep didn’t beckon me.  It hardly ever did.  To distract my mind, I played word games on my phone until I began nodding off during finger swipes.  Like many nights, I don’t remember exactly when sleep took over.

***          ***          ***

I woke before the sun, as usual.  I picked up my cell phone and played the same word game.  It passed the time.  For a split-second, I wondered why I tried so hard to pass time even after the stark reminder that eventually all the grains of sand have settled and there’s nothing left to pass.  A person in touch with their emotions might have devoted time to pondering it.  I, on the other hand, shifted focus to getting to the next level in my game.

After a couple hours, Vee sat down on the couch beside me.  “I heard you get up this morning.”

“I’m sorry.  I tried to be quiet.”

“What time was it?”

I shrugged.  “I don’t know.  I woke up several times.  I just get up when I get tired of chasing sleep.”

“Would you like breakfast?  We have sausage, eggs, potatoes- -“

“No thank you.  I’m not really hungry.”  I omitted the fact I’d already eaten half a bag of potato chips and chased it down with some iced green tea.  Oh, and chocolate covered blackberries made a fine breakfast dessert.

“Are you sure we have time to put it together?  Really, it can wait.”

“Nope.  We’re doing it. You’ve wanted that dresser for a while and I promised I’d help you.”

“But that was before…”  Vee looked away.  “I’m sorry I keep bringing it up.  I still can’t believe it.”

“Neither can I.”  After a couple seconds of quiet, I stood.  “I’ll get the box so we can get started.”

“It can wait.”

“But it won’t have to.”  I left before she could protest again.  She wanted the 9-drawer dresser from IKEA put together so she could finish organizing her closet.  I needed to assemble it because busy hands meant a busy mind.  Everyone has at least one coping mechanism; something they fall back on when life knocks you on your back.  I didn’t smoke, drink alcohol or gorge on Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia.  Instead, I ate copious amounts of dark chocolate and stayed busy.

“Are you sure we have time to do this so you can go home before the storm?”

I checked the time: 9:34am.  “Yep.  Snow isn’t forecast til around 4, so if I leave by noon, I’ll have plenty of time.”

We sorted the drawer pieces and  the contents of the big bag o’ hardware included in the flat box.  I found satisfaction in the orderly stacks surrounding us.  The more chaotic my mind, the more I sought order outside of me.  I shoved that nugget of self-revelation to the side as I turned the instruction diagram so the picture matched the angle of the pieces spread out in front of us.

For the next two hours, we kept our focus on the dresser (named “Alex” by IKEA).  I was a little sad when the last of the screws were tightened and we placed Alex in the new home inside their walk-in closet.  My mind searched for my next project- my next fix.

“I love it!”  Vee smiled as she slid the drawers open then closed.  “And you’ll be able to get home before the storm, too.”

It was almost noon.  I didn’t want to go, but I couldn’t stay.  I would have my kids the next day so we could spend Christmas together.  Five cats needed me to feed them.  And while my Civic might handle snow just fine, I had no confidence in my winter storm driving abilities.  I blamed that on living in the Valley of the Sun for twenty-five years.

I hugged Vee outside my mud-caked car; the remnants of an off-road excursion the day before.  I noticed the brownish hue to the sky. A dust storm loomed to the south.

“I need to stop at Walmart, but I think I can make it out ahead of the storm,” I said as I jerked my head to the south.  Even with my glasses on, I could feel grit under my eyelids.

“Let me know when you get home.”

“Yes, mom,” I teased.

This was our usual goodbye routine whenever we visited each other.

***          ***          ***

Twenty-three miles outside of town, my solitude betrayed me.  On Christmas Eve, many people would be together, unwrapping presents, but I struggled to keep dusty memories packed in their forgotten places.  Against my will, I saw my chubby toddler self, rested on her hip with my cheek pressed against hers.  Her right arm hugged my brother, who stood in front.  His thick white belt and my plaid pants screamed 1970s, but we all smiled big in spite of that.  I didn’t know back then that happiness had a shelf life and withered with age, just like the ones we love.

A chill ran through me even as the heater blasted hot air at my face.  I shivered as deeply as the last night our family camped near the lake.  She invited me to climb in her sleeping bag and wrapped her arms around me tight, absorbing my shivers into the warmth of her body.

I squinted to see through the blurriness and turned the windshield wipers faster.

My stomach quivered as I took a curve faster than I realized.  I remembered myself at five years old in the backseat of their car.  My angry stomach had lurched and I heaved in the backseat of their car for the umpteenth time.  Ever-patient, she soothed me as my uncle pulled over and ranted in utter frustration over my habit of getting sick on road trips.  His threat to leave me there seemed very real.

I swiped the back of my hand across my cheek and wiped the wetness on my jeans.  I craned my neck to see if mascara darkened the circles under my eyes.  Instead, my gaze traveled outward to the wisps of curls unrestrained by my hair clip.  As a child, she had added highlights to strands of hair surrounding my face.  I smiled, thinking of her horror when she realized she left the solution on too long and I had nearly blond highlights in my chestnut colored hair.  She worried my mom would be furious, but I liked it…. It was 1987 and this was as close to “cool” as my nerdy self had ever been.

Just like that, the storm engulfed me.  Unable to see or focus on the yellow lane lines, the torrent forced me to pull onto the shoulder and wait it out.  It’s weird how denial, distraction and distance eventually all fail me.

I should’ve known better; I could never outrun the storm.

———————————————————

I was finally able to channel emotions into writing a story.  I have been in a writing drought for many months now, so I know there’s room for improvement, but it’s a start. 

My aunt passed away on December 23 at age 63.  It was unexpected (death usually is) and I am sad because we had planned to visit when I came to town on December 30.  My uncle informed me there will be no funeral service- just a graveside service for him and my cousin.  So, this is my goodbye of sorts. 

In little revelations, I’m realizing there is no writing because I’ve become adept at not feeling.  When something emotional happens, rather than deal with it, I tend to throw myself into “doing” something to avoid feeling.  I think I’m so afraid of plunging into the darkness again, I avoid feeling altogether.  This is a problem.  I pray that God will see me through this; that I give up control, allowing myself to experience highs and lows, while trusting He will extract me before I’m swallowed completely again.