Breaking up is hard to do

Mental Anguish Digital Art

Bad news has never been an easy thing for me to deliver.  Just thinking about it makes my palms sweat and heart beat irregularly.  The stress from facing conflict and/or disappointment crushes me and instantly releases something toxic into my bloodstream.  It leaves me with a swollen tongue and deaf in my left ear filled with only the sound of fluttering wings.

The bad news doesn’t even have to be particularly bad; it can be merely unpleasant or unfortunate.  For example, I might be tasked with telling someone that their home delivered meals will be delayed just a few hours and suddenly I’m feeling a little nauseous.  Someone once told me that it was just anxiety and meds might help.  I laughed, just anxiety?  This is a full blown condition that is bigger than meds or seeing someone to get a diagnosis.  I call it exaggerated living.

Fortunately, no one reacts in the crazy and over-the-top way that I expect which helps me to emotionally recover to a normal level pretty quickly.  Let me clarify, people usually don’t react in the way that justifies my fears.  Today, my reluctance at being the bearer of bad tidings was validated a hundred times over when someone reacted exactly how I expected to eventually happen, with the full wave of emotions.  Her day was darkened and her course was invariable changed.  I couldn’t help but to feel her pain in an untouchable way as she cried and I watched, like a bystander to a terrible accident.

I realized that my problem with bad news wasn’t about me- it was about the recipient of the news and how they would feel.  I avoid stepping on cracks when walking on the sidewalk to avoid smashing an ant with my clumsy feet, I swerve for squirrels, and can’t pull a band-aide off the arm of a friend because I don’t want to cause pain.  When my brother and I used to get spanked for using curse words or carving our names into wooden furniture, my dad always said with a grimace, “Trust me, this hurts me than it hurts you.”

I get it.  It has to be done, but it’s going to hurt.

cover image: Mental Anguish from fineartamerica.com

Under the Rug

dancers

Have you heard of the idiom to sweep something under the rug?  It usually means to try to hide something embarrassing, like getting into a fender-bender while applying mascara or texting your boss a sexy message meant for your husband.  Things like that are meant to be glossed over and forgotten, banished into the distant past, and swept under the rug.

This weekend I learned the true meaning to the phrase as more than just figurative language.

We had a group of rowdy, rabble-rousing friends over for a few days.  After a night of debauchery, we returned to our small home to wind down when I felt the twinges of a headache/meltdown begin after watching the gang share a bag of Doritos.  Junk food alone does not usually cause this reaction, observing them use their pants and couch instead of napkins to clean their orange fingers does however immediately cause this reaction.

It was then that I excused myself to bed and allowed whatever mischief and bad behavior was left of the night to play out unhindered by the likes of yours truly.

And it did play out.

What I found the next morning was a pile of dirty white socks, Gatorade bottles, half eaten brownies, and two kittens concerned with the ever-changing environment and weekend tenants.  Naturally, the boys were still fast asleep.

Then, I discovered the white plaster chips and flakes on the floor from something that had shattered.  I first thought it was a hole in the wall and prepared for my head to explode.  Thankfully, my head stayed in place as there was not a hole in the wall and my temper subsided.  I looked up to the shelf and found only a ring of dust and bare place where something had once been standing.  As any good detective, I began an interrogation of the suspects who were busy snoring on the Dorrito dusted couches.  They waved me off as the guilty often do.

I started to gather evidence.  First, the white chips and flakes by the door, then an arm, and a head were located under the back of the couch.  While I was low to the ground, I noticed the lump under the rug.  I didn’t have to move the rug to know what it was; they had literally swept the broken statue of dancing lovers under the rug.

So I scooped it out from under the rug and held all of the pieces mournfully in my hands.  The boys tried to make it right later in the day by reassembling the piece into something that they considered modern art.  In retrospect, I should have put man-proofed our home before the gang arrived, removed all fragile knick-knacks and thingamajigs, and felt happy the figurine was the only causality of the weekend.  I’ll try to remember this peaceful gratitude as  I continue to find treasures lost in the couch and swept under the rug for the next few days.

Distractions

At the sound of the approaching voices, Lilly froze in her tiny office. Her body started to shake and quiver. She willed her heart to slow and freeze, like the rest of her, fearful that the thudding would give her presence away.

There was a crowd of co-workers just outside of the room, talking and laughing. She twitched at their unprofessionalism. This is a place of work, she thought with distaste, not a bar or a common coffee house. Her heart hardened against the cacophony that broke the normal harmony of the office.

Then the voices faded and she breathed a sigh of relief. She heard the sound of typing from her office mate. Click, click, click. His pudgy fingers struck the keys of his computer with a clumsy, steady grace. It was a comfort to her, the same clicking and shuffling of papers. No loud noises, just the sounds of working throughout the day.

She stood up, stretched her arms over her head and peeped her head out of her office. Safe, she whispered to herself. Anxiety held her captive, while loneliness slowly killed her. It wasn’t her co-workers she resented, it was the disruption of routine, the interruption from the norm, and their loud voices. On second thought, it was definitely their loud voices that she resented the most.

Lilly’s tightly wound nerves started to relax and her heartbeat returned to normal. It was as though a winter storm had just passed and the blue skies were beginning to return. Birds were chirping again from frozen trees as snow melted onto the white ground. Lilly was refreshed and recharged from her recent scare.

Lilly held onto the edge of the tissue box and pulled herself out. Fresh air filled her lungs and the bright office lights made her squint until her eyes adjusted. She squeaked and scurried over to her office mate who stared straight ahead at his computer screen, still typing the last thing she said to him.

He glanced down at her and asked, “Are you ready, now?”

Lilly squeaked again and ran up his plaid sleeve to rest on his shoulder where she started to whisper the rest of the story.

Choices


We are faced with millions of decisions in a lifetime. Some of the decisions are easy to make, like brushing your teeth or wearing a seatbelt. They are automatic and routine with the risks of doing or not doing clear and clean cut. For me, the thought of a toothless mouth or flying through a windshield takes away the hesitancy and second-guessing associated with decisions with risks and outcomes that are less known.

By nature, I am a cautious person. I over-think every decision and when I finally do make a choice, then I ruminate on if it was the right one. It’s a very tough way to live, being scared of the future and questioning the past. What about the present?

Sometimes I question myself, police interrogation style, demanding answers. There is no good cop/bad cop scenario in my head, only bad cop who is unreasonably upset with my ability to make a snap judgment.

This decision making problem is something that I have accepted as a sort-of handicap, like a lazy eye or an inwardly turned foot. I know how to work with it, but it can be overly taxing for my husband, especially when in situations where there are many choices to make, like grocery shopping. How can a person possibly just pick a can of soup or a head of lettuce without considering all options? There is the price and quality of a product, likelihood of use, and then trying to remember any bad experiences with this or that product in the past to take into account before anything goes into the cart. Whereas, when he goes by himself, he is back within an hour with several meals options that are ready to go. It’s just another one of his gifts.

In my present life, I am in the middle of a transition from a decision that I labored for several weeks before committing to it. I am looking back at what I’m leaving and forward into a sea of uncertainty. As the time to start the next phase in my life approaches, the waves are rising and getting choppier. They are breaking hard onto the shore of my sense of stability. Yet, I’m still making all the preparations to load up into my little boat and set out for the unknown, decision making impairment, be damned.

If my boat sinks, I’ve got a life jacket and I’ll shoot off flares for help. Hopefully, I’ll run ashore of unchartered lands that are rich with resources. Just in case anyone is wondering, I fully plan to claim these lands for my own and declare it all, Puneybonia. In either case, I’m making a choice and standing behind it for better or worse.

Heart of gold and other business matters

candy-bowl

“We close up shop when the candy is gone and not a minute sooner.  These kids need candy,” my husband informed me with all seriousness on Halloween.   It was a very dramatic moment in our lives and the first time that I learned of his passion for trick-or-treating.

Naturally, I had been pressing for an early end to the trick-or-treating free-for-all that was taking place on our street.  A simple flick of the switch to the front porch light is all is would have required and his patrons would have taken their business elsewhere.   However, under his watch this proved to be impossible as he eyed me suspiciously every time I walked in the vicinity of the light switch.

So I gave into the spirit of the night and helped the Halloween enthusiast who is my spouse to hand out tiny boxes of Skittles and Nerds.  I have to admit his excitement was contagious as Ebola.  It was something I dreaded catching and when I finally did, I hoped it would all be over soon.

When we had a lull in activity, he anxiously paced and continuously checked the window.  He peered out through the blinds onto the darkened street with great concern.

“Porch light is on but no trick-or-treaters,” he said to himself, looking left and right for shadowy figures moving on the street.

Several costumed delinquents were suddenly spotted and he practically squealed with delight.  After he gave them handfuls of the fun-sized candies, and we closed the door, he sat down with a satisfied sigh claiming another set of happy customers.

By the end of the evening, we had a total of 10 visitors and a very proud man.  He declared it a good night of business and began on his improvement plans for the next year.  Full sized candy bars instead of fun-sized candy packs and matching costumes for the two of us, inflatable lawn ornaments and pumpkins for the front porch were all among his plans.  He explained this was a long term business plan and the trick-or-treaters would tell their friends for the next year.  I could see the stars in his eyes as he dreamed of his empire, to be built on candy and costumes.

It would have been pointless to remind him that trick-or-treating wasn’t a business because to the son of a shopkeeper everything was business.

Hiding out on Halloween

How to Grow Pumpkins

It doesn’t take much to bring out my antisocial tendencies.  A drop in the temperature to anything below 40 is enough to keep me inside even on the best bar “holiday” of the year.  Add in rain with the chance for snow and it guarantees my place on the couch, thoughtfully watching the world from the window.

So far I’ve only seen a deranged child clown leading a pack of hobos each carrying bulging bags of what I can only assume are filled with candy.  As they shuffled by, I most fervently hoped that the costumed gang would pass our darkened doorway for the homes of our neighbors with carved pumpkins on the steps, orange lights outlining the porch, and giant inflatable lawn pumpkins.

I question myself at times like this when there isn’t a single place in the world I would rather be than curled up on my couch next to my sweet husband.  He is ready to face the elements for a night out on the town yet willing to stay in with me.  We used to be out every weekend at a party or a bar and now we stay in if the weather is bad or a good show is on tv or the cats seem extra needy.

Fortunately, we are stocked up on lunch meat, pumpkin beer, and a bowl of fun-sized candies intended for the trick-or-treaters.  It’s warm and cozy inside and we have everything we need, including a sense of appreciation for the simple things like microwave popcorn and scary movies on cable.

These are the nights.

Sensitive Subjects

Sensitive Subjects

Band-aid-left.gif

I’m pretty sure everyone has an emotional tender spot.  It’s the one area that never quite healed up or formed correctly and the slightest nudge is enough to send shooting pains into the heart and wrap a web of shame around one’s brain.  Some people have more tender spots than others, and some tender spots are tenderer than others.

For me, it’s the mention of my employment history.  The mere suggestion at past jobs and reasons for leaving makes me shudder and the feeling of nausea rises from my stomach and into my throat.  I have to swallow back bile at the thought of explaining the whole mess and hang my head low so not to meet anyone’s eyes that might carry disappointment in them.

The past is the past and this is the present.  No need to dwell.  We are here now in this moment and in this day and that’s all that should matter.  Don’t worry about if I am going to leave but rather focus on the time that I stayed.  Sort of Buddhist-like and forward thinking of me, right?  As it turns out, most employers do not share this way of thinking with me.

This has come as quite a revelation to me.

It has also made me acutely aware that I may not be cut out for the working world.  Yet, somehow bills keep appearing in the mailbox making it clear that I either need to start playing the lotto with the hopes of a big win or that I need to shape up and stick with a job long enough to let the tender spot toughen up.

Home

Home, it’s an old two story farmhouse in the country with single pane windows and hardwood floors.  There are as many drafts as there are spiders, and neither is under control.  Winters are cold in northern Indiana, and even colder in this house with just a few baseboard heaters and a wood burning stove that mostly smokes and sparks.  The summers are hot here, but we don’t mind.  We’re never inside from May until September, anyways.

There is a wooden banister that leads up the stairs, worn as smooth as silk from the oil of so many hands using it.  No matter how hot the summer sun heats up the house, the banister is always cool to the touch.  I put my check on it some days in August when all the windows are open and the air still doesn’t move to cool down a degree.

My room is at the top of the stairs to the right.  There are gnaw-marks on the corner of the door from a time when chicks were kept in an incubator and a fox tried to chew his way in one night.  How did the fox get in and what happens to the chicks?  It doesn’t matter, it’s my chicken-free room now.

It’s a sanctuary.  There’s a big square of pink carpet salvaged from my grandparents’ home which makes the wooden floor more bearable during the cold months.  My twin bed is in the corner, between two windows.  I’m always planning on how to escape through these windows, just in case things get really bad.  I’ll tie all my sheets together like a rope ladder and throw it out the window.  Then I worry if my knots will hold and decide the best course of action is to jump out and hope to land on the bush under the window.  The last wall is all shelves for my books and trinkets.  There are many secrets hidden between the knickknacks and tucked into the pages of the books, like my plans for escape.

Actually, now it’s a place that doesn’t exist any further than my own mind.  It’s just another place in the past that can never be revisited, a sobering reminder of the passage of time.  Yet, it’s funny in a way that makes me reflect more than laugh how its memory still haunts my present, so real and clear, and so impossibly gone at the same time.

Another Fall

fall leaves - Autumn Photography Desktop Wallpapers ( 54534 Views )

His eyes were dark like mine.

I remembered just today,

Jarred by the bright oranges and reds of the changing leaves.

On Dignity

There is always more to a person than a first impression allows to be known. It takes time and trust to find out what a person needs or wants and who they are, were, and want to be someday.  When I first met The Chef,  she called me into her bedroom where she was resting on a bedside commode, clearly occupied with the business at hand.  She apologized with a toothless mouth but she needed some time before we could start.  About five to ten minutes of talk show drama played out on a tiny television before The Chef’s electric wheelchair backed out of the bedroom.  She zipped past me to the kitchen and yelled, “Be right there.”

After a few more minutes, she returned to the cluttered living room and was ready to start. If I had trusted my first impression of The Chef, I would have thought that she was resistant and unfocused.  I had to check my feelings of frustration towards her for making me wait by remembering that this was her life.  I was able to leave at anytime and return to the security of a life outside the struggles of the inner city, while she couldn’t get out of her electric wheelchair without help.  This was a life in which she was trapped and I needed to get my ego out of the way.  My time and life were of equal importance with hers, and it was something that I needed to remember.

By the end of our visit, I realized just how much life this woman had lived. She wasn’t always confined to a wheelchair because of her bad heart, shaky legs or obesity.  In fact, she grew up spending most of her time in the kitchen, standing on two strong legs next to her grandma, where she learned to cook.  This early experience turned into a career; she started in fast food and worked her way up to better restaurants.  She created new menus with a soul food twist and fed hundreds with her meals.  Along the way, she taught others how to not only season and spice, but to work hard and do things the right way.

Food was her passion but also her vice, leading to her multiple health problems and the eventual end of her career. She still cooks meals with enough to feed anyone who stops by her door, lured by the smell of chicken and vegetables.  Although, disregarded by society due to her poor health, she remains a person of worth, deserving of respect and defining dignity.  She is a person with a past and a future and infinitely more than a mere disability/health condition.

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