frayed wires under blankets
lay still in a silent threat
like a snake in the grass
frayed wires under blankets
lay still in a silent threat
like a snake in the grass
Today I have a gift for you from one of my clients.
It’s not much, just a little piece of relationship advice.
When you start sticking and stabbing your partner
and you know the day is coming
when you’re going to cut him too deep and he won’t stop bleeding
then it’s time to go.
She was married for 54 good years.
They lived in different states.
Her separated husband told her one day that he had a dream.
The Lord came to him and said, “Hang on, Georgie, she’s gonna come back to you.”
She laughed and said, “That’s funny, ‘cuz I’ve been praying to the same Lord to never see you again.”
He passed away a few years ago on July 15. Lord rest his soul.
As I opened the door to leave, a tiny cross-eyed man arrived at the door. He peeked over my shoulder from the doorway. The woman spotted him and yelled out, “Oooh-wee, you ain’t brought nothing for me to eat, but get in here anyways.”
He shuffled in past me and jumped into her outstretched arms.
I left with the woman’s sage advice and knowing that In the end, love prevails or something close enough to it.
After taking the zillionth call of the day, I knew that my limit was reached. A red light flashed on my phone, indicating that a voicemail was waiting with more questions and requests but there was nothing left for me to give. I simply closed my laptop and headed towards the door for a walk. The receptionist saw me leave and shouted, “Wait, I’ve got a caller on the other line looking for you.”
I took a lesson from my clients and proceeded outside, pretending that I never heard her plea.
At first, I walked hard and fast. The sun was hot and I wore a long sleeve shirt, which was not great planning on my part. Beads of sweat started to form on my forehead and I slowed down. I focused on my breathing, like my husband/stress guru advised this morning. I felt better about life and could think again. The stress wasn’t controlling me.
I rounded the corner and headed back towards the building through the parking lot when I was spotted by Ms. E, the mistress of custodial services for the ladies restroom. She was dressed in an all purple outfit and was holding a bucket of cleaning supplies.
Ms. E called out, “Baby, why you walking when you have a car?”
I told her that I was having a stressful day and had to get out of the office, thinking this explanation to be justified and straight forward.
Ms. E nodded her head in a knowing (or pre-Parkinson’s) way, “Baby, there ain’t nothing worth stressing over. It’s like this, either you have the money for the bills or you don’t. If you have the money, pay the bills. If you don’t, then you don’t pay the bills. It’s simple, see. Don’t make it harder than it needs to be, Baby.”
Well, yes, that does make sense, I thought and nodded to let her know I was listening. I yearned to look at my watch, sensing that my absence was soon to be noticed. The sun beat down on my head and shoulders. Beads of sweat now started to roll down the sides of my face and neck.
She continued, “See, there’s a difference between thinking and stressing. I thinks about my bills all the time but I don’t let it get me upset, like you are now.”
Ms. E called me out in a parking-lot-style intervention. She forced me to realize, while sweating and missing in action from my cube, that there really wasn’t anything to stress over. If I can take action, do it. If there’s nothing to do or I don’t have the right tools or abilities, then that’s it. Nothing more and nothing less but no need for stress.
I am grateful to this strange cleaning angel in purple for helping me to put this Tuesday into perspective.
I told her so as I walked away and she yelled after me, “Looks like you were meant to run into me. Be good, Baby.”
She disappeared behind me as I scurried up the back stairs and slipped back into my cube without a stress in the world. Then the phone rang and it started all over again.
I would feel less guilty as a fly on the wall.
The woman stared straight ahead at a blank computer screen. Thin, brown hair fell against the cheeks of her very pale face. The phone rang again. She heard it through the thick haze that spread over her brain and filled her delicate ears. She moaned in anguish and envisioned herself flitting out the window carried by a tiny pair of buzzing wings, able to see everything without the responsibility of knowing.
Why this guilt? You didn’t do anything, the woman berated herself.
A tinny voice that may have been her conscious reminded her, it’s exactly because you didn’t do anything. You should feel bad.
Oh shut up, she told the tinny voice. You are exactly what I don’t need.
The internal monologue may have continued for an indefinite time if it wasn’t suddenly interrupted and the woman was saved from herself.
“Kel, I overheard you on the phone,” her red-haired co-worker, Samantha, said without apologizing for eavesdropping. She rolled into the shared hallway, barefoot, like usual. Her palms and fingertips pressed together as though in prayer, she was about to launch into amateur therapy mode. The first woman had been subjected to this in the past.
“You must tell yourself that it’s not your fault. You couldn’t have done anything to change what happened.”
“Thanks,” the first woman said, “that helps.”
“Well if you don’t want my help, why don’t you just say?” the red-head declared indignantly and rolled back into her work space.
Inside, the first woman cringed, she knew things could have been different if she hadn’t been too busy to follow up or make the right reports, if she hasn’t been so behind in her work or burned out, this never would have happened. She felt certain that everything could have been avoided if she just tried a little harder.
She glanced at her watch and it was later than she expected.
I will deal with this tomorrow, she decided. She stood to leave the office, uncertain that she would return in the morning. On second thought, she turned back and grabbed a picture from her wedding and a mug with the presidents’ faces on it.
“Just in case,” she muttered and left.
On the day it was too hard to be a human
she drank a glass of wine to dull the sharp edge of sorrow,
she drank another glass to numb the dull ache of loneliness,
she poured one last glass just to finish off the bottle.
She slipped away into a hazy place between here and there.
Tomorrow, she decided, would be better
And her eyes fluttered shut against the flickering light of another dying day.
The sun over Indiana was bright and hot today. It would have felt great if I was next to a pool with a Corona in my hand. This, however, was not the case. I spent the day driving between home visits and made a special discovery about my car’s A/C.
It is no longer the ice-making machine that it once was in days gone past.
My last stop of the day brought me to check-in on a sick little guy. I arrived with drops of sweat sliding down my back and my face was in a full state of glisten. The little guy’s mom flicked her cigarette into the yard and let me inside, watching me the whole time with a dark pair of suspicious eyes.
Her answers were clipped and she kept her arms crossed, while on the ground, the sound of mucus gurgled from the trach of her baby. He rested in a bouncy-bassinet-contraption with a monitor hooked up to his big toe, checking on his oxygen level. In his chubby arms, he lovingly held onto a plastic sea-creature.
After a few minutes, his mom picked him up in an almost obligatory show of affection. It didn’t matter to the boy if it was real or forced, he was getting snuggles from his mama. I watched as the baby reached up and grabbed the ring in his mother’s lip. I gasped as the baby gave the ring a playful tug in fear that it was about to be yanked out.
Much to my surprise, the woman laughed and the baby pulled his arm back. He looked straight in my eyes and nodded with a gummy smile.
I don’t spend much time with infants but I got a feeling from that smile, deep in my gut. It is the same feeling that tells me to double check my locks, look over my shoulder, to keep asking questions or to stop talking, and to trust the seemingly untrustworthy. He might be a fat baby with a few medical problems and a young mother, but he’s also an old soul who is going to be ok, whatever that means.
In my line of work, I see plenty of fakers.
There are certain people who pretend to be sicker, weaker, or more helpless than they really are in the hopes of home delivered meals, lift chairs, housekeeping, and the list continues. They want assistance with bills but manage to get new braids. They struggle with timelines and returning paperwork, but are the first to remind me of holiday assistance programs and complete the required applications. Their words and actions rarely match and their lives are often chaotic from living in this state of disharmony.
I call these the professional fakers. They do the best they can based on their environment, social supports, natural inclinations and the beauty of self-deception to get their essentials met. They know exactly how to look and what to say to get what they need and desire. These pros have spent a life time perfecting the art of deceit with a focus on various government programs and charitable organizations.
However, if doing whatever it takes to get one’s wants or needs met requires a bit of twisting, then aren’t we all fakers at some point in this life? For example, who tells the complete truth in a job interview or first date?
It’s hard to always stay true to one’s self, to follow one’s intuition and remain self-aware. When our inner voice and better judgment are ignored and we break from striving for an authentic way of living, a second group of faker is introduced, the petty fakers.
I would guess that I’m not alone in this observation and human experience. In fact, in the spirit of confession, I admit that I am an occasional member of the petty fakers
My most recent descent into that world started a few days ago. Our neighbors dropped off a still-warm plate of brownies drizzled with a strawberry sauce. (Yes, they were delicious and immediately eaten.) My husband and I decided shortly after licking the plate clean to repay their kindness by not only returning the dish, but also to deliver a fresh batch of cookies.
However, time ran out this weekend and we were forced to make a tough decision: either we return the plate empty or do something despicable and nearly unmentionable. Martha Stewart would cringe if she were to read what happened next.
We bought a box of fancy caramel chocolate chip cookies, carefully arranged them on the dainty dessert plate, Saran-wrapped the entire thing and prepared for the delivery. I secured a not-to-be-broken-even-on-death promise from my husband to never speak of the caramel chocolate chip cookies again and pushed through the door.
As I trotted across the street with cookies in hand, I felt a twinge of guilt at the deception and the ease of returning their kindness. When they asked for the recipe, I panicked and considered telling the truth. Instead, I stuttered out a denial, claiming it was an old family secret and ran back across the street, leaving them wondering what kind of mental condition plagued this strange deliverer of cookies/returner of the plate.
The point is that we all have needs and sometimes it involves finagling the truth and looking the other way to get them met. In this case, it was harmless (unless the neighbors have some weird food allergy). My husband and I wanted to express our appreciation and didn’t have the time to bake up that fresh batch of cookies that we envisioned. We were willing to offset the cost of a box of gourmet cookies and a lapse in authentic living for the time and mess saved by being petty fakers for the day.
Additional resources on authentic living:
When I opened the fridge door this morning, the song War started to play in my head. Sub out the word war with leftovers for the following question and answer part of the lyrics and you will be in the same place that I was at 7:45am.
Leftovers, what are they good for? Absolutely nothin’, say it again y’all… especially if your husband always gets to them before you do.
There is no point to only eating half of a BLT or saving a slice of pizza or slice of cheesecake if it always magically disappears by the next day. The only way to prevent the leftovers from going missing is to involve mushrooms. It seems mushrooms have an amazing repelling power to the Leftover Monster (L.M. for short) who pillages the fridge late at night and early in the morning.
I have encountered multiple L.M.s in my life. The first one looked scarily similar to my brother, hairy palms and all. (Sorry, Bro, but it’s true). He stalked the kitchen late at night for anything edible; cereal, pasta, pickles, cookies, the list continues. Once I left home, the white styro-foam boxes filled with half-eaten sandwiches, cold fries and other entrees were left unmolested along with peanuts, chips, casseroles, and other random food previously decimated at the hands of the L.M.
Like the Loch Ness or Bigfoot, the Leftover Monster (L.M. for short) is rarely sighted and often leaves clues to his activities and whereabouts. The L.M. who has taken up residency in our home creeps through in the early morning, leaves crumbs on the counter, and disappears without a sound. This morning, for example, I knew the fridge had been plundered by the L.M. when I saw the empty pizza box leaned up against the trash can.
If L.M. doesn’t get the leftovers he is after, he might start in on my granola, fancy peanut butter or dark chocolate pieces. So after a little thought, I’ve decided to continue to pacify the L.M. with my leftovers in hopes that he leaves my favorite snacks alone for PMS Monster to ravage later.
A complex woman went out for a walk one fine summer day. Trouble found her whether she looked for it or not, which she admittedly, intentionally sought out at times. On this fine day, she had only good intentions for the world as she pumped her arms with each stride. She took great pride in her long legs and fast pace.
2000 more steps, she noted as she glanced down at her pedometer. Sweat dripped from the side of her face and down her neck. Enthusiastically, she sped forward only aware of the power in her legs.
The walking woman did not think of her pesky daughter who begged her to “try and be aware of your surroundings”, the self-defense class she always meant to take, or that she might make a tasty victim for a bad man or animal, alike. Instead, she focused on the swing of her hips and legs when she caught something in her peripheral vision.
She turned to see a muscular dog with white foam flecking from the sides of a mouth filled with sharp, white teeth charging towards her. The woman froze with a pounding heart. She had just enough time to think defensively, you are not getting my bad leg.
She stepped back with her bum leg and braced herself, when the dog abruptly stopped in front of her and started wiggling its bobbed tail. The dog inched closer and nudged the woman’s hand. She couldn’t stop herself from petting the dog’s head. The dog stared up in gratitude with a pair of golden eyes that understood and accepted.
“Ony. You stupid mutt, get back here!” a shirtless man covered in tattoos yelled in an evil voice. He threw down a glowing cigarette into the uncut grass and slowly walked towards the woman and dog.
“She likes you,” the man sneered at the woman. “You are lucky, the last time she got out, it didn’t go so well.”
The woman felt her throat with her free hand, relieved it was still intact, and willed her beating heart to slow itself. She rubbed the dog’s ears with the other hand and the dog leaned against her bad leg.
“She’s a sweet dog. Did you say her name was Oni?” the woman asked.
“Yeah, short for Fel-Ony. Get it?”
The man leered at the woman with blood shot eyes and searched her face for judgment. He took a step closer and the dog cowered while the woman quivered in fear. Once again, her heart pounded in her chest and she froze.
“Felony, what a unique name,” she laughed nervously as he continued to stare suspiciously at her.
The man grabbed Ony by the scruff of her neck and she whimpered. He nodded to the woman and dragged the whimpering dog across the uncut grass and disappeared behind a tall, wooden fence.
The whimpering changed to cries which faded as the woman resumed her walk, still in need of 1800 steps.
I have never been much of a risk taker. I assume it is somehow related to having an impulsive mother. Growing up, when other kids hopped stones to cross a creek, I built a bridge for a safer crossing. If the water was too deep or fast for an impromptu bridge, I traveled along the muddy bank in search of a less potentially harmful way. I found that there is almost always a better way if you take the time to look for it.
However, avoiding risks is very time consuming. It’s a constant task to assess the amount of risk in day to day decisions and pick what is least likely to cause harm, injury, or death. For example, I rarely take left turns on two way streets, speed, or forget to wear sunscreen on cloudy days.
Yesterday, I decided that I have lived in fear of the unknown long enough and threw caution to the wind.
I went where no woman should willingly go. If you don’t already know to where I’m referring – it’s to the same dentist who just cracked my husband’s tooth the previous day when filling a small cavity. To the same person who caused the love of my life incredible pain and suffering? Yes, I guiltily admit, that is just where I went less than 24 hours after the incident.
It was described to me like this; my husband was leaned back in the chair, relaxed in the safe hands of the dentist. His mouth and half of his face was numb as he stared out the window. The dentist was casually drilling and chatting about the upcoming World Cup game when she suddenly stopped with an “Uh-oh.”
Generally, this is not a good thing for a dentist to say.
The dentist peered into his mouth through a tiny pair of magnified glasses. Her lashes, thick with mascara, batted up and down, as she assessed the situation. A pair of pursed lips and increased heart beats told him the news before she announced very matter-of-factly, “Your tooth has cracked in half.”
She said it in a way like she wasn’t the one holding a drill that had just been running inside of his mouth. It was as though the tooth had a mind of its own and decided to split from its current place of residency and to make a break from its brothers.
It was just a few hours later that my husband shuffled out of the office, with a newly rebuilt tooth and an aching jaw. The secretary stood up as he reached the door, and called after him, “Don’t forget to remind your wife she has an appointment tomorrow.”
Fearlessly, I arrived ten minutes early to have a cavity of my own drilled.