Taking Flight

taking flight

“Do you have time?”

My supervisor always starts the same way. This is her lead-in to asking me for a quick chat which inevitably is neither quick nor a chat. It is more of a one-way conversation that usually builds to something disciplinary or a request for work on a new project.

Let’s cut the small talk and get to business, I mentally plead with her. I watch the long black hands of the clock over her shoulder. They continue to move forward while I am motionless other than the nodding of my head.

“Yes, I’m listening. Please continue.”

She has spotted my eyes dropping, just ever so briefly, more like an extended blink than anything. She does not appear happy by this observation. She has been talking for seven minutes now. I am still waiting for the main course of this meal to be delivered.

The main course never arrives which cannot be good. I am Gretel in the witch’s trap, she has just reached through the bars and squeezed my arm. Not fat enough yet. She will wait another few days, continue to feed me sweets and check again.

She has the time to wait. She does not know, however, that we do not share this in common. I am at the edge of wrinkle in time, straddling two worlds, and picking sides.

My hourglass is running out of sand and ready to be flipped, so let’s get moving.

Before I leave, I stop at the door with my bags over my shoulder, filled with anxiety so uncontrolled it forms it forms a feathered shape and prepares to take flight.

“Wasn’t there something you needed to discuss?”

“Oh right,” she says, “It can wait.”

Perhaps it can, but can I?

 

image: krugerparkgamereserves.com

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A light in the dark

flashligh

I am at the bottom of a deep hole, maybe an old well, trying to figure out what happened. The darkness is suffocating and heavy as I try to stand. Nothing is broken. I feel my arms to be sure a bone isn’t sticking out where it doesn’t belong. I’m just a little sore and confused. So that’s good, but it is dark and creepy. I am afraid of the dark, so this is bad.

Fear sets in spreading from my chest outwards, reaching my head and feet at the same moment.

Frantically I try to find my flashlight. It came down with me so it must be here. My fingers are my eyes now; they are both far and nearsighted as they adjust to their new role. I feel my way over the muck, decaying leaves and twigs, walnuts, trash and still no flashlight.

The rotting debris stinks and I am panicking. If I could still the thousand thoughts in my head, I might try to use the Litany of Fear. Reading all of those Dune books need not be in vain. Fear is the mind-killer…

That’s not happening because I’m gagging, the stench surrounds me and I’m covered in this muck. Bile rises in my throat. Mouth breathing makes it worse; the smell is so pungent I can taste it in the air.

Vomit will not improve my current environment, although I’m not sure if I have a choice as the bile continues on its path upwards.

Mind over matter, mind over matter, I tell myself and swallow hard. Briefly, I consider that the nausea could also be related to a possible concussion. Not knowing how long I was out from the fall, I am only certain that it is night and that the nausea is passing.

I dig for the flashlight. It won’t get me out of this pit if I do find it, but it will give me the comfort of light. Light is a reminder that I am human and therefore a conqueror of the dark.

Unfortunately, I am not the conqueror of anything, aside from the urge to vomit which may only be temporary. My only power is that of patience to wait for the first light of the day. I can be patient.

I feel hope for the new day.

Then something moves, squishing through the muck towards me.

Fear ties my stomach into knots and makes my heart pound. Needles of pain shoot out from my neck and scalp. I am deaf, dumb, and blind in this hole with patience as my only defense and acutely aware that I am not alone.

I was never alone.

The Cat’s Meow

tear

Tears squeezed out from one eye.

Big, round, wet drops slid down the woman’s left cheek.
She called out in anguish and rubbed the crying eye.

The other eye remained dry, unconcerned with the activities of its sister.

My heart squeezed tight. I was responsible for this lopsided show of emotion.
Her pain had grown too great; it sought escape through the easiest portal, the left eye.

Then I realized, she wasn’t crying. Something was in her eye.

Almost certainly, the irritant’s source sat next to the woman, lazily looking around the room with crusty eyes. The cat yawned and blinked. It was big and lumpy, like an old pillow with cheap stuffing.

She patted its misshapen little head, not minding the lumps of matted, greasy fur.

“Just like mama, you’re old and fat.”

She forgot to mention hairy.

The woman laughed and lost her breath. Instantly, her face grew grim. She waited for the oxygen flowing into her nostrils to saturate her blood again.

Just like the respiratory therapist told her, she huffed and puffed and damn near blew the house down.

cat

Death by Uber

truck

When the bright blue pickup truck cruised into the parking lot, the driver flashed his lights and honked at us. We were the only ones standing outside of the hotel. There was little question that this was our ride and we were the intended riders.

Yet, still the driver continued to honk as he slowly approached like he didn’t see us, the two lone figures in front of his vehicle.

Sure this wasn’t the usual Uber approach, but we were on vacation. Something magical happens to a person’s thinking when on vacation; intuition is easier to ignore, one lowers their guard, suspends disbelief, and takes risks like popping into a dive bar for a drink and talking to leather clad strangers. Or maybe that’s just us?

In any case, we couldn’t have known that the real risk of the trip was getting into this flashy pickup truck.

“Hey ya’ll. Where ya headed?” the driver asked in a slow drawl with a big chunk of chew bulging from his lip.

We’ll call the driver “Justin” as that was how just about every chew chawing, boot wearing native introduced himself that weekend.

It was all so fitting: the weird Uber pickup truck, the Southern accent, the fine Tennessee whiskey tasting that preceded the Uber request which helped to lower our normal standards. We had officially arrived in a mental and physical state of vacation/escape from reality.

So we asked Justin to take us downtown, climbed aboard the ship of uncertainty, and slowly rolled out of the parking lot. He took off towards the highway which seemed to be the right direction, good start so far. I checked out the backseat with satisfaction. No unidentifiable smells, murdery stains, or fast food wrappers, this was getting even better.

As an aside, we recently took an Uber ride in a hand-me-down Honda with an intense college kid driver who had all three of the above in his backseat. It was 10 miles of silence- no radio, no small talk- just silence and uncertainty that we would ever arrive to our destination. This was breath of fresh air, almost.

Then we swerved across the road as we approached the ramp to the highway. I stopped my backseat investigation to refocus on the driver. Justin was completely engrossed in setting his GPS while driving with his knees. FYI: Knees are not the best at controlling a pickup traveling at 50-60 miles an hour.

We made into onto the highway and the GPS was set. Justin was driving with his hands again– we were back on track for a successful trip. Then the voice of the GPS, an English accented female, started to give directions. For some strange reason, she wanted us to turn around.

“Turn right,” she said and Justin drove straight.

She asked again at the next exit, “Turn right.”

Justin shook his head in disagreement and mumbled to himself, “No, that’s not right” and muted her to take us off the highway and down the side street of a small town.

This was more than a little concerning to the Mister- who then turned on the GPS on his phone. Interesting, I thought as I looked over his shoulder. We had gone in the exact opposite direction of where we asked. Justin’s GPS was right after all, who knew?

Once the Mister started to direct Justin, we made it to the big city where Justin did not become a better driver. In fact, his driving became even more distracted as he idled at a green light to show us how he keeps a hand gun on him at all times.

He explained, “There’s a lot of crazy people out there (pause for spit break) and a man’s got to protect himself. That’s why I keep the safety off on days like this.”

Oh, the safety is off on more than just that gun, I thought nervously as he pushed his handgun back between his leg and the seat. He looked up and realizing that he was sitting at a green light, he punched the gas. We lurched forward and then he decided to change lanes, nearly running over a Smart car that had the misfortune of driving next to us.

“We can walk from here,” the Mister said at the next light and opened the door/saved our lives.

It was wild ride that ended just soon enough, costing relatively little for the adventure it provided.

Thanks for the good times, Uber. Don’t worry, we’ll be back.

Wondering what is Uber? (normally a great service)

https://www.uber.com/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uber_%28company%29

Info on distracted driving- for those of you interested in not driving like Justin 

http://www.distraction.gov/get-the-facts/facts-and-statistics.html

http://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/distracted_driving/

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

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.

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