Aug 28, 2009

Moody bitch, in flight.

I used to love a good fight. I could present a fantastic argument; even when I was young, my parents used to say I should be a lawyer. (Yes, I know, it's never too late.) After college when I was in my twenties in Chicago, I would strike up a conversation with a complete stranger at a bar just to debate, oh, the atrocity of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. (Seriously, once a guy told me he worked for Exxon, and I spent an hour enumerating the reasons he would rot in hell for working for the man.) Back in those days, O.J. Simpson provided a lot of fodder for heated discussion, as well. And, of course, protecting the environment, which wasn't nearly as popular then as it is now. When I think about it, I didn't love to argue as much as I loved to be right. (In your twenties, you know everything, am I right?) I just couldn't fathom that people had different opinions, and I felt I was doing them a favor by setting them straight. Yes, I was great fun to be around then, particularly since quite a bit of drinking was usually involved.

I bring this up today because I don't feel like I have any fight left in me. Being an unemployed, divorced, forty-two year old mother of my own moody b—, er brat, what the hell do I know? I realized in my thirties that I didn't know shit, and I struggled mightily in my quest for knowledge. I hoped my forties would bring acceptance around this issue, and to some extent it has. But rather than get my dander up when challenged, I now sigh with resignation. We've all heard about the "fight or flight" instinct; I've swung to the other end of the spectrum. I hunker down, run away, avoid conflict and, if possible, take a nap. I hate arguing.

To say that I'm moody is putting it mildly, however, and I happen to be in a relationship with someone who is equally moody but hasn't yet had his spirit broken. When we disagree, my natural response is to think, "Well, this clearly isn't going to work out." And then I fantasize about a future with just me and Grace ("You and me against the world, sometimes I think it's you and me against the world..."), which is hilarious because she's the one who caused all this in the first place, with all that perspective crap. Is Grace happy, healthy and safe? Okay then. Is Grace behaving like Drew Barrymore in "The Firestarter?" THAT'S where I need to focus my energy, not on whether there is a discrepancy in the odometer reading of my new (old) car. Combine that with almost constant physical pain, and I'm having trouble picking my battles, and waging them with a modicum of maturity.

There has to be a happy medium, and I keep turning to the serenity poem. (I'm agnostic.) But it turns out that this tidbit of wisdom has very little to offer when it comes to relationships. It does not address, for example, what one should do when confronted with a close friend who is driving you crazy with criticism, judgement, abandonment or just a bad attitude. So I withdraw. It seems the safest option, when there are battles being fought on so many fronts right now. (Oh, and I blog, which is a thinly veiled cry for validation and support from complete strangers. Hmmmm.) But too much withdrawal will most certainly leave me in a worse place: alone.

I'm seeing a woman next Friday who is a "Personal Development Coach, Clinical/Medical Hynotherapist & Trauma Specialist." I was referred to her by my awesome chiropractor (see ad at left), and can I tell you how much I would not want to be this poor woman? The visual I have is me sitting across from her and explaining the last year of my life, and having her furrow her brow, shake her head and write down the name and number of someone who may be more able to handle my situation.

Disclaimer: I know there are millions of people worse off than I am. I cry for them almost every day and try to remain grateful that I have food, housing, friends, family and, of course, beer.

Aug 25, 2009

Coastal fauna

Here's the kind of thing Grace gets to see when we visit my parents' beach house. It makes it worth the now somewhat terrifying three-hour drive.


This buck was just kickin' it by the side of the road.


There were two fledgling seagulls on the deck.


One of the parents was usually close by.


To everyone else, this is just a seagull. To Grace, it's so cool.

Aug 24, 2009

Starting over again. And again. And again.

I have been itching to blog for weeks, but have allowed a few things to get in the way: the heat in my office, the pain that sitting at my desk causes my poor back, the guilt about blogging instead of doing something productive and the overwhelming nature of the feelings and thoughts bouncing around inside of me. No more excuses: it's cooled off; I've just come, freshly adjusted, from the chiropractor; I've been quite productive and am waiting for others to do their part; and my head will likely explode if I don't vent a bit. Where to begin?

I suppose the best place to begin is with all the new beginnings. For a decent part of the last few weeks I've been chasing my tail, searching for the title to my old car before discovering I never had it because the lender didn't notify us, or the DMV, once the loan was paid. Since the lender was Capital One (yes, that esteemed financial institution), I gave up talking to a human being, without being disconnected, after half a dozen calls and turned to my insurance adjuster for help. She made some magic happen and within half an hour I was assured the necessary paperwork was being sent out pronto, so that I could finally be reimbursed for my car. (I have yet to receive it, but don't get me started.) The point of all of this is that the frantic search for the title forced me to go through practically every piece of paper in my possession, which took me down a very well-documented and organized memory lane. I have a hard time admitting it, but a few times I ended up sitting on the floor of my office, crying and wailing, "I want my old life back."

That's not true, of course. My old life wasn't working, but there were so many fresh starts, so many optimistic new beginnings that didn't turn out as we'd hoped. I think one of the ways John and I dealt with unhappiness was with change, and that change usually came about with a move. Not long after we got married in Chicago we moved into a new condo. To get out of a rut, we took a six-month sabbatical in Central America. When life back in the states got old, we moved to Portland. After Grace was born we moved to a townhouse by the Columbia, and when that neighborhood turned into a nightmare we moved to the new house in Concordia. Even after we split up, the changes kept coming, and we remain in limbo almost a year later. I got a roommate who didn't work out. Michael entered the picture. John and I sold the house and Michael, Grace and I moved into a cute rental and set about making it a home, but the sale fell through, leaving us paying two rents and a mortgage. Finally, Grace and I moved back into the old (new) house for a number of reasons, and here we are, still trying to resolve the legal issues with our dumbass neighbor and wondering where we'll end up next. Honestly? I have no idea, and I've almost stopped trying to figure it out.

In each city and in each house, there were happy times, times when I felt that we'd made good decisions and our lives were on the right path. Life has been more of a rollercoaster since Grace was born; the highs that mark certain milestones are etched in my memory. The stakes had been raised, though, so the lows seemed that much scarier; I tend to put away those memories unless I'm forced to confront them. So all this "I want my old life back" nonsense had to do with the easily recalled happy times when I felt safe and secure, and I knew Grace felt the same way.

I'd like to be settled, for Grace's sake and my own. I want a normal family life that doesn't involve regular contact with lawyers and insurance adjusters and people who ask if I've applied for a job at WalMart. I don't want fleeting moments of happiness; I want genuine contentment. I don't need to be rich or take lavish vacations or live life free of worries, but I'd like to be financially comfortable, and travel from time to time, and know that the difficult times will pass without the specter of financial ruin.

What's up with the fridge? Funny you should ask. I took this picture the other day because I hadn't been grocery shopping since I moved (again), and I had forgotten how disruptive a move can be in little ways. Afterwards, I remembered this post, which was right after John and I made our final new beginning together in this house. I was excited then, certain that we'd finally found the right formula for true happiness. Same fridge, shiny and new, and I was clearly pleased with myself. What the old picture doesn't show is that the fridge was empty.

Aug 9, 2009

Letting go.

My last post reflects perfectly my state of mind at the time: muddled. In an attempt to gain some clarity, I took my first road trip since my accident; Grace and I drove to the coast to visit my parents. I was white-knuckled and tense the entire three-hour drive, and when we finally got there my muscles creaked when I climbed out of the car. (Grace was totally chill.)

I was hoping the fog might lift enough for me to connect with my mom and dad, but both my brain fog and the coastal fog were uncooperative, leaving us cooped up in the house most of the week, and a bit cranky. I was also supposed to do a book signing that didn't transpire, and my frustration about that didn't help my mood. I decided to come home earlier than planned, and that afternoon the clouds finally lifted and we saw the sun as we hit the road at dusk.

Something inside me lifted during the drive home, as well. I've been thinking about the illusion of control that generally gets me through the day, the idea that if I do things properly, I will be rewarded with success and happiness. That illusion was pretty well shattered last month, and I've been sort of unnerved ever since. I can drive safely and still get into an accident; I can parent to the best of my ability and still let Grace down; I can find a fantastic job and work hard but still get fired; I can take care of myself and still get sick; I can write a book and promote it like crazy but not sell it; I can try to reason with my psychotic neighbor regarding the land dispute and still wind up in a legal quagmire; I can love my friends and family but hurt them unintentionally. I could go on, but you get the point.

My personal injury lawyer, of all people, mentioned the serenity prayer during our first meeting. I'm not into organized religion, but I believe I'm a spiritual person. Regardless, the idea of accepting things I cannot change is somewhat foreign to me, and lately I've been too wiped to summon much courage for the things I need to change. I have two things working against me: I have some itty bitty control issues, and I struggle with chronic depression. So I tend to spin my wheels when crises arise. Rather than distinguish between what I should work on and what I should let go, I do exactly the opposite. I stew over things beyond my control and neglect my responsibilities. Pretty clever, right?

On my drive home, this tendency suddenly became clear to me, again, and left me feeling unusually peaceful. I'm not sure why I have so much trouble remembering to focus my energy on what is truly important; I suppose that whole pesky wisdom part still eludes me. But I'll be glancing at this prayer (originally a poem, by the way) often from now on, hoping to break old habits and find order in chaos, or just let go and enjoy.

Aug 1, 2009

Woman on the verge.

I've been crying a lot lately. People who know me well will probably think, "What the...?" I don't cry often; it gives me a headache and makes me feel weak. But lately, every time I drive by a car accident, or see a puddle of broken glass in the street, or hear the wail of a siren, I well up and wonder what the hell is going on. Today, as part of my post-accident rehab, I had a chiropractic adjustment and a massage, and the release of both physical and emotional tension had me blubbering all the way home, where I took some Advil and sank into a two-hour coma. My hands hurt; they feel as though I've been clinging to something all day, when all I've been grasping, white-knuckled, is the steering wheel of my car.

I want to write about how great and lucky I feel to be alive, but my heart and body just aren't up to speed with my mind, so I continue to chip away at unpacking. Oh yeah, I moved, again. Grace and I are back in the old (new) house, for myriad reasons, not the least of which to make the neighbors' lives hell. So far, so good. (I think I need a sub-woofer.)

It's a strange time in our lives; not just me but countless families, and so in that way I feel sad but connected. It's as though I landed in the gutter, literally and figuratively, and I'm trying to find my way back to where I was headed. I know I'm lucky to be alive, that a combination of timing, reflexes, good luck and my sturdy Subaru are what gave me this chance to be thankful for what I have and reevaluate what's important. That's not something that happens every day, and I intend to take full advantage of this opportunity. Starting tomorrow. Wish me luck.