Prolific ponderings concerning the day to day life of a woman with too much on her mind.
|I'm on another low. Perched on the toilet and cringing internally at the many things I can't fix. It seems that I always find myself with things to fix. They are never small things, but the sort of things you ruminate upon and worry over and regret for years because of all the could haves.
The seat isn't cold anymore. I'm hiding. From everything that's good in my life and every spinning whirling thought I have in my head. I can't remember a time when things didn't worry me and my head wasn't full of gyrating concerns. I've cleaned the bathroom and it's spotless. I'm thinking of who I would want to raise my children if I were gone. There are enough ghosts in my past to make me want to be done with life sometimes. I hope everyone feels this way, because if not, I must be crazy and I work so hard at making things orderly that I would rather die than be crazy.
I need to shower and get dressed. It's Easter Sunday and my family is chomping at the bit to get to grandma's house. My mind is not on the job though. It's circling around and bringing me back to places I wish I could fix. It's never good when I get to thinking. My mind just travels on without slowing, touching here and there, opening wounds and stitching them closed again.
I'm lucky. I've been loved. By my mother and sisters and brother. By friends. And by the boy and men I've loved in return. I wonder who I would have been if I'd never let them in. There is only one I don't regret, and I didn't get to keep him. Why is it that men shape women's lives to such an extent? Why is it that they come in and have the ability to alter our courses so inexorably? Please appreciate the subtle hint at pregnancy, it's intentional. I would like to say that I influenced them right back just as strongly, but that's not true. They walked away unscathed, even when their time on earth was through. And me, I'm freaking out in my bathroom.
There are days, when I'm driving my mini-van, heading out to work or to buy toilet paper or cat food, and I feel like Mike is sitting in the passenger seat, amused by how grown up I've gotten. I can feel him smiling. The girl in me belongs to this boy-man who never really grew up, and who took the course of my life and choked it into what it became. Stupid boy, sitting there smiling at me. I knew he loved me, even when he did what he did. It haunts me, wondering if maybe he didn't get knocked out, and as he realized no one was going to save him, did he look up at the sunlight slanting through the water, did he think of me and wish he had stayed true. He would be alive today if he had.
I think souls are fluid. I can remember being very young and hurting a lot. Pain was part of my childhood. And when my soul needed to escape a little bit, it did. Little parts of it heading out to think about the flowers, or the bunnies in the cage behind our house, or the girl next door practicing her color guard rifle maneuvers and marching around the yard. In a weird way, JRA gave me wings. A few years later, when I read a little Madeline L'Engle, I understood. Years and years later, when I fed and bathed and helped Alzheimer’s patients, I understood even more.
I love a hot shower. You can cry all day and a hot shower can cure the whole mess. Shower, paste on a smile. Wash away and cover up.
Once, we went to an anniversary party for some close friends of ours. They had been married for 30 years. I found this fascinating, coming from the family I came from. I asked the wife, "What is the secret of being together so long, how did you do it?" I was still young and enough unscathed to expect a romantic answer. What she said has occurred to me over the years many times. I've told my best girlfriends this story, to help or to hurt, I'm not sure. But she said, "Keep your mouth shut." On my good days I have interpreted this to mean, "Pick your battles." On my bad days, it means, "what you say won't matter anyway." I would love to ask her about this more. It's been almost ten years since this party. But she is dying now, slowly, of some sort of lung disease she got because her husband kept chickens. When it started, they were told to get rid of all of these birds, because she would get sicker with them there. Last I knew he kept the chickens anyway. She was always the do-er in that relationship. He was, and is, the starter-wisher. Maybe she should have gone out and wrung those chicken's necks.
If I teach my daughters anything, I hope to God they learn to look within themselves for answers and help and truth, before they go try and find it in some man. Women have got everything they need within them. We just don't tap into it until after we make life altering choices that we will split our souls over later. Not one of us needs a man to tell us we are great. We are great. We can figure out that we are smart and pretty and witty without having it confirmed by some guy. But so many of us don't. I didn't. All but one of the women I know didn't or don't and I am not even so sure of the one. When I look at my current relationship, (almost 13 years of self remonstrations), I know it all began because I was so depressed from the relationship before it. Nate told me I was wonderful. He couldn't imagine why Mike didn't see how beautiful and special I was. But I grew up and my needs are different now. In the last few years I have stopped really caring what he thinks of me. There is an impish little hater inside of me that actually takes pleasure in the difference gulf. I don't defend myself to him anymore, or worry about disappointing him. I gave up. I used to hope he would like and hope he would want and hope he would be pleased. Now I focus on growing myself. Now I take pleasure in how much it all bothers him. Night and day from how it all began. There is a lot of anger there. Of course, I made him the king and then dethroned him, which never would have happened if he had told me he occasionally smoked weed and didn't read.
After our house fire, I had my first panic attack. You would think the actual fire would have caused me to panic, but it didn't. It wasn't until weeks later the whole thing closed down on me. Post traumatic stress. Fabulous. They blame it on my father the fallen fireman, but I'm not sure that was it, I think it was realizing I wouldn't graduate college because I had three kids under the age of 5 and we were suddenly homeless.
Earlier, after I cleaned the bathroom, when I felt like a panic attack was coming on, I got in the closet because scrubbing the shower and the toilet didn't help. I like that closed up muffled feel of being encased. It helps. It probably makes me crazy but it helps. One can breathe in a closet, with all those walls everywhere.
This woman I know, who happens to be a boss of mine, has made mention several times that she wishes she'd never had children. She has great girls, and she is the first to tell you how easy they have been to raise, how she doesn't help them with their homework and how they succeed at everything they try. They are going to good colleges soon, and are currently vacationing in Europe. Why would anyone say they wouldn't have had their children when obviously it worked out so well for them really bothers me. This woman has degrees up the who-ha, she is educated and cultured, and yet she continues to make mention of this desire to have not had children. It's weird. I wish I could get inside her head to find out how much of what she is saying is truth, and how much is desire for a path the rest of us didn't know she could have taken. I wonder if her husband is a very nurturing man. He must be. It's all very odd.
I know another woman, girl-woman really, who continually says she wasn't supposed to have children. She has two children by different fathers, one of which she won't acknowledge except with a certain racial slur, which is odd because it is negative toward her actual child, and odder yet because the kid is not of mixed race, really. Anyhow, she says she wasn't supposed to have had kids, medically. Yet she had two, and neither of them resides primarily with her. She is one of the smartest-quick learning women I know but she picks the worst men. Really bad men. And her children's feelings, she just walls them right off from her soul. The situation is sad really, because if she always did what was best for them, it would do nothing but improve her own life. Very paradoxical.
I've worked a lot of different sorts of jobs. And at one of them, working in an assisted living facility, I liked to read the patients files. Doing this is always encouraged; it helps aids understand the people behind the dementia. You can better plug into a person and have things to talk about if you know who they are. Anyhow, my favorite lady at this place, I'll call her Daisy, was an old woman in her late 70's or early 80's. Sweetest lady ever. Polite, with good manners and used to being kindly in charge. Daisy had been a bank executive. Probably one of the first women to work her way up like that in America. She had had a fulfilling career. Never married or had children. Her job was her life. Her friends even came to visit one day and threw her a birthday party. They had all gone to Catholic school together and had stayed in the area and remained friends for the entirety of their lives, though they saw each other rarely. Not long after this, we found out that the bleeding Daisy had been having was due to advanced uterine cancer. She was dying. And she was dying with strangers and didn't really remember the friends and job and life she had lead anymore. I saw other Daisy's in my experiences as a Nurse's Aid. There are tons and tons of Daisys.
When the women I know wish away their children, I remember how it felt to watch Daisy die alone. It's not something that's comfortable to explain, the relief I have in my heart, knowing that I know I won't die that way. I have daughters and a son. I am someone’s mom, and I'll be someone's grandma someday, but it explains why I shake my head when women explain why they wish they didn't or wouldn't have or don't want their children, even as they explain away the rashness of their comments.
On my 16th birthday my mother left me home with the kids. Her 4 month old baby, her 5 year old, and a sister who is just 18 months younger than me. She said she needed to go to the grocery store and was gone for the whole day. The baby was cranky and my younger sister was instigating the 5 year old sister. I was already frustrated by being a live in babysitter. When she finally came home, I handed her the baby and went out to the woods to walk until dark. They didn't have a party for me that night because my step dad had to work. I was pretty broken hearted when there was no money for a pizza and movie get together at our house with my friends, which is all I asked for. Especially when my mother regularly "borrowed" the few dollars I made babysitting. Mike didn't forget though. He did something special. He made me feel special when I didn't feel special at all. This is how a young woman was trained to be an approval seeker. I wanted someone to love me enough to care about my lousy birthday. It's why I work 55 hours a week at a 35hr salaried position; it's why I race around helping friends who should help themselves. It's why I throw awesome birthday parties for my kids, and forget Nate's because it is payday and I need to get out and pay the bills.
I installed a small chandelier in my house. I bought it at a going out of business sale and had to wait while the salesman climbed up a ladder and unscrewed the whole mess, because it was a display model. I brought the dusty thing home at 80% off. It was missing the sconces. I bought replacements for about $10. The internet is a beautiful thing to a woman with a lazy man in the house. I printed out some directions, and after he left for work, and couldn't stop me, I began the installation. I shut off all of the breakers for the whole house, just to be safe. I had my 11 year old standing on the dining room table, holding the light up while I wired the ceiling. I wrapped the wires with electrical tape, put on the caps and closed up the mess. I honestly have never been so proud of myself in my life. I felt like I moved a mountain that day. And all I had moved was one little light fixture from the floor in the dining room (where it had sat for over a month), to the ceiling. I was jubilant. The next day I put in a bathroom wall light. All women should do home projects like this. If you are the sort of woman who feels that such things are insurmountable projects, solved only by hiring someone, or calling in your man, trust me, you should DEFINATELY, tackle some sort of home improvement project. Of course, the man of the house couldn't understand why I was so proud of myself, commenting, "Anyone can install a light fixture, it's no big deal." Oh, but it was. And didn't he know it.
I've noticed how incredibly dumb people are getting. People out in the general public. Many people have no sense of an evolved vocabulary at all. I don't know how one can miss the fact that there are about 32,000 interesting words to describe things. It seems like everyone has a TV and DVD player in their kid's rooms too. We didn't have that growing up, we played, and we read, we even learned how to play chess, TV was a rarity. Mom was well known for her shout of "turn off that idiot box and go outside and play or find something to do!" I credit her for teaching me how to immerse myself in something, anything other than TV; it seems that many people are no longer capable of doing that. We are creating a culture of people who must be amused at every moment, who are constantly bored.
One of my dear friends lost her father this week. He was a lovely man. I am sorry for her. I am also very jealous that she had such a thing as a loving father for all of these years. I spent so many years thinking my father got burned and died because of his wounds. I don't know almost anything about him. I feel so bad that she is sad, but she is so lucky to have had him at all, that it blows my mind. I'm really not the one to lean on in these situations. It's hard to be supportive when you're whole body is rejecting the topic all together. The lesson I remember from this is a simple one, don't complain about your kids to a woman who can't have any, don't tell your best friend that your mother is driving you crazy if she has lost hers. Never ever wish away something someone else wishes they had. This is a compassionate way to live, and taking that moment to think before you speak allows you to be more compassionate to your friends and family.
Sometimes, there is this constant scream in my head. It is an escape scream. It's telling me "run, run away from here until you can't breath and your nose is running blood." Or it says, "Teach them all a lesson, clean out the bank account and fly to grandma's house in Florida for a while." I haven't responded to it yet.
Other women in my station (married with kids in school and a job) seem to have it so together. They have a certain veneer about them that I can't seem to mirror. They are all 10 years older than me, pulling into the parking space next to me in their SUV's. Usually Durangos now, often Limited Editions. I can't help but wonder if their homes and marriages are as sleek as their hair and acrylic nails. There are moments when I feel jealous of their organized appearances, and I wonder if their laundry is piled up at home, or if their husband complains about their cooking and the clothes they buy for the kids. Odd though, I wouldn't trade myself in for one of them. I don't mind my crazy that much, so I read instead of watching American Idol. I bang around on my computer hoping to learn something. I'm not judging them, just observing. They make good character studies. After watching the parade of purses go by, the cloth patchy patch purses, the "named after some lady" purses, the hobo's and Coaches, I decided to make a statement by making my own. It took three nights, but I made myself a neat lined purse. It's red denim, with red and white fabric sewn "wrinkle style" across the front, with a hand stitched basted lip. One of the gals at work said she liked it, and I told her I made it. She said, "Are you one of those women who can do anything?" I replied "I am one of those women who will try to do anything."
I guess life is sort of like that. We are what we are willing to try.
Growing a backbone is about a lot more than growing a wish bone. There is no amount of Pilates, Fish!, Give them the Pickle, Soap Opera, start your own business, be a fancy famous personal shopper, stuff envelopes, get your Real Estate Degree, be a postmaster, black and white, town crier, bunch of full time employment, “get hired,” ads in any paper in any place, tv show, world in the world, that will fix things for you. We just have to grow a back bone where our wish bone has gotten to be.
So, I will get myself unfreaked, and prepare a family of five to attend grandma's Easter. Just like I do for her Christmas, Thanksgiving and every family birthday. I will attend with them. Later, once it's over, I will go home and rest. I always feel like I've just run my kids out of a burning house after a worry wort attack. Tired, muscles aching numb and a bit brain washed. But I will power on. And I will wonder about things every day. Pondering is the plundering of your experiences. I just hope I find the right tid bits to apply to my tomorrows, and leave all the wrong ones behind.