If I Were Still Alone. . .

It is ironic that Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop chose this as a challenge of the week.  It is exactly part of my current struggle in an ongoing saga of, “Who the hell have I become?”  I am middle age-ish and in the midst of Erikson’s Generativity vs. Stagnation stage,  I am frustrated at my lack of being “settled” somewhere- anywhere, just settled.  Ya know, pick a career and make a go of it!  Be somebody!  Excel!  Accomplish! Settle!

I am in the process of moving from three part-time jobs to ONE full-time job.  While this sounds like heaven on earth, finding the job has been nothing if not completely stressful. Like, wake up at all hours of the night and not be able to go back to sleep resulting in pretty much continual exhaustion, stressful.

Over the past three weeks I have, admittedly, entertained thoughts of, “What if it were Just Me?”, “What if I had never married and had kids?”, “How would this be different?”  The answers?  Well, I’m SO glad the Writer’s Workshop asked! 

The ten things I miss about being alone, in no particular order, are:

1.  The freedom to come and go as I choose.  Having the ability to make my own schedule was amazing and simple and wonderful.  Lonely at times, but I was a good friend to myself and I had a good time.

2.  The freedom to eat whatever I want, whenever I want.  Sometimes, given the amount of stress I have, the whole “We must eat at 5:00 thing is overwhelming indeed.

3.  The capacity to move across town or across the country if that would be best for me.  I can find jobs in my chosen field, just not in my current locale.  Major bummer.  It’s either uproot my kids and hope my husband could find work elsewhere, or suck it up and maybe change career paths- SO not my choice!  Grrrrrrrrrrrrr.

4.  The ability to make all decisions based solely on what’s good for me. See above.

5.  The freedom to go home at night and sit in front of the TV and do blessedly-NOTHING, which includes thinking!  The ability to get lost in, say, Matlock where every detail is taken care of in a mere 60 minute time slot. 

6.  Expendable income.  I just want to be able to buy, say, a latte without having to scrounge change from the floorboards. 

7.  The ability to pick up and go out at a moment’s notice.  You know, when a friend calls and wants to just go downtown and hang out.

8.  The freedom to spend the amount of time I need doing research and writing.

9.  Peace and quiet.

10.  A clean house.

THOSE are the things I miss most. 

Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop

Graduation

My grandma has been in a nursing home for several years now.  The decision to move her there was difficult and painful at best.  She adjusted and we adjusted.  She made new friends and adapted and we felt like she was safe, it was good.  Life reached a new “normal” and we all went about our daily routines. 

About three weeks ago she began a decline.  She has experienced several over the past couple of years and has always bounced back or,  at least, reached a new “normal”.  She’s been a little confused, an elderly mind stuck in a relatively healthy body.   She has had numerous minor strokes over the past two decades.  This last one though, wow!  It changed things. 

The call came from her favorite nurse.  She gently, kindly explained to my mom that perhaps it is time for hospice to be called.  It became apparent that my mom, as her POA, needed to go check on her.  Now, my parents are getting older themselves, and more and more they need me.  I am a newcomer to the Sandwich Generation and not quite established in my role as such. 

 My dad is not in the best of health himself and it was decided that I would go with my mom to check on grandma.  We set out for our 7 hour drive.  I drove all but about a half hour of the trip.  Normally, mom and I would split the time between us.  It seemed odd that she really needed me to drive it all.  As I relived the events of the previous twenty-four hours, in actuality, it was my decision to make the trip in the first place.  She vacillated between going now or next weekend.  I picked now as it appeared time was of the essence.  She seemed strangely relieved that I had just taken charge of the situation.  I felt as if I had stepped into uncharted territory.  It was a new thought process and its apparent discomfort made me dismiss it from consciousness.

We arrived.  We met with hospice.  Mom signed all of the paperwork.  We met with the funeral home where grandma had already made arrangements many years ago.  We received information about the dieing process and we began the difficult task of looking death in the face, of saying good-byes and letting go.  As I sat holding my mom’s hand, she suddenly looked a little old herself; a little less certain, a little more fragile.

Grandma met us with a blank stare.  When she finally accessed her long-term memory and zeroed in on my mom we were relieved.  At least she knew who mom was!  This was progress!  She slept through a lot of the visit.  In between were words spoken sporadically as though they were just randomly picked from the air.  We tried to derive their meaning in much the same way you try to decode a toddler’s one word sentences.  It was sad, just sad, and haunting.  She seemed to be teetering on the brink of one world, all the while, gazing cautiously into the next.

We checked into a local hotel that evening.  The next day we would try again. 

To our surprise, she was more alert the following day.  She was able to use three word sentences and express some complete thoughts.  One exchange went like this:

Grandma:  You have big teeth!

Me:  Yes, I do.  Mom and dad spent a lot of money on my teeth!

Grandma:  Pretty.

Me:  I love you!

Grandma: Yes.

This went on throughout the morning with various states of awareness.  Suddenly, there was a burst of lucidity, a shot of adrenaline from who knows, or cares, where! 

Grandma:  Did you graduate?

Me:  Yes.  I finally made it!  (I actually graduated some 19 years ago, but hey).

Grandma:  I love you!

Me:  I love you too!

We continued to weave in and out of the present with brief stops at various “past’ places along the way:  an old college play, the birth of my children, my marriage, states I have lived in over the years, candy she used to keep in her dish, card games and songs, hymns actually.  We shared some chocolate and the hour got late.  It was almost dinner time and we needed to head for home- another 7 hour drive.  Grandma needed to head to the dining room- the new one they moved her to, the one where they feed you. 

Good-byes are always hard, but this one, knowing it might be the last one, was about more than I could bear.  She kept holding onto me as if she too were afraid of the finality it might hold for us both.  This fiercely independent woman now sat with a grip on me that she was unwilling to loose, much like my children did when they were preschoolers trying to “keep me” from leaving  them.  I lingered a few minutes more.  When I finally sucked up all of my remaining strength and walked out of the room I moved quickly, jaw set, eyes forward.  I found myself almost running to the door, suddenly gasping for air, clean, cold, thin air, free from the odors of old age.  As the sharp wind hit my face, I became aware of the hot, stinging tears running down my cheeks.  I had held them in with great effort, but they were suddenly too large a load to shoulder.   I walked faster and faster, leaving my mom behind in my hurry.  I made it to the car and once again, gained composure, suddenly aware that my mom was also crying and needed my comfort. 

And right then, in that moment of enveloping my mom in my own arms, in this awkward reversal of roles, with the northern Illinois wind whipping my scarf in its wake, I stepped across an invisible stage into another of life’s chapters- uncharted territory indeed.

Yes, Grandma.  I graduated.  Today.

Miscarriage of a Career

I was recently passed over for a job I have dreamed of having for years, in favor of a younger (and cheaper) person.

My heart is heavy and I feel old. I just knew it was mine! As I understand, there were a lot of politics at work and I am, apparently, not as connected as I thought I was.  Where is my beach when I need it? 

I was blind-sided by not only the decision of the “powers that be”, but also by my own grief. In fact, the grief was/is so strong, it is vaguely reminiscent of the miscarriages I had years ago. The pain is very real, but no one knows or understands. And so, instead of just allowing me to grieve and heal, they feel compelled to speak. And how!

In amazingly painful parallels, they speak in platitudes. Meaningless words from those employed in fields they love. So similar to the all too often heard “You can always try again.”, “It just wasn’t meant to be”, and, “God is in control”.  Only now it’s, “Well, give it a couple of years and try again.”, and, “You can always look at other companies.”  These now join the well-known:  “It just wasn’t meant to be”, and, “God is in control”. Ugh! 

Look, I’m not going to stay in the dumps forever.  Just allow me to grieve and I promise I will move on.  I always have.

When I was pregnant, I had begun to live in a future world, one where the whole process ended with a baby. I had dreams for my unborn child. I had hopes, huge hopes. I had names picked out.  Birth dates were penciled in as best any doctor could predict.  And, then, the future crumbled.  Hope died with my dreams and though the dates were erased from my calendar, they remain seared in my heart to this day.

I had dreams for my career too.

I have beautiful children now and I wouldn’t trade them for anything, but I will never forget what might have been, had it not been lost.  And, I will never understand “Why?”

I don’t think I will ever be able to completely forget  “what might have been”, career-wise either. Maybe, like having children, something will work out for me down the road.  I hope, but I’m not holding my breath.  I gave up asking “Why?” a long time ago.  My heart is so heavy. 

I need to just regroup and come up with Plan B.  Forget it. 

Let it go.

Oh, well.  (sigh)

If only I had a Plan B.

My Haunted Brain

One need not be a chamber to be haunted, One need not be a house. The brain has corridors surpassing material place. ~ Emily Dickinson

Growing up, in the fall of each year, the Jaycees staged a Haunted House.  It was their big fund-raiser and everyone went, every year, except me.  In the first place, I don’t like to be scared and in the second, I don’t need a haunted house to be scared silly, I have my own thoughts, and they work just fine, thank you very much!   Ever since I can remember, I have been very, VERY good at these two games:  “What If” and “Worst Case Scenario”.  I AM the champ (key the Jeopardy music here).

I have been reading Mama Kat’s Blog periodically for a couple of months now and noticed her Writer’s Workshop, which intrigued me.  So, after several weeks (’cause I’m nothing if not cautious), I signed up.  So now, I get writing prompts via email each week, on Tuesday to be exact.  Visit her for your own,  It’s fun, really!

Anyway, I open them each week and there is usually one I like and I formulate in my head what I would say about it IF I wrote on the topic.  I say IF because somehow, it’s easier to just watch from the sidelines.  Because, really, I mean, What IF I somehow mess up, or, What IF someone actually READS it, and What IF I try to insert her cute little button that I’m sure she spent HOURS getting “just right”, and I can’t get it copied in here correctly and then she doesn’t like me  even though I can figure out how to at least LINK to her blog, and she doesn’t even know me and I’m sunk before I ever even start!?????  See?!  LOTS of corridors to travel in this brain of mine! 

I mean, seriously people, this is supposed to be FUN, right?  What IF I can’t write on one topic per week?  What IF I can’t keep up?  What IF it doesn’t really matter? The haunting starts: now!  Sheeesh!

The “What If” game follows me frequently.  It is an equal opportunity stalker, crossing all barriers, it enters all territories:  friendship, family, marriage,  cooking, housekeeping, gardening, teaching, singing, my health, acting, parenting, you name it, I’m in! 

However, the Grand Poobah of them all for me is cancer.  The name of the Game is:  Where and When Will It Strike Again?  I am a survivor, nine years to be exact.  For the type I had, “the question isn’t IF it will return, but WHEN and WHERE“.  Those are the words out of the surgeon’s mouth that haunt me the most.  I feel as if there is this evil, “lurking”, just waiting to pounce at the most inopportune of moments.  I am vigilant about any abnormality I find.  The stakes are high and I have intervened twice already to prevent further spread.  The joke has become, “How many more body parts can you have removed?”   I laugh along with everyone, but secretly, it’s not always funny to me.  Secretly, I ponder, because really, What IF?