Life As It Becomes More

The holidays when you’re 50 are much different than the holidays when you’re, let’s say, 30. I’ve had years in between where my enthusiasm ebbed and flowed. This year I was eager to get the Christmas tree and Veruca was equally excited. The two of us drove to the tree farm and there were about a half dozen families toting dwarf trees to their cars and the pre-cut Frasers were, well, NONE. Anyway, a google search revealed another tree farm in our area I’d never even heard of and let me tell you right now – the tree I reluctantly chose (reluctantly because the branches were upright and tightly hugging the trunk) was the Most Beautiful Tree I’ve had in years.

Anyway, my 50-year-old enthusiasm was limited to the Christmas tree and the stairwell I decorate with garland and baubles every year. The artificial tree we put up in the rec room never made it out of the box. The Christmas Village ceramic houses never made it out either. We didn’t decorate the outside of the house. I’m not sorry. I just didn’t have it to give.

There’s an old quote: “just don’t have it to give.” Came from a Gemini male I once shared a home with in my 20s, who was full of prolific bullshit like statements about me being “uptight.” I learned to cringe when these statements flowed from his or, even years later, others’ lips. But today, older and wiser, I realize that the former statement is a confession moored in self-awareness that is more positive than negative.

I’m trying to avoid the inevitable cliché that comes when one pontificates about life and becoming conscious of what really matters when it happens at the turn of a new year. That it’s also a new decade does not have an elevated significance in my particular case. Unless we’re talking about my new decade.

Anyway. My friend lost her dad in December. The memorial service was earlier this month and I made the hour-and-twenty-minute drive to honor him and support her. Our families have an interesting history.

We were both born and raised in the same town. Like I think it is with most folks, the town is one which is spoken of with both reverence and disdain, often in the same breath. Our town is, uh, town. The town isn’t exactly small, but so many people know each other in a seemingly impossible way that it’s almost incestuous. (Okay not really.)

So… my mom worked with T’s grandmother before I was born and for a couple of years after. My mom somehow always knew T’s parents too. My dad and former stepmother were friends with T’s aunt and uncle (her dad’s brother) – which is where it gets really weird because I remember a time when they took me with them to the aunt and uncle’s home and there were other kids there that I played with. It wasn’t until many years later, when two of those kids (T and her brother, now adults) were working at my mom’s restaurant, that I realized that we had met so many years before. (Do I need a diagram?)

In another strange twist, thanks to Facebook, I noticed that T was friends with someone I went to high school with. T didn’t attend the same school as us, and she is also five years my junior. When I finally remembered to ask the friend how she knew T, it turns out her mother used to work for T’s father.

Anyway, back to the memorial service. Many, many people came. Mom met me there. We stood in the line to see the family, which was really long and moving like a backwards river. Seriously. I found my patience waning fast as folks were stepping out of line to greet and hug others and then the line would come to a standstill until they stepped back into the line. And there’d be this huge gap between people that ramped my anxiety to blast-off.

This well-dressed little old lady with impeccable hair and makeup in front of me stopped moving altogether as she stood staring at her husband who had left the line to chat with old buddies from somewhere. I pondered the possibility that he was deliberately ignoring her gaze. And then was struck with the urge to scream, move the fucking line! But thankfully I’m not yet old enough to pull off shit like this in public, so I said it in my head.

The line went on like this for about 25 minutes and I was beginning to wonder if the services would start on time. (Spoiler alert: they didn’t.) At one point when I thought I’d hit the peak of my anxiety and intolerance, T and I made eye contact and for a brief moment I was sure I felt her. There’s something between us that can be read as instant understanding sometimes. If I ever had a sister, she’d be it. Not because we might be alike, but because in many ways we’re not and there’s this innate understanding that cannot be explained. There are things over the years we have shared with each other that with others might be a, “huh?” that for us is, “haha, YES.” And she is no nonsense. You better buckle up because she will tell you straight up Truth.

So we moved through the line and sat down, which is when my entertainment really begins. The older folks with the bouffant hairdos and the outfits and the jewelry. Familiar faces too (it’s our town, after all). There was this one man who clearly was either wearing a hairpiece or using Grecian formula, with a pencil-thin mustache, and was a dead ringer for one of my family members.

The photos on the monitor could easily have been photos of my own family … the clothes, the hairstyles, the furniture, the backgrounds. There was a picture of T’s dad as a boy on a pony. We have an identical picture of my uncle. It’s all this weird six-degrees-of-separation that isn’t limited to just our town, and it’s so very cool.

I don’t know how all this segues into my thoughts about life and where it’s going and what matters. I suppose funerals do that. T’s brother spoke eloquently of time spent with his father and the value of memories…. Though he didn’t say it quite this way, that we have an obligation to impact our children with memories the way our parents did for us.

For the first time I didn’t cry at a funeral. I don’t know if it’s because there wasn’t a profound sadness permeating the room or whether I drew my cues from T, or whether there was larger, deeper impact poking at me. I left there feeling like I needed time to process and reflect on the feelings circling like birds overhead.

Much of my twenties was chaos. Not in the literal way… just chaotic movement from place to place, person to person, living in the moment (sometimes self-destructive) in anticipation of “what’s next.” Never quite sure of myself while being fully myself and lacking the awareness to understand why I did what I did and how not to do certain things again.

The thirties introduced a long period of change and more chaos which turned out to be more destructive even than that of my twenties. The juxtaposition of becoming a parent and loving something more than my own life while simultaneously fighting for my identity. It was a period of survival. I’d forgotten that I had choices. That I’d always had them and that somehow I’d relinquished them to someone else, who had no business deciding for me.

The forties: a rebirth. A remembrance of me. The final hitting of a wall; a wall I couldn’t climb or go around. The revelation that the only choice I had was in fact no choice at all. I had to move forward and away from toxicity and vicious words because the only thing I could change was how I chose to live. And look where it got me!

The fifties have just begun. I embraced that birthday with the spirit I have always had. I’ve been living in joy and peace and contentment for the last 9 years. I couldn’t ask for anything more. Except for less debt and a swimming pool.

Still, there’s more. I want to live in the moment, every one, but this time with the awareness and connection I didn’t have 25 years ago. Less distracted. More tuned in. And I knew this before I googled what it meant to dream of thousands of cats running around my house.

 

 

 

To be continued….

The Island of F*cked Up Dreams

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I’d rather be here.

Copyright by proxy, The Tara Chronicles, 2018

Now that Todd is home from an enviable 4-day business trip to Nashville in an amazing hotel, I am sleeping like a log again. It was the longest we’ve been apart in over seven years. Technically we didn’t lay eyes on each other for two days, but had three nights in an empty bed. I don’t sleep when he’s not home. And when he is home, I fall asleep like lightning. I tell him that it’s a compliment because it means I’m totally relaxed and at peace when he’s home.

Sleeping like a log is just a state of the body, for the mind conjures up some real whoppers. Since I hardly slept while he was away, I fell into a deep sleep Saturday night and into a rabbit hole of drama and intrigue that took me through locations and conditions I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

In our house, which looked nothing like our house, there was a kitten that looked identical to Oliver and Veruca was pleading with me to keep it. There was also a baby raccoon in our living room, which I found adorable and had more interest in keeping than the kitten, though I thought I should ask Andy if he wanted it first. (Andy and raccoons: true, long story.)

Anyway, the kitten wasn’t housetrained and it started pooping on the carpet. Veruca ran over to it, saying it was okay, she’d take care of it, and I watched in horror as she pinched off the poop as it was coming out and picked up the kitten. (Which is crazy, right? V is a germaphobe who washes her hands and arms to sandpaper like a surgeon, and worries about a speck of poop on Oliver that doesn’t exist.)

On another note, I keep having these recurring dreams of living in a house that is infested with stray cats. They’re confined to one room that no one lives in and they get in there through a cubby hole that connects to a long tunnel leading out of the house. I followed this tunnel in one dream and it lead to the outside, to a long gulley that in turn lead to a stone springhouse with an old wooden door. These cats scattered like mice when I’d enter the room. I wasn’t afraid of them, but wanted to get rid of them. I asked Todd in one dream if there are “exterminators but not exterminators” who handle cat infestations.

So anyway, back to Saturday night. I lived in a small city – and there was a lot of walking and moving things from place to place. And then suddenly I’m in labor. I’m in labor, but I know that I’m not progressed enough to be admitted so I’m hanging out at home in my apartment and I have no idea where Todd is. I’m breathing through the contractions, and it’s mostly dull pressure through my pelvis, and I’m just walking around stooped over and rubbing my lower back.

And then I woke up. And the discomfort I was feeling in my dream was real. OMG, I had to go to the bathroom. Seriously. The pressure in my bladder translated to labor pain in a dream. I’ve had the labor dream before, where again I couldn’t be admitted yet so I was walking around the lobby until I could. (Don’t remember if that one ended in the bathroom though.)

Next up: Work. I was at work. It was very busy, and this woman with a thick Russian accent walks in. She asks me if she can make an appointment for herself. Her car broke down and she’s stuck here, and just thought she’d find something to do. I explain to her that we are a pediatric office and she would need to go to an adult provider. She asks where one is. Downstairs I tell her, and then she asks for directions.

The next thing I know I’m walking down there while she waits in my office, giving her directions from my cell phone as I go. But her husband has taken over the call, and I’m giving directions to him. He thanks me and, as I’m walking back up to my office, he asks me if Dr. So-and-So is there. I tell him I’m sorry I don’t know which providers are there, that I’d have to google that information which he could just as easily do, and I really have to get back to the patients in my office.

When I get back, I’m sent to wait in the back exam rooms to direct patients – which really means I’m just standing around in an area with no windows and it’s terribly boring and I just want to get back to the front desk. I figure it’s because I’m the newest, and thus relegated to the least desirable tasks first.

Eventually I leave there and walk down the outside hall, and pass a grandmother who mutters something nasty under her breath. I turn back and ask her if there’s something I can help her with. She complains about how long she’s been waiting for her granddaughter to be seen and then, actually there’s FIVE children with her who are scheduled. I offer apologies and tell her I’ll go check the schedule and see what I can do to expedite matters. She apologizes to me for being so nasty and gives me a hug. I go back to the front desk and sit down at my computer, staring at the day’s schedule and not seeing any names. ANY names.

Mildly panicked, I tell Barb I can’t see any names. She is busy and can’t help me; in fact, she’s not even listening to me. I try other workstations and those screens are black and I can’t seem to log in to any of them. And then I notice that it’s getting dark in the office and no one has turned the lights on. I ask Barb where the light switches are, and she just says, “over there. Right there,” as if I have to be stupid not to know where they are. And I’m still asking her about the grandmother who’s waiting in the hall, and she finally tells me that their appointment isn’t until 5:30 and they’re an hour early.

By the time I go to tell grandmom this fact, they’re already being led back to an exam room and I’m off the hook. I go back to the front desk and there’s a handful of moms standing there, and suddenly there’s my DAD – telling a joke and everyone is completely enthralled. And I’m all like, Dad! What are you doing here?! And everyone looks at me like, ssssh!!!

And suddenly, it’s morning.