Coming back here feels like those classes in college I skipped for weeks and then slunk back to just before exam time. I know I’m going to get a C at the very best, even if my grades are As, because I missed too many classes. You’ll forgive me, won’t you? I’ll take my C and be happy for it.
We’re going to the beach in June. I plan to bring a puzzle with us that I started putting together last summer at the beach. It’s a picture of cupcakes, all iced and decorated, stacked in tiers and rows in the maddening way that 1,000 piece puzzles are. Lots of the same colors repeated in different areas making a piece’s place difficult to discern. Last year, Dusty helped me with it at first and then she grew bored and frustrated and I worked on it alone. And then Red joined in but she was only interested in putting together certain cupcakes and so many of them had the same red icing that she too grew frustrated and wandered off to watch Sponge Bob or Angry Beavers.
I worked on it alone until it was time to pack up and go home. I hadn’t finished the puzzle. I carefully broke up the chunks I had done and placed them in the box, with every intention of taking them out and finishing it when I got home.
The last few months have been difficult and I’ve felt like a once-mostly-intact puzzle that has been taken apart, piece by piece since October. When my wallet was stolen a month before he left and I had to recreate all the new financial accounts I’d just created….that was the beginning of the end. Not the leaving. Not the shifts in responsibilities. Those things were just more pieces taken away from the whole until by March I was left with a giant jumble of random jigsawed shapes that had once been something. A thing lovely and delicious – a bakery of a life, or a facsimile of one. A bakery in a magazine for wealthy people. A tantalizing display of cakes I’d never eat much less smell. Whatever it was other people had, I’d never get it. I didn’t have it and I began to realize I never really had it in the first place. Even when, long ago, I thought I had. I hadn’t. It was false.
Recently, in an attempt to put the pieces back together, I had to learn to say NO. I had taken on too much, said YES too many times, got in over my head. I couldn’t breathe, I wasn’t sleeping well, I was depressed and anxious and worried. Despair was the top layer of the sadness cake. In the middle, rather than a creamy filling, was a dark unhappy place. Tar filling. Something bad and smelly. The continual horrific winter did not help matters. School kept being cancelled or delayed, appointments were rescheduled. More than once. Events were postponed and some just vaporized…there was a collective giving up throughout the land.
But! Spring finally arrived last week and after shrugging off the coat of impossible commitment, the puzzle is being brought out of the box (metaphorically speaking; in reality it’s still up on the games shelf waiting to be packed up in June) and reassembled. I am making progress on a number of fronts, not the least of which is the mortgage refi and the equity line loan. I will soon be the sole proud owner of a LOT of debt. But it feels good. I’m moving forward with less baggage and possibly more actual cupcakes.
It didn’t happen easily and what’s a bit hurtful is discovering who my friends are and who they aren’t. Saying “I can’t” has resulted in a lot of silence. Were you only my friend (is there a level between acquaintance and friend?) because I did all these things? Because I agreed to do all this stuff alone without assistance? Was that all it was? Okay then. I get it. That’s fine. No worries. The past six months have been, in tarot card language, a breaking down of old systems. I had to tear it all down before I could build it back up. Firmer foundation. Earthquake proof. Extra fire insurance.
But I will tell you that I have no intention of undoing all the work I did on that cupcake puzzle. That baby’s coming to the beach as-is. If I’m lucky, I’ll have a little help on it from my friends. My real friends.