And So It Goes…

…but where it’s going, nobody knows.

The combines are starting to show up in corn fields and I’m finding myself stuck behind very slow trucks loaded down with straw bales. And when I say straw bales, I mean imagine a flat bed driving along a narrow winding two-lane country road hauling a small house made of straw, like what the first little pig built so that he could host big First Little Pig Parties for all his best pig friends.

Summer is coming to a close. This makes me sad because soon it will be autumn and while there are many good things about autumn, for me, the worst thing about it is that winter follows behind like an annoying baby brother. Even when you don’t hear him you can smell him. He’s coming and there’s no stopping him. Time out never works. Even in the South.

This summer was….different. Frustrating and fun and anxiety producing and productive and quiet. The kids attended a camp or two, Dusty took another stained glass class, there was a beach trip (now so far in the past it feels like it never happened), and they spent a goodly portion of the summer in the city with their dad. I had scads of time alone and made, I hope, the most of it. I did a lot of work around the house, tended to my garden, mowed the grass a bazillion times, met up with friends, slept late, watched a lot of movies, worried about everything, dealt with some financial disasters, and painted.

I’ve just about finished work on my bedroom. Once the paintings are hung, I’ll post some befores and afters (unless, as is likely the case, I forget). I lost a computer and eventually replaced it thanks to angels in my midst. I lost a friend or two and regained some old ones. I fretted about the fact that I’m old and washed up and my prospects for love or companionship way out here, surrounded by people whose beliefs, values, and interests are very different than mine, are close to nil. I cried and I laughed. I missed my kids and I didn’t. I variously cooked a lot and ate meals cobbled together from whatever was in the fridge. I made refrigerator pickles and zucchini bread and a thousand things involving tomatoes. I watched the fireflies and the stars, listened to the rain come down. It rained a lot this summer. A lot. I got attacked by a dying groundhog and worried about every conceivable thing.

One very super good thing that happened this month was that I took the girls to a concert in DC to see their favorite band.


These tickets were Christmas gifts and eight months is a lot of delayed gratification. It was also eight months of horrible anxiety for me because – and I can say this now, out loud – I was never entirely sure that they weren’t fake. I’d purchased them via the stadium itself rather than one of those ticket selling sites and I printed them via an email. They had someone else’s name on them and all kinds of fees had been tacked on due to all kinds of third-party things I didn’t quite understand but no longer cared about. When I bought them, I needed them however I could get them. That kind of desperation often backfires for me. So, I called the 800 number and was assured they were real, that the seats were resold on behalf of the seat holder who I guess had season tickets to baseball games but…I still wasn’t 100% sure that all this was legit. How do you know any more? Where do you go to determine their legitimacy? There are so very many ways to scam people particularly when everything’s done online.

But. I kept my concerns to myself and just lived with that little thread of low level anxiety. I didn’t feed it but it didn’t starve itself. It was quite self-sufficient living in my gut all those months. It kept me up at night and gave me bad dreams. It was good at turning the dial from “a general nagging doubt” to “big fucking disaster” at 2:00am.

In the meantime, while the sun shone, I put the date on the calendar, bought train tickets, reserved a hotel room, took vacation days. I planned for the best but steeled myself for the chance that our tickets would be rejected, that I’d have to somehow deal with the crushing disappointment of my children, that I’d once again failed (them) and failed spectacularly. If this didn’t work, would they ever trust me again?

Nevertheless, we rode up, dropped our stuff at the hotel, and took the Metro to the stadium. We waited in the short line (the VIP line was much longer) and then the moment of truth: we stuck the bar codes in the scanner and…..

We were let through the gates!

Holy hell.

Everything would be all right.

They were real. This was happening.

I killed off that deadly thread with nachos and popcorn. We had a fantastic time surrounded by Dusty’s tribe of band worshippers. It all happened and it was all good. After all those sleepless nights of ridiculous worry, I didn’t mind the noise, the crowds, the crush of thousands leaving the stadium at 11pm at the same time in the rain, filling the streets and forcing us to walk blocks to the less crowded Metro station and squeezing ourselves into the last train going back to the transfer station.

I’d done it. I’d actually made this great thing happen. I won. We won. It was a great summer and I’ll miss it. One for the record books.


What Life Tends To Be

There’s nothing so exquisitely painful as the unintentional grief you cause someone in in effort to right a lot of wrongs. Every action you take affects someone else, usually someone you love. It’s just how it is. There are days when death would be preferable to divorce. The death of the other, not yourself. Widowhood is so much easier to understand. There’s sympathy built in to its very nature. But when you remove yourself from a bad situation, well. The losers lie at the side of the road, moaning and nursing wounds. And they are the people you least wanted to hurt.

I had a week with Red that had promise but she was sick for 10 days. One night, she slept for 12 hours; so long, I had an awake-dream that she was dead. What else could explain it? She never came to my bed, there were no fever-induced nightmares, no sleepwalking. I saw myself discover her body, check for rigor mortis. I went over all the plans that would have to be cancelled. All the people who would have to be notified. All the papers that would need to be filled in, signed. How would I possibly live through this? Should I bury her or cremate her? How would this be paid for? What it I just never told anybody?

And then I got up, still absolutely certain this was the only reason I hadn’t been woken in the night, to listen at her door (she keeps it closed against monsters), too afraid to open it to see. Either I’d find her dead or the creak would wake her up.

The door was ajar. The bathroom light was on. She’d gotten up to pee at some point and left the light on as she tends to do. I stuck an eyeball up to the crack. I could see her body rise and fall as she breathed. Alive. Still alive. Of course she was. Of course. This was just a virus. A summer malady that took 10 days to get over. It’s not fair. Life’s not fair. Nothing’s fair.

Our week was marred by her feeling bad, by her up and down fever, by my having to work all day, by her toughing it out at drama camp even though a better mother would have nursed her better, stayed home and sucked up the vacation time, watched movies on the sofa for five days straight while fretting over the lack of food being eaten.

On Sunday, the second day of her return to sick-free earth, she was sad and cried. I was unable to coax a reason out of her and just hugged her – even while forcing her to take a bath. Told her she could say anything, tell me anything. There were no bad thoughts, no wrong feelings. But what I also wanted to say was, “Hey, my divorce was so much worse than yours! My dad didn’t have a room for me! My mother couldn’t get past her own victimhood to care about my pain. You’re the lucky one!” But, it’s not true. Our joys are shared but our sadness is our own. It’s unique. We have to own it and name it and cry it out and then throw it away. We have to tuck it in an envelope addressed to ourselves.

So, I tried to open all the doors and windows I could and can only hope that she is one day able to name her fears, her sadness, and tell me. Or write it down. Talk therapy or word therapy.

Not a lot else got done today. I had made these long, long ridiculous lists of musts (as if I’m planning to die soon and know there’s no time to waste) and only a fraction got completed. Yes, I turned the neglected apples into a pie. Yes, I attempted to make some kind of pickles out of (half) the cucumbers. Yes, pesto was made for dinner and tomatoes added but jesus, they keep coming. A waterfall of tomatoes. A terrible problem to have.

There’s a bedroom to paint and dishes to wash and a yard to mow. And every time I change something around in the house, I worry. Is it too much change for them? I personally can’t seem to get enough of it but I’m not the only one living here.

But the laundry got done and the guinea pig cage got cleaned and the dead mice were finally taken to the dump in a bag inside another bag filled with shards of glass that had once been my favorite pyrex dish I broke on the stove because I forgot to turn off the burner. It shattered right in front of me. A cascade of glass that was startling and kind of amazing. More amazing if it hadn’t burned the vinyl flooring and been another mess to clean up but still….a thing you don’t mind seeing once. But it meant yet one more thing to replace, to buy, to spend money on.

Life is drudgery punctuated by deep sorrow and small peaks of hope. It’s the goodness of too many vegetables. It’s the frustration of not enough time. Of half-attempts and second guessing. Of accidentally destroying something you wanted to keep.

Of wondering when you really won’t actually care what other people think and cutting off people who aren’t your friends and never will be no matter what you’d hoped would be the case. Of not letting snubs hurt. Of saying “fuck it” to a day that was going to be filled with getting things done and instead became a day of comforting someone more confused than you and hurting and unable to verbalize all the feelings inside her and letting that be as it should be and enough of a day. Of letting go of the guilt that you’d wanted it be more, that you’d wanted to wallow in your own grief and weren’t allowed to, of remembering that it’s often more about others than yourself.