The Isolation Age: The Great Toilet Paper Relay Edition

Four texts, three people and a truck, for eight rolls. And after all that, it turned out I didn’t need them that badly after all.

Allow me to explain.

My employer values company culture very highly – we help each other out, we have each other’s backs. So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised by what happened when, during a twice a week video “coffee chat” I mentioned in passing that I was a little worried about running out of a certain “essential” item. I’m just inside the gate of the “higher risk” age group, but that only means I do what everyone is supposed to do – I go out only to fill critical needs like food, prescriptions, cabin-fever busting, socially-distant walks around the block, and to obtain – um, paper goods.

The dynamo who organized that morning’s video chat jumped on my remark right away. “We got you!” she said. I stuttered and stammered, “oh, that’s really nice, you don’t have to do that, I have to go to the store tomorrow anyway – I’ll go during “senior hours” and they said a truck is coming tonight…” She lives at least thirty miles away from me, and I really didn’t want anyone to go that far out of their way.

But before I finished my text telling her it wasn’t necessary, she texted me that the first guy she was going to send had been switched out for another guy, and that she had dropped off a supply at his house – my boss’s boss’s house, and he was already on his way. Within the hour, eight rolls of the precious commodity were deposited on the little end table on my front porch for receiving deliveries. I put a laminated sign on it that says, “please put deliveries here, thank you!” with a really dreadful (I’m sure) Spanish translation and an apology, “lo siento, mi Espanol es de internet!” I barely got the chance to wave a thank you to my team lead’s leader before his truck was leaving my driveway.

I gratefully took the shopping bag inside, to sort out its contents the way I ordinarily do, doling out this many rolls for downstairs and this many for upstairs. I went to pick up the plastic wrapper of the previous supply to throw it out. It was crumpled and deflated and just sitting there in the breezeway.

That’s when I discovered there were still 7 rolls bundled down in the bottom of that package.

So, three colleagues had gone out of their way at 5 p.m. on a weeknight to get me some TP that, as it turned out, I didn’t really need.

Cue full-blown OCD meltdown.

“What if one of them gets sick because of this? GAAAAA! What’ll I do???”

Confess. Face the music. Take the responsibility and accept the blame.

The next morning, the first thing I did was send the two of them a chat promising to spend the rest of my days wearing a hairshirt and flogging myself bloody if either of them got sick.

Predictably, the response was along the lines of “no problem! happy to help!” I rationalized that their kindness will keep me from venturing out on a multi-store scavenger hunt, possibly all the way to April 30, which is as long as our present stay-at-home order is in place.

I meant it when I said I had to go to the store – we were running out of other stuff that I forgot to get last week. I got home and spent half an hour unpacking groceries – and discovered I still forgot something – this time because I didn’t put it on my list in the first place. But we’ll be just fine without that particular type of tea, and I can cook the rack of lamb that has been in the freezer since last year for Easter next Sunday. Angelic Daughter will want something else, anyway.

Now that we’re finally all supposed to be wearing non-medical masks outside, I took some inspiration from YouTube and made myself one out of an old t-shirt. Before I went to the store, I knotted my new droplet-distribution prevention device around my neck and at the top of my head.

And then, I kid you not, I actually thought for a few seconds about what shirt would best coordinate with my mask.

Hoping your masks are colorful, coordinated, stylish but most of all, effective (mine is not), I remain,

Your I-have-never-spent-that-much-money-in-one-trip-to-the-grocery-store-in-my-life, purple-t-shirt mask and absurdly color-coordinated purple turtleneck and sweater wearing, trying to maintain a good attitude while staying at home and staying out of the way, technically at higher risk,

Ridiculouswoman

Image by lyperzyt from Pixabay

The Isolation Age: Absurdist Edition

I was going to shop the “senior” hours at my local grocery tomorrow. But I figured the thunderstorm this morning would keep attendance low. With Mike’s scarf as my “mask.” I gambled and went out, hoping the scarf would stop any hovering pestilential droplets from penetrating my nose.  I thought I was clever to bring the (sanitized) reacher along, but it just got in the way.

Staff were in the aisles, restocking.  I took a spin around the store to get all my other stuff before I circled back to get my organic lettuce. The masked produce guy was unpacking it as fast as he could.

Through dairy toward yogurt, a tall young male store employee let fly a huge, not-very-well-covered sneeze, in the general direction of his elbow, but certainly not into the crook of it.

Then he wiped the back of his hand slowly across his face, right under his nose.

That would be gross on a regular day.

“You might want to go wash your hands,” I said, mimicking his hand-across-the-booger-face gesture.

When he went to the back to complain to his coworkers wash his hands (I hope) I dashed in to grab the yogurt.  Just as I finished, a few other staff came out of the double doors, closer than 6 feet away. I did a quick 180 with my cart and got out of there.

Over to meats.  Picked up salmon, then plotted a route toward the bacon that kept a 6 foot zone around me.  Rounded the corner just in time to see the barehanded butcher pinch his nostrils and return to loading meat into the cooler.

Look, these grocery store workers are heroes, along with everyone in healthcare and  essential businesses. They keep going out to work every day while privileged worriers like me work from home, emerging only for furtive missions to obtain fresh foods, because larders are already stuffed with frozen, canned and dried things.  Most store workers were gloved and sanitizing their hearts out at the check out counter, behind newly erected plexiglass (that had an uncomfortably large gaps in it, for passing receipts through, I guess). The store had helpfully marked 6-foot intervals on the floor, in line.

I still appreciate the workers who need a little refresher training about how sanitizing and glove-wearing does no good if you stick your finger in your nose or rub your eyes. Fortunately, the lady who loaded my car sanitized her gloves before putting the bags in the back seat.

The store limits purchases to two of any item, so I was astonished to find the toilet paper aisle empty. We’re a two person household, and Angelic Daughter has learned not to waste. We bought one jumbo TP package about two weeks ago, and we’re still fine. I was looking for paper towels, but how do people use that much toilet paper? Why are people so obsessed with toilet paper that they are still clearing the shelves? I was so stunned I forgot the paper towels, but I think they were out of those, too.

On to canned goods. Angelic Daughter loves corned beef hash. I think it’s vile, but I let her have one can a week. They were out of it. Seriously? There are enough people out there who eat it that they actually run out of it?

I adjusted my scarf as another shopper approached, and noticed that I accidentally touched my nose. What’s the point of dressing up like an amateur bandit to protect myself when all I do is touch my nose anyway?

Ridiculous woman.

I spent twice as much as I usually do, because I don’t want to go back until the peak is over and the curve has flattened. When I unpacked and sanitized non-porous packaging, I found that despite repeatedly checking my phone’s checklist, I forgot at least three things we’ll need in the next few days.

Sigh.

I know there’s nothing funny about this pandemic. The toilet paper thing might be because people are sick and suffering and really need it. I thank God every day for every deep breath I’m able to take, and for Angelic Daughter, who is well and doing her best to help out, stay busy and keep her spirits up, stuck at home with boring old me.

I hope this experience changes us all for the better. I’ve been trying, and often failing, to become a more compassionate, less fearful person since Mike died. May the absurdity and the fear and sacrifices and the lessons of these days stay with us through future, more ordinary days. And may ordinary days return to us, soon.

Hoping you and your loved ones stay well, I remain,

Your disinfecting, socially distancing, cabin-fevering, weight-gaining, aspirationally exercising (I’ll do it today, I will, I will),

Ridiculouswoman

The Isolation Age

I can’t explain why I started crying when Jackson Browne’s “The Load Out” came on my Spotify. Friday was the last day of my first full week of working from home (or “WFH” in my company’s shorthand – honestly, it took me a while not to see that as something naughty) and it’s going OK so far. For me, anyway.

We’re under a shelter-in-place order.  All “non-essential” businesses are closed. We’re to stay home except for absolutely essential errands, like picking up medicine or groceries. Most people in my community were already voluntarily practicing social distancing. But elsewhere, there were still the people who think they’re invincible, and don’t consider the impact their non-compliance could have on others. The Governor of Florida left it up to local officials to close beaches, and only announced that “the party’s over” on Thursday.  He still didn’t issue a statewide order to close beaches, but he did finally close bars. Somewhere along in there, the mayor of Miami and a senator from Florida both tested positive for COVID-19.

The poster child for hubris is going to be the kid who was quoted as saying, “If I get corona, I get corona. It’s not going to stop me from partying.” Well, you do that, dearie, if you want your Grandparents’ last words to you to be, “you killed us, you selfish little punk.”

Meanwhile, back at the the Ridiculous residence, I grew bored with my classical radio (and it takes a LOT to bore me with classical music) and a little too lulled by “Lute Music for Alchemists” on Spotify. So I clicked on an Eagle’s playlist.

The days of my youth rushed back – songs I played over and over without ever getting bored. I lived and breathed Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, Dan Fogelberg, Emmylou Harris and the Eagles back then.

“The Load Out” is a song about what happens after the concert – when “the roadies take the stage” to pack up and get the band and the equipment moving toward the next show.

Some lines in the last verse go,

“People you got the power over what we do
You can sit there and wait, or you can pull us through…

The song moves right into “Stay,” with David Lindley coming out from behind his hair long enough to sing in falsetto, just like the original by Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs. Look it up.

Over the years, I’ve thought about that last verse. I’ve even imagined that it’s possible Jackson wrote it partly because of me.

Allow me to explain.

When I was in high school, I somehow scored third row seats for a Jackson Browne concert. I took my friend Mich (you remember this, Mich, I’m sure) and we sat there, two self-conscious teenage girls, mesmerized, unmoving and not singing along, through the whole concert. In our defense, the entire crowd was pretty subdued at a venue that was notoriously strict with rock acts. But we were paralyzed by proximity to the real, live Jackson Browne (look at that hair!)  The YouTube version up there is from 1978, probably just a year or two after we attended that concert. I spent a good part of high school trying to belt a verse of “Stay” like that amazing background singer. Wish I knew her name.

I haven’t been to a concert since without making a jackass of myself singing along, loudly, often in harmony. In three decades, I’ve only run into one band that seemed to disapprove. (click on “singalong). Oddly, it was an Eagles tribute band.

Yesterday, I started bawling on the line “just be sure you’ve got it all set to go, before you come for my piano…” That sent me right into the wayback machine.

I spent hours at the keyboard as a teenager, wailing songs by all the above listed ’70s artists.  But now, Angelic Daughter can’t take it.  She wants to sing by herself. Sometimes, in the car, I get away with harmonizing with her on “Brave.” We sound great together.

Maybe it was something about being stuck at home, unable to let off steam by singing and playing some of those oldies. Or maybe it was just knowing that I probably wouldn’t remember how to play them anymore, anyway.

HA! “The Load Out” just started on my Spotify daily mix. Cue lump in throat.

I believe in positive thinking. I believe in the force of will. So I’ve prepared a new “27 Things” list about what I like about working from home.

Grateful that I woke up this morning, and sending positive thoughts to you, to health care workers, to everyone who has lost a job and to every essential worker still going to theirs, I remain,

Your nostalgic, (quietly) ’70s singing,

Ridiculouswoman

Image by Harut Movsisyan from Pixabay

When I Dreamed of Working From Home, This Isn’t Quite What I Had in Mind

I just attended my first online church service. The sense of community was as strong as ever, although the congregation experienced each other’s presence as words on screen in the comments column rather than handshakes of greeting in the pews. To me, it was every bit as comforting as a live service, and good to feel the virtual presence of “church family.” As usual, our pastor came through with a message of love, kindness, common sense and respect for science, that comes from the brains God gave us, to think and take care of one another.

So, first, gratitude. For health care workers on the front lines, and for everyone doing their part by practicing “social distancing,” hand washing and taking care of themselves, which in turns reduces the risk to others.

Gratitude that, although Angelic daughter is tired and sleeping a lot, she’s ok. I think the sleep is a manifestation of her exceptional emotional radar – she picks up on the anxious vibes, and how they come from worries about illness.  That goes straight to the core of her grief and worry – if Dad got sick and died, and now lots of other people are getting sick, what’s going to happen to Mom and me? Are my Uncles and my friends and my pastor and my church family OK?

I’m trying to be a source of calm for her.  I’m OK, so far. I’m allowed to work from home starting tomorrow. I filled the freezer two or three weeks ago, stowed bins of canned and dry goods and some olive oil over the last week. I already had enough toilet paper stashed to give some away to a home in need. I keep hand sanitizer around the house anyway. I keep reminding myself to be careful, not to cut or sprain anything, because the ER won’t have room for me right now.

Then I get on Facebook and see local bars and restaurants urging people to come out for St. Patrick’s Day and making unsupported claims about alcohol and coronavirus.

What fresh hell is this? What madness, what impenetrable level of science denial, could possibly be behind people actually encouraging others to go out and infect themselves, so they can merrily move on to infecting others? Is it fatalism, or just stupidity? I understand business owners who fear losing their businesses altogether, but are you really willing to put the economic survival of a bar or restaurant above actual survival of human beings?

At least the message about “flattening the curve” has reached a lot of people. Why bars and restaurants haven’t been ordered to close yet is beyond me. Must I link to op-eds by medical professionals pleading with the public to stop buying masks, stay home and stay the hell out of the way?

OK, I guess I must:

Young and Unafraid of the Coronavirus? Good for You – Now Stop Killing People

Boston Doctors Plead Don’t Be Cavalier About Coronavirus

In my area, good ideas about how to support local businesses have circulated – things like buying gift certificates online, etc. One local business has figured out a way for patrons to make a donation that they will then use to purchase gift certificates from other local businesses and to hold a place on a list for a future “all clear” party.

Hate to break it to you, guys, but as far as I know (and I’m not a doctor or scientist – but docs and scientists, chime in here – oh, wait, you won’t have a spare second to do that until at least September) there is no such thing as an “all clear” on a virus, until an effective vaccine is ready and everyone has been inoculated. Or until everyone who is going to get the virus gets it, and most survive it and become immune, thereby conferring “herd immunity” on those who remain. If you have the medical credentials, please correct me if I’m wrong about that.

So where does that leave us? All I can say is where it leaves me:

I’ve been a germ freak for years. So I was already really into washing my hands, and giving dirty looks to people who don’t cover their coughs and sneezes.

Then came the caregiving years – I found myself performing previously unimaginable personal tasks for my parents and my husband. Gloving up and sanitizing for them, not for me.

So now this: I feel reasonably calm. If I learned anything from losing Dad, Mom and Mike, it’s this: “in the end, only kindness matters.”

The sun is still there, behind the shadow. Sending love and hope and prayer for strength, safety and stamina for health care workers, affected families, and those at greatest risk, I remain,

Your uncharacteristically calm,

Ridiculouswoman

Image by Jan Haerer from Pixabay

In the Meantime, Carpe Diem

How better to spend whatever remaining minutes I may be allotted than to participate in an open mike night of storytelling. Since it has become apparent the apocalypse has begun, at least in part (I think we can tick the boxes for war and plague, anyway), I chose to carpe the damn diem by getting up in front of an audience of about 80 or so Friday night to tell a story – a compressed mash up of pieces of my memoir –  one incident among many of my ridiculous moments during Mike’s illness.  I wrote it out beforehand, memorized it and signed up as the first to brave the open mike at our local community center to “tell,” as a “teller,” which are what people who do this kind of thing are called, apparenty.

I had an absolute blast – I hit a few bumps, when I didn’t realize the “ting” of the gong was just the one minute warning and not the cutoff, but the takeaway is, I could get used to this.

I decided to do it because last year at the Midwest Writer’s Conference, I pitched my book to an agent who ultimately didn’t offer representation, but told me my pitch was the best she’d heard in a long time and asked if I did spoken word performance. So, OK, pivot – I’ve always loved performing live in front of an audience and if I can’t get an agent for my book (haven’t even had time to try sending out queries, much less essays, lately – got to get back to that discipline) I might as well try packaging it for live performance.

Below is the “script” of the story I told Friday. It really is written for live “telling,” but you’ll get the idea. It’s longer than my usual posts, so I leave it to you if you choose to read through it.

I did get some compliments and expressions of astonishment that it was my first time storytelling. One woman flat out asked, “did you f–k the Bulgarian?” No. Twenty one years older, fat, husband dying – remember? Not that I didn’t fantasize about it, but come on, seriously?

Anyway, here’s the tale. I’ll definitely be signing up for the next open mike as soon as they have one, to relate another of my ridiculous incidents . Hope you enjoy.

______________________________

I told Mike, “do not, DO NOT, shovel that walk.”  Mike had an extreme obsession about shoveling. He would set his alarm for every two hours during blizzards, suit up and go outside to shovel the driveway at 2 am, 4 am, 6 a.m., even during Snowmaggedon, when the wind was blowing 60 m.p.h., so hard that it would all just come right back again.

The “do not shovel” morning was in 2016, when we had three inches of snow followed by rain followed by a hard freeze.  The driveway and walk were coated with a kind of heart-attack broûlée. And it all was due to melt the next day. So I told Mike, “don’t you do it.” And I hopped in the Subaru and left for work.

I worked five minutes away at the time, so I could come home for lunch. That day, when I did, I saw that Mike had shoveled the front porch and the walk to the driveway.

I was furious.

Because Mike was 13 months into the 18 to 24 months he had been given when he was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer. Exertion like that could kill him. Why would he risk dying before he had to die?

Maybe it was an Alpha Male thing.

Because a year before, when I was 54 years old and weighted 35 pounds more than I do now, I fell madly, schoolgirlishly and very obviously in love with 35 year-old Bulgarian carpenter –  right in front of  my dying husband – which was reprehensible, ridiculous, sad, embarrassing – and funny.

When we were confronted with the certainty that Mike would die within the next two years, I thought, what are we going to do?

I know! LET’S REMODEL THE KITCHEN!

Mike spent a lot of time in the kitchen, cooking for and cleaning up after cooking for our angelic, autistic daughter. He was a stay-at-home Dad. He spent his days toiling away on hideous, multi-colored, striped, 1970’s indoor-outdoor carpeting, blackened with decades of grime. He spent hours washing dishes in a harvest-gold double sink. He cooked on a cheap department store stove with no hood that barely concealed the mouse highway running behind it. I just couldn’t let him die without ever having had a decent kitchen in our house.

So, I found a contractor and signed the checks. I hadn’t figured on falling madly in love with the crew chief. But I did. I don’t know what came over me – I couldn’t help myself. He was young and strong and he knew how to do everything, He had black hair and green eyes and a magnificent deep voice. And I didn’t care that he was getting paid for it – it still mattered to me that he listened to, and actually remembered everything I said to him . He did what I asked him to do- eventually- and he never yelled at me. Anyone who has been married for more than twenty years knows how rare that is.

The day of the Alpha Male shoveling, when I got out of the Subaru at lunchtime, I grabbed my cheap plastic grocery store shovel and tried to shovel the driveway, just to keep Mike from doing it.

And the Bulgarian appeared, and grabbed my shovel.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m going to shovel a path, just a path on the driveway for you, Annie.”

“Oh no you’re not. You smoke. Nobody who smokes lifts a snow shovel on my property. Don’t you do it.” And I was sort of dancing around in front of him (and he’s at least 14 inches taller than me) trying to block him from shoveling the smoking-man-killing heart-attack snow with the ice on top, but he shovels right by me, and then he stops and looks at my plastic grocery store shovel and says, “Dat’s not a shovel.”

And he marches right back into my kitchen and through the door into my garage and grabs my good stainless steel garden spade and starts hacking away at the smoking-man-killing heart-attack snow with the ice on top while I’m following him down the driveway shouting at him, “please, please stop! It’s upsetting him – (meaning shoveling was meant to be Mike’s exclusive domain, even if he intended to die doing it). Please stop!”

“God Dammit! The both of you! I can’t come home from work and find the two of you face down in the driveway and neither one of you with enough strength to call 911! Jesus! Everyone wants to give Mommy something more to worry about!”

And I jumped in my Subaru and drove off, back to work, still cursing. And as I drove away I saw the Bulgarian turn around and give the strangest look, as if he didn’t understand – or as if he did, all too well.

He knew I had a crush on him. At first he was embarrassed, and then he played along, and then he just started openly making fun of  me, in a subtle, Eastern European kind of way.

Like the time his drawers came off.

Three weeks after the kitchen was finished, I had loaded the heaviest pots in the middle, rather than the bottom drawer, because that’s where Mike wanted them. When the drawer fell off its rails, like I knew it would, and then the bottom one did too, the Bulgarian came to fix them.

When he squatted down to look at the drawers that had fallen off,  he looked up at me with his gorgeous green eyes and he said with that magnificent voice, “Annie, what have you done to my drawers?”

Which is quite possibly the best set-up line I had  ever been fed.

But did I say, “Why, my dear, as you well know, to my infinite regret, I haven’t done a damn thing to your drawers. These kitchen drawers, on the other hand, came off all by themselves.”

No, I didn’t say that. I just blurted out,  “You didn’t stop smoking!!!” Because it was after New Year’s and he still smelled of cigarette smoke, even though he had told me it was his resolution to quit.

The Alpha Male incident was the last time Mike shoveled, but it wasn’t Mike’s First Last Thing. There was his last birthday, his last Thanksgiving, his last Christmas.

The first time I realized I was witnessing a last thing was before all of those, in the fall, when I came home and found Mike on the roof.

He could barely stand up for ten minutes and he had hauled the ladder out of the garage and climbed up to the roof, intending to clean out the gutters – one last time.

Mike lived long enough to cook his last pot of spaghetti sauce and his last batch of chicken soup in the new kitchen.

And now, when I rinse dishes in the big new white farm sink, before I load them into the new stainless steel dishwasher, I see Mike there, by the new stove with the new hood, doing what he loved to do – cooking something for Angelic Daughter.  And I also see the Bulgarian there, puzzling over how to cope with some weird previous do-it-yourself modification from some past owner.

That kitchen is filled with memories of love, kindness, bravery, humor – and forgiveness – for, and from, two men I loved.

Yours,

Ridiculouswoman

 

What He Said

Here’s a different take on fasting, or giving things up for Lent. To me it’s a description of how I want to be all the time, not just in the forty days before Easter.

The quote below appeared today on the Edge of the Atlantic, one of the blogs I follow.  I’m not Catholic. I haven’t made a habit of attending church on Ash Wednesday, or “giving something up” for Lent.  So when I looked through my followed blogs on the WordPress Reader today and found this, I realized it expressed what I was going to try to express, and did it much better than I ever could:

 

via are you ready to fast this Lent? (take your pick) — Edge of Atlantic

I’ve been trying to stay in my lane, and to avoid investing my energy into worrying about things I can’t control. Instead I’m thinking about how I can control my response to both small everyday frustrations and the monumental, unrelenting shit storms that seem to have enveloped our planet. These past weeks, it just seems like it gets worse every day.

Losing Mike and living as a widow has helped me understand, “this too shall pass.” It has made me want to remain unperturbed by everyday stresses and to learn to be still and silent enough, to find sufficient serenity, to tune in to more eternal things:  love, compassion, gratitude, simplicity, patience, joy, reconciliation, hope, kindness – prayer and God.  These things don’t pass with the passing moments of each day.  I want them to reside with me in each present moment, and stay with me as that moment passes to become the next.  It’s far more difficult than it should be, and unsurprisingly, I fail at it much more often than I succeed. I succumb to petty worries and mundane stresses. I lose patience. That’s why I appreciate reminders like Bill Schulz’s post today. They help me regain my perspective.

Angelic Daughter is my guiding star. I admire her more than I can say, and I am more ashamed of succumbing to impatience with her than I am of any of my other many faults. She marks one of life’s milestones tomorrow. Today she described handling an uncomfortable situation by using a strategy we had practiced. She solved the problem of feeling anxious in one environment by asking to move to another, at a place where choices like that are available to her. She continues to assume more responsibility for the moments of her day – being on time and prepared, adapting to different types of transportation and advocating for herself if she needs accommodation, as she did today. She does all this without dimming her angelic, compassionate, loving, emotionally intelligent self one bit. The strategy she used today worked, and she’s realizing that she has more control over things that bother her sensitive, autistic self than she used to, or that she believed she could have. My pride in and boundless love for her is wrapped in hope.  May there be a future in this world for Angelic Daughter, where people choose compassion, kindness, good stewardship for the earth and all that’s in it, love and reconciliation, and where we work together to solve problems that touch us all.

I hope your present moments are infused with calming little bits of the eternal, and may those  moments bring you peace.

Yours with gratitude to God for the gift of a daughter whose spirit is far more naturally generous than mine, and who inspires me every day to try to be a better person, I remain, your one-moment-to-the-next,

Ridiculouswoman

 

 

“Senior” Middle Age?

Is there a zone between middle age and “senior?” I’m different than I was when I first came up with my “middle aged woman rules.” I look at those now and I think they’re kind of juvenile and stupid. I find myself at a point in my life where I just don’t give a crap anymore about styling myself to please others.

This is actually the second time in my life I discovered (and it was a discovery, not a decision) that I was just being who I am, without worrying about whether who I am pleases others.

That last time I settled into my own skin so comfortably, Mike showed up.

Hmm.

I’ve back to level of self-acceptance that allows me to just “be,” where in years past I would have doubted, criticized or or been disappointed in almost everything I did or said. I’ve calmed down. I’ve become a better listener. Weird shit that seems to be related to aging is happening to my body, but I shrug and think, “whatever.”

It doesn’t feel quite right to refer to myself as “middle-aged” anymore, but hell if I’m going to say I’m “old.” Is there such a thing as senior middle age? Advanced middle age? Not thinking about age?

Angelic daughter and I went through a low patch last year, but we’ve pulled out of it admirably I think, and now things are rolling along nicely (knock wood, cross fingers, whatever you do to ward off a reversal when you say something like that.) The great-creator-power-that-is has bestowed upon me the gift of work I love, at a place populated with genuine, and genuinely kind, people. I honestly didn’t believe such a workplace existed, as I have never experienced it before. Every job I’ve ever had was at an organization fraught with egos, anxiety, competition, backstabbing, stress, resentment, rumor-mongering, and a constant, threatening undercurrent that something bad would happen to someone, any minute. (HA!, reminds me of a certain House in the news lately, but I digress.)

But now, at this stage of my life, I have been welcomed into a workplace where there’s none of that negative stuff, and I get paid to spend the day doing something I love. I’m stunned, and stupid happy. I look forward to going to work. I don’t mind getting up at 4:45 a.m. to get there by 6:30 so I can pick Angelic Daughter up from her new, fabulous, welcoming, caring place by 3:20.

At that place, Angelic daughter has reconnected with a friend she hasn’t seen in years, gets to choose among many activities and decide how she wants to spend her day, and hops into the car smiling and chattering about singing to her friend when I pick her up.

I remember when my favorite film actor, Russell Crowe, won the Oscar for Gladiator. He said, “for anyone who’s on the downside of advantage, and relying purely on courage, it’s possible.” (If you want to skip the intro, start at about 34 seconds in):

There were times, from the moment Mike was diagnosed, through these past three and a half years without him, when I felt hopeless, or ready to give up. I don’t think I can say that I relied on courage – I guess I relied on my version of faith. But I did make a conscious decision to make conscious decisions about how I’d spend my time. I started writing, and I don’t intend to stop, for as long as I still “have my marbles,” as my Dad used to say. I feel wired – a little manic – in the good way I used to feel when I was directing my high school talent show, or improvising with some very talented people in clubs in Chicago, giving packed houses big laughs.

I’ve been blogging since October 2017, a little more than a year after Mike died, and since then, I have cried and despaired vicariously with other bloggers going through their own tough times and tragedies – and I’ve stuck with them long enough to read their stories of getting through it, getting better, finding what they needed and finding themselves exhilarated, reinvigorated, even triumphant.

If you’re in a dark place, going through a tough time, having trouble seeing a way out, hang in there. Things can get better. It’s possible.

Yours with prayers for Australia, Puerto Rico, the people of China and everyplace else on our hurting, pissed-off, melting, diseased, once-beautiful-and-still-could-be-beautiful- again-if-we-get-our-collective-shit-together-and-do-something-about-it planet, I remain,

Your loving, grateful, hopeful,

Ridiculouswoman

P.S. Have fun watching the Oscars this weekend, even if, like me, you haven’t seen any of the films (I’m working, OK?) And here’s another list, related to this post, up on my 27 Things page.