800 Words

There are signs, and then there are Signs….

The day I wrote about losing confidence in my writing, I discovered a television series called “800 Words.”

“It’s a sign!” I thought.  The show is on the Acorn channel (British-y programming). It’s about an Australian columnist, a widower with two kids, whose column always comes in at exactly 800 words.

That’s a game I love to play, too. He even uses the same trick of hyphenating-things-to-count-as-one-word.

It’s more about grief and the stupid impulsive decisions (often stupid financial decisions) you make when coping with loss.

Sound familiar?

I watched the first episode of the first season and was hooked.

And then I discovered I had to pay a subscription fee to watch the rest of it.

Curses! I coughed up my Roku account and subscribed.

More money spent that I shouldn’t be spending, without a day job.

That sent me into another spiral of anxiety and doubt.

How could it be a sign? Yes, I like to write blog posts of exactly 800 words –  but my book is 60,000 words.

The protagonist on the show actually had a job as a newspaper columnist, left it, and was coaxed back.

I’ve lost or had to leave jobs I wanted and was never, ever “coaxed” or asked back. It was more like “don’t let the door hit you on your way out. Buh-bye.”

My recent job search experiences make me feel like I couldn’t buy a job – if I had any money to spend – which makes me more anxious about getting a job.

I’ve got an idea for a business, bought the domain, and I’m hoping to get a website designed and the business going by September.

But the numbers for this blog (over 5,300 views and 2,300 visitors, but only 162 followers) indicate I suck at social media self-promotion.

I’m going to have to force myself to return to Facebook to build pages for this blog again and for my new business. AAAAAK!!

I’d rather curl up in a little fetal ball and pull the covers over my head, but as I lie there whimpering, I’d be picturing myself wearing a name tag, saying things like, “would you like fries with that?” or “have you tried our new spicy shrimp?” or “can I get you that dress in another size?”

Between the morning workouts and the yard work and the house work and grocery shopping and the meal preparation and the caring for and helping Angelic Daughter, I can’t seem to find the time to write more than one or two blog posts a week, and no time at all to search for other places to submit writing for a chance to get paid.

Much less apply for that glorious future name tag job.

All the job search engines I’ve got going keep sending me jobs that have nothing to do with me.

LinkedIn seems to think I’m a nurse or other health-care worker, just because I’m looking for jobs in non-profits, and there’s a big non-profit hospital near me.

Glassdoor keeps sending me technical writing jobs that I probably could do but I’m sure I’d never get hired for, and the idea of making a mistake writing technical manuals or pharmaceutical label information sends me into paroxysms of anxiety.

All the NPO’s want fundraisers (“development” people) but asking people for money makes me squirm, and researching how much money people might have to give makes me feel like a creepy voyeur.

I indulge in silly rescue fantasies, typically involving younger men who know how to do things, and who are willing to do them for me, for free.

And who then move in and pay for things.

While also making wild, passionate love to me.

Hey, I said it was a fantasy.

I’ve figured out what’s wrong with me, and what went wrong in my career, but I can’t fix the past and the past follows me everywhere I go.

I try to focus on the now – on the incredible, cool air we have today, on the squash blossoms growing in the former chicken run, on the green beans starting to come in.

But I spend more time feeling frustrated by the dozens of bean seeds I planted that haven’t sprouted at all.

I’m a whiny, self-doubting mess.

The ancestresses are getting restless – I hear them telling me to get my ass outside and weed something. Not self-improvement, but yard-improvement, at least.

Perhaps other improvements will follow.

And as for signs?

Just as I was editing that line about anxiety and doubt, a monarch butterfly fluttered down and landed on the beans.

The ones that are growing.

Thanks for the Sign, Mike – of love and understanding – and the reminder to enjoy this beautiful day and stop taking myself so seriously.

Because what matters is now.

About-to-get-sweaty-and-dirty-and-feel-virtuous-about-it, I remain,

Your calming-down,

Ridiculouswomann

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

Sophie’s Empty Sunny Spot

Sophie the Christmas Miracle Cat ran out of miracles on Mother’s Day morning, and we had to say goodbye.

There’s a special kind of loneliness in letting go of a pet you shared with a spouse who has died.

Sophie’s warm fur was a lingering, physical manifestation of specific memories of Mike – how she’d sit on his left leg, crossed ankle to knee over the other, so his left knee was elevated a bit; he’d stroke her as she settled herself there in the triangular cradle his legs made, to stare over that knee and watch the hockey game with him, intensely following the movement of the puck, as if it were a mouse she wanted to devour.

There was the time he called to me to come see how, as he lay on his bed reading, she had demanded his attention by arranging herself with her butt at his chin and her tail extended straight up his face.

Months after he was diagnosed, we remembered how, months before, she’d daintily walk up from her end of the couch to his, to lay lengthwise on his torso, facing him, gazing at him with concern. It was as if she knew before we did – as if she could sense the disease that lay beneath: as if she was trying to warn us, or commiserate, or tell him that she cared, or ask him if there was anything she could do. As if she was preparing to miss him.

Saturday afternoon, I bought 36 cans of cat food (coupon) and a new green jug of cat litter. Sunday morning I carried them back to the car, sobbing and streaming snot, trying to think of where I could donate them.

The cat bed – her too-small, clam-shaped tiny Hollywood bowl of a cat bed, coated with her fur, went straight to the garbage. I couldn’t look at it for another moment.

When night came, I was overcome with a loneliness so intense it nearly made me sick. Sophie was our substitute third “person” in this house, and now, it was genuinely, really only the two of us, here with far too much hollow space around us, especially in the darkness of the night.

I asked the vet to take Sophie, and not to bring us the ashes.

If Mike had been here to make that decision with me, would it have been the same?

Since Sunday morning, every time daughter sighs and says, “I miss Dad,” (which she has been saying daily for nearly three years, and probably will say daily for decades to come), she adds, “and I miss Sophie.”

I do too, sweetheart. I do too.

Maybe it wasn’t fair to tell her we’d get a sign from Sophie, to tell us she had found her sunny spot in heaven, with Dad. More abstraction for an autistic person to try to process.

Late Sunday night, in the midst of that nearly-sick-making smackdown of loneliness, I had a sudden impulse to start watching a cable comedy that I’m a few seasons behind on.

Halfway or so into the pilot episode, the Mom gets a phone call. It is brief and when it’s done, the daughter asks who it was.

“Sophie’s Dad.”

In the scene, the Mom didn’t want to talk to Sophie’s Dad, who seemed like an awfully nice guy in the few seconds he had on screen. If we think of Mike as Sophie’s Dad, I damn sure would want to talk to him. But maybe our Sophie was just doing the best she could, to find some available, if slightly awkward, way to send a signal through.

Monday evening, sitting on the twin chaises on the deck, enjoying the late afternoon sun and the green of the lawn and the birds swooshing around the yard, I noticed a grey bird landing on one of the neighbor’s fence posts, right across from us, looking at us.

It made a loud, meow-y kind of sound.

Is that a cat bird?

“Sophie? If that’s you, come to the bird bath!”

The bird flew closer, but was headed off by the male cardinal, protecting his turf.

I Googled for a YouTube video or recording of the call of a cat bird. Cornell’s library of bird sounds.

Yep, that was it, exactly.

I googled the territory of the grey cat bird. Cornell again.

Yep, could be here, this time of year.

Oh, Soph. Thanks for calling. Thanks for telling us, as daughter says, that “you have arrived at your destination.”

Now climb up on Dad’s lap and watch some hockey. We’ll be thinking of you both.

Sending love and gratitude to pets past Lucky, Buddy, Barbita, Rocky, Phantom and now Sophie too, I remain,

Your sobby, snot-smeared, Sophie-missing but certain she’s found her forever sunny spot,

Ridiculouswoman