“What matters is precisely this; the unspoken at the edge of the spoken.” ~ Virginia Woolf, from a diary entry dated 21 July 1912.

Winter on the Bank by Marius Rumpf fcc
Winter on the Bank
by Marius Rumpf (FCC)

                   

“Left utterly alone, there is nothing
The heart can invent to numb itself.” ~ Joe Bolton, from “Departure”

Friday afternoon. Sunny and cold, 47 degrees.

Home alone. Silence.

Well, long time, no write. I know. Unfortunately, it’s been a hellacious week, and today is the first day that I’ve had any time to myself, any time to sit here and muse, any time to try to stitch together some kind of linear thought.

I hope you enjoyed the Muppet Christmas carols. I had always planned to post them leading up to Christmas, but unfortunately, was never able to do the actual scheduling. Let me back up . . . On December 16 I took my mother to the ER because she was in a lot of pain. They ended up admitting her to the hospital with a severe case of diverticulitis. She was in until December 21. Consequently, my stress levels shot through the roof, and my computer time was nil.

Winter Tree by rkramer62 fcc
Winter Tree
by rkramer62 (FCC)

I was trying to take care of her cat, do Christmas shopping and decorating, visit my mother in the hospital and everything else. And of course when she was released, she was still weak and in need. It became one long litany of telephone calls. And in between, I lost my bank card, but didn’t find out until I was in line at Wal-Mart. Thankfully, some honest soul found it and turned it in, and no weird charges appeared. I was very lucky, but man, stress upon stress.

The last two weeks have just about done me in.

“For each person there is a sentence — a series of words — which has the power to destroy him . . . another sentence exists, another series of words, which will heal the person. If you’re lucky you will get the second; but you can be certain of getting the first: that is the way it works. On their own, without training, individuals know how to deal out the lethal sentence, but training is required to deal out the second.” ~ Philip K. Dick, from VALIS

Add to all of this the planned holiday dinner here at my house, and then pile on the fact that Corey is not home. Christmas morning was more than a bit surreal for me. The boys decided to open their big presents and then to save everything else for when Corey gets home, the same for Lex and Mike. I left it up to them, and that’s what they all decided to do, which is nice.

Merikosken Alakanava Finland by ptrktn FCC
Merikosken Alakanava, Finland
by ptrktn (FCC)

But truthfully, it just hasn’t felt anything like Christmas this year. I haven’t listened to any music. I haven’t read anything, and you may wonder what that has to do with Christmas, and the answer is nothing, but everything. For me, it’s a state of mind, and my state of mind was pure chaos, a restless sea.

I don’t even think that I can describe it adequately to make sense.

I mean, my mother is very sick, isn’t leaving the house to have dinner with the family, and Corey is thousands of miles away. To top it off, Corey tried to call me on Christmas day using the ship’s satellite phone, and I didn’t answer because I didn’t recognize the number, and I really didn’t want to talk to anyone because I was too busy feeling sorry for myself. He called four times in a row, but I didn’t answer. I talked to him that night when the ship got its wi-fi back and he was able to call on his phone.

Obviously when I found out what had happened, I felt like a jerk.

“We humans, however,
understand the backward grace
of flight and fall, and also
understand the pity
of not knowing, and also
the pity of knowing.” ~ Leonard Nathan, “That the Unexamined Life Is Not Worth Living”

There are things that I used to do to get into the mindset for the holidays. I have about ten Christmas CDs, and I would impose my music on anyone who was near, play it in the car, play it at home, sing along loudly. And then I would watch two movies: A Wonderful Life (in black and white), and Scrooge, the musical with Albert Finney. I would usually put these on while I wrapped presents.

None of that this year. I simply forgot. It’s as if my mind said to itself, “Hmm, Christmas . . . blank.”

Winter by askidenzsetzer fcc
Winter
by askidenzsetzer (FCC)

I finished addressing the cards on Christmas Eve, but this year I didn’t include any letters to anyone. I never send out those family holiday bulletins, but I usually take the time to add letters to a few special people. Not this year.

I tell you, it’s like I’m in some kind of vacuum. Outside everyone is carrying on with life, and I’m in here, on pause. It’s been like this since Thanksgiving, and unfortunately, I don’t feel as if my kids have been able to fill the void. It’s small things, like when I was going on seven hours in the ER, and I asked if anyone could spell me, maybe bring me Starbucks. Nothing. What gives with that?

“We are masters of unsaid words, but slaves of those we let slip out.” ~ Winston Churchill

I know. They have their own lives, their own priorities. It’s just a bit hard to realize that at the moment, I’m no one’s priority. It’s making me reflect a lot on life, as in people who live alone, how they do it, how they survive. I want my children to have their own lives, want them to set out into the world, to explore, want them to be unafraid to try new ventures.

Tree Portrait by nrcphotos fcc
Tree Portrait
by nrcphotos (FCC)

Yet if I am honest, I am also sad at being left behind. They no longer need me; I am no longer the touchstone that grounds them, that keeps them safe from harm. Yet I know that will be my role until I take my last breath.

This is hard to elucidate. I can’t quite get a handle on it, this ephemeral state in which I find myself. I don’t know how to define it.

And of course, I feel like a selfish wench because I’m full of self-pity, and there are so many people out there who are alone all of the time. There are so many people with real problems, real life-altering problems, and here I am, having another pity party. I don’t know if I’m more upset at the fact that I’m upset or that I’m alone.

Beh.

“There is a cry deeper than all sound
whose serrated edges cut the heart
as we break open
to the place inside us
which is unbreakable and whole,
while learning to sing.” ~ Rashani Rea, from The Power of a Broken-Open Heart

Last night, as I lay in bed trying to decide whether or not to fall asleep with the television on, I thought of my mother who has been alone for so many years. I wonder if she ever fears going to sleep alone at night as I was feeling that moment, and then at the same time I was amazed by the contradiction that is me. I love the silence, love the quiet, but fear the stillness.

And I wonder when I began to be afraid to be still. Is it something that has happened gradually, or have I always been this way? And I really don’t know the answer, so unsure am I of my own personality.

Winter Tree by Ano Lobb at sign healthyrx fcc
Winter Tree
by Ano Lobb@healthyrx (FCC)

Alone in the dark, my mind races, and perhaps that is what I fear: where my mind will take me in the dark silence. And when I awoke from an intense, frenetic dream of my father, I knew that that was precisely what I had been afraid of—going there again.

The days until Corey is home again are less than ten. Surely I can hold it together until then. This is what I think as I sit here now in the afternoon sun, a cup of hot Irish Breakfast tea in a mug before me. I can do this.

Until night comes again.

More later. Peace.

Music by Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson, “Winter Song”

                   

two short ones . . .

On Missing Them

People always say that it hurts at night
and apparently screaming into your pillow at 3am
is the romantic equivalent of being heartbroken.
But sometimes
it’s 9am on a tuesday morning
and you’re standing at the kitchen bench waiting for the toast to pop up
And the smell of dusty sunlight and earl gray tea makes you miss them so much
you don’t know what to do with your hands.

~ Rosie Scanlan

**********

Passing

Sometimes you called on those
you’d never know
to come with you in place
of those you loved,
and talked to them
and touched them
and let them close purely
for sadness, for sadness
you’d hold them,
and you’d let them go.

~ Daniel Halpern

“My schedule for today lists a six-hour self-accusatory depression.” ~ Philip K. Dick

Highland Ancient Arch 

                   

“I was wise enough to never grow up while fooling most people into believing I had.” ~ Margaret Mead 

Sunday afternoon. Mid 60’s, sunny.

Stone Arch, Ayshire, Scotland (Pixdaus)

I had wanted to write yesterday, but I kept putting it off because I just couldn’t muster the energy. Eventually I found out that Corey had spiked my coffee with unleaded. Crap. Apparently, I have a caffeine addiction, and the neurologist I consulted this past week wants me to get caffeine out of my diet as she believes that it is the primary cause for my daily headaches.

No caffeine? Seriously? Haven’t I given up enough? You want to take away my coffee and Pepsi too? Beh. Beh, I say. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of telling Corey, so now he’s mixing the deliciously bold Italian roast with decaf coffee. I think that I may have to take a stand here: You can make me cut back on carbs even though an Asian without rice is like Bill Cosby without pudding. You can take away most of the sugar in my diet. You can tell me not to eat chocolate (notice the wording, tell me?), but caffeine? No. Hell no.

We’ll see.

I asked the neurologist about Botox shots for my migraines, and she said that she had already thought about it, but would have to refer me to one of her partners who apparently handles Botox injections. I’m just glad that they’ve finally been approved for migraines. Actually, in looking back on the appointment, I’m not sure that much of anything happened: a new prescription, a prescription for a drug I already take, lots of hammering on my joints to test my reflexes, lots of questions. She was a humorless woman with sausage fingers (wouldn’t that make a great first line), and she kept asking me about other medicines that I’ve taken. I had to tell her that I couldn’t remember the names as they had all affected my cognitive processes negatively.

But forward progress, as in something might actually happen? Well, I suppose the sleep apnea study might fall into that category, but I left feeling a bit muddled, as in, what was the point exactly?

Please do not mention the caffeine as I will only refer you back to the previous paragraph. I mean, I’ve been told to go off caffeine before. I did. Not much difference. Of course, at the time, I wasn’t having migraines as severe as the ones I’m having now. I did let this new doctor know that on that happy face pain scale that they always show you in the ER (the one that makes me want to rip it out of their hands and tear it into a thousand pieces), my pain level is never ever below a two, as in, pain is always present to some extent.

(How foolish is it to shove a paper on which someone has printed a smiley face and the numeral one and a progression of faces until it reaches Mr. Grimace face with a number 10  in front of someone who is enduring excruciating pain? Just saying . . .)

“When you look back on your life, it looks as though it were a plot, but when you are into it, it’s a mess: just one surprise after another. Then, later, you see it was perfect.” ~ Arthur Schopenhauer

Archway Leading to Chateau de Jumilhac-le-Grand, Perigord, France

My dreams of late have been very disturbing again: In one, my mother is holding an infant who is very ill. For two nights in a row I’ve been trying to call someone (an unknown male), but cannot seem to get my fingers to work on the keyboard of my phone. I do remember thinking that the number that I should be calling was X, only to realize that X number was my doctor’s office. How strange. And as is almost always the case with my strange sequential dreams, they begin at my old apartment that I had when I was an undergrad.

I do seem to be sleeping a bit sounder now that I’m taking an additional med that my new psychiatrist prescribed. Have I mentioned that I really like this one? I’ve been seeing so many doctors for so many things that I’m losing track. In fact, I cancelled a virtual colonoscopy (virtual?) that my gastro guy ordered because, of course, my insurance is not keeping up with the claims, and I’m starting to get bills for all of these treatments. I’d like to get the premiums up-to-date so that I don’t have to worry about calling to have things refiled.

The concept of a virtual colonoscopy intrigues me. Once I finally have the procedure, I’ll let you know what’s involved. As long as no more probes are inserted into orifices, I can handle it, which reminds me of another part of my dream which I will not discuss in any detail except to say that it was really and truly disgusting.

Corey and I were talking about how his dreams usually seem to be prophetic in some way, that, or he dreams about zombies (don’t ever get him started on his entire theory about the possibility of zombies and how our house is not zombie-proof); whereas my own dreams are filled with conflict. I wonder what normal people dream about?

“For me it is sufficient to have a corner by my hearth, a book and a friend, and a nap undisturbed by creditors or grief.” ~ Fernandez de Andrada

Moon Bridge, Japanese Tea Garden

Let’s see . . . what other interesting and intriguing things have been going on in my little world? I finally got the FAFSA’s done for both sons; so easy, don’t know why I put it off for so long, must be that procrastination gene I carry. Also, I’m in an ongoing battle with the local Ford dealer over the Windstar recall. Apparently, at some point during this process (which began on November 1 last year), Ford decided that they would not pay us the amount they had settled upon but would rebuild the minivan instead.

When Corey told me this, I went into full-on curmudgeon mode, got on the phone, and told the customer service person that they were sadly mistaken if they believed for one second that we were going to wait over six months only to be given back a vehicle that their company had deemed too dangerous to drive off the lot. In lots and lots of words, I said that we absolutely refused to take back the minivan and that we would only settle for what we had been offered. I hung up the phone, and Corey said very quietly that I was actually very scary sometimes.

Really? Had no idea.

That was a week ago. The guy from the dealership calls me everyday to tell me that it’s (our claim) working its way up the chain. I tell him that’s all well and good, but I want results.

Still have not received our federal tax refund, and we both have the feeling that the refund is once again going to be absorbed by some creditor as it has been for the past two years. We really need that money as our sliding glass door is still being held together by duct tape (wonderful thing), which makes it completely useless against zombies. That, and the fact that a new door and installation will cost a cool thousand at least. Plus I need to get caught up on health insurance payments.

And my foray into selling AVON doesn’t seem to be going all that well. My only customers have been Corey and my mom. I suppose people still don’t have disposable income for buying things. My regional rep says that we (AVON) has a new policy that if a rep doesn’t produce, they are kicked out (my words). I suppose I will be banish-ed (say it with two syllables as in Shakespearean) from the ding-dong brigade.

It’s weird how our lives can be rolling along fairly well for a few weeks, and then BAM. We’re screwed to holy hell all over again. Cut off notices, and past due bills, and relentless telephone calls from people wanting money we still don’t have. This is the part of the cycle that, quite frankly, I could really do without.

“Acceptance is usually more a matter of fatigue than anything else.” ~ David Foster Wallace

Piscina Mirabilis, Napoli by laura.foto (Flckr Creative Commons)

Just so you don’t start to believe that my life is a lovely little bit of paradise, I’ll mention that I did visit the rehab place in which my m-in-law is residing. I went on Monday (Tuesday)? after my gastro appointment in which the doctor said that I essentially don’t have good working plumbing. Big surprise. More tests. Another big surprise.

But I digress . . .

When I got there, she was in speech therapy, which consisted of the therapist helping her to hold a small plastic cup of water and taking sips. I don’t pretend to know the value of such a thing. When I asked about the peanut butter that seems to be all over my m-in-law’s face and on her shirt, I was told that licking the peanut butter from around her mouth was an exercise. That actually makes sense to me.

Anyway, I rolled her back to her room, and we had a kind of conversation. She was very tired, and wanted to get in bed, but I couldn’t get anyone to come into the room to help put her into bed. Also, she was very shaky, and kept thinking that she was falling out of the wheelchair, so I pushed my chair right up to her so that our knees were touching, and I told here that I wouldn’t go anywhere until she was put into bed.

It was quite unnerving as she would drift off and then awaken with a start and stiffen her entire body as she thought she was falling. I would hold her and assure her that she was not falling and that I wasn’t going anywhere. The strangest part is that the way in which she stiffened her body is exactly the same as the way that Patrick (her son/my b-in-law in Germany who is a paraplegic) stiffens his body when he is in pain or is upset. I did not mention that, of course, as any mention of Patrick would have upset her.

The doctors have concluded (big surprise here) that she will never be able to live alone again. I can’t stand the idea of her being in that place, so I mentioned to my sis-in-law Ann that perhaps she could get a reverse mortgage which would allow her to stay in her home and possibly afford full-time in-home care. I just think that if she were around her own things, around her cat, she would probably respond better. Unfortunately, none of this is up to me, so I make suggestions and let it go at that.

At 4:50 (hours later), someone finally came into the room to get her ready for bed. I gathered all of her dirty clothes and took them home to be washed, feeling as if it were such a small gesture, one not nearly enough for this woman who has been so integral to my life.

This, I cannot write about any more, so I’ll sign off for now.

More later. Peace.

Music by Mazzy Star, “”Fade Into You” (Live)

                   

Men at Forty*

‘Men at forty
Learn to close softly
The doors to rooms they will not be
Coming back to.

At rest on a stair landing,
They feel it moving
Beneath them now like the deck of a ship,
Though the swell is gentle.

And deep in mirrors
They rediscover
The face of the boy as he practices tying
His father’s tie there in secret

And the face of that father,
Still warm with the mystery of lather.
They are more fathers than sons themselves now.
Something is filling them, something

That is like the twilight sound
Of the crickets, immense,
Filling the woods at the foot of the slope
Behind their mortgaged houses.

~ Donald Justice

*I love this poem and have always wanted to write a companion piece about women at forty . . .