Stress: The Gift That Keeps On Giving

An Overworked Mind

This is called “An Overworked Mind.” I can definitely relate.

 

“Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build bridges even when there are no rivers.” ~ Nikita Khrushchev (just because)

Short post for tonight, more of an update. This has been my day:

  1. Visit to my wonderful pain doctor. Sixteen, count them sixteen trigger shots from my neck all the way down and across my back to my right butt cheek. Too much information? Tough. Try getting the shots.
  2. Picked out the perfect frame for Eamonn’s prom picture. He has been bugging me ever since he got his half of the pictures that he and Kelsie had taken at the prom. They are actually very nice. When I have time, I’ll scan and post it. Anyway, stopped in Target for a quick run to look for frames since they are within 2 minutes of the pain doctor’s office. Target, who used to have a wonderful selection of frames, no longer carries much of anything. I suggested T. J. Maxx. Corey, keeping the budget in mind, relented.
  3. Went to T. J. Maxx, looked longingly at flowing sun dresses that I would love to have. Looked but did not touch. Went to frames. Found one great frame for $3.50 for the 5×7 that Eamonn gave me to put in the living room, and a nice glass drop-in frame for his picture. Managed not to spend very much money at all, and both frames cost less than one frame would have cost at Target. Take my advice thrifty shoppers: The Maxx is still the awesomest for housewares (speaking of which, saw some towels I would kill to have. Our towels are sooo old and tired).
  4. On the ride home began to feel pain from shots that I tried to keep at bay by taking pain meds after office visit. Discussed the issue of closing car factories in the U.S. and what that means to American consumers. Seriously, would you buy a brand spanking new Chrysler with one of those great deals if you knew that getting parts down the road might be a problem? Something to consider.
  5. Got home. House was hotter than hell. Trying not to use living room A/C because it is dripping water onto brick. Water damage. Yuck. Temperature was 91° F. Tried to sit down in my desk chair. Spilled my Pepsi on the bedroom floor. Shakes ran in from outside soaking wet as he wanted to show me that he had jumped in the pool. Brett was in meltdown over presentation. I considered turning around and walking back out of the house.
  6. The glass frame that I bought for Eamonn’s picture for his room was too big. Needed to do something creative. Went into Photoshop to create a lovely background to paste onto the piece of white chip board that came with the frame. Found the perfect paper in my assorted collection of decorative papers. Played around for about half an hour until I got the sizing right. Gave it to Eamonn. Actually got a “Thanks, Mom” for the effort. Yay for me. Sweating like a pig.
  7. Checked e-mail to see if there was anything from Brett’s history teacher. No. But lots of updates from Goodreads. Always fun, when I find the time. Meanwhile, Brett is pouring over index cards I printed out for him and claiming that he does not have the right stuff. What’s the right stuff, I ask, trying very hard not to lose my temper because I’m tired and perspiring like a worker on a chain gang. I don’t know. That answer won’t help me. Moving right along.
  8. Suggest to Eamonn on his way out the door that it would be nice if he calls his grandmothers to ask them personally to attend his graduation. Mumbled answer. No idea what he said.
  9. Towel on floor that is sopping up the Pepsi is shifted slightly to the right to clean up wet paw prints from Shakes coming into the house straight from pool and bypassing towel.
  10. Some kind of strange little flying beasties, not big enough to be flies, not small enough to be gnats, have taken up residence in the bedroom. It is now cooler outside of the house than inside the house. So glad I bothered to put on makeup today. Resenble the Joker.
  11. Still haven’t gotten around to taking more pain medication for the 16, count them 16 shots that I got today. Going to get right on that.
  12. Eamonn has two days of school left. Hooray? Brett still has more days left. Any days left are too many for  me.
  13. Haven’t gotten around to working on Socratic method of analyzing Macbeth, and don’t really see how that’s going to work since the whole basis of the Socratic method is question and analysis . . . whatever
  14. Would kill for a big chocolate milkshake. From Sonic. Now.
  15. Time to depart to watch Enemy at the Gates so that Brett can bone up on his Russian accent. Of the movie choices that include Russian accents, this was his choice. Pretty good choice, too. Haven’t seen this movie in a while, and if I remember correctly, it’s a good one. Seems to me at the time that it first came out, Eamonn wanted to be a sniper. Obviously, that phase has long past.
  16. Tillie is in the living room having a conversation with Brett about her ball. How do I know this? What a silly question.
  17. I think that I’ll paint my fingernails while I watch the movie. Maybe I’ll have a glass of wine instead of a milkshake.
  18. I would kill for something chocolate, preferably by Lindor, preferably in the form of Lindor balls.
  19. Did I mention that I saw some towels that would be so beautiful in the bathroom, that is, as long as you just looked at the towels and not the bathroom.
  20. I would dearly love to be able to shop for clothes that fit. Someday. Maybe this year. That would be nice. Makes me salivate to think about it, that and chocolate, and the new towels.

Oh well. Quick update. My life as it is. Can you stand the level of excitement?

More later. Peace.

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“Friendship is a sheltering tree” ~ Samuel Coleridge

dawn-by-janson-jones1

“Dawn” by Janson Jones (Floridana Alaskiana)*

“A friend is one to whom one can pour out all the contents of one’s heart, chaff and grain together, knowing that the gentlest of hands will take and sift it, keeping what is worth keeping . . .”

“. . . and, with the breath of kindness, blow the rest away.” ~ Arabian Proverb

gulf-fritilary-by-janson-jones
Gulf Fritilary by Janson Jones

My second semester of teaching at ODU was one of the hardest. Caitlin had died the previous November, and I had managed to finish the Fall semester with my two classes. But going into Spring semester was an endurance test.

I was just trying to survive the fact that my entire life had been turned upside down. I frequently burst into tears, and was more depressed than I ever had been or have been since. The one good thing about that semester was the entrance of a new person into my life: Mari LoNano.

Mari’s (pronounced like Mary) office was right next to mine. We had talked briefly during the Fall term, and then more after Caitlin died, but our friendship really bloomed during the Spring (no pun intended). We began to eat lunch together and to have long conversations about life, death, and survival. By that summer, we had become inseparable, and by the fall semester, when Marty, Mari’s former office mate, moved up in the hierarchy and was given an office to herself, Mari and I became office mates.

It had been a long time since I had had friendship with another woman on a daily basis, and it was something that I really cherished. In fact, I’m not sure that I would have survived that first year after Caitlin if not for Mari.

“Sometimes our light goes out but is blown into flame by another human being. Each of us owes deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this light.” ~ Albert Schweitzer

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Key West Sunset by Janson Jones

I realized in those first painful months that I was but a shell of my former self. I wasn’t sure about anything, least of all life and my own existence. Mari offered me comfort in so many ways, but probably the most meaningful way in which she became an important part in my life was through our long conversations. Mari told me about the death of her mother years before. It was obviously still very painful for her.

Like me, Mari carried around an immense amount of survivor’s guilt. After caring for her mother during her illness, Mari had not been with her when she died. I could tell that this fact bothered her tremendously. It colored all of her relationships.

We were two lost souls, and we found each other. I have no doubts that fate brought us together.

“Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them to become what they are capable of being.” ~ Goethe

great-blue-heron
Great Blue Heron by Janson Jones

Another important aspect of our friendship was that we were both aspiring poets. Mari had more experience in the craft than I did. At the time, I was still writing mostly from my gut, paying little attention to the actual craft of poetry. We shared our poems, and from her I learned more about line breaks and rhythm than I had ever learned in my undergraduate workshops.

She was also responsible for broadening my horizons into contemporary poets. From her I learned about Bruce Weigl, Christopher Buckley, Molly Peacock, Kate Daniels, and countless other wonderful poets. It was the opening of an important door for me: Writers become better by reading the works of those they admire.

Most of my poetry dealt with grief, while Mari wrote about a wide range of topics: her sister’s horse, her mother, her grandfather, her dogs, nature. I was amazed by her ability to bring to life images and to capture feelings.

We tried to inspire each other into writing more, and we talked about going to poetry retreats some day—something that unfortunately, we never managed to do.

“No love, no friendship, can cross the path of our destiny without leaving some mark on it forever.” ~ Francois Mocuriac

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Bahia Honda State Park by Janson Jones

We found that another thing that we had in common was that both of our husbands had attended Virginia Tech in the forestry and wildlife program. Ironically, neither of our husbands were working in their fields.

Mari’s husband was working for UPS, and mine was working for the medical school as a radiation safety officer. Luckily for us, Buddy and Paul hit it off, and we started to do things together as couples; going to dinner along with Marty and Jack was always a nice evening out. And the four of us would try new restaurants in the area. Those dinners were great fun.

But mostly, it was Mari and me together. One of our favorite things to do was to eat at the cafeteria near the mall where they had those great rolls and then go shopping. Boy did we shop. For about four straight years, we went shopping at least once a week. Unfortunately, my shopping addiction was my way of dealing with my grief, not a very healthy coping mechanism, especially because of the debt that I incurred.

Mari shopped for a lot of reasons: she loved fashion; she had the money to buy pretty much what she wanted, and I believe that shopping also filled a void for her as well. Regardless, we had some great times finding bargains at T.J. Maxx and Marshalls, two of our favorite stores.

“The worst solitude is to be destitute of sincere friendship.” ~ Sir Francis Bacon

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Snowy Egret by Janson Jones

I ended up at The Chrysler Museum after doing some freelance work, and Mari got a job at a very prominent private school. I have to admit that even though I loved my job at the museum, I was envious of her new teaching position. Our new jobs caused us to see each other less frequently, and then, suddenly, abruptly, our friendship ended.

Mari was going through a very turbulent time in her life, and I was trying to be supportive, but it seems that something came between us. I spent months trying to get Mari to explain to me what had gone wrong, but I never really got an explanation. Finally, hurt and frustrated, I stopped trying.

One of the last times that I saw her before she moved out of the area was purely by accident. We ran into each other at the post office. By that time, she had divorced Buddy, and I was separated from Paul. Our lives were still moving on parallel paths, but they were not intersecting as they once had.

I truly grieved the loss of my friendship with Mari. At first I didn’t realize that I was grieving. It took my therapist pointing it out to me before I acknowledged the obvious. Mari’s exit from my life was a significant loss, so important and integral had she been for years.

“Hold a true friend with both your hands.” ~ Nigerian Proverb

Great Eggfly by Janson Jones
Great Eggfly by Janson Jones

I thought about Mari a great deal over the years. Finally, in 2005 when I was working for the realty company, I did a Google search to try to locate Mari. I found out where she was working, and I e-mailed her and included a poem that I had written about her. It was called “Your Mother’s Pink Sweater.” I had written it in response to a poem that she had written about her mother that I never forgot, “Flying Into the Sun.” The poem was about her mother, and it mentioned a pink sweater that her mother asked for when she was dying.

I was surprised but incredibly happy when Mari wrote back to me. It was as if the years and distance between us had never happened. We started writing and calling each other, and we are still in touch today. We’ve never had the long talk about what went wrong. We’ve been saving it for the day when we live near each other again and can float around in the pool, sipping iced tea together. I’m content with that.

“For believe me, in this world which is ever slipping from under our feet, it is the prerogative of friendship to grow old with one’s friends.” ~ Arthur S. Hardy  

adirondack-chairs-by-lita-liwag
Adirondack Chairs (detail) by L. Liwag

I’m glad that I finally decided to find her. I had been talking about it for years, and Corey kept urging me to do something about it. I suppose I waited because I was terribly afraid of being rejected again, and I just wasn’t sure that I could handle that. Luckily, that is not how things turned out, and I got my best friend back.

When Mari and I were writing together, we used to talk about growing old together, how we would get a house by the sea and two Adirondack chairs. And then we would spend our days growing flowers, watching birds, and reading. It was a wonderful fantasy. I don’t know that our plans will ever come to fruition, but if I had to choose one friend to grow old with together, it would be Mari.

More later. Peace.

*Most of the images in this post are from Janson Jones’s blog, Floridana Alaskiana. I know that Mari loves beautiful photography and nature and would appreciate the beauty of these pictures. To see more of this incredible photography, please visit http://floridana.typepad.com/weblog/.

                                                                                                                         
 

 

Your Mother’s Pink Sweater

 

I have it, you know,

your mother’s pink sweater,

the one she wore

when she ran headlong

into the ocean. I claim it.

 

I stole it from you

when you were distracted

by the boy’s brown skin.

I placed it in a box, beneath unsent words

and misdirected sorrow.

No longer the color of spring peonies.

you would be much pressed

to avouch its heritage.

Stained by too many tears,

(yours, mine),

It little resembles the soft, pink yarn

of youthful memory. Nor do we.

 

Who holds your hands now

when you step into the night?

Do your thoughts fly south

even momentarily?

 

I have your mother’s pink sweater.

Do not ask me to return it.

I have woven its threads into my tapestry.

It cannot be separated without unmaking.

Did you think that I would leave it

untouched for eight years?

 

January 28, 2005