“The turning point in the process of growing up is when you discover the core of strength within you that survives all hurt.” ~ Max Lerner

Near Trail of Blue Ice Portage Valley AK by JJ

Near Trail of Blue Ice, Portage, Alaska by Janson Jones

 

“Adversity is like a strong wind. It tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that we see ourselves as we really are.” ~ Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.” ~ Cicero 

42-16057799I’ve been reading like a mad woman for the past few days: The Alchemist(Paul Coelho), The Hours (Michael Cunningham), an older one by Jonathan Kellerman, The Butcher’s Theater, and a very early one from James Lee Burke, Black Cherry Blues. (I plan to write some reviews soon, here’s hoping.)

Why so much reading? The alternative is to sit down at this computer and produce something. Each night, I approach my desk as if it were an anathema to me: my body feels alien in the curves of my chair; my screen looms in front of me—tasking me like the white whale. I fear that to sit in my chair for any amount of time might somehow completely drain my body of the little energy I have left. So I walk back to the bed, pick up a book off the stack, or turn on the television.

I have regressed to my amoebic state: I am being whipped about in my single-cell form, a body in motion not of its own volition. I have to tell you that this is a very odd position in which to find myself: being propelled along by forces beyond my control and not having the least idea as to how to escape this eddying current without smashing myself against the rocks.

“The gem cannot be polished without friction nor man perfected without trials” ~ Chinese Proverb

I suppose an update is in order. The current state of affairs is that the job that Corey had hoped would still be open with Vane Brothers is, of Merchant Mariner Documentcourse, no longer available because it took so long to get his Coast Guard certifications. He is making telephone calls, sending out e-mails, doing everything he can, but our hopes that with the arrival of the certified documents from the Coast Guard would come a job seem to be all for naught.

He is so beside himself with feelings of self-doubt that it just wounds me to my core. Having gone through a period of unemployment myself, I know all too well how it affects the psyche, chips away at your sense of self-worth, tears at the very fabric of your soul.

Corey is a wonderful, caring person. He does not deserve this continued assault on his self-esteem. And I am powerless to do anything about it. In fact, it seems that the more that I try, the harder it is for him. I don’t mean in the sense of negating his feelings, but rather, by trying to be there for him, it seems to heighten the issues.

It’s as if my presence serves as a constant reminder of all of the things that are going wrong. It’s no one’s fault. That’s just how it is. His failure at finding a job in his field in this economy is moot. What stands out is the failure itself, regardless of the fact that it is not his. I fear that my words of encouragement sound hollow to him. At times, I let them die on my tongue like sand baked in the sun.

“In the part of this universe that we know there is great injustice, and often the good suffer, and often the wicked prosper, and one hardly knows which of those is the more annoying.” ~ Bertrand Russell 

abandoned steel factoryI am reminded of the many closings of mill towns across America, the ways in which once thriving communities were left as mere shells of their former days of productivity. With one decision somewhere in a boardroom in another city far, far away, entire towns were dealt death blows, the only reminder of their once prosperous slice of the American pie remaining in abandoned rusting factories, blights on the landscape.

As could be predicted, in many of those communities with nothing left, alcoholism and drug addiction statistics rose. Of those citizens who decided to stay, the rate of unemployment skyrocketed as did the incidences of spousal abuse.

We are a careless society. We throw away entire communities and never look back. And then when the need for assistance increases, we have obtuse politicians making comments about hunger being a great motivator. It sickens and frightens me simultaneously: Everything can disappear in a moment.

“The central struggle of parenthood is to let our hopes for our children outweigh our fears.” ~ Ellen Goodman

And so we are now left with accepting help from Corey’s parents to fix the disaster of the dead Trooper. The engine cannot be rebuilt. It would cost more to do so than the Trooper is currently worth. So Izzie is off to an Ohio junkyard. I try not to think about it.

Ohio JunkyardSo Corey’s mom and dad are stepping in with a vehicle. It is a life-saver and an anchor. While their intentions are incredibly generous—to help us out of this fix, Corey is finding it very hard to reconcile himself to the idea of accepting support in this way at this point in his life. It makes him feel as if he is a child again, dependent upon his parents to fix things.

After previous years of doing well with our combined incomes, being brought back to square one is akin to starting all over again.

I understand Corey’s frustrations. I felt exactly the same way when my father stepped in and bought the big ugly Buick after my Oldsmobile was totaled. Here I was, a grown woman with children, a job, obligations. But I was in a bind, and my father knew it. He did what came second nature to him. He stepped in and bought a car for me.

I never asked. I never would have been able to ask. It wasn’t a matter of pride, more a matter of feeling overwhelming failure at being at a point in my life in which I should have had the resources to take care of my problems myself without my father stepping in to save me once again.

“There are two lasting bequests we can give our children.  One is roots.  The other is wings.” ~ Hodding Carter, Jr. 

I have often thought about the parent-child cycle: Exactly when does it stop? Does it ever stop? Do we ever stop being our parents’ children? Do we ever stop looking to them, needing them?

Doubtful. We grow up looking to our parents for love, support, help. If we are lucky—and indeed, not everyone is—We get those things from our parents, and so much more. We get our lessons about caring for those who have less than we do. We see our parents doing the right things day after day, and we want to emulate that. We watch carefully, silently, during those times in which we are caught off guard at the echoes of sadness in their voices, and we feel completely unprepared the first time we see our parents cry.

weeping angel with filterWe vow that we will never be the cause of their pain, and then thoughtlessly, we become the very source of their anguish. We promise to do better, and our promises are filled with that toss-of-the-hat carelessness that we do not recognize until years later.

And then later, if and when we become parents ourselves, we realize exactly how fraught with sorrow and pain the prospect of raising a child can be. We vow to do better than our parents, to listen more, to be more available, to be more patient. But things never really work out that way.

At times, we become careless with our love for our children, and they know it, and they store this little nugget away and vow never to be that way with their own children when they have them.

But if we are very lucky, we also remember to cherish those sweet, sweet moments that come around only once in a while: taking an afternoon nap in the hammock in the spring sun with Alexis, barely moving so as not to disturb her slumber; singing “Unchained Melody” to Eamonn in the middle of the night when he could not sleep because of his stomachaches, sitting in the Bentwood rocker, the two of us completely immersed in each other; sitting in the backyard with Brett, in companionable silence, reading books and enjoying the quiet days of spring.

“We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey.” ~ Kenji Miyazawa

Portage Valley Blue Ice by Janson Jones
Portage Valley Blue Ice by Janson Jones

Corey and I are finding our way back as best we can. It’s a tricky path, filled with branches just waiting to trip us when we least expect it. He worries that when I look at him I see a man who has failed, that I am filled with anger and impatience. I worry that when he looks at me he sees a woman who is past her prime, who no longer has anything to contribute.

Of course, we are both wrong. When I look at Corey, I see the man who has brought great joy to my life, who has gone through hell and back and still stands by my side. I hope that when he looks at me he recognizes the force of the love that I carry in my heart for him, that it is inviolable, immense, and without judgment.

We are finding our way back slowly, but this much I know: Whatever is left out there for us to conquer, to overcome, we will do it just as we have done everything else: together.

I am not some starry-eyed hopeless romantic that believes that love conquers all. I am a hopeful romantic who understands that love is but one part, and that if the loving is to be successful, it must be based on mutual respect, trust, and an unrelenting belief in the person who is your partner in this life. We are just beginning this arduous task of working our way back slowly, but this much I know: Whatever is left out there for us to conquer, to overcome, we will do it just as we have done everything else: together.

More later. Peace.

 

 

Why make new friends? Keep the old . . .

It’s funny, but in a posting just a few days ago, I was talking about signs, and then today my “Daily OM,” which is supposed to be a page with words of wisdom for the day, was all about how we should react when someone just does not like us for whatever reason, because as people, especially women, our natural reaction is to expect everyone to like us first, and then to adjust to the fact that someone may not like us, even though we may have never wronged this individual. Interestingly enough, both of my husbands have made the same observation about my relationships or non-relationships with other women: other women either hate me or love me. There is no grey area with them, and usually this is an automatic response. I truly have no idea why this happens. I have observed myself to see why this might happen, but so far, I have been unable to come up with an answer.

I have learned a few things along the way, though. I do attract one certain type of woman immediately: the woman who wants to be my instant friend, do everything for me, be my helper, buddy. And almost every single time I am naive enough to trust this person immediately, be drawn in. For some reason, my usually acute radar does not work with this sociopath, and every single time, this person ends up causing me a world of pain and sorrow, almost always in the workplace. Too bad for me, though, I share so much of my personal self that this person then has a foothold in my personal life, too. I remember only one time in which the boundaries didn’t cross, and that was because it was during grad school (the first time), and I met her personally, so there was no crossover into work.

The pattern has been the same every time: lots and lots of shared experiences–it’s almost like we’re sisters (more on that later), a lot of time spent together–shopping, lunches, a lot of proprietary time–telephone calls, a lot of political maneuvering, but not so obvious at first. And then there comes a time I’ll call “The Judas Moment” when one of two things happens: 1) I am suddenly persona non grata with this person, and I do not quite know what happened or 2) I have fallen from grace at work, and I have no idea why. More often than not, it’s a combination, but once in a blue moon, I will have the good sense to cut off the relationship on my own before this moment befalls me.

I have a feeling that I am so vulnerable to this personality type because I have no sisters, so I have never learned the defenses that go along with protecting myself from female territorial behavior. No, I’m being serious here. Imagine that you have a female lion that has never been indoctrinated into the behaviors of the pride as a young cub, and then when she grows up, you throw her into the pride with only her claws and say, “good luck. You have a really nice coat.” Well, hey, I’m an only child. I got along better with my dad. My best buds in high school were guys. You tell me where I’m going to get this subtle indoctrination from? These claw-sharpening skills? I know straight-forward, in your face, and that revenge is a dish best served cold. These are my fighting skills. That would be why the term bitch served me well when I was younger, but you also always knew where you stood with me. I was a better manager for it because if I thought that you were doing something wrong, I told you so that you could fix it. Would it have been better if I were your ‘friend’ and then fired you a week later?

To this day, there remains one person in one particular job who I am certain did everything that she could to get me fired, but luckily she couldn’t for reasons I won’t go into. She did, however, leave me feeling emotionally battered and bruised, and there remains another job that I left on my own but not before I’m certain my reputation had been tainted irreparably by my sanity-questioned co-worker.

But I have read that in life, the number of true friends that you have throughout your life, if you are lucky, you can count on one hand, two if you are very lucky. And I find that to be true. I know that there are a few people that I let fall out of my life that I really regret losing, and that is my fault. One of them worked at the Museum, and she was truly a wonderful person. I ran into her at the store about five years ago and promised to call her, but I didn’t. I know that she was going to move to Richmond, and I hope that she is happy. I still think of her often and remember her fondly. When I started work there, she bought me flowers, but not just any flowers. She bought me a bird of paradise. I didn’t even know what one was. She said that she wanted to buy me a flower that looked like it matched my personality. I thought that it was one of the most wonderful compliments that anyone had ever paid me. I was lucky to have her in my life for the years that I did.

I do still keep in touch with a few other friends who don’t live around here. I’ve mentioned them in my blogs. They’ve all moved away, but not completely out of my life. It is hard for me to make women friends, simply because I tend to give my trust too early and to the wrong people, and so I am gunshy.
I made a few friends during my recent stint in grad school, but being the commuter, it was hard to get close to most of the people who already lived near the metropolitan area.

And so, for now, I’ll keep up with people electronically. I don’t have to watch what I say. I don’t have to worry about pissing of someone by wearing the wrong thing. I don’t have to play office politics. I can be myself, whatever that is on any given day, whether it’s the poet, the dark angel, or Lola, or the woman who really just wanted to make a new friend. If you are offended, don’t read my posts.