remember this

I had lunch with friends this Thursday. And I laughed. Big laughs, the kind that roll out of your chest and interrupt the story you’re trying to tell everyone at the table. 

I went to a faculty function last night and met two people who graduated from my alma mater. It was such fun to sit there and reminisce. It’s easy to forget how much I love that place. 

I went out with a friend last night after the faculty thing. And we had numerous drinks. Because we felt like it. And we laughed because it was a nice night and we were having fun and we were simply enjoying ourselves. 

I went to a football game with some girlfriends today. I haven’t done that in years but Rockford was able to get us tickets so we decided to go. It was a gorgeous day, we were able to spread out on the bleachers since it wasn’t a big game, we had our soda and popcorn, we came away in different shades of pink. And it was a really nice afternoon. 

I spent the evening with Rockford and his kids. His youngest was particularly entertaining this evening, wanting to tell me all about school and his latest game and his favorite cartoons. Rockford didn’t have much to do with me tonight; we didn’t really have a chance to talk until after we’d played a game with the kids and watched a movie while sitting on opposite ends of the room and then he could barely stay awake, he was so tired. But I got his kid to laugh when I showed him a clip of Charlie Chaplin and teased him during the game and joked that he should be nice to me since I was leaving soon. And both kids told me good night when they headed to bed. 

Those are the things I want to remember. Not that my friend calling to tell me about her engagement today makes me feel so incredibly lonely. Not that I’m just this side of scared to pieces that I’m moving across the world in 22 days for nine months. Not that the man I’ve dated for 11 months will barely notice I’m gone when I leave. Not that no one really needs me in their life, even though they value my friendship and enjoy my company. Not that somehow I’m 44 and still not sure how to be an adult. 

I don’t want to remember those things. I want to push past those and hold on to the laughter and the silliness and the fun and the smiles. I need more of that, I think. 

life as almost usual

I may not really be enduring the usual start-of-the-semester-adjustment as everyone else, given that I’m not teaching and I’m leaving the country in a few weeks, but I do feel the need to give myself some sense of normality while I’m still here.  This is driven, in part, I’m sure, by an effort to distract myself from the current awfulness (which I can report is slightly lessened by the success of my mother’s surgery yesterday and her relative progress today).

Just going to campus this morning – to check my mailbox, drop off some forms, return a book to the library, buy a parking pass – was a step in the right direction.  My office is still a disaster area, since I didn’t feel like staying to organize it, but I’ll be on campus relatively often from here on out, given the number of meetings on my calendar.

I went to the local cafe after that, as was my usual practice months ago on the days I wanted to get out of the house to work.  One of my friends was there, so we had lunch and caught up before she left, then I sat and worked by a sunny window for the rest of the afternoon. One of the benefits of the cafe is its proximity to the gym, which I have joined again for the little time I’m here.  I may not enjoy exercising, still, but I know I’m better for it, so I managed half an hour on the treadmill before taking a very quick shower and joining the group for our regular Monday meal.

My evening was quiet.  I sat on the sofa with my computer, working through various tasks (while eating a bag of M&Ms). I did some reading on my soon-to-be home country after that (while my facial mask dried).  I do that sort of beautifying very, very rarely – who has time? – but I found the bottle in my efforts to clean out the random unguents, lotions and potions  in my bathroom.  Why not?  Then, wonder of wonders, I did a half hour of yoga in my living room.  I can’t remember the last time I bothered but it seemed like a good idea this evening.

Now, I’m going to bed.  I’m taking a book with me, of course, but I don’t intend to stay up much longer.  I’m tired.  It’s been a full day.  And I have lots of full days in front of me as the clock ticks down to my departure.  I won’t claim I’ve established any sort of routine today but I do think I’m starting to work out how to gain a semblance of peace with my own company.  I’m going to be spending a lot of time with me in the coming year.

because: life

I had a moment yesterday, driving back to PRU City from my evening/morning with Rockford, when I thought maybe my life was righting itself.  The sun was shining.  I’d been pleasantly surprised by a guy I like.  I felt like I was actually coming home rather than driving “home” from my time in Home State. I’d absorbed the despair of Favorite Aunt’s situation, even if the sadness was still well in evidence.  I could concentrate now on leaving the country and begin to anticipate the start of the adventure.

Because: life.

When my mother fell this morning, she broke her hip, which meant a partial hip replacement.  Such a generic happening for older people, isn’t it.  She had very good care from the EMTs and the ER and the surgeon, though. Once my dad agreed to tell the extended family (sigh), her sisters made their way to the hospital; my sister was there all day and plans to spend the night.  She says Mom is doing very well now and seems much more like “herself” now that she’s through surgery and not in any pain.

I didn’t even try to be stoic today.  I told Cool Friend right away; she called; I cried – and then she went to the hospital and spent a few hours with my family before Mom’s surgery (she even took my sister a birthday card).  I went over to a girlfriend’s once I calmed down, cried on her sofa and got a great deal of understanding and sympathy.  When I let Rockford know, he was very concerned, then asked what he could do; I said distraction, so I had dinner and a movie at his place this evening with him and the kids.

My breaking point is when people touch me.  So, I don’t let them.  When bad things happen – truly bad things – I can handle people’s sympathy but not their comfort. I feel like I’m going to shatter if they take my hand or give me a hug.  I can remember telling people not to touch me when they reach out to comfort me – when I told them about my divorce, when I told them about my cancer, when my sister told me about Favorite Aunt – and it seems so cruel in that moment but I simply cannot maintain any semblance of sanity if they do.

Once I break, however, I can handle it.  After sobbing in my house for a few hours, and then sobbing at my friend’s, I didn’t flinch when she came over and hugged me.  She’s not an excessively demonstrative person but she held on and let me cry. By the time I got to Rockford’s, I was too worn out for tears.  After the kids were in bed, though, I said I just needed his arm around me, so we curled up on the sofa and he held me while we talked. No tears, no despair, just some solace in hearing his heart beat in my ear with his arm wrapped around my waist. He’s not someone who can sit still very long but he managed it until I needed to leave.

Tomorrow will be a normal day.  My sister will keep me updated as they get Mom’s therapy started and figure out next steps.  I have to go to campus – finally – and take care of a few things, then I’ll spend some quality time on the computer.  I need to go to the gym.  I’ll likely have dinner with my girlfriends, as we resume our standing Monday meal. And then I’ll come home and distract myself somehow until it’s time for bed.

Because: life.

the strangeness of the human heart

We use the term heartache as a metaphor but I wonder.  I feel physical pain when my heart is involved.  And that pain is probably why I continue to build the walls I do.

It still hurts to think of what my aunt is facing in the coming months but I’m slowly reaching the numb place behind the walls.  I can think about her without crying; I can almost talk about her without tearing up.  We don’t know exactly what she’s facing, obviously; the many test results will come in next week and she’ll likely start treatment soon thereafter – but even that information doesn’t truly tell us what is to come. Ultimately, yes, I know the outcome.  She does, too.  But how we get there, and when, isn’t in evidence just yet.

So, as much as it’s out of character for me, I’m going to try very hard to concentrate on the here and now.  She’s still here; I have her now; and we’ll navigate the future as we get there.  How my heart will manage, I don’t yet know.

******

I’m back in PRU City today, and regularly scheduled life has recommenced.  The suitcases are unpacked; the clothes are in the laundry room.  I’ve responded to a few emails.  I’ve had dinner with my girlfriends. Tomorrow, I’ll be up at a decent hour to continue working through the lengthy list of things I need to do as I both live here and prepare to leave here.

I was actually back yesterday, in theory, but I met up with Rockford in a nearby city instead of coming straight home.  He was there for a conference and we decided to extend his stay an extra night so we could have some time together in a place we like.

It didn’t quite work out as planned, since I ended up getting there later than expected. Since it was so late, we stayed close to the hotel for dinner and drinks, rather than going farther afield to explore a section of town we really like.  Dinner was fine – nothing that special – but the bar afterward was nice, and the rest of the evening was definitely memorable.  I don’t know if he really missed me, or if we benefitted from a change of venue, or if he had an epiphany but it was a very nice get-away.

I do wonder if the drunk guy at the bar played a role in all this.  The place was crowded so we ended up at the bar; there was only one open seat, so Rockford gave it to me and stood to the side.  It was rather evident the gentleman on my other side had been imbibing for quite some time but he was pleasant enough, as well as very talkative, so our time together passed in a relatively enjoyable manner – in part because the guy loved me.  Rockford kept laughing at his heavy-handed compliments and whispering into my ear, “You sure made an impression on this guy!”

In vino veritas, perhaps, though. During the twists and turns of conversation, I watched as Rockford got that tiny bit possessive: stood a bit closer, put his hand on the back of chair, leaned against me. I listened to him as he agreed with the guy that I was very pretty and we did make a good-looking couple and he wasn’t the first person to mention that.  I felt his eyes on me as we sat and talked; I heard him stand up for me when the guy said something potentially rude; I saw him offer a knowing little smile when I made a few snarky comments. We really felt like a couple last night, and I could tell he was happy to have me beside him.  Later that night, when he pulled me against him while he slept, I felt more at peace with him than I have in a long time.

I don’t need a lecture on how we aren’t suited or why it’s better to make a clean break when I leave or how he isn’t the right guy for me or why we’d never work as a couple.  I can answer all those claims for you and make a pretty convincing case that they’re all true.

That’s not how the heart works, though. I like this man, very much.  Despite and because. He confuses me and frustrates me and exasperates me; he isn’t the most sophisticated or cosmopolitan; he doesn’t listen as much as he should or respond as well as he could; he’s completely wrong-headed in many of his political and societal convictions.  Yet.  He still manages to make me happy; he manages to make me laugh; he manages to make me step away from work and just enjoy being; he manages to make me think.  The interests that we share are ones that move me, and it means a lot to share my enthusiasm for history and music with someone equally enthralled.  And when he puts his arm around me, all the noise in my head stops.  Whether we’re sitting in a bar or stretched out on the sofa or eating dinner with friends or falling asleep at the end of the day, the noise stops when I feel his arm coil around me and pull me close.

I don’t need anyone to tell me I’m too often a fool with a very poor track record with relationships.  I don’t need a diagnosis of my faults and foibles or a list of my flaws and frailties.  I can tell myself all of those things, likely more accurately than anyone on the outside looking in.  The difficulty is the strangeness of the human heart.  It rarely manages to do what we expect of it.

it just never f* stops

I’m sitting in my bedroom at Cool Friend’s house, having done a little work after a full day with various family members.

I don’t have the bandwidth to write anything particularly deep this evening.

Over the past few days, I’ve been able to spend time with friends from high school and girlfriends from college.  I had an afternoon with Adorable Nephew and Newest Niece. Cool Friend and I have had some time in the evenings to catch up, as well as her one day off work.  I took my mom to have her hair all fixed up; I went shopping with my sister and Niece #1; I got a tour of Niece #2’s new house.  We had a family dinner tonight – all the aunts and uncles on both sides of the family as well as the immediate family – to celebrate a birthday, see my niece who is visiting from far away and wish me well as I get ready to move far away.

And this has all been overshadowed by the news that my favorite aunt has cancer. Again.

I won’t get into how this news was delivered to me.  To say “not well” would be quite the understatement but it’s done, which just leaves me with the fact of Favorite Aunt having cancer. Again.  She was diagnosed with breast cancer almost a dozen years ago; she beat it; and now a bone scan has revealed tumors.

I have felt for weeks now that something was horribly wrong, like bad news was simply waiting in the wings to reveal itself.  When I got a questionable test result recently, it seemed the bad news had arrived; I could barely breathe, thinking that I could be facing cancer again.  But, no, it’s not me: it’s FA.  And I stopped breathing with that news: time held for a split second, the world wobbled, and only me clinging to the steering wheel kept me from falling apart (because my sister thought driving from A to B was a good time to tell me this).

I’ve spent some time with FA, as I always do, and we’ve talked – about lots of things, not just this horrible news. But the realization that she’s starting the fight all over again makes it difficult to smile and talk about relationships and grandchildren and travel.

You never lose the terror that the cancer will come back.  You don’t think about it, exactly, but it’s always resting in the back of your brain, rumbling about every now and then before quieting down again.  FA is depressed and upset and frightened, and I am all of those things for her, as well as exceptionally angry at this bitch of a universe that wants to take yet another person I love away from me in an awful way.

So, yes, I had a pretty good visit to Home State this time.  I had a chance to say my farewells to family and friends before I leave on my grand adventure.  But I am absolutely terrified that I’ve said a final farewell to one of the most important people in my life.

it does not get easier 

Despite my natural pessimism, I still hold that smidgen of hope that “this time” the trip to Home State will be different. 

It isn’t. It might even be worse. For assorted reasons. 

Despite my internal struggle at leaving the country, given everything going on right now, it’s made easier by the observation that I’m not certain anyone will notice that I’m gone.