Friday, February 27, 2015

Crossing the line

A terrible workday today, capping off a week of difficult workdays, yet distinguished not so much by my inability to complete all my tasks (I never get everything done) or even my realization that I would have to leave some things unfinished that I've always managed to complete somehow in the past--

But wait. Stop. It's that "somehow" creeping in, when I know precisely how. In the past, week after week, I've sacrificed time and banked it against these Friday deadlines. Not today. Today I needed to leave at 4:30, my scheduled time, and when I saw that it was assumed I would stay late, and when I felt pressured and was subsequently derided for not staying over, something in me finally snapped. Why do I do this? For whose benefit? At little more than ten dollars per hour, the difference in pay is negligible. How did it become so important to me to be the one (the only one) who always arrives on time, who can always be counted on to do more, to constantly interrupt my own work in order to assist others but get negligible help in return? How did I miss the line between hard work and exploitation?

Yet I knew this, too. The corporation that employs me doesn't care about my happiness or well-being; it has no interest in providing me or my coworkers with a living wage.

I'm good at my job. I'm very good at it, I think, and I think my coworkers would agree: I'm dependable, knowledgeable, capable. I take time to help and explain. But here's the thing I keep forgetting: I have been good at every job I've held in my adult life (the sullen teen years should not be counted against anyone). And the only reason I hang onto my current job is that the prospect of searching for, and securing, a new one completely terrifies me.

Okay. Not completely. Not now. When David died, I threw myself into my writing and gardening, choosing not to look for a job and living instead on some insurance money. When Randy died, I threw myself back into work after a week of immobilizing grief and shock. I had no one to go home to now, I remember thinking. But what an awful lie. I have me. When did I let my needs become so minimized? Why did it take me so long to cross the line and say, stop. Stop. This isn't working for me. This isn't who I am or what I want. And even though I'm still frightened by the open-endedness that follows saying No, the sudden yawning space of what-next and how to navigate that (emotionally, financially, logistically), I'd rather set out in fear than grind myself down in service to a soulless corporation.

I'm not quitting my job. I can't afford to, not today. But whatever happens, I am better than this. I deserve better than this.

Saturday, January 10, 2015


Shredding medical records. Setting aside documents that prompt memories--I'd forgotten that--then sweeping them all into two piles, shred and recycle. To be unburdened of memory and its frequent consort, guilt.

Monday, January 05, 2015

The runaround

So there was a letter, dated November 20, indicating a name change of the company administering an insurance policy. So there were the holidays to get through, which is no excuse, I know, because it's an insurance policy when I believed there had been none, but today--today--I finally called immediately after rushing home from work. So there was a policy, but someone named Megan said it had been canceled. I asked when. She said December 1st. I asked why. After a five minute wait, she said it appeared it had been canceled by mistake.

And that it could be reinstated.

And that she could transfer me to the claims department, which she offered to do after I explained that I wanted to file a claim on the policy.

The claims representative, Sally, was very courteous and started the process immediately of sending out forms to me.

My heart rose and sank uncountable times during this conversation. To hope against hope that one might navigate the tide of forms, delays, and red tape that is the insurance industry--to hope that there might be a little money that could help me relocate, if indeed that is what I will need to do this summer--it's almost too much to hope for.

And it should not be such an ordeal. These things should follow as a natural and, indeed, courteous consequence of such traumatic life events. I used to work for an insurance company.

I can hardly breathe for hope that this may bring some small, good outcome.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The best

"We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be."

:: C.S. Lewis

Thursday, December 25, 2014


Up early this morning to lean into the day with some sense of purpose, hopefully to gain a small feeling of accomplishment but mainly to prevent the inertia of wallowing. I started a fresh to-do list, jotting down the immediate with the long-term, the deeper ponderings with more mundane household tasks, in no particular order except as they came to me.

Do laundry. Check. Easy enough, though a two-hour task stretched to four because I kept forgetting about it. I'm still tugged off course by innumerable distractions, not the least of which has been FB, though in my defense, I do try to pop in and back out quickly. Without television, I gave in and reactivated my Netflix account--just one dvd at a time--so if I don't work up the stamina to go out to the movies just yet (I know some of my friends are watching Into the Woods even as I type this, but I just don't want to be the sobbing blubberer that drowns out the dialogue during all the death scenes), at least I can catch up on a few from last year.

Go through his computer files for anything that might help. Check. Lots of pictures deleted (if you're reading this, you know who you are) and some others saved because they're good, and a few others I should delete but haven't yet (if you're reading this, I'd like to know who you are). A copy of his will from 2006, but, alas, I have found no printed (and witnessed) copy. I did find many photos that I would have included in the slide show I put together for Yule. No journal. No letters to me. Not much writing at all. This makes me very sad, because Randy had some wonderful stories (and some harrowing ones about his at-best negligent parents).

Finish emptying the fridge. Check. Out with the yellowed kale and wan scallions in the bottom crisper. Out with the last of the gravy he made for Thanksgiving dinner (do not judge me, bitches; it is hard work to throw away food made by a man whose cooking will be terribly missed). Out with the--what is that?--well, out with it. Make room. Breathe.

Think about making a new will and legal documents. Okay, I'm thinking. I would like to get this out of the way because, well, because my job is stressful beyond belief right now and I spent half of Tuesday at work thinking I might be having a heart attack. Which I didn't. As far as I know. But still, it would suck for my siblings to have to come out to Pennsylvania and try to go through all my stuff with no legal access to my estate. Ha. What a word, estate, conjuring wealth. Because the opposite.

Stop checking Growlr every 15 minutes. Check. Because if anyone wanted to message me, they'd message me, and if anyone wanted anything more, well that's not very likely right now, is it?

Figure out how to cook the pork roast. Okay, I'm not sure I have it figured out, but the damn thing is in the damn crock pot, the potatoes and carrots are nearly tender enough to take out (so they don't go to mush), and though the meat feels nowhere near tender and fork-flaky (if that's a word), I don't think it's supposed to just yet, so points to me for chopping veggies and mincing garlic and searing the meat and figuring out how to cover the rickety, too-small lid with a folded dish towel to keep the steam from completely escaping. Side note on crock pots: You gets what you pays for.

Be kind to anyone who checks in today. Harder than it seems, because some people don't seem to get that Have a great Christmas! is so not the thing to say right now, which means I have to be the better friend, dittoing the sentiment, instead of calling said friends on their insensitivity, which at least in one case has been, for years, a classic pattern of shallow and evading platitudes whenever difficult emotional matters arise in conversation. Said friend has not been dumped because--well, I need to ponder this more deeply, but I think it's because (a) there's history, which means friend knows things about both Randy and me, and could possibly help me sort out some of those events, and (b) I may be a mess, but I know that not everyone is as strong (or tactful, or reliable) as I want/need them to be.

Repot some of the basket plants. Check. Six plants from one gift basket became eight (the palm, which is really a mass of about thirty seedling palms, got teased apart into three smaller clumps). Most are now on R's window sill, where I hope I will remember to water them. The other gift basket will have to wait, because its huge amaryllis, having opened four blossoms, is now set to open more flowers on a second spike. I don't want to mess that up.

Throw out his shoes. Check.

Sort the papers in his room. Check: most into the recycle bin, some into the shredder.

Decide about the press. So much to decide here: do I suspend the press for another year to new submissions while I figure out how and where I will live? Or jump into it, inviting the universe to buoy me along into a regained footing and, hopefully, the kind of growth and recognition I think Seven Kitchen
s deserves? I've made a separate list, a huge list, of items to consider, and all of it needs to be decided by the end of this year. (Yeah, no pressure.)

Write thank you notes. I was saving this for nightfall, which slows me down to a near-standstill. I've managed I think three cards this week and have probably thirty or more to go. I wish I didn't have to go to work tomorrow; a four-day weekend would have been a balm right now. Plus I need to leave the car with my mechanic and can't do that because I've no other way to get to work. Maybe next week somehow. Meanwhile, I'm using an old towel to drape across the opening where my driver's-side window won't close. Keeps the rain mostly out. Cold, cold on the morning drive, though.

Be kind to myself. Working on this. We all have demons. Mine are lately taking the form of various regrets, though I try to dismiss these gently but firmly. What good is looking backward? What's done is so very done. Looking ahead, though, can be terrifying: my new scary mantra, I can do anything, a blade to cut through doubt and my usual fear of the unknown, points keenly at the next moment, and the next after that: Now choose. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Turn, turn

Today we opened the house from 12 - 2 so friends and neighbors could drop by, eat a little something, and remember Randy. I should have done a better job of notifying everyone. As Jarrell famously writes in "Skunk Hour," My mind's not right.

Good to see friends. Hard to embrace some for the first time since they heard the news. Glad I managed to clean and de-clutter the downstairs: though such things are unimportant to me, they mattered to Randy.

I baked my applesauce cake again. S, P and J prepared everything else. The time went quickly. It was good to see neighbors catching up. We dumped coats in my apartment and had food set up on P & J's side of the house--more room--but it was good to duck back home a few times for quieter conversations.

Then it was over, and we four shifted gear to head out and finish the last task: releasing his remains in the forest while the daylight was good.

The snow lay only in patches here and there, which relieved me because I hadn't known what to expect. It's always so much colder in the higher ground. A few slippery spots, a hurried trek through deep woods that seemed at times completely unfamiliar, and then I knew where I was again and we turned off to gather at Randy's tree.

Emptying the urn was harder than I'd expected. It's only been two weeks since he died. When I lost David, just coming up on twenty years ago, I kept his remains for two years before finally letting them go into the garden, as he'd requested. But today is the solstice, and tonight the new moon, and as hard as it was to follow through when the moment finally came, I knew the timing was right and that waiting would serve no good purpose.

His favorite tree. Clumps of moss bright green through the snow. Bright, frigid water flashing in the creek. The silent woods surrounding us. We four friends, honoring his wish to be released in this beautiful, tranquil spot.

And then it was done. I climbed down to the creek and filled the urn with icy water, splashed it on the gray-dusted snow.

And now a part of him becomes the tree.

Back home, the quiet after everything. The feeling that none of this is real, that I've only somehow gone through a wrong door, that it's all a mistake. But such kindnesses from friends and neighbors, their labor to speak words that will matter, tell me it's real, it happened. I somehow hold myself above the current of grief, believing I have to, as if sheer will enacts a kind of levitation. Only in unguarded moments now do I slip, tumble into it, such bright and piercing grief.