I’m not even going to check the date of the last post here. Because what matters, beyond the guilt for not writing anything at all (except Facebook statuses) for month after month?
Right here, right now, I am doing what I should be doing. I am avoiding my phone and the Facebook neck cramp that sometimes comes with too much scrolling, too much input. I am opening my MacBook and heeding some advice I received from a friend and hero…something along the lines of, “Writers write. Period.”
So I have been wrestling with this idea lately. And by lately I mean for like a year or two. Am I even a writer? I don’t write often. I don’t feel like I have ideas, ever. I occasionally have a strong opinion about something, but it floats in casually, and floats out on my next breath. If I get worked up over something, it might be something at work. Today I actually laughed when a disgruntled consumer sent me an e-mail recommending that I “go and suck donkey balls.” My only regret was that I couldn’t reply to his clever suggestion… have to stick to the scripts, you know.
But what makes someone a writer, really? Of course, writing. But maybe believing that it’s possible, too.
When I was in my senior year of high school, I had a weird downward slide and I stopped doing homework in the middle of the marking period. Before that, in my creative writing class, I was earning more than 100% on everything I turned in. After my little slide, my creative writing teacher and I used to actually get into yelling matches in the hallway over the assignments I wasn’t turning in. I didn’t care. I just wrote him off as an ass and completed my little slide, undoing a lot of my GPA in a few months. I limped through community college after that. One day while I was still in college, I ran into my old creative writing teacher on my way into the mall. I was embarrassed; he acted like nothing was wrong and just asked me what I was doing and what my plans were. I informed him that I was going to be a writer. That was my career goal at 19.
He stepped back and gave me an assessing gaze. I bristled, so sure we were about to fight again like we had in high school. Instead, he said something along the lines of, “I think you will. You’ve got the moxie to do it.”
I swear. Those few words haunt me. One time, one person believed that I had what it took to write – to really write. I had a few more encouraging words over time from professors and poets, but none struck me quite like those. Because “moxie” was never a word I would put with myself. I have always just kind of… existed. Floated along.
Today I have been thinking about this. Thinking about moxie. Thinking about how to make a life I want. Thinking about how to get to a place where, when someone tells me to go and suck donkey balls, it’s not because they didn’t like the pre-approved scripted response I sent them, but because they didn’t like something I made with my own two hands.
I didn’t finish my BA right after high school. I earned my AA, then worked shifts for 5 years, then went back to school and polished off my BA with a 4.0.
I didn’t date, ever. I never had a boyfriend. Never once did one of those guys I had a crush on have a crush on me too. Until I met my husband.
The list could go on. Money, accomplishments, some things that I still haven’t done and feel like I should have.
Here’s the thing, though. I feel like, every time I get something good in my life, especially things I feel like I’ve been waiting on for years? I am relieved that I didn’t get it sooner. Blooming late isn’t always about you failing, sometimes it’s about you preparing. If you’re not ready in character and spirit and even in geographic location, the things that come to you might not have anywhere to land. Of they might touch down and then slip away.
And you really want your good things to stick.
So take heart, late bloomers. You’re not failing. You’re preparing. Good job!
So, the MRI results were totally normal. No worries, my head is fine. Strictly by medical standards.
ha. hahaha. Oh man. My head is so not fine.
Not much else going on. Just kicking back in my corner office –er, office corner at home. I always forget how nice I can make it feel if I light a few candles and turn off the lights. It’s very relaxing over here. I’m sure the wine is helping.
I’m trying to get myself writing again, which explains why I’m sitting here writing a whole lot of nothing. I often avoid sitting down to write because I don’t have anything on my mind or I think I don’t have a good way to say what might be on my mind. The problem with that approach is that I never, and I mean never, write. So, I’m not writing much now, but at least words are coming out of my brain and turning into type.
Let’s ignore my massive absence from the blog and dive right in to a story.
I’ve always suffered from headaches that I considered above and beyond the normal amount of headaches. I took so much Extra Strength Tylenol as a teenager that it pretty much does nothing for me now. Aleve? ha, ha, ha. It does nothing for me. Ibuprofen, 600 mg is the minimum dose. Or one Advil Cold and Sinus. Or two Extra Strength Excedrin or two Excedrin Migraine. And, honestly – sometimes those things work and sometimes they don’t.
I always thought these were sinus headaches, mostly because I sneeze and blow my nose way more often than other people. I thought my sinuses were just broken.
I have had a handful of headaches I would call migraines. OK, a large handful. Usually when these happen, it’s like this: first thing in the morning I wake up with a throbbing face, an urge to puke, and a feeling like my eyelids are permanently closed and it’s better that way. Whenever that happened to me, I would take 4 ibuprofen, drink a ton of water, call in to work, and get back under the covers. After a few hours in a dark room, I would wake up feeling OK but weak and shaky – with what I call a headache hangover.
The usual headache is just something that starts sometime during the day, throbs in my forehead until my face feels like it might pop off, and then moves to my neck as well. Sometimes it goes away with drugs and sometimes I have it all day.
Lately, the headaches are intensifying. I am getting them almost daily at this point. Also, the pain is more sharp that the previous headache – like these headaches have teeth, where the previous headaches were just… there.
So, my husband begged me to bring it up with the doc at my next appointment. So I did, and my doctor informed me that I was describing migraines to him, and since I was actually getting one on the spot he gave me a dose of Imitrex, and I was disoriented enough after resting in the exam room for 30 minutes that I didn’t notice he had ordered an MRI for me.
I showed up for the MRI today not sure what to expect. I wasn’t expecting to walk out the back door of the doctor’s office to a mobile MRI trailer. I read a little about the process, so I was expecting it to be loud. I didn’t expect to panic. I am not really claustrophobic. I don’t enjoy tight spaces, but who does? Getting stuck in an elevator isn’t my worst nightmare but it’s on the top 20 list. Not that I have a top 20 list of worst nightmare things. Well, I am definitely terrified of being eaten by a shark or burning alive. But the stuck in an elevator thing ranks significantly below those fears.
So, imagine my surprise! I was absolutely shocked when I had my head locked in and my headphones on and the bench slid me in to the tube and it was rightthere. So close. And I just panicked. I freaked the eff out, as the kids say. I started breathing heavily and I cursed my self from 30 seconds ago who had asked the woman how long this was going to take, and so I knew, it was going to be 15 minutes of me in the tube with my eyes closed on that hard little bench trying in vain to get my breathing under control and STAY STILL. The things I said in my head. “It’s just like being in a tanning bed,” I told myself. Except I never actually went in a tanning bed in my tanning days! I always went in a booth because it was much less like a coffin!
“Can I swallow? What if I don’t swallow because I don’t want to move but then saliva builds up at the back of my throat and I start choking? Will I cough? Will I have the presence of mind to squeeze the squeeze ball? Stop panicking, you’re breathing heavily and that’s going to make you move and you have to STAY STILL. What if I really do have something metal in my body somewhere but I just didn’t know about it? My face is pulling away from my skull, why is my face pulling away from my skull? Stop it, Amy. Stop it. If you were going to die in here you would have died immediately. I have to calm down. Breathe. Breathe. I know, I will think about a song I love. Rosalie McFall. Out on a lonely hillside, dum dum, dum dum dum dum… oh wow this is really loud. I have a headache now. Isn’t it weird that I have to get a freakishly loud test to figure out my headaches? Oh, that part is weird, it sounds kind of like someone is wailing on an electric guitar. Out on…. the lonely hillside, in a cabin…oh, ok, ok, ok. I’m panicking. Breathe. Not too hard, you’ll move. I need to swallow again but I can’t remember what I decided about swallowing. Maybe I will just open my eyes really quick because it can’t be as bad as I remember. No, that’s a dumb idea. It’s probably WORSE that I remember because I shut them immediately and I will just squeeze this ball thing and start flailing and screaming LET ME OUT OF THIS DEATH TUBE. I need to calm down. Out on… the lonely… OK. OK. OK. IS that a fire alarm? Because it’s really loud and wail-y. No, no, ok, that’s just the machine. OK. Out on the lonely hillside, in a cabin-is this messing with my brain because this is one of my favorite songs and I just can’t even make it to the second line. The lady just told me that I moved. I did not move! Oh God, maybe I swallowed. I must have swallowed. They’re going to have to do this whole thing over again. I can’t make it. I can’t do it.”
It turns out that I didn’t actually move, but my BRA STRAPS were interfering. So they had to pull me out, and shove my bra straps down my arms, and then they told me seven more minutes and I wondered if they ever had to put people under for MRIs because I was seriously questioning my ability to last another seven minutes.
When they finally pulled me out, my back was stiff and it took me a few minutes to be able to stand and I was way out of it. And I had a massive, no-good headache.
So obviously I don’t know anything yet – well except that now the next time I need to get an MRI I won’t just bumble casually in there not knowing to expect. I will be able to get myself nice and freaked out about it beforehand. Maybe I will even practice Rosalie McFall, so it’s right there on the tip of my tongue.
I feel like I have been absent. Not just from the blog, but yeah. I have definitely been absent from the blog. And I MISS it. I miss sitting down with a mug of tea and music playing in the background and hammering out a post. I miss talking about the post on Facebook with you all, and occasionally in the comments.
I feel like I have been a more insidious kind of absent. The checked-out, moving in a dream, half-engaged most of the time kind of absent.
It’s the kind of thing that starts as a slow leak… say, with a job you hate, that sucks your life force one day at a time. Then maybe it’s followed by a friend dying. And perhaps, somewhere in the middle, you might have started taking one or more medications that started muting you toward gray. Before you know it, it’s almost 2 years later and you’re flat.
Completely, rims on the asphalt, not going any-damn-where tonight, flat.
It finally hit me last night, the full weight of it. The lack of growth in my life. The trapped feeling that makes me twitchy for change or crave emotional explosions. I cried last night for the first time in quite some time, and I was crying for myself. For my fear, and my exhaustion, and my hopelessness.
I am not this person. I am not afraid. I am not trapped.
But I imagined that I was. Somehow over the past couple of years I stopped monitoring The Dark Voice. You know. We all have this, at least I think we do. It is that voice that says you are not enough. It is the voice that says you don’t want to, nor should you. It’s the voice that says you’re not loved, not wanted, not welcome.
It is the voice that says you can’t.
So for the last year or so, that’s where I have been. Trapped under the weight of can’t. Wait – let me amend that. Trapped under the IMAGINARY weight of can’t. Stranded behind roadblocks, watching traffic move to here, from here, past here, around here. But I’m waiting, because The Dark Voice tricked me into thinking I can’t.
But it’s not real. It’s all imagined. It’s made up. It’s based on thoughts.
I think I can’t do what I want to do, I think I can’t get where I want to be, achieve what I want to be, because I got tired. And I stopped telling The Dark Voice to Go Fuck Itself, which is something I had to learn how to do at a very young age. And so The Dark Voice managed to sneak in and set up its filthy hobo camp in my brain and start running the show.
What drove this home for me was my dog. This morning, he was flopping around on the bed and pouting. Eric said, “Wow, Ace. You have such a tough life. You just wait around for us to play with you and let you outside.” And I said, “Isn’t that funny. He just waits around for humans all day because we have what he needs to be happy in life. But oh my God. We! We already have what we need to do what we need to do! But we’re waiting around like we need someone else to open the door! We don’t need anything! What is wrong with us?”
Yes, my husband is used to me going off on some philosophical rant triggered by a mundane observation. That’s just me.
Anyway. Imagination. It can really mess with you if you’re not actively using it for good.
I found myself kind of cranky and out of it earlier in the day. I was stressed out and mad at something unidentifiable, so I decided to scrawl out a list of everything that was getting under my skin at the moment.
Not two hours later, I received an e-mail form my husband, who was in a similar mood, except had decided to make a list of all the good things he could think of at the moment.
Lesson learned. I decided to try to keep track of what’s going right today.
In no particular order:
I was browsing on archive.org and decided on a whim to listen to a John Mayer concert without looking at the set list. I was actually enjoying the show and then the band started in on a totally rippin’ cover of Tom Petty’s “You Don’t Know How it Feels.” Joy ensued.
The $100 amazon gift card that I had sent to the wrong e-mail address yesterday was able to be returned/refunded to my amazon account, which is what I was trying to do in the first place. Whenever I get Visa or MC giftcards, I turn them into Amazon gift cards so I never have to worry about using up weird amounts on the card.
The blessed City of Corning picked up my recycling for the second time in a ROW. I usually have to call the nice lady at the work order center at noonish every other Wednesday to complain that my recycling is still outside.
This is a 4-day week for me – tomorrow is my “Friday.”
I have a great job.
I have a wonderful husband.
I am in good health, with 100% working parts.
I have a place to live, and am even so hopeful as to be looking at buying a house this year.
I have enough good music to keep my earbuds happy for a long, long time.
I am going on a sewing retreat this weekend with some super-cool quilters.
I actually spoke to a stranger in the elevator this morning, which is a very rare occurrence in these parts.
I title this post that way because I know darn well that Eric and I are lucky, blessed, fortunate beyond measure with the status of our collective employment. We both have jobs, and thankfully, they are relatively well-paying jobs for this area.
But I want to complain. I want to complain because I have been married for three years, and right after I got married, Eric got moved from day shifts to evening shifts with this statement: It’s just short-term, just a few months while we get through this push.
He has been on evenings for over 2 years.
He recently got a new group leader at work and she seemed like she was really going to move some things and get him moved to another shift. He has been working 11 a.m.-7 p.m. this week, but he told me today that it’s not going to stick.
That although he has some seniority, he probably doesn’t have enough seniority to work a day shift.
So, I go back to seeing my husband for 30-60 minutes a day, max, if we both come home for lunch. And saying goodnight on the phone, and going to bed alone in the stupid dark house.
I knew it was too good to be true. We have spent our evenings lately cooking together, cuddled on the couch drinking tea and talking, listening to music… you know, normal married people things that we usually try to cram into one day of the weekend. And don’t get me started on weekends. When he works evenings, we only get half-day weekend days together because of his sleep needs from staying up so late.
I’m just a little upset and frustrated. I hate when things seem like they are finally lining up and then life hands you an “Oh wait, never mind. You don’t get to have this after all.”
I was going to write a long post talking about how amazing 2013 was, how I learned to move through grief and loss of a friend and a job to another life that aligns more with who I am and where I want to go. How I chopped off all my hair and started a business and then got a better job than the one I lost and finally went to Colorado and decided to learn to play the banjo and decided to stop being afraid all the time.
But, instead, I’ll show you my show recap for the year. This includes concerts and festivals. I think I saw Railroad Earth and The Infamous Stringdusters 11 times each this year.
There is no medicine quite like music.
Keller Williams – The Haunt, Ithaca, NY
Railroad Earth – Union Transfer, Philadelphia, PA Cabinet/Hot Buttered Rum – The Haunt, Ithaca, NY
Greensky Bluegrass – Westcott Theater, Syracuse, NY
DelFest – Cumberland, MD Railroad Earth – Chameleon Club, Lancaster, NY Railroad Earth – Ram’s Head Live, Baltimore, MD
Railroad Earth – Red Rocks, Morrison, CO Railroad Earth – Boulder Theater, Boulder, CO Railroad Earth – Belly Up, Aspen, CO
Railroad Earth – Saranac Brewery, Utica, NY Cabinet – Cyber Cafe West, Binghamton, NY
Infamous Stringdusters/Leftover Salmon/Assembly of Dust, Capitol Theater, Port Chester, NY FreshGrass, Mass MoCA, North Adams, MA Railroad Earth – Capitol Theater, Port Chester, NY
The Festy Experience, Roseland, VA
Della Mae – La Tourelle, Ithaca, NY Horn O’Plenty, Sherman Theater, East Stroudsburg, PA
The Infamous Stringdusters – Boulder Theater, Boulder, CO The Infamous Stringdusters – Boulder Theater, Boulder, CO The Infamous Stringdusters – Union Transfer, Philadelphia, PA The Infamous Stringdusters – The National, Richmond, VA The Infamous Stringdusters – The National, Richmond, VA
I’ve been doing just about anything you can imagine to put off writing this post, about this topic. Even as I type, I am still in my workout clothes, there is a strand of lights that has gone dark on the Christmas tree, and my in-laws are coming for Christmas Eve dinner at 4.
Don’t worry, dinner tonight is pizza.
Basically, last year on Christmas Eve, I was in a casino hotel, getting ready to spend the day playing slot machines and maybe sitting by the pool. And just relaxing and trying to enjoy the last bit of 2012, which was just as hard as 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, and 2007. Every year for the past few years, I have sent the year off with animosity and a hearty “good riddance.” 2012 was shaping up to be the same.
On Christmas day, I woke up ready to drive to my parents’ house for Christmas dinner. When I got there, I had a Facebook message from my friend Anthony’s cousin. I knew why she messaged me. Anthony had been in the hospital for several weeks, and when he told me he was back in, he made it clear that he was never returning home. She asked me what I was doing, if I was with family, and I lied across the board because I knew she would only tell me what I knew I was going to hear if she thought she wasn’t ruining a Christmas gathering.
She called me and neither of us spoke a word. Finally, I managed to force a whisper, “I know.”
I did know, because someone had already posted about it on Facebook. I had checked my phone before I left the casino. The thing about losing someone is that even when you’re expecting it, even when you knew it was coming for a long time, when it happens it sucks your stomach to your eyeballs and takes your breath away and every other cliche that you can imagine. Punch in the gut, hits you like a brick, hits you like a train.
Except, it all happens at one time, and all in one half-second you get broken apart.
I spent the drive home listening to Paul Simon’s Graceland album, holding my husband’s hand, and weeping steadily.
What Anthony’s cousin told me was that he died on Christmas Eve, probably while I was playing slots a few hours from him. She told me that he was ready and that he was at peace.
That was a year ago. I think about the kind of guy that Anthony was, the kind of friend that he was, the strength of his moral code, his sense of adventure, his humor, his love of fishing, his love of music, his love of St. Louis sports teams, his loyalty, his memory. Not just the memory of him, but the way he remembered the events in our shared history with meticulous detail.
We walked, Anthony and I. When we reconnected, I knew he had cancer and I knew it was bad. I asked him if I could do anything for him, but literally all he wanted to do was take walks. He liked to get out of the house, get moving. We walked last summer, sometimes 3 or 4 times per week, for a total of 21 times.
We walked in a local park that has a weird little pond, and sometimes people would be fishing in that pond. Anthony said he would never fish there. “What am I gonna catch in there? A dirty diaper?”
One day, we saw a couple of older guys and they had buckets, coolers, multiple poles each. Anthony nodded in their direction from across the park when they came into view and said, “Those guys are really fishin’ it hard.” I don’t know why, but I laughed and laughed at the thought of fishin’ it hard. After a couple of minutes of walking in silence after that, he said, “Someday, a few years from now when I’m not around, you’re going to see a couple of guys sitting around fishing and remember that, fishin’ it hard, and you’re going to remember me again.”