nursing ailments

When my husband was in nursing school I heard it said that when you are a nurse people come to you with all of their health questions.  Around his last semester of school my mother and sister would ask my husband’s opinions on things such as absurd health news they read on social media or diet fads that were preached on blogs.  He would cooley give his opinion, a mix of amateur knowledge and level headed sensibility.  When my nephews got  a boo-boo I would send them to their Uncle and watch as he gave them their prognosis and then send them on their way wearing a cartoon decorated bandaid.  This would only be the beginning of his off hours nursing.

Each semester of nursing school armed my husband with more knowledge, meaning each semester of school I was diagnosed with another ailment.  When complaining of a headache I was quickly assessed for a heart attack.  When my daily stomach ache flared up my mother asked my husband if I could be suffering “leaky gut” to which he declared I was missing three symptoms and therefore fine.  When he learned about labor and delivery and the complications that can occur our decision to not have children was solidified. When he told me that if I got pregnant at this late of an age that I would be considered an “at risk pregnancy” I stopped initiating sex.  By the time graduation rolled around I was regularly suffering from “heart attacks,” and  my husband had moved on to diagnosing our dogs.

With diploma in hand, and the dogs being cleared of epilepsy, our acquaintances were dropping like flies with my husband’s new favorite – borderline personality disorder.  When the heart attack diagnoses had all but ceased I couldn’t help but wonder if I too was now recieiving his secret psychological labels.  When my stomach aches got worse and the shooting pain in my arm lasted more than a day I was branded a hypochondriac, and he turned to ignoring my daily complaints.

In the beginning I was nervous to ask him about my female issues – periods, cramps, infections.  Just saying any of those words out loud made me wonder if I had crossed a marital line that one should never go near.  In my first marriage we never so much as mentioned the word “fart”, and I had preferred it that way.  My second marriage being different on many levels (and my digestive issues worsening) we openly passed gas in front of each other, and I prayed this openness was the key to marital bliss that my first marriage lacked.  So when I asked my first question about my menstrual cycle the awkwardness only lasted but a minute and the hypochondriac in me relaxed knowing this was a union that would last.

Every now and then I have an ailment that even I cannot ball up the nerve to have him assess.  I’ll be standing in the bathroom, naked, post shower, sweating from the anxiety that I may have just found something and hoping that he will accidentally walk in and find me.  He will give me one of his matter-of-fact responses: “you’re fine,” “stop being a hypochondriac,” or “well call your doctor if it’s bothering you.”  But his interruptions are never that timely, and I am left to my own anxiety. Maybe I should push him towards becoming a doctor.

nursing ailments

fish liver as jazz

I am trying to get into this new-to-me genre of music called avant-jazz.  The first song in and it seems one could almost accurately describe it as a child alternately smashing on a piano and a toy drum set.  It sounds like what I imagine a modern small plate meal with ingredients such as octopus, burnt sage, grapefruit, and barley would taste like; mostly muddled texture with odd flavors that somehow collide in an almost appropriate way.  Towards the end of the song I start to recognize what sounds like a few lines from a classic rock song.  It makes my ears perk up in the same way a bite of grapefruit amongst a piece of white fish and risotto would.  For a minute I feel like I might be understanding this genre.  And then song two starts.

I am trying new things, partly because it makes me feel alive against the backdrop of a rural town, but also because I am in my mid thirties, winter dragging on, and in a boring, rural town.  My father would argue the word “boring” to describe this town, saying there is plenty to do and “why would anyone want to live anywhere else!”  And he does have a point.  I feel blessed to live in what the locals refer to as “God’s country”.  But how else can I explain my need to listen to such chaotic music?

Throughout the beginning of winter I was on a strange subconscious adventure to rediscover my roots.  Not the roots of my heritage or family history, but THE roots – my 20’s.  It hadn’t occurred to me that I was going down such a path until one day, as I sat cuddled up in a bright green Surget-shirt, pink pajama pants, twisting my hair into faux dreads, and listening to Dave Matthews Band did I take a good hard look at myself.  As the clouds of Nag Champa lifted it became clear that I had found my old comfort zone.  It suddenly made sense why women in their 50’s were still wearing shag haircuts and wispy bangs.  Why budge from the days of your youth when you can forever stay surrounded  by what makes you feel young?

As winter is winding down, the days getting longer and sunnier, the snow melting to expose muddy grass and moldy dog turds I realize that staying in one spot, no matter how familiar it feels, is not my style.   So I forgo the belief that a retirement savings will grow on trees and put some more grown up hippy pants on – the kind that look like what a gypsy or a bohemian stay-at-home mom/blogger would wear to a casual dinner party.  But to me they signal a different path – the kind that includes eating animal livers, listening to avant jazz, and trying to grasp new ideas of what it means to love people.

I didn’t like people in my 20’s and I’m not sure why a decade filled with divorce, moving across the country twice, and working with the general public would change that.  Maybe it is a hormonal, maternal instinct, or the desire to be more like my role models and less like the family members who came before me blazing their own destructive path of coldness and the belief that pushing others away was a sign of strength and the ultimate method to protect one’s heart. Just like the avant-jazz song Juice by something (a toddler possibly?) called Krokofant I start out thinking loving people could be doable; then as the song progresses, nearing an end that resembles what I can only describe as a flock of seagulls being murdered on a drum set by an angry elephant, I ask myself, “is there a point?”

I don’t want to live in that gushy, all talk-no walk, preachy way that is written about in so many books written by female pastors.  I just mean, maybe a smile?  I cool pat on the back? A “yeah, you’re not alone” look that requires no words.  You would think for someone that spent their 20’s in dreadlocks and an apartment full of Nag Champa that the whole genuine, non chelant love thing would come a little easier, but I was a hippy of the 90’s, not the 70’s.  My moods resembled more of a flexitarian’s diet than that of a full fledged vegan’s.  Fish liver anyone?

I can imagine that, come summer (or even this evening) I will be through and over my avant-jazz phase.  Miles Davis will be on a playlist with Dave Mathews and Nine Inch Nails or maybe I will have discovered something completely new and inspiring.  Maybe I will be using my Surge t-shirt to wash the car thinking of the good ol’ days that seem so far removed.  But should I decide to recall former moments, this one with the avant-jazz won’t be it.

fish liver as jazz

moving on

As I slowly unpacked two vintage sets of salt and pepper shakers, a half used roll of paper towel, and enough cheap toilet paper to last me the rest of the year I thought back to how fervently and emotionless I had shoved all of those things into the stained canvas bag just a few hours before.  This was the second time we had moved my grandmother, and neither time had I been prepared for the little moments that would consume me for days, maybe weeks, later.  The first time we moved my grandmother was when she went from her widowed, alcoholic apartment lifestyle to the shiny, brand new assisted living home just down the highway.  Things had become chaoctic shortly after I warned my mother that grandma’s memory seemed to be slipping and her fridge was always close to empty.  My mother’s way of handling stressful and confusing events was more of a survival method than it was a productive one.  Grandma, nude and nearly unresponsive, had peed on the couch in front of us for the second and final time when my mother decided it was time to look into other living options.  When it came time to move her she went with little resistance, and that was mostly due to diversion techniques and mild lying justified by our sole desire to see her safe and at least somewhat clothed.  It was my assigned duty to take her out to eat on the night of the big move while the rest of the family backed up her belongings and hauled several large pieces of furniture into her new studio apartment.  I had bribed her with alcohol to keep her occupied, but days later when sobriety hit her like a ton of bricks she realized the damage that had been done to her wild lifestyle.

This move was a little different.  Alcohol had been prohibited at the assisted living facility, but the dementia hadn’t let go of its grip.  In just over a year her memory had faded enough to let her sit back and watch as we packed up her studio apartment.  This time I was assigned to packing.  My mom studied every article of clothing or decoration like it was a prized antique, when in reality nothing held any value and had only been acquired in the past sober year of my grandmother’s life.  I feverishly tossed things into one of three piles – trash, thrift store, and nursing home.  I moved from closet to cabinet to bathroom, working up a sweat and impressing my mom with my speed.  This wasn’t my first time cleaning through an elderly person’s belongings.  I had learned several years ago to work on a fine balance between emotional attachment and end of life clarity.  My mother was more of a hoarder, believing everything that had ever entered her home held a meaning so dear she would die before having to part with it.  I spent many nights laying in bed, in my immaculately clean and obsessively organized small home, thinking about the job that would be before me when my parents passed away and their belongings would need to be sorted through.  The anxiety gave me an ill feeling.

Walking into my grandmother’s nursing home room for the first time brought tears to my eyes so I set to getting the place set up like she would prefer.  We had spent a lot of time together when I was little.  My mother would let me spend weeks at a time at my grandma’s house when I was young, so when she would now introduce me as “like her daughter” I knew it wasn’t a dementia slip, but rather something closer to a miraculous memory moment.  When I was a junior in high school I moved into my grandmother’s apartment which was located on the second floor of her antique store.  The small three room apartment was set up like a dollhouse, and it was there that I fully absorbed and began my love for decorating.  As I attempted to set up the nursing home room to what I thought she would enjoy, I knew deep down that she when she moved in the following day she would put her touch on the space, the memory loss having not yet completely stolen her magical ability to transform a room.

There wasn’t a strong enough beer to take away the emotions from the day.  I had watched the slippery slope of alcoholism and knew to not count on a few drinks to make me feel any better or any less.  When I arrived home I immediately set out to unpack the canvas bag I had brought from the move.  In the moment it felt slightly awkward to take a few barely used dish cloths and her stock pile of toilet paper, but as I set the items out on my kitchen table it took everything in me to not start to cry.  While I am normally emotional to an almost abnormal level, I was not one for drama.  My husband carried in the lamp that I had fondly eyed while sitting in my grandmother’s apartment on those long afternoons when I was trying to coax her to eat and my husband cleaned up the alcohol mess in the kitchen.  Now the brass lamp sat next to my existing lamp – my husband wondering why we needed another.  I went into the bathroom and  shut the door knowing that tomorrow my grandma’s life would be the next level of different, and I would have to stare at the lamp wondering how she was doing.

When I unpacked the two sets of salt and pepper shakers I noticed one set looked familiar.  While sorting through all of her recently acquired grey tshirts and black elastic waist pants, through the plastic forks and paper plates she turned to after losing her full kitchen, through the simple decor she had tiresly rearranged day after day, I had somehow grabbed the salt and pepper shakers – possibly the only thing she had left from our time living together fifteens years ago.  I looked at them now on my own counter.  The memories of our midnight snacks in her tiny yet fully decorated kitchen, the conversations we had about her crazy flambouyant sister, her cooking us steaks on her George Foreman grill, it all came swirling back as the tiny S & P set sat staring at me.  Nobody ever tells you about this part of life.  All my years of elderly caregiving could not have prepared me for the emotions that were to surface, and as I reached for one of the many rolls of toilet paper piled high outside of my bathroom door I felt a bit of gratitude- gratitude for a grandma who passed on her love of decorating, gratitude for the relationship we shared, gratitude for the year we lived together, and gratitude for finding those salt and pepper shakers in the midst of this day.

moving on

{insert interesting title}

After an extended amount of couch deliberation I summoned my energy.  A directionless shell of endless possibilities houses my thirty-two year old soul.  I pushed through my angst filled teen years thinking that the clouds would part somewhere in my twenties, and I would become that driven ___ {insert any random career}.  But it seems that my twenties were filled with so much liberation that I had forgotten to choose a path.  Or maybe I did choose one.

The path of not being tied down.  The path of attention deficiency, impatience, and eternal yearning.  My couch deliberation takes place in a reachable yet secluded cabin.  A cabin surrounded by weeds and a few secret perennials.  I planted myself here four years ago thinking that I needed to grow roots before I became too old to ___ {insert some sort of artsy passion}.  Days of couch deliberation have me wondering why I thought being secluded, invested in a piece of land, would give me the freedom to pursue a tangible future.

Have I boiled down to nothing more than that borderline crazy who is all talk and minimal movement forward?  Successful people say that they worked hard to get to where they are.  And in no way do I doubt that.  However there is a secret element that nearly always steps in.  It produces a magical combustion that sets all things into perfect action.  The mysterious combination of action and desire mixed with surrender and timing is not possible to replicate no matter how hard one tries.  Not to mention, the calling isn’t always clear.

Life is short.  Some people panic when they find a new mole; I panic when I think that I may die without being significant.  Not famous or popular or even ___ {insert a young hip street term that means “cool”}.  When the couch deliberation involves half a bottle of wine I start to ponder the idea that maybe my calling is just to search for my calling.  Or maybe my calling is to try to have as many new passions as possible at any given time.  Who says I can’t be a small town makeup artist/undercover children’s book author/landscape artist who frequently ends up with lengthy spreads in home and garden magazines?  I’ll tell you who says I can’t… it’s moi (did I include part time French resident in that list?).  It’s my biggest enemy, my most evil of critics, the lack of confidence that is solely the voice in my very own head.

So I can become a birder.  The required amount of vulnerability is zero.  I can do it privately but successfully.  The cabin is ideal.  Heck, even the couch is close enough to the window to see two male hummingbirds fight for territory of the feeder. So it is on the list; right up there with all of the other passions requiring minimal action.  And the list is not a short one.  “This is me now!” I say to my spouse, quoting a cartoon character that frequently changes his identity.  My husband rolls with it, so far as even cooking dinner when my couch deliberation passes 6pm.

I am not irresponsible.  The main purpose of this search is to find a way to make money and not dread the eight hours a day it takes to pay the car loan and the student loan and keep the fridge full of organic food.  I dip my toes in things that pay the bills, all the while thinking that if my big break doesn’t happen sooner or later I will have to find other means.  This could be it, just dabbling, a whole lot of dabbling.  In the end I will be able to say I tried, a lot.  But in the end I don’t want to still be on the couch thinking I should have changed locations for the billionth time or worked harder at my day job or tried something completely different that I never thought possible.  In the end I don’t want to think that I should have spent less time on the couch daydreaming.  It is time to get up and continue moving and flowing and being open and ready and ___ {insert something optimistic and preferably French}.

The verdict is in, I need confidence.

{insert interesting title}

lights

i sit on the edge of my seat.  waiting for this evil to cease.  but the world is filled with both dark and light.  refusing to pay attention to the media won’t stop the hate and sadness from existing.  everyone who continues to breathe continues to push through the battle between good and evil.  those that give in to the darkness around them, whether it be ill feelings on a secret level or hate that commits murder, they are the ones that lose.  those that keep the smile on their face and love no matter the cost, those that go out of their way to help the needy, to make someone’s day, they allow themselves to be the light; they are the ones who keep darkness from prevailing.  we can’t sit by and think that we are helpless in the battle.  we cannot let the darkness think it overpowers the light.  we cannot believe the lie that says we have lost.  we tighten our borders and send out the troops.  we sit on the edge of our seats and pretend that our awareness makes a difference.  but if the bombs stop falling and the bad guys drop their weapons the earth will still be crying out.  its time to love your neighbor.  its time to creep out of your comfort zone, find the nearest war zone, and open your arms.  where people are hurting is where we should be, carriers of light and hope.  its time to stop getting so caught up in appearance and wealth and position.  it takes nothing but love to be the most powerful in the room.  allies of hope and peace and love must unite and take a stand.  get up out of your seat and vow to be that which you were created to be – a conduit of light and love in a world full of darkness.  it is time to put all else aside.

lights

to never forgetting…

Today I found myself recounting our planned trip to The Big Apple, the trip that never happened because of the terrorists.  I can’t help but imagine what that trip would have been like.  Would we have gotten along or merely co-existed as a way to rekindle our grandmother-granddaughter relationship.  We had always been thick as thieves when I was little.  Now looking back I realize that that was only possible because I was unaware of the truth.   As I got older that truth started to leak out a little bit, and I watched my mother try to cover up what was really going on.  When I was old enough to pile up my own issues we became close again.  Our bond then being our problems and the relationship we used to have.  However we lacked the trust that would put us back together again.  And then we canceled our trip.

I moved away and grew up.  I learned how to be respectful.  More importantly, I learned how to move on from my past, heal from my hurts, and get over my issues.  All the while you were back to your “secret” way of dealing with things.  And now look at us.  We have nothing but a few good memories and even those are hard for you to dig up these days.  The relationship we had throughout the past thirty-one years is buried deep down inside with all of your other lost memories.

Alcoholism is not just a secret you have kept all of these years.  It is not a silent killer; it is loud and it pees on the couch and messes up the house and sits around naked in the middle of the day.  It has wrecked you with memory loss and caused numbness in your legs so you cannot walk, and it has robbed you of years that are supposed to be quiet and peaceful and reflective.  But you cannot remember anything now.  You cannot remember that you were drunk yesterday afternoon or that I stopped by to bring you dinner.  We could have taken that trip to New York.  I could have visited you every Thursday and taken you out for antiquing and then dinner.  But we have lost that chance to rekindle our relationship yet again.  It was our last chance.

If I was a better granddaughter maybe I would be at your side.  Maybe I would drop everything to see you through this.  But the emotions are confusing, and on days like this I think that maybe its just better to leave it all as it has become.  Maybe I can just choose to separate the good memories from the bad secret and the sad ending.  Just know that I miss you.  And I will remember it all for the two of us.

to never forgetting…

transitional

I am pretty certain I have a predisposition to constantly being in some form of transition.  Is that just life or a semiprecious infliction?  I like to assume that the successful – the pop stars and entrepreneurs – have made it past this rainy season.  They have found that sweet spot somewhere on a sandy beach in the middle of summer.  They have figured out the magical (or secret or laborious or luck bestowed) way to bask in the sun and maybe even possibly maintain their hard earned tan.  All the while the sorry-for-themselves folk such as me walk through an endless rain wondering when an umbrella will be found or, better yet,a parting in the clouds will come.

I don’t have a terrible life.  Quite the opposite.  It is quiet yet busy.  I work hard, but I get at least eight hours of sleep a night.  But I am a dreamer, and I spend my free time pretending I am an aspiring singer.  I imagine I am a ballerina straining for a prima’s spot on the stage.  I am a clothing designer beating the odds and on my way to fashioning costumes for Broadway performers.  In reality, I am too old and my thighs are not slender enough to be a dancer, and while I enjoy figuring out what to wear each morning, I am not up for the challenge of making my own clothes.  And that is where I find the path just keeps on going and the rain just keeps on falling.  I’m not even sure this is the right path.

Am I even on a path?  I chose my career late in life.  Let me rephrase that.  I chose my third career in my late twenties.  I chose it because I felt old and unsettled.  I thought it would make me a real adult.  But you can’t take the dreamer out of the adult.  While work doesn’t seem to get any easier despite my efforts, while I second guess my career choice, while the stress dreams at night continue, I pretend to be something else.  I pretend I am that prima ballerina.  I pretend I am a landscape artist.  I pretend I am a mailman donned in an unflattering blue gray uniform.  Tonight, after an especially trying week, I eat cold pizza in my bed and pretend I am still in my early twenties when life seemed more promising and open.  When life said, “you are an adult now and are capable of making all of your dreams come true.”

Well either life lied or I haven’t tried hard enough.  I haven’t jumped high enough or thought far enough out of the box or let go of my young girl’s ballerina aspirations.  Or maybe I am trying too hard to be settled when all I really need is to get on the right path.

transitional