Sunday, August 31, 2008

Personal fault: impatience

So I took Mr. J to an urgent care centre this morning. We arrived at 11am and waited. Then we waited some more; to pass the time, we did some extra waiting. Two hours into the waiting, he was called in. Once we got past that things went rather fast. It shouldn't really be called urgent care. They should call it whenever we get around to it care.

A rapid strep culture showed nothing anomalous, but the doctor ordered another culture. We'll find out in a couple of days whether it's viral or bacterial. We're hoping for bacterial, since there's actually something that can help with that. In the mean-time, the doctor gave him ten days' worth of sample antibiotics.

I'm not very good at waiting. I was okay for about twenty minutes, then my legs started to cramp. My eyes watered and I couldn't stop yawning and I wanted to scream, then run around the waiting room. I had Ajahn Brahm on podcast, so I listened to him some. Then my ears started to itch, and I was afraid I wouldn't hear something important happening around me so I had to shut it off.

I tried meditating some; I sat all comfortable with my feet straight and my hands at my side. I closed my eyes and repeated silently that I'm calm, and patient, and quiet. I repeated this over and over, as I do with things I need or want, thinking that the more I say it the more it will come to pass. Then I became nervous that I wouldn't see something important happening around me and had to open my eyes. And when I did I discovered a man across the room staring at me, so I decided that meditating in public is a bad idea.

It did help me to be a little more calm, though, so I guess I got my big payoff.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Infection?

Mr. J is really sick. I thought it was just a cold but he sounds awful. I've been sick, having been a three-pack-a-day smoker prone to respiratory infections, but this is bad. He isn't eating much, and I think he's lost weight. He spends most of the night coughing, deep rumbly coughs that sound like thunder in the next room; he's been sleeping on the couch so as not to bother me during the night. I don't know what's worse: having him toss and turn and cough and hack right next to me, or hearing all those things from the other room while I subconsciously try to process the fact that my bed is empty apart from me.

Today he has something unpleasant coming from his eyes. I don't know what to make of that, except that it's likely not good. It sounds like an infection of sorts, which is also not good. Infections scare me; I can't help but think of limbs falling off and frontal lobe damage. I'm not sure where I got the idea about frontal lobe damage, honestly, but I can't help but worry. I'm not very good at the business of care-taking. I can cook the meals and feed him soup and make sure he has tissues and water and medicine. I'll even go to the store in the night. But I am notoriously lacking in the compassionate sympathy department. I wish I could be better at this wife business, but a sick husband just doesn't inspire anything warm and helpery inside me. I want him to get better, even if I'm not very good at helping him do so.

I think I'll take him to an urgent care clinic if he doesn't get better tomorrow though. I don't like it when he leaks goopy stuff out of his eyes.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Meditating with Ajahn Brahm

Ajahn Brahm is like my best friend. It turns out that he has all the right things to say that address almost exactly how I'm feeling.

Today I'm feeling a little yucky, for no apparent reason other than that I'm trying to get my husband's cold. Nothing is good for me, everything feels bad. I don't want to do much of anything and I'm not interested in anything going on in my life right now.

One of the books I'm reading now is called Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond by Brahm. It's a book about meditation and I'm just at the beginning. I'm reading the book because I want to get good at meditating again. I used to be good, and now I just sit around and feel itchy and distracted when I meditate. Brahm says that there is no such thing as a bad meditation; I try to believe that, but I feel really ineffectual at it. I want it to come right now and be really deep and meaningful. I want to drop my brain into a deep meditative state and realize answers to all my problems. He's got a funny story about meditation and the struggle with instant gratification: he talks about the person who goes to work on Monday, works real hard all day and goes home without a paycheck. Tuesday he gets up and does the same thing, working and working but not getting any money. He does this all week, until Friday. Then he works hard and gets a paycheck at the end of the day, paying him for the previous days' worth of work. Meditation is like that sometimes, lots of hard work at it for seemingly no pay-off, until the day we have perfect meditations and get exactly what we want out of it. I'm still waiting for my big pay-off.

Something else he says struck a nerve in me, especially today:

In meditation, experiences come one by one through the doors of our senses into the mind. If you greet one experience with mindfulness and then start a conversation with it, you will miss the next experience following right behind.

And I realized that I've been going about this day all sideways. I've been looking for the next experience, and the next and so on. And I feel like I have nothing to experience at all, nothing to make me happy, nothing to make sense to me. I'm floundering in all this non-experience, and that's something to experience all on its own.

I don't know what this means to me yet, but for the first time today my mind is a little bit more focused and I feel just a little bit less floundery about myself.

Tell me what to do

Do you ever have days where nothing is good? Today is one such day. I'm not feeling well and when I don't feel well I get aloof and distracted. This is not the same aloof and distracted that I normally am, and is nearly indistinguishable from my normal personality.

When Mr. J gets sick he wants to be taken care of. I am not good at taking care of. I can barely take care of myself, and I'm not really equipped to take care of others. I don't like to be taken care of when I'm sick for the most part. I mean, sure he's allowed to go to the store for me at any hour of the night, or make me dinner, or wait on me hand-and-foot like, but after that I like to be left alone, dammit.

When I'm sick nothing feels right. I spent most of the day at work today wanting to come home; I couldn't concentrate on work, the people there were bothering me. My phone calls were all quite annoying and the work? It was making me crazy with the amount of actual work there is to do this week.

I left early, wanting to put this week, this day behind me. I was ready to come home and have nothing to do with anything else and ... well, there isn't much for me to do here either. Oh, I could clean the bathroom that hasn't been cleaned in weeks; or I could wash the laundry that has been sitting on my bedroom floor. If I were feeling really ambitious I could do dishes and vacuum the carpet and water the plants and dust the bookcases ... all those things I swore I'd do more often when I moved that I haven't been keeping up on at all.

I'm having a real bad case of I don't want to do a goddamn thing and it's bugging me. The library is closed --they close at five-fracking-PM on Fridays!-- I don't feel like working out or doing yoga or reading or studying or knitting doing or anything else that is good for me.

And now that I'm home and away from the office, I'm thinking of that large stack of invoices that I sorted before leaving, and how easy it would be to pop back to the office for a couple hours and enter them all. Ugh.

In annoyance ...

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The day I shut off the power

When I moved recently, I found an old notebook. I have a lot of notebooks, have habitually collected them for years; diaries and journals, and plain spiral-bound notebooks. Notebooks that lay flat, and notebooks that open on the top, sexy journals with Buddha pictured on the cover ... it's sort of a problem.

After Colin died, I kept a notebook with me at all times. Sometimes the urge to throw up or scream or die would be so powerful I couldn't breathe. I'd go completely still, afraid that if I moved or breathed I'd go insane and maybe combust. I desperately needed an outlet, and I couldn't do the things I wanted to do so I wrote them down. I found pages and pages of journal entries that started with the sentence, "I thought I'd lose my mind a little bit today".

It helped, writing out my crazy. It stopped me from doing those things, stopped me from collapsing into a useless heap of a girl at the market when I saw couples holding hands or doing happy-couple things I couldn't do anymore; it stopped me from tearing my hair out and puking on myself. It stopped me from getting in other people's faces - sometimes I'd see couples fighting about something stupid (I saw you look at her butt!) and I wanted to scream at them that they should shut the fuck up and not fight. They should not bicker about silly, unimportant things because one of them, someday, would put a gun to his or her head just to make the other one shut up, and that would be the end of that. I wanted to warn them. I wanted to caution them against wasting their relationships, wanted them to realize how short their time together would be and before they knew it they wouldn't have anything left of their partner. They'd want to take back those spiteful words and rescind the pain they'd caused their loved one, and it would be too late if they didn't get started right away.

Nobody likes a know-it-all though, so I just wrote those things down.

The notebook I found recently was dated August 28th, 2000, ten days after Colin's suicide. I wrote, in letter-like fashion, as though I were speaking to him directly:

I called to have our power shut off today. It was in your name, and I never realized that. The woman at the electric company told me she had to speak with you, and when I told her you had passed away she gasped. Right in my ear, and then she asked me what happened. I told her you were dead, and she pressed me for details. She wasn't trying to be mean, but she wanted to know. She sounded like she thought she was being compassionate but I thought she was being daft; I was feeling mean so I told her you shot yourself through your head right in front of me (jerk) and it was a big, messy, awful thing. I think I made that lady sick how I talked about it, and I hope she gets nightmares.

I visited an electric company today in the course of my work, to discuss a project my company may take on to institute disaster recovery. One of the women in our meeting was a very sweet older lady, and she made me think of that woman so many years ago. I wondered if the sweet old lady of today would have asked me "what happened" like the other lady, and I imagined saying awful things to her. It made me feel bad, and I remembered how mean I felt that day. I can't imagine why I felt so hateful, except that I was in pain and I wanted someone else to hurt also.

And maybe that's understandable, but I've learned a lot since then. Colin continues to teach me things about life and about myself through his death, and that makes it a lot more valuable and a lot less painful.

Learning more every day ...

A change in scenery

I used to really hate the weather here. I was an un-fan of the rain and cold and gloom. I liked sunshine and bright, bright light; I liked the way the pavement gets really hot and sometimes melts if it's made out of old rubber. I liked the way one would bake sitting in traffic in the open sunlight. These things all reminded me of home.

I did some internal growth stuff last year, though, and worked really hard at not being so hateful about living in the Northwest. I'm here after all, and will likely be so for quite some time, so I decided to make a go of loving it. I have lived here for twenty years this September, and it just seemed like it was time to stop being so whiny about living in such a cold climate.

So I did some ritualistic business and really came to terms with living here. I embraced being a Portlander and, miracle of miracles, I no longer hate it here.

One thing I could never really appreciate before were all the so-green trees and wilderness areas here. Today I had a meeting for work in a wee town called Vernonia, which is about 45 miles from where I live. I really enjoyed watching the scenery as we drove along, something that never really appealed to me before. I typically prefer to read while on road trips, a fact that drives Mr. J crazy. For the first time since living here, I became excited about learning more about the area and exploring parks and trails. There are many trails in the area, places to camp and hike and fish.

Part of my former dislike of this area meant that I wasn't much interested in what the area held; whenever the opportunity to explore or investigate came up, I was always more interested in some other place. Now I'm really interested in my area, and I'm hoping to drag Mr. J out on a hike soon.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Sick

Mr. J got me sick. And not in the fun way either, he just breathed around me a lot. I managed to get up early this morning, but I just ended up going in to work ahead of schedule to take advantage of the empty office and lack of interruptions. It was productive, but in the I got a lot of work done way and not at all in an I was really creative today! way. As such I have no happiness list for today, and I have no morning pages. The only thing I have is a headache and a sort throat.

Oh, I also have an upset stomach because, being sick, I crave foods that are gross together.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Missed morning pages

I tried to get up early to do the Morning Pages talked about in The Artists' Way. My alarm went off at five this morning and I snoozed for two hours. The whole time I snoozed, I thought that I should get up to do my morning pages. I didn't, and I thought about it all damn day. In fact, I thought about it so much that I had difficulty concentrating through work.

Tomorrow I am going to drag my lazy ass out of bed when my alarm goes off and just do them. Today, however, I'm calling them my night-time pages.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Roller skating

I think I'm in better shape than I was last weekend. Roller skating was a lot easier this time round, and I'm not in hardly any pain at all. My left hip starting hurting almost right away; something about the way I use it when I skate puts a lot of pressure on the joint. I did quite a bit of yoga and stretching after I got home, and again after getting up this morning, and the pain is mostly gone.

I saw a couple older ladies there that really inspired me. One in particular looked to be over 60 years old. She was tall and thin with the best platinum blonde hair. She was in a skating outfit, one of those jobs professional skaters wear with the cheerleader-panties underneath and the little bitty skirt. Her stockings came all the way down over her skates, just like in figure skating. She had a partner, and they skated around the rink in tandem; they had very serious faces on and they looked lovely. In my head I gave her the name Trudy, and I want to be just like her when I grow up.

Oh, and I only fell once this time!

Being happy on Monday is hard

I had a very long meeting today, in which I learned new and exciting things about macros and Excel formulas. I also missed lunch, and did not tackle the mountain of paperwork and payables that accumulated in my in-bucket throughout the day. As such, today was both a good and bad day, and the rest of the week doesn't afford me much opportunity to catch up. I'm committed to this happiness list though ...

  • Spiced cider
  • Digital books
  • MPJ's kids going back to school, so she can write more tasty stuff for me to read
  • That my job gave me a laptop

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Happiness lists

While roaming around Powell's books a few days ago after dinner, I found this notepad. I think Mr. J was quite concerned that I'd buy it and leave happiness slips around the house for him. I was tempted, but I settled for a photograph instead.

Then I read this in The Artist's Way:

Many of us find that we have squandered our own creative energies by investing disproportionately in the lives, hopes, dreams, and plans of others.

And I got to thinking about I have squandered my own creative energies by investing disproportionately in the well-being of others. Of one other, specifically, and how that didn't really work out for me. And I got to thinking about RHG's lists and I decided to call my notepad "things I must do to make me happy", because why should I rely on someone else to do that for me? Additionally, as a by-product of putting all my emotional energy into a man who took his own life, I find that I spare very little of my own energy making others happy nowadays. I require that the people in my life do that for themselves, and I make myself largely unavailable as a resource for that happiness. My loved ones either gain happiness from being around me, or they do not. And if they do not, I don't take responsibility for that.

I am also a fan of the lists, and here is today's list of things that make me happy:

  • Roller skating
  • Freshly brewed coffee
  • That Mr. J and I can do completely separate things and still enjoy one another's company
  • Blogging

Now I'm going to take my freshly brewed coffee into the bathroom and get myself sexy for the roller skating.



In happiness ...

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Skates

These are going to be mine someday. These are the hottest skates I have ever seen. I'll have to get a special case for them and all the tools and gadgets one needs to clean, repair, and maintain one's own roller skates.

Bunny and I are going roller skating again tomorrow. We're going to get there just as they open and we're going to skate our brains out for four solid hours.

The red-headed goddess

I met RHG several years ago, when we were both working at the same company. I don't remember how or when specifically, but we crossed paths in the course of our work and just sort of started hanging out. She became part of my circle of friends as though we'd known her our whole lives, and we loved her right away. She's like family, really, like the coolest older sister a girl could want.

She's beautiful, with the best red hair ever and a personality that lights up a room. She's got a smile that can melt ice and heal the most broken heart.

She has an eye for excellent photography and sees beauty where others don't. She also puts words together in a very nice fashion, and I'm so pleased she has a blog now. I'll be spending lots of time there.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Tampons and handguns

After Colin shot himself, and before the police came, I did a number of very odd things. The first was to run in a panic from my apartment; our apartment building had four units in it, and Mr. J lived opposite ours across a small courtyard area. I ran down my stairs and was headed to his to get him. He was our friend, and I knew if anyone could help us, it was him.

He was gone though, having already left for Burning Man. He was, at that moment, in Sacramento with his then-girlfriend, and he couldn't help us at all. I went to his downstairs neighbour instead and pounded on their door. They'd heard the gunshots, though, and they wouldn't let me in. I don't know how long I was outside, but it felt as though hours had gone by. I got under the stairs, sat down on the concrete, and waited. I'm not sure what for, but there I sat. I remember sitting underneath a spider's web, with a very large spider in it. Even my fear of spiders was dead, and I just stared up at it.

I don't remember re-entering my apartment, but the next clear memory I have I am standing over Colin's body, screaming at him and slapping his face. I had the distinct feeling he was not dead, but was playing a horrible joke on me; maybe he was hiding in another room, and had just placed a very convincing Colin-doll on the floor in our bedroom for me. I expected him to jump out of hiding at me, and I kept looking at the door leading into our bathroom. I swiped my finger down the blood on his chest and tasted it; I thought it would be Karo's syrup with food colouring, like in the movies. When my slapping didn't rouse him, I realized he was really hurt. I tried to help him stand, tried to straighten his head; my fingers touched the wound and the bones in his head slid around and I think I stopped thinking.

The rest comes in flashes, unclear images that don't feel connected. I was face-down on my bed, screaming that things were ending very badly, that this had gone all sideways. Then I was running, from one room to the next, looking for something to stop the crazy. I changed my clothes; having knelt in a large puddle of blood I couldn't bear wearing my terrificly comfortable sweat-pants with grodiness on them any longer. I washed my hands, an action that immediately put me into the 'suspect' category during the police investigation that came later. I almost called 911, and I almost called my mom. I was unhinged, and I didn't know what to do. So, I did what any doped moron would do: I packed a backpack with the video tape, my handgun Daphne, and some tampons. I was headed to my mom's house. She also had super power abilities to make wrong things right, and I desperately wanted my mom.

I didn't make it far; someone reported the gun fire, and the SWAT team descended upon me as soon as I hit the sidewalk. I'd never seen SWAT guys up close before, and had the irrational urge to compare handguns with them. They notoriously lack any sense of humour whatsoever though, and weren't very pleased about Daphne in my bag.

I moved in with my parents that night. It was the one time in my adult life I haven't been able to argue my mom down (which I am normally quite good at); she and Dad picked me up from the police station that night, and I didn't set foot in my apartment afterwards. I tried though, I wanted to see what everything looked like without the corpse in the bedroom and all the blood off the walls. A few days later, once my mom would let me out of house, I called my best friend over to take me back to the apartment. I had to turn my keys in, you see, so I had to go back. I tried getting into the apartment, but they'd already changed the locks. I desperately wanted closure, and I felt like seeing the apartment would give it.

I asked at the office, and they wouldn't let me in either. They said it was still being repaired, and no one could go in. I went back anyway, stood on the sidewalk and looked up at our bedroom window. I could see two patches just below the window, two holes filled in with putty. I went back round the office and asked about them, and was told, very nervously, that the bullets had gone through the wall and lodged in the dirt across the small courtyard.

The thought sickened me; those bullets had gone clear outside, had torn through wood and whatever else apartments are made of. Those bullets had gone through Colin's brain, and that seemed almost as bad as him being dead.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Bruise

The bruise I got last Saturday is a sexy shade of black-n-blue. It's about the size of my fist, and no longer hurts. Now that the pain is gone, I'm ready to go again!

I don't know what to say about the quality of this photo. I took it with the camera-inside-a-phone, upside down (the phone, not me), and left-handed. And I had to get really close so as not to traumatize the internet with my ass. That's my shower curtain you see. Next week I'll show you lot my closets.

The Artist's Way

R over at Discovering Recovering talks about this book enough that I became curious. I ordered it from my library (loving the library here, by the way, even if they do waste my money) and now I have it in my grubby little hands.

It's in very poor condition; I think many people have loved this book. Even my worst books don't look this bad, so I guess it's terrific. I can't wait to find out.

And I saw some creepy bunnies. Well, they were people dressed as bunnies. Two of them, hanging about the park at the library and waving at children. One may have been a Care Bear. They were large, and pink, and quite upsetting. And if I'd remembered that my phone has a camera inside it, I could have snapped a picture.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Killing time at the airport

Whilst laid over in Denver Bunny and I killed some time wandering about the airport shoppes. I found some awful glasses and thank goodness we had a camera about.

I don't remember if this was before or after we celebrated with martinis, so it's possible I was a little tipsy (or not at all) in this photograph. I'd like to say that I'm never this dorky when alcohol isn't involved but, well ... that would be a lie.

Healing through dream journaling

The nightmares didn't start right away. They were variations on a theme though, and that theme was Colin.

We're in a crowd, he and I. It's a busy street with vendors and booths and swarms of people all around. There are gauzy panels of cloth hanging from awnings and gypsy-like women waving their arms all about, and smoke from open grills filling up narrow alleyways... things that were obstructing my view of him. He was ahead of me in the crowd, surrounded by people and partially blocked from view. He kept his face turned away, kept the ruined side from me so that I couldn't see it. He would turn to see me, showing me the good side, and beckon me along. I tried to catch up but the jostling people always kept me several paces away.

We carried on like that for miles, Colin moving rapidly ahead of me but turning and beckoning me forward impatiently; and me, chasing after him and begging him to show me where he hurt, to slow down so we could talk. I knew that if I could just get him to stop and show me I could fix it. I was really good at fixing things, and I had the overwhelming feeling that if we could fix the damage he'd done with the gun it would be okay. We would just explain it had been a mistake, but we'd patch it up and that would be that. He would stop being dead and we'd promise to never commit suicide again, and we'd be fine.

Only, I could never catch him in that ridiculous dream. We never got to patch him up and explain about the mistake with the gun. Each time I woke from one of those dreams I felt like I had been so close to understanding only to have my peace of mind cruelly snatched away. I truly believed in those days that the dreams weren't nightmares at all, but Colin's soul trying to make some kind of contact with me. If we could reach one another, we could talk and he'd explain himself. I was maddeningly close to catching up to him, and every morning when I would wake up from this fitful, unrestful sleep, I experienced his death all over again.

I attended some dream analysis workshops last year. One of the techniques I learned was less about interpreting my dream as it was about using the dreams I had to heal from traumatic circumstances. If I had known of this particular practice when Colin died I would have used it every day.

The technique I learned involved journaling these dreams -which was no problem as I can still recall with absolute clarity everything about them right down to the scent of Thai street vendors grilling skewered pig- only changing the ending. When Gabi first mentioned this, I had to fight not to laugh right out loud. It seemed a little silly, and not very subtle at all. I wondered how healing it could possibly be to simply re-write the ending of my horrible nightmares-that-represented-life when my intelligent and quite logical brain knew it was just fluff. I'm not quite that good at self-deception and I thought it was just bollocks.

I tried it though, because I like doing things that make me mad. Imagine my surprise when it worked. Not right away, and not in a big wow-I'm-totally-not-sad-about-that-dead-guy-anymore way, but it did work. It worked because it helped me change how I felt about his death. It helped me to stop focusing on questions that have no suitable answer, which is really what was happening inside those dreams. Even if I did catch up to Colin, there would be no patching up; there would be no explaining about he wasn't supposed to be dead. I think my mind focused on fairy-tale impossibilities because I wasn't ready to face being a widow.

Writing those different endings allowed me to play out both sides of what that conversation might have been like; and even though my mind knew that I was making it up, it gave me a forum for verbalizing some of the anger I had at Colin. Writing different endings to those dreams didn't give me any more answers than I started out with, but it made me a lot more comfortable with the questions.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Sliding Doors

I've just finished watching the movie "Sliding Doors", a movie in which two versions of the character Helen's (played by Gwenyth Paltrow) life is mysteriously created. The dual lives carry forward simultaneously and we see how each life plays out, hinging on whether or not Helen catches the train on time.

In one life, Helen catches the train and arrives home to find her lover in bed with another woman. In the other, Helen misses the train and must find an alternate method to get home. The delay causes her to arrive home after her lover's mistress has gone, sparing Helen immediate knowledge of the affair.

The two lives are played out at once, showing the audience in simultaneous fashion where different choices and circumstances lead Helen. Ultimately, the culmination of events leads Helen to the same place in both realities, suggesting that certain things are just so and the choices we make don't have significant bearing on certain things in our lives.

I'm not altogether comfortable with this line of thought, as I prefer to believe that I don't have a future that is unchangeable. I'm dissatisfied with the idea of certain things being fated, and I (un)secretly wish both Helens had died at the end of the movie. As it was, the ending leaves room for unicorn farts and rainbows (to quote two of my favourite ladies) and enough romance to choke on.

I enjoyed the movie despite all the hearts-and-flowers business, and thought it was both well directed and well acted. I think Gwyneth Paltrow does quite well with the British accent, and I especially like the way she says "twat".

Aftermath

I don't remember a lot about the days that followed Colin's death. My parents picked me up from the police station later that night and took me to their house. I slept in bed with my mom for the first time since I was very young.

My dad was drunk, had been drinking since before Colin died. I think he was on one of the long binges that he used to go on. He cried a lot those first few days; the sort of drunken crying that seems to come from nowhere and everywhere. He also did a lot of mysterious disappearing, hanging out with old doper friends that he'd been avoiding. He didn't sleep much, and spent a lot of time telling me how sorry he was for me, and how much he wished Colin wasn't dead.

My mom took a week off work and helped me take care of everything. She got my friends organized, and they packed my apartment and got all my stuff moved into a storage unit. Mom's friends from work organized some cook-outs, and they brought over food. They descended on my mom's house like an army of angry, loving Betty Crockers, armed with lasagnas and casseroles, and other things that are yummy when they come out of the oven. They swept me up in their big love and took care of the millions of little things a girl can't take care of when her husband dies. A lot of those ladies gushed on about how sad and tragic Colin's death was. They meant well, and I was grateful for their help and their support, but I had no patience for hearing about how tragic this and how sad that. It was useless to me, to think or talk about how sad and stupid it all was. I loved those ladies, but I wanted to claw the tongue out of every one of them when they looked at me with all their sympathy and told me how young I was to be widowed.

I remember one woman in particular, Nancy. She was my mom's boss and she had always been a little intense and intimidating. She didn't say anything to me when she came in, just set her casserole dish down and gave me the fiercest, most serious hug. My mom's best friend was there too, and she and Nancy were the only two outside our family who acted normally. They didn't cry for me or express their sadness. They just let me talk and helped me work through whatever was going on with me. They stayed with me, taking turns with my mom to make sure I was okay, and not alone during those first days. They took time off work and away from their families to take care of mine, and I think I'll always love them for that.

I didn't sleep for several nights, staying up late into each night going through boxes and trying to make sense of everything. Mom took me to a clinic and got me sedatives so I could sleep, but they never worked. I threw them out after a week, mostly because I was tempted to take the whole bottle at once.

I moved in with my best friend a couple weeks later; she'd just been divorced and needed a house-mate and I wasn't really prepared to live alone. I got a different job, the job that led me to what I'm doing now, and poured all my energy into it.

I managed not to die of sadness, though it was touch-and-go for awhile.


Today's weather matches my mood: a little grey, a little bleak, and a lot rainy. I've been hoping for rain, or respite from all the heat and sunshine and I finally got what I wanted. All that sunshine was making me feel like I had to be so damn happy, and now that it's gone the pressure to be happy is gone also.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Death of a husband, or why I don't smoke pot anymore

August 18th, 2000

It was a Friday. Colin had been gone for the second week in a row, working out of town. I went to work like I always did, anxious to get started on the day and keep busy until the afternoon when he was due in. I wanted to pick him up from the airport but he took a cab home. He paged me when he got home, and I left the office at about 4:30.

We were headed into our annual vacation; he was home for good, and after we spent a much-needed weekend together, avoiding the rest of the world, we were going to pack our dusty old van full of gear and head to the desert for a week of partying and playing in the sun. Some weeks previous, we talked about smoking pot during our vacation. It was going to be a once in a while thing for us. We felt we had moved past addicted behaviour, that we could handle a joint or two while on vacation (Burning Man, after all - one need not be loaded to enjoy it, but why not enhance the experience, eh?). We were grown-up, smart, capable, goal-oriented, sophisticated people, and we could smoke a joint if we wanted, right? I knew a guy who smoked occasionally, and bought some pot from him.

That afternoon we changed into comfortable clothes, sat facing each other on our bed, and got high together for the first time. It had been a long time for both of us; aside from the extreme alcohol consumption, neither of us had used any other drug in what seemed like forever at the time.

Almost immediately Colin became melancholy. Not mellow, but melancholy. He had his "honey, I have to tell you something" face on. I didn't realize it then, but after years of replaying the scene in my head, that's what I remember. He was wearing his confessional face, but I couldn't get him to tell me what was wrong.

We built a fire in the fireplace; despite being mid-August, it had been cold and rainy that day. We sat in the living room and tried to talk to each other. We couldn't talk, and he looked miserable. I wasn't enjoying myself at all, and I felt cheated. I had overpaid for this pot and it was quite possibly the best marijuana I'd ever had my hands on, and I was upset that I wasn't enjoying the experience.

The doorbell rang; we ignored it but the person on the other side wasn't leaving. Colin answered, signed for a Fed-Ex package addressed to me. I couldn't open it, couldn't make my hands work. It left me giggling madly, my inability to make my hands stop flapping around like useless, pale things. Colin helped me, tearing the package open to reveal a video tape in a white box with a window showing the label on the tape. The label was white with black typing, in a simple font. The video looked odd, like how pornographic movies come, all non-descript and plain looking. The writing on the label said "do not rewind, tape is self-erasing".

Colin stared at it for what seemed like hours, turning it over and over in his hands. He was saying something, repeating a phrase over and over. I can't remember the phrase now. It bothers me that I can't remember it, can't bring those words to mind. They frightened me, shook my world up, rattled my cage and made me want to scream.

I begged him to stop talking, to ignore the tape; I wanted to burn it, throw it into the fireplace and forget it ever came. We'd make some coffee, get our heads clear and never smoke pot again. We were stupid, complete morons to have done this thing and I was so sorry I'd followed through with it.

He wouldn't stop talking, wouldn't cease his mindless rocking back and forth and repeating his maddening phrase; I asked him if he was fucking with me, trying to make me paranoid. He looked me in the eye for the first time since we'd gotten high and simply said, "yes". His eyes were filled with tears and anguish; he stood up and walked towards the hallway. He was headed into our home office, the room where we had all our computers. Half-way there he changed his mind and veered into our bedroom.

I followed him, wanting to help him, wanting to understand what he meant and find out why he was acting so strangely. When I got to our bedroom he had his gun, a .357 S&W long-barrel revolver, in his hand and was staring at me. I don't remember what I said or what I thought. I was screaming though, mindless words that didn't penetrate whatever was happening inside his head. He turned away, and fired into the wall twice. Then he turned back to me and shot himself in his right temple.

I was twenty-two years old, and my world broke apart for a little while.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

I hurt all over

It's impossible to be depressed while roller skating. It can't be done. One must concentrate on the feet, and mostly moving each one in the same direction as its mate. One must also concentrate on one's arms, and not flailing them about. Most importantly, one must concentrate fully on staying in an upright position.

I haven't really been on roller skates in twenty years, not counting a brief experiment in personal humiliation in my late teens when Colin and I decided to take up in-line skating. I'm not so good when the wheels are all lined up in a row, but give me two side-by-side, and I'm not bad.

It took me about an hour to re-learn how to roller skate. I could accelerate, and turn the corner, slow down, and even stop properly. Once I got my confidence back, I promptly fell down. Then I tried backwards skating, and fell down again. I have a large and painful bruise forming on my left hip and I managed to hurt my wrist catching myself, but I had a great time.

I had forgotten how much fun it is to skate. I was able to lose myself in the very act of roller skating in an almost meditative state where nothing else gets in. I wasn't scared about my future, stressed about work, frustrated with my life, or depressed about my past. I was roller skating, and my mind didn't have room for anything else.

Today I hurt right down to my toes, but I can't wait to go again. It is really good physical exercise, and there's nothing so humbling as taking skating instruction from a small child.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Purging Colin

Over the past two weeks I have been writing like crazy. I've been writing about Colin, wanting to commit our history here. I had it all planned out, plotted and narrated, with some hot dialogue and even some girl-on-girl action.

I was going to share all of it: the excitement of my first live-in relationship, my first poly-amourous relationship, my first opportunities to be loved and challenged and make grown-up decisions. My first marriage, and my first really big failures in life.

I have pages and pages of our history, and I just can't post it. It doesn't make sense. It doesn't represent what he meant to me, what life meant to me back then. I can't relate to the girl I'm writing about; when I re-read it after a couple of days of letting it sit, it felt like I was reading something someone else had written about someone else's life.

Maybe that has happened because of all the healing I've done. Maybe it has happened because I have more healing to do. I don't know, except that it doesn't feel creative and sexy and demonstrative. It feels like I sat down and forced myself to write and what came out was loose, runny shit. Like the kind you get when you have too much lactose.

Each year as I approach the anniversary of Colin's death, I get a little crazy. My sleeping patterns change; my body feels unhappy. My brain hurts and I get leaky in the eyes over everything. Sometimes I can be more philosophical about it than others. This year, I'm remembering how I felt in the few days before his death.

He'd been travelling for work, was in the Bay-area working on a PC/software upgrade for a bank chain. He was gone through the week, and home on weekends. I was doing more socializing than normal in the evenings, spending time with friends to fill up the quiet hours of the evening so I wouldn't feel so lonely.

Two days prior to his death was a Wednesday; I had met my closest girl friend at that time for drinks at a restaurant on the Columbia River, a favourite hangout called McMenamin's. We drank cosmopolitans and caught up with each other's lives. She asked me how things were going with buying a house -we'd been recently approved for a home loan- when my mood turned suddenly extremely dark. I remarked that we were probably never going to buy a house. Colin was too immature, too irresponsible with money to actually follow through with such grown-up plans as purchasing a whole house. I told her that things were never going to be the same again; that life had gotten as good as it was going to, and I didn't have much to look forward to. I told her that Colin and I hadn't been communicating well, that things had been tense between us since the abortion, and that things generally weren't working out.

It shocked me, what I was saying. Some of them were true -things had been tense between us and we did sometimes disagree about money and our future plans- but they weren't things I would have classified as "problems". We were dealing with them, regularly talking about the stress between us and in our lives in a way that seemed healthy. I remember us looking at each other then, both a little stunned at what I had said. We burst out laughing and moved on to other topics, drinking and chatting and enjoying each other's company; but I felt wrong. I had a black, oily feeling inside my heart and I didn't know why. I eventually shrugged it off as anxiety that my husband was out of town and I was lonely without him, but the feeling stuck with me over the following couple of days and I couldn't shake it no matter how hard I focused on other things.

My brain is filled with those feelings again, my body veritably vibrating with the need to shout that things are going to be bad soon. I'm bad-tempered and wrong-headed, just like I get every year.

This afternoon I'm going over to Bunny's house. She's going to cut my hair into something very sexy. She lost someone too, six days before I lost Colin. We're observing our respective deaths by doing something fun that we enjoyed doing with our dead people: roller skating.

I think I'll probably fall down a lot. I'm actually looking forward to some physical pain to remind me that I'm alive. I'm not dead, and just because someone that I loved once is, that's not a good enough reason for me to be brain-sick.

I don't have children, I have cats

Paper is like my baby. He's two years old, and quite possibly the most adorifying kitten I have ever laid eyes on. I baby him, though not as badly as Mr. J does. Mr. J lets him get away with everything. It's a problem.

One of the cutest things Paper does is lie in very odd places. He loves to perch on the dining room table; sometimes he curls up under my desk where my feet go. When he was much smaller he preferred to hang out on or near my laptop. His most recent spot is the lowest shelf of an open bookcase; it's one of those cubey jobs we got at IKEA when we moved.

Emma and Zoe were adorable as kittens, and also slept in the strangest of spots. Here is one of my favourites of them. Zoe doesn't have as many photos taken of him nowadays because knows now what the camera is and just tries to love it when it comes out. Every once in awhile we'll catch him doing something cute.

When I'm ninety I'll be crazy and lonely, with twenty-five cats in a dusty old mansion ...

Thursday, August 14, 2008

I'm sitting here!

And this is why I have dicks on my table. This wretched monster of a polydactyl cat gets all up on the table with all of his many, many claws and scratches it to shit.

He is, of course, too cute for scoldings and other such pedestrian behaviour, so instead of being hollered at he gets his photograph taken. I don't know, it's not my fault.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Why is change so yucky?

I’ve discovered in the course of my professional life that people are not comfortable with change. Change is upsetting to many people, wrought with confusion, fear, and trepidation. People worry that the focus of their job will change into something they’re not comfortable with; they worry that management won’t make an effort to understand them as individuals. Mostly, they seem to worry about the act of adaptation.

My primary function before taking over management of the branch location I work for was training and supervising staff members of an accounts payable department. The most-voiced fear regarding change? “What if it’s too hard?”

Really? Where’s the sense of adventure, of excitement? There is no challenge if you’re doing the same thing every day. Instead of asking if it will be too hard, why not ask how you can do a good job? People never ask me that, never inquire how they might be able to do a better job. They ask me how much vacation time I can give them, whether or not they can get an advance on their paychecks; they ask me why our company doesn’t pay them for lunch or they ask for bigger raises or Aeron chairs, or they complain about the state of things, but they never ask me if I feel like they could improve at all.

Addressing change is my current most challenging topic. During my recent trip I discovered many things that need to change at my branch, things that can make us more productive and efficient; things that can make our location more successful. In trying to convey some of those changes to my group, I have run into a bit of a road-block. They are afraid. I’d like them to tell me why they’re so afraid, and what specifically they are afraid of.

My boss has recently suggested some small changes in the office, silly functions that will help people grow accustomed to change. One such suggestion was moving the time clock. She described a situation in which this, and other small, low-impact changes, was done, and it apparently worked very well.

I’d like to try it; I don’t want people to be afraid of their jobs. I want people to be happy doing my work, because I need them to do it. If they don’t do it, I’m screwed. How in the hell do I motivate people to want to change for me?

It’s too bad my time clock is bolted to the wall.

Chew your food

On my way home from my trip to Minnesota, Bunny and I were seated next to a man named Pat. Pat was a strange fellow, and every ten seconds or so he’d spew out some fact that was sometimes, but not always, relevant to what we were actually discussing. Bunny and I had been to the bar in celebration of her anniversary with our company, and we tibbled. So, we had a friendly little go at Pat. I discovered I could make him nervous by staring real hard at him, so I did that a lot. We had other things to keep us entertained on the flight, things that did not included fact-gathering from our seat-mates, but the fact is that Pat was just so damn fun to listen to (if a bit pompous).

One of the things Pat talked about was blood type, and its association with certain personality characteristics. Bunny became interested in the topic and did some research into diets designed around blood types, and unloaded some facts on me today. In reading through a library book I ran across a guideline of things to do to be healthier, one of which was “eat slowly”. The book described the process of chewing ones’ bite of food before moving on to the next one, really being in the moment with that mouthful. Don’t load up your fork for the next mouthful, don’t dig around in the food on your plate planning what to devour next … really do the whole chew-your-food-and-swallow routine we learned as kids.

This is a theme in my life recently. Ajahn Brahm talks a lot about being in the moment and food comes up a lot in his Dhamma talks. I have a big problem with food, a problem that seems to get bigger the older I get. I alternate between loving and hating food; between not being able to get enough fattening, sugary, food-particles in my body and wanting to throw up every time I eat. I don’t eat compulsively, unless it’s yummy. Then I feel bad (but I hardly ever actually throw up after). I’ve been working on changing my relationship with food, changing how I feel about food, but it’s hard work. It helps listening to Brahm. He always knows just what to say to make me feel better about it all.

And what he’s saying lately is “slow down, and chew your food”. It helps for more than just food. It also means "pay attention to the things that matter to you", and "focus on your work", and "devote your energy", and "develop better relationships".

At least, it says all those things to me.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Is that your dick on the table, or are you just a messy eater?

Mr. J and I were sitting at the dining table, playing cribbage and eating a candy bar; that is, Mr. J was eating my leftover candy bar, dropping bits of it out of his mouth as he chewed (he's like that), while I was supposed to be shuffling the cards for my next deal. Instead, I was staring open-mouthed (I learned it from watching him!) at him, the cards completely forgotten in my hands, a little surprised that a man could make such a mess with one little candy bar (this shouldn't be a shock to me after all this time, but it still is). Chocolate droppings scattered across the table in front of him as he murdered my candy bar with his mouth.

As I watched in disgusted fascination, he wet his fingertip and began collecting the escaped bits of chocolate while I supervised and pointed out crummies he'd missed. I thought he was deliberately avoiding that last crumb and pointed at it insistently.

It wasn't until he ran his palm flat over the table that I realized it wasn't a crumb at all; I blurted out, "Oh! It's a dick!"

Wait, what?

That's right, I said dick. I'm sure I meant that it was a ditch, or a divet, or a ding, but by the time it passed my lips it was a dick.

Shush.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Oops

Sometime when I was growing up, I heard the phrase, "if you've learned something today, it was a worthwhile day". I've heard a few variations on this saying, and it's always stuck in my head. I like learning. I like learning new things. I like learning new things about myself. Sometimes I learn new things about myself that I should have known before age thirty, so I'm a little behind.

  • I have learned not to eat macaroni and cheese and Apple Jacks too closely together.

When I was growing up, my mom cooked. She cooked a weeks' worth of meals on Sunday and froze them, so we'd have home-cooked meals together each day of the week, no matter how tired she was from all her jobs. We didn't eat out very often, being virtually on the edge of poverty. We didn't each macaroni and cheese, and we certainly didn't eat sugared breakfast cereals. I wasn't allowed to eat cereal until I was a teenager, and even then I didn't have it for breakfast. They were snacks, the sort kids eat after school. When my friends were eating burgers and pizza after school, I went home for sugared breakfast cereal.

Whenever I feel sick, or sad, or lazy, or unhappy, I crave shitty food; the kind that makes me fat, and makes me sick to my stomach. Mr. J is the perfect husband, and will go to the store at any hour for me. Today, he went for macaroni and cheese and Apple Jacks, and now my stomach is gross.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Sexy signatures: all the rage

I've been a little jealous of Mantra's sexy signature, and now that the lovely MPJ was kind enough to provide a link, I have a sexy new signature too!

Check me out, all digital and shit ...

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Changes at work

I just spent a week at my company's corporate offices participating in some software training. The company I work for has undergone a significant amount of professional transition in the last year+, and took the opportunity to engage us in more training and team-building exercises while were were in town.

One of the things they did was to have an HR meeting with all the managers and supervisors, from both corporate and those of us from satellite offices. That gave us the chance to get to know our peers within the company and learn more about corporate expectations, etc. I know it sounds dull and dry, but it was really exciting.

I gained a lot of software knowledge about the programs we use for our jobs, programs that I had not had any sort of training on before last week. I discovered that I have a lot of reporting capability with the program that will help me develop my employees more, and become more efficient in my office.

The team building was fun; the yearly company picnic was planned so that I could attend and a bunch of people got together and got a dunk-tank for the picnic; members of the executive team volunteered to get 'dunked', which was terrific fun to watch. It helped that the weather was exceptionally nice and there was free soda.

I really enjoyed my time there, and am now so excited to go back to work. I have so many ideas for ways in which I can make my office more efficient and improve morale. I have new tools for reporting on current employees' skill-sets, and ways to test potential employees before hiring and putting the time and effort into training them. I have a lot more control in my office than I realized, and a lot more room to grow as a manager than I was expecting. This is an exciting time for me, because I'm ready to move into some different areas in my professional growth, areas I've been anxious to get into for some time but have lacked the tools I needed for that growth. I think great things are waiting for me just around the corner, and I can't wait to find them.

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