Path of No Resistance

Fierce

I wish I had the strength to open her letter.  It’s not a physical thing, but my emotions get so far out of check about certain people and events that I have done my best to hide from them.  And now I carry this note with me wherever I go.  The joys of email that is synced to my phone and tablet.  There is only so fast you can run from something that is sitting within your grasp.

It’s been two years since I’ve spoken with her.  And that conversation didn’t go well.  It was after my daughter had died and neither of us knew what to do for each other.  So silence became the path of no resistance.  Never far from my thoughts, but distance was what we both needed.  We shared some of the same reasons and on some level knew there was pain that couldn’t be avoided for either of us.

Friends are funny things.  They can be thousands of miles away and yet right next to you all at the same time.  I ran so quickly to Boston that I didn’t leave a forwarding address.  And I didn’t try to involve others in what has become a futile attempt at life.

When  you wind down a business most people try to do it quickly and with little fanfare.  I’ve been applying that same theory to my own life.  Just a notice my parents will eventually send out letting people know the cancer did it’s job.

Absence doesn’t make the heart grow fonder, it hardens it.

Even while I’m typing this all I need to do is switch over the window and there it will be, sitting in the folder with her name and a number behind it.  Some days it would blink throughout the day with updates and replies, other days silent but always a welcome diversion to whatever was happening.

Last week when it light up all I felt was panic.  Pain and anxiety, worry that something had happened to her family or someone else where she felt the need to inform me.  It took most of the day to fight off those feelings.  To hold back every desire to just click here.

If this had been a piece of paper, I could have put it in a drawer.  Waited for a time when I could emotionally handle the words.

I love the feeling of having just finished a run and the sweat is dripping so rapidly my socks are starting to cling to my feet.  Water stinging my eyes and my knees are burning from the miles of pavement left behind.  This I can’t move fast enough from.

Hopefully soon I’ll be ready to read even the couple of sentences this might contain.  I don’t know, maybe during a therapy session in case I just let my feelings for the past overcome the wall I have built in my present.

I do miss my friend.  Staying silent was the last act I could think of to let any of them live without fear.  Only now I fear a silly letter.

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Two Lovers and a Bench

Miniature

The way he had his arms wrapped around her while they sat on the bench couldn’t escape anyone’s notice.  His mouth was moving but the sounds were caught long before they could hit passerby’s ears.  You see scenes like this captured on a postcard or some picture that put in a corner and hope someday to find yourself a part of.

Her dress just hit below the knee.  A simple floral print that hung front her body not exposing any curves but enclosing her slight frame.  Blond hair was mixed in his eyelashes with no attempt being made to brush it away.  You can’t see her face as it is buried in his shoulder but her skin has a simple paleness to it.  Pink fingernails and toes to match.

Behind them was the expanse of the Charles River.  A few people getting in their rowing while the day was still cool.  The water calm and only the slightest hint of wind blowing.

They sat there forever.  Just the two of them caught in a moment that for them looked like everything.  It would take a very hard person to not want to have their own moment.

Sounds nice, now let’s add a few details.

The bench was resting against a large window separating them from all the noise.  All that life going around them couldn’t change things.

He had brought her out from the bed she had been laying in after helping get that dress just right.  Something he had picked up on the way in, praying that she would like the pattern and not just force a smile.  Not only did he do this without help, he carried her to that window so she could see all that her room didn’t allow.

Her body, hidden beneath that dress frailer from yesterday.  And there was not going to be a tomorrow.

She died in his arms while the rest of us kept our heads down.  Knowing what we saw didn’t change what we hoped was just a different moment in time.  Eventually he carried her back.  Never swaying.  Never breaking his strides.  Never breaking down while the rest of us were.

Some moments are huge and the world sees them as nothing.  Other moments are miniature flashes that we all hope for.  This was the later.

The inner strength it took to share that with us all and still have it be so intimate is heart wrenching.

Now both of them are on different journeys and I hope they find each other later.

 

Road Trip

Confused

For some reason it all fell into place.  Maybe finally having a plan and acknowledging that I had a plan helped?  Why Saturday the weather chose to take a break from the unrelenting heat and humidity is beyond me.  Upper 90’s dropping to barely 70’s meant we could cross something off the list for several of us.

We threw some clothes in a bag and drove to Maine.  It’s not that far, maybe 3 hours to get to our destination.  Everyone in the car is very Catholic, so I had to stifle a laugh once or twice when they thought a Divine Hand had some part.  I love and respect these people, so I’m not about to argue!

We made a pit stop to visit my daughter.  I still believe that she is always with me and this marker is just a way for others to know about her.  Guess my faith is just different for the others in my crew?  Finding purple-ish roses in the middle of nowhere Maine is surprisingly easier than you would think.  Having said what I needed to we headed of for the water.  The walk was a little further than I recall, but I wasn’t needing something to steady myself beyond a helpful hand the last time either.

My comments above about religion make the next part that much more confusing for me.  That sense of calm that came over me was something I haven’t experienced in many years.  There is a picture next to “Type A personality” that is unmistakably me.  Having lost some of that trying to be something I wasn’t used to anger me.  My ex needed me to be a kinder version, but everyone else needed me to be the rougher person.  I needed to be that rougher person in order to do my job.  Part of what created that downfall was my not being me anymore.  Odd since the guy she met was the kind you wanted making nasty decisions because I didn’t feel bad about them.  [it necessary when you own a business to at times not be nice.  That doesn’t mean disrespectful of others, just tough!]

Think Jerry Stiller yelling “Serenity Now!” while inwardly feeling a great sense of peace!

Moving on…

At dinner I told everyone what I was thinking.  How for a flash I was calm.  Not worried about the past or the future.  Trapped in moment that didn’t make an ounce of sense to me.

All along I have known that these folks were going to push me to do what was necessary to bring me back.  It’s been years of knowing that I felt guilt about some of my choices and that there were times when the running was my way of trying to inflict pain on myself I didn’t feel otherwise.

You can’t outrun ghosts!  They always win, every time.

Friends of friends own a cabin that is rustic in every way.  One room with beds in the opposing corners.  As the lights went out, we had that Walton’s moment with everyone saying goodnight.  [then the snoring began!]

There are plenty of things I wish I knew how to explain.  Right now I’m starting a different journey from everyone else.  At times there are going to be some companions and at times I need to be completely alone.  Figuring out which is which is the hard part.

I’ve planned a few surprises for the next couple of weeks.  We’ll see how they work and whether they get shared as well.

Aside from that one last thing I know I’m going to do, there is something I know I need to do.  And it is as much for myself as it is for another.

I hope to not screw that up!

 

Enough? Maybe…

Profound

On those days when I am ready to write I let myself try to tackle some issue rolling around my life.  Then I see the prompt and I feel a shift.  Most days it is some memory that springs up or an emotional response to the words I read.  Yesterday I wanted to say so many things about the prompt “Apology”, but knew better than to start down that path.  That journey is something I have been trying a avoid lately.  As much as I try, some emotions are never going to be controllable.

Over the weekend I was trapped in a conversation about how I was handling things.  But rather than feel like I was doing the right thing or even if I knew something wasn’t working out, by the end I felt like a failure.  The people around me were talking down to me not with me or even at me.

Recently I have stepped up the therapy sessions because I have needed to work some things out.  My emotional responses have been coming faster than I recognize.  Simple flashes are bringing me great pain.  Sometimes you can hide that behind random issues connected to the cancer.  But other times it’s more than that.

My grandfather taught me a powerful lesson.  Sometimes you have to put aside everything you are feeling because you need to help another.  What he didn’t say was that in the quiet hours he was downing so much alcohol to numb himself that it eventually killed him.

I don’t drink, so that isn’t my issue.  He is also the very reason why I don’t.  It’s an easy relief that only hides today’s issue.

But I spent so much time trying to help my ex deal with her life that I completely ignored that I needed to help myself.  I adopted her manner of walking away from emotions and now I can’t find my way back.

Sunday I couldn’t take anymore and just went to my bedroom.  Sat in a chair and tried to read but all I could do was choke back every shake and tear.  It was like being a water balloon with a needle rubbing it’s surface.  Little beads of moisture but no explosion.

I need the explosion or I’m running he risk of no longer feeling anything.  At least outwardly which only means that the very people who started this will never know how badly things hurt.

A long time ago I held things back and by the time I let loose, I truly let loose.  Went swinging at anyone in the room regardless of their involvement.  That was 22 years ago and I still can’t be in a room  with some of them because of my embarrassment.

There is plenty of fear that goes with the cancer stuff.  Even the bravest have moments of self doubt and worry.  I’ve done my best, I’m just learning that for some it will never be enough.  [an irony not lost when I used to tell others that the only thing I ever needed was them coming home.and being themselves.]

If my daughter were around I would just hug her and tell her she was my bright light.  Then we’d go eat ice cream!

I wish it were still that simple.

Strong Words, Stronger Feelings

Crisis

We’re going down the personal lane this morning, so if you’re not in the mood, skip ahead to someone else.  But I need this to be out there…

I’d been looking forward to watching this silly cartoon.  The latest Batman thing hit the stores and I was school boy curious about it.  Too tired, just hit pause and watch it later.  Usually these are the things I just watch on my own because rarely do others share my giddy feelings.  Last night was different.

Without getting into a movie that I ultimately didn’t like, it just destroyed a strong character for no reason other than to add length to the presentation.  Having a friend openly join me knowing the evenings plan, and to do it willing and without hesitation, normally I would question their sanity.

No cell phone watching, her attention was on the screen for most of the time and making sure I was okay the rest.  Long ago we had that talk about what we both needed from each other.  Strong shoulders from each, for each, and the rest of the world would just work its way out.

So rather than go home and just enjoy the silence of her own place, her teenage daughter at camp for the week, she was sitting on the couch?  We split some salads and I stared at the cookie but passed.  The only disagreement was her pulling on the blanket that spanned the both of us, but mostly it was a joke.

I couldn’t help but ask as we each picked up our leftovers to head our separate ways, “Could I ask why you would put yourself through that cartoon?  Not your normal viewing.”

What I expected to hear was not what I got.  I handed her the bag with tomorrow’s lunch and walked toward the door.  It was early, most nights I can’t stay up late, other times the medication just wears me out in a different way.  So 8 p.m. and I’m getting my evening ritual started.

“It’s more than being worried about you.  Some days when you are asleep and I’m awake I wonder if I’ve done enough to help.  I want to do more.  But love makes people do things for others at strange times.”  And out the door she walked.

I watched her go and never said anything in response.  She knows all of the damage, the stuff you see and the stuff she has had to hear.  That has worked both ways, I know her secrets as well.

There was never a chance to respond, she knew better than to wait.  It would have taken me forever to say the wrong thing anyway!

My assumption has always been that someone was going to get hurt.  I also knew it was going to be her, because I was the one leaving at some point.  We decided during some silent conversation we would live with that, while trying to live with the daily issues.

Her husband was a piece of work [really a piece of shit].  I don’t want her or her daughter to feel an ounce of pain because of me.  They seem to think I’m worth it, I’m not so sure.

Anyway, knowing her daughter also will at some point see this and write me a oddly worded email talking about how she doesn’t see the difference between me and the boys at school [a reference to maturity, I’m sure], let me say this as simply as possible.

The people I have surrounded myself with I love deeply.  Without reservation and without an ounce of regret.  Those not around that is for a reason.  I don’t have the time to spend with people who aren’t going to be there when  I need them.  Lived that life, it hurt.  Those scars are on the outside as well as the inside.

I could have Han Solo’d it and replied “I know!” or “Ditto”, but hopefully those words echoing into the humid air as the door closed didn’t need a reply.  I appreciate every moment, I’m lucky to have people who care.

Cut Your Toenails…

Nightmare

If that stupid cat is on the bed again, I’m going to hide her in the closet until sunrise!

Can’t be her, the pressure against my thigh is too much for an 6 pound cat.  But the covers are pulled to just the right length.  It takes too long to get comfortable, i don’t want to roll over.  Maybe I thrashed around and one of the books just slide over?

Surrendering to my half-awake brain, my eyes open enough to lean my face into a pair of feet?  Next to my head?  Then my ears pick up sounds it had been trying to ignore, my niece snoring!  Now I have to worry about if this was a me thing or a her thing.

The deal for the summer, if she does well in her first college level class there is some financial gain for her.  Simply put, do well get money from your uncle!  We convinced her to do the same my parents had tried with me, pick a class just to see if you like the subject.  15 years old, walking around Boston University’s campus, the circle complete?

Susie chose a creative writing class.  It makes sense for someone who dreams of being an artist.  But she also wants to pay some bills, having a JOB while trying is her plan.  I had been listening to her latest missives before she submitted them.  Judging her work against 20 year old’s worries her.  Not their reactions, but if she is mature in the same way.

But what caused her to stay?

I know that every now and then there are bad nights.  Mine for medical reasons, her’s for just the stacks of responsibility she feels for the entire family.  Some nights I find her sleeping in a chair, others I peek out the door to see if the light still reflects off the floor outside her room.

This night it was that she didn’t like my breathing.  Susie couldn’t explain it.  Just a gut feeling that couldn’t be shaken.

So I’m stuck with feet in my face…

Her worry is also our shared nightmare.  That one morning she’ll do the mirror under the nose thing and not be shocked, just upset.  We’ve talked about it.  The entire family had to decide if home or hospice was the path.  I may be the topic, but their opinions and concerns are what matter.

Home it has been!

So her lessons have included making sure my periodic need for a tube in the arm is clear.  That I take my meds on time.  Mainly she likes that we still walk out to the flower beds and just take in some color.

What I get back in return is greater.  Some days it can’t be helped to think about how we die.  But this time spent with her reminds me that those thoughts need to be squashed by how I live.  It’s a simple lesson.  Much like some of her best stories, not flowering writing wrapped up in too many words.  The things she writes, the ones I enjoy the most, tend to be two or three pages of just hopeful truths and dreams that one day she’ll absolutely achieve.

Plus I like her tales about penguins.  Reminds me of my daughter.  But maybe that’s her point.

 

A New Gathering Place

Purpose

This was the perfect time to ask for some assistance.  If I was going to actively chose falling down the cavern, having a person to hold the rope was smart.  Allowing depression to take hold for a short period of time means trusting someone to shine a light I could follow back.  Finding a person who is strong enough to be there and not take it personally or become trapped beneath the surface was easier than I thought.

My surprise came from having someone volunteer and push their way to the front of the line to help.  Not a series of words but actions that allowed me to do what was necessary and come back.

That gave her a purpose.  A long overdue acknowledgement that I valued what was being offered to me and that I was finally ready to accept a small portion of assistance.

Long ago I became accustomed to having to beg for someone to be there.  It became so desperate a plea after my daughter left that it was impossible to get anything done.  At a time when if things had been different maybe my future would also be.  Those months of not sleeping, barely eating, and carrying around a level of anger and grief that served no purpose other than to turn rainbows grey; they left me weak.  Prime for illness to take hold and keep it.

Saturday I had to go deep.  Talking about death is one thing, talking about how you expect people to handle your own combines a strength to get through the words and complete weakness as a result.

Most days I don’t allow the pain to show openly.  There are signs, but that just letting go long enough to get it out and move forward, not a chance.  I’m still haunted by showing previous weakness and have it exploited.

There were just two of us in the room.  It was a movement in our friendship that needed to occur.  I know that there was no amount of things I could buy, or meals I could cook that would be as meaningful as simply letting someone see me break down.  Accepting her hand to get off the floor hopefully was growth.

When someone at work feels like they aren’t fitting in, you find them a purpose.  Let them do something that brings out their confidence in themselves.  Let them know they matter as more than a nameless, faceless cog in the wheel.

It’s taken a long time for me to be able to open myself up to show that I understood that when I fell, those moments of weakness I try to hide, I was comfortable taking hold of a hand that has allows offered to be there.

Let’s put it in the simplest form –

I took a few bricks that have been built into a huge wall and moved them off to the side a started a foundation for a different structure.  Not a wall this time, but how about a nice patio where a few chairs can gather?