Saturday, December 22, 2012

So, Christmas comes but in three days and I am not ready. A month ago I felt sick, nauseous, just thinking about Christmas. I'd think of the presents, and getting together with everyone and cheer, and the candy cookies cakes, and whoosh, I'd get vertigo, have to sling those thoughts away. It's much harder to ignore things when you are unemployed. Much easier when you don't leave the house.
         The boyfriend and I would be in our house and one of us, in despair, would say, "What are we going to give people for Christmas?!" and the other would say, "Hmmm, let's think of something we can make everyone that's not too expensive." Then we would go and get snacks and watch another episode of Battlestar Galactica and pretend that time was not passing by while we did this. (Snacks. I have a snacks problem. Snacks are much, much better than alcohol when it comes to ignoring pressing problems. Alcohol, when taken in excess makes you think things like, "I am a hopeless piece of shit and I'm going to talk about it." Snacks make you think things like, "My, this is a delicious pretzel. I wonder what it would taste like dipped in ranch?")
          Then, slowly and quietly, (probably because I was looking away) the feeling of Happy Christmas crept up on me.
        We can't afford a tree this year, which is sad. I love a tree in the house. It's like a marvelous, magical mistake that you can have an entire tree to bring inside and light up and hang pretty things on. Isn't it strange? Isn't it lovely? There are some tiny cypress trees down the road that someone planted too close together and too close to an old oak tree. They will not all grow big, which is what cypress trees want to do. I thought it might be a kindness to cut one down. Especially the one that has such a very nice shape and is only six inches from another one. I thought that the boyfriend could be the look-out and I could do the dirty work with the saw from my multi-use pocket tool, or perhaps a bread knife and then we could nonchalantly walk it home. "Ho hum, nothing to see here, hummy hummy hum, la la, not stealing a tree oh no, ho-di-ho-hum." I knew, however, that because I am not a child I would get caught. I imagine the fine for cutting down a tree (even a tiny one that would not grow anyway) is larger than the price of a Christmas tree.
       [I got caught once trying to cut mistletoe from a tree in the Ross parking lot. A cop came out of nowhere and said, "Ma'am, you need to get out of the tree." I was wearing floral gardening gloves and clutching a knife in my teeth. It was embarrassing.]
        So one night, while the boyfriend was out driving his cab, I pulled the box of ornaments out of the closet and decorated a corner of the apartment. I have a room divider that someone made by hinging three screen doors together and then replacing the screens with muslin. In my house it doesn't divide anything, it just stands up against the wall in the corner. I've pinned photographs of my family on the doors, and a map of the world. This is what I decorated instead of a tree. I hung lights along the tops, and draped behind so the colors shine through the fabric. I pinned glass balls and tiny treasures to the muslin. I made a snowflake banner out of pages from The New Yorker. I hung ornaments from a branch and placed it on the top of the doors where they come to a V so that they drip down and sway in the breeze of the fan. While I did this I played Youtube jukebox, typing in "Otis Redding Christmas" "Bonnie Raitt Christmas" "Al Green Christmas". Bruce Springsteen, Dolly Parton, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Dinah Washington, Willie Nelson.... It does not matter. Everyone has done a Christmas song. I danced and decorated, decorated and danced. It is a small corner. It is beautiful.
        Then there came the night that I was bored and so I called my brother (who was to play Evil Santa at a party the next night) and said, "Have you made your hat yet?" and he had not, so I got out my red velvet and plush white felt and dragged the sewing machine table into our living room. My Lady Day came over bearing Pabst Blue Ribbon and Guinness and she drew skulls as I sewed and we gossiped and laughed so hard it verged on hysteria and I wanted to clutch her to me and say Thank You Thank You Thank You I needed that so much.
       After that came Granny's holiday party at the retirement home where I fed my three year-old nephew fake champagne under the table like he was a champagne guzzling dog (but classy, because we had those plastic champagne glasses that are shaped like a courtesan's breasts).
       A few days later I started on my other nephew's first stocking. He is nine months old and a right jolly old elf he is and last year when my sister was pregnant we all said "Next year we'll have another one!" and so this year is next year and how could he not have even existed before? It is a mystery. We cannot live without him. It was an honor to make his stocking, as it was when I made Owen's before him. I looked around me while I was making it and thought about how many people were making this stocking with me. Mama taught me how to thread a needle and pull the thread through my fingers to make a knot. Granny gave me my first sewing machine. Grandma Dot gave me the sewing basket I pull my needles, thread, sewing machine oil, pins, and notions from. The velvet came from old curtains from Mama's house and it is the same velvet from which I have made stockings for the rest of his family. The same fabric, thread, and strong knots tying us all together. I hope he has it for the rest of his life, even when the velvet sheds and the jingle bells throw their bindings. I hope he will look at it and know, Aunt May loves him. Always. I whispered that into every seam and sang promises with the jitterbug hum of the sewing machine. Always.
       Lately I have been making the boyfriend a pair of pajama pants. He knows that this is what he's getting for Christmas. He picked out the flannel himself. I thought that this would be a good gift because 1) he doesn't have a pair of pajama pants and he has to wear his jeans all the way up until going to bed, and 2) I have made pajama pants before, so easy peasy, right? Ha Ha! No! May makes plans and God laughs! I have always prided myself on my ability to look at someone and at a piece of fabric and just cut and sew the right size. One year I made everyone pajama pants, even Mr. Moon who is 6'10". Mama says that he still wears them. This time, I don't know what happened. I was almost all the way finished when I got him to try them on to make sure the waistband was right and well, at least the waistband was right. They were huge. HUGE. He's standing there in our living room and going, "Do you really think my legs are this big?" while pulling the excess fabric away from his body. I mean. You could have fit six puppies and a ham in those things, while he was wearing them. Then, because he is so sweet he's like, "No, it's not that bad, I can wear these..." and I, I am laughing so hard I'm snorting and I make him take them off so I can start ripping seams. It took me two hours to get the waistband off. They may have been the wrong size, but those things were solid! So that's an ongoing project. They may be done by Christmas. Or Spring.
        Night before last I went out with my brother and the sister who lives here. This is very very rare. I hardly ever go out, and Sister has the babies, but Hank is the one who Makes Things Happen and so it was. I got up pretty, I don't know why, in a swingy dress and tall shoes and lipstick. Hank wore his finery and looked very fine indeed. We picked up our sister and she looked beautiful as she always looks. (I have no children and I am the one who walks around in holey yoga pants and a cut-up sweatshirt, and Lily, who has a three year-old and a nine month-old somehow manages to wear attractive, well-kempt clothes and has hair that is always shiny and perfect. She is gorgeous.) So we were a good looking bunch. We went to karaoke night at the oyster shack and can I say, it was just the best time? There were old friends and new friends and people singing their hearts out (no, we did not get up and sing. we sang along, quite boisterously, but we did not get up on stage) and all the time, my brother and one of my sisters sitting there with me. I saw pretty ladies and tough young men, I saw older folks singing songs they should and younger folks singing songs they shouldn't. I saw records and posters on the wall and the poetry of bathroom graffiti. I even saw a man who was so drunkenly moved by my lipstick and tall shoes that he got up on a table and literally showed his ass. But the best thing I saw by far, were Hank and Lily's faces, smiling at me and laughing and knowing that right then, right then and there I was exactly where I wanted to be in all the world. If the world had ended yesterday I would have gone easy, with a smile on my face.
      And so no, I am not ready for Christmas. I am not ready for the lights to be taken down and the songs to stop playing. I am not ready for the going out nights to end, or the staying in and sewing nights. I am not ready for the big family get togethers to be over or for Mama to stop making cookies. Christmas is crazy, but it is big and beautiful if you ignore the malls and the money and the consumerist bullshit. It can be a very merry madness, it can be a grinning mess. It can be a good reason to get together.
       My family is not Christian, but I understand that Jesus was all about love and so I think he'd be alright with us. Our Christmas is not about Jesus, but it also isn't about getting a bunch of stuff or fighting crowds or watching "It's a Wonderful Life". We have a wonderful life because we have each other and we have love. Every day we have love. Not everyone is so lucky. So blessed.
      Bad things happen. Pain and horror and questions that will never be answered no matter how many times asked. We can't hug and kiss away all the pain that exists in the world, but if we have those we love around us we can hug and kiss them. We can hug and kiss them and hold onto them in our arms and in our hearts and cherish every moment we have. That is all we can do. All I want for Christmas is to look around the room at all the faces of all the people I love most in the world and be right there, right there in that moment, exactly where I want to be. I believe I will get it, and isn't that fine? Isn't that good? Isn't that a Goddamned Christmas miracle? I think so.
      I hope you all get a Christmas miracle this year. I wish you all a merry madness. I hope you all have love.

Monday, November 19, 2012

In Which I Talk About Anxiety

         I don't know how to do this anymore. My typing skills (HA HA! Skills! As if!) are rusty and so is my screen writing brain (by which I mean the brain I use to put words on a screen rather than on a page). But, where there's a will there's a May, so it is written, so shall it be done.
        I've been catching up on other people's blogs (are you down with OPB?) and I see that there is a lot of crazy going around. A lot of Going Through Shit. This I find reassuring. Now I know I'm not the only one. I've been in hiding, because I am anxious, and I am ashamed at my anxiety, and I don't want folks to worry about me, so I become reclusive and don't talk to my friends, which makes me more anxious, and so on. It's funny because it seems like everyone is anxious these days and they talk about it blithely and with humor on NPR and in the New Yorker and so you would think that I would own it and laugh with the world at all our silly fears. Only, it is not funny to me. It's scary. I don't like it.
       Two years ago I was tall and strong and brave. I walked with legs longer than my own and owning, I owned the floor. I managed the floor actually, I was the Floor Manager. Managing things was my job. Then one day (actually, this was a little over two years ago) I got the shakes at work and had to walk away for a little while. It happened that one time, and then I was fine for a while, and then again a couple of months later. It was during brunch and I was fine, I was fine, and then all of a sudden the floor tilted and my hands wouldn't stay still and I could not carry those damn bloody marys to table twelve so I passed off the table and went to lie down on the floor in the office. I didn't know what was happening. I'd never experienced anything like that before. I thought I was having a low blood sugar attack or something and I called my brother and he came picked me up, took me to lunch, and then to his house where I fell asleep on the couch and woke up feeling much better. See? Blood sugar, right?
        That was the worst it got at work, the worst, but it kept happening every once in a while. I made sure that I had snacks and if I got shaky, well, I'd just take a little break and eat something and come back and everything was fine. Still, I hated it. I was the manager! I had to manage! I was the one who, if everyone was else was in the weeds, could get thrown to the wolves and I'd be fine. I'd be smiling.
         Meanwhile in my personal life, my long-distance relationship fell apart and I got together with my neighbor/ coworker's best friend and all was topsy-turvy and my simple and quiet life was being pulled from my hands. I was trying desperately to catch the pieces as they blew away.
        It wasn't all bad. New boyfriend turned out to be sweetness completeness who would pull me into him at night in his sleep and stop whatever he was doing to kiss my face. I needed that. I still do.
       I made an appointment, and he drove me to the doctor. The doctor was kind and listened to my symptoms and told me that it did indeed sound like a blood sugar problem (even with snacks, it is hard to eat when you are a waitress. Waitresses don't eat. Not really. They are robots). He scheduled me for tests. The blood work girl was beautiful and wore a turban. There was a poster of cartoon cats on the wall. As she drew the blood so gently from my arm I tried to pick my favorite cat, while my boyfriend held my other hand and told me which one he liked best too. Then he took me to breakfast.
       Two weeks later and back with the kind doctor, he told me I was absolutely fine. Perfect actually, couldn't be better. He punctuated his findings by taps on the table as he read from his laptop. "Kidneys? Great. Liver? Perfect. Thyroid? Wonderful. Iron? Most women your age start to go down in iron, but yours is ideal. Blood sugar? There is no evidence that you have any problems whatsoever." The doctor was Indian and his voice had a beautiful upwards lilt. It sounded like he was reciting poetry. Then he told me there was something else that carried the same symptoms as hypoglycemia, and that was anxiety.
      I left the office feeling let down. And relieved. I didn't want to be hypoglycemic, but I wanted something concrete, something physical that I could pinpoint and fix and be well and move on. The brain is so slippery, so sneaky and smart, it will do what it wants. It will tell the heart to beat fast, it will call out danger, it will tell the feet that the earth is sliding and the feet will listen. Now here is where I'm going to sound really crazy: I know that I am my brain, but I sort of think of it like an Other, like I and Brain are separate. If Brain was going to be an asshole, I was going to bitch slap it into submission. "Stop it, Brain!" I would say. "Stop it right now! There is no danger! We have done this a thousand times before!" And actually, that worked. For a while.
      I wasn't the only one having anxiety at work, particularly around brunch. One of our waitresses would wake up at 5 AM with a pounding heart every Sunday. One of our food runners had to throw up more often than not before his brunch shift. Another waitress one time had to sit on the floor in the beverage station with her head between her knees while I stood there and rubbed her back and said, "Breathe. In and out. Just breathe." I can't tell you exactly why it was so bad. It just was. It still is, I hear. I'm glad I'm not there.
       The anxiety started creeping back, and though that was not the only reason I left, it was a factor.
        I had hoped that it would lessen if I was away from all the pressure of that place. All the craziness and the stress and the troubles with the upper management, but it didn't. Not really. It changed, for sure, but it's like my body got a taste of terror and now I am afraid of being afraid. I had an anxiety attack while driving recently and now every time I get into my car I feel that sickness, that sweaty leaden dread. It ain't pretty and it ain't fun.
      I'm working on it. I'm writing about it, and that feels good. Writing feels like medicine. Reading the blogs of strong ladies, ladies I admire, ladies who are also experiencing or who have experienced something similar is medicine too. I hope I can give that back. Or at least let someone else feel a little of that, "Well, I'm not THAT bad" feeling. I'm also looking into support groups which, if nothing else, will give me more blog fodder. Being unemployed I need something to write about.
       Right now I'm going to go on a walk. I'm going to walk hard and sweat. I'm going to feel how strong my legs are, how strong my back is. I'm going to suck the sunlight into my skin and get up that one damn hill that is a bitch every time and when I get to the top I will raise up my arms and cheer and jump up and down like a champion (like I do every time) and I will feel that wild feeling that the world is beautiful and that no matter what I love it, I love it, I love it. This too shall pass, it won't be like this always. All the people we have ever been are still inside us; that strong, long girl is still inside me. I take comfort in that.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

It's Been A Long Time Since We Rock-n-Rolled

          I woke up this morning after too many gray days, after not feeling well and time on the couch only interrupted by time in the bed and lo, the sky is blue and lo, the air is clean and cold and oh, I have to wash my hair. I want to burn my pajamas. I want to get on the good foot. I want to take a walk.
         I wish I could write about all the changes that have occurred in the past year and a half. I don't have the energy right now, it's too much and somehow not enough. I will try. Soon.
         I quit my job. I wish I could write about that, about the bittersweet about that place and also the miseries, but I don't want to tell tales outside of school and if I can't write the anger then I can't write the sublime. It's just not truth that way. Maybe I will though, you never know. Lord knows it would be nice to get it all out and move on. Weird when something is your life for so long and then it is not and you walk around empty for a while- hands empty, brain empty, a strange light feeling in your skin and nothing to say, not at all, to anyone.
        I can hear the boyfriend turning in the bed, and the house ticking into late morning, and the cats playing rumble-stomp, and for now that is okay. There is a walk to take, and hair to wash. I'm sorry it's been so long. We'll talk soon.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Baby Waiting

My sister is having a baby. I should be eating, and then sleeping, but I am not. I am writing, I am smoking, I am sipping a glass of wine (to sleep, perchance to dream), I am waiting for this baby to come. It is better than Christmas.
And isn't that what Christmas is all about? A celebration of a child being born? I am not Christian and so it is completely right that my sister's baby's upcoming birth would be better than Christmas. Besides, we are all children of God, and every birth is a miracle birth.
I left her tonight in bed. I had just rubbed her feet (come on, Baby) and kissed her face a million times. Then kissed her belly (come ON, Baby!) a million times, and her husband (whom she caressed as I walked out the door and I heard her say, "You've been a good Daddy today..") was getting tucked up beside her and Owen, oh Owen, our (their) two and a half year old about to snuggle in between....
Lily. Beautiful Lily. You are resplendent. The way you are so calm and cool, the way you take this world, this motherhood and wear it like silk on your skin. You ask for a kiss and the boy comes a runnin'. Who knows what this next child will do?
I joke and I say, "I can't wait to see what this baby will be! A zebra? A dinosaur? A fairy?". It is not so much a joke because as Mama said earlier today we could not have imagined who Owen would be, and I said there's no use imagining. We don't know the sex, but really, who cares about the sex? Who will this person be? I hope our sense of humor is there, I hope for health and beauty and that lovingness we in our family have for each other is there. Those are my hopes.
If she (he) is half as beautiful as Lily we will be blessed. If he (she) is half as smart as Uncle Hank we will be blessed. If she (he) is half as healthy as our Mama we will be blessed. And if he (she) is half as Zen-like as Pop-pop, as half as determined and loving as Aunt Jessie, as half as funny and just a damn good person as is Jason, we will be blessed, we will be blessed, we will be blessed. No matter what, we get a new person to love, to grow a new heart for, to make our great days even greater and deeper and fuller, and we will be blessed.
Oh Baby, I love you. You have a family who will always hold you up and keep you strong. You have a Mama and Daddy who will always be there for you. You have grandparents who will teach you amazing things and love you unconditionally. You have aunts and uncles who will play rumble-tumble with you and spoil you rotten and teach you the dirty words. You have a brother who is the most amazing soul (so deep, so funny, so true, so smart) who will guide you and protect you and know you better than anyone else.
Come ON, Baby, come on. We are waiting for you. We love you.