Glass Half Full Kind of Gal?

Some things you carry with you without even knowing it. These can be good things and these can be bad things. I just realized one of the good things I carry with me, and that is a love of watching pelicans fly and, more importantly, dive. I love the way they soar just above the water, their wings pulsing effortlessly. I love the way they hook it around when they think they’ve spotted something worthwhile in the water below, and I love the way they dive, just like that. You don’t get any hint or indication just before the dive, it just happens. Then, for just a second, their big outstretched wings bob on the water and their head is submerged and you think for sure the entire pelican must have broken but then it rights itself, gathers its wings in close and takes off again. I remember first seeing this when I lived in Oakland. I would sit by Lake Merritt and watch the pelicans dive and it was so soothing. So enjoyable. I remember a kind and motherly co-worker asking me what sorts of things I enjoyed doing and I said I love to watch pelicans dive. She asked what else. When I’m done doing that, what else do I like to do. I told her I could watch that for hours. She told me it sounded like depression. I thought, “Depression!? Oh no!” And I’ve thought about that over the years. Was that depression? I don’t know. Maybe. But it was fascinating to me. And now, nearly 20 years later I sit watching it happen again – soar, spot, dive, fly, soar, spot, dive, fly – over and over again. Every time the pelicans dive they look broken, and every time, they get right back up, and sometimes they have a little something they got out of the dive. I could still sit and watch this for hours. Maybe that’s depression, but it sounds a lot like hope to me.


I miss Kelly every day. Sometimes I will realize that I’ve gone 15 minutes without thinking about her, and the fact that she’s gone, and remembering makes my heart break all over again and the fact that I forgot, even for a few minutes, well honestly there is no single word that I can think of to describe how that feels. It’s like a bubble (made of lead) has burst.  People have told me I’m doing so well, but I’m not sure what that means or if I am. And honestly, whether or not I’m handling this wellhasn’t occurred to me. I’m not trying to make it through the day without crying, I’m trying to make it through the day without stopping. Literally, just stopping – in a grocery store, in a meeting, mid laugh, on a walk – wherever. I fight hard to resist the urge to just stop and stare. I’m still trying to grasp it and even believe it.

This is evident to me when I see or hear things that I want to share with Kelly, and for just a moment I forget that I can’t. This happens every day. At work in one of the bathroom stalls the toilet paper dispenser is a U-shaped bracket attached to the wall and if you look closely, as you’re sitting there with a few moments to spare, you can see the words “Install this side down”. I always meant to tell her about that because it made me laugh. She and I used to laugh at funny acronyms, like FALUC (which has since been revised) and PPFT (which spells the sound a fart makes). The other day I saw STPUD, which I wished I could share with her. Although these moments make me feel like I can keep her with me, they also break my heart, because the truth is she is gone, and that’s what’s so hard to accept.

Well the other day I saw an opportunity to pretend for a moment, a few seconds really, that she was not gone. I went to a work-related luncheon (though it wasn’t really fancy enough to warrant calling it a luncheon and Kelly would be the first to point this out) and the featured speaker was a woman who shared a lot of Kelly’s physical characteristics. Same hair color, same skin tone, similar body, dark glasses. At first it simply occurred to me that she looked a little like Kelly. Then I found myself trying to pretend that it was Kelly. But of course I couldn’t make that work. So I began “adjusting” my vision. It sort of worked, but her voice was not like Kelly’s and it threw me off. I actually became slightly frustrated and I wished she’d stop talking so I could stare at her with intentionally-blurred vision and pretend she was Kelly. Then I realized that if I adjusted my vision and waited for someone to ask hera question I had more luck. As she stood patiently waiting for the question to be finished I could pretend for about one quarter of a second that it was a very blurry Kelly standing up in front of the room. I continued to blur my vision as she spoke, but the moments when she wasn’t speaking were the ones I concentrated on.  I must have done this about a dozen times in the 30 minutes or so that she spoke.

Just about the same time it occurred to me that what I was doing was incredibly sad and a bit unstable, I realized the woman had done a few double-takes in my direction and her words had faltered ever so slightly when she looked my way. I found this a bit curious at first, but then it hit me, my method of “adjusting” my vision was in fact not undetectable.  I didn’t see how this could be possible since it felt like such a slight movement of my eyes, but later that day a friend confirmed that yes, it was indeed quite visible. The poor woman. Every time she looked at me she saw my eyes widen and move slightly up and to the center. Did she think I was making faces at her? Did she think I was having a seizure?

And of course, I wished I could share this story with Kelly.  I think about how I would share it with her. I would need to be sensitive about how I told her the story because she struggled so horribly her entire life with the fact that one of her eyes pulled inward a little.  I wouldn’t want her to think I found the fact that I was crossing my eyes funny, I would want her to know that the funny part was that I was doing this thing I thought nobody would notice only to find out it was totally obvious. I think if I told it right she would get a good laugh out of it. I can hear her laugh, see her face. Sometimes when she laughed really hard she would have a coughing attack and her eyes would water. I might get one of those laughs out of her with this story. If I told it right.

Of course, in order to get a good laugh I wouldn’t tell her the part about how subconsciously I must have known all along that the woman could see a shift in my eyes but that I chose to ignore this because I didn’t want to deny myself the opportunity to pretend she was standing ten feet away from me. Or maybe I would tell her that part. I think she would be very touched by that and although I might not get a good laugh out of her with that version of the story, I would definitely get a big hug, which would be even better. And I promise you, I would never let go.

Monrovia Calling

Yesterday I sat down to write and everything that showed up on the page was pure ugly. I know I’m trying to be all about revealing and accepting our imperfections, but this was too much even for me to take. My mind was filled with images of fleeing Syrians, thousands of children in the US alone stuck in the foster care system, adults suffering with childhood and lifelong traumas who end up homeless and addicted being referred to as “vermin” and “parasites”, which is something I recently encountered. These things break my heart on a good day, but yesterday was apparently not a good day. I felt trapped and useless and made a plan to run home from work, grab my passport and hop the next flight to Turkey. My plan was to make my way, somehow, to that place where there is a hole in a fence that thousands of Syrians were stuffing themselves through in hopes that they would, at a minimum, survive. I really really wanted to do this. But I realized that while I certainly could do this, it might not be the most effective means of helping these people.

So then I realized I had finally found my calling in life. I am to be an international aid worker.  After work I went home and asked George if he would live in Monrovia. “No. And I’d prefer that you didn’t either,” he said. South Sudan? “No.” I said “whatever, but I can’t stay in Auburn forever! I’ve done nothing with my life! I have so much to offer and I’m totally useless!” It may surprise you to hear that I did not then fall into a tantrum that even Scarlett O’Hara would be embarrassed to witness, instead I went into the office and plugged “how do I become an international aid worker” into the Google. The news was not good.

According to multiple websites it is nearly impossible to “land” one of these positions without an advanced degree. I don’t have one, but let’s back up…“land” one of these positions? Yes. That’s right. Apparently people are clamoring to leave their creature comforts behind and head out to unforgiving lands where unthinkable atrocities are happening in order to lend a helping hand. Most of these positions start out as volunteer positions, which is what I assumed I would do, but even the volunteer slots are given to people with a Master’s or above. Since I’m not going back to school to get a Master’s I changed my course.

It seems the United Nations is hiring Public Information Officers, one for its holocaust education program and one for its slavery education program. These positions are both based in New York City, which is where I suspect I will end up again at some point, at least for a couple of years. Perfect! I’m certain a 44 year old with a degree in English (the only language she speaks) from a state university will be a strong candidate for employment at the United Nations. There can’t be many folks who want to work there, right?  I hollered to George that I would be applying for these jobs and that if I get one, I’m going. He said, “Okay.”

Is it clear so far that my evening involved a bit of mania? It wasn’t just the career change that consumed me. George made a pot roast it in the Le Creuset French oven that had belonged to Kelly, who was a vegetarian, and I was plagued with guilt over that. She would not approve of cooking meat in her cherished pot. Also, I decided that although we did everything we possibly could to find the owners of the little Chihuahua we found on the side of the road over Fourth of July weekend in Merced and nobody responded, I should return to Merced and put up posters in neighborhoods nearest the location where we found her letting people know we found this little black Chihuahua on July 5th and while we would not be returning her, we wanted her former owners to know that she is safe. George informed me that that would be just plain cruel. I was in my pajamas by 5pm too. I climbed into bed around 9pm and by 9pm and 23 seconds I was passed out.

I slept until 7:30am. That’s a lot of sleep, and, as I made my way out of the fog of a long, deep sleep, I realized I hadn’t really gotten much sleep this week and…wait a minute! Is it possible I’m not crazy or manic or useless after all?! Why yes it is possible. The fact is, I was exhausted. And now I am not.

So today I have a new plan. I’ll sign up to donate $25 per month to help Syrian refugees (during my research I found a great organization to support), and I’ll look into becoming a Court Appointed Special Advocate for local foster youth or volunteering with the Placer Adult Literacy Council, and I’ll smile and wave at the homeless people in our area, and maybe bring them a sandwich now and again.  And I’ll try to remember that when I feel tired, I should go to bed.

A Darker Day

Here is something I wrote during what my spouse would refer to as one of my “dark” moments. I have these sometimes. These are moments when I’ve gone from seeing red to seeing black and things that seem completely insignificant become mammoth issues. It’s not uncommon that in these moments something as seemingly benign as dropping a pen or realizing I need to shave my armpits can feel like the end of me. I simply do not believe I have the wherewithal to pick a pen up off the floor or run a razor over my underarms.  Experiencing these moments at home is fine, the worst that happens is that my husband will move quietly out of the room (the best that happens is he gives me a hug, which helps tremendously). However, when these moments come on outside the home, things get a little dicey. Fortunately I’m not actually insane so a sneer or a snarky comment directed at an unsuspecting (I won’t say undeserving. They usually deserve it.) stranger is about the worst that happens.  But then last last October something a little different came out of one of these moments – a song. I think technically it’s a poem (or rhyming rant) since there is no melody to go along with it, other than the chorus, which a dear friend put to song after a few beers. Regardless of what it is, I liked it. It made me feel good to pull out a pen and watch this appear on the pages. Then I read it over and it made me laugh and it calmed me down and I found that I felt much better. The dark had grown a few shades lighter and I’m pretty sure that’s what counts. I make much better choices, and sneer far less, when I feel lighter.

Don’t Set Your Drink On My Table

This may be somewhat confusing

The title of this song I mean

“Don’t set your drink on my table”

Do you think you can picture the scene?

The truth is I’m tired of sneering

My annoyance

My verbal attacks

I just want to roll with the punches

I want Sweet Leah back

But you came in and sat down too close to me

Though you are on a separate seat

You with your extra-long skirt, long hair, swept up in a felt cap so neat

You and your companion talk easily

You seem to have things you think matter

While I sit here and fume at your drink on my table

My anger, my ass getting fatter

So don’t set your drink on my table

Right now this is my only place

And with all the hatred and heartlessness

I need to control this space

You’ve removed your drink from my table

You must have gotten my drift

When I slid my unread newspaper close, so close your drink almost tipped

Let’s look out at the hatred and heartlessness

And now let’s look in on mine

When everything just pisses me off like this I feel like a sharp razor line

Nothing I think seems to matter

Nothing I feel seems real

It leaves me confused, wandering free, in a world that cannot seem to heal

When I feel the thump of your plastic cup touching down once again in my space

And then hear you sucking on your green plastic straw, why does it quicken my pace?

It can’t really be a real problem

With all that is thrown in our face

But you set your drink on my table

And it was simply too much to take

Day 243

Where are you? I’m at this restaurant, the one where we ate breakfast that day you called. You were feeling down so we came here for breakfast. I got the Mornin’ Burger because I knew you would roll your eyes at the fact that it had a fried egg on it. I’m here now. I’m not getting the Mornin’ Burger. Without you here there’s no point. Again I ask, where are you? Why aren’t you sitting across from me, with that pained look in your (BEAUTIFUL) eyes, but laughing anyway? You have no idea how much I miss you, and that’s my fault. You drove me absolutely mad sometimes, but in addition to that you were an amazing big sister. And you loved me, so much, something I am only just now seeing and feeling. Is there anything more heartbreaking than feeling love from someone after they are gone? And I don’t just mean after they are no longer in your life, I mean after they are dead. Unrequited love on steroids, you might have said. It’s just over the line of what I can handle. But I don’t really have a choice do I? You would get a good laugh out of the fact that I thought it was a good idea to leave work in tears and come to this restaurant, where I am literally blowing through a stack of napkins. The waitress is pretending not to notice my snotty nose and glistening eyes but she is incredibly gentle and quiet about things like pouring water and setting my coffee on the table and brining me more napkins. But who knows, she may be totally grossed out that I plan to eat an omelette through tears.

I miss you, so much. But what’s worse is I love you so much, so much more than you knew and so much more than I knew, it was buried under all the other crap we let rise to the surface for so many years. I try so hard every day to figure out how I can let you know how much Ioved you but I am at a loss.