It’s an Attitude Problem

Other than (VERY) occasionally looking in the mirror, it has been my habit to not really give a rip what people thought about how I dress/look. Comfort is key. Being inconspicuous (well, since having kids.) is easy when all you ever wear is t-shirts (long sleeves in the winter, short in the other 3 seasons) and something bland (jeans in the winter. skirts in the other 3 seasons. By skirts I mean mid-calf or longer.). It also makes it very easy to shop. There is a brand of jeans that fit the way I like, and skirts can be made in an hour or two. Tshirts are…y’know. Tshirts. That’s all they are.

Now, that opening line might have implied that bright colors or esoteric fashion is to be embraced. I have explained how that isn’t so here. However (tell me you didn’t see that coming), a certain friend of mine has taken it upon herself to give me STYLE. Frightening, uncharacteristic (for me), Seen In All The Right Stores STYLE. Which causes me to panic (a little) and revolt (a little more) and retreat away from any sort of STYLE that might have been budding in the form of a color or perhaps a ruffle. My psyche has shouted RETREAT and played that trumpet call, and there are internal moans of dismay and a heaping of all the simple things to the front of the dresser and closet. This way I can grab them with a sigh of relief.

you see, she talked me into Skinny Jeans, declaring that they made the most of muscular (er….)legs and made my butt look awesome. Ok yes, the fit on my waist was great. It is hard to find jeans that fit both waist and arse with any degree of comfort. But looking in the mirror cause flashbacks and panic and something like a desire to wear a burkha. I did buy them, with trepidation, and they are still in the bag on the dining table, waiting for a reckless moment probably fueled by half a bottle of Malbec. These legs simply are not used to being hugged. MomJeans, that’s where I’m at. MomJeans with a scoopneck t-shirt and a nice cardigan sweater. And shoes that fit my orthotics. And a sensible watch.

If I listened to the SkinnyJeanGuerilla, there would be stuff cut out and exposed collarbones and earrings (!?!) and probably shoes with heels or something! I might get noticed! I HAVE NO IDEA HOW TO HANDLE THAT. She made the valid point that, if I want to Get Back Out There (which I do, eventually, but not immediately.), I’m going to have to dress less like a contemporary nun and more like someone who’s interested in Getting Back Out There. She has a point, but can’t the point involve something other than figure hugging skinny jeans? Even though I’ve lost nearly 40 pounds and they don’t actually make me look like a beachball on short stilts? Also, apparently wearing heels make one’s legs look longer, but people won’t notice my artificially long legs, they will be watching me attempt (badly) to walk in those heels. I’d rather be ignored than noticed for walking like someone who just drank half a bottle of Malbec (which is what it will take to get there).

thing is, she really means well, and I am taking the whole endeavor in the spirit for which it is intended, that is, to boost my confidence and get over the notion that I weigh over 200 pounds. Because the root of the whole problem is that is it incredibly difficult to get over that. So, the jeans will remain in the bag, on the dining table, until courage is worked up to put them on. Maybe eventually, with a long enough sweater and some boots, there will be enough courage to wear them Out. However, it will certainly come at a cost, because good Malbec ain’t cheap.

 

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The best laid plans, etc

Earlier today #4 said he was having trouble focusing. I confessed to having the same issue. Not just mind-focusing, but my eyes are wonky, as are his. I don’t think it’s a call for a visit to the optometrist, but more a physical symptom of the ongoing grief. Particularly since it’s coming up on a year since Himself left this Earth for better things.

I was pondering on that last night and this morning, the whole thing of belief, and what a tremendous…not sure how to put it…relief? Maybe…something like that…any way, how knowing where Himself has gone to, and how much better off he is there than here, all of that folds into a sort of helium balloon that carried our grief a bit lighter. I think if we thought of him as GONE, worm food, ceasing to exist entirely, how much heavier the burden would be. I don’t want him GONE. Being able to consider that he’s busy doing wonderful things allows me to let go of the grief (to some extent) and carry on with my life here. Missing him is just missing him because he is elsewhere, not missing him because he is GONE. What a tremendous gift that has been.

Nonetheless, we miss him. A lot. For a whole year, we have missed him. Granted, we have become accustomed to it, for the most part, so it is no longer something that absolutely gobsmacks us. Now, it’s a weight we carry with muscles that are used to carrying it. Now we can eat, and sleep. That’s a good thing because those are kind of necessary. I still cry occasionally, maybe when coming across a thing of his. The closet still holds his clothes and the dresser is still there. It’s comfortable. There is a deadline for passing them on: when we move. I won’t move the stuff with me, but until then they aren’t hurting anything.  I still don’t like going into his shop. Without him there it’s just a barn, but there is an old cigar butt, or a set of clamps, or some other thing that is purely his, and I can see him with it. I’m not ready to make a fond smile about that yet.

I think I’m at the point where I know he could look down and see I’m doing well, and he would be proud of me.  Respect was very important to him, and to a degree I was worried (like it mattered!) that he would think I was being disrespectful of his memory by getting my act together so quickly. I know that may sound strange, but I know him and he would have loved a bit of incapacitation on my part. That’s not my way, though. However, I have indulged him a little bit, with occasional curling up in a ball and closing the door for some private grief. I know he’d like that, just as I know he’d like that I am in school and working on getting on with life.

But right now, it’s kind of heavy because of the impending anniversary (or sadiversary, as it’s called in grief circles). He was an Anniversary Loving sort, celebrating all sorts of of them as often as possible. I think, on the 24th, I’ll seek to gather us all together for a meal and a toast with his bourbon. If I can. If it’s too hard, I’ll show him some respect with a private wadding-in-a-ball grief thing.

And then I’ll get on with the Second Year. School, planning of futures, and head-shaking perplexion (is that even a word?) at being a Widow, because that was NOT in the plans. However, if I’ve learned one thing this year, it’s that the most carefully made plans..etc.etc.

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Right now is the Winter equivalent to someone letting you have a bite of their triple chocolate-with-pecans-and-coffee-icecream brownie (click on that, really.)(That, my dears, is The Brownie Apocalypse, featuring a triple-threat brownie, coffee ice cream, homemade whipped cream, and toasted pecans. It was developed in a fit of boredom one time, with collaboration from a friend an entire continent away.)

What I mean to say is that today is one of those Perfect Winter Days we have here. It is why people live in the Deep South. It is why we put up with the 198% humidity and heat during the Summer. It is why God invented convertibles. And windows that open. And camellias.

This is the kind of day that makes gardeners twitchy, digging out seed catalogs and inventorying starter pots and making sure the cold frame is functional.

#4 left for school this morning, wearing shorts and a Hawaiian shirt. It was winter-appropriate, that shirt, being cobalt blue and black, instead of the bright florals of the other shirts in his closet.

The dogs are suspicious of the weather, I think. They keep burrowing under the blankets. Dachshunds do that, but still. I would think a sunny spot in the yard, where they could lay and bloat up, would be warmer.

I am pondering which direction to take with the outside. #’s 2 and 4 already helped out with the garden stuff. It’s a little early to dig up the betony. I recently learned that digging it in the Spring will yield these crunchy and sweet tubers, good for pickling or chopping onto a salad. The yard is well overrun with betony, so there should be enough to make a bunch of pickles. The idea also appeals to my sense of…not sure what to call it…Inner Granny Hippie Forager Type. That’s the one who makes salad from dandelions and chickweed, picks blackberries for jam, and uses ramps in the potroast. Discovering that there was a decent use for the betony redeemed it a little bit, as before it was nothing but a noxious weed, suitable only for Roundup.

Anyway, that’s all the news. or whatever. The weather is Deep South Perfect, life is pretty good for now, and these days that’s as good as it gets and I’ll take it.

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Retail therapy

Typically, I am not a Shopper. You will not usually see me strolling down King Street or Broughton Street or College Street carrying multiple elegant paper bags, contents wrapped in tissue paper; boutique coffee in hand, Chanel sunglasses hiding most of a carefully botoxed face, and chattering cheerfully with some other middle aged Patron of the Arts while we do whatever it is MAPotA do on King/Broughton/College streets.

Occasionally, however, I will stroll those streets, such Shopping Destinations that they are, and indulge in the offerings a little bit.

Today I had an appointment for a teeth checking. His office is, conveniently, on Broughton Street, and since there’s 2 hours on the parking meter and the checkup took 45 minutes, might as well take advantage, right? right. See, there’s this place on that street that carries the sort of stuff MAPotA use on a regular basis, to keep the botox in order. It’s called L’Occitaine and if you go in, the cheerful employee will grab your hand and give it a generous massage. With cream that has some sort of mind altering agent because after the massage you’re perfectly willing to drop $40 on a bottle of something. Now, I don’t have any botox and am not a Patron of the Arts unless it comes from a friend, who happens to be an artist but she would be my friend even if she weren’t. However, it IS her fault that L’Occitaine has become a part of the standard visit to that street in Savannah, along with Coffee Fox, Go Fish, and Paris Market. I haven’t succumbed to the desire/cultural need for multiple tissue filled bags, nor Chanel sunglasses or whatever other accoutrements necessary to the demographic.

BUT…the simple pleasure of getting a few things I would have gotten anyway, in an environment more pleasant that the local Bi-Lo, is kind of nice, indulgent in a gentle and inoffensive way. There is a market in Savannah that carries a ridiculously broad selection of produce and meats, at a very acceptable price, and I do love to shop for food. It’s more fun that looking for clothes, shoes, cars, jewelry, anything else one could name that some people consider “fun”. Food…everyone needs it, right? Might as well make it interesting and delicious and the whole experience a pleasure rather than a chore.

I spent an hour at this place (called Lucky’s Market, it’s at the intersection of DeRenne and Abercorn, if you’re interested), perusing the produce area (Red grapefruit, 5/$1! Little bitty beets, $2/pound!) and the bulk section (Jamaican coffee,, Kenyan coffee, And others, $9/pound! Corn nuts, $1.80/pound! #4 do love him some corn nuts!), and loaded up on some tasty tasty food that is going to feed us for the next week AND it’s mostly organic stuff so my inner HipsterGrannie is satisfied. Even now, there is a pan of roasted roots and a small chicken resting, waiting to be served for dinner. I feel so…like a Good Mother.

And there’s a liquor store with a massive wine selection, and thanks to Brother Scott and his Christmas gift of several bottles of French wines, my horizon expanded. I bought a couple of bottle of fancy French red wine, and am enjoying a glass of 2014 Les Darons Languedoc, which sounds much fancier than it probably is, but is delicious. Even though there is some sort of taboo about red wine and chicken, in the privacy of my own home I will do as I please.

So here it is, my own version of Retail Therapy: a hand massage from someone dressed in black who smells of almonds, several bags of root vegetables and a chunk of cheese (Harlech Somerdale. People, it is incredible. A sharp cheddar with horseradish in it. MM mm MM MM mm), and a $15 bottle of French Wine. Life is Good.

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I reckon it was inevitable.

Image result for hot flashes

Because I’m sitting here, in a house with the thermostat set on 65F. It’s something like 45F outside. My feet are freezing and my face and torso are damp with sweat and I have NOT been following a couple of friends leads and doing calasthenics calesthenics  (see, they’re so foreign I can’t even spell them) y’know…EXERCISE. I am just sitting here, on the computer, wearing a comfortable post-church velour track suit (in case someone drops in, they will see the sweat and suit and hopefully assume I have been doing calesthenics. whatever). It feels as though there is a furnace inside that has no ductworks leading to my limbs. What’s up with that?

All my life, because I was raised that infirmity was probably a sign of character weakness, I assumed I was immune to those annoying things I heard women discuss when the men weren’t around.                                                                                       *an aside…if you want the men to leave, discuss Female Things. It works every single time. The assumption was that I could snicker at the women who griped about wetting their pants when they sneezed, or had hot flashes, or grew mustaches.

Well. ahem. at least women don’t…well…we don’t…er…Well, suffice it to say Men Have Issues, Too, y’know. While women have an assortment of products we can purchase to Deal With That Little Problem, men have NASCAR, cigars, and Buffalo Wild Wings’ impressive selection.

Where was I? Oh yeah. I had coffee recently with a friend, one of those kinds where you can ask “do I have a mustache?” and you know, since she’s a cosmetologist, that she’ll give an honest answer. Something along the lines of “well, there is a bit of a shadow. Maybe bleaching or a good sharp razor would be in order.” It’s bad enough that I didn’t notice the hair on my chin until it was long enough to style.

Image result for very old woman with a mustacheat some point you just have to roll with it.

So not only do I have an internal furnace that makes me sweat, I have a mustache that glistens when I do. No comment on the sneezing problem. Because this may be It Really Is Personal, I’m not ready to go there yet.

It’s all probably a good thing, a sign that life is progressing as it should. My body (that thing Carrie Fisher so elegantly describes as her “brain bag”, and has also been charmingly called a “meat suit”) is doing what bodies do, getting older, telling me that There Will Be No More Babies (actually that was taken care of by artificial means but now the hormones are catching up with the concept). It’s as if it is saying “well ok fine, since There Will Be No More Babies, there’s no reason to be pretty without a WHOLE BUNCH OF WORK.” Fine then, I think, if I can’t be pretty and firm and dewy (I think I’m doing dewy pretty well right now, however)(except for the mustache…ugh), I can be smart and experienced and wise and some other words older people use to feel good about themselves.

Or I can irritate the hell out of younger people, which is basically the same thing.

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It’s been 11 months since Himself passed away. Can you believe it? The year-ish has passed so quickly, and yet it has been the longest year of my life. So much has stayed exactly as it was, but everything is completely different. How does that happen?

I remember the overwhelming desire to run screaming in the street, demanding that EVERYTHING STOP. How dare people keep living their lives, going to work, buying groceries, arguing with the kids. I wanted everything and everyone to stop, at least for a couple of days, and help me pick up all these pieces of my life that just crumbled. I’d even provide the baskets if only the world would just stop for a bit. A few people did just that, and without their help I’d still be in pieces.

I have, over the last 11 months, gradually been glued back together. Like any broken thing, there are scars, visible reminders of what happened. but that’s ok. That’s life, isn’t it: a gradual collection of scars and marks that detail the events of the past.

*an aside…see that colon up there? Do you see it?! I’ve learned how to use those things in my English course!

I can look around, and nearly everything seems the same, on the outside. The pots are still in the same cabinet, the refrigerator holds the same condiments, I still don’t use the anise. A few things are different. The brown rocking chair is red, and there’s a new bedspread on my bed.

Life has carried on with the rhythm of normalcy. #4 has his driver’s license, #3 had a baby and got a new job, #2 is in school, #1 is working. All those comfortable, normal things that are so reassuring that, in spite of falling to pieces, say that Life Is Fine. And it is. It still hurts to know I won’t be seeing Himself in this lifetime. I still haven’t cleaned out his closet. I am simply not ready yet. It’s not that I am pretending he’s going to need those clothes or anything. I just…don’t want to. Yet.

I ave learned how to handle the stuff he always took care of, the  budget, paying bills, dealing with car issues. That’s been the biggest thing. He could listen to a car noise and know what it was, and if it was repair worthy or just a thing. Now I have to take it to a place and let them listen.Fortunately they don’t charge for listening, and have told me that the unusual grunt was a pump starting up. I didn’t know if it was a pump or the sound of a transmission preparing to commit suicide. I am glad it was a pump.

Now, most of the time, I can think of him, and the 28-1/2 years of our marriage, without turning into a heaving ball of misery. Well, to be honest, that only happened a few times because it’s embarrassing (even when I am completely alone). Thanks to several very good friends, there are places to go, to talk stuff out. Some of them let me cry, others make fun of Life Alone and check to be sure I am not turning into a Cat Lady. Occasionally one will go to movies with me, and another will cause me to do irresponsible (and fun) stuff. All of them keep me from feeling so totally alone and miserable. Word to the wise: make sure you have a few friends, really good ones, of all sorts.

And there’s school, the first step toward being Myself, Without Himself. It has been…well…practically never since I have been Myself. 50 years old, and figuring out how to be Myself. The direction is unclear, but isn’t it always? You might think you know where you’re going, and arrows might seem to point in a given direction, but you don’t REALLY know, you just have to trust that Someone DOES know, and follow His lead. Go through the open doors, or window, but be sure to GO. Stagnation doesn’t do anyone good. I don’t know where I am going. Once upon a time I thought I knew, but it’s ok that I don’t. Really. Because right now I know where I’m at, and I am ok with it.

 

 

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Another chapter

Ok, so school has started. I own a couple of textbooks, one of which the instructor informed the class wasn’t needed, as we could look up the stories online. Oh well. I threw away the receipt, so it can’t be returned either. Textbooks can be quite the racket. It cost $90 for a book of short stories that were out of copyright. I will chalk it up to inexperience, and see if it can’t be resold on Amazon or something.

So far so good. I like school. Each class has met twice, with the first day being business stuff like going over the syllabi, rules for attendance, etc. The second days were actually learning stuff, which was lovely. No really, it was a lot of fun and I thoroughly enjoyed them. Both instructors are fine with participation, and next class day I will wear a muzzle because honestly once I get started it’s hard to stop. I’m all full of “why” and “how come” and “that seems a little ridiculous”.

The class demographics are not an issue.  Initially I was a little concerned about being a 50 yr old in a room full of 18-19 types. Nope, it’s a community college, not a university. Thus, the class population tends to be a very mixed bag. It is much more comfortable than previously worried over. I also signed up for first-of-the-morning classes, which also contributes to the mixed bag vs. young whippersnapper collection. It makes for finding easy parking as well.

Thus far, no one has spoken out against the travel mug full of coffee, also a concern. If there is a mug full to sip on, I won’t blurt out as much. While classroom participation is a graded feature, it is also important to give the other people chance to impart wisdom ask questions.

I’ve turned another page, entered another chapter. This is the opening paragraph. If this all goes as well as I hope, there will be a chance to enroll in the Major University in the town near The New Place. That would be fun. Investigations of job opportunities in The New Place showed myriad openings for the sort I am considering. However, I’m not sure about working general business stuff. It would be lovely to have  a chance to work at a non-profit. I won’t need a large income, just something supplemental. Working at a non-profit could be rewarding. Maybe some experience should be gathered initially, then go to the non-profit as something comes available. Who knows? I have decided that, instead of cramming classes in to finish up by Summer 2017, I will keep the course load reasonable and finish when I finish, likely December 2017. What’s the rush, anyway? I might as well do it properly, since it is an investment in the future.

The way I see it, God has opened up a bunch of stuff here lately, closed some major doors, but opened some big ones at the same time. Right now, my job is to go to school and learn some useful stuff. To be honest, it was irritating at first, to find out about having to take English composition, but even after the first couple of days I can see it will be very beneficial, and I am going to enjoy it. There is a lot of writing to be done, and writing is fun! As for the marketing course…well…it’s understandable why it needs to be taught, as it is an introductory course, but I am struggling with the need to know the difference between Figureheads and Spokespersons (Spokespeople?). I am sure it will pick up and become more interesting as the semester progresses. These are the doors through which I am currently going. They aren’t scary doors, there are no cliffs, dark corners, or (hopefully) places for monsters to hide. There is just a (very young-ish looking) Marketing instructor, and a sarcastic English composition (yay! I love sarcasm!) teacher. There is a classroom with a diverse population (waitress, housewife, hookah distributor), in a school 5 minutes from my house.

All this time I am thinking how Himself would be proud of me. The boys are, they keep telling me this. I am excited.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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