About pishnguyen

I love photography, writing, anime, my family, and my dogs. And I seem to spend a LOT of time chasing my muses around in circles.

Everything You Want

What if you could have Everything you wanted? It seems like it would be great, doesn’t it? Or fabulous or perfect or whatever it is that comes beyond all those words that lurk in our minds alongside “great”. It lives in your mind, that “Everything”. It lives there like a dream. You can close your eyes and feel it there, taking shape somewhere inside your soul. You can see the edges of it. You can smell the smells and taste the flavors that make up your dream — that make up your “Everything”, whatever that may be.

It’s beautiful and bittersweet. You just know, if you could only get your “Everything”, your life would be all fixed. It would be perfect and happy. There would be no more worries and no more arguments and no more fear of what might happen and no more stress over possibly making a wrong choice. Because, of course, this is your “Everything”. Everything You Ever Wanted. How could it be wrong? It couldn’t. That’s what your mind tells you. That’s what the dream tells you. And the dream is right: it is perfect and beautiful and happy. And, above all, it is safe. Because it’s just a dream, and you can’t conceive of it ever truly happening in your life. No matter how much you shape it to your will or taste its sweet flavors or feel the roughness of its edges, “Everything” remains insubstantial and out of reach. That’s the bittersweet part. You can feel it. You can taste it. You can see it. But you can’t touch it — not really.

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I have an “Everything”. I have lots of them, actually. But one, in particular, deals with being able to live in a certain place. For years now, the place where we currently live has worn on me. It makes me feel ragged and rubbed raw in the places where my mind and soul meet. For a while now, I’ve found myself thinking in an “if only” sort of way: if only we didn’t live here, things would be better … if only we could go home, back to the place where my heart longs to be, things would be better. I would be better. The rough spots in my soul and psyche would magically smooth themselves over. The birds would sing and fairies would dance outside my window and there would be nothing but rainbows and unicorns. In short, it would be Pretty Damn Good. What? This is my “Everything”. I can have rainbows and unicorns, if I want. The point is this: life looks way better to me on the other side of the fence than it does on this side, where I can see every bit of flotsam and all the blades of grass that have turned brown over the years.

This morning, my husband mentioned something that could make my much longed-for “Everything” a reality. It’s only a slim chance. Really, at this point, it’s not even accurate to call it a chance. It’s a wisp of a whisper of the slimmest possibility. But it’s way more than I’ve had in the last fifteen years of what I think of as my exile. It’s a hint of maybe and, as such, it feels so very concrete. In some realm of the imagination, this could happen. It almost makes me want to cry, just thinking of this teeny-tiny maybe.

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But then, I stopped to think. And the heaviness of reality (even a whisper of a maybe of a reality has a heaviness to it, when we’re talking about something as fanciful as a dream) swooped in and cloaked the edges of my “Everything”. Because the place I left is much-loved in my mind. It is home, and it will always be home. And, as such, it will always be beloved. But it’s not perfect. There are drawbacks and worries and potential pit-falls. Even if it could happen, it might not be the right thing for my family. Or for me. Maybe it just seems like the right thing in my mind because it’s been a dream for such a long time. Because it’s my “Everything”. And because dreams are always perfect and right. They can’t help it. They don’t know how to be anything else.

Sometimes, I think the only thing worse than not having your “Everything” is facing a moment when “Everything” might come true. What if “Everything” is just what I always expected it would be? What if it’s not? Which one of these things is worse? Either way, I will lose the dream I’ve nurtured in my heart of hearts for all these years. If it comes true, it becomes reality and starts to fade and shred around the edges, colored with my all-too-human disappointment in life and in myself. If it doesn’t come true, I have to face the idea that it will likely never happen and, thus, let go. Either one is painful. And I am left feeling human and small and vulnerable in the face of my internal struggle.

 

I’m a Unicorn

 

On Friday, I got new hair. New hair!! Well, not really “new” hair. I mean, it’s still my same old, super-fine, not-nearly-thick-enough hair on my head. But it feels like brand new hair. Is there anything better than getting your hair done? I mean, really … There is something so incredibly uplifting and liberating about getting a really great color and cut. It makes me feel better about everything in my life. It makes me feel better about being me. And that, my friends, is a tall order.

I’ve been rocking the “crazy” hair color for a while now. But all in different tones of blue — sometimes dark, sometimes bright, sometimes more pastel, sometimes kinda turquoise, sometimes a mix of several of these tones. But always blue. I love me some blue. It is my favorite color of life. I think blue is my spirit animal. Can a color be a spirit animal? Whatever. If I had a spirit animal, it would be blue. This is what I’m saying.

So, of course, you are probably sitting there, reading this post and thinking, “Yeah, yeah. We get it. You love blue. You went with blue hair yet again, and you are sitting here all excited and pretending it’s totally different. When it’s not.” I can see why you would think this. I tend to get obsessed with things. And once I settle on a color I love, I stick with it. For-freaking-ever!

But there are times in our lives when we just feel like we need a change. When it’s time to blast our way out of the rut we have dug for ourselves, even if that rut has become comfortable and feels safe. Especially if that rut feels safe and comfortable! My life has been one giant ball of stress since last October. And, you know what? I’m not sure it’s ever going to get any better. I don’t know if things are ever going to settle down. Or if I will ever feel better about … well, anything. I’ve been so out of sorts recently. So I went into my appointment on Friday and, when my stylist asked me what I wanted to do, I told her I needed a change. I had a color combination suggestion, but I told her I was willing to leave it all up to her.

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And this is what I ended up with! I love it so, so, so much. I wasn’t expecting pink tones at all. I told my stylist I didn’t even want to see it until she was totally done with the cut and style and everything. And when she was done and told me to take a look … Well, honestly, I can’t even describe it. I went into the salon with drab, dull hair that had faded out in all the wrong places and that was much, much too long for my liking. I went into the salon feeling horrible about life and myself. I felt ugly and unhappy and just … ick.

And then, I looked into the mirror and saw this amazing creation of pinks and purples and blues and turquoises, and I wanted to cry. Not in a bad way. It made me so, so, so happy. It doesn’t sound like enough to say that it made me happy. And yet, saying this is saying everything in one small word. I could feel the laughter bubbling up, coming from somewhere deep down inside of me — a place I had almost forgotten existed. And I stood there, staring into the mirror without recognizing the amazingly brave, beautiful person staring back at me. And I felt all of these things inside of me: laughter and amazement and tears and just all the feels. My stylist was watching me. I could see her reflection in the mirror, just over my shoulder. And she had a worried look on her face. Until I managed to choke out, “I love it.”

It hardly seems adequate. I wanted to explain to her how I had come in feeling low and depressed and horrible. I wanted to tell her how I have had trouble dragging myself out of bed every morning since last October, when my aunt passed away. I wanted to tell her how I have nightmares at night about my husband dying. I wanted to explain that all of these things have been whirling away inside of my mind, hammering at me until I started to hate myself. I wanted to tell her how I came into my appointment feeling ugly and like I wasn’t worthy of existence. But now … Now, I felt brave and beautiful and, somehow, more human than before. I couldn’t find the words to explain any of this, so I fell back on telling her how much I loved it. I gave her a hug, and I hope she, somehow, knows the amazing miracle she has worked in my life. A miracle in the form of something as simple as hair.

Does it fix everything in my life? Will having a new and different hair color mean that I won’t be depressed? Or that I will, suddenly, not be stressed about things I can’t control? Or that things will, magically, be perfect for us emotionally and financially and all of that? No, of course not. It’s just hair. But it makes me feel better about myself. It makes me feel better about being who I am. It makes me feel like I am worthy of being alive and taking up space in this world. It makes me feel beautiful.

And, when the depression and the troubles start to hammer away at me, I can always tell myself: Not today, guys. Because I’m a unicorn!

A Lazy Sunday

Is there anything more lovely than a lazy Sunday? Saturdays, if they are lazy, are wonderful, too. But my Saturdays tend to be more frenzied. There are always errands to run or things to get done or activities in which to participate or friends to see. All of these things are pleasant, and they make Saturdays fun. But I’ve never thought of Saturday as a lazy day. Sundays, though … Sundays seem perfectly made for laziness.

In my growing up years, I hated Sundays. I may have written about this before; I have the distinct and sinking feeling that I’m repeating myself. But there are times when I suspect I don’t have any more original ideas inside my head. And so, off I go: repeating and repeating and repeating. Maybe. Possibly. Or, possibly not. Not that it matters. We are here now, and I want to talk about lazy Sundays. And that’s that.

As I was saying, I disliked Sundays in my growing up years. There was always an early roll call in order to attend Sunday School and church services. I tended to be a bit of a night owl on Saturday nights, often falling asleep around 1 or 2 AM. Being rousted out of a sound sleep at 7 did not make for a happy camper. We had to drive about 30 to 45 minutes (depending on weather and the deer population) to get to church. That drive seemed to take forever and a day. To this day, I swear time died in that car. I thought we would never reach our destination. It should have been a nice time to grab some extra sleep on the way to church, but this wasn’t usually allowed. Nor was sleeping during the hour-plus service. After church, there would be a short time of visiting and then another eternity of a drive home to prepare lunch. Once lunch and clean-up were done, the rest of the day spread out before me like a whole lot of nothing. There were chores to do, of course: dishes to do, horses, dogs, and cats to feed, sometimes some work in my little tack shed or a quick round of cleaning up the horse’s pen. Mostly, though, the heavier chores were done on Saturday.

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Childhood Sundays closed in around me like a blanket, muffling the realities of life. I grew up in the country, so it was quiet. Often, my dad was away for work. But, when he was home, my parents would do their own Sunday things, like reading, writing to friends, work on the car, or small household tasks. We never had the TV on during the day. That was reserved for evenings. I remember the small, background sounds of daily life: the hum of conversation in the other room, the clink of dishes in the sink, the snort and stomp of my horses, my dog barking at something outside my window. At the time, I thought Sunday would never end. It was so mind-numbingly BORING. I couldn’t wait for Monday to come so that I could set off into a new week with new adventures, and so I would be able to see my friends at school. Sunday felt like a never-ending span of nothing stretching out before me, into the far reaches of time.

I’ve lived a lot of years since those childhood days. I’ve been to different places, both as a visitor and as a resident. I’ve lived a different type of life. I’ve had excitement and tragedy and happiness and sadness. I’ve found things and lost things, and I’ve left bits and pieces of myself here and there along the way. There have been adventures, and noise, and just … lots of stuff.

And this is what I have discovered: I miss those quiet, lazy Sundays of my youth. There is a restlessness inside of me, but it’s not a restlessness to move forward. On the contrary, I very much wish I could move backward. Not necessarily backward in time, although there are some things I would love to recapture from my youth — in particular, dearly loved ones who have gone and are terribly missed. I would love to go back to a time when my parents weren’t old, and to when my life felt secure and safe. But, no. That time is gone, and it can’t be recaptured. I know that. But those lazy Sundays of my youth stand for a simpler life. A quiet life. I didn’t appreciate it at the time, and now, it seems like something that is forever eluding my grasp. I can feel it, just at the tips of my fingers, but it slips away every single time I reach for it.

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Today we had a lazy Sunday at my parents’ house. My daughter and I attended church last night, as is our routine. So I was able to sleep in a little today, and then I kept my mom company while she made lunch and we waited for my dad to come home from their church. We ate together, then all went our separate ways: me to finish reading a novel and take a nap, my dad to watch TV with his headphones on, and my mom to nap in her recliner. My daughter is holed up in her room, playing a game on her DS and writing.

And, as I sit here in my mom’s quiet kitchen, the small house sounds close in on me: the hum of the refrigerator and dishwasher, the click of the tea kettle on the stove as it cools, the sound of ice dropping into the freezer’s bin, the melodic music of the wind chimes outside the back door, and the gentle, electric hum of a house alive with happiness and memories. It has clouded over outside. The wind is picking up, and I hear the distant rumble of thunder. But I have a glass of iced tea on the table next to me. I have the comfort of these computer keys clicking under my fingers. I feel safe — peaceful and content — locked in the world of the lazy Sunday.

I asked my daughter earlier if she was bored. She gave me a funny look and said, “Of course not.” It seems she has learned to appreciate the small and simple pleasures of a lazy, quiet day at an early age. She’s definitely smarter than her Mama!

Going Home

“You can’t go home again.”

People have told me this my whole life. I hear it all over the place. I suspect pretty much everyone has said this to someone else or to themselves at some point or another. I’ve said it to myself many times, over the years. It’s one of those sayings that seems to fit a lot of different circumstances. It sounds like wisdom. It has the ring of truth to it. And so, it’s easy for people to trot it out when they don’t have anything better to say. Or when they don’t know what to say.

But I don’t think the enormity of this saying — the heavy and real truth behind it — ever hit me until this summer’s trip to Texas. This summer, though, I have found myself thinking about this more than ever. And I have felt the weight of the truth behind what seems to be such a simple statement. You can’t go home again. Because “home” — that place that lives in your childhood memories — isn’t there any longer. Things change. People change. People die. You change. If I’m not the person I was when I was 9 or 10 or 16, how can I expect “home” to be static and unchanging? Funny how I never thought about it that way until this year. Actually, I guess I never thought much about it at all.

We went to visit my Aunt Pat and Uncle Ray’s house in Victoria. This was my first time visiting their house since my Aunt Pat’s death. I knew it was important to my mom for us to go. And it was important to my Uncle Ray, too. And to my sweet cousin, who was so excited for us to come. But … I really didn’t want to go. It’s probably selfish of me, but I didn’t want to face that house without my aunt in it.  I didn’t want to face my feelings and my grief. I didn’t want to feel the reality of her being gone from our lives — from my life. My Aunt Pat was creative and talented, and she poured so much love and energy into her house. Everything in that house is a reflection of her. Everything is just the same as it was when I was a kid and we would visit. Everything … except my sweet and beautiful aunt isn’t there. Her presence is everywhere, but she is not. And so, the house is completely the same but completely different, all at the same time.

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I have many happy memories from her house. My parents moved away from my childhood home when I was in college, so, in a way, my aunt and uncle’s house stands in that place in my mind. Because it’s still there. Because it’s still the same home. Because every stick of furniture and every painting on the walls is the same, even if it feels a little bit empty and hollow now.

I found myself standing in the back room of the house, which had been my Aunt Pat’s sewing room. I have so many memories of just that room. She used to sew all my clothes, and I remember looking over patterns and materials and endless sessions of trying things on and being told not to wiggle so I didn’t get stuck with a pin. Well, they seemed endless back then. I would give almost anything now to have Aunt Pat fuss at me for being too wiggly. I spent hours in that room as a child and teenager when we visited. She had shelves and shelves and shelves of books, including a whole shelf that had books I could read. My favorite was Beautiful Joe. I must have read that book a hundred times over the years. I read it pretty much every time we visited them. It lives with me now, a sweet and incredibly sentimental gift from my cousin. My Aunt Pat had a beautiful wooden cabinet, which she had painted with different types of mushrooms. Inside this cabinet were many treasures, including a set of 6 miniature ceramic horses. I was fascinated with those little horses. I loved them, and I spent hours as a child sitting in front of that cabinet, dreaming up different stories in my head — always with a herd of white horses thundering through the plot line. The cabinet lives with my cousin now, but the little white horses live with me: one of the last gifts my Aunt Pat sent to me, the year before she died. On my daughter’s first Christmas, I fed her in that back room, sitting in the comfortable chair she had covered with sunny yellow fabric.

My Uncle Ray found me standing in the room, looking around at all the things that were the same and the things that had changed. I was lost in my memories. “It’s a bit different, isn’t it?” he asked me. I nodded, because I couldn’t trust my voice. How can it be that a room is the same, the memories are the same, but none of it seems alive any longer? I don’t know, but my Aunt Pat was the life and spirit of that room. It doesn’t feel the same any longer.

It was a hard visit. But it was also good, in a way. It was good to hug my Uncle Ray and my cousin. It was good to visit and tell stories and laugh. Above all, my Aunt Pat and Uncle Ray’s house always seemed to me like a house full of joy, love, laughter, and good memories. And that part is the same. Maybe, in a small way, you can go home again. Even when everything has changed.

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Sneaky Feet

Do you remember that poem, “Fog” by Carl Sandburg? “The fog comes on little cat feet …”  For some reason, that poem has stuck with me throughout my life. I think I only read or studied it once, years ago in elementary or middle school. Maybe high school. But even high school was 30 years ago, now. Anyhow, I love that poem. It paints the most wonderful mental picture. Even that one line running through my mind can cause me to see the fog swirling and twirling in lazy patterns, like a giant cat. It’s simple. But also beautiful.

I was thinking about that line from Mr. Sandburg’s poem today. Because I think life can be like this, too. It sneaks up on you with quiet little feet. And, sometimes, you don’t even realize anything has changed until you turn around and see that EVERYTHING has changed. It’s … disorienting, to say the least.

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I feel bushwhacked by life. I thought I had everything all figured out, and that things were running along smoothly. I thought I knew what I was doing and where I was going, both mentally and physically. I think, maybe, I was happy. I had more days when I felt content than days when I felt uneasy and dissatisfied. “I’ve got this all figured out,” I thought to myself. I might not have loved everything about my life, but I could do it. That was the point. I felt like I could hum along quite happily with my life the way it was. Because I understood it, and it understood me.

But then, you know … Shit happened. It didn’t all happen at once. That’s not the way of the universe, I guess. One thing happened, and I mentally adjusted. Then another thing happened, and I adjusted again. But then, there was another thing and another and another. And, suddenly, I realized I couldn’t adjust any longer. I would like to say I refused to adjust, that I refused to give in to the “ick” that had slithered into my formerly happy and (mostly) well-adjusted life. Saying I refused to give in makes it all sound so brave and noble. But the truth is I can’t adjust any longer because I can’t figure out how to do it. There’s nothing brave or noble about it. I am a person who is backed into the tightest corner I can find, and I can’t figure out which way to turn or what to do.

It shows up in little ways. I’ve become forgetful. I forget to pay bills. I forget to pass along phone messages. I forget stuff at the store, or things I was supposed to take with me to the store. I still manage to feed the dogs, but that’s no great accomplishment. They are smart dogs, and they always let me know when it’s meal time. I drop my phone all the time. Like, ALL THE TIME. Pretty much any time I get into or out of the car, I end up dropping my phone. I know this doesn’t sound like such a big deal. People drop their phones all the time. That’s true. But I wasn’t one of those people. Before my husband’s heart attack and surgery, I could count on one hand the number of times I had dropped my phone. Since the surgery … Well, there’s really too many incidents to keep track of. I even managed to break the lens on my phone camera, and my husband has started to joke that he is going to buy the Otter Box case for me because I’ve become such a fumble-fingers. I avoid stuff. Like, I couldn’t make myself look at my daughter’s end of the year grades or progress reports online. Not because I thought she had done badly (she didn’t, by the way), but because I just couldn’t face one more thing. It has become almost an instinctive avoidance. I find I can’t really focus on things, and I don’t want to make plans. It’s not that I’m unable to keep plans. It’s more that I just can’t find the energy to think about what I want to do or when or why. I can’t find the energy to think of much of anything, really. I cry a lot. But only when no one can see me. I try really hard not to cry, because I feel like I might not stop once I start. It sneaks up on me sometimes, though. I’ve gotten really bad about crying during church. My thoughts are scattered. I can’t write. It’s as if every creative impulse in me has shriveled up and blown away into dust. I have ideas, which is an improvement over a few months ago, but I can’t seem to do anything with them. I had lost quite a bit of weight, but I’ve gained a lot of it back. My hair is falling out.

I’m just … floundering. Floundering my way through life. It isn’t pretty.

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But then, isn’t that the way of things? Aren’t we all basically floundering around, pecking away at the edges of life, and hoping we can “get it right” more times than not? I think, on some level or another, I have been floundering away for my whole life. Going from one thing to the next to the next without any plan or purpose. I just didn’t realize it at the time. Floundering away is all right when you don’t realize that’s what you’re doing.  But, when life gives you more than a healthy dose of self-awareness, it hurts.

It’s all such a delicate balance, isn’t it? We bumble along, day after day, blissfully unaware of how delicate things are. Just one thing out of whack can send the whole mess tumbling down around our ears. And you know what? There’s not a darn thing we can do about it, other than keep plodding forward in the hopes that we can get to the other side of whatever the universe has unexpectedly tossed in our path. Maybe this is the real business of living: this quest to get through the yuck and find better times once again. Sometimes, it feels like there aren’t any better times out there, but the optimist in me wants to believe. And so, I try to humor her.

I am tiny. I am one tiny person in the midst of a huge world. Maybe I had forgotten this, but, now … Now, I remember.

Is Anybody Out There? Am I Out There?

It’s been a hot minute and a half since this blog has seen any action or love. Every time I swear that I am not going to be one of those people who wanders off and neglects her blog for huge stretches of time … Well, I seem to become just that. A person who wanders off and neglects her blog for huge stretches of time. I’m not sure it much matters, because I have likely lost any of the loyal following/readers I previously had. But, really, this blog was more than that for me. It wasn’t ever about getting people to read what I had to say. I mean, don’t get me wrong. When people read what I post and, then, choose to interact in some form, that is amazingly fantastic. I love it when people read my blog and choose to leave a comment or a like. It makes my day and turns my frown upside down and, well, you know, stuff like that. The point is, I love it. That’s what I’m saying.

But searching out internet lovings and warm-fuzzies wasn’t my primary purpose in starting this blogging adventure. I started my blog so I could have something that’s just for me. I have a terrible tendency to hide my feelings and fears and neurotic mush. I stuff it all down, way down deep somewhere inside myself. I pretend it doesn’t exist. I hum along in my life, never acknowledging my feelings or thoughts or fears. And that’s not healthy. The anonymity of the internet seemed the perfect solution. I will start a blog, I thought. I will start this blog, and it will be magical, and I will say anything and everything that I need to say. I will say all the things that I keep hidden deep down inside myself. I will say the good and the bad. It will be magical and wonderful and there will be unicorns prancing around outside my door whenever I am blogging. Yep. It will be THAT DAMN GOOD.

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Which seems like a great thing, right? I mean — unicorns! Hello! It was a great idea, but I forgot one basic thing. I forgot that I am still me. Hiding my thoughts and feelings is beyond second nature at this point in my life. I had to hide these things away during my growing-up years. Dreams were to be guarded and hoarded and hidden away, because I come from people who don’t really understand them. I could never voice my thoughts because those thoughts were almost always counter to the opinions and beliefs of those around me. Also, I grew up with parents who firmly believe children should be seen and not heard. Don’t get me wrong. I do not come from bad people. I come from good people who always did the best they could. I come from people whose own upbringing didn’t equip them very well for parenting. This is not a blame game thing. This is just me, explaining why I always hide my thoughts and feelings. This is me, wandering around in my brain and trying to figure out why it’s so hard for me to do something as simple as have an opinion on things or pick a restaurant where I want to eat or decide what I should order once I get there. I live in perpetual fear of offending someone or hurting someone’s feelings or having someone I love mock the things that are important to me.

All of this means I live half a life. I am the person people see from the outside. I seem simple, and people think they know me. But there are parts of me that will never show to anyone. There are things that even my sweet husband, after 25 years together, doesn’t know about me. And I guess he never will. Because I have hidden them away that well. From everyone. Maybe even from myself. Perhaps we are all like this, to a certain extent. Perhaps this is the only way civilization can exist and flourish: if we hide away most of ourselves and present only a small bit to the world around us. I don’t know. I can’t speak for all of civilization. I can only speak for myself.

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So what does this have to do with my long-dormant blog, you ask? Or, perhaps, you didn’t. But I’m going to tell you, anyhow. Sometimes, life gets to be too much. This happens to me a lot, actually, but I can usually work my way through it enough that I can still interact and blog and do all those normal things. This time, I have not been able to do that.

One of my aunts passed away last December. My other aunt died suddenly in October. My mom lost both of her sisters, and her grief is overwhelming. I am the repository for all of my mom’s feelings, good and bad. I am the only person she talks to about any of this, and I have to carry those feelings around with me. They are a heavy burden. My grief is overwhelming. I lost my aunts. I lost two of the most amazing, beautiful, important women in my life. But I can’t really grieve for them because I have to consider how much worse those around me must feel. My husband had a heart attack in January. And open heart surgery. And I thought he was going to die. And some asshole at his work stole business from him while he was recovering. And he’s miserable at his job. And we are broke. Like, literally freaking broke because of all the taxes we have to pay every year. And my daughter is thirteen. And at least three of her friends threatened to commit suicide at different points during the year. And I can’t write. It’s not even a case of “I wanna do it but I don’t have the time”. No. My brain has completely and utterly shut down into gibbering idiot mode, and I can’t write. There are no words happening in my brain. My husband resents the hell out of me. He thinks I am a failure and a fraud because of the no-writing thing. Hell, I think I am a failure and a fraud because of the no-writing thing. Maybe I really am a failure and a fraud. Whatever.

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My life has basically shut down since January. I stopped posting on FaceBook. I stopped blogging. I stopped writing. I stopped pretty much everything that meant anything to me at all. The only thing that has survived is my nail polish obsession and nail blog. And it’s only puttering along because pretty colors are a distraction from the shit storm that is happening in my brain and emotions right now. It’s easy to talk about nail polish. I don’t have to put feelings into that. I don’t have to sit and think about all the crap that is down in the depths. The point is that I have had things to blog about. Oh so many things. But, every time I would sit down to write about them, I just couldn’t. I would stare at the blank screen, start to cry, and wander away — usually to do my nails.

Is this survival mode? Is it depression? Is it both of those things? I don’t know. Maybe it’s not even important to know or name what this feeling is. Maybe the important thing is to acknowledge it and try to get past it, which I am doing in such a clumsy way with this rambling blog post. I have things to say. I need to say them. Even if it’s hard. Even if it hurts. For so many months now, I have felt empty and alone and scared. I felt that, even though I had things to say, I couldn’t say them. Now, though, maybe I’m ready to talk and send my words out into the empty void once again.

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The Good Day

I feel like my life has been filled with mostly-bad days over the past several weeks. Certainly, it feels as if all of January passed by me in a fog of … Well, “not good”. I’m tired and grouchy and feeling a bit overextended. It’s not just that I’m physically tired. I’m mentally and emotionally tired, too. There are a lot of days when I wake up and have a few moments of blissful ignorance before the reality of it all — heart disease and quadruple by-pass and sodium levels and blood pressure numbers and fluid restrictions and pain and anxiety and fear — comes crashing back down on me. In a way, I love those few moments of quiet in the very early morning right after I open my eyes. I love them because, just for those few ticks of the clock, my life feels “normal” again. It feels like the type of normal I’m used to. The type of normal I understand. The type of normal I know how to do.

But, of course, it can’t last. Because my life isn’t normal any more. I mean, all of this will become normal in time. And, when it does, I will know how to live this new “normal”. For now, though, I have been set afloat in a sea of life-stuff that I don’t understand and find terribly frightening. My footing is unsure, and I keep expecting the next tumble to come along at any moment. My husband had a heart attack. My husband has heart disease. My husband had a by-pass. “This is my life now. This is our life now,” I whisper to myself as I lie awake in the dark, waiting for the alarm clock to go off. I know it’s true. And yet, it seems surreal to me. It almost feels like all of this happened to two other people, not to my husband and me.

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Our sudden and unexpected plunge into the realities of heart disease brought along a lot of baggage. The fear of the unknown … the waiting for his surgery to happen … the horrible wait WHILE the surgery happened … the new merry-go-round of medications and vital signs and learning how to change the way we eat even more … the exhaustion … the stress. At first, I thought the surgery would be the bulk of the “bad” stuff. I thought that, once the surgery was done, we could relax a little bit and get on with the job of helping my husband to recover. Maybe it works this way for some people, but it didn’t happen like this for us. We had blood pressure that was too low, which impeded his ability to walk in the hospital. We had a sick child at home. We had almost constant nausea and vomiting for the first two weeks he was at home. We had a re-admission to the hospital because of this.

I’ve basically been on edge since January 13. I have been wandering through my life, holding my breath and waiting for the next bad thing to happen. Waiting for that next crisis or drama. I can feel it out there, lurking just around the corner and waiting for the perfect chance to pounce. I can’t let myself sit down and think about any of this for too long, because I will start to cry. And, if I start to cry, I have the feeling I won’t be able to stop. It’s not possible to live like this. I can’t continue being on edge and stressed and worried about what might happen. It’s too mentally and emotionally exhausting. No one can live like this. And yet, I find I am afraid of letting myself relax. I’m afraid to say to myself, “Okay, Self. This is our new normal. We’ve got this. We can do this.” Because, if I say that to myself … if I believe that … I’m going to jinx all of us. It’s not rational. But this is the thought in the back of my mind.

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Yesterday, though … Yesterday was a good day. My husband felt nausea-free for the first time in two weeks. He managed to get through the whole previous day without nausea medication, and he got a good enough night’s sleep that he managed to shake the grogginess that is a side-effect of those meds. He felt strong enough to get out of the house. We took our daughter to her basketball game. We went to Crate and Barrel so that he could walk around a little bit in a place that had chairs handy in case he wanted to rest. We got tea at Peet’s Coffee. He felt good enough to go with me to pick our daughter up after her game was over. He enjoyed the sun on his face. He even told me it felt good to be outside, in the fresh air. He managed to spend several hours outside of the house.

Today hasn’t been a great day. Today is more of a “meh” on the daily fulfillment measurement scale: not bad, but not so good, either. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I don’t know if it will be a good day or not. I don’t know if I will be able to handle whatever tomorrow throws my way. I don’t know if I will even want to handle any of it.

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But I do know this: In the midst of all the yuck and ick, yesterday was a good day. It shines in my memory with a brilliance made all the more poignant by our recent experiences. Yesterday made me feel happy. And hopeful. And — dare I say it? — normal. And I’m going to take those feelings, wrap them up tight, and store them away in my memory. Because the good days are too precious to let them go so easily. The good days are worth keeping.

The January Blues

You know, I never much liked January. It’s always been my least favorite month, even as a kid. There’s nothing particularly fun or special that happens in January. A few of my cousins have birthdays. And there’s New Year’s Day. And MLK Day. And Chinese New Year. But, really, all of these things just feel like they fall flat for me after the magic and over-decoration and fun that is Christmas.

For me, January is a month filled with gray and rainy days. It’s when the Christmas decorations come down and get put away. School break ends, and we all have to go back to the drudgery that often makes up our normal lives. If there was snow, it’s all melted into mush or gray, icky slush by now. Or, more likely for a lot of people, everyone is sick of snow by the time January rolls around. It has long since stopped being beautiful and started being a nuisance. January is a long month, too. When I get to the middle of January, I find myself thinking this month is never going to end. Ever. I mean, it just goes on and on and on and on and on. Yeah. I get it, January. You’re here. You’re a long month. You want everyone to know this. Bleh.

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This year, I find I hate January even more than ever before. This month has been an emotional roller coaster for me and my family. I feel like I’ve been slogging through each day on the calendar. Or, maybe, like our actual lives stopped on the 13th — pulled up short by my husband’s heart attack and subsequent surgery. My days this month have been an endless litany of worry, stress, fear, and heartache. I can’t seem to get my brain to settle on any one thing. There are days when I simply go back and forth from room to room, as if I’m searching for something but can’t quite remember what that “something” is. Here’s a hint: It’s probably my sanity. Trips up and down the stairs to fetch things for my husband … trips out in the car to pick up my daughter or take her to her activities … hauling stuff into the house … hauling stuff out of the house … feeding the dogs … letting the dogs in and out and in and out and (well, you get the idea). And laundry. Oh my gosh, the laundry! My hampers runneth over.

So far, recovery is a bit rough, both for my husband and for me. He was home from the hospital for about three days, but he was having stomach issues the whole time. On the third day, we ended up back in the hospital. We spent the whole night in the ER, and he ended up admitted back onto the cardiac surgical unit. We landed in the exact same room we had left just three days before. What are the odds? It was an eerie feeling. He improved quickly, though. The doctors concluded it was “probably” a stomach virus, and he only had to stay over one night. We came home, and he was doing so great. He even got out of the house yesterday for a short shopping expedition to one of his favorite stores. But today, he woke up feeling sick to his stomach. Again. And I thought … “No. We’ve already done this part. It’s supposed to get easier from here on out. It’s supposed to be that way, Universe. We already paid for it.”

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Apparently, the universe hasn’t gotten that memo just yet. One step forward, two steps back: that’s what life feels like to me right now. I feel like I’m in that movie, Groundhog Day, and I’m reliving the same shitty, shitty day over and over and over again. Mostly, I’m just tired. I can’t remember the last time I was this tired. I feel frazzled and worn thin, both emotionally and physically. I keep telling myself it will get better. Things will get better. But there are some days when I have a hard time believing this to be true.

And so, I will not be sad to see January go. I am not sure I can expect much better from the month of February, but I’m willing to give it a chance. So come on, February, don’t disappoint me!

Where the Heart Leads

My husband’s heart was broken. Not like the kind of broken where someone has wounded you, and you feel as if you want to crawl into a deep, dark hole and hide forever. His heart was literally broken. As in … not functioning.

On January 13, he told me he wasn’t feeling well. He had a cough that sounded big and wet. And he was anxious to the point of having a panic attack. We thought he had bronchitis. This all started at around midnight. Well, I suppose he had been having these symptoms for longer than that. Certainly, he had had them all day. And the cough had been a fixture for a couple of days, although he thought, at first, it was just a cold. Initially, he decided he would sleep in our recliner and go to an urgent care in the morning. He was tired and felt yucky and didn’t want to be poked and prodded. He just wanted to go to sleep and be done with the day. But his anxiety wouldn’t let him rest. It pawed at him and spurred him into snapping anger. Finally, I brought him his pants, keys, and wallet, and I told him to go to the ER. I wanted to drive him, but our daughter was already asleep. He didn’t want to wake her up and scare her like that. Once he got to the ER, he texted me that there was fluid in his lungs. But that it wasn’t because of bronchitis. It was because he had had a heart attack.

“I had a heart attack.”

That’s how he wrote it. Right there, in text form, blinking at me from the screen of my phone. It didn’t feel real. It still doesn’t feel real. And yet, it’s real. As real as a heart attack, as the ridiculous saying goes. In that moment, staring at my phone and feeling my breath catch in my throat, I knew our lives were never going to be the same. I didn’t know in that instant how they would change. Or if the change would be good or not. Or even if I would still have a husband by the end of that night. Or the next day. Or the day after that. I never thought I would be sitting in my own home, reading those words and feeling as if my entire world was crashing down on top of me.

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Of course, they admitted my husband to the hospital’s cardiac wing that night. The doctors ran tests and scans and poked and prodded and did all the things that doctors do. They determined that every artery going into his heart was blocked. Some with multiple blockages. And part of his heart was not functioning.

My husband’s heart. His beautiful heart that beats in time with mine and calms my fears. His loving heart that beat out with joy and made him smile as he held our little daughter in his arms for the first time. His generous heart that draws friends to him in the unlikeliest of places. The heart that I have laid next to for over twenty years, listening to it beating in the still silence of the night. The heart that I love more than anything else on this Earth.

How could this be? How could my husband’s heart be broken? How could I have to face the possibility of being in this world alone? It didn’t seem possible. Maybe they made some mistake. Maybe they were looking at pictures of another person’s heart. Because they don’t know my husband’s heart. They don’t know it like I do. And yet, it wasn’t a mistake. It was real, and they had the pictures to prove it.

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On January 18, my husband had open-heart surgery. We were lucky, in a way, that the doctors felt it was safe to wait for a few days before doing the surgery. At least, that’s what they all told us. We were lucky he had come into the ER that night. We were lucky that he was young. We were lucky that he was in relatively good health and in good physical shape. We were lucky that they felt able to give his heart time to calm down after the attack, instead of rushing him into surgery right away.

In the days before the operation, we didn’t feel lucky. I mean, in some ways … Yes, we did. My husband was alive. He had survived a heart attack — one that had come suddenly, without warning or symptoms. We were together. We could still laugh at things. We could still hold each other. But, in other ways … No. We did not feel lucky. We had to talk about death and wills and durable powers of attorney and health care directives and when I should pull the plug, if it came to that. We had to talk about finances and which bills I should pay off and how much life insurance he has and what my daughter and I would do if the worst happened. And the whole time, my own heart screamed out in protest. I did not want to talk about these things. I did not want to think about these things. I wanted to crawl into bed with him and feel safe and secure in his arms. But his arms were full of IVs, and I’m an adult. So, we talked about all the “important stuff”.

His surgery lasted for four and a half hours. I know, in terms of open-heart surgery, that is not a long time at all. It’s actually a fairly quick procedure. But for me, those were the longest four and a half hours I have ever spent. I can’t remember what I did during that time, other than wandering the waiting rooms and halls of the hospital, feeling lost. And hugging my daughter close to try and calm her fears. I was mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted. I was numb.

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On January 23, my husband came home from the hospital. It was a good day. A happy day. But also a nerve-wracking day. Would I be able to care for him? Would he be able to continue his recovery? Would we know what to look for if another attack happened?

His heart isn’t broken any more. It is all fixed, good as new. Maybe even better than new. But now, our spirits are a little bit broken in its place. I think we had reached a place where we thought we had most things figured out. Things weren’t perfect, but it was a life we knew how to handle. Or, maybe we were just fooling ourselves. I’m not sure now, when I look back on the weeks and months leading up to all of this. But I do know this: The new life we have … We don’t know how to do this one, yet. I think we are both afraid and unsure. We don’t trust things. It’s almost like we are balancing on the edge, holding our breath, and waiting for the next bad thing to happen. There have been a lot of bad things lately. This is true. But it doesn’t mean there HAVE to be more bad things. This is also true. But, somehow, it’s harder to believe.

For now, my husband is home. He is getting better every day. And, at night, I can move in close to him and listen to the beat of his heart in the still silence. And I know: I am home, too. It’s enough.

The Tiny Bag of Sheets

Today was a day of chores. Well, it was supposed to be a day of chores. I have a lot of things I need to do in order to catch up from the holidays and to get my house back in order from hosting my parents for a couple of weeks. I love hosting my parents. I’m happy they were able to come, and having them with us made for a memorable and joyous holiday. But … Having guests in your house tends to mess with normal routines.

I don’t particularly like doing chores. I have mentioned (many times) that I am lacking the domestic goddess gene that would make me a whiz at the whole stay-at-home-mom/housewife thing. But, really, I suppose no one enjoys chores. I mean, if we enjoyed them, they wouldn’t be chores, right? They would be something else, like a hobby. And no matter how much I don’t like the whole chore thing, life happens. Chores happen. Stuff needs to get done so that we don’t live in complete squalor.  And someone needs to do that stuff. Since I am the stay-at-home someone, I am elected. As I’ve said before: It’s my job.

I have plans for 2017. I have things I want to do in my house. I have stuff I want to organize. I have stuff I want to get rid of. Basically, I want to go room-by-room in my house and clear out years worth of clutter and junk and stuff we don’t use. This is going to be a huge project, and I will likely blog about it in more detail in the future. Because it’s such a huge project, I keep avoiding it. I can’t do this forever, though … But that’s a story for another blog, I think.

Today, I had planned to do a few different chores. I had some errands to run. I had some bathrooms to clean. I had dishes to do. I wanted to vacuum and maybe dust a bit. And I needed to do some laundry. There is always laundry. My morning didn’t go as planned, however, and I ended up not getting anything done. Except some of the laundry.

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In particular, I decided to wash our new sheets. Is there anything more refreshing or nicer than the idea of freshly laundered sheets? I really love getting new sheets. It’s a huge treat, as we don’t buy sheets often. We have a king size bed, and bedding can be pretty expensive. We generally use our sheets until they completely wear out. Our last two sets ended up with holes in the fitted sheets, and they both wore out at about the same time. Luckily, Target had a bedding sale. Score!

I love the sheets from Target. They are made from nice quality material, and they feel soft and comfy once they are all laundered. I also love that the fitted sheets have extremely deep corners, so they don’t pull off the mattress. I don’t have many pet peeves with regard to housework stuff, but having the sheets pull off the corners of the mattress in the middle of the night is a huge one. It might be the only one. At any rate, the Target sheets solve that problem with their deep, very elastic corners. I never thought I would be a person who was this excited about something as mundane as deep corner pockets on sheets. But … there ‘ya go. I guess we all grow up at some point. I’m still not sure I’ve completely grown up, but perhaps I’m on the way.

The Target sheets come in this cute little cloth bag that matches the pattern or color of the sheet set. I love this little bag. I’m not sure I can explain exactly why I love it so much. Maybe it’s because it matches the sheet sets. Maybe it’s because it’s little and cute. Maybe it’s because I tend to have an obsession with things like bags and boxes. As much as I love dogs and consider myself a dog person, my bag and box obsession makes me question whether or not I might have been a cat in a previous life.

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At the same time, the little sheet bag makes me feel like a failure. The sheets come perfectly packed into the bag. They are perfectly rectangular and perfectly folded, and they fit inside the bag … well, perfectly. The bag is the exact size of the sheet set. And it has a velcro closure on the front. It is obvious that this bag is meant for storing the sheets. I have no idea why I do this, but I always wash the little bags with the sheets. I mean, you can’t store your clean sheets into a not-clean bag, right?

Actually, you can’t store the sheets in the bag at all. I know this. I KNOW this. There is no way I can ever fold up my sheets small enough and rectangular enough to fit back inside this stupid bag. I am not a robot. I do not have access to magical sheet folding powers. I do not possess the sorcery or cardboard needed to get clean and newly-fluffed sheets back into this itty-bitty, just-the-right-size bag. It doesn’t matter how cute the bag is. It’s just not going to happen.

And yet, I will try to get the sheets into the bag. It feels almost fatalistic, in a way. I know, going into it, that I will never manage to do this. And yet … I will try this every single damn time. Why? Why do I torture myself this way? Because I’m determined and awesome? Because, maybe, I will manage to do it one of these days and this will make me feel like the most awesome form of amazing that ever walked the Earth? Because I’m crazy? Because … Goals?

I have no idea, and I don’t have time to sit here and figure it out. Because there is a little bag of sheets calling my name out in the hallway.