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.

I Had Me a Day

When I was a kid, my Dad would sometimes say to me, “Little Girl … I’ve had me a day.” This was usually said at the end of the day, when it was nearly time for supper. And the statement was typically accompanied by a groan that sounded world-weary and disgusted, all at the same time. That’s a lot for a groan to communicate. I know. My dad was a master of non-verbal cues.

As a kid, I knew what this meant. It meant my Dad was, effectively, closed for business. He was in a bad mood and didn’t want to be bothered. I would be wise to give him a wide berth for the rest of the evening. But here’s the thing: I was just a kid. I knew what it meant in relation to me and my little slice of life on the planet. But I didn’t know what it meant.

Well, I’m here to tell you, my friends, this has changed. I know what it means. Like, really, really, really MEANS. I even know how to do the groan-thing that my dad was so good at. Because, yesterday … Yesterday, I had me a day.

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It started out innocently enough, as these things often do. I had a busy day planned. I wanted to get several things done, and I needed to do them by certain times during the day. It was one of those days when I needed things to run like clock-work. Or, as close to clock-work as I could get. The night before, I sat down and thought through the coming day. I made a mental list of the things I needed to get done. I wanted to make tortilla soup in my crock pot, but I needed to go to the grocery store for a few ingredients. Because it was a crock pot recipe, I needed to get everything in to cook by a certain time. I needed to mail two packages for my parents — a task on which I am overdue by about a week. We were finally having a day when the temperatures were above freezing and the ground wasn’t muddy, so I wanted to do some yard work. I wanted to grab something to eat in there somewhere, and I was looking forward to the arrival of an eagerly-awaited nail polish collection, which, according to the USPS tracking information, was supposed to arrive in my mail box before 8 PM. This was important because temperatures were supposed to drop well below freezing, and nail polish doesn’t do well if it freezes.

It all sounds like a great plan, right? I mean, what could possibly go wrong? Well, I’ll tell you. Everything. Everything could go wrong.

I woke up 30 minutes late, which doesn’t sound like a lot. But, in this instance, it proved to be disastrous. One of my dogs didn’t eat when my husband fed them on his way out the door that morning, and I had to take the time to coax her into it. I decided to go to the post office to mail the packages first, even though I was starving. The line wasn’t long, but, even so, one person cut in front of me. And then, I couldn’t mail both packages. And then, I couldn’t mail the one package via the method I wanted to, so it cost more.

After that, I went to grab some food at a favorite place. I used to have a punch card to get loyalty points. I eat here often enough that they actually would add up for me. As of the start of the year, you can only score loyalty points through their app, which means I can no longer pay cash for my meals. I mean, I can. But I won’t get free things with my loyalty points any longer. So … that realization sucked.

Then, I couldn’t find what I wanted in the grocery store. And my husband kept texting me with things he wanted. And my daughter texted to say she had a migraine and that her finger, which she injured on Sunday evening, was throbbing and (still) swollen. I scheduled a doctor’s appointment for my daughter, because, at this point, I was afraid she had broken her finger. I then dashed through the rest of my grocery shopping, ran home, put the refrigerated items away, and raced to her school to pick her up from the nurse’s office. Then we were back home, where I frantically chopped and mixed and all that stuff. I managed to get the food into the crock pot only an hour late. Aaaaand, just in time to run to my daughter’s doctor’s appointment. The doctor’s appointment led to x-rays, which required an hour’s wait. And a stop-off at the drug store for a finger splint. I managed to get home just in time to let my cleaning ladies into the house. I’m so thankful for my cleaning ladies, you guys. This isn’t part of my story, by the way. It’s just something I want to toss out there. While the ladies were making my house beautiful, I decided to use the rest of the daylight to get my yard work done. This was a no-go. I could only do about half of it because the ground was still too frozen.

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After the cleaning ladies were done and dinner was done, I was also DONE. I had a splitting headache, and I was in the worst mood. But it was dark outside, and I had managed to accomplish nearly everything I had planned to do. It turned out my daughter’s finger was not broken, which is excellent news. And my day was over, right?

Yeah. WRONG! As she was taking her shower, my daughter realized she had completely run out of certain “feminine products”. Any gal knows there are certain things one MUST HAVE, and “feminine products” rank right up there at the top of the list. This was around 9:30 PM. My husband was already in for the night, so I had to run back out in the cold to go to the drugstore for the required items. Luckily, the drugstore was open until 10, so I had just enough time to grab my stuff and trundle down the road. It’s not far from my house. On the way out, I checked my mailbox. It turned out my nail polish never arrived. But I consoled myself with the thought that I would get to see my lit Christmas tree as I returned home. It was my one bright spot.

As luck would have it, my husband decided to clean the kitchen for me. And, in doing so, he turned out all the lights. Including the Christmas tree. So I didn’t even have that. But I did have me a day.

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An Anniversary

Yesterday (January 13) was an anniversary for my family. Not a wedding anniversary. Or a birthday. Or anything fun or celebratory like that. Yesterday was the 1-year anniversary of the night my husband almost died. One year ago yesterday, my husband went to the Emergency Room thinking he had bronchitis. Instead, we discovered he had had a heart attack. And that he had lost function in part of his heart. From the ER, he was admitted to the cardiac unit. And a run-away journey began for all of us.

The scary thing about traveling down a path you’ve never traveled before is just that: You’ve never been there before. You don’t know what to expect. You don’t know what’s around the corner. It’s scary as hell. It really is. And I feel like January 13, 2017 started me and my family down a twisting, uncertain, and, of course, unexpected path. There were a lot of tears. There was a lot of fear. There was a lot of me trying to be calm and strong and hold it together for my daughter and my husband. There was a lot of me failing at that, and failing HARD.

So far, January 2018 has felt weird. I’ve been anxious and unsettled. Whenever I visit FaceBook and see a memory pop up from last year at this time, I look at it and automatically think, “That was five days before the heart attack.” Or “That was two weeks before the heart attack.” And so on. It feels … weird. I don’t know how else to explain it. It feels weird to look at those pictures of my family, smiling and laughing, and to think about how innocent and naive we were then. It’s weird to look back at those pictures and think about how we had no idea what was about to come or how life was about to change.

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As we were going through everything last year, I remember thinking to myself that we just had to hang on until we got through the first few days. And then, just hang on until we got through the surgery. And then, just hang on until we got through the milestones after the surgery. I thought that, if we could get through one hurdle and then the next and the next … if we could continue moving forward … we would eventually get out of the forest, so to speak. If my husband recovered and came home and got stronger and continued to improve, then we would overcome this ordeal. We would have traveled the path set out before us and come out at the end of it, and our normal life would be waiting for us there.

Looking back, I realize I was terribly naive about it all, even in the midst of my fear and panic. Because “normal”, as it existed before the heart attack and surgery, is gone. It’s just gone. There’s no other way of saying it. I wish I could have it back, but I can’t. I’m not the same person I was before my husband’s heart attack. The truth is, no matter how much I told my daughter everything was going to be okay, I thought my husband was going to die. I thought I was going to have to figure out how to live without him. I thought I was going to have to raise our child on my own. It was me, standing at the edge and staring into the abyss. And the abyss stared back at me. This experience shook me to the very core of my being, and it still hasn’t let go.

Now, in the aftermath, I feel everything has changed. Friendships are irrevocably altered. My online presence is irrevocably altered. My relationship with my husband is irrevocably altered. My relationship with my daughter is irrevocably altered. It’s just … not the same. Nothing is the same. My “normal” is gone, and I don’t know how to get it back, and I don’t know what my new “normal” is supposed to be.

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My husband recovered. I will forever be thankful for this. He is strong, and he is doing well. He’s been back at work for several months now. He is more or less back to his old self, other than a few diet changes and a few medication changes we’ve had to make. We weathered the storm, and I should take a deep breath and relax a little bit. Except, I can’t seem to do that. I worry about my husband all the time. Every cough, every instance of him not feeling well, every everything scares the crap out of me. I feel panicked and afraid. I’m probably driving the poor guy crazy.

Today, as we were sitting down at lunch, my husband said something silly. It made me laugh, and he looked at our daughter and said, “See? I make Mom laugh. That’s why she needs me around.” And I lost it. I started crying right there at the table, and I couldn’t stop. I know my husband and daughter probably thought I was crazy. But I couldn’t help it. In that moment, the reality of it all slapped me right across the face. And I knew there was a part of me, still standing on the edge and staring out into the abyss. And the abyss is still staring back.

Ringing in the New

I hate New Year’s. There. I said it. I don’t understand why people get excited and happy about it. Even when everything was perfect in my life, I hated New Year’s. Even when I was a kid, I hated it. I would stay up with my Dad, if he was home and not working, to watch the ball drop on TV. If he was away from home working, I would stay up on my own to watch it. Even then, it felt like much ado about nothing. I guess that’s the thing. The idea of a brand new year has never filled me with hope or excitement or happiness. No matter how happy I am to see the previous year head out the door for good, New Year’s leaves me feeling … empty. A big, fat pit of nothing. Well, if “nothing” can be big and fat.

I try not to share this opinion around much. Or at all. The people who know me already think I’m strange. Why give them even more reason to believe this? Because it seems like everyone out there loves New Year’s. It seems like everyone is excited and happy about a new year. It seems like everyone finds the ability to shake off the crap from the previous year, take a deep breath, and make a fresh start. Everyone except me.

It doesn’t help that January is my least favorite month. I pretty much hate January, too. It’s long. And dull. And full of gray skies and rain. Or snow or sleet, depending on where you live. It’s cold — not that I mind cold. That’s the one thing I actually like about January. But it’s also dark, with short days that seem to pass me by before I even realize it’s happening.

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But here’s the thing: January is going to come and go, whether I like it or not. The new year is going to come, too. And it’s going to do whatever the hell it wants with my life, whether I like it or not. For the record, I mostly don’t like it. I haven’t liked it for the past three years. But the universe … and the new years … don’t seem to be listening. Or, perhaps, they just don’t care. I don’t know. January is going to close in on me. I know this. It already has. It will push on me and weigh me down until I feel uncomfortable and upset and like I can’t breathe. After several years of therapy, I know this is depression talking. I know this is depression, stalking me and making room for itself in my life once again.

So, what do I do? Do I just sit down and throw up my hands and say, “Whatever”? Believe it or not, doing nothing feels like an incredibly attractive option right now. But I can’t trust that. Because that’s depression, too.

Or do I give January the finger and fight to take back control of my life and my feelings and my thoughts? It feels too hard and like too much. It feels like this will take a huge amount of effort, and it feels like it’s just not worth it. It feels like I’m not worth it.

But I am. I am worth it. I have to remind myself of this — every day. I’ve been avoiding this blog since November and my rather spectacular NaNo failure. I tried to put a positive spin on it. I tried to remind myself there were a lot of other things going on in my life at that time, so it made sense that I would fail. Instead, I hear that little voice whispering into the still silence of my soul: You are a failure. Your creativity is dead. Your ability is dead. You will never succeed. You will never be anything. You will never matter. It’s so easy to listen to that voice. I mean, in the moment, everything that voice says makes absolute, perfect sense. Because the voice is me and it’s only telling me what I already know … what I already feel, right down to the very core of my being.

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I love this blog. I love sitting down and rambling away with my thoughts and feelings. I swore to myself that this blog would not die. And yet, here I am, heading into 2018 and feeling like my beloved blog and my creative spirit are both on life support. Like they are both gasping their last breath while I stand by, feeling helpless and wondering what I can do to stop it. I hate the way I feel. I hate the indecisive, pathetic, whiny person I have become. I wish I was as strong as people think I am. But the truth is that I’m not. The last 3 years have proven this to me. And so, I’m sitting here at 11 PM, typing out words that will soon head out into the ether. I am thinking too many thoughts. I am wishing for too many things. I am feeling too many fears.

But I’ve also decided what I will do. I will write. I will stop hiding from things that are unhappy and unpleasant in my life. I will stop keeping my feelings to myself. I have a blog, for pity’s sake! Why haven’t I talked about any of this up until now? Why have I chosen, instead, to leave my blog dormant for months at a time, waiting until I had something nice or pretty or funny to say? The fact is that I haven’t felt very nice or pretty or funny for a long time. And that’s okay. I mean, it’s not okay … but you get the idea. It’s not something I need to hide.

Because a new year is here. It’s time for me to shake off the crap from the previous year, take a deep breath … And make a fresh start.

The Slog … Of Failure?

I think I may have failed at NaNo this year. Part of me is giving the pep talk and reminding myself that it’s way too early to call it. I mean, we still have 11 days left! (Well, 10, technically, since it’s 10:30 PM in my corner of the world, and I am planning to head to bed as soon as I finish this post.) There’s a little crazy woman who lives inside my head that keeps adding up the days and dividing the word count and telling me I can still reach the 50K word goal if I write a gazillion words a day. Okay, so not really a gazillion. But somewhere around 5K, which, on most days, might as well be a gazillion.

If I had been consistently hitting the word goal every day, I should have somewhere around 32,000 words by now — or a bit over that amount. I have about 6,800 as of tonight. Womp-womp.

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Today, I woke up feeling pretty crummy about myself. I feel like a failure. This was my only goal for the month, and I couldn’t even make it happen. In my defense, life took me for a ride this month. There has been work anxiety, and school anxiety. I’ve had to have “serious conversations” with my daughter’s guidance counselor, which, by the way, were useless. I’ve had to have “serious conversations” with one of her teachers: in the form of one very unpleasant phone call and a long string of slightly more pleasant emails. It’s been stressful and frustrating. My daughter broke her foot, so there’s been that, too. Along with doctor’s appointments and an unexpected and unplanned trip out of town. I really don’t understand how everything in my whole freaking universe happens in November when I’ve decided to do NaNo. I almost feel like the universe was sitting there, holding its breath and waiting for me to decide whether I was going to NaNo or not. And, as soon as I decided yes, the universe was like, “Okay! We are a go for NaNo! Let’s send all the cruddola now!”

I have been a distracted, worried, anxious mess all month. On the days when I tell myself and my family I am going to sit down and write, it never fails that something happens. Yesterday, for example, my husband decided there were errands we needed to run. Which took pretty much all day. After he told me I could and should spend the whole day writing. My lack of ability to concentrate and the distractions inherent in being the mom in a family — even a small family like mine — really need to be in a whole post to themselves. Because there’s a lot of this kind of thing going on. Sometimes, I feel like my family is working against me, instead of for me or with me.

But I work against myself, too. I get too bogged down in worrying over whether I’m writing something good. I get too caught up in my own brain, and I overthink everything. I get too bogged down in feeling miserable over where I live. Basically, I get too caught up in everything around me, and I let my writing go by the wayside. In many cases, I actively push it there. I’m not sure why I procrastinate and avoid it so much. But I suspect there is a good deal of fear in the mix, as well as a big helping of feeling like a failure. The point is that I forget to have fun with my writing. It’s been a long time since I have felt the giddy joy of watching a story spin out from my keyboard. It’s been a long time since I have felt the heady excitement of knowing I had no control over the story, but, instead, it was controlling me. And I couldn’t stop until it was done. I miss that. I don’t know how to get it back. I was, I think, hoping NaNo would help me do that this year.

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Perhaps I expected too much of NaNo and of myself. I don’t think this is something I can fix in a month. Or even two months. I think it’s going to take a long time. Maybe things will never be the way they used to be for me and my writing. But, hopefully, I can find a new way for us to co-exist.

Which brings me back to this year’s NaNo and my feelings of failure. Have I failed?  Yes, I am far below the projected/expected word count. I might even go so far as to say I am pathetically below it. But, I started my day with a little over 2,000 words. And I ended with 6,800. Pathetically off course, yes. But a failure? Not by a long shot. Not as long as I keep calm and write on.

NaNo Me, Baby!

I’ve decided to do NaNoWriMo this year. I have done this insanity in the past. I’ve even been successful at reaching or surpassing the 50,000 word goal more than once. It’s been a blessing and a curse, really. On the blessing side of the spectrum, my past NaNo experiences have caused a creative and writing frenzy. There’s nothing quite as exhilarating as listening to your fingers clacking across the keyboard as you write with giddy abandon. On the curse side … Well, I have to admit my giddy abandon usually doesn’t survive past the month of November. In my younger years, I think it would have. But, as I am now, it ends up being one month of giddy abandon followed by eleven months of sitting around and obsessing over how much I suck.

Writing used to be an escape for me. My “Great Escape”, even. For all intents and purposes, I was a happy and well-adjusted kid. Anyone who knew me or met me in my daily life back then pegged me for fairly cheerful, painfully responsible, and, perhaps, a bit too quiet. I used to hear “You should smile more!” a lot. A LOT. In reality, I wasn’t particularly happy. I don’t know if I qualified as well-adjusted, but I do know I wasn’t happy. I hid it well, behind things like being cheerful and painfully responsible. I wasn’t free to express my feelings or to dream and try new things. I had to keep everything all to myself, hidden down deep inside for fear I would be mocked. Or, even worse, that nothing I had to say and nothing I had to feel would be taken seriously. I was good at being invisible. This is where writing came in and saved me. In my writing, I could dream. I could be anyone I wanted. I could explore and feel and hope. I could be visible.

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It seems writing isn’t that thing for me any longer. Instead of my escape, it has become my prison. I avoid it, day after day, feeling guilty and low for doing so. The words don’t come easily to me any longer. The stories still live in my head, but they are shrouded in dust and fog now. Writing isn’t alive for me any more. I’m just … tired. I feel small and awful and beaten down by life. I have good days, where things seem hopeful and grand. But, mostly, I feel tired. I feel like a shell of the person I used to be, of the person I want to be. I want my escape back, to a certain extent. I want moments where I can feel, well, REAL. I want my world to have color, instead of the drab same-ness it has become.

And so, this year’s NaNo … I hadn’t planned on giving it a go. For the past two or three years, I haven’t been able to summon up the interest to give it a try. I love the giddy writing part. But the let-down that I have experienced in the months after didn’t feel worth it to me. Maybe I’m not a writer. Maybe I have to come to terms with that and let it go. I don’t want to, but is this a realistic way for me to feel? I mean, am I just clinging onto something I want to be true, when it isn’t true?

I don’t know. And I don’t expect NaNo will answer any of those questions for me. I don’t expect it will lead to some creative renaissance on my part. With the way it’s going so far, I don’t even expect it to be fun. Although I have a start to my story, the past couple of days have been filled with adulting things: doctors’ appointments for my Child Unit, a vet visit for one of my dogs, anxiety over potential life changes, worry over my elderly parents, Halloween (although this isn’t in November, but it takes a toll), grocery store runs, dry cleaning, and errands of all kinds. I’ve hardly been home for more than an hour at a time. It’s been hard for me to clear my mind so that I can think about my potential story in any meaningful fashion. The words are slow to come, and they feel clumsy and awkward, like bashful eighth graders at their first school dance. I haven’t yet tapped into the part of my brain that lets me write without second-guessing myself. Maybe it will come. I hope it will come, if I keep slogging along.

Mainly, I decided to jump into NaNo again this year because my Child Unit is doing it. She wanted me to participate, too. If you’re a parent of a teenager, you will know this for a universal truth: If your teen wants to do anything at all with you, you will do it. Without question. Because they are mostly all about putting distance between themselves and their parents at this age. This is natural, and I know it’s natural. But it still hurts like H-E-Double-Toothpicks.

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At this point, we are officially two days into the madness, and I am already woefully behind. If I were running on my self-imposed schedule, I should have around 3,400 words by day 2. I might have 1,000. Maybe. If I turn my head to one side and squint at the page hard enough. It’s looking rather bleak. It’s feeling rather bleak. A big part of me wants to throw the mother of all hissy fits, flinging papers all around my writing space and tearing pages from my Moleskine.

But you know what? It might look bleak. And it might feel bleak. It might feel damn near impossible at this moment in time. I don’t have three thousand words. This is true. But what I do have is this: a beginning. A brand new beginning, for a brand new story. Maybe that’s what NaNo is all about. At any rate, it’s a good enough reason to keep calm and write on!

The Waiting Game

Is there anything as painful and as wonderful as waiting for something you really want? I don’t think so. It’s a constant internal struggle of ups and downs. It’s a constant stream of private drama and whispered conversations with oneself. “Could this really happen?” your mind asks, “Could it really come true? It would be like a dream — an actual, real-life dream — if it did. I want to think about it all the time. And yet, I don’t want to think about it at all. Because … what if?”

It’s delicious and horrible and wonderful and oh-so painful, all at the same time. It’s kind of like being in love, this type of waiting. It tugs and pulls your heart one way and, then, the next, all within the space of moments. And this happens again and again and again. It’s a delicate dance between hope and fear. The prospect of a private dream coming true is so beautiful and thrilling that it takes your breath away. And yet … The fear of “what if” is always lurking there, in the background.

What if nothing happens? What if the dream remains unfulfilled? The hope of something new and exciting spreads out before your mind, filled with joy and laughter and golden light. But the what if lurks in the shadows. You’re not sure you can cope with the “what if” part of things. Because it means nothing will change. That pathway into the future seems desolate and dark, devoid of hope and happiness.

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I’m in the midst of my own waiting game. The suspense is wonderful, because I feel so full of hope. For the first time in several years, I can feel hope creeping in around the edges of my thoughts. It practically bubbles over inside of me, until I want to giggle like a loon. It’s strange, really, because this is the hope of something unknown. And yet, if it works out, it will, in some strange way, bring many things full-circle for me and for my little family.

I feel anxious and excited and terrified, all at the same time. I want to laugh at the possibilities of it all. And then, I want to cry with the fear that it might not happen. Because, if it doesn’t happen … Well, I’m not sure how I will manage to soldier on. I know that sounds terribly drama-queen of me, but there is a slice of my being that knows I will be despondent if this doesn’t happen. I don’t even want to think about that. I don’t want to think about any of it. And yet, it’s nearly all I can think about. My brain is full of hamster wheels, and they are constantly in motion. Turning, turning, turning.

I don’t have any control over it. I can’t do anything to make this thing happen. All I can do is sit, and wait, and pray. I think I have been talking God’s ear off with my little hopes and dreams. Sometimes, I feel very peaceful about it all. But then, anxiety creeps in because this is something I want so, so much. I’m not naive enough to believe it will be the answer to all my problems. In some ways, it could create more problems, at least in the short run. But, even so, my heart sings with the possibility. And trembles with the fear.

And the waiting continues.

Down the Rabbit Hole

I’ve never been a gamer. I’m old enough to have been around when Pac-Man first made his appearance, and I tore things up on those old arcade machines. I could make a quarter last for hours. But “real” (as in games that don’t have a big yellow ball eating dots and chasing ghosts) video games … not so much.

Generally, I consider myself an avid gamer-watcher. My husband loves to play games, as does my daughter. Hubby’s taste leans more toward the manly arts of war. Although he doesn’t have the time to play often now, his taste runs toward sniper or combat-type games, and I can remember many happy hours watching him shoot-em-up and acting as his spotter. You know, “Look out! There’s a guy over there! Oh, and there, too!” Child Unit loves fantasy or adventure-type games. We played our way through Zelda: Breath of the Wild recently, and we’ve started on Okami. When I say “we”, I mean that she does the actual playing, and I work out on the Precor while helping her spot bad guys or things that might contain money or useful items. I’m really good at spotting bad guys or things that shell out money, like hidden pots or the odd rock.

But I’ve never really sat down and felt the thrill of holding the controller in my own hands. I’ve never been the one running around fighting or jumping or whatever-ing. I played Mario Kart once, but I quickly ran my little go-kart thing right off the track. It was a painfully short game. And my family laughed at me. I don’t blame them; it was pretty funny.

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I guess I just figured I was bad at video games. You know, one of those people who isn’t coordinated enough or brave enough or whatever enough to play on my own. I figured I was destined to be nothing more than a gamer-watcher. I’m such an introvert that I felt really shy about trying this out on my own. Even though it didn’t bother me terribly for everyone to laugh at me, I have to be honest with myself and admit that it did bother me a little. And it’s hard to try something new when you go into it already thinking you will be bad at it. It’s hard feeling like a failure. It sounds so silly to admit this out loud, but I was afraid to try. Stepping out of a comfort zone is like that. Even with something small, it’s scary.

After watching my daughter adventure and play her way through most of Hyrule in Breath of the Wild, I admit I was intrigued. I was more than intrigued. It was such a beautiful game. It seemed like such a fun adventure. Even to me, it was a beautiful adventure, and I was only watching! I gave it a lot of thought. Eventually, I brought up the topic with my husband. I felt silly and shy about it, but I told him I wanted to try gaming on my own. Since my daughter is done playing through Breath of the Wild, I thought, maybe, I could try that game out for myself.

My husband knows me so well. He knew that, if I played a game my daughter had previously played, I would feel awkward and shy about it. This is a weird thing about my personality. I generally busy myself trying to be as invisible as possible. And he wanted me to have my first gaming experience all on my own. So that I could discover a new adventure, all for myself. Before I could change my mind or talk myself out of it, we visited one of his and my daughter’s favorite gaming stores. And he bought me my very first video game … The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.

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And now, I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole. Completely. I spent hours playing the game that first day. I picked out funny names for Link and for the horse. I ran all around the village, gathering money and fishing and trying to get new hearts. I spent hours playing the next day, too. And the next and the next. I’ve been on the forest adventure. I fought the enemies in the forest temple and freed the little kid and monkey. I herded goats. I searched for more money. I used the chickens to fly around the village. I lost custody of my horse, found it again, and got kidnapped. I turned into a wolf, and am now a bit stuck inside some kind of castle dungeon.

Am I any good at this game? No and hell no. I am clumsy. I run into walls. My Link runs around like a little drunk man with elf ears and too-big eyes.  And I’m even worse with the horse. Poor horse. I’m always running her into walls and fences and things. No wonder the village mayor’s daughter took her away from me! Oh, and I die. A LOT. If there is a way in which to die in this game, it’s a pretty good bet I have experienced it. I fail again and again and again.

But you know what? That’s okay! Maybe it’s even good to fail sometimes, because it gives us a chance to start over. I love how the video game, every time I die, asks me if I want to try again. I think life is like that, too. We have to remember to pick ourselves up and start again. And again. And again. And again. Even if it means falling down a rabbit hole every now and then.

 

One Good Person

I don’t think I’m understating things when I say the world seems to be full of shitty people. I am an introvert, and I live in a large metropolitan area. It makes me wonder if I notice more of the general crappiness of humanity because there is so darn much of it here. Maybe the whole introvert thing makes me more sensitive than I would like. Or, maybe it’s a combination of both of those things. I’m not sure, and I don’t think I care enough to puzzle through my feelings at this moment.

The point is this: The place where I live grates on me. There are so many people here, and every single one of them is out for Number One. There is always someone protesting … or tailgating in heavy traffic … or honking at you if you don’t move quickly enough … or taking up their space out of the middle of life, just because it’s most convenient for them … or yelling their opinion in your face, whether you want to hear it or not … or telling you what a horrible person you are if you don’t agree with them … or judging you for the way you look, or talk, or dress.

Online isn’t much better. If anything, it’s more of a jungle. The Left hates the Right. The Right hates the Left. Both sides wish everyone from the other side would die a horrible and painful death, and they don’t mind saying so — loudly and with prejudice — at every turn. Oh, and those opinions? Yeah. They are everywhere on the internet. Even here, in this blog. Yeah … I recognize I’m being slightly hypocritical here. I am sitting here, typing away about my own opinions on life and other things. Although, in my defense, I’m not trying to force anyone to agree with me. And I’m not yelling at them (literally or figuratively) for having a different opinion from mine.

It can be easy to fall prey to the gloom and sadness and overwhelming ICK of it all. Life feels like a slog. It’s easy to feel isolated and just … well, sad. Sometimes, I stop and wonder if I’m the last sane person in a jungle full of Crazy and Angry. If you knew me at all, you would realize how ridiculous it is to think of me being the last sane person in any sort of jungle … or forest … or slightly overgrown meadow, for that matter. Sometimes, I find myself wondering whether there are any Good People out there, hidden somewhere amongst the insults and anger and hate and yelling.

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Last week, my daughter and I were on the way to her school. We had to drop off a form, and we were running late, as usual. Traffic was horrible, as usual. Traffic is always horrible around here. To get to her school, we have to travel down a busy road. It’s one of the most-used streets in our area, and is four lanes at some points and six at others. This road is always packed with traffic and with angry, speeding, honking, road-raging drivers. Always. And this particular day was no exception.

As we approached the intersection of our street with another busy, six-lane street, I realized traffic was crawling at a near standstill. And, as we got closer, it was easy to see the cause. A blind man had, somehow, wandered out into the street. He was two lanes away from the sidewalk, tapping the street with his cane, and weaving a path among the cars, all of which had (of course) come to a stop for him. I have no idea why or how he ended up there. Maybe he was unfamiliar with the area and became disoriented, thinking he was on the sidewalk but ending up on the street, instead. It was shocking and terrifying.

I felt my heart go out to this man in that instant. I felt so afraid for him, watching him weave in and out of traffic. His taps of the cane against the street seemed rather frantic, and I’m sure it was terrifying for him to hear the noises around him and to smell the smoke and exhaust from the cars. Maybe I’m putting too much of my own emotion into the incident. But, I know that’s how I would feel. I wanted to do something to help him, but I was in the far lane of traffic, which was still moving (at a pace slower than a snail’s crawl) past the spot. There was nowhere for me to pull over, and I couldn’t leave my daughter sitting in a car in traffic.

I decided I would turn around, find a place to pull over, and return to help. But would I be able to get back there in time? As I glanced into my rear view mirror to check on the blind man’s progress, I saw someone from a nearby business run out into the street. I could only spare a moment’s glance, but I saw this second man make his way into traffic, gently touch the blind man’s shoulder, and lead him back toward the sidewalk. It was small and simple and, yet, so incredibly heroic. And it reminded me that I’m not alone. There are a lot of Good People out there. Maybe they are hard to find sometimes, in amongst the shouting and anger and angst. But they are out there, being kind and quietly heroic.

Sometimes, the smallest gesture can make a huge difference. For the blind man, the second person’s gesture was, of course, huge. It was life-saving. It doesn’t get much bigger than that. But the second man’s gesture saved my life, too, in a smaller way. Even though I was just a passing observer, it touched me in a way I find hard to explain. Two strangers touched my life that day. The first reminded me how important it is for me to continue to look past myself and my own wants and needs, which can be hard in the face of the world in which we live. And the second … the second one restored my faith. It doesn’t get much bigger than that, either.

The Butterfly

Do you ever have one of those days when you wake up feeling out of sorts? It’s not that you feel sick. It’s not that you necessarily feel sad. It’s not that you feel anxious. It’s not even that you can pinpoint exactly how you feel. Or that you could explain it to anyone, if they asked. Of course, you’re pretty sure no one will ask because you are pretty sure no one gives a flying flip. Overall, you just feel … wrong.

I had one of those days on Wednesday. I didn’t sleep well the night before, and I didn’t know why. I was tired when I went to bed, and I was even more tired after I read for a little while. I tossed and turned and had to get up several times during the night. I overslept on Wednesday morning. Not that I have a particularly set schedule as a stay-at-home mom, but I like to get going by a certain time in the morning. There are things I generally want to accomplish with my days, like laundry and cleaning and exercise and errands.

As soon as I woke up on Wednesday, I knew I wouldn’t be accomplishing a darn thing with my day. I woke up wanting to cry, although I couldn’t figure out exactly why. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I didn’t want to see anyone. I didn’t want to be seen by anyone, so I didn’t want to be out in public. And yet, I didn’t want to be at home, either. From the moment I opened my eyes, things were shaping up to a No Good, Very Lousy, Crummy Day in the making.

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It was clear I would be terrible company for myself that day, and I was bringing the dogs down. So I decided to go to a favorite restaurant for lunch. If it didn’t cheer me up, I figured it would at least be healthy for me to be in a place where I was around people, even if I was alone. Sometimes, you need to feel a group of people around you. Sometimes, you need to sit and hear the mix of voices washing over you. Maybe it’s a herd thing. Maybe it’s a way of reminding ourselves that we aren’t alone, after all. Maybe it’s just me.

Lunch was good. I had tacos. You can’t go wrong with that. I spent a pleasant hour or so eating and reading. I chatted with a couple of my favorite servers. It was nice. And yet, as I left the restaurant, I knew it hadn’t been enough. The funk was still with me. I could feel it settling around me like a personal fog or an old, musty overcoat that is two sizes too big.

As I was driving home, I sat at a stoplight, not really paying much attention to my surroundings. I was focussed on the light and on my own mixed-up feelings. A flurry of soft motion caught my eye, and I looked up to watch a butterfly flutter across the street. It flew right in front of my windshield, right over the hood of my car. I watched it go, winding and fluttering its way through the rest of the cars on the street.

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It struck a chord with me: the delicate, fragile beauty of that one little creature in amongst the strong lines and beastly appearance of the cars around it. It was as if, suddenly, there was one spot of delicate color in a sooty, grimy, gray world. One small bit of color and life and beauty borne aloft on paper-thin wings. I held my breath as the butterfly went, flapping and dodging its crooked path through the hunks of metal around it. It seemed so small in comparison. And yet, there it was, just doing its own thing, making its way through the world. It seemed … impossible. Just impossible. I don’t know how else to explain it.

And that’s when it hit me: I was feeling small and alone and frightened. This hasn’t been a great year for me or my family. I don’t really have much extended family left. My parents are getting older. My daughter is growing up. One day, I will be an orphan. Hopefully, this won’t happen any time soon. But, for the first time in my life, I realize — really realize — it’s going to happen. One day, I won’t be anyone’s mom. I’ll still be her mom, of course. Nothing will change that. But she will go out and have her own life. She won’t really need me any longer. I’ve always known this was going to happen, too. It’s the goal my husband and I have worked toward all this time. But, for the first time, I realize — really realize — it’s going to happen. I don’t know who I am. I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing with my life. I thought, by now, I would have answers to all these things. I thought I would have everything all figured out. And I don’t. It scares me. I feel tiny in the face of the universe, and I feel tiny in the face of my own anxieties and fears.

You know that thing where all of the feelings and emotions hit you all at once? You sit there, not really comprehending what just happened as emotion after emotion after emotion washes over you. And each one shakes you to your very core. Each realization and each accompanying feeling rattle you right down to the center of your bones. You don’t know which way to turn. You don’t know what to feel. You don’t know what to think. That’s what happened to me as I sat in my car at that red light and watched a butterfly flap across the street. I started crying. And I couldn’t stop. I cried all the way home. After I got home, I sat in my car in the driveway and cried some more. Honestly, I don’t know why I was crying. Even thinking about it now, I couldn’t pinpoint one feeling or emotion that was causing this flood of tears. Maybe it was just that everything was too much. I don’t know.

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If you’ve made it this far, I bet you are sitting there, staring at your computer and wondering what the heck. You are probably shaking your head and wanting me to give you a happy ending. I usually try to end my posts on something of an “up” note. I try to be positive. I don’t always succeed, but I try, hard, to make the most of whatever life hands me.

The truth is, I don’t have any happy ending for this post. I sat in my car in the driveway and cried. Later that afternoon, as I went to pick up my daughter, I called my mom. We talked about how sad we were over my Aunt Sue’s passing. We grieved together. And I cried all the way to the school. I pulled it together enough that I didn’t cry in front of my daughter. But that night, after my husband and daughter were both in bed, I sat in my office and cried some more. I held my boy dog and let my tears run into his fur. He didn’t seem to mind a bit of dampness. And then, I went to bed. The end.

But the next day, the sun came up. It was a new day, and I was still here — a bit worn, but maybe a bit stronger, too. Perhaps just surviving is its own kind of happy ending.

Learning to Let Go

I had a learning opportunity this past week. Not a course or certification or something like that, but a life lesson in the fine art of learning how to let go. Let me say this, right up front: It was not easy. It was so “not easy”, in fact, that I have diddled around and avoided writing this post all week, just because I didn’t want to think about it or face up to my feelings on the matter.

Life isn’t static, no matter how much I want it to be. I’m an adult. I’ve had “adult status” for quite a while now. And so, I know this. People I love have gotten older. People I love have died. I’ve lost beloved pets. I’ve lost friendships. I’ve lost my optimistic, sunny outlook on life. I’ve lost faith in myself. I’ve lost my way. The point is this: I have let go. My life has been a series of times when I have had to say good-bye and let go of things I have loved. You would think I would be a pro at it by now. You would think I would be all, “Oh. It’s happening again. That whole Life Is Changing, Gotta Let Go thing. I’ve got this covered. I can do this.”

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It doesn’t work that way. No matter how many times I have to let go or say good-bye or figure out how to cope with the way my life shifts and changes and flows along, it just never works that way for me. I’m not a letting go person. I am a clinging to the things I love with all my might and wishing for nothing to change kind of person. That’s a mouthful. It’s not any easier to live than it is to type.

So … my lesson for this week.

My Child Unit is a freshman in high school this year. She just turned 14. She is a great kid. She is funny and smart. She is creative and weirdly wacky, which I love. She has purple hair and loves elephants and cats. And she still enjoys doing stuff with her mom. I love this, most of all. But, you know, she’s growing up. This is not easy for me. I feel like I’m totally okay with it, and then … BAM! It all just hits me, hard, right out of the blue. And I mean hard. It takes my breath away and makes me want to cry.

Child Unit is in marching band this year, and they have practice several times a week. On Tuesdays, they practice from 6pm-8:30pm. School gets out at 2:55pm, and Child Unit texted me this past Tuesday to ask if she could stay through after school until band practice. She was going to hang out with her friends, and they had plans to walk to a convenience store for snacks. Even to an old fart like me, it sounded like fun. And I could tell she was excited about it — a first, tiny taste of freedom and independence. I can still remember the heady, exhilarating feeling of that first outing with my friends, independent of my parents. It’s normal and healthy. It’s a rite of passage.

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Of course, I said yes. She was very up front about their plans. She told me where they were going. She agreed to the street restrictions I proposed (as in: please don’t cross the insanely busy highway because people are idiots and don’t watch where they are going). She promised to text me as soon as they got back to the band hall so that I would know she was safe. She is a good kid. She is a responsible kid. And she deserves this. She deserves to stretch her wings. She deserves to learn how to be okay without her parents hovering around. She deserves to feel that sweet, terrifying, exciting freedom of being her own person.

The rational part of me knows all of these things. Because it’s logical. She has to live in the world. I won’t be around for forever, and it’s better for her to learn how to do this sooner rather than later. The rational part of me is glad she wants to do things on her own, with her friends.

But … the completely bat-shit crazy, irrational person who lives deep in my heart wants to scream NOOOOOOO! There is a crazy lady inside of me who wants to stop time, hold on tight, and make sure my sweet daughter never grows up. Because my crazy lady … Well, she’s crazy. It’s not that I want my daughter to stay static and be a little kid forever. Even Crazy Lady doesn’t want that. To have her grow up, become independent, and live a happy life is the goal. It’s what I’ve been working toward, from the moment she entered the world. Just … I kind of want her to do all these things in plain view of me, so I always know where she is and what she is doing. That’s not a bad thing, right? I mean … totally rational. And sensible.

Not! I know that. And Crazy Lady knows it, too. We both hate it. Rational me hates it a little. Crazy Lady hates it a lot.

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You’ll be happy to know Child Unit, Rational Me, and Crazy Lady all survived. I took a lot of deep breaths and said a lot of prayers. Child Unit had a good time with her friends, remained safe on her outing, and texted me as soon as she got back to the band hall at school — just like she promised. Overall, it was a huge success. It made me happy to see how excited she was when I picked her up that night after practice was over. She told me all about where they went and what they did. I loved hearing those stories.

And yet, there was a touch of bittersweet sadness underneath it all. From the moment she entered this world, she has been growing and changing. First steps … first day of Kindergarten … first day of Middle School … first sleep-over … first field trip … and so many more that I can’t even think to list right now. All of these things have been carrying her away from me, little by little. It didn’t seem possible when she was two or seven or even twelve. The idea that she would, one day, walk away for real seemed foggy and far away. Now, though, it isn’t. It is coming. I look at my daughter and see a woman growing out of the giggly, silly little girl. A beautiful, amazing woman, who is strong and sweet and confident. A beautiful woman, who is walking away from me and into the future that lies ahead.

And that’s okay. Because I will always be back here, cheering her on — no matter how hard it is, and no matter how many times I have to learn to let go.