Emotional Topography

There’s this neighborhood bakery we frequent. They sell big-as-your-face donuts along with ritual hot ham and rolls on weekends. Is the Sunday morning ham and rolls a thing where you live the way it is here in the Midwest? Sunday morning, for no reason clearly apparent, my big kid got it in his head to surprise his dad, trekking solo off to the bakery. He set an alarm, you guys, on a Sunday just to do something nice for his dad. I choked up a little, I did.

Living with four males is itself a feat that should place me in the line for living sainthood, or at least in the line for a nice margarita.  “Good talk” is an oft-repeated Wendyism around our house, uttered after many a conversation where I mean to impart knowledge or information to my boys and get maybe a grunt in response, maybe a grunt.  “Shouting into the void” is a phrase that adequately describes some of my attempts at meaningful exchanges with our teenage children. . .  But then you get this slice of heaven on a Sunday morning–your kid plans and does something nice just because.  And you see this glimmer of hope that the life you live, the models you provide, the lessons you explicitly teach your children about being good people are actually making the impact you’d hope.  You can’t help but be buoyed.

Valleys and peaks, summits and the abyss. We categorize feelings and emotions in opposing extremes it seems, which makes “emotional roller coaster” an apt term.  Time is linear, but I have difficulty separating time from the emotions experienced in a given period, so to me, time also has texture.

I understand that one measure by which I mark time is a method wholly unique to my circle of friends and me: identifying chunks of time by Barenaked Ladies-related events.  It’s not the only metric I used to benchmark life events, I mean really!, but here it fits.  I’m still geeeeeeked up about the show we attended a few weeks back, but when the tour was announced back in December I was the polar opposite of geeked out.

So far, the 2015 Pine Knob show has been our only All-Eleven lineup

This weekend, the friends about whom I’ve written before, my Ladies Ladies, eight of them anyway, are getting together for the BNL show in Nashville.  When this tour was announced just before Christmas, I was in a down spell, a way down spell.  You have to understand that when tours are announced, tickets go on sale often within 48 hours, and you have to be ready to go.  Not only was I not ready to go, I wasn’t ready even to think about it.  I wasn’t going.  That was that.  My girls tried talking me into it–they even bought an extra ticket for me despite my insistence I wasn’t going (which gives them a gold star for optimism).  It’s hard for me to take off work ever, especially after the great I’m not getting paid debacle of 2019, and the beginning of any school year finds me just short of chaos.  Plus, I was just down.

I don’t know that I’ve ever acknowledged being depressed, but I know that I wasn’t a real laugh riot the months before Tom’s accident.  But of course, the accident changed every damn thing about my life as I knew it.  It’s hard to explain, but during the first week after Tom was run over, I was consumed by exhaustion, confusion, terror? but I didn’t take a minute to lose my shit.  How could I?  I had two kids who needed to get to school and baseball practice, to drumline rehearsals and bass lessons.  Family and friends took over, ensuring the kids’ basic bottom-of-Maslow’s pyramid needs got met, but I kept going.  Nonstop.  I hardly slept.  How could I?

My Fitbit tells an interesting tale of pre- and post-surgical insommnia.

The full damage report didn’t even hit me until several days after the accident, and by then I was sleeping overnight at the hospital because my husband wasn’t.  He woke on the hour, sometimes more often than that, calling out for me on a loop.  At least when I “slept” bedside, I was able to calm him, reassuring on repeat and repeat and repeat what had happened and why he couldn’t just get out of bed.

I was petrified when they entrusted his discharge care to me, overwhelmed.  Bone-tired and weary with sleep deprivation, but not depressed.  I was too busy to slump.  Once he began to arc up though, my post-accident descent took shape.  I could feel momentum building as my steps down the hill gained speed.  I won’t detail late June and July, because frankly it’s just not that interesting, but I was down and I took myself out.  I was straight-up honest with anyone offering to take/meet me out or to visit:  I’m lousy company.  No thanks.  Just please leave me be.  I didn’t want to talk about it, and I didn’t want to talk much to anyone.

I didn’t know how to be.

The end of summer break forced re-entry into my real world.  No choice but to find a way to be and god dammit, get there.  I was again petrified, but this time at the idea of not being home to care for my husband.

In the span of a few days being back at work, I coerced an internal perspective shift, and I swear I felt lighter.  I’d spent so much time at work being angry and/or frustrated about good stuff I want to have/make happen, but lack the station to enact, but now?  I still want that good stuff obviously–my colleagues count on me to fight the good fight–but I know where I fit.  I’ve always known where I fit, but now I’m OK living there.  No arduous climb to the summit, only to barrel down the other side of the mountain.  I can do the best I can do.  The topography of right now is rolling plains.  My kid set and alarm and bought donuts! My husband continues to recover!  My idols dedicated a performance to my husband!!!  Today it’s all good.

I recently finished Fredrik Backman’s Britt-Marie Was Here, a terrific, quirky novel centered around a terrific, quirky character.

Because that is what women like Britt-Marie do. They find the strength when they have to do something for others.

And like Britt-Marie, I think in the end I found the strength to do something for myself. Because also from the same novel–

Though absent from it myself, I am excited for the Ladies Ladies reunion, and while I’ll miss a wonderful girls’ weekend, I’m good not to go.  Sure, I would’ve liked the 2019 lime green version of our “team shirt” and would have shared in the social media song request campaign (Best Damn Friend), but it’s OK.  I’d written the girls that I feel peace in the long view:  I remember how beat down I felt when they began their flurry of planning and ticket-buying.  I recall how heavy my heart felt, because heartache is felt in a physical, real way.  I can recognize now my own optimism about those down memories from many months back, and having clawed back up from them.  How could I not?

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