as an infant my mother was adopted into a family, of sorts– adopted by a couple who could have no biological children of their own but who had previously adopted a set of blond twins, boy and girl. and along came baby betsy, from day one a fiery redhead, both in appearance and personality– not one, or even able, to maintain a low profile, she would fall under the scrutiny of strangers for her bright locks and solicit time and again the har-har rhetorical question, where’d’ya get that red hair?— and hate it with every fiber of her being because she didn’t know.
my mom wanted desperately to belong to someone, to be loved and cherished and seen and known– and instead she lived in a household of propriety where there were no caresses, no hugs, no overt, distasteful displays of emotion. my grandparents meant well– the truth, I suspect, is that my grandmother hadn’t the first clue how to mother children, having lost her own mother in a tragic accident while still a toddler herself– and my grandfather, well, he was a guy– a staunch upstanding citizen by all accounts if not a particularly cozy fella.
so betsy was a fish out of water– highly emotional, vivacious, bright, sensitive– and the children had a nurse, as well-to-do families did in those days, and the nurse would discipline the unruly child betsy– by beating her with a hairbrush.
the twins had their own difficult paths, one mentally ill though undiagnosed with schitzophrenia until adulthood, and the other angry and bitter and mean. there’s a lot there, but I only know it by hearsay and what I witnessed in later years– and this is not the place or time to process this part of the story.
my mom survived her growing-up years and went away to boarding school, as nice young ladies did, and went on to a smart ivy league college– and met my dad, a student at a neighboring ivy league men’s school, and fell in love. and said to hell with waiting, despite her parents’ desire that she finish her college education– my mom couldn’t wait any longer to be loved, to have a family, to have a place she belonged– so as soon as my dad graduated, the two were married. he was even a redhead, too.
and off they went on their married adventure to my dad’s service years, paying off the education debt in fort sill, oklahoma– they weathered burnt newlywed chicken and giant cockroaches and orange winds together– and they had their first baby, my eldest brother. after a couple of years they moved back to their mutual home state, michigan, my dad started law school in order to keep my grandfather’s daughter in the style to which she was accustomed, and they had another baby, my second brother. a little while later my mom had another baby, another boy– but this one was born with an incomplete skull and only lived a few moments. she named the baby and mourned him deeply, who had come to define herself above all as wife and mother, and took the doctor’s advice and got pregnant right away again with my sister.
someplace after that things begin to get a little foggy in the mom narrative– the order of events gets a little uncertain, a little scrambledy, as things would continue. she began to have headaches. really really bad headaches. she had three young children, and she was sick, though it was for a long time unclear with what. she got pregnant again and gave birth to me. she went to doctor after doctor. she went to psychiatrists. no one could explain to her why she was having the terrible headaches– which were becoming blind spells and blackouts. finally a doctor ran an imaging test of her brain and found a cyst– it was blocking fluid drainage and building up the pressure behind her eyes– her life was in danger. she went into surgery convinced she wouldn’t survive.
she survived. but the person who emerged from that surgery was brain injured. the doctors had been unable to reach the cyst and had only been able to install a shunt down her neck to drain the fluid. the process of doing this, who knows, doubtless they did the best they could– they saved her life– inarguably. but the woman, according to those who knew her before and after, was substantively changed. her longterm memory remained intact, but her shortterm memory had been fouled up. there were a few years of seizures and no-driving-the-car and a lot of medication, but the most substantive effect was her lack of tracking– like a cd prone to skip and stutter. there would be glimpses of the shining woman and then perseveration, repetition, getting lost, misplacing things, and sheer, wretched frustration– because she was wholly aware that her goddamned brain wasn’t functioning the way it had before.
my mom’s a fighter, she’s a survivor. this narrative thus far barely scratches the surface– her life was far from over– hell, it was 1972. she has lived a long time and survived a whole lot more. after she emerged from that first big surgery, shocked and grateful to be alive, she resolved to find her biological mother. this was a long time ago– adoption records were sealed, and there were laws protecting the information– but she persevered. she traveled to new york, the state shown on her birth certificate, and pestered the bureaucrats until someone blatantly left a file on his desk while he went out of the room for a cup of coffee. and she found her mother.
my mom has survived cancer. she has survived diabetes. she had a second brain surgery in 1987 during which the doctors removed both the cyst and the drainage shunt using still-experimental microsurgery. all the anti-seizure medication she’s taken for years turned her bones porous, which she learned several winters back when she slipped on the ice and her ankle crumbled. my mother is ornery and outspoken and fey and stubborn– and lately she has been getting lost and scrambled more frequently. today the diagnosis came in and my dad sent an email out to us kids: early stage dementia, alzheimer’s.
this is, I fear and know, not something my mom’s going to survive. she is going to struggle against it and get angry at it– and it’s going to take her, what is left of her, all the pieces, this disease will bit-by-bit steal them away. and there is nothing she can, we can, do. my mom is not well. this is what I’m sitting with tonight– miles away, powerless, thinking of her. my mom, whom I love.
so. I have not always selected my romantic partners with the utmost care– hell, I don’t know that I’ve actually so much selected them at all– more like closed my eyes and tumbled into whatever was right before me.
I’ve gone in for the headlong plunge time and again. and ended up involved with some guys whose priorities were way off from my own. so this time I’m trying to go about it differently. coached by my counsellor, I’ve recognized and owned that what I want, the bottom line, is a partner. and I posted a pretty comprehensive personals ad to this effect on craigslist (it was a good one, if I do say so myself) and have spent the last week fielding responses and meeting a couple of people. that is, two exactly. got several responses, immediately deleted several, did a couple of exchanges with a handful of others, and at this point two have materialized to the point of going out, one of them twice. these two are pretty great dating prospects, I think– our priorities are way more aligned than I’ve experienced in a really long time, heck maybe ever. I like both of these guys right off the bat quite a lot– and now I feel utterly sick about this whole process: dating, choosing.
I know I shouldn’t feel sick about this, it makes no logical sense– but I do, literally. evidently I’m having a really hard time making the process of getting romantically and physically involved more conscious and mindful. evidently I’m a bit of a junkie to the eyes-closed-forward-plunge approach. instead, now, this way, I have to be more present for and accountable to my decisions. it’s all much more substantively real as a consequence, the stakes higher.
truth be told, the collapse of my marriage eons and eons ago still somewhat plagues me. I do not ever ever ever want to find myself so utterly lost inside of a relationship, so confused and unrecognizable to myself and damaging to someone I love. taking the steps actually, actively, consciously to seek out a partner is terrifying to me.
ohmygod, I’m being very dramatickal and annoying, I know. I’m kind of embarrassed to write about this at all, but I need to process this. it’s cuckoo.
I owe myself the opportunity to be selective. I owe myself the time to gauge how I feel about a person before getting involved physically and having my judgment inevitably swayed by all the complicating that involvement sets in motion. I deserve to seek out the very best alignment of people that is available– and the other person deserves this, too– a sarah who is fully present and engaged and standing open-eyed with her decisions. this should not be something that makes me feel ill.
if you have some thoughts about why in the world this would feel so wrong and crazy-making, I would love to hear them.
possibly it’s a cognitive behavioral thing simply, breaking from the comfortable course of habit to a more difficult unaccustomed way of proceeding, that creates this feeling of “wrongness”.
it’s really kind of awful, though. these are lovely people. and conceivably there are even more lovely people sitting in my email inbox, and I’ve simply hit a point of overwhelm and can’t bear to pursue any more if two is already too many. I don’t trust my judgment, apparently– I question the validity of finding two people so appealing right off the bat– like, maybe I’m not being selective enough. at the same time, I don’t want to not choose either of these people, really dislike the thought of dismissing someone– I know this may sound greedy and gross– what it is is I struggle with boundaries, with saying “no” to people, with disappointing them.
jesus, I feel like a certifiable mess. but I swear– I don’t want to be alone forever, lord help me.
it’s been a heckuva week. I feel like I need to sleep for about a day– but there’s funstuff planned, which also makes me very happy. just get me through today, please– fridays at my place of work can on occasion be racheted-up anxiety fests. I’m keeping my expectations low: somewhat peace and getting a bit of work taken care of. wish me luck. and then weekend.
incidentally, there’s this funny thing about friday night– it always seems like there should be extra hours in it because, yknow, it’s the weekend— but then you get to it and find that it’s pretty much just like any other evening of the week– the sun goes down at about the same time, etcetera. it’s a bit of a mindjam.
sometimes I am pretty much just a complainer complaining. I’m now having poster’s remorse over last, as feeling it’s a misrepresentation of the internal landscape– truth is, I really enjoyed this trip, despite haze of sleep deprivation– i like that I am fairly competent at the work I do and that I can be called upon in these ways, professionally. I like having responsibilities– I guess the lurking truth here is that I’m craving a higher professional profile, and the back seat is simply a metaphor. but I’m still earning my moments at the wheel in this case.
I also want to provide a coda about where the sathead is right now: happyplace. last week this time I was struggling just to tread water– but worked the multi-tiered approach to pulling up one’s own socks– a piece here, a piece there: a good long dogwalk into previously unexplored territory, paying of a couple of bills, some situps, some reaching out to people network, a bit of tinkering at the play table– and wah-la, last night therapy was basically a brag session about how hard I rock.
it’s a rolly rolly rollercoaster, yknow? whiz bang. the view right now has some sunshine and a whiff of spring.
whew. hello, wednesday, old buddy old pal.
yesterday was one looooooooooo-oooooooooo-ooooooooooong day. and I didn’t even move house or go to court or wait while a loved one had surgery or anything major. it was Just Plain Long. went like this:
1. alarm 4:45 a.m. ouch.– no, wait– this ouch is also contingent on the going out the night before, drinking, staying up too late– yeah, weird for a monday, but they happen. so, yeah, 4:45 a.m. was painful.
2. stumble around getting dressed, etcetera, which process involved accidentally throwing my laptop on the floor. fortunately, my hand was not actually that far from the ground, and it landed on the throw rug screen side down and, thank deities, did not die. I already had enough adrenalin going at that point to jumpstart a groggy elephant.
3. arrive at work building at 5:30 for agreed-upon 5:30 start time– and sit in the cold and dark for colleagues to arrive and do various things inside the building– depart at 6:00. small gr.
4. drive three hours for a business meeting in another state (meanwhile, have I mentioned that I punch a time clock? oh, don’t get me started). got to move out of the back seat and drive for a delightful hour or so– I tend to get carsick– not actually hurling, just green and evil-feeling. car companions work– they talk about work things, they talk to people on their blackberries (once a descent hour arrives), they send email messages on their blackberries– they work. and I? mainly I exist, just shy of evil-feeling.
5. have very good meeting, which involved the need for me to be quite on and lucid and sharp– was not nearly at the top of my game, but managed it, in the main.
6. receive multiple facility tours– which would have been honestly fascinating (working in manufacturing is this incredible new learning process to me), if only I hadn’t felt like the bottom of the cat box. ooh and aah and manage note to run into any machinery and cause a whole rube goldberg type disaster.
7. return to car and ride three hours return in back seat while colleagues mainly continue to talk on and type into blackberries.
8. did I mention the daylong headache?
10. arrive back at work parking lot just prior to closing time– don’t even step inside, just get in car, drive home, planning to nap.
11. get in bed, in utter delight– and then lie there, unable to sleep because I am actually too tired, for an hour or so.
12. get up and walk the poor desperate dog.
13. return– do various unuseful things in a fugue state, still unable to sleep.
14. start watching grey’s anatomy episodes on dvd and become unable to quit clicking forward to the next one as each ends. those cliffhangers! they getcha. finally, in exhausted self-disgust, eject the disk in the middle of an episode– at 1:30 in the morning.
15. go to sleep.
vanilla sky was a good moment for tom cruise. when he was with penelope cruz on the world promotional circuit for the film. when it was cruise and cruz. when he was pre-really-super-crazy. just flirting with it.
just so we’re clear: navelgazer’s getting back into the dating game, once again. it’s time.
and time to start drafting a new personal ad for CL (seeing as how I was somehow dumb and neglected to forward myself copies of the old ones, gr. well, anyway– a fresh start is probably appropriate).
so this is one of my current writing projects.
another one is an RFP for work website redesign.
I leave it to my reader to determine which writing project is more fun.
just had coffee and treats and million-mile-an-hour catchup conversation with een there.
and, lookee, forgot to point this sign out to her in the window– looks like they’re starting a dinners thingamabob. really wishing the ONE night next week I’m booked weren’t thursday…
D&D Laudromat– just beware the dryer wormholes.
100 experience points on wednesdays.