Saturday, January 23, 2010

Dreary January Blues

This has been a hard month. I’ve been so depressed some days that I spent the afternoon in bed, deep in the sleep that had eluded me the nights before. I have been entirely unsuccessful in my job hunting. In several cases I’ve gotten as far as the interview, but when they find out I’m not able to travel, I can see them shut off their interest in me as clearly as if they’d turned off a light. I don’t know when the job began needing travel – this has come as an unwelcome surprise to me. Of course I can’t; my connections here are still too tenuous to even consider abandoning my daughter for any length of time, even if I could arrange it. Even if I would want to, which I don’t.

I have been struck by a terror so stark that it paralyzes me. I am afraid that my confidence in making this move was all crazy wishful thinking, and that I will be forced to beg for help sometime soon. The happiness that I felt in returning to this place that I love and yearned for has been tainted with doubt and fear. I have so few resources and fewer people whom I can lean on.

This is a sadly familiar state to find myself in. Having spent a big chunk of my life feeling trapped and miserable and clueless how to extricate myself from my situation, I felt that way living in my parents’ house, both as a child and later – when I was in California the last four years. Staying would have been easier in several ways, but I was dying inside. I had a job, and a roof over my head, but I was far from everything that I loved, except my daughter. I endured it as long as I thought I could, but now I wonder if I should have stayed anyway.

Everything I sought to spare my daughter from, she is experiencing anyway. I failed to keep her from feeling torn from her familiar surroundings. She misses my mother and she misses her dad, both people who have failed me in huge ways, and the irony is not lost on me. It makes me feel impotent and futile. I wanted her to be able to go to school in a healthy, stable environment and make friends and be able to be a little girl. Instead, she is getting in trouble at school for behavior she never used to exhibit, and seems sad and frustrated more often than not. I have talked to her teacher and others about it, but it is the worst kind of failure, watching my daughter be unhappy.

My mother’s cancer is now being treated with chemo. She finally got to go home, and has been visited by nurses. My father built the ramps, and she has a wheelchair. They sound like they are coping. I feel awful about this, too. I feel like I should do something, but there is nothing for me to do. They won’t accept my help, and so I would be exactly where I was before. Still, I feel devastated that my mother may pass much sooner than anyone ever thought she would, and I took my daughter away from her when they needed each other. The guilt is a heavy sinking feeling.

I think about whether I can or should continue to live here in this townhouse. It has a lot of what I want, but there are some things I wish were different. If I have to move, where will I go? I have a lease until June. The thought of packing up again almost nauseates me. I would hate to lose the greenbelt and the closeness to the school. But the neighbors we made friends with are moving next month, and the neighbor on the other side is a nuisance that won’t be easily resolved, and I wish we had a little more room. This unit is a little too close to the pool, and on summer nights when I like to sleep with the windows open, the noise keeps me awake far too late. I think about that when I consider trying to find another place.

All of these are feelings I keep largely to myself. I know that if I were working, much of my anxiety would go away, and the negative thoughts be pushed down in the busy routine of “normal life.” In my fantasy, right after I feel the most terrified and distraught the phone rings and everything falls into place. I don’t really expect this to happen, though.

I am used to being busy and accustomed to feeling useful. All the time management skills I developed over the years are lying as dormant as the trees outside my window. Time seems to be speeding past me, without me. It’s been a hard month.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Midwinter musings

Walking in the greenbelt has been interesting in the past week. The weather warmed up quite a bit – into the high 40s to mid 50s in the afternoon – which caused a lot of melting of the snow that’s been lying around. As a result, the concrete paths are in some places submerged, and the dirt paths are a quagmire of mud and slush. It makes for slow going.

As I’ve walked this week, I’ve had to pick my way and alter my route a bit. This led me to going different ways than I usually do, and reducing my pace. On either end of the big square that is the openspace I usually confine myself to, the path goes under the main road in a sort of low-ceilinged tunnel. Even on bright sunny days, these tunnels are dark, chilly, and rather creepy. My hackles go up as I peer into the gloom, and my instincts say to avoid them. I find this interesting. While they are both only the length of the road above, and I can see the path on the other side, they have an “unsafe” vibe about them. I wonder if men ever feel this way, entering a dim confined space. As a woman, I have learned to pay attention to my inner voice, and it has served me well. Still, I also have an active imagination, and I have to talk myself into doing some things, like going into places that make me shiver.

On one side of the park, the tunnel is where one crosses from one county to the next, and this is apparent, regardless of the posted signs, by the change in the path. It goes from smooth wide concrete to narrower blacktop. The surroundings immediately are more urban and littered. The noise level increases. On a bicycle, I think I’d be more inclined to follow the path and find out where it leads, but on foot, this is where I turn around and head back.

I see some interesting people walking in the greenbelt. There’s a code of conduct that is unwritten, but understood, that one is supposed to stay to the right (to avoid being run over by cyclists) and briefly acknowledge the person(s) you meet heading the other direction. This is usually accomplished with a nod, a smile, or a “hi” – or all of the above – but every once in a while you run across someone who is oblivious. There is one guy who I’ve observed wandering around in the greenbelt talking to himself. No, he’s not on a Bluetooth, looking crazy; I think he may actually be a little unbalanced. He wears a shiny blue baseball jacket over his shoulders, which reminds me of my little brother, armless sleeves flapping in the breeze. He stops in random places and looks around in what seems to be either indecision or paranoia, and stares at other walkers like he’s not sure what they are. He looks to be in his late fifties, but it’s hard to tell. He just may be grizzled looking because he doesn’t take care of himself.

There’s an Asian woman who always gives me a big smile and wave, passing in a cloud of perfume. There are lots of dogwalkers, including the ones who either don’t know or don’t care that the greenbelt is NOT a dog park, but a wilderness area, and these are the ones that don’t keep their dogs on lease and probably don’t pick up their poop. There are the families with the little ones riding bikes while mom or dad follows on foot, sometimes pushing strollers. There are the serious runners, and the middle aged folks ambling along. I was stopped the other day by a woman who asked me about the coyotes in the greenbelt. She had seen one during the day, and I guess she was afraid it might have been dangerous because she thought they only came out at night. I assured her that while they generally keep to themselves, it isn’t all that unusual to see one in the afternoon.

I hope the paths dry up soon. I am much happier roaming the walking paths or following a mountain trail than toiling away in a gym. The complex I live in has a gym, but it smells of sweat and feet, so I don’t go in there very often.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


We all have little vanities about ourselves. Stuff that we want to believe, and really don’t want to be disabused of, so we avoid testing the waters too deeply. One of mine is that I’ve always fancied myself a writer, even to the extent that I harbor the fantasy that “had life not gotten in the way,” I would have pursued this dream and been published, long ago. I think I keep that one right next to “I still look good in these jeans.”

One year ago today I posted my first installment on this blog. I was in the midst of chaos, and I’ve found journaling to be a good way of organizing my thoughts and making sense of what is going on around me. I was also terribly lonely, having exiled myself to a place (literally and metaphorically) that I never wanted to be. I decided to put it out there – semi-anonymously – and chronicle my journey back to the life that I needed, and maybe not feel so isolated.

One year ago, I thought it would be a good idea to share the steps I was taking to get back to Colorado, and why. Memory is a funny thing, and I find it educational to look back at what I wrote about something at the time and get the real feelings and not rely on fuzzy, watered down rose colored glass.

I got so much more than that from this little blog. I have been the recipient of so much positive feedback, and so much camaraderie and support, that it truly touches my heart. I have Followers, which blows me away, and I appreciate each and every one of you! I have had readers from all over the world, and I find that amazing and inspiring. I haven’t always responded to my comments, but I enjoy them and look forward to them so much! I have made friends. People who are as real as I am, who also like to reach out beyond their own front porch, and who understand that a little pat on the back or “I know what you mean” is sometimes the thing that helps you get through your day, “virtual” or not. I hope you enjoy your visit when you stop by my blog.

So, progress report? I am here in Colorado, in the Denver Metro Area, exactly where I hoped I would be. My daughter is going to kindergarten in a good school that is close to home. We are living in a cute little rented townhouse, comfortable and safe, and she’s gotten to do a lot of the things I wanted for her – like riding her own bike. I have plenty of places to walk.

We are making friends, and reconnecting to old ones. I am so grateful for the sense of continuity that my old friends give me, and how they have absorbed my daughter right into the fabric of their lives and made us feel welcome.

I still need to find a job. It is a struggle that I hope doesn’t continue much longer. I have a lot of worry about that, but I also remind myself that I will find a way.

I also reflect that really, this is the only thing that is a real problem, and to be able to say that is really great. I am comfortable with myself and feel like I’m in a good place, even though I am not getting everything I want. I am getting what I need. I am looking forward to the year ahead. Thanks for being part of it.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Brief Update

My mother is out of ICU and can move her feet, so everyone is breathing a sigh of relief. 
I was asked to call my mother's only sibling - my Uncle Rob - and give him an update last night.  I hadn't talked to him in years... maybe a decade.  It was a cordial conversation, and he offered to help me fly back to CA if I needed to.  I told him thanks, but I was going to wait and see how things went.

My father said he'd update me today, but when it got to be past noon and I hadn't heard from him, I called.  He gave me the news, and then said he was going to start building ramps for the house!  (I hadn't said a word to him about the stairs at this point.)  I kind of made a strangled laugh and said that I think it would be easier to just sell the house.  Surprisingly, my father said - seriously - that he'd thought about that, and is going to see how her recovery goes.  He said he thought he'd need to build at least 4 ramps and was glad he had lots of wood.
Good grief.  That place is going to look like the Winchester Mystery House before he's done... I hope he doesn't have a heart attack trying to do all that by himself, but he was busily building a new fence along their West border when I left California, by himself, digging holes in the rocky and packed Auburn soil.  He wouldn't let anyone help him with that, either.

Thanks to everyone who has taken a moment to think good things about my mother and the rest of us.  We'll see how it goes.  She should be in the hospital in Sacramento until sometime late next week.

Friday, January 1, 2010


My mother is being operated on today for a couple of spinal tumors. I found out this morning via a phone call from my father. My mother fell a while back, and then they started finding more problems and prescribing things, and last night she was taken to the ER. An MRI showed what they think has been causing it, but I think no one was expecting this. I have been feeling for a while that she was declining pretty fast, but this is a shocking turn of events. They should know more this afternoon.

My mother is not a strong woman, and I have a lot of concern for the outcome. Depending on the results of the surgery, I also am really worried about her recovery. Ever since I saw the house that my parents bought for their retirement, I have had it in the back of my mind how much trouble they could potentially have as they get older. Their house is full of stairs. There are stairs going up to the front door. There are stairs between the garage and the kitchen, the living room, and their bedroom. There are stairs going up to the second floor, and more stairs leading to the deck out back, that is a maze of – you guessed it – more stairs. And then stairs down to the back of the house, and more going out to the garden area. To say that this layout didn’t strike me as the wisest choice for a couple of aging people is a gross understatement.

When my dear Labradors had to have cancer surgery themselves a few years ago, while we were living in that house, I struggled with this problem, and one had to stay longer at the Vet’s because she wasn’t able to negotiate the stairs with her stitches being where they were. That time is fresh in my mind, today, as I think about the stairs between my parents’ beds and their bathroom.

My father said that he has had to carry my mother. I imagine him falling with her in his arms. I know how stubborn they both are. I hope it won’t be as bad as that.

Ever the staunch atheist, he is asking people today to pray for my mother. I get that he is afraid, but I find this interesting, all the same. This must be his foxhole.

My thoughts keep going from a deep gratitude that I and my daughter are as healthy as we are, to wondering what the impact my mother’s future will have on the family. It is not a stable house of cards on a good day. It most likely will not be pretty. If I were still there, it wouldn’t be much help, judging by how my mother’s pneumonia went last year.

I’ve had a feeling for a while that something was coming. I’m glad we moved when we did. I hope there is better news from California soon.