So I will spare you all the stuff about life getting in the way and just tell you that life got in the way and what was supposed to have been last year’s Magical Holidaylicious Superior Ornament Exchange, Part the Seventh, became The Big Jett Flake-Out because of work junk and family junk and gosh, aren’t disclaimers and explanations sofa king tiring, though?
So here we are today and it is ON, All You Preciouses.
Brand New Participants, you can check out the past swap posts to get a feel for how this thing goes. Don’t be afraid, the previous participants aren’t completely batshit. I like my friends to have Big Personalities and felony records on the ’safer’ end of the spectrum. Wait, I think I’ve said too much. Let’s back up.
The basics are that you comment below with your name (real or imagined) and an email address that won’t flag me for spam. I then start spamming you with a Great New Business Opportunity reach out to you with the best way to submit your info to me so that I can set you up with a recipient. The goal this year is to have all the participants herded into the Good Cheer paddock by Saturday, 3 December and then we’ll aim for Tuesday, 13 Dec as the mailing deadline. If your recipient is in another country, I ask that you try to hit the ground running and get their ornament in the post as far ahead of that date as you can.
There are not a lot of rules for this thing, because rules are for suckers and we are all mostly-free spirits here. Here are some basic ground rules, though:
2) You can make or purchase an ornament; said ornament should have a retail value of seven to twenty dollars. If you Make, you should be able to sell your creation on the open market for the aforementioned price range. If you are using one-dollar felt, you work some seven-dollar magic on that stuff, baby. I believe in you: I really and truly do.
3) There is no religious, geographical, age, sex, etc. etc. standard or limitation at play here. Red and yellow, black and white, you are all precious in my sight. We’ve had eight-year olds on up to sixty-eight-year olds get involved. Jews and Agnostics and Protestants and Buddhists and None-of-Your-Businesses (and maybe even a couple of Pastafarians or something) have thrown in on this jolly good time in the past. We are equal-opportunity dingdongs for sure, is what I’m saying. The only characteristic you need is a mindset of joy and mirth and inclusion (and hell, we’ve even had a couple of grumpy fuckers join us in the past, so like I said…everybody is welcome). This is about fun, and about surprising someone, and about maybe making a friend. Lots of connections have been made as a result of this thing, and your friendships and joy blooming are fun for me to watch.
This one is not a rule, but a preference: If you’re not making and would rather buy (no shame in that; I too have gone that route at times in the past), I’d like to gently suggest that you buy from a Maker. Artists bring humanity and soul to the table, and that is something we are forever in need of, whether you consciously acknowledge that or not. Spinners of humanity and soul require fancy things like electricity and groceries to fuel them.
And I ain’t gonna front even one little bit: I am fairly touchy about perpetuating the influx of cheap and exploitative import shitgoods into our country, so there’s that. Be the change, suckahs.
I love you. Let’s do the dang thang!
P.S. Feel free to invite all your pals so that they can be my pals too.
*how are we seven years into this thing and I’ve only JUST NOW thought to do an Official Hashtag for this business? more on that in the email to follow, Lort.
“When are you going to die?” Sherry asked me.
“I don’t feel comfortable talking about that part.”
I’d told her about how I’d always known I wasn’t going grow old; I’d touched on the dreams.
“I dunno, Sherry, it feels like blasphemy.”
I’ve never wanted to be here anyway. Dying young wouldn’t be a big deal. That doesn’t make me suicidal, though.
“Will it be soon?”
“Sherry, come on.”
My whole life I’ve experienced intense bouts of Missing. Homesick, but this confounding sort of homesickness for a place I’ve not seen with my eyes; I’ve seen it with my heart.
“No, you. YOU come on!”
“Why isn’t it enough that I told you?”
You can’t just go around telling people about stuff like this, because they think you’re mentally ill. One thing I’ve always been is crazy. One thing I’m not is mentally ill.
“You know that thing where someone tells you that they have a surprise for you and it makes you nuts? You say that you want to know everything or nothing at all. Well, I don’t know nothing at all, and that only leaves everything.”
I can’t stand when people use my own logic and belief systems to get the better of me. The fact that they can means my logic and belief systems are flawed. So are yours. So are that guy’s over there.
“This isn’t going to go away.”
“Forty-four. I think it will happen when I am forty-four. Nobody else on this planet knows that, so keep a lid on it.”
Today I found out that my car is kaput. Even though I have plenty of jokes about this situation, I am vexed about it, I’m not gonna lie.
Still, though: A minute ago I caught sight of the date. It was a decade and a half ago this week that I started publishing dumb shit I think about –and things that beg my attentions and important stuff I dream for and links to good music or writing– to these here internets.
When I connected the date to its occasion, it made me think about all the ground I’ve covered (and the letters I’ve scattered across it in my wake!) between there and here. There have been some really, really bad days. I’ve had so many good ones, though, that it feels silly to spotlight the aggravation or upset. I’ve always survived, and at some point I always woke up to a different day that managed to be better than the one that sucked in a royal way.
Those days weren’t always concurrent, by the way.Still: Gratitude powers, activate.
Overall I’d have to say that this is an adequate summation of where my head’s at right now:
Sometimes I wake up and I think, “I don’t know who the fuck I am.”
That is what age and wisdom does to you. The more you discover yourself, the less you know who you are. The trick is to get comfortable with being off-kilter most of the fucking time, standing ready in the rocking shift of consciousness. You get to pick from “I am enlightened and tickled about it,” or “I am a nervous fucking wreck.” Some days you’ll swing from one to the other like a big ole meat pendulum, you with your smirking mouth and your weak ankles. But you have a strong back and your bowels work, so there’s that to make up for the other.
Back to this waking up business: You wake up every morning and there is a certain amount of magic and science you expect to be on your side. Most of us are lucky enough that it is a fair deal of the time.
::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::
Apparently I have gotten far too comfortable in my life, is what the universe is trying to tell me today, All You Folk.
I don’t know a lot of things. Wait, scratch that. Yes the fuck I do. I know a metric ton of stuff. One of the things I know is that I’m very self-aware (metaMetaMETA!), and I have a good grip on my strengths and weaknesses. Mostimes I am just as liable to tell you the ways in which I’m a sore fuckup as the ways in which I am strong and capable. I try not to make excuses for myself, especially if I’ve engaged in poor behavior. If I can be proud of the good things in my life, I can own the shabby ones, too. I try not to luxuriate in the one or self-flagellate with the other. These are all just things. There are happies and there are sads and graces and contemptuousnesses and all of the other point-counterpoint that life weaves through you. You enjoy the one, you motor through the other. You take a knee where it’s called for and you jump around like a fool where it’s appropriate (and, if you’re like me, sometimes where it’s not).
I like to be in the moment, to wring everything I can out of it. It’s simple, really.
Another thing I know is that your secrets are the very things that will kneecap you and make you worthless. The tighter you hug them to yourself, your burdens, the colder and heavier and more unrelenting they become. They will drag you down without compromise. Some people will tell you to keep your game face on, to always telegraph surety and success. They want you to believe right alongside them that you should never leave your neck exposed, even if it means sacrificing the act of turning your head, craning it for all it’s worth, to look at something amazing like a baby’s laughing mouth or a pretty, unselfconscious woman. You know, things worth exposing your soft meat for.
I can do stoic like nobody’s business. I learned from some of the best. I’m not convinced it’s the best way to live, though.
::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::
I have been sitting here all day fretting. I’m not supposed to tell you that. I was raised by a mother who took on as our family motto the phrase, “If it is to be, it is up to me.” I see where she was going with that, and it was a well-intentioned route, one that encouraged us –my sister and me– to be proactive and not wallow and not have a sense of entitlement. She wanted it to be clear that we were to do our part in our destinies, whatever those may in fact be.
But you know, over the last couple of years I’ve been thinking, and those thinks tell me that “If it is to be, it is up to me” is just a titch arrogant, and inadvertently prideful. It implies that I can do it all on my lonesome….or worse, it implies that I should do it all on my lonesome. So my father actively drilled superiority into our heads while my mom passively did so, even as she touted the good virtue of humility in our hearts. That’s startling. (It also makes me think: “How many didn’t-mean-tos am I responsible for where my own bairns are concerned?” We are all so well-meaning, aren’t we?) If there’s one thing I know about myself it’s that I need a tribe. I’m not especially co-dependent, but I am hugely loving and tribesmen bring the lulz and sometimes buy the beer and they let you hug them. Most of them hug back. My tribe doesn’t need to be huge. It just needs to be mine.
I am a tough motherfucker. I can take a shot to the head, no sweat. Depending on who you are, I may taunt you for another (I’m off-kilter but I ain’t dumb) . I can take a verbal bludgeoning and laugh and shake it off later via elaborate voodoo rituals on your person
by knifing your tires
with a rowdy game of darts and your picture,
leaving it be. This is not to say that I don’t believe in being vulnerable, however. I do. I just need to correct myself in the error of thinking that I should have absolute control over where and when I’m vulnerable. I mean, I don’t advocate walking around being a slobbering mess, but what’s the harm of showing armor chinks? I’m sure as shit not afraid of someone seeing me beat my spear on my shield. Truth be told, I don’t even need a spear OR a shield: I have a fearsome haka, just ask anyone who’s seen it.
Hell, ask my husband. I love him the most fiercely of all, and he has seen my most brutal parts and all the weapons that I brandish outwardly, only to turn them inward on myself.
Now then, there is something that the guys with the no-vulnerability mindset and I agree on: Faking it until you make it; I believe in a certain degree of that for sure. I don’t believe in lying. I do believe in saying, “Fuck yeah I can do that,” partly for the other guy in the room, but partly for yourself, too. You gotta hear yourself say that you can do something. You gotta hear those words. Then something in you is beholden to step into them and make them fit, see? Something in you is challenged, awakened, teased out. I believe in challenges, because I’m big on adventure. If you’re not an adventurer, then that’s fine. You can, for instance, believe in challenges because you are a glutton for punishment. Hahaha. (no really)
(I love you. We will get to the end. You can take a pee break or whatever and come back.)
::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::
A friend tells me that the air conditioning in his house has broken again, almost as an aside in another conversation we are having. I know that when the air goes out he gets sick. I also know that his clients have been slow to pay. I pray for his air to work, both so that he can be well and so he doesn’t have to lay out any more money on that damn unit. He doesn’t know that I am praying. I pray for his wife, who must surely worry and fret over him when he is sick, even though she may not actively show him her worry so as not to cause him any strain. I know this dance; I am a wife.
I pray for life to be less mean for you.
I pray for the doctors to find out what’s going on in your physiological self so that it will stop being an albatross on your spiritual self.
I pray for you to find a job.
I pray that you don’t have to make the shitty choice between medication and shelter, between living and L!I!V!I!N!G!
I pray for those little shitbirds at school to stop bullying your sweet kid.
I pray for you even though you mock people like me, people who pray and believe that it works.
I pray for peace and understanding between you and your family, for them to accept and love, for you to forgive hurts, for unification and joy and laughter around a laden table.
I pray for you to stop being scared of the world, and for it in turn to reward and be good to you.
I pray for your beautiful son, locked in a different self, and for you, because the way you parent him is so big and so lovely and so perfect that you could never, ever fail.
I pray for you to stop believing that lying thing inside you that says you are not enough.
I pray for your trust, your openness, and your ability to receive those things from others in return.
I pray for understanding between us.
….and so on.
I’m pretty bad at asking God for things for myself. I used to be pretty bad at asking a few select people to pray for me, over me, but I’ve gotten better at that. There have been a handful of people praying for me and my family about a specific thing for about a week now.
::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::
Today I sat with myself, dragging myself from task to task until I just finally quit trying to focus on other things and sat frozen, petrified, unable to do anything but cry, even though I hate to cry and I believe that worry is unnecessary things like a) taxing and b) a flavor of abomination. Up and out, right? Crying is the emesis of the soul or some shit and today I just couldn’t quell the spiritual nausea and so I bawled like a tit on and off, using a corner of an old towel I’d torn up for rags as a kleenex.
That! Is how thrifty! And repurposeful! I have become! Behold my prowess! I will never ‘make my own toilet paper’, though. There are leaves and catalogs and corncobs left in the world, my Lord.
Then I reached out tentatively to some more people, willing myself to place in them the trust I know that they are worthy of, because they’ve never shown themselves to be full of anything other than integrity and goodwill. (some of them are full of beer, too: tribesmen)
I told them: There is a very strong chance that we may lose our house. I told them: I need every bit of Spirit you can muster my way. I told them: This is humiliating. This is infuriating. I am on the cusp, on the cusp, but there are still bricks to be shoved into place, and I’ve set enough of them that it makes no kind of sense to turn back. I told them: Maxim’s income has steadily declined. Worse, his morale has steadily declined as he’s had to slash away at the jobs of others. His nerves are taut and he has this stress tic where his jaw clenches and unclenches and I am furious at the state of this country for what it has done to the state of my husband, the state of many of its families. The pigs that stole away with all the lifeboats cannot so much as throw out the stray pair of arm floaties to the drowning masses they’ve helped to shipwreck.
Banks, you see, would rather a corpse be fished out of the drink than aid the able-bodied to survive and swim. They don’t hear you when you tell them, “Um. Ahem. I see rocks ahead,” and ask about preventative measures. They aren’t concerned with the fact that you have dwindled your modest but promising nest egg (YOU HAD NEVER BEEN ABLE TO SAVE BEFORE! IT WAS EXCITING TO SEE THOSE NUMBERS TICK GENTLY UPWARD!). They don’t give a shit that I love that studio up there, the one it took me so long to get. It doesn’t matter to the suits that my dining room is the heart of this house, and that so many amazing things have happened in there. They would just blink at me if I told them how this big ole ambly thing was a literal garbage dump when we found it and although it’s not the Taj Mahal yet, we do a little at a time as we can and everyone but everyone without fail remarks on the easy sense of peace they pick up on when they come into this place. I’m not the only one, you see, with a story like this. They probably don’t even hear the words anymore.
It’s only been a few days since I’ve known the full gravity of our situation and something in me is insistent that I cannot allow it to mow me under. If I keep it a secret, it will.
….and so now I’ve told you, too. I need rooting-for. I need LOUD, SPIRIT-FILLED, YODELING-TRIBE HOLLERING AND STOMPING ON MY BEHAAAAAALLLLF!
Freedom. I am speaking freedom over myself, whatever it turns out to look like. It may have different square footage or even be in a different town, another state altogether. It may be right here where I will bounce fat-cheeked grandbabes on my lap (“this is the way the farmer rides, hobbledy-hoy, hobbledy-hoy”) someday. Whatever. However. I’m asking for you to speak freedom over me, as well. I trust you. I trust you over there with your integrity and your goodwill and your hoping heart inside your rowdy chest.
::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::
In the last few weeks I have been communicating with someone in a deep and meaningful way. We’ve been pondering on the nature of our respective beliefs and how it’s hard sometimes to be what we are in a world that either misunderstands us or perceives us to be something that we are not; they do so based on a mess of ignorant zealots who act like they don’t know anydamnbetter. We have been awkward and vulnerable and funny with one another. We have been mortifyingly honest, broken, excited to be in the company of someone of the same ilk: “Hi. I’m the fuckup who is here to love you.”
I have never written a truer or more naked assessment of myself: “Hi. I am the fuckup who is here to love you.” See what happens?
Anyway, I shakingly asked for prayers. I got a message back saying, “well. it isn’t a coincidence that I was listening to this when I got your message:”
And no. No it wasn’t. Because that freedom paragraph up there? I’d written it a couple hours before I reached for a hand.
‘Only chain a man can stand / Is that chain of hand in hand /Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on’
Instead of doing something that makes sense for a person of a writerly persuasion and, oh, writing a bunch of things about the massive changes in my life over the last four months, I’m gonna catch you up to right now (because, oh trust me, right now is a Pretty Big Fucking Deal overall) with a timeline done in an annoying ‘100 things about me’ style.
Here we go!
1) My estranged father called me from Nashville in mid-July telling me he’d be there the next day.
2) I spent the whole of that day Losing My Shit before deciding, all zen-like, that I’m happy with who I am and screw anybody who didn’t think I was enough, even if they were the lender of half my genetic material.
3) That visit went well. Remarkably well.
4) In August, through twisty-turny strangeness, my job came to an end.
5) Both my boss and I cried, admitted we didn’t understand why this was happening, but that it was supposed to happen.
6) He made the transition from paycheck every week to no paycheck every week pretty comfortable for me, all in all.
7) That first day I was out of work, Maxim texted me one word: “FREEDOM!!!”
8 ) I began to set my sights on writing and making art as a means to, you know, feed the people that live in my house.
55) As I predicted to myself, there were ghosts waiting for me there.
56) ….but there were stirrings, too.
57) And laughter. Holy Ghost and the Father also, what laughter.
58) My soul got shook. I won’t speak for anyone else’s.
59) (but theirs did too, der)
60) My brain was set to ‘fog’ for a week upon my return….but not in a necessarily bad way, see?
61) I decorated the Christmas tree.
62) My father called.
63) He talked of going out west for a few weeks.
64) Two weeks prior he’d said firmly, “No more road trips for me. I smoke more and I don’t stay as rigidly to my program when I’m away from home.”
65) I understood.
66) ….so when he talked of going to Nevada for a month or so, something started to not feel right.
67) Other things he said also tripped wires on my insides.
68) I asked pointed questions back to back.
69) He had no time to dance around them nor wriggle out from under them.
70) “Do what you want,” I said, “but I’m going to respectfully insist that you get the second scan you promised us girls before you get on the road.”
71) He was going to drive out there, you see; never mind his waning health or the potential for things to take a turn for the sudden worse.
72) He got the scan.
73) I saw it.
74) It is the sort of thing that makes you go, ‘Fuuuuuuuhhhhhhck.’
75) Impressive yet terrifying, I guess is the apt decscriptor?
76) He told me not to come.
77) “Not time,” he said, promising to tell me when it was indeed ‘time’.
78) Psh. Yeah, right.
79) Likewise, he told my sisters not to come.
80) Fuck what that fool says: I’m grown and I do what I want.
81) My whole family came in for Christmas.
82) It was a grand time, what with my parents and all the kids there.
83) For the first time in twenty-five years, I didn’t bake a single Christmas cookie.
84) My heart was seized.
85) I tried and tried and tried to bootstrap some Christmas spirit.
86) Didn’t happen.
87) No, you don’t understand the profundity of this: I am an ay-number-one Christmas dork.
88) Christmas Day was beautiful and peaceful and rich.
89) My aunt called, Don’t wait to come. Come now.
90) I met my baby sister in St. Louis a week ago.
91) We went out and got shitfaced.
92) Dear Tony the Hotel Shuttle Driver, Thanks so much for your patience and understanding and also stopping at Schnuck’s so that two drunk girls could shop for breakfasty foodstuffs. Love, Jett
93) The next day my Uncle Ron fetched us from the big city.
94) My father cried upon seeing us.
95) That was only the third time I’ve ever seen him cry in my whole life.
96) He patted me for the first half-hour we were here.
97) He started chemo.
98) We are caring for him in whatever manner we can, in any which way he will allow .
99) He’s starting to feel terrible physically.
100) We are in this Cancer Bubble, my father, my sister, and me.
And that’s the last four months in as brief a fashion as I know how to convey them. Now you’re up to speed. Now I can start writing here about all these things. Lord knows I’ve been writing everydamnwhere else about them.
About four weeks ago Scout decided to scare the piss out of me and her dad. Said fright was caused by her standing in front of us having a conversation one minute, then falling out and convulsing the next. When roused and sufficiently coherent, she described an electrical storm in her frontal lobe. Tests thus far are inconclusive. Which, you know, I prefer to view as HALLELUJAH NO BRAIN TUMOR.
….but the image of an electrical storm right behind her pretty little brow has haunted me.
::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::
About a week after that, I got a call from Sam informing me that he was coming home for four days over Easter so that he could marry this Very Cute Person,
:: randi, university of alabama campus, valentine’s day 2011 ::
who we will henceforth call ‘Randi’ in all our future talkstory adventures, Muffinasses. Don’t bother asking if I like her, silly; just look at her Loverboy teeshirt and her pleasant countenance! Those things should give you all the four-one-one that you need. Okay, okay….I will tell you this little bit of confessional information: One time, when Sam and Randi were both fifteen or thereabouts, I told Maxim in the quiet privacy of our bedroom, “Now that kid? I would love to have as a daughter-in-law.” She is that flavor of awesome, see? That sort of awesome that had the two of us making plans for coffee and conversation even when she and my son were no longer a couple at one (or two? ahem) point(s).
So initially the wedding plans went like this: While Sam was last home on leave, the couple made the announcement that they would marry next July. Hasty, yes? Yes, hasty. But look! Over a year to plan a wedding! Just enough time to do all this. We wish Randi would finish school! But we love her! You guys are so young and maybe wait a little longer! But who am I to speak against passion?? I would never be found guilty of such! Let’s have a wedding, shall we?
Then they said “Hey! We want to do this in December.” Okay, ah, start the New Year together in 2012! We get it! Makes some sense! Whoa, deadline, but not an unobtainable goal if we get started right now!
Then this July and my head exploded because “SAMUEL YOUR SISTER WILL BE OUT OF THE COUNTRY AND HOW DARE YOU PROPOSE A WEDDING WITHOUT HER, SHE WOULD NEVER DO THAT TO YOU AND THAT LEAVES US NO TIME TO HELP YOU PLAN, NOT TO MENTION GIVE YOU ANY SORT OF FINANCIAL HELP YOU MIGHT NEED AND WHAT THE FUCK? WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK, SAM?? I HAVE A LOT TO BE CONCERNED WITH JUST NOW, PLEASE STOP WITH THIS WEDDING IN JULY NONSENSE RIGHT THIS MINUTE.”
“Mom?” Sometimes the connection is tinny when he calls, far-away sounding. This was one of those times. “Mother, I’ve got a four-day pass over Easter weekend. I’m going to fly in Friday morning and that afternoon Randi’s dad (ed. note: Randi’s dad is a Babdiss preacherman, but we do not hold that against her in any way) is going to marry us in her parents’ back yard.” He wore a black shirt and ivory Vans and she wore an ivory dress and black Converse and now I’m a mother-in-law, so weird.
At least I am consistent, as always, in maintaining a whirlwind life.
::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::
So. The week before Scout fell out and two weeks before Sam made the tinny phone call, the very week that Mathias announced that he was joining Civil Air Patrol, Maxim and I had a discussion that really entailed not much discussion at all and we decided to leave our church. Rat-tat-tat. We met with our Pastor and told him on the tenth of April, my mother’s birthday.
Individually, Maxim and I had both been feeling the nudge to ask the other what they thought about our relationship to our church and whether we were to continue it. When I finally brought my thoughts up to him and told him the timeline on them, he nodded sagely and cited the exact same thoughts along the exact same period of time. We were essentially completing one another’s sentences as we spoke, and ended the discussion with the promise to pray over the issue for two weeks and then go over our impressions together.
Then the not-discussion, then the leaving, then the strange feeling of being untethered from a church body but being very anchored spiritually. We –Maxim and I, and even Scout– have even gone so far as to acknowledge that it may be in the cards for us to remain unchurched altogether. None of us is opposed to this. Jesus did a lot of damage with two feet and an unafraid voice; He never kept to four walls, at least not for very long. We’re supposed to emulate that man, if we really believe what we say we do.
We will miss our church family bitterly. We will still see them socially, sure, but not several times a week. Hell, let’s be honest: We will probably not even get to see them several times a month. Life is a storm of unpredictability and a ruiner of plans. That’s part of what makes it so incredible, you know?
::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::
On Monday, April the eighteenth around two-thirty or so, I started to feel it. I guess it was something akin to a fissure in my brain opening, something that had been a sort of hairline crack becoming a gaping maw. I white-knuckled my way through the afternoon and then went home to gobble some Lexapro, thinking that my PMDD was rearing its head and hadn’t given me as much lead time as usual. I quickly got worse, my insides a low-roiling boil, threatening to bubble over; it made me physically sick. I could feel the lactic acid building and then depositing in my shoulders, my traps, in the backs of my thighs. It was a continual release of adrenaline and I was extremely nauseous by hour four of the whole thing. The whole of the afternoon a voice in my head gibbered about just wanting my bed, ohhhh if I can make it to the end of the workday I can have my bed, but that evening I fumbled onto the couch and couldn’t move from there, where I fell into a fitful sleep by seven 0′clock.
I woke and dragged myself to the bedroom, still feeling sick and indeterminably broken, at around ten-thirty. The next morning I was due to drive Scout to her neurologist an hour away, and I thought that the Lexapro would grab hold while I slept (like it always did! magic! jazz hands, bitches! airhorns and goofy relieved grintastic visages and confetti or something equally as rad!), making me feel whole and right again upon waking.
I woke up lethargic and very, VERY resistant to the idea of leaving our home. In fact, I was somewhat terrified to even get out of bed. The low-boil feeling was still there and now I had a sense of defeat layered on top of it. I wanted to die, but it occurred to me that if I shot myself in the head my daughter would a) be angry that I ‘forgot’ to check her out of school b) be the one to find me c) be doubly fucked up as a result of having been angry at me just before finding my messy-headed self scattered willy-nilly across the bed. I tried to eat some breakfast. I threw it up. I showered and put on eyeliner, then comfortable clothes, then sunglasses that would obscure most of my face. It was a sheer act of my Legendary Stupidly Defiant Will that put me behind the steering wheel and on the road.
I am going to make a mistake. I am going to make a mistake and wreck us. My inner voice meant this in a more literal sense, but in writing that now I realize that there is more meaning to it. Anxiety’s theme song is I Am Going To Make A Mistake. It has a really catchy hook and gets stuck in a loop on your insides if all the conditions are right and you give it half a footing, did you know?
“I’m not feeling well,” I told Scout, “do you think you could manage driving if it turns out that I can’t?” She said she could, and I told her that I’d navigate the more difficult part of the drive and put her on the straightaway twenty minutes or so down the road. When that twenty minutes had passed, I’d started feeling better, so I passed on Scout driving for me and continued on. Ten minutes past that I was pulling into the empty lot next to an abandoned auto shop, so suddenly overcome that it was all I could do to exit the car and go around to the passenger side.
I reclined the seat, Scout slid in the new Damnwells and within a few minutes we were flying down Highway Tw0-Seventy-Eight; I was curled up on my side with my face six inches from my knees, staring at them intently, afraid that my brain was doing something I and it could never recover from, when ‘Sophia‘ came on
with a wink everything’s falling apart and we’re lost in Lebanon
and then somehow I found my eyes fixed on the beyond out there past the vinyl and the doorhandle and the window, it rushed by oh it fell away and was replaced so fluidly and I hope I can hold onto myself well enough to finish this day, finish this day, finish. Finish it, this day.
but Cain had to finish the job
for the God of Jealousy
No fever dream had ever been so brutal.
By four o’ clock that afternoon I became something resembling myself, but still only a poorly-remembered version of that, a slightly-staticky approximation. “It’s stress,” said Maxim the next day, and then the day after that I caught myself kneading the shit out of my left forearm with my right hand, to the point of extreme pain that I hadn’t even noticed in my absent-mindedness. It was then that I took into account that my nails were more gnawed than they ever had been –they were bleeding and painful at times– and I’d had this crazy rash on my chest that had appeared suddenly about two weeks prior. “I told you, stress,” Maxim affirmed once I recounted my realizations to him. I pondered the crevasse that had opened up in my brain, how extremely near to the base of it that the crack had run.
I circled the internal wagons. It took a week to really shake that feeling that I was just a fuzzy copy of my actual self, that I was play-acting at being something I was really not. I faked it till I maked it and I managed not to disappear. Feel free to mutter it under your breath, but don’t you ever tell me that miracles are the stuff of myth.
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Wednesday, Twenty-Seven April:
The internet went out early in the day. Power was intermittent throughout the morning, but mostly there. The mountain began to be battered. We came back from lunch, we left early for the day. Maxim happened to be off, so did Scout. My family was all snug in our home when I got there. I found out later that where others were hit once and hard, we were hit over and over hard. It was that evening before I found out that Tuscaloosa had lost one-seventh of itself and Cullman had fared poorly and the state park had played host to three twisters on the ground at once (a paramedic friend showed me a close shot he’d taken with his phone, holyHOLYfuck). A friend, upon finding out that we had no idea what was going on elsewhere, began to text snippets of information and news to me.
I called Randi, who was shaken but perfectly fine. A student at the University of Alabama, she had, she confessed, been terrified when the tornado set down a block from her apartment. She was coming home to the mountain as soon as she could. Her phone was messed up and she couldn’t make any calls or send any texts, but she could receive them. Sam, having just gone back to Texas less than twenty-four hours before, was on the other line, exceedingly not-okay with having left his bride.
Maxim showed me the snippet of radar he’d managed to pull up on his phone. “Unh, ah, there is this black area here right by us. I’ve never seen BLACK on any radar, have you?” No, no I had not, and it looked ugly, like a blotchy tumor on a rainbow landscape and wow, this is one of the rare times in life that merits one long, low whistle of disbelief punctuated with raised eyebrows. Things ramped up for us again. We stayed together, first in Mathias’ room reading and making LEGO magicks, then in the living room. When Maxim thought everything had passed, he went in search of ice and to check on his mother. He took Mathias with him.
He later professed the stupidity of leaving, because one of the events that occurred while he was out involved a massive oak falling across a pitch-black road a few feet ahead of him while he considered the merits of dropping a load in his pants. Another wave of storm had whipped itself at us and he’d been caught out in it. He crept back to his mom’s to wait it out. Back at home, Scout and I started hearing things hit the back side of the house.
“It’s still now,” I texted Maxim afterwards, “Come home, and hurry, but be safe.” My phone began dying. Maxim came home. “There is a tree in Dana’s house. It sliced clean through.” We didn’t get out to inspect, because I did not trust the dark and the clever way it might obscure dangling tree limbs with the potential to fall and crush or its ability to hide downed, soaked power lines an errant foot might find before a watchful eye could.
We made pallets for the children on our bedroom floor, set a lantern in the bathroom in case anyone had to get up later. It was dark, so dark, and I blessed this darkness, because it is a hardcore insomniac’s unspoken dream to have no glowing, buzzing streetlights slicing in from half a block away. There were no electronics humming, no tiny red lights becoming larger than life. “I AM GOING TO SLEEP LIKE A CHAMP TONIGHT!” I announced to no one in particular. We had laid our heads on our pillows and spoken a few words when one of us –I don’t even remember who, honestly– said, “Oh man, we got so lucky this time.” This was immediately punctuated with the explosive sound of a hundreds-of-years old tree a few yards away in the quick throes of giving over and going a fuck-all, messy horizontal.
I not only slept like a champ that night, I slept like a GOING-FOR-BROKE, FUNDAMENTALLY-DRIVEN, PIMP-ASS MOTHERHUMPIN’ CHAMP. But only for five and a half hours. I kept flopping around the bed after that, and then finally I got up and pulled on yoga pants and the notorious Pink Floyd shirt (that has made a-one-0r-a-two appearances within the voyeurnally tomes of yours truly) you might chance to remember. There were flip-flops involved, too. I slipped on a hoodie, leashed up Banjo and set out. Only one other house on the whole block was occupied. Three of them had trees driven well into their innards. Others had broad, well-rooted oaks tipped over and leaving gigantic divots in the ground. Some of them had equally large trees snapped like toothpicks halfway up their trunks.
The three blocks surrounding our home were –and still are– a great mess. There are a bait of awful tales that I could run out in front of you, but I’ve already taxed your graces enough for tonight and I don’t think it’s in anyone’s interest for me to actively try and horrify you. Let’s just say that I am very well aware that the most tragic thing that happened to me, basically, was having to endure an icy shower and hanging clothes on the line. Which, if you’ve been watching any of the news footage (which I have not even had time to go through in any real way) is the cosmic equivalent of stubbing my toe in the presence of legless people.
Translation: Don’t you !dare!! complain, dummy.
And so, I am not. In fact, I am going to post up, in the next little real soon day or two, things that have been so right about this place and its people since all the weathercarnage. I’ll include some ways you can help from where you are, too. Tonight my back is growing stiff and my eyelids are crackling.
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This week Scouty turns eighteen. Twenty days after that, she will graduate high school.
:: ’she looks like an album cover,’ somebody said ::
Then it will be June and she will be exploring another country.
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This summer we will be taking Mathias to our nation’s capital because he is old enough to absorb some of what this country is, what this country remembers, what it knows and also what it would like to forget. He’s inquisitive and perceptive, a fact magnet and discussion-haver.
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Next weekend my son is coming home to get his bride and take her back to the desert with him. They are so young and passionate, and life is too fragile for them to be apart one second longer than they have to be. The world won’t be any less brutish, but they will each have the comfort of a bedmate’s tangled limbs and steady breathing to reassure them as they slumber. Important, too, is someone to laugh with when everything is all ludicrous as fuck and humor is the only thing left.
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It almost never fails: The day after a brutal, tornado-laden storm is picture-perfect, bright and mild and colorfully soft. This always blows my mind. Still, I am thankful for it, for the respite and I am moved to make this urgent wish:
Sonno beato, world, and all the children in it; sleep beautifully for a time.
I’m here. I’m still here. Everyone I know is accounted for. Everything is possible and I brought my spoon because I’ve always been one to dig in and that’s one trait I will fight to drag up to the grave’s lip before I have to be put in there.
I’m gonna send a postcard to Sam Rockwell in care of his agency and the only thing I’m gonna write on it is the addy to this blog and the date 9/22/00 on it. I’m gonna DO IT. Think he’ll pop in??
Think if he did that he would e-mail me? Think that if I responded to his e-mail with an invitation to be a guest blogger on here that he’d take me up on it? He could be totally anonymous to the world, blogging away under a nick like ‘Brewster Chisholm” or “Phil Holloway” or “Grady Lord”.
It’d be our secret.
It’d be such a turn-ON. Makes my nether-regions simply glow with the thought of it.