Run, Drive, Paddle, Read, Laugh, Cook, Drive, Repeat

I ran the 5k on the new highway. It was neat, really neat. The course was a little tougher than I expected, what with the hills. I thought I would be out on the new highway, laughing, snapping pictures, but I pretty much just looked ahead and ran, and everybody else did, too. I didn’t run fast, but I worked those hills and didn’t give up. The highway was wide and white and still. It was so eerily quiet. The pre- and post-race, on the other hand, were full of laughter. All sorts of local folks showed up. It was nice to run into friends, neighbors, and colleagues, and it was heartening to see that so many people keep up with their running. It felt convivial and congenial, and I felt like I was a part of this community. So that’s good.

I went to a dinner party that was a little challenging for me. I had to mingle with some people who let me down. I’m no longer longing for things people won’t give me. Still, it helps to have a glass of wine in my hand at such events. It helps to remind myself that these people are not my friends, they don’t really care about me and the welfare of my children. These are acquaintances, who want to share some laughs, brag about their kids, see their charmed lives reflected. I can reflect that back to them, and enjoy the gift of laughter, be regaled by stories, enjoy the good food they so generously share. Not everyone has to be loyal and true, and I need to get out to events like this to remain part of the social fabric. And it’s an honor to be invited. So that’s good enough.

Pseudonymous Friend, who has forever distinguished herself with her compassion and kindnesses, suggests that life is harder for most people on the globe than it is for me. Good point. I understand the privilege that I have. I’m not trying to say that my life is the hardest in the world. I do have hardships, though, that exceed the inconveniences of these intact families around here. I can deal with these hardships, by starting the day at 5am, driving, driving, driving, remaining hyperorganized, and letting go when needed.  The problem is that my daily challenges just distance me from other local people. I don’t fit into this crowd that groans over their shared inconveniences, such as having to drop off kids at two different school starting times. Oh, cry me a river, I don’t say, as I stifle my words with a sip of that wine I keep handy for  moments like this. I spend the conversation suspended, smiling weakly, taking a sip of wine, in my own little world. And I wonder why I have trouble integrating back into this community!  Still, I try.  I say something good-natured. Someone else says something funny. I laugh in turn. This is what I’m supposed to be doing.

This gets to the more intractable problem. I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. It doesn’t take. The superficial socializing, watching the sun rise or the moon rise while I’m on a jog or a paddle–I got nothin’. A friend thanked me for telling her about the horse and carriage ride. She went on a clear, starry night. She said it was one of the most amazing things she’d ever done, “maybe ever.” Wow. I knew it was nice, but hey, wow! I’ve seen this joy on friend’s faces, after the 5k on the lonely highway, after an evening of paddling. They are open to the beauty and they are utterly moved. I’ve introduced them to these things, and I just think *shrug* it’s all very nice. This is the bigger problem. I can be in the thick of the simple pleasure or catch a glimpse of the sublime, and it just doesn’t penetrate.

I know I’m making progress in my energy levels, my socializing, and my acceptance.  I even had lunch with a colleague who had to bring his baby. I actually had an instinct to bolt when I saw him walk in the restaurant with the baby, but I held fast and tried to act normal. I spent an hour staring at a 19 month-old, and I didn’t cry, and I even tried to be friendly to the baby, like she was just the little person she is, deserving of my respect. Such progress! I feel like something snapped when I found my husband. I fear that I lost some kind of life spark. It’s hard to describe the loss, because I feel it viscerally, but it always manifests differently. A few months ago, it felt like dark bile coursing within me. Nowadays I feel it like a cord that has been cut. I can’t retrieve the optimistic, open-minded, ambitious person I used to be (who liked babies), a person who appreciated things. But if it’s a cord, then I can reweave it. Hence all this tying myself into the social fabric, accepting from others as much as they’re willing to give, offering as much as I’m capable, accepting others how they are and hoping they do the same for me.

All the material resources won’t make you happy if you can’t let happiness in. External advantages are helpful, but they are not a substitute for internal health. I know this is true because I watched my husband suffering, for years, when he had so much going for him. But I’m not my husband. I am a survivor. I know this because all of these nice things are not lifting me, but I do them anyway. They are holding me up, and I need that. I am fighting like hell.

6 thoughts on “Run, Drive, Paddle, Read, Laugh, Cook, Drive, Repeat

  1. I’m glad you enjoyed your 5K bridge run. It seems like forever since you blogged about starting to train for it. That was a good benchmark moment back then.

    I can identify with the superficial socializing because that is what I feel I’m doing. I’m acquiring acquaintances I hope will one day turn into friends but it’s such a crap shoot to know when and if something will pop. Keep on fighting the survivor’s fight!

  2. I guess I don’t have to tell you that you can’t retrieve the person you used to be because you’re forever changed. “Changed” doesn’t equal “bad,” but it sure does equal different. And regardless of who has it “better,” “worse” or whatever judgment anyone wants to make about it, you’re suffering something I don’t pretend to understand, other than to say we’ve both suffered terrible loss. So who are we, how are we supposed to live? I think we’re winging it. The best I can say is that if I really, really don’t want to do something, I don’t. The rest of the time I feel kind of nutty, because here I am at work, here I am at the grocery store, here I am smiling at strangers because I’ve no idea what they’re suffering and maybe a smile will help – and all the while I’m weeping inside, wanting to say, “My son is dead. Can you help me? Do you know what I’m supposed to be doing? Can you tell me WHY I should be doing it?”

    Thinking of you, and again – thank you for what you say and the way you say it. I’m so goddamn sorry this is what you have to be writing about, but there it is. Know that people are “out here” listening, and I’m one of them.

  3. Thanks to both of you for reading that with compassion. I feel like such a brat complaining about people, but my feelings are weird, and they are leading me. These folks, Jean, are not mere acquaintances. They are folks I socialized with for a decade and whom I asked for help when my husband was still in the hospital. A few of the couples backed away. My sister was by my side at the time, observing all of this. The way she read it, they were clearly telling me that they were surface friends. So they never offered anything more. I just needed more. For months, I was so hurt. Then, I was bitter and judgmental. Then*poof* I let them go. This party last weekend was a chance for me to practice. Indeed, I expected nothing and got a nice dinner and some smart conversation. That’s the most I’ll get. I can accept that now, but it took me over a year. These relationships have served as a bellwether for me to gauge how I’m doing. Despite feeling so bleak lately, that dinner party let me know that I’m doing okay.

  4. When my husband had his stroke there was a couple who I expected a lot more from than we got in the way of help or emotional support. My husband had long conversations with this couple on a daily basis and he helped them out a LOT before the stroke. I was angry and resentful and my husband was really hurt that they never came around or called anymore. Then I threw a five year, “thank God I’m alive” party for Don and invited the couple (almost didn’t) and I was glad I did. We learned the guy found out he had cancer shortly after Don’s stroke and they didn’t want us to know, they thought we had enough on our plate. He didn’t want anyone to know because it was breast cancer. All my anger disappeared and it was a wake up call for me to remember that others go through life changing experiences, too, and often don’t have anything to give to others in need. Life as taught me not to expect anything either and it works out better than way.

  5. I hope I didn’t say something really annoying at some point…maybe it was about the Syrian couple, whose suffering also make me hesitate to talk freely about whatever comes to mind, because I know how everyday complaints must sound to them? Anyway, I regret it if I seemed to downplay how difficult things are.

    I think the superficial friendships are inevitable. I think there is something about friendships made at this time of life that never go much beyond the surface. You can decide whether you are better off with these interactions or without them. I get a little angry when I mention your name in passing while talking to someone and they ask stop the conversation to ask how you are doing, and it’s clear they haven’t been staying in touch with you. And I don’t know what to tell them, or what it is they want to hear, so I mostly talk about how you’re pretty busy getting the kids to all their activities…

    (P.S. I wish I could help with the carpooling, let me know if you ever need a back-up for the elementary school drop-off…)

    • No, no, no, you never said anything bad. You did mention that, and I take that point, not as a criticism, but as a way to bounce me out of my own little world. I do need to remind myself that some things are okay. That helps to keep from getting too bleak.

      My successful night out was a sign that I’m integrating. That’s good. Now if I can just blurt out my need for help with driving. It’s amazing how hard it is for me to ask, or even to tell people to spread the word. I may have to resort to a general call for help on Facebook.

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