Thursday, August 22, 2013

Insomnia thoughts...

She could feel the night slipping away.
Daylight was creeping in on the edges now. 
Wrapping her hands tightly in the blanket of darkness she rolled over. 
Wrapping the night around her like a cloak; not wanting to let go.
 But no matter how tightly she held it still slid away from her.

 Inch by inch.

The blanket unraveled.

 Leaving her with twists of darkness woven around her fingers.
 She tucked the threads in her pocket keeping them safe.
 In the afternoon the unrelenting brightness became too much. 
She sat down under a tree and reached in to her pocket. 
She pulled the loose threads out and placed them on the ground.
 Not night, but shade, and that would do...

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Another year in the books...

I seem to have started my own birthday tradition. A couple of years ago I decided to write a little re-cap blog about my year. Then last year I decided I liked it so much I would do it again. (Just as a little aside the first time I entered those hyperlinks I linked to the wrong blog postings. I was tempted for a little bit to leave them in just to see if you noticed.) So now it's time for the "What I did with my Summer Vacation Entire Year" blog.

So if 42 was the year of adjustments and 43 was the year of contemplation and meditation 44 was the year of...well feeling old.

As most of you know I've never really been hung up much on age. I will joke about getting older, that pop noise that you hear when you stand up in your 40s, "are you okay?", "I'm fine, just old." But age has never really been a thing. My parents were in the their late 30s when I was born. My first real memories of them they were already 40. They were in their 50s when I was in high school.  Older for me has always skewed much older than it has for my friends. Turning 30 and turning 40 weren't big deals. I didn't have that crisis of faith where I thought my best years were behind me and I was becoming old. Aging just wasn't an issue. Everyone gets older, if they are lucky, and you have choices, you can do it with grace or you can fight against it, but it's going to happen.

So imagine my surprise when this year my age came up and smacked me in the face. It started with the fitness challenge I started last year right about this time. I had big plans, super workouts to get ultra fit and see how much I could push my body to tone and tighten and be awesome. Well what I found out was that at 44 I couldn't push like that anymore. I needed more downtime and recovery. And I found out that when I tried to stubborn my way through the pain it didn't fade, as it would have in my 20s or even my 30s but it got worse. What the actual fuck? I was pissed. How dare my body not do what I wanted it to do. But I adjusted. Not happily, but I put the brave face on it. It was a challenge to see how far I could push, and I got my answer. Not as far as I thought. And when I backed off I healed up. So that was fine.

Then I hit the wall. Okay, not a wall. It was C. Walking back from the park when we went to Disney for Christmas I was looking to the side instead of in front of me and C stopped to avoid running in to a drunk girl who was weaving her way down the sidewalk. BAM! I ran straight in to him. Jammed my foot on the back of his. Saw stars for a minute and the whole bit. Went back to the hotel, put it up, iced it down and...well it was fine the next day. A little sore, but not bad really. But it kept coming back. And then it got worse.

After a few visits to my primary doc I got the referral to the specialist. Chronic injury. Chronic is never a good thing. It means it's sticking around. Basically what I did was peeled the cartilage at my toe joint. So where the big toe meets the rest of the foot the cartilage in there is sliced. When it is laying down flat it feels fine, if it gets bunched or lifted it hurts like a son of a gun. The only thing to fix it is surgery which comes with its own issues so we are delaying that as long as possible. The way to help delay that is with a change in lifestyle, low heeled shoes, different workouts, more structured every day shoes. And so I made all the adjustments. Then when I went in for the follow up appointment the doctor got mean. He described how the injury happens. It comes from years of wear on the joint, through the high heels, through the hundreds of times you stub your toe, all of that adds up to weaken the structure so a good solid hit like the one I took can cause damage.

Basically, you are old and worn out so this is what happened.

See? Mean.

Then we went to Chicago and I ached after walking around the city. Yes, part of that was I had the wrong shoes with me for humidity and walking. Yes, part of that was my gait was off because my feet hurt. Yes, part of that was because I am in the worst shape I've been in for years because I am still trying to figure out what to do workout wise that isn't boring as all get out. But the bottom line was I ached. It wasn't the "oh boy I'm sore, that was a good workout" it was, "holy crap my hips hurt and I'm not sure I'm going to be able to stand back up now that I've sat down."

See, I've kept my weight in check without working out but I am not in any sort of cardiovascular shape. And I'm softer than I've been in ages. When I first got the "things have to change" diagnosis I started working on changing and altering things. Just straight up toning, push-ups, sit-ups, leg lifts, and trying to workout out using heel leads instead of pointing or flexing my toes. But it was starting to make me bored and bummed. I never do well doing what I'm told I have to.

Yes, you read that right, I responded to feeling old by acting childish.

And then the capper was a few weeks ago lying in bed I had the thought that I was going to die someday. Now that's not a new thought at all. Everyone knows they are going to die. But the realization that at some point the me that I am is just going to stop. For what ever reason (the I've been feeling old reason I am sure) it actually hit me this time. The me that I am is going to stop at some point. Made me understand why people like the idea of an actual heaven where they live for ever. The just stopping thing is a little disconcerting.

So 44 was the year of feeling old. Which is okay. I am middle aged. Even with the most optimistic view of my life span I am solidly in the middle of it and working on the second half. I will never be as young as I used to be. I will never again be able to get away with the abuse I put my body through in my teens and twenties. And for the first time I actually felt old. Now that I've felt it though, I think I'm done with it. I'm not going to get any younger, my body is still going to be able to do just what it can and no amount of bullheadedness or childish pouting is going to change that, but I am solidly middle aged. There is a lot left to get through and the realization that maybe I should be treating it like I'm halfway through because I'm not getting any younger is a good one.

So what will 45 bring? We've had adjustment, meditation, realization and now what? I guess you'll just have to wait until next year to see.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Don't get too comfortable...

She paced around her apartment looking for something else to do. Laundry was done. Every thing was clean. And then cleaned again. Even the "I'll do it later" jobs had been done. The weekend had been spent rushing from one thing to another. Just keeping busy. Trying to outrun that feeling that had started when she heard the ding and the IM had popped up on her computer screen Friday afternoon.

"I'd like to see you in my office."

With that little ding and that one sentence everything shifted. She had been thrilled that there was only an hour left, then happy hour, then the weekend; one of the first weekends she had had all summer with nothing planned. No BBQs, graduation parties, weddings, birthdays, nothing. Just a weekend with no responsibilities at all and she had been so looking forward to it. After leaving her boss's office she had wished for nothing more than a weekend packed with activities so she could focus on something, anything else.

She had been distracted Friday night when she was at Happy Hour, of course she was, but no one pressed her for more details than just the blanket, "work stuff" she had tossed out when asked. At that point her mind was still reeling. What was she going to do? Start over? Again? It wouldn't be the first time, that was for sure. She'd done it often enough. New jobs. New cities. New was sort of her thing. But always on her volition. Not forced on her.

She wandered around the apartment looking for something else. It was Sunday afternoon and soon she would have to start telling people. She could play off Monday as being sick. Buy herself a day. Maybe two. But she had never taken more than a few days off. Ever. Her father had taught her to always do her best, work her hardest at any job she had. Show up first, leave last, do your best and it will be noticed. Well sure, Dad. If you want people to notice that's good advice.

She felt itchy. Like her skin was too tight. She thought that this must be what a snake felt like right before it shed its skin.

She sat down at her desk and opened the top drawer. The one with the list. She hated calling it a bucket list since that seemed so trendy. She just thought of it as her master To Do list. Things had been added and crossed off for so long the first few items on the list were written in loopy script with hearts dotting the I's. Most of the things on her list were things To Do, as befitted a To Do list. But there was one giant don't. She remembered the day she wrote it.

She had gotten off the phone with her sister. Listening to plans for the family vacation to one of those all inclusive resorts. The kids would have a day camp of sorts while she and her husband could lounge by the pool or on the beach drinking frozen boozy mixtures all day. When she asked what else they were going to do, maybe hiking or snorkeling or anything her sister had informed her that she and her husband worked too hard to turn their vacation into some sort of extreme sport. It was all about being comfortable. Like their luxury car, their too big for them McMansion, the right schools, the right activities, it was all about being comfortable. A comfortable living and a comfortable life. They worked like dogs for that comfort, but that was something her sister seemed to not notice.

As she hung up the phone she had pulled out the black Sharpie and written "DON'T GET TOO COMFORTABLE" across the top of her To Do list. And so she hadn't. She had moved. Moved cities, moved jobs, moved from apartment to apartment. Don't get too comfortable was sort of her mantra. If she felt herself settling in someplace that itchy feeling would start up and she would break free. Or at least she used to.

After the ding on Friday she realized she had been at this job for 6 years. Sure she had moved around there, taking on new challenges as fast as they were offered. Sometimes overstepping her experience zone. Floundering on occasion. Making mad dash saves on others. But six years? Had it really been that long? And this apartment, after the weekend spent cleaning she realized she could no longer move with a few boxes from Kroger's and two car trips. There would need to be a van, and movers.

She owned a couch for god's sake.

How had this happened? How had she left herself settle in? And was this her karmic retribution for it? For ignoring the bold print DON'T GET TOO COMFORTABLE?

She turned on the laptop and pulled up a copy of her resume. When was the last time she had even updated it? Two years? Seriously? How had she gotten that complacent? That comfortable?

The itchy feeling intensified and she got up and started pacing the apartment again. Don't get too comfortable. Well she certainly wasn't comfortable right now, that was for sure. And as soon as she thought the actual words the itchy feeling lessened. The tightness started to release. She wasn't comfortable. Not at all. She was standing on the edge of a new adventure and it was scary. It was a challenge. It wasn't comfortable. Not at all.

Six years and a couch didn't mean she had settled. Didn't mean she failed at her list. Not at all.

She picked up the phone;

"Mom? Hey, it's me. Yeah, I'm okay... Mostly.... Well you know the company I work for merged with another one right? They've been reorganizing departments. Restructuring....Yeah, you're right, code word for firing people....Well so...Friday my boss called me in to his office..., Mom, I'm fine. I'm really okay. They offered me a VP position. New office, new responsibilities, nice raise....yeah, I think I'm going to take it."

Thursday, August 15, 2013

When it's not just about the books...

As most of you know I just spent the past two weeks re-reading the Harry Potter series. I had always meant to go back and read 1-7 all in a row but just hadn't gotten around to it. The combination of a Goodreads goal looming and feeling more than a little nostalgic as C leaves for his final year at school made this the time to do it.

When I first started my mother-in-law was in town and we were talking about how long it would take me, I guessed a couple of months. C said no way, it took him a month and I read faster and more than he does. He was right, of course. Part of what I forgot was that once you start a Harry Potter book you sort of resent anything that takes you away from reading it as quickly as possible. And since I am lucky enough to have very few time commitments right now there were days where I was able to read for 6 hours straight.

It's been years since I read the books. Five since the last was released and longer than that for the rest. I used to re-read all of the books in preparation for the latest release but after Book 5 I just didn't have time. So books 5, 6 and 7 all had only been read once. Well twice, but I don't really count it as a solid twice since it was almost concurrent. How do you read a book twice in one sitting? Well you read it and then read it again out loud. That's the way I read all but the first few chapters in books 1-7.

See that's the thing about this series, it's not just a book series to me, it's C's childhood. It's something we share. But from two totally different viewpoints. Even discussing the books yesterday you could see how our life experience changes the way we view the main themes. There is a point in the books, happened the first time and happened again this time, where I really don't like Dumbledore. I forgive him, of course, but there is a stretch when I am truly angry with him. C never reaches that point. Because he experienced the books from the point of view of the hero, I experienced them from the point of view of the hero's mom. I'm all for heroism and saving people, but using a child to accomplish that? Well... But for C it was fine.

Because he grew up with Harry. He was 6 when we started the series and almost 15 when it finished. And he knew at 15 that what Harry was doing at 17 wasn't kid stuff, but it was important and it was only Harry that could do it. And he's not the only one to have grown up with Harry. His generation and those around it all have HP as a touch stone. More so even than mine did with Narnia or Lord of the Rings. It's hard to find someone C's age that hasn't read the books, or seen the movies, or absorbed it all through pop culture. It's as much a part of who they are as anything else they grew up with. And I'm glad I was there to share it with him.

Reading for me growing up was a solitary thing. I'm sure when I was very little I was read to, but I taught myself how to read at an extremely young age (my mother insists it was before I turned 3) and I know that I read to myself from there on out. That is until 6th grade when our teacher started reading to us again. She would read when we would come in from PE to give us time to settle back in to the quiet of class from the activity of PE. It was awesome. I can still remember her voice for Gollum in the Hobbit. Then when I was high school I had a friend whose father still read to her and her sister every night. I thought that was amazing. So I decided even when C could read to himself I would still read to him as long as he wanted me to.

So at 6 he was still getting the bedtime story. But it was getting harder and harder to find good books for that sort of reading. He was also reading on his own and would tear through anything he was interested in before I could claim it for the bedtime story. I had started to hear about the Harry Potter books, there were two out at the time and the third was about to be released. The part that clinched trying it for me was the line, "these are the books you wish you had when you were a kid." Well okay then, let's give it a try.

And I am so glad we did. Because, as I said, they are the touchstone books of his generation, and we got to experience them together. I realized very quickly in to book 1 that I was going to have to read ahead a little. There were a lot of accents to cover and if I knew what was coming and who was speaking I had a better shot of pulling it off. Not to say that there weren't times that Ron and Hermione ended up getting confused, but at 11 boys and and girls sort of sound the same anyway right? Right? Oh well...even at 6 C had the good graces not to point out my mistakes and just enjoy the story. So I read them to him as bedtime stories, and daytime stories, basically anytime we could get some free time I read them to him. And then when we finished he would read them to himself. And we would talk about them. And I loved it.

Then the time between the books became longer and longer. He was almost 11 when book 5 came out. He wasn't getting the nightly story by that time. Would he still want me to read this one to him or would he want to read it himself? Reading it himself would go much faster. But he chose having it read to him. And I loved it. Book 6? Thirteen and no way was he going to want me to...oh really? Oh great! Let's pull up a couch cushion and get to it. The last book. The one that he has been waiting for. The one everyone will be talking about and avoiding spoilers is going to be almost impossible. And he is almost 15...

Excuse me while I cry a little in the corner. Seriously. It is one of my most cherished memories. These were "our" books. And I read them all out loud to him as his first experience with the story. When he has kids of his own and gets to share these books with them he will have the memory of the two of us curled up on the couch reading. Listening to the accents and voices that I pulled out of my head, liking my voice for Dolores Umbridge better than the actress who played her (and knowing how proud that makes me and that I tell EVERYONE that story).

So I love the books. I love the story itself. I am in awe of the pieces that are woven in the early books that come about in the end as important. As someone who only writes short pieces because I have a distinct lack of attention span, this is amazing to me. I love the themes she covered, is it any wonder C's generation doesn't fully trust the media or the government and is all about equality? I love that the books get darker, and deeper and more complex as Harry ages. Part of that perfectness is lost on everyone else now. They can read them all in one shot instead of growing up with the books like C's generation did. Maturing with the story. As we were talking yesterday it's hard to find someone who could really understand book 7 that would be interested in book 1. Or believe you that as basic as the first book is, the last is that complex. But he got to have them all at age appropriate spaces. And for that I'm glad.

I love that we share one of the books as a favorite and our second favorites are different. I love that we agree on some things and disagree on others. I love that he had someone built in at home to share the excitement about this new world who could talk to him endlessly about it. I love that I had the same. I love that he remembers things that I don't, that he got themes that I didn't, that he learned lessons that passed me by. I love that I was able to answer questions he had about the big themes, love, death, sacrifice. And I love that when I told him I still cried when Dumbledore died he said, "Yeah, but we know you are soft" with a sly grin on his face...

Basically I love this series for all that it is and all that we made it in to.

When is a book series more than a book series?  When it's magic.