Friday, September 11, 2009

Life and Death, or perhaps Living vs. Dying

Last Thursday, I could have died. I think the universe has been trying to tell me something and I've not been listening well. For a long time now, perhaps since last summer or earlier, I've been unhappy with the choices I've made for myself. It's like I've been trying to live up to some unknown standard that I think other people (i.e., my mom, my dad, ex-boyfriends, my husband, my grandmother, my aunt, you guys, society...) have set for me. Finish high school, go to college, find a career, get married, buy a car, have 2.5 children, buy a home...blahblahblah... I've rebelled now and then, but I always come back to it. Must not go against the grain. Follow the herd. Be good. Behave.

Last fall, my dad's health deteriorated rapidly. My dad has high blood pressure, high cholesterol, Type II Diabetes, Stage 3 kidney failure, diabetic neuropathy, and a vision problem I am not quite sure of, only that he is legally blind now. My step-father had similar health issues: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, Type I Diabetes, kidney failure (not sure of the stage but he had just had a shunt put in for dialysis preparation), and vision bad enough that he never could get his license. (Although he did recently get laser surgery and no longer needed his glasses.)

Since last fall, my father has done very little to get himself better. He is slow to complete paperwork, misses important appointments and doctor's visits, eats whatever he wants, isn't taking his meds, and spends much of his time lying in bed, feeling sorry for himself. He requests that I come help, and when I do, he usually doesn't feel like it, and nothing gets done, wasting my time and gas and wear & tear on the car driving there for nothing!

My step-father took all his meds, went to all his appointments, went to work, spent time with his family and friends... But less than a month ago, he collapsed on the way home from work. He hit his head and never woke up. He's gone. He gets no more time to do what he wants. My mother needs to rebuild her life without him. And there were things he hid from his closest friends, sides of himself that, I get the impression, he never fully explored. He followed the safe path.

When this first happened, I said to my dad, "He had all the same problems you have, and he's dead." I was trying to be nice, while still making him see the fact that He. Is. Still. Alive! He doesn't have to work even! He's got a house, a camp, several cars, and now gets some kind of Social Security! (Retirement was only a few years away anyway...) AND HE IS WASTING IT! Wasting it wallowing in self-pity and indecision. (ETA: Last Thursday he was admitted to the hospital again because he was in renal failure.)

But before all this began, I had begun to realize that I am not happy teaching. The dream of being a teacher was never really *mine* but rather someone else's dream for me. But it's a dream I held onto, even as I shifted from Methodist and nonpracticing to Pagan, from Bi-Closeted to Bi-Sexual, from Monogamous to Polyamorous... LOL... even from brown- to purple-haired! Then I really started doing it... The teaching, and there is so much bad to wade through to get to the good...

And through all this, a little voice kept saying, "You're doing it wrong... You're on the wrong path..." And still I would distract and numb myself with email, and blogs, and reading, and CSI, and allowing there to not be time for listening to that voice.

Until this past Thursday...

We were heading grocery shopping, but first I wanted to get a haircut. So we headed to the only cheap place I know of here in Oswego, but once in the parking lot, we decided to go across the street, and down the hill to the grocery store for something to drink first. As you exit the parking lot to Rt 104, there is a small incline and a traffic light, which had just turned yellow; so I attempted to stop at it. My foot went to the floor, my heart went into my throat, and the car, which thankfully had already been slowing down, rolled part way into the intersection.

If the light had been red for me, there would have been a steady stream of cars going by; if the light had been green, I would have continued across the intersection and down a steeper hill where I may have hit a moving car trying to turn left, or a parked car attempting to park; if they hadn't gone then, but had waited til I was in Syracuse, there were a million other steep hills we go down every time... There is no feeling in the world that compares to losing control of a 2+ ton vehicle and realizing not only you could die, but so could someone else.

Yes, we were ok. There were only a few nasty glares from people because I was too far in the intersection, but the fiasco didn't end there. For some reason the car stalled while sitting there, of course, just as the light turns green. I start it back up, and for some reason, my power steering is gone! I accelerate, ever so carefully onto the road, and slip right into the next parking lot, which is back up the little incline, thankyouverymuch, and I stop. No need to go into a parking space! I've got NO BRAKES, and NO STEERING!!!

I put the car in park, turn it off, and cry to Jacqueline, "What do we do?" She manages to calm me, it's going to be ok, we call AAA, they tow us, we were planning on getting repairs anyway. All so sensible and logical. So we went into the store whose parking lot we were in. They were way busy and not enough staff, so we went next door to the Arby's and were reluctantly allowed to use the phone. I called AAA, gave them all my pertinent information, and told them we'd need to be riding with the driver to the garage. Then we waited.

It wasn't a horrible wait, but I was stressing. What if this eats up every last penny of the student loan we just got... What if it can't be fixed and I need a whole new car... What if this takes days... GAH! Then I would stop and look at all the starlings on the wires, then the millions of cars going by would annoy me... Then I would argue with Jacqueline who was really being very calm and sensible and trying to make it alright, and here I was being all tense and angry.

About an hour later, the tow truck pulls in, and there's 2 other people - one of them a child - in the truck with him! And he never gets out but makes this young guy hook up the van, and says we can ride in the back of our van while it's being towed... o.O Since our other options were to call a cab, and wait some more, for less than a mile trip, or walk it ourselves in the hot sun, we rode. He banged my front end hoisting it up, and dragged my rear end pulling out of the parking lot, and I never felt so unsafe in a car in my life.

But we didn't die. And the people at Monro were WONDERFUL. They did have to keep it overnight, but not only did they repair the brake line (which had been rusted out) and the power steering pump (which should NOT have gone since it was just replaced in February - but don't talk to me about warranties or any of that because I am NOT going back to the guy who did it - EVER), but also repaired our CV joint (which we had planned to get done this week anyway) and told me how to fix my radio!

And all this cost LESS than we had expected to spend on the CV joint alone! And over and over again the universe (God, Goddess, Cthulhu, Flying Spaghetti Monster, whoever...) keeps doing things like this! My husband leaves me and I have no money, I find almost $200 in cash in an empty parking lot in the 'hood; we're about to lose our internet & phone, and suddenly there's money in our account to pay the bill; and our brakes fail, but not til after there's money in the bank to cover the cost... Second time for that last one, folks!

So... Um... where am I going with all this? I've been writing off and on for a week, trying to sort out what I am feeling and thinking. I. Could. Have. Died. Frank did. Just like that. One moment just walking home from work, the next moment... his ... *person* is gone. I mean his body remained alive for nearly a week after, but he was gone... And my dad... he doesn't see how suddenly it can all change... I mean he should, but he doesn't... he's still grasping his dreams from the past...

I don't want to do that. I don't want to regret things I have no control over, I don't want to waste the time I have... I want to make art, I want to touch lives, I want to feel magical and powerful and unlimited again like I used to... I want to spend every moment of my life doing what *I* want to do because it makes me happy, because *I* choose to do it, with my whole being... Not because I think I should, or I think someone else thinks I should... I don't want to give in to coasting through the rest of my life...

I've been doing that. Coasting. Steve Pavlina wrote an article about how we numb ourselves to our own discomfort. Distract ourselves with email and TV and other things... maybe that's all I am doing now, spending a week writing this, contemplating it all...

And now it's September 11th. Yes I remember where and what I was doing. And how I cried, so much. And how stupid Terry made me feel because "it's not like you know any of them." Just as bad as he made me feel a year later when I cried because we could see the Rockies on the horizon: "Flaky" and when I saw all the memorials and newspaper articles across the country and cried again. And still I cry and can't understand why...

But still it holds the same message.

Life can become death in an instant. Are you living yours the way you want? The way that makes you happy? Brings you joy?

I wanted to end this post the way Patti Digh did when she explains why 37 days, with a definitive list, but I can't. I know I want more joy, more magic, more love, more laughter... but I don't know how that's going to look right now... But I can't keep writing until I figure it out. Not right now... I need to go do some living...

And if you've read this far, gold stars & glitter stickers for you! Sorry about the disjointed, rambling-ness, thoughts-that-go-nowhere...


  1. Well lucky me I get gold stars and glitter I've always been a bit of a dreamer, dreaming for something more than what I'm actually living. I spend a lot of time doing things that just take my mind off the fact that I'm pretty much stuck with the life I've got but still there's the dream :)

  2. Merry Meet, D!

    Wowzer...your thoughts seem pretty clear to me. Thanks for the gold star and glitter stickers, but I believe you deserve them even more! Good for deserve to be happy and do the things that shall make you so. It's a hard're doing great!

    Brightest Blessings & Hugs,

  3. I don't want to do that. I don't want to regret things I have no control over...

    "Regret is a destructive luxury which must be avoided at all costs." - Henry Rollins

    "Every moment is a gift" - Steven "steinski" Stein

    Glad you got through the car failure in one piece. I was in a car whose brakes failed once. Pretty scary, even though the car was in a driveway and only going at a crawl.

    My recommendations for getting things done that you want:

    1) Get rid of your TV.
    2) Don't go online first thing in the day.
    3) Avoid Facebook!


I love getting comments! They make blogging so worth it! So feel free to say anything you'd like.... And look! No silly Captcha or anything... ^_^