How to survive the end of the world

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The end of the world. If you think it’s not happening, let me assure you that it happens more than you know.  This may sound contradictory, you’re thinking “happening more than I know? Can’t it only happen ONCE? As in, the END?” Nope. Trust me, babe, what you are about to read will resonate deeply with you, let you know that you are not alone in the race to survive. Perhaps even pull you out of the desperate funk that the long winter months of diminished light, grey landscaping, and equally grey skies have wrought. All that damnable grey….making it almost impossible to see where the drab land ends, as it blends unremarkably into  the equally drab sky. I’m a fan of the color grey, and even brown. I love black and white photos, pictures filtered in sepia… but ONLY those colors? Ugh.  I am a VERY sunny dispositioned, and up beat kind of gal, but by mid February I am bleary eyed, pale faced (which is unnatural for a Lebanese girl), cranky despite my daily exercise. I am  dangerously likely to murder someone for a slice of sunshine as it briefly appears and cuts through a window, warming and illuminating a single spot on the floor, if that person is standing there blocking my access, refusing to yield their position in their equally desperate state. Yes. you read that correctly.  MURDER. My favorite expression and grouping has become “a MURDER of crows”, the scientific term for a number of that particular bird.

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Isn’t it wonderful? MURDER… and I grin wickedly and darkly whenever I see a MURDER of crows, imagining joining their feathery and homicidal flock should the days refuse to move me more rapidly closer to spring and summer. I sit in long meetings, my irritability rising like gorge in my throat, a knee bobbing restlessly under the table, a keenly sharpened pencil grasped in my shakey hand, trying desperately not to give in to the urge to leap across the table and stab an aimless over-talker who has used a full third of the allotted time to prattle on sociably, into SILENCE. I know you feel the same way, don’t lie. We’ve all screamed things in our heads at moments like that. We’ve committed heinous acts of vengeance in our mind.  We’ve all asked ourselves if the jail time is worth it, and by March…it IS. How does anyone manage to survive? I like playing in snow as much as the next idiot, but a couple of weeks of it is all I require. Just enough to see me through Christmas. But endless months of blah and muck of a barren wilderness?  BRING ME SPRING OR BRING ME DEATH! No. Not death, not really. Maybe bacon and chocolate and liquor. And in vast quantities. I tend to have a flare for the dramatic and exaggerate at times. A shocking self-revelation that none of you suspected about me. You get my point. I’m so DONE with this season and I have exhausted my tool kit of distractions. My shoes are damp, my toes are pruny and cold, and my heart is shrinking like my husbands favorite cotton t-shirt in the hot cycle that I accidentally ran it through. The favorite one he bought at the concert he went to with our oldest sons over Christmas but he doesn’t know about yet because I know how to hide things in a cluttered house. Unfortunately he is quite literate and once this article is out, so is my dirty little secret. Another world ending scenario right there folks. Of course, if you’ve read my article on how to successfully present bad news to a man, you will have an idea as to what two “tools” I’ll whip out to break the bad news.

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Clearly a guide to surviving this desperate situation, and other end of the world disasters is critical. In fact, it is a necessity. It SHOULD be an essential information packet included in everyone’s “Welcome to being alive!” introductory package!  It’s not, for the record. In fact I am fairly certain that no package even exists, not even a brochure to help you navigate life, and of course, the end of the world which happens approximately 17.3 times per person during the first 18 years of your life. Pimples explode over night in your youth, cleaving you from the cool lunch table, banishing you to the wobbly chaired table of shame where other kids sit, sweatshirts tied around their waists to hide unfortunately placed stains, or bedazzled pockets aunt Ginny just KNEW would look good on you. Whatever ended the world on that particular day, oaths were sworn over slightly warm containers of cafeteria milk to never return, NEVER, because the world as you knew it had ended.

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Yet, the next day there you were, pockmarked and cranky, but alive. Everyone else seemed to survive the trial and tribulation and the humiliation too. 17.3 times per person by the age of 18. The numbers are there folks,  the science is sound. Trust me. That number escalates quickly over the decades as people head off into the “real world”, begin searching for a purpose, a partner, and *gasp* raising children, aging bodies, and figuring out what you want to be when you grow up AGAIN. Yeah, grow up again. No one bothered to tell you that you were going to have to answer that question several more times as the years pass. Last but not least, trying to figure out a way to finance….well…EVERYTHING. Now you should not need to purchase a partner, in fact I will go so far as to say do NOT purchase a partner. It’s just wrong and yucky and not cool on so many other blog levels that I just do not have time to go into it here but I promise we will circle back to that topic (Partners: a smart purchase or a gimmick?) in another piece and at a later date. Hand to heart. It will happen. For now, we brace ourselves, we stare into the darkness of the night and mutely raise our fists with middle fingers extended because somewhere out there is the jackass who set us all here with no guidebook, no GPS, no essentials kit. Just set our naked asses down on the planet and hoped for the best. Well, I won’t be beaten so easily. I’ll make it to Spring and I’ll have the last laugh. I’ve made it to 45 Springs so far, I feel confident in my track record that I’ll make it to 46, so this howling wind and rain and cold out there tonight, enjoy your little reign of wretchedness, your time is numbered and I have a garden I want to start planting, and an ocean I need to stick my feet in. I’m coming for you. I will survive!

The dangers and perils of getting to know me


Next week is my birthday. I’m not really big on parties for me, LOVE them for OTHERS, crawl out of my skin if it’s for ME. My family knows this, or at least they should have a pretty good idea. After a couple of decades together, you hopefully start to get a feel for each other, the lines you can cross, and the ones that will get you shot. Things like “mom is allowed to tickle anyone in the house, but if you try to tickle mom, then people will bleed”. It’s not that I intended for these seemingly unfair rules to come into being. I honestly don’t like the double standard, it simply is the way it is. Venture forth at your own risk. Mom can also surprise anyone. But if anyone attempts to sneak up on mom,to scare her, it’s going to be a very dark, dark world that person inhabits for the foreseeable future.

 

 In my wayward and oft misguided youth, where resilience and stupidity lent themselves handily to a willingness to sleep just about anywhere and be able to jump pain free to my feet at dawn and spring forth into a bright new day. I didn’t mind camping, in fact it was kind of fun. When I graduated from Boston College I spent six weeks with a friend driving and camping across the northern United States. I spent many nights putting up a tent in pouring rain, sleeping in a puddle, only to start another 8 hour drive the next day. I had no complaints most of the time. It’s true that I did try to kill my companion on a number of occasions but that’s really the fault of my companion who didn’t appreciate the merits of stopping to ask for directions, choosing instead to drive until it was dark and we were lost. Suffice it to say we made it to San Francisco alive and ready to go our separate ways. If you need to find out whether a relationship has staying power, I highly recommend containing yourself to a small vehicle, conversation limited to each other, no workable radio, and spending hours on end arguing over maps, setting up tents in the rain, and glaring at each other over fistful’s of stale granola. Since those years my husband and sons who love to camp, (they’re Boy Scouts and Boy Scouts are crazy. Like, camp in snow and sleep with your boots shoved at the bottom of your bag so they won’t freeze like everything else kind of crazy. Throw axes at targets over an icy expanse, thump your chest and howl at the moon crazy. ) have never failed to extend an invitation for me to join them. I have always declined, preferring the softness and warmth of my bed, indoor plumbing, and heat pouring through the baseboards of our ancient house. Nope. I do not like to camp anymore. Definitely not in frigid temps, and definitely not on in a sac on the ground. Don’t try to tell me how great the fresh air is, that’s why God created Windows that open. My body is simply not shaped like the ground,my spirit not hardy enough for pioneer loving, my tolerance for discomfort diminished with each coming year….

  My endurance and willingness to suffer such indignities passed somewhere during the childbearing and child rearing years where I seemed to sleep exclusively and uncomfortably propped up in chairs while an adorable but parasitical infant slept dangling by sheer mouth suction from a sore, leaky breast that never seemed to get put away, so frequent were the feelings. I would stare darkly and mutely at my sleeping husband, cursing nature for providing men with useless breasts. One small genetic mutation was all that stood between me and a good nights rest. Please understand, I CHOSE to breastfeed my children and would do it all over again. I was always weening one baby halfway through being pregnant with another baby. I think it’s fair to say that after 5 babies and ten years of sleep deprived nursing, I am entitled to pull back the rosy veil and bitch a bit.

 Now over the years there have been the usual hits and misses to be expected in the gift giving department. That’s understandable and even forgivable. Except for the year hubby funded the children’s eager desire to purchase me lurid, highly perfumed, giant, fuzzy, pink dice, meant to dangle with class from my rear view mirror damn him. No matter how many times I stuffed them under the drivers seat, in a glovebox, or in the mysterious space between the back row of seats and the side wall by the floor, those determined and clever children always found them, exclaiming happily “Look mamma! They aren’t lost! We found them! Again!”. Damn that man.. The truth is, you actually spend your whole lives getting to know the people you love, so constantly evolving is each heart. However, there are certain unchangeable parts of our nature, and if you love someone, I mean really love someone you do well to make note of these things. Small example: don’t ever (and I mean EVER) touch a girls bangs. Don’t “adjust” the front of her hair, however out of place it may appear I ASSURE you, each strand has been carefully and deliberately placed. You touch, you DIE. Also, please don’t think the day will come when you can run your fingers silkily through my naturally curly hair. You can’t. It is a tangled web of knotted hell, and pulling your fingers though it feels like having each piece removed forcefully. It’s not romantic. It’s not even NICE. No touchy.


As my birthday approaches, suggestions are sought. I helpfully fill the Amazon wish list with things that delight me. You just can’t get a gentler or slower pitch over home plate than that. I tell you all of this because this morning I received the following text from my husband as he lobbed out potential gift ideas for me. It read :

“I still want to do something special for your birthday! What if I had a friend with a VW (with camper) and two zip-together Zero degree sleeping bags???”

He wasn’t joking. He was sincere. Misguided and yet sincere. Had he not seen my lists? How long has this man been married to me? Did he just wake up one morning and FORGET who he was lying next to? I responded with my dumbfounded ire:

“And what, in our entire history together, the full body of knowledge you posses of me , has lead you to the conclusion that in the middle of one of the coldest months of the year, on the heels of a massive flare up of fibromyalgia, and with my ardent and emphatic diatribes on the need for a soft bed at night and indoor plumbing, and firm belief camping of any sort is not even permitted by the Geneva convention, causes you to think THIS would be the way I would like to spend my 46th birthday?????”

I am in a reflective mood as I sit here typing, curled in thick blankets, propped up on half a dozen over sized pillows, brightly lit room, heat spilling out from all directions as the dark, night sky views me as it should: through double paned windows and insulated curtains. Next week is my birthday. I’ll be 46 and I’ll be surrounded by people I love. I hope for everyone’s sake, it is indoors, but if I have to be completely honest, as long as I’m with them, I don’t care where we are. I’ll even endure camping if means we are together.

STEALING TIME

STEALING TIME

There are many thieves of time. There is the “swallow you whole” busyness of day to day life that finds you breathless and slightly discombobulated at the end of the day. You think to yourself “how is it THIS time already? Where did the day go?”. There are the milestones that surprise us, so mired in the minutia of the many steps to achieve them that we suddenly find ourselves face to face with the moment and asking the universe if we are sure we should be here already? It all goes so fast.

Then there is the fickleness of the human body, succumbing to something that diverts our plans entirely, railroading you into plan B, C, or any number of other “not plan A’s”. These moments are frustrating. They grab you by the shoulders mid dash and set you down on the bench. You’re not going anywhere for a while. I am not a patient woman by nature. I am passionate, irreverent, prone to living my life at speeds that cause my friends and colleagues to shake their heads and attempt caffeine-free interventions, so certain are they that I’ll likely put out an eye at the pace I keep.


I have a dubious relationship with my body. I have written before of the precarious balance of love and loathing I have for both its amazing capacity for strength, and its antagonizing predilection for failing me when I just don’t have the TIME. I have stymied the experts in several fields as to just why my body does the things it does. One of my sister in laws encouragingly suggested to me after countless neurologists, rheumatologists, endocrinologists, and many other “ologists” after repeated and often unpleasant tests and treatments that yielded little relief and even less insight to say “Cheer up, maybe they’ll name this after YOU!” *for the record, after glaring at her darkly, I decided she was an ally I could not do without, forgave her such cheekiness, and still talk to her to this day.

 

This decade long dance has landed me with the diagnosis my initial Doctor informed me would be my fate, should the medical community fail to figure me out: Fibromyalgia. I resisted it strongly when my lovely, patient and brilliant rheumatologist at Tufts gently explained it was in fact, a real diagnosis despite the body of people who insist it’s a made up malady, one that your are coined with when all else fails. A nice general “everything hurts but we can’t figure out why” label. I was pretty sure that despite all of her well documented education and experience, and the team of doctors equally impressive around her, that it was all hooey. However, it is not. It is real. The Mayo clinic defines it as:

Fibromyalgia; a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. Researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain processes pain signals.

I define it as a thief of time. I’m a busy girl. I don’t sit still, in fact if I sit at all at work, I sit on an exercise ball! Then yesterday..Ugh. I woke up to a massive flare up of fibromyalgia, my feet won’t work and are painful, my hands are swollen and useless, my whole body hurts and the fatigue is at a 9 along with the pain. I’ve given in and slept but really need to move to work through this pain. Yoga usually is my go to, but my balance is non existent because of my feet. I’m still in bed because of this and it’s day two! DAY TWO! I don’t have time for this. I have a job, kids, a race coming up, a half marathon I’m training for. I have things to do, people! I left out the disaster area of my house that needs cleaning, also at this rate it looks like it will be Christmas here on our funny farm for a few weeks longer. I haven’t slept like this since, well, the last time. *sigh. A thief of time…


And yet. And YET. My minions have poured in to make dinners, lunches, tidy, feed animals, drive siblings where they need to go. My family and friends have made me laugh and feel loved over texts, knowing that talking is tiring when pain levels are high. I look through my bedroom window at the slice of winter sky visible and while I long to be out on a nice long run, today is not that day. But tomorrow…tomorrow is another day closer, and another story entirely.

The fall

imageShe was falling. From such sunlight filled heights above the tree line she gazed at her beloved before her perch gave way beneath her feet, all panic, no warning, no time to cry out,  down rapidly she felt herself falling. He was gone. Gone in that moment from her eyes, her ears, her touch with out any warning.Branches whipped her bared heart, leaving cuts and welts, stinging reminders of promises and pledges, whispered oaths, sweet lies she believed because it was truth to her, passing through helplessly, plummeting wildly towards the earth. She welcomed its impact, if only to feel an end to her sorrowing, but the earth reached up and grabbed her close and held her as she wept. She lay there, numb, mute, all thought quieted. She felt unfocused and lost, her aching heart the only reminder of everything lost in the fall.

 

To pig, or not to pig?

To pig, or not to pig? That is the question before us. I admit to a deep infatuation with the little oinkers, a love of round, snuffly noses and adorably squat bodies. I love a good mud bath. I’m more than a little partial to high jinks and tomfoolery precipitated by their clever little minds. I’m a sucker for a good escape artist and things that finish everything on their plate because those are the kind of compliments my children showered on me, affirming that I was in fact, image

both suffocating them to the point of escape with my affections, and feeding them good food (strong indications of parenting success no Lebanese mother can survive without). HOWEVER, that being said, I complied with hubby’s plea for reason and restraint and agreed to research just what I was dying to jump into. I had a willing accomplice in my sister in law. A woman I adore, as impulsive and enthusiastic as I am, ready to bankroll my impetuous flight of fancy. Not an easy thing to resist…But in a marriage, terms must be mostly agreeable to both parties (mostly to me) in order for harmony (and the participation of the household “builder”, aka: said hubby) and peace to abide. Research had both my sister in law and I thinking it might be more work than anticipated, which hardened into a definite resolve not to add other…oder producing pets…after a hot days breeze carried unholy fragrances over to our research area. Nope, nope, NOPE. As fate would have it, yesterday’s 2 1/2 hours spent clearing and leveling our chicken yard enclosure, covered in mud and…not mud…sealed the deal for me. No pigs. The universe does NOT want me to have pigs. The universe wants me to visit pigs that OTHER people have, and then go home.

Aging gracefully

  I am far from saintly, imbued with a weakness for the profane, for excess, and more than my fair share of debauchery. However, when it comes to my health I am the model of good intentions: I exercise mindfully every single day. I eat healthy foods, meditate, pray, and hug people all of the time (which we know thanks to science hugs help you live a longer, happier life. The more the better!). Hell, I even stretch after exercising. I even stretch after sleeping! However there is still the nagging fact that I am imperfectly made in my human design. All those ounces of prevention do me a world of good, but are no immunization for aging and genetics and general “well that’s life-ness”. Still I soldier on cheerfully. Mostly cheerfully. Ok, I get monstrous at times. It makes me appear mysterious and keeps my family guessing. This morning I had 4 more injections into the base of my spine, just four weeks after having the same procedure done, with the same flat on my ass, nausea filled recovery. My kids are awesome. They know mom’s not ever down on the mats like this easily or often and they nurture my peaked spirit with such tenderness and love. They stepped into every role plus their own, and made giving in to a long day of fitful sleep, guiltless and easier. I know my hubby longs to be here to be superman for me but he is currently taking the capital by storm with our 4th son and the entire 8th grade class on a week long field trip. Somehow I feel I got the easier deal, but he really loves stuff like that. So I am curled up with pillows and ice packs, and treated to snuggles and whispered stories of the day in my cool, darkened room while it spins slowly on towards tomorrow, and one more step closer to healing.

Boomerang, baby

  “Mamma said there’d be days like this, there’d be days like this my mamma said”. Truth. That’s what just dropped my friends, TRUTH. Every single one of us has had that moment when the fates conspire against you. When you smack your little toe against the table leg of life and before you can call your words back, out they fly like a boomerang that is DEFINITELY going to come back to bite you. Well, when it happens, (and happen it will, I promise you this) just breathe deeply and try to recall these sage words, these pearls of wisdom, these nuggets of gold I am sharing with you now:

1. Unless your rage fueled moment of weakness left a body to hide, it’s going to be fine. It will pass. Probably like a kidney stone, but this too shall pass. Your kids won’t be scarred for life, they probably won’t even need all that much therapy. Your partner may occasionally look at you like they just woke up in the twilight zone, but that’s ok, they’re probably a bit freaky too. Hey, look at it this way, your moment of human imperfection has provided them with a great ice breaker story for later in life at the very least. Probably a bit of fuel for your commitment hearings, but a hell of a story too. If there is a body, you’re on your own. 

2. Everyone boomerangs in life. You’re not alone. The entire human race has had their own private Idaho moment where better judgement did not prevail, and that action, those words came flying back. Remember recess? Hell, not a kid on that playground escaped middle school without the requisite poor judgment skills that go neatly hand in hand with the acne and the rapid, awkward body changes. Spilled secrets, terribly chosen alliances all are the hallmarks of our adolescence. It’s probably where they got the idea for “Survivor”. My point is, you and a couple billion unique individuals exactly like you (yes, that was intentional) all struggle in moments of weakness and sometimes we lose. Pick yourself up, dust your self off, clean up your mess and then move on. Leave the boomerang analogy there. Plainly put: don’t keep coming back to your mistake. You got your mess cleaned up? Lesson learned? You’re good.

3. Here I’ve saved the best for last. Be the first to tell your story. Don’t let fear of your past keep you hostage. Be brave. Let others see your strength by seeing that you wade through the same stuff everyone else does. Laugh at your self, at your real person status, and then feel good that you aren’t cloaking yourself in shame at your startling lack of awesomeness at times. That’s what makes you great. You really ARE amazing. You’re messy and lovely, and complexly put together. If you’re going to keep boomeranging anything, let it be your light.

If you still have that body we talked about earlier, give me a call. I might know a guy. Damn. I sure hope that doesn’t come back to bite me…..