So. *clears throat* Hello again. It’s been a while, hasn’t it.
I decided back in November (I think?) that I was going to resume blogging sometime in January. And here it is, already the 30th, and I’m wondering what happened to the rest of the month. Or most of last year, for that matter.
I didn’t deliberately stop posting over here. It’s just that the last half of 2019 was really tough for me, with one damn thing after another.
I think it started with the air conditioning not doing a super great job of cooling. But outdoor temps hadn’t been too terribly hot and I had my fingers crossed for a cooler than usual summer. I was miserable — I HATE being hot — and every passing day brought a sense of surly dread. Because there’s no such thing as a cool summer in the South.
Then it was the moths. Pantry moths, aka cereal moths. They come home from the grocery store in a box or bag of something-or-other: cereal, rice, dried beans, pasta, whatever. I had them in my pantry once way back when we lived in Atlanta and THEY ARE NOT FUN. Did I mention my A/C was not working properly? This made things even less fun.
I had to throw away almost everything in my pantry. Five garbage bags worth. Then scrub every single surface of the pantry with vinegar water (I had help, thank all the gods). I added several drops of peppermint extract to the solution, as moths reportedly don’t like that. My kitchen smelled like candy canes for a week. Christmas in July.
Upside? My pantry was, and still is, remarkably clean and no longer contains any expired items.
And then both A/C units died for real. Like, not even making an effort any more. I tried to hold onto hope they could be repaired, but they were simply too old and had already been repaired more times than was wise. And, BONUS, upon closer inspection it turned out both 40-year-old furnaces had cracked heat exchangers, a dangerous carbon monoxide risk. So, that was a fun expense, replacing both upstairs and downstairs HVAC systems. It resulted in a more than 50% reduction of my electric bill, which was a nice surprise. I did the math and, at that rate of savings, the new systems will pay for themselves in roughly 102 years. So there’s that.
Temps were in the upper-90s when these guys showed up for an entire day of heavy lifting:
They were very conscientious about not messing up my already stained carpet:
And then my sluggish kitchen sink drain line stopped draining altogether. Again. And an upstairs toilet had developed a tendency to “run” unless you jiggled the handle just right. So yeah, got both of those fixed, after vowing to never again use the plumbing company that promised the drain was clear less than 12 months prior. [Note: I stopped putting food waste in the garbage disposal years ago; this was not user error.] Sorry, no pics of that mess.
So far, all of this non-stop calamity involved phoning and speaking to and meeting in real life with people. A lot of people. Customer service people, scheduling people, repair people, sales people, patronizing people, people making excuses, people giving estimates, genuinely helpful people, people who told me their entire life story and medical history, more customer service people, installation people, people checking up on the other people. ALL THE DAMN PEOPLE.
Look, I’m an introvert. Making phone calls is torture. It’s not that I dislike people, exactly. They’re fine in limited quantities, for a limited time. None of this was limited and my eyelid was starting to twitch.
At one point there was the combined electric/internet/TV/cell phone service outage, for no good reason whatsoever. No bad weather, no accidents nearby, no alien invasion. Couldn’t even contact anyone to ask for a status update. It lasted for hours and hours. At least I didn’t have to interact with any people during that time, but I was starting to feel cursed.
By now, it was sometime in September. I think? None of this seemed worth writing about over here. It would’ve been just a lot of whining.
Oh, but we’re not done. Because then there was the Epic Ant Invasion. To be honest, this is a not entirely uncommon thing here in the South. You spill one drop of juice or leave one piece of a chip sitting out and suddenly you have 30 to 50 THOUSAND feral ants on the kitchen counter. Tiny little ants you mostly don’t even notice until they swarm. Luckily, I have discovered a really effective ant deterrent [poison, ok? it’s poison] and that problem cleared up after enough of them ate it. A full week later. In the meantime I didn’t, couldn’t stand to, use my kitchen to prepare food.
The aggravated whining had now reached Olympic competition levels.
The fall months held the usual threats from hurricanes, which seemed a lot more potentially dangerous than usual. Not going to complain, as we got off easy in this part of the state, but the prolonged worry provoked by large, powerful, slow-moving storms is a real and stressful thing. My heart breaks for Puerto Rico, especially, and for the Outer Banks.
Somewhere in the timeline was being the recipient of the anger and disappointment of someone I respect, caused by a major misunderstanding on my part, with resultant shame and regret. And the devastating terminal cancer diagnosis of someone I like even though she’s not a friend, but who is important in my children’s lives. Even the very welcome decision to move to a new place in 2020 has been stressful. Downsizing, UGH.
Mixed in with all this short-term drama is the ongoing heartbreak and grief of my mom slowly dying from non-Alzheimer’s dementia (frontal lobe dementia, or FTD, if anyone wants to look it up; I find I can’t write about it). And of course the interesting family decision-making dynamics of that, when you have three sisters and you all were raised to be strong-willed, opinionated people (not going to write about that either). Mom was officially diagnosed in November 2016, after displaying symptoms for a couple years, to give you an idea of what I mean when I say slowly. This is not a thing that gets easier, or will ever get better, with time.
Of course, there’s that other event from November 2016 with a result that just keeps getting impossibly worse, a manic hellscape of cruelty and indifference and greed and corruption, one that can’t and shouldn’t be ignored (no intention of writing about that either).
It all adds up. There were many times last year when it felt like the combined weight was simply too much. Too much to bear, too much to process, too much to write about or through or around.
It’s hard to write this now, even when I can make light of some of the small stuff that has been resolved. But it feels necessary.
Yes, the year had bright moments too. Of course it did. My children are a constant source of love and laughter and hope. They also don’t really want me to write about them here (are you noticing a trend?). “Mom, don’t be weird,” is an oft-heard phrase. But I have managed to obtain their permission to post a few uplifting pics.
My son and his wife recently added a second puppy to their family:
She has the softest fur I have ever sunk my fingers into. And is really sweet when she’s not being encouraged into mischief:
My granddaughter continues to be an absolute joy. My daughter is fiercely protective (takes after her mother) and adamant about not posting identifiable pics, but she approved these:
This girl loves outdoor adventures:
So no, life over the past months has not been all doom and gloom. Not even close. But there has been an unusual amount of stress and worry. And whining.
It’s complicated by the ever-present elephant in the room: the ongoing struggle to write fiction, to be creative, under stress. The guilt and self-disgust of failing at that, or not making sufficient progress, over long periods of time. The pressure to “at least” write a blog post or five, to be entertaining in short bursts even if I can’t yet manage to finish an entire book. The feeling that everyone is watching and judging, disappointed and losing faith.
When the truth is that most likely no one cares or has even noticed. I don’t mean that to sound like self-pity. It’s not. It’s simple reality that people are busy with their own lives, of course they won’t notice when someone is NOT doing something.
But that perception has definitely had an effect when it comes to writing posts over here. I recently read back over a bunch of my old posts and I distinctly recall the feeling, early on, of not giving two fucks about what anyone thought. Whether I wrote something funny or serious or ridiculous or even just plain stupidly trivial. I didn’t care. It was freeing. Not sure when that changed, or why, but it did. I increasingly began to feel that I had to write something, I don’t know, important. Or meaningful. Something “worth” reading.
Yeah, I know, what a self-important twit. Yes, I’m rolling my eyes at myself.
Do you want to know which post is my “most viewed” since I wrote it in August 2016? I mean, by far, it’s not even close. This one [CW: profanity and frogs]: “Yet another incident of critters in the fireplace, dammit”
I want to recapture that care-free feeling, if I can. Get back to writing whatever strikes my fancy, whether funny or serious, without any imagined expectations. Maybe it’ll spark confidence that will carry over into my other writing as well.
No promises, no resolutions. No pressure. But I’m going to give it a try in coming months. Expect some randomly worthless nonsense, I guess, while I sort myself out. I appreciate those of you who might still be along for the ride.
11 responses to “IN WHICH: I get overly personal in an attempt to find catharsis”
First off – keep an eye on those pups, because that’s mischief waiting to happen if I ever saw it. I can just picture them pointing at each other and claiming “He did it!”
But seriously I do hope this turns out to be a better year for you. It’s like that saying about how it never rains but it pours (and am I the only person who instantly conjure up the Morton Salt girl?). It’s never just one thing.
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Awww, all the pups are sweethearts. Most of the time.
Thanks for the good wishes, McB. I know people think of me — both in my public and private life — as being one of the “strong” ones, someone who can handle anything. And usually I am. But sometimes . . . I’m not. Sometimes I need to say, “You know what, I’m having a really tough time and it hurts and I’m not sure I’m strong enough to handle it very well, or at all.” This was really hard to say. But I feel better for putting it out there and acknowledging it. I’m hoping for a better year ahead for all of us.
Absolutely. And it has nothing to do with strength. Drops of rain can wear down a boulder over time.
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I’ve been pondering this, because you are always wise in your advice, and I think there are different kinds of strength. It takes strength sometimes to just stand there, as a boulder, and endure the rain doing its thing. That’s what the past year felt like it demanded of me: the strength to endure. And I’m still here.
I like that. Because the rain may reshape the boulder, but yes, the boulder is still there.
Not that I blame you for wanting and needing a respite. I want to hide in a closet myself these days.
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Yes, this is the way it is, and you were up to it. But lovely puppy and dear kids. What else is that important. xo
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Yeah, we sort have to be up to it don’t we. I know it’s been a tough year for you too, Reine. Thank you.
Don’t worry about your writing. This has been one of your best posts, and I enjoyed reading it. You have a gift for making the ordinary – I mean a run of things going wrong that can happen to us from time to time – sound extraordinary and interesting. I don’t know what ambitions you have to write fiction, but it’s obvious from this, and other posts, that you have a real talent for writing non-fiction. A voice all your own.
So sorry to hear about your mother’s illness. I know how wearing it can be watching the woman who raised you slip away.
Beautiful dogs. Yes, I love that extra-soft fur.
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What a lovely compliment, Richard. Thank you. It’s funny, I can’t really hear my own “voice.” Well, except that it sounds like something I’d write, but not in terms of it being particularly appealing. So that’s a real day brightener, to hear someone thinks it is. 🙂
You’ve got a strong voice that comes through clearly!
I’ve given up on getting WP to acknowledge my existence. Maybe I don’t exist and you’re all too polite to tell me.
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Your voice is VERY strong and distinct, Evelyn, so I’m pretty sure you exist. And you know darn well I’m not polite.
I’m sorry WP is giving you trouble. Have you tried restarting your computer or deleting cookies? You might have to resort to the extreme measure of :whispers: calling them. :shudder: