brain dump

Catharsis?

Whew. lt’s late, and I’ll probably regret this post tomorrow, which will be in 18 minutes as I start this. Or maybe not. I mentioned in prior posts that I talk, talk, talk…the words just spill out of me…word vomit everywhere. It’s quite confessional. I like to think that maybe the universe grants me some sort of absolution as I spill everything in my brain or maybe I am guilty as I am with so many others of the hubris of thinking that the universe cares what I am thinking and have to say. Someone recently told me I was an open book, and I couldn’t decide if that was a compliment or not. Kind of like when someone in high school told me that I reminded him of the characters on Seinfeld. They weren’t exactly likeable.

So, I promised updates in several posts. It’s difficult to come up with how to refer to something as momentous as the date of your husband’s death. Anniversary seems…not right. I know that “anniversary” can be used to refer to anything notable, but I think it has a mostly positive, happy connotation. So a friend coined “Deathiversary” and I think that is perfect. I threw it out in the last post.

This may be a long post.

Friends, what I experienced from mid-October to December 1, I now refer to as Deathiversary Season. I was expecting a day, not a 6-week period. I think what happened was that I didn’t expect the anxiety around the knowledge of what transpired to build and build. Negative anticipation. I know now. I know now what happens on each of those days. We made it through Halloween and had a good time even though I had to give myself several pep talks over the course of the day as I gutted and carved pumpkins with my unwashed hair. But D had a good time, and that is what is important. The next day…I hadn’t slept and neither had D, so we decided to take the day off and withdrew from the world that day. I had foolishly thought I would work. Silly me. So we stayed in bed and cuddled and did nothing.

The next day, November 2, I flew to Denver to visit a friend. I’m still a little shocked I did it, but I needed to get out of town and what better than to go to the other side of the country? It was a short trip, but great and much needed. I consider that a bold act (and maybe that tells you a lot about me and my sheltered existence), and I’m proud of myself for doing it. I won’t deny – it was weird as hell to be back in an airport and flying with a mask. I had become very familiar with travel due to work in the years prior to COVID, but I realized my “travel muscles” had atrophied. I felt like I needed to re-learn everything. But it was a great trip of which I will always think fondly.

And then the rest of November. See, that’s what caught me off guard. November. I was a disaster that month. My anxiety remained high. I found myself staying up way too late. And then I couldn’t sleep or slept very little. And I cried a lot. Like every night. That’s all I did…cry and not sleep. And I think it was because November is in general a loaded month: Jimmy loved Thanksgiving and there were other anxieties building on anxieties around milestones and gatherings and … there was just a lot. I can’t even adequately explain it. But hey, I binge watched Ted Lasso while standing in my kitchen each night and adored it (seriously, watch it if you haven’t). And I still woke up, got Daniel to school and worked. Not looking for a medal; I guess I want to emphasize I wasn’t a complete basket case. I try to save being a basket case from 10pm – 2AM.

And the final milestone. December 1. Our wedding anniversary. A day worthy of the term of “anniversary.” By the time that date approached, I felt more in control. In some ways, I considered it a bookend on “Deathiversary Season”. Last year was significant because our anniversary was exactly one month after he died. And this year? This year would have been 20 years. When the day came, I looked at our wedding picture on the living room wall and sent up a few good wishes and thoughts to…somewhere? And I felt lighter.

Tomorrow (oh, today now) is my last day of work for the year. This week has been rough. Lots of hands-on work that could only be done after hours because I was in meetings all day, every day. It’s Daniel’s last day of school too, and we’re going to go see the new Spider-Man movie after school. First time we’ll have been in a theater in years! And I’m drooling over the thought of popcorn. Yes, please. And all the “butter” I can put on it. Christmas presents are bought. We both received flu shots, and I received the COVID booster today. I’m of the opinion that I will take all the vaccine they want to give me.

It’s interesting because there’s also a darkness about this time of year (and I’m not talking literal darkness although, yes, it was fucking dark at 5PM today). If you think about it, Autumn in general and Halloween and Christmas are all about recognizing death and trying to find light and hope where you can. The cyclical nature of the year always strikes me. You have the summer solstice, the longest day of the year and each day afterwards, it becomes darker earlier an infinitesimal amount until you reach 3/4 through December and the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. But after that day, each day is a infinitesimal bit brighter. It sparks lots of imagery and philosophical musings, but I’ll spare you because I’m trying to rein in my thoughts (not everyone needs a glimpse into the Scream painting that is my mind).

I decided that I wasn’t sure I felt like listening to my usual Christmas music, so I made a playlist of eclectic songs with the help of friends. It may have gotten a touch out of control because it is almost FOUR HOURS!!!! Go big or go home? But I listened to it in its entirety as I was working, and I think it’s quite good. Knock yourselves out if you wish. I think I mentioned how important music has become to me the last year. It has. It really has. It started with putting an Air Pod in and listening while I did stuff around the house. And then it progressed to listening to new music suggested by friends. And then next thing I know I’m creating Spotify playlists. And then I’m creating a 4-hour Eclectic Christmas playlist. And THEN I’m listening to Taylor Swift songs friends suggested, and I’m crying and wondering why I avoided her and her amazing songwriting ability. She has replaced Radiohead as my go-to “gonna wallow and cry” artist. It’s kind of funny because a friend and I were talking earlier this week, and we both admitted to having songs that just wreck us and instead of avoiding them, we listen to them over and over and over. It’s like picking a scab: you know you shouldn’t, but you still do it.

You may be thinking, “KeAnne, are you depressed?” Well, yes…I have 125 mg daily that agrees with you. But no. But yes.

This has been a rough week. I’m down two key positions, which means I am both in meetings all day, plotting strategy and whatever nefarious things everyone thinks we get up to (I wish…rather mundane), and then after hours doing hands-on work. Many, many late nights this week. I don’t mind. I’m happy to do what my teams need. But it’s exhausting. I was asked this week why I was working so hard, and my response was that I can’t not. It has to get done. Some deadlines can’t be moved.

But today (or yesterday I guess) was emotional. Probably fatigue. Probably stress. I put on my “make me cry” playlist (Yes T. Swift is on it. And so is Radiohead), and I’ve cried off and on all night. And it’s so dark outside. And I felt so lonely and alone. And I know that’s not true. The gifts waiting for me at my desk (office day! real clothes!) demonstrate that people care about me. The cards in my mailbox. The gifts from friends across the country. And it’s demonstrated in a million other ways. I guess I’m trying to tie my feelings today to the above paragraphs about the darkness of the season. In some ways, there is an inherent loneliness built into this time of the year that our celebrations are trying to stave off. Safety in numbers at the very least. But there is a part of me that has always been attracted to the darkness and that feeling of being alone (not that I want to be alone). So my goal is not to allow myself to wallow in it. I have magic to make for D.

Some days I wonder if I am 15 or 44. They are both similar: skin issues; hormonal issues; drama (relationship and drama in general); listening to sad songs on repeat; staring in the mirror, wondering if I am attractive; crying; lots of work to do. Of course the 15-year-old doesn’t necessarily have to be the one to clean up the cat vomit in the living room (thanks for getting the message about being part of the team, cat!).

Good lord, this is long. I’m sorry. No, I’m not sorry. This is my reality. There are good days. There are bad days. I think I mentioned in an earlier post – or maybe not – hell, I can’t remember – that I identified with a crab: hard exoskeleton but soft underbelly. In many ways, I feel like the last year has been a crucible that has burned off that exoskeleton. I feel quite raw. But I also like to think that maybe that time in the crucible is helping me to be a softer, kinder person. A more genuine person. These are parts of myself and feelings that I kept hidden out of fear of being vulnerable. And I like it! I like feeling and doing kind things. But…did I miss my opportunity? Do people still value kindness? Or am I out of step? Should I just stick to cerebral stuff since it is what I am good at?

I’m OK. I’m OK. I promise (see 125 mg a few paragraphs above). We all fall on black days from now and then. Next post will be trying to prove I have a sense of humor and involving Christmas ornaments.

And I’m ready to suffer, and I’m ready to hope. (FL+TM)

Got the suffering down. Now let’s go for the hope.

This is Your Brain on Meetings

Sartre said that Hell is other people. I’ve amended that statement to say that Hell is other people AND/OR meetings. That’s what I have decided and considering the number of meetings I’ve attended this week, I must be in hell. Which level of Dante’s hell do you think meetings would reside? Or do meetings comprise some sort of less tangible, existential hell?

The above musings are a nice way of saying that I have a fried brain from all the meetings I’ve attended this week. Plus, my mother and stepfather are arriving tomorrow for the day (and dinner at The Angus Barn!), so we are cleaning all the things, grumpily, because no one slept well last night. It’s a barrel of laughs here, folks. Really.

Since I have nothing original to contribute, I thought I’d share a few links I found interesting this week.

  • I’m an avid reader of Julie Shapiro’s blog Related Topics in which she tackles family law issues, many of which are pertinent for anyone undergoing ART or adopting.  I don’t always agree with her and her commenters can be…interesting…but she is always thought-provoking. Anyway, she has been tackling the idea of social infertility through a series of posts, and the most recent one is particularly worth reading.
  • Several of us had a series of Twitter conversations about parenting and the wounds of infertility after we read a specific post in which some of the comments were less than kind about those parenting.  Arch Mama did an amazing job of expressing her feelings and what I am sure are the feelings of many others on this topic. I wanted to write a supplemental post on the topic but couldn’t, so I leave you with Arch Mama’s words which address the issue far better than I could.
  • This post We Need to Change How We Talk About Rape blew my mind. It’s long and the all-caps format is difficult, but it is so worth the time investment. It truly changed how I perceived rape culture as well as some attitudes I held about personal accountability. I admit that some of my previously-held opinions were wrong. Please, please read.
  • Lastly, I (and many others) had 2 great bloggy & twitter friends feel they had to quit social media this week, and it makes me sad. These are wonderful people who need support, and I hate that they felt – for a variety of reasons – that these spaces weren’t going to be able to meet their needs.  For the haters who say that connections made over social media aren’t genuine, I beg to differ. I miss these ladies terribly, and I worry about them. Yes, there are other ways to get in touch with them, but it’s like voices have dropped out of the conversation.

That’s all I’ve got. How was your week? What’s on your mind?

Cat’s Got My Tongue or Something Like That

It’s been nice to see a few stories about Gen X in the media recently.  After all, hi! We still exist! The media is obsessed with the Boomers (for what…4 or 5 decades now?) and Millennials, and it can be easy to forget that there is a generation in between the Boomers and Millennials, a generation doing quite well, thank you very much.

I’ve written before about my feelings about being a Gen Xer. They’re mixed because depending on where you get your data, I’m either part of the very end of Gen X or possibly one of the oldest Millennials.  Most of the milestones for Gen X happened when I was still a small child, so while I remember them, they aren’t really my milestones like they are for someone 5-10 years older. And the events and habits that define Millennials are things that are at least 5-10 years younger than I am.  It’s like being part of a lost generation, a generation that exists in some Never-Never Land.

This article about Gen X got it right. Again, some of the examples they use are for older members of the generation, but the overall feeling and characterization is spot on: Meh. I picture that utterance accompanied with a shrug. It’s not negative. It’s not positive. It just is, and it’s freeing.  Because the spotlight has so seldom been on Gen X, we’ve been allowed to chart our own course and to develop ourselves without the sheer numbers that change society like the Boomers and the online opportunities to which Millennials are accustomed.

We’re here, plodding along, doing our thing, and we’re OK with that.

I could go on and on about the article, but I’m curious about your impression. If you are Gen X, do you agree? If you are not Gen X, what do you think, and if you work with Gen Xers, what’s it like?

***

We’ve had a wonderful week with Daniel.  After weeks of tantrums and whining and crying at the drop of a hat that was capped off by me bursting into tears last Sunday after a particularly trying afternoon, this week has been calm and pleasant. And you better believe I’m knocking on every piece of wood I can find.

That has been the definition of age  so far: wonderful moments and teary lows. We’re hopeful that maybe this week wasn’t a fluke and that the Pre-K transition is over. Maybe our talks and warnings and consequences and tears have finally gotten through, and we’re able to reason and talk through hairy moments. Fingers and toes are crossed.

***

We went to our local Farmer’s Market to buy pumpkins and flowers today.  I’m pleased to say that Daniel is just as infatuated with Fall as we are.  I got out our Halloween decorations when I was home on Monday, and he has been demanding one of my decorative pumpkins every day.  We happily picked out pumpkins to decorate our porch and mums to plant in our garden.

It was weird doing all this when it is almost 90 degrees, but that’s North Carolina. Next weekend, it could be 65 (and I’d LOVE it!).

Daniel among the pumpkins

Pumpkin Man!

***

I’m having a bit of writer’s block lately. I’m not even sure if that’s what it is, but when I sit down to blog, I can’t get my thoughts together.  I have so many posts in draft status because I write and write and write and then just taper off, unable to finish.  I’ve thought posts through in the shower and while I’m getting ready, but they fade away. The words don’t flow. I reread the drafts, and the sentences are awkward and clumsy, and the metaphors and analogies are silly, and I’m embarrassed and frustrated. I’ve never considered myself to be an elegant writer, but I expect a basic competence from myself that has been lacking.

Maybe I need to do more of Mel’s Pump and Dump type of writing.  Maybe it’s a good thing that NaBloPoMo is next month.  Hopefully the challenge of blogging every day will clear this blockage.

What I haven’t thought much about is whether my inability to write is symbolic of some other stress in my life (work, I’m looking at you).

What I do know is that Fall is my little family’s favorite time of year. While I’m stunned it’s October, I’m thrilled. Holidays, good food, family, fun events…all are on tap and being scheduled. And as the leaves turn golden and orange and red, I feel myself waking up and feeling alive. The beauty of this time of  year hits me like a hammer, and I’m determined we will enjoy it.

Daniel and mums

Daniel among the mums

Magic Fall: The Blathering

There’s a lot of crap swirling in my head, but when I woke up this morning, I felt cheeky and staccato, so I thought maybe another blathering post was in order.  Brain dump, commence!

  • I took 10 minutes and brought out my Fall decorations last week.  OK, let’s talk capitalization.  I know that technically, you are not supposed to capitalize the seasons, but I think that rule is asinine.  You can get away with not capitalizing spring, summer and winter (even though I bet the majority of the world will think you are making a mistake by NOT capitalizing them) and be fairly certain that readers will understand you are referring to the seasons even though they might think you are a moron.  Fall, however, could very easily be confused with usage other than the season.  Plus, it offends me on some level not to capitalize the seasons.  Let’s agree that on this blog, seasons will be capitalized, rules be damned.  Where was I?  Oh yes.  My Fall decorations.  They are on display, and it makes me happy to see them.  It also makes Daniel happy because he can climb on a chair and grab one of the pumpkin lanterns.  Like his mother, he’s a sucker for Fall and Halloween decorations, especially pumpkins.
  • Speaking of Fall (I rather like my new rule of capitalization), it’s like the trees finally got the message and are starting to change colors en masse.  I love it.  I love pointing out the colors to Daniel on our way to and from daycare.  My campus is really beautiful this time of year too.  Trees in front of buildings are turning flaming red.  The trees around the lake are changing too.  Right now, it’s just a hint of what’s to come, but in a week or two, it will be a stunning backdrop to the water.  I don’t really think I can explain it, but Fall thrills me.  The way the intensity of the sun has dimmed, giving a slight sepia cast to the days; the way the blue sky is so intensely blue but golden as well.  The vivid leaves.  I can feel my body respond and almost hum.  Some energy that courses through the changing environment calls to me.  I feel it and I welcome it.  I feel alive, which is interesting since in a way Fall is the last gasp of a dying year.  I know.  That’s weird.  I’m weird.  I guess Fall makes me feel connected to the environment.  It’s elemental.
  • We bought pumpkins.  We have Daddy, Mommy and Daniel pumpkins as well as a bunch of little pumpkins.  We’ll likely carve the Mommy and Daddy pumpkins and call it a day.  Despite our best efforts, we’re always carving at practically the last minute.  As for the rest of the pumpkins, Daniel has claimed 4 as his; I still maintain hopes of creating something decorative with the rest.  Don’t hold your breath.

    Interesting use of baby pumpkins

  • I had a lot of meetings this week.  I realized that the rest of October and quite a bit of November will be full of meetings as well.  When I told my staff that I’ll likely be in and out due to meetings, my newest staff member asked, “Why do you have to go to so many meetings?”  I wanted to tell her, “because I’m a masochist,” but I didn’t want to scare her off.  I get through the meetings by doodling copiously and irreverently:

    My doodles tend to be seasonal

  • This week I discovered that the construction area along my commute to work is going to be a new Sheetz.  I am thrilled by this because I love Sheetz.  Sheetz is like the anti-gas station.  It’s clean.  It has great coffee and genuine food options.  It’s colorful.  It’s mecca.  I’ve gone from hardly ever encountering a Sheetz to passing TWO on my commute to work.  Someone is throwing me a bone.
  • I started and finished Tana French’s Broken Harbor this week.  This is the 4th book in her…Ireland detective series?  The characters are loosely connected from novel to novel; she often has a minor character in one mystery who goes on to become the main character in the next.  I love her books because they are moody, lyrical and dark; the story grim and gripping.  Ireland is as much of a character as any person.  That said, I didn’t like Broken Harbor as much as the previous three.  It’s definitely worth a read, but it just didn’t work as well as all the elements in the previous three.   If you like UK mysteries, I also highly recommend Elizabeth George’s mysteries.  Very, very good.
  • The State Fair is in Raleigh this week, and we haven’t gone and probably won’t go.  I thought that maybe this was the year to take Daniel to see the animals and eat some fun fair food but then I decided against it because of the crowds and logistical nightmare of getting there and parking.  I also that he doesn’t know the fair exists, so maybe I shouldn’t borrow trouble before I need to.  There’s also the 40+ pesky cases of E.coli that have been reported. Then I felt guilty and decided I was denying him some vital experience but realized that due to schedules, I may have missed our window of opportunity to go.  Now I’m back to trying to convince myself that he doesn’t know what he’s missing and it’s OK.  Also, E.coli.
  • Along with the rest of the world (so it seemed), we watched Felix Baumgartner’s jump last weekend.  Jimmy and I were riveted, and we told Daniel that Felix was making history.  Daniel’s response? “Skip!” he commanded, the same command he utters when he wants us to skip a section in a movie.  The world?  Seriously awed by Felix.  My three-year-old?  Not so much.  Tough audience.

    What’s so special about him, Mommy?

  • The governor of North Carolina was the keynote speaker at one of the meetings I attended this week.  I happened to be sitting on the aisle, and as she passed by, greeting people, she clasped my shoulder and said, “hi.”  That’s my brush with greatness this week.
  • We may have quit soccer due to life.  By that I mean, car trouble, rain, hacking coughs, etc.  There is one more session and then the “skills showcase” next weekend.  My guilt says, “GO!”  My brain says, “Just stop and don’t worry about it.  Life is too crazy right now and Daniel won’t really care.”  Talk me down, people.  Please.
  • We have 3 elderly, increasingly crotchety felines whom we adore.  All I can say is that I hope Daniel takes as good care of us when we’re that old.  Lucky pusses!

How was your week?  Am I insane?