Impostor Syndrome

Every now and then I do something stupid – probably more often than not – that reminds me that while I appear to be an adult, it’s all really just an act.

My age makes it appear as if I know what I am doing, but the truth is I am making it up as I go along. I get up each day, go to work – where somehow I to managed to fool the people there into thinking I am a responsible adult; I’m not sure how exactly – then go home where I walk the dog, do laundry, feed the pets, cook, then go to bed to do the same thing the next day.

Most days I feel like an impostor, like someone who is pretending to know what they are doing in this world, and I generally feel like pretty much anyone else would do a better job at being me than I do. I am fallible. I make mistakes.

What I hope is that I learn from my mistakes and do better.

Maybe once I do, I will start to feel less like an impostor and more like the adult I am supposed to be.

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Time in a Bottle

“If I could save time in a bottle/The first thing that I’d like to do/Is to save every day ’til eternity passes away/Just to spend them with you.” Jim Croce

You know how things come in threes? After attending the funeral of my friend last month, I got to attend another a few weeks later for a former co-worker’s son, a relatively young man, who died of COVID. The family, of course, is devastated. Then the mother of one of my chosen sisters passed away unexpectedly last week. It’s a different kind of devastation, but devastation nonetheless, and this time one I am familiar with. It doesn’t make it any easier for me to help her as I’m not really good in these situations. Fortunately, our other chosen sister is.

(As an aside, if anyone has any pull with the universe, I would love and greatly appreciate if we could leave off with the dying for a bit in my world. I have enough of it going on right now and need to focus on those close to me who are in the throes of grief. Thanks.)

I also have a birthday coming up, and no, I’m not fishing for birthday wishes. It’s not a milestone birthday, just one that puts me back on even numbers. One of my oldest friends – we met in first grade – had his birthday yesterday. Or the day before depending on what part of the world you are in. As he lives in Singapore, I was able to wish him a happy birthday – thanks internet! – on what was his birthday in his time zone while it still being the day before in mine.

(Someday that sentence will make sense to me. I am still a little sketchy about the whole international date line thing.)

We chatted back and forth for a bit on the app that lets us talk when we want, and I said something about not understanding how I could have a nearly 22 year old son. He responded that it makes sense given that we are almost sixty.

Now, to me ‘almost sixty’ makes it sound like we have days or months before that happens, not a handful of years. But, I guess as we get older, time seems to move faster. It sure seems to for me. I am still trying to figure out where this year has gone.

I didn’t tell him that.

What I did say was that at least he would turns sixty before me. He told me that was a technicality and I should enjoy gloating for two whole days. I replied that, as a lawyer, he should appreciate technicalities, and I would, thank you very much. Then we shared pictures of our pets. Because what is long-distance communication on the internet for if not posting cute pictures of furry and fuzzy animals? Am I right?

He was one of the first people I told about my divorce when it happened in my previous life. Even though we hadn’t seen each other in years, it was important to me that he know right away. And without hesitation, he offered to fly my son and I to Singapore for a change of scenery if we needed it. I could have cried. In all honesty, I probably did. (I cried a lot around that time.) I told him we were fine and thanked him, and he left the offer open. Which was good as eventually, I needed to get away, and we went.

And it was amazing.

That was eight years ago. I haven’t seen my friend in person since then and have no idea when I will get the opportunity to again.

I have decided that what I need in my life is some kind of bottle where I can store the days I want to relive – and the people I want to spend more time with – so I can go back whenever I want to experience those times. Memories, even the best of them, fade with time, so this would be a way to preserve them and get the details right.

But I know that isn’t likely to happen, so I am instead pinning my hopes on someone inventing a time machine instead, like a TARDIS (it’s a Doctor Who reference; click the link for the explanation). Or maybe a Quantum Leap device. With better controls so there is no memory loss. And I am still myself. (Yes, I am ridiculously excited about the reboot. Can you tell?)

Would it be sad visiting those I have loved and lost? Yes. But in the present, I have those I also love. And want to spend more time with than work and chores and life presently allow. Either of these devices would allow for that.

But maybe it’s the fact that memories and moments are fleeting that makes them more precious. Maybe having the ability to revisit them would make them less special.

I don’t know, but since I am in no way, shape, or form a scientist, it is also highly unlikely I will ever find out as I will not be the one inventing the devices.

Or altering a DeLorean as mechanics are also not my thing.

For now, I will just need to spend more time with my people and bottle up the memories in my mind to recall when I need them.

Requiem for a Friend

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” A.A. Milne

A few weeks back I was supposed to have dinner with a friend from college. He was someone I knew and liked when we were floormates (more years ago than I want to admit to) but not someone I had gotten to know really well.

We had gotten together for dinner pre-pandemic after he had moved back to the area and a couple of plans for a picnic – he baked pies and was willing to trade for challah – had fallen through. Although he ended up not being a fan of the restaurant I had chosen, he got to meet my son, and we had a nice evening. When the evening ended, I jokingly told him he could pick the restaurant next time.

Then COVID shut down the world.

We messaged a few times, checking up to see how the other was faring and waiting to see when we could manage our second dinner.

When things finally opened up, he texted to see when was good. I explained I was in the middle of wedding planning, and if we could wait until after I was good and married, that would be wonderful, and he graciously agreed.

The next plan we made got the kibosh put on it when I realized I had scheduled it for the same night my son and I were supposed to be attending orientation at our shared alma mater. The sessions went right up to the time I was supposed to be meeting him for dinner in Northampton, and since the offspring wasn’t at work, I would be responsible for feeding him. He graciously agreed to reschedule for the following Monday, and I went about my day on campus staring in wonder at the changes that have taken place since I had graduated.

Some of the changes were obvious – new construction, renovated facades on buildings, that sort of thing – but some were kind of mind-blowing. The Student Union looks just the same from the outside as it used to, but the inside had been gutted and completely redone. And the dining commons was sleek and modern and now had really, really good food. Amazingly good food. Which was a bit of a shock, even though I kept reading about the awards being won from across the country. (When I was there, one of my friends put in a comment card the night they served ‘savory beef strudel’ saying they needed to stop using unqualified adjectives; the next time the strudel was served, the menu simply read ‘beef strudel.’)

I was looking forward to regaling him with stories of the changes I had seen, but the morning of our rescheduled dinner, he texted to say he had come down with strep and needed to cancel. I told him to rest and heal and not to worry about it.

It was the last communication I received from him.

A little over a week later, I messaged to see how he was feeling, not thinking anything of it when I didn’t get an immediate response. And then later that day, I got one of those phone calls from the offspring with a tone of voice in the “Hi, Mama” that elicited the immediate response of, “What did you do?”

What he had done, accidentally, was cut himself while opening a box, a cut that was most likely going to need stitches – spoiler alert: it did – and was hoping I could drive him to the hospital, which – of course – I did.

Just as he was finally being seen by one of the ER doctors, my phone started going crazy. One of my other college friends had started a group chat to let us know our mutual friend was in the hospital and most likely wasn’t going to make it. Without going into detail, the strep mutated.

We were all devastated.

Over the next few days, I got calls and texts from his father – his family had found my messages in his texts – telling me what had happened and was happening, the last of which read: He “took flight to be at peace at 1150 AM this morning while we were holding his hands.”

There are no words. Someone so young, a year younger than I am, should not have been lost so soon and so painfully.

A parent should not have to bury their child.

The funeral was lovely, religious and spiritual, and presided over by clergy who knew our friend personally. A small number of us from our dorm stayed after the service at the luncheon hosted by our friend’s parents and brought each other up to date on what we had been doing over the past thirty of so years and reminisced. His parents came over to talk with us, both gracious with their stories and their humor. I hadn’t known our friend as well as the rest of the group, so some of the stories were new to me. I was a year older than everyone else, had moved off the floor my junior year, and am frankly not the best at staying in touch with people. I did know him to be a good and kind man and a good friend. The fact that he kept reaching out to me despite my shortcomings and honest lack of available time speak to that more than anything.

I am sorry our reconnection will now never take place. I am sorry the world lost someone so kind and loving. I am sorry for the grief his parents will live with for the rest of their lives.

So, if you are reading this, and I haven’t talked to you lately, please know I value you and your friendship. I don’t want to be too late to tell anyone that again.

Hugs.

Really Annoying People

I wouldn’t have to manage my anger if people would manage their stupidityunknown

You don’t know this from my face because you can’t see me right now, but I am angry. Really, really angry. Close to furious.

Because an acquaintance did something stupid. Really, really stupid.

For those of you who don’t know, I am getting married in about five weeks. Five. Weeks. I have just finished dealing with finding a new DJ after the original one dropped out – and was unable to provide the replacement that was promised in the event of having to drop out – and am currently trying – not hugely successfully, might I add – to communicate with a florist for the very few flowery type things we will need for the ceremony. My second dress fitting is this week, and I am getting to the time where I will need to start chasing people for RSVPs so we know how many people we are feeding. Oh, and we’re doing a construction project at work. Just building a new library, nothing all that big or life changing.

Needless to say, more stress is not something I need in my life right now.

So, remember the stupid comment from above? Here is where it comes into play…

Said acquaintance has tested positive for COVID. After wandering around our mutual gathering place for the last few weeks insisting that the coughing, sneezing, and laryngitis they have been displaying are “just seasonal allergies” all while not wearing a mask.

Seasonal allergies, my ass.

The upshot of all this is that all the people in our mutual gathering space all had to go out and get COVID tests this morning. And need to get another on Friday morning and test over the weekend as what is currently moving through my county is the ‘stealth variety’ of the plague, which can take more time to present positive result. We all now have to wear masks all the time – even at home – until it is proven without a doubt we are negative. As a matter of fact, once I am done typing this up, I have to go put sheets on the guest bed because – you guessed it! – that’s where I will be sleeping for the foreseeable future.

I’m so happy, I could hit someone. Hard. Several times.

And I’m not the only one who feels this way.

Two of us in the group have been sick with other illnesses. Both of them are grumbling because they did the right thing, justifiably, might I add, and stayed home when not feeling well, tested to verify negative status, and wore masks in our mutual area so as not to infect others with whatever it was they had.

One of the other people affected by this mess now can’t go to their granddaughter’s birthday party this weekend. Another is prone to walking pneumonia and has to be extremely careful about any respiratory ailment. For me, I was diagnosed as an adult with reactive asthma. If I get a cough, it moves into my lungs and causes bronchoconstriction, which is about as fun as it sounds. Because there’s nothing actually there to cough up, I just get a painful, inflamed chest and start wheezing. Yay…

Do I feel bad the perpetrator is sick? Yes. I am not a total monster. Just an angry one at the moment.

Am I ready to forgive and forget? Oh, hell no. This person willfully, consciously, and continually came into a space where others could catch whatever it was they had, be it COVID, the flu (which is making a resurgence where I live), or a cold. Any sensible person would have known to test and stay out of the space until getting a negative test result. Because better safe than sorry.

Five weeks.

But I guess sensibility is a trait that is becoming hard to find in many people.

Wish me luck.

Unbreakable

You can build me up / You can tear me down / You can try but I’m unbreakable – Richard Welch

I got a phone call a couple of weeks ago that I never expected to get. The kind of never that goes along the words ‘in a million years’.

It was from the wife of one of my ex-husband’s long time friends. I had met her once, maybe twice, in person many, many years ago. Each year we exchanged holiday cards, but that was about the extent of our interactions. Until my husband left. At that point I figured I wouldn’t hear from them anymore, given that they were his friends and not mine.

I was wrong.

That first holiday season brought not only a card, but also a lovely, long hand-written letter asking how I was doing and letting me know I was in their, or at least her, thoughts. I responded back with a copy of the first picture holiday card I had ever done – a simple picture of me and my son – and a letter back. I have no idea what I wrote as I was still in a bit of a fog at that point, grateful that I no longer had to walk on eggshells around my now-former spouse but not to the point where I was anything more than functional.

Each year after that we exchanged letters and cards at the holidays. The letters were usually brief and chatty, the kind of things you tell acquaintances – where we went on vacation (when that still happened), how the kids were, if we had snow yet. (One had a lovely, hand-drawn picture of Groot on it that my son immediately grabbed and claimed as his own. I think it is still in the house somewhere.)

Up until this year.

This year, between Hanukkah coming so early, the continuing pandemic, and the loss of my cranky, beautiful 19-year-old kitty cat, I only sent cards as replies. If you sent me one, I sent you one. Otherwise, I took the year off as I simply didn’t have the bandwidth to deal with the holidays. I didn’t get a card from her, and honestly didn’t think anything of it. The pandemic has been hard on everyone.

Then my phone rang one afternoon from a number I didn’t recognize. The city name was familiar, although in the moment I couldn’t remember why, and while I generally let numbers I don’t know go to voicemail (assuming they are spam, which they usually are), this time I answered it. A soft voice on the other end, said, “Lisa? This is (her name). (Husband) pulled a Mark.”

I stopped in my tracks, completely stunned.

After nearly 30 years together, he came home from work one day, announced he was sad and needed a change, and was ending their marriage. The ironic thing, she said, was that her husband had apparently yelled at my ex when he had done this to me nearly eight years ago, and now, here he was doing the same thing to her.

She called me because she had been sitting at the computer looking up the names of divorce lawyers and wishing she had someone who had gone through this to talk to. The she realized she did.

I said the first things I could think of; that I was sorry this had happened and that while she wouldn’t believe me now – because G-d knows I didn’t believe my therapist when he told me – that things would get better. I listened to her as she told me her story, how once he had decided to leave the relationship he was like a different person, almost a stranger. He didn’t call to see how she was doing when she got COVID. He told her he needed to come by the house and pick up some forms and just walked in without any kind of greeting or letting her know he was there.

At some point, I gratefully realized my son – who, along with the dog, was patiently waiting for me to get off the phone so we could go for a walk – had put in earbuds and was playing a game on his handheld device, which was good as I was saying some rather uncomplimentary things about his father in answering her questions and sharing some of my story. (While I no longer wish him bodily harm, I was really not happy with his father for a fairly long time. A really long time, if I am being honest. And while, I am pretty sure he inadvertently learned a few things from my perspective that he hadn’t known about, they don’t seem to have scarred him or affected his relationship with his father.)

When she wanted to know how I coped in the beginning, I was honest. My son was twelve, and he needed me. I had a job that I had to go to so bills would get paid. I had cats that demanded to be fed. It wasn’t easy, but these things meant I had to get my ass out of bed each morning and carry on. Her situation is different. Her kids are grown, and she is unable to work due to health issues. I suggested meet-ups, even virtual ones, to find other people with interests that align with hers. I went to coloring groups, book groups, writing groups because I knew if I didn’t get my butt out of the house – or my comfort zone – I would sit on the sofa and cry. Which wasn’t good for me. No matter how much I wanted to do nothing but sit on the sofa and cry. Instead, I wrote in the earlier iteration of my blog. Because my therapist, who is much smarter than me, said I needed to.

At one point in our conversation, she said that once she got her transportation situation straightened out – a whole different story – she was going to go get a cat. She had always wanted one, but the husband was VERY allergic. And if he was no longer living in the house…

I suggested she get two, a bonded pair if possible. Because more cats – and more creatures to love – are always better.

As our conversation was winding down, I told her to call me any time she needed to talk. Any time. I had gotten the same offer from friends of mine and didn’t take them up on it because I didn’t want to be more of a bother than I was being. So, instead I have decided to give her a few weeks then call back and check in.

I want to know she is doing all right. Or is at least keeping her head above water. Because that’s what friends do. Maybe she will have a kitty she can tell me about.

(Oh, and virtual cookies to everyone who gets the quote reference at the top.)

Rules and Requirements

Freedom without rules doesn’t work. And communities do not work unless they are regulated by etiquette. – Judith Martin

For those of you who know me, you know I like rules. I like knowing what I can and can’t – or shouldn’t – do.

Now this doesn’t mean I follow all rules blindly. If the rule doesn’t make sense, I challenge it. Or I play the ‘letter of the law/spirit of the law’ game with it. You know, the one where you follow what you think the rulemaker meant when they put the words on paper rather than the actual words that appear on the paper because those words don’t say what the person who wrote them thinks they say. However, that could just be me…

Personally, I prefer a more general approach to rules. Something along the lines of ‘Don’t be a dumbass’, (which the library still won’t let me put up on a banner over the front door as they feel it may offend some people. Sigh…). It is succinct, clear, and extremely easy to remember. The next time you go to do something you aren’t sure is kosher, ask yourself, “Is this a dumbass thing to do?” If the answer is yes, don’t do it. See? It’s easy.

That said, there is one hard and fast rule we have at work lately. Wear a mask. Correctly. Our city has a mask mandate, so I have spent the better part of the last few months explaining to people in a chirpy voice that we need them to wear their masks correctly so the board of health Will. Keep. Us. Open. Which I think is pretty clear. If you want to come to the library and make it so other people can come to the library, wear the mask over your mouth and nose. I even put up cute pictures of an absolutely adorable dog showing the wrong ways (and finally the right way) to wear a mask. It’s totes adorbs.

This has reduced – yet somehow not eliminated – the number of people who walk in without their faces covered. These folks can be categorized in two groups, the ‘well, how was I supposed to know that?’ crowd – this after they have walked by three or more signs saying ‘masks required’ and somehow missed all of them – and the ‘muh freedoms’ crowd, who we just tell to leave. Nicely. Through gritted teeth. It’s a useful skill if you can manage it. I’m getting better. Slowly.

Since the mask mandate has gone back to covering all indoor spaces – businesses as well as municipal offices (yay for fewer arguments with people who don’t know the difference!) – there have been a lot more of these signs popping up all over town. Including ones at the local YMCA where I go on my lunch hour to lift weights or walk on a treadmill when it is yucky outside and my knee and ankle are in the mood to cooperate with me.

Which is where my frustrations started last week.

Now, the women I swim with in the mornings have all been great about mask wearing. We get out of the pool and the shower, dry off our shining faces, pop our masks back on, throw on our clothes, and get on with our days, having lovely chats while most of the first few items on this list are happening. It’s been great. Mostly it is the same four or five other people, so we are like our own swimming pod.

The weight room….? Well, up there, they are not always as considerate. Despite the signage telling people there is a mandate and that people need to wipe down the equipment they have used, some of the people have been, shall we say, less than cooperative about safety protocols. It’s a big area, so usually I can avoid working out within 5-6 yards of these folks, and if I have to get to a piece of equipment near them, I ask if they mind putting on their masks correctly as I work around small children. For the most part people have been cooperative, if not graciously so.

Except now the college students on break. And are swarming the weight room in clusters.

Of the five people – 4 men, 1 woman for those who are interested – I asked that of last Monday, only one actually pulled his mask up and kept it up. Or at least he did while we were in the same space. The other four? Within minutes if not seconds, masks were back down under noses, under chins, or on wrists. So effective, that.

I gave up and went down to the treadmills.

Now this upsets me for several reasons:

  1. As a paying member of the Y I would really like to use the facility, not just part of it.
  2. I have been eating much more than has been healthy for me over the holidays, and strength training is one of the mechanisms I use to get my weight back under control.
  3. Remember the comment from above about my knee and ankle cooperating? I have been in physical therapy for the IT band injury that made my knee swell up like a lemon over Columbus Day weekend, and now I seem to have developed some tendonitis, with possibly some small tears (whee….) on my ankle and foot, most likely from when I could barely walk because my knee hurt so much. So, the treadmill isn’t always an option for me right now.

Needless to say, I am finding this more than a little frustrating. I don’t want to have to give up my lunchtime workouts. Not only do I hope they will help me with the fluffier than usual stomach I have acquired, they seriously improve my mood. Since the inconsiderate people have taken over the weight room, I have been going back to work in a worse mood than when I left. Which is counterproductive on a whole number of levels.

One possible solution, which I am not thrilled with, will be to avoid the weight room until they have returned to class. (Please, G-d, keep in-person classes!) While I don’t really like Nautilus machines – I am short enough not to fit on many of them well – I have noticed that room is mostly deserted when I am there at lunch. So, that could be a choice. When my leg is cooperating, I can use the treadmill or do an easy jaunt on an elliptical trainer. Or some combination of the two. I will just have to see.

And wait for school to be back in session. (See previous plea.)

What I really want to know is why it is so hard for people to be considerate of others? Do I like wearing a mask all the time? No, although it is warmer when I walk the dog at night, and there is an occasional benefit to the person I am talking to not being able to see my whole face. Like the person this morning who wanted me to find them grants to apply for to do outdoor drum circles for front line health care workers. (Having the bottom half of my face covered was a definite plus there.) But I wear the mask at work, when I go shopping, and around small children. Because I care about my fellow human beings and doesn’t want to be responsible for someone else getting sick, and I’m pretty sure that, evidence to the contrary, showing common courtesy for our fellow human beings is not too much to ask.

I can only hope the new year proves me right.

Fog

I hate this time of year.

It’s dark. It’s cold. I have no energy, no desire to eat like a normal human being who has to fit into a wedding dress in seven months, and the local radio stations are starting to play non-stop Christmas music. Yay…

Thank G-d for audiobooks and podcasts.

Normally I can get through the dark and gloom of early winter with a (slightly) better attitude than the one I am displaying right now, but this year I just can’t.

Hanukkah was extra early this year, so the opportunity to set things on fire for eight days in a socially acceptable manner has come and gone, we are heading into year two of this damn pandemic, and my beautiful, cranky, nineteen year old cat died the other day.

I am sad and cranky and tired.

Work is alternately stressful and boring, which in itself is stressful, my house is a mess – this is not new; my house is always a mess, and I could really use a vacation somewhere warm and sunny where no one can see me in a bathing suit. I am not holding my breath on that happening, though. (See previously mentioned pandemic.)

I am tired of coming home every day to the exact same things needing to be done – make the bed, empty and reload the dishwasher, wipe down the counters, do the laundry, walk the dog. (On that last one, the dog is adorable and soooo happy to get outside for his excursion, so that helps.)

Since I can’t go on that nice, sunny vacation, I would be happy to have a day where I come home from a day of work where I haven’t wanted to hit anyone to find the house reasonably picked up, the bed made, the dishes and laundry where they should be, and dinner in process of being made by someone who is not me so I can go take a nice, long bubble bath. But since everyone else who lives in this house (other than the pets) has a schedule like mine, if not busier, I don’t see this happening. So I need to find other coping mechanisms.

Normally, when I get like this, I exercise, which helps take the edge off and buoys my mood enough so I can make it through this unbearably gloomy time of year.

But what about this year has been normal, you ask? Nothing.

Instead of long walks or quality time on the elliptical trainer, I now get to do PT exercises and weird stretches on the edge of my sofa to make sure my IT band doesn’t go out on my again like it did after a lovely long stroll on Columbus Day weekend. (I could barely walk for nearly a month. On a scale of one to ten, I rate it at about a negative 3. I don’t recommend it highly to anyone.) This has unfortunately been leaving food as my de-stresser. Which, while delicious, is not at all helping with my self-image and just makes me feel more stressed out.

It’s kind of a vicious cycle.

I don’t want people to tell me everything’s going to be okay, and that soon I will feel more like myself again. I actually just want to feel more like myself again.

I am hoping that once the solstice hits and we start getting back more sunlight, I will unwind a bit. Preferably a lot. I am really not enjoying feeling like this.

In the meantime, I am going to focus hard on not eating all the chocolate chips in the freezer. At least not all right now.

That may be the best I can hope for.

I’m Okay

In the end everything will be okay. But hurdles have to be jumped through first.Simone Elkeles

Life lesson number 8,462,313 states the following: Phone calls that start off with the person on the other end saying, “I’m okay” never mean the caller is actually okay.

A recent call from the offspring is a case in point.

I was working at a public service desk and – unusually – had my cell phone with me as I was setting up a group text chat for an advisory group I am on. When the anime theme song heralding a call from my child blasted through the air while I was assisting a patron, I swiped down to ignore the call as the one thing drilled into your head when you do any kind of customer service is the person in front of you comes first. As I was climbing the stairs a few moments later to get a piece of equipment, the song blared again. This time I answered it, skipping over “hello” and going right to telling him I was on desk and not particularly available to chat at that moment.

His response to this statement was “I’m okay,” although his voice had a particular hysterical note indicating this was not exactly true – see life lesson above – immediately followed by “I was in a car accident.”

Now, I don’t know about anyone else, but to me, these two statements are really not compatible. Not to mention, this exact phone call has been high on my list of ‘things to worry about’ once my son got his license several years back. And here it was slapping me in the face.

Yay…

I tamped down the mom panic, handed the equipment and the patron off to a colleague, and announced to everyone I was leaving and why.

Half an hour later, I had my son in my car, paperwork from a towing company in my hand, and a whole lot of things I had not anticipated doing that day on my list of things to do that day.

We filed a claim, talked to an insurance adjuster, looked at what used cars were available in our area at a price we could afford (surprisingly more of them then you would think with pandemic supply issues in play), and took a very happy – if also very confused – doggie for a long walk to work off some of the stress. My fiance met us as we were finishing the walk, having come home early from work to make sure we were both all right, which was both sweet and appreciated.

Then, we got to go back to the towing yard to empty the car out as the insurance company moved faster than we had anticipated in getting the claim going. Trash bags in hand, we removed everything from the vehicle that we felt we needed – rugs, turnpike transponder, license plates, tools, blankets, etc. – and packed it up to take home.

It was a little sad participating in this process. This was my first ever (and probably only ever) new car. I researched it, test drove several until I was sure this was the one I wanted, and ordered it from the dealership as a) gas sipper cars were extremely hard to come by in 2009 with gas being over $4.00 per gallon, and b) I wanted a blue car. Because I like the color blue. She came off a boat from Japan and was driven to the dealership just for me. I loved that car and named her Squirrel as she was too small to have horsepower, so had squirrel power running her engine. Even though I haven’t driven her in nearly a year, I will miss her. Driving away from the towing yard was just a little hard knowing that I will probably not see her again and definitely not as she was in her glory. She served me well.

By the time we got home from this second outing, I was fried. We ordered takeout for dinner, and I went to bed early.

Now, remember that mom panic? The days following is where the aforementioned tamped down panic jumped back up again to make itself known. Because I need more reasons not to sleep well…

Although he is going to be twenty-one in a few weeks time, this accident involved my baby. The thought of anything happening to him completely freaks me out, and I find I have to spend a lot of time consciously not thinking about the accident and what could have happened.

And the panic isn’t just affecting me. I can tell he is still somewhat shaken as well. He is driving my car now to get to and from school, work, and his father’s house as he isn’t old enough to drive the lovely little rental the insurance company had provided me, and I get more regular updates as to where he is going and whether or not he has gotten there in one piece than usual. (Unintentional intelligence is a great thing; I hadn’t realized than I realized when I changed insurance companies, I got rental insurance on the policy, so we are not trying to juggle two cars between 3 people. Let’s hear it for unplanned forethought!)

To be clear, I am totally on board with these check-ins. They are, in fact, rather reassuring.

While we haven’t heard anything from the insurance company yet, we are guessing they are going to total the car. I am pretty sure it will cost about as much to fix it as it is worth given the damage that was sustained. In the meantime, it’s a waiting game. And it gives me time to continue attempting to sooth my somewhat shattered nerves.

For now though when anyone asks, I am okay.

Really.

Cookie Dough

I’m cookie dough. I’m not done baking – from Buffy the Vampire Slayer

One of my friends has been posting lately about the preparations for her daughter’s upcoming wedding. There have been engagement photos, snapshots of the apartment they will be living in once they are married, and, of course, pictures of the happy couple.

She is gorgeous. Blonde, slim, pretty. He has dark hair and eyes with a strong jaw and a nice smile. Honestly, they could both be models. If they ever have children, there is no doubt they will be just as lovely to look at as their parents.

I have been watching the planning with great interest as the wedding will be held at the same location where the bride’s parents had their reception. I was a bridesmaid in their wedding and have fond memories of the place. (Also, there was a table with fruit and different types of melted chocolate to dip said fruit into. No one could get to through the wall of bridesmaids. Yum…)

Then the other day I was scrolling through Facebook researching something on my computer and came across a post my friend had put up celebrating her daughter leaving her teens.

This lovely girl is getting married, in a few short weeks, at age twenty.

My jaw dropped.

Now, granted, I got married at twenty-two – and we all know how well that went long-term – but I am having a hard time imagining being married at twenty.

The same age my son is now. (Who I also can’t imagine being married right now. Ye gods…)

When I was twenty – hell, even when I was twenty-two and actually standing at the altar – I didn’t know who I was. I had just finished school. I had never held a full-time job. I had never lived by myself, never maintained a household, never tried to mesh my life, likes, or needs with another person.

And, boy, did it show.

It showed in my inability to manage conflict. It showed in how I wasn’t able to advocate for what I wanted out of life, whether it was what restaurant to eat at or where to go on one of our rare vacations. It showed in how I allowed parts of myself to disappear rather than risk upsetting my partner.

The funny part is a few weeks ago, I bought a wedding dress. My ‘best dude’ – the offspring – and I went to the local bridal shop for National Bridal Sale Week. I tried on something like 7 dresses and found one that made me feel pretty and had some bling. (There will not be a picture posted as my fiance reads this blog, and he doesn’t get to see the dress until the day of the wedding. Love you, dear.) When they asked at the store if we had a date picked out yet, the answer was no, but we were working on it.

So, today we actually went out to look at wedding venues. We had an unexpected day off together and scheduled a couple of last minute appointments. We have visited two so far, both of which have Sunday dates available next summer. (Which means it looks like we are getting closer to that setting a date thing. Now we need to check on rabbi availability.)

Both are local. One has a lovely setting, with a gorgeously appointed inn attached to the venue, which would be nice for our wedding night (can you say whirlpool tub? I love whirlpool tubs.) as well as providing rooms for a few of our potential out-of-town guests. The downside is the timing on the ceremony. They plan for things to start at 4pm, but for a small fee can start a half hour earlier. Given that some of our guests are not exactly local, the timing would be a problem for those needing to drive some distance to get home afterwards. Especially on a Sunday where they might have to work the next day. We would love for people to stay and celebrate with us and not have to leave early to drive.

The second place is close to a somewhat busy road, so while the setting is nice there is a bit more noise, and it’s not a private location. That said, we can pick any time we want for the ceremony and reception, which solves the problem of people having to leave early. Another benefit is there on site splash pad/water park. Since it will be summer, and there will be a few younger children there, that is a nice plus. If there is too much grownup stuff going on, a parent can take them for a short walk and a cool down.

This time through, I feel more confident in my relationship and our ability to weather whatever life throws at us. It has been a roller coaster so far with each of us losing a parent within the space of two weeks, then him losing his mother just a year later. We have integrated households – mostly; there is still some work to be done – and each are considerate of the other’s needs and wants.

At twenty-two I wasn’t self-aware enough to know how to do this. At fifty-two, I feel like I have become enough of myself to accomplish it.

And when I look at those pictures my friend posts about her daughter, I wish her all the luck in the world making her marriage grow and grow happily.

It’s what I want for myself, after all.

Normality

We have normality. I repeat, we have normality. Anything you still can’t cope with is therefore your own problem. – Douglas Adams

I was thinking today that one of the things I have heard most often during the pandemic – other than complaints about weight gain and foggy brains – is this specific phrase, “Well, when things return to normal…”

Here’s the issue, though. I’m not sure things are going to return to normal. At least not for us. The next couple of generations? Maybe. But for us, I think there will be a new normal. One very different from the one we have been slogging through for the past year, but one not quite the same as the one we had before.

Am I ready to see people again? Well, sort of. I have been one of the fortunate ones over the last year in that I was at work on pretty much a daily basis with many, if not all, of my colleagues as well as a smattering of patrons picking up materials at our doorside hours. I have been to a couple of restaurants, not just for take-out but for actual in-store dining, which has been nice, although I was nervous the first time. And while restaurants feel okay, I am admittedly leery of heading back to movie theaters – I think because of the length of time you sit in one, although I haven’t quite nailed down the exact reason why. That said, I have been looking longingly at the Broadway selections coming to Hartford in the next year as well as the concert tour of one of my favorite singing groups. I guess because I can stream most movies from the comfort of my sofa on the giant television my fiance attached to the wall in the living room, but not the touring company of Dear Evan Hansen.

That said, I am still… uneasy would probably be the best word about being in groups of people larger than 15-20, not that I have ever been comfortable in crowds – hello fellow introverts! – and this past year has given me more reason to be wary, even though all of my family has now been vaccinated.

I am thinking this may be because of history.

The pandemic of 1918 lasted longer than one year and had three waves, with some historians positing there was a fourth that took place in the winter of 1920. It was less deadly than the three that preceded it, but was a fourth wave nonetheless.

Despite improvements in science in the last one hundred years, this fact does not fill me with confidence for the future. Mainly because of some of the people I have met over the years.

Every time COVID restrictions have been relaxed, numbers have gone up. Because – for whatever reason they claim – people can’t follow guidelines. Granted, this was prior to the vaccine being widely available, but new variants are popping up all the time. There was a story on the radio just last week of a Malaysian variant that seems to be transmitted by dogs. There is a specific deletion in the genome that allows the virus to infect humans.

I am expending a great deal of effort not to think about this too much. I like petting cute doggies…

There are a few things I will be carrying with me in my new normal. Masks, for one. Now that I have found a great clippy thing that sits on my nose and keeps my glasses from fogging up, I will definitely be wearing a mask all winter. For the first time in years, I didn’t get a cold, cough, or sinus infection at all during SLUG season. And my face was warm when I walked the dog in the cold, dark evenings. It was actually almost nice being outside in those conditions, which surprised me as I am not a fan of cold and very much a fan of snuggling under a blanket. I also find color-coordinating my mask to my outfit of the day is kind of fun.

We take pleasure where we can; don’t judge.

There are definitely some good things about this return to ‘normal’. We are opening up the library more, and people are glad to see us! Gatherings with the family will be less fraught with more hugs. I can hang out more with my neighbors during my evening doggie excursions – he knows the words ‘walk’ and ‘outside’, but hasn’t yet equated ‘excursion’ with going for a walk outside, which makes it easier to talk about – rather than shouting at them from across the street.

All good things. Possibly coming at me a little faster than I was prepared for, but I am sure it will all be good. Mostly.

Maybe it’s not the old normal, but I can live with it. Change is what keeps us alive, right?

Right.