I am surrounded. Murky southern reservoir water laps the edges of the dock I sit on and we call our own for this one glorious weekend. Earlier this morning the birds and water filled the air with music and sound, a serene welcome to the day. It’s mid-morning now, the world is awake, so I unleash the music from the little square speaker. Kenny Chesney sings Blue Rocking Chair. My hand-picked serenade to fit the mood, if not the color or style of the chair Jeremy sits in. Not too loud, not to quiet, enough. Like this weekend and this vacation get away. Enough. There’s no loss of nature or the slow ease into the day on my speaker’s part; the speed boats, pontoons and wave runners have already washed out the birdsong and we’ve been to the store and back for bait and more supplies. While he’s focused on the lines. I’m focused on remembering how I ended up here, surrounded by water this morning.
After we returned from the store, I contemplated staying on the cozy, covered porch of our “glamptastic tent” or moseying down to the dock to be nearer his essence. I love this tent and this Airbnb space. It boasts all the pieces of nature I adore, hills, trees and water with the luxuries of modern convenience, indoor plumbing, running water, covered spaces, air conditioning, electricity. Near perfection. It would be quite perfect if not for the mass of humanity. The lake is fairly full of gas powered this and screaming engine that disturbing the natural wonder for the sake of leisure and entertainment (but isn’t that why we’re here too? Just turns out our leisure is preferably a little more slow and quiet than theirs.). I digress, back to my contemplation. Of course nearer is better, I am a quality time soul, so I work my way down to the dock… to him, getting this and that for me or for him on the way. It occurs to me that a laptop is an odd thing to bring out to a dock, but it’s sturdy and also covered and there’s an outlet above the table and chair set for the Christmas lights that illuminate the night, so I shrug and do it anyway.
It’s time to fish. All this time while I’ve been contemplating, he’s been preparing the lines. Sweet! I haven’t missed a minute of the lazy summer action. We have two licenses and poles and I’m not opposed to catching fish, I even tied one of my own lines to a swivel this time, but he seems to like baiting and stringing for me, so I’ll let him… until my bobber dips under, then I’ll be all about the catch! I day dream that mine will be the biggest catch and I’ll bring it in flawlessly (with his guidance of course) and it’ll make him, and my son, proud of my catch too. Hopefully I don’t pull a silly girl move and lose a fish. That’s the worst! Don’t get me wrong, I’m OK being a novice at fishing, I do not pretend, nor could I ever pull off a bluff that I love to fish as much as true fishers do, but I don’t want to ruin a good catch either.
And there he is. He who loves me. Big, broad, brawny, bold, bald and bearded. My favorite human. Maybe it’s rude to say that with children I’ve known and loved longer. Is it fair to put them “second” to him? Maybe if they were still really children that wouldn’t be a right thing to say, but they’re all grown, doing their own things. I love them and am devoted to them but, if I’m honest, it’s the truth that Jeremy Worley is my favorite human, save for myself. My kids had no choice, I am their mom, or adopted mom, or ex-step mom, or step-mom. They didn’t choose me (well maybe Matea did). It is what it is and we are family. He chose me. He chooses me every day. I’m humbled and grateful for his love and also for his family. They live in this Tennessee area and their annual reunion gave us the excuse to make a point to be here. I might not have left Washington otherwise, the work to plan for my grandmother’s care while I am away was extensive and exhausting! I might have thrown in the towel for an eight day vacation “just for me.” I was willing to put in the work and effort for family. My look back at the work from this dock tells me the reward was worth the effort!
If only the boating traffic wasn’t so profuse, this would be bliss! Two books on a bait laden table flank my left side. To my right … the rapid lapping water, yes, another boat went by a few minutes ago. In front, the best view! Him, two poles and a watery reprieve from work and care giving for a dying loved one. I struggle though. Part of me feels like I should be up there with him, nearer him, touching him maybe, or at very least sitting by him but I wanted to write. This is fishing for me… sitting, pondering life, waiting for the bite! They tug at the strings of my heart these inspiration filled, ripe, hungry emotions and thoughts waiting for me to set the hook on the concept, give it some slack, let it swim and fight a bit, reel up and guide it in when it’s time. His bites too are filled with anticipation of what’s on the hook at the other end of the line. This is bliss! But after one thousand wonderful words of reflection on this morning and this moment, the books beside me beckon. It makes sense to close here, grab a book and lay nearer him. Who know maybe I’m the luck he needs to bring in the big one!
Once upon a time, while on a lonely wilderness hike, a sojourner came upon a band of merry souls (or dwarfs, or whatever fanciful person-like creature comes to mind and suits the story). They were a joyful and proud lot and danced around a sacred fire. They heartily welcomed the stranger in to listen to their tales of the eternal fire, stoked long ago by their very hands. It burned with warmth and fury. The fire kept them, sustained them and guided them with its light. This fire was indeed warm and seemed friendly, so long the sojourner stayed listening to their tales of the fire. The embers waxed and waned red, gold and sometimes even a glorious blue while they shared their stories of the bygone days of the fire. Then there was a stirring, a waking, and everyone knew it was time again to stoke the fire, to keep it burning. While the sojourner was permitted to watch the gathering, the preparation, the cutting of branches and falling of trees, they were not permitted to actually stoke the fire. It was a sacred right and no matter how merry the gathering, and inviting the stories, the lore and legend wouldn’t permit a stranger’s participation.
The stoking began! Wood and wonder crashed into the red-hot fire ring from all permitted hands, from all sides, with whoops and hollers of utter satisfaction! The flames rose high into the night, fiery flakes fell around the stranger, and the people, or creatures, or whatever they were danced and swayed in the ecstasy of the stoking. It was grand and glorious monstrosity of heat and sacredness, and the interloper wanted so badly to be one of them, but was at least grateful for the warmth and the invitation to sit in and watch the magnificent procession. The men roared, the women cheered, and somewhere deep, down in the depths of the dirt, a delicious drumming of delight rumbled underfoot blending into the melee, as if even the earth itself approved of their fire and festival.
Then one of the revelers came to the weary sojourner with all kindness and sincerity in an attempt to somehow include the stranger into the stoking. The warmth and smoke of the fire enveloped the reveler and the stranger, mesmerized by the sights, sounds and smells agreed, quickly, without a moment’s hesitation, to participate. The stranger could not by rite stoke the fire, but they all insisted wholeheartedly that there was space for the stranger to participate in the celebration. If the stranger loved the band enough and chose to remain in the group there was a simple, albeit painful role that the stranger could join in. All the sojourner had to do, to stay with the merry men (or women or dwarfs, or whatever fanciful person-like creature comes to mind and suits the story) was insert a hand into the fire for a brief moment, long enough to let the flames lick at bare flesh and season the smoke with the flavor of the pain. The pain, the stranger was told, would only last a moment, and certainly there were others who participated in order to belong. Many souls willingly inserted their hands into the fire and their scents melded and mingled with the burning wood.
The stranger wondered how the others endured the burns, and asked if the fire hurt them as badly. They all carefully, thoughtfully, one might even say lovingly inspected the sojourner’s wounds. They compared it to other revelers, consulted with each other and concluded that the injury was minimal. The sojourner loved them for their care and concern and trusted their assessment. The pain afforded the stranger admission into the group, and the group was so, so good and welcoming and fun that the draw to be with them far outweighed the pain. The stranger stayed, the blisters did eventually scab over, the scars were reminders, as much as anything else, of the great stoking and eternal flames. The healing was slow but came in time so the stranger stayed with them, around the fire, watching and waiting for the next stoking.
As time drew near for another stoking, and always and ever with this band there would be a stoking, for the fire could never die, the sojourner knew this time what to do to participate. The stranger loved the band of revelers very much and enjoyed their company so much more than lonely wilderness travels and so foolishly hoped that maybe this time it wouldn’t hurt so bad. Maybe the scars from before had somehow strengthened or shielded the skin. Maybe the revelers had another way for sensitive souls to participate, or a magical elixir that could keep the burns from blistering, maybe the burning didn’t have to be so bad. The gathering began, the stoking was near and the stranger’s anxiety rose; but the wilderness was cold so flesh was again plunged into the fire as the men roared and women cheered and the earth resounded in triumph.
The blisters this time festered and infection set in deep. Not everyone had this trouble with the fire, and the stranger’s sensitivity perplexed everyone. Some arms passed through like a hand over a candle flame without so much as even singe mark of black, they were perfectly content to play their part in the procession. Others licked their wounds but recovered quickly, or at least seemed to. Not so much for the strange sojourner, the pain was devastating and was causing quite an uproar within the once merry band. The revelry, comradery and company couldn’t quite sooth the stranger’ pain and dimmed the glory of the stoking. The healing scars that time didn’t remind anyone of a glorious tradition nor help to honor those who kept the flame alive with the stoking, they only reminded everyone of the awkward, awful pain of the stranger. The stranger, aware of the bands efforts at inclusion, looked long at the scars and pondered the fire, the wilderness, the sacred ritual and all those sorts of philosophical musings that occur in the midst of pain and confusion.
They stoked again, the sojourner burned again but that time with pain fresh and furious, the sojourner retreated knowing the new festering blisters, over too many scars were the last that could be endured. The pain was too great but the stranger has come to truly love the group, and yet couldn’t continue to burn. So the stranger sat at the edge of the camp, on the precipice of a decision, exposed and vulnerable and utterly alone, knowing without a doubt that something must change.
And that is the story of the stoking and the stranger.
My first drink was either a fuzzy navel or Black Velvet and Coke. Say what you will about the Canadian whiskey, it did the trick and got me wasted. I was barely a teen. I graduated on to harder things that occupied most of my time and attention for the rest of my teen years… Then I met Jesus. Say what you will about the Middle Eastern Savior, He did the trick, got me saved and washed me clean!
My life was new, I was born again, and I really took that to heart! I embraced being clean, and church and the word of God and life without drugs. I didn’t drink for about a year after that divine deliverance from drugs, but then added alcohol back. There was no out-of-control binge; like all of the little foxes in life, it crept in a little at a time. Mike’s hard lemonades with family barbecues. Raspberry Smirnoff Ice while camping in the summer. When it was cold I loved hot cocoa and peppermint schnapps. And I lived there for years. I don’t think it was an issue. I could ask my kids, but I’d be scared of their answer and I could ask my ex, but he wouldn’t answer anyway.
Then wine. It tasted disgusting, but it was a whole lot cheaper and “healthier” than those sugar laden Smirnoff’s so… I embraced the bottle, for my heart’s sake when I started to focus on my health and fitness in 2008 after my grandpa died. Concerned, because of my addictive nature and past I did fervent research (all online of course) to find out what was an ‘acceptable’ amount to drink and for years made sure I didn’t exceed the acceptable limit… most of the time. But somewhere along the way the rules disappeared. It was a bottle every two nights and then she who budgeted and shopped fastidiously would magically need something at the store every other day and a full bottle of Merlot would fall into the basket too.
I can’t remember when, in the course of life, I had the talk with my ex, but I do distinctly remember where. We were walking west toward the street in front of an elementary school near our house and I told him I was concerned I may be drinking too much alcohol. I cannot remember anything more about the walk or the conversation. I remember when we moved from Snohomish County to wine country how surprised I was that so much of the culture here includes a drink with everything… well maybe not all Bible studies, but some of them for sure. I loosened up, maybe I was just being too hard on myself.
Then I got stupid drunk the spring break of 2012. My adopted daughter, Matea, was lost to me and my best dog ever was dead and I was fiery mad at God. I got drunk and I ran a six mile training run, mostly in the dark and somehow ended up swinging on an outdoor swing made by strong hands I don’t know anymore. He came to me, in his silent way, and tried to offer comfort. I sent him away with horrible, hurtful words, I did but didn’t mean. He left and I stumbled my way to my dog’s grave in the back yard and cried, and screamed to God, while Jeremy Riddle’s “Sweetly Broken” flooded into my ears on repeat.
I wanted my daughter back! God knew it and I knew God knew it but up to that point, I plead to God with tempered restraint. Not that night, HOW DARE YOU TAKE HER!!! WHY DID YOU EVEN BRING HER TO ME IF SHE WAS GOING TO LEAVE?! WHAT KIND OF A GOD ARE YOU? CRUEL, THAT’S WHAT YOU ARE! HAVEN’T I SERVED YOU? HAVEN’T I HONORED YOU? GIVE HER BACK!!! Then I threw up, stumbled into the house, puked some more and woke up to a hangover and humiliation that I behaved so in appropriately. I do not know if I apologized to my family, I should have. But less than two months later, that girl, that daughter lost to me, wanted to come home. It was a pivotal point in my relationship with God. Sometimes you gotta get down and dirty. And God’s the God of all Creation, He can handle it.
After that, after she was back, and I was a JAG teacher trying to be a good example to impressionable high-risk students, I analyzed my drinking and confessed to them and to my family that I thought maybe I drank too much. One of the girls in the class was inspired and quit drinking. She would mark her sober days on our white-board, and I didn’t quit drinking.
Then he left… was drinking a part of the silent reasons he left? I’ll never know. Closure would be nice, but then again, would it be? Nah, I’ll leave that stone unturned, and besides, The Leaving turned out pretty good for me anyway and I’ll leave the rest of the confession for another time...
I don’t even know how to do it … to start, I mean, because the whole thing is so complex and meandering. Like any woman’s brain, one thing leads to another, and like any neuro-divergent, the easiest path from here to there includes a jaunt over the river and through the woods, to grandmother’s house, and yeah, she’s a part of all of this too isn’t she? So, really how do I start?
My supervisor at work says the best place to start is … wait for it… at the beginning! We enforce financial child support obligations. It’s complex too, and one thing always leads through the woods and before the answer is discovered, five more questions pop up. But always she reminds me to start at the beginning. I’m not sure that works in this situation, this revealing of my not so deep, dark secret, but a confession of the one that’s right on the edge of the slippery slope where everyone can and has seen me frolic.… Yeah… the beginning is not going to work.
I’m not me right now. I know me, I know who I am, but I’m kind of lost. There are plenty of reasons why but this is where I’m at and writing has always soothed me and been a part of me and… well, I have a blog, might as well use it...
I have always considered myself an odd duck, the older I get the more I think most people think this about themselves on some level… “I am different than the rest.” So maybe I’m not as odd as I think, but I suspect I fall somewhere on the quirky side of life, because of ADHD? because of upbringing? because of my controversial artist mind? Who knows.
I also know I tend toward depression. Depression coupled with ADHD is more like a frenzied, fury of pent-up energy unsure of where to go or what to do than it is a feeble soul curled up in bed wishing the world away. The best I can describe it is like one of those mini-penny-cars from my childhood. The tiny, rubber-wheeled cars had a slot in the back where a penny could be inserted for weight. The car was spring loaded and after it was pulled back, it could be let loose. They would do wheelies and spin like crazy but never really go anywhere. Forget putting one on a track to get from A to B, or write a book, nope, just a bunch of kinetic energy turned loose for no particular reason.
I have an incredible urge to run, run far and fast, to start over, not so much to escape but to take away the burden that is me… like this… from those I love most. It does almost seem like a better idea to leave than to put them through this. I was a fun chick, I brought joy and love, now I suck the life from people. It’s not what I want to do.
I have my moments of happiness and joy, I have a divergent attention span how could I not? I can be genuinely tickled by something or caught up in passion and everything, everything seems good and right in the world. I can do my job, tell my husband good things, learn, write, help people but the car keeps pulling back and the energy has to do something and usually the frenzy isn’t pretty.
I have a new life. It’s a great life. Together my new husband, Jeremy, and I are realizing things both of us have dreamed of... but it is not what it once was. Jeremy says it’s probably part of the grief cycle, but I don’t want to grieve. I was left! Now I have this great man who loves me so wonderfully and communicates in a way I can understand, why would I want to grieve he who left me any longer or the family that once was but by now would be grown-up and different anyway?
I have lost much of my spiritual strength and fellowship. I never quite replaced the church I had in Arlington but I haven’t found a church home since I left Leavenworth in 2015… that’s a long time with no church roots. Maybe I’m picky but nothing’s been quite right. Well, Calvary Crossroads, but then I moved right when I was settling in. I tried to find something closer but nothing yet. I feel far from God. I don’t memorize like I used to and feel like I’m always on the spiritual defense. I’m exhausted, and I know I brought this on myself but I need a safe place to spiritually land.
I am terrified of being left again! I’ve never been an anxious person, but I actually have anxiety over it and fluctuate between clingy, needy and desperate and ready to pack my bags and go do it on my own so I don’t have to fear being left again.
My gramma is fading away. She’s my steady in life. I do not know life without her. She didn’t answer the phone yesterday when I called, how long until she never answers? How long until she forgets me? It’s hard enough to take care of her bills and finances but the fact that I’m doing it because she’s going away and my aunt is sick makes it so much worse.
And then there’s the thing… all of that purge above is probably just a cover for it, maybe? No, I think they’re valid reasons to be “lost,” but the thing… the thing... is really probably THE issue. But I guess I have another week to prepare to go there, because I’ve used up all my words for this post...