Thursday, March 31, 2005

She Has Gone

The first headline to hit my eyes this morning was "Terri Shiavo’s Sad Story Ends." The words "Thank God" involuntarily escaped from my lips. Now that poor girl can stop being yanked back and forth like a broken rag doll between her husband and the courts, and her parents and the politicians. Unfortunately, with Michael Shiavo promising an autopsy on his wife’s long-suffering body, to disprove allegations that he physically abused her into her "persistent vegetative state," I’m afraid this story has not quite come to the end of its fifteen minutes. More’s the pity.

Unlike other political/media circuses of recent years—the Clinton-Monica debacle, the OJ trial, Princess Diana’s death---the Terri Shiavo drama brought some very important issues into the foreground of American consciousness. Issues that will probably touch every family in some way, some day. Unfortunately, our media, our government, the crowds of shrill demonstrators, and even the principles involved, proved that they had no idea how to handle such important issues with the gravity, diplomacy, and thoughfulness they demand. What does this say about us as a society?

Bon voyage, Mrs. Shiavo. I hope that what awaits you on the other side is all the more special for the incredibly long road you traveled to get there.


My good friend Jackie, of Pixels, Politics, Posies, and Pussycats, (and my real life)   makes more sense of this than I have in her post today.  It's very much worth reading...

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Ten Things...

Lately, some journal writers have been terribly concerned about what their writing has revealed about them.  Whether it has painted a picture of the real person, or only shown one, perhaps not too beautiful, aspect of that person.  I think sometimes my writing paints me as melancholy and "holier than thou."  Though there is a certain amount of truth in this, there is a little more to me than that.  So just to prove that there are aspects of my life with which I am content, I thought I would compose this list of 

Ten Things For Which I Am Eternally Grateful

  1. …that cat puke doesn’t share the olfactory characteristics of human puke, or I would be spending a lot of my time with my head in the toilet.
  2. …that way back in 1981, husband and I had the incredible wisdom to purchase a brand spanking new SR5 Toyota pick-up, which continues to spring to life the minute (almost) you turn the key in the ignition. It looks like hell, but it will never die. That truck will probably transport us to our fiftieth wedding anniversary party.
  3. …that in the fifth house we’ve owned in our married life, I finally struck paydirt, and got my 330-sqare foot master bedroom with a fireplace and a walk-in closet. Notwithstanding the fact that it has become the repository for every piece of furniture that didn’t fit anywhere else in the house, and appears to have been decorated with Antiques Road Show rejects.
  4. …for the set of Corning Ware I received as a wedding gift, of which I still have most of the pieces, and which I still use almost daily. It is totally seventies mushroom print, but short of taking it outside and smashing it on the driveway, I haven’t figured out how to kill it so I could buy something more twenty-first century. So the venerable old mushrooms faithfully ferry my eggbeaters into the microwave every morning.
  5. …for pellet stove "technology," that gives me a warm, cheery, flickering fire without dirt, spiders, mildew, and the general mess of dealing with wood. Not to mention the early morning calisthenics of hacking into the woodpile to turn huge chunks of tree trunks into something fit to use as firewood. Now, all I have to do is rip open a bag of rabbit pellets, pour them in the hopper, and hit the "on" button. Instant fire. Does it get any better than that?
  6. …that I live in the most beautiful state in the country. One hour from the incredible Oregon coast on one side, and the "ring of fire" on the other. Sunsets, pyrotechnics, soaring eagles, snow in summer, paddle-wheel riverboats, dawns, ice cold trout pulled from ice cold water, hermit crabs, dogs on endless beaches, rolling hills upholstered with acres of grapevines, hundred-foot waterfalls, the world’s largest *name the tree*, hummingbirds, rose gardens, sandhill cranes and whistling swans, rain forest and high desert, and on and on and on…
  7. …music. Symphonies, "mid-century" oldies, new age classical, big band swing, Broadway or Hollywood musicals, native American flute… I don’t believe the minds and hands of mere humans are responsible for the glory of music. It is the one nearly undeniable proof of a Great Spirit.
  8. …that television remote controls include a "mute" button. And an "off" button.
  9. …that somewhere, somehow, in some long ago, far away desert dwelling, some human being looked into the beautiful, inscrutable eyes of a cat, and felt compelled to extend that marvelous animal the hospitality of sharing his abode.
  10. …that thirty years ago, less a couple of months, a nineteen-year-old mustachioed, mutton-chopped hottie with aviator glasses and long straight brown bangs hanging over one eye, sauntered up to me and handed me those spectacles, saying, "Hold these for me, will ya?" before bravely (drunkenly?) sallying forth onto the volleyball court at a K-Mart company picnic at Fort Sheridan, Illinois… And all that came after.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

The Path

I took this picture two weeks ago when we took a long weekend trip to the coast. I was enchanted with the path, and I’ve been particularly fond of the picture. I thought it was just something about the composition, the light and shadow, the lines, that drew me in; things that my artist’s eye finds pleasing, but that I couldn’t explain in technicalities if you paid me. I like the picture so much that I’ve made it my wallpaper on my computer desktop. Giving me the opportunity to look into it every day, many times a day.

On Friday, I posted an entry in my private journal that spoke of my current state of being somehow separated from the rest of the world. As I will often do, I’ve gone back and read that entry several times… And in my mind, a connection began to develop between the words and the picture. And I realized that this is what has drawn me again and again to the photograph.
The general theme of my life has always been one of separateness. For whatever reason…probably just because I was born that way…I have lived, and have been content to live, 75% of my life inside my own head. People have come into my life, visited for awhile, and gone away. Rarely large groups of people, but ones and twos. And I have been happy to have them, while they stay. I haven’t driven them away…at least not intentionally. Obviously there must be something that I’m doing, or not doing, that makes people lose interest and move on. Probably it’s the very fact that I DO live 75% inside my own head. But I can’t seem to help that…
So now I’m mostly alone. As isolated as I’ve ever been. And likely to stay that way, with no school or job or social outlets in which to cultivate new relationships. The husband, of course, is still hanging in there, and thank God for that. But, the funny thing is, while I feel odd spending so much time alone, I’m not nearly as unhappy as I would expect to be. I worry that my life is a little unfocused and a tad superfluous at the moment. I’m not accomplishing anything, or really even staying busy. And I’m mindful that my days are getting shorter, and I hate to think that I’m not living them to the fullest. But, I don’t know…I don’t hate my life. I know I need something, but I’m not desperate for it…at least, not most of the time. I almost feel as if I’m in a lull just before something really big is going to happen. Like I should take advantage of this time of peace and solitude because it’s not going to last too much longer. I’m even starting to lean toward not feeling so guilty about not doing anything. I worked my ass off for a lot of years. Maybe I deserve this time of freedom. I’m not hurting anybody. We’re not going broke…and I don’t feel guilty having the husband work while I do not. He would be lost without a job. He’s doing what he wants, and I’m doing…well, not what I want, necessarily; but maybe what I need."

There is a quality to this "separateness" that does not feel melancholy or forlorn. It feels more like a peaceful, solitary walk, surrounded, sheltered in a lovely tunnel. A tunnel that shows me glimpses of unimaginable beauty to the right and left, but keeps me walking forward to the real prize that awaits. I am completely free to stop and look at the views along the way, but I have the sense that these are only tastes of the reward at the end. If you’ve read my sidebar, you know I’m not speaking of heaven or some glorious eternity. As an agnostic, I have no opinion on these things…I neither believe, nor disbelieve. No…what’s ahead for me is in this life, and it’s good and beautiful. And I will get there if I just keep walking.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

As The Circus Drags On....


The right wing has adopted a philosophy over the last score of years or so: If something doesn’t go your way, you stand a pretty good chance of changing the outcome if you just keep pounding away at it, bullying and threatening, until the other side either tires of the fight and gives up, or lets down its guard enough for you to ram home the fatal blow. Respect for opposing opinions, the will of the majority, or even the rule of law has no place in their agenda. If an election, a court ruling, or a board decision doesn’t go their way, they believe they have the right, indeed, the duty, to use any means—legal or not—to reverse it. They invoke the law and government when it suits them, and subvert it when it doesn’t.

As the Republican Party has cozied up to the right, it has adopted the same philosophy. And it has served them well. They hounded Bill Clinton’s presidency to death. They changed the outcome of the 2000 presidential election. They nearly ruined John Kerry during the 2004 election with their determination to turn his record of Viet Nam heroism against him. Is it any wonder that they now believe they hold the Godlike powers of life and death in their own hands?

The judicial branch fell into bed with Republican interests once before—in the debacle following the 2000 election. So you can’t really blame right wing Republicans for believing that the courts were now their own personal little lap-dog. Unfortunately for the GOP, it looks like the nation’s courts are working to disabuse them of this notion. Republicans seem to have failed to take into account how jealous each branch of government is of their own set of powers, and woe be to the branch that steps over the line to trample upon the powers of another. The courts, for the most part, understand what their job is, and they don’t take too kindly to the legislative and executive branches trying to exert, shall we say, "undue influence" upon how they do their job. It is to be hoped that they will remain steadfast in their dedication to do their duty as the Constitution of this country has charged them to do it. If they waver, this country is indeed doomed. We should be grateful that there is a body of our government that is charged with protecting our interests without regard to whether they will be re-elected for another term. Leaving politics, to the extent that they can, out of the picture. Yes, there are right-leaning judges, and left-leaning judges, and corrupt judges. But, for the most part, I believe our judicial branch takes its mission very seriously, and strives to make impartial decisions based on the law and the Constitution, and not on current political imperatives.

As such, the courts are remaining consistent in their rulings on the Terri Shiavo case. For the decade that this litigation has been dragging on, the courts have consistently sided with Michael Shiavo. They don’t appear inclined to do otherwise, though Terri Shiavo’s parents are coming up with more and more outrageous points to argue for keeping her alive. Including that allowing her to die would be a mortal sin, and would put her immortal soul in jeopardy. How could they possibly believe that a federal court would touch that issue with a ten-foot pole? I feel sorry for them, I really do. They obviously cannot accept their daughter’s fate and move on. They keep claiming that the doctors are wrong, she’s NOT in a "persistent vegetative state," and that she could "get better" with therapy. They have not accepted, even after fifteen years, that she is what she is, and if they keep her alive, she will be what she is until she dies. If they win, and the feeding tube is reinserted, are they then going to take her home and care for her? Have they got an army of practitioners waiting in the wings to start this miracle therapy that is going to make their daughter better? Are they going to take full responsibility for her? Or are they going to polish up their moral victory and put it in a prominent place on the mantel, while their daughter stays where she is, as she is, on the state’s dime?

And what about the husband? He’s been fighting for her "right to die" for longer than he must have known her as a living, vital, loving partner. At what point do you say, "Honey, I tried my best to do what I thought you would want, but it’s time to let it go. I’m still a young man, and I have to get on with my life." I just can’t help but believe that the fight has become about the fight, and not in any way about what is, was or will be best for Terri Shiavo.

So the struggle rages on, while Ms. Shiavo lingers in a Florida nursing home, her "right to die" being protected, at least temporarily, by our nation’s courts. An advocate for the parents, stationed outside, told reporters, "This is not death with dignity. If Terri were an animal, she would not have to endure this." Very true. If she were an animal, she would have been "put out of her misery" years ago. No, Reverend, do not ask that we treat each other as well as we treat animals, if your stand is that human life must be retained at any cost…

How this must be torturing the right wing faithful! Not Terry Shiavo’s imminent death…but the fact that their tried and true method of politicizing personal tragedy, threatening and beating up politicians, and trampling all over everyone’s rights but their own, has not brought them victory. This will be a new experience for them, to be sure. A lesson maybe they have needed to learn for a long, long time.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Monday, March 21, 2005

Thoughts on The Terri Shiavo Case

What a nightmare this Terri Shiavo case has become! It’s a sad commentary on the state of moral values in this country, that a matter so private and excruciating to a single family in Florida should become a political football and media circus of epic proportions. Powerful right-wing politicians, including Governor Jeb Bush of Florida, who slight-of-handed his brother to his first term in the White House, and ethics-violations plagued House Republican leader Tom Delay, have wrapped their fists around this case as if it was the staff of Moses. Just one more outstanding example of their ongoing attempt to redefine our country’s morality. Their definition of this being that as long as you stand behind the pulpit, shake your fist and shout the right words about the "big" cases, you have the public’s tacit permission to keep your other hand planted firmly in the cookie jar.

This is the extent of my "political" opinion on this issue: I have always found it so interesting that the people who shout the loudest and longest against abortion, euthanasia and the right to die, are also the ones who want to turn a blind eye to torture being used as a means to National Security, and stand firmly behind the use of the death penalty. And they never seem to see the hypocrisy of their views. Either you value human life above all else, or you don’t. Valuing some narrowly defined lives as sacred, and others as expendable ("All animals are created equal…but some are more equal than others…) is a shameful and indefensible code.

My problem is, I have a hard time looking at the Shiavo case purely as a political circus. There are so many aspects of this situation that strike me as just being immeasurably sad. The state of medical knowledge in the world today has placed a horrendous burden on the shoulders of the human race. We know how to prolong life way beyond our ability to deal with it. Medical science now has the capacity to put people into a prolonged state of being neither alive nor dead, and humanity does not have the emotional or moral fortitude to know what to DO with these people that have been consigned to this limbo. We have been given just enough "power" over life and death to make ourselves miserable. How many of us have been, or will be, in the position where doctors will come to us and say that our loved one’s life is, for all intents and purposes, over; and now if we would just sign here, they will take away the "artificial" means of keeping her alive and "allow" her to die? I was involved in this very harrowing scenario ten years ago when my sister died.

In early 1995, my oldest sister, who had been suffering with Rheumatoid Arthritis for a decade or more, began the decline that led to her death in May of that year. I spent the last nine weeks of her life back home in Illinois, trying to help her family deal with the ever-worsening, ever more frustrating and desperate situation. I finally began a journal to keep myself sane through the experience. I had waited until it was almost too late to write down my feelings…she died three days after I penned the first sentence in that blue spiral notebook. But I wrote this the day she died. I think it sums up my feelings about the Shiavo case:

4:30 pm 5/17: So now we are given no more hope. The decisions have all boiled down to whether we should help her die—take her off all "heroic" medications. I just want to cry out—"WHY???" Why did this have to drag on for two long months… Her last days stretched into months; her last hours into weeks; her last minutes into hours. It seems like nothing but pure torture. Who is it that wants to see how long we can all suffer? I don’t understand. I’ll NEVER understand…

…I suppose modern medicine saves or prolongs lives that otherwise would not endure. But how many more deaths does it make completely unbearable? How many families suffer the torture of having to make decisions that we would never have to make if it wasn’t for medicine which prolongs life at any cost? I hate it. I hate it. And if ever the decision is mine to make for another human at any point, I will never allow it to come to this… Don’t we suffer enough when a loved one dies? Do we have to have decisions of such magnitude thrust upon us to make the situation that much more horrible?"

A little more than five hours later, the decisions had been made, the "heroic" meds had been turned off, and my sister was gone. Five hours that felt like a lifetime. Filled with agony that was almost too much for any of us to bear.

And so, I look at this Terri Shiavo battle thathas been going on for more than a decade and I can only think, What kind of people are these, that they can stand to wage this horrific tug of war for fifteen years? Why in the name of God can’t one side bend to the will of the other just to end the pain? I don’t think there’s a good guy and a bad guy in this. Both sides have prolonged the fight beyond all reason. Each side trying to heap blame and accusations on the other. And all the judges, congressmen, governors, and presidents that have waded into the fray, appear as monstrously inhuman as the family--both sides--is beginning to look.

Blame? Blame medical science, which can repair someone to the point that she must be plugged to some kind of artificial umbilicus to keep her alive, but has not the heart nor the humanity to judge whether it should. They plug a body into that artificial support, and then point to it and say to the family, "This person is not really alive. Deal with it." Put the pen and clipboard into a tear-stained hand, and then get out of the line of fire. Unspeakably cruel. Again, I ask, "Who is it that wants to see how long we can all suffer?"

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Score Another One For Mr. Smith

Senate Kills All Medicaid Cuts From Budget

by Alan Fram AP

Vote Deals Embarrassing Blow to Bush, Republican Leaders

"WASHINGTON (March 17) – The Senate voted Thursday to strip all proposed Medicaid cuts from the $2.6 trillion budget for next year, killing the heart of the plan’s deficit reduction and dealing an embarrassing setback to President Bush and Republican leaders.

"The amendment, whose chief sponsor was moderate Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., was approved 52-48 after days of heavy lobbying by both sides."

Looks like Oregon’s junior senator IS a human being…

Grin and Bear It...

I really don’t feel like jigging after yesterday’s senate vote. But it is St. Paddy’s Day, so I’ll let these little guys jump around for a bit. Maybe I’ll hit the bars for some green wine or something this evening. Hmmmm…that sounds pretty nauseating, doesn’t it? But I don’t like beer…

Did anyone catch the news conference Mr. Bush held yesterday to announce the Wolfowitz appointment to the World Bank post? I’ll admit, I didn’t see the whole thing. They showed only the juiciest bits, with appropriate commentary, on "The Daily Show" last night on Comedy Central. ("The Daily Show" is the only TV news program that I watch anymore. I’d rather watch the news presented as comedy than comedy presented as news… Jon Stewart is hilarious, and for a comedian, can conduct a hell of an interview.) Bush has been in office for more than four years, and he still looks like an ass when he appears before the cameras without a written script. Why do his handlers EVER turn him loose with cameras rolling? I’ll never understand what half the voters in this country saw in this man that led them to reward him with another four years as "Tongue-Tied-In-Chief." Can you say "nuclear?" That’s more than our president can….

Though I’m disappointed with the senate vote yesterday on the Cantwell/Kerry amendment to the budget, I refuse to lose heart. That vote was VERY close. There were brave Republicans who refused to rubber-stamp bad policy just because it emanated from their own ranks. (Oregon’s Senator Gordon Smith was among these.) There was quite a flurry of internet activity the last 48 hours before the vote, and I believe in my heart that it made a difference. I think the internet can be an important tool for those of us who feel disenfranchised by the last presidential election. We are out here, in LARGE numbers, and we can use the internet to make our voices heard. Let us keep the faith, keep blogging, emailing, and signing internet petitions. The powers that be ARE reading. They have no choice.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

They Won This Round....

GOP Attaches Alaska Oil Drilling to Budget


Monday, March 14, 2005

An Example of The Republican Smoke and Mirrors Act

Go here--  for an example of exactly the kind of damage the Republcan Party is hoping to sneak through while we are all focused on the Social Security question. This is marigolds2's well-written post about the new tactic the Republicans have decided upon to push through oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  Yet another example of the Republicans' determination to enact legislation that is neither popular with nor good for the American people, but is extremely popular with and good for the oil industry, of which our esteemed president is a (s)pawn...

Thursday, March 10, 2005

The Last Word on Social Security (Maybe)

I did say that I would do some research about the Social Security issue, didn’t I? I went to the AARP website and read their take on it. I learned two things:1.)Under "privatization," system reserves would be exhausted a full 20 years sooner than if the system was left completely alone. 2.) The "transition" costs—the costs of setting up this system of private accounts—are estimated to be $2 to $3 trillion dollars. So not only would Bush’s "solution" speed Social Security toward insolvency, it will add trillions to the insane deficit that Mr. Bush doesn’t seem to feel is a problem, despite warnings from numerous economic authorities—most notably Alan Greenspan.

This is not the most extensive research I have ever done on a subject...then again, we're generally not dealing with actual facts. "Experts" are attempting to make predicitons based on numbers fifty years out that are little more than best guesses, and the outcome can be slanted in whatever direction a particular expert wishes to push public opinion.  But I think I’ll throw in my lot with the AARP. Their suggestion:

"We can strengthen Social Security by making small adjustments, just as we've done in the past. These include raising the cap on wages subject to Social Security (currently you're taxed on income up to $90,000) and investing part of the Social Security surplus in other vehicles that pay higher interest than Treasury bonds do."

Some good news has been erupting about this whole Social Security debacle. It seems that Mr. Bush is failing miserably in his attempt to trump up the "crisis" in the system, and his solution is not exactly winning hordes of converts. In fact, as the President tours the country trying to stir up fervor for his plan, it is losing ground in the polls. It seems that the more people learn about Mr. Bush’s plan the less they like it. Well, let’s be honest; they’re not actually learning about it from him. His town hall meetings, staged, as always, in front of carefully chosen crowds of Bush supporters, are more like pep rallies than informational sessions. We don’t, in fact, know what Mr. Bush’s actual plan is. We only know he’s travelling from state to state hopping up and down and trying to get his crowds whipped up into a frenzy about how broken Social Security is. To the immense credit of the American people, they are not buying it. And, as the polls show exactly how much they are not buying it, Congressional Republicans are starting to sweat.

I am of two minds about the Social Security hype. It could be that Mr. Bush is really trying to make "fixing the system" his legacy, now that he doesn’t have to worry about re-election. He might truly believe that his exalted status as "War President," with the added bonus of a Republican Congress, gives him the carte blanche to ram through any program he desires. Or, it could be that the Republican master-minds, knowing that Americans would immediately focus on any attempt to monkey with Social Security, chose this hot-button topic for the president in order to deflect attention away from the mess he has created in Iraq.  And possibly more nefarious dealings in the waning years of the Oil Baron President. Which is more likely?  Or more frightening? 

Wednesday, March 9, 2005


Last night, we were making our weekly trek up Highway 30 to our Tuesday "dinner out" destination--Bing's Chinese.  Husband was driving; as is my habit, I turned to look out the window to the east, scanning the valley and our line-up of mountain peaks for anything interesting.  And there it was!

I believe the exact (profound) words out of my mouth were, "Wow!  Look at all the s**t coming out of Mt. St. Helens!"  And then I kicked myself for not having my camera.  (This picture comes from the USGS website.)  I gotta start keeping one in every car, or something.

As far as I know, nobody felt the earthquake that was supposed to have happened before the ash plume rose.  No boom, no fireworks...just this sudden huge cloud emanating from the top of the mountain.  It was at the perfect time of day, when the sun was at the point of its descent that it highlights the eastern peaks while throwing the valley into shadow.  

And I was just as glad that the ash cloud was blowing east...   

Tuesday, March 8, 2005

Photo Walk

I took a photo walk in my own backyard on Sunday...

Friday, March 4, 2005

Moving On

I fired my sisters yesterday.
When the husband and I first made the grand leap into entrepreneurialism, we were in way over our heads, and I knew it. Back in the first couple of years, husband was an unreliable "employee." He pushed me into this thing, and then backed off and said, "Go for it." We had some rip-roaring fights about what exactly he wanted as far as involvement in this venture.
But I had always had this dream that, if I started a business, part of the motivation behind it was that it be a resource for any family member who might find herself in financial difficulty. "If you need an income, come work for me, and I’ll keep you on your feet." At the time Café de la Rue first started rolling, two of my sisters were unemployed and struggling to make ends meet. I felt good about asking them to work for me…it was kind of a symbiotic relationship. They needed money, and I needed a work force. I didn’t feel like I was going to them begging for their help.
For the first couple of years, it worked out okay. Even though our family was only firing on about two cylinders, we made it happen. Working for ten or twelve hours at a stretch, elbow to elbow in an 8’ x 20’ trailer, we were able to let go of a lot of the hurts and resentments that had cropped up after our dad passed away. We put those things on a back burner, and actually started to like each other again. I honestly don’t know if I ever would have reconciled with my sisters if we hadn’t had Café de la Rue to bring us together. For that, I am very grateful.
Of course, nothing is forever. The struggling sisters have since found new careers, and are happy and busy with their own lives. Counting on them became more and more problematic as they no longer needed the money they made working for me. I was put in the position of having to beg them to help me, and having them think nothing of backing out on me at the last minute. I don’t know, maybe they were still willing to help, out of the goodness of their hearts, but I just couldn’t be in that position. Independence has always been the holy grail for my family…when I was very young, my parents spoke reverently of how they had bought their first home all by themselves, with no help from their parents or families. That must have made a huge impression on me, because now, Isimply cannot be dependent on anyone…especially not my family.
Fortunately, the reluctant husband has decided to throw in his oar with the business. And we’ve realized that there are only one or two events that we do each year that are too busy for just the two of us, or even myself alone, to handle. And, in fact, paying sisters to stand behind the counter, just for the moral support, was not something we could afford to do any longer if we really wanted to make a go of this.
So between all of that, and some recent revelations I have had about the true state of my relationship with my sisters, I made the decision to send out this email yesterday:
…You guys all have busy lives and plenty to do, and I don't feel comfortable asking you to drop everything and come work for me anymore...

Your help during the past three years has been more than appreciated, but it's time for the little bird to fly on her own! Thanks, guys.
I hit "send," and quite unexpectedly, the tears puddled up and overflowed.

Wednesday, March 2, 2005

Gray Day

I spent my school years as a square peg. Not being bullied or rejected…but just feeling like I never fit in. My way of looking at things was different, even as a teen. I would not do the things that kids do to fit into the crowd, simply because I refused to be manipulated into doing things just to be "cool." In fact, if something was considered "In’ or "cool," it immediately lost its appeal. (I was nothing if not a control freak, even back then.) I would do what I wanted to do, not what teen society of the time dictated. Individuality was my primary objective. I wonder sometimes if I developed that zeal for individuality because I knew that I was a square peg and was never going to BE one of the crowd anyway. Making NOT fitting in my goal, turned the very thing that makes most adolescents the most miserable into a source of pride for me. Which is not to say I was not lonely. People think that loners are the way they are because they prefer it that way. There is a certain amount of truth to that…but, still, there are times when everyone needs a friend. And those of us who have fashioned ourselves into the classic "loner" persona sometimes find ourselves sadly lacking in that commodity.

After high school, I went to work instead of to college. I think I was more in need of what the workplace could offer me at the time… I found a social life outside of the stringent boundaries of high school. I found I could compete against other folks and excel (probably because most kids with my intelligence level had gone on to college…). I had always been high-energy, and a physically demanding job was something that fulfilled a need in me that school never had. I was perfectly happy to be on my feet running around like a crazy person for ten or twelve hours a day. For the first time in my life, I felt like I fit in.

Unfortunately, my chosen profession—restaurant work—turned out to be much like being a professional athlete. It’s definitely for people in their physical prime. By age thirty-five, you are pretty much too old for the game. I was lucky…I latched onto the job of my life when I was 31, and kept it until I was almost forty. But when the team puts you out to pasture, you find that there’s not much available for a forty-something ex-restaurant-manager. The industry is all about young, fresh faces. AND all about starting from the bottom and working your way up through an organization. At the age of forty, after working your butt off for twenty-two years, that doesn’t look too attractive. And you look around you at your slightly-older -than-adolescent co-workers and managers…you are old enough to be their mother. Not much prospect for a social life outside of work with these people.

So, for nearly a decade, I spun my wheels, searching for a position that would restore some of the feeling of confidence and self-esteem I had built at my "dream" job. I could not possibly count the number of jobs I had between 1994 and 2001. My husband and I would joke that wherever we traveled in Eugene or southwest Portland, we would pass people he knew, or places I had worked. But it was no joke. Coming to the realization that you are no longer wanted or needed in the world in which you have spent two decades building a place for yourself…or thinking you had…is no fun. I even tried "changing careers." I wandered briefly into the world of office work. I don’t think I could have chosen a job for which I was less suited. That took its toll as well.

Now I’ve "retired." But only because trying to find my way in the workplace was becoming too painful. It was more painful than giving up the good things that working had once offered me: social contact, a place to compete and sometimes even win, physical labor to satisfy my need to just…be busy. I have my own business now, and from time to time it provides me with what I need. But not all the time. And certainly not during the off-season months, when the specter of depression clings to the dark, wet windowpanes of a Pacific Northwest winter. The days are getting longer, and they haven’t been all that wet this year, thank heaven. But they have been lonely. And the prospects for that changing are not very good. In my mind, I know it’s up to me to "get out there" and live. But my heart is too sad, busted up, and scared to listen to a word my mind has to say.