Some things you carry with you without even knowing it. These can be good things and these can be bad things. I just realized one of the good things I carry with me, and that is a love of watching pelicans fly and, more importantly, dive. I love the way they soar just above the water, their wings pulsing effortlessly. I love the way they hook it around when they think they’ve spotted something worthwhile in the water below, and I love the way they dive, just like that. You don’t get any hint or indication just before the dive, it just happens. Then, for just a second, their big outstretched wings bob on the water and their head is submerged and you think for sure the entire pelican must have broken but then it rights itself, gathers its wings in close and takes off again. I remember first seeing this when I lived in Oakland. I would sit by Lake Merritt and watch the pelicans dive and it was so soothing. So enjoyable. I remember a kind and motherly co-worker asking me what sorts of things I enjoyed doing and I said I love to watch pelicans dive. She asked what else. When I’m done doing that, what else do I like to do. I told her I could watch that for hours. She told me it sounded like depression. I thought, “Depression!? Oh no!” And I’ve thought about that over the years. Was that depression? I don’t know. Maybe. But it was fascinating to me. And now, nearly 20 years later I sit watching it happen again – soar, spot, dive, fly, soar, spot, dive, fly – over and over again. Every time the pelicans dive they look broken, and every time, they get right back up, and sometimes they have a little something they got out of the dive. I could still sit and watch this for hours. Maybe that’s depression, but it sounds a lot like hope to me.
Yesterday I sat down to write and everything that showed up on the page was pure ugly. I know I’m trying to be all about revealing and accepting our imperfections, but this was too much even for me to take. My mind was filled with images of fleeing Syrians, thousands of children in the US alone stuck in the foster care system, adults suffering with childhood and lifelong traumas who end up homeless and addicted being referred to as “vermin” and “parasites”, which is something I recently encountered. These things break my heart on a good day, but yesterday was apparently not a good day. I felt trapped and useless and made a plan to run home from work, grab my passport and hop the next flight to Turkey. My plan was to make my way, somehow, to that place where there is a hole in a fence that thousands of Syrians were stuffing themselves through in hopes that they would, at a minimum, survive. I really really wanted to do this. But I realized that while I certainly could do this, it might not be the most effective means of helping these people.
So then I realized I had finally found my calling in life. I am to be an international aid worker. After work I went home and asked George if he would live in Monrovia. “No. And I’d prefer that you didn’t either,” he said. South Sudan? “No.” I said “whatever, but I can’t stay in Auburn forever! I’ve done nothing with my life! I have so much to offer and I’m totally useless!” It may surprise you to hear that I did not then fall into a tantrum that even Scarlett O’Hara would be embarrassed to witness, instead I went into the office and plugged “how do I become an international aid worker” into the Google. The news was not good.
According to multiple websites it is nearly impossible to “land” one of these positions without an advanced degree. I don’t have one, but let’s back up…“land” one of these positions? Yes. That’s right. Apparently people are clamoring to leave their creature comforts behind and head out to unforgiving lands where unthinkable atrocities are happening in order to lend a helping hand. Most of these positions start out as volunteer positions, which is what I assumed I would do, but even the volunteer slots are given to people with a Master’s or above. Since I’m not going back to school to get a Master’s I changed my course.
It seems the United Nations is hiring Public Information Officers, one for its holocaust education program and one for its slavery education program. These positions are both based in New York City, which is where I suspect I will end up again at some point, at least for a couple of years. Perfect! I’m certain a 44 year old with a degree in English (the only language she speaks) from a state university will be a strong candidate for employment at the United Nations. There can’t be many folks who want to work there, right? I hollered to George that I would be applying for these jobs and that if I get one, I’m going. He said, “Okay.”
Is it clear so far that my evening involved a bit of mania? It wasn’t just the career change that consumed me. George made a pot roast it in the Le Creuset French oven that had belonged to Kelly, who was a vegetarian, and I was plagued with guilt over that. She would not approve of cooking meat in her cherished pot. Also, I decided that although we did everything we possibly could to find the owners of the little Chihuahua we found on the side of the road over Fourth of July weekend in Merced and nobody responded, I should return to Merced and put up posters in neighborhoods nearest the location where we found her letting people know we found this little black Chihuahua on July 5th and while we would not be returning her, we wanted her former owners to know that she is safe. George informed me that that would be just plain cruel. I was in my pajamas by 5pm too. I climbed into bed around 9pm and by 9pm and 23 seconds I was passed out.
I slept until 7:30am. That’s a lot of sleep, and, as I made my way out of the fog of a long, deep sleep, I realized I hadn’t really gotten much sleep this week and…wait a minute! Is it possible I’m not crazy or manic or useless after all?! Why yes it is possible. The fact is, I was exhausted. And now I am not.
So today I have a new plan. I’ll sign up to donate $25 per month to help Syrian refugees (during my research I found a great organization to support), and I’ll look into becoming a Court Appointed Special Advocate for local foster youth or volunteering with the Placer Adult Literacy Council, and I’ll smile and wave at the homeless people in our area, and maybe bring them a sandwich now and again. And I’ll try to remember that when I feel tired, I should go to bed.
Here is something I wrote during what my spouse would refer to as one of my “dark” moments. I have these sometimes. These are moments when I’ve gone from seeing red to seeing black and things that seem completely insignificant become mammoth issues. It’s not uncommon that in these moments something as seemingly benign as dropping a pen or realizing I need to shave my armpits can feel like the end of me. I simply do not believe I have the wherewithal to pick a pen up off the floor or run a razor over my underarms. Experiencing these moments at home is fine, the worst that happens is that my husband will move quietly out of the room (the best that happens is he gives me a hug, which helps tremendously). However, when these moments come on outside the home, things get a little dicey. Fortunately I’m not actually insane so a sneer or a snarky comment directed at an unsuspecting (I won’t say undeserving. They usually deserve it.) stranger is about the worst that happens. But then last last October something a little different came out of one of these moments – a song. I think technically it’s a poem (or rhyming rant) since there is no melody to go along with it, other than the chorus, which a dear friend put to song after a few beers. Regardless of what it is, I liked it. It made me feel good to pull out a pen and watch this appear on the pages. Then I read it over and it made me laugh and it calmed me down and I found that I felt much better. The dark had grown a few shades lighter and I’m pretty sure that’s what counts. I make much better choices, and sneer far less, when I feel lighter.
Don’t Set Your Drink On My Table
This may be somewhat confusing
The title of this song I mean
“Don’t set your drink on my table”
Do you think you can picture the scene?
The truth is I’m tired of sneering
My verbal attacks
I just want to roll with the punches
I want Sweet Leah back
But you came in and sat down too close to me
Though you are on a separate seat
You with your extra-long skirt, long hair, swept up in a felt cap so neat
You and your companion talk easily
You seem to have things you think matter
While I sit here and fume at your drink on my table
My anger, my ass getting fatter
So don’t set your drink on my table
Right now this is my only place
And with all the hatred and heartlessness
I need to control this space
You’ve removed your drink from my table
You must have gotten my drift
When I slid my unread newspaper close, so close your drink almost tipped
Let’s look out at the hatred and heartlessness
And now let’s look in on mine
When everything just pisses me off like this I feel like a sharp razor line
Nothing I think seems to matter
Nothing I feel seems real
It leaves me confused, wandering free, in a world that cannot seem to heal
When I feel the thump of your plastic cup touching down once again in my space
And then hear you sucking on your green plastic straw, why does it quicken my pace?
It can’t really be a real problem
With all that is thrown in our face
But you set your drink on my table
And it was simply too much to take
Where are you? I’m at this restaurant, the one where we ate breakfast that day you called. You were feeling down so we came here for breakfast. I got the Mornin’ Burger because I knew you would roll your eyes at the fact that it had a fried egg on it. I’m here now. I’m not getting the Mornin’ Burger. Without you here there’s no point. Again I ask, where are you? Why aren’t you sitting across from me, with that pained look in your (BEAUTIFUL) eyes, but laughing anyway? You have no idea how much I miss you, and that’s my fault. You drove me absolutely mad sometimes, but in addition to that you were an amazing big sister. And you loved me, so much, something I am only just now seeing and feeling. Is there anything more heartbreaking than feeling love from someone after they are gone? And I don’t just mean after they are no longer in your life, I mean after they are dead. Unrequited love on steroids, you might have said. It’s just over the line of what I can handle. But I don’t really have a choice do I? You would get a good laugh out of the fact that I thought it was a good idea to leave work in tears and come to this restaurant, where I am literally blowing through a stack of napkins. The waitress is pretending not to notice my snotty nose and glistening eyes but she is incredibly gentle and quiet about things like pouring water and setting my coffee on the table and brining me more napkins. But who knows, she may be totally grossed out that I plan to eat an omelette through tears.
I miss you, so much. But what’s worse is I love you so much, so much more than you knew and so much more than I knew, it was buried under all the other crap we let rise to the surface for so many years. I try so hard every day to figure out how I can let you know how much Ioved you but I am at a loss.