Do you ever wonder what you’re doing wrong? I do. I’ve been up since 4:30 this morning telling myself I will NOT be stressed and overwhelmed. It’s not working
So I’m going to go with it. I’m going to allow myself to be stressed and overwhelmed. I’m going to stop running away from the feeling and embrace it, drooling, like a spider with a plump licorice fly, one of those big slow sticky ones you can’t bring yourself to swat because—you know, guts!
The thing I most hate about days like this is that nothing is really wrong. There’s not a crisis. It’s just life. Everyone deals with life. My life is far, far easier than the lives of many others. Why am I such a jerk that I can’t deal effectively with a perfectly normal day? Why do I have to make such a big deal over everything? Why can’t I suck it up, stop whining, pull up my panties and put big girl socks on?
I own a little black Elantra. I bought it used, paid it off, rarely drove it in my old life because I was in a small town and walked everywhere. I kept it clean, kept it serviced and loved it.
Then I came to Maine and it became the only household car. That’s okay. My partner is a great driver and he’s reasonably neat and tidy. It’s not like having complete control of the fan, the AC and heat, the radio and the windows, but I can live my life without complete control of the car. I’m an adult. I can share.
Then my two adult sons came to Maine. They came in a U-Haul. Without a car.
Just to be clear, they’re both well over six feet tall. I’m talking about a Hyundai Elantra.
They also work at a local organic farm that raises vegetables, pork and dairy.
Now the four of us share a car.
I love my sons. I really, really do. I keep telling myself that.
The car Kleenex disappeared because one of them caught a cold. The lid to the wet wipes came off and when I unearthed them from under the seat they were all dried out. I pulled down the mirror on the passenger side to put lip balm on and the mirror was splashed with dried blood. (“I was playing with my girlfriend’s puppy, and his tooth caught my nose and ripped it, and there was blood all over and it was the only mirror I could find—sorry, Mom.”) The cloth grocery bags wound up on the floor under work boots caked with…uh…farm stuff. The back seat is covered with dirt because they had to haul potatoes from a far field back to the house. There are assorted Gatorade and plastic water bottles rolling around in every stage between full and empty. The seat and mirrors are never in the right place for me, but as I rarely get to drive anymore, I suppose it doesn’t matter.
Don’t even get me started on the issue of gas! (“There’s enough to get to town Mom. I swear to God!”)
Then, two days ago, we got a call from them at a time when they should have been safely and gainfully occupied weeding and harvesting in one of the farm’s massive gardens. You know, earning money to buy themselves a car? The front passenger wheel on the Elantra started making a terrible noise and they pulled over.
So, everyone knows the drill, right? You arrange for a tow, pick a garage or mechanic for a destination, adjust your schedule, find a ride. We did all that. Then you wait, if you’re me, with dread for the diagnosis, obsessively moving money from here to there in your head, wishing you hadn’t bought that expensive thing last week, calculating your next paycheck, figuring out where the money is going to come from and what bills can be late.
In the meantime, we all complained about all the things we were going to do in the next couple of days. What about work? What about the laundromat? What about cashing checks? What about groceries? What about my swimming day? All of a sudden, sharing a car seemed like a piece of cake when compared to having no car at all.
Then came the list of diagnoses, the bottom line dollar figure, the realization that we were half way there and might as well take care of everything that needed taken care of. It’s not as though there’s ever a good time to fix a car. Nobody ever sits on the side of the road and says, “Oh, good! This is the perfect time to have the car break down! I just happen to have a spare few hundred dollars right now!” At least no one does at my income level.
Then we waited a little while and the phone rang and it was fixed. But we couldn’t go get it because it was in the shop and we were at home.
We’re in rural Maine, so we called a local cab. (Item: On the dashboard a sign with the fare price, including “Puke charge $100. You clean it up.”) Fortunately, no one puked. We got to the shop. We wrote a check. We got the car.
All that was yesterday. So why, I ask you, was I lying in bed awake at 4:30 in the morning agonizing about it all? The car was right outside the window, parked in its spot, fixed and paid for. True, I paid for it out of my mortgage money and now I’ve no idea where the mortgage is coming from. On the other hand, the mortgage isn’t due until September 1, so there’s time, right? I’ll figure something out, or my partner will get a client, or something. Also true that the upcoming day (today) was complicated. I wanted to take my weekly swim. We all had things we needed to do, most of them involving using the car. I had this post to write, in addition to working on my book. My brother is coming to visit Friday, so I wanted to clean a little, change the sheets (hence the laundromat), etc. We all work on Friday, so today was the day to GET ORGANIZED.
Stop it, I told myself. Sleep. It’s not even light yet. We’ll figure out what everybody needs and
make a plan. It will be fine. Don’t think about the mortgage now. Stay in the moment. Breathe, dammit! RELAX. Whatever happens, you’ll get to swim. Think about that. The car is fixed. Your brother doesn’t care what the house looks like. Just think about the pool, cool, quiet, the rhythm of stroke and breathing. A locker room filled with women! Not a guy in sight. You’ll figure out what to blog about.
But what WILL I blog about? What can I write that’s intelligent, sympathetic, well thought out and interesting? I know, I’ll write about…no. No, that’s no good. My mother will read that and be hurt. Well, then, I’ll write about…no. If I write about that the kids will take it the wrong way. Oh, I’ve been wanting to talk about…mmm uh-uh. My friend will read that and she’ll feel bad.
Oh, good. Back to people pleasing, are we? You know you can’t write around that. Might as well give it up now. Hardly anybody reads the damn thing, anyway. It’s a waste of time and it’s not income producing and the car just cost $300…!!! WHAT ABOUT THE MORTGAGE? What am I going to do?
So I got up. At 7:00. And I hated myself because I wasted three hours tossing and turning when I could have gotten up and WRITTEN THIS POST.
“Honey,” said my partner, “if you feel overwhelmed, write about that. Write where you are. It’ll be brilliant.”
So we had breakfast, organized the troops, gathered up the laundry, synchronized our watches. I had a narrow window to swim in, but we reached the laundromat, got the laundry going, and my partner settled down with a book, I jumped in the car, raced joyfully to the pool, free at last, and found a sign. “Pool closed until Monday, August 22 due to construction.”
There was no Kleenex in the car, and I needed some.
It’s a beautiful afternoon. The laundry is strung on the line, waving in the breeze. My sons,
shirtless, are going lovingly over a used red (some of the red is paint instead of rust) truck they just bought, trying to figure out what it needs to pass inspection. A mechanic in town is going to look at it at 4:30. I haven’t vacuumed, cleaned the bathroom, written a word of my book or made my brother’s bed yet. I still don’t know what I’m going to do about the mortgage.
But I’ve written this post.
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