Doctor Feel Good

I started a new job on Monday that, in my mind, was supposed to be simple and I would be finished by Friday; rip out bad sheetrock tape from several joints in a ceiling that had had a leak last year, retape the joints, hammer the nail pops, spackle, sand, spackle, sand, and paint.  Yesterday, I had to cut out a two foot rectangle of rotten crumbled sheetrock, remove all the old rusty screws from the joists, and then tediously cut a patch which, if all the measurements were correct,  I am going to install today.  Taping sheetrock in a ceiling is messy, the spackle, due obviously to gravity, often falls onto your head or face as you are preparing the joint for taping.  The tape also often gets a bubble under it, and then you have to start over.  It is messy and frequently annoying and puts me in something of a foul mood.  I still love the gratification when this type of  job is done, to look up and NOT be able to see the repair, but to get THERE is hours and hours of work away.

Where I am working this week is  next door to one of my customers who died, a man who left this earth almost two years ago, who I never called anything but “Doc.”  When I am on my ladder in this living room,  I look through the window to  the west side of his house, where I built a deck several years ago under his ever so attentive and watchful eyes.  He was long retired by the time I met him, but had made a beautiful life for his family with his work as a dentist and oral surgeon,  and had been my Dad’s customer for many years before he became mine as well.  He loved to look north, out  through his wall of glass at this shore house, at the bay and his hundreds of square feet of multi-leveled cedar decking and say, “isn’t this view wonderful?  and to think I was going to be a priest before I decided to be a dentist!”

He was, to me, Doctor Feel Good.  He greeted me with the same two hellos for years, “There she is, Miss America!” or “Good Morning beautiful.”  He never just said, “hi.”  He would say these words despite my appearance.  One morning many years ago, while I was wearing orange foul weather gear, dripping wet, and splattered with mildew and moss from pressure washing his decks, he greeted me and made me feel positively lovely when I was ANYTHING but.  Over many years, if  I was working on his block and he saw my truck, he always walked over in the afternoon to ask me if I’d like a cup of coffee, “come have a break, we made coffee.”   He paid his bills on time and never griped about the price.  Whenever he’d have me paint he’d remind me that he loved any color, “as long as it’s blue.” 

Yesterday when I was covered in dust and crumbly bits of rotten stinky sheetrock debris, and feeling pretty low, that this “little” job had turned into a bigger job than I anticipated, all I wanted was to hear his voice.  A smile and an invitation for coffee from Doc always improved my mood.  He gave really big bear hugs, and ALWAYS had a smile.  I could have used a visit with Doctor Feel Good yesterday, but just remembering how good he made me feel over all those years, turned out to be enough.

2 Hours and 37 minutes Later

…And the groceries are finally all put away.  WHAT must it be like, I asked myself this evening, while cleaning each shelf of my refrigerator with rubbing alcohol, to arrive home  after the chore of  food shopping and just simply put the groceries wherever they might fit?  As you might have guessed, I am not that kind of girl.  In fact, I am SO the opposite of that kind of girl, that it literally took me 2 hours and 37 minutes to put away the groceries.

“Oh she has a large family and shops big” you might suggest, but alas, you are mistaken.  I seem to be physically and mentally unable to just put items on shelves.  I take all of the canned goods off of the third shelf of the pantry, then I clean the shelf, then I check the expiration dates, then I take all like items and organize them on my kitchen counter with the soonest to expire items in the front.  I then go to the laundry room closet, where my father built perfectly spaced shelves, and take all canned goods out of that cupboard, and clean the shelf, and check those expiration dates, then I take the laundry room pantry  items out to the kitchen and reorganize all canned goods, thus rotating my “stock” and then I sort the items by category and finally then put the canned goods back onto the 3rd shelf.  I then proceed to do this with the first shelf, which holds the grains; rices, pastas, crackers, oatmeals, quinoa…you get it.

Before I put any of the dairy items or drinks into the refrigerator I also empty that, and clean each shelf.  Before I can put the new steak sauce, mayo, or marinades into the shelf of the door, I have to empty and clean it too.  I proceed to toss anything that is recently expired or is too empty to use when I prepare a meal.  I reorganized all my mustards tonight and discovered that I am low on horseradish, which I did not buy.  I put all the seltzers and tonic in rows, rearranged all the glazes and sauces in the door, after cleaning each of the shelves, but of course.

It’s possible that I have a mental disorder, that being that I am a total basket-case when things are not actually IN order.  I have tried in the past to simply put things away, but then I am anxious, uneasy, and rather unsettled.  I’ve come to accept that this is just another one of my quirks, much like towel and sheet folding.  Sure, I could just stuff linens into the cupboard, but then I would KNOW that they were messy and it would cause me sleeplessness and agitation.

Every once in a while I watch that show on television called ‘Hoarders’ which basically shows me people who are the complete opposite of me.  People who can’t toss things, people who just pile stuff up, people who just cram items into cupboards, or in most cases, seem to leave them strewn about the kitchen and pretty much all surfaces in their disgustingly messy chaotic houses.  I watch the show sometimes in complete disbelief, and wonder “how can somebody live like that?” but tonight, after 2 hours and 37 minutes of grocery organizing, I realized that if anybody had been here to witness my behavior, they might very well think the same thing, “how can somebody live like that?”   I imagine to some it is surely a sign of some level of obsessive compulsive disorder, a complete and utter waste of time that I could have been doing something else, anything else.   Sure, some would say, ‘oh, RStar, what a waste of your time this evening after a long hard day at work,’ but I shall go to sleep tonight knowing that there is a place for everything and everything is in its place, and that makes me feel so good, no matter how long it took…

A pinch of this and a dash of that…

So I watch Joel Osteen on most Sunday mornings now.  Yes, this frequently questioning, self-proclaimed Agnostic/Pagan-ish kind of woman is now moved, often to tears, by a thick haired southern drawled preacher man televised from Texas.  The other morning he talked about how when life seems “off” or unfair and we are on our way to big pity-parties, it is because we are focused on the one ingredient of our recipe of this life that perhaps is not right, rather than on the final product.  He gets me to thinking about the choices I have made and how the consequences of some of those choices so often left me feeling low, low, low.

I still do not see myself ever believing anything I was taught in catechism but I actually find that I am comforted each Sunday in the idea that maybe there is “something” way bigger than what I think I know, and if there is some sort of plan for me which I do not have a say in, I hope I have been a good enough human that I am deserving of a pretty nice final product.

When I think about the recipe for a “happy life” it generally includes all of what I have; parents who love me, an affectionate partner who is my best friend, a child who makes me proud, her children who adore me and light up my life every day, a beautiful house where I feel content and at home, and work that pays the bills and fulfills me.  If I could add a pinch of travel and a dash of more play time, maybe a skosh of more money and a tad less stress, I’d say here in south Jersey is a woman who has all the ingredients for a good life, a happy life.

I was blue, green actually (that monster envy is an asshole) over the last month or so, upset by things that have absolutely nothing really to do with me, and angry over things that I truly need not be riled about, and generally just feeling “wrong.”  So a few nights ago as I was drifting off to sleep I started that soul searching journey that I so cherish, trying to figure out why I was thinking what I was thinking, and feeling what I was feeling, and I came to the conclusion that all of the blue and green thoughts were pointless, that in fact, I have everything I asked of the universe last year.

A few years ago a friend turned me onto that book and dvd ‘The Secret’ which basically suggests that if we are specific about what we want in our life, and if we create that life in our thoughts, it will become our life.  After my awful year in 2011 I realized that I had not been specific enough, because in actuality, I did get exactly what I had “wished” for, so last spring I began the new recipe for what I wanted, and this time was much more specific and much less vague…I adjusted my thoughts and visions accordingly and the night before last came to the realization that it is all here…each thing/characteristic/detail that I had been longing for, and was asking of the universe, I got.  Maybe I had the recipe for a happy life all along, but was looking in the wrong cookbook,or wasn’t properly measuring my ingredients.  Regardless, I am  delighted by the result.

The truth will set you free…

“All you have to do is write one true sentence.
Write the truest sentence that you know.”
Ernest Hemingway
We all tell little white lies, every single day.  I’m fine, nothing’s wrong, I’d love to, No I don’t mind, Sure it’s okay…I imagine most of us do this without thinking that we are “lying,” rather we are thinking of the feelings of another person and deliberately making an effort to be kind.
For more than seven months now I have been living the most truthful, most authentic life, I have ever lived.  I say what I mean and I mean what I say.  I feel what I feel and make no apologies.  There are no hidden contexts in what I say and I do not hear any un-truths  from the mouth of the man I share my space with.  When I’ve got something on my mind, I get it out in the open and express myself and move on.  I started publishing my first blog years ago, not so much because of a desire to share my innermost thoughts and fears but rather because I had been journaling since I was 13 and found that I typed much faster than I could write, and the tote under my bed, overflowing with 30 years of filled blank books, was now too heavy to move.  Blogging takes up no space and does not require good penmanship.  It is part of my life now, like cleaning and laundry, my job and yard work.  It has become part of who I am, my identity; a single working girl with a blog.
Last summer I had an unexpected, ‘falling out’ I guess you could call it, with a friend that left me confused and a bit sad. I reached out the proverbial olive branch, and made an apology for whatever I had done that made her choose to no longer share a friendship with me.  She never wrote back to tell me what I had done, or neglected to do, and I accepted that she was simply done with our almost daily interaction.  One of the things that I know bothered her about me was that she believed I had a public personality and a private one; that I expressed cheerfulness and contentment on my cyber pages but was deeply flawed and hurting and totally unfulfilled in my “real” life.  She was, upon reflection over these many months, mostly right.  This woman is a voracious reader and she read me like a book.  She could often pinpoint the exact thing I was feeling or thinking even when I could not properly identify it myself.  She had great words of wisdom for me in my times of crisis, and truth be told, there were many over our years of friendship.  She had an expression that I loved, that it’s her one ride on this big blue ball and she was going to live the life she wanted on her terms.  I loved that about her; she was brave  in many ways that I was not.
I don’t know if she ever reads my blog anymore but I want her to know that the bravery I admired in her has slowly seeped into me and  grown into who I think I now am…I shared with her some of my darkest secrets over our nearly 20 years of friendship and she never judged, she always just gave me her take on it, whatever the situation was, and through her support and friendship I got rid of my last “secret” almost two years ago.  It was liberating to be out from under a cloud, and while my truth caused two people some pain, I was free of it, and relieved.  Last January when I began to see a therapist to try to sort out some of my problems and  issues I was dealing with, many of the things this professional told me, and many of the tools she provided to me, were the exact same things my friend had said and suggested over the years and didn’t cost me $75 for the hour.
If all I have to do is write the truest sentence I know, I will write this: I miss her friendship.  She was a good friend to me and I had some of the most fun times of my life with her.  I am, and continue to be a ‘work in progress,’ but I continue to close the void between my true self and my public self, a little bit more every day.  She helped me to get here, even in her absence, and I am grateful.

Merci. Thank You. Gracias. Arigatou.

I am often exceedingly difficult to be around.  I know this, not so much because I have been told it is so, but because I KNOW…so much so that I often want to escape from my own self.  

I am writing today to a special person who has shown me great kindness and deep affection despite my frequent irritability, daily obsessiveness, habitual sarcasm, and occasional unease.  I am a person who rearranges the dishwasher after he fills it.  I am a person so annoying about how the towels and sheets are folded that he does not venture to the laundry room unless it is absolutely necessary.  I am a person who puts his wine glass in the sink before it’s even empty.  I am a person who wipes down the kitchen counter seconds after his hand has lifted off of it.  I am a person who is sometimes moody and morose, yet regardless, he smiles at me and his eyes light up and I am instantly transformed into someone cheerful and uplifted.  This special person was unknown to me this time last year and now I can’t quite  imagine a year without him.  

I am a silver lining seeker, in almost all circumstances, and this special person has looked beyond my quirks, peculiarity, and flaws and finds a silver lining around me every day.  This special person has found me beautiful when I am at my least beautiful.  My house was always filled with music, but this special person has brought a different kind of song  into my life where there was an uncomfortable silence for too long.  Thank you Drummer Boy, for having the key & unlocking my heart and bringing more fullness to my life.  

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.
It turns what we have into enough, and more.
It turns  chaos to order, confusion to clarity, a house into a home,
and a stranger into a friend.”  
Je T’aime.  I Love You.  Te Quiero.  Aishite Imasu. 
Merci.  Thank You.  Gracias.  Arigatou.
Happy Valentine’s Day, R*

Where there is a will…

…there is a way.  I know this.  We ALL know this.  If we want something to happen, or something not to happen, regardless of what IT is, we have the power to create the reality that we desire.  If we want more money, we have the power to spend less and work more.  If we want more time, we have the power to wake up earlier and go to bed later.  If we want to get back into our skinny jeans, we have the power to eat better and exercise more.  If we want better grades, we have the power to watch less tv. and study more.  Everything and anything we want is within our grasp, it is all possible, but it requires deliberate changes in our behavior.  There is no magic spell, there is no magic pill, there is no magic at all, we just have to DO something different from what we did before.

If we keep doing things the way we have always done them, and repeatedly keep wishing for, or expecting some different outcome or result, well, then according to Einstein, we are insane.  I am, I have been told, an impatient person.  When I get something in my brain, regardless of what it is, I become consumed with the idea of it, and want what I want, now.  I despise the character Veruca Salt, who whines incessantly, “I want an Oompa Loompa now!” “Hey Daddy I want a golden goose”  “I don’t care how I want it now!” and yet, if I look deep into myself, it seems I am often very Veruca Salt-ish, &  we know what happened to her at the chocolate factory.

We all struggle with the battle between Wants vs. Needs.  I often find I struggle with the fact that many I know struggle far less than I.  The envious side of me is the side I loathe the most, and any self-loathing is hardly a characteristic to one’s betterment. The, “I’ll have what she’s having” a`-la When Harry Met Sally way of life.  I am well aware, painfully so at times, that this aspect of myself, the inability to just live in the now, accept what is, be happy with what is, the daily fight with simply being content, is part of my nature and behavior that I want to change.

I have and read the Eckhart Tolle and Marianne Williamson books.  I have books filled with empowering quotes.  I know the rule; be happy or be sad, the amount of energy is the same.  My freakishly strong arms have carried heavy loads and moved heavy objects, but it is my brain that presently needs a work-out, it is my mind that needs a new exercise regimen.  I am at a point in my life that I must change the way that I think.  There is no way I can continue to dance around & avoid this simple basic truth.   It is as clear a statement as that; I want to think differently about some things.  I share the dark side of myself sometimes, not to just get it off my chest, but because I know I’m not alone…I have the will and now I must find my way.

You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone…

When I was 17 years old I found out that I was now going to be a mother.  When he was 17 years old, the man I am in love with, realized he was now an orphan.  I think about how good my parents are and have been to me, at least once a day.  I imagine he often thinks about how much he wishes he had parents at all.  I often say and write about my frustration with being part of a family in which I frequently feel totally alone, as we have so little in common; mostly just that we love many of the same people, and I complain sometimes that my parents don’t really relate to me at all, that I feel always like a square purple box in a family of red round pegs.  I imagine this man I love would give anything to have a hug from his Mom or a pat on his back from his Dad.  It’s very difficult at times to have parents you love so much who just don’t “get” you, but I am sure it is not nearly as difficult, at all, as not having parents.

My mother had an awful relationship with her mother and so I have tried for all of my life to be a good daughter and do my part to make the relationship  we have as good as it can be.  She loves me unconditionally and she is, for all intents and purposes, a very good mom.  She made me so mad yesterday, one little thing and the tone of her voice and I felt my whole body tense up…but I said to myself, “let it go, we’re going out to lunch and we’ll have a nice day” and so I did my best to let it go, but as I am her daughter, the thing that made me mad sat inside me like a disease, and grew and I dwelled all day about it.

I am you see genetically predisposed to dwelling on things and over-thinking things…So I decided last night that today when I have some free time I am going to call her and tell her what I feel and how I felt and get it out in the open and clear the air.  It’s MY problem, that I feel the way I do, not HERS.  In reality, she did nothing that should have made me irritated at all,but it’s me who has the issue.  I want to continue to try to have a good and honest and open relationship with her despite our frequent clashes on just about everything because I know, deep in my soul, that the day she is dead, all I will want in the whole world is to have her irritate me, just one more time.

Needless Things

From March of 1985 until August of 1998 I worked at a gallery here at the Jersey shore that sold the most beautiful things in the world.  We called it a gallery, but it was not paintings or “art” per se, it was all American handcrafted wonderfulness; handblown glass, hand thrown decorative vessels and functional pottery, exquisite fine jewelry, inlaid wood boxes, woven scarves and throws, wrought iron lamps and sculptures, all funky and fabulous and frankly, divine.  Nothing mass produced or imported schlock, no, we sold things hand made by American artisans and took great pride in the quality of the items we loved and sold.  When I moved back to New Jersey from Maryland a year later, I started working there again part-time, not as much to supplement my income but rather to fill my soul…I know it might sound funny, but I believe retail is either in you or it’s not.  You either love the constant interaction with customers and are very good at selling them beautiful things or you are not.

I loved my customers and I was very good at my job.  I helped the owner with the buying and let me tell you, THAT is SO MUCH fun, shopping for a shop!  I did not like mean and snobby people and while there were always many in August, our “regulars” were a joy…We had people who did all of their holiday shopping with us, bought every wedding gift they ever gave from us, bought all of their jewelry from us, and any kind of decorative object they adored for their own homes from us.  I continued to work there part time on and off for years, until my boss decided to downsize and sold her big shore store and just kept her small one here on the mainland.  I worked there too, many Sundays and Mondays and on an as needed basis until just a year or so ago.

My home, this dream of mine and labor of love that I built from the ground up is filled with “needless things” as my dear friend used to call them…one-of-a-kind wonderfulness…vases, lamps, platters, sculpture, handblown glass of all sorts of shapes and sizes, and just about every piece of jewelry I own that I love and is breathtakingly beautiful, is from this store.

My boss was very much in many ways like a second mother to me.  She and I spent more time together, day in and day out, night after night in the summer during our busiest season, than I ever spent with my Mom.  She opened my eyes to so many ideas, liberal-artsy-forward thinking ideas, that I never got from my ultra conservative family.  When I decided to start college, when my daughter was a year old, she worked my schedule around my classes so I could go to school and never minded on slow days that I did my homework at the counter.  She didn’t mind on her day off if I took the entire store apart and cleaned every shelf and rearranged every display.  She helped me grow in many ways both as a single woman making her way in the world and as an employee.  When my daughter was sick she let me bring her to work so I didn’t have to lose a day’s pay.  She was a very good boss.  Tomorrow I am helping them move.  They are closing their second shop now too.  I am happy, so very happy to help, and sad, so very sad to see the end.  My friend could never remember the name of the store so he called it “Needless Things” but I can tell you I needed, very much, all of what I got from that wonderful place.

It’s not as easy as it looked on The Brady Bunch

I feel a bit today like the evil step-mother, yet I’ve neither the good fortune of  a husband nor the financial freedom of having moved into his castle.  I’m done “mothering,” as my only child is grown and a wife and mother herself.   I am not a mother to any of the children that I frequently tend to, yet find myself having to play a role that I’m not quite as good at as I thought.  It’s turning out to be more complicated than The Brady Bunch made it seem.  I don’t recall any episodes where Carol freaked out over the pajamas left on the floor or Mike being upset because Carol scolded Bobby for bickering with Cindy.  Of course, they had Alice to handle the picking-up and food preparation, and maybe Carol and Mike were having cocktails while Alice was doing yet another load of wash…I found myself irritable and agitated over the last 24 hours and I have determined that it is high time for me to try, very hard, to give up some of the “control” and just BE.

To say I am a control freak is a sort of negative term, yet it seems that there are few positive connotations associated with this description.  I always wax philosophic about compromise yet seem to be unable, or perhaps unwilling, to take my own advice I give others.  I know that my universe will not be sucked into a black hole if the loft is messy with unfolded clothes or mismatched game pieces or assorted Monster High accessories.  I KNOW that I can clean up after three little girls in only a few minutes and that EVERYTHING will be back in order in a very short time if I just do it myself, but yet I find myself raising my voice, which I am loath to do, over the same things over, and over, and over…SO WHAT?  the voice in the back of my head screams, if the toys are not exactly how YOU want them organized…maybe the girls like them like that.  SO WHAT? if some of the books are in the “wrong” section of the book case or the remote control is not exactly where you want it, or the long-sleeved shirts are mixed in with the pajamas in the sweat-suit drawer.  I know the world will not end if the undies get mixed in with the blankets or if the shirts are not folded as I would like.  I know all of this is true, and I have to find a way to stop sweating the small stuff.

I would like to think my daughter would say I was a good mother, but in retrospect, I yelled at her a lot over messes or things being out-of-place, in fact I think the only time I yelled was because of “messes” which probably in most other households would hardly be considered messes at all.  My status as a control freak is making mountains out of mole hills and nobody is better for it, least of all me.   I upset myself and everybody else in the house because I am bothered by small stuff, and yes, I know, I know, It’s all small stuff…if I could JUST BE, and realize that kids play and kids make messes and remind myself I can clean up anything, the whole “family” would be much happier.  Here’s the story, of a lovely lady, who is trying to help bring up three very  lovely girls…