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November 14, 2022

restless, or reality, or whatever

I'm feeling restless. I can't pinpoint why in my head. I'm hoping that writing it out might help me feel more 'together' or 'gathered.'

I cleaned out a storage room in the
 basement recently.
Hoping cleaning up spaces
 will help me gradually
feel more ordered.
 This artwork is by Curly.
It's an Irish dancer,
 who apparently has no
bones in her legs.
Not invincible:  I'm getting closer to the age of people who are passing away. It no longer feels like I can say "Oh, that's too bad," while feeling like the person who just passed away is so much older than me. 

Don't get me wrong, I know I'm not invincible, but I'm feeling more 'aware' of the circle of life lately. Add to that my trip to the ER a few weeks ago and my ongoing fear that the docs are missing something. 

Exhibit A:  In November 2019, Mini and I attended a literary event at my college. I bumped into my former English professor. I wasn't an English major, but I took a required English class. 

I was a business major, which is silly because I have no interest in anything pertaining to business unless you count Superbowl commercials

I was impressionable when I chose my major. I wanted to be a teacher, but a mom I babysat for, who had a big influence on me, advised me against that. She said I'd never meet a husband. My father told me I could sell ice to Eskimos. He thought I should go into business, but he really wanted me to be a nurse. Does it sound like I was raised in the 50s here? What on earth?

* Let's all imagine me instructing patients on how to start their own IV while I look away. Business major it was. 

Do you ever stop and think about the people or moments that have influenced you one way or another, and how things could've turned out differently? I mean, I do enjoy my job at times, and I'm thrilled that I stayed home with my kids, but I babysit. I'm a babysitter. (When I wanna be fancy, I say that I'm a small business owner, because I do all the communication with clients, book keeping, and marketing). Don't get me wrong, I'm good at babysitting. Do what you know, and all the rest, but when people say it doesn't really matter what you major in, well - I sort of cringe. 

In addition to choosing the wrong maor, I wasn't the most motivated and my parents weren't all that great at steering me or championing my talents, beyond the eskimo remark. They were of the mindset that I'd get married and have a family. See, 1950s. I was very happy to get married and have a family, but I do wish I'd chosen to study something that could've lead to more of a career. 

When my kids have friends over while I'm babysitting, I say:  HEY, STAY IN SCHOOL. Translation:  figure out what you want to do WHILE in school. I think nowadays with online classes, it might be easier to switch gears after graduation. Every once in a while I consider going back to get my MFA (masters in fine arts) to teach writing at a community college. Not sure if that makes any sense at this stage of the game. Would I retire a few years after I started? 

Anyway, when I ran into my old prof, I forgot that I had a nametag on. As I introduced myself to him, he sort of waved away my 'remember me' thing.

Prof:  I know who you are. I remember you.

Me:  Oh, you do?

Prof:  Yes, you were a good writer.

Well, you could've blown me over. Such a compliment all these years later. Maybe he says that to all his former students, but since this is my blog and I'm trying to feel less 'lost' we'll pretend that he DID remember me and that he DID like my writing.

With Mini at Notre Dame, I decided to reach out to Prof in hopes that he might want to meet for coffee when I was in town to tailgate, etc. I wanted to share my writing goals with him and a link to my published story from earlier this year, and ask if he had any suggestions or guidance for me.  

I emailed him before we tailgated at ND, but never heard back. Finally last week, I called the college and they put me through to the alumnae office. 

Me:  Hi. I'm trying to get in touch with Prof. I emailed him a few weeks ago, but I haven't heard back. I wonder if I have an old email or if he's retired or something. Do you have another way for me to get in touch with him?

Woman:  Oh, I'm so sorry. Prof died suddenly in July or August. 

I was stunned. Saddened. I wished I'd reached out sooner. I was hoping for guidance from him, but I also know that he was a good guy and I feel like I missed getting to know him better. Besides the fact that it sounds fun and grown up to get in touch with a former professor and reconnect, I'm sad that he's gone. I don't know how old he was, but he was not elderly by any stretch. 

Sorry to be such a Debbie Downer. It's not my normal mode, but sheesh. Additionally a man in our neighborhood passed away last week. He was 66 and apparently had a short battle with cancer. Ed played basketball with his son in high school. Coach and I used to sit and chat with he and his wife during games. 

Aging parents:  This might be the last few years that my folks will be with us to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas. Look at that, the holidays are making me feel heavy and I haven't even eaten a big meal yet. I've been blessed to have my parents for as long as I have and while my family dynamics make me nutty, it's hard to imagine life without them. 

Unwittingly enabling:  Coach and I need to address the Lad situation. He's doing fine, so much better than 2020. At the same time, he needs that push to get help. He's working, functioning to a degree, but he's crippled by the things he refuses to address. I feel like we are unwittingly enabling him. He's sort of stuck and I hate to see him miss out on all of the fun and adventures available to young 20-somethings. 

Unrelated, but more fun than a photo
of me feeling down in the dumps . . .
I found this in an old notebook.
Check out the note at the bottom.
Guessing this was Ed, but not sure. 
We need to draw up a contract, to insist on things. We fear pushing him. The way we live isn't relaxing. I mean even without getting into lots of detail - there is a dog in my house. That may not alarm those of you who are dog owners, but WE ARE NOT DOG OWNERS. Finn's been here for almost a year and a half. This doesn't feel temporary. Add exotic frogs to the mix, if you can imagine - and you have a small glimpse into my world. 

Ed has urged Lad to get help after Lad revealed to him how he's been feeling, but Ed's a senior in college and it feels like a lot to burden him with. So, we push onward. Hoping to find a way, and hoping that that way doesn't backfire.

More soon on my other theory as to why I might be a little unsettled at the moment. It rhymes with pailgate mythdrawl, which translates into a-not-quite-empty-nest issue. 

18 comments:

Nicole MacPherson said...

Oh Ernie. I really can relate to so many things here. I completely get that feeling of "wait, this is my job" - I love teaching yoga, yes, but my financial contributions to the household are minimal/ almost nonexistent. And people passing away...well, we just recently went to a funeral for a man who was 51. 51!! It's just so sad. I do think about aging parents a lot too. My MIL is 80 and the decline in her general ability to cope has been hard to see. My own parents are in good health, but we cannot count on that. Finally, it is SO hard to see your kids struggle and I know it's been a challenge for you to have Lad home with the dog. It's just so hard, because ultimately THEY have to make the decisions and changes, and we are just there as support and we honestly can't fix our kids' problems. That's what makes it so hard. Anyway, all of this is to say I hear you, I see you, I understand. xo

Suzanne said...

Ernie, this is all so relatable. And it is heavy, to carry the knowledge that nothing is permanent, not even the lives of the people we love. I feel like most of the time I'm able to embroider myself into a blanket of willful ignorance about this fact of life, but then when I'm confronted by it, everything feels so sharp-edged and precious. And yet there's nothing really to DO with that feeling; you just have to keep living your life, trying to enjoy your people as much as possible, trying to put something good into the world, derive satisfaction where you can. It's so hard, being a human.

I'm sorry about your professor. And I empathize so much with feeling like maybe you've taken the wrong path. I hope this period of melancholy and restlessness is useful to you, or passes quickly.

Ernie said...

Nicole - 51 is so young. That is my age. My kids are older, but yet still so young in so many ways. Everything is fine, we are blessed with good health. There are no guarantees though. My aging parents are doing as well as can be expected, but I'm bracing for what is to come and that is so hard.

A friend recently told me that she opted to have one of her kids go through a psychiatric evalution before she turned 18. I wish we'd had the foresight to do that with Lad. He's doing so much better and one therapist, who I reached out to a few months ago looking to see if Coach and I could schedule family counesling with Lad in order to just get him in the door, didn't have availablitily but he did say after hearing the history that he felt confident that Lad was doing as well as he is because of the stable environment that Coach and I were giving him. Our contact at NAMI suggested that we draw up a contract and insist that he seek counseling in order to continue to live here. That's where I'm at right now. I can't say that Coach is in the same place. It is frightening to think that it might push Lad away.

Thank you for the kind words. I appreciate your understanding.

Kari Wagner Hoban said...

I've been feeling down lately as well. I'm not sure if it's the time change or life in general, but I get it. Impermanence is natural, but it doesn't make things any easier. I'm sorry about your professor, but keep making goals for yourself. Having such aspirations is something there to look forward to.💕

Ernie said...

Suzanne - Life is uncertain, and I'm grateful for my strong faith because that brings me so much comfort. At the same time, I do worry. I look at my kids sometimes and I worry about how they would manage if they lost a parent. Life can be so hard.

I do wish I'd taken a different path, but if I had - maybe my income would've been something that we relied on and I wouldn't have been able to stay home with my kids. I do enjoy writing so much and I hope to continue to get some things published. Feeling some success is so gratifying.

Ally Bean said...

Speaking of majors in college you asked: Do you ever stop and think about the people or moments that have influenced you one way or another, and how things could've turned out differently?

Yes I have.

The reason I majored in English Lit in college is not because I had a compulsion to write, it was because by signing up by the end of a week I could go to England to study for a term. There was a time limit on the offer and it only happened every two years, so I jumped and impulsively declared my major.

Ernie said...

Kari - Thanks. There were a number of factors playing into my glum feelings. I've bounced back for the most part - I'm looking forward to having my 3 college kids home, which helps.

I do keep looking for connections that I can make that will maybe give me some direction with my writing. Meeting with that professor seemed like a good idea. It was a shame that I thought of it a bit too late.

Ernie said...

Ally - I love your impulsive decision to declare your major. Getting to study abroad sounds like as good a motivator as any. I'm assuming you are glad that you opted to go in that direction?

Pat Birnie said...

I'm sorry you are going through this Ernie, but as all the other commenters have indicated - we hear you. It's true that as we age, we think about our mortality more and start losing people close to us. My husband has lost 6 -- yes six-- guys from his hockey team starting about 20 years ago (he is 70 now). It is very unsettling. You are doing an important job, first that you were able to be home with your kids and also the value of having a good daycare provider is like gold to us working moms. Who knows what the future holds. Maybe it will be writing!? my husband and I made total career shifts, started two businesses and began investing in real estate when we were your age. Anything is possible. I also feel your pain with Lad. Maybe it's better that he's at home, and I agree a contract might not be a bad idea. We just came back from visiting my son who I believe has struggled with depression his entire life. He will not get help yet is really struggling right now. Is it worse that he is 3000 miles away and 32 year old? I cannot force him to do anything at all. It's such a worry for parents. Hugs

Nance said...

I'm sorry for the way that loss hit you. It was like a reminder that you can't really go back to any piece of your Old Life, and it made you start second-guessing the choices you made that got you to the Life You Have Now.

We've all been there in one way or another. It reminds me of a line in the Anna Nalick song "Breathe (2AM)"--Life's like an hourglass glued to the table.

I started teaching when I was 21--a whopping 42 years ago. In my 30+ year career, I had so many colleagues and mentors. And I've read so many of their obituaries. Each time, I've been saddened by the end of a truly valuable and giving life. I've also, however, been filled with a great deal of gratitude for having known the person and benefitted from their presence in my life. You feel the same way, surely.

Ernie said...

Pat - I agree. The mortality has always been there, but it is feeling more in-my-face recently now that I'm a bit older.

I think you are telling me that I should get into real estate, right? Wink, wink. Inside joke that you wouldn't get, but I've been trying to get Coach to see agree to this.

I do sometimes feel like that ship has sailed, but maybe I will switch careers. I appreciate you giving me that daycare-is-essential pep talk. The folks I sit for seem to all be in agreement. They all seem very happy with my care. Some are more verbal about it. I know the kids are having a blast here. I love seeing the friendships form. I have started a post about an update on how the daycare is going this year. Some parts are downright hilarious. Some, not so much. I'd love to have work friends. What would that me like?

I'm sorry that your son is struggling so much right now. Goodness, that sounds so hard. As much as I want Lad to move into his own place and do his thing, I think I would worry more if he was far away. Hugs back to you.

Ernie said...

Nance - Yes, this is part of it. It's like - wait, hold on. I can't go back there and have the conversations I want to have. A door to the past has closed. Things felt so hopeful and busy when the kids were little. There was always the next thing. Now, I'm feeling like the next things are less clear and the future is closer as oppopsed to farther away. But yet, everything is fine and good and wonderful and I really have nothing to fret about. Things feel different though.

Yes, I have that same feeling about people who are passing away. I don't have work friends, but my childhood nieghbor and good friend, Joe, died suddenly a few days before Christmas last year. He was insanely healthy and fit. That's been very hard. I miss him so much, but I consider myself one of the luckiest people just for having known him. He was like an older brother to me, but he was in his late 50s.

Ernie said...

Kara - It sure is hard getting older. I'm thrilled for you that you made that trip out for your dad's birthday. That sounds fun. I feel very fortunate to still have my parents. I just took my mom to Maeve's varsity basketball game. It was her first home game. One never knows how many of those opportuities there will be. Tank's fraternity buddy lost his dad in a car accident early in the school year. It really shook Tank up, and Coach and I as well. He was driving to the school where he was a superintendant on the first day of school. His younger son, a senior in high school at the same school, was in the car with him. They were hit by a teenage driver who crossed the center line early in the morning. So heartbreaking and senseless. Hard to wrap our brains around that.

Busy Bee Suz said...

It is so normal to feel the heaviness of life; it sometimes gets the best of us.
Suz, leans in close for a hug and says: This too shall pass.

So very sorry about the professor. What a shame to lose someone you really wanted to connect with. I love that he remembered you and complimented your writing skills. We all know he was being sincere because you are talented.

I giggled about you being a nurse but unable to do anything with a needle. HA!! It's baffling what people guided you to do or not to do...yes, it sounds like some old 50s woman's advice.

"I could do this all day, but I won't" 😜

I agree with you wholeheartedly regarding Lad. Better to get to it sooner than later. Hugs. XO



Beth Cotell said...

I feel this post on so many levels. My Dad has already passed away and mom is 79. And just in the last year she looks and acts like such a little old lady. And like you, it seems everywhere I turn, people that are my age or only a little older are dying. And my knees don't work any longer and all of a sudden I just feel like the end is near. Add in the fact that the kids are in college and no one wants to hire me (even with a BUSINESS DEGREE!) and things are just BLAH!

Ernie said...

Suz - Yes, sometimes these feelings just sneaks up on us. So unpleasant, but I do believe that this shall pass.

Aw, thanks. I wish I could remember even one paper that I wrote for him. Back in the day, we didn't have laptops where all of our things stay saved. It's been a minute since I was in college, so thememory of his class has faded.

Imagine if I'd even considered being a nurse? That would've been a shitshow - me feeling faint in the back of the class, passing out back in my room reading about the blood and the needles. My nurse capabilities were doomed.

You're the only one to mention Ed's old notebook - I died laughing. Mr. Smarty Pants who aspired to do things besides math. I can't wait to show him over Thanksgiving break. He comes home later TONIGHT. I'm a little excited.

We planned to have a sit down with Lad last night, but he has a job interview todday. We will wait until tomorrow evening. Fingers crossed. We've reached out to our friend, who is a therapist, for advice. My heart breaks for him, because I know he doesn't feel great and I so wish he'd agree to get help. It's intimidating, I imagine, and overwhelming to try to face the work that's invovled.

Ernie said...

Beth - Your comment popped up just as I was typing my reply to Suz and I feel like you just called me to chat. ;)

It's a little freaky how the uncertainty of life can sneak up on us and send us these little messages. Sorry that your mom has aged so much recently. That's not easy. My mom's memory is on a deep decline. She's lost so much weight, and yet she still wanted me to buy her a size large for her Christmas gift. I'm getting her a Wooly Bully Wear pullover. I bought one last year and she called it her 'uniform' because she wore it most days all winter. Put it on right out of the wash. At least I know what she wants.

Ugh, your job search sounds frustrating. Why won't someone hire a woman with a business degree? I thought so many places have staffing issues. I hope something opens up for you. I've often thought the library would be a lovely place to work. The women there are so nice, but I suppose that would include some evening and weeke ndhours which would be stinky. Good luck.

Anne said...

OK, I feel like I'm totally focusing on the wrong thing here, but... dude. You are 51. You should go back to school if you want! Who knows what you could do??? And if what you want to do is keep doing what you're doing - keep doing that! But don't say you shouldn't do something - whatever it is - because of your age. Please. :)