When I am angry, sad or losing it…

I think of what to say around dinnertime after you are long gone. OHHH And it is good. My comebacks and witty retorts are so good. And I ruminate on my marinating thoughts of what I should have said. My stewing gets me nowhere.

Sooooooo,

*I take a bath.

*I light candles with names like lavender dream, stress relief and clean laundry.

*I tell myself something I never said P.D. pre divorce. “No more fucking negative thoughts.”

I didn’t draw this delightful kitty and I can’t find the illustrator/ creative genius.

Self care. I mean do we really have time for that. Sometimes, I refuse to do the laundry or brush my teeth before going to bed and who does that punish? I know the goal wasn’t to punish anyone but I mean my self care just means that later I’ll have to do extra chores or get a root canal. I still try self care. I guess I just struggle with the term self care because I am a lapsed Catholic who collects statues of Mary holding the Baby Jesus, and I am a long time guilt sufferer. Self care sounds selfish to my old unenlightened self and when I am down or needing self care, it is rarely my enlightened self that is doing the thinking. But when I am stuck and revolving around and around some painful happening or negative thoughts, I can say “HEY, how are we going to get out of this?”

Frida and Linus

*I pet my dogs. Or my dogs sit on top of me vying for lap time and we snuggle while I scratch their back right above the tail and their back leg goes thump thump.

*I sit in the car and listen to the rest of the podcast before turning off the radio and walking into the house.

*I get take out.

*I buy already cut up mango.

*I pop popcorn on the stove. And I melt butter.

*I write with my favorite pen.

*I listen to the women of country or folk (Dolly, Emmy Lou, Patsy, Nanci, Patty, Allison). I pull them up on Youtube or Spotify and I google the lyrics during the opening stanzas. I need to sing their words. I want to be jerked to tears or to be forced into joy by some glee. I’ve always needed lyrics to really know and love a song. I want to create a story about the terrible break up or the magical first kiss of the songwriter at the moment she birthed this little baby song. When I would get a tape or a CD, my favorite part was before I lost the accordion paper or thin square booklet of their songwriting poetry. Tell me you feel the same way. Tell me you wish you were alive when Carly Simon was married to James Taylor instead of Kim Kardashian married to Kanye.


James Taylor and Carly Simon in their New York apartment
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

*I take the dogs to the dog park. The beauty of seeing all these different creatures romp is contagious. An old Great Dane, a Pitbull rescue, a large Labradoodle, a spotted mutt rolling around in the mud while their owners/nervous parents groan.

*And this one works every time: I go to Goodwill and I buy some odd container (like a 1970’s sugar canister) and then I go to Home Depot or Ace Hardware and I buy a succulent. I get home and I make a mess with potting soil in the kitchen/ dining area. My little plant looks so adorable in it’s new home and I fawn over it, while my children give me the side eye or the occasional grin.

*I instagram.

*I water my plants and rearrange who gets closest to the sun and who needs to sit under my new ultra violet lamp. I take my fig leaf to the shower and I lovingly turn it so that all the leaves get the dust off.

*I can’t say I exercise but I do have one or two yoga poses that I do. My hip locks when I am tense – it goes out right after my jaw. I lie on the floor and rotate around so that my legs go straight up the wall as my bum is as close to the wall as possible.

My favorite yoga pose. Photo from Yoga Journal.

I am never sure if my back yard is a paradise or a dump. I could make it sound like a flowing stream with a mountain of emerald kudzu or I could call it what it is- a muddy drainage ditch with an eroding hill of Georgia clay held together by a thick tangle of weeds. *I go outside multiple times a day to walk my dogs ( Did I mention that my dogs are not angels? Linus barks like only a dog with too much Dachshund in his blood can bark, and Frida is just a bully of a puppy.) But they get me outside and it lifts me. *I purposefully look upward hoping for stars at night or a moon that is the cheshire cat grin or I hope for the good shade of blue during the day and if I’m really lucky the puffy clouds or the stretched out clouds or the pink clouds.

Clouds. So accessible and beautiful. Mim and George by our bumper stickered car.

It has been years but, we have lived close to the beach and I am a huge believer of the healing power of water and the washing away of troubles and of timing your days’ activities with the tide. The water is the place where my soul belongs but Atlanta is land locked and I am here and here is home. Upon leaving our last home near the beach, I made a conscious decision to make the clouds my tides and my waves. I trained myself religiously clinging to the mantra that I could do this. The clouds could become my water. I could heal by watching clouds. I could find solace in the coming and shifting of the sweet cotton candy and I could day dream and flourish mentally just by noticing the presence of these majestic tufts of fluff. I replaced my thick need for the inaccessible ocean, at least for the moment. I would point out to my kids the beauty of the sky opening up with the sun streaking through the deep thick clouds to beam. I pulled the kids into my mission and I insisted they join my fascination with the clouds- that we could have nature in all it’s wonder without a swim or surf in the Pacific. Most days it didn’t work. The teenagers scowled skeptically and I begged the clouds to fill our needs and ballon our deflated hearts. Slowly, I have fallen for my own Jedi mind tricks and I love the clouds. I find myself mesmerized on a car ride and I insist that the clouds have come just for me to soothe my soul and the kids chuckle mildly instead of dreading my Pollyanna talk.

Have I told you about the smell of my pillow? There are days I don’t have it or the pillowcase is nowhere to be found and going through the humps of clean to be folded laundry would be more dangerous than waking a hippo. I don’t have to have it. I don’t cry if it isn’t on my bed. But the nights when I collapse onto my side of the queen size bed and my face plummets into the lumpy lumps of too tired cotton, *I breathe in the smell of comfort and that smell lets me sink into the feeling of being mothered and nurtured. The smell is of someone taking care of me. Of everything being ok. I love my pillow with the white washed thinned with age cotton pillowcase with the pink cross-stitched flowers.

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Did you know that you can see leukemia? Leukemia actually looks like something in particular on someone’s skin. My dad has leukemia. He is most likely dying. His leg has a large (full shin length) bruise. I say bruise- but it is nothing that I’ve seen before. It is an angry purple color. The top layer of skin is dead and flaking and underneath it looks vicious and furious. The edges of the spot are a deeper purple. When my dad goes to the oncologist, Vic (his PA who is mid thirties and tall and reassuring with her smart small down low ponytail) speaks loudly (so that old people can hear her) and tells my dad that she wonders if it is getting better. But it isn’t getting better. It is much worse. Then Vic and the nurses whisper to the side and I imagine they are saying that they have never seen such a spectacular example of leukemia on the outside of someone.

I’m not angry at Vic or the nurses or the oncologist or God or god. I’m just angry in general. I lack reserves. I am operating on an empty tank. I cried the other day when Gu’s Dumplings was confused about my lunch order.

I have operated this way before- when Addy was in the hospital and when I was freshly unmarried (usually referred to as newly divorced). At these points, there is no straw that breaks the camel’s back. It is every straw that debilitates the camel because his back is already broken. I have experienced deep pain. Like you. I see your suffering and I feel it in my heart and I know intimately how hard this life can be.

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Refocus and write what to do when I am angry or how to survive when the world is falling down around me.

*Tonight, a bowl of lobster bisque helped.

*I buy flowers at the farmer’s market and I bring them home and spread them around the house. Sunflowers and dahlias and Birds of Paradise.

*I pull the weeds from between my bricks laid on my back patio. I want moss to grow. Moss between stones is a velvety delight so I go out and sit on the bricks warmed by the sun and I yank out anything not mossy.

*I write this blog.

*I fluff the cushions on my couch and rearrange my colorful pillows to hide any stains of melted chocolate or red clay from the dogs’ paws.

*I call Addy (my oldest) and ask her to take Mim (my youngest) and I crash on my bed and nap.

When Addy is working, *I crash on my bed and nap while right beside me, Mim watches Netflix on my phone and whispers that she needs popcorn or water.

I sometimes, wish I drank. Alcohol has soothed me many years ago. I found that it numbed me and I am afraid of numbing myself. I might disappear altogether if I drank. I’ve seen it happen. Drinking can make a person an altogether different person. *I eat chocolate covered pretzels from Trader Joe’s and that can be numbing, too.

I promised myself that even though I am overweight, this blog will not be about that. Other people write about weight, acceptance, diet, nutrition, and fat. That is not this blog. If a fat actress is on a tv show- then the plot is always about the fat and people accepting her for who she is on the inside regardless of her weight or she finds love even though she is fat. But I hate that story line. What if there was a fat actress and the plot was about her and her St. Bernard rescuing a devilishly handsome George Clooney in a snow storm and then moving to Hawaii and being next door neighbors with Meryl Streep or Dolly Parton. Just because I am overweight- I don’t have to write about issues of weight. Some women disagree. Many skinny women can only talk about weight with me- Maybe they do it with all their friends. IDK. Some women get together for lunch and talk about what they are eating, should not be eating and how they are going to exercise all afternoon for the whole entire lunch. I choose to talk about other things.

Basically, I piddle. Piddling is roaming one’s house or yard or thrift store or the world and only doing the things one feels like doing. Like, I don’t exercise, I do one yoga pose. Or I don’t clean but I fluff the couch cushions. Or I don’t paint a masterpiece, but I paint a couple of pumpkins. Piddling involves no commitment. No deadline. No pressure. No clean up. No babysitter. It can be picked up and put down at the drop of a hat. It can be done when a free Saturday presents itself or when Mim wanders over to the neighbor’s.

Piddling is the hygge of the Southern Woman. It is the self care of the accomplished feminist.

Image by Stacie Swift.

It is the soothing of a tired mama. It is my version of therapy. Protection from the harshness. Piddling allows me to find a tiny bit of strength inside myself to face the pain- which today- is my dad’s spirit inching closer to another world.

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