Pickles on the Floor

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Have you ever had one of those days where you think “This is it.  This is the day I’m gonna snap.”?

So…this happened.  And I had to take a picture of it.  I wanted to record the moment because I knew without a doubt that it was a critical decision point on my path to become an unshakable woman of dignity and grace.  A test of my strength and determination to not let anything sway me from my “everything is just fine” platform of pseudo-sanity.  Everything is fine.  Everything is fine  Say it again and mean it…everything is fine.

This picture captures the remnants of a day’s sanity…the shards of a Ball jar that once contained the most delicious homemade pickles I’ve ever tasted, the remains of a brand new bottle of Lea & Perrins and the sad little poorly engineered miscellaneous parts of the refrigerator door shelf that once held these bottles safely suspended above my kitchen floor.  On any given day this little mishap would be annoying, maybe even frustrating.  On the day this picture was taken, however, this little mishap was damn near a therapy session…maybe two. Because on the “day of the pickles,” I was ready to throw in the towel and just let my crazy flow unfiltered and unfettered.

The day had started off pretty well.  It was a Saturday and I love Saturdays.  The weather forecasts had called for “soaking rain” throughout the morning and the skies were opaque with pregnant clouds, but the rain held off and the unusually warm December weather continued that Saturday morning.  So I got to take a morning walk with my pup and I love my pup and I love to take morning walks with her.  And I was cheerful and all “praise God” because that’s so easy to do when you’re feeling groovy.  It was a wonderful two hours…truly. I loved those two hours.

Unfortunately about halfway through my walk, I remembered that my car had been making a funny sound as I drove 70 mph down the Interstate the night before and that funny sound had changed to a ominous metal crunching and grinding sound by the time I had arrived home.  The change in my mood was immediate as I remembered the events from the night before.  The resulting dialogue in my head was a full-pendulum mood swing in one stream of consciousness.  “Oh wow!  Look at that beautiful cloud.  I love this song! My dog is awesome.  I want chocolate. Chocolate is good.  Life is good.  My friends are awesome.  I had such a good time last night with…… Ooooooooh f*****ck! My car! My car is breaking down again.  Oh geez.  Ok.  I need to get home and take it into the shop while it’s still open this morning.  How am I going to pay for this now?  Why does my car hate me? Why does the world hate me? Life sucks. Everything sucks. That cloud is ugly.”

Later that morning, I left the shop with my car only because I promised my mechanic I’d limit my driving to one trip to the store for essentials and the trip back to the shop first thing Monday morning.  And on the way home from the store with groceries I wasn’t sure I could afford, I thought about the car repairs that I definitely knew I wasn’t going to be able to afford and I started feeling sorry for myself. And then I started feeling the panic…how was my son going to get to school this week and take his driver’s test next week? And my schedule for the week? How was I supposed to finish Christmas shopping now? And as the “soaking rain” arrived just seconds before I arrived home, I acquiesced to my absolute self-pity and started to cry. Finally, after carrying everything in, I stood dripping on my kitchen floor and tried to collect myself.  “Everything is fine.  Unload the groceries, straighten up the house, get some things done.  It’ll be ok.  Everything is fine, Everything is fine.  Everything is fine.” Breathe.  Breathe. Breathe.

I almost turned it all around. I almost calmed my panic, claimed my emotions and battled down the theatrics and wailing drama. And then I opened the door of my refrigerator. And suddenly, almost as if by malicious design, there were pickles on my floor.

I’m sure we’ve all had those moments when it almost seems as if the Universe is just messing with us personally.  When so many bad things happen in a quick succession, it’s hard to believe that it’s not personal and there isn’t some malignant force just toying with our emotions simply for the opportunity to watch us melt into puddles of “f*ck it.”  I was almost a puddle on the day of the pickles….I felt the “f*ck it” rising up in my throat like vomitous vile and could almost hear the adrenaline pumping in rhythm with my raging emotions.  “You wanna see a mess?  I’ll show you a mess!” Just as I was reaching into the fridge to add some more glass and mess to my floor, I was suddenly struck by a thought.  “Really?  Pickles?  After everything you’ve been through, pickles are going to break you?”

Call it what you’d like. Hallucinations. Overly-third-party self talk. Split personalities. Holy spirit intervention.  Delusions.  Wisdom and maturity. Whatever brought that last thought into my mind got my attention. Because no…pickles are not going to break me and rain isn’t going to shake me.  If I weren’t so frugal, I would have spun on my heels and walked away right then and there.  Instead I picked the refrigerated groceries out of my bags and carefully waded through the puddles of glass, pickles and Worcestershire sauce to put them away.  And once that bare minimum was done I took a hot shower, curled up in bed next to my pup, put on my headphones and pulled up my “In a Mood” playlist. Three hours later I woke up feeling refreshed, recharged and even a little re-joyed.  Thirty minutes later the sharp sticky mess in my kitchen was (sort of) cleaned up and the whole incident seemed almost comical; impressive considering how just hours before those pickles on the floor seemed to be the proverbial straw that would break my impressive “normal range of behavior” streak.

My car is still in the shop and my checkbook should just be set on fire at this point.  And I’m still struggling not to panic over the unfinished Christmas shopping and other important errands that are looming ominously on my list of responsibilities.  But the struggle has been made easier by my phenomenal friends who have carted me and my son around to several doctor’s appointments, band concerts, banking errands and pharmacy runs. Just today, three separate friends from our small community called me to see if I needed a ride to my son’s out-of-town wrestling meet and two others texted me to offer rides for Christmas shopping.  I guess it really is a matter of perspective.  I may not have a car and I may not have a lot of money, but I have a “village” of friends who genuinely care about my family…and that’s a beautiful thing. I am an exceptionally wealthy woman in all the ways that count.

I’ve been shown, and reminded, many times that things which can’t be bought are the only things worth worrying about.  Love, faith, friendship, family, hope, loyalty, kindness and health…these are the things that will sustain us when money and pride fail to maintain us.  And in the end, everything else is just pickles on the floor.

Reflections On a Sunset

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Who knows. Maybe happiness isn’t something you can find or something you can have.   Maybe happiness is the Holy Grail of life – something no one really knows how to find and no one agrees on what it looks like or actually is, yet so many blindly search for it like sleepy children groping in the dark for their teddy bear or blankie to make them feel safe. Maybe life isn’t supposed to feel safe.  Maybe it isn’t a matter of fighting the darkness in search for light.  Maybe, just maybe, happiness is simply a matter of living each moment, rather dark or light, to its fullest and appreciating each day for what it brings and what it teaches us on our journey.  Maybe being happy is just that…Just being happy. Meh???

Parts of me want to argue the possibility I could actually be content and purposeful at this point in my life. There’s the part of me that pursued countless years of higher education and worked tirelessly (and quite bitch-i-ly) toward a career I excelled in while simultaneously detesting my professional career field; only to end up losing the opportunity to work in that field all-together ever again.  Or the part of me that became vulnerable and loved a man deeply and profoundly for the first time in my life only to have my heart shredded mercilessly. And let’s not forget the part of me to which I’m still introducing myself – the nervous anxiety-ridden woman who avoids others and feels like anywhere outside of “home” is scary and unsafe.  All of these little parts of me, along with many pieces of my self here and there, challenge my new theory on happiness.  “How can you possibly be happy?” they ask me.  “You’re bankrupt, alone and you’re getting old…and you’re completely nuts to boot.” Preach, self…preach.

I don’t pretend to have any answers.  In fact, each day as I’ve searched for answers to my life’s questions, I found myself in a quagmire of more questions, confusion and self-doubt.  And perhaps it’s just middle age, weariness from the search itself or maybe even (dare I say) some long awaited wisdom calling me to give up the search for happiness and to recognize it was never lost, but I was lost in my fruitless search to pursue what can’t be found.  Maybe in becoming too worn out from the life-long chase for happiness, I’ve stopped and landed squarely on the foundation of the very thing I’ve been pursuing.

Having been forced to stop, rest and take a look around at the life I neglected while I sought happiness, I’m starting to realize that many of the very things I pushed to the “later” pile while running in circles were exactly the things that bring me the realest form of happiness I’ve ever experienced.  My children, my physical health, my faith, my art, my sunsets, my phenomenal sister and  handful of true and trusted friends, my loyal dog and the chance to wake up and do it all again each morning- each of these are in themselves immeasurable blessings and reasons for ecstatic joy and happiness.  It’s only in losing sight of the “what-happiness-is-supposed-to-look-like” carrot I was chasing for so many years that I’ve been allowed to realize life is good, happiness is mine to have…and it has always has been.

Honestly I’m a little disgruntled it took me so long to understand this paradigm and I’m downright ticked I still struggle so much to hold onto it.  This is why I love my sunsets…they remind me to find the peaceful place  inside my soul where I can ignore those parts of me that want to go back to chasing carrots.  Happiness and happily ever after are not something you can find in yesterday or tomorrow…it’s only available here and now in the present.  So today, the moment in which you’re existing, is your chance at happiness. We’re always hearing “you’re not promised a tomorrow” and we’ve been raised on the promise of fairy tale endings.  I think the truth is somewhere in between.  With no promise of tomorrow, each sunset becomes an “ever after” ending and the chance to live happily into it.

And as she sat by the river watching the sunset, she lived happily ever after.