Thursday, May 2, 2013

Contemplating mortality

"And this is a lonely life, though I think it suits me well."

It was windy on the water when I walked today.

I'm not complaining. A breeze and low humidity in Texas in May are delightful, especially knowing we are just days away from relentless summer heat.

Already there are signs. The wildflowers are going to seed and the egrets and herons have vamoosed, going wherever it is that freshwater coastal birds go when their chickadees have fully fledged.

This is the last time I'll have flowers for you this Spring, although truthfully those roses bloom year round here in Stepford.

I usually wait for Neil to come home and walk with me, but he has softball playoffs tonight. Last night we walked at dusk because it was just too damn hot when he got home. Walking at twilight sounds pleasant but because the few point is rising, the humidity is heavy and it can be a sticky pleasure.

When I walk alone I think about everything and nothing at all. Today I though about how I shoved 70 beads in the kiln today and how ridiculous that is, even if only 4 were serious beads and the rest were frit beads and spacers and 3 pairs of stacked dot beads, just to use up all my dipped mandrels. I'm trying to work smaller in my set size beads and bigger in my focals. I'm trying to understand how I can take my artistry to the next level, the one where people see your bead on Facebook and have enough of a visceral reaction to just buy it. Or share it. Or comment. Or "Like" it.

Facebook gave me a $50 advertising credit, so I ran an ad for 10 days with a budget of $5 a day and according to Facebook 9,000-some people saw my ad. About 80 new people Liked my business page and I made no sales. So I'm just not nailing the type or quality of bead that sells. It's ironic that I've lately begun to think my beads are beautiful. I'm my own biggest fan these days, which I suppose is better than not being my own fan. I'm usually my own worst critic, so that's something.

I've been spending a lot of time alone and with my last enamel class this coming Monday, there will be more time alone since I'm taking the summer off. Most of the time I don't mind. I have my routines and the days never drag. I used to be so bored when I was working in corporate America. Even when I was busy I was bored. Now I can read or watch a movie or play with the cats or go shopping or take a walk. This summer I plan to start working out at the community center, once it's too hot to walk, which as I said is a week or 10 days out. I work on my websites, I write. I make beads. And I'm happy.

But of course that's because Neil comes home, if he's not playing ball. And he's home when he's not working which is about one day every fortnight. Even so, he's home most evenings, unless he is traveling, or once in a while having dinner with work friends.

One of the things I think about when I'm walking alone is what my life would be like without Neil. We love each other, our bond is strong, we both learned a lot from our first marriages, and we're in this one for the long haul. But he works so hard and is under so much pressure, and, well, his blood pressure and LDLs are too high. Men do sometimes keel over. There's cancer. There are accidents. He's out quite late on softball nights. He doesn't drink. But other people do.

I think about this but I wouldn't say I worry about it. I used to be a champion worrier, to an insane, neurotic degree, especially when my kids were small. I had terrible separation anxiety, and while I was able to work, I never wanted to let them out of my sight the rest of the time. I did of course, there were play dates and birthday parties and sleepovers and even Space Camp and Girl Scout camp. I let them go but I was chronically uneasy. I dreaded it when their dad took them fishing because I knew he didn't watch them like I did.

I don't even know what I was so afraid of. It wasn't rational. Abduction mostly, although realistically the odds of an accident were probably much higher. I was literally afraid that they would disappear off the face of the earth. We had many talks about stranger danger, how they were never to get in a car with someone they didn't know, not even if that person said I was in an accident and they needed to take them to me. Not even if a stranger asked them to help find a lost puppy. Especially not that.

If it weren't for cell phones I'm not sure I'd ever have let them leave home. I got them phones and I said, your phone will be charged, with you, and on, and you will answer it if I call, or I'll take it away. That's a dire fate if you are a teen, so they pretty much kept the phones on and charged and answered when I called, which I tried not to do unreasonably often. Just knowing I could helped though.

I'm not sure how I stopped worrying. If I knew I'd write a book and make a mint. Somewhere along the line I internalized a couple of things. One, that worrying about tomorrow was sucking the joy out of today. Two, that whatever happened happened and knowing about it any sooner wouldn't change it. What will be will be. So I stopped imagining dark scenarios. Every now and then, when a ghost threatens to walk across my grave, I push the scary thoughts away with the mantra, "nothing bad, nothing bad, nothing bad."

Mary Scmich wrote it, Baz Luhrmann recited it. I believe it.

Don't worry about the future, or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind. The kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.

So I wouldn't say I worry. I embrace the present and all that is good in it and make gratitude a deliberate practice. All this said, while I don't worry, I do, willy-nilly, think about how I would do if something happened to Neil.

I don't think I'd do very well.

Of course no one in such a situation ever does very well. And I know that somehow I'd go on, because of my children. I would never do what my mom tried to do. But I have had a long history of serial relationships, and I'm not sure I know how to be alone. But I love Neil so very much, and I'm not sure that I'd have the stuffing to start over. And that much loneliness terrifies me.

And I remember just how far I fell down the rabbit hole when Marty left.

Which is another story waiting to be told.

But not tonight. "Nothing bad, nothing bad, nothing bad."

"This is a lonely life
As I know you know too well
I'm thinking of you tonight
Here in the Sylvia Hotel

You must be safe in bed
Down in your cowboy home
I don't wonder why you left
I wonder why you stayed so long

I found some matches from Durango in my pocket
But if I let my heart get sad then I can't stop it

And this is a lonely life
Though I think it suits me well
And everything's fine tonight
Here in the Sylvia Hotel."

Cheryl Wheeler

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