Yesterday, in the middle of nowhere, I just felt like sitting down and bawling my eyes out. Now if this had been ten years ago, when I was more ah captive of the changing moon, I’d know where it came from and ignore it.
You see, I don’t talk too well to my body, which perforce includes my “thinking meat” as well as everything that influences it. When I start feeling something that has no basis in my immediate reality, that’s when I look at what’s going on with the body, to see if there’s something off. Yes, I’ve literally gone “My eyes are closing and I’m yawning, but this is really interesting work, how can I be bored? Wait, it’s 3 am.”
Now I know the inability to listen to the subtle signals from your body or anything else is a mark of being on the spectrum. (Autism spectrum, they mean.) But in this house, younger son and I have been exempted of that by psychologist decree. Because younger son has the sensory stuff, and because we feared it since both of us are “math brains” and he was, through no fault of our own, born after we were thirty, we had him tested. The psychologist who did the test said he had picked up some social behaviors from Aspergers, most likely because that was most of his group in school, but he and I were almost anti-autistic, in that we are very conscious of other people’s emotions.
She might have been right, or she might have been toking — hey, it’s Colorado — but I do know that neither us nor the rest of this household is any good at judging what our physical side is up to. Which is why we tend to become obsessed with something or other and push till we drop. Husband will literally tell me “I’ve worked four fourteen hour days, and today I just can’t concentrate and want to sleep. I don’t know why.” (Looks at beloved husband over glasses.)
In my case and younger son’s I suspect we learned to ignore our bodies because they were never quite on point. Mine has been trying to kill me since I was born, and his just threw up enough annoyance often enough he sort of blocked the signal. (This is the kid who used to announce he was going to be ill by throwing up. And looking very surprised. He would have temperatures of 104 and be acting completely normal to that moment.)
Anyway, this has some problems. Recently it had the problem that it totally missed a drug interaction. In the past it has had problems with my not realizing I was sinking into hypothyroidism or suffering from sleep apnea, or all sorts of good stuff.
These days, being late middle aged (shut up wretches. I’ll use “old” when I’m over 65) I’ve learned to pay attention to little weird feelings. Because that bizarre exhaustion in the middle of a clear blue day might very well be a sign that I’m coming down with something. Or it might foretell something serious.
So I was completely shocked when, having wrapped up for the day, I suddenly felt I’d very much like to sit down and bawl.
It would make perfect (well, somewhat) sense for me to wish to sleep. It had been a busy and weird day. Or to wish to go for a walk, since I’d only had short one. But why, in the name of Sweet Dance Fandango did I want to cry?
I did what I usually do in those circumstances, and asked friends. They pointed out there have been a lot of very fast changes in my life, starting about three years ago when we moved. But the changes seem to be picking up speed, instead of slowing down, which ain’t fair.
I had some inkling of it. In fact, I’ve talked about it here. I had figured out that I was caught in the middle of a tidal wave of change a few months ago and told older son “I think I might be going through a mid-life crisis a bit late.” And he looked at me and said “You might be. But think about it, mom, if you were a human in the wild, by now you’d be dead twenty years.”
Which has a way of putting things in perspective, right?
Though not all the changes, some of what’s happening is that
I’ve fobbed older son off er… while older son still lives in the house (kind of. It’s an independent apartment in the basement) he legally has his own family unit (soon de facto as well as de jure. I mean, as an independent couple. To allude to sir PTerry we don’t think there will puppies in the basket a while yet, since they’re both perhaps TOO financially prudent. That would be another and rather fast change, but not yet.); my career has taken a sudden sharp turn, which changes my view of myself and where I’m heading (in a hand basket. With greased tracks. And little multicolored streamers.) This is not bad, but it is a big change; I haven’t suddenly become aware of my parents’ age, but I’ve suddenly become aware of the toll it’s taking. As for my non-fiction career, let’s just say I’ve got a feeling something is just waiting to pounce, but I have NO idea what. (I’d still like to find funding for something like instapundit but international. I have enough immigrant and fluent in other languages friends to do a multilingual news aggregator and maybe start chipping away at the mass media dominance in the rest of the world too. But it would take money, because we’d need someone to coordinate it and keep an eye on it. And dear Lord, not me. I want to write fiction again before I die.)
There’s other stuff. Friends who are moving on. Not friendship break, as such, we’re just drifting past in different different directions. This is something I’d never thought of, because in the village friendships were lifelong. In fact, one of the most predictive things in your life was your first grade friends. But of course, it would be. People lived nearby and with very little change to their lives. Our friendships seem to move more like people on different currents in a very slow river. Eventually an entire group is replaced, and while you might keep contact and still love people, you’re not that person anymore, and the group has changed. When this is abrupt, which only happened to us once, when our writers’ group fell apart, it is a major trauma. But most of the time it just goes on, until you look back and realize either you have a new group, or you just don’t have anyone.
I’m not either place, and some people we’ll keep, thank you (they’re recent acquisitions, in the last 10 years or so) but there has been driftery (totally a word) going on, which I probably became more aware of because of older son’s change of status. And of course, we lost — or perhaps realized we’d long ago lost — our oldest friendship in the last couple of years.
There’s other things. You could measure our life by cats. We had the old firm: Pixie, (Best cat evah!), Petronius the Arbiter of blessed memory, Pixel’s crazy brother Randy, and our fluffy sweet girl DT. It seems when we have four, the configuration is stable, and the cat gods don’t send us new ones. But as one shuffles off stage left, the replacement shows up. The second firm, Miranda, Euclid, D’Artagnan, Havelock and Greebo (outside, now inside and an editor, poor thing.) Of those Miranda is now on the mantle shelf, and Euclid probably not with us more than a few months. There is a mass over his thyroid. D’Artagnan being mostly older son’s cat lives with him (Well, we got tired of the howling in the empty room when older son moved away to medschool, (before we moved nearby) and showed up one weekend with D’Artagnan in a carrier.) As soon as Miranda shuffled off we got back a little girl cat, Valeria Victrix, which I’d raised since she was two weeks old and with an eye infection, and her mom abandoned her at a bookstore’s door step. (Older son named her. He was reading Operation Chaos at the time.) Alas getting her back is tied up with the breakup of that long standing friendship, and the insurmountable “will never be forgiven” is that idiot decided 8 week old kitten was “mean” (I suspect because being idiot he didn’t realize she was too young to retract her claws.) He’d lost a cat, so he wanted her, but never told us they didn’t get along. This despite the fact that Dan loved that girl cat and really wanted her. Instead, out of stupid pride (I’d guess) he kept her, ignored her and feralized her for eight years.
The amazing thing is that given all that she’s a very sweet girl. She was skittish and hid for a year and a bit, but is now demanding pets and dive bombing at all our ankles. She’s still afraid of strangers and still periodically yells at Greebo for no reason. (Or some reason. I think they’re siblings. They have the same belly-markings in white.)
Anyway, the second firm is starting a turn over. Two nights ago I dreamed of a little cornish rex cat, so maybe Miranda’s replacement is warming up. Because Dan and I have dreams of having only two cats, or maybe a cat and a dog someday, I’m hoping she’s coming for younger son, not us. Which, as I told him, means that he needs to finish up with studies (Stupid university scheduling tricks has extended him till next May) and find a job.
In exasperation, because he’s looking for work for the summer/next year after graduation/part time work for the next year with marked lack of success, but at the same time he has a couple of ideas that if they come to fruition are sort of like shaking the money tree [the odds are SLIGHTLY better than the lottery, let’s just say that] I said “so are you going to be an unemployed bum or a billionaire?” And he said “Probably both, alternating, mom. I am your son.”
Now, when I was about his age, my mom told me she’d given up on ever being rich. Have I? I don’t know. My world is very different, and I have a lot more options. There is this idea for being ready to replace Amazon when it comes to ebooks that I’m cooking with a friend. Our goal is mostly not to be dependent only on Amazon, but in a couple of years it should pay us living salaries. Billionaire? Not aiming for it, but the future is wide open.
I guess what I’m trying to say is I hate being caught in the middle of changes. And rather than slowing down, they seem to be ramping up. Both boys graduate (G-d willing, and the creek not rising) next May or thereabouts. It will for sure mean a move for one, and I hope it means a move off our family unit (in terms of self-support, though as I’ve indicated, I’m ready to
shuffle him off have him find a woman of his very own.) And I doubt we’ll have poor Euclid another year. Worse, Greebo-the-editor has started losing weight. He still moves very well for 16 years, and is sassy as ever, but he wants pets and cuddles more often (his time is early morning, when mom is gathering her wits and making her plans before getting up, but he has been coming up for pets at night, too.)
There are other things going on, which are none of ya’ll’s bizwax. Small ones, big ones. For the first time since the kids were toddlers, I’m having trouble carving out a slice of three/four hours to write uninterrupted before one of of the family or friends pings me with an emergency.
Of all this, of course, the kids and being more or less (almost) done raising them (well, I’m done raising them, just not launching them, if that makes sense) is the big thing.
This morning, I remembered when Robert was 9 and Marshall was 6 and, for the first time in ten years, I went to the grocery store by myself, (I was on strict bed rest with Robert.) And suddenly I felt like I’d forgotten something/didn’t know what I was doing. It grew into being normal, of course. Now it would be weird to lug them both to the store. In fact, I think the last time I did so was almost 10 years ago. (And it was because I needed help carrying stuff.)
I know this too will grow. And this new thing Dan and I are doing, trying to find who we were before kids will be okay too. (No, there isn’t a problem in our marriage. Honestly, it’s about the only thing that is still stable in this storm that’s been overtaking me. But we’ve been a family so long, we’re having trouble figuring out how to BE just a couple, without making the cats substitute children or trying to be the YOUNG couple we were and aren’t anymore. I know this all sounds very silly. And we should count our blessings.)
At the same time, possibly because of physical changes not unusual for women my age (though more usual for younger women. Eh) stuff about me is changing. Mostly little stuff. Like, why on Earth do I now like Mexican food? I never did before. And where did the interest in needle arts come back from? I hadn’t done that since the kids were tiny. And…
This morning I thought I didn’t care, but I was exasperated the changes didn’t wait till next year. Because it’s an election year, and therefore I’ll be fairly useless anyway. Then I realized things probably won’t slow down next year anyway, as G-d willing one son will move out of state and maybe two sons will move, and honestly we’ll probably lose another cat (and hopefully not gain a new one! Forlorn as the hope might be.) And… and… and…
All of this of course hit us because of the major holiday. It might be our last one with everyone nearby.
None of this explains the crying, except from stress, of course. Most of the changes are good. The ones to career haven’t been (I really must try not to get fired, okay fired and rate-limited twice in the same week again. That was a fun time.) But I’m not done either. One door is closed, but there is a little daylight coming in around one of the rocks, and I have a spoon.
Finding time to stop and write would help. Probably. The health stopping throwing bigger and brighter challenges would help too.
But apparently life is change. And somewhere over the ridge the change will slow a little, and I’ll catch breath for a while before it starts again.
I’m not upset, I’m….
When I was little and standing in the sea (I never learned to swim. Long story) sometimes a wave would roll me. If you open your eyes under water, you see yellow sand swirling around, and light and you can’t tell if you’re up or down, and you desperately want a breath.
That’s kind of where I am. But I’ll find a foothold here, any minute, and poke my head above water soon.
And older son isn’t wrong, either. I’m lucky to live in a time where the period of equilibrium ahead can be relatively long, relatively healthy, relatively productive.
This morning I woke up with this Agatha Christie quote in my mind:
I have enjoyed greatly the second blooming that comes when you finish the life of the emotions and of personal relations; and suddenly find – at the age of fifty, say – that a whole new life has opened before you, filled with things you can think about, study, or read about…It is as if a fresh sap of ideas and thoughts was rising in you.
I’ll drink to that time coming.