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Gathered

“You never realize how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.”
Part 2 of 3

I won’t say it was easy to just walk away, drop his stuff in a box, and act like the last two years of my life hadn’t happened. Every five minutes or so I was freaking out, thinking I had somehow lost my engagement ring. (I loved that ring. If it wasn’t completely improper, I admit I might have kept it.) I suppose I was even slightly vindictive spraying his shirt with the perfume he’d bought me before I packed it to be shipped. Everywhere I turned, I was somehow reminded of him: something he’d said, something we’d done together, even if it was just a TV show we’d liked to watch.

My family… God bless them. My mother, my grandmother, my bridal party – they made the hard calls for me, cancelling the church, the reception hall, the DJ, etc. I told my bridesmaids, of course, and they handled a great deal of the tiny details. Invitations hadn’t yet gone out, just Save-the-Dates, so we were saved the trouble of calling the whole guest list. Days passed by in a blur. I didn’t quite fall into a depression – I had this insane 3-month old kitten to care for, and she was (and is) quite the fuzzball of entertainment and hilarity.

Then… the distraction. The one thing that could have made the whole situation worse, did. A long-lasting, muscle-cramping, body-thrashing dystonic storm. I’ve talked briefly about dystonia in the past. If you haven’t read about it, I suggest going back and doing so here. I ended up out of work for six weeks, which may have been longer had summer vacation not rolled around. At any rate, it was two months before I could see the specialist, and a few more weeks until even more new meds started to allow for some physical, if not emotional relief.

I would have thought then that my heart could not be broken any further, but as usual, I was wrong. I re-shared an article on my Facebook about a woman who was raped and decided to keep the child. Even now, I don’t remember if she raised the baby or gave the child up for adoption, but right now, it doesn’t matter. Several of my friends, including one I thought was a sister to me, picked a fight over it and when I took it to private messages to tell them to knock it off and no fighting on my wall, I was called a “horrible” person, a “false friend”, a “fake Christian”, “judgmental” and so many more names. I can’t say I came out entirely clean from this episode – there were things I would have done differently, but she wouldn’t even talk to me. The entire argument was done over text messaging and Facebook.

Do yourselves a favor. If you ever wish to have a shred of integrity, no matter how angry you are, at least speak to the person and hear their voice. If it’s worth fighting over, it’s worth that much.

So in less than three months, not only had I lost my fiancée, I’d now lost my best friend, too. Cut off entirely.

I ran. Thank God for vacation, because I ran. I hitched a ride with a cousin and when she went to a concert, I visited a friend in the same area… 8 hours away from home. I turned 5 days of working at camp into 9. (Should have been 10, but a sinus infection got the better of me.) I followed that with a week at the beach, spending most of it in isolation, even though I shared a house with my family and was sleeping in the living room. Actually, I did a lot of that in the intervening months. Spent a lot of time alone. Writing. Thinking. How things used to be. How I could have changed them. What it would have been like if I had gone through with it. Am I truly better off now than I would have been. Lonely vs. angry – which is worse?

Camp was probably the best place that I could have been. For all that nature and I don’t get along… I first went to this Camp when I was a junior in high school, and went the following year as well. I returned five years ago to babysit the younger members of the families that founded it. It’s a God-camp, and it’s the only real judgement-free zone I’ve ever experienced. It’s a place of renewal, a place think, to pray, to let go. We always joke about the camp being within a bubble and how hard it is to leave, but it’s true. It wasn’t often that I had a few minutes to sit and talk without my charges (little boys are VERY active!) but during those two weeks, it seemed like the blinders I’d been wearing since February started to lift.

A few weeks later, in early September, I had the opportunity to sit down with one of the priests who had been at camp and who is also a dear friend. I explained what had happened – all the gory details about the broken engagement (he was supposed to marry us, so he was among the first to know the wedding was off, and he had even tried some premarital counseling when things started getting bad. Needless to say, Lenny wasn’t into it and just said what he knew I wanted to hear.) I told him what my friend had said and done.

And I told him that an old friend from long past had asked me to dinner.

“Blondie,” Father Joe said, “I have known you for how long now? Six years? Seven? I see you every summer with those kids – patient, loving; by the end of the week half of them are calling you “mom” too. Don’t ever accept being told that you are anything but gentle and kind. You have a heart of gold, and it’s to their detriment that they can’t see it. Pray for them. Now tell me about this man who asked you to dinner.”

gathered

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A Movie, a Centipede, and a Police Officer

… all walk into a bar…

I know, it does seem like the beginning of a joke. In retrospect, nearly a year later, the whole thing was funny. In honor of me having the entire house to myself for a few hours and the fact that I’m going on vacation for the next three weeks as of Thursday with very limited internet (unless I haul myself to a Starbucks or something. TBD.), I figured if I wasn’t going to be posting again until nearly September I could at least leave you with something amusing, and poke a great deal of fun at myself in the process.

The following tale is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

 

It isn’t often I get the house to myself in the evening, less often that I even desire it that way, because frankly, I don’t like being home alone. My cat isn’t exactly intimidating toward strangers; he is more the type demand attention than drive them away from the house. With this in mind, my plan was to order take-out (or take-in, as the case may be) and sack out on the couch with Netflix. All was going well until I got to the Netflix part and out of the corner of my eye I saw something skitter across the floor of the living room.

My glasses were exactly where they should be. That is, I don’t usually wear them at home unless I’m actively watching television, as I generally *know* where things are placed and my eyesight isn’t THAT bad. So they were on the table, next to the book I’d been reading while noshing down on boneless wings, bread sticks and diet coke. (Healthy, I know.) I couldn’t tell the size of the critter, or even if it was vegetable, animal, or mineral, though considering that it was moving, it was pretty safe rule out vegetable and mineral. I figured for mouse. We haven’t had many mice since we’ve had the cat, but at fifteen years old, he’s slowed down quite a bit and it was perfectly possible that one had slipped by him. I got up to check.

Was I ever glad I was wearing flip-flops.

It was not a mouse. I would have been definitely ok with a mouse. I actually like mice. This was smaller than a mouse, and had many more legs. Dozens more legs. In fact, the very name of this horrible being translates to “one hundred feet” and it sure as sugar looked like it. There was a bloody centipede making its way under my living room rug.

I did what any normal 29-year old woman would do. I screamed bloody murder. The monster was having a hard time getting under the padding of the rug, so I took a quick picture of it (because that’s what any sane person does when confronted by something that terrifies her, and I didn’t think anyone would believe me otherwise) before stomping madly on it. Fortunately, I killed it. As sure as I heard it go “Gak”, I killed it. I peeled back the rug’s padding to be sure. Yup! Dead. Then I fired off this text message to my mother, along with the picture:

“Do you know what that is? It’s the back-end of a giant (expletive deleted) millipede or centipede or whatever that I just killed IN OUR LIVINGROOM!”

Ok, maybe I wasn’t as calm as I’d thought. Still, I had won the day. Now I could sit back, choose a movie, and become one with the couch. This lasted a total of maybe ten minutes when another of the little things came across the floor and under the couch.

This time, there was no was I was getting off the couch. I texted my mother again, who was away on vacation, as though she’d be able to solve it from four hours away: “If the house is gone when you get back, it’s because I burned it down to ensure the thing and any relatives are dead, ’cause another (expletive deleted) just went under the couch.”

Even from hours away, moms will be moms: “Move the couch and chair and vacuum the rug.”

While this may have been a thinly veiled ploy to get me to clean up the livingroom, I rolled up my pj pants, put my flip-flops back on, took out the rocking chair, and did just that. I moved the armchair and vacuumed the rug under and behind it, moved the end table and did the same. I carried the decorative tree into the hall and hauled half the couch into the middle of the room and started vacuuming behind there. Still no centipede, but I figured it dove under the rug like its ill-fated companion on the other side. There were some blankets folded up on the floor. I went to shake them out, just in case…

…why is it “just in case” never ends well for anyone? The monstrous, hideous creature falls out. I jump and scream and drop the blanket, into which it promptly dives back in. (To make this even more mentally interesting, if it needs to be, it’s a leopard print Snuggie – you know, one of those blankets with sleeves.) I have a vacuum in one hand and I’m stomping pretty much aimlessly on the floor, because although I want desperately to kill the thing, I don’t know where it is and I don’t want to kill it IN the blanket.

At that precise moment, a police officer walks through my front door, looks at me and says, “What the hell?”

I wish to the gods that was the punchline to a joke, but it isn’t.

“There’s a centipede in the blanket,” I explained. “Do you seriously think I’d be vacuuming at 9:00 at night for any other reason?”

“I didn’t think you ever vacuumed at all,” he replied, taking out his flashlight.  “In the 26 years that I have known you, which is to say, my entire life, I think I can count on one hand the number of times I have seen you vacuum behind that couch. Shake the blanket out and get him.”

As soon as I did, the centipede fell out and was ground into paste on the hardwood floor. My brother the cop, having done his duty as an officer of the law and seen this terrible criminal -who went around terrorizing innocent women- brought to justice, make himself a sandwich and enjoyed his dinner break.

So much for my night in.

 

 

thankful spiders

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