This isn't me. It's Night Windows by Edward Hopper.

Monday, September 24, 2012

My Kids

My daughter is home sick today. She came wandering out of her room at eleven this morning, wearing basketball shorts, clutching Kleenex, her nose the same color as her raspberry-red hair. I was on the couch drinking coffee and fooling around on the laptop, my regular day off from work. She put the TV on TLC.

"No Dance Moms," I told her. "No Toddlers in Tiaras!"

"It's about people with no arms,"she replied.

"Is that the new thing?" I asked."Is that the cutting edge? Should I have made sure you were born with no arms?"

She smiled. "Yeah, Mom, what the fluff*, why did I have to have arms?"

"I've failed you. We could have had a reality TV show!"

I'm rarely that irreverent. I don't know if she caught that I was funning on reality TV at the expense of people with no arms, but she's a sharp kid, and she knows me well.

She said, "Next is Four Weddings. I love this show--they go to each other's weddings and rate them, and who ever wins gets to have their husband drive up in a limo and they go on a honeymoon somewhere amazing."

"Weddings are overblown enough, now there is a competition about it? Starting their married lives obsessed with this one big stupid party? Who agrees to this foolishness?" (Yes, I really talk like that.)

She pulled the sleeping bag she had dragged out of the closet under her chin, eyes fixed on the TV. She's heard my soapboxing before.

I don't write about my kids much. Raising them is the most important thing I do each day and has changed me profoundly as a person, but I also feel a protectiveness that makes me want to keep them off the page, keep them in their lives and out of my public musings and stories. They are themselves, they are not my vehicles for anything, first and foremost.

Recently there's been media chatter about women "not having it all", and yesterday I read a blurb on Slate about a new book called Why Have Kids? which got me thinking about how fraught the whole having-kids experience can be. Is it the modern-day dilemma of too many choices? Having babies and raising them used to be rote, now we think about it from more angles than our psyches can handle, and the questions pile up.

I never thought much about having kids until I turned thirty. My twenties were without compass and without plans (other than to be a writer someday), and I am still a pleasantly-tossed-by-the-wind type of person who goes where life takes her. It was unlike me to plan to have a child, but plan I did, even with all those questions swirling around. I thought them over long and hard, and came up on the side of "yes, let's have a kid." I got pregnant the first time my husband and I tried to make a baby, and I got pregnant a second time three years later, when my daughter was two and my marriage was doing poorly, and had my son. We divorced when they were four and one. A good partnership with a man (meaning, how to do it) has evaded me, but good mothering has not.

I'm one of the lucky ones. I had kids, and I am also grateful every day that I did. It's not a good choice for every woman, but it was for me. They are twelve and nine now. I don't overthink it. I brought two people into the world deliberately, and I try to do my share to ensure that it was a good thing that I did.

(Although who can ever know for sure what the right thing is? Those are such big, dizzying questions, only my gut feelings can get me through them. That and knowing someday, somehow, the Bruins will play again. Damn the NHL lockout!)

As a kid and a teenager and a young adult, kids and babies were foreign creatures, requiring care I had no knowledge of. I changed my first infant diaper in nursing school. My daughter was to be the first baby in my generation. I bought the books and magazines and combed the websites while I was pregnant, and was irritated by most of what I read--irritated and overwhelmed. It was fortunate that at the end of my pregnancy I was finishing up RN school (after working as an LPN for eleven years) and had no time to obsess about the baby to come. She was born five days before my final exam.

My first experience as a mother, hours after she was born, has set the tone for all the years that have followed (over twelve, so far), and I will finish here with that story.

My daughter was born at seven-thirty in the evening, after a smooth (but not short) labor and delivery. My husband went home about nine, and my daughter and I were wheeled into my room to nap. I woke after a while to a totally dark room, my daughter making little sounds of wakefulness, and I felt for the pull cord for the light but couldn't find it. I couldn't find the call bell either. The door to the room was closed, and I didn't want to cause an alarm by calling out, so I decided to wait. My daughter's noises grew louder, and she started to cry.

The siderails of my bed were up, and her bassinet was parked at the foot of my bed and I couldn"t reach it. I didn't want to move. I didn't dare to, my body was beat to shit and I had been stitched up after delivery and the slightest shift of my butt on the bed felt like I was going to bust open. Her cries became more insistent. "Hello?" I called out, but no nurse came.

 I couldn't go to her, so I talked to her. "Hey, sweetie, it's Mommy! Don't worry, it's okay, somebody will be here soon and we'll take care of you..."

I expected my voice to make no difference, but to my surprise, she quieted. I kept talking.

"You did such a great job today, and I'm so happy to finally see you. I hope it's working out for you so far, I know it's a big change...that nurse had better come soon, sweetie, because I really, really, really need to pee..."

And called out, "Hello? HELLO?" but nobody came.

The nurse finally opened the door as my daughter was starting to wind up again and I was sing-songing, "Sweetie! It's okay!"over and over, having run out of anything else to say. The nurse apologized when she saw that my call bell and the pull cord were hanging against the wall far from my reach, and helped me with that first woozy and aching trip to the bathroom (reassuring me that I would not, indeed, bust open like dropped watermelon if I contracted my bladder muscles, although I was completely convinced that I would), and after getting me properly arranged back in the bed, handed me my daughter, who had been tided up while I was in the bathroom and was ready for the next round of breastfeeding.

It was midnight. I slept very little that night, and very little for the next four months, but I was a mother. That's what I did.

It still amazes me, my utter lack of panic or despair only four hours into motherhood, when my daughter was crying and there wasn't a whole lot I could do about it. It still amazes me that I winged it, and it worked.

Does anybody know where that comes from? And why didn't I know for sure that mothering would be that comfortable for me, and that finding myself soothing my newborn with nothing but the sound of my voice would be delightful, until I was doing it? Parenthood is a huge thing to fall so ass-backwards into, even if the pregnancy was planned and you have some idea of what you are getting into. I'm glad women can ask "why have kids?" these days, like I did, as best as I could manage...

...and see why I don't blog about my kids? I just start gushing about them and boring you to death. I'm more interesting when my issues are fraught. So on to the next thing...

* She swears like a trucker when I'm not around, but amuses me with watered-down versions like "what the fluff?" when we are conversing. Most of the time, anyway.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Catching Up

You probably think I have been all caught up in my new love, my new job, and all the exciting new directions the above is taking me, right? No time for blogging! Much too busy soaring on a pink cloud of happiness!

Um, no. Sadly, no.

Although the new job has surprised me, in a good way--a really good way--and turned into a full time gig with all the trimmings. I wasn't sure if I would be doing hospice again, and here I am doing hospice again, and with a far better company. My new company is even "The Official Healthcare Partner of the Boston Bruins" (not to be confused with actually providing healthcare to the B's, though I have made a few jokes that if Patrice Bergeron goes on VNA I'm switching departments, just in case), which I took as a positive sign from the Universe when I accepted the per diem position in December. I was correct.

The Bruins have turned into my emotional center, as a matter of fact (besides my kids, and family, and friends, and patients, and other people I actually know), which probably means I'm a guy, but that's fine. You gotta have something. It didn't work out with the man I was seeing, and we broke it off in mid-January. We have kept on talking on the phone, but that has dwindled down to infrequent as we don't seem to have much to say anymore.

It's sad. Really sad. Really, really. I admit it.

It had nothing to do with him, or me, or the combination of us, as stupid as that was a whole other thing. It was a situation that was just incompatible with "serious relationship", and yeah, I want a serious relationship, not a pasttime. The last guy was a pasttime, and I'm not knocking that if that's the only thing anyone wants, and I sometimes wish that was the only thing I wanted, too, but it isn't.

I feel like what happened was this...I met the Man of my Dreams (don't get cynical--he kinda was that, don't laugh--I can be cynical enough on my own, obviously, but thank you), and he said to me one day as we were walking hand in hand through the dappled sunlight (okay, that's cynicism again, sorry), "Babydoll, I gotta confess, I run guns for a gang. So that means I'm probably going to bleed to death in a dumpster somewhere within the next year or two, or get arrested and spend the rest of my middle age in jail. We make a great team, though, me and you. So whaddaya say, beautiful? Are you out, or are you in?"

And I blinked at him once or twice and said, "I don't know. Are you sure? You aren't messing with my head? This is what you are about? Because I'm pretty sure we were made for each other! But darling, that would be no way for a girl like me to live, tormented with the thought of her man dying every day and wishing every night he was not out there on the streets, in the darkness, doing nothing to benefit anybody.

"I think I have to say I'm out, my love."

He nodded slowly, in understanding and sorrow.

That's not what happened, of course...but close enough. And that was that.

Valentine's Day I went to the Garden to see the Bruins play the Rangers with my daughter.

Yep, my daughter! I have turned her into a hockey fan, and am working on her brother, but he still prefers shows on Nick or playing his DSi. She asked for a T-shirt with number 19, Tyler Seguin (very age appropriate as he's the youngest Bruin, excellent in offense, and a cutie pie--I'm quite pleased with her), and wants to go to another game before the season ends, as do I, but I don't think we'll make it. I'll look into it, though.

After I get a computer this week. That's the thing I didn't mention! The real reason why I haven't been blogging! Insufficient online access. I lost my car and my computer to the last job, but have taken care of one, and am on the verge of taking care of the other.

Life is very sweet right now.

But in one significant way, very lonely.

I didn't know how lonely I was until it didn't work out with that man.

I hope he does well...but as for me...

                                                       Go, B's!!!!!!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Dropping the Baggage

The first time I saw him he was on stage, playing guitar in a band that was opening for the Violent Femmes at Endicott College, mid-nineties. I don't remember a thing about it. I attended a dizzying rash of shows in the mid-nineties that ended with an after-hours party at Lupo's, drinking Coke although the beer was free and chatting with members of Superchunk, and the next day wanting to get drunk so badly I literally cried. I had stopped drinking in 1993, and no cool music scene was going to drag me back into that Hell again, so I laid off of shows for a long, long time after that. The band who opened for the Femmes? I don't remember a thing about them, but I don't much remember how the Femmes were, either.

The next I saw him was 2004, and my first thought was "this is the sexiest man I have ever seen in my life."

You may not agree. "Too skinny," you may say. I say, "Bring it on."

Also, there is something about his eyes.

I didn't actually meet him until 2008. We knew of each other a little bit by then, but didn't actually know each other. In 2008 I was in the middle of a long hiatus from anything resembling romance. I was burnt out and beaten down, and he had a girlfriend anyway, so it seemed like it would be safe and fun to let myself have a huge crush on him and not do anything about it. Except the more I got to know him--in bits and pieces, over months--the more I wanted to do something about it. I wrestled with that and wrestled with that, and just when I thought, "would one innocent coffee date be so wrong??" he told me, "I'm moving down to Florida in two weeks," and that nailed it. It was not to be. "Let's have coffee, then," I said, and we did, and I got to know him even more. He never mentioned the girlfriend (and hadn't in months). He hugged me goodbye. We did not exchange contact info.

He was in Florida for over a year.

I ran into him in early 2010, and we had a pleasant chat. He was single but I was seeing somebody by then, somebody I liked quite well, so I didn't press for anything. I still felt that pull, though; that I could not deny. Well, whatever...he WAS a good guy, anyway. "Could I look you up on Facebook?" I asked, and he said yes.

"How are you?" I messaged once or twice. Doing okay, working hard, nothing special. Happy to be back in Massachusetts.

I didn't hear anything from him for a long time, then he popped up on my Facebook this past October, so I messaged a friendly hello. Why not, right? He was a good guy. I liked him. It's nice to say hi. I hoped he's doing well, and so forth.

He replied. I replied. Then he asked me out on a date.

It felt like I was suddenly in a John Hughes movie, "Sixteen Candles" or something: I was overjoyed. I was ecstatic! I didn't care where we went or what we did or even if he had suddenly turned dull and obnoxious in the three years since I pined for him like I was thirteen years old and he was a rock star (which he wasn't, the band was long gone, and he worked a trade. He was an art school graduate, though, and how hot is that? To this chick, pretty much very). We were going on a date, and he had asked me. It was the most promising thing that had happened to me romantically since...since who knew when. Maybe ever?

That is how it finally started.

My daughter was turning twelve in December and I had, incredibly, agreed to throw a dance party for forty in our house. I hate parties in general, and hosting them specifically, and was acutely aware that forty tweens jumping up and down to "Sexy and I Know It" would not be easy to contend with. My reasoning was, "she's the most social creature on the planet, this daughter of mine, daughter of one of the more solitary creatures on the planet, me; in a year or two these kids will all be sneaking off into bedrooms or lighting joints on my back porch, so best to ease into this now rather than get thrown into it then, when the shock will kill me."

We blacklit the dining room, cleared it of furniture, and pasted up flourescent and glow-in-the-dark stars on the walls and ceiling. She talked me into dropping $30 on a strobe light at Spencer's. The stereo shelf system was her birthday present from me. I bought a dozen bottles of soda and a vegetable platter, and tween-proofed my house (it's a clumsy age, always knocking things over) while working two jobs (training for my new one at a different hospice, while working almost full-time as a per diem at my old one) and trying to get some sort of a grip on Christmas.

He calls me almost every day. He's had dinner with us and even hung around to watch "Glee"(and hated it), and tries to smoke as little as his addicted brain will allow him when he's with us. "I don't like the thought of being a bad example," he told me. "Oh, don't worry, gatekeeping is my job," I said. "I know, but still," he replied.

"Uh, I've got to ask you," I said on the phone about a week ago. "She's got this party going on, and it would be stupid for me to be the only grown-up, but I don't know any of the parents well. I think it would be best to have a guy around, anyway. Crowd control. So could you...?"

"I really don't want don't really know what to do with kids. A dance party!"

"A glow-in-the-dark dance party. About forty kids." He laughed and said again, "I really don't want to...but I'll think about it."

He won't do it, I thought. I almost hope he says no, I thought. We can be just friends and I can give up all these other ideas I keep getting about "more", and I was silly to think like that anyway. When was the last time a man went out of his way for me? If he did I'd probably get all jammed up about it. I've got all this relationship baggage, all this emotional baggage, and it's going to get messy and ridiculous. We both have other things going on anyway; I'm in job flux, driving a rental car, and setting things up to go back to school to eventually become a Nurse Practitioner, and he's trying to run a business and straighten out some old, old, old issues that keep tripping him up. We should keep this friendly. He'll say no. Why would he ever say yes?

I stopped by his place to say hi on the way home from work while the kids had dinner with their father, and he smiled and said, "Well, I decided I'll help you out at the party."

Instantly I was suffused with joy. Instantly. "You will?" I cried and threw my arms around him.

He laughed, "Yeah, and thank my friend for that. He keeps teasing me non-stop calling me 'the chaperone', but he said, 'dude, if you don't do it she'll never forgive you,' and I realized he was probably right!"

I laughed. I laughed and laughed and buried my face in his arm. I didn't protest.

I am starting to understand something about relationships I have never understood before.

The party went about as well as you could imagine it could--other than one of the boys getting a flesh wound on his cheek when the kids lost their minds throwing glowstick bracelets (you can see how Lord of the Flies could come to pass, easily), and having to herd them back indoors from time to time, they played "Sexy and I Know It" about five times, ate seven pizzas, and texted my daughter the next day that her party was "epic!"

"I wouldn't call it 'epic'," he told me on the phone today. "But it wasn't that bad! I guess it was epic if you're twelve."

"You helped a lot. I would have lost my mind doing that alone."

He didn't protest. "I'll call you tomorrow. Next week will be busy with work, but I want to see you. I'm looking forward to seeing you again."

"Me too."

I have this picture in my head. I've been carrying around all this baggage forever. It comes with me into every relationship I've ever had, and takes up a lot of room. I wear a knapsack tricked out like I'm going to spend a week hiking the Brooks Range, and have an unweildy Samsonite suitcase in each hand complete with sturdy locks I've lost the keys to.

I can put them down. I see him walking toward me and smiling, smiling because he's very happy to see me and I smile at him because I feel the same way. We are both used to walking alone, but since we've met each other, we no longer need to. Can it really be that simple? I can put down my bags and freely take his hand and walk beside him. Later I'll describe the contents to him, the mess and the disappointments and the hurts, but it doesn't have to drag me down anymore. Or us.

I know that there is a point in life where all the difficulty can be walked beyond, to a place where it is happiness to just breathe in and out. Life is life, but that place exists, I know because I've been there, and often too. Long, happy relationships seem to work the same way--past the struggle and the difficulty is the simple fact of "we are together, and I am happy with you."

Is it really that simple?

(This is an unfolding story. I will let you know how it goes.)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

In Which I Up And Quit My Job Without A New One Waiting For Me

I saw my Tarot card reader in August (I'll defend my position on that sometime), and he said, "It looks like a job change is happening...into something entirely new."

"Noooooo," I said confidently. Yeah, my job has been a source of tremendous satisfaction but also the biggest source of raw stress than any job I have ever held, ever, but I made PEACE WITH THAT (dammit!!) after hitting a wall with it last autumn. Not going anywhere, nope, not me!

"Hmmm," he said. He's a good Tarot card reader, he doesn't waste my time. "Whatever it is, it is good. A good change. You are in a time of change anyway, and your energy is attracting positive changes in all areas...not negative ones at all."

So we went on to talk about that, which was nice. When I got readings from him five, six, and seven years ago, it was always, "You are in a challenging time right now...sorry...things are going to be tough for a while," and he was correct then, too (boy, was he).

A month later I was driving to see my next patient, a patient I liked a lot, a visit I did not dread, but I had felt a knot of anger tugging at me all day and I couldn't undo it. Usually I could breathe and smile and let it go, but that day it knotted up tighter and tighter and I couldn't even find the threads. It was midafternoon then, and I had been struggling all day, and it seemed so inappropriate somehow to be going to visit Mary with this anger balled up inside of me. It had nothing to do with her, and nothing to do with the work of hospice.

Just as I was turning down the street to her house, I felt the snap.

"I have had enough," I said to myself (or my self said to me), and I let out a breath.

Time to leave the job.

I think (maybe) I envy people who find jobs they can stick with for years on end. The closest I've been to that was my seven years working with the mentally retarded at the State institution. When it was time to leave that job, I fought that knowledge until what happened was, I got sick, pounding, dreary headaches as soon as I walked through the door, and they would not lift until my shift was done. It took constant physical discomfort to drive me out of there. Otherwise, I would have stayed on until the Governor personally kicked me out. I had loved that job.

I love this job, too. Don't force me to explain why I have to's not that simple. It still took me two more weeks to actually put my notice in, and I am not yet done with completing what must be the longest notice ever (it's ended up being six weeks, mostly because of an unexpected personal issue I had to deal with in the middle of it, costing me money and energy, so they granted me an extension).

I get two opposite reactions, which are: 1) "Do you have a job yet??", with alarm; and, 2) "Hey! Good for you!!", with a grin. It is totally unpredictable who is going to give me what reaction.

My patient Mary has been the most encouraging of all my patients. She and I have a warm and affectionate relationship, and she is a woman who is quite particular about who is allowed to enter her sphere of existence. "I just know you are going to find something good," she told me. "I will be honest, I will miss you...but I can't be selfish, and I know wherever you go, you will be of tremendous help to people. You should be happy with whatever you do. The work you do is so hard!"

Sometimes I forget that.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Coinkydink, Part III

Yep, it's happened to me, too. I think of somebody I generally never think of--suddenly and for no reason I can fathom--and within twenty-four hours they call or are in the car behind me at a traffic light or otherwise swim into view. I get impressions about jobs, too--things like "sure, management does appear to be crazy, but you must take this job, it will benefit you" and "it looks fine on the surface, but watch your back if you can't run for the hills right now". My impressions start at the interview and crystalize sharply the first time I'm officially staff in the milieu I'll be working in, and they are always, and I mean always, correct. As I'm a nurse, and most of us nurses cycle through jobs in a few years' time as a matter of course, this inner gauge is very useful to me.

Intuitive impressions are not the same as wild coincidences, but I put them in the same category, loosely, for they seem to come from a grid that intersects the one I live on (planet Earth, three-dimentional, too much time spent drinking coffee and thinking deep thoughts about nothing) but are not at all from the grid that I live on.

Thinking of my friend Patty from the Berkshires after many months of no contact or thought of her at all, and wondering, "She really liked that guy Dan...but he married someone else and moved to Brooklyn...or was it Queens?...what ever happened with that?", and having her call me the next day saying, "I was thinking about you! It's been so long! Guess what...remember Dan? Well, his marriage didn't work out...he moved back...we are seeing each other again...I'm so happy!", is not terribly life-changing or profound, does make me take note. (They are now married, living in Brooklyn--or is it Queens?--and she is still very happy.)

Sometimes something useful happens that goes way beyond my "red light", "green light" psychic impressions or the entertaining parlor-trick type of coincidence I'm used to. Sometimes the Universe mashes my face right into it. It is curious...funny...very human of me how I then go on with things as if nothing extremely weird didn't just happen. (I've never seen a ghost or a UFO, but I think that falls into that category, as well--loosely.)

The job has been completely insanely busy lately ("balls to the wall" as the saying goes, which never gives me an attactive visual of the male who says it), and we are all getting a little edgy with each other. That isn't good at all. My workplace has a culture that doesn't know what the fuck to do with conflict. We are hospice people! We are nuturing, empathetic, accomodating...we don't do bitchy too well. Things can get convoluted very fast if someone is having a rough day and can't voice it so everyone else can cluster around supportively, offering self-care tips and Kleenex.

I was having a bitchy day at work and I didn't want to talk about it. I wanted to keep on being short, surly, and unapproachable. That had gotten me in trouble in the past so I'd learned to amend my behavior in general (I keep telling people "I'm really not a nice person, you know," but they don't want to believe me), but lately work was just over the top, and I was effin tired of the high road. Plus, the social worker I work with had asked me to do something for her before she took a few days off, and I was indignant that she even asked--couldn't she see I was really, really super-crazy busy over here?--and I wanted to keep the indignation going now that she was back. (Somehow, righteous anger feels like a power surge...forgetting that power surges result in blown fuses and the lights going out, but never mind.)

She noticed. She didn't call me on it, but it was clear, she noticed. I ducked out of the office and hit the road to see patients, still energized by extreme annoyance...and a patient called me, overwhelmed, in tears, upset because the social worker had told her the insurance company situation was still messed up and the patient needed to call so-and-so and do such-and-such..."Why do I need to do that? Can't somebody else do that? Don't I have enough going on?", and I reassured her, "We'll take care of it."

The next day I didn't feel so bitchy. (Time passes, and nonsense floats away.) I saw that I had to talk to the social worker about the trouble with the patient and her insurance and her being overwhelmed, but everything between us was so clouded up with issues and irritations that all I wanted to do was avoid her until we could act normal toward each other again. Truthfully, I didn't care (as in "WAH! I DON'T CARE!!") that things between us were strained at the moment, and I didn't want to try to correct them, but on the phone that afternoon as I talked to a dear friend and colleague about it, he said, "You have to talk to her."

"Noooooo. I can't. It'll blow over. But I have to mention how the patient is upset, and I don't know how to say it without it looking fraught. Gawd, I hate conflict...!"

"I know you do, especially these days with all of that going on recently with your ex...but you have to talk with her, straighten this out!"

 I was walking through my neighborhood as we talked, on my way to get my son from his best friend's house, where he had spent the day while I worked. I thought to myself fiercely, "I don't want conflict. I am not in the mood for TALKS. I want this to go away. I'm sorry for being such a rat yesterday, and I am more sorry that I can't get away with being a rat without having to have TALKS about it!"

At the friend's house, the father was the one who was home with the kids. My son and his son have been buddies for two years, and they fit together like gloves--two of the nicest boys you could ever hope to meet. I liked the parents very much--they were good people, down-to-earth, relaxed, and friendly. The father said to me, "He was great, as always, no trouble at all...hey, I've been meaning to ask, do you work with someone named so-and-so?"

"So-and-so" being an uncommon last name, and the last name of the social worker I work with. Who happened to be on my mind at that very moment, so...

"Uh, yeah, I do, in fact, she's on my do you...?"

"I took a class from her [she teaches at the college on the side] years and years ago, she wouldn't remember me, but I remember she worked hospice...she is so nice!"

I blinked, feeling guilty. She is truly a very, very nice person, I admit.

"She is the nicest, nicest person I think I ever met! She taught some wellness course or something...she really stuck out in my mind. The nicest person!"

I agreed, gathered up my son, and we walked home in the warm late summer sun. Okay, I was given this. Clearly I was given this, as a little bit of a jab in the ribs to wake me up, but also as a useful gift I could pass on.

The next day I called her first thing.

She began, "The patient is so upset with me! I feel so bad! Everything has been so frantic at work, and those days off I took, well, I could have stayed away much longer, easily, it's been so stressed out around here...I feel so bad!"

The patient had told her at the time how upset she was, so I didn't have to bring it up, which was a relief. We talked about the issue and made a plan, and when we were done I said, "Hey...I've got a heartwarming gift for you," and told her about what a former student of hers had to say about her.

"Really? Oh, wow, I have tears in my eyes! Thank you so much!" (We really are constantly thanking each other for every lttle thing over here in Hospiceland. It is not such an annoying thing after all, I guess.)

"No problem, glad to pass it on. We all need an extra uplift these days."

And the last of the rancor drifted off into the ether, no longer of any use whatsoever.

I e-mailed my friend and colleague about it right away. "You have some powerful medicine, girl!!!" he e-mailed back. "That was a fucking ANSWERED PRAYER, is what that was," I replied.

Work is still a madhouse ("a hospice, a madhouse?" you are thinking, worriedly, but no fear. Lots of admissions, too few nurses. No botched diagnoses or medication screw-ups. All is well), but the social worker and I are riding it out gracefully...which means, of course, "to be full of grace".

(Carl Jung, the guy who came up with "synchronicity". You know, as's more than a coincidence.)

Coinkydink, Part II

I have the Eye of Horus tattooed on my right wrist. My one other tattoo is on my left shoulder blade and is of a small spider in a small spider web, and I got that in a roadside establishment in Seabrook, New Hampshire in 1990 (where the bikers can get "L-O-V-E" and "H-A-T-E" tattooed on their knuckles if they haven't gotten around to doing so in prison), and I am fond of explaining that tattoo with a "It's the only spider I want on my body", which I think may work, because I never wake up with spider bites.

The Eye of Horus tattoo happened about as impulsively as a tattoo can happen without alcohol involved; I was in San Francisco April 1992 for a week by myself, and woke up in the hotel one morning with the thought, "I want an Egyptian eye tattooed on my right wrist"--and by that afternoon, it was done. I didn't even know what the symbol really meant, only that I wanted it and that I was happy to have it. The design was thick and solid, not fine and scrolly like many Egyptian eye designs can be, and I'm left-handed so my right wrist made sense--as if it could do the watching, while my left hand did the doing--and all I thought about it was, "It's there to keep me honest."

Later I found that when the curly bit under the eye goes in one direction it's the Eye of Ra, and in the other direction it's the Eye of Horus, and Horus is the Falcon God and there is a myth tied in with Osiris and him being raised from the dead by Isis, and so on and so forth, but I can never remember any of that. All I know is I still like it, the ink has held up beautifully, and I have never covered it up with a wide watchband as a nurse manager told me I would end up having to do, "nursing being a very conservative profession." (Since then we have had nurses with pink hair and nose rings, so times they are a-changin'.)

People always ask me, "What does it mean?", and I am always at a loss. I usually default the question with a weak "Oh, I just like it", and the next question is "Did it hurt?", and I say, "Yes, along the bone, there, but it's not right at the bend of the wrist, so it wasn't too bad, not like the back of the neck...I hear that REALLY hurts." This is a conversation that has been repeated countless times through the years.

A few weeks ago my friend and colleague Jerry asked me, out of the blue, "What does your tattoo mean?" Jerry is a dear friend, and our conversations get deeper and more cosmic than conversations generally go in life, so I tried to answer his question, but could not. "To keep me honest" had been the starting point all those years ago, but my tattoo meant different things to me than that, and the eye was never one of reproach or judgement. I didn't talk to it (that would be rather psychotic, eh?), I didn't get an otherworldly vibe from it, I didn't even think of it as "a tattoo"...those were what other people had, with their colorful sleeves and the initials of dead loved ones embedded in roses. Mine was part of me, like a fanciful looking birthmark.

I babbled a bit about the Falcon God, and the rebirth of Osiris, and blah-blah, and then I said, "I don't know. I just woke up one day in San Francisco and wanted it, so I got it. I just liked it...and I still do."

It bothered me that I had no answer to that very reasonable question about a symbol I had permanently etched on my body. Why couldn't I answer that? What did it really mean?

It so happened that April of 1992 marked the start of what was the worst year of my life. I returned home from that trip and jumped immediately onto a runaway train of drama, danger, mental torment, and bad, bad choices far beyond what I had ever dabbled in before. That sickening ride ended with a whimper in March of 1993. One dreary morning, looking out my window in a sort of freeze-frame of activity, the thought came to me, "There must be another way," and just like that I was off the crazy train, never to return.. Life has been life since then, for sure, but it has never been so dark and ugly as that particular year.

The day after Jerry asked me, "What does your tattoo mean?" my bosses sent me to a nursing home to do an admission. I was at the nurse's station copying meds and various tidbits of information from the chart, when the charge nurse on the floor--who was very friendly and chatty toward me, not at all like the typical nursing home charge nurse who finds us hospice nurses to be superfluous pains in the asses--said, "What is your tattoo? Is that the Eye of Horus?"

"Yes, it is," I said in surprise.

"What did you get it for?" she asked, looking at me keenly.

"Um, I don't know, it's pretty old, actually. 1992. I just liked it, and the ink has held up really well..."

"That's a sign of protection, you know."

I was shocked. With all the explanations I had heard, and all the images of it I had seen on this and that piece of jewlery at the New Age stores in my city (and my city is a Mecca of New Age stores, by the way), and knowing that a very typical place to get a Eye of Horus tattoo is on the back, I had never realized that it symbolized protection.

"It is?"

"Oh, yes! People carry it for protection, the gods keeping an eye out for you. It's interesting that you have it on your wrist...tell me, did it hurt?"

I have meant to tell Jerry, "Here's the answer to your question...your question, and mine!", but work has been too busy and I forgot. Maybe he'll read this instead.

a link:

the Eye of Horus on the back of the neck (ouch, better her than me)(and mine looks WAY better):

Coinkydink, Part I

There is a friend of mine--we'll call him Jim--who has been avoiding me for months, and I can't say that I blame him. Whenever our paths cross, some mildly weird stuff starts to unfold, absolutely meant to kick his ass.

We were low-key e-mail buddies who had not seen each other since high school and really never knew each other until Facebook. One day he posted about the movie Wings of Desire, which is one of my favorites of all time but had forgotten about--in brief, it's about angels watching over the citizens of Berlin in 1987, before the Wall came down, and one of the angels falls in love with a beautiful, lonely trapeze artist who wears angel wings for her performances and has a liking for the music of Nick Cave--and the next day while in Five Guys with the kids waiting for our food, thinking of the movie and how I must get the DVD and watch it, I looked up and there was Jim, twenty-five years older than when I saw him last, smiling in recognition.

Jim said the whole thing was odd--he had been watching the movie the other day, after just purchasing the Criterion DVD realease, and the next day found out that Rowland S. Howard--one of the musicians featured in the film, along with Nick Cave (and one of the several painfully skinny guys playing guitar with cigarettes hanging out of their mouths)--had died.

 There was some vague talk about having coffee sometime, which didn't materialize before the next coincidence came up. I had just finished reading a novel by Chuck Klosterman and right away thought of Jim--Jim being deeply into music of all kinds, and Klosterman having made his living writing about music, sort of the American equivilent of Nick Hornby--so I e-mailed him, "Hey, check this author out," and he replied that he would. The next day (repeat: THE NEXT DAY), he visited the books-for-sale table at the library, just for something to do, and there on the top of the heap was one of the nonfiction, cultural commentary, music-focused books by Chuck Klosterman.

Jim e-mailed me about this in wonderment, and we both agreed it was some sort of sign. Jim had been professionally stuck for years, working in the far, retail-centered fringes of the music industry his whole adult life, with a little mix-DJing thrown in there now and then but nothing that had lead to anywhere. He wanted this year to be the year of change, but didn't know what to do or how to go about doing it.

I happened to notice that Nick Cave was coming to town, playing a show at the House of Blues with his side project Grinderman. I got tickets for me and Jim, and we had coffee at Atomic Cafe in Beverly one sunny fall afternoon a month or so before the show, and talked about where we were in life and where we would like to be. Jim suggested we then get some lunch somewhere, so we left the cafe and ended up across the street at a nice little joint called Wrapture that sells excellent wraps, salads, and that sort of thing. Jim talked about his DJing, and some mixes he'd come up with, and how he had a copy of one in his car and would give it to me before we parted, which made me happy, for his taste is vast and eclectic. There was a pause in our conversation, and Jim said suddenly, "Wait. Wait. The music they're playing. I know this," and he got up and spoke to the guy behind the counter, and returned to where we were sitting with an incredulous smile.

"The music they are playing is a mix CD I made a few years ago. I can't believe it," he said.

"What?!" I exclaimed. "Did they see you come in and then put it on?"

"No, they had no idea. I just about never come in here, they didn't realize it was me until I said something."

"Wow...the Universe is trying to get your attention, I think."

"Yeah, no shit! My mind is completely blown!"

The Grinderman show was short but intense, completely worth paying the babysitter for. Nick Cave was looking not too much like the guy singing "From Her to Eternity" in Wings of Desire anymore, but he hadn't lost a trick. Jim and I had a great time.

I e-mailed him, "We should be each other's ass-kickers! Isn't it obvious? There are things I want to do but drag my feet, and you too...we can be each other's 'Life Coaches'. Whaddaya think?"

"Sounds perfect!" Jim wrote back, and I pretty much have never heard from him again. He's still on Facebook, and he still has the same cruddy job, and he is still posting beautiful music nobody has never heard of but should...

...and the Universe is still patiently waiting for him.

(Jim is passionately into Icelandic musicians. I don't have the savvy to put all the little lines and squigglies above the letters to type her name properly, but below is the song "Innundir Skinni" by Olof Arnalds. I have zero clue what it's about, not knowing one tiny little whit of Icelandic, but it soothes, and the video is simply gorgeous. I have the CD, and generally can't tolerate listening to it in city traffic during my workdays--much too incongruous with my surroundings--but I had it repeating as I drove around Provincetown last April. It went very well with the quietness of the dunes. (See my "Provincetown" post for details of the peace I found on that solitary, overnight trip I took in mid-April before the tourists had descended on that part of the world.))