One Ball Juggler

A statement I made in my last blog Competent Confidence has been bothering me since I published it. “…I’ve learned in the post apocalypse, I can’t handle more than one challenge on my plate at one time.” There was a time when I was actively involved in church, working more than full time, volunteering for The Greater Bay Area Make-A-Wish Foundation, and chaired and coordinated the Wish Children’s Holiday party for several years. Not to mention writing with abandon. I was an avid Franklin Day Planner enthusiast, which is how I kept my life straight….mostly. I hoped the plasticity of my life would come back to me over time but it hasn’t. I’m not really expecting my life to spring back to my pre-caregiver days because 1) A lot of the frenzied activity I participated in was to prove to myself and other people I was a good person and 2) I’m older and a little wiser now.

I want to write. I want to re-engage in the world. I want to get my “gig” going to supplement my income to help me reach my financial goals. I keep having false starts on all of it. I am proud of the fact my website is up, pamelagartner.com, but I’ve not gone any further on that. I want to write everyday either my current novels, my journal or my blogs. So far, blogging here is the only consistent writing I’ve been doing and honestly, this is just opening a vein and letting it flow. To be a single, self-employed writer, by necessity, you have to be able to keep two balls in the air at one time. When you have your body breaking down and betraying you, you need to work-out, plan meals and eat right. (ball three) To be a member of any sub-set of the whole of society you have to be willing to go out, engage in activities, make friends and be a part of it all. (ball four) I am blessed with a truck-load of friends and family so, maybe a cadre of acquaintances and new experiences will be sufficient. However, I still need to do the basics for that.

My writing has always been the most important thing to me since I was eleven. I’ve always wanted to be a published author. I used to write (pen and paper) every chance I got. I used to carry a 5 subject notebook around with my school books and I wrote instead of taking notes in class or studying in the library. Later, I carried 5.5″x8.5″ paper in my Franklin to write when I was bored in meetings or on a long lunch. I loved the freedom. I’ve gotten so keyboard-bound the idea of handwriting now seems laborious and a waste of time so I’ve abandoned the practice. My imagination and desire to write has come back to me now the stressors in life are receding, and like a petulant child, the muse wants my undivided attention…NOW! This unrelenting presence in my head makes me frustrated with everything I do because I’m not writing. I try not to let my projects distract me while I work because I can’t stop in the middle of a blood draw or accessioning someone into the system to write down an idea, line of dialogue, or plot twist before it’s gone. This makes it doubly hard for when I get home because it takes time to get the muse to answer your calls when you’ve ignored her all day.

As I’ve been writing this I realize I’m expecting too much of myself, again. It’ll be five years this December since the apocalypse happened. When that life consuming, ginormous snow-ball of a task was finally taken out of the juggling rotation and I started to rebuild my life I expected things to spring back to what was my normal. It hasn’t. At times in the past half-decade I was gifted with time to re-write my last novel twice during the 18 weeks of convalescence of breaking my foot and then the three months of pandemic confinement. It was the only ball I had to keep in the air. During those times I was living my authentic self, and I LOVED IT.

My broken brain has conflated the idea I did all the writing while working full-time; successfully keeping both balls in the air, and berating me for not doing it now. I need to be happy I am able to keep the working-full-time-ball in the air without losing it. Putting pressure on me to get all the balls up in the air again and gracefully moving in artistic patterns and mesmerizing circles is only going to distract me from the one ball I have successfully flying now. Juggling is all about timing and stamina. As much as I need it, as much as the little demanding muse wants it, the timing just isn’t right for more than one ball until I am stronger to handle a second. Dangit.

The Rest is Silence

I lost a member of my flock last week. Dotty was a budgerigar which is more commonly known as a parakeet. I adopted her from a foster mom back at the height of COVID in 2020 as a companion for my bird Blu. Blu had lost his mate, Fluffy, a few years before and as social birds I thought having a companion would be good for him. Blu, sadly passed away a year or so later at the beginning of 2021. Dotty lost her mate as well and came from a home where human/bird interaction wasn’t very high on the young families list. I’m a hands on kinda bird owner but I learned to respect her boundaries. She was never let out of her cage before and I’m a big believer in free flight in the house. She smacked into the sliding glass door a few times and resented me having to hunt her down behind furniture to put her back in her cage. Sammy, the macaw, kinda wanted to see how comfortably she could fit the little ones head in her beak so I never let them play together. She liked to be sung to. I used to sing “Hello Dotty” to Hello Dolly. The most remarkable thing about this little feather-ball was she was always trying to talk and master the sounds around her. She always sang, chattered, and made vocalizations which were solid attempts to talk. I should have spent more time with her to aid her speaking ability but shoulda/woulda/coulda seems to be the refrain which serenaded her life.

When I lifted the cage cover to check on her after she had been making odd noises I found her with her wing caught in one of the slats on the bottom of her cage. I extricated her and moved her over to my bed to observe her. She was breathless from the struggle with the bars, both wings drooped in exhaustion but she wasn’t fighting my hold on her, and when I uncurled my fingers from around her she didn’t try to fly away. In fact, she held fiercely onto one finger. She started having some sort of fit where she would try and bend her head all the way back to her tail and fly. The first time this happened she landed on the floor. I got her back on the bed and made a nest in the blankets for her but the fitting kept coming over her and she would get dislodged. I had never seen this kind of behavior before and I was terrified she was dying. Frantic, I found a site that connects people with questions with experts with answers and paid the $1 sign-up fee and was passed off to a vet who wanted to look over the techs notes before she continued. I never heard back from the vet. By this time I had Dotty blocked on the bed with my leg, she was still fighting the seizures but she was getting tired. I took a video of an episode and sent it to the vet. She was against my leg a little on her side when I saw her wing quiver; then she was still. I informed the vet she was gone and put my phone down and picked her up and gently held her to my chest and sobbed. I cried harder over that small bird than I did for my mother or my two brothers deaths. It’s taken me almost a full week to clean out her cage and move her out of my life. I miss her singing.

I wish I could say my mind allowed me to make this all about her. Recriminations rained down on me like a flight of arrows calling to mind every mistake I made, when I didn’t keep her cage clean, when I didn’t let her exercise, when I kept her in front of the window on a hot day, how I never took her to the vet, how I shouldn’t have let her suffer and I should have just rung her neck and put her out of her misery. Then a shield came up and deflected the arrows with comforting words (which has never happened before, at least not this consciously); You didn’t know her age, birds hide their illnesses, budgies don’t have a long life in a cage. You loved her, you took care of her and you were with her up until the very end. I don’t know which voice is true. I know which one I want to believe and for the first time in my life, it isn’t the negative telling me it’s all my fault. The self talk I’ve been practicing in my daily life, when it doesn’t seem important, has built up the muscles of support when I was to weak to block the old ingrained mantra of self loathing and disappointment.

The emotions of mourning have unsettled me, tho. I spoke to my sister about it briefly because I’ve not been able to talk to anyone about it without tearing up, and she speculated it might be an accumulation of all the changes, deaths if you will, I have experienced in the last five or six months. She might be right, I’ll have to talk to Ellen about it at our next session, but having these emotions so close to the surface is troubling for me, well, emotionally. Crying is so foreign to me, I feel like I’m forcing the emotions so I try to stop it and it comes back up to the surface in the most inopportune moments. I’m trying, on one side of my brain, to allow myself to cry when I’m alone and where I’m supposedly safe and the other side decided it wants to watch TV, write a journal entry or a blog, play with Sammy, crochet or do anything other than the needful. I guess I will cry when I cry. Maybe once the tears are all dry I will find the peace which comes with silence.

Psyche Stew

I realized yesterday I am stewing in anger…..not drowning in it like before…..but stewing in a thick savory broth of anxiety with juicy pieces of frustration at myself and the world. Quartering my accomplishments like new potatoes into my “inabilities”; not being able to or have a way to take care of myself, to think clearly, to get a job, to pay my bills. With some self-assessed failure and corresponding flagellation like peas and carrots in one big InstaPot life.

What this means is I am going back to the basics, the meat and potatoes if you will, of my recovery and try to gain the ground I’ve lost. I haven’t really lost it, I know where it is, I just need to deconstruct the stew, portion it out into easy-to-deal-with sizes, and trust in myself and God that this isn’t my last supper.