Graduation Day

Ivy graduated from college on Saturday, via a virtual ceremony. For the first time in about two months, she and Trevor slept over the house the night before. We ate with them at the kitchen table, inside the house. The last two times we saw them during this quarantine it was outside only, on the patio. But, as I stressed to Ryan, we can’t avoid contact with them for another year or two until there’s a vaccination. At some point we all have to start living again, albeit differently than pre-COVID-19.

When we first heard that her ceremony would be virtual, we were sad. It felt like the end of everything we knew. But in short time we’ve adapted and now we recognize the overreaction. She still graduated and will get her degree when the college mails it. They mailed her a cap and tassel and we had a leftover gown for photos. We got to be together, texting family while we all watched the ceremony online at the same time. They didn’t call out each name, just scrolled through the names, but the rest was there. The National Anthem, words from school leaders, and an inspirational speech from the Dean. One girl sang the school song. Each student had a profile page you could click to view. It was different but it was nice. Maybe even nicer in some ways because we were together, not off in a stadium barely able to see, stressing over parking or the guy with the bullhorn.

It was the little things that made it special, like her getting a picture with our cat who is now twenty-one years old. I made a mosaic Ivy to go on the wall (a hobby I picked up several months ago). Getting her picture next to it was something we couldn’t have done had this been at the campus.  Right before picture time we picked roses from the yard.  Afterward we had a relaxing lunch. We didn’t hug her or Trevor because, at least for now, we are being careful even though no one is sick. We didn’t share food or eat off each others’ plates. When we drove to get the food, Ryan and I left them here as we didn’t feel right all piling into a car.

But there is a lot of good that has come out of this paradigm shift in our lives and our thinking. There will always be the social media angry types, fuming either about our lack of rights at being forced to wear masks, or those in a fury because everyone doesn’t wear one. But the people I work with, who I talk to on the phone, or people in my town I see at the grocery store or out walking, they’re kinder. They know we are all on the same road, the only road: the future. Mask or no mask, nice or mean, rejoicing in life or obsessing about ever-changing death projections, sharing what we have or hoarding and hating. Around here at least, people seem at ease. They’re careful about social distancing but there also seems to be an air of calm, of unity, that wasn’t here when we were all going a thousand miles an hour, from one event to the next.

A few weeks ago I saw a  utility  box  on  the street showing me  that humans are working together, and this new normal is okay.  Stay Strong 2020 the box said, with drawings of graduates.

On June 12, Ivy will receive her first ERT, enzyme replacement therapy for Fabry disease. It’s time to resume what we were all doing before COVID-19. Before I would have sat with her for the six hour treatment plus the time to prep. Now I’m not sure; she may have to go in alone. But if nothing else, this pandemic has given me perspective. The treatment is available, insurance is still covering it, her health is still fine. Except for being afraid for a short while, it hasn’t changed anything for us. Not concerning her treatment at least.

I’m still working full time, as is Ryan. Trevor was laid off but can collect unemployment. Finding a full time job will be a little harder for Ivy given the continued restrictions in her and my counties, but it will happen in time.  People will need help with their mental health now more than ever.

Restaurants are starting to open for dine-in services, though most of the people I know are still a little gun shy about that. In her county, masks will be required even when they’re at a food drive-thru. Like us, Ivy and Trevor have grown accustomed to wearing masks in stores, and doing more cooking at home. She’s been making breads and we were both excited when I found two packets of yeast at our local store, one for our household, one for theirs. 

I saw a billboard a few weeks ago in the San Fernando Valley. “Make this the year” it said. “PEACE. Pass it on.” If I’m looking for signs from God or whatever ethereal being I trust with my destiny, it can’t be more blatant. I later ran across a car with this licence plate.  “Soul Hug.” Another sign.

I am so proud of Ivy for graduating from college, at a time when the world is so foreign. But we are all graduating, each day, as we learn from the past and change our futures.  We can’t hug (outside of our household) right now, but there is still an awful lot of love out there. Give everyone a soul hug, and remember that we are all in this together.

Peace. Pass it on.

-Carly G.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Farewell, My Rebound Dog

IMG_2373Our Lily passed away on Sunday. We’re heartbroken because we lost a family member, but also because she was my Rebound Dog, the little creature who jumpstarted this blog. I started writing it before I got her, but only days before.  She had medical problems from the beginning: deafness at a young age, chronically bad teeth, and heart failure we discovered last June. She was only eight years old, but in the end, even with eight pills a day, and much pampering and medical care, we had to let her go.

The last picture I have of her is at the vets right before I said goodbye. Despite how restricted they are with humans in hospitals right now, they allowed me into the room with her, to hug her and be by her side. I had to wear a mask but this has become habit now. She didn’t seem to mind. Until the end she was happy and cheerful despite her lungs and heart barely working.

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I think back to when we got her. It was August 5, 2011 when I wrote the post, “My New Rebound Dog, Lily G”. I had no idea then how this concept of starting a brand-new life, of getting stronger and not rushing into the first relationship I could find, would bring me here.

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It wasn’t just that I changed my thinking about taking the first person, or dog, that came along in a relationship. It gave me strength to distance myself from toxic people, to forgive others, and months later upon talking to Ryan for the first time, to have the courage to change everything in my life. The new mindset, which was symbolized by Lily’s appearance on the scene, pushed me not only to move cross country to California, but to get a new position at work, then another, to work to my full potential.

From my August 15, 2011 post, “Finding the Right Breed for Your Needs.”

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to the sobering post on October 8, 2011, “He Picked Me” where I realized how I’d assumed, my whole life until that point,  if someone chose me I should accept that and feel lucky, I could already see changes in myself. As Lily grew physically, I was growing emotionally.

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Ivy has gone from her sophomore year of high school, when we picked Lily up that fateful day, to a twenty-four year old woman, who graduates college in a month. Our life is inexorably different now, in a good way. Despite the quarantine, I’m always outside in my yard, enjoying the brightness. I’ve got a yard full of plants. Ivy and Trevor rent a garden plot and walk to it daily to get vegetables they’ve grown. We talk about meditation and calmness and the beauty of the world around us. Last night Ryan and I sat outside and stared at the stars, relishing the quiet.

When I think of how I was before Lily was around, life was so different. Long train commutes into Boston, snow and rain all the time. Darkness. Being sequestered in the condo with very few windows and constant anxiety. Who’s to say that if had I gotten a different Rebound Dog, that I may still be in that condo, in the cold, unsure of everything. Still doing the same job. And Ryan would be out here, likely still in his old apartment, with his turtle. Who knows where Ivy would be, or if our relationship would be so strong, if individually we would be so strong.

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I’m sad when I think of her being gone but she accomplished so much. She brought us joy, joining our lives when everything was in disarray. She wagged her stubby tail and ran in circles whenever we came home, compelling me to laugh, to lighten up. To be calm and happy just to be alive.

I hope she has a good long rest and then someday starts a new life, and brings that family the simplicity and peace that she brought us.

We will miss you so much, little Rebound Dog.

-Carly G.

 

When This Blows Over

“When this blows over” has become an over-used phrase lately. The COVID-19 virus has upended everyone’s lives. We all talk about what we will do when this blows over, meaning  the illusory “someday” when the virus will hit its peak, start to back off. It’s when no one will worry anymore that we will catch a cold that turns into pneumonia and kills us within days or weeks. It’s when we can shake hands, and talk to people in stores again. When we can walk outside without masks, and push shopping carts without rubber gloves. It’s when we can see our grown children again and our friends, and all the people who don’t seem real anymore. It’s when we’re not constantly afraid that someone we know will catch it.

“The new normal” is another phrase. What if this is our new normal? Eventually we’ll all venture out again, even if it’s months from now. But there will always be the fear of another wave. Or another virus.  All this fear in a society that has prided itself on being limitless. We haven’t had wars on our soil, or weather events that impacted the whole country at once. Our worst economic woes still left us in better shape than a lot of the impoverished countries. We can speak freely, study anything that interests us, travel any place we can afford to go. We can do whatever we want, buy anything we want, and no one can stop us.

Until now. Until this virus caught everyone off guard and brought our lives to a grinding halt.

People like Arnie G. are grappling with how to be homeless when the streets are cleared, when being social is not allowed. He’s almost died so many times because of recklessness or choice, but he always survives. He was saying the other day, wouldn’t it be ironic if after all his near death scrapes (two weeks ago he was clinically dead, and brought back) if this virus took him out. He called  from a rehab and said,”Hey,the rumors are true.  A lot of people  on my floor have the virus. They told me to stay in my room and not venture out.” For a lot of reasons, I still think he’s safer there than on the street.

As an introvert, in many ways, I’m relishing being able to stay home all the time. Ryan and I go out for groceries once in a while, but now that masks are starting to be required, it feels scary out there, like a horror movie. I’ll work from home indefinitely. Ryan goes to his office so my routine is unchanged.

When he gets home each night we eat dinner and try to watch the news. There’s a new drug and treatment and hope. Another station says there is no hope and that drug is no good. And another station still, says something else entirely and we don’t know who to believe except that everyone is right. So mostly we watch old movies and Netflix, and stay in the house and play with the pets. We call our friends and family and then watch more TV or I play my dulcimer. Inside the house, everything is safe and cozy and nothing has changed.

Outside these four walls, everything is different. It’s as if someone has hit pause on a giant remote control in the sky. I can’t see Ivy or Trevor, or my little CASA kid, who I usually spend Saturdays with. We can’t see friends or go to antique stores. The news is all bad, all scary. Every time I open my news app, the case and death numbers are higher. There are very few cars on the road. The courts are closed and they’re setting prisoners free. The schools are closed and all children are home schooled now.  A lot of people lost their jobs and their heath insurance but there are no evictions or foreclosures or car repossessions. Ivy’s graduation was postponed but she’ll have a virtual ceremony in May. People I know have lost family members to the virus and can’t have funerals. There are no weddings or parties. People get arrested for holding church services. With each new bit of news that should rattle me, it starts to feel normal. This is how humans are. We adapt.

So it begs the question, what will I do when this all blows over? I don’t know. The more I stay home, the more surreal outside life becomes, the more permanent this quiet solitude becomes my new normal. It’s peaceful in here, and safe. Ryan and I are enjoying the stillness. I miss everyone, and I sincerely hope that people stop dying, and the doctors get a handle on this virus. I was scared for a while, and shocked like everyone. But now I’m numb to it.

When this blows over, we’re all going to be different. Some people have a list of things they want to do, as soon as they’re allowed out, be it visiting restaurants or travel, or seeing concerts. For me, when this blows over, I’m going to have a hard time getting back to my old normal.

Today it’s raining, as it has for several days. I look outside at all the greenery the rain has brought, and the bright flowers. The only sounds are the dogs snoring, the cat meowing, the lone frog outside croaking, the rain dripping down the drainpipe, and the wind chimes ringing, the soft tapping of my fingers on the keys. I want the virus to go away, for the fear to stop, but when this blows over, I want to keep this stillness, this seclusion from the noisy busy world.

I hope we stop the spread of the virus and everyone can all go back to their old normal, unless, like me, you’ve learned some of the new normal isn’t quite so bad.

Keep safe-

Carly G.

 

Happy New Year 2020

When I think of a new calendar year starting up, my gut reaction is to take an assessment of the last year and make a plan to do better in the new year because it seems that’s what this “holiday” is all about. But I do that all the time anyway, stuck in a continuous spiral of self-reflection. I’ve always been leery of this blog being used as a chronicle of events so I’m loathe to start that habit now.

That said, 2019, with all its ups and downs, was a good year. Ivy is starting her last semester of college in a few weeks, all our pets are still alive despite three of the dogs being diagnosed with heart disease and the cat still chugging along with kidney failure. Ryan and I are still working at our respective jobs, though there have been some changes in mine. We lost some good friends, which was sobering, and got me into action mode: put everything in a trust, write a will, make a plan to pay off the house early…And overall I became disillusioned with writing fiction and instead-because I need to do SOMETHING-started covering our concrete wall with mosaic artwork, one broken piece of Dollar Tree dish at a time. I’ve seen several of my writing friends do the same, and suddenly my Facebook feed shows a lot more artwork. But that’s a whole other blog to be written someday.

Recently I started the chore, and it is a CHORE even if it brings back good memories, of scanning all my old photos. For weeks now, the kitchen table has served as a photo scanning station. Even as a child I was a recorder of events, in photos and in words.  In middle school, I sold Olympic Greeting Cards door to door to save money for my fancy Kodak Instamatic.

In looking at all the old pictures, I was reminded who I was then, and how little I’ve changed, on the inside.

I was always taking pictures, writing in journals, or making mental notes.

In the pictures I scanned, there were a lot of my first apartment. After that I moved up in the world, got an apartment on the second floor which was much roomier, lost my job, moved in with a friend, got a new job, then moved back to the original attic apartment. This all happened within a span of two years. There’s one particular picture of me, that I had someone take, when I moved back “home” to that first apartment.  In the album, I’d added a label: “The old-new apartment, the old-new Carly.”

 

 

 

 

 

I was so happy then to get my life back to how it was, back where I belonged. Shortly after I met Ivy’s dad, Arnie G. We managed to squeeze into that tiny apartment for a year.

Somehow over the years I turned from the Carly I used to be, to morphing into an always-upset, always-worried Carly, who felt the need to control everything. I spent so much time and energy trying to get life back on an even keel where I could just be.

I won’t rehash the Husband #2 time frame, when I had to fight all the time to be who I really was. It’s enough to say that I left and have been creeping back to “me” ever since.  Seeing the old pictures I scanned, shows me that where I am now, happy in California with Ryan, I’m finally back to who I used to be. This picture is from a trip to New York City I took with my best friend at the time in 1989. Looking at it, I can see that except for being a bit chubbier, carrying some extra Carly around, I’m not much different.

The light is back in my eyes, my sense of frivolity is restored, and in general, creativity and oodles of imagination that borders on lunacy defines me.

Seeing these pictures also reminded me how much happier I was with shorter hair. So I cut it last week and felt instantly twenty-years younger.

Ryan encourages the reemerging of that old Carly, fostering that child and doing what he can to bring “me” back. For Christmas he got me a new Lego set of a VW Van, and two pop up books.  I know some women like jewelry but for me, these gifts remind me that he knows exactly who I really am, who I always was, and loves me more for it.

I was pleased to see Ivy’s Instagram this morning. She too is making the old to new comparison, stressing that everything she’s been through brought her exactly back to who she was meant to be.

Below are the side by side pictures she posted. It makes me so proud that she gets it, that whatever happens, the biggest accomplishment is remembering who you are, and not letting any circumstance pull you away from that. And if you do get pulled away, you have to reel yourself back in.

 

 

 

 

 

Two days ago I saw a crazy red plaid blazer. I smiled and told myself that this is exactly what the old Carly would have worn and loved, much the way I wore flannel shirts in high school, and didn’t really care what people thought, because I thought it looked cute.

On that note, happy new year! May you all remember who you are and rediscover yourselves in who you may have become. We are all happy souls on the inside. In 2020, let that happy soul thrive!

-Carly G

 

I’m at that Age

dandelionI’m at that age, fifty-one as of yesterday, where two main things are in play. First, I gained a lot of perspective. I’ve been through so many situations, met so many people, and have failed more times than I can count, that I finally get it. I understand life, and what we’re supposed to do, and how I can maneuver through it in a relatively peaceful existence, helping others find peace, steering clear of conflict. I’ve managed to gain the confidence needed to push away people who upset me, be it those I’m close to, or those on social media whose sole purpose seems to be crying out at the injustices of the world. I’m a glass half full type, and will always see humanity and the U.S. and the world at large, as inhabited by good people with good intentions. And I try to push that agenda: be nice. I’m in a good place. A happy place. Perspective has a lot to do with it but it’s also where my choices have landed me. I feel like I’m coasting, drifting along happy on the river of life, a leaf on its waters, enjoying the sun’s warmth, and the ebb and flow of the current.

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The second thing that I am encountering, is that at fifty-one I’m at the age where people around me are dying. In February my ex mother-in-law passed away. A couple of weeks ago my ex father-in-law followed suit. He’d been sick for sometime but still. They were only on their seventies which is not old, and not too far fifty-one. A couple of months ago I was shocked and saddened to discover one of my best friends from middle and high school, and early twenties, died suddenly. I don’t know how, or what happened but her husband passed just a year before and she left behind a daughter Ivy’s age and another in high school. Others I know have been diagnosed with cancer, others have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, pre-diabetes. Or all those things. It’s scary knowing that at this juncture, the people I know now may not be here forever.

Lots of people, most probably, have experienced death in loved ones. I’ve been lucky enough to avoid it mostly except for grandparents and a few others. My parents and aunts and uncles and cousins and friends…they’re all still here. The people who have passed in the last year, the in-laws and a friend of ours in his seventies had long-term health issues made worse or caused by smoking. But when my high school friend passed away, a woman just a few months older than me, it was a shock. That could be me. Could be any of us.

At fifty-one, though I’m healthy, I feel like any day could be the last day. I’m not being maudlin, just realistic. I could have choked to death on a piece of candy as a young child, or been electrocuted, but someone saved me. I could have died in a head on collision on the freeway at twenty-three, but even with no seatbelts I walked away with chipped teeth. With all the shootings and car accidents and illnesses, on the one hand I am grateful every day to have another day to cruise down the river and enjoy the sunshine. On the other hand, I know I don’t have forever.

I think Ryan went through something like this when he turned fifty-five. That was his age of reckoning. We met up with a friend recently who said because she and her husband didn’t have kids, they wondered what to do with all their expensive books when they someday passed. At twenty and thirty and forty years old, you’re in acquisition mode. Filling your life with things that bring you joy. And then you get here and start wondering what will happen to everything when you go, and you start thinking maybe you can stop adding more stuff and start taking away, or at the very least, accept that when you go, others may not treasure your treasures the way you did.

It may seem like I’m writing this, terrified of death, or the end, or questioning what it all meant. Not at all. I really like life. I’ve always liked it but it’s only the last year or two that it’s…dare I say, easy. Seamless.

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When I used to picture how I’d end up, it was like this. I’ve got a loving partner, a wonderful daughter, good, genuine friends, a cozy house, a reliable car, a job that I miss doing when I’m on vacation, a colorful yard filled with bright greens and reds and yellows that epitomize vibrancy and life.

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My dogs and old cat gather around for their handfuls of heart and blood pressure and dementia pills. But they too are filled with love and life and not thinking of when it’ll be over, just really excited every day that they get to wake up and run around and cuddle. It’s a simple and a good philosophy. When I was younger, I was always questioning everything, digging deep into what was really there, what could happen. Now I see life with all its beauty, as it is. Today.

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You can look at a garden and see wildflowers swaying in the wind, picturing gophers below the surface chomping grass to feed their families, and worms, spiders, and caterpillars all cohabitating, all part of the process that makes the garden. You can smell the flowers and listen to the buzzing of the bees. You can touch the velvety smooth petals, and feel the powdery dirt between your toes. The sky is bright blue and the blazing sun warms you, just enough. And you can be thankful that you get to be a part of it all, that you are lucky enough to be immersed in such a perfect existence.

Or you can obsess about why others don’t think like you, or worship the same God/god or vote the same way, or discipline their children the same or eat meat or not eat meat. And you can tear yourself apart with anger at how different everyone is from you, and agonize over what will happen if everyone isn’t like you, if they choose other paths or love differently.

I choose option one. To just live as I am, in the company of others who are not like I am. To seek peace and those who are peaceful, or those who strive for peace.

At fifty-one, I appreciate every moment, every raindrop, every ant in the cat food, every gopher hole, and artist who has tried and succeeded or tried and failed because it’s all part of life. And this life is a good one. I hope I get a lot more years, and that those around me do too. But mostly I hope that everyone around me can see that indeed, it is a wonderful world, that time must be cherished, and that the best we can do is to see the beauty in everything. Ivy has a tattoo that says Dwell on the beauty of life. There’s no simpler way to say it than that. Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars and see yourself running with them. Thank you, Marcus Aurelius, and thank you to the universe for giving me another year.

Happy birthday to me,

Carly G.

Bringing the Smurfs Home

smurf2The summer before fifth grade, my stepdad and the beagle he’d taken with him in the split, picked up my mother, brother, and I and whisked us off to a new apartment in a new town.  After a year of separation, of living in my grandparents’ living room, we were going to be a family again. With my child’s eyes, I saw nothing but hope and promise.

By sixth or seventh grade, my parents’ relationship started backsliding. As I wrack my brain, I can’t recall anything being unpleasant. It was all flowers and rainbows.  Except in reality, a fuzzy reality that only appears to me in tiny unpleasant, out-of-sequence images, it was not as Leave it to Beaver as I like to think. It wasn’t horrible, the way some childhoods are, but there were issues that in retrospect were not as well hidden as my mother would have liked.

These not-well-hidden issues manifested in stress illnesses in me. I had headaches and bad stomachaches all the time and was always missing school, going into Boston to see one specialist or another. My parents tried to make the visits fun, and all these years later, one of my strongest and happiest memories was the day we went to the Boston Common after one of the appointments. There was a man feeding pigeons and they hopped up on him. I was impressed but Dad said it was just the peanuts, and if I sat very still and gave them nuts, they’d jump on me too. Pictures in an album of a chubby twelve-year-old with frizzy hair and a rugby shirt, with her arms outstretched, pigeons lined up on her arms and hands, remind me that it actually happened. That day was magical.

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There are a lot of random vignettes from those days: playing cribbage and Scrabble with my parents, singing in the school choir and school plays, playing with friends.  But none of it feels real. I could just as easily have watched a movie about a neurotic, over-imaginative little girl living in an apartment in the 80s and my mind wouldn’t know the difference.

There were a select few bad things, all jumbled together in a blur: the time the neighbor boy killed a garter snake in front of me for no reason. The night my teen brother and some friends tried to steal beer off a train and he fell and broke his ankle. Or how he later abruptly went to live in upstate New York with my bio Dad and stepmother and stepsister. It’s all hazy. Did I miss him? Did my mother miss him? I’m sure she did but when I try to recollect how it really was there’s just…nothing. Only snapshot images of certain, unrelated days.

When my stepdad would go out until the wee hours of the morning, and come back drunk (so claimed my mother years later), and I’d hear those angry shout whispers through the wall that she was so good at, as she rode him over the rails for being out AGAIN, all I could think about was that when I got up in the morning there would be a new Smurf on the kitchen table for me. They used to sell them at Cumberland Farms back then. I didn’t care about the yelling, or feeling sick all the time, or being chubby, or not knowing if my brother was coming back or not. I just cared about the Smurfs. I got the Cupid for Valentine’s Day, and Smurfette, and so many I can’t even remember. The Smurfs were my favorite thing in the whole world and the most concrete part of my entire childhood, next to my beagle.

Then in what felt like days but was actually several years, life changed dramatically, the details of which I’ve talked about at length in this blog. Before I knew it, I was in high school. Everything was different. Except for living in the same apartment, and still being a neurotic, over-imaginative girl with frizzy hair, it was a night and day contrast. When I was a Junior in high school and was dating the boy from Maine, aka my first love, we used to visit his family. He had a little sister who lived up there. She was eleven and adorable. She and her family didn’t have a lot of money, or space, and she didn’t have many toys. At that point in my life, I was so far removed from my childhood and the man who brought me Smurfs, that I didn’t have any attachment to them anymore. Truthfully, I didn’t have attachment to much of anything and drifted through most of those years looking forward to a future phase in my life that would be pleasant and easy.

So, the next time we went up to Maine I took the shoebox of Smurfs who’d gotten me through so much, and gave them to her. She was surprised and happy, and I hoped more than anything they’d bring her the same level of joy they had once brought me.

Over the years, as I got older, I often thought of my box of Smurfs and how I wish I’d kept them. Realistically, Mean Guy probably would have thrown them out and I’m still glad that little girl got them. I like to think she loved them as much as I did.

Now that I’ve arrived at that place I dreamt of, where things are finally pleasant and easy, that one loss nags at me. As an adult, I’ve rebought a few things that I lost over time, like a pop-up book about kids in a haunted house I had in fourth grade, or The Witchmobile book which I LOVED as a small child. Ryan has bought me many items from my past, like the Merlin electric toy. A few years back, McDonald’s had Smurfs and I bought a few Happy Meals to get them. Those Smurfs are on my desk at work. Unless I spend a lot of money though and go to a specialty store or eBay, I won’t get enough to fill that empty Smurf hole in my heart.

Until now.

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Last night I was on Facebook’s local shopping page and a woman posted “20+ Smurfs, $15.” There were two Ziplock bags of Smurfs and my heart leapt. She’d JUST posted so I sent her a message immediately. Rapid fire and manic because I was so excited. “I can be there in twenty-five minutes.” She said tomorrow would be better and I planned to go see her on the way home from the office. Today, I met her and got my Smurfs.

Maybe it’s silly to think that two bags of blue plastic from a stranger in Pacoima will replace everything that the “bad years” took away. That setting them up on an already crowded living room shelf and playing with them and staring at them with utter joy will be the last thing needed to make me complete. But somehow, I think it will. I have worked hard to set my life up just right, and mostly it’s all flowers and rainbows, to the level that people probably think I’m high all the time because no one can be that sunny.  But those darn tangible symbols of the adolescent Carly’s love for her father have haunted me.

Everyone arrives at adulthood with a least a few rips in their emotional fabric, tears that heal and scar over. We can’t go back and fix whatever happened but sometimes applying happy patches to the holes makes all the difference. Material things don’t matter, and at the end of the day, no one really needs “stuff.” But this once, stuff matters quite a bit, to me, still a neurotic, over-imaginative girl with frizzy hair.

Happy Smurfing,

Carly G

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What Could Have Been

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Ivy sent me a meme the other day. It was in block colorful letters and said “Remember that once you dreamed of being where you are now.” This made me smile. There’s something dreamlike about how our lives have turned out. Ivy said she feels the same and suggested looking at my hands to make sure I’m awake. That’s the telltale test which seems to have replaced “pinch yourself.”

It’s not that we have perfect lives. My job entails a ton of brain activity, and hot flashes and too many pets in the bed rob me of a good night’s sleep. I switch between being exhausted and overly energetic. I’m overweight and drowning in credit card and student loan debt. My Five-Year, Debt-Free plan keeps getting extended. The animals are old, most of them, and very costly. Ivy has chronic pain and a future filled with medical uncertainties. Will her disease progress? Will she have a stroke, or need a new kidney? Will her future baby inherit her disease? What if she never lands a high-paying job that will allow me to stop paying her bills?

But beneath all those external situations and possibilities, there’s a tangible sense that we belong exactly where we are, a certainty that’s plunked us into an unwavering state of contentment.

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Opportunities are appearing and falling into place with inexplicable swiftness.  I’m writing fiction again after a hiatus of what feels like a year. Ryan’s friend, now my friend, Debbie, has been nudging me to write a web series for a couple of years. I’ve been saying no, resistant for reasons I can’t defend, but she finally pushed me hard enough until I conceded. It helped that only a week or two before, I got to “act” on a reality show/ courtroom drama, a last-minute opportunity that popped up. It was surprisingly fun, and being in the studio, getting “hair and makeup” and improvising lines was alluring. I finally grasped the “acting bug” phenomenon people talk about. When Debbie took me to a studio later, and we brainstormed the series idea with another friend, I left in an exhilarated, manic state, suddenly back to writing, for better or worse, with chronic excitement and boundless energy.

Everything I wanted is finally coming to fruition.

Ivy just got grades for her second semester, the end of her junior year. All As, all year. In her spare time, she joined a band and has been recording with them; and her summer job will be co-manager of a theater camp for kids. All endeavors that feel more fantasy than reality. She meditates every day, does yoga, often by the ocean as waves crash just beyond her.  She has found an inner peace and quiet she never imagined possible. It’s all clicking into place. 11227039_960513267303604_3426904505297736836_n

Yet sometimes I have neurotic panic moments when I worry I’ll wake up and be back in another part of my life, where none of this happened. I made so many choices over the years and my life could have turned out differently. This fear grips me sometimes, and despite the inner voice that talks me off the ledge and convinces me this is real, it’s an irrational dread I live with.

When I was in high school, I was dating a boy from Maine. Mean Guy was still with us then and I was about as miserable and hopeless as I ever have been. At one point I came home and told my mother that I was going to quit school and move to Maine. Thankfully she told me no and I listened. But if I had done that, where would I be now? Not in Southern California with Ryan, pets, Ivy, and this life.

When I was a senior in high school, I signed papers to join the Air Force. It was settled. I’d go to boot camp in the summer, get free college, and serve my time at the end. I was going into Military Intelligence because I had a flair for languages. But my mother said no and since I was only seventeen, that was that. She would NOT sign the consent form. She was correct in that by the time I was eighteen that following September I no longer wanted to join the military. But what if I had? I could have been killed. Or maybe I’d have excelled and found myself in a nice little life. I’d have a degree and solid career, maybe a military husband and a rigid, ordered life. But it wouldn’t be this life.

After I graduated from high school, I was supposed to go to college but canceled last minute, which has been mentioned before. I often regret that I didn’t get my degree. I have remorse over this I can’t get past no matter how old I get. But if I had gone, I wouldn’t be here now. Maybe I would have gotten the psychology degree I was pursuing and then gotten a Masters. Maybe a PHD. Maybe I’d have gotten a nice husband and a big house and several kids. Maybe I would have been happy. But I wouldn’t be where I am now and I wouldn’t have Ivy or Ryan or the experiences that make me who I am.

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When Ivy was four-years-old, I almost moved to Canada, to Prince Edward Island. I honestly think I would have loved it as I still maintain it’s a magical place that always felt perfect. I would have been happy there, no doubt, but I would have been away from the family that helped me so much when I was raising Ivy. Even so, if I had to pick an alternate life to wake up to, it would be that path. But if I had moved to Canada, Ivy and wouldn’t have ended up here, in this life. I get grief-stricken just thinking about it.

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There were a thousand other choices I’ve made over the years, ones I looked back on and regretted. Ones that seemed pointless and foolish, and that derailed advancement in my company or in my writing career. I think of the tears I shed over boys or men who broke up with me, or friends or family members who left me behind.

But those missteps and tears led me here. If I had made even one different decision, I would not be where I am now. In this life where Ivy and I belong, a life that despite its often-ethereal quality filled with uncanny coincidences, is evidently not too good to be true.

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If you’ve ever done a jigsaw puzzle, you know the exhilarating feeling you get when after countless hours and days of adding one piece at a time, first the edges, then the middle and connecting pieces, you get to the point where there are only a handful of pieces left. And your excitement is overwhelming because every piece you pick up fits exactly where you think it should. It’s effortless.  You forget the frustration of the time you spent picking the wrong pieces, the drudgery of working toward something whose completion seemed an impossibility.  Instead you rejoice in the thrill of adding one piece after another with no guess work. It all flows perfectly and each little click into place brings you one step closer to finishing. You know finally, you have achieved exactly what you set out to do.

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I know this is all real because I just looked at my hands. My life’s path could have led anywhere, but I’m relieved that I ended up exactly where I needed to be.

To finding all the pieces,

-Carly G.