What came to mind when you read the title of this post? Did you wonder where I’d been? Did you wonder why there’s a question mark on the end of the sentence instead of an exclamation point or no punctuation at all?
I didn’t go anywhere. Physically.
Well, in the last eight years I’ve technically been to a lot of places. Places I never expected to go.
Maybe I need to back up a bit. The last 12 years. I think that’s when I first disappeared.
Are you catching up with me, or have I lost you even more?
You see, I haven’t felt entirely like myself ever since we’ve lived in Nashville. The move changed me.
Heck, events that led up to me even considering leaving Jacksonville, the beach, the water, two seasons, and returning to a landlocked place with four seasons, one of which included the possibility of snow, changed me.
Why We Moved
The decision to move was made based on greed and frustration.
Wayne had the chance to make a whole lot more money and work in a firm he’d always wanted to. (Well, maybe not that exact firm, but it afforded him the chance to work in a Big 4 accounting firm.)
Then there was the housing situation…
The job offer came at the end of 2004. After we’d just survived four hurricanes. In one year. The worst was Francis, which only hit Jax with tropical storm force winds. But that was enough to do a lot of damage. We didn’t have electricity or water (we were on a well and our pump was electric) for over three days. (It was almost four but the power trucks came late in the night and hooked us up.)
That doesn’t sound like a lot, but there you have it. My dreams of auditioning for Survivor were shot because that experience taught me I would never purposely go without power or fresh water ever again.
Needless to say, my nerves were shot. Nashville seemed like an escape.
Then there was how much more house we could get for our money. (Although I wish I’d known then that a bigger house meant more cleaning, which takes more time. Housework is not my forte, so..yeah. Not one of my more stellar decisions.)
Anyway, so we moved. Not really considering all that we’d be leaving behind. We’d moved other times. They’d always worked out for the best. We’d meet new people and make new friends. We’d find activities and get into a groove.
Well, we sure tried. But things were different here.
Nashville: The No Friend Vortex
Maybe it was because we were in our early 30s now. Everyone was in our same boat in Phoenix and Jacksonville. We all had 8-5 jobs. No kids.
But then some of us started having kids. Didn’t really change much. Added a new twist was all. We still hung out at each others’ houses. We went to dinner. We had fun going to kid places (and using them as our excuse to do it!).
But here…people were established. We hadn’t grown up with them having kids. They were busy with their lives. They didn’t have time to let kid-less friends in.
The there was Wayne’s job. Crazy hours. Unpredictable. He had to travel a bunch. It was an adjustment.
I was alone a lot. And I was miserable. I missed my life, my friends, my neighbors, my routine that I’d had in Jax.
I tried to re-create it here. I tried new things. I tried to bond with neighbors. There was a clique, most also newly arrived to Nashville. They liked to party and drink, however.
Don’t get me wrong. I like get togethers, but I can’t drink. (I overdid it in college. Now even just the smell of liquor makes my stomach roil.)
I’m not much of a beer drinker. Except for cider beer.
A glass of wine every now and then, maybe a shot of Fireball or a whisky mixed drink is about as wild and crazy as I can physically get. Whatever I drink has to be in very limited quantities. My days of rowdy drunkenness are long behind me because my body immediately rebels when it’s had over its limit.
The Dark Years
We tried to move back to Jax in 2007. That was the start of the Dark Years. (Which I’m now convinced were part of a cosmic plan, but that’s for another post.) Wayne got a job down there, we tried to sell our house.We were separated for five months. (Because of the moving, not because we were considering divorce. Just to be clear.)
Wayne ended up coming back. Hated working in industry again. Missed the travel and change his current job affords him.
Then 2008 saw my mom get diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and dementia at the same time. My sister bailed on me, so I was left caring for her.
Which sounds sweet, right? A daughter caring for her mom in her dying days. Awww…
No. It was a nice gesture on my part, but unappreciated by my mom or sister.
You see, I didn’t come from a loving family. In fact, I’d learn from a social worker and a counselor at my mom’s hospice that I’d come from a mentally and emotionally abusive home.
Which I think I’d always known in my heart. I’d been able to bury, deny, and avoid all that pain by never moving back home after college, and limiting interactions to once a year if I was lucky.
But with my mom living with us, the nightmare was reborn. There were things I’d buried so deep I’d forgotten all about them…until they ruptured back through the surface.
Then I couldn’t seem to re-bury them. Or even deal with them at all. I was slowly going crazy…and unknowingly making myself very sick. Literally, deathly ill.
My mom died. I thought my hell was over. Nope.
Five months later I was in the ER writhing in pain, begging for pain meds, being denied because at first they thought I was an addict. Then they got the whole story, which involved reviewing a CT scan I’d had a few days before that no one had told us the results of yet. I had a massive lump in my chest. My turn to face the Cancer Beast.
2009 was a blur of doctor appointments, chemo treatments, radiation, port flushes, and constipation. (I never have that trouble. Usually the opposite. So, yeah, that was memorable because it was so awful. I really empathize with people who suffer from that chronically.)
Then I don’t know what happened. I became a living contradiction.
Mass of Confusion
I was both adventurous and wanting to live life as large and spontaneously as possible, but I was also terrified. Hurting. Traumatized. By my cancer. By all the shit that went down with my mom and my sister.
I always knew my mom didn’t love me, but to have it confirmed in as spectacular of a way as happened in her dying days, well…only those who have known a parents’ disdain can even comprehend that. And if that’s not you, count your blessings. Such un-love impacts you in profound ways that scar you for life. Irrevocably.
Anyway, trust became a huge issue. I’d always trusted people. But now? Fuck that. Yes, the F word. I don’t drop that bomb often. Only when warranted. This warrants it.
If my own family could betray me and treat me so vilely, why would I expect decency from perfect strangers? I didn’t.
I spent the next several years in territory I’d never been in: being guarded, distrustful, aloof.
I’ve always been more of a loner naturally, because even growing up I was alone a lot. Wayne’s job has been both a blessing and curse. I don’t like being away from him so much. But…it’s also made me even more emotionally independent.
I get anxiety being around people for too much time. But especially after everything I’d gone through with the cancer, I trusted people less than ever.
Also, because no one would listen.
“Hang in there.” “You’ll be okay.” “It’s not that bad.”
Do you know how sick I got of hearing those cliches? No, you don’t. But let me tell you, there were days I’d scream, literally scream, after someone said one of those.
No would seemed to be hearing me. Or caring. My pain fell on deaf ears.
I really probably needed counseling. Probably still do.
But the one time I went to talk to someone as my mom was dying was a disaster. I cried so much, hurt so bad, I had the therapist crying. A man therapist even!
I couldn’t endure all those tears (mine, not his) again. Reliving it made it worse. I just wanted to forget it again.
Easier said than done.
I’ve spent the last few years trying to reconcile being unloved. By my mom. By my sister. Heck, even to some degree by my dad. (Who I have a better relationship with than I ever had with my mom or sister. But, like with my mom, my sister is his favorite and that hurts because she has refused to talk to him in the last 20+ years.)
Anyway, maybe it’s yoga. Maybe it is the few friends I’ve finally made here. Maybe it’s the friends I’ve had for many years I still keep in touch with. Maybe it was Wayne patiently, and not so patiently, reaffirming his love for me time and time again.
I am loved.
I am worthy of love.
I can’t change that my mom didn’t love me. I can’t change how I feel about that. (Hurt. Angry.)
But I do have the choice to let it impact me every single day, or…not.
I choose not.
Getting Over Myself
I heard this quote not too long ago: “He who angers you controls you.”
It came at a time I was receptive to understanding exactly what that meant. I felt a lightness off my heart I hadn’t felt, well…ever.
It wasn’t just that quote that magically snapped me out of my funk. Lost of little things had been happening to bring me back. But it was after embracing that quote that I noticed suddenly I was different again.
Yet not different. I was the same as I’d always been, but also more of who I had been before, with improvements after all of the fire I’d walked through.
Fire. Perfect word.
You know those silly quizzes on Facebook? The ones that analyze weird things about yourself? What your favorite color says about you, who’s most likely to bail you out of jail, what your birth date says about you, etc.
I did one recently about Which Ancient Symbol Symbolizes You?
I got a Phoenix.
Perfect. In more ways than one. (I consider Phoenix, Arizona my adopted hometown –sorry, Denver. You’ll always be my actual hometown, but Phoenix has just always captivated my heart.)
So maybe that’s it.
I needed to go down in flames, literally, to learn that ash is beautiful, useful, nurturing and the basis for growing again.
It didn’t kill me. It made me more aware. More determined. More loving. Less fearful. More confident. And stronger. Definitely stronger.
Hello again, Self. Nice to see you. I’ve missed you. Like the changes you’ve made. But glad you’ve reconnected with some of the “oldy but goodie” parts too.
Let’s go. We got more living to do.