There’s a lot to juggle these days, but I am thankful for the juggling all the same.
Half of the terrible thing happened on Tuesday afternoon. It’s not my story to tell so I shall say no more.
I am spectacularly blessed – in this terrible thing – a thing that happened to someone else and I am at best collateral damage – so many have checked in on me. Understood that this was a hard thing for me too.
I am very much not alone in my foxhole.
I am so terribly thankful that I cannot quite express it.
I have an affection for old farm trucks. In particular a 1982 chevy, painted the colour of cheddar cheese – with an 8 track and ripped vinyl seats and more rust than body panel looms large in my memory. It’s the first vehicle I routinely drove, the first (and last) truck I got stuck in a ditch, the conveyance for my first accident (a very slow speed collision with the side of a building). It’s the truck of my grade 12 year, bombing down a range road with the finest of 1982 speakers blaring a song called tubthumping.
Old trucks are pigs to drive. Cheddar would require an almost inhuman display of force to shift from reverse into drive. I am so good at reversing because there were times you could not get the truck in drive and reversing 2 km’s back to the residence was simply easier than fighting it. Cheddar occupies a place of fond memory, in the way that the worst of experiences is smoothed out by almost two decades of time.
I was out in the country last Tuesday, having dinner with some very old friends. Staying with them is the eldest son of my old headmaster. He’s 15 now, learning to drive and struggling to manage gear changes on an old farm truck. I winced in sympathy. The clutch is a nightmare, the gear box sticks, the truck bucks and stalls. He’s beginning to think he just can’t drive a standard.
I suppose that’s why I was letting a 15 year old drive my M3. You know, the one I told you about yesterday, the one that I have never let anyone else drive. And it wasn’t so much that I was letting him drive it as I was letting him stall it while he tried to drive it.
I told him there was no rush. We had all the time in the world.
It is a lie. His father taught me that most critical of lessons through the fall, winter and spring of my grade 12 year. Nothing lasts forever. Not the bad and the hard, but also not the good either. Things come and go and you must let them. You can’t hold on to things for more than an instant. Life is like a manual car – you must shift at the right times.
Eventually he gets it exactly right. He shifted through the gears and he felt the car surge underneath him. I watched wonder ripple across his face. We slow down for the turn and pull into the driveway again, he learned that you can’t hold on to things too long. You have to shift to a higher gear when the rev’s get too high, you must adjust your driving to the road. Summer does not last forever.
His father taught me something profound 18 years ago. I got to teach the son a tiny bit of that lesson last week.
That was sentiment. In my grade 12 year his father gave me the greatest of gifts through the simplest of lessons. I taught a boy to drive a standard, trying to repay the gifts given to me. Which is why I let him drive my car.
I grew up in a home where you put your car keys in a basket at the front door – it was busy and you weren’t going to be able to find people to jockey vehicles to get to yours. If you needed a vehicle, you grabbed the keys for the vehicle at the end of the driveway. The upshot of it is that at the age of 18 I routinely drove my step father’s cadillac, my god mother’s lexus and my cousin’s fully loaded and optioned pick up truck. I drove vehicles that were worth more than my entire university education and thought nothing of it.
I am actually quite flexible about cars. Need to borrow a car? I’ll dig the keys out of my purse – for the Rogue. You can borrow it to go to Costco, you can use it to run out and grab something at lunch time. Mr. Spit and I taught the minion to drive in the Rogue. Generally speaking, I’m going to tell you that cars are just cars. They are insured. If you loan a car to someone and they wreck it, you have insurance*. Sure it’s inconvenient, but it’s a car. They make new ones every day. As long as you aren’t hurt, we can replace the car.
It’s not that I don’t love my cars. I do. I love driving, love the feel of acceleration and windy roads. I get a rush from driving – I buy cars that require good drivers. (Except the Rogue. Another story for another day). Perhaps it is that – cars were made to be driven. They are amazing pieces of machinery- a veritable symphony of aluminium and steel and wiring and sound and soul. There’s something about a car and a human and our ability to have an incredible experience. It’s really almost profound. Cars were made to be driven, to be used. They are of no earthly good to anyone sitting in a driveway.
All of that is the set up to show you how peculiar it is that I won’t let anyone drive the M3.
It is odd that I am so protective of Holly. I agree that she is just a car, however much I love her. In some ways, she’s not even my favourite car. A 1991 dodge spirit with a persnickety radiator and questionable brakes that was my first car. Mr. Spit’s Rav 4, with a first gear that was so short you could not actually make it through the light without shifting to second.
My old cars had eccentricities. Things about them that you had to watch for. Holly has nothing so gentle as an eccentricity. Turn off traction control and set her to sport and she is actively trying to kill you. Shift down when your rev’s are too high and she’ll lurch so that everyone around you knows you are an idiot. Shift incorrectly when she’s cold and she stalls. She doesn’t play about.
It’s not that Holly is expensive. It’s not that I love her. If I’m honest, at least in some cases, it is that she is so powerful. Anyone can get into trouble in any car. You can get into a lot more trouble a lot more quickly in a 400 hp car.
More than that, she’s mine. In a way that none of my other cars were. She is the most expensive car I can ever imagine myself owning. She is pure joy to drive. A long and awful day, trying circumstances, she’s the top down, the stereo playing U2 and suddenly it’s all better. She’s something I bought for myself because she does nothing but make me happy.
I’d like to think that I’m the sort of person who shares that. I’d like to think that I’m the sort of person who likes making other people happy.
It turns out not.
Which is going to make my post tomorrow even more bewildering.
*It’s worth noting here in Alberta, if you loan your car to someone with a valid driver’s license, you are insured if they wreck it. That’s not the case everywhere. You should check your insurance.
Reportedly, there are no atheists in foxholes. (The proverb is silent on agnostics.)
I’ve been thinking about this, mostly because I am under a mountain of stress. It’s the worst sort – It’s going to hurt me and someone I care about. I can’t move it, manage it, shift it or alleviate it, I can’t do anything other than endure. A terrible thing is going to happen , on a timeline that is utterly unclear to me, and I can’t stop it. I’m stuck in this foxhole.
All of this explains why I had no control over my thoughts for an hour on Sunday night, could not budge them from the hellish soundtrack they were stuck on. I was paralyzed with fear and dread.
Earlier times, I would have prayed. Not because I thought that prayers would fix it, but because when you are at the bottom of a foxhole, you are in the middle of a war, and what is prayer to the divine but an attempt to have someone more powerful get you out of this foxhole?
When you are an agnostic in a foxhole, you know that there is only you and what you have made. All you have are your resources, your wits and your skills. If there’s anyone to help you, it’s because you have built that relationship on your own. There’s no divine intervention in an agnostic’s foxhole.
I meditated, I practiced deep breathing, used every mindfulness skill I have acquired in the last six months. Pulled out the PTSD coping skills they taught me after Gabe. Finally I went and took a sleeping pill, deciding if I was stuck in the foxhole, at least I might as well get some sleep.
Today, if I am honest, has not been much better. It’s probably been worse. Tension in my shoulders, a weight in my chest. It hurts to breathe deeply, I cannot focus. A feeling of uncontrollable dread stalks me. It’s wretched.
In the days after Gabe, when this used to happen a lot more, I had a discipline that I called “a million points of light”. I would deliberately look for wonder and beauty in the world, positing this was proof that God loved me and I was not alone.
I got into my car after taking the train home from work tonight. The song we sang at Whytelash’s wedding was playing. I remembered love and friends and joy and victory.
I am still small in this world. Not all that powerful, not all that wise. I can’t fix what I know is going to go terribly wrong. I can’t even protect someone I love from this. A terrible thing will happen.
I am not alone in this foxhole. It’s actually quite crowded in here. I don’t have to be strong or wise. I have enough friends that are. For now at least, this foxhole is home. And like the words we sang
“Home, let me come home
Home is wherever I’m with you
Home, let me come home
Home is wherever I’m with you.”
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zero’s – Home.
Turns out if you are an agnostic, you can actually have a bit of a party in a foxhole.
- First Monday back to work after vacation
- I actually didn’t sleep in that much while on vacation, but still, it sucked this morning
- It feels like I just got into the spirit of vacation on Friday.
- And I had to be back at work today.
- Ugh. I’ve mentioned ugh, right?
I understand that if you don’t knit and a knitter presents you with a pair of socks, you think “oh, socks.”
You don’t realize that the wool was probably $40 and they spent 30 hours knitting them. I realize that you don’t see the work and the cost. Indeed, I realize that there are some people who, when gifted with something hand knit, think that I cheaped out on buying them something more expensive. I understand that we don’t necessarily look at time as having value.
Which is why I think I have had a number of odd experiences in the last month.
1. Can you knit me an X? I’ll pay you. My response is a standard – sure, it will take me the following number of hours and my work bill rate is $200 an hour. Perhaps you might like it if I taught you to knit instead? Seriously. My time is not free, and I doubt you are able to spend what it is worth.
2. I present a hand knitted (or hand sewn) garment to someone and I don’t even get a thank you. I actually, to be honest, don’t care if you send me a thank you card. A text is fine. Some acknowledgement that I gave you a gift of not just a thing, but my time and skill. Probably the best thank you I have ever received was a photo of my eldest nephew’s boyfriend, wearing the socks I knit him, with the hugest grin on his face. No words required.
3. “Could you knit me something. It needs to be this. Here, I brought you a photo.” Look, it’s a gift. Obviously I’m going to knit you something that you like, and if it’s something big like a sweater or a wrap, I’m going to think about what I know about you and what you wear and choose something that incorporates into that. I’m not going to knit a guy a pair of pink socks with lace and bobbles. Lately I have been asked to knit an oversized sweater out of sock wool and an entire mermaid sleeping bag. Hundreds of hours of time. There’s bonus points if the picture you give me is of a crocheted item. I don’t crochet.
I knit because I love you and I want to wrap you in hand knitted love. On occasions where I cannot physically hug you because you are too far away, I know of no better way than to wrap you in a hand knit. It’s my way of saying “I think about you. I think about you a lot and I love you very much”. There is no amount of pay that would compensate for not having this feeling.
10 and a half years ago, I looked at the paint colour in the master bedroom, which you were sure was called “shit brown” and I couldn’t bear sleeping in that room. Having picked out colours for the living room and bathroom, my brain rebelled at the thought of picking out another colour.
Exasperated, you told me to paint it white, temporarily. And I did. You will recall as well as I, owing to the fact that the previous owners had used some sort of industrial paint with a plastic something or other, it took almost 4 gallons of white paint to cover the walls of a 12 by 12 room. It’s not that the brown showed through, it’s that the white slid off the walls. I remember you and I standing there, watching it, bewildered.
Our bedroom is the last to be painted. Everything else is done. Well, for now. The new colour is honey almond and it’s really about the same colour as you painted your living room.
It’s your birthday and I’m painting my bedroom in the sweltering heat. Later this week I have to buy a new mirror (You understand this, even if Owen is scratching his head). I’ll take David and half way through, between Pier One and Home Outfitters, I’ll look up at the Starbucks and I’ll say “Ready for a break? I need a coffee.”
We used to be able to spend an entire Saturday looking at home decor things and spend $15. Most of that was on the coffee half way through. The point was never the things we bought or didn’t buy, it was where we were trying to get to. Creating a feeling of sanctuary. To put it another way – I had never been in your last apartment but I knew it was yours when I saw the wreath on the door and I knew the door knocker with someone else’s name must have driven you crazy. I know why your chair was in that corner – it’s because you could look out the window and see the garden.
He’ll see the wistful look on my face. He’s good like that and he knows I used to do this with you. I’ll tell him a Wendy story and we’ll drink our coffee. And I will miss you. Just like I always do.
Happy birthday mumsy. Wishing you a weed free garden, a shady spot, a copy of Martha Stewart Living before she got all commercial and silly, and a really good cup of coffee.
I would like to say that I have an explanation for why I didn’t blog all week.
I’d like to say that I was very busy. Something.
Mostly it’s this – I started a medication to quit smoking and it is making me sick. Miserably so. I can barely keep my head above water.
I was supposed to take the meds for 2 weeks before I quit. I quit on day 9. The faster I quit, the faster I can stop taking these pills.
Today marks 14 years of wedded life for Mr. Spit and I. In recognition of that – way back in March, 100 days before today, I started a list of 100 things I loved about Mr. Spit.
1. You picked me up at the airport. Just like you do every time. I walk through the security doors, and there you are, leaning up against the post, smiling at me. Doesn’t matter how tired, how grumpy or how frustrated I am with work, you, there, makes my day better.
2. You woke up obscenely early to go to a fundraising breakfast with me. You helped me host a table full of people you don’t know and were witty and charming.
3. You are going to the neurologist with me. It would never occur to you that most people would let their wife go alone. Nope, you figure I have MS, and you are affected by what affects me, so off we go to the neurologist. Because we will figure this out. Together.
4. Your old boss came and hugged me. While, on the surface, this has nothing to do with me, it reminds me that we have made this life together, filled with people we both care about.
5. You wrapped a present for me. I know it seems a silly thing, but for heaven’s sake, when I wrap presents, it looks like a drunken wombat went at it, and I so appreciate that you are willing to share your talents with me.
6. You indulge me (and participate in) my love for Downton Abbey.
7. Most mornings when we are both in town, you drive in with me, carry my briefcase to the corner by my office tower and kiss me goodbye. I love that.
8. You were out of town this morning, but when I woke up, there was a text from you, wishing me a good morning.
9. You cuddle me every night.
10. I stayed home sick today and you checked in on me, multiple times.
11. You came and asked me what we had to do to make time for a cuddle today.
12. I like running errands with you.
13. You told me that my mermaid tail sleeping bag was awesome. It was, but I appreciated your appreciation.
14. Umm, yes. That. Mmmmmm!
15. You are so excited to go to Nicaragua to build a bridge, and I love watching your excitement.
16. Sometimes you randomly buy me flowers.
17. I’m so proud of you when you go running, even when the weather is miserable.
18. You cook dinner when I’m tired.
19. You went and got the cat food. For cats you don’t like.
20. You bought me a solid chocolate bunny and laughed at me when I bit his ears off (but were quite willing to bite his head off)
21. I love watching you shave.
22. You apologized for getting me sick too.
23. You knew I was sad and hurting about the thing, and that there was nothing you could do about it, so you gathered me into your arms and told me that you loved me. It doesn’t and can’t fix anything, but I felt better.
24. It’s been a tough week at work and you keep listening to me rant about the same things.
25. You only laugh at my fear of dentists a little bit.
26. You made sure I didn’t expend too much energy after my Tysabri
27. I’ve mentioned that you are a good kisser, right?
28. Still listening to me complain about work stuff.
29. I love your smile. It makes my toes curl when you smile at me like that.
30. You hate the cats and still clean their litter box.
31. You put me on a plane early in the morning.
32. You thought it was great that I spent an entire weekend in another city, with a friend.
33. I ate a fabulous meal with great wine. You had plain spaghetti, and you were still happy for me.
34. While the weekend away was fabulous, you were waiting for me when I got off the plane and that was even better.
35. You noticed the new clothes. And you said nice things.
36. You made dinner while I napped.
37. You ordered me to have a nap.
38. You are so incredibly dedicated and determined. You run in snowstorms.
39. You think it’s great that you play video games and I knit.
40. I watched you run past me at your half marathon, looking half dead. You came across that finish line, making the time you wanted, and I can’t recall when I was last this proud of you.
41. You tried really hard not to talk about how much you hurt after the half marathon.
42. You thought it was great when I decided that I might want to do a half marathon.
43. Random texts through the day asking how my day is going make me smile.
44. I had a doctor’s appointment and you offered to drop everything and go with me.
45. Getting dressed up to go out with you.
46. Golly, that was fun!
47. I slept all day because I was exhausted. You were ok with that.
48. Star wars nerdiness
49. Watching election results with you
50. When we sit on the couch and talk about our days.
51. That you mostly understand my lack of communication in the morning is nothing personal, it’s just that every morning is a shock to me.
52. Quiet Friday nights at home.
53. Tysabri days. When you understand that the bacon cheeseburger and onion rings are the only thing that might stay in my stomach
54. Mother’s Day sucked. At least it sucked with you.
55. That when we fight, we can sit down and work through it and still have everyone feel loved at the end of it.
56. I made a vegetarian meal. After 14 years you are mostly ok with this.
57. After a day filled with nose bleeds, when I didn’t want to cook, and all I wanted was pizza and I felt badly about not cooking, you reminded me that while you love my cooking, if you wanted a cook, you would hire one.
58. You creep in the house quietly when I am napping on Friday afternoons.
59. You were careful to watch over me at a birthday party, and when it was apparent I was exhausted and embarrassed by having to leave the party early, you helped me creep out without anyone seeing me.
60. I was still exhausted today. You kept watching over me and telling me that it would be ok.
61. Monday’s are awful. They are better when you kiss me goodbye
62. You kiss my shoulder every night before you roll over and go to sleep.
63. You tuck me into bed when I have a nap.
64. I love the joy you get out of your motorcycle. I like the fact that your jacket is neon green, so that motorists can see the guy I love coming.
65. I had to cancel some plans. You kissed me and told me that it would be ok and there were other times.
66. How you cheer when I go running, even when I don’t want to.
67. The fact that you spent 3 months raising money for MS
68. Puns. Puns that last for hours. You really are astonishingly good at them and it makes me smile.
69. You notice when I get my nails done.
70. The way the corners of your eyes crinkle when you laugh.
71. When you tell me that you appreciate how organized I am.
72. I was grumpy about something. You gave me a good perspective. You pointed out that you couldn’t fix it, but you could listen.
73. There’s no one I’d rather sit next to in an overheated auditorium, watching a kid graduate.
74. Hey, we looked pretty good in those photo’s!
75. Well, this is a PG blog, and that wasn’t a PG thing, but oh, hell yes.
76. You were out of town tonight and I missed being cuddled before I fell asleep.
77. I had this perfect plan to stop by the side of the highway where you were working and kiss you good night. Except it didn’t work. It was a really good plan.
78. You came home early from your trip, and knowing that I was at a meeting, you quietly slipped into my home office with an iced coffee.
79. I love watching you while you sit and read.
80. Tysabri day. It sucks. At least you make me laugh.
81. That was an awkward situation we found ourselves in. I appreciated how you were so careful to check in and make sure that you understood how I was feeling.
82. The smell of your shaving soap.
84. The text you send every morning telling me to have a good day.
85. The way you look when you are concentrating on something. I love that singular focus.
86. Sitting on the front porch talking about things with you.
87. I screwed up. You were far more gracious than you had to be.
88. When I say – “yes, I could do that. But I really, really don’t want to” and you do it for me.
89. You are very good at solving problems.
90. When you look at me from across the room and know I’m exasperated just by the set of my shoulders.
91. You make a point of telling me that my big brain is sexy.
92. Scattering mum’s ashes was hard. Holding your hand made it easier.
93. Sometimes you can read my mind. That’s both alluring and terrifying.
94. You hit your head on a bridge and I’m not there to check you over and kiss it better and that makes me sad.
95. I know I tease you about your puns, but they make me smile, every time.
96. I like coming home from my run and seeing you smile at me.
97. Cirque! I’m so glad that has become one of our things.
98. Avengers! I’ll share my popcorn with you any time.
99. Lazy Sundays. Spent not doing much.
100. 14 years. That’s 5,113 days. 100 reasons doesn’t seem like enough, but hopefully it’s enough to have you know how glad I am that you are in my life. I know I’m not much for sentiment, but my life is in every way better because you are part of it.
I love you.