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or how to COPE when you expect things to go smoothly and they don't

Oh, I could blame my mood on hormones, the lack of them, the weather, the food spoiling in my refrigerator, downed trees and power lines, the absurd responses of the local authorities and the energy company. First, if downed wire isn't "sparking", you are not HIGH priority, plus you live on a back road, not a main thoroughfare. Second, you have to have no POWER. Third, after they cut our power line, the one energy guy from Ohio, who said he could have fixed it in less than thirty minutes if they had sent another man with him, was depressed so I had to cheer him up. Fourth, had to call certified electricians who turned out to be Red Bull drinking nineteen year olds who were only journeymen. But they said if energy guy hadn't cut the power, they could have fixed it, even though the wire was LIVE, "We do it all the time; we don't care." Ah, the age of belief in immortality. So I call 800 power outage number as directed by first guy, am told unless there's someone in the house who has CANCER or is disabled or I have a NEWBORN BABY, I am not top priority. WAIT IT OUT four to five days. Red Bull guys finish and are happy to be getting so much work, and make jokes about their nine fingered boss. They give me a paper to sign and I can't find my reading glasses, am probably signing away my soul or something else important; they wish me luck, tell me to lie or borrow a baby, then drive off.

Or I could BLAME the economy, the cats, the new girlfriend's car which now has a dead battery and is blocking the rest of our cars, the noise of the day, asking for help from family members and getting bizarre responses, someone being too positive, someone being too negative, or it could just be ME not having the right tool in my toolbox.

Once, when I asked a therapist friend if it was normal when everything your spouse did made you want to kill them, he said, "I'd only be concerned if you came to me with an actual plan."

Enter my spouse, who I politely ask to bring in firewood before dark to get the woodstove going. Mister Negative says the wood is wet, won't burn, isn't aged. (None of this is TRUE, even if it was, I was a Girl Scout years back for Godssakes. I can build a fire out of anything. And it's like riding a bicycle, you never forget how to do it.)

Enter my mother, renamed by herself Miss Joy, who thinks of my house now as some exciting Bed and Breakfast, complete with cruise ship activities and endless possibilities for family fun.

My younger brother calls, says he's having the local pizzeria deliver food—I believe in the absolute and simple goodness of life again. My older brother e-mails from California saying he's sending PRAYERS, then launches into the more typical rambling about e-colleagues and earthquakes and something about reality distortion field.

As darkness and dinnertime approach, I light candles and set up camping lanterns in strategic locations. With a nicely roaring fire in the woodstove, pizza arrives and instantly I'm thankful. I take a photo with my DYING cellphone and send it to my brother, provider of the feast. Since I'm taking the photo, it's as if I'm not even here. It looks as if some people are having a seance, all of them in a dark circle, candles ablaze. But their faces are shining, like when Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant and did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. Exodus 34:29, paraphrased.

THE IRON NODER CHALLENGE 4: FERRASSIC PARK

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