Monday, November 10, 2008


Well, this morning I woke to a text that read, "call me asap." I did, naturally. My husband is returning to his platoon and his tanks and leaving cell phone reception far behind. I always knew I was incredibly blessed to be able to talk with him as much as I could, it seemed amazing to me and now, like all good things, it has come to an end.

Now, I may not hear his voice until he comes home in December. It is also a grey, overcast day with a nasty drizzle that is definitely not snow. I was putting off my holiday shopping until my next paycheck, but damn it, I need retail therapy and I need it now.

I am right now in my ratty flannel PJs, hair unwashed and uncombed, drinking cold coffee in my darkened and dusty house. I wondered last night if I could be depressed, but I don't think so, because isn't one of the criteria loss of interest in hobbies? I've never been more prolific in my writing. But still, maybe I should get out more. But I just don't want to. Hmm.

Definitely it is time for Managing Winter Depression Stage 2. (Stage one was the buying and keeping alive of indoor plants. That is going very well. No deaths to report so far, though the cat appears to be nibbling on the potted ginger plant leaves. But the geranium in the bedroom is about to blossom, miraculously.)

Stage 2 is the early buying and putting up of Christmas lights; many of them. I already know how I will manage the outdoor lights; I have a ridiculously long extension cord in the back of my car where it has sat since the day I dropped Keith off on post, deployment day.

I will stretch that from the deck, where there are outside outlets, all the way to the front and I will drape glittering stands of light across the bushes and along the outlines of the house and possibly, up in the birch tree, or winding up around its trunk.

After I got off the phone with Keith for the last time in a long, long while, I was barraged by incredibly vivid and intimate memories of him. Of the top of his head, narrow and adorable looking because of that little swirl of hair at the crown, which always aroused in me the most delectable of maternal instincts. Or of his arm flung over my rib cage, enclosing me and the sight of his hand, half curled in sleep and the light glinting golden on the hairs along the back of his hand and the raw, scraped looking knuckles from the constant upkeep that his tank required of him.

I saw his face so clearly, the features heavy and worried looking even in sleep, and the marvelously long sweep of his eyelashes, so incongruous and yet adorable on him, adding to the innocent charm of his clear blue eyes, or making shadows along the curve of his cheeks.

(He would hate it if he knew I was describing him in this way, so just for the record, I must state that he is by far the most manly and tough guy I have ever known.)

Heh. Which makes me remember one time right after I had moved in. I had bought a new loofah to replace the old one in the bathroom, and the next morning, at breakfast, Keith thanked me for getting it. He's always very good at showing gratitude, it's one of the best things about him, and the smallest gestures delight him. I remember the look of wonder and awe on his face when he realized I had swept the floor. He had to call one of his friends to brag of this. The poor man was dying for some domestic attention...but anyway, I digress...he thanked me for buying the loofah.

"I didn't realize you used that loofah, I thought it was left there...from..." my voice trailed off.

"No, I use it every day," he said and then caught the look on my face and leaned forward. "What?" he said, ominously, his eyes bright. His whole body took on the posture of a predator. I felt the thrill of delight and danger.

"I just find it funny that you, of all people, would use a loofah," I dared to say.

"What are you saying, woman?" he cried, "Are you saying I'm not manly?" Then he did pounce and I was caught up inescapably in his huge arms, shrieking with laughter because, of course, he had found out early on how horribly ticklish I am, which always leaves me at such a terrible disadvantage. If he hadn't of been holding me up, I would have collapsed on the floor, completely incapacitated by laughter.

"Say I'm the toughest man you know," he demanded, bending his head to my ear. "Say it!"

"You're the toughest man I know!" I declared, throwing my head back against his chest, and shouting out, not just with the energy of laughter, but with the utter certainty of truth.

Fortunately, we had just resolved a serious argument just before he left the land of cell phone reception. Navigating that argument was a delicate, time taking process. The fact that we couldn't talk long, or reconnect physically to take the tension off, and more importantly, the over all context of danger and uncertainty meant that the argument was conducted in small, almost choreographed stages.

First he would state his position and then I would state mine and then we would put aside angry feelings and move away from the argument. Then we would call again and restate or renegotiate then put it aside again, to reconnect before the call was ended. By these gradual stages, we reached, eventually, a stale mate.

I felt I could not move from my position and he could not move from his. "I don't want to talk about it any more," Keith said simply, when we realized this. "I love you," he said, soon after and we ended that call.

I was sitting out on the veranda at work, in the crisp, winter air. All the trees are bare now, the mountain side subdued, I could see the traffic rushing by endlessly on the interstate at the foot of the hill, everyone heading home for dinner and the evening news, to bath the children and oversee the homework, to load the dishwasher and read in bed.

Keith's ability to put the argument aside gave me an unexpected gift of freedom. He was letting me be and yet still validating our relationship. In that gift of space, I was able to look in a new perspective at my emotions, to sort through my priorities. Once I had done so, I understood then that I could give him what he needed from me. I let go of the baggage and told him where I now stood. In doing this, I completely undid him, which is a marvelously rewarding thing to do.

This was all happening in the overheated, overstressed atmosphere at work, during the one shift that is mine to manage. I feel my natural instincts to lead coming back to life after being so badly burnt out by the one year of being Department Head. But I can't seem to help myself; given enough time, I will start to messing around in policy, taking on more responsibility than is mine, problem solving and teaching and investing in my team mates.

It just happens and then I find myself suddenly with a weight on my shoulders, with my team mates looking at me for direction, to be saved, redirected or wincing away from me, fearful and resentful. It is impossible to have one with out the other.

But it is, despite the weight of this, ultimately a profound relief to see the burnt out edges of me fall off to reveal the strength still there, and stronger than before. Effortlessly now I manage emergencies, redirect, teach and advise. Almost before I realize it is my own, I hear my voice rising out of the melee, calm and clear and confident. Where did I find that voice?

But then at night, I lie in bed, tossing and turning, fearful of the consequences of taking a stand, of putting myself out there, of making changes. Who now will pull me aside and accuse me of lying, say to my face that they know I am trying to get them fired? What swirling eddies of power will create the cross currents that I wade through each shift, the alliances forming and reforming around me at work and how do I keep my path straight through all this, keep my integrity and my courage? I know so clearly my own weaknesses, my failures are always before me.

I must go and take a shower, dress up for morale and take on Stage 2: Christmas lights!


T said...

Yay Christmas lights! Now you need to find a recipe for hot toddies, call your best pals and pull out the flannel PJ's for a rockin PAJAMA PARTY!!!

It'll do you good. And Keith, I'm sure, would love to know that you're still having a good time.

Happy Veteran's Day to him and to you... for all that you do.

Thenmozhi said...

I experienced a similar problem. When I bought my iPhone, I first checked with “Got Reception?” ( It’s a great resource for finding out where reception problems are most likely to occur BEFORE you lock yourself with a specific carrier. arbi