April Shit Storms

1. In no particular order, let’s get the proverbial wrecking ball rolling with taxes, shall we? Uncle Sam always makes an appearance after all. Taxes were overdue so my anxiety set in. When you’re working poor, tax returns are everything. They are proof that you are in fact poor, albeit trying not to be. They are evidence that your child requires help to attend preschool, summer camp, needs state medical insurance coverage and sometimes food.

I made arrangements to have my final “Married Filing Jointly” tax returns done by a local non-profit organization, free of charge, but my ex couldn’t get his butt in gear in time and cancelled the day of the appointment, set for a week before the IRS deadline. He said he was waiting to get paid so he could have our taxes done by a friend of his at the bargain rate of two hundred dollars EACH. That’s right. Though he knew he would have to cover that hefty fee after cancelling the free service I arranged, that was still $400 that would not be going toward groceries, clothes, bills, or even something novel like an extra curricular activity for the girls over summer break.

2. Next up, a big income-generating event for my self-employed business bombed. No much-needed dinero. No cash money. No dollar dollar bills. Many bills to pay. Moderate panic ensues.

3. Alas, my anxiety peaks after dad insists, last minute, on the first overnight with our girls since our separation five month prior. To spare the kids bearing witness to any drama I must concede. Anxiety cascades into a full-blown panic attack as soon as the door closes behind them. I phone a friend who talks me down. She insists I call my primary on Monday. I am unable to endure the weekend to schedule and later meet with my midwife who can prescribe me some of the good stuff. Instead I race to the co-op for immediate invention. Eyes flooded with heavy tears, I grasp the unsuspecting homeopath’s arm and beg, “Please, no placebos!”

4. My new boyfriend ghosts me. I can’t really blame him because, at this point, I was unarguably a hot mess. To make a long, self-loathing story short, let’s just say I’m off of dating for a while. Okay, fine, I’ll share more of the pathetic details. 

In spite of everything going on in my life, I really liked this man and I had every reason to believe the feeling was mutual, so I thought it would be daft to let him get away. Then he asked me to be exclusive. All signs pointed to yes in that Magic 8 Ball. But when my feelings intensified, my nerves set in. I got scared. I sought reassurances from him, which he initially gave me. But soon thereafter I’m certain my anxiety triggered his anxiety and he opted to exit stage right instead of sticking it out. I thought of all people he would understand what I was experiencing, maybe be supportive, if only as a good friend. Apparently I was wrong. The sad irony is that he likely understood too well what I was experiencing, and, as self-preservation dictates, you always put your own oxygen mask on first. I know the rules, I usually just don’t follow them. Perhaps he didn’t want to revisit the confines of rock bottom, even if only by proxy. I understand. He had already crawled his way out of that dark, cold hollow following his own separation and divorce a couple years prior. I get it. But it still hurt. It hurt a lot. There is no Band-Aid for this shit. It just burns until it doesn’t burn anymore.

The added sting I was feeling I believe can be attributed to the fact that I hadn’t experienced heartache for at least a decade. Although extremely difficult, I ended my marriage. I also ended an engagement before that. This was a feeling and experience I was no longer familiar with and no longer had the right stuff to cope with. Having kids compounded my dilemma since I couldn’t simply revert to my old coping and distraction techniques of keeping busy or bar-hopping since, in my experience, bringing children to the bar is generally frowned upon.

So he vanished and I freaked. I grasped at the ghost of him like I was the losing hand in a game of spoons. In the eye of an onlooker it was certainly an embarrassing display. As a friend poignantly said, “Desperation is the worst-smelling perfume.” Still, I harness little remorse. I was open and vulnerable with my feelings and my heart. For that I live with zero regrets. Being that vulnerable is scary. It hurts but I can live with that.

Following two unsuccessful, long-term relationships, I reentered the dating scene with the determination that I would no longer aim low to protect myself from falling. I was set to aim high, to aim for galactic and enjoy the fruits that could come with the good fortune of finding a match of that content and caliber. But indeed the fall back down to Earth from galactic is a long free fall. I never got an earnest answer from him about his sudden, rapid retreat, but I suffice with the deductive reasoning that he was not emotionally available. I reached this conclusion only after I lingered in disbelief for weeks after he was gone.

I lingered in the space between. I didn’t want to get over him. I considered whether something was legitimately wrong. Was he hurt? Was he laying listless on his kitchen floor? I actually stopped by his home out of genuine concern, realizing, of course, that this was seemingly cray-cray. His car was there but nobody answered. I continued to wonder, was he on drugs? The hard truth that somebody could simply vanish, become totally cold and carbonized from somebody with whom there had been, by all appearances, a strong connection and a great burning fire, was beyond fathoming for me. Friends encouraged me to forget about him. They suggested I tap into a different feeling, like anger, to help get over him. I went on a handful of dates but that was dumb; all these very nice people never stood a chance. I still didn’t have peace with the recent past and none of these men were him.

I have finally started to rewind & I may take a wee hiatus from dating. I simply cannot risk that kind of heartache again anytime in the near future. It sucked down there. Besides my plate is pretty full at the moment and it’s probably not a good idea to date me less I drag anybody else along for this uncomfortably bumpy ride. It’s not sexy.

Fear not, I’m certain there will be enough material to amuse you in the meantime. Read on and allow me to demonstrate.

5. Arriving at the next stop on this now three-week trail of tumult, my step mom has a heart attack. Thankfully, she survives but must remain in the hospital for several days, endure months of rehabilitation after that,  and commit to major lifestyle changes. We’re all shaken. I am the hot mess sent to act as the “nuclear representative” at Easter brunch with the extended family. I oblige with the rhetorical conclusion, “What is family for if not to receive you late upon arrival, bearer of bad news, empty-handed, hungry and requesting a drink?” In the end, I was nuclear alright, just not in the way that was intended. Thankfully my very funny cousin managed to put a smile on my face and helped keep my glass half full for a few hours that sad day.

6. I get burglarized. Yep, that happened too. For reals. Because why not throw in a little intrusion unto my sanctuary, my safe space, my temple? Thankfully, since burglars prefer not to be caught, we weren’t around to bear witness to the idiocy that was these youthful intruders. And while they did steal a few things of monetary value, like my laptop and my kids’ tablets (aka my spontaneous peace of mind and daily dose of sanity), they left behind our greatest treasures discovered in nature, including feathers, rocks, pine cones, animal bones, and our collection of dead bugs. Such amateurs! They did steal my box of wine. My vino! So when I decided to paint my bathroom two days later as catharsis and discovered they had robbed me of that, I was livid. That’s right, with this these freeloaders had gone too far.

This realization came the night after a small emergency evacuation due to a carbon monoxide alarm sounding, which you don’t second guess at bedtime since it’s a colorless and odorless gas that can put you into an eternal slumber. I almost forgot about that one. Let’s call that shit storm bullet number 6.5. Fun times right at bedtime to have to make an impromptu call to my ex to come bail me out and pick up the kids for an overnight requiring a drive to suburbia to drop them off. Luckily it was also my best friend’s birthday so I decided this was a sign to press pause on all the urgency in favor of celebrating her life and having a much-needed girly sleepover at her place afterward; a good idea for many reasons but definitely to move the attention away from my uber-sucky existence.

7. Moving right along. The next day I learned that an old friend had attempted suicide and was in a medically induced coma. After finding temporary solace in a simple breathing exercise to calm my fight or flight mindset, supplemented by beginning to read the transformative book Women Who Run With Wolves, this catapulted me backwards. Along with a mutual friend, we visited her. Not knowing quite what to say or do, I  divulged to her the disastrous few weeks I had endured. I was hopeful that would make her feel in like company, not so alone. In the end I forfeited the title of worst week to her, which I was grateful made her laugh. I’ll count that as my great achievement during the month of April.

8. Shall we continue? Two days later, I am rear ended. At this point nothing phases me and I robotically snap a few pictures, request proof of insurance, ensure that the other driver is okay, and continue along to my toddlers Music Together class as if the accident were a mere hiccup, a temperamental, prolonged stop light or roadkill I casually swerved to avoid, grateful, of course, that the roadkill wasn’t me.

9. Alas, the cherry on top of the month of April? As if in slow motion, I slammed my thumb in the car door. The nail clearly doomed, countless four-lettered words escaping my mouth entirely within earshot of my small, impressionable children who immediately repeat them with great zeal. In response all I was able to do was listen and cringe from the pain twofold. The thumb was the last straw in my own tiny apocalypse, the one I’d practiced for each time I rehearsed writing with my right hand, just in case I lost my left, because I’m a southpaw in a right-hand world. Or the times I rehearsed walking around a familiar place with my eyes closed, counting steps, just in case I ever went blind because I have terrible sight. I figured it was always a possibility I might eventually lose that sense altogether. I lament: the days of youthful boredom have passed. I have finally reached my day of Earthly reckoning. My previous casual games of trial and error were finally being tested in the living flesh.

If this all seems petty by comparison with all the true devastation happening in the world around us lately, you would be absolutely right. However, let me point out the critical ensemble that is each and every individual finger in the symphony of your hand. I’m certain I had a headache from the pain throbbing from my once-perfect hitchhikers thumb. My equilibrium was also completely awry.

Then there’s the realization about all those simple, taken-for-granted tasks of daily living. Folding laundry? Hardly possible. Already my most greatly loathed household chore, suddenly I could only tackle it at half speed, like transitioning from gel cap pills to chewables- very chalky. Doing the dishes? Out. And all the sticky Post-Its reminders highlighting my yet-to-do list remained untouched. You may be asking yourself, ‘So what’s the problem?’ You may be thinking, ‘This temporary paralysis is a non-issue.’ And I agree. I definitely liked the free pass that lightened my load. Totally all fine and well in that regard. A happy retreat indeed. But, wait,  there’s more.

Google searches? No bueno. Selfies? None of those either, though there wasn’t really much worth capturing over the course of this shit storm anyways. 

Buttons, zippers, peeling a banana, turning lights on/off, taking earrings out before bed (’cause at this point it’s entirely possible that those could have been the end of me, puncturing me in the jugular, resulting in a slow leak that kills me overnight)… nothing! These were just a few of the things that suddenly became excruciating with a bunk thumb! Add to the list opening the medicine cabinet that had been jammed since I bought my house over six years ago. Yeah, that suddenly became unbearably annoying. Then there’s the simple necessity of opening the ibuprofen bottle; never so challenging as with this throbbing finger. Fulfilling childhood ideals, nope, that either, because apparently I have relied too heavily on that blasted thumb finger to recreate those signature Anna & Elsa braids for my 5.5 & 2.5 year old girls who still harbor a healthy obsession with the movie Frozen (F-you Disney, F-You!). Satisfying a craving for something salty and savory like a simple pistachio. No way Jose. Trying to coyly remove a little boogie from the outer rim of my nose while driving. Nope. And no striking a lighter (in case I was considering picking up smoking again because of the shit storm following me around overhead, threatening my life and most certainly my sanity). Fingers crossed (the remaining ones at least) this means I can order take-out for dinner! It’s probably a good thing that even cleaning my glasses was too painful because at least that way all the shit was a little blurry. Brushing my teeth? Maybe if I had a new tube, bursting minty fresh from the seams ’cause manipulating the last remains was also sheer agony with a gimpy thumb. And last but certainly not least was wiping my ass. Have I taken things too far? I mean when wiping your own rump hurts, well, then you know you have a serious problem. How else will my shit storm end if I am not able to wipe my own ass? Sincere question there.

How can such a small region of your body demand so much attention and induce such pain?! The universe speaks.

What a doosey! April dealt me the biggest load. April was such a shit storm that by the end of the month, when my little one took what should have been a welcomed extra long nap, I worried instead she might not be breathing and actually opted not to go check. I crossed my fingers and reminded myself that she was just in a deep slumber and I most certainly didn’t want to risk waking her by checking. This somewhat irrational fear is not uncommon among parents, certainly for those with newborns, but I was legitimately concerned about my toddler, if only briefly.

The ultimate triumph came a day after I smashed my finger and I opted to google how to remedy myself from the unbearably pressure that was building inside my smashed finger. Allow me to add a smidgen of perspective here: I have had two natural childbirths, so I know a thing or two about unbearable pressure.  This was intense!

People had suggested drilling a hole, but that sounded like a terrible idea. Thanksfully my commonsense was still in tact at this juncture. Another friend suggested a razor blade, but that too sounded like insanity. Finally, a crunchy North Woods friend suggested that I burn a hole through my fingernail and that sounded doable. I googled it and I decided to go for it.

I felt like friggin’ MacGuyver! I lined up a small paperclip, cotton balls and a couple Band-Aids next to my gas range along with a tall glass of red wine (the 2nd of 2 before I gained the gull to begin searing a hole through my nail). With each whiff of burning keratin, I knew I was doing something right and was assured that the approach was working.

Alas, when I finally broke through the hardened protein surface, the pressure exploded, like an orgasmic fountain of sweet relief. I drained the nail and immediately felt exponentially better. My finger quickly returned to it’s normal hue. I also felt utterly liberated, like a total bad ass. A wild woman. A witch! This was the victory I was in desperate need of. I felt vindicated. I felt empowered. It was the light at the end of the tunnel of shit I had just passed through during the course of a month that chewed me up and crapped me back out. As my finger drained, I bellowed hallelujah. Though there were no physical witnesses, I begged for an amen! I crossed myself and became certain that it couldn’t get any worse then this shit. That’s right. My thumb was the ultimate omen. Alas, good things were to come from this point on. April showers bring May flowers. Right?!

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