Tuesday, October 25, 2011

On Remembering

Sometimes I get really angry at myself for not loving high school more.

It's mostly because of the comparably fewer responsibilities I had; while cleaning my mother's house day in and day out was hardly exciting, and was a huge point of contention for us, it's nothing compared to having to do that while caring for, feeding, and entertaining two children. As I had no car and no real bills to speak of, it was next to impossible for me to worry about money beyond what concerns I knew my mother had. What did I worry about? Getting online next, and of course seeing my long-distance boyfriend. I didn't consider how relatively lucky I was to only have to worry about homework for classes and an occasional paper. Maybe if I had listened when older friends told me that things really did get harder, got worse, I would have taken advantage of that time. Maybe I would have made more of an effort to do things with friends, to go places, to get a job and earn some money. Maybe I would have thought more about my future and less about what I was doing right that second.

Then again, for some reason, I always had it in the back of my head that I wouldn't live through high school. Not necessarily out of a suicidal urge (I was as depressed, I think, as most overweight high school kids without close friends in similar situations), but because I had (and still have) trouble imagining something that was supposed to happen in the future. 

As I sit here, I can hear the band at the high school rehearsing. All I can really hear is the drums, an occasional but low beat that thumps itself out in memorable fashion. They're preparing for the last few home football games, working on their field show. I remember it all too well, how much I hated it and dreaded going outside as an overweight girl who had trouble with her knees and with breathing. Now, some 100 pounds later, I inwardly laugh at myself for being so awkward and for not taking better care of myself. I know I would have been able to lose weight, feel better, and generally like myself more physically if I had made some kind of genuine attempt - but I chose not to. If I had known what I would physically look like nearly a decade later, maybe I would have pushed myself more to work on my body, to adjust my attitude, to try to establish some kind of spirituality and concern for my own well being. Maybe if I had known then just how much MORE I would hate myself now, I would have made an effort.

Hindsight, as always, is such a bitch.

Of course, psychological studies have been done that prove that teenagers have a different mental capacity for events and situations. Their minds are built differently, the chemicals and hormones present make their reactions to things seem unreasonable or irrational to adults. We ask ourselves, "Why didn't I?" or "Why do they?" when in truth the answer is that we are all made to act this way. Some of us are blessed with the capability to suppress the desire to act out and actually achieve some pretty impressive things; the rest of us are stuck on the back burner, wondering why we never tried to aspire to such things, never made those choices. 

So what do we do when the past is gone and we feel as though we've totally lost control of the present thanks to our choices way back when? What do we do when the future seems so uncertain because we didn't consider today yesterday? How do we deal with the stress of tomorrow when we aren't adequately prepared today?

Friday, October 21, 2011

On A Walk

It's cold.

I have the window down anyway, because I'm pretty much stupid like that, but also because there's just something so, so refreshing about a breeze, about real air, no matter how chilly outside it is. It isn't so cold out yet that it takes my breath away, so I enjoy the season while I can - winter's coming, after all.

I'm driving. Specifically, I'm heading across a rickety old bridge just out of All American Park by the muddy Mississippi River, wandering with no real aim to Quinsippi Island. It's a place that has an odd, almost colonial feel to it, a place that screams to me in a way I can't begin to imagine. I hate bridges, but I'll cross this old piece of crap - what amounts to a VERY old rail bridge with wood slats placed over the tracks, with just enough room for a car to pass through with maybe five inches of clearance on either side - to get there.

I didn't dress right for this excursion. I'm at least wearing shoes, but no socks, and jeans with a t-shirt. Hardly appropriate for the kind of wandering I intend on doing, but I've thrown caution to the wind as it is. I want to be there; I need to be there. And once I'm across the bridge I head down that tiny road, made somehow into two lanes by a bit of yellow paint, and park next to some playground equipment. That isn't why I'm here, though; the boys are gone, one at daycare and the other at school. My being here is purely personal.

And almost right away, as I step out of the car and look around, taking in the sights (not much) and the sounds (animals), the place starts to scream.

It's not in a way I think most other people would hear. Admittedly, there isn't any real SOUND - it's feelings. It's thoughts, emotions, sounds that SHOULD be there, that were there thirty or forty years ago. The sounds of mechanical equipment, of the skyride that used to run from the island to the main part of Quincy. It's the noise of the rides and the smell of food and the sounds of families getting in one last visit on a nice afternoon before the island shuts down for the winter and the place goes silent. It's the distinct LACK of these noises that throws me off, even though they're things I've never heard before in this place. I wasn't alive when my mother worked over here, when there were concession stands and kids riding on things and people enjoying themselves. When it was more than a badly-upkept log cabin "village" and a marina. It's the exact lack of presence of things that I know existed here at one time that just DON'T now.

And it's admittedly very, very weird. I can hear these things, see them in my head, even though I can't even begin to imagine where they once were. It's unsettling in a way, because my mind insists they were here, and that I should be seeing, smelling, and hearing things that I can't and don't. Things that haven't been here since before I was born, things that won't be here again. Maybe it's better that way; it's hard to say.

There used to be more here. Even more than that, I know, it sounds weird - but it's true. There was a mini train depot, a ferris wheel, a round house, an auto museum, a souvenir shop, a carousel, and parking lots galore. There used to be SO MUCH. Now? Not really. Now it's a lot of silence.

And there's one part where if you walk toward a couple of restrooms - primitive things, with two stalls each and a small sink outside each - and then past them, you hit a plat of concrete. And it looks so damn out of place, sitting there, covered in leaves and dirt and dust, but when you look forward, you see.. Trees. Leaves, branches, grass, bushes. And one odd, out of place path that sticks out like a sore thumb.

That's where I'm heading.

Walking down that cleared out path is like heading back in time. It's a little muddy, but things have been cleared out well. At first, it's just me and the trees, which thanks to flooding off and on over the years and now thanks to drought are sparse enough that I can peek through them and see for some ways in whatever direction I please. I walk, and walk, and as I go down a small hill the trees clear out even more, becoming thinner and thinner. Occasionally one - giant in comparison to its kin - peers out, big enough that I might not be able to wrap my hands around it and have the tips of my fingers touch, but those are few and far between. Otherwise it's just mud and a bunch of trees that are so skinny they'd pass for bamboo.

Without warning, the land sinks in some.

It's sand, now, I realize as I glance down with concern. Though I have on sneakers, I can tell the difference in the terrain; it's vaguely slippery, and it's soft enough that it sort of feels like wearing cushy gel insoles. The sand here on the island is rather unique to riverbeds: gray, almost clay-like, and very fine. It catches me off guard enough the first time my foot comes down in it that I almost slide and fall, and boy, would I have felt like an idiot then. Now that I know what I'm walking on, though, it's easier. Besides, I can hear the water now, lapping furiously at the rather odd banks of the Muddy Mississippi.

As I continue forward, I can see the obvious signs of previous partying and potential gang activity, and silently thank my luck that I'm here during daylight. There are blue pieces of plastic tied to trees, guiding a wanderer off through the trees to another small clearing. No doubt if I followed them, I'd find myself half-lost among broken bottles, beer cans, and who knows what else - as it is, just by following the trail I'm seeing random bottles and other such signs of less-than-kosher human entertainment (including a thong used to tie a branch back; talk about creativity). Onward I go, and there, without warning, is the shore.

The shore itself varies considerably. In places it simply falls off from sand and some soil into the river; in others, it's moderately sandy. Still other places are nothing but rock, old limestone and contrasting huge slabs of square concrete that simply drag off into the water rather ungracefully. Everywhere there is wood of some kind; some piled up, obviously by human hands, and charred remains of campfires put out perhaps last night, or perhaps a week ago. There are huge trees and logs, felled by storms or floods, one of which I recognize as a log I sat on years and years ago with my then-boyfriend the last time I came out here. Then there's the driftwood, a term loosely used for the varying bits and pieces of wood that find their way back ashore from who knows where. 

The water is almost painfully loud. The river's moving fast today, and the waves even moreso. It seems to fit the cold breeze, the atmosphere of the whole visit. It's pushing at my head, poking my brain, shoving me as though to say, "Time's moving. Time's moving. Faster, faster, faster." 

Last time I was here was over a decade ago. Yet little has changed.

Last time all the things I see in my head were here was over three decades ago. Yet so, so much has changed.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

On Winter

It's mid-October here, and with it are coming shorter days, earlier sunsets, and cooler weather. The freeze watches and warnings are slowly creeping our way, and we've gone from t-shirt weather to jacket weather - almost coat weather - in the span of a couple short, short days. Tonight or tomorrow we're going to have to bring in the plants we plan to keep this winter (there isn't space for all of them indoors), and for now the furnace has even been turned on. The days are more often cloudy and dark than they are bright and sunny, and shoes have gone from optional to required, no questions asked.

These days are harder and harder to tolerate. As an individual with a number of equally difficult to regulate problems, and as someone who relies on Medicaid to actually provide the medication I used that actually worked for me (which they stopped doing, leading to a call from my doctor's office to inform me of the situation and that they had instead sent a script for "something else" and I should "try it for a month, see what happens" before pushing forward to another medication), the shorter days and longer nights make it increasingly more difficult to try to keep myself mentally stable. Situations going on at home don't help; needless to say, life with my mother is really tough for us, and although it's a million times better than living on the streets or otherwise being homeless, I wonder some days about the choice to move in with her (even if it wasn't really a choice). Money is tight and the ongoing lawsuit with the bank we rented our second-to-last house from hasn't helped things any; unfortunately at some point we got off-track with payments and money was tight. Because we were no longer able to pay them, and because the house we lived in still hasn't sold (to the best of my knowledge) some two years after we moved out, they're taking us back to small claims. I've been trying to negotiate with their lawyer (funny how that works) via email and phone but she refuses to respond to my phone calls and claims by email that the bank will not be able to accommodate my request to work out a different payment schedule. They sent a certified letter to Mom and to each of us (since she's also a plaintiff) and I signed for her letter, but we weren't home to get our's, and was going to appear but tried to contact them that day since I couldn't find someone to watch the boys and both Mom and Hubby had to work. I couldn't get a hold of anybody, and now, since Mom's letter was the only one signed for and thus certified as received, they want HER to appear in court to show why SHE shouldn't be held in contempt, etc.. It's a long, very painful situation that I don't know how to fix. I'm still trying to figure out how to bring it up with Mom and Hubby and haven't come up with anything yet. I know it'll end in wage garnishment, which is going to suck because as it is we already are only barely paying off our bills and Mom needs help paying all of her's, since she's still paying people off from getting help with her taxes for the house so she could, you know, keep her home. If it weren't for that, we would be homeless, too. We have cut down as much as I think we can, but it's always something anymore.

And I'm still waiting to hear from the state about whether or not we're going to get back on LINK or not. So right now we don't have groceries beyond WIC, either. It's a real party.

So right now, things suck a lot. I keep trying to remind myself that no matter what happens we have two beautiful, brilliant kids and at least we aren't homeless but there are too many mornings when that just doesn't help. I keep telling myself we're lucky we have so much, but at the same time when I take a step back and look at all of the things hovering over our heads it seems like it'll never end. I never originally intended for this blog to be a place for me to spread my pessimism and anger all over the Internet but this is one of those times when it just seems necessary. I'm sorry to those who still read; I know this isn't what you're here to hear. You want something funny, or informative, or thoughtful, or useful, and all I have is this depressing drivel. I understand, trust me. I'm sick and tired of feeling like my life is nothing but one disappointment after another, like it's "always something". I just don't feel like I have anywhere else to go, or anybody else to talk to, who actually can offer up useful advice. So I complain here to mostly strangers who have probably stopped reading by now anyway.

I've lost a lot of energy over this. Energy and sleep and probably sanity too but I lacked that in the first place and there wasn't much left to lose.