Sunday, January 11, 2009

on little cat feet...

for C, because I've been thinking about you.

This morning has drifted into the afternoon. So, since I was freezing, lallygagging around in my nightgown, I finally got dressed.

What have you been up to this week, Sarah Louise?

Well, I've been hither and yon, thanks for asking.

The "big snowstorm that wasn't" caused much drama yesterday--I was late to work (10 min.) not because of the roads, but because I kept putting stuff in my "if I have to overnight it" bag. And then mid afternoon the snow turned to rain, the temps went up, and I drove home.

On the way home, I stopped at the State Store for some rum, as I knew I needed a drink (rum and Coke, please!) after an afternoon of working hard and being in the office all by myself. (Alone again, naturally.) (No, it was the snow that made Jane stay home--she lives North, near Zeely, and couldn't get out of her driveway.)

And who was at the front register at the State Store? A woman I had looked up to most of my short career as a bookseller in Pittsburgh at Fox Books. Her name was Dee. I thought, oh, we'll have that conversation as I purchase my $13 bottle ($1 off!) of Bacardi, where are you working now (she'd ask me), as I would look at her hand to see if there was a ring. But just as I was moving toward the registers, a line had formed, and a manager came out of one of those offices you see in stores, where the floor of the office is about two feet above the floor of the store. I demurred that the people ahead of me should go next, but they weren't budging, so I went to his register, this man with pattern balding and some white hair around the back of his head. So he rung me up, and out I went, back into the cold, the rain. And I thought about it, because in my life, my father, the gregarious, never hesitates to reestablish a relationship. But what good would have come from talking to Dee? We were never friends, just colleagues, sometimes competitors. She didn't look like she was happy, and the grumpiness would have been contagious. At one time, a long time ago, I wanted to be her. Keyholder,* she had been, and then Assistant Manager. And while seeing a woman one time after not having seen her for at least five doesn't give me a clear vision (at all!) into her life, at that moment, it was better to just walk away.

(Oh, look, it's snowing!)

I drove home, listening to Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers, which is amazing, and as soon as I walked in the door of my lovely third floor walk-up, I made a rum & Coke and watched the special features to the movie du jour, Broken English. (Which is wonderful.)

I watched Friends, then did some social-networking a la Twitter, Facebook. And then I went out, to Kelly's house. She was having a party where the main attraction was beer milkshakes. It's from Cannery Row, by John Steinbeck. Chocolate ice cream and Guinness? Oh yeah.

The fog, this I don't know what, is a sort of melancholy that has tied me inside even though I should take a walk and start making something for our church dinner (with Steelers game).

This week I've twice had occasion to talk about my life, and how I lived part of it overseas. I actually got to talk to someone who has been to Warsaw and totally laughed that I see it as the most romantic place in the world. I laughed with her, because I know it's crazy too.

I can't seem to get started on where I want to go, so I'll just dive in. The year was 1989. It was October, a month that seems to always be trouble, and now I know why, as it is a difficult month for depressives, waiting for the light to stabilize from fall to winter. I didn't even know I was depressed then. I just knew I needed out. I was a freshman at a small Catholic women's college in Pittsburgh, where all my fellow students were nursing and education majors. I was an English major, one of three slated to graduate in '93. One wasn't talking to me, and the other was a grandmother (as Carlow had many returning "non-traditional" students, students who had either never gotten their degrees before they got married or had delayed graduation after getting married.) My roommate and I weren't exactly getting along, but we weren't talking about why. She moved out after Thanksgiving. I had started visiting the career center on a regular basis, as the woman who ran it had nice comfortable chairs and she listened to me. She was my first counselor, though I didn't realize it at the time, what our relationship was. I actually was a paying client of hers in my mid-twenties, when I worked at Fox Books.

I was lonely, I was homesick, I wasn't meeting people who "got" me. Most of my peers were from Southwestern Pennsylvania who went home to do laundry on the weekends. I was from suburban Maryland, and my parents were six time zones away in Warsaw, Poland. And try as I might, I could not convince them to let me take a semester off. Eventually, I stuck it out, transferred to a school in Maryland after my sophomore year, and graduated in May of 1993.

It hurt me deeply that my parents were so far away. I felt alone, abandoned, and a bit like a motherless child. (Sometimes I feel so reckless and wild--red is the color that I like the best) And it wasn't until my late twenties, when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and went to live with my parents for three years, that our relationship was restored.

The myth: some people seem to glide through life, hitting all the stops on the way to adulthood: graduate high school, go to college, get married, have kids, work at a fulfilling job, retire, and become grandparents. (Seem being the operative word, because looks are deceiving.)

I am not one of those gliding people. Am I stuck? No, I don't think so. I'm just taking longer in between stops, and deciding which stops I want to take. Taking a class my freshman year at Carlow on the Four Gospels with women my age and women my mother's age helped me to see that there is not one way to navigate the stops. You miss one? You go back, if you can.

This week I've gone out three nights. I feel an awakening in my heart and mind, a desire to engage in conversations, a desire to be with people, and like a beautiful dream, there are people to be with! It's Winter, but I am finding that there is a Spring happening in my heart.

* * *

Was there ever a time when you took a detour from the linear stops along the way? Was there a time you wanted to but couldn't?*
*Keyholder was the next step in the hierarchy at Fox Books: bookseller, then supervisor, then keyholder (who was responsible sometimes for opening the store), then Asst. Mgr, then Manager.

on little cat feet (Carl Sandburg, Fog)
Alone again, naturally (Gilbert O'Sullivan)
Sometimes I feel so reckless and wild (Shawn Colvin, The Story.)

*do you think the questions at the end are dorky? (It's something I'm trying on for size.)


KitchenKiki said...

I had my life detoured for me.
I'm not completely sure what my next path is, but I keep trying to find it. Some days I try with much determination and some days I try to let it find me.

Sarah Louise said...


Detours suck. But we'll make it.

hugs from your cuz,

cuileann said...

Oh, I like this post so much. (And not just because it is dedicated to me...:P) The ending--or, well, it's not the ENDING but you know what I mean--best of all.

In answer to the questions, no, I never have. I think in general I just thought that as I could do the usual, I should - it didn't really occur to me that the usual way of doing things might not be the best for everyone, or that that could mean me. Although I thought about taking a year between high school and college, to be an au pair somewhere cool or do a year at a German high school. Wasn't really passionate or bold enough to pursue either.

Sarah Louise said...

C--you are passionate enough. Your trip to Iceland was a Holy Yes to saying no to the regular everyday. I'm proud of you, toots.