5 second rule, alz, amylodosis, cardiac amylodosis, caring for parents, courage, dad, daughter caregivers, death, death and dying, family, fear, grief, loss, mom, truth, Uncategorized

The “F” Word

The pictures that Dad taped to our outdated fridge have started to curl and bend. Circles of scotch tape have become more prominent than the pictures they are supporting. Pulling a couple off the fridge to do some triage I consider tossing one in the garbage. I love the picture, but I have zero patience for the woman staring back at me.

I shake my head remembering.

Me in my green t-shirt and a little black eyelet tank I’d gotten from this trendy, now shuttered store on Damen Avenue and Dad in a red striped Pokegama golf shirt he’d bought on one of his latest golf trips smiling for the camera.

A crowded room of friends in a bar whose name I can’t recall, drinking Miller Lite and toasting a move to North Carolina.

Hindsight being 20/20, I’d have suggested that my former self get a new pair of glasses and a lobotomy prior to leaving Chicago with a man she met a year prior. What a fool I say. Negative self-talk for the moment be damned!

Sure, I knew him. But do you ever really know someone?

People only reveal what they want to sweetheart, I’d have told my former self.

Some are lovely, lovely people. Others are complete pricks. I plucked a prick right off the rack. Tried him on, but didn’t read the label. And we moved to North Carolina where my life unraveled.

What complicates matters further, is that at 30, I thought and thought and agonized about being just past 30 and unmarried. The thoughts turned into a college-ruled notebook of fears: Fear of being alone, fear of being single forever, fear of not having babies, fear of never having my parents meet those babies, fear of never having dinner parties with the other marrieds-you get the idea. And on and on and on.

The faith I carried like the most curated protest sign in my 20’s had been blown to bits by the looming fear in my 30’s.

I’ve been thinking A LOT about fear recently. How fear became a houseguest and overstayed its welcome. Fear took a seat, ate a meal, did the dishes, came back for seconds, and took a long damn nap.

Fear is a motherf**er.

It was impossible, literally impossible for me to listen to my intuition because I made the decision to not be single. Checking my rear view mirror, love had zero to do with it. 

It was the “F” word. Fear.

Fear of my future. Fear of being the last of my single friends. Fear of no one ever loving me. And on and on.

I got a list, ya’ll.

Pushing the mute button for an extended period of time on instincts can do a number on the head and heart. My intuition, the knowing--an unbiased, unemotional assessment of the present, was outmatched by fear.  And when that happens– it sucks.

Reminds me of an episode of Seinfeld titled “The Opposite,” in it George decides that every decision he has ever made in his life has been wrong.  Jerry says, “If every instinct you’ve ever had is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.” Therein George goes about his day doing the opposite of what he’d normally do and has better than average day.

Haven’t we all been there? So confused by outcomes of actions taken that we begin to question even the smallest decision.

Just pull a George Costanza.

Tried that a time or two!

But life can be like that. It’s like acting out of fear versus love messes with the equilibrium of the universe that surrounds you or something.

Acting out of fear is easy–especially if you’ve confused fear with intuition and your intuition has ear muffs on. Courage, man, it can be hard to conjure.

So what would I start by telling my 30-something self in this picture?

Well, I’d tell her this: Her life didn’t start unraveling in North Carolina like I said earlier. Nope. The analyzing, agonizing, and the thinking and overthinking created enough self-doubt and worry that I said YES to fear which propelled me into a series of bad decisions–well before North Carolina.

Dad likely knew it’d be a shit show when he met the man and I floated the idea and he tried to tell me, but did I listen? And Mom? She would’ve said, “What on earth are you doing? Haven’t I taught you to love yourself enough? Walk. Away.”

Yet, the list of fears that were once just thoughts prevented me from acting on the thing I needed the most: Courage. Because I was so in my head I wasn’t listening to my heart. My instincts had ear muff on, remember?

There’s a quote I’ve read and reread recently in Mel Robbin’s book, The 5 Second Rule that almost knocked me outta my chair when I read it. In the book, Mel writes, “When you act with courage, your brain is not involved. Your heart speaks first and you listen.”

Two of the most profound life-changing decisions I’ve ever made in my life I made in less than 5 seconds. It’s true. I hadn’t realized it till reading Mel’s book.

Life changing decision #1:

I moved to New Orleans in 2011 with a packed car, a $28,000 pay cut, and zero friends.

Life changing decision #2:

I moved back to Chicago 7 years later to care for my dying dad. Left my career, my life in New Orleans, and had no real plan aside from taking care of my Dad.

Here’s the thing about those two decisions: I never hesitated.  There are a million reasons why I shouldn’t have moved to New Orleans: Hadn’t taught in years. Had a great pension and job in Chicago. I was too old to have to make new friends. Did I mention I took a $28k pay cut? So, yea the list was L-O-N-G.

But the thought bubbles full of question marks and exclamation points–they never came.

I just acted. I went with it.  There weren’t lists of worries and self-doubt like before North Carolina. My heart was propelling me to go. And I listened. And you know what? I fell in love with New Orleans. And I made wonderful friends. And had a respectable career. And drank a sh*t ton of purple drinks.

Then, when I got the call during a teacher meeting that my Dad had been immediately admitted to the hospital at a doctor’s appointment, I remember turning to a colleague saying: I need to go home. Now.

No hesitation.

So I did. And it was hard. And beautiful. And then hard again. And here’s the thing: I have these teeny tiny moments with my Dad that makes the paycheck and job title just not that significant. 

Middle finger and ear muffs to the “F” word.

I choose courage.

I hope you will too. I really do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Truth and reconciliation….

He sat in the side room with the door closed- “working” on his laptop. I, on the other hand, clutched my stomach vomiting my insides out between hit-or-miss bathroom runs. The Chicago sky, as gray as I felt. Three pairs of sweatpants: the carnage that day.  Let’s be real, the sweatpants were the least of my worries.

“Can you pleasseeee walk over to Walgreens and get me a box of popsicles?” I yelled from the other room.

No response.

“Dwane, can you please, please, please get me popsicles? I can’t keep anything down, my mouth is killing me.”

Nothing.

I start to cry out of sheer frustration.

“What. The Fuck. Can you at least answer me?”

“Ok!!!!! Yes, I will go get them. Hold on!” he yells in a puff of anger and disgust from behind the bedroom door.

I wait. Scanning the room for my purse, I anticipate what will likely come next:

“Jodi, Where’s your wallet?”

Ms. Bile-Bubbling-Brook-in-Stomach…meet…Resounding-Resentment-and-Sadness.

Sick and tired of this ritual. So many lies he has told; they are his version of truth, and now can’t take his fat ass across Halsted Street to get a goddamn box of popsicles?

I am: the bank account, the breadwinner, the house manager, the chauffeur, the school supplier, the one who gets shit done, and the “mom” to an amazing young woman, who is the reason why I stay. Stayed. Too long.

Days earlier, Dad attempted to coach me into telling the truth, “Jodi, the best thing about you is that you are so generous, so trusting. That is why I worry. I don’t know. Maybe it’s my fault,” Dad’s words trail off as he takes both hands and massages his face. We are sitting toe-to-toe in the family room, the click-ity-clink of the heater punctuates the silence.

“Your fault? How could this be your fault?” not surprised by my father’s tendency to self-blame because Grandma would curse herself to death if the glass candy dish that greeted guests on Knight Street got too low.

“You give and give, people see that. You DO EVERYTHING. What does he do for you? For her? We love both of you, but this is ridiculous. Think of all he has taken from you, from us. I know you are not telling me the whole truth, all he has done. We didn’t raise you to get taken advantage like this, Mom and I. Maybe I had something to do with it, maybe me not being home enough. I worked so much when you were a kid, maybe that had something to do with it,” he says defeated.

Continuing he adds, “Your mom and I, we tried to raise you well, give you examples of love, family. Did we not do that? I just don’t understand what happened with you girl(s)…”

As if IT is a collective Arndt problem. This idea.. that my poor judgement in men–might be contagious.

Attempting to explain and ask forgiveness later, my shoulders meet my ears as I shake into an ugly cry.

The unexplained phone calls on the back patio, the forged checks, the cell phone in pocket, and two-word responses–someone else’s misdeeds–laying the foundation for such an interrogation. All due my inability to forgive myself for being so stupid, so trusting, and LEAVE.

The precious cargo of the first thirty years of my life, those considered less than interesting, likely- discarded. Teacher books, laminated posters, pictures, journals from backpacking in Europe, items related to my legacy– others sold—expensive bags and shoes from my Sex and the City days, likely adorn those I once considered family. As long as he had his Bironi, he was FINE.

Holly is propped next to me rubbing my back. Mom’s next to Dad on the couch, I look to Mom, begging for some kind of intervention. She sits there silently.

There were many weekends then that I’d load up the car driving down the Kennedy Expressway, looking forward to back porch guidance from Mom. Mom’s counsel softened Dad’s hard-hitting, “When’s he paying us back, Jodi?”

I’d bolt up the upstairs to the bathroom, taking steps two at a time. The toilet, my confessional as I appealed to the wallpapered butterflies for strength and understanding. Sometimes wishing their wings would carry me away from the reality of what had to be done.

“Jodi, sometimes your Dad doesn’t know how to say things. He means well. Just tell Dad. Dwane. Whomever-tell them to go to hell. Fuck them,” raising her middle finger as she pulled me into a hug.

God, I miss those hugs.

“It’s hard to do the right thing. The thing you have to do,” I imagine her saying now.

There’s certain undeniable truths inside each one of us. Fear. Shame. Perception. Reality. They keep certain truths dormant below, but they bubble up, making us a physical and emotional HOT MESS-unless we take ’em head on.

That day, 12-15 years ago, laid out on the powder blue coach, I begged a man whom I never really knew for a popsicle. I stayed beyond that year, because forgiving myself was a thing I could not do.

No amount of coaching coaxed me into telling the truth. That’s the thing about THE TRUTH. Not exactly easy to tell it all the time.

Even though I’d run to 1202 S. Patton some weekends and seek counsel from my Mom, she always stitched a familiar thread in my mind by offering:

“You have all the answers inside you. You do. I might listen. Help you pull them out and make sense of it all, but you already have it. There, ” her hand gesturing, pointing to my heart in the darkness, the ember of a cigarette illuminating the road map she was attempting to give me.