Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Catching up

Damn, it's been a long time since I've written an entry for my blog. I'll be honest, over the last few years, this has not been uncommon. What is a refreshed feeling for me is the desire. There's so much I want to share with my friends here. When I left off, I was recuperating from my hysterectomy and basically in a holding pattern, waiting for things that had been discussed, hoped for, dreamed for to happen.

Then, it all happened. A little over a week before Thanksgiving, I moved from my tiny town in west Tennessee to Franklin, TN. Franklin used to be a small, incredibly gracious southern town whose primary claim to fame was that it was the site of what some have called the bloodiest battle of the Civil War. Now it's a sprawling suburb of Nashville, home to many country music stars, a place of McMansions, real mansions, homes on the National Register of Historic Places, and the most charming downtown business district I've seen in years. If a city wants to learn how to revitalize its downtown, they need to talk to the people in Franklin.

One day after I moved, with boxes and furniture crammed into an apartment about half the size of my old house, I started my new job. Like my old job, it's only part time, but I have a promise of full time employment here within a year. I'm also making more money at this part time job than I did at my former job and whatever errand running, baby sitting, elder sitting, dog walking, house cleaning odd jobs I could scrape up. (I would go months without a full day off and still often worried if I'd have enough gas and groceries to make it through to the next paycheck.) Best of all, at my new job, I'm treated with courtesy and respect -- something that was frequently lacking at my last job tending the 'zillas of the bridal world.

I am happy and truly hopeful for the first time in years. This isn't the teeth gritting, white knuckle kind of hope that I've had for years. This is the kind of hope you have when things have gone right, and you have reason to believe that other things can go right as well. Here are some of the changes.

My old commute to my primary part time job was 25 miles one way to a strip mall with a pot holed parking lot. I worked every weekend. Saturday and Sunday, when most people normally relaxed, I was up early and dealing with the section of the public that is encouraged to have an entitlement attitude and to think that bad manners are what is expected of them. Now, I drive 2.5 miles down the street to my office. It's located in an antebellum former home. My office was probably once a ladies' parlor. It's small and cozy with twelve foot ceilings trimmed with dentil molding. It has a non-working marble fireplace flanked by Corinthian columns, the mantle immediately over the fireplace is backed by a mirror, and there is a second mantle on top of the columns. It's right next door to the public library (which is four times the size of the one in the city where I used to work, even though the population here is about the same) whose land is dotted with trees that look a century or more old. It's directly across the street from a memorial garden on the site of the battlefield. The state wants to buy the other lot across the street, now occupied by a pizza joint, a tortilleria and Mexican grocery to build a small state park about the Battle of Franklin. I'm also just down the street from a Civil War Museum, and surrounded by houses marked by Historic Site signs.

If I choose to drive just another two or three miles down the street and make a few inconsequential turns, I can drop in on my sister and her family. If I want to drive about 20 minutes the other direction, I can visit my oldest friend. If I drive a little less than an hour south, I can visit my daughter, and upon her invitation, that's exactly what I've done for the last four weekends.

I've been to a great concert (Nashville in Harmony, the GLBT choir in Nashville) at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center. One of my friends plays in The Brass Band of Nashville, who were accompanying the choir that night. This is an 80 plus person choir that nearly sold out a TPAC theater. To give you an idea of the scale of the production, the last time I was there, I saw the Broadway touring company of Phantom of the Opera.

I'm getting to go to church again, visiting around on Sundays. I was invited to the Christmas concert at a friend's church, in which she was singing, but couldn't make it because I was with my daughter who got sick that day. I've been able to attend a Christmas Eve candle light service and was invited to two others. One thing that's taken a little getting used to is the church music here. I grew up in a church with a huge choir and a famous within the Southern Baptist Convention choir leader, so good music in church is not news to me. However, when the musicians and soloists are also professional recording artists in Nashville, it's a whole other level of good.

In the weeks I've been here, I've seen more people socially than I had in the previous three years. My life in my last little town consisted of going to a job I didn't like and then coming home to be in a house alone. I truly feared that I had forgotten how to be with people on any level other than professional courtesy. Now, I really do have to look at my calendar and make choices. "Oh, I'm doing this that night. I'm sorry, how is this other date to get together?" That's such a common thing for so many people. For me, it feels like a miracle.

My sister and I are getting along better than we have, well, ever. We can joke with and tease each other. We've developed more respect for each other. On Thanksgiving and the two Christmas celebrations she hosted (one for her husband's large family gathering of about 30 people and one for the intimate gathering of just her and my immediate families), we decorated, prepped and cooked together, and found that it was both easier and more fun when we did it together. Without intending for it to happen, I also became a souffle' queen over the holidays with my carrot souffle', corn souffle and cheese grits souffle' all being hits for the holiday dinners.

The relationship with my daughter is great. She has worked exceptionally hard in college after dropping out her freshman year at Lambuth and then starting over at Middle Tennessee State University. She left Lambuth with a GPA of slightly over 1.0. Her overall GPA now is 2.96. You know what it's like in college. If you start off with a high GPA, it's easier to keep it high. Start off low, though, and it's very hard to bring up. She's done it, and even though she still has at least a year before she graduates, she's looking at and planning for graduate schools. Can I also add that other than this last semester, she's also worked the whole time she's been in school? Yes, I'm proud, and I'm inspired. She, better than anybody, knows just how hard these last few years have been on me. They were just as hard, if not harder on her, but she's managed to move forward.

She's also told me more than once that she is so glad to have me around. She spent the night with Christmas Eve, and the next morning when we were getting ready to go to my sister's, she stopped me in front of the mirror. People have always told her that she was a mini-me. I was the exception, and feature by feature, we went through what she could tell came from me and what came from her dad.

We can talk about him again. We've both felt a good bit of guilt since his death. His behavior became so odd in the last years of his life, but it happened so gradually that until it was truly bizarre, we didn't notice the changes that much. I had thought, before he died, that he had just quit caring about me, his daughter, and his family. I withdrew because it hurt too much not to. C., well, she was a teenager, and he didn't know how to handle his little girl becoming a young woman. Independently, we have both wondered and have finally discussed if he was suffering from vascular dementia. This creates a different kind of pain, but it has made getting over the hurt his behavior caused go a little smoother.

I am moving forward too now. I felt like I was dying in Tiny Town, this empty death in life. More than once, when I was so sick earlier this year, anemic from daily blood loss, in constant pain from daily migraines, I thought that all life would ever hold for me again would be poverty, pain, loneliness and sorrow.

I was wrong. I wake up every day with"Thank You, God" in my heart and on my lips. There are times I find myself crying still, but it's with gratitude. I have a family again. I have friends again. I have a job where I'm treated well, and I've learned enough to know that I am more than my job, and my self-respect doesn't have to hinge on what I do. I have a clean apartment that's just the right size for me, and it's getting more attractive every day. I'm having fun decorating again. I'm living again, more than a just a polite robot at work and a tired hulk of woman flesh collapsed on a not so comfy chair.

I went through a long decade of pain and loss, and now things are looking up. It's just been a few weeks, but I know that good things can come back into a life. I'm happy. I'm very happy, and I've learned that I'm rather strong. I'm very loved, and I've been richly blessed with times hard and good. Thank you again God, and it may feel a few days late for this, but...

God Bless Us Everyone!


Blogger Wendy said...

What a great blog to read just before I need to make a stressful phone call. Thanks!

December 28, 2011 4:00 PM  
Blogger Mrs. L said...

This is the most optimistic you've sounded since I've been reading your blog. Best wishes for a very Happy New Year!!!

December 28, 2011 4:07 PM  
Blogger Lisa :-] said...

My dear friend, I cannot tell you how absolutely blessed I am by your "new" life. I have so wanted this for you, and now you have it! I couldn't be happier for you. Smiling fit to bust...with a bit of a tear in me eye, too!

Your new life sounds so wonderful. Now, I need to catch up with you.

December 28, 2011 6:51 PM  
Blogger sunflowerkat321 said...

I am so, SO happy for you! Not only am I thrilled to hear how happy and contented you are...I am encouraged that it can happen. I am on year #6 of a pretty crappy stretch of life. Sometimes, it feels like it will never, ever be what I want it to be. This post gives me hope. Thank you!

All my best wishes that 2012 brings you continued happiness.

December 28, 2011 6:54 PM  
Blogger Robin said...

This is so wonderful to read, Cyn. I am completely thrilled for you!

December 28, 2011 7:06 PM  
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December 29, 2011 1:28 AM  
Blogger Juli said...

You simply amaze me. I've always been in awe of your strength and resolve. You have deserve this happiness and much, much more. I hope this is the beginning of an amazing New Year as well as first of many great chapters of your new life.


December 29, 2011 5:37 AM  
Blogger Nelle said...

I remember your blog when your husband was showing bizarre behavior and reading of his death and all that you went through. You have made my heart smile today with the joy that you have now. I am so happy for you. Were you able to sell your house? About 30 years ago my Dad owned a farm in Franklin. His parents lived there until it was sold and managed the cows there. It was very rural then. Much has happened this year here. I have been diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension and fired from my job. Lost my Dad in February and was hospitalized four times this year, having another heart surgery in July. I need to turn another page here with friends. I am just so happy for you and have missed knowing what was going on with you.

December 29, 2011 8:11 PM  
Blogger Virginia said...

This is wonderful to read and you deserve every positive part of your new life! Congratulations!

December 30, 2011 1:56 PM  
Blogger alphawoman said...

I am so happy for you! Joe and I visited Franklin and the battle field. I read Widow of the South and had to see the front porch. The grave yard is amazing. I miss Nashville in tiny ways - Trader Joe!! lol. Happy New Yeart. 2010 is going to be wonderful for you. Hope to see you blogging again! I am giving it a whirl again. We'll see.

January 02, 2012 10:47 AM  
Blogger alphawoman said...

I keep typing 2010 instead of 2012. Freudian slip?

January 02, 2012 10:48 AM  
Blogger the Nest Keeper said...

*****BIG SMILE!*******

Cindy-- my mom had those same changes 3 years and counting prior to her death. ONLY in retrospect have i made that connection. she suffered MANY strokes/TIAs then had several "clean outs" (endardarectomies). She looked the same. She "functioned" the same. BUT SHE WAS NOT THE SAME. EVER. it is still a huge sadness to me that only one of my kids remembers the "before" Nana. It was so insidious, that even i, Mrs. Medical, did not notice it happening. Now? i wish i had had more patience with her. The hard part was her mouth....ya know...and the LACK of a filter a stroke created. And i took it all so personally, in my own (extreme) emotional pain. (i had 10 surgeries the year she died) and all she did was b----- about "where was i and WHEN was i gonna thus and such?" (and i couldn't even get outta the hospital!
ugh. so. darn. hard.

i am SO HAPPY . it takes GREAT COURAGE to completely start fresh. Praying that you see God Lavish His Favor on you and feel the new daily graces, even the small ones, that come with each new morning.

love you,

February 09, 2012 4:06 PM  
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