Quitting Bad

canstockphoto8155142The straws stacked up higher and higher. My daughter has an ice skating accident and loses consciousness. My stress fracture from the summer makes a reappearance in the form of throbbing toes. My mother-in-law falls down and can’t get up and I have to call 911. An afternoon in the emergency room. A meeting. A flurry of activity. Demands for this and that. Confrontations. I simmer, I burn.

Driving to the grocery store, it finally hits me. I can stop this frantic spinning. I can stop being and feeling responsible for so much and for so many. I am not a necessity. People will find their own way.

Japanese ink painting. The Sumi class is my weekly quiet oasis, practicing, experimenting, breathing into each stroke. Today, everyone talked and stood around. My oasis – a space and time that stands everything still and silent, just the strokes of the brush –  was gone. I scrunched my eyebrows and tried to ignore them. Leaf, stem, leaf, petal. Breathe.

The headache began.

Emails poured in, the phone vibrated itself across the table. Questions, requests, plans, excuses.

I barely see my family. I barely feel my life.

My mother-in-law looks tired. Changes are coming and she knows there’s no stopping them. She seems defeated and a little lost. I know our time together is a short certainty.

I try to hold the disparate pieces of my life together. I organize, I call, I email. I try to plan for eventualities.

My writing pours into memos, emails and flyers. Empty printer cartridges fill my garbage can. I don’t save the files. I’ll never want to read them again.

I call the senior services coordinator. She’s heard it all before. The fall, a walker, a life alert pendant. I’m all business. I ask the right questions, schedule appointments, make a list. I’m good at that.

And back to the school, to pick up my daughter, the whole reason for much of this busy-ness. I hug her briefly as she passes into her tweens.

Back to emails and phone calls. My family is downstairs. Together.

Enough. Finis. Everything goes. No returns.

My last email of the day. I quit.

22 Comments on “Quitting Bad

  1. I believe you have inadvertently quit life with that last sentence. Perhaps that would give you time to paint!

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    • I’m at that point. I put in my resignation for December as PTO president and I’m withdrawing from all activities that don’t include my family or writing. I’ve done this enough and as you well know, medical crises can clarify priorities pretty damned quickly.

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    • Thanks – I’m still a little shaken that I’ve said no to everything else. But family, my sanity, my home life – these things are sacrosanct. It’s hard to change course, but good ole’ reliable, responsible Michelle has left the building. Here’s hoping sanity and happiness are on the horizon.

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      • Just keep reminding yourself – and others who may try to pressure you – that this isn’t necessarily permanent. You’re taking necessary time out to recalibrate. Once the core elements of your life are in balance with each other, then you can carefully examine the various other options, adding some and letting others go.

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  2. Sometimes it takes a crisis before we change. I’m sorry you’re going through this, but it will be better on the other side.

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    • This is an unfortunate characteristic of mine – never quitting at the right time. I’m like a television series that jumps multiple sharks before it finally gives up the ghost. And then a crisis comes and I kick myself for not seeing things more clearly sooner.

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  3. Sometimes in the buffet line, we need to look at our plates for what they are, and know they are over-filled. It takes balls to abandon a plate of food and go back to the start and get another plate to fill with the dishes which actually matter.

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    • It’s an apt analogy. While I feel a great anxiety abandoning my full plate, I know that everything will be fine and am looking forward to a half-empty plate for awhile, in the hopes of only having the things on it that I really value and that fill me up, not make me want to throw up. Perhaps I’m carrying the analogy too far?

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    • I sound a tad ranty, I’m sure. I was two steps away from feeling like a volunteer martyr when the ridiculousness of it all hit me. People will step up when I’m not there to say ‘yes’. It’s okay for me to have free time, less stress, more time to hang out with my family and take care of my home and maybe get this lead balloon of a writing career off the ground. It seems silly that I have to deliberately rationalize doing something that might actually make my life better.

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  4. A little piece of what you’re feeling hit me today at lunch when I remembered that I’m allowed to eat and not do something else at the same time–read, write, whatever. Sending sane thoughts your way. John

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    • This is what thrilled me about the painting class. Initially, I could sit there and paint for two hours in utter silence. Japanese ink painting is a slow, deliberate process of painting the same strokes over and over until you’re good enough to move onto the next thing. It’s very meditative. Still, it’s something I can do at home and will, but it has been a reminder of the richness of an experience when you just do one thing. Thanks for the sane thoughts, John. I know where I’m going now.

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  5. Find your stillness and immerse yourself in it as best you can. Life’s intrusions will find you, but hopefully you’ll have recognized and embrace what is essential in your quiet and sane spot well enough that you’ll know what of those invasions you really do have to respond to, and how little response is required, and you can let all of the rest go away and take care of itself. There is no crime in seeking peace and well-being!
    xo,
    K

    PS—Hope all goes well with arranging elder care that is *not* you-centric. My family’s working on that, too, and it’s tricky but, I believe, doable. Eventually.

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    • I’ve finally realized rearranging and rearranging wasn’t going to work. There are only so many hours in a day and too many of them were going to strangers and not enough to the people I care about most – one of whom is me. I’m okay with life’s interruptions, but taking it down a notch will really help keep me sane. I feel confident that we’ll put together a patchwork of care that will make life better for us and most especially, for her.

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