Some Disassembly Required

canstockphoto20505774My mother-in-law likes to tell me how my husband tore apart household appliances as a kid, just to see how they worked. I suspect she’s still bitter about a toaster or two. Now an electrical engineer working as a programmer, he continues to take things apart to figure out what’s broken. His great skill is in coming up with non-linear solutions, which is sometimes delightful, other times irritating, if you have any aesthetic sensibilities at all. Nothing ever looks the same again. But it works.

There is a level of fearlessness required to take things apart. I’m often bound by a fear that I will break something while trying to fix it and it will never be useful again.

For the last year, I’ve been struggling to reshape my life, to give it a makeover that reflects my intentions. I made some big moves, like cutting back on volunteering and moving to a vegan diet.  I made some smaller changes, like working out less intensely and working a little harder at managing my time, trying to bring more focus to writing and attention to the moments with my family.

Despite a little progress, everything has started to go to hell in a million different ways. Fear has been seeping out everywhere. I feel such a high level of anxiety running like a fetid sewer under everything I’m doing these days.

As we waited for the train to go on vacation a couple of weeks ago, I realized that I’d left all my identification and credit cards in the photocopier at home. My lifelong habit of photocopying everything in my wallet before I go on vacation, in case of loss or theft finally bit me in the ass. We were fortunate to have our tickets.

I sat on the train, wondering aloud if I’d had some sort of stroke. I am that person – the one who organizes, schedules, packs, plans. Lists are my bailiwick. What was happening? Why this sudden spate of forgetfulness and imbalance over the last few weeks? Structure, schedule, lists, goals. Always do the unpleasant, must-do tasks first. Life would be manageable if only everything were clean and put away.

canstockphoto8171921I’ve been getting lost a lot while driving, trying to get to my kid’s soccer games at fields all over the Twin Cities, swearing in frustration. We discovered later that our car navigation system had reset to a default of western states (we’re in the Midwest). It mollified my pride a bit, but nothing takes away that bitter, helpless feeling of being lost, while so close to one’s destination.

This last week I dropped a jar of barbecue sauce which hit one of my pinky toes, now blackened and I suspect, broken. It has found kinship with the toes next to it, still recovering from running stress fractures. I’ve named it Quasimodo. And the joy of eating summer cherries was brought up short when I broke out in hives all over my face, neck and arms. The last time I got hives was the night before my wedding 15 years ago.

Taking my mother-in-law to see a dying friend, I blew a fuse when she told me for the fortieth time that it didn’t look like the right house and asked me if I knew where I was going. It was and I did, but my mother-in-law has dementia. What kind of jerk yells “Well, it’s a good thing you’re not driving!” at someone with a cognitive impairment going to see a friend in hospice care? I felt marginally better when I saw the satisfied look on her face. Now we’re family.

I turn 48 in a couple of months and unlike most birthdays, this seems significant to me. Somewhere in all my late bloomer rationalizations, I really thought I’d have my shit together by now. And I really don’t think I do.

Some friends joke about middle-aged brain. But I think things, namely me, are just falling apart. And despite my fears of being in some sort of menopausal decline, I suspect that breaking things and falling apart and generally being in a chaotic state are part of a bigger process.

I remember that old Army saying about how they’d break us down to build us up. It was a euphemism for we’ll turn you into a bunch of chain-smoking binge drinkers who will follow orders because you’re too damned tired and hungover to do anything else. Maybe that was just me.

There is something to be said for everything going to hell. We cling to our habits and processes like security blankets, until those soft, comforting blankets become concrete prison walls, beyond which we seem incapable of moving. Sometimes things just have to break so that there is room for new ideas and perspective to work their way into our lives.

Things haven’t been working for me. My goals are often diametrically opposed to my habits, leaving me frustrated and depressed. My constant striving for perfectionism eats away at my resolve. I am disciplined and structured until I make a mistake and then I go completely off the rails. I binge-live.

canstockphoto27947584So if my posts seem more like diary entries these days, it’s because everything is raw. I don’t have the energy to fine tune things with wisdom and perspective. It feels as if I’m a disassembled mess, bits and pieces strewn about on a workbench. I only hope that when I get myself back together, nothing looks the same and it works.

36 Comments on “Some Disassembly Required

  1. Somewhere in all my late bloomer rationalizations, I really thought I’d have my shit together by now. And I really don’t think I do.

    I always hoped that with age would come a certain gravitas. Naw…. all I get is yet another heaping helping of indignity. Fortunately, I moved far enough away from family, friends and the city, so that only I notice.

    Maybe that is the secret. Everyone assumes that age brings wisdom and dignity, so why not let them assume that? Instead of living the myth, just let the myth live.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Aging is definitely a mixed bag – there’s the realization that one is becoming more irrelevant to society, yet there’s a fearlessness that could be quite useful, if one chooses to do something.
      The age=wisdom myth is one that I find irritating, since we know it’s not true. It turns out that whatever you are now, aging just makes you more so, with a cranky twist.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ah the dreaded 48! I appreciated the rawness of this post and how you weaved the disassembling through it. I’ll have some wonderfully sage advice for you as soon as I figure out 55. No middle-age left there if you double it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • When put in the perspective of history, 48 used to be considered living past your prime. Actually, I think it still is, if entertainment and advertising is any indicator.
      And yeah, I’m in the “I have less than half my life left…if I’m lucky” mode. It feels a little more pressing to do things I really want to do. Except that I don’t have the energy or time to do those things…

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  3. I feel just like you. I thought that I’d change my life for the better, however, I’m still me. Just like I suspect you are still you! I’ve come to the realization that it will just take lots and lots of time; and I’ve got to be gentle with myself. We go through times where it just seems to be getting worse and not better. However, just take some time to really think about what changes you need to make and work on those. Just those. Don’t get ahead of yourself. 🙂

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    • I think I’ve taken my time changing habits, but the underlying problematic ones keep hanging on. I think my intuitive brain and body have decided to take over – hence the scatterbrained clumsiness. All metaphors and messages that it’s time to upend some things. And I’m always ahead of myself, which explains the constant tripping!

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  4. I really like the sound of your writing in this post for what it’s worth, and how you tied this up at the end with the loop back to the taking it apart, making sure it works. Amen to that Michelle, you sound well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Bill. I haven’t been writing this last week because the mere act of communicating in any form has felt exhausting, but I think I’m finally coming out of it and getting back to work. Bits and pieces at a time…

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  5. Life is tough and I have realized to take it as it comes because I tried to organize my life and went bananas went it didn’t turn out the right way! I am restarting my life in my 30s, yes it took me three years to accept I was in my 30s since sometimes it doesn’t seem possible! Just hang in there everything will work out for you and maybe me, but enjoy the journey on the way!

    Liked by 1 person

    • My version of enjoying the journey tends to be this introspective, angsty path. I am a bit of a freak that way, but we all find our joy in different ways. I am usually optimistic in regards to the way forward, but this year is demanding some personal honesty. What I want is not supported by what I do and I need to change that.

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  6. Michelle, I’ve been having similar happenings and similar thoughts, although I’m a decade older than you are. But I’ve also recently met such cool people in their 80s. I can’t help but think that this is a bad period to go through and that I’m going to come out at the other end of this period a wiser, calmer, and more fun person. Let’s face it, it’s not our fault that a lot of cans have been flying at us lately and that our bodies don’t work as well as they used to and that we forget stuff (I spent all yesterday trying to remember the name Landon–how hard is that, I ask you?). But maybe we really will be rebuilding ourselves back up better! And at least you’re exercising!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Most of the time if it doesn’t come to me, I am glad for Google, but sometimes you don’t know what to Google then you have to wait for it to come to you, which happens at off the clear blue!

      Liked by 2 people

    • Your comment reminds me of parenting classes where I learned about how kids go through cycles of disequilibrium, usually as a precursor to a growth spurt. It feels a little like that right now – maybe those cycles continue throughout our lives. And I feel like, despite all the menopausal concerns, that I’m still moving towards growth as opposed to decline, but that tends to be my nature. Either I’m an optimist or in a state of denial!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Distracted and off-the-rails, but still perfectly centered and structured when you write about it. Eff you, girl, she said enviously. You have your act together. You’re just too distracted by age anxiety to notice.

    (There’s a reason I called my blog “The Last Half”. I once hoped I’d accomplish more in my second half-century than I had in my first–my family lives to 100–but I don’t think now (although still, pathetically, hope) that anything momentous will change unless my unicorn, which has been unavoidably detained, arrives, and my virginity is retroactively restored so that I can exercise Awesome Unicorn Power.

    Now that I’ve pooh-poohed your age-related degradation concerns, here’s where I reverse course:

    We women don’t want to know this, or admit it, or let it get “out there”, but we get dumber as soon as menopause hits, in a way that men don’t when their testosterone levels drop. At least, I have been given information by an Ob/Gyn who did research in this area that rodents and other primates that have been tested do, and there is no reason to think human females don’t, and indications that we do. Prompt hormone therapy appears to address this, and un-prompt hormone therapy does so…less. Somewhere, I saved off a paper indicating that hormone therapy has even been used as part of an apparently successful systemic/holistic approach to attacking dementia symptoms in post-menopausal women.

    I”m not saying “use the patch, Lukina”, because each woman must decide for herself risks vs. benefits. But I for d#mn sure use the patch, and will continue to do so until they pry it off my cold, dead, wrinkled lower abdomen.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have my moments. I don’t remember many of them, but I have them.

      In terms of estrogen therapy, that’s a hefty subject to take on in comments. For my own choice, I’m going down with the ship with little chemical resistance, as I have a discovered that messing with myself biochemically usually renders bad results. And I view my body like a circus – just a little curious to see what the next act might bring.

      Aging in and of itself doesn’t bother me as much as not having done some things I’d hoped to do by now. It’s a numbers game in my head and I need to get over it and get on with things.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Agreed re: topic weight and comments.

        Re: that other weighty game, the numbers game, it one can stop picturing oneself living above the fulcrum of a seesaw, and instead take each day as a pearl on a string–another gift–I find it helps with that.

        Liked by 2 people

  8. Turning 45 this year has hit me hard. I’m trying to wrap my head around the Crone phase of my life, hopefully I come off as the wise elder – (I think that’s part of the delusion, & I actually come off as a squirrelly cat lady with the mouth of a sailor)

    Having it all together might not be all it’s cracked up to be, though – if it’s all in one place, but some of the parts are rusting… maybe it’s time to take it apart & thoroughly coat it in WD-40. Get the cogs moving again?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t feel so much like a crone – I have too many interactions with the over 80 crowd! For me, I just thought I might have accomplished something a bit more by now. I’m not quite ready to fade into the sunset, though. I just have to figure out how to get more mileage out of this clunky engine!

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  9. Your husband would be the first to tell you that taking something apart and then reassembling it exactly how you found it will not likely result in improved function. One has to figure out how it works and then presume to understand what must be changed to improve the performance.
    Applying this to something as simple(?) as a toaster is logical, but to something as complex and unique as a life/world view/personal hierarchy is a recipe for frustration. Still, I’m going to keep tweaking myself until I get it right, or die trying

    Liked by 2 people

    • If anyone can cook up a recipe for frustration, I am the person for the job. And while I appreciate my husband’s skills, I am afraid that some day our house will be comprised entirely of PVC and duct tape.
      And I’m with you on the continual tweaking, which is a pretty good description of being human.

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  10. I love your posts just as they are, raw and honest. Life sure has a way of turning us upside down, no matter what we think we want or who we think we are, eh?!
    Alison

    Liked by 1 person

    • There is a certain joy to that. I like the challenge of readjusting and adapting. Though I suspect growing older will be unlike any challenge before. And I know, relatively speaking, I’m not in the thick of it yet!

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  11. I really like that your posts are a reflection of the 52 Card Pick Up your life is in right now. And I think you’re right about all that Shake-N-Bake cooking up something new. It’s just hell while you’re in the oven.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s an apt description of everything I’m experiencing. I laughed when I read your comment because it reminded me that we’re writers – no life experience passes by without a plethora of metaphors and infused meaning.

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  12. Loved reading this…raw state and all…it comes across as honest and true to lufe, especially from ”a mature womans” point of view….I can identify strongly with much that you say….I can often be heard referring to my ”scrambled egg brain”….but its important to remember you’re doing the best you can…and thats not only all people can ask, including you, it’s enough. Take care.x

    Liked by 1 person

    • I suppose it’s my own personal spin – to turn a brain afflicted by shifting chemicals into one that has a true purpose in all this chaos. I’ve often been told I’m too hard on myself and that never seems to change – that’s the other lesson of aging. Who you are is who you are and it takes a gargantuan amount of effort to change. When I was younger, I viewed people’s inability to change as giving up. Now that I’m older, I get it. Acceptance is sometimes a kinder route to go.

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  13. Michelle, I wonder if maybe you’ve broken through to some new ground here. This is an excellent essay. You had me from first word to last. At the risk of sounding snotty, that doesn’t happen much. Thanks, John

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m glad to hear that, John. Part of me secretly hopes that all this chaos is really the path to a writing breakthrough. I wonder what might emerge, as I stop holding so tightly onto the idea of control.

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  14. Some years ago now, I went through a scatter-brained (well, more than usual) period, at times my brain couldn’t grasp the right words when speaking. I dropped things. A blood test showed that I was anemic, for no apparent cause as I was past menopause and was eating meat. I started having vitamin B12 injections, too, as well as bringing up my iron and my brain cleared somewhat.

    Now that you are on a vegan diet, you have to be extra careful with nutrition. Stress from being hard on yourself doesn’t help, either. I’ve been reading in a few places lately that writers will only get better by letting their work out into the world – we can’t keep polishing or revising forever. It’s best to get the crap stuff out of the way, thus giving us the chance to be better next time. So, I’m hoping to publish my own crap before the year is out. Thinking of it my novel that way is very liberating.

    Chin up, Michelle.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Christine. You make a good point about nutrition. I went to great lengths to educate myself prior to switching to a vegan diet, so I feel good about where I’m at. I suspect much of my brain nuttiness is from having too much to do for too long and I’m simply letting out a long cerebral sigh now that things are slowing down.
      As for writing, congrats on moving forward on your novel. I feel like blogging has let a lot of my “crap” out into the world. I have returned to rewrites on my book with renewed vigor, but it took a lot of frustration to see where I’d made some wrong turns with it. I guess it just reminds me that struggling is part of my process and to not get too disheartened by it.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. The solution is obvious. -:)
    Give hubby his power tools, drills, duct tape, and electrical wire. Give you a large glass of wine. Then have him take you apart and re-assemble, and you’ll still work but in a slightly different way.
    Hang in there, 48 is not that bad.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha! I’m okay with the age – just had hoped to have accomplished a bit more. Trying to use it as a motivator and not a depressant now. Lemonade from the lemons is still a little bitter, though!

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