*Southern for “getting ready to”


I pick a book off the library shelf—Change the Way You See Everything by Cramer and Wasiak. Cool photos, inspirational ideas until they get to be too much. I read a little more. Concentrate on the positive and stop trying to prevent and fix, it says. What???? Preventing and fixing is bad? That’s what I do. I’m furious. Back to the library you will go.

A few days go by. A few days of being at work, trying to prevent and fix, followed by a couple of days with a gnawing feeling that things are unpreventable and unfixable. Meanwhile, the people around me are content with working in pleasant, meandering ways.

I’ve noticed that the words that piss me off the most are often the truest.

I pick up the book again. This approach to things is definitely not me.



On one of the many mornings that I thought staying in the fetal position under warm covers and hovering in a semi-dream state might mitigate my anxiety, these words announced themselves:

Too complicated to control

Yep, that’s it, I realized, as all my muscles tightened, afraid to try the day. That describes the scary situations that keep me breathing shallowly, darting from one thing to another, muffling the scream, saying (sometimes out loud), “I can’t do this.”

Too complicated to control. Life. Life is too complicated to control. Oh, now it sounds like a truth instead of a problem.

Life is too complicated to control. So why is Claudia a nervous wreck because Claudia can’t control Life?

This pretty much solves it, doesn’t it?

I recently discovered this Zen story:

One day Mara, the Evil One, was walking through the villages of India with his attendants. They saw a man doing walking meditation whose face lit up with wonder after discovering something on the ground in front of him. One attendant asked what that was. Mara replied, “A piece of truth.”

“Doesn’t it bother you when someone finds a piece of truth, O Evil One?” asked the attendant. “No,” Mara replied. “Right after this, they usually make a belief out of it.”

Life is too complicated to control. Good insight. A truth. One truth. One piece. As true as my human tendency will be to slip back into familiar, anxious grooves in my future complicated life.

The glasses I bought after ruining these:


were fashionably great. And technological improvements allowed even thinner lenses, which, to someone like me with extreme nearsightedness, is always a plus.

Or is it?

It seemed that the reading and computer area was off. I went back, but was assured that the lenses were perfectly aligned to the progressive areas for distance, the arms-length computer focus, and reading.

Even after needing to take off my glasses altogether in order to complete a job application questionnaire that I’m sure they filed as Magoo, Mr., I thought it could be my imagination that the glasses I have two prescriptions back work better.

Maybe my eyes have changed to the point that I need glasses specifically for reading and computer use, I thought. I went back to the optician’s office. But my intuition told me to bring the old glasses.

Before committing to buying computer/reading glasses, I asked the optician to examine my old and new glasses and see if he could figure out why the older ones seem easier for computer and reading. I’m glad the guy was honest and gave up a potential sale. In stating that the old lenses are thicker, we both came to the conclusion that perhaps the lenses being farther from my eyes could be the problem. He adjusted my new glasses so that the lenses are closer to my eyes. I said if it didn’t help I would call and give the go-ahead for the reading/computer glasses order.

No need to. These are now perfect! And all the areas I need to see are well taken care of by what’s sitting fashionably in its new spot on my nose.

You know what’s wrong with me? See if it’s what’s wrong with you, too.

We expect certain things. They don’t happen in the way we’d expect, since the odds of that would be one in impossible. We’re disappointed. But we don’t want to admit we’re unhappy. So we dump glitter on everything and talk ourselves into the decision that Life is great and that we’re happy.

But then you run out of the energy it takes to keep that up. I did last night.

I was happy last Sunday night. On Monday morning, I became happier because someone at Unemployment told me I was eligible for benefits, and that the amount would be determined—she hoped—by the end of the week. So last night, when the amount still wasn’t determined and they will all be closed on Monday whooping it up in their powdered wigs and stovepipe hats, I became unhappy. When I coupled that with the fact that the application for the annuity to cover my daughter’s health insurance premiums gets more complicated with every new phone call, I became more unhappy.

I’d planned on attending last night’s book club meeting, but when it came time to go, I didn’t want to discuss a book about spiritual ideas because I was pissed at spiritual ideas. I just wanted to be happy, dammit. Really happy, not talking-myself-into-it happy via some theory. Happiness that just happens. Happeniness.

Somewhere I’d read that this whole subject of whether or not you’re happy is relatively new. People used to be too busy trying to survive to think about it, and now having time to question whether or not they’re happy is a lot of pressure. It began to be emphasized that the Declaration of Independence says the pursuit of Happiness, to deter Americans like me from considering happiness a right.

Well, maybe a document can’t give me that right, but I can. Here’s an idea: Happiness is the feeling you have when you see things the way they are. You can pursue other things in an effort to enjoy more happiness.

And while the focus is on unmet expectations, other areas may be exceeding expectations. While my unemployment remains pending, my daughter’s eyes are beginning to sparkle more.

I’m an ex-spouse whose ex-husband died. I wasn’t at a viewing, sitting close to the aisle in the front row when the Knights of Columbus went by.

My grieving is done without the comforts of ritual. Here and there. A la carte. I may find an opportunity to drop the perkiness of a team player and feel the sadness on my way back from a job interview. After waking up to pee, rage may win the game against relaxation breathing between 3:07 am and 5:18 am. The people who support me with phone calls, blog comments, and cards addressed to both my daughter and me help me grieve.

What if the relationship in The Time-Traveler’s Wife had “ended” in divorce? About 15 years ago, my then-husband gave me an envelope to open after he passed away. When I opened it last week, the note spoke of love, respect, and a promise that, with his ashes in the ocean (and eventually, mine), we would always be together. Like his wedding vows, a promise made before his eyes lost that look. What do feelings mean when they’re out of sequence?

Well, this is the part of the post where you’re supposed to sum it up. I can’t.

  1. The website says I can’t apply online for unemployment insurance, because I worked in two different states within the last 18 months.
  2. So yesterday, I go to Employment Security, located on a street with no road sign and no sign indicating Employment Security is on this street. Like a Speakeasy in the 1920’s. Like an alcoholic in the 1920’s, I find it.
  3. I’m told to call in my claim. There are a line of phones from the 1980’s with thin partitions between them. The guy next to me is as loud as I would have been if I had gotten through. Instead, through the crackling connection, I hear that, due to a high volume of calls, my claim cannot be filed at this time. Please call back later. I am advised that I can do this from home using one of three different numbers. So I go home.
  4. I try each of the three numbers, each of which goes to the same virtual place. Sometimes I get to the guy, who asks some questions. After keying in some significant numbers, I’m treated to the song featured in any given Lifetime movie from the ‘90’s that kids are partying to when the parents unexpectedly come home early from their trip. You know, what the middle-aged producers too cheap to get copyrighted music thought young people would be gettin’ down to. After 10 minutes of this, a woman’s recorded voice asks me some more questions. Then 3 songs with no genre loop, interspersed with helpful hints about unemployment and the news that all agents are helping others at this time. Finally, she tells me that due to a high volume of calls, my claim cannot be filed at this time, but that I can apply online. Even though I can’t.
  5. Seriously, I try about 28 more times. Finally she doesn’t say that. I’m on hold, and I’m not kidding, for 2 hours. I stay, grateful for the chance, reading The Life of Pi, listening to the not-really music and fun facts loop. For 1 hr. and 45 minutes, the estimated wait time was always 25 minutes. For the last 15 minutes it was 20 minutes. I’m watching the clock, fearful of the 4:30 deadline.
  6. Finally, I get a person. She’s a bitch, but a live one. I tell her the two states in which I’d worked. Where did you work in California? she asks. North Carolina, I correct. Whatever, she corrects.
  7. My claim is filed. With a half-hour to spare.

This is a weird thing to consider, because I never thought about it at any stage of my life. I spent so much energy making sure (unsuccessfully) that people didn’t hurt me that when I was safe I didn’t see the void.

My therapist had told me about ourtime.com, but I definitely don’t want to look for a relationship. That isn’t something I could ever consciously do. If one happens down the road, fine. When I saw the OurTime ad, it really pissed me off anyway. All the women were 18 years old with dyed gray hair and three crows-feet lines drawn with an eyeliner pencil talking about entering the best years of their lives.

Plus, if I am lonely, wouldn’t it be like going to the supermarket when you’re hungry and coming home with Cheetos and three flavors of Milanos? If Charles Manson responded to my profile, put concealer over his swastika-ed forehead and finally got parole, I know I would say, “Yes, please come over and watch Jeopardy! with me.” Family time.

This session my therapist suggested Meetup. It was my homework to check it out. I did and found a spiritual book group that meets weekly a mile from my house. I had to order the book they’re currently reading online so I don’t know if I’ll wait until I get it or see if I could go anyway.

I’m trying. I have tried to join a few groups so far that didn’t work out. But I guess as long as I keep trying things that have potential something will click.

My therapist’s suggestion is to connect with people that give back.

That does sound like fun.