Tales of a Nearly 49 Year Old Nothing

Listen to me! Think what it is like to have most of your life ahead and be told you are obsolete! Think what it is like to feel attraction, desire, affection toward others, to want to tell them about yourself, to feel that assumption on which self-respect is based, that you are worth something, that if you like someone, surely he will be pleased to know that. To be, in other words, still a living woman, and to be told that everyday, that you are not a person, but a joke. Well, I am a bitter joke. I am bitter, and frustrated, and wasted, but don’t you pretend as you look at me, 43, fat, and looking exactly my age, that I am not as alive as you are, and that I do not suffer from the category into which you are forcing me. Zoe Moss-It Hurts to be Alive and Obsolete: The Ageing Woman

In the conference room, I sat in a chair without arms to accommodate my hips and ass made too large from stress eating. The food I put in my mouth seems to be the only control I have these days. I hate that I have no control, hence the reason I’m sitting in a sterile conference room on a Monday morning, with the HR Manager and my team lead. I was feeling confident about the performance improvement plan that I’d been on for the last sixty days, as my job performance and accuracy had been increasing. That was until they began to speak. I was told that I’d failed it and would be removed from my position immediately. It had been decided by the team lead and her supervisor that there was no way I could continue the momentum of my accuracy rate of 97%. I also wasn’t approving at least 30 reports a day, so they were going to immediately move me another position.

The HR Manager slid a sheet of paper in front of me and ask that we read through it together. This was difficult for me as I was in tears, and trying to digest all of what was being discussed. In summary, the settlement agreement would allow me to stay long enough to be eligible for full retirement from the U, but I could not be hired into the my current placement  ever again. Here I was, almost 49, single, fat, no higher education, a recovering addict, mother of grown children and grandmother, being told, bitch, you got to go!

They sent me home to read the agreement and consult with a lawyer before I signed it. I did that, but I also thought about how I’d gotten here. Part of the reason I was here was because I was an addict that had ruined my work reputation while I was trying to kill myself with drinking and other self destructive behaviors. I also had shown too much of my personality while at my new job. I laughed too loud, I joked too much, and I was too friendly. I didn’t focus enough on the work at hand, and that caused my managers to look at me negatively. I was scrutinized every time I made a mistake, but I owned the errors.

The next day I went back to work. I went back to my old desk and packed up my crap. I was smart when I moved to my new location and didn’t place too many personal items on my desk. I swear, I instinctively knew that I shouldn’t get too comfortable. And I never was…

I was told by the team lead and her manager that I would make the announcement to my colleagues that I was moving. And I did, with a smile on my face and positive lilt to my voice. But, if they could have seen inside of my body while I spoke to them, they would have seen a maze of jangled nerves, rapid heartbeat, sweaty palms and racing thoughts skittering around a brain in early recovery from alcoholism.

I took my medicine though, and I walked my chair and box of belongings down to the first floor.

My former supervisor handed me off to my new supervisor. The new supervisor greeted me with such positivity and warmth, I was so overwhelmed that I started to cry. I kept my head down to hide the tears, and went about the task of setting up my new work space. I put up a couple of photos of my grandson, but now that I’ve been in the job a few weeks, I’ve removed them. I’ve decided to keep my work space neutral. To keep the desk space clear of clutter, and to keep focused on learning my new job.

I’ve learned that I’m expendable, because of my personal and work history, and my age. I’m obsolete. I’ve married and divorced. I’ve bore children and raised them. I’ve worked at the U since I was 20 and I’ve worn out my welcome at nearly 49. I’ve nowhere to go from here. I guess what I should say is, I don’t know where to go. I’m so unsure of myself and I wallow in anxiety and depression everyday. I’m not young, but I am not old. I am not book smart but I am not dumb. However, because of previous errors in my life, I will always viewed as not good enough, not smart enough, not pretty enough, not thin enough. Never enough.

My daughter has told me to buck up and deal with it, but my tender heart continues to be crushed with sadness and fear, every time I try to look into the future. Because honestly, I see no future for me. Tell me, wouldn’t you be scared if that’s what you saw when you looked ahead, was nothing?

I want to feel vibrant and alive again. I want to feel stable. I want to feel hope again! To sparkle. Unfortunately, I don’t even know what to do or where to begin this process.

Actually, I think I’ll start here. I pray that this is my future, and I pray that I find my way home…

 

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Friday Fictioneers-A Field of Stone

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There we were, me and Sis holding our sleeping bags. My mother, her body shaking with grief and little nourishment, told us to unroll our bags. Fearing she was close to her breaking point, we did as she instructed.

Ignoring us, Mom leaned against Daddy’s grave. Sis slipped in next to me, and I held her close. Running my fingers through her knotted hair, it smelled faintly of little girl and chilly air. Too late in the season for crickets to sing her to sleep, Sis drifted off quickly.

Sleeping in a field of stone, unfortunately had become our routine.

 

100 words/genre: dramatic fiction

Thank you Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for hosting Friday Fictioneers. I’m doing my best to become inspired again and this photo for some reason did it for me. Please be sure to give me constructive criticism and read the other stories that are posted on Rochelle’s page. Have a great weekend everyone.

Love, Renee

Dance With Me in Springtime

I’d wake from a nap at the start of an early Spring shower

Shoes off I’d run for the screen door

Just to stand out in the middle of it

You’d scratch your head and wonder how you could have waited so long to live with me

You’d realize that even though I needed you

You needed me even more

The dog and I would continue dancing and singing to our own tune

Out in the rain

Splashing in the mud

There I’d be

The city girl bathed in springtime

Breathless and full of spirit

Yes you’d again wonder why you waited so long to live with me

As I swayed and sang I’d wonder the same thing

But then I’d look at you standing on the back porch

And my apprehension would dissolve

I’d crook my finger to tell you to come to me

And you would

Without reservation

And with all of your heart

To dance with me in Springtime

My Soul, Born in the South

Werther-porch

Tonight my favorite movie is on and though I’ve seen it a hundred times, I’m watching it again. I was one of those that watched the movie before I read the book, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. I read it from cover to cover in one sitting, as my little kids played around my feet. While they ate their meals. While I changed their diapers. While I bathed them. And after I put the to bed.

The children grew older, and as they did, we bed shared. For comfort, yes, but also for closeness and for me the possibility that I might get a full nights sleep so I could function at work the next day. Often, the cats and a dog or two would crawl in there with us.

After the little ones settled and fell asleep, and before I’d drift off, I’d grab my dog eared copy of Fried Green Tomatoes and devour a chapter. I knew every word, yet the story continued to resonate within me. Was I born in the South in a previous life? Why did the story of Ruth and Idgie effect me so deeply?

I began to know every word of the story, yet I couldn’t put it down. The book fell apart, yet I continued to read it. I would jump from story to story without missing a beat. I felt the promise of new life when Buddy was born, and the sadness of love lost when Ruth died. I felt anger so intense when there was racism, and when Idgie was accused and tried for murder I cried.

As my children grew older and took to their own bedrooms, I continued to read the book. It was now in pieces and I had to tape most of the pages together. I swear to you some nights when I read the stories, I could feel the heat of the day on my skin, while tendrils of my hair blew in the humid Alabama air. Train whistles blew and sweat poured down my back. I was dressed in white cotton, sitting on my front porch, and drinking sweet tea. When I’d finally fall asleep, I’d dream I was as tough as Towanda, that brilliant woman unafraid to bait her own hook and love the woman that was meant to be hers forever.

The kids are grown now, and the copy of my book is long gone. I think about replacing it, but something always sidetracks me. Maybe it’s the fact that I can’t get that time back. Or maybe it’s the fact that I want to write like that, but can’t. Or maybe I can write like that, but I’m afraid to fail. All I know is I’ll watch Fried Green Tomatoes tonight and it will make me feel all the things I used to feel. Maybe I’ll finally start that book. Or maybe, I’ll just know that my soul, it was born in the South, and it will have to be enough.

Friday Fictioneers-Renderings of a Bygone Era

cars-in-sand

Old Cadillac cars stand at attention. An artist’s rendering of a bygone era. Could it be all the spray paint that keeps those relics together?

People with a story to tell spray or paint their masterpieces. Stories of winning, and losing. Of good health and bad. Of dying children and spouses, or being a foot soldier in WWII.

My artwork is shoddy and I can barely draw stick figures. My art would be my words scrawled all over the hood of a car, that by God I’m still here! To hold my dear grandson, and to love yet another day.

 

100 words/Genre: general fiction

Thanks Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for hosting this exercise in discipline. It is a joy to work with you and have you comment on my work. Along with all of my other friends from Friday Fictioneers.

Dear Readers, be sure to check out the other stories found on the little froggy link on Rochelle’s page. Thanks for stopping by.

The Darling Buds of May

Darling buds of May

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed,
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course untrimmed:
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,
Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st,
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Sonnet 18-Shakespeare

I stood outside with a purple dog leash wrapped around my left wrist. I patiently waited for the dog to finish feasting on the fresh crop of green grass that I was sure he was going to pee on. My mind wandered back to last spring and how I had missed out on getting the chance to watch the barren trees bud and begin to sprout leaves.  It was also impossible for me to even see my favorite flower the lilac, bloom. I missed their radiant scent permeating the air around me.  I missed walking barefoot, branch cutters in hand and cutting off as many branches as my arms could hold. I missed stealing them from other people’s yards and placing them in vases all over my kitchen and living room. Oh how I missed my favorite season, the one of rebirth. 

While Eddie continued his inspection of the yard, I looked above my head at the branches and saw the darling buds. It wasnt May yet, but I was so thankful for the unseasonably warm weather we’d had and the early burgeoning of said buds. The green, brown, red and gray of them too. I reached up pulled the branch closer to my face and took in the scent of new and dirty life. 

To my right and  down the drive, there are lilac bushes. I won’t get to see them bloom again this summer, because of another ankle surgery that will leave me housebound. But at least I get to see the darling buds of May, only they are out in April. It seems that God is giving me back my favorite season only a little at a time. Maybe it’s His way of making sure I don’t take it for granted ever again. 

For now I will love the scent of spring and the buds of new life. I can’t say that this is the beginning of life for me or if it is the end. All I can say is that it is spring and I will rejoice in it. Dear Reader, go outside, and smell the scent of spring. Revel, in the light and life of newness. Revel, in this thing we call life. 

Amen. 

Friday Fictioneers-We Slept in Boxcars

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My brother and I hopped a boxcar our destination unknown. Exhausted from the menial work performed that day, we laid close to the open door. Steel wheels whined a familiar lullaby as we studied the stars.

I thought about our past life with Mom and Dad, before the depression. We had left before they put us out.

‘Do you wonder where they are?’ Jack asked.

‘No’, I lied.

Jack sobbed into my shoulder then fell into a restless sleep. Before I drifted off, my mind wandered to Sunday dinner at the farm and Mom pulling freshly baked biscuits from the oven.

101 words/Genre: hmmmmm I have no idea

Thanks Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for hosting this exercise in discipline. It is a joy to work with you and have you comment on my work. Along with all of my other friends from Friday Fictioneers.

Dear Readers, be sure to check out the other stories found on the little froggy link on Rochelle’s page. Thanks for stopping by.

Friday Fictioneers-Wandering Dog and Jagged Rocks

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Copyright-Dawn Quyle Landau

The leaves surrounding them were lush, but the dirt path parched and beaten down. Jagged rocks jutted from the ground aside the train tracks made shiny by years of use.

Michaella bent over, tied her boots and released a heavy sigh.

You okay, love? Damon asked.

Nervous as hell.

The hike is going to be great.

She tried not to doubt him as she doused her skin with deet, then rubbed a bit on their dog’s coat.

Damon strapped on her pack, “you lead the way.”

You sure?

Never been more sure in my life, he winked.

100 words

Genre: General Fiction

 

Thanks Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for hosting this exercise in discipline. It is a joy to work with you and have you comment on my work. Along with all of my other friends from Friday Fictioneers.

Dear Readers, be sure to check out the other stories found on the little froggy link on Rochelle’s page. Thanks for stopping by.

8 Units, 8 Women, 8 Different Stories

#1 lives across the hall from me. She has long dark hair, a kind smile and piercings in her bottom lip. She tries to have an edgy attitude but I can tell there is a sweetness to her by the way she interacts with Eddie the Wonder Pup. She doesn’t mind him jumping on her and kissing her face. She even opens her apartment door from time to time just so we can chat and she can give rubs to my little puppy. #1 is a graduate student, and her hours are strange. She may go to class during the middle of the day, but then I may not see her for 2-3 days at a time. I know she isn’t home, and I always wonders where she wanders to. Does she have a secret life of a stripper? Is she a spy? Does she turn tricks to pay for school? Or is she a drug dealer? I know she smokes herb from time to time, because I can smell the pungent aroma of it as I head downstairs to pick up my mail, or head out for the evening. She’s an odd one, but ultimately quiet and a good person to have living across from me.

#3 lives next door to number #1. She’s an older lady that has inhabited the same space for 20 years. I talk to her when she’s doing laundry or lumbering up and down the stairs with her arms full of packages. Even in my injured state, I do my best to help her fetch and carry. I even deliver her packages that the USPS worker finds too hard to bring up one flight of stairs to her doorway. #3 still ventures out everyday to work even though she’s near to 70 years old and can’t walk without the use of a cane. She told me she’s about to retire because driving to and from work last year nearly wrecked her mentally. I empathize with her, telling her it’s time to be done and enjoy herself. Maybe go somewhere warm during the cold months. She says she doesn’t know what she’ll do but she’s tired of the drive to work on those cold and slippery mornings. I worry that I’ll end up like her. Alone, and living in an apartment on the second floor….

I’m in #5, and you already know about me.

#7 belongs to a young blonde woman of Russian descent. She is tall, thin and beautiful. When she speaks in her thick accent I become mesmerized. It’s hard to believe she’s not only beautiful but smart too. I adore the fact that she is so friendly and that she doesn’t mind Eddie jumping on her when she is dressed for work or a night out. She works at the University but I’m not sure where. All I know is she does some kind of meeting planning for a large school. I’ve seen her come home from an event almost dead on her feet and she still looks ravishing. I carry her parcels to her door too. I know she’s young and able to do it on her own, but I’m the one that’s always outside, so I might as well help. There are days when I don’t see her and there are times when she doesn’t come home. I try not to worry, but I’m a mother so it’s what I do. I’m guessing there’s a boyfriend that she stays with. At least that’s what I’m hoping for her anyway.

#2 below me is a young single woman. She was blonde with long hair, but now she’s dark haired and looks a bit like P!nk. Most of her evenings are spent at home with her two Chihuahas. They are hysterical to watch as they play and fight with each other. She tries to be stern with them, but they don’t seem to care. There are nights when she has parties, but she’s not too bad about the noise. The music always gets turned down around 11 pm. I can often hear the laughter of her party guests and it makes me think about when I had friends living in the same complex. We’d spend weekend nights playing cards, drinking beer and goofing off. The only thing that bothers me is the way her friends let the damn entrance door slam as they enter or leave. Yep, I’m becoming that kind of an old woman. Now get off my lawn!

#4 across from #2 is an odd duck. She’s blonde and looks cheery, but she’s never around much to really get to know her. I swear her work hours are 3:00 pm to 3:00 am. I met her on her way in one morning as I was taking Eddie out. He jumped up to greet her and she was so happy to see him. She played with him and let him give her kisses on the hands. It had been a year since I’d moved in and I swear that was the first time I’d talked to her. But she really wasn’t talking to me, she was talking to the dog. I looked like hell since Eddie had roused me from sleep by pulling at my hair. I told her I had to get him outside before he peed on her shoes. She laughed and let herself into her apartment. That was over a month ago and I haven’t seen her since, though I have seen signs of life at her place.

#6 now she looks like a cute little munchkin. She’s all of 5 feet tall, blonde, cute and her hair is cut in the perfect bob. Her boyfriend has moved in and they seem happy. She told me that he’s an amateur golfer and decided to live in Florida for the winter so he can practice. I felt bad for her, here she is in a new relationship and while his job is on hiatus he goes away for four months. I want to tell her he’s a douche canoe, but I know it’s not my place to. Her dog and mine love to play so we get them together when we have time. Her little guy loves the cold and Eddie loves him so he braves the cold with his tiny feet so that they can play. #6 and I laugh at the way the two dogs go at it. They snarl, bark and jump on one another and have the best time. I can’t wait till spring so the four of us can walk together.

#8 she’s a bit of a recluse. We’ve never said two words to each other. I’ve never seen her in the hallway either. I know that she has long dark hair and she smokes herb incessantly. For some reason she uses her sliding glass door to enter and exit her apartment, but I’m not sure why. The mat outside her apartment door is dirty and I do everything I can to keep Eddie from walking on it, but it’s not like his feet aren’t already dirty. For God’s sake he’s a freaking dog! There have been times that I take Eddie out back to walk him, and #8 watches me from her sliding glass window. I try to give her my best smile and if he poops, I clean it up. I want to hold the bag up and yell, ‘see, I’m cleaning up after my dog!’ I wish I knew her story, besides the one where she smokes pot in the dark and watches me while I wait for my dog to poop.

8 units, 8 women, and 8 different stories. Each of us at different stages of our lives. Each of us different, but maybe, ultimately the same.

Superwoman is Dead

superwoman-tatoo-on-the-shoulder

 

Curled up in bed on my left side, I opened one eye and viewed the Life Manifesto hanging on my bedroom wall. I struggled to discern the words in the dimness of the coming morning . ‘Life’ the largest word on the canvas, filled my vision as Eddie the Wonder Pup glued his body to mine. I reached behind me and gave his back a soft pat, his crooked tail began to beat against my crippled right ankle. I dreaded getting out of bed. Not because of chronic pain, because there’s always that. No, it was the chill of winter in my bedroom, that made me want to stay snuggled under two comforters with a little baby puppy by my side.

The promise of daylight was beginning to spread across the manifesto on my wall. I could now read the line ‘Life is Simple’, and I shivered. I wasn’t sure if it was because of the line I read or the chill in the room. In the last 16 months I’ve learned how complicated life can be. I ended a 24 year marriage, had a horrific car accident that’s left me disabled, and the job I’ve been doing for the last 14 years has been dissolved and moved to another department.

I shifted my weight on the mattress enough to wake my drowsy fur baby and he moved from my side to begin poking at me with his paws and kissed my ears and face. His eyes smiled as I stretched and lifted the covers from my body. He kept jumping on me and biting at the a few errant strands of hair that had fallen from my hair tie during the night. He knew what he was doing was bad, but he also knew his cuteness would let him get away with it. I slid my yoga pants and slippers on, then Eddie and I headed to the living room to grab his leash.

As I stood outside Eddie relieved himself while I continued to shiver. The wind cut through my rebuilt ankle, and I thought about all of the people that have told me how much worse my situation could be. Though I do agree with them, I alone know how much the last ten month have just plain old sucked. Each time I work with my PT or try to walk more than the length of sidewalk outside my apartment, I’m reminded that the minutes, days, weeks and months have sucked swamp water, wind, and a big old giant ass!

With this final angry thought, I unlocked the door to my apartment building. After entering my unit, I set about the tasks for getting ready for my day with my right foot dragging. I worked hard to shift my weight to the right side of my body while I stood in the shower, brushed my teeth, and did my hair. Though it was painful, I knew the more I stood on it, the stronger it would become. My surgeon and PT have both told me that I’ve healed and progressed more than they thought I would. Superwoman may be dead, but I have been bound and determined to work hard. I’ve fought through pain, depression, suicidal thoughts, and hopelessness, but I still haven’t ‘got’ this. And if one more person tells me that I do, I might lose my shit.

At work I checked the photo stream on my phone and grouped together all of the images of my accident, surgery and early recovery. I wondered, should I delete them or save them for posterity. The post surgery images made me feel sick because of all of the blood, swelling, discoloration and railroad track stitches. I decided to speak to a dear friend about the photos, and get his take on what I should do with them. His advice, look at them one last time and delete them. Let go of the last chapter of the experience and move on. I haven’t deleted them yet, but I swear I will.

There is this shyness to me now, and a realization that being a manic pixie girl doesn’t always pay off. Sometimes it’s good to let the grass grow beneath my feet, and feel the grounding force of a foundation where I once didn’t want one. For even in my slowness, there is a passion that burns within me. A smoldering ember where a wild fire once burned, and it emits heat all the same. I’ve often heard that the embers burn hotter because the fire is contained in the core. It doesn’t burn out easily like that of the brilliant orange flame that can die quickly, even though that flame dances with an unadulterated exuberance.

I’m not afraid of death, and I wasn’t before my accident and the death of Superwoman. After the car accident, I’m even less afraid. No, I didn’t have a near death experience, but I experienced extreme shock. I nearly drowned in the abyss of it, and I can tell you I welcomed the feeling. If it had been my time to die, I would have gone without a fight. I wouldn’t have railed against the dying of the light. There was such peace in that cocoon in the early hours of my accident, that many times during my recovery, I wanted to go back to it.

Even as I continue to heal and realize that the old me is dead, I often wish to return to the cocoon, never to emerge, because I hated the moth I’d become. The one that kept flying to the light and dying each time it was zapped and suffered a setback. I miss the butterfly I once was, and it pains me to know she won’t return. As I endure ongoing recovery, I know I’m going to emerge from my chrysalis. I won’t ever be the same, but I will be beautiful again. And I will dance, live, love and fly…again.

**This will be my last post about recovery and chronic pain. 2015 is already a better year. It’s time to stoke the embers, and write with passion again.**

 

Even flow, thoughts arrive like butterflies
Oh, he don’t know so he chases them away, yeah
Oh, someday, yeah, he’ll begin his life again
Life again, life again