Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Today is the first day of my stay-cation. The rest of the gang has flown the coop, leaving me all alone--except for the bugs and the plants--in my isolated super-nest. Although for me, all transitions have usually been bumpy (or worse), I am feeling good about this one.

I tried Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) to work on 3 things to which I assigned the acronym, ACT:problems with AUTHORITY, CLUTTER, and TRANSITIONS, and even well after the fact, I seem to be doing better with all of them.

That did not prevent me, however, from staying up doing email until a ridiculous 1:45 AM, in anticipation of the kids' 4AM departure. Or stocking up with enough food and water for many more than the two weeks I expect to be here by myself. Or taking one "test-drive" back with U just to be sure that, in a pinch, I could drive if I had to.

When alone, I am forced to recognize how much of a bubble I choose to live in. What are everyday things to most people of my age and class--using a bank (or any) machine; driving; dealing with technology in any form; fixing the crazy Italian hose connections that keep popping off; figuring out how to train the new plants to climb the pool wall; taking care of the pool; turning on the ever-more complicated TV, dishwasher, washing machine and dryer;locking and unlocking all of our various gates--to name a few.

It's all Greek to me.

Even though I actually like using my common sense to solve problems (or is it more accurately, to solve problems in a non-technical way?), my fallback position seems to be always to ask for help from those with more confidence in areas that make me anxious.

It may be a kind of learned helplessness from deferring to the often shaky egos of experts whose egos need feeding. It's even shocking to me the amount of abuse I am willing to tolerate from "techie"-types whose response to any question is "that's really easy." Most help sessions quickly turn into a loss of patience on all sides. Things that are probably intuitive to all computer afficionados are beyond my ken. Kind of like the way how languages work--something quite fascinating and intuitive to me--completely elude many people. Innately good teachers, however, do not make students feel dumb or incompetent.

Yet, as the #1 child in the family, maybe this is what I did with my sibs. Why? Was this a way to deal with the trauma of having been deposed? Maybe. And perhaps it's true that first children are, as I read in a New York Times Book Review, "fault-finding control freaks." But some of us try to get over it.

The "up" side of even a kamakaze choice like staying up way past my computer curfew is that I can make up for it with a nice siesta.  Or do anything else on my (non) schedule that I choose.

The "down" side is that if/when I have my heart attack/stroke/appendicitis/or somehow fall into the pool and drown, I'm on my own.

But it's worth the risk.

Just to be around U inspires confidence, but also a desire to defer to it. She is such a grown-up. She loves the challenge of fixing whatever goes wrong, taking a playful, curious appraoch to figuring it out, whereas my first reaction is to feel put upon, to think "woe-is-me," and to panic. Luckily the hot water heater decided not to work BEFORE she and N left.

With her sensitivity and intelligence, U notices my deficiences but does not seem to hold them against me. After taking her life in her hands by encouraging me to drive home (but only if I want to), she says, "see, you can do it, if you need to," implying that that's what matters.

She gives her help freely--no strings attached. THAT is what a gift is supposed to be!

I have been gifted with a great nuora who is also bringing out the best in my son. This is SO gratifying.

Fava beans and what to do with them. Ditto for zucchini blossoms. Clafoutis and cherry pies. I risk buying some aubergine-colored pants from the Lidl supermarket. No matter that they are intended for pregnant young ladies. I happen to have brought with me my 32-year-old original maternity shorts that might make a great homemade bathing suit along with my impulse buy of a camisole top--also in aubergine, to match the pants. U says that the camisole top is a good purchase, since "it will hold up what needs to be held up."

JR sends a message about P's heart attack. I have a flashback to the novel "La Marge"--that masterly evocation of denial. Even if you sense in your heart that something bad has happened, until you read a letter that confirms it, you can (sort of) blissfully go on your merry way.

Speaking of intimations of (im)mortality,  I talk for an hour via skype to my soon-to-be 87-year-old mom. I can see her, but since this ancient computer is camera-less, she can't see me, and the whole conversation feels surrealistic. She looks a bit different, but still recognizable, and her voice sounds other worldly. Every once in a while, to stress a point, she gets a burst of aggressive energy, which shows that she's still got some of the old spunk.

As I lie here, after going to sleep way too late and getting up too early, I'm wondering if I can/how long I can restrain myself from fondling my iPhone, which has become my transitional object and drug of choice. I have a vague recollection of how freeing (albeit frustrating) it felt to have an email-vacation. Not sure if I could pull that one off, now.


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