If You Want to Make God Laugh…


Last week, I won two symphony tickets by calling our public radio station and answering a trivia question. The question was:  “What song was inspired by the Battle of Fort McHenry?” Fortunately, I’m a fast Googler. I looked up the answer, called the station and timidly asked: “The Star Spangled Banner?” The tickets were mine. For a moment, I felt as though I’d won the lottery. Amadeus and I were going on a date, a bona-fide, honest-to-goodness date.

We always struggle financially. Amadeus carries the weight of the world on his roof rack as he drives to work each day. He’s been an angel, letting me stay at home and try to figure out how to contribute to our income in a gentle way, one that utilizes my writing skills and keeps fibromyalgia from pinning me to the ground. It’s been hit or miss at best. As I’ve mentioned, I’m disciplined when it comes to typing words onto a blank screen, but rather awful at the business end of things. My writing career is the longest work in progress since the building of the pyramids. I stay panicky and stressed. I want so badly to succeed, to help us stay afloat, because there are sharks beneath the water’s surface, and they’re all holding bills between their teeth.

We worry that we’re going to lose our little condo. Amadeus is retiring at the end of the year, and we fret about that too. We recently sold my car, because I seldom drove it, and the repairs were costing more than we could afford. Side question to the makers of the 2001 Kia Sportage: How much Super Glue did you use when you built that little cracker box from hell?

So nowadays, I stay at home. A lot. I write and do domestic things haphazardly, the way, say, Queen Victoria would do chores if she weren’t dead and hadn’t had 750 servants to do them for her. Though I’m not venturing out much, our house is often bursting at the bricks with friends and family, and our modus operandi is always to accommodate. We make coffee and feed people when we have trouble caffeinating and feeding ourselves. Spare beds and a sofa are offered to those who need them. Our ears are always available to listen and our shoulders are ready, should anyone need one to cry on. At the same time, we’re constantly worrying– about keeping the lights on, about buying groceries, about paying the mortgage. Magically, though, we always seem to have just enough. Magically, we always have something to offer. Our lights glow brightly. We stay quiet in our poverty, and as cornball as it sounds, love seems to carry us a long way. It’s quite a balancing act, but somehow we’re pulling it off.

But those tickets were a godsend. For a little while, I’d get out of the house. For a few hours, I’d be a middle-aged Cinderella, and Amadeus, my silver-haired prince. I dreamed of the two of us sitting in the comfort of our local arts center, escaping our reality, rubbing elbows with little old ladies who wore opera glasses and tiaras, like they do in Marx Brothers movies.  The tickets could have been to a pudding wrestling competition, and I’d have been just as thrilled. I was also secretly considering it to be my birthday present, because this year, we’re just not going to be able to do much. So you see, I was pretty excited.

On the day of the concert, I took a long bubble bath, applied makeup, did what I could with my hair, and picked out a swell outfit. I even dragged some high heels out of the closet and dusted the cobwebs off of them. I put on jewelry as I imagined sitting next to my sweetie in the cheap seats. Once I was appropriately accessorized, I wobbled my way downstairs in those shiny shoes, and Amadeus went out to start the car.

Well, Amadeus went out to try to start the car. The car, however had other plans. The car laughed at us demonically and said, “You stupid fools! How dare you think I’m going to coöperate with you?” Chug, chug, chug. Wrr-rrr-rrrrrrrrr. The battery was deader than the above mentioned Queen Victoria. A Honda Fit, indeed. Fit for what?

I called my daughter’s boyfriend and he said he’d zip over to give us a jump. Amadeus, handsome in his symphony-going clothes, went to find the jumper cables. The clock was ticking, and at some point I realized that we’d never make it to the arts center before they dimmed the lights. I called a few friends to see if anyone wanted our tickets. I posted them on Facebook, hoping to give them away to someone, but there just wasn’t time.

My daughter, her boyfriend and the Grandpea all arrived. I sat on the step in front of our house and kicked off my stupid shoes. There was no point in risking a high-altitude nosebleed at that point. As we waited for the car to juice, we all sat around outside talking for a bit. The Grandpea put on my shoes. They matched her pink tutu and pet monkey perfectly. She shuffled around in an adorable manner. “I’m Mimi! I’m Mimi!” she shouted, though no one was fooled for a minute.

You know, I’m pretty stoic. In fact, I’m often so happy that I wonder what’s wrong with me. The world is falling down around us, and still, there’s always a part of me that feels thankful and chock-full-o-joy. But yesterday, I have to admit that my emotional climate was less than balmy. I was disappointed, and a  deep, low-level depression was creeping in and making my body ache. I had my game face on, but the mouth part of the face was turned down a little at the corners.

After about an hour, my daughter and her entourage left. Amadeus took our remaining money for the month and went to buy a new battery for the car. He drives over sixty miles to and from work each day, with many stops in-between. Jump-starting his battery throughout the day just wouldn’t do.

While he was out making the purchase, I tried to shake off the sadness. Mind you, this wasn’t just about our plans being canceled. I’m a big girl, and I can handle those kinds of curve balls. This was just cumulative exhaustion, another letdown in a series of setbacks. Every day, we put on our combat gear and work our way through our situation. We keep our sleeves rolled up and we plug away. But yesterday, I decided to let myself feel sad. I knew that if I just went upstairs and snuggled beneath a quilt for a little while, I’d be okay.

The house was quiet. I lay there like a slab of sad, little boohoos hopping up and down in my chest. At the same time, I was ashamed of my melancholia. How can I ever complain? I’ve got a loving family, great kids, a fantastic husband. Our house is filled with music, writing, art and happy, shimmering, low-level  chaos. We have clothes on our bodies and shingles over our heads (for now). Even if we’re eating PB and J, I’m always aware of how friggin’ lucky I am. So we didn’t get to go out. Big deal. Boo hoo. Wah wah. Thank goodness we found out about Amadeus’ car when we did, instead of at 7:00 a.m. this morning, when he was about to take off for work.

Downstairs, I heard my son and his new girlfriend walk into the house, chittering non-stop happy talk, the way those who have just discovered each other tend to do. I tried to ignore them. Damned happy people.

Four minutes later, my cell phone rang. “Where are you?” my daughter asked.

“Oh, I’m just lying down for a minute,” I told her in a zombie-like voice.

“Well, I’m downstairs,” she said. That sweetheart. She’d come back, just to cheer me up. She reads me like a book, that one.

As I arose from my tomb of gloom, Amadeus came home and went upstairs to find me. He opened one bedroom door as I was making my way out of another. We met in the hallway and smiled. As we headed downstairs, the Grandpea saw us and she smiled too. She put her soft little arms around my neck, which reminded me that I was still on her top-ten list of favorite people in the world. Soon the house was buzzing again, filled with laughter and craziness and joy.

Later, Amadeus said, “I’m sorry about the symphony.” Instead of blowing it off as I’d normally do, I put my head on his shoulder and told him about my disappointment. Being a guy and all, he didn’t quite get it. “You should have found someone to go with,” he said.

“It wasn’t about the symphony,” I explained. “It was about the company. It was about getting to go out with you. I’d imagined sitting next to you in the theater, listening to the music. I even imagined walking around with you during intermission. It was just an opportunity to go do something with you at a time when we aren’t able to do much of anything. Plus, it was my birthday present to myself.”

Once I voiced it– once I gave myself permission to feel gloomy and bratty, the cloud began to lift. I always, always say, “It’s okay,” about life’s little downturns, and I always mean it. But this time, for just a little while, it just wasn’t okay. And once I acknowledged it, once I cried and pouted privately for a few minutes, everything was okay. There was a baby in a bright pink tutu rolling around on our floor with her mama. There was my son and his girlfriend sitting upstairs, doing God-knows-what. There was the guy I love, sitting in the living room as sweet and solid as a candy-coated cinder block, watching football and winning pretend millions at an on-line casino. My daughter’s boyfriend, who’s been around for about seven years now, came back over to our house and quietly took a place on the sofa, smiling at the goofiness of it all. I smiled too.

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13 thoughts on “If You Want to Make God Laugh…

  1. Claire says:

    The GrandPea is adorable. I get it. I really, really do. I’ve felt that way recently. Sometimes you just gotta feel it, talk about it, and then move on. BTW – Any Kia earlier than 2004 was a total POS. They’re awesome now. I’m on my second Sorento. Pricey, but totally worth every penny. Competing with the Hondas and Toyotas, I think. But, back to your story, I really do get it. Hugs to you, dear Moonbeam.

    I usually try to avoid writing about some of the harsher realities of our world, but you know, it’s just another ingredient on the big pizza of life. Things aren’t always great, or smooth or perfect, and it felt good to say, “This SUCKS!” And in the end, there were perfect moments to counter the sucky ones. It’s how you feel at the end of the day that counts most– at least, for me.

    My Kia was a 2001, and it WAS a POS. I’ve heard that the new ones are great!

  2. Expat Alien says:

    Very cute grandpea. You make it sound like an almost idyllic evening after all. Make your own music!

    Thanks, Expat. We made our own music. It sounded twangy and awful earlier in the day, but by evening, the melody was a LOT prettier.

  3. Tanya says:

    Grandpea stole the show, as they say. I get the disappointment and I love your optimism, your embracing of a love of true great wealth found in the love of family and friends and doing what fills your heart with gladness. But, back to your story, I do get it. Hugs to you dear one.

    Grandpeas are magical creatures, like unicorns and fairies. I don’t know if I’m an optimist or just hopelessly out of touch with reality– whichever it is, it seems to work! Hugs back to you, Tanya!

  4. mcfsantos says:

    Brilliant post!
    I really do appreciate your writing and the way you portray your feelings and emotions…
    A great “story teller”, that’s what you are, as well.
    And, astonishingly, you seem to get the best out of any thing that happens to you, of anything you experience! That’s real wisdom!
    Living with fibromyalgia with such a positive attitude and sense of humour is something admirable! (And the idea of referring Queen Victoria’s without servants is simply of a genius… But Queen Victoria wouldn’t even be a Queen without her Albert… It reminds me now of her first train travel, when she told: “Look at the cows, Albert! Look how they’re running!”)
    I could spend hours commenting on every single “bit” of your lovely text, once it is so rich, so profound, so intense, so full of highly important messages, so meaningful and so plenty of emotions!
    One doesn’t read your text: one drinks it!!!
    Loved the way you’re getting into yourself:
    “Once I voiced it– once I gave myself permission to feel gloomy and bratty, the cloud began to lift. I always, always say, “It’s okay,” about life’s little downturns, and I always mean it. But this time, for just a little while, it just wasn’t okay. And once I acknowledged it, once I cried and pouted privately for a few minutes, everything was okay.”

    Thank you, Moonbeam!

    Love,

    C.

    Thanks, C! My gratitude for what I have in my life these days far outweighs any unhappiness or difficulty that I encounter. I’m a very lucky woman, which makes it difficult to gripe too long about the disappointments. They are few and far between.

    My fibromyalgia has stayed in the background for quite a while now. What remains is what I call “fibrophobia,” which is the fear that it’ll come back in full force. I try to maintain some sort of balance in my wacky world. So far, so good.

    I love your Queen Victoria story– that’s hilarious! Big hugs to you.

  5. Debbie says:

    I totally get it.

    A few years ago hubby and I decided to take a beautiful fall Sunday and walk through one of the local corn mazes and go out to eat after. Fast forward 45 minutes drive time and we were there. We see people walking out with muddy shoes. Really muddy shoes. We park and see a woman trying to scrape the mud off a kids sneaker. She says it’s bad, really bad. Earlier in the week we’d had a small amount of rain but I guess they really got it and it completely trashed the walkway through the maze. Needless to say we didn’t go through the maze and I was in a bad mood for the rest of the day! It seems a bit silly now but at the time I was looking forward to doing something different and ended up being disappointed instead.

    At least you had family and friends to help ease the disappointment. I was in a foul mood for the rest of the day. LOL

    Awwww…I’m so sorry about the mud! Stupid mud. Those corn mazes will get you every time. ;) You do totally get it. As I’ve gotten older, the disappointment time gets shorter, thank goodness!

  6. Pat . says:

    What a sad, yet uplifting, tale. So well written as usual.
    I just hope you can keep on blogging – I look forward to your posts and I am never disappointed.
    Hugs.

    Oh, Pat, I love that first sentence! I hope to always blog. It brings me joy, even when I’m a complete downer. :) Hugs back to you, my friend!

  7. ryoko861 says:

    You had every right to be disappointed! Cars are cantankerous things! And getting out to do something was a treat. To have that slowly fade away had to have been frustrating to say the least! But you moved on and embraced the moment with family! There will be other radio show contests!

    You are just so great. This is exactly the way I feel, only you said it in about 1710 less words than I did! There will be other contests, other adventures, more joys. It makes life delicious! Hugs, hugs, hugs!

  8. mcfsantos says:

    Reblogged this on nós and commented:
    A really, really tender post…

    Honored that you reposted!

  9. David says:

    The previous comments hit all the points I wanted to make. The way you negotiate (and scribe) the sadnesses of living is what keeps me subscribed to this great blog.

    That adorable little grandpea photo TOTALLY sums up the thrust of this post. Makes me wonder if you’ve tried sucking your thumb lately … If tomorrow at work is as stressful as today was, maybe I’ll try that.

    My daughter used to suck her thumb too. I once said, “Wow– that thumb really must be delicious. What does it taste like?” To which she replied. “Cheese.” The Grandpea has assured me that this is true. I think it may be a low-cal alternative to Gorgonzola. I may try it, in the fetal position.

    I’m sending you a million hugs, and an e-mail.

  10. mrs fringe says:

    Beautiful, beautiful post. I can relate to so much of it, we are forever treading water financially–sorta. I struggle more than you seem to with seeing the bright spots, but since I don’t expect our financial circumstances to change much (unless, of course, someone decides to pay me by the pearl, ummm, word), I’m hoping I’ll be able to by the time there’s a grandpea coming to try on my heels. :)

    Ugh. The treading sometimes wears a person out, doesn’t it, Mrs. Fringe? I feel fortunate to have so many nice moments to balance things out. I sometimes sound horribly Pollyanna, but when I read about third-world countries or reminisce about some of my neighbors in the ‘hood in Dayton, I feel quite fortunate. My little setbacks are nothing, relatively speaking. In fact, some would consider me downright wealthy. And the Grandpea is always the shiny little jewel on top of what is occasionally a big pile of poop. That sounds so wrong, but it’s the best I can do right now.

    Hugs to you, Mrs. F. We can do this!

  11. Kendall says:

    This made me cry. It’s wonderfully well-written, and you do a damn fine job of making the best of it, but it’s still not OK, in my books. It sucks to be working as hard as you can and never quite making it. It’s how I have always lived, and while I am incredibly grateful for the good stuff, I’m still pissed off at the daily grind of genteel poverty, the life-suck of being one of the “working poor,” and the complete idiocy of people like Romney, who think if we have not inherited the gazillions they inherited, we’re all freeloaders. We do get our hearts all in a knot when we have simple little happy hopes that are perfectly reasonable and then even those can’t happen. I totally get it, Moonbeam. Happy Birthday, girl. I’m so glad you’re in the universe, making us laugh and cry.

    I was going to tell you that there is no crying in blogging, but sometimes there just is. I read this post to Amadeus the other day (he is so sweet– he always lets me read him my latest “thing”), and I got a little blubbery halfway through. Damned stupid menopause. But it’s all just life, and life is sometimes just not a bowl of fondue, unless maybe you’re Mitt Romney in which case it’s probably ALL fondue (and lobster tail and caviar and truffles). I can’t even bring myself to think about the sly, insidious sense of entitlement that has seeped into our culture. I think we’re all sort of set up to be resentful of each other– the rich of the poor, the poor of the wealthy. Our humanity and empathy becomes lost in the shuffle. Wait– I’m getting sidetracked. The bottom line is that sometimes, we just have to stop for a minute and admit that the struggle wears us out. Sometimes, we need a nap and a cry.

    Kendall, may our struggles be few and far between. And may those who don’t struggle at least be aware of and kind-hearted about the fact that for some, negotiating our most basic needs can be a little rough. No handouts required, nothing asked for, but a little empathy goes a long way. I swear, if Mitt Romney showed one scintilla of understanding about the way the average citizen lives, I’d actually listen to something he has to say. Maybe he needs to go to ghetto boot camp, or let a Wal-Mart employee be his host family for a few weeks.

    Sometimes I think that in a way, the bad times make us fortunate. When those dark clouds pass, the sun shines brighter.

    Thank you for the birthday wishes!! I’m glad you’re out there too. Big time.

  12. linniew says:

    Your story is so like the life I know that I had to have Mr O read it and now he quotes you to me. Just gotta, as you showed, keep our eyes on the daily happy prize, and on little cuties like the Pea, and on our good luck, and if we cry sometimes well so what, it creates contrast. Like you, at my house we keep miraculously getting by as we hang by financial fingernails– I think there might be a department of angels or fairies someplace who make this possible or else maybe I’m dreaming the whole thing while sleeping on another planet. xo L

    Linnie- Your comment is beautiful! You and Mr. O are living this too– you get it. I read what you wrote to Amadeus, and by the time I got to the line about the department of angels I was a goner, a weepy mess. Just so gorgeously expressed. Thank you.

  13. David says:

    Hahahaha!!!! Cheese flavored thumb! That’s wonderful!
    :)

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