Maybe it was the hair color and cut I got with the Groupon a few weeks ago. The 21 year old stylist who had just moved from Utah who took 3 ½ hours on my hair, were both screaming red flags and I should have run for my life. Who goes to a random stylist on a Groupon anyway and when the stylist clearly sounds as dumb as night, who doesn’t flee? And, if one is stupid enough to stay, how could one expect success? You know though, somehow we all think we can beat the odds and finding a great hair dresser is a life long mission. So, she put in 40 foils instead of the five the offer covered (loss for the shop?) and she talked non-stop. “Oh, nice toffee color” she said. I thought, “Toffee??” “What are you favorite movies?” she chattered. “What kind of food do you like?” And then, she cut completely randomly here and there and it was as clear as day that she had no idea what she was doing. You could see the complete panic on her face as things went from bad to worse. “Oh, you’ll look just like Meryl Streep in Prada,” she cooed. Meryl Streep???!!! When she got really panicky and we were heading into the fourth hour, she started using hairspray to get some height and to get some definition in what was now a distinct cross between a helmet and a bowl. I was the one REALLY panicking and finally said, “Stop, you must stop. I have to leave,” I actually gave her a $10 tip out of pity or horror. When I left, there was a complete downpour and I stood in it hoping the torrents of rain would shed mercy. They didn’t, and when I got in my car and looked in the mirror, I was completely repulsed and cried all the way home. I was especially upset knowing I was leaving for my lactation conference in Florida the next day. There I would see my colleagues and friends and they would stare at me in disbelief, for sure.
Maybe it was that when I got to the conference on that Tuesday, I realized the meetings didn’t start until Thursday but that, in the cesspool of my kids’ major problems, I had not even been able to think clearly enough to choose the right day. Even at dinner that night with about 10 colleagues, I felt quiet and out of sorts. The restaurant was also obscenely over priced and that always makes me feel bad. The friend next to me kept insisting I order the molten lava cake for dessert. Sweetie, I said – no dessert I could put in my mouth is worth $35!! I hate being ripped off and I cannot ever afford it anyway.
Maybe it was my run in with a rude vendor who raked me over the coals in front of my friends and colleagues in the exhibit hall for a comment I had made about his company online. His products were constantly failing my clients and the customer service of his company was horrendous. My email had been mysteriously forwarded to him. He was completely outraged and on a mission to retaliate. He was the new president of this ailing company and embarrassed me beyond a shade of pale. Through the strong encouragement of my friends, I attended his focus group that night but went with my tail between my legs feeling humiliated and small. I was uncharacteristically silent.
Maybe it was that I felt very much on the outside throughout the conference. I never really did find my groove or my stride and was very annoyed by the huge egos that were blooming in my field. After all I thought, we are not neurosurgeons saving brains and lives. We simply help mothers and babies breastfeed. Let’s maintain our humble place in the world. There is however, a group of more successful authors and lecturers in the group and then there are all their groupies who flock around them. So, it makes me twitchy to watch the egos that are growing out of control in my sacred field.
Maybe it was the colleague whose son had died a few weeks prior and who I hugged so tightly when I saw her. Feeling her pain, I listened carefully and bore witness when there is in fact, nothing else to do. Her pain was palpable and when she asked if she could share her phone photos of him dying, I said yes. It was wrenching and made me cry and I was shot for the rest of that day. At meetings she had that numb/angry/nebulous look that I knew and remembered in the pit of my gut, so well.
Maybe it was that I came home very, very tired and depleted but felt there wasn’t anyone waiting to hold me and reassure me and restore some of my sense of self worth. I wanted the maid in “The Help” to say, “You is good. You is smart. You is pretty.” I know it is not anyone’s job, but my own, but hoped for that nonetheless.
Maybe it was that I had my tooth pulled the week before I left. It was an old “temporary” filling that had lasted 28 years that suddenly upon meeting a cherry pit, decided to shatter. The dentist said there was no saving what was left and sent me to an oral surgeon who offered three options for numbing before extraction. I was so depressed by that time, that I just said, “Just give me Lidocaine and get it out. I can get through 20 minutes of anything.” It was in fact, the loss of a body part and it made me feel even more ugly, older, and deteriorating. I will need to remain toothless for the next few months while the socket heals and then decide whether I can clean out my life savings to get an implant.
Maybe it was that I needed so badly to have this weekend off but I acquiesced to a very unraveled mom and spent two hours with her in my office instead of having a whole weekend off, followed by another two hours with another mom and baby. I am not sure why I did that, but once they both left, in fact, I could not stop crying. Exhaustion.
Maybe it is because before I left, my old friend’s sister descended into sheer hell. Her two daughters and ex-husband were in a landslide in Canada and all perished at once, buried under many feet of mud. I became very involved in following the search and then, the period of rescue changed to recovery and then, that ended as well. I could not imagine her deep grief or out of control panic or arms reaching, reaching, reaching, looking for her children. When I got to my conference, they had both finally been found, dead.
Maybe it was because my 91 year old aunt who I love deeply has been isolated by her psychotic son from her entire family, including my sister and me. There has been nothing short of insane cruelty going on for reasons that remain completely unclear. But, on the one occasion that I did get through to her on the phone and tried to explain to her what was going on, my conversation was heard by the crazies, possibly recorded and it made for a much more difficult situation by her adult children, my cousins. They were working hard through legal means to re-establish connections and I made that more difficult. I felt very ashamed for having caused further frustration in a situation that appeared it could get no more maddening!
Maybe it is because I had a confrontation at work on Friday with of all people, a formula rep. I was reprimanded by one of the doctors because a patient complained about my “rudeness” and then, I was yelled at by the office manager. It was a completely ridiculous, misguided experience and of course, it happening during World Breastfeeding week, made it all the more poignant.
Maybe it is because school starts tomorrow and I feel like we haven’t really been on a whole family vacation together—just the four of us. Or, maybe because I haven’t heard from my son who is ill and not taking action to get some help. I have come to let go of that, completely, but it is no less wrenching. We are about to celebrate his 28thbirthday and that is so sad for me to witness, as he continues his decline and delusions of curing his own addictions without help.
Maybe it is because I am hearing the vicious mantras of my mother that she left emblazoned on my heart, more than ever. When in a weakened and tired state, they all begin to dance and rise again to feed me messages of failure, “mean person”, cruel, fake, controlling, etc. I have absorbed them all these past two weeks. These mean spirited serpents love any opportunity to make a cameo appearance.
So, for whatever reason—I cannot sleep, I want to sleep, I cannot smile, I want to cry, I cannot think my way out of it, I cannot make plans, I cannot reinvent myself and I cannot shoo away Ms Daring Depleting Depression, Ms. Antsy Arguing Anxiety or Ms. Supreme Sick Self Doubt. Waiting for the change to come because fortunately, I do know it usually does… but now, am in the deep, dark hole looking for the Exit sign.
A few days later, sitting here in downtown Raleigh at the Wilmoore Café which in my humble opinion has the very best coffee anywhere on earth and for $1.75, the best egg and veggie burrito, I am found again. I am peering out of the hole. I pick my sweet nieces up at the bus stop from New York in a few minutes and I am feeling hopeful, cheerful and well.
Though I would love to stay in this place, I am not feeling enough terre ferma to know it can last for long.
For now, it is a lovely day in downtown Raleigh and all is well. Later, there may be more demons waiting.