Bad Feelings Aren’t Biodegradable

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Two days in a row I’ve been in a funk. Actually, yesterday felt like a long road of flat highway in Texas somewhere — empty and endless. Today feels like I’ll be lucky if I’m not crying by the time I finish this blog. Who knows, if I don’t snap out of it soon, I could slip into rage tomorrow and be in jail by dinner. These days aren’t worryingly frequent, but I do dread them and do anything I can to postpone them. Notice how I don’t say “prevent” them? That’s because I believe my almost-ex’s truism “bad feelings aren’t biodegradable.” They stick around hiding under the landfill like Styrofoam cups and disposable diapers. Sooner or later you are going to have to pick them all up and find a productive new use for them, but the chore seems so onerous.

Let’s see, why might I be sad today? Well, they keep running commercials about the new Cameron Diaz movie about a sister genetically engineered to prolong the life of her older sister and I know a little something about dying siblings and kids stricken with cancer. Or perhaps the fact that I’m moving in less than three weeks to a new home and leaving the family nest I created and lived in for a decade with my husband and our kids frightens and saddens me as much as it inspires and excites me. Oh, the tears are falling now so I guess that’s an extra-tender spot right there.

Also, it’ summer and with two kids in college and three with jobs this summer, and oh yeah, that divorce thingy, we won’t be having the fabulous vacation that we have planned every year since our first was born 21 years ago. Ok, that one hurts, but not as much as the house thing. Interesting…And then there was the fight I had with one of my four children last weekend that still lingers in the air no matter how much I apologize. And the fact that I have to be the grown up and apologize, sincerely, when I want to stamp my feet and be right and order them not to criticize me, especially right now. Then, of course, there is the way my knees look like they’re dropping…

I’m homesick. That’s the word. I miss my home, even though I’m still living in it. I miss all of my old homes. I miss knowing where I belong and where I feel safe. I miss my old body and all the tricks it could do. And I have this nagging voice in the back of my mind telling me just returning to Kansas won’t make this Dorothy feel better. It’s time to build my internal home now and that is so much harder than constructing a house.

Staying active is the way I cope with difficult feelings. I like to dance around with projects, career, family — moving, always moving. Being of service, endearing myself to others, rescuing, solving, nursing, enticing, achieving — these were my drugs in some ways. But I’m older now and I get tired of dancing so hard all the time. Plus, the people I danced for are doing very well without me for long stretches of time. Being still is an acquired skill and I’m still so spastic at it. I’m not accustomed to being on my own and focusing on my own happiness. What wife and mother in mid-life is? Undeniably, change is happening everywhere, whether I always like it or not. Then of course, there are the hormones, or the lack thereof. No female issue is fully addressed without mentioning hormones.

A decorator friend, Michael Smith (yes, the Obama’s Michael Smith) taught me a fundamental rule of putting a room together. “Start with the carpet,” he said, then the rest of the room will become a revelation. That’s such a stunning metaphor for life to me right now. When I get so overwhelmed with this task of building my new life, I remind myself to start with my carpet — the fundamental thing that I want to base the rest of me on. At one time, it was my education, at another my carpet was raising a family and now I’m just taking my shoes off and walking around barefoot on a few different carpets to see which one has the nap and feel that makes me feel good. I’m narrowing it down to writer/friend/spontaneous person in a silk with several shades of yellow and another carpet of teacher/lover/adventurer in a tapestry of mostly pale blues. Then we’ll see what the curtains will be and which wall shades compliment the carpet. Lucky for me, my new house and my life have more than two or three rooms, so I don’t have to limit myself.

I’m building my life like my house, in pieces. Some old things I’ll bring from former homes, I’ll buy the essentials now so that I can move in and I’ll leave lots empty spaces to wait for what pops up along the way.

Vicki Iovine – Girlfriends' Guides