Anne Notations

Friday, March 26, 2010

End of a long day

Friday, I surrendered to mourning my losses. Sleeping a lot. And some crying. I'm alone this weekend, with Kevin at a school retreat and Michael working overtime in Connecticut. It was hard not having my husband here.

In the early evening I glanced out my study window and saw Mom waving at me in rainbow colors.


After the sun set, beauty knocked on our windows and summoned me to the porch.


Click on this one.

Peace be with us all.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

I only cried once

View from my office window at sunset, winter 2009-10.

Today I received my layoff notification, effective July 1. I've been dreading this for several months, which is why I've been the writing equivalent of tongue-tied here... strung out, anxious, distracted. Too much to say for a blog; too little energy left for benign topics.

When I left the meeting this morning, at first I was simply relieved to be out from under the dark cloud of unknowing. I went out to lunch with dear friends (one of whom was similarly laid off last year) and returned to my office to do some work.

After I posted a "pink slip" visual pun on my Facebook page, friends began posting and emailing me to express shock, support, and sadness. Even anger on my behalf, in a few cases, which I admit made me feel loved: fierce friends say what we can't, at times.

I've worked at Brown for 34 years, with a three-year break when I worked for two other colleges. My office is, literally, my personal "room of one's own," complete with plants, Star Wars memorabilia, framed family photos, lamps, and my collection of University directories and Commencement programs going back to 1974. My friends are my colleagues. The campus remains one of the prettiest places I've been; each day has offered foliage and brickwork and details that refresh my eyes.

Across the street from my building: the College Green.

This evening after I'd arrived home, I sat Kevin down in the living room for a tough talk about his slacking off (again) in school, and the possible consequences, such as no college next year. I am weary of it. But parenting must be done regardless of mood or circumstance, and I'm the only adult at home to do it.

I served him supper, and then stood by the kitchen sink as he ate, muddled and mute. After an action-packed day, I was at a standstill: What now? How am I feeling? (Answer: About 100 years old.) I saw myself suddenly as an old, tired woman. I'd been sloughed off, deemed useless, passé. My face sliding down into jowls and grooves. My hair a mess of colors: brown, dark blonde, gray, and blonde highlights – pathetic! Bags under my eyes. Shoulders slumped. Dumpy. Defeated: stopped in my tracks after a lifetime of charging forward, coping, learning, branching out, adapting, having fun, moving past tragedies, immersed in work and play and family.

As if my posture had telegraphed my thoughts, Kevin rose from his meal and took four steps to my side. He reached his arms around me and pulled me close and patted my back: pat... pat... pat... pat... "It will be okay," he said calmly. We stood that way for a minute, and it was not awkward in the least to be embraced by my 17-year-old son.

What bolt struck his heart and moved him to comfort me? Here was my contrary teen, smart and sarcastic and skeptical. Here he was, tall and wise now, holding his old, tired, fired mother and telling me everything will be all right.

That's when I cried.

Thirty-four years

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Blessings and prayers 3-13-10

Andrés, Caroline, and Andrés's girlfriend Rebecca.

1) Our son Andrés, who turned 24 today: His smile, his easiness with people, his gentleness with children, his compassion, his sense of humor are blessings to all who know him.

That he finds his path to a real career with a living wage and the hope of a stable life – and health insurance, always health insurance – I pray to the Lord. Lord, hear my prayer.

2) Our daughter Melinda, home yesterday for her spring break week from Syracuse: Into this late-winter anxiety-beset household she brings her unsinkable zest for life, her sunshine, her hugs for this tired ol' madre.

That she realizes her dreams, I pray to the Lord. Lord, hear my prayer.

3) Sweet Caroline, bubbling with excitement at the ungodly hour of 6:45 a.m. on Fridays when Leslie drops her off at our house; exclaiming as she hugs the dog, "I love Daisy the best!"; asking for her crayons and paper, "reading" her favorite books from the milk crate in the living room, skipping down the walking path to the playground near Iggy's and announcing to another four-year-old girl: "I'm Caroline. Are you a good girl?" and then playing for the next half-hour as I watch from a bench.

That we remain close, this dear girl and I, when we no longer have these gentle Fridays together, I pray to the Lord. Lord, hear my prayer.

4) Friends who send books. Friends who understand. Friendships that endure, that sustain me. Friends whose words inspire. Friends who make me laugh even on the blackest days. You all know who you are, or maybe you don't realize how much it means to me that you email, call, read this blog, write wonderful blogs of your own, leave a post or message on my Facebook page. It means a lot.

That I am always present to my friends with love and selflessness, as they are to me, I pray to the Lord. Lord, hear my prayer.

5) Fortitude in the face of uncertainty, indignity, self-doubt, and betrayal. In the past 20 years I have encountered unforeseen personal challenges and shocks. Most of the time Michael was at my side navigating the same rough waters, although once I believed even he had forsaken me. So far I have been blessed with a strong constitution, a willingness to seek the best help possible, and the will and opportunity to grow new interests and friendships while keeping depression at bay.

At the moment I am relying on every one of these blessings as I put one foot in front of the other and maintain my focus on what must be done, and done well. It's frustrating to be oblique and sometimes metaphorical in this blog. What I will say is this: I'm frightened. I'm lonely. I'm tired.

That I believe in myself, that I behave with dignity, that I keep an open mind and a generous heart in the coming weeks and months, I pray to the Lord.

Please, Lord – please hear my prayers.

Monday, March 08, 2010

What goes around

My friend Neil wrote on his blog a while back:

Who is honored? He who honors others. This is generally understood to mean that you get back what you give; treating others with respect breeds them treating you respectfully in return. A different take on this just dawned on me. It appears to me that you innately become a person of dignity through treating others in a respectful manner. It is not just quid pro quo…. It's deeper, you become dignified inside.

This is an arresting concept, and it rings true. Some of the loveliest – and most successful – people I know are dignified in just this manner.

Conversely, I have known highly placed folks who cloak themselves in self-importance, yet are diminished by treating others disrespectfully. "Classless" is a word that comes to mind. Surely this is not how they would like to be remembered.

Here is a photo from my friend Deb. This large and elegant trumpeter swan appears to have lost his rudder (not to mention his dignity) temporarily. "Whoahh-hhhhhhhhhhh!" Love the splayed feet and tipsy wings!

Even the proud and mighty fall, and not always gracefully. I hope if and when they do, they are reminded that we're all only human. In our short and bumpy lives, treating one another – even "the least of these" – as we ourselves hope to be treated goes a long way toward cushioning hard landings.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Blessings 3-7-10

1. Friends, virtual and real-life, who get me through the dark nights. Also, my dog: always there for me.

2. Dear Kathy, who visited this week and helped me feel connected in all kinds of ways, and made me laugh and laugh.

3. Hearing Patrick talk at Brown's Mass today about his work in Haiti. Hearing Kevin tell Patrick he might volunteer there some spring break. Hearing Father B. tell salty stories about priests at bagel hour.

4. A springlike weekend with songbirds trilling and warbling their hearts out. Warm enough to sit on the front porch in my rocker for a half-hour this afternoon: Now, that is relaxation.

5. Washing the kitchen floor with the Swiffer thingie that shoots out a little jet of disinfecting liquid onto the tiles: more like play than work. Whee!