Choice

October 28, 2013 § 40 Comments

12

“Apprentice yourself to yourself, welcome back all you sent away.” – David Whyte

I am approaching this space with chagrin, a sense of hands wringing in the space at my center. In August, I vowed  I would write here more, and once again I have broken my word, those promises I make to myself that are more fragile than they should be.

In the spirit of true disclosure, September and October have been a bit of a boondoggle around here, and when things get tough, I tend to hide. Or, I tend to make myself so busy that I have no time to sit still, or to think, or to begin the clumsy and tedious process of sorting through words, picking them up and throwing them back as if they were tiles in a box of Scrabble.

I love the month of October, but it has an edge to it for me now as it is the month when we begin to get a hint of our next orders – Scott’s next assignment – the place to which we will be moving next. Every odd year in October, I get a whiff of endings as the leaves fall down and I need to prepare myself for the leaving  and then, for the arriving. This year, I was relaxed about it and far too confident. We had thought this would be the move where we prioritized where we wanted to live rather than the right career move. This was going to be a move for family and not solely for the job, and I was excited about the liklihood of us moving to either The Netherlands or back to California, which is the place where I feel most at home.

So, it was a bit of a sucker punch that the Navy came back with two options, each requiring Scott to deploy for a year. He will choose between Bahrain and Djibouti and then the Navy will send him to one or the other, regardless of his choice. “Jabooty?” I said to Scott when he called me from work. “I don’t even know where that is.” It sounded like the punch line to an old Eddie Murphy joke.

“It’s in Africa,” he said, “Near Somalia,” and I said what the hell.

For the last month or so I have been wondering how on earth I will parent our two boys alone and how I will shore us all up enough to get through a year without Scott, whom we all adore and lean on to a ridiculous extent.

Right now, I can’t imagine it.

Two weeks ago I went to open the fridge in the garage and had a strange sensation of being watched. I glanced up and saw the beady eyes of a tree snake, its body wound around the freezer door. I ran back into the house calling, “Scott! Scott you need to come out here now!!!”

Last Friday, I discovered there was a mouse living in the seats of my car and I almost had a heart attack. I called Scott who was on his way to give a speech and cared not a wit about the fact that rodents were living in my car, so I texted the strongest and most stalwart of my neighbors. “I’ll be right over,” Tammy texted back, and together we tore apart my Prius and found that my emergency granola bar stash in the trunk had been raided, the wrappers shredded and stuffed into the interior of the back seat.

My other neighbor across the street, Miriam, drove by on her way home and leaned out the window of her minivan. “What are you guys doing?” she asked. When we told her, she parked in her driveway and walked over with her four-year old daughter and her yellow lab. “If it were me, I would get a new car,” she told me and I explained that getting a new car would require driving this one someplace first, and I wasn’t about to get in.

“Really?” Miriam asked. “But you’re so brave.”

“What gave you that idea?” I asked, and she shrugged. “I don’t know. You had a snake in your garage. Or maybe it’s because you have boys.”

“No,” said Tammy, who has a daughter and a son. “Boys are easier.”

And so the conversation turned again to the every day ordinary, as it always does, and Gus circled around us on his bike. We were gathering up the shredded paper and my reusable grocery bags, now ruined with mouse droppings, and I felt a tide of panic begin to ebb in. I am used to this now, the anxiety that seeps and slides until it rises up to my throat. “How on earth am I going to get through a year on my own?” I asked the women next to me and instantly felt silly because these women were Marine wives. Scott was gone for 8 week intervals during the first two years of our marriage, but these women have already been through more than five deployments each, their husbands away more often than they are home.

“You’ll call us,” Tammy said matter of factly as she slammed my trunk shut, and I felt something sink down and land.

“Yes, you’ll call us and you’ll get a dog,” said Miriam and then told me about the time a raccoon jumped out of the garbage can at her while her husband was gone. “If you’ve ever wondered why I take my trash out at noon, now you know.”

Gus once again circled our piles of seat fluff, and then the school bus pulled up and all of our children spilled out. Oliver and Gus got on their scooters and rode over to their friends across the street and Miriam’s girls were excited to add another “nature story” to the newsletter they are creating for the neighborhood, entitled The Saint Mary Post. “Mrs. Cloyd,” Miriam’s oldest said breathlessly as she pulled a notebook out of her backpack. “What was your reaction when you discovered mice were living in your car?”

What is my reaction to anything? I thought to myself. Out loud, I said, “EEEEEEEEEK!” which Laura Fern wrote down, her pencil pressing hard into the paper.

I’ve started running again after a slew of injuries, but I suppose it’s more accurate to say that I jog slowly for a few miles. The other morning, after the boys got on the bus and the tide of panic was rising up my ribcage, I laced up my shoes and set out. I thought about my reactions, how usually they are negative, because most of the time I am afraid. Most of the time, I am the opposite of brave. On that morning jog I was angry about the deployment, angry because this was supposed to be the move where I got to choose. This was supposed to be my turn. Mine. Not the Navy’s.

Well then, said a small voice inside me, Choose this. 

“No,” I said back, but then I felt that softening again, the landing and I wondered if I was allowed to choose something I didn’t want, if it was even possible, if maybe, choosing has nothing at all to do with wanting. I don’t want a mouse in my car or my husband to leave. I want what I want and inside me, wanting has always been fierce, its claws always pulling me away and out and up. Look at this, wanting says, racing up to me on scurrying feet. Isn’t it lovely?

And now I am trying to put the wanting aside, which is something new for me. Shh, I am telling it, Not now. I use soothing words like hush and sometimes a firm word like stop. I am practicing.

Yesterday I had to teach yoga, which requires me to drive. I went out and stood in front of my car. I opened the door and removed the empty mouse traps Scott had set the night before, but their emptiness proved nothing to me. “I think it’s gone,” Scott had said as he looked under and around the seats, but I wasn’t buying it. You never know when those feet will scrabble up your spine, when those sharp teeth will sink in, grabbing your attention away and out and up.

I got in the car and fastened the seat belt. “Hello mice,” I said into the meaningless quiet and then I got the willies just thinking about them. I wanted a new car. I wanted another option. I wanted things to be different.

And then to myself I said, Shh. Not now. Drive the car.

I am still practicing.

§ 40 Responses to Choice

  • Jena Strong says:

    I would really, really like to have a cup if coffee with you this morning.

  • It is interesting to me, that your practicing involves speaking with love and compassion to yourself – I hear your “mother voice” speaking to your self.

    • Pamela says:

      Thank you Michele. My mother voice also says, “I’ve been asking you to pick up these toys for the last hour.” Hopefully I can quiet that one too.

  • Christa says:

    more later, Pamela – for now, I love you. Sending huge hugs and much admiration…

    C

  • Elizabeth says:

    This is awesome! Sooooo what I needed to read for like… The last ten years or so. Thank you for writing.

    • Pamela says:

      Thank you for reading. Ten years sounds like a long time … I am always humbled by how bent out of shape I get about things that aren’t really such a big deal.

  • I was so, so glad to see one of your posts pop up this morning. I am teary eyed thinking about your disappointment and your time alone but I am also teary eyed thinking about the band of women that surround you and support you. Hugs from afar…

    • Pamela says:

      Thank you Stacey. I was thinking of you today too because we are reading two of the books recommended on your blog – staceyloscalzo.com. I love them! Hugs back to you!

  • Patricia Dolan says:

    We are all practicing with you……

    I am so proud of you and for you for ‘choosing’ this ‘now’……

    You are ‘Brave’ just like the heroine in the movie…..but more so because this is reality……you are NOT alone…..there are many who will support you in person, via the phone, via email, via text……let the circle of women who know and love you (and your words) support you…..choose this now…..

    Oxox
    Trish

  • Melissa says:

    Your grace amazes me… and gives me the strength to keep “choosing” what I have instead of what I want. I love your blog and your raw honesty. Many blessings to you — I hope you share much of your upcoming year. I am a single Mom with a wonderful support network, but there are times that the loneliness robs my soul of air. My prayers are with you and your boys. I look forward to hearing all about your new adventures!

    • Pamela says:

      Oh you got me with that one. “The loneliness robs my soul of air.” Yes. I know that feeling. I don’t think anyone can even imagine what it’s like to be a single mom – I can’t even imagine it for one year. You deserve a fabulous support network. And a long weekend to yourself. Thank you for reading and for taking the time to comment.

  • Wow. I knew about the mouse but not about the deployment. I’m so sorry to hear it – especially because it’s so not what you were expecting. Sending you lots and lots of love. xoxox

  • Leanne says:

    You can do this.

  • “…and I wondered if I was allowed to choose something I didn’t want, if it was even possible, if maybe, choosing has nothing at all to do with wanting.” Precisely what I needed to read today. Sending loving thoughts your way. xo

  • Alana says:

    The way you see the world around you, and then share it with us, always astounds me.
    This…”…and I wondered if I was allowed to choose something I didn’t want, if it was even possible, if maybe, choosing has nothing at all to do with wanting.” Yes. Wow.

  • You have much more courage than you give yourself credit for. And in this case, no one could blame you for being anxious. I frequently travel with our kids without my husband and it is always such a relief to come home to him.

    I wish I could come and help you.

  • Love the metaphor of the mice here, Pamela. And ” I wondered if I was allowed to choose something I didn’t want.” That is something I’m going to ponder for awhile. Really love this post. Disappointments — reality not matching expectation — are so hard to manage and cope with.

  • Thekitchwitch says:

    You covered everything with such aplomb in this post! I echo Elizabeth: the sentence “I wondered if I was allowed to choose something I didn’t want,” stopped me in my tracks. I think it’s going to follow me along for a while, thinking on it. Hugs. And no snakes. And no mice. xoxo

  • Penny says:

    Please don’t feel like you have to write just to keep your number of posts up. One if the things I love about your blog is that I don’t see them often pop up in my inbox but I know when it does that it will be good because you are writing because you have something big to say.

  • gah. and ack.
    boy, what a bag…fear, disappointment, anger, trepidation..? mighty mighty.
    and i’m so sad you’ve got to let him go. i’m glad though that you chose the base this time.. wasn’t that a good choice? i feel sort of awash in your life this morning… holding you in the ‘Light’, and the kids, and the man.

  • My dear Pamela, I am simultaneously amazed by your strength and angry that you have to call upon it so often.

    There are few things in the world I like less than mice so I read your post with a sick feeling in my stomach, one that, I imagine, only hints at the one you felt when you learned about Scott’s deployment. I am holding your family in my heart and wishing, once again, that we lived closer so that I could be one of those women you lean on. xo

  • My dear Pamela, I am simultaneously amazed by your strength and angry that you have to call upon it so often.

    There are few things in the world I like less than mice so I read your post with a sick feeling in my stomach, one that, I imagine, only hints at the one you felt when you learned about Scott’s deployment. I am holding your family in my heart and wishing, once again, that we lived closer so that I could be one of those women you lean on. xo

  • Laura Plumb says:

    chop wood, carry water, trap mice, drive car.
    you make me cry.
    XO

  • Yes, Jabooty definitely sounds like an Eddie Murphy joke! I can see him saying that, then standing there with that ridiculous smile of his.

    On a more serious note…we are all still learning. We are all still practicing. That is the unfair beauty of this thing we call life.

    You’re doing perfectly awesome.

  • Dear Pam, I’m late here with my comment, though I read your raw, funny, heartbreaking words the moment they arrived in my inbox. And then I immediately shared this post with two friends who are each being asked to choose something they didn’t want — critical illnesses. I love the juxtapositions here between the small stuff (MICE! Which of course are not “small” at all when you’re dealing with them) and the big stuff (DEPLOYMENT! Which I can barely wrap my mind around). By writing this beautiful piece, you’ve chosen both — which I’m pretty sure means they’ve lost some of their power over you. You can drive the car and you will survive the year with grace. Just think of how many people are here supporting you and cheering you on!

  • Kathy says:

    You have 33 comments (34 now)! You will never be truly alone. Though most of us cannot be there to trap the mice or remove the snakes, we are with you in spirit.

  • Mice. They are so small but so very insidious. They are good, however, at finding a way to live wherever they are at. Just like you. I’m sure it isn’t easy and there are times in the coming year that will be so very hard but I love that you are surrounded by good women and good friends. And, of course, you have you. That is going to be a huge source of peace and strength.

  • I like mice, and ants and the horned owl in my tree after dark, but I hate separation and deployment and I’ve been slogging through some dark days in recent weeks and so I’m rather late to this post and I’ve felt like a lot of tough choosing has been going on all around us and so I’m down to sending love and compassion and hopes that you are all safe and looked after and that before you know it you’ll all be together in a place easier to choose.

  • Start with ones generating steady traffic and comments and offer to guest post for them.
    There are many different types of events both large and small.

  • Lisa Ahn says:

    Oh, my I would be screaming EEEEEEEK right with you. I love that you said hello to the mice and drove anyway. These lines resonated so well with me, ” I thought about my reactions, how usually they are negative, because most of the time I am afraid. Most of the time, I am the opposite of brave.” Me too! And, in my eyes, you are very brave.

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