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My Forced March into Madness

I had such a bout of panic and anxiety yesterday, that at times I seemed to have been surgically spliced and lightly lifted out of my own body. I was terrified.

I couldn’t find my professional license. I need to prove that I am able to work in my field, and that proof is my professional license. I looked in my small safe that I keep in the closet that holds other important papers that I need to keep, and it is also the most logical location for where the license would be kept. I was wide-eyed and stilted after I opened the safe only to find that it was missing!

I rifled through my tall bureau where there’s a shelf that I use to keep other important documents such as the divorce agreement, my bank checks and assorted papers. It wasn’t there! I then quickly tore at my nightstand where I keep various saved papers from the kids’ schoolwork that they’ve given me from time to time, allowing me occasional cool comfort and the slightest of illusion that I am an involved parent within their presence in school. Nothing there! I looked in my kitchen ‘junk’ drawer, I ripped through the drawer in the small table that used to be my nightstand when I was married, but is now the catch-all at my apartment door. Nothing in either!

I felt the panic as a dizzy menace spreading as quickly as though it were colored dye spreading through my mind – filling my head, narrowing my thoughts, trembling my fingers, my heart overextending to accept blood and forcefully plunging closed – the center of my life was clawing through piles of scattered documents, circulars, magazines and miscellaneous opened and unopened mail that now lied in a wide circle around me as I knelt, centered amid the paper debris. I rapidly and savagely reopened envelope after envelope where it might have been, separating contents from their proper container without rejoining them for later use and throwing them aside, tossing them even further away from me and creating an even larger circle of print matter that in the end had me perfectly centered, fully surrounded and piled on all sides, mocking me for my inept ability in keeping something so important within easy grasp.

I placed my forehead down on the floor as if I might do for eastern meditation as I began to cry silently in raging frustration and blinding panic, As I raised my head to breath, I happened to glance under my bed. There, I could see boxes of storage items – photo albums of relatives I never knew, a box of glasses that I won at a work raffle last Christmas, a old colorful basket, and a plastic shopping bag filled with papers. I reached shoulder-length under the bed and pulled quickly as if I were saving the bag from harm under the bed. More of the same filtered out – old bills, old magazines, circulars from last year and articles that I never read. But, somewhere near the middle of the plastic bag was an envelope with my handwriting on it. I opened it, and there, nestled between my social security card and three small wallet sized pictures, was my professional license.

My overpowering relief was met, at that very same exact instance, with a rapidly ballooning despair. The three pictures were the pictures taken of my children at the hospital the day they were born – their newborn pictures! I found myself holding in my left hand my most precious, most treasured above all lost past, and in my right, my needy, bleak and uncertain future.

My thoughts couldn’t distill my elation for finding my professional license from the jarring jolt of electricity that thundered through me at seeing my babies as newborns, and I continued kneeling, sitting on my heels in the ring of torn, mismatched, scattered papers, sweating through my shirt, hands twitching, barely sane and exquisitely solitary.

Much later, last night at about 8:00 PM, I received a call from a realtor – my house is being put up for ‘short sale’.

This morning I found out via email, that I am not eligable for financial assistance if I want to go to school this coming year.

I am out of work, my home where my children live is to be taken, I am not able to receive assistance to better myself in school and, again, I am alone.

Is there anybody out there?

Reaching Up to Zero

The worst happened – I lost my job.

Though my bosses both told me that they knew that the multiple charges against me were trumped up, to fight back against them – all of them, would be futile. There are just too many of them to isolate one at a time and defend. There are just too many, and the long, drawn out attempt to take on line item upon line item would only weaken my integrity, ability to lead others and bring into question my character. I’m given the choice of either trying to fight or willfully resign.

We hugged, she shed a quiet tear and told me that she knew that it was bullshit, but there it was. We left on good terms. But, the reality of it comes down to money.

If I resign – signing a letter saying so, I get my built up vacation pay. Without it, I will have had no income for two weeks. However, I received bad news about resigning: resigning will not allow me to collect unemployment. Unemployment will give me a sort of safety net if I can’t find a job right away, which, obviously, I desperatly need.

I must get out immediately and find another job. Now. Though the pain and desperation cling to me as a wet and cold sheet – I don’t know … but, I need to get out there today. Thanksgiving week.

I had my children this past weekend and told them. They, as children, took it well and didn’t have any questions after I told them. What I didn’t tell them is that Daddy will only have enough money to cover December’s rent and possibly even January’s rent. This doesn’t take into account phone, cable, electricity, gas … and food.

This is Thanksgiving and I have them this year for Thanksgiving. I need to spend money for turkey and all the fixings. Each time that I’ve spent even two dollars, I receive a sinking feeling that I’m two dollars closer to living on the streets.

And, I know I couldn’t survive that.

I did go to church yesterday and my youngest son wanted to go with me! He watched me well up as I sat there in the pew and recited my rosary. I felt weak, vulnerable and pathetic knowing he saw me. But, seeing all the couples with their young children brough back such torturous memories of us going to church when we were together that I couldn’t hold back the remorse or the begging to God to turn back the clock.

These are not the boisterous thoughts that I thought I would have at my age.

Is there anybody out there?

Not Quite Dating

When I moved to where I am now, a bit after the divorce, I hadn’t seen anyone for over a year. The last time I was with someone, I was married. I was scared out of my wits at the prospect of dating.

I had the thoughts of ‘Who the heck would ever want to see me?‘ mostly because of my lack of confidence after the divorce, but also because of the crazy schedule I have with my kids. I also thought ‘What do I possibly have that anyone would be attracted to‘? Although I’m in good shape, I’m bald, I’m fifty-three, I’m a low level nurse, I don’t have money, I live in a less than desirable neighborhood because of money issues and, well, I have nothing. Most men in my age bracket are already well established, with homes, have older kids, or kids out of the house, go on vacations, have a certain level of financial stability and most women my age expect the same level when dating. And the avenues in which to meet someone around my age is severely limited. Bars are not an option and I’m not a barfly. Hanging in the park? It’s like opening a butterfly net and waiting for a butterfly to enter the net. Go to a grocery store and hang in the aisles? I couldn’t take a night class with my schedule. I was at a loss.

Compelled by staggering and overpowering loneliness sitting in a one bed apartment, I joined an online dating service. How awkward and anemic I felt as I filled out information in the required fields. I felt scared, weak about not being able to find someone on my own and nervous about the prospect of meeting someone and who I would attract.

I was so nervous, that I couldn’t bring myself to respond to a few initial emails. I’m certain that it seems silly to you reading this, but I was alternating between feeling strong and self-assured, but worthless and devalued. I felt as if I were someone who was fluffing up who he is – putting on a false brave and confident face, but underneath, being a failure who had ‘issues’.

I did gather the courage to go out and meet someone after we corresponded multiple times. She was six years younger than me, cute and she had a bubbly personality. From the beginning we talked about our ex’s and our divorces. After a few-and-far-between dates she was the one that actually leaned over and kissed me because she could tell how hesitant and nervous I was. Imagine that? A fifty-three year old man that couldn’t make the first move? I later felt ashamed about that.

Due to my schedule, we could only see each other sparingly, and that became a point of discussion between us. She wanted more time, a signal that I was committed. But, I was hesitant for many reasons. One reason was that I couldn’t know, or I couldn’t feel, that she was ‘THE one’ – the woman that I wanted to spend all my time with. Two, and most importantly to me, was my single-minded focus on working as many hours as I was physically able to in order to secure as much money as I could.

As I look over the above paragraph, I need to be more honest. I felt, despite my earlier statements, that I could ‘do better’. In hindsight, I was a cad and a loathsome man because she was the only one I was seeing. She invested heavily and without hesitation and I was tenuous and being opportunistic. I was dating her and feeling more confidence because of the experience but every so often fleetingly thinking that someone better would come along and thus, I was not putting as much effort into keeping the relationship as fulfilling as she was. I was sometimes distant, and also most times scared of committing. How does one who is still feeling the scorched earth effect of divorce segue into developing a new-found relationship that is permanent? When she began saying ‘I Love You’, I was again, scared. I used the term once in a great while back to her, but most times as an endearment and not out of passion and dedication.

As to my working all the available hours I could, I didn’t slow down my work schedule for her. Quite the opposite – I would take any opportunity to work and would have a schedule several weeks in advance of where I needed to be and when. It began that I was so drop-dead tired from all those hours, that on a night when I didn’t have my children, and I wasn’t working, I would come home from my full-time job, sit on my couch and literally fall asleep from maybe 4:30PM – 5:00PM, until I woke up at midnight, or later. Then I would go back to sleep, work, and it was a night with my children. Then the next night it would happen again. Many times I would wake up from falling asleep on the couch to find a phone message from her asking if we might see each other for an hour or so. Or worse, I would have agreed to see her, only to fall asleep and not call her back at all. Other times, on a rare night when I didn’t work or have the children, utter ennui would hit me and I would stay alone, busying myself with ‘little things’ around the apartment and never ‘got around’ to calling her. She left a few times because of my not fully committing and my  purposely not fitting her into my schedule. Last year, a few weeks before Christmas, it was one of those times.

More, after the Break

It’s just the sound of my heart breaking – ship to shore.

I don’t even know how to start.

I just know that I’m not happy at all with the way that it’s become up to now. Life’s obstacles seem to make it a point to cluster all around me and I’m at a time and place where I’m even sometimes reluctant to step forward.

Spiritually, I’m in a constant battle with God to help me. I alternately lose faith, have read so much of the self-help books that I’m always confused about the line between helping myself and leaving it in God’s hands.

Physically, I’m in a constant battle also. I quit smoking for the last three weeks, but because of what’s happened to me in the last few days, I bought a pack today and yesterday. So ashamed of that.

I’m so fundamentally frustrated with my lack of formal education! I am enrolled for the Spring semester and am looking forward to that, but at my age when I finally get my degree, will it make a huge difference? I’m also looking at two more years after that in order to get my Bachelors.

My oldest, at fifteen, had taken a stand that it’s not worth it to come see me anymore. He feels that all we do is fight. I admit, that a lot of it has to do with his age, but I so desperately need to see him! I feel unloved by him – my greatest accomplishment and now, my most bitter disappointment.

I am so lonely! Long days without a reason to come home to. Home, for me, is not a single bed apartment with white walls and a television on for company. So lonely.

For the first time in years, I went to church. I asked God if he would recognize me. I did the rosary for the first time in years and could barely hold back brimming tears. I would steal glances of parents and their children – a remember sadly the way it was for me not too long ago. The crush of what was there, and now gone, was almost a physical weight on my shoulders and chest and again would cause me to well up. I felt so guilty with my tears and with the thoughts I’m holding that staring at the floor was the what I did for most of the Mass.

I have an issue at work that is coming to a head this week. Until they call me back from a suspension, I’m unsure if I have a job waiting for me at all.

I really struggled with the idea of putting this online. Will writing help me to sort it out? Who the heck, except for me, would read it? Even someone stumbling here would not see a value and quickly move on.

Where is anyone?

S.O.S. by Tim Curry

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