March 19, 2010

A Hodge Podge of Silliness

I’m changing jobs…I am going from Vice President of Some Stuff at Company A to Vice President of Some Other Stuff at Company B. It is the same industry, the same type of job, even a lot of the same people I have worked with over the years, but still, it is a change and one that I precipitated and not one that was forced on me. It is easier to handle the change when it is not rammed down your closed throat. The past 4 ½ years have been a relentless series of unwanted changes – city flooding, mother dying, original company being bought out, sisters moving away – but this change, this one I decided to make. And still, I am a little nervous.

I like to be the person who knows everything. I like to say things with authority and help other people feel at ease. I feel off balance when I am the one with all the questions. I know it is my ego and a fear of looking stupid. People always say, “There are no stupid questions,” but they are wrong, oh so wrong. There are indeed stupid questions and there are stupid people who ask them and my fragile ego lives in fear of being one of those people. We are all one of those people at one time or another, so it is ridiculous of me to care about it. I am not inherently stupid, just occasionally stupid.

And, of course, I want everyone to like me. I mean, isn’t that the curse of every good Southern lapsed Catholic woman with a big ego and an inferiority complex? What if I say something stupid? Well, not what if, when I say something stupid, will they scorn me and ostracize me? If I screw up, will they publicly shame me? When I get sick, will the pack turn on me and kill me? So many questions…

The nice thing about this, however, is that I am not 25 anymore. I am a grown-ass woman of 40. I have given birth to another human being. I have lived through the worst natural disaster in the history of America, (ok, maybe that’s a little dramatic) I have logged hundred of nights in hotel rooms away from my family for the sake of my job….there is a big part of me that says, “Pffft, this is child’s play.” But not the whole part of me, you know? There is still that little niggling voice that says, “You are a fraud and a failure. Just wait ‘til they find out.”

My sister’s housekeeper says that voice is Satan. And, there is a part of me that thinks she is crazy. But, then again, maybe she’s not. After all, isn’t every great story basically the battle between Good and Evil? Why shouldn’t the battle in my head be any different? Call it whatever you want, Satan, the devil, low self-esteem, it all falls into the “bad” category. Thus, it seems the only way to fight it, is with “good” stuff – laughter, smiles and nervous eating.

Sometimes, I wish I could be a daily pot smoker. Seriously, I know people who smoke every day. Sure, I hate being around them because they have this kind of aloof detachment to their surroundings and the world around them, but that is also what I want sometimes. I want to care less and feel fewer emotions. Not always, just sometimes when it seems like life is too intense.

I equate my life to a movie. Most days, I am sitting reasonable distance back from the screen and can see the big picture easily. Some days, when things get crazy, I tend to sit in the first row with my nose pressed to the screen and everything moves fast and I catch only glimpses of what is going on. On those days, I tend to freak out and react in ridiculous ways. In reality, I just need to move further away to get the right perspective. But, it’s not that easy and the irrational part of me thinks it would be easier if I smoked pot (which, by the way, I have not done since high school.) Then, however, I might end up sitting in the parking lot of the movie theatre making out with the ticket taker.

I suppose the only thing I can do is suit up, show up, and do my best every day. How beautifully and wonderfully mundane.

March 9, 2010

Happy Birthday Mom...Girlfriend!

My mother would have been 74 today. I miss her terribly. What I miss most about her is her sense of humor and wacky way of looking at the world. The day she died, I lost an advocate for my often dark and inappropriate humor. I also lost a source of unconditional love and support. Instead of crying myself through this day, I want to focus on my mother and her wonderful spirit. Here are a few of my favorite mom moments.

After the storm, when Mom was still in Houston undergoing treatment for her cancer, I was in New Orleans watching my sister’s three kids and raising my own newborn. I was using my sister’s car which had an awful smell of gasoline. Her husband had transported and spilled gasoline in the back of the car. It was a terrible odor. Every time we got in the car to go somewhere, we had to roll the windows down and turn on the AC. The children were definitely grateful their dear, somewhat insane aunt had quit smoking. (Only to start again a few months later, but that is another story for another day.)  I called Mom to complain and asked her what got out the smell of gasoline. Her deadpan response was, “fire.”

Another time during this post storm, half the family in Houston, the other half in pieces on the floor in New Orleans era, I called Mom to chat about the day. I work from home and my office is upstairs in our converted attic. Looking back on the renovation, yes we should have blown out the budget and raised the roof line, but we didn’t and we are left with a room with a horribly steep pitched ceiling, on which I hit my head just about every day. I was telling Mom this and saying that one would think I would eventually get used to the pitch of the ceiling and quit hitting my head, but that day had not (and still has not) come. Mom’s suggestion was that I keep a helmet at the foot of the stairs and put it on every time I went to work.

And then, of course, there was the road trip the summer before my senior year in high school. Mom and her best friend, my Aunt Phyllis, who is not really an aunt, (but when you call someone “aunt” your whole life, they kind of become an aunt by sheer force of will) decided to take a trip together to bring Phyllis’ daughter to graduate school in Virginia. We also had the grown son of some other friend of theirs who needed a ride up to the DC area. We started with 2 cars – the moms in one car, the “kids” in the other. Before we hit the twin span in Slidell, the “kid” car was participating in activities that could have gotten us thrown in jail.

On the ride home, it was just Mom, Aunt Phyllis and me. They let me smoke cigarettes in the car and drive a bit. I brought my summer reading books on the trip, so I read them aloud in the car to them.  I read The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh and then Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson, which I am pretty sure was not a required reading book. I don’t think I could have appreciated The Loved One had I not read it aloud to them as they provided explanations and definitions, which made the book hysterically funny. I think I might have to re-read it as an adult to see if it really is supposed to be a comedy…I now question this “fact” of my memory.

We also stopped, against my vehement protestations, at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s house in Virginia. I did not want to go. I was 17. It seemed “boring” and “stupid.” It was fascinating from beginning to end. We bought our tickets and received our change in $2 bills, which tickled the three of us, who were already somewhat punch drunk from being in the car for so long.  No doubt, we were completely obnoxious during the tour, but there are things I remember from that day like they were yesterday, and trust me, it was a LONG time ago. Thomas Jefferson invented the dumb waiter and pocket doors that open together even we you only open one, whatever that is called. Well, it WAS 23 years ago.

When she got sick, I was the only one of her daughters who did not have kids, so it was easier for me to accompany her and Dad to the doctor appointments and then the treatments. It is an odd thing to be happy for, but I am happy I was able to be there for her during that time. We got to spend a lot of time together, time that we not would have spent together otherwise. I would sit with her while she waited for doctors. She would tell me stories and we would laugh at world…it was much easier to laugh than to sit and cry, which was what we both felt inside.

It was reminiscent of high school. Mom worked at the high school I went to so we would drive into school together each morning and home each night. It was a long drive, about 30-40 minutes each way in traffic. By senior year, it was just the 2 of us as my sister had graduated and the girls down the street had as well. People think it’s nuts when I tell them Mom let me smoke in the car on the way to school. It is kind of nuts. I was in a Catholic school girl uniform puffing on a Marlboro light in the car on the way to school. I don’t know why she let me smoke. Maybe she was sympathetic to my addiction.

Some other things I love and miss about my mother, in no particular order:
  • She tended to give me and my sisters birthday cards from the Mohogany greeting card line. I am pretty sure one year I got an old Kwanza card.
  • She was convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that the CIA killed Kennedy.
  • She was also wary of the microwave. In fact, she did not get one until pretty much every other person on the planet had one, and even then, my oldest sister practically forced it on her. She remained suspicious of it for her lifetime.
  • She found my oldest sisters biological mother to thank her and then devoted her time to reuniting other adopted people with their biological parents. I especially liked that she used her vast knowledge of sleuthing to do this, referencing the 100,000 murder mysteries she read.
  • She referred to my dog Sam as her grand dog. She would talk to Sam when she came over.  She knew how much I loved that dog and respected it, never taking it too seriously, but never openly making fun of it either.
  • She fell out of her chair laughing at me when I told her that I thought I would be a better mother than my sisters were because I was more organized. She then promised, through a stream of tears, not to tell anyone I had ever said those words. (Yes, she was right and I was delusional.)

I hear people complain about their mothers today and I want to grab them and say, “You don’t know what you have!” But, then a friend told me once, “If your Mom was my Mom, I’d want her alive, too. But, my mom is cruel.” How lucky I am to have had a mother who was kind. Yes, she was a little wacky, but, frankly, I can’t really fault her for that, now can I? After all, I am pretty sure I cut from the same multi-colored cloth.