Hell Is… Driving In The Snow

Driving in the snow sucks.  It’s truer than my cats emerald-green eyes.  Unless you are driving a Hummer or some sort of four-wheel drive monster, the conditions on the road are down right scary.

I do not drive a huge snow crushing machine.  I cruise a front wheel drive 1999 Pontiac Grand Am.  Which I now know as, my potential death trap in the snow.

This past weekend, which was Christmas weekend, it snowed here on the East Coast.  I live in a small borough in Bucks County.  Now, you’d think that living in a higher tax region would enable residents, such as myself, to better road conditions in inclement weather.

Not so fast there, Sparky.

The roads are barely plowed.  The hills that I have to climb every morning on my way to work were more like greased flag poles.   My guess, as I am sliding around while white knuckling my steering wheel, was that the plowing went on when there was about an inch or so of snow on the ground.

I make it up the hill while my breakfast is churning in my stomach.  I really think this is awesome.  Really.

Now I am on Route 413, which is okay.  Okay until I get to the down-slope that curves under the freight train bridge.  The road narrows as the road winds under the bridge and I realize, as I say rapid prayers in my head, that I have not exhaled since I passed through the last intersection about two miles back.

I make it through that treachery while one of those giant snow gobblers is riding my ass.   I say prayers again that I won’t have to stop suddenly because not only will I slide into who knows what, but surely the mammoth of a truck behind me will crush me.

When I get to Route 332, it is pretty smooth sailing.  I have to make a left at Richboro Road.   That goes unexpectedly well and I am starting to breathe calmer for the first time since i left my apartment.

“I got this,” I think.  Then I remember the mother of all hills.  As I drive up Richboro Road, I notice that the hill I feared so much is actually plowed and salted.  There is not a flake of snow on it and I briefly entertain the thought that it was possibly heated like those streets in Norway.   I chuckle and speed up a little.

I was not going to be late!

As I near the top of the hill, there is a road block.  There is a police officer there directing traffic to the left, through the Council Rock High School Road.

I turn my GPS on because I’m not sure how to get to the office from there.  I just know that at some point I have to go in the direction I had been traveling previously.

So there I am, trudging along.  The road is not plowed at all and I am trying to maintain a decent speed to keep my momentum.

I see the giant football field on the left, the school to the right and I also see the car to the right.  I look ahead and see the stop sign intended for that car.  The driver in that car, like a lot of drivers these days, is sitting at the stop sign, watching me approach.  The driver waits until I am about forty feet from the middle of the intersection and pulls out.

I curse.  I slow down.  And yes, I get stuck.

Great.

I throw it in reverse.  Back into drive.  Into low. I turn the wheel.  The whole time I am just spinning my wheels going nowhere but deeper into the mass of snow that is trying to swallow my poor Pontiac.

I get out of the car.  I have no shovel.  I have not even a small sand bucket left over from the lost days of summer.  I have my hands.  That is all I have.

So there I am.  On my knees, scooping the snow out from under my car like a dog digging a hole for a bone.  I can imagine the dog was much happier in his digging.

Luckily, two nice people in two separate vehicles, both of which are Ford Explorers, come to my rescue with shovels.

I thank them repeatedly like some sort of broken record and, with their help, I am able to get my car out of the snow.  I think momentarily to stop, get out and say thank you.  But, I fear getting stuck again so I just beep, wave and get my ass out of there.

I make it to work in one piece.  When I get into the parking lot at the office, I remember that I need oxygen to function effectively, and exhale long and slow.

Snow was so much more fun when I was a kid.

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Regretting Obsessive Rejection

I’m sitting in my car at Tyler State Park.  It is about twenty-two degrees outside.  I come here almost every day on my one hour lunch break.  Usually I walk for a while as I collect my thoughts.  But today I am a wimp.  The car is safer.  While I cannot hear the frigid wind smacking the leafless trees, I can hear about seventy geese honking in the field behind me.  The chirping birds and foraging squirrels that would grace me with their innocent presence throughout the summer and fall are nowhere to be found.  That is about the only notion I can understand today.

I come here almost every day in the hopes that one of these afternoons I will find peace.  And in finding peace that will free my mind, if only for a moment.

But I am obsessive.  I would like to tell you that I obsess over happy things like a good day at work or winning three dollars on a lottery ticket.  However, that would not propel my insanity forward.  So, I obsess about unpleasantries such as a bad day at work, whether or not I am good enough and the dumb things that spill out of my mouth like cherry Kool-Aid onto a bright carpet.  Sure, it can be cleaned up, but the stain always remains.

A small engine airplane just flew overhead.  As I hone in on that, still with honking geese in the background I start to wonder where that plane might be going. I have a good idea that it is probably going to the airport in Mercer County, NJ but that thought doesn’t give me warm fuzzy feelings.

I’m tired and have been for years.  This game called life is not fun anymore and I look every day for the reset button but it never surfaces.  All of the dreams and aspirations I have had in my life have dwindled to dust as I decided somewhere along this path that the right thing to do would be to put myself last.  How crippling that thought has become.

Now my days are filled with despondent sighs and dreams of “someday”, “if only” and, the most damaging one of them all, “I should have.”

“I should have” are three words seeped in regret like a bitter tea bag in hot water.  Regret is a tough teacher albeit a good one.

I regret not listening to my grandmother all those years ago on our car rides up River Road into New Hope, PA when I was a little girl.  My Gram gave me such good advice about how to act like a lady and how you should never be easy.  Her words rang in my ears until I became a teenager and the pressure of being cool and fitting in greatly outweighed good advice.

I regret listening to my father.  While my grandmother gave me words of wisdom, my father gave me lectures of negativity.  My dad, it seems to me now, wasn’t very comfortable outside the box.  He told me why I shouldn’t be an auto mechanic, why I shouldn’t be a race car driver and went right down my list of dreams smashing them all one by one with the hammer of doubt.  As a little girl, the one thing that I wanted to do very badly was please my father.  If forgetting my dreams could help me do that, then that was what I would do.

It became clear to me a couple years ago why my father never pushed me.  If I went after a dream and it didn’t work out then he would be devastated.  If I stayed inside my little sheltered coven he would feel no pain because I never tried.

Since I need my dreams and aspirations intact, I don’t tell my father what is on my mind anymore.  If I happen to be talking to him it is usually small talk.  Even if I have something burning my brain that needs a hasty exit through my lips, I hold back.  My father can never know who I really am or what I really want anymore.  Obsession over that rejection will destroy me.

Gratitude

As the days turn into years, I sit here and think of all the things that I want.  I want it all and I want it now.  I have been so focused on everything I think I am entitled to, that I rarely stop to look at what I should be grateful for.

I should be grateful for my health.  Yes, this is cliché.  However, as I share an office with someone who is such a good soul and is battling colon cancer, I can’t help but realize just how blessed I really am.  Cancer is something I have never had the misfortune of dealing with; not personally nor in my family.  Sure, I’ve had some wicked colds in my life and it sure seemed my co-worker was battling an epic cold in the beginning of 2010.  But when she collapsed one night in January and was rushed to the hospital, she was told she had stage four colon cancer.  Since that awful night in January, her attitude has changed.  It seems she no longer sweats the little things and she puts off until tomorrow what does not need attention today.  The worst thing I have ever had to deal with is migraine headaches.  Which, anyone that has ever suffered from them knows how terrible migraines are.  But compared to cancer, these headaches are a privilege.

I should be grateful I have a decent place to live.  When I leave my small apartment in the morning and proceed to ride by all of the big, fancy homes on my way to work or even the local coffee shop, my heart kind of sinks a little.  I think back to all of the dreams and aspirations I once had that would have put me in such a beautiful abode.  On my way home from work every night, I see this unkempt fellow pacing up and down Bellevue Avenue.   His hands are always clasped behind his back as he strolls, up and down, wearing the same navy blue jumpsuit since I started travelling Bellevue Avenue in 2007.  In the hot, humid summer days he still wears the navy jumpsuit and I feel sad inside that he has nowhere to hang his tattered navy blue rags while I pull into my driveway.

I should be grateful that I have a wonderful career.  Most of my life I have lived paycheck to paycheck.  I was doing just this as a parts delivery girl for a big named auto parts supplier while making barely over minimum wage.  The way I was treated after a motorcycle accident was deplorable and that led me to seek out new employment.  I wound up interviewing for a small accounting firm, to which I was overlooked by another applicant.  A month went by and they called me back looking to reinterview.  That was in November of 2007 and I am still employed by the same small firm that takes very good care of their employees.

But what I am most grateful for is all of the little things.  The five dollars I find at the bottom of my purse.  The days that it is sunny when my driver’s side window refuses to cooperate and stay up.  I am grateful for all of the people who cross my path each day.  I thank the nice ones for making my day more pleasurable, and the not so nice ones, for showing me there is always a better attitude to be had.  Without gratitude, there is always a sense of entitlement.  I am entitled to nothing on this earth.  And who is really?

Writer’s Block

I am working on a novel and I have hit a terrible block.  I get up from the screen and go to the notebook. I drop the notebook and venture back to the screen.

I listen to people talk.  I read what others have written.  Yet, I still cannot put a complete thought onto a page or the neon screen that glares back at me.

So I ask you.  How do you deal with writer’s block?  Do you get up and walk away for ten minutes?  An hour? A day?  A week?  Do you have some sort of ritual to overcome this wall of defeat?  Do you start writing about something completely unrelated to what you have already started?

Infected By Football

When I was seven, I had been out playing Barbies with my little friends down the street and had enough of the girly power trips.  I sat with Barbie in hand while Barbie was ordered around by my sprightly friends.  “I think my mom is calling me for dinner,” I fibbed as I picked up Barbie’s belongings.

It was a Sunday, and that meant a big spaghetti and meatball dinner with my family.  Well, my family and about three of my dad’s good buddies.   My mom, sister and I would sit at the dinner table while my dad and his pals would sit on the couch with t.v. trays coupled with ice-cold cans of Bud as the sounds of whistles, boos and cheers came from the television.  Those were the sounds of professional football.

I noticed something on that first of many increasingly cold Sundays and that was that football was important.  I mean, to sit on the couch and not move except to run up the steps to go pee or to play darts for about ten minutes in the middle of whatever this football thing was, football had to be very important.

So one cool day in November, I sat on the floor next to where my dad sat on the couch and I started asking questions.   What were the flags for?  Why did that guy hit that other guy?  Why did a guy in an opposite uniform catch the ball?  My dad and his friends answered my questions while chuckling.

Some years went by and I was twelve now.  I remember being in English class and our teacher for the day was a substitute.  That substitute thought he’d keep us amused for the whole period by handing us a paper to match “NFL teams with cities”.  I matched all of them correctly in  six minutes.  The teacher couldn’t believe it.  The class couldn’t believe it.  Hell, I couldn’t even believe it.

It seemed knowing football was important.

When the Philadelphia Eagles went to the Super Bowl in 1980 and lost to the Oakland Raiders, I wasn’t too upset because I hadn’t quite grasped the devastation of losing a championship at such a young age.

When the Denver Broncos went to the Super Bowl in 1987 it was five days before my 14th birthday.  I’m not sure when or why I grew a fondness for the John Elway and the Denver Broncos.  Still very much a child, I had hand crafted signs on notebook paper doodled with orange and blue D’s and stick figured horses.  The number 7 was doodled on those pages as well, and even though I was a Philly native, that 7 was not for Ron Jaworski.

Denver was crushed by the New York Giants 39-20 that night in Pasadena, California.  When the game was over I ripped down my signs made with great care and cried.  My mom hugged me as she stroked my long, brown hair.  My dad and the rest of his slovenly crew were guffawing in the front room as they played darts.

I cried myself to sleep that night while I couldn’t get next season off my mind.

Selfish Suicide – Part One

Suicide is selfish.  Truer words have never been spoken.  Okay, truer words have been spoken.  But on the topic of suicide, there is no other way to really describe it.  I can say that I have been truly selfish once in my life.

It was a hot day in the middle of July 1996.  A whole host of events had led up to that day.  I was upset; disgusted. I really felt there was no other option.  How could I go on?  What shot did I have at a decent life?  I felt hopeless and weak.

I stood above the sink with a bottle of prescription muscle relaxers. The tap flowed as I put my plastic cup under the cold water. With a pile of pills in my hand and tears streaming my artificially tanned cheeks, I begged for a sign that I didn’t need to do this; that it would all be okay.   The telephone didn’t ring.  My cat didn’t meow. There was just the steady sound of running water.

I took the pills and chugged from the plastic cup.  There.  It was done.  I didn’t have to suffer anymore.  As I walked crying into the other room it hit me like a bolt of lightning. My life; others lives flashed before my eyes.  What the fuck was I doing?

I ran to the kitchen to take it back.  I put my head over the sink and rammed my fingers down my throat.  The harder I tried to make myself throw up the weaker I became.  It was in that moment that I begged God to forgive my sins.  I stumbled into the living room and collapsed on the floor.  That was the last thing I remembered.

I woke up in the hospital days later with no recollection of what I had done.  My mother was by my bedside and I asked her where I was.  She told me I had suffered a stroke and that my oldest daughter had found me dead.  Rescue was called that day I collapsed on the floor and they had worked on me for roughly twenty minutes before getting a pulse.

That day was July 19, 1996.  My mom would call on the nineteenth of July every year for the next eight to remind me of the progress I had made since I fell apart.

The stress of being a young mother of four children with a dead beat husband would make anyone fall apart.  My family was masterful at the cover up.

At about year six, I started to remember pieces of things. Events that seemed almost dream like flooded my mind.  As I remembered them, they overlapped each other like a poorly dubbed cassette tape.  I would mention these thoughts, these pieces of a movie almost, to my mother.  She would side step my notions quite gracefully.

At year seven I had called my mother.  I was excited.  I had a dream.  A violent dream, but nonetheless, a dream.  Now, you might think, so what?  We all dream.  And I know that I had dreamed every night since that hot day in July, but when I awoke from my sleep every morning, I had nothing.  A glimpse of anything that had run through my subconscious mind during the night never resurfaced in my head.

That dream meant so much to me.  It meant normalcy.  To dream meant that I was going to be okay.

I wish I could say that my life and the lives of my children returned to normal after that night in July.  I wish I could pretend that a glass of water and a bottle of muscle relaxers coupled with a dark state of mind didn’t alter so many paths.

The lives of my children would never be the same after that day.  My life warped into what seemed a strip of bad scene selections from a sub-par movie.