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Belltown Messenger #82 - August 2010
SOMETHING TOTALLY UNEXPECTED HAPPENED
My friend had a heart attack.
My friend is forty-eight years old.
A heart attack.
Before you think she should have quit smoking, tossing back the vodka, lazing around, or laid off the fries, I will say, none of the above!
When my friend and I walk around Greenlake, she wants to go around twice. I don’t. Half way around, I want to stop and drink beer at Bluwater Bistro.
When we order dinner, she’s all fish and salad. I’ll have a cheeseburger, thanks. (Sure it's grass-fed/free-ranging/so-called sustainable ... but it's still beef. I will eventually look like a cow.)
She says her heart attack is a fluke. "An unlucky fluke in a string of flukes I’ve had to get a grip on in the last couple of years," she said.
I watch my friend try and stitch her heart attack neatly into the hem of other recent setbacks, but I’m not buying it. Trying to convince herself is like sewing a brick into the fabric. It strikes her leg, uncomfortably, but she bears it without so much as objecting. How’s this for coping?
Sometimes I forget just how adaptable humans can be.
I’m having nightmares. Seriously. I’ve stopped eating meat again.
One cocktail! Even if it’s happy hour and they’re practically giving the booze away, I’m not having two.
We cried, naturally. We cried and cried.
After all the tears, my friend’s stoic coping skills left me questioning my own, which is: I am not going to let politics ruin my summer! I will appreciate the good rather than worry the heavy things, all of which bear equal dismay-weight lately. Each will sink me if I let it.
Like the wars we’re still fighting! Ay caramba!
And the oil spill. I’ve decided it’s major pay back from Mama Earth. She’s tired of turning herself inside out, of giving, giving, giving for nothing in return. I don’t know many women who haven’t been there at one time or another. (I’m having oil spill nightmares, too).
Not to mention our economy that won’t budge. Jeez!
But living beyond your means and having it not catch up with you eventually? Wouldn’t that be something. It’s like my cheesy Cousin Mario who lived liked nothing unusual was happening while he tried to cheat my dad out of my inheritance. He ended up doing jail time. (The family doesn’t like to talk about it.)
Sure, my friend’s husband decided he was bored and moved out. And, yes, her high-paying corporate job with health benefits (which is only fair since they work you to death) was swept away fast as pages of this paper when the wind whips up outside of Uptown Espresso.
Still, I don’t think either of these letdowns brought my friend to her knees in pain. Women can handle men leaving, it’s an old story. It was a knock down, absolutely, but she regained her equilibrium by donating his belongings to Goodwill.
Women can handle losing jobs, too. I’m reminded of our innate-life-balancing-skill, its poise and power, whenever my husband thinks he can work himself into "an early grave" (as my mother puts it), and I have to call his office to say, yes, he’ll be cashing in on vacation time this year, every single deserved day, because I found a house exchange on Lake Como and WE’RE GOING!
As for my friend, I think time away from feeling "unappreciated, micro-managed, and unable to work creatively" (her words) will add years to her life, not lessen them, may even force her to find work she enjoys. Even if the pay stinks because, my friend, a bottle of wine does not have to cost 100 bucks, you’ll get used to it.
But, can a mother, whether she admits it or no, handle her son returning to Afghanistan for a third tour of duty? This asks an awful lot of a parent’s heart.
Too much, I think.
My friend’s heart attack has altered other things, vital things, in the pit of my chest, too, which is only appropriate. In one breath, I let go of a lot. For example, expecting more from others than others can give, I’m done with that. (I’ve been much too idealistic). Others can’t hurt me anymore. Or, if they do, so what, next?
As to my work? Another book will be great, I’ll celebrate. But I’m no novice at this business. I wish I could just sit here writing them and never ever move, but I know what a publisher expects, what it takes to travel from point A to point B ten times in a month, say, in order to sell myself. It’s like having kids. Or sex. The honeymoon, of course, ends. After awhile, questions like, "isn’t it exciting?" make you want to fake some enthusiasm.
Mercifully, I don’t like to use the word "liar" lightly. But when I think back to the last election, health care was one of the reasons I voted for our president, yes, but his straightforward pledge to pull us out of war pronto! was the clincher, so the "L" word does seem to apply.
Feeling a little guilty, I want to add that I realize he did not start either war. So I’m not blaming him 100% that we are still fighting them. And that’s not even counting the fact that a president’s hands are tied, politically. I know that. So more like 90%.
Next presidential go-round, I’m going to vote with something other than my zeal. Problem is, I don’t quite know what that something is. Even so, I’m still waiting for someone to come forward with it, enough to appeal to my ... insight? I guess so.
Let’s see, maybe our Secretary of State and our president could pull a switcheroo.
I suppose I’m hopelessly stuck with the fiercest thing I feel about world politics, that is, we need more women in office. Men have made such a mess and we need to get in there and wipe up, like after our brother/husband/son takes a shower. And there’s no way to speed up the process.
Because, my god, my heart can’t take the status quo, either.
Sanelli's latest book is Among Friends. www.marylousanelli.com
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