“After the Storm”

Prompt writing: 20 min: “after the storm” GO!

After the Storm

After the storm, the clouds make way for a little light to peek through. Then a little more. The deep elephant gray morphs into a lighter ashen gray, then a bluish tint that gives the moving sky that cotton candy look. The wind still gusts, bending palm fronds in unison. But you can see beyond the dunes on the horizon, and the sea has calmed. No breakers crashing their powerful see-what-I-can-do white foaminess as they slam down in mighty display.

No, today the magnificent, dreaded Hurricane Sandy is moving north, sparing us here in North Carolina, gathering intensity to smack a mighty blow to the more populated northeast. I feel their pain, their fear, knowing well the all-consuming efforts to gather water, food, flashlights and batteries. Sandbagging, boarding windows, doors, sometimes escaping inland, awaiting your own “after the storm.”

After the storm, the real work begins – picking up the littered pieces of wind-tossed fragments of foreign lives now resting in your yard. Wondering where your own things are – a lawn chair here, a bird feeder there, a soggy library book floating in a muddy puddle. Hopefully not expensive boats smashed, ruined, piled high together on a shore of debris.

And what of other, more personal, less tangible storms? The storms of intertwining lives? Isn’t it just the same?

Shell-shocked at first that it really got that ugly, that crazy. Replaying the angry words over and over in your mind as you wonder what to do next, where to begin the clean up. You thought you were prepared, hell, walked around with some niggling part of you always at the ready, to protect and defend your sensitive heart at a moment’s notice.

Yet sometimes we just can’t anticipate the big ones. They’re temperamental, with a mind of their own sometimes, those life-altering storms. You’re not looking for them – no weather report warning you days in advance. No extra milk and bread and toilet paper security. No, just when you think there’s no need to have the candles and a lighter handy, a storm can just come out of nowhere really.

But there it is – all black and red and spewing hatred like fire from a dragon’s mouth, and you cower, closing down once again, raising the drawbridge to keep the “enemy” out, protecting your heart, or what’s left of it, from further wounds.

Sometimes you might lash out right back, not gonna take this shit anymore, escalating the war of words and painful barbs, as “love” takes some deformed shape you don’t recognize at all and you just keep adding insult to injury, determined not to get backed into a corner. You might throw your shoe, hoping to scare the storm away, force it back, those slippery droplets of venom leaking through anyway, flooding the space between the two of you, until you are both ankle-deep and one of you decides to end the madness.

After the storm? Well, what can you do, really, but pick up the broken pieces and weep.

Holiday Habits – Repeating the Sounding Joy?

Well, the tree is up, prelit (LOVE it!), partially decorated, awaiting the arrival of my mother tomorrow and my daughters Saturday to complete the hanging of the traditional ornaments. I’m ready to let go of stuff, like so many of us baby boomers seem to be saying these days. Yet I still collect Christmas tree ornaments from our travels, trying to add ornaments that will offer meaning to my second husband and me as we continue to build our life together, married now for almost 12 years. Yet so many of the ornaments were from my own childhood, and my children’s elementary school years, and evoke sentiments from an earlier time – which I actually cherish remembering as I hang them each year. But, like the rest of our house, our closets, under the beds, the attic, the basement, our tree will be mainly ornaments with snippets of greenery peeking out here and there if I try to hang all of them. It simply does not have room for them all! My house simply does not have room for the new things I purchased in 2010 until I can clean out some of the old and make room for new!

I have always had a sentimental streak that tends to become attached to and hold onto just about anything and everything given to me by my daughters, parents, friends and loved ones. Heck, for that matter for anything that comes in the mail, But my tastes have changed through the years and I have bought and accumulated so many beautiful treasures, that it is really ridiculous! Crazy-making! My own daughters are grown and setting up their own households and I always thought I was saving things for them. But they don’t seem to want much of what I have to offer so far. They prefer to buy new and decorate according to their tastes. So, what to do?

Well, I’ve decided this is the year. The year I will really cull and lighten up. The last three years my New Year’s goals were to “get organized.” I’m still not organized – there simply isn’t enough room anywhere to store any more until I go up into the creaky, dusty, awkward attic and start culling from the top down. Sounds so overwhelming at his point, as I just want to enjoy the holidays and struggle with feelings of overwhelm as I try to plan menus and get food ready for the various family gatherings in the coming weeks. As I wrap and wrap the gifts I just about wore myself out shopping for during the past month. As I carefully write down each gift with its corresponding value before I place it under the tree, trying to treat each child and grandchild fairly.

Having had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Fibromyalgia for over 20 years now, shopping has never been my strong suit. When I have been up for shopping, I’ve tended to buy in bulk, or ahead of time, not knowing when I’ll feel like getting out to shop again. So, as usual, this year I started with the after Christmas sales in January 2011 on the random days I happened to have the energy to hit Barnes & Noble, Target, Pier One, and the quaint little shops in downtown Wake Forest. But in July, on our trip to Gloucester, MA, I also started Christmas shopping when I saw unique things that jumped out at me. Still, in November and early December, when I found myself with a little time after a doctor’s appointment near Trader Joe’s, I excitedly filled two carts with stuff for holiday entertaining like wine, candy, appetizers, and stocking stuffers for the kids (and grand-dogs – sheesh!). Then after another appointment, I did the same thing at Whole Foods. And when I “ran into Barnes & Noble to pick up a 2012 date book”, I spent almost 2 hours, mesmerized by the plethora of magazines, matching my family’s interests to titles I didn’t know existed, or had always heard of but not read. And bought $100 worth of gift cards so I could get a $10 gift card promotion at the check-out line, as the last announcement was pronounced over the loud speaker to bring your purchases to the register, inviting me to return when the store opened the next morning. Right. I am not a morning person. Nor a shopper, really. Right.

Someone (I think it was my oldest daughter, wise woman she has become despite my quirky habits) once told me to try to get rid of 10 items for every new item you bring into your home. Well, darn. I’ve got a lot of culling to do in 2012!