“You’re the calm in the middle of the storm.” People have said to me.
“You kind of thrive in chaos,” a friend added recently.
That didn’t sit so well. It’s not like I want my life to be crazy. It just happens.
Although I can’t deny that crisis has a way of bringing out my inner zen.
When facing mentally ill family members, multiple vomiting children, blood, car crashes, police visits, animal attacks and even natural disasters, I have a certain spring in my step.
“I got this,” I might think, as the cops walk to my front door.
“No problem,” I say, as I used my clean t-shirt as a tourniquet for a bleeding child.
Often I don’t even realize that my normal is other people’s overwhelm.
I careened through years of parenting a large family, working with the mentally ill and raising crazy dogs, all while writing a novel. I take to it this chaotic life like a (drowning) duck to water.
But because these comments were rubbing me the wrong way, my New Year’s resolution was to try (again) to find a smoother groove, a calmer path.
I would eliminate a few of the more dramatic relationships in my life, create more space for writing, meditate every morning, not over-commit and accept help.
That was the plan. I wrote it all down.
And the universe giggled.
Chaos has ensued, from January 1st right through today. I cant go into the details because that’s another book. Mix up family drama, raising teens, marching on Washington, a remodel from hell, a new school, a wedding, two funerals, and a move.
For the last month, I’ve been stomping my foot, asking God, the angels and sources unknown what they want exactly?
I’m meditating and setting limits and not overcommitting…and my life is still like a roller coaster constructed of rotting wood.
On a recent Sunday night, I gathered with friends for a birthday thing for me – no big plan, just wine and snacks by the pool near our apartment, casual and easy. (Boy was I proud of myself for this unfussy last minute fete. No stress! No calamities!)
A few moms talked about the challenges of raising teen boys. My friend Janet confessed that since she had learned about chaos theory, she’s had a very different attitude with her son.
“The world is absolute and utter chaos. To think we control anything is ludicrous.” (I am paraphrasing a bit, but that was the meat of it.)
I wanted to disagree, and tell her we could at least influence things, manifest some abundance, or create some peace..but in looking at my last few months, I had a sneaky feeling she was right.
Still, I did my meditation the next day. I set my intentions and planned for a lovely, easy day. I figured it was worth floating the possibility of a good day, when sending out my morning thoughts.
Then I rushed to meet contractors. Before I hurried to my private practice office to see clients. Still made it to San Francisco for a simple doctor’s appointment. I caught my breath in the waiting room. 2:00 PM, tired, but the rest of the day looked manageable. Look at me! Having a reasonable day in my reasonable life!
I heard the nurse call my name.
Twenty minutes later I wiped away tears and patted the doctor’s arm, as he apologized for the over-eager resident who had poked me too hard. Without the yucky details, picture long tubes of anesthesia suddenly plunged up my nostrils and needles in the back of my head. Ouch. This is head ache prevention?
I was halfway home with tissues up my nose, when I got the call from the vice principal at my son’s school.
Note to self: next year aim to meet the vice principal before she has to call you because your son got into shenanigans. I pulled the car over and tried to keep my nose up while having my awkward parent conversation of the month. I checked my desire to explain to the vice principal how she might have handled the whole thing differently.. and a lot better, and agreed that my son was being a knucklehead and sure, he’d take his lumps.
Back to Marin to pick up my son, grab an ice pack for my nose, then meet a few contractors on the job site I’ve been managing. (Keep in mind that until recently I knew nothing about managing contractors. I’ve learned that they are impossible to manage.)
I stopped outside the house we are remodeling to chat with the landscaper, Gabriel, in Spanish. I searched for the Spanish words to describe my headache treatment/nose injections, but I got interrupted by a call from my husband.
“Don’t panic, everything is OK, but it’s bad news.”
“Shoot. The school called you too?”
I had planned to tell my husband about the talk with the high school vice principal another time. Later in the week. Perhaps over a gin and tonic?
“What?” He sounded flustered. “Why would the school call?”
“Tell you about it later, what’s up?”
“There’s a fire in Sonoma. But don’t worry, it sounds under control,”
Sonoma is our true home, even though we don’t get there enough at the moment. I love our home there with a fierceness I’ve never felt for real estate. It’s my soul mate. A fire there is actually one of my biggest fears.
I sunk down the newly installed counter, feeling shaky. I heard pieces as my brain raced.
“The neighbor called. There’s a lot of trucks there. . under control they think…Only on the outside, the house seems alright….”
An hour later, I stood next to our scorched field, examining the destruction of fire,
“Do we know what started it?” I asked the PGE guy in the last truck. He frowned at me, but pulled out his phone and scrolled through his pictures, mostly of my burned trees.
“A vulture,” he said, nodding up to a nearby power line. “It landed on a box and fried itself. Sparks came across to your property.”
He showed me a picture of the charred vulture. “Anything can start it. You’re lucky that he landed on a pole a few feet away.”
The evidence for chaos theory was growing.
After he left, I collapsed on a lawn chair, the smell of smoke permeating the air, the sun setting quickly. Too tired to cook, or eat, or even open a bottle of wine, I watched my dogs run in the ashes, and contemplated my day from various angles.
My doctor’s appointment was uncomfortable, but not fatal. And in truth, my doctor’s crazy interventions often worked.
My son did something stupid, but not horrible.
My property caught on fire, but a neighbor saw it and grabbed a hose, called for help, and a few hours and eight fire trucks later, the fire was out. My house was untouched. As the PGE guy said, we were lucky.
In the chaos, there are still blessings, falling down on us as lightly as flower petals. So light, we might not notice, unless we look for them.
I’ll keep looking.
I wanted to eliminate the chaos from my life, but perhaps chaos is our life.
All I can do is stay calm in the eye of the storm.
And realize that I have absolutely no control over the storm. Some days, all I can do is wait for it to clear.
Note to Readers: The blogging hiatus is due to the aforementioned chaos. The Vines We Planted will be out in early 2018, and if the vultures of life are willing to back off, I’ll finish my first draft of the next novel this fall. Here’s to rising from the ashes.