Monday, January 27, 2014

Snappy Loves This S_ _t

Snappy Loves This S_ _t

Stalled By a Missed Bill

Oh, Snappy! He had a few glorious (for him) days with me. Snappy is my nemesis—each of us has one, and named or not, it delights when we screw up. Why? Because we then lose all focus on whatever we do that matters (art, writing, singing, growing prize-winning camellias, volunteering for underprivileged children), and instead, we berate ourselves for a failure—real or imagined—until we’re stuck, stuck, stuck.
Regarding my most recent failure, rather than my usual angst—not good enough, smart enough, funny enough, young enough, successful enough—Snappy had something tangible to work with. I messed up big time and Snappy took over for two long days. My auto insurance was cancelled because I didn’t pay the premium. Hold on a minute before you jump in on Snappy’s side and badger me, too. My hometown insurance folks know me. Know me as in, “Hey, how are you doing?” know me. For years, if I even crept toward a past-due status on my policy, I received an e-mail and a phone call. So, I stopped concerning myself with making that payment. I put it aside, knowing I’d hear from them if necessary. Big mistake.
The Florida DMV did not hesitate to contact me loud and clear to let me know that not only was my insurance cancelled, but also that my driver’s license would be, too, if I didn’t fix this post haste.
No problem, I thought. (Snappy wagged his tail because he knew there was a problem.) The company refused to reinstate me because it was a family policy and one (to be left unnamed) family member had an at-fault accident two and a half years ago. The payout was only $1200, but we were a risk they no longer would take.
Snappy started drooling at that bad news, anticipating things would get worse. They did. Two days of phone calls and e-mails and price quotes and schlepping information, facts, and figures from company to company then ensued. Because my policy had been cancelled (a nasty, nasty word in the insurance business), a fat sum of dollars was required as a down payment on the new policy.
Well into the second day of my torment from Snappy, stranded because no way would I drive an uninsured car, I sighed and took a few minutes to process the wretched situation. In those minutes, I became painfully aware of Snappy’s non-stop, two-day rant: “Gad! You’re a failure! What responsible adult forgets to pay their car insurance? You’re such a slacker. How could you let something like this happen? What if you or the kids had an accident? You’d have lost the car. You have a car loan, dummy. Can’t you pay your bills on time? From now on, you have to be perfect about paying everything on time. Look at this paperwork piled up. You better tighten up and never, ever do such a thing again!”
Whoa. In addition to the effort to get car insurance and all the details, time, and effort that entailed, I realized I had been cowed, bent, and broken from two pays of punishment from Snappy. After those few minutes of reflecting on that time, I said aloud: “Snappy loves this shit!”
That minor epiphany was just enough to silence Snappy. As soon as he realizes I’m on to him, he usually gets quiet and settles down. In that quiet, I took the time to really look at the situation without emotion, assess it, and address it—for the present and the future.
I know I messed up, but the more expensive policy and the stress are penalty enough. In the future, I will not rely on any company, no matter how down-home friendly they are, to remind me to pay a bill. In six months, after I’ve reestablished a good payment history, I am eligible for a reduced-cost policy. And, yes, Snappy does have a point about the paperwork pile. I’m clearing that, too.
What Snappy didn’t realize was that I felt bad enough. Letting Snappy beat me up for two days was counterproductive. I needed the time and energy to take care of business, not flagellate myself for a mistake. It was a serious mistake, and I’m grateful that the three drivers on the policy had no accidents or violations during our non-insured phase. Snappy got quiet when I realized I had made a mistake, owned up to it, and decided to not do the same thing again. My only regret is that it took two days to stop the torment.
It was a good lesson in responsibility and in taming Snappy. In the future I hope that when I feel those yips at my heels, and hear the snarl and growl, I will be mindful enough to stop, listen, pat Snappy on the head, and say, “I’ve got this. Now leave me alone.”

* * * * *
Snappy is the voice of my personal oppressor. Snappy often sits at my heels ready to yap, snap, bark, and growl at my inadequacies or mistakes, and he’s a pro at noticing them. I believe each of us has our own Snappy. I know it’s important to catch Snappy when he starts his soul-destroying game and put a halt to it. I can’t predict when Snappy will start yapping at my psyche, but by paying attention to my emotions when I feel my sense of self slipping away, I can move away from Snappy and his role in my self-denigration and move toward the wholeness that I, and each of us, crave.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Cracked Grace: Grief’s Presence

Cracked Grace
Grief’s Presence

Grief fills the room up of my absent child,
Lies in his bed, walks up and down with me,
Puts on his pretty looks, repeats his words,
Remembers me of all his gracious parts,
Stuffs out his vacant garments with his form . . .
~ King John, Act III, Scene IV
   By William Shakespeare

Grief has a presence, it is tangible, as noted by the preceding Shakespeare quote. It takes up space. We feel it as it moves into and takes the place left by our loved ones when they die. Recognize and honor Grief for what it is. When Grief’s persona comes into our lives, often the only thing we can do is walk with, sit with, and even lie on our beds with Grief.

* * * * *

Grief and I crept into my bed on Monday afternoon.
I curled my body atop the down comforter, warmed from the sleeping cat.
Chocolate, English Breakfast tea, a heating pad, a deck of cards, and a book accompanied me.
Spent beyond tears, beyond speech, beyond communication, beyond sleep,
I set the heating pad on high to rid my bones of a deep, persistent ache.
Chocolate and hot tea were my lunch.
Solitaire and a book were my diversions.
Grief stayed on, its quiet presence perched at the edge of my bed, persistent as the ache in my hips.
Earlier that day, I suggested a half-hearted duel with Grief,
And stretched my mind, heart, and soul to carry on, to walk through, work through the day.
I failed to drop my glove, so Grief was gentle with me,
And recognized that my efforts at avoidance were in vain.
Grief outstretched its hand to mine and together we tiptoed to my room, where I stayed throughout the day and into the night.
At morning light, no longer spent, nor encapsulated in sorrow,
I left the evening-chilled dregs of tea, chocolate wrappers, heating pad, cards, and book behind.

I then ventured with tentative steps toward a changed life.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Cracked Grace: A Wish and a Prayer

Cracked Grace

Wish and a Prayer

Holding my friend’s hand,
I wished I were
Ellen Burstyn’s character Edna Mae Macaulay in Resurrection.
I would send healing
  through my hand to my friend's hand, her body, her spirit.

I remain a mere human.
So instead,
I sent warmth, comfort, peace, and a prayer.