Teresa stood on her tippy-toes to peer out of the small basement window placed so close to the ceiling. No sign of rain, yet.
She turned back to finish organizing the books on the newly built shelving, humming absentmindedly to herself. Some mishmash of three or four different showtunes, the same odd tune she always hummed when she was working.
One of the books felt different under her fingers ash she pulled it from its cardboard home. She paused and glanced down, flipping the book to have a look at the front cover. Smiling to herself, she took a step backwards and reached behind her for the arm of the recliner that she knew was there.
Once settled, she put her feet up and cracked the book open. She lost herself in the old childhood favorite for hours, and by the time she closed the back cover with a sigh, it was pouring down rain outside.
She gasped in shock, and quickly checked her watch. Sure enough, more than three hours had passed while she was reading, oblivious to the outside world.
She took a look around at the half dozen boxes of books still resting peacefully in front of the mostly-empty shelves. The rest would have to wait until tomorrow; right now, it was time for her to go pick Todd up from work. She checked her watch again, and grimaced It was going to be close.
She kicked the footrest down and got out of the recliner. Rubbing her finger against the spine of the book, she briefly pondered what to do with it, where to put it so it wouldn’t be lost again, before settling on the top shelf, all by itself, at least for now.
She kissed the tips of her fingers and waved a fond goodbye to the boxes and shelved books before turned toward the stairs with a sigh of regret. Parting was such sweet sorrow.
Carla leaned out her window and yelled down to the boy on the street. “And don’t smash the bread this time!” He waved a hand at her without looking up, and she laughed out loud. “He’s gonna smash the bread again,” she said to the parrot swinging in his cage next to her sofa.
The parrot merely blinked at her, shuffling his feet along his perch. The parrot had never spoken, as long as Carla had known him. He was an inheritance from her favorite aunt, who passed suddenly four years ago after a brief battle with cancer.
She sat down on the sofa next to the parrot and dug through the cushions until she found the TV remote. When she turned the television on, she was pleased to see two women screaming at each other on a court show. Carla grinned and dropped the remote next to her, where it sneakily began to slide back between the cushions from whence it came.
A little less than an hour later, long after Carla dozed off to petty court battles, she woke to a knock on her door. She checked her watch and realized that it must be David, back with her groceries.
David grinned at her when she opened the door, and held up a single brown paper grocery bag. Carla sighed, knowing that her loaf of bread would be all the way at the bottom. She passed David a five dollar bill and told him to tell his mother that she said hello before closing the door and bringing the bag into the kitchen.
Sure enough, the bread was smashed at the bottom of the bag. Carla shrugged. It still made pb&j’s, just not the prettiest of pb&j’s. And at least David never brought her broken eggs. She poured herself a glass of lukewarm orange juice before putting that away in the refrigerator, and leaned against the kitchen counter, slowly sipping to make room for the vodka that she always added.
Vodka bottle in hand, Carla returned to the couch, where she dug once more for the remote, and turned the TV off. She topped off her orange juice with a shot of vodka and picked up the paperback romance novel that rested on the coffee table, licking her thumb to more easily flip through the pages until she found where she had left off.
Just as she was getting into the story, the parrot rustled in his cage. She set the book in her lap and cocked her head to watch him. He was a beautiful bird, and excellent company in spite of never speaking a word.
The parrot turned his head to meet her eye with his own, and squawked, “Ronald.”
Carla was so taken aback that she jerked, knocking her book to the floor and nearly dropping her screwdriver.
“Ronald!” The parrot repeated, more insistently. “Ronald!”
Carla’s eyes nearly bulged out of her skull. “That’s not my uncle’s name, so that must be yours. Nice to meet you, Ronald.”
The parrot agreed. “Ronald!”
Carla spent the next three hours trying to explore Ronald’s vocabulary, but it seemed that the only word he would say was his own name, which was plenty good enough for Carla. She just hoped that he would stop saying it before bedtime.
The water lapped against the side of the tub, waves crashing on a porcelain shore. She brought her foot back underneath the water, and it slopped over the edge, wetting the ancient blue bath towel she used as a rug there.
She turned her head to nestle her chin into the hollow of her shoulder. Slowly, her eyes began to close of their own accord. The chain lock rattled against her front door, and the sound caused her eyelids to fly open. She shot upright in the tub, gripping the sides until her knuckles turned white and her heart raced out of control. A voice, faint from distance and solid wood doors, called to her.
“Sorry, wrong apartment.”
Recognizing the voice as a frequent visitor of her neighbor’s, she relaxed back into the water, sliding down to the welcoming warmth. Her pulse slowed its pounding in her ears, and she lifted her right foot to plug the open mouth of the faucet with her big toe.
The suds were subsiding, and she felt around beneath herself for the cap of her disposable razor. She didn’t find it; she assumed that when she pulled the plug, it would be lost forever down the drain whose crosshairs had rusted away years ago. When she rose to grab her towel and the plug’s chain slipped through her fingers, she had already forgotten to watch for its journey into oblivion.
Today was another good day! Out of curiosity, I googled how long it takes to develop a habit. The answer, at 66 days, actually came as a surprise to me. I seem to remember reading something along the lines of 2-3 weeks, but this article explained that the ‘three week rule’ is probably only based on one doctor’s observations of single limb amputees, and this study shows that on average, it takes about two months to develop a habit enough that it feels automatic.
I can’t help but think about how, just a few days ago, two whole months would have seemed like an eternity, a completely unattainable goal. I thought I was doing everything I could do by living one day at a time, but now I realize I never did that. I tried to live the rest of my life at once. I spent so much time worrying about what was going wrong, what could possibly go wrong, how any of it would ever get fixed, and what horrible thing could happen next. Even if I did miraculously manage to only worry about one day, it was never today, it was always some day in the distant future, years from now.
Do I sound like a broken record here, just repeating how good I feel? I can’t help it. It sounds terrible to me, but I don’t remember feeling this good for three whole days ever. And it feels sustainable. That’s the part I marvel at so much. For once, I don’t feel like I’m pretending to enjoy a brief interlude of quietude when I’m really just waiting for the other shoe to drop. I am enjoying, and I’m not waiting.
It’s like discovering that a food I always thought I’d never like is actually the most delicious food there ever was.
Which brings me to this:
And then today I made an apple pie.
What’s your favorite kind of pie? What do you think I should bake tomorrow?
Day two of relaxing, and I think I’m doing pretty well. I’m not worrying about anything, and I even feel valuable as a person. I don’t feel the overwhelming pressure to do something all the time, but I have more inclination to do so.
Yesterday I made cinnamon rolls. I highly recommend this recipe for the dough, but I filled them with 1/2 cup of butter, 1 cup of brown sugar, and 1 tsp cinnamon, and just thinned some canned vanilla frosting for the tops. I baked half and froze half, and we ate all the ones I baked between dessert last night and breakfast this morning. They were so good!
Today I made a chicken pot pie for dinner, and tomorrow I plan on baking an apple pie. Or maybe oatmeal cookies. Maybe both? We’ll see.
This was truly amazing though: last night the dishwasher needed loading, and instead of forcing myself to do it when I didn’t really want to, I went and read a book for a while. You’ll never guess what happened when those dishes didn’t get loaded ASAP…absolutely nothing. The world did not end. The kitchen did not spontaneously combust. My husband did not leave me. And after reading for an hour or so, I wanted to take care of that, so I did. It isn’t that I’m so proud of myself for doing the dishes, it’s that it wasn’t a big deal not to do it right away.
I haven’t been writing or painting to keep myself busy, I’ve been productively cooking and cleaning and organizing. I don’t know if that’s because I feel so good or if I feel so good because that’s what I’ve been doing, but it doesn’t matter. The important thing is that I feel good, so why question it? So I’m not.
My hot flashes haven’t been too bad, and the only time I’ve cried so far has been when the homeless guy died in Groundhog Day. I’m back down to three blood pressure pills a day. I hope I can keep this up when I’m two week waiting. I think I can.
…is what I have.
I feel fricking awesome.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
At the counselor this morning, we discussed how I felt writing my list of wants. And I am so proud of myself for actually saying the first thing that came into my head, which was ‘silly.’ Of course, her next question was why I thought she would want me to feel silly. Also of course, my answer was because I’m too serious.
I know I take things too seriously. I know I worry about way too much. I just don’t know what to do about it. So my homework for this week is to relax. What a joke, right?
My husband and I talked about it this afternoon, and I tried to explain that it’s not good enough when he tells me not to worry, I need to know what specifically I don’t have to worry about. Down to things like, I don’t need to worry that he’ll get pissed and leave because I have to cut my jelly into squares at restaurants. You know those little tubs of jelly? I have to divide mine into fourths, and each half piece of toast gets a cube of jelly. Don’t judge me.
Anyway, I need specifics.
And now I’m lying in bed because the top of my skull wants to explode off my brain, but I feel amazing. I want to laugh and dance and sing! I’m taking that as a good sign.
Also, I have the best husband ever. He is out getting me frozen berries and cheddar cheese and cottage cheese (yum!) because he wants me to stay home and relax this weekend instead of riding with him at work. I have to admit, that does make me a little sad, but he did an excellent job defending his position, so I conceded. I think he worries about me too much. But he’s wonderful.
I’ll let you know if I figure out this whole ‘relaxing’ thing. I’ll probably write a lot to distract myself. Or finish my art project.