it just never f* stops

I’m sitting in my bedroom at Cool Friend’s house, having done a little work after a full day with various family members.

I don’t have the bandwidth to write anything particularly deep this evening.

Over the past few days, I’ve been able to spend time with friends from high school and girlfriends from college.  I had an afternoon with Adorable Nephew and Newest Niece. Cool Friend and I have had some time in the evenings to catch up, as well as her one day off work.  I took my mom to have her hair all fixed up; I went shopping with my sister and Niece #1; I got a tour of Niece #2’s new house.  We had a family dinner tonight – all the aunts and uncles on both sides of the family as well as the immediate family – to celebrate a birthday, see my niece who is visiting from far away and wish me well as I get ready to move far away.

And this has all been overshadowed by the news that my favorite aunt has cancer. Again.

I won’t get into how this news was delivered to me.  To say “not well” would be quite the understatement but it’s done, which just leaves me with the fact of Favorite Aunt having cancer. Again.  She was diagnosed with breast cancer almost a dozen years ago; she beat it; and now a bone scan has revealed tumors.

I have felt for weeks now that something was horribly wrong, like bad news was simply waiting in the wings to reveal itself.  When I got a questionable test result recently, it seemed the bad news had arrived; I could barely breathe, thinking that I could be facing cancer again.  But, no, it’s not me: it’s FA.  And I stopped breathing with that news: time held for a split second, the world wobbled, and only me clinging to the steering wheel kept me from falling apart (because my sister thought driving from A to B was a good time to tell me this).

I’ve spent some time with FA, as I always do, and we’ve talked – about lots of things, not just this horrible news. But the realization that she’s starting the fight all over again makes it difficult to smile and talk about relationships and grandchildren and travel.

You never lose the terror that the cancer will come back.  You don’t think about it, exactly, but it’s always resting in the back of your brain, rumbling about every now and then before quieting down again.  FA is depressed and upset and frightened, and I am all of those things for her, as well as exceptionally angry at this bitch of a universe that wants to take yet another person I love away from me in an awful way.

So, yes, I had a pretty good visit to Home State this time.  I had a chance to say my farewells to family and friends before I leave on my grand adventure.  But I am absolutely terrified that I’ve said a final farewell to one of the most important people in my life.

it does not get easier 

Despite my natural pessimism, I still hold that smidgen of hope that “this time” the trip to Home State will be different. 

It isn’t. It might even be worse. For assorted reasons. 

Despite my internal struggle at leaving the country, given everything going on right now, it’s made easier by the observation that I’m not certain anyone will notice that I’m gone. 

still doing the professor thing

Leaving the country in less than six weeks (gulp) doesn’t mean I get to skip all the stuff that signals the beginning of the semester – and that means meetings.  Lots of meetings. Lots of long meetings.  It’s easier to be jolly during a four hour meeting, though, when you know you’re leaving the country in less than six weeks (gulp).

Tomorrow morning starts with a few meetings and then I’m heading to Home State to visit  with the family before I’m off.  I didn’t intentionally plan my visit to cross the first week of classes but it might be a good thing.  As stressful as the beginning of the semester is, I like the “getting ready for classes” part of it (or maybe it’s the teaching part, but regardless) and that’s the one part I’m not doing.

I’ve slowly been taking things off the to-do list this week.  My inbox is below a dozen emails; I’m caught up on my editorial duties; I’ve met with my grad students.  I’ve had the will and medical proxy signed and notarized so I can leave copies to my sister; I’ve started working out what goes with me and what stays behind.  The house is listed as a rental now – and it is decidedly strange to see that sign in the yard.  I’ll resume my packing of important pieces when I get back; Niece #2 has lots of boxes and packing paper from her recent move, so that’s very helpful.

I’m getting on that plane, ready or not, but I greatly prefer ready.  Onward.

editorializing on editing

As much as I enjoy editorial work, I won’t be too sorry to step down from my current editor position, as witnessed by the existential pain of forcing myself to get through my work today.

I’m serious when I say I enjoy editing work.  It’s not easy, of course, and there’s plenty of eye-rolling and “oh, good lord!” commentary but I like working with other people’s words.  I can see what they’re trying to say, even if they aren’t saying it just yet, and it’s interesting to figure out how to get the writing there.  I’m a good writer, in a general sense, so I can figure out how to cut excess and choose exact words and reorganize passages and clarify meaning.  Seeing the final product emerge from the rough original is really fulfilling – perhaps because I struggle with my own writing so very much.

But it’s still work and it’s still hard.  It takes a lot out of me, too, which means working with other people’s words cuts into my ability to work with my own.  I did some writing this summer – a co-written chapter and a co-written article – but I didn’t manage any other, despite a desperate need to do so.  Yet, it sure feels like I did, given all the editing work I had.

I had to make myself sit down in front of the computer today in my editor capacity – and the only reason I finally did was guilt at making authors wait for my feedback and decisions.  My turnaround time is pretty good, especially compared to some journals I’ve submitted to in the past (nothing like waiting 4 months to get a rejection and a hasty paragraph of “reviewer feedback” that clearly came from the editor), but it always feels too long when I consider the person waiting on the other end.

Working in an area tangential to my current interests hasn’t helped motivate me, either. The manuscripts just aren’t that interesting to me, even when they are really good submissions.  That’s not the fault of the authors at all, but it makes me feel even more guilty when I lag in returning a manuscript.

I have one more year left on my term.  Even better, I now have a co-editor on board who is very excited about the work and can’t wait to get started.  Sharing the workload will be much appreciated, especially with my upcoming removal to foreign parts.

And when I step down from this, I’ll have yet another opportunity to consider my next professional move.  By the end of this coming academic year, I’ll step down as an editor and as the leader of my professional organization; I’ll also return from my months living and teaching abroad.  There seems to be some serendipitous possibility for change in the works here.

there’s work to be done here

Now that my summer of travel is over, it’s time to focus on my upcoming removal from PRU.  I can assure you that I’ve been thinking about it for months, but I also willfully pushed it to the side; there were other big things in front of me and I needed to tackle them one at a time if I was going to get through it all.  I’m through.  And now I’m focused.

The last few days have been busy.  My first major task was cleaning the house.  It’s been sitting here, gathering dust and cobwebs, for months; I won’t say it was too clean before I left, given how busy I was this spring.  So, the long delayed spring cleaning is happening now.

Of course, cleaning tends to lead to other projects, such as reorganizing all of my books Friday night.  As I’m dusting and vacuuming, I finally had to admit: I have a lot of books. That’s not a complaint, of course, but a realization that opened my eyes to the fact that I had books everywhere, in every room of the house, on almost every surface.  So, my goal was to find a home for all of them – none on the floor, none on the table – and I did.  It took capitulating to having double rows of books on some bookshelves (that pains me), pulling a few out that can be donated without any pain, and rearranging some of my display shelves.  I don’t have room to display anything but books at this point!  Again, not a complaint.  One day, I’ll have built-in bookcases in every room; until then, I shall shelve strategically.

Another project was boxing up my framed pictures of friends and family.  They’re all wrapped, labeled and two boxes now.  That was a walk down memory lane: nieces and nephews when they were little, Mom and Dad when they were happy, relatives who are gone now.  It wasn’t a sad task, exactly, but there were a few moments.  The next big project is wrapping up all my glassware and pottery, but that isn’t an immediate need.

It will happen in the next month, however, because I’ll be renting my house while I’m gone. I’m not keen on the idea of strangers living in my house, but I’m also not keen on eating into my savings to pay my mortgage.  So, I met with a property company representative today about handling the rental thing while I’m gone.  She was quite complimentary about my house and optimistic that they would find a renter.  Fingers crossed.  I’m renting the house completely furnished, of course, and all the daily life stuff will stay in place: furniture, dishes, towels, sheets.  I’m putting away things, however, that are dear to me.  My rule of thumb is pretty simple: if I’ll cry if it’s broken, it goes in a box.

The big task on my to-do list, besides the house, was selling my car.  Why make payments on something that would sit in a garage for nine months? I figured, if I could get enough to pay off the loan, it was more than worth it.  I stopped in at the dealership Monday to test the waters, thinking it would be a little easier selling it to them than handling it on my own.  They made me an excellent offer right there; I thought about it that night; and I sold it Tuesday.

I’ll admit, I got a little teary driving it over there.  I really loved that car; it was sort of a symbol, I suppose, of me finally doing good things for myself.  And I suppose selling it just makes it that much more real that I’m going off on an awfully big adventure very soon. That’s one more thing off the to-do list, however, so it’s also a relief.  As for what I’ll do for wheels over the next month or so: I’m renting a car.  It comes out to the same as making car payments and I don’t have to worry about having something go wrong with mine while I’m waiting to sell it.

In between all this, I’ve had a few doctor’s appointments.  I’ve been plowing through email and the tasks that come from that.  I’ve spent some time with my friends as we all start drifting back into town.  I had lunch today with a former grad student. I’ve been doing a little reading and TV watching.  I’ve talked to friends and family.

Rockford got back to town from his vacation Sunday night.  We saw each other last night, briefly.  He had a meeting after work, so we didn’t meet up until 9:30.  I told him we could postpone, once he realized his meeting was running long (so unlike me), but he actually wanted to get together.  We met for drinks, had a very pleasant conversation about this and that, and went our separate ways after a few hours.

He brought me a lovely bracelet from his vacation destination, with the phrase, “I thought this looked like you when I saw it,” as he pushed it across the table.  It does.  Perhaps the fact that he so rarely admits to thinking about me makes it all the sweeter when he actually does.  That man is a conundrum in so many ways.

my tired heart

All my thinking in Australia has sort of drained me, I think.  What energy I have is split now between all the things I need to do before I leave the country (like sell my car, write a will, figure out what to do with my house) and all the things that I need to do now (like finish a chapter, revise a manuscript, respond to urgent emails).  My recent cool and calm demeanor is simply because I don’t have the heart space to be anything but.

Yes, that was an intentional choice of words.  My heart is very tired right now.  I realized that this morning when I was fighting to get out of bed: I’m not really physically tired or mentally tired or any of the other ways you can be tired.  I’ve slept and lounged and taken it easy the last few days so I’m pretty well adjusted to my time zone by this point.

My heart is tired, though, of wanting what it can’t have, of realizing I am really good at creating my own reality in relationships, of trying so hard to make it all work out.  As Cool Friend said recently, “I think that your heart just holds so much. It has to feel so heavy; you carry the burden while ‘they’ get to walk away.”

Not that Rockford has gone anywhere, other than the beach for his family vacation this week.  But he is because I am – or I have.  And I’m a little sad.  I’m allowed to be, as I consider what could have been (or perhaps what I thought could have been).  Saying goodbye to someone you care about, even if you weren’t cut out for the long run, deserves some sadness.

It’s strange to find myself in this space while still dating someone, though.  Usually the guy is running out the door and I’m trying to wrap my head around how we ended going our separate ways.  It’s completely flipped this time.  I’m doing all my thinking now, then I’ll be the one to walk out the door.  Maybe that will be good for me.  Maybe it’ll be easier to settle in my foreign country and spend my year away if the ties are cut now.  Who know: the heart is a tricky thing.  And this one is tired of being tricked.