Sunday, December 21, 2008

Projections, Presents and Presence

Thank God for the awareness of projection.

I went back to my hometown to visit family this past weekend. I realized, while driving, that I haven't actually driven back home since my father was sick and Soldier and I were falling quickly in love with each other. When I went back for my father's memorial service - which was also the last weekend I spent with Soldier before his deployment - the ex drove me the 3.5 hours back to the town were I was born and raised.

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These thoughts were like fresh wounds when the the kids and I stopped at my normal halfway point. I always have to make that stop for bathroom break and horrible fast food. I don't know why but we've always done it, since I was a small child, and it's one of the only times you'll catch me eating fast food.

(I'm paying for it today.)

Surely it was pure projection that brought in a handsome soldier, still in his uniform.

I must have imagined his sandy blonde hair and sparkling blue eyes. Those blue eyes made contact with mine, locked gazes, until my children distracted me by begging for ice cream. He walked past me again, looking my way, almost like we knew each other but had to pretend we didn't. I'm sure he dismissed me as a married mother of two. Or perhaps someone else who was too in awe to simply reach out a hand and say, "Thank you for protecting our country."

Nevertheless, he was gone. Or perhaps I made him up.

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I'm certain it was my own melancholy that I noticed in the demeanor of my aging grandparents.

My grandfather, age 92, was sitting in his plastic chair on the front porch, looking for deer that might peek from the woods across the way. My grandmother, who just turned 95, can always be found by following the oxygen line from the tank in the middle of the living room. She gets upset that she's not very good at entertaining us. I tried explaining that after age 80 or so, she's excused from the chore of entertaining. We should be waiting on her... but she's hardheaded, pushing her walker around the kitchen, offering us food and drink.

They seem lost in a sort of limbo. They've lived long, full, happy/sad lives but, I suppose, realize their time is short. Surely it was my own sadness that I noticed in their still bright eyes. Their bodies frustrate them but their spirits are ever so strong.

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It must have been my own loneliness that I noticed in my brother's silence this weekend.

He seemed as if the world was dragging him down and more than once used the term "caged" to describe his life.

He's always drawing in new friends and attracting more girls than I can even keep up with. Yet his apartment (cage) looked so desolate and lonely. I even took a portion of the morning, while he was out running errands, to offer a bit of a woman's touch. I scrubbed the hardened toothpaste from his bathroom sink, vacuumed around his video toys and made his bed. I'm not sure he even noticed.

My brother loves to drive. I only drove in my hometown for 3 years as opposed to the nearly 20 years I've been driving here. I don't remember much but certain things conjure up a time of my teen years, living carelessly and numerous outings with my friends. I wonder if my brother could sense the pang I felt as we drove past my old high school. It looks so different now, now that we're all grown up and not living so carelessly anymore. I wanted to get out and run on the old soccer field where, 22 years ago, Soldier used to goalie and I never watched a game, so unaware of his mad high school crush on me.

No words needed to be spoken when my brother drove the girls and I out to his "secret escape". His own private oasis was off the beaten path and near the river that runs so red and furious. He also took us on a drive out to some old plantations where the kids made friendly with a horse who was interested in the grass on the other side of his fence. The kids chatted away while my brother and I bonded silently over the escape from reality.

Was I projecting or did we both simply need to get away?

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Maybe I haven't fully mourned the loss of my father.

That awareness seemed to envelope me in the arms of my dad's widow who still sleeps in the bed and house where my father died. This was my first visit since that day... that day I stood in the doorway to his bedroom and told her,

"I can't go! I know this will be the last time I see him... and I just can't go...."

I remember the struggle and I remember her words,

"T, he loves you. He knows you are with him. When you're here, he loves that you're around but even when you're not here, he still talks to you like you are."

I am still in awe of her strength. My father was in the bedroom dying and her own father was in the other room dying as well. She lost both her husband and her father within 2 weeks of each other.

It was my own sense of loss that I felt in that house, in her arms, in the quiver of her voice as she bid me goodbye. She said this year was even more difficult than last year. Christmas... was always my daddy's favorite time of year.

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I'm certain of my own bitter resentment when I talked to the ex tonight.

I've learned with years of practice how to determine what and how much alcohol he has consumed via his voice on the phone. I would say tonight, he was probably in mid-second martini. He was thrilled to have his Christmas shopping completed, wrapped and ready to go.

I, on the other hand, am not so fortunate as I have two little hangers-on with me at nearly every moment of the day. Sure, I've had plenty of other free weekends I could have been shopping at the store or online. I didn't and now I'm feeling resentful that he's finished and off all next week. Yet he's only taking the girls one night before Christmas because he will have them the following week while while I travel out of town.

I was still driving home in the dark, the only grown-up in the car, while my little ones begged for their own beds and the time of our arrival home.

I have to complete more tasks at work before the end of the year.

I am a wound up ball of memories at the moment and I've yet to tell Santa what my babies want for Christmas.

(I just found out myself.)

It was 16 years ago today that we were married. I'd forgotten that until just now. Maybe a part of me remembered...

I could have easily lashed out in attack at him. Then I had to laugh at my own weariness.

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I have to take a deep breath and release all of this. All of these projected memories are clouding my moments.

I need more presents for my kids. I need more Presence for myself.

Christmas is more than these things. Of this, I am painfully aware. I also remember why I've avoided going back home all year. I couldn't bear it.

I hope a good night's sleep in my own bed will help me to remember the love in all of those places and faces back home.

Home is where the heart is, right?

7 comments:

  1. Yes, you are right.

    I hope by writing some of this out helps/helped. Sleep well, friend. There is love surrounding you and I know you brought love, joy and grace to your family this weekend.

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  2. Home is where the heart is, yes...wherever it is you now call home.

    Your illustrations about projecting your own feelings through others is interesting. I see the same idea as merely our own moods setting the par as to what we allow ourselves to see in others; when we are happy, we see things tinted in a rosy glee and oftentimes fail to note tinges of gray and sadness-loneliness-grief-etc. Likewise, when in touch with such feelings inside ourselves we become more empathetic to gestures, postures, a fleeting glance that might suggest someone else is experiencing trials as well.

    It is all the lens through which we see others that often dictates the tone of each encounter, isn't it? And that lens is defined by our own life circumstance.

    Hugs to you, T. Be well.

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  3. What a beautiful post. I know what you mean by wondering if you are projecting your own thoughts and feelings through others. Maybe that is what we all do, all part of the human experience. I hope that even though it was painful and that the memories bubbled up, that some healing was wrought out of this weekend. I hope for you to have a wonderful Christmas with your girls and to find some peace and solace for yourself.

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  4. (((HUGS))) It will all be all right, T.

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  5. Oh, T...I read this post and just felt all your sorrow and loss through the words. The holiday season can be such torture. I am wishing you strength and unexpected joy this season, even through all the grieving that you are so brave to be processing right now.

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  6. Don't you just love those shared glances with a stranger? Of course, when I did that and wrote about it recently, I got angry women banging down the door of my blog, telling me I'm using my "little head". Oy! I like your shared moment with this soldier. Nothing wrong with projection in moments like that.

    Shopping tip with the kids - bring a big jacket along. Stuff toys in the shopping cart under the jacket while you shop with the kids. They'll never know. It worked for me last year when my son was 11!

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  7. You sound tired T :( So sending you big hugs!

    If it makes you feel better I am also not done with my shopping!!

    It will all work out :)

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