writing

Me, Merrie

A while ago I wrote a column on idiosyncrasies. Everyone has them, quirks and habits that ebb and flow like waves in the sea. I didn’t write about them to show how prickly I am, but instead to laugh at myself. Now I’d like to divulge the real me, minus those crazy lists of favorite colors, foods I hate, and superstitions I hold.

It’s been a frustrating, humid week where the threat of rain hangs over my head, hiding behind dark clouds. This is depression. Mine comes and goes. I am not manic, schizophrenic, bi-polar, or OCD. The Good Life for me resembles a ball of thread, frayed and knotted depending how often I worry it. As manager of 4 indoor tennis teams, it’s seemed like everyone has wanted a piece of me. Those awful summer bugs called “can’t see ’ems” have left angry red streaks up and down my shins. While weeding, I walked backwards into tree roots and gouged my calf. I tripped over a weed and cut my arm on a splintered piece of wood.

I’m fried. I have five days off between sitting gigs. Yet I need to return to work so I can stop hurting myself. Not that dog sitting is a refuge – it can be fun, and it can be troublesome depending on what kind of clients you pick. It’s hard to tell during one interview if they’re caring dog lovers, or people who own dogs for the status of owning dogs. Combine tennis team management with pet sitting for clients who have to extend their trips, delay their trips or ask you to walk their dog without giving you an end date, it’s hard to be everything to everyone. “No” is rarely part of my vocabulary, which gets me in a lot of fixes, where I feel trapped and unable to deal with my inability to please everyone all the time. I’m a Cancer, that’s me in a nutshell. We must make everyone happy, to spark an idea and allow others to come in and make it happen.

I’ve been through Hell and back in the past two years. The thing I forgot is that Cancers do not fail.  Period. Nor do we give up easily. For better or worse, we are reliable, sensitive to others’ feelings, and not quitters. But…if for some reason we do fail, we bounce back up, dust ourselves off, and try again. So though I spent 6 months in emotional ruin, I rallied and wrote, played 7 games of tennis a week, and abhorring the thought of being a secretary again, I started my own business. God forbid I have any downtime, I immersed myself in more tennis, recruiting new members for a summer block, and joined 3 rec leagues.

I gained weight. I pretended I wasn’t diabetic and cheated. A lot. But the tennis helped, and now I’ve lost inches, dropping a dress size.  I’m not perfect, I’ll never be perfect, but I’m the best person I can be, and for a Cancer, that’s good enough for me. P.S.: Diabetics know where the best bakeries are. Diabetics are lying if they say they don’t cheat. We cheat, we just know how to adjust our insulin.

So, in an attempt to let my readers “see” more of me than the blog I keep, I’m going to tell all.

  •  I was born in 1952 in idyllic Greenfield Hills, in Fairfield, Connecticut. Its history says that actors lived among those rolling hills, Judy Garland, Richard Rodgers, as well as long dead movie directors. My mother was a hard smoking journalist for the family newspaper, started by my grandparents, Lillian and Ed Brennan. She learned to smoke alongside her parents because holding a lit cigarette was in style. My mother’s bad habit, I’m sure, contributed to my low birth weight (5 lbs., 4 ounces.), and a childhood riddled with throat infections. Which is why I love sherbet, mashed potatoes, and Jell-O. I have no memory of my birthplace, except through amusing stories my family told me. I was 6 months old when my father, a Canadian by birth, and WWII Royal Canadian Air Force veteran who met my mother on leave in Bermuda, took a job in Binghamton, NY. Still, I have no memory of my first 3 years there, either, where my mother dropped me twice on ice shrouded apartment steps, and cried harder than me. I was the youngest child of Jack and Jeanne and little sister to Hilary. My mother culled our names from English novels. Meredith? Why couldn’t I be Jane or Susy or Lottie?  I hated Meredith in more ways than just the name until I got married, and could thankfully, let go of unwanted baggage. Meredith Sargeant. Ugh. I wanted to be Muffy, Molly, even Meredyde, which is Welsh for Meredith,especially when people declared I was named after James Meredith, the black civil rights activist.
  •  In a previous blog, called “An Architect of Sorts”, I speak at length about my childhood and a family move south into segregation. Please read it – my memories of my first sight of a black person.  I was a child of the 50s, 60s, and 70s. I embraced them all, especially the 70s. I loved the arm cuffs, and drop earrings, and James Taylor and Carole King, not to forget the miniskirts or flowing Indian wear, or high wedged shoes. I was excitingly thin at age 14, and looked like Twiggy (a model from Great Britain who resembled a human twig). Unlike most of my friends, I never did drugs, although in college, drinking beer made meeting guys easier. In high school, I was quite shy, and was often taunted on the school bus because of my eyeglasses, railroad tracks, and last name. However, I found my happy place in creative writing, hiding my feelings of inadequacy behind words. I told fantastic stories, and like many kids before me, loved J.D. Salinger, O. Henry, and Carson McCullers. I had many mentors, especially ones I connected with every day – all the dedicated English teachers at my school. Mrs. Urbanetti, who was “let go” after 2 years for wearing miniskirts, Greenie Hooker, who was not only my teacher but also my guidance counselor. And lest I forget, Jean “not on my time” Nekola, who we all were afraid of until we became alumnae. But she made us think, and read ee cummings and explore the Viet Nam war defending William Calley or prosecuting him. It was through my writing that I gained confidence in myself and found the world would not end if I dared open my mouth to express an opinion. I won a special writing award as a junior, and then became editor of the school newspaper, and yearbook. I might not have graduated from college, but I’m still a success story. I’ve been published as a freelance writer, and am still at it today.
  • Bugs. I have a phobia about bugs and vermin. Bugs that fly in my face, climb down my shirt and bite my boobs without my okay is not fair! I’m highly sensitive to mosquito bites, and after 2-3 bombardments, my entire body is on fire. I can’t stop scratching to the point of bleeding. As for mice, voles, rats, gerbils and hamsters, I am morbidly afraid of them all. My son never wanted any of those pests. He had dogs instead. For several years when I worked at a local private girls school in Roland Park, mice would blatantly run across my computer keys as I ran screaming down the hall. They lived in trash cans and above the ceiling tiles. Rats the size of cats lived in the outside trash cans and flower beds.
  • Attending an all girls’ school did not help me become a demure young society lady. Being kept apart from boys except on the school bus for 7 years made me only shyer, and later in life, subservient to them. My first dates with young men were experienced mostly at UVA beer bashes when neither of us were sober enough to get it on. To this day, I love one man with all my heart, but find it very difficult to strike up conversations with the husbands of friends, for fear I say the wrong thing, or draw attention to myself. I much prefer the company of women to men. Women are my comfort zone, and don’t ridicule or confront.
  •  This economy has taken away my future, my dreams, and set a new reality in stone. It’s especially hard for me because I grew up in an upper middle class family where college was an option, and finding a hard working husband instead more the norm. A lot of girls went to finishing school like Mary Washington College, Hollins, and Goucher to find husbands. We were never expected to graduate or major in anything.  I was different. I’d left my trust fund back in Connecticut, my mother eschewing a career for herself over coming out parties for her daughters. It was unheard of then, but my mother did not take any well-worn paths. She did her own thing, a feat I admire and copy to this day. In fact, I worked from ages 11 to 62. My mother and father both told me I’d find a nice husband who would care for me the rest of my life. I feel betrayed by that promise, as well as by bosses, family members, some so-called friends, and our government. Instead of debutante status, I’m poor in a society where money means everything. When I look back at all my life’s mishaps and missteps, I am stymied by how they happened. Money disappearing into thin air. Promises made, and never kept. Betrayal from those you love most. I’ve never been good with money, I’ve always had champagne taste on a beer budget. But the worst is thinking that this state of life will not get better, only worse, the older I grow, and the less I can work. One option is to fall into an abyss of sorrow and recrimination, but I’ve already been there, and seriously don’t want to return.
  •  For the past 4.5 years I’ve been working on a novel that morphed from a short story into a 600+ page book. Despite working full time, there wasn’t a day I didn’t write. In the past I’ve entered 30 some contests with chapters from the book and in 4 years only won one contest using 21 words from one chapter. That win catapulted me into “award winning writer”, a real coup after my last publication in the 80s. But it’s not enough. My novel’s theme has never been written before, so I believe time is of the essence to rewrite the entire book, paring down from 10 plots to 2. However, in keeping this blog, I’ve really stretched my writing skills and ventured into nonfiction, business writing, essays and memoirs. I contribute to LinkedIn Pulse, and continue to enter contests as often as I can.  The thing is, contests cost the entrant money. Anywhere from $5 to 50 for the chance to win $100, $1,000 or publication in a journal. You have to pick your contests wisely.
  • To stave off disappointment and depression over my current economic straits, I play a lot of tennis. 7 times a week. Hitting balls clears my mind and refocuses it away from dark thoughts.  I also care for dogs. They are great therapy – always cheerful, fluffy, full of love, and responsive to my positive energy. Sleep helps rejuvenate, both mentally and physically. Sleep is my middle name.
  •  I’m in touch with many other people who suffer more.  Friends have lost their husbands to suicide, cancer, a simple cold, and sloppy medical care. I’m not that self-centered to think I’m the only one with a hard life. But my father, fastidious to a fault,  never mentioned I’d live in a house with a leaking ceiling, toilet that overflows 1-2 times a year, mold, one working burner on our stove, and carpenter bees in our deck. Life sucks, but as a Cancer, I often find optimism right around the corner.
  •  Great books I’ve read lately that have helped me escape from  life include “A Dog’s Purpose”, “We Were Liars”, “Inside the O’Brien’s”, and “What Alice Forgot,” not to be confused with “Still Alive,” also a great read.
  •  My hero: my husband.
  • My heroine: Mom.
  • My beloved only: my son
  • Weird thing about me: I talk to myself. I don’t need bluetooth. I’m enough company when driving about and around.
  • My current biggest worry: my beloved dog Angus and his newly diagnosed case of Lymphoma.

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3 thoughts on “Me, Merrie”

  1. Merrie,

    Your description of your current situation brings tears to my eyes…none of us can know what we will have to face not do we ever think it can get so bad. But You handle it all remarkably well, Merrie…just wish I could do something to ease your difficulties. How is Doug doing through all this? He IS working again, correct?

    I’m so sorry, too, about Angus. Major is just beginning to show a few signs of age (he will be 9 this month) and he has a congenital eye issue (Pannus) which could cause blindness. We are treating that with drops to halt the progress of the disease. Otherwise, his health is better than our other sheps at this age.

    Our move has hit a stumbling block that we have not shared with many: Mark went out “On his own” at the beginning of this year, rather than staying under an umbrella company that took 25% of his income but from which he derived no benefit. BAD decision for someone hoping to get a mortgage. They want 2 years of income tax returns…so we may not be moving yet after all. I am, of course, grateful that we can even think about buying a home again. Just wish we knew this before. We are in a holding pattern while a second mortgage company considers our case.

    Our parents continue to require our time (in separate directions 3 hours each way); my Mom’s dementia is progressing; Dad’s physical strength is declining; Mark’s dad is in kidney failure and preparing for dialysis. So many of us are taking care of aging parents.

    Take heart—prayers, if nothing else, are heading your way! ~Eileen

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Merrie: I, too, am a “Cancer”, and a cancer survivor, and for whatever reason I
    do not know the reason for the latter – just that I hadn’t perfected my game well enough to get the final call. Perhaps that is what keeps us Cancers going – the need to perfect our game in order to be accepted.

    My heart goes out to you . I know your love for Angus is like that of a second child.
    Kick the barrel down the road, say Dammit – and keep goin’ girl – after all you are
    a Cancer – we have more to do.

    Like

  3. Prayers are always good. I appreciate them. I am the sole breadwinner now. I only hope customers continue to afford to go away! If I had 3 wishes, the first would be to put thousands of dollars away for our future. 2nd would be a lifelong cure for all cancers for people and dogs. Third would be to get a Republican president in the WH. Take care. Your dilemma is same for us selling and paring down.

    Like

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