Experiencing a Time Drought?

Yesterday at Thanksgiving dinner, I was listening to folks – both young and old – comment about the passage of time.  Comments began with the usual, “It’s been such a long time since I’ve seen you!” and moved to observations as we were taking our dinner seats about who now gets to sit at the “kids’ table” in the other room.  My 29-year old niece wonderingly looked at the kids’ table, and, seeing it filled, concluded that she no longer belonged there.  She pumped her fist in the air: she had arrived!

Even I pondered, as I took a place at the largest table in the home, “Should I sit here?  Will I be asked to move, or will others who do belong here look at me askance and wonder why I felt I could intrude on the big people’s table?”  Preoccupied with her solitary musings, the little girl inside me barely noticed the big girl moving forward with Reality:

Get real!  I am less than a month from my 46th birthday!  I damn well earned the right to sit here!  Through graduating college, marriage, the birth of three children, personal dissatisfaction, professional satisfaction, divorce, bankruptcy, personal satisfaction, professional dissatisfaction, starting a new business, new relationships… I EARNED a place at that table!  Hell, I could even drink coffee at it if I wanted to, and no one would question me for a second!

Yet my certainty was fraught with misgivings.

What if others disagreed?  What if what I viewed as growth, they viewed as immaturity?
Worse yet, what if my placement at that table moved SOMEONE ELSE OFF of it?

Surely enough, that is what happened. Anguish. My 81 year old father and his sister in her 70s were seated at a small side table immediately behind me. Damn.  They took the seat I should have taken.

The little girl inside of me fantasizes that if I never were to move away from the kids’ table, my father would never have to move away from the big people’s table.  And he would live forever.  I could, in effect, keep my father alive and here on this earth if only I knew my place.  If only I had done what I was supposed to have done, rather than thinking I was too big for my britches.

The irony of it all?  You know there always has to be some…

After dinner, the kids asked if I wanted to play cards with them – at the kids’ table!   “HA!” I thought.  “I am so versatile, so universal, so adaptable – I actually BELONG at any table I desire!” My son asked me to shuffle the cards while he went to get something to drink.  Happily shuffling away – proud of how well I can still manipulate a card bridge while doing so – I looked up to see my 19 year-old son returning with a hot, steaming cup of…  COFFEE???!!  (When the hell did he start drinking coffee?  Did he ask me if he could?  Did he ask anyone?  What would my father say if he saw this?”) My smugness evaporating, I suddenly became aware of the lack of space at the kids’ table, and how little elbow room there was.  All of a sudden it wasn’t very comfortable, and – what the hell – when did my ass get too big for this stupid folding chair??!

I have been summarily and permanently moved from the kids’ table.  Holiday dominoes, let’s call it.

Looking back over yesterday’s minutiae, I wonder… does my father have the same misgivings I have about time?  Does everyone?  Will my son experience it?  What about my daughters?  Is it just as slippery and sickening for other people?

Here is a poem I wrote in January of 2008 – almost two years ago (wow!) – about the lack of sufficient time I feel.

Time Drought
by Casey A. South
1.16.08 @11:58 pm

Slipping, slinking, seeping away,
Through the cracks of our every day…
Dampening our months,
Drowning our years,
Silencing tongues,
Sharpening fears.

My heart beats faster as I consider my state:
Always – my calendar on the wrong date!
Lessons untaught, opportunities lost…
Being too damn busy, not knowing the cost.
Priorities skewed, resources squandered…
Energy usurped by feud here and yonder.
Events unlived yield memories unconcieved…
I’ll get to it later, I always believed.

Waves of regret creep up from behind,
Their shadows overcome me: pressure unkind…
Infiltrate my skin, my muscles and bones.
Suddenly – I’m soaked.
Chilled and alone.
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Economic Downturn + Military Stress = Duress

First of all, let me say I am not a military wife, nor am I in the military.  But with as stressful as the holidays can be financially and otherwise for civilians, I can only imagine how hard they might be for folks who have a spouse half-way around the globe.  For a couple of years I engineered lights for a country-western band that toured the tri-state area, and during that time, one of the guys asked me to do some song-writing for him.  Here is a sampling of some lyrics I wrote that seemed particularly timely with the economic woes people are facing.
Tireless Wireless
by Casey A. South
2.22.08 @ 10:55 pm
She sees him there…
A continent away.
In the glow of the blue screen,
Same time each day.
How unfair her lover is cold to her touch,
Warmed only by the memory that is fading too much.
“I’ve got this,” she said as he boarded the plane.
How could they foresee the depths of her pain?
Her passion is wireless,
Goes ‘round the globe,
This love is tireless,
But, Lord, bring him home.
She hears the kids crying as she opens the mail.
Bills are a mounting… that never fails.
Too tired to cook and the place is a mess.
It weighs on her greatly, this military stress.
Another paycheck – it comes and it goes,
How they will make it, Lord only knows.
Payments are missing.  Creditors calling.
Into an abyss she knows she is falling.
But same time each day, she puts on a smile.
She wipes her mascara, hits the icon to dial.
He needs no distraction:  it could mean his life.
“For better, for worse,” she alone bears this strife.
“Everything’s great, hon. Couldn’t be better.”
He feels reassured… his girl’s a go-getter!
But ‘Let’s stay connected’ is really a lie.
She shuts down her Mac and has a good cry.
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An Alone Mood

Incessant chatter.  Endless questions.

When I was a kid, there was a song on one side of a 45 record I used to play over and over.  Entitled “Yakkity, Yak, Blah, Blah, Blah,” this little ditty was about a man who comes home from work feeling tired and his wife just peppers him with questions and demands.  Makes me chuckle today because even though I tried never to do that to my husband when I was still married, I realized that I share the same sentiments as the singer on the record because I feel constantly barraged with questions, complaints, demands, from people at work and the three teenagers in my home!

I seek solitude.  Some solitude each and every day.  This funky little piece I wrote on a day when I was counting down the time until I could get away from everyone who was driving me crazy!

An Alone Mood
by Casey A. South
Caught in a game of poker,
I only want Solitare.
Six pack, but only need a sip.
Seven seats seems silly.
Eight lunch today.
“Want some company?”

Just mine.

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Depression Regression

What a beautiful autumn we have experienced this 2009!  The leaves have delighted my eyes with their colors,  the vibrant tastes of honey crisp apples and the sweet yet smoky smell from making apple butter out over the open fire in the copper kettle… every moment teased my attention.  The weather has truly been sublime as my skin is touched by rays of autumn sun.  Seventy degrees never felt finer!

Yet I fall deeper into the abyss of depression.

It’s nothing new really.

Yet it’s different.

More ironic.

Why me?

Why now?

Now is when things should be looking up.  When things should be easier.  When things should be simpler they have been in the last ten years.  My oldest child is a freshman in college with a clear career goal and the desire to achieve it.  He has grown into a fine young man of whom I am proud.  My two daughters are both here at the high school with me, and they seem to be developing into productive citizens also.  Sure, I could use more money and more time to grease the wheels of living, but who couldn’t?

But it’s all different lately…  I am like a scratch and sniff sticker of emotion! Don’t get near me with a coin.  I weep at the slightest touch.

I fight my personal darkness at every corner, every turn, nearly every breath these days.  The twisted logic of the completely illogical stuns my resolve to stay healthy and resist the undertow of depression.  I am caught in a riptide of emotion, just as I was so many years earlier in the Pacific on my honeymoon in Hawaii.  We were young, dumb, singularly focused and foolishly complacent about the strength of the seemingly docile waters around the islands.  We had two rented body boards and each other, but we were no match for Mother Nature.  Surreptitiously she drew us away from the shore, and by the time we realized we were out of energy, the shore had slipped away from us.  Almost powerless felt we to return to it safely.
Back then it was water.  Now it is more murky and even stronger than the forces of gravity I struggled against  in 1988.

Here is today’s poem, one that I wrote nearly ten years ago…

Read it forwards.  Then it goes backwards.  Just like depression.

“Depression Regression”
By Casey A. South
Deep black sinking feeling seeping,
Pervading, filling, overflowing
Writing, talking, masking, faking,
Tonic sleep, hunger exercise
Wake, work, laugh, love.
Lifts, dissipates, evaporates
Evaporates, dissipates, lifts.
Love laugh, work wake.
Exercise hunger, sleep tonic.
Faking, masking, talking, writing
Overflowing, filling, pervading
Seeping feeling sinking black deep

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Mental Yoga

I find writing to be a cathartic individual activity that relaxes me and keeps me balanced, a kind of mental yoga!

Writing, for me, produces a variety of outcomes: poems, stories, song lyrics, some sappy stuff and some cynical and funny little snippets of thoughts.  I’m not claiming they are perfect or award-winning by any means, but I do think they have some value.  For someone.  Even if that someone is only me!

WARNING: Sappy Alert!  :o)

Here is one piece I wrote as I was reflecting on the eighth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.  It was a beautiful morning on Saturday, September 12 of this year.  The night before, on September 11th, our high school band performed a patriotic medley of songs at half-time of the home football game, accompanied by fireworks and the honoring of veterans and our service people.  Folks in the stands were so very moved! Such an excellent patriotic display I had not witnessed since after the attacks in 2001.  Some people find it so easy to be cynical and negative about our country, but everyday someone is saved by Her graces: a life is improved, an injustice curbed, a future is launched.  When asked what surprised him the most about America, a 17 year old Chinese boy in my English class today stated, “The fact that not everyone in America is filthy rich like I was taught [was surprising].  There is a lot of poverty here.  Yet people are happy and hopeful with opportunities.” Amen, Chiang!

What is America?
by Casey A. South
2.23.08 @ 6:10 am

“What is America?”
The teacher wrote on the board.
His assignment for the weekend
Due Monday he was told.

How was a kid to define Her?
He wondered on the bus
How could he put on mere paper
What She means to all of us?

Was it the warmth of the saddle
On his Daddy’s favorite horse?
Or the countryside they cantered
That described America most?

Was America in the stadium
In the cheering of the crowds?
Or the marching band that’s playing
Our anthem full and proud?

Was She the courthouse in the city
Gracing the downtown square?
Or the Corvettes and Camaroes
At the car show he strolled there?

Was America the President in his motorcade?
Or the lights on the fire trucks shining in the parade?

Was America the colors streaming from the flag?
Or the tears shed when laying that soldier in his grave?

Could it be She was the sunrise on golden waves of grain?
Or the faithful and strong whistle of the daily train?

Was America the comics in his Sunday paper?
Or the place where he worshipped his one and only Maker?

Was it the smell of Grandma’s baking apples that they’d picked?
Or the packages Mom was making, waiting to be shipped
To some brave soldier somewhere out across the sea
Fighting for our freedom – For them, For you, For me?

He went to school that Monday, a furrow in his brow.
“Hang up your coats and hats, please.  Take out your papers now.”

The teacher seeing his dismay asked why he was upset.
“Do you have your assignment, honey, or did you just forget?”

“I’m not sure I did this right: the assignment that you made.
The one defining America, the one that’s due today.”

He looked his teacher in the eye, not wanting to make a fuss.
“I wrote a lot but left bunches out: She means so much to us.”

“She’s something different to Rico and to Chaing and Emmalee:
America is dreams come true: our hope, a future, security.
I couldn’t nail Her down, you see, to just one simple thing.
We can’t define her completely, M’am… ‘Cause America is Everything.”
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