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Posts Tagged ‘Michigan’

One is a very odd number.

March 22, 2014 1 comment

Yesterday, Michigan’s ban against same-sex marriage was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge. There was lots of cheering in my home state and around the country. In my living room, as I watched the news, there was a little shout of joy. Straight from my heart. My first thought was, “Finally, Michigan, you’ve done something right.” My second thought was “Good. Now there won’t be so many people alone.”

I know that’s a simplistic way to look at this news. And marriage is certainly no guarantee against loneliness. Not by any stretch of the imagination. But when your heart tells you that you want to be with someone and one of the things in your way is a ridiculous law that tries to tell you that you can’t, having one less barrier is always a good thing.

Besides, we humans create plenty of obstacles to happiness all by ourselves. Without the government’s help, thank you. I don’t know much about constitutional law and I am the furthest thing from an activist, but I am all for anything that allows 1 + 1 to equal 2…no matter what the chromosome police say.

Selfishly, I feel this way because “one” is not fun. I have come to know this fact intimately in recent months. Oddly (to me, anyway) at age 56, I suddenly find myself pretty much alone. It’s not something I’ve ever really experienced. And now that I have, I must admit that I am not a fan.

You see, I have spent most of my life in the very close company of others. I grew up a member of a family of six in a two-family flat. The other family – three of my father’s sisters — always had company. Always. Sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews, friends, grandchildren. One year, an entire family of cousins spent most of the school year — an amazingly fun and memorable school year — in our home. Depending on the time of year, anywhere from eight to 15 people could be found roaming around the O’Connor compound. It was fun. It was noisy. Sometimes, we ate in shifts, gathered around hectic but happy tables. It was occasionally very, very crowded (only two bathrooms in the whole place). But it was never, ever lonely.

Bedrooms were also in high demand; I didn’t have my own room until I was 25 years old. That lasted only 4 years, but it was okay with me. Night times are so much better when you are comforted by the sound of the rhythmic breathing of someone you love sleeping nearby.

I got married and had two kids. Busy, active, engaged, noisy, complicated, brilliant, high-maintenance-but-amazing kids. They filled the house with laughter and tears, joy and frustration, dirty clothes and missing homework, and all of the comedy and tragedy that is part of growing up. And I was happy. Exhausted and stressed out sometimes, but happy. And never alone. Now they are gone, off to college and marriage and all the stuff grownups are supposed to do.

Recently, because of some complicated issues, I have found myself in a place where I have three bedrooms, two bathrooms, two empty living room couches and a very empty bed all to myself. There’s plenty of room on the bathroom shelves. Only the closets are full (in addition to enjoying being around other people, I love to buy clothes and shoes). There’s also lots of space in the refrigerator because, I have discovered, cooking for one can be a little depressing. On Sundays, I buy enough groceries for four people, freeze a lot, poach some chicken or bake a pasta dish, and call it dinner for the week. Not much reason to go to any more fuss than that.

As oxymoronic as it seems, I am an introvert who loves to be with people more often than not. I have never done “alone” very well. Ever. I was used to waiting my turn for the bathroom, cleaning up after other people’s messes, yelling at people to turn down the TV or the music. I enjoyed finding the toilet seat in the “up” position. I loved the happy (and occasionally unhappy) chaos that is created by the thoughts, needs and actions of other people packed tightly into the same living space. I like it even more now that it’s gone.

Now, I work at home. Alone. I eat at home. Alone. I mow the lawn and shovel the snow. Alone. I watch TV and read at home. Alone. I watch the news and debate the issues with myself (at least I always win). It’s not as much fun to watch my beloved Detroit Tigers play baseball or catch a Red Wings’ game on TV because when the Wings score when I am in the other room and I run in to see what happened, no one answers my question, “who got the goal?” I just listen to the echo of my own voice and wait for the replay.

I guess I should learn to deal with being alone. As Jean-Paul Sartre said,  “If you’re lonely when you’re alone, you’re in bad company.”  And maybe someday, I will come to accept it or at least be comfortable with it. In the meantime, I can live with merely being secretly happy, from afar, for all of those other people who now have one less reason to be alone.

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Missing the Mitten

September 13, 2010 9 comments

Two years ago, I thought it would be an excellent idea to shake up my life. Things were pretty miserable in Michigan – personally and professionally. My kids were struggling terribly and so was I.

After being told by my boss of less than a year that I would lose my job in another year (we want to bring in our own team…you understand…we’ll give you a raise, so you keep doing a great job and spending part of the year finding a new position elsewhere), I knew I had to make a move.

So, after trying to sell my home in a “short sale” and failing miserably, and then watching my home go into foreclosure, I packed all my stuff in to a 17-foot Uhaul and headed across the country to a new job outside Seattle. (Note to old boss: it only took me 60 days to find a new job, ya prick.) The difficult part was realizing the only job I could get was far away from economically depressed Michigan.

Bellevue, Washington, is 2,372 miles from 1797 Brys Drive in Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan, where I had spent the last 15 years working and the last 50 years living. In reality, it’s on an entirely different planet.

People are, well, a little odd here. Odd in so many ways, large and small. Their oddness is wrapped in a thin blanket of indifference; they aren’t cold exactly…just not very warm. Not exactly a place where an introverted, 51-year-old woman from Detroit can find her new best friend. And face it: any new place can be pretty lonely and unpleasant without friends. And it is.

Then there’s the weather. The moniker “Rain City” doesn’t even begin to cover it; let’s just say that I don’t think that T-shirts imprinted with the phrase, “Seattle: Where the Weather is Miserably Shitty 300 Days a Year” are going to be big sellers at the Pike Place Market, as accurate as they might be.

While I have had many joys here (first year on the job was really great…since then – not so much) and I met a terrific man (who only gets mildly annoyed at my lack of appreciation for his hometown), I still feel very homesick for MY hometown. Every day, in every way, there are some things I really, really miss about Michigan.

Like:

Strangers who smile and actually speak to you. You can make a friend for life in a Kroger checkout line in Michigan (or at least hear the person’s life story before the bagger packs away your Kowalski sausages). In Seattle, if I am walking my empty cart back to the cart corral at QFC and a person walking up to get a cart arrives at the same time, he or she won’t make eye contact. Heck, even if you offer the cart to them, they’ll shake their heads and keep walking away from you to grab another cart. Hey, people: I’m just offering a grocery cart, not proposing a lifetime commitment.

Sportscasters and sports talk guys who actually know what they are talking about. When the Detroit guys say it, they don’t scream it. The baseball guy here – a legend, they tell me – screams, “Fly Away!” when one of the Mariners hits a home run. Uh, Hambone? It’s a baseball, not a peace dove. And on the blue-moon occasions when the “Ms” hit a grand slam, he yells, “Get out the mustard and rolls, Grandma, that’s a Grand Salami!” Ugh. Detroit fans ran one baseball broadcaster out of the D about 20 years ago because of his terminal hokeyness. Not surprisingly, he caught on here in Seattle, where he, too, is now a “legend.”

My front porch. Surrounded by beautiful flowers in the summer and evergreen boughs and twinkling white lights in the winter, my front porch was a wonderful place to sit and gather my early morning thoughts over a cup of hot coffee…or drink copious amounts of beer and wine with my best work buddies on a sweltering Friday evening…or decorate for Halloween and have a family party while handing out treats…or sip tea and munch on Girl Scout cookies with my sisters…or simply curl up in the wicker rocking chairs with two little curly-haired children to watch the fireflies and sing “Amazing Grace” to them until they fell asleep.

Familiar, sensible roads and highways. In Michigan, you always know where you are and how to get there. Roads are usually called only by one or two names (Six Mile = McNichols, Eight Mile = Vernier)…not seven or eight different names that wind around mountains and create havoc for unsuspecting drivers. We went driving yesterday to look at houses in Issaquah or Sammamish (okay, I will admit they have cool names for towns out here…ask me about Sequim!).  For an hour, we drove up and down East Lake Sammamish Pky SE (don’t ask) searching for a house. Turns out it was on “East Lake Sammamish Pl SE.” (Apparently”ky” doesn’t always make things go smoothly…)

In Michigan, if you are lost or need to give or get directions, you just hold up your hand. Here in Washington, an outline of our first president’s head is imprinted on the state road signs. So, when using George Washington’s head to give or get directions, Puget Sound would be…sort of…well, the snot running out of George’s nose. Loses something in the translation.

Living no more than 10 minutes from any one of my siblings. Sean, Claire, Kevin and Patty are my heart and my soul. We never cut the apron strings and we never lost the deep, loving connection to one another that was forged by the challenges of our early lives together. Those relationships are living things that need to be watered and fed often, by getting together and laughing our heads off trying to out-do one another. They aren’t just my brothers and sisters…they are friends, soul mates, connections to our parents and to better times. I only see them once a year now and I miss them terribly.

Despite the loneliness, I AM trying to make a happy life here in the Seattle area. My kids are here with me and so is Max – and that is wonderful. We have lots of good days, mixed in with the sad and lonely ones. I may curse the “marine layer” that hangs overhead for two-thirds of the year…but I marvel at the mountains and someday, I might actually drive the two hours it takes to get from my house to the Pacific and admire the ocean, too.

I drink lots of coffee (my Michigan peeps would love Tullys…it’s a lot like Tim Horton’s). I attend Issaquah Salmon Days every year. And I watch – but never cheer for – the Mariners and Seahawks.

Give me time. You see, when you shake things up, it takes a while for everything to settle.

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