I took the above picture in a prolonged fit of rage. I was practically screaming on social media, but it almost felt like I was watching myself rage. Still, I had a student from my comp class lie and go to the dean’s office complaining about his failing grade. I never knew how much lying would make me angry, though you couldn’t hear it in my voice on the phone. I was ever the professional, calmly explaining myself. After the phone call, where I was on speaker with the student and the dean’s administrative assistant, I went outside and took some pictures of the flowers. Some of them I knew, like my favorite fuchsia bougainvillea, purple morning glories, and the gardenia above. And a couple them, I didn’t know. Grounding myself in nature, I was able to semi-reset and go back to my other job of technical writing.
Since August 2012, I’ve moved five times, and where I live this time is closest to work and, for the most part–besides a landlady who likes to visit at unannounced times and pilfer things–it’s drama-free. Even how I just minimized this current landlady’s foolishness shows me how much I’ve changed in the almost three years I’ve lived and endured down here in Florida.
It’s not that bad.
When I was going through the emotional and financial upheaval that I wasn’t really counting on to happen because I had decided to “follow my dream” and write my memoir about growing up…somewhere along the line, I didn’t like who I was becoming. Embittered. Brittle. Rigid. Dry. Some time in there, I had asked over and over to be more grateful. Maybe because I was tired of hearing my own long-winding song of woe. Maybe it was to spare others of the oft-repeated refrain.
And then things got worse. Much worse.
An eviction. Horrible roommates. School drama: betrayal, an extra semester, and more student loans. More horrible roommates. A job loss. Homelessness. A landlady who nickel and dimed me. No more car.
When I was thinking of blogging about gratitude here, I had either just come back from Target after I had gotten a ride from Uber, or I was making toast in the toaster oven, and then spreading the soft, spreadable butter (with 50% less calories) and sprinkling cinnamon sugar. I wish I had written this in that warm moment, because I felt like I was overflowing with gratefulness, like a honeycomb being peeled open with a warm knife.
And maybe that list of compounding disasters is all it was: a hot knife flaying off the wax of my life.
As pretty as that picture looks, it was a lot more painful and ugly than the picture connotes.
Yet theres is no other way I could be so full of gratitude over things like cinnamon toast (I had some today, too) if I didn’t start on the ground floor of my hierarchy of needs–food, shelter, transportation. This excruciating stripping process is not anything I would wish on anyone, though–especially for myself. All I was trying to do was desperately looking for a silver lining, some cord of hope to hang onto until all these storms passed.
But this is where I am now, still on the ground floor, looking for the elevator to take me up a floor. It almost feels luxurious to be mad about a student’s lies and to actually go take pictures of flowers to decompress. I look forward to being upset about a bird crapping on my car, of not being able to find a shoe I like in my size, the restaurant being out of my favorite wine, a flight being overbooked, a concert that I can afford being sold out, going with my second choice of fabulous places to live, impatiently waiting for an amazing guy that I just met the night before to call me, having to reschedule a doctor’s appointment…
Although I am grateful now, I look forward to being normal again. Yet with all those losses and heartbreaks, etched indelibly into me, it will not be like how my life was before I moved down here. It will be a new normal–one I hope not to ever take for granted and one that I am already welcoming in, one flower petal at a time.