The Grip I Lost

May 30 | Posted by: Andrea Zonn |
Once upon a time, I never accepted help from anyone. I hated the thought of putting anyone out. Hated the thought that I wasn’t self-sufficient, that I wasn’t Wonder Woman. And hated the idea that I might want to reciprocate, but what if you can’t possibly do enough to repay the kindness of others? How lame you’d feel. It’s not that I didn’t extend those kindnesses, it’s that I didn’t know how to receive them.

Then I started to lose my grip. It was barely noticeable at first. I didn’t get all the laundry done on laundry day one week. Oh well, I thought, I’ll get to it soon. But I didn’t. Then I didn’t get around to putting those few addresses into my address book. And does my car need an oil change?

And so began my early 20’s.

Now, a lot of things were still under control. My simple file cabinets were organized. I knew where every stick of make-up was, and my socks were always paired nicely in the drawer. I returned phone calls immediately, and there was no email to fall behind on. I could identify everyone in my address book. Every cabinet, drawer and closet was well-ordered. It’s just that not everything was making it into those spaces. Why put it away if you can’t do it right? I’ll do it right later. As I slipped into my late 20’s, things could pile up a little faster. And a little deeper. I’d go a little longer before I’d reclaim my grip. But always, if I set my mind to it, I could reign it back in. Life was still simple, too. After all, how complicated can it be when you live by yourself in your 20’s? You think it’s complicated, but how can you know what lies ahead?

I got married. Lived with another human being. Someone who had a different way of living than I was used to. And my style was different for him as well. Our differences drove us both a little crazy. I needed things put away properly, he just needed them out of sight. But slowly, we integrated all our belongings. What used to be “mine” and “his” became “ours.” That’s a big process. Two lifetimes of photographs collected in boxes. I know. Let’s organize them all together. Big job. More time than we could allot at one sitting. So they wound up in a pile. A pile that never quite got sorted.

There were other piles, too. Tools. Computers. Music. Gear. Files. Books. Ours. And we accumulated more. More dishes, more artwork, more books, more music. Ours.

And other things got more complicated, too. After my father died, my mother decided my brother and I should have copies of everything in her file cabinet. God forbid, something should happen to her, and Brian and I won’t know where anything is. And you take on more stuff. Dad’s artwork. Some letters. Some photos. Some pots and pans. Nevermind if there’s no space. It’s a keepsake, for God’s sake.

And then, 7 years after the marriage began, it ended. And the undoing always seems more rushed than the doing. You try to wrench apart the things that have become knitted together. And you’re so flippin’ tired. All that exuberance you felt when you took on this union? Gone. The thought of the daunting task of starting over, I must confess, probably kept me there a couple of years longer than I should have stayed. But wrench apart we did. And move to another place I did. A place that wasn’t quite ready to be lived in. No doors. No curtains. No cabinet doors.

And I waited. Waited to begin sorting through my life in boxes. And I went on the road for a few months. And there was a flea infestation while I was gone. And they sprayed around the boxes that were stacked half-way to the ceiling. And I foolishly let someone into my space. He was too persistent, and I was too tired to put up a good fight. And he made himself at home. Then I got off the road, and there were suitcases to be unpacked, and flea poison on every surface to be cleaned. Then I had a monumental moment of clarity. I saw the man for the sponge he was, and I finally put up the good fight, and he left. But he left all his crap at my house. And he wasn’t coming back for it. And still, I had boxes to be unpacked of my own. And I could no longer clean around the stacks of crap.

And I was overwhelmed. I had forgotten how to reign it back in. Or maybe it was no longer possible to do so. Things had gotten too complicated.

And then it happened. Lin called and asked if I needed help clearing out the Sponge’s crap. The old me would have said no thanks, I’ll manage. Don’t put yourself out. The new me nearly cried, and said, Oh God, please, yes. A couple of hours later, Dara called and asked if I was accepting visitors. I told her Lin and I were clearing out Sponge’s crap. She said she’d be right over to help. I said okay. A few hours later, it was Chicken on the phone. She had a few bottles of wine in the car. I said, bring it on. We ordered pizza. We drank wine. We accidentally spilled it on the dog. The dog loved being the center of attention. We laughed. She laughed with us. And it was a splendid evening. All because I realized I wouldn’t manage quite so well without my dear friends.

That was the beginning of the reclaiming of my life. And of my grip. Somewhat, anyway. Life gets so much more complicated as you go along, doesn’t it? I have found great comfort in accepting the kindness of others. It doesn’t put the pressure on, as I once feared. It takes the pressure off. And it allows one to have the stamina to reciprocate that kindness. I haven’t done nearly enough of that yet. But I do what I can, and will continue to do so. It feels good. It makes me happy.

After the girls’ night, Chicken continued coming over a few times a week. I realized I needed help, and hired her on as my assistant. A job she was way over-qualified for. For months, she returned phone calls for me. We got Sponge’s crap out of the barn and into the Goodwill. We started to organize the house. And she found other people to help, too. Someone to paint the house, someone to knock down the barn, someone to hang the doors, someone to fix the espresso machine, someone to clean the house while I got sorted, and tended to other things. And all the while, we laughed, we drank coffee, we nearly got kicked out of a fabric store for having too much fun. Priceless.

These days, I feel like I’m still largely on the receiving end. A few weeks ago, the father of my child was digging holes and planting shrubs in my new flower beds. I just can’t manage in my pregnant state. Today, my sweet mother was mulching those beds, again, because I simply can’t. She and I went to the grocery store together this evening. I gave her half of the tomatoes I bought, she gave me half of her paper towels. She’s still a bigger giver than I am. If I bake something for her, she turns right around and brings me a lasagna. Or a ham. Or both. Crazy. But that’s love, isn’t it?

I still don’t have a grip on everything. A lot of it, but not all of it. I’m still on top of my work. And the bills are paid up and on time. But there are mounds of CDs piled up, I’m housing books in drawers until I get more shelves, the office is an eternal wreck, and I haven’t even started on the nursery yet. But I’m getting there. With some help. The house is pretty clean. Not perfect, but acceptable. I can maintain it in this state. I will call Aaron to put up the shelves I need. The books and CDs will, at last, have a home. The nursery will be a snap. Buy a crib, make some curtains, maybe something with trucks, or sailboats.

But I can assure you, I’d much rather sit here writing this blog, eating watermelon with chopsticks, thinking about the amazing people in my life and all they do to enrich my world every day, than get up and file papers in my office. And I’m oddly grateful for having lost my grip.

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