Friday, November 16, 2012

A Fitting Life

photo credit: my dear friend Laurie Erickson
Do you ever feel that you were plopped into someone else's life? Or that your life is somehow a size too large or small? That whole drink me eat me Alice in Wonderland scene.

I do.

It is difficult to acknowledge, much less write about; then again, the writing gods have been partying elsewhere for so long, might as well.

"Might as well, as well as not, once the pants is down." I cannot say 'might as well' without hearing my sainted mother-in-law's voice. "Might as well, as well as not, once the pants is down."  Who knows where she got that, but it still makes me laugh.

I live in a southern city. On a river. I grew up, first in the Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts, and then in the rolling horse country north of Baltimore, Maryland. My family was full of generations of educational snobs. Princeton, Vassar. My ancestors were Presbyterians and Quakers. I was confirmed in the Episcopalian church. I now work at a Baptist hospital. One of my co-workers, who was worried for my soul, asked, "Episcopalian? I've never heard of that. Is that like Amish?"

I sound funny here. Though I must admit to saying, more than once, at the end of a twelve hour shift, "Yes, I'm fixin' to get your pain medicine now." I'm fixin'. I've always been a parrot.

I love the people I work with. They are good people. Smart, caring, funny, highly skilled, and professional. Dedicated. And they are kind to me. In our crowded nursing station when someone asked who I would vote for, and I said, "President Obama," there was a stunned silence. Eyes met each others' but not mine. "Are you really?" They were still nice to me.

And then I say I have eight dogs. Two fifteen and a half year olds, a twelve year old, a ten year old, two six year olds, an almost two year old, and a yearling. Are any of them indoor dogs? "They all sleep in our bedroom," I say. Really! They say. They look at me a little sideways, with an involuntary narrowing of their eyelids. They feel compelled to tell me about a wonderful dog they used to have, who got hit by a car in front of their house.

I feel like I have landed on a planet that looks like Earth.

If you had ever told me that I'd be living without horses in a city, I'd have told you to keep smoking whatever you were smoking. Me without a horse? Not in this lifetime. After that lifetime of nothing but wide open countryside, I walk my dogs on sidewalks. The same sidewalks as the day before, and the day before that, and now it's been ten years of day before that.

I love it here. I love the people, and the spirit, and the heart of this place. I love Victoria's Secret push-up Angels Fantasies bras, too, but that doesn't mean they fit! Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha! If I'm going to shop at Victoria's Secret, I better find myself a pair of flannel PJs and the free matching slippers; or maybe just go for the slippers and call it a day!

I need a hair cut. Badly. Maybe that's all it is. There are times when I feel I fit just right. Any time I'm with my husband. (Oh, alright. Almost all of the time. That's the worst whack-a-doodle - when Bill and I get out of sync.) Being on the couch under a pile of whippets fits just fine, you may have noticed from my incessant Facebook photos. When I am listening to my patient who has just received a horrible diagnosis, or news of a cure, and my empathy makes a difference, or I'm re-positioning my hospice patient and am able to make them comfortable, that feels like a perfect fit.I sail through those moments.

Howsa bout it? Does your life fit? Is it just me being a spaz?

I know one thing that helps, so I'll pass it on:

hug your hounds


  1. First: Wonderful (WONDERFUL) post.

    Second: Nope, my life doesn't fit. I often feel like a fish out of water, no more so than when I am with my husband's Southern Maryland relatives. Thanksgiving, here we come. I promise (PROMISE) I will keep my mouth shut or at least endeavour not to call anyone a cracker.

    But..I am kind of used to it. And I do find things to love about all the places we have lived, finally. This is just a bit harder than usual, complicated by the problems I am having with the Pope and all those issues, deepened by recent attacks on women (grew up with "our bodies, ourselves" as my New Testament and "Shoulder to Shoulder" as my Old.) Worry that I have not left the world better for my children and that their lives will not be as happy and fullflling as mine has been.

    Maybe I am just getting old.

    What's your excuse?


  2. I suscribe to the idea that we live several lifetimes in our life, so sometimes I've definitely felt out of synch and in other lifetimes not. Like when I went to business school, I remember doing a lot of tidying up and cleaning of the kitchen in the student break room. That was about the only thing I felt really competent at, besides going to work at one of the hospitals being a nurse every other weekend. Sometimes I wonder if I'm really an artist. Am I? Today I think so, but tomorrow? Don't know. This sure as Hell isn't the life I imagined back in college, but I was young and terribly naive and I wasn't sure I fit back then either. I think AA has it exactly right, one day at a time. I can't predict much farther than that.

  3. After living in Southern California for the last 41 of my 50 years, I probably fit in as well as anyone. I fly my "geek" flag proudly. I no longer quiver at the admonishments of my close friends, or strangers. I've become a whole lot more tolerant now that I'm past the 1/2 way mark.

    For me, and those who thought they knew me, tolerant isn't an adjective previously used to describe me.

    Life has changed me.

    Not to say, there aren't days that I feel different ...

    Today - I fell like Leonard Hofstatder in a Sheldon Cooper world.

    But, that will pass. My therapy will be two glorious days in the company of the "pokey-nose" hounds I love.

    And that makes it all right in the world. Fitting or not.

  4. You voted for Obama, have eight inside dogs and live in Kentucky! Crazy.

    What I wouldn't give to be your patient. Wait, I don't mean that, exactly. What I mean is that if I had to be a patient, I would give anything to be your patient.

    Your life fits you perfectly.

    I'm doing pretty good too.

  5. I love this post too, Patience. I have never felt like I belonged anywhere that I was, but I just keep on to see where I wind up.

    I love your Mother in Laws line and since you are a horse lover, I will tell you my late Mother's frequent line. She would say: "Why are there so many horse's asses when there are so few horses." I used to poke her about using it, but now I use it all the time. Like for Kentucky's Sen. Mitch! haha

    Keep your sunny side up.


  6. You should try living in a different country :) And then - because Australia and the US aren't different enough - living in a small town in a 'southern' state. I bite my tongue so often I'm sometimes amazed it's still attached.

    The problem is - I don't know that I'd be comfortable 'at home' either - things are different from when I last lived there, and much different to what I've become used to over here, during the last 20 years. Darren & I joke sometimes that we should just move to a 3rd country and be done with it.

    I have a vague hope that we'll move 'home' one day - my Christmas present to the kids this year will be getting their Australian citizenship, so they'll always have that choice, if they want it.

    I miss many, many things from home (not least my friends and family) and would miss many, many things from here should we move. But I've always thought that home is where you are, and you just have to work around that.


    (PS - it's been ten years already? Good grief!)

  7. I love this post, Patience - you have managed to express what I have often sensed about my life but couldn't put a name to.
    I grew up in a poor family in a working class seaside town (well, back then it was a working class seaside town - now it is much ritzier). I left after high school graduation, partly because my dad was transferred to the other side of the country and I decided to spend a year travelling around Europe (hey, it was the 60s!). And from there I lived in various places and did various things in lives that never quite fit. The twenty plus years I spent as a university professor fit least well at all - I was a good teacher, and a good administrator, but I just 'never fit' inside of me.
    Then I went to live on five acres, in a rural area, and volunteer with animals, and I fit. I was 'home' in my soul.
    Circumstances changed, I moved, and once again I am in a small working class sea side community - a different one, yet familiar. I love it here, but there are still times I don't fit.
    That's when I think of my little piece of heaven in the country, surrounded by nineteen animals, and the pain in my heart hurts so bad.
    But then a new friend in my new place calls, or I take my dog for a walk along the beach, or I dig in my little garden, and soon that too-tight feeling in my heart begins to relax and life's okay again. Even if it doesn't fit quite like before.
    Thanks for helping me figure that out.

  8. Oh Patience where to start? I am a "NewYorker" displace and living in Budapest..should fit, I was born here, but Oh, they don't get me, not one bit and while they are so very kind, I feel like a martian , then I take your advice and hug my Asta and George and the world is right again
    Ami and smoochie kisses fromASTA

  9. I think you'd "fit" anywhere because you make the effort of not being anyone else but yourself .. no certain geography necessary for that.

    Stella (my choc Lab/whippet) and I carved our life out of the Northwoods, live at the edge of a wilderness. I fit here .. it's a life made by my own hands and grace from above. Stella's job is to unstack the woodpile, which is just tremendous help ... good exercise when I have to fish it out of the snow .. I thank her and she smiles.

    People think I'm nuts living like this at 60 years old with only a privy for my necessary room (I call it the TweedleHouse) and no running water (haul water from the laundromat in town in gallon jugs), living in a very well-organized 1-room cabin. Could be I'm nuts, but I'm happy, so I don't bother to look into it. :D :D :D

    Someday if we have to move, we'll "fit" somewhere else. I truly believe that.

    Barbara and Stinker Stella

  10. Thank you all! You are each very, very kind. And appreciated!


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