Earthworms have it so great.

umbrella-1588167_1280.jpgIt’s a rainy spring day here, which reminds me of my true earthworm story that I shared last year. You can read it below.

I’m amazed to see that I left out a critical part of the story, about why I left my job, a decision prompted by earthworms. (Yeah, just read the story.)

It’s true that I was overwhelmed with life and sick all the time. But the real reason I left my job is that, several years after my son Matt’s diagnosis with a brain tumor at age 11, it finally became clear to me that his, and our family’s, recovery was going to be a long haul. We were all floundering, and the only way we would survive is if I dedicated myself full time to our healing.

And the only way Matt was going to graduate from high school is if I became his full time cheerleader, mentor, and tutor.

I’m not sure why I left that piece out of the original story, other than perhaps I didn’t want to get so deep at the time. As a fairly new blogger, I tried to separate my “cute” stories from my brain tumor stories. I didn’t know how to weave them together. I didn’t know if a reader who liked one type of story would like the other.

It’s a sign of how my writing has grown, that I can better integrate all the parts of my life, all the nuances of what makes me me. And I think my readers like that. It’s honest. It’s real.

As for Matt, he not only graduated from high school on time, but he completed a bachelor’s degree (in four years!), and continues to amaze us with his success in life.

I have it so great. Earthworms got nothin’ on me.

 

It was around 20 years ago. I was married with two rambunctious sons, a demanding full time job and an old house. I loved it all, but the all of it was starting not to love me back.

I was frequently losing my temper with my kids, quibbling with my husband, yearning for low-maintenance apartment life. Non-stop sinus infections, colds, headaches, digestive problems, and exhaustion plagued me. I felt like my body was on the fast track to destruction.

One spring day, I pulled up in the parking lot at the elementary school where I worked as a counselor.  It was raining and the parking lot was a regular Eau de Earthworm convention. I tip-toed through the conventioneers, juggling my umbrella, purse, lunch bag and briefcase, with no third hand to hold my nose.

Out of the blue, or should I say “gray,” an unedited, spontaneous thought popped into my head:

“Earthworms have it so great.”

(I’ll pause for a moment because you’re probably reading that statement again to be sure you didn’t misread it. Spoiler alert: you didn’t.)

Now, what does one do when a thought like that bombards your consciousness?

Don’t look at me–I thought I was crazy. (Spoiler alert: I am, a little. In a good way, mostly.)

To clarify: I witnessed putrid earthworms congregate on the chilly blacktop as they brazenly risked bald tires, low-heeled pumps, and hungry robins. I knew if they survived, they’d wiggle back home to eat dirt and poop it out.

And I thought that was a good life?  Well, it was time for some serious reevaluation, dontcha think?

That’s exactly what I did, after I got inside and examined my pupils to be sure nobody slipped some LSD into my morning coffee.

I took a good hard look at my life, at what would stay and what could give. The kids and the husband? Stay with a capital “S.” The old house halfway through rehab?  Stay. We’d need to pay someone to take it off our blistered hands. That left my school counseling job. Which I loved. But the needy students and fractured families were slowing sucking me so dry that not even a monsoon could rehydrate me.

So, with a deep breath and a big gulp, at the end of the school year, I gave my notice and quit my job. As a family, we made some sacrifices, but we regained our equilibrium and I slowly regained my health. I believe it saved my life. And I owe to it earthworms.

Wisdom in this universe is everywhere, sometimes right under our feet.

“I am not a slimy beast,” the Earthworm said. “I am a useful and much loved creature. Ask any gardener you like.”               

                                                                               – James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl.

 

When in need, a friend beats technology.

Today, I’m expanding my writing world by attending a session of the New York State Writers Institute to hear Cokie Roberts, illustrious journalist and broadcaster, speak on Writing about Women’s History. The only women’s history I plan to write about is my own, but I’m happy for the opportunity to connect with other writers.

If it weren’t for a friend of mine who’s going with me, I would not be attending.

Why? Because I’d get lost.

The venue is on the SUNY Uptown Campus, a maze of look-alike buildings where I once lost my car and had to trudge through two feet (truly!) of snow to find it at 9 PM. This was before the days of GPS.

With my husband Michael’s patience and a detailed map he drew, I found my way to the correct building for a lecture. When the lecture was over, I got turned around in the building and asked someone where the parking lot was.

I knew I was in trouble when he asked, “Which one?”

The one with lots of cars, I wanted to respond.

I suppose someday I should challenge myself to figure out that campus once and for all. But not today. Today, I’ll rely on a friend who agreed to go with me.

Do you know the campus at all? I texted her, I’m a total doofus at finding my way around there.

Yes, I went to school there, she replied

Problem solved. Now I can look forward to the lecture without the anxiety of getting lost.

This is personal growth for me. In the past, I was so ashamed of being “directionally challenged,” that I often didn’t admit it, or ask for help (other than from Michael).

It was so easy to be real. What has taken me so long?

 

On that note, below is my story from last year: “When I get lost and technology fails me.” As you’ll see, when in need, even the most sophisticated technology doesn’t always help. Sometimes you really need a friend.

You know those lab rats that run through mazes? Well, if I ever got reincarnated as one of them, I’d be in deep rat doo-doo. I couldn’t find my out of a paper bag if it came with neon EXIT signs. And all the technology in the world often doesn’t help.

Recently when I got horribly lost, my adult son told me it was because I was using Apple maps on my phone rather than Goggle maps.

“Well, it says maps,” I said, showing him the app. “How do I know if it’s Apple or Google?”

He took my phone, swiped to the next screen and showed me the big “G,” under which it says “Google maps.”

OK, mister-smarty-pants, I thought.

So now I use the big G, even though I have built-in navigation in my car. When I bought my car, I thought it was imperative to have this feature, given my, y’know, limitations. But “Navi” mispronounces street names, and if I don’t listen to her, she purposefully gets me more lost. I don’t like Navi.

Last week, I had to attend a wake, so I put the address in G and we headed out. After a few blocks, however, I realized that G wasn’t talking to me. At every red light, I fished out my glasses, poked at him and tried to make him talk.

What, you’re holding out for beer and cigarettes?

Finally, I pulled over into a parking lot. Still not talking, G was now stuck on rerouting me.  Apparently he didn’t know where I was.

Hello??  It’s yourjob to know where I am. You’re supposed to be smarter than Apple, remember? 

I decided to give the address to Navi. It was her chance to repair our relationship. Then I realized I didn’t havethe address. G had it, but at that point he was spinning his little wheels like a lost lab rat. I searched Navi’s points of interest, but I guess she doesn’t think people get lost going to wakes because no funeral homes came up.

Then I realized I could ask Siri.

“Ha,” I told G and Navi outloud, “I don’t need you anyway.”

But it was a conspiracy. Siri told me I was no longer a hotspot and couldn’t get internet access.

What?? Don’t tell meI’m no longer hot! 

So there I was, in a parking lot in the freezing February rain, beaten into submission by a trio of virtual pranksters.

Looking up, I pleaded silently, God, I’m really trying to do a good thing here. But God must not have been in a hotspot either, because He didn’t answer.

Reluctantly, I called my husband at work for directions. He’s used to the routine, and lucky for me, picked up on the first ring.

Maybe God wasin a hotspot after all.

Coming back from the funeral home, I didn’t bother hitting “home” on Navi or G, as all I had to do was make one left turn and I would know where I was. I made a phone call using my Bluetooth as I pulled away. I got my friend’s voicemail, and here’s what she heard:

“Hi Peggy.  I’m just leaving the funeral home, so you can call me back any … Oh shit, am I going the wrong way? Peggy, hold on a sec.”

 (Mumbling) What the hell street is this?

“Peggy, I think I’m lost.”

(Under my breath) Oh my god, I can’t believe …

“Peggy, I’ll have to call you back.”

So much for conspiracy theories. It’s all just me.

Serendipitous simplicity

I know—that’s a mouthful—maybe not the best introduction to this quick post (yes, another one) about living a simple life, but it’s so meaningful, I had to tell you.

A few days ago, I had a final draft ready of this essay: My aha! moment. The gift of a simple life. I scheduled it to post to my website on Thursday, April 12.

Later that day, I got a link to my writer friend’s essay in my Facebook newsfeed: Living a frugal life doesn’t mean I’m not rich.*

Then I got a comment on my essay from another writer which lead me to this: Cherish the little things.

Then, the next day, Friday, April 13th, this in my email inbox: Slower and quieter.

Huh? What’s going on?

It’s serendipity. The synchronicity of the universe. Or a weird coincident. Whatever it is, it’s worth noting.

I wondered if the universe was counteracting the unlucky Friday the 13th vibes?

The “Slower and quieter” writer suggested that perhaps every Friday the 13th should be a “Simple Life” day.

Brilliant! I’m in!

The next Friday the 13th falls in July (which also happened to be my dad’s 86th birthday and my brother-in-law’s something something birthday.)

I’m going to declare it “Simple Life Day.”

If your life isn’t simple, by preference or default, that will be a day to remember to build in and relish at least a few quiet, simple moments.

I’ll remind you in advance. And maybe the universe will, too.

*If you like this essay by Rose Mary, you can clap for her—up to 50 claps!— by clicking on the clapping hands icon.