In Case of Emergency Break Seal

It’s been nearly 4 weeks since we were advised to shelter-in-place. I think. I’m not always very clear with my days now. I have mostly been working from my kitchen table. I have an office but this space affords me views out of my windows. I can testify that I have been to work in a more timely fashion than when I drove the short distance to town. On the other hand, I get very consumed with worry about our front-line workers, many of whom I supervise. I have come to feel quite “non-essential” in the big scheme of things.

After the first week I began to realize that the “news” was on in the background nearly 24/7.  I felt a poisoning of my spirit as the same discouraging loop played over and over and over.  It really grabbed me by the end of the day when I stepped away from my desk.  Dark.  Not conducive to keeping in good spirits.  In fact, to be honest it reminded me of the Vietnam body count on CBS news every night as a child.  Joy-depleting.

I used to suffer serious bouts of depression.  I am really big on preserving my joy.   I don’t practice avoidance, magical thinking, or ignorance — though some would argue that last point, I just don’t need to consume news all day and all night.  It makes me sick.  You may call me selfish but I do try to share my joy with others.  If I am empty I become a drain and not a pitcher.  I have nothing left to pour.  We had to find something else to do with our time.

Find joy in everything you choose to do. Every job, relationship, home … it’s your responsibility to love it, or change it.

~ Chuck Palahniuk
The best roll in Farkle

And so we farkled. Oh yes, we farkled almost every night for the better part of a week . . . for hours! No, farkle isn’t our code word for practicing procreating . . . it’s a dice game. We enjoyed that a great deal. We would play until passed bedtime and bleary-eyed. And then we took a break. I spent another week reading books at night with the TV on in the background. Once again the endless loop of bad news and bullshit. Or car auctions. Or Barbecue-Pit-Masters. Our house just wasn’t big enough for that much entertainment. I knew we were nearing the edge of our ability to peaceably cohabitate.

I have long had a difficult time with gift-giving. Christmas is very stressful for me, not because I can’t afford to buy gifts, but because I think I pretty much suck at it. I had more than one gift that I had given to my parents and others, returned. In my mind. . . rejected. In fact, I eventually told my mother that if she didn’t want the gifts I offered, please donate them. It was hurtful to get them back. It’s become a problem for me.

Atelophobia:  the fear of imperfection, of not doing something right.

Webster’s Dictionary
Island of Misfit Toys ~ Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

I’ve had to accept that I’m not good at this.  If Christmas came without presents I would be in great shape.  Instead, I get super anxious about gift buying/giving. 

Mom tucked one such Land-of-Misfit-Toys-gift away until the time I could find it on my own. This one was discovered upon paring down Mom’s possessions for her move to assisted living. This week I retrieved that box from upstairs storage and let it sit on the table for a few days. I was honestly paralyzed wondering, “Should I keep the box intact or break the seal?” Maybe it was worth something in its almost pristine state? After (yet) another episode of “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” I decided it was time to break the seal.

I think most people complete a puzzle by gathering the edge pieces first and creating the basic shape of the puzzle. That’s how Bill and I started this one. There was a little bit of mystery when we had one extra edge piece once the outline was completed. We realized that we had two identical pieces. Our 1,000 piece puzzle was evidently a 1,001 piece puzzle. I felt bad for whoever bought the puzzle in 1985 with the missing piece. I hope that after 35 years they have found a way to “let it go”.

As Bill and I spent hours constructing this puzzle I came to appreciate why Mom and Dad never opened the damn box! It was very difficult. The hoodoos of Bryce Canyon were very similar to each other. We became obsessed. This was not a leisure activity. Our bedtimes were much closer to 1:00 a.m. than 10:00 p.m. We labored on. My goal was to have the puzzle completed by Friday morning. Into the wee hours we worked. As the pieces dwindled it became a bit easier. And then at last we were down to 4 blank spaces . . . and 4 pieces . . . including the extra edge piece. No! Seriously? How could it be that we were robbed of an interior piece in exchange for an edge piece? I think I could relate to the owner of the 999 piece puzzle back in 1985. I got down on my hands and knees and searched the floor. And then, noticing Bill’s feet under the table I said,

“Bill, look in your slippers!” 

First the left foot. Nothing. Then the right foot . . . out fell the missing piece! We high-fived each other and stood back to appreciate our creation. We are quite a pair. I was proud of us. After a few moments we staggered up to bed vowing never to make a 1,000 piece puzzle again and feeling thankful that we once had found each other.

For the first time in my life I’ve felt whole, alive, and free.  You were the missing piece of my soul, the breathe in my lungs, the blood in my veins.  I think that if passed lives are real then we have been lovers in every single one of them. 

J. A. Redmerksi

1 thought on “In Case of Emergency Break Seal

  1. Adorable!!!
    I sure do understand the never feeling like I am good enough!!
    Love and hugs my friend!!!


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