The Gift: Wherein Ruth shares a dream she had last night which is instantly quite telling, and even more so with a brief overview of a few threads weaving themselves together in her waking life.
Keturah! Ben! Becca! Mandy! Help!
The Backstory: Work
About a month and a half ago I was asked to test up to the next level at work. If I didn’t pass: no harm no foul. Things would stay as they are, and I am happy with things as they are. I get to learn why most Medicaids deserve to be cursed into the ground, and to make friends with 20-somethings in Mumbai. What’s not to love? And if I did pass I’d get a small promotion and the work would only change ever so slightly. Ah, but there’s the rub: the changes would be ever so slight but ever so stressful given the mental requirements of some of the other things I’m working on.
So I didn’t take the test. It just wasn’t the time to run the risk of success.
The Backstory: Money
Joy's Broken Nose
For the past several months I’ve been going to extra lengths to save money. Not denying myself the nice shampoo from Walmart, nor the $1 novels and videos from Half Price Books, but still: I’m saving. I’m pocketing. I’m adding financial caution to the agenda. And my efforts have actually proven themselves somewhat effective, all things considered. And once my car is paid off in December (HALLELUJAH!!) I’ll be able to put even more money away every month.
But what am I saving for? I know there doesn’t need to be a specific *something* at the end of the Savings Rainbow for guarded spending to be a good idea, but it sure does help to have something to work toward. But what do people my age save for? Houses? Better cars? DJ Hero? I’unno. I’m not really looking to put down the kind of roots right now that owning a house would entail, nor do I have any desire to replace Joy, especially not now that after 5 long years of forking over buckets of cash to Toyota every month she’s almost mine outright. And DJ Hero? Please. I top out with Solitaire. This leaves me with two savings goals that actually mean something to me: Furthering my Education (which I just misspelled… twice…) and Travel.
The Backstory: Here it comes…
The education thing? That’s a topic for a different entry. Maybe one I’ll write in a few months. Or not. It’s a bit dull, so perhaps never.
The travel thing? I know where I want to go, but I don’t want to go alone. It’s just not how I operate. I know what I want to do, but I don’t think I’m useful enough to even bring it up. At least- not useful in the right ways. But I do want to go, write, take pictures, blog, help, maybe entertain a brief brush with malaria. I want to hop on a plane and enjoy lengthy layover after lengthy layover in Texas, Costa Rica, Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina on my way to Paraguay where I will finally get to laugh when I see how short the walk really was from home to school.
But I continue to not make plans to go there because I am afraid it’s a stupid thing to make such plans. A silly thing. A silly thing to want so much to visit a place I lived so long ago and probably wouldn’t recognize, full of people I don’t know and who wouldn’t remember me. I was so young, you understand. Wider eyes have never graced a 10 year old. I feel like I haven’t earned the right to deserve a visit. Like I am only cool enough to be the one Yankee on the tour bus to know you don’t stir with the bombilla or you’ll get a mouth full of leaves.
In the backyard pool
And it was such a long time ago. Before Wasmosy, even. (But post-Stroessner, which with the hindsight of a 27 year old is rather fortunate I now realize.) So very, very long. Not as long ago as the white house on Linder Avenue in Midlothian, IL. Ah, but I want to see that again too. To knock on the side door by the kitchen and tell the new owners I dropped and broke a jar of spaghetti sauce right there on that very step. To show them where I sat by the heating vent watching operas and televangelists on our wood box TV set. To show them where my yellow desk used to sit in the pink bedroom. To show them where I wrote articles for the newspaper, solving all their crimes, peaceably calming all the grown-ups’ arguments. To show them the tree I climbed in the side yard; the one with dials carved into its branches; the one that was an airplane that flew me over the jungle.
One day I finally did fly over the jungle, but by that time I was no longer piloting myself in a summer of popsicles and cicadas. By that time I was being flown, listening to tapes on my very own Walkman, reading any and all chapter books having to do with horses. I hadn’t forgotten how to fly, I just didn’t need to do it for myself any more. Flight was now my reality, so my make-believe time could be spent on even wilder impossibilities, like seeing snow, or eating a pizza from Barraco’s.
Paraguay was where I learned I love to move. And somehow moving from Midlothian to Milwaukee wasn’t the same as moving from Chicago to Loma Pyta. Even Waukesha, WI to Canyon Country, CA wasn’t enough of a jump. It’s where I learned buying milk can be its own adventure. It’s where I learned heat and mosquito bites are survivable. It’s where I learned even the most passionate stubbornness cannot keep a sponge from absorbing.
Today my most passionate stubbornness cannot lead me to water. And I’m so thirsty.
In my dream last night I was at work when the phone rang at my desk. I put on my headset and clicked “Answer,” but before I could say anything I saw through my mind’s eye the two other people in the call: S, one of my coworkers, and D, a woman who works at the school I attended in Asuncion.
The thing you must know about S is that she’s charming. Friendly. A quick learner. Totally unpretentious, even in heels. A mother of two who, according to her Facebook “About Me”s loves all the right books, all the right movies, all the right music, and writing. She looks like she belongs on Mad Men. You wish she worked with you; she’s that cool.
The thing you must know about D is… is… Well now see: I don’t rightly know what you must know about her. She was never my teacher in grade school; we left before I ever had her. She knew my mother; my mother who also taught at that school and is so adorable in her classroom pictures you wish she was your mother; she’s that cute. I know D in that new “internet way” you know people these days as we’re now friends on Facebook. I look at her pictures, read her posts, and find myself liking the person she is, and the person she must’ve been then, and kind of wishing I could take her and my mother out for pumpkin spice frappuccinos to hear them talk about what I blindly, nostalgically, ignorantly dream of as “the good old days.”
I’m just rotten with nostalgia, kids. Absolutely over-flowing with the stuff.
But back to the dream. To the phone call. To the phone call I knew had only been intended for S, so why had my phone rung too? And why was I able to hear them and they were unable to hear me? I wanted to hang up, but it was such an odd pairing of people, of worlds, I couldn’t disconnect. I had to know what had brought them together.
And then I knew. And I didn’t know how to respond.
Driving to the camp
D had called to offer S a job at the school as a teacher. S didn’t want to teach, and hadn’t applied for a job there, but she was being offered a job there just the same. A job and a chance to see things I wanted to see. A job and a chance to blog about things I wanted to blog about. A job and a chance to eat things I wanted to eat. They talked, they laughed, S turned down the position, they talked, they laughed. Listening in I laughed too. It was just such a pleasant conversation, even just to overhear.
Should I have felt jealous? I didn’t think so. I didn’t want any such job, any such contract. I didn’t even know if I wanted to be away for so long. I’d be alone, you understand, with no family or ferrets to comfort me. So I didn’t feel jealous.
Should I have felt excited? I didn’t think so. This new connection wouldn’t necessarily have any bearing on me or my activities. And I couldn’t be excited for S because she hadn’t wanted this in the first place. So I didn’t feel excited.
Should I have felt… wasteful? Maybe. Or something like it. Maybe that was it. I felt like there was some opportunity I’d misused. Some chance that had come up, perhaps once, perhaps repeatedly, which I’d ignored because it was easier.
Maybe the dream centered around work because it was there I had so recently, and so willingly, given up an opportunity for advancement in the name of ease and comfort during a stressful season. But isn’t life always stressful? Don’t you run the risk of missing out on everything if you wait for smooth sailing to make your next move?
Maybe the dream centered around my old school because it was there a switch was flipped inside me that taught me to love writing and acting, two things I have consciously built into my life ever since. Maybe it represents things I can still go after if I really want them, but which are not going to come calling me up and offering themselves to me on silver platters, and the roads to which will be neither easy to navigate nor cheap to travel.
I have this beautiful family that I love. The best, most beautiful, most lasting gift I’ve ever been given. I live in a friendly town, curiously navigable and relatively clean. I have a job that teaches me new things, pays the bills, introduces me to new people. I have ferrets that are playful, ridiculous, and soothing. I’m surrounded by more books than I’ll ever read, more CDs than I should’ve ever owned, and access to every piece of information- from grand to asinine- through my home internet connection. These things are enough, but I know the world is bigger than Waukesha and I’ve only got 60 years left to learn it. And yet I won’t explore Oconomowoc just for the heck of it on an empty Sunday afternoon.
But isn’t that always the way? Always something more you long for? Hope for? Dream about on restless Sunday nights? I dream of heat that makes me nauseated, diesel fumes that trigger my brain into thinking it’s lunch time, swimming with fish too dark to see, and empanadas.
I do not dream of Oconomowoc.
In Conclusion: Ferrets