Feelin’ Groovy

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If we were having coffee this morning, I’d probably have to toss you a to-go mug and tell you to try to keep up. My boys are coming home today, and I’ve got to be to work by 2:45, so my morning is going to be a whirlwhind.

Taking the time to write a blog post is probably not the best use of my time, to be perfectly honest. But that’s sort of what I want to talk about today.

We’re all busy. That’s just the way it is. It’s part of being a grownup. I work my two jobs plus some freelance writing and of course, I work on my books. I try to squeeze in a little bit of housework here and laundry there, and once in a while I have an extra ten minutes to unpack yet another box of stuff I probably don’t need but brought to the new apartment anyway. Last week, I also made cookies for the tailgate party at the school, and I managed to hem a pair of pants for one of the kids in the marching band. I even found a few minutes to throw some stitches into a baby quilt I’ve been working on for almost four years.

The baby I was making it for started kindergarten this year. At this rate, the quilt may be finished in time for her first child.

At any rate, I have been trying to settle into a routine. I’ve always been a morning person, so I’ve been setting my alarm a little bit earlier every day. I drag myself out of bed and try to check a few items off my to-do list before my day really starts. I’m usually up and functioning from 5 a.m. until I get home just before midnight.

Last night’s shift at the hotel was even busier than my personal life. I was alone at the desk on a Saturday night with a stack full of check-ins, a family reunion in the meeting room, and a mountain of laundry in the back. I was on the run the entire shift, delivering rollaways and cribs and extra blankets to rooms on the third floor, riding the elevator up and down in search of missing luggage carts, and answering phone calls from people who couldn’t understand why every hotel in town was booked up. I was busy folding sheets, making coffee, delivering pitchers of ice water, answering questions about the internet password, and resisting the urge to throat-punch the ridiculously loud inflatable ghost in the lobby that is going to drive me to insanity long before Halloween ever actually gets here.

It was around ten o’clock when the ladies from the family reunion gathered in the lobby and asked me to take their picture. They were laughing and handing me phones and cameras, and all of them kept shouting “wait!” or “hold on!” until finally one of the older women shushed them all and reminded them that I still had work to do, so would they please just quiet down so I could take their picture and go? Then she turned to me and said, “You really seem to have so much fun with your job.”

It knocked the wind right out of me.

She was right; I was having a blast.

I love what I do. I am good at customer service. I’ve been so caught up in the cycle of working and feeling sorry for myself that it never dawned on me that I’m actually having fun again.

I still miss doing hair. I miss the regular customers who came to me as kids, and for their proms, and for their weddings, and then with their own children. I miss my little old ladies who came to me for their roller sets every Friday for eighteen years. I miss the smell of perm solution and the tingle of bleach on my fingertips because I always hated wearing gloves during color services. I miss having that little nick between my first two fingers that I consistently gave myself at least once a week. I even miss coming home at night and finding those tiny pieces of hair in my pockets and sometimes inside my bra.

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Okay, too far– I do not miss the ones inside my bra. Especially not the ones that worked their way into my skin from time to time and became infected.

The point is I know I’m never going back. I’ve known it since six months after my accident. When the judge denied my Disability claim — and my appeals — I accepted the fact that the rest of my life will be spent doing something other than the job I loved. Just like I’ve accepted the fact that I’m always going to hurt, I’m always going to tire easily, and half of my left hand is always going to be numb. It is what it is, right?

Last night, those wonderful ladies made me realize that I’m having fun at work again. I’m not just punching the clock and earning a paycheck; I’m enjoying myself. My inner snob wants me to strive for something better than minimum-wage, second shift, entry-level stuff.  But my inner snob is kind of a jerk, to be perfectly honest.

I’ve been struggling all along to accept. Accept that my life is different now. Accept that my body has changed. Accept that I’m divorced and my kids are growing up and the world is changing faster than I can keep up; accept that life is flying by and I’m just along for the ride, hanging on for dear life.

I’m done accepting. I want to have fun again. I want to enjoy my time here on Earth, enjoy my friends and family and yes, enjoy the work that I do. So what if I can’t check off everything on my to-do list every day?

You know what? Give me back that to-go cup and let me give you my favorite mug with the seagulls on it. I’ll throw a batch of Jiffy blueberry muffins in the oven, and we’ll sit down at my grandmother’s old table and really talk.

It’s Sunday morning, the sun is shining, and I don’t have to be to work for a few more hours. Let’s enjoy today for what it is.

Be sure to visit Diana over at Part-Time Monster to link up and see what some other bloggers have had to say with their weekly coffee share.  Thanks to Diana for hosting the #coffeeshare posts!

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Worth More than a Thousand Words

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As a rule, I don’t like pictures of myself.   I always think I look fat and my smile looks forced.   I am not now, nor have I ever been a photogenic person.

So it may seem odd that I would choose a picture of myself to write about.

This is one of the few pictures of me that I actually like, because of the smile I’m wearing.  For once, my smile doesn’t look forced and camera-fake; I look genuinely, eye-sparkling, on-the-brink-of-joyous-tears happy.

Of course, there’s a story.

With me, there’s always a story.

When I came home from the hospital after my car accident, my hair was red.  Not by choice; it had been an over-processed, porous blonde that became stained by blood from my head injury.  The ER nurse shaved an inch-wide swath across the top so the doctor could stitch my scalp, and someone else shaved from the nape up to my occipital so the surgeon had room to rebuild my shattered neck.  Three other round spots were shaved to make room for what we later referred to as “corncob holders” – metal pieces attached to my skull to keep me from moving during the surgery.

Afterward, they strapped me into a metal and plastic contraption that immobilized everything from the waist up.  It pushed my double chins up into my eyeballs; I think it forced cleavage into my earlobes and backfat up my nose.  Then they stood me up with a walker and sent me on my way.

It was not a good look for me.

Yikes!  Tina, of course, is beautiful as always
Yikes! Tina, of course, is beautiful as always

I am not a vain person, but I like to do my hair and make-up.  As a cosmetologist, it was always important for me to look finished: hair styled, make-up applied, jewelry in all of the appropriate orifices.  But in those first weeks, I couldn’t do any of those things.   No contact lenses, no make-up.  I couldn’t shower, and those “dry shampoos” didn’t do anything about the oil and caked blood in what was left of my poor, tufty hair.  I wore wrinkled hospital gowns or baggy clothes that fit around the brace, going barefoot or in worn flip flops.  Jewelry was out of the question; even my wedding ring had been removed at the hospital, and there was no suggestion of trying to force it back onto my numb left hand.

For seven weeks, I had to look at that.  I had to smell that.  In the face of people telling me how lucky I was to be alive, I had to deal with the guilt of feeling like an ungrateful brat for being depressed about my appearance.  I hated myself, my pain-wracked body, my lost career, the hot weather.  Everything.  Especially that damned brace.

I felt shallow and ugly and stupid.

When the brace came off, my former co-workers at DGist Salon took care of me.  They cut and colored my hair, shaped my brows, applied my make-up.   They pampered me and made me human again.

And they took that picture with my phone.

What was I thinking?  I’m pretty!  I was thinking that maybe, just maybe, everything was going to be okay.   There’s more than joy in my eyes in that picture; I see hope, gratitude, love. . . and a little spark that I thought I had lost somewhere in the twisted metal and broken glass.

What happened next?  Good days, bad days, everything in between.

Recovery.

Life.