Slice of Write

stories & jibber-jabber

Some people prefer chiropractors, others may favor acupuncture or yoga for pain management.  I am not one of those people.  I have tried it all, and massage therapy seems to always benefit my neck and shoulder problems best.  Yes, I have turned into one of those people that happily steps on my soap box to tell any friends, family, or strangers within earshot how wonderful massage therapy is and how it has changed my life.

My first piece of advice is finding the right massage therapist.  See, I prefer to keep my eyes closed, not speak, and try and relax as much as possible during that fifty-five minutes of bliss.  In order to achieve my euphoria, I must avoid three types of massage therapists.

The first type is the talker.  Some massage therapists, albeit probably just being friendly and nice, want to tell me everything about their three kids to planning their mother’s birthday party next weekend.  These people are the equivalent of the passenger on the airplane that won’t shut up when all you want to do is put on your headphones and sleep thru the next five hours.  To the talker’s chagrin, I don’t want to hear it.  I have my own kids and my own mother’s birthday to deal with.  I just want my fifty-five minutes of uninterrupted quiet time, minus the Yanni music in the background, of course. 

The second type of therapist to avoid is the butcher.  My goal is to have complete relaxation; however, there are some therapists that pride themselves on forcing muscles, flesh, and bones into places they haven’t been in decades.   You feel like a piece of meat they are trying to tenderize in the most agonizing way possible.  A word of advice to those who don’t enjoy torture, if you happen to come across a massage therapist who cracks their knuckles before touching you, run fast.  Don’t look back.  Just run, because if you don’t, you are going to endure fifty-five minutes of the most brutal touching, pulling, and rubbing you have ever experienced in your life.  If you ignore that inner voice telling you to run, you will be grimacing and grinding your teeth throughout the next fifty-five minutes.  And, to make matters worse, those fifty-five minutes will feel like an eternity. 

The last type of massage therapist I avoid is the interrupter.  They are sneaky because they can be quiet for minutes at a time.  However, all of the sudden, usually when you feel like a blob of melting butter on top of a warm pancake, this person will cough, change the volume on the radio, move the table up and down, or put a blazing hot towel from hell on your back without notice.   Once is fine, but the interrupter has a tendency to do this at least three or four times during your fifty-five minutes.  I have come to the conclusion they can’t help themselves.  They are one step away from being a butcher.  Their abrupt actions become so intrusive that you are unable to fall back into your happy place because your reflexes have kicked in, and your body involuntarily tenses up to prepare for the next interruption.

The thing I stress to people most is, when you are lucky enough to find that elusive perfect massage therapist, don’t ever let them go.  If they change their schedule, you must alter yours.  If they move to another facility, interrogate whoever necessary to find out where they went so you can follow.  If you don’t, you’ll have to go through the whole process of finding your new perfect massage therapist.  Sometimes you may be lucky and score well on your first try; however, more often than not, you’ll have to go through at least one talker, butcher, or interrupter to get there.

I used to despise my superpower.  Why couldn’t I fly, read people’s minds, or have the ability to fight off an evil army all by myself?  Yes, the ability to be completely invisible can be annoying at times; however, as I have gotten older, I embrace it.  For example, it’s frustrating when I see an attractive man and want him to notice me, but that never happens.  I could light myself on fire and he wouldn’t bat an eye.  I’m not what you would describe as “beautiful”, but I don’t think I’m hideous either.  I’m average.  Everything in my life is average.  I’m of average height, average weight, a mediocre job, and live in an average, decent apartment. 

I’m used to falling into the background because I’m child five of six in my family.  By the time my parents had me, they already had the parenting thing down.  My older siblings helped care for me, and when I was old enough, I was able to help care for our youngest sister.  The eldest is Betty, she was the beauty queen, gorgeous, and always had a date every Friday and Saturday night.  Jack, the second, was pretty much the male version of Betty, except he was a star athlete on top of everything else.  Alex and Samantha are twins.  Growing up, Alex was the troublemaker.  He was always talking in class or starting fights at recess.  Samantha was the nerd.  She loved to read and excelled in school.  Then there was me.  We already had the beauty queen, prom king/jock, wild one, and genius, so there was nothing left for me.  I was just there.  I held the title of youngest, or baby, which I was fine with, until Emily was born six years after me.  She took away the one defining trait I had.  Emily was the baby now and would always be the baby because mom had to have a hysterectomy shortly after she was born.  Emily was the sensitive, sweet one, that got away with everything.  By the time she was a teenager, my parents were in the mid-fifties and had been through it all.  They were done with the screaming and discipline so Emily reaped the benefits. 

I seemed to just fade into the background after Emily was born, and I continued to stay there my entire life.  I am always here, right in front of you, but you never seem to see me.  I am invisible, a human blind spot.  I am the quiet neighbor in the apartment next door that enjoys listening to Frank Sinatra when I cook.  I am the lady on the bus that always sits at the window seat, in the second to the last row.  I am the patron at the restaurant that leaves a generous tip.  I am the co-worker you always see in the elevator, but never say hello to.  I am the friend that always remembers your birthday.  I am the lady at the grocery store that let you cut in line because you only have a few items and I have an entire grocery cart full of stuff.  I am the woman that enjoys wearing skirts and colorful scarfs.  I am the sister that is at mom and dad’s every Thanksgiving and Christmas like clockwork. 

The next time you actually happen to see me, or one of my fellow invisible mates, please don’t hesitate to say hello, smile, or just nod in our general direction.  It means the world to us that, even for just a brief moment, we do exist in the same world. 

Words, phrases, punctuation, conversational flow, plot, storyline, bully my thoughts.  You don’t let me concentrate on tasks that actually pay my bills.  Always flooding my mind with new narratives, or a witty comeback for a character to say.  I can’t even get a full night’s rest anymore without waking up in the darkness and fumbling for the paper and pen I keep under my pillow.  I open my eyes in the morning and vigorously grab the pad of paper to see what ideas interrupted my dreams last night.  Sometimes good ones, other times it’s all gibberish, and I can’t even follow my own thought process.  During the day, I try and work on expense reports and spreadsheets, but all I think about is where my protagonist is going on their next adventure.  Phone calls and emails interrupt my timeline design.  The clock moves so slowly at the office and speeds up at home.  Eating, phone calls from my mom, and personal hygiene interrupt my writing time.  I try and steal as many precious free moments as I can – even in the shower, I’m thinking of the next chapter.  I just want the world to shut down and allow me to do what I am destined to do.  Writing from dusk to midnight is never enough.  It’s become a habit I can’t shake.  I’m an addict.  I have lost complete control and have allowed the desire to write to fully consume my body.  Once a hobby, writing has now become a complete obsession.  I’m too weak to fight it any longer.  I would rather be at home in front of the computer writing about friendship than actually out with my friends at a movie, bar, museum, or restaurant.  My friends and social life are collateral damage in my new life.  The characters I created are my friends now.  We have endless debates about where the plot should go next, and deep philosophical conversations about life.  All of them understand my quirky personality and laugh at my sarcastic sense of humor.  They need me as much as I need them.  I give them life and they give me purpose.  I check the time on the computer screen and heave a big sigh.  It’s Monday morning again and I have not left the apartment in two days.  I’m in the middle of an important conversation between Jonathan and Mason.  They beg me to finish before I leave.  I start to argue, but they are too powerful.  I text my boss and tell him I’m sick and not able to come into the office today.  Jonathan and Mason both smile as I wipe my brow and join the conversation again.      

It happened so quickly I didn’t know how to react.  Neither did he.  I hadn’t touched anyone in a very long time, let alone a stranger, since the pandemic stay at home orders were instituted, and I assumed he felt the same.  I was at the grocery store checkout line, and accidentally dropped the pack of m&ms the checker had left on the little shelf next to the credit card machine.  It wasn’t like I was going to eat them right that second (I would at least wait till I hit the parking lot), but I guess they put precious items such as candy, water bottles, and greeting cards there on that protective shelf so they don’t get smashed at the bottom of a grocery bag by some unsuspecting cans of soup or, God help me, put in the bag containing raw chicken by mistake.  As soon as the helpless m&ms fell from the counter, my reflexes kicked in and I moved my hand to grab them.  The courtesy clerk, aka bagger, had the same impulse and went to save the m&ms for me.  Our hands briefly touched in the struggle to pick-up the bag of chocolate gems, and rescue it from the carton of orange juice and box of jumbo kitty litter raging down the conveyer belt.  As soon as our hands touched, we looked at each other as if we did something wrong and got caught.  His eyes were wide and I imagine mine were the same.  We both quickly apologized and went on with our business.  On my way out of the store, he said, “have a great day” and I thanked him and wished him a good day too.  We were careful not to touch again or make further eye contact.  We didn’t want to make that wonderful, yet dangerous mistake again. 

It is that time of year of reflection and hope.  Unfortunately, all of that seems to get jumbled up with anxiety filled thoughts of wondering what time the wine shop closes because I need to buy one last gift, or trying to estimate what is the best time to leave my house to beat the traffic on Christmas Eve to arrive at my sister’s house on time, because I definitely do not want a repeat of last year.

I often long for, which I am sure many adults do, the simpler times.  When the biggest conflicts in our lives would be trying to guess what is that funny shaped gift wrapped in green and white paper laying under the Christmas tree, or is Santa going to bring me that new doll I asked for this year.  Holiday parties at school, watching Christmas movies, and helping my mom decorate cookies, pretty much consumed my adolescent self during this time of year.  Now, I stress out from everything to what should I wear to the office holiday party to did I remember to take the price tag off of my nephew’s Christmas gift before I wrapped it last night.

If I could really ask Santa for one thing this year, it would be to go back in time.  To wake up on Christmas morning when it was still dark outside, tap my sister till she woke up, and run to the Christmas tree to see what Santa brought us.  Mom stirring from her bedroom, probably hearing our laughing and squealing from down the hall.  Dad slowly behind mom, making his way to the coffee pot.  My sister and I both shouting at our parents, “look at what Santa brought us!”.

The day would be spent playing with our toys and showing our relatives the gifts we received from Santa.  We would have a delicious dinner, followed by dessert, and spend the evening watching a Christmas movie and playing under the Christmas Tree.  Mom and Dad would tuck my sister and I into bed, and we would be so exhausted from the wonderful day we just had.  Thoughts of my new toys and playing with my friends tomorrow would consume my thoughts and I would fall into a deep sleep.  The kind of restful sleep only a child on Christmas can experience. 

I was watching the news last night and felt myself drifting off to sleep.  I was excited that I might be able to sleep tonight for the first time in weeks.  I shut off the tv, set my alarm on my phone, and turned over in bed.  Within fifteen minutes of waiting for sleep to overcome me, I realized I was wrong.  The small bout of tiredness was all a ruse.  I re-positioned my pillows, turned over to my other side, and tried not to think about the million things I need to do at work tomorrow.  Did I remember to email Sadie the agenda for the meeting on Thursday?  Did Jack plug in those financials I needed for the presentation?  I hoped I wasn’t forgetting anything.  Stop, I told myself.  I let out a deep breath and thought about the snow falling outside.  The two large trees in the front yard would be covered in snow, and the neighborhood would look like a winter wonderland tomorrow morning. 

“It looks like a Christmas card,” my Aunt Shelly would tell me.  She loved the snow.  It always gave us a good excuse to make hot chocolate, bake cookies, and watch old movies by the fireplace.  Oh, how I miss my Aunt Shelly.  She was the best and always made me feel special.  Anytime I was having a bad day because someone said something about my parents, or a group of kids called me names and chased me home from school, Aunt Shelly could somehow make all of those feelings of sadness and anxiety go away – even if only for a few hours.  I remember sitting on the couch, snuggled in that soft blanket with the birds on it, watching actresses such as Grace Kelly or Ingrid Bergman on the television screen, and wishing I could be them when I grew up.  They were all beautiful, smart, funny, and everyone liked them.  My Aunt Shelly would tell me I was perfect just the way I was.  Her words were always positive and a nice change from the words I was used to hearing about myself. 

I turned on the light on the nightstand and walked to the linen closet in the hallway.  Buried underneath some other blankets, I found the blanket with the birds on it.  I rescued it from the blanket prison and took it back to my room.  I gently lay it on top of my comforter and shut off the light.  I got back into the warm bed and grabbed the blanket as tight as I could.  It smelled more like an old bounce sheet than cookies, but the soft cotton polyester blend felt calming against my skin.  Within a few minutes, I felt myself drifting off to sleep.

It’s finally here! The Other Side of the Ledge is available on Amazon via Kindle or hard copy. Thanks to everyone for your love and support. I hope you enjoy reading it, and I look forward to chatting about it with you soon!

Summary: A young widow finds new meaning in life in this empowering novel about the death of a husband and the way mental health plays a role in relationships. Kara McKay, a California paralegal, never expected to be a widow at thirty-seven. Now, as a young woman coping with the sudden death of her husband, Kara reflects on the ups and downs of her marriage while she uses humor to navigate pain. Supported by family and friends, Kara begins to accept the man her husband was and the new person she has become. The Other Side of the Ledge is a witty, heartfelt story about the bittersweet nature of love and loss and the power of family and friendship.

I arrived at the office building about thirty minutes prior to my interview.  Perfect.  I have time to freshen up, look over my resume again, and mentally prepare.  Fifteen minutes before the interview, I take another sip of water, check my makeup in the visor mirror for the 85th time, and open my car door.  I suddenly realize my car key fob is missing.  Dammit!  I have done this twice since I bought this car a few months ago.  I try to remember to put it in the cup holder for safe keeping, but sometimes, when I’m in a hurry, that doesn’t always happen.  It’s a used car, but it’s only a couple of years old.  My previous vehicle was a 2002 and had absolutely no technology hinderances at all.  I was able to manually roll-up my windows, throw six cds into the disc changer, and, most importantly, I had an actual key!  Two minutes later, I feel my face is flushed, I’m out of breath, knees on the pavement, frantically searching under the passenger seat – where I found it last time.  I rush back over to the driver side to check again, trying not to open my car door too wide, and smack the brand-new Mercedes next to me.  Ten minutes until the interview.  This is it.  Now or never.  I check between the console and my seat one more time.  I shove my hand into that weird black hole of a space between the seat and the console, and feel what I can only imagine are some old jellybeans and pieces of hardened french fries.  I have a tendency to eat in my car and, albeit, I can be a bit of a messy eater.  Okay, I am a super messy eater and usually end up spilling stuff all over the place, but that’s my business.  My fiancé is always on my case about keeping the car clean.  I do keep it clean.  I don’t have trash, boxes of crap, or empty water bottles all over the place.  It’s mostly just food crumbs and some very light soda and/or coffee stains here and there on the seats and floor.  I suddenly felt the cold, heartless key fob in my fingers.  I carefully bring it back to the land of the living, but then it fell back down into the abyss.  Yikes!  I carefully shove my hand back into the crevice.  “C’mon you little jerk,” I mumble to the key fob.  I feel the key fob again and manage to kidnap it from its sanctuary.  I frantically jump out of my car and look down at myself, searching for any unexpected dirt stains on my suit.  Four minutes until my interview.  I slam the car door and hit the fob to lock it.  I elegantly sprint from the parking lot to the building.  On my way, I throw the annoying key fob into my purse.  I’m sure after my interview he’ll be hiding at the bottom of my bag, and it will take me anywhere from three to five minutes to find him again.  He thinks it’s a game.  Unfortunately, it is, and he seems to always win.  I check the time as I frantically push myself into the elevator with ten of my new best friends.  One minute to my interview.

As I drove through the old neighborhood, memories of my kids playing at the community park, riding our bikes to the ice cream shop, and driving them to school every morning, filled my heart.  Austin and Sophia are now in their late twenties and both live out of state.  Jeremiah, their father, and I divorced when they were in elementary school and we rarely saw him once they hit middle school.  It was his loss, not theirs.  I moved across the state several years ago for a job opportunity, and this was my first time back since I drove off in the moving truck on that clear, Fall day.  Moving day had been full of laughter and tears as the kids and I finished packing up the last of our things.  Sophia had found the tiara she wore in her first dance recital, and Austin had been enthralled with his old video game set.  We had all gone out to the backyard to say our final goodbye to the place where we spent so many lovely evenings.  I would be laying on my favorite lounge chair, reading or chatting on the phone, while I watched Austin and Sophia take turns climbing the old oak tree, or fight over who was “it” when playing tag. 

My car turned the all too familiar right turn onto our old street.  The sedan seemed to know exactly where I was going without any direction from me.  We passed Mr. and Mrs. Potter’s house.  Unfortunately, they both have passed away, and I heard their kids sold the house about a year ago.  Trey and Selene lived next door with their three kids, but moved shortly after I did to upgrade to a larger home.  I didn’t recognize any of the cars on the street anymore.  My sedan slowed and I parked across the street from our old house.  The plan was to just drive by, but apparently, my car had other plans.  I turned the ignition off, removed my seat belt, and just sat in the car staring at our old house.  Despite the different color house paint, and a new front door, I could still easily picture what it used to look like in my mind.  Tears filled my eyes.  I now understood what my mom felt when we had driven by her old house many years ago.  I was eleven or twelve years old, sitting in the back of my parent’s station wagon, when my dad had pulled over to park across from mom’s childhood home.  I remember tears had filled her eyes and my dad had gently put his hand on hers to comfort her.  At the time, I truly didn’t understand what the big deal was…it was just a house.  Now, I feel what mom must have felt all of those years ago.  The longing to go back in time, even just for a few moments, to feel the warmth and love that filled the walls.  Oh, how I would give anything to be cooking dinner on that ancient stove, or yelling at the kids to come help set the table for dinner. 

I was immersed in memories, when the streetlights abruptly turned on.  I realized I should probably leave, even though I wanted to stay there forever. 

I snapped my seatbelt back into its place and reluctantly turned on the ignition.  Tears streamed down my face again as I took one last look at the old house as the car started to accelerate down the street.