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{August 20, 2019}   The Pain of Downsizing

So, I’ve decided to come clean or should I say “become clean?” It’s not really my decision; I no longer have a choice. My landlady says the stuff has to go. I now have a deadline.

My kitchen

After living 60 years, this is what I have to show for my life. Beginning with babysitting in my teens, I have worked for most of it and this is what’s left.

My husband took the best stuff: the leather sectional couch, the cherry king sleigh bed with the Temperpedic mattress and the Tiffany lamp (just to name the standouts so you get the idea). And I didn’t argue because I knew I couldn’t afford a place big enough to house that stuff, and I just wanted peace after years of misery.

He took his prizes and moved out of state. I moved to a small apartment with my two cats that I was lucky to find in the newspaper (yes, my mother still got one, thank goodness). I was left to watch a family of renters with two Saint Bernards and two cats ruin our 5000 sq ft house. All the stuff my husband didn’t want was locked in the furnace room in the basement. According to the lease, I was responsible for the yard, and I struggled to mow the acre of hilly lawn before or after work. I did some weeding, but soon gave that up, letting my beloved flowers choke as I felt choked. All of this was hard for a woman in her fifties.

The renters finally moved out because the guy I hired came out three times and couldn’t fix the Thermador double oven and we couldn’t afford to buy a new one. Now what?

We would have to sell the house at a bad time. (No, I didn’t want to move back in and take in boarders as my husband suggested.) We would have to short sell it. And so began the process of going through what was left, yard sale after yard sale alone, making very little, because no one wanted to pay for anything. It was a heartbreaking lesson.

Then the selling process and the negotiating. The new owners fighting me for all the large items I had no place to put and couldn’t move: thousands of dollars of exercise equipment, the pool table, the air hockey table basically given to them. They were the ones who had the money to buy this huge home and they were robbing me! I felt hopeless, humiliated and angry. And my husband, from afar, was angry at me: couldn’t I see that everyone involved was making money but us??? Of course I could — I was the one witnessing everything up close and personal!

The night before the closing, my neighbors and my realtors helped me clean out what was left in the garage. My much-loved neighbors added to their own trash by taking stuff to their house to go out for trash pick-up and the realtors filled their vehicles to use the dumpsters where they lived and worked.

I had moved the items I didn’t want to part with to a storage unit. There were a few items of furniture, but it was mostly memorabilia and sentimental items. I had very little time to go through anything, working two jobs and taking care of my aging mother. The storage place raised the price of the unit every six months. I crammed more stuff into my apartment, gave some things away, had to throw some stuff out that got ruined by mice. Then I downsized to a smaller unit. I tried to put everything into bins so nothing else would get ruined. And the storage place raised the price, again and again, until I was paying the original larger unit price for the smaller unit. I finally brought everything to my apartment to save money.

Which brings me to now. I have consolidated and given away at least 6 bins worth. And now the rest has to go without any more painstaking sorting. And my anger has me writing this. (Healthier than drinking and taking valium.)

Believe me, I know I am fortunate. Plenty of people never have stuff to have to downsize from. And I know someone who lost everything to a fire, including countless gorgeous sweaters she had knitted over the years (I think I was more heartbroken about those sweaters than she was!) But I’m still angry. Angry at this throw-away culture, angry at the people who take advantage of people in bad situations, and angry at myself and my husband for all the money and years we wasted.

I have learned some tough lessons when it is too late to do me much good.

The dear friends who have watched me go through all this tell me I am amazing and inspiring, because I have found within me the resiliency to still try to have a life and find some joy. This is just the highlights (and lowlights) of what I have been through. Maybe I will retell my story in a much more literary and more grammatical format and detail in the future, but the anger and pain demand I write this now.

I hope this action burns out what is left of my anger and shame, and maybe teaches others something. Be kind to people you think are hoarders; they are not broken, they are people in pain and they have been through enough without your judgment.

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{June 18, 2019}   Women Under Scrutiny

I have been pretty much MIA in the blogging universe for the last couple of years. I am busy working and trying to make headway with my photography and writing in the real world. And finally I have something to celebrate!

I had a poem chosen to be included in this anthology! I can’t write a better synopsis than this paragraph from the back of the book:

“Women Under Scrutiny is an honest, intimate examination of the relationships we have with our bodies, hair, and faces, how we’ve been treated by the world based on our appearance — and how we have treated others.” All proceeds go to Rosie’s Place in Boston, a very worthy cause!

You can purchase it on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Women-Under-Scrutiny-Anthology-Stories/dp/173209361X

 

A great big thank you to Randy Susan Meyers and Brooklyn Girl Books for putting this together! And for her wonderful new novel “Waisted” about women struggling with the issue of weight loss in our judgmental society.

 



{November 8, 2018}   SAD is real

leaves blowing

Frenzied leaves

Every year around this time I go through it. I have my reasons: feeling disconnected at the holidays, my birthday, the anniversary of my failed marriage, the anniversary of my beloved father’s death. Despite this defensive litany, I know it started long before any of that. It is the grayness outside, the darkness inside. It is an annual battle; it is my civil war.

 

Civil War

One would think after all my years
I would be better prepared for this annual battle,
but I’m never sure exactly which day it will begin.

It could be early autumn:
the first chilly day, when the north wind barks its arrival,
sending multi-colored leaves into a frenzied formation,
a whirling activity that mesmerizes me in place.
Or it could be late autumn, when the dried leaves
huddle in the hollow places before the snow comes.
Or it could be when the holidays advancing
with their flags and torches beneath gray skies
and heavy clouds, like a low cellar ceiling,
fans my fears with a kind of claustrophobia.

But sometimes it is a sudden attack —
coming face to face with another birthday,
a civil war, the most brutal of battles,
so close-up and personal,
and the best I can do is cowardly sneak
away from the fray,
and stay away from mirrors.

C 2017 Susan Desrocher



{October 2, 2018}   Mourning Petty

Tom PettyI was writing in my 10-yr journal this morning; each page contains an entry for the same day for ten different years. I saw that one year ago we got the news of the Las Vegas shooting and the death of Tom Petty. It affected me deeply. I cried at work; the woman in the cube across from me played Tom Petty songs all afternoon. It motivated me to search for this drawing I had done in my younger years. Also, it motivated me to write this poem.

MOURNING PETTY

It was already a tumultuous time:

floods and hurricanes washing away

cars, homes, and lives.

The morning of that day

brought news of a horrifying mass murder;

a sniper in sin city,

mowing down music lovers.

Then came the unbearable

cherry on top:

Petty found lifeless,

plugged in/unplugged.

The news was confused

yet clear.

He was gone.

My brother told my mother

I lost “my man,”

referring to the sketch I drew

when I was young,

and so was Petty.

For a few years his image smirked

on my bedroom wall

as I rebelled against a “normal life,”

following music from club to club,

thirsty for meaning.

His nasal voice held emotion like cupped hands;

Wildflower, listen,

there’s no need to be thirsty

when you can drink from the spring

of creativity and life.

Forty years’ worth of his music

and it felt as if he told the story

of all our lives through song.

American girl, he reminds me,

keep searching.

Copyright 2017 Susan Merrifield Desrocher




I just found out that Donald Hall died last week at age 89. It prompted me to find the blog I wrote about him three years ago. The writing world has lost someone special.

Sued51's Blog

Donald Hall, "Essays After Eighty" Donald Hall’s latest book

Why would a fifty-something-year-old woman relate to the essays of an eighty-something-year-old man? Does that say something about him, about me, or both of us? This is not really a review, but a review of sorts; my stream-of-consciousness emotional reaction to his latest book. In all reality, just what a writer really wants…a confirmation of a connection made, not just an intellectual criticism of the writing.

I have always liked Donald Hall’s poetry, and when I read John Freeman‘s well-written interview with him in Poets and Writers (Nov/Dec edition) and read the excerpts from the book, Essays After Eighty, I was burning to read it. So off to the library I went.

Sitting down to read the first essay “Out the Window,” (without a window in sight) I can see what he sees — the old barn, the snow falling, the birds at the feeder — because he describes…

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{March 18, 2018}   Thinking of William Blake

When I took a class on the Romantic poets in college, William Blake was one of my favorites. I remember watching the movie “Bull Durham” not long after that at a time when I was crazy about baseball (and Kevin Costner), and I loved the movie even more when Susan Sarandon’s character quoted Blake at Costner’s character!

Today I was getting ready for a writing workshop that I run once a month, looking through a (VERY) old poetry book (copyright 1876!) and I came across one by Blake. It is funny how sometimes the right poem comes up at the right time. I especially love when I can’t put my own feelings into words and come across words by someone else that describe my feelings or situation better than I can.

I was walking through a graveyard yesterday while out taking pictures and I was taken by two matching gravestones. Not only do they pair well with each other, I think they pair well with Blake’s poem. What do you think?

gravestones

Husband and wife headstones

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE GARDEN OF LOVE

I went to the garden of love,

And saw what I never had seen;

A chapel was built in the midst,

Where I used to play on the green.

 

And the gate of this chapel was shut,

And “thou shalt not” writ over the door;

So I turned to the garden of love,

That so many sweet flowers bore.

 

And I saw it was filled with graves,

And tomb-stones where flowers should be;

And priests in black gowns were walking their rounds,

And binding with briars my joys and desires.

 

WILLIAM BLAKE

 



{March 7, 2018}   Fireless Dragon

House

 

 

Jackie Paper has left.

 

I crawl like a turtle,

too big and too green

to hide,

losing bits of myself

behind

on the pathway

back to my cave.

 

One last turn of my head

slow and stiff,

to see no one

skipping across

my shadow,

only the lost

pieces of me like

a moat of glass,

glistening colors

in the setting sun

that catch and pierce my eyes,

a simple explanation

for my tears.

 

Susan Merrifield Desrocher



{February 7, 2018}   Screwed Up Love

It seems I am often not patient enough to let poems percolate. Sometimes I just feel like I want to move on to something that is more relevant to my present time; after all I just keep writing more and more, and there is just so much paper!! I have been desperately trying to go through them all and put all the versions of the same poems into file folders. Another step in my never-ending efforts to consolidate and simplify.

As part of this process, I have donated a lot of clothes, books, household items, even jewelry — but not these, never these — my screw in, screwed-up love earrings.

Spiral Earrings

Lots of Screwed up Love

I was your rebound girl,
the quick intermission in the drawn-out drama
of your epic love for her.
But I couldn’t see that then.

You were that guy
across the room,
my dark handsome romance hero.
I was drawn to you
like I was to rocks when I was a child:
I loved holding them
because they felt solid,
yet could contain crystals
or layers of color
if broken open.

You soon went back to her,
and instead I had to break
my all-encompassing love for you
into manageable pieces:
I buried the jealousy and resentment,
safeguarded the memories
and held onto our friendship
dear as a first stuffed toy.

Ten years later
I let go;
I married someone
who forced me to deny
my need for you,
grow up, leave you behind.

Thirty years later, minus the husband,
I wish I could glue it all back together,
embrace the whole.
I pull out the Christmas card
you gave me when we were still
an open possibility, a hollow geode.

You had signed the card, “Lots of screwed up love.”
Back then I had clung desperately to the word, “love”
not connecting it to the gift that came with it —
a pair of unusual earrings –
crazy spirals that wound
into my earlobes,
impossible to lose without
being ripped out;
just as the shards of your smile and laugh
twisted themselves into my heart,
and embedded there.
Now I know “love”
was not the important word:
“screwed up” was.



{January 4, 2018}   Skating on Thin Ice

Ice Skating

Ice Skating

 

SKATING ON THIN ICE

Too many indoor days bundled
together drew me out into the record chill.
At the pond in my old hometown
a few hardy souls I didn’t know
were skating in ski masks
in the early winter dusk.
With my camera I froze
their silhouettes against the shimmering ice
like pinned starfish.

I could be crazy,
a crazy craving headlines,
at any cost,
so I tried to be subtle
with my snaps,
keep my zoom lens distance,
not alarm the nervous parents
in parkas on the dock
waving their children in.

I stood on the treed shore,
remembering solid-color snowsuits
and Wonder bread bags in boots,
hand-knitted mittens, and laughing
slides across the same ice
without skates.
Back before fake news and Facebook
our parents shooed us outside;
they trusted our judgment
and the good will of others,
and we trusted the winter ice
to stay solid
and unchanging
beneath us.



{December 21, 2017}   Quiet Christmas

Tree ornament

Decorated tree

As a child, Christmas was the highlight of my year! My mother was happy for the help when I wanted to decorate the tree or wrap my brothers’ gifts. When I grew up I still loved Christmas, and most often my souvenir from places I visited was a Christmas ornament. I loved that my tree told the story of my life, including gifts from friends and places I had visited. One special year I gleefully decorated my whole big house because my house was on the town Christmas tour.

Then came the death of my father right before Christmas and my broken marriage. I never had children of my own, and after my father’s death, my birth-family splintered. I began living in a tiny apartment; my precious ornaments packed away in storage.

Now I dread it; I endure it. I listen to everyone giddy with their plans; I struggle to buy presents without joy.

 

I know I am not alone in my struggles this time of year so I thought I’d share this poem I wrote just before Christmas became my enemy. It’s the first time I have shared anything in the wake of the loss of my marriage, but after four years I think I am ready.

 

 

Quiet Christmas

It’s a quiet Christmas,

maybe the last.

My husband sleeps in,

as does the sun.

The gray light shuffles

over the cold ground, then sits.

Observing this year’s sparse

offering of snow,

ragged dust tossed over

shivering boney branches

like dull tinsel,

I wonder:

do the trees ache and groan

like my arthritic hands

as I write this,

desiring still comfort

but compelled to move

by an invisible force

that is life.

The cat, content on the couch arm,

the lamplight her sun,

breaths little sighs in rhythm,

my carol for this quiet Christmas.



et cetera
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