McKenzie Free

One woman's quest for greater understanding through freedom of self expression.

Archive for the tag “loss”

The Red Sofa

The email attachment downloaded slowly and the first photo finally opened up in full screen.  My eyes were immediately drawn front and center to the remains of what had once been my beautiful, red leather sofa.  That sofa had been my first solo purchase after leaving my beige husband of 20 years and had symbolized freedom to me.   It wasn’t the wine red or dull maroon of the overstuffed sofas you most frequently saw in furniture stores.   It was a glistening cherry red reminiscent of bright, sugary, cherry pie and small in stature as if tailor made to fit my 5’3” frame perfectly.

Bits of red, no longer bright, were still visible amidst the soot and smoke surrounded by water saturated split open boxes, the contents spilling out everywhere.  Here lay my personal history strewn randomly across the prairie:  melted photo albums; half a painting bought in a small shop in Aspen; a shattered tea set I picked up in London; what appeared to be a piece of the hand-made lamp I’d purchased in Connecticut.   Smoke and smoldering fire were apparent in the background and on the very edge of the photo stood a firefighter in full gear water gushing out of the hose he held pouring over the piles of burning goods and grassy Wyoming prairie.   Next to him the remains of what had been a shiny, new 18-wheeler now partially melted like a cheap plastic toy that was left too long in the August sun.

I sat at my desk in my new office and stared out the window at the park and the river beyond.  I wasn’t certain I wanted to see the rest of the attached photos.  It was my boss’ idea to have our business lawyer contact the only Attorney’s office in the small town in Wyoming outside of which the moving van carrying all my belongings had caught on fire  eventually destroying four families possessions and 500 acres of prairie land.  The moving van had been on its way to meet me in New York City where I had begun my new job as CFO for an international not-for-profit a week earlier working out of the God Box, the tongue in cheek nickname for The Interchurch Center building located on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

The attorney already knew about the fire.  In a town with a population of 9,500, most of whom were dispersed far outside the 2.95 square miles that comprised the town limits, this was the biggest thing to happen for some time.  He immediately sent someone out to photograph the wreckage and clean-up and multiple photos of the site were now awaiting my review.

It was difficult to even believe that it was only a few hours ago I’d received my very first phone call at my new job.  The administrative assistant came in to my office to let me know I had a call.  “Someone asked for me by name?” I’d asked her.  “Who even knows I work here yet?”

I picked up the phone to hear, “This is (a name I don’t remember) from (a Van Line I will not name).   The moving van carrying your items has caught on fire. Nothing is salvageable.”

Since I had just gone through the process of pairing down everything I owned from a three bedroom house allowing myself to only keep enough to fill two rooms; what was left in that van were only items that were completely necessary or that truly brought me joy.  To think that none of my precious belongings could be saved was hard for me to believe so I forged ahead and looked at multiple pictures of the decimation of my material goods.  I had come to New York with my dog, Petunia the Pitt Bull, and one carry-on suitcase of casual clothes.  I had mailed myself a blow up bed, sheets and towels that were delivered the day I arrived.  From the looks of these pictures I’d be sleeping on a blow-up bed for some time to come.

This was my thirtieth move, including several cross-country and one international, so I knew quite a bit about moving in general.  I could pack up a three bedroom house into sealed stackable boxes in 24 hours flat.  I was an expert at when to use bubble wrap, saran wrap and packaging tape; when to use a box, when to use a bag and when to throw the item away and buy a new one when you arrive.  Within all my experience there was nothing to tell me how to handle this type of loss.

It was my boss, again, who came up with the idea that helped me move forward.  She said, “Think of it as an opportunity.  You were going to make items you’d purchased for a three bedroom home fit somehow into your new apartment.  Now you have a fresh slate.  Hire a designer and make your new apartment a showcase with items purchased specifically for it.”

A designer?  Me?  Seriously?

I had been born into poverty.  Through hard work and education I worked my way up to a solid, resolute working class existence.  The idea of something as extravagant as paying someone else for their opinion on how my home should look was a hard one for me to digest but what I knew for sure was that I was in no emotional state to be making decisions alone.   It was completely possible that if left to my own I might purchase the first items I saw with no regard for anything but filling my empty space.  I could wake up from my emotional daze in a few months broke and living in the apartment version of a government office; functional, dark and unattractive.

Luckily, I had been insured both through the van line and through my home owner’s policy.  What I learned about property insurance, loss, damage and the depreciated value of goods could fill another book but in a few weeks I would be receiving a check.   So I called up a designer recommended by one of my new office mates.  Upon hearing I had a budget of $30,000 to furnish a two room apartment, an amount that I thought was extremely generous, my designer commented, “Oye, we’ll have to shop retail!”

And then, almost before I knew what happened we were off and shopping.  First stop the largest Crate and Barrel store I’d ever been in; a two- story extravaganza on Madison Avenue.  I don’t know how most designers work but this particular one worked from the ground up.  The first thing she wanted me to choose were my rugs.  From this she got an idea of the colors I liked and the rest fell into place from there.

For the living room I chose a striped wool rug with deep fall tones of red, orange, gold, green, and brown and out of that simple choice grew a room with a red accent wall, a soft green sofa and chair, with bright red and orange pillows and unique one of a kind lamps.

The bedroom became a softer space with a place for sleep and a place for work and study.  The room came alive with a pale green rug on the floor and a matching accent wall, a Caribbean-style bed and armoire with wicker insets, a gold wicker chair at the desk and a mock sea chest as my bedside table.

The three feet of counter space that served as my kitchen needed some bar stools and, you guessed it, cherry red leather seemed the perfect choice!  We then spent weeks in small shops throughout New York City purchasing the perfect accessories.

The planning and shopping with my designer were interesting and enjoyable and a beautiful apartment home was realized.   My designer’s knowledge of the city and her emotional support during this process were invaluable.  I learned from her that large items like sofas, chairs and expensive bed covers should be neutral in palette.  Your color comes from painted walls, pillows and other smaller accessories that can be more easily and inexpensively replaced to create a completely new look when you’re ready for a change.

I will never have the same emotional attachment to these new belongs that I had to my old.  My New York apartment was put together in matter of weeks out of necessity.  The items I had lost were gathered over the course of thirty years of living. They had memories attached to them that evoked different people, different parts of the world, and valued life experiences.   Still they were only things and things can be replaced.  Along with everything else I lost in the fire I also seem to have lost my emotional attachment to things.  There will never be another red sofa in my life…literally or figuratively.

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There is a gaping hole inside of me

Which nightly I try to fill up

With mounds and mounds of food

And sometimes sex with inappropriate men who like fat girls

It is a gaping hole which by now is the size of a basketball

A small hole that was ripped larger and larger by

my alcoholic father and crazy brother

Made bigger with each failed marriage

That grew to make room for the babies I could never have

And is currently being fed by fear of the spot on my liver

Fear of joining my cancer-ridden siblings in death

At night I feed it with pound cake and chips and red wine

During the day I feed it with professionalism

as I try to do one thing in life well

and sometimes with screaming unprofessionalism

as I fail to succeed in a dysfunctional workplace

At times, like this morning, when I am too exhausted to

stand up straight and carry on in the morning light

At times like this when I stop for a moment and sit very still

Alone with my thoughts

I simply sob until I have no more tears

And then I get up and get on with my day

Wondering if I will ever be able to heal this gaping hole

Or if it’s too late for a full recovery

perhaps just something to shore it up and keep it from engulfing me.

Chocolate no longer works for me…..

Content

There was a time when a bite of deep, dark chocolate could ease the tension of a really bad day.  That’s back when bad days were about the wrong shade of hair color, a broken heel, a long wait for the subway, a husband coming home late from work in a bad mood, or a well-deserved speeding ticket.  As I get older, life seems to throw me more curves.  Hell with curves — it has  thrown me fast, hard balls that hit me point-blank going 65 miles an hour.  Bad days now consist of divorce and lover’s lost, death of beloved family members and  friends, disease and ill-health for myself and others I love.  I now require alcohol with my chocolate.   Sometimes I think if I wasn’t completely allergic to cigarettes I might even consider smoking. Others look so relaxed and thoughtful while drawing in that dark, smoldering vapor.
 

I’m scheduled for surgery on Friday.  I will spend hours in pre-op getting wired for sound by the radiologists and shot full of dye by technicians so that my lump and lymph nodes will light up like an airport runway to guide my surgeon’s hand.  After that, lying naked on a table with my breasts exposed to total strangers,  the anesthesiologist will put an IV in my arm and ask me to count backward.  These skilled strangers won’t see me, the person who lives this life, but only my disease which they will attempt to slice out of me taking along with that tiny piece of flesh an enormous part of the person I am today.

 

One of my good friends wrote, “I know you will get through the operation for your cancer and move on with the good grace and courage that is your hallmark.” If only I could be as certain as she is of my finesse and bravery. I will get through it. That I will do. With the emotional support, and sometimes financial support, of family, friends and loved ones. I will get through it and I hope I will continue to find at least some comfort in chocolate.

Life Goes On

I get up

Do my hair

Dress for success and put my make-up on

Go to work

Smile and converse

And then I come home and cry about you

I grocery shop

I pay the bills

Run the everyday errands that we all do

Smile at the clerks

Exchange pleasantries

And then I come home and cry about you

I meet my friends

Share some laughs

Smiles and hugs

Let’s do it again

And then I come home and cry about you

I visit the kids

We run and play

We laugh and jest

And at the end of the day

I come home and cry about you

I cry about you

I still cry about you

Does He Know?

Didn’t he know I’d always love him?

That I’d always put him first?

I would have always stood beside him;

stuck by him through better or worse.

I would have helped him reach his goals.

I would have kept him from the cold.

I would have picked him up when he fell.

I would have loved that man through heaven and hell.

We could have shared passion, laughter and life.

We could have held each other close every night.

We could have built something that others would envy.

We could have, we should have, but it simply ended.

Does he know what he is missing?

Does he know what we might have had?

How many people wander forever searching

and are never offered such a chance?

.

 

Illusion

I miss the way he looked at me as if he saw some beauty there.

He’d say, “Come sit and tell me all about your day”.

Then he’d hold me close and stroke my hair

as my troubles drifted away.

I miss the way he’d dance with me just because he knew

it was the one thing I truly enjoyed.

Dancing mattered to him not at all.

He simply wished to please.

Perhaps he needed more from me than just being there for him?

I miss seeing him across the table as we sipped a glass of wine.

I loved the way he’d speak to me about his life and world.

I loved that when I spoke to him he seemed to hear my words.

I miss when he’d stop talking and take me in his arms.

I miss him making love to me and sleeping all night wrapped in his arms.

How can one miss what one never really had?

How could I have been so wrong?

Your mind plays tricks on you as you age.

Have we become too old to love?

Is it possible hearts broken so many times can no longer feel?

Is it possible none of it was ever real?

 

McKenzie James

November 8, 2011

Rain

Thank God for the Oregon Rain!

The wet days have arrived and they’ll hide my pain.

I can let my tears flow and no one need know.

How many times can the same heart break?

How many heart aches can one woman take?

I tried to hold back and not get hurt again

but I opened myself up to more of the pain.

I asked all the right questions and I did everything

I could to make it work out

yet I still find myself alone on the couch.

Is this all there is?  Is this all there will ever be?

Just me and Bob alone watching TV?

Never a man who wants more than sex?

No one ever again who I trust has my back?

Men must not need love the same way women do.

They must prefer being alone to being with you.

I feel like joke, a middle-aged cliché;

the woman searching for love while the man walks away.

I’ve been determined to live; to not run and hide.

I’ve tried my best to keep an optimistic heart.

But now I want to get off this ride

and stay under the covers the rest of my life.

I’m tired of soaring to heights

only to crash once again on the rocks down below.

There are only so many hits a woman can take

before the pain begins to show.

I loved you a bit.

You couldn’t stay and let it grow.

You loved me not at all.

I should have known.

McKenzie James

September 26, 2011

Wounded Lovers

He goes to bed alone.

She wakes to find him still gone.

She hears the baby cry.

The tears run down her face.

She misses his warm embrace.

She wonders how he can walk away.

He wakes to emptiness

and wounds he can’t express.

They both feel the pain.

Are they so different then?

She gave herself to him

believing it meant something.

He took the pleasure he sought

not knowing the pain he’d cause.

She lies in bed and cries.

He lies alone with his thoughts.

Wounded lovers

with two very different tales

of the same love affair.

McKenzie James

August 30, 2011

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