Dos Carnations

Once, many years ago, I pulled through an oil well, oil changing place. I was driving the car that I still drive today—a little black Toyota Echo, a simple Coke can of a car—except that, at that time, it probably had something like 150,000 miles on it rather than the 235,000 it has today, and was the happy possessor of all four hubcaps. Still, all of that is beside the point,

The point is not, although I am sometimes amazed at the fact, that I have been driving the same 43-miles-to-the-gallon vehicle for the last fifteen years. No. The point is that, as oil changes are so often highly memorable, I still remember that oil change. Starkly.

You see, after handing my keys over to a very friendly, very polite, blue collar gentleman’s gentleman, I took my place in the waiting room sipping on old coffee and watching low brow TV. Those moments, of course, seem, and probably are, very insignificant in our drop-in-a-bucket lives. I do not remember them in any vividness. Not that part, not yet.

It was this: as I was handed my receipt and my keys, this same man– deep creases in his hands black with grease– handed me a perfect white carnation. “Thank you, ma’am,” he said as casually as could be. Noting, I imagine, the look of confusion, and, probably, embarrassment on my face, he added “It’s Ladies’ Day.”

Now, I understand the sexually electrified and economic drive behind Ladies’ Night at the bar. No cover. Girls drink free. A wonderland for not-so-crafty architects of the One Night Stand. What better draw? But, I guess I missed the full benefit behind handing out carnations at an oil well.

And, while I knew that I had not been singled out for my vibrant female soul or even my shockingly good looks, and also knowing full well that this man was just doing what he was told to do, I still felt as if I had just won a pageant. (I may be exaggerating, although I probably did a quick, flashy swing of the hair!) I was, clearly, touched by the gesture. It made my day, and, obviously, my last ten years.

So, to get current, I was relaying this story, for God knows what reason, on a blindish brunch date recently. Perhaps we were conversing about pleasant surprises or random acts of thoughtfulness. I don’t actually remember. Still, the telling of the story seemed (well, not quite, not actually) as insignificant as the oil change until we got up to leave.

Walking out of the upscale Southern diner, a server stopped me. “Excuse me,” she said placing her hand on my forearm. She was in her mid-50s and bright and gentle. “I just have to tell you.” I didn’t know what on Earth was coming next. “I have to tell you that you have the most beautiful complexion. I’m serious. You absolutely glow. Every time I walked past you, my eyes were just drawn to you. Lovely.”

Ummmm, wow. I stood there, flattered, of course. Taken aback. Surprised. “Thank you! Thank you so much!”

As we walked out through the front door, my back a little straighter, my smile a little wider, my mystery date said, with clear amusement, “and there’s your carnation.”

How right!

That was almost exactly two months ago and it was a time of internal turmoil for me. I had been, unfortunately, hating on myself. Hating on myself with an intensity that hadn’t been present in me for quite some time. I was having trouble seeing my inner light and was riding an unpredictable wave of ups and downs. And, here I was being told that I absolutely glowed.

Again, how right!

A friend suggested that perhaps God was speaking through that woman’s mouth reminding me that I am beautiful. I suppose, though I still struggled for another month, that this could be true. The voice of an angel, the voice of the Universe, reminding me—me!– that I am beautiful.

While I am planning a completely different post (probably several, if not more) around the subject, here it seems like a great time to celebrate that I have been sober for three weeks. Sober, you say? Were you drunk? I suppose my answer must be yes. If I am sober now, than yes, I was drunk then. I don’t need, I don’t think, to go into the gritty details of my intoxication. Just know it was real, it was prevalent, and it was unhealthy.

Cheers to that! (You cheer with whatever you like. I’ll stick to lemon Le Croix with a splash of cranraspberry juice. On the rocks, of course.)

So, in these weeks of sobriety, of herbal tea drinking and pensiveness, lots of feelings have bubbled up through the once muddied stream of my psyche. One feeling, for example, was that of a deep gaping hole, a sense of near panic, and a pervasive loneliness, when my son went to spend the week with his father. How had I been spending so much time without him for so long? (Well, I believe I’ve already made that clear.)

Still, this feeling of fear, of abandonment maybe, of being all alone, was, honestly, more refreshing than painful. There I was actually feeling my feelings.

In January of this year, I wrote: I realize that I, too, am a “take-the-edge-off-aholic” and I have been wallowing in a Pink Floyd-like numbness (well maybe not that numb, but definitely a somewhat comfortable numbness) throughout the last 14 months, at times confronting my emotions, but more often running from them.   I’ve also avoided certain situations and haven’t let realities sink in.  Lovely.

I then went on to write the remainder of the post about how I was turning a new leaf. I was going to confront my emotions head on, with gusto, and (I didn’t mention this, but I’m sure I thought it) with perfectionism.

Pshaw!

I sort of, kind of, did for a while. Or, at least I thought I did. But Maker’s Mark and malbec were never on short supply. I don’t think I can thaw out while I’m drinking. No. That’s not right. I know I can’t thaw out while I’m drinking.

So. It’s only been three weeks. I know. I know. But, everyone must start somewhere. And, in these three weeks, in addition to a spring of emotions flooding me, a sense of clarity has also been gifted me. I am face to face with not only how I have been living my life (and while not pleased about it, I am being gentle with myself) but also with who I really am. I am not the girl at the bottom of the Martini glass. I am sensational. God did not put me on this Earth to anesthetize my life away.

No.

I have been trekking along a pathway that has brought me to this point. This moment. This crosslegged moment while I sip tea and pound my fingers on the keyboard. And, now this moment. And, this one. And, ah, feel. And, ah, breathe.

I am clear and intend, with all my being, to stay clear. I don’t want to miss the poetic and quirky quips of my son, my surroundings, or my soul. And, to bring it full circle, I don’t want to miss anymore of life’s carnations. Because, you know, I glow.

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