whelmed, walnuts, and wanting

Whelming: present participle of whelm (Verb). Engulf, submerge, or bury (someone or something): “a swimmer whelmed in a raging storm”. Flow or heap up abundantly.

I’m not overwhelmed. I despise that term, as it implies, in my mind, weakness and failure. I am strong, and I succeed. Generally.

I mean, look at her.

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This is Laura Petrie, a dreamed version of her by her husband Rob, atop 600 pounds of walnuts, the favorite food of space aliens Twilo-ites, believed by Rob to have taken over the mind of his wife.

I am her. I am a perceived version of myself, and that version is startlingly calm amid what appears to be a whole mess of crazy. I’m whelmed by walnuts. But I’m on top of them.

There was a time, about 14 years ago, when my husband and I were in a rented car in Monterey, California. It was the first time either of us had been to the state, and I had planned our trip as best I could, charting our path from Los Angeles to San Francisco over the course of a week or so. But when we got to Monterey, driving around, we were off my plan. My then boyfriend was in the passenger seat of the car, suggesting where I drive. I don’t know where we were trying to go, I only remember feeling a tremendous sense of unease at not knowing my destination while I was behind the wheel of a car. I felt like a loose cannon.

I pulled over, and told this man I’d been dating for less than a year: “I can’t drive a car in a new city, a new place, if I don’t know where I’m going. It’s just not safe. I don’t feel safe, hesitating, and turning at the last minute like a fool.”

He asked if I wanted him to drive. “Yes, please!”

He got behind the wheel, started driving. “Zen, honey. You just have to see where we end up. The roads lead somewhere. They all do.”

I already knew I loved this guy. But his perfect counter of calm to my easily reached point of chaos? I knew then I could not walk the planet without him in my life.

He drove along, headed west, toward (duh) the coast. We had dinner.

That’s who I really am. I am somebody who does not actually float on top of a sea of walnuts, smiling beatifically at my husband’s shocked expression.

I’m really just a girl who will pull over and stop driving in a 25mph zone because she hates making lane changes at the last minute.

I’m whelmed, people. Thoroughly whelmed. I’m not buried, I’m not engulfed. But there is a heap of “whaaaat?” and I’m sitting on top of it, uncomfortably.

Kind people use words like “frustrating,” “aggravating,” or even “torture” to describe the state our family is in. Even kinder people just say what they want–which is for us to stay put, not move, remain with them. Or get up, move, be closer to them. Or just tell them where we’ll be so that we can host them, or visit them.

What do I want?

I want to move and be closer to my sister and her family, closer to job opportunities I know I can maximize, closer to my brother and his family, and our parents.

I want my husband to be happy, and appreciated, and rewarded, and well positioned for career advancement.

I want my children to be excited about a new home. About a new puppy? I want them to live within a short car ride of a blood relative.

I want, and want, and want.

It’s greedy and terrible. Oh well.

Half full? Try three-quarters.

Refraction can mess with you. You can fill a cup with water but if you look at it at a funny angle, it might look less full than it is.

Look. We have a good life. A really good life, thanks to luck, hard work, and good decisions.

But we’re on this edge of… some word that defines the emotion between simmering anger and irrational rage. It’s really, really hard to keep a stiff upper lip, while smiling, when you don’t know where the hell you’ll be living in a few months. You do all these calculations in your head: what are the odds that we’ll be here in the fall? Should I just sign up for an officer position on the PTA? Should I just bow out? Should we invest in more improvements to our home?

Should I let myself get even closer to all these people in my life who are so kind, and fun, and smart? Do they know how much I’ll miss them if/when we move? More important, will they miss me back?

I’ve spent 18 months or so living in this limbo, and feeling kind of loose and airy. This could, I admit, be described in a more positive light: “relaxed,” for example. But in reality, for me? It’s just a dumb, dry feeling. It reminds me greatly of the one time I inhaled (it was 1989). I hated that feeling. I felt slow and pointless–two feelings I hate.

My light, my angle, has, for lack of a better word at the moment, sucked.

So, as I mentioned earlier, I planned the kids’ summer quite nicely, quite fully. And after last week, the rubber-ducker of all weeks when it comes to feeling less than safe and secure and stable in one’s environment, second only to the second week of September, 2001, I decided this: There is no point to doing or feeling anything if you’re not going forward with a g-d happy face, smiling, making everybody chuckle at least once while they’re in your presence. (Seriously: that is my goal. If you’re around me, I’m going to make you laugh, at least once.)

Because if you’re not doing all you can to improve whatever situation it is you find yourself in–which means being humble and being truthful and being helpful and being genuine and being a goofball, all of it–there is only slowness, and pointlessness, with an unbearable dryness.

My angle has changed. I sit up straighter, stand taller. I control the refraction, so all glasses appear nearly full.

And if they’re not? I’ve just been adding water.