If you don’t know me, here’s a quick synopsis of where I've been and where I am:
Until 11 years ago, I had a stable life. If you looked up “stable” in the dictionary, you would find a picture there of me with my handsome husband and our two little blond children. My husband, Mr. Everything, and I had lived in the same house since we got married. He went to work while I stayed home with the kids, the Beetle and the Goose. Then, one day, I said the words that would forever change our lives, “Let’s start our own business.” It was all downhill from there. We started the business, and my husband left his job. And benefits. And insurance. And free magazines. (He worked for Time Inc.) We struggled at that for five years.
Six years ago, we left our house. We changed our then-struggling business from a retail pottery store to a traveling pottery business that we could run from home. We moved in with my mother-in-law. (As Mr. E so eloquently put it, “I had a terrible dream that I was fat, bald and 40 and living with my mother, and then I woke up and it was true!”) We had some ups but mainly downs on our roller coaster of life. It seemed as though the amusement park engineers had gotten a little carried away with the hills and turns. It was quite a ride. We lived in a mobile home (also known as the little tin box in the field) for two and a half years. Life was quite a party. Through it all, we kept our sense of humor, though we didn’t keep much of anything else. Then, we were given a light at the end of the tunnel. We braced ourselves and hoped it wasn’t a train, and so far, we haven’t been run over. I must admit, though, we are still holding our breath.
Mr. Everything was offered a job that is perfect for him. If we could have custom made a job just to fit him, this is what we would have designed. It just couldn’t be any more perfect. (Did I mention it’s perfect?) He was given a job as the overseer (Caretaker? Administrator? We still don’t actually know what his title is…) of a Bible camp. We got to move into a house, a real live house. It is wide enough that two of us can walk through a room at the same time without bumping into each other. It’s awesome. I hate the kitchen cabinets and floor, but otherwise, it’s awesome.
So here’s the catch: We are now living two and a half hours away from home. We had lived in Brandon, Florida for twenty years together, other than a brief two and a half month move to Valdosta, Georgia (I don’t have the energy to explain that. If you want to know about it read the “Keeper of the Crazies” stories Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 3 1/2, Part 4 and Part 5. It was a long 2 1/2 months.) All of our family is in Brandon. All of our friends are in Brandon. I know my way around Brandon, even on the back roads. It was rare that I went anywhere without seeing someone I knew or at least recognized.
Now, I’m in a small town in North Florida. I love it here, but it’s very different. The people talk differently. They wear lots of camouflage. They shoot things. They aren’t afraid of ticks or snakes. It’s just a little different than I am used to. Besides that, we haven’t found a church where we fit, so we don’t even know anyone at church.
I go to the store and don’t see anyone I know. However, I must say, there’s some beauty in that. I have been out in public since we lived here without even fixing my hair more times than I care to admit. It doesn’t matter. No one knows me anyway!
We’ve been so busy getting ready for summer camp and running summer camp that I had not had time to feel lonely; well, that is, until two days ago. Then, the loneliness set in quickly.
The first week of camp, we knew everyone here, because they were all from our home congregation in Brandon. Then, last week, I didn’t know anyone, but I didn’t really care. I was so tired from the first week, that I just took time to recover and do laundry; lots of laundry. This week, however, I’m in my second week of not knowing anyone at camp. I am surrounded by strangers who all know each other and are too busy talking to each other to get to know me. I’ve tried to make conversation with them, and they are friendly, but they don’t really care to know me. I don’t mean that in a bad way. It’s natural. They are with their friends, having fun, so why do they need to talk to me?
I was coping fairly well with this until last night. Then, as I left the dining hall (one of the perks of living at camp is that we eat for free all summer), I started crying, and I couldn’t quit. I tried to hide it from Mr. E, but he saw me and asked what was wrong. That just made me cry even harder. I tried to explain it to him, but it just came out sounding stupid. “I don’t have any friends,” I said, through labored breaths. “Yes you do,” he said, and he began to name them. “But. They. Aren’t. Here,” I managed to get out. “Do you want to go back to Brandon?” he sweetly said. “NO!” I wailed. At this point, he was confused.
I had to go to Winn Dixie to pick up some medicine before the pharmacy closed, and I cried all the way there. The pharmacist took a really long time on the computer. I’m pretty sure she was looking up past mental health information on me. I then cried all the way back to camp. By the time I got back, I was swollen and red. I’m such an ugly crier. I went in the house and worked for a while. Then, I had to go back down to the dining hall to get the Goose and to find Mr. E. I washed my face, put on a little eyeliner and hoped for the best. Maybe no one would notice my nose glowing in the dark, lighting my path as I went. Luckily, as I was still invisible to everyone at camp, no one noticed.
I waited around for the Goose to finish up what she was doing, and then she and I were headed out to the car to drive back to the house. (No, my house is not that far from the dining hall, and yes, I could stand the exercise of walking, but it’s dark out here. Like, can’t see your hand in front of your face dark. I’m not walking in the dark!) A lady in the kitchen stopped me as we passed through. She asked me if I was the Goose’s mother and began telling me how wonderful my child was. (I vividly remember that part. I love it when I hear that my kids have done something right!) Anyway, we got started talking and ended up talking for hours.
Regretfully, I confessed to this kind woman and her friend who was also there, how I had felt earlier in the evening. I ended up crying (just a little) while telling them how lonely I had been and how much they had helped me just by talking to me. I cried. They cried. We hugged. The Goose took a few steps back.
So, this sounds all sweet and good like I made two new friends, and I did. However, here’s the punch line. Today, these two sweet ladies have gone so far overboard trying to make me feel welcomed. They have introduced me to their friends and their friends’ friends and their friends’ friends’ aunts and uncles. It really has been nice, but I have to wonder what they think of me. They probably warned their friends, “Oh, here she comes. Be sure to speak to her, or she may cry again!” And in their kindness, they are showing the weird lady a little mercy.
I wish I could just bottle my feelings. I never have been good about that. Why must I tell the world exactly what’s on my mind? Of course, if I hadn’t told them, I may not have ended up with new friends. Now, because of my emotional outburst, I’ll probably know the whole camp staff before this week is over! -Al