The day I thought he might be “The One”, a.k.a., that one time I had a panic attack in the middle of Costco.

A few years ago, I came across an Engagement Announcement and Wedding Invitation that a family member of mine had gotten in the mail.   It had a nice, glossy picture of the happy couple:  he carrying her in his arms as though he were about to carry her over the threshold (as the tradition goes), and she with her arms wrapped around his neck, her feet playfully kicking the air.  Their smiles were bright.  “Celebrate with us!”  I looked briefly at the invitation and then tossed it aside with the rest of the mail and rolled my eyes.  “Idiots”.

At the time, I really held that opinion.  I really clung to the self-righteous truth that no young, naive couple had any clue what they were getting themselves into.  That if they were smart, they wouldn’t rush into marriage at 24, or at the very least, do it quietly so we don’t all have to watch the two of them walk blindly into an inevitable hurricane and expect us to clap and oooh and aaah and smile along with them.  At the time, I obviously had forgotten that my husband and I were also two young idiots not so long ago and that I myself had had a moment of “He’s The One!!” as my heart did flip flops.

I was 19 and had a dentist appointment to have a cavity filled.  Jon and I had already been together for about a year.  Still new enough that we were gooey about each other, but together long enough that I felt comfortable with him accompanying me to the dentist.   He said he wanted to go to Costco anyway to look at some new golf clubs, and since Costco was right next to my dentist, he’d come along.  So we hopped in his green truck and happily drove to Winooski, smiling and chattering along the way.

The problem was, that by the age of 19, I had somehow developed a very strong phobia to needles.  I’m not sure when that happened, but I do remember sitting on my mother’s lap at the age of 4 or 5, watching a nurse give me a shot in the thigh and becoming hysterical.  So much so, that apparently some pregnant nurse had been napping in another office and was jarred awake by my screams and came around the corner all groggy and waddling.  Henceforth, 15 years later, I apparently still had that phobia, but didn’t quite know the extent of it until this fateful day.

Once at the dentist’s office, I was called in and I immediately told them that I was feeling a bit nervous about the Novocaine needle and he suggested I have some Nitrous Oxide, which I happily took.  Sitting in the dentist’s chair, he placed the mask over my face and I started to breathe in.  Jon stood just above me, next to the chair teasing me and telling me to “take a deep breath and suck that stuff down!!”.  I started laughing, unsure if it was the laughing gas, or the fact that he always made me laugh no matter what we were doing.  Being the anxiety-ridden person I am, humor really is the only way to my heart.

After I was sufficiently sedated, Jon left, the dentist came in and he proceeded to give me a few shots of Novocaine with his absurdly giant needle, and then fill in my cavity.  (By the way, I have always brushed my teeth regularly.  I have what the dentist called “deep grooves” so no matter how well I brush, I’m prone to getting cavities, m’kay!?).  While I didn’t necessarily feel any pain during this whole process, I vividly remember the size of the needle, the feel of pressure in my mouth and one side of my face being numb.  I remember him sticking the needle into my gum and shaking it around and such.  I guess he really wanted to make sure it had gotten in there good.  I was high on laughing gas and one side of my face was completely numb.   I can’t remember if Jon had gotten to the point in our relationship where he told me he loved me (he took a long time to get there), but I couldn’t help but think he must have felt that way to voluntarily see me in such a condition.

After all was said and done, the dentist took off my bib and told me I was “all set”.  I gingerly hopped out of the dentist chair and went and retrieved Jon from the waiting room and on our way we went to Costco so he could look at some golf clubs.  Looking back, it is apparent that I still had some amount of Nitrous Oxide in my system to have been so happily bouncing along with a numb mouth and the recent memory of that hideous needle that had just been shoved into my face.  Maybe I had hoped that the needle phobia had somehow disappeared?

But it was at this point that things went terribly wrong.

Walking into Costco, I followed Jon who began weaving in and out of all of the aisles, dodging people with their big carts, looking up and down the shelves trying to find the sporting goods section.  By the time we had gotten half-way down the store, I began to feel very weird.  His figure began to swing and sway ahead of me.  I got clammy all of a sudden.  There was a fuzzy buzzing in my head and my heart started to race.  I tried to mentally talk myself out of this weirdness.  I tried to trick myself into believing that I was “fine” and to just ignore the fact that I felt like I was under water, but to no avail.   And that is when I tried to take a deep breath.  I tried to breathe in to calm myself, and suddenly felt like my breathing tube had almost completely closed.  It felt like all that was left was a tiny, itty-bitty opening allowing only an itty-bitty amount of air to get in.  No matter how big of a breathe I tried to take in, hardly any would get in at all…..and that’s when I started to freak.

“I CAN’T BREATHE”!!    “I CAN’T BREATHE”!!!

Jon had found some golf clubs, had received one out of the bag and was taking practice swings in the aisle when his hysterical 19-year-old girlfriend with a numb face began yelling, “I CAN’T BREATHE!!  I CAN’T BREATHE”!!!

I remember finding a partially exposed pallet and sitting myself down in case I fainted.  I remember Jon slowly putting the golf club back in the bag from which he gotten it and walking over to me.  I also remember a small group of Costco patrons forming around me, slowing down to stare at me, their purses dangling from their arms as they held on to their enormous carts.  One lady had a strong, Long Island accent.  She had short dark hair, was slightly chubby, maybe 50ish.  She and a few others were pausing, looking at each other, their hands to their mouths as I said again, “I CAN’T BREATHE” and wheezed and hyperventilated.

“Oh my gawd……she can’t breathe…..I’ll cawl an ambulance”.  The Long Island Lady started to push her cart toward Help, and that is when Jon came back into view.

“No, no don’t do that”.  He squatted down in front of me and put up his arm slowly at her, “No, I think she just needs to calm down a little “.  I remember him being so calm.  He didn’t seem fazed at all.  And he didn’t say I needed to calm down in a patronizing way either.  He wasn’t angry or annoyed.  He wasn’t rolling his eyes and making me feel anymore ridiculous than I already did.  He also didn’t get wrapped up in my hysterics, as Long Island Woman had so quickly done.  I remember him looking at me directly in the eyes and saying “let’s get you outside for some air and I’ll get the truck”.  Among all the swimming people and shelves and big Costco lights, it was his face that was very still in front of me.

As he put his arm around me and escorted me out of Costco, we made our way to the front of the store where I sad down again in the fresh air and waited for him to get the truck.  I don’t think I was hyperventilating at that point, but Long Island Lady and her purse had followed us out and stood near me while Jon got the truck and pulled up in front of us.  It was very nice of her to have followed us.   I remember him thanking her and getting me loaded up.  He reclined my seat, rolled down my window and drove us back home.

After I had calmed down considerably, I opened my eyes to take in the scenery.  I was lying on my left-side, facing Jon, the passenger seat reclined all the way back.  It was summer and the window was down and I could hear the air blowing through the window.  I could also hear the country music station that he always had on.  And I could see him, driving along, calm as a cucumber, occasionally looking down at me.

“How we doin?” he asked me at one point.  I think I nodded and apologized.  But what I remember most about that moment was thinking how he’d handled everything.  How he’d handled me.  He wasn’t angry.  He wasn’t joining in my hysterics.  He didn’t even get to buy any golf clubs for himself.   That was the very first time I thought to myself:   “I think this guy’s the one” and feeling happy and lucky and excited about it.

In just a couple of months, we will celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary and I keep thinking about this day.  And I keep thinking about myself a few years ago, rolling my eyes at the engaged couple.  How much my opinion has changed since then.  What I’ve learned.

I’ve learned how crucial that “We’re so in love” phase actually is.  Maybe even essential to a marriage.  That after 10 years of marriage, after kids, and bills and stress and the ups and downs of life, a couple can grow apart quite easily if they aren’t careful.  That things get hard and scary.  We’ve had a jam-packed 10 years of marriage full of good times, hard times, sleep-deprived times.  There were times where we said things we didn’t mean, did things we didn’t mean, times that were peaceful and happy, times where we were both hurt and not sure we’d make it, and other times that were downright ugly.

I’ve learned that it’s in those hard times where you look back to when you were young and in love.  I’ve learned that it’s that idiotic phase that might just keep you afloat.  If you could just dip your finger back into that for a bit and remember the taste of who you both were and how you both were together.  Those two lovebirds existed once and are more than likely still in there somewhere beneath the mortgage payments and the “I do more around here than you do” and the stress of raising kids together and holding down jobs.

I’ve learned that it’s actually those early days that can help get you back on track.  Remembering them and appreciating them and tapping into those two people when you can.  I think that’s the key really.

Or maybe not. …… Maybe the key is just to have more panic attacks in Costco?

 

40: The tween years of adulthood, minus the braces.

Sometimes, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror while cleaning the toilets, I catch a glimpse of someone who looks slightly startled at her reflection.  There are more grey hairs than I thought, there are faint little crow’s feet that I can see if I lean in real close.  I look tired most of the time.  I can remember bouncing out of bed at 6:00 and going for runs by 6:30 when I was single and in my twenties.  Now, when I get up in the morning, it takes me at least an hour and 2 cups of coffee to limber up.  I’m asleep by 9:00 at the latest.  Ask my friends.

I will be turning 41 in just a couple of months although, I’m not quite as upset as I was about turning 40.   Truth be told, I think I had been having a hard time with 40 for the past few years.  I may or may not have had an early mid-life crisis now that I look back.  I headed toward 40 digging in my heels, kicking and screaming Father Time dragging me by the wrists.  I tired to evade it at every turn.  I didn’t want to be “old”, but wanted to stay “young”.   I remember my own mother turning 36 and thinking she was old.  I remember she married for the second time at 40.  I was there.  I was in college.

A hundred and fifty years ago, 40 was ancient.  You were absolutely a grandmother by the age of 40, if you weren’t already dead.  You were over the hill.  You were worn out and washed up.

These days, 40 is so much different.  Life isn’t over at 40 like it was back then, but we’re not exactly Spring Chickens either.   We’re told “40 is the new 20”.  Is it really people?  Is that why I’m at the gym 4 times a week doing a thousand crunches?  Because I have absolutely no recollection of doing that in my 20’s.   If “40 is the new 20”, then how come when I have more than two or three glasses of wine in one sitting I feel like I have Swine Flu all the next day?  Because trust me, in my 20’s I imbibed way more than that and still made it to classes on time.

My 20’s were all about getting through school and making as many bad decisions as I could, as often as I could.    Check.

My 30’s were all about marriage, babies,completely losing my sense of Self and making all of the best decisions of my life.    Check.

But 40?  What the hell am I supposed to be doing at 40?  I am too old to go to the clubs anymore.  The college students would say “who is that old lady out there?   Why does she only come on 80’s night?   Why does she keep requesting Gloria Estefan?.  I’m also not having anymore babies, so that’s out.  My two boys are old enough now that I’m becoming less of an urgent or constant need for them, which feels good and lonesome at the same time.  Mostly good.

I feel a bit lost I suppose.  At almost-41-years-old, I’m feeling a bit un-moored, like a lot of my 11 and 12 year old clients must feel.  They’re not kids anymore, but they’re also not teenagers.  They’re in this weird in-between place where girls start getting hormonal and cranky and withdrawn and boys get these ridiculous peach fuzz/mustache combos that are embarrassing, but a sign of budding Manhood, so they wear them for far too long; they’re too old to play kids games anymore, but not quite old enough to have a boyfriend or girlfriend.

Essentially, I guess I feel like 40 is not in fact the new 20, it’s the new 12.  No clubs, no babies, but not yet time for Menopause………so what?

So, I bought myself a camera.  I real, honest-to-goodness camera.  I drove all the way to Best Buy one day, when I was angry at the world (in particular my husband), and told myself I wasn’t leaving that damn store without my own camera.  I told myself that I deserved it.  I had attempted to purchase myself a real camera twice during my 30’s, but was so overcome with guilt and shame at such an extravagant indulgence, that I immediately returned them the next day.  Both times.

But not this time.

I kept the camera.

Each day, after work, and after dinner has been served and eaten, I find myself grabbing my new camera, hanging the strap around my neck and venturing out to my backyard to explore.  It has given me a chance to look at my surroundings in so many different ways.  Before, my backyard was just my backyard, strewn with discarded toys and the occasional chicken strutting around.  But now, I step out onto the cool grass with my bare feet and feel so eager and excited about what I might find.

I look at things more closely.  I walk around my backyard more deliberately now, taking time to really look at things I took for granted.  I’ll look at the same things from different angles.  I’ll alter the focus so that different things are in focus at different times.

For instance, had I ever noticed how lonely the clothespin bag looks, hanging outside all alone, without any clothes?.

Or what about my Barred Rock Ginger?  She’s actually kind of pretty, even if she poops in the very water she drinks.

I’ve learned that when it’s 5:30 am and I’m on my back deck, alone having my coffee, that I much prefer the foggy mornings.

 

There is probably some existential symbolism in there somewhere about how, at 40, you start to look at your life differently, from different angles.  Maybe even relationships and people too.  That your age and wisdom has given you a new lens through which to see everything around you, and therefore a greater appreciation for it.   Sometimes I think I’m just bored and need something to occupy myself.  Who knows.  Maybe it’s both.

 

My older son asked me recently, “Why are you so into pictures lately mom?” (a bit of irritation in his voice, as he himself stands at the cusp of his own grumpy tween years) to which I replied, (my arms spread out wide for effect), “Because it’s all I have for a hobby right now!  It’s all I have that is just mine for nothing but enjoyment!  So please, let me have my pictures!!  And get over here and stand right here for me please because the sun is going to set soon!!!”–He looks overjoyed to be my subject.

I imagine a lot of other moms might be able to relate.  We spend our 20’s “finding ourselves”, spend our 30’s “losing ourselves” to our children and then comes 40 and we wonder what we’re supposed to do next?  Or maybe not.  Maybe other women have figured it out earlier than I have.

A friend of mine, who is decades older than I, posted on my Facebook Timeline last year for my 40th birthday, “Now the fun begins”.

I’m going to hold on to that one.  It gives me hope.  I trust that I’ll know what he means at some point.  Maybe my camera is helping me get there.  All I know is that at the moment, I just can’t stop taking pictures, so I’m thinking I probably shouldn’t.