Wednesday, March 11, 2009

My Year of Upheaval

Most of the PB's life has been pleasant, quiet, and relatively happy, with few serious problems, tragedies, crimes, romantic struggles, serious illnesses, or accidents. Trouble waits to gang up on her every seven years, during one of her Years of Upheaval — and this is one of them. These aren't calendar years; they begin on her birthday, in late August. That's when deaths, divorces, layoffs, lawsuits, and other mayhem tend to occur.

The PB's previous Year of Upheaval (2001–2002) was memorable. It began with career troubles, as the dot-com where she was deliciously overpaid as a copywriter steadily went under. September 11 occurred three weeks into that Year, with all its ensuing fear, grief, anger, and economic chaos. All was dark and depressing that autumn and winter. (She knew her problems were minor compared to others. But still.) By February, her company had folded and she was collecting her very first unemployment checks. That month, she also learned that her favorite cousin and her best guy friend from college both had cancer. Her mother was hospitalized. March was spent worrying and visiting her in the hospital, 350 miles from home. In April, her mother died. The PB was essentially a basket case for the rest of that Year. Shortly before it ended, though, she developed the first symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, an appropriate souvenir. And landed what turned out to be her Scariest Freelance Client Ever.

The PB began her current Year of Upheaval with wary trepidation. She has spent her last 8 or 9 birthdays on vacation at the same inn in Maine. On her birthday this year, she predicted at breakfast that trouble was coming and was teased for being pessimistic. She wasn't very surprised when, later that day, her friend the innkeeper broke his leg in an isolated spot at the lake, crawled back to his car, and drove himself to two different clinics, both closed. The following afternoon, her husband suddenly fell asleep at the wheel and headed towards some trees. The PB was just alert enough herself to yell and wake him. 

By Day 3, the PB was a wreck. Her husband slipped down some wet steps by the pool, sat down to catch his breath, and lost consciousness in the most alarming way, snoring loudly with his eyes open and rolling around. Until he came to, those were the worst moments of the PB's life. (All five paramedics thought it was a seizure, so the PB felt justified.) Her husband recovered in a couple of hours; it took her nearly a week. ("You weren't there to see yourself!" she kept telling him.)

Since then, the PB has been unemployed and largely without prospects or writing gigs. In September, her home began its own Year of Upheaval. It began when 37 tons of demo wreckage was carted out of the condo below hers. Since then, she's endured seven months of construction, with noise awakening her at 7 am every weekday. Most of the PB's walls and ceilings have big new cracks; her custom, cherry-paneled bathroom is quite out of kilter; her doors no longer open or close properly; and her entire apartment —even inside kitchen cabinets and built-in drawers — is coated in dust, no matter how often she she cleans. It wafts up as work goes on below. The construction has done a job on the lobby, too. Even the doorbells have been broken since September.

A week ago, the PB's mother-in-law totaled her car (see previous post). She's going to be fine, but it's still a crisis. She will have to stop driving (we hope), which means she'll need to move from her big, cluttered house, high up on a hill and not near shops or public transportation. She doesn't want any of this, naturally, but something's got to give. The PB will do anything to get her off the road and happily ensconced somewhere safe — even if it means that the PB and her husband let her try out their own little condo for awhile, while they rent elsewhere. 

The PB is also teetering on the edge of two potential lawsuits, with former building owners and a former employer. Aside from biopsies, here's nothing more anxiety-provoking to the PB than dealing with lawyers and going to court. She can only continue hope this Year of Upheaval brings some good upheaval, too, in the form of employment. And that everyone she loves manages to stay healthy and away from trees and lakes. She can't wait for her next birthday.

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