My parents usually ignored this pernicious behavior of my torturer because I was, after all, LAUGHING (the scream-laugh of the damned). But as anyone who has been there can tell you, this is not a joyful experience in the least. In fact, I would liken it to ye olde dayes, when people who were still alive were accidentally interred and woke up entombed, scratching and gasping for another breath.Nope, not exaggerating. Still not mentioning any names but BROTHER, did it SUCK.
I am remembering this now because as of late I feel as if the universe itself (here I WILL mention names!) has been relentlessly tickle-torturing me for about, um, 19 months or so. The analogy is apt, because when I call friends or family to recount the latest unfortunate event in a series of unfortunate events that would make Lemony Snickett envious, I find myself more often than not scream-laughing the scream-laugh of the damned. Breathless, hysterical laughter that once more belies the simple fact that I feel like I might actually be in hell.
So back to tickle-torture: if you were, like me, an unfortunate victim of this behavior, what did you have to do to make it stop? You had to “cry uncle”; complete surrender and admission of defeat. And what would prevent you from doing this instantly?Pride, in most cases I would imagine; in my case, however, it was the knowledge that it wouldn’t work. The tickle-torture ended when the tickle-torturer decided it ended and I had absolutely no control. Still, I do remember scream-laughing “uncle” what felt like hundreds of times, because yes, in fact, I DID give up; there was no chance for triumph over my oppressor and I was smart enough to see that.
With the universe, however, I have been just a WEE BIT more resistant to surrender, mainly again because I think it won’t work. The tickle-torture will end when the tickle-torturer decides it will end, and scream-laughing “uncle!” won’t change a damn thing. Except, perhaps a bit ironically, this time my pride couldn’t quite acknowledge that there was no chance for triumph over my oppressor, so I kept on clawing at that sealed coffin.Ah, life! How patiently it repeats the lessons we refuse to learn!
So having overcome a few of the gargantuan obstacles that had been in the way of progress and shed a few of the situations that were dragging me through the mud in the past few months, I decided I could actually take a vacation. Ever heard of such a thing? Essentially you leave your regular environs for a more pleasant environs and eat food more pleasant than your regular food and sleep in and don’t engage in unpleasant activities such as “doing laundry”.Sounds pretty good, right? So I bought my tickets and made my plans and…God laughed.
You may have heard about the little weather systems we have had roaming around the Northeast (that’s Nor’East to you!) for the past month and well, let’s just say that losing power (water, heat, internet, phone) during spring thaw adds a rather watery dimension to a basement that is ordinarily kept quite dry at this time of year by a neat little invention called a “sump pump”. Which runs on electricity. Which we’ve lost THREE TIMES in the past two weeks.And the day I was supposed to be winging off to a tropical clime? Blizzard warning, 10-15 inches of snow (turned out to be a little more than that) and high winds. Which means I had to stay right where I am, because I’ve actually grown rather fond of my furnace and I didn’t fancy returning to find it submerged.
Yeah, God laughs. And we scream-laugh the scream-laugh of the damned. But you know what?I cried uncle. And you know what else? IT ACTUALLY WORKED.
Let me explain…so the first storm, our power went out within hours. I went down to pick up my son from school and we went out to dinner because, you know, NO POWER. By the time we got home, the sump pit was overflowing.A quick check of the national grid website told me that this was going to be one of those “long haul” power outages (5 days is our record so far!) so as I was bailing out the pit (every fifteen minutes) and sopping up the overflow, I felt a weird sense of calm descend over me. “This is it!” I thought. “This is how I will spend the next three to five days.”
Yes, I was bailing and sopping up in my cold, wet, dark house (but hey, at least we had PLENTY of water to flush toilets with, SILVER LINING), when I got a call from my neighbor. My wonderful, beautiful, amazing neighbor. Who said, “We have a spare generator, can we come down and hook that up for you?”Jesus wept. And so did I. And my wonderful, beautiful, amazing neighbor and her wonderful, beautiful, amazing son came to my house and hooked up the generator and I had to BAIL AND SOP NO MORE!
In fact, crying “uncle” worked so well, that as each new storm and crisis arose, I just found myself saying over and over “I give up”, and yes, still scream-laughing the scream-laugh of the damned, but perhaps a little less maniacally.Now, that’s not to say everything went off without a hitch. In fact, our cable box got burned out by the first storm (and the cable company sent me AN EMPTY BOX by FED EX instead of a replacement), my son’s fish died because the filter backed up into the tank, my Pella door got ripped off its hinges by the wind, the fire alarm/carbon monoxide detector went off in the middle of the night, I went out to get gas for the generator and the power company subsequently blocked every conceivable path to my house (causing me to go totally Shirley MacLaine in “Terms of Endearment” on them—yes, they DID move the trucks out of my way!) and, oh yeah—I had to cut my first real vacation in a year down from 11 days to 4. So, not entirely awesome.
BUT: as harrowing as the last few weeks have been, every single time I cried “uncle”, the help I needed was there, thanks to good friends, generous family (my sister whisked my son away to Universal in Florida for the third storm!) and great neighbors.So, two things I have never been very good at are saying “I give up” (no, really—this CAN be a bad thing if you don’t know when to quit) and “I need help”. This month? Those two lines have practically become my mantra.
And here is what I have learned…maybe, just maybe, the last 19 months would have been a little better and a little easier if only I had used them more often. When we don’t accept the lesson in front of us, the universe always turns up the heat until we relent; which in my case, won’t be until I am scream-laughing the scream-laugh of the damned. Ah, how well the universe knows me!I GIVE UP. And I do need help, at least sometimes. And I will enjoy the four days I get of this vacation more than any vacation I have EVER had in my entire life, I can promise you that.