They, of course, were my husband Mark's former co-workers, too. Clearly, the best part of my job at Carvers Restaurant was meeting him: my soul mate. But a close second was the opportunity to regularly stand around a grand piano and sing my heart out during two to three dinners shows each week (five to seven during the holidays) plus a weekly Saturday morning rehearsal. Great song selections, talented coworkers, charming atmosphere, delicious food. Music wove this enchanted environment together in a way that continues to evoke peace, belonging and joy, eons after we lived those moments in real time.
This week I've picked up a vibe from Pam's Facebook updates. It's a vibe I recognize: Life isn't comfortable right now. The details of what she is dealing with day to day don't match the feelings associated with life as it should be. Unfortunately, that's the way it is when you live year after year with cancer and cancer treatments (and she's doing it as a single mother of a preteen). It's also the way it is when your life has been shaped by the needs of an adult child with disabilities for close to 20 years, and you realize those years will extend either the duration of your life - or his.
When you are living with chronic health issues, the demands of daily life regularly override how you want to feel. You have to fight to keep yourself above the threshold of what you personally find tolerable. Some days you want to be alone with your struggle. Other days you want people to recognize that you need support. Rare is the day you ask for the support you need. You simply don't want to become another person's tidal wave.
In Involuntary Joy, I attempt to describe the sensations that shape this type of existence using water. I acknowledge times I have felt overwhelmed - swallowed by the latest wave created by a personal financial storm, a poor health storm, a dysfunctional relationship storm, or an employment storm. Sometimes a perfect storm of emotions - created by swirls from each crises - threaten to drag me down.
As I describe in the book, I have learned to employ nostalgia therapy when I recognize that I am standing in torrents of rain. At those times, I whisk myself back to when life felt magical and pregnant with possibilities that I had yet to ponder. For me - and for Mark as well - that time, that place, is Carvers.
Here's what I shared in Involuntary Joy:
Carvers Restaurant had been our Camelot, the magical location of our first meeting and subsequent courtship...No matter how many dined in the restaurant's Chalet Room those glorious evenings, I could always count on one pair of eyes to lock on mine across a finely laden sea of glassware and candlelight...At Carver's I had never seen pain in Mark's eyes. But sitting in the exam room room where we learned of our miscarriage, I could see his pain - feel it even. Had it been possible, I'd have transported us back to the place where our dreams had essentially begun-back to a time when he was the tenor with a huge smile, and I was the flirtatious alto who always managed to be near him ...
I sense that Pam is experiencing a flood that feels overwhelming - things caused by drenching emotional rain that shows no sign of stopping. But those like Pam (and Mark and me) who have stood in such a rain know that it eventually does stop, even if we can't anticipate when or how.
We also know that when it stops, we will find ourselves standing with our shoulders back again, with smiles feeling easy again, and words coming out softer and measured again. And, we won't need to cry tears of release just to breathe deeply anymore.
Essentially, we will find that we have made it through the rain, and - as Barry Manilow helped us recognize - we may even feel respected by the others who have been rained on too and have also made it through.
This is for you, dear Pam. I respect you. I believe in you. I am with you. I hope this bit of nostalgia therapy will help you ride out this storm.