On days like today, I have to sit still and remind myself that everything is fine, I’m fine, and that the world isn’t burning down around me. Anxiety is a devil I wish for no one to possess. It lies to you, tells you that you are in hell when, in fact, you’re sitting in your living room trying not to lose your shit because the wave of anxiety is especially hard. Nothing’s burning, nothing’s horrible but the worry man… of the things out of my control and the things I cannot change are a constant.
Today, I opted not to give in to the feeling of impending doom and decided to sit on the front porch for a little while and I think it was one of the most therapeutic things I’ve ever done. I watched a little hummingbird approach our picture window as if he were trying to take a peek inside… casing the joint?? Who knows but he/she is welcome to steal everything I own along with my heart. I watched kids play tag outside, kids ride bikes, and older people talk to each other on their porches, (Which I see more now since we seem to think as a collective that “Pandi” has calmed.) and I also heard the unmistakable sound of the clanging of metal and loud voices and I knew instantly what was going on.
The sound tossed me back into a time where everything was so much easier. Being a kid of about 10 years old and hanging out with my Uncle Sam for the last summer I’d spend with him. I remembered one particular moment that summer that I’m surprised remained with me. Schizophrenia has a way of messing up my memories to the point of thinking I lived through a thing that I never even experienced or it adds things that never happened. But this moment in particular I remembered with surprising accuracy and it was confirmed with my mother before I sat down to write this post.
I was ten years old that summer… it was the weekend of my 10th birthday (A true Gemini to my poor little crazy heart) and we were having a family gathering to celebrate my birthday and a family member’s new job. Our yard was filled with family and friends, neighbors and strangers (to me) that wanted to stop by and say hi to my grandmother. It was hot. Like summers haven’t been that hot since then. We were kids that drank from the garden hose with no qualms about it. It was how we kept cool and hydrated. I and several of the kids from the neighborhood were throwing water balloons at each other as another means of keeping cool. We seemed to dry off immediately that day. It was that hot.
My Uncle Sam, another uncle, and his friends were playing a game of Horseshoes. It was my uncle’s favorite game to play – that and a card game called Tonk. Don’t ask me how to play – I’ve only played once and was accused of cheating because I won a treasure load of quarters. My Uncle Gary is still sore about that to this day, Lol. Anyway – after the water balloons we were having watermelon and these gigantic popsicles that my Aunt Carol bought over. During that time – the game of Horseshoes was under way.
My uncle was three sheets to the wind – that is to say, the man was drunk but able to remain upright and still able to toss insults at his friends. We, my friends and I, were sitting in the grass placing bets about whose iron would go the furthest and who would actually hit the post. I always bet on my Uncle Sam. Always – even drunk that man could play with his eyes closed both hands behind his back on one leg and win. Am I bullshitting? Maybe about both hands tied behind his back but otherwise, yes the man was a marvel.
We’re watching and my uncle’s friend is so lit that when he went to throw the horseshoe with one hand and hold his Colt 45 with the other hand, he tipped over and fell… but not one damn drop of beer spilled. We laughed, it was quite a sight seeing a grown up eat dirt. The iron didn’t make it anywhere near the post. He stood up and dusted himself off and told us to hush up. I kept laughing. My uncle called me over and said, “Red, Come show him how it’s done.” That was his name for me… Red. I stood up and walked over to him. The neighbor’s kid “Dee” who was my nemesis stood up and pushed me out of the way to pick up the horseshoe. My uncle snatched it out of his hands and placed it in mine. Telling him that he didn’t ask him to do it. He stormed off mumbling girls are stupid but tried his damnedest later on to steal a kiss… not gonna lie, the boy was dumb and still is.
So I’m standing with this heavy ass horseshoe in my hands. These were real horseshoes. Not small either. He gives me the directive to throw it as far as I could and if I got it beyond where everyone else threw, I’d get 10 bucks out of it. I lit up and said okay. How hard could it be? Then he said, you can throw it any way you want, just get past the last horseshoe thrown. Piece. Of. Cake. His friends were betting him that I wouldn’t make it, that I was messing up the game and passing bad juju.. all types of shit. Did I care? Nope.
I lifted it with both hands and turned to the side and lobbed it down the dirt path and it struck the iron… it didn’t hook it, but it hit it. The object is to hook the iron around the post. My uncle lifted me off the ground and kissed my cheek and he smelled like every ounce of alcohol he drank. Lol, he put me back on the ground and put 10 dollars in my hand. Penny candy money attained and I quickly ran off my with my 10 bucks before he could change his mind. No sooner had I left the presence of my uncle did the bully (neighbor’s kid) come chasing me down trying to steal my hard earned money away. I ran right to my grandmother and asked her to hold on to it for me and she did exactly that.
It was the sound of horseshoes being played that caused me to remember all of that, I’d know that sound anywhere. Tonight the neighbor’s are enjoying their weekend with a gathering, a barbecue, and a game from my childhood. Seeing and hearing all of that.. kids playing, music, clanging metal, and the smell of the barbecue makes me wish for simpler times. What do you do when nostalgia comes knocking with force on your door? Do you go along for the trip or write it off as just another memory?
I decided to go along for the trip. Summer is upon us and I feel the need to do some of those old things I used to do. Water balloon fight might happen, a trip to a candy store might go down (I’m never too old for candy). A game of Horseshoes, Trip-o-ley, or Tonk definitely. No matter what, I want to expose my young people to the things that I grew up with. I don’t know how many more accurate memories are left in me. My mind becomes mush after stress and meds. I have to fact check my memories more often now. I thank God my mom took a ton of pictures when I was a kid and that I did the same with my kids. I’m doing the same with my grandson as well.
I just hate that it’s so hard to hold onto some things. Is it a thing of age or is it the mental illness? These are the things I talk to my counselor about. Life just tossing out curveballs as it see fits and them landing on my noggin is par for the course I guess.
Somethings are solid – like the things I did years ago. Yesterday??? I can’t even tell you what I did or how. It happens like that quite a lot. My biggest fear is that the mental illness becomes a precursor to dementia or Alzheimer’s. It’s a very big fear that I struggle with so I do things like write, play Chess or board games – things that help strengthen my mind. I journal a great deal to log my thoughts and how I feel from day to day. I pray over my mental health, keep my appointments with my psychiatrist and other doctors and take my meds religiously because falling into a set back hurts.
I struggle with feeling myself lately. Some days I’m good and can carry out the tasks I set for myself. Other days, I don’t even attempt it because those are the days where the will to live is relatively low.
I wish I had answers to all the questions I have or that there was someone who knew. It seems that some things even escape doctors. So what am I to do?
I do what I know how to do…Survive and some days that’s all I can ask for… survival.
Today isn’t horrible – the anxiety has lifted and I’m writing. I can breathe a little easier and that makes everything better. I’ve been kicking around writing another memoir and I don’t know that it will happen but there is definitely enough material to log now… with a more structured approach than I had with the first one. We’ll see.
I’m okay and I’m glad summer is here.
Have you ever had something trigger a memory? Care to share? Leave a comment, let’s talk. What has managed to trigger a good memory for you?