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July 26, 2009

And so that happened, again.

Last week I started off on the wrong foot. On Monday I was upset all day because I couldn't remember if I had turned off the gas grill. It's hot, you see, and I had planned to grill some chicken on Sunday night to add to my packed lunches during the week but last Sunday night it never cooled down and finally I gave up and went to bed.

I have this thing about starting the week -- if I don't manage to get something prepared ahead of time for my lunches (like wash and cut some vegetables, or make rice, or whatever) then I usually have a week full of eating crap and subsisting on microwaved popcorn and Lara bars. There just isn't time during my workweek to cook much. I commute. It's time suckage.

So on Monday morning, I got up early and went outside and put some laundry on to wash -- the laundry is in the garage -- and then I set about grilling my chicken. And it was early, and I'm not really a morning person by any stretch of the imagination, and when everything was sufficiently charred I took the chicken off the grill and went inside to chop some and pack it up with rice for lunch.

Then I showered and got dressed and did all those morning things and when I was on the bus halfway to work, I started freaking out about the grill. Had I remembered to turn off the gas? I teetered between panic and calm, panic that something would catch fire and then calm because I am someone who turns off the grill, geez.

So my Monday was spend gazing at the clock, wondering if I was crazy, wondering if my house was still standing, and vowing to never again try to be ridiculously productive before work. (Yes, I had turned off the grill. Of course. Thank God.)

This whole affair reminded me all over again of what's challenging about being a Party Of One. After my ex-husband left and then I moved into this little house, I would panic on a regular basis about whether or not I had left some appliance or another turned on, or if I had left a window open, or left the door unlocked accidentally. One day early on in the pre-divorce-mid-divorce crazy days, I worked myself into such a state that I had to leave the office and go to my house and check on something. You wouldn't think it would be that big of a deal to leave work and quickly check on something at home, but the challenge is that I commute on a bus which does not run between 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. It's a commuter bus, so it runs early in the mornings and then again in the evenings. So on the day of my panic trip home so many moons ago, I had to pay $73.00 for a taxi to my car which was located at a park 'n ride lot, then I drove to my house where NOTHING AT ALL was amiss, then I drove back into work, poorer and behind schedule and shamed over my crazypants ways.

[Please don't email me horror stories of people you know/heard about/read about online who left their doors unlocked/oven on/etc. It is not helpful. It makes crazy even crazier.]

That is how the sticky note situation started. Once I realized that my panic was largely based on the scary notion that there was simply no one to call to help me, no one to rely upon, no one to remind me to lock the door or double-check the oven, I decided to think not of such frightening things and concentrate instead on sticky notes. I started writing myself post-it notes and leaving them in key places, such as on the door: "Did you remember to lock the door? Turn off the oven? Unplug the hair dryer? Throw salt over your left shoulder and spin three times while chanting lucky charms?" (OK, just kidding about the last one, but really. I am an embarrassment to myself.)

The safety net of having a significant other or roommate who you can call to help with the day-to-day tasks of living was simply gone and I was suspect about relying on myself, shoddy adult that I was. (Am.) When I would have people over I would hide my post-it-note neurotica, but I used that system for well over a year to help ease me into singlehood. There are other re-singled things, too, like not having anyone to pick you up when your car is in the shop, or having anyone to drive you home from the dentist's office while you're doped up on happy gas. Eventually you figure out solutions -- I have -- and the weird feeling of being so alone and dependent entirely on yourself eventually fades and becomes the norm. In time I even realized I am more reliable and easier to talk to and I am a better driver anyway and instead of feeling alone and put-upon, I feel independent and resourceful. Still, I hate those days when I panic and think I left the stove on or whatever. They're not nearly as frequent but they are still awful.

But there is also the small saving grace of strangers. I forget how helpful people can be. Yesterday I got home and it was hot out and I was tired and in dire need of a shower and before I could even get all the way out of my Jeep, my next-door neighbor was walking over to tell me a pipe had started leaking in the front sprinklers so he turned the water off for me. The gardeners came to fix it today and then left and after fifteen minutes the pipe burst forth into a giant geyser, and my neighbor was out his door as quickly as I was out mine. I got drenched turning off the water and later, after I had dried off and changed clothes I went over and thanked him for keeping an eye on my house. I wish they knew how much I appreciated it, being a Party of One and all, but that was a little hard to convey so I just said thank you. He was gracious and his wife said I looked like I had been hit with a firehose and we laughed then I went back in and finished breakfast, not feeling quite as worried as I was last week.

But I'm still not planning to grill chicken before work anymore. Just in case.

Posted by laurie at July 26, 2009 1:33 PM