Tuesday, May 19, 2020

What Happens When a Career Vampire Starts Working From Home

Not an actual photo of sunlight penetrating my house. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.  
Image by stokpic from Pixabay

Most of the year, I rise in darkness, get ready for work, spend most of the day in a mostly windowless office, and return home after dark. During that too-brief time of year when my day actually has daylight on both ends, I revel in the light and warmth, and take every advantage to be outside, including using a speed cleaning process on weekends to tidy my house. But the reality is, for much of my life, I have been a career vampire, living and working in the shadows.

Now comes the pandemic-required time of working from home, and spending long days in a domicile bathed in daylight. It has been an eye-opening experience.

At first I was fascinated by the play of light and shadow between sunrise and sunset. I had never before witnessed the golden shafts of sunlight moving from window to window, acting as spotlights throughout my house. I congratulated myself on the placement of a garden window, seeing for myself why my plants were thriving.

But the spotlights moving through my indoor space were not so welcome in other areas. For example, something disturbing was revealed at my salon-style art wall, full of floor to ceiling photos and artwork. There was not only a fine layer of dust, but in some places the frames looked as if they had been hanging, untouched, for many years. Some even had thready cobwebs hanging from them. How could this be? I even had a special duster I ran over the frames while cleaning!

And the frames were just the start. Daylight revealed a disgustingly grimy laptop keyboard, lint and other bits of detritus in the carpet, hairs and crumbs and dust bunnies on floors and under furniture. And what were those spots on the ceiling in the kitchen?

I became aware that my heat ducts probably needed to be cleaned out, my kitchen cabinets scrubbed, my furniture vacuumed, and my bathroom — which I swear I clean every week — required a Haz-Mat team. My cute, quirky decorating style is looking more and more like an episode of “Hoarders” the longer I spend daylight time here. I've found myself sweeping the kitchen floor several times a day, and running the dishwasher and the washing machine more often as I discover all sorts of not-quite-clean-in-the-light-of-day objects around the house.

The magazine photo version. ©2020 Noreen Braman
I've rearranged the coats and scarves hanging on hooks next to my front door to be more artistically pleasing. I grabbed some recycled folding doors, leftover paint and more hooks to turn an utilitarian (translation: messy) broom, mop and recycling area into a magazine worthy project.

At the same time, I am tackling a general house cleanout, having finally realized that my grown children have really left the nest, as evidenced by their house purchases, moves to distant states, and giving me 6 grandchildren. Time for the toys, books, trophies and other souvenirs packed away for 20 years in the shed to go.

As open shed doors, closets, cabinets and file drawers and view their contents bathed in sunlight (or even filtered cloudy daylight, to be honest) I really understand why light was such a powerful enemy of the Undead. Unfortunately, unlike the bloodsuckers who either burst into flame or turn to dust when exposed to light, my possessions and collections just sit there. Collecting dust.

In his landmark vampire tale, "Dracula," Bram Stoker created the legend that vampires need to have their "native soil" nearby in order to survive. Apparently, as a career vampire I have been accumulating my own version of that dirt all around me. And I know I’m not alone. Go ahead, run your finger along the tops of your picture frames. Pull up those couch cushions. Then pull down the shades.

©2020 Noreen Braman

Tuesday, May 12, 2020


Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay

In the sunset of life it isn’t fun to suddenly realize, that you never had the life you wanted. That things never went the way you thought they should, and even if you generally think that your life has been mostly fine – the day will come when you realize, the "somedays" you dreamed about aren’t coming.

It can happen when you are watching an old show on TV, that show you watched in your formative years, the one that made you laugh, the one you all talked about the next day, the one that seemed to describe your forward path – but it never did. And that is because life is not a sitcom. There is no team of writers plotting all the twists and turns. No one to type up the happy ending.

They say that you are responsible for writing your own story. But no one tells you that you may carry one story in your head, while you live out another. And even if that life is full of love and laughter, the day will come where a snippet of music, a mention of a movie, or the title of a book will open up a dark hole under your feet. And if you aren’t careful, you will fall into this hole, tumbling over and over like Alice, watching all the souvenirs of your life cascading around you, and as hard as you try to catch them, you can’t.

Tokens of you childhood streak by like shooting stars, the puffs of smoke that were your dreams, from the days when all seemed possible. And as you plummet you are joined by fleeting ghostly shadows of lovers and friends who swirled in and out of your life. They whisper as they pass by, but you cannot catch what they say, you’ve forgotten the sound of their voices. From deep inside you, memories flicker, what were those plans we had? The promises made to each other, the song you promised to sing at her funeral, but by then you had lost touch.

Soon you are wrapped in swirling clouds of motherhood – diapers and first teeth and the leftover equipment of their childhood activities, photos and toys and high school rings — the music of a thousand performances. The rising of a deepening ache as one by one they leave home, and the feeling of loss, of “never again” threatens to drown you. There are points of light that fill you full of warmth, and again your head fills up with dreams, this time you will get things right. The circle will re-form itself with everyone reachable, touchable, lovable, and the next generation running in and out, calling for you.

However, the hole continues to widen and as hard as your try to hold their hands, to encircle them with your arms, they drift away, smiling as they go, their own dreams covering them like fog. And you wake up one day to realize, you are living in a house that no one will visit, in a place where no one will return, and the vision of your sunset years reveals itself to be just more smoke. 

You wonder what was the turning point, where was that bend in the road that took you in the wrong direction. No amount of turning around will get you back to that place, you have no choice but to continue falling, holding on to the new life where there is still love and laughter, no longer trying to catch the things that are falling away, trying as best as you can to quiet the heartache, accepting that you have reached to part of the journey where losses mount.

©2020 Noreen Braman

With an understanding nod (after so many years denying it) to Judith Viorst’s “Necessary Losses.”