Feather in a Hurricane

 

feather in a hurricaneMy guest today is author BC Brown, who explores the painful consequences of subordinating her own needs to her husband, a pattern she had in common with Lindsey Chandler, the protagonist in my just-released novel, A Fitting Place.

 

Feather in a Hurricane 

Three months driving between St. Louis and Indianapolis. Working all week and driving all weekend. Sleeping on waiting room floors and eating out of machines. My mother now recuperating after major surgery.

I was weary, leaden, and spent. Just when there seemed a light at the end, my husband of a decade calls.

“How quick can you come back?”

It’s ten p.m. I’ve been awake for more than 48 hours with only catnaps. Perhaps after a million hours of sleep. All I said was, “I don’t know. I have to pick up mom’s meds tomorrow, wait for the nurse, and do her grocery shopping. Why?”

“Can you be here by noon?”

An hour time change, a three-hour drive, and a mountain of errands beforehand. Uh, no.  “I could be home by two. What’s this about?”

A hesitation. “I’ll see you at two. I can’t talk about it on the phone.” Click.

I should have gotten a speeding ticket, a Driving Under the Influence of Fatigue ticket, but I was lucky. Despite my lack of sleep and my complete lack of focus, neither I nor anyone else was harmed.

I arrived home to have my heart ripped from my chest. My husband was leaving. What I thought was a happy marriage had been a sham. He’d had an ongoing affair. Within an hour, he’d gone.

I was left with a minimum wage job that couldn’t support the life we lived. I had no schooling, having supported him in school and helped work his business.

I did what any self-respecting woman would do. I called family.

My sisters drove from southern Indiana to St. Louis in almost the record time I’d done it only hours before, packed everything I owned, and took me home. Where things went from devastating to destitute.  It took more than a month to stop bursting into random tears.

The best part of it all? Expectations of job searching and of being an independent, strong person. With what skills?

My husband and I met at seventeen. The instant I was legal, we had the dream: jobs, one of us in school, a business, dogs, and a mortgaged picket fence. My life was very much ‘my husband’. With the exception of my writing and my love of karaoke, I didn’t have my own opinions, my own interests, or my own skills.

I was stymied when potential employers asked why I’d make a good fit for their company? I mean, I didn’t know if I made a good fit for me.

As a result, I worked a string of back-breaking and paycheck-puny jobs. I tried counseling. I tried job fairs. I trudged from one ad to another, touted my pitiful skills, trotted out every reference, accomplishment, and award.

It didn’t help. I was free falling. My elderly and ailing mother was financially supporting me, while one sister with kids fed and housed me and the other fed my gas tank and car insurance. I was broke and broken.

Enter the good friend.

My best friend for almost fifteen years, the same man who’d introduced me to my husband (but I couldn’t hold that against him), mentioned his old job was open again. The pay was crap, the job bottom of the barrel, and the hours long with mandatory overtime. But he’d put in a good word for me.

I walked in, seven months out of work, with a pathetic resume of retail, food service, clerical, and a smidgen of advertising experience. The HR manager asked why I wanted the position.

“I’m broke. I need a job; you have one that needs to be filled. No matter that I feel like a feather in a hurricane, those two things are true,” is all I said. Desperation is rarely the best form of self-presentation, but I was beyond desperation, willing to consider jobs that weren’t exactly the most flattering or self-respecting.

He stuffed his hands in his pockets. “You’ll hate this job, probably quit in a month. Everyone does.” Pause. “You start Tuesday.”

For the first time in half a year, my stomach ceased churning. I put my hand in his and shook. “I won’t quit.”

My feather had snagged something solid and stopped spinning long enough for me to get my feet. I spent the next three years in that job, moving from the entry position to a middling position. Even when I was offered a better, full-time position elsewhere, I continued to work there. See, if everything I’d tried and done on my own hadn’t helped, I sure wasn’t going to give up the one good thing that had happened.

I learned an insanely good lesson. I’d been raised with a ‘do it yourself’ mentality. But that hadn’t worked. It was when I’d acknowledged that I needed others that life straightened out.

I could pick up the pieces, build a new me. But it took someone else, a good friend, to show me who I really was all along. Just me. And I could do this.

BC Brown featherBC Brown is the author of A Touch of Darkness and A Touch of Madness, both Abigail St. Michael novels. Her work has been included in three, multi-author anthologies – Fracas: A Collection of Short Friction, Quixotic: Not Everyday Love Stories, and A Chimerical World: Tales of the Seelie Court. She has published a dark fantasy novel, Sister Light, Book One: Of Shadows previously under the pen name B.B. Walter.

BC has upcoming work with the Abigail St. Michael novels entitled A Touch of Emptiness. More of her work will be released in a general fiction novella entitled Feather in a Hurricane and a dark fantasy novel, Of Shadows.

You can see more about BC and her books from the links below.

Amazon … Barnes & Noble … Facebook … Twitter … Goodreads

 

The discussion on the human condition will continue, with particular emphasis on the issues that complicate the life of Lindsey Chandler, the protagonist in A Fitting Place.  If you would be interested in contributing a guest blog to this series, please contact me here  or at afittingplace@hotmail.com. 

Comments

  1. Depending on everyone else and not using our own brains is probably one of the hardest lessons to learn and recover from. Great going, BC.

  2. Gripping story, well told.

  3. BC, your memoir sounds like a combination cautionary tale and shout of victory. I must say, I’d hire anyone who used these words in a job interview: “No matter that I feel like a feather in a hurricane” and “I won’t quit.”

    Mary, great pairing: Your A Fitting Place and BC’s story.

    • Mary Gottschalk says

      Marian … I’m so glad I could host BC … she has such wonderful turns of phrase, and uses them in service of an issue that is at the heart of A Fitting Place.

  4. Joan,
    Having been raised that the only person I could ever count on to think correctly was myself, it was hard to give over that kind of control. Especially after having someone I trusted implicitly – my husband – make me doubt whether anyone could be trusted to help me help myself.

    Sharon,
    Thank you. I’m happy that, despite the difficulty of sharing a rough spot in my life, my ability to write and convey it probably remains strong. Pretty much that’s all a writer can hope for. 🙂

    Marian,
    In many ways it is both. I learned what to try to avoid, but I also learned how to overcome that which is unavoidable. While I’m not sure that particular phrase impressed the HR manager, the “I won’t quit” made an impression. He mentioned it several times over the years I was there.

    • Mary Gottschalk says

      BC … thanks so much for sharing your story with us … it is both moving and inspiring, a tale of a woman with steel in her spine. You’re welcome back anytime!

  5. Your sisters sound wonderful! You’re fortunate to have such a family. Thank you for sharing your story.

  6. Sandra,
    My sisters are wonderful. My family tremendous supporters. Without them I would have been living out of my car, begging for money. I have no doubt of it. They were there to help pick up the pieces when I couldn’t do it myself, no matter how hard I tried. At my weakest they showed me I had strength I never imagined. I’d always been strong willed, but that kind of devastation is difficult to recover from. No matter how intelligent or determined a person is, it is hard to find your footing when your world has been turned upside down and your heart isn’t in it.

    Also, Joan, I was re-reading your comment. I was wondering, did you mean to imply I wasn’t trying to help myself? It reads a little awkward, and without tone for context, I’m not sure I’m reading it right. My story is meant to relay that, despite trying everything I could and knew how to do, I finally had to relent and accept I couldn’t put my life back together with the minimal help necessary from my family. I had to learn to trust again. That was what was missing from my recovery.

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