A BRIEF HISTORY OF (SIX MONTH’S) TIME….
As New Orleans receded in my rearview mirror last July I felt certain I’d soon return. I longed for a second peek at a NOLA Halloween and the enchantment of a third straight Crescent City Christmas. Yet the next six months would be dominated by a tougher-than-expected return to the working world. I was passed over for the University job that had fit prominently into my reasoning for returning; I had a home health job lined up as backup but it was late August before I could prod them into processing my paperwork and then, after initially loading me up with new patient evaluations, they handed my caseload to an Occupational Therapist Assistant who would work for half the salary; I signed on with another company with two therapists out on maternity leave, but it turned out to be a small operation with only part-time employees so referrals were infrequent; I signed on with a third agency that promised 15-20 visits a week—a good two or three days—but their referrals flat-lined my first week as though I were some sort of cursed talisman.
Throughout autumn I scrambled for work, feeling the pressure of my extended absence. When the holidays finally rolled around I was suddenly swamped as everyone everywhere took vacation but I knew it wouldn’t last. Still, I busted my hump, often working Saturday and Sunday, afraid to turn anything away.
During this temporary glut, however, I agreed to work for the Physical Therapist who had worked for me before I moved to New Orleans. She had slid into my supervisor’s position when I departed and since relocated—along with much of the building’s staff that I knew and loved—to a new memory care facility on the west side of town. I wasn’t exactly psyched to return to the stress and demand of memory/Alzheimer’s care and I dreaded the 30 mile/45 minute drive but it was steady work with folks who were thrilled to have me back (and sometimes it’s nice to feel needed!) Besides, it would be satisfying to reverse roles and simply see patients while Kim ran around in constant crisis management mode!!!
This new position was part-time but it kept me busy with the possibility of going full-time this summer when the company expands closer to home. Thus, after months of scrambling I entered 2015 with a bit of stability that allowed me to refocus.
LIKE A PHYSICIAN PERPETUALLY ON-CALL
It seems underemployment would allow time to write and travel, yet I was always hustling—searching and waiting like a physician perpetually on call, afraid to step out the door lest the phone finally ring. People often ask why I took a year off to write, and this is exactly why. Energy and focus are finite resources and some things they will forever remain on the back-burner unless you prioritize them. During my creative drought of the latter half of 2014 I did manage to work a little on a collection of short stories I’ve been conceptualizing for years, but for the most part was mired in creative limbo.
EMBRACING FISCAL IMPRUDENCE
The approach of Christmas, however, lifted my malaise and left me yearning for some NOLA magic. Although I was now too swamped to visit, I finally dusted off the blog to reflect upon the things I missed and, for the sake of balance and self-reflection, the challenges and obstacles I didn’t. The latter, however, had softened with distance while the former weighed on my heart. Mardi Gras was approaching and I had no intention of missing it.
Perhaps the most fun I had during my entire adventure was marching with Chewbacchus, so watching my friends post pictures of their preparations online left me wistful. I’d clung to a faint hope of attending and then returning the next weekend for Morpheus, but family issues rendered that impracticality an impossibility. The Krewe of Morpheus, however, had set their deadline for dues at the end of October so I had already paid—underemployment and fiscal prudence be damned—so in January I booked my room at the Hampton Inn Convention Center and ordered my throws from Plush Appeal. It seemed a lavish indulgence, but I had no regrets. It was almost Mardi Gras and I was going to once again help host the party!
A PEBBLE ON THE SHORES OF A MIGHTY RIVER
As January zipped past, so did emails between riders on my float; apparently I wasn’t the only one chomping at the bit. Crazy Don from Boston—who’d again ride beside me—ramped up the countdown he’d begun immediately after last year’s ride while puffing up his deflated Patriots as I antagonized him on Facebook. Doug from D.C. maintained his unfailing cheerfulness despite learning the power of an omitted accent mark, having caused a stir by describing our new nightcaps as lame instead of lame¢. (Yeah, I had to look it up.) The Karolina krewe reached out to see if I’d be back and blogging. It was clear no one’s mind was on work!
Although there are parades throughout Mardi Gras season, things truly kick off with Nyx the Wednesday evening before Ash Wednesday, with multiple parades following daily through Fat Tuesday. Last year Nyx had been my biggest booty bonanza of the season (maybe because I had two friends riding but more likely because I was dressed like a pirate!), and as I watched my K.R.A.P. friends post online about gathering again I sighed and finished packing, knowing I’d be on the road by the following afternoon.
At work the next morning I passed out beads to residents and staff (with other krewe’s logos since you can’t recycle another krewe’s beads), fleeing the fully-beaded Assisted Living in the early afternoon to plunge down the long, droning expanse of I-10 West. I’d booked a cheap room for the night in a Biloxi casino, so as midnight approached I settled into bed with visions of sugar plums…err flying decorated shoes…dancing in my head, for Muses was finishing its march down Tchoupitoulas less than 90 miles away. Just one more sleep until Carnival!
The next morning as the city skyline appeared in the distance my heart leapt. My first attempt to settle New Orleans may have failed, but the city had captured a piece of my heart when I first arrived in 1998 and after living there for a year and a half I felt—in the tiniest way—a part of it; perhaps just a pebble on the shores of a mighty river, but it was my pebble now.