“She was a genius of sadness, immersing herself in it, separating its numerous strands, appreciating its subtle nuances. She was a prism through which sadness could be divided into its infinite spectrum.” ~ Jonathan Safran Foer, from Everything Is Illuminated

Nikolay Nikanorovich Dubovskoy Silence has Settled 1890 drohende Stille oil on canvas

“Silence has Settled or Drohende Stille” (1890, oil on canvas)
by Nikolay Nikanorovich Dubovskoy

                      

“Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o-er wrought heart and bids it break.” ~ William Shakespeare, from Macbeth

Alexis’s friend Jennifer died today. Jennifer, who had so many reprieves, who lived to share another Christmas and another Christmas with her young son, and even, almost a third Christmas.

When I first wrote about Jennifer it was in September of 2010, and everyone was so certain that she would die before the end of the year. I include myself in that everyone. But Jennifer fooled each of us. She left the hospital, went home, and lived. She lived through two more (three?) of her son Reilly’s birthdays; she lived long enough to come to Alexis’s baby showers and to take a bus to the hospital when Alexis was in labor.

She lived, and then, she didn’t.

As if I needed yet another reason to hate November.

“Given the choice between the experience of pain and nothing, I would choose pain.” ~ William Faulkner, from The Wild Palms

You see, I feel nothing but guilt about Jennifer. I was not a good friend to her, and even when Corey mentioned that I might want to call her because she was sick again, I chose not to. I just couldn’t do it, couldn’t put aside my own feelings of dread at facing another young person’s death, couldn’t find a way around my own discomfort to call this sweet, sweet girl. God, she could talk your ear off, and the drugs made her ramble even more. I am not patient with such things, witness my attitude with my own mother.

And the whole time Alexis was pregnant, Jennifer would find things for her that she might be able to use. Jennifer was a world-class thrifter. But that’s how she was, truly, thinking about other people. Looking out for others even when she already bore so much more than she deserved.

I thought about Jennifer a lot since that September in 2010. I was beyond happy when she was around to spend Christmas with Reilly that year and then the next, and then that thing happened that always happens: complacency. Just as with my brother-in-law Patrick: you get so used to the person being in a certain state of health that that state becomes normal. So when Patrick got sick again, it just didn’t occur to me that he would die. Neither did it occur to me that Jennifer might actually die this time, even though within my heart I knew that it was a strong probability.

“How could I have been so ignorant? she thinks. So stupid, so unseeing, so given over to carelessness. But without such ignorance, such carelessness, how could we live? If you knew what was going to happen, if you knew everything that was going to happen next—if you knew in advance the consequences of your own actions—you’d be doomed.” ~ Margaret Atwood, from The Blind Assassin

Funnily enough, today I was watching Sesame Street with Olivia, and I had a flash of memory: When Lex was younger and one or more of her friends had spent the night, I used to go in and jump on the bed and use Elmo’s voice and yell at them to get up. Weird, I know, but true. I thought of that today, before I got the news. And then a few hours later a got a text that Jennifer had died.

And so I wept. I wept hot tears of hate. Hatred at myself. Hatred at fate. Hatred at cancer. Hatred at whatever it is that decides to inflict such pain upon a sweet, talkative young girl who never had all of the comforts that Alexis had, who came from a broken family filled with dysfunctions—how that girl moved beyond that and became a wonderful mother to her son, the kind of mother she never had.

I wept at myself for failing to do the right thing, and then, I realized that my tears were also selfish tears, appropriating Jennifer’s life and death to add to my own litany of loss, and I am repulsed by myself. How can I cry for Jennifer and turn it into tears for my own losses? Who does this? I am sickened, and so I weep more, weep until I cannot breathe and am on the verge of hyperventilating because the overwhelming sensation that I feel is guilt: guilt over not calling Jennifer, guilt over not keeping in touch with Patrick, guilt over not being more patient with my mother, guilt over not going back to the hospital in time to be with my father so that he did not die alone, and always, always, always, guilt over Caitlin.

“Youth offers the promise of happiness, but life offers the realities of grief.”Nicholas Sparks, from The Rescue

I won’t scream and say that it’s unfair, that it’s unfair because she was young. Death holds sway over who it will. Youth’s seeming immortality has no pardon from its sway, is impotent in its presence.

When is enough enough?

I know that I am merely screaming into the wind here, that nothing can change anything, yet I am so filled with self-loathing right now that it just makes me cry even harder.

We are careless. Humans are careless. We make assumptions. We delude ourselves. It is easier this way. We do not want cold truths. We do not want blunt realities. Allow us to coast along with our false certainties, to be comforted by our denial. Yes, that is better, is it not?

My dog Shakes used to get very worried when I had crying jags. He would come in and try to get in my lap and Alfie would bark shrilly as if that could stem my tears. It was harder to cry when that was going on. I suddenly remembered that in the middle of my keening, and then I cried even harder.

Granted, it has already been a very shaky November so far as it was apparent that I was well on my way to a major fall. But now? I don’t even know how to think. I’m just letting my fingers form the words for me as I do not want to think about anything too much. I do not want to see Jennifer’s face in my mind, especially as I cannot recall Caitlin’s face. I know. That makes no sense, but it feels like yet another betrayal.

“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.” ~ C.S. Lewis, from A Grief Observed

Jennifer was someone’s daughter, someone’s sister, someone’s lover, and someone’s mother. Jennifer used to put baby oil in her hair when she was a teenager because it was curly and she wanted to make it lay flat. I’m certain that Jennifer is the first person Alexis got drunk with, and for a while I would not let Alexis spend the night at Jennifer’s apartment. Turns out my daughter was probably the instigator all along, but I blamed Jennifer and Amanda. Not my Alexis.

But we do what we can as parents. We try to make the right decisions. Try to guide our sons and daughters into having the right relationships, and even when they don’t, we make excuses for them because after all, they are our sons and daughters.

After today a young son lost his mother. Reilly will not have his mommy to spend Christmas with him, to celebrate his birthday with him, to see him go on his first date, to watch him graduate. His drug addict father hasn’t been in the picture in years. He will have his uncle who helped Jennifer with Reilly after she got out of the hospital. But no matter how much the people in his life who love him may try, they will never ever be able to fill that void. No one can replace your mother, especially when you are young.

” . . . you know you can go your whole life collecting days, and none will outweigh the one you wish you had back.” ~ Mitch Albom, from For One More Day

I haven’t talked much about suicide on this blog for many reasons. I will only say this: that knowing what it would do to my children kept me from making foolish mistakes. Jennifer had no choice in this. And try as she did, the fates were against her. Her death will affect Reilly in so very many ways, ways in which people could never predict.

Caitlin never had a choice, nor did she have a chance, but that never kept us from hoping until hope was taken away.

Hope. That four letter word that is probably more powerful than love or hate. Hope allows us to fool ourselves in ways that love and hate never do. Hope keeps us coming back. Hope carries us to places we might not dare to travel. And then when hope is lost, that my friends, that is the worst loss of all.

Goodbye, Jennifer. I hope you were loved much as you deserved.

“Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.”
~ W.B. Yeats, from “The Stolen Child”

A song I used to play over and over on my piano: Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata

“August rain: the best of the summer gone, and the new fall not yet born. The odd uneven time.” ~ Sylvia Plath

Felice Casorati, Il sogno del melograno The Dream of the Pomegranate 1912 oil on canvas

“Il sogno del Melograno” (The Dream of the Pomegranate), (1912, oil on canvas)
by Felice Casorati

                   

“Having experienced both, I am not sure which is worse: intense feeling, or the absence of it.” ~ Margaret Atwood, from The Blind Assassin

Monday afternoon, Labor Day. Partly cloudy and humid, 80 degrees.

Well hello. Many thanks for holding on during my dry spell, brought on by the complete and total distraction of gutting and renovating the sole bathroom in our 1950s rancher. I’m hoping that now that most of the work has been completed, I can sit here for a few hours without feeling guilty that I am not tiling or grouting or whatever.

We’ll just have to see, I suppose.

Galileo Chini 1922Terme Berzieri  Frescos

From Terme Berzieri Frescoes (1922)
by Galileo Chini

In the past few weeks my creativity has been limited to finding content that might be somewhat interesting to post here as well as rapid skimming of my tumblr dash. Several times I have sat here, thinking about all of the things that I want to say, and then I would think about all of the things left undone, and I would stop. Now that I’m here, I can’t think of a damned thing to say. I guess I’ll just keep going and hope that I arrive somewhere along the way.

Corey is on his way to the Azores. His departure was abrupt but necessary as he had exhausted his unemployment benefits, and unfortunately, the gulf companies in which he is interested prefer that applicants come in person. Since it’s not exactly a short hop to New Orleans, we decided that the best thing for now was to say with his current company. Not ideal, but it works for now.

“Life hurls us like a stone, and we sail through the air saying, ‘look at me move.’” ~ Fernando Pessoa, from The Book of Disquiet

I know that it’s not August any more (header quote), but I’ve been saving that quote, and I’m going to use it. I mean, “the odd uneven time”? Perfect description of these days.

I’ve noticed that in recent weeks, more and more pictures have appeared on my tumblr dash featuring orange and red leaves on trees, so I suppose I’m not the only one yearning for fall. Unfortunately, it seems that once again I have missed summer, and I”m not entirely sure that that was a bad thing this year. First there was the very uncomfortable side effect of my face swelling whenever I hit any kind of heat, and then there was the whole renovation thing. Between the two, I barely made it into the pool for any kind of relaxation, and now that Corey has left, the pool is just kind of sitting there, needing to be vacuumed and treated.

Felice Casorati, Preghiera The Prayer 1914

“Preghiera” (The Prayer), (1914)
by Felice Casorati

Not so much my thing. Eamonn was supposed to help with that . . . still waiting . . .

Speaking of kids, Brett started school last week. There was a major snafu with his financial aid; apparently, even though I completed the FAFSA in February (a new early record for me), it didn’t go through. Who knew? And, get this, we made too much money for him to qualify for his grants. Seriously? I mean, really? Geez.

By the way, Olivia started walking a few days ago. So cute. And we added Lex to our telephone plan for her belated birthday present. I was too worried about her being with the baby and not having any way to contact anyone for emergencies. It’s only a few dollars a month, and we got her a new phone, so that’s one less thing that I have to worry about.

Speaking of new phones, we upgraded mine, which would ordinarily excite me beyond belief, but I didn’t even bother to do anything with it until a few days ago. More of that time management thing.

“There are days that walk
through me
and I cannot hold them.” ~ Katherine Larson, from “The Gardens in Tunisia”

So, besides all of the mundane, day-to-day life stuff, what else is new?

The puppy seems to have regressed and has decided that she is no longer house-trained. I am sorely not amused . . . I’m telling myself it’s the heat and the biting flies.

I’m very behind in my writing project with my friend Mari. I haven’t mentioned it here because I wanted to wait until I was sure it was going to work. Unfortunately, I’ve been the one to fall behind. That’s next on my things of wanting/needing to do.

Vittorio Zecchin Mille e una Notte

“Le Mille e Una Notte” (The Thousand and One Nights), (1914)
by Vittorio Zecchin

And of course, because it’s fall, my thoughts have turned toward going back to school. Ask me what I’ve done as far as preparing for my GREs . . . correct. Nothing. I’m still in that middle of the road place in which I’m not entirely sure if wanting the degree is enough of a reason for pursuing the degree. It’s an old argument, one that I have yet to resolve. I’ll probably be 80 and still contemplating this.

God, one of these days I’m going to finally figure out what I want to be when I grow up, and I’m fairly certain that it isn’t what I thought.

“One tries to go deep—to speak to the secret self we all have.” ~ Katherine Mansfield, from Collected Letters, 7 September 1921

I ran across an image of a painting by Italian artist Galileo Chini, which led me on a search for more, which led me to explore the whole Liberty school, which is what the Italian version of Art Nouveau is called, apparently. What struck me was the resemblance to Gustav Klimt, one of my favorite artists; I’ve featured Klimt on here several times. Anyway, the exploration led me to several blogs, almost none of which included names of the works of art, nothing about the media or the dates created.

Galileo Chini La Primavera Classica 1914 panel

“La Primavera Classica” (1914, panel)
by Galileo Chini

A particular pet peeve of mine.

I mention this because I received an e-mail from someone informing me that I had infringed on copyright of a poem that I featured a while back. The infringement was completely unintentional, and I really felt bad because I try to do my due diligence.

What’s the point to all of this? Well, there is one, actually. Copyright was one of my favorite courses when I got my publishing degree; it’s something I wish that I knew more about, or even worked in. And the whole Linkedin thing that I’ve been doing has been tormenting me because there are all of these advertisements for jobs in the publishing industry. I read them, and I say to myself, “I could that. And I could do that. And that, too.”

It’s so frigging depressing. Not just because the jobs are all in big cities, but more because of the reality of my life. The whole disability thing. I’m in the middle of filling out yet another round of forms, and I had a meeting with my pain management doctor so that he could fill out his forms, and it didn’t really hit me until he started talking that I really am limited.

I hate this more than I can say.

“I want to resemble a sort of liquid light which stretches beyond visibility or invisibility. Tonight I wish to have the valor and daring to belong to the moon.” ~ Virginia Woolf, from A Writer’s Diary

I’ve been dwelling in the past in my recent thoughts. It’s not a good place to be. But I keep arriving at various crossroads in my life, and I cannot help but wonder what might have happened had I chosen differently.

Remember that scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade in which the old knight says, “You have chosen wisely”? I haven’t felt too many times that I have chosen wisely.

Galileo Chini Canale a Bangkok c1912-13

“Canale a Bangkok” (c1912-13)
by Galileo Chini

I’m not talking about my love life, my decision to end my long marriage or my decision to take a chance again, to allow myself to love Corey. Not those decisions. No, all of the other life-changing decisions. Far too many to go into here, at the end of this post. Suffice it to say that so many times I wish that I had chosen wisely, but I have always, always, always been led by my heart instead of my head, and this impulse has led me to think, or rather, not to think too well.

Everything from buying this house to making a u-turn that led to my Calais being totaled. Choice? Fate? Something else?

I know. Why dwell? Why not dwell . . . I mean, for most of my life I was always the one to make the big decisions, and granted, a u-turn is not a big decision—I just happened to remember that—and it’s not that I’m necessarily bitching about that because control and I are good friends. I want control. I take control. It’s just that sometimes having control isn’t necessarily the best thing.

Damn. I don’t even know what I’m saying at this point. I think that I’ll stop for now. I knew that the more that I wrote the more that would want to come out, and now I’m not really making sense.

Welcome back. I think . . .

More later. Peace.

*All images are by Italian artists working in the Liberty style, the Italian version of Art Nouveau, so named after the firm of Liberty and Co. in London. 

Music by Damien Rice and Lisa Hannigan, “Don’t Explain”

couldn’t choose, so I posted both . . .

Music by Robert Plant and Alison Kraus, “Killing The Blues”

                   

Traveling

If you travel alone, hitchhiking,
sleeping in woods,
make a cathedral of the moonlight
that reaches you, and lie down in it.
Shake a box of nails
at the night sounds
for there is comfort in your own noise.
And say out loud:
somebody at sunrise be distraught
for love of me,
somebody at sunset call my name.
There will soon be company.
But if the moon clouds over
you have to live with disapproval.
You are a traveler,
you know the open, hostile smiles
of those stuck in their lives.
Make a fire.
If the Devil sits down, offer companionship,
tell her you’ve always admired
her magnificent, false moves.
Then recite the list
of what you’ve learned to do without.
It is stronger than prayer.

~ Stephen Dunn

“I am a jumble of passions, misgivings, and wants. It seems that I am always in a state of wishing and rarely in a state of contentment.” ~ Libba Bray, from The Sweet Far Thing

Three Seascapes circa 1827 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851

“Three Seascapes” (ca 1827)
by Joseph Mallord William Turner

                   

“So I fill my hands with the shards of infinite ardors.
A generous cargo of ohs and oh wells.
And a strange half-wish to be a ghost.

It is the thing I wish for most.” ~  Jill Alexander Essbaum, from The Devastation

Monday afternoon. Partly cloudy and warmer, 70 degrees.

I had a full-blown Caitlin dream last night. I haven’t had one of those in a very long time. By full-blown, I mean, I saw her, held her, fed her, talked to her, called her by name. I cannot begin to express how much this hurts my heart. And to compound the ache, my father was also in the dream in a very active way: we talked about something, he smiled, I kissed his cheek.

Joseph Mallord William Turner, Setting Sun and the Sea not sure, watercolor

“Setting Sun and the Sea” (title questionable, nd, watercolor)
by Joseph Mallord William Turner

In the first part of the dream I was in a medical center with Caitlin. Our nurse was very nice, and she was trying to get us a private room so that I could breast feed Caitlin. There was a lot of noise in the hall, and I peeked out and saw soldiers and people running. The medical center was being stormed by someone, I don’t know who. I looked around the hallway to see if there was a way out, and there wasn’t.

I went back into the room and closed the door quietly. I told our nurse what was going on. Other people came into the room with their babies. Everyone was scared. People were looking to me. I fed Caitlin and ignored everything else. My ex wanted to know how I could have fed her. I told him I breastfed her; he wanted to know where the milk came from. I told him that it was just there again, like it had always been. Then I went to the windows and said that we could try jumping to safety.

“Sometimes fear grips me that these fragile moments of life will fade away. It seems that I write against erasure.” ~ Assia Djebar,  from “Assia Djebar: The Tireless Walker of Memory,” trans. Erin E. Brady and Guillaume Basset

In another part of the dream I was having an affair with my second cousin at Great Bridge. Everyone knew, but no one said anything. I was still married to my ex. I had four children, and one of them looked like my cousin. My ex wanted to know if he was the father or if my cousin was the father. I lied.

Joseph Mallord William Turner, Lonship Lighthouse, Lands End, c1834-5 watercolor

“Longship Lighthouse, Lands End” (ca 1834-5, watercolor)
by Joseph Mallord William Turner

Then, I was talking to all of my cousins about the cars I had when I was a teenager, and I remembered when I spun my VW Beetle into a ditch (this really happened). My cousin said that he remembered, but the ditch was in front of my mother’s house. I said that there were no ditches there, only in Great Bridge.

Then we were singing karaoke. I signed up to do a duet of a country song, but when the music started, I realized that I couldn’t read the screen with my contacts in, so I didn’t know the words. Tim McGraw and Faith Hill were part of the group I was with, and they wanted to do a sing-off. I said that I couldn’t because I couldn’t see the words. They said that I was just making an excuse. Then two of the women in the group said they would sing with me.

At some point in this sequence, I was sitting outside with my dad. He may have been working on a fishing rod. I told him that I was really glad that he was my father. He smiled.

I awoke with a pain in my heart and a completely empty feeling.

“Because the body is so ephemeral and corrupt,
what is beautiful today may not be so ten years hence,
I give you words.
Because my thoughts are strange and dreamlike
and not to be trusted to icon or art,
I put them into words for you” ~ Shaindel Beers, from “I Give You Words

Today has been completely out of whack. My doctor’s office called to say that they had to cancel my appointment today because they hadn’t gotten approval for my shots, not the Botox for my migraines, but the cortisone for both of my wrists. Unbelievable. The Botox has finally been approved, but not the cortisone? What gives? I really need shots in both of my hands because they hurt all of the time.

Joseph Mallord William Turner, Storm Clouds colon Sunset with a Pink Sky 1825

“Storm Clouds: Sunset with a Pink Sky” (1825, watercolor)
by Joseph Mallord William Turner

Then my dermatologist’s office called and wanted to know if I could come in at 8 in the morning instead of 2 in the afternoon. Really? No. I made these appointments to work around Brett’s school schedule. He has an exam tomorrow. And besides, I’m not even conscious at 8 in the morning. Of course, I didn’t tell them that.

In between, Brett found out that an exam he thought was on Wednesday is actually today. Yep, major freaking out ensued.

Then I paid some bills, and I tried to create an online account for my life insurance, and the site kept saying that there was no policy in existence. I called customer service. Policy is in existence. Associate took all of my information and said to give it a bit and try again. He had a hard time with my e-mail address. I bet he put it in wrong because I still can’t log in to the site.

So much fun. Love days like these. Just want to do nothing, but no. I’m a responsible adult with responsible adult obligations………….. whatever……………

“In one way, causeless emotion reminds me of melancholy: when we have sorrows without a name.” ~ Mary Ruefle, Madness, Rack, and Honey

For Mother’s Day, I ordered myself a couple of books and a one-pound bag of Chimes Mango Ginger chews. These things are addictive, and the ginger is very good for your heart and digestion, or so I tell myself, but they’re impossible to find in grocery stores. So yesterday, Brett went with me to T. J. Maxx, mostly to get out of the house, and I tried on clothes, which always makes me feel fat and ugly, and there on the shelves in the gourmet section were Chimes Chews, plain ginger, mango ginger, orange ginger. Unbelievable.

The Scarlet Sunset circa 1830-40 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851

“The Scarlet Sunset,” detail (ca 1830-40, watercolor)
by Joseph Mallord William Turner

I’m trying not to think about it too much because I already justified to myself ordering the one-pound bag. I’m also trying not to think about the shirt that I tried on that was too tight in the—wait for it—ARMS. I have fat arms. How does that happen? Why does that happen? Why do women lose tone in weird bodily appendages and men don’t?

So the trip out of the house to lift our spirits ended up making me feel fat and ugly and inefficient. Now here’s the real rub: I can’t stop thinking about how I paid x amount to order this one-pound bag, when I could have paid y and gotten them at T. J. Maxx. My never pay retail mantra is kind of stuck, like LP’s? Remember that, how they would stick in a spot and play the same sound over and over again, and sometimes, this would happen at night when you would put on an album to fall asleep by, and then you’d fall asleep, and something would nudge you in your sleep, and you’d wake up to the sound of the record stuck on a scratch or groove? Am I the only one that happened to?

“This is the solstice, the still point
of the sun, its cusp and midnight,
the year’s threshold
and unlocking, where the past
lets go of and becomes the future;
the place of caught breath . . .” ~ Margaret Atwood, from “Shapechangers in Winter”

So, no relief in the wrists, no sassy red capris with white polka dots because they looked stupid on me, no cute lavender denim shorts because, well, the stupid thing. I did come away with two pair of really gauzy yoga pants and a new bra, so I’ll just stay at home and wear my yoga pants and hide my arms.

Joseph Mallord William Turner The Beacon Light, oil on canvas

“The Beacon Light” (nd, oil on canvas)
by Joseph Mallord William Turner

Ack. What am I going on about, anyway. That my arms are flabby is no surprise. That I didn’t look all chic in the red capris is no surprise. That I found Chimes locally is a surprise. I think that I’m just trying to keep my mind from dwelling on my dreams last night. I did so many things, saw so many people, touched on so many memories. I think part of what caused such emotional dreams were two things I saw yesterday: the movie Boy A, which is heartbreaking, and then a short film on Tumblr about a wolf looking for her cub. Ack. Set myself up, I suppose.

The reality is that the dream of breastfeeding Caitlin was so perfect and so very, very painful. That is something that will never happen again. That baby that I held in my arms with the dark hair, the one who looked up at me in contentment—it’s not real. What is real is that I feel like I picked and picked and picked at a scab, and now it is raw again.

The scar that had faded to a pale grey line is red and aching, and it’s going to take me months to heal from this, and why can’t I be better about this? Why does the pain caused by a dream have to be so immediate and so real? Once again, I am among the walking wounded, and no matter how many of these damned Chimes I chew, I fear it is going to get better later rather than sooner.

More later. Peace.

Images by Joseph Mallord William Turner, English Romantic artist (1775-1851)

Music by Sleeping At Last, “Uneven Odds,” absolutely breathtaking

And speaking of  Tim McGraw (really miss you, Corey), “I Need You”


                   

Turner, Late Painting

This almost empty
canvas
is sister
to an empty page
just as a poem
enters: white

with all
its possibilities
emerging from the brush—
smoke or cloud
or beach foam—

and there in the corner
a patch
of burnt orange
where the sun will
eventually
come up.

~ Linda Pastan