How I like to think of myself:
How I really am:
Tuesday afternoon. Rainy, moderate temperatures in low 50s.
It’s been a week since my last post. I’ve been in bed since Friday afternoon with bronchitis. I’m just glad that it didn’t hit completely until after Thanksgiving dinner. It’s been full blown: the painful cough, nasty stuff in my throat and chest. I’ve been putting off going to the doctor, first because it was the weekend, and then because I started to feel better.
Then last night, I felt absolutely horrible again, probably because I tried to do a few things yesterday. Today, my big accomplishment was doing the dishes and putting a load of clothes in the washing machine. I’m hoping to make it through this post, mostly because I miss sitting here, but the idea of sitting here, upright was really too much to contemplate for several days.
And then, there was the added strain of Eamonn getting sick also. His did not seem to be bronchitis, more of some kind of virus that hit his stomach and left him quite ill. I will spare you the details, but at one point, I was seriously considering taking him to the ER because I was afraid that he was dehydrated, but he came through okay, and even went to work today.
So at the moment, it’s just the dogs and me and the rain outside. Let me put it into perspective for you: I was so sick that I didn’t even want my daily coffee. Just the thought of coffee made me feel nauseous. But I’m hoping that the worst has passed and that I won’t need to make that trip to the doctor. Fortunately, I’ve been able to control the cough enough so that it hasn’t caused a headache, which almost always happens when I get bronchitis: I cough madly, and end up with a migraine, which gets worse the more that I cough. The ensuing migraine this time was short-lived (I’m really liking the effects of the Botox if this is all that I have to deal with).
Funny that, being thankful for a migraine that only lasts four hours.
So Thanksgiving dinner was fairly successful. My mother didn’t complain too much. In fact, she was on her best behavior. The turkey was perfection, and of course, we had too much food. Something to be thankful for, I know. Although next year I need to remember to get a slightly bigger turkey so that there are more leftovers for sandwiches.
I worked myself into a frenzy right into the middle of the afternoon, even though my back rebelled in a big way. I just get that perfectionist thing going and can’t stop myself. However, I did leave myself enough time to paint my nails and put on a bit of makeup so that I didn’t look like a total hag. But I was glad that everything went well, and there was no major family drama.
Corey had to work until 4 p.m., so everything was pretty much up to me. Brett helped with moving things, which I never could have done alone.
Of course, my mother called the next day with her questions and criticisms, but even these were kept to a minimum. Could she be mellowing?
Nah, probably not. Still, Corey and I agreed that overall, things went much better than expected, which is a sad commentary in itself—to be prepared for the motherly criticism of everything from the food to the state of the house. Oh well. What can you do? Nothing, really.
And so it goes.
Actually, other than dinner and being sick, I don’t have much to say. I finished reading the book that I had already read; although I must admit that knowing who the villain was in advance did detract from my overall enjoyment, but I was reading mostly because I couldn’t do anything else, so it turned out okay. I wouldn’t have wanted to start a new book that required too much concentration as I was quite unable to devote too many brain cells to concentration.
Yesterday because of the vehicle situation, I had to drop Corey off in one place and then take Em and Brett to ODU. I swear that I almost fell asleep on the return trip from ODU, which is not good. I was full of cold medicine and running on restless sleep, which did not make for a good combination. I opened all the windows and prayed until I got home.
I really don’t like doing that. I remember towards the end of my stay at GW, making that trip to Newport News each day was really taking a toll on me, and more than once I found myself driving while unconscious (not really), but you know what I mean—arriving somewhere without having any memory of the trip to get there. Hate, hate that.
So yesterday’s trip made me quite anxious, and I came home and collapsed into the bed and immediately fell asleep. I did not wake up again until Corey called to say that he was ready to be picked up.
He took a refresher test for his merchant mariner’s credentials. Actually, it was two tests, both of which he scored 100 percent. So proud of him. He is slowly passing each hurdle, and we are just holding our collective breaths that everything will move smoothly towards him being able to go back to sea in 2012.
You know, our luck hasn’t been the best these past few years, so when something actually does go our way, we seem to move in a state of disbelief, waiting for the incipient bad news to arrive on our doorstep. It’s hard to adjust our thinking to the concept that we might actually be making headway.
I suppose a lot of it is that we don’t want to get our hopes up only to have them come crashing down about our ears again. If one doesn’t hope, then one cannot be disappointed. Right?
But I keep telling Corey that his time has come, that he deserves a change for the better. And I’m not just saying these things as a pep talk. I truly believe that he is due for some better fortune. We have both become so used to living in a state of constant uncertainty that it is hard to accept that we may be facing better days. It’s a bit like that poor abused dog, the one who is so used to a slap instead of a treat that he cowers whenever a hand comes within proximity.
But perhaps what that hand is proffering is in fact good? Dare we hope? I honestly don’t know, the old cart before the horse way of thinking. So I try to think good thoughts but temper them with a cold dose of reality.
I mean, think about the explorers of old: they looked for the horizon each time they put that glass to their eyes; they hoped that it was there, but they tried not to hope too much so that the disappointment wouldn’t quash them completely. But then one day, they caught a glimpse of something. They put the glass down, shook their head, paused. Then they looked again, and yes, it was in fact something besides the vast sea before them.
Can you imagine the kind of determination it must have taken to board a boat without any kind of computerized navigational systems, just a sextant, a compass, and a piece of parchment on which to plot courses to the unknown? To set sail with only an inkling that there was something out there? To hope against hope that the inkling would prove true?
In a way, our family has been at sea for a while. Our provisions have been slight but sufficient. We have been voyaging, like so many others, in the hopes that we will find terra firma sooner than later.
We are now at the point at which we believe that we have espied something. Exactly what, we are still unsure. But just the hope that it’s out there—it’s enough to keep us going. And the reality is that we have one another.
I hope that we have weathered the worst, but I cannot say for certain. In spite of this, I feel a sense of calm. I feel a sense of—dare I say the words aloud—a sense of promise of better days. Perhaps all of this is simply my body feeling better because the worse of my recent bout is behind me, but I don’t think so. I sense a change in the air, smell a fresher scent on the wind.
What it rests upon is this: In spite of all of my bitching and moaning to the contrary, I still believe. I still believe that good things are out there, that castles in the air can find weight in reality, that dreams can come true. I know that it is the romantic in me, the one who surfaces upon occasion and declares that love, peace, and good will triumph. The one who still thinks that there is indeed a balm in Gilead that will make the wounded whole.
I know that you don’t see this side often, that this aspect does not often turn its face towards the sun. But it is still there, subsumed most of the time, but not gone.
Do I still dream? Of course I do. It’s just that sometimes, I forget that there are always possibilities. That the no-win scenario is, indeed, surmountable, that it’s just a matter of perspective.
More later. Peace.
Music by the Cary Brothers, “Take Your Time”
The Small Cabin
The house we built gradually
from the ground up when we were young
(three rooms, the walls
raw trees) burned down
last year they said
I didn’t see it, and so
the house is still there in me
among branches as always I stand
inside it looking out
at the rain moving across the lake
but when I go back
to the empty place in the forest
the house will blaze and crumple
suddenly in my mind
collapsing like a cardboard carton
thrown on a bonfire, summers
crackling, my earlier
selves outlined in flame.
Left in my head will be
the blackened earth: the truth.
Where did the house go?
Where do the words go
when we have said them?
~ Margaret Atwood
Tuesday afternoon. Overcast and warm, 68 degrees.
A very bad few days, indeed. On Saturday, I was completely unable to get out of bed, probably slept 18 out of 24 hours. Just one of those days when the old body is too weak to deal with the vicissitudes of daily life. Then Sunday Corey and I went to buy the Thanksgiving turkey, and it was probably not the best day for it as I was still recovering, and he was sleep-deprived from his work schedule, and consequently, we had a spat in the middle of Sam’s Club.
By yesterday evening, when I was ready to write, I didn’t have access to the computer, so here I am today, no headache, a bit of back pain, and a strange tingling sensation in my left thumb. No idea as to what that is about.
I did make a point of checking my e-mail today, something that I no longer do daily. E-mail, like paper mail that is not in the form of a personal letter, has become rather boring to me. I could not tell you why this is so other than it is. Anyway, the point is that if you desperately need to get in touch with me, sending an e-mail may cause a delay of about a week or so. Sending a message via comments here tends to get my attention faster.
Apologies for this, but am not going to try to pretend that I will be better at checking my mail as I know myself too well. I might intend to do so, but will probably not.
Anyway, it’s a good thing that I did check the old electronic mail as there was a note from Helma (German s-in-law) that my nephew Phillip has to have emergency surgery for pancreatitis. His father Patrick (my ex’s brother) had a severe case of pancreatitis several years ago and almost died from it. Reading that note that was sent a week ago made me feel like the negligent git that I am.
I’m trying to get the house ready for Thanksgiving. Ask me how much I’ve done . . .
When I finish here, I need to go prepare the cranberry relish so that it has a few days to get that commingling of flavors. Alexis is supposed to be doing the mashed potatoes and deviled eggs, but as she never got around to texting or calling me this weekend, I’m not sure I can depend on that. You see, she was supposed to be my ride to Sam’s Club, her reward being gas in her tank. Her no-show meant that Corey had to fill in, which led to the overall grumpiness and spat, etc.
I despair of her ever coming out of this whatever it is. She knows, as do I, that she needs professional help, but that costs money. She has no money because she has no job; she has no job because of this prolonged downward spiral, so she cannot get professional help. She is her own 99 percent. Not trying to be glib, just realistic.
If I dwell on it for too long, it only adds to my personal miasma of pain, guilt, and otherwise world-weary despair.
So I’ll make cranberry relish. I’ll clear the dining room table. I’ll enlist as much help as I can, and we’ll muddle through the same as always. At least I’ve got a lovely bottle of sparkling blush muscato to accompany the bird and trimmings. It will be one of my occasional forays into imbibing, the last being after the memorial service in September.
I found this Cheever passage on tumblr, and it seems so perfect for me, a perfect description of how I write, what I do here. Each time I sit down at these keys, it’s as if I’m sharing my life as it unfolds, as if this act is both abhorrent and necessary, as if penning the words to my own bitter song will cleanse me and thus allow me to feel better. But better how I could not tell you.
Like Tantalus, the fruit always seems to be just beyond my reach, and the water recedes just as I cup my hands to drink. But somehow I keep going.
Images flashing through my head: a young boy, holding someone’s hand and looking back over his right shoulder as he’s being pulled away; a woman wearing huge metal frame sunglasses, face turned to the sun; a red rubber ball bouncing . . .Total disconnect? Where do these things come from? Do they mean anything or are they just the commercials in between the stuff that means something? Are these the strangers who I have encountered without noticing, the ones that my brain has filed away for later without my conscious self knowing?
It’s like the photograph of the Irish countryside that I posted a few days ago (which got quite a nice response from you guys . . . should I just cut out the words and post pretty pictures? Kidding.). I came upon it quite by chance, but boom, it was the perfect representation of what I’ve been trying to describe as the Ireland that I see in my mind’s eye.
Have you noticed that I have a real affinity for Greek mythology? I credit Mrs. Clay for this. I really despised that woman when she taught me 9th grade English, but she knew her stuff. I wonder if they even spend time on mythology in English classes any more, I mean, more than a week or two.
But getting back to the whole idea of what I do here, in this little space of mine—I populate this world of mine with dreams (those I’ve had while sleeping and those I keep close to my heart), with agonies and victories, small and large, and I intersperse occasional bouts of politics, irony, whimsy, and comic relief. But all of it—the mindless rambling, the tortured angst, the attempts at the profound—it all comes from a place I simply cannot define. It’s all there, and I do not control how or when it surfaces.
Last night I dreamed that I went into an old abandoned building. People were living there. It was an old theater, and the people who lived there went into an empty convenience store to use the telephone. I thought about staying there because the people made me feel welcome, but decided that I needed to move on. I had somewhere that I needed to be, even if it meant walking down a dark road, so I put on some old clothes that were in a backpack, and I began to leave, but when I did, some of my dad’s relatives appeared and wanted to know why I wasn’t at home. Then there was something like a flea market in front of the building.
Now I must pause here. I don’t know about you, but my dreams can be sequential, events carry over from other dreams, and I reference previous dreams in later dreams. While I was looking at the items that had been put out for the flea market, I remembered a piano that I had seen in my dream from the night before; the piano was old and black, an upright, but the keys were in bad shape. I thought about the piano in last night’s dream and wished that I had bought it and refinished it.
Then I walked onto a suspension bridge above the flea market, and it was made of rickety wood. Someone had dropped a cigarette, and the bridge had caught fire. I walked quickly among the planks that were still solid until I reached the roof of the abandoned building. Then I climbed down, and there was a line of people waiting to see . . . Alexis, who had designed jewelry in honor of her mother (me) who had been missing. I walked up to the front of the line and hugged her and told her that I was home.
So in one dream, I encompassed my continual search (the walking down a dark road), my affinity for the old (the piano and the abandoned building), my feelings of alienation (the homeless people living in the building), my sadness (the relatives), my dreams for my daughter (obvious), and my fears of not making it to where I want to go (the burning bridge).
Speaking of writing about the painful search for self, I received another invitation to contribute my blog to Vibrant Nation. Other than one blogger friend with whom I’m in contact, I don’t know much about this site. If anyone has any advice pro or con, I’d love to hear about it.
I just remembered that there was a woman in last night’s dream that had strange eyes, huge, with one eye significantly bigger than the other. She was Asian, and she did not want her daughter to date. Her daughter was 42 and still stuck at home. Make of that what you will.
I suppose I’ve put off my real work for the week for long enough. I’ve walked by the dining room table twice to refill my coffee cup, and it did not magically clear itself. Why can’t I be normal? Does every woman hate Thanksgiving as much as I do? I really hate to admit it, but a small part of me understands what my mother has been saying for years: What’s the point of doing all of this?
Oh, well, that answers my question, doesn’t it? My mother. Of course. It always comes back to my mother. I think that I’ll go chop cranberries and apples and try to put everything else out of my mind for a few days, just get through this.
Music by Trent Dabbs, “Stay by Me”
Evening comes on and the hills thicken;
red and yellow bleaching out of the leaves.
The chill pines grow their shadows.
Below them the water stills itself,
a sunset shivering in it.
One more going down to join the others.
Now the lake expands
and closes in, both.
The blackness that keeps itself
under the surface in daytime
emerges from it like mist
or as mist.
Distance vanishes, the absence
of distance pushes against the eyes.
There is no seeing the lake,
only the outlines of the hills
which are almost identical,
familiar to me as sleep,
shores unfolding upon shores
in their contours of slowed breathing.
It is touch I go by,
the boat like a hand feeling
through shoals and among
dead trees, over the boulders
lifting unseen, layer
on layer of drowned time falling away.
~ Margaret Atwood