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
My next post will be number 750. That’s approximately 2,600 images in 750 posts, 1,998 comments, with an average length of who knows what (because I cannot figure out this particular statistic). And while some of these posts have been clips, and some have been reposts from other places, most have been mine, so pardon me whilst I pause to give myself a self-congratulatory pat on the back, and then move on . . .
Thursday afternoon. Rainy and cold, 45°, 32° colder than yesterday.
I’ve pulled out the yoga pants, Christmas socks, and white cotton sweaters. Bring on the cold weather. Next Thursday is Thanksgiving. Ask me if I’m ready . . .
The house needs a good cleaning. The dining room table once again needs to be decluttered. And I’m well and truly taken aback by the fact that Christmas is only weeks away. It seems that from November 1st on, my life moves at a frenetic pace, one that I am never able to quite stay in step with as the days roll by because I seem to be walking in circles, as it were.
I had to cancel lunch with Rebecca yesterday, and it’s good that I did as Corey was called into work at the last minute (his only shift this week), and Eamonn is now without a vehicle and needs rides to and from work. Speaking of eldest son, he has decided that this will be his last semester of college. He says that he just doesn’t want to do it (college) any more. Corey is trying to convince him to at least finish this semester as it is so close to the end. That would be logical; I have come to know that I should not expect logic from any of my offspring.
Eamonn is once again talking about joining the Coast Guard. I’m in favor of the move. I think that it would help him to grow up, get grounded and become more disciplined. Plus, if he wants to, he can resume college post enlistment with the GI bill. Who knows if he’ll follow through. He’s toyed with this idea before. I’m staying out of the decision process as I do not want my opinion to come back to haunt me.
I find that I am very tired as I sit here typing these words. Bone weary, spirit exhaustion., and I keep pausing to close my eyes and just sit here, pondering. Perhaps not the best state in which to find oneself when trying to assimilate a cogent post.
Friday afternoon. Sunny and cold.
Just couldn’t finish yesterday, so I gave up and took my weary body to bed, only to have my mother call and rail at me for almost 20 minutes about Eamonn (because he had nerve enough to ask her to co-sign for him to get a loan to buy a used car), her perfect credit, turkeys, and anything else that she could think of. Then she called back a few minutes later for good measure to get more jabs in.
The whole thing left me prickly and on the verge of tears, so I locked myself away from the fray in the bedroom and watched a movie, the name of which eludes me. Even though the bedroom door was closed, Brett came in repeatedly because he was trying to figure out his schedule for next semester, so I could hardly refuse to talk to him. And the dogs wanted out of the room as soon as I closed the door, only to want back in as soon as I let them out and closed the door again. So restful. So relaxing.
In spite of all of this, I did manage to get more sleep last night than the previous night, which is good; however, I awoke around 11:40 with a migraine, the residual effects of which now have me typing with my eyes almost closed.
Perhaps yesterday should have just been called a wash from the beginning, and if I’d known how it would turn out, I would have probably just stayed in bed with the phone off. Even a “Law & Order” marathon didn’t help to improve my mood.
I dreamed that I got my hair cut short (for me), above my shoulders. I dreamed that I was teaching in the public school system again. I dreamed that it was 2:30, and I had forgotten to call in sick (that’s one that I have often, always 2:30). I dreamed that I was looking for a contact lens case in a football player’s locker (very strange). I dreamed that my boss said that I looked pregnant. I dreamed that a strange man asked me to have a cup of tea with him.
My life in my dreams is much more exciting than my real life. I’m always going places, doing things, meeting people. Unfortunately, the places that I go aren’t places that I would really like to go, and the people that I meet are almost always strange.
The other night when I couldn’t get to sleep, I started another book, only to discern a few pages in that I had already read this one. That’s one of the problems of reading so many books: I forget titles, and then during book sales on Amazon, I tend to order books that I think that I might want to read, only to learn that I’ve already read them at some point.
That’s also in large part because I have no book shelves to peruse. If I ever get book shelves and unpack my books, I can just start all over with my existing library, which I’m certain has no fewer than 1,000 books. Seriously. Of all of the things that I collect, books are number one. And that total does not include all of the books that I have given away over the years, either to charity or to friends. It also does not include the books that I own related to my degrees, books on publishing, literary criticism, the collected works of Shakespeare, etc.
Man, I would love to unpack my books. I just hope that they haven’t been destroyed by silver fish. Creepy little buggers.
I’m trying very hard not to go into the bathroom and give myself a haircut. Maybe I’ll just suck it up and go to a Hair Cuttery or something; I mean, they couldn’t possibly mess it up any more than I would by cutting it myself.
I know what the problem is: I’m feeling fat and ugly and feel a need for some sort of change. And a new mascara or nail polish isn’t going to do it. But perhaps I can convince myself that a new bottle of nail polish for under $5 will make me feel just as good as a good haircut for around $45 . . . Right.
Even though no one is home at the moment, the dogs are being particularly obstreperous, barking madly at things like air. It’s annoying as hell. Actually, everything is annoying as hell, a sure sign that I should just retreat, regroup, and perhaps eat some Oreos.
More later. Peace.
Music by The Boxer Rebellion, “Caught by the Light”
~ Muriel Rukeyser, from The Speed of Darkness
Not a real post today, but a visual representation of every conceivable reason why I want to live in Ireland. If only Corey would understand that this, right here, is everything, and that house, sitting in the middle of all of this green, that would be my version of heaven.
Tuesday afternoon. Cloudy and very warm, 80° F.
The house is quiet, just the dogs and me. The laundry is going, and the dishes are soaking. My country and folk playlist is running in the background.
Finally, I get to use the computer for my own writing. Yesterday was spent helping Brett with a paper for his technical writing course. It’s very hard for me to accept how his instructor has structured the class—haphazardly at best, formulaic at worst—after I was instrumental in shaping this particular course while I was in the English department at ODU.
But she’s there teaching, and I am not. Such is life.
It’s quite warm today, too warm. It should only be this warm in November in the southern hemisphere. But that’s how the weather is in this area. I remember one Thanksgiving we ate on my m-in-law’s deck because it was so nice outside.
I made the mistake of eating my Hardee’s leftovers just before I began this post, and I must admit that I’m feeling particularly icky at the moment. Leftover grease is worse than original grease, I think. What a bizarre statement. Knowing my body, this will not end well, so I suppose that it’s good that I’ve had to postpone my lunch with my friend Rebecca tomorrow. She has a conflict, so we’re shooting for two weeks from now. We used to have lunch together all of the time when we worked at the realty company. It was one of the bright spots in my day.
I’ve happened upon a new (old) band, Nickel Creek. They are a bit folksy—mandolin and violin along with acoustic guitar. I like their sound. They have a song called “Sweet Afton,” which is bittersweet for me as Afton Mountain has been such a big part of my life. I’ve driven that mountain more times than I can count going back and forth to Blacksburg and other places. Love the name Afton.
Finding a new group that I really like is a kind of gift for me. It means discovering new songs to add to my playlists. I’ve never really wanted or needed an MP3 player, but if I ever get a newer car with an MP3 adapter, it would be nice to have one so that I can download the hundreds and hundreds of songs that I have amassed over the years. Alexis has that function in her new Honda Civic, and it’s very nice.
But the reality is that I will be happy to have a working, safe vehicle. Along those lines, I think that we are really (really, this time) nearing the end with the truck. Corey took that part to have something shaped, now it’s just a matter of Vic putting it on and finishing. After which, we have to pay the back taxes to the city (hate Virginia’s personal property tax laws), get new tags, and (shudder) new tires and possibly brakes.
Not so little when it’s all spelled out, unfortunately.
The last few days have been trying for me. Every once in a while something happens to bring me up short. I mean, I encounter a truth of which I was unaware, or perhaps it’s a truth that I’ve been hiding from myself. We all do that I think—hide things from ourselves, whether because it’s easier or because it’s harder. Who knows . . .
But when reality shifts that tiny bit, when the world tilts at a slightly different angle, the reality with which you have become comfortable is permanently erased and replaced with a new reality that you must encompass. There is no choice to be made as the decision has been made for you.
I hate sliding down that slope because each time the bottom is in a different place. And what awaits me there never has the same essence. It could be well and truly devastating, or merely saddening. And although I am an old hand at these slides, although the encounter with the precipice is far from new, it’s painful nonetheless.
I have wished more than once that I could be the kind of person who rolls with things easily, that I could be the kind of person who does not question, the kind of person who can live with a lie, the kind of person who can embrace illusion as truth. But I am not, and I cannot. And more’s the pity. I mean, do you think that I like pain? Better question: Do I think that I like pain?
Now there’s a question.
Perhaps I do. Perhaps I relish the pain because it reminds me that I am alive. Perhaps I embrace the pain because it lets me know that I can still feel. Perhaps this is all just a load of crap.
I have always gone through life so certain of some things and so uncertain about others. And the things of which I am most uncertain relate directly to me: my perception of myself, my dislike of certain aspects of myself, my deep-seated insecurities. How is it that a woman who is so confident, so self-assured in some ways can be so damned uncertain in others? How can I be simultaneously haughty and insecure? How do I reconcile being arrogant and audacious with also being self-conscious and unsure?
I know that we are all made up of contradictions, but is everyone else just as torn as I am? I don’t think so. I mean, I know people who embody the very idea of conceit. If they have chinks, they don’t seem to worry about them.
Look. I don’t know why I am the way I am. I have some ideas, but not really. And I also know that I’m lucky in that my spouse, my life partner is supportive, doesn’t denigrate me, lies to me when I say that I’m fat. I know that I drive Corey crazy with my insecurities, and if I could like myself more I would. But I also know that the very nature of our relationship, the age difference, puts me at a disadvantage, at least in my mind. At first, the age difference didn’t bother me so much, but with each birthday, I feel the years more.
I cannot compete with women in their 20’s; they do not have thicker waists or wisps of grey hair. They have not yet begun to obsess over their arms. However, they also do not have my life experience, which allows me to roll with the turbulence of life a little better. Where they have drama on a daily basis, I have the somber reality of having seen the worst that life can deal.
When I say that I would not go back to my 20’s for anything, I really mean it. I’m not even certain that I would care to repeat my 30’s. There was so much angst, always right at the surface. Being my age gives me perspective, but it also gives me pause.
I will never again look the way I did when Corey first laid eyes on me. But then, neither will he. This is the kind of thing that I must remind myself. Corey has a self-assurance that he has worked hard to attain, and he hides his insecurities well. He says that he loves being married and that he loves being married to me.
I believe him.
I just wish that I could believe in myself more. I really dislike needy women, so when did I become one? Exactly at what point did I turn the corner and run into a reflection that I no longer know? Truthfully, years and years ago. The mirror has never been my friend, from the time I was in grade school and wanted to see blue eyes and blond hair staring back at me, to the time my ex described a woman with whom he worked as voluptuous and I looked down at my own small chest to the time I first noticed that my back was no longer sexy.
In other words, always, for as long as I can remember. The person I have seen in the mirror has never quite been the person that I expected. And so it goes.
My keen intellect? My incisive mind? My ability to hold my own in a political debate? My power with the written word? My empathetic heart and devotion to family and friends? All fall away the moment I look in the mirror. And I hate, really and truly hate that.
More later. Peace.
Music by Nickel Creek, “Sweet Afton”
Ruin and Beauty
It’s so quiet now the children have decided to stop
being born. We raise our cups in an empty room.
In this light, the curtains are transparent as gauze.
Through the open window we hear nothing—
no airplane, lawn mower, no siren
speeding its white pain through the city’s traffic.
There is no traffic. What remains is all that remains.
The brick school at the five points crosswalk
is drenched in morning glory.
Its white flowers are trumpets
festooning this coastal town.
Will the eventual forest rise up
and remember our footsteps? Already
seedlings erupt through cement,
crabgrass heaves through cracked marble,
already wolves come down from the hills
to forage among us. We are like them now,
just another species looking to the stars
and howling extinction.
They say the body accepts any kind of sorrow,
that our ancestors lay down on their stomachs
in school hallways, as children they lay down
like matches waiting for a nuclear fire.
It wasn’t supposed to end like this:
all ruin and beauty, vines waterfalling down
a century’s architecture; it wasn’t supposed to end
so quietly, without fanfare or fuss,
a man and woman collecting rain
in old coffee tins. Darling,
the wars have been forgotten.
These days our quarrels are only with ourselves.
Tonight you sit on the edge of the bed loosening your shoes.
The act is soundless, without future
weight. Should we name this failure?
Should we wake to the regret at the end of time
doing what people have always done
and say it was not enough?
~ Patricia Young