“Better to write for yourself and have no public than to write for the public and have no self.” ~ Cyril Connolly

Venetian Masks

“The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering.” ~ Ben Okri

A beautiful spring day here. Tillie is outside playing ball with Corey. Brett is playing XBox Live with a friend from school, and I’m sitting here squinting at the screen because of the pulsating pain that is omnipresent behind my forehead. 

Carnevale di Venezia

Ah, the rich pageantry of life . . . 

I received my lab results in the mail from my last visit to my PCP, and boy were they not good. My triglycerides are high, as is my cholesterol. My liver function is abnormal, and so is my glucose level. The only good news is that my calcium is in good shape, so no brittle bones for me. The reality is that I’m a slug, a slug on the precipice of diabetes, and I have to do something about it. Yes, I know. Exercise is the best possible remedy, and I have had that particular item on my things to do list. Just hasn’t happened yet. 

It’s funny. I run a lot in my dreams, long, beautiful strides, moving like air. In real life, I cannot run. It just kills me. Running would be the fastest way to get in shape, but I do not foresee that happening anytime soon. So, it’s time to get the exercise bike out and do some regular pedaling. At one time, when I belonged to the community center, I was doing my regular weight workout and cycling eight miles a day, so obviously I can do it. Now, I just need to get off my buttocks. 

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

As I type, I can hear Shakes in my closet, trying to shift my shoe boxes so as to build a more comfortable nest. I swear that the Jack Russells think that they are cats. They do possess some very cat-like qualities. 

Venetian Volto (full-face) Mask

I am reading a book about Mary, Queen of Scots. Quite interesting. The biggest problem that I have when reading history comes from the surplus of names. Until I am well into the book, I find myself continuously going back to the list of characters to clarify a person’s identify. So many lords of this and that—it becomes confusing. I do love to read history that is well written, though, especially when it involves some sort of murder. 

I still remember a revisionist book that I read years ago called Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey, I believe. It was a retake on Richard III in which the king is made into a kinder, gentler character. Fascinating. My image of Richard III relies heavily on the Shakespearean play, one of my favorites, but reading an alternate version was eye-opening. 

The problem with some historical fiction is that it can drift into so much supposition, as was the case with Patricia Cornwell’s supposed dissection of Jack the Ripper’s identity, or it can be romanticized, which doesn’t really serve anyone well. 

“I want an infinitely blank book and the rest of time . . .” ~ Jonathan Safran Foer

Let’s see . . . what else is going on in my little world?  Not much, I have to say. I watched a television movie, “Who is Clark Rockefeller?” Unbelievable. I watched it because I had heard about this con man a few years ago who claimed to be a Rockefeller, you know, one of the Rockefellers. Turns out, he wasn’t, but not only was he not one of the Rockefellers, he was a German immigrant who had remade himself about five different times, including an incarnation in which he may have been involved in a murder. 

Feather Mask

I know that some people must think that it would be easy to spot a con man or woman for what he or she really is, but I don’t think so. I think that if someone is really good at creating personas, it would be very hard to see through that mask. I mean, we all wear masks that are dependent on where we are or who we happen to be with at any given time. However, for most people, the depth of these masks is quite minimal. It’s called adapting. 

But people who possess the goal to completely recreate themselves—new names, new histories, new everything—that involves something quite different from mere adaptation; it’s regeneration. And I imagine that to do that, there must be a level of commitment that is beyond what most of us have within ourselves. I’m not talking about a mere alias, or a writing persona. I mean the whole egg: voice, inflection, hair and eye color, mannerisms, clothing, and so much more. And putting all of that on and not taking it off for years at a time. I think that there would have to be an underlying psychopathy in the individual. 

This Clark guy was married for 12 years and had a child. His wife did not realize that he was a fake until the divorce proceedings. The feds had a hard time believing that she had no inkling, but as she stated, she was in love and had no reason not to believe him even though there were signs along the way. This was a Harvard MBA, a woman with a powerful job. She was not by any means stupid. 

“You believe lies so you eventually learn to trust no one but yourself, and sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.” ~ Marilyn Monroe

Carnival Masks

But think about it: How many of us have put on an act when first meeting someone, especially someone of the opposite sex who we were trying to impress?  So many little white lies, so many affectations. I dated someone when I was a teenager who was an inveterate liar, truly. He just did not know how to tell the truth. Being young and in love, I would tell myself my own lies when I caught him in an inconsistency. It was easier that way. Eventually, I allowed myself to face the truth and moved on, but I understand how sometimes we do not see what is right before us because it is easier. 

All of this brings me to a question, something that Corey and I have had many discussions about: Is an omission a lie? I believe that it is. He does not believe that an omission is a lie. I am wondering if this is a gender thing . . . 

I mean, I have always felt that not telling someone that you have done something that might affect your relationship (and I don’t mean what you ate for breakfast or who you sat next to on the train) is the same as lying about it, but are my standards unrealistic? It’s entirely possible. My association with the habitual liar made me very wary; I freely admit that. And then too, my own lies of omission make me suspicious. By that I mean that at one point in my life, I was guilty of several major lies of omission, not in my relationship with Corey, but with someone else. At the time, it was just easier not to say anything. But I suppose that I am sensitive to lies of omission having used them to my advantage in the past. 

What do you think? 

More later. Peace. 

Music by Leonard Cohen (yes, Maureen)—”In My Secret Life” 

 

                                                                                                                                 

I’m including a bonus link to a slideshow from Parabola Online Magazine. Thanks to Crashingly Beautiful for continued inspiration: A Snowy Day at Seven Jewels Lake by Ven Bikkhu Bodhi  

  

 

“Words form the thread on which we string our experiences.” ~ Aldous Huxley

“Winter Morning,” by Igor Grabar (1907, oil on canvas)

“After playing Chopin, I feel as if I had been weeping over sins that I had never committed, and mourning over tragedies that were not my own.” ~  Oscar Wilde

"Clearing Skyes," by Igor Grabar (1928, oil on canvas)

Unbelievable. Snow. Again. That’s three times in two weeks, more than we’ve had in years. It’s no longer snowing, but the wind is fierce, and boy is it cold. Earlier today the wind had that rumbling sound, not quite a freight train, but very, very loud and prolonged. For a moment I thought about the old oak tree right outside our bedroom window, but then I figured that since it had survived three hurricanes, it was probably not going to be taken out by the gusts.

Removing that particular tree is one our very long list of things to do around here once Corey starts back to work. The list continues to grow despite the lack of job. Funny how that works.

Last night I played music in my dreams. I’m pretty sure that it was a Chopin prelude, but I can’t remember which one. How strange.

I looked at the calendar and realized that I haven’t posted very much at all in February, despite my intentions to post every day. Quite frankly, I just haven’t had it in me. Between the excruciating back pain, and this headache (not quite a migraine) which has been around for over a week, I’m just not feeling very prolific. I mean, I sit here at the computer each day, open the screen that says Add New Post, and just look at the blankness before me. And then nothing. Nada. No joy, as it were.

I know. I know. I’m letting the blank white page (so to speak) get to me, letting it cower me into submission, allowing it to intimidate me. But any writer will tell you that the blank white page is a living, breathing nemesis. It chuckles softly at my inability to put down the opening sentence. Mocks me. And no, I’m not hearing voices in my head. Things haven’t deteriorated that badly—yet. But the white page, the blank rectangle stretched out on my screen fears nothing, which makes me fear everything.

I begin, and then delete. It’s part of the curse of technology. When writing in longhand, it’s so much harder to undo the words that have been written. Now it’s just a matter of holding down the backspace key or the delete key, and voila: Gone. Blank again. I used to hate to cross out my words. It seemed like such a violation, so I would write and continue to write. Maybe I could put something on my backspace key to make it painful to the touch, train myself, you know, like Pavlov’s dog.

Right.

 “Once you know some things, you can’t unknow them. It’s a burden that can never be given away.” ~ Alice Hoffman

"February Day," by Igor Grabar (1904, oil on canvas)

Anyway, on to other things. Corey called his contact at Vane Brothers, but hasn’t been able to speak to him. Considering Baltimore is crushed under the weight of yet another storm, it’s very possible that the office is not open. No need to read too much into things.

I called my mom today (phones are back on as of yesterday) to check on her, but she didn’t answer. It’s entirely possible that she’s mad at me again for not calling her even though Corey went by to check on her while he was out last week and told her that the phones were off. I never know when or why my mother is mad at me. It’s kind of like the phases of the moon: they happen all by themselves (well, not really), and if you wait long enough, a full moon will come around again. That’s my mother.

Who knows the whys and wherefores of her logic. I should talk. But now that the phones are back on, I really need to call my gastro doctor and make an appointment; it’s just the thought that he’s going to put me through some kind of uncomfortable test really sets up an internal roadblock, making me put off making the call. Going to a gastroenterologist is never just an office visit. I mean, there’s the visit, but then, without fail, there is some kind of test involving a tube, or a nasty drink, or something of that sort. I cannot fathom why anyone would become a gastroenterologist. But then, I cannot imagine why anyone would become a podiatrist.

Actually, it’s hard to imagine doing a lot of things that different specialists do, which is precisely why my pre-med major did not last very long in undergraduate school. The first time we had to dissect rats that were still warm I realized that perhaps touching things for a living was not for me, and I retreated to books. They’re safe. They don’t smell (unless they’re old), and they don’t bleed or ooze.

My uncle was very disappointed in me for not going to medical school. For some reason he had it in his head that I would make a really good doctor. When I told him that I was thinking about law school, he had a cow, told me I was wasting my brain. Of course, law school didn’t happen either as I became pregnant with Alexis. I don’t really have any regrets about not becoming a lawyer. I love the research, but cannot see myself working for a corporation or representing some of the people who need lawyers. Of course, my view is skewed from watching years and years of Law & Order.

That particular uncle died just a year after my dad. He actually wasn’t my uncle, but my dad’s childhood friend, and everyone knows that when you are Filipino, you have lots and lots of uncles and aunts who aren’t related by blood. That’s just the way that it is. I think that it’s kind of neat, actually. Anyway, I still dream about both my father and my uncle as he was such a big part of my life.

 “She tells her love while half asleep,
In the dark hours,
With half-words whispered low:
As Earth stirs in her winter sleep
And puts out grass and flowers
Despite the snow,
Despite the falling snow.” ~ Robert Graves

"Frost," by Igor Grabar (1905, oil on canvas)

Valentine’s Day is coming up in just a few days. I have very mixed feelings about Valentine’s Day. Mostly, I think that it’s a big ripoff. The cost of flowers doubles, even triples. People who have no one special in their lives are made to feel inferior, especially when the florists deliver bouquets to co-workers. The greeting card industry makes a fortune, as do the manufacturers of stuffed animals and chocolates. There’s something wrong with setting up one day of the year on which to display affection for your significant other.

Expressions of love should be a continual thing. I don’t mean flowers and cards. I’m talking about hugs, kisses, saying I love you. Doing thoughtful things for one another.  I think that our society in particular has these manufactured holidays that set up people to fulfill ridiculous expectations. My boyfriend didn’t send me a dozen red roses. He must not love me as much as he says that he does.

Please. If it only takes a dozen roses to prove love, then our expectations about relationships are too low. Let me tell you a true story: A radio station was running a contest; I don’t really remember the exact nature of the contest. The DJ’s had a woman on the line, and they called her boyfriend to tell him that he had won a drawing for a dozen roses. They asked him who he wanted the flowers to be sent to, and his response was his wife. He gave the DJ’s the name of his wife, at which point, his girlfriend interrupted and said, “Your wife?” The DJ’s cut the feed.

My point exactly. Roses do not define a relationship. If Corey spent $60 to send me roses, I would be too bothered about what that $60 could have been used for to enjoy the roses. Buy me a card and write something lovely inside. Tell me every day how you feel about me. It means more. Maybe it’s age, or maybe it’s wisdom, or maybe it’s a combination of things, but now that I have someone in my life who lets me know every single day how much he cares about me just in the way that he treats me, I don’t need the roses.

Now diamonds. That’s another story.

Quotes found on Crashingly Beautiful. More later. Peace.

Music by Chopin: Etude in A Flat Major, Opus 25, No. 1

 

 

*All images are by Igor Grabar (1871-1960), a Russian post-Impressionist painter.

“Lost — Yesterday, somewhere between sunrise and sunset, two golden hours, each set with sixty diamond minutes. No reward is offered, for they are gone forever.” ~ Horace Mann

 

 Dawn on Island View Beach, BC, by Brandon Godfrey

“If you had never been to the world and never known what dawn was, you couldn’t possibly imagine how the darkness breaks, how the mystery and color of a new day arrive.” ~ John O’Donohue*

Dawn as seen from an airplane over Greece

While the above sentiment is beautiful, greeting the dawn for six mornings in a row has just gotten old. I mean, I was thinking about it. If I worked the night shift, then my body clock might make sense, but as I am not working at all, this biological time-out has become overwhelmingly stale. 

This most recent episode began on Sunday after my birthday (great sushi for birthday dinner, by the way). I woke up on Sunday with a headache, so I spent most of the day lying on my back in the dark. Slept on and off. By Monday, headache had receded to pressure, but I felt exhausted. Or, let’s just say that I thought that I felt exhausted. Now I truly know what exhausted is: I feel as if I am one of those movie zombies, wandering about aimlessly looking for my next victim, but even that description doesn’t quite do this state justice. 

Last night, I took my bedtime meds early (around 10). Nothing, nada. Around 12:30 Corey came into check on me; I took Benadryl. Nothing nada. At 3:20 when Corey (Mr. Nightowl himself) came to bed, I took half a trazadone, since a whole pill normally puts me out and gives me a medicine hangover. Nothing, nada. Creeping towards 5 a.m. and still no sleep. Not even spurts of mini-sleep. Ab-so-lute-ly nothing. By this time I figured that it had been 9 hours or so since I had taken any muscle relaxers, so I chanced it, even though thoughts of putting myself into a pharmaceutical coma were lurking somewhere. 

At 6 a.m. I heard Brett’s alarm go off, but he didn’t get up. I was just starting to drift a bit when I squinted at the clock: 6:16 and still no movement from Brett. He had two exams today, so he had to go to school. I knocked on his door, and behold, he was not awake. I nudged Corey around 6:45 and told him that there was no way that I could drive even though I was awake since I was definitely under the influence of something. I finally fell asleep around 7:45 and slept until 11. Took two ativan and slept from 11:30 to 2:30. 

Those last three hours were the only uninterrupted, sound stretch of blissful sleep that I had. Every night since Sunday has been like this. 

“I’m sleeping while awake, standing by the window, leaning against it as against everything.” ~ Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

Snow at Dawn by Tracy Rosen

In between tossing and turning, I play computer games. I think about writing, but realize that if I begin a post, my mind won’t settle—it will only come to consciousness fully. I know, computer games aren’t the best idea either, but I try to find something mindless, like Bejeweled, just moving jewels around, but mindless games don’t seem to fix the problem either. 

I have noticed that the quality of my dreams when I do sleep is pretty wild: Something about a really ugly dress, a work dream thrown in there (work dreams have taken the place of algebra finals for my stress dreams), and then the other night, I had a full-blown action/adventure movie in which Corey and I were holed up in some seedy hotel, trying to find ammunition. Apparently, we were on some job that involved taking out someone, and we had run out of ammunition. 

I remember being quite enamored with my gun, which was a Walther PPK, à la James Bond. It had a weird siting mechanism, and the safety was on the back, not the side. Weird. I have never owned a gun and have never fired a handgun, but in this dream, my gun was my best friend. 

“Only mystery makes us live. Only mystery.” ~  Federico García Lorca

Spire of the Church of Tronville-en-Barrois at Dawn

Although, what is more strange is that when I am not sleeping, in those long stretches of painful wakefulness, I find myself doing very odd things like math equations. Trust me when I say that while I am good at math, I do not like it, so why is my mind in overdrive doing word problems? 

Do you ever compose in your sleep? I do, not as much as I would like, but it happens. I compose verse, which in my dream state sounds perfect, but I almost never wake myself to jot down what I have composed. I think that I do, but it’s just my body tricking me. However, on Monday, when I finally did fall asleep, I composed a piece of music, which is something that I have not done in many years. 

I am a classically-trained pianist, which I may have mentioned. I was good, but not great, and I knew it. I just loved it, which is why I took lessons for so long, but knowing that I didn’t have that special whatever that would set me apart, I did not major in music in college. So when I realized in my dream that I had composed a piece of music, I felt overjoyed. Once I woke up, I managed to hum just a tiny bit of it, but that was all that was left to me in my conscious state. 

However, I interpret the way in which my mind has been working recently during my semi-awareness to mean that I might be embarking on another creative spurt, at least I hope so. I mean, math? Music? Of course, the two are closely related . . . perhaps my mind is making connections that I have yet to reach once I am alert, although describing myself as alert these days might be going too far. 

“I have a sense of something imminent coming closer. But then I lose it again, become ordinary and inadequate. I feel like someone who is trying to guess an object being described by music. The sound grows steadily louder; he thinks he is on the point of grasping it, and then the sound becomes weaker again and he has to look for another answer.” ~ from the diary of Kaethe Kollwitz

Sunrise on the Outer Banks of NC

Who knows what is really going on in my mind? Certainly not I. Of course, if I were to venture a theory, it would be that the stress of our lives is currently wreaking havoc with my body. Yes, there is the pain, but that is omnipresent. It is more the sense of my head being very full and tight, my ears ringing, and an inability to focus. 

Of course, it has now been exactly two years since Corey was laid off. His job with Vane Brothers, which his contact said should start at the beginning of this year, now has a tentative start date of mid-February. We haven’t given up hope because if he does actually manage to get a job with this company, it would be wonderful. They have a great reputation in the shipping industry, good benefits, and people who work for them seem to be satisfied, which is not commonplace in tugboating. 

I have learned that people who work on tugs jump from company to company, often returning to companies once, twice, even three times. I suppose it’s just one of those industries that is a bit incestuous: everyone knows everyone else; being part of the in network secures a job faster than qualifications, things like that. Anyway, I am really, really hoping that this comes through. We’ve been due for a change of luck for some time now, and I find that time has become somewhat unreliable as a result. 

By that I mean I look up, and it’s the end of January. I was just getting ready for Christmas. But at the same time, it’s been two very long years without a second regular income, and that seems interminable. It’s almost as if I am somnabulating through the days, getting nowhere, so my body cannot truly rest. 

 “If you could only keep quiet, clear of memories and expectations, you would be able to discern the beautiful pattern of events. It’s your restlessness that causes chaos.” ~ Nisargadatta Maharaj

Florida Dawn by Janson Jones

Oh listen to me, going on about a whole lot of weirdness. I can say, though, that my back feels better today after getting my caudal yesterday, even though I felt as if I was going to throw up on the procedure table. This nausea crap is really getting old, but as I told Corey, I’m sure that this, too, shall pass. 

I just have to hold on to the idea that next week or the week after, my body will begin to right itself, so to speak, and I will be able to concentrate more fully on the things that matter, like writing this blog, for example. This overwhelming sense of restlessness cannot last forever; can it? I mean, a person could really and truly go crazy without the ability to find focus. 

Ah well. For now, I will continue to exist between these states of tossing about in the bed covers, stumbling to the kitchen to get something to drink, sitting at my desk in front of this computer waiting for inspiration. I don’t think that I have killed my sleep like Macbeth did, but I do believe that something inside of me is churning about too much, hence the inability to sleep soundly. Exactly what that something is, I have no idea. But as Emerson said, “What you are comes to you.” 

I have to believe that given time, things will begin to shift course. The receding tide will remove all the detritus that life has scattered on the shore for the past two years, and dawn will again become something that I greet with a sense of hope instead of dread. 

More later. Peace. 

Music from the Dixie Chicks: “Landslide,” which seems wholly appropriate: getting older, children getting older, being brought down by a landslide . . . 

  

 

  

*Many thanks to Crashingly Beautiful for the quotes used in this post.