“As my mind tries to settle on it, it flutters away, like ashes caught in a breeze, and I realize that in my life there is a then, a before, though before what I cannot say, and there is a now, and there is nothing between the two but a long, silent emptiness that has led me here.” ~ S.J. Watson, from Before I Go to Sleep
I came across a new poet (new for me) whose words speak to the numbness that controls my body today. I am hollow, all played out from yesterday’s break. I want to do nothing more than nothing. I have not had such a bad break since my father died. It’s not all about Jennifer. It’s about all of them, all of the losses, all of the unspeakable losses that I am constantly trying to speak of. People lost. Dreams lost. Friendships lost.
Sometimes, I live in a shadow world, one filled with grey clouds and white mists, and I hide myself there, the better to protect my heart, yet once I am within, my heart becomes laid bare, so much easier to pierce with pain again and again. There is no place I can hide. I should not want to hide. I should be stronger. I am not strong.
I feel like the French Lieutenant’s woman, standing on that spit in the middle of a gale, the wind buffeting my body from all sides, and all I have is a thin cloak about me, and it offers so little protection. If the wrong gust hits me, I will fall off, yet I do not attempt to move back from the edge.
“Nothing has an unlikely quality. It is heavy.” ~ Jeanette Winterson, from Weight: The Myth of Atlas and Heracles
My body aches from the inside all the way to the tips of my fingers. The wracking sobs left me with a fierce migraine and sore eyes. The only thing piercing the numbness is the physical pain. The emotional pain is flat, a straight plane, extending into infinity from all directions. It is an exacting lassitude, a profound stupor, a dull torpor of the body and soul.
Yet there is no cave in which I can find shelter, no bulwark behind which I can find protection. I am alone out there on the rocks, slick from the water of waves and rain.
It may take a while to recover from this. I will write my way through . . .
Samuel Barber, “Adagio for Strings”
You never know when somebody will walk away from you on a bright day on a busy street, never looking back and
you cannot believe the slow disappearance, cannot believe what is moving away from your reach until the busy street no longer needs its presence to look the same, because it is the same.
And the city offers you its fruits and fish, and the churchgoers life their veils as they step out in the open
and you know the picture is incomplete but it can stand for itself
and who are you to ask for more, who are you to insist on hunger?
“I wanted silence. My daydreams were full of places I longed to be, shelters and solitudes. I wanted a room apart from others, a hidden cabin to rest in. I wanted to be in a redwood forest with trees so tall the owls called out in the daytime. I daydreamed of living in a vapor cave a few hours away from here. Underground, warm, and moist, I thought it would be the perfect world for staying out of cold winter, for escaping the noise of living.
And how often I’ve wanted to escape to a wilderness where a human hand has not been in everything. But those were only dreams of peace, of comfort, of a nest inside stone or woods, a sanctuary where a dream or life wouldn’t be invaded.”
~Linda Hogan, Dwellings: A Spiritual History of the Living World
The Way In
Sometimes the way to milk and honey is through the body.
Sometimes the way in is a song.
But there are three ways in the world: dangerous, wounding,
“As a blind man, lifting a curtain, knows it is morning, I know this change: On one side of silence there is no smile; But when I breathe with the birds, The spirit of wrath becomes the spirit of blessing, And the dead begin from their dark to sing in my sleep.” ~ Theodore Roethke, from “Journey to the Interior”
I have posted a poem by Olena Kalytiak Davis before, but I came across a few lines of the following one on my tumblr dash, so of course, I went in search of the entire poem. I found it on a lovely site that I’ve recently added to my blogroll: Dragonfly’s Poetry and Prolixity. If you love poetry (and dragonflies, which I do), you might enjoy this new gem.
The Panic of Birds
The moon is sick
of pulling at the river, and the river
fed up with swallowing the rain,
So, in my lukewarm coffee, in the bathroom
mirror, there’s a restlessness
as black as a raven.
Landing heavily on the quiet lines of this house.
Again, the sun takes cover
and the morning is dead
tired of itself, already, it’s pelting and windy
as I lean into the pane
that proves this world is a cold smooth place.
Wind against window—let the words fight it out—
as I try to remember: What is it
that’s so late in coming? What was it
I understood so well last night, so well it kissed me,
sweetly on the forehead?
Wind against window and my late flowering brain,
heavy, gone to seed. Pacing
from room to room and in each window
a different version of a framed woman
unable to rest, set against a sky
full of beating wings and abandoned
directions. Her five chambered heart
filling with the panic of birds, asking: What?
who would believe them winged
who would believe they could be
beautiful who would believe
they could fall so in love with mortals
that they would attach themselves
as scars attach and ride the skin
sometimes we hear them in our dreams
rattling their skulls clicking their bony fingers
envying our crackling hair
our spice filled flesh
they have heard me beseeching
as I whispered into my own
cupped hands enough not me again
enough but who can distinguish
one human voice
amid such choruses of desire
~ Lucille Clifton
Music by Gary Moore, “The Loner”
How strange to be sitting in this room,
to be noticing the windows—clearer than air—
how they let in everything, the leaves,
the bright-colored leaves, hanging like bits
of paper from the trees, and the thin woman
across the street sweeping her porch—
though she swept it yesterday and the day before
and will, most likely, sweep it tomorrow—
and how strange to be thinking of you, always
of you, as the room changes imperceptibly, easily
moving from moment to moment, like a lover
whose infidelities are purely imaginary,
imagined by you, just as you’re sure
the house might betray you, accommodating shadows
in your absence, sure that the room only
pretends to be your room, light climbing the stairs—
like an intruder or friend who left a long time ago—
pausing, changing its mind, going back down again,
as if the door were open and it could
come back anytime. Strange after so much time
to feel the same feelings, only stronger,
as the dust settles thickly on the tables,
and the afternoon shadows, unsure of themselves,
shrink into corners or lie on the floor,
and no letters arrive and the phone doesn’t ring,
and the woman sweeping her porch casts
a cold eye up at you—the face in the second story
window, the whorled face staring at the view—
goes into her house and shuts the door.
“All you need now is to stand at the window and let your rhythmical sense open and shut, open and shut, boldly and freely, until one thing melts in another, until the taxis are dancing with the daffodils, until a whole has been made from all these separate fragments.” ~ Virginia Woolf, from Letter To A Young Poet
Sunday, late afternoon. Sunny and warm.
I slept very soundly last night. Now that I think of it, I’m sleeping better lately, not so much up and down every two to three hours. I am still sleeping about eleven hours, but I still feel like I need it, which is so strange.
I had more vivid dreams last night. Once again, I dreamed that I was back with my ex, but I didn’t want to be. I wanted to be with Corey. I really hate dreams like that because I wake up all discombobulated, and it takes me a few minutes to regain my footing.
Corey had to work the late shift last night, so I watched television until I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I have a vague memory of Corey getting home this morning and untangling me from the covers. I was probably wound up in them in my usual fight with the dogs for my portion of bed space. Of course, all of this is done without me being aware of it.
When I finally got out of bed today, I tackled all of the dishes. I don’t mind washing the dishes; what I do mind is washing the dishes while sweat pours down my face and into my eyes. Our kitchen is beastly hot at all times, and it has always been this way. But my tolerance for the heat is nil so that by the time I finish washing the dishes and wiping down the counter and stove, I’m a sopping mess. It’s quite sexy, I must say.
Anyway, I thought that I’d start a post early enough today so that I might be able to finish it without dragging it out throughout the week.
“The sky is no longer out there, but it is right on the edge of the space you are in. The sense of colour is generated inside you. If you then go outside you will see a different coloured sky. You colour the sky.” ~ James Turrell
I had a good session with my therapist on Wednesday. She asked what I wanted to talk about, and I told her that there were two possibilities: my daughter and my inability to deal with not going back to work; however, since I still hadn’t talked to Alexis, there really wasn’t much point in discussing that issue as it was at a standstill. So work it was.
One of the reasons that I like my therapist so much, aside from the fact that we have known each other for over 20 years, is that she has this innate ability to get to the heart of matters. I can tell you after seeing several different therapists, not everyone in the profession can do this.
I told her that I dream about going back to work at least three times a week and that the dreams never end well. We pondered that and a few other aspects for a bit, but ultimately she said that my loss of identity, the identity that I have always tied to having a career—making money, being successful on my own terms—my inability to deal with the loss of those things was grief, and I hadn’t dealt with that grief.
Geez. Grief? Again? No, we all know that I don’t do grief well, not at all.
What it boils down to is that as long as I keep thinking that I might be able to go back to work, then I’m never going to deal with the fact that I can’t go back to work, certainly not full time and not in the kind of careers that I have had in the past. I mean, the reality is that if I had been working in the past two weeks, out of those ten days, I would have been out of commission for four; no one is going to want someone on staff who is that unreliable, and I cannot predict when my body will decide to take a time out.
“Honest criticism means nothing: what one wants is unrestrained passion, fire for fire.” ~ Henry Miller
I had never thought of the loss of my career as something over which to grieve, but I have been working steadily since I was 15, full time since I was 18. That’s a long time. A long time in which to build confidence, a sense of identity, a sense of accomplishment. Dr. K likened it to what happens to people who retire and are totally unprepared for the major life change.
It makes complete sense when I think of it in that way, but my inability to move forward emotionally is also keeping me from enjoying something I have longed to have the leisure to do: write.
I used to dream about quitting work and writing full time. Now, I have the time, and I don’t always write. Dr. K suggested that perhaps in my goal-oriented way of thinking about things, I’ve put too many expectations on my writing, as in writing to finish my book, writing to publish, and because of this, I’m not taking the time to just enjoy the practice of writing.
I have worked on deadline with clearly-defined goals all of my life: proposals to garner funds for this or that, deadlines to go to print, presentations to recruit students, sales goals, whatever. And during all of that time, I longed, ached really, to just be able to write. For three years now, I have been about the practice of writing, but always with some goal in my mind, and my inability to pursue that goal clearly and steadfastly has made me feel that I’m not making any forward progress.
But this is the reality:
I wrote my first post on February 26, 2008, but I did not begin to post regularly until July 2008.
I’ve published 652 posts, and about 95 percent of those were written, not just videos.
I average 1500 words a post, words that are mine, not quotes or poems.
Based on about 618 real posts, that’s 927,000 words, give or take a few thousand.
Nine hundred twenty-seven thousand words . . .
There are roughly one million words in the English language, but does that include scientific terms, acronyms, numbers, etc.?
It is impossible to calculate accurately how many words are in the English language because there are so many mitigating factors: slang, regional dialect, words that come from other languages that are used in English (e.g., cliché, Yentl, sherpa, pierogie), parts of speech, derivations, compounds, etc.
Unabridged dictionaries contain between 200,000 to 600,000 entries
Have I written a dictionary’s worth of words?
“Stand high long enough and your lightning will come.” ~ William Gibson
Of course not. But I’ve written a lot of words, and before today, I never calculated just how many words I’ve pounded out on various keyboards and computers at my disposal.
I’ve certainly written enough words to fill a book, but obviously that does not mean that I’ve written a book. But that’s not the point; the point is that all of this time, I have never really given myself credit for writing, just writing. I’ve always kept the presence of this elusive goal in the periphery, which makes me feel guilty for not doing more with my writing.
Perhaps if I can let go of the idea of returning to work, returning to a full-time career, and perhaps if I can allow myself to feel a sense of accomplishment for the writing that I am doing, then I will be able to move on, or at least to move beyond this standstill in which I have felt myself mired for the past few years.
I know myself too well to believe for a second that I will be able to assuage all of the guilt; I still have that strong Puritanical sensibility: hard work brings success; although to be truthful, I don’t know where it comes from. No wait. I do. It comes from my father, from both my parents, who instilled in me early that I had to work hard to succeed.
But aside from that, if I can start to let go, perhaps I’ll be able to move forward.
“I had forgotten that time wasn’t fixed like concrete but in fact was fluid as sand, or water. I had forgotten that even misery can end.” ~ Joyce Carol Oats, I Am No One You Know: Stories
I don’t know, just as I don’t know with any certainty what tomorrow will bring. I just know that I must try. I am so tired of my life being the way that it is.
I’ve been having an ongoing conversation with mosaicmoods regarding the Robbins quote that I posted a few days ago about self destiny and piloting “your own ship.” What I take from the quote is that Robbins is saying that if we sit idly by and wait for things to happen to us, then we deserve what we get, but if we pilot our own ships, if we carpe diem, then we have a chance to make our dreams a reality.
Of course, the opportunities that present themselves to us are not always obvious. We are not always self-aware enough to realize that this moment in time is an open door, so we do not go through it. Or, we may sense that the open door is there, but for whatever reason, we do not go through the door. Perhaps we are afraid of what is on the other side of the door. Perhaps we are just to tired to make the journey, however small.
I only know that I have been hanging about waiting for god knows what for too long. My decision to write just to write is not an earth-shattering decision. I see it more as taking a step or two through the garden gate and down the path. Whether or not that path arrives at a cottage by the sea doesn’t really matter at this point.
To be perfectly honest, I’m just glad to be on the path.
More later. Peace.
Music by Thirteen Senses, “Gone”
Untitled by Halina Poswiatowska
these words have always existed
in the open smile of a sunflower
the dark wing of a crow
in the frame of a door left ajar
even when there was no door
in the branches of a
and you want me
to have them to myself
crow’s wing the birch and the summer
you want me to buzz
as beehives do
when open to sunshine
i do not own these words
from the wind from the bees and from the sun
(Translated by Marek Lugowski)
*Just an aside. It’s now 9 p.m. I began this post at 5 p.m. It has taken everything in me not to get up and walk away from trying to publish this damned thing. The computer began to act up as soon as I started to insert my images. Argh . . .
“There were moments, of course. Those small spaces of time, too soon gone, when everything seems to stand still, and existence is balanced on a perfect point, like the moment of change between the dark and light when both and neither surround you.” ~ Diana Gabaldon, Outlander
Thursday, early evening. A lovely 60 degrees with puffy clouds.
Yesterday, it was 88 degrees and very humid. Today, 28 degrees cooler. I love the temperature change, but I awoke with a killer migraine. No surprise there. I’ve been in bed most of the day, but am feeling a bit better now, so I thought that I would take advantage of the respite.
I had wanted to post yesterday; in fact, I spent an hour collecting images for a post with different quotes, but in the end, I just didn’t have it in me. I think that I was still recovering from two more tests this week: sleep apnea and another GI test, ordered by two different doctors, of course.
The neurologist ordered the sleep apnea test as she thinks that that may be what’s causing my daily headaches (not the migraines). When I looked at the poster in the sleep disorders clinic that listed all of the symptoms of sleep apnea, I had about half. I never really thought that I might have sleep apnea; I suppose it’s because I have always associated sleep apnea with my father. Apparently, Filipinos, especially males, are predisposed to sleep apnea, a particularly dangerous type that causes death.
When I lived with my parents, I remember vividly my father’s snoring: very loud, glass-rattling, and then there would be pauses in which he didn’t seem to be breathing at all. My mother woke him up more than once because of this. I snore, not as much as I used to, but I don’t recall waking up gasping for breath afterwards, which is why I never thought I had sleep apnea. Anyway, the test involved wearing a monitor, a pulse oxymeter, and an air tube in my nose like the kind for oxygen.
When the tech gave me the test kit, she said that I needed to have six hours of uninterrupted sleep. I laughed and told her that I hadn’t had one night of uninterrupted sleep since my first child was born. Typically, I get up at least three times a night, although with the new med that the psychiatrist ordered, and I am sleeping more soundly and am able to get back to sleep pretty quickly after waking.
As for the GI test, it was another one of those that I refuse to talk about. Enough said.
“Any idiot can face a crisis—it’s day to day living that wears you out.” ~ Anton Chekhov
I’m pretty sure I’ve used this quote before, but it felt very apropos in this particular post. So sue me.
Strange and interesting things are happening in our household now. I need to go back a few weeks: After Corey took the job with PreCon, his Sergeant from the maritime security company told him that he should stay in touch. Then he called Corey and had a long conversation with him in which he said that Corey should really consider coming back.
Apparently, the company is on the verge of getting a major contract that will call for 11 guards, 24-hours-a-day at a shipyard. The job would also require a site supervisor. If the contract came through as described, Corey would be guaranteed 40 hours a week, and almost definitely at least eight hours of overtime. The guy in charge hinted strongly that Corey would be a supervisor if not the supervisor, which would mean more money.
His hourly wage with the security company and with Precon were within pennies of each other. Such a dilemma.Corey had to think long and hard about this, and there were a few factors at play: While he loved being back on the boat, he didn’t much care for the day-work (normally on a tug he worked six on and six off; day work was 12 hours straight). Also, his Coast Guard credentials all need to be renewed, and he wanted to take the mate’s class again since it’s been so long since he drove a boat.
We talked it over, and I think the deciding factor came from me (not intentionally). I told Corey that if he stayed with the maritime security company and had regular hours, he could finally go back to school. More than once we have talked about how if we had known he would not be on a boat for three years, he could have taken the classes to get his associate’s degree, but there was no way of predicting such a thing. The possibility of finally going back to school, one of his longtime goals, really excited him, so he went back to his old job.
The new contract doesn’t start until May, but he wanted to be positioned well so that he could get the supervisor’s job, that and he let the head guy know that he wanted to be involved in the training and hiring, which they seemed to think was a good idea.
So after years of waiting for a tug, he’s postponing going back to sea for at least a year. I think that it’s the right move, and he’s feeling very comfortable with his decision, which is not usually the case as he tends to second-guess himself entirely too much. In the meantime, he can take classes, and he can try to fit in a mate’s training class before renewing his quals with the Coast Guard.
It’s really funny how fate works sometimes.
“I must see new things and investigate them. I want to taste dark water and see crackling trees and wild winds.” ~ Egon Schiele
So while some things still suck out loud, one major thing is going in a bold, new direction.
I wanted to take a moment to thank those of you who commented and e-mailed me regarding the post I wrote about the situation with Alexis. Your kind words do matter, and I appreciate all of the support.
I went to see my other m-in-law at the rehab place on Tuesday after the GI test because I am a glutton for physical and emotional punishment. When I walked in the room, she was lying on her side weeping. Her glasses were on the floor. I asked her what was wrong, and she said that she just didn’t have any reason to go on.
I told her that she did indeed have reasons to go on, that she would be coming home soon, and even though someone would need to stay with her, her garden and all of the flowers in bloom were waiting; her cat was waiting for her. I told her that being home in comfortable surroundings would surely make her feel better.
As I talked, I held her hand and rubbed her arms. She got calmer, and then we talked some more. She mentioned a few names with which I was not familiar, but I pretended to know who they were. Her roommate, who is a chatterbox, talked to me the entire time that I was trying to talk to my m-in-law, which made it hard to hear her as the roommate was talking over her. I made myself be patient and nice as the other woman was obviously lonely, too.
My m-in-law asked where Ann was, and I said that she had taken one of my nieces to North Carolina for spring break, and she said, “Must be nice,” which is the kind of thing she would have said before she got so sick. I told her that I knew the feeling, but we could have wheelchair races down the hall for fun, and she laughed.
When I left, she was asleep and seemed much calmer. I got in the car and turned the music up loud and tried not to think too much about the situation. Part of me wanted to call my ex just to talk about his mother, but there was no point. It would have been a non-conversation. Part of me wanted to call my daughter and say, “Go see your grandmother,” but that, too, would have been pointless. So I just drove home.
“Those who are willing to be vulnerable/move among mysteries.” ~ Theodore Roethke
We received a wedding invitation yesterday from Corey’s brother Chad. I am so happy for him that he has finally found a nice woman to be with. His first marriage ended badly, and he dated a few women who were, shall I say, not worthy? But his fiance has two kids, and Chad has a son, and they make a lovely family.
The wedding is in the middle of July, which means a trip to Ohio. The truck still isn’t fixed because we’re still waiting for Ford to come through on the buyout (don’t get me started on this). The Rodeo could make the trip, but it needs a bit of work, and besides, it belongs to Brett, who will get his license at the beginning of July.
I’ve priced flights, and if we stay over on a Saturday, they actually aren’t too expensive (well everything is expensive at this point), but compared to gas prices at nearly $4 a gallon, we really need to think about this.
Oddly enough, my uncle in Orlando called me last week. This is my dad’s older brother. He said that he had a 1999 Ford Explorer that he wanted to give me. My aunt doesn’t drive any more, and the car is just sitting there. I couldn’t believe what he was saying. He said that he knew that we needed a vehicle, and he wanted me to have it. The only problem is getting it here. I’ve begun looking into vehicle transport companies, and I think that it will cost between $500 and $700, which is still a really great price for us to pay to have another vehicle in good working order.
While it might be cheaper for both of us to fly one-way to Orlando, driving back to Norfolk is still going to take a bit of gas as it’s about 750 miles.
Ah, gas prices. We cannot complain, though. Europeans have been paying this much for gas for years. I believe the good old days of cheaper gas prices are well and truly gone.
But I digress . . .
So while the news is wonderful, it’s yet another chunk of change that we need to produce, which might be covered by the Ford buy-back money once we get the truck’s transmission, brakes, and tires done. Who knows.
“Things are as they are. Looking out into the universe at night, we make no comparisons between right and wrong stars, nor between well and badly arranged constellations.” ~ Alan Watts
Cleave Heather by Alex37 (deviantART)
So that’s most of the news from our household. To put my life in perspective for you, the one thing that I am most looking forward to at this moment is the new season of “Dr. Who” on BBC America, which starts this Saturday at 9. I know what my weekend plans are, and they have nothing to do with going out on the town or attending a party, and you know what? I am perfectly content with that.
I mean, in spite of everything—the health issues, the money issues, the job issues, the family issues—I still appreciate my life. I love my husband madly, and I honestly don’t think that I could have a better partner in life. My sons are doing well in college, and they make me so proud. Brett has fallen in love for the first time, and it’s so endearing.
I have a house, and while it may not be zombie proof, it’s still mine. My peonies in the front yard are absolutely heavy with buds. My dogs are adorable but a bit aggravating when they wake me up in the middle of the night.
I have this forum in which to share my thoughts and feelings, and I have my mind and all of the thoughts that course through it continuously like some kind of wild river that will not be tamed. It’s a good day, all except for the computer problems that began when I stared to insert my images . . . not going there.
More later. Peace.
Music by Joe Purdy, “Good Days”
There are those who grow
gardens in their heads
paths lead from their hair
to sunny and white cities
it’s easy for them to write
they close their eyes
immediately schools of images
stream down their foreheads
is a piece of board
my sole instrument
is a wood stick
I strike the board
it answers me
for others the green bell of a tree
the blue bell of water
I have a knocker
from unprotected gardens
I thump on the board
and it prompts me
with the moralists’ dry poem