“She had the scattered feeling she always got when events conspired to mess things up, and nothing exhausted and frustrated her more than a mess she was incapable of fixing.” ~ J. Robert Lennon, The Light of Falling Stars

Overhanging, Indian Lake, Ohio by L. Liwag©  

“Nothing must be postponed. Take time by the forelock. Now or never! You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this, or like the like of this.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

Well, another day, another 57 cents . . . whatever.  

More forms for prescription assistance. This time, I was completely befuddled by the contradictory directions, and of course, trying to get a live human at the contact number was fruitless as I was directed back to the site. I often find myself screaming into the phone at the automated attendant, “Live Human Being!” to no avail.  

I spent hours yesterday editing the photographs that I took while we were in Ohio, and so I am treating (?) you to a few in this post. The top one is my favorite. These pictures were all taken on December 21, 2009 at Indian Lake and along the drive home. It was colder than cold that day, especially with the wind whipping off the lake, but it was worth it to get these shots.     

Blue Ice by L. Liwag©

One of the really interesting things about Indian Lake is the number of islands in the middle of the lake, some with houses. I told Corey that I would love to live in one of those houses, especially in the winter. You know, stock up on supplies, and once the lake freezes, ride in on an ice boat or snowmobile only when necessary. The only problem with that idea is whether there would be access to high speed internet. These are the things that I think about.  

“Only awareness of your shadow qualities can help you to find an appropriate place for your unredeemed darkness and thereby create a more satisfying experience.” ~ Robert Johnson

Indian Lake, OH Wide Vista by L. Liwag ©

More very strange dreams. Do you ever dream something, wake up, then go back to sleep and continue the dream? That happens to me often. Last night/this morning, whenever I finally went to sleep, I had this very strange dream that Dillard’s at MacArthur Center was closing down. My former store manager called several of us together to give us going away presents (believe me, something he would not do). Mine was a set of Ralph Lauren flannel sheets. I was exuberant. Then I woke up because Tillie was punching me in the back of the neck with her paws.  

Went back to sleep, and the dream continued: Turns out, the store wasn’t supposed to close, but the assistant store manager read the e-mail incorrectly, so the store was closed; things were sold at unbelievable prices, and it was all a mistake. Then the dream warped into this crime scenario in which the criminals were turning on other criminals. In one storyline, I was in a truck that rammed the loading dock. A man (who knows who) and I jumped out and  confronted the security guard at the store, then I shot the man. But it was all a ruse as we were filming a movie, but then we weren’t. Then it jumped back to the point at which the store was closing, and I went into the cosmetics department to steal an eyeliner, but I didn’t really steal it, I put poison on it. Someone (again, don’t know who) used the eyeliner and became sick. Then I took the eyeliner, dunked it into some kind of solution, and kept it.  

The main thing that I remember, and this is priceless, is what color lipstick I was wearing, and I said to myself in the dream, “You really need to remember this shade because it is very flattering.”  

Is it any wonder that I feel as if my mind is too full most of the time?  

“Iron rusts from disuse, stagnant water loses its purity, and in cold weather becomes frozen, even so does inaction sap the vigors of the mind.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci

Snowy Limbs by L. Liwag©

Speaking of my mind, and I was, I am not doing too well in that department. Out of my anti-depressant, you see, so my mood swings are quite intense, which is probably another reason my dreams are dark and wild.  

I keep Corey awake in the middle of the night with my need to talk, especially about things over which I have no control because those are the things that worry me the most. It’s not that I’m a control freak, although I used to be. Rather, I just fret about what might happen, what could happen. I do this when my mood is slipping, and I do it to torture myself. Don’t look for logic here as there is none.  

I told Corey that I really want to go back to work as I feel as if I am stagnating, just sitting here in this room wasting away. It’s a double-edged sword since if I do decide to try to go back to work full time, I will lose my disability, and then I’m not sure if I could get it back if things don’t work out. I cannot work part-time as that would decrease my disability and give them a reason to take away my coverage. Yet I truly believe that if I sit here for another two years without doing something productive, then my mind will turn into mush, porridge, if you will.  

“The only way you can write the truth is to assume that what you set down will never be read. Not by any other person, and not even by yourself at some later date. Otherwise you begin excusing yourself. You must see the writing as emerging like a long scroll of ink from the index finger of your right hand; you must see your left hand erasing it.” ~ Margaret Atwood

Frozen Plants by L. Liwag©

Anyway, this is something that I must give serious thought, the benefits and the downsides. Of course, I could spend this time writing my book. Consider: Author J. K. Rowling wrote the seven Harry Potter books in 17 years. That’s pretty amazing. When she began writing, Rowling was out of work and on public assistance; now she is one of the richest people on the face of the earth.  

I don’t begrudge her; I admire her. The Harry Potter series is one of those series of books that will long outlive its author. Its themes of good and evil, compassion and choices will never be outdated. I’m certain that when Rowling first began writing her story she never imagined exactly where it would take her personally. I think of her dedication, her single-mindedness in bringing her story to life, and it makes me feel, well, inferior.  

I never thought that I would get to this point in my life without being published. I mean, I am published—articles, a retrospective for a university, things like that—but not my book, the book that is inside of me, that is probably inside of every English major. I have mulled over plots, titles, characters. I have given so much thought to how I would approach this thing called writing, serious writing, but each time, I step back just before leaping off the cliff into the unknown.  

It’s fear, pure unharnessed fear. I know that. I have the words within me. I think that I have the talent within me as well, but fear keeps me from moving beyond observation and contemplation.  

Sorry, got a bit off track there. You see, if I go back to work, then I have an excuse not to write. Does that make sense? It does to me. If I go back to work, I can become immersed in yet another job that is not my dream job, spend my time doing things for other people, using my creative energies for other purposes.   

It’s not Rowling’s wealth that I want (although I wouldn’t say no), nor is it her fame. It’s her dedication, her willingness to put pen to paper without ever knowing if anyone would read her words, but doing it nevertheless.  

I need to stop fooling around with my life and do something, stop watching movies, reading other people’s words. I need to be true to myself or give up the dream much like giving up the ghost.  

I’ll leave you with a wonderful Basho haiku that I found on Crashingly Beautiful:  

“The Snow we two once
looked at together—has it
fallen again this year?” 
  

More later. Peace.  

Music by Michael Hoppé, “Renouncement” based on the poem by Alice Alice Meynell, with images by E. A. Hoppé:

 

                                                                                                                         

Renouncement

I must not think of thee; and, tired yet strong,
I shun the love that lurks in all delight—
The love of thee—and in the blue heaven’s height,
And in the dearest passage of a song.
Oh, just beyond the sweetest thoughts that throng
This breast, the thought of thee waits hidden yet bright;
But it must never, never come in sight;
I must stop short of thee the whole day long.
But when sleep comes to close each difficult day,
When night gives pause to the long watch I keep,
And all my bonds I needs must loose apart,
Must doff my will as raiment laid away—
With the first dream that comes with the first sleep
I run, I run, I am gather’d to thy heart.
 
 
 
 
 

Alice Alice Meynell

 

“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is far worse than the suffering itself—and no heart has ever suffered when it’s gone in search of its dreams.” ~ Paul Coelho

Morning Mist on Lake Mapourika, New Zealand by Richard Palmer (2008)

 

“Only a man who has felt ultimate despair is capable of feeling ultimate bliss. It is necessary to have wished for death in order to know how good it is to live . . . the sum of all human wisdom will be contained in these two words: Wait and Hope.” ~ Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo

Well, we made it through the November nor’easter all right: no tree damage, no water damage, no loss of power. We were luckier than many people, for a change, and for that, I am truly thankful. I am also truly thankful that I no longer feel as if I am existing in a wind tunnel. One day is intriguing. Two days is numbing. Three days is irritating. Moving into the fourth day is like the waking dead: I can no longer tell if I am hearing the wind or if it is a constant buzzing in my ears. Oh well.

Port of La Rochelle, France in Morning Fog

Many, many strange dreams in the past few nights: my father appeared in at least two, and that is always disconcerting. I don’t know that I’ll ever feel that I did not disappoint my father terribly before he died, but that is not the subject for tonight. Much too hard of a subject, and always leaves me depleted for a long time, and since I am beginning the post in an already depleted state, I will not even attempt to tackle something as weighty as that.

The other night I had this dream about being on a sinking boat. The dream was a complete metaphor for my life: the boat was cluttered and dirty and badly in need of a complete cleaning. And there was one other problem: there was no bottom in the boat. At some point, the boat fell (?) off the support beams on which it had been resting and flew through the air, landing atop the bottom of an old military vessel. The top of the boat and the bottom of the military vessel came together, and both pieces rushed forward into the ocean.

I thought to myself that some remedy had to be found other than the makeshift coupling of the two halves, otherwise, the ocean would be able to dislodge the two pieces, and we would surely sink. In the meantime, someone was complaining about washing the windows of the boat, which were not portholes, but panes of glass like a house, and no one could clean because there was too much clutter—boxes and storage bins and whatever else. I awoke from the dream crying because it was a fast-sinking ship, and I knew that, and just as certainly I knew that the boat in my dream was my life.

Last night I dreamed that I worked at Dillard’s again, and asked to have the home store back because that was always my favorite department. But instead of a home store, there were lawn mowers. Very strange. The weirdest part was that I had all of these great marketing ideas for different departments, and I decided that I should be the store’s roving marketing manager, going from department to department coming up with selling ideas. Also very strange as my marketing background is my least favorite part of my skill set.

So I’m still not sleeping well, even more so since the drop-off for trees and limbs that were felled by the storm is right behind the house in the parking lot of the community park that our house abuts. After Hurricane Isabel in 2003, the City set up a similar drop-off in the parking lot, but is was on the other side of the park, so the sound of the wood chipper and large trucks backing up with their beeping alarms was more removed; now, it is jarringly loud, and it seems to be right outside the bedroom window. It’s not, but that’s how it seems to my head. Lovely.

“The weight of the world is love, under the burden of solitude, under the burden of dissatisfaction.” ~ Allen Ginsburg

Foggy View from Oberfallenberg Towards Swiss Mountains, by Friedrich Bohringer

Anyway . . . I have had the following quote on my mind for days, but for the life of me, I cannot find out who said it originally (if anyone knows, please pass along the information): Do what you love, and the rest will follow.

Now, I know that there is a book entitled Do what you love and the money will follow, but that is not the sentiment that I am pondering.

Do what you love . . .

What do I love, exactly? I thought that I loved to write, more than anything else in the world. But lately, I have come to question that belief, especially since I am having such a hard time piecing together a coherent blog post. What kind of writer is that? I sit down at these keys everyday, but I do not write everyday. More often than not, I open a computer game and play mindlessly for hours, attempting to lull myself into fatigue. I feel more often than not that I am existing in an endless fog.

Let me pause here. I know that I am depressed, considerably so. That I am not taking my usual dose of antidepressant is not helping matters. Granted. However, I am depending upon samples from my doctor, and I am trying to stretch those as far as they go. No one needs to tell me that this is not how you take a medication that needs to be maintained at a constant level in order to fight the chemical imbalances that lead to clinical depression. I know all of this.

I also know that my particular antidepressant costs over $200 without prescription coverage, which I still don’t have because of the ongoing battle with my health insurance. Not even worth going into that old scenario.

And even though I know that not having my medication is affecting me, and November is affecting me, and being just above poverty level is affecting me, and the upcoming anniversary of my dad’s death is affecting me, and the upcoming holidays are affecting me . . . wait, I lost the subject of that sentence. In other words—everything in the world is affecting me.

“A fierce unrest seethes at the core, of all existing things: it was the eager wish to soar, that gave the gods their wings.” ~ Don Marquis

Last night I was standing at the sink doing dishes (because the dishwasher no longer works because this is the best possible time for yet another appliance to break), anyway, I was doing dishes and crying. Weeping, actually, and no, it wasn’t because I was washing dishes. Why so sad, joker asks?

Let’s see, other than the litany mentioned above, Corey burned his arm two nights ago, bad burn with scalding water, but he has no health insurance.  As I applied antibiotic ointment and dressing, all I could think of was that burns get infected so easily. Corey shrugged it off, but I’ve been watching it carefully. It seems to be healing well, but still . . .

Fog in Winter, Valley of Upa, Czech Republic

And then, the dryer isn’t working right. The dishwasher is now broken. The house as a whole is in horrible shape, cluttered, dirty, depressingly in disrepair. I used to be so anal about cleaning, every weekend, top to bottom. Now, I cannot run the vacuum for the clutter. Did I mention that I cannot write? My phone has been turned off, and basically, I hate life. To be more specific, my life. I hate my life.

Don’t misunderstand. I do not hate the people in my life. I love the people in my life. They are probably the one thing that sustains me at the moment. But my life, per se? The circumstances of my life? I hate, h-a-t-e it. I want to go back to work. I want to have a career again. I don’t want to feel like a burden for which Corey must bear the full weight. I don’t want my spouse to feel that he is a caretaker. That gets old, fast.

I want to sleep through the night, wake up in the morning, get dressed, and go to work.

That I should be happy that I awaken each morning with a roof over my head and some food in my fridge . . . yes, I know that. We’re talking emotions here. Logically, I know that I have so much for which to be grateful. Logically, I know that millions upon millions of people have it so much worse. Logically, I know that in the big scheme of things, my problems are a tiny little puddle in comparison to the monsoons that invade so may people’s lives.

Yes, I know that. Does it makes me seem ungrateful to say that knowing that, I still feel as if I am slowly losing my mind? Losing patience with everything? Losing the ability to cope? Probably, yes, I probably seem ungrateful.

But damn, it just feels as if I am existing, counting days, not living. That’s it. It took me all of these words to get to the heart of it: existing, not living. I want to enjoy life again. I want to be the woman I used to be, the woman who took pleasure in small things, who thrived on stress and pressure, who laughed more, bantered frequently, and bemoaned fate less.

“I can never read all the books I want; I can never be all the people I want and live the lives I want. I can never train myself in all the skills I want. And why do I want? I want to live and feel all the shades, tones and variations of mental and physical experience possible in life. And I am horribly limited.” ~ Sylvia Plath

Do what I love and the rest will follow . . . such a seemingly innocuous platitude. Perhaps even good advice. But how do I do what I love when I can no longer identify what I love? And what is it that will follow? What is the rest?

Fog, Baden-Weurttemberg, Germany

How did I get to this place in my life, this place at which life is a calendar filled with numbers but not with days? How does anyone get here? What scares me the most is the fear that perhaps I have lost hope.

Lost my way?  Is my path occluded? Have I forgotten to pay attention to the journey in my single-minded pursuit to survive? Yes, maybe that’s it. Maybe I have allowed myself to get so caught up in counting the days until our situation changes that I have completely forgotten that life is to be lived, not endured.

What do I love? I love to write, to read, to engage my mind, to watch the sun set, to walk along the shore, to find a shell, to smell the rain, to discourse, to converse, to contemplate, to cherish, to embrace. I love the smell of a baby’s skin and the scent on the air after I have a bath. I love a cup of tea and a good movie. I love freshly cut herbs and spring blossoms. I love the sound of water and the blue of the deep ocean. I love the wind in my face and the touch of the first snow on my lashes.  I love the company of good friends and the peace of the mountains in the fall. I love to listen to good music on a Sunday afternoon, and I love the freedom to sing at the top of my lungs in the shower.

I love to be loved, to feel love, to exude love, to share love.

“Life is too short, or too long, for me to allow myself the luxury of living it so badly.” ~ Paul Coehlo

Do what I love? That is so much harder than it seems. Life is so much harder than it should be. Please don’t think me small-minded, and yet, why do I take the time in my stream-of-consciousness to apologize, to care what other people think? Isn’t that always the way?

I have some pondering to do, some searching. Perhaps, though, my search has already brought me to this place of realization: I must get back to myself somehow, before the bottom of the boat falls out and I find myself at sea, a castaway along with the scattered debris that is my life.

I am reminded of a poem by Raymond Carver, one of my favorites:

Late Fragment

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth

Yes. To feel beloved and to love. Perhaps that is truly all that is necessary.

More later. Peace.

Damien Rice’s “Delicate”

 

Human Tragedy: Losing Perspective Over Holiday Shopping

The Insanity Begins

Attention Wal Mart Shoppers: When You Become the Problem

I just read a news story that literally made my stomach do a little flip, and definitely not in a good way: A temporary worker at a Nassau County Wal Mart in suburban New York was trampled to death when the doors opened at 5 a.m. on Black Friday, this past Friday after Thanksgiving. Over 2,000 people rushed the doors, stepping over Jdimytai Damour and knocking down other employees as they tried to rescue the downed employee.

holiday-shoppers-bw

The Associated Press report states that at least four other people, including a eight-months pregnant woman, were taken to the hospital for their injuries. Damour was a temp employee who was doing maintenance at the store but had been put on the front door for the early opening.

Now I want you to consider this: A man lost his life at a Wal Mart. Throngs of people ran over his body in their rush to buy the bargains advertised at this store, including great prices on a plasma television, an upright vacuum, a digital camera, and great prices on DVDs. These people were unwilling to stop even when it was announced that the store was going to close temporarily because of the death. According to one witness, when the store announced that shoppers had to leave, that an employee got killed, “people were yelling ‘I’ve been on line since yesterday morning,’ They kept shopping.”

What is one man’s life when I can get four DVD’s, a camera, and a vacuum all for under $150? Yessiree.

Police say that even with the surveillance cameras it will be unlikely that they will be able to prosecute because it was such mayhem. According to his family, Damour was a big man who loved poetry. He was trampled to death for bargains at a Wal Mart. What a completely disheartening and contempitble reflection that is of our society.

Mob Mentality and Stampedes

Which leaves me to ask the obvious question? Was it worth it? If you were one of those people who pushed through that door and over that man or injured one of those people, how are you going to feel when those presents are opened on Christmas Day? Will you feel one inkling of guilt? The sad truth is that if you were one of those individuals caught up in that mass hysteria for bargains, probably not.

What has happened to our society? If what was behind Wal Mart’s doors was food and medicine, and we were hungering for these basic staples, then the need to stampede, the me-first mentality might be more understandable. After all, what would be coming into play would be the “survival of the fittest” instinct, and to survive, we would need to batter down the doors to Wal Mart and whatever else stood in our way.

But there was nothing out there on Black Friday that we absolutely neededwanted yes—but needed, no. Trust me, I know the difference. I’m not so sure that my oldest son does, and probably few of our teenagers do. Small children rarely understand. That’s why it’s so hard to go shopping with them. They have to have this toy now. It’s imperative. Their World Will Absolutely Stop If They Do Not Have It NOW! But I know a lot of adults like that, too. I’ve felt that way about a few pairs of black boots, but never enough to push my way through a crowd for them. As adults, we are supposed to know the differences and to act responsibly.

Unfortunately, what happened in this particular situation at this particular store is far from an isolated incident. We’ve seen it before at concerts, at soccer stadiums, and festivals. For example, in 1979, 11 people were crushed trying to get in to see The Who in concert. In 2003, 21 people were killed in Chicago as they were rushing to flee a nightclub after mace had been used. In 2001 in Johannesburg, South Africa, 43 people were killed as people were trying to push into an overcrowded soccer stadium. In 2005, 300 people were trampled to death in Wai, India at a religious festival.

But one of the worst stampedes on record was the 2005 Baghdad bridge, which occurred when up to 1,000 pilgrims died following a stampede on Al-Aimmah bridge, which crosses the Tigris river. The stampede occurred because of rumors of a suicide bomber.

A herd mentality can occur for lots of reasons. It is usually a fear-based reaction caused by an individual’s subconscious fear of being left out or left behind. A stampede is a sudden rush of people, usually in reaction to fear. Put the two together, and you have a formula for chaos on a mass scale. What happened at Wal Mart was that you had a mass of about 2,000 people who had been waiting for hours, no supervision of that crowd, growing impatience, and then crowd psychology begins to dominate, bringing about mob rule. That is, someone began to push, and then someone else, and then there was that domino effect again. Whatever stood in the way of that crowd did not stand much of a chance because the store was ill-prepared.

Jdimytai Damour was one of the unfortunate things that stood in the way of that crowd. Wal Mart bears the responsibility of placing Mr. Damour in that crowd’s path. 

Holiday Shopping: An Analysis

So what happens to supposedly responsible adults during those weeks between Thanksgiving and December 24? I’ve seen people get in nasty verbal assaults over parking places. I’ve seen people try to defy the basic laws of physics and try to put two cars into the same space at the same time. I’ve seen grown women pull a lovely sweater completely out of shape because it was reduced to an unbelievable price point, making it literally unwearable by either woman. I’ve watched grown men reduced to small boys because they’ve lost their wives in shopping malls.

scary-santa-bwI’ve watched mothers manhandle their children in line to have their pictures taken with Santa to the point that the children are red-faced with tears and completely terrified of the upcoming experience. When I was a retail sales manager, I watched people go into dressing rooms one size and come out three sizes larger, wearing four layers of clothes and had to have them arrested.

I’ve seen women turn into harpies when there are no more gift boxes, and I’ve done battle with a customer who insisted that I reduce the price of an evening gown by 25 percent because of a lipstick stain that I watched the customer carefully place on the garment. Heaven forbid customer service run out of wrapping paper because that is cause for an all-out rebellion.

The holiday shopping season is not for sissies. It can reduce a tired person to tears in a nanosecond. Shoppers who forget to eat, often wind up cranky, standing in line at an Auntie Anne’s pretzel counter, trying to juggle all of their bags, while reaching for $3.12 without dropping their pretzel, their wallet, and their gift card to Dillard’s which may or may not have anything left on it. If you do find a store that gives out give bags, you hoard them, and other people eye them with envy while the heavy, overladen plastic bags cut into their wrists.

There are no good times of the day to go shopping during ths holiday season, except for first thing in the morning, when you can catch the associates off guard and still in a good mood. By one hour after opening, all bets are off. No one has any change, and all of the associates are in countdown mode until their breaks. The parking lots are full, and the food courts are already out of napkins.

Shopping with a friend or family member may or may not help. If you shop with someone like my mother, you may not get out of one store. If you shop with a spouse, you may only be allowed 15 minutes per store, which, as any female knows, isn’t time enough to buy one present. If you shop with a friend, you will be gone for 12 hours, and you must take a change of shoes and whoever owns the largest car between the two of you. If you shop with one of your older children, all bets are off because then the shopping trip becomes about them and their needs.

This is my advice to you: Do your shopping in mid January. It’s easier and it’s cheaper. Everything is on sale because retailers are trying to clear the floors for spring merchandise. You won’t be able to get toys, but you can buy for all of the adults on your list. Just remember where you hide everything. One year, I found a music box that I had bought my mother four years previously and had forgotten about. It made a great Mother’s Day present. January shopping also keeps you from having to shop during the holiday season. Buy small children toys during October, then stay away from stores in the months of November and December.

This is what I used to do when my OCD was in full swing. It worked wonderfully for me. I had everything bought and wrapped by December 1st. My Christmas cards were in the mail, and my house was decorated while everyone else was just getting started. Oh, don’t ask me about now. I haven’t a clue. I’m just tossing out advice for you. Me? I usually finish around December 24 these days and consider myself lucky to be doing so. I do stay out of Wal Mart, though. Just on principle.candle_1

Just remember to keep things in perspective. A sale is just a sale. There is no such thing as the perfect gift. Your life will not be changed in any way by the giving of said gift. We already have ruined an entire generation of children by allowing them to believe that they are entitled to anything that they ask for whenever they request it. We spend more than we have, and we have forgotten about those without. When you go out this season to buy presents for those you love, remember why you are buying them, but also remember that a man who loved poetry spent his final moments gasping for air under the feet of strangers who cared nothing for him because all they cared about were getting the most for their money at 5 a.m. on Black Friday.

There will be more later. Peace.