“You might be looking for reasons but there are no reasons.” ~ Nina LaCour, from Hold Still

Emil Nolde, Landschaft, Nordfriesland, 1920 (I have always found that the art of Nolde completely encompasses what I’m feeling, regardless of the emotion)

“There was a long hard time when I kept far from me the remembrance of what I had thrown away when I was quite ignorant of its worth.” ~ Charles Dickens, from Great Expectations

Thursday, late afternoon, cloudy and humid, thunderstorms on the horizon, 85 degrees.

So . . . Thursday thoughts . . .

I’ve been pondering regret, all kinds of regret, and I decided that instead of just mulling over all of this in my head that I would try to get some of these thoughts down here. I have no idea as to just how successful I’ll be in doing this, as lately, each time I begin to type, all of the myriad of ideas racing through my head suddenly disappear, and I am left with nothing, no words, no well-constructed lines of thought and logic.

Simply nothing.

So perhaps rather than trying to write well-constructed sentences, I’ll just type the thoughts as they come, much like my dream post of a few days ago. So here goes, in no particular order or priority:

  • I regret that I was not more patient with my mother, that I was not more forthcoming with her, but it always seemed so hard, seemed as if she just wouldn’t understand, and honestly, I don’t know if she would have wanted to hear what I had to say. My mother was not one for warm and fuzzy, not one for hugs, not one for saying “I love you,” and I never really found out why. I had my theories, but no real confirmation.
  • I regret that I do not have regular contact with my dad’s last living sibling, my Uncle Ely in Florida. He’s old and sick, and I doubt that I’ll see him again while he still lives. It’s the last tie on that side.
  • I regret not going back to the hospital in the wee hours of Thanksgiving morning to be with my dad; instead, I fell asleep, and he died alone.
“The longing for impossible things, precisely because they are impossible; nostalgia for what never was; the desire for what could have been; regret over not being someone else; dissatisfaction with the world’s existence. All these half-tones of the soul’s consciousness create in us a painful landscape, an eternal sunset of what we are.” ~ Fernando Pessoa, from The Book of Disquiet

More:

  • I really wish that we had painted this whole house before we moved in, but we had no electricity, and we were dealing with closing up things in Norfolk while simultaneously trying to set up things here. But I wonder if we’ll ever have this house straightened out.
  • I wish that I had been more proactive in taking care of the house on Benjamin. I hated that house for several reasons, but still, it was my home, and my children were raised there.
  • I really, really regret not applying to a low-residence MFA program when it would have made more sense. An MFA is considered a terminal degree, which means that having one allows you to apply to tenure track positions at colleges and universities. I’ve found one that I’d still love to attend, but that costs money. There is no money
  • I regret that I was never better with finances. I’ve reached an age that I was totally unprepared for, and my financial situation is no better than it was 20 years ago. How does that happen?
“I had buried too much too deeply inside me. And here I am, instead of there.” ~ Jonathan Safran Foer, from Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Then there are these:

  • I regret the break up of my first marriage, not because of the relationship, but because of what it did to my kids. I don’t know if Eamonn will ever forgive me for it, even though his father fell in love with another person less than two months after leaving.
  • I really regret letting certain friendships fall by the wayside when spouse #1 and I split, especially my very long friendship with Pat and the one I had with Becky from the museum. They were two incredible women. For a weird reason, there was a rift between spouse #1 and I, and our relationship with our closest friends, Pat and Winn, a rift I’ll never fully understand, and now I’ll never be able to see or talk to Pat again; I did not even know that she had died until almost a year later.
  • I regret feeling too tired to drive out to see Alan after work that afternoon. His sister said that he waited for me.  He died soon after.
  • I regret that I did not see Dallas one more time before he died. I don’t know that it would have been a good visit, but once someone dies, you always think of things that you wish you had said. It’s still weird for me, his death. There has been no service, no closure, just texts, messages, and rumors. I don’t know how to handle that.

“Droll thing life is—that mysterious arrangement of merciless logic for a futile purpose. The most you can hope from it is some knowledge of yourself—that comes too late—a crop of inextinguishable regrets.” ~ Joseph Conrad, from Heart of Darkness

  • I wish that I was in touch with more of my mom’s family. That everything with her family in Great Bridge ended so abruptly still pains me deeply. That I don’t know the status of her sister in Winston Salem shames me.
  • I am so embarrassed that I have not paid to have the dates put on my mom’s grave marker. It was something that I was going to get around to doing, but then never did. I just don’t understand how things like that happen, or rather, how I let things like that happen.
  • Sometimes I still regret not moving to New York and actually trying to make it in the theater. I know that I probably don’t have the guts to do such a thing, yet I also know that I do. Does that make sense?
  • I regret trying to teach Heart of Darkness to a bunch of freshmen at Tech.

“I am grateful for all those dark years, even though in retrospect they seem like a long, bitter prayer that was answered finally.” ~ Marilynne Robinson, from Gilead

And finally, a few more:

  • I regret accruing student debt for Brett that still looms out there, haunting me and him. College should not break people financially.
  • I regret everything bad that happened with Mari, still.
  • I regret the how the last two years played out.
  • I regret never having another child.

Ultimately, I regret far too many things to list here, far too many thing to try to enumerate in any kind of cogent way. People I have wronged. Relationships better left unpursued. Arguments. Words spoken and unspoken. Decisions made and those put off and then forgotten. Stupid things like something I left undone at Dillard’s, or a night that would have been better never happening, the wrong outfit at a wedding . . .

Who can live with such things and not go crazy? Is it any wonder that I never feel adequate or whole?  Any wonder that my entire sense of self is controlled by guilt? Such self-loathing. Such would-have, should-have recriminations. Such bullshit obsessing. I cannot emphasize enough how much I hate being like this.

Enough already.


Music by Angus Powell, “Monsters”


Wind in a Box

—after Lorca

I want to always sleep beneath a bright red blanket
of leaves. I want to never wear a coat of ice.
I want to learn to walk without blinking.

I want to outlive the turtle and the turtle’s father,
the stone. I want a mouth full of permissions

and a pink glistening bud. If the wildflower and ant hill
can return after sleeping each season, I want to walk
out of this house wearing nothing but wind.

I want to greet you, I want to wait for the bus with you
weighing less than a chill. I want to fight off the bolts

of gray lighting the alcoves and winding paths
of your hair. I want to fight off the damp nudgings
of snow. I want to fight off the wind.

I want to be the wind and I want to fight off the wind
with its sagging banner of isolation, its swinging

screen doors, its gilded boxes, and neatly folded pamphlets
of noise. I want to fight off the dull straight lines
of two by fours and endings, your disapprovals,

your doubts and regulations, your carbon copies.
If the locust can abandon its suit,

I want a brand new name. I want the pepper’s fury
and the salt’s tenderness. I want the virtue
of the evening rain, but not its gossip.

I want the moon’s intuition, but not its questions.
I want the malice of nothing on earth. I want to enter

every room in a strange electrified city
and find you there. I want your lips around the bell of flesh

at the bottom of my ear. I want to be the mirror,
but not the nightstand. I do not want to be the light switch.
I do not want to be the yellow photograph

or book of poems. When I leave this body, Woman,
I want to be pure flame. I want to be your song.

~ Terrance Hayes (found on Poetry Foundation)

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“you can return to the scenes of a love, of a crime, of happiness, and of a fatal decision; the places are what remain, are what you can possess, are what is immortal. They become the tangible landscape of memory, the places that made you, and in some way you too become them. They are what you can possess and in the end what possesses you.” ~ Rebecca Solnit, from A Field Guide to Getting Lost

Emil Nolde Two Red Fish
“Two Red Fish” (nd)
by Emil Nolde


Two for Tuesday: Fate

Tuesday, early evening. Sunny, 50’s.

I’ve managed to pick up several new followers in the past few weeks, which made me comment to Corey that perhaps I should just leave this site alone and let it gather followers on its own . . . Anyway, welcome to all of the new people. I’m so glad that you’ve decided to visit. I hope I can find interesting things to offer you.

Well, I actually slept last night, real sleep, for the first time in five nights. Between the akathisia, the restless legs, and the switch-up on my meds, I’ve been a wreck.

I actually had some energy, so of course, I buzzed through the house cleaning everything I could before exhaustion took over. I just hate it when I sit in the rocking chair and see a layer of dust. Anyway, cleaner house, but still so much more to do, but as usual, I did too much my first day out of bed, so we’ll see how well I’m moving tomorrow. Pain sucks, can I just say?

Hope your Tuesday is going well.

More later. Peace.

Music by Other Lives, “Dust Bowl III”

                   

Emil Nolde Naked Woman and Red Flowers aka Semi-Nude 1938-1945
“Naked Woman and Red Flowers (semi-nude)(1938-45)
by Emil Nolde

Each Sound

Beginnings are brutal, like this accident
of stars colliding, mute explosions
of colorful gases, the mist and dust
that would become our bodies
hurling through black holes, rising,
muck ridden, from pits of tar and clay.
Back then it was easy to have teeth,
claw our way into the trees–it was
accepted, the monkeys loved us, sat
on their red asses clapping and laughing.
We’ve forgotten the luxury of dumbness,
how once we crouched naked on an outcrop
of rock, the moon huge and untouched
above us, speechless. Now we talk
about everything, incessantly,
our moans and grunts turned on a spit
into warm vowels and elegant consonants.
We say plethora, demitasse, ozone and love.
We think we know what each sound means.
There are times when something so joyous
or so horrible happens our only response
is an intake of breath, and then
we’re back at the truth of it,
that ball of life expanding
and exploding on impact, our heads,
our chests, filled with that first
unspeakable light.

~ Dorianne Laux

                   

Emil Nolde Saint in the Desert 1911
“Saint in the Desert” (1911)
by Emil NOlde

 

Pandora

September.
Second-year medical student.
An early patient interview
at the Massachusetts General Hospital
Routine hernia repair planned, not done.
Abdomen opened and closed.
Filled with disease, cancer.

The patient is fifty-six,
a workingman, Irish
I sit with him, notice
the St. Christopher medal
around his neck.
Can’t hurt, can it? he laughs.
I have become his friend.

I bring him a coloring book picture
that shows this thing, this unfamiliar
organ that melted beneath our hands
at dissection:
Pancreas.

Leaving his room, crying,
avoiding classmates,
I take the back stairs.
I find myself locked,
coatless in the courtyard outside.

~ Kelley Jean White

“The day exhausts me, irritates me. It is brutal, noisy. I struggle to get out of bed, I dress wearily and, against my inclination, I go out. I find each step, each movement, each gesture, each word, each thought as tiring as if I were lifting a crushing weight.” ~ Guy de Maupassant, from “Nightmare”

Emil Nolde Reading 1908 watercolor in black, washed india ink on fine laid paper
“Reading” (1908, watercolor in black, washed india ink on fine laid paper)
by Emil Nolde

“But there’s a litany of dreams that happens
somewhere in the middle. Moonlight spilling
on the bathroom floor. A page of the book where we
transcend the story of our lives, past the taco stands
and record stores” ~ Richard Siken, from “Snow and Dirty Rain”

Wednesday evening. Rainy and cold, 46 degrees.

In this dream, I am back at the department store, but by accident. I began on some kind of motorized scooter, and I was traveling through town, but turned down a road that I knew might be dangerous. At the end of the road, I saw four figures who looked very menacing, so I turned around, but the scooter sputtered and died. I rolled it to the bar where my father worked, only it wasn’t my father, it was someone else, but he was my father, and I told him that I really needed this scooter to be fixed so that I could get to where I needed to be, which was another town, apparently. I could hear music from the band playing on the upper floor, and my father said that he would fix the scooter.

Fred Williams untitled c1958 gouache on paper on board
Untitled (c1958, gouache on paper on board)
by Fred Williams

While I was waiting, I wandered through an underground mall, only to realize that if I went all the way through the mall, I would end up where I needed to be, which was across town at the store. I got to the store, but I was still dressed casually, and there was a store inspection, and I couldn’t be seen by the general manager until I changed clothes. I ducked into a bathroom, that was more like a spa, and I asked one of the other manager to grab me some clothes and shoes to put on, and I said that I would pay for them later. I just couldn’t be caught dressed as I was. There was a hound dog asleep in the stall next to me, and the general manager came in to inspect the spa, and I pretended to be taking a shower. He wanted to know who the dog belonged to, but we all pretended that we didn’t know, even though we knew it belonged to one of the other managers.

As I was rushing to get dressed, and I grabbed some make up samples that were on a counter in the spa. I began to put on foundation, but it went on much thicker than I expected, and I had way too much on my face, and I couldn’t get it off even though I kept wiping and trying to blend. My father came in and said that the scooter had been fixed, but he wanted to know why I looked so funny. I told him about the makeup, and a lawyer who was with him suggested that I try to blend it better. I gave her the dirtiest look I could imagine even though I thought that I probably looked like a clown, and then I went to find my students because suddenly it was a teaching dream.

It turns out I hadn’t been assigned a classroom, so I was trying to teach the small writing class in front of the elevators in the store. I hadn’t graded their papers, and one of the students insisted that he had turned in the paper to the office, but I couldn’t find the office. I looked down, and I was wearing a cocktail dress with blue tights and silver pumps. I knew that none of it matched. I suddenly realized that I didn’t have a copy of the schedule, so I didn’t know when I was supposed to work next. Dan (a real person from my past), gave me a hard time for never getting anything right.

blowing from the east
west south north . . .
autumn gale ~ Issa

I think part of the dream may have arisen from reading Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children yesterday. Great book, full of mystical creatures and fantastical people. I need to order the sequel.

Anyway, last night was hellacious outside and inside. The winds were so fierce that the wind chimes in the front yard sounded like someone was beating them, and this morning, the floor of the garage near the back door had standing water from the wind and rain. Inside, I was unable to get to sleep after I finished reading until sometime around 3:30 or 4, partly because of the  trigger point injections I got yesterday from my head to my buttocks and every point in between, and I was completely unable to get out of bed until well into the afternoon because I slept so poorly.

Victor Hugo Torquemada ink wash on paper
“Torquemada” (nd, ink wash on paper)
by Victor Hugo

Part of the problem today stemmed from being sore, and just thinking about  trying to get all of the preparations done for tomorrow kind of left me overwhelmed and unable to get much of anything done. The house still needs to be vacuumed, and the dining room table is covered with all sorts of domestic detritus, the kind that accumulates whenever Corey is home because the table is a convenient place on which to lay anything and everything.

Put all of this together, and you have one pitiful soul, completely unprepared for tomorrow’s festivities, as it were. At least the menu has taken shape: the two turkeys a la Mike and Corey; oyster stuffing, compliments of Eamonn; deviled eggs and cake, compliments of Lex and Mike; sweet potato casserole and banana cream pie, compliments of Brett and Em; and sausage stuffing, greens with smoked pork, whipped potatoes with heavy cream, kale crisps with sea salt, steamed green beans (maybe), yeast rolls (not homemade), and gravy, compliments of me. Oh, and we picked up a sample box of cheesecake squares to go with the other desserts.

So there you have it. Too much food, more than enough for the eight of us, and that we can do such a thing after years of want does not go unnoticed by any of us.

I hope your plans for Thanksgiving offer you some measure of peace and plenty.

More later. Peace.

Music by Jamestown Revival, “Heavy Heart”

                   

November Rain

How separate we are
under our black umbrellas—dark
planets in our own small orbits,

hiding from this wet assault
of weather as if water
would violate the skin,

as if these raised silk canopies
could protect us
from whatever is coming next—

December with its white
enamel surfaces; the numbing
silences of winter.

From above we must look
like a family of bats—
ribbed wings spread

against the rain,
swooping towards any
makeshift shelter.

~ Linda Pastan

 

“I’ve been rereading your story. I think it’s about me in a way that might not be flattering, but that’s okay. We dream and dream of being seen as we really are and then finally someone looks at us and sees us truly and we fail to measure up.” ~ Richard Siken

                   

“Eventually something you love is going to be taken away. And then you will fall to the floor crying. And then, however much later, it is finally happening to you: you’re falling to the floor crying thinking, ‘I am falling to the floor crying,’ but there’s an element of the ridiculous to it — you knew it would happen and, even worse, while you’re on the floor crying you look at the place where the wall meets the floor and you realize you didn’t paint it very well.” ~ Richard Siken

Sunday afternoon. Partly cloudy and a bit warmer, 52 degrees.

I love the above quote by Richard Siken because I an relate to it so completely—the absurd nature of grief, the contradictory ways in which your mind works when it is hurting most. You feel the pain in your chest, the symbolic breaking of your heart, and yet you notice the dust on the television screen. You weep, nay, you keen, and even as you are doing so, you wonder where the cobweb in the corner of the living room came from.

If we know ourselves, truly know ourselves, then we can anticipate the way in which we will react in certain situations. What is really interesting is the mind of a psychopath—they do not feel regular emotions, so they learn to act emotions, as in, “Oh, I should be sad, so I will put on a sad face,” and they do, but sometimes their sad face isn’t quite right because there is the hint of a smile on the corner of one side of their mouth, and that is when so-called normal people notice the mask slip.

What do I mean by all of this? Who the hell knows. Only that I have found myself reacting as I knew I would react to something major, something life-changing, and even as I did so, I split off and wondered if I was getting mud on my hem.

We are such strange beings . . .

More later. Peace.

Music by Nils Lofgren, “Why Me”

                   

Snow and Dirty Rain

Close your eyes. A lover is standing too close
to focus on. Leave me blurry and fall toward me
with your entire body. Lie under the covers, pretending
to sleep, while I’m in the other room. Imagine
my legs crossed, my hair combed, the shine of my boots
in the slatted light. I’m thinking My plant, his chair,
the ashtray that we bought together.
I’m thinking This is where
we live.
When we were little we made houses out of
cardboard boxes. We can do anything. It’s not because
our hearts are large, they’re not, it’s what we
struggle with. The attempt to say Come over. Bring
your friends. It’s a potluck, I’m making pork chops, I’m making
those long noodles you love so much.
My dragonfly,
my black-eyed fire, the knives in the kitchen are singing
for blood, but we are the crossroads, my little outlaw,
and this is the map of my heart, the landscape
after cruelty which is, of course, a garden, which is
a tenderness, which is a room, a lover saying Hold me
tight, it’s getting cold.
We have not touched the stars,
nor are we forgiven, which brings us back
to the hero’s shoulders and the gentleness that comes,
not from the absence of violence, but despite
the abundance of it. The lawn drowned, the sky on fire,
the gold light falling backward through the glass
of every room. I’ll give you my heart to make a place
for it to happen, evidence of a love that transcends hunger.
Is that too much to expect? That I would name the stars
for you? That I would take you there? The splash
of my tongue melting you like a sugar cube? We’ve read
the back of the book, we know what’s going to happen.
The fields burned, the land destroyed, the lovers left
broken in the brown dirt. And then’s it’s gone.
Makes you sad. All your friends are gone. Goodbye
Goodbye. No more tears. I would like to meet you all
in Heaven. But there’s a litany of dreams that happens
somewhere in the middle. Moonlight spilling
on the bathroom floor. A page of the book where we
transcend the story of our lives, past the taco stands
and record stores. Moonlight making crosses
on your body, and me putting my mouth on every one.
We have been very brave, we have wanted to know
the worst, wanted the curtain to be lifted from our eyes.
This dream going on with all of us in it. Penciling in
the bighearted slob. Penciling in his outstretched arms.
Our father who art in Heaven. Our father who art buried
in the yard.
Someone is digging your grave right now.
Someone is drawing a bath to wash you clean, he said,
so think of the wind, so happy, so warm. It’s a fairy tale,
the story underneath the story, sliding down the polished
halls, lightning here and gone. We make these
ridiculous idols so we can to what’s behind them,
but what happens after we get up the ladder?
Do we simply stare at what’s horrible and forgive it?
Here is the river, and here is the box, and here are
the monsters we put in the box to test our strength
against. Here is the cake, and here is the fork, and here’s
the desire to put it inside us, and then the question
behind every question: What happens next?
The way you slam your body into mine reminds me
I’m alive, but monsters are always hungry, darling,
and they’re only a few steps behind you, finding
the flaw, the poor weld, the place where we weren’t
stitched up quite right, the place they could almost
slip right into through if the skin wasn’t trying to
keep them out, to keep them here, on the other side
of the theater where the curtain keeps rising.
I crawled out the window and ran into the woods.
I had to make up all the words myself. The way
they taste, the way they sound in the air. I passed
through the narrow gate, stumbled in, stumbled
around for a while, and stumbled back out. I made
this place for you. A place for to love me.
If this isn’t a kingdom then I don’t know what is.
So how would you catalog it? Dawn in the fields?
Snow and dirty rain? Light brought in in buckets?
I was trying to describe the kingdom, but the letters
kept smudging as I wrote them: the hunter’s heart,
the hunter’s mouth, the trees and the trees and the
space between the trees, swimming in gold. The words
frozen. The creatures frozen. The plum sauce
leaking out of the bag. Explaining will get us nowhere.
I was away, I don’t know where, lying on the floor,
pretending I was dead. I wanted to hurt you
but the victory is that I could not stomach it. We have
swallowed him up,
they said. It’s beautiful. It really is.
I had a dream about you. We were in the gold room
where everyone finally gets what they want.
You said Tell me about your books, your visions made
of flesh and light
and I said This is the Moon. This is
the Sun. Let me name the stars for you. Let me take you
there. The splash of my tongue melting you like a sugar
cube…
We were in the gold room where everyone
finally gets what they want, so I said What do you
want, sweetheart?
and you said Kiss me. Here I am
leaving you clues. I am singing now while Rome
burns. We are all just trying to be holy. My applejack,
my silent night, just mash your lips against me.
We are all going forward. None of us are going back.

~ Richard Siken

 

 

“It began as research. I wrote of silences, of nights, I scribbled the indescribable. I tied down the vertigo.” ~ Arthur Rimbaud, from “Alchemy of the Word”

Still Life under the Sea 1960 by Mary Kessell 1914-1977
“Still Life under the Sea” (1960, oil and pastel on canvas)
by Mary Kessell

“a taste which I have in my soul depresses me.” ~ Pablo Neruda, from “Dream Horse” 

Sunday afternoon. Sunny and not too hot, 83 degrees.

I am in a very, very strange place today. Partially depressed, partially heartbroken, partially agitated. I simply cannot pinpoint it, and I hate it. It’s one of those episodes in which so many conflicting emotions are hitting my brain and my heart, leaving me drained and bereft.

Theodore Earl Butler The Epte, Giverny 1908 oil on canvas
“The Epte, Giverny” (1908, oil on canvas)
Theodore Earl Butler

My heart aches for Corey; just his nearness helps, even a bit. I’m sitting here, and I really need to go pick up my prescriptions (which might be part of the problem), but I truly don’t have enough energy to put on clothes and get in the car. Look, I don’t even have enough energy to change into a bathing suit and float in the pool, even though today would be the perfect day to do something like that. I just can’t.

Sitting at the party yesterday, surrounded by so many people, some of whom I know and others I should know and some I’ve never met before—it’s the kind of situation that always makes me anxious. I cannot help but feel that people are judging me. Don’t ask me why I feel this way, but I do. The truth of the matter is that everyone is so wrapped up in their own lives, their children, their next beer, whatever, that I know that I don’t even enter their peripheries, yet I allow myself to feel insecure.

“And isn’t it true, sorrow, I know you;
you are the longing for the good life,
the loneliness of the dark heart,
of the ship drifting beyond disaster or star.” ~ Antonio Machado, from “It is an ashen and musty evening”

What happens is this: I look around at all of the people who seem to be having so much fun, and I think to myself, “why can’t I be like that?” And then I think to myself, “who are you? You never used to be like this.”

Georgia O'Keeffe Blue, Black, and Grey 1960
“Blue, Black, and Grey” (1960, oil on canvas)
by Georgia O’Keeffe

I know. I just don’t get out enough, and that’s mostly by choice and partially because of physical conditions, and to some extent because, well, life.

Lately, because of circumstances, I feel my loneliness too keenly. Alone and lonely are two separate things—I know this. But the truth is that it has morphed into acute loneliness.

I have considered going to the karaoke bar that Corey and I used to frequent, just sit there and have my cup of tea and write in my journal like I used to. I was more comfortable in my skin then, I think. No, I know. But I also know that going someplace alone at night is simply not the safest thing for a female, regardless of age, to do anymore.

Last night I dreamed that Corey and I went there, and we knew no one. The entire staff had changed; all of the people we used to know by name were long gone, and the whole place felt foreign, uncomfortable. Then later in the same dream, I fell asleep on the front porch, but it was my mother’s front porch, and when I woke up, the bricks in the steps had started to come loose, like the mortar holding them together was dissolving, so that the very ground beneath me was dissolving, and I couldn’t explain to anyone why I had slept on the porch, and then when I went to make coffee for everyone, the carafe was dirty and stained, so I left the kitchen and walked towards my mother’s bedroom, and the door opened and one of Eamonn’s friends came out, and I didn’t know why he was there or why I was in my mother’s house in the first place.

I don’t need psychoanalysis to know that the ground is shifting beneath my feet, and I’m not where I need to be . . .

“I am working out the vocabulary of my silence.” ~ Muriel Rukeyser, from “The Speed Of Darkness”

For so long I told myself that once the kids were gone and I had all of this free time, I would use it to be productive. I would write and write and write, and yet, I write nothing at all.

My heart is so heavy with the burdens of motherhood, and they feel like burdens because I am so asea as to how to fix anything for anyone. I look at my daughter, and I know that she is not happy, that it’s all an act. I look at one of my sons and I know that he is lonely and searching for his place in this world, and I look at my other son and know that he is lost within himself and has no idea as to how to break through the waves.

Gustav Klimt Moonlight by the Mediterranean 1892
“Moonlight by the Mediterranean” (1892)
by Edvard Munch

How did I get to such a place, a place in which I find myself to be so wanting as a mother? How did they get to where they are? I talk to their friends and I hear the same stories, different versions. They all seem to be lost and wanting something they cannot find. I don’t remember being so lost in my 20’s. I didn’t have all of the answers, certainly, but I knew exactly what I wanted, or at least, I think that I did. I had goals, and I had dreams.

Time muddles the memories, changes their hues, makes us remember people and situations in ways that may have never existed. Within the chambers of our memory palaces, we pluck days, weeks, in which we remember perfect skies, glorious sunsets, true loves, long embraces, but did any of it really happen?

After having a long talk with one of my son’s friends in which he bemoaned his ability to find the right person to be with, I felt bad that I had no true words of wisdom for him, that he would only learn by doing and by losing and by trying again and again. I wouldn’t want my 20s again for anything, yet so much of what I did to become the person I am now happened then. How do I reconcile that?

“And how do I know what you are to me?
Our theories are untested. You must not laugh.
We thought there were other ways.
Probably there are, but they are hidden
and we shall never find them.” ~ Paul Bowles, from “Next to Nothing”

As I sit here and parse the words and syllables, try to reconcile the immense feelings of loss, I realize that I know next to nothing, truly. I offer these young people advice, but what do I know, really . . . nothing, nothing at all. I am living a life filled with holes, and I know that so much of that comes from not working at all after working my entire life, working at some job or another since I was 14. I hate these circumstances. I peruse the ads on LinkedIn, read the qualifications they are seeking, say to myself, “Oh, I could definitely do that,” and then I close the window because I know that applying is futile. How could I possibly work for anyone when some days I cannot even summon the energy to walk to the kitchen, when some days I must stop and rest after folding laundry.

Emil Nolde Starry Sky 1938-45
“Starry Sky” (1938-45, watercolor)
by Emil Nolde

I hate this more than anyone could possibly know, and I know that I sound like a broken record, but sometimes it just has to come out: all  of the frustrations, all of the losses, all of the days wasted, and I have no one to blame but myself. And I know that I’m in a particularly sensitive spot right now because of things that are going on beyond my control, and perhaps that is what bothers me the most: the lack of control, mostly because I feel that I should be able to control these things, or at least be able to fix them. If not me, then who?

And I walk through the house and notice the mess on the dining room table, notice the cushions on the couch askew, notice the tumbleweeds of Tillie’s hair in the corners of the rooms, I must face that today I can do absolutely nothing about it. I just don’t have the energy. Look, I seriously contemplated skipping the family party yesterday, but I didn’t have enough energy to come up with a convincing excuse, so instead I arrived late, but it took every ounce of wherewithal to put on clothes and leave the house.

“I wrote down silences, nights, I noted the inexpressible. I fixed vertigos.” ~ Arthur Rimbaud cited in Delmore Schwartz’s Rimbaud in Our Time

Listen, I know that I have a good life; I have a spouse who truly loves me, a comfortable but slightly rundown house in a relatively nice neighborhood, two dogs, thousands of books, three children. I know that I have absolutely no right to complain about my life. I know all of these things.

Yet I also know that I ache, a deep abiding ache. I ache for someone to come to my door and say I will be your friend. I will visit you and I will understand your quirks and I will not make you feel less for having them. And I know that I have friends out there who feel this way. I would only have to write or to call. I do know this. But knowledge sometimes is not nearly enough to overcome great sadness. If it were, then I would have no problems at all.

Edvard Munch Starry Night 1893 oil on canvas
“Starry Night” (1893, oil on canvas)
by Edvard Munch

To be able to retreat inside my mind is something I have always been able to do. But sometimes, once inside, all that I truly want is a long, hard hug, a soft whisper in my ear, a gentle touch of my hair. I’m not talking about passion; I’m talking about compassion.

Most of the time I try not to write about these things, mostly so that Corey does not read them and worry about me. I want him to be able to focus on his job when he is away, so I try not to say anything, but sometimes my voice betrays me, and I feel absolutely wretched that he can tell. He reads me so well.

But today, it is all too much, and I am too tired and too lonely, and my heart feels akin to breaking, and not even the soft warmth of my dogs’ bodies lying next to me is enough to calm the pounding in my heart.

I wish for better days. I wish that I knew how to make those better days. I wish I wish I wish I wish I wish…………………………………………

Enough. More later. Peace.

I cannot get this song out of my head today: “My Salvation,” by Gabrielle Aplin

                     

Es Verdad (It’s True)

Ai, what work it costs me,
wanting you like I want you!

All on account of your love
the air
hurts me —
my heart,
even my hat.

Who will buy it for me,
this hatband I’m holding,
and this sorrow of linen,
white to make handkerchiefs?

Ai! what work it costs me,
wanting you like I want you.

~ Federico García Lorca

“I’m a ghost that everyone can see;” ~ Franz Wright, from “Empty Stage”


“Tired, tired with nothing, tired with everything, tired with the world’s weight he had never chosen to bear.” ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald, from The Beautiful and Damned

 Wednesday night/Thursday morning. Still incredibly hot and humid, 91 degrees.

I’m going to try to do this again. No distractions. With any luck, I’ll get past the first few sentences.

This is my immediate problem: my children. As you know, I have three grown children, but their stages of grown do not match their calendar status of grown. My eldest child, my daughter, will be having one of those major milestone birthdays on the 7th of this month, but the reality is that I think she is probably the youngest of my children. And for the moment, I choose to focus on my eldest/youngest child.

Max Beckmann Beach Landscape 1904 oil on cardboard
“Beach Landscape” (1904, oil on cardboard)
by Max Beckmann

To be fair, Alexis has gone through a lot in her short life, and the loss of her sister, something her brothers do not share as an immediate memory, affected her greatly. Alexis has never been full of self-confidence; in fact, the exact opposite is true: If one person could be so completely uncertain of her selfhood, I would have to say that it is my daughter. Please understand, I’m not criticizing, only commenting; after all, I, too, am very insecure about certain aspects of my self.

I don’t know how much of my daughter’s problems are a result of nurturing, but I do know that I have been the primary nurturer in her life, which is why I probably have a tendency to blame myself for so many of her woes. But at what point do I draw the line and acknowledge that she has very real problems that are completely separate from my relationship with my daughter?

You see, while I love my daughter beyond words, I am not entirely sure that I like certain key aspects of her personality. Does that make sense?

“there is something else that drives us, some
rage or hunger, some absence smoldering
like a childhood fever vaguely remembered
or half-perceived, some unprotected desire,
greed that is both wound and knife,
a failed grief, a lost radiance.” ~ Edward Hirsch, from “Mergers and Acquisitions”

Again, let me say that I probably should not be writing this, but I need to work through some of this tonight as it is pressing on me much too acutely, and I know that I will have no peace unless I do something. I had to cancel my therapy appointment this week because of the chest cold that I have. Too much talking makes me cough, and coughing is, well, painful. Hence, the writing my way through . . .

I so wish that I had the ability to make things right for my children all of the time, but then again, don’t most parents? But I don’t have this ability, and talking to Alexis is futile, at best, and an invitation to a verbal fray, at worst. My daughter, like my sons, unfortunately inherited the family predisposition to clinical depression and anxiety. We all suffer in our own various ways, to lesser and greater extents, depending upon, well upon a lot of things. But Alexis is alone in one thing: she sleeps far too much for any human being. She can go to bed on Friday night and not wake fully until Monday morning.

(c) DACS/Anne Morrison; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
“Summer Sea” (1961, oil on paperboard)
by Joan Eardley

When she was a teenager, she would sleep forever, but I really didn’t worry about it because I did the same thing as a teenager. However, she is an adult with her own child, and this sleeping sickness, for lack of a better term, has not abated. Corey and I have had several conversations in which we have tossed about this problem, mostly in relation to Olivia, as in, does my daughter’s sleeping sickness impede/impair her ability to care for her own daughter?

I can’t tell you how guilty I feel just for giving this concern words, but there. It’s been said. Now what?

I mean, this is more than my concern that she has absolutely no ambition, that she doesn’t seem to have any sort of life goals, which granted, is a real concern. But this particular issue has such larger implications as it affects everyone.

“I sat in the dark and thought: There’s no big apocalypse. Just an endless procession of little ones.” ~ Neil Gaiman, from Signal to Noise

I’m so conflicted.

If you were to ask me if my daughter is a good mother, I wouldn’t hesitate to say, “Yes. Absolutely.”

Copyright York Museums Trust / Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
“The Wave” (1898)
by Roderick O’Conor

But then, I must pause. Does she love her daughter? Without question. Does she want what is best for her daughter? Again, yes.

But what makes a good mother? Love, concern, respect, patience, empathy, sympathy . . . cobbled together with a willingness to teach, to share, to laugh, to cry . . . Like it or not, motherhood is an endless procession of decisions, and if we are lucky, most of them are right, and if we are smart, we learn from the wrong ones, but first, we must be able to identify the wrong ones.

Look, being a mother is a thankless job. Your children resent you a lot of the time. They don’t like you some of the time. They wish you would be quiet a lot of the time. They appreciate you only some of the time, and to them, you are never a person with feelings and wants and needs. And no one can teach you how to be a mother; it’s purely on-the-job training, and if you’re lucky, you’ll get good advice along the way, and if you’re smart, you’ll realize which advice is good and which is bad.

So what’s my point?

Damned if I know . . .

“Life must be back there. You hid it
So no one would find it
And now you can’t remember where.” ~ John Ashbery, from “Vaucanson”

You know shaken baby syndrome? Well obviously that’s something that must never be done, but what about shaken adult child syndrome? Is it acceptable to want to grasp said child by the shoulders and shake him/her until the eyes come into focus and you think that perhaps some semblance of sense has entered said child’s brain?

William Henry Johnson Untitled c1930-35
Untitled Seascape (c1930-35)
by William Henry Johnson

I know that I’m making light, but trust me, I am so close to tears much of the time that to laugh would be nothing short of achieving a state of grace.

But back to the problem. Did you know that there is an actual illness called Sleeping Beauty Syndrome? It’s actually called Klein-Levin Syndrome:

Klein-Levin Syndrome (KLS) is a rare and complex neurological disorder characterized by recurring periods of excessive amounts of sleep, altered behavior, and a reduced understanding of the world. The disorder strikes adolescents primarily but can occur in younger children and adults. At the onset of an episode the patient becomes progressively drowsy and sleeps for most of the day and night (hypersomnolence), sometimes waking only to eat or go to the bathroom. Each episode lasts days, weeks or months during which time all normal daily activities stop. Individuals are not able to care for themselves or attend school and work. In between episodes, those with KLS appear to be in perfect health with no evidence of behavioral or physical dysfunction. KLS episodes may continue for 10 years or more. KLS is sometimes referred to in the media as “Sleeping Beauty” syndrome.

Seriously, I think my daughter has this. Some people think that Alexis is just lazy. I honestly don’t think that’s it. If I did, I would say so. Laziness can be fixed; well, at least, I think it can be fixed. Alexis is too OCD to be lazy. I just don’t know if she has any control over these sleep episodes. And the brutal reality is that it’s gotten to the point that it is having a serious impact on every single relationship she has.

“But now I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth.” ~ Umberto Eco, from Foucault’s Pendulum

So what to do, what to do? I can do nothing. Not yet. And even if the time were right for me to do something, I have absolutely no idea as to what course of action I should take, if any.

Wassily Kandinsky Stormy Day 1906
“Stormy Day” (1906)
by Wassily Kandinsky

Familial relationships are so damned draining. Awash in a sea of eggshells, and trying to find just the right way to cross without breaking anything, without breaking any . . . one.

You know when you are young, in your early 20’s, and you think about life, think about the future as I always did, I would bet that most of the realities of later life never enter the realm of possibility. I mean, how could they, really? Real life is so far from what you think will happen to you when you’re young and trying to decide whether or not to drop a huge chunk of change on some toy or the other. Real life is so filled with pitfalls and trenches so deep that few of us would ever contemplate that such horrible things might actually happen.

Nothing in my 20’s prepared me for real life, even though I was so certain at the time that I had all of the answers. I was so sure of my certainty then. It takes being slapped in the face by fate to make you realize just how little you actually know.

So here I am, finally able to admit how little I know and knowing how little I am able to effect any kind of meaningful change in the lives of my children. Is it any wonder I walk around in a constant state of pain-filled angst?

Probably shouldn’t have written any of this . . .

More later. Peace.

Music by I Will, I Swear, “Long Days”


                   

Mind

The slow overture of rain,
each drop breaking
without breaking into
the next, describes
the unrelenting, syncopated
mind. Not unlike
the hummingbirds
imagining their wings
to be their heart, and swallows
believing the horizon
to be a line they lift
and drop. What is it
they cast for? The poplars,
advancing or retreating,
lose their stature
equally, and yet stand firm,
making arrangements
in order to become
imaginary. The city
draws the mind in streets,
and streets compel it
from their intersections
where a little
belongs to no one. It is
what is driven through
all stationary portions
of the world, gravity’s
stake in things, the leaves,
pressed against the dank
window of November
soil, remain unwelcome
till transformed, parts
of a puzzle unsolvable
till the edges give a bit
and soften. See how
then the picture becomes clear,
the mind entering the ground
more easily in pieces,
and all the richer for it.

~ Jorie Graham

 

 

“It’s so curious: one can resist tears and ‘behave’ very well in the hardest hours of grief. But then someone makes you a friendly sign behind a window, or one notices that a flower that was in bud only yesterday has suddenly blossomed, or a letter slips from a drawer . . . and everything collapses. ” ~ Colette

Henri Martin FLowering Garden in Spring oil on canvas 1920
“Flowering Garden in Spring” (1920, oil on canvas)
by Henri Martin

                   

“People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us.” ~ Iris Murdoch

The Bradford pears and Tulip trees are in full bloom, and I am reminded of the year I made mother’s day cards from photos I had taken of the trees in bloom—I was very pleased with how they had turned out, but my mother looked at hers and said, “What’s this?” Lex later told me that Mom had complained that I was too cheap to buy a card; Lex tried to explain to her that I had shot the photograph, worked with it on Photoshop, and had the print made. I had thought the gesture special. Oh well.

Anyway, I have to admit that when I was clearing out the thousands of cards in my mother’s drawers, I came across almost every card I had given her in the past decade and sometimes beyond, and the flimsy free homemade card I had made her was there.

Here. Have some flowers of spring:


Music by Mussorgsky,  “Pictures at an Exhibition” (Promenade), performed by The Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra