“Everything is as it is means this: We undergo all kinds of difficult and painful practices. We travel to all kinds of places and discover that we didn’t have to do a thing, that things are as they are. Everything is as it is after we’ve broken our bones trying everything.” ~ Ichitaro

Follow the Wisteria Line, by Marisa DL at pbase.com

                   

“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.” ~ Louise Erdrich

Vines on Yellow by Greg Hefner (FCC)

Tuesday afternoon. Hazy, hot, and humid. Thunderstorms predicted.

I slept fitfully last night. At first I couldn’t fall asleep (I’ve been out of my Seroquel for about a week), and then when I finally fell asleep, I woke up every few minutes scratching myself. I had broken out into some kind of rash/hives thingy. I tried everything: lotion, Benadryl, hydrocortisone cream, baby powder . . . Finally, around 8 a.m. I got up and took a shower. Thankfully, I still had a bit of Aveeno calming body scrub. After the shower, I felt marginally better, but I was still itching.

Four Benadryl later . . . I finally fell asleep for two consecutive hours around 11:30. Needless to say, I am wiped out and still a bit itchy, especially on my back (of course).

The only thing that I can think of that may have caused all of the itching is the fish stew that Corey made for dinner last night. It had clam juice in it. I have never had a reaction to shellfish before, and I love steamed and fried clams, but maybe the concentrated clam juice was just too much. I haven’t eaten anything else out of the ordinary, am not using new detergent or body wash, so that only leaves the stew, which is too bad as it was quite tasty.

So I thought that I would try to write a bit before going back to bed. Corey has gone to TCC campus to fill out more paperwork for a Pell Grant for summer classes. We’re keeping our collective fingers crossed that he can get some funds for summer. We’ve already done the FAFSA for the 2011-2012 academic year.

“Life is made up of moments, small pieces of glittering mica in a long stretch of gray cement. It would be wonderful if they came to us unsummoned, but particularly in lives as busy as the ones most of us lead now, that won’t happen. We have to teach ourselves how to make room for them, to love them, and to live, really live.” ~ Anna Quindlen, from A Short Guide to a Happy Life

Cottage with Vines in Grimaud, France, by mhodl (FCC)

I spent most of yesterday catching up on my paperwork. I needed to fill out an IRS form claiming “Injured Spouse” status to see if we can get back some of the money that the IRS took from our refund. Apparently, if the debt for which the money was taken is not a joint debt, the other person can claim this status and appeal the seizure of funds. We’ll see what happens. It would be nice to get some of that refund money back so that we can buy a new back door. Of course, we have to wait eight to twelve weeks . . .

I also wrote a very long letter to the owner/president of the local Ford dealership that has been giving us the run around on the Windstar buy-back. I thought that I would try one more avenue before contacting the local media station that has a special consumer help department. No business wants to end up featured on that spot.

Then there was all of the tuition assistance/special circumstances paperwork for the males in the family: Corey, Eamonn, and Brett. I had to fill out forms and complete worksheets to show that we qualify for more grant money if it is available. Of course, all kinds of attachments were required, and I had to do some hunting to get everything together. Being able to apply for special circumstances because I am on total disability is one of the few positive things about being disabled.

I rescheduled a doctor’s appointment that I missed last Monday and finally made an appointment to have my breasts smashed with my requisite mammogram. This Thursday, I have an appointment with the neurologist to get a lumbar puncture. I am really not looking forward to this, but she feels that it’s a necessary test to determine if I have a fungus which might be causing headaches.

I also had to process a return to Avon. The whole Avon thing is not really working out, so I’ll probably give it up soon. The only people who are ordering are me and me and me. But other than that, I must say that I felt a real sense of accomplishment by last night, which is sad really, as I would have been able to do all of those things in an hour at one point in my life.

“I could feel the day offering itself to me,
and I wanted nothing more  than
to be in the moment—but which moment?
Not that one, or that one, or that one.” ~ Billy Collins

Wisteria on Arbor

Corey and I watched a truly terrible movie last night: The Tomb. The preview looked promising, and the movie was from Australia, so I thought that it might be a good scary movie for us. Turns out, not so much. By the end of it, I was yelling at the television, which is never a good sign. You know when the characters are just so blatantly stupid, when they simply cannot get a clue? Yep. That kind of plot.

In other news . . . Corey’s garden is growing like gangbusters. We’re going to have huge sunflowers again this year, and with luck, the tomatoes and other vegetables will hang in for a good harvest. Of course, it’s getting hotter than blazes here, and even though it looks like it might rain, it usually does not.

The living room is quite stuffy as the big air conditioning unit died at the end of last year, and we have yet to replace it. The bedrooms stay fairly comfortable, though. I find that I am very much like the dogs: I either want to be in the pool (which is not yet ready for people, only Tillie), or in the cool dark of the bedrooms. Shakes, in particular, hates the heat as it exacerbates his canine dermatitis.

Oh well . . .

“Remember yourself, from the days when you were younger and rougher and wilder, more scrawl than straight line. Remember all of yourself, the flaws and faults as well as the many strengths.” ~ Anna Quindlen

Hampton Court Palace Gardens, Richmond Upon Thames, England

I have a bit of a confession: I am leaving the house less and less. Now that Brett’s school year is over, I really don’t have any reason to go out, other than doctors’ appointments. I know that being this housebound is not healthy for me, but truthfully, it doesn’t really bother me. What does bother me if going out in public in my current state, which is my highest weight ever.

For someone who doesn’t eat that much (and I really don’t), I just cannot seem to lose weight. A typical day usually includes two cups of coffee (half decaf/half caff), one glass of Pepsi (decaf), a bottle of diet green tea, a cup of herbal tea after dinner, a fiber bar or a sandwich thin (100 calories) with peanut butter, no jelly, dinner, and maybe some gummi bears or a couple of Riesen, and an orange if we have any. I use Splenda in place of sugar almost exclusively.

Does that seem like a lot? It doesn’t to me, but my metabolism is so warped that I just don’t seem to burn calories. I know—I’m not getting any exercise, but it’s that whole vicious circle thing in that I would feel better if I exercised, but I don’t feel well enough to exercise.

Being overweight preys on my mind far too much, but I simply cannot help it. I have such a warped body image, and I stand in front of the mirror and notice only flaws: flabby arms, a big belly, my double chins. I am dreading going to Chad’s wedding as I don’t want anyone to see me like this. Corey’s mom once told me that from the way I talk, I make it seem that I am huge. I’m not huge comparatively, and I know that, but I am huge for me.

Therein lies the rub.

So I stay at home and depress myself. Perhaps I’ll go cut my hair. That always seems to distract me. Thunderstorm is here, so I should probably stop so that the computer doesn’t get fried.

More later. Peace.

Music by A Fine Frenzy, “Whisper”

                   

To This May

They know so much more now about
the heart we are told but the world
still seems to come one at a time
one day one year one season and here
it is spring once more with its birds
nesting in the holes in the walls
its morning finding the first time
its light pretending not to move
always beginning as it goes

~ W. S. Merwin

                   

All quotes taken from Whiskey River

“The world breaks us all. Afterward, some are stronger at the broken places.” ~ Ernest Hemingway, Farewell To Arms

Where does this road lead? (photographer unknown, Pixdaus)

                   

“I speak to you over cities
I speak to you over plains
My mouth is against your ear
The two sides of the walls face
my voice which acknowledges you.
I speak to you of eternity.” ~ Paul Éluard from “Absence”

Kusugawa Trail, Yakushima Island by caseyyee (Flckr Creative Commons)

Thursday, late afternoon. Thunder storms approaching.

I want to write, but then when I sit down at these keys, nothing happens. So much to say but seemingly unsayable, as if rooting around in my head trying to find words that I know, words that I know I know, but words that have become lost or have taken to hiding in the small creases in my brain.

Here is what I know:

The warmer temperatures are muddling my brain, making me dream of buying air conditioners with my mother and ex-father-in-law. But I become distracted in the dream, and look at plants instead—purple and pink plants in black pots. And I fill my cart with plants and Christmas place mats that are on clearance. This is better than the dream before of a killer chasing me down a yellow stairwell.

I awake sweaty and tired, feeling as if I have slept much too long, and I have, but I cannot get out of my bed. For days now, I cannot get out of the damned bed. Yesterday, I had another medical test done, then came home and went back to bed. I barely remembered the drive to and from the facility. Out-of-body driving?

My body feels spent and heavy with heat, and I long for tall glasses of umbrella drinks with rivulets of sweat running down the side of the glass. Not the alcohol, just the idea of the tall glass, the fruit, the paper umbrella—as the collection of these things would mean that I am not at home. I am somewhere else, anywhere but here.

It seems that the coming storm has taken days to get here. The air has been still, and yesterday evening thunder rumbled in the distance for hours, but nothing materialized. Then suddenly, just a few moments ago, rain began to fall, hard rain, hard enough to drive out the ants that have laid claim to the dirt mounds in the garden, the mounds that have been taken over as ant castles, forbidding the shoots of flowers and vegetables from breaking through. Now the mounds are mud puddles, and I can see green.

A tornado warning south of here. More tornadoes encroaching on this area of hurricanes. More proof that the earth is in turmoil.

“If you can read and understand this poem
send something back: a burning strand of hair
a still-warm, still-liquid drop of blood
a shell
thickened from being battered year on year
send something back.” ~ Adrienne Rich, from “Coast to Coast”

Tree Tunnel, Shirebrook, UK, by James Hill (Wikimedia Commons)

I slip through virtual pages on this screen, looking for the source of a line I cannot get out of my head. “Jesus Love You” pops up right above a line advertising Mexican food and good prices on gold.

The Interwebs have a warped sense of humor.

My body is still in recovery from the preparation needed for Wednesday’s test. A purge, if you will. I find myself craving fresh fruit: peaches and red pears. The orange juice Corey bought me is not enough. My body wants vitamins from the source. I feel as if everything has been leached from my system, not just impurities, but the good cells as well, the ones that make me who I am.

I think constantly of Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald. I have no idea why.

Speaking of the Fitzgeralds, I read an article that said that the mansion that may have been his inspiration for The Great Gatsby had been demolished to make way for several mcmansions on the same plot of waterfront land in Long Island. I shudder to think about the former grandeur being reduced to rubble so that some developer can erect those paeans to conspicuous consumption that I abhorred even when I was in real estate.

Progress is not always better.

I remember the dark enclosure in my grandmother’s house in the Philippines. In the kitchen. Water from the well in the backyard. Coffee tins filled with this water, and how this was the only space in the house in which to find relief from the heat. I think of my father. I do not want to think of my father, not right now. The loss is acute today.

“I sing the wind around
 And hear myself return
To nothingness, alone.
The loneliest thing I know
 Is my own mind at play.” ~ Theodore Roethke, from “His Foreboding”

The Gate To . . . UK (Wikimedia Commons)

I read other people’s words, wonder how it is they are so talented, wonder where my words have gone, wonder if there are any new poems left to write, any new stories left to tell.

I have been collecting phrases as possible book titles. I don’t know why. I think I have six or seven. This is a recent event in my life; it means that I am acknowledging that the book is there. I think. Maybe not. But why need a title? I love book titles, book jackets. Clever book designs remind me of studying for my publishing degree. I still owe the university a fee. They are holding my diploma hostage until I pay this fee. I wonder if I will ever bother to pay the ransom.

In all of the medical tests that I have had done in the past six weeks or so, this is what I have learned: I do not have sleep apnea. I have a digestive system that does not work at the top or the bottom, and is sluggish in the middle. To learn these things, my body has been assaulted with tubes in various orifices. I think I already knew all of these things about my body and probably could have saved myself the insult of the tubes and the associated costs which will soon begin to turn up in the mail.

I have stopped reading about politics again. It has become too weighty and unbearable once more, and my minds needs a break from the madness, not just in this country, but all over the world. I prefer to live in ignorance for a bit, that is until I begin to seethe in righteous indignation over some maligning phrase out of some politician’s mouth. Then I fear it will be once more into the fray for me.

The wind outside is whipping the trees about as if they are being tugged on by giants. I like that image.

“The slow overture of rain,
each drop breaking
without breaking
into
the next, describes
the unrelenting, syncopated
mind.” ~ Jorie Graham, from “Mind”

Lane by Derek Harper (Wikimedia Commons)

As the moveable slab upon which I lay slides into the scanner, I look up and am surprised to see the image of cherry blossoms on branches reaching across the faux-skylight above me—a vertical trompe l’oeil, and the technician tells me to hold my breath, and I do and do and do, and wait for her to say breathe, but the word does not come, and my lungs fill to bursting, and then she says breathe, and I do, and I realize that it has been mere seconds, and I think to myself that I have absolutely no stamina left.

I’ve been trying to learn Adele’s “Someone Like You,” but her voice is so powerful and the song so complicated, that it’s just not working. As with almost everything else, my voice is not what it used to be.

But the cherry blossom branches make me think of how wonderful it would be to have a real skylight, preferably above a bathtub, so that I could soak beneath the stars and ponder words, only to forget them as I dry myself with a towel.

I remember when I was about to graduate with my bachelor’s, and I had an interview with a small local paper in Maryland. An editor at the paper for which I worked arranged the interview for me. I stayed with a nice couple who owned a large old house that they were refurbishing. In one bathroom, they had built a wooden bathtub directly beneath a skylight. I had forgotten about that until just this minute.

I turned down the job, or more accurately, withdrew my name from consideration as I was in love, could not bear to continue my long-distance relationship with my ex. I wonder where life would have taken me if I had opened myself to that possibility.

Possibilities . . .

Studying abroad, visiting Greece, seeing the Great Wall, taking hundreds and hundreds of photographs of verdant Ireland and windswept Wales. Drinking wine at a small restaurant in Basque country.

Walking on a beach in Queensland with my flannel trousers rolled. Eating a peach. T. S. Eliot wondered if he dared, as do I.

Will I ever hear the mermaids singing, each to each? And how should I presume?

More later. Peace.

Music by Lanterns on the Lake, “You Need Better”

                   

My Life by Someone Else

I have done what I could but you avoid me.
I left a bowl of milk on the desk to tempt you.
Nothing happened. I left my wallet there, full of money.
You must have hated me for that. You never came.

I sat at my typewriter naked, hoping you would wrestle me
to the floor. I played with myself just to arouse you.
Boredom drove me to sleep. I offered you my wife.
I sat her on the desk and spread her legs. I waited.

The days drag on. The exhausted light falls like a bandage
over my eyes. Is it because I am ugly? Was anyone
ever so sad? It is pointless to slash my wrists. My hands
would fall off. And then what hope would I have?

Why do you never come? Must I have you by being
somebody else? Must I write My Life by somebody else?
My Death by somebody else? Are you listening?
Somebody else has arrived. Somebody else is writing.

~ Mark Strand

“My schedule for today lists a six-hour self-accusatory depression.” ~ Philip K. Dick

Highland Ancient Arch 

                   

“I was wise enough to never grow up while fooling most people into believing I had.” ~ Margaret Mead 

Sunday afternoon. Mid 60’s, sunny.

Stone Arch, Ayshire, Scotland (Pixdaus)

I had wanted to write yesterday, but I kept putting it off because I just couldn’t muster the energy. Eventually I found out that Corey had spiked my coffee with unleaded. Crap. Apparently, I have a caffeine addiction, and the neurologist I consulted this past week wants me to get caffeine out of my diet as she believes that it is the primary cause for my daily headaches.

No caffeine? Seriously? Haven’t I given up enough? You want to take away my coffee and Pepsi too? Beh. Beh, I say. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of telling Corey, so now he’s mixing the deliciously bold Italian roast with decaf coffee. I think that I may have to take a stand here: You can make me cut back on carbs even though an Asian without rice is like Bill Cosby without pudding. You can take away most of the sugar in my diet. You can tell me not to eat chocolate (notice the wording, tell me?), but caffeine? No. Hell no.

We’ll see.

I asked the neurologist about Botox shots for my migraines, and she said that she had already thought about it, but would have to refer me to one of her partners who apparently handles Botox injections. I’m just glad that they’ve finally been approved for migraines. Actually, in looking back on the appointment, I’m not sure that much of anything happened: a new prescription, a prescription for a drug I already take, lots of hammering on my joints to test my reflexes, lots of questions. She was a humorless woman with sausage fingers (wouldn’t that make a great first line), and she kept asking me about other medicines that I’ve taken. I had to tell her that I couldn’t remember the names as they had all affected my cognitive processes negatively.

But forward progress, as in something might actually happen? Well, I suppose the sleep apnea study might fall into that category, but I left feeling a bit muddled, as in, what was the point exactly?

Please do not mention the caffeine as I will only refer you back to the previous paragraph. I mean, I’ve been told to go off caffeine before. I did. Not much difference. Of course, at the time, I wasn’t having migraines as severe as the ones I’m having now. I did let this new doctor know that on that happy face pain scale that they always show you in the ER (the one that makes me want to rip it out of their hands and tear it into a thousand pieces), my pain level is never ever below a two, as in, pain is always present to some extent.

(How foolish is it to shove a paper on which someone has printed a smiley face and the numeral one and a progression of faces until it reaches Mr. Grimace face with a number 10  in front of someone who is enduring excruciating pain? Just saying . . .)

“When you look back on your life, it looks as though it were a plot, but when you are into it, it’s a mess: just one surprise after another. Then, later, you see it was perfect.” ~ Arthur Schopenhauer

Archway Leading to Chateau de Jumilhac-le-Grand, Perigord, France

My dreams of late have been very disturbing again: In one, my mother is holding an infant who is very ill. For two nights in a row I’ve been trying to call someone (an unknown male), but cannot seem to get my fingers to work on the keyboard of my phone. I do remember thinking that the number that I should be calling was X, only to realize that X number was my doctor’s office. How strange. And as is almost always the case with my strange sequential dreams, they begin at my old apartment that I had when I was an undergrad.

I do seem to be sleeping a bit sounder now that I’m taking an additional med that my new psychiatrist prescribed. Have I mentioned that I really like this one? I’ve been seeing so many doctors for so many things that I’m losing track. In fact, I cancelled a virtual colonoscopy (virtual?) that my gastro guy ordered because, of course, my insurance is not keeping up with the claims, and I’m starting to get bills for all of these treatments. I’d like to get the premiums up-to-date so that I don’t have to worry about calling to have things refiled.

The concept of a virtual colonoscopy intrigues me. Once I finally have the procedure, I’ll let you know what’s involved. As long as no more probes are inserted into orifices, I can handle it, which reminds me of another part of my dream which I will not discuss in any detail except to say that it was really and truly disgusting.

Corey and I were talking about how his dreams usually seem to be prophetic in some way, that, or he dreams about zombies (don’t ever get him started on his entire theory about the possibility of zombies and how our house is not zombie-proof); whereas my own dreams are filled with conflict. I wonder what normal people dream about?

“For me it is sufficient to have a corner by my hearth, a book and a friend, and a nap undisturbed by creditors or grief.” ~ Fernandez de Andrada

Moon Bridge, Japanese Tea Garden

Let’s see . . . what other interesting and intriguing things have been going on in my little world? I finally got the FAFSA’s done for both sons; so easy, don’t know why I put it off for so long, must be that procrastination gene I carry. Also, I’m in an ongoing battle with the local Ford dealer over the Windstar recall. Apparently, at some point during this process (which began on November 1 last year), Ford decided that they would not pay us the amount they had settled upon but would rebuild the minivan instead.

When Corey told me this, I went into full-on curmudgeon mode, got on the phone, and told the customer service person that they were sadly mistaken if they believed for one second that we were going to wait over six months only to be given back a vehicle that their company had deemed too dangerous to drive off the lot. In lots and lots of words, I said that we absolutely refused to take back the minivan and that we would only settle for what we had been offered. I hung up the phone, and Corey said very quietly that I was actually very scary sometimes.

Really? Had no idea.

That was a week ago. The guy from the dealership calls me everyday to tell me that it’s (our claim) working its way up the chain. I tell him that’s all well and good, but I want results.

Still have not received our federal tax refund, and we both have the feeling that the refund is once again going to be absorbed by some creditor as it has been for the past two years. We really need that money as our sliding glass door is still being held together by duct tape (wonderful thing), which makes it completely useless against zombies. That, and the fact that a new door and installation will cost a cool thousand at least. Plus I need to get caught up on health insurance payments.

And my foray into selling AVON doesn’t seem to be going all that well. My only customers have been Corey and my mom. I suppose people still don’t have disposable income for buying things. My regional rep says that we (AVON) has a new policy that if a rep doesn’t produce, they are kicked out (my words). I suppose I will be banish-ed (say it with two syllables as in Shakespearean) from the ding-dong brigade.

It’s weird how our lives can be rolling along fairly well for a few weeks, and then BAM. We’re screwed to holy hell all over again. Cut off notices, and past due bills, and relentless telephone calls from people wanting money we still don’t have. This is the part of the cycle that, quite frankly, I could really do without.

“Acceptance is usually more a matter of fatigue than anything else.” ~ David Foster Wallace

Piscina Mirabilis, Napoli by laura.foto (Flckr Creative Commons)

Just so you don’t start to believe that my life is a lovely little bit of paradise, I’ll mention that I did visit the rehab place in which my m-in-law is residing. I went on Monday (Tuesday)? after my gastro appointment in which the doctor said that I essentially don’t have good working plumbing. Big surprise. More tests. Another big surprise.

But I digress . . .

When I got there, she was in speech therapy, which consisted of the therapist helping her to hold a small plastic cup of water and taking sips. I don’t pretend to know the value of such a thing. When I asked about the peanut butter that seems to be all over my m-in-law’s face and on her shirt, I was told that licking the peanut butter from around her mouth was an exercise. That actually makes sense to me.

Anyway, I rolled her back to her room, and we had a kind of conversation. She was very tired, and wanted to get in bed, but I couldn’t get anyone to come into the room to help put her into bed. Also, she was very shaky, and kept thinking that she was falling out of the wheelchair, so I pushed my chair right up to her so that our knees were touching, and I told here that I wouldn’t go anywhere until she was put into bed.

It was quite unnerving as she would drift off and then awaken with a start and stiffen her entire body as she thought she was falling. I would hold her and assure her that she was not falling and that I wasn’t going anywhere. The strangest part is that the way in which she stiffened her body is exactly the same as the way that Patrick (her son/my b-in-law in Germany who is a paraplegic) stiffens his body when he is in pain or is upset. I did not mention that, of course, as any mention of Patrick would have upset her.

The doctors have concluded (big surprise here) that she will never be able to live alone again. I can’t stand the idea of her being in that place, so I mentioned to my sis-in-law Ann that perhaps she could get a reverse mortgage which would allow her to stay in her home and possibly afford full-time in-home care. I just think that if she were around her own things, around her cat, she would probably respond better. Unfortunately, none of this is up to me, so I make suggestions and let it go at that.

At 4:50 (hours later), someone finally came into the room to get her ready for bed. I gathered all of her dirty clothes and took them home to be washed, feeling as if it were such a small gesture, one not nearly enough for this woman who has been so integral to my life.

This, I cannot write about any more, so I’ll sign off for now.

More later. Peace.

Music by Mazzy Star, “”Fade Into You” (Live)

                   

Men at Forty*

‘Men at forty
Learn to close softly
The doors to rooms they will not be
Coming back to.

At rest on a stair landing,
They feel it moving
Beneath them now like the deck of a ship,
Though the swell is gentle.

And deep in mirrors
They rediscover
The face of the boy as he practices tying
His father’s tie there in secret

And the face of that father,
Still warm with the mystery of lather.
They are more fathers than sons themselves now.
Something is filling them, something

That is like the twilight sound
Of the crickets, immense,
Filling the woods at the foot of the slope
Behind their mortgaged houses.

~ Donald Justice

*I love this poem and have always wanted to write a companion piece about women at forty . . .