“Everything is strange. Things are huge and very small.” ~ Virginia Woolf, from The Waves
Saturday afternoon, rainy and cooler, 69 degrees.
Sorry there were no leftovers yesterday. I never made it onto tumblr this week to collect anything. Weird week.
It started out lousy with the baby bird, but then on Tuesday we picked up a new baby goat, a Nubian now named Roland, which was a nice diversion. Honestly, though, taking care of a three-week-old baby goat is very similar to taking care of a baby—making formula, doing bottle feedings, cleaning bottles—and they act very much like babies: if they cannot see you, you are gone, and so they cry. It’s actually been nice, but bittersweet, if that makes any sense.
Corey and I never were able to have a baby of our own, mostly because I had to have an ovary removed several years ago, and it’s always created both a sense of emptiness and a sense of inadequacy for me. Then that emptiness was filled when Olivia came along, and then suddenly, Olivia was many states away, and I haven’t talked to her or seen her in many months.
This is a hard weekend for me. Mother’s Day without my mother, without my other mother, and without my children. I don’t know if I feel like a mom any more. I don’t know if I feel like a daughter any more. Technically I’m an orphan: no mother, no father. Corey’s mom does a lot to try to fill the gap, and I appreciate it, so I hope that I don’t sound ungrateful. But it’s all just very strange for me. I mean, I haven’t talked to my youngest son since last year. I’ve heard from middle son and daughter off an on, but not a lot, and I walk around with a constant sense of a broken heart, with a feeling of having a hole somewhere inside of me that cannot be filled with anything else.
What do you say after making a statement like that? I have no idea.
More later. Peace.
Hammock, “Together Alone”
Here a snail on a wet leaf shivers and dreams of spring.
Here a green iris in December.
Here the topaz light of the sky.
Here one stops hearing a twig break and listens for deer.
Here the art of the ventriloquist.
Here the obsession of a kleptomaniac to steal red pushpins.
Here the art of the alibi.
Here one walks into an abandoned farmhouse and hears a
Here one dreamed a bear claw and died.
Here a humpback whale leaped out of the ocean.
Here the outboard motor stopped but a man made it to this
…..island with one oar.
Here the actor forgot his lines and wept.
Here the art of prayer.
Here marbles, buttons, thimbles, dice, pins, stamps, beads.
Here one becomes terrified.
Here one wants to see as a god sees and becomes clear amber.
Here one is clear pine.
“Here I am with all my flaws seeking form and shelter.” ~ Sally van Doren, from “The Kindness of Strangers”
Wednesday evening, cold, 15 degrees.
We are just below the huge polar vortex that is causing record-breaking cold temperatures across the north. It’s expected to drop to 9 degrees tonight; we’re lucky, though, because the weather service is predicting double-digit negative wind chills in several states, but thankfully, not here.
Okay . . . so I’ve covered the weather . . . now what?
I do apologize if you’ve only recently begun to follow me; it’s not always like this. There has been a dearth of posts of late, and I honestly don’t have much of an explanation other than this brick wall that is placed firmly somewhere firmly within that part of the brain responsible for generating creative thought. (Scientists are still a bit vague and unable to agree on exactly which part that is, exactly).
Anyway, I always have such big plans for writing, usually early in the morning when I’m letting the dogs out for the second or third time of the night, but then I wake up completely, roll through my tumblr as I drink my coffee, become distracted by the dirt and detritus that is ever-present on my floor lately, and then any creative impulses that I may have harbored earlier, dissipate. I told Corey today that if I don’t stop gathering quotes and images for drafts, I’ll soon have 200 rough drafts and no real posts.
I blame tumblr. I mean, I have to blame someone or something, so why not mud and tumblr?
“The amount of quiet I need does not exist in the world, from which it follows that no one ought to need so much quiet.” ~ Franz Kafka, from Letters to Ottla and the Family
I have found several new poets in the past few weeks, as well as a new Flickr creative commons site and a few new artists to explore. These things are all good, and generally do a lot to stimulate my muse, just not so much in recent weeks.
The truly miserable aspect is that February is almost upon us (I have no idea as to how that happened), and it’s always a wreck of a month for me, not quite a November of a wreck, but a wreck, nevertheless. It was always a bad month for my Dad, too. If he wasn’t at sea during the winter months, he would always begin to get really stir crazy in February, as if he needed to rush it away to move head long into spring.
I miss my dad, and my mom, and my other mother . . . I miss my kids . . . I even miss Norfolk . . . kind of . . . maybe just the fast food convenience and access to doctors. Whatever. Ignore me.
I think that I’m done for today. Let me leave you with two quotes, this first about writing:
We write what we know and what we do not know. But what do we write it on? On any available surface: on a computer screen, on legal pads, on the walls of prisons, on our lovers’ skin, on our own DNA. The available surface accommodates us, and our context; it becomes us, and our context .
The available surface is our instrument, and also our soul.
~ T. R. Hummer, from Available Surfaces: Essays on Poesis (from “Introduction and Apologia”)
I write on everything, post-it notes, envelopes, calendars, my phone, my laptop, even my hand, so I really appreciate Hummer’s passage.
And then this quote from Sherod Santos on art:
“Symbol, metaphor, allegory: to bring together and disclose. In the material world, we have things which appear to us, but we also have another kind of thing, a thing-in-itself, a thing which doesn’t appear to us but is, all the same, not nothing: air, death, God, love, as in ‘I gave you my love, and you took it.’ Those things we perceive only when they’re unconcealed by something else: when the air is unconcealed by the rustle of leaves, death by the corpse in the casket, God in religious fervor, love in human longing and attachment. And all those realities may be unconcealed by a work of art.
~ from “Seven Seconds in the Life of the Honeyed Muse or, What is Art?”
More later. Peace.
Music by Haevn, “Fortitude”
Mi Musa Triste (My Sad Muse)
Murmuring preludes. On this resplendent night
Her pearled voice quiets a fountain.
The breezes hang their celestial fifes
In the foliage. The gray heads
Of the owls keep watch.
Flowers open themselves, as if surprised.
Ivory swans extend their necks
In the pallid lakes.
Selene watches from the blue. Fronds
Tremble…and everything! Even the silence, quiets.
She wanders with her sad mouth
And the grand mystery of amber eyes,
Across the night, toward forgetfulness
Like a star, fugitive and white.
Like a dethroned exotic queen
With comely gestures and rare utterings.
Her undereyes are violated horizons
And her irises–two stars of amber–
Open wet and weary and sad
Like ulcers of light that weep.
She is a grief which thrives and does not hope,
She is a gray aurora rising
From the shadowy bed of night,
Exhausted, without splendor, without anxiousness.
And her songs are like dolorous fairies
Jeweled in teardrops…
The strings of lyres
Are the souls’ fibers.–
The blood of bitter vineyards, noble vineyards,
In goblets of regal beauty, rises
To her marble hands, to lips carved
Like the blazon of a great lineage.
Strange Princes of Fantasy! They
Have seen her languid head, once erect,
And heard her laugh, for her eyes
Tremble with the flower of aristocracies!
And her soul clean as fire, like a star,
Burns in those pupils of amber.
But with a mere glance, scarcely an intimacy,
Perhaps the echo of a profane voice,
This white and pristine soul shrinks
Like a luminous flower, folding herself up!
“My memory has weakened, my thoughts lack consistency, and each time I set them down on paper it seems to me that I’ve lost the intuition of their organic connection . . . And, remarkably, the simpler the writing, the more excruciating is the strain.” ~ Anton Chekhov, from “A Boring Story”
Sunday evening, ice and snow, and very cold, 17 degrees.
Well, sleep eluded me again last night until after 3 a.m., which, relatively speaking, is not bad for me. There have been times when I’ve been in the midst of an insomnia bout, I’ve watched the sun rise and still couldn’t close my eyes. And yet again, I awoke with a migraine. Nevertheless, I’m going to make a true effort to write today. No promises that I’ll have anything interesting to say.
Last night the wind whipped around the house with a sound resembling a freight train. I worried about the horses as they still don’t have a shelter. Corey assures me that as long as they have enough hay that they will be able to produce sufficient body heat. They still manage to get out of the pasture each night, and the ringleader, Napoleon, leads them to the front porch.
He’s a beautiful horse, but he’s already spoiled. When he hears me at the front door calling the dogs, he lumbers over and waits for me to give him treats, and often when I do, he comes all of the way to the door after I go inside as if he wants to come inside. Yesterday, both he and the mare Sassy stood at the side window looking in at us as if to let us know, in case we had forgotten, that they were out there.
I no longer wonder if it’s possible to spoil a horse.
“One morning you wash your face, look into the mirror, find the water has eroded your features, worn them smooth as a rock in a brook.” ~ Daniela Gioseffi, from “Some Slippery Afternoon”
So my current problem with words? Probably a myriad of reasons. I still haven’t gotten my other mood stabilizing medication because there’s presumably a shortage, at least that’s what the pharmacy says, and of course, the ongoing lack of my pain maintenance medications doesn’t help things. Added to that the current state of my back is horrendous—it hasn’t hurt this much in years.
I know. I know. Nothing new, but between the ongoing winter depression and the recurrent pain, it’s hard to string thoughts together coherently. The physical always affects the mental, and vice versa.
And so I sit down at my little workspace (because my desk still isn’t set up), and I open YouTube and start playing news stories or true crime stories to run in the background, and then I open up a new screen for a draft, and I stare . . . that, or I work on putting quotes together for future drafts, or I spend some time on tumblr looking for more quotes or images for future posts, and then . . . after wasting more time, I go back to the draft screen, and nothing.
“. . . I hope to learn from you how things really are, why it is that around me things sink away like fallen snow, whereas for other people even a little liqueur glass stands on the table steady as a statue.” ~ Franz Kafka, from “Description of a Struggle”
The house still isn’t completely organized or painted, mostly because Corey has so much to do with all of the outside things that need to be handled, that or he ends up unwillingly wasting entire days with Dallas who always proposes projects and then never gets around to them.
The truth of the matter is that Dallas has a drinking problem, one that seems to be getting worse. I don’t like to be around drunks. I’ve had too much experience with drinking problems, and it really gets to me. I mean Dallas has a good heart and good intentions, but as Corey says, Dallas just cannot stay on task; his mind flits from one thing to another, and as a result, little gets done.
I don’t regret that Dallas entered our lives; the relationship is definitely beneficial on both sides: he’s a lonely man who doesn’t appear to have much of a relationship with either of his children, and I have to wonder if that is because of his drinking. But I do feel sorry for him, and I do really try to be patient with him unless he shows up three sheets to the wind. I know that Corey, too, gets frustrated, but there’s little he can do besides try to keep Dallas focused. Still, the ongoing state of the inside of the house is really starting to get to me; I wish so much that I could do some of this stuff myself.
If wishes were fishes . . .
“The place of language is the place between me
and the world of presences I have lost” ~ Marie Ponsot, from “Imagining Starry”
I’m trying very hard, even it doesn’t seem like it, trying not to let things get to me, trying not to think about how my children are far away and out of touch, trying not to think about how there’s always so much to do, trying not to worry too much about Dallas and things that are out of my hands, trying to enjoy once again the act of writing these words . . .
. . . trying hard to be present in my life, which is so much harder than it might seem . . .
. . . trying hard to be thankful for what is here and not devastated by what is not . . .
. . . but no matter how hard I try, I just seem to find myself treading water, and I despise this more than I can say.
“I just can’t live an ordinary life, I can’t pass the time. I can’t organise myself, I don’t have ordinary motives anymore. I can’t even manage my body, when I go to bed I don’t know where to put my arms.“ ~ Iris Murdoch, The Green Knight
And I wonder if I have ever truly been present in my life, wholly present. I have this memory of my first husband asking me early in our relationship why I always worried about the future, always worried about what might or might not happen. I had no answer then, and I have no answer now.
I wonder if part of it is being an only child who always felt that I needed to be the mediator for my parents’ disjointed relationship. If I always worried so much about what might happen between them that I just got in the habit of always worrying about what might happen and never figured out how to just be present in today.
Or perhaps this inability comes from being a teenager and always wondering why I never felt as if I belonged. I had friends, a lot of friends. But still, there was always this feeling that these friendships were tenuous, dependent on my acting a certain way, a way that was acceptable, whatever that meant, and so I fretted and worried. No one ever made me feel this way. It was purely internal, and it went back years: In London I didn’t feel as if I fit in because of my American accent and Filipino last name; In Norfolk, I didn’t feel as if I fit in because of my British accent and Filipino last name.
I cannot tell you how frustrating it is. How can a person even begin to hope to be normal (whatever that is), hope to make her way through the days in any kind of pseudo normal fashion when everything is a question and the answers never seem to be available?
Anyway, more later. Peace.
Music by Coldplay, “O (Fly On),” extended version
With a Changing Key
With a changing key
you unlock the house where
the snow of what’s silenced drifts.
Just like the blood that bursts from
your eye or mouth or ear,
so your key changes.
Changing your key changes the word
that may drift with the flakes.
Just like the wind that rebuffs you,
packed round your word is the snow.
~ Paul Celan (Trans. Nikolai Popov and Heather McHugh)
“View from the Window” (c1940, oil on canvas) by Axel Nilsson
“A View from the Window” (c1014) by Zinaida Serebriakova
“Open Window. Lilacs” (1886, oil on canvas) by Valentin Serov
“A Window” (1912, watercolor) by Anna Ostroumova Lebedeva
“View from a Studio Window, New York” (1931, oil on canvas) by George Oberteuffer
“Interior” (c1940, oil on cardboard) by Grace Cossington Smith
“Open Window, Etretat” (1920, oil on canvas) by Henri Matisse
“Sunny Window” (nd, oil on canvas) by Astrid Munth de Wolfe
“Window, Tiraspol” (1909, oil on canvas) by Mikhail Fyodorovich Larionov
“Woman at her Window” (1895, oil on canvas) by Pierre Bonnard
“Window on the Promenade, Des Anglais, Nice” (1938, oil on canvas) by Raoul Dufy
“View from a Window” (1909, oil on canvas) by Spencer Frederick Gore
“Night Windows” (1928, oil on canvas) by Edward Hopper
“View from the Window” (1939, oil on canvas) by Stanislav Zhukovsky
“From a Hotel Window” (nd, oil on canvas) by William John Leech
“New York Rooftops, My Window” (1943, oil on cardboard) by Mstislav Dubozhinsky
“A View from the Window” (nd, oil on canvas) by Wojciech Weiss
“Through a Cottage Window, Shipley, Sussex” (1930-40, oil on canvas) by Charles Ginner
“View from a Window” (1933, gouache and paper collage) by John Piper
“Strange how we decorate pain. These ribbons, for instance, and the small hard teardrops of blood. Who are they for? Do we think the dead care?” ~ Margaret Atwood, from “Morning in the Burned House”
Wednesday afternoon. Rainy and cooler, 76 degrees.
Last night I had a very melancholy dream: I was working for the government contractor again, preparing a major proposal, but for some reason I was doing the writing/editing at home. At one point during the dream, I’m in a coffee bar, and I’m waiting for a male friend of mine to finish his conversation with his lover. While I am waiting, I begin to draw with colored chalk on one of the walls. I don’t ask—I just do. The image that I create is incredible, swooping colors and forms emerging from my fingertips, and I wonder where this talent came from.
While I’m drawing, my friend leaves, so I sit down on a bench and just stare at what I’ve created. I ask for a glass of wine . . .
Return to home and the proposal . . . for some reason, I’m trying to take a shower so that I can go in to work before the deadline, but I can’t quite get the shower to work, and it’s because i have too much on my mind. This idea of being late for work frequently appears in my dreams. I’ve run into a man with whom I used to share a very deep love, and he tells me that he has remarried and has a child, and this is the last thing I am expecting. I ask him why he didn’t tell me before, and he says that he didn’t know how.
I tell him that I still have to finish one whole section of the proposal, and that I cannot deal with what he has said right now. I turn my back on him so that he cannot see how much he has hurt me, and then I get in the shower with all of my clothes on. By the time I get out, he has gone, and I know that I will never see him again. My mother comes in and asks me why I am taking so long.
When I awake, I’m trying to remember the name of the person in the company who prepared the budgets for the proposals. I can only remember his first name: William. He wasn’t in the dream at all, but somehow my mind has carried on with the proposal theme into waking. I begin the day with a heavy heart.
“All I ever really want to know is how other people are making it through life—where do they put their body, hour by hour, and how do they cope inside of it.” ~ Miranda July, from It Chooses You
I won’t pretend that I’m doing better. I mean, I was, for a few days at least. But at this moment, the dining room table is covered with everything that I removed from the small, antique bookcase that sits in the corner of the living room. You see, the other day I decided to try to touch up some scratches on the dining room table . . . hours later, and I had touched up the finish on the coffee table, two end tables, the Bentwood rocker, another rocking chair, and the bookcase. I have no idea how any of this came about. I only know that I worked myself into a state of great pain.
So two days later, everything remains off the shelves and on the table, and I am no closer to having the house clean for Corey’s homecoming on Saturday. So here I sit, tired and depressed and completely unable to muster even a scintilla of energy. At least I have two more days . . .
At the moment, it’s raining, and thankfully, the temperature has dropped. But my mind is still on the dreams, on the chalk image and the heartbreaking words. I haven’t seen this man in decades. I have no idea as to where he is or what his life is like, so that he makes an appearance in my dreams and leaves me feeling devastated is, shall we say, unwelcome? But more, I am wishing that I actually had the artistic talent that I had in the dream, the ability to blend colors, create shapes, all without hesitation or thought.
I don’t know which part of the dream hurts more, and I wonder if other people dream this way: complete scenarios, emotions, colors, smells, tastes . . .
“But I won’t go there again. We are all and only our distances And when we touch that is what we touch. Our messy shelves. Our sullen privations And overabundance of lemons. Our grief, our mountains and fields And rivers of grief.” ~ Dan Chelotti, from “My Sparrow”
Other things: The air is so heavy, and while there is no mist, it feels that there should be one. Does that make sense? I don’t know . . .
Lately my nights are taking on a strange hue: the color of loneliness and ennui. I sit in bed and watch television. The dogs follow me from room to room, looking at me with anticipation as if I am going to do something incredibly exciting, and then sitting rather resolutely when I do not. Do you know how it feels to know that you have disappointed even your dogs? I am thankful for the company, but this loneliness will not lessen. This small house now has too many rooms.
My mother has been much on my mind, of late, and she pops up in my dreams constantly, even when she doesn’t fit the narrative, and that’s how it was in life as well. There is so much my mother never knew about me because at some point I stopped sharing, feeling that I would only receive scorn and negativity, as in, “why in god’s name would you do that?”—a comment I heard more than once in my life.
My mother would call and ask what I was doing, and I would tell her that I was on the computer. She would ask what I was doing on the computer, and I would use that catch-all word: writing, because to explain blogging would have been just too damned hard, and perhaps I didn’t give her credit, and perhaps she didn’t earn that credit, and perhaps I was too hard on her, and perhaps I learned hardness from her.
I only know that this year will be full of firsts, and I am not looking forward to any more of them: Olivia’s first birthday without her, my kids’ first birthdays without their Oma, the first Thanksgiving, the first Christmas, and truly, I would like nothing more than to be far far away when those dates roll around, having no desire to meet them head on.
“Sorrow is so woven through us, so much a part of our souls, or at least any understanding of our souls that we are able to attain, that every experience is dyed with its color. This is why, even in moments of joy, part of that joy is the seams of ore that are our sorrow. They burn darkly and beautifully in the midst of joy, and they make joy the complete experience that it is. But they still burn.” ~ Christian Wiman, from My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer
And it’s funny, but when my father appears in my dreams, he is just the same: quiet, unassuming, and I can deal with this visage of my father because it is so like the reality that was. But now, when my mother appears I do nothing but question. Why was she in that dream? What does it mean? Does it mean anything? Because, you see, she is different in the dreams, somehow. It’s hard to pinpoint it exactly. All I know is that sometimes she is so much more caring in my dreams, more concerned about my welfare, and it makes me wonder, really wonder, if she was this way in real life, and I just didn’t see it.
Too much . . . . . . . too much . . . . I am reminded of the Wordsworth poem, “The world is too much with us”:
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Late and soon . . . . . . late and soon . . . . .
My life is on a loop replay of literary quotes from things I read and studied so very many years ago. Funnily enough, I came across an older profile of myself in which I called myself a “Virginia poet,” and that really took me aback. How very pretentious of me. I write poetry so seldom now, having little to no faith in my abilities where verse is concerned. Needless to say, I changed the profile, but coming up with even the barest of descriptions for myself was taxing. I mean . . . . . . what am I?
Gah! I am too old to be doing this who am I crap.
“Some begin to talk, to themselves, as do the mad; some give their hearts to silence.” ~ Stephanie Strickland, from “The Red Virgin: A Poem of Simone Weil”
I have said many times—in jest and not—that this world is purgatory, this here and now—this is the realm in which we are destined/doomed to work through our sins, resolve our issues. Again and again and again and again.
I feel as if I have spent my whole adult life to this point just waiting, waiting for life to begin. I will be able to do x once I have done y. I will be able to leave this area once my mother is no longer alive. I will be able to do to do . . . what??? It’s maddening, I tell you. How have I lived this long, done this much, and still have absolutely no idea as to who or what I am?
I am (was?) a daughter, a mother, a spouse, an ex-spouse. For so many years I wanted to be someone’s sister, but that’s another story . . . I have been an editor, a staff writer for a weekly news insert, a newsroom supervisor, a proposal development specialist, a marketing director, a publications manager, and a sales manager. I have taught college, and I have taught middle school. I have managed staffs of 45, and staffs of 2. I have worked in a steak house and in a donut shop. I have been a nanny, a housekeeper, and a restaurant server. I have coordinated special events and memberships.
I have dated navy pilots, a devout catholic boy, a sociopathic liar, lawyers, and others. I married and divorced my best friend, and I married the man who has tried to make my dreams come true.
I have lost a daughter, a father, a mother, a woman who was like a mother, an uncle who was like a father, and many more.
What is the point of this litany? Well, you would think, wouldn’t you, that after all of this I might have a better idea of who and what I am, but I don’t. I really don’t, and part of me, a small part, envies those people who do one job their entire lives; I mean, for them, it seems that everything is clear cut. You work in factory x or business y. You get up, go to work, come home. You get raises and promotions along the way, and when someone asks you what you do, you have an answer.
“Wherever I turn, the black wave rushes down on me.” ~ Franz Kafka, from “Diaries”
Look. If I am to be honest, and that is what I am attempting to do, I would have to say that I have never been satisfied, even in my dream job of teaching English at ODU. While I was doing that, I kept thinking that I really needed to be in a doctoral program, and perhaps if I had followed through with that, I would still be teaching English at some college somewhere.
Follow through. Key words, those. I’m great at starting, at doing, but continuing? Going all the way to the end? As my dad used to say, “Shee-yit.” (I really miss hearing my dad say that. It was his one- word exclamation for just about anything, good and bad.)
Anyway, the point is . . . there is no point. I have reached and passed that milestone birthday, that one that signifies you are now definitely on the downswing of life, and I used to point out to Mari when we were adrift that May Sarton didn’t publish her first novel until she was in her 50s. Somehow, when you are in your 30s, that seems like all of the time in the world, that you have plenty of time to write your own verse.
When I presented Dead Poets Society to my literature classes, I was so finely attuned to Mr. Keating’s words, his query of the young boys: “The powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?” I thought, then, that I did, indeed, have a verse.
Late and soon . . . . . . late and soon . . . . .
It is very late, and it is too soon, and I am no closer to any answers than when I typed the first word of this post. I am doing nothing more than decorating my pain. Atwood and Wordsworth, two worthy wordsmiths. Thanks for hanging in there with me.
More later. Peace.
Music by Lucius, “Go Home”
Sailing on Lake Superior
Before us now the edge of the earth,
below us the nearly endless cold.
Around us nothing but shimmering
the miles of empty and sparkling blue.
For a few hours, the sail fills on
toward infinity. Shadows of
our delicate bodies ebb and flow
across the deck of our delicate boat.
What if the beautiful days, the good
and pacific temperate moments,
weren’t just lovely, but everything?
What if I could let it fall away
in the wake, that ache to extract
meaning from vastness?
Let this suffice; the ease of thinking
it all goes on, whether we’re here
to see it or not. The splashing waves,
the suntipped gulls arcing across
the radiant world.
“Almost impossible to sleep; plagued by dreams, as if they were being scratched on me, on a stubborn material.” ~ Franz Kafka, from Diaries
Wednesday early evening. Partly cloudy, 83 degrees.
Lots of drizzle the past few days mixed in with scattered thunderstorms. My body has reflected the weather: I feel dampened, pending somehow, as if something is incipient. Yesterday, I wasn’t able to get out of bed for most of the day. Hate days like that, but there was nothing for it. I just wasn’t able.
I’ve spent days and days calculating square footage, calculating how much insulation, how many tiles, how much backerboard, etcetera. I am nothing if not a stickler for precision. I know that this is not what Corey had planned when he said he was going to tear out the bathroom, but there was no point in doing it halfway only to have to do more before we sold it.
Tile board (which he had planned to use) looks cheap, but it serves its purpose in a rental property. We’re going with ceramic and mosaic tile. Essentially, we’re gutting down to the studs and starting over. I keep waking in the middle of the night and going to the computer to check something, to make absolutely sure that I have allowed for this or that. Corey says he’ll just be glad when we start to that I will quit obsessing. I concur.
Tomorrow we go to the big box stores to get what I couldn’t get online. Luckily, because it’s the 4th, Corey gets credit for his military service, and we get a 10 percent discount. Any discount is better than no discount.
“I need the shade of blue that rips your heart out. You don’t see that type of blue around here.” ~Cath Crowley, from Graffiti Moon
Aside from preparing for the bathroom reno, there isn’t much going on. We’re still struggling with puppy training. Still lots of hit or miss. I told Corey that not every dog can be as intelligent as Tillie who seemed to train herself that first week. Bailey makes up for the mistakes in cuteness, though. Would that all of life were so . . .
Ever since my last post about that memory, I have been melancholy. I couldn’t put a name to why, exactly, but it’s here. I know that when I have these health relapses it always throws me, makes me afraid that I’m regressing to those first months after going out on disability when I was so dependent on everyone else, when I could do so very little on my own. That kind of dependence is frightening, perhaps because it may be a precursor to how life will be in the latter years, when so much of life is beyond your control.
I think of Corey’s grandfather, my own mother, how the years are not friendly to the elderly. I watch my mother diminish little by little, unable to finish sentences, repeating things she’s already told me five times. It’s painful. I can do little but watch and try not to add the phrase “I already told you this” to my sentences when we talk.
“I do not want my voice to go out into the air while my heart is sinking.” ~ E. M. Forster, from The Paris Review, “The Art of Fiction”
What am I afraid of, really? Dying without ever doing anything? Without accomplishing a damned thing?
I am mightily fearful that my life will have meant nothing when I am gone, that I will have left my children with little, not monetarily, but in the ways that mean the most—in the kinds of memories that they will share with their children, the remembrance of small moments that might still conjure a smile.
I am afraid that I will reach my last days and that I will still be sitting here wondering when I’m going to get around to writing that book, trying to decided whether or not I should get a doctorate. I don’t want to be that person, that lost soul who never quite found her way. I don’t want people to remember me as the woman who never did anything, who never lived up to her potential.
“I am a forest, and a night of dark trees: but he who is not afraid of my darkness, will find banks full of roses under my cypresses.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche, from Thus Spake Zarathustra
God that sounds so narcissistic, as if I have so much to give, so much to contribute. What makes me any different from the next woman, from the woman in the car next to me at the stoplight, the one who is keeping time on her steering wheel, all the while wondering if she remembered to thaw anything for dinner . . .
It’s ridiculous, I know, but I still fancy myself that mysterious woman, the one who people wondered about, the one who a professor referred to as a woman of mystery. I like to pretend that’s still me, even though the mystery has faded, and I am just another person trying to get along, trying to survive without going mad.
Can I tell you a secret? Of course, it isn’t much of a secret considering where I am at the moment, but anyway—I always relished my differentness. Not a word, I know, but difference isn’t quite accurate. I have liked being different, not being able to fit into any predetermined niche. I have liked that very much. I have liked that I do not have blond hair and blue eyes, that my name is not ordinary, that my lineage is not easily identifiable.
And yet, there were days when I would have given anything to be like everyone else. Granted, I was still but a child, but to be different when you are a child is a very hard thing.
“He carries stars in his pockets because he knows she fears the dark. Whenever sadness pays her a visit, he paints galaxies on the back of her hands.” ~ Alaska Gold
There was a scene recently in a show that I follow in which the detective goes inside a closet and looks up; she sees stars, the kind of luminous plastic stars that you can stick to the ceiling in a child’s room. I have those stars above my bed. They used to be in the shape of a few constellations. I took great care in the placement, but in the years since, some have fallen down, and the constellations are incomplete. It wouldn’t have taken much to replace the ones that fell, but I chose not to because somehow the incompleteness of what I had created seemed to make more sense.
And that, my friends, is the true story of my life.
I gravitate towards the incomplete, the imperfect, the jagged and the broken, the lost, the wandering. It’s a harder road, one that fits squarely inside Frost’s maxim about the less traveled path. I remember I came upon that poem in high school, and it made perfect sense to me.
Why choose the road that everyone else has already taken? Discoveries cannot be made on such roads. Everything new under the sun, if there is still such a thing, will not be on a well-trod path. This I know, but I also admit that I probably could have avoided many falls and scrapes had I chosen differently.
“Look at how beautiful this ink is. Now do you understand why I needed clear water? Water is the brightness of the day and the whiteness of the paper. Black is the velvet of night and the satiny ink of the paintbrush. If you know how to make ink correctly, you will never again be afraid of nightmares.” ~ Françoise Place, from Hokusai (The Old Man Mad About Drawing)
I’ve probably mentioned it before, but I once wrote a poem about my ex called “For My Husband, Returning to His Lover” in the style of Anne Sexton’s “For My Lover Returning to his Wife.” I mention this now because I remember a particular passage of my poem in which I refer to my stretch marks:
Look closely, these faint gray lines
at the tops of both my thighs, surely
she has not acquired anything
quite as exquisite. Mine are badges,
earned by keeping pace with him
for decades–the many treks
we made across life’s arduous terrain.
Each scar on my body is a story. And had I gone the easy way, I would not have these stories to tell. I don’t regret any of it.
Look, I once refused to go on antidepressants because I wouldn’t be able to write. I told that particular doctor—who was a misogynistic quack—that he just didn’t understand, that I was nothing without my extreme highs and lows. Later, a doctor who I respected convinced me otherwise, but there is a part of me that still remembers the intensity of living without medication, and I would be lying if I said that I don’t wish that I had that, had those intense emotions all of the time, but the truth is that living day-to-day with such emotions will kill you, sometimes quickly, and sometimes slowly.
This post has taken on a life of its own, which is what happens when I suddenly unleash the floodgates.
More later. Peace.
(I am late in discovering Chinese artistChang Dai-chien, also known as Zhang Daqian (1899-1983). In 2012, “Lotus and Mandarin Ducks (1947), a painting by the artist fetched $191 million (Hong Kong) at auction. The price was more than nine times Sotheby’s estimate of HK$20 million.)
Music by Gretchen Peters, “On a Bus to St. Cloud”
We Should Be
We should be born old,
Come wise into the world
Already able to choose our destiny,
Already knowing the pathways that lead from the crossroads of the origin.
Then, it would only be irresponsible to yearn to go ahead.
Afterwards, we’d gradually grow younger,
Come to the gateway of creation mature and strong,
Pass through, and enter into love as adolescents,
Then be children when our children are born.
They’d immediately be older than we are.
They’d teach us to talk; they’d rock us to sleep in a cradle,
And then we’d disappear, getting smaller and smaller,
Like a grape, like a pea, like a grain of wheat …
“Sometimes moods of indescribable anguish, sometimes moments when the veil of time and fatality of circumstances seemed to be torn apart for an instant.” ~Vincent Van Gogh
Wednesday afternoon. Sunny and hot, 88 degrees.
(Forewarning: It’s long and rambling)
A day filled with sadness for several reasons.
Jake was surrendered to the shelter from which we adopted him. I did not go with Corey; instead, I began to clean as soon as I awoke (9 a.m., very early for me), which has once again become my solution to anything. That I have added yet another column to my lifetime table of guilt should surprise no one. I can only hope that Jake finds a family in which he can be the only child because I know that he would thrive in such an environment, as he has so much love and devotion to offer a lucky human.
Chalk up another major screw up. It’s not a pity party, exactly, more like a hating-life party. Or more specifically, hating my life, or hating how I live, or hating what I’m not doing in life, or hating how life has unfolded.
Circumstances. Sometimes, I really, really hate that word.
I don’t know. It’s all so tangled and gnarly, like a fishing net piled into a ball and left to dry in the sun—the result is a smelly mess needing much patience to disentangle the knots and snarls. I am sorely lacking in patience.
“The Greek word for ‘return’ is nostos. Algos means ‘suffering.’ So nostalgia is the suffering caused by an unappeased yearning to return.” ~ Milan Kundera, from Ignorance
What do you do when someone you know simply cannot let go of something? I have no doubts that many people who have known me have wondered the same thing, given my tendency to cling so firmly to what was, affecting my ability to move into the what may be. But for a change, it is someone else whose desires for something from the past that is affecting the present.
The particulars are not mine to disclose as it is a private matter. I can only say that I wish more than anything that I had never heard about this, this, thing? Event? Point in time? I wish that I had never been made privy to this information, so disturbing is it and all of its implications.
I can only say that if this individual chooses to pursue this path back into the past, many, many people will be hurt, perhaps beyond repair. I say this knowing that the heart wants what the heart wants, fully aware that the heart is selfish and very often, callous.
This person believes that he/she has a right to venture down this path. I disagree. Believe me, my reaction is not from the gut but from the heart and the head. I have mulled over this possibility more than once over the years. I have wondered what might happen should these circumstances arise, and I have lived with a buried sense of dread because knowing this person as I do, I know that he/she has only one thing in mind.
“I am carrying such weights of absolute sadness that I must at any moment be dragged down into the deepest sea and the person trying to seize or even ‘rescue’ me would give up, not from weakness, not even from hopelessness but from sheer annoyance.” ~ Franz Kafka, Letters To Milena
So I’m having a visit with my old compatriot—regret. The two of us go back far too many years. All of the what-ifs, the might-have-beens, the why-nots, the if-only. Sometimes I feel that I should have the two words IF ONLY tattooed prominently on my body for all to see. It might keep me from trying to explain myself. Or maybe not.
Look. The current distressed state in which I currently find myself is not solely because of what happened with Jake, but god knows that plays a part. As I mentioned earlier, life in the abode has been a virtual wall-to-wall bed of nails. Step lightly lest you fall and open a lot of wounds. For a day or so, I actually thought that things were beginning to get better. I had a day in which I was able to think about floating around in the pool, reading a book, relaxing, not that I did any of these things.
I was so, so wrong.
Have you ever listened to the soundtrack from the movie Philadelphia, the one starring Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington? It has to be one of the saddest, most gut-wrenching soundtracks in existence. From start to finish it is a compilation of heartbreaking songs, and of course, I know each and every song by heart. The only reason the soundtrack isn’t my current writing music is that were it on I would probably not be writing but singing to myself.
I feel as if my life right now is that soundtrack on perpetual repeat.
“It is always important to know when something has reached its end. Closing circles, shutting doors, finishing chapters, it doesn’t matter what we call it; what matters is to leave in the past those moment in life that are over.” ~ Paulo Coelho, from The Zahir
Regrets. I was speaking of them.
I regret putting my family and a sweet, lovely dog through the mill for a situation that I truly believed would turn out differently.
I regret that the depression from which I suffer spills over into every aspect of my life.
I regret that I did not tell my father that I loved him every chance that I had.
I regret that I didn’t pursue my doctorate decades ago when it would have been much more feasible.
I regret getting to this age without accomplishing even 25 percent of what I had planned.
I regret that my genetic make-up and predisposition to mental illness has been passed to my offspring.
I regret that I was never able to give Corey a child of his own.
That last one ↑? That’s a super big one. It’s the one that I always felt would deal a death-blow to my marriage. Not all at once, but as time passed. Each time he holds Olivia, I see the wistfulness in his eyes, and now that his brother Chad is a new dad to a beautiful baby boy once again, I can see the pain just below the surface. It’s there. I know it’s there. And I can do nothing, absolutely nothing about it.
“Why did everything always change, when all you wanted, all you had ever humbly asked of whatever God there might be, was that certain things be allowed to remain the same.” ~ Richard Yates, from Revolutionary Road
I apologize for the disjointedness of this post; it comes from wanting to say so much and having to self-censor in order to respect another person’s privacy. It also comes from feeling such absolute sadness, a sadness that is born of much and little.
Much? How about an inability to give a part myself to someone who means more than life itself, and the ramifications of that inability? A real inability, not a desire not to do so—big difference.
Little? Many would see the betrayal of Jake as not being that significant. After all, he’s a dog, right? You obviously don’t know me at all.
Aside: I had told myself years ago that before I got too old to do so that I would run in a 5k race and that I would finish it, even if I came in last. I also told myself that before I got too old I would get my doctorate, even if I never got a job with it. I told myself that I would take the time to put together a manuscript and that I would look for an agent. And I told myself that some day, I would have another daughter.
How is any of this relevant? Only in how it proves how much I lie to myself, and how cruel fate can be.
“How one must be thrust over a finished cycle in life, and that leap the most difficult to make . . . The struggle to emerge out of the past, clean of memories; the inadequacy of our hearts to cut life into separate and final portions . . . the hunger for frontiers against which we might lean as upon closed doors before we proceed forward” ~ Anaïs Nin, from The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 1: 1931-1934
Do you know what I wish? I wish that the child that Corey is currently rocking in the Bentwood rocker was his. But I also wish that it didn’t matter so much to him. I wish that the unconditional love that I offer could be enough. I wish that I could be dense, could fool myself. I wish that we had had the resources a decade ago to try in vitro; perhaps if that had happened successfully, then the complete and utter despair that I feel now wouldn’t be happening. I wish that I were enough, but I know that I’m not. I wish that pain wasn’t palpable, that longing wasn’t visible, and that regret was not in my vocabulary.
I have never wished that I hadn’t gotten involved with Corey, even though there were several members of his family who wished that were so (at the time). But I have wished that I could have been someone else for him, even though I profess to be happy with myself as I am. I wish that I had a perky upturned nose and blond hair and significant ta tas and a name like Cindy or Blair. I wish that I fit squarely into the category of All-American girl.
Yeah. Most of those previous statements were lies. At least on some level. I like being different. I like my olive skin and dark hair. I like my exotic name. I like that a man once told me that I should be treated like a goddess and that another man wrote me a poem in which he compared me to a multicolored butterfly. But for every one thing that I like about myself, there are two that I don’t.
All I know is that right now, at this moment, I feel sad and lonely and more than a little insufficient. It’s times like these that the thought crosses my mind that if I were addicted to something, I could just take it and float off into oblivion.
“And what were they anyway, sprigs of grass, things of blue? For a long time I wanted to use words, then didn’t.” ~ Mary Ruefle, Madness, Rack, and Honey
Friday early evening, 80 degrees. Tropic Storm Andrea warning in effect.
I know. I know. The time between real posts seems to stretch on inexorably. The truth is, writing is hard at the moment. The truth is, I find myself in the midst of a major depressive episode, the likes of which I haven’t seen in many years.
If I knew, I might be able to find some kind of resolution, but there really is no why. Not really. I’m just kind of empty, kind of numb, kind of unable to string together words to form sentences, sentences to form paragraphs. Mostly, I can write about why I can’t write, and I’m not really sure what kind of post that will produce, but I thought that I’d at least try.
If you’ve never suffered from depression, you simply cannot relate. You might try to understand, but it will be hard. It’s hard enough for the person who is suffering from depression. And because it is to hard for her or for him, it is hard for anyone who might happen to be in the vicinity.
I can only say in advance, that I’m sorry.
“—You’re very poetic. —No, just sad.” ~ José Saramago, fromBlindness
I think that this started about six weeks ago, but to be honest, I’m not sure. I know that it started while Corey was still at sea. It didn’t abate once he returned home, and it (the depression) took a major hit when I held my small dog Alfie’s body in my arms as Brett dug a grave beneath his bedroom window.
In an attempt to alleviate my pain and sorrow, I convinced everyone that it was time to visit the human society from which we had adopted Tillie so that we could find a playmate for her, someone closer to her size. The reality is that it was too soon; I realize that now, but of course, it’s too late as we came home with two new dogs: a hound mix 8-week-old puppy I named Kopi, which is Indonesian for coffee (I had wanted to call her Gilly, but Tillie kept getting confused), and a 17-month-old named Jake, for Jack Kerouac (his name was Jack, but we all kept saying Jake, so that was obviously what he was supposed to be called).
You would think that the adoptions would have made some of the sadness go away, but instead, Jake reminds me of Shakes because he is an obvious mama’s boy who clings to me, and this made me think of Alfie, who was never loved enough because of Shakes, and it made me sad all over.
Add to this that the playmate we hoped Jake would be has not turned out as planned: Jake and Tillie do not get along at all; in fact, they seem to despise one another, but everyone gets along with Kopi.
And all of this has led to more guilt on my part for not waiting longer, guilt for bringing home two new pets without considering that Tillie might not like it even though we took her to the shelter with us, and she played with both of them without any problems while we were there. And of course guilt that life sucks for everyone when it sucks for mom.
“In my mind I am eloquent; I can climb intricate scaffolds of words to reach the highest cathedral ceilings and paint my thoughts. But when I open my mouth, everything collapses.” ~ Isaac Marion, from Warm Bodies
Depression is so insidious and unpredictable. It creeps up like a slow-moving fog, or it hits like a mighty nor’easter, all at once and unrelenting. This time, it was a bit of both. There was the gradual descent, and then the sudden appearance of a precipice. I was unprepared.
As many of you know, I am on antidepressants and mood stabilizers, so some of you may be confused as to why I am depressed. The truth is that there is only so much that medicine can do. The brain is a funny thing. Somewhere within mine, a switch didn’t throw all of the way, or a connection was broken, and now, there is this, this nothingness, this painful numbness.
Depression comes from the brain, but it is felt in the heart.
I try very hard not to let mine show too much, but I know that I’m not very successful in doing so. And now we have two dogs and a plus one, for whom a future is uncertain. I know that we cannot return him to the shelter; that would be too cruel, for him to live with a family, get lots of attention, have a yard in which to run and play, and then to find himself inside a cage? I couldn’t do that to my worst enemy. And so we are searching for a family that can give him love. Unsuccessfully, so far. Ideally, behavior modification would be possible, and we could live happily with all three dogs.\
Ideally . . .
“I had the idea that the world’s so full of pain it must sometimes make a kind of singing.” ~ Robert Hass, from “Faint Music,” in Sun Under Wood
Outside, nature seems to be a perfect reflection of my state of mind: It is at once sunny and partly cloudy, and in the very next instant, grey with whipping winds. Who knows how intense this storm will be. We may have a fierce tropical storm or a short-lived thunderstorm, but I’m trying to pen this before everything hits and before Alexis arrives with the baby.
Even though my heart isn’t quite in it, we are taking Olivia for tonight and perhaps tomorrow night. It is going to be a task to continue to try to keep Jake and Tillie separated, try to watch over Kopi to make frequent trips outside for the potty training, and then, add to the mix the curious 11-month-old that Olivia has become, but I haven’t seen her in many days, and I miss her terribly.
Part of me thinks “to hell with it” as what’s a little more stress added to the mix, and part of me thinks this is another bad decision atop other bad decisions, and yet another part of me just doesn’t care enough to do anything about it.
The air outside is like liquid as the humidity is climbing to 100 percent, and my sinuses are constricting with the climb. A smarter person would crawl into bed for the duration, but a smarter person would not have brought home two new dogs so soon after the loss of long-time pets.
If I only had a brain . . .
“I wanted my own words. But the ones I use have been dragged through I don’t know how many consciences.”—Jean-Paul Sartre, from The Wall
It all goes back to my first section: Why?
I read an interesting piece about Stephen Fry, who I love in every single thing he does. Apparently, while working on a project in 2012, he had a major episode and attempted suicide by taking a bunch of pills with vodka. Fry, who suffers from bipolar disease, described it better than I could, although I must emphasize that I am in no way feeling suicidal:
“There is no ‘why’, it’s not the right question. There’s no reason. If there were a reason for it, you could reason someone out of it, and you could tell them why they shouldn’t take their own life.”
I mention this only because of Fry’s phrasing that there is no reason, and while he may have been talking about someone who is thinking about committing suicide, I apply the words to my own depressive episodes: There is no reason. Sometimes there is, but more often than not, there just isn’t. And so people on the outside sometimes think reductively, as in, “it’s all in her head,” and funnily enough, it is—in a way.
I’ll try to put together another post in the next few days, and maybe by then I’ll be able to express myself a bit more cogently, until then,
Image theme: Blues
Music by S. Carey, “In the Stream”
The Truth the Dead Know
For my mother, born March 1902, died March 1959
and my father, born February 1900, died June 1959
Gone, I say and walk from church,
refusing the stiff procession to the grave,
letting the dead ride alone in the hearse.
It is June. I am tired of being brave.
We drive to the Cape. I cultivate
myself where the sun gutters from the sky,
where the sea swings in like an iron gate
and we touch. In another country people die.
My darling, the wind falls in like stones
from the whitehearted water and when we touch
we enter touch entirely. No one’s alone.
Men kill for this, or for as much.
And what of the dead? They lie without shoes
in their stone boats. They are more like stone
than the sea would be if it stopped. They refuse
to be blessed, throat, eye and knucklebone.