“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.” ~ Neil Gaiman
Welcome to 2014. I wish all of you much health, happiness, and prosperity in the coming year. May this be the year that I finally begin to get it right . . .
“I have the opportunity, once more to right some wrongs, to pray for peace, to plant some trees, and sing more joyful songs.” ~ William Arthur Ward
May your ails be small, your happiness immense, and your hearts filled with love and hope.
“Watch out for each other. Love everyone and forgive everyone, including yourself. Forgive your anger. Forgive your guilt. Your shame. Your sadness. Embrace and open up your love, your joy, your truth, and most especially your heart.” ~ Jim Henson
Had to add New York and London, of course, which weren’t available when I created this post:
“The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes.” ~ G. K. Chesterton
And may we all find a little more wisdom, have a little more patience, and give a little more freely.
“Time was passing like a hand waving from a train I wanted to be on.” ~ Jonathan Safran Foer
Tuesday afternoon. Rainy, moderate temperatures in low 50s.
It’s been a week since my last post. I’ve been in bed since Friday afternoon with bronchitis. I’m just glad that it didn’t hit completely until after Thanksgiving dinner. It’s been full blown: the painful cough, nasty stuff in my throat and chest. I’ve been putting off going to the doctor, first because it was the weekend, and then because I started to feel better.
Then last night, I felt absolutely horrible again, probably because I tried to do a few things yesterday. Today, my big accomplishment was doing the dishes and putting a load of clothes in the washing machine. I’m hoping to make it through this post, mostly because I miss sitting here, but the idea of sitting here, upright was really too much to contemplate for several days.
And then, there was the added strain of Eamonn getting sick also. His did not seem to be bronchitis, more of some kind of virus that hit his stomach and left him quite ill. I will spare you the details, but at one point, I was seriously considering taking him to the ER because I was afraid that he was dehydrated, but he came through okay, and even went to work today.
So at the moment, it’s just the dogs and me and the rain outside. Let me put it into perspective for you: I was so sick that I didn’t even want my daily coffee. Just the thought of coffee made me feel nauseous. But I’m hoping that the worst has passed and that I won’t need to make that trip to the doctor. Fortunately, I’ve been able to control the cough enough so that it hasn’t caused a headache, which almost always happens when I get bronchitis: I cough madly, and end up with a migraine, which gets worse the more that I cough. The ensuing migraine this time was short-lived (I’m really liking the effects of the Botox if this is all that I have to deal with).
Funny that, being thankful for a migraine that only lasts four hours.
“The world about us would be desolate except for the world within us.” ~ Wallace Stevens,The Necessary Angel: Reality & the Imagination
So Thanksgiving dinner was fairly successful. My mother didn’t complain too much. In fact, she was on her best behavior. The turkey was perfection, and of course, we had too much food. Something to be thankful for, I know. Although next year I need to remember to get a slightly bigger turkey so that there are more leftovers for sandwiches.
I worked myself into a frenzy right into the middle of the afternoon, even though my back rebelled in a big way. I just get that perfectionist thing going and can’t stop myself. However, I did leave myself enough time to paint my nails and put on a bit of makeup so that I didn’t look like a total hag. But I was glad that everything went well, and there was no major family drama.
Corey had to work until 4 p.m., so everything was pretty much up to me. Brett helped with moving things, which I never could have done alone.
Of course, my mother called the next day with her questions and criticisms, but even these were kept to a minimum. Could she be mellowing?
Nah, probably not. Still, Corey and I agreed that overall, things went much better than expected, which is a sad commentary in itself—to be prepared for the motherly criticism of everything from the food to the state of the house. Oh well. What can you do? Nothing, really.
And so it goes.
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” ~ Marcel Proust
Actually, other than dinner and being sick, I don’t have much to say. I finished reading the book that I had already read; although I must admit that knowing who the villain was in advance did detract from my overall enjoyment, but I was reading mostly because I couldn’t do anything else, so it turned out okay. I wouldn’t have wanted to start a new book that required too much concentration as I was quite unable to devote too many brain cells to concentration.
Yesterday because of the vehicle situation, I had to drop Corey off in one place and then take Em and Brett to ODU. I swear that I almost fell asleep on the return trip from ODU, which is not good. I was full of cold medicine and running on restless sleep, which did not make for a good combination. I opened all the windows and prayed until I got home.
I really don’t like doing that. I remember towards the end of my stay at GW, making that trip to Newport News each day was really taking a toll on me, and more than once I found myself driving while unconscious (not really), but you know what I mean—arriving somewhere without having any memory of the trip to get there. Hate, hate that.
So yesterday’s trip made me quite anxious, and I came home and collapsed into the bed and immediately fell asleep. I did not wake up again until Corey called to say that he was ready to be picked up.
He took a refresher test for his merchant mariner’s credentials. Actually, it was two tests, both of which he scored 100 percent. So proud of him. He is slowly passing each hurdle, and we are just holding our collective breaths that everything will move smoothly towards him being able to go back to sea in 2012.
“We are all in the same boat in a stormy sea, and we owe each other a terrible loyalty.” ~ G. K. Chesterton
You know, our luck hasn’t been the best these past few years, so when something actually does go our way, we seem to move in a state of disbelief, waiting for the incipient bad news to arrive on our doorstep. It’s hard to adjust our thinking to the concept that we might actually be making headway.
I suppose a lot of it is that we don’t want to get our hopes up only to have them come crashing down about our ears again. If one doesn’t hope, then one cannot be disappointed. Right?
But I keep telling Corey that his time has come, that he deserves a change for the better. And I’m not just saying these things as a pep talk. I truly believe that he is due for some better fortune. We have both become so used to living in a state of constant uncertainty that it is hard to accept that we may be facing better days. It’s a bit like that poor abused dog, the one who is so used to a slap instead of a treat that he cowers whenever a hand comes within proximity.
But perhaps what that hand is proffering is in fact good? Dare we hope? I honestly don’t know, the old cart before the horse way of thinking. So I try to think good thoughts but temper them with a cold dose of reality.
I mean, think about the explorers of old: they looked for the horizon each time they put that glass to their eyes; they hoped that it was there, but they tried not to hope too much so that the disappointment wouldn’t quash them completely. But then one day, they caught a glimpse of something. They put the glass down, shook their head, paused. Then they looked again, and yes, it was in fact something besides the vast sea before them.
Can you imagine the kind of determination it must have taken to board a boat without any kind of computerized navigational systems, just a sextant, a compass, and a piece of parchment on which to plot courses to the unknown? To set sail with only an inkling that there was something out there? To hope against hope that the inkling would prove true?
“I don’t know where there is, but I believe it’s somewhere, and I hope it’s beautiful.” ~ John Green,Looking for Alaska
In a way, our family has been at sea for a while. Our provisions have been slight but sufficient. We have been voyaging, like so many others, in the hopes that we will find terra firma sooner than later.
We are now at the point at which we believe that we have espied something. Exactly what, we are still unsure. But just the hope that it’s out there—it’s enough to keep us going. And the reality is that we have one another.
I hope that we have weathered the worst, but I cannot say for certain. In spite of this, I feel a sense of calm. I feel a sense of—dare I say the words aloud—a sense of promise of better days. Perhaps all of this is simply my body feeling better because the worse of my recent bout is behind me, but I don’t think so. I sense a change in the air, smell a fresher scent on the wind.
What it rests upon is this: In spite of all of my bitching and moaning to the contrary, I still believe. I still believe that good things are out there, that castles in the air can find weight in reality, that dreams can come true. I know that it is the romantic in me, the one who surfaces upon occasion and declares that love, peace, and good will triumph. The one who still thinks that there is indeed a balm in Gilead that will make the wounded whole.
I know that you don’t see this side often, that this aspect does not often turn its face towards the sun. But it is still there, subsumed most of the time, but not gone.
Do I still dream? Of course I do. It’s just that sometimes, I forget that there are always possibilities. That the no-win scenario is, indeed, surmountable, that it’s just a matter of perspective.
More later. Peace.
Music by the Cary Brothers, “Take Your Time”
The Small Cabin
The house we built gradually
from the ground up when we were young
(three rooms, the walls
raw trees) burned down
last year they said
I didn’t see it, and so
the house is still there in me
among branches as always I stand
inside it looking out
at the rain moving across the lake
but when I go back
to the empty place in the forest
the house will blaze and crumple
suddenly in my mind
collapsing like a cardboard carton
thrown on a bonfire, summers
crackling, my earlier
selves outlined in flame.
Left in my head will be
the blackened earth: the truth.
“You are standing in the sky. When we think of the sky, we tend to look up, but the sky actually begins at the earth. We walk through it, yell into it . . .We breathe it deep within us. With every breath, we inhale millions of molecules of sky, heat them briefly, and then exhale them back into the world.” ~ Diane Ackerman
When we are children, we have such dreams, dreams of who we’ll be, where we’ll go, who we’ll meet, things we will accomplish. We see possibilities everywhere, and it doesn’t occur to us not to think these things.
I remember thinking that I could live in a castle, that I could live on a farm, that I could swing on a trapeze and fly through the air, that I could be president of the United States. I dreamed of being an actor, a singer, a writer. I read Island of the Blue Dolphins and dreamed of living on an island and fending for myself in much the same way as the book’s main character. I read fables and tales of imaginary places and wondered what it would be like to live in such ethereal places.
And then I remember the first time an adult quashed my dreams: I wrote a poem in the 7th grade, and the teacher—a humorless man with dandruff on his shoulders—told me quite frankly that it wasn’t a poem because it did not rhyme and because it didn’t have the correct rhythm, which he proceeded to recite for me: da duh da duh da duh da duh. I looked at him in horror and walked away. I dropped the poem in the wastebasket on my way out the classroom.
Adults forget how to dream, and they very often forget that children still possess that ability.
“Her father’s well-remembered voice came to save her. ‘When you’re sad, my Little Star, go out of doors. It’s always better underneath the open sky.’” ~ Eva Ibbotson, The Countess Below the Stairs
Do I still dream?
I e-mailed a former colleague today and made the statement that I’m still trying to figure out what I’ll be when I grow up; there is more than a gram of truth in those words.
Let me back up: I know that the month of November leaves me completely spent emotionally. Even though this year was not terrible, it still affected me in ways that I am only now acknowledging. So I write this post full of pent-up emotions and unfulfilled dreams. I write with a sense of pain that lies always just beneath the surface. At least I am aware of this much.
At one point in my life I thought that I truly had all of the answers. How utterly laughable. I was in my mid-20’s and full of a sense of power and accomplishment that I had neither earned nor deserved. This reality did not keep me from acting as though the world was mine for the taking. I had but to reach out and my just rewards would come to me.
Ah youth. Folly and hubris rule unabated. Unabated, that is, until someone older and perhaps wiser steps in and crushes those dreams.
Is life just one long sequence of dreams followed by crushing realities? Do we ever reach a point at which the cycle stops? Does it take the relinquishing of dreams for this to happen? If so, then I refuse.
“Throw away the light, the definitions, and say what you see in the dark.” ~ Wallace Stevens
What do I dream? I dream of lazy afternoons, floating above the earth in a large hammock, a book on my chest, the sun in my eyes. I dream of hiking the Virginia foothills again, no thoughts of pain keeping me from the adventure. I dream of finally seeing the Grand Canyon and walking among the verdant hills of Ireland.
I dream of writing the ultimate sentence, the one that makes me pause and say to myself, ‘Damn. That’s good.’ I dream of sitting in a darkened theater and listening to Puccini. And I dream of the day when I can think of those in my life who are no longer here and not feel as if my soul has been cleaved.
Thick cream-colored linen writing paper, hot mugs of strong sweet tea, wines heady with perfect blends of fruit and smoke, and rows upon rows of books. Reading lines of verse that make me wish that they were mine and listening to music that makes me teary-eyed. Walking through Central Park in the fall and smelling fresh cardamom and cinnamon in the markets of some far-away country.
Traveling by rail from Istanbul to anywhere. Seeing the earth below me from a hot air balloon. An afternoon spent on a beach fronting blue waters clear enough to see the bottom. Lying in a clearing at night beneath the open sky, gazing up at stars unobscured by city lights.
“I am the one who splits in the night.” ~ Jean-Paul Sartre
What will I be?
I am old enough to remember “Que Sera,” to remember thinking to myself that it was a song of promises. I am also old enough to know all that I do not know, will never know.
These things I know: I will always be a product of the soil that nurtured me, which means that I will always be part of two worlds. I will be my father’s daughter, the good girl, the girl who could do anything, and I will be my mother’s daughter, the girl who was always reminded of imperfections, the girl who never knew how to do enough.
I have opened my heart to those who have trampled it and tossed it by the wayside carelessly. I have given my heart to those who have cherished it and held onto it with great care. I have learned to love again and again, and continue to be astounded at all that there is to learn about love—still.
I have bared my soul to strangers and friends, and I have found comfort in the arms of the unlikely. I have railed at injustices—real and perceived, and I have keened until I thought that my heart would break. I have laughed until I couldn’t breathe, and I have experienced bliss that left me breathless and weak.
A self-proclaimed curmudgeon, I am self-aware enough to know that at heart, I am a romantic. The complexity of all that is me still catches me unawares at times, as if this skin that I am in is new and untested, but that is hardly so.
“We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of the dream. Wandering by lone sea breakers, and sitting by desolate streams. World losers and world forsakers, for whom the pale moon gleams.” ~Arthur William Edgar O’Shaughnessy
What is the point in all of this? Damned if I know. I suppose that once in a while I find it imperative to gaze intently at my belly button to try to discern if some pattern exists, and quite predictably, one never does.
At night, as I seek the comfort of my bed, no great truths come to me. No epiphanies lurk on the periphery of my vision. At least, not usually, and I have become accustomed to that. If asked to identify the meaning of life, I would be just as hard-pressed as the next person. I know only that I still have much to know, that what I know I paid dearly to learn, and that there are things that I would quite willingly unknow if only I could.
I cheat destiny when I can because I know what an exacting master destiny can be. As the song says, “it’s only half past the point of no return.” I have enough fuel left in me to continue this journey, and with luck, I may one day reach the point at which I become what I am supposed to be.
Until then, “the time has come, my little friends, to talk of other things, of shoes and ships and sealing wax, and cabbages and kings” (Lewis Carroll).
More later. Peace.
Music by Pink, “Glitter in the Air”
Glitter in the Air
Have you ever fed a lover with just your hands?
Closed your eyes and trusted, just trusted?
Have you ever thrown a fist full of glitter in the air?
Have you ever looked fear in the face and said, “I just don’t care”?
It’s only half past the point of no return
The tip of the iceberg
The sun before the burn
The thunder before the lightning
The breath before the phrase
Have you ever felt this way?
Have you ever hated yourself for staring at the phone?
You’re whole life waiting on the ring to prove you’re not alone
Have you ever been touched so gently you had to cry?
Have you ever invited a stranger to come inside?
It’s only half past the point of oblivion
The hourglass on the table
The walk before the run
The breath before the kiss
And the fear before the flames
Have you ever felt this way?
La La La La La La La La
There you are, sitting in the garden
Clutching my coffee,
Calling me sugar
You called me sugar
Have you ever wished for an endless night?
Lassoed the moon and the stars and pulled that rope tight?
Have you ever held your breath and asked yourself will it ever get better than tonight?