“Get used to the bear behind you.” ~ Werner Herzog, from 24 pieces of life advice

Ferdinand Hodler Portrait of Giulia Leonardi 1910
“Portrait of Guilia Leonardi” (1910)
by Ferdinand Hodler*

“I fear I will be ripped open and found unsightly.” ~ Anne Sexton, from A Self Portrait In Letters

Sunday afternoon. Sunny and chilly, 51 degrees.

Well, long time, no write, hmm?

Let’s see. Where were we? When last I posted, I was in the midst of a never ending migraine, one that wouldn’t abate with shots, meds, what have you. Finally, I went on an aggressive two-week regimen with upped doses of my pain meds, and it seemed to break, at least for a while. Good news on that front, yes, but don’t worry. Things continued to be interesting.

Ferdinand Hodler Portrait of Berthe Jacques 1894 oil on canvas
“Portrait of Berthe Jacques” (1894, oil on canvas)

It seems I’ve developed akathisia from my seroquel, one of the meds I was on for sleep and anxiety. What is akathisia, you might ask? Well, it’s this wonderful condition in which you cannot stop your body from moving: tapping feet, rocking from side to side, and all kinds of variations. Mine appeared as an ability to keep my feet from moving while lying in bed at night, but I didn’t really think anything of it. I have no idea when it started, exactly, but it’s been going on for a while.

So at my last check-in with my prescribing psychiatrist, she noticed that I was fidgety. She asked me how long I had been that way. Who knows, I said. I’m quite anxious at the moment with everything that’s going on in my life. Could be that, I said. She gave me a look, suggested we switch up meds, try an extended release seroquel. Great.

Well that particular medicine landed me in bed, unable to wake up for more than a few hours. Not so good. I mentioned the fidgeting to my neurologist at that checkup. He gave me that look. Said, look I don’t want to worry you, but I want you to look up extra-pyramidal syndrome and akathisia.

So I did.

Crap.

“As for myself, I am splintered by great waves. I am coloured glass from a church window long since shattered. I find pieces of myself everywhere, and I cut myself handling them.” ~ Jeanette Winterson, from Lighthousekeeping

So ny prescribing psych and I agreed to stop the seroquel completely. Only problem is that at night, I cannot get comfortable. My feet won’t stop, and my legs feel terrible, and everything sucks. Yes, yes. RLS, or restless leg syndrome, which I supposedly do have, but which can be mistaken for akathisia, or vice versa. Add to that that our mattress is worn and it makes my back hurt, and on and on and on . . . ad infinitum. So it’s back to the doctor(s) to try to tweak the meds.

Ferdinand Hodler Portrait study to Look into the Infinity 1916 oil on canvas
“Portrait study to ‘Look into the Infinity'” (1916, oil on canvas)

Look. Enough already. I am so fricking tired of not feeling good that I’m ready to bang my head against a wall, except for that whole headache thing. I need some energy. I need to feel like myself. And I especially need to be able to sit down at this computer and do stuff instead of looking at it across the bedroom as if it were some time bomb getting ready to go off.

I literally have not sat in this chair and plied these keys in weeks. I’ve even taken to glancing at my e-mail on my phone, of all things. Oh the joys of having a smart phone. I look up medical terms like akathisia. I look up the weather. I look up whatever, anything to avoid coming back here.

Don’t ask me why being here, on this computer, on this forum is paralyzing me, but it is. I suppose its my unspoken pact with myself that I will continue to keep this blog going, that I will make it a place in which people who love quotes and art and minutiae will enjoy visiting, and because I have not done that for months now, I feel like such a failure—once again

“It’s never the changes we want that change everything.” ~ Junot Diaz, from The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Ferdinand Hodler Empfindung 1901 tempera on canvas
“Empfindung” (1901, tempera on canvas)

Things are precarious at the moment. One son is completely heartbroken over a relationship that he ended and has decided that former girlfriend is now the love of his life. Ah to be 23 . . . not. Another son has been off his meds and is trying to cope, but I don’t think it’s working. And my daughter? Geez, I can’t begin to figure out what is going on in her mind, what possesses her to continue to do the stupid things that she does. I just want to grab her and shake her and say, “What the hell are you doing with your life?”

Then the whole oil/shipping thing has us over a barrel (no pun intended). We never thought we’d be facing down a repeat of those black years of 2008-2010, but it appears we are. Is it horrible that I want gas prices to go back up? Ah yes, it’s wonderful to be able to fill the tank for under $40, but given a choice, I’d rather spend more at the tank and have jobs come back in the industry.

And out of respect for Corey’s wishes I haven’t written about the situation before, but his family knows now, and the kids know, so what does it matter that I’m throwing it all out there again?

“I would like. I would like anything at all, but fast. I would like to get out of here. I would like to be rid of all this. I would like to start all over again. I would like to leave all this. Not to leave through an exit. I would like a multiple leaving, a whole spread of them. An endless leaving, an ideal leaving so that once I’ve left I begin leaving again right away.” ~ Henri Michaux, from “With Mescaline,” trans. David Ball

So is it any wonder that I have retreated from everything?

I haven’t been on my tumblr in a month. My inbox is completely overflowing. Mail lies unopened on the table by the front door. Furniture goes unpolished. Dust has gathered in corners, forming tumbleweeds. And I walk through the house seeing, but unable to act.

Ferdinand Hodler The Truth 1903
“The Truth” (1903)

When Olivia is here, it is a brief respite, a welcome distraction, but it also exhausts me. I leave the house to go to doctors’ appointments and for little else. Corey and I pass one another silently. He keeps to the dining room, looking out the back door, and I stay in here, a self-imposed prisoner to my bed. We don’t seem to be able to help one another.

What kind of life is this?

The only good thing is that I have been devouring books, that is up until this past week, when I suddenly found it impossible to concentrate on the words before me. Before that, I went through almost a dozen books, but books can only sustain for so long before the brain begins to shut down. And beneath all of this runs the undercurrent of my mother.

“The present is already too much for me. I can’t cope with the future as well.” ~ Salman Rushdie, from Shalimar the Clown

You see, I still haven’t made it to the cemetery to put on the silk flowers I bought ages ago. I still haven’t paid to have the dates put on her gravestone, and now I don’t have the money to do so. And so I have failed her once again.

Ferdinand Hodler The Dream 1897 watercolor on cardboard
“The Dream” (1897, watercolor on cardboard)

Will I ever arrive at a day on which I do not think of my mother and close my eyes in shame and regret for all of the ways in which I failed to make a difference in her life? Do you know the number of times in my life that I can remember my mother telling me she was proud of me? One. The number of times in my life I can remember her telling me she loved me? A handful.

How could this woman who so many found helpful and friendly have had such a completely different demeanor when it came to her only daughter, her only child? I will never have the answer to that question. Not ever, and so I continue to be haunted in the backdrop of each day by what a complete and utter failure our relationship was, how we failed one another, how I never quite measured up.

And you know what? That really and truly sucks.

More later (I truly hope to keep this promise). Peace.

*All images are by Swiss artist Ferdinand Hodler (1853-1817), one of the leading symbolist painters of the late 19th century. I love his paintings of women.

Music by Beth Orton, “Mystery”

                    

The Sensual World

I call to you across a monstrous river or chasm
to caution you, to prepare you.

Earth will seduce you, slowly, imperceptibly,
subtly, not to say with connivance.

I was not prepared: I stood in my grandmother’s kitchen,
holding out my glass. Stewed plums, stewed apricots–

the juice poured off into the glass of ice.
And the water added, patiently, in small increments,

the various cousins discriminating, tasting
with each addition–

aroma of summer fruit, intensity of concentration:
the colored liquid turning gradually lighter, more radiant,

more light passing through it.
Delight, then solace. My grandmother waiting,

to see if more was wanted. Solace, then deep immersion.
I loved nothing more: deep privacy of the sensual life,

the self disappearing into it or inseparable from it,
somehow suspended, floating, its needs

fully exposed, awakened, fully alive–
Deep immersion, and with it

mysterious safety. Far away, the fruit glowing it its glass bowls.
Outside the kitchen, the sun setting.

I was not prepared: sunset, end of summer. Demonstrations
of time as a continuum, as something coming to an end,

not a suspension: the senses wouldn’t protect me.
I caution you as I was never cautioned:

you will never let go, you will never be satiated.
You will be damaged and scarred, you will continue to hunger.

Your body will age, you will continue to need.
You will want the earth, then more of the earth–

Sublime, indifferent, it is present, it will not respond.
It is encompassing, it will not minister.

Meaning, it will feed you, it will ravish you,
it will not keep you alive.

~

“If I keep still enough inside this shadow, it is as if I am not here. If I keep still enough, there is no proof you are not here with me.” ~ Conchitina Cruz, from “Disappear”

Pacific Grey Blue by Russel Tomlin flickr
Pacific | Grey Blue
by Russell Tomlin (Flickr)

“As my mind tries to settle on it, it flutters away, like ashes caught in a breeze, and I realize that in my life there is a then, a before, though before what I cannot say, and there is a now, and there is nothing between the two but a long, silent emptiness that has led me here.” ~ S.J. Watson, from Before I Go to Sleep

I came across a new poet (new for me) whose words speak to the numbness that controls my body today. I am hollow, all played out from yesterday’s break. I want to do nothing more than nothing. I have not had such a bad break since my father died. It’s not all about Jennifer. It’s about all of them, all of the losses, all of the unspeakable losses that I am constantly trying to speak of. People lost. Dreams lost. Friendships lost.

I Will be Silent by augenweide deviantART
“I Will be Silent”
by augenweide (deviantART)

Sometimes, I live in a shadow world, one filled with grey clouds and white mists, and I hide myself there, the better to protect my heart, yet once I am within, my heart becomes laid bare, so much easier to pierce with pain again and again. There is no place I can hide. I should not want to hide. I should be stronger. I am not strong.

I feel like the French Lieutenant’s woman, standing on that spit in the middle of a gale, the wind buffeting my body from all sides, and all I have is a thin cloak about me, and it offers so little protection. If the wrong gust hits me, I will fall off, yet I do not attempt to move back from the edge.

“Nothing has an unlikely quality. It is heavy.” ~ Jeanette Winterson, from Weight: The Myth of Atlas and Heracles

My body aches from the inside all the way to the tips of my fingers. The wracking sobs left me with a fierce migraine and sore eyes. The only thing piercing the numbness is the physical pain. The emotional pain is flat, a straight plane, extending into infinity from all directions. It is an exacting lassitude, a profound stupor, a dull torpor of the body and soul.

Yet there is no cave in which I can find shelter, no bulwark behind which I can find protection. I am alone out there on the rocks, slick from the water of waves and rain.

It may take a while to recover from this. I will write my way through . . .

Samuel Barber, “Adagio for Strings”

                   

Morning

You never know when somebody will walk away from you on a bright day on a busy street, never looking back and

you cannot believe the slow disappearance, cannot believe what is moving away from your reach until the busy street no longer needs its presence to look the same, because it is the same.

And the city offers you its fruits and fish, and the churchgoers life their veils as they step out in the open

and you know the picture is incomplete but it can stand for itself

and who are you to ask for more, who are you to insist on hunger?

~ Conchitina R. Cruz

“I seem to have run in a great circle, and met myself again on the starting line.” ~ Jeanette Winterson

Really?

“I must hold in balance the sense of the futility of effort and the sense of the necessity to struggle; the conviction of the inevitability of failure and still the determination to ‘succeed’—and, more than these, the contradiction between the dead hand of the past and the high intentions of the future.” ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Crack-Up

Thursday afternoon. Rainy and cold, 45°, 32° colder than yesterday.

I’ve pulled out the yoga pants, Christmas socks, and white cotton sweaters. Bring on the cold weather. Next Thursday is Thanksgiving. Ask me if I’m ready . . .

The house needs a good cleaning. The dining room table once again needs to be decluttered. And I’m well and truly taken aback by the fact that Christmas is only weeks away. It seems that from November 1st on, my life moves at a frenetic pace, one that I am never able to quite stay in step with as the days roll by because I seem to be walking in circles, as it were.

I had to cancel lunch with Rebecca yesterday, and it’s good that I did as Corey was called into work at the last minute (his only shift this week), and Eamonn is now without a vehicle and needs rides to and from work. Speaking of eldest son, he has decided that this will be his last semester of college. He says that he just doesn’t want to do it (college) any more. Corey is trying to convince him to at least finish this semester as it is so close to the end. That would be logical; I have come to know that I should not expect logic from any of my offspring.

Eamonn is once again talking about joining the Coast Guard. I’m in favor of the move. I think that it would help him to grow up, get grounded and become more disciplined. Plus, if he wants to, he can resume college post enlistment with the GI bill. Who knows if he’ll follow through. He’s toyed with this idea before. I’m staying out of the decision process as I do not want my opinion to come back to haunt me.

I find that I am very tired as I sit here typing these words. Bone weary, spirit exhaustion., and I keep pausing to close my eyes and just sit here, pondering. Perhaps not the best state in which to find oneself when trying to assimilate a cogent post.

“It was the humming noise inside me that told me to do something and found nothing to do that meant anything, the bit of me that was like a fly smashing itself again and again on a windowpane. It was the futility of aging . . .” ~ Maggie Stiefvater

Friday afternoon. Sunny and cold.

Just couldn’t finish yesterday, so I gave up and took my weary body to bed, only to have my mother call and rail at me for almost 20 minutes about Eamonn (because he had nerve enough to ask her to co-sign for him to get a loan to buy a used car), her perfect credit, turkeys, and anything else that she could think of. Then she called back a few minutes later for good measure to get more jabs in.

The whole thing left me prickly and on the verge of tears, so I locked myself away from the fray in the bedroom and watched a movie, the name of which eludes me. Even though the bedroom door was closed, Brett came in repeatedly because he was trying to figure out his schedule for next semester, so I could hardly refuse to talk to him. And the dogs wanted out of the room as soon as I closed the door, only to want back in as soon as I let them out and closed the door again. So restful. So relaxing.

In spite of all of this, I did manage to get more sleep last night than the previous night, which is good; however, I awoke around 11:40 with a migraine, the residual effects of which now have me typing with my eyes almost closed.

Perhaps yesterday should have just been called a wash from the beginning, and if I’d known how it would turn out, I would have probably just stayed in bed with the phone off. Even a “Law & Order” marathon didn’t help to improve my mood.

“I go on eating out my heart and poisoning every moment of my life in the attempt to rouse people’s sensibilities. At least if I could do it with closed eyes. The irony is I see the futility of my efforts and yet I can’t let go.” ~ Emma Goldman, Nowhere at Home: Letters

I dreamed that I got my hair cut short (for me), above my shoulders. I dreamed that I was teaching in the public school system again. I dreamed that it was 2:30, and I had forgotten to call in sick (that’s one that I have often, always 2:30). I dreamed that I was looking for a contact lens case in a football player’s locker (very strange). I dreamed that my boss said that I looked pregnant. I dreamed that a strange man asked me to have a cup of tea with him.

My life in my dreams is much more exciting than my real life. I’m always going places, doing things, meeting people. Unfortunately, the places that I go aren’t places that I would really like to go, and the people that I meet are almost always strange.

The other night when I couldn’t get to sleep, I started another book, only to discern a few pages in that I had already read this one. That’s one of the problems of reading so many books: I forget titles, and then during book sales on Amazon, I tend to order books that I think that I might want to read, only to learn that I’ve already read them at some point.

That’s also in large part because I have no book shelves to peruse. If I ever get book shelves and unpack my books, I can just start all over with my existing library, which I’m certain has no fewer than 1,000 books. Seriously. Of all of the things that I collect, books are number one. And that total does not include all of the books that I have given away over the years, either to charity or to friends. It also does not include the books that I own related to my degrees, books on publishing, literary criticism, the collected works of Shakespeare, etc.

Man, I would love to unpack my books. I just hope that they haven’t been destroyed by silver fish. Creepy little buggers.

“The threads of circumstance that lead to tomorrow are so tenuous that all the fussing and worrying about decisions is futile compared to the pure randomness of existence.” ~ Nick Bantock

I’m trying very hard not to go into the bathroom and give myself a haircut. Maybe I’ll just suck it up and go to a Hair Cuttery or something; I mean, they couldn’t possibly mess it up any more than I would by cutting it myself.

I know what the problem is: I’m feeling fat and ugly and feel a need for some sort of change. And a new mascara or nail polish isn’t going to do it. But perhaps I can convince myself that a new bottle of nail polish for under $5 will make me feel just as good as a good haircut for around $45 . . . Right.

Even though no one is home at the moment, the dogs are being particularly obstreperous, barking madly at things like air. It’s annoying as hell. Actually, everything is annoying as hell, a sure sign that I should just retreat, regroup, and perhaps eat some Oreos.

More later. Peace.

Music by The Boxer Rebellion, “Caught by the Light”

                   

Poem

I lived in the first century of world wars.
Most mornings I would be more or less insane,
The newspapers would arrive with their careless stories,
The news would pour out of various devices
Interrupted by attempts to sell products to the unseen.
I would call my friends on other devices;
They would be more or less mad for similar reasons.
Slowly I would get to pen and paper,
Make my poems for others unseen and unborn.
In the day I would be reminded of those men and women,
Brave, setting up signals across vast distances,
Considering a nameless way of living, of almost unimagined values.
As the lights darkened, as the lights of night brightened,
We would try to imagine them, try to find each other,
To construct peace, to make love, to reconcile
Waking with sleeping, ourselves with each other,
Ourselves with ourselves. We would try by any means
To reach the limits of ourselves, to reach beyond ourselves,
To let go the means, to wake.
I lived in the first century of these wars.

~ Muriel Rukeyser, from The Speed of Darkness