“Who would then deny that when I am sipping tea in my tearoom I am swallowing the whole universe with it and that this very moment of my lifting the bowl to my lips is eternity itself transcending time and space?” ~ D.T. Suzuki, Zen and Japanese Culture
“We can spend our lives letting the world tell us who we are. Sane or insane. Saints or sex addicts. Heroes or victims. Letting history tell us how good or bad we are. Letting our past decide our future. Or we can decide for ourselves. And maybe it’s our job to invent something better.” ~Chuck Palahniuk, Choke
Saturday afternoon. Cloudy with dropping temperatures.
The headache is gone for now.
So earlier this afternoon was for cleaning. Corey gathered up clutter from outside and took it to the dump. Brett polished the furniture, and I swept the hardwood floors and cleaned off the dining room table. Eamonn is off at the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Ocean View, a continuation of his 21st birthday celebration. As I’m writing this, Corey is washing his truck; Tillie is helping. Need I tell you how happy he is to be doing this?
Anyway, I’ve done all that I can do for today, so it’s time to write. I’ve been thinking a lot about the word above—commuovere (pronounced kum-wo-ve-ray, with the emphasis on the first syllable). It’s Italian in origin, and while it has no direct English translation, the closest would be to touch, to affect, to stir, to move to tears.
What stirs me, touches me, moves me to tears? Wow. I’m not talking about grief or sadness; rather, it’s a matter of stirrings in the heart. Still, it’s a long and complicated list, but I thought that I would try to share some of the things in life that have moved me or do move me, so much so that I get misty-eyed.
“I think, that if I touched the earth, It would crumble; It is so sad and beautiful, So tremulously like a dream.” ~ Dylan Thomas, from“ Clown in the Moon”
Believe it or not, I don’t cry often, at least not as often as I used to, but I am very sentimental, which is why I don’t watch many movies on the Lifetime channel because they always have very sad endings. But what genuinely moves me, touches that tender spot in my heart? Here is a partial list, starting with movies:
The death of a beloved character in a book or movie. Oh I cried when Dumbledore died, and the death scene for Boromir in The Fellowship of the Ring went straight to my heart.
It’s a Wonderful Life. Who can watch that movie and not be moved? George Bailey as everyman? Clarence the awkward angel? Slays me.
Wall-e. Okay, he’s a little robot, but he has such sad eyes, and he’s in love.
And speaking of Pixar, when Nemo’s mom dies in the beginning of Finding Nemo? Why do the moms always die in Disney and Pixar movies?
That scene in The Lion King when Mufasa, the daddy lion dies. Omigawd. Even though I love Jeremy Irons as Scar, I hated him at that moment. Yes, it was animated. What’s your point?
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve watched Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V, but when he does the St. Crispin’s Day speech, I literally get chills and tear up. I want to join the fray for England. Take me, take me!
Yes, Dead Poets’ Society was overly sentimental, but that didn’t stop me from liking it, so when Neil stands before the open window, I feel complete dread, but when the guys stand on their desks in the final scene? Oh yeah, I’m weeping. Every. Single. Time.
And then there is The English Patient. Almásy rubbing saffron across Katharine’s dead lips. Katharine’s final journal entry in the Cave of the Swimmers. Hana’s final injection of morphing into Almásy. What doesn’t make me cry in this movie.
“Certain twisted monsters always bar the path — but that’s when you get going best, glad to be lost, learning how real it is here on earth, again and again.” ~ William Stafford, from “Cutting Loose”
I remember when I was a child there was this commercial with a supposed Native American man paddling in a canoe amidst pollution. The camera zoomed in on his face to show a single tear. That commercial made me cry, as did the Miller (?) beer Christmas commercial that showed a couple in a sled traveling through the snow with “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” playing in the background, no words. I cried. So here are some of the epic moments in television show that have tugged at my heartstrings:
When Mark finally succumbed to his brain tumor on “ER.” Agony. Another devastating ER episode was “Love’s Labours Lost,” in which Dr. Green tried to deliver a baby, ultimately losing the mother. Oh, how I cried.
When Bobby Simone dies in “NYPD Blue.”
When Radar comes into the operating room to tell everyone that Colonel Henry Blake’s plane went down.
On “Criminal Minds,” the “Riding the Lightning” episode in which Sarah Jean Dawes, who is an innocent woman, goes to her death in prison to protect the son that she gave up years before. Gideon’s complete helplessness rips my heart into pieces.
Two “Dr. Who” episodes in particular: “The End of Time,” in which David Tennant (10) says, “I don’t want to go.” His face in that scene is so sad. And the other one is “Vincent and the Doctor.” In one scene Vincent, the doctor, and Amy lie beneath the night sky as Vincent explains the stars as he sees them. In the final scene, Mr. Black (played by Bill Nighy) tells the doctor that Van Gogh was “the greatest painter of them all” and “one of the greatest men who ever lived,” while a stunned Van Gogh looks on in tears. Yep. That one is always good for a cry.
The ultimate crying fest came in the “M*A*S*H” episode, “Goodbye, Farewell, Amen” when Charles learns that the Chinese musicians that he had been teaching were killed. At that moment, I felt the absolute futility of war as only a civilian can.
“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.” ~ Rumi
Another weepy trigger for me is music, and this really depends upon my mood. Anything by Chopin really moves me. Apocalyptica’s “Nothing Else Matters” stops me in my tracks. When I’m crashing, certain pieces of music absolutely slay me, take Annie Lennox’s “Why,” for example. Before the bathtub developed rust holes, I would run myself a hot bath, light the candles, and set up my CD player in the bathroom. Then I would listen to the selected CD and weep until the water became too cold. Very cathartic, in an odd sort of way.
“I Hope You Dance,” be Lee Ann Womack. The first time I heard this song, which is about a mother and daughter, Alexis and I were going through a very rough patch. I think she was about 16 or 17.
Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings.” If you’ve never heard this, you are missing out on one of life’s true beautiful mysteries.
The swelling soundtrack from Legends of the Fall, which incorporates the same type of violin that was used in Ken Burns’ Civil War documentary. I firmly believe that incorporation of beautiful string sections is a deliberate attempt by composers to cut to the heart.
Okay, this is a combination of music and a scene in a movie: “Everything You Do” (not with words) in the scene in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves in which Marion is going across the water through the mist. Something about that scene just gives me chills. I know. I’m a sucker for soundtracks, especially by James Horner or Howard Shore, both of whom know how to use a string section for maximum effect.
I’m also a sucker for country love songs, especially when Corey isn’t home or if we’ve had an argument. A few that get to me are “Whiskey Lullabye” and “Please Remember Me” do me in, but Garth Brooks’s “The Dance” is one that I listen to to torture myself.
Speaking of country songs, “Christmas Shoes” by New Union is one of the saddest songs ever. It’s about a little boy who doesn’t have enough money to buy a pair of shoes for his mother who is in the hospital dying. Can you think of anything sadder to write a song about?
One more: the sax solo in Bruce Springsteen’s “Jungle Land.” It is so beautiful and epic that it never fails to make a chill run down my spine.
“One must look for one thing only, to find many.” ~ Cesare Pavese
There are other things, of course. Works of art, like seeing Monet’s massive “Water Lilies” for the first time at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Images of animals that are hurt or sad kill me; I thought that if I saw that commercial for the SPCA with Sarah McLachlan one more time during the Christmas season, I was going to jump off a building. I mean some things are just too much. And then there are the words: passages, poetry, drama, memoirs—far too many to begin listing.
I was once in an Italian restaurant, and one of the servers sang “Nessum Dorma.” I cried into my Napoleon pastry. I used to drive through the cemetery with David Lanz’s “Cristofori’s Dream” cranked all the way up on the tinny car stereo, weeping at the splendor and the sadness.
I suppose that for me, it’s the beauty behind it all, the beauty behind the music, the beauty behind the visual, the beauty behind the combination of colors and swirls, or sounds and echoes. Or perhaps, it’s knowing that for many of those who create the stunning and the sublime, a little piece of the person creating goes into the finished product. I think of Beethoven and Van Gogh, of Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf, how they all suffered for their art, how they poured that pain into everything that they created so that the world could have a measure of that beauty, how that breath-taking beauty was birthed from suffering and sorrow.
I don’t know. I say that I don’t cry that much any more, which is true, yet I still can be reduced to weeping when faced with the ineffable, especially in nature, whether it is a breathtaking sunset, or the color of leaves in the fall, or a night sky. Serendipitous instances of kindness and caring, love and tenderness where it seems there should be nothing but sorrow. I am a walking contradiction, and life is both my passion and my poison.
More later. Peace.
Music by, who else, Apocalyptica, “Nothing Else Matters.” Turn it up.
The Hollow Men V
Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear
At five o’clock in the morning.
Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom
Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
Life is very long
Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom
For Thine is
For Thine is the
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
T.S. Eliot, The Hollow Men V
“Every man, when he gets quiet, when he becomes desperately honest with himself, is capable of uttering profound truths.” ~ Henry Miller
Thursday afternoon. Rainy, humid, and warm, high 70’s.
If I put this into words, then it becomes real, which is why I have avoided writing for a few days. Everything is falling apart again. How did we get here? We try and try and never seem to make any forward progress.
Our mortgage is going into foreclosure. We are becoming the statistic that defines the middle class: living from paycheck to paycheck, owing more than we make, existing instead of living. And because of this, because my back is against the wall, because I cannot continue to allow Corey to bear the bulk of this burden, I must do as I must. I must apply for jobs, go back to work, my health be damned.
Perhaps if I can get a job, everything will right itself. Perhaps if I go back to work full time, the incessant stress from never having enough money will abate and some of the stress will go away. Perhaps if this happens, Corey will not have to feel as if he has failed us.
I cannot continue to weigh the pros and cons of giving up my disability coverage. While I mull over the what ifs, we are sinking, taking everything and everyone with us. I can only hope that if I do manage to get someone to hire me, that my health will improve as a result of the outside stimulus. I suppose the deciding factor was that when I was looking at openings online, I cam across a marketing position at ODU for which I am perfectly suited.
Perhaps it’s karma, fate, that I find this position at this time. Who knows? I only know that I am so tired of being buffeted along the wind like a fallen leaf, tossed here and there without any control, without any clear direction, left up to forces external.
“Would that I were a dry well, and the people tossed stones into me, for that would be easier than to be a spring of flowing water that the thirsty pass by, and from which they avoid drinking.” ~ Kahlil Gibran
I drafted the following a couple of days ago after seeing a picture of graffiti that said, “Imagine Life without Liars.”
imagine life without liars
peace without pain
truth without terror
pretend we can converse in our sleep
wake in our dreams
return to the beginning
how can we find fault without favor
break the bone without blood
rend the silence without sound
make believe the moment is momentous
the dregs are delicious
the echo is eternal
let us have love without loss
less without want
want without guilt
expect it not to be so
suppose that it might be
possibly perhaps perchance
I’m troubled by the last three lines . . .
“Sometimes I’m terrified of my heart; of its constant hunger for whatever it is it wants. The way it stops and starts.” ~ Edgar Allan Poe
When I finish this, I need to update my resume, a depressing thought. Posit: Who will hire someone my age who has been out of work for almost three years, regardless of my qualifications and background?
I don’t know what I’m opening myself up for, what kind of reaction to expect other than what I’ve set myself up to believe. I know what I can do. I know what I hope I can do. I know what I wish. Are the three the same? Probably not, possibly not at all.
I like to think there are always possibilities . . .
Star Trek: Wrath of Khan—the best Trek movie ever. Ricardo Montalban with his mullet and bare chest.
Friday afternoon. Stormy.
Anyway, sorry about that little interlude. I actually left this post yesterday to go ahead and work on my resume and cover letter. The killer is that while I know that I could do the advertised job with no problem, how do I explain my three-year hiatus?
On a brighter note, Corey had the first part of his interview with the sheriff’s office this morning: the written test, which he did quite well on; however, he learned this morning when talking to the guy who conducted the test that the department works on a 12-hour day with a monthly rotation, which means all days for a month and then all nights for a month, which pretty much screws any hopes of going to school for him. And, it’s a two-year commitment, so his plans for college would be put on hold for that long.
He’s going ahead with the interview process, but we are both bothered by the commitment and what it means to postponing his dream of a college education yet again.
“The true life is not reducible to words spoken or written, not by anyone, ever. The true life takes place when we’re alone, thinking, feeling, lost in memory, dreamingly self-aware, the submicroscopic moments.” ~ Don DeLillo, from Point Omega
So today Brett went to the student health center while he was on campus. They tested him for flu and told him that he just has a cold. I know that he must have felt terrible to have gone to see someone on his own; he said that he threw up while he was at school. Completely unlike him. Last night, Eamonn had a rash all over his arms and shoulders. He’s already had chicken pox, so I know that it wasn’t that.
We’re all literally falling apart here—people, dogs, computers, house . . .
The sky outside is white. White skies are very depressing and unforgiving. There is nothing beautiful about them.
Now, the sky has opened up, and it’s pouring. Kind of the perfect backdrop to this post. The temperature is dropping, and it’s raining. Welcome fall, which came in at 5:05 a.m. In spite of the sky, I wouldn’t have it any other way for the first day of fall.
I’ve already moved my sandals to the back of the closet and brought my boots forward. Now I just need to get my sweaters out of the trunk, and I’ll be all set.
Last night I had strange dreams. In one, I was sliding down these sand dunes, like surfing the dunes. People were scattered all over the dunes on towels and blankets, and I was sliding in between them. When I got to the bottom of one dune, I lost control and ran into a man’s Buddha alter. He had placed fresh orange slices in a bowl at the base of the Buddha. I apologized to him profusely and offered to make recompense, but he was quite sedate and kind, and told me not to worry about it.
I also dreamed about my m-in-law. It was my first full dream about her since she died. We were in her living room, and she looked quite normal. She had been moving the furniture around and was decorating for Christmas. I asked her to let us help her move the furniture. She was lucid and conversed normally, except for the comment about visiting Saturn from the roof of the building . . . I have no idea what that means.
I awoke from the dream with a fierce migraine.
“We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.” ~ Joseph Campbell
Isn’t it always the way that immediately after a doctor’s visit, something happens? I had my med check with my psychiatrist on Wednesday during which I told her that my medication was working well. Now I find myself depressed so completely that I feel covered by a shroud. I know that yesterday before he went to work Corey told me that I should just go to bed and rest and read. I must have looked like hell. I did not take his advice and stayed on this stupid computer for hours trying to make myself look marketable on paper.
It’s been over 24 hours since I first began this post, and I am no more certain of anything than when I began. Am I doing the right thing? Am I jeopardizing the little bit of guaranteed money that our family receives from my disability by attempting to go back to work in the hopes of making enough money to dig us out of this hole?
And just when I thought I had made peace with the idea that I would never be able to go back to work full time, I revisit the issue. A person could well and truly go crazy pondering these things.
I don’t know what to do. What do I do? What do I do? What do I do?
Sometimes I wish that I drank or perhaps did something to alter my reality . . . not really.
Sometimes I wish that I could be Eamonn: He has never understood this thing called disability. He has said numerous times, “Why don’t you just go back to work?” I truly think that he believes that I left work out of choice, that I just sit around on my ass all day doing nothing because I’m lazy. To him, it’s all so simple. You need money, so you go to work. And god help me, but I cannot help but hear his father’s voice when he talks like that.
But said like that, it is all so simple. Maybe it’s just me making it hard.
Enough. Since the computer keeps locking up on me today, I think I’ll call it a day.
More later. Peace.
Coda: The storm has passed, and the sky is the most beautiful pale crimson and orange . . .
Music by Melody Gardot, “The Rain” (what else?)
(in memory of José Antonio Burciaga, 1947-1996)
We are chameleons. We become chameleon.
—José Antonio Burciaga
“A bit of advice given to a young Native American at the time of his initiation: ‘As you go the way of life, you will see a great chasm. Jump. It is not as wide as you think.'” ~ Joseph Campbell
I’m in the mood for sparse, hence, the Andrew Wyeth images. My favorite is the last one: “Renfield.”
Lovely visit to the pain management group yesterday. Trigger point injections from my neck to my bum. I saw one of the new Physician’s Assistants that joined the group last November. He seemed a bit nervous about giving me the injections until he realized that I wasn’t squeamish. After that, he proceeded to inject everything in sight (slight overstatement). Anyway, I felt like a pin cushion, came home and had to lie down on the heating pad.
A bit better today, but very sore. I told Corey that I’m not certain about this new guy, and Corey reminded me that he hasn’t been giving trigger point injections for years like my other doctors. Good point. Guess I’ll have to wait and see.
Brett used my computer last night to write something about Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” for school. Personally, I have never been that big of a Kafka fan. Just not my cup of tea, so to speak. A story about a man becoming a giant cockroach gives me the willies. I know. It’s about alienation, distance, loneliness. A masterpiece reflecting the identity of self in society . . . Ya da ya da ya da. He’s still a cockroach.
“In reading, a lonely quiet concert is given to our minds; all our mental faculties will be present in this symphonic exaltation.” ~ Stéphane Mallarmé
Once the omnipresent head pressure of the last few weeks began to lessen, I was finally able to read the last three Harry Potter books in quick order. I had forgotten how much I really love the last book. Then I thought about all of the e-mails I get from my Goodreads contacts in which they list what they have read lately, and it made me pause. I haven’t really read anything new in a while. I’ve been rereading old favorites. I suppose there’s nothing really wrong with rereading, as it is something that I have always done, revisiting favorites once a year or so, but sometimes I feel as if I am not making any forward motion in my reading.
What I mean is that I feel a general lack in my background as far as world literature is concerned. I am hard-pressed when it comes to naming new authors from around the world, those who are considered to be contributing to the literary canon, as it were. And when I feel like this, I miss Mari, and teaching, and the department. Being surrounded by colleagues, attending lectures, reading journal articles, going to literary festivals—these things serve as a constant stimulus and impetus; the desire to remain current stays at the forefront at all times.
I miss that. But then, I miss many things, as you are probably weary of hearing me lament. Most probably, I miss the idea of working, the positive aspects of being amidst a job that stimulates the brain. When I get like this, though, I remind myself of the less than positive aspects: the backstabbing, the politics, the endless time-consuming meetings about nothing at all. These things I do not miss.
“When you cease to make a contribution, you begin to die.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt
Corey and I talk about the possibility of my returning to work full time. The idea of doing so appeals to me greatly, but would my body allow it? And working at home would serve no purpose other than to bring in income, which I am doing (to some extent). It would not allow me to get out of the house, be in different surroundings for several hours a day. It’s all so vexing, having no clear answers.
Anyway, Corey did speak with his contact at Vane Brothers, who told him that delivery of the new boat has been put back because of the bad weather. No surprise there. He did tell Corey that he would make a note that Corey has stayed in touch and continued to express interest in working for the company. I suppose that’s the best that can be expected. Yet another shipping company to which Corey applied has said that they are not hiring anyone new at the moment, even though their website listed open positions. Such a depressing mantra.
We are coming to the end of February, and Corey’s current unemployment extension is about to end. I know that another bill for yet another unemployment extension is before Congress, but who knows if it will be approved. God know that it should be considering that over 10 percent of the population is unemployed. We can only wait and hope and in the meantime, keep sending in applications.
“Passion is a positive obsession. Obsession is a negative passion.” ~ Paul Carvel
My Australian friend Maureen of White Orchid mentioned something in a recent post to which I can really relate: Apparently, the reality show “Little Miss Perfect” airs in Australia, and Maureen and her daughter watched an episode. For those of you who do not know to what I am referring, “Little Miss Perfect” is a show about child pageant contestants and their mothers . . . No, I’m not kidding.
Apparently someone thought that this form of child abuse would make for good television. Child abuse? What would you call it? These little girls are made up to look like little beauty contestants, complete with fake eyelashes, make-up, costumes, the works. They have mothers who give them nothing but candy before the pageants so that they’ll be full of energy. This is good parenting?
Okay. I know that there are some people out there who love pageants, love the whole idea of the pageant circuit, participated in it, thought that it was the best thing since Barbie got longer hair. Whatever. You are entitled to your opinion. If you did it and you loved it. Great for you.
I’m looking at it from a totally different perspective: that of a sane person (relatively). These little girls are being indoctrinated into that whole concept that their entire self-worth is tied to their looks, to their ability to charm, to their willingness to please. Does no one else see anything wrong with this? We’ve raised generations of young women who regularly abuse their bodies in attempts to conform to airbrushed magazine images. We have agents who tell size 4 models that they are too fat (just read that one in the news). We have young women who are getting Botox before they are 25.
The need to fit in, to conform, to wear the right clothes, to carry the right purse, to be like everyone else—that need is as ancient as the concept of societies. But there is something very, very wrong with a society that condones taking five-year-old girls and plastering eye shadow on them and sending them out on a stage to compete with other five-year-olds for crowns and trophies rewarding them for being cute.
Let me pause here. No, I do not believe that every child should be given a trophy simply for showing up to school. No, I am not against healthy competition. Yes, I believe that innate talents should be honed and fostered. Yes, there will always be someone who is the valedictorian, and rightly so. But must we start at such a young, impressionable age at teaching our little girls that beauty is the answer to all of their problems?
Just consider the title of the show: “Little Miss Perfect.” What is perfection? The right dress? The best walk? The most winning smile? Are these young girls not being indoctrinated to grow up into young women who strive to fit into a size 2? Who will turn to plastic surgery to take out an imagined imperfection in a nose? And perhaps most importantly, are they being given the tools to face the real world? What will they do when their beauty does not open every door? How will they cope when they get their first stretch mark?
Yes, I know that I’ve said it before, but as I commented to Maureen, this concept of instilling unrealistic expectations at a very young age makes me want to throttle someone. I am reminded of the woman in Texas who put a hit out on the mother of her daughter’s cheerleading rival. True story (click here for info). I am also reminded of the mother of a girl who went to my former high school. This mother called me after cheering tryouts at which I had judged to drill me about why her daughter had not been chosen. All I could think of was how she had gotten my phone number?
Who are these people? Where does that kind of obsessive behavior originate? It has to begin somewhere. “Little Miss Perfect” my ass.