“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.

~

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“And a softness came from the starlight and filled me full to the bone.” ~ W.B. Yeats

Frost Flower on Gateby crestedcrazy (FCC)
Frost Flower on Gate
by crestedcrazy (FCC)

                   

“Our memory fragments don’t have any coherence until they’re imagined in words. Time is a property of language, of syntax, and tense.” ~ Siri Hustvedt, from The Sorrows of an American

Thursday afternoon. Sunny and chilly, 49 degrees.

Frost Flower by Lotus Carroll FCC
Frost Flower
by Lotus Carroll (FCC)

Well, I hope that everyone who celebrates it had a very Merry Christmas. Two days past, now we are in the time of reconciliation: the frenetic preparation back to the days of normalcy, whatever those may have been; the momentary love of everything back to the cynicism of everyday life; the intimate closeness of family back to the separation of time and space.

Okay, so perhaps not as glum as all that, but you know what I mean. The days leading up to the big day are filled with hurrying to and fro, trying to remember all of the little details, the anticipation and anxiety over whether or not everything will come together at the last hour. Or at least that’s how it is in my house. No matter how prepared I think I am in the days before, I always find myself doing last minute errands for the fresh lemon or the candy canes or the tissue paper or whatever.

Frost Flower close up by Marklnspex FCC
Frost Flower Close-up
by Marklnspex (FCC)

I have to say, though, that this year’s celebration was very nice. My mother didn’t insult anyone overtly or accidentally, which tends to make things run much smoother. Dinner came off without a hitch, except for the overcooked broccoli, which would have been fine had we eaten on time (I know better, I really do). And everyone seemed to genuinely like his or her presents.

Of course there was the added bonus of Olivia’s first Christmas, which just changed everything in ways hard to pinpoint.

“It was the time between the lights when colours undergo their intensification and purples and golds burn in windowpanes like the beat of an excitable heart; when for some reason the beauty of the world is revealed and yet soon to perish, has two edges, one of laughter, one of anguish, cutting the heart asunder.” ~ Virginia Woolf

Frost Flower 9 Frostweed by cotinis FCC
Frost Flower on Frostweed
by cotinis (FCC)

As I had mentioned, Lex, Mike, and Olivia had gone to see Mike’s family for the holidays, and I didn’t expect them back until the day after. Turns out they came home early and surprised me on Christmas night, which was truly a wonderful surprise. I hadn’t realized how down I had actually been at the prospect of not having Lex or the baby with us, so when they came through the door, it was the perfect addition to what had already been a good day.

Apparently, I was the only one who did not know that they had come back early. The boys had seen them earlier in the day at that side of the family’s celebration, and they kept the secret, just as last year they kept the secret about Lex being pregnant. My sons really know how to keep a secret, which I find surprising for some reason. But Corey also knew—accidentally—apparently when he finished wrapping at 4 in the morning, he went to Walgreen’s for some stocking stuffers and ran into Alexis in the card aisle. At four in the morning?! My family is certainly strange, but hey, already knew that.

So Olivia arrived in her shiny Christmas dress that Mike had bought for her, and she had a great time grabbing at tissue paper and laughing. Yes, she laughs now. Fun stuff.

“I am not what I am, I am what I do with my hands.” ~ Louise Bourgeois

Frost Flower 6
Frost Flower

Yesterday I spent the day packing up the silver and Christmas dishes and vintage Santa Claus Coke glasses that my mom has kept all these years. I had already done most of the cleanup Christmas night, so it wasn’t too much work. And then I did a whole lot of nothing, which I suppose is what I needed. I had thought about posting, but wasn’t really in the mood, so I didn’t.

Frost FLower 7 Ribbons by Slomoz FCC
Frost Flower Ribbons
by Slomoz FCC

Today I need to work on making Olivia’s Christmas stocking, something I had planned to do yesterday to have ready by the time they came back, but of course, now my schedule is all topsy turvy, so I’ll try to get started today.

Alfie is doing much better, and may be with us a while longer, which is nice. Corey had taken him to the vet this past weekend, which cost an amount that I shall not say as it is painful to think about, but they gave him antibiotics, and anti-nausea medicine, and he’s eating again, and back to growling at people when they disturb his naps, so he’s actually almost normal (for him). I’m so glad that I did not have to deal with losing another pet friend over the holidays as I don’t know how I would have handled that.

Tillie was apparently good this past year as Santa brought her several new stuffed babies to play with and terrorize. It was funny because anytime anyone opened any kind of stuffed animal, Tillie thought that it was for her. She’s been very busy, snooping in bags and such, and she found the spare toy that I hadn’t planned to give her until she had destroyed one of the others. I swear she is just like a small child.

The only sad part was not having Shakes on Christmas morning to sit between us as we opened presents. I missed that.

“All art is exorcism.” ~ Otto Dix

Frost Flower 3 cal tech
Frost Flower (caltech website)

Corey finally read my two novel beginning drafts, and I got some feedback from him. We both agree that my second story is better than my original plot, and I have promised myself that I will work on it in the coming months.

I did not receive any books or gift certificates for books this year, which is very unusual for me. Equally unusual is that I did not purchase any books for anyone except Olivia. I guess it was just that kind of year. I’ll just keep my list until my birthday or until I win the lottery . . . so I guess until my birthday.

Frost Flower 4 by Billy Joe Fudge, Columbia Magazine
Frost Flower
by Billy Joe Fudge, Columbia Magazine

Now that Christmas is over, we all need to get back to everyday life, which means that Corey needs to send out his job applications, and Brett needs to get his passport, and Eamonn needs to sign up for maritime school, and I? I need to try to get back into some kind of regular writing routine.

I’m still on the lookout for an IBM Selectric II, so if anyone knows of any place that is getting rid of one, like a church or school, keep me in mind. Ideally, it should be red, but hey, I think that I could use just about any color as long as it isn’t that weird turquoise blue that IBM used for some of them. I always thought that was a dreadful color for a typewriter. If you’ve ever used an old Selectric, you know exactly what I mean about how the keys feel beneath your fingers as you are flying across them. Well, I used to fly across them. I learned to type on one, and I did all of my timing tests on one. The last time I was timed (for a job interview) was soooo long ago, but I typed 127 words a minute with one mistake. Cool, huh?

“You see, in my view a writer is a writer not because she writes well and easily, because she has amazing talent, because everything she does is golden. In my view a writer is a writer because even when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyway.” ~ Junot Díaz

Frost Flower5 Rock Prairie Master Gardener Association
Frost Flower
Rock Prairie Master Gardener Association

Anyway, so 2013 is but a few days away. The Mayans were wrong, and the “Dr. Who” Christmas special has aired and left Whovians with lots and lots of questions. We still need to see Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit and the remake of Les Miserables. Things to do in the coming weeks.

I have to admit that 2013 seems like a weird year to me. Don’t ask me why because I don’t really have a specific reason. I just don’t like the sound of it. I mean, 2012 didn’t flop about on the tongue in the way that 2013 does. I know. I dwell on the strangest things.

Frost Flower 2
Frost Flower

Last night, I had one of those dreams in which so many of my realities converge: I was at a large family wedding, but it was also a family reunion, and it was an odd mix of Filipinos and Americans, all of whom were acting as if it was strange to be in a room together, which I just couldn’t understand, and the dinner was salmon or steak, and I asked for salmon and was given just a hunk of salmon, nothing else, no potatoes, veggies, nothing, and then I ate someone else’s cheese, and some friends of mine from high school were there, and I was also in Ohio, but it was Pennsylvania, and I knew that across the highway was my grandmother’s house, but the plow was stuck in the mud, and it was snowing, so I took the wrong turn on the interstate, the same wrong turn that I frequently take in my dreams, and I’m going the wrong way, and I’m late for work.

I awoke with a headache.

More later. Peace.

Today’s post features images of frost flowers, a phenomenon of which I was totally unaware until coming across some pictures on my dashboard. Here is an explanation from the Texas Parks and Recreation site:

Frost flowers develop when air temperatures are freezing but the ground still is warm enough for the plant’s root system to be active. Plant juices flow from these roots up into the stem, where the cold air freezes them. As the moisture in the plant freezes, the ice crystals push out through the stem. They may emerge from a small slit to form thin ribbonlike strands or they may split open a whole section of the stem and push out in a thin, curling sheet. Sometimes several ribbons of ice push out to create a flowerlike petal effect. As long as the juices flow, air temperatures remain low, and the plant is shaded from the sun, these ice crystals continue to form.

Music by Counting Crows, “A Long December”

                   

Prayer

Over a dock railing, I watch the minnows, thousands, swirl
themselves, each a minuscule muscle, but also, without the
way to create current, making of their unison (turning, re-
infolding,
entering and exiting their own unison in unison) making of themselves a
visual current, one that cannot freight or sway by
minutest fractions the water’s downdrafts and upswirls, the
dockside cycles of finally-arriving boat-wakes, there where
they hit deeper resistance, water that seems to burst into
itself (it has those layers) a real current though mostly
invisible sending into the visible (minnows) arrowing
motion that forces change–
this is freedom. This is the force of faith. Nobody gets
what they want. Never again are you the same. The longing
is to be pure. What you get is to be changed. More and more by
each glistening minute, through which infinity threads itself,
also oblivion, of course, the aftershocks of something
at sea. Here, hands full of sand, letting it sift through
in the wind, I look in and say take this, this is
what I have saved, take this, hurry. And if I listen
now? Listen, I was not saying anything. It was only
something I did. I could not choose words. I am free to go.
I cannot of course come back. Not to this. Never.
It is a ghost posed on my lips. Here: never.

~ Jorie Graham