“I find pieces of myself everywhere, and I cut myself handling them.” ~ Jeanette Winterson, Lighthousekeeping

Lightning Strikes the Eiffel Tower (thesun.co.uk)

                    

“I would up heart, were it not like lead. But my whole clock’s run down; my heart the all-controlling weight, I have no key to lift again.” ~ Herman Melville, Moby-Dick

Lightning, Placitas, NM, by snowpeak (FCC)

Friday early evening. Sunny, not too hot, humid.

I have not yet adjusted my sleeping patterns to coincide with Brett and Em’s morning classes on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, which means that I take them to school and then come home and go back to sleep. Ideally, I would be falling asleep earlier than 3 a.m. so that waking at 9 wouldn’t be a problem.

Ideally.

We all know how ideally works for me—it doesn’t. Hence, the interrupted sleep patterns and headaches upon waking. Sometimes I wonder how I ever arose at 5 a.m. and did a full workout before going to work. Talk about ambitious. My workout today consisted of cleaning the bathroom and doing a bit of laundry. Whee, feel the burn.

Speaking of which, the wrist is still aching, but my mom is better today. She called her doctor’s office to tell them what’s going on, and they can’t see her until September 6; they told her to go to the ER if the stumbling happens again, which is what I had said to her. She does sound better today, and she ate something healthy, so there’s that.

Last night I had strange dreams about talking penguins and a pike fish that was trying to bite off my arm. The oldest penguin’s name was Bart. Very strange but interesting at the same time. The penguins were quite delightful; the pike was not. It had long needle-like teeth like Prisoner Zero on Doctor Who. I don’t even try to interpret such dreams any more as what could they possibly mean . . .

“Somewhere we know that without silence words lose their meaning, that without listening speaking no longer heals, that without distance closeness cannot cure.” ~ Henri J.M. Nouwen

Wednesday evening. Hot, humid, and pending storms.

Lightning Strike, by No One Famous Studios (FCC)

Well, you might say that I took a few days off since writing the last section. Understatement . . .

The wrist was way painful; my mom was way needy, and access to the computer was way limited. Okay. So I just wasn’t up to writing. Whatever.

Yesterday I had two much-postponed doctor’s appointments with the pain management doctor and my therapist: eighteen trigger shots later, from my ears to my butt, and one cortisone shot in the wrist. In between appointments, I worked on the also postponed paper work, then, on to Dr. K. to discuss my life for 45 minutes.

Unlike what I expected, I was very restrained. I think that I’m still in postponement mode. In fact, I know that I am. When I told Dr. K. that I was holding off on my grieving, she looked me dead in the eye and said that if anyone could do that, I could. I spent several hours today cleaning floors throughout the house, something that my back and my wrist are thanking me for at this moment. Actually, I’m supposed to be looking through the family photos for pictures of Grandma with the kids.

Why don’t I just rip my heart out now and throw it on the floor and stomp on it because that’s how it’s going to feel once I get in the midst of going through old photographs.

“September: it was the most beautiful of words, he’d always felt, evoking orange-flowers, swallows, and regret.” ~ Alexander Theroux

Lightning Strike, by wdallasm (FCC)

I told Dr. K that I don’t have any regrets with my m-in-law. Of course, that’s not true. I live filled to the brim with regrets, every moment of every day. I am a walking regret. Je regrette should be tattooed across my body somewhere. Jean Valjean (Les Miserables) has nothing on me when it comes to guilt and regret.

I wish that I had gone to the hospital while she was still conscious so that she could hear me say I love you one more time instead of my whispered words when she was slipping away. Of course, I wish that I had said I love you one more time to my father.

I wish that I had visited more in the past two years when she was still somewhat with us mentally, that I had sat down and had coffee, that I had asked her for recipes.

I wish that I had taken her to the symphony in the same way that she used to take me whenever there was a performance that she knew that I would appreciate. I saw Itzhak Perlman because of her. I saw one of Nureyev’s last performances because of her. What did I do for her?

How do we measure how much we have contributed to another person’s life? How do we know if we have done enough? How do we live with ourselves when we know that we have not done enough?

How do we know if we have really touched another person, that we have made an impact on them? Is it selfish to wish that you’ve made an impact?

So many questions and no real answers. It’s the Gordian knot all over again—it doesn’t matter from which direction you approach the problem, it’s seemingly unsolvable.

“… and between us every elegy, all the fallen
language that couldn’t hold its own
and wouldn’t give it back, had no flesh
except how long dust keeps our alphabets.” ~ Brian Teare, from “Eden Tiresias”

Lightning, by Leszek.Lescynski (FCC)

When I look in the mirror, I want to like the person that I see staring back at me. I have never been able to do that. I couldn’t really tell you why. Or actually, I probably have a thousand reasons why, but none seem to make sense to anyone but me.

At the end of my days, I don’t want to have lived like Bartleby the Scrivener, the man who preferred not to, so he never did. Literary criticism has all sorts of reasons as to why Bartleby did not, the most common being that it was his way of being a conscientious objector, his protest against the life that was being imposed upon him.

That’s not even close to what I’m talking about in this case. More precisely, I want to have participated, to have savored, to have tasted, to have dabbled, to have shared, to have given, to have touched, to have been touched, to have explored, to have dared, to have ventured, to have tried. Dammit, I want to have at least have tried.

Losing someone you love always leads to self-reflection, and that’s probably the only good part of losing someone you love. But as I sit here and  bang on these keys, so many thoughts are churning through my brain, so many what-ifs, so many why-nots.

At the end of her days, my mother-in-law was not the person she had been. But the person she had been was strong and intelligent and generous with her time and talents. And to be perfectly honest, she would have hated the navel-gazing that I am currently embroiled in performing. She was not one to harbor deep regrets, at least, I don’t think that she was, but what in the hell do I even know about anything.

However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.” ~ Stanley Kubrick

Lightning over Aquitaine, France

So, here is where I am at the moment: absolutely nowhere. My head is spinning; my back is aching, and my heart is breaking. I must tell you that this is not a good combination. I could chalk all of this up to not sleeping, but I know, and so do you too, probably, that it’s so much more.

If you are able to derive any sort of linear thought from this post, congratulations. That’s more than I could, and I apologize for that. Perhaps I should have chosen the path of restraint and not have written at all, but I feel as if I am on the brink of something, but I am not quite sure as to what that might be.

Perhaps it’s a poem. Perhaps, it’s just an idea for a post. I can only tell you that I sense something right beneath the surface of my consciousness, so close that I can almost glean a glimpse, but then it slips away. Is it the Silence (Dr. Who reference), lurking there in the corner of the mirror, just out of sight but close enough to control my actions?

Perhaps. Perhaps not. Perhaps I just have a build up of words that have had no outlet for days, and they are reaching critical mass. Perhaps it’s indigestion, but that would require eating an actual meal; wouldn’t it?

I have eaten, but I only taste dust, to be truthful. Perhaps tomorrow I shall dare to eat a peach and wear my trousers rolled, and then, and only then, I will be able to tap into whatever this is.

Until then, silence, and not the Dr. Who kind.

More later. Peace.

“I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables (original cast soundtrack)

                   

The Three Oddest Words

When I pronounce the word Future,
the first syllable already belongs to
the past.
When I pronounce the word Silence,
I destroy it.
When I
pronounce the word Nothing,
I make something no nonbeing can hold.

~ Wisława Szymborska

“There comes a moment when you realize that virtually anything is possible—that nothing is too good to be true.” ~ Kobi Yamoda

 

“To dream anything that you want to dream, that is the beauty of the human mind.
To do anything that you want to do, that is the strength of the human will.
To trust yourself, to test your limits, that is the courage to succeed.” ~ Bernard Edmond

Skywriter wrote in to remind me that it was a year ago yesterday that Susan Boyle auditioned for Britain’s Got Talent. The Broadcast of that audition to the public aired on April 11, 2009. On April 16, I wrote a post about Susan Boyle (April 16, 2009 Post on Susan Boyle ).

Susan Boyle's Audition on Britain's Got Talent

I went back and looked at that original audition tape, and it still made me tear up; the timbre of her voice when she sang I” Dreamed a Dream” from Les Misérables was so rich and pure. Then I listened to her performance on Oprah, and I noticed a difference: It was still the same voice, a bit more refined, not as powerful, which is probably due to the song itself. But I have to wonder what the world has done to Boyle.

I remember the reports after she did not win Britain’s Got Talent. Boyle checked into a psychiatric facility for exhaustion. The media played up the incident, claiming that fame had gone to the singer’s head, that she couldn’t handle the price of fame, ya da ya da ya da . . . It was almost as if Boyle was being paid back for soaring too high too fast.  I remember that the reports seemed too eager to point out her problems, to say that she wouldn’t be able to fulfill her obligation to tour with BGT.

Then a week ago, there was some report about Boyle causing an incident at Heathrow Airport when she began singing with a mop, and wiped a fellow passenger’s shoes with the mop. Depending upon who you listen to, Boyle was acceding to requests from fellow passengers to sing a song; people were singing with her; the passenger with the shoes was being a spoil-sport. Again, ya da ya da ya da.

“You don’t love a girl because of beauty. You love her because she sings a song only you can understand.” ~ L. J. Smith

Let me rewind a bit. When Susan Boyle first stepped on the stage, she received a questionable welcome from the audience and judges. Much was written about appearances being deceiving. In the weeks and months that followed, Boyle had a makeover, new hair color, plucked brows, new clothes, a bit of makeup. Everyone seemed to be a bit more comfortable with the new-improved version of Boyle.

But what about Boyle herself? She literally rocketed to fame. When her vid from BGT was uploaded, it received 2.5 million views in 72 hours. Requests for Boyle began to filter in. The woman herself worked non-stop throughout the duration of the show. Everyone wanted a piece of Boyle. That she fell prey to exhaustion when the show ended is not too surprising. Before her audition, Boyle had spent almost all of her time caring for her ailing mother. The Scottish woman sang at church, not in front of thousands.

But fame is fickle, and it seemed that the press wanted to make more of the downside to Susan at any available opportunity. Hence the reports of her temper tantrums, escapades, whatever. I mean, the poor woman cannot even leave her house to go shopping without getting her picture taken and people commenting on whether she is wearing makeup. Even Boyle felt a need to comment: “When it all first happened I just thought ‘Oooh, my God’. I didn’t know what to think, It was all so sudden. It felt like a giant demolition ball in a way. The impact of it was so hard. It still is very strange to me. But now I have learned how to deal with it all. You have to put on a front. You have an audience to please and so you get on with it. You have to.”

“For now I’m happy the way I am—short and plump. I would not go in for Botox or anything like that. I’m content with the way I look. What’s wrong with looking like Susan Boyle? What’s the matter with that?” ~ Susan Boyle

Susan Boyle Performing on the Wenschen 2009 Show in Munich

Why am I going on about this? Well, it goes back to that dead horse that I beat frequently, you know the one about judging women based on their physical attributes. Boyle, 48, is single, lives with her cat, claimed never to have been kissed, although admitted that she was having a bit of a go at the judges. Rolling of the eyes at this preposterous woman. If Boyle had opened her mouth and sounded like Pee Wee Herman, the audience would have had a tremendous laugh at her expense, and she would have been ushered off the stage.

Instead, the woman who looked like nothing special turned out to be more than extraordinary. And none of us were expecting that. Did we embrace Boyle harder because she did not fit our stereotypes of hardbodied female vocalists à la Madonna? Perhaps. Did we love her more because she was like us, that is, not rich, not famous, not pampered, not full of a sense of entitlement? Probably. Was it her voice or her demeanor that made us want to stand up and cheer and say “Take that, Simon”? A bit of both.

Which is why I now find myself facing a quandary: If I am to be truthful, do I like Boyle less now that she has become more like them? Was she more likable when we focused on the fact that she was the victim of bullying while in school, that her peers taunted her and called her slow?  “I didn’t mix with other kids much. I was frightened of people because of their reactions toward me . . . It’s complicated,” Boyle recounted in an interview with Harper’s Bazaar last year. Did we empathize more when her tales of singing in front of a mirror with a hairbrush dovetailed with things we had done ourselves?

“But aren’t many gardens beautiful because they are imperfect? . . . Aren’t the strange, new flowers that arise by mistake or misadventure as pleasing as the well-tended and planned?”  ~ Libba Bray

Susan Boyle in Harper's Bazaar, photo by Hugh Stewart

Personally, when I listen to the original audition video, I close my eyes. Not because I can’t stand to look at Boyle, but because I always close my eyes (except when I’m driving) when I am listening to beautiful music: I close my eyes to tune out external stimuli so that I can listen as fully as possible.

I have to admit that when I looked at the video from Oprah, I did not close my eyes. I kept getting distracted. I was wondering about her earrings, her dress, her hair, whether she was wearing too much makeup. I have to wonder if this is a female thing or an American thing or a societal thing . . . by that I mean, my compulsion to look at Boyle now that she has become somebody. Did I like her better when she was frumpy? Is it that rooting for the underdog thing?

Susan Boyle may look more acceptable to the industry now that she has had her redo. But the reality is that she will always be that woman from Scotland who said that she wanted to be famous like Elaine Paige of Cats, Evita, and Hair fame. And how cool that on December 13, 2009, Boyle realized her dream by singing a duet with Paige in an ITV special called “The Susan Boyle Story.” Said Boyle of the surprise duet,  “I never thought I would see myself standing on the same stage with such an icon from West End theatre, let alone singing with her as an equal.”

So I listened again to the performance on Oprah, and this time, I closed my eyes. There it was. A bit quieter, but the same beautiful timbre, the same rich voice—goosebumps.

Susan Boyle singing “Who I Was Meant To Be.” Sit back. Close your eyes, and enjoy.

More later. Peace.

“I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness because it shows me the stars.” ~ Og Mandino

M51 spiral purple dots are black holes

M51 Spiral Galaxy (Purple Dots are Black Holes), NASA picture 

 

“Stars, in your multitude, scarce to be counted, filling the darkness with order and light.” ~ From Les Miserables

“For there were countless numbers of stars: each time we looked above we were astounded by the swiftness of their daring play” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke

BlackHole from seedmagazine dot com
Artist’s Depiction of Black Hole from seedmagazine.com

Don’t misunderstand. I love what I call the mystery of life, the continuous ebb and flow of the lifestream upon which we all move. I love how life intrudes and intercepts, provides moments of beautiful grace, complete surprise, even unexpected sadness. All of these things, these emotions and episodes are what make us human, which is why when I find myself just moving along without any real sense of purpose, I feel so terribly disconnected.

During these times, I am unable to read because I cannot focus. Writing is hard because I have to search so hard for words that normally flow with ease from my fingertips to the page. I find myself lying in bed, watching movies without really paying attention, ignoring telephone calls, allowing my e-mail to go unread for days at a time.

And the worst part is that these moments come upon me unannounced more often than not. There is no single precipitating event, no confrontations, no arguments, no bad news. Rather, it’s the absolute nothingness that seizes upon me and leaves me feeling adrift.

“Though my soul may set in darkness. It will rise in perfect light, I have loved the stars too fondly To be fearful of the night.” ~ Sarah Williams, from “The Old Astronomer to his Pupil”

Depiction of Black Hole GWU
Depiction of Black Hole (gwu.edu)

I’m not talking about being depressed, about my incipient lows over which I have little to no control. This is something different. It’s not sadness, not an ache, not even emotional pain. It’s nothingness, which sometimes, is much worse.

It feels like a black hole, that space phenomenon that exudes massive gravitational pull. When an object becomes sufficiently compact, like a dying star, a black hole is formed, a region of nothingness in space. A black hole is cut off from the rest of space time.That’s how my emotional nothingness feels: as if I have been cut off from regular time, like I am standing off to the side, watching everything that is going on, but not participating, not interacting.

I know that as with everything else in my life, I will work my way out of this. Unlike the matter that is sucked into the black hole and moves inexorably towards the Event Horizon, I am not being pulled helplessly. For me, it’s just a matter of time. For me, it could be something as simply as getting a good night’s sleep and awaking without a headache.

Let me leave you with the beautiful words of poet Mary Oliver. More later. Peace.

 

The Spirit Likes to Dress Up

~ by Mary Oliver


 
The spirit
  likes to dress up like this:
    ten fingers,
      ten toes,

shoulders, and all the rest
  at night
    in the black branches,
      in the morning

in the blue branches
  of the world.
    It could float, of course,
      but would rather

plumb rough matter.
  Airy and shapeless thing,
    it needs
      the metaphor of the body,

lime and appetite,
  the oceanic fluids;
    it needs the body's world,
      instinct

and imagination
  and the dark hug of time,
    sweetness
      and tangibility,

to be understood,
  to be more than pure light
    that burns
      where no one is --

so it enters us --
  in the morning
    shines from brute comfort
      like a stitch of lightning;

and at night
  lights up the deep and wondrous
    drownings of the body
      like a star.