“I allowed myself to suffer how jarringly destructive the present feels and how fragile the past. The present is over quickly, you might say, and it is, but man it goes like a wrecking ball.” ~ Ann Brashares, from My Name is Memory

Ivan Aivazovsky, “The Ninth Wave” (1850, oil on canvas)
Aivazovsky is considered the most influential seascape painter in 19th Russian art

“I thought, possibly, that what I really needed was to go where nobody knew me and start over again, with none of my previous decisions, conversations, or expectations coming with me.” ~ Maggie Stiefvater, from Forever

Friday afternoon. Rainy again, 44 degrees.

It’s funny, but when I think about Norfolk, I still get a pang. I don’t miss the house, the nosy judgmental neighbors, or even the neighborhood. But I miss the things that happened there: the two Jack Russells who used to escape regularly, and the nice neighbors who would holler at us to let us know where they had gone; walking across the field in the afternoons to pick up the boys from the local elementary school; even mowing the yard on the lawn tractor that my dad bought me once upon a time. Those things are part of that life, that place.

Ivan Aivazovsky, “Sea View by Moonlight” (1878, oil on canvas)

My kids were raised in that small ranch house with one bathroom. Their friends all lived within a few miles. And now that house is gone. Who knows who will buy it and make all of the repairs that we never got around to making. It’s hard to take care of a house that you hate, which is how it came to be for us the last few years that we were still there. It was as if the house knew that there existed an antipathy and went out of its way to break down piece by piece.

We redid the bathroom a few years ago, from the studs up. We had plans to redo the kitchen and the hardwood floors, but that never happened, and in the end, we left it as a mess, things all over the backyard, a pool that had fish in it, a shed that had old tools in it, an attic that probably still had kids toys in it. It was like shedding a carapace and leaving it where it lay.

You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place. Like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you’ll never be this way ever again.” ~ Azar Nafisi, from Reading Lolita in Tehran

It’s hard not to think of the things that neighbors must have thought about the way that we left things, but at the same time, there is no way that they could possibly understand the stress and pressure that we were under when we left. If they snooped, which I’m certain that some of them did, they would have seen the hole in the ceiling, the broken back door, the tools that lay in the yard, and their worst impressions would have been confirmed.

Ivan Aivazovsky, “Yalta” (1899)

Listen, not all of our neighbors were assholes. The guy across the street helped Corey and me countless times, especially when Corey was at sea. He gave me a jump when my battery was dead, repaired things, helped when the yard was overgrown and my back wouldn’t let me mow. He was a great guy, and because he was always hurting for money, we always tried to pay him whenever he did anything. But he was a minority in that neighborhood. There used to be a really nice woman who lived on the other side across the street, but she died; her kids were always friendly, though. Still, I know that we didn’t make as much of an effort as we could have, but there was a history there that made it hard.

And the fact is that I really shouldn’t care any more about what any of them think or thought, but a part of me still does. I still feel as if that house is mine, even though it isn’t. I lived there for so long, and there are so many good memories from there, probably more good than bad. But there are painful memories from there, and it was definitely time to move away, and now here we are, living in a completely different kind of place, with a different pace of life, and different kinds of neighbors.

“I don’t know. You know the mind, how it comes on the scene again
and makes tiny histories of things. And the imagination
how it wants everything back one more time, how it detests
all progress but its own . . . ” ~ Richard Hugo, from “Letter to Matthews from Barton Street Flats”

We had told ourselves that when we finally moved, that we were going to make a true effort to get to know our neighbors, and we have. Of course, it’s different here. Neighbors are curious as to who bought the ridge. They show up and ask questions, introduce themselves, offer to help. And of course, Dallas knows every last person, so there’s that as well.

Ivan Aivazovsky, “Sea View” (1841)

When we were moving in, Corey was driving the box truck and I was driving the rental Ryder truck, which I was very proud of handling the entire seven-hour trip, but then I came down the driveway crooked and ended up driving the front part of the truck off the drive and getting it stuck. We were so worried about how much it would cost us to get someone to come out and unstick it. But instead, two of our neighbors spent hours helping Corey to get it free. I was simultaneously amazed and grateful. We didn’t even know these people, yet there they were, working their butts off for two people who they didn’t know from Adam’s off ox.

And since that day, Dallas has graded the driveway, made it straight and wider, so that coming down isn’t a problem. That’s what I mean about things being different here. No one asks you for anything, yet of course, there is the expectation that you will repay them in kind somehow when the need arises, and so we will. It was never like that in Norfolk. Perhaps the city was too big, the neighborhood too set in its ways. Who knows?

I seem to be asking that question quite a lot lately . . .

“So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.” ~ Stephen Chobsky, from The Perks of Being a Wallflower

So the Chobsky quote above is probably the most fitting one that I could choose today. I am both happy and sad, but the difference is that I’m fairly certain as to why. I mean, aside from the fact that I’m still missing one of my antidepressants, and I still haven’t found a good neurologist, and I still don’t have a phone that works—other than those things . . .

Ivan Aivazovsky,”Sunset at Sea” (1853, oil on canvas)

But in honesty, those are relatively minor things—other than the pain, which, like it or not, I’m used to—what makes me sad is that in spite of the beauty and life that surrounds me, there is no water, and there are no children, grown or otherwise.The water? That’s just a part of me. I’m an Aquarius, and even though I’m not a strong swimmer, I have always loved water, in all forms. That, and I lived so very near the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean for most of my life that it’s odd not to smell the saltwater, or to see the violence of the waves during a storm.

And yet, to put that down here makes me feel so very ungrateful. I used to say that my ideal place to live would be on a mountaintop overlooking the ocean; the reality is that such a place would cost a fortune. But here, I have the mountaintop, the horses, the deer, the dogs. And god how I love it all. I truly do. I cannot imagine going back to where we were. So why can I not be satisfied?

“I don’t know what’s worse: to not know what you are and be happy, or to become what you’ve always wanted to be, and feel alone.” ~ Daniel Keyes, from Flowers for Algernon

Will I ever be satisfied? I really don’t know. I do know that I can be happy—happy for me. It may sound as if I’m trying to convince myself, but that’s really not the case. I have a lot to be happy about, a lot to be grateful for in this new life. The caveat, for me, is not said lightly. It’s too complicated, and yet maddeningly simple: I am just too aware of my chemical makeup the way that my brain and heart work. I can be absolutely ecstatic about how my life is going, and yet there will always be this still small voice within that doubts, doubts my worthiness to be happy.

Ivan Aivazovsky, “Sunset a Lone Sailboat” (1853, oil on canvas)

How to explain to someone who has never met this voice? I don’t know if that is even possible. However, that state of being satisfied is not tied to my ability to be happy. Satisfaction, for me, is something entirely different, dependent upon reconciliation with my sons—in other words, I don’t believe that I can ever be completely satisfied until I am able to know that they are an active part of my life again, and since I don’t have any way of making that happen at this point, I just have to live with things as they are for now.

Look, that’s life. You know it, dear reader, and so do I. The basket will never be completely full of unbroken eggs. The day will never be without a cloud somewhere on the horizon. Yet there is always a horn-a-plenty if we but recognize it. What I’m trying to say is that life is complicated. I’m complicated. Every human is a mixture of good and bad, happy and sad; I’m no different, but I am trying very hard to be this person here, the one who is present in her life as it is. I may not be entirely succeeding, but at least I am aware, and for me, that is more than you can ever know.

More later. Peace.

Music by Adele, “Hello”

 

 


She Loved Mozart

There’s a sadness to it, of course, my becoming more
and more isolated from the world. I remember, years ago,
when I was living at the motel, there was this woman who
used to come and go, sometimes staying for months at a time.
Every so often I’d go over to her room, sit around, and talk with her.
The room would smell from clove cigarettes and dirty wash.
Over the lampshades pieces of clothing were draped, to bring
the light down to the most remarkable dimness. This light
never failed to charm and attract me, as a moth would be
attracted to a bright light (although, I suppose moths are
drawn to dim light also). Anyway, I find myself steadily
becoming increasingly like this woman, and it’s not always
the most comfortable realization. Although, I cannot say
that I am living with dirty wash. No, this I cannot admit to.
If anything, I’m fanatical about washing clothes. My
clothing has worn thin, not from my wearing it but from
the continuous washings. But, my god, like this woman
I’m letting the house go dark. She died at the motel, from cancer.
Some nights I’d see her crossing the parking lot, meager flesh
on her bones, and she’d knock on my door and she’d ask me
to play Mozart on my stereo set. She loved Mozart.
In her youth she had been a very promising violist, but
injury and shock from a fire had made her a ghost
of her old talent, her old self. I used to feed her also,
the miniscule amount she was capable of eating.
She loved sharing a thin sandwich as much as
she loved Mozart. I told her it takes
a lot of solitude to write a poem.
She told me it takes a lot of solitude
to die.

~ Marge Piercy

“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