Note: I began writing this post on Monday. Then in the middle of it, I learned that Robin Williams had killed himself, and then nothing made sense any more…….
“Perhaps—I want the old days back again and they’ll never come back, and I am haunted by the memory of them and of the world falling about my ears.” ~ Margaret Mitchell, from Gone With the Wind
Monday afternoon. Cloudy and probably rain, 84 degrees.
Last night’s super moon was spectacular. I’m so glad that the clouds didn’t overshadow it. When I got up to let the dogs out, the entire backyard was awash in moonlight. So incredibly perfect.
The other day, I saw something I’ve never seen before: a buzzard was hanging out in someone’s front yard, munching on something . . . well, dead. Brett and I drove by, and he said, “Hey, that’s a buzzard!”
Of course I had missed it, so I drove around the block and then slowed as we neared the yard in which Brett had seen the bird. I saw it, and it was huge. Unfortunately, it heard the car and took flight. My, those wings, so massive. It was really something to see; we couldn’t have been more than twelve feet from it. I mean, I’ve seen them in the air, but never this close, and this still.
The other cool thing that happened is that Brett and I went thrifting, and I found a set of glass fish snack plates. I only have one fish plate left, and I’ve never had the snack size (about 5 inches wide), so I grabbed them. A while back I had looked on E-bay, and a set of two of the large fish plates was going for $30. Too pricey. I got eight of the small ones for $20. Such a deal.
Of course, to balance the two good things are two horrendous dreams: In both dreams, I see fire burst through a wall, and I immediately wake up—same image for both dreams, same reaction for both dreams. It has me more than a little paranoid, checking cords and connections, making sure nothing is frayed or a hazard. This particular scenario really has me unnerved.
“Later I’ll sweep away the nest—empty,
again, of everything but a blind
belief in the possible.” ~ Peter Everwine, from “Another Spring”
In spite of the fire dreams, I’m feeling pretty good, and I suppose I have good reason: Social Security has finally, finally approved my disability claim. As a brief refresher, I was first forced out on disability in October 2007. I’ve been fighting with social security ever since.
I know that I am fortunate that I was covered for long-term disability through George Washington’s policy, but the endless fight with Social Security has taken a toll on me. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve filled out the same forms, answered the same questions, had the same interviews. So even though they wanted to date it retroactive to November 15, 2012, I decided to accept.
When I asked the lawyer why that particular date, she said that they noticed from my therapy notes that I had taken a real downturn at that time . . .
No kidding. Really? How incredibly astute of them, she said, with more than a trace of bitter sarcasm . . .
What this means is that I don’t quality for Medicare until May of next year (for some reason, dates, times, confusing). And the backdated benefits that I’ll receive all have to be paid to my long-term disability carrier anyway (it’s part of the agreement), so the date doesn’t affect me that much. The irony is that the effective date would have meant so much a few years back when Corey was unemployed, and we were struggling, really struggling to keep my health insurance and a roof over our heads.
“There is a fissure in my vision and madness will always rush through. Lean over me, at the bedside of my madness, and let me stand without crutches.” ~ Anaïs Nin, from “House of Incest”
Friday, late afternoon. Cloudy, drizzle, liquid humidity, 80 degrees.
Now on day 8 of this particular migraine. Would someone please explain to me how this is even possible? My body is so full of pain relievers, anti-inflammatories, steroids, Botox, and nausea medication that I couldn’t pass a drug test in any quarter of this world, yet I am still in pain. Added to this was a brand new twist with my vision—as in I was rendered temporarily blind, could only see lines for about 15 seconds.
Very, very freaky.
Do not like stuff messing with my vision. I remember well the onset of a migraine while I was out on my daily walk (years ago when I did that); suddenly, layers were coming off the hot street, and I saw horizontal bands everywhere. Today’s visual anomaly was a hundred times more unsettling.
Not good. Not good at all. So I’m sitting here typing blind, hoping that my fingers on are on the right keys because I’m trying not to focus on anything.
“When I can’t make you understand I repeat myself I repeat
If you don’t stop asking me all these questions how Will I understand anything” ~ Robert Polito, from “Please Refrain from Talking During the Movie”
Monday evening. Sunny, hot and humid, 90 degrees.
Obviously, never got back to the post on Friday. So many good things have happened since then that I feel a need to share them with you . . .
Let’s see, first, I’m having a severe reaction to the Botox, at least that’s what I think it is. I cannot get my doctor’s office to return my call, so let’s just hope that I don’t go into anaphylactic shock over this. The soft tissue above my eyebrows is very swollen; my cheeks feel taut, and I cannot open my mouth all the way. My eyes feel as if something is inside both of them burning. I looked up my symptoms and it’s either the Botox, or an extreme mold reaction, or cellulitis. All good things . . .
But believe it or not, this is the good news. You see, we have water damage and rot down to the joists. Yes, the joists. You know those big pieces of lumber that keep the house up, that make it possible for the house not to sink into the crawl space, the ones that are long and unwieldy. Yes, the joists.
I tried to put this into perspective for Corey by telling him that had we hired a contractor, that discovery would have tacked on at least another $6k to the job. Perspective is not exactly what he’s looking for. Help would be the operative word. I cannot help in the wood replacement, just don’t have the strength. It’s definitely not a one-person job. At times like these, Corey really misses his brothers and cousins, all of whom are very, very handy.
“A trap is only a trap if you don’t know about it. If you know about it, it’s a challenge.” ~ China Miéville, from King Rat
We knew we had water damage, and we suspected that it was in the studs, but not the joists. That just seems too traumatic somehow. It’s a wonder that no one fell through the floor before now. If you could only see this—it’s amazing in it’s thoroughness, complete and total breakdown of the foundation. It’s everywhere.
As I sit here, I can actually feel all of the muscles in the top of my back and shoulder contracting. What does anaphylactic shock look like? I know. I’m a drama queen, but hey, now’s the time, if ever.
So in between trying to identify my symptoms as some new rare disease, I’m researching joist repair, adding it to the list of E-How printouts that are piling up on the dining room table. We might get to tiling sometime next week. Meantime, did I mention this is our only bathroom? Only. Bathroom.
I’ve raised three children, three teenagers with only one bathroom. It seemed like quite an achievement before. Now the real achievement is that no one has been killed by the structural failure that is our house.
“Your home is regarded as a model home, your life as a model life. But all this splendor, and you along with it… it’s just as though it were built upon a shifting quagmire. A moment may come, a word can be spoken, and both you and all this splendor will collapse.” ~ Henrik Ibsen, from A Doll House
I don’t know. Somehow, I’m not really terribly surprised by this turn of events. Our life tends to unfold based on the application of Murphy’s law and all of its corollaries. Not by choice, mind you, but by happenstance. I knew that once we pulled things up and off that what lay beneath would be ugly, but I never thought that it would look like something out of a post-apocalyptic movie in which basic structures have disintegrated into something indeterminate.
Anyway, as I try to complete this post it is now Tuesday, but I saw no point in declaring that with yet another subhead. I stopped writing this post last night to go and cook dinner and then got completely distracted in researching joist replacement, calculating wood needed, etcetera ad nauseum.
This whole project has turned into one massive pain in the tuckus. The only good thing that I can say about all of this is that I am so glad we are undertaking this at a time in which finding out the correct way to do something is only a mouse click away. I cannot imagine trying to do a major renovation without Internet access. By the way, the people who frequent DIY forums are seriously serious about their opinions. Every thread that I have followed has had some element of one-upsmanship as well as snarky comments along the lines of “I can’t believe you just told X to do that! Everyone knows that’s now how you do it!”
Just want to point out that most of the DIY forums are inhabited by people with XY chromosomes. Perhaps that’s why there is so much competition, such a need to have a bigger . . . wrench (not saying that women aren’t competitive, so don’t even go there).
“I was never one to patiently pick up broken fragments and glue them together again and tell myself that the mended whole was as good as new. What is broken is broken—and I’d rather remember it as it was at its best than mend it and see the broken places as long as I lived.” ~ Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind
I suppose I’ll close with a bit of good news: My doctor’s office finally called me back yesterday evening to reassure me that I am not suffering from a progressive case of anaphylactic shock (which I knew, really, I did, it was just the whole vision thing), just good old side effects from the Botox. My eyebrows aren’t quite as huge today, and the lower half of my face/neck/throat no longer feels as if it’s closing.
You know, I really just want to take a Xanax and lie in bed and stare at the ceiling, and since Brett is on campus, and Corey is out buying wood, I just might do that. I mean, I began the day by taking a shower at my mother’s house, which is enough of a story for a post of its own, and the day does not promise to get any better as the hours pass, so why not just bypass all of that? Don’t you agree? I thought that you might.
Besides, if I can’t float in the pool (because of the prednizone and sun being a bad mixture), and I can’t soak in the tub because it’s in a box in the living room, I’ll just have to settle for thinking abou floating in these natural pools until my skin is all wrinkly.
More later. Peace.
*All images are of the Natural Rock Pools of Pamukkale, Turkey.
Music by Future of Forestry, “Someone”
These shriveled seeds we plant,
corn kernel, dried bean,
poke into loosened soil,
cover over with measured fingertips
These T-shirts we fold into
perfect white squares
These tortillas we slice and fry to crisp strips
This rich egg scrambled in a gray clay bowl
This bed whose covers I straighten
smoothing edges till blue quilt fits brown blanket
and nothing hangs out
This envelope I address
so the name balances like a cloud
in the center of sky
This page I type and retype
This table I dust till the scarred wood shines
This bundle of clothes I wash and hang and wash again
like flags we share, a country so close
no one needs to name it
The days are nouns: touch them
The hands are churches that worship the world
“I have woven a parachute out of everything broken.” ~ William Stafford
Friday afternoon. Way too warm for winter, 80’s.
That’s right, 80’s. Ugh. What’s so bad about this is that I’m certain that next week it will probably be in the 40’s. How is a person with sinus problems supposed to thrive in such an environment? It’s hot. No wait, it’s cold. No, it’s hot. The natural immunity that I have gets so confused that it runs and hides.
As it is, I’m out of my Singulair, so my lungs are beginning to crackle again, and because of the hiccup in Corey’s job, I cannot get refills until this coming Thursday. By then, with the temperature changes, this gunk that had taken up temporary residence in my lungs may have come back for an extended visit.
Last night, the progress I had made in getting to sleep earlier vanished as I was unable to fall asleep until 5 a.m., and then I had very bad dreams about dead babies. So not cool.
Corey is working all weekend, which is actually good as it keeps his mind busy so that he doesn’t dwell on the still-unannounced departure date. His truck is finally working; of course, it needs gas, which isn’t going to happen, so while he’s excited that his truck has been fixed, he’s depressed that he cannot drive it anywhere. Of course, there are still a few other things that need to be done, not the least of which is to put new tires on it, but we’re planning to wait until he gets back from his hitch before that expenditure.
Meanwhile, life carries on, as it were.
“Fortune is like glass—the brighter the glitter, the more easily broken.” ~ Publius Syrus
So I’ve been thinking about things that break—real and imagined, literal and figurative. Not really sure why. What follows is stream of consciousness and random association, so be forewarned:
Crystal (too much)
Hearts (too many)
Promises (promises to keep . . .)
Words (is this the same thing as promises?)
Glass (looking glass? walking on broken glass?)
Eggs (secrets and treasurer inside a fragile box)
Families (far too many of these)
Concentration (too easily done)
Fevers (hallucinations or reality)
Negotiations (power struggles)
Wings (fear of flying)
Codes (more secrets?)
Locks (the way in or keeping something out?)
Bones (corporeal fragility)
Habits (bad? broken enough?)
Contracts (see words and promises above)
Records (as in over and over, or in something to surmount?)
Speed of sound (can we travel this far this fast?)
Barriers (all of my life)
Rules (meant to be broken)
Spirits (see wings and hearts)
Glass ceilings (barriers for women)
Systems (this country)
Waves (crash down)
Deadlines (as in promises?)
Bodies (feel this too acutely)
Ties (promises? hearts? families? All of these?)
Covenants (more than a promise)
“I was never one to patiently pick up broken fragments and glue them together again and tell myself that the mended whole was as good as new. What is broken is broken—and I’d rather remember it as it was at its best than mend it and see the broken places as long as I lived.” ~ Margaret Mitchell
So what does all of this mean? In no particular order . . .
I spent a great deal of time in my 20’s trying to break the glass ceiling. I felt that it was my duty, to myself, to the women who looked up to me and those I mentored, and to women in general to take on the very systems that promoted inequity. I had indoctrinated myself in the whole system of feminism, the idea that there should be no inequality between the sexes, that people were people, regardless of sex, creed, color.
I have learned in recent years that feminism has taken on a new meaning, that the rules by which I lived may no longer apply. All of the unspoken promises that those of us on the frontline made to the cause, those ideologies have been overshadowed by something that is no better than the patriarchy that we fought so hard to replace. Feminism should not be about women being better; it should not be about lesbians being better. The whole point of the covenant that we made was that no one should be considered better or treated better or made to feel inferior.
I am sadly disheartened on several fronts: the young women who see feminism as a dirty word, associating it with women who don’t like men (not sexual preference, just in general), defining it as women who hate marriage, family, children. That’s not what it’s about, or at least what it used to be about. I also hate that so many of the young women who are enrolled in women’s studies curricula have made it an uncomfortable place for men. When I was seeking my women’s studies certificate as an undergraduate, the classes were filled with men and women, all who sought equity, more parity between the sexes, all of whom were dedicated to an idea that women could be whatever they wanted and that men could actively support this. It was a curricula that welcomed everyone, and it still should, but I fear that that is no longer the case.
So many barriers that used to hold women back—in government, in society, in all aspects—these barriers have been broken. They should not be replaced with new barriers, reverse sexism, if you will.
People. We are people, and as such, we can embrace our difference and similarities without building more walls.
“It makes my heart sick when I remember all the good words and the broken promises.” ~ Chief Joseph
Someone once said that a broken promise is better than no promise. I heartily disagree. A promise reflects the individual. One who is willing to make a promise is giving his or her word. To toss that aside thoughtlessly is to be careless with the essence of what makes us who we are.
When we marry someone, we make all kinds of promises, sometimes in front of large groups of people and sometimes in front of no one more than an official. In so doing, we bind ourselves, create a tie. When Corey and I wrote our vows, we promised to do things for each other, with each other. Time and circumstance should not change those promises. I don’t believe that either of us said those words lightly. Nevertheless, I would not be telling the truth if I did not admit that we have each broken pieces of the other’s heart, have each chipped away at that unspoken code to do no harm to those we love best. We are only human, after all.
Admittedly, I made promises to my ex, or we made promises to one another. In the end, our words ended up on the scrap heap of broken promises; our marriage on the pile of rocks where broken marriages go to die. Years later, I no longer feel the seething anger or intense heartbreak that I once felt, and time and distance have allowed me to see how much we were both at fault, how we broke each other’s spirits, and broke our covenant, which resulted in a broken and fractured family that has slowly rebuilt itself..
We move through time, salve our wounds, fix some things, but are unable to repair completely others. Too often we walk about in a fog, as if in a fevered ague, and only awaken when necessity forces us to confront what is before us.
“The tender heart, the broken and contrite spirit, are to me far above all the joys that I could ever hope for in this vale of tears.” ~ Charles Simeon
Years ago, when I was still teaching at ODU, I was standing on the kitchen counter, reaching for something, and I dropped a glass on the floor, which immediately broke into pieces. I looked down, saw the glass. This fact registered in my brain, but I still stepped down onto the floor in my bare feet and immediately cut a deep gash on the sole of my foot that required stitches.
Why do I mention this? Because even with knowledge, foresight, we still take steps that are foolhardy; we still knowingly step into a pile of sharp edges, and then we are surprised when we are wounded. We enter into frays knowing that we might exit with wounds, yet still we do it, perhaps because we think that if we make it through to the other side, we have outpaced our own limitations, we have approached the speed of sound, come close to shattering yet another barrier. Or perhaps it is something much more simple: We are not careful enough, not mindful enough. We do not treat our hearts and our souls like the fragile eggs that they are, always believing that we can go just one step further, take one more chance.
We have no fear of flying, convincing ourselves that it cannot possibly happen to us, that is until it does, until our wings are broken, or at the very least, clipped. And what then? Does the reflection looking back at us become unrecognizable, distorted as if reflected from broken glass?
“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.” ~ Ernest Hemingway
Ultimately, this is a world of broken people, fragmented lives, and no matter what system we depend upon for support, we are all still imperfect beings. How we seek to attain perfection varies as widely as there are people on this planet. How we attempt to reach that state of grace is limitless.
And as I sit here now, contemplating the mutability of life, I am brought back to the corporeal as a stabbing pain shoots down my spine. And I know that even though my body is broken in so many ways, that I often do not recognize the person in the mirror as I glance quickly and then turn away, I also know with just as much conviction that the places in me that are broken have been stitched together with things that I have borrowed and stolen from everyone I have ever encountered:
A bone of contention here, a sliver of spine there. I have amassed fragments and pieces, facets and slivers.
Sitting atop my jewelry box is a rather small Waterford crystal salt cellar, an individual dish for salt. My m-in-law gave it to me years ago, and it was my first piece of Waterford. She had received it as a present from an elderly woman to whom she delivered Mobile Meals. This vessel contains three small pins that I no longer wear as I have few occasions to wear suits. This tiny crystal container is perhaps one of my most treasured belongings, so I handle it with great care, probably more care than I take with my life as a whole.
Why do I mention it here? Because it is one of those things that I have amassed that is as much a piece of me as anything else. It does not serve the purpose for which it is intended, but if I were to employ it for salt, it could hold my tears. Or I could stand at the edge of the shore as the waves break onto the sand and collect sea spray that would dry as salt, and fill it wave by wave.
For now, I allow it to contain memories, and I protect it and everything that it symbolizes, which, in the end, is all that we can do really—protect that which can be broken or mend that which has already fractured.
More later. Peace.
Music by Livingston, “Broken”
The Opening of Eyes
That day I saw beneath dark clouds
the passing light over the water
and I heard the voice of the world speak out
I knew then as I have before
life is no passing memory of what has been
nor the remaining pages of a great book
waiting to be read
It is the opening of eyes long closed
It is the vision of far off things
seen for the silence they hold
It is the heart after years of secret conversing
speaking out loud in the clear air
It is Moses in the desert fallen to his knees
before the lit bush
It is the man throwing away his shoes
as if to enter heaven and finding himself astonished
opened at last
fallen in love
with Solid Ground