“I know no other way out of what is both the maze of the eternal present and the prison of the self except with a string of words.” ~ Lewis H. Lapham

 

 I want to go here: Hotel de l’Europe, Amsterdam

                   

“When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained.” ~ Mark Twain

And here: Bakklandet, Norway, by sigkyrre (flckr creative commons)

Saturday afternoon, my house.

The autumn sun is shining brightly through the window of what used to be Eamonn’s room, and dust motes are dancing in the beams. Shakes is asleep on a pillow on the floor near my chair. Corey and Tillie are at the park; Alfie has the big bed all to himself, and Brett is playing XBox. All in all, a rather quiet, peaceful Saturday.

Alexis is busy with a yard sale, some of the proceeds from which will go to Jennifer’s fund for her son Reilly. I spent $10 I didn’t have on two china teapots that belonged to Janet’s mother, Amanda’s grandmother (Amanda is a life-long friend of Alexis). They are beautiful and might make lovely gifts for someone. I also scored a free bread maker, which is great as Corey and I were looking at breadmakers last Christmas but decided against the investment. Scott, Amanda’s father was diagnosed as being Diabetic Type II, so no more homemade bread for them. The bread maker is in great shape, which makes getting it free a great yard-sale deal.

Fresh, hot bread and homemade soups and stews—a winter staple in our house. I know many people who do not like using slow cookers, or crock pots, but I have always used one. When I worked full-time, I would put the soup on in the morning, and when we got home nine hours later, we would have a delicious, hot soup for dinner. Small pleasures.

“So long as a person is capable of self-renewal they are a living being.” ~ Henri-Frederic Amiel

And here: Bruges, Belgium

I began this post on Saturday, and it is now Wednesday evening. Corey asked me this morning if I was going to post soon as I hadn’t added anything since the 19th, which reminded me that I had actually started a post but had never gotten back to it. I had a very good reason, though.

I did something on Saturday and Sunday that I’ve needed to do for a while, but just didn’t feel ready to do: I cleaned my closets, really cleaned, and filled two large black trash bags with clothes, not including the three suits on hangers. I got rid of pretty much anything that I wore to work; I realized that if I ever returned to work, I would want a new wardrobe, that and the fact that none of these clothes would be in style if I do ever resume my career.

So someone at the thrift store will get a great deal on two Jones New York suits, and one Chaus suit, one of which had never been worn, not to mention the jackets, blouses, and pants that I tossed.

It felt good, really good, as if I had passed some kind of hurdle, which is actually what I did. I mean, I cleaned out a chunk of my life that doesn’t exist any more. Corey was both surprised and amazed.

Of course when I finished, my body was completely trashed, and it has taken until this afternoon for me not to be in constant, throbbing pain. The price I pay for living.

“Living is like tearing through a museum. Not until later do you really start absorbing what you saw, thinking about it, looking it up in a book, and remembering—because you can’t take it in all at once.” ~ Audrey Hepburn

And here: Istanbul, Turkey

While trying to recuperate from my big project, I had to take my mother to a doctor’s appointment on Monday, after which she wanted to do some grocery shopping. No surprise that by the time we were finished, she was complaining bitterly that her leg was hurting. She is doing well, but she has not yet healed completely, something that she does not seem able to reconcile.

After all of her hard work, Alexis only made about $70 at the yard sale. She was a bit down about that, but at least this particular project is over.

In other family news, Eamonn stopped by Monday evening to pick up some of his belongings. I have been pressing him to make some decisions as Corey and I want to change Eamonn’s bedroom into an office, so of course eldest son is thinking about moving back home. I would love to have him move back, but I don’t think that he will; rather, I think that he bothered by the idea of his bedroom being transformed into something not reflective of him, which is to be expected.

Brett finished his astronomy project yesterday, which put him in great shape for Thanksgiving break. He is really doing well in school, and I cannot say enough how happy I am at the change that I see in him.

“Life is occupied in both perpetuating itself and in surpassing itself; if all it does is maintain itself, then living is only not dying.” ~ Simone de Beauvoire

And here: Helsinki, Finland by sigkyrre (flckr creative commons)

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and in preparation, I have baked sweet potatoes so that I can mash them tomorrow (with a dash of vanilla, nutmeg, brown sugar, and cream), and I have made a cranberry salad that I hope turns out okay as it is my first time with this recipe. Tomorrow I’ll make the dressing. just a basic recipe.

Corey has to work from 7 to 3, so we’ll probably eat around 5. I’ll go to my mom’s around noon to put the turkey in the oven as it is quite large and heavy. Mom has already made pecan pies and is cooking the green beans, and I’ll make the gravy and heat the rolls after the turkey comes out of the oven.

After last year’s fiasco in which Alexis got up in the afternoon and didn’t put the turkey into the oven until 2 p.m., she is responsible for the mashed potatoes and corn this year, two things that do not require a great deal of time. I do have to say, though, that since she started her new medicine, she does seem to have more energy and hasn’t been sleeping for 24 hours at a time—a positive sign that perhaps she is moving in the right direction.

So if everything goes as planned—which never, ever happens with this family—all details of our Thanksgiving feast should be covered. Eamonn is eating with us, which means that the whole family will be together. I just have to try not to get hyper and anxious, something always happens whenever the whole family is together. I love it, but it makes me very fretful as the perfectionist thing kicks into overdrive.

“If I see the outer world differently from how others see it, it’s because I inadvertently incorporate, into what I see, the things from my dreams that have stuck to my eyes and ears.” ~ Fernandoa Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

And also here: Locronan, Brittany, France

                   

I couldn’t bear the thought of spending another winter in this house without natural gas for heat and cooking, so I took money out of my retirement to pay the back balance to Virginia Natural Gas. In addition to the balance, we have to pay a deposit, which they will spread over three months.

It’s a major expenditure, but a necessary one.  I mean, let’s face it; the cold wreaks havoc with my back, not to mention my knees, which is why it’s so odd that I would love to relocate to a place that has mountains and snow. But ask me on another day, and I would love to relocate to the tropics. As with most things, I don’t really know what I want, but what I want is anywhere but here.

Brett has been talking about New Zealand, a country that I have wanted to visit since I was a child. I told him that unfortunately, the reality is that I cannot even think of moving far away as long as my mother is still around. Her recent accident only reinforced the reality that I have been trying to avoid: As an only child, there is no one else to step in, and there never will be.

Life has an odd way of unfolding, of spilling seemingly insignificant pebbles across the path, only for the pebbles to morph into giant boulders when no one is paying attention. And boulders, well they don’t move at all and cannot be easily pushed to the side, which means that the only way forward is around, making the path longer than anticipated.

As a fellow once said, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

Too right, that.

More later. Peace.

Music by Cyndi Lauper, “Fearless”

                   

Fearless

Sometimes I’m afraid when you go
Sometimes I’m afraid when you come home
Underneath it all . . .
I think I’m afraid when there’s nothing wrong.

But if I was fearless . . .
Could I be your reckless friend
And if I was helpless . . .
Could you be the one comes rushing in.

There’s something that I never told
When I find myself slipping off of my pedestal
I’m a fierce believer afraid to fall.

But if I was fearless . . .
Could I be your reckless friend
And if I was helpless . . .
Could you be the one comes rushing in.

Sometimes I’m afraid of the dark
I can’t find the light in my heart
I can see my hand pushing away from you
Hard as I can

But if I was fearless . . .
Could I be your wreckless friend
And if I was helpless . . .
Could be the one comes rushing in.

Sometimes I’m afraid when you go . . .

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“Lost — Yesterday, somewhere between sunrise and sunset, two golden hours, each set with sixty diamond minutes. No reward is offered, for they are gone forever.” ~ Horace Mann

 

 Dawn on Island View Beach, BC, by Brandon Godfrey

“If you had never been to the world and never known what dawn was, you couldn’t possibly imagine how the darkness breaks, how the mystery and color of a new day arrive.” ~ John O’Donohue*

Dawn as seen from an airplane over Greece

While the above sentiment is beautiful, greeting the dawn for six mornings in a row has just gotten old. I mean, I was thinking about it. If I worked the night shift, then my body clock might make sense, but as I am not working at all, this biological time-out has become overwhelmingly stale. 

This most recent episode began on Sunday after my birthday (great sushi for birthday dinner, by the way). I woke up on Sunday with a headache, so I spent most of the day lying on my back in the dark. Slept on and off. By Monday, headache had receded to pressure, but I felt exhausted. Or, let’s just say that I thought that I felt exhausted. Now I truly know what exhausted is: I feel as if I am one of those movie zombies, wandering about aimlessly looking for my next victim, but even that description doesn’t quite do this state justice. 

Last night, I took my bedtime meds early (around 10). Nothing, nada. Around 12:30 Corey came into check on me; I took Benadryl. Nothing nada. At 3:20 when Corey (Mr. Nightowl himself) came to bed, I took half a trazadone, since a whole pill normally puts me out and gives me a medicine hangover. Nothing, nada. Creeping towards 5 a.m. and still no sleep. Not even spurts of mini-sleep. Ab-so-lute-ly nothing. By this time I figured that it had been 9 hours or so since I had taken any muscle relaxers, so I chanced it, even though thoughts of putting myself into a pharmaceutical coma were lurking somewhere. 

At 6 a.m. I heard Brett’s alarm go off, but he didn’t get up. I was just starting to drift a bit when I squinted at the clock: 6:16 and still no movement from Brett. He had two exams today, so he had to go to school. I knocked on his door, and behold, he was not awake. I nudged Corey around 6:45 and told him that there was no way that I could drive even though I was awake since I was definitely under the influence of something. I finally fell asleep around 7:45 and slept until 11. Took two ativan and slept from 11:30 to 2:30. 

Those last three hours were the only uninterrupted, sound stretch of blissful sleep that I had. Every night since Sunday has been like this. 

“I’m sleeping while awake, standing by the window, leaning against it as against everything.” ~ Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

Snow at Dawn by Tracy Rosen

In between tossing and turning, I play computer games. I think about writing, but realize that if I begin a post, my mind won’t settle—it will only come to consciousness fully. I know, computer games aren’t the best idea either, but I try to find something mindless, like Bejeweled, just moving jewels around, but mindless games don’t seem to fix the problem either. 

I have noticed that the quality of my dreams when I do sleep is pretty wild: Something about a really ugly dress, a work dream thrown in there (work dreams have taken the place of algebra finals for my stress dreams), and then the other night, I had a full-blown action/adventure movie in which Corey and I were holed up in some seedy hotel, trying to find ammunition. Apparently, we were on some job that involved taking out someone, and we had run out of ammunition. 

I remember being quite enamored with my gun, which was a Walther PPK, à la James Bond. It had a weird siting mechanism, and the safety was on the back, not the side. Weird. I have never owned a gun and have never fired a handgun, but in this dream, my gun was my best friend. 

“Only mystery makes us live. Only mystery.” ~  Federico García Lorca

Spire of the Church of Tronville-en-Barrois at Dawn

Although, what is more strange is that when I am not sleeping, in those long stretches of painful wakefulness, I find myself doing very odd things like math equations. Trust me when I say that while I am good at math, I do not like it, so why is my mind in overdrive doing word problems? 

Do you ever compose in your sleep? I do, not as much as I would like, but it happens. I compose verse, which in my dream state sounds perfect, but I almost never wake myself to jot down what I have composed. I think that I do, but it’s just my body tricking me. However, on Monday, when I finally did fall asleep, I composed a piece of music, which is something that I have not done in many years. 

I am a classically-trained pianist, which I may have mentioned. I was good, but not great, and I knew it. I just loved it, which is why I took lessons for so long, but knowing that I didn’t have that special whatever that would set me apart, I did not major in music in college. So when I realized in my dream that I had composed a piece of music, I felt overjoyed. Once I woke up, I managed to hum just a tiny bit of it, but that was all that was left to me in my conscious state. 

However, I interpret the way in which my mind has been working recently during my semi-awareness to mean that I might be embarking on another creative spurt, at least I hope so. I mean, math? Music? Of course, the two are closely related . . . perhaps my mind is making connections that I have yet to reach once I am alert, although describing myself as alert these days might be going too far. 

“I have a sense of something imminent coming closer. But then I lose it again, become ordinary and inadequate. I feel like someone who is trying to guess an object being described by music. The sound grows steadily louder; he thinks he is on the point of grasping it, and then the sound becomes weaker again and he has to look for another answer.” ~ from the diary of Kaethe Kollwitz

Sunrise on the Outer Banks of NC

Who knows what is really going on in my mind? Certainly not I. Of course, if I were to venture a theory, it would be that the stress of our lives is currently wreaking havoc with my body. Yes, there is the pain, but that is omnipresent. It is more the sense of my head being very full and tight, my ears ringing, and an inability to focus. 

Of course, it has now been exactly two years since Corey was laid off. His job with Vane Brothers, which his contact said should start at the beginning of this year, now has a tentative start date of mid-February. We haven’t given up hope because if he does actually manage to get a job with this company, it would be wonderful. They have a great reputation in the shipping industry, good benefits, and people who work for them seem to be satisfied, which is not commonplace in tugboating. 

I have learned that people who work on tugs jump from company to company, often returning to companies once, twice, even three times. I suppose it’s just one of those industries that is a bit incestuous: everyone knows everyone else; being part of the in network secures a job faster than qualifications, things like that. Anyway, I am really, really hoping that this comes through. We’ve been due for a change of luck for some time now, and I find that time has become somewhat unreliable as a result. 

By that I mean I look up, and it’s the end of January. I was just getting ready for Christmas. But at the same time, it’s been two very long years without a second regular income, and that seems interminable. It’s almost as if I am somnabulating through the days, getting nowhere, so my body cannot truly rest. 

 “If you could only keep quiet, clear of memories and expectations, you would be able to discern the beautiful pattern of events. It’s your restlessness that causes chaos.” ~ Nisargadatta Maharaj

Florida Dawn by Janson Jones

Oh listen to me, going on about a whole lot of weirdness. I can say, though, that my back feels better today after getting my caudal yesterday, even though I felt as if I was going to throw up on the procedure table. This nausea crap is really getting old, but as I told Corey, I’m sure that this, too, shall pass. 

I just have to hold on to the idea that next week or the week after, my body will begin to right itself, so to speak, and I will be able to concentrate more fully on the things that matter, like writing this blog, for example. This overwhelming sense of restlessness cannot last forever; can it? I mean, a person could really and truly go crazy without the ability to find focus. 

Ah well. For now, I will continue to exist between these states of tossing about in the bed covers, stumbling to the kitchen to get something to drink, sitting at my desk in front of this computer waiting for inspiration. I don’t think that I have killed my sleep like Macbeth did, but I do believe that something inside of me is churning about too much, hence the inability to sleep soundly. Exactly what that something is, I have no idea. But as Emerson said, “What you are comes to you.” 

I have to believe that given time, things will begin to shift course. The receding tide will remove all the detritus that life has scattered on the shore for the past two years, and dawn will again become something that I greet with a sense of hope instead of dread. 

More later. Peace. 

Music from the Dixie Chicks: “Landslide,” which seems wholly appropriate: getting older, children getting older, being brought down by a landslide . . . 

  

 

  

*Many thanks to Crashingly Beautiful for the quotes used in this post.

“Todo começo é involuntário.” (All beginnings are involuntary) ~ Fernando Pessao

  

December Snow, Anchorage, Alaska by Janson Jones  

“I’m astounded whenever I finish something. Astounded and distressed.” ~ Fernando Pessoa from The Book of Disquiet 

Cold and rainy here today. No snow. Of course there is no snow. But if feels like it should be snowing. At least that’s what my inner voice is saying. Snow . . . snow . . . snow . . .

University of Alaska Campus, November 2009 by Janson Jones

We haven’t had a good snow in this area for years, which is probably best since everything comes to a complete standstill even with a light dusting. These people don’t know how to drive in the rain, let alone the snow.  And ice? Just stay home. It’s safer.  

Corey and I are talking about trying to make a trip to Ohio for a few days around Christmas. With any luck, it will be snowing, and maybe I can get some good photographs. For some reason, I feel most creative as far as my photography when there is snow. Maybe it’s because I’m really a black and white person as far as my own color palette. I mean, on those quizzes when it asks what your favorite color is, I answer black. On rare occasions I’ll pick red or purple, but mostly, it’s just black.  

I don’t have anything against color, I just happen to like black—black boots, black purses, black pants, black leather jackets. And then there are those 10 or so white sweaters that I have in my closet in various stages of comfort wearability. The oldest is probably from the early 90’s, and it is wonderfully comfortable.  

I know. You are probably thinking that I need to get out more, but even when I left the house on a regular basis, it was mostly black, with some red thrown in and occasionally shades of purple and lavender.  

So shooting pictures in the snow is very rewarding for me. I do have to admit, though, that I haven’t figured out how to set my digital camera to take black and white photographs, so I usually just take out the color in Photoshop.  Not my first choice, but it works. Years ago I had wanted to put a dark room in my house so that I could develop my own black and white film. As with most things, never got around to it, which is just as well since I shoot almost exclusively in digital now.  

“My perfectionist instinct should inhibit me from finishing: it should inhibit me from even beginning.” ~ Fernando Pessoa from The Book of Disquiet   

White House Image of President Greeting Salahis

On the national front Tiger Woods is doing a mea culpa. Those White House gate-crashers, the Salahis, are still firmly holding to their story that they had invitations (sure, you did), and in Orange County, California, thieves broke into a warehouse and stole food and goods that had been collected for the needy. Robbing Salvation Army kettles, stealing donations—can’t these people pick their targets better? Not that anyone deserves to be robbed, but robbing from those who can least afford it?  Bah . . .  

Don’t ask me how I feel about President Obama’s speech in which he declares that he will be sending 30,000 troops to Afghanistan.  I am of very mixed feelings about the whole thing. I mean, Bin Laden was in Afghanistan in the first place. That’s where the war should have been fought, not in Iraq. Perhaps if the previous administration and Darth Cheney had been more focused, there would be no need to send anyone anywhere. I mean, 30,000 troops is a lot of people. A lot. And the proclamation that withdrawal will begin in mid 2011 is ludicrous. There is not way to know that in advance. Another open-ended incursion into another country—not the best news, to say the very least.     

And on a final note, I read a disturbing story about a 13-year-old Florida girl who committed suicide because of sexting bullying. Apparently, this young, impressionable girl sent a topless photo of herself to a boy that she liked. Okay. That’s the first problem. The fact that kids, teenagers, young people can take sexually-explicit photographs of themselves and each other with their phones and not be mature enough to realize the long-reaching implications is truly bothersome (the article cites a poll in which 20 percent of teens admit to sending sexually explicit photographs of themselves over cell phones).  Someone else intercepted the photo while using the boy’s phone, and that person spread the picture throughout the girl’s school and even to nearby high schools. Soon after, classmates began a campaign of fierce harassment, calling the girl a slut and a whore when she walked the school halls.  

What dismays me the most about this story is that at 13, girls are in the midst of one of the most confusing times of their lives. Hormones. Emotions. Body image. Peer pressure. It doesn’t matter what kind of home life these kids have, adolescence is adolescence, which is to say, it’s one of the most tumultuous, stressful, suckiest times of a person’s life. The girl did not tell her family about the bullying, and eventually, it became so bad that she felt that she couldn’t go on, and she hung herself in her bedroom where her mother found her.  

Teenage Girls With Cell Phones

So many things wrong with this situation: the lack of privacy as a result of cell phones with cameras, the lack of good judgment on the part of those involved, the cruelty with which teenagers and children treat each other, never realizing just how horribly words and actions can affect a boy or girl who is already feeling isolated, or confused, or sad. It just makes me ache inside for this girl’s family and friends, and it makes me want to throttle the bullies, which, I know, is not the best reaction.  

“But I get distracted and start doing something. What I achieve is not the product of an act of my will but of my will’s surrender.” ~ Fernando Pessoa from The Book of Disquiet 

I speak from experience when I say that teenage girls are most vicious when it comes to other teenage girls. I think that the jealousy hormone ratchets out of control with the onset of puberty. These young girls are so starved for attention, even the wrong kind, that idle gossip can soon turn to slander which can then escalate into bullying. Teenage boys, because they have pretty much one main focus, will easily become caught up in these campaigns. No one wins.  

The gossip-mongers learn that being vocal gets them noticed. Their friends don’t want to seem unsupportive, so they join in. The victims, not having endured workforce mongering and backstabbing, are totally unprepared for the onslaught. If you don’t believe that middle schools are hotbeds of jungle socialization, then you are living with your head in the sand.  

Is this solely a family problem? No, because no amount of good parenting can prepare a child for the ferocity of what can go on in school, any school, from one day to the next. Is this a school problem? No, but yes. Teachers and administrators aren’t responsible for peer pressure and psychological factors; however, that being said, they should be responsible for alerting parents and guardians to potential problems when they are aware of them, which in this case, they did not. Is this a societal problem? Yes, absolutely.  

I know. I’m beating that long-deceased horse carcass again, but it would be a lie to say that children aren’t socialized by countless factors from a very young age to fit in, to be pretty or handsome, to get invited to the right birthday parties in pre-school. It starts that soon.  

I know that there is actually no one right answer to this problem. I also know that access to technology is not always a good thing. Witness the number of adults who have made sex videos only to have them surface after the breakup of a relationship that was supposed to last forever.  If grown-ups don’t have enough sense not to do these kinds of things, how can we expect impressionable youth to know better?  

“I begin because I don’t have the strength to think; I finish because I don’t have the courage to quit.” ~ Fernando Pessoa from The Book of Disquiet   

I’ve worked myself into a lather, so perhaps this would be a good stopping point. Or perhaps, I should go back to boycotting the news. Whatever.  

Other than those tidbits, not a whole lot else going on. Everyone has retreated to the comfort of their own niches: Corey is on the computer in the dining room; Eamonn is sleeping in his room, and Brett is in his room, probably watching television. I’m sitting here in a white sweater and jeans, Christmas socks on my feet, and snowmen earrings on my lobes.  

Admittedly, it was hard motivating myself to write this post. I played a bit of spider solitaire and then sat here looking at the screen. Turned on one of my playlists and hoped that music would inspire me, but truthfully, it didn’t. So I thought that I’d just ramble for a bit and call it a day, but once I got started, the steamroller took over. Weird how that happens.  

More later. Peace.  

K. D. Lang’s “Barefoot”  

  

                                                                                                                                     

Lyrics to Barefoot  

When the sun goes down here
And darkness falls
The blanket of winter
Leaves no light at all
  

You search for shelter
To calm the storm
Shaking with an instinct
Just to stay warm
  

Chorus:
But I’d walk through the snow barefoot
If you’d open up your door
I’d walk through the snow barefoot
  

You hear the howling
Of dogs and wind
Stirring up the secrets
That are frozen within
  

The ice will haunt you
It lays so deep
Locking up inside you
The dreams that you keep