“I feel like I’ve swallowed a cloudy sky” ~ Haruki Murakami, from Sputnik Sweetheart

William Degouve de Nuncques La nuit à Bruger, 1897 oil on canvas
“La nuit à Bruger” (1897, oil on canvas)
by William Degouve de Nuncques

                   

“Sometimes moods of indescribable anguish, sometimes moments when the veil of time and fatality of circumstances seemed to be torn apart for an instant.” ~Vincent Van Gogh

Wednesday afternoon. Sunny and hot, 88 degrees.

(Forewarning: It’s long and rambling)

A day filled with sadness for several reasons.

William Degouve de Nuncques Parc-de-Milan-1895
“Parc de Milan” (1895, pastel)
by William Degouve de Nuncques

Jake was surrendered to the shelter from which we adopted him. I did not go with Corey; instead, I began to clean as soon as I awoke (9 a.m., very early for me), which has once again become my solution to anything. That I have added yet another column to my lifetime table of guilt should surprise no one. I can only hope that Jake finds a family in which he can be the only child because I know that he would thrive in such an environment, as he has so much love and devotion to offer a lucky human.

Chalk up another major screw up. It’s not a pity party, exactly, more like a hating-life party. Or more specifically, hating my life, or hating how I live, or hating what I’m not doing in life, or hating how life has unfolded.

Circumstances. Sometimes, I really, really hate that word.

I don’t know. It’s all so tangled and gnarly, like a fishing net piled into a ball and left to dry in the sun—the result is a smelly mess needing much patience to disentangle the knots and snarls. I am sorely lacking in patience.

“The Greek word for ‘return’ is nostos. Algos means ‘suffering.’ So nostalgia is the suffering caused by an unappeased yearning to return.” ~ Milan Kundera, from Ignorance

William Degouve de Nuncques The Black Swan, pastel 1896
“The Black Swan” (1896, pastel)
by William Degouve de Nuncques

What do you do when someone you know simply cannot let go of something? I have no doubts that many people who have known me have wondered the same thing, given my tendency to cling so firmly to what was, affecting my ability to move into the what may be. But for a change, it is someone else whose desires for something from the past that is affecting the present.

The particulars are not mine to disclose as it is a private matter. I can only say that I wish more than anything that I had never heard about this, this, thing? Event? Point in time? I wish that I had never been made privy to this information, so disturbing is it and all of its implications.

I can only say that if this individual chooses to pursue this path back into the past, many, many people will be hurt, perhaps beyond repair. I say this knowing that the heart wants what the heart wants, fully aware that the heart is selfish and very often, callous.

This person believes that he/she has a right to venture down this path. I disagree. Believe me, my reaction is not from the gut but from the heart and the head. I have mulled over this possibility more than once over the years. I have wondered what might happen should these circumstances arise, and I have lived with a buried sense of dread because knowing this person as I do, I know that he/she has only one thing in mind.

“I am carrying such weights of absolute sadness that I must at any moment be dragged down into the deepest sea and the person trying to seize or even ‘rescue’ me would give up, not from weakness, not even from hopelessness but from sheer annoyance.” ~ Franz Kafka, Letters To Milena

William Degouve de Nuncques Nocturnal Effect 1896 pastel on paper
“Effet de Nuit” (1896, pastel on paper)
by William Degouve de Nuncques

So I’m having a visit with my old compatriot—regret. The two of us go back far too many years. All of the what-ifs, the might-have-beens, the why-nots, the if-only. Sometimes I feel that I should have the two words IF ONLY tattooed prominently on my body for all to see. It might keep me from trying to explain myself. Or maybe not.

Look. The current distressed state in which I currently find myself is not solely because of what happened with Jake, but god knows that plays a part. As I mentioned earlier, life in the abode has been a virtual wall-to-wall bed of nails. Step lightly lest you fall and open a lot of wounds. For a day or so, I actually thought that things were beginning to get better. I had a day in which I was able to think about floating around in the pool, reading a book, relaxing, not that I did any of these things.

I was so, so wrong.

Have you ever listened to the soundtrack from the movie Philadelphia, the one starring Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington? It has to be one of the saddest, most gut-wrenching soundtracks in existence. From start to finish it is a compilation of heartbreaking songs, and of course, I know each and every song by heart. The only reason the soundtrack isn’t my current writing music is that were it on I would probably not be writing but singing to myself.

I feel as if my life right now is that soundtrack on perpetual repeat.

“It is always important to know when something has reached its end. Closing circles, shutting doors, finishing chapters, it doesn’t matter what we call it; what matters is to leave in the past those moment in life that are over.” ~ Paulo Coelho, from The Zahir

William Degouve de Nuncques Nocturne au Parc Royal de Bruxelles 1897 pastel on paper
“Nocturne au Parc Royal de Bruxelles” (1897, pastel on paper)

Regrets. I was speaking of them.

I regret putting my family and a sweet, lovely dog through the mill for a situation that I truly believed would turn out differently.

I regret that the depression from which I suffer spills over into every aspect of my life.

I regret that I did not tell my father that I loved him every chance that I had.

I regret that I didn’t pursue my doctorate decades ago when it would have been much more feasible.

I regret getting to this age without accomplishing even 25 percent of what I had planned.

I regret that my genetic make-up and predisposition to mental illness has been passed to my offspring.

I regret that I was never able to give Corey a child of his own.

That last one ↑? That’s a super big one. It’s the one that I always felt would deal a death-blow to my marriage. Not all at once, but as time passed. Each time he holds Olivia, I see the wistfulness in his eyes, and now that his brother Chad is a new dad to a beautiful baby boy once again, I can see the pain just below the surface. It’s there. I know it’s there. And I can do nothing, absolutely nothing about it.

“Why did everything always change, when all you wanted, all you had ever humbly asked of whatever God there might be, was that certain things be allowed to remain the same.” ~ Richard Yates, from Revolutionary Road

William Degouve de Nuncques A Venise 1895 pastel on cardboard
“A Venise” (1895, pastel on cardboard)
by William Degouve de Nuncques

I apologize for the disjointedness of this post; it comes from wanting to say so much and having to self-censor in order to respect another person’s privacy. It also comes from feeling such absolute sadness, a sadness that is born of much and little.

Much? How about an inability to give a part myself to someone who means more than life itself, and the ramifications of that inability? A real inability, not a desire not to do so—big difference.

Little? Many would see the betrayal of Jake as not being that significant. After all, he’s a dog, right? You obviously don’t know me at all.

Aside: I had told myself years ago that before I got too old to do so that I would run in a 5k race and that I would finish it, even if I came in last. I also told myself that before I got too old I would get my doctorate, even if I never got a job with it. I told myself that I would take the time to put together a manuscript and that I would look for an agent. And I told myself that some day, I would have another daughter.

How is any of this relevant? Only in how it proves how much I lie to myself, and how cruel fate can be.

“How one must be thrust over a finished cycle in life, and that leap the most difficult to make . . . The struggle to emerge out of the past, clean of memories; the inadequacy of our hearts to cut life into separate and final portions . . . the hunger for frontiers against which we might lean as upon closed doors before we proceed forward” ~ Anaïs Nin, from The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 1: 1931-1934

william degouve de nuncques les paons via la-chair-et-le-sang 1898
“Les Paons” (1898)
by William Degouve de Nuncques

Do you know what I wish? I wish that the child that Corey is currently rocking in the Bentwood rocker was his. But I also wish that it didn’t matter so much to him. I wish that the unconditional love that I offer could be enough. I wish that I could be dense, could fool myself. I wish that we had had the resources a decade ago to try in vitro; perhaps if that had happened successfully, then the complete and utter despair that I feel now wouldn’t be happening. I wish that I were enough, but I know that I’m not. I wish that pain wasn’t palpable, that longing wasn’t visible, and that regret was not in my vocabulary.

I have never wished that I hadn’t gotten involved with Corey, even though there were several members of his family who wished that were so (at the time). But I have wished that I could have been someone else for him, even though I profess to be happy with myself as I am. I wish that I had a perky upturned nose and blond hair and significant ta tas and a name like Cindy or Blair. I wish that I fit squarely into the category of All-American girl.

Yeah. Most of those previous statements were lies. At least on some level. I like being different. I like my olive skin and dark hair. I like my exotic name. I like that a man once told me that I should be treated like a goddess and that another man wrote me a poem in which he compared me to a multicolored butterfly. But for every one thing that I like about myself, there are two that I don’t.

All I know is that right now, at this moment, I feel sad and lonely and more than a little insufficient. It’s times like these that the thought crosses my mind that if I were addicted to something, I could just take it and float off into oblivion.

Yeah. Not so much.

Later. Peace.

I needed blues, so all images depicted are by Belgian painter William Degouve de Nuncques (1867-1935)

Music by Tindersticks, “Sweet Memory”

                   

Translucence: An Assay

A dog implausibly large,
with fur the color of rose-quartz, slipped through my sleep

I have never seen roses that color,
or a vein of quartz move through its fissure on soft-padded feet.
This was sure, though: what she wanted was for me to follow.

She did not look back.
A shadow opened then folded behind her.
I followed as if past a gate latch
sliding closed on its own silent weight.

It was not so very different, really
More as if the narrator had turned and departed,
abandoned the story,
and each tree, each stone, stood clear in its own full fate.

The dream, like the dog, went on, travelled elsewhere.
Passed by the moment when everything might have been changed.
Passed by the moment of knowing I wanted everything changed.

~ Jane Hirshfield
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“No one know what causes an outer landscape to become an inner one.” ~ Margaret Atwood

Dawn with Fishermen of Inle Lake, Myanmarby Chris Martin (National Geographic)
Dawn with Fishermen of Inle Lake, Myanmar
by Chris Martin (National Geographic)

                   

“why do you live in your body like you will be given another? as if it were temporary. you starve it, you let anyone touch it, you berate it. tell it that should be completely different. you tug at your soft flesh, wish it thinner, wish it gone. you fall in love with those who praise the way it sighs under their hands, but who praises the way it holds up your weight, even when you are falling apart?” ~ Warsan Shire, “Praise the Soft Belly”

Tuesday evening. Cloudy, high 50’s.

I woke up saying this sentence: “Tyler, I want a tin of bears and Oreos.” Don’t ask me what it means because I have no idea, but I was actually singing it as opposed to just saying it. I have such a very strange dream life.

Olivia, who is over today, is currently napping. I expect her to wake up any minute now, especially because I just sat down to write. I kept postponing, thinking that she would wake up, until finally I decided to hell with it. I’ll just start writing and see what happens.

Across the Mist on Inle Lake by Zara Bowmar Nat Geo
Across the Mist on Inle Lake
by Zara Bowmar (National Geographic)

I called my mom to let her know that Olivia was over here, and she came over for a visit. As my mother was holding Olivia, she was remarking on how fat she is (she isn’t). I won’t even delve into how upset that made me, but I just kept my mouth shut. Olivia is too young for the words to stick, but as I said to Corey after my mom left, is it any wonder I am the way that I am. Corey’s response was that she starts young.

Understatement.

“There is a theory of crying that tears are the body’s way of
releasing excess elements from the brain. There is a theory of
dreaming that each one serves to mend something torn, like
cells of new skin lining up to cover a hole.” ~ Lisa Olstein, from “That Magnificent Part the Chorus Does about Tragedy”

So I finally finished the taxes and Brett’s FAFSA, at least for now. I still need to do Eamonn’s taxes, but those will be a piece of cake after what I just went through. I had to do an amended return for Eamonn because last year I somehow claimed him as a dependent on our return (legitimate as he was still in school full time), but when I did his return I forgot and gave him one exemption. The IRS sent him a letter saying that he needed to do an amended return. I have to say the 1040x is a stupid, overly complicated form, and I went through all of these steps to get the same amount that I had pretty much calculated in my head.

Traditional Fisherman on Inle Lake by Zara Bowmar Nat Geo
Traditional Fisherman on Inle Lake
by Zara Bowmar (National Geographic)

And that interminable wait to speak to an IRS person? She told me that she didn’t know a lot about the 1040x, but it sounded like I had it right. Then she offered to transfer me to someone who was an expert in that form, at which point I was told that the wait would be at least 15 minutes, this after being on the phone for 59 minutes, 54 of those on hold.

No thank you.

“Word by word, the language of women so often begins with a whisper.” ~ Terry Tempest Williams, from When Women Were Birds: Fifty-four Variations on Voice

Thursday evening. Cloudy and cold, 47 degrees.

Spear Fisherman Rowing Boat with his Leg, Myanmar Inle Lake by Sean Caffrey Nat Geo
Spear Fisherman Rowing Boat with his Leg
Myanmar Inle Lake
by Sean Caffrey (National Geographic)

By the time Olivia left on Tuesday, I had run out of things to say, so I never got back to this post. Yesterday, I was bedridden, nauseous, dizzy and weak. Too tired to read, even, better last night, but Corey and I stayed up until 5 a.m. watching season 2 of “Walking Dead.” It’s a highly addictive show, and we’re trying to finish season 2 and the beginning of season 3 before he is scheduled to ship out on February 16.

We’re in countdown mode again. He decided to sign on for half a hitch (45 days) since none of the companies in which he is interested have openings at the moment. Perhaps something will become available once he finishes this hitch. Neither of us are terribly excited about him going back, but we want to make sure we don’t get caught up in a domino effect again with our bills, and this is the best way to ensure that does not happen.

I think that I was in denial about it, telling him that I was fine with him going, and then I realized that I wasn’t fine, but there really isn’t anything that can be done. I just have to try to keep things together for six weeks or so. I think I can do that, should be able to do that, don’t know if I can do that . . .

“Into what waters do we fall
when we leave, if time does not exist?
What is the depth of heaven?” ~ Manuel Ulacia, from “The Stone at the Bottom”

Corey has spent the last five days cleaning fish. During his last trip he caught lots of fish, red snapper and other kinds with which I am unfamiliar. They were all frozen whole in garbage bags. So he finally decided to clean and fillet them. We had fresh fish twice in the last week. Not complaining. Everyone in the family loves fish. My dad used to cook fish all of the time, fried, baked, however, but he did not often fillet it, which meant fish bones. If there is a bone, I will find it.

Spear Fisherman on Inle Lake by Cuong Do Nat Geo
Spear Fisherman on Inla Lake
by Cuong Do (National Geographic)

I am reminded of something funny that my father used to do. If anyone was choking on a fish bone, he would pat their head in a circular motion. Apparently it’s some kind of Filipino wives’ tale: patting the head clears the fish bone. I can attest that it does not work. Actually, now that I think of it, I think he was pulling my leg . . .

So during this massive cleaning Corey has taught Brett how to clean fish, something he’s been wanting to learn. Eamonn, who knows how already, decided that he did not want to participate in the cleaning. Go figure.

Anyway, now that we’re in countdown mode, it seems that Corey is trying to get all kinds of things done before next week. We’re going to try to go to the movies one more time before he leaves. I had wanted to see Anna Karenina, with Keira Knightly, but I don’t think that it came to any theaters in this area, and if it did, it’s long gone. I think we’re going to see Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, perhaps this weekend.

“Why am I afraid, I who am not afraid? Why must I pretend to scorn in order to pity? Why must I hide myself in self-contempt in order to understand? Why must I be so ashamed of my strength, so proud of my weakness?” ~ Eugene O’Neill from The Great God Brown

I’m very worried about Brett. He is unhappy with one of his classes and seems set on not going. I was really hoping that this semester would be a break for him, only classes he likes, 12 easy credits.

Sunset on Inle Lake by Chinmay Vasavada Nat Geo
Sunset on Inle Lake
by Chinmay Vasvada (National Geographic)

He’s distressed because he had originally signed up for a film class and then at the last minute changed it to a short story class. Now he hates the short story class and wishes that he were in the film class, especially because a friend of his is telling him what a great class it is.

Signing up for classes is often a crap shoot. If you don’t know someone who has taken the class or someone who knows the professor, you don’t know what you’re getting. I had more than my share of crap classes, but there’s really nothing you can do about it once you’re past that drop/add deadline, which he is.

What is worrying me is how focused he is on his perceived mistake. I know that I dwell, but he is completely fixated, to the point of obsessing over what could have been. I so wish that none of my children had inherited the family propensity for depression, but alas, was not to be. All of them, to one degree or another, suffer. But I’ve been doing this dance with Brett since high school, and at times, I feel so utterly helpless and useless that I just want to put my fist through a wall.

“So, now I shall talk every night. To myself. To the moon. I shall walk, as I did tonight, jealous of my loneliness, in the blue-silver of the cold moon, shining brilliantly on the drifts of fresh-fallen snow, with the myriad sparkles. I talk to myself and look at the dark trees, blessedly neutral. So much easier than facing people, than having to look happy, invulnerable, clever. With masks down, I walk, talking to the moon, to the neutral impersonal force that does not hear, but merely accepting my being. And does not smite me down.” ~ Sylvia Plath, from “Cambridge Notes”

How does the depressed aid the depressed? How does one who is herself in a free fall pause long enough to prop up one for whom she feels completely responsible?

Depression goes hand-in-hand with low self-esteem. One causes the other, and it is hard to say which is the precursor and which is the result. My youngest son suffers terribly from a sense that he is not good enough, that he cannot get it right, whatever it may be. And because I carry around enough guilt for a monastery full of self-flagellating monks, I fear that I have caused him to feel less than worthy somehow.

Sunset at Inle Lake, Myanmar by Joseph Cressman Nat Geo
Sunset at Inle Lake, Myanmar
by Joseph Cressman (National Geographic)

Depression and low self-esteem are a sharp knife, and the cuts may be invisible, but they are still there, and I hate that I know about the cuts but can do nothing to help them heal.

I am distressed that he has taken a dislike to this class so soon in the semester, and I don’t want him to take any action that may hurt his overall GPA. Yet at the same time I want him to do what will best help him as regards his mental state. I fear that the planned trip to New Zealand will not come soon enough, and I fear that it will come and he will go and not come back.

Why is life always so damned hard, even when it isn’t?

Enough.

More later. Peace.

(All images from National Geographic Sense of Place are of local fishermen in Myanmar (Burma):  The fish population in Inle Lake has dwindled as a result of overfishing, environmental waste, and invasive non-native species, and fishermen such as those in the pictures above are turning away from their trades, sustaining themselves instead by demonstrating traditional fishing methods to tourists. Local fishermen use tall nets to trap fish and then use spears to catch them. They are known for practicing a distinctive rowing style that involves standing at the stern on one leg and wrapping the other leg around the oar. The reeds and floating plants covering the lake make it difficult to see above them while sitting. Standing provides the rower with a view beyond the reeds and frees their hands for fishing. However, the leg rowing style is only practiced by the men. wikipedia)

Music by Tindersticks, “Sweet Memory”

                   

Admonitions to a Special Person

Watch out for power,
for its avalanche can bury you,
snow, snow, snow, smothering your mountain.

Watch out for hate,
it can open its mouth and you’ll fling yourself out
to eat off your leg, an instant leper.

Watch out for friends,
because when you betray them,
as you will,
they will bury their heads in the toilet
and flush themselves away.

Watch out for intellect,
because it knows so much it knows nothing
and leaves you hanging upside down,
mouthing knowledge as your heart
falls out of your mouth.

Watch out for games, the actor’s part,
the speech planned, known, given,
for they will give you away
and you will stand like a naked little boy,
pissing on your own child-bed.

Watch out for love
(unless it is true,
and every part of you says yes including the toes),
it will wrap you up like a mummy,
and your scream won’t be heard
and none of your running will end.

Love? Be it man. Be it woman.
It must be a wave you want to glide in on,
give your body to it, give your laugh to it,
give, when the gravelly sand takes you,
your tears to the land. To love another is something
like prayer and can’t be planned, you just fall
into its arms because your belief undoes your disbelief.

Special person,
if I were you I’d pay no attention
to admonitions from me,
made somewhat out of your words
and somewhat out of mine.
A collaboration.
I do not believe a word I have said,
except some, except I think of you like a young tree
with pasted-on leaves and know you’ll root
and the real green thing will come.

Let go. Let go.
Oh special person,
possible leaves,
this typewriter likes you on the way to them,
but wants to break crystal glasses
in celebration,
for you,
when the dark crust is thrown off
and you float all around
like a happened balloon.

~ Anne Sexton