Respect

Respect is defined as “esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability”  by dictionary.com.

“To respect a person is not possible without knowing him; care and responsibility would be blind if they were not guided by knowledge.” ~ Erich Fromm

“If you want to be respected by others, the great thing is to respect yourself. Only by that, only by self-respect will you compel others to respect you.”
Fyodor Dostoyevsky

“On a practical level respect includes taking someone’s feelings, needs, thoughts, ideas, wishes and preferences into consideration. It means taking all of these seriously and giving them worth and value. In fact, giving someone respect seems similar to valuing them and their thoughts, feelings, etc. It also includes acknowledging them, listening to them, being truthful with them, and accepting their individuality and idiosyncrasies.” S. Hein

The Goddess Sita

I don’t know how to write about respect.  I look for clues, about it, why do we come to respect someone, how does someone fall out of respect.  What does it mean to behave respectfully, what is the role that fear plays in obedience, and what is the role that respect plays in it?  Is respect always tied to submission?  Or if the respect goes both ways can both sides be willing to submit to the will of the other?  What must I do to get respect?

I spent the whole afternoon thinking about this, about respect, about how to write about it.  I  think about the significant men in my life and what respect means to me in regards to them.  Men who cheat on their wives, or leave their spouses out of selfish disregard, low on the respect pole.  Men who openly look at porn, less respect.  Men who hide out of fear and anxiety, low low low on the respect pole.  Men who abandon their children (and then blame it on the woman, no respect whatsoever).  Men who will raise another woman’s child as their own, high respect, but will hit the road and never look back when the going gets tough, sinking down again.  Men who treat their woman well, high respect, men who treat those weaker than them badly, including animals, low respect.

And what of women?  Does a woman who has a baby out of wedlock deserve respect?  What if that child turns out to be well raised, is her esteem then re-granted?  What if, the woman does not value her children’s judgment, intelligence, and choices?  Or her spouses?  How does a woman earn her partner’s respect?  How does a mother earn her children’s respect?  Does a divorced woman deserve respect? (this comes from an article I read in the Huffington Post at Thanksgiving about how divorced adults are forced to sit at the children’s table during the holidays, because they are now an unmarried – GAH!) Once lost, why is it hard to regain respect?  Or is it?  How does a woman get the respect of her man?

You see, I find it hard to write about it because I have so many questions.

I have been rewatching Firefly the last couple days, and I think Mal is an excellent example of a fictional character who behaves respectfully (in some ways) and is respectable.  It is a thing about honor, keeping your word, loyalty, and looking out for those who are in need, less fortunate, down trodden, there is also a strength, the ability to stand naked in front of those that know you, an absolute unwillingness to hide in the face of fear, the ability to return to those in your charge, a bold faced up frontedness.  I say sometimes he behaves respectfully because he always calls the woman he is in love with a whore, which ultimately she is one, but it shows a great disrespect to call her this, and she lets him know so, but when a “client” grabs her arm and orders her to his side like she was his dog, Mal stands up to him, and demands that he treat Inara with respect.

Mal and Inara

So what of me, am I deserving of respect?  There are those who have treated me with no respect at all.  I find sometimes that the whole single parent thing is looked on as though I am not deserving of respect.  We have what we call the divorced women’s club at school, and when we hold ourselves up to the long list of Catholic women at our building who are still married to their high school sweethearts, we feel as though we are not respectable, though mostly it was the men who behaved badly, far more than us.  (one’s husband cheated numerous times, one’s husband is a man whom I have no respect for whatsoever for reasons I cannot go into, but trust me he doesn’t deserve it, and then me, my story told a million times.  Man “doesn’t” cheat on wife, with woman he knew since he came to this country, man “doesn’t” leave her for someone else, but miraculously is in a relationship with this woman days after leaving wife, man allows the wife to suffer forever with the lies completely lacking the balls to admit his infidelity, and don’t even get me started on her stalking and bothering me, man is such a chicken he cannot ever speak to wife ever again.  No no no respect.) and the fact that it still makes me angry after three years, can I ever get over it?  God do I even deserve to be respected at all?

Kali Ma

I respect myself though.  I am strong, I am smart, I am creative, no I am not perfect but I try, I am kind, honest to a fault, loving, genuine, giving, have a great integrity, try to be peaceful, and green.  And here I am thinking of all of my faults, maybe a little lazy at times, not generous enough, sometimes insecure, although far less so than in previous lifetimes.  Creative but not much perseverance on self promotion, nor on maintaining a strong work ethic when it comes to making art, though a strong work ethic when it comes to work.  I arrive on time, I do my best to be a good teacher, I don’t take a lot of sick days, I continue to learn and grow, my plan book is a disaster, and disorganized.  Yes, yes, see always back to the faults.  Do faults make me less deserving of respect?  According to one of the quotes above, acceptance of idiosyncrasies is part of respecting a person.  Are not my peculiarities of personality, my quirks, all additional definitions of idiosyncrasy?  And am I not worthy of respect simply based on my honor, integrity and fortitude?  Without regard to say talking in my sleep, or belching, or unwillingness to dress like the way someone else thinks I should?

And what of the pirate?  Speaking of idiosyncrasies, of which he has many.  But respect, long in coming, built nacre layer on nacre layer, on the grit of who he is, respect is there.  The more I see, the more respect I have, and here it is, for me laid out bare, like naked Mal, right in my face, bold and unafraid, more than I have ever had for any man.  Ever.  Yes more than my father, because there was fear mixed in there, and more than my Grandfather, who though a respectable man, did not actually earn respect from me, over time, it was just there by the time I became aware, and he carried it.  That’s it.  It was just there.  And here I am face to face with my pirate, and I find myself noticing that the respect  is there.  it is like a smooth stone that I have just discovered in the pocket of my jeans, I reach in and find myself touching it, and turning it over, and trying to get a feel for it.  And suddenly I think, I am too, deserving of his respect.  And I find myself expecting it, not in a bossy way, but in the way of my actions, of making it clear when I don’t feel respected, and his honest and forthright response, engendering even more respect from me.  It is a cycle, now self powered, the more I respect him, the more I feel I deserve, the more I expect it, the more he gives it, the more he warrants mine.

I like this.  It is working for me.

But I still have to think about it more.

It is a challenging thing to ponder, particularly in this world, where respect, and respectability is so rare.

The Goddess Lakshmi

 

Please please rescue me

I am looking out the window onto the windy day, I hear the pirate walk in……

My daughter was watching an episode of Rescue Me, while I sat and drank my coffee, the scene is he and his wife in a nice upscale restaurant, wine glasses, limited menu, waiter with an accent.  He begins to act like a buffoon, she tells him put your napkin on your lap, wha? he says, put your napkin in your lap.  The usual bickering goes on as it always does, but throughout it, Tommy, played by Denis Leary, is trying to pretend like he understands all the fancy stuff on the menu, and what fork to use, but he doesn’t.

I turned to her and say, that is me, not on the outside, but on the inside.

I so much prefer the local hole in the wall, or the tavern food, I am most comfortable in my jeans.

The flaxen leaves of the corn stalks tenderly caress the prickling stems of the pine shrub.

I am laughing to myself about someone asking me for my snail mail address, and me sending my email, the second request, and my I am such a dope sometimes response elicits a “welcome to the human race”.  Yes indeed.  Here I am people.

“A chapel is where we hear something and nothing, ourselves and everyone else, a silence that is not the absence of noise but the presence of something much deeper: the depth beneath our thoughts.” ~Pico Iyer

My chapel is Clark Reservation, my chapel, should really be my body, my inner self.  What is it saying?  It is silent, no it isn’t, it is silent, no it isn’t, do you not hear that sound?

And when I leave like a storm, I am annoyed by you.  Months and months and still we are here in this cold place?  My floor and walls may be cold on bare feet, but the heart that beats here is like a volcano.  Your floor and walls may be warm, but your heart?  It is cased in cold steel, I grow tired of banging on it.

Later I drive, music cranked around the outskirts of the city, God’s thumbnail hiding behind some clouds, the wind whipping, familiar roads not driven for many years, through the long straight onion scented mucklands, the light flashing like a beacon miles ahead, suddenly I just want to be home.  A single tear falls from my eyes, like a falling star, God’s thumbnail emerges from behind the clouds.

Home brings my daughter sitting on my bed laptop next to laptop, me giggling at a conversation with a man I have never met.  He is asking me to design something for a party, and quizzing me on show tunes, of which I know but one, I’m just the girl who can’t say no, I’m in a terrible fix.

…What are you looking at?  the pirate asks.

The corn stalk blowing in the wind, I answer.

What are you high on your cold medicine?

An aside:  If you only knew I just saw the whole universe in the briefest of moments.

“When you realize how perfect everything is you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky.” – Buddha

In a flash of insight I am brought back to the teachings of Buddhism that I was so deeply practicing in the first many months of my greatest heartache.  I remember Dr. Cross saying that I have to stop looking outside myself for approval, a notion echoed only a few days ago by the Pirate, who said, I am always saying “notice me, pay attention to me, love me” by my words and actions.  It may seem mean or cruel but the way he said it, I could only say, yeah, that is so true.  I do that.  Dr. Cross said that I needed to turn inward and start to find my own way, to find acceptance from within myself, to find my “laughing place”, my place of joy.

There has been this arching emotion for me, I am finding it difficult to express what the actual feeling is, what it stems from and how I got here.  It is a sense that everything is falling into place just exactly as it was meant to.  That feeling is a feeling that seems to come from a number of events, sign posts, and signals, that have been hovering swirling in my life.  It feels almost as though I have been hiking up a very shadowy, dark and dense path, and suddenly I have emerged on the rocky surface and can see just exactly where I came from.  Like any mountain top, I will continue on and I know there will be valleys, and rushing rivers, and my view will be obstructed once again, but for right now, alot of “shit” is really making sense to the grand and general scheme of my life.

I kept saying I don’t want to compare the Pirate, but I cannot help it, the comparison is so rich, so deeply meaningful to me, that it is hard to express it really in terms that anyone can understand, but here is where that insightful flash happens.  How can I express what is happening to me, how this is working in my life and then Kaboom.  I see.

It is not that there is a need to compare this shining gem, to that meager fruit, it is that I am seeing myself lit from the inside.  It is the comparison of me now to that me that was before.  It is not an approval from without, it is an approval from within.  It is not that the Pirate approves of me and the other did not, it is that I approve of myself.  I accept myself.

When I was in that terrible place, keeping the path as my metaphor, the quick sand, swampy, off course, basically lost, bushwhack brambly place, I returned to the Zen Center of Syracuse to meditate formally, to do yoga twice weekly, and to attend group stress reduction classes once a week, along with volunteering at the Zen Center as part of my practice.  More than one person was telling me that I should take medication, but I knew what I was doing, and when I checked it with Dr. Cross, he confirmed my assertion that I was taking “medication”, meditation medication.  I am not sure how it is for other people but for me, this was what I needed, and so grateful, in retrospect that I did not take drugs.  Ultimately because the insight that I now have is invaluable, and the clarity of what has transpired is so brilliant and crystal that I do not imagine I would have gotten this view under the influence.  But right now I can see so succinctly how important that internal work was to managing my heartbreak, to getting to this place I am right now.  One of the things that Buddhism teaches you is that you are not alone, and the realization of that is also truly important to being in this place right now.  Because for many years I was removed from the friendships I had built earlier in my life, and removed from most of my family, and removed from the authenticity of myself.

Reconnecting to long out of contact relatives on Facebook was vital to this rebuilding process that began for me when I was hammered apart and left for the dead.  This morning a college friend who is going through some medical problems expressed what I have been thinking too, that Facebook allowing her to reconnect with our college group, has been so important to her, she was asking us (specifically the college friends) to keep her in our thoughts, and the outpouring of genuine caring from so many of us was just exactly what I am speaking of.  I know people make fun of “Crackbook”, and in the end it is truly just another corporate marketing ploy, but on many levels has been a part of my recovery.  Oh yes, I do have people that love me, that are like me, that think like me, that talk like me, and yes those that don’t and that is okay.

The me that was left?  She was always concerned about what the other thought, did he love me, were my clothes right (they never were and again I told Dr. Cross late in our sessions, why do I dress better now than when I was married, why now when he isn’t all judging me?  His answer, if you know someone is going to judge you negatively you live up to their expectations).  If I don’t put texture in my paintings it is not grounds for disapproval, if I burp after a big drink of beer, it is not grounds for not being spoken to, that I don’t feel a need to have some smirking approval of some random bit of flotsam.   I am fine just as I am.  My work (painting, knitting, drawing, writing, walking, photographing) is fine just as it is.  The only person judging me, in my leggings and dress, in my outdoorsy shoes, is me.  And again ironically I think I look better than I ever have in my life.  Truly.  And yes I still feel a little guilty that I have sewed a stuffed animal in a few months, but then I remind myself, yes dear but you have written almost every day.  What of that?

Here from this mountain top view, I see that all of my life has led me to this place, and that it is all so very perfect.  That brambly, lost, quicksand path?  I was actually on it, and I literally got down on my knees and prayed in the middle of the woods, because I was lost, the sign posts were blown down, and I had turned around after stepping knee deep in the quicksand.  The strength and growth of my teaching has been just blowing me away.  Reconnecting with those friends from college, my cousins and my uncles, realizing that those who melted away are not in my lives for a reason.  And finding that it isn’t just about my painting, but the intense pleasure I get from writing too, that I am not just a painter, but an artist, all around not a fabulous money maker, but an artist by my very nature.  All of these realizations are right here in the palm of my hand.  It is not the pearl of my deepest self, it is instead a shining golden ambrosia that pours out of me into my cupped hand, that drips like thick oil from my fingertips.

I am so thankful, not just for the difficulty of this path, but just now for the clarity I have from this vantage point.

Let patience be your reaction

The pirate teases me, calling me Messy Meg.  I tell him, I am not messy, disagreeing with him, saying the truth is that messes just happen to me.  As I say this I am squeezing some lotion onto my hands, but the tip is a little dry and I squeeze out 5 times as much as I could ever need.  It squirts onto my sweater. He mentions hoping we are not stopped by police because they will wonder what is up with my upturned palm completely full of creamy white lotion.  He takes some and I still have enough for four more people.  He has to open the glove box and give me napkins to wipe off my hands, I completely soak three of them.

I recall the time this happened with my Mom, my brother came out to the kitchen where I was….  Combing my hair in the little corner mirror?  Washing dishes?  Peeling potatoes?  I don’t recall, what I do recall is that he had a lovely dollop of whipped cream in his hand, want some?  Sure I said and I stuck my finger in the whipped cream and put it in my mouth.  I sputtered, and spit.  Yuck what the heck is that?  It’s lotion.

But how like me, to squeeze a little too hard, and make a mess, to dip my finger in and stick it in my mouth without enough information.  It is all about my reactions.  I want to jump in head first, without checking the depth of the water.  I want to respond as though everything was just as they say it is in the glossy, glossed over pages of a superficial magazine.  I cut out a page, how to tell if your man truly loves you.  I check off one, two, three maybe, but two of them not yet fulfilled.  I promise myself I will hang it on my fridge, to remind myself just what it is I SHOULD be getting.  I react, to the text, no I won’t call you, I am going to bed.  Grr.  Jerk.  Then the phone rings, he has called anyway.  There it is that finger dipping into the lotion and coming out with bitter soapy lotion.

I realize bit by bit that this relationship is the healthiest and most normal one I have ever been in.  He intentionally takes his time.  I worry my self, picking at the wounds already scarred over, it should be moving faster, I tell myself.  It isn’t moving along quick enough, I say in the dark hours of the night.  He tells me, relationships take time, they are built baby step by baby step.  Uh huh.  Right.  I recall exactly one year ago today, how I tried to jump in head first, and found my self with a mouth full of sand.  Taking a step back, I see that patience is wisdom.  I feel so much respect for this man, that I am shaken by it.  Profound.

We wake more or less at the same time, our body clocks seem to be on a similar rhythm only he goes to bed earlier than I do naturally, and sleeps better.  We are so playful with each other, another comparison, I say I know my breath is kicking, he says yes it is and somehow invites me to tease him breathing on him through the sheets that cover his nose, licking him and telling him my saliva is like Alien acid drool and I am sure right now he can feel it burning his flesh.  The thing is, that is has not been patience that has kept me here, I am not patient, not even with this, rather it is the friendship, the notion that I would be friends with this man, no matter what, because he is so like me, and the ways he is not like me, are perfectly okay.  But it is a value system too that we have in common, ethically, we are so alike.  And there is this other thing too, this sharing thing that happens between us.  At lunch he leaves two shrimp on the tray, you only tried one, have another, he insists, I take it.  How are those potatoes I ask, because I was torn between them and the collard greens, he lifts his fork and offers it to me.  I try to take it, and feed myself.  He pulls his fork back and waits for my hand to drop, and he feeds me.  I have to learn to trust, my trust in him is always rewarded.  Perhaps I need to be patient with myself.

As I write this, which I have spent the last four hours trying to say something.  I am finding it so difficult to express what is inside me.  All I can do is mull over how he managed to check off two of the list of that stupid article in a matter of a few hours.  How can I tell if he truly loves me?

Because he turned over and looked into my eyes, and told me.

Note to self:  Stop squeezing the damn bottle so hard, and remember to find out what you are sticking your finger into before you put it in your mouth.   Let patient loving kindness and compassion be your reaction.

 

 

 


Sulamith Wulfing

“Adversity is like a strong wind. It tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that we see ourselves as we really are. “ — Arthur Golden

First the rain came in sheets, then the wind.  I could hear my trash cans being battered by it.  The house being buffered by it.  In the early morning, just after dawn, I was out picking up the carefully broken down cardboard, and aluminum cans and newspapers that had spread across my lawn in the night.  I found a sheltered spot, by the burning bush and firmly pushed the can and blue bin into the snow, it still rests safely there this afternoon.

I had a crazy dream last night, a recurring one, in which my community is being overrun by a fierce monster, sometimes a T-Rex, a behemoth that I cannot see, but I hear it and know it means danger.  Last night it was some combination of a T-Rex, Robot, and Alien (the one from the series of movies with Sigourney Weaver) that had a blood sucking appendage.  I ran this time, sometimes I stay behind to fight or die, or hide, but this time I ran.  I ran along a deserted road until I came to a swampy area, I saw a fox and then somehow ended up in the water with the fox grabbing onto me desperately, pawing me and wrapping his forelegs around me so he wouldn’t drown.  A man I knew from the town came along on a bike and he stood on the brief shoulder of the country road giving me advice, but not actually helping me.  Escaped from the danger of a building crushing, blood sucking monster only to be nearly drowned by a mangy fox, and the only help forthcoming from any man is words and no physical assistance, typical of my life.

As I drove into the windy morning, the grey clouds were flying across the sky and impossibly big bold patches of blue bursting through.  Somehow this started my mind on thinking about overcoming adversity, and in surviving against challenging obstacles. They say that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  They say that you are given spiritual obstacles in order to grow in strength.  They say that life’s difficulties should make us better, not bitter.  I don’t know why this popped into my head, maybe the stormy day, maybe the dream of survival against the biggest of obstacles, the craziest of circumstances. But there it was.

How much of a challenge this life can be sometimes, and yet I realized that I was really lucky in one way.  I am strong, I have pulled myself through some really difficult things, and I have carried my daughter a long way by myself.  I think sometimes the greatest weakness is also the greatest strength.  I go into the last half of my life, sometimes fearful of the spider belly alone, sometimes angry about the scorpion tailed past, sometimes nostalgic for the cotton candy taste of the good times.  I marvel at women who won’t drive in the snow, whose husbands and cousins deliver them on terrible days.  I marvel at people who have rides and hand holders at serious medical appointments, and women who say “I shouldn’t have to work, that is my husbands responsibility.”  I find myself confused when a woman’s husband dies and they have to have relatives stay with them, because they don’t know what to do, women who have never driven, or paid a bill in all their lives.  I cannot fathom how a person could be like this, how do they survive?  How on earth do they make it through the hard times, how do they face the dark and vast alone, that belly shaped cave full of spiders?

Sometimes I do wish someone would not just give me advice from the side of the road, that I wouldn’t have to run from the scary monsters by myself, but that someone would take my hand and run with me, and jump in to pull the mangy fox off my back.  But only sometimes.  Today I am so thankful, not just that I am strong enough to survive scary robot alien T-rex creature, and mangy drowning foxes, but also that I know I am.

Stomp in the Woods

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”  John Muir

Pooh and Piglet walking in the woods in the snow, original print

It has been sub zero temperatures for two days, a few inches of fluffy light snow fell overnight on Friday, the first significant snowfall of the season.  I made soup and a pie and the pirate and I had dinner Saturday and then spent the day indoors on Sunday, it was too cold to spend much time outside, the kind of day where your nostrils freeze.  He poured water into a cold dish in the garage to give to the dog and it had ice in it again immediately.  Today I had planned to go hiking, since the weather had warmed up to close to not being frozen anymore, but a chill wind was blowing.  I got to Clark in the afternoon, but realized in the melee of a large dog off leash as I was loading up the dog, I had dropped my wallet, so I returned to the house and was relieved to find it still in the driveway.  I picked it up and on the way back to the park the pirate called me and we went up instead to the 1812 monument on the top of Onondaga hill.  There is a small iron fence enclosing two very old graves.  The rumor is there are paths up the there so we wandered around along the icy creek that was flowing strongly.  The bed of the stream is surrounded with high conglomerate rock and open wedges deep into the walls of the gully.  Rivulets flow downward into the deep cut gorge, and we crossed over several as we bushwhacked down.  He broke off a large stick for himself since the walk was steep.  After a couple minutes he broke one off for me too, smiling at me as he handed it to me.  We found a spot where he and the dog both wanted to cross, he cracked the ice like a creme brulee with his stick, testing its strength and trying to make a solid safe path.  He made it about halfway.  It was deep and perhaps passable, but with no clear path, we decided to head back.  I loved how the dog would herd, running to me and then back to the pirate and back to me as we took parallel paths through the trees.  Once we got near the memorial we noticed a clear area that looked like a path along the top ridge on the other side.  We made our way around noticing a bridge, and definitely a pathway.  We circled around though the air was turning colder, the wind chillier and the sky grey.  I was hot and unzipped my wool sweater and down vest, but left my hat on because my ears were getting cold in the wind, my hands were sweating in my mittens.  Along the path was a large stand of tall pines, it drew me in like a magnet, it looked so pretty and peaceful with split rail fences along the edge.  The pirate followed behind and when we got there we noticed the snow was pretty torn up and then I saw a melted oval in the snow underneath the thick branches of the pines, and then we counted at least 8 more deer beds there in the sheltered area.  Further along the path there was lots of dug up snow and I thought the deer were looking for acorns since there were many oak leaves scattered in the snow.  We stood as twilight was nearing, and quietly waited in hopes of seeing a deer.  I realized how meditative hunting must be, as we stood quiet, looking and listening.  His handsome grin and sparkling eyes looking at me and our occasional whispering back and forth, the dog sat at my feet and listened too.  It felt good to get fresh air.  The friendship I feel for the pirate is made more solid by these stomps in the woods.  He is as comfortable in them as I am, sometimes more, and maybe sometimes less.  Our banter back and forth, his teasing, wit and charm an easy match for me, he takes it just as well as he gives it.  Later I tell him, we are good for each other.  He puts his arm over my shoulder and we walk together briefly, I love you so much, I say, but when I say it, it is as though to a dear friend, to a member of my family.  The truth is he has found his way into my heart, and despite my self protective nature these days, I find it hard to imagine him not being there.

 

The Broken Heart

Can you hear the subtle sound of my breaking heart?

Can you?
To me it is a clarion bell.
Broken? you say,
Do you not see my shattered pieces?
Heart? That rusted tin man thing?
To me it is like wine, and the heart of a fresh kill,
no,

it is the heart of an old woman
who is incapable of understanding.

What more must I do in this life?
Wait and See.
Wait and See.
I cannot wait any longer,

This life is too short.

Just once in my life
I want to matter more than things,

More than someone else,

More than a drug.
or an ego.

Just once,
I want to be swept up.

Unexpectedly.

Can you hear the sound of this heart?

Its the flight call of the killdeer.

The flutter of its dubious broken wing
Spins the cauldron of my gut.

Buddha’s Smile

 

Buddha Face

I wake early at 530, vivid dream still whispering brilliantly colored images in my mind’s eye.  The wise eye of a crow peering in my childhood bedroom window, a parade of fluffy black and white puppies strolling by.  A walk in the woods behind my neighbors house, woods I have bushwhacked through a hundred times, eaten wild strawberries from, cross country skied through, galloped on horseback through, seen Eastern Coyote, and red foxes eating field mice in, yet in my dream it is a paradise of rock formations, wild pigs, more puppies, slate waterfalls and treacherous paths where you can only take the way offered.  I find myself not thinking so much of the dream, or my hopes, nor the anger that eats me sometimes, instead I focus on my breathing, Zen meditation for the lazy.  Blankets wrapped around me, cat purring on my pillow, too cold to emerge, breathe in, breathe out.  The alarm goes off.  I get up and ride the exercise bike for 30 minutes while I read the book everyone is raving about, but is written, to me, like one of the Left Behind books, which I read one of, laughing all the way through at the trite and ridiculous writing.  The only reason I read as much as I did is because it was so bad it was funny, like the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

The book maybe isn’t that bad, but it isn’t worth the raving, now I believe of madmen and madwomen, this society, our culture is mad.  Completely and utterly.  Do you see it too?  We are out of our minds, so many of our children are disturbed, their parents are raving maniacs, drug addicts, our people are so dumb, sometimes I worry about an apocalypse, other times I think it will cull the herd, only the megalomaniacs, the charismatic, and the survivalists will make it, those with common sense will do well.   Those that don’t know enough to not wear flip flops in December will be the first to go, those that cannot do much but play video games and watch television maybe not so much. Why do I think about these things?

Speaking of madness, the weather report is utter disaster, it is a terrible storm, schools close everywhere, everywhere but here.  The drive is slow but manageable, on the way home more of the same.  Were it a typical year, nothing would have closed, but since it is the first snow fall, everything has.  Now I see why southern states close at 2 inches.  We have about 10 I think, now in the morning.  I drive to yoga, thinking I will be the only one there, but there are several people.  My leg hurts terribly, the hip and knee issue are not good, I am definitely out of balance somehow, later I will put the ibuprofen lotion on my leg for the first time, to help me sleep.

In shavasana, resting pose, I breathe deeply, focusing in, not thinking about madness, or anger, or love.  All of this life is a reflection, how beautiful is the blue sky and trees in the lightly lapping waters.  And then, and then I think, a reflection of what exactly?  The Buddha smiles.  Yes.  That is a very good question.

an ordinary night

It was a wonderful night for my evening constitutional.  It rained earlier and the streets were wet, and the air crisp and cool.  It has (knock on wood) been the winter that isn’t in this town.  I feel badly for the one town in Alaska that has gotten 18 feet of snow this winter, but scoffed at Anchorage’s 130 inches.  That is what we get by now in a typical year, but this year I think we are up to about 10 inches at most.  It means a gigantic savings for the city and county in the way of cleaning up the white mess, it is huge problem for those that depend on snow for their living, ski places, snowshoe places, even business that cater to winter sports.  Tomorrow it is supposed to snow, but upon close inspection not much more than 3 inches, a bit more in the higher and more northerly elevations.

We are quiet, we two companions, now of some 12 years, the only sound, far away is the highway, close at hand, is the clicking of his claws on the pavement, and the soft drop of my rubber soled shoes, a rustle of a plastic bag in my hand and my breath even and regular.  I have come to rely on these quiet walks, the solitude, the peaceful end to my long day.  He stops to pee a million time on one section, and then is steady beside me for most of the remaining walk, just our steps passing over the ground.  I could say it was effortless, but the pain in my hip and knee is constant, I keep walking though, after all these years, if I didn’t walk I imagine I would weigh twice what I do.  My ovaries are aching too, and with the end of the treatment for cysts comes the bloating and sharp pains on my left and right sides.  It sucks getting old, but in some way I fool myself, tell myself, believe that fresh air cures everything, even crappy ovaries, even a bum knee, even that hip injury I have carried now for 12 years or more.  I wonder what his old body tells him as he walks, after two miles he is happy, smiling and wagging and hugging my leg, begging for more food than his cup, a handful of asparagus and half a can of kidney beans.  Dude, I say, you ate, ALOT, give it a rest.  And now after I climb into bed, he is snoring happily at my feet, taking up more than half of the bed. I cannot imagine what an empty shell my life would be without him these last years.  I wouldn’t give him up for anyone or anything.  I adore him, and his solid companionship is nourishment to my soul.

There is something so wonderful about the ordinariness of the day, about the long evening walks, about daily rituals we two go about together, about the even way I breathe as I walk, about the ache in my body that I walk through.  There is something wonderful about the ordinariness of the damp night and the cold air.

Get out of bed.

Some mornings, many actually, it is really hard to get out of bed.  When the nights are rough, and the sleep does not come after I have woken late in the night, or when it ends too early, that alarm is a brutal slap, and I just want to cushion myself against it.  I bury my head under the covers.  I know I should get up and exercise or eat a decent breakfast, but lately I am lucky if I get up a half hour before I have to go.   If I take the Benedryl, it is worse, if I don’t the day is horrible.  I trudge through unable to lift my feet, eyes need super glue to stay open, if I sleep in just a little more, until I wake on my own, a mere hour most days, I am fine.

Today was one of the worst, I woke at three worrying about my daughter’s insurance coverage, worrying about gearing up to sell the house, worrying about the dog getting old, and sometime around 530 I fell asleep.  The alarm went off at  6.  No. No. No. No. No.  I hit the snooze again and again.  I tell myself that I should be trying to figure out what else I should be doing, not teaching, it is killing me, it is so stressful sometimes.  Sometimes I tell myself that I suck at it too.  Imperfect lesson plans, disorganized, and sometimes cranky.

Last week the assignment was to write about your hero.  I told them the story of my second daughter, the eyes of one girl an echo of my words.  Another asked questions that only had knowledge and understanding behind them.  The boy whose father died, crying on my shoulder, my dad is my hero.

She walked up to me and placed a folded sheet of lined paper in my hands, turned and walked away.  I opened it.

“Dear Ms. Gregory,

You are my hero.  When you were telling us about your hero T__, I realized at that moment that you are a hero.  You are an intelligent woman and you are very beautiful.  Thank you for being my hero.”

Teary eyed, I understand why I got out of bed this morning.

As the day progresses, I understand why the husband left me.  Not in the sense of actually understanding why he was such a selfish asshole, but in understanding what it meant to my life.  What a gift it was.

As the day ends, with my pirate, wrapping his arms around me and kissing the top of my head, the dinner he made in my belly, and in a container for my lunch tomorrow, my cold feet still toasty from the hot tub, I feel content.  And I realize that despite my waffling, despite my sometimes worry that he will leave me too, that he is a gift to my life.

I know why I will get out of bed tomorrow.  Even if I don’t sleep well.