Insouciance

She lays her eggs in the split open twigs of a tree, they hatch and fall to the ground, and they live buried in the dirt for a time, a few years, many years.  The larvae emerge from the ground, molt their exoskeleton and then spend the rest of their lives singing in the dog days of summer.  I listen as they sing Hakuna Matata, as they sing Que Sera Sera.  Me?  I sit on my front steps as the amazon prepares to paint the last bits of my house, coffee in my hands.  Feeling awkward as the dog sniffs her purse which she has left on the lawn.

I am fretting, I am fretting my house.

I look down and see a cicada larva on the edge of the concrete steps.  Hey there little guy, I say, that doesn’t look like a safe place to lose your shell.  I wonder if it hurts to lose your shell as I reach down and gently pick him up.  I place him in the palm of my hand, and he goes wandering on me, navigating the ravines of my fingers and the slope of my arm.  I feel his legs pricking my skin, I look at his face which I find to be an alien beauty.  The Japanese make kites that look like cicadas.  I had my kindergarteners make cicada drawings based on those kite designs, and then color them in brilliant fluorescent colors contrasting with the dark crayons left in the bottom of the bin in May.  I wonder if they are hearing the cicadas now and remembering, as I am.  I put him in the yew next to the steps and he quickly moves away from me.

Cicada drawing black micron pen.

Do not worry the house, do not worry.

They say that people come into your life when you need them, and leave again when you do not.  I am contemplating this notion as I sit here.  The recent difficulties with a relative who was to help, the friend whom I have managed to blow off intentionally and not, who has been angry with me for not renting her time share though it would have financial wash out, and a destroyer of time for us.  And just when I had extended a hand, and she had accepted, the relative made the promise to work and didn’t but by then I had already cancelled plans yet AGAIN with her, I tap my coffee cup with the tip of my finger, click, click, the argument with the pirate, the final straw of this friendship, and who knows what other repercussions collateral damage.  I think of Patricia and how she left once and came back in.  I want to go and see her.  I do not know when.  I think of this relative, and I feel justified in my anger.  I know as friend lost says, you should let it all go, but am I not allowed a choice as to when?  Am I not allowed the time to grieve?  Am I to paint a smile on the plastic doll face of my head and pretend that everything is okay?

There is a woman at work who is always cheerful, and she puts sparkle and sunshine on everything she encounters, putting a happy spin on everything.  Don’t be a Nelly Negative.  I don’t trust her.  A cousin tells me, in the additional radioactive fallout of the whole help me fix the house debacle, to put a smile on my face and make nice.  I think of the little girl in my daughter’s first grade who called my house at 5am, repeatedly, and when I hung up, she called back again.  Later, on the bus, she hit my daughter, the social worker told my daughter that she had to be friends again with this girl.  Make up and be friends she told her.  Be civil indeed, but friends?  With a girl that lies, hits you and harasses you?  Put a smile on my face though I am scrambling like a mad woman to get all of this done?  Can I not just get it done first?

Why do we tell our girls to make nice?

This friend of mine, she is posting endless things about how you have to face your problems with a cheerful demeanor.  Pull yourself up by your bootstraps.  Get over it, stop having a poor me party.  It makes me sad that we don’t allow ourselves the time to grieve, to be sad.

How many days on end did I cry until I couldn’t anymore?

I am not saying I am sad all the time, I sit on the back porch the chimes singing in the breeze, the cicadas, the chirping cardinal, I am deeply content at this moment; art has been made, knitting started, afghans half sewed, books completed.  Though I am fretting the house, though I am fretting my slovenliness these weeks.

Am I also not allowed anger?  Am I not allowed worry.  Am I not allowed a year to cry every single day if that is what it took to get me from there to here?  Even if I have not fully let go of the sorrow?

I watch the cicada nymph as it navigates the needles and the spiderwebs and the sharp twigs in the yew, soon he is lost from my sight I wonder if I should look in the yew for his shed shell later, and then for him, giant and sparkling green with black lace wings, face even more beautiful in its strangeness.  Some take 2 years to get here, some take 17.  Does anyone ever stand over the dirt where the 17’s are buried and scream make lemonade for Gods sake, pull yourself out of the dirt by your bootstraps, it been 4 damn years already?!

I sigh as I take a sip of the coffee.

I wonder, what will this day bring?  This moment was a gift.

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I wake with a steaming sense of anxiety.  I am having issues and though they are small, they are also big.  I have a few things to work out, it is all internal.  I take the dog to the park, I am determined to walk.  I must.  I have not walked much these days, content to carry heavy ladders and do hard labor, I have not been eating well, this weighs most of all on my inner sense of balance.  I must return to yoga.  I must return to my 3 mile walks.  My body needs it.  I must return to riding the exercise bike.

As my feet carry me across the familiar ground, the dog is lost in the smells, I have to urge him on repeatedly.  Finally I see that walking is a direct link to my desire to write.  I am so full of anxiety this morning that I get most of the way through the walk before I realize I have not looked around me at all.  I have only looked at the dirt, and leaves, and detritus and rocks and the dappled sunlight sprinkled across the path and nothing more.

Why have I been so far from this place that offers so much solace.  Why have I been eating absolute crap food when I so much prefer fresh and wholesome.  I feel sluggish, my walk is short but takes too long.  Where was I?  Oh yes.  Chewing on the insides of my mouth, dwelling on things that only hurt me, from the inside.

I am ugly and hateful, and fat, and lazy and horrible.  All of my culture tells me so.

I exaggerate.

I am neurotic.

god i am so very anxious today.

i do not know why.

Addiction/Integrity

I sit on the back porch, magically cooler than anywhere else in or around my house.  There is a slight breeze and I can hear a cardinal singing, the cicadas buzzing, and the cheep cheep of some other bird.  It is quiet, I am exhausted from 3 solid weeks of hard labor, my joints ache, and all I want to do is sleep.

I now have all this open space, the last work now hired out to various laborers, the roof, the last bits of painting where I cannot reach, the plumbing, the electrical stuff.  My money is more or less gone too once all are paid.

“The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.” 

“Never make excuses. Your friends don’t need them and your foes won’t believe them.”   ~ John Wooden

Character is doing the right thing when nobody’s looking.  There are too many people who think that the only thing that’s right is to get by, and the only thing that’s wrong is to get caught.  ~ J.C. Watts

I am in this place mentally really chewing over some ideas of what it means to be called a bitch.  Men often call women a bitch as a means of controlling her, if she expresses her feelings of anger or disappointment, she becomes a bitch.  But if a man expresses feelings of anger, he is justified right?  I don’t like being called a bitch, because frankly I am not one.  Yes, I do get angry from time to time and I express that anger justifiably, but does that mean my very nature is that of a bitch?  No, because actually I think the vast majority of the time I am a genuinely kind and caring and loving woman.  I have every right to express emotions that are not all positive, happy and cheerful.  I am not a doll, or a fake person, I am not the kind of person who will play all nice nice to your face and then behind your back say all the things I wanted to say to your face.  But yes sometimes I express feelings that are not all charm.  Its okay.  I am allowed.

Now here is the thing, who exactly is allowed to call me a bitch?  Sometimes my sister calls me a bitch, but usually she is joking.  My Mom has called me a bitch on numerous occasions, and frankly sometimes I am rather a bitch to her.  She tends somehow to  bring out my worst fears and concerns, she has a way of pushing certain buttons that bring out the frustration and ire and anger in me.  I know I am responsible for my own actions and reactions, but man she is an expert at it.  It is almost like she is a 100 degree day with 90% humidity.  Yes I can smile cheerfully and face it, but man it has me on edge sometimes.  No one but our mothers.  I am sure I am this way to my daughter as well.  Who else is allowed to call me a bitch?  I don’t know.  But I do know that when someone calls me a bitch, because I am pissed off and I speak my mind, that is not allowed.  Nope.  Sorry.

How do you judge another person’s character?

According to the Free Dictionary, the definition of integrity is this:

1. Steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code.
2. The state of being unimpaired; soundness.
3. The quality or condition of being whole or undivided; completeness.
Look at definition number 2.  Are you a person of integrity if you spend the vast majority of your life impaired in some way, say on drugs or on alcohol?  And if in fact your number one priority in life is to be in the state of impairment are you then able to uphold definition number 1?  And is not your dependency on drugs and alcohol precisely because you do not feel that you are definition number 3 and therefore you must numb yourself to your perceived lack of wholeness?  Your feelings of emptiness?
I think of my father, who was an alcoholic, or as my friend Drew who is a recovering drug addict and alcoholic would say, a drunk, because an alcoholic goes to meetings.  Though my dad was a drunk, he was an ethical man, mostly.  He did drink and drive from time to time, and towards the end of his life he drank and often slept at work where he was a shift foreman.  As he aged, as his dependence on alcohol increased he became less of a an ethical man, his ethics were no longer about feeding his honor, but about feeding his addiction.  My sister told me once that in his hospital bed, he told her there was beer behind the seat of his truck, because sometimes he just needed it.  It is sad to think of this man, who was at one point in his life, a man of great integrity, being at such a weakened state of being.  His boss and the owner of his company said, that he had noticed some subtle changes in my father’s demeanor before he became ill, changes that called into question the very character on which his reputation was built.
I like to think of my father as a man of his word though, if he made a promise, he kept it.  He was a give you the shirt off his back kind of man, he wouldn’t charge you a dime for his time if you were family, or a person in need.  My friend Bill is a shirt off the back kind of man.  He has literally taken his shirt off and covered me when I was shivering cold.  But he does not make a promise he will not keep.  He doesn’t promise me one thing and then later hold it over my head, if you don’t do this or if you do that I won’t keep my promise.  And if he did do that I would begin to question whether he ever intended to assist me in the first place.
And what of thinking a person is not observant enough to notice what is done and what is not done?  What of a person who says, I am giving you a bargain at this price, but don’t tell anyone that is the price I am giving you, because when you do tell, you realize it was not a bargain at all.  What of telling a person I have your back, but instead you are sitting in your hobbit hole, with your metal full of beer, and you do not fulfill your promise, yes we all need a break from days of hard labor, but you cannot speak of integrity when you do not do as you promise.  When you lie to cover your addiction.  When you alter things to pay for your addiction.  When you treat others in a way that is unacceptable because they dare not only to question, but to be angry at your addiction.
You know the expression, thou doth protest too much, a quote I believe from Shakespeare.  When you start hollering and swearing at someone at the drop of a hat over a matter that is small, that the other party in the situation is thinking, yeah I thought so about their own suspicions, rather than acknowledging and accepting those suspicions as being in error.
If it makes it easier for you, continue on.  But I think the universe may be trying to tell you something.
Never trust a drunk for example.

Freedom from Dreams.

I want to sell my house.  It is too big for just me, it has always been too much work for one person, and I have always done the vast majority of work on this house.  Always.  From paying for it, to shoveling, raking, cleaning, painting, doing outside work, doing inside work, I have carried the burden of it on my own shoulders.  But now, I am in a place where I want to move on.  I need very much to leave behind the ghost that haunts this place.  I am currently living in all of about four rooms, other than the bathroom, the kitchen, the family room, my bedroom and lets call the fourth room utility, (laundry, art), and I have never loved living in the city, my heart is 100% pure country.  I would rather sit on a porch and watch foxes and birds in the morning, than put on a pair of heels and a short skirt and go to any gallery in the evening.  I would rather hike and fish and go for a long walk, than to schmooze at any kind of party.

I want to sell my house, but I have no place to live.  I want to pay off my debts, my car, my credit cards once and for all, I will never pay off my student loan.  I don’t want to be beholden to any creditor, but I cannot afford to pay cash for a new place.  I want to move in with the pirate.  My space there will be tight, his clutter will overwhelm me, and he is already expressing doubts as to my lack of perfection ( I am once again, too fat, my ankles are too thick, my hair isn’t long enough, I am too messy, I am too possessive ) .  I am once again, not quite good enough.  How does this always happen?  I must exude it, but here is the thing, right now I am not for all the bullshit.  I am happy to be homeless for a few months, to get my debts paid and then to move on.  I am going to call a friend who owns a big house and who has her own financial troubles, I am going to talk to the people at the Zen Center about living there, I will live in a box, or a tent, I just don’t care to carry this burden of home ownership, I cannot afford the rents in the city, they don’t take pets anyway.  I look at what remains of my furniture, what do I really want?  The furniture on the veranda, my bed, my dresser, my bookcase, my end tables, my easel, a good chair to read in, my spinning wheel, my sewing desk, the stone bookcase and round table, all this damn art that I have made, that is all I want in the world.

I want to sell my house.  I want to be free.

Today, I am melancholy though.  My house looks so beautiful, so sparse and so bare.  And yet the garden is messy, and the inside of me is messy.  The pirate is scared and his fear sets me on edge.  I am not scared, and the fact that he is makes me so.  I just want to be free of this house, and the debt it has put on my finances, and the toll it has taken on my soul.  But it is so peaceful here, and beautiful, and I don’t have to do anything other than just be free to be myself.

And I also have no idea what to do, nor what is coming next.

Why am I not really afraid?  But my God, I am so sad.

 

Cicada Song

My body is tired and there is still so much to do.  The mental list, a litany that constantly occupies my mind.  I dip in the brush for more primer, not careful now because it needs it everywhere, on the white, on the blue.  The birds are singing, a robin, a woodpecker, I am not playing music today, sometimes I just like the sound of the birds, of the world.  There has been a wonderful breeze these days and the air is not humid for this region.  The weather has been kind of perfect for this never ending series of tasks.  The ladder is heavy and my shoulders ache from its weight.  My legs hurt so much that my daily walk, which has been neglected far too much in the last two weeks, is a trudge, the only joy is in watching the dog’s excitement as I pull out his leash.  But the streets are quiet and I settle into it, though my legs no longer wish to carry me.  The work of school is a mental work, a long difficulty of emotional struggle, the weight of papers and problems, and testing; this work is a work of the body, the mind gets nothing but lists.  My knuckles ache, and I realize that I may be getting some arthritis in my hands.  I vow to resume my knitting when all this is done.  I make an appointment to get a manicure, no polish just moisturize and shine, I look at all the nicks and the cuts and the tips of my fingers which are gaining callouses, my man hands.  They are not petite, these hands, and never have been, they are strong, the handshake firm, the nails kept short, all this work is brutal on fingernails.  The sun is strong on my shoulders, and my skin darkens bit by bit as I climb the ladder, and get down off the ladder, move it a little and climb it again.  I sing Clegyr Boia over and over in my head, a mantra, the word like a pearl in my mouth.  I do not know why this word always comes to me when my mind wants for more and all it gets is endless dips of paint.  I vow to read blogs as soon as I am done.  I yearn for a couple days of just reading, writing, knitting, walking without the end of energy weighing it down, of drawing.  I have to believe all this is worth it.  As I finished painting my daughter’s big empty room, ceilings fresh, trim fresh, walls now a hideously awful vanilla beige, the windows washed inside and out, new shades on them, and the floor freshly shined with Murphy’s Oil Soap, I took a moment on my little purple molded plastic stool, all splattered with every color of paint my house has ever been; I looked up and saw a spider dangling from the ceiling, a reminder that even this will never really be done.

I hear the sound of a cicada and its endless buzzing, it jumps into my awareness though the song has been here all along, and it is like a mynah bird calling ATTENTION.  I stop, I breath, I dip in my brush, I put it on the wall.

Independence Day

We float alone together in the pool.  Chatting and talking as we always do.  The warm sunshine and bright blue skies, scattered with clouds, reflecting in interlocking shadows on the water.  We get in the hot tub.  I watch as she relaxes into herself, being the bubbly happy girl she is, talking laughing, making the doh face.  We spend the afternoon together, and with the pirate, just an ordinary day.  It ends as we go down to get an ice cream, delivering her retro chair to her new home.  But bliss turns into drama as once again the bum works his own brand of dark magic.  How dare she spend time in her bathing suit, in a hot tub with the pirate.  Oh please I say.  Oh please.  How dare she say, I want to spend time with my family now and yours later, because your sister was being really bitchy to me.  He generously leaves her truck in the driveway, her windows open, her keys by the door to the apartment, also unlocked and wide open.  She is crying.  I sit with her, I clean out her truck which is filled with half full bottles of premium sodas, several varieties.  I can see where her money goes, cigarettes and cola and fishing trips out of town.  I tell her the river is within walking distance, the creek a short drive away, 4 miles at most, the reservoir not much farther, chock full of fish.

She sits on the floor of her kitchen her face full of fear.  You can do this, I tell her.  You qualify for heating assistance, you qualify for food stamps, you work in a restaurant, you have me.  I say, keep it clean your rent will go down.  I have the cat, you have to pay this and this.  Pick up an extra shift, work as a cashier in this store within walking distance two mornings a week, you will be golden.  I see her fear and as I see it, I realize she will take him back.  She cannot believe in herself.

We drive through the city streets, crowded with people, firecrackers and fireworks exploding around us, I dodge cars parked in odd places to view the displays, I dodge people in lawn chairs in the street.  I call the police as she gets her things from his house, he manipulates her, I will throw your laptop in the street, I will throw your things to the curb.  The police come, I see how fat he has become, on her dime.  I see the stress in her face, his false accusation.  How does a relationship come back from this, she asks.  I see that it will.  And my heart aches. She cries why did we get an apartment if he was going to do this?  You have paid your month I say, do what you need to do to keep it.

We drive to get her friend on the other side of town.  The well to do area has a huge display of fireworks that are bursting in the sky as we rise hills and fall into valleys.  The moon is a giant bittersweet orb in the sky, it is more beautiful than the the flashing sparkling lights.  They burst in front of it, but it outshines them all.

I read over her shoulder as she gets a text from him, my mom is still here.  I tell her as I take my keys to go.  If you take him back, I will stand by your side.  If you don’t I will stand by your side.  But know this, you can do it alone.  I promise you, you can, you will see how much money you have without him spending it all.

Ironic that this is all happening on the fourth of July.

I am fitful in my sleep, I alternate between sleep and prayer and worry and when I wake my body feels brutalized, and I can feel the pull of the strain on my face.  I have so much to do here, and now I wonder if every choice I make in this life is just one ugly mistake after another.

I ache, inside and out.

More Man…..

I don’t actually want anything, I can only stay a minute, I am dirty and I stink.  That’s okay, he says I am just laying on the couch watching TV in my underwear, come on over.  I walk in his open door, I do not knock, just as I am about to sit down, he yells hey is that paint wet.  Nah I say not anymore.  I am of course covered in it.  Have you ever tried to paint basement stairs, you have to paint them kind of upside down, backwards and ahead of yourself.  I have a plain white stripe as a “tramp stamp” on my lower back, I show him.  I don’t intend to stay, but then a show about the white sturgeon of the Pacific Northwest is on, I am fascinated by the Native people’s conservation efforts, by the giant fight a huge fish gives the reporter.  One river damages the habitat with a dam, killing the eggs of the fish.  The other river is basically untouched, that fish looks to be eight feet long.  They catch, measure, weigh, tag and release.  We are both calling out, holy cow look at the size of that fish, and wow what a fight that is to pull in.

As I leave he stands on the edge of his driveway.  His face shining at me.  I raise my hand and give him a little cute wave, his hand twitches, I know he almost waved too.

This morning I text him, can I borrow a ladder that is lighter weight and easier for me to carry.  For the price of breakfast he loans it to me, and furthermore scrapes all but a small section of the upper back clapboards of my house.  I did the rest.  After he leaves for work, I scrape for another three hours, smelling my neighbor’s barbeque of venison steaks.  He has never made them before and lets me test the doneness, he gives me two beautiful steaks for dinner, and would have given me more, if I had let him.

Keep up the good work B. says.  You are working so hard, you are doing an amazing job.  Thanks I say, you are the only one who has said that to me.  Everyone else is bitching at me, calling me and bugging me; be done now!  But you aren’t ready yet, say’s J.  You cannot even walk through the house without tripping over something.  I know I say.  It is so much pressure I say, so many changes, and so much to do.  I need this I tell B.  I need people to cheer me on.  That’s what I am here for he says.

I cannot even move my arms anymore I say to the neighbor.  Time to take a break, if it hurts now imagine what it will be later.  I am taking the fourth off, I say, so I wanted to get as much done as I could.  I clean up all the paint off the ground and weed around the flagstone, putting my two ladders in the shed.  Just as the rain begins to fall.  You will sleep good tonight, says my neighbor.  You know it I say.  I look up at my house, at what my man did, at what I did.

It feels good to have this in my life, after all these years of not.