The dogs wake me with whining at three am, I take the older one out and as I stand in the almost autumn like cool, I can swear I hear coyotes yipping and howling in the ravine, the dogs hear it too, because they both stand quietly listening to their wild cousins. I am astonished they are so close.
I wake in the morning, and open the front door to let in the eastern sun and the cool rain freshened air. The light glistens on the lilies and I take my camera, I take pictures but I stop and watch as the plant moves with no breeze, as the lilies quietly caress each other, as the world around me comes into focus and I am a flower and a raindrop the clean dirt and the sun. I breathe.
This morning I am grateful, for the ability to express myself, and still have friends. A friend. One of the best of friends.
I tell myself I am crazy, this polarized back and forth of emotions is getting the best of me. But I also feel like I am in transition, not just the word transition but the pregnant almost not pregnant transition hostile and lashing out.
Bill tells me that there is something about me that is more relaxed, something around the eyes. And I have noticed in the mirror, that there is something different in my face, I don’t know what it is, maybe though it is the eyes. I am there as he gets the phone call that their purchase offer has been accepted. I watch them hug and kiss in public, it is good that all these changes are happening in the public, for gay people, I have seen them kiss and hug and hold hands and cuddle in private, but now they can as they celebrate the next phase in their lives.
I do yoga in the living room as the dog kisses my face, until I have to push her a way telling her to stop. She lays down on the mat and I do downward dog and plank over her completing my long sun salutation with her in the middle. It makes me laugh out loud.
Bear with me my friends, I am getting there. I promise it will not be too long, this transition. I am giving birth to something great
I guess, that despite the fact that I think I have this all in hand, the outside voices are telling me I don’t. I guess that I am failing, somehow to meet the expectations of others. Isn’t it funny how I have this role to play, and I should win an Oscar, because I am really good at this role. But I want out of this role, this role of open criticism. This role of needing to be fixed. This role of not being good enough. No I should not win an Oscar, an Oscar is for people who change their role whom you do not recognize on screen for their transformation, this is type cast.
Do you know that I bought a car once, to impress a guy? I was embarrassed of the car i was driving. Do you know that I went out and bought glassware, because I was embarrassed of the plastic cups? Glassware always breaks, and I was tired of wasting money on glasses, so i bought nice plastic cups. I loved those cups, until I was embarrassed by what others would think I still have those cups and even though I have nice glasses, I often drink out of them. Because I don’t need glassware to feel good about myself, when I am by myself. Do you know I bought an iphone, which I had eschewed for years, to impress someone? My other phone was not working, i would try to call someone and I would press the little green phone repeatedly, and when I gave up, and threw the phone down, five minutes later it would call. Or it would call me back after I accidentally dialed 911 without ever touching the phone. I know now the difference in quality, none the less…….Do you know that it embarrassed me that I am too poor to buy an ipad? I bought a Kindle instead, because I could afford it, even though it isn’t charging really good right now, and I may have to return it.
Do you know that I said something stupid and awful to cover up my embarrassment? My mortification at not being up to someone else’s standards?
Do you know that when you live alone, or at the very least are pretty much completely responsible for both the inside and outside care of your home, all the bills and the sole bread winner of a family that you are incapable of being lazy, and yet people think you are? Does it have anything to do with the fact that your work is never done, and you cannot ask someone to run the vacuum while you run out to get groceries? That while you are mowing the lawn, you are also scooping up the dog’s leavings, and when you are done, there is no one to make your dinner, and no one to trade off the dishes with? You do it all. And when you finally get a break from it all you just want to sleep, and read, and not be responsible for anything? Is that lazy? Maybe.
Do you know that I love my child without condition? She is mouthy and angry and strong and she does what she wants, and I admire her for most of it. And I accept her anger, do you know what this life has been like? Do you know that she is embarrassed too? That she watched her dance friend go to Spain and get flamenco lessons and come home with an outrageously expensive flamenco dress, and was chosen over her for a dance company, because of her privilege? No not my imagination, the dance teacher told her, “We chose her to join our troupe because she has been to Spain and has that dress.” Do you know how devastating it was to her to have her natural father turn his back on her and not speak to her because she had her boyfriend and now husband with her when she went to see him? Do you know what it was like for her to watch me crash and burn and have to pick up my pieces and help me glue them all back together when I died on the inside? Do you know how angry it makes me when others judge her, and I without understanding what we have had to do to get through all those years? The sacrifices we have both had to make for emotional and financial health? No. You don’t.
I am indignant.
And that is okay. I am good with it. Believe it or not, I feel pretty damn good about myself. How often do you hear me talk other people down? Really? How often do I express my love for others, my gratitude for what I have been given? How often do I express my contentment for where I am, for the life I am living? Do you know that i love my job, yes ok the last two years have been rough, do you realize what they have been like? It isn’t negativity, it is the reality. Do you know that I sit in my little living room and sigh with pleasure? Do you know that when I can hardly move after stacking four face cord of wood that I have a smile on my face? Do you know that I am looking forward to moving the stones because it will make me strong? Do you know how I sit playing an instrument, repeating the same phrase over and over until I have it right, how it feels to have my finger tips ache from overplaying, and I press them and feel it and love it? Do you know that I would rather watch a roller derby than discuss the right temperature of wine, and I love that about myself? Do you know that when I go to a play or a classical music concert or a fancy restaurant I feel like I am crawling out of my skin and cannot wait to leave? That if I am in a pub, or at a book talk, or at an outdoor concert, or playing cards at home with friends swearing and trash talking, I don’t ever want it to end? Do you know that I buy clothing for my students? Do you know that I let them sleep on the floor in the hall even though the fifth grade teacher walks by and yells at them to get up off the floor, and that once school has started, I take them to the nurse and get their little brother and the nurse lets them sleep in her office because the kid trusts me enough to tell me they are sleeping in a car and she has to share the seat with her brother? Do you know that one of the mothers calls me at home, and when her child is struggling at school, and a behavior plan is put in place, the child is told to come to me, because I am loving and kind and I get the pain this child is going through. Because I have gone through it, because I am honest about the situation at the school, because I am faithful and loyal and protective.
Do you know my students know I am snarky and sometimes sarcastic and sometimes loud, and I always make a joke about myself, self depreciating to put THEM at ease. That I am like the person operating the curtains, wiping the tears off the actors faces, picking them up off the floor dusting them off and pushing them on stage, I don’t need to shine. I don’t want to shine. I shine from the inside.
Do you know how hard this is? Have you ever had to do this? This transition, and how I am struggling to get it right, because I want to do it correctly, because I don’t want anyone getting hurt, because I don’t want to do it the way it was done to me, because I am just trying to figure everything out? And that I trust you with the details because I think you are a person who cares, who understands my struggle or at the very least are a person who will listen without judgment?
Or do you?
What do I have? What don’t I have?
I choose this life. I agonize over every choice.
And I love you. And I always will.
And I am agonizing over what you said to me, because I think maybe I am missing something.
I have this unquenchable thirst like the first Chinese brother, or one of Ananzi’s sons, I could drink the whole sea and never have enough.
It flows out of me like a flash flooded river and I am swept away
I am the embers of an old fire kick me and I may flare up and set you afire but I am bone cold and bone tired and the meager fairy light by which you warm yourself is not enough for me.
I pull two coals from behind my ears gather wood I tell you. and I will teach you
I am the echoing chamber of the hollow earth painted all through my insides with horses, aurochs and dancing animals. there is a hole through which shines the light of one star I raise my arms dancing in circles as smoke swirls upward casting off all the ritual stones and bones and feathers and dust my feet dance, water pours from my fingers and my feet until the waves splash up on my shins I stir up the mud, I sink in until I am buried to my chin.
I am a skull 30,000 years in the making.
I am a small bird blown away by the lashing winds of a raging hurricane thrown so many miles from my home a wanderer lost and alone. I close my eyes and wait for the wind to lay me gently down and when I wake I find myself clinging to a sturdy oak I chance a step bouncing on one foot to test the branches I am a single golden leaf floating daintily to the earth onto the path of a woodsman gathering sticks
I am laid inside a circle of stones I pull two coals from behind my ear
I am the water boiling I am the herbs bouncing and squeezed in a cup I am the honey that sweetens I am the warm hands wrapped around I am the frosty breath that blows I am the tongue that tastes I am the throat that swallows I am the belly that fills.
I rest my chin upon my knees. Content to be the eyes that watch the fire burn.
I have come to love this new place I live in, in just a short time. The more I walk the more I see, the more I like it. I reflect on the walking at the previous place, the difficulty in crossing a dangerously busy street, particularly with the puppy (or mistress houdini escape artist), I resorted to pacing the street like a caged animal. Walking two miles, six laps round trip or more every day. One neighbor confronted me for letting my dog shit on her lawn, I didn’t. One neighbor told me I was not allowed to walk by her/his house. He told me his name was John, her name was not John. I walked by her house anyway. Once a week I walked down to the library.
Now here just the option of walking on the neighborhood streets is pleasant, but add to it the little charming park that is longer by far than it is wide, and the cemetery that takes up most of the hill that falls steeply into the valley.
My friend, and life partner of my yoga teacher, Karen gave me a book called Creating a Sacred Place. I have tried to do this, putting objects of meaning, photos of totem animals, soft comfortable textures and rich warm colors, none of the bright garish paint that was a compromise in the old house. None of the dated and awkward ugliness, mixed with old lady taste in the interim home. Just hard wood floors, stone tiles, pastel pale cool walls and then the richness of fabrics, textiles and art placed pleasingly.
We walk the dogs and I, in the morning, I would say just as the sun was rising, but it was more, into the threatening clouded morning. I am thinking alot about sacred space, about honoring the sacred inside myself. About connecting deeply to the patterns and vibrations of the universe, the universal being, of acceptance.
This quote from the book I am reading, “Attachments” by Rainbow Rowell
“Purpose…Love. Purpose. Those are the things you can’t plan for. Those are the things that just happen. And what if they don’t happen? Do you spend your whole life pining for them? Waiting to be happy?”
I find this place resonates with a sacredness. I am not surprised to find an old old gate, to nowhere.
When my daughter moved into her own place, I gave her my old furniture. When I moved into my new place, I bought a small inexpensive sectional, I won’t spend too much on furniture that dogs vomit on. Because dogs do like to puke on the furniture sometimes. I like to be able to wash whatever is covering the cushions, for now I have two old throw quilts covering the seats, and the horrendous, ugly throw pillows that came with it have been sitting in my studio since I put in the couch. Each time I have moved in these last two years, I have weeded out some possessions that I just had been holding onto for no real reason. I had these pieces though that I kept during both moves, and when my mom came to visit this week, I showed them to her.
I had been experimenting with a quilting technique that to me seemed like painting with fabric. These two panels were my only attempts. I was looking at them after I had pulled them out of the dryer, and my then husband came in the room and looked at them too. He told me that they were not very good, he did not like the technique and I should not be making these any more. I thought they were awesome but was devastated by his critique.
I am always devastated by critique.
I folded them up and put them away. But I held on to them, I guess in some way I knew he was wrong.
I showed them to my mom, should I throw these out or? But she loved them, and today we spent the day making them into pillow covers for the two ugly cushions.
I absolutely love them. They are gorgeous. Tomorrow we are going to use an old piece of crazy quilt to do the seat cushions. I love this, this house, what I am doing here. It is like I am new and fresh and whole, where I was always before, but now I am just putting the last pieces of the puzzle together.
The dog asks to go out into the bright morning, and I climb back into bed grateful she wants to come in too, it is so cozy and I begin to drift off but there is a nagging sensation that I have forgotten something. It is an hour before I realize it is Saturday and I am down to three radishes, a dozen and a half eggs, a lemon and a handful of wilted scallions in the fridge.
I park in the shadow of a tractor trailer without it’s tractor and open the windows half way. I am still saying there should be designated dog parking all summer long. It is only 68, this is the only shade anywhere. How hard would it be, to make a corner of the lot safe for those who are out with their pets?
Now later I feel such a sense of peace and contentment. There is a moment at which you find yourself, in a place where everything comes together and begins to make sense. It is really just an inkling, but it is there and it feels like it will become more profound.
I would not have this home, nor my yoga teacher without my ex husband. I would not have this belief in my personal strength and integrity without the pirate nor would I have known that the problem was not with me with regards to our difficult relationship, would not have my daughter if it were not for her father… you get the picture. I would not be cleaning my house organically and with such a small footprint without A. and a Tau sister I lived with who reminded me that there was a time when this was what I did. Oh. Yes. The dogs at my side, my ex again, and a Tau sibling. I feed them pea pods, blueberries, strawberries and sour cherries. The pup putting her paw on my knee, asking for more. What would my life feel like without them?
I wash and cut and prepare my fruit and vegetables. Storing some in freezer bags, some in the fridge. I slice cucumbers, the little ones with no seeds, and poor hot vinegar over them, cutting up cilantro and parsley from my garden, trimming lettuce to put it on later, with chickpeas.
My sour cherry jam is boiling away on the stove and fresh homemade scones baking in the oven. A lifetime of having to live poor, now coming to fruition through living clean. My six face cords of wood on order, I look at this wood stove and do math in my head, 75 dollars a month to be warm all winter. Sometimes my gas bill was as high as 350 dollars a month, and that is cheap. I really can get used to this.
I embrace this, it is perfection. What a gift. I am filled with gratitude.
I over react sometimes to things people say to me. I surely over react when someone underestimates me, patronizes me. i have spent far to much time pointing out what has been done to me, making myself look like a victim. I am not, what I am though, is strong. You have no idea. I see now I have to stop painting it this way, because I am only a victim because I leave myself unguarded.
There is this man whom I had an unrequited crush on, and honestly I was not too happy myself about having this crush. It was utterly unwanted by me, but there is this charisma thing that was pulling me in. I had to remove myself from the situation, so perhaps on some level my over reaction to his underestimating me and patronizing me was self preservation.
But I am strong. I know things with the Pirate did not go as planned, but we are still friends. Very much so, he drives me crazy and is annoying and has made me really fucking mad but I still like him for some unknown reason. We are not and have not been lovers for a very long time, and I could not wait to get out from under his relatives, his home, and his negative angry projections. That we could not live together is one issue, that we have much in common and get along great when we are not living together is another thing. And I left with with my integrity intact and he behaved with integrity as I left.
I am not wounded by the situation with the pirate as I have been told by those that are on the outside, I was wounded when my husband left, things with the pirate are more like an abrasion. Our personalities abraded each other for sure. The wound people see is not from him, it is from Atahualpa, my ex husband.
I keep saying I am done with relationships, people cluck their tongues and say that I shouldn’t say that but this is wh: the three significant relationships I have had have been based on them needing me to support them on some level, financial being most important, and then the putting down, making me feel small by words and actions, to keep me in the place of feeling like I couldn’t leave, or survive alone. My marriage did this in a most insidious way, slow, tiny increments, until I actually believed it. With my daughter’s father and the Pirate it was so in your face leaving it was easy and I have had the strength to leave, not only just a rough situation, but leave when I was early in my pregnancy and prepared to raise my child alone.
The other three relationships I have had have been all about emotional neglect. Rather than try to keep me there, there was a sense that I wouldn’t leave, or that I didn’t matter somehow. Oddly this was a significant aspect of my marriage as well.
I started babysitting full time in summers at the age of 14. I worked two jobs to put myself through college, my parents were poor, and they did not help much, my wardrobe handmade by my mom, supplemented by thrift store buys and hand me downs. After college I worked in group homes with developmentally disabled adults with major behavior problems, not an easy job. I left my daughter’s father when I was four months pregnant, and raised her for all intents and purposes on my own (of course with help, but even married couples depend on grandparents, relatives and friends to help sometimes.) I went to grad school with a toddler at home. Worked in a psychiatric hospital for children, with young teen mothers, and in an inner city school. I supported my husband who returned to school from day one first year to finishing his masters degree and starting in a PhD program. At times I have worked two jobs to make sure my daughter had all she needed, and for a few months for over half a year with not a day off, and all so my ex could take himself out to dinner and to the movies, leaving my young child home alone without my knowledge.
I took care of my home inside and out painting, maintenance, doing yard work, house work, refinishing the driveway, gardening, all of it.
Last summer, the writing was on the wall, which is why I lived in the ADKs for two months, and when I returned to town and started looking for a new home, I put it on hold to help out the pirate who was gravely ill and in the hospital off and on for several weeks. When the time came to move I was ready, he was ready, but the recovery has been quick. But the living together was less than two years, and we were room mates for more than half of that time.
I feel better already.
I know I can do this because I have done for at least the last 30 years of my life. I have always taken care of myself. I have always taken care of my child. Always. I spent 11 good years taking care of my husband who was still a child. I am strong. I don’t need me time, because I have always had me time built in to my life, I am an introvert, I wouldn’t have made it this far WITHOUT me time. I need a man like I need a hole in the head. I just don’t.
I say I am done with romance precisely because I know I cannot allow myself to be in that position again, the one of emotional neglect, or of having to support someone else while they work hard to put me down however they see fit. It is actually for me a good thing. I don’t see it as quitting but as something else entirely. I am putting down the cross I keep trying to pick up and drag, drop it and find another pick it up and drag it. I don’t want to drag that cross anymore. I am done with dragging it around. Do you see the strength in me? From carrying this for so many years? I have done it. What comes next should be easy. It’s lonely sometimes, but I am okay with lonely. It sure as shit beats being ignored, put down and verbally abused.
So to the person who is patronizing me right now. Fuck off. You don’t know me, you don’t know how strong I am, and that wound? Its a scar and I would appreciate it, if you would look around it and see that what is behind it is something else entirely. And don’t talk to me about serenity, I have been working to get there for a long time, I am further along on that path than you are. So don’t patronize me. And do I feel better about telling you to piss off? You are damned right I do, because you made me mad, and now that I am mad it is easier to see the perpetually unguarded parts of me which seem like weakness but is actually openness, an openness I have tried hard to close, but I now know I have to work harder to open even more.
Open like a lotus flower, petal by petal.
If you want to be my friend, don’t fucking coddle me or patronize me.
The pain in my ankle has forced me to forego my morning walk, but there is no reason not to paddle. It is the first time I have been on this lake since sometime last August, but it is like an old friend, and I find comfort in sharing it with a friend. Who may or may not be old, but surely is older than i am, in many many ways.
I take too many pictures of her for her liking, but she cannot see the beauty that radiates out of her. She may not be a twenty anymore, but she is more beautiful in my eyes. One does not review an excellent aged wine and say, oh i wish it were 20 years younger, one savors it, holds it in their mouth and lets its deeper, richer, flavor sink in. It is a better wine by far. And I do not focus on her flaws, or know the things she hates about herself, I know my own far too well, they fill my own mind with endless chatter.
Here though, in this spot, I can see that chatter fall away from her, and a goddess emerges, the look of contentment as she basks in the silence, the sun, the shared friendship of many years. We are like tiny blue and green Buddhas made of modeling clay in this setting. When I emerge from here, my body filled with oxygen, and love, I am like a rock cairn, a steadfast sentinel in a crazy world.
We talk of the history of the lake a little, my body unused to paddling, of her previous trip to the lake with another old friend, but more we paddle, look at the loons, inhale the fragrance of the cedar and pine, and appreciate the graveyard of trees. This is all a gift, this silence, and shared solitude. Is it not what life is all about? I ask myself this question, does one live to work, or work in order to have moments such as these, where playing to take a picture of a lily leads to a vision of a heron catching fish. Where we count loons hoping for as many nesting pairs as the lake will take. Where only the sound of the water dripping from the paddles and the occasional clunk on the side of the canoe, and the breeze as it carries us in waves back to the put in.
This is the silence that I yearn for, that I spent many months without, many years not looking for it, or understanding its place in my soul, or my own need for it, This love of myself, reflected in what I see in her, is touching, and delicate and fair, where I am none of these on my outsides. But it reflects a strength that is undeniable.
I continue to learn as each day passes. Is this not the gift one must step into?