Down Go The Days

I once heard how a goldfish swimming around its bowl is perpetually surprised to find someone looking at it on each go around. I feel like that’s me.

Once again, I’m trying to hold myself away from the darkness.

Every year – every year!, I think this year will be different. This is where the therapists, psychologists, psychotherapists, etc., have it wrong. They just do. This just has to be endured. I don’t encourage this, or ask for this, or want this. I do my best to change the circumstances, the feelings, my attitude, my situation, my – being.

It’s like something descends upon me, or pulls me, or – I don’t know, but I have spent the last 30 years of my life trying to fend this off and I have yet to change it.

Maybe I have allowed it without being aware? I reject that. This is not my doing. I work toward a stable, content, capable life – all the time. Maybe something is attached to me that has the most power this time of year, or whenever I’m most vulnerable?

Trying to think my way out of this does not work. I know that something lets go – eventually – but I get closer to stepping off the world too.

All I can do now is be as kind as I can. Don’t judge, don’t demean or belittle myself – and don’t accept defeat.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh), Making A Way Blog, 2010 – current

Turning Colder

It is the glistening autumnal side of summer. I feel a cool vein in the breeze, which braces my thought, and I pass with pleasure over sheltered and sunny portions of the sand where the summer’s heat is undiminished, and I realize what a friend I am losing.” – Henry David Thoreau

We had a long-ish summer, it stayed mostly in the mid to high 70°F range until yesterday, even though this summer was fairly rainy in Western Massachusetts. Autumn seems to have descended in earnest now – our high was 58°F today, and the trees are showering their leaves down in the colder wind.

It’s a great time of year, but it’s hard to let go of the warmer weather.

I’m looking forward to hot cider next to a crackling fire, and carving my jack-o-lantern while listening to spooky stories both old and new.

Jeff Belanger is a great storyteller, and we’ve been watching his New England Legends on Amazon Prime for the last week or so. I don’t like gruesome or super scary stories or movies – and I don’t go to haunted houses or on haunted hay rides anymore. My startle response is too keyed up as it is.

I miss my son when he was young this time of year. We used to have so much fun reading together, making crafts, and going trick-or-treating, of course!

I enjoy Samhain, and all the lore around this time of year when the veil between this world and the spirit world is said to be thinnest.

Honoring my ancestors on All Hallow’s Eve, or Samhain, is going to be a new tradition for me. I am researching rituals for remembering and honoring those who came before (if they deserve honoring – or I can at least acknowledge their contributions in the eventuality that is me, if nothing else).

I will ask the ancestors for release of the pain and trauma from this living world so that I, and all who come after, might bring in more light and love.

So mote it be.

Snap-Apple Night, Daniel Maclise, 1832.

Avoidance

Stuck.

Stuck.

Stuck.

I’m noticing that the night-blooming jasmine flowers, that rarely bud out anymore, are budding in a cluster of five or six.

(is that my mother making them bloom now – maybe? or is it my Aunt Lee, checking in on me. Or is it nothing because there is nothing, and they are gone now. All the aunts except my aunt Cathy are gone.)

I pulled out my Halloween decorations yesterday, and I really enjoyed that last year, but I’m having a hard time enjoying anything this year. It’s getting chilly here in Western Massachusetts, so I pulled out my fall and winter clothes too.

(mom kept all her clothes until they were practically rags, and I have the same wardrobe I’ve had for the last ten years, except underwear, of course, and a few shirts and a pair of pants I got from Costco.)

I’m having a coffee, trying to savor it. Be present to now, I think. Be present.

(mom loved coffee. why don’t I feel her? If spirit is real, and true, then why the fuck don’t I feel anyone who has gone on that I loved?)

I like how the steam rises up, and the rich smell of the beans is so delicious. I go out onto the back deck steps on sunny mornings to sit for a few minutes before starting my day in earnest. The willow trees, the small garden, the bright sky – I appreciate all of it. I am grateful for all that I have, for the time I’ve been given on this good Earth.

(and there’s the garden shed where some of mom’s things are that I have yet to go through and try to salvage anything or chuck it all out)

It’s different now. The raw grief has subsided, but sometimes it overwhelms me again. Mostly, it’s just part of me now.

(i think I’m angry with you, Mom. why are you silent? why don’t you visit me in my dreams? why won’t you make your presence known if you still exist? what kind of a shit universe is this?)

All unanswered questions. The Universe doesn’t bend to my will, or care how angry I am. I have to choose what I believe – if anything. I can be as wrong believing as not believing, or as right believing as not believing that there is a point and purpose to all of this.

I’m older now. I didn’t want to get older. I didn’t try to get older. Life just moved on – often without me keeping up – and definitely without my consent. My pain is often because I refuse acceptance too. I try to remember that I only have to accept, not approve. I can yell all I want that this is against my will, but life just doesn’t work like that. Life is neither for nor against me – or any of us – no matter how it seems otherwise.

Mom’s passing was just that. Whether it was ‘her time’, or whatever justification I might throw at it – it’s just a fact. I am on a temporal plane. Do I not enjoy what beauty and camaraderie and joy and struggle there is just because it’s going to end? Do I sit in a corner with my arms crossed until my own death comes? Joy and play are important to me! My people make life tolerable. The right music and free-spirited dancing lifts my spirits. So, I will grow older, and have more difficulty until the end. So will everyone on earth who doesn’t die young.

There is goodness, and there is terribleness. I can be as upset as I want, and rail against life’s ridiculousness – and I can make the best of this nonsensical experience. It’s not either/or for me. It’s all of the above.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh), Making A Way Blog, 2010 – current

Rainy Monday

“Rainy days and Mondays always get me down.” from Rainy Days and Mondays, Carpenters, 1971 album

I wish I could empirically know if it is my mother’s spirit that I feel in certain moments like this morning when I heard her voice inside me say “what a rainy day,” as I looked out over the tiny garden this morning.

Her voice came unbidden. I wasn’t thinking about her in that moment, but I’ve been thinking of her since.

Are there gardens wherever she is – if she’s anywhere at all anymore?

There must be gardens, because she’d create one.

Doesn’t all our creativity speak to something beyond us? We dream, and plan, and build. We create worlds within worlds – aquariums of fish sometimes replete with real or plastic plants, old time scuba outfitted people, little plastic treasure chests, or practical items like miniature caves or structures where the fish can swim through or hide.

There’s Biosphere II in Oracle, Arizona – a town I once briefly lived in – where a dreamer designed and built a sustainable living environment for when we have thoroughly trashed this one (as we seem unable to stop ourselves from doing).

My mother was curious about everything. She pondered life’s mysteries, and whether we continually recycle into flesh beings – or whatever forms we might take in an endlessly diverse universe.

I could and did talk to her about anything, and while I still have my scholarly and philosophical friend who also ponders the extraordinary, and the mundane, my mother’s voice is silenced except for memories, and a few video and audio recordings.

But maybe her voice isn’t silenced. Maybe consciousness resides outside the body. Maybe my mother has just changed form, and carries all that she gained from being on Earth with her – willing her thoughts into my brain once in a while?

It’s frustrating that I can’t know for sure, and it feels like searching for the roots of truth in mythology.

I once read that God(dess) is an “unknowable essence,” but has sent, and will send, messengers throughout all time to tell the rest of us why we exist, and what It hopes from us.

My mother once read me some other sage’s words: “Why do you seek God(dess)? Does a fish seek water?” I don’t know the author of those words, but they often sustain me.

I sense my mother’s smile and encouragement too, and that will have to suffice.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh), Making A Way Blog, 2010 – current

Launch-pad Dreams

Maybe it’s a brain problem.

Years ago, Susan Skulsky, a college English professor who worked with me to improve to a B from a dismal D in my first year General Literature survey course, told me that my ideas were good, but my grammar was terrible.

I’m sure I confessed to her of having dropped out of school after 8th grade.

I did drop back in for my senior year at the urging of a friend who asked me if I had no better ambitions than to be a store clerk, or a server, all my life. I thankfully decided more education was better. However, I missed a lot of critical grammar work that made my English Language and Literature major hard won.

I should have chosen music or theater, but both subjects intimidated me too much, and my college advisor did not see that I was in the wrong major.

I took an introductory theater class, philosophy, and delved into geology, and oceanography, all of which were fascinating and gratifying, but I still longed to be a writer, and perhaps teacher, so I stayed with English.

I remember another English major describe herself as ‘highly trainable’ several years after we graduated and she was working as an insurance underwriter.

But I was going to write something worth reading, perhaps something worth remembering me for…

I never found ‘my thing’ back then, and I’m not sure I ever have.

Did all of my education go to waste? The experiences certainly didn’t.

I learned more about social strata than I likely would have otherwise, which may have been more valuable in some ways than the academics.

The woman whose daddy was giving her a ‘Jag’ upon graduating. The several women who had never done their own laundry. The ones only there to find a good husband, or because that was their social track.

My dirt poor existence could not have prepared me for the realities of the moneyed world.

The day I got my paper back with that big red D, and its accompanying “make an appointment to see me,” scribbled next to it, I sat in silent shock, while a girl sitting with some classmates at a table behind me was in tears over an A- she received.

What would she have thought had she known there was someone who got a D sitting so near her?

Life moved on, as it does. I survived, and am still standing, even if my dreams did not become reality. I try not to justify my failures as ‘all for the best’. I simply failed.

Maybe it was a brain problem.

My dear friend told me about her daughter’s boss who said something like “Oh, you’re a scholar,” when my friend spoke of her interests and her life. She said it was a freeing statement to hear. She is a scholar.

Perhaps, I am a scholar too.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh), Making A Way Blog, 2010 – current

Summer Evening, Six Years Old

I am about six years old, and just finished my bath. My mother dries me off and tells me to get into my pajamas and wait for her while she finishes bathing my three year old brother.

She will braid my hair, like she has my older sisters who have already had their bath, but unlike them, I will have to go to bed right after my hair is braided and my teeth are brushed.

Those were the best times with my mother. Her love was fully present, and in those few moments her attention was all mine.

I stand looking at the rectangle of sky out of the window in the steamy bathroom, a soft breeze cooling my face as it carries in the evening songbirds’ chirping.

The open kitchen window is full of the dimming sky as I write this, the night birds singing me back to six years old – feeling my mother’s touch and love – the current ache of missing her lessened by this time travel.

Are the birds singing to their broods, hushing them to sleep? Are they, too, happy in their mother’s attention?

My oldest brother rushes into the bathroom: “Mom, look!”

He has a lightning bug in a jar. It’s buzzing against the glass, looking for a way out.

“That’s a special bug. You can look at it for a while, but I want you to let it go outside before bed.”

“Oh, alright,” my brother groans, ruing his decision to show her his prize.

My next oldest brother comes in with a lightning bug he smeared on his arm just as it had lit up. His experiment a proud success.

She tells him to go wash it off as my little brother and I start to cry at his seeming cruelty.

“It’s just a bug,” he sneers, and then they’re off, clomping back downstairs.

“You boys stay in now – and clean up,” my mother calls after them.

The darkening sky has quieted the birds, the light in my kitchen seeming brighter now.

I imagine a mother bird having fed her brood, and cleaned their feathers before bed – their crowded nest all cozy and warm.

A few late birds call out, and then all is quiet again.

The earth is turning from the sun for another night.

The fireflies are lighting up in the dimness, and perhaps my mother is right here, enjoying this moment with me.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh), Making A Way Blog, 2010 – current

Disaster Cake

It’s not the kind of cake you make for a disaster (although that might be nice when totally stressed out from a disaster?).

I have never made pineapple upside down cake before, but have always wanted to. My mother made one when I was a kid, and it was delectable (her chocolate fudge was amazing too).

I had some frozen pineapple from several months ago that I kept meaning to thaw and try this cake recipe with. (Frozen pineapple is also fantastic in smoothies, if you didn’t know.)

I bought a yellow cake mix because the recipe said that was fine if you didn’t want to do it all by scratch, which, in hindsight, would have been better.

I made up the mix, and carefully laid out the pineapple and brown sugar/butter mixture on the bottom of the pan, and then poured the mix on top – following the instructions to a T.

What I failed to notice was the *.

I mean, I noticed it, I just thought it didn’t pertain to my situation.

The asterisk cautioned that it was best to not use self-rising flour.

Cake mix is self-rising.

After a half an hour or so, I smell burning.

Burning?! It wasn’t even half-way done, and I had the temperature correct.

Oh bloody hell!

I looked into the oven to see cake batter rising up and bubbling over like an oversudsed washing machine, dripping down through the rack tines into a batter puddle on the oven bottom.

I shut off the oven, told my partner to open the front door and prepare for the smoke alarm while I took the still-uncooked cake batter in the pan out of the smoking oven, and set it on top of the stove.

I took out the oven racks, dropped the second one when it burned the side of my exposed hand, and screamed to my partner to back off as the rack clattered to floor. Fortunately, my barefooted partner was quick enough to jump out of the way.

He grabbed an oven mitt and picked up the rack, holding it gingerly over the sink because he was afraid that it would hurt the metal sink to put something so hot onto the cool sink bottom. I don’t think that’s a thing, but maybe it is, so whatever. It made him feel better.

Then we scraped off what we could of the burned mess, and I was lucky enough to get the burned batter pile on the oven bottom with a frying pan spatula as it had enough butter or oil in it to not be stuck too badly.

I decided to turn the oven back on and try to cook the cake the rest of the way, even though I figured it was ruined.

I had no idea how much longer to cook it, so I put it on for 20 more minutes at the 325°f setting from the instructions.

I wish I had taken a picture, but am also glad I didn’t. It looked as pathetic as you imagine.

It smelled amazing though.

20 minutes later out of the oven it came, and the toothpick I pierced the cake center with came out clean, amazingly enough.

I set the pineapple-blob disaster cake on the cooling rack for a few minutes, and then tipped it upside down onto a plate.

I had to get a knife to cut away all the baked-on batter that had congealed down the cake pan sides, but it, too, came away without too much effort.

Then came the big reveal lifting off the cake pan…

– it was a girl!

No, it was beautiful, and I still don’t have a picture (what kind of blogger is she?, you’re thinking). Not an astute one. I’ll work on that.

But it came out imperfectly perfect, and DELICIOUS! I wish I could share it with you!

It was light and fluffy and the pineapple looked almost like Martha freaking Stewart had made it. (Easy to say without a picture, but you’ll just have to trust me this one time).

So, here’s the metaphor the universe gave me:

Don’t give up.

Clean up my mess, and have a little faith that, sometimes, even my screw ups can work out better than my dreariest expectations.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh), Making A Way Blog, 2010 – current

Battle-ready?

If you do not have depression I would like you to offer gratitude to your well-built brain right now – or your lack of childhood trauma events – or be especially grateful if you do not have depression even though you survived immense trauma.

You are a fucking miracle.

You may well be a miracle anyway – I suppose the fact we exist at all is miraculous.

How I wake up:

The weekend interaction with my next oldest sister and a ‘mutual’ friend swims into my consciousness with all its terribleness (and I say mutual loosely because when my mother died, said friend rushed to my sister’s side to comfort her in a haze of pungent smoke, but did not even give me a call. – Never fear, they all heard from me in the weeks after my mother’s death, and I yelled at him for not even thinking to call me when it was my world falling apart too).

Then remembering how my grown son has so thoroughly detached from me that it feels like a mortal wound every time I think of it. In my waking world I reason it all out, and comfort myself, and move on – but in my barely conscious, vulnerable waking moments, the hurt is as raw as a jagged broken bone.

I am genuinely happy for my son’s happiness. He got out of the poverty cycle. He did what every parent wants for their child – to do better than they did. He has a beautiful girlfriend that he just got engaged to, and I have every hope for a content life for them. They are well on their way.

And then she ‘girlfriend-splains’ my own son to me – as though I am just meeting him. And maybe I am.

And then the darkness moves in for its quarry.

All the joy has left my life. Death is a welcome friend. So how to do it? A bridge? A rope? Something quick. I make my plans, and get ready to go.

Something – grace, I guess – shakes me lucid.

No, not today motherfucker!

Now, I know her story is not like the battle I have to do, but the entity in me is just as vile as that nearly-was rapist.

I would like a working relationship with my son, but I do not know how to do that in a mutually satisfying way. I only know how to do extremes, unfortunately, so I am letting go.

I need to protect my heart that has been so battered the last few years. Maybe someday we can have a nice emotionally-distant relationship. I wish him the best life, and I love him with all that I have.

Letting go of the family I want is the next task. The past is gone, and I was probably always deluding myself that I had good relationships with my sisters.

Ahead of me is the hard work of leaving abusive relationships. I will not be my family’s pain receptacle any longer. It is literally killing me, and I want to die for something better than that.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh), Making A Way Blog, 2010 – current

New Old Life

Nothing looks the same anymore. Maybe it’s still grief over my mother, and over several friends who have died in the last few years – one of them over twenty years ago who I have recently reconnected with.

It’s funny to phrase it that way, but it feels true. I had been stopping by the grave of one of my dear friends – filling her in on our crazy world now – and doing my best to let her know she’s loved and not forgotten.

I’m supposed to be writing an article for work, and I’ll get to it. It’s been such an orderly thing in my disorderly life.

I feel like a weirdo still grieving my mother’s passing. It was her time, after all. She got to live a long life, but it still came as a shock.

This has more to do with me now, I know that. I know it always had to do with me, really. I’m still here and she’s gone – on.

I’ve still not felt her around me. Maybe she’s left for parts unknown – or is just gone, if atheism is right.

Over the past year, it has taken a lifelong soul-sister friend to help me sort out what’s mine and what isn’t.

I had so much grief and rage.

I’m kind of surprised I’m still talking to any of my family members, but I think that’s guilt. I think it’s hope too, but at some point, it’s wiser to move on.

We were each others’ survival growing up as we were tossed about treacherous seas while those who were supposed to be in charge jumped ship. That forges a bond, even if it’s not ultimately healthy.

I love and loved my sisters dearly, but that affection was only really returned by one sister, who still told me her god is better than mine – and even though we got along the best – I know we can only share some of our heart now.

My friend told me I taught them how to treat me, and my acting differently will not cause them to respond well. In fact, I can expect them to act worse, or just continue as they’ve often been toward me.

Sometimes you get surprised for the better, and sometimes you find your true family outside of those you were born with.

Maybe it is my mother’s nudge from beyond this world that’s pushing me toward compatible love and friendship. At least it makes me feel better to think so.

I love you Mom.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) Debts To Pay, and Making A Way’s Blog, 2010 – current

Here Am I

You know how you ‘know’ how you probably should feel, or be, or do, but you feel otherwise?

Yeah, that’s where I am.

It’s not defiance. I don’t feel ‘choice’, it’s just how it is in this moment.

I understand feelings will shift, my attitude will likely change and I won’t have need of where I am – but when I’m here, I’m here.

And I’m angry that I have to manage the multitude in my head telling me why I shouldn’t be where I am emotionally, and then the litany of all I’ve ever screwed up, and opportunities I’ve missed – how, of course my life is not where I want it to be – look who I am.

What a shithead, right?!

I mean, if I could fire that jerk, and demand restitution for all it’s cost me – I’d bottle that and sell it – because I know I am not alone.

Not being alone in this miasma doesn’t have a ‘camaraderie’ feeling to it though. It’s not bested through others’ compassion, but only through self-compassion, and that is not currently in my skill set.

The best pharmacological offerings have not helped – and therapy does take the edge off – but this is a solo path, even though I desperately want company.

“The best way out is through,” as I have heard (and my inner rampaging self says to go screw yourself with your hollow platitudes).

And, yes, I know I’m arguing with myself, but it’s also all the therapists and self-help books that have not been the miracle cure I had hoped for.

Other wisdom reminds me that this is an ‘inside job’, and all I can think is that it would have been better to hire an expert.

“But you are an expert! You are the only expert on you!,” offers my cheery ‘friend’, who now has a black eye…

So, what am I going to do?

I’m going to go out and till the soil in the garden, because if I don’t do it, it won’t get done.

Also, speaking directly to my inner three-nager: I love you. I accept you. You matter to me, and it’s important to me that you get what you need.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) Debts To Pay, and Abstractly Distracted’s Blog, 2010 – current