Tell Me!

Some time between Halloween and Thanksgiving I start holding my breath.

I don’t realize I’m doing it, but it’s the day before Thanksgiving and I feel like I’m starting to turn blue.

What, what, what?

I didn’t know I have this deep inner recess. For years it was mostly hidden, and I didn’t know I had learned to avoid the area.

It has been like living in a haunted house. I explained away every odd noise, every displacement of objects, every shadow or shiver when I walked into the attic.

I never even realized I had an attic – that’s how well the thing was done.

But now, it’s become more obvious, less able to deflect – but still a mystery.

I walked around yesterday, knowing I had a million things to do, but couldn’t settle into anything I started.

Focus, I kept telling myself. Just stop, I kept admonishing myself. What the hell is wrong with you? Get over yourself!

It never worked when I was little, and it doesn’t work now. I just went deeper inside, feeling more and more wrong.

But I’m resilient. I’m still here. I started saying “It’s okay – you’re okay,” over and over, which allowed me to get some things done for a while.

Does that mean I win? – because it sure doesn’t feel like winning.

There is still so much to get to, and I am doing what I can. I need to fit several days worth of tasks into today, but here I am, writing.

It’s a balm, even if temporary.

I will go about my business regardless of the dank heaviness trailing me. It’s just harder.

There is something in that dark, drippy, echoing recessed inner cavern that needs me to figure out how to get down there, and get us back safely – or something like that.

I know this has to do with the trauma of neglect, and of my trying to resolve it by finding people or circumstances that would helpfully replicate it for me so I could work on it, but that didn’t fix it then, and it’s not fixing it now – dammit.

I can continue what I’ve always done, and power my way on through sheer will, but it never really leaves, it just gets quieter.

It feels like a rescue mission that I have no idea what equipment I need to be successful – because I do try – I am trying at this very moment.

What do you need,” I ask, or “what do you want me to do?!”

It’s like when my son was barely verbal and he wanted something from the cabinet up above the kitchen counter. I tried the crackers he liked, and several other items. With each thing I grabbed he just wailed harder – his little face all screwed up with his frustration that “I didn’t understand!

Any idiot should know what he needed – get a clue, woman!

So I picked him up and put him on the counter and told him to show me what he wanted. I think it was canned peaches.

Maybe I just need some peaches.

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

Moments Like This

I’ve gotten scared a couple of times while driving in the last month or so. My hands are on the wheel, eyes on the road, but twice now I have caught myself having to remember to be in the world?, Something like that. I haven’t figured that out yet, which is what’s terrifying.

Have the leaded gas fumes from my father’s Lincoln Continental that I breathed in deeply several times after he had parked in the driveway finally melted my brain? He must have caught me doing that because I only remember getting to stand there breathing in the lead fumes a few times. It must have been better than the smell of bread or cake or cookies baking, because none of those aromas made me want to stick my nose as close to the oven as I could to breathe it in as fully as I could.

But worse than that, could I be getting some form of dementia?

It’s hard to write about this because it’s embarrassing and scary, but it’s real, and maybe someone has an answer, or has experienced something similar.

In both incidents the eerie displacement of time, or space, or space/time, or whatever was happening to me, left me hyper-vigilant, and desperate to seem normal, to feel normal.

I got to my destinations fine, and I’m now realizing that the drives home were unremarkable.

Maybe my senses aren’t as acute as they were a decade ago (or even last year)?

Maybe this is what getting old is.

Bite your tongue, I hear my rebel yell. Fuck off, and then come back and fuck off again. Old. Pssshh!

That’s like saying I’m defective, used up, yesterday’s news – and that’s stupid.

But I can’t stop what happens to my definitely time-based body, even if my, what? – id, ego, and super-ego? – are up in arms at the seeming injustice of it all.

I just have to accept what is, not approve of it.

I also have to figure out if there is something wonky going on in my brain.

Maybe it’s something simple, something fixable.

The fear underneath everything else is whether or not I matter – whether I have relevance.

Well, that is completely self-determined, isn’t it?

No one else defines me unless I let them, and I don’t have to let my worst thoughts about myself decide who I am either.

Full human – still here, still crushing it … 8 times out of 10 – so far.

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

Sometimes The Journey Feels Like Forever

“November would be unbearable were it not for knowledge of spring.”

I wish I could remember the author of that quote. An internet search turned up nothing, and I am probably misremembering it, but that is the gist of it at any rate.

I heard it back in my college days, studying literature, and the edge of my brain is saying it was a woman writer in the 19th or early-to-mid 20th century.

I’m thinking of this quote in terms of my mother, beyond this physical world now. I suppose spring represents the mystical realm, where I believe I will see those who mattered to me again. At least the thought sustains me in these darkening days.

The large maple tree in our yard, so recently flush with green leaves – with life – stands bare again as the year cycles. The birth and death of its foliage every year reminds me that I will cycle too, but unlike those leaves, I will not regenerate in the spring – at least not here.

My mother told me once that she heard in her mind: “we’re waiting,” when she stood outside on a frigid winter day, wondering what happens to the leafless trees through the long winter months.

Are you waiting now, Mom?

I glance at that tree through my window, and think about my mother having cycled into the underworld. She is literally under the ground now – no word on what happened to her spirit or soul.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there were spirit journalists – envoys from wherever they are now – sending their observations on the work-a-day spirit world back into this physical realm where we could pick up their papers and journals, or read their blogs?

I’d particularly like to read Mark Twain’s (Samuel Clemens’) observations. I’m sure my mother would too.

She had a good sense of humor, and appreciated irony and satire.

I took a trip to my mother’s old trailer, and was depressed about the state of it.

All the wood and the walls and the ceiling and floor are rotting away. All I could think was “as above, so below.” I try not to think about my mother decomposing in her grave – but she always spoke almost reverently about becoming “worm food.”

A grave robber broke into Mozart’s tomb and was shocked to see him sitting there, furiously erasing what looked like one of his symphonies.

“What are you doing?” blurted out the startled robber.

“I’m decomposing!” replied Mozart. (one of my mother’s favorite silly jokes)

Besides missing laughing, joking, and talking with her, it strikes me that I probably never knew my mother as she saw herself, and I didn’t particularly like aspects of my mother that can bring up terribleness even now.

I see my mother through my lens of need, often forgetting that her neglect and dysfunction helped cause much of my disturbed emotional being.

But, I still love her for what she was able to do – for her trying to do better. I remember how she was there for me when my son was born, and throughout his growing up – even though I curse the hell that was wired into my brain, which hurt my ability be the mother I had wanted to be. Even so, I did far better with my son than was done for me.

People like to quibble on the nature vs nurture question, but time and again we see those who mostly had what they needed as children doing far better than those who didn’t. All you need is one appropriate, concerned and loving caregiver to get you through awful circumstances, and perhaps even thrive, but not everyone gets that. Humans are resilient, and I know that we continue on regardless – I and my siblings are proof of that – but we still paid, and in some ways, continue to pay for what we endured.

We are all on a heroes journey. We all suffer, face challenges large and small, and we all have the potential for victory. But those who don’t slay their dragons are not less worthy, they’re just less celebrated, or honored for having done their best. They “failed” to vanquish the darkness, but they still tried.

Sometimes there’s more to love in a loser than in a winner. We can all relate to loss.

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

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