Time, Time, Time

I hear Tom Waits singing the refrain: “Oh it’s time, time, time…”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAB4uGGquX4

It’s more the song’s tone rather than the lyrics that make me think about our time-based life.

The garden so green, so colorful – so heavy with tomatoes, beans, corn, squash, and flowers just a few weeks ago is emptier – strewn with scraggly vines and stalks – the last ripening food and flowers know the end is near. The tomatoes will continue to ripen until the frost comes, but they are the last stalwarts of the garden.

I reluctantly pulled out my fall clothes suitcase today after seeing the forecast of cooling temperatures this week, with colder nights.

I folded up my shorts and tank tops, my flip-flops will overwinter in the closet.

Autumn is a beautiful season. I have always liked it, but I see it differently now. I have grown and changed. My perspective has expanded, but also contracted.

Summer used to seem longer. It used to be full with friends and parties and nightlife and doings. It’s not that it couldn’t be again, it’s that I’m not that person anymore. I do go out to events at times, but it is not like being in your twenties. I don’t have the energy I had back then. I was biologically as well as psychologically different – and that is okay. I’m not railing against that. I’m just noticing.

Of course there is sorrow – there’s grief in every season, every change. I am grateful that I am aware of the subtle changes now. I have appreciation for so much more than I used to, but I was always appreciative of nature and the earth’s beauty and bounty.

It’s easy to look back and be an “armchair quarterback” about my life – but that’s not fair or accurate because I didn’t have the information that I do now – and I likely wasn’t supposed to.

I wasted so much of this precious commodity called time. I knew it even when I was younger, but I wasn’t able to act differently then. I am more able now, but not by much. I have found strategies that help me, but they’re not foolproof. Platitudes are easy. Life is not, or it hasn’t been for me.

I can be joyful in the struggle. I can be miserable too… I’m more often just moving through my day, working on or completing tasks.

I had grander visions for my life – high aspirations. I think it gave me goals to work toward. I think I have done pretty well with what was handed to me.

Time’s drumbeat throbs more loudly now, but it may be what I need to finish up my work, and do all I can to have who and what is important in my life, and let go of the rest.

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

One Year To Live

I heard about taking a year to live as if it’s my last, and I’ve decided to do it. Maybe it really will be, who knows!

My son is getting married in October, and I kind of feel nothing. I guess I’m just neutral? I’ll probably feel more interested or invested at the wedding.

I suppose I could tell my son I am doing this ‘last year to live’ experiment and ask for some time with him, because if it actually were my diagnosis, that is what I would want to have happen.

What do you do with a year to live?

I have made plans to do the things I have always wanted to do – that I can do – and I have started clearing out old files and noticing what continues to have importance to me that someone will have to just dump when I kick it.

When I look back on my life I have so much regret. I did not manage to do the things I said were important to me. Some would say that they couldn’t have been that important or I would have pursued them, but that is not a fair assessment. That is someone looking in from the outside and not chained in a mind like mine.

I understand it’s my own fault in some measure, but I’m also a trauma survivor for whom being able to function has been an achievement of sorts.

We all experience trauma. There is no escaping it. It is what we are able to do in spite of trauma that is our triumph.

Some people who didn’t experience trauma in infancy and continuing through to adulthood might not be as limited by the experience, or maybe they carried on well even if they had intense challenges from the get-go.

That cannot be a measure for everyone else, however. “I did it so you can too,” is one of the most fucked-up things a person can say to another. Tell me how you minimize without telling me how you minimize is what anyone should get from that.

You don’t know me. You don’t know what I’ve lived through, or tried, or continue to work at.

My star was in my ability to laugh and to love.

I did my best to be kind even though I know I’ve been an asshole plenty in my life. I hope that the balance will show more kindness and caring than the opposite.

It is okay to not have reached my goals – at least I had them.

Every time I gave up and railed about life, I got back up.

I lived. I experienced a full range of emotion. I have been a life-long learner. Hell, I’ve been studying Spanish for four years now and I still suck at it – but I haven’t given up. I also tend a garden. I love seeing plants grow – and I love fostering their growth. I adore beauty. Hiking and being in nature fills me with such reverence and joy.

I am with a partner who deeply loves me, and I love him. That was a near miss for me. I had a broken picker for so long when it came to romance that I happily gave it up. Maybe that allowed a space for someone good to come into my life, or maybe I just got lucky.

Sitting outside drinking my coffee on a summer morning with the sun warming me is about as close to paradise as I could imagine.

I will continue to work for peace in this time I have left, and to speak out against injustice.

I’m a bit worried about what’s after this life, if there is anything. I’m not afraid of some terrible god, I’m afraid of being bored. It would probably be good if there is just nothing after this.

If I could report back, I would.

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

Retreat And Reset

A dear friend and I were talking about this dark time of year, and how she, like me, experiences the desire to go away right before Thanksgiving and not return until after the new year.

Maybe it is the expectation of the holiday season and all that pressure to be glad and giving and grateful.

It’s not that I’m ungrateful, and while I can’t speak for my friend, I’m close to 100 percent sure that that is true for her also.

It’s just my dark time. I don’t have to try to be different anymore, and it has taken me decades to understand that.

We’re told, directly and indirectly, not to be a “downer”. But it’s not down, really. It’s more like the Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone.

Demeter, the goddess of grain and the growing season, was angered and grieved when Hades abducted her daughter, Persephone, and brought her into the Underworld. Zeus had to strike a bargain with Hades and Demeter to let Persephone come back to the living world for part of the year so that Demeter would let crops grow again, or so the myth goes.

Perhaps ceasing growth in the living world was Demeter’s only bargaining chip for her daughter’s return, but Demeter’s powers may have been sapped in her grief and distress – she may have had nothing left to give. She may have needed that time to recover her abilities, and Zeus needed her powers to keep humanity going, so an understanding and remedy was had.

Persephone’s return, bringing back her bond, connection, and belonging with Demeter, revived creativity and growth into the observable world.

Time to refill our reserves is essential. Going deep into my Underworld is necessary, and some of us need more time than others to replenish ourselves.

My work now is to find a retreat that my friend and I can go to each year to disconnect just enough to come back refreshed and ready for what’s next.

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

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

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

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

Come Visit Me

She’s been calling me for days. I thought I was making it up, but she is persistent.

Go see Mom.

“She’s not there,” I think. “You’re just chasing a memory. You’ll go and the stinky, moldy trailer will be empty, and cold, and you will leave empty and cold.”

“Go anyway.”

“Why, Mom?”

“Because I’m lonely.”

Wait, she’s lonely? I thought she could come see me anytime. I thought that when you’re in spirit, you’re free? Maybe there are things that need to be righted though. Maybe there is unfinished business.

Maybe those final days there were not days she would have wished for. It was not how she wanted to leave it. And my presence will bring love and companionship, even if for a minute.

It will suffice.

And I will keep going back, Mom, even if I’m making it up. I’ll keep going back to say hi until there are no more reasons to go, or no more tears to shed – I guess? I honestly feel like this isn’t just me.

That was your heaven on earth, you said. So I will visit your temple.

I will enter in prayer, and I will leave in prayer.

I wish you peace. I wish you abundant love. I wish you goodness, and light, and laughter all of your existence.

Joni Mitchell has been singing to me too, Mom:

“It’s coming on Christmas
They’re cutting down trees
They’re putting up reindeer
And singing songs of joy and peace
Oh I wish I had a river I could skate away on.”

Joni Mitchell, River from Blue, 1971

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

Late November

The sun shines brightly over the brown, leafless trees outside the kitchen window. A breeze ruffles the tan stalks of grass and hay poking up in patches of the neighbors back property like several days of stubble growth on earth’s face. The blue sky rimmed with white and grey clouds gathered near the horizon makes me think of the soft summer days recently erased – an artist ever changing its mind.

The chug of the tractor’s engine is heard well before the machine trundles into view. The stack of wood will warm us as the evening chill descends.

Ever turning.

Ever turning.

Each day a chance for a different thought, a different choice – until the chugging of my own heart ceases – and all the fuel has left my body.

Until then, my machine needs the same care any aging machine does – I can no longer skimp on maintenance.

Seeing myself with the same respectful reverence I have for that eighty year old tractor is a hard sell for me, but I keep trying.

I’ll keep trying.

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

Time Slipper

Existential angst. Unanswerable questions – classic configuration: who, what, where, when, why.

Especially why. To what purpose? To a purpose?

Accidental? By design?

A soup of elemental goop, dividing, evolving, adapting – created the world we’re currently in?

Preposterous?

Yes and No.

The question has become: “does it matter?”

We get to determine what matters, and what to do.

I heard Jane Fonda say she is a repeater – and I realized that I am too.

I am a light receptacle. I travel the helper network, and have found so many others along the way.

There are other networks, some flashy, some dreadful, none as lasting or strong as ours – and we’re open to every single soul, forever.

It’s not really that “we win”. That implies competition, but it’s just a journey home.

I grieve for those who won’t make it home for a long time. I’m going home after this life is done.

In the meantime, I’ve got light to spread as I slip through this time.

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