I’m gonna make this garden grow. All it takes is a rake, and a hoe, and a piece of fertile ground. Inch by inch, row by row, someone bless these seeds I sow, someone warm them from below ’til the rain comes tumblin’ down…
Gardening is a life lesson. The whole kit and caboodle right there – from pulling those weeds, digging up those rocks, to preparing the soil – and, finally, planting the seeds.
And it’s never done until harvest time. There are weeds to pull, bugs to fight off, and tender care all summer long. Even after harvest it’s wise to clean up the garden, and maybe sow winter rye or something that will keep the soil in place over autumn into late fall.
Winter is the time to plan, and wait, but Spring comes upon us often fast and furious. The cacophony of insects, birds, animals, and mammals all jockeying for space to nest and begin the next generation to carry on.
Sometimes all the love and care in the world doesn’t keep blight away, or relieve stunted growth. Sometimes the weather is bad for weeks on end, and all you can do is start over, if there’s enough time left in the season, or hope next year will be better.
Another aunt, my Godmother, Aunt Francis, died on May 22nd. I called that morning to see if I could bring my mother for a visit that weekend, and her daughter told me she had just passed away.
I knew my aunts dying would be tough. I thought it would feel unbearable. I didn’t expect emotional silence.
Am I inured to death now? It’s where we’re all going, so I guess it’s the age-old question of why we’re even here.
Those of us who’ve rejected religion’s narrative determine our own meaning of life, and decide our ethics and morality through consequence.
I try not to hurt others because I know what it’s like to be hurt. I appreciate love, goodness, helpfulness, compassion, decency, respect, and a live-and-let-live approach as long as they’re not harming me or someone else – without their permission.
I see what hate, unkindness, disrespect, and unethical behavior bring, and do what I can to act from my best self.
Maybe Aunt Fran retains some consciousness, some sentience, outside of her body – and if so, I hope she’s with family who went before her.
I know that life hurts – a lot. I also know there’s joy, gladness, goodness, etc., but the continued suck-ass elements of life overshadow life’s ease.
I’m sad about my Aunt Fran’s passing. I love her. I enjoyed her energy, her personality, her presence. I’m grateful she lived. She really lived – she didn’t merely exist. She was beautiful, humorful, and created beauty, order, and children, whom she got grandchildren from. She had many friends, and belonged to a community who mourn her passing.
You’d think I’d be used to a world where loss is as great as gain, if not greater, but it’s still wounding.
I used to think humans were unique that way, but we’re not. Apes, elephants, dolphins, whales, and many other species also grieve, and care about their communities.
We’re just along for the ride, however long it lasts, and I suppose it’s up to us to make it a worthy journey.
Near misses are ubiquitous. I nearly died twice, that I’m aware of – those really close calls. When I was 19 I felt the breeze of a motorcycle as I almost stepped into its speeding path crossing a busy street, but my sister pulled me back from disaster. The motorcyclist stopped and, visibly shaken, asked if I was alright. I had no idea what had nearly happened – only that I felt a slight breeze and didn’t understand why my sister tugged on me. It was only reflecting later that I had a stomach drop realizing I narrowly missed disaster, if not death.
That same summer I toppled over while attempting a yoga pose that I thought I should be advanced enough to do, hearing a couple of crunches in my neck as I landed. I stayed there nearly an hour before my sister got home, fearing a broken neck. Luckily, but also unluckily, I didn’t break my neck, but I did damage two discs, which caused great intermittent pain ever since, but I finally had surgery a few years ago when my spinal column had become so thin that I was in danger of paralysis.
I waited ten years, hoping that advances in surgery would make a complicated and dangerous surgery less complicated and dangerous, but achieved the opposite. Replacement discs were available once I finally had surgery, but my neck was so bad I was no longer a candidate for them…
I lost two major nerves from my neck due to that surgery, but not because of surgeon negligence. He was an amazing surgeon who did a fantastic job with a super delicate surgery. It took nearly a year before I had any use of my arm, which dangled from its socket, causing a frozen shoulder, and considerable pain, as well as years of physical therapy which I am still doing. I am chronically weak in my left arm, but I can move it now, and went from only able to lift 3 lbs to now lifting 8 lbs, while my right arm can press 30 lbs.
It took EMS, or electro-magnetic stimulation, to fire the muscle fibers in my atrophied arm while the nerves grew back. It felt like a gang of bees stinging me, but I gained muscle back.
My one criticism of the surgery was after-care. I found out about EMS on my own, not from the surgical department. I also found a neurological chiropractor trying an experimental therapy which greatly improved my progress, but I found out about that from a spiritual healer, not my regular chiropractor, or other medical practitioners.
I also found out about Tong Ren from my spiritual healer friend, which also helped, but not as much as the mirroring technique from the neurological chiropractor. He told me I lost valuable healing time because it was over two months before learning about EMS, time which the EMS could have been most beneficial. The neurological chiropractor directed me to experimental mirroring, where I would stand with my left shoulder against and somewhat behind a free-standing mirror so that when I looked in the mirror, my brain registered my right arm as my left arm.
I could feel my left arm responding to the exercises I was doing with my right arm, which was pretty cool, but because the nerves were renewing, I still couldn’t move my arm on its own.
Losing motion in my arm gave me great respect for my neurological system and the billions of motions we accomplish from thought to nerve firing. We are truly fantastic machines.
But we are also fragile machines. We are so easily wiped out, either by disease, by congenital disorders, by accident, or by life’s hostilities, such as animal attacks and poisoning, natural disasters, or ourselves, and other humans.
Especially ourselves and other humans. How many times have any of us driven, or been riding in a vehicle, and come a millisecond, or a mere inch from disaster? We all know of those not so lucky, or are perhaps among those not so lucky, but survived.
I think this post is about gratitude for how long I’ve endured, and acknowledgement of how amazing it is any of us make it out of childhood or young adulthood – before our frontal lobes are fully developed – and even after we’re fully connected in our brains and still do stupid things that we barely escape serious or life-ending consequences for.
Life-ing is hard. Be good to yourself – and others (as much as possible).
I have no concept of that sentiment except ‘don’t complain’. Who among us would welcome aging’s insults? Perspective is a different story. I’d much rather have the perspective I have now than I did at twenty, though I thought I knew all there was to know of any importance.
And we do know a lot at twenty. We’re not idiots (unless we actually are); we’re just inexperienced.
I made some colossally poor decisions in my teens and twenties – choices I would make differently now – and some I wished I had then, but that all goes into the experience bucket. Those poor choices helped me grow and make different choices. I don’t know if they were ‘better’ choices, but they were more helpful, often.
Choosing therapy was a good decision. It has taken the better part of my life to use half the wisdom gained through good therapists (along with how to spot a terrible one – or even if a therapist isn’t a good fit, or if I could go no further with them).
So many decisions were fear-based, and there’s no do-over, so I have to live with that. Some non-action turned out in my favor – by grace – or luck, so I’m grateful.
I’ve been seeing more of my selfish, self-seeking behavior and it stings to know I’m a shitty human sometimes, but I’m still alive so I can change.
I hate aging, but I’m grateful for my relatively strong body. I have to work for it, and sometimes I skip work-outs, but forgiving myself is important because being an asshole isn’t going to make me feel or do better.
I quit alcohol six months ago. It’s kind of incredible that much time has passed. That was my only goal then, but I’ve since slowly gotten into a recovery program as well – although I still loathe the cultish vibe but recognize that for some, it’s recovery or death. I have only to look at my parents’ history to know it could, and likely would, have gotten worse for me had I not quit.
I know alcohol addiction is ‘cunning, baffling, and powerful’, to quote AA literature, as well as understanding that I will find myself without defense against the first drink, and my only remedy for continued sobriety is to work with others wanting sobriety.
Alcohol also contributes to aging quicker. Sugar is the real culprit, so I have to cut down on sweets if I want to cut down inflammation, which contributes to aging.
It’s tough to see my once smooth, collagen-filled skin starting to look like droopy lizard hide.
So, embrace it, the gurus say. I might, eventually. It’s still fairly new though, so I’m in the mourning phase. Now I’m supposed to become a sage, or crone – realizing that my intellect is still keen, and could be for the rest of my life, barring disease or accidents – and true power is more of the mind than body. Still, I don’t like how menopause has wrecked my libido, or how my skin is thinning, or my hair, once vibrant strawberry-blonde, is now fading & becoming white streaked.
Acceptance is not approval and is the first step to freedom. I can’t be held captive to something I make peace with, but it’s a process, and anything I ever let go of has claw marks all over it.
I’ve mentioned that transitions are tough. Over-arching changes, like the season, the landscape, life & death, create dissonance (some more than others) to which I respond seeking consonance.
Mr. Holland’s Opus exemplified the hero’s journey archetype that has always stayed with me, and of course the title’s double entendre showcases how the story is not only literal – about his life as a musician – but his mental & spiritual journey from inexperience to mastery, immaturity to maturity.
All that happens in life, all that I conquer, or that conquers me, is just part of the story. I often feel used or abused by the cosmos, that I’m a bit player in some story I was thrust into, tripping over myself, getting the words wrong, and singing off-pitch.
But I keep stepping out onto the stage, is the thing.
You’re not going to find inspirational motivation from me, often more Eeyore-ish than Tigger-ish, but you’ll find I’m true, that I’m continually striving toward mastery.
Several religious or spiritual works have described self-mastery as the first order of business; I’m hoping it doesn’t take the better part of my life to realize some self-mastery, but just as everything else in life sometimes this is as good as it gets, and I need to make peace with where I am without proverbially throwing the baby out with the bath water.
E. K. Brough’s words comfort me: “And remember, we all stumble, every one of us. That’s why it’s a comfort to go hand in hand.”
Is there anyone who hasn’t been oppressed, or been an oppressor? In small or large ways domination shapes the mammal world.
Who’s the boss? Our parents often oppress us rather than guide us well – with a mix of aggression or passive neglect. Lucky are those who have balanced parents – they’re in the minority.
Teachers, police, employers: all oppressors, unless we’re self-taught, self-regulated, and self-employed.
I oppress myself, hard-wired as I am from even the prenatal stress of my father’s battering my mother and my older siblings, continuing until we escaped at the end of a loaded gun.
Well did I learn that my being was subordinate to others. I was made ripe for predation.
I am resilient. I did survive, but I didn’t thrive.
Drinking and drugs were a fantastic escape, until they weren’t – and I’m lucky – I didn’t drop down into hell, but swirled in purgatory – unable to stop destructive behavior, cowardly in both suicide attempts and pursuing life.
My half-hearted suicide attempt during my last drunk set in motion a stay in the hospital’s mental health unit, which, while little more than a warehouse for the acutely mentally ill, I found a thin title I walked by several times, eschewing the idea it presented, until I finally picked it up. The title: Living Sober.
No white light, or heavenly choir filled the room as I read, but I was struck sober, finally willing to entertain its contents. Nearly every word I read I could identify with. I had wanted to stop drinking for several years, teetering on the line between stopping of free-will, or tumbling into unrelenting addiction.
It’s been four months since I last drank, and the first month was free. I’ve earned the last three. It’s not a craving, like I might crave chocolate, it’s more the idea that I can’t anymore. It’s an inner tantrum, and it’s exhausting.
I’ve gone to AA meetings, and while I appreciate, and can relate to stories, the cult aspect chills me. Having lived in a cult, I hear the ‘us vs them’ mantra & many variations of ‘we’ll die/fall apart/suffer’ unless we attend meetings, get a sponsor, work the steps, do service & never leave. I was in 12-step recovery for ten years, and nothing subdued my mental illness.
I understand Alcoholics Anonymous works for many, but not for me. SMART recovery is few & far where I am, as well as SOS, Rational Recovery, or any other secular, non-cultish program.
Two meetings I regularly attend don’t push god like they used to push drugs. The spiritual aspect came to me in that dingy room, turning each page of Living Sober, more and more certain I was done drinking. I was free, but remaining free while mentally ill is challenging.
The only power I have over this is the power to not pick up the first drink, and to not romanticize drinking, but remember my last drunk, or any time I said ‘I’m done’, but wasn’t.
Two ideas from AA remain: I will find myself without defense against the first drink, and in order to remain sober, I need to work with another person seeking sobriety. I have already met and surmounted – so far – besting my defenselessness, and my goal is to find something that works for me that doesn’t require relinquishing my hard-fought autonomy.
I’d love to hear others’ experience of being sober without AA, and thriving rather than merely existing.
Fiona Sargeant, who moved to South Africa from England to teach ballet, has very little time left fighting cancer, leaving her ballet school, in an extremely poverty-stricken township, shuttered without our help.
The good news: many are doing what they can to help. The tough news: we have a long way to go to make sure her legacy continues.
Our team is #MishaBearsLovesCherryPieBombs in this year’s GISHWHES – What is GISHWHES?
I can continue to be tunnel-visioned, or I can take the long view, and the long view is that my friends didn’t seek to harm me with their votes or their perspective, regardless of the actuality.
Yeah, I have to fight harder to keep equilibrium and try to keep our Democratic Republic, but their ignorance is just that – not malice.
They see all things from their religious perspective, and that blinds them to the long view, but the long view is still wrapped in their dogma, whether they choose to see it or not.
The fabled Jesus overturned the tables of the money-changers, saying: “It is written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’” – Matthew 21:12-13 NIV
So the long view shouldn’t be on whether their elected officials will vote to try to stop abortion, but on who they are – on their fruits – and their fruits are rotten.
There is separation of Church and State in our country, and I realize they are working to end that, but it shouldn’t be eroded. We have a unique position in the world that we are not forced to anything, but come to choose freely. If they make our nation a theocracy, we become subjugated, regardless of our beliefs, and often forced to live a lie.
Religious people are free to practice their faiths, but not to demand anyone else do so, and if they could see the beauty of this system of checks and balances, they’d want the corruption out of our nation.
They’d fight to end Citizen’s United – to get money, that root of all evil, out of politics. Then we could have true stewards of our nation again. We could vote in actual public servants rather than the current corruption we’re witness to.
Yeah, there will always be those seeking power, and ways to game the system, but there won’t be so many, and disallowing corporations as ‘people’, and foreign money from campaigns, will help greatly in getting back to sanity.
This didn’t start with how any of us voted this past election. This started when money became king, when banks started writing the rules, when the Supreme Court decided Citizen’s United vs. the FEC.
Meanwhile, love surpasses all things.
My struggle is about acceptance vs. approval. I need to accept the loss of solidarity I thought I had with those friends and focus on our commonalities – on what made us friends, or like each other to begin with. We support each other in every day struggles. We laugh, cry, and enjoy each others’ company. We trust that underneath conflict is kindness and care, and our connection contains more healing than hurt.
Two days prior to my last session was fairly horrific with a huge dip in mood & return of hopelessness.
The return to despair was devastating because I had counted on TMS to help me even though I thought I removed expectations for or against.
My usual technician, Nick, who is really lovely & has been a steady presence during treatments, didn’t oversee my last treatment. Instead the intern, Mel, who is also kind, and competent, was there with Kim, the other regular tech, who is also fine, and I had a previous connection with Kim outside of the practice so I felt comfortable enough, but neither have the ineffable presence of Nick, so it was a tough last treatment.
The NeuroStar representative was also there, so the room felt a bit crowded, and toward the end of the session, another assistant I’d never met before came in, increasing my stress.
Thankfully, I saw Nick upstairs as I was leaving and got to hug him & say goodbye as he’s also leaving for good in August. It was all I could do to not burst into tears right there, but made it to my car before breaking down.
Andy, my S.O., tells me he sees a difference in me, and I do feel somewhat better, but it’s like the difference between an overcast day and a stormy one – there’s still no sun in the sky.
Another unfortunate incident happened a few weeks into my treatment when I tried to get a form for medical transportation because paying the gas in the car I’m borrowing is costly, regardless of my appreciation for the favor. The form would have allowed insurance to cover the transportation cost, but insurance denied the request.
The psychiatrist asked me why I couldn’t use public transportation and I told her that it wasn’t easily accessible, and was still costly. I later worked out the math, which would have been twice what I paid for gasoline for the car, and even if I could have found a convenient bus there, I’d have had to transfer to their town’s system, having to transfer to 3 buses, and it would have cost me double the fare.
When the form was originally submitted it was denied because Kim told me I hadn’t given a medical reason. I was a bit stunned, and didn’t know how to respond. What the fuck was I going there for? I’m not a medical provider, I don’t submit the forms, so how was I supposed to know what should be on the form outside of financial difficulties, and inadequate public transportation? And the sole reason I was there was because I have intractable depression, and TMS treatments are not offered anywhere closer, but the providers didn’t know enough to note that on the form?
The psychiatrist and the TMS team should have known better, and it sucks when those in helping professions don’t understand the poverty issues that go hand-in-hand with trauma, or can’t be bothered to work just that little bit more on behalf of those they purport to help.
Riding with the windows down from my TMS appointment today, the earthy scents of fields and pungent brook waters hit my brain in a nostalgic wave as I drove down the rough country road, longing to get out of my car and run through the meadow down into the brook, if only private property and ticks didn’t exist.
Summer days of childhood in the woods with friends crossed my mind’s picture screen for several seconds before receding back, refusing further examination, as though it were a dream I was straining to recall.
Perhaps it was a dream, and this is all illusion. If so, it’s a very good spell. I really feel like I’m here, like I exist, like this is a meaningful journey. Maybe life’s meaning doesn’t derive from the delivery mechanism, but I sure wish I could figure out what it means to me.
I’m still worried the TMS isn’t working, 21 visits in now, when I’m supposed to notice a difference.
I feel bereft of my old companions and our easy friendship. I wish depression didn’t exist & the elusive mind and life fuckery it creates. But that’s like wishing heart disease, or diabetes away. It’s not going to happen. I need to manage it, regardless of how exhausting the task. Eventually we heal or we succumb, and I have no idea which way it’s going to go.
Ease and balance are important, and I strive for them – try to cultivate them – and drain friends who know they can’t quell my demons so they’d rather not hear about it. I supplicate to whatever gods might exist, so far, to no avail.
I’d like to sink forever into that sweet summer dream: running through the meadow, cooling my body in the water, or exploring the woods – forgetting that time or otherness exists.
The upside is that I’m still here, illusion or not, and I get out of bed every day & make it. Coffee remains a pleasure and a boost, and I redirect my thoughts hundreds of times a day, just as I adjust my posture when I notice I’m slumping.
although Thursday and Saturday are my all time favorites. Maybe I like the way Thursday looks or sounds because why Thursday? Wouldn’t Friday with its weekend association be a more likely candidate for favorite?
Saturday is a day you can like! It’s in hundreds of songs; it implies fun, adventure – ready for action – couched as it is between the end of the typical work week and the start of a new one. And let’s not forget the classic Saturday Morning Cartoons! They’re not as great now – especially since they’re little more than a marketing tool, but they were so good in the ’60’s & ’70’s. No one has ever topped Mel Blanc for cartoon voicing, and caricature.
Although Saturday is just another day for many in the service and health industries, my feelings about Saturday formed as a child, when school was the biggest responsibility I had. Even if I had homework, or chores, or later in my mid-teens and twenties, when I was a waitress (now server, of course), or a cashier, or department store clerk, Saturday still held magic.
We might leave for the weekend on Friday afternoon, but we had all day Saturday to enjoy.
Saturday is still special in our household as my S. O. has most weekends off, and we can sleep in or get up to work our agenda rather than someone else’s.
I’m nearly three months sober, and started a new depression therapy two weeks ago: TMS, or Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation. The therapy uses focused magnetic energy to target the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, thought to be a dark alley depression emanates from.
On my first visit, the tech & doctor mapped the specific area of my brain using the Neurostar stimulator, and I’ve been adjusting to the five-days a week treatments.
During the mapping, the pulse was painful while they determined my treatment threshold. The treatment lasts 38 minutes and several seconds, for me. Others have generally less time than I do, but not by much, and typically a lower pulse threshold than me, which I attribute to my redheaded-ness.
Forty pulses delivered in four seconds feel and sound like a miniature jack-hammer – or an eager woodpecker – but the computer prepares me by chiming a few seconds prior to the pulses. After about four rounds of pulses I don’t feel it as intensely, but I’m always glad to hear the ‘ding-ding-ding’ computer chime signaling the treatment’s end.
Worries about whether the treatment will work are thick due to continued suicidal thoughts, but TMS takes about twenty or so treatments before brain changes are apparent. That means I have another week to go before I’ll know it’s working. TMS has helped about 85% of patients, which is good news, but I’m a redhead, so we’ll see what category I fall into.
Today I was going through some papers I’d put aside nearly a month ago and found a notepad I had written goodbye letters to my friends and family when I tried to off myself. It’s hard to read my sadness between the lines of gratitude for their friendship, and while I’m not as low as I was a few months ago, I know I’ll get there again, and I can’t tolerate it anymore.
An AA meeting I attended tonight was on positive attitude, and gratitude, and how that’s the way to pull yourself up and out of yourself and into acceptance, etc. – and for those that works for, brav-fucking-o! But, for those of us who write our gratitude lists, and pray, and think positive, and carry on with positive intention, and ‘choose happiness’, and still want to die, you’ve got a non-patronizing friend in me.
Music is life – for all of us. We all have our stories: where we grew up, what we heard, what we sang, what ran through and through us, and continues to. Because of a recent trip visiting a friend, I now hear Sia’s I Love Cheap Thrills, among others, in a new context, and my friend is with me when I hear it.
My history continues in song, being a vocalist, or even just interested in music, but I doubt there is anyone on the planet who hasn’t experienced some form of music. If so, I’m sorry for them. Music is an entity unto itself, and I’d be sad for anyone who never experienced music’s transcendence.
My older brothers cued me into The Beatles, and other mid-sixties music that my parents found irritating and banal. They appreciated the swing and ballads of the 1940’s and 50’s.
I grew up in dire circumstances, not only in my personal life, but in the world around me. Vietnam was raging, my oldest brother escaped my family horror to fight in that war, and other family members went as draftees or joiners.
Music accompanied life’s tension: releasing and building – crying out and pleading – or ignoring the larger world for personal circumstance, or love and romance.
I understand the far-away look in my mother’s eyes when she heard the songs of the late 1940’s and the 1950’s that touched her heart and soul. You Are My Sunshinebrought tears to her eyes, and because of that it brings tears to mine – a learned sentiment.
Driving home tonight I heard several songs from my youth, but one in particular: Love Hangover, enveloped me, and I time-traveled like a boss. A friend, long passed on, was with me as the dulcet tones flowed out of the Honda Accord’s inadequate speaker system because we needed that shit turned UP. She was there with me, feeling the beat, vocalizing, and jamming out, and then she was gone.
I was in my driveway, loathe to turn off the radio and take the key out of the ignition in case another song came on calling her back, but the DJ interrupted the moment, so I turned the few clicks releasing the key, and sat in the silence – hoping she’d materialize – speak to me – something – but the empty air grew colder, so I went inside.
My life has reached a weird divide where the past barely matters anymore. That’s good – fantastic even – but also a loss. My brain has changed and my memories aren’t as vivid, except situationally – like tonight in the car – but I feel like I’ve lost something important.
Maybe we’re designed this way. We slowly let go of what no longer matters and now I can focus on what’s in front of me.
I’ve heard that the past is gone, the future is unknown, but now is an alive & vibrant gift – that’s why it’s called the present.
I understand that sentiment, but I still miss friends and acquaintances, and our place in time that’s quickly receding. I’m becoming not even a footnote in history, among other barely-footnotes that I appreciate more and more.
One of the wonderful aspects of being away is the perspective change, especially when the scenery is so drastic.
I immediately found myself afraid and battled my fear to become curious. I’m visiting dear friends in the southwest – Arizona – and I’m finding myself again assimilating my life’s experiences and what it all means to me.
Watching my dear friend work and interact with the people of her life here is inspiring, and helped me open myself up – just that bit more – to not assume the worst in everyone.
It’s tough particularly now, in our heinous political environment, trusting that there are good people who deeply care about others’ lives. When I’m in unfamiliar territory, everyone is the enemy, and I’m hyper-vigilant, trying to stay safe.
My childhood friend is so open & loving – and not consumed with worries of things she can’t control, where I seek control over things I can’t stop worrying about. It’s not that she’s immune, or willfully ignorant, or tuned-out; she knows how to prioritize or allocate her emotional resources.
I came out here to step away from my life back east. I don’t know how to balance what I want and need with the wants and needs of my significant other. I didn’t come out here because of that, but it helps to be so far away when I’m so troubled about my personal life.
There are good reasons to feel as I do, and there are reasonable solutions which allude me more often than I’d like, leaving me feeling powerless and as though I’m consenting to less than what I desire. We do communicate, but there are always issues that hang in the air – never resolved – just sublimated, until the next time I try to stake my claim for my desires.
I’ve remembered, out in this vast, open, unfamiliar, and harsh landscape, that wherever I go, there I am. Will I succeed, or fail, or some combination I can live with?
It’s as if the stark contrast between the rocky peaks jutting into the sky and the cacti and other desert life dotting the valleys reveal life as it is rather than life as I wish it, but there’s still the ability to thrive. There’s still beauty and variety. There are abundant paths to choose from, or room to make my way – even this late.
Fear can stop me, or I can function beside my fear.
Walking out of the squat main office building, I turned right onto S. Veteran’s Memorial Highway, camera in hand. The Galiuro Mountains to my left, and the Santa Catalina’s to my right, I felt prey for the vultures – avian or human. Walking briskly while the steady, and sometimes fierce, chilling winds pushed me along, I finally turned back after a few miles, where the wind gleefully made my uphill journey more aerobic.
The Saguaro sentinels greeted me in uneven intervals, sometimes solely, other times clustered, while Organ Pipe, Agave, and Prickly Pear cacti covered more ground among the Mesquite trees, and other desert plants.
I forgot what it was to see so far out, and while I wouldn’t want to live here, it’s been a gorgeous and welcome change of pace.
Several years ago, when my son was in his late teens, karaoke was getting popular again, and I started going nearly every week. I used to go with my friends weekly back in the late 80’s. We had so much fun then, but life happens and we moved on, and karaoke fell out of favor for a few decades.
Getting back into it was a blast, and it was free! I made friends with several regular singers, and we began spending time at each other’s houses, or going dancing, or on a road trip, and it was a great distraction when my son headed off to college – even though it didn’t cease my depression or PTSD.
We lasted several years as a group, but little by little it fell apart – although karaoke is still going strong – so we come together for that once in a while now.
Karaoke turns out not to be a great basis for lasting friendships, sadly, and worse, my drinking increased, and even worse, my personality change when drinking nearly caused my S.O. & I to break up several times.
I know I have a problem because while quitting is easy, it’s the staying quit that’s hard. As Mark Twain quipped about quitting smoking: ‘… it’s easy! I’ve done it thousands of times.’
Seeing a video of me drunk was uncomfortable, but it gave me the boost I needed to stop.
Sadly, I’ll miss all the drinking games every time the President says something stupid, but then I’d never be sober, and I need to focus…
Waking is dangerous this emotionally tenuous time of the year. The world we occupy, the new/old challenges surrounding me, our country, and everywhere, & I wonder if slitting my wrists would cause too much pain? Where would I do it? A stream bed in the woods, so romantic and peaceful sounding, until the age-old question of ‘if a woman screams in the forest in the moments before her death, and for being a dumb fuck, will anyone hear?’ Bueller? Anyone?
So, I wrench my lagging self out of bed and get fucking dressed, because that’s what we’re doing, and the inner three-year-old is not in charge today.
Sure, the world’s falling apart – literally in some places – and, yeah, life sure doesn’t match up to the brochure, but, then, so few things do.
You’d think people would stop procreating, but honestly, sex is about the best thing on the planet, that’s free – often…
So, on with the day. I’m dragging my ass through my life, but momentum is forward, today.
There’s no dress rehearsal. This is it – whatever that contains – but all that matters is the end. Am I in a tragedy, or a comedy? Life ending on a high note is preferable, thus, comedy it is.
The way forward has become clearer in the last few months. Becoming an organizer, public policy maker, lawyer, or other community leader has become attractive. I’ve always cared about social & economic justice, but I’ve not had much personal power.
As I’m boycotting Amazon, I suggest streaming online using iTunes, or Hulu, or borrowing the books and film through your local library. Amazon has become a predatory company with abysmal working conditions and unfair pay for many, if not most, workers.
The Woman’s March was affirming, and there are more planned marches in the works as the new authoritarian regime takes shape and we stand to lose ever more of our Constitutional rights.
Democracy requires participation, and while subtle stripping of our rights over the last few decades in the name of ‘fighting terrorism’ quieted many, we can no longer complain from the sidelines as we see bolder disassembling of our republic by those elected who follow their own agendas rather than the majority’s consent.
We can’t have everything, and we do need to compromise and find common ground where possible, but we resist attempts by the monied class and other interests to ruin our environment, or remove our Constitutional guarantees to seek redress for wrongs, to peaceably assemble, and for free speech.
“…We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.- That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, – That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
Summer’s constant buzz and song fills my house. Crickets, cicadas, grasshoppers, and a myriad of other bugs and birds create a constant background hum – either that – or I have horrible tinnitus.
These muggy August nights feature crickets’ constant ‘chee, chee, chee, chee’, while tree frogs sound their ‘bdrrrrr, bdrrrrr’ calls echoing around our hill, quieting close to sunrise, continued by the crickets until long after sunrise when other insects and birds take up the daytime chorus.
The oppressive, humid air makes sleep nearly impossible, even with the fan on high, but I rarely need moisturizer this time of year!
Wisps of hair curl up near my temples and forehead, and a cool shower takes down some of the night’s heat.
A long ago Key West morning suffuses my memory. I’m stepping into a slightly chilled saltwater pool at our motel in Islamorada. The surrounding air, so much like this morning, makes me long for the palm tree setting, while nostalgia’s softening gaze helps me forget any of the stress or conflict of that trip as I feel myself cutting through the cooling water of the pool on that lovely morning.
That memory is a happy place I will call to mind as I attend to today’s stress, work and monotonous chores.
So many things I’d like to know – please tell me about your life. You think I worry too much, or that I think you’re in trouble all the time, and I’d like to change that.
Are you happy? Is your life as full of joy as it is of challenges?
If I start asking the right questions, maybe you’ll know that I want enough for you, in all your life. Balance is key. Laugh, love, sing, dance, study, question, believe, cry, fail, succeed, care, think, and act.
I trust you and your life path, and that replaces my fear. Believing in you, believing that you won’t waste this short life, or that if you do, that’s your choice, and it’s your prerogative.
My only ‘job’ (I wrote ‘joy’ by mistake, first, but I think it also applies) is loving you. For sure, ‘love’ is a big word. It encompasses all of life – not just the easy or joyful parts.
Life is learning. That never stops, so I’m still learning too. My emotion self is still immature, but my life experience is ever evolving.
Thank you for increasing my growth opportunities, and my dearest hope is staying connected – even as you wander further away.
In the time that’s gone by, I tried to see a reason for us, but ‘it’s one of those things’ is said, and ‘be glad you found it before you’re dead’, and I am.
Thousands of songs and poems say why: ‘it’s not the colors in his eyes, or the way he wears his clothes, or how he knows the things he knows, but it’s in how he thinks of and looks at me.’ It’s how he loves me so thoroughly – it’s so new.
I keep deciding to pull away, to leave and find my life another way, but I’ve started asking what I’m running for, because I truly know that there’s no better than this.
But this is not all there is, I know, and we don’t live to make the best in show; we have found happiness and joy, a port in a storm, a bond I won’t destroy – again.
So settle down I tell myself, this love we’ve found is real and precious.
You are the compass that points true, you are everything I needed but never knew, and if I tell the fear to leave me be, then it will always be you and me, together.
This is my song to you – to us – to love – to life’s joyful expression amidst life’s agony.
Thank you for your love, for your steadfast care and hope, and for giving me a chance to truly love you too.
It’s your day, Earth. We set one day aside to honor you – kind of like Mother’s, or Father’s, Day. I can only speak for mothers, but I know most of us work hard all year, but it’s one day for special notice.
And like the aforementioned days for recognition, you’re pretty much taken for granted the rest of the year, Earth. We trust there’ll be breathable air, livable land, and drinkable water every day – no matter what we do to you.
But more people, who wouldn’t call themselves tree-huggers or hippies, are waking up to the Earth’s needs – regardless of motivation.
Lots of trees were planted today, and many people cleaned up road and river ways in your honor, Earth. Children danced and sang, wrote stories and poems, painted pictures, and marched in parades.
But what happens tomorrow? Making every day Earth day is a significant challenge, and I am as bad as anyone because I drive, and use electricity, and eat, and breathe, and use unsustainable goods.
How do I change – impoverished me, who can’t go buy a hybrid vehicle, build a ‘green’ home, has no regular public transportation, and deals with chronic pain among other issues, making biking or walking everywhere unrealistic?
I suppose my carbon footprint is less by virtue of my poverty, but if I were wealthy, would I care? I hope so, but I absolutely would do more if I gain wealth in my life.
I’m grateful for others’ creativity – those addressing problems of our industrialized world: industrial and agricultural pollution, rubbish, mindless consumerism, etc.
Cows are one of the major methane producers, and I wonder if an enzyme could be put into their feed to reduce their gas emissions, much like Bean-o does for humans. There has to be solutions to help us and Earth without going back to being hunter/gatherers. I have no interest in beating my clothes against a rock in the local brook to clean them. I don’t think life has to get harder to get better for all of us.
Maybe oil-based materials and products will use new substances, known, or as yet undiscovered, that won’t require oil, coal, tar, or other noxious materials to create or operate. ‘Plastic’ can be made from plant fibers, for instance, that will degrade without as much damage to the world as current plastics are.
There are many smart, driven, compassionate, and caring people who can tackle these issues, but government needs to provide funds for success much like it did with the space program – a program now focused on getting humanity off this polluted world rather than solving pollution issues.
Maybe humanity screwed up other planets in the solar system a long time ago, and luckily found a livable planet here, but pretty much directly started destroying it…
My father thought we were the scourge of the universe and ours is a penitentiary planet – keeping us from serious interstellar harm. I think we’re an immature species, smart enough to get ourselves in real trouble, but not insightful enough to stop ourselves. So, until that happy day when we’re mature, we suffer the consequences of our actions rather than celebrate how far we’ve come.
Who knows how long I’ll live, but I could reasonably live another forty or fifty years – and I’d like to use whatever time left giving back to this beautiful blue interstellar marble, and do my best to decrease my destructive tendencies and do more good than harm.
Regardless, I wish all a beautiful Earth day, and hope it will carry all through the year.
One of my first experiences of body appreciation was by reading Peanuts. That’s right, my philosophical beginning came through a comic strip. Not to diminish Mr. Schultz’s worldly observations, but I was a 5 or 6-year-old reading Snoopy’s exploits, or maybe it was Charlie Brown’s? – giving his legs and feet a pep talk, something like: ‘feet don’t fail me now’, as though they had brains of their own. It was revelatory for me to think about my legs and feet as maybe failing me, or that they deserved recognition for their constant work on my behalf.
Flash forward more decades than I wish, reluctantly wearing reading (in this case, writing…) glasses, experiencing appreciation for what was. I was going to eradicate aging though, merely by believing I could. Hey, the cultists told me we only age because we think we’re going to – that it’s all attitude and belief. That I’ve aged merely indicates my lack of faith…
One of my sisters needed glasses her whole life, so I guess she was spiritually lacking from the get-go. Idiocy aside, aging means diminished ability – no matter how well we eat, or how many vitamins and minerals we take to slow the process. The only way to stop aging is to die. That’s it. Plastic surgery doesn’t stop bodily degeneration, unless we start implanting baby organs, and stem cells to replenish our damaged cells. And there’s a bodily cost for those ‘interventions’: getting surgically sliced and diced causes damage too.
Fighting the inevitable – outside of being my Native American, or, First People, name – is exhausting. Acceptance feels like giving up. I know it’s not, but my emotional self says: ‘Screw you! – you’ll never take me alive’. And my body replies: ‘Well, that’s the intention…’.
So I extend my gratitude backwards. My body served me well, and still does.
We started meeting around this time last year, and what helped as much as songwriting was the wonderful and resilient women who participated.
Sharon Brody from WBUR.org came to Robin’s recording space last summer to interview those of us who wished to, and to talk about Songbird Sings, and how we were helping heal some of our trauma through song writing, and through connecting with other survivors/”thrivers”.
In an interview with Robin, several participants, and myself, some of my song, February Day, plays after I speak, and in the background.
I seem to write best, and most often, in a group, and hope to continue song writing, as well as blogging, fiction, and non-fiction writing. Snippets of two of my older songs, Listen To Me, Rock of Gibraltar, and our collaborative song, Free Your Power, can be heard on the CD Baby site: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/robinlane.
So much work lies ahead to realize my dreams, and being a singer-songwriter leads more to lots of gigs in lots of coffee-shops, bars, and out of the way places, than to vaunted halls of music, but at least I’m trying, and that trying keeps my hope – and so far me – alive.
I never really thought much about my body except for the flaws I saw and felt – or the flaws others ascribed to me, or worse, that I assumed they ascribed to me by ways others (mostly men) have responded to me, but that may have had little to do with me.
I had decided I wanted to live several years ago, coming from the brink of suicide – and I wish I could say from that resolution on it’s been clear skies and calm seas – but what has stayed with me are many overt and subtle ways I treat myself, and my desire toward self-care and love.
I’m of two minds here, as I sip my delicious mocha (made by me with left-over brewed coffee from this morning, high quality hot chocolate mix, dry powered-milk, and close to a tablespoon of half and half.) I understand that the sugar is not good for me, but the drink warms my insides, warms my hands as I hold the mug, enlivens my senses through touch, feel, taste, and enticing scent, along with the four Trader Joe’s, Triple Ginger Snaps, and a quarter cup of unsalted cashews…
What is the measure between how much shit am I putting in my body, vs. how much the satisfaction increase my happiness? I feel I’m snacking fairly healthy – understanding I’m likely eating GMO wheat, and refined sugar, along with the maligned dairy products of the half and half, powdered non-fat-milk, and the butter in the cookies.
I’m more conscientious about what I eat – and I’ve always been careful – and I try to find non-GMO products, but even organics can have GMOs in them if the seeds were GMO but grown organically.
Balancing mental/emotional well-being with best-practices for physical well-being, especially being impoverished, is a tough job. This time of year (cold winter) I love comfort food, and my body would like a thicker layer of fat as nature intended, thank you very much, so my habits are a constant challenge between healthy eating and feeling consoled through food.
Paying mindful attention to my body is a great help in feeling better. I usually just towel off after a shower, put on lotion, brush my teeth, get dressed, and go, but being mindful about this ‘chunked’ process has had some positive effects.
It’s silly to anthropomorphize my limbs, relating to them as though they have a separate life without me, or maybe just feeling like I need to appreciate all that still works well in my body, but as our largest organ, I notice how often I’ve taken my relatively sound, healthy, skin and my limbs for granted, and this new mindfulness toward my body’s individual parts leaves me feeling more connected to myself, and with less pain.
That could be the drugs, though. Hmmm.
I do PT exercises for chronic pain, and that does alleviate about 80 – 90% of my daily pain, but when depression kicks in it’s tough to engage in what’s good for me. I always feel better when I’ve exercised, so it’s worth pushing through my Eeyore persona to channel Tigger.
If you start trying body mindfulness, I’d love to hear your thoughts about it. Cheers!
I am very thankful for all who have read my blog, have become friends – regardless of how often we make contact – I know I have your support, and I hope you know you have mine!
Many new readers have stopped by this year, and some of you have subscribed, and I appreciate that so much.
Depression sometimes absorbs so much time, so I don’t respond as often as I read your, and others’, blogs, but I appreciate the wealth of viewpoints and creativity here on WordPress, and other sites as well.
I have learned so much from so many bloggers, and I appreciate the different perspectives and topics you bring.
You never know how much a random thought, a poem, a fictional work, personal challenge posts, songs, other art, and especially humor, have helped me throughout the year, and will continue to.
Thank you all so much! Your interest means a great deal to me. Your comments are precious, and I hope you all find what you need and hope for in 2016!