The Years Teach Much

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote “The years teach much which the days never know,” and as time goes on I feel that much deeper.

I carry a weighty sadness for not being able to get out of my own way through the years, and I don’t know whether I was just lazy, or didn’t really want what I said I wanted, or what I said mattered, or if it truly was that most of the time getting through my day was a laudable accomplishment.

I have so many questions if this is not a random universe and my being is not an astounding stroke of luck in such a universe.

I don’t know what the difference is between someone who attains their goals and lives a fulfilled life and someone who doesn’t – even when they sincerely try – or believe they sincerely try.

It’s not like nothing happened. A whole life was lived and managed – for better or worse.

I grew up, procreated, and am coming into my declining years – kicking and screaming.

I am a writer. I am writing. I have been an actor, and I have been a singer – in a band even!

Those were the goals I had. The famous part eluded me. Maybe that’s a good thing.

I was a hurt, vulnerable person in a sick and suffering world, and likely would have been prey as I had been anyway – but maybe not. There is no control me to know for sure.

Maybe I would have had protection from the predators – or lots of dumb luck.

Or I could have died in a back alley somewhere, or become what was done to me.

I did none of that.

I did want to end me – sometimes still do – but it’s far less than it was (most of the time.)

Worries about facing consequences in a spiritual realm kept me from offing myself – that and my son.

I rose as much as I fell though. I battled my way back after every down turn. The problem is the cycle never ended. It was exhausting. It is exhausting.

I couldn’t find a medication that worked, or that I could tolerate. I know several people who have said that they would likely not be alive if they had not found the right medication. Why am I such an anomaly?

That’s rhetorical. I just am, is the answer. It’s not personal. It just sucks.

If I did choose this, why can’t I un-choose it? If karma is real, what the hell did I do (or what hell did I do)? Why don’t we remember how we screwed up before so we can avoid repeating it?

I look around at the world and it seems to be on a perpetual rinse and repeat doom cycle everywhere.

If there is a harmonious, functioning, peaceful society who won’t tolerate predators, they have hidden themselves well away from the rest of us. If there’s a secret handshake, or phrase, or code – I want to find it out and join them.

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

The Story So Far – A Pirate’s Tale

Did I ever tell you that I grew up on a pirate vessel?

There were eight total – a small pirate crew – nine if you counted the dog.

Yes, it is unusual to have a dog on a pirate ship.

She was a good dog though. The best.

She knew when storms were brewing, and the crew knew to heed her ears down and tail lowered.

The captain was like most pirate captains you read about – abusive, demanding, unpredictable.

The captain’s wife was part of the crew. Again – super unusual.

I would not have wanted to be first mate on this ship.

First mate is a misnomer, by the way, or at least it was on this ship.

The captain trusted no one to run the ship, but demanded more than was possible from the first mate – and second – and the whole crew. As you imagine, the crew was bone weary before the ship was very far out to sea.

But out to sea she went, that shitty old vessel.

The crew was constantly plugging leaks, and even though they did their best job (and also never signed up to be pirates), they were met with the captain’s insane demands for more and better.

The youngest of the crew had the misfortune to be incorrigible. Because he was so different, and the captain’s wife promised to keep him out of sight and doing the only thing he was good at, which was taking things apart (whether they needed to be or not), he was left mostly alone.

The captain drank – a lot – as many captains are rumored to do – and the more he drank, the more onerous his instructions and demands. Even the captain’s wife began imbibing as much as the captain, and their fighting became more and more ferocious until finally the captain challenged his wife to a duel.

Ok, there wasn’t actually a challenge, but the captain did tell his wife to walk the plank because he wanted to see how quickly the sharks would get her.

She did walk the plank with the captain’s musket trained on her – and she plunged into the murky depths.

The rest of the crew did not know what to do. And only three of them were on deck when the captain challenged her thus, and they got themselves below decks as fast as possible and started pushing barrels and crates, and all manner of objects to thwart the captain’s attempts at finding new targets.

Turns out, the captain’s wife jumped straight into a pod of humpback whales on their way to their breeding grounds, and they took pity on the strange creature they seemed to know was not of the sea (the lack of gills or fins was probably a giveaway).

The whales surrounded and buoyed her up to the stern where she was able to climb onboard unnoticed by the captain.

But the whales weren’t done.

The captain’s wife edged her way toward the ladder to reach the crew below decks and assess any damage in her absence while the captain screamed obscenities from the bow into the night air.

The captain was so enraged that he walked onto the plank, challenging Poseidon himself to a duel.

The whales took that very moment to ram the ship’s side, and the captain fell open-mouthed into the drink.

The first mate climbed up to the deck to see what had bashed into the ship, and he saw the captain flailing about in the sea.

He turned away and set a new course to the first harbor without a backward glance.

Most of the crew came back on deck to assess the damage for themselves, surprised and delighted to see a group of whales breaching nearby, spouting and gamboling through the deep.

Several crew mates watched as the whales surrounded the flailing captain before dragging him down to Davey Jones’ locker.

The captain’s wife, unaccustomed to freedom, decided to finish the barrel of rum left in the hold and was no good to anyone for the rest of the trip.

The crew managed the best they could until they found the nearest land.

The youngest crew member did not come above board after the captain was relieved of his command because he had been terrified by the captain’s screaming, and the whale’s blows against the ship, and convinced himself that rival pirates were about to come aboard and kill the whole crew.

He locked himself in the hold and ran in circles until he finally knocked himself out when he ran into a beam he mistook for a group of marauding pirates.

After the crew docked at Satan’s Den, the nearest harbor the first mate found, the crew disembarked, carrying the unconscious youngest crew member with them.

They found shelter above the village tavern.

The two oldest crew mates sold the pirate vessel for a more seaworthy ship, replenished their stores, and told the crew that they were setting out for the new world. The captain’s wife was sad to see them go, but she chose to stay ashore and kept the four other crew members with her.

Later, in relief at being liberated from the terrible captain, the captain’s wife went down to the tavern where there was laughter and drink, and she stayed all night.

The rest of the weary crew went up to their quarters and slept.

The next morning, the captain’s wife was nowhere to be found, so the four crew members talked about what they should do. They decided to set out from Satan’s Den to find a life away from the sea.

The youngest crew members missed the captain’s wife, and after tearful goodbyes with the next two oldest crew members, they turned back to Satan’s Den to wait for her return.

The captain’s wife did return several days later when the youngest crew members were about to give up hope, but she seemed annoyed at seeing them waiting for her.

She told them that a group of landlubbers she met at the tavern told her about a life she could never have imagined existed, and they wanted her to come with them. She reluctantly said the youngest two crew members could come with her.

They looked at each other, each deciding that their best chance at survival was following the captain’s wife.

Unfortunately, the youngest crew member only knew how to function out at sea, and even though the next oldest tried to help him learn the ways of being on land, he told her that dragons were surrounding them and wanted to burn them and eat them.

Even though the older crew member could not see the dragons, the youngest insisted they were there.

She didn’t know what to do, and the captain’s wife had started out without them.

The youngest was too afraid to live on the land or at sea, and even though she tried and tried, she could not help him.

She gave him all she knew how to give, and told him where she would be if he ever needed her.

And that’s the story so far.

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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

December’s Message

An unease came over me in December’s first days. What was it? I couldn’t understand why, but I kept ticking off the days:

December first, December second, December third – each day feeling more ominous.

December fourth – fifth – sixth (What is going on? What am I feeling? It feels like something big happened.

I did not remember all that had unfolded until December ninth. My mind only let me remember in the rear view mirror.

On December 5, 2019, I had gone with my partner, a system’s administrator, along with several of his work mates, to a computer technology conference, which was attended by hundreds of others in their field.

It was held at a casino a few hours away from where we live – a big draw being a weekend of free food, booze, and casino chips, with chances to win more during the break out sessions.

I drank for the first time in three years the night we got there. I had no defense – and my partner was understandably upset with me.

What I couldn’t know is that I was somewhat paralleling my mother’s experience – only, I later learned, she was drinking that night to not care about terrible pain she was trying to manage with ibuprofen and booze. I had zero excuse. I did not know that she had started drinking again after a decade of sobriety, and that she had been drinking fairly heavily since that Thanksgiving.

I am filled with anxiety and deep sadness writing this, but it needs out.

It needs telling less because of what happened, and more because of the deep family dysfunction it revealed.

When I drank after three years of sobriety, I knew I was screwing up. I was chasing relief from my depression and anxiety – but that relief is temporary at best, and I had one of the worst nights in a very long time.

I may have had slight alcohol poisoning, I don’t know, but I had no sleep that night. I felt deep dread, and I kept seeing shadow figures in our room all night, along with feeling deep shame for blowing the gift of sobriety I had been given three years prior. I suppose an upside was my constant prayer that night.

The next day, the last day of the conference, my partner wanted to talk with a man who had several others vying for an audience with him during breakfast, and on the first break, and my partner did not get to talk to him then. We planned on leaving as soon as he got a chance to speak with him.

I got a phone call that I ignored during breakfast, and I looked at it an hour later.

It was my mother who sounded like hell, asking me to please come get her and take her to the hospital because she thought she had a flu, and was very sick.

I tried to call her back, but there was no answer. Normally, I am a twenty minute drive from her – fifteen minutes without any traffic (and driving as fast as I dare go over winding country roads), but now I was two hours away and my anxiety kicked in.

I asked my partner if we could leave because I was sensing that my mother was in serious trouble, but his whole purpose of being there was to speak with that in-demand dude – and this was his conference, after all.

I thought about hitch-hiking home, calling a taxi or driving service, or a bus. Nothing would be fast enough though, and I did not have the money anyway.

I called the Wendell police, but no one answered. It’s a small town with a small budget, and I had to leave a message. I was nearly outside of myself in panic now, and I dialed 911. My emergency, I told dispatch, was my mother a state away, who might be dying.

“You’ll have to call your state police, ma’am,” I think I heard – or something close to that. Or maybe she had me hold and patched me through to the state police, who patched me through to the Massachusetts state police – I was fairly greyed out by then and I only remember bits and pieces.

Close to an hour had gone by, and there was still no answer at my mother’s house. Was she dead?

The state police asked why I hadn’t called her local police. (You’re fucking wasting time, I thought). “No one is answering, and no one has called me back,” I told him.

“Okay, we’ll try to get someone out there.” Please do more than try, I thought.

A call a half-hour later from dispatch told me that the state police cannot find her trailer. “It’s hidden from the road, but there’s a path, and her trailer is about a half a football field down it?”

Finally, at lunch, my partner gets to talk to that guy.

I was so upset with him at this point. He said something about my mother saying she felt sick, not that she thought she was dying. I couldn’t explain how I knew this was an emergency, and I nearly begged him to please let’s go!

He did cut his discussion short because I’m crying now. I was also worried that I was wrong, and it would all be fine, and it is just sensitive, disaster-minded me, after all.

Finally on the road, it began to snow. (Are you fucking kidding me with this shit?)

It was really snowing – slowing us down to a crawl at one point – and then it started to lighten up, but the highway had not been plowed.

I get a call from the state police, who I now want to marry, that my mother is at the hospital. I thank the caller – did I tell them that I love them? Was it finally the Wendell police? I have no memory of who it was, or of the rest of the drive.

We’re at the hospital. I get into the emergency room where my mother is on the bed behind a curtain, and a nurse and ER doc are attending my mother.

The doc says, almost accusingly it seemed, “Your mother has severe liver disease. She is bleeding out, and we do not know from where. We’re going to run tests – maybe transported out if we cannot find where…” His words were mostly a blur after the first sentence.

My mother is awake. Her first words: “Well, I guess I am not going to live as long as I thought I would.”

Blood is matted in her hair and still on the side of her face. The nurse said she wiped up as much as she could. I asked the nurse if she could get me a warm wet washcloth.

I tell my mom I love her, and they are going to help her. I have no idea what words I said, but I do know I told her at least that.

I wiped up all the blood I could with the washcloth the nurse brought me. I held my mother’s hand, and I kissed her forehead, and told her she’s in good hands now.

Then a worker came to take her for the tests, and said it would be a while – at least an hour.

I told my partner we could go home, which was fifteen or so minutes away, and I would take my car back to the hospital if she wasn’t transported elsewhere.

By then, my oldest sister called me to say she was on the way to the hospital.

A nurse later told me my mother had high blood pressure in her esophagus, rupturing it, as a result of taking ibuprofen and booze together, and her liver couldn’t process any of it. The bleeding had stopped, and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I heard nothing else, even though I tried to take it in.

In my mind, she was going to be okay. The bleeding stopped. She would need special care – stay hydrated, which was vitally important – get B vitamins in her, and some nutrition.

She stayed with me until our family holiday gathering a few weeks later.

I was diligent about getting her what she needed, probably annoying the hell out of her, but, oh well.

My mother was to stay at my other sister’s, who is a nurse, after our family holiday gathering. The presumption was that she was best suited to help my mother heal.

My partner and I went to my sister’s on Christmas day and had dinner with her, and our mother, and my sister’s friends who are her upstairs tenants.

I didn’t get to spend a lot of time with my mother because of all the activity, but she was in good spirits, and eating, and drinking lots of water.

My sister called to tell me that our mother wasn’t feeling good the next evening, and it was probably all the food and excitement of the holiday, and that she had slept most of the day.

That night I was overcome with foreboding. I could feel my mother’s energy, or spirit – something. I tried to visualize healing energy over her body, but all I felt was heaviness. Everything felt stuck in her, but it was like a prayer, and I continued to try to send healing energy.

I called my sister and told her I thought she should take our mother to the hospital to be checked out the next day. My sister said she was watching her, and that she was getting up to use the bathroom, and take sips of water.

Sips of water? Our mother needed cups of water. She needed to stay hydrated, but I didn’t say that. My sister and my relationship was not very good. She had been prickly, and snippy, and unkind toward me for the last several years, and I avoided conflict.

I texted her the next day, and called my sister’s upstairs neighbor to ask her to please check in on my mom. My sister said our mother was just sleeping a lot, and she planned to take her to the hospital on New Year’s day if she wasn’t better by then.

New Year’s day? That was two more days! I couldn’t tell her that, either, though. I did not want to cause a scene, or be berated. And what did I know? I’m not a nurse and I wasn’t there – so I had to trust my sister.

I am deeply ashamed that I did not follow what I knew to be true, that our mother needed help beyond my sister’s capacity to do so at her house.

New Year’s day dawned and my sister called to tell me that mom was unresponsive, and they were in the hospital.

A wail came out of me that I did not know was possible. I was outside of myself.

My partner drove us the two hours to the hospital. I held my mother’s hand and I patted her hair. I sang a bit of “The Rose,” one of my mother’s favorite songs. My sister said she couldn’t feel anything, or hear anything, so it was pointless to do that. I kept doing it anyway.

Our mother died early the next morning, even though the doctors thought she might be alright – or maybe that’s what they say in that situation. Hope is positive.

Mostly, I do believe it was all for the best. I would have had my mother in the hospital, hooked up to machines, and not passing away relatively peacefully at my sister’s house.

The bigger issue is that I tried to tell my sister three times that I believed our mother needed more help, and to please, please, bring her to the hospital, and she ignored me.

What I failed to do was show up. I failed to call 911 and say my sister was unintentionally being negligent and my mother needed more help. Because I felt it, and I knew it in my being every day, from the day after Christmas until she died.

But was I just feeling my mother in her dying process? I felt like she was asking me for help. I am deeply sorry if that is true. I want to have just been in tune with what was happening.

My sister’s friend and tenant upstairs had a sweet relationship with my mother. She told me that on New Year’s day – before she had heard the news of my mother’s passing – that she had been woken up by her cat. Her cat that never did that before, she told me.

She said she got an insistent feeling to go look out her window. She told me she fought with that feeling because it was early and she wanted to sleep, but the feeling would not let her be, and neither would the cat.

She went to the window and looked out. She told me that the sky was full of color – so full of color that it was indescribable, and she was seeing colors that she had never seen before – and she heard my mother say: “I am at peace.”

I am so grateful for that. It does not take the trauma and shame away from my experience, but it does make me feel glad for my mom, out of her suffering.

My mother’s death brought my deep dysfunction with my family out in the open.

I was so bewildered with grief that I screamed at both of my sisters, howled all that I had held for years and years – grief about losing them too, grief that had never been expressed. Grief that nearly led me to suicide on several occasions.

It does not change what has passed in our lives, or who we have become by choice, or by circumstance. I can, and I am, trying to forge new relationships with them. I have also chosen to not have anyone in my life who disrespects me, or treats me badly anymore.

I have learned to love myself more than I fear losing others.

That is probably the best gift my mother could have given me.

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

Steeped

I want to say it’s dark, and suffocating – but that’s only a moment. It’s somewhat neutral, isn’t it – this grief?

It sinks like a stone to the bottom of my soul – but I no longer release it in a howl of pain.

Still, it has changed me.

Doesn’t all of life change us though? Doesn’t the every day living – the dashed hopes, the missed opportunities, the not being able to get out of my own way?

There are jealousies, revengeful feelings (if not actions), betrayal, scorn, gossip, lost connections, anger, hate, sadness, depression, anxiety.

But also love – especially love – and connection, jubilation, contentment, peace, calm, joy, fondness, ease.

But loss – all of these losses – the ones that Judith Viorst called “Necessary Losses” in her book I read so long ago all I remember is the title and the gist of it, loss has not left me.

I am learning to live with it.

The cupboard it lives in was dark and grim when I first discovered it. I kept it as it was for many years, only approaching it to lock it back up when the winds of my life blew it open.

It flew open so forcefully the other day that one of the doors broke off its hinge. I tried to nail it shut, but the nails wouldn’t hold anymore.

I mustered my courage and looked inside.

It was musty and the old paint was peeling, so I decided to clean it out.

I painted it a light, sparkling green. I put vanilla-scented sticks tied with a purple ribbon on the center shelf, and placed my cozy blue comforter on the bottom. The top shelf is filled with pictures of loved-ones gone on before me.

It’s nicer to weep there now.

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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

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

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

Disaster Cake

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

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

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

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

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

What I failed to notice was the *.

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

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

Cake mix is self-rising.

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

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

Oh bloody hell!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It smelled amazing though.

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

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

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

Then came the big reveal lifting off the cake pan…

– it was a girl!

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

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

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

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

Don’t give up.

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

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

Battle-ready?

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

You are a fucking miracle.

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

How I wake up:

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

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

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

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

And then the darkness moves in for its quarry.

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

Something – grace, I guess – shakes me lucid.

No, not today motherfucker!

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

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

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

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

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

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