Surprises

Jul 7 (13 days ago)

to me

It came down to this, as I was washing the old dog, getting him ready to be dog-sat when we go to the beach. He used to love the beach, and last year he perked up down on the sand, down by the water, showed his puppy light even in his cataract eye.

This year he is staying home, but it is okay because the ladies who are staying with him, out at my family’s house with the other dogs, adored him and even wanted to clean his ear and his puppy light came out when he met them. He liked them, and even if he passes this week, if his old timer heart gives out, I will feel okay about leaving him at home.

We’ve expected him to die for years, but he keeps living. Life is stubborn.

Twice today, people have called him an old timer.

…and as I was washing him, trying the be present with my mind spinning around work-related experiences and ideas, processing certain grinds, the particular rubs of the work, conflicts between circumstance, responsibility, and integrity, honing in on reason, what feels like truth and then churning through possibilities for resolution or improvement. Fits of analysis.{Broken Sentence}

#maketimefordifficultconversations

#maketimeforawkwardconversations

#prioritizetimefortheconversationsyoudontwanttohave

#saywhatyouneedtosay

I have a terrible time talking with people that I am in relationship with about things that are *bothering me* (i.e. impelling an interactionistic experience that generates an unpleasant, counter-productive, or otherwise problematic state of nervous system activity and associated meaning-making)*

(I definitely get that it is problematic that I have notions of some things being productive and other things being not-so-productive and that the idea of productivity assumes that one is working toward something or that some outcomes are more desirable than others and that it would be preferable, in many paradigms of ideal beingness, to simply accept whatever happens as what is supposed to be happening right then and learning and growing and all of that . . . which, in a way is appealing to my vestigial fondness for the circuitous, as well as my latent desire to really believe in and trust some sort of divine mechanism in the universe that connects us all and drives occurrences within our lives for some purpose…

I mean, that’s kind of a cool thing to think about, that we could be in constant interaction with all sorts of badass metaphysical forces? Even if we’re sedated in front of the t.v., we are in relationship with what we no longer feel, even if we are numb. Even if we’re oblivious to the workings of ————, the world is still alive and moving. Situations are created.

…the part of me that is perennially in love with the sensations of awe and wonder absolutely longs to believe that this is how things work around here, at least in part…{Unfinished Sentence}

However, I am also able to see that such a idea, that there is “God” or a conglomerate of forces that we understand to be “God,” is kind of flimsy…at least as far as there being, you know, proof.

…still, I do understand that there is value in just being present with what is, and somehow making it generative, even if it errs toward depleting in initial effect and outcome.

Nonetheless….

…so, it came down to this…)

*this is a learned terribleness. It is a reflexive fear response. I learned that difficult conversations are potentially dangerous, that they can go awfully poorly and have significant consequences. So, for the past several years, rather than having difficult conversations, I have just let people drop out of my life, or I have dropped out of theirs. I should *feel more* about this tendency I have, which has been long-standing, but has become especially prominent in the past several years. I used to care more, when people drifted out of my life.

It used to make me sad, and then it stopped making me sad.

Really, I think that was a necessary adjustment to my emotionality around disconnection and slow estrangement. [Addendum, 07/20  I have a knee-jerk belief that I am avoidant of difficult conversations, but I don’t think that’s quite true…I mean, I have difficult conversations throughout my workday and in my family life on a fairly regular basis…and I take deep breaths and I feel my feet on the floor and I observe and describe quietly in the background. “Hmmm, interesting, my body is literally pulling me to get up and walk away from this person, but I am going to feel my back against this chair and I am going to settle that impulse down, and try to muster some love and openness to just being here, having this talk with this person.”

So, in my non-obligatory life – the time I have to do things other than exist in a role or capacity which makes me beholden to difficult conversations – well, I really don’t want to delve too deeply into the minutiae of the interpersonal realm with anyone…I also avoid pleasant conversations during my free time, and probably miss out on some positive and potentially generative experiences…and also ‘selfishly’ deny other people the commodity of my beingness, even people that I care about and whom I understand may actually need my participation in their life…I neglect social and community affairs that I am passionate about and that I am also directly impacted by…I let the trees grow all up around my house, like a wall, a fortress…people don’t come to the door anymore, drunk in the night and just looking for some small kindness.

It isn’t even that I don’t feel safe, or am wary of people in some way that suggests that they may present me with a real or actual harm. It’s just that sometimes – a lot of the time – talking with other people, listening to them, being present with them, connecting with them…well, sometimes – a lot of the time – I get weary, and my heart starts beating faster and my throat gets tight. I feel tired, and the fibers of my muscles stir, wanting to walk away, forcing myself to breathe, to settle, to smile and nod…to be there, to offer what I can of myself…and I understand now that this limitation in my capacity to exist solely for the purpose of being there for other human beings is rooted in who I am, and in what I have experienced, and in what I love and need to spend my time with.

I would rather run through a forest alone than meet someone for coffee.

In my free time, I would rather email myself about the things I noticed and that mattered to me in the course of the day than try to make small talk about how I am doing, etc.

People have frequently had a problem with this aspect of my beingness, this perceived deficit of mine. People have been hurt, disappointed, frustrated.

I don’t mean to ghost people.

I just don’t like the feeling that I must force myself to participate in social relationships when I really just need to be by myself during the scarce hours that I am able to be myself.

At least right now that is how it is…and, you know, this thing with me, the way I drop out of lives, disappear…I’ve been like that for years…on the social interest spectrum, I am definitely erring toward asocial in my personal life, with a few exceptions…I am extremely prosocial at work, and care deeply about people and what happens to them in their lives…but, in my personal life, I don’t have particularly strong social inclinations…and, now, on my 41st birthday, choosing to be at home, alone and listening to songs and writing these thoughts down, front door open and cicadas all summery, the night buzzing outside, the dog asleep in the yellow lamp light.  That winter, that winter of 2010-2011 taught me that I will never, ever need another person again.  I went through that winter almost totally alone…not entirely, there was a phishing fraud artist from Serbia who turned out to be a 15 year kid that wrote me encouraging emails and talked with me about Christmas, snow, his girlfriend, broken English. That was the winter I first contacted my penpal who lives on Death Row over in Raleigh because of racism and the drug trade in the early nineties. It was also the winter that I met my friend who is stuck in the California “corrections” system because he spit on an officer while they were “psychotic in the jail” after a terrible family fight, drunken and wearing purple snakeskin pants in late April in the meth-addled mountains.

Big Bear. Twin Peaks.

There are a few people who I will always, always maintain a thread with…but, I drop out of touch for long stretches. Try to explain that it is hard to find the time to write a decent letter, an honest letter, a beautiful letter. Sometimes, I wonder if the way I ought to write the book I need to go ahead and write is to approach like I would a letter to an inspecific recipient.

I used to love to write letters.

Today, I had to run into the post office during the workday and – oh! – the smell of it! The feeling of the round-headed key clunking into the tumblers, the scrape of the latch on the perfect little door. The air the same paper and adhesive and cool polished floors of the post office in my hometown, and the post office in Portland…P.O. Box 605 31558, P.O. Box 1154 97211. END ADDENDUM]

I was going to say, at the beginning of this, that it came down to a moment of really seeing how, yeah, it totally makes sense that I had to go through everything I experienced, so that I could be who I am and connect with who I connect with and know what I know and be curious about what I am curious about, to find beautiful what I find beautiful…and that the thought of that, that it was all toward some end, me being able to see what I see in people inhabiting certain sets of circumstances, mothers mostly, alienated mothers, mothers away from their kids for some reason or another…what I am able to connect with in them, and ways that maybe it is helpful to them as their hearts are torn open, to get – perhaps – a little bit of a sense that someone appreciates the depth of the wound inflicted when mothers and children are separated.

…and that feels like an important thing to be able to do in the world, to offer that sort of mother-comfort.

It’s compassion.

(…and I had a moment, as I was washing the old dog, that it made total sense that, if I was operating under the presumption that “everything happens for a reason” then my trying to find or create a reason for why the sky seemed to come alive to me 7 years ago this summer . . .)

[Note, 07/20: Back in 2010, I’d have fruck out about those cloud pictures posted up ^ there…because of the faint suggestions of triangles, which I now understand is the product of the geometry of light and substance, and which is still totally badass to me.]

Jul 12 (9 days ago)

There is not much to do other than simply continue. However, in this particular case, continuing means starting over..

Possible approach: I will draw a picture everyday for a year, and I will take notes about the drawings and the process of drawing…and I will go back, and I will revisit the drawings and writings I did 7 years ago, when I decided to draw a picture everyday for a year.  (07/20 Note: so far, I’ve not drawn a picture every day, and mostly forgot about this idea. I have, however, been painting a little.)

Aside:

 

I haven’t written in a few days. I am sunburnt and bewildered, here in a large house with 8 other people. A family vacation, the yearly beach trip. This year we went to a different beach, further up the coast than the usual, on the edge of the state we live in. Last night, I went to bed at 9:00pm. I wasn’t especially tired, but the only things I could think to do if I stayed up were:

  1. A) work on the .pptx and materials packets for a training I am supposed to do in late July
  2. B) read a book, either Creating Autoethnographies, by T. Muncy, or God in Proof, by some guy whose name I don’t remember. I also brought along books about psychologies of liberation, and about the golden ratio. I brought a small Arabic travel dictionary, too, because it was sitting on the table we call the green table, there by the front door, a place to set things. This table used to sit in the laundry room at my great-grandmother’s house. It was not painted green then. It was stained dark brown, with oil spots and scrapes. It is still stained and spotted, under the green paint.

I did read the Creating Autoethnographies book for a few pages, felt a little defeated when I laid it back down on the floor and went to sleep.

I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me to draw, or to watch a movie on cable, or to take a walk in the dark, to stay up late drinking wine with my brother.

Those might have been nice things to do.

Jul 13 (8 days ago)

to me

I ran into the wind

Again

Because there was no getting away from it

On an afternoon like today

Which was like the afternoon yesterday

And the day before

Windy

 

And I almost forgot

As I ran into the wind

Distracted by the thickness of the air and the heat

Of it all

In my lungs

The feeling of my bones jam ramming

Into eachother

The heaviness of my legs and the impulse

To stop

To stop running

I almost forgot

The nag I have had with myself

Constant constant

“There is something to say,
Remember who you are,
Remember what you saw.”

It was hard to breathe in all that bright sunlight

The wind in my face

Pushing me and me pushing

Back

I almost forgot

And could say this to myself

As I crossed the boardwalk bridge

Over a small inlet of Marsh and brackish water

that smelled like home

“If I am not driven, 

It must not be something 

That is for me to do.”

I could say this to myself

even though it isn’t true

I could say this to myself

 

And I could say

Also

That all I really wanted to be able to do

Was this

To be by the ocean

With my family

And l walked across a field

And felt the cool air from under the septic house

Rush up at my bare thighs

Right up from the dark

 

And I walked across the field again

The grass hot and sharp tipped

(The summer I turned 12, cutting across backyards, across fields)

And I was okay with it all

Having almost forgotten

Until I remembered

Realized that I was alone

And had been obsessing about feeling an imminent end

A running out of time

And I was alone

Pushing sweat off of my face

I’d thought of starting over lately

But I wasn’t planning on starting over today

And so I agreed to go out again

To walk with my oldest child to the ocean

An empty bag for shells

If I were to find any

It didn’t occur to me at all

That I would love the place

The walk through the neighborhood

With the house full of stacked shells

Spires of shells set like monuments around the yard

A truck in the driveway

A flag on the porch

The small beach trail

Up through the dunes

Sea oats in the pale

In the wind

The broadness

that sweep of sand

And then water

Sky

Fine crystals swirling on the open

The big wide open

At first I thought they were broken

All the shells

But no

They weren’t broken at all

Weren’t they broken

Just a glance ago?

Black and mauve and layered brown

White

Common cockles

Nothing special

But so many

So many

And then I remembered that it started with shells

With looking at shells

And understanding that the world

Surely is a miracle

Then I remembered.

Jul 14 (7 days ago)

to me

I have felt calm, contented event, these past couple of days of not worrying too much about anything.

There have been minor bees in my bonnet about work related matters. It’s been interesting to notice that I am walking  through a strange and beautiful landscape here on the coast, this little spit of sand covered, mud covered granite spotted with thick Pines and Wax Myrtles, everything stunted close to the earth, growing twisted up under the heavy salt wind from the ocean. I am walking, and trying to breathe deeply, because this place smells like home. It has home smells. Brackish and sap, warmth and water. The smell of the asphalt itself, this loop through a subdivision, an undeveloped “phase” on these planned streets lined with large homes for rent. Here between the ocean and the sound. I am walking and it is hot on my shoulders, hot on my head. The wind shoves at me in gusts that stretch to a steady whoosh.

My child, who is taller than me now, is walking beside me. He is saying something about ————–, and I am listening, and talking with him in a semi-engaged manner. Not too enthusiastic, not too invested. Willing to let the conversation dwindle or shift to another subject.

I am, as we are walking and 1/2 talking about a few different things, I am stopping to take a picture of a Pine tree.

“I love Pine trees.”

“Yeah, Pine trees are great.”

The sun is slanting a brassy light across everything.

The grasses and flowers, tough and spiny little things, surprising flowers in yellow and violet, sharp leaves and woody stalks, growing up from the sand and casting shadows, standing defined, small forest.

…and I guess it was around then, right before we got to the young cedar tree standing solo in a wide spot of grasses, a sentry line of Pines behind it, in the moments before I said, as I have said every time we have taken this walk:

“That’s a great little cedar tree. I love that little cedar tree.”

 

 

(When I say this, so nonchalant, I do feel a sort of love, a swelling fondness for the particular turn of branch or general stature, the way leaves hold light, dark spaces, the way a tree just stands where it grows, a living thing in a space, unwitting, but still with a tenacious life asserted and a silent witness born. That little cedar tree has stood in the wind its entire life.)

It was right around then that I had an image of me trying to explain to a supervisor that I get it now, why people had to leave the organization I work for…and I was picturing this imagined interaction as I looked at the starkness of that little cedar tree and thinking, whoa, now I get it, why they had to leave.

There are a couple of projects at work that I have thought about at least 150 times a day, every day of my vacation. For the most part, I have been able to put work out of my mind, or – rather – it has not surfaced much in my mind. I have thought about people a lot, and felt a tinge of thinking-about-work anxiety (read: stress response, adrenaline and cortisol, a sense of unsettled melancholia, a tightening in my chest, a being pulled from the presentation in my attention, the resultant sense of value-based resentment and personal irritation, necessitating a balancing of perspective and accounting for what does make sense in the arrangement through which I exercise my vocation, or at least an aspect of my vocation.) …but, I have maintained good boundaries around really diving headlong into workthink and work-reality (which exists approximately 500 and some odd miles away from here )…I’ve mostly been swimming with my kids and hanging out with my family in a beautiful place that I have never been to before.

Nonetheless, it’s a little simple to think that only where we are in the physical sense is where we are, that where we might be walking at a given moment is the only place our lives have impact, the only thing that is ‘real.’

I continue to exist as a person and as a factor in what happens where I work and to the people involved in that place, workers and people who go there… even when I am on vacation, hundreds of miles away. That place still exists.

I exist other places, too…and other places exist for me, even places that are far away. Cells and small towns, open ocean, tiny boats.

i can distance myself and be where I am . . . but, not entirely…I am constantly thinking about and picturing other places and times, considering how they relate to whatever moment I might be inhabiting, or just thinking about certain small things for a few minutes, and then forgetting them again.

I insist upon not forgetting that some places are on fire, and people are living and dying. Corals are bleaching and it is winter in Australia right now, etc. etc.

The ocean spits up shells, spins and twinkled them, pulls them back under the water.

Jul 18 (3 days ago)

to me

I fell out of practice…writing just twenty minutes a day was not part of my routine while out of town. I thought about writing. It even nagged me, as it often does, but I didn’t write much, just a few notes, a narrative about my awareness of how bothered I was feeling that I kept thinking about work, and that thinking about work, in the ways I was thinking about work, was anxiety producing, caused a little bit of a stress response, a sensation of bodily fatigue and irritation, an edgy distraction.

We’ve been home for two days – no, three days – and I have been making a conscious effort to remind myself that I am lucky not to be working in a septic field or trudging across toxic flats to salvage lead-soaked parts of ships in disrepair.

It’s a snotty thing, my presumption that I should have a life in which I am free to devote my time to what is important to me, a life in which I do not have to stay up late to do paperwork, a life in which I earn ample money for the comforts and securities of a lower-middle class American life.

I mean, where does this entitlement come from? To think that somehow I deserve a life that is a little easier, a little more free when my life is already so easy and so free.

I will probably make an effort to resume my effort…effort effort effort…I will resume my practice of writing twenty minutes a day…and this shouldn’t be so hard, shouldn’t be so difficult…I mean, clearly, I am able to string together words.

In just about a week, this project site (or some now – non-existent or fallow precursor of it) will have existed for 8 years…though there were several stretches during which I did not post, or posted very sparsely…

I don’t quite know what to do with all this, other than to keep writing and to keep trying to hold onto the quiet part of myself that is awe of everything and that daydreams about ways to successfully approach a stop motion animation of breathing in the brightest pink orange light, the part that…

(I was going to say, and I did say, the part that delights in ideas and phrasing, that might still be brilliant and full of potential . . . but, it felt so uncomfortable, to suggest that I may have been brilliant, that I might still be brilliant…and that’s such rubbish, that sort of shame – based and sheepish false humility…that diminishing reflex. I think everyone is brilliant, or has been brilliant and has the capacity for brilliance within them. I am not saying that I am special or anything.)

I have been re-reading some of my books on Autoethnography. I probably ought to revisit my effort to do an Autoethnography on my experience of what was clinically referred to as psychosis.

That seems to the most important, among the things I might write about, the things I have written about. I recognize that there is something I ought to do with my story, and that belief doesn’t go away, and won’t be renegotiated for long. I have abandoned my sense of purpose and unrealized creative vocation for some weeks and months and even a whole season,  here and there…let it go, tried to settled into the idea that I am not ever going to write a book or make something beautiful and powerful that is widely shared and which does something good and / or interesting in the world, even in small circles…that I will work and walk dogs and clean floors and do laundry and watch television on the internet and lighten the F. up and let loose of the jangling urgency to write a book.

That urgency has nagged me for about 3 decades now, in some form or another.

I guess it’s not going to go away…which is why I keep trying, because something lightens in me when I write, when do some small work toward the goal of sharing aspects of my story in a way that freaking matters, in a way that helps this story to reach the people who might find it useful, or helpful, or simply interesting.

I’ve been trying to adapt to only having 6 hours of sleep a night, but I push it to 5 1/2 some nights. I’ve been trying to persuade this adaptation for the past few weeks, since the beginning of the month…and I seem okay – ish, a little weary, with the habit-narrative of “I’m so tired,” and the hyperfocus on the sensations of fatigue, the vague worry about needing to rest and not having time to rest.

It’s interesting to me that I have a scarcity complex about something so basic as sleep.

I think I got that complex when my children were young, those long years of complicated bedtimes and small voices calling through the dark. Waiting until it was time to get up and go to work, take them to preschool…why bother going to sleep…waking up would be so painful…

I was tired for years.

Jul 19 (2 days ago)

to me

They were just stories to me, old family stories…and I talked and joked about them, exclaiming over the threads of alcoholism and nervous disorders, the heart attacks and long-living women, the cancers and the spelling of names not spoken. I didn’t feel sad, or pained, but my father didn’t want to talk about those things, those people, his family, anymore.

Tomorrow is my 41st birthday and I am trying to gauge whether the slight rounding of significance that the past few days have taken on is a product of something external to me really rising toward some significance, basking in some relevance that I’m not quite able to discern, or if it is just me, my imagination, the way this week of my birth stands out hot and sunlit in the way my mind makes a circle of the year, a disc of seasons and points, a pie chart of school months and blank breaks, the yellow ochre booker green cerulean titanium stretch of summer around the curve, with my birthday straddling the first and second third of this little group of warm months.

Tonight I painted and it was good, seeing how the blank spaces I’d left on the sheet of paper that I brushed my leftover paints onto would hold that pelican and that pickup truck, would hold a wave and a cloud. I only used one brush, and liked how the layers emerged and receded, covering and covering, at least 6 different beaches taking shape, waves forming and then disappearing, only the pelican remaining a white space, an empty space. Trying to suggest tire tracks in sand is a challenge, and I held my mind on the look of them, but didn’t use a reference, and the paint seemed – at times – to know what to do, to know what I was aiming to show. The moment I start thinking, the most lovely little shadows are covered up and the whole thing falls apart, another layer to correct the error that was caused by trying.

I am increasingly delighted by the prospect of continuing to dump words here, because I am pretty sure that I am going to be writing a book here in just a little while and it’ll be great to have this ever accumulating albatross of impressions sitting out in the open ocean of the Internet, unnoticed.

My last name, if my father had kept the name of his father, would be something different than it is now.

It would be a name that is a word for a person who weaves baskets, or possibly something about a hillside, farmland.

I have been writing for 13 minutes, and I think I need to go to sleep soon. It will be hot for sleeping tonight, warm buzzing gasping stirring night before my birthday.

My mother got me a bottle of honey, some petit fours at the store. My children made me cards, put in effort. My pen pal on Death Row somehow arranged to send me a box full of origami flowers, roses, with a handmade card that advised me to remember certain workings in the world. My coworkers decorated my office. A friend whom I rarely see left a balloon and a card at the backdoor. Surprises.

 

3 thoughts on “Surprises

  1. settled in to read, expecting there to be something here…that spoke personally to me. there was. I miss you and that is okay. I do believe that you are right where you need to be…whether or not that is some divine order making it that way…it works. Trusting yourself and your impulses…that is really all there is. <3

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