Penny Dreadful on Twitter

tv time! and other failures of late

I’ve been very sick for two and a half days – a cold that has me wrecked. Dizzy, coughing, sneezing, congested, the lot. Yesterday the cold conspired with a nasty kidney stone and I was shaking and sweating in my bedroom, listening to my mother in the other room talking cheerfully while devouring a fresh bowl of pancit made by my husband. I didn’t precisely want no company, but I wasn’t fit to entertain either.

Rather incredible how, when being confined to bedrest, the world instantly seems smaller and more daunting.

I’ve caught up on television and film; I watched The Big Clock (1948), Carol (2015), Tangerine (2015)epic!, and finished off “Penny Dreadful” with a girlfriend’s company (via Twitter). I tried to watch “The Man in the High Castle” (I probably don’t have the U.S. history chops to understand much), and even gave “Daredevil” another spin, as well as the new(ish) season of “Whitechapel”.

Sound like a lot of telly? Well for me, it absolutely is, because while I like watching television just fine I don’t tend to watch it daily, and especially not all day.

No, life right now consists of me shuffling from bed to bathroom (to pee, or shower), back to bed. Getting popsicle and water deliveries from my family. Getting just a few hours of sleep per night. Steadfastedly not worrying about earnings I can’t make, appointments I must cancel, and an upcoming trip I need to prepare for.

No, today life is about the practice of patience.

Easy to talk about it. Not so easy to practice it.

Penny Dreadful on Twitter

Sir Digby

scuffing one’s toe at the abyss

Today my lithotripsy procedure was moved up a few hours. As it worked out, the family and friend who’d planned to accompany me – to give me moral support and to drive me home – weren’t able to be there. I got to check in alone, fill out paperwork alone, receive my IV alone, and be wheeled into general anesthesia without saying goodbye to anyone.

It suited me, to be honest.

Illness, accident, and then death: they come for us all. When I arrived at the hospital I parked my car in the sunshine and looked out over my beloved Aberdeen. Any time could be one’s last; I suppose when heading off for a drug-induced near-death sleep, it’s as good a time as any to appreciate these sorts of experiences. I wouldn’t want anything different. I am happy with what I have.

But of course – I woke again, and lived to see another day.

And now that I’m home, and the house is quiet, I’m thinking on how quickly life changes. We have yet another mama kitty here in our home, with her five (thankfully healthy) little two-week old kittens. My children are navigating teen- and preteen-life and there have been a few surprises: some pleasant, and some less so. My halftime job is heading into a period of intensity: Friday, a man screamed at me on the phone, for no other reason than he is a very unhappy human being and he thinks abusing a woman in the clerical field will make him feel better.

A friend of mine passed, suddenly, on April 27th. My heart still hurts over this one. Thanks to the internet, and a passionate community of friends, I have been able to trade stories, to see old photos, and to process the grief. It is a welcome experience. I need people. Maybe on the terms that suit me best, but I need them all the same.

Then home. And housework, laundry, filing papers, paying bills. And kitten handling and maintenance. Life’s a full time job!

Sir Digby

slings & arrows

After a brief hospital visit on Saturday, I was discharged home with a directive to make an appointment with my nephrologist, a small bottle of narcotic pain medication, a hole in my arm from IV fluid administration, and relentless attendant nausea and pain. I slept pretty well that evening – eventually – but the last few days have been rough.

In the shower this morning I cough and gag. I have steered clear of the narcotic pain medication as it makes me ill. Instead I load up on ibuprofen; only problem is, I’m supposed to eat when I take this stuff, and the nausea makes food difficult. I struggle some cereal down; hop in the car for my first day back at work..

I had a tidy two months off, and the time flew by. I’m surprised to find myself cheerful as I walk into the little government office where I work. I work with women who function as clerks; today I witness a man trying to bully one. He leaves, then comes back a few minutes later. In the meantime, my coworker has called for a bit of backup. Nothing dangerous but still. Unpleasant. “Ugly behavior,” I say, when he leaves. My coworkers cope with this sort of thing with a lot of dignity. They inspire me, because I’ve been disrespected recently and, even though I behaved myself, it still stings.

It’s beautiful out: stormy, but the sun breaking through now and then. Home from work (then yoga); my partner is searing garlic in a pan. My children are playing at their own enterprises; today was my daughter’s last-ever quiz in Biology so she’s happy. “Pay attention to me!” my son suddenly says, from the couch. He comes over and wraps me in his arms. “I love you. I missed you. Why were you gone so long?”

Why the hell do I give any good goddamn about how anyone else treats me, is what I’m wondering.

hurtling toward another muffled week of winter

Work has been hard, as I’ve been feeling ill. Pain comes and goes; today it didn’t start until the afternoon. But it must be taking its toll all day, as I’m considerably less energetic than I’ve come to count on. Now: lying on my back, temples feeling squeezed, lower back a dull ache and fire.

So today I fought to keep it together and to run the household. I’m only half-assing that for the most part. I can’t pay bills right now, so into the little wire basket they go. Sewing up my latest online tutorial, and the low-light in my basement studio and the deep cold (even though I wear a coat) is a deterrent. My kids ask for food and we put something together. My son hugs me – he’s over five foot tall now and will soon be reaching for things on the shelf that I can’t get. His hair still smells like sweet straw. His nose and cheeks still look like boyhood, when I watch him sleeping. Blond hair, caramel skin, against the white of the pillow.

Phoenix, she asks me about when she was born. I hold up my hands and remember how small she was. I remember holding her close. Funny, as the kids still put their arms around me and put their head to my breast. They will never not-remember how that feels, I suppose. I somehow lost that experience with my own parents. I have no memory of seeking them out in that way. Something got broken along the way, I suppose. But I always knew they loved me dearly.

The car has a light on, some kind of engine problem. We had a lovely, lovely person donate Phee’s tuition for this quarter – but soon I will need tuition for Spring. I am frustrated because I can’t seem to get the house in order. But – why should I? We have been down for the count. Ralph has been ill – he is also only a few classes away from earning his Bachelor’s Degree, which is kind of amazing, but it also means he’s working hard. In fact it seems everyone in the family is working hard on their projects. Family life seems never to stay in one spot for long. I am a veteran in that I don’t fear the future like I used to. But the present, the right-now, it seems to slip through my grasp as soon as I try to cling to it.

tryna catch a woman that’s weak

Shortly after I arrive home, the pain begins. It starts as a bit of a pinch, a bit breathless, and as usual I don’t really notice for a bit. But after about a half hour I come into awareness. So now: fright. The pain is rising, clashing, a small crescendo in my lower back – this time, on the left. The pain isn’t the hardest part. It’s the fear. I know how much worse the pain can get. I know it won’t kill me, but pain is my master. Pain like that, anyway.

By the time I am stepping into a hot shower – a futile distraction, a bit of comfort to my bones while my body runs riot and S-H-O-U-T-S! at me from the very within – by that time my hands are trembling. I am in a state of heightened awareness, of stillness. It has been about fifteen months since I’ve entered the hospital. I hope to stay out, tonight.

Out of the shower and I shakily dress myself. A hot pad for my lower back. I am shaking too much to type or text. I lie in the bed and gently rock back and forth, and shake. But maybe it won’t get worse. 

And this time, it doesn’t.

Today some good things happened.

– watching my son shoot baskets, dribble the basketball, his lanky frame looking more and more like his father, the man I met when he was a boy

– sitting next to my mom on the bleachers and trying to tell her about a film I recently watched. And singing, “Across 110th Street” to remind her

– my daughter showing me things that make her laugh, and make her angry, on her phone. My daughter climbing into bed with me tonight while I suffered, and telling me she wouldn’t leave my side until the pain was gone

– my husband at the oven, baking hot pita bread, and washing his hands then coming close to hold me

– the moon tonight on a drive on the beach Highway… lonesome and cold and bright as a beacon

hurt feelings

In the car, and a cup of coffee by my side, and my on just a little further away. And he says, “Mama – is that a dove, or just a pigeon?” 

I look up, “Oh… Oh Nels, it is a mourning dove!” because the morning is bright and beautiful and so is the bird. And then I look at him, and he looks at me out the side of his eyes, and he smiles. We are both so happy.

I turn down the hill – we’re heading off to a swim date – and I say, “… why’d you say ‘just a pigeon’? Poor pigeons!” 

He responds: “Because they’re common.”

I look at him again. Now his smile is sly.

“I hope no pigeon heard me say that.”


At arts and crafts, my son makes me a Valentines Day flower from paper, bubblegum pink on a green stem The instructor is impressed – Nels has remembered how to fold a tulip from a year ago, when he went ot public school. He gives me the flower – “For Valentines Day!” and I see a dark-skinned, slender youth cuts eyes and smiles a little at us.

Life has been just a bit hard, as Ralph has been sick. I’ve twice the housework but I’m not feeling so grand myself. So many of my little plans, they’ve been put aside.

It’s OK, though. I’ve got my little son at my side. My daughter puts her hand in mine. They’re growing older, but they don’t forget their love for their mama!

on awakening

This morning when I sat down to meditate, things seemed a bit muddled. I’ve been very ill, nothing serious, but debilitating. Too ill to work, or sew, or clean or cook. I knew I was a productive enough person, but I was not prepared to see just how much doesn’t get done, when I don’t do it.

It has been very difficult to watch the moments slip away and know that it means I can’t complete tailoring work, I can’t be in to my job in Elections where I am needed, I can’t make a meal for my family. Our bank is overdrawn for the first time in quite some time – hundreds, due to a series of fees that in inexperience I did not anticipate.

I can do nothing about this.

This morning I woke early. Sick or not, I am committed to a volunteer event I’d assigned myself too several months ago. About twenty to twenty-five individuals are traveling from the Seattle area, and I am hosting them – responsible for breakfast, lunch, and facilitating the event. I asked for help from my local chapter in this group – and only one person volunteered. 

As so many are wont to say: “It is what it is.” 

In meditation these thoughts – and a hundred more – come, swell to fruition, pass on. I come to realize over these few minutes that I do want to be there today, and want to feed and help my fellow volunteers. I am afraid of how ill I am, and that I will get worse, and that I won’t be able to do what I need to do – not just today, but in the days to come. I am uncertain – about so much. I am unsure as to how I’m going to pay for our keep. I am unsure of when I’ll get to rest again, when I’ll get a good night’s sleep.

But I don’t need to do all that right now.

Right now I let these thoughts come and go and I realize, I am very glad for the life I have. I am less sure than I was yesterday how things are going to go. But I am sure they are going to be fine.

& to sicken i’ this dree place

Life is confusing. I was going to wait to share my feelings, wait for things to be less disturbed, but it hasn’t been happening. Life continues to confuse me. I put a step in front of the other, and make my way around the sharp rocks. I don’t stumble, I don’t put out my hand to averse affect. I do not feel a falseness to the path, but I am lost.

Life seems to be smaller, somehow. I have a social life, and a busy one. It isn’t a joyless life. But nevertheless I am somewhat diminished, particularly with regards to human contact. It isn’t just my imagination, as I have a special type of journal that reveals my activities, contracts, and experiences from previous years.

As of the last year, or so: I am receiving fewer requests for paid work. I receive requests often enough – but few actual pieces are commissioned and completed to mutual satisfaction, as most who ask are not serious about the whole business. I have at least, learned to spend my time well on this record. I am receiving fewer comments on my online writings – in all the places I write (there are many, and many you here are not aware of). Fewer donations through my blog, and a damn sight fewer emails. I reach out, but the reciprocal is rare. 

You can imagine how wonderful it is when someone asks after me, or writes me!

It is wonderful to be alive, but it is easy to suddenly experience isolation. It is the oddest experience, and not entirely comfortable. I know it is temporary, but nevertheless I stumble.

Sometimes I think people mistake my Buddhist practice as one of self-sufficiency. Buddhism and self-sufficiency don’t go together at all, of course. (and yet they do!) 

I have fear. I used to think I had mastered fear; now I know I never will. Today while reading North & South (listening to it, rather – via podcast/audiobook), and contemplating Bessy Higgins’ plight, I was suddenly overcome with concern for my daughter. Her lungs aren’t well and people really do get very ill from this sort of thing. We haven’t sorted it all out, and it’s all new to me, and not comfortable whatsoever. There isn’t really much that can be done to help me feel more comfortable – there is no remedy, nothing I can buy or work I can do.

The whole business makes it quite an effort to complete my requisite tasks, to care for myself and others, and to keep up the effort. It is like speaking into a well, a vast and dark space. Waiting for an echo and none returns. Am I to shout? To grow more bold? Or to look into the deep dark and feel the fear, wash over me like the damp creep, the gloaming, the mysteries that are never known but rather chased away by sunlight and bits of flame and the day’s distraction.

The sun outside is a pleasant companion; it warms my house and in the morning I go through a routine, opening as many windows as I can easily,

and keeping curtains closed such that we remain cool.

of golden sons / and fierce suns

The sun is banging against the blinds in our very small bathroom – one of my favorite rooms in our house. Outside I can hear my daughter; she shifts the vacuum hose to the back seat of my car, to complete her task cleaning it. At the moment my ears focus on her she pauses and coughs, coughs, coughs, a wretched, wracking symphony. In that moment I suddenly realize that, given her asthmatic flare-ups lately, she should not be charged with household duties that are dusty or otherwise might exacerbate her condition.

Of course!

It would be easy to feel so terrible – #parentingFail, and not just mine – but instead, I have clarity: “I’ve never had a child with asthma before!” I’ve not had asthma, nor lived with anyone who has. Of course, I make mistakes.

As Rose Tremain said – “Life is not a dress rehearsal!” I can’t know how to do things I don’t know how to do.

The very thought humbles me, gives me some thread of courage, as we move into a new season in our life – that of putting our affairs in order to buy a house. As pertains to my child’s illness, the medical bills – which I’d almost paid off a few months ago – have piled up. But there is a satisfaction to be had. My own health continues to hold. It has been almost half a year since I needed a treatment for my kidneys. I am very grateful for that. I have regularly paid on the other bills, so they do not hurt our credit history.

My mind has been consumed lately with bouts of what the Buddhist practice names Ill-Will – one of the Five Hindrances. I trust it won’t bore you very much if I don’t go on at length about the Hindrances and what they are – except to describe the symptoms of this particular branch. Like a fever in the mind, of thought. Distracting, and unpleasant: assuming the worst about people. Hoping bad things befall “enemies” (those who one minute I’m perfectly fine with – the next, have crossed me in some real or imagined way). Experiencing envy for those who seem to have things easier than I. Wishing I had more help. Believing I should ask. Experiencing shame if I do. Feeling angry if I don’t receive the help I think I “deserve”.

The list goes on. Like a fugue, like a fever in the night.

Ill-Will has invaded my mind lately, a flu that leaves me weak and tired. I have some thoughts as to why I have been thus afflicted – but it doesn’t matter much, does it? I tolerate these thoughts and the emotions that come with them, and I gently turn away from them. I suffer patiently and I exercise restraint in not acting on these fantasies – not saying the sarcastic thing, not practicing poor citizenship. I greet people and breathe deep and try to “show up” for the things I should.

It has been a struggle. As much as I have many to help me, my walk is still my own. Today in my kitchen my heart was flooded with fear – and I looked on my windowsill, the green and growing things I caretake and the blessed idol there – and I took refuge, and my heart grew strong again.

Playing badminton in the backyard, the net with a hole in it, one stake made of some kind of plastic tubing and one of wood. Our life can look so shabby at times. The openness and laughter of my children reminds me the future is not my past.

mjög illa

This flu virus has rendered me too sick to work, to clean house, to cook, to even venture outside or on errands. Never before in my life have I spent a day without getting fully dressed. But since Wednesday evening I’ve been just changing out of and back into comfortable pajamas, with hot showers interspersed. Crying at night, unable to sleep – last night.

In fact yesterday I was so sick, I missed the remembrance of my dad’s birthday. First time ever to forget. That hurt. He’s gone, so.

Today is another beautiful day and my family and neighbors are enjoying it. Nels asks me outside and I figure I should do this thing. He heads out and lays down a patchwork quilt, brings a pillow. I wrap my aching bones in another quilt and put on sunscreen and sunglasses and hobble outside.

It’s lovely out. And we lie down together and he comes in close under that second quilt and his voice says, all raspy in my ear, “Oh GOSH you smell literally like a flower!

Later we four watch an old adventure movie with bright colors and bright themes. And I’m there with my family and I’m thinking it’s really amazing I don’t have to do anything special, they just love me.

It has caused me so much pain to have to leave aside the work I do on a daily basis. I guess I was more attached to it than I’d realized.