I got it all on the back of my hand / I want your answer so I won’t forget

 
Early ghosts of summer. Night walks. Sunshine through freshly-washed curtains; newly potted plants.

Too tired to cook, much.

Sore shoulders: yoga, bike riding. Tallying up: money for groceries, dinners out, new doctor bills. Debts.

Plans; worries. Set them aside. Anger; fear. Set them aside. Sage smudge stick, a candle, metta-meditation. Not quite enough, but all I have.

some things never seem to fucking work

Just in case you aren’t following/friending me on Facebook, WHY YES I wrote a massive post on Roadhouse‘s twenty-fifth anniversary. I am kind of upset you thought I’d do anything else.

Life is – good. I am still recovering from illness. Mostly I’m tired – but I have a lot of my strength back. At a volunteer commitment on Sunday I had my Ego bumped down a notch when I made a mistake – and it still smarts. I’m trying to be kind to myself. A lifetime practice.

I am a little sad, too. Today I found out that on June 14th my maternal family will be scattering my grandfather’s ashes – my last grandparent. There is no way I can afford airfare and accommodations to be there. I am saddened by this. I’d like to be there. I’d like my children to meet their extended family on that side. It’s not going to happen and I can live with this. I just need to make a little space in my heart.

In other news:

Swimming

Evening Walks

Snuggles

Thug Life

1 year since I quit smoking. Yes. Go me! Because seriously!

Life goes on. For us.

on the present moment

This afternoon I did not want to put aside my work (which had been delayed enough already), and pack children into the car – rowdy children, not all of them mine – and go to a few shops, and pick up groceries for a summer dinner, and come home and prepare that food. I did not want to pay for or organize a cookout meal next door at my mom’s, but I did it anyway. I did so because I knew my mother and the children and the dog would enjoy it. I knew it didn’t matter if I enjoyed it so much.

It was my job. I was that guy. I want to be that guy.

This morning I didn’t want to be honest with a suffering friend. I worried my honesty might hurt an already-hurting person. I worried I was wrong anyway. Why speak up, if I might be wrong? But I also know: I want to be that guy. I want to be that friend you say, “She always told me the truth.” I want you to know I meant what I said when I said it. It’s my job. “You’re not thinking straight,” is how I actually started the main part of the conversation. It went from there.

I have more than one friend suffering and suffering over shit that is real. As years go on sometimes it seems I can help so very little, although I often wish I could help a great deal more.

I am a Buddhist. When I am thinking straight, I know I don’t have big problems or little problems, I just have Problems. I soothe myself with gentleness. I don’t know if I was helpful today. I know I tried to be helpful. I don’t know if I harmed someone today. I know I tried not to. How can I task myself with doing anything perfectly – whether counseling a suffering friend, or offering assistance to someone homeless, or teaching children how to play charades, or organizing a hot dog roast at my mothers’?

It doesn’t feel like Doubt, it feels like sadness. It isn’t always easy to stay on the path. My foot slips and there’s that moment I wonder if my journey matters much at all.

But life is too short to take seriously. I remember that. I lift my chin. I realize I am not easily intimidated, and that I like the company of myself. When my day is rough, I am my own best friend. This is new; it happened sometime in the last few years. It is wonderful.

And that I have a boundless love. When I lose it, when I let the fire down in the damp, I put down my load and go look for it. Right away.

I keep my love alive.

you’re motoring / what’s your price for flight?

My dog Hutch and I have some kind of bromance going on. But it’s not one of these rude, crass, and fumbly kinds like you’re seeing in so many films today. No our bromance is like – Appaloosa‘s. Or Casablanca‘s. Or “ST:TOS”‘s. Like we’re talking TOP NOTCH bromance. A classic one.

Ralph and the kids are camping this weekend and I’m still sick, and stumbling around like I’m high. Today I was too ill to do much but drink water, eat food brought to me, and care for the pets. As it was, the walk for my dog just about did me in.

It’s ironic – or maybe it’s not, because I never really do “get” what irony is – that the first weekend in a very very long time I have it to myself, I am too sick to do anything really. To sick even for the modest assignments I’d given myself – housework, a sewing project, a few gatherings. Tonight a girlfriend invited me out to a dishy movie and I’m too sick to sit in a theatre. That is just: BALLS.

I’m patient, though. I no longer think of being ill as some persecution or trial. It is rather practice. Practicing patience. Today I had the opportunity of helping out a few friends who called me, and one acquaintance who wanted to borrow something. In fact it was rather odd that just by breathing in and out, and being willing to take calls, I was still able to help people – even in my weakened condition.

Lights out on the porch: windchimes and a summery balm to the air. I’d like to be out running around but it’s okay to be in and having a fever too. #sanguineAF, that’s me.

where you feel like your eyeballs are all itchy and about to crack into gritty dust

I had wonderful, productive plans for the day. Instead, by the time we arrived home after the bike trip to and from Nels’ Homeschool Swim date, I was feverish, dizzy, and dissolving into a periodic but nasty cough.

 

Into bed for me, then. Now and then I rise to do a few chores, and fix a plate – before falling back into my fan-cooled bedroom and playing Hour Six-Million of some crime drama. Meanwhile my children enjoy the sun, their friends, and a trip to their grandmother’s for a movie date. Ralph mows the lawn, runs errands, prepares dinner, and makes an evening meeting.

So yeah – besides a few caring phone calls to friends, and some housework, and being loving to my family, I was shit-all useful today. But this afternoon I did have someone tell me that reading my blog helped her a great deal in taking the plunge to homeschool. That is a really wonderful thing to hear. No matter if my writing is crap or it’s okay or whatever, I pledge to continue as long as I can.

I keep thinking about a vacation. Somewhere sunny where we can swim. I am ready to swim in open water as long as it is clear water and there aren’t horrible weeds in there trying to murder my ass. In fact, now that I am such a strong swimmer, I can see how much I would adore snorkeling. I tell Ralph today, “I love just swimming and swimming and swimming and it’s only when you take the breath that it’s kind of a drag.” Now that is something I wouldn’t have guessed I’d think, a few months ago!

My daughter, this evening. She’s doing that thing where she keeps growing into the wonderful young woman she is:

 

OK.

*falls back into bed, weakly calling for popsicles*

what hath night to do with sleep?

It’s cold and I’m cold on the ride home. I’m cold on the bike most the year, especially on my return trips. I think I get chilled on the trip out, then I sit in my own sweat a bit and get clammy indoors, then back on the bike. Barring proper cycling gear that’s just how it is. For now. I was bringing quarts of hot water which helped a little but not much.

Just after eight, before I set back off to Hoquiam, my friend Charlie accosted me about biking. “You got any protection?” he asks all surly. He means like, a firearm. He’s seventy-something, grew up in the Appalachian mountains, and he is hardcore. He still plays with guns. He’s been shot. By friends and enemies both, I think. Anyway now he says he’s worried. “I”m worried someone’s gonna grab ahold of you,” he tells me. Yeah, I’m thinking. “It hasn’t happened yet,” I tell him, hiking my leg over. “No – but it could!” He is stubborn. He’s a little pissed. “Yeah…” I say. “There are a lot of sick people out there. – Goodnight!” and I’m off.

The streets are cold, crystal-clear, a great big moon. Near-deserted. Past Myrtle and there’s a loud altercation. I can hear angry screaming, abuse, for a full mile. I am sobered at the thought of all the suffering in the world.

Across the bridge and I pull up to Simpson and a red light; another person on a bike is waiting as well. He turns in partial profile and I recognize him. I got to know him a while back when he had a spell clean and sober. He’d put on weight and lost the hardened look in his eye and he was becoming that sweetheart he is, the one that lives within.

Now though, he doesn’t look great. He’s attending a huge plastic garbage bag with presumably all his belongings, somehow balanced on the bike’s handlebars. He turns and I smile at him and greet him by name. He’s trying to figure out who I am and I notice with a crystal-clear delight two items in his overstuffed backpack – a pair of miniature dachshunds peeping me with large, liquid eyes. I ask about the dogs. He tells me their names – mother and daughter. He asks me how he knows me and I tell him. I tell him I have an eighty-pound dog and can’t pack him in a backpack.

The light turns. I tell the man to Take Care and I’m off into the night. Amber streetlight. Smell of ozone and deep green grass. Almost home.

I pull up to my house to a crumpled dog hair-infused afghan swaddling a huge pile of leaves on the porch. Fancy, I think. And sure enough when I walk in the door my nine year-old tells me: “Mama did you see the leaves I put on the porch? Because they are fancy.”

I lean the bike against the coffee table and stride into the kitchen and greet my husband. And I stand at the stove and eat like three lentil tacos and take a swig of Mexican Coke.

Home again, home again, jiggity-jig.

A "Fancy" Porch

warts & all

Doubtless some of my readers have wondered why a few days ago I wrote about an excruciating experience in graphic emotional detail, but with little other disclosure. After a few days, and a few more developments, I am ready to share a little. Only a little, at this time.

Friday we found out that something assaultive, or more likely than not, more than one event, happened to one of our children. The discovery came as a complete shock to us and is taking an unpleasantly long time to accept. At this point, institutional and investigative entities have been employed. Because this is an incident that concerns one of our children, you can understand I don’t think the kids deserve me to sell out their privacy. Suffice to say my children and my family can benefit from support, and good, honest, safe-ass people in our lives.

One of the most agonizing aspects of this development is we do not have all the answers as to what has happened, and it may take time to get them. Also: unlike other sorrows I have gone through – like my father’s illness and death – this seems to have temporarily but painfully removed my ability to think about much else for very long. Life is suddenly surprisingly difficult – for me, at least. I can’t speak so much for the other three members of the family, who seem to be holding up well. I find myself going for many hours without being able to eat – then, like now, suddenly my appetite is back (ravenously so!). I have had two nights out of four that were just nightmarish, sleep-wise. I wished for Oblivion but I patiently waited that wish out.

I rode the bike about eight miles in a rainstorm again today for an appointment, and thankfully no one criticized me for this (just: don’t). You’d be surprised what I’m willing to do in hopes of restful sleep. (There is a lot I’m *not* willing to do, too!)

I am better off than I was Friday but I put that down to incredibly fervent prayer, and using the many types of support I have available to me.

Then there’s the “little” shit that is hard. It is frustrating that although it seems it would be easy for me to perform the tasks I normally do, I am having a great deal of trouble. Planning meals, doing the simplest of chores, let alone creative work or playtime with the kids, is almost entirely unmanageable at times. Compounding this is the fact that: doing work, within reason, is a good thing and I know it. Lying around watching Netflix and trying to blot out my brain – not so much.

One of the things I am still functional at is volunteer work. I do this – again, within reason, as I have responsibilities to myself and my family. I can’t tell you how meaningful it is to me to do something useful that doesn’t just serve myself and my family. I am daily in a place of gratitude for this opportunity.

I am definitely in that One-Day-At-A-Time space. Soon I will have experience to share, and will be able to share others. But I’m patiently waiting for that to come on its own time.

Thank you for sharing this time with me.

Pack It In, Pack It Out

well and i even have a little left over, to help you

Pack It In, Pack It Out

Today on a Flats walk with our dog and three kids – two of the children mine, one from another family – we came across a dozen pelicans (of at least two species) diving for fish. It was really something to watch, as they hit the water with incredible force, like missiles. Along with the pelicans many species of gulls and other waterfowl messed about, and we spied at least two harbor seals. Obviously, there was a large school of fish in the water falling prey to this predation. In the course of the walk around The Flats, two different men along the trail told me two different stories about the species of fish out there (men love to tell you shit, even when they don’t know the shit!).

My dog was out of his mind with joy. In case you hadn’t been following: he’s been on near-bedrest for a few weeks since his incredible illness adventure with salmon poisoning. Today he was so excited he actually fetched a stick (unheard of) many times. He also played tug-o’-war with me and growled a lot. He has a huge, powerful mouth and very sharp teeth and I’d never heard him growl before. I was a bit unnerved!

The weather on our walk was so wonderful. It was balmy-warm – in fact, it would have been unpleasantly humid had it not been for a wonderful sea breeze. There were so many animals at The Flats – wild and domestic – and not a few people. It was a wonderful walk out and I’m glad I made the time.

***

Just lately: I am over-worked. Not only physically – besides having household responsibilities, more water aerobics, and two new Etsy sales that have me knee-deep in costumes – I’ve also been working intensively, and I do mean intensively with a new-to-sobriety alcoholic. I am astonished how much work she’s willing to do – but I’m also aware that yeah, it’s necessary. Watching someone reconstruct themselves from near-ruination is an honor and a privilege beyond what I can articulate.

And I’m a bit rueful: in Recovery communities you will sometimes hear those with long-term sobriety say, “I won’t work harder than the new guy!” [Meaning: as a sponsor to help him get and stay sober.] And yeah, I’ve heard it now and then and always thought that’s supposed to mean, Yeah that’s right, tough love, those lazy newbies! Well I never thought of the reciprocal. Because let me tell you, this new gal works like a dog, so that means I am working like a dog. I am not even kidding. Even if I didn’t think it completely unethical to share details, I haven’t the strength to write much about it. It’s working me, right now.

Many reading here won’t understand. [And yet she tries to explain anyway!] A big part of what’s hard on me is going through my own history – memories of what it was like to get sober, of those early days. If you’ve done it, you probably get it. It’s a big deal. Remembering what it was like invokes a kind of PTSD. Today and yesterday I’ve been thinking, Did I really do that? Did I really go through all that? And it’s like – yeah, I did. I felt like crying today and wanted to give myself a hug or somehow take care of myself in ways I neglected before. I had it hard. And I didn’t even know I had it as hard as I did. Does that mean I have it hard today, and I don’t know it, as well? It’s a scary thought. I am tired of suffering. It hurts.

Tonight: I resolutely put aside my fears and my own traumatic memories. I am here now, my children downstairs want me now. My husband is available to me now. A small dish of strawberry shortcake awaits. Hot water and soft pajamas. A warm bed. A curious dog. Purring, comforted kitties.

I am here now. Tomorrow is another adventure.

cha-cha-cha like no one’s business

Today on a walk the three kids and I spied a family of otters out in the depths of the Hoquiam river. Fiesty, playful otters – three from what we could tell. As we walked on a quarter mile Phoenix gasped: there they are, on the piling! Sure enough, all three were just a few feet away, gazing up at us with curious, bead-black eyes. A mother and two juveniles. We watched for a while and when I glanced down at my phone, and back up, only a couple modest ripples remained on the river’s surface. We remained for a while longer to see if they’d re-emerge, but they eluded us.

I spent much of today on foot, on my bike, or in a pool, and it felt great. This afternoon I stayed too long at an appointment, and got home in time to furiously pedal-arse to the YMCA for

AQUATIC ZUMBA

which I thankfully made in time.

Some of you probably can figure out what that is, others are like, “What?” Basically: dorky-looking water aerobics (I am still looking for low-impact exercise options because ye olde knees are not healed up). I laughed the entire time, because it was so awesome and silly. I could feel my buttcheeks waving in the water as I furiously twisted my hips to Pearl Jam, nameless techno, MGMT, other pop music. Lots of breast-bobbling as well (involuntary), since mere mortal swimsuits cannot restrain my DDDs. I kept up pretty good though. But only because my body gives me one “freebie” at a new routine. My arms like, “Oh this is nice, boy we sure are staying up in the air a lot, kind of tough. Ho ho.” Next time I try the same exercise they will be screaming in agony: “Go take a long walk off a short pier you twisted-up harridan!”

Back on the bike; home to a warm house and kids, just my own two for a change. Ralph’s three-nights-a-week RHPS practice means a messier home and a wee bit less man-cooking as well. Currently: 11 PM and he’s making me sesame noodles, which is working out well for me. Late night cuddles and probably a really bad b-movie.

It’s kind of a routine. [ casual shrug ]

“I thought of that while riding my bicycle.”

It was difficult saying goodbye to my cargo bike, but as I might have imagined, my new bicycle has already gifted me as it is so much lighter and swifter. I have found myself riding even more than previous. These past few weeks, riding has been a wonderful exercise in patience, persistence, courage, and acceptance.

Bicycling is patience-building. Patience with the weather; rain is experienced as unpleasant, and headwinds reduce my speed by many minutes. Patience with my body, which still groans in pain here and there. My body gets stronger and more used to the bike’s stance, but I still walk up Scammell Hill, for instance. And on this hill, I rest a bit while I walk. I just give myself enough time that I can rest when I need to. Why not?

Persistence is manifested, for me, in the fact I ride the bike even though I have a working car (and sometimes, people asking me for rides in that car!). It is a real practice on my part, to commit to a longer travel time instead of darting around in the (mistaken) belief that I “must not waste time” and should use the car. It is also a real practice for me to say “No” to those who want rides! Over the last few weeks I have noticed that the supposed time-saving benefits of a car are sometimes disingenuous or not real. My bike never needs gassing up, for instance, and is easier to park every time. And if the winds are working with me it can be as swift to bike as to drive, depending on where I go!

It takes courage to bike, for me, because cars and car-drivers are not 100% safe, and also people seem to be often telling me how unsafe it is to bike. Due to a little bit of factual danger but probably due a lot more to cultural naysaying, the bike experience can sometimes feel more vulnerable. In a car I have the illusion of safety and control; on the bike, I do not. In a car I am unlikely to get shouted at or sexually harassed; on the bike, I am more likely to get stared at or accosted. Even then, though, things aren’t all that they seem. The more personal/”vulnerable” nature of the bike is mostly a very pleasant thing. I make a lot more eye contact on the bike, smile a lot more, am smiled at in return, can have conversations easily and get to see deer and kitties and puppies and children and people and foliage and our cities’ beauty a lot more. Two days ago I found an enameled ring on the road and gifted it to my son, tying it around his neck by a cord. All in all, the intimacies of the bike are a experienced in a pleasurable way, not a painful one.

When I get home, I submit a prayer of gratitude that I’ve had a safe ride, yet again.

I practice Acceptance when I ride my bike on all the things aforementioned – but most profoundly with my experiences of impermanence and Not-Self. The ride puts me in the moment in a way the convenience of the car leads me to not experience the moment. Bike riding helps me recognize that my ego and my circumstances and my thoughts are finite, limited, impermanent, and in their way, full of suffering. I have a brief bit of time I can meditate and experience the Now and when I do, I touch the infinite, the limitless, the joyful, and I smile at the mystery of my suffering, which is still with me after all these years.

Acceptance and Gratitude permeate my thought-stream while I ride, and even after I get home. I’ve put a couple hundred miles on the bike and due to some pain issues I am ready to take it in and talk about possible adjustments or changes. I find I’ve been thinking about how much I’d greatly enjoy a YMCA membership so I could treat myself to some swimming or yoga or weight lifting to help balance my body from the unique stress of and performance of riding – to un-stiffen my body (and of course, I’d also like a membership so I could take the children swimming!).

But even there, the bike reminds me things don’t have to be perfect for me to be Okay. I can practice acceptance, courage, patience, persistence and gratitude without having the whole thing figured out. I can enjoy my riding even without the perfect geometry, the best biking gear, a pain-free body, or the sometimes-coveted Y membership.

Riding my bike teaches me to smile at The Way Things Are.