We’ve had wonderful friends helping us move. With only one more truck-load tomorrow we are officially out of the previous house. Today Ralph worked his ass off tidying everything up and I said goodbye to a little over two years living there.
I’m feeling melancholy today. Every now and then my volunteer work gets to me. Ralph asks me for details over lunch, and (without naming names of course) I tell him some of what I’ve seen.
Enough said. It’s OK to feel sad for half a minute.
Today after coming home and starting dinner Nels runs in and excitedly reports Josie-kitty has a bat. Or a bird. “Or a moth,” my son adds after some consideration. “It’s shaggy,” he tells me. By the way his missing teeth means he has the best voice, and lisp, ever. “Moth” is “moff”. He has the most kissable little mouth and cheeks.
A minute later my feelings of fondness for my son evaporate as Josie is at the back door, desiring to come inside with her prize. Despite the limpness of the “shaggy” little finch in her mouth, wet and broken from the cat’s predation, to my horror I discover it is alive but very badly injured. The cat darts to and fro and clearly wants me to take her kill. I pick up the bird, who is barely moving and only giving a faint gasp now and then, and hold it under water in my sink to drown it. The pulse of the creature lasts a surprising time but it has nothing in itself to struggle. The kids watch intently and Phoenix says, “Mom, you’re crying.” Then: the creature is quiet in my hands. Faint as the gasp was, when life leaves it is obvious. I remember this vividly from watching my father die.
I feel worse about this than makes sense. Only a few seconds after death I think maybe I did the wrong thing. Maybe I should’ve ignored the cat’s attempts inside and let the whole mess take place how it would. Maybe I should’ve taken the bird away and put it somewhere in a darkened shoebox to languish. I did what seemed most merciful at the moment but it didn’t feel good to commit murder.
A few minutes later the kids and I walk the delicate limp creature, wrapped in cotton – and we bury it in the muddy earth. We come inside and make an offering and have a moment of meditation and say a few words. The kids move on. I mostly have, too. Mostly.
I’m also feeling a bit sensitive as for the second time in the last week I talked with a young man in my volunteer work, an alcoholic and an addict. I meet new people in this avocation every week and it’s good work. But sometimes.
You know drugs and alcohol don’t ruin lives. Yes, the disease of addiction causes much suffering. But the lives in the rooms of Recovery aren’t “ruined”. No life is ruined. Even death has its place, although it is very sad to watch a manifestation as beautiful as a human being kill itself. There are so many, many ways to kill ourselves, and some people walk around doing it while they still have a pulse. We kill off ourselves with our Ego, with our addiction. It is breathtaking how many ways there are to do this. All of us are doing it all the time. I am mostly okay with all that – meaning I accept it as an aspect of reality.
But every now and then I run into someone who makes me hurt and I’ve not yet figured out how or why. I know with regards to this young man, although I am not quite old enough to be his mother, it is partly a maternal thing. He is a very beautiful young man, many tattoos, soulful eyes and the most precise manners, the most consideration and kindness. Maybe it’s because I’ve met young men like him before and it’s the sameness. Maybe because I anguish about all those Lost for so long. Why isn’t anyone there for them?
I don’t know why things hurt today, but they did. Really despite pain, I had a wonderful day though. I did my early housework with a great deal of contentment and joy. Then the kids and I were up and about, and they sat through half the meeting at the Treatment Center (usually they don’t, but they were rained out fo the park at first). After their park play we re-met and the three of us had a lovely lunch date. Later in the evening Ralph and I got to work on the house and the kids came in and out. Phoenix had gymnastics class and Nels’ BFF came over for him. It’s almost ten now, and we’re having a late dinner and movie night. Tomorrow I hope to get up to some of the last sewing I’ll be doing in this house. Unlike other times I’ve moved, I’ve felt a fondness and a serenity for the house we’re in these last few days, although I am very much looking forward to our move.
I’m not sure at what point my day, and my mind, asploded. I worked hard in the home and on an art project, much to my satisfaction. I had a tense discussion this morning with my husband, but that seemed to resolve okay. (Other peoples’) kids came and went through my house and we fed one or two and kicked another one out to have a meal, just the four of us. Friends were over, another friend canceled a dinner date with us. I helped at a Recovery function and paid for a couple plates of spaghetti and salad for those who might not have the suggested donation.
I met a few new people today too, including a man who reminded me of my father so much it hit me like a physical blow, he had the same earring and trained into electronics in the military, in Vietnam, and I listened to him talk and stared and thought of my father, too tired to even feel the sting of missing him. I met a few new people today, including a man who cried talking about the people who surrounded and loved him and got him help when he needed it most, this was over ten years ago and he still had tears in evidence. I met a few new people today, including a nice young man recently released from incarceration and (more shockingly to my provincial mind) who related his experiences divorcing from in-house White Power groups (I talked to him a bit later, as he’s newly a mechanic of a type I could use).
At some point I guess I started to feel some kind of intense spiritual or emotional or mental fatigue, although I didn’t recognize it until later during volunteer work. Maybe my brain went *click* into exhaustion hearing the fourth young person say, “I’m _________, heroin addict,” and so on. Or maybe it was investing myself in yet another story filled with more hate and sorrow and abuse and neglect, stories so incredibly personal yet now stunningly familiar, and yes there’s triumph and courage and tremendous love and affection and salvation and gratitude, but still I have the visceral image of a young man left to cry himself to sleep night after night in the back of a car while his parents went into the bar to drink, a boy then a teen then a man who learned to never let those feelings show for many many years but now they’re coming up. More tears.
Even surrounded by all sorts of this kind of stuff I can’t entirely say I’m depressed or brought down. Humbled is a better word. I used to feel separate from these concerns or maybe I had no idea how much suffering there was, right where I could reach out and touch it, or maybe I would have considered some people “really sick” or thinking I was, essentially, better, or better off at least, than they. But today there is nothing that separates me at all from all of this, and I feel floored as if an ant with a large boot to crush me to Nothing, because in fact we have all the same affliction, and at the risk of starting controversy it doesn’t have much to do with the use or non-use of chemicals and if you can’t see it you’re just not seeing what I’m seeing.
Tangentially I have also discovered all the aspects of my best alcoholic behaviors, well I have them today in sobriety and they are some of the qualities that make me a rather terrific parent. Example: we have $11 in the bank and out of nowhere this afternoon I tell the kids, “Let’s get a tree!” and of course I mean one supporting our locals at the Market, not the cheapest tree at all. And when we get there they are just closing up but a nice older man lets us tree-shop and we find a brilliant noble fir, I’d never noticed how pretty they are. And the nice fellow helping us out, I see he’s also a Santa-for-hire (there’s a flyer) and I say, “Oh you’re Santa,” then after he tells me a bit I laugh, “We’re a no Santa household,” and he says, “Well okay!” Ralph “ropes” the tree to the top of my car and in the parking lot we see a lone purple ornament rolling around and we pick it up to hang on our tree.
And the kids are One Hundred Thousand Percent so happy to see Ralph bring in the fragrant greenery. “That is a beautiful tree, mom. Good job!” my oldest tells me. The kids get to decorating it and I’m happy to see the tree develop in the way it was in my family of origin, not an Avon-perfect or shopping mall tree but the ornaments handmade, many of them gifts from others, handstitched and glued and pasted and lovely, and the kids and the cats are simply delighted. The children go about their painting and drawing and reading and when they ask for my attention I turn and give it to them as best I can,
as fierce I can.
I come home and bathe and wrap myself in a blanket and sit quietly by the family, who likely have no idea how much it hurts sometimes. My daughter told me she stared at me today, and she says “because you’re so beautiful”. And I think I know what she means and today, that’s pretty good.
What have I been up to lately? Running again, a bit slower even this time so as not to wear myself out. I’m almost completely finished with a little woolen bunting that I’m quite pleased with, made for a client a bit south who has a new little relative on the way. Included in the package are a couple knit items I am dying over, they are so cute. And were so soft and lovely to work and cheered me immensely to construct. Pictures soon.
For Ralph and my ten year wedding anniversary, my mother bought us memberships to the YMCA so we are now restored to regular visitations of that facility. Today due to one thing and another it behooved me to set a swim date up for the kids with our friend H. as I wasn’t going to be able to take the time and also honor other commitments. A little after noon I left my children in the McDonalds parking lot with $10 and a duffel bag and I felt a little skeeved by a guy I saw loitering there, just one of those weird feelings. I was frankly relieved a half mile down the road when I discovered I’d kept their YMCA key fob used for entry (although all the employees know them and would have let them in) and I circled back, glad for a reason to calm my likely irrational fears. Sure enough the kids had ordered and set themselves up and Nels was putting a napkin on his lap and beaming at his sister over the strawberry milkshake they’d set themselves up to share, whipped cream and cherry and all! And the lurking guy ducked out the door with a printed paper bag full of food, probably off to do entirely un-skeevy activities like eat lunch.
Forty minutes after I left the kids they’d finished, cleaned up, travelled to and planted themselves in the YMCA waiting area to meet H. They kept track of their key fob and my change and their clothes and had a great time. About an hour after the three hit the water I arrived from my meeting to pick the kids and H. up and take them out to the taquerÃa for lunch, finishing up some I-cord on size three needles while I waited for everyone to dress.
What else, well amongst other things I’ve been doing some volunteer work in a treatment center which is wonderfully healing and amazing every day and I am so grateful to have this work suggested to me. I finished (hopefully) some graphic design that will (hopefully) put a little money in my pocket as we are needing some furniture. I keep not turning in the fee and application to the Fiber Arts Festival here in Elma next month, and I’d better get on that.
But, tonight I sat in the bleachers and watched my daughter’s first-ever gymnastic session. She was surprisingly talented and took direction well and with interest. Observing her teacher’s graceful cartwheel, my daughter’s face lights up: “Nice!” she compliments the young woman. Watching Phoenix perform her second iteration of a backwards somersault she pushes up and out with her arms as instructed and I feel my body oooomph with sympathetic effort. I never did, or at least haven’t yet, learned how to do any of that stuff besides a simple bridge and forward somersault.
Only two boys were enrolled out of the fifteen or so children and every single girl there (ages three to ten) with the exception of my daughter had long long hair and I’m pretty sure 90% of their parents wouldn’t have permitted their girls cut it all the way off as I “let” my girl do. Phoenix was completely nonplussed when I observed aloud she was the only girl there with short hair. She doesn’t much compare herself to other girls except to observe and consider for inspiration. I have the suspicion she won’t be as prone to peer and social pressures as most girls end up being, and for this inkling, if I’m right, I’m quite grateful. Case in point, she’s determined to grow her hair out long and curl it and she is entirely unpreturbed this will take some time, and she is totally happy with the super-short hair she has now. This personal knowledge, satisfaction, acceptance, common sense and long or broad view of things puts her in a class of about, oh, the top first percentile of almost every woman I’ve known with hair vanity issues, which is almost every woman I’ve known.
I could stand for the good weather to continue, although I don’t mind the slight dip in temperature. Tonight on the way home from a book study I stopped in our most favored restaurant for takeout. I leaned against the counter with my arms crossed enduring the stares of locals as I waited for our to-go Italian fare; while lingering I spied a huge jug of the wine I was raised on and I thought of the gallons and gallons and millions of gallons. Ah, Uncle Carlo, sometimes I miss you so, but alas we have parted company forever.
I was just remembering one of the worst summers of my life, if not the worst, which was actually one of the best in some ways before it tumbled into shit. As the days careened toward doom I hosted house parties most nights of the work week or weekend and we enacted many such scenes as evidenced in this song video, including young men in their underwear while we women stayed clothed. In this way one ritual was at least a small, dramatic, fierce triumphant bit of nihilistic joy I’m sure not to forget it.
When things in my life start to unravel from the relative ease I know, I typically feel shame, fear, anxiety, and low-grade depression. The hardest feeling to disentangle Myself from is the shame, the feeling I am At Fault for scenarios that are embarrassing and public (whether I admit them or not) and proof of my failures and – this is the worst part – Could Have Been Avoided were I smarter, more efficient, had I worked a little harder. The car problems, the cats who have colds (Seriously. How can I blame myself for this? But I do.), the refrigerator cluttered, the table not set artfully for company, the sewing work that remains undone, the emails and messages from readers (and a few others) I have fallen behind on (perhaps not to recover), my unimaginative presence and my lack of beauty and worth, a wretch really. There is almost no point to talk about Failure as it is a fact I have failed on many accounts; and to do so, to be honest about my failure, risks the experience of those who’d rush in with Rescue or Advice. Even more scary at times is the knowledge of those who will step in with bona-fide Help. It is one thing to have someone do something nice for you when things are going well (“Thank you!”); it can feel miserable to have prostrated myself, even though done without goals of personal gain, to have someone hand you up and you know there is no repayment, it was merely a gift, simple and devastating. When I consider this I often just wish I could talk and have no one take action except to listen; but I also know I must allow people to follow their hearts and minds.
Releasing Control in my parenting and family life has brought a happier, healthier home and is nurturing children stronger and more joy-filled and humorous then I would have previously imagined. In the times I am weak I see how strong they are and nothing can take away the joy that re-ignites, wells up, inside of me. And after all, I am weak now but it was not always so and won’t always be so. My hard work, although spilled out and squandered and Done Wrong, has nevertheless reaped spiritual benefits both tender and tough. Within me I feel a deep love, an amusing and abiding love, and an interest in other human beings stronger than I’ve felt before. The table may have not looked lovely, but it was loaded with delicious and simple food I made with my hands. I may have been tired but I was still there. The house may only boast the meager (but beautiful) paper decorations of my children, colored with Walmart markers, and the house have little other ornamentation or beauty, but it is the dwelling of myself and those I deeply love.
Today I had the wonderful and simple experience of taking a walk in the sunshine down to the art gallery where my mother was getting off her gallery shift. I like walking in good weather more than ever; the watery light of the sun and deep draughts of our fall air is so familiar and soul-sustaining to me it seems amazing some day I will no longer experience it. At the gallery, the new pieces displayed and the Halloween accoutrement crafted by one of the artists were soothing and inspiring at once. My mother and I took her dog home and then shared lunch at the Italian restaurant – one of those meals so simple and satisfying. We talked and drank tea and enjoyed one another’s company and I felt an expansiveness, having at least done my work of house-stewardship and a breakfast repast for my (very happy-to-receive) children – homemade cinnamon rolls, bananas, and hardboiled eggs from Hoquiam hens. The mug of hot tea in my hand was a modest delight to my exhausted body.
Later I spent forty-five minutes volunteering at the Theatre (as we’ve been doing for a few years now). The conversations were normal and mundane and perfect; older fellows came through the door and flirted and I didn’t feel offended nor afraid. I took tickets from two of my girlhood friends’ mothers; I was more happy to see them than they probably knew. I have a great caring dwelling inside me and it probably means very little and is worth hardly anything and maybe even it doesn’t show much because I’m afraid of showing it sometimes due to pride and fear. At times like this it is hard to be so public as I am here where I write. I want at times to be my tiny ugly little self and not be noticed by anyone but my family. They are in the final estimation the only beings I feel wholly safe with, as limited as this makes me.