As time goes by…

I am of that age. That age when one begins to question their means, and their ends, and finds the ends didn’t justify anything. The body count is more than I can tally on both hands and both feet, people I will never see again, never feel again, never be again. I will never be whI am of that o I was again. They will never be here again, wherever that might be. And what does that all mean anyway?

I have been accused of living my life alone, by choice. That is probably true. It’s safer that way, or so I thought. There is no safety, there is no privacy, there is no avoiding the pain. Discomfort is inevitable, pain is a constant, suffering is questionable. Some of us suffer. I suffer, but lately I have been willling to amend my definition of suffering. Perhaps it is only life, perhaps it is the human condition, perhaps it is just what it is. Whatever that is.

It is the best of times, it is the worst of times, it is the time to quote long dead sages and philosophers and try making the past fit our present. It doesn’t ever work, but still we recycle the old words, the old ways, and convince ourselves traditions are the only thing we need. We forget that we were not there, that we do not know what they knew in the context of when they knew it. We forget the past is a tool, not a map, and that we are now responsible for composing our own truths, our own words of wisdom, our own masterpieces.

Creativity is the only thing we have that can save us. I believe it is true that we are doomed to repeat the past if we forget it, but it is not true that recreating the context of yesteryear is all that we need. Duplicating the past is never going to move us forward – it can’t. We are different people every minute, every hour, every day and trying to bring back the past is simply ludicrous. If there is a universal law, it’s that you can’t relive what you have already lived.

As I am unsnarling the knots and tangles of my own past, I have to be honest – I don’t want to relive those years, don’t want to repeat that pain, don’t want to be that person again. I want to cherry-pick all of it, plucking the sweet fruit of a minute in 1971, a few seconds in 1978, a glance from 1982…a good moment in 1988. But I know that’s not possible. I cannot revisit a static blip on the radar field of memory – I have to embrace it all, the good and the bad and the painful and the inexplicable. The past is not a photograph, or even a video that is unchanging, simply a record of a snippet of time. To be even more honest, I’m not willing to do that. I only want what I want, and having that is an impossibility in any timeline.

If anything, that is the human condition – wanting what we cannot have, having what we do not understand. I understand very little of it, very little of anything. Understanding is highly overrated, it seems. If I cannot understand where I came from, why I came, how all of this really works then I certainly cannot understand why I suffer and why bad things happen to good people and why people die. The best I can hope for is acceptance of the reality of those circumstances, that I will never fully understand any of this and that I don’t really need to understand. Understanding only placates the mind, it does not heal the heart.

Perhaps our hearts are the enduring scars of the rift that created us all, the force that separated all things once bound together by some other force. Perhaps it was the binding force itself that simply imploded, became self-consumptive and could not continue any other way. Stars are like that – they eventually exhaust their energy source and begin to feed on themselves until they implode. Some of them implode so violently they reduce billions of tons of mass into a single point in the fabric of the universe, and we know them as black holes. But they persist and continue to affect the rest of planar existence. We speak of them as dead stars, but they are never dead. They simply exist in different form. And we do not understand.

I am of that age, the age that has given up on understanding many things. The age that has seen things I did not want to see, experienced things I didn’t want to experience. Lost things I did not want to lose, been hurt in ways I never wanted to feel. I am of the age where nothing intentional is simple, where the past is no harbinger of the future because everything around me is a variable. I am of that age where there is less in front of me than behind me, where I no longer believe that certainty is a comfort, where my own company has finally become more enjoyable than superficial gatherings of large numbers of people. In short, I no longer have time for wasting time.

Grief is a necessary thing when there is loss, loss of a loved one, loss of oneself, loss of circumstances or material possessions. Grief is painful, pointed toward a known point in one’s reality. It has no time frame, but it’s always oriented toward the point of loss. Suffering, I think, may be more the experience of general dissatisfaction, of constantly hoping for different circumstances, of never-ending yearning for some cessation of the emptiness. Hoping, always hoping. If there is an end to hope I suppose that would be the cessation of misery, of despair, of hopelessness. Neither of those, however, constitutes happiness or satisfaction, so I’m not sure what to make of that except that it’s not simple. Happiness is not anti-hope, but it is unto itself an equally and opposite thing to hopelessness.

Why does this even matter? I don’t know. I suppose I am just of that age where these are the conundrums that plague me in the moments before I fall asleep. These are thoughts whizzing along the paths of my neural network, such as it is, keeping me awake and making my limbs twitch. To sleep, and perchance to dream. I no longer dream of slings and arrows but guns and bombs and totally outrageous fortune and happy moments that exist encapsulated in the folds of my brain. This is life, such as it is, same as it ever was. What a beautiful choice.

You say goodbye, and I say hello

Posted earlier on Facebook…

I am heavy with grief and impending loss and incalculable sadness. My cousin texted me earlier today, saying that she has put my aunt – my mother’s sister – into home hospice care. I have been thinking a lot about her lately, and had a feeling that she was declining. My mother was the elder sister (a circumstance she never let anyone forget), five years older than my aunt. This is right on schedule for how womenfolk on the maternal side check out.

I was always fond of my aunt. She was fun, and not as mean as my mother. I would love to know what happened between them all those years ago that would cause them to separate so drastically later in life. As my mother descended into dementia, my aunt was beginning to lose her grasp bit by bit as well, and it seemed they had both forgotten they were sisters. But when the end came from my mother, my aunt had a lot of trouble seeing her in hospice, and she wouldn’t go up to view the body at the funeral. I noticed it, even while on auto-pilot on that incredible day. My aunt was on auto-pilot just as I was.

The last time I saw my aunt, my cousin had tried to prepare me for the possibility that she wouldn’t know me. But she did, and she opened her arms wide and smiled so brightly. It was like old times, before the world turned upside down for me. I told her that I remembered her making lasagna from scratch with me, and taking me to see Rumpelstiltskin on stage when I was little. It was my first dress-up in big girl clothes outing – complete with black patent leather shoes and white gloves. I loved her so much.

I was thinking earlier that maybe dementia means that our spirits are beginning to vibrate at a higher level than our bodies, and there is no need for mental clarity. It’s a way for us to let go, I suppose – we spend most of our lives holding on very tightly to everything, even ourselves. Ah, well – it’s the human condition.

When my cousin texted, I responded with some words that included “damn this aging process, and damn this dementia”. I have been obsessed lately with the notion that I am starting down that path, but what is there to do? It is what it is. And I am what I am…full stop.

Whenever she leaves here, my aunt will signify the end of my childhood, the last person on this earth who knew me from the beginning. The person who saved my life a few years ago when I asked her why my father had stayed in that marriage for so long, and her level-eyed response: that it was because of me. That changed my life, and healed so much of what has ailed me for so long. I will never forget that moment. It took less than 10 seconds to say those words, but a lifetime of hurt was reframed, reformatted, reoriented.

I wish my aunt well on this leg of her journey. It feels sadly familiar, and I hate that, but it’s not my choice to make. I hope that she doesn’t suffer, hope that she is at peace. Godspeed, Auntie. I hope you know how much you meant to me and still do.

Whistle while you work

What would I do with my one wild and precious life? Not a fucking clue. I suppose I would just go wherever it took me? I suppose that is what I’m doing now.

So now I have this job. In so many ways it’s a drea job – work from home, build on the skills I have accrued. A real team environment, not just saying the words but actually working as a team. They are not terribly hierarchical, ether. We have a team lead, not a “manager”. I never thought I needed to be managed, as though I was started out in some unruly position to begin with. But I’m learning things. And that is good.

I find myself compulsively checking up on things at night or over the weekend…I guess I don’t have enough of a life these days. It is very exciting to feel as though I am making a difference, in some minute way – I worked with some end-users and have gotten services restored and did some hand holding, and it was good. One lady started off in quite a state of irate, but at the end of the whole process she was sweet as pie and talked to me about God. Even though she was kind of a mess, it still felt good to know that I had resolved the issues she found difficult.

Because I am who I am, I struggle with feeling stupid and ignorant of the modern contrivances, but I’ve been there under six weeks and don’t quite recognize my first-day self. There is just a learning curve is all, and team mates are willing to help. It’s what I’ve wanted for a while now, to feel as though I was a part of something that did some good and where I didn’t have to fight to prove my worthiness every day. That’s toxic, especially for me, but for anyone who has any ethics.

Sometimes I want things to go so much faster, and have to stop myself from wanting the adrenaline rush of being under pressure, deadlines, metrics, hurry hurry hurry. That last job was an adrenaline junkie’s dream right up until it wasn’t. Right up until the adrenaline burned itself out and I was like a dying star that ran out of fuel and blew itself up in a dramatic fashion. Actually, my super nova was pretty calm, all things considered, because I was just done. Well done. Burned out. I don’t think this job has even the potential of going there.

Mardi Gras was March 1st, which means we’re now in Lent. I grieve Mardi Gras just a bit this year, but it wasn’t terrible. I could not have been paid enough money to be part of that nutty stuff, especially with COVID still a reality. Mask mandates were lifted here, and people are being ridiculous, with no masks in sight, sitting shoulder to shoulder in large groups like this is all over. I am retreating even further because of this, and I guess that’s just how it’s going to be. I am convinced there will be another surge, and even if it’s not a huge spike in infections, I am not willing to take the risk of throwing caution to the wind. And nobody else really gives a damn, so *shrug* as always, I have to take care of myself by myself because … there is nobody else.

There is still much concern in me about my cognitive state. I’m now at the age where my mother had begun to decline, bit by bit, until she was in full dementia. This is how it has gone with my great-aunts, and how it is going with my aunt. These are all on the maternal side, and I am literally obsessed with whether or not I’ heading that way. I am told I can ask my neurologist for a referral to get a cognitive workup by a neuro-psych, and I need to do that. Maybe if I am heading that way, I can start medication early and stave it off for a time.

It’s just becoming apparent to me how traumatic it was to watch my mother descend into that deep dark place that swallowed the person she was. Whatever made her the unique being that she was disappeared until there was less than nothing left. She recognized me until the end, and I think I am grateful for that. I’m not sure if it would have made it easier or more difficult if that link had been severed. Sometimes it goes that way, but she always knew me. I wonder where she is now.

There is still a part of me that is incredibly resentful that she did somethings the way she did them, but it’s never absolute – she did some things very well. things that worked in my favor. Getting this job was only possible because I built skill and expertise over the past 35 year, and I only had the opportunity to do that because I had a college degree. I have never been one to believe that a degree is the only way to have a job that pays you enough to buy the dog food, but having one made it possible for me to move along the path. Had I been a bit more assertive and possibly more athletic, I probably would have become a police officer, and by now I would probably be dead. I believe what people tell me, and that can be the kiss of death in a law enforcement career.

I also need to get a mammogram, which is one of the more stellar highlights of my life. I don’t want to know. But I do. But I don’t want to find out if there’s a problem. I’m cowardly about that.

My mother was skittish about the exams as well – I remember when I had to have oral surgery to remove a molar that had gone sour, my mother brought me to the appointment. She thought it was just the most wonderful thing that she had a mammogram scheduled for the same clinic, so I would have a ride home (they wouldn’t let me leave under my own recognizance because the aenesthesia would linger a bit). My dear mother got me there, and bounced off to her appointment. When I was done, she was supposed to be there, but…nope. The nurse wheeled me like a huge sack of potatoes in a wheelchair to the mammography unit, where she was nowhere to be found. She was still in there, it seemed. So, as with SO many other things in my life, I was left there alone to wait for someone to come and collect me.

Through the haze of waning medication, I slumped in the wheelchair clutching the prescription for painkillers that I had to have filled before I got home, and heard my mother’s voice from the other side of the wall I was leaning on – “But, I know, can you just tell me if it looked OK? I know you can’t tell me the results, but…was there anything that looked obviously abnormal??? Yes, I know, the radiologist has to look…oh, ok. No, I just thought maybe you could…”.

When my mother finally came out to get me and take me to the car, one would think that was an end to the story. No. It was just beginning. We couldn’t find the car. Had to have security drive us around the parking garage until we found it. And that’s not the end of it, either. On the way to my apartment, she ran out of gas. She left me slumped against the car window on one of the hottest days of the year while she walked down the street to the gas station to buy a gas can and some gas. She came back with some drug addict who was very eager to pour the gas into the tank (he was probably really disappointed with his tip, because that woman was tight fisted). So. Off we go AGAIN, to the drugstore for the pain meds, and then finally home. I went right to sleep, and was in la-la land when she called to check on me and ask me if I wanted her to bring me something to eat. My mouth was twice its normal size on one side and the last thing I wanted to do was eat. As we say down in that part of the world – “Lawd, have mercy.”

That is one of the crazy stories I am left with, and that was a vintage performance by the mother unit. She was a dingbat, an old lady in training for my whole life. She was a professional lady, one who needed help with a lot of things but who could cuss you out like a sailor if you got on her nerves or tried to cheat her out of something. Bless her heart. I have mellowed a fair amount, but I got that righteous indignation thing from her. Don’t shame me, or treat me like a second-class anything, and we’ll be fine. But cross that line, and I will have to detach you from your face. Sorry about the eyebrows, but they’ll grow back.

This job is good for me, because I am not having to deal with other people in close quarters, not having the distractions inherent in a cubicle farm, and having way more dignity about how I learn and at what pace. These folks are pretty laid back, and they just leave you alone to do your job. They stay in chat all day long, so whenever you have a question or a problem you can just toss it out there and somebody will answer you. We’re all on pretty much the same level, although if you’re a SQL programmer you have slightly more access to a few things, but in general we’re all pretty much interchangeable. That’s really nice.

This is a contract, guaranteed until mid-October, but there are signs that it will be extended. We’ll see. It’s a nice way to ease back into the work force after my hiatus of 2-1/2 years, and like I said, its nice to feel like you’re making some kind of positive difference in somebody’s day. I kind of like the technology part of it, too – it’s not ostentatious like the other place. It’s a different system, of course, but it’s a system that is far easier to learn and administrate, and they want everybody to know how to do all the things. They share knowledge, which is amazing to me. That was definitely not the case before.

So, as I posted in the general chat the other day – we all kind of check in at the beginning of the day and check out at the end – here I am. Rock me like a hurricane. Seriously. Wow me, and let me wow you. Don’t assume that I can’t do things, that I can’t learn things, that one-size-fits-all. That concept is going to be the death of the American economy, not the value of the dollar or outsourcing. It’s presuming that if you just keep things geared to the highest common denominator you can conquer the world. That’s a dehumanizing fallacy, and all it really means is corporate America is not skilled enough to manage for the grey areas. Some days you’re the bug, some days you’re the windshield, some days you’re not driving. They don’t know how to plan or envision anything other than the binary. Yes or now, 1 or 10, true or false. Unfortunately, real life doesn’t work that way.

My blood pressure has been insanely high for a bit of time lately, which has me a bit concerned. I went to have my physical with the P.A., who turned out to be a really excellent provider. The tiny little primary care doctor was out of town, so I got the P.A., and like her more than the doctor. She actually touched me – put her hand on my arm to make a point while talking several times, looked me in the eye the entire time. She had incredible eyes, too – very caring and like she was actually listening to me, not contemplating her next move. She was also taller than like 5’2″ or something, which set her apart from the rest of my medical team, all of whom seem to be 5’2″ or well under.

So, off I go, hopefully into the land of Nod. The right-sized P.A. double the blood pressure medication to help put things into a better range. I am sure it’s my weight. The weather is getting nice, and I need to start walking again. That’s part of how I was keeping the weight and the blood pressure down before, so I can do it again. I will probably be watching my weight at the hour of my death.

Today is Sunday, and I have not left the apartment except to take the dog out. There just wasn’t anything I could think of to do. Oh, yeah – WALK, YOU IDIOT. The dog really enjoys it, so there really was no excuse other than I’m in the habit of not doing it. Time for a change. Gotta do something because I don’t feel…good. I don’t feel bad, even when my blood pressure has been up, but I don’t feel good. That’s what really needs to change – I don’t want to be feeling this sluggish and lethargic any longer.

Magic is afoot! Or maybe it’s just Spring, but then again – that’s kind of magic when the flowers start blooming and the trees start budding and the sun is right overhead.

Not ending, not beginning, just turning.

Three hits

I posted the bulk of this on Facebook earlier, but I suppose I’m not quite done, and I suppose that’s a good thing.

For quite a while I have had way too much time on my hands, reliving the past, screwing it up in brave new ways. Now I don’t have quite as much time on my hands, but still trying for a revision of what has already been etched into the sands of time (which of course is more or less fleeting, depending on the tides and the passage of cerebral deterioration, but I digress).

Well I dream you constant stranger
With your best bloods and your anger
You say, “Mother do you claim me?
My beloved do you blame me? (“Three Hits”, Indigo Girls)

Someone very wise told me recently that I should not be concerned about who I claim so much as who claims me. That number is small, but impressive in my opinion. Quality, not quantity. I choose to waste no more time on claiming the insignificant, the place holders, the toxins. Toxicity is frequently a slow and insidious killer, and I am tired of dying in fast-forward.

Where am I to blame? I have been obsessed with that for many years. What have I done wrong, where could I have done better, why do I make the same mistakes repeatedly? No matter how many wasted hours are spent on those questions, I am no closer to answers than I was at birth. The only thing I’ve gotten from this obsession is the sure knowledge that pursuit of perfection is a futile endeavor.

I suppose the only answer that matters is that I am who I am and that’s all that I am. Thanks so much, Popeye. Unfortunately, downing a can of spinach doesn’t imbue me with superhuman strength or reduce enemies to mere whispers. But I still fight to the finish, with or without me spinach. Victory is another matter entirely, and winning is but a momentary surge of adrenaline.

These days I question the definition of victory. I reflect on the lesson I learned not so long ago, contrasting success to mastery. I contrast victory with experience these days. Experience is critical to growth, as is pain. The two may be inextricably linked to each other, and to life in general. Life never promised any of us a rose garden – along with the sunshine, there’s got to be a little pain sometime. (yeah, another song. sue me but that’s how I roll.)

Anyhow, I am determined to figure out who claims me, or at least respond to who does lay claim. Life is way too short, especially these days when the clock seems to be spinning at warp speed. Here today, gone tomorrow, and what will I have done with my one wild and precious life except fret away the wonder of all that is wild and precious. Will I waste what is left of my time here attempting to make people love me, or respect me, or validate me? That sounds like a barren field to plow.

I have always known that I am wild, but precious is more the challenge. I am not quite sure I know what precious looks like. I always think I know what love looks like, but I imagine that’s a rather one-sided viewpoint. Maybe precious is that which has nothing to do with me, or doesn’t truly benefit me in any way. Precious simply exists for the good of everything, for the world, for the universe. If preciousness is lost, its absence change the dynamic of everything. Precious is a flower blooming in the crack of a sidewalk, or a shooting star that causes someone to stop and wonder. Precious is a split second that changes everything. I will have to reflect a bit more on that, but I feel like that’s closer to truth than anything.

In my mind, I suppose I believe that precious equates to beauty, aesthetic beauty. People like pretty things, and it seems that my concept of precious is that which is beautiful to others. That which is beautiful to me usually has more to do with things like spirit, and persistence, and passion. I have made the acquaintance of many a person considered aesthetically beautiful, and found them entirely devoid of character or the drive to become a better human being. Nothing is more boring to me than someone who has no desire to learn more, grow more, be more. Boredom is anathema to me.

Why does any of that mean anything on this overcast Sunday morning when I have cleaned up a mountain of stinky dog poop in the living room, deposited AFTER the little cur went outside not very long ago and left another formidable mass out there. Who knows what anything really means. I suppose things have meaning when they fit into our neat little perspectives on how the world works. Unfortunately, our perspectives are varied and diverse, so ultimately, meaning is very personal. It is what it is, and that’s all that it is.

None of that has anything to do with the false commercialism of Valentine’s Day, which is a commercial identity plastered on anything not nailed down and pretending to bestow beatitudes of love on us all (even when we demand it at gun point). Forgive them, for they know not what they do, and what they DO know is about a dollar. Social engineering at its best – short on truth, big on profit. That’s close enough, apparently. Truth is far too fluid these days to be particular about, so I suppose my expectations are a bit high.

Who claims me? DO I even need to know why they claim me? I’m coming to realize that it’s just not as important to my sense of belonging to know who it is that I claim. When people tell me they love me, I am generally underwhelmed because I don’t know if that means they actually claim me, or even know who the hell I am. Consequently, those words are frequently meaningless to me until there is deep water and often muddy water under the proverbial bridge.

So, enough of that on this Valentine’s Day-eve. I have resisted buying the chocolate covered marshmallow candies that change shape for each commercial holiday – they are trees for Christmas and turkeys for Thanksgiving and hearts for Valentine’s Day…but they are the same damned candy. I am going to go out to a place that sells those confections for other reasons – to pick up a prescription at the pharmacy, along with as much Febreze as I can carry to eradicate any traces of canine metabolic process in my apartment. It will all be fine. Thank goodness for chemists who survived organic chemistry and have concocted the means of making the stinky fragrant and the taste buds joyous. If there is a meaningful victory, that is one that fits perfectly in my present context. I’ll gladly take that right now, because – and I freely admit this – it is all about me (and my sensory receptors).

A wild and precious heart.

It is what it is

So, yeah. I’m wondering if it’s still work if you kind of like doing it. I got a job. Finally. Mercifully. In all seriousness, though, I am incredibly grateful. It’s a contract that is funded at least through the middle of October, but there is talk it might be extended. I am learning new things, and feel that I am capable. That’s a big deal, because I was not feeling very capable, or competent, or … smart.

This is a completely remote position, which is exactly what I wanted. During the interview, which they did with their cameras off – it’s a thing with them – one of the managers asked me to explain the gap in employment from 2018 until now. I spoke the absolute truth – my mother died, and less than six weeks later I lost my job, and it was just too much. I needed to get my act together and grieve and figure out who I was again. They didn’t hesitate, and the questioner said very clearly that she congratulated me on knowing when I needed to step back. OH. MY. GOD. Who are these people????

Well, I am now working for these people, and that is totally representative of their culture. I feel as though I’ve come home. They expect performance, but not mechanical obedience. Questions are not only acceptable, but encouraged. They share knowledge. They want to be successful, and understand that if their team members are successful that will guarantee THEIR success. What a concept.

So, I’m back on the chain gang, working a first shift job. Aside from a kinder and gentler culture, they have bestowed upon me a laptop and a stunning lack of micro-management. It’s what I’ve always wanted, the ability to learn at my own pace and in my own bizarre fashion. I do still have to ask for help on things, but not because I can’t understand the technical competencies but to understand the customization that is employed. That is such a welcome change, and I feel as though I can breathe there.

So, now that I can breathe a bit, what is it that I will do with my wild and precious life? At the moment, I don’t feel as though my life is terribly wild but definitely precious. I was just talking with a friend who invited me to her horse farm tomorrow for a traditional “treasure mapping” experience. She and I took a course together many years ago – The Artist’s Way (by Julia Cameron, who used to be married to Martin Scorsese of all people). The course encourages people to gather in small groups to discuss creative efforts and share what amounts to best practices, and we were part of the same group. That group is still meeting after more than ten years, and we’ve become friends. Two of us have died, one of us has retired, and we’ve all had losses and changes and illnesses and whatever else life hands us.

For the past several years, our group has met at the beginning of each year to create intention for the coming twelve months. We call it “treasure mapping”, and it’s an informal gathering where we create individual collages that illustrate the journey we envision for the next year. COVID has interrupted that tradition, and we’ve missed it. Tomorrow it will be just three of us – one of us is out of town, one of us is MIA, one of us is a cancer survivor who isn’t doing group activities. That leaves three of us, who are probably closer in experience and interest than the rest of them – we’ve all worked in the financial sector at some level, so we have seen the worst of human nature. Both of these women are far more financially accomplished than me, and it doesn’t matter worth a shit. They are both painters, and I’m more a writer, but it’s all creative endeavor, and that’s what binds us.

Today, it’s cold outside. Right around freezing but there’s a beautiful blue sky with only a few puffy clouds meandering by. I love days like this, with low humidity and crisp air that feels clean. I have to remind myself that it may not be entirely clean since we just had a fertilizer plant blow up less than three miles from where I’m sitting, but…whatever. It’s a beautiful day and I should just leave it at that.

Things all around me are in a state of unrest if not full fledged chaos. Health insurance is a mess, employment is a mess, the economy is a mess. It’s expensive to live. It’s expensive to raise children, it’s expensive to have children. In some cases, it’s too expensive to actually work – if you make just enough to be in debt you probably make too much to get affordable health care. If you can’t get affordable health care, you are most likely doeing without it and that’s a kiss of death. Literally. People are dying of things that could be remedied if caught early, but if they can’t get to a physician for preventive care they may die of tooth decay that breaks the blood-brain barrier. That is actually documented experience.

Back to my wild and precious life…what WILL I do with that? Perhaps I should focus on the wild, perhaps I should focus on the precious. Perhaps I should look for what is both wild AND precious. That might involve some creative design of adventure. I need awe…and wonder. I need unusual, unexpected, and uncommon. I don’t need the ordinary, I need the extraordinary. I need unbridled beauty and unfettered daring. I need…unscripted synchronicity, the attraction of things vibrationally and energetically, rather than intellectually or strategically. I need to draw things to me from the heart, and not from the head.

I’ll get right on that. My head is gainfully engaged with this new job, and I am suddenly less focused on intentionality and meditation. That’s where I need to be. The real work is how to balance the tangible with the intangible, integrating both into singular reality. That makes no sense, and I guess that’s the point. Sense may well be a figment of the intellect and the ego – beauty makes no sense. Music makes no sense. Art makes no sense. Humor makes no sense. I suppose I am trying to incorporate the senseless with the sensible. Both have a place in my reality. When those are not integrated, the chasm between them is where I lose myself. I’m not willing to let that happen again.

The dog has been out, I have had my first cup of coffee. I need to clean up the dog mess in the living room – she apparently has a tiny bladder and more tiny colon, because she relieves the associated organs throughout the night. I don’t know who comes in here and feeds her but she seems to have more excrement than body weight at times. At least she’s getting most of it on the pee-pee pads now, which is nice but still a pain in my derriere. Gotta love her, though – she still makes me laugh.

I’ve been watching a bat conservancy on YouTube, and the bats make me laugh. They are so unusual and kind of creepy in a certain way. They are backwards – they perch upside down, and poop rightside up. They are fascinating creatures, though, and are the only mammals that can fly. Mother Nature is very wondrous, and beauty happens whether we see it or not.

The secretary bird. It can demolish large snakes and kick the daylight out of larger animals. Wild and precious.

I survived

So yeah, another December that I’ve managed to come through unscathed. My sobriety birthday is in December, and my “belly button” birthday is in December. Then, of course, there’s Christmas and that kooky energy. December was always my favorite month because of all of those markers, but since my mother died it feels bittersweet. I have survived the season, but is it enough to merely survive?

Not to worry, though. It was more depressing to know that everything was operating at low energy, if at all. This damned COVID mess is really screwing with me lately, more than in the entire past year. I suppose I’m somewhat bored, but I’m also somewhat angry. WTF are people thinking about having large gatherings and still (tiresomely) refusing to mask or be vaccinated? Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m feeling as though we could be on the verge of liberation from the lowkey lockdown if people would have just cooperated and not made disease prevention a contentious political battle.

These days, however, I really don’t want to waste my time being angry. I want to be moving into some aspect of further recovery, recovery from a long period of not believing in myself. I had help, but it’s on me to believe, it’s on me to have faith. Hopefully, I’m on a road that will never double back on itself. I’m really tired of coming back to the same patterns that never worked in the first place.

I have a video job interview tomorrow, and I’m a little apprehensive but also a little excited. This is for a contract job that may last only through October, but it may be the best way to make a gentle re-entry into the workforce. Because it’s been my pattern to doubt myself and be attached to feeling that I’m not competent, I find it a little scary to contemplate going back into a structured environment with teams and performance evaluations. But, so be it. I have to move from square zero into the checkerboard somehow.

Right now, I’m hungry and doing my best to resist the urge to go out and buy Oreo caramel-coconut cookies. Those are addictive, and I just need to stay away from them because I can’t eat just a couple or even a few more than a couple. I have to eat the entire freaking package – and not a regular package. The “family size” package. I eat for an entire family, so I have no reason to be awed by how much weight I’ve been gaining. Gaining weight as though weight will somehow be unavailable to gain. That’s how nuts my eating compulsion has been. *@%!!!!

Betty White’s death has been a little bit of a downer for me. I love “The Golden Girls”, and consider it a high-quality exampled of comedic artistry, both in writing and acting. I’ve always really liked Bea Arthur, and Rue McClanahan has also been a favorite. Estelle Getty was a surprise, and I came to love her as well. I felt as though I had a longer relationship with Betty White, however, ever since Mary Tyler Moore days. Decision-makers for “The Golden Girls” said they originally intended to cast Betty White as the Blanche character, but abandoned that idea because it might have resembled the Sue Ann Nivens character from Mary Tyler Moore’s show. That, and Rue McClanahan was such a natural as Blanche, so the rest is history. They’re all gone now, all of the Golden Girls have passed on, and it’s been a little trying to watch the reruns lately.

I still don’t do very well with death. What is it? Where do people go when they die? Do they go anywhere at all, or is it just our memories of the past that keep them alive? These are still the questions a child would have, but the pain and vulnerability feel very childlike. Like when you want your mommy to come and kiss your scraped knee and put a bandaid on the hurt place. I don’t have my mommy to do that any longer, and this adulting thing has gotten way out of hand.

This job opportunity is intriguing to me, and as I said, it’s somewhat exciting. I have always worked, since I was at least fifteen, so despite the luxury of not having to be anywhere or be accountable for much of anything lately…that lifestyle is foreign to me. I guess I need to feel productive, as though I am doing something that benefits someone other than myself. Who would have thought???

What comes to mind for me right now is that I have, once again, allowed other people to define me. To define my worth, my abilities, my product. I believe they were entirely wrong, and that last job was a bad fit in terms of culture and process. It felt inhuman, as though I needed to reduce myself to machine status, and that may well be the only thing I am truly incapable of.

So where does any of this leave me? Nothing much has changed, I am still the same person, I have the same limitations and abilities. I’ve been transformation is an inside job, true change is one wrestling with one’s demons. I have been wrestling with these dark overlords for just about my entire life, and I’m still standing. Or reclining, or whatever. But the point is that I have withstood and endured everything handed to me, whether I liked it or not, and I’m still here. To the disgust of many and the amazement of many more, I am still here. And I’m not planning on going anywhere for as long as possible. I claim this land for the queen.

I do wonder what makes things so difficult for some of us, while others seem to glide effortlessly through life’s ups and downs. I am sure there are low points for everyone, but success appears to spell out some names and mangles others. That’s random, I’m sure, but if it wasn’t for bad luck some of us would have none at all. Then again, is it really luck? Am I calling this distress from out of the shadows? If so, what is the lesson? If I comprehend the learning, can I move past this and into the proverbial “sunlight of the Spirit”? I suppose the answer is far beyond my pay grade.

Still to come, the cognitive evaluation. Haven’t heard a word from the wee P.A. yet, but that’s fine. No matter what, I will go through with it, but I’m not looking forward to it. I’m very, very afraid of what this may bring to light. If I am beginning the path to my cognitive dissolution, I still want to know. I’ll be pissed as hell if that is the case, but…bring it. I have nothing to lose at this point. Not one damned thing.

I have a chiropractor’s appointment this afternoon, which is sorely (literally) needed. My left lumbar region is not happy, nor is my neck. It’s my own fault for playing on the computer in such bizarre poses, but we don’t have to delve into how the added weight could be affecting my spinal health. Let’s just not do that and say that we did, and drive on.

Speaking of which, I need new tires. Not tomorrow, but soon. Just finished paying off Firestone for the air conditioner replacement and the oil leak from this past summer. Just in time to make another bill. Such is life during capitalism and free enterprise. Even non-profits have to make money, and Firestone is definitely not a charity. Nor is the health insurance company, or the vehicle insurance company, or the pharmacy, or the grocery store. Life is good.

Doing laundry so that I can leave the apartment is some kind of presentable fashion. Plus, I will need clean clothes for tomorrow’s interview. The recruiter sent me sample questions and let me know how best to prepare. That’s fine. If the job is for me, it’s for me but I suppose I need to play all the games and make a reasonable appearance. Easier said than done, at least for me. I have been wearing the uniform of the unemployed – sweat pants, t-shirts, and bedroom slippers. Sue me.

The apartment complex has workers out doing some kind of maintenance on the outside of all the buildings today, which really doesn’t matter to me. Unfortunately, it matters to the dog because they are bumbling about and have drills and saws whirring and she is nearly hysterical.

I am also hungry, and my meal service delivery has not arrived. It was due yesterday, and I counted on not having to order out today. I may give it just a bit longer to see if it shows up…I tracked the delivery and they said “in transit”, whatever that means. The snow (yes, it snowed and I was happy) may have delayed them. If it’s not here when I leave for the chiropractor, I’ll pick up something or order pizza again. Not the best choice, but a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.

That’s a whole nother question, too. What exactly is it that I gotta do? Big question. The most immediate answers are to clean up this hell hole and take a shower, but that’s too simple. I’ll have to contemplate that more later. Vive le resistance!

Resist the ordinary as though your life depends on it, because it does.

Am I ready?

Today is a day of contemplation and caramel-coconut Oreos, a day of intentional nothingness. I have now watched “It’s A Wonderful Life” three times. Fortunately, it’s my favorite movie. There is no place I need to be or anything I need to do, so it’s just a day without expectations or disappointments.

I am wondering where I am right now, in my heart and in my head. I’m not sure I know the answer, but the more I think about it the more I am convinced that it doesn’t really matter. I am above ground and vertical, thick thighs and cluttered apartment and all. It’s my reality, and I can either accept it or reject it; the latter will be complicated. It’s hard to deny reality.

I am feeling that collectively there is a massive denial of reality, an effort to negotiate with the universe. That doesn’t seem to be productive or even vaguely successful. It only generates friction, which generates heat, which makes us uncomfortable. One would hope that when the discomfort is enough we’d change something, but the human species is incredibly stubborn so it seems that we have a way to go before the revolution.

If there was a revolution, what would that look like? I would love to say it would be the dissolution of elitism and supremacy cultures all over the world, the rise of equity and dignity for all humans. It would be the shiny city on the hill, the Promised Land with appropriately dramatic music and lighting. It would be the stuff that dreams and movies are made of, where the bad guys are vanquished and the good guys prevail. Everything tied up neatly in about 90 minutes with popcorn and a soda. Something tells me that is not the way revolution goes.

The American Revolution didn’t go that way. The Civil War didn’t go that way. The French Revolution, the Bolshevic Revolution, or the Haitian Revolution didn’t go that way. There was cataclysmic change, but not without bloodshed and lives lost and anguish. I’m not sure if the change envisioned was the result or not. But there was change.

It occurs to me there is more than one revolutionary vision in this country right now. The inherent conflict between the visions is propelling us forward, by fits and starts, sometimes forward and sometimes backward. The bloodshed and lives lost and anguish are more our reality than vision for outcome. We are myopic in that way, it seems, becoming enamored of the process rather than the prize. The struggle seems exciting and we become fixated on personal power and will. Perhaps that is what fuels all battles, the personal battle of one person against another, multiplied by thousands.

I am not entirely sure any of the visions are realistic, or attainable. On the one hand we are convinced that reviving the status quo of the past is the only credible goal. But on the other hand, we proclaim that we are seeking radical change. I contend that we don’t truly know what the revolutionary product will be. What does this world look like if everything was repaired and ideal? That may not be something we can realistically achieve.

The universe is not neatly divided into right and wrong, proper and improper. It’s systemss theory on steroids, Jenga on ampehtamines. If you don’t know what you’re doing, or even if you DO know what you’re doing, changing anything can result in disaster. Perhaps the disaster is inevitable, and necessary, to precipitate the ultimate change we’re after. Unfortunately, it’s too frightening to go the distance with changing the systemic infrastructure too much, because we get stuck in the intermediate and temporary results.

I’m not sure if we can get past the intermediate changes. They seem like long-term and permanent changes because they are viewed through our lens of our generation and maybe that of our grandchildren, something we can see. The changes we seek may have to be more permanent, more far reaching, but intentional. We are still very reactionary at this point, and often surprised by the intermediate outcome of something that seemed like a good idea at the time.

Vision for the future has to go beyond simple elongation of the present circumstances. I contend we need to be planning for the unplanned, expecting the unexpected. This is the stuff of science fiction novels, and that creativity is exactly what is needed. Let’s take our current way of life and tear it down on paper, or on a movie set, and run the exercise all the way to the end.

Some of the more interesting apocalyptic visions have been the stuff of bestsellers and first run cinema. “The Matrix” and “Terminator” gave us a dark vision of the extreme outcome of industrialization. They ran the vision to the end, and it was not pretty. Personally, I could see the potential for the fictional reality of both films, and that has been a bit frightening.

Are we willing to do without some of the comforts and automation of our current reality in order to prevent those dark and inhumane post-apocalyptic visions of the future? Probably not. Can we get to a more ideal reality without depriving ourselves of the standard of living we’ve come to enjoy (at least in the Western world)? Are we ready to sacrifice our comfort in order to create a reality we’ll never see? Probably not.

First-nations cultures talk about the seven generations to follow us, and that we need always be cognizant of actions we take now and their impact on the next seven generations. That vision focuses on things like the land, and the natural world. Western culture has talked about at least the next couple of generations, and focuses on indicators such as economic health. Perhaps we need a vision that includes more of what we want, and not simply what we need. I believe we’re going to have to design the world we want to have as our legacy.

We need prophets, visionaries, and creative souls. We need to admit that we don’t know how this is supposed to turn out. We’re going to have to trust that we can be unselfish and humble. The revolution is not going to occur on land, or sea, or in the physical world that we know. It’s going to occur in the human heart and the human spirit. This scares us silly because we cannot touch that, or control it. We don’t trust that we’re all after the same thing, regardless of personal aggrandizement. I’m not sure if we’re up to that anytime soon.

The best thing I know how to do right now is to focus on my intentionality, to know what I’m doing and why. Counter intuitively, I have to slow down. That doesn’t come naturally for many of us on the planet right now. Moving rapidly, at least for me, often means that I don’t have to think about uncomfortable things or things that scare me. I am getting things done, and that’s usually what generates systemic reward. If I don’t understand that I’m part of larger systems, the moves I make will benefit only me. I don’t think such a posture is good enough.

It’s going to take a while to deconstruct the house of cards that has been constructed. THe winds are blowing now, with greater and greater force, and the storm is closer than ever now. The cards are not meant to withstand that, and though we understand that we really have no plan or vision for what happens if the cards are blown away entirely. I believe we need to be working on Plan B – what happens when the house of cards has been thrown to the wind?

I want to see us create a new world that doesn’t rely on recreating the past. A new world that is reality based, leverage on natural laws and universal laws and our own imperfections. It’s folly to envision a world where people are perfect, because we’re never going to be perfect. It may be more prudent to create a world where people respond to their imperfections with humility and flexibility rather than lies and subterfuge. But what do I know?

Everything is changed after the storm.

The holidaze

It’s time for people to act stoopit. It’s the winter holiday season, which is truly a holley daze. It’s different this year, though, what with COVID and all. Not sure how many people will be putting a pack of masks under the tree, though. When I was a kid, there was always the cadre of aunt and great-aunts who always gifted underwear or socks for Christmas. Except for that one great-aunt who gave me that medieval battle set with a working catapult; my favorite gift of all time.

Anyway, it’s a weird time for a lot of people, myself included. It’s been a little odd for me since my mother died. We had traditions for Thanksgiving and Christmas, even before I had moved away from home. Until she died, I had never in my life missed spending a Thanksgiving or Christmas with my mother. Even when things were tense between us, even when I had a hangover and had to throw up in the restuarant bathroom, we were somehow together on those days. The loss is palpable more than three years after her death; it may always be.

Christmas was always my favorite, because my birthday was so close to it. Everyone was well trained to not attempt the “one big present for Christmas AND your birthday”. I did not play that for as long as I can remember. They were accustomed to my willfulness, from the beginning – I was supposed to come on or before Christmas, but I didn’t show up. The next logical estimate for delivery was January 1st, but I didn’t come then either. I came in between, on the 29th, and that’s the facts, Jack. I did it my way, and it was a rough ride, so don’t be tryin’ to combine gift events.

My sobriety anniversary is also in December, on the 7th, and that is certainly a day that shall live in infamy. For a few months I thought the day I last drank was January 6th, but friends who were in my orbit that night said it was the 7th 33 years ago, so there you have it. The free world thanks me.

This is going to be a holiday period of contemplation and reflection for me, I think. I have been on the job hunt again, and a friend in recovery helped me redesign my resume’. I put this new one out there in the online search engines, and it looks as though I had a little interest. I am waiting on a recruiter for a company to schedule an interview for me with the IT hiring manager. He said it would probably be after the first of the year, so I’m OK with that.

I’m OK with waiting on the interview, but of course that gives me a lot of time to go into the usual self-doubt territory. They will know I can’t do the job as soon as I open my mouth, I surmise. They will see me as being too old and want more details about why I departed my last job. I will stick my foot in my mouth. Specific technical questions will be asked that I cannot answer. And so on, and so on, and so fucking on. That makes me really tired.

Right now, I am taking self-doubt as just a part of how I roll, just a small piece of who I am. It seems that I need to accept that and drive on. That seems to be working reasonably well, until the sun goes down and the night is dark and I have solitary time on my hands. I’m not sleeping incredibly well, but more days than not I wake up feeling as though I actually slept. I think my average is five-six hours, and that’s much better than two or three hour naps in sequence.

I’ve been having odd dreams, some of which I don’t remember days later, but I know that I’ve had them. That leads me to believe that not only do I have some things going on in my sub-conscious mind, but I am sleeping deeply enough to allow the journey. One night I dreamed that I wrecked my truck not one, not two, not three but FOUR times in succession. It was very weird. I was told long ago that driving dreams or vehicular accident dreams signify issues with control. That would make sense, because right now I feel as though my life is mostly out of control. Go figure.

The whole planet is out of control, though. Kyle Rittenhouse is becoming a star of the conservative crowd since his acquittal for…I don’t even know exactly what. Suffice it to say he was not convicted for acts that resulted in the death of two people at a protest march in Kenosha WI. As with the OJ verdict many years ago, it seems there was a demographic split in folks’ reactions to the verdict. More Black/African-Americans and people of color seemed to land unequivocally on the side of doubting his innocence and convinced of his guilt. More whites seemed to land on the side of giving him the benefit of the doubt, or believing his self-defense trial strategy. And so it goes. The twain may never meet.

The trial of Kim Potter, the former police officer in Minneapolis who mistook her firearm for a taser and killed Daunte Wright, has ended. The jury is showing all indications that it may be deadlocked on a verdict. Any verdict has to be unanimous, apparently, and the jurors have been wrestling with the evidence and their options for conviction. Potter herself testified, and sobbed uncontrollably during parts of her testimony. Some I’ve spoken with believe her remorse to be sincere, and give her the benefit of the doubt that a veteran officer could have confused a taser with a firearm. Others, however, are convinced her tears are disingenuous, and an obvious attempt to influence the jury. They believe she was displaying a sincere sense of remorse. Once again, the dividing line for those opposite sentiments appears to be racial, with people of color more likely to believe that she’s full of the brown stuff, while dominant culture folks are more likely to believe that she made a horrible mistake for which she is genuinely remorseful. *sigh*

I don’t believe the Rittenhouse trial should have yielded no legal consequences for him. He shouldn’t have had the gun in the first place, since when it was purchased by his mommy it was illegal for him to have it because of his age. He shouldn’t have had the gun at a public event that was likely to have confrontations and unrest. He shouldn’t have thought he was the avenging angel for unnamed businesses that were going to be looted and demolished – that was a conspiracy myth perpetrated by white supremacy groups to throw shade on their mortal enemy Black Lives Matter supporters. I don’t understand why there was absolutely no consequence for this little twerp, and yeah I do believe that if he had been a Black kid he would never have made it to trial. He was openly carrying the assault rifle he came there with, and had it been a Black person the Kenosha police would most likely have shot him dead before finding out that he was “trying to protect businesses”.

In the case of Kim Potter, I don’t quite know what to think. I would hate to find out that she acted to purposefully kill Daunte Wright. I would hate to find out that her tears were simply a good acting job. I know police incidents are generally loud, and chaotic, and disorienting. Unfortunately, if you are carrying a lethal weapon I would hope your training allowed you to maintain your faculties enough to realize that a taser does not weigh the same as a firearm. It’s hard for me to fathom that such a thing, even in the fog of combat, could happen. But the story is almost too fantastic to be summarily disbelieved. As so it goes. Again.

The cases of Kyle Rittenhouse and Kim Potter are just the latest in the slew of police-involved killings in America over the past few years. That’s where the problem really emerges, because if it was not for COVID right now, we might be in full-on hostilities on our streets. Because of COVID, people are not willing to take on a physical battle over race; they are content to die on the hill of a piece of fabric that should cover the nose and mouth. The anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers are annoying, in my book. It’s about control, and “you can’t make me do something I don’t want to do because I have rights”. This is about “I’m not eating my vegetables and I’ll hold my breath until I turn blue”. So be it, but it seems awfully silly.

I don’t care if someone else doesn’t want to mask or get the vaccine. That’s fine, but just stay the hell away from me. No, you can’t come into this place of business without a mask and/or a vaccine. No, I don’t believe your claim of medical exemption that excuses you from wearing a mask. If you were really that sensitive to risks like COVID you wouldn’t be in a public place in the first place. You’d want to stay away from people without masks more than just about anyone else, on the outside chance that all the reports about risk ARE true.

So, I’m one of those people who figures that on the outside chance the information we have about COVID is all true I’m staying home as much as I can. No big crowds, in fact no indoor gatherings with more than 10 people (like at the beginning of all this). I have been poked in the arm three separate times with the Pfizer vaccine, and consider it a small price to pay for even a hint of prevention. I still mask when indoors. I limit my time in public areas as much as possible. I consider all of those mitigation measure a choice that I am more than willing to make. I’m certainly not going to be dredging up a cough to make other people uncomfortable if I can’t get my way about not wearing a mask in a public accommodation. Grow up, y’all.

Christmas Day for me will probably be spent like my other days have been spent lately, communing with the dog and watching multiple episodes of NCIS: New Orleans. If the weather is nice, I may go for a drive in the mountains or something. If I’m smart, I’ll clean up a bit because this place now has a decorating scheme that I call “Early Crack House”. *sigh*

We’ll go on, and some of us will sputter and raise hell about going on, but it will be what it’s going to be. I’ll wait and see. Hopefully, I will be pleasantly surprised with a job offer in January, or at least with descending rates of COVID infection. Having a job would change a lot of things for me right now, and I am so overjoyed to even have the prospect of employment. Seriously.

Happy whatever you’re having. Or not.

I’m too old for this

Ya know, I am not going gently into the good night of aging. I’m frustrated and annoyed that I’m just now figuring out that some of the “failures” I’ve had along the way may not be entirely my fault. It’s not even a question of forgiving myself, just having the benefit of more information.

For instance, I have known for a long time that I have strengths and challenges (I started off saying “weaknesses” but thought better of it). There are certain things I get easily, and certain things I can bang my head on the well of knowledge and all I will get from that is a headache. Same as everybody else.

I’m just now coming to terms with how I learn, and that it’s on the fringes of the common style. I need to have a new lesson shown to me before I can begin to learn it. Show me what the outcome is supposed to be, and then leave me alone and let me put my hands on it, wiggle it around a few times, experiment a tiny bit. It’s not instantaneous, and it may take me a few revolutions of practice before I can demonstrate that I’ve learned the lesson. Furthermore, if I don’t repeat it often, I will sometimes forget it for a time until I can reorient myself.

That’s not a totally aberrant style of learning, but it’s not terribly common, at least in business anyway. It’s one of the reasons I couldn’t fit there, but I didn’t understand that fully. They said I had a lack of follow-through and lacked a sense of urgency. What the fuck ever, y’all. Just a polite way of saying they had written me off as a slacker at best, and a dunce at worst.

I believe I lacked the self-awareness to demand better, if not simply different, ways to work in that environment. They are so full of self-inflated value to the organization that anyone who gets a complaint about being too slow, or too forgetful, gets a black mark and put on a list somewhere. Being on a black mark list in corporate America is not a good thing. It means you’re being separated from the herd. Eventually you’ll get picked off.

I got picked off, and it’s the way it was supposed to be. My time without a formal job has given me time to learn things like this and to become more self-aware and more self-respectful. For that, I’m very grateful. But…if you’re listening Universe…I think I have some competence now, so a job offer would be really groovy.

Anyway, the world could use a time-out like the one I’ve had, where you don’t have to be grinding away at something you truly believe does not matter in the general scheme of things. That’s when work becomes drudgery, and you question why the hell you’re still doing the same thing and expecting different results. Nations continuing to uphold their status quo are not becoming more self-aware, they are holding on to tradition and past successes without understanding things have changed. The planet has changed, resources have changed, ideas have changed. Accordingly, how we all fit together has changed drastically and we need new paradigms.

I’ve had a couple of experiences lately; maybe more than a couple. Similar things may have occurred all along, but if I wasn’t aware enough to notice I missed them. I found a book in my cluttered living room the other day that made me giggle a bit. It was Thich Nhat Hanh’s book The Miracle of Mindfulness. (If there’s a way to underline on WordPress, I’m totally missing it, so bold will have to do.)

I giggled when I found that book, a brand new paperback that had never been opened because I realized a long-ago good intention of becoming more mindful. I bought the book at a UU national conference many years ago, but, well…the impetus to explore mindfulness flew the coop. But the coop is still there, and the impetus has come home to roost.

Over the past year, I’ve become more interested in mindfulness, and have been attempting to learn about it and find ways to experience it. For me, it has a lot to do with setting my intention for moving through the world. Then, I do what is bidden by my intention and pay attention to whether that is in the right relationship with my environment.

For me, this is easier said than done, because I often forget my intention moments after setting it. I’m sure I am not alone, but it can be frustrating to experience that constantly. It seems to go a little better when I meditate on the intention, but I remain prone to flapping about and gesturing obscurely after setting it. Ah, well…more practice is necessary.

While contemplating the pursuit of more mindfulness, I have been dealing with the tiny new psychiatric resource. She’s a nice lady who I fear may break if I speak too loudly, but I have no reason to doubt her competence. She’s not my primary therapist and I only need her to do medication management, but there’s a bit of wholistic effort that needs to occur. She has to see the whole picture of who I am and how I am so that she understands precisely how I should be medicated.

I’ve been on the same anti-depressants for a while now, but for the past few months, I’ve had some breakthrough low-level depression. So, we’re dealing with that. I also let her know, as I have with my other medical professionals and my therapist, that I don’t feel “sharp” these days. I forget things more often than ever, which is unnerving (especially since I have less to remember than ever). I told her about a similar conversation with my neurologist, wherein I explained how frightened I am that I am beginning to slowly move into the beginning of dementia as my mother did. This is about the same age my mother started to decline very subtly until there was no way to treat it or compensate for it. I don’t want that to happen to me.

Somewhere in the midst of discussing the lack of “sharpness” and the memory issues, the nice lady started talking about things like ADHD. My ears pricked up because I had talked with the previous psychiatric resource about that. After a fairly long talk about the possibility that I had symptoms of ADHD that could be causing memory problems and the mild brain fogginess I am experiencing.

So, the first suggestion was a Ritalin-like drug, which I declined almost immediately because it is a stimulant. I don’t need the possibility of more addiction triggers, so thanks but no thanks. Next, she suggested a non-prescription “medical supplement” called LumaTC that I might want to try. I looked it up and found nothing scary about it. I consulted with my neurologist, who likewise said there didn’t seem to be anything contained in the ingredients that would cause me any problems, so…off I went to order it. It’s not covered by insurance, of course, but I paid for it and they sent it immediately. I started taking it as soon as it arrived, but it hasn’t been a full week since I began so I am reserving judgment. It has a lot of B-vitamins in it, and that can’t be all bad.

So, the next step was to have an ADHD test, which she ordered. The office called to schedule, and it was supposed to happen this past Monday. I arrived at the designated time and waited. The front desk lady said, “Before you pay, let me just make sure of some things…how old are you?” I said 60, almost 61, but wondered why she was asking since my records indicate date of birth and so on. She then called another staff member, who rather officiously joined her at the front desk. They bumped their foreheads together on the computer monitor. Hmmm.

After a couple of minutes, the dynamic duo called me back to the desk to explain that I was actually too old to take the ADHD test; it’s more commonly given to people under 60. The officious one said it might not be accurate if they gave it to someone over 59 years, 12 months, and 31 days. WTF???

They checked with the little one who had ordered the test, and then asked me if I remember her mentioning anything about the age limit. I wanted to laugh when they asked if I remembered – that’s why I’m wanting to have the test because I cannot remember shit. CRS = Can’t Remember Shit, and I have it. I said I vaguely remembered that age had been mentioned but I thought that was about whether or not the insurance was going to pay for it or not.

More bumping of heads and muttering, then they decided it was essentially futile to perform the test. I was crushed. It must have shown because I don’t have a poke face AT ALL. The less officious of the two looked at me intently, and when our eyes met, I spontaneously coughed out, “I just want to know what’s wrong with me.”

That was a surprise. I did not realize how “wrong” I feel these days. That kind of sucks, but no wonder I am having breakthrough depression. I wrote a note to my primary therapist about it, and we’ll talk about it. I have another appointment with the tiny one in two weeks, so I am sure we’ll talk about it as well.

My normally delayed processing has revealed some feelings of aggravation concerning this abortive transaction on Monday. Do these folks not talk to each other? Do they not read the patient notes when there’s a test with exceptions they will perform, maybe to be sure the patient in question can be tested? Again…WTF? The crushing feeling didn’t last all that long, but it’s there in slightly reduced intensity. I’m glad it’s low-level but still annoying that I have it at all.

So, I have returned to circling the landing strip for a bit longer. I’m wondering if my feelings of “wrongness” will ever go away, which I can handle (since I’ve been handling it most of my life). Maybe this is just a part of me figuring out more about who I am. The imposter syndrome makes me wonder if I really have been faking competence my whole life and I’m simply losing the energy to keep up the con any longer. Ugh. I am going to have to figure this stuff out myself, as usual.

There is more to say, but I’m tired now. I’m sure it’s my age. The poppies…the poppies will put me to sleep. The poppies at this point are snack foods and maybe lunch, so off I go into the wild yonder that is my kitchen. I will take a big stick or a machete (which I will have to acquire somehow), just in case I need to clear a path.

Lowering my expectation of the aging process – I just want to remember what to do when I feel the urge to go to the bathroom.

Hope, hopefully

I was incredibly frustrated a few days ago following the disastrous one-way video interview I submitted in search of a job. It was a terrible offering, and I wouldn’t have hired me based on that. The experience brought me down quite a bit, and I began feeling sure that I would probably never work again – nobody wants to hire aging progressive thinkers with multiple double-chins and who cusses like a sailor. We’re done, it’s over, there is no hope.

Somewhere at the bottom of that bowl of depression and self-pity, I sent out an esoteric flare, a call for help to the cosmos. Yeah, that might sound a bit odd, but that’s how I roll and I had to do SOMEthing. I was sinking fast and low and I know how that wave turns out. It turns inward and erodes what progress I have made and what resources I have accrued, and I can’t afford that right now (or really, at any time). Hence, the flare and call for assistance. HELP! I’m sinking here!

When I send out those flares, there is rarely an immediate response, and never disguised as a miraculous or something spontaneous that doesn’t require more action on my part. It takes a few days, at least in my time, but there’s always a response if I have my eyes and ears open. The response is rarely what I expect, or how I expect it, but it always comes.

The answer that presented itself was definitely not what I expected, but I am grateful nonetheless. I shared the interview experience, quite casually, in an AA meeting and people nodded knowingly. Later, however, someone in attendance contacted me and offered help in looking at my resume’ and discussing strategy for putting myself “out there” optimally. This is not someone I would never have thought had such expertise or would be in a position to help with writing a resume’ or job searching. Shows you what I know.

The traditional winter holidays are a little rough these past few years, and I don’t talk about it much so as not to be Debbie Downer with friends. Since my mother died, these winter holidays have taken on an entirely different complexion for me. I always spent Thanksgiving and Christmas with my mother in one way or another, either her visiting me or me visiting her. I had never been without my mother on a winter holiday since I was born, until she died in 2017. So…no what?

Well, a friend began inviting me to spend Thanksgiving with her and her family in 2017, which remains one of the kindest things I’ve ever had occur. The COVID lockdown has interrupted that, but her door is still open. That has meant the world to me. When it seems as though everyone else has a family to be with on that day, her table is big enough for one more.

This morning, I attended an online session led by a NY minister that I know. She’s actually from South Carolina, and I met her doing work in the UU district that once included NC and SC, and she has remained someone I follow. She hosts a session from her NY congregation called “Rising Strong”, and it’s about lots of things we’re encountering in the strange world of today. This morning it was about joy.

Her remarks about joy were exactly what I needed, about how joy and happiness are not the same thing, just as grief and sorrow are not equivalent. I recalled that when I have experienced happy feelings, they are very good and powerful and usually reaction to something that has pleased me. When the Saints win a football game, that usually causes me to feel happiness. Eating a good meal with friends, having good conversation, listening to good music causes me to react with happiness.

Joy is more a full-bodied experience for me, however. When I had “the talk” with my mother on her literal death bed, I experienced a lightening of my spirit and a release of long-held emotions of sorrow and regret, and when I recall that hospice room and her bedside I experience that same embodiment of release again. It’s not something I have to recall in my thought, it’s something I re-experience in my body. That’s the difference.

The session earlier was exactly what I needed for today, and that gave me joy. I was happy and glad that I had chosen to attend, but I experienced joy from the release of feeling heavy and stuck. I didn’t just feel happy, I was joyful.

I suppose being joyful in the wake of feeling burdened and grieving is so important because it signifies there is hope for continued better times. When I felt that release of spiritual baggage at my mother’s bedside, I had gained hope that life would go on, that I was not stuck at that place on the journey. When I have happiness, I don’ t have that clarity, and the feelings of sorrow and unhappiness eventually return.

It may be that more joy edges out more grief and sorrow. I had sorrow that I lost my job, that my mother died, that my last dog had to be euthanized. The grief was living in m y body, however, and that just fed the sorrow. I did not feel as though anything would be really be alright ever again. I stopped crying over those incidents fairly quickly after a few weeks, but I had no hope that I would soon be “recovered”.

When I am grieving, I am waiting for release, waiting for something I cannot even visualize, waiting for relief. I do not feel as though everything is going to be OK, I do not feel as though I will ever be the same, I do not feel as though I will ever have happiness, much less joy. Sorrow appears to pass, but grief seems to pull up a chair and put its feet up. It gets very comfortable, and hunkers down for the long haul.

If I’m not open to the unexpected, to what might interrupt the grief train, I’m going to be stuck there. It’s not a good place to be, there’s no light and the darkness shades everything. It’s hard to shine your light when there’s a shroud over the bulb.

Sometimes I have to consciously remember to be hopeful, but sometimes I am treated to reminders I didn’t expect. Those unexpected nudges can make the difference between making a permanent solution for a temporary problem, between washing away my own footsteps in the sand. I need to see those so that I remember where I came from, and that I didn’t start here.

There’s a wild fire not far from where I live today, on the mountain I can see from from here. It’s an iconic mountain, and the only one within at least 100 miles that can be seen with average eyesight in this area. It cannot be seen at night, but I know it’s there. It has an energy of its own, and thinking of a fire there makes me sad. The fire is close enough to bring some haze to our skies, so the air quality isn’t great. But, it is what it is and I just hope there’s no loss of life (human or animal).

Off to rewrite my resume’, or at leas rewrite the draft of the draft of the draft of the first draft. I hate rewriting things. I always think of more things to say then reverse my thought process and become convinced that I need fewer things to say. It will be OK. What’s for me is for me, but I just have to do the legwork. Unfortunately, I just want to take a nap.

Somewhere out there, there’s a light…keep heading toward it.