Sunday, May 20, 2018

Lament

I've been listening to podcasts. It started on the weekends but has been slowly replacing most of my news consumption. I listen to a few that aren't newsy. Ana Marie Cox does With Friends Like These on which she has the kind of conversations I long to have. Recently she had a conversation with Chris Stedman who identifies as a public atheist.
In my life I've participated in a number of different religions and philosophies. I remember deep spiritual feeling from my earliest childhood. These days I say I believe in God but I don't know what I mean by that. There is often an apt distinction made between religious and spiritual. But these days neither of those really fits. I believe in something. I believe that a butterfly flapping its wings may cause a shift in weather patterns. There are forces impacting us all the time. Political, social and probably mysterious. What I'm not sure about is whether I believe in a responsive personal force.
There's a problematic intersection in my feeling about God and my romantic longings. It's one of the saddest things in my identity. I have felt like meeting someone who could love me would require(s) divine intervention. In many ways this is about being fat but I know too many fat women with wonderful loving relationships to truly believe that. I think it has more to do with my absent father and inappropriately affectionate stepfather. Or some combination of difficult psychology and social bad faith.
I've been suffering a crush on a guy. I'm not sure how it happened. It developed slowly and is based on a physical reaction. I don't know him. The very little experience I have of him leads me to believe that we would have very little in common. At first it was just fun to enjoy feeling attracted to someone. Eros. It feels good. And then I started deteriorating. Because I do want a relationship. So I began to wish that he could be someone who he isn't. I began to write dialogue that would result in a surprise happy connection. Oddly, he doesn't seem to have received his script. I'd like to own the hurt that I am feeling because in a very real way it has nothing to do with him.
There is another episode of Friends Like These on which she talks about a column on sex robots and incels. She says something about people not knowing what incels are and ... I didn't. I looked it up. It's about feeling oneself to be an involuntary celibate. At first I thought - oh that's me! But no. It's not me at all. It's about a kind of entitlement that I don't understand at all. It's angry and violent.
Wanting something that isn't available to you is just no fun. It's no fun materially but we sort of have a place for that. Maybe we feel like if we work hard enough we can get things. Or we just feel resentful and we pout. I feel like certain things are a right. Food, education, health care, housing.  And certain things are just about process. We have a process toward realizing what we want.
Love isn't guaranteed. I don't think it should be. I never understand the - you deserve - lines. I don't think we earn or are entitled to love or any expression of feeling from anyone else. We just live in our individual process and sometimes we (pardon the expression) get lucky. Or we don't.
There have been men who loved me. There have been men who brought me roses. Thinking about them makes me sadder than thinking about the men who didn't. Why has it never felt right? Why am I always asking why? I feel like I've worked on this for years and I don't feel like I've gotten very far.
But not long ago I had a strong feeling of ... well ... I'm not sure what. Something like wholeness and peace. I don't know why it happened and I don't know why it eludes me today. It may be in part about this boy drama but ... I'm not sure that's all it is. It may be early birthday blues. Maybe it was too much poetry. It may just be a part of who I am. It certainly has been.
So.
There's no where to go with all this. No easy resolve. I know I'm not alone in these feelings. Not that that helps. I know these feelings will fade. Sort of fall back. Not bite so hard into my day. I am trying to find a way to hold them.
But.
They suck.
I'm not sure I believe in a responsive personal force. Does the butterfly flap its wings and cause the wind or does the wind call to the butterfly, asking for a push?

Monday, April 30, 2018

My Month of Poems

I don't know if I came up with this idea or if I read it somewhere but I wanted to post a poem a day for the month of April, which is National Poetry Month. I remembered kind of late on the first and went straight to the Duino Elegies. There are poems, specific lines from poems that live in me. I can grab them at will. I wasn't sure I could get through the month.
It became immediately obvious that I needed a plan. I didn't know if many people would read a whole poem but I did think they might read a line or two. I feel like many of us hold a line or two from a poem in our heads (hearts). So I carved out fragments, which ended up being so much fun. A fragment that stands alone often changes and doesn't even call out the rest of the poem. There were a few times when I posted a whole poem. I posted part of The Red Wheelbarrow even though the whole poem would have fit because if you read or study poetry you probably have your own version of that one. I was kind of hoping people might post theirs. Some poets write in long lines and I didn't even want to carve lines.  It was a challenge. Uncle Walt does not write in Tweets. I only broke one line, the line from Howl.
Awhile ago I asked R to move my poetry shelve down so I could reach it. I don't know why I put it up so dang high in the first place. A month or so ago I moved it again. Now the poetry is right beside me when I sit in my little library. The nest had poetry books scattered about all month. I have one book of poems many of which are old school. I was surprised by how many of them I knew and how much of them I knew by heart, like the Song of Hiawatha. Similarly one night I woke up reciting the Gettysburg address. I know way more of it than I would have imagined. I think memorizing poetry, bible verses and such was a big deal when I was a kid. I may get a word or two wrong.
The best part of the whole month was "meeting" Sparrow. I've been reading Sparrow for years, Mostly in The Sun. I went looking for him on the Google machine because I wanted to include one of his poems and found him on Twitter. I followed him right away and .... he followed me back!!! It really made me happy.
It was fun to see who responded to what. Jabberwocky got the most response. I'm not sure everyone saw everything because of the way Facebook and Twitter feeds move. Today, the last day I posted a poem of my own. I write so few. They usually come to me fully formed. I may work on them a little but not much. I'm not trying to be a poet. 
I never really know what to do on Twitter. This was a lot of fun. I'm not sure if I'll do it again but there were a lot of poets I would have could have used. I just liked the nightly ritual of looking for a poem.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

The Tub

I just finished a book of essays by Lawrence Weschler:Vermeer in Bosnia in which he wrote a portrait of Roman Polanski. I've only ever been peripherally aware of Polanski. I've seen a few movies and liked them well enough. I've just never had a strong interest. The essay felt like vague cultural memories for me. I did know he cannot be in the USA because he was charged and convicted for having sex with a thirteen year old girl. I did not know much about the case. If weren't for the strength of Weschler's writing I might not have read the whole piece.
Polanski's mother died in Auschwitz. His father was also interred and Roman lived rough until after the war when he was reunited with his father. In the essay there is a conversation in which Polanski doesn't accept that the thirteen year old was a child. He says she was almost fourteen, as if that makes a huge difference. But Polanski had been watching people being shot in the street when he was fourteen. That must have skewed his sense of maturity.
The trial is fraught with complication. There was the character of the time when everyone was still working through the perimeters of free love. There's a he said/she said quality about the whole thing and finally a punitive judge who may have been "over sentencing." I don't actually have an opinion about any of it. It's too messy. I do feel that Polanski, seen in the context of his early life and the culture at the time of the event, comes off as more of a cad than a lech.
I've been having a lot of mixed feelings about the Me Too movement. I wrote my own story because I believe our stories bring light into shadows. But it's been such a barrage of revelations. And I have been more sad than mad about many of the men. I was really bummed to hear about John Hockenberry, who it seems is a big jerk. I'm always going to feel like Al Frankin was tossed under a bus. His actions seem like a cross between stupid frat boy behavior and a kind of obtuseness. Garrison Keeler? I don't even know what the issues were. Louis CK? I feel like his act was organized around inappropriateness. He's been asking all of us to watch him with his hand in his pants and we have because it was so funny and human.
In a recent Harper's there is a piece in which Katie Roiphe talks about an editor of the The Paris Review who "had resigned under a cloud of acknowledged sexual misconduct." He had also been an advocate for women writers in the Review. Reading a tweet that celebrated his resignation the Roiphe writes that of the many things that could be felt about the end of his era as the editor, celebration was not one. 
Years ago a friend was visiting and I asked her if she wanted to watch one of the few movies I own. She didn't want to watch it because it was a Woody Allen movie. I had been gifted the disc and didn't really know it was an Allen movie. Again, I've never been a huge fan so I've never been overly interested in his story. He always felt a little creepy and I believe his step daughter's account. But I was slightly taken aback at the idea of boycotting his work.
I feel like we've lived for so long in a world where we accepted the bad faith behavior of men. Boys will be boys. At some point in life I stopped believing that and hoped for an awakening. The Me Too movement feels like an awakening but it also often feels like a hammer. In ending the silence of women to speak about what's happened to them we've created another kind of silencing. We allow no measure of consideration. There's a baby and there's bath water but there's also a tub. I'm always interested in the tub. I want to know about the scene of the crime. What is the context? I think there is a difference in the behavior of a man who created an unsafe environment at work and a man who did some goof ball grabbing. The difference is not about right and wrong. They're both wrong. It's about context. Does it matter if a girl is thirteen or fourteen when an older man seduces her? Not really. But there is a difference between seduction and rape. And again. The difference is not about right or wrong.
I think accountability matters, I'm just not sure what the shape of it should be.
In my work on the events of my life I have sought truth and healing. First and foremost my own but also in my relationships. It's been hard for me to accept when the other person won't or cant meet me in the process. I will always feel that I paid a huge price for someone else's bad faith. But I also became who I am. None of that can be measured or accounted for in conventional terms. Way too many moving parts. None of it ends up as easy narrative. 
Awakenings are fraught. When someone has been silenced they want to be the only voice in the room for awhile and that makes sense. But we can't just disappear people. Roiphe writes that being able "to hold a lot of opposites in our minds seems to be what the movement calls for, to tolerate and be honest about the ambiguities." Holding the tension of opposites is always where I feel the truest truth lives. It feels like the place where the healing lives.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Decline

Years ago a friend of mine drove through California visiting her siblings. Since (at that time) I lived in the middle of the state, she also stopped to visit me. I asked how the sibs were and she said they were at the age when they stood around talking about their ailments. I thought it was funny. I was in the early stages of that age.
I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about and talking about my ailments. It's just so boring to be obsessed with the minutia of one's body. Organs and joints and skin all clamoring for attention. Pain usually defining what gets the attention but the effort to keep things from getting worse also absorbs a lot  time.
Barbara Ehrenreich has a new book coming out in April. There's a bit of it in this months Harper's. She writes about a man who works out before work and after work just to "keep going". It reminded me of a story from Being Mortal in which Dr. Gawande meets a man having a very difficult surgery because he believes he will be back to paying tennis afterwards. If the surgery goes well he may have less pain and more mobility but he will never play tennis again. He's reached a point in aging where there's only so much better he can get. Considering the risks of the surgery he might be better off accepting some limitation. Ehrenreich writes with her searing lucidity, her PhD in cellular immunology and critique of capitalism. The piece is titled Running to the Grave.
Heh.
In America if something happens with your health (good or bad) it's because of something you ate or didn't eat. Exercise you did or didn't do. An attitude you maintained or didn't maintain. It's not part of life in a body. It's a task list for prevention. And hey ... there's always a product to buy. 
I listen to Parker Palmer on Moyers years ago over and over. He talks about the moment in aging when you have to accept what you will no longer be able to do. And how important it is to weed through how much of what we wish for is a learned desire. My first experience of this was visiting a friend of mine in the hospital after the birth of her first child. Dad went home to clean up and Mom went to the bathroom. I sat with the beautiful boy in my arms and it hit me that I would never have my own baby. Even if I could have pushed through the problems of my age (I was 50) I didn't have financial means to care for a child. I had grown up without a father present. I didn't want to give that experience to a child. The grief that hit me was overwhelming.
I just read the Ruth Reichl memoir of her mother. She frames her mother's life in the ideas that were so constricting in her mother's time. To be successful a woman needed to be married and have children. Ruth's mother was never at home in those roles. Her anger and frustration made everyone around her miserable.  At the end of her life with her husband dead and her children off in their own lives she had the freedom to be herself.
I've questioned if my desires for children and a partner are just something I learned. I love children and I love having them around. I'm not sure if I would have loved the relentless demand of raising them. I have never wanted to be married (too obedient to the state) but I have longed for a relationship. Although I'm very clear that at this point it would be a challenge to have someone in my life, I still pine and suffer from time to time.
Most of the take away (for me) from the Parker/Moyers conversation is about holding the tension of what you want and what you have. Not being an un-grounded, affirmation, positive thinker and not living in despair. Holding the tension of what seems to be oppositional. He calls the place of that tension the tragic gap. It may sound dire but it feels so real to me. Solidly real.
I'm don't hate the white hair and the wrinkles but I'm not sanguine about the stiffness in my joints, the slowing of my mind, the limits of my digestive system. My wobbly chin bothers me sometimes. Having lived though the mommie's decline, which in many ways was surprising, I am often overwhelmed by thoughts of what will probably be the cause of my death. I find myself imaging all sorts of horrors and harp a bit on the fact that I live in a right to die state. Sometimes I feel like I just want to get it over with but then ...
I went swimming a different pool yesterday. I had a view of the river and the rolling green hills of Dalles Port. The clouds were putting on their best fluffy show. The pool was warm and soothing. Beauty and comfort go a long way. I want a lucid open hearted acceptance of however decline may shape itself. I don't want to be driven by fear. I feel I may lean too much on an acceptance of death but ... I always have.
I swim. I read. I cook. Is that enough? I think it might be. I guess we'll see.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Reread

I just finished Rereadings, a book of essays by a few different writers (some of my favorite) on rereading favorite books. I loved most of it. I balked when reading Lopate on Stendhal because I haven't read Stendhal and it was frustrating. I need to stop reading books that add to my need to read list. At least until I catch up with what I already have. Stendhal is someone I feel I should read but may never. Same goes for Henry James. Reading about them makes me feel the urge. I will admit to being a bit intimidated by them. Maybe someday.
Patricia Hampl has an essay in the book, which sent me on an often repeated quest. It would be silly to say I don't have a lot of books. I have a lot of books. It just doesn't seem like I have so many that I should regularly lose them. And I do. My books have never been more organized. Yet I'm always standing in front of my shelves looking for a book. I am very sure I read her book: I Could Tell You Stories but I cannot find it. Frustrating. I recently lost one of Fadiman's books: ExLibris. I found it on a shelf with mostly Spanish/English dictionaries. Sometimes a book is on a shelf because that's where it fits. 
I was visiting my father once. (I barely knew him.) (I spent less than a year in presence.) (But that's another post.) So I was visiting and found a copy of In Cold Blood on a shelf. His wife at the time (he had six) was a reader of sorts. For lack of anything else to read I read it. I don't really remember what I thought about it. Years later I was assigned it in a class on non fiction writing. It was illuminating to read it again in that context. AND THEN ... I was assigned it in my MFA program. When I saw the movie: Capote I felt like I was never going to get away from the story. It is a masterful book. But of all the books in the world I might reread! TWICE!!!! I mean. Sigh.
Didion wrote about the night her husband John Dunne died. She was making dinner, he was rereading a book because he was trying to understand it mechanically. Their entire relationship feels so romantic to me, right up till the end. It's the romance of reading and writing and thinking about reading and writing and having someone to talk to about reading and writing.
I'm not sure I get the mechanics of writing when I read. Maybe sometimes but it doesn't come easily to me. Rereading does give you the distance to notice things like structure. I was also assigned The Color Purple years after I read it for pleasure. Reading it in the context of a class changed the way I felt about it. Not in a positive or negative way. I remember thinking that I hadn't really noticed the epistolary form the first time. I was just caught up in the story.
I was just talking to Val (well actually writing to Val but it feels like talking) about rereading and loving books. I have friends who only read for pleasure and I am not the least bit critical of that. Sometimes I enjoy a book so much I forget to notice the writing but not often. I would blame my MFA program but it's always been that way. In fact I was dismayed by how few of the people in my program read. Or loved reading. Or loved books.
I was staying at a friend's house once. She loved Herman Hesse. She had really sweet little collection of his books on her dresser, shrine like. I don't remember her reading much else or having many other books. I had loved him in high school. Loved! Felt like his books were road maps to life. One night I carefully picked up one of her books and ... kind of hated it. I don't even remember which one or exactly why I felt that way but it was a terrible feeling. It was like a love of my life had been smashed. I intend to read something by him again just to see if I can figure it out, if I can ever stand to feel those feeling again. Vivian Gornick has an essay in Rereadings that says something similar about her rereading of Colette. She does not reject Colette but walks around feeling as if "pieces of her writing lie heavy on my chest." Gornick is "wrenched by the beauty of that which no longer feels large, and can never feel large again."
I have a stack of to be reread books almost as large as my to be read stack. When I was seventeen the mommie sent me to stay with my paternal grandmother for the summer. She was afraid of the changes she saw in me and felt I might do wild hippie things if left at home while she worked. I suspect I might have done a few wild-ish things but mostly I would have watch reruns of StarTrek (the original) and read books. I took Dostoevsky into my exile. My aunt had recently died of Cancer but her beauty shop was still in the back room. I leaned back on the chair in front of the hair washing sink and read The Idiot, Crime and Punishment and The Brother's Karamazov. I also huffed glue. Wild-ish things happen everywhere. I'd like to reread them with out the teenage angst and blurry eyes.
I'd like to reread Anais Nin's journals to see if they still feel so exciting. I'd like to reread Kerouac for similar reasons. These were the books that sent me into the world looking for wild-ish things.
It all depends on how long I live and how well my eyes hold up I suppose.



Monday, January 15, 2018

My Reading List

Years ago Kristina was reading Snow by Orhan Pamuk. I forget why. Maybe a class. Maybe just because he is a writer of note. I sort of remember she wasn't liking it much. Over the years I bought three of his books but never read them. I'm really not sure if it was something she said about the writing or just the fact that he is of note,  highly regarded and loaded with awards.
When I was in Bellingham visiting Val I went into a really nice bookstore and loaded up. Then in SF I hit two book stores one of which being Green Apple, a favorite. And then I got a lot of nice books for Christmas. I am currently in book heaven.
As I read them I reorganize shelves. My desire is to have all of a writer together with the exception of certain books that fit in sets. I love sets. I have one shelf that has most of the to-be-read books (although they are all over the nest.) I had moved the Pamuk to that shelf and as I was picking a book to read I saw them and wondered why I never picked them. It's like I felt like they were books I should read and didn't really want to read. But I had no idea if I even liked his writing. So. I pulled them off the shelf and began.
He is, in fact, a really great writer. He is also a bit of a yammer-er. He writes a lot of internal dialogue and it goes on and on. The characters from all three books have stayed with me. The stories were haunting. It's rough when you're reading translation because you don't really know if you're getting the words the writer would have chosen. I fall hard for a writer with beautiful words. It felt like work to read the books sometimes. So I'm on a fence about him. I liked/loved some things but didn't really ever get that enamored feeling I get about a writer.
The book I have in my purse is The Buddha in the Attic. It's about Japanese picture brides immigrating to America. The writing is amazing. It's like a prose poem. The subject matter is so heartbreaking. It's startling to have that beauty and horror in the same book.
I feel like reading is a great way to feel through experiences that you don't have. From the Pamuk I have felt the difference in the life of someone growing up in Turkey around the same time I grew up here. From the Otsuka I am feeling rage about the lives of women. The Pamuk experience was actually more internal.
There are two more Pamuk books I want to read but I'm going to take a break. I'm going to read Americanah by Adichie. Seems like a timely story. I read a few of her books a while ago. I really like reading more than one book by a given author at a time. You really get a feel for their style.
There are books that make me swoon. I always want to be reading them and never want them to end. But I like books that make me think and feel. I'm not really sure where these books fit. As much as I struggled with the Pamuk books I can't get them out of mind.
There are only a few of my friends who will even get what I'm yammering on and on about right now. Because it's ... just ... a little ... loopy. 

Sunday, December 31, 2017

My Happy Place

The other day a woman stopped me as I was coming out of the Sports Club. She teaches yoga at the club. She offered to come to my home and teach me yoga. Very nice I thought. In a way. I said I do yoga every day. I started doing yoga years ago with Lilias on PBS. She said me too! But there was a look on her face. Like she knew I was at the club so I did some kind of exercise. She thought yoga might be good for me. Because ... yoga is good. It all might have been benign. But what would make her pick me? And why did she look surprised that I already did yoga? I mean. People occasionally compliment me for being at the club. I feel like it's so mysterious that I ... a fat person ... moves.
Of course I could be imaging any mal intent. It might all be well intended. It just feels. Off.


The pool is my happy place. I always want to be there. It isn't a discipline. I'm not always in the mood to be around people but I always want to swim.
My yoga practice isn't grand. I've focused on being consistent. Its more important to me to do it every day than to do more. It's a time of reflection. Stretching helps my joints.
If I don't swim I do a short session with some hand weights. I feel like I need to keep my arms strong. I like it least of all. For some reason I did like doing weights when I was in New York. When I'm doing it now I try to remember that. It just bores me. 
Tomorrow is the first day of the year and people are going to stop eating things they think are bad and start some kind of program. The parking lot at the club will be full and obnoxious. I just feel like we'd all be better to find a happy place. I know of at least one person who loves to walk. In this town people love all kind of out door things. Wind surfing, of course. River sports in general. Skiing in the winter. It's happy stuff. Women in the dressing room at the club often seem slouched. Resigned. There to do what they should do. And it doesn't seem to last.
Sometimes when the aerobics for people with arthritis class looks bored and a good song comes on I start dancing and sometimes they do too. We swing out.
My big push on this last day of the year is to clean the nest. It's going well. I clean for awhile and then I write a bit. I made it through the holly-daze with a few tears, a lot of time slumped in the chair under a blanket drinking Throat Coat watching Inspector Morse. It might sound dreary but it wasn't. It was subdued. I got some really nice gifts. I have a sense of what I will and will not be able to do in the future. I feel really lucky to have my nest and my friends and my books and ... my happy place.