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.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Silent Night

There was a time in my early twenties in Boulder when I walked around taking chugs out of bottle of Triaminic. I had chronic bronchitis and was always coughing. I could have/should have been in a bed with a spoon for my medicine. Drinking it on the street felt so ... damaged. I liked that feeling at the time. I liked feeling poor (I actually was) and sick (again, I was) and ... damaged.
I might be remembering this because I've had some kind of crud. It starts with watery eyes and sore sinus. I start popping Wellness Formula and drinking Throat Coat and it goes away. It's been going on for weeks. This last week was the worse. There is a part of every day when I feel better. And then it returns.
I never used to buy Kleenex. I used toilet paper and paper towels and even cloth hankies. It seemed an unnecessary expense. When the mommie came to town I made sure to have Kleenex because she was a princess. Now I have a box in every room.
No longer romancing damage. I am warm, resting and medicated and can wipe my nose with comfort.
I just read:Where the Heart Beats. It's about John Cage and the many artists of his time and Zen. He was compelled by sound but searched for silence. He did a piece in which a piano player walked on stage, sat at a beautiful grand piano and ... did nothing. Some people walked out but many people became aware of their reactions to silence.  He was after that awareness.
I saw James Hillman years ago. He was promoting Dream Animals (which now sits on my fireplace). A young woman asked him a question. He was a very tall, lanky fellow. He sort of leaned back, rested one arm on the the other. His finger rested on his lips. He was quiet for quite awhile. The young woman stuttered a bit. The room squirmed. When he answered the question it felt like his answer came from a deep and well considered place. 
We can't really ever be silent. Our bodies make noise. Our blood pump. Our synapses whine. We can listen with awareness and a sort of distance. Or maybe we just learn to rock with the beat.
I've been looking for my copy of Zen Mind Beginner's Mind. Can't find it. I realized that I have most of my spiritual and psychology books on the top shelf where I can't reach them. I guess I felt like I was done with self improvement. Hard to imagine since it's been the ongoing theme of my life. Not so much to escape or even heal the ... damage. Rather to live with it. Attentive and sort of distant.
All of these musings have been filling my holly-daze. It's been snowing all day. Mr Berlin should be happy. There's nothing so quiet as the sound of snow falling.
The nest smells like roasted garlic and Thieves Oil.
If you're reading this I am wishing you all the best. 

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Object Lessons

When I moved into the nest so much of what I had dragged from SF looked better. There's no logic to that but it was true. Things that I'd barely looked at found primary places on walls and shelves. Everything seemed new. Then the Mommie moved to the Hood and brought so many things from our shared past. I wrote about a few of them, the Grandmom's chair specifically. There was furniture, photos, bric-a-brac from the Grandma's home and the Mommie's home. It felt like my entire life was represented. There are things that transport me back in memory. This Christmas has been overwhelming in terms of objects of memory. 
DeAnna decorated the nest. I might have done 5% of the decorating. She did the things I couldn't do physically, which is most of it. Last year I wrote About the Mommie's Christmas village. It is now sitting on the shelf about my desk.

I remember watching the Mommie arranging it on the buffet in her dining room. She took so much pride and pleasure in it. I wanted her to have it out in her room at the assisted living facility. DeAnna helped me with that as well. I knew the Mommie would worry about leaving the lights on all night so I talked it over with her but she said it was OK to leave it them on. That night after dinner some of the ladies came back to her room to see it. She told me on the phone when I called to say goodnight. A short time later they called to tell me that she had fallen. She was trying to turn off the lights and her feet got tangled in the cords. She looked like someone had beaten her. My entire being hurts when I think about it. I planned to put it where it is now so she could see it on the weekends but she was gone before the next Christmas. So I look up at it and am swarmed with memory and feeling.
I was always adamant about having a tree. Usually small. Even in New York where I had none of my ornaments and the really small and raggedy tree I got blocked the narrow space, I had a tree. Two years ago I couldn't find a tree that would fit into the really small space I have for one. I did find a live tree in a pot that was perfect. After Christmas I planted it in Gayle's back yard where it is reported to be very happy. It's a spendy way to have a tree but it feels better than dragging the tree corpse out the door. So...I have another tree in a pot this year.
Many of the ornaments were gifts. Many are from the Mommie's trees. I stare at it and remember.
There's a lot of chatter about the value of downsizing. I know it's a good thing. I feel like I've been doing it for the last five years. But these objects have sentience. I'm not interested in blank walls and empty shelves. I like color and texture and things that are held together with glue.
I was just reading about a Zen master's satori. Everything (including him) went transparent. We live in shimmering illusion. Beauty is a dream. I may not be a candidate for Satori. I'll be enjoying the shimmer to much. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

One Year

I don't like euphemisms. I say I'm fat because I am and I don't need to back away from that fact. It's a simple descriptive word. But talking about death has been a study in euphemisms. I find myself squirming away from the most simple word: dead.
Today marks a year from when the mommie ... died. When I've seen people who I haven't seen for awhile and they ask about her I say she's gone. It feels like the simplest way to say it. But gone? Where did she go? I've said she passed. Also seems like way not to say dead.
I was thinking about how we say birthday but not deathday. Birthday is about a beginning. Death is about an ending. We celebrate beginnings. Deathday feels morbid. I'm just not sure it should.
I heard Neil deGrasse Tyson being interviewed by Larry King talking about death. He talked about what happens with the body. So very science like. He wants to be buried instead of cremated because he likes the idea that his body will be consumed by the earth and become part of what keeps biological life growing. He has no evidence that anything happens to his -soul(?). Might not be the word he used.There may be no evidence. It's just never made sense to me that what ever it is that animates us (soul, spirit, personality) is just gone when we die. Nature doesn't waste anything so why would that energy be wasted? It's so vital and diverse.
In my life I've had many beliefs about what happens after death but now I have none. I told the mommie a story about her husband going to heaven early so he could build her a geodesic dome and plant a garden, which would have been his idea of heaven. I told her a story about her family coming to visit and welcoming her. And I hope she had that experience, even if it was only in the last flickers of brain waves. My only wish is that there be moment of revelation. A moment when it all makes sense. But even that is really a limit. What happens next might just be beyond our imagination.
The mommie is with me in so many objects, needlepoint pillows, cross stitch pictures, photos and (of course) frogs. Memories, good and bad. Songs. But she is ... gone.
Friends get tired of sadness. I've been trying not to talk about it too much. But today I am sad. I was sad a year ago but sadness changes shape. Last year it felt dense and heavy, like concrete. Over the year I've been knocked down by waves of sadness. Sometimes it's more like a breeze. Superficial and brief. Today it's like an ache. But it feels normal, in a way. Of course I'm sad. I don't feel like I need to work too hard to feel anything else.
It's grey and rainy. Perfect sadness weather. My plan is nothing special. I'm going to make soup and read and let the tears fall when they come. I'm going to feel through it. 

Sunday, November 05, 2017


I love dictionaries. I said that to David Meltzer once and he asked - which one? It never occurred to me there was a difference. I longed for my own OED but now they don't print them anymore. It's all on line.
There were years when I mostly read in bed during whatever amount of time I had before sleep took me. If I came across a word I didn't know I'd get up, go to the living room and look it up. Sometimes. I couldn't always push the covers away.
I just finished a book by John McPhee. His writing makes everything interesting for me. A whole book about Oranges! In the new book he writes about writing in terms of his career, editing, reasons for a given topic. He started thinking about oranges because he stopped at a fresh squeezed orange juice machine regularly and noticed changes in the color. I love that. In a sentence describing his reaction to a certain fellow he used the word horripilation. These days I reach for my phone and am always a bit surprised when the word appears after a few letters. It's one reason I might like a Kindle. You just click on the word. You stay under the covers in any case. McPhee has been gifting me new words for years.
I just watched the new documentary about Joan Didion. She's gifted me new words, specifically meliorative. After looking up the word there is the effort to use it in your life. I remember walking around with that word in my head waiting for a reason to use it. After a while the word is there whether I use it or not.
When I was in college I spent a lot of time with two young women. They made fun of my 'big words'. I didn't really know what they meant. I wasn't doing anything on purpose. Even worse was the time in my MFA program when a young man asked me why I used so many SAT words. Somehow I thought people who were trying to be writers might share my love of new (to me) words. Another person in the program felt that words that were too obscure made things too hard for the reader. Imagine the expletives that came to mind. 
Chiaroscuro was the last word that caught me. I think it must have been in something by Ferrante. I made a sticky and hung it on my desk. It's not a word that I can imagine using but it does come to mind when I look at Kristina's photos. It stuck with me because it's just so beautiful. I'm not sure horripilation will stick with me. I don't have the experience.

Saturday, October 28, 2017


Years ago a friend read a draft of my book and noticed that I hadn't written any of my abuse story. There were a few reasons. One of which was it would have hurt the mommie. I wasn't just protecting her. I was protecting me from her reaction. She was not great with emotional complexity. And when I told a favorite aunt, she didn't believe me. It ruined our relationship.
There are so many repercussions from abuse. For me there was the bolt to my nervous system when the physical act occurred. And the mad scramble in my mind trying to understand what had happened and trying to deny it. It messed with my sense of my ability to understand experience. It gifted me a nagging inner drone of self doubt. And then there was wondering why the people around me didn't know. I know my behavior changed. My doubt was augmented by the sense that I wouldn't be believed. I never regretted not telling the mommie. I paid a price for not telling but I feel like I might have paid a different kind of price if I had.
For so many years I told people moments after I met them. My feeling was that it was obvious there was something wrong with me and if they knew they would understand. I didn't have the money to do therapy but I read books. So many books. Trying to understand myself. Trying to free myself.
We're in the 'me too' moment. I think it is powerful and important but I also am not sure that it will create change. There are so many moving parts to any abuse story. Stories in the news currently focus on the work place in which it's really always about power. In my story it was about a profound lack of understanding. There may have been elements of power but it was really someone who just thought he was being playful and loving. I'm not trying to minimize what he did, or rationalize. I do not forgive him. I am however very clear that he cared about me. The way he expressed that care was confusing and harmful and wrong.
I worked in restaurants and hung around rock and roll bands. The double entendres flew and I was better at them then many of the men. The line between an inappropriately sexualized environment and an Eros playground should be drawn with care. Even in those worlds we all sensed when things had crossed the line and we often blanched together.   
It's not like there was just one abuse story in my life. There are always a million stories in most women's lives. And there was another reason I didn't write about it. I'm fat. My book is a memoir about growing up fat in the particular time in history. It was a time full of pop psychology and quick fix solutions. There is an idea that abuse and weight gain are connected. And maybe they are sometimes. But it's not useful except in very individual and personal ways. In my case I was fat before the abuse. I was fat after the abuse.
I will say that I thought someone wanting to be with me romantically would be a function of something miraculous and that was about my weight. For years I thought that if someone did want me the weight would magically fall off my body. There is an intersection of abuse stories and internalized weight oppression. But, again, it's very individual and very personal and so often overly underlined.
In some ways being fat gave me a way to pass through the world of men with out fear. I wasn't sexually important so they didn't act out around me. They confessed and confided and trusted the way I made it all OK. I didn't always make it OK but looking back I sometimes wonder if I slipped into a need to make things easy for them. And that most certainly comes from the struggle to accept the abuse.
I often feel that life is about holding conflict in a way that doesn't minimize offence and doesn't allow erasure of the offender. We have to understand each other. However, it isn't my job to do the work for my offender. The abuse had a terrible impact on my sense of self and my relationships. It's my job to hold what happened to me. At 64 I feel like I have things in a good place but I'm not really sure if that's true or if I somehow believe it doesn't matter any more.
I've been annoyed by men wanting to add their abuse stories. They need their own #. The process needs to be specific before it can be universal. And I wish I'd see some kind of # from men trying to understand how they are complicate.
For me, #metoo is about breaking silence. Would I be breaking my silence if the mommie were still here? Probably not.
As I am writing this I feel I am being too cerebral. I don't actually feel cerebral but I save my rage and grief and confusion for the spaces in which I feel entirely safe. There aren't many of them.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

My Heart

The first time I saw him he was sitting behind the desk in the poetry office of my small college. He was back-lit by a window that was not exactly stained glass but had some kind of filter or color. His head was turned and he was looking up. He had an aquiline nose and soft brown curls around his shoulders. It was like a pre-raphaelite portrait. My heart stopped. It's a moment I will never forget.
He taught a class at the college, which I took. It was interesting. There was never any energy between us. He didn't even seem to want to be my friend which was not something I experienced very often at that time. I wasn't exactly in love. I was ... I dunno. Compelled. I wanted to connect.

We walked out of a restaurant in SF and my friend pointed out that he was standing a few feet away. His hair was longer and white but otherwise he looked the same. Just. Beautiful. I said his name. I said, you don't recognize me do you? He didn't but he smiled.
Right before all of that I'd heard the story of a friend who had an aneurysm a few feet from where we stood. Her partner's eyes filled with tears as she told me. Waves of memory shook me on that corner.

I don't really claim anywhere as home.  I grew up in my grandparents house being told the mommie and I were lucky to live there. We were always going to move when the mommie could afford it. We had a small apartment for a few years and then moved to a house in Maryland when the mommie married K. When I graduated from high school I rambled around. Landed in Colorado for a long time. And then New York and SF. Everywhere felt temporary. But in SF I felt home. I felt congruous and right. I didn't leave because I wanted to and ... you know. Like the song says. I left my heart.
He didn't turn out to be the love of my life. San Francisco is not my home no matter how it feels. I can't even imagine how I could be there again.
So. I'm back in my nest. I do love my nest. Baring unforeseen circumstance I should be here for what's left of my life. It feels like my home. I've made it my home. To the extent that I am able to feel at home. It just doesn't come naturally.
But my heart ...
I've always given my heart too easily. To men who didn't really want it. To organizations and beliefs in which it never fit. To jobs that barely noticed when I left. I was always willing to lay it down.
I often refer back to that conversation between Moyers and Parker Palmer. You can watch it here. It feels relevant all these years later. In it he articulates a notion of the tragic gap.

"The tragic gap, and I call it tragic not because it's sad. It is. But more fundamentally because it's an inevitable part of the human condition.
Tragic in the sense that the Greeks talked about it. Tragic in the sense that Shakespeare talked about it. The tragic gap is the gap between what's really going on around us, the hard conditions in which our lives are currently immersed, and what we know to be possible from our own experience."

He talked about it especially in the context of middle age and depression.

"I was living by oughts that weren't mine to act out. I mean, there are a million oughts in the world. There's a million ways in which I ought to be serving the world. But the ways I'm gifted to serve and the opportunities that come to me to serve are not a million. They're more like one, two, three, four dozen over the course of a 70-year journey."

We drove back into the Gorge through a cloud of smoke from the fires that were still raging. It was unnerving. I never felt at risk but it's unnerving to be so close to so much damage. We had a few days of rain and things seem to have calmed down. But now there are worries about landslides.

Two moments now. Two that organize around a man who doesn't remember me. I don't even mind. It's just my heart. It's on a corner in North Beach.
I mean. I'm here in my nest. In the chair by the window with a book. The sun making me woozy. The nest smells like peaches and tomatoes. There are dahlias and marigolds on the counter. I'm fine.
But my heart...

"Because if you don't have a capacity to hold the tension in your heart between reality and possibility then you're just going to give up eventually."

Wednesday, August 30, 2017


The bulk of this post is the one I mentioned having finished a few weeks ago. I don't really try to match my writing with current events but this one is a personal dump and had nothing to do with what felt like very important events of the day. Ironically this week because of the flooding in Houston there is more news that connects to my post. There was on photo in particular that felt like a gut punch. In it a group of older women in what looks like night gowns are sitting wast deep in flood water. There is reporting about their eventual rescue but that photo haunts me. They look so alone and vulnerable. It was always one of my biggest fears. The mommie and I being stranded in some kind of disaster. Me not being able to take care of her.  

I think a lot about care giving. Both in terms of individual care givers and care facilities. I've been saying that I feel like my grieving process for the mommie is relatively normal. It's cyclical. Rises and falls. Sometimes a tight circle that keeps me on the verge of tears for days. Sometimes wide. Days go by. But my feelings about so many things that happened during her last few years always feel like they're right under the surface.
The first "senior village" the mommie moved into seemed really nice. She was still in great shape. Active, alert. Her husband was at first but there was evidence that he had a few mini stokes and he was slowing down. They lived in a sort of town house. Small in comparison to how they had been living but a nice size. There was a dining room in a building a short walk from their place and a hair salon. Handy men. Grounds keepers. There was an assisted living section with limited medical care but nothing for dementia or Alzheimer's. It worked quite well for a few years but I knew she was worried about what would happen to him if she passed first. That combined with boredom and a love of change caused her to move to the next senior community.
Senior communities may have assisted living and memory care but many are just enclaves for older people who are still independent. The second place was extremely expensive to enter but promised levels of care that should have carried the resident all the way through any aging process. They were new and developing. Mom's cottage wasn't quite finished when they first moved in. She loved it. She was still active and alert. Her husband's decline continued and one night, after they'd returned home from a day of doctor visits and dining out, he fell down and never got back up.
She was there another two or three years and her decline began. She made the choice to leave but not happily. As we drove away she stared at her little home and I knew she was afraid and sad. I held her hand but I couldn't really comfort her. She had to let go of so much. Furniture. Memories. Friends.
The big problem with the second place was that even though they had the facilities to care for her they didn't have a system to track her decline. She was neither willing nor able to make choices about her care needs and they weren't watching. I was but I lived on the other side of the country.
I managed to get her to stop driving by having temper tantrums when she did. I interviewed home health care so I would have them at the ready and tried to set some systems in place but that last year was nerve wracking. And when I arrived for what I thought was a visit I saw that things were not good. By then she'd made the choice to leave but I still cringe when I think of that last year on her own.
I chose the first assisted living place in Hood River in too much of a rush but I feel like I might have chosen it even if I hadn't been in a rush because the apartments were bigger. It was horrible. The second was wonderful by comparison but fraught with the same problems of all the other places. Under-staffing. Not great food. In many ways all these placed say here's a facility, here's your options. But they don't handle the transitions from one level of decline to the next very well.
To be fair, it's hard. The mommie was independent and stubborn. Determined to do things her way and not really able to see what she could no longer do. As much as I wanted her to do the things I needed her to do I hated messing with her autonomy. And institutions are rightly not permitted to mess with someone's autonomy.
Most of the individual care givers were great but there were problems. We were very lucky to have Mandy as her main care giver other than me. But she was in a facility. And by the end Mandy and I did all the care. We had very little help from the facility.
You understand from the beginning that if the care needed is more than the facility can provide you will need to move. My mother was (essentially) evicted from the last two places she called home. She was very sick both times. That is one of the things I cannot let go off. The meanness of that fact. The first place was actually mean. The second was not. I feel they just panicked. But the fact is she had no where to go except for the nest. The nest is a perfect size for me. Not as much for both of us. Twice I had to turn my small sanctuary into a nursing home. Several times I looked for a larger place we could move into. But I couldn't care for her alone and the cost of home health care is off the chart.
Most of these places are well intended but they are all a bit of a scam. It's really hard to predict the ageing process. Sudden decline is unexpected and often confusing. I always felt like I was playing catch up with the mommie in terms of my understanding of where she was at. I was there enough to notice subtle changes but caregivers who aren't supposed to spend much time with any given person may miss things. Even physical changes sneak up on you. If Mandy hadn't been with the mommie five days a week and had such familiarity with her body things would have been missed.
In the example of the second place the mommie chose they offered so much but didn't really have the resources to fulfill those promises. Despite the huge amount of money she paid to get in and the huge amount she paid every month the more she needed the longer her bill got. Five dollars for the nurse to stop by and check a bandage. Twenty for the guy who did her shopping. On and on. If you're in good shape when you go in and die before you get too sick (in mind or body) then it's all good. But the more care you need the more you pay. Which is why I will always think of assisted living as a scam.
There was one extremely difficult event when the mommie was still in her house in NC. She had fallen in the bathroom and there was a huge mess. I called for help and two of the snottiest girls I've ever met came. They did the bare minimum and left me to try and get her settled, clean up the mess and we had just returned from shopping. The car door was open and there were bags strewn through the kitchen. I remember thinking that if I had walked past that situation as a stranger I would have tried to help. The lack of kindness was infuriating. I have a long list of moments of kindness in my experience of trying to take care of her but the moments when a "it's not my job" attitude prevailed were so shocking that they haunt me.

I don't know why this gets stirred up in me. I wrote most of this before I saw the picture of the women in the water so it wasn't that. Today is just a bad day.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Words. No words.

I had finished a post a few weeks ago and was about to post when Charlottesville happened. I never listen to the president. He's never said anything useful or interesting. I also know the news I watch will pull stuff and replay it if I ever miss anything of any import. But I listened to the repulsive news conference in which he talked about "both sides." Dumbstruck. Not surprised but dumbstruck. Twitter and Facebook exploded. I retweeted and shared but I couldn't form my own words.
There are times when I am wary of being part of the noise. Opinion is the new opiate of the masses. People talk about silence being consent. I'm not sure about that. I think there are always people doing great work quietly in the background. I'm not doing anything really. I'm just always wanting to find the most useful conversations.
And. Sometimes ya just got to vent. If you come to my nest I will vent. I will prattle and sputter and spit and tirade. But I can't always form a thought that feels useful. There's so much (understandable) rage. It knocks me back. Makes me feel hyper-vigilant and wary. A few weeks went by and the storm did not abet. It just got wilder. It's hard to say it got worse because it's such a sustained horror. A dull ache.
The eclipse seemed to lighted things up. People were upbeat. And then he said something stupid. I don't even remember what. This weekend is (and should be) about hurricane watch and he drops a few bombs into the fray. It's. Just. So. Wrong.
I don't know how you stay grounded with this much fury always being stirred up.
I'm reading a novel set in the Nigerian civil war and the birth of Biafra. The stories are about individuals but the politics are always hovering. The radio is always on waiting for news. But life keeps chugging along. People get married. Babies are born. Anniversaries and birthdays are celebrated. The school year starts. Someone quits a job. Someone finds a job.  Someone gets a new car. People lose loved ones. Funerals and graduations and life just chugs along. But always hovering are the politics of the time.
Every morning I hope for the turn around. Articles of impeachment have been filed and are ignored. In Houston today nobody has time to think about pardons and rights and outrage.
I keep trying to find usefulness.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Roxane. Sigh.

I've been mildly obsessed with Roxane Gay. It started after the This American Life episode. (My post about that here.) But I became aware of Roxane Gay much earlier because she was on MHP a few times. (I really miss that show.) She was always smart and charming and fun. If she had reason to call out a diversity list she always included fat.
She's every where right now. On radio. In magazines and news papers. She was in Portland the other night. So close and yet so far.
I wrote a long post about her and then deleted it because I found examples of her saying things that knocked down my concerns. Really smart things. It's tough because the articles about her memoir call out the things that are the hardest for me to take in. There's what she wrote and there's how people are talking about what she wrote. It is hard for me to accept the narrative of getting raped and then getting fat. Not hard to accept that it happens but hard to have them causally linked.
Fat women get raped too. I remember hearing the story of a fat woman who reported her rape and was told by the police that they didn't believe she was raped because of her weight. Eventually, they took her to the hospital where she over heard the doctors arguing about who would have to do the exam. It's an old and worn out idea that gaining weight protects women from sexuality. But it is an idea that more than one woman has embraced. Roxane knows that the weight isn't really going to protect her but she still sees her body as a self generated fortress.
I'm not being critical of her. I'm critical of the ideas but I've held them. I was always fat so I don't have an event that caused me to become fat. But in my young adult life I believed if I got clear I'd get thin. It would just happen. And I believed that my weight was generated by bad psychology and fear. I thought true love might melt it off.
One of the words she uses a lot is nuance. She is a fan of nuance. Me too.
In a way the rape almost grants her a kind of understanding for her weight. Like she had an understandable reaction to the wounding. And her repeated acknowledgment of wanting to be thinner makes her a good fat person. I really want to be clear about what I'm saying. She was being trolled by fat haters before the memoir. I don't know if it's worse but she still gets trolled be fat haters. She isn't having an easy time of it. But there is a way in which the narrative about her is about the rape and ... that's why the fat. It's slippery and not useful.
I'm obsessed because her book and her experience is driving a conversation about life in a fat body right now and it's frustrating for me. It's her story and I can't pick it apart looking for faulty reasoning. I can (I am) but that seems like bad faith. I feel a lot of the things she does. I also think the size acceptance movement is (somewhat) driven by younger smaller fat woman. They buy clothes at Torrid and pose with pizza and it's all so ... what ever. She thinks the acceptance movement is important but she can't get there.
I hate acceptance. Why should I have to work to accept something so fundamental about who I am? My project is to up root all the internalized body oppression I've been FED all of my life including today. (Lefty news woman making sure everyone knows she's always on a diet.)
When Roxane was being interviewed by Terry Gross she was asked why she didn't get bariatric surgery. In the book she talks about having met with a doctor to discuss it and making the (very wise) choice to not do it because ... (I'm paraphrasing) it's dangerous and it doesn't work. I was taken aback by the question. I mean. Is that just the thing that people do now? Not join a diet club or a gym? Just get your body hacked?
Roxane is said to be brave because she wrote this book. I think she's brave to go through the process of thinking about her fat body in public. I want to be supportive. I want her to get to where she wants to be, not where I want her to be. And...she is thinking about her fat body in public. I could quote twenty insightful things she's said that are so important about life in a fat body. She has a great analysis of how the culture impacts our lives. And then twenty that make life in a fat body sound so horrible that you imagine people running to join a gym.  I want deeper analysis. I want surprising attitudes. I want new ideas. She's often pretty good at those things.
I wish we could uncouple the rape narrative from the fat body narrative. Always. I realize it's a truth. But it's not the truth and, again, it's not useful. I wish we could uncouple the food and exercise narratives from the fat body narrative. It's (pardon the expression) too broad a brush.
One of the things that influenced me to own the fact of my body was a line from a Frank Zappa song.
"there will come a time when you won't even be ashamed if you are fat." Startling idea. Rocked me to the core. I decided to work on getting there. I feel like Roxane is not exactly ashamed of her body. It's more complicated and ... nuanced. But when I was reading the book I often wanted to grab her and beg her to put on something brightly colored and go out to dinner with me. Let's talk too loud and eat too much. Let's be who we want to be and not have a thought about the size of our ass. And if people are asshats let's roll our eyes and smile.
There may come a time ...

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Grandmom's Chair

I have my Grandmom's chair in the library. And the footstool that my uncle made. My aunt made the needlepoint cover for it. I can picture Grandmom sitting in the chair, feet on the footstool, reading the paper. In my memory she is huge, dominate, not to be messed with and beautiful. White hair and fierce blue eyes. Skin so pale and paper thin.
The other day I was moving some books around. I had pulled the chair out to get to the shelf. When I turned around I realized the top of the chair was at my waist. I have been aware that the chair is smaller than my memory of her in it but standing there it became even more real to me.
I say I am a forth generation fat woman. I am talking about my maternal lineage. The women on my Dad's side were big but not fat. Although they thought they were. They talked about needing to lose weight all the time. They also seemed to think my mother and I were fatter. We were.
Looking at the picture of my great grandmother I see that she isn't exactly fat. She's round. My grandmom was round. They had bellies and breasts and thighs. My grandfather was tall and thin. My aunt took after him, tall and thin. It was a source of frustration for my mother who gained weight eating less than her sister. Genes are a grab bag.
I am fatter than all of the women in my family. I could put Mom's shoes into my shoes. I was a head taller.
Grandmom had no shame about the size of her body. It was just part of who she was. My mother was always trying to change her body. She sat sipping her liquid diet drink while the rest of us had dinner. Grandmom did not approve and she let it be known.
Grandmom had to walk up two flights of stairs to get into her house. She had to walk up one and a half to use the bathroom. For years she went down one to do laundry and carried the basket back up and up another to hang the laundry in the yard. She worked in her garden which was all slope. We walked to the store and the bakery and post office and church. She was on the move all the time.
When Grandmom's bridge club was in session and I came home from school they discussed my weight. At some point Grandmom would grab my arm, squeeze and say, "she's big but she's solid. I was never sure what that meant but it felt like she was saying my body was OK the way it was and no one should think other wise. I know that part of why I experience being fat as just ... my body and not a disease ... is because of my grandmom. I'm big but I'm solid.
I'd be afraid to sit in Grandmom's chair. It's very low and narrow. I'd be afraid I wouldn't fit and I wouldn't be able to get out. But I love it. Mom had it recovered at some point in lovely rose covered upholstery. But I sat in it when I was young.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Year Sixty Four

If you add six and four you get ten. Ten in numerology is a really great number. In the Tarot the ten of cups and the ten of pentacles are both really great. The ten of swords and rods are a bit problematic but they have to do with the completion of ideas. I'm not all that into numerology or Tarot but I do like when things add up. This feels like ten year.
I moved to the Hood and turned sixty, which felt auspicious. This feels like the top of a really hard climb. Now I can sit still and look around. Who knows? Maybe there's a longer tougher climb ahead but for the moment ... I'm just gonna sit here.
I don't have much going on about the age thing. I'm fine being the age I am. I don't like how hard it is to keep my body together. I can take nothing for granted. Drink too much? I might fall down and it's way harder to get back up. If I get sick I get really bleepin sick. If I get tired I get zonked. It takes a sort of hyper vigilance to feel good. I took a lot of chances in my youth and I liked feeling that wild.
Eh. That was then.
I have recently begun thinking I'm almost seventy. It's not true. It's just the way my mind works.
For so many years I drove myself crazy on my birthday. And I'm a little crazy today. Just a little. I'm going to swim. I'm going to get a massage. Mandy made me a cake.
Sixty Four.
Let's see how it goes.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Year Four

It's hard for me to remember what happened when. At some point the mommie stopped wanting to come to the nest. She was just too afraid. I started spending the weekends with her. Her fear got worse as the dementia deepened. I spent more and more time with her and less and less time in the nest.
And then she was gone.
There were things in the nest that were accommodations for her. Chairs. Furniture arrangements. All of that has changed. I have freedom but it doesn't feel free. The nest was technically hers and now it's mine. I am endlessly grateful.
I used to sit in my bedroom and stare into the library and just be happy about the fact of it. We turned the library into a little hospital room for the mommie and I wondered if it was going to change my feeling for the room. It deepened the feeling. All of the meaning making in the all of the books pales in light of that experience. That little room held us for that terrible time.
I still doubt that I'll fill all the shelves with books but right now it looks like they are full. If you move a chair you see the empty shelves and the messy shelves but the chairs hide all that. It looks lovely and I sink into it.
I'm still ambivalent about the Hood. I like some things but I find it shallow and ohsowhite. I just learned that Oregon began with a Constitution banning black people. How did I end up living in a state that began with a Constitution banning black people?
We did have our first annual Pride parade this year. It felt really small town and really sweet. It's a beautiful town in a beautiful state. I love watching the way the colors change with the seasons. I have a few very dear friends. I just don't feel part of much.
I am just here in my nest. Probably with a book.
That sound kind of pitiful and I don't feel pitiful at all. I honestly take take pleasure in just sitting and looking around the room.
It's been a difficult year emotionally. I'm still sad a lot. I still cry a lot. But that seems normal. It's not that hard.
I can't find a way to say how I feel that doesn't feel cliche or trite. This was a year in which something ended. And so. Ya know. I am trying to conjure the next phase.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

This American Fat

I listened to The This American Life episode:Tell me I'm Fat with some trepidation. The introduction to the show sounded promising because it said we need to rethink the way we see being fat. Ya think? I starting rethinking the way I saw being fat decades ago but ... OK. I listen to This American Life a lot and have for years. I do because it's smart and usually has a different perspective. Full disclosure: I sent them a piece years ago. It may have even been about the way I experience being fat.  I have the rejection letter somewhere.
There were some great moments but after I listened I was overwhelmed with sorrow. A deep bone crushing sorrow. And. Of course. Rage. I started a post but couldn't even finish because ... why?
But then Margaret posted the show on Facebook. I yammered on in her comment box. A friend read it and I ended up yammering on in her ear. So. Clearly I have something to say. These are my thoughts.
The prologue was relatively solid in terms of ideas. I've been aware of Lindy West. She seems interesting. She sounds a lot like Marilyn Wann but no where near as radical. In the first act of the show She and Ira laugh it up about a time when she broke a chair and in that moment she still feels like someone who makes jokes so she can be an easy to get along with and not too demanding. She shouldn't have to worry about a chair. None of us should. When she's talking about Dan Savage it felt great because someone needs to bang back on that fat hating ass hat. And she did a great job. She talks about Seeing Leonard Nimoy's fat photo's, which are wonderful. Another disclosure: I saw him in a car in Boulder once. He smiled at me. Swoon. She does a great job in this section. She also says being fat is it's own punishment. It's something she wrote to Savage years ago but even now with her new woke perspective she doesn't seem to notice it. Am I nitpicking?
When responding to another post by Savage in which he responds to a Gay hating suggestion that Gay marriage isn't a good idea because they die younger ... (ridiculous) ... he says that then fat marriage isn't a good idea. In her response to him she says fat people are already ashamed. Um. Otherwise her response to him is great.
Then there is a bit of a great song by Sophie Tucker in the second act we get to Alma.
I can't really write much about this because it is just entirely heart breaking. And right after it, in a break, Ira is introducing an upcoming act and says...grab a Twinkie. Why?
It's an awkward quip at best. Alma works with him. The quip felt like a cover for (I hope) the sadness he might have been feeling after hearing the choices his coworker and (possibly) friend has made and continues to make. And it seems like everything comes down to the idea that size acceptance is about fat people being able to eat crap with impunity. I'm pretty sure eating a Twinkie is no proof of how much you've unseated the internalized oppression that fat people are relentlessly unseating. Not shame. Oppression.
Act three.  I love Roxane Gay. She is smart. She is fierce. She is nuanced. I don't really have a problem with the things she says. I feel them. They are personal. They are not rhetorical. They are complex. And they break my heart. They make me want to go into restaurants and hair salons and theaters and BREAK ALL THE FUCKING CHAIRS.
The forth act is about a Christian weight loss program, which is teeth gritting.
If you listen to the podcast there's one last bit from Lindy West. And it is very sweet and on point. The show is worth a listen. I imagine it will get a few people thinking.
The Take Away, another one of my favorite shows because it is generally smart, is doing a week long series on obesity. So far it's blather about why people are fat as if fat people are a construct of modernity. Lindy West will be doing a discussion at some point. Her intro talks about pizza being a feminist issue. Because .... why?
When ever I write one of these posts I get caught up in a long yammer about my ideas about food. I'm just not going to do that. But we have to stop conflating size acceptance with some loopy idea of permission to eat.
A friend of mine was told by her doctor that she is morbidly obese. She also says she has trouble finding clothes that fit some times. She is NOT FAT!!!! Not even a little bit. It infuriates me. When I'm telling her she's not fat I wonder if I should just let it go because the doctors and fashion industry clearly think she is. Maybe I should just welcome her to the community. The problem is that as long as someone her size is seen as fat I will not get good medical care. I will not have parity in public spaces. We have to be clear about what fat is. It is so much more than one size, or a group of sizes. It's an expression of diversity. It is so complex and so personal and our conversations are so frustrating. It isn't just about how much some one eats or how much they exercise or what their genetic background is or if they can buy a dress. It isn't about accepting the size of your ass. It's about not even having to do that work because the nonsense ideas about being fat have been knocked down. IN OUR HEARTS. IN OUR BONES.
Now that I've started I'm having trouble stopping. I could go and on and on. I have in the past. I got tired. I felt like I was saying the same thing over and over.
A friend of my mother's picked me up at the airport once. She told my mother that when she first saw me she didn't think much of me because of my size. But once I started talking she realized that I was so smart and interesting. Mom thought this was great because the friend had realized who I was despite my fatness. I thought the woman needed to ask herself why she was so hateful and literally narrow minded.
I wanna break all the fucking chairs.

Monday, May 29, 2017


Because of the spasm and the virus and the flu and the general depression that makes me want to sit in the dark ... I've watched a lot of TV this year. Some of which was good and much of which was dopey. In many of the shows there's a narrative in which a bad guy becomes good. Or maybe just reveals some goodness. Generally I like characters who are a little good and a little bad because we all are. But there is something so satisfying and surprising about really bad guys doing good.
For so many years the mommie and I couldn't talk without arguing. And then we both started watching Days of Our Lives. There were clear good guys and clear bad guys and then there were guys who could go either way and we could argue about them. It was soft arguing that had no real consequence. Those conversations relaxed the real tensions between us. We would talk for a long a time about these imaginary people. We could stretch out and have strong opinions. We couldn't do this with our own issues.
On the weekends I tend to listen to the radio and I heard this story on the Ted Radio hour. It's powerful because they call it our story. There isn't really a bad guy. There's a guy who did a bad thing. It's thought provoking. How do we forgive and still have a sense of accountability?
There's a saying about people who forgive and forget, people who neither forgive nor forget and people who forgive but never forget. The characteristics have associate religions in the saying but I don't find that part useful. I have always related to forgiving but not forgetting.
Forgiving isn't hard if you see people and their actions in context, if you accept that people make bad choices and that you might have made a few of your own. Forgetting often feels like accepting the unacceptable.
I've been thinking about all of this mostly because of the screen time but also because I'm not confident in my ability to be in relationships. I retreat into my self. I am confident in my intentions. I want to forgive. I don't really worry about forgetting because my experience is that forgetting happens on it's own.
The political environment is so toxic and filled with hate. It feels like the bad guys are in power and they are ruining everything. They're ruining a lot.
I like the way redemption feels. I like when the bad guys are surprising. But I've been watching a lot of TV.

Friday, May 05, 2017

Yoga Zone

Right before I got sick in the beginning of the year I was feeling really good about my yoga. I do a very short practice but I came up with a few poses that moved well from one to the other and I was able to stay focused. Then I got sick and weak and out of the groove. I am back to a daily practice but it's never really been as good as it was.
I do a seated triangle pose. Instead of holding the stretch (which is a really good stretch for my shoulders) I get into the movement. It's like Pavlova takes over. I'm doing Port de Bras. Not a good Port de Bras. A flailing, spaced out Port de Bras.
I feel like part of yoga is about stillness. Your extend your arm and your leg and you stretch as far as you can and then you ... feel. You breath. And you feel. It's awareness and intentionality. It's not flailing.
For a few days I added music. Krishna Das chanting to be specific. I'm usually irritated by that kind of thing but he has such a warm, resonant voice. It helped. It exacerbated the Pavlova thing a little but I found my self holding a pose longer, for a few beats, or until the end of a phrase. I moved slower.
When I was sick it took me a long time to get dressed. I could barely get from the shower to the bed. The weakness was obliterating. I'm not that weak any more but here is a residual effect it seems. I get really spaced out. I find myself in a blank stare, often with a sock in my hand. I think we need a little bit of that kind of thing. Just zoning.
Spaced out.
Spaced in.
I'm not sure it's useful to have goals in yoga but if I have one it's enhanced awareness. I am no where near that goal.
Except every once in a while.
It's just me.
In the pose.
Wide awake.

Saturday, April 15, 2017


In the beginning of the first year that the mommie lived in the Hood she had a health crisis. One of the ancillary problems was she didn't want to eat or drink. I spent the day pleading and cajoling trying to get her to sip water or take a bite of apple sauce. After she ate or drank she flinched and pulled away. I talked to so many nurses and doctors about it. Her primary doctor at the time ran a blood test and three days later had his assistant call to tell me to push fluids. It will always be one of the most ridiculous things a health care professional has ever said to me. Was I supposed to water board her? Eventually I took her to the hospital because I was worried about dehydration. 
I was talking to a nurse there about the eating/drinking problem and she suggested that the mommy might have Thrush. I have since learned that Thrush is a common occurrence when people take antibiotics. Thrush makes eating and drinking painful. There were so many health care professionals taking care of her and none of them had thought to look in her mouth. I asked the next doctor to enter the room to do that, he diagnosed the Thrush and the treatment began. 
I took her back to the nest and hired round the clock home health care. (There's an entire chapter to be written about why I did that.) I noticed that she wasn't eating the meat or vegetables in a soup but she seemed to like the broth. I started heating broth and having her sip from a straw. It felt like it took me too long to figure that out. It felt like I was always playing catch up. I was always realizing something about her decline after the signs of it had been evident for a while. But I was surrounded by people who had the job of managing her health care. Why didn't they figure it out? Why did I have to ask the doctor to look in her mouth and see the condition that was somewhat probable? 
I have so many of those why questions and the answers are usually about resources and time and funding. There is an occasional somewhat beleaguered acknowledgement of the wrongness of the situation, which rapidly shifts to an affirmation that every one is doing their best. I'm always supposed to understand that I shouldn't be angry at people who are working so hard and I should accept that things just are the way they are. It's some kind of perverse sign of maturity when you're able to accept the unacceptable.   
I'm a sixties kid. I haven't trusted institutions for most of my adult life. But the extent to which I feel the elder care systems failed the mommie and me is infinite and I will never recover from that failure. I will find a way to hold all those feelings and carry on with my life but I will never not be furious. Ours is not the worst story. I've heard too many. 
The mommy was in the nest for Easter two years ago. I was eating ham and eggs for breakfast. She looked at my plate and asked what it was. I told her and asked if she wanted any and ... she did. 
It was a turn around moment. Eggs could now be added to the very short list of things she would eat. I called it the Easter miracle. 
But, ya know, it was really about the Thrush clearing up and her beginning to heal. People told me she wasn't eating or drinking because she was getting ready to die. She got well and lived almost another year and a half. 
The mommy died a few days before Thanksgiving. I sort of held my breath through the Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years daze. I didn't mind other people celebrating but I couldn't feel any joy. I didn't expect Easter to be hard. But this year her birthday falls on Easter. It's just too much. 2017 has been a bit of a bummer so far. Too much snow in January.  Too sick in February. Toe infected in March. And just now a flu/bronchial thing has me hacking up a lung. 
I feel the need to write about the great care givers and the visits from friends and the things that have been good. But I just feel bad. I'm sad. I'm angry. I want to bake an apricot upside down cake and get ready to celebrate. I know my friends and family want me to be happy and I will be. I promise. Just not today and not tomorrow and ... I'm not sure when.  
Happy Vaisakhi. 
Chag Kashruth Sameach. 
Happy Easter. 
Happy birthday mommie. 

Monday, March 13, 2017


The mommie was in the nest for a few weeks the first year she was in Hood River. She had a health crisis that resulted in some delirium. She was afraid to walk, afraid during transfers to and from the wheel chair. She was always worried that she was going to fall out of bed. Every night I sat with her playing a song on YouTube and singing along until she went to sleep.
One of her care givers was a guy. We were both crazy about him. He was very sweet to her.
I was trying to reassure her that she wouldn't fall out of bed one night. I told her I was there and he was there and we wouldn't let her fall. He heard me and came rushing in to help with the reassurance. My bedroom is small and he was a pretty big guy. He knocked my dresser and a pottery perfume jar fell behind the dresser and broke. He didn't notice and I didn't tell him. I didn't want him to feel bad. The pottery was a gift from my friend Marsha.
I visited my friend Jane in hood River a few times before I moved here. One time we drove up to Portland and met Marsha at the Saturday Market. We walked around looking at things and I admired the little pottery thing. I remember it being described as a perfume bottle but truth be told it would have been an odd one. The opening was quite wide. Marsha bought it for me quite spontaneously. I kept it with my other perfume bottles on my dresser. For years.
Part of the difficulty of that time was the invasion of my space. I needed the help but it was hard to have someone always here. Furniture got moved. Things were always a bit out of place. Things got broken.
I managed to dig out a few of the bigger pieces and later DeAnna moved the dresser and found the rest. Last week I glued it back together as best as I could. I was feeling really happy that I'd managed to save it.

As I was dusting the shelves to put it back I knocked a very delicate bottle over and the top shattered. Too many pieces to glue. Some things can't be fixed. Loss is constant.
I'm not that gloomy about it. I wasn't as fond of the glass one I'm not even really sure who gave it to me. And I am still happy about fixing the pottery.
As time passes, my feelings of loss change shape. I still have some amount of time every day when I'm thinking about the mommie and everything that happened and wishing I could have avoided some of the things and generally done a better job taking care of her. But I am adjusting to life without her. There are times when I'm happy.
I've always liked that line from Leonard. "There's a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." 

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Poems, Lyrics, Words. Oh my.

A friend of mine is in a poetry class. She is writing some lovely poems, strong voice, interesting thinking. I wanted to know what her teacher was having her read. And immediately  thought about the poems I thought she should read. Of course should is not a word that applies to poetry.
I quickly googled Howl because I feel it is a seminal American poem and (sort of) forced her to listen to my bad reading.
As I was reading I heard it the way I imagined she might hear it. She is from an entirely different generation than me and even further from Allen. Those first few lines...

This was a poem that lit me up as a bored teenager. But why? Did I yearn to be destroyed by madness? Did an angry fix sound like fun? I know I was yearning for an ancient heavenly connection but why did I think this would get me there?
I really loved those Beat Boys. I really thought they were onto something. My feelings for them have become complicated with age and revelations of my own. Even without the presence of my friend I've wondered about my inspirations. Why did I like The Emperor of Ice Cream? It's fairly crude. Why did I did I like This Is Just To Say? No body better be stealing my plums.
A few nights later I was reading a book that mentioned The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. Google. And again I was reading about wandering...

I loved that poem although not as much as Howl. I thought it was seminal but worried that my friend might think I was in danger of drifting off into the night. HA.
Lines from poems and songs and writing in general have always framed my thinking. My journals have as many quotes as my own writing. Possibly. Not because I don't think I say thing well but so often someone captures my feeling so precisely. Perhaps Joni most often.
I did wander a few reckless streets. I was searching. I did think hours of drinking and smoking and snorting were filled with connection. The grinding jaws. The hacking coughs. The stumbling to the bathroom time and time again. So full of shadows and silliness. I don't regret any of it but neither would I recommend it.
I am reading Frantumagia, which is an ironic book to read. It's like peeking into the files of a writer who has made such an effort to not have her personality connected to her books. And she has very good reasons. She feels the writing should stand on it's own merit. Now I'm reading her letters in which she explains this over and over and I feel ... wrong. But it's making me smile. Because I love what she's saying. In her first letter she writes to her agent regarding a book of hers...

...if it does not have, in itself, thread enough to weave, well, it means that you and I were mistaken; if, on the other hand, it does, the tread will be woven where it can be, and we will only have to thank the readers for their patience in taking it by the end and pulling. 

Sentences like that stop me in my tracks. I have to read them over and over. I go back to read them even after I finish the book. I search for them years later. Even the punctuation fascinates me. I'm not a student of punctuation. Clearly. I've changed writing because I fear making punctuation errors in long sentences. Sadly. I did warn my friend to not use ellipsis in the dubious but defendable way I do.
I have read The Neapolitan Quartet but none of Ferrante's earlier book, which of course now I want/need to read. Books lead to more books.
I do buy books because a specific writer wrote them. I just ordered the new Joan Didion from both Amazon and Powell's. Accidentally but obviously I was hyper to read her new writing, which I understand is actually full of old notebook writing. Another chance to sneak inside the thinking of a person I will never know but for whom I feel enormous affection because of their words. I always want to know them. Stripped as I am.

I know you are reading this poem listening for something, torn between bitterness and hope turning back once again to the task you cannot refuse. I know you are reading this poem because there is nothing else left to read there where you have landed, stripped as you are.

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Siege

About a month ago I had a really good day. I'd been working really hard on my yoga, which is to say that I had a nice series of poses and I was slowing down. I was really concentrating. During my massage I was showing Guy some of the things I was doing and he complimented my range of motion. He's a structural alignment enthusiast so I was happy to be able to check in.
The next morning I sat down to eat breakfast, shifted ever so slightly and POW! A muscle spasm. I shifted and thought I was OK but noooooooo. Four days in my recliner switching from heat to ice and back. I watched more TV in those four days than I have in four years. Is that what happens when you get all braggadocio about your yoga? I guess.
I was able to get back to the pool for one swim and the next morning I woke up cold. My stomach was lurching around during breakfast. I got colder and colder. I could not get warm. Eventually I vomited. And then, because I wasn't having enough fun, I fell out of bed. I was so weak I had to call the EMTs to get me up. I could barely get up from the toilet.
I talk a lot about feeling lucky that I have my nest. One of the luckiest things about it is that DeAnna lives down the hall. She rarely left my side during the next few days of badness and by Saturday she dragged my whiny ass to the ER. Always a good time. I came home with three kind of antibiotics, potassium and two kind of anti nausea medicine. I had some kind of wicked virus and a skin infection. DeAnna set out my meds, which were so confusing to my barely functioning brain, made Jello, heated up soup. Just her presence was so comforting.
Tomorrow it will be two weeks since the virus hit. I am better but food still doesn't sit well. I'm still weak.
I am still longing for a normal boring week. No snow. Muscles calm. Belly settled. But. I'm starting to think normal has no meaning in my life.

Friday, January 20, 2017

No Good Very Bad Day

I'm not sure exactly why but right after the mommy passed I was very sensitive to sound. I couldn't watch much TV or listen to the radio. No music. Definitely no news. I've gotten back to a little NPR in the morning and Rachel at night. I try with music but I usually get too sad. I may have some kind of auditory/tactile synesthesia. I feel noises in my body.
So there's a media black out today. I am participating. However. It's not hard. I still need quiet. I really can't tolerate the news today. But I find myself having difficulty understanding how I feel.
This isn't the first time I've felt miserable about a new president. Reagan. Bush one. Bush two. It isn't the first time I felt like things were hinky. Russians, FBI, gerrymandering. Something feels off. She had more of the popular vote than anyone in history. Just hold that thought for a minute.
I think it's likely that he'll be impeached relatively soon because he has too many problems but then it's Pence and the Republican senate and congress. I mean. It's bad. It's going to be bad for awhile.
But how do I feel?

I'm sad because the mommy is gone but I'm angry and hurt because of how hard it was to take care of her. I got cards from a few of the organizations that "helped" and people were complimenting me because I was such a great advocate for my mom. OK. But why did I have to be? I've lost all faith in systems. I've lost a lot of faith in people. There were stand out people who helped us so much but there was a lot of wrongness.
So I feel like I'm already on the ground and the jack boot awareness of this new regime is just another thud. It hurts. I'm angry. But I already was. My mother was (essentially) kicked out of the last two homes she had. Both times she was dying. Just hold that thought for a minute.
I started a new book yesterday. There is an epigraph from Santayana.

Why shouldn't things be largely absurd, futile, and transitory? They are so, and we are so, and they and we go very well together.  


Rachel keeps saying this is not a time to stop paying attention. She's right. There is work to do. There has always been work to do. I'm not going to march because I can't walk. I'm not going to wear a hat because why does everything with women have to be pink? Why are there always cats? I get the history of women crafting together and I get that things need to be fun but ... pink? Why?
I will find a way to be part of the resistance.
But this day.
This is just no good.
Very bad.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Where Was I?

I stopped reading right after the paintings by Alice Neel and right before the poem by Fanny Howe. I found that amusing but the real reason I was going to sleep was because my stomach hurt. I'd eaten badly and my stomach was letting me know. I felt like I might vomit and I wanted to try and sleep before it got worse. It worked. Sort of. I was awake an hour later, feeling a bit better but bad enough to try sleeping in the recliner for awhile.
When I first get in bed it's the princess and the pea. I have to have everything just so or I can't sleep. Once I'm asleep it's all good. I woke up at one point with the remote to raise and lower the bed and a book wedged into my rib. Hadn't noticed.

I wrote that about a month ago. I usually have an idea for posts that more or less arrive at something resembling a whole idea. I have no idea where I was going with this. It's a description of an average night. I'm reading something. In this case The Paris Review. I don't know why I found it so amusing to stick the book mark between a painter and a poet but I did. My stomach bothers me a lot. But sometimes it's my knee. Or any random joint. I almost always go back and forth between the bed and the recliner. Why did I think this was an interesting start to a post?
I thought about deleting it.
My thinking is muddled. More muddled than usual.
I did delete a half a sentence that I think might have been about a dream. The sentence was about a little stuffed Kermit that Mandy gave the mommy. When the mommy was zonked on morphine she held that frog and seemed to be trying to understand what it was. I can clearly picture her hands wrapped gently around it, moving slightly.

I was looking to the normal rhythms of life to distract me. But life hasn't been normal. We've had piles of snow. There's ice on roads and sidewalks. I can't get to the pool or any appointments.
In some ways I like being house bound. Swimming will always be my preferred exercise but my yoga practice is getting deeper. I now have a house bound routine, which includes reading in the afternoon. It feels so luxurious to read in the afternoon. I did it school but I had assigned reading.
The other day I was reading and I hit a page I couldn't seem to take in. I started over and started over and was just about to bag it when I realized that the first sentence was: Everyone has a mother.
Grief is odd. There are days when I feel like I'm trying to conjure it up. Like I feel I need to do more and I'm not ready to stop. Like letting go of grief is letting go of her again. Too soon. There's too much chatter. It's gritty. But when I feel sad, just sad, when the tears come I know it's real. And then I let it roll over me.
So maybe it was another story about the last days of the mommy and how it still hurts. Maybe that's where I was going. But it was also about me finding pleasure in an odd moment with reading. Because that's the way it is now. Small pleasures. Memories. Tears always in my eyes. The search for comfort.    

Monday, January 02, 2017

First Monday

Just kidding. I was on a roll with those titles and I couldn't help myself. It's just a Monday. Nothing special. I've been looking forward to ordinary days. I feel that the rhythm of ordinary days will heal me.
It's a perfectly good Monday. Except it's snowing quite a lot and I couldn't get to the pool. I didn't feel too bad about it because I had things to do. I did set the journal and a pen on the table so I had no excuse this morning. I made some illegible chicken scratch while I ate my eggs and watched the snow fall. Did my yoga. Ritual full filled.
Last year I made a big effort to make sure all of the mommy's friends knew where she was. She got a small stack of Christmas cards and I spent the day sending a letter to everyone to explain where she wasn't. A moody, weary thing to do but it's done.
It was supposed to stop snowing a half an hour ago but nope.
That's it.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

First Day

When I was 17 the mommy made me a cross stitch that read: Today is the first day of the rest of your life. K glued it onto a piece of paneling and framed it. Despite the peripatetic nature of my early adult life I managed to hang onto it. I always tried to always hang it where I would see it first thing in the morning. I don't look at it every morning but I know that it's there.
I didn't actually like it for a long time. I mean. 17. My mother made it. So uncool. (Heh) And I'm not big on aphorisms. It was a saying that was on t-shirts, posters and buttons everywhere at that time. It held the feel I associated with the sixties. Hopeful. Open. Ready. Now it's 2017. I feel none of those things. I feel watchful. Braced. Reserved.
The goal yesterday was to clean the nest so that today would start ... clean. But instead I played in plant dirt and everything is a bit dirtier.
Earlier in the year I started the day with a bit of yoga and some writing in my hand written journal. It was my attempt at creating a ritual. I ate breakfast at the table and not in front of the computer. At some point I lost the beat. Recently I've been doing yoga again and doing a better job of it. I still haven't done the journal and today the table is covered with unfinished plant projects so ... maybe tomorrow.
I don't do resolutions. I never commit to anything I don't think I can really do. I wake everyday thinking about things I need to do to feel more engaged in life. Well maybe not every day. Some days (maybe most days) I stumble along from start to end. But I try to engage.
Because my birthday is in the middle of the year I drove myself crazy in my young adult life doing critical reassessment every (bleepin) six months. How was I doing? Teeth gnashing. Hand wringing. I was never doing very well. My birthday is near the solstice and there's another one of those near the holidays. Six month self awareness alarms. I don't remember when I stopped.
I do like a ritual acknowledgement of passages. I like ritual in general.
For the last few weeks I was aware on the day that the mommy left that it had been another week. And then it had been a month. I think this will wear off. And then, too soon, it will have been a year. Her ashes were combined with K's and put in a really pretty biodegradable pouch. Today that pouch will be placed in the French Broad river near the places in North Carolina where they lived after they retired. That was where they were the happiest. They can start the year as particles and waves. Onward to the big next thing.
The word happy still feels like sand in my mouth. What I wish for everyone is a deeply immersive love. Some people find that in romantic relationships. Some with family. Some with pets. Some in mediation or prayer. It wasn't easy taking care of the mommy. It was hard. I complained. But it was immersive and there was  love. I feel so grateful to have had the end of our story be so filled with playfulness, sweetness and love. If we have another story to tell together (some how, some where) it will resonate with the songs we sang to one another and the inside jokes we told.
But now I need to sweep up some dirt. And wash some dishes. There's already laundry in the machine. It all feels like perfectly lovely things to be doing on day one.
It's snow/raining. My friend calls it chunky rain. So far it's not sticking.
I'll read. I was trying to wait until I had finished some magazines to start a new book but I thought it was good to start a book on the first day. That's my resolution. Work to do the things that seem correct and then do what feels best.
Into the river.
Onward to the next big thing.