it’s late.

N.

My son has been having a rough go of it today. His friend texted him nasty things using even nastier words. The tension you see here, will be remedied with warm milk, hot bath, and so many cuddles.

***

Flowers, Candle, Incense, Shrine

 

Fresh flowers. Candle.

R.

 

Ralph.

N.The Boy, again.

 

from the effort of loving to the making of bread

I’d walked out with dinner plates still dirty and left it all behind. My husband either would do the washing up or he wouldn’t but I couldn’t spend another minute in the house for this or that reason. I’d spent a large part of the day cooking: homemade rolls and slow-roasted orange pulled pork; a coleslaw with green apple and a pineapple marmalade upside down cake with cold cream to pour on top, and that was just dinner, not even what I made for breakfast and lunch.

The bread: satisfying. Handling dough, the mixing and oiling and steam-bath and fashioning and glazing and baking, wiping down traces of flour off the counter and the mixer. A lot of love into a simple food that many take for granted.

Now, though, it’s cold outside and I’m glad I don’t have to wait for the bus more than about eight minutes. I buy a punch pass from the driver as soon as I step on board, before I can think about it being twenty dollars and we have four more days until payday. The pass has a gold-leaf little bit embossed so people can’t fraud one. I zip up my coat and sit mid-way back. Riding the bus in the later hours is quite pleasant , although I need to really know when to catch one though, as they are few and far between and I don’t want to get stuck in Crackton, Aberdeen in this kind of cold. The interior lights are red and low and there are only a few passengers and they’re not rowdy. Like I said, quite pleasant, not as loud or as odorous as day trips.

I look up at the signs I’ve seen most my life up above the windows. “If You’ve Found This Number, Give Yourself A Break And Call”, followed by the phone contact for Narcotics Anonymous. I feel this little thrill sitting there, wondering how many people have happened on that sign and felt the familiar flutter in their gut and an accusatory jab, then cut their eyes away and tried to blot out their intolerable reality a bit longer.

We head up the hill to the hospital and back down with no one getting off or on. I was up at the hospital earlier; a friend gave me a ride to see another friend who was suffering internal bleeding. I flick my eyes up to the second floor and say a little prayer. Later in the afternoon, after our visit, I’d gone out with the ill friend’s wife and we ran our dogs at the bay. Two Bassett hounds and my Hutch, two hundred pounds of dog, and Hutch was in the lead being awesome!

I’m thinking though while I text and wait for my stop, I want for nothing. Both cars broke but one’s in the shop at least and hopefully it’s something we can fix, and the fact my husband isn’t upset about any of this helps me a great deal. I don’t want anything, not really, I am content with things the way they are. I’m happy to get more blessings but I’m okay if for a day or two things are tough. I was thinking maybe I’d want to take the family on a sunny vacation somewhere and you could even get a credit card for that sort of thing maybe? Even this option is something open to me, something we probably won’t do, but who knows, maybe we could do it. I’m okay with my thoughts accompanying me against the damp, cold glass, and my mind doesn’t hang on or cling or run neither.

i like the hateful “beany eyes”, plus, this is like a really boring journal entry, sorry

Today my friend T. tells me I’m a “poster child for the women”*. He says I’m doing so well, he cites my homelife and marriage. And he says, “You got your kids working without having to – ” and he does this motion like whipping someone.

“Everyone” knows my kids are great. And doing great. T.’s talking to me and I’m thinking, yeah, life is pretty good in ways I am finding more meaningful daily. Like back in the day, I used to feel so stressed about aspects of running a home. But today while I am doing my thing here, my children are home cleaning the house. They’d cheerfully volunteered to do housework while I was out. I came home to plants watered, floors vacuumed and swept, dog walked, and the dishes done. Actually before I left I’d tried to talk the kids out of so many chores because it was kind of a lot.  I’m still getting used to letting go of some of this business.

Weirdly and speaking of Recovery, I recently had someone engage in insensitive and rude behavior re: my alcoholism. As in, mean-spirited comments and gossip. Amazing. I kept quiet at the time because I was surprised at what was happening, and because no response was intuitively forthcoming. But when I reflected on this later, I realized I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve been sober some eighteen months now and unless I’m mis-remembering, that’s only ONE incident where someone was shitty to me. I’ve got a lot of support, from not only those in Recovery but many of those in my life still actively drinking and using. Lots of people have been treated worse.

My kidneys are acting up the last few days, a fair amount of pain, but again, my perspective has changed. Instead of being afraid of the pain, I know that I can choose to pace (and sweat and maybe vomit) at home; or I can go to the ER. Knowing I have options helps and I am calm. I have accepted, at least for this time being, that I have physical pain.

Tonight Ralph and I helped someone for about three hours, putting together an online application packet and a cover letter.

It feels good to help others with no regard for return.

I made a zombie platypus for Phee. She named the plushie “Smog” and said Smog is both a boy and a girl. Smog has a cheerful hate and will fuck you up with poisonous spines (that’s a real thing BTW, God came up with that). But Smog loves Phoenix and they sleep together every night.

Zombie Platypus Plushie, Made For My Daughter

I’m working on the kids’ Christmas presents right now but I CAN’T POST DICK bout it. I haven’t yet scrabbled enough in my mattress (okay, Paypal) to buy my super-awesome Ralph present. But we’ll see how it goes.

* at the treatment center

“the fun doesn’t happen until way later”

I bust into the bathroom to pee and then wash my hands. The sink is full of puke. Someone’s not feeling well, I think mildly. And then there’s no toilet paper. I make do with one of those sterile paper seat covers, which will always remind me of a joke Sharpie’d in a stall some time back: “Free Cowboy Hats!”

And BAM it hits me. I feel more at home in the places I go to help drug addicts and alcoholics, than I do almost anywhere else besides my own actual residence. Even in the latter, sometimes I feel oddly disconnected from my domestic exploits, like my life is a series of sensible activities to take care of my body and the bodies of the ones beloved to me (husband, children, dog, cats, gecko even, friends, family…) – even my artistic exploits, as much as I love them, can feel more soothing to mind and body than anything else. But where my heart and soul find resonance, are these places where pain twisted us to shit in a crucible, where we were finally defeated and broke in half and we learned the profound and utterly brilliant experience of complete demoralization. If you haven’t experienced enlightenment through this means, it probably sounds unpleasant. Or maybe bogus. I used to want to explain it over and over because it’s so incredible. But today, I don’t try to convince anyone much. I have a brain disease and not only that, it got bad enough the symptoms made themselves noticeable in a big way and then I had to fight myself out of a pit like nothing I could have conceived and today I’m standing on the edge still grinning down. If you haven’t been there, you don’t get it.

I sit down and the clients walk in, or shuffle in, and I greet them and smile. I couldn’t be more in my element. Except I’m hot from hustling my ass up the hill on my big heavy bike. And instead of the room being the typical preternatural cold (I think to keep people from falling asleep; many are on medications that keep them drowsy) it’s warm and so I’m not cooling off. I fan myself and I say hi. Every week, dozens more. Some people I already know from before, back out, back in. I’m glad to see they’re alive. A pretty young woman says to her friends, “There’s my sponsor!” and comes and sits by me and tells me she’s out Monday. Some look all sleepy and are in full-on naptime a few minutes into me talking. I’m thinking of one woman I saw a few weeks back, she introduced herself by name and said she didn’t know how much time she had sober… She slowly said, “I don’t know how I got here.” Anyway the sleepy ones, I’ll see them again in a few days probably, and they’ll meet me for their first time.

I tell them a little bit about why I’m there and start talking about what I’ve experienced. When I’m talking a lot of people are relating, nodding, or laughing with that kind of relief, I’m not the only one. There’s a few sleeping and there’s probably a few who find me annoying as fuck. One of the ones who is listening, a dark young man across from me, nods in recognition when I talk about being a “high bottom” and what kind of mess that gets you, and then when I talk about how it hurts to watch someone you love still in active practice. Later, reluctantly, he shares – after the group asks him to. He says he spent all this time locked up in a few forms of treatment facilities and immersed himself in Recovery culture and said he walked and talked Recovery and kept a smile on his face, always. And he collected a bit of time that way. But he says he never dealt with the pain, and he relapsed. He doesn’t say this but it seems like he’s dealing with it now. He says slowly, and to no one in particular, looking at the floor and the words are like a birth: “if you’re having fun right now, you probably don’t get it. The fun doesn’t happen until way later.” To me he reads like he’s in deep, profound pain. The truth of his words pulls from my own gut, and I know what he’s talking about. And I think to myself what a blessing, what a manifestation. I recently read in a book: “human consciousness is light perceiving light.”

The joy I experience in this work is deep and unshakeable. And it’s not hyper or even blissful, it’s just joy. It’s impossible to describe and what’s the point? You have to experience it. Get a little and you can start to recognize it in others, and you definitely recognize its absence in others.

An hour and a half later I’m leaving and a big man says to me, “I really respect you for what you’ve shared.” And I’m like, “I respect you – you said you didn’t want to talk then you get started and you’re dropping all this wisdom.” Wisdom is found everywhere in those I work with. It’s actually other places, almost every other place, you find people sleepwalking through life, going through the motions. It’s like this secret no one wants to own up to. Nothing to be ashamed of, we all sleepwalk at some time or another. We can all wake up, but we can all fall back again too.

This work keeps me awake while I’m doing it.

“just keep ’em appetizing!”

The last few days have been full of lots of home-cooking. A broccoli, swiss, and pepperjack quiche, an apple pie with oat, brown sugar, pecan and cranberry topping, baguettes, green beans, mashed potatoes (SERIOUSLY Ralph does a great job on these), pot roast and green beans, spaghetti and meatballs (in case you’re wondering, two days ago Phoenix emphatically lifted vegetarian requirements but suggests organic and/or ethical meat when we cook with it), butter broccoli, roasted garbanzo beans atop red and white basmati rice (again, Ralph nailed this one) with an attendant fresh-veggie tray, salad with butter lettuce and cherry tomatoes that burst in one’s mouth, sweet tea and our usual hot coffee, ice cold Red Hook beer.

I struggle with occasional experiences of guilt when it comes to my kids and their care – food is an aspect of that care and it’s hard to feel daily okay about my efforts (unless you’ve been a mom you may not fully understand – not that every mom necessarily does, either).  In a more balanced vein, the part of me that feels genuinely Me instead of feeling under pressure, one of my pleasures in life is to cook for those who enjoy the food provided; there is an additional pleasure I get in seeing my kids devour everything on their plates (which they don’t always do, but for instance they did tonight). I think it’s a pretty simple thing, really. Their bodies and minds are strong and beautiful and growing; their robust appetite reminds me of this and feels like an odd sense of security and love. I also genuinely enjoy it when I’m able to provide someone with the exact thing they want, and my family loves what I provide. My kids tell me fresh bread or lemon asparagus or frijoles refritos or hardboiled eggs and carrot sticks or bún thịt xào; I can make it happen as if by magic, and always with love.

Tonight I worked right up until I realized it was long time for me to rest. I wanted to be brave enough to not do the dishes (Ralph almost always does them but tonight he watched a movie with me instead). But, no dice, becuase once I get an idea in my head it’s hard to let it go. Just after 4 AM I washed dishes and wiped counters and made some new sweet tea for Ralph tomorrow but soon l I felt genuinely beat, and I still had more work to do. I followed the kids through their bath and picked up bath toys and re-sorted tidied the living room…

and got a cold beer and came to bed and turned on a ghost television show on Netflix …

And now? Close the laptop and take a few minutes with the kiddos before Slumbertown, Population: Us.

i tried looking up quotes about failure but they were all depressingly bootstrappy

Today my many failures smirk from the corner of my ill-lit kitchen, leaned against the wall with arms crossed, sarcastically raising their eyebrows at my futile attempts to simply keep going. I’d been ignoring them for some time, primly folding fabric and wiping down counters and using my cheerful voice and washing and cutting up vegetables and all those typical things I do. I’d been thinking if I just kept working then pretty soon the failures wouldn’t seem so bad, and I’d have my little proofs at my competence and goodness and merit, and I’ll sweep these narratives out the gap like the dust from the back porch, close my door/mind and they will be gone.

Yet the failures stack up perfectly and make an airtight case. Many are small, incidental; some are large, oppressive. Perhaps no one wants to hear them enumerated here but I need them out of my mind, their crushing and entirely accurate little proclamations about my character and failings, their circular arguments that get louder and more tangled and mar my speech and thoughts while others around me have simply no idea how much I am preyed upon.

I’ve spent the last better part of a year ruminating on a particular encounter and unsatisfying and distressing conclusion with an acquaintance-friend. I have not given myself license to write about this freely here for fear of causing someone else pain or risking a reader taking my very vulnerable thoughts and using them against me with gossip and speculation. It is not that I assume the worst about people, it is that when I write or speak vulnerable words I do not wish to be re-traumatized by those who receive them. These are the very, very brief times I wish I had a private journal – the times I cannot synthesize my painful thoughts and speak in ways I that feel safe enough.

Yet the interaction is like a sore tooth, prodded, acutely painful, even months later. Before the final sundering took place I’d created a gift for this person. For months after dissolution I carried the gift and willed myself to send it – I believed like Thich Nhat Hanh instructs that when one is angry, one should give a (non-creepy or passive-aggressive) gift to this person, and the anger will dissolve and forgiveness ensue (this has worked for my relationships in the past), but I couldn’t bring myself to do this. I simply could not. I realized after a time I wasn’t Angry; I was (and am) Hurt.

I am hurt because at the close of our arrangement this person was a complete bully, yelling over my attempts to restore balance and discussion, bringing forth wrongs I’d committed that I’d had no concept were being experienced as such. Many of these sins brought against me were both unfair and inaccurate and at the end of this conversation the person admitted this (although did not offer apology nor attempt amends), but the words rang in my ears and are still rattling around all this time later. During our acquaintanceship this person had conducted themselves with a quiet uncomfortable evasion when I’d tried with every fiber of my being to be clear; in fact the exact misunderstanding I hoped to avoid is exactly what exploded forth in the end. This haunts me. I am not scared of bullies as a rule but when the person chooses to abuse me over the very thing I was scared might happen, my strength leaves my body and I have nothing, I am completely cowed and hurt and Done. They have Won in every sense of the word.

I know someone who must resort to bullying is a fearful person; either entirely damaged (as I do not believe in this case) or simply adhering to needs of Control and little depth of compassion. I know this. But it does not make me feel better.

Smaller and more exacting nonfulfillment on my part stares at me apace, even today while my hands busily handle my duties in false confidence.  I spent much of my Friday making foodstuffs for company (and many for storage, as we have quite the farm bounty) and in the end analysis I feel I first of all did not impress anyone unduly with my cuisine, and secondly although in my mind I realize my efforts to cook for family and friends and prepare good, whole food, these are wonderful exploits, I cannot stop the cynical voice in my ear saying I’m a silly person, a self-demeaned woman for standing at the sink and scrubbing and peeling and slicing and then sautéing and mixing and straining and gently stirring and setting aside and doing the little math in my head about feeding Ralph this or that or the children or family or company this exact thing I think they’ll love. And even though I know I feed not only my family but others, and so often (not always) my food is experienced as delicious and healing and restorative and nourishing, there’s this terrible voice telling me what I do is Nothing, it is Drudgery, it is unpaid and unmerited and not cared for. This voice makes little sense to me from a logical perspective but it has been powerful these last eight years I’ve been home doing the Work I do.

And this morning I’ve spent quite some time feeling terrible because I was requisitioned to do a sewing project and I failed. I did my best and worked hard and thought I’d done well but it turns out I’d done a few things wrong. While I tell myself Anyone Can Make Mistakes it would seem my mistakes are so much worse than others, the pain I cause others seems so much larger than I would ordinarily assume, I begin to wish I had not Tried at all, had not said Yes I Can Do This For You, had not tried something that wasn’t a guaranteed success, and I am reminded of how little my skills really are, in every way, and anything I’ve done before I was proud of recedes into a pathetically small pile, it is actually not real but rather Wishful Thinking, and every compliment others have delivered were only false platitudes, and I was a fool to enjoy them.

My previous experience of relatively rugged self-esteem was rather an attempt on my part to think I’m someone I’m Not.

I sat down to write this precisely after cooking breakfast for my daughter and before writing an overdue email to a friend. The breakfast preparations were necessary because no, not ONE MORE thing could I do incorrectly, I could do one thing right, if I was struck dead on the way back to my bedroom I would at least have fed my daughter.

The breakfast and the email are not much. But they are things I want to do, things I can do.

That will, in the end analysis, have to be good enough. Because it’s all there is.

una otra gata por mas loco en casa

We Hogabooms have, shall we say, less than self-serving instincts.  Like the fact I am trying to convince my husband to buy this kind of dive-y (yet very affordable) house a block or so away.  Can we shift our life to include (the albatross of) a house that needs constant maintenance and work?  Do we want the responsibility of repair and the commitment to this geographic locale?  I’m not really sure. Yet the house we currently live in is as bland as a hotel in its wall treatments and bathroom and kitchen furnishings (two rooms I seem to care much about), and I’m bored of cleaning without being able to paint or commission from my mother a large, sci-fi octopus-inspired mural for the walls.  Right, I want to live in a place half-torn up with walls that need sheet rock and constant repairs that jockey for clothes for the kids or a vacation maybe once every five years.  This is how I grew up and how I grew up is one of the reasons I want to live a little differently.  And yet, We Shall See.

Secondly, my husband is currently in the midst of adopting a stray kitty, a little black number with long hair and a curious yet cautious demeanor (we’re calling her Snoop based on her proclivities for curious examination).  He “accidentally” fed her from our back porch and he casually has been leaving the back door open for her to come in and look about.  She (I’m not even sure she’s a female, but she seems to be one) looks about and ducks and makes these adorable sounds.  She reminds me of my little Blackstone, not three months gone, because she is black with white (secret!) bellypatch, and she is timid and lovely.  As I type this she ducks through my house making tiny interrogation-meows.  I suppose the next step is to put up some neighborhood flyers and a “Found” classified in the paper to make sure she’s not really someone else’s cat who is researching a perhaps sweeter deal.

Tonight my children were scheduled to stay over at my mother’s house.  Today our son beat the game “Plants vs. Zombies” and has been the manifestation of sheer joy over this accomplishment; yet his festive mood did not extend to staying away from the home.  Fifteen minutes ago he called and requested transport back to his own (our own) bed. I am glad for his company, for his husky voice and the way his hair smells and busying my morning while he sleeps in the bed, which is as Right as anything else feels.

Oh and if you read this, PLEASE GIVE MY HUSBAND a good deal of teasing over the cat thing. You can find him on Facebook or Twitter.