“with all associations broken, one forms new ones, as a broken bone thickens in healing”

I hear the tail end of the young woman’s sentence. She’s crying: “… it’s how you guys make me feel!” My friend M. speaks in to her in low tones, but is quickly interrupted: “It wasn’t even you,” the crying young woman says. “It was her.” I can feel her accusatory tone all the way down the hall, I swear I picture her finger stabbing at me.

Who wants to be her? Not me. I am aghast. I’ve been doing this work twice a week for almost two years and this is the first time I’m the sonovabitch, or more accurately, I can hear someone saying I’m the sonovabitch. And who wants to be the sonovabitch? Again: not me.

This is a time of transition for me. I am moving into a different set of responsibilities in some of my volunteer work; I am leaving behind other duties and letting other parties take them, just when (of course!) I was starting to feel comfortable, like I had half a clue, like I was halfway decent at this work. It makes a kind of Universal Sense I’d get this kind of jolt tonight, someone forming a grudge. It’s an apt, ignominious footnote a period of my life I’d come to treasure, and the finale of this episode. Because I’m going to miss going up to the treatment center, never missing Wednesdays, never missing Sundays unless I was in the hospital or out of town. I’m going to miss it a whole hell of a lot and I would write on and on here about it, if I didn’t think it would be breaking the trust of those I work with. So without saying more, let me just say I’m in mourning. I think there was this little bit of me who was clinging on to the thought of never letting go of it because it was becoming a part of me. But I think the right thing to do is grow a little more and try something new and put my ass on the line a little bit more.

***

I remember the first time I heard it, really heard it, when a very wise friend of mine said, “What other people think of me is none of my business.” I had this instant sense of revulsion and fear upon hearing this because at the time, I knew what other people thought of me mattered so very, very, very much and I hated that it mattered like it did. I tried hard, so hard, to be a good person (wife mother sister daughter friend citizen) but how hard could I really have been trying, when what I never wanted to hear was someone’s disapproval. It drove me absolutely crazy, and I could absolutely fixate on myself and my mistakes (fancied or real); even worse, I could fixate on their character faults (fancied or real). That kind of thin-skin or self-absorption or whatever, well the practice of self-improvement is seriously compromised when you’re living that way.  Other people’s irritation was a bit scary, probably scary like the Normal Amount most people feel when someone is irritated with them – but outright hatred? My only guess is I was more affected by the abuse I’d survived than I realized; I still carry the memories within my body, not just my mind. Still carry that fear of other people; not so much the people as the Hate itself. Hate still frightens me so, but usually only when it’s directed at me or I perceive it is. If you knew my whole gory history (and some of you know a bit of it), you’d probably understand. It’s no excuse; it’s just where I’m at some of the time.

Driving home tonight I feel pangs. On reflection, I wouldn’t have done or said anything different than I did, even though it apparently did not please this one individual. & yet, I know that the pain this woman is feeling has almost nothing to with me; rather it’s a lot of horrid shit that’s gone down in her life, and her own self-pity. I know because I’ve been there and I try to treat people the way I wanted to be treated then, and want to be treated today. With kindness and directness. You know, both those things aren’t as easy as they sound, especially when like me you’ve got a goddamned brain disease. Yeah and again. I’m not trying to make excuses, just saying there are days it’s rough up in this bitch.

Yeah. Good days versus “growth days”. “Growth days” is a nice euphemism for, “here’s a wee cockpunch!”

“You’re not in trouble. We don’t get into trouble here.” – my daughter Phoenix, to a friend

Today my friend Wendy tweeted an article by Norm Lee, the author of nopunish.net. It was just my kind of thing – a brief history and analysis of the school system.

I’d been thinking about Norm Lee just recently. On the seventh of March, 2010 I sent him an email asking to subscribe to his newsletter. Five days later I received an email from him. It read, in part:

Okay, you’re included on the nsltr list. you happy? For the week following your email, I haven’t been able to do a lick of email work – AND IT’S YOUR FAULT. Engrossed as I’ve been with reading your stuff, I’ve kept wondering if there is an end to this wonderful tunnel of love & freedom. Lovit, lovit, lovit! Where did you get the devotion-to-kids, the insights, the compassion, the courage to be so open and vulnerable and brave the brickbats that are inevitably visited upon anyone as free? I’ve worked on it for more than the last half of my life (I’m 81), and I just get stronger and more dedicated. But then, I’m a trained Buddhist (Bodhisattva), with 40 years of daily meditation practice, so slings and arrows are just slings and arrows, nothing personal, nothing more.
 
I believe I love you. (So much for training in detachment.)

I remember how I felt reading this email. It was kind of a Big Deal at the time. First, I felt glad that someone out there in the Ether, an experienced parent and grandparent at that, supported my husband and I in trying to raise our kids without coercion and violence. There was light at the end of the tunnel, there was a mentor saying, “You can do it!”, and that meant a lot. Because believe me I am surrounded culturally and personally by adults who either flat-out denigrate these aspirations or at the very least, have a complete ignorance as to how to live them or what life is like when you try.

I appreciated Norm’s support; but I also knew I wasn’t where he was at – and I envied him. His sentence, “slings and arrows are just slings and arrows, nothing personal, nothing more” stuck with me. Ever since. I knew what he wrote was true for him, and I knew I wanted it to be true for me. It was a truth in my head but not in my heart. At the time I had recently received my first “anonymous” hater online. And despite handling it okay, maybe, I perceived other people’s opinions of me mattered too much. While critics, either directly criticizing or implicitly shaming, had sometimes helped me a great deal, I also knew they could upset my little happy-rowboat. It’s not an exaggeration to say I let other people keep me awake at night.

Today I also know slings and arrows are just slings and arrows. I know it is nothing personal. And I know it in my heart. My change didn’t come from Norm’s email and it didn’t come entirely from practicing Buddhism (although both of those things helped) – and it didn’t come overnight. My life is very different now. It’s a wonderful thing.

It is possible to arrive at this place; and having arrived, to practice the principles that give us this grace.

As for non-punitive parenting, I still get it wrong sometimes. But I get better and better at leaving that way of life for others. Sometimes I get a few days in a row being a nurturing, present parent. Today I’m content with my commitment to the practice, and I’m grateful for those who do better than I. They are my mentors.

Today there is not much a critic can say to upset my rowboat. Thank you, Norm, and the many others who’ve helped me and continue to help me.

as I type this my dog thinks any minute now I’m going to do something super-cool

I took too much medicine last night & ended up throwing up lots. My poor son was still up when I threw up and he cried because he was frightened, even though I assured him afterwards. Then I couldn’t sleep, likely as a result of the meds and then too much strong coffee in the evening.

What’s worse than all that is I gave myself a really, really hard time about making these mistakes. I can’t always stop the mental negativity, the thoughts punish me and crowd me and yes, I know it’s terribly self-absorbed. The good news is I don’t do it as much or as often; and I am kinder to others very frequently, if I have not learned the art when it comes to my own self.

Tonight as Ralph, Emily, Phoenix and I drove to Olympia, my daughter identified weather on the horizon: “That’s a cumulonimbus cloud… we’re heading into a thunderstorm.” I said, “How can you tell?” (I mean I remember being forced to learn about clouds in school, and promply forgetting everything except for a few names.) She said, “The cloud has the classic anvil shape, and look at the color of the sky.” And then the holy shit of it all was she was right, as only an hour later we’d driven into what quickly became the most intense lightning storm I’ve ever been in, in my life in the Pacific Northwest. Huge drops of warm rain and a sky like a bruise and visible cloud-to-ground lightning accompanied with the loudest BOOMS and fire sirens and we drove past a tree that had been sheared.

It was thrilling. Thanks to the horrible nature documentaries my kids watch, I knew we were safe in the car. But I was still happy to get home and inside my little hidey-house.

Lightning Storm

In other news: Hutch had his first vet appointment. He’s down from 120 lbs. on June 27th to 111 lbs. today. I’m proud of getting him healthier and more comfortable. It’s been a lot of great fun, but a lot of work!

 

cinemagraph

friday links: “But I’m a test pilot and you’re just a lady!”

Despite being ill and all, I had to get you some Friday links. Here’s hoping you kick back and waste some time!

Are You There, God? It’s Me: Period Stories by Tami at Clutch Magazine. (slight spoilers for the TV show “Mad Men”).

An illustration and discussion of “The Real Drinking World” at HuffPo. As a high-bottom functional, or “almost-alcoholic” (I just prefer the term – alcoholic), I think this is excellent, excellent reading. I’m grateful I had a doctor point out my [“almost-“] alcoholism, but I also support the dignity of those who’ve reached full-on alcoholic dependence in the ways, you know, the movies like to portray. Just heard a story the other day about a man who ended up in his bathroom on the toilet with constant diarrhea, and who made up a bed in his bathtub and stayed in there and drank. You don’t have to end up there to get help, and I’m glad articles like this are popping up here and there.

Sexist media: in media reports on women’s issues like abortion & birth control, men are quoted 5 times more than women.

“Behind the scenes at James Bond auditions”, a photo slide retrospective. I was raised on Bond films and despite all the things you could rightfully claim (sexist, racist, homophobic, campy, et cetera) I have a special place in my heart for that cheesiness (and yay Pussy Galore!). This little series was fun and cute, and gave me a newfound appreciation for Lazenby, whom I’d previously pish-poshed.

Cinemagraphs! A cute concept. We’ll be seeing them everywhere soon. Unless you already are, because I’m usually behind the times. Here’s a question. What movie, and what actor, and why do I like him?

cinemagraph

A little bit of animated fun: if you thought movie trailers cheapened Carmina Burana O Fortuna, check this out.

A million shades of grey; or, “Would you rather be right, or would you rather be happy?”, or – and this is my favorite – “Ken Wilber said, ‘Sometimes you need to allow things to hurt you more, but bother you less.'”. by Ingrid Mathieu.

Open Thread: Erykah Badu & The Flaming Lips Team Up for a NSFW Vid – Are You Feeling It? at Clutch Magazine.
I have my thoughts about this video. I’ll share them. I think this is a beautiful song. Audio-wise, I like the cover. I like the video, too. I think it’s pretty neat. However I’m a li’l tired of the same naked bodies being used in the same ways. Call me when we see a nude dude – not being portrayed as silly – and yeah, full cock-n-balls, for one. Update: apparently the whole thing is a big mess between the artists. I have some thoughts on that too, but I’m sick, so I’m done.

BALLS, yet again

About an hour ago as Ralph and I were out doing late-night errands (Home Depot, Safeway), I got some yucky news. Most smarties who rent their homes (like we do) benefit by saying adios to the paid deposit – right off the bat. And I knew this. But I am discouraged as after meeting the ex-landlord two weeks ago, he told us that if we fixed X and Y he’d refund us the entirety of the deposit. And, I believed him. And, he was lying.

I am not surprised given the man’s past behaviors, but I am depressed. I don’t know what our hundreds of dollars mean to this ex-landlord, but to me I’d hoped for groceries. A few days ago Ralph gave me a certain sum of cash for me to secure so I could buy provisions for our son’s birthday party. I’m glad I at least was able to buy a few party things so that is going to happen, no matter what.

I don’t want to hold anger in my heart. I know that the misbehaviors and the perpetrations of others are not things I have any control over. It’s telling I have to keep reminding myself of this. I do not want to fight with anyone, nor hold any resentments. They are anathema to the gratitude I want to experience, and in turn practice. I feel sad to think of how hard my husband worked cleaning the house and repairing it and setting it to rights. I feel foolish I believed this landlord at his word, since I’d had previous experience with him. But then, I reconsider. I know Ralph and I know he did the work because it was the right thing to do. I know that doing the right thing benefits the one who does it. I know that I have no control over who wants to mislead or betray me, however symptomatic these slights are of his character or behaviors.

This financial setback came at a time of stress and sadness, all around me. I have family sick and struggling with illness, a friend’s daughter just lost a baby, another friend’s husband’s hand was crushed in a horrible work accident, a friend’s father-in-law recently died, and I’ve run across two friends in Recovery, in active relapse.

But, this is life. As for us, I know we will figure out how to buy food and presents and pay our bills, as we’ve done for the past ten plus years as a family. What I’d like is peace of mind. It will come, with time.

you may escape without a mauling

It’s 11:30 PM and I’m standing in the aisle staring at the frozen food chest. Ralph is trying to find me something, some convenience parcel I will find tasty, perhaps Amy’s Indian cuisine, palak paneer? He’s so tender and he’s been so stubbornly sweet that after several hours of his ministrations it’s almost like I’m finally going to crack and cry. It’s been easier to spend the day committed to not expressing feeling, but that can only last so long.

Depression consumes everything. It dampens joy, aggravates worries and anxieties. My five or fifty minutes late. The project that doesn’t turn out perfect. The project I decide not to do. The project that turns out well enough, but took away time I could have done something else. The friend who doesn’t respond to my messages. Any pain my children suffer, ever. Anything out of place. Anything I could have done better, or smarter, or earlier. Anything one could possibly blame me for, depression is on it.

Nothing is immune. There are wonderful things in my life but it devours them in its slow-chapp’d power. I feel better for a few moments then later I feel nothing but panic and anxiety but more to the point dread, and considering how many people support me and love me I feel ashamed to let them down. But for more than a few moments at a time, it’s impossible to feel good about myself. Even when I accomplish something well, or when I’m reminded aloud or implicitly I’m a Good Person. I worry by not being happier I’m going to lose my friends, one by one, but I know I could only fake happiness in any case. For now.

That relates to this space here. I’ve felt pressure not to write about depression, sadness. I worry I sound boring. Or like I’m trying to get attention. Neither of these are true; I write because it has always helped me more than almost anything; and yes, I do get enough attention, really. But the feeling persists: no one wants to hear this. It is tiresome. And rather pathetic, besides. Make something up, something better.

Then I think what the hell. No one is required to read here, Ever. Also: I’m really sorry if my suffering inconveniences people. I typed that sarcastically but I rather mean it. I don’t actually want to inconvenience people, and I’m not even sure I can meet this meager goal. I don’t want to be given up on. I want my friends to think enough of me not to pull back, I want them to tell me if they need something different. Maybe I’ll be able to handle it, maybe I won’t. I want them to try, if so moved.

It helps me very much to have others. I know that cleaning the house, preparing food (for my family and other people), doing right by my children and my husband, these are things I can do in the space where I am No One. It grounds me. It feels like the part that is really Me, the awareness there even while my brain tries to tell me terrible, horrible things about myself.

At the store with my husband and son, now, I’m saved by a stranger. “This is embarassing, but can you help?” a handsome, very tall man with a long braid asks us as he approaches. “My girlfriend sent me with a grocery list and she doesn’t know I can’t read.” He holds forth a scrawled piece of paper listing a few items, including something amazing and crystal clear: “Marionberry Pie Ice Cream”.

I kick into action. Friendly voice and accommodation, I could do this in my sleep. Help people? I know how. If I can just keep doing things I won’t have terrible thoughts.

It works pretty well until it doesn’t. But then it works again, later.

a pie en Hoquiam:
On Foot To Get Coffee

The bus, Grays Harbor Transit, just as I’m feeling about to puke:
Red Light