(Alas, WordPress is having formatting issues. At least on my Samsung. As a rule, these are early — sometimes first — drafts.)
I don’t remember his name.
He was on the train when I boarded, east of Sacramento. Had gotten on a few minutes before me and was already seated.Brown-pony-tailed. Just enough facial hair. And, judging from the few strands of gray, a little younger than me. The eyes (bright) were what prompted me to do something I ordinarily wouldn’t have: introduce myself to a rather hot, somewhat-younger guy.
He asked me what I do. Always a tricky question these days. “I’m in transition,” I said.
Ah, transition, he nodded.At which point he asked me more … and I told him more … and he asked me more … and I told him more. Again, something I ordinarily wouldn’t do 10-minutes in. But, heck, I was on a train, toting only a small backpack, days from a scary surgery, heading to the coast where I would be attempting to hitch a a ride. Not much to lose.
He asked me about art. I asked him about music.
He asked me about my singleness. I asked him about his.
When I told him about a set of little fabric pumpkins I’d recently made, he asked if I filled them with my soon-to-be-ex-husband’s testicles. This endeared me to Mr. Pony Tail. Exponentially.
When I mentioned technology’s effects on marriage (she delicately words), Mr. Pony Tail admitted that he’d been trying Plenty of Fish … to no avail.
“I’d rather meet someone like this,” he said.
Like the way he was meeting me.
He was on his way to a timeshare in San Francisco. First time on a train. He drove trucks for a living. Had been a full-time single dad to three kids and now, empty nested, was figuring out what to do with his days off. He planned on seeing a few bands, there in the city. Planned on winging the rest of it.
“The house is so empty with the kids grown,” he said.
“I hear ya,” I said.
We chatted our way through Roseville, Sacramento, Davis, Susuin City, and Martinez. He ate a breakfast burrito and I, a yogurt parfait. During lulls, he’d look out his window and I’d look out mine. I wondered, in the silences, what he was thinking because, well, this is what I was thinking:
Maybe he’ll ask me to meet him in San Francisco.
Maybe I’ll say, “Hey, come on out to Point Reyes.”
Maybe we’ll have dinner together.
Maybe we’ll take a walk.
Maybe I’ll buy a roll of condoms like Cheryl Strayed did when she hiked the Pacific Crest Trail.
Maybe, because I’m having surgery soon … alone in L.A. … on that part of my body … with so little left to lose … I’ve also lost all inhibition.
Maybe my uninhibitedness will make up for whatever’s broken.
Maybe he’ll say to me, “Don’t worry about the brokenness.”
Maybe he’ll say “I’m a father of three. I know what can happen to a woman’s body. I’ll be gentle.”
Maybe I’ll say, “Even these thoughts are out of character for me.”
Maybe he’ll say, “After all you’ve been though, they make perfect sense.”
Maybe I’ll say, “I’ve never had a one-night stand.”
Maybe he’ll say, “Neither have I.”
Maybe I’ll say, “Yes, bridges! I love that metaphor!”
Maybe I’ll lay myself out across whatever abyss he has to cross …
And, after we’ve both crossed, we’ll look back at each other one time — wistfully — before turning, stepping toward our new lives.
He to his. Me to mine.
“Richmond Station!” The conductor called, bringing the curtain down on the movie in my head.
I dropped my plastic spoon into my empty yogurt cup as the train slowed to a halt. Mr. Pony tail turned from his window, smiled at me when he heard the thunking plastic-on-plastic sound.
“My stop,” I said. Rising from my seat, heaving my backpack over my left shoulder.
A beat. Just one beat. He looked at me. I looked at him. Then …
“Take care,” said I to I-don’t-remember his name.
“You, too,” he said. Shifting a little in his seat.
I smiled, turned, and headed for the train’s open door. Beyond the door’s threshold, across the bay, fingers of coastal fog released their grasp on the hills. Giving up morning to afternoon. By dusk, I’d be beyond those hills. Beyond a good many things, if only for just a day.
Like the receding fog, letting go.
I stepped off the train, gingerly, because my shoulders can bear a pack but my groin remains a precarious, tender weave of flesh and sinew.
I didn’t look back, wistfully or otherwise.
I had a backpack, a bus schedule, my own two feet, and whatever compass is granted to the blindsided. The whole universe laid out before me.
All I needed, and then some, to get where I needed to go.
This post is in dedication to my sister, who has been a saint over the last year. I owe her more than I could ever repay.
365. That’s the number we’ll be studying today, readers (my loyal friend-readers via FB and my very few-remaining/equally loyal readers who may arrive via email or various feeds if my blog is even still on them.) I’ve continued to write, btw. But I’ve done it directly onto my top-secret FB wall, to a “customized” audience. As usual, first (more like first and a half) draft. Thus, forgive typos and go with the general vibe where unclear. Back to the topic at hand.
365. In The Bible, Enoch lived to be 365 and entered Heaven living. In Gnostic texts, 365 signifies the levels of Heaven (which begs the question: How far up did Enoch go? And, because he was still a living human and, thus, wingless, how tired was he when he got there?). In days the number marks a year. In degrees it marks a circle. But you knew that.
So it is that year has passed between significant events in this writer’s life.
The first related significant events: My Transvaginal Mesh removal surgery, late September 2013 … and my vaginal/urethra/rectal reconstruction/scar-tissue removal/hopefully-alleviate-pudental-nerve-pain surgery about 10 days ago. I’ll get into a bit more detail about this later.
The second, related in a different way, event: The surprise/abrupt departure of my husband of 22 years/3 months. A surprise to me, anyway. A surprise that came, unfortunately, four days after I was released from UCLA Med Center with a filleted vagina/rectum/urethra, upon our return home to Northern Cal. It happened while I was on a walk, actually. Catheter in hand, I’d gimped about three houses down, trying to get my bowels to move … when I saw our mini-van pull out of the driveway. He’s looking for me, I thought. Turned out he wasn’t. Turned out he’d been fine-tuning the departure while I was under the knife. Turned out, well, a lot of things. Some I knew in my gut … but had dismissed. Some that had left me scratching my head/questioning my memory/sanity/intuition. Some, about which I had no clue. Some about me. Some about him. Either way, more than I’m going to write about. I’m going to write plenty. Just not about that.
We’d had a tough decade. All outside stuff, or I thought so, anyway. Stuff he went through, which I won’t write about. Stuff I went through, which I’ll summarize: Intense grief about a loss regarding my first child/deception by the agency that handled the open adoption. Some unskillful decisions I made in handling that grief. My sister and I first seeing our mother through lung cancer, then, after a brief reprieve, losing her to a fate worse than death. Our father’s subsequent cancers, deterioration, his own heartbreaking grief, and his anger. A history of familial dysfunction resurfacing upon my sister and I becoming their primary caregivers. My sister’s stress-induced meltdown converging with difficulties my youngest daughter was having/acting out and my skillful and unskillful — really good and really shitty — ways of addressing that. And then my broken vagina and, eventual entry into Intensive Outpatient Treatment for a stress/grief-overload meltdown not unlike my sister’s. (At which point I started this blog).
On the vagina front: We talk about the shame impotence creates in men. But the vagina doesn’t get its due respect. I knew, since 2008, that something was very wrong in the hoo-ha department. Surgeon dismissed it. His local colleague dismissed it. Long story short, by 2013, mesh had torn through me like barbed wire. First making sexual intercourse painful, then excruciating, then impossible. Is that ultimately why he left? Was it a matter of unsown oats earlier in life? Was it his wife’s bouts of agoraphobia or her gradually getting better? Was it her bouts of depression or his? I’ll never know. I know only that I bought a new bedspread and redecorated our bedroom, making a sacred space for our new life with my fixed vagina and an empty nest. A bedspread he would never sleep under. I loved him and have this peculiar (apparently) quirk wherein once I love, really love, it doesn’t go away. It changes over time but those I’ve truly loved, I still hold love for. Always will. Just the way I was made.
The week my husband left (a bit over a year ago), I wrote a poem and a post. The poem was called Monday. The post was called “My Writing Teacher’s Question.” Here they are, to refresh our memories:
“Terri, these poems are beautiful and sad. Consider this just a literary question—what if the vault he created is as beautiful as the sky—how does the poem continue?” (My writing teacher/mentor asks. )
As my body does what it needs to do … goes about healing from a surgery that was much more than physical … as my heart attempts to begin a similar process, my teacher’s question shines in the murky distance, illuminated by something I can’t yet discern … somewhere far ahead of where I now stand.
It’s been a year, roughly, since my writing teacher’s question. Time to approach it … even if not yet in poetry form.
“…what if the vault he created is as beautiful as the sky—how does the poem continue?”
Two weeks after he left, sooner maybe, I got into our beater car (he took the newer one) and drove to the grocery store. Both had become things I did only when there was a crisis that prevented him from doing it. For some reason, when he’d go through something, I felt my power … and then, when he was better, it would wane again. So it was, with deep breaths, singing a John Denver song, I drove to the store … and it was a breeze. The drive. The shopping. All of it. Beautiful.
Soon after, I drove to church. When I first did this, I’d call my friend and check in “just in case I have an epic panic attack on the way.” I had a panic attack only once. Took a Xanax. Got myself where I needed to go. I love the drive to church. It’s in the country, what’s left of it around here. It stands on a hill above a pond, with a strawberry farm across the road. I’ve been a member since 1991, when I married my soon-to-be-ex-husband there. When I see the older sanctuary, where we wed, where my mother, who can no longer cry, wept with her big green eyes, my heart jumps to my throat. I tell myself, one day, it won’t. One day, the Divine love within me will reach up and bring my heart back to its rightful place. It is a peaceful place to me, still, the church prproperty. I went there when my mom was in a coma and the nurse said she wouldn’t make it through the night. I went there, many times over years, to trace the names of people I loved who died and had their ashes sprinkled by the pond. I went there to have CC baptized and helped lead youth group one year. And then, for a short while, I didn’t.
I went back even though I could no longer believe in The Bible as a literal text. When I could no longer pray. When I no longer believed in a God who stood by while the kind suffer and the cruel prosper. I went there when I figured the world was just a series of cosmic accidents. I went when I no longer understood what “God” was or what to call “God.” I went until I not only became okay with uncertainty, but rested in it. An
d now I drive there again. Regularly. And people there lov
e me and don’t subscribe to what I call “First World Spirituality” that says people with Ebola somehow manifested it into their lives. Are mere victims of their own deficient spiritual life. There where the pastor invites folks who aren’t sure what to believe up for communion and homeless folks sleep on roll-out beds on the sanctuary floor when it’s cold or too hot. And it’s okay to be broken because, in our brokenness, we are perfectly human. And I can drive there. Sit by the pond as long as I want. Imagine my own ashes there one day … where I’d intended them to be poured with my husband’s but, now, will be satisfied to have my ashes rub up against the ashes of some very good people — the real deal — whom I have had the privilege of knowing. That’s beautiful.
And check this out! After having been laid out for six weeks in April and May (Pudental Nerve), I was longing for some semblance of the summers I’d known for two decades. I still don’t drive the freeway far. The frenzy overwhelms me but I’m workin’ on it. But, by gaw, there’s an Amtrak Station walking distance from my house and tickets cost about the same as gas. So, this gal who hasn’t traveled alone since the mid 80s thrust a few clothes and toiletries into a backpack and headed west with a bus schedule and directions to the Buddhist Retreat Center, where I got my Sangha on and spent the night at some random lady’s house who had ties to the center.
Next day, I took the bus all the way out to the coastal visitor’s center, with reservations for a bunk at the hostel and no idea how I’d get there — as there were six more miles between the visitor’s center and the hostel and my pudental nerve was throbbing. So, I hung out in the parking lot, sized people up, and asked whomever looked the most friendly if they were heading to the beach. Turned out a nice couple from Santa Fe was. We chatted about the kind of things gypsies chat about, hugged, and left each other’s company the better for our brief meeting. Next morning, solo hike to the beach (with the kind of nerve damage I have, I can walk most of the time … it’ sitting and standing that hurt like a mofo). Then another hitched ride to town for groceries with a female musician who’d just finished a “Tiny Desk Concert” a la NPR (who also performed an impromptu concert at the hostel). Beautiful.
Even more beautiful: The day I chose to do this coastal trek would have been our 23rd wedding anniversary. I’d been scared of the memories this particular beloved stretch of coast would hold. That was “our” place. I couldn’t imagine it without him, without our family unit. And that’s when I knew I wasn’t going to give up one more thing to this divorce. I was going to claim that slice of beach. The whole damn vicinity. To this end, the hostelkeeper helped out. Upon hearing why I was there, she hugged me and said, “This is your place now.”
I went back again before heading down for my latest surgery. This time, I wound up in a bunkhouse with four other women whose husbands left when they were 50. We talked into the night like teenagers. And between those two treks, I figured I had memories to face in the Sierra, too. So I took the train to Truckee and hitched a ride to a nearby hostel and headed solo down a leg of The Pacific Crest Trail. Cheryl Strayed’s got nothin’ on this 51-year-old. I figure a broken vagina and severe nerve damage at five or six miles in a day ranks up there with 12 miles a day as a spry, healthy twenty-something. I think she and I would have a few things to talk about. Losing our mothers in a horrific way … and what that does to even a “grownup” woman. It drove her to marriage-ruining affairs. It, without all the other “icings” on the grief cake, drove my sister and I to dual clinical depressions… which, I’m certain, affected my marriage. But, not unlike Strayed, I grew up friends with nature. Since I was 18 and went to Squaw Valley on the fly, since before that, I’ve always longed — pined — for solo treks into it. Again, like Strayed, I feel “less alone out there than I do in my ‘real’ life.” Sometimes, anyway. And, in traveling light and via public transport, I meet people and hear about their lives. “What you’re doing out there is gathering stories,” my wise friend, Pat, tells me. She’s right. Again, beautiful.
It’s late and my catheter is starting to pinch. (Also, my pyrotechnics-infatuated neighbor and his buddies are entirely too close to my bedroom window, doing something that sounds like a combination of drunkeness and breakage.)
I’ll leave you, reader, with this: When I was in L.A. last week, awaiting surgery, I had to fast for three days. Yes, fasting and double-dosing laxatives among the bistros and beautiful people. There’s a huge difference between NorCal and SoCal … and I am the antithesis of a SoCal gal.
By the night before mesh-related surgeries, I’m so past hungry and so emptied-out-exhausted that I enter some altered state of consciousness. One that allows me to roam around Westwood (the town in which UCLA sits) with my cell camera and find interesting things to photograph, which is to say … view the ordinary in an extraordinary way.
Turns out, it was a good night for roaming. Not only a full-moon night … but an extremely-bright full-moon night. Not only a bright-full-moon-night … but a blood-moon night with an eclipse scheduled for some inhumane hour. A big, redish, celestial metaphor — the morning of vaginal reconstruction surgery – ripe for the interpreting.
I stood for a long time that night … looking at the pre-eclipsed moon. A bright, beaming moon. I could see the face in it. It looked like the painted man-in-the-moon face from retro-Halloween pictures. But I prefer to endow the moon with all of the feminine qualities that she exhibits. So does most Folklore. Moon goddesses are a dime a dozen, with the full moon mostly reserved for goddesses of the fertility/pregnancy ilk and the waning moon attributed to various crone deities.
There is no moon goddess of the 50-ish, newly-divorced, broken-vagina’d, solo-backpacker-with-pudental-nerve-damage variety. So, maybe I’ll be her. My special power? Coming to terms with the darkness at my back. It’s just shadow, after all. And I’ve learned, having spent 365-plus nights by myself, having taken to walking at night in the Sacramento summer, having trekked some miles from the beach back to the hostel as darkness set in, and having studied photography for decades … darkness and light are just qualities that cast upon a thing. They aren’t the thing itself. The whole moon exists even when we see none of it. The closet it still full of clothes on hangers when your bedroom is dark. The trail is still there even when it’s hard to see.
I am still me though I’m no longer a wife. You are still you when your particularly frightful shadow seems to blot you out.
It’s hard to remember this, I know. Still, there it is. And, yes, there is sadness. Sometimes so dense, with such a pull it seems we will implode. But we don’t. Or maybe we do and, because everything is transient, it doesn’t last. It’s a phase. A planet crossing the path between you and your particular sun.
And sometimes, a day at a time, it’s just a choice. Which story do we want to invest in? The one where love dies and we become separate … or the one where love transcends in myriad creative ways … and, on this tiny orb, we are relatively all shoulder-to-shoulder with each other?
It’s been one mother-effer of a year (I say “effer” because people from my church may be reading this, some who actually don’t use the F word). I came very close, at one point, to taking myself out of it (the year/the earth) and still the despair can overwhelm. For the world felt too unkind. Something I didn’t want to be part of. A place where my broken vagina has been rendered burdensome by the one I, for so long, shared it with.
But … or And … here I am today. Here you are, too, reading this after or amidst whatever has laid itself over us and, for now, has passed along its way. We’re doing the best we can with what we have … with what we know. Let’s assure each other that’s enough for a day. Let us assure each other that you are still you, I am still me, the moon is still whole, and love remains … even when we can’t see it.
Oh, and Enoch? The biblical character who lived to be 365 years old before he traveled, alive, into heaven? He was Methuselah’s dad. The week before my surgery, my best friend and I trekked up to see him. Methuselah. Not the man but the Bristlecone Pine Tree named after him. A tree that’s almost 5,000 years old and, like Enoch, is still living. So doing, the pine tree, by adapting to the roughest of terrains and climates. I relate to Methuselah the Bristlecone Pine. Gnarled, by all ordinary standards, malformed, barren. But strangely, exquisitely even, beautiful.
p.s. – 3.65 is roughly the price of the post-surgery/fast-breaking chocolate milkshake my sister brought me. Gorgeous!
Please, if you leave a comment, do not judge husband. In his heart, there is goodness … and we all know I can be intense to live with. My intention here is to address the larger scope of the year.
In my mind’s eye the memory appears to me as if through Instagram’s “vintage” filter:
I am 6, maybe 7, on a diving board so bright-white it seems to glow beyond its edges. Then I am turned upside down. My dad is holding me by my ankles. He is saying something. Something that is preparing me. Giving me courage.
Water — sky-blue and speckled with sunlight — moves about five feet beneath me. I feel the cool of it on my face. I smell chlorine and a hint of mold. Dad lets go. Do I really remember that splash? The weightlessness of that particular immersion? Then I am right-side-up. My head crowns above the surface. I am treading water. Smiling.
I was lucky enough to grow up in a neighborhood full of backyard pools … and summer found us immersed therein, daily. The east-bay area, which is to say east of The Caldecott Tunnel, is anywhere from 10 to 20 degrees hotter than what lies on the other side of the Berkeley hills — in proximity to The San Francisco Bay. So, in our neck of the woods, it got hot. Or I thought it got hot … until I moved into the bowl-o-swelter called Sacramento, met someone who made it worth two heat-strokes, and settled in for the long haul.
Technically we …
ah, see … I wrote “we.” I still know myself, feel myself, as part of a “we.” And I suppose, given that I’m recalling a period of time when “we” were still “we” … it fits, tense-wise. So “we” it is.
Technically, we live … or lived … I’m not sure how to write that … because I still live there … but “we” don’t. Hmmm. How ’bout this:
our my town is east of Sacramento. Among The Sierra’s foothills. Still, it’s hot. Hot to the tune of 110 degree weeks in August. And because our my town doesn’t boast proximity to The Sacramento River, as does Sacramento, proper, the delta breezes don’t make the trip up Highway 80 to cool us me down at night.
Given that little weather/geography lesson, you know why we (still being a “we”) had to acquire an above-ground pool, back in ’05, via Craigslist. Thusly,
husband soon-to-be-ex whom I will refer to as “husband” now … for your sake, reader, and because I am about to switch back to past tense …
Thusly, in the Spring of ’04, husband drove to the pool seller’s apartment … where he was introduced to the above-ground pool, in pieces, in the seller’s storage space. Everything seemed to be in order. The pool-sides, the aluminum-rod-thingies that hold the pool up, vertically. The other aluminum-rod thingies that hold it together, horizontally. Thing was, when the pool arrived in our backyard, turned out it was missing key ingredients. So husband returned to the seller’s apartment … to find him gone. Which is to say totally evacuated from the premises. After cussing out the apartment manager, husband, being a handy guy, managed to slap the thing together… all 24 feet of it (and, by gaw, 24 feet is big for an above-ground pool). After some fun with a backhoe (i.e. sinking the 24-footer into the ground) we had ourselves … if not a “real” pool, well, a big-ass-can-o-water that served the purpose.
For years, April found husband rescuing March-spawned pollywogs (at my request), patching whatever holes the weather had punched, and fillin’ er up … while I planted alyssum and petunias and marigolds nearby. For years, we — husband, daughter, friends, daughter’s friends, friends of friends — swam, played volleyball, had chicken fights, tossed around a huge sphere, and otherwise frolicked by day. For years, husband and I skinny-dipped and star-gazed by night. Always, at some point on said nights, I’d find my way to him and, put my arms around his neck … and weightless, curl into him.
It occurs to me only now … on those nights, I almost always found my way to him. And, in my mind’s eye, the memory isn’t really a memory at all. Something about the water. The way we displaced it … is imprinted into my skin.
Last Thursday, a friend came over. A friend armed with a power-drill, a metal-saw, and a shovel. Since October 1st,
our? … my? … the above-ground pool had sat, collecting mosquito larvae. A hole had sprung in it late last summer — some time before my surgery — and mending it fell off the priority list. As such, the pool dwindled to about three-feet-deep. Three feet-deep multiplied by a diameter of 24 feet across in all directions.
By late February, after a rain, I heard them. The frogs. A chorus of them. I heard and I knew that, come April, pollywogs would fill the swamp I hadn’t been able to keep at bay, what with $8-per-gallon chlorine on top of $4-per-gallon gas. And when they came, the pollywogs, so did the mosquitoes. Even after the man from the county came and filled the
pool pond with mosquito-eating fish. The mosquitoes stayed. They bit. They bit until, some time in late March, I bought eight jugs of K-Mart brand bleach and — turning my head away, whispering I’m sorry… please forgive me … I’m so sorry — I poured. I poured and went into the house trying hard to convince myself that pollywogs don’t feel pain. Trying hard and not succeeding.
March became April and, last Wednesday, my friend and I waded into the green sludge and, with knives, slashed holes through the liner’s bottom. The next day, Thursday, we sawed the whole thing into pieces. Pieces that we pulled up and out of the back-hoed hole in the yard … and stacked in a dump-bound pile. Midway through demolition, I remembered too much. The swimming. The frolicking. The birthday parties. The starlit nights. The displaced water. I remembered so much that I sat down on the hole’s dirt rim and wept. It was hot for April. Hot enough to swim in the pool that was now sludge between my toes.
Sitting there on the back-hoed rim, two memories came to mind.
First … how husband and I had watched the sun set from the rim of The Grand Canyon years before. I had been scared at first to go to the canyon’s edge. But … after a few days … I’d taken to laying, tranquil as The Buddha, on an outcropping that rose some-hundreds of feet above the abyss.
Second … I remembered my very first lesson in sink-or-swim. How before I was let go … I was offered something that prepared me. And it seemed the two very-different memories had one thing in common: I’d been afraid. Then, regardless of the drop or the potential for it, I’d become unafraid.
In my backyard, a 24-foot-diametered hole now gapes beneath the May sky. I’ve resisted a morbid-or-artistic urge to stand in the middle of it, look up at the night sky. My friend suggested renting a backhoe, filling the hole back in. Told me that, given time and water, the crabgrass will do its thing and a weedy lawn will come into being.
Seems like a waste of time and money because I won’t be here much longer … in this little house with this little yard that is still, to me, home. And there’s another surgery coming soon. And a backhoe is even more expensive than daily chlorine doses … and … there are so many ands…
Still, I am here now.
Treading water. Wanting to be right-side-up again. Afraid but remembering at least two times when I wasn’t.
Here I am now … damned weary of holes. Weary of them and worthy of their being filled … for no other reason than I’m tired of looking at them.
It’s not my recipe, but it’s good for what ails ya:
2 16 oz cans chicken broth (I use more)
1 package taco seasoning
1 onion (chopped and sauteed)
2 T jarred garlic (sauteed with onion)
1 bunch Cilantro (chopped)
2 small cans tomato sauce
1 can stewed tomatoes
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1 can black beans
1 can corn
3 cooked chicken breasts, cubed
Boil broth, taco seasoning, onion, garlic, tomatoes, and tomato sauce for 1/2 hour then simmer and add the rest.
– (Thank you, Kris A.)
My making soup, when the weather is foul or someone under our roof is sick, is not new. My making soup for myself, alone –under a roof that is no longer “ours” — is. Trouble is, soup recipes make too much soup for one … so I am reminded of those whose share will go uneaten: My daughter. My husband.
Still, I set forth to the grocery store today …. armed with Kris A’s recipe, a red nose, and a stack of Puffs tissues. I love grocery shopping. I love it because, for a long time, I couldn’t do it without having a panic attack. I love strolling leisurely among the breads and cheeses and vegies and Febreezes, steering my cart gingerly around elderly women who hunker down in the canned fruit aisle, communing with my fellows in frugality (I.e. – I shop at a certain Arkansas-based grocery store. Being broke allows one no room to judge a company’s cut-throat business model.)
While there, I make it a practice to be kind to the checkout clerk. Do you? If not, try it. Ask him how he’s doing. Ask if all that standing is hard on her back. Find something to compliment him/her about. You will make his/her day. He/she will be astounded that somebody actually gives a damn. I find this easy because, as I said, the grocery store was a tough place for me for a long, long time … so I’m naturally grateful to be standing (without sweating or hyperventilating or experiencing my legs as Jello) at someone’s checkout counter. It’s as if, after a pilgrimage beneath the near-seizure-inducing pulse of neon lights, I’ve reached supermarket Mecca — there near the glass doors, where genuine daylight traces the clerk’s face. If it wouldn’t bewilder said clerk (or compel her to call security), I’d probably bow to her and say something like “Namaste” or, better, “Metta” or “Shalom” (because “Namaste” has been hijacked by Yoga-clothes wearing people, most who wouldn’t set foot in this particular store).
*Metta = Loving Kindness
Back to the soup. Ingredients bagged, courtesy of the benevolent and underpaid clerk, I headed home to cook for my own sinus-infected self. Because my own sinus-infected self is as worthy of soup (I keep telling myself, as if reciting a mantra) as anyone else who has come and gone under the roof that is now, at least temporarily, only mine. Mine and, thankfully, Bo-the-ferocious-to-strangers Boxer’s. (Who is utterly thrilled to see me when I come through the door, and not just because I give him treats.)
NPR fully-tuned in on the radio, a cozy gas fire (that looks like the real thing), a big pot on the stove, ingredients set out, I commenced to self nurturing … which has become, over the last 20-or-so years, as foreign to me as — as — well, pretty damn foreign. Not Husband’s fault. Not CC’s fault. I was primed in the art of self-denial. Any dormancy it retreated into during the early part of my marriage, it more than made up for later. The more Husband and CC grew into their lives — the more I supported them in so doing– the more I shrank out of mine. Only I didn’t really know it.
So, this tiny act — the act of chopping an onion, sauteing it with garlic and a little olive oil, creating something that would ease no more than my own aching throat — was, I hope, a start. A carving out of space. A claiming of the parcel of air that my breath requires. A shout to the universe, “Hey, wait a minute, I am … too!”
And it turned out good, the soup. Damn good. Still, when I covered the still-full pot and set it in the fridge, I couldn’t keep from thinking: What if I packed up just a little for Husband? What if I dropped off just a little with CC? And my heart felt so full with the thought, the dream of my little family … and then so empty because that dream is … done. But, who knows? If God is love (which I believe is the case), then one day we may all sit and sup together again — even if in a different configuration. But that time isn’t now … and I need to start getting used to it … even if it hurts like a Mo-Fo.
In the meantime, if you live nearby … I have soup. Call me. Email me. FB me. It’s really good. It soothes the sorest of throats. If you live fairly close, I’ll even bring it to you … because I once had panic attacks every time I drove. And today — just for today — I don’t. So arriving at your door, to share soup I made to heal my own sick self, will be a bit like reaching a holy place after a long pilgrimage. Your welcome mat will be, for me, the promised land. So it’s only appropriate that I bring an offering.
~ Metta ~
(As usual, my first “shitty draft” is yours for the reading. Forgive typos. Will edit tomorrow.)
Something about the light at 7:03 pm,
September 10th, 2013
has made it possible
for me to let go.
Something of the way it moves,
liquid, nearing autumnal orange
through the curtain, across
our bedroom, down the wall.
Something about the way
the front-yard maple tree
can hold neither particle
nor wave in its palmate hands
and simply bears witness
as each vein is, momentarily,
Even day itself — day, mind you
releases its grasp on the sun.
Surrenders its very self to night.
And here I am with my worries,
my pains, my peaces.
There you are with yours.
Even as 7:03 pm has given itself
to 7:39 pm. Even as dusk has
bent low in the sky so to drop
purple on the horizon.
Even as we have lain something, you and I,
at each other’s feet: This thing called writing.
This thing called reading.
Some of you know that I’m on the cusp of a fairly nasty surgery. This, in addition to other familial health concerns (and, by gaw, getting in as much living as possible amidst all of it) has kept me too busy to blog.
The recovery period will be fairly long, involving flat-on-my-back time … and, since sex is out of the question, what better position for blogging? Plus, who knows what flights of fancy a pain- med-influenced blogging session (combined with an already self-edit-challenged mind) may lead to? It’s anyone’s guess.
As such, I’ll be password protecting my posts. If you’d like to read them, message me on my facebook page and I’ll give you the password. Or, heck, just email me at: t k e writingclasses @ yahoo dot com (without the spaces and with a real dot, of course). You’ll have to prove you’re you and not some weirdo who arrived here via a Google search of “pubic hair.” (I get a a lot of that, courtesy of the “business shaving” post I wrote awhile back).
Seriously, if you’re a genuine reader who will honor the privacy factor, I’d be honored to include you.
Kind of like a backstage pass … except no groupies, weed, or divaesque-rockstars to contend with.