Thursday, December 14, 2017

That Perfect Not A Phone

This is not about a phone booth.  But it was.

I remember phone booths.  When they were all over the place.  It's kinda funny, isn't it, that we carry these cellular devices in our pockets and purses with us literally everywhere these days, and yet I am certain I spent way more hours talking on the phone when they were not nearly as accessible than I do now.  I guess there's a reason we call them mobile devices now rather than phones.  I mean, they are phones, but it's almost like a diminished secondary function.  But I vividly remember when I would have to stop somewhere to use a phone.  Where it was physically located.  Stuck to something.  Where I would actually pick up the receiver ("I'll make you a believer...").  And literally hang it up when I was done.  Physically, on a knobby hook built to hold the phone receiver.

I also remember old melamine rotary phones.  I still have the mustard yellow one that once sat on my mother's night table when I was a child.  It still has the typed phone number (still my parents' phone number, in fact) on some yellowed paper slid beneath a yellowed-clear cover in the center of the dial.  I told my Mom I wanted it in case there were hurricanes and I lost power (when I lived in Louisiana), and so she let me have it, but really I wanted it for sentimental reasons.  I'll never get rid of it.  But I digress.

Phone booths.  A relic of the time when we called each other.  When talking was how we communicated instead of typing.  I deeply miss that.

Apparently I'm not the only one.  There are a couple of competing metaphors in my mind with this one, so I'll just dive into the first one that came to me....

See, there's this phone booth that became special recently.  Because somebody had an idea and acted on it.  And missed phones, too.  Like me.  And it moved me.  I was driving on my way to work this morning, singing appropriately, in fact, as I dodged the too many potholes on my commute ("... I’m driving, here I sit... cursing my government... for not using my taxes to fill holes with more cement..."), and I decided I needed to share this very special booth.

Like flowers on a grave site, someone in my neighborhood did this to an old phone-less booth adjacent to the parking lot where I always stop to get gas.  So I pulled over and stole this little glimpse of it to share here.


In a way, it laments the passing of not only the phone booth as a physical thing, but also the passing of verbal communications we all took for granted, which were once so much more personal and intimate than text on a screen.  Not that text on a screen isn't majestic in its own right (hello, I'm typing this and you're reading this... which is pretty magnificent in the grand scheme of things if you really think about it).  It's just that voices back and forth -- giggles, sighs, gasps, overlapping excited stories, free flowing tangents, pregnant pauses... those are all lost in the everything-typed world in which we now live.  I'm grateful for the ease of communication typing bestows, but I miss the intonation.  I miss voices.  Phones that we had to use because we had no other choice gave us a different kind of richness.  Now phones, er devices, that are forever at our fingertips pretty much forget they can do the same thing.  So these roses mourn the passing of the voices unheard these days.  Because typing. 

The other metaphor that came springing into my mind when I stared at the phone-less booth: all those intonations, whispers, laughs, stories that come pouring out of actual phones... each of these is a precious bloom in and of itself.  Temporally limited, but bright and beautiful in its vocal blooming and fading, crescendos and silences.

Man, we should use our phones more.  I mean, we don't even have to pay outrageous long distance bills anymore.  It's all included.  How is it that the ease and convenience of phones has somehow endangered the existence of actual, real phone conversations?  It's not that I never talk on the phone.  That's not true.  When I do, and when I'm lucky, phone calls last hours.  But they are infrequent, which I lament.  But I am moved to do it more and more.  To reap the blooms that fall on my ready ears and to cast my own voice into the receiver, to be joyfully received.

It's not quite time for new years' resolutions, but I'm beginning to think mine might include more good phone.  There's nothing quite like good phone.  Roses, indeed.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

That Perfect Sign

Sometime early this summer a new roadside a-frame sign board popped up on my work commute.  It's gotten me thinking every morning.  There's a little shopping strip near my house I drive through (yes, through, not by) each morning.  It almost feels like the street I'm on devolves for a short stint from being an actual street into a mere turnaround for the shopping center traffic, but it's, in fact, actually the street (even if cross traffic doesn't always realize it).  There's also a little median with some plants in it and a brick walkway alongside the street.  And the a-frame sign board sat on that brick walkway each morning until very recently when people finally didn't need the sign anymore because the shop had been there long enough for people to know and remember it.  Including me, I guess, though I've never been in there.  In any event the sign caught my attention because it was bold and looked like this:
Image result for brass tacks barber shop

Brass tacks.  Every morning on my way to work.  For months.  I always picture old antique chairs - specifically some specific ivory striped ones that used to be in my parents' living room when I was a child with brass tacks lining the edges where the fabric met the wood.  I remember running my fingers over the line those brass tacks made, enjoying the feel of the inconsistent but smooth surface as my fingers rode along their bumpy track.  Small rounded hills with teeny fabric ravines in between.  It's a comforting memory.  Childhood things tend to be like that.

But this sign speaking to me with its bold font at the start of each new day, well, it got my attention, and it got me wondering the origin of the phrase.  And tonight, as I passed it on my way home, I was especially tuned into the concept. 

Turns out, we think we know what things mean when we hear them, but looking them up always gives a little more depth.  And frequently yields something surprising.  (If I'm good for nothing else, it's researching and diving deep....) 

Webster's has a definition for "brass tacks":  "details of immediate practical importance usually used in the phrase get down to brass tacks." And The Free Dictionary lookup yielded this: "Deal with the essentials; come to the point. For example, Stop delaying and get down to brass tacks, or We really need to get down to bedrock, or He has a way of getting down to the nitty gritty, or Let's get down to cases. The origin of the first phrase, dating from the late 1800s, is disputed. Some believe it alludes to the brass tacks used under fine upholstery, others that it is Cockney rhyming slang for 'hard facts,' and still others that it alludes to tacks hammered into a sales counter to indicate precise measuring points. The noun bedrock has signified the hard rock underlying alluvial mineral deposits since about 1850 and has been used figuratively to denote 'bottom' since the 1860s. The noun nitty-gritty dates from the mid-1900s and alludes to the detailed ('nitty') and possibly unpleasant ('gritty') issue in question. The noun cases apparently alludes to the game of faro, in which the "case card" is the last of a rank of cards remaining in play; this usage dates from about 1900."  

So it's getting to the bottom of things... the essentials.  Oh, essentials.  Ah.  Of course, that.  I've written about those at length before in an earlier post having to do with flowers.  So I can't help but go here:  "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."  The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery.  The invisible, the essential: brass tacks.  Apparently everything leads me back to here.  This quote was even mentioned in a novel I read to my children this week.  I think I'm sensing a pattern.  Or patterns.  But I guess I wouldn't be me if I didn't.       


Saturday, December 2, 2017

That Perfect Supermoon Photo

This is simply the majesty of an upside down and blurred technical error I made on my phone camera tonight, which yielded a drippy supermoon with stardust scattered around and just the right amount of creepy branches and what looks like a dragony-bird thing flying by to take a secret peek.  I feel like there are also spirits floating around in the murky mist, too.  The whole thing feels like swimming in moonlight to me.  If only.  It also feels kind of like the Upside Down version of the view from my yard but without the fear of the Upside Down.  Just searing, dark beauty.  Somehow quickly captured by accident... but just perfectly perfect.  There's magic right before us all the time. 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

That Perfect Strength

Sometimes Life tests us.  Hardcore.  To the bone.  Maybe further than that.  Whatever "that" is and however deep "that" goes.  I thought after all my surgeries I'd learned how to just take it some more when I couldn't take things anymore.  Not so.  Life's challenges are all different.  They take different courage and different strength to face.  But strength nonetheless.  And I suppose I'm always learning how to face new challenges and the chaos that comes along with that. 

If there's one thing I've learned in my forty-one years and counting, even if we're ridiculously type-A personalities, even if we're fiercely independent, even if we actually believed once upon a time we could do literally anything (and probably pretty perfectly), it's this:  we sometimes need others who can see with vivid clarity the strength inside us that we ourselves have forgotten that we possess.  Because they can see us from the outside.  They have always seen us.  With true eyes.  And they remember all our triumphs along the way.  They intimately know the stuff we're made of.  They know we may be utterly tender-hearted, and broken in ways we desperately wish we weren't, but we're also made of steel where it matters.

I am so lucky in this life to have an incredibly dear family and chosen sister-friends who constantly remind me what grace is and who remind me that strength sits quietly beneath the surface, in a reserve we may think is empty, but it is certainly not.  I could spend hour upon hour writing about my family tonight, but I think I'll save that for another time.  Tonight, I want to focus on a specific night.  In my hometown in Louisiana.  One week ago, tomorrow.  In a beautiful home.  With some very special women.

I found myself the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving sitting in Alexandria with three of my dearest girlfriends at one of their houses.  They even yielded to me the ottoman so I could rest my bunk hip after my long journey in from Dallas after pouring me a glass of red wine as soon as I walked in, after big hugs with each of them, of course.  It's been weeks or maybe months since I'd had a drink, so it didn't take much to make me start to feel warm.  The relief at just being in the same room with them, and the laughter with which we all were frequently overcome, also helped. 

I've known these women the better part of my life.  One since near birth and the other two since junior high.  And we've seen and done and lived and loved through SO MUCH together.  Such beautiful heights, and such heartbreaking lows.  One is an artist.  One is a teacher.  One is a lawyer.  (And I'm realizing as I write this that I, myself, am an artist, former teacher, and current lawyer... all three... fascinating.)  All of us are moms with two kids each.  And all are so very beautiful, inside and out.  And it just so happens all three of these dear women friends of mine are widows.  In their early 40s.  It's not what anyone would have ever expected... or planned... or wanted.  But it is.  Life does not follow a playbook, as I was recently reminded by someone else dear to me.  It's also quite the beautiful mess, as I was also reminded recently by someone else I admire. 

And I know there are no accidents.  I need strength in this chapter of my life, and it is here I found myself.  Listening to and talking with these amazingly strong souls sitting before me.  The universe gives us exactly what we need in order to do what we need to do and be who we need to be.  I sat there in sheer wonder at the strength of these women I adore sitting around a table with me.  I would have never guessed in a million years back in our youth that we would be having these moments, these conversations at this stage of life, when back then we were dying our hair with Koolaid, running around at Mardi Gras in Lafayette, sunbathing, jumping on trampolines, or sitting on top of the world, or in Lodi, with Icees (that may or may not have been spiked).  We ultimately moved to the dining table where we shared tears and stories, songs and dreams, laughs and what-the-hells.  We held hands when we needed, lifted each other up, and we ate pecan pie.  With whipped cream.  We all understand deep love and deep pain in different ways and take nothing for granted.  It's as deep as it gets.  It almost felt like we were characters in some movie or something (though there's already a Ya Ya book-turned-movie about other amazing women from Alexandria).  But this is no movie.  This is the real shit.  The deeper pains and most treasured gifts only mid-life can bring.  I felt like such a lucky girl in that moment, despite the harsh realities we all discussed and cried our way through together.

I am still so in awe of those women and their stories, and mine interwoven with theirs.  And their all accepting love for me.  And mine for them.  It was no accident I was fully present in their presence that night, and I felt more at peace than I have in months.  The gnawing pit in my stomach subsided for a glorious while as I just existed in a deeply personal way with those girls.  We all Need More (#fileitunderNeedMore) in different ways.  And maybe, just maybe, we're here together on our journeys to help make sure those needs get met.  Actually, there's no maybe about it.  No irony is lost on me.  No serendipitous moment escapes my notice.  I hear it all.  Absorb it all.  And I am feeling my way in the dark... looking for stars all the while.  Hugging and holding hands of women I love through it all, deep in a special November night back home.






 







Wednesday, November 8, 2017

That Perfect Weather







Gray day.  Everything is gray.  I watch, but nothing moves today.  I feel like I should be wearing a gray dress to match. 

I drove in the rain with the windows down just to let the morning's 42 degrees blow around in my car cabin with me.  It almost feels like it goes right through me.  That exhilarating cold is like nothing else, especially with seat heaters to balance it out.  I could do this for days.  Welcome winter.


Friday, November 3, 2017

That Perfect Imperfect Show

November 1, 2017.  Iron &Wine at the Kessler Theater in Dallas. 


Upstairs in the balcony, I sat nestled into the seat closest to and overlooking the stage, a mere tiny stone's throw from Sam Beam down below (though I'd never dare throw a stone at him).





I was transfixed.  Enamored.  Stunned to my core in the most beautiful way.  And when the lights dimmed, I felt all the space around me tunnel down toward the stage so that I noticed nothing else.  My body pains melted away.  The warm air felt temperature-less.  My tickly throat quieted itself.  I won't lie, some warm tears fell from time to time, and I noticed those as I let them run down where they may or occasionally wiped them away.  But my focus was intense, drawn, pulled, targeted.  It's amazing how physical sensations drop away when the spiritual is tapped into.  Occasionally, my gaze would drift elsewhere--to other band members or to the crowd--but then my mind would jump in and abruptly fix my eyes back on Sam because I wanted to be sure to soak up every single visual moment I could and didn't want to waste my eyes' unique ability to absorb on anything else.


Strings on various instruments popped with a twang during the performance.  And Sam's guitars weren't tuning properly, and I think I heard him say his capo was broken.  And he said fuck a lot when things wouldn't go right, but always in the most charming way.  And certain guitars didn't want to play the set list they had planned, so Sam said.  So he improvised and played whatever he felt like playing, which I'm thankful for after seeing the set list online and comparing it to my memory.  That's how Jezebel ended up being played.  And a cool song about Texas (which he said was NOT entitled "Texas Is Awesome" because that would be a stupid song).  So there was more heart all the way around because he got to play what the moment told him to play.  (There's a larger lesson there, I'm pretty sure.)

This video shows Sam talking about the mishaps.  But they made the performance more intimately perfect for the imperfections.


And here's one more mishap clip just for fun:


 The most straight up perfect moment of the show was the opening song.  THIS:


*DISCLAIMER... So I THINK I was able to sufficiently trim this video to fit in the Blogger parameters.  So, enjoy (hopefully) most of the song.   But because I had to trim it to get it to fit here, if you want to see the *almost* entire performance of The Trapeze Swinger (and the attendant chills and goosebumps that go with that; you should probably sit down), you'll have to just go visit my Facebook page instead where I posted it on November 2.*

And yet another imperfection: Sam refused to play Such Great Heights, despite the vast multitude excitedly chanting and calling from the darkened crowd for him to play it as an encore.  Instead of playing that song, here's what he gave us instead before playing a different final song:



So Sam left us all with a pretty grand humdinger of an intentional imperfection, so we'd have something to look forward to for next time (except for the girl who said she'd just listen to it in the car on the way home... certainly not the same as Sam playing it live... but I listened to it later, too, of course, to get my fix... it really does feel like an intense addiction that just isn't ever sated).  Next time, Sam.  Next time.  I mean it.  But, in truth, the imperfections are where so much of the beauty waits, hiding, smiling its secret smile.  To be mulled over and appreciated again and again as the music, his voice, those words all still stream in my mind, now days later, on repeat... on repeat... on repeat.  And still leaves me so thirsty for more.   

Sunday, October 29, 2017

That Perfect Thriller

I am a very nostalgic girl.  And like any girl growing up as a kid in the 1980's, Michael Jackson's Thriller thrilled me.  I got over it as I aged.  Forgot about it completely by high school or college.  And later on, I thought all those mob dances doing the Thriller moves were super cheesy.  Gack.

But this.  This brings the thrill all back.  Imogen Heap is an, admittedly, acquired taste, but I adore her.  And I adore this.

It's starting to be Halloween season.  In addition to my Nightmare Before Christmas forever love affair and my annual Cabinet of Dr. Caligari late night viewing, this song is going to be played a lot over here on my end the next few days leading up to the 31st.  The hollow and haunting voice accompanied only by a piano was bound to clench me.  I've always loved that sound.

And one thing I particularly love about this version?  Imogen's magnificent improvisation with the word "thriller" as the song progresses... Thrill her.  Spill her.  Just wow.  Gotta catch my breath now.


Saturday, October 21, 2017

That Perfect Silence

Well, it isn't totally silent.  That's a half-truth.  There's music in the background.  Because if it's up to me (and right now, it is), there will always be music on.  And there's also the occasional soft thud of kitties pouncing after each other on the hardwoods.  But I have a deep and unexpected serendipitous inner silence tonight.  I find myself alone in my house with no one else here since around 11 or so this morning until sometime tomorrow afternoon since my family went camping.  The last time I was totally alone for any real length of time was when I was away staying at a hotel for a conference.  And even then, I had events and programs to attend, and my parents were just down the hall, so there wasn't that much alone time.  And that was months ago.  And I don't count office time away from home as "alone" because though I'm in my own office space, it's still social at any given moment with the ring of the phone or a shadow at my door.  Maybe it's been years.  YEARS since I spent a night alone at home.  I literally don't even remember the last time.  Because of my surgeries, I haven't traveled for work and stayed at random strange hotels in years, and I've been just here.  And the handful of other trips I've taken, I've been with others the whole time.  So, still not alone.

But tonight, I am in this usually bustling house that feels so different with just a single soul in it.  So, here feels strange tonight.  This house is only my space for just a short while.  Time moves more slowly.  I've been wanting some alone time lately, preferably with some cliffs... I've got no cliffs today (those will come later, I'm determined), but, nonetheless, a little twinkling space carved out just for me.

I've been writing.   And absorbing a lot of music.  And I've had a few phone calls.  And I took an extra long shower.  Maybe I'll watch a movie.  But now?  I'm just sitting here wearing my favorite black dress with some dark lipstick, just because.  And I'm feeling the fabric of my chair lazily with my fingertip.  And I'm noticing my toes on one foot intertwined with the ones on the other foot.  And tossing my unruly curls from where they have fallen in my face from time to time.  And remembering here and there to take sips of Gatorade as I recover from the vicious norovirus attack I had yesterday.  I worked much of the day from home today making up for yesterday's illness.  But now I've got ME time.  I have to listen to and just be ME.

"I guess it's just me.  And me."  (Hey Jupiter, Tori Amos)

"I used to think that the day would never come."  (True Faith, New Order)

I think this is deeply good for me.  But it's a strange good.  "Take the sun apart and put it back together." (Sinkership, Sin Fang Bous)  Maybe I am the sun today.

"One night to speed up truth." (Heartbeats, Jose Gonzales)  When there's no one to listen to but yourself, you just do.  And I notice my own heartbeat more than usual.

"You say go slow, I fall behind." (Time After Time, Iron & Wine)  I always seem to fall behind with this damn hip of mine.  Everyone's steps are faster than mine.  Maybe I deserve it for walking too fast for all those years...

And of course my playlist randomly ended up on "Silent All These Years" as I'm wrapping this up.  Because of course it did.  I told you all in the first line that it wasn't actually silent.  Or I'm never really silent.  But I knew that.  Not when music colors everything in my head.          

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

That Monday Birthday Revisited (to Make it More Perfect)

So I turned 41 on Monday.  Quietly.  Without much fanfare.  No actual party or anything.  I mean, Facebook exploded with some funny and sweet messages from friends (to whom I mindfully replied each and every time I received a message so I could appreciate each soul who kindly remembered me), and I got calls and texts from some family members and close friends, and I opened fun presents with my family, bleary-eyed first thing in the morning.  I absolutely have a lot of people to be thankful for in my life.  But what did I do for the bulk of the day?  I spent most of the day working.  A lot.  Which isn't an entirely bad thing.  It just felt like... any day, I suppose.  Busyness and business.  I guess birthdays never quite live up to the anticipation do they?  Maybe if I'd had some quiet spare time to reflect, I'd have appreciated my own birth more.  Actually celebrated it deep inside somehow.  Maybe I am doing that more in this very moment by writing about it than I was able to do yesterday.  So I guess it's good I have this blog.

My Mom reminded me in an early morning text yesterday (I didn't need reminding, but I loved her reminder just the same) that a cold front blew through when I was born at 3:30 p.m. on October 16 forty-one years ago.  And, serendipitously, I was gifted from the Universe a surprise cool front on the anniversary of my birth-day.  Which is pretty damn cool.   (Ha, pun intended.)

But overall?  I guess it sorta felt like the Monday that it was.  I worked all day and then logged back in to work some more after the kids went to bed.  And I even took a raincheck on some phone calls because I didn't have time to take them....  I was so busy working I even missed the passage of midnight marking the end of the day as it slipped silently away while I was typing.  So my birthday ended with a whimper, not a bang.  Which isn't how I like things.

So what is a girl to do to make up for this blah Monday of a birthday (to be fair, it's only 41, not 42 or anything...)?

Well, it just so happens that my awesome brother called me and told me I get to/have to (okay, twist my arm; wait, no don't... my shoulder) visit San Francisco (and promised me some serious cliffs) next summer when he is getting married (!!!), and he and his lovely fiance also got me an incredibly generous SPA GIFT CERTIFICATE.  Soul gifts - the dream of cliffs and soon-to-come SPA TIME.  So I made an appointment today, and I'll be taking advantage of that by getting a hot stone massage on October 29 (which just so happens to be the first time I am free to even consider doing something of my choosing to celebrate my birthday).  This is gonna entirely make up for the Monday blahness, I am certain.  Silver linings.  There's always one if we look.


Thursday, October 5, 2017

That Perfect... I Don't Even Know... Rambling Something Important About Life (Wow This is Really Long)

When I stop to think about the incessant disagreement all around me, lately the political climate has made an easy illustration of this, I am coming to realize a fundamental truth underlying all of it.  Something is missing.  I'm getting ahead of myself.

And this post isn't about politics.  I generally dislike discussing politics, in fact.  It might seem like it's about law in a moment, too.  But it isn't really about that, either.  It started with a rumbling in my mind early this morning, and I'm just now able to sit and write about it.  You're on a rambling ride with me, so sit tight.

Let's think about systems.  I don't mean circle-of-life-type biological systems.  I'm thinking of those that are constructed.  Those that govern us because we agree, explicitly or tacitly, to be bound by them.  Maybe it's just by happenstance of birth and geography (as an aside... is that really happenstance?).  But in any event, there are many constructs with rigid formulae that govern how things are done in the world.  Or "should" be done.  And speaking of "govern," our system of laws is a good example.  So let's begin there.  Why on this great green Earth do we disagree SO much about what laws should be in place?  I mean, we've fundamentally agreed to be a society bound by laws.  Granted, there are countless laws you've never heard of if you're not a lawyer, and even if you are a lawyer (due to specialization, of course), and those largely aren't controversial.  But many of them are.  Why can't we all just agree?  There are countless reasons, of course, and I won't devolve into the myriad reasons we all have preferences and prejudices because of our own situatedness.  None of us has that much time on our hands.  But what's got me thinking is this: it feels like there is some deep and vast human piece of us that is being undermined by whatever law (or other thing in the world of systems that herd us and bind us) it is we disagree with.  Maybe it's nameless.  Maybe it's ephemeral.  But there's something in our core that conflicts with it.  Gnaws at us a little.  We are lucky if our self (for lack of a better term) isn't in conflict with the law or rule of the moment.  Maybe we concur with it, but don't fully agree (like a concurring court opinion, for example, which agrees with the result but has a few bones to pick).  We're on board with it enough to not get angry, but we take umbrage with something about it.  But overall, we will go on our merry way and probably forget about it at the end of the day.  But others?  Well, some of them just eat at us.  Here's the judicial dissent territory.  Like some of Scalia's dissenting opinions shortly before his death, there may be significant vitriol in our dissent.  We may be so unnerved by it our very core is shaken.  I see lots of that these days in politics (I know you see it, too, no matter where you fall on the political spectrum).

And yet, even though we may dissent, even vehemently, with a law, in the grand scheme of things, we are still bound by social contract and civility, not to mention the threat of criminal punishment (if nothing else), to abide by the rules of the game of life.  In law school I had the revelation that our Constitution only works because we SAY it does.  Think about that.  I hope you have a *mind blown* moment like I did when I realized that.  It has power because we decided it does.  No, really.  Think about that.  And "we" isn't even "us"; it's our predecessors.  And some of those who crafted it and the laws made purportedly under its authority may have had pristine motives dripping with goodwill.  Many of the deciders and makers of laws, as we know, though are power hungry and ruled by ego.  And just want to perpetuate whatever system benefits them personally.  We all know some people with power who respect that power and have earned it.  But we also know many don't.  They inherit it or have money (which, frankly, talks).  Plain as that.  And so it goes.  We are bound.  To something that may or may not have been well-intentioned.  And when we disagree, something in us is stifled, but we go on, just the same.  Because we just do.  It's kind of crazy if you think about it.  And amazing that it even works as well as it does given where I'm going next. 

And it's damn tricky when you're good at the game of life.  It can swallow you up so completely you forget something important.  We can all play the game, within the confines of the rules, and even enjoy it.  Whatever "game" it is you choose out in the world.  Maybe a job.  Maybe some other role.  It's all a grand mental puzzle.  But there's an inherent conflict there, right?  In any game with rules, there's always something that exists outside the game.  Beyond the rules.  The game board is a rectangle and has boundaries.  And beyond that... here's the thing... the game doesn't even exist.  Another epiphany I had in law school in my Contracts class was when I was learning about promises and obligations.  And, given my own rule-following sensibility, I was okay with that concept.  Until we started talking about the concept of breach.  What happens when a contract is breached?  I had a mental disconnect.  Um, breach?  Aren't we supposed to not break contracts?  Well, it just so happens that there are laws that govern when contracts are breached, too.  Rules for when the rules aren't followed.  Who pays what.  What damages might apply.  Ah, the irony.  Hell, my practice area as a lawyer is restructuring and reorganization, which is a fancy way of saying corporate bankruptcy.  The Bankruptcy Code is full of laws about precisely what happens when things go sideways.  When people and entities don't meet their obligations and promises.  There's even a concept in bankruptcy where a debtor can "reject" a contract.  I mean... stepping back, though it's a completely commonplace occurrence in my law practice, again... mind blown that there's a lawfully sanctioned way to do that.  Because why?  Because we decided that's what the rules would be.  

So I get caught up in the game of life.  Just like you.  And just like everyone.  Well, maybe in my own personal way, but you know what I mean.  We all work for a living because we have to.  Hopefully we enjoy the game we choose to play out in the world.  And I do enjoy my job as a lawyer.  I get to think about fascinating and complicated things, research about things I didn't already know, write a lot, and take actions to help clients accomplish their goals.  It's very rewarding in many ways, as jobs go.  It's also a necessary thing.  It just is.  I also have various other roles in my life; most critically, I am a mother who is simply crazy about her amazing kids and all the love and work that goes with that.

But notwithstanding my being swirled up into the systems that make up my daily life (job, kids' schools, social norms, various obligations of all sorts), someone said something poignant to me the other day.  She reminded me to never forget my private life.  My private life.  Ah, that.  Say that again.  The me that is quietly inside under the surface of all the other things I do.  And it's rich and velvety in there.  When I take the time to root around and nestle in.  It's in that inner life that self-consciousness melts away.  And gimmicks.  And skepticism.  And fear.  And distrust.  And judgment.  It is there, in the quiet inner self that there are no systems or rules.  No games--only the space beyond the game board.  Only the things I allow to be there.  Or that I create and put there.  It is there that what is universal or essential about our spirits can just BE.  Our spirits and very souls are at ease.  Whatever dwells in there is mine, and it is beautiful. 

What is that space?  Really, what IS that?  It's the question we humans have been pondering since the very beginning through science, philosophy, and religion.  The WHY endeavors (they're all really sisters in substance, though some are more sophisticated and logical than others).  The ways of thinking that get us pondering what this is that is IN us, IS us, is UNIVERSAL about us.  It's more than just analytic thought, though.  Science began as INQUIRY.  As CURIOSITY.  As WONDER.  As the Little Prince says, it is only with the heart that one can see rightly.  (Or maybe it's the vagus nerve?  The gut sure seems involved, too, somehow.  And nerves.  Don't get me started on how sensitive they are to things.)  Beyond the games.  And again to the Little Prince: What is essential is invisible to the eye.  This is why the disciplines that seek to understand seem so majestic.  Because what they are asking IS majestic.  They seek truth.  The something deeper.  Without shallow motive of any kind.  And disciplines that internalize the why and then create something from it, be it art, music, writing... those.  Wow.  Those literally create magic in the world that simply didn't exist before.  They come from that universal, quiet, perfect self responding to the thinking and feeling parts of us responding to the very act of being we experience on some deep vibrating level (the seventh wave perhaps?).  And love.  And awe.  The inexplicable things that come from within... that respond to beauty, to connection.  That, my friends, is all outside the game.  Outside the systems.  Off the board.  And this is why the external systems that are forced on us by social contract detract from, can never be on the same wavelength as, what is inside.  This is why we inherently can never agree with the constructs in their entirety.  It's better to go to our inner spaces than to dwell on such conflict. 

Last time I visited my hometown, I went to church with my family, which I haven't done in years.  It was the church I grew up in.  We went every week, sometimes twice, when I was growing up.  There was a sense of community and ritual about it that was always comforting to me, even if I always questioned probably too many things.  But the cool thing about that church in particular is it is a denomination that I was always told is the thinking person's church - it's an Episcopal church.  It was always okay to question.  There wasn't hellfire being hurled at me.  I didn't have to recite Bible verses in Sunday School.  There were lots of hugs.  And helping things we did for others.  And lots of dinners and holding hands.  And coming together for things.  Peaceful, really.  It's red brick, sits majestically at the end of the street I grew up on, and it has red velvety carpet inside.  And there's a bell in the tower I know how to ring with a secret button and did ring many times as an acolyte in my youth.  And the stained glass windows in that place are the most beautiful I've ever seen.  I've been to some astounding cathedrals and churches all over the globe, and these are still my favorites.  I'm not sure how very many hours I've stared at them in this life of mine.  (On a humorous note, I told my parents that I think these windows with beautiful man disciples with long flowing hair are why I always had a penchant for men with long hair... subliminal messages embedded in my psyche from church windows.  Maybe that's weird.  Don't care.  I was going to include a photo here, but the ones I took didn't come out very well.)  Despite my familiar love for that place, I am still a questioner, still not religious, and still don't regularly attend church.  Though I can recite all the prayers from memory without even consciously thinking about them.  But I am spiritual, no doubt.  I don't know what moved me to attend church that morning (my parents had expected I wouldn't), but I am glad I went that Sunday about a month ago.  There was something holy in myself with which I somehow connected while absorbing that space during the service.  I admit, I have an amorphous sense of what God is.  But I feel that whatever God there is simply must be that spiritual beauty within ourselves, especially as manifested in connections of that pure beauty with others.  A real and pure symbiosis.  THAT is what feels spiritual to me.  Holy.  There is no better word.  But nothing so small as a politicized man-made god used for beating others into submission (literally or figuratively) can capture the deep purposeful point-of-it-all beauty I'm describing (she says knowing she is writing about her own person-made conceptions... ever aware of the irony).  There is, I know in my bones... my heart... the primordial dust from whence I came... a universal spiritual connection we can tap into when and if everything lines up.  I suppose if it lined up all the time, we'd be in some utopian world we couldn't even appreciate anymore because even true beauty would be too mundane to notice.  Serendipitous connection and the spaces in between remind us though that we are these spiritual beings underneath all the titles, obligations, clothes, and faces we wear and bear.

And why is it there are so many broken people?  So many of us walking around feeling something is missing?  Because we fill our lives with the systems and rules and all the things.  And we forget what happens off the game board.  And we don't look inside and truly honor that being.  And we miss out on the joy of connection with others in the process.  We feel torn.  All the time.  Because life... with its systems and rules.  But we are both physical beings AND spiritual ones.  It is no wonder drug companies make billions off of medicating the misery that is created by living lives that are stifling to the spirits within us.

Maybe we'll get there.  I'm not perfect either.  I have an ego, just like anyone.  I have earthly desires, just like anyone.  I have needs for security, even more now that I have kids.  I have goals that may be too lofty, but I keep thinking I'll hit the moon at least, even if I'm aiming for the distant stars.  So despite my life out in the world of systems, there's also this me underneath. This private me.  I need to water her, too.  Listen to her, too.  Breathe her in, too.  I am trying hard to be open.  To remember to swim in there.  And I breathe SO much more easily when I do.  To find a balance between Life and the Universe within.  That is the goal.  Everything.  Even if only in my own private mind most of the time.  But that mind is my own kingdom (or queendom).  My garden.  And we simply must dwell there sufficiently in order to be able to connect authentically with others.  As a dear friend of mine in Baton Rouge told me after I'd stayed with her last weekend, "I love you seems too small."  That kind of feeling is what happens when the spiritual us inside is seen for what it is and mingles with and truly sees someone else's.  It is grace.  It's a rare and delicate thing, but it's worth living for.  Always.    










Tuesday, September 12, 2017

That Perfect Step

Hard wood clacking down.  Steps filled with intention.  Newly awakened.

I suppose all shoes are "real" in some sense.  But in my years as a lawyer, I have amassed quite a collection of delicious fancy shoes.  Racks of them.  I'm kind of a shoe whore.  And not ashamed.  But I've been relegated to wearing non-heel, soft-soled shoes for a couple of very long years now.  I won't lie.  I've got some adorable flat shoes.  But they're still... well... flat shoes.  For years before my surgeries, I was known around town as the girl with the cool shoes.  My reputation preceded me.  I was stopped on the street frequently by random women to graciously receive shoe compliments.  As I write this, I'm smiling, but I also realize it sounds shallow.

But, oh, it isn't.

When something becomes such a piece of your identity and it is stripped away from you out of necessity, something withers inside.

I take my fancy shoes down off their racks from time to time and dust them.  It's hard to watch them.  Just.  Sitting.  There.  I've thought of putting them in shadow boxes and hanging them up, afraid they'll never be worn again, but at least that way, I could look at them.  I mean, how cool would a shoe wall be?  I may still do that... at least with the really tall ones. 

But today was different.  A few months back, I bought some gel heel supports to put in this one particular pair of Fluevogs I thought might be workable this far into recovery, and then I strolled around the house in them on hardwoods to determine if I could wear them for any length of time without risking ruining my day by bringing on unnecessary pain before my day even really starts.  I'd tried this once before when I bought the inserts, only to quickly begin feeling sharp pains deep in my left hip muscles with the pounding down of my heel after only a few steps.  So I took them off, carefully replacing them in their spot on the rack, feeling a bit forlorn.  This particular pair isn't even that tall.  It only has a 1.25 inch heel.  Quite literally baby steps.  Or so I thought.  But THIS morning, when I walked through the house in them, half expecting to return them to the shelf any moment, there were no sharp pains.  Okay, there was one eensy sharp pain in my butt.  But it was small.  So I kept them on, determined, and I packed some soft-soled flats in my work bag (just in case) and braved the world in REAL SHOES today.

What I didn't expect was how the SOUND of the shoes on the pavement would awaken something deep within me.  The first clack of the wooden heels down on my driveway concrete as I walked toward my car on the street echoed in my mind.  Resonated deeply.  Almost brought me to tears.  Happy ones.  And then again on the marble floor in the foyer of the high rise tower of my office.  And then once again on the ceramic tile in the restroom.  And even on the plastic carpet protector under my office chair.  (But the sound on the concrete was the most satisfying.)  The sound of decadent clacking.  It was power, aesthetic beauty, confidence, control, intention, progress, and freedom all at once swirling together in my experience of each step I placed.  Echoes of each step from the moment before stirred anticipation within me to hear the next hard stride to follow it.  GOD I MISSED THIS.  So much.   The beauty of something so... me... returning, even in the tiniest way, cannot be overstated.  Indeed, words can barely capture the feeling that sound evoked in me today.  I sounded like myself coming and going.  And I so want more of THAT.


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

That Perfect Musical Attunement

Sometimes, the Universe just speaks to me.  And when I'm especially lucky, it sings to me in verse.

There are two new albums that are just emerging, and I swear they're made just for me.  Whether the artists know it or not.  I don't guess that matters much.  With any art, you can make it yours no matter what the artist's intent was.  I always liked keeping the meaning of my artwork secret.  For many reasons, really, but among them, because I wanted people to connect with the images without preconceived notions, even if those notions were mine.  And it's always better if things aren't spelled out.  When they are, they can be trite... so much so that they make my stomach turn.  Ah, the power of the metaphor.  But if someone who knew me, like really knew me, understood the actual meaning of my work without me having to tell, that has always been my favorite thing, personally.  But that's about feeling understood as the maker.  Which is separate.  I think for the experience of the observer, the artist's meaning is a wholly independent thing altogether.  As the aesthetic experiencer, we long to be understood, but we get to create the meaning and weave it in with what we observe, feel, and hear.  When we give images or music our own meaning in our own situatedness, they become more special to us.  They actually become a part of the layered canvas that is us.  And in that way, we get to live and breathe in the new creation.  Pretty amazing, when you think of it.  We humans are good for something, it seems....

So these two artists with the new albums I mentioned just turn me upside down and inside out and melt my insides time and again.  Always attuned with my spirit.  And the albums aren't fully released yet, so I get to watch my iTunes for updates when new songs show up from the pre-orders I've placed.  Sweet tuneful anticipation, indeed.

The first one is Beast Epic by Iron & Wine (who I get to see in Dallas this November, which makes me so damn giddy every time I think about it).  There are two songs from the album out so far, though the rest of it isn't released yet.  But those two.  Whoosh.  Just try to listen to them without your heart soaring and sinking all at once.  So beautiful.

The first is Call It Dreaming, which came out a few weeks or so ago....  Here's a little excerpt:

"Where we see enough to follow
We can hear when we are hollow
Where we keep the light we're given
We can lose and call it living

...

Where the sun isn't only sinking fast
Every night knows how long it's supposed to last
Where the time of our lives is all we have
And we get a chance to say
Before we ease away
For all the love you've left behind
You can have mine."



And then Thomas County Law, another by Iron & Wine, just came out last week, and it's been swirling in my head since then.

"There's nowhere safe to bury all the time I've killed

 ...

There are castles for kings
There are birds without wings
I could whine 'bout it all,
But I won't....

...

When they hold 'em to the light you can see right through
Every dreamer falls asleep in their dancing shoes
I may say I don't belong here
But I know I do."



And now for the new one from my singing soul sister.  I just discovered this song last night on the new album called Native Invader, and it's been ever present with me since then.  I think I even dreamed about it.  I don't know if Tori Amos can actually feel the seasons of my life (surely not), but it's always, always felt that way.  I guess the Universe helps out with that.  First off, this song is called Cloud Riders, which appears to me to be an evolution from one of my old favorites of hers, Cloud on My Tongue.  Probably better to ride a cloud than to let it sit on your tongue.  Anyway.  In her very first line of this one, she sings about cliffs.  Cliffs.  She had me at cliffs.  But then she also saw shooting stars at 4:22 a.m.  And she brought a blanket to ride out a storm.  And was touched by the holy ghost.  And then she reminds me:  "Girl, it’s time you take back your life." 



Sometimes the Universe truly sings; we just have to listen.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

That Perfect Concept of a Flower

As I was about to toss some withered and mostly dead flowers unceremoniously into the trash, something gave me pause.  That moment suddenly got larger and more deeply scented in the depths of my mind as I stood there staring at them before they took the plunge into the darkness of the tall metal can lined with plastic.  And I stopped to snap a few photos in that moment... thinking that doing so would capture what I was feeling, which was carrying me quietly to a deeper place.



But then, when taking the photos wasn't enough to capture it, I turned where I often turn.  Writing.  Letting the emotion of the moment pour out, just seeing where it takes me.  Riding the universe of my mind through my words.

Floral sections of markets draw me in on even the most mundane of shopping trips.  I always seem to feel compelled to smell at least one bunch of flowers when passing by as if some bee-like honing quality has momentarily taken over my brain.  Even more delightful still are flowers in the wild.

I guess it's hard to call more than one thing a favorite when you can't narrow it down to a winner, because by definition, a "favorite" is the best one of the bunch....  With flowers, like songs and poems, though, I can't ever seem to pick just one.  Maybe everyone has this problem, and that's why there are such things as bouquets and mix tapes (er, playlists).  But, in any event, these are my favorites: Camellias, and their nostalgic ability to bring my mind zooming back to my childhood life in small town Louisiana.  Zinnias, and all their varied, crowded, gloriously wild intermingling stalks.  Cherry blossoms in their ethereal majesty.  Honeysuckle, in its calling us to partake of its golden sweetness on our tongues.  Wisteria, in its grape-like bunches of cascading petals emoting romance and charm.  Magnolias... that scent... there's really nothing better in this world.  (Hm.  The scent of the magnolia is really capturing something important to me... and after re-reading this post for typos before posting, that now makes so much sense in my retrospection... you'll see.)

But flowers bear a sadness, too, in their very being.  They are the living things, brought to their early demise, so that we can adorn bodies and tables with them on the most special of occasions -- in our hands in weddings, on long dinner tables at holiday feasts, on nervous lapels at proms, or in our hair as crowns in tea parties in fields.  And yet they are also the living things we are compelled to gift to others in times of immense sorrow -- the death or memory of a loved one, a miscarriage, or yet another surgery.  In both those forms of celebration -- in the lightest light and in the darkest dark -- we wield the flowers' life cycle to bring a thing of beauty into a moment that needs or deserves it, yet they also remind us of the reality of the temporal and fleeting nature of beauty... of life... of gifts... of joy... and even of sadness.

They can be a reminder and a muse, all at once.

If we look closely enough in our staring, we can feel the anticipation of the bud just forming, the awe in the glory of the full bloom, and even the melancholic love of the shriveling petal, which dries out no matter how much water it is given.  If we pay attention, we can see the cycle of the flowers, not just the life and death of the singular, momentary flower.

And, in my mind's wandering, I am also reminded of the Little Prince's rose.  In that book, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry describes a rose the Little Prince loved above all else.  It was the thought that there was his single rose on his teeny planet somewhere in the universe among the stars that made all the stars special and bright.  Without the knowledge that his rose was among them, the starts might as well have all been dark.  So long as the rose was out there somewhere, all was right in the world of his mind.  To a garden of roses, he spoke:

"You are beautiful, but you are empty," he went on. "One could not die for you. To be sure, an ordinary passerby would think that my rose looked just like you -- the rose that belongs to me.  But in herself alone she is more important than all the hundreds of you other roses: because it is she that I have watered; because it is she that I have put under the glass globe; because it is she that I have sheltered behind the screen; because it is for her that I have killed the caterpillars (except the two or three that we saved to become butterflies); because it is she that I have listened to, when she grumbled, or boasted, or even sometimes when she said nothing. Because she is my rose."

While the metaphor of the Little Prince is a tearfully beautiful one to which I have always been drawn -- the idea of a singular special rose -- I am thinking for the first time that this prose, in fact, misses the beauty of the rose.  A gardener does not prune a single rose for his whole life, yet he probably loves roses more than anyone.  A gardener prunes his roses In fact, when you get down to it, isn't even roses in their plural form, nor is it even a singular rose, after all, that move him.  In his mind, it is the singular concept of the rose he loves.  It is his love of the essence of the rose that keeps him wanting to consume its scent and to watch it bloom again and again and what causes him to care for it to keep it alive as long as he can.  But we all know, you can't keep a single rose longer than its life.  Unless you dry it.  And then, I guess you can keep it.  But then it is nothing but a dried rose that no longer smells.  It is not the same.  And a rose under a glass for safe-keeping still doesn't actually stop time, except in fairy tales.  And willing it otherwise only focuses on the fear of the inevitable loss of the one flower.  But, dear readers, do not despair as the Little Prince would have. 

Hope is not lost.  Quite to the contrary.  Indeed, the most deeply incredible thing about flowers is their ability to be, quite literally, distilled down to an essence so that we understand what is essential about the flower, not just its petals... the way it leaves a scent too strong to be overpowered by even the foulest of things this world can throw at us.  Even as we give and receive flowers in our times of greatest joy and our times of greatest need, we are forced to watch them die, which we accept... because we have to.  But unlike the Little Prince's focus on a small, momentary, singular concept of his rose, which evokes his fear, the idea of the flower... the genre of the flower... the eternal nature of its blooming and its perpetual scent can come to us again and again over time and bring a peace with understanding of the ebbs and flows of the process of new flowers blooming.

There is a peace embedded in the idea of the cyclical nature of blooming that helps us escape the mourning of the death of each momentary bloom.  It is this very kind of idea that has driven me to heal time and again after surgeries.  Rebirth.  Re-blooming.  To see myself as a cyclical being with new growth after what felt like near death too many times.  I lost petals.  Maybe even whole blooms.  But I nevertheless bloomed again.  Like ocean tides flowing in and out, flowers bloom again and again, even though individual clusters of petals surely die.  

Every time I see a magnolia tree in bloom and simply remember to inhale, the death of all the prior flowers never even enters my mind, and I am filled with only my love of its scent and the beauty it carries.  When one bloom dies, we simply look forward to the next one in the cyclic beauty of nature.  It is the magnolia we must think of, not the bloom that had its time.  And when we accept that, we can resume the task of tossing the wilted ones in the trash without much pause, or we may need to place them up on a shelf someplace safe to be dried by time because sometimes in our sentimentality we're not quite ready to let these particular petals go just yet, but deep down we know that there will be many more magnolia blooms to come, and they will unfold anew and carry their beautiful scent. 


In a joke I once heard about the irony of giving the gift of flowers, a comedian once said it something like this:  "I love you... so here, watch these flowers die."  The irony has surface comedic appeal, to be sure.  But it assumes that giving the gift of flowers is undermined by the very fate of the individual flower and its transience.  I am consciously realizing anew that it is not the flower, in its momentary bloom, that is even the point.  It's a much more universal concept that is drawing me in.  It is the idea of flowers that bloom again and again that we experience with each new blossoming.  Even if it takes watching flowers die in their season to remind us of that.  The magnolia is always the magnolia, which blooms again and again, and its scent is ingrained.  Maybe, in fact, the essence I have always loved from the Little Prince is even more true when viewed through the lens of the beauty of the essence of the flower versus the existence of a momentary flower:  "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."  We must look at the essence.  Never just the petals.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

That Perfect Mom and Max Trip

Before all my surgeries, I loved driving.  Just about anywhere.  Just about anytime.  Trips large and small are things of joy for me.  I love the dreamy anticipation of reaching the destination while driving there, the pure joy in living in the moment once I've arrived at my desired place, and then having the time to quietly reflect on the memory just made in the car on the way back.  How could I not love that kind of magic?  It is the purest form of combined experience and reflection all rolled up into one.  My son, Max, and I used to take "Mom and Max Trips" a lot before I had all these surgeries that have prevented me from driving myself places for far too long now.  Every time we went somewhere, just the two of us, we announced that we were taking a Mom and Max Trip and reveled in the opportunity to bond for a while without anyone else.  I've begun the tentative (and not fearless) process of driving myself places, alone, again as of a few months ago.  I cried the first time I did it, so overwhelmed by the experience of that independence and freedom again.  I still don't venture out too far alone because my muscles that keep me upright get taxed very easily, and sitting for long periods without being able to recline is still way harder than I'd like.  I've written about that before, so I won't belabor it here.  But I am improving, and I'm able to do more and more all the time.  I drive to work downtown, to doctor's appointments, and to physical therapy alone now with good frequency, which I call a gigantic victory and a huge step in the right direction. 

This morning, something beautiful happened in a moment that for most people would risk being simply mundane.  You see, this morning, we were out of coffee.  Which could have been a bummer or an annoyance.  But it wasn't.  There's a Starbucks a little over a mile from my house, so I decided to make a run to Starbucks to fulfill my selfish need.  Plus I have had a Starbucks gift card in my wallet for quite a while that needed using.  So I threw on some shoes and a bra, tamed my ridiculously large curly mop of hair a tiny bit, and kept on my PJs and decided it was time.  Time for a Mom and Max Trip.  It was a short trip, but I hoped he would be excited, not really about the hot chocolate I was going to buy him, but about the mere happening of a Mom and Max Trip.  And he was.  He was literally jumping for joy.  He didn't want me to take Dad's car, even though it was first out in the driveway.  Nope.  He wanted to ride in Mom's car because that's the car we always used for Mom and Max Trips.  So we backed out the other car and took mine.  We rolled the windows down, and I put on my sunglasses and some upbeat Saturday morning music.  On the way to Starbucks, he recounted to me his memories of prior Mom and Max trips, especially the ones where I took him to swimming lessons at the Y when Eva was a baby, which is when he discovered he loved Somebody I Used to Know by Gotye, which is still his very favorite song.  At Starbucks, I let him take off his seatbelt and carefully procure the cups from the drive-through window as he stood leaning out the back window.  When we'd secured everything in cup holders (without spilling anything, thankfully, because I only told him about five times to be so careful because they were sooo hot), and he was buckled up again, on our way home, he said this:  "Mom, I want to tell you something.  I love you more than video games.  And you know how much I love video games."  The whole way home, we talked about how much we loved each other (it's about a five minute drive, but a very precious five minutes, obviously).  And he said as we neared our house, "Mom, I will always want to take Mom and Max Trips with you.  Every time you ever ask me if I want to take a Mom and Max trip, do you know what I'll say?  YES!"  I, too, will always and forever want to take Mom and Max Trips.  And I wanted to write this all down to document it so I can remind him when he is a stinky teenager and I ask him to go somewhere with me and he would rather hang out with his stinky friends or his girlfriend (who I'm sure will be lovely) that he said he would always say YES to Mom and Max Trips.  But somehow, despite the teenage years, which will be here before I know it, I have a feeling I won't have to remind him.

 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

That Perfect Dream State


I attempted to write down everything I could recall of the dream I had this morning just before waking instead of letting it fade quickly, as I usually do, before my day begins. Here goes....

I was trying out for this Fluevog film/variety show of some kind. I was a finalist with 5 other interesting, odd folks. We chatted a bit in a small room and then began wandering around. Then somehow, briefly, my kids were in it instead of me, but that didn't last long. Then when I was back in the show instead of my kids, I kept sneaking off to smoke cigarettes (which I haven't done in many years, which was also true in the dream, but I couldn't stop myself despite knowing I was supposed to stay on set). I kept sneaking off to a bistro place that was full of oddities and antique junk - kind of like this old weird kind of a mall place with a bumpy brown brick floor in my old hometown (which was called MacArthur Village, but which doesn't exist anymore), but it was way more filled with stuff (so much you could barely get through, like an upscale flea market) and creepier - like if that old space had become an overwhelming junk boutique. And there were French doors and patios off this one part, where I kept trying to get, that felt like New Orleans, but I knew it was Alexandria.  And that part was upstairs, and there was a creepy elevator I had to use because I was using my old platform walker thing to get around again (the one I used right after hip surgeries), so I couldn't use the stairs. And there was an old sales lady in a red suit with a sparkly brooch, who moved slowly but who had long manicured nails, who kept trying to call the elevator for me, and it didn't ever come when you wanted it, and when it did come, it was slow and you weren't sure if it would even move or if it would trap you in. But I was late getting back to tryouts and managed to get into the elevator, but I accidentally left my platform walker outside of the elevator doors upstairs. I didn't have it in me to go back through the ordeal of the elevator and go back to get the walker once I made it to the first floor because there were a few fat flying spiders in the elevator that kept attacking me, and one got caught in my big curly hair for a moment which freaked me out. So I managed to limp around the first floor and find a cane amid all the weird junk in that place and hobbled myself back to the Fluevog tryouts. When I got back there, I found there was this carpet-like thick fake snow everywhere (tons of it - it looked fake but tranquil), and we were about to have some fancy esoteric photographer do a photo shoot of us each individually. And then we were going to have to do a short stand-up monologue of some kind after that, and I had no idea what I was going to say. But I convinced myself that surely I could think of something interesting to say on the spot. Then the guy in charge started in trying to tell us all the important stuff we needed to know, and this other finalist guy who looked like TJ Miller wouldn't stop loudly talking to me and showing me his iPad, interrupting the important guy, and he wasn't getting my eye-dagger hints to shut up. The director guy got mad at him, and I backed away to distance myself from the trouble. Then we were back to waiting on the photographer guy, and it was dark now with spotlight-lit areas and I started playing with the snow blanket stuff they had spread out for the photo shoot - even covering whole cars and large swaths of land - and then I accidentally ripped it while rubbing it around to see how thick it was, so I mushed it back together to pretend I hadn't done anything, and I walked into a Fluevog store that was part of the set somehow, and I tried some pretty shoes, with diamond-shaped designs in the leather, on my hands. 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

That Perfect Road Trip


This perfect road trip hasn't actually happened yet. But I've learned that the reality you want in life doesn't ever come unless you dream it first. And so I am dreaming.

***
 
The window buzzes quietly as it glides down into its slender compartment in the car door and settles down in there with a gentle thump. 

I wonder how many trees there are in these stretches of pine that seem to roll on and on for miles. From above, I’ve seen that the seemingly vast forests surrounding these roads actually only just line them, maybe only ten or twenty jaggedy rows deep. I was disappointed the first time I flew in an airplane and saw that. Can wild animals live in such a shallow arboreal home? I can’t imagine anything interesting living in a fake forest. Why do we even have these? Who plants them? Maybe they were actual forests once upon a time and have been pruned this close to the roads to make room for farmland plots. I think this is probably the case. But I pretend anyway that I am in a deep piney jungle, and a feeling of childlike safety envelops me.

My hair whips my neck over and over with each wind gust I have quietly invited into my car through the open window. It’s amazing how bugs smack and bleed on the windshield without sneaking in through the side window, like a giant mouth open wide. I’m thankful for that. I hate getting a bug in my hair. Or worse, my mouth.

It is a comfortable tumult, this air whirling through the car all around me, though I know there is probably poison from the pollution it carries out on this highway from all the behemoth rigs growling down the road, which bully all the rest of us in our person-carrying cars, and from the refineries in the distance, and the burning piles of trash in rural yards scattered on the landscape here and there, but which only seem to exist down here in the deep south on these lonesome highways. Do people burn trash everywhere? Or just in the nearly empty southern non-cities where there’s nowhere else for it to go and no one who will pick it up and take it any place else? At least fire is cheap, I suppose. Landfills aren’t. At least morally.

Anyway, aren’t so many things that fill us with joy actually killing us slowly? Killing us slowly is better than killing us quickly. We all have an expiration date, ultimately. I wish I could know mine but am also grateful I cannot know. And I wish wishes could stop time. Could freeze moments. Ones like this. Where the wind hugs me, where a stunningly shadowy voice calling through the speakers in a private duet with a gentle guitar burrows straight into my heart and wakes up my belly with a welcome pang, and the road lays itself out before me – calling me and gifting me with a safe path to anywhere I want to go.

I am leaving the window down. I take a swig of still warm coffee, pull my sweater into my lap, and flip on the seat heater to warm me as the cool front begins to settle in. It’s a wilder wind now that plays with my hair more aggressively as it becomes colder. And it stings my cheeks and makes my nose run a little. Harsh, but in the most beautiful way.

I settle into my seat, feeling it against my body, aware mostly of the vibrations of this car flying along on the pavement. It is supporting me, and I feel it there under me, but it doesn’t hurt. My right foot is gently pressing the gas pedal as I pass the car that just merged into the right-hand lane after clogging up the left-hand lane before it finally got over, and my left foot is just resting, knee bent freely, leaning against the comforting interior wall of the car door. I remember when cold air like this would make my muscles scream. But right now, my muscles feel lazy despite the chill. And I am grateful.

I should buy some beef jerky next time I stop. It hurts my jaw if I chew too much of it, but my sentimental nostalgia yearns for it here on the open highway. And it will probably make my stomach hurt. I probably won’t care.

I never thought I would get to do this again.

They ripped open my hips. That’s when I really fell from grace. Or fell from life but found grace in the end. Twice on the left side, and once on the right side. I paid good money for them to slice into me. I was so broken. I used to drive a twelve minute surface street route home from work and was certain I was dying this time, so many times, on that otherwise repetitive drive. I pulled over more days than I want to admit, succumbing to the dizziness that was overtaking my brain as it tried its best to shut out the pain filling my body, like a hot liquid lava spreading and leaving burned and cracking surfaces, but inside me, in its wake. I suppose the passing out from pain phenomenon is an evolutionary mechanism we have developed so that our brains don’t fry like an overheated motherboard while trying to survive intense pain. I wonder if animals other than humans experience this sensation.

I learned my left hip was dislocating every, single, fucking time I sat. At least that explained it. I’m not overreacting. Or exaggerating. The surgeon explicitly told me that after he’d sealed me back up after the first hip surgery and left me with three scars littering the front of my thigh where he had sliced into me. He was shocked it was so bad and unstable in there. The doctor drew an exclamation mark after he wrote the word “Instability” on the drawing he had made of my hip to show what he had found during surgery. I wasn’t surprised at all. But I was relieved there was a legitimate reason I had become so incapable of even performing the mere act of sitting, which meant I also couldn’t do the higher level things I’ve been trained to do, and had gotten so good at over the years, either. And yet I welcomed the concrete news that the cause was mechanical and not me losing my mind.

After many months of physical therapy and slow, slow healing after surgery – slower than the slowest molasses dripping, slower than the laziest snail – my left hip stopped dislocating. But then I had to allow them to cut into me again, not too many months later, this time to repair a tear in my right hip that happened when I was forced to over-rely on my right leg when my left one had become so fully and entirely dilapidated. So I got a brand new matching set of three scars scattered on the front of my right thigh when they sliced into that one as well.

But then, despite a year of hip surgeries and recoveries from those operations, after having already endured many tortuous months of diagnosing and conservative hip treatment (after four previous shoulder surgeries I won’t even let my mind acknowledge right now), I still couldn’t sit. Although I could stand again without feeling like my torso would slide off of my pelvis, a miraculous development to be sure, the intense pain and feeling of needing to pass out just from sitting did not leave me. My pelvis felt like it was ripping itself apart. Turns out it was. My doctor looked me in the eye and said it isn’t cancer, but what most people won’t understand is that what you’re going through is kind of like that. This is big, he said. Fuck, I thought.

After more months of tests, manipulations, oohs and ahs from interns and residents watching intently but with a cold astuteness as I lay on tables while doctors manipulated my leg around in the air in various positions as they examined my dysfunction, and waiting for a surgery date, I underwent a femoral derorational osteotomy on my left side. Much bigger scar this time. A big slice was made through my muscles in the back of my hip. Through this incision, my femur was sawed all the way through, and the top of it was rotated about twenty degrees from where it had been my whole life, and then reattached to the rest of the bone – its other half – with a titanium rifle-barrel-like rod shoved into it and now running the entire length of my thigh, with screws at my knee and hip to hold the rod in place. I’m told I shouldn’t set off metal detectors. I was also told I was lucky they know how to fix this problem nowadays. People with my hip rotational problem used to have back surgeries, knee surgeries, and hip replacements after their hips imposed far-reaching destruction on distant body parts, and a lifetime of pain pills. At least I have a shot at avoiding that.

All the muscles that attach to my pelvis and femur finally stopped feeling like they were a wrap dress tangled and being pulled with immense and wrong tension while strung up on a hanger, hampering and hindering my movement and making me want to just sleep and drug away the pain. Even though I used to be the girl who refused to even take ibuprofen. I hate taking drugs. I cannot count how many days I lost. How much of myself I lost. But, after the osteotomy, a peace settled into my muscles that had been at war for years. But they were so weak after the long, invisible battle. Shaky and fragile. And there was so much strengthening to be done. And my own body scared me to my core. The thing holding my very soul and all my potential, and with it, my identity, the very thing tying my me to this earthly world and those I love, threatened to be my unraveling on the deepest level. Deeper than any heartbreak I’d ever felt, deeper than any other fear that had ever shaken me. And surgery to repair such physical brokenness, even when it works (and sometimes, it doesn’t), does not erase the fear that builds up over years of bodily failure once it embeds into your psyche. Not quickly anyway.

But I slowly gained strength. After the bleeding, the limping, the swelling, the dizzying drugs, the endless hours not being able to sit or roll over or, at first, to get up at all to even pee… after entirely too many empty moments, tears of frustration, and hours of physical therapy yet again, I began to make progress. I ate calcium tablets with the pain pills, wishing the bone to heal. I was warmed by love letters, calls, and trinkets from friends. Please, please let it be soon. I need a miracle.

I tried not to ask Why Me? But I did sometimes. That never helped. When I did, I just resented my disabilities more and more, while I knew I needed to just be with it and let it exist. Fighting it only hurt me more. I consciously tried to slow my breath and my heart, a lot. Tried to grab calm from the air and swallow it whole. But that was a skill that I took years to learn. And I still forget it sometimes when I need it most. I can be really fucking bull-headed sometimes. I love efficiency too much. And achievement too much. But less now. Out of necessity.

Sometimes I pretend to smoke an imaginary cigarette, and by some miracle, I am able to force more air, with a strange ease, into my lungs. Funny how such a poisonous habit from my youth, abandoned so many years ago, helps me now when I feel too anxious to consciously breathe properly.

And I thought so many times that I would never drive again. Not alone anyway. I’ve been stuck before. I’ve thought I was at my end too many times. I developed a deep-seated fear of a thing I once loved. In my youth, I adored road trips. Three to four, or even more, hours of my time in a car seemed a luxury – a music-filled, daydream-wrapped journey to somewhere new, somewhere exciting, somewhere I longed to visit. I always loved the drive. But as my stamina left me, in my thirties no less, my love of the road became tortuous. What if I got stranded somewhere because I couldn’t go on and my body finally decided to try to give all the way out in some unpredictable place? Who would save me? Or would it just be the end? I don’t want to end with a whimper, but I was certain sometimes I just would.

But here I am. Wheels spinning, comfortably hitting seventy. Humming along. Flocks of birds changing direction in a symmetrical dance in the vast sky above me.

And, of course, I notice the bored, road-weary expressions on the faces of all the other drivers I pass who appear to lack the capacity to fathom how special, how wonderful, how amazing it is to drive anywhere you fucking want. I cry just a little, feeling sorry for myself for all the years I couldn’t do this. Swells of emotion always make me cry. Always have. Maybe it’s raining somewhere now because of it. I missed feeling like this, this free, for so long. I dreamed of taking road trips again. I wished on stars for the ability to just go anywhere while not wondering if I would make it there.

And here I am driving. Reveling. Relishing. Just breathing instead of hurting. Not even having to pretend to smoke or to convince myself I’ll survive this moment, too. I already know I will.