I don’t expect to get profound life advice from How I Met Your Mother reruns, but life advice can come from anywhere I suppose.
Me. Totally On The Hook.
The Urban Dictionary has the following listed under “On The Hook”
A person who is “on the hook” will be overly infatuated with another person. The person who is the desired generally takes little notice (and often complete advantage) of the person who is on the hook.
Often times the person who is on the hook is a back-up.
Signs that you are on the hook:
1) giving foot rubs
2) making mixed tapes/cds/play lists
3) making chocolate cake
4) dropping everything at a moments notice to be with the other person.
Ted: “Lisa came over last night and I gave her a foot rub as we watched a move.”
Marshall: “Are you guys dating now?”
Ted: “No, she is still with her boyfriend, she is just looking for the right time to break the news.”
Marshall: “Dude, you are so on the hook.”
My own signs:
1) being overly infatuated with him
2) he took little notice (and often complete advantage)
3) was his backup / strung along /rebound person
4) giving foot rubs
2) trying to learn Spanish
3) obsessive checking of WhatsApp
4) dropping everything at a moment’s notice to accommodate his whims
Me and Shrek (who needs hair when you can have green?), we’ve got layers, and no I’m not a cake or a parfait, I’m a fecking onion with lots of layers, and sometimes if you peel them back your eyes leak a little, but basically we all want the same thing, to be loved, not to suffer, to feel happy – and to get good and grumpy from time to time.
Shrek: For your information, there’s a lot more to ogres than people think. Donkey: Example? Shrek: Example… uh… ogres are like onions! [holds up an onion, which Donkey sniffs] Donkey: They stink? Shrek: Yes… No! Donkey: Oh, they make you cry? Shrek: No! Donkey: Oh, you leave ’em out in the sun, they get all brown, start sproutin’ little white hairs… Shrek: [peels an onion] NO! Layers. Onions have layers. Ogres have layers… You get it? We both have layers. [walks off] Donkey: Oh, you both have LAYERS. Oh. You know, not everybody like onions. CAKE! Everybody loves cake! Cakes have layers! Shrek: I don’t care what everyone likes! Ogres are not like cakes. Donkey: You know what ELSE everybody likes? Parfaits! Have you ever met a person, you say, “Let’s get some parfait,” they say, “Hell no, I don’t like no parfait.”? Parfaits are delicious! Shrek: NO! You dense, irritating, miniature beast of burden! Ogres are like onions! End of story! Bye-bye! See ya later. Donkey: Parfait’s gotta be the most delicious thing on the whole damn planet!
Also I want something safe, and strong and solid, probably not an ogre, but I’m not saying absolutely not. I want a shoulder that I can put my head on when my life feels out of control (generally life is just fine, it’s me who gets lost) I don’t want to be rescued, not really. I do want something that feels safe.
I feel like a Matryoshka Doll. Layer after layer of a hard wooden, brightly painted shell each covering another inside it with a firm, smooth and solid layer. The biggest with a smile permanently painted on. Life gets difficult? Snap! On goes another smooth, hard, smiling outer layer. People are unkind? Pop, pop on goes a couple of smiling layers. When I’m alone I think about taking off a layer or two, looking at the small doll at the center.
“Beauty comes in many forms–and there is no form more beautiful than you. Just exactly as you are, this minute, right now, without changing a thing…you are beautiful. Beautiful enough to take God’s breath away. You do believe this, don’t you? Oh, you must. You must. How can I believe in my beauty if you don’t believe in yours?” ~ Neale Donald Walsch
Isn’t that great? I need to have it tattooed on my forearm.
I grew up learning to gauge other’s emotions and adjust my behaviour accordingly. I hid my own feelings and learned to ignore them. I was told, and believed, that no matter what I did, whatever path I would follow I would never be quite good enough. I could twist, conform and mold myself to make others like me, but really, it would never work. I wore masks, layer after layer of hard, resilient masks, all nesting over another. What I wanted, who I was, what I was passionate about disappeared under the layers.
“The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You trade in your sense for an act. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask. There can’t be any large-scale revolution until there’s a personal revolution, on an individual level. It’s got to happen inside first.” ~ Jim Morrison
Inside. Way inside there is that little doll, but the light is dimmed from all the other layers and it’s difficult to see, to feel what she really wants. It’s easier to retreat inside, to not do the work needed to live without the safe, nesting layers. It’s never convenient to do this, there are always more reasons to stay where you are, to stay within the boundaries and roles that have been assigned to you.
Despite this. Despite the layers we all wear, and the roles we all are assigned, despite all of this, we are only meant to be ourselves, that’s all. We, in theory, have the ability to release the pain, to remove the masks and to look into the darker parts of ourselves.
Those who will not slip beneath the surface of the well of grief, turning downward through its dark waters to a place we cannot breathe.
Will never know the secret water from which we drink, cold and clear, nor find in the darkness, glimmering– the small, round coins thrown away by those who wished for something else
– David Whyte
We have been raised to ignore the dark parts of ourselves, the parts about us we don’t like, the parts that we would like to pretend don’t exist. We want the world to see only what is good in us, only the bright shiny outer layer. Except that’s only part of us. The dark and hidden parts, the shattered and broken parts, the really ugly and shameful parts are as important as the bright, shiny and happy parts. Perhaps more important. If you’ve never suffered, you can’t know empathy. A broken heart is more open, feels more, is better able to love.
“Ring the bells that still can ring Forget your perfect offering There is a crack in everything That’s how the light gets in.” – Leonard Cohen
So what do I want? The same as everyone else, I suppose. I want to be happy, to be free from suffering. How likely is this? That depends I suppose on how attached I get to certain desires, and how open I am to accept and appreciate what I already have. So in the end, I’m okay if Viggo doesn’t show up on horseback, and the firemen don’t show up shirtless looking to rescue me. Well.. mostly okay. I think actually I’m okay with where I am right now. I may even like myself a little more, and maybe I’ll take off a couple of those Matryoshka Doll layers and get to know better the not so shiny and slightly cracked and broken parts of myself, because that is where the light gets in.
“There will be bad days, Times when the world weighs on you for so long it leaves you looking for an easy way out. There will be moments when the drought of joy seems unending. Instances spent pretending that everything is alright when it clearly is not….” Shane Koyczan, excerpt from “Instructions for a Bad Day”
There will be days where your best is not crying, at least in front of everyone, at least not for extended periods, at least not to the point of boogers running down your face (save that for the car where you have tissues), that your best is not crying, and not curling into a ball wishing the world away. Some days that’s all you’ve got.
When I quit drinking 10 years ago someone said to me that I would feel better, that I would feel everything better, pain, joy, happiness, anger, sadness, you know everything. She also told me not to believe everything you think. Solid advice that still applies.
Today I am feeling all of the things, emotionally, mentally, physically, metaphorically…. (note: I feel most things metaphorically, writer thing… maybe, not sure… actually I have no bloody idea and am freestyling this bit). Medically, things have been a bit rough. So much so that I have four new prescriptions and more doctor appointments than I would prefer (I would prefer zero appointments, but still). Everything hurts, well not everything, just the things I’m focusing my attention on. I feel a bit like a House episode, minus the curmudgeonly doctor. My doctor is very nice, and quite firm, which is why I’m sitting here looking a gaggle* of pill bottles. *a herd? a cluster? a bevy? what do you call a collection of medication bottles? I even googled it, apparently it’s not a thing.
And then, because I’m me, and I swear this stuff just finds me when I’m sitting innocently being responsible (you know, and not crying, and not assuming the fetal position, and doing all the grown-up things that I don’t feel like doing) I find this little bit of music, this tiny lyric.
Vair me o, ro van o
Vair me o ro ven ee,
Vair me o ru o ho
Sad am I without thee
I find this little bit of music, and there are no oatmeal raisin cookies in my house, no lightly frosted lemon scones, no dark chocolate truffles with caramel and sea salt, none of these things, so I have to sit here and feel all the feelings, which is still not my favourite. I’m even out of lemons for my tea.
Shane also says in his poem “There will be bad days. Be calm. Loosen your grip, opening each palm slowly now. Let go….”
Okay. Okay. I’m on it. Letting go. (for extended thoughts on letting go, with lots of pictures and convoluted thinking click here ), putting on my game face (the one that says “I ain’t bovvered”), and making tea without lemons, but with lots of honey.
You know those gauzy, flowered, rainbowy memes with inspirational words about letting go? They show you the beautiful moment when you “Let Go”, and then you grow wings, start floating, have the sun shine out of your arse, and you dance off to the ‘happily ever part‘ of your life where there are soft focus wildflowers, pristine beaches with sunsets and unicorns. You know, those memes.
Yeah, I hate those.
I hate them. I hate them because they promote the idea that all you have to do Sweetie, is just Let Go and then your life, relationships, pets, kids, will be forever wonderful and well behaved, your skin will clear up, your stomach will flatten, and daisies will sprout wherever you place your perfectly pedicured bare foot as you stroll in your whispy white dress, with your long fabulous hair flowing behind you in the perfect breeze. It is also rumored that once you Let Go, you will find true love, probably on said daisy sprouting beach with the beautiful sunset and dancing unicorns. Puppies will love you. Friends and family will finally realize your true worth, how you’ve always been right, and how your version of every story was the one true version, and they are overjoyed to morph themselves to your new enlightened view of the world. I may be exaggerating ever so slightly, or maybe not.
Right. Except all of that is bullshit.
We really (really, really) like to hang on to stuff
For more on the Social Mammoth read here, it’s awesome.
First off, Letting Go is really fucking hard. Letting go is not a one time activity that precedes you getting everything you want in life, you being happy all the time, and finally figuring out just what you are meant to do here. Nope, letting go is something you have to do over and over, (and over and over, and over… you get the idea).
Then, just when you’ve finally let go of the rock, the thing/comment/relationship/thought process and you’re standing there thinking, well this is great, now what the hell am I going to do? And then, as if by magic, something else pops up and you decide to pick that up and cling/carry/lug it around instead, or you look back down at the thing/comment/relationship/thought process or whatever it was that you put down and decide, well … really, it wasn’t so very bad, and you pick it up again and drag it around some more. Later, sometimes years later (and sometimes never) you realize that you’ve been carrying that thing (etc) again and you had no idea, and that was why it has been so darn difficult to get around, to do anything because you got this rock that you’ve dug your finger nails into and cortorted your body, mind, heart, and/or soul around to hold on to. Then you have to go through the process of unclawing your fingers, uncontorting your body/mind/heart/soul to put it down again – and that’s a scary thing to do. After you put it down, what then?
oh look, a quote on a butterfly
I love this quote. I use it often in my yoga classes, but the thing I like to add is that you have to keep right on walking into that darkness, that unknown, one step after another, and sometimes you find solid ground, sometimes you fly, and sometimes, more often than not, you fall on your face, get up and step again.
I love this scene from Indiana Jones, his Leap of Faith. There’s this terrifying moment when he steps out into nothing, and then finds the invisible bridge. Here’s the thing about life, Indiana Jone’s bridge appeared after that first step, for those of us not in a movie we have to keep taking the next step out into nothing, over and over again. It’s not a one and done kind of thing, you have to keep stepping out into the unknown, into the very thing that terrifies you. This is the letting go and moving on is part of growing up. He could have just clung to the cave wall because it was safe, and never even attempted to step out. He didn’t because this is a movie, and Sean Connery was going to die, and well, he’s Indiana Jones, and that’s what he does, but those of us walking in more ordinary shoes, in less dramatic lives will cling to the wall and not step out, even to save ourselves (or even Sean Connery), even if the place we are clinging to is awful, and painful. We cling because the known, even if the known is awful, is more attractive than the unknown, and that’s were we get stuck.
Letting go is not being apathetic, it is not weakness, it takes tremendous strength to let go. Holding on to resentments, justifying bad behaviours because of things you cling to, THAT is what’s easy, and also what’s childish. Withdrawing, running away, hiding, manipulating, sulking THAT is what children do. Letting go, and being right here, not rewriting the past, or scripting the future, but being right here, right now, being fully present whereever you are now is hard, really hard. Replaying the past or fantasizing about the future is so much easier. Having those conversations in your head with people, you know the ones where you sound really clever, and you ‘win’ whatever winning the conversation looks like to you. Those conversations where you get to say that really clever thing you’d wish you’d said, or unsay that nasty thing, or where the imaginary version of the person you’re fantasy talking to, starts doing and saying all the things we wish they would, and you know that all you need is for that to happen, and then you can be happy.
okay, it’s got a pretty tree, shoot me
The times when we are uncomfortable are the times that we need to stay right HERE, as Pema Chödrön says to lean into the sharp points, be fully present with the discomfort. What we generally do when faced with being uncomfortable is dash for the nearest and easiest distraction, our phone, the tv remote, the car radio (see video and lyrics below), food, drinking, pouting, withdrawing, lashing out at someone. Again a child’s method of coping, the equivalent of putting our fingers in our ears and saying la la la la I can’t hear you. Grow up will ya?
… I hate this car that I’m driving There’s no hiding for me I’m forced to deal with what I feel
There is no distraction to mask what is real I could pull the steering wheel
I have these thoughts
So often I ought
To replace that slot
With what I once bought
‘Cause somebody stole
My car radio
And now I just sit in silence
I ponder of something terrifying
‘Cause this time there’s no sound to hide behind
I find over the course of our human existence
One thing consists of consistence
And it’s that we’re all battling fear
Oh dear, I don’t know if we know why we’re here
Please stop thinking
I liked it better when my car had sound
There are things we can do
But from the things that work there are only two
And from the two that we choose to do Peace will win
And fear will lose There’s faith and there’s sleep We need to pick one please because
Faith is to be awake
And to be awake is for us to think
And for us to think is to be alive a
And I will try with every rhyme
To come across like I am dying
To let you know you need to try to think
Of course the idea of behaving like an adult is associated with being no fun, stifling, stunted, repressed, we are encouraged to ‘not grow up’ ‘find our inner child’ and while the innocence and the creative openness of childhood are great sources to draw from, the pitching a tantrum, sulking, pouting, lashing out parts of normal childhood delevelopement are not. Don’t get me wrong, I love kids, and am often accused of being one myself – “what are you, like, Twelvemom?!” But childish ways of dealing with frustration are not okay.
So put it down. Whatever that thing is that you are carrying, put it, the fuck, down. Tell yourself you can always pick it up later and see if you want to carry its weight again, that you don’t have to put it down forever.
Imagine you’re swimming, and your beloved thing to cling to is a large rock – it’s a metaphor, stay with me here. You can absolutely keep swimming and carry that rock of yours, but it’s hard work, and you don’t get anywhere fast, and if you really look you’ll see that all your managing to do is to tread water furiously enough keep your face far enough out of the water to breath. Fun, right? But that’s what we do, and we wonder why we’re not moving, we wonder why life is so fucking hard, why no one is behaving in the way we want them to, why nobody has even noticed our awesomeness. You’re treading water with a rock pal, that’s why. DROP THE DAMN ROCK, really, really. Let go. See what it feels like to swim without it. You can always dive back down into the muck at the bottom and wrap your arms around that rock again, sometimes you won’t even notice you’ve done it till you notice how hard it is to swim again, and then you have to let go all over again, but maybe this time it’s a little easier
The thing about letting go, getting back to my irritation with those sunset, wildflower, ocean memes, the thing about letting go is that is not a one time life event, credits roll, couple walk off into to sunset holding hands, life solved, and Boom you done. Don’t confuse your life with a movie, or worse yet and butterfly/unicorn meme. Letting go is something you have to do over and over again. You have to keep stepping out into darkness, into nothingness, with nothing but a little faith and a shitload of courage. Indiana Jones on that bridge. Life is movement, life is growth, standing still is stagnation and death.
Keep taking the next step, yes, I know it’s terrifying sometimes, Do. It. Anyway.
I know you don’t want to move, that want to stay where it’s safe and comfortable, , Do. It. Anyway.
I know you have absolutely NO idea where you will end up – Do. It. Anyway.
Put that shit down and walk (or swim, or step on invisible bridges depending on your metaphor of choice) dammit, keep going. It won’t always be this hard, sometimes, but not always, and the more you let go, the more you step out into nothing and see that the world does not actually stop spinning, that everything does not completely fall apart, that the rewards of moving forward far outweigh the risks of staying still. The more you do this the easier it will be to trust that things will work out, and it’s okay if you don’t know what that will even look like, it’s okay, really.
So while your embracing the openness and creativity and the possibilities of being child-like, be sure you’re wearing your big girl/boy pants and not also indulging in child-like tantrums, sulking and seeing yourself as the centre of the goddamn universe, and while you’re there, put that shit down, with love of course.
It didn’t happen when I turned 50, but sometime after I turned 51 I stopped caring so desperately about what people thought of me, and I have to say that it is really fucking awesome (yes, I will use profanity when I want to – Sorry. NOT sorry, who am I kidding). I still have moments where I grab the “rock of really giving a fuck about what you think about me” I used to wear like a raincoat, and haul it around for a while, but I just can’t be bothered to carry that weight anymore, ya know? In one way the “swirling shit storm” of my life the last several months (years, really) has helped me let go of many things simply because they are too heavy to keep carrying.
There are things I will not apologize for anymore, and if you don’t like me because of it, I’m really, really super-fucking-okay with that.
You don’t like my politics? Great!
My life choices? Fucking Awesome!
My tattoos? More power to ya!
My sarcastic, sassy and profanity laced language? I will somehow manage to carry on without your fucking approval.
Can’t decide if I’m worth dating? Sayonara, Adios amigo, Caio bella, sich verabschieden, d’adieu, tchüss. (because I totally AM worth it, ‘Slaying Dragons For’ kind of worth it, and I can’t spend my time with someone who doesn’t think so).
There also things I will apologize for, because like most humans, I can be a self-centered asshole on a remarkably regular basis. Those things I try to be accountable for and apologize. Things like running about 5-15 late on a staggeringly regular basis. I do apologize for this, but I haven’t suffered enough negative consequences from this for me to alter my behaviour yet. That and forgetting your name, I have a smooth spot on my brain where people’s names are stored, it’s not you, it’s me. Really, really.
The point is, most of us struggle throughout our lives by giving too many fucks in situations where fucks do not deserve to be given. We give a fuck about the rude gas station attendant who gave us too many nickels. We give a fuck when a show we liked was canceled on TV. We give a fuck when our coworkers don’t bother asking us about our awesome weekend. We give a fuck when it’s raining and we were supposed to go jogging in the morning.
Fucks given everywhere. Strewn about like seeds in mother-fucking spring time. And for what purpose? For what reason? Convenience? Easy comforts? A pat on the fucking back maybe?
This is the problem, my friend.
Because when we give too many fucks, when we choose to give a fuck about everything, then we feel as though we are perpetually entitled to feel comfortable and happy at all times, that’s when life fucks us.
And life will fuck you over, and over, and over, that’s just the way life is. It is also beautiful, tragic, sacred, messy and glorious . Our big mistake is to think the world, that life, that God owe us something. That we are supposed to be, #happy, #blessed, #blissful and need to share this with all our Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/Wordpress followers all the fucking time. Seriously?
Here’s the thing, the world, life, the universe, God and everything else you want to call it, do not owe you one single solitary fucking thing, got that? Does Not Owe You. Nada. Nothing. Zilch. Pas du tout. Nichts. We are not here to be entertained, to be taken care of, to have all our superficial and egocentric whims catered to. Life does not owe us. Life does not owe us a certain lifestyle, a six pack, an adoring partner, lots of money, an easy go of it, and when we caught up in the Super Sucky Vortex of Entitlement and we think that somehow we deserve these things, that we deserve all the stuff, all the fucking junk that we have been told over and over that we should have, when we get stuck in that vortex of really giving a fuck about the stupid shit, that is when we are most miserable.
Okay, so my title may be slightly misleading. I do give a fuck about somethings, not about what you think of me, or my life, my family or any of that, I give a fuck about what’s truly fuckworthy. In my 20’s I gave the most sincere fucks about the stupidest things. I tried, I tried so damn hard to be what I thought people wanted me to be. It made me fucking miserable. As I aged, and occasionally matured, I found I didn’t have the energy to give a fuck about anything that wasn’t worth it. The clarity about what is important, what is worth giving a fuck about is what has liberated me. I am not apathetic, I am simply not will to waste my time and my fucks on anything unimportant.
Which is what exactly? We are here to give back, to be of fucking service to our fellow humans, to those who hold no power over us, to animals, to plants, to our mother, the fucking earth. What we need to do is to take care of each other. Is that so hard? Because it sure seems like it’s really fucking hard for people. And this is where I actually do give a fuck. I give a fuck about that homeless guy that you pretend you don’t see. I give a fuck about the recycling you just tossed in the street, about the dog you left in a hot car, about the plastic floating in the ocean, about being kind to the person who seems to least deserve it, about feeding people who are hungry.
I give a fuck about a lot of things, just not what you may or may not think of me. Hasta la vista.
A repurposed necklace, the charm is mine, the cord was part of a gift from someone I loved (the original charm, it went the way of the love – gone)
I can’t find the right words to describe this. This feeling that comes when I least expect it. The feeling, as Rilke would say, of pushing through solid rock.
It’s possible I am pushing through solid rock in flintlike layers, as the ore lies, alone; I am such a long way in I see no way through,
and no space: everything is close to my face, and everything close to my face is stone.
I don’t have much knowledge yet in grief so this massive darkness makes me small. You be the master: make yourself fierce, break in: then your great transforming will happen to me, and my great grief cry will happen to you. ~ Rainer Maria Rilke (Translated by Robert Bly)
“Our greatest glory is in rising every time we fall.” Rising. I’m working on that, because I fall a lot. I fall all the time. And I rise, I do, but it’s exhausting
There’s a hollowed out feeling when I think of you, there’s sadness and anger too, but mostly I’m hollow. I can usually distract myself, with sleep, with TV, with work, with art, with words, with movement, with anything handy. The thought of actually sitting still with myself still overwhelms me, so I move, or I sleep. When that doesn’t work, when you bubble up unbidden, on those days, I run the same circles in my head, the same tight circles that loop back on themselves and spin faster and faster. I tell myself I’ve been an idiot once again for loving people who leave, for banging my head and my heart against your rock wall, constructed to keep people like me out. I sometimes think a different version of me might have been enough, could have make it through your emotionally unavailable barracks, but that’s not true. Occasionally I feel like throwing a rock, a brick, or smashing a plate, perhaps that would at least get your attention. I won’t, but the thought remains attractive, if only for the moments I pick it up and hold it, pass its weight back and forth between my hands.
You huddle in, becoming
the deathless younger self
who will survive your dreams
and vanish in surviving.
– Self and Dream Self excerpt, by Les Murray
It’s not just you, of course, it’s been a brutal fall. Somedays, all of its hurts lay on top of each other and weigh me down. I thought we were connected, but we weren’t, that was me telling me stories and you telling me your well practiced lies of convenience. That level of connection, of honesty, was the last thing you wanted. At my core sits a small hard bit of certainty that if I love, you will leave. My head and my heart know somehow this is not correct, but my bones know that it is so.
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That is how the light gets in.
– Leonard Cohen
There isn’t a light coming in, at least right now. It’s cold and it’s dark and it’s empty. He also said “The Heart beneath is teaching / To the broken Heart above”, maybe that’s what this is, healing.
“Into the pit” – aptly named
I don’t think you’ve ever allowed yourself to be opened, to let someone break your heart, your shell is too hard, too thick, too well formed to allow that to happen. Or maybe you did, once, and then swore never again, and that is why you remain frozen, hard, hidden and clinging to that past trauma that you will never release. You turn your focus on yourself, withdrawing into your shell if anyone gets too close, only pretending to connect, to engage, to care. If that doesn’t work you manipulate, gaslight, play controlling games, run tests, that will always set you up as the winner. You don’t know how to live openly, you don’t know what it is to fall, and to rise again, only to withdraw and hide. There is no glory for you, only more hiding, more controlling, more walls.
Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall
I do know the feeling. I once had walls. They had a hollow sound behind them, but they were solid. With them in place I could play happy, charming, funny, but was just acting. Taking the walls down was excruciating, and also exhilarating; still, there are days I wish I still could hide behind my walls.
And so, I’ve fallen, and risen, and fallen again. I’ve fallen into this mess that I have to push through (not go around, not go over, or go under). I will, push through this.
10. The cold way you looked at me (the warm affection in your eyes).
9. The way you’d protect yourself from me (the way your arm moved to protect me).
8. Waiting hours for you (the way you greeted me).
7. The way you made me cry (you made me laugh).
6. Your lies of convenience (your lies of flattery).
5. The part of you that understood me and then left (the part of you that understood me and seemed to want to stay).
4. The drive-in (sneaking into movies).
3. The plans you never meant to do (the future plans we talked about).
2. Waiting for your call (your goodnight texts).
1. Blowing cigar smoke in my face.
The truth is my struggles, my demons, all come from, and aim directly at the very things I am most insecure of, mainly not being lovable, being abandoned, and when they strike up the band and start to play my thoughts and emotions get sucked into that spinning wheel where no good ideas ever emerge. Don’t believe everything you think, don’t believe everything you think especially when you are tired, hurt, raw, emotional and generally broken up inside. Those are the times when throwing the rock, or smashing the plate seems like the best idea ever. Those are the times where you, as Pema Chödrön says, have to lean into the sharp points, the pain, and the discomfort, even when, especially when, this makes it hurt even more.
Which means this won’t last forever. I will emerge. I might even grow a little. Maybe not today, today is pretty awful. Today I am pushing through solid rock. Maybe another day this won’t be so heavy. At some point you do free yourself, and take your power back – flaws and all. Someday.
Whatever I thought it would be like, it wasn’t this. And I did think about it, we all did. We thought about it a lot in our own ways. Of course there were, increasingly faint, bits of hope that we would cling to, even against all logic, we would hope. Just the same, we knew this day would come, and when it did it was all the things we feared it would be, but also nothing we expected.
“Love is so short, forgetting is so long.” – Pablo Neruda
It was a good service, as these things go, nice music, a moving slideshow of photos of you, appropriate and moving readings and memories, a traditional hymn, and a choir rendition of All You Need is Love, complete with kazoos. It was very John like, right down to the fabulous food we shared afterwards. Everyone seemed pleased. It was closure, it was a send off, it was people holding each other up, it was all you could hope for really.
It was all you could hope for, and yet, I still find myself walking through mud, through fog, through solid rock. I forget things. I lose hours doing nothing. I stare at nothing. I stare at your things that now are in my home, but are still your things. I sleep longer, and am still tired. I stay up too late.
It’s possible I am pushing through solid rock in flintlike layers, as the ore lies, alone; I am such a long way in I see no way through,
and no space: everything is close to my face, and everything close to my face is stone.
I don’t have much knowledge yet in grief so this massive darkness makes me small. You be the master: make yourself fierce, break in: then your great transforming will happen to me, and my great grief cry will happen to you.
~ Rainer Maria Rilke (Translated by Robert Bly)
This is the grief work they talk about. Pushing through solid rock, an apt enough description. I dream about you sometimes, not the comforting dream where you tell me all is well with you now and you are in a better place, just confusing dreams. Someone said that to me, a couple of people did actually, said that you ‘were in a better place’. I so wanted to punch them in the throat, to wipe the smug, sympathetic, head tilted ever so slightly to the side expression on their faces. I think that would be the anger stage of Loss.
According to Elisabeth Kübler-Ross the 5 Stages of Loss are:
Denial and Isolation – buffering
Bargaining – the ‘if onlys’, the ‘what ifs’
I honestly believe I did everything I could. Wait, that’s not true. What if I had shown up on your doorstep, dumped out all your alcohol and physically dragged you to the hospital? Would that have worked? I don’t think so, but I still take out these thoughts and hold them awhile, feel their weight in my hands, build a fantasy around them where, in the end, I save you. After a while I put them down, but I still feel their weight. More than anyone I should have been able to save you. It was everyone else’s first experience with this disease, I was a seasoned veteran. I had done this dance before, I knew all it’s steps. I saw you leaving well before anyone else.
I saw you leaving, and I let you go.
I let you go. I talked to you, wrote to you, I wrote about you. I wrote about our disease. The one that killed our father, has a hold of my son, the disease that I only get a daily reprieve from.
But I didn’t save you. I know, in my head, that I didn’t cause, couldn’t control or cure you. I know this in my head. Sometimes it helps, but not always. A year ago we almost lost you, but you came back. I thought you might stay. Maybe that was the time to save you that I missed. Maybe.
I still don’t know what to do with your clothes. I don’t know what to do with our stories, the ones only you and I understood. Where do I put the parts of myself that were yours too? I don’t know. I don’t know what to do with a lot of things, things I should be doing, raking the leaves, clearing out the house so it will sell, making appointments, the business of living.
So I sit, pen scratching across paper, drinking coffee, and staring at the still green willow leaves, who will only fall after all the other leaves have been dutifully raked. Mostly I sit staring and nothing. Four of my orchids are re-blooming, did I tell you? No, of course not, what was I thinking. They’ve spent a year deciding to bloom, a year of somewhat attractive foliage, but now, now they are spectacular.
There is a metaphor in that somewhere, but I can’t quite grasp it. Anyhow, you get my meaning.
The Highlights, The Lowlights, The ‘No Lights at the End of the Tunnel’ Lights
Mood Swings: MORE moods, MORE often, ALL the moods in ONE day, ALL the moods in ONE moment, Ten moods for the price of One!, BUY ONE and get 3 Bazillion FREE moods, ‘Happy Roller coaster moods’, ‘Sad Roller coaster moods’, ‘Happy/Sad/Mad Roller coaster moods’, ‘Roller coaster without a seatbelt moods’, ‘Roller coaster without a seatbelt and a broken rail moods’, ‘Completely overworked roller coaster metaphor because you couldn’t come up with anything else, so just sod off will ya’ kind of mood.
Tears: Sad tears, Happy tears, Mad tears, ‘Happy/Sad/Mad at the same time’ tears WITH boogers, ‘Stupid love song comes on the radio’ tears, ‘Drive by that restaurant you had that date in’ tears, ‘Friends being nice to you’ tears, ‘Nobody will ever love me’ tears, ‘Rejection’ tears, ‘Why I am watching this stupid fecking movie’ tears, ‘somebody ate the last slice of pesto pizza’ tears, ‘why didn’t I buy the stupid waterproof mascara’ tears, ‘we were suppose to do that together’ tears, ‘we were suppose to ride the roller coasters together, dammit’ tears.
Communication: Stupid texts, ‘Happy/Sad/Mad’ texts, ‘completely overworked roller coaster mood metaphor’ texts, ‘Foot-In-Mouth’ texts and emails and words coming out of my mouth (around my toes), cell phone glitches, computer glitches, music glitches, ‘omg, ALL the fecking spreadsheets’ glitches.
Appearance:Hair: Lord. In all the wrong places, in “honey, you should really get that waxed’ places, in the ‘feck it, I’m just going going to grow the hair on my legs and wear long pants because no one will ever looks at my legs again’ places. And Very poorly behaved hair in the proper places. Skin: ‘buying ALL the kinds of cream in the Beauty aisle’ skin, skin doing all the wrong things on all the wrong places.
Indignities: People having ‘banal conversations below your waist whilst your (unwaxed) legs dangling in the stirrups’ indignities, ‘little cough now dear’ indignities, ‘this will only hurt for a moment dear’ indignities (also not true), ‘the whole fecking reason for all the indignities evaporating in one phone conversation about too much drama’ indignity.
Food: Doughnuts for breakfast, cereal for dinner, ice cream for dinner, pizza every damn meal because I just feel like it, okay?! Cake, because Cake. Chocolate, dark chocolate, dark chocolate truffles with fancy expensive tastes added stuffed in my mouth three at time, dark chocolate with pizza and ice cream by the fist full while watching television that makes me cry, chocolate on the fecking tissues because apparently I can’t stuff chocolate in my mouth and cry at the same time without making a mess and wasting chocolate.
Allie’s images are brilliant, she manages to convey a wide range of emotions with a few lines and still manages a sense of humour. I’m working on the sense of humour part.
this one’s mine, computer generated
So yeah. It’s been a ride. An overused roller coster metaphoric kind of ride. It will pass. Retrograde will end, I’ll figure out the menopause thing. All of this will pass.
Place your feet on the floor,
one after the other.
Stand. Walk. Wash your face.
Rise and Shine.
This is not over.
You are not over,
you are only just beginning.
There are no fat ladies singing,
the credits have not rolled
your movie has only just started.
You have words to write.
There are breezes lifting kites, blowing leaves
that need to be noticed;
there are songs
that need to be heard.
Drag your pen across paper.
Write (dammit). Write despite of your broken hand,
in spite of the lifeless fingers.
with your teeth if you have to.
Get the words out.
Write about fire, stars, water,
Just write (dammit).
Do not give them your power.
Do not give
One. More. Moment to those
who called your hopes and fears drama that they didn’t have time for.
Do not make yourself small for other’s comfort.
Stand. Defy gravity, even as it pulls you to the earth.
Stand. Inhale. Exhale. Shine.
your messy, dramatic, beautifully flawed, your lovable self.
You are who you love,
You are not who loves you.
On a cool night walk to the beach and make a fire
burn the letters. Take
the card you have clung to and
Give them to the fire.
Burn them all
Get up. Look up. Walk away.
Look at the stars, borrow as much light as you need.
Listen to the waves.
Walk into the arms of your friends.
Let go. Let go.
Let the rest go.
Walk into your garden and
plant a new seed.
Stand. Shine. Watch it grow,
watch it defy gravity.
Pull the weeds.
Burn them. Burn every last weed
(like the card, like the words, let go, let go, let go)
that would choke your seed, steal its light,
hinder its growth.
The world will tell you to stop,
to dim your light.
There are people that need more light.
on chocolate, on love, on every moment of your life.
Deeper than you’ve ever dared.
Place your feet on the floor,
one after the other.
Walk into darkness, into nothing and
trust each step you take.
Save your own life. One breath,
one step, one word, one seed
at a time.
There is no other moment.
There is only right now.
Get up. Stand. Walk. Shine.
Be that which is you, and only you.
You are enough.
You are what you love.
It’s been a challenging week. The details I’ll leave for another time. I can be, veryoccasionally, a ‘well adjusted and functioning adult’ but more often than not I’m a ‘flying by the seat of my pants making this stuff up as I go along’ kind of person. I have some healthy coping mechanisms, like yoga, art, wonderful friends, and music, and I have some not so healthy coping mechanisms, like not eating, not making the bed, talking to inanimate objects.
Here are my top 10(ish), or maybe 15 coping mechanisms for the last week, in no order what so ever:
took out a live wasp’s nest, with a bat, during the day when they were around, it was a Lieutenant Dan kinda moment
allowed myself to chew off exactly 1 fingernail, my left pinkie, it looks dreadful, I’m only allowed to chew another when my pinkie grows back
curled up on my couch with my daughter, ate pie and ice cream and watched animated movies (The Incredibles and Wreak It Ralph), cried in a somewhat dignified manner
curled up on a friend’s couch and watched movies (Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, Sliding Doors), cried in a rather undignified manner (waterproof mascara that can hold it’s own through a hot yoga class crumbles and runs down your face if you cry long enough, especially the undignified type of crying)
reached out to friends, cried, and laughed and made horribly inappropriate jokes (inappropriate humour being a major coping mechanism)
made art, did not cry on the art (involved quick tissue reflexes)
talked to my steering wheel, cried on my steering wheel, sung to my steering wheel, drummed on my steering wheel; my steering wheel knows all my secrets
talked to my dog, talked to my cat, my fish, my garden, the lizard, but not the snake, the snake doesn’t listen
sang and hummed to myself, a lot, I mean for hours, I think the dog liked it, but it’s so hard to tell with him
didn’t make the bed for 3 whole days, also picked clothes out of the dryer instead of folding and putting them away
did yoga, got sweaty and breathed deeply, felt MUCH better afterwards
various forms of retail therapy – expensive yoga pants that make my ass look fabulous, little balls to roll away the tension in my neck, dark chocolate with cherries, so far….
narrowed my diet to pie (now gone), toast, coffee, and the odd bowl of cereal (lost 5 pounds, I do not recommend this diet)
played sudoko on my phone for extended periods of time (which I justify as a exercise for my brain)
poetry, lots of poetry, because I’m a word nerd – a small sample of poems below
I will live, have lived through worse, so I’m pretty confident “this too shall pass”, but I keep wondering when will I finally become that elusive “adult” who has all this junk figured out. The one who can balance a cheque book (who knows where the damn check book is), plan a menu that doesn’t involve the microwave or popcorn, gracefully juggle work/family/life/the universe and everything, always have clothes on the right way out, has a happy well adjusted marriage, never puts their foot in their mouth for weeks at a time, or overreacts in dramatic and super embarrassing ways, and never ever has orphaned socks? You know that mythical creature known as the well adjusted, mature adult. I’ve heard of them, even think I’ve spotted a few, but ultimately those ones turn out to be just as flawed as the rest of us.
And so it goes.
Life, crammed full of messy, undignified, embarrassing, humbling, glorious and sacred moments, full of enough sorrow for us to appreciate joy, and enough ugliness for us to appreciate beauty, and gratitude, because in the end it’s a beautiful world, full of kindness and love.
crappy picture, but I made this
Swung for love,
sound earth and sky’s embrace
green willows as my garland.
My sadness, in degrees does soar away,
and whispers back again.
My heart belonging
to faraway horizons.
Time so briefly spent in tumbling clouds
divides more wide than from tides to moon,
but still my flight will not wait
as I swing from sorrow
and back again.
made this too
do not think
that you can
for I am only
in a world
Enough. These few words are enough.
If not these words, this breath.
If not this breath, this sitting here.
This opening to the life
we have refused
again and again
– David Whyte, Where Many Rivers Meet
This being human is a guest-house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you
out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
– Say I Am You: Poetry Interspersed with Stories of Rumi and Shams, Translated by John Moyne and Coleman Barks, Maypop, 1994.
Love After Love
The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you have ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
– Derek Walcott, Collected Poems 1948-1984, New York, Farrar Straus Giroux, 1986.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.
We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.
Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me, so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.
This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.