Sunday, March 29, 2009

God's Nightgown!!!*

* It's a "literary" allusion. It's the curse that Scarlett O'Hara would use when she was ROYALLY pissed. And so is this southerner!

Just LOOK what I woke up to -in almost-April!! This is ridiculous. I, of course, left my car out in the driveway, because I'm smart that way. So it's encrusted in a case of ice. I need to traipse out into this mess and make sure there's bird seed in the feeder (which I know there isn't at the moment).

And what about my pretty purple crocuses?? Will they be ok?

Tip for surviving my temper today: Don't start with the "it looks pretty" thing. We know that drill. We say that to endure, and it might even be true in November. Now, this weather is just an affront to good manners.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Spring Forward

My sister has been lamenting about the lack of spring over at her blog. Winter can be a hard slog for relocated southern belles, and you'll just have to hold tight while we stomp our little feet and act generally put-out that it's not the weather we were brought up to expect.

But I'm here to tell you that there's hope. I own my very own house now:

And it comes with its very own gardens:

And there's this big mysterious thing that gardeners talk knowingly about: "putting your garden to bed." Last fall, when it was apparently time to do this -whatever it is- I nodded knowingly. "I KNOW!!!" I said. "Isn't it just too sad to be finished with the garden for the year." Heave a big sigh... and whew. I got away with it again. I didn't have the slightest idea what that meant. Put the garden to bed, indeed. Put myself to bed, with a nice hot toddy. THAT I can handle.

But I think it must have something to do with all those leaves and dead stalks and weird things that are covering the bright green things that are trying to grow. I think I was supposed to get rid of those things. (going out on a limb here!) So I told myself "never give up; never surrender" and that any forward progress is still forward and that I don't have to do everything today. And I went out there with one yard waste bag and the rake and the intention of cleaning out one -and only one- bed. I actually thought there wasn't enough stuff there to fill the bag, but I was so very wrong.

Anyway, in the course of cleaning, here's what I found.

And here's the big ol' yard being used for a hardly-any-planning, bonfire party -which is the kind of entertaining a girl can do when she doesn't have any furniture in the public parts of the house ;)

This whole thing is coming together. I'm stepping into my new life. The house and gardens are taking on a new vitality. Spring is just around the corner.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Well, what do you know!!

For several reasons (trying to get my groove back...trying to step into my dreams....) I've been getting up early in the morning to write. Sometimes, I sit at my desk or the table in the coffee shop, and nothing happens. At all. So rather than not write, I just write any old thing. Whatever spills out the other end of my pen is acceptable. As an antidote to yesterday's whiny post about not doing everything I want to be doing, this morning I started listing things in my life that I'm grateful for.

The first thing on the list was that I was grateful to be divorced. WHAT???? Not always. Not fully. But still. It was full-stop amazement when I realized that I had written something monumentally, unbelievably true. I never, ever believed this moment would come.

It's still new and tentative and odd-feeling. I can locate the familiar reasons to be sad with very little trouble. But it's time (and past time) to start rehearsing the newly-true thing. I am freed from being subtly belittled every single day. I am so happy that the people remaining in my life don't punish me by withholding. I am glad that I can begin to make my own way.

In an effort (a successful effort, by the way) to actually make myself plunk down the wad o' cash necessary to get myself and the purple luggage to Tuscany this summer, I watched Under the Tuscan Sun last night. Diane Lane says this, "Do you know the most surprising thing about divorce? It doesn't actually kill you. Like a bullet to the heart or a head-on car wreck. It should. When someone you've promised to cherish till death do you part says "I never loved you," it should kill you instantly. You shouldn't have to wake up day after day after that, trying to understand how in the world you didn't know. The light just never went on, you know. I must have known, of course, but I was too scared to see the truth. Then fear just makes you so stupid."

It is surprising. I thought it would kill me. And there are still days, as you know, when I don't feel quite this confident that it won't. But I need to shine the light (the Tuscan sun?) on these days rather than the bad ones. It's that new focus that makes all the difference in the world.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


I was going to call this post "dumb-fuckery" but decided that my life coach would not be proud of me if I did that.

Last weekend, I was in Alabama to see my mom and my sister. It was wonderful. And I couldn't help but notice how much better this trip was than my list trip there. I was happier, more centered, more sure of who I am. I could get out of my own head enough to truly love seeing other people and how they are doing in their lives.

And then I proceeded to come home and screw everything up that I even looked at, much less touched. The Engineering Building has this place where that scary-grate-stuff covers a large walkway. I had my keys in my hand. You know what happened next. Of COURSE, I dropped my keys down there and the campus police had to rescue them -and me. I missed a meeting and almost missed a few others. I left my phone charger in another state. I am so behind at work that I might seriously pass myself. I got yelled at by not one, but two, faculty members this week -and neither one was anyone I had babies with. (Both were totally unwarranted, as it happens, but it still rattles a person. Besides, two other people could quite legitimately have yelled at me. They just don't know it yet, or they're too polite to say so. So probably it all comes out in the wash.)

So, there's clearly work to be done here. How do I get my groove back? (Not THAT groove. While I wouldn't rule out going to Jamaica and having a fling with a sweet young thing named Shakespeare, that does seem like, well, someone else's groove.)

As I have daily proof, one can lose track of one's personal power through nothing more earth-shattering than a series of really tiny decisions to accept less and less. And one day, you wake up and you don't recognize your life anymore. So, I suppose the converse (inverse? contrapostive?) is true as well. Perhaps nothing more important than doing -again and again and again- the small things that help me to live the dream will, in fact, lead me toward the dream.

So, what's the next right thing?????

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Range of Motion

Sunday at rock climbing my hands were doing this weird thing they do -not closing around the thing I'm trying to grasp. And it's easy to see how that would be un-helpful in a rock climbing context. It does make an interesting metaphor, but we'll leave that for another day. I realized I had been neglecting yoga the week before, so I'm back to a regular practice this week.

As I work my way back to yoga this year, I'm having a hard time finding guided practices that are easy enough. I have a few, but mostly the ones I have are from a different time in my life. Last night I tried Shiva Rea's lunar practice from the Yoga Shakti DVD. I had to laugh; after an hour pretty much all I had done was the same posture over and over.

She wants me to do this.
My knees won't do that. I'll just modify like this.

.... over and over and over. But I almost always modified the same way, so I did the same posture again and again and again. Is this even doing any good??

I used to think, while doing yoga as a hyper-flexible person, that I simply wouldn't tolerate an inflexible body. I modified postures, but mostly based on things that will never change -like my height or arm length. My limber muscles allowed for a complete range of motion in almost any direction (my upper back has always been a holdout), and I wondered why one would accept anything less. Well, the Greek myths were right; hubris had the result it usually does.

But the opposing questions of hubris or being satisfied with too little are still around. Some limitations I can confront head-on. I have a working sense of how far I can nudge myself forward in uppavista konasana, for example. I'm not as flexible as I used to be, but I sense it's all still there waiting for me. It feels good to work my intelligent edge. Do I do the same thing with my knees, though? It doesn't feel right, so I don't.

If we let this process become a metaphor, it's not hard to see where it's going. Given my previous life experience with making myself small and still -which on some level led to these limitations- I am disinclined to limit my range of motion, ever again. I would prefer to work muscles and joints and life-skills, even if it hurts. Limiting myself taught me not to even notice anger, to accept very little from my life partner, to think that very little was all I deserved, and to step back from risk because certain humiliation awaited. None of that led to a life anyone would want to claim. My place in the world became tinier and tinier. At at least one point, I thought I would literally vanish. Not that I had a plan for doing anything to end my life; I just thought it would happen. I would disappear.

But when do I, both physically and metaphorically, extend and when do I hold back? How do I assess the difference? I'm afraid, now, of risking too little -of treating myself too gently. I'm deeply suspicious when someone suggests that I'm too old or too...something else... to even expect to be able to do something-or-other now. But I would also like to avoid ending up in a body cast or permanently injured.

Or maybe fragile knees aren't a metaphor at all and this whole thing is becoming needlessly tortured. Just haul yourself to a physical therapist and stop whining????

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Learning to Listen

Let's just be clear. Two things are true here. One is that learning to listen to people takes a life-time and constant practice. And two, if I absolutely NEVER EVER go to another "listening skills" workshop, it will be totally fine with me.

But I'm not talking about that kind of listening. In the never-ending quest to become the grown-up in my own story, I am learning to listen to my house. I have lived in this house for 22 years, minus some travel time here and there, but I never listened to it. I relied on someone else to do that. Yet, without noticing the development, I realize now when the sump pump kicks in, or when the refrigerator starts humming, what the water sounds like in the pipes, when the furnace turns on, and a whole host of other noises that happen around a house. I'm not consciously attending to those noises, but when I heard an unusual sound last night I realized that I must have a sense of what "usual" is.

The sound I heard was nothing important. Thank goodness, because I don't know what I would have done about it if it had been important. I would tell you -and I would be right- that I have two black holes of intellectual disability -finding my way somewhere and figuring out how mechanical things work. But part of owning this house, and I do own it now, is figuring out how it works. I'm getting there.

And there's the parallel question of what do I want it to sound like. Gentle sounds, happy sounds, occasionally rowdy party sounds, a balance between people-around and solitude sounds... I need to think about this some more.

Monday, March 09, 2009

I Want to Be in Charge of Karma

I'm a despicable person.

I don't want to be the Executive Director of Universal Karma. I'm willing to be reasonable, here. I just want to be in charge of one person's karma, and you won't have much trouble guessing whose. I don't wish horrible, terrible, no good, very bad things upon his head. I don't want him to get hit by a bus; I don't want the people he loves to suffer -unless they're Argentinian and bottled blondes. (Whoops.... that just slipped out.)

I realized today, though, that I want him to regret the divorce. I want him to think it was a bad idea, and wish he'd never started down that path. I want him to suffer, for crying out loud. And he's really not. He's not looking back at all.

It feeds his ego for me to suffer, which is only one more of a million reasons why I should stop. Every once in a while, when it's been too long since the old ego had a snack, he tosses some trouble my way. But I'm only useful as a tool; he doesn't care about me as a person. Why doesn't that make it easier to let go, I wonder?

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Beginner's Mind

I haven't read Suzuki's Zen Mind; Beginner's Mind since college. But I was clearing off a bookshelf (in the apparently endless process of freeing my life from furniture) and saw the book again. It rocked my world the first time I encountered it, and it has been on my mind again for the last few days.

The general idea is that beginner's mind is all about possibilities; the expert's mind isn't really closed but is decided. Think about a toddler playing in the Tupperware drawer. I can tell her "that's Tupperware. We use it for storing leftover food so that we don't waste it." She gives me a pitying look (in my imagination) and goes on to play with the Tupperware as though it were a drum, a ball, a storage device for Mommy's keys, an artistic medium for creating stacks and sculptures.... And it is all of those things, too.

I have made the mistake of being certain that my life was one thing -was going along a particular path- when, in fact, I could not have been more wrong. I cried, and argued, and suffered when that life was taken away from me -and I'm not so far from that possibility still, at least from time to time. But in a way, I had made the expert-mind mistake. I had chosen the path I wanted and closed my mind to other possibilities.

A beginner -and a child is the easiest embodiment of that mindset to examine- looks at the world as possibility and as an apparently endless series of amazements. People find two-year-olds trying, but I never did. I recall saying that it was exhausting, certainly, but amazing to have them around, because you never again engage the world with such a relentless need to examine and know and understand.

Well, why the heck not?? Why did I decide that, developmentally, that curiosity had to subside? I can get in the Walter Mitty-like thing of getting up, going to work, coming home and half-heartedly poking around with house projects, studying, reading, exercising, going to bed and getting up tomorrow to do it again. But that life is grey and small.

The same life can be described entirely differently. I am at the beginning of a new job. I am making this house a home newly and uniquely mine. I am learning new things and engaging with ideas, and little else on the planet gives me that much pleasure. I am finding healing and comfort in exercise. Things -all things- can be different now, and I don't have to understand at the outset how that's going to look. To borrow Mary Oliver's spectacular line, "I want to be a bride married to amazement." It's the same life -just looked at differently.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Writing the True Things

I have PLENTY of writing to do. There's my work, my research, my classes, this blog.... plenty to do. So, naturally, I want to write something else ;)

OK, that's just flippant. What's really true? What's really true is that writing this blog for over two years has invited writing back into my life. There is nothing spectacular about my writing or my thinking; I have no pretensions there. Nonetheless, people have been supportive and encouraging. And blogging has kept the writing muscles toned, as it were, and has helped me find my voice -and has not taught me to avoid mixing metaphors, apparently. Sigh....

Another true thing is that my family has pretty much cornered the market, I sometimes think, on premature babies. Still another true thing is that I knit. One more true thing is that my long-suffering life coach is encouraging (think "boot to the butt" here) me to do the things I've long talked about doing -writing being one of those things.

So, what's a writing, knitting, auntie to premature babies to do? Well, duh. Write a book with knitting patterns for preemies, that also has essays about what those babies have taught us and invited into our lives, that's what.

I finally have an outline. Well, you know.... I'm not promising that it will stay this way forever. But for now, it looks like nine patterns and nine essays. Something like this:

Essay #1 -teaching gentleness -a really soft blanket, with a satin binding, which is what babies like about blankets, anyway
Essay #2 –Shaking my fist at God –what would an angry knitting pattern look like? Bright colors, edgy designs…. For a baby?
Essay #3 –the courage to be fool-hardy
Why try again when you know this can happen?
Crazy-ass lace shawl for kangaroo days!
Essay #4 –for Thomas –here’s what triumph looks like
A sweater for Thomas
Essay #5 –preventing prematurity is more about women than babies
A sweater for mom
Essay #7 –getting by with a little help from technology
Pattern that allows for the machines to be attached
Essay #8 –getting by with a little help from my friends
Pattern –a gift for the nurses
Essay #9 –when prematurity stops defining you
A pattern for a bigger girl

This will be Rachel's and Thomas's -the most recent preemies in my life- book. I'll figure out what to do with it once it's written, but I do plan on posting the patterns and essays here, as well, since it was practically your idea in the first place.