BEING THE ADVENTURES OF A SEMI-NOMADIC POLYMATH ARTIST, MUSICIAN & WRITER
Essays, poems, and collected ruminations are being collated and compiled in a parallel journal at Dragoncave. I never know what I'm going to write about next, so if you desire to keep up with what I'm writing and thinking about, you really need to read both journals. Some overlap may occur without prior warning; sorry about that.
800. 28 April 2008, Beloit, WI
I havent spent a night at the new place yet, so yesterday I decided that tonight I would camp out, as it were, in my new home, for a night. Camping out because there isnt really much infrastructure here yet. I brought several full loads over today, though, so it was a good day. And I also went shopping and got some more supplies for here, including groceries, mostly breakfast and snacks. In the morning, Ill try a new routine, and see what happens. I am camping out on the floor, sleeping on my actual camping bedding that usually lives in the truck.
I moved over the smaller TV with the built-in DVD player, and watched a couple of episodes of a favorite TV series that I just got complete on DVD: Space: Above and Beyond. This was a really underrated series that was very well done, some years ago.
The new house has new sounds. The rush of air as the heating kicks in, the flame sounds of the pilot light in the gas fireplace. I ran the fireplace for awhile this evening, as I sat and watched TV, and snacked. I feel comfortable enough here, now, and tired enough, to go to bed soon. I have a another long day planned tomorrow, but its a breakaway day, a vacation day: Im going over to the art museum in Milwaukee for a show with some friends.
Ive been having a hard time feeling anything but stress lately. Today, because I got a lot more done, and felt stronger and more physically capable than I have in a long time, I feel okay. Its as Ive said before: with everything Ive been through, and with whats going on, Im doing well if I can just stay at neutral buoyancy. Joy seems a long way off, anymore, but I did spend the day at or slightly above neutral buoyancy. Theres still a lot to get done, and a long and growing list of things to do; at the moment, that doesnt weigh on my mind, at least. Its there, but not looming. For once. So, overall, it was a good day, as recent days go.
Im reading back over my thoughts of the past week or so. An amazing amount intense living packed into a very small number of days. Have I recovered form the blow of the basement flooding? Its been ten days, and the days have been full. That really knocked me down, and hurt me, and its taken time to get past it. I dont know if its something you can forget about and move on from: in some ways it was a reminder of how ephemeral everything is, of how unpredictable and chaotic life always is. Chaos never died. A reminder not to trust things too quickly, too easily. I dont know if its something I can just get other. I keep asking myself: I had a big opening, and then I got slapped down hard. Can I ever fully trust again? I dont know. I cant answer that right now. I might never be able to give a definitive answer. Id like to be able to be open and trusting, and its really hard for me to achieve that; I feel like Ive made that several times, but then Ive been slapped down afterwards. Maybe Im too sensitive; maybe Im just not meant to ever be that open, that trusting. The way I live my life, spiritually, it does kind of make me a target. I have a connection to the Powers That Be, as a shaman and healer, thats up close and personal; and it leaves me vulnerable to attack by less friendly powers. Maybe the reminder was to always be the Warrior. I feel toughened by this experience; not entirely in a nice way, but more certain of my own strength to survive anything thrown my way, and more certain of my determination to defend what and who I can, and my determination to never back down. Its not that Im not terrified; I am. Its just that I wont give the bastards the satisfaction of quitting.
799. 27 April 2008, Beloit, WI
Yesterday sunny cold, but Jo. and I transplanted some plants from here to the new house, so I would have them when I finish moving. Then I did some other things.
My dreams last night bound up in urgency; having to get somewhere to do something, before the world comes to an end, and everybody dies in come kind of unnatural disaster; so I am racing across a cityscape, then later in a car racing up north to get to a place that I need to be; always with a sense of urgency and speed.
A rage attack in the afternoon, moving things to the new place, and re-discovering how much of my own stuff had been destroyed in the basement flooding here. A whole three boxes of old prints of my artwork, gone. Several mailer-bags of freelance records. A couple of original pieces. All in the recycling now: they were in toxic water, they cant be cleaned or otherwise restored.
But my anger was triggered by technology misbehaving. Of course, its just emotional spillover. Part of the ongoing process. I had a good long talk yesterday morning with my sister about all of this, and were on the same page. It really is overwhelming. When she gets here in a week or so, I can really dig in, and it will all be easier. Right now, I have permission to not pus myself as hard as I have. My dreams of urgency last night mean that I really am stressed out, if this is all spilling over into the dreamtime.
798. 25 April 2008, Beloit, WI
Heavy rains this morning, and strong thunder. I spent some time before bed last night in gathering together things to take over. I have a pile big enough for two carloads. Im in a better mood, although my sleep cycle is still unpredictable. They say in the grief support group that sleep patterns can be disrupted for a long time; and I have found this to be true. Part of my stress has been a loss of routines, a lack of predictable cycles. The positive aspect of that is more lessons to learn to live in the moment, and be present.
Rain so thick its a fog making the woods fade to gray, so heavy on the roof its a thunderous weight. The river has looked normal for the past few days; now were under a warning of floods again. Will this summer be as violent and beautiful as the winter has been?
797. 24 April 2008, Beloit, WI
Im constantly feeling rushed, like I cant get it all done, like Im stuck and paralyzed. I spent most of the day in emotional and mental paralysis today, after getting a lot moved over yesterday. Of course, its also rained all day long, which doesnt help; nor did I sleep well last night, again.
People keep asking me if Im enjoying my new house yet. They expect me to be overjoyed. To be honest, Im too stressed out to have felt more than even the most minimal pleasure as yet. I feel the same kind of insane stress Ive been feeling for weeks, months, years, and it just wont let up. I can never get enough done, I can never get it all done, something is going to slip through the cracks and get all fucked up and take me a long expensive time to recover from. I just cant get that out of my head. Im frustrated and stressed and not at all happy, so quit asking!
I ended up vegging out the rest of the evening, before taking out the trash and recycling around midnight. I guess I needed a day off. Or maybe a day of gathering after a day of hauling. I admit that my body hurts, and Ive got a few new bruises that showed up today. I shouted and yelled a few times, too, mostly at those inner voices that are pushing me to do more. I need to convert that energy into something useful (not the shouting, the pushing), because what it does is get me all tied up in knots and unable to actually do anything. Its late, but Im not so tired yet that I cant gather more things together to carry them over tomorrow. It continues to go in waves.
This is really hard, really stressful. Im starting to wonder if its ever going to be fun, or not stressful, or if this is the way its always going to be. It is not fun, at least not yet.
Im struggling hard with the temptation to beat myself up for not getting more done today. Never mind that Im exhausted, sore, got a lot done yesterday, or can only do as much as I can. I feel like Ive already lost a lot of time; I feel huge time pressure. If I yelled earlier tonight, it was yelling back at those forces I feel are pushing me too hard, both inner and outer.
I know that by vegging out earlier tonight I was taking necessary downtime, but I was also distracting myself from the ongoing hamster-wheel mind-drama that I can get into, when everything is quiet and I cant sleep. I jerked awake very early this morning, too, and couldnt get back to sleep; so, more than once during the day I had to stop and nap, and take a break. My first nap over at the new house was also today: another first. I dont feel ready to move over the kitchen or bedroom just yet, but at some point I will; sometimes you just wake up in the morning, decision made, and get busy. Some of what Ive been doing today, it feels like, is waiting for ripeness. The timing was wrong today; I wasnt up to it, or the timing was wrong, somehow. Im not sure I can state that any more clearly.
796. 23 April 2008, Beloit, WI
Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate. Carl Jung
My dreams last night ended in complex tangled relationships between myself and friends I am traveling with, but who are antagonists in the dream. (No one I actually know, by the way.) Some task were supposed to do, and are arguing about; or some satchel of supplies we cant find, and are arguing about. I mostly stand aside from the arguments, annoyed but not getting into it. At some point I wander off by myself, feeling anger but not acting out.
Why do we write down our dreams? why do I write out these thoughts, these feelings I am having? why am I observing this grief process here? Because Jung was right: until you know whats going on inside you, in those parts of your self normally ignored or hidden, youll never figure out why you respond to events the way you do.
I am not a fan of C.S. Lewis; I think its telling that his books are more popular in the USA than in his native UK. His ideas about theology are often priggish and simplistic. But he does have moments of good thinking, and his writing is best when its personal and specific, rather than grandiose and theoretical. When he is grounded in human experience, hes much more believable than when hes telling his audience what to think.
So, his book A Grief Observed has had some relevance for me lately; the title alone reflects how Im trying to observe and write about my own process. Its not just journaling: its everything. Not one facet of my life has been untouched by grief, by this big changes happening, by everything that has happened in the past few years, that will echo down the corridors of my life for a long time to come. In this book Lewis asks timeless questions, and doesnt always give answers; which is a better form of theology than any collection of platitudes and certainties. A key question Lewis asks is:
Of course it's easy enough to say that God seems absent at our greatest need because He is absentnon-existent. But then why does He seem so present when, to put it frankly, we don't ask for Him?
Later on, Lewis writes:
Sooner or later I must face the question in plain language. What reason have we, except our own desperate wishes, to believe that God is, by any standard we can conceive, good? Doesn't all the prima facie evidence suggest exactly the opposite? What have we to set against it?
During bereavement, you get into the darker shadow of God. You get into the issue of theodicyactually an issue I got into when I was in the desert much more than I do now; was that preparation for this? or was it mostly that my own process of encountering theodicy was properly timed, and Ive moved on to deeper layers? Regardless, in observing myself and the others in this grief support group, I am not having a problem with theodicy; I havent even been thinking about it much before this.
Reconciling the dark side of God is not a problem for me. Jung addressed the question directly in some famous letters he wrote. Near the end of his life he wrote:
To this day "God" is the name by which I designate all things which cross my willful path violently and recklessly, all things which upset my subjective views, plans and intentions, and change the course of my life for better or for worse.
God is that which breaks us open, that shakes us loose. God is not a fantasy of a loving parental figure who nurtures and never subjugatesthe classic image that most people carry in their minds when they chant again and again, against all evidence, that God is Good. Jung writes later in that same letter:
I remember Him, I invoke Him [when I am] overcome by anger or by fear [and] I involuntarily say: "Oh God." And that happens when I meet somebody or something stronger than myself. . . . [God] is an apt name given to all overpowering emotions in my own psychic system, [which] subdue my conscious will and usurp control over myself.
We experience trauma as though it were a divine act. Perhaps it is.
The mystery lies in our trying to frame those acts as either bad or good. Yes, its bad for me that my parents died and I have a chronic illness. But what good has come of it? I found myself writing, during a workshop exercise, several good things that have come out of all this. The two most notable things are: 1. my time is now my own again, and I am free to set my own hours again; 2. for the first time in my adult life, I feel more or less financially secure, thanks to my inheritance from my parents estate; I am not wealthy, but I was able to buy a home, and I am able to go grocery shopping without worrying about making the budget at the end of the month.
Jung gets more deeply into these questions in his book Answer to Jobwhich I first read when I was in my early 20s, and had lost all faith in the Lutheran religion in which I had been raised. A faith that couldnt contain my questions, my experience, my sexuality, or my intellectual capacity for theological thinking; Lutheran theology is very rich but its also usually very intellectual, and occasionally heartless. It contains a great amount of justification, rather than fellow-feeling. It lacks, in my opinion, a deep reading of the dark side of God. (Except maybe in Dietrich Bonhoeffers letters from prison, of course.) Jung summarizes the problem in Answer to Job as follows:
The Book of Job. . . provides a picture of a God who knew no moderation in his emotions and suffered precisely from this lack of moderation. He himself admitted that he was eaten with rage and jealousy and that this knowledge was painful to him. Insight existed along with obtuseness, loving-kindness along with cruelty, creative power along with destructiveness Such a condition is only conceivable either when no reflecting consciousness is present at all, or. . . is very feeble. . . . A condition of this sort can only be described as amoral.
Later on in the same book Jung writes:
It is the task of the conscious mind to understand these hints [from the unconscious]. If this does not happen, the process of individuation will nevertheless continue. The only difference is that we become its victims and are dragged along by fate toward that inescapable goal which we might have reached walking upright, if only we had taken the trouble and been patient enough to understand in time the meaning of the numina that cross our path.
This is the key: pay attention, pay attention, pay attention. Pay attention to the numinous moments when we feel most alive, most sure of Gods presenceand those moments of ten are indeed our most traumatic. They shake us up, they break us open. My own experience of the Sacred Heart in my own body was an opening, a waking; I now believe it was also a tool I needed to have in order to be a caregiver for my father and mothers last experiences of bodily life on this planet. (This time around.)
The purpose of life is to learn to live life consciously, rather than unconsciously, to live life with intention and create meaning and purpose for oneself, rather than to have those intentions and meanings given to us by others. God is what breaks apart conventional meanings, platitudes, and received wisdom from our elders. Every time we ossify our faith into dogmatic belief, God will come along, like a stonemason, and break our bricks back into sand.
Our choice is to go along with the process, and be conscious of the process, or to be dragged kicking and screaming into it, against our will, protesting all the way: but it will happen, so we might as well go along with it.
The one thing the Lutheran theologians I read in my early adulthood never seemed to understandI could not articulate this objection at that time, all I had was a vague feeling of dissatisfactionis that God is not rational. God is irrational. God is amoral, as Jung says. Gods understanding and morality are not like our own. There is plenty of information we lack, that is buried not only in the Unknown but in our own, inner unknowns; which can be come known, but only by the hard process of individuation, of which the grief process is one kind. What this means is that our conventional, rational, moralistic images of God are too small, too limited, and do not contain Gods shadow. God is, in fact, Mystery.
God is the routine-breaker, the change-maker, the attitude-disrupter, the destroyer of all convention, and the remover of dead emotional trash. God is Shiva, the Destroyer, who removes dead things from the world in order to make room for the new creation: and the Dance circles on. We become mid-life orphans when our parents die; and that is when we must be come individuals, if not before, because we no longer have that wall to push against, to throw ourselves against in some act of self-definition by negation. Adolescent rebellion sustained into adulthoodwhich is all too common in our culture, which likes to keep people infantilebecomes doubly absurd when those one has been rebelling against are gone.
One of my favorite Jungian writers, Dr. Janet O. Dallett, has devoted an entire book to these questions, The Not-Yet-Transformed God: Depth psychology and the individual religious experience. (Dr. Dallett is the author of one of my favorite books, When the Spirits Come Back, which I have discussed here before.) In her book, she writes lucidly about our predicament. For example:
Today, many people feel themselves having to deal with violent affects, forces of superhuman proportions that have traditionally been assigned to Satan or the devil. As fewer and fewer peoples spiritual needs are met by the established religions, the power of gods and demons flows into the human psyche and often runs amok, expressing itself in experiences of murderous rage and suicidal self-abnegation, in psychosis and addiction, in the compulsions that force us to act against our best intentions, over and over again.
But its not up to God to solve these problems, its up to us. Dalletts entire book is inspired by and is in response to a famous letter Jung wrote in the 1950s to a woman who was asking him the fundamental question of theodicy: If God is indeed good, how can there be evil in the world? If God is good, why do we have to die, and suffer bereavement, and be unable to find answers to these disruptive Mysteries that beset us?
Its one of the oldest human questions. Its a question everyone must confront, sooner or later, even those who we do not think of as conventionally religious. For example, Charles Darwin once wrote to a friend:
There seems to me too much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the [parasitic wasp] with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars, or that the cat should play with mice.
No one escapes the question. It is a human question. Lewis writes elsewhere in A Grief Observed:
Try to exclude the possibility of suffering which the order of nature and the existence of free-wills involve, and you will find that you have excluded life itself.
For me, Jungs letter contains hints towards an attitude towards the Mystery, if not actually an answer. Heres a lengthy quote from the letter (which is reproduced in its entirety in Dr. Dalletts book, as an appendix):
Although the divine incarnation is a cosmic and absolute event, it only manifests empirically in those relatively few individuals capable of enough consciousness to make ethical decisions, i.e., to decide for the Good. Therefore God can be called good only inasmuch as He is able to manifest His goodness in individuals. His moral quality depends upon individuals. That is why He incarnates. Individuation and individual existence are indispensable for the transformation of God the Creator. We ought to remember that the Fathers of the Church have insisted upon the fact that God has given Himself to man's death on the Cross so that we may become gods. The Deity has taken its above in man with the obvious intention of realizing Its Good in man. The significance of man is enhanced by the incarnation. We have become participants of the divine life and we have to assume new responsibility, viz. the continuation of the divine self-realization, which expresses itself in the task of our individuation. Individuation does not only mean that man has become truly human as distinct from animal, but that he is to become partially divine as well. This means practically that he becomes adult, responsible for his existence, knowing that he does not only depend on God but that God also depends on man. Man's relation to God probably has to undergo a certain important change: Instead of the propitiating praise to an unpredictable king or the child's prayer to a loving father, the responsible living and fulfilling of the divine will in us will be our form of worship of and commerce with God. His goodness means grace and light and His dark side the terrible temptation of power. Man has already received so much knowledge that he can destroy his own planet. Let us hope that God's good spirit will guide him in his decisions, because it will depend upon man's decision whether God's creation will continue. Nothing shows more drastically than this possibility how much of divine power has come within the reach of man.
We are not separate from Godalthough we have often created images of God that are separate from us. We partake of Creation, and we are co-creators in Creation. We are not separate from it. And Death is part of Creation. (What is the symbolism of the Buddha dying after eating a poisonous mushroom? The function of fungi is to break down and decay dead things, otherwise they would litter the landscape. The Buddha died a natural death!) I do not feel that death is the end of everything; I do feel its the end of a natural cycle. But I have always felt that we go on, and come around again; the Universe is made of circles and spirals and fractal boundaries. (The Hindu-Buddhist concept of time is cyclical, rather than linear.)
It is up to us to finish up the Creation, and to bring God into final transformation. Jung writes in a lecture on another occasion:
The ego participates in God's suffering. We have become participants in the divine nature. We are the vessel. . . of the Deity suffering in the body of the servant . . . . Buddha's insight and the incarnation in Christ break the chain through the intervention of the enlightened human consciousness, which thereby acquires a cosmic significance. Individuation and individual existence are indispensable for the transformation of God. Human consciousness is the only seeing eye of the Deity.
The great Medieval Christian mystic and preacher, Meister Eckhart knew this same truth when he said: The eye with which I see God is the same eye with which God sees me.
Jungs conclusion, from that same letter in response to the question of theodicy, is profound and meaningful to me. I find it directly relevant to my own grief process, which is not only about losing my parents but about losing a complete way of life, and having to start all over again. (And not for the first time, in this lifetime.) Jung concludes his discussion by connecting us back to the world and the personal experience:
The problem of crucifixion is the beginning of individuation: there is the secret meaning of the Christian symbolism, a path of blood and suffering, like any other step forward on the road of the evolution of human consciousness. Can man stand a further increase in consciousness? Is it really worthwhile that man should progress morally and intellectually? Is that gain worth the candle? That is the question. I don't want to force my views on anyone else. But I confess that I submitted to the divine power of this apparently insurmountable problem and I consciously and intentionally made my life miserable because I wanted God to be alive and free from the suffering man had put on him by living his own reason more than God's secret intentions. There is a mystical fool in me that proved to be stronger than all my science. . . . Thus I suffered and was miserable, but it seems that life was never wanting and in the blackest night even, and just there, by the grace of God, I could see a great Light. Somewhere there seems to be a great kindness in the abysmal darkness of the deity.
I come back to the God who is not yet fully formed, in which we are humans participate. This is not a God of separation, but a God of participation. Everything we do participates in the Divine. (If only more people would realize that, we might not have an ecological crisis on our hands.) How can I begin with my own grief, not so great a set of griefs in this complex and demanding world as so many others, and end up with God? Because we are part of the Incarnation as well as the Creation; if God is incarnate, and immanent, then God is in us, because we too are incarnate. We are not separate from anyone who has lived or died; and they live on, in us, not just as disconsolate memories, or ghosts or phantoms, but as actual beings, as those who are us, the voices of the elders in us, but also the voices of what is alive all around us. Listen: you can hear them. Theyre not really gone.
795. 22 April 2008, Beloit, WI
Coming out of the Beloit Hospice grief support group just before sunset, the sun an orange ball hiding behind bare tree branches and dramatic clouds, my senses were preternaturally sharpor maybe its just that I havent been paying attention lately, so much inner turmoil has been getting in the way. But I felt clear. There was a robin yelling his mating call from the top of a tree, so loud I stopped for awhile to watch and listen to him. Is it only artists anymore who stop and pay attention to these life details? It seems like most of the time people just go on their ways, and get back to their familiar safe zones as fast as possible. Maybe its too hard to break out, for most people; I dont know. During a guided visualization today I went to that high mountain grass land with the blue mountains looming over the grassy tableland, a single strip of road, and a single huge tree by the crossroads on the plain, and in the shade of the huge tree, my guide to talk to, and to give and receive gifts. Ive been there before, so it was easy to go there again.
This morning I realized that there has been a voice in the back of my mind screaming about everything lately, about how there isnt enough time, and and and. Just screaming. I spent significant time this morning clearing and releasing. And I also made a new metaprogram for myself and set it running: to take the energy of stress and redirect it into being physical strength to sustain my bodys health and ongoing healing. Not to discard that power, but to put it to better use.
The birds are so loud this time of year: mating calls, territorial establishment calls. In the past few days, all the trees have budded, the grass is green and thick, the hyacinth and daffodils are blooming, all the other bulbs are coming up, and so on. Its this warm weather, which has been in the 70s for a few dayssudden summer, and no springalthough it did rain hard this morning for a short time. A sudden burst of rain like the sudden arrival of the threshold of the greening.
I feel stirred up emotionally today. Its been a challenging day. I knew early on that it would be a day Id have to be extra-vigilant about my edges, after the third time I banged into something, which I normally dont do. Its like I couldnt tell where my edges are. The thing I find most difficult in all this grief, stress, moving, etc., is the cognitive difficulties Ive been having for monthsthey distress me more than almost anything elseforgetfulness, lack of attention, inability to focus and stay on task, having to do some things multiple times because I couldnt focus on them at first. Today I really moved slowly, when I was carrying storage units over to the new house to set them in place preparatory to moving a lot of other stuff; I had to really pay extra attention, it wasnt at all as easy as usual. Its not even like it gets when I know Im tired, and approaching being done, when I start to bang into things and have to be careful to not to damage things or bruise myself by bumping into things; when you start out the day from that place, rather than ending up there, and knowing youre done, you have to be extra-cautious. It doesnt matter, I know that this is all part of the matrix right now; but its still not easy to cope with, and I have to keep reminding myself to take it easy on myself, and be patient. I still got things done, just not as much as I would otherwise like to have gotten done.
794. 21 April 2008, Beloit, WI
Another very warm day. I spent most of the day cleaning, then moving. I think I got enough done, but I feel this pressure behind me to do more, to push myself harder. But I cant. I have to take care of myself first, and that means not pushing myself harder than I can safely go. I cant afford to lose the time I would lose if I seriously hurt myself, or damaged something in the house. I hope I have enough time to do the sane and organized move that I have wanted and planned to do. I have already decided that some things are just not my problem, like tending to the lawn and garden here at my parents house. I intend to transplant some of Dads flowers over to the new condo, and keep them going. Some of them will be beautiful there. But cleaning out the garage here is now very low priority, and so are several other maintenance asks. I simply dont have the time or energy to maintain two households, and its not up to me to take both houses on anymore; mine comes first. I will pick out the things I want to keep and save, from the garage as from the rest of the house. A cleaning crew will come through after were all done, and take care of the rest.
793. 20 April 2008, Madison, WI
A gloriously warm day. All the plants in the garden are coming up. In the past three or four days, the daffodils have exploded, and the crocus have finished blossoming. The bleeding-heart bush is coming up, and may-apples are everywhere in the woods. There were about twenty canoes and kayaks going down the river today; they bottlenecked at the island before the bridge, and paused to let each other go in order; for a short while, the brown river was full of bright-colored boats and clothes.
It hit 80 degrees day. My dinner plans here in Madison fell through, so before rehearsal I took a long walk down State St., looking at things that have changed, and things that are the same. Photos of shirtless joggers; of buildings in the bright afternoon light; photos of people sitting at the sidewalk cafés. Then I sat in the sun for awhile, just relaxing and soaking up the heat. The first really warm day of the year.
792. 19 April 2008, Beloit, WI
Today I felt somewhat recovered from the sharp blow to the system. I slept a full nights sleep, if somewhat fitfully, and when I finally got the day started, I went over to my new place and continued cleaning. I also took over three loads of Stuff.
The day had several firsts: the first time you do something, the first thing you do, etc.
The first piece of music I played in my new home was my own piece horse at breath, I also played a few more of my own Stick pieces, like 20 Minutes Short of a Year. I took over my old stereo that I had originally bought in the 1980s in Madison; at the time it was a very high-end boombox, made by JVC, that still sounds great. I plugged my iPod into the CD connectors; one of the reasons I bought this stereo originally was that I could plug my CD player into it like this. So, the first music at the new place was my own music.
The first items I put on display, on that shelf above the living rooma small shelf where the ceiling meets the walls, inset about four inches, making a perfect display spacewere items from India. Things we had brought home when we moved back home from living in India during my childhood. I think Ill make that into an India shelf, and rotate the objects periodically, but keep the Asian theme. At some point, I want to do more of a completely Asian theme in my decorating; maybe bring in some bamboo screens, Japanese rice-paper screens, that sort of thing. I love bamboo in all its uses and forms.
I also took over a couple of the filing cabinets, and started assembling the office and studio room, which is what the second bedroom is going to be. My room for all kinds of creative work, and my de facto office. I am thinking about placing my grandfathers old oak desk there, as my computer table and workspace; I havent decided yet, though, as I am not sure what will work best when I assemble the space.
I intend next to move over a lot of the bookshelves and other kinds of storage units, so that I can bring things over, put them away, empty out the plastic bins, and take them home to fill up with more things to bring over. Doing it in stages. I have to keep marshalling my strength, and resist doing too much on any given day; I need my strength to make it all the way through this stressful process.
I still have a lot more cleaning to do. And I will be tracking dirt in as I continue to haul more Stuff over, so I will no doubt have to clean again and again, over the next few weeks. But its worth it. Tomorrow I plan to get into some of the really intensive cleaning on the main floor, and get that all spotless. At least I am starting as spotless as I can. After that, its just maintenance.
791. 19 April 2008, Beloit, WI
Last night was a night off; it had to be. Its taken me time to recover from that blow, which I still have to integrate in terms of meaning, if there is any. But I slept long and hard last night, afterwards, if not deep. I feel wiped out this morning, starting out, but at least I slept a full night through, mostly. It rained all night long, too.
What comes forward is about trust. I opened up my heart, and I had a loving day of release and healing, and my heart was wide open. And then I felt like Id been stabbed through the heart, when I got home. It took only seconds to flip my emotional and spiritual states completely over into Victim from feeling healed and clean and released. The pain and numbness in my breast are only part of that, and havent gone away yet. Will they ever again? Can I ever trust fully? Ever? Because it still feels like I got attacked not only when I was most open to the world, but because I was so open to the world. Its hard not to see this from Victim as some kind of cause and effect, some kind of slapdown of a variety all too familiar. I am thinking about Jungs comment that if you dont make the unconscious conscious, it will appear to act in your life as fate. Im trying to understand how that applies here. How can I ever trust again? If I ever did. How can I live without shields? Maybe, in a place like this, you cant. I dont know. I cant figure it out right now; maybe given enough time.
790. 18 April 2008, Beloit, WI
Ive barely slept all night. I feel assaulted, as if I had just opened up my heart to life and love again, with that emotional forgiveness piece yesterday, about Dad, only to feel like I had a spear stabbed through it. I feel numb and blocked. I feel paralyzed just like I did before. This is the worst feeling Ive had in a long time. Its like Im being to never trust again, to turn back towards death and stasis, and crawl into a hole and die. And its hard to not do that right now. Its very hard. Its not even about impermanence and the lack of control: its like it was a direct attack, targeted very much at me, designed to do me the most damage possible at my most vulnerable moment. I am supposed to continue on from this? I am supposed to somehow move into my new house and deal with all this at the same time? You dont think the timing isnt significant? Well, I do. I feel attacked. Im not able to not take this personally, at the moment.
I guess you can tell how short of sleep I feel right now.
789. 17 April 2008, Beloit, WI
Its been an amazing and exhausting day.
Today I closed on my new home, the condo that is really a small house, 1500 square feet, in a small group of stand-alone condos thats unique in this area. I had Jo. and V. there to help me through it, and it was a powerful experience.
Jo. and I had lunch beforehand, and she told me some things that were really important. When Dad was in the hospital, that last illness before coming home to die, when my sister and I were both away from the hospital room, he said to her, I need to ask you a favor. She said, Ill do anything I can. He said, I want you to make sure that Arthur has a good life. I just broke down and cried when I heard that, at lunch. All my life, Dad and I had a difficult relationship about money, and related things. He never really taught me how to handle money; then when I got in trouble and needed help, he did help me, but he always got mad about it. It was very difficult between us. Jo. told me that he had said all that to her, and wished he had done a better job teaching me those things. Well, Ive learned some of them on my own, through failing and learning better, and Ive made real progress. But hearing what he asked her to do, which she is doing for me now, just broke me open. It was a real piece of healing of past wounds, and it came just before my closing on my first home. It felt like a blessing, and a release. The timing couldnt have been better.
I took possession of the keys, and went over and looked the place over again. It felt really good, for those few moments. I know theres a lot left to do, but it felt good to be there. The place, and the street its on, have felt good to me, since I first came to look at the place.
After that, I went out to dinner with some other friends: a celebration, and a release. I came back to my parents home, where Ive been living for a couple years now, very tired, and ready to go right to bed.
And then when I got home after dinner, I discovered that the basement was flooded. Again. yes, property damage this time. To my property. Im so exhausted I cant even deal with it. But thank you so very fucking much.
788. 17 April 2008, Beloit, WI
The sun is warm this morning. My dreams were cold and dramatic, the details already lost. Yesterday I took two naps, and went to bed early, after dozing off in front of the TV. This is a change from my recent insomnia; Ive been jerking awake suddenly, either in the middle of the night, or the morning earlier than I usually get up, and unable to get back to sleep. Yesterday, I was so tired I slept a lot more than usual. This warm sunlight feels good on my body. Im feeling tired already, knowing how much there is to do in the next few weeks, and how hard Im going to have to push myself. As I sit here in the sunlight, I feel too tired to move; eventually, though, Ill get this day started.
This morning, the first daffodils. The purple and white crocus have been bursting forth already for a week. This morning, the buds on some of the trees are visible enough to be green against the brown. This morning, the lawns seem awake and green, and there is wash of green against the brown layers of the woods, as some shrubs and bushes burst forth against the trees. The river is still brown and fast and wide, after all the excessive spring rains.
I got some video footage of the swollen river a few days ago, and also of the early flowers opening. A few days ago, when there were dramatic clouds everywhere, I also go some long shots of a single patch of blue moving slowly across the sky behind the branches of the still-bare trees.
787. 16 April 2008, Beloit, WI
Tomorrow afternoon is the closing for my condo, which I am buying outright, so theres no mortgage, no financing, just a cheque from the bank. Ive been feeling alternately completely nervous and completely excited.
Today it was the first day of spring-like weather, the temperature in the 70s, the grass greening. The Fearless Agamemnon, the Wonder Woodchuck, has been browsing in the yard, sunning himself on the deck, and once even walked up to the porch door to peer in. I chased him off for that, dont want to encourage such free license.
Starting tomorrow, I am actually moving. I feel like theres so much to do, Im just afraid Ill overlook some detail. I probably will, but probably nothing major. I have good support on all this.
Still, after dinner I think Ill go back to packing boxes preparatory to moving. The nice thing is, Im moving less than a mile, albeit to my own home now; so, I can make several trips a week by myself, loading and unloading by myself, before I need to bring in actual movers at the end of the project. Some things are just too heavy for me to move. It feels like too much, but its probably not; its just all so overwhelming, that I am on a rollercoaster. A few more weeks of utter stress, though, and then its all over. It will be over, and done. I am going to concentrate on moving those things that I know that I can move without hurting myself. The first pass is some of the storage units Im taking to put in the basement, which will be the central storage area, so I can avoid too much clutter in the main living areas. I am tempted to go very spartan in my living area, but thats not realistic. Still, I can keep the clutter below stairs, then move things up and down as I desire. I have enough artwork to change out the gallery display areas a few times a year, should I so choose. I am thinking about eventually making this home ever more Asian, more Japanese, more bamboo, as I go forward. I have to think about all that, though. The first task is to get settled in; then proceed from there. All the planets are aligned to support me, with no retrogrades right now except Pluto.
It has been hard to stay focused. I get overwhelmed, then I need to stop and do something for awhile. Ive been writing a lot, although not poetry. I need to distract myself periodically to stay on task. At times I feel like Ive been on fire with ideas, at other times I just cant seem to focus. Focus is difficult right now. But then, theres a lot of reasons for that, moving is just one more layer, honestly.
786. 8 April 2008, Beloit, WI
Yesterday I had the piano tuned, by a very friendly and capable tuner who I enjoyed talking to before and after, and the piano sounds amazing. It sounds like its supposed to, plus it has that gloss of a fresh tuning. Even the voicing and tonality of the registers bring back memories of hearing Mom and her piano students playing in the living room, while I listened from the kitchen, back in Ann Arbor.
When I was alone again in the house, I immediately sat down and played some old pieces still in my fingers, and later in the afternoon, I recorded two improvs.
Thats what I want to do: I want to spend a lot of time with this piano. Im going to take lots of photographs, and Im going to record a lot of new pieces on this piano. Im going to take advantage of it, do a lot with it, secure a lot of new music out of it.
And then, when I have had time with it, I can let go of the actual physical object.
But having a freshly-tuned piano makes we want to have a piano around again. It brings back the joy. I may have to buy another piano, in the not too distant future. Well see.
785. 3 April 2008, Beloit, WI
All day its been cloudy and overcast, on the edge of a storm but doing nothing. The crocus have arisen, purple blooms amongst the dead brown oak leaves. I went out and took some photos. Because of whats happened in my internal weather, Ive been quiet and on holiday all day today.
I can write about all this because Im already past it. I just want to record it.
I went to a grief support group run by Beloit Hospice, a first session, earlier this week. I have resisted these sorts of things, because its often been my experience that I dont move at the same paceCaroline Myss reminds me, listening to CDs in the car today, that when you start live more consciously, the pace of change accelerates; and it is this faster rate of change that people are most afraid of, and why they resist becoming consciousas the rest of the group, and I often dont get anything out of it because I find myself in the role of caregiving for others, rather than having my own process met. So, Im always a little hesitant about these sorts of groups.
The other thing, too, is that one can do this process too early, too soon. I am not sure if its too soon, or too late, for me. There is so much going on, with the buying of a house for myself, and the moving process, and this is in some ways just bad timing. I question if I have the spare time for this kind of process right now, that brings up all the emotions to the surfacegranted, the best place to deal with themat a time when I need all my energy just to get through what needs to be done.
Bottom line, the grief support group stirred things up again that I may not actually have time to deal with right now. So I am debating about continuing. Well see. I cant avoid the possibly elitist and self-serving insight, however, that, once again, Im moving at a different pace than the rest of the world. And as I have recently discovered about all this, I really do not like being pushed.
I woke up in the early morning, though, with a huge load of grief and anger that kept me from going back to sleep. Classic crying into the pillow in the middle of the night. It chose to crystallize around Moms piano: Why shouldnt I keep Moms piano, instead of sending it to Europe, because after all I was closer to her, and Ive played it more than anyone else, over the years? What was fair about any of that? That whole load of grief-based clinging to objects. Not that I was going to demand that any changes be made to the existing plans about shipping the piano to Holland, but that I wanted to talk it all over one more time.
Over an hour or so, I played through every scenario and idea in my mind, lying in bed, before I finally moved towards clearing and releasing the whole constellation of emotions and thoughts. Surprisingly, they cleared up almost instantly. I was able to go back to sleep, and I slept in late, then got up for awhile, then went back to bed for a few more hours. I feel caught up on sleep, and well-rested, and actually very clear and emotionally in a good place. I spent the day in a good place; sometimes a quiet place, and sometimes physically tired, but with a clear and vibrant mind and feeling clear about everything.
Well, maybe that was the point of the grief group, after all. Still, I have to think about if I have the time to lost an entire evening every time I go to the grief support group. Is it worth losing that much time, right now, with so much else on my plate? Can it wait till later? I had planned to give it one or two more visits, before deciding. Well see.
784. 1 April 2008, Beloit, WI
A whole century of war now, continuous war or preparation for war. Do we even know what peace feels like? Whole generations who never knew peace, who wouldnt be able to explain it or recognize it. Yet we continue this insanity, because it is the only thing we know. The frog is boiling in the pot.
783. 30 March 2008, Beloit, WI
There was lightning and thunder today, making me shut down and unplug the computers. I recorded some rainfall on the deck: the first rainstorm of the season. Heavy rains and heavy snow elsewhere continue to surpass records, and more rain is expected late tonight, prompting continued flood warnings.
I saw the deer on the opposite bank a few times today, brown coats against brown land and brown tree branches not yet budded out, pacing along and looking for a safe place to cross. They were unable to do so, as the river is too wide, too deep, and moving too quickly this evening for them to safely cross. Deer may be dumber than posts, but they have very good survival instincts.
I worked hard in the basement storerooms all day today, mostly cleaning up, vacuuming, and organizing the detritus of recent weeks. The mess had piled up, and I needed to reorganize the space in order to keep working in it. I discovered that I am close to done with all my boxes of old, old papers and trinkets. I have recycled 90 percent of what was there, and if theres time Ill recycle even more. I have saved some older papers out of interest towards my own early years. Its like going through a midden-heap of memories, salvaging bits and pieces. I have memories associated with most every object or paper I saved; although in the case of having multiple copies of some things, I kept only one or two and discarded the rest. I found some old papers I wrote that would be fun to re-read before discarding. I found old school photos of myself and my family. I found programs for plays and shows I was in, or that my sister was in. I found my old report cards and class notes. I was pleased to toss out the notes from that painful chemistry class in college. But I was pleased to keep the poems and stories I wrote in a creative writing class at around that same time. Its interesting to go back through old writings, and see what has changed, and what remains the same. Its the excavation of a life, a personal form of archaeology that can lead to memoir or autobiography. Ive been thinking a lot about memoir lately, and so its hard to let go of some paper that you might need. I found the announcement of the national writing awards that I had won while still in high school. Its interesting to me now that I won two or three national awards for writing, but then I didnt write again for a long time. I know that I dislike repeating myself; but I also know that I like to do a lot of different things, creatively, so maybe what I felt was accomplishment that didnt need to be repeated or reinforced. Ive written more maturely and better in the past few years than ever before, I think; looking back at this juvenilia brings back memories, strong memories, but it also shows me both where Ive improved as a writer, and also that some topics are life-long, and one keeps returning to them many times, at different points in life.
Now Ive just cooked and eaten a meal. For the first time in days, or weeks, I felt I had the strength and interest to cook. I had been cooking all along when P. was here, but we also ate out a lot, and did a lot of cooking for the freezer, so that when I didnt have time or energy now, I could just thaw something and prepare it easily. Today I wanted to make a full meal. I made my staple fried thin-sliced potatoes and curried stir-fried chicken, with yogurt on top. It was delicious, and nicely spicy.
For a few hours now, in the wake of todays storms, there is a freak warming spell. It is almost 60 degrees outside, and I had the windows open while I cooked, to air the place out. The wild turkeys are gobbling as they fly up into the trees for the night, now that it is dusk. There are insects flying, and on the windows; the first bugs Ive seen in months. The killing cold this year was so severe, you thought that life would never return. But here it is, again, finding a way, as always. Life always finds a way to go on.
782. 30 March 2008, Beloit, WI
Heavy rains all night long, and a dreary, dark, wet morning. Thunder and lightning in the sky before noon. The river is moving fast and has crested the banks on the opposite side, the floodplain. Flood warnings have been posted for the Rock River watershed. Its cold and damp, and all I want to do is curl up on the couch with a mug of tea.
The past few days, my mind was on fire with ideas, and I wrote a great deal, essays and postings and other materials. But no poems. Im sorting through a lot in my mind about life, and am trying to integrate a great deal, and poems just havent been coming forward. And thats okay. The online poetry community that I was a part of for several years has fragmented, splintered, and died. It is no more. Its too bad, but I had already gotten to the point where I just wasnt getting any decent critique anyway. Leaving me on my own to write and revise without feedback. Which is okay for now. Things may reform in the future, or not. But there are too many hard feelings over there for it to ever be the same as it was, I feel. I do feel cut off and on my own. At the same time, that opens up a whole new world, the possibility of meeting new people elsewhere, making new friends and contacts, and a lot more. The end of something is always the beginning of something else.
That parallels whats going on in my own life, of course, obviously. Ending one household, one set of relationships, and starting all over again, with my own life, now freed of old patterns and baggage. Nothing but what you yourself carry forward. And I am doing my best to divest, purge, let go, and carry nothing forward that I do not need, or which no longer serves me.
781. 28 March 2008, Beloit, WI
I wake early to light streaming horizontally into the big windows of the house. The land and trees are covered with frosting, a thick candy-coating of white that hasnt begun to melt yet. My dreams were of wandering in a version of Ann Arbor, the library part of town, with various fantasy adventures; nothing really vivid, but with a familiar emotional tone of things getting back to normal. Whatever normal means anymore. My waking and sleeping schedule seem off lately, but I dont feel really sleep-deprived; Im just not sleeping my normal hours, but I am catching up with naps, etc.
the day after a late winter snow flurry
wind shakes snowballs off the tall trees
onto the back of the drumming woodpecker
Im also catching up with projects that have been on hold for weeks, because of our focus on the house, the estate sale, and everything else. I am in the process of buying my own first home, complete with all the exhilaration and panic that implies: a stand-alone condo near here, with nature views out back and a quiet street.
The wind is knocking the remaining snow off the tree branches. I went out to bring in the garbage and recycling bins, and it was like it was snowing on the driveway again, beneath a clear blue sky.
780. 27 March 2008, Beloit, WI
Last night as I was going to bed, my sixth and seventh charkas were wide open and pulsing; some kind of download, or upgrade. It was still going on when I woke this morning. Have no idea what about, though.
We had another several inches of snow about a week ago, which then quickly melted in the warm weather. This morning, its lightly snowing, flurries mostly, as P. prepares to fly back home to Holland. After which, I will have the house to myself again for awhile. And then Ill be closing on my own condo, and then moving. Its going to be busy and complicated and stressful the next few weeks, for a couple more months, and then its going to be over.
I could feel Dad and Mom this morning, in that in-between state between waking and sleeping, Still asking me if I wanted to join them; still saying no, thank you.
I just got back from taking P. to the bus. Im pretty exhausted, after weeks of productive work around shipping, moving, estate sales, etc., Im going to take the rest of the day off, as much as I can, watch movies, sit around nude, make dinner, go to bed. Sounds absolutely hedonistic and wonderful. Ill get right on it. Right after I take a nap.
One two-hour nap later, feeling much revived, thank you very much. Its been lightly snowing all day, very beautiful, very fresh-looking.
779. 21 March 2008, Beloit, WI
My dreams last night were like spy movies, not much action but a lot of suspicion: who do you trust?, evasion and escape, narrow escapes from enemies, that sort of thing.
Yesterday it was a sunny and warm day. The auction people were here to take away things for the estate sale. They were here packing boxes and loading them for five hours, and they took away about half a moving vans worth of material. It was stressful for P. and I to see it all goa lot of memories goingbut also exciting. The house actually looks emptier for the first time since this process of sorting and moving and organizing began. Now P. is going to focus on what she wants to ship to Holland, and I need a day of creative work. I feel completely wring out. We went out to dinner last night, though, which was good.
This morning, as predicted, and fortunately a day after the auction people came, there is whiteout blizzard going on outside: one last big winter storm. We could get several inches, and set further snowfall records for a winter that ahs already set several records. The wind is high, and the snow dances back and forth in all directions as it falls. Soon I will get up, get dressed, and get the cameras out for some last winter photography from here. This will be the last winter in this house, after all. I want to record this beauty as much as possible.
Ive been out making video and photos of this latest storm. The wind is higher than in some other storms, making the tree branches sway, and the snow constantly change direction. Its very dramatic. Its going to snow all day long, so I will break away from other duties periodically to make more images, whenever something catches my eye.
778. 14 March 2008, Beloit, WI
A violent dream that lingers in mind, leaving me shaken when I wake up: I am in a bank or store, visiting a friend who works there, when a robbery happens; there is shouting and yelling off to the side; I am hiding my wallet under the counter when I hear a gunshot and then feel a huge kick in my left shoulder, like being kicked by a mule; no pain at first, just shock; lots more yelling, off in the distance; before I black out I see a button that must be the silent alarm, and trigger it.
The rest of the night that violence was in my mind, even as other dreams played out: pain, suffering, being crippled in the arm; a hole in my chest between the clavicle and shoulder, just above the heart. I wake up feeling bruised, a little shaky.
I remember having dreams this violent in my teens. I turned some of them into story ideas, back then, which I still remember. This one was not as good a plot as those old ones, as it were, but these emotions feel familiar. A shot to the heart? A time of radical change and beginnings, again? Its not clear.
777. 12 March 2008, Beloit, WI
Ive been on the phone or doing meetings and paperwork for days. Buying a house is a major life-changing commitment. When Im not freaked out, Im excited; and people are telling me that thats normal.
Im also really, really busy. I dont have time right now for anyones drama but my own. Managing my own rollercoaster is a full-time occupation. People need to just keep understanding that this is a period of my life when I need to focus hard on things important to my own futurelike sorting and moving, like finding health insurance, etc., and that everything else is secondary. To be fair, lots of folks do understand, and are cutting me the slack I need right now. When its all done, I can get back on the horse, and go on. But its a little surprising, sometimes, when people who I thought would understand, dont.
776. 9 March 2008, Beloit, WI
I feel well-nigh vaporized. In the past couple of days, I made an offer on a condo, and its been verbally accepted although theyre late in getting the paperwork back. Part of me is in the freak out, what the hell have I done, stage. Part of my mind is racing to figure out everything that needs to be done in the weeks and months to come. Its going to be a stressful time, on the tail end of a very long and stressful period. Its going to be pretty intense, and I worry about having enough financial resources to make it happen. I cant do this alone; it would be too much, too insane. I dont know if I can do it at all.
But its the right thing to be doing. Its just so amazing, and overwhelming, and frightening and exciting, all at the same time.
I went to bed last night feeling completely vaporized, and had a restless nights sleep. I woke up too early this morning, mind racing. Last night was also a concert in Madison, and tonight is a repeat concert, with attending stress and necessary plans, and all. Its tempting to say that the timing of all this happening at once is bad, but thats not true; its just that its stress piled on top of stress. Thats something I might be used to by now, though, after the events of the last year or so.
In some ways, what this is, is all movement forward into full freedom for me, and the removal of obstacles to be replaced with a streamlined ability to get what I want, when its what I need.
Thanks be to Ganesha, Remove of Obstacles, and Hermes, god of speed and the crossroads and change and communication.
I went back to sleep for an hour or two, later. The most vivid dream was of living in an apartment on the top floor of a rickety house, that was swaying in the wind and rain, and always about to topple, making me hang to something; although it never actually fell over, it threatened to continuously; I remember thinking, Thank God I wont be living here much longer.
775. 7 March 2008, Beloit, WI
Ive had a very long day, and Im very tired, and its late at night, and Im still too wired for sleep. Ive been on the phone for hours, counseling friends, tonight, on top of everything else. Which is effort, but not hard work, just energy expenditure. Its not about me, its very impersonal at times.
Today I made a step into a world thats very new to methats completely new, who am I kiddingand a major life-changing step: with my financial planner at my side, I made an offer on buying a house. Its really a condo, part of a condo association, but its a stand-alone building, doesnt share a wall, its large enough to be roomy for me, but small enough to be easy to take care of, and it has most everything that I want in a place to live, including a fireplace and screened-in porch, which is also glassed-in so it can be a sunroom in winter. It has a full basement with storage racks built in. I still have a lot of Stuff, and moving it will be a chore, but not an impossible one. I can make it work, and I have the support and guidance that I need. (I have good people helping me, and I know I could never do this on my own.) But there it is: something I had given up believing would ever happen to me: A place of my own to live in. My home base from which to travel, to do my work.
It makes me think about something that I only came to realize as I was talking on the phone tonight with a good friend: Now that Mom and Dad are gone (I feel no disloyalty in saying this, its no judgment, its just information), I may be free of the obstacles that I feel have held me back my whole life. Or maybe Ive finally reached the threshold of learning to be really detached from worry about outcomes.
I do feel freed, even as I grieve and continue deal with the aftermath of everything that has happened this past year. I wonder if, now that that phase of this life is done, and those sacred contracts have been completed, if I can now be free to live my own life, unshadowed, and unburdened.
I feel like what I say now has more and more ease of coming into manifestation, and what I wish for has more power behind it to become true. I wanted this house, it was instantaneous desire, and it feels right. There are many things about it that are perfectly suited to me, and to the life I want to live. The new life, with my new career with LCG and the DVDs and music and photography. I am also remembering how John Cage once commented that he was fifty before he was well-to-do. I feel like thats coming true for me, too. It might be another year or two, and I have no doubts: it will be true.
Rob Bresznys Sacred Advertisement for Capricorn this week, which he attaches to his weekly horoscopes, was:
Say this: "Novel intuitions are now erupting from my smart heart, awakening me from any trance I've been ensnared in. I am hereby breaking and escaping obstructions that have hindered my ability to express my soul's code. All of my unique capacities are being unleashed, all of my potentials activated. I recognize that I'm a miraculous work of art, a masterpiece unlike any other ever created in the history of the world."
774. 4 March 2008, Beloit, WI
My dreams full of amber and gold colored insects; scarabs in a landscape; exploring an alley in rolling hills between tall trees, I stop to take photos and discover I am in a yellowjacket hive, they swarm everywhere and begin to sting me; an afternoon sky the color and clarity of clear pale amber.
Ive spent a couple of days recovering. Im still sore and achy, but better rested. I slept in late yesterday, just needing to spend more time resting. This morning I woke up a little early, and Im taking my time starting the day. I have been finding this morning time to be a good time for me to do some sorting and organizing in the basement, before I go up to make breakfast. I get more done before bed, as well, most days. Theres still a lot to do, but I can see gaps now amidst the piles of books and boxes and other objects. Some of my own bookshelves now only have one layer of books on them, instead of two or three, and I can see the wall behind the books through the shelf. I keep discovering more boxes of books hidden away in my old bedroom, and also in the storeroom, I bring them out to the library room, add them to the collection, and gradually sort through them. Since the end of January, Ive driven up to Madison several times to sell off over a thousand books, and of course brought home about a dozen new books plus some CDs. One never escapes completely unscathed from a good used bookstore. So, some progress is ongoing, it just takes time to do it. I am learning to not push myself too hard, and to also not be pushed too hard by outside forces. Its a work in progress.
773. 2 March 2008, Beloit, WI
After almost three days of being away from the online world, you come back home to over a hundred new emails, a lot of posts on the various message boards that do nothing but keep the wheel of samsara turning, and not much news of note. At the moment, all I can raise is a shrug, because Im tired and sore, and needing to go to bed soon. Part of you wonders if anyone notices when you go away and come back. Nothing happens, and nothing you say has been responded to, so you feel that, if no one is going to bother to notice all the work youre doing, then its okay to stop bothering to do the work. I can write book reviews and other essays, and if no one cares, then why bother? Thats not sour grapes, thats the realization that effort expended that doesnt lead to dialogue is not always worth spending. There are points where you just have to let it go, and put your effort into the arenas that do create dialogue. That all goes in cycles, too, of course. And Im the last to advocate doing things for the simple sake of provoking a response. Im much more interested in making the art that I am moved to make, regardless of the payoff, or lack thereof. I wont change what I do to please others; thats a dangerous precedent. At the same time, not all the art I make is just for myself; thats not the point, either. Art doesnt exist in a vacuum, there is always a context. But the context cannot dictate the art. They must coexist.
In the past two or three days, Ive practiced learning new techniques in Photoshop, Ive made a few new drawingssketches, really, still drawing practice rather than finished pieces. Various themes, as I still learn what Im doing.
This morning the dawn was spectacular. The sun was a ball of light through the morning mist before it burned off. The white land of the snow-filled yard before the lake, and the white lake itself, were backlit by the sun. The shadows of the trees were charcoal blue in color, and all angled away from the suns glow, like an aisle pointing towards dawn. Its something I want to draw, this vision. I might have to use one of my own photos as reference, which is fine.
I stopped at Devils Lake on the way home, and trudged around in the deep snow for an hour, taking photos, till I was tired and sore.
When I got home, I threw all my clothes into the laundry and took a long hot shower, feeling much better afterwards. My arms and hands are still very sore, and also stiff. So, I wanted to draw today, but I was too sore. No more bowling, I think. These are all lessons learned the hard way, this weekend. But the social aspect of bowling was good, and I had some nice long conversations with men I hadnt really gotten to know till now.
Now, to bed early, as Im really hitting that wall tonight. Its been a long exhausting weekend, and Im needing at least a day of nothing much to do. I hope it works out that way.
772. 2 March 2008, Green Lake, WI
Up at dawn, photos of the long shadows of the trees on the snow, with the sun rising over the frozen and snow-covered lake. After bowling last night, Im sore and even more tired. A long hot shower felt good.
I sprained my right hand bowling early on, last night, so I bowled left-handed the rest of the night. Its useful being ambidextrous. Im still a terrible bowler, with either hand, doing mostly gutter ballswhich I discovered I cared about too muchbut also with the occasional strike and several spares: all left-handed. Beat that! Actually it was strange: I either did gutter balls or strikes, not much in between.
I dont like competition. It brings out the worst things in me, performance anxiety, competitiveness, and the tendency to beat myself up when I dont live up to my own desires and expectations. I avoid competition most of the time. Even though bowling last night was mostly social, and I enjoyed all the conversations I had, still, I beat myself up for being the worst bowler in the room. A place I dont like to go. Interestingly, the times I got strikes I knew it was going to happen. I made several spares that were gutters followed by strikes. Each time, I knew it was going to happen. The rest of the time, I couldnt control the ball, and it almost always was a bad throw. When I knew it was going to happen (sometimes it was connected to being pissed off), it was perfect; the rest of the time, I had no control at all. So, my performance was all at extremes, no middle ground. We played three games, and I was worst in the last one; but I was also tired and sore at that point, exhausted and playing through the pain; I should have stopped after two, which was my best game.
In all a learning experience.
This morning, I have pain everywhere, and Im even more tired. But the morning is a beautiful one. On the way home, I plan to stop for photography at Devils Lake. An opportunity, since Im already north of Madison, up here at the Lake. This is a lovely region, rural and resort combined. People are out on the lake this morning, and a family was building snowmen on the lake.
771. 1 March 2008, Green Lake, WI
Strike while the muse is hot: Ive made three drawings while doing other things, here on retreat in Green Lake for the weekend. Its a concert prep music rehearsal retreat. But during dinner, or meetings, or rehearsals when I have nothing to do, Ive been drawing.
Drawing from memory. Images from places Ive been or seen in the past few years. I started from circles again, in most cases. Using the straight-edge technique to outline shapes; overlapping and shading, or hard edges meeting other hard edges but with line-directions going in different ways. A dead brown saguaro cactus in front of a red sun. A multi-color, carefully-shaded depiction of the lunar eclipse from last week. A sunset over the ocean, with the green flash; that one done in watercolor pencils. I havent smeared the pencils with water yet, but I draw it all out, and Ill see how the pigment looks when wetted later.
Ive also been making a lot of photographs here, mostly of elements rather than finished images. There are some amazing icicles hanging from the eaves, sparkling in the sun, or backlit, or silver in the blue of evening light.
770. 25 February 2008, Beloit, WI
The past two weeks I have been fighting off severe depression. It hurts to do anything. My old knee injury has been a real problem. It hurts to think, and to get out of bed. It hurts to go back to bed, because I cant always sleep. So I get back out of bed, and I putter around doing things, till Im too tired to stay awake. Ive managed to sell off over a thousand books so far, in the past month, and I keep sorting more out and getting them ready to sell. Ive been driving up to Madison to do that; theres this used book store that is a terrific place, and they give good credit for my used books. Of course I never escape unscathed, always finding one or two books and CDs or DVDs to replace those Ive gotten rid of. But a one or two percent return is fair enough, I think, and not a burden. At least I never bring home anything I took away to be gotten rid of; what I bring home is new and interesting to me. Im digging into my old bedroom, and clearing things out in there, too. Its all significant progress. Yet it feels hollow, like its nothing, even though it isnt. Progress is being made. I just feel numb about it all. My mental clarity is affected. I cant think clearly these past few days, and if I dont write something down, I forget it. I want to sleep all the time, but Im not tired. I guess its classic depression, but it feels like apathy, like numbness, like hollowness, like a bleak detachment. Nothing seems to matter very much.
In the past two weeks, theres been a numbness about everything, like a glass plate has been placed between me and the world. I can see it, but it doesnt touch me, or move me. Its an unpleasant detachment. I can reach out and feel the world, but it requires a huge effort, and I feel like I have no strength. Some days I dont even have the will to cook, or the desire, or the energy. Fortunately, Ethnic Gourmet makes this line of Indian frozen dinners that are all-natural, no preservatives, and delicious. Its unbeatably good food for when I simply dont have the strength or desire to cook.
768. 16 February 2008, Beloit, WI
A significant dream that wakes me at dawn: I am riding on a bus, going home to Madison; there was some confusion about the bus destinations when I first got on; its a minibus, not a big one; the driver and several passengers all know each other, they are local Wisconsin Indians; I sit behind an old grandfatherly man; even though I am a quiet white man, mostly looking out the window, for some reason they offer me a strip of their elk jerky to chew on, and include me in their jokes and conversation; the old man seems to want to take me under his wing. Even though I am feeling alone, I am adopted by the people of the earth, as one of them. Its an open welcoming and acceptance that is rare among my own people, my birth tribe. I feel shy. I am again the insider-outsider, more welcome where I am an outsider, an exotic, than I ever am at home.
Later dreams, in the morning, after I go back to sleep, have similar themes.
767. 15 February 2008, Chicago, IL
A nightmare, for me: I am arriving late at a wedding, and a reception, in the wrong suit and tie; I dont know whats going on; am I the bridegroom, the best man, the reception organizer?; everyone is upset and mad at me; at one point, I am annoyed enough to just leave, since no one will tell me what is going on, yet they all expect me to know; since theyre already mad at me, who cares if I leave? it makes no difference; but my bag spills its contents all over the floor, the last straw on my temper, and as I am gathering it all back together, a woman who is in charge comes over and asks me to stay; she is calm an collected; I end up working security, invisibly at the sidelines, and I am much more pleased to not be in the center of things, and not being blamed for what I dont know about.
Its a sunny morning, as I sit here and write, and I find myself still hung over from the emotional storms of recent days. Emotional hangovers feel like lingering tiredness, a little numbness that isnt completely cured by engagement even with things one wants to pursue, and subdued energetically.
Later, back in Beloit:
I find myself irritable and tired today, after some shopping and the drive home. Not a lot of sleep, and those kinds of dreams can rock you for the whole day. No matter what meaning you decide to pull out of themand I think that was just an emotional process dreamthey can still tire you out, make you feel a little wraith-driven throughout the day. I would love to go out and do something to distract myself, but Im feeling too tired, and a little soured by life. Nothing really appeals, not even a movie.
What good is entertainment? especially, what good is it versus art? Often, not much good at all. Entertainment has its uses, for me, when I do need distraction, or some down time. But I dont use it nearly as much as many others seem to; maybe it was the time in the desert, or those other times in my life when Ive been without TV or the other usual entertainment delivery systems, but I find that most of the time, the usual thing is boring at best, actively toxic at worst, to me. Id rather watch a documentary or movie on DVD than whats on TV, almost all the time. Id rather the house be filled with open silence than patched over with space-filling babble. Id rather choose what to listen to, on the stereo, when I want to listen, than listen to the radio. I even like and support radio, and have been a volunteer programmer on more than one community radio station; but I dont listen to the radio that much, even my own stations.
I feel like the flurry of activity and emotional storms of the past week have wiped me out, left me empty and exhausted. I feel like I have no energy to engage with anything, nor any desire. I can plod ahead with rote tasks, but my appetite and interest are not their.
I also continue to negotiate, not always successfully, the minefield of friends who mean well, but are breathtakingly ignorant about how to support me, in these days of recovery and rebirth. The insensitivity, the lack of actual listening, has been staggering at times, to the point where right now I trust fewer than ever. I look out the window, and see tracks of the red fox on the snow and ice covering the river; or I see the trees making lines of shadows on the snow; or I see the pale blue winter sky, with the powerless sun over to the westthese things support me better than any words have lately, than any sentiments or feedback, or badgering and hectoring that some friends seem to think is supportive. Well, its not. Its just clueless. Other friends are just absent. Theyre off doing their own thing, with their own lives. Even when I need them, theyre not there. So what. It doesnt matter. Im not the center of this or any other universenot even my own. After the time in the desert, Im the first to say that its not about me, and its not centered on me, none of it matters, and its all an illusion.
766. 12 February 2008, Beloit, WI
Ive had some blows and some meltdowns in the past few days. Ive discovered just how much losing my future business and homesteading plans would mean to me. Everythings probably okay, but I find myself on edge, unable to completely believe or trust. There are still things to work out, still uncertainties, still desperate fears of the nothingness.
Its ironic that I, who have spent so much time there, should now be afraid of uncertainty and the nothingness. Its a commentary on where Ive invested my hopes, perhaps; and reminder of how toxic hope itself can be, for me. There are truths I want to believe in, that I dont dare believe in, that I dont even dare collapsing into some belief about unbelief or about taking them for granted. This is still a fragile scaffolding on to build a new life. I quake with every gust of wind that sets the scaffold moving. Its probably sturdier than it feels, but I dont trust that, yet.
765. 9 February 2008, Beloit, WI
A major meltdown today: the props of my future life pulled away like the last leg of a teetering table, and it all falls down. I pretty much vaporized myself over it, and now I feel exhausted and tired, beyond anything.
I dreamed of tigers and giant cats; there were friendly to me, but still dangerous and fierce; like a giant kitten, one of them wanted to butt heads with me, and cuddle for a nap, but the sheer mass of him was frightening despite all good intentions.
In the past few days, I have been working hard sorting through my belongings in the basement, going through them in waves. But I also lost several days this week to the bad weatherthe storm so bad one night that the interstate was shut down, as the trucks couldnt get up the hills near Stoughton; so trucks were parked overnight all over the streets around here, waiting for morningand also I just went to white mind a few times. Catching up on sleep, one day I napped three times. Another day I basically puttered around the house, and never went out. I did some sorting but nothing much. I went online for awhile, but nothing much.
764. 8 February 2008, Beloit, WI
Up in Madison all day, selling books before going to see a concert by the Academy of Ancient Music, a venerable early-music ensemble now directed by a friend of mine, Richard Egarr. Richard introduced himself during a moment when stage hands were moving the harpsichord around; then he introducted the harpsichord like this: "Do you remember in that Monty Python movie when they're in the operating room and one of the doctors refers to the machine that goes Ping? Well, this is the machine that goes Ping!" I laughed a long time on that one. After the concert, Richard and I were able to chat for a long time, as he was greeting the public and autographing CDs. It was a very pleasant visit.
The concert was terrific, and we had a nice time to hang out afterwards. A very very cold day. We just had a record snowfall here, 21 inches total, and theres more on the way, after a bitter cold spell. This is a real winter here, this year, no question.
All day long I felt poems hovering at the edge of my mind, and I even bought a little notebook because for once I had forgotten to bring one with me. But when I came to write, it was already late in the day, I was already tiredmy limits are still there, albeit not as severe as beforeand what came out seems not very profound. I can still feel something hovering at the edge of consciousness, wanting to be written; but I dont know what it is. It may be music, too, rather than words.
real face behind false
under snowbanks waters meet
in rivers and lakes
urge to write haiku
overcomes social graces
as we sell off memories
whens moving day?
on a dark afternoon
the unfulfilling rapture
the timorous moth-touch
the bending under the marvelous weight
of cloud and time and circumstance
sing of branch and line
limpid elemental signature
turn the page to music
firelight, stick, bark, paper
again blackened walls
again another inspiral demolition
music of crackle and bow
warm cast firelit stone
These are just etudes, then. Nothing much to say. The urge to say something, but nothing to say. An interesting days nothingness. Some silence mixed in behind the faces of the words. I few abstract thoughts, but a lot of white mind, no-mind, too.
the urge to write
hovers on the horizon
a storm that doesnt break all afternoon
till you have to find another notebook because
for once the usual journals left scattered on desks
having nothing to say
were tossed behind
and when you want to write
you have nothing to say
763. 4 February 2008, Beloit, WI
Slept deeply last night, some interesting dreams, but nothing worth recording. I wake to the sound of winter rain on the windows: rain ticking over the snow, on the edge of freezing.
I went to the doctor last Friday, to follow up on the bloodwork and other tests from last month. Everything is normal, and good. Except for the obvious, Im in good health. Today Im going to go see my other doctor, and hopefully hear something similar. If I could afford to hope, this would all be encouraging about applying for medical insurance; I filled out applications last week, and there will be a waiting period now; if I get rejected, I have to go through it all three times before some kind of state-sponsored coverage would kick in. So it could be weeks or months before I know what the results are, and what my options could be. At the moment, I feel like its being managed, and that Im slowly changing my status.
I have no interest in going to any kind of illness support group at this time. They might call it denial. I call it refusal to accept an illness as my chief identity. I refuse to let it dominate and arrange the rest of my life. They call IBD an autoimmune disorder because all that means is that they dont really know the causebeyond the stress and irritability components, which can be tied to triggers but not first causes. Lots of things are classified as autoimmune simply because the body reacts as if being attacked; but we dont know what its reacting to, what causes it, or how to cure it. In some ways its a catch-all classification that really means nothing. So the reason theres no cure because they dont really know the first cause. But I do know from people who are the canaries in the coal mines, from sensitive people who have been down these roads, that if you minimize the irritantshence the diet changes Im going throughyou minimize the impact the dis-ease has on the rest of your life. Its a dis-ease, not a disease. Its a condition that I hold out can be curedor call it permanent remission if you preferrather than succumbed to. So, I dont need a support group to help me live with it, and I dont need someone lecturing to me about the stages of acceptance, denial, anger, and all that. Ive read the literature, and Ill do it my own damned, stubborn way for as long as it serves me to do so.
I find myself, the past two days, after everything thats happened, able to feel positive about anything, anything at all, for the first time in a long time. When I think about moving to my own home, when I think about the business, when I think about my own life in the future, and what I want to do next, I feel positive. Then I think about how much I miss Mom, and I can get weepy again. But I dont feel pulled, today, back into that black well of abject depression. I dont feel brought to my knees. At least not today. I am enjoying a day without drama, when I feel more or less at neutral buoyancy.
I saw my UC doctor earlier today, and hes encouraged by my current progress. Were going to continue for now with our current course of meds, and practice. I dont have to see him again fro two months, and well re-evaluate then, again. For now, though, Im otherwise healthy medically, and gradually returning to an even keel. it may still take a long time to get my strength back, and to the live without an irritations in my bowels. But today, if only for today, Im enjoying the moment, for as long as I dont feel like crap. I make no promises for tomorrow. This is all very moment-by-moment.
Its turned into a nothing day, a day I did nothing but rest. I went to the doctor, but then I napped twice, and I feel a little pre-flu tonight, despite a warm fireplace and a mug of hot sweet tea. Maybe Im coming down with a cold; that would be ironic timing, as usual.
I went out back to make some photos in the afternoon, today, and maybe got chilled. There is water on top of the ice in the river, as its been raining all day, the temperature hovering just above freezing. There were all kinds of tracks in the wet, heavy snow in the backyard: deer, rabbits. Maybe even fox tracks. After dark, I saw a raccoon patrol circles in the yard three times, following an established trail, for an unknown reason. Do raccoons have purpose? One doesnt know.
I wrote a draft of an Ode to Walt Whitman, tonight, as well. Something loose and talky, not at all finished yet. It takes me back to when I was writing the Sutras between 6 and 10 years ago: longer poems in various styles, all on specific topics, poems that tended to expand rather than contract on rewrite, most of the time. Probably not great poems; but necessary writing, nonetheless. One does tire of the tyranny of literary quality, of critics and other poets knocking you down unless youre top of your game 100 percent of the time, or of dismissing bodies of work that were written to SAY something, rather than to just be perfect little gems of perfect writing. I get tired of the tyranny of craft, more than anything else.
762. 2 February 2008, Beloit, WI
Its been a rough week. I wanted nothing more than a day or two to myself, when I could just focus on the future rather than have to keep circling around the events of the past few months; but that didnt happen. I hit the wall a couple of times. I have a lot anger, right now, I know it. The problem is, so many well-meaning people just want to talk it all out with me, even when I dont want to, on more than one occasion, I have said, lets talk about something else, and they cant let go of their own needs to talk about it, so on top of everything else, I ended up feeling ignored and disrespected. What, you didnt hear me when I said, I dont want to talk about it right now, all five times? I guess not.
I am looking at places to live, as I begin a new phase of my own life: the next phase of my life. I dont want to rent anymore, I want to buy a condo and live in it for awhile. It can be my base of operations for several years. All that time, I build up my own equity, rather than paying rent. Either way you pay your own utilities, so why not put it towards your own good. And Im going to do it here in Beloit. Maybe in a dozen years or so, Ill be able to move somewhere else in the country, or want to; in the meantime, this is a good place, and its a cheaper place than many others to get started.
If and when it starts snowing again this afternoon, I plan to go out and make some photos.
This afternoon, as I was standing looking out the window, I saw a beautiful red fox with a long bushy black-tipped tail walk along the frozen river and onto the bank opposite. It lingered, eventually disappearing into the woods, where it no doubt has a den. This is the second fox sighting here in month. (Eat the mice, please!) What a beautiful thing to see, against the white land and under the white sky.
761. 30 January 2008, Beloit, WI, late night
Barry Lopez wrote in Arctic Dreams:
Winter darkness brings on the extreme winter depression the Polar Eskimos call perlororneq. According to the anthropologist Jean Malaurie, the means to feel "the weight of life." To look ahead to all that must be accomplished and to retreat to the present feeling defeated, weary before starting, a core of anger, a miserable sadness. It is to be "sick of life: a man named Imina told Malaurie. The victim tears fitfully at his clothing. A woman begins aimlessly slashing at things in the igloo with her knife. A person runs half naked into the bitter freezing night, screaming out at the village, eating the shit of the dogs. Eventually, the person is clamed by others in the family, with great compassion, and helped to sleep. Perlororneq. Winter.
I just had what feels like a big relationship-ending fight with a friend. Former friend? Well see. Time alone knows. I repeatedly said that I didnt want to talk about recent eventsIve been trying to take a day off, and all anyone wants to talk about is recent events, Moms death, whats going to happen nextbut they just couldnt not talk about it. I had been having a decent dayI figure that achieving neutral buoyancy, rather than drowning, is a major achievement, this weekand this friend basically would not let go of poking and pushing me. They said I wish youd get angry, so I did, and then I got told I needed to apologize for getting angrytalk about mixed messagesso then I got really angry and hung up on them. Called back later, left a message. Thats it. Im done. Its all about everyones expectations of me, again.
Starting tonight, Im on vacation, and I WILL enforce it. Not one thing more about any of this for tomorrow, and no new things. Im not going to answer the phone, or the door, or read the mail. No more email, and no more blogs or poetry websites. Not for some time.
Im not going to get that vacation I wanted, when I could drive down to Texas then over to California. Im having wintermind on top of everything else. This winter is colder and more snowy than any in the past ten years; so, cabin fever, and feeling trapped indoors by the extreme cold. You dont even WANT to go outside, even though youre going apeshit crazy. Feeling trapped on many levels.
760. 28 January 2008, Beloit, WI, late night
Ive felt pulled away from myself, my own timing lost under everyone elses, my own inner voices drowned under the general rush. Ive lost my center, and havent had a chance to find it again. My patience is therefore at a low ebb, especially with those I know who are full of fixed opinions and pedantic adviceon whatever topic. I just dont want to hear anymore. Call me thin-skinned for the nonce, I do not care; the usual arguments and contretemps seem like such a waste of time and breath, to me, right now, in the face of all that has happened. You really sort out your prioritiesand my impatience right now is based mostly on the question, Why are we wasting time on this right now, when so many more important things are looming, and must be handled? Some people really do need to get lives.
I dreamed last night of looking at a condo or house that I was thinking about moving into. It had a small gas fireplace in the corner. But when I turned the corner into that room from another room, to my right was a huge wood fireplace, like one might see in a Medieval castle, one large enough to walk into, with a tall archway instead of a standard mantle. Fires were burning in both fireplaces in my dream, one gas, one wood. I think its pretty clear that wherever I end up living next, there needs to be a fireplace.
Boxes of photos. Scrapbooks full of memorabilia, some of it incomprehensible to the living, the importance of a piece known only to the dead. My mother's mother liked to collect into scrapbooks clippings that interested. In the old India trunks in the basement, I've found a scrapbook or two about Abraham Lincoln, one of her passions. Elsewhere in the house, I have her bronze Lincoln bookends, which I currently use on top of one of my shelves. Another recent find is a scrapbook of famous opera performers. Were these images and portraits clipped from magazines such as <i>Opera News,</i> the enthusiast's magazine that my father subscribed to until he died, and which still arrives on the doorstep? or were they clipped from newspapers of the time. many of the faces and names in the opera scrapbook are iconic, but unknown to anyone alive today who is not also an opera history buff. My father enjoyed reading history and biography. He listened to the Metropolitan Opera broadcast from New York City almost every Saturday of his life, after we returned from India. I have many memories of opera filling the house all Saturday afternoon, winter or summer. Was this scrapbook made by my grandmother for him, when we were away across the ocean? or does it predate out mission travels? It is in nearly mint condition. What causes us to make scrapbooks? I have another book of photos from Muskegon that was given to us by a cousin. There are a few photos of my mother and her sister on the beach at Muskegon, the summer waters of Lake Michigan in the background. There are many more people in this book that I do not know, nor did my father when we looked at it together. This scrapbook is disintegrating before my eyes. Turning the pages, fragments of black backing paper come loose, and fall away. I will photograph anew the pages of this scrapbook, even those pages that speak to me out of the mystery of unknown faces, unknown places, and relationships that are only imaginable, not reportable. I will continue to dig into our trunks in the basement, now that my parents have both passed away, and continue to uncover family histories, only some of which are labeled or described or named. There are always aspects of history that are lost with the stories and memories that made them, which we never had a chance to recover before they were gone. I tried to capture some. I recorded my father's voice, talking about the past. I have written down stories I remember being told around the dinner table. I will continue to record what I know. I am working out my own, new identity, as the past leaves us, and the future beckons me towards a new life, my own life, my life separate from my parents' lives, now that I have become a midlife orphan, now that the trunks are mine to sort through, now that nothing can be done but settle affairs and start over again.
759. 27 January 2008, Beloit, WI, late night
I am getting absolutely nothing out of poetry critique anymore. I might as well not bother. Its a waste of time. Everything I bring to any group is either ignored, dismissed out of hand by the purists, or seems to cause just plain bafflement. None of this is helpful to me as a writer. None of it helps me grow as a writer. None of it is useful to me, to suggest ways to improve my writing. I am back to writing in isolation. I might as well be writing in a vacuum, since nothing I am writing anymore is anything like what I used to write, and nothing like what any of the purist poets recognize or accept as poetry. I dont mind that; this is not sour grapes. It is a recognition that Im outside the box, for now, maybe for ever, and theres no point stuffing myself back into it.
It must be partly that Im in a very different place, right now. So much has happened. I dont feel like I have anything in common with other poets anymore. So much has happened, has changed in my life, in a very short time. Blow after blow after blow. I dont expect anyone to know or care; but I notice that I am intolerant of inanity, just now. So much that doesnt matter that so many spend so much time on.
Ive withdrawn and deleted my poems submitted for critique in various places. Its useless to bother with it. I might as well ignore the process, and just go my own way. For now. Until. If ever.
Its like living inside a Beckett play. You cant go on, you must go on, you go on. Until. Must.
At last I have the house alone to myself again, for awhile. Its been weeks of turbulence, high emotion, hitting various emotional walls, sometimes physically, Ive been feeling pushed too hard, rushed to do things too fast. I havent even had time to just sit and cry for my Mother.
Now the house is empty again, and pleasantly silent. Earlier tonight I was feeling violently angry again. I worked it off by doing some work, and now Im sitting here watching myself and writing it out. I feel irritable and wild, although Im also tired. I dont know if I can get to sleep at a normal time. My mind is racing too fast, too loud.
Actually, what I really want is a break from having to deal with mundane things like sorting, cleaning, selling, planning for my own future, talking about what happens next. But its all any of my friends want to talk about; they are all urgent with it. I have had to say, more than once in the past few days, Im done with this topic for now, I cant take in or think about anything more. Some folks have respected that, others seem unable to back off till they get their own ideas off their minds. They feel a pressure to share. Its mostly well-meant, its mostly supportive. And yet its mostly irritating to me right now. Can we please talk about something else for awhile?
758. 25 January 2008, Beloit, WI, late night
Spew spew spew. I wont apologize for feeling my feelings, Ill only apologize for being rude last night. Of course its probably never as bad as I feel like it is when Im in the midst of an emotional or spiritual meltdown. Of course things always look different in the morning. Of course some of it is just venting. (Can you tell the difference? Good for you.) But the questions and fears that underlie it are all true, and I wont apologize for that.
757. 24 January 2008, Beloit, WI, late night
I had a major meltdown today, I went over the edge. I have been feeling pushed too hard, as I said. I completely lost it today. I snapped more than once, and was testy all day. The day began by me having to say, Please stop bothering me with questions till after Ive eaten my breakfast. That set the pattern for the whole day. Not even a moment when someone wasnt all over me, asking me to do something.
I finally lost it at night. I broke a favorite wineglass and cut myself doing it. I went out to the garage to scream and yell, and I kicked out at those old white plastic lawn chairs that have been around for decades. The extreme cold had made them so brittle, though, that they shattered into a hundred pieces, rather than bouncing. So, I made it all worse, by destroying something I might have wanted to keep. I felt like shit. I felt violent and dangerous and scared. I got in the car and went away for awhile. Then when I came back, I said nothing to anybody, and just came down here and sobbed, and slept. Now Ive spent some time just regaining my equilibrium and feeling sad, and sleeping. Ive blocked the door so no one can get in; maybe Ill sleep better just knowing my personal space wont be entered in the morning until I choose to let it. Im sick of feeling disrespected and walked all over, and rushed, and pushed.
Just dont push me anymore. Im feeling violent and deadly, and I will no longer be pushed.
Tomorrow I plan to get out of here for most of the day.
In all this flurry of activity, I havent even had a chance to just sit and cry for my Mom since she died, since the funeral. Its been rushed. Now people are demanding things of me that suit their best timing, but dont suit mine. Im feeling rushed to move out of here, Im feeling abandoned, Im feeling completely disregarded. I dont feel like anyone really understands how debilitated I feel with my own illness, and how much it limits me. They want to find a new place to live so the house can be sold by early summer; thats completely unrealistic to me right now. They also want me to do six other things at the same time, and no one seems to understand that I can handle maybe two or three anymore; but not six. I refuse to end up in the hospital, just because people are pushing me too hard.
And I am not feeling reassured by the bank, or anyone else, that the things that I will need, after all is said and done, will be in place. I am not reassured about having to find my own medical insurance, now, or finding a place to live, or anything else. I am not reassured about my own financial stability. Because of the medical bullshit, its hard to imagine that Im going to have anything left of my inheritance, after a year or two. Even if I do find some kind of major medical insurance, Im going to pay through the nose for it, from now till forever; and no one will ever want to insure me again. They dont give a damn; theyre not humanitarians, theyre profit-mongering corporate whores to whom the bottom line of profits is all that matters. I am now and will always be until the day I die a poor risk, because I now have a chronic and debilitating medical condition. Even if I can get completely cured, by all the changes Im making, and al the therapy Ive been TRYING to enactand feeling blocked about at every turnthat will still all be on my records, and no one will ever treat me the same way again. Its never going to awayon paper.
Its unbelievable. I feel right back where I was last fall, when I had really big fights with everybody, and felt dismissed and discarded. I was out of my mind for months. I havent really had a chance to mourn for Dad. Its been blow after blow with no real chance to catch up and work it out. The blows just keep coming and coming, and no time in between to deal with them, and how they make me feel. And now with having to get the house all perfect so it can be sold, I doubt Ill have any time for my own needs for months, if ever. Im sick of this. I need time for myself. Everyone else can go screw themselves.
At the moment, once this is all over, I dont intend to have anything to do with anyone for awhile. I dont want to see them, and I dont want to talk to them, and I dont want to visit them, and I dont want them to visit me. I hate saying that; its wrong; and its exactly what I am feeling right now. Just leave me the fuck alone.
756. 23 January 2008, Beloit, WI, late night
Lots of people here right now, sorting and organizing, friends here, family here, too many people, making me a little crazy. Ive been very emotional all day long, and not handling it well.
I do feel pressured about how much there is to get done before the house can be sold later this year, and I dont feel reassured that Ill have enough help, or time, in which to do it. I dont feel heard in my worry that doing all this is going to push back my physical recovery from my own illness, and that being pushed too fast is going to make me sick again, and cost me my entire inheritance in future medical costs. What fucking inheritance, if it all gets used up so fast with all this bullshit? Might as well not even bother. So, yeah, Im not feeling good about any of that.
Its just really hard to focus, too. Im too overwhelmed. I havent had a day to myself since before Mom died, to just sit and cry about it: too fucking much to do, too many people to do things for, or with, and just too much going on. Its all on everyone elses schedule, too, and none of mine. Im feeling run over and more than a little resentful, at this point. Like my timing doesnt matter, and nobody gives a fuck about any timing or needs but their own. Thats how Im feeling, anyway.
755. 19 January 2008, Beloit, WI, late night
Meltdown after meltdown, emotions running freely. When Mom first got sick, I knew she would die this month, probably. I was afraid that she would die on my birthday, or the funeral would be on my birthday, and that would have left some real scars. As it is, that didnt happen, which is a blessing. At the same time, I was well aware that, like Xmas this year, my birthday was going to get lost in the wake of Moms death, funeral, and everything else. I didnt expect otherwise, and I didnt feel angry or upset about it. I just accepted that this years birthday, like the Xmas holidays just past, was going to be drowned under everything, lost in the shuffle, and oh well, next year will be different, and well do more then. I certainly havent been feeling very celebratory. Probably in a few days, or a week or so, Ill find myself somewhere, wanting to celebrate my birthday, buy myself a present or something, and Ill do that then. Im honestly not feeling very much like celebrating, or in a celebratory mood, but mostly just tired and emotionally beat up after everything thats happened.
So, happy fucking birthday, and no fucking big deal. Next!
754. 17 January 2008, Beloit, WI, late night
In my dreams, I am traveling through a large city; its winter; the streets are slushy, and theres snow on the sidewalks, but its not too cold; its a city Ive been in before, in dreams; a large mega-city, some combination of Ann Arbor and St. Paul and maybe Djakarta; the scale is always sprawling; I am getting across town by the No. 3 bus, which is an express bus form this northern edge of town, down to where I live, near the Trade Center downtown; in the dream, Im almost always walking, or waiting, or finally on the bus, and talking to people I dont know but as if were all good friends; the mood of the dream is expectant, adventurous, yet at the same time comfortable and content. The lighting is early evening, dark but filled with light, almost black and white at times. I wake feeling better than I have in a few days.
This morning, fresh snow covers the land with spun sugar. Its snowing hard right now, and soon Ill go out to make some photos. I listen to Loreena McKennitts song Snow, the perfect soundtrack for my mood this morning, and for the beauty outside. I make myself a tropical breakfast, though: corn tortilla quesadillas with cheese and cilantro and jalapeno peppers.
Yesterday we went to a memorial service at Harbor House for Mom, only to discover they had also included Dad in the service. We were very touched by that, it really was wonderful of them to do that. I found the service to be very difficult, almost torture at times. I didnt expect that, but thats probably because I just hadnt thought about it. We all felt pretty emotionally wiped out afterwards, and went up to the Rotary Gardens in Janesville for a walk in the winter landscape of the gardens. I got a great portrait of P. and D. at the little tea-house shelter overlooking the creek, my favorite place in the Japanese gardens.
We felt pretty splattered the rest of the day, though. I was emotional and upset all evening. Going for a walk was very wise, very healing. Im going to go out now, into the snow, and make some photos. And just listen to the silence of the snow falling.
753. 16 January 2008, Beloit, WI, late night
A frozen land, a cold world; a small island of humanity; their winter festival, a time of fasting and of feasting; the traditional meal, two seed-cakes, like small pancakes, each with three seeds cooked in, placed equidistantly around the center; the young man leader offers them to me, a traveler, on a beautiful black ceramic plate.
These are the images my dreams leave me with, upon waking this morning. I work earlier than usual, feeling well-rested, even though I slept fewer hours than the past few nights. Ive been writing and thinking all morning.
My own birthday is in a few days, but its been subsumed under everything else. I am noticing some resentment around that. The death of your parents becomes an annual wound, if you let itand I am going to work hard to clear and release it before it ever gets to that pointand Moms death between Xmas and my birthday, and her funeral exactly a week before my birthday. Well, theres potential there for sufferingwhich I neither want nor need. Being aware of the possibility of a potential woundology.
752. 15 January 2008, Beloit, WI, late night
a certain amount of sadness
in uncertain light
blue shadows on snow
the walking night
751. 14 January 2008, Beloit, WI
Im letting my ball of grief sit off to the side and simmer for now. I feel too tired to dive in and address it directly. Its in my awareness, like something seen out of the corner of my eye, and I can feel it, but Im not actively engaging with it. If I did that, Id be paralyzed and curled around it like an orange rind. Id be fetal and in fugue. I want a little space in which to also do other things, to move forward, to think about my own life. I need to not think about any of this for awhile.
This can all be done simultaneously. Ive been feeling like my multitasking ability has been greatly diminished by my feeling tired all the time; like I can only do one thing at a time, most days.
Dealing with grief is like that. Im aware of it moving around my edges, without having the time or strength to take it on full-force just yet. I feel like it would roll over me like a steamroller and flatten me, if I let it out all at once. Maybe I will, anyway; this morning, though, I want some space to just be still, and quiet, and thoughtful.
Just a little time, to just be, and to get ready for whatever might come next.
750. 13 January 2008, Beloit, WI
Late at night, now, after having had a long, bad day. I guess all the stress and emotional overwhelm has caught up with me, because I feel like Im having a relapse of my own illness. Im not doing well physically, and Im very vulnerable to little things not going the way theyre supposed to. Theres no real reason to get upset about a burned-out headlight on the truck; you just fix it. But it still feels like something too overwhelming to deal with. Thats when you know youre down, and depleted, and unable to cope. Thats when you know, because some small thing gets you too upset, that youre too tired to deal with, and you need to rest.
All of thats true. Im also just feeling blah. Its post-funeral depression, its grief, its fear for the future, its everything happening too soon, all at once, and I havent had time to deal with the last three blows before this latest blow hit. Im reeling, and Im falling down, and I need to take care of myself, first and foremost.
749. 13 January 2008, Beloit, WI
Dreams of having to drive a school bus; riding my bike hard to get to the place Im meeting it; then it not showing up; my father involved in all this somehow, another driver, or just telling me what to do; later, driving up and down steep mountain ridges, the brakes working but scary, a heavy bus thats hard to drive. I wake feeling rather unsettled, feeling my feelings, feeling annoyed at the household sounds and lack of silence and solitude here lately.
Yesterday we did Moms funeral, a week before my own birthday. Happy bloody birthday. I knew this was going to happen, or something like it, as soon as Mom started into her final illness; some nice little memory to remember every holiday and birthday season; and this years birthday is just going to be obliterated in all this. As if my birthday was ever about me, anyway. At least she didnt die actually on my birthday, which I had feared; at least the funeral wasnt on my actual birthday, either, just exactly a week before it. That would have left even harder memories and marks on my soul. I can feel myself getting angry and resentful about the timing. I knew that Mom would die before my birthday; I knew that as soon as I saw her in the hospital, the afternoon before she died. Well, I guess it doesnt matter; whatever happens is whatever happens, and my feelings are just whatever they are.
The funeral was very good. It was entirely appropriate to Moms life, as it involved sitting and listening to music a couple of times, as though it were a concert. D. did the eulogy by first telling some stories about Mom, then playing a Chopin prelude, one of Moms favorites. Later on, there was an organ and oboe version of Bachs Sheep May Safely Graze. I think it all went well, and was very appropriate. I was choked up the whole time, feeling my feelings. I couldnt actually sing any of the hymns, as I was crying and choked up, so I just stayed with my feelings.
A second death within seven months, following on the heels of a strife-filled autumn, and the onset of my own personal little chromic illness. (Isnt that enough? Are you done yet? Can you stop piling more on me, and give me a break now? Hmn?) Moms death was quick, a shock, coming less than two weeks after the onset or discovery of her final decline, spending the day after Xmas with her in the ER. No wonder I feel so out of it. I really am out of it.
Every other plan is on hold, of course. A week lost to planning everything for Moms funeral. That felt really rushed and stressful. With Dad at least we had more time, it was less sudden, and Dad even participated in the planning, telling us what he wanted at his funeral, for example, in terms of music. There had been time, there, and no surprises; this was sudden.
Now, we have to shift back to other plans. But I need a day or two, first, to just be. No decisions, no rushing around, just to be.
748. 9 January 2008, Beloit, WI
The river is at flood stage, moving fast and brown. All the snow has melted after a few days of warm temperatures and heavy rains. The lawn is mottled brown and green, and lightly covered with leaves. The river has spread partially onto the floodplain, in its torrent and rage. It is another six-months memory, from the major flooding that occurred last August.
Keeping some of my fears in perspective, my fears about what will happen to me now, now that Mom has died, and all the estate and trust management at the bank will start to get convertedmy fears mostly around being homeless and destitute again, with the added burden of a medical condition and no money with which to pay for treating itthe perspective comes from remembering that the wheels of government grind exceeding small. There will be a lot of hurry up and wait situations.
What I really want is time in which to elegantly and smoothly resolve the cleaning, organizing, and purging of belongings in the housemine, as well as my parentsin such a way as to neither tax my depleted energy and ruined health any further, nor to have to be do it in a stress-producing way, at a stress-inducing speed. What is want is to be able to leave when Im done and ready, and not be forced out by circumstances. The latter has happened so often in my life, that its a trained apprehension.
What I really want is time.
It would be nice if everyone could realize it was unfair to push me too hard to leave here, with or without projects undone. I maybe have to work to induce some reminders of all that, in some parties. I am a little anxious about when or how the subject will come up. There are numerous options, and most fears are borne of ignorance.
I need to strive to attain that state of mind which is a combination of beginners mind, and what Henry Miller meant when he wrote, I have no money, no resources, no hopes. I am the happiest man alive. As I wrote in a poem years ago, a poem dictated to me by something beyond me:
but I know the peace of a place beyond hope,
where hopeless acceptance lays table: for ease.
Hopeless acceptance. No hopes. That expresses where I feel I am, but also where I want to get to. It turns the attitude around, as much as I am able.
For the third night in a row, I can feel myself getting upset, after everything quiets down, and I am left alone. Its late at night, such as now, that it all starts to get me going. Ive had bad insomnia for two nights in a row. I dont really know what to do about it. Who can you call in the middle of the night? I mean, really call? Im tired enough, maybe I can actually get to sleep tonight. At least I know what thoughts and feelings trigger it, right now. Although I wont give them the satisfaction of writing them down, not tonight.
Tabulate the current stressors, though, by listing whats new: For the first time in months, I am not living alone in this house. I find the presences of other people to be irritating, distracting, and too loud. I like my silence, and my solitude. I like not turning the TV on for days at a time.
I need to take care of myself by occasionally disappearing, and going off to be silent, and to do nothing. Absolutely nothing.
And may the Wind Horse of Victorious Fortune ride with me, and be with me, and protect me, in these days and months to come.
747. 8 January 2008, Beloit, WI
Mom died early this morning. We got the phone call from Harbor House circa 6am or 6:30. We went over there right away, and sat with her. They came to take the body in a little while. I kissed her cooling brow one last time, and collapsed and wept into her hair. This was my mother, whom I loved.
Following is what I wrote up to email out to family and friends:
On December 26, my mother was admitted to the ER at Beloit Memorial Hospital with a severe urinary tract infection and major-onset diabetes. The aides at Harbor House, the Alzheimer's care facility where she has been living since April 2006, had found her on the floor, collapsed, and worried she had had a stroke. She was okay at the time, although very difficult to treat because she had gotten very scared by having to go to the hospital. She resisted all efforts to treat her with loud vigor. Her blood sugar levels remained very high, though. This diabetes had probably been coming on gradually over the fall, and peaked suddenly; Mom has been physically healthy her entire life, even despite the Alzheimer's, so this was very sudden. A few days later, she was discharged from the hospital and went back to Harbor House. But she wasn't improving there, and was still very difficult to administer to. She also was so restless in her bed, that she fell from her bed onto the carpet, resulting in some facial bruising and nothing more. On January 3rd, she was taken to the ER again, though, because she had collapsed again, and this time was very non-responsive. Readmitting her to the hospital, the doctors discovered that she had had a minor heart attack (her sodium levels were very high), her blood sugar was still too high, and this time she might indeed have had a minor stroke, as there was some paralysis, but a CAT scan showed nothing significant. The hospital was able to bring her blood sugar under control, but could not do much else for her beyond comfort care. Mom continued to sleep more and more, and eventually became comatose.
Pam arrived on that same day, Jan. 3rd, and we all agreed to admit Mom to Hospice care the following day. She came back to Harbor House on Monday the 7th, under Hospice care. I saw her in the hospital that afternoon by myself, and talked to her for awhile, but she was breathing hard, and wasn't present. She looked very close to the end, but we thought she might still have a few days or weeks left before she passed over.
Unfortunately, early this morning, Jan. 8, we received the call that Mom had died. We went over to say our goodbyes and began the necessary arrangements immediately. This is a bit overwhelming for all of us, coming as it does exactly one week short of sixth months to the day after Dad had died, last June. We are coping so far, but ask for all your best wishes, good thoughts, and prayers, now that Mom has also passed over.
Below is the obituary, complete with information about memorial and funeral services, that will be printed in the Beloit Daily News this week and also in the Muskegon and Grand Haven, MI, newspapers. Both Mom and Dad's ashes will be interred later in Muskegon, and so we thought it good to also publish the obituary there.
Margaret Durkee, 84, of Beloit, WI died Tuesday, January 8, 2008 in Harbor House.
She was born November 21, 1923 in Muskegon, MI, the daughter of Arthur and Anne Jensen Ramberg. Margaret received her Masters of Music degree in piano from Michigan State University. She taught piano students for many years. She married Paul F. Durkee on July 7, 1951 in Muskegon, MI. He predeceased her on June 15, 2007.
Margaret was a very active member of Our Saviors Lutheran Church, Beloit, WI. She was also a member of the Beloit Literacy Council, the American Guild of Organist and was actively involved with many music organizations throughout her life, including the worship committee at Our Saviors Lutheran Church in Beloit, and the Artistic board of the Beloit/Janesville Symphony Orchestra.
Survivors include her daughter, Pamela (David) Barick of Amsterdam, The Netherlands; son, Arthur P. Durkee of Beloit, WI; sister, Patricia (Robert) Olsen of CT; several nieces and nephews.
She was predeceased by her parents.
746. 8 January 2008, Beloit, WI
Mom died early this morning, probably between the time I went to bed at 3:30am and when they called us at 6am. Ive had no sleep, and Im a basket case. Later. I just got home from Harbor House, and have had almost no sleep. Im going to go to bed, now, and wake up sometime this afternoon.
In my dreams I meet up with a beautiful, fierce, powerful woman. We know each other from across the room, and I rush to meet her; we talk and then we have a meal together, still talking; I am attracted to her, not romantically, but in terms of strength of personality; she tells me she has been doing well, and life is good.
We got the phone call in the early morning, and were over there for a couple of hours, that seemed to pass like no time at all. I said goodbye to Mom, and I admit I collapsed over her weeping at one point, before they took her body away for the last time. It was only a minute or so, but it was intense. Then we came back here and Ive slept till noon.
Im feeling my own feelings, more than everyone elses. Which I dont mind at all, the Sacred Heart being closed for business at the moment, thank you very much. I was aware of that, when we were sitting there in the home, the noises of people starting their mornings, and the staff talking, surrounding the room. At one point I had to get up and close the door, because I didnt want to hear any more of their conversations.
Everyone means well, and they are so loving, it really is comforting. Nonetheless, part of me sits back and ticks off the list of things people say at times like this as: platitude platitude platitude platitude certainty platitude faith-based comment platitude platitude. None of which is a criticism of anyones loving intentions, or of anything anyone might say. Its mostly that Ive heard it all so much already, over the past several months, especially right after Dad died (exactly one week less than seven months ago), that it all rolls off me like water, and I believe none of it for myself. Everyone means well; I just honestly cant take it in, and this is exactly that point where words completely fail to do or mean anything of any value. The failure of words under the weight of emotion is something thats already been on my mind a lot, anyway. This just underlines it.
Did I feel Mom go, like I felt Dad go? No. It was very different. It was so sudden! Something I have been feeling for days was that Dad was strongly, even impatiently, calling to Mom to join him; and she was willing. As I wrote before, I was working to separate myself from that call; I want to live my own life, from now on. No longer a triad moving forward through time, but theyre now a dyad and Im a soliton. My love goes with them, and I wish them well, although I will no longer be with them, ever. And I need to get on with my own life. I can feel them together, now, and I am not sure that I feel that all is sweetness and light; I feel theyre impatient to move on, and thats okay. Ive been feeling anger from Dad, even. But I dont care: move on, old man, and leave me be, from now on. Was this mornings dream a visitation? Maybe, but Im not really sure. It was intense, vivid, lucid, shamanicthe way such visitation dreams often are. So, it was a visitationbut was it Mom, or someone else, that Im not sure about. All I know is I feel little better at the moment than when I went back to bed. Time now to try get some movement into my exhausted body. Its afternoon, and I feel beat up and spit out, even though I slept deeply.
The bottom line is, I feel emotionally and physically bruised. Fragile. Like Ive gone fifteen rounds in the ring, and am just beat to a pulp. I can barely get up the stairs this morning. I need to eat something, and I could care less, I have zero appetite. And Im supposed to take care of myself with all this stress and temptation to not bother with the new diet; thats a load of weight, too. How am I supposed to take care of myself? When all this stuff keeps happening, blow after blow, with no break.
745. 7 January 2008, Beloit, WI
The drive back yesterday was torture. There was heavy fog on the highway, most of the way, and after dark there was even thicker, impenetrable, dense fog. There was a huge 30-car accident with fatalities on Hwy. 90 between Madison and Stoughton, and the highway was completely closed. They routed traffic back into town, then down Hwy. 51. Since the interstate was still closed south of the beltline, though, I drove out Hwy. 12-18 to Cambridge, the town outside Madison I lived in for two years, and then drove down Hwy. 73 from there to Edgerton, to get back on the interstate. It added a lot of driving time to a long day that had already exhausted me. The trip was long because of the fog, and even longer because of the detour. I followed a semi through the fog on the back highways, though, grateful to have someone in front of me punching through first. I felt really angry a lot of the time, but pleased with myself for knowing the back roads in that part of the state so well. The state patrol rerouting the traffic back in Madison from the highway was irritating and stupid; I dont think it was handled very well, although it was probably the best that they could manage.
Today I had another doctors appointment in Beloit, and so Im going to continue on the UC meds for now, since they seem to be making a difference. The bleeding has stopped, after all. I need to see my other doctor about alternatives to ibuprofen, since I cant take that, as it causes more bleeding in the colon. They also sent me over to the hospital, to have more blood drawn to run a celiac panel, to test for gluten allergies. If the panel comes back negative, I am still going to cut back on gluten anyway, on the grounds that allopathic medicine sometimes misses things that other, complementary medicines do not. Clashing paradigms, but thats nothing new. And removing an irritant, even if its not a full-blown allergy, can do me no harm, and might do me a world of good.
After getting my blood drawn, I stopped in briefly to see Mom up in her hospital room, to tell her I love her, and to pray a little over her. She was barely there. She looked like Dad did the last couple of days before he died. Ragged breathing, no response, papery skin, and half-closed eyes that see nothing. She looks ready to go. I dont know when, but soon. I told it was okay to go. I dont know if she heard me. This is all so sudden, and theres been no preparation the way we were able to do with Dad last summer.
I am angry as hell at all this bad timing. I am completely stressed out, and didnt sleep at all last night. That my family is here now is just another stressor, at this point, frankly. That Mom is now dying, and will probably die sooner rather than later, that too is a stressor. My doctor today was sympathetic to that, and reminded me that all these stressors mean that its going to take even longer for my own energy to come back. I sort of figured as much. I am so very thrilled.
The work on the house continues. I guess, if Mom dies, I get to find out my own fate soon after: will I still be able to stay here awhile, or will I be suddenly homeless? Will I continue to have the banks support regarding payments, medical fees of my own, and reimbursement? Or will I suddenly be homeless, destitute, without insurance, and out on my ass again? Part of me feels a great deal of anxiety about all this (stressor) that no amount of reassurance quite settles. Part of me would just as soon get in the truck and just disappear.
You bet I have trust issues around all this. You bet theres a history of that, and that it was all set up this way during my lifelong difficult relationship with Dad about money and finances, etc. You bet Im pissed off at the timing. You bet Im angry and upset right now, about damn near everything.
744. 5 January 2008, Minneapolis, MN
Yesterday I had a long session with a chiropractor who is also certified in several other integrative mind-body therapies such as applied kinesthesia. It was a productive session, and I came away feeling very good about it.
One thing I learned is that I am now gluten-intolerant. It is contributing to fluid retention, inflammation throughout my body, especially in my GI tract, and more than likely to my being overweight; the trick with IBD is that you have to reduce as many irritants as you can safely, so the body stops attacking itself. I am going to give up gluten, which means wheat, oats, barley, and probably several other things. I have a lot of self-education to do now, to learn how to manage it. In some ways, its exciting to have to learn how to cook all over again, which is something Ive always enjoyed anyway, now doing it with a whole new diet in mind. It could take me some time before I can actually be gluten-free, though; its in everything, and I may have to wean myselfquickly rather than slowlyrather than go cold turkey. Or not. On the other hand, maybe it is something you can just do, and adapt.
As the day wore on to evening, I started to feel achy and feverish, probably from the release of toxins into the bloodstream after being locked up in my tissues for so long. I went to bed early, and woke up with a full-blown migraine that I could not manage to make go away. I finally took some ibuprofen, which I havent done in two months or more, at this time. I havent been able to take any aspirin or ibuprofen because of the internal bleeding I was experiencing because of the IBD. But I just had to take the hit, today; or be completely unable to do anything for the rest of the day.
Today I received a three-way cranial-sacral session, three practitioners on me. It moved me through a lot of stuff, and cleared a lot of emotional blocks and energetic boulders that had been blocking the flow. I am spending time this afternoon reminding the scrubbing bubbles to keep going through my blood, and clearing out toxins. I feel remarkably good; calm, at peace, emotional but not overly so or in a bad way, more free-flowing than angst-ridden or wraith-driven. I also feel physically better than I have in a full day.
I feel more cleaned out and clear than I have in months. I feel cool and calm. Not too tired. Not so much mentally tired as physically, at this moment.
I went and did a little solitary shopping after the session, and now Im going to have dinner again with my circle of best friends here. I look forward to a good meal, a good evening full of conversation, and some physical rest.
This is curable. All of it can be transcended. By not ignoring it, but by going past it.
During the cranial-scaral session today, I was doing a lot of clearing of anger, grief, and related emotions. At one point, someone said something about the crown of thorns. That led into the Sacred Heart, and I had another visionary experience of the Sacred Heart today. There was also a lot of energetic muck around my pericardium (related to Dads final illness, the cardiocentesis, and everything else, perhaps?).
But it was the question that was asked that really got me going: Do I need to still be bleeding?
Once I asked that, things started to really happen. (The simple answer to the question is: No.) The Sacred Heart came very clearly to my minds eye, complete with thorns and wounds and bleeding. I made the thorns go away three times, but they kept coming back. So I turned them into green, living ivy. And then the wounds closed and scarred over, and the bleeding ceased. The end result was a green-man Sacred Heart, with green-blue light surrounding it everywhere, quiescent, calm, at rest. I left it as a closed wound in my chest, no longer an open one, blue, green, like growing plants, and water.
I have felt that calmness all day, the rest of the day. It has gone with me all day and into the evening, after dinner, throughout. I still feel it, even as I am ready for bed, tired out physically. (Scrubbing bubbles!)
Does this mean I am done with the Sacred Heart? I dont know. I wonder if its purpose in manifesting in me was for the sake of me being with my parents at the ends of their lives, as their closest healer and caregiver. (I disconnected myself from those ties and bonds. My love goes with them on their future paths, although I will no longer walk those paths with them. Although I am not with you, my love will always go with you. And I release us, you, and myself.) Maybe its job is done. Maybe it will come back. Maybe this is a new phase of its manifestation: one in which the healing energy can still flow out, but I dont have to have so much empathy that I take on and feel the others pain in my own flesh and soul. More detached? More greening. It really felt like veriditas, rather than raw and bleeding wound.
And I had to go through there to get to here. So, no regrets; not tonight.
Who made us all at the beginning, receive us all at the end.
743. 2 January 2008, Beloit, WI
Its bitter cold since last night, but the sky is clear. The sun makes graphic-line shadows on the snow, and the sky is clear blue. Its the brightest its been outdoors in a week. The snow in the back yard is laced with deer tracks, bird tracks, rabbit and squirrel trails.
I felt more sick than well yesterday, but so far today, not so bad. As I go through this, reflecting on it and on my life, I realize many things:
There is an emotional component, because the emotional stress of dealing with Mom this week has taken a severe toll on me physically, setting back my own recovery some days or weeks, bringing back symptoms that had essentially cleared up.
My birth tribe was so outer-directed that taking care of oneself was usually labeled selfish. Im still working this out. The impression I am remembering is of my mother, and my mothers mother: they could be hurting inside, and they would drop everything to take care of someone else. Generosity to a self-destructive fault. My father was so other-directed, as a doctor and person, he would always worry about everyone else before himself. Even in his last illness, his cancer, he spent more time worrying about Moms Alzheimers than he did about himself. I saw this, and I told him many times to stop it, and take care of himself first, and it never was listened to. (Of course, many things Ive said to him over the decades were never listened to, simply because the came from me. Thats an old family dynamic.)
I need to be much more self-centered, and self-monitoring, than I have been so far. I need to let go of that ingrained worry that cares what other people think about me. I must let go of all aspects of other-directedness. As a shaman, if Im supposed to take care of someone, theyre going to come to me, anyway; I dont need to go looking for them. Let the villagers come to me; they can work a little, to make it worthwhile for themselves. Nobody values anything they get for free, anyway.
At this time, and maybe for all time, I must put my own needs first. Thats really hard to enact: a big part of me resists that, and denies it even as I write it down. There are self-worth and self-esteem factors in there; I want to root those out and cast them out, for all the harm theyve done me over the years. At the same time, I know the real changes come through empathy rather than repression. My self-worth is so dependent on others, on outside events, that when Im at reduced capacity, like I have been for months, one little thing, like the basement drain backing up, is enough to throw me into a panic or some other kind of crisis. Im very vulnerable. Its not that I want to be a drama queen, its that there HAVE been dramatic events in my life, these past few years, and I have often responded with drama. Sometimes I havent been able to help it, because it has been so overwhelming, and crazy-making. Im not so enlightened that my trailer flying off a cliff in New Mexico can happen with me maintaining the equanimity of a saint. Im no saint, and no Buddhaand I really resent, sometimes, when people project that on me, when they dont allow me to be just human, and frail, and fallible. That demand for perfection comes from within me, too, and its pernicious; so when it also comes from the outside, there are times it just drives me up a wall. I identify too well with characters in fiction or movies who carry too many burdens already, then when something happens outside their control, everyone turns on them and says, Youve got to do better! As if they could. As if ANYONE could. The unfairness of it is so blatant Im not even going to get into that; fairness isnt the issue, because we start with the assumption that life isnt fair, and never has been. Where we go from there is about treating each other as human, and in need of love and support: the universe is unfair, but that doesnt mean we have to be unfair to each other. We always have the potential to rise above. Of course, most people dont know that, and dont want to do that, because rising above means so many other things they dont want to do, like giving up being victims of fate, taking personal responsibility, and learning to live consciously. None of which is easy to do. Yes, if youre nodding your head, Im talking to you: you do it, too. We all do. Youre no better than anyone else at overcoming any of this. But we can all overcome it.
I must put all my energy into things that are good for me, that support me, that feed my needs. I must put all my life into my creativity and my future. The past is over; takl all my energy away from it, and move it back into the present, so that its available for me to use to create my own future. I am reclaiming it. Thats really hard: I might resist points here all the time. I need help working with them; Ive worked with them alone, and havent always been able to unbind them. There is so much power there, looking things up. I need to get that gone.
I forgive myself for not loving myself enough. I forgive myself for not loving myself enough. I forgive myself for not loving myself enough. I forgive myself for not loving myself enough, in this or other any other life.
Here comes a wind to blow the snow off the tree branches and expose them to the light of the sun.
I forgive myself for separating myself into warring parts. You were never my enemy, but only part of me trying to help and keep me safe.
I forgive myself for the arrogance of humility. I forgive myself for making myself small. I forgive myself for judging as if I was anything less than Divine. I forgive myself for forgetting that a great light casts a great shadow. I forgive myself for making myself smaller in my own heart. I forgive myself for forgetting that the light of God is in me, as it is in everything. I forgive myself for judging as if I was not Divine, and not worthy of being Divine, and not already part of the Divine.
742. 1 January 2008, Beloit, WI
I look at the traditional holiday celebrations this time of year and I think about how absurdly irrelevant they have become to my life over the years. The excessiveness makes me want to do its opposite, turn inward, contemplate in quiet rooms, turn off the TV and the stereo, and just listen to the silence as the snow falls.
I just wrote out my annual gratitudes, which was rewarding, maybe even healing. It was tough, this year, to know where to start. So I started small, and worked my way into it. Im still not in a place where I can find much to be grateful for, right now. Maybe later.
Later, late night:
Im more tired than I thought. Ive been pushing too hard, of course, and so I have had a minor relapse. I took a nap this afternoon, though, which helped. I did laundry tonight, and washed dishes, and its time for bed. I watched a movie into the evening, as I did laundry. I also baked bread, a smell I love.
Its hubris, I suppose, to imagine that anyone cares about anything I have to say, or write, or think about. A necessary hubris? Perhaps. Otherwise, youd be paralyzed with stagefright. Its not that I care what everybody thinks, its that I dont think what I have to say is very important, particularly special, or amazingly original. None of that. Its just that I need to say it, to speak out, for my own good, my own sanity, my own healing and survival. Its not that anyone cares, or should. Its that I need to do it.
So, I post poems, I write my gratitudes out and post them publicly. Theres nothing special about that.
741. 1 January 2008, Beloit, WI
I went to bed very upset last night, mostly about Mom. I had intense dreams. I woke up this morning feeling shaky.
It snows some during the night, and theres a fresh frosting on the ground. What has been most remarkable to me, visually, these past few days of this beautiful snowfall period, is that the snow and the sky have been exactly the same shade of white; its as if the trees and other black graphic lines have been drawn on a blank sheet of paper, or pasted on, but the paper itself, the background that we leave unpainted, that is the ground and sky, remain exactly the same unpainted white of the paper. Truly a beautiful sight. In this time, too, it hasnt been at all windy, so the white snow has stayed on top of the tree branches, and not been shaken off; that only adds to the stillness, beauty, and graphic lines and patterns of it all.
But last night I realized that all this stress around Mom does take a physical toll on me. The emotional stress component has made me feel like I was having a relapse of the UC: I was sour in my stomach, I had a fever, I was feeling like all the healing of the past month had been undone. So, there is an emotional component to managing UC, and that just underlines it for me: I cant afford to be that upset all the time. It will take a very quick personal toll on me. Lesson understood.
The turning of the calendar year doesnt mean much to me, although its a time to exchange greetings, and for many people its a time to start over. For me, the new year begins on All Souls, and thats when I practice it. There is truth to the thought one well-wisher has given me though: 2007 was an annus horribilis for many people, and heres wishing 2008 will be better. I can tell you, as I know from daily experience, that it will be at least different. I know from experience that if I have a really bad day, tomorrow will be different; not always better, not always able to make such judgments when hope itself is a trap, but always different. That helps you endure, and get through the bad days. May 2008 be different.
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