Friday, May 28, 2010

Heavy and Light

Yesterday I felt light. Lovely, prism-white space surrounded my brain, seeping through the crevice between left and right, dispersing itself like water between the molecules, opening space, letting air and light flood in.

I flitted down the stairs with the barest touch, swung from the bottom rail to land lightly on the hardwood, glided. I felt as though I had turned down gravity. Unburdened, my body moved gracefully in a dance of doing through the kitchen.

Today I feel heavy. My scalp a contracting elastic, pressuring cranial bones against my brain like squeezing a sponge. My sinuses lie heavily on my cheekbones, and tug my drooping eyelids. My mind feels sluggish, veiled. It's hard work to think. I feel befuddled, half asleep.

I move in slow motion folding the laundry. I carefully smooth each section before lovingly patting down a fold. Unable to think, I am helplessly present with the moment but, periodically, I prick with vague awareness that I should be spending my time more effectively. I stand, inch by inch, my leg muscles resisting my body's weight, groaning and creaking to balance. Reluctant feet cling to floor, as though stuck in inch-deep mud.

I slow my breath to match my steps, allow my brain to put down its worry, just for now, and let me be heavy for awhile.

(A short musical accompaniment at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c5EUZsjSvuY

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Oh, no, I need clothes

Normally I feel pretty good about myself.  That is, until I am forced to venture into that dreaded place, The Mall, to shop for clothes.  It then becomes clear that my body not only falls short of the societal ideal, but is, in fact, so oddly proportioned as to be completely and utterly unique in the world. My waist is too short for normal-people shirts, but my shoulders too wide for petite.  My legs are too long for petite-legged pants, but regular ones need 4 inches off the bottom.  And so it goes.  It’s too big on my tummy but tight on my crotch. It’s too small on my tummy but perfect in the rear. The bust is too tight but under the arms sags.

Or it's just ugly, ugly, ugly by design. What's with tiny short sleeves ending in ruffles? Am I six? I look ridiculous. What's with these psudo-maternity tops - I'd like to ignore my leftover pregnant tummy, not highlight it or raise gossipy questions among women who have nothing better to do than watch each others' middles for "bumps."  Little lacy collars - really? Belts around the upper-middle? You've got to be kidding. And what IS that, hanging there? It looks like a swarm of bees - no, it's a FLORAL PRINT that even my grandmother wouldn't have worn in wartime. Do they sit around thinking about how to make the ugliest possible clothes? It can't possibly be a complete accident.

Look, I just want to buy a few pairs of pants that are comfortable and look vaguely stylish. A few tailored-but-not-tight tops in standard "winter" colours like dark purple, red and blue. Short sleeves that end mid-bicep, not cutting off my armpit or boxing out my shoulders. A sleek, sturdy pair of shoes with enough heel that I don't look like a flat-footed granny while maintaining a comfortable step. In other words, I want the same clothing choices that men get, made for women. Is it really so much to ask? I have credit cards, I promise!

I don't have time for fashion, and clearly, I don't fit the profile. Where does one shop for a mumu?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Message to ease the Anxiety of Error

A Message
From the me I have become
To the me I will become

Remember this
Not with a critical eye
But with an indulgent, knowing smile

Monday, May 24, 2010

Blog split?

So I've been slowly moving to a 3-blog system. Surprised? You didn't know I had 3 blogs? Not surprising - I didn't tell you. Oh, and 2 of them have sat largely empty while I contemplated the split. It's all me, it's all my writing, why split?

I've been treating this blog like a journal or random writing notebook that other people might just happen to also read and relate to.  I haven't been treating it as a piece of work with an audience, but a small audience has nonetheless developed. Which begins to create a mutual responsibility. And I find myself censoring, only posting what I feel might have semi-broad appeal to the people I tend to see commenting and lurking. My other thoughts and writing stay underground, so to speak - all the things that REALLY aren't ready for prime time, the experiments and attempts at various voices, the themes that might push past the zone of acceptability, the disjointed bits that might come in handy later.

So I created "Bits in Progress" to house them. And proceeded to post...nothing. Another blog? I barely have time for one. And it's likely to have the same audience anyway, so similar problems arise. If I'm willing to post it publicly, why not just use the blog I have? But if I can separate the "bits" from the introspective journal-type posts, that allows a cleaner and more consistent experience for the audience. I'm still in the midst of this ongoing debate."Bits in Progress" may be a late-bloomer yet, but as of now, empty.

This weekend I created #3: Privileged Information. It's a private blog, invite only. If no one reads it, I might as well journal, but there's something about putting early work out there for reaction that lets me incorporate, improve, mold into something, even when the comments are few or not directly helpful (there's information in that, too). In Privileged, I am not as concerned about the audience - if they are reading, I hope it's to help me as a writer, or because they like experimental work. If they don't enjoy the direction, no need to follow it. I may explore themes that are outside people's comfort. I may casually include elements that would cause people to wonder about my moral character because I even want to explore them. Privileged is not a PG blog and it won't even try to make you feel comfortable. It's my repository for the misfit writings, my practice runs, my B sides.

What are my hopes for Privileged Information? I hope to attract a small, trusted cadre of people who say hello when they read, even if they don't have a comment. Who read for structure and style as much as for content. Who choose to read posts as excerpts from a larger work that doesn't exist yet. And mostly, who help me grow as a writer and a person. That's a lot of hope for a little blog that might get one or two posts a month. I'll work on toning those hopes down.

So all this to say, Writing Out Loud won't change much, though maybe the experience will be slightly more consistent in style/approach to exploration. And, if we know each other through exchanged comments and twitter talk, most likely I'd be happy to have your voice at Privileged, too. That requires a DM with email address.

This is a pretty boring post, I'm afraid. Administration rears its head even in the best of experiences. And developing this blog has been one of those, for me. Every comment gets my full attention. Every interaction means something to me. Thanks for reading.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


I’m holding an event on Tuesday, so the date is front and center – May 25th – which is also the anniversary of my first wedding.

As I do each year, I find myself meditating on my first husband.

We met when I was 18 and he was 17. He was tall, dark, handsome and muscular. He had a lovely, broad, open and warm face, striking green eyes and a shock of black hair hanging over his forehead. He looked like a magazine cover, and my first impression was that he was sweet like a puppy dog.

I could appreciate his attractiveness aesthetically, but truth be told, I actually preferred a slighter build, a more streamlined look. I found it very pleasant to be with a boy that other girls found lovely, while I myself was almost indifferent to his looks. It felt like a super power. We had sex almost from the beginning – he was so eager, and I thought, well, whatever. It was fun enough.

He adored me. I was the most beautiful, smartest, most interesting and fun person he had ever known. He wanted to know me. He wanted to love me until I loved myself. It was inherent in him. But I was a tough nut that way. He loved me more than I loved myself, and I never really forgave that in him – I always held it against him as weakness in my deepest, most unseen place that believed I’d duped him into this love.

We were living together by my second year of University, mostly through his dogged determination to join me after a year apart in which I took the “commitment” as more of a “wait and see.”  I loved him as I had never trusted or loved anyone – as my only friend. I couldn’t see any reason why we shouldn’t continue our journey together when the time came for him to move in.

I was really paying no attention. I was working my way through University, and if he wanted to tag along I expected him to start some kind of academic program (and not flunk out) and bring in some money. As long as he did that, it was very convenient to have an adoring lover available and a roommate to split the bills. I didn’t enjoy hounding him and setting up reward systems for him to learn how to do his homework and hold himself in discipline, but on balance the arrangement was good.

We stayed together for 10 years.

After I graduated, I lifted up my head, looked around, and thought, “now what?” So I got a job, and got promoted, and put my head back down and pushed the career path. Again, he was great to have around, as long as I was okay with taking care of all the actual responsibility. And generally, I was. It made me feel competent, and a little tender toward him that he needed caring for. What would he do without me?

I traveled a lot, barely kept my head above water between work and more school, and he required little of my mind or emotional energy. When I wasn’t irritated, he was incredibly easy to be with and he sustained me with back rubs and orgasms. When he suggested marriage, I thought, why not?

We re-parented each other in a lot of ways. He gave me the take-for-granted love that I didn’t feel from my parents. I gave him high expectations that required him to work as hard as his potential allowed.  But we were really children together, emotionally. We had fun, we bickered, we were each others’ best friend and harshest critic. We celebrated each other and tore each other down. We grew up together, a little like siblings except for the adult part of the play.

At some point it began working less and less well. His low expectations and high output acceptance were like a challenge, pushing me to see how bad I could be and still be adored. I didn’t respect him because he didn’t give me the respect of expecting me to be better, but at the same time, if he had I would have lost the unconditional love I needed.

To his credit, he did try, he just wasn’t very good at debating and I was pretty excellent. I didn’t give him the respect of expecting him to stand up for himself, and when he did, I treated it as laughable. As it was. I held all the cards, jealously, then judged him for not having any.

I had high expectations for his behaviour, and a general disdain for his consistent failure to meet them. Even so, many of my desires were reasonable – paying some of the bills, changing the garbage, picking up some groceries, keeping his job, paying attention, doing what he said he was going to do. I couldn’t count on him, and it wore at me.

I viewed his irresponsibility as primarily an issue of discipline, likely exacerbated by some degree of ADHD, which really just means the TV generation. I was relentless with him. He was less and less reliable, more and more sullen. These traits triggered my frustration and irritation, and the meaner I was, the more I needed his unconditional love to reconcile myself and regain balance.

This was not a healthy relationship for either of us. At the time, I didn’t think I could fix it. I couldn’t be in a room with him without finding myself slipping into language and communication patterns that we had burned-in over our most formative, post-adolescent years. I loved him – he was my best friend. I didn’t want to be the person I was when I was with him. I didn’t want to work through it. I wanted to break free.

We had no children. I was coming up on 29 years old. He had been more and more insistent about starting a family, and I had put it off, first with my career, and then by getting a puppy instead. In the start-up frenzy of the day, his employer was bought by Microsoft, and in a last-ditch effort to change our patterns, we moved to the U.S.

I didn’t last six months.

I sprung it on him that I was leaving. I hadn’t given him the kindness or respect of coming to the decision through conversations over time. I let the emotions all boil up without any reflection, until I had to act or I would explode, and then I left.

I still carry some guilt for damaging a lovely and innocent soul. In trying to make him stronger, I broke what was good in him. In trying to find my own path, I yanked away his only emotional support, his best and only friend, and left him with his mind and heart blown, to pick up his own pieces. I took his unconditional love and handed it back to him like it was worthless.

We would talk on the phone a few times a week, him always hopeful that we would get back together, me waffling in the loneliness of missing him, giving just enough hope that he couldn’t quite let go because I couldn’t quite let go. It was such a painful time, it wrenched my heart until I was sure I could feel it bleeding into my gut and turning to bile.

I broke his heart. And still, he participated with me in an easy and uncomplicated divorce – we didn’t have much to split.  He was remarried within a year; me, within three.

We wanted to stay friends. We’re friendly through Facebook across the miles (he stayed in the U.S.).  He steers carefully away from any topic that might hint at our past. We live our purely online relationship as appreciative acquaintances in the present. What we cherish and regret from our common past is now our own, not something we share. It’s better that way, but I miss him. He was my family, and I still love him as family. I want to know his wife, and his son. I want him to know my kids. I wish we could be a part of each others’ grown-up lives, the way my siblings and I are.

So happy un-anniversary to my first experience of love, inadequate and clumsy as I was at it. I love you, S. I wish you joy.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Vigilance vs Presence

I am very attached to my vigilance.

At any given time, I have more processes running than a network of computers could handle. I am up-to-the-minute aware of the status of everything I have responsibility for. I rarely let anything go without a checkin for more than an hour, and trust me, there is a lot to fit in. It can get in the way of my work, so I've learned to turn it down, barricade off for bursts of time, but it's always there. Work stuff, home stuff, me stuff, everyone (!) I know stuff, the world, the community, the microcosm, the macrocosm, the state of humanity, everything. Cycle cycle cycle. Not only the checkins, but the constant, up-to-the-second ranking and prioritization in relation to time constraints and my capabilities - it's like watching the stock exchange and I am the central processor and all the traders.

Whenever it gets a bit overloaded in there and I choose to let something of slightly lower priority or longer time frame rest for a bit, I inevitably get pulled back to a checkin slightly panicked, with an elevated sense of urgency to be on top of that. It's how I make sure everything gets done. Do I drop things? Occasionally, but I think my record is pretty good. When I choose to let something go, even briefly, either things go awry or I get stressed.

I'm like a squirrel - have you ever watched one? The are never still for a second. Quivering vigilance keeps them revving even in idle, their little haunches quivering oh-so-slightly, ready to leap at the first sign of danger. Using every sense, every second, to stay safe. And it works. They're fast! And I've seen some narrow escapes, some true acrobatics that they execute because they know exactly where they are and where the danger is. Or maybe I see what I want to see.

I've tried to place some of the burden on external systems, putting order in place to replace some of my vigilance. Incredulous, I watch myself sabotage my efforts to use computer systems, task lists, or any number of time management tools. I'm simply not reliable. I will often prioritize writing things down and planning things out below the actual doing, because my mind has already constructed a framework and 2/3 of a plan, and execution is the key.  I don't want to let go of the control and immediacy of knowing, placing my faith in a system instead of myself. 

I also suspect, deep down, that I want to keep my vigilance sharp. I am semi-deliberately unreliable at sticking to a system, just so I'll never feel quite certain of the system. That way, I won't get soft and lazy.

But it's tiring. I didn't used to find it so. It's since I added two kids, changed profession and sector to remove all familiarity gains, and committed myself to fast-paced self-reflective personal development that I'm frayed around the edges.

The vigilance gets in my way. I try to practice deep pleasure in the moment I am in, as often as I can, and all the cycles and weighing and checking bombards me instead. I give the moment less than 1/10th of my attention, and even that is eroded by worry that the other 90% isn't enough for what it's working on. I feel perpetually distracted.

I also feel as though I have a responsibility to know everything, to be aware of everything happening in the universe, all the time, so that I can be in a position to see the big patterns and help shape the course of human events. You heard me. Arrogant, huh?

Why do I have such a sense of grandeur? It doesn't feel that way to me. I don't feel equal to it, I just feel called to it. I know I have some developing talents that could make it possible for me to one day change the world. Yet, I'm a small-town nobody, plugging away at tasks and trying to make sense of what changing the world even means to me. I feel a sense of obligation to be ready and watchful on my path, looking for the best way, at every moment, to serve. I'm not sure about that word, serve, but it insists that I use it.

Thus, I come around to this paradox of craving presence and vigilance. I have always given vigilance big preference for being the safer option. Now, I'm less certain. As my spirit asserts itself more, I feel it hemmed in by all those existing processes. It's not so different from my external life, trying to find my way in a tangled web of people, politics and processes.

Who has been here? Who has found the secret passage around or through this collision of will? How can I get my mind to give up its vigilance for more than 5 minutes? How can I begin to reprogram how I evaluate what I can afford to trust to the universe and what I must do to be a good wife, parent, employee, citizen, friend?

I would cherish your experience and advice.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Being me today

I am a gravitational force.

I am a sun.

I am a stealth warrior for the cause of sanity.

I am an artist creating human mosaics.

I am an Air Traffic Controller for people in constantly turbulent skies.

I am in training for proficiency.

I am practicing.

I am improving at an accelerated rate.

I thrash.
I spin.
I question.
I rail.
I cry.
I feel angry.
I give up.
I give in.
I feed the immediate.
I sacrifice later for now.
I wither.

I reach for hope.

I am learning patience with the world.

I am learning patience with myself.

I breathe.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Pink eye

Leaning over, I notice my 4 year old's right eye is pink, which confirms an earlier suspicion.

Before I even know I'm going to, I say, Oh, baby, you have an eye infection. I'll have to put in drops.

Why did I say that out loud?

He starts howling. No no no drops, NOOOOOOOOOOooooooooo (breath in) OOOOOOOOOOoooo...

Arms flailing, he pulls his t-shirt up to cover his head, armorizing this barrier by crossing his arms across his forehead and eyes. The howl continues.

Babe, you're upset. Let's have a conversation about this.

No. No way. No way Mom. I don't want a conversation. I don't want a conversation and then the drops. No drops. No conversation. No way. No. No. No.

He's sobbing and hiccuping. A few more rounds of the same, and he starts to quiet, but continues rocking with his arms over his t-shirt covered head.

Do you need a hug?


He lowers his arms and his head emerges from the shirt. I pull him gently onto my lap, consciously making my arms the safest place in the world. He sags against me, his head bowed. I slow and exaggerate my breathing, and he unconsciously begins to slow his breaths. Then he kind of convulses once; a beat passes, and his hands are starting to wave as he's working himself up again. He throws his head from side to side, screaming No, No, pulling out of my arms.

He runs behind a chair and pulls the throw from the chair-back over his head. I stay where I am. I breathe once. twice. slower. three. . . four. . . five. I survey the situation. What is the status of this battle?

I have no doubt that we will put the drops in. What I am evaluating is timing. Is it better to see this through to the bitter end, so as not to waste the patience and vehemence we've already spent? Or, to let it go for now and try again later?

Experience tells me that, later, he will have renewed his energy and he will go through the exact same level of response to his dislike of the drops. Then he will have done it twice before we're forced to force him. So, it seems to me the better thing for him would be to see it through now, but only under one condition: my state of mind must allow me to do so without becoming upset. If I get angry or impatient, he will dissolve into hysterics.

I check in on myself. I actually feel pretty calm. I try to identify all the emotions I'm feeling, and weigh them. I'm sad that he's so upset. I also wish that we were done with this battle. I push on that wish and find I don't feel resentful about it. Good.

I wish that he didn't have to have the drops. I push on that - will I give in and wait until tomorrow in order to save him now? No. Okay.

I wish that he would accept the inevitability and cooperate to make it easier for me. That wish feels a little dangerous to me, like a package left at a bus station that could be a time bomb or old cheese. When a wish feels like that, I know from experience that success requires actively deciding to let that wish go.

Can I let it go? Can I stop wishing for cooperation and just make it as comfortable and loving as possible if I don't manage to convince him?

Yes I can. Phew!

I probe a little deeper. Do I feel any anger with him for not coming around to cooperation? No, he's right, it hurts and this is a natural reaction. Do I feel impatient with him for not being developmentally mature enough to accept that the drops are needed? I am relieved to find no impatience. He's behaving exactly as he ought to for his capabilities. I'm often unreasonably impatient, so I'm happily surprised.

I feel resigned to knowing I will do my best explaining why, and he will respond how he needs to.  Then I will hold him in my arms as gently as I can while my husband drops drops into his eye.

Okay then, I think I can stay calm. I feel almost giddy with relief - so many times I reach and reach to feel calm when I really don't, but I think this is real. I can just move through what needs to happen with him, and I don't need any particular kind of participation from him. I will do what is needed to keep him safe and whole, in as respectful and loving a way as I can. He will respond as he is able, and I think I can love and support him through it. Cool.

So one more try to see if he decides to come with me, if not willingly, at least of his own volition.

I move the chair he's behind so that I can join him, but I don't touch the blanket he's hiding under. I sit on the floor, my head resting on the side of the chair, and regard him. I focus on my regard for him as a person, my love for him, and my compassion for how hard this is for him.

NO. NO. I don't WANT a CONVERSATION! No conversation!

You don't want to understand why I need to put the drops in your eyes?

No! I don't want to understand! There's no understanding! I want to talk at you, I want you to LISTEN! No drops. Not now. Not EVER. Never. No drops at all. Zero. Stop. None. No conversation!

You're telling me very clearly that you don't want the drops.

He comes out from under the blanket. I get a few more rounds of "No, no drops" and variations on that them. I don't say anything. I wait until he seems to be petering out again, and again I offer a hug. He slouches and slithers himself almost reluctantly into my arms, but melts against me while he cries his heart out. I pet his head. After a minute or two, I say,

Your body is working hard to fight the germs in your eye.

He doesn't say anything, but a slight shift in his body tells me I got a little interest.

But the germs are STRONG! The germs are HURTING your eye!

He shifts around so his back is against my chest. I'm about to explain about the drops helping his eyes, when he turns suddenly to me with the air of a desperate man begging for help.

Maybe we can use something to help fight the germs, like some strong drops that don't hurt.

I can feel my face crumple, my eyes moisten.

I wish we could, I say, but he's slumped down in a heap of sobbing on my lap even before the words are half spoken.

I wish there were drops that could help and don't hurt you, but I've never found drops like those.

Maybe we could go to the doctor. I want to go to the doctor, he says with the defiance of one who thinks he's found a legitimate loophole.

We can't go to the doctor right now, they're closed. And his drops might hurt too.

Oh, oh, I don't LIKE it! I don't LIKE it! It hurts and I don't like it to hurt!

You don't have to like it, sweetie. It just is. You can dislike it while we put in the drops because we need to keep you safe, and your eye needs help.

I WON'T be brave for the drops! I won't be brave!

You don't need to be brave, sweetie. I'll hold you carefully so that daddy can put in the drops and you don't need to worry about holding still.

His protests rise and fall, but his spirit is that of the defeated. I realize this is the best I can hope for, and delaying any further just becomes a session in torture for all of us. He understands the reason, even accepts the reason, though he doesn't like the outcome. I've done my duty to him as a fellow human. He doesn't need to cooperate, we just need to get this done.

He struggles when I pick him up, but I work hard to maintain the balance between gentle and losing control of his person. I opt for gentle when pushed, releasing him and then picking him up again. We make our way to the sofa this way, where I gently pull him on top of me, talking softly in a patter stream of comforting sounds. I wrap my legs around his legs with as little pressure as I can, and my arms around his arms so his hands are not free. I twist my wrists so my hands cup his cheeks, holding his head only tight enough to keep him in position for the drops.

It's over fairly quickly, and his struggles are not full-strength. They seem, if anything, automatic - a fight reflex of the body, not supported or hindered by a spirit that reluctantly agrees with the cure. I feel like he understands on some level that I'm supporting him in the hold, rather than just restricting and forcing him.

After the drops, he stays in my arms, not struggling while I stroke his head. He's still complaining that he doesn't like it.

Shhh. It's done. We're done.

No more drops. Never again, mom.

I can't promise that, sweetie.

He starts struggling away from me, and I keep my hands on him but don't restrict his movement.

Sweetie, we'll see tomorrow, okay? We'll see. Maybe your eye will heal now while you sleep.

Okay, he mutters dejectedly.

I check in with myself. I didn't get supper and my stomach is a bit upset; also, I'm exhausted.

Do you want to watch TV for ten minutes? I ask.

Well, that lightens his mood.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

An awesome responsibility

Sometimes I stand on the landing of my house, halfway between the upstairs and downstairs, and look over my domain. I feel a surge of satisfaction, pure love for my haven, this central place holding the universe together. I love the colours and shapes, the elegance of utility and choice in each object. I know this space, every inch of it, every mood of its energy, and it belongs to me. I keep this world alive with my thoughts, with my love, with my very belief that it exists. I create this space, this home, this safe place and sanctuary for all of us. The problems of the world don't touch us here. There are times when I imagine what a bomb would do, or gunfire in the streets, but it jars me like touching fire and I won't allow it. This charmed life is all being held together by my will, my sure belief and my absolute need; to allow doubt or fear wavers its very existence. We are safe within my fierce love, enmattered as this home.