Equal to the love you make

[FB post from yesterday, 8/27]

This morning at 5:04 AM I got an email via my yelp account from a recently-homeless woman who wanted to get a quote on how much it would be for me to board her two “beautiful” adult cats in my home.

It was already a weird morning because my friend Graham sent me a link to my old Garfield house which is now for sale again and seeing the interior sterility and the back yard–which the summer after James moved in 2007 was the site of a “healing through manual labor and sunburn”–with its huge tree gone and most everything I planted looking dead really put the punctuation on the end of that chapter in my life. It was the punctuation you typically see after “you stupid fucking idiots; what the actual fuck.” 

And so it was that I started my day. Sunday. An easy work day before the madness starts up tomorrow and moves well past Labor Day; my life not yet recovered from the July 24th madness, and my sick dog, and bug treatment, last foster kitten/group, etc., to where all the madness has started melding while laundry mounds to dangerous proportions, and every text is an agony over whether I should accept or decline more work or accept or decline the next group of foster kittens, etc. when I’m sleeping on the couch in my clothes because it’s easier to rouse myself to another workday when I don’t let myself get too comfortable.  

And as I drive in the darkness towards Capitol Hill–the ever-so-slight tension in my body already existing as I imagine Stella’s upcoming glucose test, and what if I don’t get a prick of blood the first time, and what if her values are really low or really high, and what if she doesn’t eat, and what if something happened to her in the night, etc–I’m thinking about this email. 

Because yes I struggle; yes I’m overworked and exhausted. But she’s living in her two-door car with her two kitties and it’s gotten “extremely difficult and she’s worried.” And while one part of me still holds the visceral memory of getting to the tipping point upon which I had to either start caring for myself properly or die, another part of me doesn’t know where that point is anymore. For as you live and grow, you get stronger, and as I’ve cared for myself over these last few years, I’ve become more capable, and while I know it’s not my responsibility to superhero all of life’s shit away so that no one else has to feel pain, at what point does non-action in the face of suffering actually become cruelty? At what point does saying no become me living a life of fearful, self-indulgent, privileged hoarding? There’s no glucose strip for this; there’s no manual.  

As the thoughts paraded, I drove west on 13th south and when I neared the freeway, something dashed across the street in front of my car. There was really no one else on the road so for a second I thought it might’ve been a wild animal but it wasn’t. It was a lost dog, a pitbull who looked scared. So I pulled my car to the side of the road and rolled down my window to talk to it, wrestling with myself. Because the desire to lure it into the safety of my car conflicted with the knowledge that Stella had to have her test and shot spaced almost exactly 8 hours apart, which was just a few minutes away, and as the dog slunk away–pausing and glancing over at me, unsure of itself–my heart broke in grief just a very little bit before falling into acceptance.  

For as the damned thing looked back at me with eyes like it would’ve gotten in my car, I thought of how in just the eight months of 2017 I’ve earned as much as for all of 2016–making a one year pay increase of $21,000–and how I was going to make another catio for my cats anyways, and dictated into my phone a response telling her that I don’t board animals but have a catio in the back of my house she can put her kitties in during the day. knowing she might abandon them, knowing she might be addicted to drugs or otherwise unstable. Knowing that this improbable situation may work out to be a total Garfield House.  

Because I get something from a world in which someone like me would still be willing to offer what they could to help someone like this lady. I get something. WE get something. And sometimes I forget that. Sometimes I make things all about the other person or all about compassion or all about an animal when really it’s about all of us. For I get something from this. 

And even in the darkness at the end of the night, I didn’t get to see that scared dog move into the safety of my car but I did get to see it look back at me, and even in its fear, curiously wonder about the love and concern for it held within a human heart.

And I guess that’s enough.

Kora and the porch

[I’m a pet sitter in Salt Lake City, and Kora is a malamute/chow/samoyed I’m tending].

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The pic is of Kora and I the other night, taking our moment to just “be” because Kora is new to pet sitting, was slightly anxious at first and in the week I’ve sat her, i’ve learned that after our walks, she likes to just vibe with her neighborhood. And the effort means I go over the time I’m being paid for and even though these people have told me to charge them for this, I never would, for to my mind, I never want to live a life wherein an act of kindness was somehow required to be compensated externally and when my heart says that something is the right thing to do, I want to listen to that, and make space for Kora, enjoying her company for the sake of no other reason except that I want her to know that she’s valued.

And it’s going really good. She’s even adjusted to my newest theatrics in which I walk into homes saying “where’s my squad?” as if we’re a couple of sorority sisters about to get down on a Friday night, responding to it with some spastic tail wagging/rolling over/eyes closed in bliss kind of thing, and we’ve also managed to sneak in some pretty powerful therapy sessions, going in deep to talk about why she’s now being sat in her home along with her Literally-Useless-Family’s-Cats (her words) rather than going to doggie day care with her sister like she used to. But clearly it’s a work in progress because Kora still thinks it’s an insult that she got kicked out of day care for attacking that other dog when really, how else was that other dog ever going to find out how much Kora hated it and wanted it dead? What else was she supposed to do exactly?

Anyways, we were just chilling when I snapped this–getting a status report on the ‘hood–and in the late evening Friday night “bustle”, saw only a single human being. It was an older man coming out of the home of a neighbor and, as he descended his neighbor’s front steps, a very aged and dusty black cat appeared from next to the same steps and fell in behind him–she/he obviously had been waiting for the man–and as they both crossed the narrow street heading diagonally towards their more northward home, he started repeatedly calling “meow meow” as they walked, and while Kora and I sat there, a much younger all-black cat emerged from some bushes in response to his call and–trotting to join the man and the older black cat–they all collected on the porch of their home and trickled into the house together.

And in terms of being compensated externally, no amount of knowing could’ve helped me predict this occurrence, and I think that sometimes it’s in the void of “not knowing” that Zen can be reached, for it transforms “expecting” into “experiencing” and it’s soothing to mind to slow down and be with the quiet ways of the world and soothing to heart to sit with a dog on a porch watching a man calling his cats back home.

Come see me, Sophie

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Sophie, Cyborg Sophie, Soph, Sophinator

[I’m a pet sitter and the above picture is Sophie–a Siberian Husky I’ve cared for many times–who took a turn for the worse while I was sitting for her and, in dramatic fashion typical of this charismatic girl, her last day on earth was spent with her parents racing back from their honeymoon–driving all night–in order to get to her, after which just a few hours later–time they said was wonderful–she collapsed and died peacefully.   I knew they’d get back in about 2:30 a.m. so during my evening visit Tuesday night, I said goodbye to her, and told her that in whatever world she ended up in, to come see me, for I’ve known her in better times, and long for her to walk and eat and prance and do her barkbeg for treats, and maybe even keep stealing her sister Greta’s chewies and hoarding them in her bed, and walked away in tears, hoping she would come see me, and that I’d again be able to once-more see her looking at my face intently in the charming way she had because she loved life and could not help but look out at it with eyes desiring to share that love with the world].

Come see me, Sophie, as you’re walking the blue twilight between worlds.

Come see me, in that dream land, when the pain disappears, and the body absorbs into stars,
and we can behold the sun as it rises on this first new day.

Come see me, From your world beyond pain, when the boldness of your heart finds itself again, and in the unburdening from flesh you can see the magic of who you are.

Come see me, Sophie, and watch the tears of a Sophie-less morning,
Then scamper off to the world you now belong to, catching joy like butterflies,
looking back to see me (one more time)
Quietly calm in the salty stream
Daring the world to make me forget
For as on the lawn that day and forever, with my hand stretched out, you reached back to me through Time, painting me into wholeness with vibrant splashes of your self, making my heart thump with happiness as your eyes held the wonder of the blue sky and the deep green, and the clouds watched and danced across the sun.

Staying 

On my way to sit a few days ago, I was on the stretch of 700 East where it curves around and intersects with 900 East.

It’s a wide road there–like 8 lanes I think–with a lot going on, stoplights, and turn lanes, cars barreling and others merging, and another stoplight up ahead synced up with the 9th East one, so that if the first light’s green, you don’t even have to think about stopping. You can just sit your ass in your lane and just “f*ck it” on through.

And it was late evening, but even through my speed and the curves, I could see something up ahead moving across the road from right to left, and it took me only just a sec to realize it wasn’t just one something: it was three “somethings”, a mama duck and her two babies, crossing this road, with cars easily going 55 to 60, mama in front and babies in back, in the hot dusk and barely visible, moving across the road at a pace suggesting they were well aware of the danger.

And relatively fresh in my mind was another sit I’d done at a complex with lots of ponds, when I’d seen this mama duck and her six or seven ducklings toddling around, and as I surveyed the scene of so many ducklings in my car, I had pulled up slowly and maybe because I’m a weirdo, rolled down my window to offer her my respect as one parent to another (’cause this shit’s hard, yo) and window rolled down, as her babies scurried close by, I was telling her what a good mom she was and enjoying the moment, before looking down and noticing that nearly right under my window was the completely flattened remains of a baby duck that’d been crushed by a car.   The guts were relatively fresh, and it was literally so flat that while carefully driving up–with the remains smack in the middle of the road–I hadn’t even seen it.

So of course on that dusk-night, my mind went to “oh my god; they’re going to die,” because flattened ducks happen and sometimes happy endings appear so unlikely that it seems best not to hope.

I looked to my left at the big black SUV next to me–preparing to quickly look away from the carnage lest the driver not see the mama–but he saw them and slowed, and between the two of us, the little family got to the middle of the road where they then rushed into the lanes of the oncoming traffic and out of my view but, as I turned south onto 9th East, I just happened to look in my drivers side mirror at exactly the right time and saw that somehow the little duck family had also managed to safely cross the 4 lanes going the other direction and were now together and moving towards the brown grass of the far side of the road.  Out of immediate and imminent danger, hearts certainly racing, and marching forward, blessedly having edged out death so as to be graced with another day to live.

And, naturally, I was so relieved.

About a mile down the road as I relived the scene with a calmer mind, a powerful thought came through, so powerful I had to write it down and share it with my girls later.

Because on that road–in a duck scene I’ve seen maybe dozens of times before–mama duck and her babies crossing in extreme danger, the road roaring with cars, feet propelling them desperately forward through what seemed like certain death, I couldn’t get over something that I’d always before taken for granted.

For locked in my limited box of “human”, where I’m sealed into an experience and magnetically tied upon the earth, I’d never before acknowledged what an improbable act of self-sacrifice it is that, in the midst of extreme danger and peril, the mother duck doesn’t just save herself and fly away.

And in opening my eyes wider, I let in an entire world.  For, in a life of psychological minefields, holding to hope seems foolish until you finally see the ever-present happy endings that you never even noticed.

And Life’s not just about flattened baby ducks.

Life’s also about mama ducks who don’t fly away.

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Another “happy ending”, built in the front yard of a home in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S. Our own actions is what creates the world, and “staying” also means embodying a caring for the world, even when the recipient will forever remain anonymous.

Everything looks different

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Last night my girls, Ellen, and I watched Thelma and Louise together, and because I’d forgotten how long the movie was, the event lasted into the early hours of today, at which point my youngest–who’d been hesitant to even watch it at all for the last scene she’d heard so much about–excitedly chatted to me through my bleary-eyedness, saying that along with Donnie Darko, it was now one of her two favorite movies.

None of them had ever seen it, and Livy asked me in one of the first scenes when Thelma’s husband Daryl was being an asshole to Thelma, “Is that just the way it was back then?” The movie was made in 1991.

No, baby; Daryl’s just a dick.

In the midst of girl power and Thelma and Louise gunning it to their chosen end, Ellen held my left hand still and, as I watched the movie, drew upon my skin the pattern you see in the picture above; somehow, in the warm living room after the hot summer solstice day of 2017, she accessed an internal well of artistry from within a near-meditative state, and–moving henna tube into curves and points–created this freehand design, reaching over while the first section was drying to grab my hand again and add more detail before moving on to make entirely different designs upon her own skin.

When I finally saw the finished product upon my hand, my mouth was open in surprise because I could not formulate a connection to the type of mind that could so effortlessly create such a vision. I couldn’t “get to” where a human being could so confidently embrace hovering over flesh with a tube of dye and still be able to funnel the experience down into a work of art.
Because that’s just not me. I’m never going to be able to zen out and manifest this kind of thing on someone’s arm.

And I used to think that in order to live fearless, I couldn’t say such things to myself. That in order to stand within my own power, I had to self-talk myself with “You can be/do/have anything you set your mind to!”

[Which is where I’d cue up the time I snorkeled in Hawaii with my sister, thus supposedly pacifying my fear of the ocean. Somehow I thought I could talk my fearful emotional mind into experiencing something in a logical way, but, in reality, my logical mind was saying “good for you!” while my emotional mind was saying “what the actual fuck are you doing in the water?!?” because logical mind can only take you so far, and then you’re stuck in the open ocean, hyperventilating and shitting your pants because your feet are dangling in what is basically a giant shark tank and, for the love of god, who is playing that fucking Jaws music?]

But I’ll never be able to “you can do it!”/Pep rally myself into–voila—I’m now Renoir, and being no good at something shouldn’t always bring out the self-esteem protection squad.

Because mind over matter is bullshit and invalidates the natural sense we have of who we are and what choices are right for us.  And, unless you’re hurting someone else, it’s perfectly okay to let yourself be who you are. It’s perfectly acceptable to say “I’m no good at this,” and not feel like it somehow means you’re giving up on yourself.

At the end of the movie, Livy and I discussed what our favorite parts were.

Livy’s favorite part is when Thelma calls Daryl to see if the police have been asking questions and almost instantaneously hangs up, knowing their phones are tapped and that the police are listening based solely on how nice Daryl is to her. It’s pretty classic.

My favorite part is when Thelma, events skewed against her having created a transformation in herself to where she finally feels in control of her own destiny, sits in the passenger seat, and says, “I feel awake. Wide awake. I don’t remember ever feeling this awake. Everything looks different,” and wind whipping her hair, they course together in their convertible as fugitives through the waking world of red rock.

Forever tuning

And so it was that when I was about 13 I went to see Adelaide the psychic whose name my family had been passing around for a while and she told me two things which stuck with me all the way through until that time when I was trying to make the decision whether to break my engagement with Chris and be with James or listen to my mom and stay the course through the uncertainty and into a marriage which by now of course would have already ended.

The first thing Adelaide told me was that one day I’d be writing a book, and the second thing she told me is that one day a man with blue eyes would say goodbye to me and I might never stop crying.

As fortune would have it, I looked for that blue-eyed boy for many years, hoping for a love that was so deep I’d cry forever at its loss, thinking that perhaps she was speaking metaphorically or that the goodbye would not come to pass.  So when one month out from marrying Chris in the foothills of California, I saw vibrantly-blue-eyed James at a bus stop–the night after dreaming I was swimming in pure bliss with a blue-eyed man–I retrieved James’ dropped Blue Book, thus starting an awakening within myself from which it became obvious that uber-cerebral Chris was for a “me” that didn’t exist anymore.  It was 1992, three years after my parents divorce, 2.5 years after the earthquake destroyed the dome the emotional fallout from which saw me drop out of college, and mere months after Chris and I had moved from Maryland back to Davis, CA–the college I’d dropped out of–so I could finish my degree; life was finally becoming stable again after such a long time.  But there I was. 

I do not feel I can adequately express how frightened I was during that time.

I would not be able to encompass what it feels like to be financially dependent on someone with no place to go yet knowing your soul won’t let you stay; I wouldn’t be able to explain what it feels like to go through days of being petrified, shaking and unable to eat, hearing your mom scold you for not marrying him anyways.

I would not know how to condense a lifetime of self-doubt into one event, from which one choice is accepting the truth of yourself and causing hurt, disgust, and personal hardship, and from which another is accepting a life of ease, making everyone else happy, while you slowly suffocate.

It was as if Life was trying to kill me and, in order to survive, I had to constantly be looking over my shoulder.

And I guess it isn’t an accident that today, summer solstice 2017–the longest day of light, a pagan day of power, 25 years out from this event which shaped me in ways that each day I’m still recognizing–I see two FB friends are “interested” in seeing a screening and discussion next month of the movie Thelma and Louise and in just seeing the movie title, I’m instantly back in Davis California, sitting on the floor of the living room of the house I shared with Chris watching Thelma and Louise for the first time.

Because the past becomes what we are, and the entire world is really just an orchestra of forever-tuning instruments.

For Adelaide was right.  I did lose that blue-eyed boy and did go on to shed what-felt-like a million tears.

But I didn’t cry forever.

Because sometimes there are moments when we face going against the tide, believing ourselves weak and frightened for the feelings we’re having; and sometimes those very same moments are actually portraits of ourselves standing alone in our own power amidst a crumbling world.

The Yin and Yang of Del Taco

And sometimes it’s true that the things you believe you need in order to be joyous aren’t the right things at all, and so it is that I’m standing in Einstein bagels this morning getting breakfast for my kids experiencing an epiphanic moment.

Because in my former life, I was a married, stay-at-home mom—whose hobby basically amounted to filling up her spare time with activities–and I can remember standing in line at Einstein bagels during that life with a “gettin’ ‘er done” attitude, as if getting my kids bagels was just the prep for the bigger parenting moments yet to come; as if standing in line, waiting for my nova lox on plain, crossing “nutritious breakfast” off my to-do list, was devoid of meaning unless accompanied by the million things I was reciting in my head that I’d obviously still need to do in order to be a good parent.

But ten years out, I’m now experiencing a life in which my parenting is done via text and in moments of stealth, or at the end of my workday (and they’re ALL work days), when my eyes are hazy from exhaustion and I will myself to stay awake and present long enough to hear their voice bare the heart and soul of themselves.  I’m experiencing a life in which my million things to do are actual things I really need to fucking do and not some mental exercise in overparenting. And so at Einstein this morning, facing a day of relative ease (work-wise), I’m grabbing bagels to take home, and have an intense experience of knowing that this moment is of special treasure. Because when you normally don’t have time to do even the basic stuff, it becomes the most delicious act of nurturance just to stand in line and buy your kids a bagel.

And maybe there’s like this yin/yang of experience where it’s a Truth that we can’t ever truly know anything–like “joy”– in its fullest and most proper form until we’ve embodied a “lack” of similar equivalency.

Which makes sense. The last time I experienced this same feeling was at the eating counter at the Dancing Cranes over my leafy green salad; the sun was streaming in, and while I sipped an espresso, I was overcome with emotion at remembering how I was once unable to afford the food I was now-putting into my mouth and how even just that very day–only just 200 minutes before–I’d had too much work to do to be able to afford a moment to sit down and nourish my body. And so there I was, living realizations and juxtapositions, and joyously embodying a moment of complete abundance, as if the lack from my past had cleared out a reservoir of privilege and reset my baseline to ‘absolute simplicity.’ The yin being the only thing making the yang possible, this dark energy existing in my life to enrich my experience not with a negativity but rather with the contrast needed to fully embody the sensation of joy.

And of course, I really don’t know. For I also remember having this feeling of joy after finding an open fast food restaurant at the end of my 18 hour Thanksgiving 2015 shift, and there’s a certain amount of justifiable haziness to a spiritual experience in which you find yourself exhausted and hunched over a taco salad in your car, thanking God for Del Taco.

But in the dissection of the past and blending in of the present, I sense the truth of yin/yang, and try not to be too hard on that “she” steeped in the privilege of time who gracelessly moves within “getting’ ‘er done,” because I could never be the person of joy today without the beautiful soul that I was, standing in line, worrying about a million little things, and there is much growth in just acknowledging that my current moment of “now” will one day be my future self looking back at me.

And of course, in the yin and yang of all experience, wisdom comes in fits and starts, meshed together in time, and stalwartly avid in unclarity, but even in the solitude of a solitary moment, there is comfort in knowing that every experience of lack–every time-barren moment and every flawed “you”–is really just a temporary stop in the longer journey towards making us whole.