[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
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,
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
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
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
Going to meet a new (pet sitting) client two weeks ago, I walked up to her apartment to have her tell me I just missed the police escorting her ex-boyfriend and his cardboard boxes of life out of their once-shared apartment.
She is a fully-woke, always-present, powerful “feminist” (in quotes because I really hate labels) heart surgeon fellow with the financial and emotional support of both the University of Utah and her family and friends, and is happily-here in white-male centric Utah in a patriarchy-infused specialty standing strong against XY superiors telling her not to become friendly with the nurses, yet found herself in a situation where her relationship had devolved to the point where her Wednesday break from the hospital was spent with cops because the restraining order against her boyfriend for abusing her meant that the man she once trusted and made a life with couldn’t legally be near her without a law enforcement officer.
And as she relayed the story of how she was denied legal help in filing the order of protection–“They wouldn’t take it because I didn’t have any bruises”–she was reflective and kind and talked about it as if she was living fully in the now rather than in the realm of unanswered “whys”.
And again, somehow I meet the most remarkable people in my work, and I’m grateful to be allowed into their story.
For as she talked about how no one would take her case, she lamented her own privilege–financial/emotional support, the ability and resources to write her own legal documents–and a mere 30 minutes after her abuser had walked out with cops, spoke not of her own trials but of the wider insult of systemic injustice wherein a series of thinking errors has led to a culture in which women are basically forced to evacuate from their own lives, forgotten by a society that condemns them to their fate, then blames them for not being strong enough to leave.
And in looking at her, knowing that this terribly stressful thing had just happened in her life, watching her finesse her painful experience into a teaching moment beneficial to our entire society, it was as if she was integrating all the stories of our world so that she could hear the bigger sound.
Because we all have trauma, but the internal recitation of the world’s crimes against us is an energetic trap and, in the end, we’re all responsible for what we bring to the story of our world.
(For people who don’t know me irl, I somehow very circuitously became a pet sitter–someone who takes care of animals in their homes while they’re family is away–as my primary occupation. This post is about one of the families I tended for and that is me in the photos above). I had to stop sitting for these guys because they had moved to Sandy (I’m strictly Salt Lake City) but if I ever write a book, I’m going to contact Luna’s human to include her story. I don’t know what motivates some people to nurture what is not easily nurtured. Her new owner didn’t know if Luna could be rehabilitated–didn’t know what would happen, was unsure what would come of her effort–but Luna’s story pulled her into a situation wherein, at once, she was faced with the daily acceptance of knowing Luna’s ugly story at the same time as she realized that making a life with Luna would be
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“Eddie Vedder admits that he changes the lyrics and meaning of the song when he performs it, but he wrote the song with one story in mind. The song was written during the first gulf war, when “Papa Bush” was President, as Eddie calls him. The story is about a young Grunger kid, all dressed up in his flannels with the long greasy hair. His brother goes off to fight in the war and gets killed. He gets a letter that comes in one of those yellow army envelopes and learns of his brother’s death. So, all upset, he decides to go out and walk it off. On his walk he passes by a neat, middle-aged or elderly couple sitting on their front porch having some tea, and he sees that they have an American flag out. He gives a wave, because he feels like he relates: “The flag, my brother, you know…” But they don’t know, of course. They don’t know what’s underneath the grunge and the long hair. All they see are the outward appearances, and they don’t wave back.”
Today I unfollowed a FB page when one of the members group-texted calling Bernie supporters ‘burnouts’.
It was all pro-Hillary and blah blah blah, look at how over-intellectualized we are followed by invented narratives and name-calling like five-year-olds.
And maybe I’m rushing too quickly to protect myself from those unlike me, but when time is short–and honestly, it’s actually short for all of us, all the time–it becomes less possible to entertain living within such an unsightly, formulaic dynamic. Because I’m more than the sum of one-word branding and finding space inside to nurture myself has been hard, and I’ve grown intolerant of a world not up to the task of helping me meet myself with a loving heart.
And interestingly, I didn’t get too upset about it, like I might have at one point in time.
It just made me think of this song. They played it at the Bernie Sanders rally last year.
I went with my younger daughter, Livy (who’s named after Mark Twain’s wife; born in the year 2000–11 months after the Y2K “disaster”, 10 months before 9/11–on the same day as Twain, and gifted too with writing ability, and cursed, as he, with too many ideas) because as we walked back to the car, the sun was going down, and I was like, why not live the big dreams?
Why not believe in the goodness of people we don’t know? Why not wave at the grunge kid in the tatty shirt?
For when you look at what we do with our thoughts–mindlessly cataloging human beings so as to protect our emotional selves–we are magic beings creating poison worlds, distancing ourselves from one another for no reason, lost inside a world in which somehow it makes more sense to create a docudrama of nefariousness out of someone waving than it is just to pick up our arm and wave it.
And driving home, we turned up Yellow Ledbetter as we sank into the sky and clouds of a magic day, and passing the golf course, I was singing along with the mournful lyrics–and yes: I was so dreamy that day–but when I looked at Livy in the passenger seat of my car, window down, hair blowing in the air of a warm day, the earth was tilting towards a star and I was like “look at that big dream.”
Look at that art project of sky and skin. The sky painted color that’s actually just air and the girl of tender-hearted benevolence imprinting the world with a more grace-filled future.
[734 words; 2 min 34 sec; heartbreak, neighbors, vulnerability].
And even in the dark, I knew I was cutting it too short.
But the late hour and the music from my headphones were mixing forcefully in my head with the words she had spoken so back and forth, back and forth, I cut the grass, leaving
[865 words; 3 min 9 sec]
And it was a time of great vulnerability. But I didn’t know it then.
Because at age 20, away at college, and in love with the future, I couldn’t see anything but sex and hope and an unwavering commitment to fervor and reverie.