Recalibrating

And I didn’t want my face to be puffy—and don’t like to upset the animals—but I was crying as I took this first picture.

For various reasons that day, I couldn’t hold back the ocean and—as Killian and Smudge moved about their deck—painted my face with loneliness and afternoon sun.

And science says tears carry stress hormones out of the body, leaving us more chemically-balanced but I wasn’t feeling that hope at that time. For life is so thick sometimes. Like windshield smeared with dirt—like the air in Salt Lake City, white snow on the ground Alpine-wholesome while the mountains disappear into 55.5 µg/m³ smog—and true sight is lost inside microscopic complexities and forfeit to sudden worrisome torrents, unseen mountains masked by chemical-laden water breaking free (finally) to flow down slopes of pine needles and skin.

And Killian is an orange kitty with dementia, who is a sweet, playful ham until his parents get home—when he runs and hides as if he’s never seen them before—and Smudge, the black and white is normally more aloof so after this picture—taken exactly 30 days ago; a vision of idealism–I decided to delete my Facebooks. To give up the charade. To celebrate having had a good run—sharing my authentic and whole self, seeing others do the same—and to honor that the world is a dynamic place where I’ve changed, and where tears falling from eyes hold sorrow as it leaves the body.

And today is the last day I can go back and retrieve anything—in where like I’m imagining you log on and are immediately faced with “I told you so,”, and maybe I’d apologize to Zuck personally via email?; I mean, I just don’t know, it’s so awkward and uncharted—but the interesting thing is that I posted so many things, so many pictures, so much fluff, comments, etc. but there’s only one thing that I specifically remembered to go back and save, and that’s the picture of Livy falling asleep in my bed after our night in the ER following her first grand mal seizure at Classic Skating. Pic 2. Julia had seen it happen—I wasn’t even there; they were with their stepmom—and was hysterical/having a panic attack, so Livys then-stepbrother Taylor rode in the ambulance with Liv because their stepmom had to drive the rest of the kids behind the ambulance to the hospital. And the picture itself is nothing really; of a teen girl—covers messy, on her side, face angled towards the mattress; worn, spent, exhausted, alive, safe in my bed after a dangerous day—but it’s everything.

Because some things you can’t ever truly savor until you let the pain bubble up and through, until the mountains are masked and you feel so lonely you’re crying on a Republican’s deck. Until the terror that you’re watching your baby sister die—paramedics hovering over her, asking if she can remember her name and how old she is—gets recalibrated into driving up to Ogden after work to get her from college because you miss her. Until you see your child breathe in your bed, knowing that the deep gift of sorrow and redemption is that your life can now be as profound as you’ll allow.

Until your fairy child has epilepsy (and also depression, anxiety and a micro-tumor on her pituitary) and your firstborn loves like a big dream and a kitty named Smudge is the risen humanity you desperately need, who with paws on your knees one lonely day, asks “Are you OK? Can I help?”

And Time itself dilates—science says that too—and all things have the hope for bearing us back into the sensation of love. So right here, now, today, this year, and [emboldened by gravity’s warping of Time] over this entire life upon this planet, I move towards Julia, Livy, Smudge, Killian, tears, writing, pictures, mountains, sorrow, healing, gratitude, creativity, and all forces yet unknown breaking our culture of loneliness, their black and white fur earnestly checking in with chemical-covered faces and afternoon sun on early November days.

[Edit, 12/11/2019:  And when I say I’m lonely, I don’t mean for human companionship. You can be with someone, married or otherwise mated, and still be lonely. What makes me feel lonely—or did on that day—was “the machine”. The march of humanity blindly forward towards their Truman Show; what makes me lonely is the assumptions we make about others, the misguided envy; how hard it is to stop from saying something hurtful and how we find it perfectly acceptable to not reach out, to help. It isn’t that I believe people are bad or selfish; its actually that I believe they’re good and just can’t be quiet].

Embattled

And I really have to resist telling all the maleness at Jiffy Lube to go make me a sandwich because that’s just where I am today. I was kept up all night by our new dog Lady’s whining—separation anxiety; Julia’s on a trip, Livy needed sleep; I was on duty—and along with my dream last night, I’ve basically been spit out so when the young man in the greasy jacket with no name tag grabs a sip of coffee saying “Kelly Ripa looks so good for her age. What is she, like, 50?”, I’m irritated because he’s flinging around the face grades like he’s got a clipboard and right on the tip of my tongue is a “stfu, Amazing Arbiter of Beauty Evaluations, I’m usually much prettier it’s just I stayed up all night with my fucking dog OK?” “Give me mustard, red onion, and make it gluten-free. Dick.”

And I haven’t dreamt about mom and her husband in so long but last night (during a rare entry into REM) I was again in the recurrence of a dream I’ve had before—grabbing my kids and my pets (and sometimes our foster kittens) to get out of a house before my stepdad can get there to hurt us—and from the sound of Lady whining when I briefly woke, I felt the fear and the sickness that is the testimony of my real life with him. The unabashed anger—punches to horses faces, that day he convinced mom shooting my two dachshunds (and her dog Malone, among others) was an appropriate way to end their lives—and creation of the deepest cruelty and sadness you’ll be seeing forever, to where in the dream I wasn’t even that upset when I realized that from within the accepted futility of our escape plan rested the only other option, at which point I immediately started looking for the weapon I was going to use to kill him.

And I’ve often wondered about this recurring dream. What does it mean that in the limitlessness of my nightscape, I’ve shot him in the chest, gasping as it explodes and the warm tissue of his flesh splatters on my face? What does it mean for a shaggy lady flashing sass in tiredness at a tiring world that from the spaces of her own heartsickness comes not healing but violence?

And last night, within the space of the blending of realms, I woke to a sliver of knowing.

For leaning into a tender world too long steeped in insults comes a rage so powerful it can breathe even as it suffocates, and in the calm of knowing what it feels like to truly Love, stands a warrior forever fighting for the goodness of that which might be unable to battle such a foe.

So this morning, in and out of my exhaustion—head resting into a Jiffy Lube window—I fell into that dream, and looking around a living room in the franticness of protecting the love that is my air, slayed dark things with axes in the quiet of the night while remembering myself and my place in the order of a gentle world.

Making space (for pollen and grifters)

Things to be grateful for today:

That my puffy eyes from allergies haven’t totally sealed themselves shut. I have the gift of sight.

That I caught the drip of watery-snot before it hit my mouth when I bent over to retrieve my sunglasses from the street.

That I didn’t step on said sunglasses and kill them like I did in January to my eyeglasses and that now I know I can go 5 months wearing lopsided, broken eyeglasses because Time is a meaningless invention most especially since each spring I become gainfully employed with “Impairment” and making an extra effort to tell everyone “it’s allergies” and that I’m not just stupid, high or hungover.

That it’s Sunday and parents can use me as a teaching moment for their kids because “the lady with the misshapen face can’t help it and Jesus wants you to be nice to things like her and whatever she is.”

That Mr Baby’s house is only my second pet sit of 19 today and I’m already so behind but that my exhaustion is actually impeding my ability to be stressed about it (or to remember my own name although honestly, I could make some good guesses plus it’s also on my drivers license so I’ll be okay)

That my hair is dirty because now my 50 psi eyes match my gnarly, filthy head. It’s a look now; I’m the total package.

And…

That the cat in the picture who was making a horrible racket in the bushes under Mr. Baby’s house wasn’t actually a homeless pregnant female in labor but rather a pissed off grifter locked out of his house working me over for treats.

That I was already planning how I’d fit it in my schedule to meet my girls back at Mr. Baby’s house to catch what I thought was a pregnant female and transport her to Best Friends for care and eventual spaying.

That I’m not too world-weary to fall for the feline grift. That I actually AM a nice “whatever it is.” That i can see the humor in puffy eyes. That life isn’t perfect so I don’t have to be either.

That I can walk, have a home, have food, can breathe air populated with oxygen courtesy of trees and their selfless offerings, that I have my life, abilities and opportunities, my girls, Ellen, a chance to bitch then to stfu and make my day be it’s own inspiration for perseverance.

Happy Sunday.

[4/29/2018]

[2/26/2019: I can already feel the allergies starting for this year. They truly are debilitating at times–even while on allergy meds–but the show must go on and when you feel about it, things could always be worse. Happy Tuesday]

Detours

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I don’t know how I came to make my living as a pet sitter.  I really don’t.  I love animals but have an undergraduate degree in psychology and a Masters degree in teaching; after my divorce, I was committed to being a teacher.  Went back to school, got a para job in the public schools; was a 42 year old student teacher (did my thesis on math anxiety in preservice teachers) and invested years trying to get a full-time teaching job in Utah—doing stints as PE teacher, testing coordinator, reading interventionist—sacrificing time, money, and my own peace of mind to do so. I saw myself as a teacher; my brain kept telling me that story over and over again: that starting a pet sitting business would be the supplement to my teaching income, helping me make ends meet for a single parent like myself.

But Life is sometimes like unwrapping a gift in slow-mo: the joy at the end is often part of an agonizing process of patience. Because I love this picture, I love Kora, I love the bark of this tree, I love how,—within a single shot—the snow unifies all of nature’s creatures, resting on Kora and trees and ground—leaves uncovered slightly as if through archaeological dusting another world is being revealed—and how the colors and texture mix and contrast until I feel—cold and wet though I was when I snapped this—a palpable experience of peace when I look at it.

And while it’s hard to back up from such a picture and not question why I was unable to see myself within this story, the questioning makes me wiser.  For though unwrapping it was agonizing, the joy of finding myself here has taught me that it takes a long time to learn how to get out of your own way in order that you could more fully know yourself but in so doing, emanating from the wreckage of former certainty are often the most lovely things.

Like the calm of white snowflakes drifting towards the fur of a black dog slowing you down so you can more fully see what you are.

[I graduated in 2011–a tough teaching market anyways–and didn’t start pet sitting full-time until 2016, five very stressful and disappointing years later.  Sometimes Life has to pound harder on the door for certain people]

Benny

Dear Benny,

I cannot explain my species.

Can’t encapsulate for you their darkness; have no idea why your entry into this world saw you endure cruelty to where even now that you’re safe, with a new family, you panicked when you saw me—shaking, cowering, running—like you have no hope.

I cannot help with this. I cannot do that for you.

For that there is cruelty calls us to a pain within which we might always sit yet never understand.

But, Benny, there’s something.

For that it is from the same heart which quaked from trauma—fleeing from me in instinctual fear; eyes huge, shaking, growling—that a path could be illuminated to seeing your furry mouth licking my fingers in affection bares the secrecy of our magical world.

Because I can’t tell you the answer to cruelty. Because I don’t know.

But I can tell you about the sunrise. About how the water dances in the air when the star arrives near the mountains. I can tell you about greeting the day to a baby breathing beside you that still smells of heaven, and about songs and words that heal scars, waking broken hearts into new days.

I can tell you about the great darkness from which somehow you find a stronger self, and about the dawn of a day in which you discover that the most beautiful thing in your life is actually you.

And I can tell you about the magic of gentleness and the healing that lives inside showing up for a tender world, and about the tears I shed when you licked my hand, as I rose up to a hope that our world was already better.

For the breath of love anoints us both when we rise to the call to be there for one another.

So, Benny, keep fighting the good fight and I promise you, so will I.

All my best, always.

Amy

(As a just-born puppy, Benny spent a year with his mama, locked in a yard outside even over a frigid Idaho winter and I didn’t know him except for a few days [they were moving to Idaho permanently when they got back from their trip] but the difference in him by the end of the week was palpable and on our last visit, I really did tell him to keep fighting the good fight. We’re all in this together).

Mama

[Quail mama and tribe, Taylorsville UT, 8/26/18. Look at that little ones legs flying back there. I didn’t get a pic of the ducks from this post because I was driving and kinda wanted to live].

On my way to a 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 jet 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. 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 (and often is) 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 to 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 the bigger truth is that Life’s not just about flattened baby ducks. Life’s also about mama ducks who don’t fly away.