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.

FB Memory Share/Thoughts 

(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 extra work and no guaranteed outcome.  
And it’s remarkable.

People often want “easy” for whatever reason. Maybe they think easy will make life easier or something; that makes some sense, I guess.  

But really I think the truth is that striving to always make things easy doesn’t always make things easier. Because in always shaping our lives into “easy” we don’t challenge ourselves to rise to anything, and it’s in the rising to things that you hone the ability to stay calm when shit goes down. For you don’t learn to conquer emotional foes by sitting on the sidelines, and there’s emotional power in forging willingly and lovingly ahead through uncertainty.

Closure

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.

So we danced around reality—he and I—and played family in the rental in Davis, walking my dogs, brewing fancy coffee, drinking Bailey’s—becoming grown-ups—setting up the Scrabble game while blasting Led Zeppelin, lying in on the weekends, our lazy Saturdays spent with AM radio telling of the SF Giants, and him tinkering under the hood of his 1967 Mercury Cougar in homemade t-shirts satirizing society (“I DON’T work out at Golds’ Gym” or “I’m High On Crack”).  Both making a world for ourselves, living a love story we were writing on our own.

And we were so tender, he and I; babies who had lived inside lives unbecoming our gentle hearts–him with the role of tending his sweet father who was succumbing to alcoholism, and me literally having my family explode the minute I stepped off to college—and we were so perfectly timed, growing towards one another as we lived within a protected sweetness that our families hadn’t modeled, removing ourselves from the life we didn’t want to see, reflecting back to one another the safety of kindness and humor and gentle days, Fool in the Rain playing as letter tiles were chosen, him leaving funny poems on my pillow in the morning (“your eyes are the color of pond algae”), me writing my first name alongside his last in my Cognitive Psychology notebook.

But October 17, 1989 came, and the earthquake stirred all that I’d been pushing away, and in mere moments, the entire trajectory of my broken family burned inside me, dad crying in the armchair, mom telling me I wasn’t welcome to come home, dad moving out, mom unstable, making my younger sister Alex do the Ouija board until that day Alex snapped and ran away from the house (that in just two months she’d be inside when it shook into its death) with me following, trying to fix the world I didn’t want to end, petrified of what could happen if I let her go; wanting to save us all from brokenness and still not being able to, for even the earth knew it was too late, and tossed the house down the hill, making everything cockeyed and wobbly, and smelling of the remnants of a dead family, rotting food from the tipped fridge, moldy water, smashed perfume bottles, the beloved Angel fish lying dead on the floor.

And it was too much.  I had seen too many broken hearts, had lost too much for dreams to still come true, and pushed him away in the disbelief that good could even exist, and in the breakups aftermath, he cried—tears on the lashes of lovely hazel-blue eyes—and asked me why I had to leave, believing I guess that I would actually have an answer even though I didn’t know anything, and wouldn’t, not for so many years.

But, as if we both needed an answer, he stayed with me.  For during my lifetime since, I could not stop thoughts of him, and did not want to, and shuffled around a feeling of grief for what I’d done and turned away from—dreaming of him at night–struggling with near-crippling bewilderment at the feeling that I was irrevocably chained to an ever-distant past, existing within my marriage in reverie for the intimate connection he and I had shared as we huddled together all those years ago in college in Davis, warmth and humor and hope and respite from a damaged world.   And I could not shirk it no matter how painful it was to remember, and did not know why.

Yet here in the shadow of all these years, I see it now for what it gave me.

Because all this time later, I can push through the darkness to the beauty, and see myself for the different person I became for knowing him.

For it was magic. That time.

I loved him and I knew he loved me, and in reflecting goodness back to one another, we walked together through the shadows of grief, loving with open hearts against all probability, and nurturing a sweetness so seductive that even at 48 years of age I can still taste and smell the impossible magic that it was.

And for so long, it was a loss, but even in the remnants of 28 years and the passing of a million lifetimes, I know that he was and always will be a gift to me.

Because he changed me forever—danced upon my soul–beckoning me to emerge towards the safety of himself, and in bearing witness to his powerful love for me, I became stationary within a beautiful moment, and existed in perpetuity as witness to joy and happiness and the affirmation that I could be loved.   And it was an impossible gift that I will carry with me forever.

So on this, his birthday—February 28, his 49th–I just wanted to say:

Happy Birthday, Steve. You were a safe place in a terrible storm. Thank you—my beautiful friend–for showing me how to love myself.

 

 

Messy lives and miracles on my birthday

When my mom turned 40, she had an epic meltdown in the upstairs bathroom of our geodesic dome house on Hazel Dell Road, crying and rocking herself in the bathtub while relaying how disappointed she was in her life, and the myriad things she thought she’d have accomplished by that age that she didn’t. We were having a party later that day that people would be driving from all over Northern California to attend so I remember feeling like it was important to bandaid this situation so she could get out of the bathtub, don some clothes, maybe some makeup and come down to her own party. There just seemed little sense in adding THAT disappointment to the mix, and it really felt like her meltdown/“existential crises” was just a little too much to handle from the cold water of an upstairs bathroom on party day.

I don’t do epic meltdowns. I don’t do “I’m aging oh my god what the fuck?!” birthday bathtub celebrations.

But sometimes I do have crappy moments.

Yesterday was a day when I felt discouraged at its end. I’m a sunny person but sometimes events are such that you come home after yet another long-ass day and your house is a mess and you’re too done to spend quality time with your ecstatic-to-see-you dog and your goal of starting your Etsy store by your birthday is moot and the fridge is only filled with food long-since salmonella-free and literally you just want to do your laundry for your birthday, and—fuck it all to hell—you start to believe that you’re a failure. That it won’t ever get any better. That you’ll always be the shitty-looking-house-always-working-never-spending-time-with-your-kids-no-time-for-shopping-or-laundry middle-aged lady prone to donating her precious time to unknowing pet sitting clients because of the vortex of personality where such acts must never be spoken of or touted even in the slightest.

I was moody, and my disappointment that Livy hadn’t tidied up was palpable. And she felt bad, and was apologizing, which made me feel both better and worse, for while I want her to contribute to our team, Livy is a quintessential, artistic slob who is forgetful and not bothered by mess. She’s also an epileptic with anxiety and depression who is the sweetest, wisest, and most compliant child you could ever know. She would have cleaned up had I asked but I didn’t ask; she also would have done it half-assed because she doesn’t think in details and you can’t teach your child how to do stuff when you’re never home.

About ten minutes after arriving home, I had sullenly adjourned to my room, when Livy bravely poked her head in and asked me if I felt good enough to read something.

It’s about God, she said, and I really think you’ll like it. Then she sent me the attached story (link below); and it hit me to where I was in tears while reading it, for its own beauty but also for the efforts of the child who had offered it to me, so delicately knowing how to soothe the tender spots inside me.

Afterwards, she and I sat and talked about so many things, things she’s felt guilty about (a particular instance where she may have inadvertently hurt someone’s feelings), my own derailed relationship with my mom, how complicated loving someone can be, how complicated loving yourself can be, and I told her about a little girl I’d seen in a princess dress about an hour earlier, at the burger place I’d gotten us dinner at; the girl was like Livy–fair skin, dark curly hair, attentively looking to her dad for how to evaluate what to think and how to feel–and upon seeing her, I somehow flashed on something atypical for accolade-averse me, which was “I did a good job with my kids.” I loved them so hard, and wasn’t always their friend, and taught them how to think bigger than their own selves, and suffered with them the complex and incredibly-painful journey of learning how to love the world while also loving themselves. Teaching them, even as I was learning it, that the world is so paradoxical that sometimes the greatest act of love you can offer someone is withholding your loving non-judgment when they’re being an asshole, and that it’s actually okay to let someone be in pain so long as you believe they’ll come out the other side of it more loving towards their fellow humans.

And we snuggled and hugged, and I told her what a miracle it is that we even exist (that, at the Universe’s inception, matter hadn’t followed known laws of physics to become annihilated by anti-matter), and I thought of how strange it is that the small stuff can so easily impede our ability to appreciate and be grateful for what we have and who we are.

For certainly Livy and Julia are something to celebrate. Certainly I am something to celebrate. Certainly we all are. And working too hard and existing in mess is small when our entire world is like a miracle, when matter itself exists beyond all probability, and when we’ve been gifted with the opportunity to learn how to live in harmony as a collective soul, growing and merging in obvious youth within a Universe itself expanding amid a potentially-infinite number of parallel universes.

We are nothing and everything; we are moment, and infinity, we are the struggle and the victory, the paradox, The End, and we are the miracle, birthing ourselves anew with each hardship–fingertip in water glass–immersed in darkness with a soul that still carries on in its search for Light.

 

90436http://m.funsubstance.com/fun/90436/read-this-or-at-least-skim-it/

 

 

Contrast

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USA Today from 9/12/2001
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Salt Lake Tribune I kept from 9/12/2001
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Today, 9/11/2016, different flag, different house

 

Fifteen years ago to the day, my ex and I were in Reno.  We’d driven the 8 hours with our then-2 year and 10 month old daughters, Julia and Livy, to combine James’ business trip with a visit with my mom, who’d driven from California to meet us.  Courtesy of my sleepless daughters, we were awake early that morning, TV on, and when the South Tower started crumbling it looked—at first–like a puff of dust, and I can remember thinking the very same thing that Katie Couric(?) was saying:  “What is that?”

“What is that?”

And fifteen years now, we know what it was and know what it is, and America became humbled by a hate so palpable we celebrate the anniversary of collective trauma together because none can bear this burden alone.

That day in Reno, my daughters played at a park, that had well-tended equipment placed in a garden setting with those little animals on springs that go back and forth and that spinny thing where you sit on a platform and hold onto bars as you’re spun into sickness, and while my daughters smiled and laughed, mom and I straddled two worlds, which almost seemed too incompatible to coexist, and when I returned home, I held my baby in the calm of night, sobbing as I rocked her in grief for the world she had already unknowingly relinquished.

 

But many good things come from tragedy.  For it’s in the removal of false divisions that strength can be found and in contrast that we can see beautiful things more clearly.

 

James and I divorced in 2007 amid an epic shitstorm in which he broke hearts as if we were Sims, but when his brother Steve was deployed to Iraq that same year, our American flag got placed outside 1531 Garfield Avenue and remained there for the duration of his deployment (a year plus), becoming weathered and tattered and faded, a hole developing on the bottom, front corner as even the slightest wind had made it catch on the thorny bushes that edged our lawn.

 

When Steve returned home, the girls and I took the flag down, folded the frayed fabric as best we could, and gave it to James to give to his brother.  James was a dick, but I sure as fuck wasn’t going to return fire.   For the hate of 9/11/01 showed us how not to be and how not to live, but people died that day holding onto one another and heroes ran up stairs to save the lives of people they knew nothing about, and if they can be that, then so can we.

 

If we don’t see anything beautiful, we must make something beautiful.  If we don’t see a helper, we must be the helper.  If we don’t see the love, we must be the love.

If we make judgment against another, we must try harder.

 

For we can’t forget what happened that day wasn’t just about hate; it was about sacrifice and love and overcoming your own feelings in order to help a perfect stranger.

 

America, I’m yours

I’ve been listening to this song all day and thinking about America.

I remember sitting in a car with my mother circa 1993, and being called on to defend my ex-husbands adopted Korean sisters because to mom all Asians were forever tainted by Pearl Harbor, an action of the Japanese government (rather than an entire citizenry/race) which was more than atoned for by dropping nuclear bombs onto innocent people but it didn’t matter. She just couldn’t let it go.

How did we get here? How did it happen? How are there people in this country who can believe a liar who spews hate is a “straight shooter,” accept as speaker at their political party’s convention a filthy troll-wannabe who tweets to the world the word “c*nt” to describe our female candidate, and accepts the platform of a party who wants to register and ban all members of a certain religious faith?

How did this happen?

I agree that we are not where we want to be. My (old) political party is itself a disgusting shitshow of entitlement and buyouts, and that the admission of failure rests on the backs of the now-disappeared middle class who have found themselves now on the corners holding cardboard signs asking for “any amount,” but we won’t ever get to where we want to be through irrational fear, including of fellow human beings who just happen to be different than us, because we’ve already done this–hated indiscriminately–and it still resolved into peaceful coexistence, and will again because hate is unsustainable (google it) and we can’t keep repeating the same behaviors and pretending it’s not insanity. Because it is. It’s insanity. And those who want to preserve an entitlement, income-inequality, non-Muslim America aren’t even preserving “America”.

Because America is better than this. America is better than our individual grudges, better than looking past homeless people, the addicts, the mentally ill; it’s better than knee-jerking into non-compromise about gun control, better than bombing the shit out of the world and allowing ourselves to look away from feeling some measure of responsibility for sheltering some of the refugees that we helped to create.

So let’s just all have a good cry in the corner, arms hugging our knees, rocking back and forth, until the anxiety and disappointment subside, and we finally remember what love and acceptance feels like.

Because even as the curtain has been pulled back to reveal both puppetmaster and bogeyman, I know that I can’t give up on this.

I will stand by the values that were injected into me as part of this beautiful social experiment–constantly trying and failing then trying again–because I know even as I watch this video and see the American in admiration for a Korean, and the Korean audience singing along with the American’s song, I know that America is bigger than me, bigger than my own desires and my own individual catastrophe. Bigger than them, singers, audience, nationalities. She belongs to the whole world.

And with my heart and soul–and with the hearts and souls of so many before me–she is an entity worth fighting for.

So, America, I’m yours.

❤ you..

Beauty

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And I had just been telling him about my personal philosophy, confessing myself to be a sweet spinner of hopes that all things of pain morph into something beautiful

Relaying the story about my mother who stood stationary in the muck of Vile, damning us to a tomb of “did she ever really love us?”

And expressed to him that all stories keep moving on, even the hard ones, and that my Entirety believes that there is always something beautiful offered amid the putrid abyss if only time can pass and the hurt can lay down to rest with the wonder of the human soul,

to create something new out of the temporary quiet of Just-Beingness.

And he calls me a hippie
and I tenderly scrape food from his beard. And want to do so, Forever.

Then–as if by prophecy—there is yet more to endure, this broken man just too broken to love me,  and–later–as I imagine Beethoven and his 9th symphonic work of magic, I attempt to cry the heartbreak out of my body and think to myself “it was all nothing”, my love for him, just my mind making music in a soundless empty room, like Beethoven, deaf to the truth and playing inside his own head the fantasy of what his music sounded like, and then in darkness and light, I begin to live the sadness of an end from which there is nothing to save, my heart now pierced by being unloved and by the absence of even the hope of love, and my sleep is peppered with grief and my gut aches from whimpering, and I’m a stranger, and not even my dreams have wondered whether beauty was there.

But in the clear light of day, there is breath in the air, cool and scented of earth,

And the sun—she, the beautiful star—remains steady, as our planet races through its story, living its own dark and light and incomparable savagery, whispering to us all

“And what of Beauty? Can She be spared?”

Then this thing that feels bigger than heartbreak implodes, and my mind goes to my sister and I crying at her kitchen table, and my words, “it isn’t that she doesn’t love us; it’s just that she can’t even see us through her own pain”

And somehow
in that clear dawn of another day, I start to come back, listening to my story created with music old and new,
and working hard until the day is dark,

I return home to wagging tails and purring cats, and collapse on a kitchen chair in both grief and gratitude, for even in the pain of that day I had remembered to leave a light on for them,

Then everything triggers, and doubled-over and with quaking voice, I sob and with catching breath, promise over and over that I would try with every bit of my soul to make it so that nothing in this world should ever feel unloved again,

And Kiki flops at my feet and Carmela shuffles around, wagging her tail, And I kiss them and they walk away, and I stand there, In pain yet holding space in my heart for Love,

And suddenly realize that the story has moved on and that the beautiful thing that this hardship created
is me.