Under a heavy sky

My daughters and I today outside of Liberty Park Emporium after Julia got off early from tending the future (kids) to meet us so they could head to Idaho (James has a military thing) for the night.

And right after Julia pulled up, a tabby cat crossed the street to come say hi and Julia picked it up for a snuggle and before taking some pics, we strategized our separate departures so as to make sure the cat was safe from our cars.

And it’s Livy’s 18th birthday today and my babies are both grown, and on this afternoon of life and change, the sky masks the sun and the air is heavy and cold, yet still my life will never be better than these two people so thank you, dear universe, for placing me into this beautiful dream. (11-30-2018)

Muh Earl

Some pics belie the tenderness behind them. Because when I met introverted Earl–whose history included the passing of his former owner, the relatives for whom did not find new homes for his cats and Earl was put on the street–his eyes seemed almost too sad to overcome the emotional hesitation.
 
And as a pet sitter, everything is always temporary and short-term. For a few days, I come in, feed, stay for a bit, leave and don’t see them sometimes for a long while between their families trips. And because of this, good connections with sensitive animals who’ve experienced abandonment are challenging to manifest. Since animals become world-weary just like humans, and know better than to get attached. For although circumstances change, once we experience such a loss as Earl had the fear usually settles into even our muscles, so Earl had made his whole body part of keeping distance, revealing his skepticism and hurt as he’d let the other house cats crowd before walking off as if giving up.
 
But I understood Earl. Knew his grief. And in the justified sadness of a sweet cat someone shooed outside as if they were sweeping the floor, I was called to act. So I made time to find him each visit, to sit with him, to specifically bring him into the circle of my attention (even with his extroverted sibs crowding around) because I wanted him to know he was important to me. Wanted to make an event out of “Earl”. Came into the house hollering the refrain “Where’s muh Earl?” so that he knew right away I hadn’t forgotten between trips that he was that tender guy I wanted to see.
 
Because we’ve all looked out upon the world with sad Earl eyes, many of us coming to exist within the immovable sense of not feeling safe enough to trust the world won’t hurt us, for, in fact the world has—Purposefully, Unashamedly—until sometimes we want to even flee from this life. And while these are harsh realities I can’t erase out of existence, I didn’t want to accept that that’s all there is. And Earl didn’t either.
 
For sometimes sadness and grief seem solid as if anchoring us permanently into them. Yet from mutual loss flows a compassion and nurturance for our fellow humans and creatures until somehow, one day, we’re sitting on the couch and old man Earl suddenly climbs into our lap and nuzzles his face in our hair.
 
And there are yet mysteries to solve, but events often become bits of truth constantly discovering itself, and when sweet Earl jumped up that first day—cat hair like love floating delicately around—I think it seasoned us both in what to do with this Life. In how to stand inside the new love we weave into existence as we survive this world more powerfully within togetherness.

Finding home

Pics of George and I during his full-service snuggle sessions complete with hug, tender paw to face AND nose, with capstone experience to include rolling over on my lap, gazing into my eyes, and listening to me talk about my shit.  (from 9/2018)

***

I turned 50 years old on October 1, 2018.

I’ve lived a lot of lives in a single one, and can hear reverberations of self bouncing around in my cells and my soul, chorused with that of society—stereotypes and patterns of thought— which has before kept me moving in ways which didn’t make me joyful but which I did not question for reasons of both habit and distraction.

And I have encountered those who believe a pet sitter (my occupation) is of a certain station and intelligence, bearing simplicity unable to standardize within societal algorithms, and I’ve made my peace with the fact that even my girls’ dad (my former spouse who cheated, left town, etc.) tells my kids that I don’t have a “real” job.

But there is a certain point in life when you see a bigger picture of all, a point at which through connection and calm you derive sensations of well-being to where you must change. And that is where I’ve been. And am better for it.

For in the end, change is the breath of who we are and anchoring into the simplicity of heart is the most complex thing anyone will ever do, and once you realize that, looking good to society becomes silly.

Because, beyond habit and distraction, holding space for the tenderness of the world is all any of us can ever truly want for all else is just the journey.  And settling in on the couch—in a deep snuggle sesh, as a pet sitter, without a “real” job—I’m honored to have found the humility and reverence to see with eyes of a different world.   For the world we crave is one of love and safety, and when all things change, all is never lost when we ourselves walk through life as the loving home we desire.

 

Abstracted clarity

Part 1 (2016): That moment when you’re exhausted—on your 17 hour workdays stretching out for weeks—but must run in to buy your catholes their Soulistic at Petco in Sugar House and they open a new register with “I can help the next customer in line over here on 3” and even though you are that next customer in line and the employees can see that you’re making a move to get over there, they still let someone else who wasn’t even in line snake your spot, and now you’re forced to wait for the moron who just bought a min-Pin puppy from some abusive factory farm (probably) and is letting the poor angel baby literally shake in fear in the middle of the checkout counter–not touching it/talking to it or comforting it at all; like its feelings are that of an irrelevant object rather than a baby newly away from its mom—while he signs up for a Petco Pals card; and in the process of this sight, you become triggered because nearly the EXACT SAME THING HAPPENED TO YOU AT THIS SAME SPOT NOT EVEN THREE DAYS AGO making you think “Why is my vibe making the world feel it can misunderstand and what THE HELL can I do to make it not do this?”

So as the Petco line forms behind you, you realize you’ve got no other choice but to go full Passive-Aggressive Zen Master, and rather than hurriedly placing your items on the counter while you’re waiting for sweet baby Min-Pins owner, you strategically use your cart to hold back the impatient lady behind you (who as she watched you, most likely assessed you’re the dumbest asshole ever), and wait until owner physically leaves the counter before–in slow motion–you calmly start placing your thirty small cans of cat food one

by

one

in tidy little coordinated stacks onto the counter.

Because, Petco, you little bitch: don’t tell me my worth by ignoring me. Don’t

communicate to me I should be okay with things taking forever and then expect me to hurry to get out of the way. We’re either okay with things taking forever or we’re not. So I hope you learned a valuable lesson today. Do NOT f*cking mess with my spot in line.

Part 2: I didn’t used to be that person slowly putting cans from my cart to the counter.

I used to be someone who almost-nearly defined myself by the “greater good”. For I was that person—listening, authentically caring; a helper—who knew the outer world was loud and impatient, of which it was important it become less so and in offering what I had to give—patience, unconditional kindness and understanding—I lived into an ideal where it wasn’t a personal sacrifice to be a maxed out, exhausted single parent being ignored by those privileged with doing whatever they want. It wasn’t a sacrifice because in not making waves, I was creating a more gentle world.

But the growth of the soul doesn’t ever look just one way. And to see my passive-aggressive Zen master at Petco as “who I am” neglects the journey which almost killed me I had to endure to get there.

For from gentleness, sometimes warriors must rise to demand that the world be gentle and this evolution to my healthier self began on a cold Fall morning in 2007. James (my kids dad)—had moved away from our girls to live in Virginia with his mistress, Sarah, and—excited to start being a stepmom—she came to Utah with him. Livy was petrified to go to school and Julia was so angry she was punching holes in the doors but James and Sarah were in love (at least for another year or so); I’d had to drop out of Westminster teaching program, was heartbroken for my babies—dealing with James’ “why can’t the girls just be happy for me?”—and asked James to please not bring her to pick up our traumatized kids at the house just 10 months before we’d all had a Christmas in but they were in love.

And on that day in 2007, Sarah got out of their rental car, moved around my driveway, and started climbing my front porch steps to ostensibly retrieve my two daughters—who she didn’t even know—for their first day together, as if we were all old friends.

And I remember so clearly.

For I gasped. I stood there in my house watching her, not knowing what to do.

Because on that cold morning the kids were still devastated as was I, and I was shocked. So shocked. At her big balls that I wasn’t prepared to deal with; she had also been married, had met me; she and James began their thing—I only found out because he was using our joint account to give her money—and she said she wouldn’t be with him unless he moved away from his little girls to be with her.

And now she’d done nothing to feel embarrassed by. Now, she grabbed the emotional falsity of the moment as if there was no amount of gentleness and no human feeling at all—including those of my precious babies—that could ever stand in the way of what she wanted.

And I wanted to flee; to run from this awful situation with this monster walking up my driveway. Next to my Chrysler Pacifica with The Little Mermaid in the CD player; upon concrete my girls learned to ride bikes in; that one step up towards the porch that was slightly taller.

But the truth of life is that it tells you who you are. It offers you things and within the deep fear and barrenness inside you, strikes your woundedness until you can do nothing else but look at it. And Sarah was showing me that you can be in despair, right at the edge of the cliff, asking “why not?” and there will be people behind you mindlessly saying “oh my god you’re so stupid.” For whether of heart or heart-less, the world is filled with the noise of its own self, and on some days—when you feel least prepared—coming up your steps, will be your Sarah.

For she was the world—not listening, not having to—behind me on the edge of the cliff saying “maybe you should”, and for a second that day, I gasped and wasn’t sure. Should I? What can I even do with this level of fucked up? Where do I go to feel safe from this cruelty?

And on that day she (and many others) taught me how to make space for my self—how to be okay with standing in line at Petco, micro-slowly putting cans on the counter in full irritation of all— for as she put her foot on the bottom step of my home—where I raised my babies, who were enduring unnecessary grief—I found something inside me that could answer those questions. And as if I’d always known, I ran across my living room, flew out the front door and stood, arms crossed over my chest at the top of the steps, looking down at Sarah in challenge as if my life depended on not letting her take one more step.

And suddenly the world was listening.

Part 3: My youngest daughter, Livy, is much like I used to be. Kind, always thinking of others, doing so automatically because their well-being is essentially her well-being. And I’m cognizant of it but she has her own journey and I want to give her the freedom to navigate into the spaces her soul needs without micro-managing. So we disagreed on the philosophy of putting the cans up slowly; she says you should always choose kindness because you never know what someone’s going through. And I hear that; I lived that; I get what she’s saying.

But that just can’t be it. It can’t be. Because people kill themselves because of the unkindness of the world and if I can speak up, if I can inform the world it’s not being gentle enough, shouldn’t I do that for those people? Who else is tasked with telling the world it needs to do better and show up for the ‘quiet kindness not making waves’?

But just the other day, I rushed into Petco during my (repeat of) horrible work stretch of 17 hour days and there I am again: waiting on a Petco Pal’s card. And as I’m waiting, I’m like “are you kidding me?” Because it’s like a comedy sketch now and it’s all so lovely and beautiful to be unconditionally kind when you’ve gotten a full nights sleep and don’t have a nail in your tire. But not all of us are hobby Petco consumerists; some of us are very tired people spending $700 on tires who haven’t washed their hair.

Yet as I stepped up briskly—still in adrenaline mode; wanting Petco to know I needed to hurry—I paused, and looked at the checker. She was young with dark hair; it might’ve been her first job; maybe she was even nervous, and I softened.

Because in that moment, suddenly I had the thought “who else but me?” and felt that right then, I was the world. I was the one tasked with listening. And in that moment, it was no longer enough to be heard without also showing up for whomever else of gentleness might be passing through. For there will be Sarah’s; they will walk up and push.

But there are also Livys, and Julia’s–my daughters–who painfully navigated that time to arrive as adults more caring and compassionate than they probably would’ve been otherwise.

And in the arc of a souls growth, so do we meet our selves again and again.

For at the end of “finding yourself” is the realization you can’t actually see who you are without the benefit of another’s vision, and as I left the store, I texted Livy to thank her, and teared up before pulling away in the fullness of understanding.

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.

An interesting species

Steve and I at UC Davis, circa 1989

I’ve been thinking about my college boyfriend Steve so much lately. In August, I reached out to him impulsively—knowing that he probably wouldn’t even get the email; I was drafting his address from my malfunctioning memory— because it felt like what I had to say needed to be expressed and in just a few words I told him that even after almost 30 years of not seeing him, I continue to be grateful that he’s in this world and that I even got to know him for a short time.

And the breakup itself in 1990, at 3317 Biscayne Bay Place, Davis, CA—non-Steve losses having made my heart shutter like it was out of business—started a landslide of searching for life outside our experience, and each year on his birthday was an ode to the “closure” of that chapter because I was new to grief and in my mistaken belief that any such thing could be finite, I thought that’s what was healthy.

I thought “closure” was what healthy people did; I thought that psychological theory and brain space spoke the biggest truth and that “moving on” could heal the loss and make me whole.

But such was not the truest way and thus do I reflect that I’ve spent the better part of my life beating to the rhythm of that era as if it was the legend by which to gauge my growth until finally—when the full sight of grief was faced—I came to know that “loss” is actually a malleable entity.

Because even in the barren land of logic, thought was never meant to eclipse feeling, and that there is darkness in life that claws at us forever so also should something of heart be allowed the space to nurture us in equal measure.

For both over grief and Time, something of heart never really can be finite, because the love and the joy and the connection never stops existing, and in fact, it’s the exact opposite: the love and the joy and the connection speaks to us forever and acts as guide through life lighting the way in our quest of those same feelings even as it simultaneously makes all the other things that happen more bearable.

Knowing Steve nestled inside my soul to heal me in ways my logical mind can’t even speak to and for that it was not a loss and never could be. It was actually a gift that I’ve spent the rest of my life receiving.

[My most authentic heart space and deepest condolences to the mother/teacher who lost their child to suicide this week; I do not know you except through the words of my child which surround you in veritable halo but I do know that darkness comes to the kindest people and that I wish with all my soul that it were not so. I’ve been suicidal, courtesy of a succession of overwhelming life events to include my own daughter being suicidal as well as an onslaught of unkind people, and know that besides my children, the one thing that kept me going is one night coming to understand that the love I give this world—love free of obligation and ego; for the tenderness and the vulnerability that exists—is actually the most healing experience for my own darkness I could ever receive. And I know that some people can’t do that —some people go to cynicism or hedonism—but I believe that you can, and I have faith that your own love will protect you in these times when it is obvious that your heart will never be as it was before].

[This blog occurred because the other day when I found out about her child, I was standing in the kitchen, texting my youngest daughter about it, wanting but unable to help this suffering mother, then remembered a dream I had the night before about Steve—had been thinking of him the day before in an epiphanic moment—and suddenly a Carl Sagan quote came into my head. Carl Sagan, from Contact: “You’re an interesting species. An interesting mix. You’re capable of such beautiful dreams, and such horrible nightmares. You feel so lost, so cut off, so alone, only you’re not. See, in all our searching, the only thing we’ve found that makes the emptiness bearable is each other.”

We are our heroes and in some way large or small, we can all make our own emptiness bearable. Thank you for reading and much love to you for doing so in non-judgment].

God/Us

A few years ago, my daughter Livy was surprised when I told her I believed in God. She was 16 (I think) and didn’t know because I don’t tout God or observe religion unless it’s imminently relevant because for me God/source is such a big truth it doesn’t need to be spoken of. Since: of course there is a larger experience than human for all energy in existence; of course there’s an energetic presence of benevolence who we’re all as yet aspiring to. Speaking of it doesn’t make it more special; it just adds the “flawed myopic human overdub” to an experience best left to quiet.

And that religion has been bastardized—god pivoted around so as to basically become ourselves—I know that three letter word up there might stick in the craw so feel free to zero point and replace it with a word of your choice.

Because we live in times of deep grief for which We will all have to find a love that’s bigger; for the suffering of others isn’t for anyone/anything else to step up to. It’s for us to step up to.

And that’s a shortened version of what I intended to write because I haven’t even had my damned coffee. So: Happy 11/11/11(2018) and large, shot-in-the-dark, come on over here, baby.

[Someone shared that saying on Facebook a few days ago and I wanted to offer it here in addition to FB and IG because it was so powerful for me when I saw it that I lost breath for a second. And even today, looking at it again—thinking about what it means from even a deeper place–I felt gratitude for its truth. For that I’m still emotionally-available enough to hear the vulnerable is a gift I won’t squander because yes, when you make yourself emotionally available to hear suffering, you face the grief of the world but in not hearing it–or in actively accepting the turning of blind eye–you’re living a lie in which you forfeit your opportunity to become powerful through offering your own self. Be the change].

3/30/2018

And I’m walking Greta and Tala and thinking about grief because I’m putting my dog to sleep today sometime between 11 and three. And I asked the vet to text a half hour before he arrives to give me a chance to run home since I’ve been doing my 15 hour workday stretches for weeks–plus I’m moving–and the order in which to triage the chaos is like looking in every direction for due north because your entire system is malfunctioning.

And it’s a cool morning, and the girls’ fur sways to our movement.

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