My website is changing… evolving… transforming! from a little, hairy, yellow and black caterpillar into, um, a little yellow and black butterfly. Soon, I hope, it will be unrecognizable. But it will still have my face. Yes, my face with antennae and 36 eyes or whatever. It will still be mine, and I hope you’ll stick around to witness the rebirth, and that you won’t stomp on me with your big human feet.
Moving… for the second time in a little more than 2 months…weird to be heaving my stuff around yet again, for what will only be 3 months, before I give in and move once more. Not all my stuff, mostly clothes and a few personal effects. but footwear alone fills up a duffle bag. That frightens me. If i ever want to live lightly as a traveller on this planet, I’ll still need footwear for different seasons and conditions, and my feet are big and difficult and need the right habitat. Orthopedic shoes, insoles and waterproof walkers. none of those fancy pretty thing with heels for me, I’d crush them as soon as i put them on.
In some countries, people don’t wear shoes. They can’t afford them, no one else is wearing them, and their feet become tough and streetwise. i love to go barefoot, but to do so year-round would be impossible. In cold places, people have to hunker down, and find appropriate footwear for the season. Or not. i have seen many people wading though slush in sneakers, but I treat my feet better than that.
I am not a driver but a walker, so I work my feet hard. But recently I went to see an RN who now has her own foot care business. She treated my feet to an hour of healthy attention, which involved a dremel with special attachments for filing away callouses, medically sanctioned moisturizing cream, industrial strength toenail clippers and (ouch) antiseptic lotion for the cut on my toe. it was all very medical, surgical almost. I have never been interested in anything like a pedicure, but the experience was somewhat relaxing, when not jolting or stinging– akin to going to the dentist for a cleaning. ( lie back, close your eyes and let me stick this electric buffer in your mouth).
Taking better care of my feet is part of my desire to take care of myself in some basic ways that have never been that important to me, but which I realize are related to having a humble and reality-based attitude toward myself and my place in the world. A clean, organized home is not the sign of a crazy person with mixed up priorities, as I have sometimes thought. It is the sign of someone who does not consider themselves too good, or too bored, for basic chores, who understands that we are dependent on our environment for our health, our happiness and our very lives, and that the way we keep our homes says a lot about how self-aware we are, because dirt and disorganization undermines our ability to think, feel peaceful and rested and hopeful about the next good thing.
I slip up all the time of course. Just as in any religion, the ideal of Perfect Cleanliness is one to strive for but never attain, and sometimes even willfully oppose. Not that I sprinkle my floors with dirt but often I leave my dishes to marinate in their own juices overnight, I admit. But in this lovely flat i realize what a treasure it is to have space to think and breathe and move unencumbered. It is someone else’s cleanliness and orderliness that I am striving to preserve, but I am hoping that such habits will grow upon me.
I moved in before i finished this post. I am padding around i pnlastic slippers indoors and praying my clunkiness doesn’t disturb my downstairs neighbour and that I’ll be able to sleep when this blog’s put to bed. On the subject of getting back to basics– I have a little way to go. But i am on my third pot of soup from scratch in this apartment and I consider that a good sign. I have swept the floor a few times and put my little bit of clutter into piles.There is a place for all those footholders…out on the landing, where smelly things belong. Thankfully, in this nice space I am calling home for a little while, there are places for things. And for me.
Come play with me! I ‘ll let you have the last word.
Do things ever really work out the way you think they’re going to? Planning can help narrow the funnel of possibility, so that the outcome will have more chance of looking, feeling, smelling, sounding and tasting the way you expected. But does a person really want to get what they expect? Certainly not if you expect the worst. But even if you expect resounding success, beauty, fame, fortune or a hammock between coconut trees and nothing to do, it might not be what you really want and need.
I set out this morning to the Mall. Yes. I did. Because I am looking for that Holy Grail, a pair of comfortable shoes that I can also wear with a a skirt and look semi- professional. Because I am trying to assemble a grown up outfit. I have already purchased a second hand black pencil skirt, which is totally out of character for me but as the investment was $1.50, i thought it worth the try. I am thinking of speaking to professional audiences and for some reason I think I need to dress like a professional in order for them to even take the first leap into listening to me. I could be wholly wrong about that, but more about that later.
So I came to the Mall because Winners is here (Home Sense? same can of clams) and i have had surprising success finding footwear that fits my, uh, magnificently generous feet, at Winners. My idea was I would buy a coffee, settle down, do some writing, and before all that, actually say my morning prayers. At the Mall. I am not sure what I was thinking but that didn’t happen, as you, prescient reader, might have predicted. I was also completely unsettled by the music which was playing, which might have been top 40 but I wouldn’t know. It was not uncatchy but catchiness is not exactly what a person who wants to write a novel needs.
So, instead I am writing this little tiny blog post, to say… things have not turned out the way I expected. but that’s ok, because Life is King. What life offers me, in response to my pursuit of my goals, in the face of my desires and fears, teaches me something new every day. It is not that I want free flow all the time… I want to construct a life that helps me get where I want, and that will take some concrete action and some planning and some reflecting/centering/meditation/ prayerful time. But I also want struggle with the unexpected. Because that, as my Dad would say of the orange roe, and other parts of the lobster that many consider inedible, is the good stuff.
Well, yesterday I went for my first swim in months. It didn’t feel like it used to. Where I was strong, I am weak. All the muscles that used to work together are out of tune and awkward sounding. All the movements that used to blend together jar and jangle. And today I ached all over and slept too much. But I am still happier than I was the day before yesterday, because yesterday, I went for my first swim in months.
Even before injury and illness and the seasons of body and earth kept me from the pool, I was not a good swimmer. When I am at my best, strongest and most consistent, I am neither fast nor powerful, my form is bad, I don’t know how to whip kick, I can’t front crawl anymore because I can’t seem to coordinate my breathing– it makes me gag, like going to the dentist does. So I slowly make my way from one end of the pool to another– breast stroke, side stroke, back stroke without the arms. I just kick, not even using a flutter board. I swim for 40 minutes, if you can call it swimming.
People who don’t know what a good swimmer really can do, think I am a good swimmer. But compared to almost anyone who swims regularly, I am almost ridiculous. I swallow water, end up stopping and coughing and gagging almost every occasion I am in the water, at least once.
One day I was in the lane next to the very slowest lane. A tall young guy got in the slow lane and started swimming. it wasn’t swimming really… it was like he was a living submarine. He kicked once or twice, and travelled the length of the pool without coming up for air. I was in awe, because I had never seen anyone swim that way. I imagined he might be an Olympic athlete visiting from some other country because I never saw him there again.
If I compared myself to people who are good swimmers, never mind giants of towering greatness like that guy was, I couldn’t set foot in the pool. But I don’t, anymore. No matter how uninspired and unaccomplished a swimmer I am, I love the water. I feel at home there, as much as I feel at home anywhere. Swimming gives order to my body and my mind and my life. Weirdly, it gives me hope. I think that’s because it strengthens me, and when I feel strong and capable, I feel like other things don’t matter, because I know I can survive on my own strength if i have to.
I am not sure where desire to feel I can survive came from, because I have been incredibly lucky not to have suffered lack of money or family support or to have been hurt by anyone in a way that would make me preoccupied with survival. The only person I have had to fight for survival against is my self.
I grew up like so many perfectionistic kids, anxious about a lot of things and tortured, like so many women, by hatred of my own body. But at the same time as I wanted to be a twig and a waif, I wanted to be able to outrun or if necessary outkick, punch and bite anyone who wanted to do me harm. It may be because I did a lot of walking by myself, but more likely it was because I had hermetically sealed myself off from almost everyone, psychologically.
I still find it hard to be a human being. When I am ill, I am very, very ill and it always comes down to whether or not I am too afraid to die or not. No question about wanting to live, just fear of the pain of dying and what comes after. I argue with myself. I try to think my way out of hopelessness. Nothing works. I make a plan. I clean up my place, wear the clothes I want to be found in, and go somewhere, but I don’t go through with it. Last time I made it to the hotel desk to rent a room, so no one would find me for a while. But in the end, I think I have too much fear in me, at bottom, even at my darkest, to go through with it.
I guess this fear has saved me, and drives me to do a lot of things, including swimming. But so does love. I love swimming. I am afraid of people but I love them too. I am afraid of writing, but I love it. I am afraid of having nothing but myself to depend on, but I am still aiming for that.
I love the idea of owning nothing but what I can carry on my back, like a turtle and being strong and healthy and capable enough to survive anywhere. But I know somehow I am just trying to get free of myself and the way to do that is not by swimming or writing or any of the other things I do. I know what I have to do. It’s not a secret. And it doesn’t involve running away or kicking and biting.
It doesn’t exclude swimming and writing though. It encompasses them. It smiles when I do things I love in the service of my own health and happiness. It likes joy, it is abundant and forgiving and helpful. It is what I’m swimming in and for and toward.
I wrote this poem a couple years ago, and added an addendum yesterday. Sadly, I imagine there will be more in years to come. Wanted to post it before International Women’s Day on Saturday… since I am sick and not able to read it in person– missing, myself– anyone who would like to share it at a Women’s Day event has my blessing.
There are women missing
From this page.
Their names have been erased.
Those girls— gazelle-like
Who married men and vanished
Into kitchens, laundries, nurseries,
We’ve lost their sisters too,
Either chaste or fallen,
To the convents of oblivion.
Those other girls who spoke too loudly,
Dressed too brightly, thought too boldly
burned like comets in the night
Writers, thinkers, artists, mystics
We called them by some other names
“witches , bitches, too big for their britches”.
There were those who sold themselves
But whose lives were stolen
On the Highway of Tears,
Their names obscured
In a rising dust
their bodies hidden somewhere
from the headlights of our fears.
Some disappeared before they were born
absent from the human swell
That floods the River Ganges,
And the rice paddies of China-
All those nameless ones.
Others hide in plain sight,
Only their eyes
Not hidden from the gaze of men.
The missing women
Whose names have fled this page,
I write this for you
In your absence
And imagine you
Shiny-haired in moonlight
Closing the books that contain
The stories of your disappearance,
Standing in the shadows
Among us, the silent sisters,
The missing ones.
ADDENDUM- March 5, 2014
There are women missing from this poem
Anna Mae, Loretta
dumped from your bodies
like so much earth
the women who were men once,
or who live as men
behind the fragile curtain of their sex
the same curtain
that hides us from ourselves
the girls who
brief as lightning
shared their flesh with enemies
behind a screen,
who hounded them to death.
Those who strangled
when we looked the other way
They took your hands
Anna Mae Aquash
we miss you
little laurel, pure
your name inscribed now
in the book of earth
by Anna Quon
Well there’s a few things I’m kind of interested in writing about but it’s probably not going to happen because i am so lacking in energy today I might be compared unfavourably to a seaslug in a hammock. But I feel like writing and have been neglecting this space so long that I’m afraid the SPCB might come after me, and it’s time… before I do a lot of other things… to pay some attention to this poor bloggamine.
There’s a lot worth dis-Putin’ about the Olympics in Sochi, but I am going to keep my reMarx to myself. There’s a few things Rob Ford needs to kick and have kicked, but I have already let the stink blow off that one, and no matter how often the stink blows back, well… you eventually learn to wear a gas mask.
I am actually too tired to write anything except that one fo the reasons I am tired is I am loving my job, which at the moment involves working with a bunch of wonderful people on a pilot episode of a tv show celebrating mental wellness. It’s pretty damned exciting, annd i hope to learn huge gobs of stuff…as well as getting to write scripts, draw pictures, etc.
I am hugely tired just thinking about it but also so glad to be spending my Fridays on that stuff… if I have more energy I’d let you know what else i’m doing but rest assured… did someone say rest? I will do so when the stink of the Olympics has dissipated.
I want to write about being fat but I’m not sure yet what I’m going to say. Except that I am more comfortable in this fat-plumped skin of mine today than I have been at pretty much any other time of my life, fat or thin. I like and appreciate and treat my body with more affection and respect than I have in a long time. And for those who say actions speak louder than words, the fact that I spend time and money feeding it properly and exercising it and dressing it in clothes that it feels good in, seems like evidence to me.
That said, I would like to be thinner. I would also like to be taller, longer-legged, with with more hair. And smarter, wittier, deeper, better-read and more financially secure, less awkward in groups, more assertive, less self-centred, cooler, less conservative, more joyful, less apt to believe people don’t like me before I give them a chance, more brave at all kinds of thing.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, we probably all have things we’d like to change about ourselves, and the physical things are in there with the intellectual, emotional, spiritual things. I do not think it is necessarily unhealthy or ill-headed to have physical aspirations, any more than it is to have the other kinds. It’s when a person or society or culture makes an extremist or fundamentalist religion out of them that I see as a problem.
In our time and place in the world, we talk about valuing diversity, and inclusion. These too are aspirations, and we cannot be expected to shed our prejudices, stereotypes, misconceptions, and limitations right away in order to embrace diversity and inclusion perfectly. But if we really value those things, we can ask ourselves at every turn to question our desire for them, and whether they are really in the service of our happiness and that of humanity.
If i want to be smarter, is there something wrong with being less smart? People have different brands and sizes of smartness, and when i say i want to be smarter, what do i mean exactly? It might be nice to have more mechanical or business smarts, and some people strive for those… good thing they do or we’d all be sitting around with broken typewriters. But What I mean, I think, is to be better able to think deeply about a subject, make distinctions and formulate an argument. These are not things that are a matter of increasing intellectual capacity necessarily, but they are a matter of practice, interest and care. I think it is praiseworthy to want to apply myself to things I am interested in and care about. I don’t think it would be worthy of me, or realistic or productive, to wish I had a different brain.
The same goes for bodies. I think it is fine to want to be physically healthier and more attractive. “Healthy” seems to be universally accepted as something that contributes to increased happiness, and, it could be argued, we have a biological as well as a cultural drive to be attractive as it presumably leads to more sexual, social and professional “success”. Those things, a well as “feeling better about ourselves”, may well contribute to greater personal happiness.
However, if we equate extreme forms of physical characteristics with physical perfection we are missing the boat. They are mostly arbitrary fashions, and impossible for the vast majority of people to achieve without cosmetic surgery, which is an extreme measure.
I can’t help but think that when we are accepting and appreciative of our own bodies, their own peculiar loveliness and individuality, we can begin to appreciate the diversity of other bodies around us. It is a cliche to say, wouldn’t it be boring if we were all the same, but it is as true of human bodies as well as of garden flowers. It is easier to befriend your body when it feels good and works the way you want and looks the way you want, but when your idea of how you want it to work and look is rigidly prescribed by someone else and impossible to achieve, it becomes a problem- for you, and for everyone you are in contact with. and for society at large.
I don’t always like my body, when I compare it to other bodies and to the Photoshopped, barbie-fetishized images of models and movie stars. But the spiritual advice that I subscribe to says not to compare ourselves to others. It is a hard lesson to learn and practice but a worthwhile one, I have come to believe, if i want to be happy… and it means i need to feed myself less visual junk, just as i need to feed myself less junk food, if i want a body that i feel good and attractive in. In our way we are all working toward happiness, and having tried other ways that don’t work well for long, I am now trying this one.
It is not possible to be attractive to everyone, just as it is not possible to like everyone. But a person can work on seeing the positive in themselves and their bodies and resisting the urge to compare themselves to others, and hopefully that will lead to wider acceptance of a wider variety of individual styles and shapes and sizes, body-wise and mental, emotional and spirit-wise. And vice versa. Personal happiness and the good of humanity flow from one to the other. So do us all a favour and accept yourself. And do me a favour and accept me and help me accept myself. But no pressure. we’re all just working on it together.