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.
It’s a new moon but it feels like an old year already. My jaw is broken… my metaphorical jaw. After winter’s pummeling and sleep’s deserting and life’s jaw dropping, I guess it is understandable if my mandible, wired shut, aches like a sad Valentine.
A new year. A brand new year in which to dress up, mess up, ‘fess up and hopefully success up. What a treat, a terrible, terrible treat, like a year-long lollipop. But thankfully you only have to lick it one day at a time.
I actually have a good feeling about this year, which is not wholly unrealistic, despite a number of handicaps which beset me at the moment (not quite enough work, no truly permanent address, chronic lack of sleep). I have a good feeling about the trajectory of this year, which seems to me to be rising ever so slightly, and curving, like a smile.
My health is good (knock on wood). I have a little financial padding (thanks, Dad). There are good people in my life striving to better their own health, fortunes and futures. Cherished friends, family who haven’t yet written me off, and things to look forward to. A decent astrological outlook, lengthening daylight hours and waterproof boots. I’m doing just fine, thanks.
There are always complications of course. But the best thing about this life is that complications make the pattern prettier and more interesting, and even those mistakes we make over and over again, are a part of that design. Perhaps if we could see the panorama of our intersecting lives, the places where we fall down and lay splayed on the sidewalk, time and time again, might be where the beauty happens.
Who knows where I will be a year from now? The hope is Mexico. Before that, Slovakia and after that who knows… China maybe. But right now I’m licking this here lollipop, and it’s a big sucker. It’ll take me all year to finish it. if I were a kid I might enjoy it more, but I as an adult it’s going to take some work, persistence, patience. Still, sweet is sweet. Never going to turn my nose up at candy.
It’s that time again. Time to sit and reflect on all the brilliance and brutality that has come to pass since our last go round at the Christmas tree, though we’d rather sit and drink eggnog.
I am not really in the mood. For either the past year of for the eggnog. Because I am tired and my eyes are dry and it’s grey as a corpse outside.
I feel like a drowned rat in the desert. but still I am thankful for my warm sweater and comfy couch and angel cat and cbc radio and decaf coffee.Hopefully tomorrow I’ll perk up and feel less hungover… because i have nothing to be hungover about. Life is good, in this particular body at this particular moment. I got gratitude. I wish you all some of that… some gratitoothpaste in your stocking. It’s sure better than a lump of coal, unless you want to bbq the turkey.
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.