Buoyancy

Lately, I’ve been feeling like I’m sinking. Not bobbing up and down like I’m treading life, nor even my own weird little breast stroke toward a known shore. Just sinking, a teensy bit here and a teensy bit there.

I can feel the tug on my ankles, on my spine, and even, sometimes, at the base of my neck.

Of course, my initial reaction to this feeling is to think of it as negative: I’m drowning! Something is wrong! I must have a foot tumor! (I don’t. I have the fairly common and treatable plantar fasciitis–maybe, I see the doctor next week.)

This is me. “I’m sinking!” waving my arms toward a shore I can’t see and certain that no one is paying attention as the water covers my heart, my ears, my eyes.

Instead, I could rid myself of the water metaphor and simply tell myself: “I’m landing! I’m getting grounded! I’m finding my footing–even with a foot tumor!” and then rest in the damp grass while smelling the newly blooming flowers.

It is a choice, isn’t it? To decide if what I am feeling is a good thing or a thing of dread. Though most days it takes the form of dread and anger, until I look around me and see that I am cared for by someone who deserves so much more from a partner who isn’t partnering much these days–like he threw me the lifeline and instead of helping him to pull me back into the boat, I’m either floating, fully buoyant, or resisting with dead weight because that’s what I feel like right now. Dead weight.

You know, I sat down to write about underpants. Yup. Underpants. He hates when I write about such things. But I was remembering how I opened the underpants drawer the other day as I got dressed and there was a fire of joy lit when I saw that the ones on top were The Big Underpants–the cotton, stretched out but still functioning, REALLY big underpants. It was like, oh, THIS is going to be a comfortable day.

And then, boom, the realization that all my days are “comfortable” right now. None of my days require anything but the big underpants–or at least very few of them. This is when I feel the tug that feels like drowning.

Like when I am enjoying eating an orange as I sit on the steps of the back deck, sun shining on my face and the orange cat stretched out behind me in the shade of my body. And then, BOOM: I don’t deserve this. I have not worked for this moment of joy. And there isn’t enough grace in the universe to cover my not working, not deserving.

I am floating gracelessly these days–even floating between being fully buoyant and easy to move to being the full dead weight of myself. I’ve been floating from one thing until I land at the next, pretending I am laying the groundwork for economic recovery down the road. Except I’m not really pretending, because I believe it. I believe that I am planting seeds even when it feels like I’m just sitting on the wet turf, my bottom sinking deeper and deeper.

But it doesn’t buy bread or wine, this seed-planting.

And maybe I’m a fool for believing in myself when there is no evidence to point toward that ever working before. But this is me, putting one sore foot in front of another. Trying to find my ground again. Trying to remember that gravity is my friend and being pulled down is not always a bad thing.

Oh, and all days should be big underpants days. Just sayin’.

 

#UULent: Peace

I came to my blog not to write about UULent, but to give voice to the panic that is arising within me as world leaders play chicken with the threat of nuclear annihilation.

And then I peeked at the calendar where I wrote the topics that I have been ignoring for way too long. (Did I mention that I’m not real good at this Lent thing?)

Peace.

For Good Friday, talk about peace. Picture peace. Put peace in a picture.

Peace.

The church bells just went off so I know it is noon and I’m thinking about drinking or taking a few anxiety pills because … annihilation. Because some people think that war is good and our President just made a bunch of money when he sent all those Tomahawk missiles into Syria. And then the Mother of All Bombs. Parenthetically: Can we talk a bit about how we name things here? Don’t include mothers in your killing and why are you appropriating words from the culture you tried to annihilate without nuclear weapons.

But I digress.

Peace.

It was just last week when I posted the following to Facebook after the first airstrikes–a post uncommonly full of expletives for me. Sort of.

So, in the middle of writing this post, I just went upstairs to eat a f*cking orange. Because the advice and the oranges are still good.

But it doesn’t bring me to peace.

Nor can it. Because the peace I’m seeking isn’t out there so much as in here–in this swirling brain and body who take too much in sometimes for it to be healthy. And I’m not just talking about carbs. Though … carbs.

What’s really got me mad at this moment is the realization that I’m am on the verge of being more mentally sound than I have been in ages. Color is coming back into the world–which is not a metaphor. I’ve been rereading Crossing to Avalon, by Jean Shinoda Bolen, MD, and she talks about the grayness of depression that I hadn’t yet recognized was part of the problem.

I’ve been acting like a toddler lately: look, there’s yellow. Look at those blues. And it isn’t just because it’s April in the midwest where it is always gray, but it is because I have been living in my own gray cave for much too long.

And I just started poking my head and toes out into the world beyond (sort of a hokey-pokey for the soul) when all thus f*ckery and gamesmenship started between the man in our whitehouse (or his gold hotel, wherever he is right now) and this crazy man in North Korea. (And what is it about authoritarians and bad hair? I don’t mean to be superficial here, but you’d think by now we would have spotted the trend.)

So … peace.

I know I won’t get it by chasing it or by eating an orange in one fell swoop because I want it to make me feel better.

Don’t tell me I’ll find it in God’s love right now. Or the love of Jesus. Because for the love of Jesus, we need to stand up for decency right now. We need to say that Black, Brown and Indigenous lives matter. We need to say that women are owed primacy in the decisions affecting their bodies. We need to say that we could pay for the lunches of all children for one year with one presidential trip to Florida. And what would Jesus think about our president making money off of bombing people?

So here’s the thing, before all the Christians come getting up in my grill for blaspheming during Holy Week: I believe in God. I believe in goodness and I believe that people who hate others for whatever reason have been wounded and are fearful. And I believe that God lives in the divide between fear and hate. And more than anything, I believe that there are many paths to God because not everyone will come to Jesus through a book written by many men long after Jesus died.

So on this day that is holy for many and this time that is fraught for many more, I’m still going to hold out that orange and say: eat this and remember what is good. Especially to myself.

Peace is in that divide, with God. And I’m doing my best to get there, too. Even with a foul mouth and a cranky attitude.

So I will sit with my fear and the hatred I’ve felt and recognize my own wounds even as I try to love my neighbor as my self.

So, if the world does end today in a fiery ball of fission, let these be my last words: I love you. Even when I’m cranky. Even when the oranges are gone. Even when I am gone. You just can’t nuke that out of a body.

Peace out.

 

New Poem: My Whiteness

I didn’t see how my whiteness
wore me like a protective bubble

Last night I participated in my very first Poetry Slam at the Lubeznik Center for the Arts and … I didn’t make it past the first round. I learned so much though and heard some amazing poetry. The woman who eventually won read directly before me in the first round and the man who came in second read directly after me. I knew I couldn’t beat them, but I wish I had been able to read this poem then. But man, it was a good night.

And if you just want to hear it, here’s the audio recording.

My Whiteness
April 6, 2017

With not a stitch of hair on my head,
my whiteness came first

My femaleness came next
but, first, and not at all
unexpectedly, came
my whiteness

For years, as I rallied
my feminist cries from
age twelve on,
my whiteness was the
first thing served up
allowing me to bellow
at certain men
with little to no risk

I didn’t see how my whiteness
wore me like a protective bubble

to keep danger out
consequently keeping me
safe from understanding
the differences in the
parallel lives lived by
women of darker hues

My whiteness blind-folded me,
slapped my ass
and sent me out in the world
as if my path were the only one

My whiteness came first
hard, bright and loud
like a flash bomb
that tamped down the
voices that spoke in
frequencies my ear was not
tuned to hear
that told stories in a code
I wouldn’t crack
because
I didn’t have to

My whiteness paved my way
and bought me drinks
and changed my tires
and waived that traffic ticket
and opened those doors
while I thought I was doing
it all on my own, with the
talents and treasures God gave me

My whiteness isn’t a burden
or a curse
or a shame I wear like
last year’s purse

My whiteness is a ticket
I didn’t purchase
the entry fee and the raffle ticket
and the complimentary drink

My whiteness requires no apologies
nor shame
but
my willful ignorance
does

I can no more pop the bubble
of its protection than I can
change the pigment I’ve been given

but

I can throw paint upon it,
or words or shapes or
fabric drapes
making visible
the invisible shield
of my whiteness

#UULent: Ally

Today I put on the music and cleaned the kitchen: stove, microwave, oven and floor, even. Women sang to me today. They sang of broken hearts and broken homes, of hopes and dreams, and of purpose.

I thought of all the women who have sung to me in my life, who have encouraged me, who have told me one way or another: you got this. Today, my allies sang to me while I scrubbed off the stew that bubbled over the pan three days ago and swept up the errant catfood bits that always dot my kitchen floor.

While the women crooned, I thought of all the ways the world works to make it hard for female people to just be people. All the shoulds. All the shame. All the ways we indoctrinate ourselves to believe we should be good and this is what “good” does. I wonder how many male people go through life wondering if they are being “good” what judgments are being made about their desire to have one more drink, or wear shorts, or become a lawyer or a farmer or a singer in a rock and roll band.

My kitchen was very messy. I had lots of time to muse.

Then I went out and took this foot selfie and posted that I was going barefoot because it is 70 degrees in March, even if my feet weren’t “sandal-ready.” Judgy McJudgerson raised her stupid head again.

And then I got in the car and my dear friend sang to me through the CD player, and I was reminded of the sisterhood of those of us who just want to be bad or good, who just want to choose for ourselves how our life is going to go and where it will take us. One of these days.

 

#UULent: Engagement

My engagement this week has been strictly political and passive. I have been watching cable news coverage of all of the news this week, so much so that yesterday I pulled the plug for a while and re-upholstered a chair.

The chair reminded me of what I’ve not allowed myself to remember in a long time: I am most engaged when there is a tangible project before me, wanting to be done.

The political climate is so overwhelming right now. I don’t bring myself to enter political conversations with people who voted for the Republican president. I hold back and smile about other things because I can’t allow this president to destroy everything–including friendships. So, there, I just said it. I’m not confronting people. I’m not engaging.

I’m being with people who know very well how I feel about everything that is going on right now and who don’t agree with me and I’m letting that elephant take a big damn dump between us and I’m pretending it doesn’t stink.

Give me a task and I’ll attack it with my head and hands and, after fumbling over all the wrong ways to do it, I will make it new.

But tell me to change the world, a heart, a mind and I will fumble over all the ways I will do it wrong and never start.

So here is my chair. My noble little $5.00 chair covered in old upholstery swatches and probably a little of my blood, sweat and skin. This is my engagement right now while I stew in the sadness that swamps our democracy right now.

#UULent: Solitude

Today, my solitude came in the sound of blueberries gently popping in the heat of the oven, and then in the smell of meat, vegetables and sauce simmering, bubbling over the edge of the pan and leaving a sputtering mess.

My resolve to write on all the topics of the #UULent project has waned. Not surprising, as my ability to write has been stilted a bit. When I say I haven’t written because two of my daughters were home, it sounds as if I am blaming, but it was a choice I made because I knew if I dove into writing, I might not come back up in a timely way. Instead, they introduced me to The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt–and it was delicious. As were the cookies I baked.

The reason I feared I wouldn’t float back up to the surface was because my writing had been going so well for the weeks before and I owed that good writing not to willpower but to solitude. Long stretches of solitude that allowed my mind to wander the paths it needed to in order to get to the heart of my work. The solitude was as delicious as the cookies and Kimmy Schmidt, but differently delicious–delicious in the sense of it being rich and abundant and exactly what I needed.

But for the last week, what I needed was to be a part of something not in my head nor in my imagination, but in the tangible connection that sometimes manifests in sitting near each other on a couch.

So here I am, dipping my toes back into the solitude that my writing self yearns for, though today it looked like making blueberry muffins and stew. Today, my solitude came in the sound of blueberries gently popping in the heat of the oven, and then in the smell of meat, vegetables and sauce simmering, bubbling over the edge of the pan and leaving a sputtering mess. And it resurfaced in the small snores of three languid felines, nestled on my legs or around them at different times of the day.

No writing came to me today, except this longish revery. And still my day was filled, not only with Congressional hearings, but with purposeful movement that may not change the world outside my home, but certainly changed a part of me in the doing.

Today, in solitude, I was fed, body and soul.

 

#UULent: Resilience

I am a bit of a klutz. Part of it is a balance issue, but most of it is just from rushing to get a thing done that I don’t want to do in the first place, like, say, the dishes.

Tonight was one of those nights. Washing the dishes that need to be hand-washed and rushing through it, I sliced my finger. No stitches needed, but I did get a little light-headed there for a bit.

So, of course I had to post to facebook about my little bit of drama because I am thinking of some other people who embody resilience in ways I can’t even begin to think about, let alone live.

They aren’t my stories to tell, so I will feebly stand in for them right now, with my picture of me and my “nearly headless Nick” of a finger. And my prayers continue out and over the airwaves to those who are battling to stay in the game with grace, love, and resilience.

#UULent: Prayer

I didn’t take any photos, but today I took a walk through the wastelands. I hit a private milestone today, and afterwards, I went through some of my favorite haunts: vintage, thrift and antique stores.

I should have taken a photo. Instead, I ran my hand along a table older than me, maybe even older than my mother. I poked my hand into a jar of antique, hand-hewn, flat nails, and wondered what they held together and what they will next. And I flicked my fingers through fringe on a heavy silk shawl and dreamed of the woman who wore it once before, maybe even Frida Kahlo.

It may not be prayer as you do it, but for me it was an intuitive stroll through the new and familiar and deepened the peace my milestone gave me. If that ain’t prayer, tell me what is.

#UULent: Creativity

Last night I was sitting in the living room of a woman I’d never met before with about 10 other women I’d never met and it was a place bristling with energy. I only wish I’d thought to take a photo then.

Two weeks ago, a small group of women decided to put on a variety/art show to observe “a day without women” but instead making it a “day about women.” Tomorrow night, we gather to read, sing, play in a woman-owned business to benefit Planned Parenthood and to support each other.

Last night was meant to be a rehearsal of the closing song, but like so often happens when a group of creatives gather, a new thing was born–and very often out of one single question: “what if?”

This, I think, is the heart of creativity, not just to ask the question, but to ponder the answer with an open heart and mind.

What a joy-filled night last night was. I look forward to tomorrow, when the fruit of this labor arrives.

#UULent: Rest

During my first cup of coffee, while I was sitting on the couch under two blankets, one cat walked toward me and settled in on my legs. Sometime after my husband refilled my cup, a second cat slunk up and decided that she, too, needed to be on me and took up residence on my belly. There I sat, a bunk bed for cats, until I roused enough to dress and commence the days list of tasks.

Then I realized that today’s word to ruminate on is: rest. What better picture, I thought, what better symbol of rest than two cats slumbering silently on my soft body.

And then I came down to my office to work, and the fat cat followed, eventually climbing into the box I made for her to keep her off my keyboard. You can barely tell she’s there as the box is lined with a blanket the color of her. She curled her large self into the box, resting, and I kept going with my phone calling and computer typing until I heard a small, yet rumbly snore coming from the corner. I looked over and saw her ear and one paw poking up, over the box.

Rest well, fat cat, and be an inspiration to us all to find our quiet, cozy corners, near enough to our beloveds, yet far enough away that no one yells at us to stop snoring.