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: 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: 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: 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.

#UULent: Love

I’ve been ruminating on love today, a day where I am home alone with three cats who have been insisting, in turns, on being adored. But I went to the stored photos on my phone, thinking I could find a suitable selfie with my husband as my “love image.” And I did, but then I found this: taken as my daughters were about to drive back to their other lives after coming home for the Women’s March on Washington. And there they all are, scooped up in my husband’s grand wingspan (even the dopey orange cat).

This is the fun picture, but the picture I have of him from this time is standing outside the bus we just boarded for DC. “My whole life is getting on this bus,” he said as he gathered us all in for one last group hug, then stood outside, watching in.

Love. It’s like that wide wingspan: it is what holds us in, connected. Even those who aren’t pictured. Even the dopey cat.

 

#UULent: Courage

I woke up thinking about Jesus. This is not typical for me. While I am participating in the Unitarian Universalist Lenten practice (#UULent), I must be as clear as possible: I do not identify as Christian.

And, yet …

I woke up thinking of Jesus.

I wasn’t thinking of the things Jesus said. I was thinking of the things he was reported to have done.

Today’s Lenten practice word is courage. I tried to get a photo to go with this concept this afternoon of my long-haired calico cat, the one who guards herself so well on usual days, but today stretched out with her belly exposed to the sun streaming in the front window and also exposing her most vulnerable space to the world.I tried. But she heard my footsteps and is too quick and too guarded to leave herself vulnerable for too long.

What courage it must have taken for Jesus to take up for “the least of these” in times where doing got you crucified. Born of flesh, vulnerable to pain, asking why his God has forsaken him. Nevertheless, he persisted.

These days are troubling. I hear people say they are Christian and use that as a weapon against the least of these, against the ones I’m certain Jesus would be dining with were he to come back. In fact, I wondered today if he did come back if those self-anointed Christians would have him arrested for inciting or loitering. What of the property damage he is supposed to have committed in flipping the tables in the market place? They would certainly be tsking and shaking their heads and calling for him and his followers to be arrested, wouldn’t they? Calling for him to change the world through more “agreeable” measures.

Is it just me, or do you think Jesus would be (was?) sitting on the subway with the Drag Queen and the woman in the niqab?

I’ve been feeling woeful tired and not very courageous, so waking up thinking of Jesus turned out to be a good thing. I’m thankful for the story of Jesus of Nazarene to remind me that love and justice are not finite products meant to be hoarded by the “deserving.” I’m also reminded that the radical act of loving each other–of showing our vulnerable underbellies–may never end the greed and lust for power that divide many of us from each other, but it is a courageous and powerful act meant to be replicated throughout the marketplace.

 

#UULent: Surrender

I was getting ready to write about Surrender in the context of giving in to my chronic illness and the neediness of my cats, who surrounded me on the couch today, insisting that I lay low one more day after 10 days of travel.

But then, I looked up and saw the snow coming down in large, light flakes (dare I say, “special” snowflakes?). And I sighed.

Two days ago, I was in the southwest, and while it was not warm, it was the southwest and I was warm in my heart. I spent the better part of the last few days in Arizona explaining how I, a Southern California native who moved to Tempe in her 20s moved to Indiana 21 years ago, on a five-year trial basis. While in the desert, I let my heart yearn for the warmth that seeped into the joints in my hands and knees and made me feel good, or at least not bad. And here I am, back in the midwest where snow is falling on tulips that escaped the ground in February when the temperatures were in the 70s (F).

Like the fluffy cat made fluffier by the snow, I give up. I surrender to the reality of my life. That I live here where the temperatures fluctuate as drastically as they do in the southwest, just lower.

I surrender, happily and without regret, to the life I have made, the choices that have led me here and to the snow that gathers on the brand new leaves.

I surrender with a heart full of memories and a head full of plans and the sunburn on the back of my hands that reminds me of the warmth I have left behind, and that I continue to carry.