Thursday, May 31, 2012

"where's the shepherd for this lost lamb?"

 Someone to Watch over me, sung by Ella Fitzgerald, written by George & Ira Gershwin

All that courage I had yesterday? Dissolved like so much powdered laundry detergent in hot water. (Which reminds me, I have some laundry down in the basement, I imagine it is dry by now.)

Today was a plod day. One foot in front of the other, eat when it's eating time, go back to work at whatever it is, details, details, details. Walk through the valley, do not listen to the voices all saying you won't get anything done, you aren't getting anything done, why is it taking you so long to focus?

Only old Scratch could get away with saying I got very little of consequence done today. No, I do not have a product, except for more work tomorrow on the summer reading software. I had meetings and appointments and I dealt with people issues. No cataloging was performed, my cart overflows...

This is a crazy week for me. The amount of socializing I did over the weekend is more than I usually socialize in a month! Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my brother-in-law... My "feelings" for the Catholic Church have become a heart desire and now it's not if but when do I just go to confession and rejoin? (Yes, I'm petrified...a little bit like when Anne Lamott said, but I can't be a Christian!!) Yet, as the Lord is my shepherd, I know that this lost lamb will be found found found when I can finally stand and take the Eucharist during Mass. OF COURSE there's more to it than that, but if you boil it down to its smallest parts...

The dresser story in yesterday's post is playing out again, with new players, and a larger dresser, which is what led to yesterday's post.

Three women: Shirley, Goodness, and Mercy. They're following me, I can't get them off my tail. 

Moving furniture in my apartment (third floor walk-up) requires dismantling my shelf of porcelain dolls, etc. on the landing of my stairwell. And I will live in the well-furnished house of the Lord forever.

I hope at the end of tomorrow, I can be as at peace as I was at the end of the day in this post, from 2006

These are the days of miracle and wonder, 
this is the long distance call 
the way the camera follows us in slo-mo
the way we look to us all
the way we look to a distant constellation 
that's dying in the corner of the sky
these are the days
don't cry baby
don't cry.

--Paul Simon, The Boy in the Bubble

One step. One step. One step.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

."..a wondrous woven magic in bits of blue and gold..."

from Tapestry, Carole King

There are threads in my life, things that seem to circle back...the first man I thought was a cutie pie when I moved back to Pittsburgh in 1993 was a Duquesne graduate student, studying philosophy. I met him at a table at the South Side Street Fair. Though I never saw him again, I had a crush, and I often thought of that man across the picnic table, as we ate our street festival food. Years later, I dated a Duquesne  philosopher or two. I only remembered the cutie pie recently, and it gave me a start, to think.

The summer D and I were not dating was a hard time for me. I took walks every morning, praying. I didn't know if I wanted us to get back together or not. But I didn't have a lot of friends, work was hard, and so God was the one I poured my heart out to.

There was a dresser that his roommate had, that D had said I could have. I didn't get the dresser before I hastily broke up with him in April. So the dresser was a question mark.

At that time, I didn't own a car. I took the bus everywhere. A friend lent me her car for an afternoon, and I called D, said, I can come and get the dresser this afternoon. He said, um, today doesn't work for me. Oh.

So we figured a time that did work. And the night before, I couldn't sleep at all. I didn't know I was going through a change and that change would soon manifest itself in bipolar disorder. I had about one night of no sleep per month, so by this time, I was used to not being able to sleep and I just used the time to wash dishes and talk to God.

I remember thinking, why God? Why did I get no sleep before going to get the dresser? I took the bus to Kaufmann's, walked across the Tenth Street bridge. But the fact was, the lack of sleep softened me. (I do not recommend it.) But at that time, it helped me. D was not overly glad to help me, but he did. That gruff kindness, the willingness to help outside of the pain we'd caused each other, helped me heal years later when Max and I broke up and he still lived on the first floor and I lived on the third, with no one on the second for a while, so that the house echoed every time one of us came or left, slamming the front door open, closed. He took the trash Sunday nights, and he shovels the walk when it snows.

D and I did eventually get back together. He gave me a ride home after a Memorial Day party, and eventually we were tentatively talking, and we were back together by the Fourth of July. We had a good rest of the summer, and an autumn of wrestling as I wanted to break up with him as he tried to get more serious. I got bronchitis. I was trying so hard to get ahead at work that when I had permission from my doctor to not work on Christmas Eve (I worked retail!) I went in anyways, because I was feeling better. I sat on the floor in the gift area and sorted out the pretty journals our bookstore sold. It wasn't a busy Christmas Eve, but I felt, YES, I had proven something by showing up. I wore my green velvet Liz Claiborne dress to the Christmas Eve service. Eleven months prior, I had worn it in my friend Sally's wedding.

As I think back on that time, almost fifteen years ago, I think, I can do this. Whatever is next, I got this. 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

"I'm supposed to attach a brackety thing to the side things, using a bunch of these little worm guys. I have no brackety thing, I see no worm guys whatsoever and -- I cannot feel my legs."

(David Schwimmer as Ross Geller, in the "Friends" pilot)

As I search through my cake pan full of Lego pieces, looking for the item described in my instruction manual, this quote keeps running through my mind. It amazes me that these weird looking things are going to make something that looks like a house!

this is where I am storing my Legos--cake pan to the rescue!
This is the "apple tree house" I am building.
This is the foundation of the house.
Note the red mailbox. Eventually, there are two letters that will peek out.
Progress, with mailbox.
Side window!
The garage door swings open!!

So, I needed a project. During the Great Depression, folks turned to jigsaw puzzles, presumably because you could see your progress. Since my apartment really has no good place to start a puzzle and my interest in Legos was rekindled by my recent trip to the Lego store at 30 Rockefeller Center in New York City, I decided to use some of my tax refund for a Lego set. 

The one I purchased (as pictured, above) was just under $50, my budgeted amount. It makes three houses, so I figure that triples the value. Unlike collaging, where I am using my creative right brain, figuring out what colors and words and images go together, making a Lego house from plan is extremely left brained. Follow the rules and it will come out like the picture on the box. Which is not generally how I roll, but right now it's pretty exciting to see progress, real progress, I'm MAKING something. 

And any time that I am working on my Lego house is time that I am not watching A Few Good Men. So that's good. I'm varying my home activities. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

If morning ever comes...

I've been coping. I've been watching Aaron Sorkin's movie "A Few Good Men." (I know, he only wrote it, he wasn't the director, but the script is so good that in my mind, it is his movie.) I have been watching it every night for the past few weeks, after it came on TV a few weeks ago. It has been my baseline, my anchor, my background noise. It has nothing to do with romance. And the concept of military law is so removed from any part of my life that it is an escape. And it has beautiful moments of humor, even as events on screen are as serious as a heart attack.

Today, I've mostly just hung out in my bedroom, watching "A Few Good Men," playing Free Cell and Solitaire on my computer, hanging out on Twitter, Facebook, and feeling numb. At some point, I straightened my bedroom for 15 minutes. (I set the timer.) I sort of watched TV for a while, settling on the Country Network, which plays country music videos all the time. And this song, sung by a very old Johnny Cash, came on. And the pain did something: it woke me up. And I started writing this post.

I think what hit me was the truth of it: "I will let you down. I will hurt you." Because it's the truth. We will be hurting and letting each other down from here until kingdom come. Anyone that says otherwise is lying. And Johnny Cash, well he is like the king of pain, he knows from hurting. 

Hurt by Trent Reznor (of Nine Inch Nails). Johnny covered this song shortly before he died.

I hurt myself today
To see if I still feel
I focus on the pain
The only thing that's real
The needle tears a hole
The old familiar sting
Try to kill it all away
But I remember everything

What have I become
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know goes away
In the end
And you could have it all
My empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt

I wear this crown of thorns

Upon my liar's chair
Full of broken thoughts
I cannot repair
Beneath the stains of time
The feelings disappear
You are someone else
I am still right here

What have I become
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know goes away
In the end
And you could have it all
My empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt

If I could start again

A million miles away
I would keep myself
I would find a way 


The title of this post is from an Anne Tyler book with the same title. If I knew where my copy was, I'd dig out the reference. Maybe tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Can poetry help take away the pain?

I believe it can. The Psalms are poetry, after all, and when I am in my "valleys of deep darkness" it calms me down to think that the Lord is my shepherd. The imagery of Psalm 139 helped me get through a dark valley of my last semester of high school.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,

even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
  Psalm 139:9-10 (NIV)

Not to be melodramatic, but this has been a dark week. It's a dark season. But poetry, cosmology, story, the routine of a day's work, all these help. And this is how we get by, day by day. If it's not a psalm, it's a song on the radio, or a favorite cartoon taped to our office door.

This is not a coherent post, because my thoughts are not coherent. I'm writing these out for myself, and also for a friend who wants information about poetry and therapy.

A poem I printed out yesterday afternoon, from Miss Edna St. Vincent Millay. I was thinking of someone who died, and of people I love who are missing people who died.

Childhood Is the Kingdom Where Nobody Dies

Childhood is not from birth to a certain age and at a certain age
The child is grown, and puts away childish things.
Childhood is the kingdom where nobody dies.

Nobody that matters, that is. Distant relatives of course
Die, whom one never has seen, or has seen for an hour,
And they gave one candy in a pink-and-green striped bag, or a jack-knife,
And went away, and cannot really be said to have lived at all.

And cats die. They lie on the floor and lash their tails,
And their reticent fur is suddenly all in motion
With fleas that one never knew were there,
Polished and brown, knowing all there is to know,
Trekking off into the living world.
You fetch a shoe-box, but it's much too small, because she won't curl up now:
So you find a bigger box, and bury her in the yard, and weep.

But you do not wake up a month from then, two months,
A year from then, two years, in the middle of the night
And weep, with your knuckles in your mouth, and say
Oh God! Oh God!
Childhood is the kingdom where nobody dies that matters,
--mothers and fathers don't die.

And if you have ever said, "For heaven's sake, must you always be kissing a person?"
Or, "I do wish to gracious you'd stop tapping on the window with your thimble!"
Tomorrow, or even the day after tomorrow if you're busy having fun,
Is plenty of time to say, "I'm sorry, mother."

To be grown up is to sit at the table with people who have died, who neither listen nor speak;
Who do not drink their tea, though they always said
Tea was such a comfort.

Run down into the cellar and bring up the last jar of raspberries; they are not tempted.
Flatter them, ask them what was it they said exactly
That time, to the bishop, or to the overseer, or to Mrs. Mason;
They are not taken in.
Shout at them, get red in the face, rise,
Drag them up out of their chairs by their stiff shoulders and shake them and yell at them;
They are not startled, they are not even embarrassed;
they slide back into their chairs.

Your tea is cold now.
You drink it standing up,
And leave the house. 

Yesterday, Maurice Sendak died. He was the man who wrote Where the Wild Things Are. He had an opposite view of childhood, as evidenced in this quote:

"I think it is unnatural to think that there is such a thing as a blue-sky, white-clouded happy childhood for anybody. Childhood is a very, very tricky business of surviving it. Because if one thing goes wrong or anything goes wrong, and usually something goes wrong, then you are compromised as a human being. You’re going to trip over that for a good part of your life.”

--Maurice Sendak
Also from Maurice Sendak: "I cry a lot because I miss people. They die and I can't stop them. They leave me and I love them more.”
Some resources for poetry with youth: