alas, there was no miracle.
i have trouble staying in the lines. it’s something i’ve always wrestled with. i’m not talking about coloring (tho’ i have certainly had my share of angst with that) this time i’m talking about what you might call boundary issues. i don’t seem to know how to draw them, how to maintain them, how to communicate them to myself or others.
i’ve always been an empathetic, passionate person who felt deeply, and that lack of clearly-defined lines has bruised my heart more than once. eventually i toughened up, i moved faster, i convinced myself i didn’t care about things.
it works . . . most of the time.
but today something found a chink in my armor, and my heart is bruised once again . . .
my daughter bought a picasso clown fish that was to arrive this morning by 10:30. because it is cold here, because fish are more thermometers than thermostats, because i needed to accompany my daughter to the hospital for a test this morning, i asked my mother to come sit and wait on the delivery guy.
the delivery guy who never came.
shortly after 11:30, daughter received an email from the fish seller lady – a bulk email, indicating that she sold lots of these picasso clowns – informing the would-be fish parents that the delivery service airplane had mechanical problems and the transport had been delayed a day.
which means that all of the fish will die.
“these are tiny little fish,” that part of my brain says. “don’t be ridiculous. they’re just fish. i mean, really.”
but my heart hopes for a miracle that will have the doorbell ringing by 10;30 tomorrow morning in houses throughout the country with new fish-on-the-block ready for a swim in the acclimation tank.
even the cats have become sticky note reminders:
i fall into a rhythm. . . eventually.
i am reluctant to start projects, dreading the inevitable interruptions. what will someone need next? how long will i have before i am beckoned away? will i ever really finish?
begin the way you intend, acey says. and so i begin.
84 small panes of glass. 3 squirts with the left hand. 3 wipes with the right hand. i work from left to right, up to down.
squirt, squirt, squirt. wipe, wipe, wipe. i continue.
when i finished the 84 panes, i think they probably need me to do it again.
but, really: do they need it or do i?
spent today furniture shopping. we’ve moving, you see – at least i think we’re moving. back in november we found this property that had me saying “ohhhh nooooo” and clutching my heart when we first turned onto the driveway. let me tell you, though: it’s been the most horrendous real estate transaction i’ve ever been a part of – and we have been investing in real estate for 35+ years. there’s another side to the stories of banks-in-distress we are hearing – a side that you haven’t heard about in the media.
but we’ll talk about that later.
the main thing i wanted to tell you is that today i went in search of furniture for the house that we are supposed to be buying tomorrow (nobody – not the seller, the lender, the closing attorneys, the real estate agents, or the pesky little entrepreneurial outfit hired by the seller (a bank) (a big bank whose top 14 executives took golden parachutes to the tune of $49.5 million) has bothered to confirm the closing.
but we’ll talk about that later.
let’s get this straight: WE are the ones bringing the check. THEY are the ones who will divvy up the money to pocket. WE don’t know when or if we are actually going to close in less than 24 hours.
but, hey, we’ll talk about that later.
we don’t need a lot of new furniture, buuuuuuut i did make some just because purchases today when i decided that i didn’t want to take who-we-were-then and try to force it to work in who-we-are-now. our newlywed table we will keep always – it’s the very first piece of furniture hubbie and i purchased together some 36 years ago. (good thing chrome, glass, and black leather go with everything.)
i took my daughter (who has exquisite and flexible taste) to a (somewhat) nearby furniture outlet store and oh, the fun we did have selecting various pieces . . . not a single piece is like another, not a single piece is perfect, and not a single piece is untouched by life.
over the next week, i will be patching places where bumps have exposed the bare wood. i’ll be positioning the new with the old. and in some cases, i will be reconfiguring. (i think i’m going to put a television in our bedroom this time, but i don’t want to look at it all the time. when we couldn’t find a media cabinet that matched the other bedroom furniture, we decided to get this battered media piece, take the top off, and place it on top of a dresser we’d selected, using the media base as storage in the guest room.)
if, however, we don’t close tomorrow, check craigslist. there’ll be some interesting furniture available at a good price . . .
yesterday’s plan is history. too gimmicky, trying too hard to be clever i realized in the magical dark early hours this morning when it gelled: what i want is a way to commemorate days, not just chronicle them.
a most important prerequisite, of course, is that there there be days worthy of commemoration . . .
i have a great aunt who loved (even if those of us around her didn’t) to suck the meat off the bone at the end of a meal. that’s what i want: to suck the meat off the bone of each day. to live each day with the spirit of a poet, keenly awake and aware. i want to slough off what’s not important, leaving room for what is – and i want to know the difference.
i want to stop wasting words and time, spinning my wheels, fretting over things that don’t matter.
i want to become an expert at discernment.
i want to live without feeling the need for apology and disclaimer or sometimes, even explanation.
i want to become fluent in just because. (without having to say or explain it.)
i want to stop being a time victim. (i quit saying “i don’t have time” long ago – now it’s time to start living like i believe it.)
oh, shoot. as usual, there’s somebody who’s already said what i want to say and said it more eloquently and with greater articulation. this, this is how i want my days to be:
Questions Before Dark
Day ends, and before sleep
when the sky dies down, consider
your altered state: has this day
Are the corners
sharper or rounded off? Did you
live with death? Make decisions
that quieted? Find one clear word
that fit? At the sun’s midpoint
did you notice a pitch of absence,
bewilderment that invites
the possible? What did you learn
from things you dropped and picked up
and dropped again? Did you set a straw
parallel to the river, let the flow
carry you downstream?
1.1: new. new beginning. new chapter. new start.
long ago i began to start my new years on 9.1. as an educator and mother of school-age children, it just made sense. even when the school calendars began creeping up into august, i held firm to 9.1.
i gave up on resolutions long, long ago because regardless of how buoyant i felt when declaring them, by mid-february the weight of those resolutions shut me down, had me feeling like the failure part of my brain knew me to be. resolutions. blechdt on the word. resolve is okay, but still, connotations linger.
i went with “plans” for a while, but before long that word suffered the same fate. there were “action plan” years and “dream” years and “balloons”, “bubbles”, and “baubles” in the more fanciful years before i just gave up altogether, shucking off any type of structure for the new year. i have a love/hate relationship with structure: i love it, i loathe it. formerly known for being The Most Organized Gal Imaginable (a title that made me purr upon hearing), i gradually succumbed to unstructured squalor. oh, i still have an accomplishment streak a mile wide – and i am still productive.
maybe all days, it’s just that the standards for, the definition of “productive” has shifted.
anyway, in 2007 i thought it might be nice to have some structure re-enter, so in what can only be described as a blazing fit of organizing creativity, i conjured up a year’s worth of monthly themes for my blog – something i set aside before the end of the first month, finding it hard to breathe when i sat down at the keyboard.
at the end of 2008 the bug struck again and i got to thinking that i’d kinda’ like to come up with a word for 2009. you know, like normal people do.
but i couldn’t settle on a word. not a single, solitary, just-one word in the sky of so many words.
then i read how some people are choosing three (3) words, and that seemed a better fit . . . until i started trying to choose. (same selection issues arise, quantity be damned.)
fiona robyn will continue her habit of a daily rendering of small stones, ordinaries she might have missed had she not been paying close attention.
patti digh is doing a daily art journal using 3×3 inch squares of paper (see #8).
when i read lisa call’s 100 accomplishments of 2008, i whipped out my new sparkly calculator (a real find yesterday on the clearance table at the local bookstore) and began trying to figure out how to divide 100 by 12. or is it 12 by 100???
what to do, what to do?
okay, i think we can all see that an infusion of structure into my life with more than a sprinkle of commitment would not be a bad thing. what i really yearn for is a different way of looking at my days, a different way of seeing and being.
it’s obviously not going to be 1-3 words that compass my year. i like patti’s idea of the 3×3 squares, but then i wonder if i’d have to precut some 300+ base squares AND lots of tinier bits in various colors. and what to do when i travel. nope, that won’t work.
the idea of 100 accomplishments appeals to me because it’s a list. and an already-written-and-ready-to-send holiday letter at the end of the year. but the division thing hangs me up.
see, i’m a words girl. married my mr thrillenity for many reasons, not the least of which is that he’s a numbers guy, leaving me available to focus on words.
hmmmmm. looking at my keyboard (where i record most of my words because though i love the feel/sound/look of a fountain pen scratching along textured paper, i hate ink-drenched fingers and clothes and my fingers dance much more swiftly across the keyboard making it easier to keep up with my racing brain.) (which i know is all the more reason to switch to pen and paper, but i’m addressing that in another way.) then, as i gaze at the keyboard as if awaiting an answer, i light on the symbol keys. with the exception of the < and > keys, these are the only keys whose intended use has not been worn off through use. so maybe – at least for now – i will be on the look out for ways to complete these “sentence fragments”:
?: i will conjure up on question a day – trying to learn and see and be right through the questions.
!: what day would be complete without an exclamation of surprise or delight or maybe even harumph.
& for things learned and other adventures.
and, though i know three (3) is a comfortable number, i’m adding a fourth: ~ for my free/footnote space.
now i just have to decide the structure of frequency . . .
time out for an adventure in the along. back 1/5/09ish.
i go to church that one night of the year because i love the feeling that envelopes me when we close with “silent night” by candlelight. “silent night” is such a loaded song for me. it was daddy’s favorite christmas carol – and as a rule, daddy didn’t like anything about christmas – which was understandable, given that his family are bad to die right at christmas. when daddy (keeping the family tradition alive) was buried on december 5, 2000 (seems like yesterday), we asked everyone in attendance to join us in singing “silent night” as we exited the church after celebrating his life. “silent night” – especially when sung with lights dimmed and 400 or so people holding lit candles – takes me to a thin place where it’s just me and daddy.
but last night. oh, last night . . .
we picked mother up and got to the church only to be greeted by an usher who told us that while he’d love to offer us a candle, we’d have to settle for a hug because they had run out of candles. and when we (disappointedly) turned to go find a seat, he tapped us on the shoulder, pointed behind him, and said we’d have to go upstairs to the balcony because there were no more seats downstairs.
we trudged up the stairs only to be greeted at the top of the stairs by a female usher who pointed mother to a space for one and encouraged hubbie and me to go back downstairs and stand in the back because surely seats would open up when the children finished singing.
i wanted to leave then and there, mind you, but it means a lot to mother to have at least 2 of her chiclets with her at the christmas eve service, so i took a deep inhale, straightened my back, and began to look around. i’m not the only one who enjoys attending this one service each year: it’s always a full house with the ushers trolling the floor asking people to scoot down to make room for others, figuring that people can do with less than 2 feet of personal space for this one hour.
but last night’s usher didn’t think of that until i headed over to the very last pew in the very back of the balcony where there sat only 2 people and their teensy baby. i kinda’ motioned for them to move down and give these 3 people some room – which they did willingly. (people are like that: cashiers tell them that they’ll help the next person in line, and they let the person who’s been waiting and waiting and waiting go ahead of them. ushers ask them to scoot down and make room, and they shift to make room while maintaining a personal comfort zone.)
we plopped down on the very back row in the church, an aisle separating us from the last tiered row that was a mere 2 feet higher than our seats. translation: we could see nothing. absolutely nothing.
let’s review: no candles, no seats, no songbook – ah, but we did have a program so we could follow along with what everybody else was enjoying, although they turned off the lights behind us so it was too dark to read.
then it was time for communion – which is rather like a grand march as everybody parades in orderly fashion down to the front of the church via the center aisle, then back to their seats via the side aisles, giving everybody a chance to see what everybody’s wearing, who came with who, and greet people they only see this one time a year.
but not last night. no. last night was about expediency. people moving. getting folks in and out as expeditiously as possible. so they set up 5 “stations” around the church, all but 1 staffed with choir members and volunteers from the audience. one of each (a choir member and a plain clothes volunteer) presented themselves in the balcony, one bearing drink, the other bearing wafers. winded from the long climb up, they stopped at the very top of the steps and huddled-up with the usher to figure out a plan of execution, eventually deciding the best idea was for the choir member and plain clothes volunteer to station themselves against the wall in the center of the back row and have each row in the balcony (and i really do love this part) come up one aisle, accept communion, exit down the stairs, cross through the lobby, come back up the stairs on the other side, and return to their seats. (and no, they did not offer balcony sitters a wafer for the road and a to-go cup of juice.)
finally it was time for the grand culmination: silent night by candlelight.
only we had no candles.
the choir stood, the organist played a few chords of introduction, and it began: ushers headed for the front row, lit the candle of the person on each end of the bench, who then turned to the person next to them and lit their candle, and so on down the row.
but there we stood. in the very back of the balcony. candleless.
i could not take it any more. i would not take it any more. i headed down the darkened steps, and lo and behold there, in the huge candle basket, were about 6 candles. i helped myself to all of them, and made my way back up the darkened stairs, handing one candle to hubbie, one to mother, keeping one for myself, and offering the others to fellow candleless folks. the usher trotted right over and lit hubbie’s candle, as he was on the end of the aisle. she then presented herself in front of me (remember there was a spacious aisle between us and the rest of the church), and started to light mine.
we may have been separated like lepers, but we were going to light each other’s candle, by golly. and we did. then, using our programs as protection from dripping wax, we stood quietly and joined in singing the last 2 verses of “silent night” by candlelight.
as i exited the church (dropping my candle off in the basket for the next round), it occurred to me that once again i had expected others to provide me with the feeling of deep satisfaction and stillness i crave. when that didn’t happen, i found my own light, reminding me once again that i and i alone am responsible for my finding my own contentment. i and i alone am responsible for reclaiming my power to be still and enter that special thin place.
i am big on self-reliance, though sometimes i talk about it more than i practice it. recently, however, i had the ultimate opportunity to date to practice self-reliance: i went flying in the wind tunnel in denver. my son (a nut) skydives regularly, and every thursday night finds him flying in the wind tunnel league just outside of denver. i happened to be visiting him a few weeks ago, and my stay involved a thursday night, so i went with him to the league, and thanks to my son’s generous willingness to give me a few of his minutes, i donned a flightsuit/socks/shoes/helmet/goggles/gloves/earplugs and tried it myself.
i sat through the short training video where i learned how to enter the tunnel (cross arms over chest with clasped hands under chin and fall forward and in) and the various signals i would likely encounter from the instructor (straighten legs slowly, raise head, smile, relax, bend legs). my thorough training as teacher’s pet had me fluent in their signals within minutes, but such intense focus on THEIR language left no room to even think about teaching them MY sign language.
it all happened so fast, i didn’t have time to think before – whoosh – i was in the tunnel being held up by great current of air. best thing to do when flying the wind tunnel, i quickly learned, is focus on the present. right here, right now. that’s all there is.
and that’s when it all started.
as i followed the instructor’s direction and lifted my chin, air flooded my sinuses and i felt like i was going to drown in (literally) thin air.
it burned. it hurt. and i panicked.
big time panic.
seriously big time panicked.
somehow i conveyed to the instructor my immediate and undeniable need for an early exit. he helped me to the door then tried to cajole me (unsuccessfully) back in.
as the others went for another turn in the tunnel, i gave myself a good old-fashioned talking to, shook my body out like a dog who’s been out cavorting in the rain, then, knowing i’d likely never do this again and that i had to – i mean, i just had to – get back on the proverbial horse, scooted myself up to pole position.
i fell into the tunnel again and enjoyed a few
hours seconds, before recognizing the return of the all-too-familiar panic. though i motioned wildly my intense desire to get out (it’s clearly evident on the video – how they could’ve missed it, i’ll never know), my sign language fell on deaf eyes, and i was forced to remain in the tunnel until my allotted time was up.
resigned, i took myself in hand and said loudly in the voice of my mind, “you got yourself into this tunnel, and you are going to have to get yourself out. nobody can hear your words. they are blind to your sign language. the only way out is through the clock, and you are responsible for your own self. it’s just you, babe. you’re not going to die here – it’s just sinuses – so stop wasting this incredible, once-in-a-lifetime experience and breathe.”
shoot, i wasn’t breathing.
i have this annoying tendency to stop breathing under stress. such a simple thing that makes the biggest difference: in and out, in and out, in and out. once i started breathing, my body relaxed (somewhat) and i could focus on being suspended in a plexiglass-enclosed tunnel that reminded me of the canister used at the drive-thru window at the bank.
just as i got my breathing jumpstarted and relaxed into the moment, i found myself way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way up at the deeply dark top of the tunnel, a place where panic breeds unchecked. bringing myself back to the moment (and, quite frankly, checking for signs that i was, in fact, still alive) by doing a body scan, i felt the instructor’s grip on my suit (who cares where his hands were), switched my focus back onto breathing, and was immediately on my way to being okay again.
down we came, around and around we went, up and down in that
canister i mean tunnel, and all too soon, my long short minutes were up. i had flown my entire block of time.
the other 4 league members are old-hands. they, like my boy, fly the tunnel and jump out of planes regularly, so this was no big deal to them. just another thursday night in the tunnel. fun, but basically ho-hum.
for me, though, it was big. huge. awesome. incredible. fabulous. fantastic. amazing. phantasmagorical. momentous. i was jumping up and down, screaming gleefully, using a lifetime’s worth of exclamation points: “i flew the wind tunnel. i panicked, but i still flew the wind tunnel. how great is that” and other related exhortations . . . but only on the inside. the regulars were rather nonchalantly talking about going to eat at “the usual” place they visit after flying the tunnel, so the outside jeanne – not wanting to intrude on their regular-scheduled thursday night event – quietly disrobed and tiptoed across the room to call the husband and treat him to my exclamations of gleeful delight.
it was an incredible experience – unbelievable – and just writing about it jolts my body into remembering the natural high kindled from that small spot of self-reliance. the satisfying feeling of completion, of newness, of challenge. it makes my whole body smile and purr, it really does.
it is a memory i will retrieve whenever i need a nudge or shoring-up.
not too sure about it being a once-in-a-lifetime thing, though. unbeknownst to my boy, i am planning another trip to colorado soon – one that involves a thursday night stay.
jeanne in the deep, dark, scary, loudly silent heights of the wind tunnel (with instructor holding on). (i like the color, but do you think the flightsuit makes me look fat?)
my boy flies the tunnel. it’s a small thing, i know, and i hesitate to even mention it – really, i do. but, okay: do you notice that thing on the front of his helmet? the piece that protects his full face – including his nose, a.k.a. entry to the sinuses? perhaps if i’d’ve had one of those, my sinuses would have been sheltered. but then it would’ve been an entirely difference experience.
doesn’t mean i won’t ask for one next time, though.« go back — keep looking »