Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Embracing Lunacy

At this point, I must accept the idea that I may in fact be totally insane. At least in isolated parts of my life. You can't have tons of energy and a very vivid imagination for long before someone else thinks you are crazy. I will admit I have a very warped perspective on a lot of things, but my mind is the only place I have to live, so I deal with it.

On the other hand, I'm pretty sure it is all relative, and just because something is perceived by my mind or experienced by my senses, sixth or otherwise, doesn't meant it isn't real or true.

And my mind works overtime. I have compared it to the restlessness of a shark, continually moving just to stay alive. When your brain is going all the time like that, it takes you to some strange places. Sometimes my flights of fancy allow me to come up with creative solutions for problems. Sometimes I cook up unusual stories or characters that I write down and make my feeble attempts at art with. Other times, I devolve into anxiety, depression, and worry.

I may not actually be insane. That oversimplifies. Insane people can't function at all. They have no connection to the common reality. I manage to have a demanding job and maintain relationships with people. I just have all this extra stuff. So, if anything, I am super-sane. Better yet, I could define sanity (functional life) along the spectrum of experiences as being in the middle, like the spectrum of visible light. Then religious ecstasy and intuition would be ultrasanity, whereas depression and melancholy would be infrasanity. I just came up with those words, and therefore hold the rights to them.

If you follow that logic, and I will contend that there is a peculiar logic to it, most people have a mix of all three. Some folks vibrate right in the middle, and live quite ordered and sensible lives. Others, and most of the artists I know, exist in the liminal spaces where the common shared reality blurs into imagination. I have patients in the hospital that suffer in the outer areas almost exclusively, or may pass through lucid moments only briefly on their excursions from one extreme to the other.

Go too far to either extreme of course, and you get the life threatening outcomes of mania and suicidal ideation. Biological life thrives in a narrow range of pH, and so our minds thrive in areas where we, as social animals, get the most positive feedback. There is social acceptance in being sane. Falling even a little outside that make you a delightful eccentric, and a lot outside it makes you homeless. So unless you have others around you to endorse your version of reality, you are gonna be pretty lonely.

I don't know about you, but that concept make me feel a whole lot better about my situation.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Who am I? Marie Antoinette?

While I am all for eating cake, I otherwise bear little resemblance to the much-maligned and entirely beheaded former queen of France. But among her often-ridiculous affectations an possessions, she had something I am starting to understand the need for: a retreat in the form of a hobby farm village. It was a tiny, working mini-farm with a herd of 8 cows and one bull. The farm provided food for the parties that the queen held there, and gave her a chance to escape the intrigues of palace life and play peasant while it pleased her to do so.

Of course, the farm itself was run by a real farmer, appointed by the queen. She couldn't be expected to make the thing an actual going concern, could she? She'd get callouses or something. Of course, the fact that the queen amused herself by milking carefully washed cows was part of the reason she lost her head. Being frivolous while glaring class divides exist in your country tends to piss people off. Never mind that this was how she was raised, having been treated to gardens and menageries as a child. Le Petit Trianon was probably an immense comfort to a person whose main (and failed) function as a person was to produce a viable Dauphin.

Of course, I am not under the kind of pressure she was under. Nobody gave me much crap for being entirely unable to conceive. Actually, Marie Antoinette had several children, so she is well up on me there. But I'm still considered a mostly worthwhile person, I figure.

But this isn't about political pressure and class warfare. It isn't even about the indignity of infertilty. It's about goats.

Or rather, it is about farm animals in general. Whether it is inspired by Jacob's endless collection of books extolling the virtues of farm life (The duck says "quack"!), or the fact that I love fresh goat cheese, or the other fact that some of my friends are getting a chicken coop, I suddenly find myself fantasizing about having a few farm animals of my own. Not because I want to go back to my country-fried roots. I don't want 100 head of anything. I just want a vanity farm. Just a garden and few cool animals that would, given care, provide me with the makings of goat cheese and butter and eggs. Not like I don't buy that stuff at the farmer's market, anyway.

Animals are cute. They do funny things. There is something sort of sweet about the pugnacious affection of goats in particular. But I am dreaming if I think I have time, given my hectic work schedule, to milk a freaking goat or sticking my hands under a bunch of chicken butts for my breakfast omelet ingredients. Plus, there are the, um, poop issues. I whine about picking up after my labradoodle's messes. What would I do with the output of a 135-pound nanny goat?

But surely you can see the appeal. Living closer to the land and having your kid grow up caring about other living things. Having fresh food that hasn't been processed eight different ways before reaching said kid's mouth. The romantic idea of animals that come running when they see you, even if it is only because you are the one that feeds them.

Oh yeah. Feed. That shit's expensive. In what economy do I figure I live? One where they don't build houses right on top of each other? Not really.

So what is that feeling about? Maybe I am just craving a little extra space and a pastoral sort of arrangement. It sounds nice. But given the fact that I left the small town/rural area I came from for lots of reasons, shoveling manure among them, it probably isn't going to happen.

I have a lot of half-baked ideas lately. I'm trying to figure myself out. I contain multitudes and contradict myself daily. (Thank you Walt Whitman, for saying it best.) Who am I? Certainly not Marie Antoinette, but I can appreciate the no-win aspects of her life in that no matter what she tried to be, she lost her head because of libelous public opinion. It might be good to be the king, but it seems like being the queen kind of sucks. At least she had her farm, where she could pretend life was simpler. It was probably fun while it lasted.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Is Obsession Love?

So, today is John Taylor's 51st birthday. I'll hasten to point out here that I did not have this penciled in red on my calendar, but got a reminder on Facebook from the Duran Duran fan page. But it did give me a moment's pause to remember him fondly, and I realized that I have similar feelings for some of my old lovers. That warm-if-distant affection that never quite goes away.

I was obsessed with John Taylor from at least 1983 to 1988. I was an epic Duranie of the highest order. I LOVED them. I had John Taylor's haircut, even. Yes, I had a spectacular, aquanet-crunchy mullet, but that is a subject for another time. It made me happy. I loved the music, the style, the guyliner, all of it. And in my secret heart, I still do love it, although perhaps not with the capital "L" of my teen years.

I know I am capable of  my obsessions from time to time. They called me OCD girl in Anatomy class for the way I studied. Obsession can be useful when applied to academic pursuits, but love probably isn't in the same class of things that can benefit from that much attention.

I'm wondering to myself if I applied that same sort of devotion to my boyfriends in the past? I wonder what it is like to have a relationship with me. I'm all intensity and ferocity and passion. I want to break open my lovers and get to the gooey middle and taste the true depth of them. That might be scary, I guess, but I don't judge their flaws like they worry I would. I want them to give me a reason to be their biggest fan. I ask a lot of people. I want to know people on the deepest level possible. I want to try their favorite breakfast cereal and see if I like it too. I want to listen to their favorite records and see what effect the people who influenced them will have on me. If there were a Tiger Beat magazine that had my real friends on the cover I would totally buy it. I go deep or go home, because surface associations are next to useless to me.

I love John Taylor. I don't really know him at all, but whatever feelings I nursed for him as a young woman full of hormones burn in me still. He's getting older and so am I, but I still would probably pee my pants with excitement if I met him in person. But as we age together, I know that he has shaped me as much as anyone else I have loved. I gave oatmeal another chance because he loves it. So I guess obsession sometimes is good for me.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

My Son the Architect

Long term followers of this blog (if there are any) may recall that I had a very vivid dream that I had a son who was an architect. In the dream I was immensely proud of an adult son who had built a whole Utopian city. It was very modern, with lots of beautiful colors and angles.

This is what my son made with his blocks on my bed this morning.


It is a slippery moral world. When I was a kid, right and wrong was pretty simple. My mom was pretty good at letting me know when I wasn't doing the right thing, like when we went to the clothing store and I hid in those display roundabouts from her. I got swift and decisive correction. There was no cake before dinner. We went to church on Sundays, whether I wanted to or not. Oh, and about that, Jesus went with me everywhere, like a mini-tenant in my heart. So even the stuff my mom didn't know about, there was always God to keep an eye on me.

I was a bit of an odd kid. Part tomboy, part nature sprite, I communed with the many trees in my grandparents' yard. I sang to the ocean during those summers at Cape Cod. I tracked the wildlife all over the Grand Tetons and the Black Hills. I studied the field guides and could name them all. I didn't have anyone to teach me how to make a daisy chain, but I always wanted to wear one in my hair.

I grew up, like I suppose we all must but only some of us do. I still love nature and never see enough of it. I work really hard. In my job as a registered nurse I deal with the ethics of life and death and the medicine in between on a daily basis. Right and wrong isn't all that clear cut anymore. Even my mom will sometimes eat cake before dinner, and Jesus and I are on cordial speaking terms, but some of his followers as well as some unjust circumstances have created real distance in that relationship. I don't really feel like God notices or cares about me on a daily basis that much.

I try my best to live my life with integrity. Here's the lowdown in the form of a wiki quote:

"Integrity is a concept of consistency of actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations, and outcomes. In ethics, integrity is regarded as the honesty and truthfulness or accuracy of one's actions. Integrity can be regarded as the opposite of hypocrisy,[1] in that it regards internal consistency as a virtue, and suggests that parties holding apparently conflicting values should account for the discrepancy or alter their beliefs."

At any rate, I am a passionate person and really appreciate honesty. I at least am honest with myself. Even if I am doing something in my personal life that isn't necessarily falling neatly into the "right" or "wrong" column, I know my motivations for what I do, and I make my choices for the most part with my eyes open.

Not all of my choices make me happy, but usually I learn from them either way, and see the wisdom of the outcome for the long game. Sometimes doing the right thing means making choices that make me completely miserable. Other times doing something sorta wrong ends up being the choice that leads to something really good. What is good for society at large isn't always what is going to be good for me. That different drummer is working a fast masmoudi in me when the rest of the world is doing Sousa marches. I'm a little warped. I have said before that trying to conform and always be "good" really takes me out of my integrity with myself.

I'm trying to remember these things as I strive for wholeness after a long stressful period, and during the recent stresses too. I need to focus on the things I know give me a feeling of peace: watching a chipmunk groom its fur, listening to the sound of the turbulent spring-swollen river, finding the mots juste to comfort a wounded friend, using my brain to figure out how to alleviate the symptoms of my patients when the drugs just aren't cutting it.  

I may eat my dessert first, but it is an uncertain world. It isn't all about me, but if I can't be true to myself, I sure as hell can't please anybody else. I need to slow down and focus. I need to lace up my hiking boots. I need to drink more water and less coffee. I need to be in the present moment and attend to the work that is in front to of me. I need to take my son to Cape Cod and teach him how to sing to the ocean waves. He needs to feel the tickle of a hermit crab walking over his hand. There's lots of happiness to be had in the world, and lots of right and wrong ways to the top of the mountain (and guess what? they all get there!). What matters most is truth and love and facing my fears. I know I'll riddle it out my way, and that way is just fine even if others do it different.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Dream-Travel Lags

Image: Cebu, Philippines

I was dreaming last night that I was taking a big trip to a tropical place, and that my son had to come on a later plane than me for some reason. Since he is only three and has never traveled anywhere, I was terrified he would get lost. I kept calling at every step to make sure he was a step behind me like he was supposed to be. It was so scary, and at one point I was screaming. I screamed myself awake, and Tony had to settle me back down.

Sometimes I wish that I didn't have such vivid nightmares, the ones that leave me trembling like that. Of course, if I couldn't dream that vividly, I would miss out on the beautiful dreams that I also have, the ones that nourish my abilities in my waking life. The ones that give me peace.

I guess I am just destined to be an intense dreamer. I just wonder: do I dream that way because I have an intense life, or is my life dramatic and intense because of the way I dream?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Poetry-The Other Side of the Coin

Fierce Warrior Mother
Sword and dagger, fists clenched
Against the world’s injustice
Run into the flames when others run out.

Sharp barbs fly from acid tongue
Defending and offending alike
Bristle and shoulder against the storm
Endure it when the brimstone rains.

But also, wounded healer
Living with losses that leave glacial craters
Untouchable places and unloved faces
Barely breathing sometimes.

Trying to embrace the grotesque
The inner wretch that sees no light
The pressing madness at the window
The burden of all that truth.

Some people can only handle one of me
They choose sides, adamantly demand
That I be only that-an avenging force
Or something they can save with love.

I live on the dancing edge of the coin
As it rolls toward uncertain ends.
Balanced with laughter and force of will
A world of wonder in my hands.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Poetry-Mirror Image

I sit in the bookstore coffee shop
Writing something so raw and true
That tears flow slow and unchecked
Into my corporate coffee.

Collecting myself and wiping my eye
I return to this world of dirt
Perception clearing, I look up
And see you, pen in hand, looking back.

Have you been writing about me?
My auburn hair in tangled curls
As I bents over my notebook, weeping
Silent, heedless, trance-like?

Does my pain only exist
In your world of fiction as a background piece?
Am I the peculiar detailed figure
Your protagonist notices before his path diverges?

I stretch, I yawn. You watch, you scribble.
Makes me want to pick my nose
Or scratch my ass to see if you follow,
To see how far I can take you with me.

Or could I stand and strip myself bare
Walk over to you and plant a kiss
On your astonished lips, and say
Thank you for seeing me at all?


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Dead Batteries All Around.

There is something just awful about knowing that you are at dangerous levels of life burnout and you can't take a break. Half the reasons that I am feeling at loose ends are ones that I can't discuss due to confidentiality laws. It seems that as a nurse and as a foster parent, I have to be burdened with more secrets than I am expressly comfortable with. I can't talk about my kids or my work very much.

I was supposed to go to have an appointment with Little A's therapist today to discuss how she is doing. I set aside the time, I skipped putting on makeup because I fully expected to spend the therapeutic 50 minutes crying my eyes out. I packed a bag with lots of under-eye concealer to apply after the appointment and before going to work.

I went out to my Jeep and tried to start it. It went "click, click, click". That's it. The thing was running fine yesterday, and today...nada.

So I open the hood and peer inside. Now, I know how to change my own oil and do a tune up, but fixing actual problems on my car is another matter altogether. So there I am in my pink nursing scrubs, looking under the hood like the answer is gonna jump right out at me, and further that I would know how to fix it. Of course that made me feel like a dork. So I called Tony and he said it was a dead battery, and he was gonna buy me a new one and head home with it.

So I had to call and cancel the cry my eyes out appointment. I went back in the house and made some of those cinnamon rolls that come in the pop-open tin. As I ate one, I felt properly sorry for myself. All in all, it wasn't even a huge crisis. We had the money for the battery, and Tony replaced it pretty quickly. The car started right up. But it had thrown my flow off. It was frustrating on a day when I had multiple things to do before work. As it is, I am not even going to be late for work or anything, but my personal battery feels like it is going "click, click, click".

I am having that thought again. The one where I need to go take a retreat and recharge myself. I need to find my spiritual core and get grounded. I need to do yoga and sit among trees and feel the breeze on my skin. As it happens, I am going to go to work in about 20 minutes and won't be home until after midnight.

I'm lucky that the car didn't die at some other, less opportune time or place. It could have been much worse. Could have been better, too, though,.

If you see me by the side of the road with my hood up, at least honk and wave. I'm just looking for answers even if I don't understand how things work and might not even know how to fix them.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Cupid and Psyche

Cupid and Psyche, Antonio Canova, 1796

As often happens when I have even a little time to myself, I am thinking about myths and legends. This morning it is the peculiar romance of Cupid (or Eros) and Psyche.  Stories where gods fall in love with mortals are of particular interest to me. 

I love this sculpture, pictured in part, above.  The hands of the figures are so tender, it is amazing to imagine that this was once a piece of featureless marble. The anatomy is soft and beautiful as they caress each other. They are captured in the lips parted moment before a passionate kiss. 

Psyche had the misfortune of being born so beautiful that she made Venus jealous. Making a goddess feel envy is often cause for terrible punishment in these tales. Yet Psyche prevails and even gets to drink ambrosia and become immortal herself. That Cupid falls in love with her because he scratches himself with his own arrow is unfortunate. That Psyche is merely beautiful and not also wise is also a drawback. But It is a mysterious and charming story, full of invisible forces and ardent lovers that insist on having the lights off.

Without love, the world grows old and loses its color. Cupid and Psyche had a child together, the Goddess Volupta, who personifies sensual love and is one of the Three Graces. The gods didn't have that before. It took the human touch to create it. 

What the hell is my point? I'm just rambling, mostly. But in part I harbor a secret wish that I could contain some spark of inner beauty that would cause the divine to look on me favorably and create something of worth in me. Something that is unique in the world and fills it with pleasure and joy.

Instead of God the Father, this is God the Lover, and it is an interesting concept. It would be nice to have an intimate and mutually loving relationship with a god, even a minor one. Most of the time I experience the divine as largely indifferent to the minutiae of my life experience. Wouldn't it be nice to have a kiss of greeting and have God ask, "Honey, how was your day?"

Friday, January 7, 2011

Living Passionately

Image by Paula Scarletta

When I am in good form, and working at the top of my game, I strive always to live passionately. Of course, lately, I have been stunned into silence and even illness by the drama and baggage and heavy feelings surrounding the return of Little A and the short stay of Baby B.

As I sit here drinking water and taking antibiotics and trying to recover from the total shock to my system, I am noticing how down  and low-vibrating this situation has made me feel. I have had zero energy for writing or for making other kinds of art. That spiraled down into a total creative void and finally physical wear and tear. It was like my body just totally went on strike to get me to notice that I had started to live my life in a way that was not going to be consistent with my happiness.

Of course I know that having kids will put a damper on your energy. Especially my kids, because they come from backgrounds that mean they have certain special needs in the parenting department. Well, A does. J has made such progress and I have bonded with him such that he seems easy and the relationship is pretty relaxed most of the time.

I am nowhere near my usual energy level at the moment, but it has forced me to use my time for contemplation. It is going to take me a little bit to rebuild my strength. While I do that I am going to try to remain focused on what really matters, and that is being true to who I really am. Too often I allow the people in the county building tell me how to parent. The fact is that I am a slightly peculiar person and my kids enjoy me more if I can go with it and just be myself.

I'm happier when I am entertaining friends, experiencing and making art, supporting the artists I know, dancing, being in nature, and helping other people. It raises my energy level to do those things. It brings me down to do paperwork, do things out of obligation rather than by choice, and spending time in places that are filled with negative energy and negative people.

I'm not really sure how long we are going to have Little A this time. Things seem pretty uncertain at the moment. But if I am going to enjoy her in her good moments, I need to have enough energy to be awake for it. Little by little, I need to raise the bar for myself and follow those passions where they lead.