The hardest button

buttons, buttons

As I reach blindly under my bed for a missing sock, my hand brushes against cold metal.

Aha!

I grab the forgotten box, next to the runaway woolen sock, and pull it out from under the dusty recess.

It’s my grandmother’s button box. I’ve had it for more than a year. I found it buried under bags and boxes at my mother’s house. She’d had it for many years, back when we were emptying my grandparents’ house after they moved to assisted living.

This box has a history. Primarily, it was utilitarian: providing a place to store lost buttons as well as offering replacements for gaping garments. I recall it appearing on the table as a diversionary tactic, one of the many employed by my grandma. She had others: the felt board and shapes, the finger-sized puppets, the coloring books and crayons. But, oh, those buttons, they had so many possibilities. We’d sort them into shapes and colors, engineer roads and patterns, glue them to other things as craft projects. Once we made absolutely hideous bracelets using lengths of elastic. While others in the family inherited my late grandma’s rocking chair, her mantel clock, and her jewelry, I got the button box.

Yeah, I’m simple like that sometimes.

I’m not sure what I’ll do with the buttons. It’s comforting to know they are with me. I look at them as a great puzzle. All the pieces are in front of me, I just don’t know yet what to do with them.

And speaking of the hardest button to button, I’ve worked hard to meet my 1,000 words a day writing challenge. No, I’m nowhere near the goal (if I’d done this every day since Jan. 1, it would be 41,000 words. I have a mere 24,531 words logged, but some of those are carried over from last year. So, yeah, a lot less than the goal, but the idea is to write as often as I can, especially when the story is kicking to get out.  Yesterday I wrote all 1,000 words in cursive, with a pencil, into a small notebook in my purse before transcribing it to the computer. The rule is, if I start writing, I need to keep going until I reach 1,000 words.

Let me clarify that almost none of what I have written is worthy of reading. It’s a jumbled mess, much like the box of buttons. I have a few chapters I’ve polished and revised. My central story idea keeps shifting, like a restless fetus. I’m just doing this thing anyway.  Even if nothing comes of it, I keep sifting though my thoughts, much like I bury my hands in that metal box of plastic buttons, feeling each individual’s weight and texture, savoring the soft click-clack as they slip through my fingers.

Here’s to getting outside the box once in a while.

 

 

The politics of divorce and death

English: Still shot from 1914 silent film, Sho...

Still shot from 1914 silent film, “Should A Woman Divorce? ” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Mom, you should talk to dad.”

This is Girl from the West — a young woman made tall by high heels, and made to look in charge with hair pulled into a tight knot atop her head — greeting me as I arrived. After a few minutes of small talk, she nudges me toward a man I barely see or speak to since our parting nearly 15 years ago.

So I inhale, exhale, square my shoulders and walk to the front of the room, wrapped in a little more insecurity than I would like. I feel a bit like a child summoned to the front of the class for tardiness.

In the hour I spend there, with my current spouse and Girl from the East nearby, I am not able to snare my ex-husband, because that is what it feels like, a hunting expedition. I try to part the sea of people between us. He keeps himself inside tight circles, enclosed in embraces and engaged in intimate conversation. It’s been our dance for years. Was he avoiding me? I don’t know.

While siblings, aunts, uncles and neighbors greet me, his longtime partner ignores me. I leave feeling a little confused.

It’s all so confusing. My ex-husband’s mother died this week. The woman who once was my other mother, who served as one of Girl from the West’s main caretakers through those precious and needy years, which also were in some part the divorce and single parenting years, the remarriage and second child years, and the polite wave and small talk at school concert years.  She did more for all of us than we probably deserved. I don’t think I ever thanked her.

What are the rules in a situation like this anyway? What are the boundaries?

Only twice in the last decade have I had this much contact. Six months ago we gathered under a park pavilion on a sticky summer afternoon to celebrate Girl from the West’s high school graduation. It seemed on that bright day that all had been forgiven. Six months before the party, I’d had coffee with her, when we came as close as we ever would to closure.

In the black hours before dawn when Girl from the West received the call, when she could not process the sudden death of her grandmother, who’d been ill but recovering, and between fretting about her making the long drive across the cold, dark city, I wondered about my role in all this. It seemed like a selfish, but necessary, thought.

In the end, I let my daughter write the role for me.

At the funeral, I sat in the back with the other ex-spouses. We attended all the rites, but kept to the sidelines. Silently, I thanked my first mother-in-law for her selfless duty. I asked for forgiveness.  After all, she cared deeply for my child and did so much to give her a good life. My ex-husband, for whatever I think of him and how distant we are, is now a man without living parents.  I acknowledged the gravity and inevitability of that, too.

At the end,  I finally connected with my former spouse. I stopped trying and it came naturally. We had eye contact, we embraced. He wept. I felt his pain. I felt a compassion buried for almost two decades. I discovered my own grief.

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Let’s try this again

It’s the second day of a new year.

I’ve had this book in my hands for three days. Already it’s marked up, pages dog-eared, margins filled with notes and ideas. I am inspired.

My head is ready to explode.

The year that’s gone was one of amazement. I surprised myself. I let go and allowed the river of life to carry me on its current. I still feel as if I am on the edge of something I cannot identify.

Again.

A marathon runner told me to hang on to my running goals, even if it seems I’m nowhere closer to them than when I started. He told me it can take up to seven years  to achieve a goal. And that’s OK. What? It’s not OK. Make it OK.

Apply those words to anything: running, writing, cooking, whatever. I am aspiring to 1,000 words most days. That’s double the typical blog post.

I’ll leave you with this quote from the book I’m reading. It’s my starting point. What’s yours?

“So okay – there you are in your room with the shade down and the door shut and the plug pulled out of the base of the telephone. You’ve blown up your TV and committed yourself to a thousand words a day, come hell or high water. Now comes the big question: What are you going to write about? And the equally big answer: Anything you damn well want. ”
― Stephen KingOn Writing

 

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Nothingburger, with ketchup

 

Turns out that sneaking into your daughter’s elementary school looking disheveled, with an object clutched to your chest, and breaking into a run down the hallway is a really, really bad idea.

Last week, life was a solid blue-green on the suburban terror index, it was a nothingburger.

This week, slather that dull burger in a coat of screaming code red.

I do not mean to make light of the recent tragedy — I cannot think of it for a second without welling up and feeling helpless.  I do not mean to poke fun of our growing fear for safety in public places. I am merely casting light on my total lack of forethought earlier this week. After recounting the story dozens of times in the last few days, I recast my role from bumbling doofus to undercover security evaluator. So there’s that.

My story starts as many do, with a solid excuse: I was tired and in a hurry.

My modus operandi was to hurry to the school to deliver my daughter’s water bottle, which had the misfortune of tumbling out of her backpack at the bus stop. It’s been a rough few weeks around here, with me working a little more than usual, the holiday stuff that adds layers of duty and stress to everything, and extra homework projects to keep my daughter up too late each night. Twice in the last two weeks she’s forgotten her water bottle. Just the day before there was an unfortunate sock choice that led to tears and frustration before school. I just wanted a good day free from glitches.

I just wanted a good day.

I arrived at the quiet building, before it bustled with the energy of young students, to find administrators and support staff standing stiff with their heavy duty at the main entrance.  Clutching the bottle, I ducked and ran. Not for long. As I bolted to get to her locker (This is more about me not wanting to be seen in public in glorified PJs and a knit hat than anything else.) I stepped over some invisible sensor, triggering a few moments of alarm and embarrassment.

Within seconds the front-door crew shouted “Hey! Hey! HEY!” and ran after me. I felt a hand hook my arm. It was the school principal, his brow crinkled in consternation.

“What are you doing?” he asked, gently but firmly.

“Don’t you watch the news? Don’t you know what’s happening?” said one of the hall monitors, with a hint of shrill.

“I, uh, my daughter dropped her water bottle at the bus stop,” I said breathlessly, noticing them gather around me. I felt like a criminal. My entire psyche wilted in humiliation.

“I just wanted to put it in her locker. I’m in a hurry,” I said.

“Didn’t you read the district newsletter?” the hall monitor asked again, taking the bottle from my hands and turning it over to find a name label. “No one is allowed in the building without a pass from the office.”

“No, I mean, yes, I know what you are talking about but I thought ….”

“Water bottles should be labeled,” monitor said. Another admonishment. Should I just bend over and wait for the spanking?

The moment was over. I gave them my daughter’s name and room number and skulked out the door. I was not a gun-toting madwoman, just a frazzled mother with an overly tired daughter and a raging case of mommy guilt.

Just a week earlier I’d strolled right into the building before morning bell as I helped my girl carry her special project to her classroom. Just a week ago, we had school security, but moods were light and breezy. The very same people smiled and waved at me.

Everyone said they were glad to know the school was taking security seriously, even if it was at my expense. I guess I feel good about that part of it.

What I don’t feel good about is the rising paranoia and fear and the idea that more weaponry will make us safer. Each morning at the bus stop, parents talk of homeschooling, of pulling their kids out early before holiday break, of a renewed fear of what might happen on Dec. 21. War zones are stocked with guns and weapons. They are not safe places. What I don’t feel good about is a society in which one false move, one lapse in judgment puts you and me and anyone else under suspicion for plots and evil deeds. Although it may be necessary, making school entrances as tight as airports makes me very sad.

At times like these I feel very old. As cliché as it sounds, I long for the simpler times of my childhood.

How much for a spotless mind?

How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot!
The world forgetting, by the world forgot.
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!
Each pray’r accepted, and each wish resign’d.

— Alexander Pope, from “Eloisa and Abelard”

My favorite movie ever

The phone chirps just as I am heading into the grocery store.

Do you have a moment? Can you talk?”

Hearing the signal for a sit-down conversation, I get back in the car, set down my shopping bags and settle in.

The story, which takes a while to tell because it involves bad deeds, an innocent, the criminal justice system and heartbreak, by all avenues of logic should summon tears to my eyes, set my heart racing, stir my gut. Instead, I sit in the car watching shoppers unload their carts and wrestle their kids into car seats. I do not pound my fist on the dashboard. I do not declare the world a wretched place. I just sit there.

The information only sinks in as deep as a tattoo artist’s ink, sparing deep tissue and nerves. Is it because the people involved in this story are far-removed from my life? Is it because they were not nice to me in the past? Does their heartbreak mean less to me than those who’ve been kind?

Let’s go back to the weekend, when my husband and I had one of our occasional date nights. Part of the plan was to see Samsara. But when we entered the theater for the late showing, my husband changed his mind, fearing the artsy think piece would inspire snoring and drooling on the less-than-hygienic theater upholstery. I let him have his way. We ended up seeing The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

(For the two readers of this blog, this is what is known as a spoiler alert. If you’ve not seen this movie, skip this paragraph.)

The coming-of-age flick, heavy on early ’90s nostalgia, seemed fairly safe until the main character Charlie’s problem is revealed close to the end. I had my suspicion about where things were heading but dismissed it as my dark thinking. When the two main characters bond over the revelation that trusted adult figures in their lives molested them, I am teary-eyed and sweaty, and the wine and appetizers in my stomach start churning. Instead of snoring and drooling on the upholstery, I’m afraid I’ll vomit. I am moderately devastated over movie characters.

So during this phone call, in which I find myself unmoved, even though the characters in this story are real and not played by actors, I’m told by the bearer of the news, who ought to know better:

“I know this isn’t something you’ve experienced in your life, but try to have some sympathy. Say a prayer.”

Now I’m ready to pound my fist on the dashboard. Now I’m ready to rail against humanity. Why do we make assumptions about others? Why do we make judgments when passing on information? Is it possible to erase our minds of personal history?

In the amount of time it takes the guy next to me to return the shopping cart to the corral and get in his car, my head implodes: How could she (of all people) say this to me? Wasn’t she there? Does she remember nothing of the last 30 years? Did she say that to see how I would react? How should I react? Right now, right here it could be a major fight. Oh, it could get ugly. But toward what end? Maybe she has forgotten. Maybe she never really knew or understood. Maybe the day I told her she was preoccupied. Maybe after all those sessions in family therapy she had a brain cleanse and her memory is spotless. 

Much later I think about the girl at the center of this new story. A girl like me at that age, surrounded by dysfunction, largely forgotten. Now she’s the object of pity,worry and gossip. Is this her legacy? It might be years before she emerges from the fog of this story and connects dots between things that happened to her then and how it has colored her world. Rather than be angry that my very old story is forgotten, or that I have unpredictable reactions, I should think about the parade of girls and boys to whom this is still happening.

So, like the wind sweeps trash from the store parking lot, I let go of the comment, let it slip into the gutter and out of sight. It’s better for the news bearer to believe nothing ever happened to me. It would be better for me, too. Maybe I should seek a spotless mind.

I’m working on having more compassion for those who have hurt me, who wished the worst for me when we were young, who maybe knew my secrets and thought less of me because of them, and who now find themselves on the other side of this divide.

I’m working on avoiding assumptive statements.

How sure am I of such things? How sure is anyone?

Always, I’m seeking eternal sunshine.

A summer in twenty sentences

Today, after almost a year of running, I finally clocked a 10:15 mile.

My goal is to run a nine-minute mile.

When I began, it took me almost 15 minutes to run one mile.

In July I ran my first 5K obstacle race and jumped over fire.

I trained for this by running at noon on 90-degree days and logging endless hours on the treadmill.

I rode my bike for many miles under the hot sun, through raging thunderstorms, at night, drunk (once; not so proud of that) and with group of spandex-clad, clip-shoed folks, who when you know them ahead of time are nice but sometimes are a bit snooty with those of us wearing cotton and lace-ups.

My husband says, based on the number of pictures I take of it, I should just admit I’m in love with my bike.

One thing I learned this summer is that the moment you let go of something it works out just fine either way.

Another thing I learned is letting go is not easy.

I edited a 75,000-word manuscript in June and July, which killed my interest in working on the memoir this year.

Doing the right thing rarely feels good, such as when I cancelled my trip to Colorado this summer.

I’ve decided the best way to write for future use is to document every joyful, painful, frustrating, interesting thing happening now.

The plot and hook will come later, right?

I am blessed with a great community of friends and supporters.

After three-year hiatus, we finally had a serious primitive camping weekend.

I met a very big owl deep in the woods as I was gathering firewood. We had a stare down, which still gives me chills when I think about it.

I had another standoff with a porcupine, which was nowhere near as spiritual.

I did not cry at my oldest daughter’s high school commencement ceremony in June.

In August, I found my first legitimate full-length, corkscrew-crazy, gray hair poking out of my head.

Then, I cried.

 

 

 

Reflections

I scan the crowded room for a familiar face. It’s a big room, outfitted with the type of couches and chairs that swallow you whole, heavily ornamented light fixtures, and emotionally neutral paintings. At the front is the box surrounded by floral sprays on stands. Nestled between blooms and leaves are little white cards delivering personal messages. Some of the bouquets have gold and silver script letters labeling the deceased: dear father, beloved husband, dear son.

Beloved. Why is that a death word? Do we ever say that in life?

Is it the flowers or the picture collages that make it hard for me to swallow? Here before me is a Cliffs Notes pictorial of the parts of a person we will miss: the chubby cheeks lacquered in pureed yams, the diaper-clad butt and dimpled knees of babyhood; the gap-toothed smile of elementary school portraits, the sand castles and sunburns of summer days at the beach; the parade of sports team pictures and scouting banquets; the proms and weddings; the chrome-wheeled muscle car parked in mom and dad’s driveway; cheesy tourist shots; hugs and kisses, suit-and-tie days, and, oh, that dear sweet first-born child. We gather like flowers the good parts that happened before the end days, when only scraps are left. Absent are pictures of the medical clinic waiting rooms, the son and daughter crying themselves to sleep, the unhealthy habits, the bar fights, the bad tattoos, the post-chemo haze, the last days in hospice care.

We die and if we are lucky, no, strike that, luck has nothing to do with it. We are born and we die. No one knows why the bastard molester alcoholic chain smoker lives to  100 and the selfless sweetheart is hit by a bus at 22. If we live our lives well, and by that I mean we give from the heart, and give all we have, and think of others before ourselves, and let our lights shine, we will touch lives. Maybe many lives. Maybe millions. Maybe only one. When it’s our time, maybe we blow out of here on a cyclone blast so powerful it brings our survivors to their knees. Not that we want to hurt anyone. But with loss comes pain. If you do nothing in life to make anyone miss you, you miss the point of living. The goal is to love.

And that right there was last Friday’s lesson.

Out of this world is another good person who touched my life and so many others. A person I’d long forgotten until I heard the news. As I left his funeral, I remembered another service many years earlier:

This time a small room, no bigger than a vestibule, with furniture slightly more stiff than the people. When I approached the survivors, I said what we usually say at these things. They said in return, ”Don’t be sorry. We’re not. She was a miserable old shrew every day of her life and now she’s gone.”

Mortified, I didn’t know where to direct my eyes. I looked toward the full box of tissues on the table, the chairs which bore no weight, and the lone basket of carnations.  How could anyone say such a thing at a funeral? Eighty-something years on this rock and all she gets is an unattended wake arranged by duty-bound, bitter survivors?

Forgive me if I sound preachy; it’s not you I’m telling this to but me. As I hurtle toward 50 my biggest fear is that I’ve not lived enough, not loved enough, not done enough of anything with 100 percent of my self. I dole out small portions, saving the best for something in the future.

My second biggest fear is coping with the increasing frequency of funerals of my contemporaries. Apparently I am at that age.

LIfe and death remain a mystery to me. One is a gift. The other a lesson.

 

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Feathers

It’s funny how the blogging world seeps into your blood. On any given day, you might be walking along the pavement between gas pump and cashier when you come upon a ratty pigeon feather on the pavement. Instead of kicking it aside, stepping on it, or even acknowledging that a bird out there is less one feather or perhaps is a bird no more, you think of a blogger who celebrates feather encounters. You grab your camera and take a picture of a foot and a feather and post it on the Internet. That’s the kind of thing bloggers do.

The feather lightens the load strapped to this 102-degree day manifested in furry, sticky, dense air and the slow and weak sunset holding no promise of relief.

So I go home and take a cold shower and slick back my wet hair, lay down under the vents pumping cool air into the room, and ride on the big, scary wave that is life now. It’s not that anything terrible has happened. It’s that nothing is the same. Not one thing. And I have to be OK with that because like bird feathers, things don’t stick forever. They break loose and drift away. As I glide along the river toward sleep, I wonder if it’s possible for a lone feather to give me enough altitude to fly away for just a little while.

 

Full circle

Caricature of the graduate

I went to my 30th high school reunion and I didn’t get eaten alive.

Not only did I survive, but I also walked away with a smile on my face. That the smile was mostly vodka-induced and not steeped in reality is a story for another day.

In the three decades since I marched to “Pomp and Circumstance” and walked away from the hell of high school, I’ve had an irrational fear of attending any reunion.

For reasons I can’t quite articulate, I felt if I were to attend any reunion at all, the 30th would be the one. The reunion is no longer a one-evening event; it’s an itinerary from which you can choose your level of involvement. I chose the informal bar night. The price was right and I had an exit strategy tucked in my pocket.

Filled with enough false bravado to fuel five teenage boys at their first middle school dance, I sucked in my stomach, ordered a cocktail at the bar, took a deep breath, and stepped onto the patio.

I survived the abrupt halt of conversation, all heads turning, and the first of what would become the evening’s refrain, this time from the mouth of a busty redhead with a cigarette dangling from her mouth: Who are you? Did you graduate with us?  

It was at that moment that I realized how far I’d come. There was a time (in high school) that if someone said that to me it would have simultaneously pushed all my buttons, triggering anger, disappointment and despair. Now? Someone else’s bad behavior is a reflection of that person and not a measure of my worth. I answered her in a light and breezy tone with a smile on my face. She shrugged and turned away. Everything was OK after that. I am OK with me, just as I am. I don’t need her approval or anyone else’s to be here.

Sometimes being in a room full of people who remember snippets of you at your worst is more excruciating than helping jog the memories of those who didn’t know you at all. I gave up trying to convince one person that I was not goth in high school, just depressed.

Back then I didn’t have the maturity or perspective to understand that the extreme dysfunction of my family life bled into my social interactions.  I was angry and inappropriate. I used alcohol and drugs and outrageous behavior to cope. Every day was a struggle of fear, hopelessness, free-floating anxiety and self-loathing. My only friends were other social misfits or rebels. We spent most of our time as far away from our idyllic suburban landscape as possible, preferring the gritty neighborhoods of Detroit.

In the years since high school I’ve slowly overcome my crippling anxiety and shyness. I’ve come to understand that my past does not have to color my today. I’ve mostly accepted that I will never be a sunny blonde, long-legged, of the proper lineage, and have a button nose. I am me, good or bad, big nose, wide hips and all. Over the years people have loved me for it. Imagine.

I treated the night like a cocktail party of strangers with possibility. Here’s what I learned:

  • Very few people still look really good 30 years after high school.
  • Shared experiences are priceless. I didn’t have any with the people at this gathering. While I had great cocktail party conversations, there wasn’t a bond between us that erased the years and reduced us to hugs and laughter. I realized how much I had missed of mainstream teenage life.

Of course I had my people and our memories. They just weren’t at this partyI don’t know where most of them are in this world or if they are in this world. (In fact, a good number of them are dead; I had a phone call in April telling me of two deaths this year.)

  • I walked away a bit smug at all the free drinks bought by men, who as boys, would not give me the time of day, and who wouldn’t quit until they figured out why we didn’t connect in high school. What a fun guessing game.  I was a bit rattled that some of them were so forward until someone told me most of them were out-of-towners traveling solo and reunions are famous for the hook-up potential. Oh.

Reunions are a step back in time but they also are a chance to affirm — to yourself — where you are now.  I don’t spend a lot of time with people my age. It was good to see the familiar signs of latefortyness on those around me, to know that even if I wasn’t like them at all back then, we had some things in common now, if only because we are parents, spouses, have aging parents, underwater mortgages or fears of aging and death. No longer are we the future; we are dangerously close to being the past.

What pleased me most of all was that my exit strategy never left my back pocket. I stayed until last call.

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Up and down

I watched as a sizable limb cracked free from an elm and plummeted to the earth with a shuddering thud. It was a busy day in a fast part of the city. I think I was the only one to see it.  Who looks up?

Days later, standing on the sidelines of a bustling outdoor market, I watched a bouquet of  mylar balloons bob on the current until they entangled themselves on power lines. The resulting blast vibrated my ribcage and sent the overhead wires bouncing like jump ropes. Again, no one else saw it. I had to point up to several worried folks clutching their chests and looking around in confusion. Someone even called the police.

I don’t know what makes me notice these things. Perhaps some small movement, or a shift of air pressure, but at just the right moment, my eyes shift skyward. I’m a daydreamer, a thinker, and I’m prone to studying even the smallest of details. Sometimes I see things no one else does and miss the obvious.

The severed limb jarred me the most. Something about its limp form splayed in the parking lot, long green fingers enveloping the car next to it, seemed apologetic. I looked up at the tree again, to what seemed a healthy and whole entity. How freakish, I thought, and yet totally the way of nature. Unpredictable, deadly, awesome.

Then, the what ifs began.

What if someone had been in that car? What if a small child had run up to the parked car? What if we had picked that parking space? I’m always asking what if?

Sometimes I don’t see what’s right there. One of our cats has an inoperable tumor.  Just a few weeks ago it wasn’t there at all. One of my girls discovered it as a small lump and called me tearfully when I was in a meeting.  I dismissed her worries. What did she know that I did not? Today that smallish mass that felt like a gummy bear it is now a heavy rock crowding the cat’s pelvis. It grows and grows and there is nothing to be done, the veterinarian says.

Our finances are, as they have been for a while now, like a slowly filling balloon. Letting the air out of the balloon is a careful, discriminating process. Who or what will make the cut? Years before, when we had lines of credit, we maxed out a card trying to save this cat’s brother. All the IVs and shots we could afford, all the tests we could manage did nothing to save him.

Make him comfortable, the vet says. You’ll know when it’s time.

There are a few things on life support around here. Things that even a few years ago I thought were rock solid, like a tall, seemingly healthy tree with strong branches and full leaf cover. But inside, like a tumor, a slow rot devours the core. One day, which seems like all the others, something crashes within inches of your skull.

I’m wide awake, but I’ve numbed a part of myself to imminent loss, to the threat of loss, to upheavals. When pressed for answers I can’t give any. At the same time, I’m making flip-flopped choices.

I spent a month saying yes to every invitation I received at the expense of my yard and gardens and personal affairs. Why not? There’s always a reason to say no to living life.

I spent a month seeking my happiness. I loved it. I felt closer to myself than I had in years. Now, I pick up the rake and shovel, I prepare for another good-bye, rub the healing balm between my palms and massage what is fixable.

I’m easily bored. I’m also a bit of a thrill junkie. When things get boring — or scary — I need something to divert my attention. I had an old tattoo modified, made it about four times the original size.

I welcomed the cutting, stinging sensation. I can deal with this, I thought. This pain has a beginning and an end. I can breathe through it, manage it. The tattoo artist was young and good-looking and he bought me cookies from the bakery next door (because I admitted I hadn’t had much to eat that day.) It was not lost on me that although it was part of his job, he was leaning into me for more than an hour. Pleasure for the price of pain?

All week, the sting at the site, the healing throb and itch, kept my thoughts away from the inevitable. It’s the free-floating emotional pain, at sea without land in sight, that is unbearable. I’m not so good with that. Is anyone? Is that why so many of us don’t look up?

Who carries the seeds of a fast-growing tumor? What heavy limbs dangle over our dreams?

What can we do to make the most of every day?

Edenland's Fresh Horses Brigade
Edenland has resurrected her Fresh Horses Brigade meme. In it she asks: Who are you? I wrote this a few days ago while trying to make sense of recent happenings. It says as much about who I am as anything else on this blog.