Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Getting Back to “It”

The time away at the beach house was wonderful and restorative, but when I got back to town, I knew I had to get back to it. Whatever "it" is, now that it is not sixty-hour weeks, endless headaches, heartaches and a constant barrage of shit hitting the fan. "It" could be shopping, hitting the gym, joining a quilting club, reading the classics, commencing a secret social life that involves hanging around in bars and flirting with…well, I don't know what actually would be available to someone of my age and physical appearance. Couldn't go there if I wanted to, I suppose. But, the thing is, I am not doing any of these things. I'm…nesting.

Monday, I started tearing apart my bedroom; so I could put it back together in some semblance of order. A little re-arranging, a little going up and down the stairs with gigantic heavy pieces of furniture. Dispatching dust bunnies containing hair of pets that have been dead since 2007. Trying to suck up those dust bunnies with a vacuum that has been dead since 2007.

I attacked my side of the closet, weeded through on a "Goodwill" tear, and reduced the inventory by one third. By day's end, I had just barely got the room re-assembled enough to sleep in it. But the bathroom and his side of the closet were still…nearly uninhabitable.

These two areas—our conjugal bathroom and his side of the closet—have been passive/aggressive battlefields for about two years now. Ever since I realized that the husband was not willing to be my helpmeet, no more so on the home front than at "our" business. At the restaurant, I knew I had to figure out how to mollify him, sidestep him, manipulate him (somehow…which I suck at, by the way) in order to get the help I needed from him. But at home…it was all I could do to pick up after myself. If he couldn't clean up his own messes—wash and put away his own damn clothes, scrub his own damn sink—I was not going to do it for him. If I could somehow have not made or changed the sheets on his side of the bed, I would have done it. I was that fed up.

So, this morning, I tried to look at my newly fussed-over bedroom with satisfaction and pride, but the filth in the bathroom and the insane disorder on one side of the closet would not let me. I knew I was going to have to swallow my pissiness and Just Do It. And so I did. To the tune of another six hours spent hanging, folding, dusting, scrubbing and sweating. The condition of his sink and his side of the vanity was not to be believed. Seriously…it almost made me sob, to think he was willing to wallow in that kind of muck just because I refused to clean up after him. That is so not who we are…not who we ever have been. I couldn't help thinking, "How the hell did we get to this place?"

Be that as it may, it has been a kick just to…fuss with my stuff. MY stuff. To be able to put something somewhere without worrying about whether someone is going to whine, "I don't want that there. It works better for me HERE." Or whether it will get put back in that place after it is used. Or whether I will be able to find it again when I go looking for it. The control freak in me—the one that I constantly had to beat into submission at the restaurant—is having an absolute field day.

I figure it will take the better part of the rest of the summer—or longer—for me to pull my household back from the brink of disaster and reassemble it into a place that is restful, happy, and routinely maintained to my standards—which are not overly high, mind you. They just disappeared entirely when I "lived" at the restaurant, and I have to re-establish them. Honestly, it's like I've been away for five years, and I'm just coming back to my life and my home and…everything. There will indeed be plenty to keep me busy for quite awhile.



Monday, May 23, 2011

Rested Rambling

The house itself was a charmer. It was a cedar-sided 1920's summer cottage, with all the requisite add-ons and lean-to's; the inside walls painted a pristine beachy cream, with sage green accents. Someone had put a lot of thought and love into the updating, from the vintage-looking linoleum flooring to the old claw-foot tub (NOT a reproduction) to the absolutely amazing '60's range in the kitchen. The place was spotless, cheery and supremely welcoming, due in part to not being weighed down by 21st-century "must-haves" like granite counter tops, high-tech lighting and exotic hardwood flooring. The minute I walked through the door, it felt like home.

And, boy…was it quiet. A resort town on weekdays during the off-season is more ghost town than boom town. Even though those summer houses are built nearly on top of each other, there is only about 25% occupancy mid-week non-summer. I could nod and smile at the few folks I encountered on my daily walks with the dog, rather than fending off an overdose of human interaction by keeping my hood up and my eyes on the sidewalk. Mandatory socialization with large groups of people was right there on top of the list of things I was on holiday from, so that worked out perfectly for me.

I basked in the little luxuries in which I have not had time to guiltlessly indulge for ages. Composing an outfit, rather than throwing on whatever had floated to the top of the clean laundry pile. Paging through a magazine while nibbling my leisurely breakfast, instead of scarfing down a piece of bacon and a few swallows of yogurt in a vain effort to provide my body with enough protein to keep me on my feet for the next twelve hours. Strolling down the aisles at the grocery store, dropping things into my cart as the inspiration struck me. Not fretting about the needs of the cats or the dog or the husband or the restaurant or the customers. Just…me. It was paradise. Perhaps the Rapture had happened after all. Oh, yeah…I forgot. I'm not invited to that particular party.

Speaking of which…I would like to report that I spent hours and hours engaged in voracious spiritual research. But that wouldn't be entirely truthful. I brought a couple of books, read exactly one chapter. Still, I think the time was productively spent, because I needed a few days to just…empty myself. Throw away the junk, some of which had to be ripped from its moorings, and then take time to let the wounds heal. This change of mind, heart, spirit and direction is not something that is going to allow itself to be scheduled and formulated. So saying, "I have five days to get as much done on this as I can" is not exactly the way it's done.

I read, I contemplated, I began to open myself. Which, as it turns out, is kind of like opening a live clam: a lot harder than it looks, and not best done with a hammer, a screwdriver and a stop-watch. It's easy to get frustrated; easy to say, "This is just too much. I can't worry about this right now." But, I think, once you've made the commitment, once the Universe has taken note that you are yearning for it, it doesn't leave you alone.

One of the things with which I have been concerned lately is animal spirits. I feel so drawn to shamanism, animalism, call it what you want. I find it impossible to believe that the Universe put all these non-human creatures on this earth just for us to look at, dominate or destroy as the mood strikes us. It's not such a stretch for me to consider that animals, possibly because they lack what we think of as powers of higher thought, have maintained a close connection to the Almighty which humans long ago rejected in favor of their own machinations.

I believe that animals can speak to us—not using our limited human language, but in ways we forgot long ago. And that if we sincerely seek them out, they will walk with us, even guide us, between the real and spiritual worlds. I've given a lot of thought to power animals, and made some timid, half-hearted moves in the direction of finding my power animal. Trust me, this is a difficult transition for one who was raised in traditional western religion, and has only lately come to see the folly therein. Even so, I think the Almighty is gently coaching me in the right direction. Though I didn't necessarily apply myself to in-depth spiritual research during my "retreat" week, I nevertheless believe the Universe was trying to show me something.

I came to notice that, during the entire week, I walked with crows. Crows were on the beach. They were in the neighborhoods where I walked. They swooped and perched along the roadsides where I drove. Images of crows were everywhere—even in the shops I visited on my touristy buying sprees. I'm beginning to think the Universe is doing the spiritual version of hitting me in the head with a brick. It's got my attention, anyway…

Which brings me back to the thing that didn't happen over the weekend—the "Rapture." Thirty years ago, when I was wrapped up in all that "born again Christian" stuff, we had folks in the church that were absolutely fanatic about "End Times" scripture. They pored over it, they analyzed it, they contemporized it (one of the creatures John mentions in the Book of Revelation is a giant locust…it was the opinion of our resident End Times scholars that this was how a first-century observer would describe a helicopter…) All this analyzation and obsession was directed toward convincing everyone that the End Times were here and that Jesus would be back any day now, so we'd better look sharp.

I'm sorry. Not to dis anyone else's beliefs—if that's what causes you to live a "good" life and harm no one, who am I to argue; but my spirit just does not bear witness to that whole idea. I think it's the ultimate in blind human egotism to believe that the Almighty would destroy the entire planet and everything on it simply because It decided to bring an end to the experiment of human habitation thereon. We don't own this planet. We are intrinsically a part of it, as it is part of us…but it isn't ours.

I don't know what the future holds for human beings and the planet to which we are connected. I know we are currently engaged in aggressively fouling our nest, and if we don't change our ways, something pretty dire is likely to transpire. But I don't think "the Rapture" is it. I can't think of any human beings that are so spiritually pure that they would be whisked away to safety while the planet roils and tears itself apart beneath the rest of us. And if there were such people, I'm pretty sure they would not be fundamentalist Christians. Way too much negative spiritual baggage there, I'm afraid…

For me, the answer is to reconnect with the planet and the spirit from which I was brought forth. And though I don't believe in evangelizing my personal choice, I will say that it wouldn't be a bad thing if more people pointed themselves in that direction.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

What To Do…?

Here I am on my little beach-house getaway. Actually, the house isn't so little and it's not ON the beach, but it's close enough. It's bright and clean and pleasant, and it has a hot tub. And it's not MINE, so I don't have worries about weedy gardens, leaky windows, peeling paint or spotty carpets spoiling my time of rest. On the list of things I had to get away from for a few days (which included the husband, Scappoose and the crazy cat who lives in my bedroom) GUILT was right there on top.

I'm nothing if not a child of the faith in which I was raised. At least, the culture thereof. And we all know what a huge role guilt played in mid-century Catholic upbringing. I don't usually mind so much. Guilt can cause one to take action on things that need to be done…things that otherwise might be sacrificed to the ever-lurking sloth-monster.

Although, in my case, it's not so much laziness as control-freakness that sabotages my ability to get things done. I hate to have to do anything. My tendency is to set my feet and balk like a mule when presented with something I absolutely must do. I always get around to it, and I usually get it done under the wire, but not without running away from it as long as I can get away with it. That was one thing that made owning my own business such a joy. There was always a behemoth of a list of things that I HAD to do. There was no balking and there was no running. There was just the lead weight of a ten-ton "to-do" list welded to my back. In the end, I think it just…squashed me.

So, that's what I'm here to get away from. To-do's. I have nothing TO DO today except whatever the hell I want to do. If I want to take a three-hour nap in the middle of the afternoon, that's what I'll do. If I want to play solitaire for an hour, I'll do that. If I want to pack up the dog and take her for a walk on the beach, I'm all over it. If I WANT to make dinner for myself, I'll do it. If not, there is an impressive array of eating establishments within walking distance, where the folks will be happy TO DO for me.

Right now, I want to do some shopping at the outlet mall.

See ya!


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Be Not Afraid

Go outside some cloudless night. Somewhere where the light pollution doesn't block out the stars. A lake. A clearing in a forest. A prairie.

Look at the stars. See the thousands, millions? Think of the distances. Imagine the size…the eternal vastness. Our own solar system. Our own galaxy. Galaxies beyond. So huge. Be overwhelmed.

I have done this; and felt defeated by the hugeness. Shrunken to nothing by the unthinkable distances. Cold and miniscule and desperately insignificant. Sad. Frightened. Lost. Inconsolable. I've had to physically turn aside the feeling; to keep from collapsing in upon myself.

All I've known of human religion has provided no consolation for that sensation. Quite the contrary. Religion constantly reinforces our smallness, our weakness, our ineffectiveness. The better to control us with, I suspect. Fear. Find it, grow it, exploit it.

That fear no longer resonates with me. I don't want to be afraid. I shouldn't be afraid. But the Universe is so vast, so huge, so powerful. What does it care about me?

Two days ago, I discovered the words of an Eskimo Shaman. Words that burrowed straight into my soul and extinguished my fear.

Najagneg, Inuit shaman and guide to an early 20th century Danish explorer, explained that Sila—the great Being of Strength, the Soul of the Universe, "has a voice so fine and gentle that even children cannot become afraid. What he says is: Be not afraid of the universe."

I am ready…

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Few Steps In…

Almost one week into "retirement." Which hasn't really felt like retirement. There is still a heap of things to do pursuant to the closing of the restaurant. And beyond that, the mountain of personal things that have been left undone for five years—from decent housecleaning to gardening to tending my spirit—looms like Mt. Hood behind and above its squatting green foothills. General tiredness—which I don't expect to abate for many weeks—still makes it difficult to formulate a plan and start moving in any direction.

Besides, I'm SO over tending a list of things ten miles long that I need to/will never accomplish. I refuse to engage in that sort of exercise when it comes to my wide open life, which, for the first time in 59 months, is truly and incontrovertibly MY OWN. Right now, I'm not up to more than figuring out what to pack for my vacation in Seaside, which begins in roughly 36 hours. And even that is not getting a very thoughtful or thorough effort. Whatever I bring, fine. What I forget, I'll do without or go buy another one.

Reading material is one thing I must not forget. I've finally finished Yearning for the Wind, and have moved on to another Tom Cowan title: Shamanism as a Spiritual Practice for Daily Life. Where Yearning read like a memoir, or a collection of anecdotes, this new book is meatier and much more in-depth, like a textbook. I have only made it through the preface and introductory chapter, and I've already encountered much to ponder.

Primarily, I feel that shamanism, as Cowan describes it (so far) speaks very specifically to where I am and where I want to go, spiritually. The idea that there is a spiritual realm where we might be able to walk, that there are helping spirits with whom we may develop relationships…basically, that there is a bond between our reality and the spirit world that Westerners have not only forgotten, but actively shunned; these things make sense to me. And they call me to explore them.

Cowan, in fact, professes that shamanistic practice, like any spiritual practice, changes and molds itself to the time and culture of those seeking to explore and apply it. For 21st century Americans, for example, he surmises that the goal is to develop "an American brand of shamanism that honors our notions of independence, eclecticism, self-expression, and pragmatism, [yet] finds ways to temper American traits that tend to undermine shamanic thinking, such as excessive rationalism, materialism, mindless consumerism, and the unrelenting need for management and control."

That last—the unrelenting need for management and control— I see as: a.) something of which I am plainly and religiously guilty; b.) something which I definitely should forego if I'm seeking peace and balance in my life ; and c.) something which will be a tremendous challenge to relinquish. I am a control freak. Moreso, I imagine, than I really understand. I do understand that this has been a source of unrelenting strife and heartache in my life. I'm ready to let it go. But I know it won't be easy.

So, yes…I know that two books (by the same author, yet) do not a credible journey of spiritual discovery make. But that doesn't mean I shouldn't glean the good stuff from whatever I encounter. Is there, after all, some reason to ration enlightenment?

Monday, May 9, 2011

It's About Time

A fifteen hour day, followed by a thirteen hour day. Piled on top of the chronic fatigue brought on by all the events of the past twelve months (Chef quit almost exactly one year ago today—the beginning of the end, so to speak.) But for that, we were rewarded with our highest sales day EVER. A positive note upon which to close the book, if there ever was one…

I packed up the money, turned off the lights, drew the shades and locked the door without too much emotion. Saluted the place as I drove away, with only an annoying mist in my eyes...brought on more, I think, by the exhaustion than by any real sadness.

As I dragged myself through my front door, the only coherent thought I could form was that it will be months before I am this tired again. Rather than tomorrow night…

Yes, I was surprisingly dry-eyed during the process—saying goodbye to good customers, hugging the girls before they left for the last time, locking the doors and driving away.

Do you want to know what finally brought on the tears?

The dawning realization that now I have Time.

Time to do something. Anything. Or nothing.

Time. I’m going to wrap it around me like a new fleece bathrobe. Snuggle into my life and just BE for a couple of days.

What an extravagant luxury! I feel like I’ve won the lottery.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Running on Empty

The last pan of pumpkin bars. Baked, frosted and quickly disappearing to customers who know they’ll never get another one.

Out of: Turkey. Tuna. Salsa. White bread. Link sausage.

Gas. Energy. Inspiration.

Oh, and we have reservations for a full restaurant tomorrow. Mothers’ Day. Our last hurrah.

Hurrah? Right now, I can hardly squeak and wave a finger.

Think good thoughts for me.

Until tomorrow, around 3:00 pm.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Carried by the Wind

As I conduct my spiritual research (I am still on Yearning for the Wind…almost finished!) there have been certain passages that speak more personally to me than others. In one chapter, Tom Cowan recalls a Chippewa saying that I have adopted as my personal mantra. You will now find it lovingly inscribed on the bottom of my sidebar:

"Sometimes I go around feeling sorry for myself; and all the while I am being carried by the wind across the sky."

This particular sentiment speaks to me on so many levels. On the one hand, I have a real penchant for going around feeling sorry for myself. I have honed that to a fine art, over the years. Add to that my fascination for all things "bird," and you have an admonition that, it seems, the Universe custom made for me. An invitation to turn myself inside out. A call to raise my head from my personal hog wallow and understand that I am, indeed, being carried by the wind across the sky, as free and as blessed as any hawk or crow upon whom I have gazed, rapt and a tad envious, as it soared high over my head.

Now, I have been writing about how surprised I am by my lack of bad feelings associated with the end of my business venture. Truly, I never would have guessed I would be looking forward to Sunday with such peace, and such an understanding that this is but the end of a chapter in my life, NOT the end of the world. Unfortunately, there IS a fly in the ointment, in the person of the Intrepid Husband. It seems HE is the one experiencing all the withdrawal symptoms…from an undertaking to which he never chose to completely commit.

Go figure.

So, earlier this evening, as he began a litany of all the things about the end of our café life that are making him crazy (that he is allowing to make him crazy), I thought it might be helpful to share my precious bit of Chippewa wisdom with him.

After a pregnant pause, he looked at me and asked, dead serious:

What does that mean?

I did my best to explain it to him. I felt a bit as if I was digesting Shakespeare for a 12-year-old. After which he seemed to get it, but I could tell he had no concept of how to apply it to himself, nor any intention of wasting precious time trying.

Leading me to wonder, as I often do these days…

Who is this, really…this man next to whom I sleep every night? And what have we been doing for the past 35 years?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Something For Which We Have All Been Waiting...Or Not


While I understand there is no way that this event can go unmentioned on any blog to which I contribute my thoughts...

I need to confess:

My first reaction was not "Justice has been done."

My first reaction was not "An evil man has been removed from this earth."

My first reaction was not "Glory Hallelujah!"


My first reaction was, "Oh My God. It will be SOOOO interesting to see how this plays out for the president in the next few days."

I am at once hopeful...

...and hiding under my bed with my fingers in my ears.

Events of the past decade have led me to be almost certain that the media, politicians, pundits, and people of this great country are on the threshold of a Great Opportunity... to make total asses of themselves.

If only it could be some other way.

(Cross-posted from "Women On...)