Thursday, February 23, 2012

1000 Etherical Moments

So here it is. My 1000th post.

Nothing like the advent of a milestone to shut down forward progress.

After posting my most recent entry last week, I noticed that my next offering would be Number 1000. I got it into my head that this was quite an achievement, and that I should celebrate it with a truly worthy essay.

Which was all it took to bring my newfound writing mojo to a screeching halt.

I suppose I shouldn’t beat myself up about the lingering changes wrought on my life by five years of bondage to a 5000 pound gorilla. That time of my life was just…a mess. It wasn’t ALL bad, but it was bad enough that I have to dig deep to unearth any good memories associated with it. It was a long downward spiral of missteps, failures and slaps in the face, interspersed with one or two level platforms where I might have rested, laughed, or even attempted a pat on the back before the world tilted and the descent began anew. How could that not change one’s world view?

Once again, I’m undone by the possibility that some aspect of my “new” life might become a habit, or, worse yet, a responsibility. Something I have to do, every day. I cannot go there. Still. So when it seemed like even the shadow of a cap-gun might be leveling at my temple—the idea that I should write a well-constructed, thoughtful piece on the event of my 1000th post—I froze.

And really, when you come to think of it, what’s so great about one thousand blog posts? Any blogger worth her salt would have reached that milestone in about three years. It’s taken me eight and a half. Plus, many of those early AOL posts transferred here when AOL went tits up, were garbage. Pictures, jokes, memes…more of the kind of stuff that is now relegated to Facebook than real blogging.

Still, it is the history, isn’t it? It’s a timeline of the changing face of internet society. Sure, if I had posted 1000 pieces in three years, it would attest to my prolificacy as a writer. But in my case, the landmark seems to point more toward longevity. Through thick and thin, feast and famine, satisfaction and desolation, I have hung in there. For more than eight years.

So even though I am beset by a temporary (I hope) emotional handicap that makes it very difficult to do justice to the occasion, I am not unaware—or unappreciative—of the achievement.

And now that I have this out of the way, I can go back to writing any old crap. Or not.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Getting the Messages

Our most recent visit to the Nuclear Park—about a week and a half ago when the weather was fine—confused me a little. I had hoped to see Herons…planned to, in fact, since the last time we were there had been a Festival of Herons. But our walk around the lake was utterly heronless. Mostly, I saw and heard—kingfishers.

I knew by his visit to my Solstice celebration that Kingfisher was probably going to be prominently featured in my life this year. I'm also aware that I have been studiously not heeding part of his message—that part about getting daily cardiovascular exercise. I couch-potatoed my way through most of the month of January and was starting out February the same way.

So I’ve decided to take that message to heart, beginning with a daily walk, since I know I’m desperately out of shape and don’t really want to court a heart attack or stroke. Just so you know, a “walk” for me is not a leisurely amble. It’s an arm-pumping, long-striding, uphill and down dale sort of affair. These first two mornings, I’ve chosen my “short” route—a three-mile circuit through the neighborhoods up the hill behind my house. So it’s not like I’m not challenging myself some.

Another of Kingfisher’s admonishments is to set aside a few minutes every day to just…think. With no structure or restrictions on the thoughts. It occurred to me today that my solitary walks up into the country are the perfect way to accomplish this. With the blood moving and the endorphins cranking, I indulge in a lot of positive contemplation; rather than the morose wallowing I tend to do when I’m potatoing on the couch.

Besides the continuing instruction from Kingfisher, I have become aware that there are two birds demanding my attention right now. Wherever I go, these days, I am accompanied by mobs of crows and the songs of sparrows. The other day, I was working out in my garage, and a crow outside in the top of the cemetery fir tree was making such a ruckus that I poked my head out the door, looked up at him and demanded, “What??!?” And then I immediately became aware of the sweet song of a little sparrow. He was perched on top of the fence not fifteen feet from me, singing his heart out. As soon as I turned my attention to the sparrow, Crow shut up. It was if he had called me out to the driveway to come talk to Sparrow.

And this morning as I walked my circle, my path was literally littered with sparrows. They flitted in and out of the brambles beside the road; sang their sweet little songs. When I spoke to them, they didn’t fly away…rather, they seemed quite happy to pause and look at me, heads cocked to one side, completely unafraid; as if to say, “Good morning! We are your guides for the day!”

So of course I had to consult my reference book to see what message Sparrow might be bringing me. I can’t say I was displeased by it:

This is a very productive and prolific time.
Look for the nobility in the most common of things and people, including yourself.
Walk with poise, your head held up, eyes straight ahead, showing the world your self-respect and dignity.
Your heart is opening more and more to the love you receive and you’re more readily expressing love to others.
Your energy and vitality are awakening…

“A very productive and prolific time.”

Oh, yeah. Bring it on!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


This morning, I thought briefly about subject matter for my literary endeavors. I’m not one to go to some website looking for writing prompts. Stuff that other people think up and throw at me rarely challenges me to put forth my best effort. Don’t know why…just that ornery streak rearing its ugly head again.

It crossed my mind to write about exactly what I am experiencing right now: Stumbling through the rubble, trying to recreate my life. I thought about calling it something like “Rebuilding from Ground Zero.” Which would be a great metaphorical concept; except that the term “ground zero” has been co-opted by history, at least for now, to describe a very specific time and place. Who told them they could steal my metaphor?

The pictures that come to mind when I try to explain my current life situation all seem to involve rising up out of the ashes. All a bit too mundane and overworked, I’m afraid. Still, that’s what it feels like. But if I’m going to take this subject to a level that will make my experiences seem fresh and interesting, I’ll have to come up with another theme. I want to make this a real travelogue. I want to go somewhere wonderful with it, and I want to make it engaging enough that others will want to go along with me. So I suppose the first thing I need to figure out is, Where am I going?

The thing that keeps coming to mind is that I have a unique opportunity, here, to do almost whatever I want. Husband brings home the bacon, loves bringing home the bacon, cannot NOT bring home the bacon. He is simply not okay if he is not working (for someone else.) Fine! Doesn’t that free me to pursue…anything?

But of course, there’s a kink in the hose; I’ve already done THE thing that (I thought) I wanted to do most in the world. And it did not culminate in that ride-off-into-the-sunset moment. So whatever I decide to do now will be my Second Choice. And you know…I’m having a really hard time making that choice. The process being somewhat poisoned by the outcome of Choice #1. It never occurred to me that I would need a Back-up Lifelong Dream.

So, yes…I’ve decided to write about it. But—here we are, back at the starting point of our circular logic (I’m getting dizzy)—I need to have an “it” to write about. I’m writing about the journey…but where am I going?

Crazy, perhaps?

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Power of the Spoken Word

Yesterday, the husband, my sister and I spent the morning driving around looking for breakfast and second-hand bargains. When our original destination—a five-star coffee bar on SE Division—proved a mistake (there was a line out the door and a 45 minute wait for a table) we ended up in a sparsely peopled family restaurant/lounge in Milwaukie, where our waitress proudly crowed that the potatoes were “cooked in bacon grease.” Seated in the bar, where 100 years of legislative intervention would not cleanse the smell of old cigarettes from the place, we ate our slightly greasy but acceptable repast. Then we were out the door and headed to the lovely large Goodwill store we had spotted a few miles back.

As we snaked the car along the highways and byways of Portland, the conversation somehow arrived at what I should now be doing for a living. (Talk with this particular sister almost always ends up centered upon what everyone ELSE should be doing. She’s a walking advice column when it comes to other people, but can’t seem to apply any wisdom to her own personal disasters.) One bright idea after another issued forth from her:

“That’s what you could do!” as we passed a “doggie daycare” storefront. “You could start a pet-sitting business!” Just what I want to do. Chain myself to this town caring for other people’s pets while THEY go to Europe or take cruises to Cabo.

“You could have a booth at the Farmer’s Market. Maybe even sell food!” Just what I want to do. Tie up, for the entire summer, one out of the two days a week I actually can interact with my husband.

And my personal favorite:

“I have an idea for a restaurant that really would work in Scappoose…”

Maybe it was that last one—the implication that my restaurant experience might have succeeded if I had only had the right concept –that sent me over the edge. Irritated beyond endurance, I first shot down her idea with a slightly over-the-top diatribe detailing everything from how difficult her “simple” restaurant concept would be to implement to how my hard-earned knowledge of the predilections of the small-town diner assured me her concept was not, to put it mildly, a sure-fire success. (I have to say, I sounded like I really knew what I was talking about. Maybe I actually DID learn something during those ghastly five years. At least, I’m pretty savvy about what will NOT work…)

And then, some words leapt out of my mouth, the like of which had not made it through my vocal chords, onto my tongue and out between my teeth for probably forty years. Not since a skinny, tangle-haired teen-ager sat in a critique circle in a high school creative writing class:

“I am a writer, dammit! And I’m going to damn WRITE!”

The declaration was met by my audience with a somewhat stunned momentary silence. And then we sort of edged away from the subject and steered the conversation in a different direction.

But there it is. It's out there, now; not bouncing around off the ceiling and walls of my own head.

I've said it.

No going back.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Coming Out

Awhile back—several years ago, actually—I proclaimed in this space that I was not the least bit interested in writing a novel. Nor in penning fiction of any kind. “The Novel” seems to be the be all and end all of published writing. Everybody loves a good story, well told. Everybody but me, apparently.

I thought at the time that this was just me, going against the grain, as I always do, of the “accepted” standards of whatever I find myself involved in. That is my way. I can’t, I won’t do or be the expected. What everyone else does. Conform to the norm. It goes against everything I have ever stood for all my born days.

But I think the issue is, I’m just not that kind of writer. I write about the now. About what’s happening right in front of me. Little wonder that, when I was in high school, my interest lay in journalism. ( I wrote poetry, too; doesn’t every teen-ager with a pen and a spiral notebook and the will to use it?) But “stories” just kind of eluded me. I wasn’t that interested in them, and I didn’t do them well. Perhaps because the purpose behind a “story”—be it short or “War and Peace”-ish—is to put forth opinions and points of view…but in a sneaky, introspective, passive-aggressive sort of way. I have never been any good at that kind of pretense. What I think, what I believe, is right under the surface and bubbles forth way too quickly for me to weave it in and out of the context of a story.

So I think this may be the answer to the herculean case of “writer’s block” I’ve been experiencing lately. If my writing is about what I’m doing and seeing NOW, it’s no wonder I can’t write anything. If I only seem to be able to produce this whiney, self-analytical crap, it’s because that is the sum total of what I am seeing and doing right now. I guess I’ll keep writing about it—if only to keep my hand in the process of stringing words together to form a coherent idea. But it’s certain no one really wants to read this garbage. And I don’t blame them. I don’t even want to read it.

Deep down inside, to the foundations of my very being, I know that I am a writer. It is essentially who I am, what I was born to be. In the manner of Michelangelo liberating The Pieta from a block of marble, if you knock away all my superfluous surface rubble you will uncover a figure at a desk with a pen and a tablet and a fire in her eye. I have become so adept at hiding this person. At burying her under layer after layer of stuff that, ultimately, doesn’t matter. Because I’ve so cherished her, this person I really was, that I couldn’t bring myself to put her out there. Couldn’t open her to the criticism or rejection of other people. I thought it would kill her if I did.

But it is my misfortune that what I was born to do involves other people by definition. Writing is essentially communication, which necessitates that it issue forth from the writer and be received by others. This is not a part of the equation that one can leave out and still call oneself A Writer. Seems like a no-brainer, really. But it’s taken me half my life to figure that out.

And now that I know this, I have to figure out how to make it happen. How to BECOME the writer I was meant to be. Which is probably why I have spent my last six months of recuperation time doing and thinking about everything but writing.

I mean, I always think about writing. But I still can’t look at it as what I am supposed to be DOING. For the past month I’ve been engaged in the process of making plans for how to proceed with the rest of my life. Initially, I went with the default—I decided I needed to get a job. When that plan proved doomed to certain failure, I thought the Universe must be telling me to channel my energy into a more creative endeavor. So I began considering other options: jewelry making, weaving, culinary school, opening a gift shop, interior design, photography… All wonderful, laudable and creative time consumers…but thinking about them is as far as the process progressed. It’s as if a cement wall has been constructed between me and these things. Because they are not what I am supposed to be doing. And the Universe appears to be prepared to continue to snatch things out of my hands until the only thing left is The One Thing.

Which is all very nice, but I also see that I need to be doing something ELSE if I’m going to write. I need something to write about. So perhaps if I couch my involvement in some other endeavor in the guise of needing the experience as inspiration, the Universe will cut me a break and let me get up off my ass. I think we can come to some sort of arrangement, the Universe and I. But I also think that I am going to be held accountable. If I stray very far from the plan, the Almighty seems poised to reel me in. Abruptly and rather rudely, if need be. And the need may very well be, given my history…

Thursday, February 9, 2012


Today, it will be exactly one week since I consumed any form of alcohol.

For many years, I’ve been in the habit of enjoying a glass of wine or two in the evenings. During the times of my life when I was the most challenged, the most stressed, the most hurried, a little alcohol at the end of the day helped me relax and wind down. I love doing wine tastings at the local wineries. And when I owned the cafĂ©, one aspect of the job I really enjoyed was stocking my wine list with inexpensive but potable northwest offerings.

But I realize that, now that I no longer have a wine list to build, and now that I am not challenged or hurried (I intentionally omitted “stressed” from the list of things I am no longer…) the wine culture in which I took such joy only a short while ago has become more poison than pleasure. That person who prided herself on expanding her knowledge of drinkable local wines and got such a kick out of exchanging wine banter with restaurant guests has been made redundant, as the Brits so gently put it. And outside her proper surroundings, she was quickly reduced to a solitary swiller of cheap, bad wine—the wine budget went away with the job—which she imbibed while reruns of “Chopped” and “House Hunters” flickered on the late evening boob tube.

The sad fact is that alcohol is a depressant; exactly what I DO NOT NEED right now. And I was drinking it more out of habit than any real enjoyment. And you definitely do not want drinking to become a habit. Especially when you are hovering around in this between-adventures limbo in which I find myself.

I don’t think I’ve gone on the wagon for good. In fact, I have a bottle of inexpensive bubbly out in the fridge, waiting to enhance the right happy, social moment. The key word here being “social.” Drinking is—or should be—a social activity. The maxim “Never Drink Alone” was coined by wise people for good reasons. I’ll be happy to share that bottle of champagne on the next appropriate occasion.

But if solitude is the order of the day—and I don’t necessarily hate that it is—I’ve found it’s better faced with sharp eyes and a clear head.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

What Am I Afraid Of?

My earliest memories are of being afraid. I wouldn’t play in the lake because I was afraid of drowning. I annoyed my older sisters with a nightlight because I was afraid of the dark. I didn’t make friends because I was afraid of rejection. I couldn’t watch “Ben Casey” or “Dr. Kildare,” because I was afraid I had every symptom suffered by the patient du jour.

Though I was not paralyzed by fear, it certainly tainted every aspect of my life. And the situation hasn’t changed as I’ve grown older. I refuse to fly because I’m afraid of crashing; don’t climb ladders because I’m afraid of falling; can’t send my work off to be published because I’m afraid no one will like it.

I am never brave. Oh, there have been times I have girded my loins, ignored the fear and gone for something. But it was never out of bravery. More out of desperation. More of a “what the hell…what’s the worst that can happen?” attitude. More out of the conviction that if I didn’t suck it up and just DO IT once in awhile, I would never do anything. And when I do…

I invariably end up in a time like NOW. The calm after a deadly storm. I hole up and heal; but, in time, I’m driven back out to face the next onslaught. I simply cannot stay in the hole. Because I’m afraid. Afraid I’ll never do anything ever again. What a way to live.

I’m fed up. I’m SO tired of being afraid. It’s taken me more than half a century to realize that living in fear sucks. It can be used as an effective motivator, yes. But it’s a terrible way to live. At least once in my life, I’d like to see something I like and go for it with no fear, no reservations…nothing but confidence and anticipation of good things. Other people can do this. I know they can. Why can’t I?

Last December, I meditated upon the things that “no longer served;” the things I would symbolically burn in my Solstice Fire. On one scrap of paper, I wrote one single word: “Fear.” I’m tired of being afraid. Tired of letting that negative emotion, that black hole of dread and weakness, form the boundaries of my life.

Unfortunately, one Solstice fire does not seem to have done the trick. Fear continues to badger me. Here I am, with all the time and most of the means I need to just go out and explore, discover, learn, create…and I don’t. I’m afraid. I don’t even know what I’m afraid of. I just know that I can’t see my way clear to step out of my box—which has become awfully small—and do things I’ve never done before in quest of my next adventure. Yet I know I can’t let the unfortunate outcome of my Biggest Adventure take away the rest of my life.

Time for another fire. And another and another. As many as it will take to burn up the fear and free me to really live the rest of my life. LIVE, maybe for the first time in my life. Wouldn’t it be glorious?


Along about the beginning of this year, I decided I just needed to write. Write whatever. Take the chance of doing some stream of thought things…no editing. Just writing. I’ve found myself getting so bogged down in the process, in getting every word right the first time, that I spend more time with the “delete” and “backspace” keys than on the ones that are actually going to get my message across. Whatever that is.

And I also made the decision to go ahead and post the “self-analysis” things that I have been loath to put here for many moons. It doesn’t escape my notice that those kinds of posts could make me appear whiney, perpetually unhappy with my lot in life…maybe even certifiable. But I think they have value; they help me work the puzzle. And my life is a puzzle, these days.

There are a lot of emotions warring inside me. There is fear and the rejection of that fear. There is sadness and the resolve to overcome that sadness. There is discouragement being assaulted by daily pep talks. There is lingering exhaustion being trod upon by the almost desperate need to get off my ass and accomplish something. Something. I have no idea what.

Most of all, though, there is a feeling of complete aloneness. The certain knowledge that no one, NO ONE, has the time, patience or desire to hear me drone on about these things. Everyone has their own issues. Everyone has their own lives. No one needs to hear about MY issues, about MY lack of a life. I used to think that’s what friends were for. Absent friends (a state in which I have found myself for roughly EVER), I decided that’s what family was for. Don’t know where I dug up that notion, because my family has never been about tending to our own wounded. As a last resort, I made believe that’s what a mate was for. SO not true. And the discovery of that particular fact has probably been the most difficult to bear of all. But I have this blog, and I am not too proud to use it as my sounding board.

And then I lost my internet connection. Became utterly alone—away even from that scant remaining thread of a connection I made over eight years ago, quite by accident, and to which I have clung like a drowning rat. I wasn’t even aware of how attached I was to this soggy piece of wood until now. Nor was I aware of how small it had become. More like a wood chip than a plank, these days. Soggy and waterlogged and going down fast.

Well, my internet came back today. I would like to say it welcomed me back with open arms, asked where I had been, told me it had missed me. Not so much. But oh well.

I'll continue, as always...

Coming to terms.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


They say life is a refining process. Theoretically, the older you get, the more you have learned. The more you can apply past experience; perhaps even use what you know to create a better life, going forward. “You’re not getting older, you’re getting better.” I wish it was that simple.

Because I don’t feel like I’m getting better. I don’t feel like I’m becoming refined, or learning anything. I certainly don’t believe I’m becoming wise, which is supposed to be the reward for growing older. I feel like more like I’m…petrifying, like an ancient tree.

Maybe my case is atypical. God knows, I’ve been a couple of steps out of sync my entire life, as far back as I can remember. I wonder if I was born lacking a certain kind of emotional armor that comes as standard equipment on most people. It seems I have always felt things more deeply than most. And have lacked adequate filter to disguise my deep feelings. The double whammy. Feel too much and show too much. It hasn’t made my life easy.

I guess they call it “passion.” I have been told I am passionate…and it has not been meant as a compliment. More of an excoriation. “You’re too—fill in the blank.” Such is the lot of the passionate person living among those who are…not. This surfeit of feeling and depth of emotion are freakish, almost threatening, to those who do not possess them. We are taught to control our passion, mask it, sublimate it, beat it down.

Having come of age in the sixties and seventies, I feel like at least I was given a short reprieve. Passion was the order of the day for us hippie-types back then. Forty years ago, I felt a connection to a larger culture of passion; we wanted to feel, and we were allowed to feel. We wanted to see, and we were encouraged to see. Some of us thought it was real. We believed that the passion we felt would be accepted and encouraged. We could be who we were, and change the world. We didn’t know it was just a pop-culture fad. We didn’t know that, in ten years time, we would be hopelessly “out-of-style.” Invited to sit down, shut up, and get back in lock-step with the rest of the world toward...well, whatever we have now.

Over and over again, as the decades have passed, I’ve found my deep-feeling soul to be more of a curse than a blessing, at least when it comes to getting along with other people. In my heart, I feel right. I feel like this is who I am, and I feel no shame about it. Left to my own devices, I’m mostly happy with who I am. That’s probably why I am just as happy to spend so many hours alone. But as soon as I rub up against other people, I begin to get that “inconvenient freak” feeling. That certain knowledge that I am different, and that it makes other people uncomfortable. That the only way for me to make it peaceably through life is to either pretend to be like everyone else (and I suck at that sort of pretense) or actually BE like everyone else.

Thus, my perception of my 50+-year-old self as a fossilized tree. Once away from those brilliant years of my young adulthood, I have met with enough disillusion and disapproval over the years to douse my fire. Or at least turn it down so far that it is barely a pilot light. And it really does not make me happy. The only times I feel right anymore are when I forget myself and soar to some extreme of feeling that no one else around me—particularly not my contemporaries—seems to be able (or willing) to reach. And I always pay for it. Disapproving glances and raised eyebrows are the mildest of the consequences. Most often, I pay with a serious crash and burn, failure and alienation. I’m so fed up with dealing with the consequences that I hardly ever “show myself” anymore. I dial it down. I don’t allow myself to feel.

I suppose people like me need to learn to control their passion, or it will be the end of them. Perhaps this is why so many passionate, artistic types die young, or even kill themselves. If you allow yourself to burn so bright all the time, you’ll burn out all the faster. But I wonder…who really gets the better deal? Is living long the ultimate goal? Or is living completely, for however short a time, what we should be aiming for? Why add twenty or thirty boring years to an uninspired life? What are we really contributing to the Universe once we’ve learned to hide our light under a bushel? An interesting conundrum…