Wednesday, July 27, 2016

making coffee: sort of a work in progress...

I was thinking about our daily rituals, the things that keep us grounded, the things we do every day without thinking, the things we do in our own way to our own standard for our own pleasure.

I was awakened early this morning by an ill family member who eventually settled down to rest so I was left awake again at stupid o'clock. I shuffled down stairs and the cats followed me.

I took a detour into the "powder room" to "powder my nose" and one of the languid sisters pulled open the door with her perfect little clawed paw, because, what's privacy to a cat? Right? so she came in and she and I had a little chat, and then I washed my hands, just so you know I'm all about the hygiene, and I fed the cats, and filled their bowl with water, and then I set about to make the coffee which as I've gotten older has taken on a level of complexity that seems self indulgent.

A thought dawned on me out of the blue,  that making coffee had turned into a ritual, one I was  not consciously  aware I was performing.

The fact that I'm the only coffee drinker in the house and I'm willing to perform this multi-step procedure for myself  points to a desire to honor myself. Also to caffeinate myself and jump start my sluggish heart, but if it was just about utility, the coffee making event would be less of an event.

First there is the filling of the kettle. I like the old kettle, it makes me happy. I can't say why, I don't know why, but certain objects have a look about them that please us, and the kettle pleases me. Then I grind the lovely fragrant coffee beans in the old red Krupp grinder that had belonged to my oldest brother who lives in  Oregon. Every morning as I pour just the right number of shiny black coffee beans into the grinder I think of my brother. I think of the age of the machine, how it still runs so well, the mystery of how time passes, and then, I push the button on the grinder and the morning silence is completely shattered. The cats, every morning, every single morning, hear that sound and jump a mile in the air, then turn to look a me with accusing eyes, offended by the noise, deeply resentful. Every morning I laugh, because, I am simple, and it always strikes me as funny how the cats jump in surprise and then glare at me. At some point you'd think they would be used to the sound but no, and it's always funny to me, you might think at some point I would cease to be amused, but no, so the cats and I are more alike than I may like to think.

By now the happy kettle is starting to make its drum roll almost boiling sound, which I also find to be a lovely thing. I turn off the burner, pour the freshly ground coffee into the glass french press, the one my mom gave me for Christmas, it's a pretty thing, it looks fragile but isn't or I would have broken it by now, and I pour in just enough water to create a slurry and I stir it with a little wooden spoon and I delight each time in that wee little spoon, and then I pour in just the right amount of water, place the cover on the pot and start to prepare the milk, which makes me think of some friends of mine, it's a long story, but I'm thinking of some dear people while I warm the milk, first I shake the milk, and I use whole milk now, which seems like an extravagance but I like it better so I use whole milk, because liking it more is a good enough reason, which in the past it would not have been but now it is. I put the milk in the old Pyrex measuring cup nuke for just the right amount of time to achieve the appropriate temperature.

I go to the cupboard to select the morning's mug. Will I choose the brown flowered mug the kids gave me for Christmas a few years ago? The green one that has the perfect handle? The large white one with the oak leaves, 'made in England' printed on the bottom that used to belong to an old fellow a neighbor of my friend Ruth who passed away two years ago, she was such a sweet soul, bless her heart?

By the time the milk is warm and the morning mug selected, the coffee is brewed and I push down the plunger on the french press. I still think pushing the plunger is cool.  It pushes down with a little resistance as the coiled spring exerts just the right amount of pressure and the grinds are trapped below.What a clever invention.

I pour the coffee, I watch it pour, I pour it from a certain height because the sight of it and the sound of it please me, and then I pour in the warm milk in just such a way, I achieve the right shade of brown, not too light not too dark, then I take the foam (I shook up the milk first, so foam, yes, foam) and place that on top, which always makes me think of my younger days and working in the cafe, and I'm good with the foam and I take care to place it just so. It's perfect.

I always take the first sip while walking from the kitchen to the dining room. One might think the proper thing to do would be to wait, I mean, this is a ritual practice and rituals are about discipline and solemnity, but the process was unconsciously designed to honor myself, and I am an impatient person. I don't want to wait for that first sip of coffee, so I don't wait, I've been waiting long enough.

Most mornings everything comes together just right and the first sip as I cross the threshold from kitchen to dining-room is an affirmation and stands above the day. A small act to nurture myself, an affirmation to honor myself in a day that will be spent in service to others.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Too Pooped to Pop

You know that awkward moment when you need to use a public restroom to take the first poo of the day, and you know it's going to be an earth shattering shit splattering mega event? And you're in there and trying to keep the noise down, sort of like that time when you were on xmas break in college and you brought your 'friend' home with you and you're trying (unsuccessfully) to have quiet sex in you childhood bed with your parents "sleeping" on the other side of  2 inches of drywall and an assortment of Nirvana and Peal Jam posters?

You know what I'm saying here?

So you're taking your morning crap, feeling a little self conscious, trying to keep the noise down to a dull squilch, and you flush that shit away and wash your hands really good and you check your teeth in the mirror before you go, and you're looking, eh, it's morning, and you just shat/shit/shitted, whatever, you look like you only without that haunted look of a person who desperately needs to shit because you just did, and you leave the temporary sanctity of the public toilet room and you find a line of people waiting, people with that haunted look that you no longer have, and you know and they know that the horrible odor is something you did, the heinous smell is the smell of the inside of your bowels?

Nope, me neither.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Context is Everything

So recently I wrote vaguely about life coming unraveled and how we are constantly having to make and remake our  lives and how if we think about it, the process is elemental. Eventually we’ll all be released to our literal elemental selves and then be reconfigured into new life, which to me is the most holy and beautiful idea of all time. I get a lot of solace out of that thought.

And so, while I was thinking about life and unraveling I was thinking, what lead to my decision to tear out all the stitches of my adult life? I mean, Huh? WTF?

And so I’m gonna give you the straight story. Or at least the straightest story I can. I’m not really a straight person, I see the whole world as a whorl, spirals, loops, circles.


For my entire life, I was incongruous. I felt out of context.



Let me try again. 

I was fractured. I was broken into pieces. I never felt like I had context, I never felt like I was constant. Every day I’d wake up and think, who do I have to be today? Maybe yesterday I met a friend on the street and we chatted easily and I seemed engaged and we seemed to connect as people, but inside, I was not really there. So the next day if I ran into the same friend on the street, I might just nod or wave awkwardly because the person I was yesterday isn’t the person I am today.
I would engage with people but have no recollection of what we did or what was said. Every time I’d meet with people, even good friends, I would fret about the interaction. I wasn’t sure I could be consistent, I was always worried  that people would notice I was never the same person from one interaction to the next or sometimes from one minute to the next. I worried about this with everyone, from my spouse to my friends and everyone in between. Family even 

The only constant was the gnawing sense that I was lacking.

I don’t think most people feel this way. I think Jeremiah Sniffnugget-Worthslothford  goes to bed knowing who he is and wakes up feeling like the same guy. I think most people probably think of who they were as children and see who who they’ve become as an adult and are able to see a pattern of how they got from small human to large human. Most people have a core self.

Like a lot of people who experienced trauma as children, I did not have a core. I was just pieces rattling around in a body.

I made all of my life choices while unaware of my capacity to have a unified Self, all the decisions I made I made from the perspective a person with no history, no context.

I grew up in a home where it was dangerous to be a person so I became blank, re-configuring my outward persona moment to moment based on what I thought would keep me safe, and I did this all without knowing I was doing it.

I wasn’t until fairly recently that I started going to a therapist who uses EMDR, a technique that has helped me immeasurably but that I don’t feel like describing right now. You can look it up if you like, or I’ll write about it later and fill you in. It’s interesting.

Anyway, the thing is, it wasn’t until just a few weeks ago I actually felt like most of the pieces of my self were in their proper place. I actually felt like something fell into place. It was a physical sensation, and I thought, OH. Hello. I’m here.  

It was stunning. I was stunned. I felt the pieces fuse together. I don’t think I’m totally put back together, but it’s sort of like having 490 pieces of a 500 piece puzzle. There are enough pieces that I can see the whole picture.  

I haven’t been a cohesive human since I was very very small. So for the first time in 48 years, most of me is in place, and it’s weird. Good. But weird. Good and weird.

Good because I still have 30 years (hopefully) or so to live as a mostly whole person. But weird because I’m looking at all the choices I made when I was not whole and I’m thinking, Oh no. Some of this is wrong. I made huge mistakes. I did the best I could but I made so many choices based on the experiences and needs of a broken person. 

One of the things I know I got RIGHT, 100% right, is having my kids. Because my kids are the best people I know and I adore them and if I had to endure a horrible childhood again and endure years of depression and anxiety to guarantee that I had the same kids again, I would. I would do it all again. Because those kids are 100% right. No doubts, no regrets.

But some of the other stuff, it’s not working now. I find that life looks different when you lead with your strengths instead of your fears. 

So far, life as a mostly whole person is still hard. My heart constantly feels like it’s either overfull or breaking but what’s different is that now, most of the time, I don’t feel like I’m going to die, I don’t feel like a fraud. I wake up and go to bed feeling like the same human being. And best of all, when I’m with people, it’s a joy to be there with them. I'm there with them. We're together. It's amazing. 

This is totally new. It makes me a little giddy actually.  I know I'm a person and I know where I am. I'm here. Helloo. Hi. Hey there. I'm here. 

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

it's as plain as the food on my face

There’s that old saying, you know the one, something about wearing your heart on your sleeve.

I guess, you know, it’s supposed to describe a certain type of sad sack sentimentalist who advertises their most cringe-worthy feelings for all to see. Those feelings we’ve all been taught it’s common decency to stuff away and hide forever until we die alone taking our regrets and our unspoken declarations of love with us to the grave where they will decay along with our tangible bits. Those feelings.

But some of us are even more pathetic than sleeve-heart wearers. Some of us wear our hearts all over our faces, like we’re babies just learning to feed ourselves. We wear our desires and tragedies all over our faces like mashed peas and pureed sweet potato and prune whip. This heart all over the face type is gauche and far more uncivilized and our dirty faces are so much more obvious to the beholder than heart shaped badges ironed or sewn on to a sleeve like a Girl Scout. I mean, that’s sort of cute, isn’t it? But the food? All over the face? If you saw someone with a little heart on their sleeve you might go, aww…but if you saw a grown adult woman with food all over her face, you’d run in the opposite direction. You would. Especially if she was looking directly at you.

The heart on the sleeve crowd, it could be said, is guilty of nothing more than an endearing emotional fashion faux pas while the heart shmeared on the face folks are committing what is essentially gross emotional hygiene.

This is what I’m trying to say: I’ve rubbed my face in a plate of pre-masticated and gelatinous feelings. My emotions are in my eyes, in my hair, congealed behind my ears. I know I should just go wash my face, but honestly, I don’t want to.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

On the Lighter Side: Life Lessons

So, if I've learned anything in the last forty-eight fucking years it's this: I haven't learned a fucking thing.
No that's not exactly true. 
Why, just yesterday I learned a valuable lesson: do not Nair your underarm hair. 
Don't do it. 
I did it so you don't have to. 
There's an old cliche, you know the one, about how you don't appreciate stuff like your mom or skin in your armpits until she's/it's gone? Wow. So much truth there.

Another piece of advice is, follow the directions on the deodorant label. Especially that part that says do not apply to broken or irritated skin.Yeah. That. Heed that advice. 

I'm trying to think if I have any other nuggets of wisdom I can quickly rattle off to all y'all.

I said something yesterday about being a fuck up, but that I'm shameless about it. I have found that there are two major emotional states that come with fucking-up. Shame is one. The other is humility. 
So you can be wracked with shame and self-loathing or you can accept your fuck-up as a lesson in humility. 

For the longest time I was consumed with shame. Shame is debilitating. But over time, somehow, through a combination of introspection, therapy, and other stuff,  I'm starting to learn how to move past humiliation and towards humility.

Humiliation erodes the soul, people, sort of like Nair erodes the skin from your armpits.
But humility is a salve and a salvation.

Humility is the awareness that fucking up is part of  the process of being alive. You fuck-up, you learn a thing or two, you allow yourself to sit with the mistakes, you let the shame wash over you and then away. You can't hold onto shame, just let it wash over and away. You take responsibility for your part and allow others the same consideration.

Once the shame has passed you find, hopefully, you're in a place where you can humbly accept your mistakes and make plans for the future where you'll be able to make different mistakes and learn new lessons.

Humiliation vs Humility.

That's what I have to offer today.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

the inescapable passage of time and the unraveling of things

Hello and hey there to all who may stumble back toward the Unicycle.

I've been away for a long time.

Funny thing I've noticed: the older I get the more fucked time gets. Some things move way too fast, like say, the last two years since I posted on the blog.

For all those hard to keep track of speeding away years, there is time that passes so slowly I can hardly endure, like say the current presidential campaign. November can't come fast enough and yet I wonder if it'll come at all.

So yes, I've been away for a long time, and yet the time hasn't felt at all long but if I measure the time by other events in my life, time has dragged, and there it is.

I guess, the problem with writing personal stuff is the fact that it's, you know...personal. I fear that this urge to overshare points to a flaw in my character; I worry that this desire to unload the details of my private experience publicly points to an underlying insecurity and pathological need for reassurance. Hey, what the heck. I own it. I'm all that kind of crazy with more crazy on top like a crazy garnish.

That said, in the past, some folks have told me that reading my blog helped them in some way. That was really nice to hear. I like the idea that spewing the personal publicly can help other people cope. And so, you know, I guess, I'll try writing regularly again for a while.

There's so much to write about, and so much I probably shouldn't write about but probably will write about anyway. Because I'm a shameless narcissist. Actually, I'm not a narcissist. But shameless, yes. That's probably the truth.

I'll try to be sensitive to the privacy and needs of others. I sort of fucked that up in the past. More than sort of. I totally fucked that up in the past. And I may well fuck up again. It is my way. I think what I am is a shameless fuck-up. Yes, that rings true.

If I've learned anything in the last two years it's that I fuck up a lot, but I can be honest about it and I can take responsibility for the consequences. And frankly, fucking up is part of being a person. It's something we all have in common.

So many things are happening, big picture things, personal things.

It seems like the whole world is coming unglued, pulling apart.

It's hard when all the things start to unravel at the same time.
It's hard when you realize that you've been pulling some of the loose strands yourself, and it's sobering to find yourself at the end of the day chin deep in a sea of thread. Of course, I'm high on metaphor right now. Sorry for that.

But anyway, these days I'm wading around in the unraveled fibers of all the things.

That's the way it is. Sometimes you have to rip it all out and make a new one. Whatever it is: a sock, a sweater, a heart, a life.

You have to keep pulling the threads, confident that eventually you will create something new, something that fits you better. And yet, it's important to keep in mind that what you're fashioning today will not always fit you, and that's okay.

The unraveling and recreating will continue forever, until you die, and then, guess what, you'll come apart and be reassembled again. And again.

There it is.

I guess I'll start writing slow and take it a little easy. For now. Until I can tap back into that gorgeous vein where all the words just sort of mine themselves.

In the meantime, I think maybe it's time to learn to knit.