Archive for February, 2010

hot mess

Pardon the casserole-esque composition of this post, but I’m not feeling like I have a cohesive narrative in me at the moment, so here it all goes into a sort of bloggy dutch oven:

• Last week I had a little breakdown, meltdown, whatever that down thing is where you find yourself at the very bottom of your own emotional well, unable to muster anything but a feeble I…can’t while you squinch your eyes a little more tightly and moan in despair and resent everybody in the world and how they’ve had a hand in buggering your life straight into abject misery. I hate when I get to that place, which isn’t too often but even once is really too often considering that the health and welfare of two small beings depend entirely on me almost all of the time. I especially hate myself when I even start resenting them and their needs, you know for really burdensome things like food and hugs and shoelace-tying. Anyway I think in the interests of maintaining escape velocity and staying out of that dark dark place, I’m not going to write about it here, not now anyway. I was there, I’m mostly back, it’s a struggle, but at least I’m fighting the good fight, as they say.

• One precipitating factor of my well-dwelling was the construction work on our home. It isn’t minor, it’s a nightmare, both in the sense of what it is costing and what’s involved to get it done. Were talking whole walls and windows being ripped apart. Gone. Noise, dust, power tools, polite yet essentially strange men traipsing through the house all day. It just… it overwhelms. Particularly for an introvert like me: my home is my sanctuary, my refuge from a world I find mostly abrasive and stressful. I know: first world problems. It’s true. I try to remain grateful for the fact that I have a home. I’m realizing my gratitude muscle is a tad out of shape, though. Gotta work on that.

• I don’t get too excited about Valentine’s Day much anymore, it’s become more of a fun family thing where we do and say nice things for each other rather than a holiday filled to the gills with overt romance and sexaciousness. At most, Monsieur Shriek and I exchange cards with handwritten, thoughtful sentiments about our partnership and sometimes splurge on good chocolate. Which is fine by me, usually. However, I was secretly hoping this year that he’d say, Hey honey, you had a hard couple days and then next week is going to be literally 24/7 of you plus kids plus loud and invasive construction, why don’t you take a day to yourself and go read a whole book or something. However, as he busied himself doing yardwork and garage puttering and car washing, I engaged in a robust fantasy — as I spent three hours preparing supper with various children clamoring for  snacks/attention and hanging like disgruntled three-toed sloths from my apron ties — of lounging remorselessly in a seaside hotel hammock with a gentle breeze turning the pages of my virgin copy of Joyce’s Ulysses, a vodka tonic murmuring fizzy nothings in my ear.

• Speaking of supper, I made the Pioneer Woman’s crash potatoes but sadly they turned out more like disaster potatoes. On the highly suspect advice of my husband (oh hindsight, your 20/20 I-told-you-so goggles are useless under the tent of holy matrimony), I pulled them out of the water too soon, and when I showed them the potato masher they scoffed and disintegrated into little spud crumbles.

Witness hot mess Exhibit A:

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Lately it seems I’ve been living entirely in paradox, in that membrane of tension between two poles. The rowdy chaos of small children; the mausoleum of my office when I’m alone, working. The merry excesses of wine; the slumber of exhaustion. The bitter tears of frustration; the breezy pinnacles of joy. The anxiety. The calm.

I no longer cross between them, but encompass them all, feel them all, live them all. I can’t even describe how much it seems I am holding, and how much holds me. Like I am in the grip of Yeat’s gyroscope, this impossibly delicate balance.

Saturday was sun: time with family, long walks by water, clouds reflecting and refracting the aliveness of the world in every direction. Filled with oxygen, love, and the buoyancy of hope, I felt springlike, as if my very cells were made of plush, airy moss so green it could absorb every mote of darkness and photosynthesize it into light again. These simple acts: breathing, eating, mothering, listening and laughing. They renewed me. I took them in like lost souls. Like wings.

© 2010 by shriek house. all rights reserved.

And then the tide turned. It was time to visit my very ill, very old grandparents. One hospitalized and one heartsick. I took my daughter, because she asked, and because I knew it might be the last time. I took her towards the nearness of death, and she knew; she wanted to go. Perhaps I’m attributing too much to one so young, but I believe she wanted to reach across the chasm, to transmit her vitality to the ones she loves and are withering away from her.

So we drove into the night, across marshes rattling with husks of dry reeds and through barren winter fields of sleeping farmlands. The road played tricks on my eyes, dark shapes pooling on its surface in the distance only to disappear like mirages as I approached, and each painted stripe leaping up in an insane, jerking jig before falling again under the hood. Shadows of death gathered in the periphery. Cold seeped through the windows. The rising moon hung in my windshield like a saucer-sized bead of mercury, mottled silver and watchful. My daughter’s gentle snores rasped softly from the back seat, an audible reminder of life’s continuous, tenuous push/pull with death.

photo credit: vaitu

There is a buddhist sutra, or teaching, I remember from my zazen days, the Sutra of Timeless Life. It’s something one chants, over and over, in a sort of ringing monotone. It came to me unbidden as I drove across the dark valley; I only noticed after I’d been chanting it for a while. This is the translation:

Homage, Buddha!
Buddha is first cause.
Buddha is each cause.
One with Three Jewels.
Bliss, Nontime, self, pure.
Dawn thought: Kanzeon.
Night thought: Kanzeon.
Thoughts rush — near to Mind.
Thoughts, thoughts — one with Mind.

And this idea poured into me like water: that, light and dark, it is all the same. It is all Mind. I live here, in it, and make all these distinctions about joy and sorrow, fulfillment and suffering, but it is all Mind. My grandparents are exhaling towards release as my children are breathing in their beginnings. Here, in the middle, I am distant from either, yet close to both: pulled like a magnet in every direction, suspended in time.

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