Just Having Fun

THOSE ABOVE

I fear the shadow lurking by the door
Between this world of waking and my dreams.
It stands, a sentry, guarding rich and poor
Alike. Prevent the mixing of the streams
Of light and dark, awareness in extremes,
Where truth and soul aligned still haven’t met.
This sentinel on guard, so thorough, seems
To hold all power close, lest we forget
That getting may be worse. When all is set
In motion from the universe’s first kiss,
Those meetings, chance and brief, leave us in debt
To whims of fate whose archers never miss
Their mark. We all are targets. Those above
The shadow masters guard the gates to love.

I Have No One to Blame

When I found myself on my knees last night, I had to take a moment and ask myself what I had done to end up here, like this. What point along my timeline marked the moment I could have made a different decision, a better decision that would have avoided this pain? As I inched along the baseboard with my putty knife and razor blade, gently prying off the tape and cutting away the stuck bits of plaster, I knew that this time I would have to go all the way back to the beginning, to the day when I impulsively stripped the old wallpaper from the walls and declared that we would prime and paint instead of repapering.

That’s usually how projects go in our house. I do something impulsive, insisting I’ll be done in a minute, couple hours tops, and my husband comes in with a mountain of equipment and schools me in the fine art of doing things right instead of just getting them done.

So, here we are, six weeks into this let’s-repair-the-walls-before-painting-but-not-skim-coat-haha-just-kidding project, and we’re finally (almost) ready to prime. Along the way, I’ve learned the value of a good dust mask with a respirator, the importance of drinking enough water, the limits of both household vacuum cleaners, and the art of blending new plaster with old. I’ve also gotten to see every crack, crevice, and wrinkle in my skin since I’ve spent much of the time covered in a fine layer of dust. I’ve never been more grateful for running water and cool showers.

We could have pushed ourselves harder last night, finished getting all the tape off, washed down the walls for the umpteenth time, but in a moment of kindness and pity, we looked at each other and said, “Enough.” If we stopped, we’d have time to clean up before the Game of Thrones finale started. We could shower, eat something, put our aching feet up, and enjoy the rest of the evening. So we’ll stop, right? We stared at each other, then at the walls and the tape. It was coming off slowly, taking much longer than we anticipated. I’ll put my tools down, if you do. Agreed. But then:

“The tape above the doors and windows is hard for you reach,” he says. “I’ll just get that.”

I pick up my knife and go back to my baseboard. What have I done?

I’m stubborn enough that I won’t be the one to walk away first. If he’s going to push himself, so will I. Now it’s a matter of pride. And stupidity. I pause. This is one of those moments, this choice matters, right now. I stop, face red, dripping sweat and look at him again.

“Why don’t you go shower while I finish this?” he says. “I’m almost done. I can take the trash out while you shower, then take mine.”

He’s appealing to reason: we have only one shower. Can I trust him? Will he actually walk away from the room, leave the rest for me to tackle tomorrow? It’s a gamble. I can see he actually is almost done. I look at my knife, I can feel my feet, swollen and sore, begging me to listen to him, trust him, walk away. It’s not a competition.

“Okay.” I finally agree. “But I’ll get the upstairs trash while you do that.”

Score one for me. Oh, wait. It’s NOT a competition. If it were, I’d have lost before we began. The truth is, he can outdo me. He’s taller and stronger and has more stamina. His vision is sharper, his knowledge broader, his attention to detail more acute. I can’t win against him when it comes to sheer endurance or to utter perfectionism. The nice thing is, I don’t have to. When I stripped off the old wallpaper, I knew without asking that he’d throw himself into the project, and that we’d end up with a much better result, no matter how long it took us. And I knew that I could learn to do what needed to be done and hold my own doing it.

That’s how I ended up here—I had someone willing to humor me and challenge me and push me just a little harder than I would have pushed myself. The walls and I are stronger for it.

Where Yesterday’s Post Came From

How do I accept the unrecognizable life? How do I embrace that which I don’t want? How do I reconcile reality with expectation? If I let myself mourn, will I ever stop?

I’m afraid to seek answers to my own questions. I’m struggling to accept the reality of my life, stripped bare of dreams and expectations for improvement. This is my life. The totality of it. Changes may come, but they’ll be minor. This is it. When I force myself to look that closely, I usually want to go back to bed or to eat something. Maybe both.

This can’t be all there is to me! But it is. Look closely, I tell myself. Don’t turn away. Really look at what’s in front of you and gather it close. This is what years of your choices have left you with. Not what you expected, but what is. You can cry anytime now.

My sister says we need to grieve our losses. Let ourselves mourn. I’m not sure I can. When we buried our parents, we buried the last illusion of family normalcy: the gatherings and celebrations for holidays, birthdays, anniversaries; the sibling connections; the big extended family carrying on generations of traditions. We scattered. I see my cousins’ families doing all those things with their children and grandchildren, and I think, “They got it right. What happened here?”

I happened here. I’m the one insisting there’s a right and wrong, and since our family doesn’t match that picture, it must be wrong. It’s not. But my feelings about it all don’t accept the difference. Still I don’t mourn, but I grieve. (For me, mourning is external, letting it out, showing the world how I feel. Grief is internal, deep and private and dark.) Grief has gripped my heart and won’t let go. It grabbed me before my parents died, as my children reached adulthood and the truth of their lives and my expectations collided.

The truth of my life. My life, not theirs. My expectations, my desires. How many times I had stood up to life and declared, “I choose love!” only to be hit in the face with a cream pie while the universe pointed and laughed. I’ve been a fool over and over again, always trying to find the best in people and situations, until there was nothing left to find, and I had to admit that everything I believed about who I am, my role in life, and my contribution to the world was a lie. The truth is here, around me, in the everyday: I’m alone, friendless, and unemployed. I chose love. Whatever for?

Grief lives in me now. It permeates everything I do, but I don’t mourn. I don’t let it out. I keep it locked tight away in my heart. It colors every contact, every moment. It’s a reminder not to trust, not to believe. Love is a lie. I can live with grief, but if I let myself mourn I’ll never stop.

Struggling to Accept My Life

IF I LET MYSELF CRY

How do I mourn the loss
of love that never bloomed?

How grieve the death of
dreams never meant to live,

Not fashioned of strong stuff,
born into daylight, made real?

How do I mourn what my soul
craves? Hollow fantasies

Wearing different faces in
dark mirrors, never mine.

Do I cry for what is? or
what will never be?

Welcoming Summer

a morning prayer

open my eyes in the morning
when the birds first wake the sun
and sing its rising to the world

beat my heart steady and strong
the pulse of a world waking
the quiet rhythm of emerging day

breathe in me air newborn
cool and clear, pure possibility
refreshing night’s stale spirit

call out to every cell
wake up! wake up! morning is here
and life is new again

I Had to Let It Go

I just edited today’s post to remove the word it from the last line. I had added and removed it several times before posting, finally leaving it in. Now it’s out again. It might reappear later today or even sometime next week (next year?)…who knows. I like it in for the rhythm, out for the meaning. Can’t make up my mind.