Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Skylark

    Grief is a mysterious affliction. Painful, hot and cold, waxing and waning, swells up from the deep to grab you by the ankles and drag you under the dark waves. I have lost people, friends and family, over the years. Old age, suicide, motorcycle accident, cancer. Crossing the bridge after a long life is a well earned rest, I think. Suicide was shocking and not shocking, coming after a life time of severe mental illness. Motorcycle accidents are tragic, but oddly, we know it is part of the risk of riding. Cancer... well cancer is a motherfucker, and it sucks, but you see it coming and manage to have yourself a bit prepared once all the options and alternatives have been exhausted. Fuck Cancer.
    But this latest loss. Sudden and unexpected, unfair and unjust, undeserved and out of the blue. I can't wrap Brain around it. I am in denial, which I do know is one of the stages of grief. But I'm not here to fall into the easy analytical aspect of how the world of academia says we should work our way through our grieving process. I want to rant and rave. I want to fall into the dark abyss and wallow. I want to curl into a fetal position and cry until I can't breathe, I want them back. I want to go back in time to Saturday so I can warn them to check their insulin, eat right, and get some rest. I want to sit up through the night watching them sleep so I will be able to interject myself between them and Death as he walks through the door draped in dark robes and armed with a scythe. If I could have been there, I know the signs, I am trained to see and understand the signs of low blood sugar. I am trained in what to do to fend off diabetic issues. If I could just turn back time a few days. I don't think that is asking too much to save the blithe spirit of my friend. I am trying to find inspiration in all of this, knowing that is what they would want.
    Funny, my use of the term "blithe spirit" came without thinking, and just to make sure I wasn't delusional I double checked the definition and this is what it said: Joyous, merry, or happy in disposition: glad; cheerful. "Everyone loved them for their blithe spirit."

 And to research a little deeper, the term "blithe spirit" comes from a Shelley poem titled "To A Skylark." Fitting for our poet, Bryony.
This is what one university English professor writes:  "The word "blithe" is an Old English word literally meaning 'carefree, happy and lighthearted.'
"Spirit" of course would mean 'an incorporeal supernatural being.'
(quite fitting for our Bryony, I think.)
Shelley begins his poem by saluting and greeting the skylark by calling it a "blithe spirit," because the skylark is a bird which is rarely visible and only its melodious song is heard by people. The sweet song of the skylark reveals to Shelley that unlike ordinary mortals like himself it is absolutely carefree." (again, more fitting than I might have anticipated.)
 
    I won't say my friend was carefree, they had more than their fair share of the burdens of life, and understood all too well how harsh a place the world could be. But it was how they chose to live that makes me think that they reveal to ordinary mortals like myself that they were, if not carefree, they were free. They chose freedom to live life as they wished, flying in the face of ordinary restraints. So, here I am, taking inspiration. Finding appropriate symbolism in a chance phrase. I want and need there to be some meaning behind all of this. So, I choose, at this moment, to think of my friend, a blithe spirit, a carefree, merry, joyous Skylark singing their song for all to hear, though rarely seen, Fly my friend.


Monday, September 12, 2016

Bryony

    I lost a friend Saturday night. I didn't find out until late Sunday, when I was cold, tired, and hungry after spending the better part of 5 hours at a Life Flight landing zone waiting for a patient to arrive. I got home, heated a can of ravioli (Annie's organic cheese ravioli in a non-BPA lined can... it still tasted like canned ravioli), and slumped at my computer to veg out while eating mindlessly. Right there, in my Facebook feed, "Passed in the night from complications of diabetes." Let me put you straight, this was a vibrant, sparklingly incandescent person who knew of their health issues and was very conscientious. There had not been previous episodes or incidents. This came out of the blue like sucker punch. Only 33 years old. Loved and lusted for. Likely envied for their quick mind, wicked wit, and poetry skills that I have watched blossom over the last 6 years or so. I remember dancing at the E Club, hot and sweaty, singing loudly along with 4 Non-Blondes to "What's Going On." Every since, I have thought of them every time I heard that song. Now it will be a song to bring a touch of tears to my eyes.
    Life has taken on a surreal quality in the 22 hours since I read those words. I keep expecting to hear that it is some huge and horrible mistake. Oddly enough, I spent the better part of yesterday morning working on their tiny house, which is really just a shell with the interior barely roughed in. I have been doing repairs, and had been given free rein to take over the construction and make it liveable space. I sat on the bed frame, with a cup of coffee at my elbow, and made up a long list of the projects I hoped to complete over the winter. I had planned to text them the list, knowing how excited they would be. Going out on a long medical rescue had kept me from sending the text. I am relieved, on one hand, since I would have been texting to the ether. I am also saddened, wanting to think that they would have gotten the text anyway. Oh well, hindsight.
    I haven't cried yet. I think it is because I still don't really believe they are gone. There is a monthly poetry gathering later this week that they were an organizer for, that is now being turned into a memorial and remembrance. Funny, I just remembered, I was at Queer Poetry Night the very first time they stepped up to the mike to publicly read one of their poems. It was beautiful, funny, sexy. They were both confident and shy, and altogether charming. It was at the beginning of their blossoming, changing from small town misfit to big city inspiration and rabble rouser.
    I watched them grow and change, and felt a certain envy for the way they had come into their own. Being their own damned self with every fiber of their being. Okay, now the tears come, in a torrent. The world lost a beautiful, unique, inspiring, intelligent, hilarious, ludicrous, loud, charming, sensitive, extroverted introvert. We lost a spirit that could not be dimmed despite having been given a rough road to travel. And travel it they did, not merely traveled but paraded, stomped, danced, skipped, and cartwheeled. I lost a friend who I could trust with my deepest secrets, and who made me laugh, feel less like a hermit, and who made me want to sit up late talking of all things and nothing. We shared victories and losses, dreams and delusions, fantasies and reality. I thought we had all the time in the world.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Rain

    I stood under my Apple Ent and watched the storm come blowing in across the fields. The smell of rain was heavy in the air. The wind brought in a temperature drop. I knew the rain was coming so had been out working to clear up the detritus of my current projects. Power tools needed to be stashed safely, hand tools brought in and hung on appropriate hooks. I raked up as much of the paint chips as was humanly possible, bagging them and handfuls of earth, rocks, and leaves along with the paint.
    I stood watching the storm come, protected by my eldest apple tree. I watched, with my dogs hovering near to hand, until fat drops of rain made little dust spurts in the plowed field to the south of me. It got so dark it felt like a solar eclipse. Too dark for a late summer afternoon. Too chilly for an August day.
    But we need the rain. I hope it rains hard enough to wash the dust of summer off of my world. My property has the look of a fallout zone, coated in grey and brown dust from the plowing and dusting of lime that has been going on in the fields around me. One of the few curses of living in farmland. I spent part of my morning washing my backyard, rinsing away the heavy layer of grey that had dimmed my world to the spectrum of a black and white photograph. One amusing aspect of the recent dusting is how it has made spider webs stand out in stark contrast. It is a good thing I am not an arachnophobe or I might pack up and move at the sight of the thousands of webs covering nearly everything. I did have to rehome a number of spiders while scraping and sanding the house. The little fellas really like lurking under the lap siding. I made sure they were safely moved into my over-zealous camelia bushes.
    The rain may have been a false start. A bit of premature ejaculate. Big fat drops leading to not much of anything. Could very well be a metaphor for life if I want to get philosophical, Instead I think I will take this opportunity to bake some bread and do some long overdue housework since my time of late has been taken up with outside tasks that are far more entertaining and  satisfying than sweeping up dog hair. Or I might pour myself a cup of coffee and look over the sketches and measurements for phase 3 of the cedar deck, and ponder the construction and framing. Or, I could make a cup of double bergamot Earl Grey and do nothing. Nah, life is too short to sit and do nothing, Bread baking it is. Might as well take advantage of a cool, dark day, though there will be more than enough such days in a few short weeks. But I think I will make that cup of Earl Grey.

Too Much To Do

    Summer always seems to flash past in a blur of activity. Some years I am racing every other weekend, some years I am working like a fool to improve my little piece of property. The last two years have been of the home improvement type. I know it isn't as exciting as the racing summers, but they are very satisfying. I have been working like a fiend. Putting in an 8 hour day at my job, then racing home and working until sunset on my little hermitage. It is wearing me out.
    The last few weeks I have been feeling that oppressive presence that heralds the coming of the dark, cold days of Winter. I know I still have a month or two of decent weather as we head into Autumn, but the feeling is still there. It is a demon that rides my shoulder, whispering, "I am coming." Every year I feel it and every year I try to get my life in order so I can face it down with power.
    This year I have taken on a few monumental projects that will be a challenge to finish up. Paint the house, rebuild the deck, build a greenhouse, finish the last bits of The Fort, build a small tool shed. The deck is nearly done, but the last section is waiting on me getting that dorner of the house painted before final assembly. The house painting is a labor of love. Serious labor. Scrape, sand, prime, scrape and sand some more, prime some more, paint. I have the back half about 80% done, but haven't even started on the front yet. Today, it is cool and damp so painting will have to wait. I am almost thankful that the weather changed, giving me a break from scraping paint in the hot sun. But it is good weather for deck building, so I tell myself.
    What I really want to do today is stay inside and watch the grey clouds slip past, and the cool wind play with the trees. But life is too short for such indulgences. Besides, there will be plenty of days ahead when I am all but forced to sit inside and watch the rain and wind.  Okay, enough ruminating, time to get outside and get shit done.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Regain My Enthusiasm

    I have come to the conclusion that I am not temperamentally disposed to working in customer service. The shame of this is that it is something I am ridiculously good at. The reality is that it stresses me to the point of shattering, and drains me dry. I have reached a nadir in my current employment, dreading certain days, knowing that it will press me to near breaking by the time I can escape back to my shaggy little hermitage. I have become over-reactive, to the point of meltdown over minor issues. Today I ended up having to retreat to my car, put in earplugs, and pour over the journal of ideas that I keep handy while I fought to keep from dissolving into a mess of tears. No, it wasn't pretty.
    Analyzing, as usual, I realized that my over-reactive tendencies have been barely managed for a number of years now. I hesitate to use the phrase PTSD, because I don't dare compare my life to the rigors faced by vets, police, full time emergency responders that have caused many to slip into hellish existences haunted by their past experiences. But I spent far too many years living under a blanket of stress from work and my personal life. I think it destroyed my ability to manage what is likely normal stress for most people. It has made me almost fearful of the idea of having to have a full time job where I have to actually be in contact with others of my species. I just can't handle day to day stressors like I used to. Largely, I think, because I don't want to have to. I don't want to meekly have to take it on the chin. I want to be able to erupt, say "No," and walk away from things that make me unhappy. I think I have earned that right.
    Funny thing though, I can be at the scene of a fatal car accident, helping to pry a badly injured patient from the car, and not have the feeling of insurmountable stress that I get from dealing with customers and management on a day to day basis. If anything, it is the exact opposite; under real, traumatic stress, I am calm, decisive, and in control. I just can't handle the little, petty shit anymore. I've had to deal with too much of the little, petty shit in my life, and I have had enough.
    Today, fortunately, is my Friday, and a half day, I fought my way through the tasks that had to be completed, then fled the scene before I committed any act that could not be either denied, nor covered up by judicious use of a recip saw, a deep hole, and quick lime. I escaped to the serenity of the state park along the river, and the trail that has become my favorite run. The sky was grey and sullen, a fine drizzle turning the summer coating of dust to a caked layer of mud. The run, combined with the fresh, cool, damp air cleared my head. I do my best thinking when I am working my body. Swim, bike, or run, my brain goes into overdrive. By the time I left the woods to stretch out in the open meadow, I was formulating A Plan. Yes, whenever I am trying to realign my life, and come up with a plan to save my sanity and soul, I do see it capitalized: A Plan. 
    I know, I do this with regularity, and it rarely manages to make it off the drawing board. But it makes me feel better, and that is all that matters when I am this close to slipping back into that grim hostel that was my home for too long not that many years ago. I will say, that during the major meltdown of my life I did come up with A Plan (to buy my own home), and I did just that, despite having a major nervous breakdown... or because of it... or the breakdown was caused by the buying process. Oh well, chicken and egg, you know. I have had some moments over the last few years when I have had to give myself a shake, make some plans, and give something new a try. No, I haven't had any great successes with my various schemes, but I keep on trying.
    Winston Churchill said, "Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm."  I just need to make A Plan, and maintain my enthusiasm.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Malaise

    It has been a bizarre week of ups and downs. For weeks I have been fighting against a melancholy that is more grey than black. Not a trip into the abyss, more like watching a home movie version of a trip. It is hard to describe, and I don't quite understand it myself. I have been thinking that maybe it is more physical, as if I am fighting off some malaise, since it has manifested more like a case of extreme exhaustion than the emotional drain of depression.
    As I have been pondering this weird manifestation of whatever the hell is sapping my energy, the world has continued on despite my lack of involvement. As I hide in my hermitage, feeling sorry for myself, events have transpired that make me want to grab myself by the collar, give myself a shake and a slap upside the head, and scream, "Get over it!"
    Last week, a friend finally lost his long, hard fought battle with cancer. He lived far longer than the doctors predicted. He lived long enough to see both his children marry, and to meet his first grandson. He was a good man, flawed, as we all are, but with a good soul. We used to armor up and fight, way back when, and he was a good teacher. We have sons that are close in age, and close in size, and I remember how he and I laughed the first time we put those two big boys into armor and let them fight with hard, rattan weapons instead of the padded versions they were used to. Suddenly, they were much more cautious with each other, as they realized just how much they could hurt each other.
    Also last week, a friend lost her beloved canine companion to cancer. It was sudden and unexpected, but had metastasized to her heart. There was nothing to be done but make the tough decision. It is a brutal choice to have to make. It was nearly two years ago that I had to make the decision to end the pain of my beloved Tonks, my big, hairy girl.  It still hurts to think about, and my friend losing her dog to fucking cancer makes me hurt for her, and brings my own pain back to the surface. Fuck cancer.
    Monday was one of the good days. I got to run a 5K along our hometown 4th of July parade route, then watch the parade with my grandkids. That was a joy, as always.
    Wednesday started with my pager rousting me out of bed. A 35 year old man, felled by what was likely a massive heart attack. We worked on him for a long time, but there was nothing to be done. He was 35. Thirty-five!  Fuck no.
    The news has been filled with the violence that is tearing our country apart, and terrorism that is shaking the entire world to the core. I can't even log in to get my email without feeling overwhelmed by the tragedies that are happening with daily regularity. It is overwhelming.
    As I feel sorry for myself, with this grey malaise that I can't seem to shake, I have to make myself take a good look at my little corner of the world. I hold myself and my life up to the light, seeing it all for what it is. I can feel empathy and sympathy for the tragedies that are going on around the world, but can be glad it has not personally touched me. Yes, I am poor, skirting the edge of poverty, but my bills are mostly paid. Mostly. I am poor but I eat well, have a car that runs, a good roof over my head, a garden planted, fruit trees, grapevines, berries. As I hold myself up for inspection, comparing my minor woes to those who have lost loved ones, I chide myself for being so damned delicate.
    I think the real root of this malaise is my lack of progress towards.... something. I feel like I have stalled. Dead in the water. Low energy equates to zero motivation. But what am I motivating to? I have no fucking idea. It is just like trying to maintain a high level of training for triathlon, when there is no triathlon to train for. Without some sort of endgame it is hard to keep any kind of focus. Without focus, how can I know what needs to be done? I don't know where I am going, so how can I chose a path? Is that the key? There is no destination? No destination does not mean that I can't enjoy the journey. But I need to let go of the idea that I must go from point A to point B. I need to allow myself to putter about, relax, read a book, write when I have words that have to escape, paint when the need for color arises, build when my hands need to be productive. I just have to step back from the intense level of go go go that I tend to force myself in to.
     Maybe I need to shut out the news of events I have no control over. Focus on the here and now of my own reality. Maybe I am just rambling incoherently because I am sleep deprived and deranged. Maybe I am just blowing smoke, again, to try and make sense of things that make no sense. Maybe my reality has absolutely nothing to do with anything but the babblings inside my own head. Maybe it just is what it is, no explanations needed. Maybe. I don't know.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Physical Manifestations

    Now comes the physical manifestations of melancholy. It is as if Body, knowing Brain and Spirit are managing to dig their way out, is telling me, "Fuck no, not yet."  It is strange to be in the grip of something tangible yet ethereal, held prisoner by demons that know how to eke out every drop of misery from every corner of me. It is easier for Brain and Spirit to claw their way out of the abyss, sometimes it is a case of mind over matter. Yes, I am good at blowing smoke up my own ass. I can talk a good talk, raise my own spirit from the dead, or near-dead. Body is not so easy to convince. Body is stubborn when tired and achy. I do tell myself that it is okay to take a rest day, after all, I do push myself hard. This has been different, for this time of year. Maybe it is just that I managed to glide through the late winter and into early spring without too many missteps. That is my usual time for a meltdown. This year, somehow, I managed to avoid any untoward episodes, kept the demons at bay, and came through the dark days relatively unscathed. I may just be having a delayed reaction.
    I have been trying to find the keystone to this particular episode, and can't quite pin it down. I know it is partly dissatisfaction with my job, combined with a severe shortage of cash this month, and a few other issues that would be minor in and of themselves, but added to the morass they become major hurdles. Being strapped for cash has made my diet switch from heavy on the fresh fruit and veg to a bit heavier on the home-baked (and delicious) carbs.This isn't the best plan for a body that is already feeling a bit askance from having my training interrupted with illness and injury. I have been on antibiotics several times this spring, and that may have kicked me into an imbalance as well. So nothing feels quite right. My whole being feels unbalanced, awkward, heavy, apathetic, sluggish. I have been so tired these last few weeks I feel as if I am drugged.  I try to work on projects, of which there are an overwhelming abundance, but I can't manage to wrap my brain around them, much less muster any enthusiasm.
    Work is kicking my ass on almost every level, and feeling especially intrusive on my delicate, introverted psyche. There is nothing I can do about work though, since there isn't exactly and army beating down my door to hire me as a Hermit In The Woods. On that front though, I am thinking through some good ideas for extra income, if I can get Body to stop being so damned pouty. As it is, I'm not even keeping up with my household chores, much less having any excess energy to launch a business endeavor.
    I just have to get Body through the next few days. That should see me through the worst of it. I hope. I keep managing my workouts, though those are slipping a bit, and taking my vitamins like a good girl. I confess, I have added the little pink pill, citalopram, back into the mix in an attempt to push myself back on track. I'm not sure what else I can do at this point, except keep on keeping on.  Sometimes, that is the best I can hope for. Now I think I will curl up with a book and a cup of herbal tea. That I have the energy for.