Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Intellectual Disabilities

Found this old, unpublished post languishing in the dusty drawers of my blog today and thought I'd share it, uh, anyway.  This was written four (four!) years ago, when we were all trying to get our heads around the fact that McCain had chosen Palin as his running mate.  I had written a longer, more politicized version that gathered several scathing nasty comments from fans, not of the Flip Side, but of Palin, and I chose to scrap it, wanting to keep the focus on generating positive vibes and juju, and not feeling armored enough to deflect so much negativity.

It's fun to laugh about it now, thinking about that insidious, strangely sublime pairing (after all, the brilliant Tina Fey would not have been able to trot out her own brilliant "you betcha" version of Sarah Palin had she not been catapulted into the spotlight), and how much fun it was to make fun of her despite our absolute terror that she just might get elected.  And it's a little wild to remember how we thought that it couldn't get much crazier than this.

And now, four years later, we learn that it can get crazier.  It can always get crazier.  And thank god for the funny people out there who offer up some much-needed comic relief during election season.

I'm a tad bit worried that I might have inadvertently contributed to the McCain/Palin campaign yesterday.

Dominick and I were walking into our local Stop and Shop yesterday afternoon. There was an older man standing outside, wearing a bright yellow vest emblazoned with "Helping God's Special Children." He held a canister in one hand for donations, and a bag of tootsie rolls slunk on the ground next to him. As we passed him, he shouted out to Dominick, who was wearing his Red Sox hat, "Do you play ball?" Dominick looked at me, as if to ask, "Mom, what kind of a question is that?" I raised my eyebrows. "Ah, yeah," Dom said, still unsure as to why this total stranger was asking him such a seemingly obvious question. The guy tossed Dominick a tootsie roll, his reward, apparently, for answering correctly. "Thank you!"

On our way out, I gave Dominick a dollar to put in the man's handy canister. And of course, after he did so, he was awarded with yet another tootsie roll, and as we crossed the street to our car, the man called him back and asked him if he had any brothers or sisters. Dominick did not miss a beat this time. "Yes, I have fourteen of them." (Actually, he wouldn't have thought of lying; he dutifully answered with a simple yes, and a thank you, when handed a third tootsie roll.) Score!

When we got to the car, I inspected the tootsie rolls, which I quickly noticed were covered in customized "The Knights of Columbus Thanks you for your Support" wrappers. But it was when I read the other side of the wrapper that I thought that perhaps I had just given a dollar to the McCain/Palin campaign:

"Helping People with Intellectual Disabilities."

Oh well. I'll double my usual donation to Obama, and maybe I'll get a box of junior mints.  ;)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Heavy Boots

"Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than those you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbor. Catch the wind in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." ~ Mark Twain
Strange energy afloat the last few days, leaving me unable to sleep, melancholic, restless.  Sails luffing.  Must be getting ready to come about.  Hard-a-lee!

Night arrives earlier and earlier each day as fall continues to pull the curtain on summer's light show, and with each pressing, lovely shade of darkness, it's all I can do to stop myself from climbing out of my own skin, head outside for some night-swimming, leave it all behind. But there's no lake here, just endless fields of corn and barley, and I walk the long roads looking for something to lighten these boots, fill these sails...

Or perhaps, it's the opposite: the need to climb back into my skin, trust in my body again, spend a little less time in my head, and more time surrendering to the sentience of living aflush, here, and now, nerve-endings awake and alive and electric with connection, a little passion, flow.  Please?  I don't think I can wait another day, another night.

I walk until I find some moonlight, and fill my hollows with the stillness and the shimmer of the stars above.  And yet, it is not ever enough.

Sleep seems intangible, something of an other world, something that no longer belongs to me.  As if my days cannot end, as if those missing pieces are indeed starting to talk to me, demanding that they be dealt with, polished and examined, loved, again.  Don't you forget about me.  

What will it take?  Why is it so hard to make a change?  To trust that it will be okay?  Why can't I break free, gather the winds from the skies above to power my own sails and passage through stormy seas?  This is, after all, no longer a safe harbor.  It's time to throw off the bowlines.  Have an adventure.
"I am not afraid of storms for I am learning to sail my ship."  ~ Louisa May Alcott
Sometimes I think I want the big storm to roll in, as if I will respond only to the catastrophic with a force equal in thunder and verve, to take action, my fight or flight instinct taking over, and harvest the glad tidings and joy that wash in with the tide.  But things remain puddle-stuck, unchanging, stat-quo, blue gloom, in this little spit-spot, and I don't intend to languish here for too much longer.  That there are still things and people here that get me through, that feed me, that I love, is not lost on me, and I am grateful: just this morning, walking through this wind-swept day, noticing that change is all around me, in the burnished tops of grass and corn stalks catching the light, the periodic dance of flocking birds, the sudden shifts in light and air and even the way the earth-smell has deepened with a richness of a slowly rotting, forever cycling world, I was reminded that change is what makes us, keeps us, alive, echoing the force, the beauty, the necessity of unbridled, seasonal tack that lies deep within us, and without.

And this, too: walking through a shiver of Saturday morning comings and goings, happy for a few serendipitous face-to-face connections and real conversations with friends, and starkly aware of the absence of others, I am, by turns, encouraged and disheartened, the ache deep and palpable, the swell and tilt of emotion rising to the surface to find release in this gently blustery day.  I hear you.  I know you're there.  There is a sharpness to the emptiness, an expansiveness to the loneliness that fills the space, and I don't trust it fully; my breath restarts again, and I am transported back to the slow burn of fear and dread, where my mind takes me to all the worst possible conclusions, and then back again, to the searing, soaring hope, above all else, for something better.

Something better.  I've imagined it, letting the possibility roll on my tongue, the kernel of promise split into an anticipation huge and luminous and a-shimmer with the dance of heartache.

Heavy boots.  Pulling in the sails.  Just going to luff it out for awhile, sit with the tears spilling salt on my cheeks, listen to the wind moving through the trees, whispers of my heart, my hollows.

We fill those hollows as best we can, with star dust and sunflowers and sweet, unexpected kindnesses that smooth out the rough edges, and it's all we can do, over and over again.   Fill it up again, restock the shelves, prepare for stormy seas, and then, when we're ready, when we can't stand it another day, trust that our strength and light will see us through, and go.  Go.

Katie Daisy original

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Humpty Dumpty: Picking up the Pen to Pick up the Pieces

Hello out there!

I have missed you.

Life has swallowed me up, and I've been unable to spend any time here for a long while.  I find myself this  morning with a lovely little stretch of time while I wait for my mother to have a bronchoscopy at Mass General Hospital in Boston, and well, without the usual distractions, I am tempted to do a little writing.  I'm not sure if just being here in this gargantuan bee hive of workers and drones and Queen bees at MGH has reminded me of the times when I myself have been the patient and needed to process, dismantle, defuse the building, encroaching shadows, or if just simply watching my mother navigate the increasing menacing terrain of aging has triggered this sudden need to examine where I am with it all, but whatever the reason, here I am, eager to fill the blank space with a few words.  Not for work--where I write the same kind of email, have the same kind of  conversations on the phone, over and over again, the repetition bordering on the inane dripping from fingers, paralyzing tongue.  Not on Facebook--where I slice and dice snippets of my overlapping worlds and force them into tiny little boxes of intrigue and wit--the status update.  Sigh.  No, this kind of writing is just for me, perhaps, and for you.  A bit of sublime, self-directed, creative play with words.  An expression of this moment.  A look back, a new perspective.  A romp through my sleep-deprived brain.  Do bare with me. (yes, pun intended)

I was up early, after all.  5 am.  Thanks to a wake-up call full of sweetness and unexpected humor from a friend and neighbor (a farmer who is up even earlier than that most mornings), I was able to ease into the dark morning with a smile ("Front desk," he deadpanned on the other end), offer my mother some reassurance with my own wakefulness, and look forward to the day.

Long drive into Boston aside, I often think that early morning time is the best part of the day, if you can get it.  The kids are still asleep, the dog and cat are full of sweet, sleepy love, and the world is quiet, save for the morning doves cooing in the thick fog.  Of course, I can't get it all that often, given how late my teenagers keep me up (and recently, all those fiery, get-up-and-do-something speeches from the DNC), how sleep has become such a necessity, how exhausted I usually am at the end of a full day.  But wouldn't it be nice, to wake up long before the fog starts to climb the distant mountains, catch the ripeness of the moon setting every now and then, sit with a cup of tea and write those morning pages.

Strange to think that nearly every day for many, many months I shared, here, so much of what was going on with me, my internal landscape laid bare and brazen for the picking.  At the time, it was all I could do: share my story, process all the muck before it destroyed me, and let it go.  Faced with an unexpected breast cancer diagnosis, blogging became a matter of survival.  Without it, the sheer weight of the uncertainty and ludicrousness of the initial diagnosis--that blasted, spitfire bitch--would have toppled me.  Without it, the insidiousness of the fear and dread would have hooked its barbed teeth into me, eaten me alive, spit out my bones.  Without it, I never would have realized that the 'bitch, as with most difficult, life-altering experiences, offered unexpected opportunities and lessons in wisdom, clarity, gratitude.  Without it, I never would have experienced my own sense of rebirth--back into a light and love through reaching out and connecting with all the shimmering juju that is ours for the taking, if only we ask.  The best thing that came out of all my earlier blogging was hearing from so many women who were going through similar struggles with breast cancer, who were re-experiencing the world with fresh eyes, and rediscovering what really mattered to them.

(as an aside, I just went to the bathroom down the hall; it seems my 5 am wake up time has left me with dark circles reminiscent earlier days of nursing my babies through the night, and still earlier, staying up several days in a row, for marathon study sessions, or, more likely, rugby-banquet-inspired 3-day drinking-round-the-bonfire binges)

We make our choices: we can swim in the dark, brave our murkiest depths to shine the light on our two-headed, cross-eyed monsters, and bring them to the surface for refashioning; we can stay in the light, and never venture below, staying close to the surface and denying ourselves rich opportunities for getting to know our truest selves, the unplumbed dreams, hopes and fears that make us who we are.  The sun rises for us each and every day; cancer taught me that we must never lose sight of that chance for renewal, growth, change, even when, especially when the darkness threatens to overwhelm.

There's a great Aimee Mann song (there are many), Humpty Dumpty, about the push and pull of depression, and particularly, being in that stasis state when nothing, it seems, is working to "bring you back to zero":

"Say you were split, you were split in fragments
and none of the pieces would talk to you
wouldn't you want to be who you had been
well, baby I want that, too..."

Life does that--over and over again, shattering your world into bits and pieces that suddenly make no sense to you, or to one another.  Parents suddenly announce their impending divorce.  A cancer diagnosis comes out of nowhere, and four years later, an over-sized pick-up truck does the same, slamming into you with the same kind of force that leaves you grappling for meaning and purpose amid the wreckage and gasping for the breathy lightness of gratitude.  Another blip, another reminder: it is good to be alive, after all.

And there are times when we are the masters of our own destruction, for good and for bad.  We end a long time relationship with someone who used to mean everything to us.  We switch jobs.  We take a hiatus from the rush 'n go and hibernate, a forced sabbatical to deliberately re-set our balance, reclaim what matters most.

Our task, after all, is to constantly engage in that ongoing rich, creative process of dismantling and re-assembling the pieces that make up our lives, to intentionally deconstruct, take apart, surrender to the natural falling away; accept the sudden, unexpected decimations; consider the pieces, through close, careful examination, and decide which are worth saving, and which must go.  Our task is to listen.   It all comes back to the central question:

Katie Daisy print:  http://katiedaisy.com/

Starting at a young age, we develop tools that provide critical support for getting us through.  I started writing at an early, early age, and there was great power in that: to recast something unsettling in a more manageable light, to edit and revise my life in a way that allowed me to listen, reflect, let go, move forward, forgive.  It was a way to stake my claim in a life that sometimes seemed beyond my control, to reassert my own presence in directing its course, to make sense of it all.  And when everything was blasted to bits, and I had to gather up the pieces and get on with it, writing often proved to be the best way to get those wayward bits and shards and pieces to talk to me, to make peace with their dark beginnings, put myself back together.

If you've read any of my other Flip Side of Forty posts, you know that Walking, and all its wonderful charms, has always proven to be just as therapeutic, and healing for me as Writing.  I walk so I can stay grounded; I am instantly transported back to what gave me strength, heart and hope as a child: our undeniable inter-connectivity to nature, and to each other.  Walking fine tunes my sense of all that I love about the world, hooks me into the rhythms of the natural world, and forces me to be here now, take notice, listen and learn.  And the combination of Writing and Walking has been especially powerful: a delicious, cathartic tonic to whatever ails me.

So, I encourage you: Go find what it is that works for you, and whatever it is--that allows you to connect to your best self, discover and get to know all the fragments that make up your mosaic self, change your course, decide your next step, and inhabit your "one wild and precious life"-- that's where your time and energy has to go.  Be disciplined, be dedicated, be relentless in your pursuit of what keeps you well.  Set those boundaries and prepare to fight for what you need.  It's your right--don't let anyone ever tell you differently.

I'm trying desperately to do the same, to get back to my Writing, make more time for my Walking, count on more quiet and stillness in my day, surround myself with the good vibrations of intentional practice and let myself, my life, breathe.

(funny, all this talk about breathing while Mom comes out of her bronchoscopy)

I don't want Life to swallow me up.  I'd rather air out legs, head, and heart on the lovely back-country roads that surround me, spread my wings on the pages of my writing, and fly...

I wish you well.