5.20.20

That Hindsight high lasted a good minute. That was a solid period of bonhomie.

The last two months have been hard, starting with that migraine in late March, followed by this ever-loving BACK! which I pulled three days before my birthday last month. Little did I know it would go on for a month, and longer, I now expect.

Still, I felt good. Positive, happy.

Thankfully, the back pain is livable now, making its ownership of my body known mostly upon rising, of course. I ease into standing, and go about my day. Unfortunately, predictably, it’s triggered a massive fibro flare. I’ve taken it all with a sense of humor, resolve, and purpose.

I fell out of yoga after the cheilectomy (big toe surgery) in November. It’s a long, slow recovery. I passed an important date on May 11th: Six months. I can expect final swelling to be gone anytime in the next two. I did notice a nice improvement in late April. It’s consistently more comfortable, albeit just a little, and I’ll take it!

My body is so tight and resisting! This back debacle has got me back to my mat, in the privacy of my own home. The floor was always there, but I’m lazy. What can I say? I’ve been doing baby stretches every day, regardless of pain. Sometimes I just lay there, feet up, if that’s all the back will permit that day. The strain was going along, recovering nicely if slowly, when BAM! Three weeks into “getting better,” I reverted to the inability to stand, for another three days!!! At that point, my mood began to plummet. What the fuck?

It’s one thing when you can identify a cause, but I have done NOTHING in quarantine but study Spanish, stretch, and practice the guitar. Not one thing warranted this relapse, and here it was. I was immobilized.

I was fed up.

In all my complaining, I’ve avoided the real reason I couldn’t take it anymore. Penny up and popped an aural hematoma. Remember Cricket’s cute cricky ear? It resulted from surgery to correct aural hematoma! And now Penny? What the actual fuck?!

cricket in the er

“My dandruff is out of control, because I’m terrified in the emergency room, and I puffed it out of of my undercoat like a scared chicken pops out its feathers, but isn’t my cricky ear adorable?”

The tech at Banfield was stunned, having never heard of the condition in cats. It’s more common in dogs, but both my girls get to have their go at it. The kicker is that Penny’s heart murmur – rated 4 out of 6 – prevents her from having surgery. All we could do was drain and fill it back up with steroid, hoping that would reabsorb and treat it. It didn’t. Blood rushed back, darker, bigger, and angrier. Our only recourse was repeated draining and filling. My poor kitty was traumatized.

She had three appointments in a week-and-a-half. The second course has done better than the first, and I’m encouraged by that. We had a follow up appointment yesterday, that I expected would be a sign off of sorts: Continue to watch and hope the small pocket that’s left finishes draining and retreats permanently.

During Covid, I instructed Penny repeatedly not to get sick right now. I’ve kept my sense of humor about that, even while it forces me to drop my baby off all day – separated from her mom, stuck in her carrier, terrified – for a brief treatment that otherwise would have been done in-room, where I could be with her and take her home straight away. She hides under the bed now. This is so devastating for me. I’m fighting tears! My kitty doesn’t trust me. Everything she’s ever known is unsure now, and she doesn’t feel good!

(Being cooped for so many hours in her little carrier has aggravated her arthritis to a point that she won’t put weight on her front right paw! What had been, with one medicated treat per day, an almost imperceptible limp upon waking is now a heart-breaking hop!)

Penny’s old age is harder than Cricket’s. Cricky had thirteen years with one emergency that gave her the silly ear that so suited her funny offishness. Finally, there were three months at the end, when we fought but never got the better of a disease that ended her sweet, gentle life. Penny is falling apart piece by piece, and it’s brutal! A bad heart precipitates teeth that hurt, because she can’t have her annual dental cleaning under anesthesia (and I didn’t know pets need their teeth cleaned, until mine were old and started having dental problems). A mistake I made – using essential oils to freshen the air – gave her chronic bronchitis! (This was another moment I was grateful not to mother humans. The guilt is unbearable.) And now she can’t step on her front paw.

And the ear condition her sister wore so well lingers, frightening and uncomfortable.

God in heaven, let her passing be soft and beautiful like Cricket’s. Let me sing and hold her in my arms. Please. With Dr. Kpat and the beautiful Banfield team that’s taught me as much as my two girls have. They love Penny. They see more of her, because I just didn’t understand until diabetes took Cricket that they have to see the doc throughout their lives, just like we do. It seems so obvious, but I just didn’t know. They’re my first. They’re my only. They’re my world.

The team at Banfield all tell me how sweet and affectionate Penny is, how they love her little chirp. Elise delivered her to me curbside after one appointment and confided, “She’s my favorite lady.” I believe her. Penny’s the best thing on Earth. I tell her every day.

Yesterday’s appointment was to be 10-15 minutes only, thank god! Unlike the previous appointments, I could wait at the curb for her and hope to put this all behind us.

Enter Rich, my landlord. He offered a ride. I was so grateful! I hadn’t quite known what I was going to do. I couldn’t ask an Uber to wait indefinitely, could I? I imagine I would have asked for Galen’s help. But Rich offered.

I asked the night before if he was still willing . “Yep,” he assured me. “Remind me an hour before.”

“I will. Thanks so much!”

I did as instructed, and yesterday I tore my poor kitten from under the bed, shoved her in a dreaded cage, whereupon she started crying, and I ran next door to grab my ride, who wanted me to sit and watch the end of a game show! Not only would this potentially make us late, but my baby was alone and terrified right now! He rolled his eyes at me.

I sat and waited, just dying inside. When the program didn’t end but went to a final cliff-hanging commercial break, I pleaded with Richie, “We’re gonna be late!”

HE LOST IT. Rage!!! He was up and screaming. Violent, red-faced, vein-popping, murderous, immediate RAGE.

I left. He chased me. “Fine!” he screamed. “Let’s go, then! I’ll miss it cuz you can’t wait two goddam minutes!”

I went home, locked the door, and canceled the appointment. He kept screaming. I shut the windows, so he banged on the door. I got off the phone and stepped out. I couldn’t subject my already traumatized cat to that hostility. “It’s okay,” I reported, breezy. “I’ve rescheduled. Don’t worry about it.” Nothing irregular here.

That made it worse. Now he’s pacing to the garage and back, to his truck and back, to their door and back. “I emptied my whole day for you!…” (He just finished a job, and would have gone to the lake today if not for a days-long high wind event he knew was coming. He’s a Navy man with a boat on the Great Salt Lake. He knows the forecast. He was staying home.) (And he offered.)

“I’m sorry I got impatient.” Neutral face.

Still screaming, he didn’t hear me.

“I’m sorry I inconvenienced you.” Neutral tone.

“No, you’re not!” he shot back, venomous. “You enjoy it! You did it on purpose!”

I went back inside. I tried. He raged on, inside, up the stairs, to Molly’s office and kept her from working for more than an hour, screaming blame and hatred of me.

I never matched his energy. Not once. I did try briefly to break through but, having done all I could, I removed myself. This had nothing to do with me.

I did everything right. In the past, his behavior so closely resembled the dynamic of my childhood home that I’ve fallen into ineffective battles. This time, I walked away.

I’ve told him before not to treat me like this. This time, he won’t. He’ll never get close enough. They’re my landlords, not my friends. They don’t have access to anything but my apartment, with my permission.

In time it will blow over, but I’m finally permitting myself to cut Rich out of the deepest warmth of my heart. I’d already removed Molly, the true homeowner (who makes it known to both of us all the time). She’s passive-aggressive and demeaning. When held to account, she excuses herself as “blunt,” a lie that only fools her.

There’s a difference between truthful and blunt. Honesty says, “I esteem you enough to say the hard thing.” Blunt doesn’t care if it hurts you. Indeed, the right to wound is an entitlement of the rude. “Just sayin’.”

And Molly’s not even blunt. She’s cutting. I hold passive-aggressive people in utter disdain. A healthier response would be to dislike passive-aggression, but it would be dishonest. I hate the people, and I confess to feeling superior. I think it’s the weakest, most cowardly, selfish, juvenile, deluded interaction. And who do you think you are, some arbiter of everything that’s right and good? You’re an asshole. That’s blunt.

You said it. Own it.
It doesn’t take long for me to remove those who pretend away petty meanness.
Gone. Outta my heart.

The thing I hate most about passive-aggressive people is that they don’t think they’re aggressive. IT’S IN THE NAME, YOU IDIOT.

The irony is that she’s totally pleasant company. I like her! I’ve never had a relationship like that, in which there’s little regard but I enjoy the person. I take what she has to teach me (landscape architecture), and retreat when her ugliness rears its head. It makes me feel broad and open-minded, to enjoy someone I find basic and cruel, haha! Until she says something triflin’ again and then I hate her. Then I don’t care. Cuz she’s triflin’.

Rich, on the other hand, goes longer between periods of abuse. I get lulled into the friendship anew. Until the next time. And there will always be a next time. I did nothing to deserve this. There was no extra stressor, in particular, to precipitate it. (All the others I could see coming.) Out of the blue: Rage, blame, hatred.

Thankfully, we pretty much keep to ourselves most of the time. I’ll stay invisible for a good long while with this one, then reemerge eventually. I’ll weed and maintain the flowerbeds and share the garlic I planted when it harvests.

Penny is not long for this world, bless her. I’m preparing myself, tearfully. (Yesterday, not surprisingly, the dam broke. I sobbed, loudly, for half an hour, quietly on and off for the rest of the day.) Life goes on as usual, nothing that hasn’t happened before.

There’s a part of me that so desperately wants to leave, but I promised Penny I wouldn’t do that to her again, and I don’t want another roommate. I love living alone. I’m so self-entertaining. I have my little to-do lists. I’m keeping up with my 2020 goals, except stretching daily. (Thank you, back strain from hell, for keeping me on task.) I think I’m hilarious. I laugh all day long, and I have krcl. Best music on the planet!

And my tiny apartment is so pretty. So here I’ll stay, unless Molly kicks me out. I live in fear of that. It’s why I don’t push back any harder than I do. And I’m glad. I learned a lot. It makes no difference to abusive people what you to say. You don’t matter. So fuck ’em.

I couldn’t learn that in the context of my family. There’s simply no objectivity. I’m so conditioned to make room in my heart for people who harm me. (It’s a Taurus thing, too. We hold onto relationships longer than any sign. We’re loyal to a fault, staying by your side long after others would have left. If you cross that final line, and we make it very clear, you don’t exist. That’s it.)

I feel lighter having taken back their capacity to hurt me. They don’t matter. They’re exacting, insensitive people and I don’t fucking care.

I’m getting better at responding in healthy ways. I’m cutting out so many people! The time to launch is ever closer. I can feel it happening, now!

The friends I chose while I was sick and acting out of maladjusted habit are getting fewer and fewer. I get to build a community of friends who support each other, forgive their own and each other’s shortcomings, apologize and mean it, and live happy, consistently, for the love of all that’s holy! Everyone around me is as fucked up as I was. (Imagine.) How is it that I’m the only one who sees it and wants to change?

Well, I will. I am. Someday soon, my circle will mirror that back to me. How wonderful!

Molly will raise my rent again this summer. It will officially get me into the range of “house poor,” but such is life in Small Lake City anymore. Who do you think you are, SLC? San Francisco, with rents like these? Fuck you, too, while we’re at it, haha!

When Penny goes, I GO.

You know, when I realized I was going to have to do the big scary thing: Become a globe-trotting, amazing, dynamic, fearless woman of a certain age (rather than the Chief Lover and CEO of a family unit, which is what I actually thought would happen when I talked all big), I started to panic. I didn’t mean it! I didn’t mean it! I just wanted to be a mom!

Now, I’m laying the groundwork for a future I’d considered empty swagger. Instead, what I said for two decades – “If I don’t have kids, I’m moving to Bolivia and teaching English” – became my instructions to the Universe. I will teach and take a leap into the unknown, and I’m getting excited for it. Scared as hell, and so excited!

And someday, someday off in the near future, my fucking back will release, the world will reopen safely, and I will go to yoga, never to neglect my beautiful body again!

And my cat will live for a few more years, and I’ll love her so well while she’s here.

Today is hard. I feel like crying a bit, and curling up in blankies. Instead, I’ll go stretch and make a warmy soup to enjoy on this cold Spring day the wind blew in.

penny's hematoma

“My ear is full of blood and I feel lousy.”

I feel better having written this. I was in danger of having another rainy day mood. Match the weather and wallow in it. Instead, I feel empowered and… fine.

Thank you, 2020! You really are working for me! What was a playful resolution to post on every “20” became a fortuitous rescue this month from a shitty day.

Pray for kitty? Thank you.

(P.S. I’m reading Fuck It: The Ultimate Spiritual Way.)
(P.S. Fuck is my favorite word.)
(P.S. The sun came out. It’s a bright, crisp, beautiful day out there, and I’m smiling.)
fucking lady
Later that day… soup
I made rainy day soup! I even used filtered water for the base. The whole thing is from scratch, and I made it all up! Turns out, I’m a good cook. I just didn’t like my mother. That’s sad, for real, but whadya gonna do? Figure it out later!

(We passed another six-month benchmark in May: Mother hasn’t spoken to me since November. She didn’t even call after my surgery. None of them did. They’re so fucked up.)

Oh, and did I grow my own cayenne peppers, dehydrate them, and pulverize as needed in my own mini mortar and pestle? Of course I did. Fucking overachiever.

Hindsight 2020!

copper mule

I make a fine cocktail, too. I don’t have fresh limes, but I have lime juice. And why not? #drinkingsolo #pandemic2020

Growing Up

I heard once, of raising children, “The first 40 years are the hardest.” That could certainly be said of me for my parents, ha!

Last night, I posted on ye ol’ Facebook the invite to my “Forty Fabulous Forty!” birthday party, and I’m getting so excited. I can’t say what an amazing year this has been, to go through the last of what has been consistently traumatic family interaction to arrive at today. As I’ve said, it sorrows me that the successful solution seems to be estrangement, but I’m so consistently happy and productive since I struck out in this new way – giving up and giving in – that I must also conclude, again, that it was the right thing to do. It has given me precisely what Pema Chödrön promised it would: softening. I feel so much better!

Today, a passage in her book, “When Things Fall Apart/ Heart Advice for Difficult Times,” struck me with such peace and clarity that I have to quote the whole segment. I haven’t picked it up for months, so the timing was incredible, with my much-anticipated 40th merely 10 days away. (Or not incredible at all, really. 🙂 )

“When we feel squeezed, there’s a tendency for the mind to become small. We feel miserable, like a victim, like a pathetic, hopeless case. Believe it or not, at that moment of hassle or bewilderment or embarrassment, our minds could become bigger. Instead of taking what’s occurred as a statement of personal weakness or someone else’s power, instead of feeling we are stupid or someone else is unkind, we could drop all the complaints about ourselves and others. We could be there, feeling off guard, not knowing what to do, just hanging out there with the raw and tender energy of the moment. This is the place where we begin to learn the meaning behind the concepts and the words.

We’re so used to running from discomfort, and we’re so predictable. If we don’t like it, we strike out at someone or beat up on ourselves. We want to have security and certainty of some kind when actually we have no ground to stand on at all.

The next time there’s no ground to stand on, don’t consider it an obstacle. Consider it a remarkable stroke of luck. We have no ground to stand on, and at the same time it could soften and inspire us. Finally, after all these years, we could truly grow up. As Trungpa Rinpoche once said, the best mantra is, ‘OM – grow up – swaha.’

Finally! I am growing up. Phew! I held on to the mantra, “NOT FAIR!” for too long.

I have no ground to stand on but this ground, this beautiful earth, and I’m on it!
I’M FORTY!!!!!

“Having been so dissatisfied with my own and the world’s shortcomings, I would have thought myself a suicide by 30.” -Alice Walker

first 40 years
It was my therapist who said it. 🙂 She was right.

Tonglen

I’ve just been introduced to the concept of Tonglen. In real time, my life is changed.

Tonglen instructs us to take IN suffering, injustice, rape, starvation, violence, filth, misunderstanding and heartache, and to breathe out understanding, connectedness, sameness, wellness, wholeness, a hand, love. I believe this practice can coexist with prior lessons I’ve learned on healing myself, which were to breathe in healing to the place that hurts – on the body, the mind, the spirit – and breathe out the rancor of pain.

It’s human nature to avoid things that sting. (It was a smart evolutionary trick. We’re still here.) We see all the time the disastrous consequences of turning a blind eye, but it’s what we tend to do when faced with discomfort. Tonglen says, instead, NO. Look at the perverse, hideous nature of pain. Take it. Feel it. Breathe it.

Tonglen makes me feel more related to everyone on the planet than I ever have before. We all know the alienation of fear and misunderstanding. In this life and in generations past, we have been the victims AND the perpetrators of crime. I breathe in pain, in solidarity with those who suffer right now. I breathe in pain because I know it. I breathe out relief in solidarity. I breathe out relief because I know it.

I know relief! Mine is yours. I’ll feel differently one day, but right now my peace is yours.
heart advice

Pema Chödrön

Pema Chödrön