one mystery solved!

It’s not often you get to solve a decades-long mystery if your name isn’t Nancy Drew and there’s not an Old Clock or a Hidden Staircase nearby. The mystery related to music from my teenage years — The Eagles, Elton John, Linda Rondstadt, Chicago, various disco songs, Loggins & Messina, John Denver. When I hear any of that music my heart soars and I feel SO happy. So, big deal? Big news from the Department of DUH.

But the mystery is that my teenage years were pure hell. I didn’t have a home. Terrible things were happening to me. Truly terrible. So why would the music that is cellularly associated with that period make me feel happy? Weird, right? It’s not like the music was playing while my chums and I rode in her convertible to the Friday night football game to meet Ned and the boys. Not like that at all. This has puzzled me for decades, it really has.

There’s a good-sized box of old albums of mine, including one album I saved up to buy when I was 10. It was a collection of classical music, and it was advertised on television. So I saved and saved and saved and saved and got my dad to buy it for me. Mother ridiculed and belittled me for it and accused me of just wanting to be different, but I really did love the music. I still have that album. It’s 47 years old. When I was in high school, I remember storing the records in my locker during the school year, and in the summer I’d hide them wherever I worked, since I didn’t have a place to live. For a short period I had a car to live in, so I kept them in the floorboard, alongside a chess set my dad bought me in Mexico when I was little. Those were my worldly belongings, along with some clothes. Somewhere along the way I lost the chess set. I didn’t get to listen to my records through my teenage years, no stereo, but of course the songs were playing everywhere so I heard them.

not this bad, but not a whole lot better
not this bad, but not a whole lot better

I haven’t had a turntable in . . . no idea. No idea how long it’s been. My daughter Katie is our family’s repository of all things family, and she’s been storing the box for me for longer than I can imagine. She asked if I wanted my records, now that I have space of my own, and I said yes, and spent a lot of time looking through them, remembering. And then I bought a really cheap stereo with a turntable. Really, it’s just a step up from a Fisher Price record player. It has a built-in CASSETTE PLAYER and an AM radio. It seemed to come from somewhere in China. I don’t care; for me, it wasn’t about having a high-class listening experience — after all, the records are ancient and have been through a lot. For me it was just about listening to my records a couple more times.

just a few -- I have a LOT of Eagles
just a few — I have a LOT of Eagles

So I pulled out Hotel California, one of my very favorite old albums. We used to listen to music so differently, remember? We’d start at the beginning and listen to a whole side, and then the other. Songs in order, and in whole. We used to read the liner notes. So I set up my little stereo on a low table in my yoga room and spread out some albums all around me, and placed the needle at the beginning of Side A. Scratch scratch MUSIC! And then it hit me.

Even in those hard years, I was me. There was me in there, and somehow, I have no idea how, I felt joy. I felt my joy, the way I do. I was the person who gets really excited about things, notices things, feels happiness with small things. There was me in there, dreaming of someday. Dreaming of having a place to live, dreaming of finishing high school and making my way to Austin where I would finally begin life and get away from my family completely. I was in there, living in my head, dancing inside. The things were happening to me, and around me, and too much of my time was spent trying to get through to the next day, but *I* was not that. I was still 14, 15, 16, 17, loving those songs just like everyone else, even though my life wasn’t like everyone else’s. I’ve always been here as me.

this exactly -- except the paint on mine was faded and not shiny, and the car was in bad shape. this one is kept up.
this exactly — except the paint on mine was faded and not shiny, and the car was in bad shape. this one is kept up.

In October 1976, I’d made my escape plan (I had an old car at the time, a ’62 Nash Rambler, dusty pale green). Don’t laugh — I was going to drive from Wichita Falls to San Antonio, find a convent and bang on the door and ask them for sanctuary. That was really my plan. I didn’t have plans beyond that, and I had no idea where a convent might be, but San Antonio is full of Catholics so I figured I’d find one. For some unknown-to-me-now reason I decided to tell the guidance counselor at school that I was moving the next day and I told her what my stepfather did to me as an explanation for my move. Guidance counselors weren’t trained very well back then, so she called my mother. Later that day Mother had me picked up and placed in a mental hospital and then no one could ever believe me again. “You know, Lori is crazy, you can’t believe a word she says,” eye roll.

Back then the stay was 3 months, which I didn’t mind, frankly. A warm bed, a hot shower, three meals, pretty good. I have a lot of stories from that time. I spent my 17th birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s there. She took me out for a day on Thanksgiving and took me to see One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest — you can’t make this shit up! If I read that in a client’s novel I’d cross it out and say “COME ON.” But I remember what I wore, how it felt to be there. ANYWAY. So while I was in there, my stepfather took my car and sold it. On the day I was released, I remember this so so well, I walked out the front door of the hospital to nothing. I had nowhere to go. No car. Nobody. The clothes on my back, and a few in a paper sack, but no coat. (Luckily, my records were still in my locker, and thank heavens for that.) There was snow on the ground, as there is in far north Texas in January, on the plains. I was standing there trying to figure out what to do, and then a car drove past with the radio playing so loud I could hear the song: New Kid in Town. The Eagles. And I smiled. I smiled because I loved the song, I loved the Eagles, and I kind of felt like a new kid in town after three months of a bed and regular meals. I walked down the steps, down the walkway to the street, and turned right. I don’t remember where I went or where I found to sleep that night, but I remember that moment, and that song, and I remember smiling — me, it was about me, not my circumstance.

This is such an extraordinary bit of understanding for me, because it’s about so much more than the music. It’s about getting whacked in the head with the realization that I WAS THERE ALL ALONG, even then. It was always me inside, I was not my circumstance. Lori Dawn was in there, singing and dancing and dreaming. I never realized that until now, as strange as that sounds.

I always did want to be Nancy Drew, and I was always so jealous of the way mysteries always seemed to happen around her, and never around me. But I guess this one did. To me this isn’t a sad post, a sad story at all! This is a joyous one, a gift to myself. A 57 years old gift of light.

Lester Tricky

When I was a little girl, I had a younger cousin who liked to stick bobby pins in the electrical outlets, and when sparks came out she’d laugh in absolute delight and say, “Lester Tricky! Lester Tricky!” Some adult would come running and tell her that electricity was dangerous and she shouldn’t do that, but you could see in her eyes that she would never listen.

I’ll come back to Lester Tricky in a minute, but first some context. My life is extraordinary right now. Just utterly extraordinary. Yesterday was Katie’s birthday and I got to spend some hours with them, and some time all alone with little Oliver, who isn’t feeling very well right now. Molars, I think. When I went home afterwards, I made a yummy dinner, and then feeling too extraordinary to sit still, I went to a pie shop with my new book of poetry and relished that warm chocolate salted caramel slice. I came home, still feeling too extraordinary (but also too full of pie), so I laced on my sneakers and headed out for a steamy walk — the only kind you can take in Texas this time of year.

Marnie had introduced me to a wonderful podcast called Song Exploder (I strongly recommend it to you!); song writers focus on one of their compositions and talk about the creation of it in fascinating detail. I selected a band I’d never heard of (Sylvan Esso) talking about their song “Coffee.” (Here’s a link to the specific episode, recommended!) The episode grabbed me from the beginning, and so I was hooked and lost in the conversation.

one of Austin's nicknames is City of the Violet Crown
one of Austin’s nicknames is City of the Violet Crown

It was that violet kind of twilight, and the cicadas were buzzing in the air non-stop. I walked past one family of deer, and then another, and then two little fawns that seemed to be on their own. The twilight deepened a little more, and the cicadas grew louder. As the conversation drew to a close on the podcast, the episode ended with the entire song played. And as I listened, I felt the top of my scalp, like electricity was dancing in my hair. It moved down my cheeks, down my neck — still alive in my hair — and down my arms. I saw goose bumps come up on my arms, and it kept moving down my body, down my legs — goose bumps there too — and into my feet. I looked up and there was a brilliant half moon right overhead. I looked to my left and there was a large male deer standing there looking at me.

ElectricityIt was extraordinary. It felt like everything else around me was on pause, there was no traffic on the busy street nearby, the cicadas seemed to stop, the breeze went on pause. I blinked slowly, swallowed, looked up at the moon, down at my arms, and closed my eyes. I just stood there in that moment, lit up with electricity. I remembered Lisa, and Lester Tricky. I felt the whole of my life, everything behind me and everything stretching out in front of me, my family continuing on into the future, me as an ancestor of all these people who streamed into the world through me. I don’t know how long I stood there on the sidewalk with my eyes closed. I think when the song ended, the spell was broken. I opened my eyes, the breeze seemed to pick up again. I heard the traffic nearby. I took a deep breath and looked up at the moon in the darkening sky.

I can’t guarantee that the song will have the same effect on you (but I do recommend that you start by listening to the podcast about it, linked above; it’s only 13 minutes long). Just in case, here is the official video of it. I love the female singer’s voice, and the eerie moodiness of the song, and now forever it’s stained purple for me.

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I love being me. I don’t think I’d be anyone else for any amount of money.

spin

OK, so this is NOT one of those idiotic ‘glass half full’ things. I had quite the little rant about that dumb idea during my nightmare period of late 2012-2013. But it is about the complexity of experience and the multitude of frames available.

In the last several months, it has not been uncommon for my Austin friends to comment on how much I have changed since they met me. There is, of course, the dramatic evolution through and past the extreme grief I was in when they met me. I was numb, crying, haunted, devastated, a kind of ghost. Grieving, suffering. So, as people do, I worked my way through all that and slowly cried less often. Slowly laughed more easily and with less guilt about it. Starting with only Katie and Trey as my anchors, I built a rich life, with poet friends and book friends and soul friends. I found my circle of women. That was the ordinary transformation of a person starting over and coming out of grief. But I also learned how to live alone, which has been the most important piece of my transformation, I think.

In a way, this part of my life has been like the very best adolescence. Ordinary adolescents are figuring out who they are, they’re trying on this and that, they’re experimenting and trying and failing and trying. Lucky me, I get to do all that but without the raging hormones, without the adolescent frailty and uncertainty, and with my own resources, my own home, my own income, control over my own life with no need for anyone’s approval or permission. That’s the important part, and the part I have never been able to do in a relationship. That’s all on me — no one has ever demanded that I cower and give in. I do that, I give myself away before I even realize what’s happening. I need to focus next on not doing that when I am with Marc.

red-hibiscusBut the transformation my friends see is deep in me, and real, and I feel like a life-size flower. I really do. It’s funny that the image I always have, when I think about that, is a hibiscus. (My outer right calf is tattooed with hibiscus and sunflowers [here’s the post I wrote about why I chose it, and a picture of it is in the post].) When I wake up in the mornings, as I move through my days, when I climb into my wonderful bed each night, I feel like a huge flower in full bloom. It’s extraordinary.

When I bend over to pick up something, I feel the strong muscles in my back. I feel the bending over with my flat, straight back, I smile that my hamstrings are loose enough to keep my legs straight when I touch the floor. When I head to the yoga mat, I think about this opportunity to become stronger (instead of grim-faced ‘exercise to lose weight’), more balanced (literally), more flexible. When I hold plank, I recognize my abdominal muscles are becoming stronger (instead of dreading having to do it because it’s good for me). When I hold down dog, I press my hands into the floor, lift my butt, push my thighs back, lower my heels, and marvel at my body and what it can do (instead of wondering how much longer this is going to go on and hoping no one is looking at my fat rear end and thinking about what I wish I could have for dinner but I won’t because crap I am once again trying to lose weight).

That frame makes such a difference in helping me head to the mat every day, I’m telling you. It’s not a chore, it’s not something I ‘have’ to do, it’s not something to cross off my to-do list, it’s not [sigh] exercise dammit. Ah, it’s a chance to become stronger, such pleasure. Lucky me, another day to work at becoming stronger.

When I make my dinner, it’s a chance to pick and prepare food that helps my body be strong and healthy AND a chance to be as creative as I can be, a chance to make something that tastes so good I want to slap myself. It’s not diet food, it’s not about how little I can eat of boring food so I can lose weight (or keep off the weight) and then get right back to my ordinary eating. It’s about the pleasure of taking good care so I can be strong and healthy.

WHAT???? Me? Who is this woman?

And the funny thing is that these frames don’t come afterwards, as a way to reconcile myself with something I don’t really want to do. I have no doubt I’d tried that reframing dozens of times in my life and I guess I just wasn’t there yet. I guess I didn’t believe myself when I’d think those things. Maybe the issue is that now it’s not RE-framing, it’s simply what is for me. So I am not suggesting anything for you, you have to find your own way — it’s all an inside job, every bit of it — but I share what is for me, in case you feel a shiver of recognition inside yourself.

Those [re]frames surely contribute to keeping me grounded, but they aren’t by themselves responsible for the transformation. But I think being grounded, and having solitude and the opportunity to take up ALL the space, has let me be more daring with myself, and helped me be less timid in general, less timid about who I am, and less afraid of the world, somehow.

Gosh living alone is thoroughly glorious. It is. Of course I’m not alone at all, I’m surrounded by love and affection and companionship and all the social stuff I could possibly want — and I see Marc 12 days/month, and we travel together. (I secretly think I have the most perfect life anyone could ever have.) But here I am, alone in this beautiful, comfortable place, and I can blast a song that fills me with joy and dance like a lunatic all around my house until I can’t breathe. I can wake up at 2am and decide I want some eggs, and turn on all the lights and bop into the kitchen and scramble some luscious orange-yolked Parker eggs (thank you every day, sweet Karyn), then take a bubble bath with candles, and then sit in bed and write as long as I want with all the lights on if I’m enjoying the deep middle of the night. I can decide I want to completely change the way I eat and just do that, exactly as I wish. I can decide I want to do yoga twice a day and just leave my yoga mat out in the living room because there is no one who will be bothered by that.

And the toilet seat is always down.

strings of perfect moments

Isn’t it wonderful when you have these long runs of perfect moments? Even just one is pretty great — I’ll take them if they dribble past me at a slow pace! But once in a while you just get this prolonged run of perfectly wonderful minutes, hours, days, experiences, and I don’t know about you but my cheeks ache from all the grinning when that happens.

Friday I had my weekly chat with Marnie, and Marc and I piled into the car to drive upstate, where we stayed at a Buddhist retreat. The setting was just so beautiful, and it was in this very small town named Rosendale, with a fabulous bakery on main street. We walked, we meditated, we ate some good food, we relaxed in the silence, we drove through beautiful countryside, we walked on a high pedestrian bridge over the Hudson River, we went to a place we visit at least once a year — Innisfree Gardens, a cup garden — and on the way home on Sunday we stopped at Storm King Art Center. There was absolutely no traffic anywhere (really, where was everyone??), we ran into no trouble, the weather was beautiful, and the incredible thunderstorm waited until we were home and unpacked before it started blasting New York. PERFECT.

It’s been such a beautiful time in New York, this trip. A fantastic celebration of Sherlock’s life, beautifully organized by darling Peggy, in Connecticut. Lunch with Traci, and another lovely evening a glass of wine with her at my neighborhood French bistro. Lots of good food, lots of walking, this weekend’s great trip, beautiful weather, easy time.

My life between places is kind of odd, even though of course there are great things about it. But each place is both real and unreal. When I first get to New York each time I feel out of place, like a visitor (which I am, here, more than I am in Austin). But then I eat some of Marc’s food, have lunches with my beautiful friend Traci (or a dinner with Craig), take walks in Riverside Park, and as the days pass I begin to feel ok, I’m here, here is where I am….and Austin starts to feel forever away. I start to feel like I’ve been here for so very long, and away from Austin for so very long — and then it’s time to head back. Austin feels a bit unreal at first, although less so since Katie and Oliver pick me up, and there’s my beautiful little cozy home. But I feel out of place a bit, out of pocket, unsure of where I am …. and then the days pass and New York starts to feel forever away. And then it’s time to come back to New York.

But I am not complaining. I have nothing at all to complain about in my life now. I have such beautiful family and friends, and things that make me happy in both places. I miss my Austin people a lot and can’t wait to see you.

SO much to look forward to, always. Poetry group at my place the night I get home, a birthday celebration on Saturday the 6th, drinks and/or dinner with a dear friend the following Wednesday the 10th, happy hour with two beautiful women the 11th, something fun with girlfriends on the 13th, dinner with friends on the 15th, book club on the 18th, and back to NYC on the 19th. My next trip to NYC we’re going to the Delaware Water Gap one weekend. Lots of good books being read whenever I can get a minute or two. Daily yoga practice, daily meditation practice. Doing one thing at a time. Walking present. Being present. Talking present.

Life is so so good. I remember very well how not-at-all-good my life was in 2012. Horrific in the last third of 2012. Often hard, sad, excruciating in 2013. Frightening as the surreal lawsuit hung over our heads….only to poof! disappear. Crazy-making. I remember all those difficult moments, heartbroken moments, excruciatingly long periods of pain. So here, now, I will soak up all this happiness and try to spread it around. September 1, dizzying. Autumn, in a couple of weeks. Enjoy your first day of September in 2014, it’s the only one you’re ever going to get. Me, I’m off to enjoy it! Love to you — xo

an important follow-up post

Yesterday’s post nearly crashed my little blog — it was viewed 6,300 times, 3,800 on Facebook alone, wow. I got so many emails and messages from people I don’t know, some sharing their experiences, some thanking me for being open about it, some asking me questions. It startled me to have that much attention because that’s so far beyond the norm I expect to get emails from my web host asking what’s up. I am so glad it meant the various things it meant to others.

While all of it is true, of course it’s just that part of the story, the grim part. But you can’t pull the grim part out in isolation any more than you can pull the joyous part out in isolation; well, you can but you don’t understand very much. There are two very important things that remain to be said for me:

1) I am SO SO glad I survived myself. I survived my own self, thank heavens. Thank heavens that old gun didn’t fire. Thank heavens I dissociated. Thank heavens my plan was discovered. Thank heavens, thank God, thank my inner self for dissociating. My ordinary self — and I mean all of my ordinary self, the happy, the melancholy, the ordinary depressed, the bored (hey wait, I’m never bored), the curious, the excited — does not want to die. No ma’am, no way. I will die of course, one day, and that knowledge helps me value my one very precious, precious life. Ordinary me does not want to die. Even ordinary depressed me does not want to die. Being truly suicidal is a different place, a different head, a different mind, so far outside ordinary me it shouldn’t share my name.

AMEN.
AMEN.

I am so glad to be alive. I am so glad to be alive. Every single day, through all of it including fear and pain, I am so glad to be alive. I’m glad I’m here to feel everything there is to feel, no matter what it is, no matter how hard and heavy. I’m glad I’m here to see Oliver, to hold him and smile at him. I’m hopeful that I’ll be here when future grandchildren arrive, so I can share that joy with my beloved children.

2) One of my daughters shared my post on Facebook, and this was part of what she wrote:  “The specter of suicide haunts my family; it sat with us at dinner, it tucked me in at night, it informed the options I felt like I had available to me in my darkest moments. Every time I’m home, conversation turns to face it, to look at those wounds not all of us survived. My mom wrote this very open piece about our family legacy and her survival.” Can I tell you how very much it breaks my heart that this was my dear children’s experience? It does. My heart gets in my mouth and I have to hold it open gently to keep from choking on it. She’s right, of course. Just as was true in my childhood, the word, the experience, were in the air. My poor children grew up with a frequently deeply depressed mother, and on occasion a suicidal mother. My poor children.

But every generation can have less to overcome, if you are lucky and work hard. Both can be required — luck and trying hard. I succeeded in helping redirect my family legacy because I did not kill myself, so my dear children don’t have a dead mother who committed suicide. I hope some day decades from now they have a dead very ancient mother who just didn’t wake up one morning, maybe with a lot more tattoos (pretty wrinkly by then), and who ate up life to the very end. That’s what I hope. It was all too close to me when I was a younger mother to keep the words and the experience out of my mouth, out of the air; I was far too devastated, far too affected by my father’s suicide. It didn’t help that he blamed me, but even if he hadn’t it wouldn’t have been better. It took me 30 years to find my way past that, so while I wish with all my heart that I’d been able to keep silent about it all, to not be suicidal, I do also understand how much I had to overcome. And if only that’s all I had to overcome…

So my kids, the next generation, don’t have a suicided parent. What they have to do for their children is keep the very idea, the story, out of the air. I don’t want my children to mention my father to their children; I hope I give them enough questions to ask about Pete, their life-loving grandmother. And I am here to help my children with that task, if they should find themselves in a dark place, in a way I never had any help.

So the generation after that, Oliver’s children’s generation, will be entirely innocent of it in their homes. That’s my goal. My goal was always the long game, generations. I knew there was just so very much to overcome I couldn’t do it all. I could only make a start. But then my kids would have less to deal with, so they can do their part. Weeding, weeding, weeding.

I hope anyone who is feeling suicidal, or loves someone who is, will get all the help they need, and fast. Get professional help. Take yourself to the hospital, or the police station if you are a danger to yourself and can’t get help any other way. Life can be so wonderful but you’ll never know that if you leave. Life can be so wonderful.

boring-ness

It’s really funny — when I was going through the very long year and a half of unrelenting terribleness (all of 2012 and the first ~half of 2013), I worried that my posts were so heavy or dark that you would get sick of it and just quit reading me. Again with the introspection, again with the suffering, jeez enough. On occasion I thought I’d better write a different post, a “happy” post, but decided the whole point for me is to be as authentic as I can about my life, so that’s what I wrote.

Now I’m on the inverse side of that. I’m in a period of reflection, change, growth, and joy (except for the damn days-long headache) and I imagine that you’re getting so bored with that. As much as I love that you read my posts, this blog is really for me, to say “I was here and this was my experience of life.” And so I hope you stick around no matter what’s going on, even during prolonged runs of trouble or joy.

Yesterday was extraordinary, and the very best part of that is that the extraordinariness was in the ultra ordinary. I wasn’t sitting on Borobodur, in Ubud, on a boat in the Mekong, prowling Hanoi, panting for breath in Borneo, looking at clouds on Macchu Picchu or Lake Titicaca. I woke up, made coffee, went to the farmer’s market, did some yoga and later some meditation, tended to my life, listened to music, made a delicious dinner, read, and slept. ORDINARY. And yet it really, really wasn’t. You’d have to be me to appreciate some of these things:

  • I woke up later than I’d intended but had a night of completely uninterrupted, dreamless sleep. (for the win!) Instead of freaking out and jumping up, throwing clothes on and racing out the door at high speed — after all, I’d wanted to be there when they opened!!!! — I thought it doesn’t matter when I get there. It just doesn’t matter. Take your time. My kids will understand how startling that is. And so I did my morning ritual as I always do, I made my French press of super dark coffee, I dressed (red shorts!) and put on my normal tiny bit of make-up (i.e., mascara and lipstick), checked that I had small bills in my wallet, lingered a bit with my coffee and put the rest in a thermos, and walked out my door. Stood in my breezeway and saw what a beautiful day it was. Smiled.
  • There were a lot of slow drivers on the road — Sunday morning, I suppose — and each one taught me, reminded me to take it easy. My temper flared up with the first one and I literally gasped….why! I am in no rush! Put down your shoulders, breathe. And when I came up behind the next one I smiled. Thank you for the reminders. I am in no rush, it’s a beautiful day, just be here, look around. (Kids, can you believe it?!)
  • such a beautiful day
    such a beautiful day

    Got a great parking spot and didn’t race to the market — and not just because I got there 10 minutes before it opened. (Lesson learned there, in light of the first point above!) I stepped out of my car, got my market bags, and stood in the sun with my face turned up to it. Wondered why I haven’t gone swimming. I live in Texas! We have amazing places to swim here. Noted to myself: go swimming. I wandered through the park on the way to the market stalls, enjoyed the reflection of the clouds in the lake. Isn’t it a beautiful day?

  • At each stall, instead of just buying the stuff quickly and moving on (and I always did that because I didn’t want to be annoying to them, they’re busy), I instead moved slower than I usually do and looked each grower in the eye and paused just a couple of minutes to talk to them. And each of those conversations made me so very happy. They were without exception warm and friendly and gracious. I left each stall feeling a little taller.
carrots of all colors, peaches, tiny sweet figs, tomatoes, pesto (cilantro and pecan!), okra, and farm eggs.
carrots of all colors, peaches, tiny sweet figs, tomatoes, pesto (cilantro and pecan!), okra, and farm eggs.
  • Slow walk back to my car, feeling the rising heat on my neck. Isn’t it a beautiful day? I arranged my purchases in the car so the tender stuff wouldn’t get crushed, and pulled out of the parking spot. As I got on the busier road I saw a ladybug on my windshield and it made me laugh and cry at the same time. Hello, sweet little ladybug, how ya doing. It hung on all the way home. I played Man, by Neko Case — an amazing hard driving song that you can’t listen to once, so I listened to it the whole way home and felt so much joy I thought I might leave my body.

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Really do listen to this fantastic song. And not for nothing, I was in the audience at this performance, dancing my brains out. Her music was vibrating in my bones. IT WAS AMAZING. 

And all that was before 11am. I felt so happy I could not stop crying, just grateful for this amazing life, this amazing day, and I thought about the horrors, the bombings and death and starving, the terror, the fear, the imbalance of the world, and it broke my heart too. Those things were happening right at the same moment. Children were being tortured and abused by their parents here and there, right at the same moment. Women were being raped and tortured, right at the same moment. And just for the day, just for that one sunny day, I got to taste some of the joy. If I don’t taste it when it presents itself, I am a complete idiot. For my turn will come again, and it may come in ways that are so terrible I cannot even imagine them. It may break me. But for that day, joy was on my tongue and I am so grateful for that.

blissless

this picture has nothing to do with anything, but I love it so much!
this picture has nothing to do with anything, but I love it so much! Bliss on a boat off Bali.

It’s been a long cold lonely winter. Little darlin. But you know, it has.  I’ve had stress and anxiety weighing on my heart. The skies were often gray. I dutifully take my little Wellbutrin every single morning. I haven’t exactly felt depressed, but I haven’t felt a whole lot of big joy.

One of my favorite things about being me is my easy experience of joy. It’s not at all uncommon for me to feel bliss — in fact, I can get knocked back by bliss at least once a week, most of the time. For me, that means a heart SO full of joy that I almost cannot hold it, or hold myself; a heart SO full of joy that the edges of everything become indistinct, and I see how it’s all one thing; a heart SO full of joy that I kind of lose words, and am prone to cry at the tiniest little thing — a green leaf, a dead leaf, a breeze, a weed. That’s just a common thing for me, and I am enormously grateful that my software carries that programming. It’s such a gift.

But it’s been such a long time since I felt that. Actually, the last time I felt it was when I was in the river in Sri Lanka bathing that mama elephant. That was such an experience of bliss I completely forgot myself. But since then, I’ve made it through my days, I have been happy, wonderful things have happened, I’ve relished moments with my children, with dear friends. I’ve felt my community all around me, and me a part. I’ve loved my little home. I’ve shared good things and fearful things with all the people who love me, and been so grateful that I have them all.

But I haven’t felt joy, and I definitely haven’t felt bliss. Every morning when I take my antidepressant I think about that. I think that at least I am feeling other good things, at least the black hole is nowhere near me. At least it isn’t dark, even if the skies are dull and gray. But I miss my joy, I miss my bliss.

I’m sure this was a piece of it, but yesterday was a gorgeous and sunny day. Beautiful blue skies, 82 degrees, a little breeze, LOADS of sun. It felt so good on my skin, on my face. The heat soaked into my arms and shoulders and face. And while I was driving down to my friend Karyn’s house, I felt something starting to pulse inside me. I was anxious about whether I’d be able to do the quilting on Oliver’s quilt very well, since it’s free-form and I’m pretty rigid and uptight, and I was afraid I’d ruin the work I’d done. But still, it was sunny and I was happy and something was pulsing inside.

At Karyn’s, she set me up with her great sewing machine and wandered off to do her own thing, and I put a sample piece into the sewing machine — batting and fabric on either side, exactly as the quilt would be — and started sewing. AND IT WAS FUN. And I was doing it, free-form rambling, meandering stitches, loose and wonderful. And the pulsing started pulsing harder inside me. I picked up the quilt, 54″ square, and put it into the machine and took a big breath. As I pressed the pedal, Steve Martin and Edie Brickell started playing from the other room and I was quilting my darling grandson’s quilt and it was sunny and beautiful and Karyn’s home is so lovely and welcoming, and she was in the kitchen hand grinding spices for the wonderful lunch she was making me and the air smelled like spring and not at all like a city and I bounced all the way into bliss. My bliss, my old friend, so long gone.

It’s been a long time since I just had fun like I had doing that quilting. Rigid old me, not-at-all loose me, meandering and not planning anything and having a blast. Listening to banjo music and Karyn puttering around. It was a whole beautiful day, and when I left around 3:30 with my finished quilt and a full tummy and a bag full of vegetables from her garden and eggs from her chickens and her kiss on my cheek, I was so happy I almost couldn’t hold it all.

If you’re in a place where spring hasn’t really arrived yet, where the days are still gray and there’s a chill in the air, boy I feel you. (Well, a Texas version of it.) I hope the blue skies come for you very soon, and the hot sun touches your cheek and the air is sweet and your version of happy and bliss, whatever it is, wells up inside you.