SO! Last night I slept in the house all alone; Marc went back to the city for three nights, and I’m here car-less and in the silence. I was a little bit afraid but not too much. There are so many second homes up here — lots of people in the city keep a summer home in the mountains — and if anyone had been watching the house, they might’ve thought that the house would be empty. No car in the driveway, after a few weekend days of a car in the driveway, typical summer home appearance. Apparently there were two escaped and violent convicts from Tennessee in this specific area (even spotted on Saturday in Margaretville, the nearest hamlet and where we shop for groceries), I mean this sounds like a movie doesn’t it!
So I left a light on downstairs last night and the fan was whirring in the bedroom window, and I hoped for the best. And of course this morning I woke up unmurdered. 🙂
But my quick note of personal honesty is that I’m so very very glad to be alone in the house for a few days. Marc is so chatty. So chatty. Chat chat chat chat chat. And he’s not a loud talker, more of a mumbler, so it takes a bit of focus to hear him….and he is a slow talker, and he just seamlessly goes from topic to topic in one very long breath until he runs out of air so it’s hard to get a word in, and by the time he stops for a breath the topic has changed a couple of times from what I wanted to say in response to where he started.
The relief is, of course, that we are in this very large space, two floors and a full basement, and then the glorious outdoors –so it’s not like being in the tiny little apartment in the city, where there is no place to step aside for a moment of solitude. The house is so tightly built, and so well-insulated, that unless we are on the same floor I can’t make out anything he’s saying…..and while I have told him that 2.3K times by now, he just keeps chatting even if I’m on a different floor.
So there is today’s moment of personal honesty, not appropriate for the Heaventree post I’m composing in my mind. So much to share about the early days of living here, both in the area and in this house, but that will be a different post to be written later.
[And in the “good grief, she would complain if she were hung with a new rope” category, the irony is not lost on me that I lived in a kind of despair with my first husband, who almost never spoke, who never shared himself in any real way, and who wasn’t at all affectionate….I never dreamed I would complain about someone talking too much, telling me his thoughts and feelings, and being affectionate! I keep having these moments of awareness during my ear-craving for a bit of silence that he is wanting to share himself and his thoughts with me, and I’m grateful for that. But with just a little bit of silence too. (Please.) (Thank you.)]
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One of my dear friends was facing a situation that would require a slow recovery, so she asked me and our friends for recommendations of books, television shows, and movies — but of a specific kind. Easy to read, light, the kind that are often (and often unfairly) disparagingly called junk reading, junk TV. She pointedly said, “Not the stuff you read, Lori.” Over time I’ve gotten the reputation for only reading Holocaust or big trauma literary fiction, a category that (I think) is meant more broadly than just those specifics, but definitely with that degree of heaviness. (Although I looked at my Netflix queue and it was one after another Holocaust movie, so hmmmm…..) I enjoy a book that asks something of me, that requires me to participate.
And then another friend recommended a show and in an aside said, “You’ll LOVE it, man. It’s dripping in humanity.” The show was about punishment and retribution and recovery and redemption. My kind of things, my kind of themes.
It isn’t that I’m dismissive of “junk” entertainment, and I’m certainly not judgmental of it. I watch Project Runway, Top Chef, some sit-coms. It’s just that I have so little spare time for entertainment (and not for nothing, I read all day long, almost always stuff I would never ever read of my own volition although sometimes I get the most amazing book/client and that’s a huge gift). So in my rare bit of time for passive entertainment, I want to finally read what I want to read, and what I want to read are stories that grapple with the questions you face in the dark, the situations that harrow you and force you to face yourself, force you to encounter the shadow — either of others, or the world, or yourself. Because I’m always looking for answers! I’m always looking for an articulation of my own shadow, my own experiences. I’m always wanting to better understand people and how they affect and are affected by others and the world. What makes some people turn this way or that, or NOT turn this way or that.
I’m also wanting to be engrossed, enmeshed, and moved in a deep way. My daily life is kind of light; for the most part I sit in my living room, in my chair, reading and working on a client’s book. The ordinary tenor of my life is quiet, solitary, easy, slow. I’m very happy in solitude, it occurred to me again the other day. I was the only person at a wedding alone recently, and I could’ve invited someone to go with me but it never crossed my mind. I enjoy going to movies alone. I enjoy walking alone. I enjoy shopping alone. My days don’t have enough hours for all the ways I want to fill them.
But emotionally my days are just kind of steady and quiet. (YAY!) My life is steady and quiet. (YAY!) So I read or watch something to move my interior, to swim in the vast ocean of human experience. One of the saddest moments — and maybe you know this one too — is when I finish a deeply wonderful book, when I close it and feel so much, and it has left its deep mark on me, and I know it’s going to be hard to find another one that will do that. And sure enough, I try this one (nope!), that one (ugh, no), the next one (maybe…oh, no.) and none are of the same kind.
Although there are some exceptions, most of the books on my “absolute faves” shelf on GoodReads are of this type, and I’m good with that. The only sad thing for me is that I don’t really know other readers who like to read what I do, except for one woman in my book club who chose a book that became one of my favorites (The Orphan Master’s Son, my review on GoodReads here). The specifics of her life mean that she doesn’t have much time to read, though, so I don’t really have someone to share this with and that’s a secondary joy of reading. I do know people whose recommendations usually connect with my interests (Dixie, for instance), but that’s rare.
This is one of the very rare ways I’m lonely, and I am very lonely in this way. If you glance at my “absolute faves” shelf and see yourself there, I’d sure like to know about it.
Happy reading y’all, whatever you read. xoxox
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Dear Morpheus, god of dreams, why have you abandoned me? Hypnos, god of sleep, where’d you go, buddy?
I know the answer, of course. I’ve been going off Seroquel, a powerful antipsychotic that helps treatment-resistant depression (at least it does for me), so I’m grateful for it and it helped save me during this last period of suicidality, but dang. If ever there were a group of people who really did not need to go without sleep for an extended period, it would be the recently severely depressed. One side-effect of Seroquel is that it makes you sleep. That alone is useful for helping depression, but it’s just a side-effect. So the withdrawal has implications for sleep, too. I’ve titrated down slowly, one tab to a half, ten days later a quarter, ten days later off. It’s a very small tablet that isn’t scored, so cutting it in half was hard enough. Cutting quarters reduced it to dust, basically. There’s no way I could go eighth-sies.
The last time I took it, back in 2008, I was hospitalized and ended up taking it for two years. My situation was not nearly as dire this time, so I took it three months and feel stable and not-at-all depressed. It took weeks to come off it in 2008, so my real hope is that this won’t take more than a week.
But I have not slept for three nights. Yesterday around 6pm I apparently fell asleep in my chair for half an hour, mid-working, and rushed to bed in the hopes that it would continue, but that was it. This is Saturday, and the last time I slept was Tuesday night, and then I only slept two or three hours. It’s awful.
Night 1: hahaha! Omelettes, why not!
Night 2: dragging. What to do.
Night 3. Getting really worn down.
I’m starting to cry too easily — and you know, I do that anyway, so this is a relative statement. Even for me,I am crying too easily. My friend Liz texted me at 2:30a about some Daniel Tiger songs that mean something to her because she knows I love Mister Rogers. I sobbed. My friend George texted me at 3:30am with some deeply kind words of friendship and I bawled. My friend Laura, in Perth, commented on Facebook that she’d thought about calling me but thought perhaps I just might be asleep, and I buried my face in the pillow and cried. (Nope, not asleep.) (She’s the friend who called me after Gracie died, an act of love from someone I barely knew [then] that I will remember in my last days.)
So finally I got up and made half a batch of some vanilla cinnamon buttermilk pancakes and in a kind of frantic state, needing comfort, proceeded to eat them all. With real maple syrup. So now I feel kind of icky and sugar-zingy and my tummy is way too full. I went outside on my lovely little patio and just sat in the silent night, trying just to be.
It’s a beautiful soft, quiet night. Warm, 70 degrees at 4:30a. Lightly humid; a front is heading our way and we’re expecting rain this weekend, so the air held that promise.
Though I could easily make an opposing argument — when sick, or unable to sleep, wouldn’t you want someone nearby? — but it has been nice being awake in the middle of the night, through the night, and all alone. The quiet has been beautiful. The hours have been beautiful. (This is not hysteria born of sleeplessness. 😉 ) The space that’s just mine has been beautiful. The time to be with myself, to think, to read, has been beautiful. Maybe since I don’t need anything during this insomnia the solitude has been wonderful; last fall I caught a terrible flu during my Austin time and wished terribly to have Marc nearby, taking care and helping me and feeding me and comforting me. But this is different, and I’ve felt the silence and hours as a gift, even if the gift is wearing thin.
There were two things I found entirely unimaginable in my younger years, and I thought people who said them were lying (I really did): 1) I don’t care what people think of me, and 2) I enjoy time to myself. Those sentences just didn’t make any sense. I truly could not imagine how one could not care what others thought of them. No way. And time to myself was kind of terrifying; maybe I’d had too much of it in the years I didn’t have a home, I don’t know. My first husband needed time alone, and I could only understand that as “not with you,” unfortunately. So he would go outside and I’d linger nearby. Or he’d work in the garage on a project and I’d sit on the steps. “I won’t say anything, I promise!” I’d say, clearly missing the point.
But now I really don’t care what people think of me. Don’t care what they think of what I’m wearing, how I do my hair, why I’m at the movies or restaurant all alone, how I’m living my life, what I like and don’t like. I hope people like me, or at least feel neutrally toward me, but it’s not my business or concern. It’s the strangest thing.
And now I relish the periods I’m in Austin living all alone. I love it so much. When I moved here, I’d never lived alone since I was 18. I didn’t know how to do it, and I felt scared and lonely. I worked hard to figure out how to do it, how to take up my space, how to claim it and be in it as my own. It has come in so handy during this period of sleeplessness — I finally give up and get out of bed, turn on the lights, light the fire and turn on the Christmas tree, play some music, and cook something yummy for myself. Set the table, placemat, napkin. I can’t tell you how much pleasure it all gives me, the solitude and the taking care of myself.
Life is absolutely magical in its way, in its length and passage. You start one way and end another. The unimaginable becomes desirable. You just have to live long enough, have enough experiences and be open to them and to what they do to you, and pay attention.
Pay attention. Lessons all around. xoxox
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Hey, remember that great old Eric Carmen song, All By Myself? Oh I had such a huge crush on him — and here he is on American Bandstand, remember how great that show was? (And Midnight Special, and Soul Train?) And I had that album of his:
Gosh, I remember watching that episode and just melting, leaning toward the tiny television, daydreaming that he was my boyfriend. (I do that now with Idris Elba.) Of course he was only lip synching, obviously, but I didn’t care. Oh I thought he was so beautiful. (I guess I’ve always had a thing for small-framed Jewish men of Russian extraction. Who knew.)(But Idris Elba….)
This isn’t just a walk down that old memory lane. I was telling my husband about going out to Pinthouse Pizza for dinner, and getting a pizza and a craft beer. He said, “All by yourself? Wasn’t that uncomfortable?” You know, that never once occurred to me, that it would or should be uncomfortable! That hasn’t always been the case; when I first moved back to Austin I took myself out to Central Market for dinner so I could listen to the live music, and of course I was all alone in a particularly terrible way and it was the holiday season, but even then it turned out OK.
It doesn’t occur to me to look around to see if I’m the only person there alone. It doesn’t occur to me to think about the fact that I’m there alone. It doesn’t occur to me to wonder if anyone notices I’m there alone. I actually like being there alone. I enjoy going to movies alone. I love going to coffee shops alone. I enjoy doing anything alone.
I am with myself, and somehow that doesn’t feel all alone. I don’t feel a loss, an absence, I don’t feel less than anyone — I am with myself. And honestly? I enjoy myself. I read. I look around and watch the groups of people. It’s so much fun to watch people. I eavesdrop, as I did the last time I went out for pizza. These two men in military camo sat down next to me. They were so awkward with each other, trying this topic, then that. They clearly worked together, but this might have been the first time they were alone together in this kind of setting. They tried talking about work, then they got a little bit of jazz going when they talked about their kids, but that fizzled pretty quickly too. They made some over-exaggerated comments about the pizza, but they both kind of seemed embarrassed by it. It made me glad once again to be a woman. And not in the military.
Anyway, if you have a fear of doing things like this alone, take it from me: It can be really great. I love eating out with friends and family, and going to the movies with people, or coffee shops — it isn’t that I don’t love that — it’s just that all by myself is equally good.
“All alone” music is so sad! There’s the Eric Carmen song, and then there’s the fabulous old Gilbert O’Sullivan song — remember? Geez, throw myself off the top of a nearby tower? Alone can be liberating, and all of everything. But not only one thing. (When you’re first all alone it’s excruciating. It really is. And then eventually there is space for something else to be born. Like maybe you turn out to be a person who enjoys eating pizza alone and watching the crowd.)
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.
But 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.
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THIS: If you use Google Reader, as I do, bad news: Google is shutting it down. IKNOW.What am I going to do now? I found out I can export everything and there are ways to import my hundreds of feeds into a new reader, but I’ve been using Google Reader forever and now I have to change. Pout. If you subscribe to this blog via Google Reader, you might want to just get an email subscription, over there in the sidebar.
THAT: It’s Friday so I have a few links to share, things I want to look at more closely when I have a minute because they look so so good:
Although I’ve had to learn how to be entirely alone, I’ve never had a problem being alone with myself. I know some people who do, who find it so terrifying to be alone with themselves that they schedule something every night, all weekend. I agree with Tarkovsky here when he said “…they should learn to be alone and try to spend as much time as possible by themselves. I think one of the faults of young people today is that they try to come together around events that are noisy, almost aggressive at times. This desire to be together in order to not feel alone is an unfortunate symptom, in my opinion. Every person needs to learn from childhood how to be spend time with oneself. That doesn’t mean he should be lonely, but that he shouldn’t grow bored with himself because people who grow bored in their own company seem to me in danger, from a self-esteem point of view.”
Do you use Evernote? I do, it’s really handy. But apparently there is SO much more that can be done with it. Read this for details, Queenie.
I thought Justin Timberlake did a fantastic job with SNL last week, and laughed real hard at most of it. But this skit had me laughing so hard. Vanessa Bayer (the woman on the left) is really good, in very small ways, slight shifts of her eyes, so wonderful. Here, see what I mean if you didn’t already see it:
THE OTHER THING: I’m finding the sweet spot of doing/not-doing and it’s very nice. The things I have coming up are all things I’m looking forward to. Pizza tonight with sweet Katie and Trey; a hike in the greenbelt on Saturday; brunch with a dear friend Sunday morning followed by a St Pat’s Day party with my gang that afternoon. Later this month, my desert trip. Next month, a trip to NYC. The following month, May, a trip to Chicago. In between, time to myself, time to work and write and play. Time to practice yodeling, and the dulcimer. Time to think, time to walk. Life is really good and I am happy.
Have a wonderful Friday, y’all. xo
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This morning at 9am I woke up with a huge smile on my face.
There’s something bizarrely wrong with my sleep — as in, I cannot do it. Last night I fell asleep at 3 and woke up at 4:45, so wide awake I seriously considered getting up. I have a lot of work to do today, why not get an early start. But I stayed in bed to keep trying, and finally fell asleep again at 6:15, only to have my alarm clock go off at 7. I must have accidentally hit the on button at some point yesterday. GRRRR could I go back go sleep? I did, around 8, and from 8 to 9 I had the most delicious and hilarious dream.
I was at some party at a HUGE huge huge mansion, and I didn’t seem to know anyone. But I was game, walking around the grounds, snagging a flute of champagne from passing tuxedo-clad waiters (stereotypes, anyone?), when I saw him. And he saw me.
We drifted toward each other and it was electric, oh, I knew he felt it too. We talked a little while, he got pulled away, I had noidea how old he was, he looked so very young, while I was/am 54. But who cares, the heart wants what it wants, right? As soon as he could, he came back to talk to me, and we walked around together. Moved our heads toward each other, grazing our hair together. I had fallen so hard in love with Jesse Eisenberg — but the guy I was with was just playing young Jesse Eisenberg. The ‘real’ Jesse Eisenberg was my age, and it was going to be OK. I was trying to figure out how old he was (the one playing the real one), and I thought I knew but then he told me he’d taken an advanced stats class in graduate school with Gauss (a very-long-dead famous statistician), and I’d taken a class with Gauss too, so he was at least old enough to have completed graduate school. But I didn’t care how old the young-one-playing-the-real-one was, we were so in love. It would be a scandal, we both knew it, and his parents would disown him and send him away with no money, but we didn’t care. We were in love!
And so, at 9am after an hour’s sleep, I woke up laughing. I jumped out of bed and hit the shower, laughing. I always play music loud enough that I can hear it over the shower, and this morning I sang along, loudly. I walked into my kitchen, towel drying my hair, and said “Hello, birds!” and they flew away but they came back. With a goldfinch, this morning. And I laughed.
I haven’t dreamed in so long, except for a couple of nightmares one night (one of which involved a dead bird), probably because I just haven’t been sleeping. I’ll get less than 2 hours, then a couple of hours of waiting for 1-2 more hours of sleep. And nothing is making me sleep. I’ve tried all the prescription sleep drugs, I’ve tried off-label drugs that always make people sleep (a very old school antidepressant that was retired from that use because it just made everyone fall right to sleep and stay asleep for hours (but not me!) and a drug that’s often used as an adjunct to antidepressants that has reliably zonked me into a coma (but not now)). Exercise, nope. Nothing is making me sleep, and it’s unnatural and having a bad effect, obviously. Last night in the middle of the night I was on my phone looking up grief counselors because it seems pretty obvious that I need some help, as my daughters also gently told me yesterday. I’ll see what I can do about that on Monday.
* * *
And here are some links I can’t seem to close (and such a telling reflection of the tenor of my week!), maybe one will be interesting to you!
And 50 sure signs that Texas is actually utopia (and I agree with all of them, but think we must surely lose a lot of points for our politicians, and we should never be allowed to have a president again until we put forward a candidate who at least has a brain).