Friday, April 20, 2012

goat rodeo.

so i heard the term 'goat rodeo' the other day. it was new to me so i looked it up. it means a chaotic, unmanageable situation.

of course this brought to mind people i know who always seem to be in the middle of a goat rodeo. how chaos reigns and unmanageable seems to be the order of the day. we hear about 'one more thing' and we cluck our tongues and make our judgments.

never stopping to remember each one of us is capable of getting to that point daily. or, we believe ourselves to be there. one misplaced hour of sleep, the cream curdled, a wretched commute, soul crushing cubicles that define the majority of our daily existence. boom. we're there. we're complaining and defining our lives by the randomness of the world.

and, sometimes we're just there. for real. divorce, foreclosure, diagnosis, prognosis, money money money and just sheer fucking dread and terror at what the next bit of life might bring. that's real life at its real hardest.

i'm always amazed what the human body will put up with and still keep on keepin' on.

but, real or imagined or situational or chronic, the goat rodeo ALWAYS sucks.

i was thinking about this yesterday when i heard wingman say 'of course that didn't work. why would it? because that would be too easy.' in my exact tone. because this is what i find myself saying. when the salsa jumps from the fridge and yawns open and cascades to the floor. when the grocery bag rips on the stairs on the way into the house. when something is twice what it should be. twice as much. twice as hard. twice as sucky. when i'm in a hurry and i can't find my keys. when i'm in a hurry. in a fit. in a mood. in my life.

it stopped me in my tracks. because not only is it what i say, it's what my father said. actually, that's not true. what my father said was 'shitfuckfire.' in the same exact tone that i use. the same tone i heard wingman using. and while our mantras were different, the message was the same. that life was just meant for being shitty. that things aren't easier and that they SHOULD be easier. for us. for me. and they're NOT EASIER. lather rinse repeat.

now. my father was nearly always like that. me? it comes and goes. not often. getting less often still as i grow older and understand more and learn that life is not for taking personally. it just is. i have my moments. but my father, my father could not catch a break. you know, like poor, mentally compromised, single parents seem to not be able to do.

he couldn't catch a break, nor did he chase one. i'm not going to suggest he didn't try. i'm not going to suggest he didn't do the best he could. the opposite. but what he also did was become *accustomed* to the goat rodeo. it wasn't just something that happened. it's something he chose. i'll stop now because he is gone and it isn't fair to talk about shoulds and should nots when someone's dead. none of us are perfect. or above reproach.

i went up to wingman and i said, 'dude. don't start that now. don't start believing it's meant to not work out. don't. you hear me say it. but it's not true. it just isn't. it's a crutch i no longer need. and i'll try harder to remember that. and try not to not say it.'

to which he responded

'when were you on crutches?'

so. that picture above is of my father. at the top of mount whitney. the highest summit in the contiguous united states. i knew he climbed it. but i have never seen this picture. i have never seen that look on his face. his arms raised in victory. 

i have never seen him in such joyous, masterful control. that is unmitigated bliss you see on his face. we are all seeing that look together for the first time.

that is not a goat rodeo. that's taking the fucking bull by the horns. dammit. and yes, i'd like to go into the what ifs. as the what ifs of his life would have directly impacted my own. WHAT IF he chose THAT. always. what if. but, hindsight is only in the eye of the beholder. so.

we are all handed what we are handed. that is pretty much out of our control. and yes i get that poverty and mental illness and life are REAL. i understand. i've been in all three. reside in two still. but nowhere is it written that we have to choose the chaos. and if you find yourself in the middle of the chaos, surrounded by goats, extract yourself and just keep going. it seems simple and trite, 'duh' & 'yeah right.' but sometimes the simplest messages are the ones that get lost in the need to find the answer. the exit. and the excuse should the answer and the exit not work out. 

you get to choose. always. i told this to myself when i was younger. in a different set of words and a different voice. but the message was the same. i tell this to myself now. daily. even as i forget and slip. i tell this to my children. i tell this to you.

so. what if indeed. WHAT IF we learned to count up our blessings *before* we count up our losses? like a baby who walks before she crawls. cut out the middle man. cut right to the good. WHAT IF we choose the summit FIRST. always.

and this is not about bootstraps and all that. it's about choice. it's about life being short.

life doesn't last forever.

you are living it today.

you get to choose.

choose well.

choose now. 


Friday, April 06, 2012

wherein the universe calls me a jackass and tells me to knock it off.

so i lost this ring. last night. while i was on the phone with my sister. in between the kitchen where i was taking it off and the dining room where i was going to put it down. on the eve of the full moon.

it's a face carved into a found antler. it very much looks like a full moon face. surrounded by silver. 

i've been wearing that ring every single day for nearly 15 years. my sister and the goddess mother gave me that ring when the duke was born. i love that ring. everyone who sees that ring loves it. i am constantly being asked about it.

and i lost. it.

it literally vanished. one minute i was taking it along with my watch and my wedding ring off to set them down to make dinner and the next minute it was gone. i searched for it everywhere. it wasn't anywhere. it was getting loose on the finger i wear it on so i entertained that it *could* have dropped somewhere when we were out running errands BUT i would have heard, it's big. i would have heard it drop. AND i felt it as i was taking it off.

i was devastated.

i did the thing you do where you say aloud well okay. i know everything has a reason and i was talking to the person who gave it to me on the eve of the full moon which it resembles and maybe it was just time to let it go instead of losing it in a far less 'meaningful' way.

i decided i would just be 'fine' with it. you know, accept it without a buncha weirdness. loss, it seems to be the theme, maybe this is just part of it and i need to just accept it.

so i went up stairs. and i sat on the bed and i started to cry. because i don't want to accept it. i don't want it to be gone. and i said, out loud:

universe, i don't know what kind of lesson you're trying to teach me. but i've already lost so much and i'm dealing with it and how much do you need to take from me? is there something i'm missing here? something i'm not getting? because i don't want to let anything else go. I AM DONE LETTING THINGS GO. stop taking from me! i got it!

and then i got up and yanked open the drawer to get my pajamas and i pulled out the jeans i took off earlier and stuffed in the drawer. i tossed them in the corner with the dirty clothes and there was my ring. jumping from the jeans, falling to the ground. it made a loud sound. i KNEW i would hear it if it had fallen!

so basically the whole night of running errands, etc. i wasn't even WEARING the fucker. and when i was taking it off in the kitchen i didn't even HAVE IT ON. it was just rote. it was just what i always had done, watch, ring, wedding ring in that order.

so i put it on and i sat on the bed and then i heard it:

there's your ring, you jackass. i had NOTHING to do with it. YOU took those jeans off in hurried vanity and changed into your other ones because YOU didn't like the way they made your ass look. why do you need your ass on display at whole foods to buy chicken? really? and YOU stuffed your jeans into your drawer like a 10 year old instead of tossing them in the wash. in doing all of that your ring came off. i didn't take it to teach you a lesson. so knock it off. give it just a minute would you? quit making life more difficult than you need. quit adding to it with your own issues. contrary to what you believe, i don't just work for YOU. so you need a lesson? well then the lesson was THAT. that and maybe you better think about putting that ring on a different finger. ever thought of that?



Thursday, April 05, 2012

your moment(s) of zen.

the day kurt cobain died i was at my job. it was the most normal job i would ever have. it was a daytime 180 from my real life. it gave my life structure, but i did it poorly. because it wasn't me. and i knew it. but i did it. and every day i questioned my sanity at choosing to be hemmed in like that. for actually getting up and going *there* every single day. so, i wrote (mostly) bad poetry when i was supposed to be working. i wrote a whole book of (mostly) bad poetry when i was supposed to be working.

it was an office job. almost seinfeldian. absurd and mundane and definitely sitcom worthy. i sat in a cubicle. i wore knit dresses and tights and sensible mary janes. i had a creepy, inappropriate boss. he had a put upon assistant. i had a gay office BFF. and a supervisor with out of control kids and fertility issues she wasn't afraid to gone on about at length. and a friend across the hall i could dish to. and did. too often, i suppose. outside of that job, my real life was beginning to spiral. coming apart at seams that were never meant to be stitched together in the first place.

i would ride my bike from the absolute top of capitol hill down to denny down to alaskan way which separated belltown from lower queen anne and i'd ride along this gritty industrial strip and then make my way into the left hand lane and turn onto to the magnolia bridge and with puget sound and the shipyards on my left i'd take the bridge all the way up and into the heart of magnolia. at the end of the day, i'd do it all over again. miles and miles of immense hills and endless water and amazing amounts of traffic. miles did not scare me. hills did not scare me. fast moving traffic did not scare me. i miss that girl. she made questionable choices and was such an asshole at times, true, but i admire her pluck.

i never met kurt cobain. or his wife. but circumstances were such that the degrees of separation could be counted on less than one hand. and as time wore on would get smaller still. that was just the way seattle was then. a very small town in a tucked away corner of the world with a soundtrack all its own. a great deal of that soundtrack kurt cobain was responsible for. so when i heard he died there was a profound sense of something the world tilting in a way that didn't make sense. of having lost something i didn't really 'have,' but that meant something more than i could understand at the time. 

sillymortals and their connection to music. what can be said that hasn't already been said. except that everyone has their own story. of a sound or a song. an album or a band. a story that gets richer for having music attached to the meaning. for having a soundtrack.  

and everyone who grows up thinks their soundtracks are the greatest. that they are the luckiest for having been in that time, with that music. and they pity others who got stuck with other, lesser soundtracks. this is how i feel. and mine was, is, the best. and i wouldn't trade one song on it for the world.

and every year on this day since that day in 1994 i'll be in the car or at home and the radio will be on and it will get mentioned. kurt cobain's death. and i'll stop a minute. or two. and i'll remember. where i was. and i can picture that office. and what i was doing. in general. in my life. and the rest comes. the music and the memories and the girl on the bike.

and now 18 years later i have sons who love nirvana. one with wholesale dedication. and passion. their music regularly plays in our car. and in my son's room. it does not get old. it has not worn out its welcome. all these years later and kurt cobain still commands attention. all these years later he's still in the soundtrack of my life.

recently we drove over an hour away to see a rock and roll photography exhibit because there were three iconic kurt cobain/nirvana photos included in the collection that the duke wanted to see. the above was one of them. it was chilling and arresting in person. it was hard to look at, even harder to look away. one hopes that one so tortured eventually finds their nirvana.

so here you go. this installment of your moment(s) of zen. enjoy.


Wednesday, April 04, 2012

securing the perimeter.

so yesterday afternoon i was cleaning out the hall closet which is to say i FINISHED unpacking the bathroom box i packed when we moved. sifting through stuff i should have tossed back in washington, throwing out expired meds, organizing what was left.

so what was weird, other than the fact that it's been a year and a half and i never unpacked the bathroom box fully, is that i found the switchblade my father gave me ON TOP OF a 6 page new york times book review of jonathan franzen's book 'the corrections' from september 2001. printed from the web in january of 2002. i read that book, i have that book, but i read it years later and i have never printed a book review from the web. ever.

moreover i packed that box and not only did i NOT pack the switchblade in the bathroom box (i kept it by my bed at the farm. upstairs.) i most certainly did NOT pack a 6 page 10 year old NYT book review. i would have remembered these things.

so i read the review which was long and wordy and made me remember how much i liked the book. a book my father hated. only because he never read it. because he was a disgruntled writer who didn't appreciate the success of other 'lesser' writers. at one point in the review, the author referenced eugene o'neill to draw a parallel and make a point. i finished reading it. and set it and the switchblade aside.

cut to this morning, i'm driving back from dropping the husband off at work and there's a story on the radio about eugene o'neill's play 'long day's journey into night' being staged in the area. and how eugene o'neill is so connected to the area. about how he died here. and how there's been sightings of his ghost. how he's buried in the same cemetery that is down the street from one of my very best friends from high school's old house (she just moved) and that  i've been there. i just walked in that cemetery not long ago.

and how the actor who plays the son in the play, a play about eugene o'neill's family, how his own father, a director, worked on the original broadway production of the play. and that his last name was my father's mother's last name. and the middle name of my youngest son.

and how his father just died. in january. and how the memorial is in may.

so i looked up the father when i got home this morning. and his widow's middle name is the same as my father's first name. only the wacky way he spelled it later in life. not how it was spelled when he was born.

cut to yesterday evening. riding along in the car to the library i was getting very sleepy and my mind was drifting. and i had two thoughts, the first was: i wonder if my father is really watching over me. i mean we think the departed are, but is he really? and how would i know? i have the lucky pennies i find so i mean i know he is, i hope he is, but is he really? and the second was: i wonder if it's in poor taste to have a memorial so long after someone dies? because we never had one for my father. and maybe we could this summer. would people come? would they still care?

cut to very early yesterday morning when i opened the front door to see the duke off to the bus and it was UNLOCKED. and i had my usual, well it's a wonder we weren't all murdered in our sleep thought. my father was notorious for 'securing the perimeter' before turning in for the night. every window, every door. a weapon always by his side. he too was afraid of the dark. he had daughters to protect. and i have usually been so good in that department. but that's twice in two weeks something was left unlocked. unsecured. shit, i thought. and me without a weapon.

so this morning, sitting here, it's just like that part in the movie that cuts to all the signs along the way the lead actor suddenly puts it together, along with the audience, and the mystery is solved. closing the circle. stories about difficult families. names. getting what you need right when you need it. oh. yeah.

now. it's different in real life. not manufactured for entertainment that ties itself up neatly. i know we can make much of 'signs.' or what we see as signs. connecting dots that are just 'there.' and not 'really' meant to be connected.

but i feel like that's the beauty of it all. being able to see 'it' if we want to. even if sometimes we are making a big stretch. a big leap. we get to. we get to make that leap. we get to secure love and comfort for ourselves. manifest what we need. something to see and to hold. something to know is real. to know that we're still being looked out for.

which brings me to my final thought about all of this: i really need to make sure the goddamned doors and windows are always locked. i'm sure my father is horrified. and it's a wonder we haven't all been murdered in our sleep already.