Thursday, October 7, 2010
A lot has happened. We're expecting a baby in November. That would be jumping to the exciting news...simply saying there is a 'we' is cause for joy. I've been head over heels for this gal for two years, and I confess I'm a little stunned that it hasn't topped out yet. I feel stronger and stronger about this relationship when I stop a moment and check myself.
Aside from happiness, there have been other distractions. I'm more likely to be at the gym than writing. Of course there's the nesting for the coming baby - I'm always moving crap from here to there, then back or elsewhere - creating space for little Ezri (we already have a name for her) has made day to day life a Jenga torture. Christina is barely moved in...she's still in the process of going through boxes and reckoning what makes the grade in the new life.
And there is Starry. Camille isn't as accommodating as I am, and the two cats are not getting along at all! Starry is a boy and he's very territorial. Camille is Camille: princess and reluctant center of attention. So much has been going on all at once, I worry about her. Moving in was a step up for Starry, but she just hangs in the computer room all day to avoid confronting him. Also, I notice both cats eat more and more; I think when there's competition or cause for scarcity, they eat each meal like its their last.
That sums it up: I had to stop writing to attend to my duties as Mayor of Catshittown. Perhaps one day I'll retire and write my memoirs, though thinking about what I'll have to write about invokes the smell of ammonia.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Since I haven't written in awhile, I took a look at all the things I never finished. These pieces have occupied my mind in many ways...woolgathering on the bus, mind-wandering on the elliptical at the gym...they just never worked out, regardless of my hopes at their maiden voyage. The crux of it is, I'm in love. It's so much easier to write when you are lonely! Like fashioning you own Golemn out of clay and the hours you don't have to spend with a hottie much, much, more animated.
You enter the tent…and it is so massive inside, and it is intoxicating and exhilarating all in one, this tiny universe that promises to entertain and fulfill. The air is permeated with a blood orange hue, a reflection of crimson drapery and stagelight from the intenser end of the rainbow. You feel a new aliveness, a childish glee as you catch your elongated form in a distorting carnival mirror. Everyone is so colorful and spectacular here…and the volleyed reflection tells you that you, you too, might belong. You force yourself forward, deeper into this strange atmosphere: those previous thoughts of contentedness, the assurances you gave yourself over how happy you already are, are drowned out in a jamboree of horns. A dozen trumpets and tubas and saxophones arc and pitch against one another sounding like they would each rather forge their own melody: but they have come together especially for you, in a tentative cease-fire.
On rereading the notes, I may have been writing something through the eyes of a child, a child who does not feel like they are a high priority for their mother. Of course, I’m interpreting my notes through the lens of the title. I’ve already described more than what was there; it could really be any number of cries for help.
Is there such a thing as religious deprivation? What happens when it is gone? Theology: the promise of a never ending skirmish. Not for the casual; god for the compulsive. Is this about the constructs that we put in place to displace it? The nagator, the deconstructor, the busybodied armchair psychological engineer: the peanut gallery. What do we hate about it? Really.
Sadly, there is not one coherent thought in my notes – but I know that snake oil referred to the recent posturing in atheism, not religion in particular. Ok, I’m an atheist; I enjoyed the 2 popular books that helped reassert it, too. What I don’t get is the preoccupation with it, or why people exert so much energy towards conversion or conviction (apparently, I don’t see why people get so vested in it, since I never finished it). I mean, what is the value to the individual? I didn’t finish “Atheism in the time of Irreverence”, either. I’ve been in forums and seen people passionately argue non-negotiable points. Really, you either prefer the fantastic lie or the plausible lie, and proof carries no water here.
That might be what did it: Hank made a habit of contemplating all the possibilities. He was deliberate – people had to be patient to hear what he would say – because he was imagining all the different directions his words could take. He wanted to be prepared for every possible contingency. Then this one. He couldn’t read her, or she lived outside the world he though he had all figured out. He’d been with many women – so many different personalities and situations – and thought he had it all down, knew how to handle a skirt in any circumstance. At the outset, he tried to play her like any other: he would read her moods and know when to shift into another gear. But this one.
I’m not sure how I feel about my grandfather. On one hand, I’ve romanticized him as this pre-punk figure. I saw a photo of him a couple years ago, and that was my first thought: before the skin heads, before the straight edges, here we had this stove pipe punk. It was a strange photograph of his entire family: someone probably blew two weeks salary to get a picture with a ‘camry’, getting the entire family to pose before the above-ground oil tank. None of which is germaine to cassanova.
I think I referred to this story, at one point, as being about the ‘most selfish person I’ve ever known’ (make that a second). I don’t think he ever worked a day that I existed on this planet, but I’ve heard just enough stories to romanticize his life. This story was about his career (one of very many) as a race car driver in the 50’s. Aaaaand, his abandonment of his wife and children around that same time. I pulled this paragraph from my blogspot notes; I have about 15K words in disparate locations on my pc. I’ve attacked it from so many different angles, and I was challenged by the time displacement and intimidated by failing on something with a tangible tangent to my own identity. I still want to finish it, but I think I’ve decided to wait until my grandfather has passed. What I have written so far, considering the context, felt very weird in the writing of it.
A Soldier’s Things
3. A long metal bar. It was part of a lock to the warehouse we broke into. It was a sweet deal – it was between leases, unoccupied, and the upstairs was like a gigantic indoor skate park. Some friends and I visited it a couple more times, until one day we snuck inside to find the toilet at street level was overflowing, flooding the place. It was creepy, dawning on us slowly that we weren’t the only people invading this place. Endless reams of Asian porn were strewn all over the place, floating in the thin pool.
I have a box of momentos. One day I decided to perform an inventory. Other items of note: Sandman, from Star Wars. Rosary Beads. A Slot Car. Numerous concert tickets. My Huskies Watch, my bolero tie (hey, I should bust that out!). I think the absence of things in my momento box says more about me than what’s actually in it….
The Third Son
Isaac could not be deterred. Fervent imaginings had lit a fire in his heart, and his mind was boiling with many hopes and possibilities that could arise from this venture. He shared them with his father, and he made known his frustration at the sole gray path marked for him should he stay. And Lott understood, and Lott let himself be proud of his son.
I might finish it. It’s a facile rewrite of the bible. You want the firstborn to follow in your footsteps, and the second born will be a great backup if they don’t go off to war and die. But there is no clear destiny for the third son…which is why we have priests and musicians.
Roe v. Wade
…is blank! But I remember my intentions. I wanted to review the judicial argument, which, by the way, is inadequate and flimsy. I understand the right to privacy, contingent on other SC rulings…but since I’m not going to ever get around to this, I highly recommend you read it for yourself. Then read a couple others, just to garner some idea what a logical conclusion should look like. My fear, and preoccupation with this, lies in knowing that the ruling was tailored not to constitutional grounds, so as much as it was designed to appease popular opinion at that time. And by saying ‘at that time’, I’m implying that popular opinion changes.
What we really need is an amendment, a caveat indicating that life is not precious or sacred.
Flip Your Wig
But what does this have to do with wigs? Well, I’ve been making allowances for them lately. The do what wigs do – distort, embellish or misrepresent – and though my communications with them has been minimal, they’ve manifested over the past couple months as really bad ideas I either indulged or humored a little too much. Here’s the net-net: they’ve made me either deny/confirm, or explain away, my behavior. This is an embarrassing, undeserved, inconvenience to me.
I try to avoid being personal. This invective is more or less complete, though unpublished. Kind of sad, since we tend to be funny in our mean-spirited moments. Rolling this rag about 2 wigs who don’t know each other but share lying compulsively in common was therapeutic…though I think if I met a Crackwig or Mindwig tomorrow, I’d probably make a snap judgment about her.
Each day becomes more and more submerged in detail. My time estimates are in blocks five minutes each. This isn’t good enough; my focus can be derailed in five minutes.
I’m not sure what happened here. The notes are copious and nonsensical. I may have been suffering from insulin shock. This is one of my symptoms of the shock by the way; an obsessive micromanaging of moments. Don’t laugh, it will happen to you right before you die, I just get the opportunity to live the moment on unplanned occasions. There’s more:
When codifying behaviour, do we go too far? How do we know when to stop? What values are in place? Is this serving self, or something higher than self? An immediate self, or a self conscious that it reaches into the past and future? Isn’t the very defining of structure something I do in an inspired moment, something I do because I want to do – an impulse? What am I positing, knowing that it is in the face of what I may be inspired to do tomorrow? Why is one compulsion more virtuous than another?
Perhaps I wanted to look at the transience of our compelled transcendence. There are a lot of words here. There are also a lot of references to killing squirrels; I kid you not. It is broken up with the statement: “Provide an itinerary. Here.” No reference to what the itinerary should serve.
Anyways. Secret Wars sounded a death-knell, and as DC minimized it’s number of universes and Marvel decided to expand theirs, I found I wasn’t enough the passionate archivist to keep up with numerous cross-overs. Even books I liked were being marred with disjointed one-offs, forced storylines that made no sense inside a comics’ gestalt.
Meeting Howard Chaykin was a great moment for me. Even Christina & Otto, standing right next to me, couldn’t gauge the synapses in my brain doing a spastic bumper-caring off one another. Even as I walked away from my fanboy moment, my nerves were calming down as enthusiastic, tiny metal Pachinko balls, might do. I was short-tongued and nervous the whole while.
There’s no good excuse why I didn’t finish this one. Fanboy would never be approved by my internal
Sunday, July 12, 2009
He did not look like someone positioned to start. Slouched in an armchair, a terry cloth robe his better off brother bought him at Penny's, draping his flanks. Not that he needed a nice robe. What was the point of owning a nice robe, unless you are independently wealthy and making your way about in it, all the day? But if you're going to buy a robe for someone as a gift, and you own a chain of machine rental companies, and you know, you're probably taking down six figures a quarter? A twenty dollar robe seems a little chintzy. Like, why bother at all, brother. Though everyone should own a robe, even if they don't wear it. It's just nice to have, though he wonders if the house were burning down he would think to grab it on the way out.
He leans forward and picks up the newspaper. Remembers when it used to be "this" wide: swears the print is a little bigger, too. He picks at the corner, separating sections and shucking away the periodicals for the glossier grocery advertisements. His thoughts are ahead of him now; he's guessing what red meat will cost him, how dearly, before he finds the image. He always does this. He imagines the worst. He does it so he won't be disappointed; no matter how bad prices get, they'll never be as bad as what he expected them to be. Makes him feel a little in control, a little bit the master of his own destiny. The steaks find him first. The splotchy redness of the t-bone slabs jump off the page, the photo is bereft of anything appetizing, but he is swept away by the numbers: 6.99 a lb! That isn't half bad. And he deserves a little treat.
The cigarette has burned down, and he remembers only taking one little drag, when he first lit it. Just to get it going. He looks at all the paper he still needs to pore through, and decides to light another.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
It was a good place to watch people, but it became grist for comparisons, self-evaluation, and the imagined interpretation of a relationship of the self - only known imperfectly - against an overwhelming whole that returned his gaze in circus mirrors and imported artifacts.
Monday, March 16, 2009
It was the only time I raised my voice at her.
After all, we both had plenty of expendable income. Our bills of necessity amounted to less than a fifth of our combined paychecks! I shook the credit card bill at her and intentionally jacked up my indoor voice. I usually have a stoic approach; I like to absorb a problem cerebrally and try to never appear flustered. But this was no time for stoicism or understanding. I was dealing with an appetite out of control, and I calculated my temper and words to animal training volume and tone. I had to get across what could not be tolerated.
"How? Eight Thousand Dollars! On what? Food? Clothes? Do you have any self-control at all? Don't you see you have nothing to show for this? What are you expecting, some kind of windfall of cash to take it away?" I broke down the simple math: if the bills get bigger and bigger, you probably aren’t living within your means. If you don’t do something about it RIGHT NOW, it is only going to get worse…
In retrospect, we had an ill-conceived dynamic. Eighty - Forty doesn't add up. I had always tried to make allowances so she could enjoy herself to her heart's content, while extending myself paying down the principle on the house and covering all the surprise expenses that homeowners quickly learn to expect. The more she indulged herself, the more reticent and conservative I became. Naturally, my anger that day was aggravated that any sacrifice I made up to this point went to naught.
To her credit, she paid off her debts within the next 3 years.
But I was resentful. I was resentful when she couldn't help out with bills because, after all, she was paying more than the 'minimum payment' on those credit cards (the eight thousand was only one of many). I was resentful because I had already done so much: solely provide the down-payment on a house while tossing her name down as co-owner; buying us a car that she used almost exclusively; I was resentful because it dawned on me that in addition to being the responsible one, I also had to be the one to compensate for her selfishness…because this is what I believed a partnership entailed. I responded by putting every spare penny in the bank, foregoing any venture that might be financially taxing. I put extra hours into my salaried job, hoping this might better my situation somewhere in the future. Certainly, the universe would stand up and recognize my efforts, and something good would happen! What I was saving was a basal protection, a financial barrier against what surprise she might have for me next. A hefty raise became the carrot at the end of the stick: if only I had my own windfall, I could buy a ring. Or sail around the world. Do a big something fun for the both of us.
For her, the distance between whimsy and satisfaction was a brief hop. She had a sense of self-entitlement that I never understood: at a moment's notice, she would see what she wanted and feel she deserved it simply for being her. She's not the only woman I've seen display such caprice, and found it an unattractive trait - but I wrote it off as an occasional necessity, an infrequent letting off of steam. In other women, it was an ugly petulance, but since she was my love it was simply an event and not her character. Simply another obstacle to scratching our way back to zero; I could easily spend another month putting off the things that I want.
And so I worked until I burned out.
I worked days and nights. I had maintained a level of self-sacrifice for years that never resulted in the recognition I hoped would arrive. I felt the squeeze between a partner who consumes for one and a half, and a shrinking job market that stunted my pay and increased my workload. Day in and out, my thoughts were filled with despair.
But I looked at the money I had put aside: This accumulation - partly because I no longer had the time to spend or enjoy it, partly stored as a precaution and reaction against her excessive spending – had reached an appreciative size. Wasn't it supposed to provide a comfort? It could be the down payment on a bigger house, or the beginning of a child's college education…but what mattered at the moment was that it was also saved with an ambiguous eye towards freedom and possibility. What mattered at that moment was that I could afford to perhaps, finally, do something for myself.
I quit my job.
I did it with self-righteous bravado. I felt the world was telling me I had to suffer because I had no options, when really, I had another option. And I exercised it: to not stand for the situation! And I'll confess it did not bother me as much as it should, that my partner would have to be the ‘reliable’ one for awhile. I was so proud of my nest egg, so confident I could land on my feet, that I continued to maintain that 80-40 balance without a foreseeable second income in sight. And I managed this, while throwing money into home projects and going to school, for 3 years. I was going to show a debt-loving world that there was still some reward in paying it forward; show the world those old sensible fables were still valid.
I’m still proud of what I did, even if it turned out somewhat badly.
I eventually went back to work, but with a healthier optimism. It was a bit scarier than I thought it would be - finding a job with equitable pay after being away from the industry for three years. But I scored! (Side note on the IT industry: I could’ve better spent my time away going to cosmetology school and becoming a hair stylist. Sure, I’d be on my feet all day, but the pay would be the same and I’d have nights and weekends open to enjoy). However, I don’t think I completely understood the effect on my partner. I might love morality plays played out in fables, but her world was something entirely different.
She had to explain to her peers why she was working and I wasn’t. How does one explain all I have stated up to now without implicating oneself? If she chose to vilify me, I cannot blame her. It would take a conscientious mind to explain things truthfully…and being as fiscally irresponsible as she was, it’s questionable whether she had that conscientious faculty in the first place. So if she expressed frustration to others over my inverse freedom, especially with the perception of chosen unemployment as such an available taboo, I completely understand.
Also, it was stressful for her: it was stressful from day one of my unemployment, even when I still handled the financial burden. We were one lay-off away from complete exposure, and I’m certain she felt the weight of being the person on the hook for it. It became even uglier in the last three months of my unemployment, when I had to rely on her in reality: the eighty-forty was abandoned for a sixty-forty where she was handling so much more than what she was used to. For those three months, she was carrying the same burden I carried for eleven and a half years (excepting the additional I saved or paid in principal; she wasn’t about to go that far).
We landed on our four feet: we had both provided our drama, now it was time to live happily ever after.
This is all written so long after the fact. I write these things to make them clearer in my head. For the most part, I’m over it…but from time to time, some aspect of our relationship recurs in my head making negative waves. I write about it to get it out, to see what I was missing; to look for that off chance that it will reveal to me some bit of information that I missed. Maybe acknowledging it helps me move on. The act of writing engages the left side of my brain, the dogmatic and objective side. I’m just as prone to shake something out that I did wrong, something about me that I’d like to change. I don’t think anything I’m writing today has cultural value, unless it provides an insight into money and relationships. I’m beginning to see, as I write, that it may have had some value to me.
She developed a tumor. It was benign. I was terrified at the thought of losing her; doctors can reassure you at the probability of successful surgery but the word surgery will trip you up; the word alone will kidnap your thoughts into a multitude of ominous scenarios. But she was okay. I appreciated the people who came to see her in the hospital. I doted over her during her months of bed rest. I thought it must be hard for her, unable to move without assistance…it bothered me more that the days were so short and the light was so little and it made our bedroom into a cave. Hardly a place to recuperate.
When she was able, she started going to the gym. She was very persistent about it. Over \months, a desire to lose the bed rest fat was replaced with a need to become as toned and weightless as can be. A week wouldn’t go by that she didn’t bring home another pair of new designer jeans. But she was healthier; I couldn’t ask for more. Even when all those endorphins kept her from coming home after work: hitting happy hour, going to shows, coming home who knows when.
I knew what her new lifestyle was costing her, and we slowly returned to our old dynamic. I stored for an inevitable winter. She continued to spend. After all, look at what she had been through. When I accidentally opened a bill and saw a balance of nearly five thousand dollars, I just kept silent.
There was no need to be passive-aggressive. I was in fact, already beaten. She was not going to put me in the position of having to raise my voice again.
She left me when I told her I wouldn’t change. I have to stand by that response; though it has taken me this long to figure out exactly what about me I won’t change (what exactly about me needed changing was never made clear in the first place. It had to wait to come out in numerous post-breakup conversations).
She wanted someone who invests in self discovery: really, I should go to therapy. It would be good for me. She wants someone who wants to travel the world. Learn to relax, take a vacation. She wants someone who will go out after work with her every night. She wants someone who will do this, that, and the other every weekend. She wants someone more fun. She wants to try rock-climbing and she expects someone to do it with her. She wants more sex. She doesn’t want someone who shies away from an expensive restaurant. And on and so on.
I remember my initial reaction at the time: she basically listed everything I AM NOT. After twelve years together, this was understandable. After twelve years, faithfulness and unequivocal support don’t carry much currency.
I remember my secondary reaction, when I was alone and away from her: I hated that her new job at work was centered on defining and building requirements, where people like me are supposed to provide technological solutions. It was like her brain got stuck in a rut, and this seemed entirely unfair for me.
We moved forward with the separation.
This is where it gets ugly. How do you decide who gets what? Unspoken and tacit agreements about money and material things suddenly require definition in a spiteful context. Being the abandonee, I didn’t ease the process. I argued from the standpoint of what made sense: I put all this work in the house, I plan to stay here; take the car, she uses it more; I don’t care if she found and brought the cat home, I’m the one who takes care of her; I’m not the one leaving. I’m not the one leaving. Isn’t there a price to pay for being the type of person who just walks away and abandons? I don’t care if you made out with some chick in a bar and it made you feel new, that it opened your eyes to all these possibilities. Do you think you’re the first thirty-something, sexually confused woman who thinks she can build a fresh lesbian life on the back of what her man earned for her? Well, you’re not, and go fuck yourself.
It all came down to the house. I tallied up what I put into it. I busted out percentages. I broke down what we both put into the house, and what we both could get out of it if we sold. I came up with a fair number.
She came back with a complicated road map of 401-k’s, blue book values on cars and a fifty-fifty divvy of what would happen if we sold the house. I found it hilarious, this circuitous route that cut her assets in half, that separated things I felt I had no right to. But she had this legal take for a good reason; the legal take would give her almost twice the fair one, and the legal one would always win. As absurd as its complexity was, she was going to choose the option that gives her the most money. Money in hand was what mattered to her most.
We played a dangerous game with theoreticals. In theory, we were saving this much money by not incorporating lawyers. In theory, this was the value of the house if we sold it the day she left - days after I had torn up the carpet to put in the hardwood floors she wanted. I held my tongue over all the other potentials. How we wouldn’t be arguing over the value of the house if it hadn’t been for the only one of us paying the mortgage since she left. How she was expecting a lawsuit payout from a traffic accident, and she didn’t figure this into her ‘legal’ definition of what she deserves. I just wanted it over.
We met one last time. We thought we had a number we agreed on, but we were apparently thirteen thousand apart. It was the difference between selling and not selling the house: if the house were sold, she wouldn’t have that thirteen thousand because it would be used to pay a hypothetical real estate agent. But I wasn’t selling the house, so she believed she was entitled to that money. Since I did not want to sell the house, I should pay it to her.
I was flabbergasted. This was downright offensive. I was jumping through hoops to get her bought out before the lease on her apartment was up – instead of waiting the two years allowable to me to arrange the sell of the house and then settle with her. And wasn’t she basically threatening me? Wasn’t she telling me that in order to make that check to her a little less hurtful, I had to sell the house?
I was done. I told her I would give five thousand. Through tears, she accepted.
If there IS any cultural value to impart, it is to get a lawyer. I was no longer dealing with my partner; I was dealing with an animal. I could only see my partner, though. Considering that she carried the secret with her – that we were no longer in love – for a much longer time than I had, she had me at an emotional disadvantage. In addition to all her new life requirements, she also felt entitled to be a homeowner herself, and she was going to chisel as much out of me as she could to ensure it. A lawyer would have brought all those theoreticals into play, the aforementioned ‘potentials’ would have been on the table. A lawyer would have told me not to act in haste, to not think about ending it as quickly and painlessly as possible.
Because it didn’t end there. I may have gotten her out of my life, but I’m reminded each month that I’m only paying the interest on what I paid out to her. I can’t afford much more. The housing market went in the crapper, and I just made an inflated buyout based on an inflated house value. Doubly screwed.
I keep asking myself, why now? Why so long after the fact?
One reason is positive. I think I’m healed. I think that after dicking around for a year and a half, I’m finally thinking about my own new life. When I think about what I want to do with this new life, I’m angry at how trapped I am. How little I have to offer, because I let myself get taken advantage of. And I know what regret feels like; it is an ugly tarnish on what should be something hopeful and bright.
I think part of it comes from shutting her out entirely. I don’t know how she fares now. I know I never wanted to know how great she is doing. When the fables don’t come true, when evil prevails, when you are thoroughly played…you’re not up for watching a victory jig at your own k.o., you’re just not up for it. But distance from the event has made me wonder. Is she a raging lesbian now, or did she find a nice man-gina? Did I earn her enough money so she got that house of her own? Can I find anything positive in the time we did have together?
That is where it all comes home; that’s the reason I write these things.
How it would end between us? It was always evident. As clichéd as it sounds, it was about the money. We could get along gangbusters, but it could never last. Not a pay-it-forward guy like me, and a pray-the-bank-makes-an-error-and-wipes-out-my-balance girl like her. My only regret is that it took her so long to realize her requirements. Scratch that: her requirements were cognitive bursts, a running list of wants by line item. What I wish is that she took the time, a long time ago, to metacognitavely realize what all those wants require. She shouldn’t have wasted her time on a man who likes the simple things in life, who practices living within one’s means. I wish she could have just walked on by, looking for the big money-maker, instead of taking advantage of a nice, well-intentioned guy like me. There’s nothing wrong with that! I watch the E! Channel…I think it’s even celebrated as a virtue.
Sunday, January 4, 2009
It isn’t like, one year I decided to become fearful of the trees in my yard. It started with the last prolonged snow storm. The branches of the trees were weighted with snow; a spike in the temperature the next day was followed by freezing temperatures that night that turned the pine’s beautiful white coat into a cumbersome armor. A little after midnight, the branches began falling. The first one took out the corner of the garage, and as I was out to investigate, neighbors from up the street were standing in the alley way: the crack on breaking, the landing on the garage, was enough to rouse them. I assured them everything was okay, no one was hurt. What else could I do at that moment? I drew a mental geometry in my head, figured if a tree fell it would fall short of their home, and wrote them off as saintly for their concern.
But that was only the beginning; the next twelve hours brought eight additional branches giving up the ghost. Sometime in the wee hours, M abandoned the master bedroom for the living room sofa – putting a little distance outside of the trees’ canopy. I slept alone, each new thud interrupting my R.E.M. with a fire crack and jump starting my heart rate with a defillibrating pop. I don’t have many regrets, but I definitely regret sticking it out in this manner, I carry some second-guesses over thumbing my nose at Mother Nature by standing pat and pretending there was nothing to fear. Ask any Scientologist: the subconscious is no place to make a stand, and mine took a beating that night…by trying to sleep through trauma, I put out the welcome matt for engrams galore. When I awoke the next day, there was a mish-mash of large branches that in one place came to my waist; by the time I had cut and de-branched, I had a mass that could fill an entire room.
None of the aforementioned is news to people I know. If you know me slightly; if you have seen my home, I have mentioned the trees. You know I live in fear of them. It is a tentative, peaceful cease-fire…I don’t want them to disappear, but each windstorm announces a new political unrest. If you haven’t seen them: they are two majestic pines that loom over my tiny, 1000 sq. foot shack. There are two more trees in my neighbor’s yard, one of which is a ponderosa pine whose needles seem to fall only in my yard. I’ve cursed at all four of them since my first year here, when I spent the fall raking pine needles out of my dead lawn; a lawn killed by their acidic injections. I could never resolve what to do with them. On the one hand, they were a bonus when I bought the house. Look in any direction, and you will not see trees so tall. There are four of them, so they have an interlocking root system. I simply didn’t see the downsides when I bought the home; I didn’t grasp the amount of maintenance. And I didn’t know we would come to this contention where I would be on the losing side.
Up until the snowstorm, I had never conceived of an entire tree falling. It’s something that just doesn’t happen, right? But I read about it in the papers. Roads are closed because a tree fell. Electricity is lost because a branch took out the wires. I would try and determine what kind of tree it was, how old it was, what kind of conditions made such a thing possible. Part of the reason I tell everyone about the trees, is simply to get some reassurance. I want people to tell me that these pines look healthy, that we get enough water that their roots are strong and they would never give entirely.
The last several years have been difficult. Simply knowing that a windstorm is coming fills me with dread. The trees have become a strange Achilles Heel, a chink in my normally stoic posture. I have given so much power to them, and when the winds kick up they affirm it with a mean-spirited validation. I lay supine and jet awake at night, imagining escape plans should the greatest crack resound…while they assert themselves in a fanning fury, reminding me there was a time when people believed it was the trees that made the wind. It is a primal instinct and short stone’s throw from animism, but they make a convincing case: my heart rate accelerates – sometimes pull me from my sleep – as their flailing tantrum is thrown above me.
I know it is illogical, but I cannot have them cut down.
Despite the inconvenience of maintaining them. Despite knowing I’ll never have a beautiful lawn. Despite knowing that a well-placed lightning strike could destroy my house; even knowing I’ve wasted so much anxiety and stress should the worst never happen.
Part of it is the novelty – I look about me and see that I’m a rare custodian for what many people would see as a developmental inconvenience. It hearkens back to the first time I walked through this empty house and looked up between the trees’ interlocking branches and felt a full heart and reverent awe. I’m wary what would be the outcome from amputating the x-factor in a personal pride. Also, as ashamed as I am that I’ve developed this insecurity about the trees, it too has become a part of me…it is as though, in lieu of having a god to be illogical over, the trees have stepped in as my personal absurd recourse (and discourse).
There is one other reason.
I believe we roll over peaks and valleys, that nothing is ever all-up or all-down. And the trees might challenge me the year round, but this intense aggravation is bookended in the harshest winter. I know it is coming, I can brace myself for it, and there is a familiarity to my anxiety: I know how to deal with it, I’ve exhausted my imagination playing the terrifying scenarios over and over again in my mind, and I guess…if the worst happened, I’d like to think my body would react accordingly.
Then spring comes. It only happens several days through the season, but as I come home from work, a full block from my home, I hear a sound competing with the car traffic. I’m always impressed with the ruckus the returning birds can kick up, surprised that I can hear it from so far. I begin to walk a little slowly, taking in the moment: hundreds of birds converge in the trees; finches and sparrows and some I’ve never been able to classify. By the time I’ve reached my front steps, it is like a sheet of white noise…only it is a cacophony of individual chirping, an orchestral rehearsal. And I tell myself, this is my home. It is a wonderful end to a work day; I usually grab a chair and set myself below them, below the spring blue sky. It is chaotic and joyful at the same time, and I want them to go on and never end but I know this is only their rest stop and they are bound to move on. But it isn’t lost on me: it’s no longer just about me and the trees. And I feel pretty lucky, knowing I’m custodian for these tiny beings as well, believing that each year they identify my home and my trees as their rest stop.
Thursday, January 1, 2009
when i look at the peaks and valleys, i have a tough time seeing them simply as such. a high point was buying M out of the house and being quit of her...though i'm still kicking myself for not really looking out for my best interests and likely overpaying to expediate the process. out of the biggest positive, i'm still second-guessing the outcome and dealing with the negative results. the lowest point, the justice show...i made a complete ass of myself in my public drunkedness, and spent weeks hating myself over it. but it was the first of a couple rock-bottom moments that prompted me to start drinking less and start focusing on taking better care of my body. so: out of the sour came something sweet.
that these intenser moments came in the early half of the year doesn't surprise me. the year vibrated like a struck tuning fork. i had more questions, was more ill at ease - more lost - at the beginning. i was more erratic and misdirected in trying to be something different than who i was, either overshooting or falling short of my mark. i just needed to be centered, and the tines didn't come to rest until the closing months of the year. acknowledging you are lost is a good start: from there, you're either going to posit where you want to be and make your way there, or you are going to plant a flag where you are and start seeing things in relation to where you made your stand. I think I'm going to do a little of both in ought nine, resolving to stop wandering.
and maybe a year from now, i'll be looking back and hearing 'sing your life' jauntily ringing each image in. or if i'm lucky, 'last of the famous international playboys.'