Saturday, January 21, 2012

Little Piggies

One of a bajillion signs that my husband takes pictures of while out wandering the world

Two posts in a week!  Have I caught a bug?  Why yes, yes I have.  It is raining outside, and I am in North Carolina, in my parents' house.  It is too drizzly to go running, perhaps.  Perhaps not.  I believe I write about running more than I actually run, and I am okay with that.  You?

Before I say anymore, I want to beware what my husband calls the "I'm having a great time, F*ck you" postcard, wherein a writer/friend waxes poetic about a heaven-on-earth experience they are having, without any real regard for the reader, or any grounding in the fact that they will one day be embarrassed by their exuberance, and remember it only as a drunken moment.  I also want to say, however, that drunken moments can be pretty fantastic!  And it might be possible to write about delight in pure, un-expositionist ways.

I do believe that this sort of writing inspires others to seek out that which truly delights them.  So I am writing to give you a bug.  I have turned on the computer this morning to say two things.  Let's see if I can keep it to that.  I have no faith in this intention but here goes:

1. My brother-in-law is part of an AMAZING idea/event/happening in Madison, WI (the only other town my husband and I talk about moving to on a consistent basis besides the sleepy city of Greensboro, NC, where we would surely grow inches of happy fat around our middles, a true feat for my six-foot-five husband). 

I am already talking about other things besides No. 1 & 2.  Shoot. 

Here's what I am trying to say: My brother-in-law, hereafter known as Trent Miller The Artist, or TMTA, organized this event.  It might have even been his idea.  And I cannot stop thinking about it.  There are, admittedly, a million things that can go wrong with this event taking place all day in an empty library as it transitions for a renovation, but TMTA is embracing the energy of the original idea and running with it.  And I wake up every day thinking about this event.  Which means two things: I should probably be flying to Madison to attend the event (although I am not, at this time, because I am reconvening with my kirtan friends to cut a few more songs for our cd), and, when we stand in our true power, and embrace the edges of life, and move forward in the face of fear, we are expanding the energy of the universe.  One person's soul-expansion is a victory for us all.

2. (I arrived!  Hooray.)  I read a blog post by Leonie Dawson this morning about giving away all of her books.  If you have known me for more than a month, you have probably heard me discuss the volume of books that my husband owns, and my errant desire to call a dump truck to the house one day to cart them all away. 

I know, I know.  It is not quite a pure desire.  I mean, it IS a pure desire.  Believe me, I have desperately wanted to do this, to have more breathing room in our house, many times.  But it is not quite a pure intention.  I am looking for an easy solution, rather than facing the task of sorting favorite books from the extraneous ones that we gleefully, recklessly acquired for 25 cents at library sales over the years.

Anyhoo, I am at my parent's GORGEOUS home this weekend, and looking around at a. the boudoir-like red lamp shades in their living room, b. the proliferation of ceramic bunnies that would blow the mind of even the staunchest teaspoon collector in spinster history, c. the remarkable carved wood furniture all about.  And I am seeing it all (finally) with eyes of love.

I have spent a number of years moving about the country, and as such, have not had the ability to take much with me.  When Tim and I moved to Colorado from North Carolina after graduate school, we filled half of our traveling trailer with boxes of books.  We left behind a great old file cabinet that may or may not be from World War II.  We left behind my favorite bookshelf, given to me by a friend who now lives in Portland, OR, whom I hardly speak with because of schedule differences and mileage distance, but who lives in every grain of the shelf's painted red wood, and who speaks to me and hugs me every time I pass it. 

I guess what I am trying to say is complicated, and also, I want to wrap it up.  So here: there are stories in objects, and I miss populating my home with the objects I love and their stories.  I don't care anymore about perfectly clearing out a house.  Dust bunnies mate behind the stacks of Tim's books back at home, and I no longer feel rage about this.  Instead, I feel cozy.  I feel like I am home.  Home is sometimes comically abundant, and a little pig-styish right now, especially since the re-wire job that left forgotten bundles of junk mail misplaced, and laundry in foreign corners.  I am okay with that.

I recently found a picture of me sorting through books during grad school.  I was trying to thin things out. It was the time for that then, as I was swimming through books, ideas, teachings every day.  My spirit felt a little soggy, which is one of the reasons we moved to the arid West. 

I wish I had that picture to show you right now, but it is on another computer (we have 16, don't you?).  I love the photo because a. I am wearing running clothes but haven't yet gone running, b. I am sitting before my favorite red shelf, and c. I am surrounded by books, swimming through them, deciding which ones still speak to me, and what ideas, authors, and visions are meant for someone else. 

I used to have a rule about shopping, that whenever I brought something new into the house, I had to give something away.  It feels shrewish even typing about that rule now.  As a household, I think we're in an accumulation phase. A very modest, thrift-store themed, Fed-Ex-salaried accumulation phase. I know we are in a transition, too. 

Running out the door to work recently, I noticed that my closet looks increasingly like my mother's.  Not necessarily in its objects, but in its composition.  Or rather, its windswept ways.  I used to feel some tender horror in the face of all my mother's shoes comingling in a soupy pile at the bottom of her closet.  (If you don't hear from me in a week, it is because my mother has killed me for writing publically about her closet.)  My closet is starting to look a lot like this: scarves growing one to the next like a stack of tail-eating snakes, heels stuck into snow boots stuck into suitcases stuck into our wine rack, raincoat wedged between wedding outfit, next to my cardigan for work.  It's a little chaotic, but more than that, it's fun.  When I dress in the morning, it's like opening up a genie's bottle: What the hell can I make happen out of this mess today?

That is all.  I leave you to get back to your busy, chaotic, splendid lives.  To myself make something of the day.  Or not.  I might make this for dinner, for my dad.  If I do, I will take a picture for you that I won't be able to find later, and I will tell you all about it someday.

With tendeness, with love,

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Found photo from some forgotten thrift store.  I like its myriad stories.
I want to say hi. And that, as much as I declared a winter holiday for myself, and started reading The Brothers Karamazov, just certain I would have time to finish it (this time), I have been super busy. It's true, some of that busyness has been in my head.  For this I blame the winds outside my door, and a complete electrical re-wire of the house. Another part of that busyness, however, has been catching up on some much needed couch time with Twin Peaks (lovingly referred to as Schwinn Peaks in our household), the movie Junebug, and a pretty bad documentary about Joan Rivers that, I swear, sent me to bed with my blood boiling.

Which reminds me of something I came across this weekend, and something on my mind lately. In unprecedented shamelessness, I will now share something from my journal for the second time on this blog! I'll try to not make this a habit. 

Ahem. The words: I'm not sure I know how to feel anger - in my body.  How to let it blow open my heart.  And I think this is linked, somehow, to action - to taking action in my life.

I wrote these words weeks before watching the Joan Rivers documentary, but it is perhaps important that each reminded me of the other, because Joan Rivers is well-known for paving the way for women.  Women comics, okay, but I think all women, too.  She said things on national television that you just didn't say...okay, this is according to the documentary, because I admit, I have never been a Joan Rivers fan.  I know, I know - shocking, considering my love for profanity and crassness.  I mean, profanity and crassness are the essence of Sut Nam.

See?  Even sarcasm doesn't work for me.

Anyway, my point (please!) is that I think a lot of women can relate to my original statement, that I don't quite know how to feel anger in my body.  Culturally, an angry woman is not an attractive thing.  Not that I live to be attractive to others.  I swear!

Could this conundrum be more than a peculiarity to my family, my particular history?  I think it is.  I know from watching my friends with kids how difficult it can be to teach children to honor their anger. To teach them how to feel it, so they know what to do with it, and how to work with it.  The behavior that results from an overload of anger is unattractive in even the cutest of beings.  It's also funny, if you have enough distance.  (See also, childless woman at her friend's house, watching friend's child throw tantrums).

In my own life, my dog scratches at the front door, demanding a walk, leaving deep claw marks, when he is finally fed up with his owners' laziness on Sunday mornings.  This is not attractive.  But it is kind of funny.  His brain has (apparently) boiled past the point of boundaries and normal behavior.  Somewhere inside that formidable little noggin of his, he thinks this sort of domestic vandalism is okay. (Incidentally, in one of the all-time miracles of rental history, so does our landlord.)

How about road rage.  Or temper tantrums in the middle of Marshall's (I'm talking about toddler's again, thankfully).  From enough distance, there is an opportunity for wonder - just what is happening inside the human brain in these moments?

It occurs to me that even this wonder is a signal of my discomfort with anger.  I have abstracted it.  But what if I was on to something when I said that my dog's brain boils past the point of boundaries?  What if I am afraid of anger because it is not polite and does not behave?  What if I am ultimately terrified of this loss of control, decorum, attractiveness?

For a big part of my life, I have been asking myself, how do I surrender anger, without surrendering to it?  But maybe the better questions is, how do I surrender to it - experience it, taste it - without acting it out? And is the distinction, not acting it out, but rather, acting on it?

That's a lot of italicizing.  Forgive me.

Yesterday, I had a moment where I was so angry my eyes crossed.  I don't mean this metaphorically.  I felt them screw tighter in my head and blur.  For a blip of a second, my head became a bull's head.  I felt rage course through it.  I might as well have blown steam out my ears.  I had to leave the room so I didn't say something I would regret.  My father has long had this ability to leave the room and decompress.  I think I have traditionally stuffed anger far back into my gut, where it nests like one of those sticky burrs our Cocker Spaniel growing up used to come home with loads of on her fluffy leg hair.  But where can stuffed anger go from there, but deeper into my body?  Where it grows like a cancer, or sullenly remains like a stuck caramel.

I keep a picture of a chapbook on my desk at work.  The chapbook was letter-pressed with a picture of a shovel.  The shovel points down, and words above it read Dirt, the title of a section of the book.  I keep it there for two reasons: 1. I work at a cell-phone accessories company and love my job.  But some days, I need to feel close to the poets I know, and the poetry that is humming beneath the business of the day, and 2. I want to remember that I walk on holy ground, the earth itself that knows what to do with emotions, confusion, anger.  It soaks it up and neutralizes it, turns it over and transforms it, like how the company of a good friend can neutralize the worst of days.

But what if this isn't enough?  There is also the cliche in our culture that a woman is hot when she is pissed.  And maybe she is.  I have certainly seen this happen in our household, where I erupt with requests for help with housework, or whatever complaint I have, and my husband finally sees me, and hears me, and is respectful of me in a new way.  Not out of fear, but recognition, because my personal power is finally being expressed. And we laugh at how angry I have become, not because we are ashamed, but because we are relieved. Because truth is being revealed, instead of being stuffed away.

So.  Go forth and throw tantrums!  No no, no no.  This morning, and most, I have no real answers.  Probably, the times I think I have them are when I am furthest from the truth.  The art of openness is understanding how squeamish I am in the face of things. And learning to stay open despite misunderstanding, confusion, and fear.  I do know this: it may not be enough to pray away anger.  It might not even be the thing to do. Anger may be a holy catalyst for new ways of being, a call of distress from the soul.  We get to choose how to listen to that ruckus, how to lean in deeply and ask what we need to know.  Thank goodness we have friends, and art, to work through the squeamishness.  Big skies and walks in the woods.  Work, too.  Work is dignity, my husband always says, probably quoting someone far off and biblical. It is hard to tell sometimes when he is quoting brilliance or simply being it himself.  In any case, I am grateful for these ways to explore what we are here to explore.

With wide open prayers for 2012, for you and the ways we are connected,