Archives for the month of: October, 2013

puckescape

I’m sitting here, envisioning brain cells popping like bubble wrap under a 6 year old’s thumb, as I breathe in the sickeningly sweet aroma of an insecticide impersonating as Febreeze. I have won the battle against my cat’s fleas, and in that victory, I have lost.

Not really sure how in the Hell this got so out of control. We had an outdoor cat, who amongst other nefarious parasites, probably had a flea or two in her lifetime. But then, she was in the woods more than out, so really who could tell? We treated her for the gamut that any wild creature naturally carries about, but needs to leave at the door before cuddling with me on the couch, and never really had any issue with it.

Then we were moving to California. No longer on a 14 acre stretch of wilderness, we were going to be boxed in by neighbors on all sides, complete with their ark of pets, not to mention a whole new variety of wildlife.

“But the cat has to come with us!,” my children begged.

“But we would have to keep her indoors,” I explained.

“But it would break the children’s heart,” my husband countered.

“But she craps in the houseplants, finds the spotless litter box beneath her, and we’re moving into wall-to-wall white carpeting!,” I growled.

“But she is a part of our family,” he reminded me.

And that was that.

So Puck, appropriately named for her wandering out of the wilderness and into our lives, creating much midsummer’s mischief by disemboweling many a woodland sprite on our doorstep, became a west coast house cat.

We all learned to adapt. After two weeks of sleepless nights, we finally realized that playing with her during the day would help her sleep at night. (Yeah, I know, “Well, duh!” Clearly, we had never been real cat owners. We were more like an alternate food source for a feral beast.) We treated her to toys and special attention. It was bumpy, but we all seemed to be getting along.

But then she started scratching. And my kids started scratching. And my husband started scratching. I tried to convince myself that the state that barely sells bug spray has more insects than upstate NY in the summertime. Reality wasn’t postponed for long.

We have fleas. I say ‘we’ because fleas, like the joy of sexually transmitted diseases and foot fungus, is a community experience.Trying to contain fleas is like trying to contain a sneeze two seconds after it has already happened. A much more likely proposition when the host animal lives a majority of the time out of doors and rolls about in dust on an hourly basis. However more like Mission Impossible when said same host now lives on your bed 12 hours out of the day, and when not snoozing, is rolling about on the wall-to-wall carpeting.

I work all of the natural angles that I can muster. I vacuum so much that my biceps are bulging. Everything is a little smaller now because it has spent multiple cycles in the dryer on high. Our house smells like an exotic lemongrass tart, as I was dousing everything with the most natural and pleasant weapon in my arsenal.

And none of it is working.

I am coming apart. Shit like this never really got to me, but now I feel as if I’m peeling apart at the core and running up under my skin – like an inside out onion. Fears, frustration and utter exhaustion is just bubbling up to my surface; blind panic when I recall our past lice infestation, angst that I’ve thrown at others when they’ve had similar situations, rage against being forced to bring a cat against my wishes and never feeling heard in the first place, guilt for wanting my cat to disappear, even though all she ever does is want to cuddle with me – it is an ocean of negative waves, each one washing over me and it is all I can do to remain upright at the surface.

I find myself standing in the insecticide aisle at the store. The colors of the boxes and cans are bright and cheerful. They make promises that I’ll find the peace that I’m searching for. I don’t have to wait that long, either. In just a few quick steps, it will be all over.

When I get home, I light a candle and sit to meditate. I let the sadness and despair wash over me, through me.  I sit with it, just letting it take hold and hoping it will move on. I sit as long as I can before my mind is too filled to ignore.

I put my meditation cushion away, and pull out the insecticide.

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GRRRRRR!  I hate that when I put myself out there, and let go of the side of the pool, that sometimes, every time there is a point where I forget that I don’t know how to do this exactly, that I’m in some sort of environment completely foreign to me and I get water up my nose, and it burns, and pisses me off.

I hate feeling judged.  I hate feeling less than.  I hate hating the people that I feel are judging me and making me feel less than.  I hate making me feel less than.

I submitted a piece for publication and received a very lovely, albeit standardized, response telling me that my efforts needed more work.  A piece, which I giggled over for the 2 hours it took me to write, was less than what they were looking for and that perhaps I needed to do a little more soul searching.

In that moment, I wanted to firebomb their offices, shake their kombucha bottles and let the air out of their bicycle tires.

How dare they?  How dare they, with their irreverent articles on mindfulness and living out your purpose, dare to tell me that my version of how I am doing those very things, isn’t good enough?  That I need to try harder?  That, perhaps, I didn’t get it just perfect straight out of the gate?  That I am not loved and adored on the first try, possibly even the second or even third?

Don’t they know I’m an eldest child?  Don’t they know that I’ve been working at perfection my entire life?  Don’t they realize that if I can’t get this right, I don’t know who I am or what I’m supposed to be doing?  That maybe nothing I’ve ever done has been right?

Don’t they know that doing what you love is supposed to be easy, and that means no proofreading, edits or re-writes?

F. U. editors of irreverent blog full of writers whose lives I admire and prose I enjoy!  You want me to work for this?  Fine.  Get ready to be suffocated under the weight of all that is mindful, insightful and brimming with juicy soul goodness!  I accept your challenge to prove my gift and write a better, more meaningful and poignant piece!  You’d better run out to Whole Foods and pick up the economy sized box of bamboo Depends, because you’re going to be laughing so hard you’re going to fill your Toms with pee!  I’ll show you how meaningful I’m about to make this life.

Now I’m going to go meditate so hard it will hurt.

 

kittylittercake

I was a total shit to my husband last week.  Not like cutting-the-nipples-out-of-all-of-his-dress-shirts kind of a shit, or texting-his-friends-pictures-of-him-playing-dress-up-with-the-girls kind of a shit… more like I-was-feeling-less-than-so-I-took-it-out-on-him kind of a shit.

In the moment, I thought I was being funny.  I thought, “Ha ha!  Wouldn’t it be great fun to point out just how many times I have cleaned this container of cat crap more than he?!?” (Which, if we’re counting is exactly every time since we’ve moved.  Every. Time.  For 8 weeks. But I assure you, I’m over it.)  And he would laugh, and I would laugh, and then he’d say something Brontë-esque that would draw tears from my eyes like, “My darling, you are too delicate a creature to have to bend to the wastes of felines.  Never again shall I allow you to humble yourself so intimately!”  And then he forever more cleans the cat box.

Yeah, that didn’t happen.

There was no laughter, nothing quoted from classical literature, and while there were no tears, there was also no humor or good anything left in the room.  While the cat box was fresh, the air left behind after the comment was pitifully stale.

So, I decided I would try again.  After sourcing out the freshest, most divine specimens from the area farmer’s market, I came home to prepare a luscious, highly nutritious dinner for the family.  (And, let it be known that this was one of a long menu of meals that I had prepared as I was cooking all of our dinners lately.  All. Of. Them. Again, totally over it.)

As the family was leaning back in their chairs, satisfied by the rich culinary delights, my husband thanked me for making another delicious meal.  Inspired by my husband, my girls also complimented and thanked me.

“Aren’t you getting tired of thanking me for making dinner every night?”

See?  A total ass.  In just one sentence, I illustrated textbook marriage no-no’s  – scorekeeping and sarcasm.  And then, I followed it up with a dollop of Complete Surprise when he got angry and called me out on it.  Nothing like avoiding responsibility and demeaning his response to bake it into a steamy shitcasserole.

We spent the evening tossing verbal barbs back and forth.  To be honest, in the moment, I was completely put off that he was even the least bit offended, let alone thinking he was <gasp> JUSTIFIED in his response!  How dare he think that I can’t indicate my own feelings of frustration!  Just because he had been working 14 hour days, without the ability to stop for a snack let alone prepare a meal, doesn’t mean I get to feel like I’m servant to the world.

And there you have it.  Right there is where this heaping pile of doo doo rained from our sky.  Did you catch it?  Did you see the underlying crack in my perception that quickly spread to a chasm and widened itself to separate me from my love of these amazing people?

According to my ego, I am a servant.  My chief responsibilities are cleaning cat boxes and baking casseroles, and that is NOT acceptable to my ego.  According to my ego, to assume that that role in it’s entirety is me is an insult and I need to fight that identity, no matter the cost.  The title of ‘Servant’ is beneath me.

However, after I was able to get some space and clarity, this is the alternate reality that I came up with…

According to my soul, I am a servant.  While my responsibilities are cleaning cat boxes and baking casseroles, I do this because our cat brings us love and joy and deserves the respect necessary to not have to utilize a festering waste receptacle.  And for my family, it is my choice to shop the farmer’s markets, create the recipes and cook the meals from scratch because it is how I show them how much I love them.  Cooking dinner is not a chore but a labor of love.  I could easily return to my days of eating a single baked potato for a single girl, but is this really what I want?

I am worthy of far more than my chores, and that is the love that I give by doing those chores.  What I do reflects my gifts to the world. I am not identified by what those tasks are, but with the attitude I choose to embrace as I do them.

I also got, in a 2X4-upside-the-head kind of way, that if I have an issue with how I am identified, than I need to fix that.  It is not the responsibility of my husband to sort that out.  He’s busting his ass to get me the space and the resources to do that on my own.  And guess what?  I’m an even bigger ding dong for giving him grief about that.  And, while we’re at it, how about I sit down and sort out what is so goddamned important about having an identity.  Sounds like someone is swimming in the low self esteem side of the pool and needs to do a little soul searching about what this all means. (Yeah, I ate a bunch of chocolate after I swallowed all of these bitter pills.)

So, after I sorted all of this out, I apologized.  Profusely.  I confessed all of the aha’s that came to me and how every one illustrated how supremely awful I had been.  Sure, I harbored a bit of panic that this all might come back up in later arguments and be used against me in our Court of Life, but I had to take that chance and not hold anything back.  Love isn’t about trying to keep the upper hand.  Love is about handing them your heart and trusting that whatever comes next – cat poop or casserole – will all be fertilizer to make it grow.

He smiled when I spilled it all out.  He also gave a few confessions of his own, but I suspect those were trumped up to make me feel a bit better.  I now look at cleaning the house and cooking our meals more like love notes than community service.  And he has jumped in and helped out more than he really has energy or time for.

Like right now.  He’s photoshopping a picture of cat poop into a casserole for me.*

I so love this man.

(*Editor’s Note: He didn’t actually photoshop the above picture.  He googled the image (Really? You googled ‘cat poop casserole’?) and found this blog about a kitty litter cake.  Looks like a fun idea for Halloween.  Check out the blog here: http://kitchentreats.wordpress.com/2011/10/05/kitty-litter-cake/)

blackdogmug

My coffee mug has a picture of a black dog on it.  Not just any black dog, but the iconic image from The Black Dog bakery and cafe in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.  I drink coffee, tea and even the occasional red wine in this mug.  I love that it is old school, diner shaped, porcelain and that it is heavy enough to feel like I’m drinking something substantial.

A friend gave me this mug over a decade ago when she was embarking on her own west coast adventure.  It was of no use to her any longer.  She wanted to untie the bow lines and this mug was left behind.  She has since returned to the east, but has most likely forgotten about the cup.

Looking at the worn but famous type, I remember a visit to the bakery. I was on my way off of the island, hoping to never return as I had just experienced jail as well as my first in person hurricane, all at the tender age of 20.  The memory makes me smile.

This image on the mug is the same image that I once drew on the side of a canoe, the second major expenditure that my then boyfriend, now husband, made.  It represented our love of the island, the ocean and our adoration of our first major expenditure, our chocolate lab puppy, Graham.

That dog has since passed, but the mug remains.  Friendship, mischief, love… how can a simple coffee mug hold all of these things?

Because we attach our emotions, our energy, our stories to our stuff.

It was amazing to me, as we began the process of moving ourselves to California and determining what to get rid of, how heavy my stuff became with the memories and emotions that they were a part of.

At our wedding reception, my husband and I sat in two unique, red chairs – one velvet, one faux leather – like a king and a queen.  The chairs were a last minute addition to a very eclectic, self designed backdrop.

On the day that we walked about our house, deciding what to throw away, my husband immediately offered up the chairs – one broken so badly only the cat was able to still use it, the other forgotten all but as a depository for unused blankets.

“You can’t get rid of our wedding chairs! That one was my wedding gift to you!”

(I had found the red faux leather one on the side of the road, cleaned it, repainted it, and offered it up as a token of my undying love (and limited financial budget) to my betrothed.)

“Yeah, that chair is horrible to sit in, but we can keep it of you love it.  You only get to keep one.”

And there it was.  Those chairs were my wedding day, my love for my husband, my need to feel unique and artistic.  To me, they weren’t chairs, they were a part of my identity, a contrived one, but still a part of me.  To him, they were just chairs, mostly useless and uncomfortable.  To him, they were furniture.

Over the months before our departure, I learned a lot about my relationship to my stuff, and how I create my identity through my things.  We all do it, even my husband.  (Right now, he’s wandering back and forth in the living room debating exactly what is the right positioning for our artwork… all symbols of our artistic sense and creativity.)  I did fight for one chair, and it wasn’t the one I refinished.  It would have been easy to throw some sort of tantrum around my gift to him vs. his love for me… but in realizing that it was just furniture, not a love token, I was able to let that go.  What was even better was that the chair went to our newly married friends who had attended our wedding and held the memory of that day for us. There were thrilled to add this chair to the budding interior of their own home.  In some way, we were passing on the love of our marriage to theirs.

I am learning that I am not my things.  By attaching myself to my material possessions, I am only weighing myself down with the past and a contrived version of who I really am.  If my arms of full of my stuff, I have nothing left to reach out with and grab my dreams.

Yes, in addition to a handful of things, I still have this mug and I still have that one chair.  I negotiated a full reupholstery of the chair, complete with brand new peacock blue tufted velvet.  I sit in it now and marvel at how regal it feels, even in a simple living room.

The mug still holds hot coffee and a few memories.  If it broke tomorrow, I’d be frustrated, but not heartbroken.  My friend, my mischief and my dog will always be a part of me no matter who I choose to be.