Category Archives: Anxiety/Depression/Yuck

MAN EXPLAINS SWIMMING POOL TO ME AND I EXPLAIN THINGS BACK

We’ve had this exact same conversation before.
He stops me at the end of a lap, interrupts
my rhythm, smiles, explains what the black lines are for
on the bottom of the pool. “That’s the guide for laps,”
he says. The first time he told me this
I started to explain my side of things
but he repeated himself, once again pointing
at the bottom of the pool. I demurred to his preference.
But not today. Today I said, “Yes,
I know that, but when they have the lanes set up
so wide like this, there’s room for three across
and I prefer the middle so I don’t drift and bump
and scrape my hands on the lane markers.” I smiled.
He smiled. And said again what the black lines are for
and that since there were only two of us, I could
move over. “Yes, I could,” I said, “but we are
cooperating fine so far. We haven’t bumped yet.”
He literally harrumphed, “Pretty close,” he said.
“Well,” I said, “I only have a lap
or two to go.” And pushed off with a splash.
Never mind that usually there are three
in those wide lanes. And never mind the lane
to our left had one swimmer on one side. So he
could have gone away and left me alone.
We were following different sets of unwritten rules.
He couldn’t know that one of mine is don’t
even think of messing with my time in the pool.
Don’t throw me off. Don’t slow me down. Just don’t.

_____

0dc74c6986ea68ff111ad26ad6428db1

My happy place. For the noon swim time, they divide this into three wide lanes instead of six single lanes.

 ______
And then I began another poem about swimming–will work on this more at some point….

In the pool I’m graceful, strong, and sleek, and fast,
at least compared to how I am on land.
I’m pushing all my thoughts out of my head.
In the pool, I’m more a body than a mind.

______
It occurs to me what my husband always says when I talk about manspreading, that I’m as guilty of it as anyone. He’s pretty right–that I am pretty confident about claiming my space.

Also, this guy was being relatively polite in his tone, but it occurs to me he didn’t actually say anything like, “Would you mind moving over?” He really didn’t say he wanted me to move over until I said, “Yes, I know that’s what the lines are for. I like being in the middle.”

Do you suppose he’s written a blog about me????????

Time to Get Weird

Having spent a fair bit of my life trying to fit
in spaces not designed for me, I’m now,
at 52,proclaiming fuck that shit—
I’ll squeeze in if I want or I will go
all rogue and say no thank you when the nurse
says “can we get your weight?” I swear I felt
like fucking Che Guevara. Own my mess
is one of my mottos. What I haven’t dealt
with yet I’ll either tackle or accept.
And if my tackling’s super slow, that’s also fine.
I now proclaim my life a modest success
chock-full of laughs. I’d rather be funny than right.
Ars longa, vita brevis, tempis fugit.
It’s time to write it all down before I forget.

_____
Happy Birthday to me!

We’ll see how well I hold to this resolution, but I am trying to accept my slow tackling. Acceptance–that’s the word from now until the end of the year. I picked a word for the year in January, momentum. Still a good word. Still aiming for that. But acceptance now, too.

Part of the fun of birthdays in this social-media-age is the flood of messages on Facebook. I’m trying (not always possible, thanks Facebook) to say thanks to all of them, and take a moment as I do to really be thankful for that person’s presence in my life. Some of them are very much from my past, so I try to think about that time for a moment.

This poem has Latin, which I won’t apologize for–people who don’t know it can Google, right?

And profanity–also won’t apologize for that, either.

It’s kind of a listing of mottos–the Latin ones, own my mess, my life a modest success, I’d rather be funny that right. It’s a middle-age indulgence, I think, the choosing and listing of mottos.

I thought of “I’d rather be funny than right” while I was driving and almost had to pull over because it made me laugh pretty hard. It’s just true.

My Mom often finds pink and yellow birthday paper for me because although neither one is my favorite color, the two of them together are my favorite color combination.
IMG_5394.JPG

The End of the World Will Be So Pretty

“I can feel St. Elmo’s fire burning in me”

some 80s band

Fallout will make the sunsets stunning
someone told me and I believe it,
just like pollution from St. Louis once
turned the sky above the American Bottoms pink
to contrast nicely with the deep dark green
of the Cahokia Mounds.

Those mound-dwellers had it all
but they don’t have what we have,
so much potential as wasted as
the best chocolate-chip cookie in the world
chewed four times and spit out
by someone with different body issues
than I have, having never wasted a cookie,
never not once in my whole life,
unless you count as waste that whole
eating more calories than you burn thing,
in which case I waste food all the time,
but I don’t count that way and I wish you wouldn’t.
 
If only self-loathing could contour
my shape! If only rumination paid off
in dollars and not cortisol!
If only the strange map of cracking
in the front left panel of my Ford
could show me the way to solvency.

Are all the mustards invasive?
The splash of yellow I see in fields now,
and Dame’s Rockets everywhere—
it’s hard to hate them
with their bright mauvey pink bouncing
in the breeze that is somehow not
strong enough to discourage mosquitoes.

Reconciliation comes before repair,
at least I think it does, and so I try
to love what’s here and who I am
and the massive disasters around me
and trust I will know what to fix when
it’s time to fix and until such time
as fixing is all I care about, I will just let
the fact that I am a large woman make me feel the same way
a bad song from the 80s can make me
happy, just happy, just really happy.

IMG_7763 2.JPG

The answer is, the question is

So when it all comes down,
what it all comes down to, what
the answer is, the question is
how I did, how did I
spend them,
those bits of time,
my moments, my allotment of them,
what did I do with them
where did I leave them
did I wring them dry
did I use them well
then clean and oil them,
put them away to use again–
impossible–not something
I would be likely to do
and not something
anyone can do with a moment

I gorged on some
and let the shiny wrappers pile right up
and this one–this one
I’m holding like an injured dove
but there are more, so many,
so many, they scuttled away
like roaches or I stomped them
like roaches
and anyway they’re gone

______

img_4684

I wrote this poem whilst on retreat at Holy Wisdom Monastery in Middleton, Wisco (a truly special place)

If I Loved You Before the Election, I Probably Still Do

If I loved you before the election, I probably still do.
Even more than how you voted, I’m thinking about
what’s good and bad, what scares us most, what’s true.

I’m worried who the bad things are happening to.
Our list of bad things might be different, but
if I loved you before the election, I probably still do.

It isn’t like I thought we lived in a commune,
but Jesus, how can we be so far apart
on what’s good and bad, what scares us most, what’s true?

Do you feel this frightened when my side wins and you lose?
I’m sorry if you do. I didn’t know that.
If I liked you before the election, I probably still do,

unless I can only be your friend if I voted like you.
It makes me anxious when we’re asking what
is good and bad, what scares us most, what’s true

because we can’t even manage to watch the same news.
It looks like a storm cloud to me. What’s it look like to you?
If I loved you before the election, I probably still do.
What’s good? What’s bad? What scares us most? What’s true?

_____

Don’t get me wrong–I have really firm opinions about the election. My side lost in the primary and the general. I’m trying to figure out how to process it, how to understand it, what to do. But one of the things that freaks me out the most is how far apart we are as a country, as a state. It feels to me like we could bust out into our own version of the Troubles any moment. (Some violence is already here.) I honestly don’t know what to do.  I decided to start re-learning Spanish.  And I did buy, but haven’t started reading yet, Katherine Cramer’s book, The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker.

And speaking of Scott Walker, here are some thoughts I had on similar matters five years ago. I just read the Cadfael books again and they still seem to have so much to say about disagreeing and either empathizing or not with the people you’re disagreeing with. There are two parts,  Grief for the Uncousinly Chasm. And then Grief for the Uncousinsly Chasm, Part II. There’s a part III I haven’t had the nerve to write yet, on the chasm between what I believed when I was actively Baptist and what I believe now as what I call a Zen Baptist–the chasm between what some of my friends and family believe and what I do.

You can take this line from the villanelle as either taking the Lord’s name in vain or a prayer (or both–I mean it as both):

Jesus, how can we be so far apart?

fullsizerender-6

It looks like bleak November to me. What’s it look like to you?

Totally on top of things! Oh, except for

I’ve done something today that I have almost never done in almost 30 years of teaching. I finished grading a set of skill check assignments for my Creativity & Problem-Solving class, and the moment I finished them–BAM!  I am 100% caught up with grading.  There is nothing for me to grade, not even if I wanted to (which I almost never do, which is why this almost never happens).

Here’s how the rest of the day was supposed to go–I’d finish grading, work on my to do list for next week and do a Sunday meeting a day early, take a hot bath (it’s a nice, chilly October day here in Wisco), and then eat some supper and head to American Players Theatre to see Beckett’s Endgame, with some of my absolute favorite APT actors.

Except, when I bothered to actually look at my calendar, and then the actual ticket–it was a matinee. And of course the matinee had already begun.  I suppose I could’ve rushed out & gotten seated, but wow did I not want to do that in the very small, very intimate Touchstone Theater.

So, oh well.   The nice thing is that I got results yesterday from the battery of cognitive tests I took in September to get a baseline of my functioning.  My dad has Alzheimer’s, so I wanted to know what my baseline was, but I was also curious about various brain-farts and space-outs I had over the last couple of years.  The doctor I talked to yesterday said all of those could be attributed to being a middle-aged working mother who has a stressful job. He further said that almost all my test results were superior. Only one where I was on the low end of average.

Here’s the test I didn’t ace. It’s called Trail Making, and you have to draw a line from number to number, in order.  I remember not liking the test.  I remember feeling kind of dumb.  And bored. The visual part of it is part of what makes it make sense to me I was slower–I just don’t process things visually that well. But here’s a weird twist–the next test is harder because you have to do letters and numbers in order: 1-A, 2-B, 3-C, etc., and I did better on that one, apparently. It doesn’t surprise me, really–more challenging = more interesting to me.

And yes, now that I’ve found it online, I want to try it again and see if I get a better score.

Still, overall–very glad of the timing of the consult with the psychiatrist yesterday, so  I can, with confidence, attribute today’s space-out to just spacing out. It’s not a sign of any kind of decline. It’s only the second time in all my years of going to APT that I forgot I had matinee tix.

So no reason to freak out. And also, I’m really, really blissed out about being caught up with my grading. This bliss will last until Monday when I get two sets of essays and another skill check assignment.

Good news and bad news.  Like the rose below.  I dug it up when they redid the  street in front of my house and I really thought I had totally killed it, but n0–there’s a scraggly bit of rose that’s alive. The bad news is how sad my garage looks.  And yet–I’m caught up with grading.

img_4205

Foreground: mostly dead rose. One skinny living bit. And a sad garage.

Purgatory, Kentucky (done?)

It got to where I couldn’t see a way
ahead except for dying. So I went.
Or, so I came. Just where, I couldn’t say.
It’s odd. Some kind of grass, or cane, all bent
this way and that, slick at the root,
and spiky sharp half the time, black as coal,
but soft enough to lie down in, some spots.
I’d have slept more, but my dreams are full
of nasty animals and dead presidents.
I got attacked by a whole fleet of armadillos
in a river. An armada. Is that what you call it?
Abraham Lincoln himself chopping wood. “Hello
Mr. Penny Man,” I said. He spoke not a word.
But this ain’t Hell. Of that I am assured.

This ain’t hell. Of that I am assured.
Would there be moderately cold beer or
would they let me keep my truck if torture
was on the agenda for now and ever after?
You might say yes, but I think not. No way.
I will admit that I have odd dreams.
But nothing scary, really. Nothing mean.
Just weird. Like a really long nap in the middle of the day.
There’s not much else to do. I could reflect
on all my trials and tribulations, the error
of my ways, but where would be the profit in that?
The wicked queen’s mistake was looking in the mirror.
She couldn’t rest in her own head and let
the young ones be the ones to stew and fret.

The young ones are the ones who stew and fret,
yes, even here they do. I tell them to relax,
but I do recall what it was like, to be fraught
with longing for a certain someone’s kiss,
the way a particular set of hard calluses
could raise a wave of shivers on my skin,
then one touch later heat me up fast,
so hot for more, I would do anything….
There is no profit in that kind of thought.
The man whose hands I speak of is not here.
I’ve grown restless all the sudden, not
full of life, I wouldn’t say, just bored.
Turns out I dislike it, this world without end.
The ferry’s here. I guess I’ll drive on in.

The ferry’s here. I guess I’ll drive on in.
I tell you if I’d known I’d have my truck
on this side of, well, whatever side I’m on,
I’d have done myself in sooner. Just my luck
the ignition switch is still a fussy thing
which I guess means this isn’t heaven.
I never really minded when it wouldn’t start,
just took the time to admire my good old Ford,
Bought it new in ’72, Grabber Blue,
What was there me and my girl couldn’t do?
My favorite thing I ever hauled? An outhouse
that my Mama did NOT want me to take away.
“When your crazy cousin Vernon visits,
I like to have a quiet place to pray.”

I like to have a quiet place to pray,
and sitting, waiting, in my truck, well that’s
about as quiet as it ever gets
because the radio died in ’88.
When a radio dies where does its music go?
They say sound waves never really go away.
I don’t understand everything I know
about that. I guess I believe that sound’s a wave.
I guess I believe there are tiny bones in my ear,
a hammer and an anvil and a horseshoe? Is that right?
I wonder if they’ll be taking questions there.
I wonder if it’s always kind of twilight.
There’s the ferry now—I guess it’s time
I got myself in gear and got in line.

I got myself in gear and got in line
but wow, this line’s not moving. Not at all.
Then suddenly I’m hearing “Begin the Beguine”
a song I didn’t even know I knew. There’s a swell
of trumpets and what is that? An oboe? I don’t know.
And now a woman in a cape has stopped
by my truck. She’s a nun. So I guess it’s not a cape.
She says she’s a Beguine. Go with the flow
is what I’m thinking. There. We’re moving some.
The nun is in my truck. She sings along
to “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.” I only hum.
I never could remember all the words to a song.
And now we’re going slow again, so slow
we might be backing up. I just don’t know.

We might be backing up. I just don’t know
if I’m alive or dead, asleep, awake–
but then, my whole life (a hundred years ago)
has been like that, blurry on the day-to-day
and sharp, in focus, only now and then.
Is that depression? Or is it being dumb
about what matters? I kind of drift along
a lot. My favorite thing was being at home,
just doing nothing, which is why my house is a mess.
Or was a mess. I’m sure it’s still a mess.
I’m the only one who ever cleaned.
But if I’m dead, what’s home? That’s what I mean.
There’s really nothing left to do but pray.
It’s gotten to where I cannot see the way.

_____

I began writing this crown of sonnets in April of 2013, as part of National Poetry Month, and NaPoWriMo.  I’m slow.  I would remember it every now and then and add a sonnet to it.

It’s a curious project–it began as a challenge sonnet when I was on my way to Manitowoc to do a reading.  I can’t remember all the parts of the challenge, though I think Abraham Lincoln was in it, and I definitely remember my friend Becky asking that I include Boyd Crowder’s hair.

Walton_Goggins_March_19,_2014_(cropped)

This is Walton Goggins, who played Boyd Crowder on Justified. On the show, I think Boyd used more hair product. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

Because I loved Justified so much, putting Boyd in the poem opened all sorts of possibilities. I immediately heard the voice of Mags Bennett, played by the amazing Margo Martindale (one of the best villains with one of the best story arcs in all of tv land, ever). That’s why it was Purgatory, Kentucky.

But as I wrote it, I was less and less sure of Mags’ voice in the poem, or the need to have her narrate, so I’ve revised a lot of that out of it.

It doesn’t have much to do with Kentucky at this point, so I’ll probably change the title. It could be Purgatory, Illinois.  The outhouse portion happened in Southern Illinois, which is itself sort of a blurry place, not entirely southern, not entirely midwestern…  I actually like the sound of Purgatory, Illinois.

In any case, I believe the draft is done, and that means that I’ve now written four crowns–“Mothering God” was the first, and then “Each Other’s Anodyne,” and then “Mobius Strip of a Man,” and then this one.  I’m now working on a heroic crown of sonnets about my back surgery at the Shriner’s Hospital for Crippled Children (it’s not called that anymore).  I actually have this vague memory of writing another crown of sonnets, but surely I’d remember it clearly if I done it, right?