Friendlove

A letter arrived today from an ex-boyfriend. He writes me maybe once or twice a year. The first time he wrote me, he wrote his return address on the envelope without his name. Another time, he wrote his initials. This time, he managed to spell out his first name. I will count that as progress.

Opening the letter would have been something like poking myself with a needle. I’ve survived a lot of needle damage for vaccinations, blood donations and for crafting and sewing. It’s not bad when it serves a purpose.

My friend Gretchen was there when I found the letter. In pain and dread, I held it up and said, “I need help.” Maybe she could read it for me and let me know if it held some legitimate message?

“Oh!” she said and snatched it out of my hand. “This is going in the burn box!” she announced, grinning as she walked away. First, Gretchen owns something she calls a “burn box”. Second, if you ask Gretchen for help, you will get Gretchen help: Fast, effective, irreversible. I sat there for a minute or two in confusion, sorting out my feelings.

I know what the letter said. It said in some way, You Were Really Nice to Me and I’m Sorry I Wasn’t Nice to You. This has been the substance of nearly every conversation and letter that have occurred since shortly after I left him. The unspoken, unrepresented post script is, If you’re not busy, I could use some more care.

After I left him, I paid close attention when he contacted me, prepared to ameliorate the pain of break up and perhaps even establish a friendship. It quickly became clear that he chose to wallow in the mistake rather than learn from it, to use it as a whip for his own back and probably as caltrips for his feet. Anything that could prevent him from learning, growing, or moving forward.

Some people prefer familiar pain to the adventure of learning. In his words, “People would rather be comfortable than happy.” He condemned himself to this fate with almost-daily affirmations.

I’m being unkind and judgmental to state that he isn’t growing or learning or moving forward. I admit that now in the hopes that the Lord of Karma will forgive me for being unkind and judgmental. Please don’t visit me with justice, Lord of Karma. Peeeeease.

I told friends about Gretchen’s snatch-and-burn method for handling the situation. I told them how she grinned at me as she carried the letter away, that she has something called a “burn box” and repeated how she snatched the letter from my fingers. Painful discovery -> request for help -> friend -> problem eliminated. That’s what friends are for.

Friend Rachel pointed out what I have also concluded: he regrets losing me and probably will regret it for a long time. He couldn’t handle being happy with me and therefore lost me, at least that’s what I understand. She and I both think he will regret it the rest of his life.

So there it is: two friends saturated my burning pain with their cool flow. Other friends joined me and now my day was about how a friend handles bad news instead of how I had to handle bad news.

Friendlove: be a friend, have a friend, love your friends.

Gardening Failures

If anything in life teaches you to deal with failure, it’s gardening. Garden plants are delicate, tasty, and stressed. I’ve had good luck lately; the rosemary, fennel, sage, mint, garlic and lavender I put in recently are all thriving.

It is kind of cheating to say that those plants bode my gardening success. Herbs are the toughest members of the garden plant family. Since they don’t expend most of their energy producing huge fruit or even flowering much, herbs (I pronounce the “H” in herbs, by the way) thrive in a way vegetables and fruit often don’t.

I want to make a big, deep analogy about how non-creative types are less delicate than those of us who produce so much artwork effort. Maybe today I won’t indulge in my prejudices, since this post is about perserverance and surviving failure…but I am leaving this paragraph in this blog.

I planted beautiful tangerine colored pansies the week of Thanksgiving, in a flowerpot in our woods. I checked on them this weekend; all of them had been dug up and 3 of them tossed out of the pot. Damn squirrels. I put them back in the soil but will probably move them to the garden by the house. Or maybe I’ll tie fencing over the pot. Who knew squirrels got fussy about pansies? Stupid little tree rats.

I planted lettuce seeds in the kitchen garden. The cat used the area as her new toilet. Now I can only plant flowers there. I planted more lettuce seeds around the garlic; the garlic sprouted ahead of season and there’s no sign of lettuce.

I want to put in sweet potatoes this spring, and build a trellis for squash and tomato vines. I’m fairly sure, based on past behavior, that I will half-ass the trellis and it will fall down. And now I will blame my ADHD for the failure of a project that I haven’t even begun, except to imagine it. But oh, you should see how it looks in my mind!

I’d like to say I’m optimistic and cheerfully step up to try, try again. I’d like to smile big at the camera, shrug off these failures and proclaim tomorrow to be another day. Here we go:

OK! I’M GOING TO TRY THIS AGAIN! TOMORROW IS ANOTHER DAY! HERE WE GO!

That’s it – that’s optimism. Like high heeled shoes and false eyelashes, my optimism looks a lot better than it feels. Oddly, optimism works just fine without genuine enthusiasm.

I am collecting used, biodegradeable coffee cups from the trash bin at work. I plan to use them as planters for the persimmon seeds I collected this year, and put baby persimmon trees all over our woods come spring time. Isn’t that a great idea? You are welcome to start a betting pool on whether or not that happens or if I just barely manage to score the seeds to germinate and fling them by handsful out into the woods while yelling, “GOOD LUCK, GROW BIG FOR ME!”

In a similar vein, I wanted to join NaNoWriMo this year, as I’ve wanted to do for the past 10 years. I managed to write 7 blogs that month, 4 of them in the first week. But hey! That’s more than I managed to write in May, June and July this year. Go me!

I’m going to buy a living tree for Yule this year. I don’t know where I’ll plant it after the season is over, but I’m sure it’ll do fine. Along with the 50 goji berry shrubs I have seeds for, and the album’s worth of songs I’ve been meaning to make a demo recording of for the past 4 years.

2016 is another year. I’m going to try this all again.

Alienation

I wrote this blog 7 years ago today:

A workfriend of mine just lost someone to depression. He was an old friend of hers, and he left his four children behind. I was horrified to learn this, both for my workfriend and for the darling girls who now have to grow up without a father.

Unfortunately, I know what depression is like. I know what severe depression is like. And damned if it isn’t harder to scrub out of your soul than 6 layers of hardened tar.

I am not clear on how I survived to be almost 40. I dearly hope to live to a ripe old age and die surrounded by giggling loved ones who wish me well in the afterlife. Who will hold a wake for me, get staggeringly drunk and tell embarrassing and hilarious stories about me.

In order for this to happen, I must let Nature be my killer.

Maybe depression is a genetic disease and there is simply no escape. If that were true, I’d feel a bit of relief. I’d say, “Whoo! Thank the gods, it wasn’t just all in my head!” Of course, I’ve never read anything that suggested it may be genetic. I’m fantasizing.

I became suicidal when I was about 9 years old. Thunderstruck with the notion, I exclaimed to my sister, “Wouldn’t it have been GREAT if I had never been born?!” The idea seemed miraculous and beautiful to me, a total absence of all the problems I had caused everyone in my life. No one would ever have to ignore me, feed me, or listen to my nonsensical babbling. OK, I have to stop remembering now because it’s far too evocative. Reviving those feelings is NOT my goal.

My sister was not prepared to answer me. All she could manage was to joke, that then there would be no one to take out the trash.

I spent the next 17 years wishing myself dead. I have survived at least four conscious attempts on my own life.

When I’m well, the notion of suicide shocks me. When I am well, I know that my friends are near me, I believe in their friendship and have faith in their regard. (No pressure, dear reader. You did not create this monster.) When I am well, living seems like the best possible plan. My daughter, my pets, my house, my job, my friends and family are all vivid, genuine, and precious to me.

How can I describe the other side? When I am not well, I am alien. Cold shoulders and desperation are all that I deserve. Hatred is the only thing that makes sense. Destruction is normalcy. The only purpose to dragging myself through my daily routine is to avoid causing anyone the bother of noticing that anything is different.

Actually, it is far worse than that. But that’s as close as I can get in words, right now.

I want to be well. Completely well, all the time. I want that. I want the amazing scent of fresh, rainwashed air. To take joy in the colors of the sky and earth. I want to believe that my dog really loves me, and isn’t just angling for his next meal. That people who say “hello” aren’t irritated about having to speak to me, but rather find interest in me. I want to live.

I thought I had left depression behind. An incident when I was 26 shocked me out of it for a long time. I started a journey that led to my own religion, and to finding independence from a bad marriage. Then I spent 3 years in therapy that did me a whole lot of good.

But depression comes back, and with unexpected strength. I lose one or two good habits and suddenly my life is no longer sacred in my own eyes.

If there was ever an apt description, vicious circle would be it. It begins… My letter isn’t good enough for anyone to read, I’ll just delete it. leads to… Yeah, if I wasn’t so stupid, I could write a real letter! Ha ha! leads to… I always was too stupid to manage. No wonder people look at me so funny when I try to talk. leads to… Shit, how CAN anyone stand me? leads to… Because I haven’t done one fucking thing in my life that’s been worth shit.

Which leads to death being a relief and a problem-solver, rather than a natural transition to the next life.

Why on Earth am I writing this? Because I CAN write, and because if by any chance my writing this saves ONE SINGLE LIFE, it will be worth the pain of baring my soul. This is your window into the alien’s world. If you know someone who is depressed, think back on this and understand. If someone is doing something irritating just to get attention, for the love of all that is holy, pay them some attention. It could be their last attempt to make contact.

Chakra Gearhead

Playing with my niece’s toys, one of which has a series of brightly colored gears with knobs on top. Each gear spins opposite the ones on either side of it, and turning any of them turned them all. I spun them with glee, listening to the plastic rattle. My niece was not very impressed.

I use the modern adaptation of chakras in meditation. THe chakras are located the same places within the body, but the symbols are simpler and their colors are from the light spectrum. The chakras are supposed to spin. There was a “right way” for them to spin but I couldn’t remember which way was correct.

My next meditation, unbidden, my chakras each spun opposite the ones on either side. Red, yellow, blue and white spun one way, and orange, green and purple spun the other. I still don’t remember which way they spun, but their interconnected movement delighted me. Seeing them named like this, I realize they’re roughly split into primary and secondary colors.

Chakras are imaginary – formed of imaginarium? ether? pretendia? or perhaps they exist as energy, part of the nervous system. The latter is what I’ve been taught and what I usually believe. So far, the system has been helpful for focusing on health and healing, dividing functions and assigning them to one of the chakra. I like the system but have no scientific proof they exist.

This gives me the freedom to change the system if I need. The chakras have helped people all over Earth and does not prejudice a practitioner against deities or ethnicity. Yet I am sure if I explained to a traditional practitioner, they would insist I was incorrect.

People war over these kinds of ideas. Imaginary concepts, used personally by individuals, standardized and defended by religions. It might be the way that works for you, but with just a little incendiary speech from leaders, people who imagine things differently will murder you over the difference.

I personally enjoy the varieties of beliefs and imagination. Please carry on and allow me to do the same.

Foodity Issues

Another evening of eating EVERYTHING IN SIGHT and zits coming up in places I forgot I owned. 6:20pm and HEY I am so glad I wore old underwear!

Food is an issue in my life. I can drink tons of caffeine with no ill effect but chocolate throws my body into some weird hormonal feedback loop. Nothing goes right for weeks afterwards; I get lumps in my breasts and armpits, cramps, anxiety attacks.

Refined sugar gets the candida albicans happy and suddenly there’s candida everywhere, taking up space and trying to tell me what to do. It’s on my tongue, my skin, my fingernails and it’s poking the bottom of my brain making me crave more sugar. My moods get unpredictable and my armpits stink. Bleah.

Meat upsets my belly and I wind up with gas that would embarrass a flat-faced dog. I don’t even want to talk about what gluten does to my body. I have to be cautious about food every day, any time I handle food or think about eating. The majority of what most people eat is some form of food poisoning to me. Do you have any idea how much that sucks?!

Focusing on the positive: hey, I figured out all this diet problem and my health is fantastic as a result. It’s worth it to work within this structure, these limitations. *sigh* This is totally true, and yet still a drag. People celebrate fucking EVERYTHING with frosted cakes, muffins, bagels and chocolates. I get to celebrate by breathing and making no eye contact.

I grapple with this reality any time I have a close call or cheat a little. There’s 150 people in one room, all partaking in food and I have to engage the people without participating in the food or drink. It’s not safe for me – what do you do when a place isn’t safe? Don’t you leave? But what about when you need to be there, and it’s only, you know, food. A party. Not like someone’s spraying the room with bullets.

Thanksgiving and my birthday are days I eat sweets – cheating a little makes the discipline easier to bear. I just don’t enjoy it much anymore, knowing what the aftereffects may be.

Staying positive is a lovely discipline and really effective. Why do I feel like it’s just medicine? Bitter, slimy, weird medicine? I guess right now I can blame the aftereffects of chocolate and sugar, but I know this extends past. I want to be unique but not in such a tiresome way.