Juxtapositioning

words are foreplay for the soul
December 7th, 2017 by me

The Crows

They say that crows are harbingers of death. Bad omens. I say nay.

As I left the gym two days ago, sweaty-yet-glowing from my workout, I saw a large black shape near the top of the palm tree just outside the double glass exit doors. A raven? Nope. Crow. Crows are like the Death card in Tarot. Death = change. Okay. Change right now is good. We need change.

I drove home, thinking about the hundreds of messages I was about to launch into the world, messages telling of our five exhausting years of cancer terror and asking for help because we fell so deep into a hole that we cannot get out without it. I had planned on us doing a ritual, some sort of Capital-M Magic to send our messages out with wee wings of hope so that they’d return to us, laden with gold or at least people who wanted our services.

But there was to be no ritual unless I did it by myself. I knew this, because Soulmate and I were In Conflict.

[Conflict is where the big scary monsters live, the ones who bite me and whisper terrible things to me under their breath][Conflict is where we work through things that come between us so we can come together again in perfect harmony, like the 1970’s Coca-Cola commercial]

As I approached our house, I saw dark shapes in the street. Many of them. Crows.

And then, again, in the vacant lot across from us: crows. Hundreds of them.

This sign was far too big to miss.

“The crow is an omen of change…When our little friend crow is calling, it is to tell us that the time of change is here. That the time of change is now and to let go of the old self, to ket go of all things holding us back. Its time to sep into our authentic power.” (from Amanda Monteiro at Collective Evolution)

Well, of course. We didn’t need a ritual. The crows told me that. The universe has my back. Change is coming, and soon.

Yesterday, more crows on our street. Dozens of them.

And today, while the wild winds whipped up fires not far from our house, crows on our roof. I saw their feet through the skylight, heard them tapping and scratching and whispering to each other.

Crows all around us.

It’s going to be okay.

November 9th, 2017 by me

My Broken Brain, Part Two

My brain has a new curfew. It’s not allowed to make words past 7 pm. This is to avoid unnecessary misunderstandings between me and my beloved, who keeps telling me I don’t make sense when in fact I know I am making perfect sense. We cannot both be right. My brain must abdicate and I must learn to live with it. But this is a hard, hard thing for some one who grew up thinking that to be Right was to be Good, and to be Good meant being worthy of being alive.

Ergo, to give up being Right feels a little like death. Or the imminent prospect of death, to come perhaps with a swift silent blow in the darkness as I sleep, or with a yawning bathtub drain that opens to swallow me into wet darkness while I shower away my dreams, or perhaps as a knife-beaked silver bird emerging from my morning’s egg to carve my throat into scarlet ribbons.

Some days the words do not come. I sit in stifled silence, my brain no longer on speaking terms with my mouth. My mouth, hungry thing that it is, demands words! But my brain does not obey. Or, if it does, it metes them out slowly, slyly, doling them out like precious jewels. Except these jewels are all mixed up, topsy-turvy, helter-skelter in the summer swelter.

And the Queen must have her crown.

Communication is a funny thing. “It’s the one hundred percent responsibility of the speaker,” he says, “to make sure they are understood.” But he also says, “If you don’t understand what someone says, it’s your one hundred percent responsibility to make sure you do.”

Surely they both can’t be right. [Yes they can! And stop calling me Shirley!]

And the band marches on.

 

October 25th, 2017 by me

I am scared now

I was so excited to go to the library today.

It had been years since I set foot in a library. The last time was, well, I cannot remember when the last time was, I just remember that it had a row of computers that always seemed in use. And the end of the rows were marked with papers that said which kind of books could be found there. I read a lot then. I even read several biographies, which was weird but oddly satisfying. I can remember many details about the library but not where or when it was.

None of this should surprise me, given how things went down at the library.

I drove up and had trouble deciding which space to park in. Some spaces were labeled “20 Minute Parking” and I debated using one of them. I did not think I would be there longer than 20 minutes, and yet I might, and if I was, what then? Swarms of Library Parking Police descending on my car and towing it away to who-knows-where while I stand forlornly in the parking lot, helplessly shaking my fists in the air?

I got out and walked toward the building. The sun was in my eyes, emitting a blinding glare. I kept walking toward the large dark shape in front of me. It was U-shaped. There were doors on the left and doors on the right. Which door? I started walking toward one but it was marked “Gallery”. The other door was marked “Auditorium”. Neither one seemed very library-ish. At last as I continued to walk the glare subsided and I saw huge double doors in the center looming out of the darkness. “Library”. Okay, we’re in.

Next up was finding the place where they give out the library cards. I saw one desk marked “Help”. There were three or four people gathered around it. I thought I would lose my nerve if I had to wait in line so I looked around and saw a desk all the way over to the left marked “Accounts”.  Why we need Accounts at libraries I do not know. There was no one there. I thought I might have to change my strategy but maybe if I stood there, trying to radiate “please help me I need a library card so I can read again and make my brian work” waves, someone would take pity on me. A name tag-wearing woman pushing a cart filled with books must have felt my waves because she asked me why on earth was I there (I think she was actually a reptile), and muttered to me that this other, tag-wearing lady with glasses would help me.

By this point I had used up my Brain Hours just getting to the right desk inside the actual library.

The rest of my time there was spent in a confusing haze of signing forms in pencil (?), admitting I could not remember a password I had set up less than a week ago, or even that I had set up a password at all, and trying (unsuccessfully) to put a little library-card-keytag on my keyring. Then I went to the “Help” desk and asked about renting ebooks and the ladies politely did not correct me and say “no, dear, here we borrow books, not rent them” and they told me I had a choice of two apps to download to make the book rental thing work and one of them was called Libby and all I could think about was Libby Hall, my boss for about six months when I was 25, I think her last name was Hall. Pretty sure her name was Libby. What is Libby short for, anyway? Liberty or Death? I hope not.

Then I walked down the two little aisles of DVDs for rent/borrow and used a computer to see how many copies of Lincoln in the Bardo they have for rent, and could not at first make the mouse scroll down the page until I tried it the opposite way and realized it was probably not a Mac and therefore I would be unable to operate it because I have forgotten how.

I’m pretty sure I could’ve parked in the “20 Minute Parking” space.

So I am scared because it should not be this hard to get a library card. I am scared because I should not be exhausted and out of Brain Hours just walking into a new place. I am scared because my days are so very long now and I can barely remember what I think of as the bottom of them, which is the part closest to when I wake up. I am scared because most of the day I just long to be asleep again. I am scared because I cannot remember many things. I am scared because my beloved thinks I don’t reason very well and cannot be trusted to make decisions. I am scared because I don’t know if my brain can be fixed. I am scared because I might never get any better. I am scared because there is a good chance I will get worse even though my neurologist said he doesn’t think I will get worse. I am scared because I don’t know where I am anymore. I am scared because I don’t know if I will find myself again.

October 21st, 2017 by me

My Beautiful Broken Brain

broken-brain

From the movie My Beautiful Broken Brain. I feel like this looks.

There is a documentary out called My Beautiful Broken Brain, about a woman learning to communicate again after her brain injury. I keep meaning to watch it. But I just realized I don’t need to watch it — I am living it.

It turns out that I am not as invincible as I once thought. Repairable, yes. Invincible, no. I have permanent brain injury. Brain damage. My brain got jostled about during its two surgeries, and it was even shifted over to one side for a few months, which I am now told is a Bad Thing. Some people don’t recover well from it. I’ve beat worse odds than this before, so I may recover just fine. Neuroplasticity of brains and all. Hard to tell right now though.

My deficits are in communication and problem solving. That’s what I know so far. My neurologist wants me to attend Brain Camp, an intensive rehabilitation program where I get to relearn how to make words happen and hopefully learn how to think better. I, of course, think I think just fine. I like my ways of reasoning. But apparently it makes less sense if you’re not inside my brain.

Do you know the Spoon Theory? It goes like this. You have 12 spoons to spend each day. Only 12. Each thing you do in a day requires spoons. For instance, just taking a shower may require 1 spoon. Driving to the grocery store might require 3 spoons. But you only have 12 of them. How do you determine what you can do that day and what you cannot? Blow all your spoons on a big fight with your beloved and you are toast for the rest of the day. Spoonless toast, I might add.

I totally get the spoon thing now. I think it as Brain Hours. Some days I get more Brain Hours than others. Some things I do add to my Brain Hours, and some things subtract from my Brain Hours. Regular gym-going mostly adds Brain Hours. Eating well keeps them steady; scarfing down plates of waffles drenched in maple syrup (Grade B — the good stuff) generally subtracts. So now I get to practice self-care things like getting up, stretching, and  doing 5 minutes of my physical therapy exercises every hour. Going outside to feel the sun on my face and the breeze on my skin. Making sure I eat every few hours. These don’t add to my Brain Hours but they ensure that my time spent at my computer attempting to write doesn’t subtract from them.

For the past month I’ve been using an app called Luminosity. I grit my teeth through its constant manipulations to buy the “premium” version. My thought was to practice things that can help my retrain my brain. So when I remember to, I play my three free little games for the day. Today they sent me an email telling me how I’m doing. They compared me to other people my age. What I didn’t tell them is I lied abut my age. I said I was 40. I am a fair bit older than 40. But compared to other (presumably) non-lying 40-year-olds, I am barely functional. My problem-solving is in the 1st percentile. That means 99% of those non-lying 40-year-olds did better than me. My highest percentile was 17th. My days in MENSA may be over. Once I had 150 IQ. Now I doubt I could hit 100. I wonder who I am anymore, who I am becoming. I am afraid.

I used to be funnier. I used to remember things. I used to write faster. I used to use more words. I used to not have a broken brain.

February 10th, 2017 by me

The Night I Died

It was late. I was trying to sleep. My heart beat faster. I couldn’t breathe. My heart wouldn’t stop pounding. Breath exercises didn’t help. I kept telling my heart to slow down, to stop pounding. Take a breath! Now! Do it!

I couldn’t.

I couldn’t will myself to breathe, to live. I needed help. My heart felt like it was leaping out of my chest.

I texted my beloved, in the next room. The text was garbled, a series of meaningless letters and symbols. rj3u92/, perhaps. Texting didn’t work.

I called to him. Surely he would hear me. I called and called. HELP, I said, as loud as I could. It sounded like hehhhhhhhh. I couldn’t talk. Calling to him didn’t work.

I don’t know how I did this, but I got up out of my bed and went to the wall between my bedroom and my beloved’s. I pounded on the wall as hard as I could, with the strength of a gnat. He heard me.

Call 911, my eyes said, between gasps. I told myself to breathe, even though I couldn’t.

When the ambulance came, everything would be all right. They would help me breathe again, instantly. My heart would stay in its chest. I would be okay.

The ambulance men came, with their shoes in our shoe-free house, right into my bedroom. I didn’t let myself care. I wanted to breathe again. I wanted to live.

They put an oxygen mask over my mouth and nose. I still couldn’t breathe. Why wasn’t this thing working?

The Emergency Room was like a movie. A blue-smocked nurse strode by our little cubicle from right to left, repeatedly, like a duck in a carnival shooting gallery.

I left my body and entered a land of bright golden light where loving people awaited me. I wanted to stay there forever. I felt at peace and completely at home.

I came back.

This is what I told my beloved:

We’ve had a good run, haven’t we? But it’s going to be way more fun here with you. We’ve been together a thousand years, and I choose to be here with you.

After awhile, we went home. I could breathe again and my heart had stopped pounding.

 

January 11th, 2017 by me

Circadian

I prowl restless empty streets

Savoring your breath upon the wind

Hungry for lips, tongue, the hard safe circle of your arms

 

Indoors, art-strewn walls sing and remember our passion’s roar

We are animals sated, panting

Love-slick drops roll down our limbs entwined

 

At night I sink into a white-pillowed embrace

Dreaming ecstasy, dreaming bliss

The seeds of hunger buried deep, fermenting

 

Morning dawns and I lie curled in your apostrophe

You whisper the day’s excitement

Enchantment is birthed anew

November 18th, 2016 by me

Beach

Sunshine melts into jeweled waters

Wave after foamy tumbling wave insouciantly approaches wetted sands

A community of graywhite gulls awaits sunset

Pods of black-suited surfers bob companionably over the far reef

Determined walkers leave deep-heeled prints

Wide empty seaweed-strewn sands beckon, remembering summer crowds

Shoes in hand, we amble where ocean meets earth, leaving no trace

October 20th, 2016 by me

Belongingness

On weekends, she wandered across late-80’s on-trend gray-carpeted floors, regarding the mauve sectional they bought after hours of agonizing over seating choices. She walked right through the living room to the front door and peered listlessly out into the blinding-bright Phoenix sun. Then back again, this time through the kitchen with its white tile and whitewashed-mauve cabinets, over to the family room that the house’s one visitor said needed personal touches (tchotchkes, she thought — yuck) and then it would feel like a home.

She wandered because there was nothing else.

No long streams of adding-machine tape to pore over, looking for the one mis-entry that kept everything from adding up. No yellow bags of Lay’s potato chips to pretend into non-existence, to remove any temptations, since she knew that one bite (of anything) was poison and fatness and also a gateway to desperate binging to quell the ever-present inner emptiness she avoided feeling at all costs. No books to read except for the worn copy of Butterfield 8 that arrived in the mail from Chris with a cryptic statement: “she reminds me of you”.

She wandered because she didn’t belong.

Oh, the gray-carpeted floors were hers, as were the mauve sectional and the white metal day bed (with gold finials) in the guest room and the bare tchotchke-free walls and the trendy mauve pleated shades on the windows. It was all hers, technically, since it was her money combined with his that made this Dream House possible.

And yet it wasn’t. Nothing was. Not even herself.

And now, and now, three decades later, the man, the house, is long gone. The wandering starts again. That woman has become this one.

This time the wandering is over Pergo and area rugs, while gazing at multicolored paintings I made myself, looking out onto the wide green world. The details changed but the inner part, the nugget, the kernel of that life-long pain from the long, missed grasp of belongingness, fingertips barely there but slipping off soon after because when you are a person who Doesn’t Belong, there’s really nothing you can do except howl at the pain and injustice of it all.

This time I wander in my mind, my imagination. I pretend I feel connected to this place, this house, but now I wonder whether my lifelong sense of non-belongingness isn’t connected to a place but rather to a person — me.

Maybe I don’t belong anywhere. Maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe that’s my superpower.

October 17th, 2016 by me

Moonlight serenade

Twenty years ago, a little more, I walked. Nighttime solo walks. Walks under the light of the moon. Walks to breathe cool air and smell the damp on cut grass and hear distant dogs singing to the sky. Almost every night, in all weather, but especially after a snow. It doesn’t snow where I live now. I don’t miss it, but I remember how I loved the sounds of snow shovels patiently scraping driveways, and I especially remember how quiet the world is underneath a white soft blanket.

Those walks, those twenty-years-ago-walks, were my sanity and salvation, my private world-wide Quiet Thinking Space. I do some of my best thinking while walking. The feet just go where they go and the mind opens wide into distant lands and star-bright worlds.

Tonight I slipped on my pink New Balances and a purple jacket and stepped out into the cool night, the just-this-side-of-full moon beaming bright. My world has been so small for so long. I’ve barely been anywhere by myself in more than two years. I clutched my keys in my pocketed fist and then laughed at myself. This isn’t that kind of neighborhood. Still, I was aware of where light pooled on the sidewalks from the occasional street lamps, and I looked for ominous shadows. I saw no shadows — only Sasha, the tiny white poodle who yapped at my ankles (to his owner’s chagrin) when I walked past.

Free. And strong. I’ve missed how that feels.

September 28th, 2016 by me

Bright

The second Claire woke up, she knew something was different. It wasn’t the constant steady beeping of the machines next to her bed, tubes snaking to her nose and wrist. It wasn’t the smell of disinfectant and coffee from the hallway outside the door (coffee? was there really coffee here?). And it wasn’t the starched feel of the sheets that lay loosely over her legs, not that she could feel them. No, Claire expected all of those.

What she didn’t expect was the light.

How Claire knew to look at the light that streamed through open institution-green curtains at the broad windows spanning one wall of the little white room, she didn’t know. But there it was. It wasn’t that it was more golden than before, or more pinkish, or even more blue. Light contains all those colors. A spectrum of colors. No, it was more the absence of color. Yeah, that was it. The light was….clear? How could that be.

The coffee smell got stronger. Claire remembered coffee, hot and bitter and milky-sweet, a gift and a punishment at the same time. Coffee meant mornings, and cars, and a desk in an office filled with clacking typewriter keys and ringing telephones. Coffee meant phone calls and memos and kicking off of shoes under the desk. Coffee meant regular, normal, before.

She never should have let them do it.

They said it was an experimental procedure. There weren’t any options, they said. It was either the surgery or…nothing. Literally nothing, as in Claire herself would be nothing if she didn’t agree to let them monkey around in her head. She had a good chance, they said (a good chance of what?). But still, experimental. So no one knew for sure.

Was it really the light?

Now she tasted coffee. Just the way he used to make it for her, so hot and so strong she had to douse the bitter fire with clouds of cream and what he always teased her as a whole tree’s worth of maple syrup. Coffee? Maybe it was the tube in her nose.

Was the light…moving?

The beeping slowed.

The light beckoned. So bright.