Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Shadow Recedes

Blearily, I stumbled out of bed--washed my face, brushed my teeth, ironed my hair, donned my outfit, painted my face, took my pills, fed my cats, grabbed my things, locked the door. Outside my home, it wasn't QUITE daytime yet--the sun was shining, and casting a golden-pinkish-orange light over Mt. San Jacinto. The shadow of the mountain had not yet crept over the land. It was 50 degrees out that morning, and no doubt all over the desert, people were sitting on their patios, sipping their coffee, and marveling at the magic of living life in Southern California in January.

Not me.

This was just two days ago. As I drove to work at an ungodly hour--the Goon Festival required brutal work this week--Mt. San Jacinto glowing rosily at me for a good part of the time--I thought of bleak winter mornings back home, in Indiana. It was about 3 degrees that morning, back home.

I thought of how days and weeks and months and years slipped by, as I sat at the reference desk and watched patrons browse the new books, and helped them find their information, and watched ten years of my life slip past, as the Library (my true home in California) changed subtly while I passively sat by. Sure, I changed too, took on new tasks and cheerfully evolved--although my position and salary didn't, past a certain point. But there's no denying the fact that a lot of years chugged along while I sat in the same spot, both literally and metaphorically. Time was still chugging along, actually. How many more days am I going to have to watch the sun rise here? I pondered, more than a little grumpily. How many more Goon Festivals will I have to staff?

I thought of the countless dreams I have had, through the years, of returning home. Of course, Dream Home is weirdly different and surreal--sometimes an amalgamation of Real Home and many other life memories--and sometimes just plain NOT real, but still, hauntingly, mournfully familiar.

And then I thought, randomly, about how suddenly things can change. How you can chug along, quietly, trying to make the changes happen. And they won't happen, perhaps--until, unexpectedly, they DO, and then everything changes. And it happens that suddenly, and swiftly, and subtlely.

All of these thoughts, I had as I drove to work on Tuesday morning. And realizing that the change would happen, sometime, somehow, some way, brought me a little bit of peace, finally.

Later that morning, I got a phone call from a potential employer.

Monday, January 11, 2016

It's funny, what difference a day can make.

Or perhaps it's just predictable.

Sunday: I was sad and lonely for no good reason other than...well, Sunday. As my friend North Star wryly observed, "Melissa and Sunday don't always get along." It was a day where, even when I was around people, I was terribly, terribly lonely. Not seeing any end to the hard work and duties and chores and missed chances until the very final end, when I die alone or else suffer endlessly, drooling in an under-funded nursing home. (Yeah, I know, that got dark really quickly.) It was a day where the tears were always lurking, just one kind word or cruel word away from welling up.

And then, a solid night's sleep brought me to...

Monday: Technically a day off. But I have Important Leadership Institute! obligations to follow through on today, and people from work sent me texts early in the day which  made me laugh, and I have errands to run and pricey shoes to buy and a birthday party to plan and a dinner to go to. And that's just today--there's so much to do this week, this month, this year, this life.

In short, ain't nobody got time for the Black Dog on a Monday. He'll be back, barking, nipping at my heels soon enough, but on this (annoyingly) bright January day, he's in the doghouse.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Mercy of the Fallen (1.10.16 Edition)

The other day I made a decision. It wasn’t one that I had come to lightly—it was one that I had been struggling with for probably a month or more. I wittered and dithered and waffled back and forth, I contemplated and pondered and thought I knew for certain what to do—until suddenly, finally, I knew what my choice was. It was a choice I made from a place of being tired of “doing the right thing” when the right thing only left me feeling tired, and lonely, and confused, and questioning what “right” even meant. So I made my choice, and I made it clear what my choice was. It wasn’t one that I would recommend others make, and frankly, my first instinct would be to judge others for making that choice. But oddly, once I “put it out there”, I felt okay.

And after all that, all the guilt and agonizing and desire and curiosity and craving, it didn’t matter. Because so often, choices are made with other people, and so it was in this case. Over the last month, I had been the ‘strong’ one, holding back, not pursuing this choice. And then the one time that I was weak (let’s go with human, okay? I don’t want to judge my friends with that word, so why should I judge myself?) the other person was the one who held us back, who said “no.”  

What an anticlimax, eh? 

In the great scheme of things, as North Korea tests H-bombs and politicians obfuscate and people starve and people are unjustly imprisoned and parents neglect their children and Syrians suffer while we do nothing, our potential actions probably don’t rank as major infractions. But while the great scheme of things goes on, so too do the little schemes—the schemes, the dramas, the routines of my life and your life, and the life of the people we know and don’t know, and love and dislike. And it’s so easy to rationalize a questionable choice as not mattering in the great scheme, whilst willfully ignoring the more relevant and present people and lives our choices will affect. 

I didn’t do anything. I absolutely would have—once I make a decision, I tend not to deviate from it—but I didn’t. According to the Bible, since I already committed the sin in my heart, I am guilty of committing it in actuality. Which is kinda lame, because I sure as hell didn’t have a chance for any fun. But I didn’t do anything, except perhaps imperil or undermine a long-time friendship. I turn in tonight with the same tired, heavy heart that has been pumping in my chest for the past year, but I also turn in knowing that at the end of the day, I am a human, with the capacity for compassion and selfishness and sin and forgiveness, of good thoughts and bad choices, with vulnerabilities and strengths, and all of it, sometimes at war with each other. 

What was the point of it all? Maybe to serve as a powerful, tangible reminder of my own frailty and humanity, and to take to heart what I try to say all the time:

“There’s the wind, and the rain,
and the mercy of the fallen,
who say they have no claim to know what’s right.
There’s the weak, and the strong, 
and the beds that have no answer,
And that’s where I lay my head tonight."
-Dar Williams

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Solitary


It’s an unusual sound in the deserts of Southern California—in fact, it’s an unusual word to utter within the deserts of Southern California, unless the speaker is bemoaning a lack of the wet stuff. But unusual though rain is, tonight it is happening here in Palm Springs. I’ve actually turned the heat off so I can better hear the rain falling down upon the Nunnery. Chances are, with this monster El Nino year upon us, this won’t be the only time I’ll get to listen to it. But after almost ten years of living in Purgatory Southern California, I’ve learned not to take the experience of rain for granted. 

I’ve always loved rain. I’ve loved the melacholic associations with it, even though it’s never made me melancholy. Even now, as I am sitting on a couch that isn’t mine in a home that really isn’t mine, while my soon-to-be-ex-husband frolics the night away with his girlfriend or perhaps his adoring crowd of minions, even now, as I am alone with only two knuckle-headed cats for company, even now, on this chilly wet January night as I struggle to find the right words to encapsulate my mood and mind, I don’t feel melancholy. I only feel lucky to sit here, quietly, listening to the rain without the interruption or distraction of another person (or, more specifically, the WRONG person) and listening to my own thoughts as they rattle around in my head. 

The thought of living and dying alone bothers me somewhat, but y’see, I had a hell of a lot of experience being alone, early on in life. I got used to my own thoughts, my own company, my own emotions, my own inner landscape. So I’ve been alone before, and I am now, and neither then nor now has my life been threatened by that. In fact, perhaps it’s when I’m alone when my life is most enhanced. It’s certainly when I know myself and my purpose the most.

Or maybe it just further undermines my own suitability as a life partner. Who knows? I’m just playing the hand I’m holding in this particular moment. 

And the game I’m playing…well, I guess it’s Solitaire. 

Saturday, January 2, 2016

2016: The Next Chapter

And so the chapter entitled "2015" has drawn to a close, with marriages beginning and ending, babies being born and grandparents dying, with a few humbling lessons under my belt and more than a few bruises marring my heart. This wasn't a particularly bright or cheerful chapter of my life, and technically, things happened in that chapter that aren't yet completely wrapped up, but still. We can always go forward with renewed strength to clean up the messes that remain in our lives.  New Year's is always a great time for hope.

Hope. That's the thing that has kept me going--even during the darkest nights of this last month, I clung to hope and the belief that things will get better. It's the hope I have that allows me to be endure. Or perhaps it's the endurance that I have that allows me to hope?

Resilience. Resourcefulness. Strength. Hope. These are my guiding principles in the year ahead. These are going to be the key elements in this story. This is my narrative; I choose how to tell it; and who I allow to populate the pages, and when the story ends.

And it sure as hell ain't over yet.