The Hook

AH YES, ONCE AGAIN I AM OFF IT.

Is there any feeling more satisfying

or relieving than being off some hook you didn’t want to be on, usually involving something you don’t want to deal with? There are hooks you hang your coat on, hooks you latch your screen door with, hooks you catch a fish with, and there are the grappling hooks that snare you for life.

I’ve just been let off twice.

I called my uncle I live downstairs from to see if he was ready to visit my mom at her senior facility. He, her younger brother by seven years, goes every afternoon to spend an hour or two with her, “because she’s alone, and I don’t want her to feel forgotten.” I go with him or my sister several times a week, but sometimes, as has been the case all my life, I just can’t get myself out of the house. I was set to go today, but she’s just been taken in to physical therapy, and he’s going to skip it.

Aaaaaaaaah.

Getting out of bed, my roommate Molly once told me, is the hardest thing I do all day. That’s good, right? Because then nothing harder will happen to you all day. And truly if that’s the hardest thing you endure, your life is blessed for sure. First of all you have a bed that is under the roof over your head.

AH YES, HOW OFTEN

have I let myself, or gotten myself, off the hook? Every chance I get. There are hooks everywhere you look and some you can’t yet see. Once I set my alarm for 5:30 and again 6:00 to keep an early appointment.  The cats woke me around five anyway, awaiting the tick-tick-tick-tick-ticking of kibble bits cascading into their feed bowl. So I could have stayed up and taken a shower.

It's empty, human!
It’s empty, human!

But I went back to bed to await the 5:30 alarm, hit snooze, hit snooze, hit snooze again until the 6:00 alarm. Then I scuffled to find my appointment slip, and calloo callay o frabjous day, the appointment was for the next day! Back to bed, back to bed, back to bed!

St. Francis Hotel display window, San Francisco. How cozy. Now if they would just get that bus outta there.
Do not disturb! St. Francis Hotel display window, San Francisco. How cozy. Now if they would just get that bus outta there.

I try never to leave anything to the morning. Before sleepytime I iron my clothes, gather my effects, place needed items strategically by the door, but there were some papers I still had to print out for the appointment. But lo! Behold! Now I didn’t need them till the next day, a whole 24 hours leading up to the next last minute. Life is good! As long as I don’t have to live it.

The former friend

who announced I was the most neurotic person she ever knew (you mean besides yourself, beeyatch?) was right on target when she called me a “horizontal personality.” I am never truly comfortable unless and until I’m lying down. Preferably in front of a movie or something that demands no response from me. Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, will I strut and fret my hour upon the stage, then go back to bed.

BED!

Is there any solace greater, any arms more embracing, than your own bed and bed covers? “I love bed,” I would sigh to my amused friend Larry, as if the bed and not any lover in it were my paramour. Bed is the ultimate outpost of avoidance. Therein is nothing you can’t not face.

I love bed.
I love bed.

Sometimes I wonder,

does laziness disguise itself as depression? But that is ungenerous. Depression is not a pretend hypochondriac ailment. It kills people. I liquidated a portfolio of valuable real estate properties in Portland, Berkeley, and San Francisco just so I wouldn’t have to get out of bed.

At age 61 I had to set up a Go Fund Me campaign to move back east to be near my mother. I had just lost my job in Portland and, consequently, my apartment was next in line. How did I ever summon the energy to gather my crap and transport it 3000 miles–well, it just had to be done–but boy did I crash once I got here! And though I love the smile of surprise on my mom’s face when she sees I’ve arrived, I was happy when my uncle let me off the hook and once again I did not not have to raise myself from my default prone position to confront the outside world. Thank God who does not exist!

THE OTHER HOOK

I got off of today

was pretty damn silly. I will be attending a live-stream performance by Opera Philadelphia (“Land of the Free. Home of the Bravo.”) of Puccini’s Turandot at Independence Mall this weekend. It was scheduled for tomorrow and I wondered if my little folding lawn chairs ever made it here from Portland. Just thinking of hunting for them was tiring, so when I got an email that the event is postponed until Sunday on account of rain–yay!

It’s odd

I keep myself so house-bound when my biggest kick is traveling the world. But as Lauren Sharon Schwartz put it in Not Now Voyager: A Memoir, “The stillness and stasis of bed are the perfect opposite of travel: inertia is what I’ve come to consider the default mode, existentially and electronically speaking. Bed, its utter inactivity, offers a glimpse of eternity, without the drawback of being dead.”

The life I chose instead of a husband. No regrets. I've always slept on one side of the bed with whatever I'm working on beside me. I never bother to put it away.
The life I chose instead of a husband. No regrets. I’ve always slept on one side of the bed with whatever I’m working on beside me. I never bother to put it away. After all, I pretty much live there.

♦ ♣ ♥ ♠

My head aches, my eyes burn, my arms and legs have given up, and my face in the mirror has a grayish cast. The bed, across the room, calls in its unmistakable lover’s croon, Come to me, come, only I can make you truly happy, oh, how happy I’ll make you, don’t resist, remember how you moan with pleasure the instant we touch….
– Lynne Sharon Schwartz, Fatigue Artist

 

A Knotty Dilemma

ONCE UPON A TIME

at Burning Man

a nearby burner helped me erect my shade structure. As we worked at undoing the knots in the guy wires, I told him the story of the mother who had her own foolproof method of judging her son’s three prospective brides. She gave them each a knotted skein of yarn and asked their help in untangling it. The first yanked here and there impatiently and finally threw the yarn on the floor in disgust. The second concentrated for a few moments and abruptly concluded she couldn’t do it, and the third loosened and followed one thread all the way through until the mass fell easily apart and she smiled as she handed it back to the mother. “That, my son,” she said, is the wife for you.”

I love that story!

I think of it when a knotty dilemma comes up. Is there some way to break through to the heart of this matter and have the problem fall apart like a relieved sigh?

My mother might find a thin gold chain at the back of a drawer, wadded into an impossibly tight knot, and give it to me to untangle. It would have a shiny, sweaty smell, and excite me: Gold chains linked you to the great fairy tales and myths, to Arabia, and India; to the great weight of the world, but lighter than a feather. – Anne Lamott

In packing to travel to the next phase of my life, I encountered the very skein of yarn that might have challenged the three bridal contenders. Now and then I decide I’m going to get good enough at knitting to wear something I made without embarrassment, or become an expert crocheter like my mother. But I have a hard time holding my own attention at things I need to improve at. I tend to spend more time on and apply more energy to things I’m already good at. Part of it is my tendency to “crash,” i.e., drop whatever I’m doing and blink at the darkness while remembering how to breathe.

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For instance,

I bought myself a ukelele for my 60th birthday; it was a “60 after 60” thing I thought I’d pick up on as part of later-in-life new horizons. But when I discovered how hard it was (for me) to change chords, I, knowing myself, sold it to pay my electric bill. I knew I wasn’t interested enough to put in the time required to get good at it. Same with pottery. My instructor told me, “You’ll make 1000 bowls before you’re satisfied with one.” No, deary, I won’t.

Children and lunatics cut the Gordian knot which the poet spends his life patiently trying to untie. – Jean Cocteau

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If a sailor expert at every extant knot

had made a career of tangling this yarn it could not have been more convoluted. If all three of my cats had pounced on this, wrestled each other and united their 12 paws of claws to confound me, it might have been easier to unravel. Some interloper, rogue element, banshee or succubus entered my lair and fucked with me.

Even though I knew

it was pointless, that I could have cut the mess apart, that I could have recrocheted the piece in less time, that I didn’t even want to continue the piece, that there were any number of better uses of time, I had to unravel this yarn, I just had to. It took me several evenings of dogged Netflix-binging obsession to work it out, and I did, but there was no great satisfaction in it. I just had to prove to myself that I am that patient, thorough, determined, marriageable, heart-of-gold gal that won’t give up. (That was a joke on myself. The very last thing I am is marriageable.)

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Not that that has ever mattered to me. After growing up with front row seats to my parents’ marriage, I never once imagined my own wedding day. ~shudder~ But I do believe many problems can be deconstructed by looking at the individual elements, how they interrelate, and finding a path to resolution. They may be less convoluted than you think.

Now if I could just untangle my brain the same way…

 

♥ ♣ ♠ ♦

Keith Haring, as seen at The Political Line, De Young Museum 1/15, San Francisco c. Keith Haring Estate
Keith Haring, as seen at The Political Line, De Young Museum, San Francisco, January 2015, © Keith Haring Estate
When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on.
– Franklin D. Roosevelt

Glory Glory Hallelujah!

GLO-RY GLO-RY HALLELUJAH!

Glo-ry Glo-ry Hallelujah, His truth is marching on.

I turned 61 this year, 2016, and I’m throwing myself a party and providing the band. The band is playing Glory, Glory Hallelujah. There’s a trumpet, a tuba, a piccolo, a bass, a drum, and a chorus. It’s one of the only songs it knows how to play. For variety they might hazard a verse or two of Yankee Doodle Dandy, Glory H robustly picking back up without missing a beat. They’ve added cymbals.

I call the band “My Brain.”

It plays songs in loops, having started on Thursday, April 9, when I posted on Facebook, “Why is La Marseilles coming through my window?” Odd enough, but it played continuously and repeatedly, enough for me to check outside for who is so in love with the French national anthem they play it all the livelong day. I went outside, but the music wasn’t any louder and I couldn’t pinpoint a direction it was coming from.

The band played on.

It was a curiosity, but not loud enough to disrupt my attention, though I could make out every note over the whir of the refrigerator. If I watched a movie I would forget about it. But later on in my bedroom, there it was again, His glorious truth marching on like an army of ants. I remembered that I’d fallen twice recently, tripping down some outdoor stairs and again on the street, landing both times on my head (I don’t fall often but when I do I fall on concrete). Most alarming though was that while on the phone with my pharmacy, I without notice lost control of my speech and couldn’t form a sentence. I thought, balance problems and garbled speech, Jesus Christ, am I having a stroke?

I had already been to my doctor about the falls and loss of balance and random myoclonic tics and the alarming tongue-tied phone call. He surmised a mild concussion. Well that makes sense, but when the auto-play patriot channel kicked in, I went back to him and requested a referral for a neurologist. Could be nothing, but my dad had Parkinson’s disease.

The referral was denied by the Oregon Health Plan; the 24/7 livestream soon ceased. But what was left was the realization that until I hit my 60s, my vision of my future never allowed for catastrophic events like illness, natural disaster, and the utterly unforeseen. I have myself traveling the world to the bittersweet end, which I will meet with wry acceptance. The panoply of things that could go wrong has expanded exponentially with every birthday. Sixty’s still young to be contemplating how much time is “left,” but I have to wonder how long long-range plans can be.

Luckily, I’ve got a solid base, finally.

Since my best friend Donna succumbed to breast cancer in 2012 life has been a series of losses. After her death and a year-long depressive episode, I lost my San Francisco apartment, along with San Francisco itself, and later, back in Portland, my job, my apartment and Portland as well. Around that time, my mom had moved into long-term care, and friends helped fund my trip back to my hometown of Philly. No matter how dark the world can be, friends keep the home fires burning.

I’ve always operated at my own pace, though the current generation seems to have hitched a ride on the speed of light. And as I approach early retirement in the next year, I don’t bother to reflect on what I did or didn’t achieve in my working years or my childbearing years. I blossom in the fullness of time. I’m traveling at about 10 mph on the information superhighway. The internet is an invaluable resource and the biggest succubus of life force ever. When worlds collide!

I’m glad I grew up

when there was only one reality. What I’m looking for you can’t find on the internet. It is to know that when the blue screen fades into sleep mode, I am at peace with myself in the silence.

Glory Hallelujah indeed.

♦ ♥ ♣ ♠

Desperate Measures
“Desperate measures,” says a mom in the long line at SFO, Christmas 2010

“The Internet is a great place to get on the net.” – Bob Dole