Thursday, November 28, 2013

What really matters

"What part of our history's reinvented and under rug swept?"

Thanksgiving Day. 2013.

I'm having a soft pants day (like a pajama day) today because all the kids are going to their "other" parents' celebrations today.

So we'll have our turkey dinner tomorrow, but we're keeping it simple because we are cooking challenged.

Neil picked up turkey, ham and brisket from Goode Company BBQ yesterday.

Today we'll bake bran muffins (with and without raisins) because that is our holiday tradition. Neil will make his "special pie" (graham cracker crust, chocolate pudding, real whipped cream, sprinkles). I'm going to make some no-bake cookies (cereal, white chocolate, dried fruits and nuts).

Tomorrow I'm making sweet potato casserole, corn casserole and stuffing. Cranberry sauce is courtesy of Trader Joe's.

Lame, I know, but that's how we roll.

It's not about the food right? It's about gratitude and spending time with family and friends.

I am grateful for my life. I would be grateful for it even if it wasn't a fairy tale life, but it is. Saying so is scary because I immediately have superstitious thoughts that I will jinx it and it will all go wrong. Funny, when I am sad I feel guilty for my sadness and when I'm happy I feel guilty for my happiness.

My gratitude list starts with Neil and my two children and my grandchild. As long as they are well, nothing else really is important. Sure, I'd rather not be living under a bridge, but people, not things, are what matter.

That said, I am grateful for my things. I am grateful for my beautiful, comfortable home and enough food to eat and clothes to wear and savings in the bank against that proverbial rainy day.

I am grateful that my former employer and I agreed (in July 2011) that it was time for us to part company and that I have been able to dedicate myself to my glass art and to the other things I love since that time. Among those other things I love, two bear a special mention, my volunteer work with the adoptable cats at Sugar Land Animal Services, and the fitness regime, adopted a year ago, that I have sustained and that has been vital to my improved fitness and sense of well being.

I'm grateful, strange as it sounds, for my mom's death on October 30. She now is permanently out of her great emotional and physical pain. I'm grateful that my dad's death three years ago on November 30 was sudden, that unlike my mom, he never lost his intellect or his dignity, and that he did not suffer long.

I'm grateful for my brother and the way we've been able to support each other through the last difficult three years and the way we trust each other and for our relationship which will continue now independent of connection by our parents. I'm grateful for my cousins too, who connect me to my past and who make me part of an extended family, as we inexorably move forward into the place of the senior generation.

I'm grateful for my cats, Loki and Zamboni, who are an important part of my life every day, who touch me with their love and make me laugh at their antics. Laughter is medicine.

I'm grateful for Neil's family too, that I have good relationships with my step-children and my in-laws, that his parents are still relatively spry and independent, and that his siblings and their families are family to me too.

I'm grateful that Neil is easily amused, that he makes me laugh, that I can make him laugh, that we don't just love each other but we are intentionally conscious that loving each other is something to be cherished and nourished and valued. I'm grateful that my children are socially conscious and grounded and that despite the mistakes that I think I made raising them, I must have done enough things right, because I don't just love them, I am awed by them.

I haven't mentioned my gratitude for my friends yet, although I certainly am grateful for all of them, because I wanted to share something my eldest posted today on Facebook that expresses that gratitude better than I possibly could.
Day 28, I'm thankful for YOU. If you are reading this, then I am talking about you. Every single person that I've interacted with this last year has meant something to me, where you sent me a sweet note, a gift, or took a minute to think a happy thought for me. And it has meant the world to me. I am so ridiculously blessed to have the people I do in my corner. They say it takes a village to raise a child, well it takes a village to raise a single mom too. In a hundred lifetimes, I could never be thankful enough. I sincerely hope you and yours have a wonderful thanksgiving full of memories, laughter, good company and good food.

And to my precious Ryland Kade, mommy loves you to the moon. Happy Thanksgiving, my sweet boy. We might not be together, but I carry you in my heart, and NO ONE can ever take that away from us. (K.C.B.W.)
Thanksgiving Day. 2013.

I'm a world away from where I was in early 2002, which is also the year I met Neil, although that came later, just after Thanksgiving in fact. For now, I'll just say, I'm grateful for unanswered prayers.

Since December 31, 2001, I had let Marty's last note go unanswered. In late March, 2002, his company voted to approve its buyout by a California competitor.

I wrote him a one line note, asking if he would be leaving Houston now. I felt like some of my healing was tied to his being gone for good.

But I attached the note to a note he had written me the previous June, The title of the note was "Unfinished Business." It was a love letter where he said he was "so in love" with me.
I guess there is a part of me that still wants to stick it under his nose and say "see, look what you did, how could you do something so reprehensible, to write such words to me and then leave me alone in darkness." I have never spoken my piece to him, I have sat in silence and grieved privately
I sent the note because I felt good and strong enough to cope with whatever response I got, including an angry one or none at all. I was prepared for almost anything else but this.
Liz.... please call me.... I want to talk.

I can't believe you still have this, and I can't believe you sent me this note at a time when I've been thinking of you - of us.... please call.... it doesn't matter what time of night or day. I would love to speak with you.

Thank you for your note! Marty
Before I could frame an answer, he sent a second note.
Liz... I would love to call you, but I've lost your phone number! I'm very sorry.

To answer your question, I still don't know what will become of me if the merger goes through. At this point, I have to say I'm hoping to stay in Houston for now.

There's nothing to go home to in Syracuse - Mary has moved on, tired of the waiting and frustration, and the economy up there is worse than ever, plus the 9/11 disasters have sucked even more economic life out of the entire state.

I guess this is a good time to be footloose. If the worst case does happen and I lose my job, I guess I can go just about anywhere there's a good opportunity - but I want a home.

I hope you're well and happy.

Did he really think that I would come back as a consolation prize?

If he was thinking about us, why hadn't he e-mailed me? Or did he "lose" my e-mail address too?
I have no clue what I want to do about this. I'm shaking just thinking about it.

Part of me has always felt that Marty and I were each other's best chance at happiness. But all that means is that we may be less happy here on earth in this lifetime without each other, not that we should ever be together again.
In the end, this is the note I sent.
I still have everything. But do you think that what happened is surmountable?

I am well and reasonably happy. I can honestly say that I'm healthier, physically and psychically, than I was a year ago, before you and I met.

Trite as it sounds, it is true that what doesn't kill us makes us stronger. I would not want to jeopardize that for the world.

Sorry, this seems to be all about me. Oh well.

In return, he wrote this.
Liz, I don't know if what happened is surmountable. I have some warm memories of our time together. If you prefer to leave that in the past and move on, that's fine.

I'm glad you're doing better these days. If you have kept everything and were curious enough to ask the question, I thought you might want to at least talk - I'd like that.

But, since I've answered your question about leaving Houston as best I can for now, I'll just leave it to you whether we talk.

It's good to know you're well. Keep taking care of yourself.

What a frigging romantic, huh?

I have to say, it made me feel a little sick.

The tone was so different from the first note, where he said he had been thinking about me - and about us - and wanted to talk and asked me to call him (please), any time, night or day.
In some ways I am sorry I started this, but in other ways I'm not. I learned something. Some things.

In his second letter, he said that since Mary has "moved on" there is "nothing to go home to."

I guess his three sons are nothing to him.

I like him less and less. I am sad that I could have been so wrong about someone and have suffered so much over someone so graceless.

I didn't cry this time. My heart is heavy today, but I believe it will pass soon.

Maybe this is finally the closure I felt was still needed?

Please, please, please, let it be so.

I need to let it go, for once and for all. I am not usually so stupid and such a slow learner.
I thought about leaving it there. He did answer my question about whether he was going to be leaving town.

But of course I couldn't do it. So I called. Twice. The first time I didn't leave a message. The second time I said, "Hi Marty, it's Liz, sorry I missed you, I'll try again another time."

I didn't want to leave my number -- I didn't trust him enough for that.

He wrote again.
Sorry I missed you!

Liz.... I’m so sorry I wasn’t here when you called last night.

I’ll be around Saturday all day.

It was nice to hear your voice – thanks again!

Saturday was March 30.

I called.

It was a strangely neutral conversation - we never got past our families and our jobs. No feelings. We were old friends catching up (yeah, right).

He seemed genuinely pleased that I called, but he didn't ask for my phone number or suggest a meeting. In my minds eye, I had thought that I'd prefer to have any discussion of feelings in person - but that never even came up.

After about 20 minutes (that went by in a flash) his neighbor came to his door (he said) and I said I needed to get going. He said, stay in touch. I said, we'll see.
So that, as they say, is that. I will not contact him again (at least that is what I believe at this moment in time). He may, but probably won't, contact me. I'd still like to know if and when he leaves town for good.

Despite knowing that he is nothing but bad news for me, I have a soft spot for him yet. Maybe I am getting to forgiveness?

I am still seeking the beauty that comes when longing and joy intersect. I do believe in soul connections and that we have the potential for these throughout our lives.
It was right after this that someone on the support forum called me out for continuing to pine for Marty, a man I had met on a "singles" site. And I had to agree with her.
You are absolutely right. I've worn out my welcome with Marty. I myself am sick of talking about him and thinking about him. He is a weak and pathetic person and I am done with it now. No more. It is done!

Once again I am declaring Independence Day. April 1. What a perfect day.
But it wasn't done.

A few days later, I sent him a link to a story that appeared in The Onion on April 3. The title was You Used Me For Sex, Friendship, And Good Conversation.

I thought it was funny, in an ironic way.

He didn't like it, not one little bit. He wrote this.
OK. Thank you - may I have another?

I'm glad you're in a happier and healthier place, Liz. I really am. Thanks for being in touch.
I thought about that for a while. On Saturday April 6, a week after we'd talked, I sent him this note. The subject line was "Flagellation, satire, Elvis, and the end of laughter and soft lies." I was rather proud of that.
Marty, believe me, after all this time, I have better things to do than to slap you around.

The Onion piece was pure satire. I thought you'd chuckle. I did.

Too much baggage. Elvis said it best: "We can't go on together with suspicious minds."

No malice. Take care. Pax vobiscum.

And of course he wrote right back.
Liz, thanks.... I guess I was hoping that. I'm familiar with The Onion and understand the satire - even did chuckle a little, but a part of me does feel truly sad and regretful for hurting you and always will.

No malice here, either - only the sincerest wishes for your happiness and gratitude that you're achieving what you are! And suspicion has nothing to do with it - it's just good, old-fashioned guilt.

Happy weekend!

He still didn't get it.

But I could no longer afford to make that my problem.

Once more, I let his last note go unanswered.

"Ooh this could get messy
Ooh I don't seem to mind
Ooh don't go telling everybody
And overlook this supposed crime

We'll fast forward to a few years later
And no one knows except the both of us
I've more than honored your request for silence
And you've washed your hands clean of this

What part of our history's reinvented and under rug swept?
What part of your memory is selective and tends to forget?
What with this distance it seems so obvious?"

Alanis Morissette, Hands Clean

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The break that wasn't

"I wonder where you are, I wonder if you think about me, once upon a time, in your wildest dreams."

My resolve to take the rest of November off from bead making lasted five days. Which means I went four days without making beads. As Neil pointed out, this is the beginning of the time of year that it's actually pleasant to work in my garage studio. I muscled through the summer, five months of temperatures in the 90s, why choose now to take a break?

Now that I think about it, I know lampworkers and glass workers who routinely work during the nice weather months only.

I might just cut back to making beads a couple of days a week. Or I may just do whatever the heck the muse commands. I walk past my glass every time I go out to the car (or come in from the car) and the glass just looks so beautiful. I think about colors I own but haven't worked with for a while, colors like Eggplant and Grape Ape and Black Current, or a type of color, like the opals in periwinkle blue and sea foam green and rose quartz and jade and crocus, and I just want to melt them, even if I just make spacers and dot beads.

I ordered a sampler set in 1 oz. sizes of all 46 colors of Thompson enamels for beads, 32 opaque and 14 transparent, plus a sampler of Carefree lusters that can be used on glass or on copper enamel. And some copper leaf and some blue silver leaf and as long as I was ordering, I got a few more pounds of glass. I really did need some black and the rest, well, they are limited edition colors that I don't want to run out of.

Remember my Beads of Courage Carry-a-Bead Team Beads? The event I made the beads for was the Miss South Carolina USA pageant, which took place this weekend I hope the beads were carried proudly and the kids who get them will be thrilled to have a bead with a beauty pageant provenance.

Another quick look at the beads.

And speaking of beads, which oddly enough I do most days, I got my Texas State Fair third place ribbon-winning bead back in the mail. Ribbon and bead. A nice little ego boost, but why wasn't it first place?

Just kidding. Unless they only had three beads entered. But I'm pretending there were at least ten. Or four.

On Friday I convinced Neil to visit Animal Services with me and meet some of my cats. Lola was adopted, and Nick too. Orion went on two sleepovers but hasn't found his family yet. I got to pick two new cage mates for Jack last week. I picked Huckleberry and Polly and they are all getting along famously, which makes me happy. There are a lot of new kittens for me to get to know.

There's a family of cats that came in together, mom, dad and four kittens and dad is odd-eyed. He's mostly white, with some dark markings and a tabby tail, and he's big, very sweet and very bonded with the kittens. The only way I'm getting a third cat is if a white odd-eyed male kitten comes across my path. I'm not actively looking but I'm holding out so it's easy to resist the purring charms of Orion and Nikki and Shelton.

Neil is on "staycation" this week, by which we mean a vacation where you stay home. It may be my favorite kind of vacation. OK, right after hiking in National Parks. Of course a week off doesn't mean seven or nine days in a row. He'll work Sunday. And Tuesday. And the following Sunday. But a few days off in a week is a good thing for someone who averages one day off most weeks and no days off some weeks.

We've done some grocery shopping and a few projects around the house and Neil shop-vac'd the garage while I ran over to Walmart for printer ink and Starbucks for caffeine. One of the projects was changing out light bulbs and it's dazzlingly light in my office right now compared to the previous dimness. I finally got one of my last two new blends of frit listed and I'm almost ready to launch the other. Photos taken at least.

My latest four blends. Heirloom Roses, Beachcomber, Vintage Wines and Ribbon Candy.

I'm tickled about Ribbon Candy. I have Island Meadow, named for Ryland, Chelsea Garden for Chelsea and now Ribbon Candy for Kandace. Last year I did a limited run of Kandy Kane Lane but decided not to keep it in my regular inventory. I'll have to think of a good name for Neil for my next blend, which will have his favorite colors, the warm ones, yellow and orange with red and bronze.

One more blend after that and I'm sticking at 24. Maybe purples and greens, mostly because those are the colors I have left that I'm trying to use. Hmm, purple, green and goldstone, and I could call it Mardi Gras. That has serious merit.

Speaking of frit blends, which oddly enough I do fairly often, one of my customers is a well-respected bead maker, Donna Millard. She regularly buys my Gallimaufry blend (my very first one that started the whole shebang) by the large jar. I took a peep in her online shop to see what she was doing with it. Don't you agree that this set is a real stunner?

I have so many successes to celebrate. I love my life. I just love it so much.

It wasn't always that way.

By the beginning of March, 2002, I had crossed back over the line between illness and wellness. The terrifying months after Marty left, the parabolic waves of anxiety, the crippling despair, the relentless misery, all had loosened their hold on me. I had achieved at least a mercurial sense of peace, I had emerged from the abyss and I was standing at the edge of Terra Firma.

That didn't mean I wasn't continuing to obsess about Marty.
So many thoughts going through my mind. My mom doesn't believe there really is a Mary. I just remember the way Marty looked the night her letters came last summer. Mary either is real or he is one hell of an actor.

I don't know which pill would be most bitter - believing Mary is real and his love for her is real and more compelling than any feelings he had for me, or believing he just had a change of heart about me, compounded by his narcissism and inability to sustain intimate relationships, or believing he is nothing more than a player who took me in, a "good writer" who deliberately and cruelly set me up for a fall.

Maybe a little of each?

A narcissist may always wake up with his lover, but it is still a lonely existence. A little solitude in a busy, fulfilling life can be a great comfort, but like too much of any good thing, too much time alone with our depressed selves can start to stink like yesterday's fish.
Despite my new found and still fragile emotional health, I remained haunted by feelings of unfinished business, of lack of closure.
I'm still fighting the urge to make contact. It is like the urge to cut, I imagine. I know I will almost surely be hurt by whatever his response is, if any, and yet I keep coming back to the idea, like a moth to a candle. One day at a time I have resisted, but the desire does not abate.

In his last letter to me in December, he said it pained him to think of the hurt he caused me. That is the closest to any admission of culpability and expression of remorse that I ever heard from him. Ironically, though, it angers me, because I have hidden, or tried to hide, my hurt from him. I have remained cordial and civil and even compassionate toward him since things went to hell in a handbasket one hot day last August.

But that unanswered letter dangles like a loose thread and aches like a tooth that needs root canal.

In the quiet moments, or when I can't sleep, I wonder, does he ever think about me.
In mid-March, I almost had a relapse. I felt better for a time and I thought I was back in permanent wellness. Silly me.
I know I am healthier today than I was one year ago. More proof that whatever doesn't kill us makes us stronger. One year ago I was struggling with problems with my children and with loneliness and with knowing intuitively that it was time for my relationship with Robin to come to an end.

Then Marty came along and for a couple of months my world was bright and I experienced what it felt like to be in complete remission from depression. Then things went south in the huge way they did.

All that happened almost eight months ago, and here I am, still stuck and still struggling. Please believe me when I say, I want it to be over. I want the albatross out of my psyche, out of my head and out of my heart. I want him exorcised. I want him to get out of Dodge. I want ... him.

Damn him.
Randy continued to call.
One thing I like about him is he has been very laid back, calling me just occasionally and not pressuring me. On the other hand, my ego likes it that Mark calls me all the time, even if it sometimes feels like he is smothering me.

When Randy and I had lunch, I talked a little about Marty, but I ran out of time before I got to Mark. OK, for some reason, I found it very hard to bring it up. Last night Randy asked me if I wanted to do something again with him.

I'd like to get to know him better, without making any commitments, but do I want that badly enough to risk hurting (and maybe losing) Mark? Mark is so good to me, I honestly believe he loves me, he has seen me at my worst, he knows all about my depression and my broken heart and ... why am I trying to talk myself into this?

If I was giving advice to someone in my situation, I would say, create some space with Mark. Go out with him but not exclusively, and not all the time. Take some time for yourself, not just to date other people, but just to be. Go out with other people (lots of them, even) on a casual, friendly basis. Have fun.

In reality, I'm not sure I can do that yet. Maybe my healing isn't complete and I need more time.

Or maybe when and if the right person walks through my door, the way will be illuminated clearly.
Objectively, when I looked at what others had endured, I felt like I had led a charmed life.
My life has been charmed - and I am conscious of that always, even when I am in depression. My children are healthy, I have a job I love and I don't have cancer or some other terminal illness or permanent disability. True, depression is evil and can be severely debilitating, but I will still take it over many other ills.

In fact, I don't look at it as an illness as much as a condition. Yes, I was sick with it this past year, but it ultimately cycled or responded to treatment (not sure which, maybe some of both).
When we moved to the house I lived in, we had brought a cutting of wisteria from the house we had rented previously. Wisteria is a royal pain to care for, it grows rampantly and without training can be quite ugly. After my ex moved out, I had a tree company remove the plant and grind the stump.

Well, it came back. As many times as I mowed it flat, it grew back again. One day Mark tried to dig out the roots. You would not believe how long and strong they were. We wrestled some of them out and they felt like creatures from the black lagoon. "Isn't the life force amazing," Mark commented.

True that.

But I still didn't know about things working out for me and Mark.
I tend to think we are in each other's lives right now for a reason, but I don't think he is the person I will be with forever. Sometimes I worry that that means I should end it all right now. But I truly don't know, I have no crystal ball.

Two nights ago, Mark asked me if I missed him. I said, don't ask me questions that you don't want to know the honest answer to. He also asked me if my kids like him. I said, I don't know, I haven't asked them. And I don't intend to.

Poor Mark. But lucky Mark - he gets to see me on weekends and share some of my company. And we are amiable together. Whatever I want to do, wherever I want to go, that's what he wants (with Marty, it would always have been what he wanted).

So, Mark must get some needs met by being with me, even if I won't marry him and have his baby or even promise to take a trip to Paris with him this summer. Am I rationalizing? Probably.

Mark is a big boy, and if I want to see him on my terms and he is willing, I am not responsible for how he will feel if it ends. Don't get me wrong. I do care about him. I don't ever want to hurt anyone gratuitously.

For now, though, I have to just stay in the present tense. Keep my options open. Have coffee or lunch with other people. Do some separate social things. Be clear about the boundaries and the limitations. Spell out the ground rules.
And then, as March was going out in its lion-lamb way, I threw all my own good sense and my hard-won high road right out the window.

I sent a note to Marty.

"Once beneath the stars
The universe was ours
Love was all we knew
And all I knew was you
I wonder if you know
I wonder if you think about it
Once upon a time
In your wildest dreams

And when the music plays
And when the words are
Touched with sorrow
When the music plays

And when the music plays
I hear the sound
I had to follow
Once upon a time

Once upon a time
Once when you were mine
I remember skies
Mirrored in your eyes
I wonder where you are
I wonder if you think about me
Once upon a time
In your wildest dreams

Monday, November 18, 2013

Zen and the art of motivation maintenance

"And maybe someday we will find ... that it wasn't really wasted time."

I made another 20 pairs of Team Beads. I had to push to get them done and mailed by Friday. With just 24 mandrels I made 48 beads over two days, back to back, last Wednesday and Thursday. I made the extras because there's always a pair or two that I reject. Sometimes the size is off, sometimes I get a color reaction that doesn't please me. These are the 40 beads I sent.

I'm thinking about taking the rest of November off from making beads. Regroup. Recapture imagination and motivation. Catch up on things I've been procrastinating on for, oh, the last two and a half years. Give my neck and back a real chance to stop hurting.

Friday Neil was off and we took the cats to the vet in the morning for checkups and shots. We went to Trader Joe's to stock up on groceries and because it's fun. But right off the bat, I made Neil mad because I put back an apple he had bagged and picked a different one. So after that, we were just going through the motions and it wasn't fun after all.

Luckily we never stay mad at each other for long. We like each other too much and are too easily amused to sulk for any extended time. We got home, unloaded and went back out to Kroger to get staples such as milk and cat food. We had dinner with Laurie at our new local sushi place and I was happy that it was full of customers and likely to stay in business.

Saturday we went to the Renaissance Festival. We'd been wishy washy about deciding to go. Neil kept fretting about the weather predictions and I accused him of just wanting to go to work, which he admitted. So we didn't get an early start, not unusual for us, because that's how we roll. To avoid the typical traffic from hell, we added about 30 miles to the 60 mile trip, going the long way around, but we had traffic anyway due to road work.

We did have a nice time. We did a lot of nothing, walking around, people watching, me on the hunt for the lampworker I'd seen there before. We found him, only it was a different person and his work was generic so we didn't watch him for long. The food was good for festival food and not unreasonable and we deviated from our standard fare - muffalettas. Neil opted for fried crawfish and chips, I had a chicken quesadilla. We did wrap up with the tradition apple dumplings with ice cream.

I bought a couple of things at Gypsy Wings for holiday gifts for my kids. I never know what they like and usually don't try to shop for them beyond stocking stuffers. I just give them money and gift cards. But this year for some reason I've been taking chances and buying things for them. I'll give them some money too, but I'm having fun and gambling that they'll like what I picked or at least not hate it.

Oh, this was funny. Lots of people dress up in elaborate costumes for Renfest. Neil and I talk about it but in the end we never quite get it together. Last year I bought really nice Tie-Dye shirts for each of us from talented hipster artist Leonard Michael. We wore them again this year and at least a dozen people made comments (ranging from "the sixties are over man" to "looks like some fairies went splat on your shirts"). Neil was so tickled that after we got home he looked at the website and absolutely fell in love with a shirt. He said, "I'm buying myself an early Christmas present."

Here we are in a photo from last year wearing our shirts. Pay no attention to the dead guy and his dummie, Smuj.

This is the shirt that Neil bought.

So Sunday was the first day that I would, in the normal course of things, have made some beads. Instead I took photos of beads and my newest frit blends, documented the recipes for the blends on my official frit blend recipe Word document, and went through photos on my computer, deleting lots of pictures of beads long sold and forgotten. That took a while and I have more to go through, but when I emptied my recycle bin, and I'm not making this up, there were something like 6,000 items to delete. How is that even possible?

Then I went and did my standard three mile treadmill and streaming video marathon. I'm watching Miss Marple mysteries now and while I'd seen all of season one, season two and now three are new to me, which is a nice surprise.

Monday I had my enamel class in the morning. After five semesters, I'm facing the fact that I have no affinity for enameling on metals, or metal work of any kind for that matter. I tried doing something that should have been simple and wound up ruining another project. This was a small bowl that I'd enameled, with an embedded decorative strip of copper, and I wanted to put clear flux over the exposed copper. I masked off the rest of the bowl and sifted the enamel powder over the copper, let it dry and fired it. I gave it four minutes but it came out hazy and red instead of golden.

My teacher said I hadn't fired it long enough, so back into the kiln it went for five minutes this time. A couple of areas did turn gold but the rest just looked burned out. I thought I might rescue it by firing silver leaf over the copper strip. But once again, everything I tried made things worse. I thought the foil would highlight the raised detail and burn off the low points. The mistake I make, over and over, is expecting things to work like they would if I was using glass and a torch.

In a last ditch effort to salvage the piece, I stoned off some of the silver with an alundum stone and with a small burr in a dremel, and sifted clear enamel over the whole bowl. It just looks stupid, atrocious really. I can't decide whether to abandon it and move on or try something else, luster powders or paints maybe. I just want to doctor it up enough to use it as a bowl to throw hair pins or paper clips into and not feel depressed every time I see it.

Ah, my old friend depression.

It was late February, 2002. My friends were questioning me about why I continued to see Mark if I wasn't serious about him. One of them asked if I thought Mark was all I could get.
I don't think he's all I can get - it's almost an entirely opposite problem. It's more that I can't visualize myself with someone who isn't beautiful and successful - no matter how loving and giving.

I worry that my values are totally fucked up.

I'm not settling, not now. That's why it's a day-to-day thing. I'm not promising away forever.
I acknowledged that I was playing a dangerous game.
My ego is out to kill me. I give mixed messages based on my words and my actions. I don't know what my own real feelings are (which is the reason I keep saying, please let's just take one day at a time).
Here is what happened next. A day after writing me a letter saying that he was "officially lightening up," Mark asked me if I was seeing someone else. I was speechless.
The ludicrousness of the "accusation" is overwhelming. I have literally spent every free minute with Mark over the last few weeks. If I try to create a little bit of space for myself, he imagines the worst.

Of course in some ways he is merely sensing what is real, that I haven't committed my heart to him, that (while I'm not actively cruising for new relationships) I am keeping my options open.

I have a feeling it would only get worse, not better, in terms of his jealousy and possessiveness, if our relationship continues and I do want to have other friendships and separate interests.

But if I stop seeing him, will the fear and loneliness and horrible waves of major depression return? I can't quite face that possibility yet.
I didn't understand why Mark provoked so much anger in me. Was it something intrinsic to his personality? Could it be a delayed response to the way Marty treated me? Was I angry at the world and especially men and did I think because of what happened last summer that life owes me something?
All I know is I was deluged with anger when he asked me the question. But I question whether my right to feel the anger is reality-based or just another manifestation of my depression and grief and hubris.

So when I got my voice back under control by my brain, I just said that he had no right to ask me a question like that and he apologized.

Why can't this relationship be light and casual and easy and fun? Why does it have to be so complicated?
I kept trying to sort out my real feelings. There was so much scar tissue on my heart still from Marty that I had no idea if I was even capable of feeling real love for anyone again.

Mark came over and we talked. I tried to explain how I felt.
The truth is, I really don't know what I want, and until I do, I just want to keep things casual and light. He knows about Marty, he knows that I am rebounding and he knows the risk that this is a transitional relationship for me. He says he still is willing to see me on those terms.

I guess that anyone who is willing to put up with my erratic moodiness deserves some extra brownie points.
My resolve was to start gradually easing back from the relationship.
I think that as long as I am honest with him, we don't have to stop seeing each other completely. That is always his choice, of course. I won't equivocate about my feelings just to keep his companionship. He says my forthrightness with him challenges him and keeps him on his toes.

I wish I could just have faith that when the time is right, real love will find me. I always feel like I have to do something to try and make it happen, and that every day that it doesn't happen is so much more wasted time.
In the meantime, I was persistently taking one step forward and one step back.
When is it going to stop hurting that Marty keeps updating his personal ad online?

Why do I care? Why can't I stop thinking about it?

This is the man who one June morning wrote me this:

"Thank you for life, darling Lizzy.... Thank you. I am so in love with you.... Yours.... truly. Your Marty...."

Why is it so hard not to confront him with it, to provoke some sort of interaction? I would almost surely just be more hurt.

Did it really mean nothing to him? Less than nothing?

Can he possibly be doing this to other women?

Maybe I should be comforted that he is still looking - he hasn't replaced me, he is still, when all the pretenses and illusions are stripped away, a lonely man who goes to bed alone.

And when am I going to stop being a lonely woman who goes to bed alone?

I am more grateful than I can say for Mark's attention and validation - but it's not the same.
I had a new quandary. Randy, the man I'd met for coffee, asked me out again, and I had said yes.
And now I am feeling so guilty. I don't think Randy is my destiny either. He seems nice enough. He doesn't seem as needy as Mark. And it is just going to be lunch, nothing romantic.

So, why am I feeling so blue about it? Do I have to tell him about Mark? And what, if anything, do I have to tell Mark?

I wish I would meet someone (again) who makes the earth move.
On top of everything else, I was desperately ashamed of my inability to move steadily forward.
I'm sorry for posting about Marty again.

I don't know why I can't see him as all of you do, as some fatally flawed, undesirable, two-faced piece of dogshit.

I know I should hate him for what he did, speaking the words of love and devotion and making promises and then turning on a dime and never looking back to see if I was bleeding to death where he'd kicked me.

I see him as a person who is basically good, but who was hurt and damaged by his own life, who never really grew up, and who suffers from a spiritual malady that keeps him drawn to unavailability and drama and distanced from intimacy and commitment.

No matter, though. He is useless to me, regardless.
I didn't have my ad online any more. I didn't look at Marty's ad often, but every once in a while I did. Part of that was wondering whether he ever did move to be with Mary.
I guess part of me just wants to know when he is gone. Maybe it will help. One more step of removal, one more incontrovertible proof of finality.

I've been tempted to ask him to just let me know when he leaves - but that would tell him that I still care, a message I've tried very hard to avoid giving. I never did reply to his New Year's e-mail. Let him wonder.
I knew that I should be able to just enjoy life, but I had the pervasive sense that something just was missing. My life was full of stuff, work, kids, house, pets, volunteer work, reading, writing, dating, movies, shows, nature, people, appointments, shopping, on and on, but it felt incomplete in a very pivotal sort of way.
I know I should be doing stuff that makes me happy (what?) and focusing on kids and work and spirit and friendship. But I don't think anything else will ever substitute for the sublime euphoria of synchronicity and connection.

In so many ways, I'm lucky. I'm not trapped in a dead-end marriage or in a dysfunctional punishing relationship. I'm free. The possibilities are limitless.

It's just that I want the glass to be full - now.

It could be worse.

"Well baby, there you stand
With your little head, down in your hand
Oh, my God, you can't believe it's happening again
Your baby's gone, and you're all alone
and it looks like the end

And you're back out on the street
And you're trying to remember
How will you start it over
You don't know if you can
You don't care much for a stranger's touch
But you can't hold your man

You never thought you'd be alone this far down the line
And I know what's been on your mind
You're afraid it's all been wasted time

Another love has come and gone
And the years keep rushing on
I remember what you told me before you went out on your own
Sometimes to keep it together, we got to leave it alone

So you can get on with your search, baby, and I can get on with mine
And maybe someday we will find
That it wasn't really wasted time."

Glenn Frey, Don Henley

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Colors and numbers

"And something's always lost, the gain is always tempered by the cost."

This is my one hundred and first post. I thought that was worth mentioning.

I don't promote this blog, other than a rare post that I think has a broader message than my usual musings. I write for myself, at least for now. I know I have a few followers, although who you are and how you found me is shrouded in mystery. If I'm reading the stats right, I get somewhere between 80 and 100 views each time I post.

So if you are one of my small band of followers, I'd just like to say, thanks for reading. That is all.

I sent my 80 pairs of Team Beads to Beads of Courage (82 pairs, I included two extras) and last night I got a note asking my to make 20 more pairs (by Friday) because they only had 70 and now needed 88. Luckily I had the photo I took before I mailed them. Someone at BOC took 12 pairs for another event.

I agreed, even though it squeezes me a bit. I have only 24 mandrels in the size needed, so I will have to make 10-12 pairs today and again tomorrow to get them in the mail by Friday. It's hard for me to say no to anything that benefits the kids who will get one of each pair carried in this special event. I'm still not at liberty to reveal the event, but I promise I will as soon as I can. Which will be on or close to November 22, when it takes place.

My plan today is to spend two hours with the cats at Sugar Land Animal Services this morning, come straight home, turn on the kiln, dip mandrels, and knock out 24 beads. Then I'll hit the treadmill for my daily three miles. Tomorrow morning I will make the rest of the beads, and also practice the techniques I learned in my weekend class with Kate Fowle Meleney.

Kate calls her class "Is this Glass?" because she makes beads that don't look like glass, using enamels and metals. I played with the four colors of enamels I already own yesterday. I'm planning to order more, but my dilemna is that they come in 2 oz. and 8 oz. sizes and the 8 oz. size costs just slightly more than twice the cost of the 2 oz. size. With something like 46 colors to choose from, it would take a small fortune to get 8 oz. of each color, but something in me feels like buying the 2 oz. size would leave too much money on the table.

I could choose five or six colors and go for the larger size, but I'm a color junkie, so what I'll probably do is get the three sampler sets and maybe one or two in the 8 oz. size. I'm in love with the Dark Orchid. Of course I could buy a few of colors in the 8 oz. size and sell some of it at a price that covers my cost and still is a discount for my buyers. That might be an experiment worth trying, although my track record with glass arbitrage is, shall we say, less than creditable.

My beads from the first day of class (my second-day beads were still cooling slowly in the kiln when I left) and my first try at home with the enamels I already have plus some copper leaf Kate gave us to play with.

One of these days I'm going to go through my glass and sell off some of the premium colors I've collected but will never use, either because I don't personally especially like them (Key Lime, Tamarind, Light Marmorin) or because I don't feel like I can do them justice (River Rock, Poppy, Parrot) or because I just have boatloads more than I need (Passionate Pink, Raspberry Pink, and just about every other pretty pink ever made).

Selling glass is a lot of work, and since I don't really need the money right now, it's easier just to let it ride. Like my collection of artist beads, my heirs may have to figure it out someday when I'm gone.

Along with all my other stuff. I really do have a problem with stuff. I have so much, lots of it squirreled away in drawers and boxes and backs of closets. I have more stuff than I can keep track of of, which is why I keep buying the same lavender shirt over and over. I think I have at least three lavender shirts with the tags still on.

And we don't even want to think about all the beads. Not my lampwork beads, not other artists' lampwork beads, but the beads I've bought at bead stores and shows and online over the last ten years or so. I used to think I'd make jewelry with them, and maybe I will, some day, with some of them. But most of them will just be hoarded because I like having them more than I like doing things with them.

So someday they will, more likely than not, be donated to charity or sold on eBay for a song.

The Glassel Studio School student sale is coming up in December and I do have the intent this year to make some necklaces. Yesterday I ordered some handmade copper clasps to finish them. Strung beads in general are verboten in the student art show, but as long as mine have enough of my lampwork beads included, and handmade clasps, I'm hoping they will be allowed. As I told Sandie, the jewelry teacher and organizer of the sale, the school doesn't require it's painting and drawing students to hand make their own frames.

That's the last show I have slated for this year and that's fine with me. I have a new attitude about selling now, which is to stop stressing about it, focus on the work and just see where it takes me.

We'll see how long that lasts.

Almost a dozen years ago, on Valentines Day 2002, I was dating one man, but still drawn to another man, the man who'd thrown me over half a year before.

I was wrestling with just exactly what it meant to love.
I wonder a lot about "love" - did Marty ever really mean it when he said, "I love you so much, stay with me please, I want you, forever yours, your lover, your Marty? "

I can't believe it was just a calculated lie. I have to believe he felt the feelings when he expressed them.

So where does "love" go?

OK. I am the one who doesn't believe in unconditional love. I believe that given sufficiently adverse conditions, any love can and will dissipate. If you hit me, I will stop loving you.

But Marty and I went from "sublime" to "over" in the space of a day. That's a bitter pill to swallow.
The bottom line for me that day was that it's hard to have faith when people say "I love you" because you wonder, "how long".
Maybe that's part of why I am hardening my heart to being emotionally involved right now. It's almost as though I feel like, the minute I start to care, I will lose the person.

Self-protectiveness isn't a bad thing though. I should have been more so when Marty said, after knowing me for 18 days (just 8 days in real life), that he loved me. I said to myself, do you think this can be real - and the honest answer was "no."

But (real or imagined) the synchronicity overwhelmed me, and I let myself be swept. And when he said, a week or so later, "tell me you love me," the words slipped out of me as though I had no will of my own. "I love you, I said.

I meant it too. I would have followed him to the ends of the earth. Whither he went, I would go, and his people would be my people. I would have forsaken everyone I cherished for him, everyone who loves me and needs me.

Who needs that?!

The hell with him.

Happy Valentine's Day to me - and you - and to all of us.
I wish I could say I felt as strong as I sounded. But then something special happened. Someone new on my support forum replied to my note, and what she said brought me a measure of peace.

The gist of her message is captured in my response.
You sound so wise. Thank you so much for writing to me. Of course you are not "butting in" - this is a bulletin board.

What a wonderful thought Jo - that every relationship we have is for the purpose of personal growth - and that when a relationship ends, the lesson has been learned, even if we don't understand what the lesson was until well after the fact.

If I could believe that, it would be a great weight off my heart. I keep thinking I have to find the lesson, the meaning in the suffering, or I'm bound to repeat the lesson.

And you echo so many things I already know. Yes Marty is, or had to have been, "unaware and unconnected" to his emotional self - else, how could he have not known that Mary was still in his heart. Because I truly believe that when we met he thought he was over her.

One of the things he wrote to me was this: "I consider that relationship a bridge. It's part of how I got 'here.' But it wasn't going anywhere, and I am. And I love where I am."

I think he truly meant those words at the moment he wrote them to me. Yet, not much more than a month later, he told me that he couldn't get Mary out of his heart, that he loved her more than any other human being, that he couldn't bear to think of her with another man.

You are right. I'm still hurting. The pain isn't as deep and as wide any more, but it isn't gone yet either.

I hear what you are saying - that what Marty did was about him and had nothing to do with me. It is Marty who cannot sustain intimacy, Marty who desires what is remote and unavailable and dramatic, and Marty who goes to bed alone and wakes up alone, because no one is good enough for Marty.

But I know it is not our job to fix anyone but ourselves.

And then there is Mark, who I am not in love with, who wrote me the most beautiful Valentine's Day message.

He said: "You are beautiful to the point that I ache when I see you. I would drive 100 miles to bring you a glass of water."

And I think of Marty, and I don't know if he would have gotten off his ass off the sofa to bring me a glass of water.

Thank you for this chance to talk through my feelings once more.

You are an inspiration to me today.
In January I'd declared myself free of the albatross that was Marty.

Mark now was becoming an albatross of a different color.
I like him and he is good for me in many ways, but I'm not in love with him. I have been as honest about this as possible without being downright brutal.

I tell him I don't want to plan ahead, that I am taking one day at a time and that even that is progress for me because just two months ago I was taking one hour at a time.

He asks if I am his girlfriend, and I say, I am - today.

So I go out with him (because he keeps asking me to) and I let him come over and hang out and do my dishes and work in my yard and fix things that break around my house and cook dinner for me or take me out.

The price I pay is that he is very possessive of my "free time" and he wants all of it, or at least to know where I am and what I'm doing and who I'm with. He also has a very vivid imagination and is jealous of every imaginary competitor. In a way it's sweet that he thinks I am so irresistible.
At the time, I was still in touch with one or two people from back when I had my personal ad online. A man named Randy asked me to meet him for coffee one evening and I said I would.

That day, Mark had written me several e-mails about how he felt like I was looking elsewhere and that somewhere deep in my psyche was a voice saying, "not him!" He wanted reassurance that I couldn't give him, even though I wasn't actively cruising for new relationships, just living my life, one day at a time.

Which is what I told him. Again.

He seemed very sad. I said that I had some things to do that night, and he asked if we could talk later. I said that I'd call him back when I got home, if it wasn't too late. I did call him after I got home, about 9:15 p.m., and he wasn't home.

So I worried about him. I felt guilty about hurting him and concerned about his well being. I didn't sleep well and he was on my mind and I was concerned that he wasn't OK.

In the morning I got an e-mail from him, saying that he'd gone to the rodeo with his brother and some friends.

I was fuming red-hot furious. And I was utterly baffled as to why I would feel that way.
Why am I so angry? I am the one who keeps saying "no strings."

And there I was, putting myself in his shoes (I thought), feeling (what I thought was) his pain, and he's out having fun - without even bothering to call and leave me a message that he wouldn't be home after all.

But if I let him know that I'm angry, it will just appear to him that I care about him more than I really do. If I am going to tell him "no expectations" I have to live it.

I was getting to the point where I felt like I was going to have to stop seeing him because I was hurting him.

So isn't it ironic that I was out having coffee with someone else and now I'm angry because Mark went out and had a good time without telling me instead of staying home just in case I decided to call him?

I mean, what the hell is that all about?
At least there was one good thing. He said in the e-mail that he was "officially lightening up." That was a very good thing, because he was starting to feel as heavy as a goddamn mountain.

Nonetheless, it was pretty clear that my days with Mark were numbered.

I might not know what it meant to love, but I had an inkling what codependency meant. And that was not a good thing at all.

"I still recall the place
When I first felt your gypsy wind
Playing on my face
That summer's long since gone
But gypsy winds have ways of staying on

Voices from our past
Still insist on arguing
That love will never last
Though our hearts may turn
It's only when you listen that you learn

And I wonder at the ways
The strands of love meander
Through our close and distant days

The blood of passion plays
Burns our thirsty souls
And chases reason far away
Far away

And still your gypsy wind
Will soothe my soul and call me back again

Growing wise with age
We come to see the printing through
The pictures on the page
And something's always lost
The gain is always tempered by the cost

And still your gypsy wind
Will soothe my soul and call me back again."

Dan Fogelberg

Friday, November 8, 2013

A tickle in my throat

"A lie to say, 'O my mine gave a diamond big as a fist'
But with every gem in his pocket, the jewels he has missed.

I've been fighting a cold since Monday. I'm rarely sick, but when I am, it always starts the day after I fly home from a trip. Monday and Tuesday, my symptoms were mostly a very sore throat. I was able to carry on with my usual activities. Enamel class Monday morning, bead making Tuesday morning, walking on the treadmill both afternoons.

Wednesday was the worst day. I had one of those constant coughs caused by a tickle in my throat. I took a Zyrtec in the morning, because I really wanted to go to the shelter for my Wednesday morning volunteer commitment. I wanted to know which cats were still there after the adoption event on Saturday.

Fourteen cats had been adopted. When I walked into the cattery, it seemed empty to me. Every cage but one still was full, but the two large multi-cat cages were missing. Almost all the older cats still were there, which wasn't much of a surprise.

Bella was still there, so she has spent the entire year since the event last November living in that small cage. She's a nice cat, she has mellowed and doesn't fuss at the other cats any more. I wouldn't call her pretty. She's a short-haired tabby who is a bit overweight, making her head look small compared to her body, and she has a short, skinny tail. Still I know there is someone out there who could love her, an older person maybe, because she is very calm and laid back.

Cranky Lola was still there, and one- eyed Jack, and shy Nick, lazy Ally, affectionate Kelsey, playful Ariel, timid Orion, enigmatic Lily, tentative Huckleberry, rollicking Jules, and of course, rambunctious, purring, alpha-cat Julio. And about a dozen new cats and kittens.

Ariel, Orion and Lola. (Still looking for homes.)

I muscled through my two hours there, just not feeling it. Then I drove to the airport to pick up Neil, fighting Zyrtec-induced sleepiness. At home again, I crashed on the sofa, then got up to go to my standing monthly hair appointment. I hate to cancel at the last minute because if I do my hairdresser Teanna winds up with a gap in her schedule and loses money.

I got home, Neil left to play softball, I ate a bagel and tried to watch TV. When Neil got home, I was dead asleep on the sofa again. I went to bed and slept until 7 a.m. I wonder what quiets a cough reflex while you sleep.

Sleep can be so restorative. I woke up Thursday feeling better. My throat was less sore and I wasn't coughing as much. I still took it easy until mid-morning, when I made a few beads, finally using all the mandrels I dipped a couple of weeks ago. I decided to skip the treadmill for a couple of days, until I'm fully well. Compulsive as I am about my routines, I honestly believe in resting when I'm sick.

Instead I took a leisurely walk around the lake. I can always use some extra vitamin D.

Remember these guys? Egret and Heron.

Friday will be a repeat of Thursday. Why mess with a good thing?

And then, this weekend, I'll be taking my first bead-making master class in more than a year, with Kate Fowle Meleney. I'm eager to learn something new. And I look forward to the camaraderie of being in a class with a group of like-minded lampworkers. I get recharged by that almost as much as any new ideas and techniques the teacher brings to the table.

It is time for me to resume my telling of the events in my life some dozen years ago, 2001-2002.

In mid-January, 2002, I had declared Independence Day and freedom from the albatross that was Marty.

By the end of January I was making progress. I felt OK. Not great, but not clinically depressed.

I posted this.
I still have days when I grieve. Less and less though. Less days and less grief. More grief for the dream and less grief for the person.

This helped:

Marty updated his personal ad again. Here's what Mr. Sensitive added to the description of how he describes his ideal match:

AND WHILE WE'RE TALKING... She could explain to me where the hell all the women who SAY they like skinny dipping in here actually GO skinny dipping!! :-)

This is the man who recently wrote me these words about Mary:

”We are in touch, we still love each other, and the distance is the issue. I wish and hope to move home again some day, sooner rather than later, and maybe we'll have a chance to become a real couple again. Meanwhile, we do our best to hang on.”

I feel sorry for Mary. I feel sorry for all the women he may meet and date and romance and then turn around and curb-stomp. I feel sorry for him - he is obviously one sick prick.

I am getting to forgiveness. It is less difficult to forgive someone who is spiritually ill.

Of course, when I stop looking at his personal ad I will know I have made some real progress.

Still, I am healthier now, and while I lost a half year of my life, life is long enough to spare it.
I continued to grapple with the gravitas of my relationship with Mark. I knew I didn't love him, but at the same time I knew that, for the present time anyway, I needed him. I pretended that as long as I was honest with him about my feelings, it was OK to let him hang around. Call it selfishness, call it rationalization, call it imprudence. All of that would be the truth.
It helps to have someone else in my life now who cares for me and is very sweet to me. I'm not in love, but it is having a positive effect on my serotonin levels to feel loved and nurtured. I am being very honest with him and just appreciating what the days and moments bring and not trying to figure out what it means in the bigger picture.
January melted into February. I continued to see Mark. I continued to feel conflicted about it.
OK. Mark. He's so good to me but I'm not in love with him. My therapist says to be careful, because nurturing is the flip side of controlling. She says that sometimes men who can't control by assertiveness may try to do so by nurturing.

I can sense that. Of course, I'm not an easy person to control. But he is very possessive about my time and it sometimes feels like he is smothering me. So I can see where it could get very uncomfortable.

On the other hand, I am afraid that if I send him away, my depression will return with a vengeance. It is very seductive to be told that you are the most beautiful woman in the world. And to have someone want you so much. And to have a cake on your birthday and a present and a footrub and someone to go to the hardware store with you to get the parts to fix the vent-a-hood.

So why can't I love him? Can I only choose men who will hurt me? Is it because his hairline is disappearing, or he doesn't have a college degree, or am I still too hung up on someone else, or do I have some romantic, fantastic notion that I want to be with someone who makes my heart thud, at least a little?

Is that wrong?

I tell Mark, when he wants to talk about next year or forever, that I can't make plans any further ahead than a week or two right now. Maybe he will get tired of me and make the decision for me.
One of my friends asked me how I could date someone without feeling attracted to him.
There is some attraction with Mark. That is part of the conflict. I like him and there is some attraction.
Maybe that was at the root of my ambivalence. I didn't want to feel attracted to Mark, or really anyone who wasn't Marty, not yet. What had Marty called it? Anesthesia at a time I was hurting.

I honestly couldn't reconcile my impaired heart and my irrepressible libido.
Maybe it's just simple animal magnetism, maybe it's just starvation for some physical contact. I will say that he does have a very gentle touch and being a few years younger than me doesn't hurt either.

And since he is in love with me, or says he is, and he asks me to marry him just about every time we are together, maybe I am rationalizing that it is OK to be in a relationship with him, even if I'm not sure he is the person I want to spend the rest of my life with.

I don't want to hurt him, and I have been very honest with him. I would never pull a Marty and look deeply into his eyes and say, I love you so much, pinch me, stay with me please, I want you.

But maybe just my presence in his life and my willingness to go out with him and be with him is misleading, despite not speaking the words.
In the movie "As Good As It Gets" there's a line where Jack Nicholson's bipolar character says to Helen Hunt's compassionate character, "You make me want to be a better man." And she says, "That's the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me." And he says, "Darn, and I was just aiming for enough to keep you from walking out." (Of course at that point she walks out.)

That's how it was with Mark. I would smile and say nothing and he would ask how I felt and I'd tell him, I don't know. I'd say, right now I just want to go out and have fun and not make any commitments or plan the future. Then I'd say something nice, like, "you look good in that shirt" and it would make him so happy. And I'd be thinking, "darn, and I was just aiming for enough to keep you from walking out."
But I have a feeling that if he stopped calling me I'd feel worse. And sometimes I get scared that if I don't see him more often or make more of a commitment that he will get impatient with waiting and move on.

So I guess my heart is already vulnerable, even if I insist that I'm not in love with him. On days like today, when I feel the depression nibbling at my edges, it's worse. I feel like maybe I should grab him, so that I'll have someone to take care of me if I crash and burn again.

But it was so different with Marty. There was that wild joy at his existence, the willingness, no the desire to put everything else in my life on hold to make time for him. I would have followed him anywhere, done anything for him.

I know, looking at how it turned out, so what? But it could have been different, if he hadn't had so much baggage and so little self-knowledge and so much narcissism combined with so much self-loathing.

Oh, well. This is now and this is reality. And I don't know if it's better to hold out for something that may never happen again or accept the unconditional love that the universe has sent me (maybe). Because I think Mark would do anything for me and how many times is that going to happen?

Or is it just my old low self-esteem telling me I'm unlovable and I better grab whatever love I can get? And is that fair to Mark, or does he deserve to have someone who loves him madly too?
That was my frame of mind when, on Valentine's Day, a virtual stranger gave me some pivotal advice.

"A lie to say, "O my mine gave a diamond big as a fist"
But with every gem in his pocket, the jewels he has missed
A lie to say, "O my garden is growing taller by the day"
He only eats the best and tosses the rest away

Oh no never will he believe that
His greed has a blinding ray
No devil or redeemer can cheat him
He'll take his gold to where he's lying cold
Six deep in the grave

(Something is out of reach)
His oldest pain and fear in life
(Something he wanted)
There'll not be time
(Something is out of reach)
His oldest pain and fear in life
(He's being taunted)
There'll not be time, oh no
(Something is out of reach)
Hey, hey
(That he can't beg or steal)
Nor can he buy

A lie to say "O my forest has trees that block the sun
And when I cut them down I don't answer to anyone"

No, no, no, never will he believe that
His greed has a blinding ray
No devil or redeemer can cheat him
Take his gold to where he's lying cold

Oh, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely man."

Natalie Merchant (A Campfire Song)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Letting go

"Now don't hang on, nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky."

We laid my mom to rest on Sunday morning.

Yes, I know, I said I wasn't going back to Florida for the interment. But I did.

The reasons aren't clear (even to me), but I changed my mind and decided to go on Friday, and booked my ticket for Saturday, returning Sunday. Two round trips to Fort Lauderdale in the space of seven days, some kind of record.

Being "TSA Approved" made it an easier decision. I found out I was TSA approved on my first return trip from Florida. I sat right outside the security checkpoint and logged in to United and changed my seat assignment. My new mobile boarding pass had the TSA green check mark logo.

I had no idea what it meant, so I went through the short line and took my shoes off. I started taking my belt off when a TSA agent said I didn't have to do that. The people ahead of me and behind me were similarly clueless on the concept.

It turns out, I'm a "select frequent traveler of participating airlines" with screening benefits that include these heavenly perks - no more removal of shoes, belts and light jackets, no more 3 oz. liquids in plastic bags and no more having to take laptops out of your bag. All right then!

I hadn't realized how much stress all that shit added to my more generalized travel anxiety until I didn't have to deal with it on this last trip.

I wouldn't say Mom looked peaceful lying in her casket. She looked grim, a little sad, oddly masculine and much more made up than she'd ever been in real life. But I'm sure she could have cared less. I'm sure if she looked like she felt - or would have felt if you could simultaneously be dead and feel - she would have been beaming and joyful.

I touched her cheek because her hands were covered up and her face was the only part of her actual body showing. It was refrigerator cold.

Only my brother and I viewed the body. We closed the casket before our eight guests arrived. Two sets of cousin plus cousin-in-law, one cousin-in-law's brother, the hospice chaplain Paul, my mom's wonderful private duty aide Irene, and Irene's cousin Cecily, a full time aide at my mom's assisted living residence.

We followed the hearse to the vault site. My brother said a few words which amounted to he and I being too emotionally drained to do a proper eulogy at this time, and that Mom was ready, willing and finally able to go. He played a song, Dust in the Wind by Kansas, iPhone to Boze speaker, made meaningful to him because it was on the radio as he drove away from our dad's funeral almost three years ago. It was also the perfect song.

Then we went to brunch with our cousins at Bonefish. I had a Mimosa. I drink about once a year.

After that Phil and I went to the beach. It was a perfect day, temperate and comfortable. We sat on the sand, just above the surf line, and talked, a little about Mom, a lot about other things.

Then we went to Panera because we couldn't find a Starbucks. And then, it was on to the airport and our flights home. The cats were glad to see me.

Yesterday I got in the mail a butterfly bead from Beads of Courage. Butterfly beads are given to parents who have lost a child to an illness. (Purple heart beads are given to kids who complete treatment.) The bead came with a sweet note from Beads of Courage founder Jean Baruch.

I finished my 80 pairs of team beads (plus a couple of extras) before I left for my last trip. Here is what 160-some team beads look like.

On Saturday morning before I left for the airport, I spent the morning as a Sugar Land Animal Services volunteer at an event called Hunting for Homes. This is an annual "mega-adoption" event to which all the Fort Bend County shelters bring adoptable dogs and cats to the County Fairgrounds, and the public lines up to give a pet a new home.

I worked in the cat area, with cats I've gotten to know over the past weeks and months. Many found homes that morning, although I won't know the total until I go in on Wednesday and find out how many more got adopted during the afternoon after I left.

All these cats deserve to be in good homes, but with so many people coming through and making relatively quick choices, I can only hope that all my cats went home with people who will treat them well.

I was happy when June and Lollipop were adopted together. I was appalled when a man told me that he already had eleven cats, and when I frankly said, that's too many, he said, oh, they aren't all indoors. I told him that was not a good thing. I really hope he didn't adopt any more cats.

And then, there was Arnold. Arnold is a little orange marmalade kitten who, when I met him, purred like a lunatic when held, but was hostile to all the other cats, hissing at them between playing with cat toys. He'd come a long way, learning to get along with his cage mates and to play nice. Arnold went home with a mom and three young kids. I cried.

I'm sure it was a sublimated reaction to my mom's death. I wasn't going to adopt Arnold and I know he shouldn't be growing up in a shelter. I normally don't get attached to the shelter cats, even though I love them so much while they are there.

Yet certain ones tug at my heartstrings more than others and I was so proud of Arnold (who will no doubt be renamed something like Garfield or Pumpkin or Tigger) for the progress he'd made. He's a curious, fearless kitten and I'm willing myself to imagine him being loved and played with and nurtured by his new family.

But right now that is doing nothing to stop the tears that are splashing on this keyboard.

This is Arnold at the adoption event, before his new family picked him out and took him home.

"I close my eyes
Only for a moment and the moment's gone
All my dreams
Pass before my eyes with curiosity

Dust in the wind
All they are is dust in the wind

Same old song
Just a drop of water in an endless sea
All we do
Crumbles to the ground, though we refuse to see

Dust in the wind
All we are is dust in the wind

Now don't hang on
Nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky
It slips away
And all your money won't another minute buy

Dust in the wind
All we are is dust in the wind

Dust in the wind
Everything is dust in the wind."

Kerry Livgren