Thursday, January 24, 2008

Brokeback Soul

Two years ago, around this time, I went with my husband to see "Brokeback Mountain." I was in love with Jake Gyllenhall because he's so damn cute and has a special place in my heart because I watched "Bubble Boy" while in the first stages of labor with Jonah. I still haven't gotten over him.

Heath Ledger's character, Ennis, devastated me completely. He reminded me of my grandfather. All the people in that movie reminded me of my grandfather's people. Not too many of them are left on this earth, including my grandfather, and for the first time in awhile I felt their absence in my bones. I missed their speech and their smell (cornbread, bacon and coffee). Ennis captured some essence of my grandfather that I have not been able to catch in my own writing. I felt that Grandpa and his whole generation were wiped out or close to it, and the world was poorer for it. I sure was.

And then the story, well, the story I had read years ago when I was in love with E. Annie Prouxl's writing. It blew me away because she matter-of-factly portrayed two Montana tough guys as lovers, though lovers in the most animal sense. More accurate would be to call them fuckers, because in the story, that's what they did, on hard floors and in the dirt. It was violent and they hated each other for it.

"Brokeback Mountain" director, Ang Lee, kept this essence and added so much more to create a decades-long love/hate story, and told of the destruction of all the lives caught in its orbit. That tragedy, all the tragedies strung together, churned up more longing, regret, and sadness my body.

And then there was the wife of Ennis, who did her laundry by hand in the kitchen sink while the kids cried in their cribs. This was the life my grandmother had when she was sixteen, eighteen, twenty. This is the life so many women have, in fact, most of us mothers have, one way or another. At the time I saw the movie, my second baby was a year old, and I was unable to assimilate to the life of mothering two toddlers. I didn't have to wash my clothes on a washboard in the sink, and I didn't live on a ground floor apartment around the corner from my grocery store job on a Texas plain, but for some reason I couldn't shake that image of Michelle Williams scrubbing clothes and yelling at Heath Ledger to please pick up one of the dirty babies.

Plus there was the painful, devastating love between the two men that was never fully realized and never calmed. That terrible love that made them sick and crazy.

AFter the movie, my husband and I went home and went to bed. I didn't get up again for about two weeks. It wasn't the movie that did it to me, really; I was primed for a breakdown. I'd been yelling and crying for weeks. Something about my life had gotten out of control. But the spirit of that movie, and Heath Ledger's performance in particular, opened a gate to my own inner drama and my own pain.

There was no question of fighting what came. It was as if the ocean decided to roll over me, take me out, fill me with its salt and force me down to the muddy floor where the mutated, one-eyed creatures live.

I'll never get over Heath.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Which of My Darlings Shall I Murder Today?

I've neglected to tell you that I'm operating on half-doses of medication these days. My life is stuffed to capacity and sometimes I even have to schedule pee breaks, so it seemed like a choice time to introduce a new health regimen and take away one of the pillars of sanity in my life.

It's not like I'm doing anything else right now.

I'm not, like, training to be a yoga teacher. Or raising two little kids. Or writing. Or maintaining friendships and family relationships, or a marriage. Or performing most of the household duties, planning, driving, phoning, and organizing for my wittle nuclear family. (I don't know who is going to start sweeping the porches, taking the dog to the park every day or cleaning the bugs out of the light fixtures, but they better do it soon, 'cause...DAMN.) Not to mention the bleeding grand jury I'm still on. And I'm learning Italian.

I'm also trying to eat better and, dare I say it, work out. (I don't want to go into detail, but I'll just say that I am not, and have never been, a gym girl, and I really hope that my lame fumblings on the treadmill at the Y are amusing to someone.)The main purpose of my "get healthy" plan is to pave the way for going off meds altogether. I'ts about stabilizing blood sugar and increasing opportunities for natural seratonin production and absorption. But the thing is,


What I consider "this shit" will change from week to week, but I really don't have the capacity to entertain all of it all the time. I know that, yet wince at the thought of stopping anything I do. (Except maybe housework and planning. Sadly, my maid and secretary have banded together to start their own company, and they didn't invite me to stay on as a client. Oh wait, I never had a maid or secretary...)

So whom do I ignore today? My friends? Do I let those phone messages and e-mails gather dust for awhile? How about one of my children? Audrey clearly needs a lot of attnetion right now, but just because Jonah is so easy to ignore, doesn't mean he should be ignored. How about my husband? Oh, wait, he's already being ignored! Maybe it will have to be my family. I don't really want to talk to them anyway. My son's school? My daughter's school? I get a lot of notices about ways I can better participate in my child's learning experience.

And which of the other things in my life that I hold precious shall I ignore or let go of? My yoga? My yoga training, now that I've finally figured out my next possible voaction in life? My writing? Books?

What will it be?

Monday, January 14, 2008

I Want My F***ing Meditation

On our last full day in Hawaii, I got up early on a grey, wet morning to do a teacher-led walking meditation with some other people at the resort. I was a wee bit hungover and feeling the effects of not enough citalopram coursing through my veins. (Since deciding to stay in Hawaii an extra three days, I'd been rationing fractions of those pills to keep from going into full withdrawal.)A meditation class with like-minded people was just what I needed.

I stood in line at the coffee stand at the foot of our tower. I kept standing in line at the coffee stand at the foot of our tower. Ok, everything in Hawaii takes twice as long because nobody is in a hurry, and that's a good thing, because in real life we're always in a hurry as a matter of habit. Which is unnecessary most of the time.

So breathe and quit yer bitchin'. Right?

At T-minus 15 minutes, I departed the line and walked on down to the breakfast restaurant where it had taken us an hour to get served the day before. I sat at the bar. I kept sitting at the bar. If anyone had looked at me, I would have croaked, "just a cuppa coffee," but no one did, so after awhile I got up and and walked down to the very last outpost of the resort.

Things were not looking good for my well-being at that point. A drug-withrawal headache was definitely settling into my frontal lobes. My stomach felt unhappy with the number of mai tais it had been forced to digest the night before. Worst of all, I was going to be late for the class. I stood in line at this coffee stand, got served in under ten minutes, and then walked carefully along what I thought was a path to Buddha Point, cradling my hot paper cup, desperate to drink from it but knowing the coffee would singe my lips off.

At some point I looked up from the path to realize that I was not where I thought I was, and backtracked through the pools and the tropical plantings and the coconut trees to where I had begun my hand-burning journey with the cup of coffee. Tears smarted. I just needed to get to that class. I turned onto the real path to Buddha Point.

Buddha Point was one of the best things about the property. The little hill overlooked the sea and was anchored by a huge statue of a Thai version of the Buddha. It was one of the few places one could feel a sense of calm in that circus of a hotel resort. So I told myself I didn't mind waiting there for the teacher, who was also late but would surely be along any minute. I eyed a woman lingering at the edge of the grassy point who looked to be about my age. Longish hair. Glasses. A cloth bag strapped across her torso. She could be a meditator. Hell, she could be from Seattle. I smiled at her. She looked away.

I waited twenty minutes. The teacher never came.

Reader, I cried. I found an unused cabana lounge at the foot of the hill, turned its cushions upside down to the dry side, pulled the pram-like top over my head, and boo-hooed. There had been so much tension and pressure on this trip with my family. A lot of major business was happening between me and my man. My daughter had been nothing but awful. I was no longer to hold it together. I really needed a kind teacher to remind me how to find a modicum of peacefulness.

I wasn't going to get it. I cried and drank my four-dollar coffee.

After awhile I noticed a brown gecko, about the size of my thumb, wedged into a tiny crevice of the wooden frame of the lounge chair. It was completely still, and looked terrified. Or dead. It's dead, I thought, feeling sicker. The poor bastard. I'm sitting here crying over some bullshit and this precious creature has died in a fucking lounge chair.

Just to be sure, I touched the thing. It moved!

"Hah ha!" I laughed out loud.

And then I just had to laugh at myself, at my desperation. What normal person would make such a shaky pilgrimage just for the chance, for a few minutes, to go deep? Ah, well. It didn't matter. I wasn't a normal person.

I settled into the cabana cushion and gave myelf the permission to go it alone. Just for a moment. To drop into the sound of the ocean and of the maintenance guy squeegee-ing pools of rainwater off the path behind me.

I stayed in my meditation posture until I started to feel calm again. I can heal myself, I thought, getting up and looking around me.

Or maybe it was just the coffee.

Friday, January 04, 2008

What a Mess

As I've mentioned in earlier posts, I cannot seem to control the flow of objects in my house. There are too many of them, and they all need to find a place to live, and it is too big a job for one person who spends time doing things other than putting things away.

Like this morning, for instance. It's the last day of winter break for the kids. We slept late. I am allowing them to wander and play and fight and get into mischief because I am trying to write and read for awhile this morning. Having been on vacation for ten days, there wasn't much of a chance for me to do those things. I am surveying the premises from my seat at the breakfast table and things don't look good: There are still empty boxes and wrapping paper on the living room floor from the last blast of present-opening two nights ago. The mail, about two weeks' worth, is lying in heaps on the kitchen island. Also there are stacks of books piled there, as well as the travel-related contents of my giant mama-purse, which I hastily dumped out before dashing off to jury duty yesterday morning.

There is so much Christmas Crap to clean up and dispose of. All the clothes from our trip are still wadded in our suitcase. I have no clean underwear. You know, the usual post-vacation duties lie in wait. Now that my husband is gainfully employed, I do all of this myself, and it reminds me what I didn't like about SAHM-hood and housewifery in the past years when I, like, lost my mind.

One of the ways I regained sanity was by retraining my mind to see the mess around me as a part of the scenery and not something I had to clean up. I had to stop trying to correct things. I noticed that my regular mental habit was to fix my eye on something - my house, a book I was reading, other people - and decide how it should be improved. I noticed this caused mostly anguish. It gave me a permanent worry line between my eyebrows.

I am grateful to report that this mind-state wasn't permanent after all. I'm not doing it, as a habit, these days. I think the meds help a lot, and so does my yoga practice. I remember to laugh at the absurd, unstoppable fecundity of daily existence in all its servings of peanut butter toast, orange peels, plastic toys from Wal-Mart, shopping bags, dog hair, water stains, sippy cups with gnaw-marks on the spout, discarded band aids, phone calls, beeping appliances, doctor appointments, new friendships, dentist appointments, dog walks, e-mail conversations, computers, newspapers, dying plants, flaking paint, birth control, scratched floors, medications, yoga classes, malfunctioning automobiles, and the other ten thousand things that make up my home life. I can't control it, and I can't put it all in order. I can push the breakfast dishes aside and clear a space on the table to write.

And I can remember, as my teacher likes to repeat (in a the chirpy Indian accent of the teacher from who she heard this): "Do your yoga and all is coming."

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Found Conversations

Things I have said and overheard on Christmas Hawaii trip:

“Look, I’m just trying to understand what everyone wants to do, so there’s no reason to be bitchy with me.” [me, on cell phone, from the beach, to my mother]

“Finish your hamburger or I’ll take away your French fries.” [me, to Jonah at a restaurant]

“Please leave your penis alone.” [me, to Jonah, in airport]

“Do you have any nonalcoholic beer?” [me, to bartender at lu’au]

“I’ve always wanted to do that.” [me, to my brother, at the lu’au, after downing my dad’s beer behind his back and replacing it with a pint of O’Doul’s]

“Awesome.” [my brother to me at lu’au]

“So begins another starch-filled day.” [fit, good-looking dad to his wife in line for a breakfast buffet at the Hilton]

“I’m hot! I’m cold! I’m hungry! I don’t want to eat! I need something to drink! I’m not thirsty! No. No! NOOOOOOOOO!.” [Audrey, every day, in every location]

“Something I’ve noticed about Hawai’i is that it really dehydrates you.” [Jonah, on taxi ride to Kona airport.]

“Your dad says he’s sick today.”
“What kind of sick?”
“Says he’s dizzy, headachey, nauseous.”
“Could it be those 14 beers he drank last night?” [me and my mom to each other, on aforementioned cell phone conversation]

“They’ll split a PB&J. I’ll have whatever you’ve got that’s frosty and alcoholic.” [me, to waitress at Lagoon Grill at the Hilton.]

“You’ve been the most beautiful person everywhere we’ve gone on this trip.” [my husband, to me]

“There’a local bar called Sharkey’s up at Waikoloa Village. But I don’t recommend it because you’ll probably get beat up by some Hawaiians.” [taxi driver to my brother as we set out for a night of drinking]

“Sharkey’s? Nah, you won’t get beat up there. Well, you probably would if it was a Friday. But it’s Christmas Eve. Don’t worry about it.” [bartender at Mariott lounge, who subsequently drove us to Sharkey’s, where my brother did not get beat up.]

“Hawaii is good for Japanese people.” [Japanese fellow on Hilton tram, to our friend Ashwani, after being asked why Hawaii is so popular to people from Japan.]

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

How To Plan a Family Vacation in 10 Easy Steps!

1. Invite alcoholic parents to stay with you, your spouse, and your two small children in a suburban-style townhouse on the edge of a lava field on the Kona coast of Hawai'i at Christmas.

2. Forget to reserve a minivan for your party of six. By divine luck, secure a 4-door sedan one week before leaving. Be sure this is the very last car available on the island, and that it is not large enough to accommodate your entire party.

3. What the hell, invite your brother.

4. Do no research before leaving. Reserve nothing, plan nothing, and laugh that "winging it" is what vacations are all about. Somehow forget that "winging it" with a 3-year-old, a 5-year-old, and two alcoholics in tow is wild and dangerous.

5. Bring along all mental and emotional baggage.

6. Once in Hawai'i, communicate with members of your party by cellphone, no less than 27 times per day. Wish desperately you could throw all the cell phones into the ocean.

7. Toward the end of your stay, become seduced by the notion of staying a few days longer in the warmth and beauty of the island. Don't worry that you're out of antidepressants. Wave off the reality that your change in plans will require dozens more frenzied calls on your motherfucking cell phone.

8. Send parents and brother home. Move into the Hilton at Waikoloa Village. This will cause a surprising amount of inconvenience and irritation among many people close to you, with whom you have plans, appointments, and commitments. Feel only mildly guilty. You're just starting to relax. This could have something to do with being away from your parents again.

9. Plant ass on ridiculous man-made beach at Hilton lagoon. Rent whatever boats and toys the kids want. Watch them have a smashing time.

10. Pretend that money is just a concept.

Bon voyage!