Pause

Pause

At the intersection of what-the-hell-happened

and why-the-hell-did-it happen to me

I step off thOne Way Signe gas for just a moment

but there are no answers on the map of my life.

Speeding through the mean streets,

I’m pursued by the shadows of life and death,

outrunning the fear that tears will flood the street

of my existence and stop me in my tracks,

frozen, paralyzed, sliding into a spin from which

I may not recover.

I step on the gas,

flooring it, clicking on fast forward

til all I see is the blur of lights and people

like flickers on film, quasi-hallucinations

that cannot touch me.

The spot where “I am here” is a moving

target heading for somewhere

between I am not here and I will not be there.

The dot that is me faded a long time ago,

No GPS can tell me the direction to the person I’ve lost.

(c) Sula Milrick

(aka the author between the immovable and uncomfortable who finds herself often stuck between a rock and a hard spot)

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Addictions

I am an addict. Or as my friend says, I have addictions. It’s an important distinction.

I am addicted to chocolate. 65% was the gateway to the hard stuff: 88% cacao is my standard. I’ve heard hidden stashes are a clear sign of an out of control addiction. If so, I’m in trouble.

I am addicted to reading. To feed the craving, words on a page are all I need.

I am addicted to time with my kids. If I don’t get enough I feel weak in the knees, heavy in the heart, and struggle for reasons to slog my way through a day. I’m weaning myself away, but like all addictions, the hold has parasitic strength.

Each of these bring pleasure. My main addiction does not. I’m addicted to guilt.

This addiction is not going to be lost in the shuffle of life. It seems to find me whatever I am doing or not doing. Just when I think I am certain I have made the right choices, I feel guilt tell me its insidious messages that paralyze me.  Its two cousins regret and doubt creeps. Even as I write these words. If I were a better mother I would have been in the kitchen flipping homemade pancakes for my son and his company. Nevermind that he is 17 and has been perfectly capable of making his own breakfast for 7 years and messing up the kitchen even longer.

Guilt is manipulation. Walking away from a manipulator is one thing, but how do I walk away from the inner voice that whispers its convincing arguments?

How do you battle guilt? What battles has it won? And how do you suggest I win the war?

Should’ve. Could’ve. Would’ve.

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Find your pearls

“There are pearls in the deep sea, but one must hazard all to find them. If diving once does not bring you pearls, you need not conclude that the sea is without them. Dive again and again.”  –Ramakrishna

Step 1: Breathe. If you are going to dive into a deep sea, then you’ll want to expand your lungs with deep breaths.

Exhale and express gratitude for the pearls found already.  I want to maintain focus on those I have not just those I haven’t found.

Step 2:  Breathe.

Release your breath as you recognize the imperfectly shaped pearls for the gems they are.  I want to see each one for the gift each brings into my life, even if it brings sadness or pain. Those, too, are gifts.

Step 3: Breathe.

Exhale and breathe again.  Clear your mind of clutter as you imagine the pearls to be found.  I want to revel in this step.  Sometimes what I  imagine is even better than reality.  The possibilities open up my eyes and break open my heart. I am willing.  This may take even more courage than the next step.

Step 4:  Breathe.

Then dive.  Dive deep.   Some days this effort requires me to swim hard and fast.  Some days this requires help from others.  Every day it requires me to let go of the surface, let go of my anxiety, let go of those things I believe I need or want.

Step 5: Breathe.

Exhale. Some days this diving business insists on patience. Is it ok if I don’t dive deep each day? Will I miss a pearl.  I might.  But there will be another.

Step 6:Breathe

Reach and grasp. Exhale. Surface. When I find something, I may need to return to step 2.  What I have might not look like what I imagined it would.  After all,  this pearl might look better in the sunlight.

Step 7:

Repeat.

Did I miss any steps? I’d love to know: what are your steps to find life’s pearls?  What are your pearls?

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“The rock that she was battered against”

While Listening to Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston, I came upon this phrase: “The rock that she was battered against.”  After reading these words, I cried.

In the story, the main character has been asked to run a store by her “husband.” She’s fine as long as the calculations are simple and the social part outweighs the business part. She likes talking to people.  But she’s taxed by the nitty-gritty of figuring out how much is $.10 worth of cheese or what’s a half a pound cost. These transactions feel trivial to Janie. Her spouse doesn’t get that she sees these petty details as draining.  He insists that she should learn and use her privileged status as mayor and store owner’s wife.

The rock she’s battered against is the “should” and the “could” of life.   She wants to be part of the beauty of life, not at all like some prima donna who might not want to get her hands dirty, not someone who is told who to be, not someone she should become, but rather recognized for who she is and what she brings to their partnership.

How is it that a novel written in a different time, about someone different can ring so true to me? I feel overwhelmed by the details that focus on pennies. Mostly, the passage made me think of how my husband reminds me I’m not living up to my potential.  He says I should make more money because I’m so smart.  That’s the rock that my head beats against.  Rather then help me find the things that nurture me deep within my soul, I’m worrying about whether or not I’m paid enough.  It is not because we’re starving or can’t pay our mortgage. It isn’t because he doesn’t earn a good living. Is he like Jody in Hurston’s novel thinking my actions are a reflection on him?  Or are my decisions a hindrance to the good things he wants to buy–like an RV or a trip to Greece?
I can’t help but wonder what rock I beat my loved ones’ head against. What expectations of mine are mine and not theirs?

I wonder, what is the rock that your head seems battered against?

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Passive Aggressive

I confess I’ve never even looked up anything on PAs.  Yet, I know that is exactly what to call it when my spouse does his routine.  This is a man, at least in my mind,  who usually gets what he wants. Yet his most common complaint, after not enough money which is a hot button issue, is that no one listens to him.

So what’s that about? Here’s the thing: he says stuff indirectly.  The most innocent is when he says, “The dishes need to be done.”  Dishes are our son’s job who is currently out of town.  Is he telling me that he feels it’s my job to get them done or my fault he hadn’t done them yet?” Either way, I feel like I’ve been assigned something. At the very least, I feel I’ve had to work at figuring out what his words mean.

It doesn’t help that he speaks in the same banal tone as when he says, “The trees need to be trimmed.”  “The yard is dry.” “Leaves need to be swept.”  Those are typically what we’ve come to look at his jobs, so I tend to let most of those comments pass unacknowledged.    “It looks like it’s going to rain.”  “The stock market is down today.”

But there are other times when I sense not only an underlying message, but behind it, frustration.  This morning when we went to a local diner for breakfast, he said, “It’s quieter in the back room.”  I had been eyeing a table by the window for my own reasons, including faster service and a brighter view.  He repeated himself, “It’s quieter in the back room.”  Meanwhile the hostess was cleaning off the table that I wanted to sit at.  “You’re not thinking,” my waiting spouse tells me.  I want to tell him, “You don’t want to know what I’m thinking!”  He repeats himself.  Finally, I ask him “Do you want me to check the back room?”   His response isn’t overwhelming. But I walk into the backroom to see if tables are available and to check the noise level.  When I return he tells me that I’ve confused the hostess.  I have confused the hostess? Really? It suddenly occurs to me why we don’t go out for breakfast very often.

When we sit down, it is a bit quieter.  I ask him, no I insist, that he practice asking for what he wants.  It’s called communication. We laugh a bit over an assertiveness training class I asked him to take one year.  He thought his booming voice scared most of the mice, uh, participants.  Is there a class for people who boom yet don’t feel heard or don’t clearly ask for what they want?

After a little breakfast, I sense less agitation.  And yes, the service took longer. But he’s had his morning tea and our stomachs, now full, makes us feel more accepting of each other.  “What’s on the agenda today?” I ask him.  I often ask him this on weekends hoping to be clear about his goals, so I don’t expect anything I can’t hope to get.

“Yardwork needs to get done and the cat needs hairball medication.”  I sigh, “Ok, dear.”  “Sorry.  I’m going to trim the trees, but first I wanted to go get the hairball stuff for the cat.  Wanna go?”  “Sure, as long as we won’t be too long.”  We leave the diner and I think “it’s progress.”

As we drive away, he says, “A few bills came yesterday.”  Don’t even get me started on what that means.

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Self worth

“She didn’t know she was the world and the heavens boiled down to a drop.”

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Nora Zeale Hurston

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Blue skies blue days

Today is one of those blue days. The sky is magnificently blue and the garden green dotted with rich pink Bella Donnas yearning upwards.

I hate when I feel blue and murky on these gorgeous days. The incongruity leaves me feeling inept and stumbling. Bouts of Depression mingled with grief weigh me down enough. But when the inexplicable dark mood hits me on bright sunny days I wonder if I’ll ever escape my grief. How can one be sad on such a day my scolding voice asks.

I miss my mom and dad. They will not be present when a couple of family members gather today to wish my son (and my daughter and husband who were a bit overlooked in summer’s dash) Happy Birthday. Two weeks ago, he turned 17. No longer a child, not quite a man. In a fit of longing, I looked at his little boy pictures. So much time slips by. He’s still here, but he’s not.

Today I’ve baked mom’s Lazy Daisy Oatmeal Cake, and the rich cinnamon smells has filled the house. I’ll top it with walnuts and coconut, though my son dislikes them both–it’s the way my mom made this cake for me and my brother for over 35 years. He’ll scrape the frosting off his piece. I’ll also make a recipe she used when we had no money–a hamburger and gravy over biscuits concoction we kids lovingly called Gravy Train (the same name of a once popular dog food). My kids have requested it on their birthdays many times.

My mom isn’t the only person who won’t be present. My sister who lives two hours away won’t be here either. She’s struggling to overcome her own darkness –that has resulted in financial stress and unemployment.

I was told at a weekend writing workshop of sorts that every story only works if we make meaning of it. (I’m badly paraphrasing here.). But I’m still trying to make meaning of this journey. Will it lead to something and ending that conveys a human truth?

My truth is some days there isn’t a meaning. Life isn’t a good story or a bad one. It just is. Today I cried while make my mom’s cake, wishing she was here to share my kitchen, to share this beautiful summer day. When I sing to my son, when I cut this cake, when I bite into the sweet, spicy moistness I’ll think of all the days I had with family and I’ll breathe in the gratitude along with the keen pain of loss.

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