Monthly Archives: April 2015

Just A Cat

When I first read Jilly’s new theme, I had a thousand and one ideas. And then the week took a downturn, and sudddenly I had none. I wrote line scraps, a few words here and there, but nothing substantive formed.

Our cat’s health took a turn for the worse this past week. I could not tap into the feeling or idea of vulnerability. I was frustrated, helping to clean up our cat’s piss and liquid waste from the living room floor, waking up too early to feed him and quiet his yowls for food.

Barsik started becoming ill at least a full year ago, if not earlier. He was vomiting regularly, and when Eugene took him to the vet, Barsik was diagnosed as having a UTI. We gave him medicine, and he got better–until he started getting worse again. The earlier medications that we had given him weren’t working. Then we moved into our new apartment, and he started to have terrible liquid diarrhea. We changed his diet and put him on the healthiest, organic, vitamin-rich food we could buy. And again, the vet prescribed medication, but this time it didn’t work well at all. Barsik is eating, but he’s losing weight fast–he can’t keep anything down. He is down to half of what his weight should be. Despite regular feedings, he is starving to death. And this past week, he’s been so uncomfortable using his litter box that he’s started eliminating in the living room instead.

Yesterday’s visit to the vet revealed our options. We can cut him open to see what’s going on, or try one more round of medications. And if the medications don’t work–and they should work within the span of two weeks–he will need to be put down. No living creature should have to starve to death.

I never thought I’d be one of those people who talked about her pets excessively. I like animals, sure. They’re cute. Whatever. But I never, ever thought I’d feel a special connection with an animal. Still, Barsik is different. When Eugene and I first met, Barsik took a liking to me. He sleeps curled up next to my head almost every night, and he hops up onto my lap to give me kitty hugs and kisses first thing in the morning. Not only is he a beautiful cat, with those intense, hypnotic blue eyes, but he’s also gentle.

Of course, illness has changed his personality. He cries excessively at night from hunger, and his eyes are no longer a calm, steady blue–they are wide and wild with desperation. When I pet him, I feel every one of his bones.

Illness and death are no strangers to me. I have watched several family members grow old, their bodies succumbing to that mysterious, magnetic pull of time. I have witnessed the sweet, soothing drip and spread of morphine. I have listened patiently to frenzied hallucinations, sudden and sure glimpses of a world beyond our own. And finally, when their bodies lie too still in the bed, I have felt the almost tangible sigh of relief escape from the living. Death is the easy part.

So this month, the vulnerability is not mine. It is Barsik’s. I understand he’s “just a cat.” But no one with the capacity to experience both pain and hunger should have to navigate that expansive, confusing terrain of illness and dying alone. Eugene and I are his faithful hospice, cleaning up after him, mixing medicine into his food, giving him hugs. I’m no longer upset. This next round of medications could very well work–he could live for another few years. I have hope. But if the medicine doesn’t work, I’ll at least know that we did everything we could, and that his last few weeks with us were spent as a comfortable transition into his next adventure.

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Bloom

I’m a little late with my Rebirth posting. It just took me a little while longer than I thought. At the beginning of the year, I was feeling pretty burnt out with writing. I wanted to start painting again, or maybe start teaching painting classes again. And while I was researching new painting techniques and trying to decide if I should invest in some new equipment, I got a new novel idea and started writing again. That’s how it goes with me. All or nothing.  I have a bunch of chapters written, and I’ve been painting, too.  I’m trying this “Intutive Painting” thing. If I understand it correctly, you are supposed to make a really lush, busy background, then add your subject on top, painting around it so that your background shows through. So, here’s my first intutive painting:

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Miles, my new main character would probably say something about how lotuses symbolize rebirth. “Because they grow out of the mud, or whatever.”  He’s eloquent like that.

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Vulnerability: Mid-April Theme

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The person who made this image spelled Amy Poehler’s name wrong, but whatevs. I like the quote and it’s a cute picture.

“It is only by letting go of all your defenses that you become invulnerable,” Jessica Macbeth writes.

There may be no better time to write about vulnerability than right now, in April, this very moment, as the land becomes soft and supple again, as seeds start to sprout and roots start to take hold. The process of growth can only be accomplished if the seedling allows itself to trust the ground it was planted in, allows itself to be exposed to sunlight and water, trusting that these elements exist in the world and they’ll find their ways to its growing ground. These are all forms of vulnerability; we can learn a lot from seeds and spouts.

In comics, television, movies, just culture in general in the United States, invulnerability is lauded one of the best powers to have. It appears people, especially women, are supposed to strive to achieve a specific kind of invulnerability in their daily lives. “You’re too sensitive,” is an insult. “Don’t take it personally” or “It’s not personal, it’s just business.”

But there is untold power in vulnerability.

Vulnerability is the kind of superpower that we can all learn, and it starts by giving yourself permission.

There is power in giving yourself permission: what would you make if you gave yourself permission? What would your life look like if you did the same? Allowing yourself to dream, and then sharing those dreams, as well as championing them in others is a skill not only do not many people have, but often we’re taught we’re not allowed to dream about certain things. What if you gave yourself permission to dream? What would your dreams look like?

There is power in loving honesty: lots of people pride themselves on being brutally honest. I don’t know why, brutal honesty is just a masquerade for laziness. Loving honesty takes more effort and energy, but, also, can be more true than the brutal kind any day. Often loving honesty comes from a place of tremendous vulnerability, exposing the parts of your soul to someone that you may have hidden even from yourself.

There is power in rebuilding: sometimes we have to tear down old structures before we can properly rebuild them. Stripping ourselves, our souls, our work down to the bare bones and exposing the copper wiring underneath, and letting the world take peek takes a special balance of not worrying about what other people think, but being conscious enough to know what to re-vision about ourselves and our work.

There is power in asking: asking for our needs to be met is an incredible act of vulnerability. And sometimes, the person we’re asking will say no, or will be unable to meet our request. It’s okay to be disappointed. Don’t let that stop you from asking. Preparing for the worst case scenario, expecting the worst from people, steeling yourself against disappointment is a fiction we tell ourselves about why it’s okay that we don’t have deep, soulful connections with ourselves and others. Give yourself permission to ask what needs in your life need to be met and how you can ask others to help you satisfy them.

There is power in loving with wild abandon: love is like fire, it doesn’t diminish when shared, but increases in size. Are you love starved? Lovelorn? War torn? How would your life and your work change if you gave yourself permission to love yourself and the people you’re closest to in complicated ways, without definitions, without constraints? What if you took the leash off your love and let it run freely in the wildflowers, collecting petals and pollen along the way? We’re only on this planet for a short time, a blip on the geological timeline. Do you really want to waste another moment not telling people you love that you love them?

All of these are forms of vulnerability and there’s power in each of them.

So dig down deep into the earth this month, kindred. My wish for you is that you’ll find sprouts of your own.

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When Promethea Spoke: Rebirth

prometheaIf I had a name, it’d be Promethea, and my god-like crime would be in being kind: in strengthening Man in his own mind. And I would become a symbol and a sign, if not the last in a genetic line, of reminding mortals of their fate and force, that they, too, are divine, and not murky streams diverted from one pure source.

And when Zeus should discover my mortal love, he’ll send me vultures, rocks, and chains, attempts to turn my immortality to pain. The constant reminder: his wretched gifts of my love of human wretchedness. Though my entrails will never sate the vultures he will create, his punishments already far too late. For when you fall in love with gods and writers, the fire I stole from Olympus burns that much brighter—the flame of immortality for all to see, through the quires of history.

I burn, I drink, I gather dreams, while everyone tells Promethea to go back to sleep. ‘The pain will be less sharp, if you just lose yourself to the dark.’ But I’m already in a labyrinth, my body humming unheard songs, my desires inventing new desires, until losing is all that’s left before long.

So I will believe in stories, I will believe in fire. I will believe in beings endowed with power to assemble things that have once been broken until there are no more stories to be spoken.

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The Rebirth of [sic]

What can you say about rebirth? It’s not something that happens only once. It’s a continuous process. I am the phoenix constantly bursting into flames and rising from the ashes. Life is full of little rebirths, isn’t it? Small moments that make us feel alive in the midst of chaos and pain. There are many things that brought me joy, beautiful things, little moments and treasures that helped me rise. I’ve been collecting these images all month, snapping pictures with no real purpose, but somehow, this all feels right. Connected.

Cafe jaunts. A cup of coffee here, a perfectly plush, plump, sweet vegan doughnut there. And words. Always words.

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A good meal makes me feel happy, warm. I feel alive and blessed for each bite of goodness. Spicy Thai coconut soup from a lunch with family, homemade fried egg sandwiches with potato spinach hash on fresh bread from a nearby bakery. Those egg sandwiches fed Lover Man and me well. Rich egg, hearty potato, salty spinach and crusty bread are so perfect together.

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Going outside and running has made me feel whole! I love this beautiful weather. The sun peeking through branches waking from a long winter, casting my shadow on cracked pavement and feeling whole. I still remember the song I was listening to when the sun came out on that day, which had started out dreadfully overcast: “Shake Me Down” by Cage The Elephant: “I’ll keep my eyes fixed on the sun….” The universe, always sending messages in the most unusual places.

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New journals for jotting notes, thoughts, dreams. Tea to warm me and add a little sweetness to each night. Magazines always calm me and make me feel a bit more centered. I’ve pored over them incessantly since childhood. Something about the gloss and the language makes me come alive.

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A row of prayer candles, saints on shelves soothing me on a rough, rainy day, reminding me that my prayers are heard.

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A beer with a message, proving that the universe also has a wicked sense of humor. Breathe, sip, repeat.

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Rise Like a Phoenix by Conchita Wurst. The studio version is glorious, but the real magic is the Conchita’s Eurovision performance. To be oneself, to be free, to be so full of joy as Conchita Wurst is during this performance. Chills every time, usually accompanied by tears. The feeling that triumph is possible. That is the goal.

Go. Be reborn.

[sic]

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