A week of being grateful.

I thought the blues would pass with November, the lights and cheer of December worming their way into my heart. I drove home from Thanksgiving buoyed by family and love and then almost instantly found myself struggling all over again.

 

December was never going to be a cakewalk this year, but I find myself driving home in tears, thinking about Dad, about tradition, about what it used to be like to pick up the phone and call him. And work is busy and stressful and I think everyone feels more or less the same about December and there’s really not a whole lot of goodwill toward man floating around.

I read a post from a sweetly earnest girl saying “Christmas is what you make it!” which — well, frankly, frankly, UGH. I see those words covered in glitter and lights and hallmark music playing and maybe a lifetime movie through every letter and I get it, I appreciate the sentiment, but ugh. This year Christmas ain’t going to be much. But I don’t really want to give in to that, I want to remember the joy. How do I remember the joy.

On Thanksgiving, my aunt gave me my great-aunt Mary’s christmas tree. Everyone in the family had one, although I think the one we had on Adams Street was green with multicolored lights. I like this one, which speaks so clearly to Aunt Mary: feminine and nostalgic and slightly fussy.IMG_0452

It took a week to unbox it, set it up, and when I did I took a quick picture. “Need all the good memories,” I wrote on instagram. And I do. I need to draw the past around me like a blanket, pick and polish the gems of the present. That little Christmas tree in its 70s glory suits my kitschy little cabin, and it reminded me of gentle Aunt MaryIMG_0093

Growing up, we had peonies in the back garden. They were Mom’s specialty (I don’t know what her favorite flower was, really: the sweet smelling wild colored roses, or the irises, or the zinnias that grew waist high against the house?). They bloomed for her birthday every year, and she’d bring them into the house where we’d inevitably find ants eating away at the sugar coating, letting them unfurl.

IMG_0453This fellow and his enormous big nose. There was a moment in August I thought he’d be gone sooner than I was ready for, gone and gone and I wasn’t ready for that. And then he turned it around, and he’s getting old and I may not have him for much longer but he’s here with me this Christmas, all huge eyes and nose where it shouldn’t be and leaning against me for comfort, for pets, and for the occasional kiss when my face gets too close
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This little clown here lived on Depot St at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Grandpa had a whole collection of toys, mostly windup. The little godzilla that breathed fire, the eyes on feet, flipping their eyeglasses up and down, the king kong who climbed up and down an empire state building, the little toy plane made out of pressed tin. We used to line them up on parades, and the rest of the time they’d sit on a high shelf, this unassuming collection. I don’t particularly like clowns, but I loved this guy, spinning him endlessly on his bar. His outfit has been darned, his hat superglued on, and still he spins.IMG_0461

A letter from a friend came in the mail last week and I opened it immediately and then savored the reading of it hours later, a treat at the end of a tedious day. Words on paper, a card, a person out there thinking of me, sharing with me. A friend who treasures the same things I do, values the time spent writing, caring.IMG_0456

Grandma’s necklace. She didn’t wear it all the time, but I remember it over many a sensible sweater. Mom gave it to her, a gift from Kuwait. And when Grandma died, it was the only thing I wanted to remember her by. Dad made me promise: never take it off. Wear it every day. And I do. When I’m stressed or sad I find myself fishing it out of my shirt, holding it, not really thinking of them but maybe, somehow, thinking of them.
IMG_0094 My little cabin in the morning, light beams streaming through the window. This place is mine, a space that is only mine, a place I can be alone. I treasure those plays of light through the window, against the wall, on the pages of my book. I treasure every quiet minute there.

 

Seven days, and I don’t really think I felt that much better at the end but you know, I do now, I do for having written it out. Seven days in a long December, at the start of a long winter, and there it is, a hint of the joy of the past and maybe a promise that there are still joys to come.

 

Joyeux Noël.

From Skippy Dies

You know, you spend your childhood watching TV, assuming that at some point in the future everything you see there will one day happen to you … gradually the awful truth dawns on you: that Santa Claus was just the tip of the iceberg — that your future will not be the rollercoaster ride you’d imagine, that the world occupied by your parents, the world of washing the dishes, going to the dentist, weekend trips to the DIY superstore to buy floor-tiles, is actually largely what people mean when they speak of ‘life’. Now, with every day that passes, another door seems to close, the one marked PROFESSIONAL STUNTMAN or FIGHT EVIL ROBOT, until as weeks go by and the doors – GET BITTEN BY SNAKE, SAVE WORLD FROM ASTEROID, DISMANTLE BOMB WITH SECONDS TO SPARE — keep closing, you begin to hear the sound a a good thing, and start closing some yourself, even ones that didn’t necessarily need to be closed . . .

Hit me right in the feels. Replace TV with books and PROFESSIONAL STUNTMAN with MAGICAL HERO and that’s my life.

Sailors take warning

There was a red sky this morning, high scudding clouds and low racers flying across them. The trees are mostly bare, except pines and stubborn oaks. I saw a comet on my drive home the other night, one of the Leonids, a flash and streak of blue before it burned out.

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I’m run down and weary. Maybe I’m fighting something off, maybe I’m just stressed out. I’m back to only wanting to curl up and watch stupid videos (twitch streams mostly) at night and be asleep before 10. I know part of it is just transition. Part is just November.

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November, when it’s not yet the cold clear of winter, but after it’s the pretty fall. Brown and olive and drab everywhere you look. Low skies. Temperatures up and down and I go to bed freezing but wake up hot. And I’m just sad. It came back in a wave. When I’m stressed my defenses are down and it creeps back in. Did it think I forgot?

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I had a stress dream: relieving the last week, trying desperately to change things, but the outcome was always the same. The next night I dreamed of a zombie outbreak, of hiding desperately, pretending to be dead, finally giving myself away in a bid to protect someone else.

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I just need to get inspiration back. Steady breaths.

just for a while…

It’s been a while since I’ve had an album get under my skin the way Woman by Rhye has. It’s already a few years old and I liked it when it first came out but now it’s just on repeat, all the time, in my head.

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Marconi Beach at dusk.

I think about it a lot: if I hadn’t made such an effort to listen to whole albums I would’ve missed out on this. It’s so PRETENTIOUS of me to think that way but it’s true.

That’s on my mind a bit because I finally caved and got internet in the cabin. (Sidenote: I want to give the cabin a name!) and I don’t want to undo the good work I’ve been doing on my attention span. Already, I feel like I’m overdosing on having instant access again: watching five seconds of a stream here, an hour there, netflix streams, changing the radio constantly. And oh, how I love the Amazon Echo. Walk in the door, ask Alexa to play x on Pandora, and instant, comforting noise.

 

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Last night of Mac’s Seafood for the season; they were seasonally appropriate

I’m realizing there are beaucoup benefits to living where I do, as well. It’s stunning how different Wellfleet feels to the mid-Cape, and how different the upper Cape is to both. They’re these little regions in a larger region, all culturally unique. Wellfleet feels like a place people live and work, not just a place people vacation (or retire). The people watching at the grocery is so varied. And then there’s the water — everywhere. Everywhere.

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The sky over Wellfleet harbor

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November

I miss things about the old house, but I love that this place is mine. No one else’s. Mine.

 

Doom and Gloom on an October Day

Woke up in the predawn, gloom in my heart. No real reason. Rolled over, stared at the ceiling, thought about the day ahead, exhausted before I even moved. No real reason for it. Nothing so bad in my day today — a couple of meetings, a one on one. Getting time to focus in. The tourists are gone. Baxter sleeping soundly, snoring next to the bed, happy in the cool.

 

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Clear sky on the drive in, the high blue of October, still golden, fragile in the pause before winter. Last night the sunset was spectacular – dark grey pregnant clouds ahead, pink and purple behind me, in a flat line. Lines of car on suicide alley, headlights on. Getting dark early.DSC00631

 

 

My cough is finally fading after a week; fever dreams just a memory. So why the doom, heart. Why the irrational, generalized anxiety (the snow falls general over Ireland), the sense of listlessness, the emptiness? Is it just that you want to be a jerk, heart? Brain? Just don’t want to get it together?

 

 

New sheets on the bed tonight, brushed microfiber. Windows open to the chill, buried in blankets and pillows. A book. A fall flavored candle. Apple Cider, a fall treat. Lights on against the night. Heart, I’ll give it to you, just buck up. Stop mourning a million losses, stop fighting against the joys that we have today. Things are ok.

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I need a camera to my eye, reminding

Things are looking up, let’s be honest. I’ve got a lot of good feelings about the next few months, and…

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This morning I sat in front of an open window, the chilly grey Wellfleet morning blowing in, and listened to my favorite Kishi Bashi song

I found the last page in the sky / it was cold and clear like an apple / I found you and now / the story has its proper end

and made a proper to do list.

It’s been months. And I missed the discipline, because it’s easier to do a hard thing if you know you only have to do one that day. And because I feel better, more in control, when I’m physically crossing items off a list. More like a responsible human being.

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Part of it is absolutely the weather. You guys. It’s COLD in the mornings. I mean, 58, but it had been 70 even at 5 am and I hate that so much, and now fall suddenly peaked around the corner and it’s coming and soon I’ll need more BLANKETS on my bed and oh man. Fall. The BEST.

Yesterday was the start of the cooler weather, and I made a dump run and cleaned up my car a little and cleaned up my place a LOT and went to bed so early, watching Red Dwarf and Community. I woke up with a bit of a headache that hasn’t quite faded today, but it’s the kind sleep with cure.

 

Gonna charge my camera again tonight, start taking pictures again, start seeing the life I’m really living.

i lost all my defenses

 

It’s been a time. I don’t really know if it’s been good or bad or neutral or what. It’s just been a mess of busyness, exhaustion, frayed nerves, but also expectation, excitement, contentedness. Yesterday I reminded myself yet again that my mood is always linked TIGHTLY to my surroundings and spent an hour or so tidying up Thursday and Friday I felt lighter, like magic. Look, I found 50% of the Art of Tidying Up nonsense but that other 50% rang true as true can be. Of course I woke up this morning having made a slight mess than night before and thought, “ah, oh well,” and left it there. I’ll tidy some more tonight.

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This whole no internet thing is working out well, but I’m not sure if it’s just because I’m exhausted anyway and haven’t had the energy to do much that I would usually use energy for. I finished Dragon Age: Origins (and Awakening) (oh, ANDERS) and am most of the way through DA:II. Yeah, I’d say my concentration levels have improved; I’m liking it.

 

I feel like there’s just not enough time, which is so silly because there’s plenty of time.

Said that you’ll remember

September, humming Earth Wind & Fire. Whatever, it’s the best September song, in the same way that Summer Breeze is cheesy for 11 months of the year but in July sounds just right coming from open car windows. I celebrated the end of August with a trip to Falmouth for a coworker’s cookout, an hour and a half (!) drive. I seriously live out in the middle of nowhere, now. I also sing “fuck the women in Wellfleet” all the time — “heed my words and take flight.” Thanks, Vampire Weekend.

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Yesterday I had a pajama day. Sunday,  I was on four hours of sleep and I came home and passed out. I needed a day of recovery because being SOCIABLE is hard work.

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I actually did put clothes on over my pajamas when I took Baxter for the world’s quickest loop around the neighborhood. But mostly I had the laziest of lazy days and it was lovely. I read more of Scarlett Thomas’ The Seed Collectors, which is amazing. I liked it all along and then I hit the Outer Herbides section and transformed from liking it to adoring it. It’s hitting all those Scarlett Thomas buttons for me, where the book is answering the questions I didn’t know I had. How we see the world. What matters. How hard it is to be a kind person. How hard it is to do what you know what you should. Things are complicated, people are imperfect. I LOVE it.

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I stepped outside into the surprisingly cool air yesterday morning (6 am wakeup, thanks dog) and looked up at the sky and wondered, when I look back, how will I remember this year? Is it the year of heartbreak? Yeah, probably. A year I tried new things, definitely. But also a year I curled closer in on myself, closed off. But then a year I moved, found my own space, used my own voice. It’ll be an odd, hard year to remember.

But also it’s a year when I’ve recorded more. I’ve written a lot. Taken a lot of pictures. Done some pretty good things. Liked myself more.

Who knows; it’s only September. The world can change between now and … ever.

3am

Sometimes when I’m feeling a little low, I spin stories of what my next free evening/day off will be like. I’ve been doing this for years. Sometimes luxuriating in the idea of free time is an aspirin to the headache of stress. What a lousy metaphor. I’m keeping it, though.

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Anyway. It’s not been the best few weeks. There are bright sides: Baxter’s feeling better. I’m in my new space. The weather is briefly changing for the drier.

But work’s been awful, and I’m not feeling great (a dehydration caused headache yesterday, I think, and just exhaustion today). I wake up at 3 am and fight against 3 am thoughts. I barely could drag myself from my bed this morning, dawdling till past 7.

So I’m day dreaming about tonight. About going home and giving baxter a treat, his dinner, a new toy. About crawling into bed with a cup of tea and my Scarlett Thomas book and maybe some Black Books on my iPad. About falling asleep before 10. About not waking up to hate the world at 3 am. About music playing. About delicious food. About a candle burning. About the dark falling slowly, cozy.

 

I don’t have internet at the new place. It’s weird how untethered I feel, despite the cellular iPad and phone. I feel a little like I don’t know what to do with myself, and I don’t know how much of that is just …Well, look. Even if you put aside the past few months where I felt like every second not spent cleaning was a theft (and felt hugely guilty as a result), I spent every second for the past few years feeling guilt, worry and horror over various situations. It wears you DOWN. I worried, ALL THE TIME. And then I worried about finding affordable housing on Cape Cod. And then Baxter was ill. And then I won some sort of cosmic lottery and found affordable housing, whereupon I started worrying about MOVING. And now I’m moved and Baxter is feeling better and … what do I do? Who am I now?

It’s a good feeling, mostly. I still have some REALLY serious worries. Every one does, there’s no off switch for bad news and struggling. But for once, my day to day responsibilities have narrowed to me, and Baxter. And I have a space that will get a good scrubbing this weekend but which doesn’t need a lot. And so I have time where I don’t feel like I should be doing something else every second of the day.
What do I do with that. Who do I want to be.

 

That’s why I wake up constantly, every night, to face the 3am demons.

Things that seemed like portents this morning

I can’t help reading the world around me like it’ll let me in on some big secret if I just hit the right combination. All those books I read as a kid, piling up in my mind: hit the bricks right and you end up in Diagon Alley, put on the ring and you’re through to Narnia, make a wish on a coin and…there are ghost children everywhere. (Half-Magic had a strong effect on me as a kid, all the Edward Eager books did).

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So anyway, there I was, driving to work. Along route 6 where it’s still “suicide alley” (aka, one lane on either side separated by only the smallest of medians), there’s a pond with power wires stretching over it, like bar lines. And cormorants perch there like notation. One cormorant sat with his wings stretched out, basking in the sun, a punctuation mark in the line.

When the road widens, in the now deeper median where the grass is brittle and burnt from the sun and the heat, something was jumping. Big somethings, bat sized, but translucent — I think maybe enormous grasshoppers? But they were jumping in this pattern, towards the center and out. I wished I could stop and watch and figure out what I was seeing.

Driving into Hyannis, towards the end of the very unlovely Willow Street, there were the grackles (swallows, who knows) in their clean little flocks, whirling and dipping, settling on the trees and taking off again. Not quite a susurration, but an echo of one.

IMG_0030Portents and echoes and signs.

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