Sunday, February 27, 2011

hoping something will come to me .....

I was in a wonderful writing workshop several years ago where we were often given three or four words to begin a writing exercise with.  I found that it was often pretty amazing what I would write, having no idea immediately where I was going.  I find myself in need of such a tool right now.  Going to go to a magazine, flip through the pages, stop and point.  Here goes........

OK, so I cheated a bit.  I let my fingers rest on a several word groupings before I found one I thought would get something started for me:  total recall.

Instantly I went to one of my biggest frustrations, and loss.  I do not have total recall.  I barely have any recall at all.

My shrink used to tell me over and over and over - BE IN THE MOMENT.  I never have been and I find it almost impossible.  I am either looking back, looking ahead or just not looking at all.

I feel like I've only been a part-time participant in my life.

So many years, so many different adventures, so many losses, so much ... and I remember so little.

Going way back, I have only one recollection of the apartment I lived in with my brother, mother and father, and dog Bunchi.  I see the kitchen table and the hallway.  That's it.  Long ago one of the many self-help books which don't seem to have helped much told me to "find the little girl I had been" in order to comfort her.

I tried and tried and tried - I could not find her anywhere.  I searched places I could remember (the apartment on 81st Street, my grandmother's apartment on 79th, Sacred Heart School where I went for the 1st and 2nd grades --- i couldn't find (see) myself in any of those places.  It actually became quite scary.  Did I exist?  Had I existed?  Was I already at that age, from newborn to 7 or 8, blocking out my senses?

From there I went to the house in Connecticut to which my brother, mother and I moved - without my father.  I can conjur up some images of me in the big house but they get jumbled up.  In some I am in a certain room that is my bedroom, and in others I'm in another room that is my bedroom.  I know that at some point each room was my bedroom but I don't know which came first and can't place my mother's or brother's bedroom in correct corresponding order either.  I see the house without my grandparents living in it and while I know they did live with us for a time I can't place which room they were in.  I do see myself sitting with my grandmother in the living room. 

I remember the attic = first it was both a place where my brother and I held shows with these amazing puppets that came from somewhere.  A king, a prince, a princess, a horse, a jester - probably about two feet high - very realistic.  There were props and a huge theatrical stage.  Don't know where it all came from and don't know where it all went.  But at least I remember them.

4th and 5th Grades - public school - can't find myself there at all.  But strangely I remember the name of my 3rd grade teacher - Mrs. Lemoyne.

I have one image in my mind of a stepfather - last name Hydenau.  I don't know his first name, don't know if I ever did.  It was, I was told in later years, a very short marriage.

But the image I have of him is in what appears to be the living room (upstairs instead of downstairs for some reason at this point), but which room I also have a clear memory of being my brother's bedroom.  I can see him so clearly, in a cast from the top of his head to his hips, face, ears and arms the only parts of him showing - recovering from a broken neck.  (The broken neck which, my mother many years later said upon hearing of his death on the Autobahn in Cologne. had "used up all his luck.")

This "total recall" brings me to around 13 or 14, I think.  Maybe 12.

I'll continue this in a day or so   Going to try to see what I can recall from the next 10 years or so.  I already know it's not going to be much.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Should'a, could'a, would'a .....

Depression:  a mental state characterized by a pessimistic sense of inadequacy and a despondent lack of activity

Pessimism?  Check.
Sense of inadequacy?  Check
Lack of activity?  Check

I wrote the above about four days ago - and found I had absolutely nothing to add to it, nothing to say, no desire to say anything, so I just left it and went away.

Yes, I'm a pessimist.  Definitely a glass-is-half-empty kind'a ga;/

Yes, I feel inadequate.  But, I imagine, who doesn't.  Perhaps not about everything combined, but I'm sure almost everyone feels inadequate about something.

Lack of activity?  Yes, but that's a self-imposed thing, isn't it?  It's my decision to not have "activities," not anyone else's.

On Sunday I could have gone to a "winter hibernation" gathering, doing artistic things, but I didn't.  Why?  Who knows?  Probably a sense of inadequacy!

So, instead I spent Sunday with the New York Times, most particularly the Puzzle, the Book Review and the Travel Section, and "The Godfather, Part I," 3 episodes of "Top Chef," "60 Minutes" and "The Shawshank Redemption."  I was perfectly content to spend the day that way, but inside I was beating myself up the entire time.  Telling myself that this is not what I "SHOULD" be doing.  I SHOULD be productive.  I SHOULD go somewhere.  I SHOULD do something/ 

Why?  What if what I was doing was what I wanted to do?  Why should I be forced to believe it's not what i SHOULD do? 

I think I go into a depression when I don't do what I "SHOULD" do, simply because it implies that I'm not doing it "RIGHT."

Monday to Friday, averaging 11 hours a day, and often parts of the weekend, I'm doing what I SHOULD.  Actually, that's not right.  I'm not doing what I should, but what I MUST ... I'm working.  I'm always plugged in - always answering emails, finishing up some client work, meeting some deadline, solving some problem.
And it leaves me drained.  I know there are people who do what I do, work just as hard, AND have children, spouses, dogs, parents, in-laws, and all that that is required to maintain those "appendages" before, during and after work.

I have none of those things (for better or worse, depending upon your view point of each), so I have nothing that takes "my" time away from me.  Not saying I wouldn't want some of those things, but the fact of the matter is that I don't.

So I CAN spend weekends holed up with newspapers, books and TV.  Even my pets, Cats, don't require much - a can of food every day, a filled dish of dry food, fresh cool water, relatively clean litter and an occasional scratch on the belly.  All that can easily be squeezed ("squozen?") into the most couch-potato-ish of days.

When I complain about going a whole weekend without any human contact (except perhaps with the clerk at the grocery store), I'm usually met with envious comments like "I wish I had all that time by myself," or simply "Boy, that sounds wonderful."

The grass is always greener ...................????

My shrink once told me, at the end of a session where I was more than usually concerned with the fact that I was worthless, crazy and too much into my own thoughts and brain.  She replied that I had sufficient time to consider my worthlessness and insanity and that everyone else was just to busy to pay attention to theirs, but that had they the time, they'd be feeling just like me.

To this day I'm still not sure if that made any sense or if it made me feel any better.  But I know there are times when I wish my life was so hectic and frenetic and people-related crisis filled that I would have no time to question me, my motives, my losses, my purpose, my direction, my lost chances, my sense that there is something so much more that I SHOULD be doing.

Sometimes it just seems absurd and that nothing should be taken so seriously.

One thing I AM doing - thanks to Patti and Robert - is expanding my reading list and my interests.  Patti was on a Rimbaud quest for much of her youth and I had to admit during the reading of the book that while I knew the name, I knew nothing about Rimbaud.  Well, my old friend Google helped me out and now I know something and have purchased "A Season in Hell."  (Hopefully, I'll be able to get through it.)

Also, continue to do research on Robert and purchased "Mapplethorpe:  A Biography" by Patricia Morrisroe, reviewed as the best and most authoritative work on Mapplethorpe.

This is a quote from one of the reviews on Amazon, which I just love. - "In Civilization and Its Discontents, Freud talks about artists who descend into what he calls the maelstrom, meaning the unconscious, and they come back and tell us what was there.  Robert went into the maelstrom, no question about it, but he came back with an elegant picture postcard --'Having a wonderful time, wish you were here. Love Robert'" 

Isn't that wonderful?

I wonder if Patti saw the resemblance between Rimbaud (below) and Robert. 

Realized one important thing - this blog is important to me, and for me.  It gets me out of myself.  It loosens some creative juices.  It connects me to others, but also, more importantly, connects me to myself.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Snowflakes are kisses from heaven.

The title of this post is cited as "unattributed" and I think I know why ---- if he or she were named, folks around here would be seeking him/her out to give him/her some kisses of their own - baseball bat kisses, "smack in the face" kisses, "this-is-what-I-think-of-your-snowflake-kisses" kisses.

Thank you, heaven, for your kisses, but you can stop now.  I think we're just about all kissed out.  I know I am.  I used to think that it would not be possible for me to get too many kisses, but IT IS.  No more.  Please. STOP KISSING ALREADY.  Please?

Yesterday my backyard was a solid mass of 4 1/2 feet of snow.  I was no longer able to open my back door.  Cats were going stir crazy.  Birds were going hungry.  And I was feeling claustrophobic.

So, I hired someone to do what they could to get me a backyard that was somewhat functional.  He dug out the door and shoveled a 10 foot "trench."  It allowed the cats to run 10 feet forward and 10 feet back.  For about 15 minutes this morning they thought that was great.  Then, not so much.

I took half a bag of bird seed and pretty heavily sprinkled it along the trench.  Within about 20 minutes, the first chickadee and four squirrels arrived for breakfast.

I bet you can't imagine what happened. about half an hour later.........  Well, perhaps you can.

Heaven began offering up some more kisses.  Just enough little sweet baby kisses to completely cover up all the seed and give the trench a nice snowy bottom. 

I'm sorely tempted to throw out some more seed .... but so far this month I have used up about 20 pounds of bird food, with practically NONE actually being able to be eaten by any feathered (or fluffy, long-tailed) creatures.

I can't get to any of my hanging feeders -

I will have to simply resign myself to famine in the backyard and stir-crazed cats inside.  PLUS there is more coming today and then, again, on Weds or Thurs .....

How am I ever going to be able to prove my theory that there ARE at least two snowflakes that are alike, if every time I begin looking at them they are immediately covered.  There is no way that anyone will ever convince me, with the billions and billions of snow flakes that have "kissed" us all in the past month, that there aren't at least two that are alike.

Trying hard to find a silver lining and came up with the thought that at least my roof is not in danger of collapsing - I don't think!

Maya Angelou's words can usually comfort me, but this quote, while a bit unsettling, is a perfect way to end this post .....

"Nature has no mercy at all.  Nature says, "I'm going to snow.  If you have on a bikini and no snowshoes, that's tough.  I am going to snow anyway."

Stay warm and safe out there, everyone.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

For the birds ......

Jessica, a friend of mine at work, has brought back to life something I once loved and thoroughly enjoyed, but had put out of my mind for a number of reasons.

About two weeks ago, I was in her office and my eyes flew immediately to her window where nuthatches, chickadees, sparrows, cardinals and many other beautiful song birds were lighting on the feeder she had affixed to the window.

For a few days I would pop into her office occasionally to see what activity she had ... a downy woodpecker one day, and then she emailed me she had a Carolina Wren, who I still have to witness first hand.

After about a week I asked her if she would mind if I, too, got a feeder for my office window.  She didn't feel that it was necessary for me to ask her, but I was concerned that she would think I was just being a copycat for something she felt passionately about.

She's good - she knows her birds and she loves them.

At first I was hesitant to discuss birding at any length with her.  Why?  The answer to almost every negative reaction I have is always "my mother."

My mother was a top birder.  She had a life list of over 600 and was recognized in CT as one of the best.

But like everything else, it came easy to her and if it didn't come easily to someone, or, God forbid, someone made a mistake, she would consider them a failure not worth having any further discussion with.

My mother did not know or care about birds until she married my stepfather and moved to the farm in Amenia.  My stepfather was by no means what anyone would call a birder, but as a farmer he took note of birds, mainly because of the circle of life they proclaimed.  He had a journal in which he had marked the first day each year that the red-winged blackbird had arrived on the farm, going back to something like 1938.

So, in not too long a time my mother decided to become a birder and soon turned it into a competition, where he even once said (in a rare moment of weakness) that she had ruined the birds for him.  But, still, he kept track of the red-wings and went on many trips with my mother, the locations of which had two criteria - were there "good" birds and was their bourbon.  She was by no means a drunk, but she did like her bourbon at the end of the day.

It wasn't long before I was going on bird walks with her, trying to learn.  She didn't help.  Like everything else, you were just supposed to "know."

I put feeders up wherever I was living and every now and then I'd call to ask her if what I was seeing outside my window was a such and such.  "Don't be foolish," she'd say.  "There's no way at this time of year," or "It's not possible."  Feeling foolish, I'd hang up, go to a bird book and swear that what I was looking at was a such and such.

So, for years my birding was a solitary thing.  I loved it, but was not very good at it.

I was complaining to my shrink once how difficult it was to have a perfectionist as a mother.  My shrink looked at me and told me that I, too, was a perfectionist.  I immediately shot back that there was no way that I, generally a failure at so many things my mother wanted me to succeed at, was a perfectionist. 

My shrink explained that there were two types of perfectionists.  One was my mother - those who did so many things perfectly, seemingly with little effort. 

Then there was the other kind - my kind.  The kind who would not try something if there was a fear of failure, a fear of living up to perfection.  Bingo.

When my mother died, I continued feeding and learning some, but never becoming anything anyone would call an expert.

Several years go, I quite feeding.  Many reasons.  Cats that were both indoor and outdoor cats who would bring in a bird on occasion.  Bears that would come tear down the feeders.  And buying thistle seed for some, sunflowers for others, mixed seed for still others, suet for another group .... plus needing to know which were ground feeders and which were not --- it all got to be too much so I just slowly stopped.

Jessica revived it all for me.  And at such a perfect time.  The worst winter in years.  The birds really need some help this year.

Haven't begun feeding at home yet because there is at least a 5 foot blanket of snow all around my house, but at work it's delightful.

It's very Zen to be in the middle of work crisis and/or deadlines and look up and see a tiny Titmouse, jockeying for position against a female Cardinal (with her gentle dabs of red as opposed to the gaudy male) and a downy woodpecker.

Jessica was not at work today (due to weather) so I sent her an email telling her I had filled her feeder and not to worry (because I don't think anybody's going to work tomorrow once the ice starts falling from the skies). 

She sent me back an email saying "Marianne, thank you for loving the birds as much as I do!"

This post is to say, "No, Jess - thank you for bringing back that part of love and joy to my life."