on my city and this horrible week, already

Oh, Baltimore.

There aren’t words for what has happened here over the last week, most especially in the last 24 hours. I’m not really going to try, at least not right now. To everyone who has checked in with us, thank you so much. That was really sweet and we feel very loved for it. We’re safe; things are quiet where we are so far. It isn’t great down by where I work, but it isn’t awful, either: the news is only showing the worst of it, but the entire city isn’t a smoking rubble, I promise.

I am heartbroken and scared to pieces for my friends. That’s all, really. Very angry, too, but working on that, because there are many more productive things to be/ do. And speaking of productive, if you’re in the area and you’re Feeling All Of The Feelings like I am and want to do something with all of that excess energy, here are a few things you can do. There are some clean- up efforts going on in the city today, all over: no matter which neighborhood you’re in, you can help.

Clean Up Baltimore!

Baltimore Clean- Up Effort

Reddit Updates on Baltimore 

To anyone who might be sharing this particular space of dirt with me right now, I’m thinking of you right now. Stay safe.

in which we catch up: Homespun, head scans, and secrets revealed

If there’s anything nicer than a Maryland spring, I’m having a hard time thinking of it right now. Of course, I’m awfully distracted by Maryland & spring at the moment, so.

It’s been a good few weeks. I’ve been getting the garden ready, planting seedlings, opening windows, spring cleaning. There’s an overall feeling of goodness and forward momentum, and I’m already dreaming about eating what I’m planting.

March was busy, busy, busy. My secret is out: now that it’s been announced, I can talk about it here, too, finally. The whole Editor- In- Chief thing is pretty big and intimidating, but most of all it’s just exciting. Of course, as soon as we made the announcement two people went on leave and another two quit at my day job, so I pulled a full- time week at my part- time the moment we told everyone. AGH. Maybe I didn’t need that moment of reverse- serendipity, but otherwise? Thrilled, you guys. If you sent me a note or left a message on my FB and I didn’t get a chance to thank you in person, I’m so sorry- it’s been really frantic, but thank you, thank you, thank you. The reception and enthusiasm has been really awesome, and I’m super- stoked to get to work.

I’m almost a month behind on telling you all about Homespun Yarn Party, that’s how busy the end of March became. HYP is my favorite smaller show; it’s just right, situated in this old textile mill in Savage, Maryland. Can we take a quick break to talk about how much fun it is to say “Savage, Maryland”, too? It gives me images of just tearing the place to pieces, folks just foaming at the mouth and getting all rabid over yarn (or antiques and french pastries, which is mostly what is sold in the place when it isn’t full of yarn people). I’m into it. I know it is just some dead guy’s last name or something equally boring, but it gives me a smile.

Kate and Nancye of Dragonfly Fibers were there, but almost never both in the same place at the same time, which seems to be true almost 65% of the time.

Those gradient kits, though. Unhf.

Those gradient kits, though. Unhf.

Christiane from Three Ravens was there, with her giant needles, of course— yeah, I have a picture, that’s a must- take.

threeravens

I also met Scott Manko and Amy Ross Manko of Ross Farm Fibers, a rare & heritage breed farm/ yarn & fiber supplier in Pennsylvania. I’d heard about them before, but I hadn’t had a chance to meet them (or see their stuff) in real life until last month. You guys.  Anyone who has spent more than half an hour with me in the last two years knows my feelings on heritage breeds, right? Yeah. My favorite place of the entire show, no offense intended to anyone else most especially my friends: I’m just a sucker for sheep, I guess.

rossfarm

Simple, pure, sheepy goodness.

Karida of Neighborhood Fibers is the devil and convinced me that I want to knit a sweater right before the weather turned warm, so we aren’t speaking right now, although she doesn’t know that and wasn’t even really trying so it’s really not her fault and I’ll probably be over it in a minute anyway. It’s a really good sweater, though, and I take for- goddamned- ever to finish anything, so it isn’t a thing. It’ll be cold outside again by the time I have the thing blocked.

You can see a little of the sweater in question (Jennifer Beaumont's Pixelated Pullover) on the right-hand side of this photo. I'd do it in a different color scheme, but yeah, I'm into it.

You can see a little of the sweater in question (Jennifer Beaumont’s Pixelated Pullover) on the right-hand side of this photo. I’d do it in a different color scheme, but yeah, I’m into it.

I didn’t pick up much- I don’t need much, so most of what I do buy is either work research, used for gifts, or purchased under oh god, I think I must own this lest I die levels of desire. Here’s what came home with me.

Duck Duck Wool's Silky Singleton (70% SW Merino/ 30% Silk, 438 yrds) in Night Bokeh.

Duck Duck Wool’s Silky Singleton (70% SW Merino/ 30% Silk, 438 yds) in Night Bokeh.

This is gorgeous, right? Really, really amazing stuff. I’m not certain what it’s going to be yet- there was only the one skein, so I’ll have to be creative, but I’m looking forward to it.

Neighborhood Fibers' Studio Sock (100% merino, 400 yds) in Logan Circle.

Neighborhood Fibers’ Studio Sock (100% merino, 400 yds) in Logan Circle.

This is one of my favorite colors- and my dad’s, too, actually. It’s hard to find a good, gorgeous mossy green, so this came with me, too.

These necklaces from little teapot designs are too cute.

These necklaces from little teapot designs are too cute.

These handspun necklaces from a little teapot designs are adorable and a great idea. I haven’t decided if these are just for review or if they’re also a gift or what yet- they’re kind of mesmerizing and I’m wobbling. There’s three of them in this pack and I’m still on the fence.

They're just so stinking cute is all. I JUST WANT TO PINCH THEM.

They’re so stinking cute, is all. I JUST WANT TO PINCH THEM.

This skein of Fiber Rescue Falkland didn’t even make it out of HYP intact— I started turning it into a ball at one of the tables and cast on for a simple shawl that evening.

Fiber Rescue's Falkland Fingering Multi Gradient (100% Falkland, 410 yds) in Spice Rack

Fiber Rescue’s Falkland Fingering Multi Gradient (100% Falkland, 410 yds) in Spice Rack

Oh, but my real darlings:

Ross Farms' Leicester Longwool 2- Ply, (approx 250 yds, 100% Leicester Longwool), in Flynn and Ambrosia. (Those are the sheep's individual names, BTW. Because awesome.)

Ross Farms’ Leicester Longwool 2- Ply, (approx 250 yds, 100% Leicester Longwool), in Flynn and Ambrosia. (Those are the sheep’s individual names, BTW. Because awesome.)

These definitely fall into that latter category, the “oh god, I think I must own this lest I die” list. Everything I picked up is wonderful, but Leicester Longwool is just so hard to find, and this is just brilliant: beautifully prepared, simply put up, perfectly spun and left to speak for itself. YUP. I’ll be making a classic piece of lace out of this, with the dark grey as my background and the light grey as edging. I’ve been pulling out charts for the last few weeks trying to find things that I like enough.

More happened in March than just Homespun Yarn Party, obviously. I decided to quit one of my day jobs- the easiest one, unfortunately, but it was also the one that was the least reliable, so there’s also that. There’s something very scary about dropping a “real- world” gig so soon to head back into the creative world, but I don’t really fit in the cubicle world any more (I never really did), and it’s a terrible fit with appointments, tests, etc. I needed to make more room for the CP job— doing four different things is fine, but five at the same time is too much to juggle, and Sam is working these wicked 12- hour shifts lately, so I’m not asking him to pick up much of the slack.

It was MRI month, too, which is always weird. How are you supposed to feel about an MRI, exactly? While sometimes they’ll show something that’s actively happening, whatever we see in one, it’s a done deal. It’s useful, but only to a degree for me. There’s always the worry in the back of my mind that we’ll unearth a T1 black hole or six, but I’m pretty certain we’d see that coming, and I’m yet to see one of those. I went in on a Saturday last month, and felt pretty good about it overall; we did a brain & cervical spine with & without contrast, my first time doing cervical spine, and I was really excited to see the cervical spine images. Yoga teacher training left me with a real love for anatomy, and I was looking forward to having my own set of vertebra images to study. (They’re incredible.)

Braaaaaaiiiiiiiinnnnsssss.

Braaaaaaiiiiiiiinnnnsssss.

My radiology department has a Pandora subscription and they let you choose the station you’ll listen to during your scans; I asked for the Delta Blues station, and as they rolled me into the giant white tube, I Got A Woman came on over the headphones and I just had a good feeling about things.

Superstitious, sure, but we’re all apes and it’s hard- wired into us. I did my best not to tap my fingers and toes through the test and in the end, my hunch didn’t let me down: diffuse small lesions in the brain, nothing to worry about, a few noticeable older lesions exactly where we expected to find them on the cervical spine, C5 & C6.

Maybe this is where the MRI is helpful after all, although not in any clinical way; it is comforting to have this very technical, Medical Thing confirm what I’ve known for years about my disease & body. My disease is presenting primarily in my spine (I have mixed feelings about this, but that is a different subject for a different post). I’ve known that for a long time, but I’ve never had proof in any firm, science-y sort of way, just “well, this symptom + this symptom along this timeline seem indicative of a primarily spinal course of attack, at least in this moment.” Not that there’s anything to be done about that, or with it; it just helps me address and manage, that’s all. Having this MRI, this affirmation, is solidly nice: hey, I have a pretty solid handle on what’s happening in there. Cool. That makes me feel safe, and while it’s utterly out of my control, at least I am in touch with my body again. There was a time when we weren’t really speaking; that was rough.

Oh, and finally: I am an aunt again! My step- sister Bianca gave birth last month: welcome to the world, baby Alyssa! No photos as they aren’t mine to put out into the world, but suffice to say she is absolute perfection and I’m not just saying that because babies are delicious, she actually is a really pretty baby. Time to commence with ridiculous amounts of tiny, tiny knitting! Recommendations for your favorite quick baby patterns very, very welcome. What’s your go- to baby knit?

on anger, compassion, and self- care (for A.H., with thanks)

A friend wrote me a few days ago, asking about anger. It’s funny— I’d never imagined that I’d be someone that might give out advice on that subject, but she’d asked in a very serious way, so I gave it some thought, and in giving it even a little time I realized that no, hey, I really did have a lot to say. I’ve spent a lot of time working with my anger- my rage, really- and while it’s paid off, it’s been a process, too.

Everybody’s got something to be angry about at some point in their life. I’m not talking about traffic or parking tickets or noisy neighbors or lousy internet service; I’m talking about real rage, the sort of thing that can eat you up inside. It’s poison, that stuff— no good for the bearer, and no good for recipients, either. It’s a flag, too; a warning sign that something is off- kilter and needs your attention, now now now now now, damnit. I think that far too often we either cram it into some dark corner of ourselves (which means it then spills out in inappropriate ways later on), or try to “vent” it (which frequently just perpetuates the rage cycle: anger feeds on itself). It’s a trap, and it sucks.

I spent years being just plain pissed off half of my day, carrying this low- level, simmering level of ire under my daily face. You wouldn’t see it, most days, but it was there, waiting for something, anything to go wrong, so that it could manifest. I’ve never made any bones about coming from a messed- up family, and as I grew older I began to really understand exactly how messed- up it really was, and as that understanding grew, so did my anger about it. I got out of my family, got out into the world and made friends with good people, amazing beautiful people with amazing beautiful families. That was a really good thing for me— I needed to know that was a real thing that really happened in the real world, not just in books and on sitcoms. It was also a really painful, rage- inducing thing, because it showed me everything I had not only missed, but would never have. (Those families, of course, aren’t perfect— because no family is ever perfect— but they came really close, and I’ve used them as models to build and run my own family today. I’m deeply grateful to them for the examples they set.)

Dealing with all of that was tough. I tried sweating it out at the gym, drinking it away at the bar, crafting it away with ALL off the hobbies, working it off at multiple jobs, forgetting it altogether with about a thousand moves. Nothing really changed, though. I mean, I got to be a somewhat decent runner for a little bit there, learned that I loved whiskey and couldn’t stand tequila, I’ll be useful as hell if civilization comes to a screeching halt, and wow, I’ve got one hell of a diverse resume, but other than that? Still pissed.

I met a lot of other irate people along the way, though. That helped. The service is full of people who are looking to get as far away from the folks who did them wrong as possible, and eventually a good amount of us share our stories, in part or in full. I did a lot of listening. Like, a lot of listening. People tell me their stories, I don’t know what that’s about, I have one of those faces, but it’s an honor to listen. The details are always different and we all take it in different ways, but it’s all the same, too: we came from places with holes in them, places that have something missing, whether it was compassion or money or people or affection or sanity or safety or yeah, all of the above.

I’d been meditating for years and years when I started putting that together— that all of our hurts are both somewhat individual and also not all that unique, which I found oddly comforting. (When “my family sucks” is a secret, these sorts of things can seem like a revelation.) I’d had a counselor in middle school who taught me very basic mindfulness meditation techniques, breath awareness, that sort of thing, and while I’d been expanding on that I hadn’t strayed too far. It wasn’t until I started doing metta work that I started making any progress on my problems with anger, though. Metta helped a lot, because it walks around a version of forgiveness that I find acceptable, and it exercises compassion, which, when you’re that angry, you really need. In metta, you start off meditating on the idea of sending compassion to yourself: “May I be happy, may I be safe, may I be well,” then work through someone you love, then someone you don’t really know… and then someone who challenges you. You finish by taking it out to the world at large.

Ahhh, but that “someone who challenges you” part. That’s the athletic bit.

Look, for beginners I sometimes skip that piece, because most students aren’t ready for it yet. I’ve had students burst into tears doing this practice in full; when I first started teaching, I didn’t know any better and would do it all and would have at least one student weeping, nearly every class, no exaggeration. It’s just too much to sit with for some folks, and having done it on the regular for years now, I get that so hard. Sitting brings up some serious stuff, stuff you have to deal with both while you’re sitting and afterward. That stuff can be revelatory, game- changing. That doesn’t mean it’s always fun.

You get good at compassion, though, and you get good at letting go. You get good at wishing people well and letting them loose in the world again, and that’s important, because a big part of rage is holding on. And you get good at extending kindness to yourself, too, and given how brutal anger is— how it can tear at a body— trust me, you need that.

It hasn’t just been metta that’s helped. That’d be too easy, right? It’s amazing stuff, and it’s one- half of the equation for me, but that didn’t do it alone. It’s also been about surrender.

It seems obvious, but most of us miss this in the rush of emotion: people are going to be themselves, and that really is their prerogative. (Who else immediately began to hear Bobby Brown?) I needed to surrender to the idea that people are going to do what they are going to do, that they are going to hurt me, anger me, that they have hurt me, that those injuries cannot be fixed, and that in the end, nothing can be done for or with it. Surrender is both a liberating and horrifying concept: we people hate the idea of not being able to control everything, but giving up the idea of trying to run the show is a damned good thing.

I am 100% responsible for my own words and actions and so is everyone around me. I can’t–– and shouldn’t try to— control the people around me, even when they are behaving poorly, hurting me, or working against their best interests, and part of that fight is frequently about control. See my side. Fix this. Make it right. Apologize. Stop being an ass. I can advise, I can disengage, I can call bullshit when I see it, but other than that, I find it’s best to regard other people almost the same way as I see forces of nature. I’m not responsible for them or their behavior. Other people will do whatever they’re going to do; they will follow their core natures (just as I will follow mine) and if that’s not working out for you, for whatever reason, it’s important to see that, acknowledge it, and make a plan. This isn’t a judgment on you or them: it’s merely seeing the world as it actually is rather than the way you wished it would be.

Easier said than done, I know. I’m not doing to lie or sugarcoat it: this process is difficult and it hurts. It’s also worth it. Look, I’m talking about a 20- year process on my end, although really, most of this work has been in the last 10, and the biggest push has been in the last 6. I know some of what I’m writing about here sounds like woo- woo mumbo- jumbo to some folks, but it does work, and while a great deal of it is based in traditional Buddhism, when I ran the bulk of this post by Sam, he cheerily summed it up by telling me that Taylor Swift said all of my surrender paragraph much more snappily in Shake It Off. I could have shaken him at the time, but I’m working on that, don’tcha know.

Okay— there it is, my wordglut on anger. Have your own advice? I’m sure my friend would love to hear it— leave something in the comments! I’m off to work on patterns and think about something other than being angry for a while.

on snow days, disability ethics, and a secret

My deck is a lost cause.

My deck is a lost cause.

We finally got that Big Snow that our strangely gentle summer had promised us. Seven and a half inches, folks- more in north city. Anyone who’s tried navigating a Baltimore side- street after a major storm knows what today looks like; we’re snowed in, drinking cocoa and watching movies all day. For all the weather- related complaining I do about Maryland— and I’ll kvetch with the best ex- pat New Englanders about Maryland’s inability to handle winter— there’s something to be said for a snow day, and whenever we get more than five inches, that’s what we do here. My Up North people are shaking their heads as they read this, I know, and that’s cool— I get it— but hey, we don’t get this very often, I’m into it when it comes around.

It’s funny; I was just in Connecticut for Friendsmas in late January, right before the first of a few blizzards they’ve gotten. About six inches of snow fell the evening that I arrived in this one- stoplight country town out in way, way, forgotten eastern CT— you have no idea, there are goats in these folks’ backyard, it’s like that, just bliss— and still, when I woke up at about 8 the next morning, the roads were beautifully plowed. I’d forgotten about that efficiency. I mean, I didn’t really forget, obviously, but having lived away for so long it was a bit of a shock; Maryland doesn’t need that level of preparation, so we always take forever to get our act together when we get a real winter.

So I’m home, in that not- going- anywhere- unless- I- want- to- trudge- down- to- the- convenience- store kind of way, which means we can spend a little time together, and that’s pretty rad.

I’ve been thinking a lot about some advice I gave to Kiddo recently. It’s been bothering the hell out of me, so we’re going to parse it out together, okay? She’s been looking for work for a while now, and we were talking about whether or not she should disclose her disability when it came up on some of the applications she was filling out. (She has a mild mobility impairment and uses a cane at times. At times this is an invisible disability and other times she’s obviously impaired.) Some applications do ask this; they’ll state that applicants can receive priority hiring or accommodations in the workplace. It isn’t illegal, as long as it isn’t overtly used as an elimination technique. This is where things get tricky, though; we all know that the law and real life are two separate things, right? When it comes to the ADA, this divide can be really, really apparent.

I’m not happy with what I told her, which was not to disclose. Not because there’s ever any reason to be ashamed of being disabled, but because we still live in this society that reads the word “disabled” and only sees limitations. And sure, absolutely, there are a few “can’t”s in her life. She isn’t carrying around anything over 75 pounds any time soon- her hips aren’t going to allow that. She’s not walking 6 miles a day, either, but you know, that’s really not a requirement for most of the jobs she’s applying for, either, so I still don’t see the point of disclosing. And if we’re being frank, pretty much everyone out there— disabled or not— has a couple of “can’t”s that they wouldn’t overtly state on most job applications/ resumes. (An example of one of my “can’t”s that does get put out there on the regular, to my perpetual shame: “Can you speak Spanish?” Of all the languages I’ve studied, I still can’t speak the one that would be most useful in my own country.)

It’s about getting your foot in the door. It isn’t as though your potential employer is getting less than they were looking for; you’re working around stereotypes and discrimination. It isn’t precisely honest, and that bothers me in a tiny, itch- in- the- back- of- my- brain way— I have a bit of an all- or- nothing policy when it comes to that. You have to get the interview, though, or you just don’t get the chance to prove your potential value, and they’ll see the cane once you’re there.

It gets a little dicier, I think, when the disability is invisible- if she’s having a no- cane day, or in my case, when you just can’t see it most of the time. I don’t consider my condition anyone’s business but my own, and I do keep it to myself until I want to disclose, if I want to disclose— and if I feel safe disclosing. That’s an important point, too; there are workspaces that aren’t safe for that sort of thing, so if you can keep it to yourself, if you have the kind of disability that is invisible, sometimes it’s just safer to keep quiet. That’s so complicated; having the option to request accommodation or understanding, but opting out for safety’s sake. I know the law, but I know real life, too, and like I said: the two don’t always hang out. Sure, there are lawyers, and that’s great, but court cases take a while, and jobs are hard to find these days.

I have a sense of guilt about having the privilege to hide; isn’t there a responsibility to push more people to accept the disabled? (Of course there is, that isn’t even a real question, obviously.) And I want to be out there, fighting this garbage, because it is garbage, just so much trash, being done by trash, by people with trash in their heads. Right now I’m hungry, though, and feeling a fierce responsibility to pay my mortgage; there’s that, too. This is how it keeps happening. This is how it goes.

It’s frustrating. I’m out about my MS in one of the places I’m working right now, and it’s come up in conversation with a few co- workers (but never management, and I don’t intend to bring it up with them) at another. Still, it’s not like I’m exactly in hiding, you know? I keep myself on part- time/ freelance everywhere and jealously guard that status in order to stay free for medical appointments and potential relapses- and to maintain some privacy about my actual medical condition. It’s a way of living, and it works, and I’m actually pretty happy in it, but it isn’t a lifestyle that’s open to everyone, and the idea of keeping quiet about it— sort of hiding the fact that I’m a part of a community that I love, honor and respect— strikes me as both dishonest to myself and disrespectful to the community itself. I don’t just want to own that part of my life & self; I want to be working for the community. How do I do that and still make sure I’m covering the groceries— and encourage my kid to do the same?

(An aside: I am so very not in love with working for other people, y’all. Nothing that I am doing is at all bad or unpleasant— I like quite a bit of it— but there are also things like this, which is a bag of suck.)

In the end, she doesn’t have many options: her disability is pretty obvious many days. She has one of my canes— a handmade wooden number, made out of reclaimed wood, sleek but still just a wee bit twee, so it’s stylishly obvious, at least. For me, the answer is the same: just get my foot in doors and then own my MS so folks can get an idea of what that can look like. Take at least that risk, and all that. It’s never been a frightening idea until now, even though I’ve actually lost a job over having MS before (hey, yoga— but that’s a different story for a different day). I just— hate the idea of needing to keep your mouth closed to get that foot in the door. I can’t help but see it as a reality, but it hits me wrong, on all levels.

I’m scattered, and angry, I think, for feeling pushed into this place— she really needs work, the economy still stinks— even here where there are jobs— she needs to be given a good example, I’m trying to raise a good little angry crip, she’s a punk like her mother and I want to keep that going but all of that needs balance. I’d prefer my ethics with a side dose of “can still pay student loans”, but I’ll take a somewhat clear heart over feeling like a traitor any day, I think.

In other, brighter news, I have a secret, folks. It’s a pretty awesome secret, and I’m really looking forward to sharing it— soon— but it isn’t quite time yet, and just between you and me, I’m really enjoying the act of just having a solidly nice something to hold and keep and muse over. It’s been a little while; this is really, really nice. Don’t worry; I can never keep my own secrets for very long. I’ll be back and spilling the beans in no time.

on getting back into it, Imposter Days, strangers and the simply strange

I miss writing here. I keep meaning to- I write such long entries in my head, on scraps of paper, in my notebooks, but they never seem to make it over here lately. There are a few Reasons lately; I’ve been hibernating, mostly, fomenting, in retreat.

After Rhinebeck I began to expand; things started making a lot more sense, coming together. That was good, but I still haven’t had much I wanted to share. And I still have some weirdness about certain folks who are following this blog, which- well, that’s the nature of the beast, of course: it’s all out for public consumption and I’ve been a public person for some years now, but it’s more really about the nature in which they follow, which can only be classified as strange and a little obsessive. Writing about it won’t exactly help, but seeing as some of these people haven’t been in touch with me for decades, others a least a year or so, I’m not sure how it can harm, either. I have an estranged relative who is hitting this site about daily, sometimes multiple times a day— regardless of a dearth of updates. That’s actually the eeriest part: the unflagging persistence despite my lack of posts. On some level I’d been holding out, hoping they’d give up and let it go, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen any time soon.

I’m tempted to squirrel my life away out of pique, out of anger: this is mine, this is ours, you have no right to it, you kicked us out, so keep out, fuck off, go away. You never wanted me, or us, in the first place; why are we so fascinating now, when we’ve stopped knocking on your doors?  I was tempted to pull stakes and start somewhere new, just let this site archive, or even drop writing online altogether.

Here’s the rub, though: I believe in communication. I believe in the power and importance of the shared experience. I remember how many lines of communication opened up when I shared my time in Afghanistan, and damn, talking about MS, pain and chronic illness has been strange at times but there is a clear need for that kind of writing; I’ve met so many disability advocates, talked to newly diagnosed patients, and been given the opportunity to share information and experiences with other folks living similar lives, and their caretakers. Writing about MMJ has helped raise awareness; sharing my love of textile arts helped grow my community there. It seems small- and it is- but it still matters.

This has been my spot online for a long time, and I miss being here. I’m not sure I really care whether or not more strangers know the things I’m thinking or knitting or spinning or photographing or yelling about in the streets, really. It was bothering me for a minute until I realized no, wait: These people don’t know me any better than any other reader who happens across me on the internet- they’ve just met me face- to- face, and not for years in some cases. What’s the difference between them and some rando in Abu Dhabi landing on my page? Hell, compared to a lot of the folks who read/ comment, they’re behind the curve. Forget it: let’s just let it ride.

I can’t promise that I’ll be here a ton more. I want to make that commitment- I want to make high- minded plans that involve scheduled posts, lists, photos, all of that, but the truth is that I am busy beyond all belief these days, reshaping my life. I have intentions, though, and they are earnest and good, and they include a desire to be here more. I don’t know how much that counts for, but I’m trying to keep it straightforward & true.

I’m teaching again and I’ll be posting some about that in the near future (see? An almost guaranteed post!), I’d forgotten how much I enjoy the act of teaching itself, regardless of the material. I mean: I knew I enjoyed teaching, but I forgot the depth of pleasure it gives. I’ve also begun recording some guided meditations- metta, yoga nidra, general relaxation exercises- and that’s a bit surreal, too. Recording & editing audiobooks was one thing; sure, okay, that’s my voice, I’m over it. Hearing myself as a meditation teacher, though, I don’t know. I’d been doing that for years but never had the chance to hear how I sounded, and now I’m terribly self- conscious, which I need to get over right away. (Or I need to stop doing my own editing. This is probably a wiser option, but I’d then need to work up the nerve to hand over my un- edited audio to someone else and HAHAHAHAHAHA, like that’s ever going to happen, so I’m just going to learn to get over myself instead.)

It’s good for me, actually- feeling that awkward, editing my own work in that way. I’m so used to editing my own writing painlessly, going over paragraphs and tossing out clunky sentences, even entire pages that I hate and barely wincing. Oooof, that is terrible, I can think, and it hardly stings. I can do that again. It’s not the end of the world. There are so many words! Sort of like this entry— not one of my best, it’s rambly and long and all over the place, just a catch- everybody- up kind of thing, I’m not at all worried about it. I can write so many things, everything I write doesn’t have to be The Most Amazing Thing Ever Set To Paper. When it’s my voice, though- audio work? If it isn’t perfection JUST. LET. ME. DIE. I want the floor to open up and swallow me whole.

I don’t get it. Hey, I’m doing something sort of- kind of new, so hey, if I’m not 100% awesome at it, I SUCK I SUCK I SUCK I SHOULDN’T BE DOING THIS WHY AM I DOING THIS. Do we ever stop being in high school? Amanda Palmer knows what I’m talking about. (Hat tip: so does Cacie. I’ve been having some serious Imposter Days, but I’m working it out.) It’s good to be this uncomfortable, though. Sam makes fun of me because I enjoy feeling uncomfortable every so often; it keeps me flexible and on my toes. There’s something to be said for feeling really out of place and uncertain— it makes me look for new solutions, better ideas, different approaches. I make other things on those days, or I push myself to power through the work, or both.

So— I hope to write here more. And I hope to be a bit more present online in general, when I’m not working a part- time job, freelancing (there’s the photo gig, the audiobooks, the meditation recordings, the meditation teaching, pretty soon yoga teaching, occasional knitting/ spinning/ dyeing teaching, designing knitwear, and some odd making- of- things, too), and generally trying to have a life, as well. It’s hectic, but not as bad as it looks when it’s written out— strangely, it’s still more restful than my life was 8 months ago, and that’s really saying something. It’s interesting to be on the hustle again- I’d forgotten this feeling. It’s good, you know? Really, solidly good. I know it’s transitional- I’m working toward some pretty solid goals, there’s a well defined 18- month- plan here— but ooof, I’d missed the rush of this kind of living. Maybe I’ll be back in a few days to talk a little about that.

Be well, all. I’ve missed you. Let’s talk soon.

 

 

in which Rhinebeck is magic, but we already knew that

Rhinebeck was the weekend before last, and it was glorious, folks.

I mean, just look at this. It was ridiculous.

I mean, just look at this. It was ridiculous.

Sam and I went as civilians this year, our first time ever; we’d only gone as vendors before, which means we’d never really properly seen the show. We rented a house with our friends at Cooperative Press (with bonus Stefanie!) again- sort of a Rhinebeck tradition at this point, and a big part of the joy of the trip, too. There’s something that’s just deep- down fun about an annual, get- away, grown- up sleep- over party, and that’s what this feels like, each year.

This photo is missing Shannon, because she's the one who took it, but it's of almost the whole house. We should have grabbed a stranger!

This photo is missing Shannon, because she’s the one who took it, but it’s of almost the whole house. We should have grabbed a stranger!

I’d headed out to New York with some hesitation this time around: I was worried it might be painful. I dawdled getting packed, which (understandably) annoyed Sam, and it set a tone to the beginning of the trip that was less than pleasant, but by the time we were halfway there, I’d begun to release a lot of my anxiety. If it hurts, that’s okay, I thought. I can be with that. It’s part of this process.

It was good, though. Solidly, heartily good. I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was bittersweet; I did miss the excitement of being a vendor, absolutely. But we helped CP set up and tear down, which made things feel better, somehow, and seeing our very good friends Dragonfly Fibers in our old spot made me feel so happy. Watching Kate and Nancye gain that dazed but joyful Rhinebeck- vendor glow as the weekend progressed was both terrific and a little frightening; I remember that feeling. It was so exciting and so draining, all at once.

Which brings me to the most important part of the whole weekend: realizing, on a real gut level, that I had made the right choice this summer.

I knew, cognitively, that I was doing the right thing in retiring from dyeing. You know how that works, though, right? How a body can know a thing is true, but not really feel it to be true, deep down in their gut, where it really matters? Once it was all done, I’d keep wondering: what if I had just tried LDN, or what if I’d just tried to stick it out through August (it was a very mild summer for Baltimore, after all), or what if I’d tried switching to the other oral medication, or what if… It’s the “what- if”s that will kill you, I swear. They’re brutal. They come for you in the middle of the night, and they just won’t leave you alone.

Saturday, I left the show an hour early; I was completely exhausted from being there. It was shocking, really; I hadn’t done anything but catch up with friends, eat French artichokes, pet some sheep, browse the barns, the normal things, but I was worn down in that painful, exhausted- down- to- your- bones way that I associate with- well, chronic illness or being the parent of a very small child. I hated heading back to the house early, but it was also a strange relief: now I knew. It sucked, and made me sad, but also: it was an established fact. If I couldn’t manage this, just the act of just wandering the fairgrounds as a civvie, then no— working the festival as a vendor would have been completely out of my reach. Hell, I’ve actually been resting for the last six weeks (I really did listen to my doctor, which is remarkable), so making it up to this point might not have even happened, if we’re looking at this with a truly critical eye. It was a confirmation, and one I really needed: I feel better than I did this summer, and I still couldn’t have done this thing, and that’s okay.

I’ve been in this holding pattern, waiting for my strength to come back, for these muscles to stop the whatever it is that they’re doing and be something approaching average again for far too long. That might happen, but my body has felt this way for about a year now, longer than I’ve had most of my other symptoms, which come and go; it also might not. This could be my new normal. MS is funny like that. Not funny: ha- ha; more like funny: I keyed your car and pissed in the gas tank, but you get the idea. Being at Rhinebeck this year, in an entirely new context, that was important, and I’m happy we didn’t skip going. I’m extra glad it happened as soon after the closure of the studio as it did.

It was different, being there as a designer and editor. Really, really different. I got to see things, for one. Assess trends, shop a little, eat, all of that. And actually spend time with people, which was good. I didn’t get to see everyone I wanted to- I missed out on a few important folks, actually (Lisa R, Penny S-G, how did we miss each other!? My stupid phone died on Sunday, to my absolute heartbreak) but I did get to talk with lot of the people I wanted to see, and that was wonderful— and not the quickie conversations that I would have needed to have in the booth, either. I met with many of the yarnies I wanted to see, started plotting for the next year (I have Ideas, obviously), started making my list of colors and bases for upcoming designs, and overall realized that while not at all like my life as a dyer, this was all right. No, better than all right: this was solidly, happily good.

That’s what I’ve needed, as I’ve been grieving over these last couple of months. Closure, sure, which Rhinebeck provided in a neat and tidy way, but also the real and solid feeling that I had made the correct decision, difficult as it was, and some sense of what things would be like, moving forward. The reassurance that I would be happy, in this new existence: I needed that, in a serious way. I’m still not in love with all of this, but that’s all right- I don’t have to be. That would be a lot to expect at this point, honestly. Being in a place of acceptance and surrender is so much better than where I was before; it positions me to create a new way of living that I can fall in love with, instead of just mourning a life I can’t have any more.

So, Rhinebeck: always surprising, always magic. I should have known that would be what brought me back to myself. It’s a bit like waking up, like surfacing after a dive. I’m sorry I’ve been so absent- not just from the blog, but from just about everything lately. To say that I’ve been “in retreat” would be putting it mildly, but I think I’m coming to the end of that now, and that’s a goodness.

The annual sheep photo, because OBVIOUSLY.

The annual Rhinebeck sheep photo, because OBVIOUSLY.

in which there is a sense of place

I've got it bad: this is hanging in our kitchen.

I’ve got it bad: this is hanging in our kitchen.

One of the things I’ve been asked most frequently in the last few weeks is whether or not we will stay in Baltimore. In Maryland at all, too, which is odd enough, but in Baltimore specifically, which— well, wow, folks. I mean, leaving hadn’t even crossed our minds.

The short answer is that we’re staying in Baltimore because Hopkins, because house, but also: my heart, you guys, my heart. I know that a lot of people just don’t get that, especially as I’m neither a Baltimore nor a Maryland native, and I see that, too. I’ve spent about nineteen years bouncing around, looking for a home, though, and I think I finally found it here. Sam can testify to what it takes to get me to commit, the poor guy: it’s damned hard to get this girl to set down roots. I didn’t ever want to be “from” anywhere ever again. This little city started working on me almost right away, and I fought it for a while before starting to let her in.

It’s different now. If you ask me where I’m from, I’ll say the word “Baltimore” with a slight reverse nod, a forward tipping of my chin, almost daring you to make that Wire joke: go ahead, I know it’s coming most of the time. I like to lob it out there like the soft grenade it seems to be; there’s always a reaction— what will it be this time? Like anyone living in any city, you’re just waiting to hear which cultural stereotype might come back to you once you’ve tossed out the name of your place: will it be John Waters, The Wire, crab cakes, or the Harbor? None of that comes close to getting to the heart of this place, though, and that’s what’s tricky about these conversations.

Baltimore Love Project, by Joe W., Wall 4 SOWEBO / Hollins Market

Baltimore Love Project, by Joe W., Wall 4
SOWEBO / Hollins Market

When I’m back in the Northeast, I explain Baltimore to folks in this way: Baltimore is to D.C. as Boston is to New York. It seems to crack a bit of their misunderstandings, but it’s still off- point, and it misses a ton of the cultural feel of these places, because of course Baltimore is not Boston, and D.C. is not New York. It’s a matter of relationships, though, that I’m trying to get across; size, status, sense, feeling, relative cost of living, those sorts of things.

In truth, though, what it comes down to is that I just plain relate to this place. Baltimore feels like me, like a place where I belong. Baltimore is a solidly blue- collar port city with an intellectual heart, immeshed in the arts and full of damned good food. Plenty of folks who’ve never really been here will talk smack about it, mostly based on things they’ve heard or seen on TV— and some who’ve been here, too, that’s true, too— but it has music and architecture and parks and people and kindness and goddamn, it can be so good here. It’s diverse as hell and scuffed around the edges and yes, you do have to be a little tough to live here- it’s a city, and that’s city life anywhere- but if you’re willing to settle in, it’ll give and give and give. It’s wee but mighty, and damn if that hasn’t been what I’ve tried to make my life about; and on many levels, so much of this is how I see myself.

It isn’t the only city I love: hello, Salt Lake City, Chicago, Doha, Columbus, Hartford, Atlanta, Boston, Knoxville, Cambridge, London, Portland! I haven’t forgotten any of you— you’re all still in my heart. It’s just… you know. You aren’t Home.

I drive through her streets and sing her songs on the top of my wizened little lungs and I just love this place, the little city of my heart. It took me forever to find my home, my place; I can’t imagine leaving it now for any reason. Even suggestions that we might look into the County seem somewhat silly to me; sure, there are perfectly nice places in out that way, but they just aren’t for me, that’s the thing.

We could head to New England; my insurance would get me into a good medical place in CT, I know that, and Hartford has heart, as Chi reminds me. The Pacific Northwest has always grabbed me, too, ever since SERE, and much more deeply since Sock Summit (I miss that show!); there are some good medical centers out that way, as well. It’d place us closer to my dad & step- mom, which I’d like. Better weather out that way, that’s for sure. I just don’t see it, though. We miss the UK, too, but ooof, emigration, I just can’t begin to imagine that, and that’s just too far from everyone I love. I don’t see us in any of these places, and I don’t see me there, either. I mean, I can see myself anywhere; that’s part and parcel of having wandered for so long and having gotten good at it, but having finally found a sense of belonging somewhere, and of belonging to it: this is new, and fierce, and for the first time in my life I want to plant my feet, and that seems important.

So for better or worse, Baltimore. I’m into it. The weather isn’t perfect, but if there’s one thing years of traveling has taught me it’s that every place has its drawbacks, and that’s what climate control is for, after all. It’s still strange to realize I’ve claimed a place, but that happened a few years ago, and I’m coming around to the idea. I used to be so against the idea of becoming fixed in space. I’m still not sure it’s the best thing, but I’m coming to like it— to love it, even— and I think this place had a lot to do with that. Home. What a novel and lovely thought.

in which there is an announcement, and everything is terrible

My heart.

My heart.

So if you haven’t seen it yet, I made a pretty enormous announcement over on the shop blog. Some of you don’t even know there is a shop blog, so hey, it’s cool if you didn’t know.

Bodies suck, folks. 

Right. Right: I’m still kind of stuck on that last sentence: bodies suck. Bodies suck, bodies suck, bodies suck suck suck suck suck, goddamnit, I knew this would be hard, so hard, and even still: oh, to hell with this forever. As hard as I try, as much as I want to be kind and forgiving to this body, as much as I want it to be about this disease and not this body, I am so full of rage and loathing today. 

Today I admitted there was a thing I could not do because of my disease.

That’s not exactly true, because in actuality I admitted that a few weeks back, when we started Doing All Of The Things: this is a process, of course. Today I just started telling the world at large. It was actually harder to tell a few close friends, studio people, industry folks & family. 

I hate this. 

About a year ago- almost on the dot- I changed out my primary disease modifying medication from Copaxone to Gilenya in the hope that I might feel better overall and cut out my annual relapses. (I was also totally over shots, no lie.) I managed to avoid my annual relapse, but I didn’t get any better, which was disappointing. I had thought, last summer, that I had maybe another two years of dyeing in me, at most, so we began trying to adjust things in the business; moving to a more wholesale- based model and leaning more toward teaching. By early winter, though, it was becoming pretty clear that I wasn’t going to get that much time. 

I don’t know. I hunted down every option I could: I soft- fired my neuro, switched up a metric ton of meds, took on two different physical therapists, got in with the pain clinic (and god, I’ve been afraid of that forever), met with a bunch of new doctors, all trying to scare up some magical… something that would make my work possible. It seemed everyone I met with asked me the same set of questions, though. 

“Are you still working?”

Well, yeah.

“Full time?”

Of course.

“What do you do?”

And then I’d explain it to them, because almost no one does this work, and they’d look horrified, and we’d discuss Uhthoff’s Phenomenon, as though I didn’t know what that was, as though I hadn’t known what it was since I was diagnosed, which, incidentally, was right after I’d decided to open a business as a dyer. Because you know, life is funny that way. 

I was holding out, really, on meeting with my new neuro at the Hopkins MS Center. Surely they’d have my magical miracle. If there was pixie dust to be found, some sort of sciencey- wish- come- true potion, they’d have it, a combination of physical therapy, diet, drugs and mindset that could make this body just up and Do The Damn Thing, already. 

I spent about twenty minutes sobbing in my car after that appointment, obviously. It was over. 

———————————-

I grew up in a blue- collar family in New England. We saw the doctor once a year, unless one of us did something awful to ourselves, because doctors are expensive and there were four kids in our family. If we got a cold, or were otherwise unwell, my mother used a home remedy on us, or we were told to suck it up and move on. Rub some dirt in it, that sort of thing. This is pretty typical for folks who grew up in my socio- economic set: my husband grew up the same way, as did many of my friends at the time. I don’t subscribe to that theory these days, but I’ve also lucked into really, really good health insurance. That’s how it was, and given the circumstances? It made sense. 

I was the oldest, so I was also free labor a lot of the time. That’s also pretty normal for the oldest kid— Oldest Kids, chime in with me here: I’m not alone on this, right? I remember cutting back rosebushes, helping with the garden, painting fences, that sort of thing. You just help out, because you’re the biggest and you have the strongest back. 

Here’s the thing, though, about being broke and being free labor: sometimes, you felt like crap and you had to do things. Hard things. There wasn’t any option. Sometimes, your folks had just taken on this new place they were renting and it needed all this work before they could move in and you and your step- dad really needed to sand the floors and paint stuff and whatever and if you felt like hammered hell? Too bad, so sad. There wasn’t any money for a doctor and stuff just had to get done, so you just did it, and it got done. You had already learned not to even ask for a doctor. You just got up and did the thing. Broke folks all over the country are doing things like this- and a lot harder- every day.

When I was out in the world, I joined the service, and that’s a bit of a trip, too. If you’re in the military, there’s an assumption that if you’re in and you’re not on a pregnancy profile or 2 years away from retirement then you’re either perfectly capable to do any physical task assigned to you— you got into the service, after all!— or you must just not have enough drive to accomplish the task. Now, maybe it was a personal goal, like running a 5k; that’s a personal failing. No big, you’re just lazy. If it’s a professional goal, though, like meeting physical fitness standards, you’re a giant screw- up and it can impact your career; people would blow out knees over that sort of thing, sometimes because they came from backgrounds like mine. 

Between those two spaces, I picked up this idea that really, I could push this body to do just about anything I wanted it to if I only had enough desire, enough drive, enough want. I just needed determination and discipline; anything less was a personal failure. In actuality, it’s shocking what I have been able to bully this body into doing; equally shocking, of course, is the toll it has taken. I am falling apart, coming loose at the seams, and no one on my medical team is at all surprised, which is of course embarrassing as hell. I am not, it turns out, capable of bullying myself into submission forever. My body has turned on me, rebellious and angry; fair, as I’m angry at it for not playing the game I’d wanted, too. Are we at war now? I think it’ll win, which means no, not a war, or more accurately: perhaps we’ve been at war for years, I just didn’t consciously admit it, and now I’m waving the white flag. 

I’ve been bullishly pushing for so long, too long, and I need to stop. I don’t have much of a choice, which… hell. There is that. I don’t know what to do with that. I’ll just live with it, because it is unavoidable. 

———————————-

I don’t know what comes next. I have a plan, a small one, because I can’t seem to get my head too far around a life that doesn’t include this space, these people. I won’t be leaving the life (I think of it as The Life, for crying out loud): I’ll be doing some work for Cooperative Press, which is lovely, and bless them forever for taking me in. I’ll be writing patterns, too, of course. Just plain writing, I think: I see a lot of that. Narration, that’s in my future; I’ve done some commercials, a few small audiobooks, one so OMG terri-bad that I don’t even want to talk about it (except I kind of do, it’s hilarious and I’m really enjoying the superawful ones) and I’m in the middle of one now that’s pretty alright. That work is not only enjoyable but seems so funny to me after years of jokes from friends: “Sarah, do you know what you should do?”  Yeah, well- Jason, I’m doing it now. Meditation is probably an avenue for me, I think; I’m trained, and after over 20 years, I know a little about that, too. 

Rest, though, first. It’s a strange idea. I don’t know how to do that; I’ve never been any good at it. Even in the middle of relapses, Sam’s always needed to hide my laptop and devices from me; I am not good at not working. I want to create a Plan For How To Rest, that’s where I am with the idea of resting. I want a limitation on how long I rest, too; I’ve written my neuro, He Of The Diet Mountain Dew, to ask him how long of a recovery period he thinks I really, actually, seriously need. I am actually that idiotic, you guys. Here’s hoping I’ve learned a little, and can do better. 

Tonight, I’m going to curl up on my couch with my tiny dog, my giant dog, some tea, a giant piece of chocolate cake and my laptop and scroll through pictures of the last 2.5 years in the studio. Oh, we built a really amazing thing. I’m just not ready to stop being in this place, doing this thing with these people every damn day. I know it’s killing me and some days I just don’t care: I love it so damned much. I am going to miss this with every bit of my broken heart. 

on the woods, and finding peace

This is what the storm looks like so far. It's sort of promising, from my point of view.

This is what the storm looks like so far. It’s sort of promising, from my point of view.

We’re watching the weather lately to see if this hurricane/ tropical storm is going to affect us for the 4th, and I’m a little embarrassed to say that I’m the Scrooge who’s hoping it might put a small damper on the festivities. I’m not hoping that the fireworks will be cancelled altogether, but if it could just discourage the unofficial explosives that happen throughout the neighborhoods- the backyard pyrotechnics that freak out my elderly dog and give me a bit of the weirds, too-  I’d be okay with that. Better than okay: I’d be happy. I know that “blowing stuff up, sometimes under varying degrees of intoxication” will be the theme of the weekend no matter what actually comes out of the sky this Friday, but it’d be nice if the 4th itself was a bit more subdued, as that’s always the worst day.

It’ll be so good to have a long weekend, though. I love that the 4th fell on a Friday this year; we can hide out and get some much needed- rest. No trunk shows this weekend! Just cooking, knitting, organizing, nesting, and maybe some writing. Snuggling my big old Rottweiler, who gets so nervous about fireworks sneaked over the Pennsylvania border, and trying to convince her to go outside a little- that, too, which is always an adventure. Poor Lilu, she’s a good old girl. 

Every year around the 4th, we think about heading for the hills. We talk about taking off for Canada, maybe, or a cabin out in the woods, just hermit- ing away, campfires and books and no connectivity, my favorite sort of vacation. We never do it, which always surprises us, and I’m still not sure why; possibly because the 4th itself seems to surprise us each year. It doesn’t really register on my list of holidays, which might just be denial- if I don’t think about it it doesn’t exist?- or maybe, because we don’t celebrate it, it doesn’t really ping on our radar. Either way, disappearing for that week- or even just a few days- would be a spectacular piece of self- care that we really should prioritize. I think next year we’ll toss that cabin idea up to a few vet friends and see how it shakes out. Besides, I miss the woods.

I’ve been sneaking off to the woods- or approximations thereof- a fair bit lately. Baltimore has all these lovely green spaces tucked in the middle of the city, and stopping off to take a moment in Gwynns Falls Park or Druid Hill gives me a moment of peace. I love these places year- round, but in the summer there’s this blissful coolness to the canopy and a very specific, heated- earth smell that I’ve always loved. It makes these places feel secret, hidden, and special in a way that they somehow miss in the other months. My family still refers to me as a city mouse, and they’re right- I am that, and my mistrust of small towns still runs deep. I prefer a bevy of resources. I miss the quiet, though, and I miss spaces like these, full of trees and moss and fallen logs. My cities need to be of a certain size— large enough to have Parks Of Some Substance. I can’t do the large- scale hikes I’d like to take on- I still have aspirations regarding the Appalachian Trail- but I love having these quiet, sweet pockets of woods tucked into my city, waiting for us. I can duck into a park, pull out a book and some water, just hide away for an hour or two in order to find my center again. 

I keep thinking that if I’m clever enough to know that I require an hour or so of quiet in the trees throughout my week, I should be clever enough to take a few days out of my year, too, and run off to a cabin in the woods for the 4th, as well. Why don’t I just do the thing, then? Why do I just ignore it? Is it my trademark bullheadedness, my desire to just push through any emotional inconvenience and keep trucking forward? I don’t hide that the 4th bothers me; instead, I just ignore my own needs and move through this period of the year. It isn’t that big a deal. And it isn’t, but it’s unpleasant: less so, year by year, but why experience that unpleasantness at all when I could replace that with something calming, something potentially healing, something definitely better? Ach, but then I’d need to extend the effort, I suppose. 

Self- care isn’t always simple, you guys. Maybe next year I’ll be better at it. What was it I was saying a few entries ago, about hitting the age of adulthood and being, magically, an adult? I remember hitting specific age markers and thinking, This is it, now is when I will have gotten it… right? The more I talk to my older friends, the more I begin to realize that we never do really “get it”, though; we’re all still puzzling it out as we go. I used to find this so frustrating, but there’s a comfort in it now. We are all just sussing it out. We are all constantly getting better at this. We are all progressing. There is no end goal, no point at which we begin to stagnate, unless we allow it. There’s something really exciting about that thought, too. I’ll keep getting better at self- care. I’ll get better at everything, as long as I work at it. Oh, I like that set of thoughts very much. And maybe next year I’ll find that cabin, take that trip. Something more than a few stolen hours in the woods sounds very, very good. 

on crossing out of strange lands

 

I may write about her a wee bit on occasion, but showing her face is still a different matter.

I may write about her a wee bit on occasion, but showing her face is still a different matter.

Kiddo has been home for a little over six weeks now, and it’s begun to feel normal, which is wonderful and also strange. We’re a year into this college thing now, and it seems designed to keep everyone slightly off- kilter, which is not as unpleasant as that might sound. When she first left it was so disconcerting; there was a her- shaped hole in our lives, and we kept everything almost precisely the same for a time, just waiting to see how things felt before we made any changes. Later, we began to shift things around in our own lives— carefully moving our routines, seeing how things felt, trying on new habits and then throwing everything out and starting again from scratch. 

As soon as we started to feel somewhat settled with our new roles, she was home for Winter Break, which was gloriously long— about five weeks of family time. We nested and settled into our old familiar family patterns— wonderful, comforting, and absolutely bizarre, of course, as she’d just begun getting used to college, and we’d just begun getting used to life without her at home. She left again, and we got into the work of building a life with her at a small remove in a more serious way. We watched Hannibal  on Fridays and Walking Dead each Sunday together via frantic allcaps texts and meme wars. We found our own routines, over time, and it worked. 

The rearrangement when she comes home for the summer, that’s been odd; I hadn’t realized how quickly Sam and I became accustomed to this new way of living, and suddenly the house seems so much more full, so much brighter with her in it. We wake before she does, at 6 am (because we are old people who wake with the sun, as she likes to remind us) and the house seems quiet and a little too large, which is a funny thing to say about less than 1500 sq feet of house, but it’s true, too. It feels as though we are living two different lives; our quietly happy, just- the- two- of- us life, and a boisterous, joyfully laughing, all- three- of- us life, too. 

She is spending half- a- week house- sitting for a friend of ours, caring for cats and playing house with her boyfriend, which leaves us again playing Empty- Nesters. We quietly putter about, fail to remember how to cook for two, make up voices for our animals— oh, we’re those people, I’m not ashamed— and marvel again at the way our lives seem split in two. I like it, the unexpected switching- up of everything, the way I anticipate her arrivals, and of course we all know that in just a few years this will end, so there’s a preciousness to this, too; it’s like a weaning period, a titration. It’s good to have this period of adjustments, on both sides. 

The entire process of separation is a tricky one; we carefully look for the areas in which we’ve failed and try to correct now, and it’s bittersweet on all sides, because we all know what’s happening, of course. She’s working through some physical therapy for a hip/knee issue, nothing major but an uncomfortable inconvenience, and when I realized that she didn’t know exactly how to call in a doctor’s referral, I asked her to listen in while I made the call so that she could learn how to do this for herself in the future. It isn’t a big or difficult thing to do, but we’d never done this before— a total failing on our part. Managing insurance and getting the best care you can find, especially in a larger metropolis, that can be tricky. There are specific questions to be asked: is there public transport at this location, does this specialist actually specialize in my exact condition, what is the patient load like lately, how hard is it to secure follow- on appointments? Agh, I should have been all over this two years ago, damnit. 

In doing these things, we’re all conscious of this undercurrent of training: we are making sure you’re really ready, Kiddo. These are our Last Few Important Things. It isn’t a cut- off, by any means, but there are some Big Deal Lessons that we want to be sure we haven’t missed- the things that we felt stumped by when we were finally on our own, the things that the military either held our hands on or beat into our heads. It emphasizes the inevitable, though, and that’s painful, too. All three of us rebel a little over it at times. Separation isn’t as simple as it seems it should be, even when you know it isn’t forever. More of all that change business, I’m guessing— change being so good sometimes, keeping us flexible and pliant and mobile, and also afraid, and clinging, and worried about the future. 

I try not to write too much about Kiddo these days— it seems a little invasive, her being an adult now— but these relationship and how they evolve- and our family and how it has changed- these things are so key lately. This has been a source of endless fascination over the last year; it just keeps transforming- something relationships are always doing, of course, but lately with such breathtaking speed. She comes home from college with the smell of New England in her hair and full of so many new ideas and so much news and our lives are suddenly so full of her, her, and mostly only her. I mean, we’re doing other things, living our lives, working and knitting and dogs and friends and museums and concerts and books and all our normal middle- aged fun stuff, but mostly it’s just her. It’ll be interesting to see how these transitions work out over time. 

Change, as the theme of this year, is both frightening and fascinating; I’m much more into the idea of transformation over a gradual period, but life has its own way. This part— this piece of change, and how it’s happening to the three of us— I’m enjoying very much. I’d been so worried over it a year ago, having no frame of reference, and I still fret at times, because the unknown can be a worrisome place, but it seems surer now. We have language for what this looks like, which mistakes we make, how we correct; we have procedures and in-jokes and our-places. This isn’t Terra Incognita anymore. 

 

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