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 losing and regaining the thread

 

Adipose toy and ball of brown wool yarn.

speaking of smaller things

 

I was at Homespun Yarn Party last month and someone told me I should write here more often.

Boof.

I agree, though. I should. It’s good practice, it’s good for me, and apparently there’s some value to others in it. I enjoy the conversations that are generated in various spots by some of these posts. And it’s funny: I frequently start entries all the time— in my head, on my phone, scribbled off on teeny tiny bits of paper that end up wadded in my pockets, only to be found months later and puzzled over. When did I write this? I’ll think, smoothing out wrinkles, trying to read the fuzzed- out pencil. It’s almost always pencil; so inconvenient, but I like the way it always works, and the way it bites into the paper.

It’s hard, though. So much of what’s happening right now affects me but it isn’t mine, if you know what I mean. It’s all indirect. Without ownership, I don’t feel comfortable commenting on it or even on my feelings around it. Kiddo being off in college, my mother- in- law’s illness, the issues in Kiddo’s boyfriend’s life, how my husband deals with his mom’s illness, none of that belongs to anyone but those folks. My reactions to those things? Yeah, that’s all mine, but in sharing that, I share them, and— yeah, it’s okay to do that in passing, but I’m not down with me getting into the nitty- gritty in public. You do you, no judgment, but I’ve got to do me.

All of that’s a pretty huge section of my internal life these days, though, so… I don’t know. Every time I sit down to write, this all just seems to come up. I mean, here I am, talking about it, right? They’re not the only things in my life by a long stretch, but they sure are the biggest ones, and it’s hard at times to see anything but the big things. I’m losing my ability to draw down, surely. Getting caught up. It’s inevitable to some degree, but I’ve also allowed it. I haven’t fought it for a while; for a period, it wore us both out, definitely, but realignment is certainly in order, and I’m trying.

Back to the smaller things, then. It isn’t as though we can ever forget these big things- god, they’re ever- present, it’s not as though they’re going away- but back to my mindfulness, quiet, and seeking. I simply lost my thread again, that’s all. It’s so easy to drop, but never hard to find again. How do I forget this so easily, and so frequently? It’s been mindfulness and the small things that has always saved me and kept me balanced.

When this happens— when I “lose the thread”— there’s always this urge to beat myself up over it. The “How can I be so ridiculous?” refrain seems to be pretty common for everybody at some point. I try to give it as little energy as possible, but it never fully goes away, and I do think the thought merits a small amount of impassive analysis: How, really, did I get here? I let meditation become less of a priority. I stopped really looking around me and started powering through my life. I started using old “tools” from my life in corporate work to get through challenging situations- like skimping on sleep, a thing I can do for a while but which makes me miserable.

Cool! I can do better. Unhealthy habits like those can be dropped, and I’m pretty clear on how to fill the gaps. It’s funny how approaching the question without judgment makes finding those issues— Where am I going off- track? makes fixing them so much easier— Right, I’ve really got to pay more attention to the minute- by- minute of my days, I’m missing everything. Nothing is ever so far gone it can’t be put right again. There’s no use beating your head against the wall.

So I’m back at it: sleep, meditation, blogging, crafting for fun, seeing people in my spare time, paying attention. Slowing down. All that good business. Do you remember when you were a kid and thought you’d hit some magic age when you’d be done, set, complete as a grownup? NO MORE GROWING UP FOR THIS HUMAN TO DO. Almost as though you’d finished cooking, like a turkey or a beef Wellington? Yeah, me too. Surprise!

in which we talk about breathing

handknits in the studio window

handknits in studio window

 

It’s been stressful, of course. Isn’t it always? Who doesn’t have stress? It’s a part of living. Me, I’m trying to get the studio ready for people. People, everybody. Like, John Q. Public levels of people. We’ve begun having Knit Nights, which are really just Craft Nights (I should start calling it that instead, maybe?) every Wednesday evening, which was a HUGE THING for me: what if they hated how industrial the space is? (They didn’t. It’s a seriously cool space.) Also: it’s my super- special safe space. Opening it up to everyone on the regular— it gave me the equivalent of emotional hives, I guess. I avoided this for so long for exactly that reason, almost hoarding the space, which is just silly. THIS IS WONDERFUL. I NEED TO SHARE. Sharing is caring, etc, etc, it’ll all be okay. And it was!

Now, we’re putting together classes. We have knowledge, and people want to learn! Why not, right? Oh, yeah: THE EPIC LEVELS OF WORK INVOLVED IN PUTTING TOGETHER CLASSES, PROBABLY? Possibly that. Almost certainly that. But to hell with it! CAUTION, MEET WIND.

Oh, god.

Let’s stop thinking about our stress. It just makes things worse. Let’s talk about coping. I’m crap at self- care, but this year I’m trying to make it priority.

One of my best friends is moving back to Maryland soon. It’s a gift, it really is; it came from out of the blue, a text: “How about a late Christmas present?” Indeed, sir. He and I were in Afghanistan together, in the DoD before that, and stationed together in the UK, way back when we were first coming up; he’s another safe places for me, and I’ll be glad to have him back. I find that lately when I’m stressed out I’ll go back to that moment of sitting in the car, that second when my phone dinged in my hand and that text came through, the sheer brilliant shot of happiness that I felt in that moment: my friend was coming home. Oh, this.

I don’t much care for visualizations, overall. (Allow me this break, it all circles back, I promise.) They tend to make me uncomfortable. I have no idea what that’s all about, but when I’m in a class, or doing continuing ed as a teacher and it comes up, I just get a case of the weirds- it doesn’t work for me most of the time. There’s something about someone else guiding my imagination- it puts me off. (Which, by the way, is a HILARIOUS thing for a yoga nidra guide/ teacher to say.)

But so many of my students like and benefit from them, and there are a few I use every so often. That friend who’s coming back to Maryland? When we were in working in the DoD together he taught me a trick that I think had been circulated through our group of friends as a survival technique, a way to make it through the daily cubicle grind and political labyrinth of government work. It isn’t always bad- don’t let me give you that impression- but when it is bad (say, just as fiscal year comes to a close, for example), it can be pretty tough.

So when I’m feeling ragged and I only have a moment or two to decompress, I’ll lock myself into a bathroom stall, lean against the door, close my eyes, and run this visualization, real quick: Breathe in pink, breathe out green.

It sounds so, so cheesy, I know. I KNOW. I mean, that’s some seriously dippy, dorky woo right there. I am not a fan of woo, either. Also? IT WORKS. It really, really does. Ten deep- breath repetitions of that later, I wouldn’t call myself 100% soothed, but I’m generally in a much better, calmer, more “me” sort of place. Part of it is physiological: deep breathing, it works every time. Bringing more oxygen into your system helps: we tend to tighten up and breathe from the chest when we’re under stress, but it’s also helping us access the parasympathetic division of our autonomous nervous system. This is the part of our nervous system that controls our heart rate, the dilation of our pupils and blood vessels, and can bring down many of the “fight or flight”, panicky- feeling, or overall stress responses from the other half of our CNS, the sympathetic nervous system.

Deep breathing alone doesn’t usually do the trick fully, though: it has to be focused deep breathing, and that’s why the visualization really works here— it brings your focus in to the breath and keeps it there. Taking our attention down to just one thing and holding it there for a period of time- even as brief a period as ten long full breaths- that’s important. It keeps us away from upsetting thoughts and distractions, all those things that might be causing us stress and pain, and that’s huge, but it also draws us inside, and that’s even better.

We can create a quiet space, internally. This is more of a long term project, but if you keep doing this sort of thing- just stopping periodically and taking long, deep breaths, focusing on them, doing a quick visualization alongside your breathing- you’ll start creating that space naturally. You can carry that silence with you, something you can tap into when you need it— and seriously, people need this. After years of teaching meditation, one of the most surprising things I’ve learned is how very deeply people need this without ever realizing it until they’ve dealt with it: our lives are so noisy, folks. If it isn’t just everyday life- cars, planes, music, TVs, the constant hum of electronics and engines and all that- it’s information. Email, social media, the Internet, it’s both addictive and overwhelming. Finding stillness, anywhere, can be a shock, but a welcome one.

And so: as I’ve been dealing with the (mostly positive) stress of trying to get everything arranged to open the studio, I’ve found myself doing this more and more frequently. It’s not a bad thing: it reminds me of my friend who’s coming back to MD soon, which is always a good thing, and it also helps to ground me. It reminds me to breathe, and gives me a quick moment of stillness in the middle of all the madness. It gives me room. I found myself taking a few deep breaths in the back of the studio late last week and thought that with all the quick meditation tricks I’ve been using lately to get through this transition, I should be sharing, too.

So much of what I use in my daily, non- sitting life, is beginner- friendly: I keep thinking I should pop more meditation work on the blog. Ahhh, something for my copious spare time, surely. :)

in which there is an address!

 

Stopped by our local Post Office this afternoon to chat and renew my P.O. box. Who wants a pen pal?

 

P.O. box!

I have a P.O. box like a grownup!

in which we have a month of letters

So I’ve been working on this post about a meditation technique I wanted to share with everyone, but that’s still in the hopper— it’ll have to hold. Instead, I wanted to tell you guys about this thing I’m doing. It’s actually all Marianne‘s idea, and it’s AWESOME, and you should DO IT WITH US.

Right. I’m excited. Who can tell, though, really?

It’s called A Month Of Letters. Who doesn’t miss real mail? Not fliers, not gas bills, but letters, post cards, honest- to- goodness mail. Once upon a time I was a prodigious letter- writter. Fancy stationary gave me the shivers and a pen with the perfect pen nib was a subject I could argue over for hours but I’d take a legal pad and a mechanical pencil in a pinch, too— I wasn’t a snob. As long as there as a LOT of paper to write on, I really didn’t give a damn. I still have most of the letters I’ve received over the years, bundled up by sender and year; I don’t keep many things, but those, they’re like gold to me.

Here’s how it works: every day that the post is running, you send out a piece of mail to someone- a card, a letter, an Easter egg stuffed with goodies that you’ve covered with some stamps and an address, it’s your call.

I love you, T.

T, I love you.

 

Sam and I are headed to STITCHES West in a few weeks, which means another cross- country road trip. Part of my Month Of Letters includes sending Marianne some of the WORST postcards I come across, which sounds like it’ll be easy, but trust, every time I set myself one of these challenges, they’re always harder than I thought they’d be. We’ll see.

Anyway, my point: it’s not too late to get in on this, or even take it on next month. Want me to send you a letter or a postcard? Send me your address and I’ll write you. I’ll be packing a metric ton of stamps to take along on this trip, and all my favorite pens, but I’ll be sure to grab some of those mechanical pencils, too. I can’t promise what sort of mail you’ll get- or how legible it’ll be, I might be writing it in a van as we’re winding our way through Utah, who knows?- but I promise you’ll get mail, and mail with heart.

Who’s in?

 

 

we are all alone together

hand, with short nails, stained with dye

Oh, 2013. You, you, you.

We really had no idea.

Let’s just get it out of the way: 2013, I’m glad to be nearly clear of you. I had high hopes, with a number like 2013- it seemed auspicious in that funnily backwards way, and I really thought it would work out for us. You’re a nasty, tricky piece of work.

There was the travel, ceaseless. Work, of course. My mother- in- law’s cancer diagnosis, oh god. Kiddo going to college- such a good thing, but an enormous transition for all of us, and hard. Family, mine, and oh, if it started out rough it only got harder; that post in April only brushes on how bad things really became. (Side note: never talk about family business on the internet, even if it’s 20- year- old family business; it’ll get you solidly uninvited to weddings. WINNING. At least I know where things stand? Actually winning this time, though, albeit in a very sad way.) There was the MS relapse, which led to the meds change in the summer, which is gong really well (winning!) but was more physically exhausting than I ever could have anticipated. Learning that they might have found something in Sam’s autumn MRI, which turned out to be fine in the end but resulted in a seemingly endless stretch of I will not think about this right now, because if I do, I will just start screaming and I don’t know if I will be able to stop. And then there were the external tragedies, which aren’t mine to address but belong instead to friends; the griefs we have seen around the people we love.

It’s been a brutal year, for us and for the people close to us. I find it amazing that back in the spring I thought we might be standing at the outer barrier of how much hurt and stress a human heart could hold at a single time; that seems so ridiculous now. It’s been helpful, too, though. Through all of this, there has been an ongoing exchange of kindness in our lives that has been so amazing and for which we are so grateful. I have always had a very hard time asking for help, and while I can’t say 2013 broke down that barrier forever, it certainly made some inroads.

So. 2013, you’ve taught me how to ask for help, some. And I’ve learned more about simplifying, obviously, because when you’ve got too much going on you’ve got to cut the chaff. I’ve learned who will be there, and who will be honest with me. I’ve learned how much I can actually do under immense pressure, as a civilian. (It’s a totally different world, trust.) I’ve learned what happens when I really push myself, traveling. (About two, possibly three less trunk shows next year- or less interpersonal stress. I can control the scheduling of trunk shows, at least, even if I can’t see every bump in my life coming.)

I’ve been looking back over the last year- how awful it’s been, how hard all three of us have worked, how goddamned gutting the entire go of it was- and while I’d never want to do it again, I’m so glad to have it behind us, I still don’t want to toss the damned thing out. I have this general feeling of “Good riddance, 2013,” and I do mean that- good riddance to all of that negativity, to throwing myself at closed doors, to wasted energy, to sadness and grief and exhaustion and all of it- but I’m also so grateful for the way this has brought people together, opened us up, and moved us.

I just wish things were easier lately. If not for us- I don’t expect an easy go right now, Sam’s mother is sick, and this is a part of living- at least for the people around us. It is just this strange moment for us, and I get that. Everyone around us seems to have such immense sadnesses in their lives, though- real moments of tragedy. Fires, death, addiction, break- ups, divorce. It is both heartbreaking (we love them!) and a really, strangely beautiful time— so many of the people we love are being so kind and careful and generous to each other lately. We all have so little of ourselves to give, so we give to the people closest to us, and we are cautious with one another, gentle, sweeter than usual, careful to communicate. It is beautiful, in a painful sort of way. People are remarkable. I love watching how we are, together. And so I’m grateful to 2013 for that, too- for the chance to see, again, how beautiful we are, even in sadness, even in grief, even in pain. We pull together. We lean in. We do the work. We love one another. We heal. We grow. We learn. We just keep our shoulder to that goddamned wheel and do the work.

Here’s to 2014: may it be better to all of us than 2013, whether is was a banner year for you or not. We can do this, hand in hand, as a community. We are all alone together.

in which I want a great deal less

One Stone Farm, NH

One Stone Farm, NH

September has been good- a time to rest, clear my head. There’s been less travel- a trip to north for Parents’ Weekend (already, really?), but other than that, it’s been quiet. I’m grateful for the break, the lull before the madness of October- Boston, Rhinebeck (OMG, RHINEBECK!!!), all of it. October promises to be a joyful, colorful, but busy month.

I’m focused, all of a sudden. Well, not completely focused— let’s not lie, I’m never completely focused, anyone who knows me knows organization isn’t my strongest suit. But I’m coming to the end of the year, and that always brings me to thinking about renewal, about change. It’s a Thing, the new year- silly, all of it, but I Do The Thing, every year, despite secretly laughing at it behind my hand.

And so I’m looking at changes I can make, where I can apply myself, what I need to do, in which areas I can really work hard and get things done, and where there is no work for me. I’ve been putting so much of myself into certain areas that have no real space for me, and that is both silly and painful: I will stop doing that. I haven’t been putting enough of myself elsewhere, and I need to re- orient, beginning right now. I have work to do. There are places where I am needed: I will be there, and I will stop working so hard to be wanted and needed where there is no room for me. That seems like a recipe for disaster, or at least self- harm, and that isn’t how I roll. I’m smarter than that; it’s time I acted that way.

I’m clearing out everything, actually. We cleared out the back room to make a guest space for my in- laws; that was super- important, obviously. I’m clearing out my literal closets; no more waiting and wondering if the weight will come back, I’m pretty sure this is the size I’m sticking to, at least for the foreseeable future, so off to Dress For Success and Goodwill they go. I’m even donating books, because if it isn’t a reference book, or something I loan out or re- read, it’s taking up physical room in my home, and that sort of thing makes me feel weird and anxious lately. I want space, room, air, lightness. I want less.

Less. Less. Less of everything. I want a life that is free of stuff, and by stuff, I mean anything that isn’t actively used to enhance how we live.

Impossible, right? I mean, you can’t just not have things that drag you down. Some things are inescapable. There will always be taxes. People will always cut you off in traffic. Some folks will always be jerks in the grocery store. 105 degree days will occasionally happen. Those things are inevitable, and out of our control. Cool. I’m okay with the things I can’t control. I don’t like them, but I can accept them.

But I’m taking back what I can control. I don’t have to have things I need to dust. I don’t need to archive clothing that reminds me that my body is sometimes out of my control. I don’t need to eat up wall space holding on to books I have already read. I don’t need to wash or tend or worry over belongings I hardly see or use. I don’t need to be close to people who who don’t treat me with respect or who actively hurt me. I don’t need my CD collection from the early 2000s, for crying out loud, and it sort of smells vaguely of cat: I think that needed to go away a long, long time ago, guys. I don’t need to worry about attending events that bore me just to make people who bore me mutually bored while we talk about boring things. Those people are very nice, but they are not my people; I bore them, too. It’s okay that we bore each other and we really don’t need to go on boring each other perpetually just because it’s boringly pleasant to bore each other when we meet. We should pleasantly move on.

Here’s the thing: I only get so many hours. I don’t know how many I’ll have, but the clock is ticking. And I have so, so many good things going on. Amazing things, happy things, awesome things. Things I really only imagined I might ever have. These other things are all just distractions- and they aren’t good. They are major, unpleasant, frequently very stupid distractions. Sometimes, I just sit around and look at some of these things, being unhappy about them- but not doing anything about them, mind you, just… man, I sure gotta do something about those boxes in the shed, or I really, really don’t want to deal with x situation with x person any more, and I’m not sure what I’m getting out of this in the first place. It consumes time, and energy. It eats up Sam’s time and energy too, because he has to hear me talking about it.

Waste, waste, waste.

I can remove these things. I can refocus, re- orient myself. Hell, I can take the empty spaces that these distractions leave and fill it up with even more awesome things, or just leave myself space (imagine that, space!), or whatever- but whatever I do, I’ll be replacing something very negative, something bothersome or even distressing with something brighter, better, enriching. And that’s the point— to cull the distractions and to make room for things that actively make our lives better, because goddamnit, I know in a very real, very honest way that there are only so many days, hours, minutes, and I don’t want to waste this beautiful life. It’s just too much fun.

I can’t cut all the chaff. It’s just not possible- life gets in the way. But I can start, again, fresh, clean, with this little burst of energy- this momentum. While there hasn’t been a single inspiration for this return to purpose, I’m grateful, in a hurting way, for the multiple reasons behind the shift. I wouldn’t ask for those moments back again, but clarity is a never a bad thing.

So hey, October. I’m always glad to see the tenth month, but I’m looking forward to waking up in what’s always seemed like the most autumnal of months tomorrow. I intend to quietly, slowly, gently begin to sort though, and in part, tear up my life, beginning tomorrow morning.

That seems terribly exciting.

in which there is more than I can fit into these parameters right now

Small, brown dog peeking out of a blanket.

Hugo would like some of my Pop Tart, please.

There has been a great deal happening, folks.

Not writing, though. I think what has been happening is that there has been so much going on, I haven’t had time to process it enough to write it all out. I’ve got two posts in the hopper, but they aren’t quite ready for prime time.

Already, this has turned into one of those awful, “I’m so sorry I’ve been away” posts. Agh.

The short version: August was a frenetic blur, full of more than I could ever have imagined. Most of it was amazing, but the bad parts were worse than horrible, and I am glad I will never re-live that month. August 2013, you’re going down as one of my least favorite months ever. I’ll have more to say about that later, but for now that’ll have to do.

September 2013 looks promising, though. We’ll see. I’m working hard to be positive. Things have changed, a lot. Kiddo is gone, off to college, and we’re adapting. One of those posts is about that, a little, but I don’t know. As soon as I think I have a handle on that, on those feelings, they slip away from me and change. It’s a strange thing.

I’m here, though. Sitting with things. Fermenting, ruminating, thinking. Letting everything settle. Trying to sort through an awful lot of wreckage and see exactly how I feel about everything. I’m not sure, honestly. I’m not certain of a lot of things lately. Everything feels very unsettled. Not the important things: Sam, Kiddo, the studio, home, our key friends- but everything else? Christ.

I try not to stress, though. Instead of getting all worried- because really, what good does worry do?- I am trying to breathe my way through. I listen to Night Vale and make up silly stories in my head about the characters in my spare time. I play with the dogs, read my books, make lists, study painting, water my plants. Time will pass, my feelings will pass, and the facts will be there, clear, under it all. I just need to wait it out. This is how it always is, how it will always be: I just need to be patient, and my head will clear, all the mess of last month will wash out.

There are more important things, always. I’m well aware. Focus.

Sending out my not- so- clear message to the internet with the hopes that if your August wasn’t so great, you’re coming to a point of clarity soon, and that if you’re in the middle of a not- so- awesome September, that it passes quickly. Autumn should be brilliant for everyone, always. There should be a law.

on regaining balance

Image

This is our booth before the show opened. You have no idea how tempted I was just to obnoxiously caption this, “I’M COMIN’ OUT OF DA BOOTH!”

I’m back from Chicago, and oh, sweethearts, am I tired.

I’ll be honest, Chicago may not have been the best idea I ever had. Or maybe it was, I’m not sure. In all honesty: I had a fantastic time. I saw people I needed to see, people who filled my heart up, refreshed me, re- started me from the inside out. I spent time with the folks who remind me why I do what I do, and brought me back to some of my basics: this is what I’m all about.

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I got to hug the one, the only Squïd Tiberiüs Widgët!! YOU HAVE NO IDEA.

Okay, but also: I don’t know if I have all of my physical reserves, these days, so there’s that, too. This whole Copaxone- to- Gilenya transfer isn’t complete yet, and by Sunday I was running on empty. Hell, by Saturday I was running on empty, really. I was a zombie for the ride home, and I’m writing this from bed as I take a true recovery day.

Tomorrow, I hop in my gloriously tiny car and head north to do a trunk show at the amazing  Village Knitter in Long Island (I have waited so long to go here, I’m very excited), and then I’m off to Hartford for a few days, then onward to New Hampshire to take Kiddo to college. I’ll be gone from home for yet another week- My Life On The Road, I guess. More and more, it’s as though my home is the hotel.

I like this frantic traveling life most days, but this schedule has been a bit much. I knew it would be hectic in August- I’ve had my calendar in front of me for months now, shaking my head every time I looked at this month- but the reality of it is more than a little daunting, and I don’t even want to talk about what October is going to be like (but I’m going to, anyway): trunk show up north, wedding up north, Rhinebeck, trunk show up north. There isn’t a single weekend I’ll be in Baltimore.

I do this to myself, of course. And I love the work, so am I actually complaining? Not exactly. I’m more trying to muddle out a way to make this more enjoyable. So here’s the thing— I love love love the work, the part where I’m meeting with people, whether it’s the trunk shows themselves or the actual meetings, or just meeting up with my friends and colleagues, wherever I’ve landed. And let’s be real about this: I love moving about, traveling, sleeping in strange places. That’s always been my schtick. I am not a homebody. I’m a living- out- of- a- bag sort of girl.

It’s the physicality of the thing that’s roughing me up right now. I need to do some things, and I’m just plain not doing them. Why am I skipping out on them? WHO KNOWS. Possibly just a serious case of Stupiditis, but I’m guessing it’s more a mixture of laziness, a latent belief I’m still invincible, and an overall desire to believe that if I just go along doing things the way I always have that everything will be fine in the end. Silly.

So: mid- year resolutions.

  • Go to bed at a reasonable time, jerkface. Reasonable bedtimes are defined as before 10:30p.
  • Eat more food, even when you feel nauseous. The meds just make you feel gross, they don’t make you actually throw up, so stop worrying about it and eat through the queasy days.
  • Also eat more diversely: a woman cannot live on fruit, coffee, Snickers bars and steak alone. EAT BREAKFAST.
  • Yoga. Bring a mat and use it. Don’t let one sad and wretched person stop you from taking care of your body. Those long drives crunch up muscles- they need stretching!
  • Daily meditation- let’s get back into a damn schedule, already. This catch- as- catch- can thing is not working out.
  • Write. Every. Day.

It’s a good starting point, at least, especially when on the road. I’m tempted to add more, but let’s just start here.

I have more in my head- there’s something kicking around, but it’s still a Think Being Thunk—- not quite finished yet. I left Chicago with a few things to mull over, actually, and was very grateful for the long drive home to chew them over. It’s been a busy year for major overhauls in thinking, actually. What’s that all about? I wish I were the sort of girl to lay it all on the positions of the stars, or something like that. Instead, I just get to say that 2013 has been a humdinger of a year, and it’s only barely half- done. Cripes.

I wish there were a weight systems for years. An app, maybe, or even just a webpage, although that seems a little outdated these days. You could type in major life events, serious internal revelations, that sorts of thing, and then hit Enter and see precisely: How Heavy Is My Year? You could compare them to years past, maybe even hypothetical years- dreamy years full of nothing but bliss, or horrific years you’d concocted just to make the year you’re in seem easier, I don’t know. An invention like this could be handy to put things like this into perspective. Someone tech- ier than me should get on this, right? It’d be pretty badass.

Oh, I’m fraying at the edges, it’s a fact, but it’ll all be okay. I have my knitting, I have a small flat and friends waiting for me in Long Island, and then, of course, Hartford, always my second home. I can never really express how tightly bound I am to that place. I’ll do my work, gently, and work on finding my balance again— again, and that’s really what’s tripping me up, and that’s the skill I have to master: I need to become an expert in finding my balance again, MS makes one need to become an expert in regaining one’s balance— and then I’ll rejoin my family, re- ground myself when we take Kiddo to college, which is its own entire thing.

College. I can’t even. That is also another post. Christ: that’s REAL. That’s NEXT WEEK. Oh, wow.

I’m tired, but happy, and a little confused as to how I’m going to fit all the good things I’ve got going on into my life, loves. It’s a good problem to have, and I’ve got it, and I’m trying to be grateful for it, even when it challenges me, because it’s always, always, always my goal to be a goddamned grateful girl: I know where I’ve come from, and I know what I’ve got, and I am so glad for every morsel. Thank you, world, for all of it- even when it exhausts me. I’ll figure this out, and I’ll figure this out in a way that doesn’t wear me down, too, because it’s no good to have all this goodness if you can’t be present in it and if you can’t be a part of it.

Be good, be happy, be healthy, all.

in which I tell you about my fourth

The Hindu Hush, 2008: in some way, always, the mountains win.

The Hindu Kush, 2008: in some way, always, the mountains win.

I used to love the 4th of July.

It’s not that I get all Lee Greenwood about things- I really dislike that song, by the way, it creeps me out for a variety of reasons- I don’t. I was in the military, but I’m not a flag- wavy sort of person. Being in the military probably made me less of a flag- waving sort of person, to be honest, not that I ever was from the beginning. I love where I live, and I think this country- like many countries- is a place of infinite potential, full of infinite frustration, being run by people who are infinitely flawed, the way people are. It’s complicated, like most things.

I like picnics, though. And cookouts. I like being outside more than being indoors, always, so any holiday that involves getting together with the people I love, eating copious amounts of food and being outside? I CAN GET BEHIND THAT, folks. Plus, people bring their dogs to cookouts, and I am crazy about dogs. Bring me a dog and I’m almost guaranteed to make an idiot of myself. Ask my good friend Chion about last weekend, she’ll tell you: I can’t even meet new people without focusing on their dogs. It’s embarrassing.

I used to love fireworks, too.

There was a magic about it all; folks gathered on blankets and lawn chairs, all looking at the darkening skies, faces lit up in changing colors and glowing with anticipation, then wonder. Small children, mesmerized. It’s still a lovely thought. It’s just not something I can do any more. I miss it, in this distant, far- off sort of way. After Afghanistan, it’s different.

It isn’t a big and dramatic thing, not in the way people joke about, not in the way I see it shown on TV or movies. It’s this tightness, this constant awareness, a hyper- vigilance that sets in that I hardly notice, until I do. It’s the way I’m suddenly only thinking about Afghanistan again. It doesn’t become a thing until I can actually smell it, until I can smell the phosphorus or the gunpowder, and then it’s a problem, and then I’m not okay.

And that’s okay, I think, because it’s really only for a few days a year. I mean, it isn’t okay: it isn’t okay at all. It’s awful, and I miss that easy moment in the middle of summer when everyone gets together to watch the sky open and bloom into flowers. I miss being a part of the world. I hate that this is yet another way I am set apart, isolated, alone. I hate these two or three  nights a year in which I am back again, in a place that is so utterly conflicted and torn. In which I am so utterly conflicted and torn.

I’ve learned to have a plan for this period. I tell everyone around me that I won’t be myself. I isolate to my closest friends & family. I engage in my best and healthiest comfort behaviors. I create little pockets, tiny happy nests on my couch and bed, at my kitchen table, in the sitting room, places I can go to do things that make me feel grounded and safe and here. Here is important. Here is what matters.

I know there are other people like me, going through the same thing today. Hell, my dogs definitely are. But it’s hard, on a long weekend when I’m hiding out from everything, not to feel very alone. I suspect that most of us who have come back from a war, any war, all of the wars, and are somehow different feel this way, regardless of the ways in which we have changed. So I’m sending this out- just a message, a statement: this is what’s happening with me today. It’s been four years now since I’ve come home, and it it’s not good, although it seems to get a tiny bit better every year. I think I’m mostly getting a tiny bit better at dealing with it, honestly. And if you’re going through the same thing right now, or if you know or love someone who is, I’m thinking of you today. That’s what today means for me now: today, I’m remembering all of us.

Happy 4th of July, everyone, no matter what it means to you. I hope it is as good to you as it can possibly be.

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