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Weird moment this morning on the bus:  That peculiar Jew guy got on, and I made room for him to sit by me. Because – and here’s the weird part – I was thinking, “‘Cause he’s Jewish; he’s from my tribe. He’s like me.” Huh?

I am not Jewish.

He’s socially awkward, with a chafing, too-loud, high-pitched voice, saying, “Hi, hi, thank you, hello.” and bobbing his curly dark hair to everyone at 5:57 a.m. when all of us on the bus are actively trying to avoid acknowledging anyone else in the world exists because we aren’t quite ready to begin the day yet.

The bus was unusually crowded this morning. A rumpled group of groggy-eyed city commuters interspersed with the strangling reek of chain-smoking addicts heading for the methadone clinic. This funny guy gets on and I saw there were barely any seats left. He’s one of the usual riders, so I am used to seeing him get on, and I know he’s different. I worried that others who recognized him might be less likely to scoot over than me.

It came as a complete surprise to me when I realized that I was feeling responsible for this man; this stranger. I have never spoken to him, never even made eye contact, and yet I’ve always thought of him as Jewish, based on looks alone. I could be totally, completely wrong, but there it is. Perhaps you can forgive my stereotyping. And, well, I earned my degrees at Brandeis University, surrounded by Jews, and I love and admire my Jewish Brandeis friends, and think of them as “my people.” And, though no one explicitly invited me, I consider myself welcome in their group. And thus, if this weird guy on the bus is Jewish, then he is “my people” too. And that means I have to be his people. And scoot over to give him a place to sit.

He wandered to the back of the bus, then came back, and yes, sat next to me.

That is exactly what “Community” is all about. That is why humans are drawn together at an instinctual level. Because together we are a force to be reckoned with. In our communities we look out for each other; we give and then take.  The larger my community, the more people have got my back.

Together we are powerful. We do great things as groups, even though individually we can be pathetic and weak. That is how we are able to love the people in our family who drive us crazy. And, that is how we are able to work toward peaceful goals with people who are really different than we are: because we allowed ourselves to get close, to feel a bond, to see them as though they are like us.

I recalled a time, last September, a little over a year ago. We were the first to set up our tents in an unfamiliar campground and I was full of anxiety about being in this place with other campers sure to move in as the day progressed. I get nervous around too many people. Then, a Chinese family moved in smack on top of us, practically. We were two large groups and were assigned adjacent campsites. And, though in theory it was precisely what I had worried about, I was so relieved. My thought, strangely enough, was the one I described above, “Ahh, it’s ok. These are my people.”

I am not Chinese.

See, in my neighborhood in Montavilla, I am surrounded by Chinese. They are my neighbors, they are the kids who bounce basketballs on the side of the street, waiting as I slowly glide past in my car, they are the ones who tell me my cat is not lost, but in their back yard, and who take turns hogging the street parking with me.

How remarkably simple it is to feel like family with people who are so different. All one has to do is be around a stranger for awhile, and that stranger becomes my neighbor Perry, or his brother David. And from there, it’s not much of an extrapolation to believe that Perry and David probably exist in every country in the world. Why can’t the whole world experience this little delight, and realize how lovely it would be to think of strangers as “our people” rather than hold them in suspicion at an arm’s length?

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Morning coffee at creekside

I just got off the phone with my mother. Our hour-long Wednesday morning phone calls are practically a given. God love her.

No, really, my mom is awesome. Sometimes it takes a lot of effort to keep her happy, but it is so worth it. On this morning’s phone call, for example, she brought to me a perspective that I had not considered, but needed to hear. She said that when her mother taught her never to be content, it was a gift.

A gift!

I have battled, BATTLED, with my inclination not to ever be content. I’ve considered it a curse, not a gift. Never being content has led me through drastically changing career paths, shattering relationship changes, embracing and discarding those I call loved ones and family, moves moves moves through 11 different states for gods sake, poverty and wealth, humiliating recanting of public outcries, mountains of self-doubt…. Of course I could go on. The end result is pain – as change brings a measure of pain in all cases.

Never being content is emotionally devastating with no hope of an end.

And. It’s also the reason I have traveled, continued my higher education, and raised an incredible child. It’s the reason I have had the opportunity to work through so many relationships, romantic and otherwise. My lack of content inspires my constant searching for knowledge and understanding, and it’s behind my pure love of humanity (tempered mildly by my raging disgust for humanity). My lack of content explains why I am an atheist and why I can’t imagine a world without religion. It explains why I am ravenous for more information about governments and governance while remaining mystified by them.

Without contentment, I am constantly on the lookout for new friends, new jobs, new homes, and new skills. And thus, why I am bombarded with new fabulous information every single extraordinary day of my life.

In fact, not being content turns out to be one of my very favourite things about myself. I LOVE that about me. Go figure. I guess maybe I’ll make peace with that battle, and move on.

image by Jeff Widener, China, 1989

I am astounded to be reminded that the tragedy of Tiananmen Square was twenty years ago. That long?

Mt. St. Helens, Washington, 1980

Ok, Ok, I am finally coming to terms with the fact that the Mt. St. Helens eruption is ancient history, though I can still remember the daily drama of facemasks and shoveling ash off bridges and roofs before they collapsed.

I have even begun to relax a little bit since the reunification of Germany. As I blogged about not too long ago, I am still trying to resolve my thoughts about walls.

Tiananmen was the same year as when the wall came down? Crazy. The pain and dread of young, beautiful, unarmed people standing up to an army is still so present in my consciousness. I can’t believe it is yet another one of those stories that is history.

Astonishing that the Chinese government won’t address it. They refuse to even allow dialogue. Really? Just like people believe there was no Holocaust, some people believe there was no Tiananmen? But, but, but… I still carry the pain of it! It was real! And I’m among The Ugly Americans, which normally causes us to forget. But this we remember…

And that image.

Thank you Jeff Widener for what you were able to give us. I recalled so clearly that there was a lone man standing with his hand up. But when I looked for the image, it is even more compelling: a man holding grocery bags. A symbol worthy of any activist’s respect. You can’t get more grass roots than: “I was on my way home from the market and saw the tanks and, well, something had to be done.” Mr. Widener said about his composition that he thinks it’s best not to know the identity of the man. Without knowing his name, he’s one of us, and that makes him so symbolically powerful.

I asked my partner if he remembers “that image” from the Tiananmen Square massacre? In answer, he raised his arm to stop the tanks in the exact way I remember it. He, too, has remembered the message the way I did. Isn’t that interesting?

almost 40

That’s it: I turned 39. My “thirties” are just about over. Egad, what a tumultous time. Holy cowabunga that was a lot to go through in only ten years.

A long time ago, my grandmother (who refuses to be called ‘grandmother,’ so we combine her name, Ellarmilda, and Grandmother, and call her Gramilda) told me, “Life begins at 40.” She said at 40 she knew enough about herself to start living each day more fully, and she got more joy out of life, and she didn’t worry about the small stuff so much anymore, and her kids were grown up and she didn’t have to expend so much energy on them and could get back to her own life, etc. etc. She simply beamed.

I was so convinced, that I’ve been looking forward to 40 ever since. But now I’m awfully close to 40, and I don’t buy it anymore. Life just gets harder and harder. True living was when I was in my twenties, and just DID whatever came to my silly noggin. And I thrilled in every moment of it and spread my joy far and wide and didn’t ask if anyone was in the mood to receive it.

My thirties started off with an incredible growth spurt, when at age 30 I went through a total spiritual and psychological transformation and became me finally. I suspect that’s what Gramilda was talking about. It’s hard to live authentically, but I get so much more joy out of life now, I feel like I’m participating more fully, I am able to take more responsibility for what I do to myself. And I’m able to keep up my hope when I realize my ups and downs are entirely dependent upon my efforts to work hard, work smart, and keep a healthy perspective.

her smile is my motivation

By the end of my thirties though, I am tired. It’s not just hard to live authentically; it’s exhausting. I have a growing tendency to slip into temporary denial just so I can quit freaking out all the time. If I am aware, then I have to be fully aware. I have to care and become educated about everything, or I shouldn’t form a single opinion or make a single sentence. That’s unrealistic, of course, but I’m having a hard time finding a nice balance. I make one dumb remark, and beat myself up for it for the next 6 months.

Problem is, I can be such a spontaneous, passionate person! I love that about myself, but it sure does lead one to trouble. 🙂  I eat foot sandwiches all the time.

So what will my forties bring?

Based on the success of last year’s list, which I was so delighted to find recently, I will make another list, and try to be focused, grounded, grateful, genuine, humble, and open to my future – whatever it is.

My fantasies for 2009:
1. Have enough money to start paying the mortgage again, however that comes about
2. Make time to have fun with my daughter and not be such a mom all the time
3. See Marcus Eaton live again
4. Use my frequent flier miles to go somewhere amazing
5. See all three of my brothers in the flesh
6. Gain some self-confidence at work so that no matter how many times my coach tells me to do more, I don’t take it as such a personal blow
7. Finish my Shemya book. Even in draft form. If I wrote 45,000 words in 2008, I can do it again in 2009, and be done.
8. Stay open to what the Universe provides for me. Stop trying to bully my way through. Stop trying to control the direction. Stop trying to control the definition of my success, and my path toward it. Give it up. Have some peace. Accept help from others. Be graceful in acknowledging my ignorance, while maintaining my strength and confidence and power and beauty.

Wish me luck. And I’ll wish you love

Cookie exploring her new home

We’ve got a new girl in the house.

My daughter had a cat at her dad’s, and a cat at our house. Her dad is moving to California and didn’t want to keep her cat, so we’ve agreed to take her in. Cookie has been here a week now, and is still not totally sure she likes living with Pumpkin. He is happy with the new roommate, and is practically beside himself waiting for her to relax so they can play. He chases her every chance he gets, which terrifies Cookie, and she spits and growls and speeds away in a cloud of black calico fluff. Pumpkin is usually hot on her tail, thinking it’s great fun, but then she hides under the bed and he loses interest.

Pumpkin feeling playful

We let her out this morning, and after a couple of hours she cried at the door to come back in, so that’s a good sign that we’ll be able to let her out.

In other news, my girlie graduated from the 5th grade yesterday. Today she will be at the coast all day with her Girl Scout Juniors troop, sharing the last time they’ll all be together in Scouts. Since their school only goes to 5th grade, a couple are going to a different school than the rest, and of course, my daughter is one of them. I picked her up from a sleepover, and took her to the house where all the scouts departed from, and said my goodbyes there.

She is moving to California with her dad, and will be there till the third week in July. Then I’ll go pick her up and bring her home for good. For good! I am so thrilled. My family will be all together again. She will still get to see him on her vacations from school, so it’s important that she gets a chance to go set up her space down there. They will be moving in with her dad’s girlfriend and daughter, so this period of adjustment will be important. They’ve all lived together before, so hopefully the transition will be ok.

My man quit his job Thursday! Woo hoo! It’s about time. He was in a poisonous environment. though he likes the work, he couldn’t work out his differences with his boss. My man tends to keep his mouth shut in all situations, and his boss tends to completely go ballistic at the slightest little problem. Between the two of them, communication just steadily broke down. Also, his boss felt that paychecks and reimbursement checks were a minor detail, and so the employees only got paid when they pestered him enough that he finally got fed up with them and paid them. It took him over a month to pay back $1130 in field expenses to my boyfriend, which he finally received on Thursday. It’s unacceptable, not to mention stressful.

Though we are now unsure about how we’ll pay the mortgage, it had finally reached the point where more damage was being done by him staying there than what will be done by not receiving a paycheck.

He’s got a good lead on another position, so my spiritual fingers are crossed for the gods to bless us with another employment opportunity soon. It would be with the company he left in Massachusetts, who just opened a Portland branch office last week.

My house in Mass still hasn’t sold. Got one offer and signed a contract and everything, but then the potential buyer backed out. I think three other people have looked at it in a month, but in general, it’s looking like it’ll be a thorn in my side for some time to come.

This is Pride Weekend. The Uncles are driving the square dancing and bowling floats again. I really want to go. I had so much fun last year. I’ll be thinking of Kevin though, and it will be an emotional day. Actually, that’s sort of the reason I need to go – to remember him. I hope my guy will go with me, and I hope it won’t be too hard on him.

I applied for a couple of jobs last week too. I LOVE my current job, but it has nothing at all to do with anthropology. If I can work in the field I was trained in, that would be a reason to leave the Oregon veterans. Otherwise, if I am not offered the position, it won’t be a big deal.

J and H invited me to a PetAid concert at the Edgefield yesterday. That was really fun. I got to see Nada Surf, Spoon, and Presidents of the USA. Being an old fogie, of course I most wanted to see the Presidents. I have to say, the best moment of the night was watching the crowd freak out to “Peaches.” Hundreds of ROCK ON hands and fists in the air, beating time like wild hardcore rock maniacs, shouting the lyrics, “I love peaches!” “Millions of peaches, peaches for me!” That kind of comedy knocks me out.

The McMennamins Edgefield
is a beautiful, beautiful place, and I’m dying to go back and explore it more. Lots of Grateful Dead paraphernalia around, so I really want my Deadhead boyfriend to go check it out too.

The sun is shining again, you know that makes my heart smile. Life is interesting…. but good.

Mads, Kumudu, me, Romain

Best of all, I got to catch up with some friends, and my new cousin. In the photo from the left is Mads (Madhawa Palihapitiya), his wife Kumudu Mali (which means something like petite, beautiful lotus – and it suits her!), me, and Romain.

Kumudu suggested dinner at an awesome place in Cambridge called Fire and Ice. Along the lines of those Japanese places where they cook at your table, this one had a giant round table of Camelot, only it is entirely a griddle, manned by four cooks. There is a round counter all around the outside, and guests stood outside the counter. First, we took our small bowl and crammed it full of as much food as we could from the fresh food packed on ice. Veggies and meats galore – and even tofu! I threw together seafood, bacon (everything’s better with bacon), squash and mushrooms, with a bunch of other small stuff too. You can pick up a cup of sauce too. Then line up counter-clockwise behind the last person at the counter. A cook picks up your bowl and tosses it at the griddle, then shapes the pile into a wedge as it fries. After a few minutes they grab the sauce and splash it across your food. Each new pile goes at the end on the right. Each cooked pile gets scooped onto a plate off the left end. So you can see how it all moves around in a slow, fascinating circle. At one point there were probably 35 people standing around the counter. Cool! There are four salad-bar sized stations loaded with fresh stuff to cook or just to eat raw, if you get a salad too – which I did. Let no one accuse me of being shy of food!

It was great to meet Kumudu and such a delight to share time with Mads and Romain again. I haven’t seen them for a year. They were both in my International Mediation class at Brandeis.

My best, best, best Massachusetts friend is Elisia, and I never did get to see her properly. Brand new momma and already back at work full time because they need her so badly. We were both busy all day and I was usually pulled in several directions in the evenings. Everyone wanted a visit. That helped with lodging (wink). But I did have Romain speed over to the Brandeis train station when I knew she would show up. I ran and burst onto the platform but she wasn’t there. The people who remembered me laughed and said, “She’ll be on her way.” So we looked down the tracks and there she was in the distance. So I *ran* down the side of the tracks to meet her and, then, because the bend in the tracks was straightening out, I saw I was on the wrong side and there’s a fence in between inbound and outbound. I *ran* all the way back to the platform and crossed the tracks and *ran* back down the other side and finally flew to her, gasping and giggling. Luckily, it had the proper effect, and she saw how much I adore her even though I couldn’t find time to visit her at home. We shared as much as we could in 10 minutes till the train came and whisked her away.

I stayed one night with Shawn, one with Mark’s dad and stepmother way out in the lovely countryside of west-central Mass. One night with his mother in her lovely garden oasis in the city of Boston, and then it was time to fly home.

The tenant really was on her way out as I hoped (see previous entry). She suspected I was going to evict her soon, and was trying to get out before I got there to avoid a confrontation. The house was mostly empty, and she was cleaning! I’m out over $6000 in what she owes me, but the house is in good shape, she’s out, and she did a great job cleaning. Whew!

She told me a sad story about how hard her life has been, and that she’s got avoidance issues and wouldn’t call me because she was afraid I’d tell her to get out. Hm. I am sad that her life is so hard. Unfortunately, our relationship has turned from a friendship to a business relationship; and as her associate, I am forced not to care. My life isn’t so rosy that I can afford to support her household as well as mine. She entered into an agreement and failed her responsibility. I am sad that it went that way. I am a good person…if only she had called me and suggested a comprimise I would have been the softest landlord on earth. WHY is it so hard for people to attempt simple communication? Anyone with a little resolve can do it and it works miracles, if only we could talk to each other.

The power had been shut off, so I got that back into my name and turned it back on. The oil tank had been drained dry, so I had them refill it and re-light the pilot light on the furnace. I installed a carbon monoxide detector, filled holes in the walls and did a little touch-up paint. The place is in amazingly good shape. Most of the custom-built window-coverings are gone. Ummmm…. how do those get lost, exactly? The garage-door openers are gone. There are a few scuffs. The family room carpet was a disaster, but Thursday she brought in a professional carpet cleaner and now they look fine. How LUCKY am I? I mean really. It could have been so bad.

I had already been in touch with a realtor who met me there the last day and she took pictures and I signed a contract and the house is on the market as of yesterday.

Whew! I made it all the way through.

This week off didn’t go quite as planned, but it was full. I like my life to be full. Now I’m just sort of exhausted. I am looking forward to going back to work so I can wind down. Hm. That doesn’t seem right.

Did I say good? I need to say that too. I spent the week with my family – my amazing daughter especially – and that is good soul food and something I really needed.

It’s my daughter’s Spring Break from the 5th grade. Since it’s my turn to spend Spring Break with her instead of her dad’s turn, I took the week off work to be with her. (I love that my job allows me to just take time off when I need to)

My mother showed up the first Friday, with her husband. She has been going stir crazy ever since we bought this house, wanting to come for a visit. She brought two boxes of tools and supplies, wanting to do fix-up work with us. I thought she was nuts, since she was only planning to be here for 2 1/2 days, including Easter. I think my head is more firmly centered in reality. But I let her have her Mom dreams, and didn’t say anything. Who knows? Maybe it would work out.

Ug. I forgot how completely draining it is for me to spend time with Mother. I don’t think it’s entirely her – though she is one of the most challenging personalities in the world to entertain – but it also has a lot to do with our relationship. My perception of our time together is her constantly judging, criticizing, lecturing, and whining. And then sporadically telling me how much she loves me and loves my daughter, which doesn’t boost me as much as it could, because I get confused. Perhaps that is not what is going on, but that is how it feels to me.

Anyway, generally within a week of an anticipated visit from my mother, I begin to freak out. It’s mostly subconscious. This time I only burst into an angry fit and yelled at my partner once – the day before her arrival – and he was good enough to figure out the source of much of my stress. While she’s here, I freak out non stop. I become hypersensitive to her whining complaints, and somehow feel it is entirely up to me to make her life the way she wants it. (Note: this is very, very, child-parent stuff… it’s like I’m 12 and afraid of getting grounded again. Very unhealthy and scary to me that it happens so thoroughly and so quickly when she’s in my presence.)

I am much better than I used to be, so I am pleased with my growth. That, as with so many things, is due for the most part to my amazing partner, who continues to teach me how to stand up for myself, and how to disagree with someone I love, and how arguing does not mean I care less about the person I’m arguing with. So, Mom would whine and judge me and criticize, and I was able to let a lot of it just slide through my ear canals and pass on back into the air rather than find a crevice in my head to fester in. At the same time, ever since I’ve been practicing standing up to her, she has stopped being so critical. I think she finally realized how hurtful it is for her to be like that without any sort of reign on her tongue. I can see her earnest effort to try to keep her lips together, and I really really appreciate it. This is the kind of thing that lets me know my mother does love me.

She decided to extend their visit. ha! Just one more day, and that made more sense. Friday night we went out to dinner at Seasons and Regions, a great seafood place on the West side. Saturday we went to Hawthorne and hit  Buffalo Exchange, Peets, Noah’s Bagels, and all those really truly great shops down there. Finally the sun had warmed us up, so we spent a few minutes at the ever-lovely Laurelhurst Park coming into full bloom, then went down to the Waterfront Park near where the giant Cirque du Soleil tents are set up for Corteo (my partner begged me to go, but at $85 per ticket, I scolded him out of it – we can barely afford groceries). We were all getting hungry, so wandered up to the Saturday Market and bought lunch – each of us at a different stand. Tara had corn dogs, my partner a big chicken, rice and vegetable plate, Mom and I had falafel pita sandwiches, her husband had pizza. How fun is that?

Saturday afternoon was Easter stuff: decorations up, coloring eggs, and winding down. Sunday morning, pouring rain and cold of course, so Tara found her eggs in the sopping wet. We had fun making the day special for her. She’s 10, and in the age of finding out the truth about things like the Easter Bunny. She truly was surprised that eggs were already hidden, and I could tell her young mind was trying to figure it out.

She still chooses to believe in some things, even when she learns a different story, which I like and encourage. This may offend some of you, but I am committed to this: If you believe it, that is what makes it true. It works for Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, elves, faeries, and God. Yes, God too. I don’t believe in a god, so no gods are working miracles in my life. BUT! I do believe in Mother Earth, who works constant miracles, and I believe in faeries, who play tricks and cause mischief in my life. I believe that human beings have magical powers, so I even create miracles in my own life. You may say “well, that’s God” and I agree with you. That’s why it’s so beautiful. When God is real for you, God is a personality in your life and you see Him in the lives of others.

So anyway, my daughter is a staunch believer in Santa Claus, and she also believes in God. She’s still making up her mind about Easter. ha ha.

Mother brought a stack of recipes she wanted us to cook while she was here. I picked one, and we spent much of Sunday shopping for food and cooking this meal. I was beginning to weaken against Mom’s onslaught, and her husband was getting bored. Luckily, my daughter is old enough to take him for a walk, so Grandpa and the kid took off on a couple of walks. Once they went to Target and Grandpa bought her a whole bunch of stuff for her upstairs bathroom which she has decided needs a “bamboo” theme.

Monday, my partner went back to work and I had to handle the folks on my own. By this time, my poor man had about been driven over the edge. Mom is hard enough, but on top of it, I was crumbling into a mess, and my partner had completely run out of patience. He spent Sunday in the basement ripping down the interior walls which we both hate. It was good hard labor and kept him away from our guests and away from me.

The weather improved on Monday, and my step-father offered to haul a load of debris back to Idaho if we wanted. He had been looking for a way to help us out, and this was a true gift. We live in a city. You can’t get rid of anything that doesn’t fit into the pre-approved trash cans, or doesn’t fit specific guidelines. Since we moved in, we’ve been accumulating a heap of things we just don’t know what to do with. Well, it’s all gone now! Even the plywood and 2x4s that my man ripped out of the basement. While my step-father and I filled the bed of the pickup, Mom and my kid did yard work. They worked hard and it made such a difference. I am very grateful.

Tuesday everyone left. It was a dramatic change for sure! My partner left at 5:30am to begin a two-day work trip to the field in central Oregon. Mom and her husband took off by 6:00am for their 6 hour drive back to north Idaho in the snow. That left my girl and me for two entire days of just each other. I finally let her sink into her computer as she had been wishing for (Club Penguin and Diablo II mostly), and I began taking care of business. By Thursday, I had been to the dentist, took my car for a tune-up, figured out how to check our phone messages with Comcast, had a phone meeting with my Ameriprise advisor, gassed up the car and the lawn mower, got my taxes off to a tax specialist, found birthday gifts for my nephew and niece, bought groceries, did about 16 loads of laundry (ok, maybe only 11), finished some legal paperwork for my attorney, helped my daughter get through two books of required reading, and YES, even worked on my book a little. Man! It feels so good to get so much done.

Part of why my week ended on a down note are the results of some of that stuff. The car hasn’t been in for a tune-up in its whole life, and I feel fortunate for getting it out of the shop after only $2036. Actually, I feel good about that in a big picture sense. Haven’t been to the dentist in too long, and my teeth cost me $285, which is a lot. But that is even tolerable. The problem was that I found out the reason I have been losing tiny chips of my teeth and thus experiencing terrible sensitivity is because I am freekin’ stressed out. I grind my teeth in my sleep, which causes “abfraction” which weakens and chips my teeth. The dentist told me to just tell myself to relax. Um. Yeah. He suggested wearing a mouth guard like football players wear, when I sleep. I think it’s a very good idea, and I’ll try it.

The one that FRIES me is a very bad experience with the tax person. The woman is an offensive know-it-all who repeatedly offended me and showed herself to be lazy as well. By the time I was fed up with her, she was on the phone telling me my taxes were done, so I just decided to pay her and have it overwith. I owe over $3000 in taxes, which is a shock. I have never ever ever had to pay. I always get taxes back. This sucks, but it’s probably accurate. Also, I have done my own taxes every single year except for once, in 1995. This year my stuff was just really complicated and I needed help. So it’s hard to absorb the cost of a tax preparer when I’m used to it being free. She’s charging more than $300 for insults, mistakes, and yes, for doing my taxes. At this point, I do not have confidence that she’s done it right, or well, but I guess I’m assuming her company will take responsibility if there is ever a future problem.

This week was a big week for my partner. Tuesday was his 20th anniversary of being clean and sober. In AA, they hand out “coins” for certain anniversaries that former addicts and alcoholics can earn. I carry his 18 year coin in my pocket, because it inspires me. I like to be reminded that my challenges are only difficult in my mind. There are other people who have bigger struggles than me. The coin helps me with my perspective. My partner only carries the one day coin. It’s white plastic. It used to say “AA” on one side, with carved decorations. Now it’s smooth and blank, worn thin. He tells me that he needs to remember that his battle is only with the day he is living, not with the years ahead or behind him. He carries the one day coin to remind himself that he needs to get through one day, and that the present day is the only one he needs to worry about. Yesterday was his birthday. I bought him a T-shirt that says “Surly” and the first two books of the Golden Compass series. I made him chicken enchiladas and a lemon birthday cake.

Whoo! Tomorrow I go back to work and I am looking forward to it! I miss my friends there, I miss my routine, my morning workout, my busrides with weird Portland people. My daughter goes back to her dad’s house tonight. I’ll miss her. Last night we stayed up to watch Teen Nick Choice Awards, hosted by Jack Black. I was really amazed at how many famous adults were there: Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Harrison Ford, Orlando Bloom, Usher, and Will Smith, to name only a few. Yes, they’re promoting their stuff, but still – it’s a kids show. I’m glad they took the time. Harrison Ford got majorly slimed. Come on, he didn’t need to do that. It’s awesome that he did. Oh yeah, my point. My daughter is growing up. She’s a spaz, like any pre-teen girl. She went bananas over the choices, and waiting to see who would win. It’s stuff I really don’t care a whit about, but it is important in her life. She is truly an individual and I love that.

april

Hey Beautiful,

Thanks for this little peak into your life. I always appreciate when I get a chance to witness your world.  : )

Love you, April

crystal

Well, I think I know about 3 people who would read that one all the way through. I sort of had you in mind as I kept going. I was thinking “Geez, this is a book, I need to just stop.” Then I realized you would read it, so I kept going. Ha!

Thanks, love. I know you like to hear about my life here (cuz I’m so terrible at real live letters and direct communication). Kisses!

april

Oh yeah, I meant to tell you that I might have to have a face-to-face mother experience next month for Isaiah’s graduation. Should be interesting since we hardly ever speak to each other anymore. Mom, Angela and I have not spent time together since the Christmas crisis over two years ago, and there have been a few more crisis since. But right now she seems to be doing better…finally back in church and therapy, which is the formula to keep her from descending into darkness. Part of me hopes she can’t make it due to work or something, but another part wants so much to reconcile by accepting each other exactly as we are now and building a new relationship from that, instead of one poisoned by the past. I can’t pick and choose how this new opening of my heart applies to the people in my life, so it’s time to truly let go of the negativity with the people who are hardest to love.

My daughter’s father brought her over for the weekend as usual on Friday night.

“I just wanted to let you know, I’m moving her to California next month. I’m giving my two-weeks notice at work Monday. I don’t like living here, my social security disability has run out, and I have friends there and not here. I don’t know of any better way to tell you, so there it is.”

Our agreement states that the summer of 2009 she comes to live with me during the school years until she graduates. So, his brilliant plan is to quit his job here, go to Calif to live with his girlfriend with no job prospects, put my daughter into a school in the middle of a year, leave her there for another year, then move her straight back here to Portland to fulfill our agreement.

That’s ridiculous. The poor kid is just now getting settled in from her move last year.

I guess we weren’t getting along as well as I thought. This is a dirty, under-handed, manipulative, deceitful, aggressive move on his part. No discussion. No let’s talk about it. He told me he’s been thinking about it for a long time and can’t think of any other way to deal with his difficulties. He states what he’s doing to our daughter and gives me 2 weeks notice to deal with it. He can be such a shit. Trust me, when he tells the story from now on, he’ll make his role out to be the victim and I’ll play the role of the evil dictator.

Ok, so, fun week ahead of me.

My incredibly supportive man, who has been freaking out the last month about finding the best way to pay for rebuilding the foundation once we buy this home, came to me and laid out all his sources of immediately liquidatable assets. He said, “We are getting a good attorney. Now is not the time to worry about money. She needs some stability, and she needs to stay here. Whatever you need for a retainer, we can pay it.”

Well, let’s hope Washington County, OR makes a little bit more sense for family law than Humboldt County, CA.

Like a mother bear, I am not cringing, whining, or wringing my hands. I’ve tightened up my haunches and lowered my head to brace for war.

Comments from old blog:

april

My dear friend, I am so sorry to hear about this. As if you and your daughter haven’t been through enough trauma already due to his inability to make his life work. I hope and pray Oregon gives you better options than Humboldt did.

Love you, April

crystal

Thanks sweetie. We’ll see how it goes. I was really hoping the courts were something of my past. But, I guess that would be too easy, eh?

Stoopid poodle still life

It’s a metaphor for growth.

{Note: in my blog at Zaadz, my profile image was the head of a poodle painting.}

My partner is teaching me that the best way to deal with uncomfortable truths is to embrace them. Take them on, fully! So things like divorce, homosexuality, being unemployed, etc., are not taboo in our conversations. More than that, we aren’t even gentle. Well… we are brutally frank about the stuff that hurts us the most, and making light of these things frequently takes all the power out of them.

This is hard to explain in a blog, but it has been a very effective tool for us. For example, though we’ve had many intellectual discussions about how my multiple past marriages don’t reflect my honor or integrity… I still have these evil, biting voices which tell me I’m a bad woman for not remaining married no matter what it took. The way my partner and I try to work through my worried conscience is to face the voices in my head. We tease each other, using the exact words of our fears, and expose it all. He tells me I toy with men’s hearts. I tell him I’m only using him because I’m lonely. Once we’ve said outloud all the things we carry in our minds (no matter HOW ridiculous or unlikely those critical thoughts are), our fears suddenly seem so trivial.

….ok, ok, back to the poodle. I hate this still life. ha ha! Yuck!

It’s from an art class I took, and my professor set up the stupidest still lifes ever. Stuff I just could not bring myself to get inspired about in the least. This was the one I hated the most. It was a painted red bottle, an old poodle-shaped handbag, a pear, and an ugly inside-out quilt. The colours are awful, my skill dubious, and the assignment was that we were allowed to use only four colours. To top that off, the professor was so excited about our work, that we slaved away on these horrible things for two full weeks.

I don’t want to hate a creation from my own hands.

So… in my attempts to embrace that which evokes strong negative reactions, I chose this despised painting as my profile photo. Now, every time I come to my profile, I see that this horrible oil painting is the world’s image of me. It’s actually working! I don’t feel such powerful negative reactions to it anymore.

Comment from the old blog:

crystal

OK, here’s another example. This morning I found out my grandmother died. I came home from work and cried all over my man’s clothes, making them damp. I followed him to the refrigerator. I held his hand and played with his hair. Later, he got up to stand by the wood stove. I was nearby, so I moved over and wrapped my arms around him and buried my face into his shoulder. He goes “Why are you so clingy? Give me some space, woman!” I laughed and punched him and he held me harder.

He forces me to face shit, like being sad and clingy because my Gramma died, so that we can talk about it and it doesn’t become bigger than it needs to be.

“And it is not our part here to take thought only for a season, or for a few lives of Men, or for a passing age of the World. We should seek a final end to this menace, even if we do not hope to make one.”  ~J.R.R. Tolkien

one ring

It strikes me that wisdom and humility go together. That a stroke of wisdom isn’t so without careful consideration of posterity. How wise can any decision be that doesn’t take into account the repercussions that may come – no matter how far down the line?

Tolkien was insistent that his writings didn’t contain a hidden message, or a political commentary. We’ll grant him that. Great writing, however, will take on a life of its own, as readers see themselves and their own circumstances among the pages.

Some days I feel like a hapless bystander watching my earth crumble as its foundations are pulled apart in order to build the structure on top. I don’t think we are quite frightened enough. I don’t think we are wise enough in our plans. How many generations ahead are we planning for; is it our grandchildren? Their grandchildren?

The quote above is taken from The Lord of the Rings, which I am reading again because it’s been too long. This quote would not leave me alone yesterday. It is spoken by Gandalf at the Council of Elrond, when a somewhat easier suggestion is brought forth by Glorfindel that to deal with a great evil thing, the council might hide it, rather than destroy it. And Gandalf says, no, that would only protect themselves, and maybe a few future generations, but it would not get rid of the evil for good.

This makes me think of conflict in general. There are different ways to address differences: Firepower, Totalitarianism, Exploitation, Oppression, Abuse, Imprisonment, Ignoring, and Lying. These things can be effectively used to squash something that exists in opposition to what we think our goals are.

But!!! These methods will never hold indefinitely. These almost always breed retaliation. Maybe not in this generation, maybe not in the next, but eventually Mother Nature (including all her living beings) will fight for survival.

OK, so I’m preaching to the choir here at Zaadz, but let’s try honest engagement. As a species, I’m going to guess that love and patience must be for humans the most difficult path of all, because it is so seldom taken and so seldom suggested on a grand scale. Like with the One Ring in Middle Earth, the only right path is likely the most difficult one of all. And if we’re serious about it, we realize that as nice as “love” and “patience” sound, they really are the most difficult path.

We all know that facing our personal demons requires being totally honest about what’s going on; taking on these truths about ourselves as frightening as they are, and being strong and firm enough to move forward in faith that our work will come to a greater good –  that perhaps we don’t even understand yet. Even more challenging is that in order to grow we must love ourselves, and believe ourselves worthy of love, and we must be patient with ourselves in order to have the time to grow and heal.

It is encouraging to have stumbled upon a reminder that my slow and painful method of healing myself is actually the right path to be on. That I am not the only soul who struggles with the future – way into the future. And that even mighty, beautiful, and intelligent elves like Glorfindel would see reason in an incomplete solution, and so I can’t be too hard on myself when I make a mistake.

One of my many guises

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