thoughts on ‘lost’ & other such minutiae

07/07/2012

I read quite a few webcomics and blogs that support comics in general and that inspires me to draw silly comics.

 

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gratitude

06/30/2009

06212009329

I cannot tell you how happy I am to look out on the world around me and see so many beautiful, big trees.  I am happy to have traded the heat and humidity for the cold and rain here.

I have been thinking about wedding-stuff lately.  It is certainly not a normal thing for me, but for whatever reason, the idea of having a small and quiet ceremony and reception with my closest friends and family sounds nice.  I hate wedding planners, caterers, churches, DJs, dancing, poofy dresses and spending lots of money on something so frivolous, but as long as it didn’t have all that stuff, I think I’d like it.  It would be pretty great to get a Buddhist officiate the ceremony.  Do they even do that?

Work is worky.  Nearly every week I finish all my work early and am always asking for more stuff to do.  So I have been taking on more and more responsibilities as time goes by.  Maybe someday a raise will come with that, too.  I am going to make a serious effort to take better care of my finances.  I have been an irresponsible spender for a while now, it is no good!

I miss my stinkin’ family.  I called my dad for Father’s Day and he was heading up to Austin to hang out with my mom’s youngest brother and his wife and their youngest son and his family, as well as my brother.  I was seriously sad I couldn’t be with them.  My brother doesn’t talk to me at all anyway, and I really wanted to watch my cousin’s little kids grow up, not to mention missing my father and stepmom who are generally pretty great people.  I suppose it’s the price I have to pay for better scenery.

alcohol & baked goods

06/07/2009

How impressive it is that we who are taught independence and solitude,
stubborn like plinths,
should be able to somehow allow ourselves
the comfort of friendly support from another–
how lucky it is that there is even the slightest bit of way-giving
gentleness that makes life bearable.

_

For me, the most challenging aspect of being a Buddhist is maintaining a sense of compassion for every person I meet.  My thoughts tend to be immediately judgmental, regardless of what I let come out of my mouth.  I try to keep my thoughts on the inside if they are too negative, but that still doesn’t make up for the initial negativity.  So I suppose I am trying to train myself to be otherwise.

The other part of being compassionate is easing the suffering of others.  I am trying to put myself out there, in terms of being emotionally supportive.  I am not qualified to offer counseling or therapy to other people, but what I can do is be present for anyone who needs it.  I have a (male) friend who has been dealing with the death of someone he loves, and I have been trying to be supportive without being overbearing.  I realize how difficult it is to reach out to other people (and probably even more so for men) , so I have just told him that I am there and have not been pushing the subject otherwise.  I am not sure what else to do for him because I don’t want to be pushy or presumptuous.  I’ve only come up with either making brownies or buying him a bottle of bourbon.  Those ease emotional suffering, right?

“The fabric of society is very complex, George.”

03/21/2009

Mom and me

It is a freeing thing to realize that almost every thing you know, do, and think (whether good, bad, or neutral) is taught to you.  You have manners because your parents taught you from a very early age to say “please” and “thank you” to others.  Racism and stereotypes are all perpetuated through the indoctrination of people.  Most women care deeply about having diamonds, planning an elaborate wedding, and celebrating Valentine’s Day because of years and years of seeing advertisements as well as having mothers, sisters, or friends tell them that these things are important.  

It is freeing when you learn this because you finally understand that all of culture and society is inherently meaningless.  How incredible is that!  We’ve learned all of this information that keeps chaos at bay, that seems crucial to our identity and none of it holds any kind of significance independent of the society we belong to.  I don’t mean this to sound like I think life is meaningless (because I don’t think it is), or that manners or culture should be done away with (as if that were possible, anyway).  At some point, we must see beyond petty things to live a life that is meaningful.  What we are taught growing up are the building blocks for our own (true) identities so that eventually, we can focus on things that are more important.

I find religion to be one of the petty things.  Except for its ability to build (sometimes quite exclusive) communities and create structure, I do not think religion is meaningful in itself nor in the doctrines that it teaches.  When I decided there probably was no god and that I did not want to belong to any religion, I did not suddenly become a terrible person who was cruel and deceitful.  My life didn’t take a turn for the worse and I wasn’t filled with guilt or remorse.  I felt free because all of the things that make me a good person belong to me.  I am happy in my life because of me.  I find it rewarding to be directed by my own will than some non-existent entity or false promise of salvation.  I believe that the things that hurt people (mentally, emotionally, or physically) are bad, the things that help people are good, and most other things are shades of gray.  Life is beautiful the way it is and there is no emptiness, no sorrow in me.  My belief in a god did not die with my mother.  My mother’s death helped me to see what was real and true on the earth and what is real and true is being a full-fledged human.  Not some guilty, self-deprecating, fearful servant but a life-embracing, self-loving, people-loving, fully aware human experiencing life.  That is what is the most meaningful and that is why I can say I am happy.

how inappropriate!

03/12/2009

I am not sure what it says about either of us, but during the scene in Watchmen where Patrick Wilson’s character is naked and facing his hero suit in its case, my boyfriend and I both reached up with our hands and pretended to squeeze his butt.

Patrick Wilson & Kate Winslet

But seriously how can you blame us?

gettin’ fired

03/09/2009

img146

Anyone who knows me (hopefully) knows that I talk a lot of shit but in a good-natured way and that I am intense but not unkind. I like to think that most situations need a little humor and that, in general, we all take ourselves just a little too seriously.

I also am pretty laid-back about everything and even when I do get very angry about something (which is rare), I don’t try to make the person who has angered me feel like complete shit.  Everyone has their own stuff to deal with and the world is not going to be a better place for my being a jerk to someone who is already unhappy as it is.  What angers me most is when people do not think before spewing some shit out of their mouth and into the world.  Like one time at school, some girl was talking about when Kanye West’s mother died and Ohhh he loves his mom so much and he’s going to want to KILL HIMSELF now!  This is offensive to me because I hate that everyone seems to care more about whatever happens to a celebrity rather than what is happening in their own lives, and it’s also offensive because it makes me think that this person has never experienced a deep loss and that people who have should want to end their lives!  I wanted to say, “You should think about what you’re about to say before you go ahead and say it since you could be offending someone” but I didn’t because I have a hard time forming coherent sentences when I am mad, and also because getting mad at an insensitive comment like that would make me seem just a little too crazy and sensitive.

This happened when I got fired, too.  I was really enjoying the (hard and good) work I was doing, I loved the patients I interacted with, and I loved my co-workers.  I felt somewhat useful since I was working in a health clinic, and I was simply happy to be working.  I had been in training for three weeks when one day the husband half of my two bosses made a comment to me around the rest of my coworkers that was unnecessarily unkind.  I was upset about it but didn’t cry about it in front of anyone until later when the office manager who had been training me mentioned that if it made me that upset I should email the wife-half of my bosses.  

So I did.  It went along the lines of, “This happened today and it made me upset and it seems like he said that to purposefully make me feel stupid.  I just wanted to tell you because it made me upset and I thought you should know and so the air could be cleared and I wouldn’t feel resentful about it later.”  I tried to be as honest about it as I could without sounding too sensitive or defensive and I thought that I did.  Later that evening, the wife called me to fire me, citing, when I asked why, that one of their favorite patients had had to ask for my attention when I was working that day and “lots of other things we’ve been noticing like that.”  She then proceeded to talk about how her husband’s comment was basically my fault since a patient could have gone home with the wrong medicine and she could have died.  And that they were both very passionate about their work.  And then she told me that she would be happy to be a recommendation for me because I am so good at learning things and working with the computer, etc.  “It just isn’t a good fit.  Oh, and he is sorry.”

I still have no idea what she was referring to about that one patient (I didn’t ask), and I found it troubling that instead of being accountable for the unkind comment, they chose to blame me and put the whole of someone’s illness on my shoulders.  And I hate that she insinuated that I was not serious about their patients’ health.  We are all dying and we are all suffering and instead of focusing on that, I focus on lightness and I refuse to let the awfulness of human existence be what drives me.  I take any job I have seriously and I work hard and I am good to people, I just happen to be light-hearted at the same time.  I asked for guidance from my boss and instead of taking a moment to give guidance, he chose to say something unhelpful and rude.  I was still in training and still learning and I shouldn’t have felt (shouldn’t have to feel) that not knowing everything all the time would get me fired.  Furthermore, if “lots of other things we’ve been noticing like that” were actually occurring, why wasn’t this brought to my attention earlier than that moment?  Wouldn’t the office manager (who was always working with us) have said something a while back?

So as usual, I could not defend myself but this was mostly due to the feeling I had that they had it in their minds to get rid of me for one reason or another and that nothing I could say or do would change their minds.  Although this happened in November, I still carry the anxiety of the whole situation with me.  Oh god I am such a bad employee, I fuck up all the time, I will never find another job, I should have never sent that email and should have bottled up my emotions for all time!  

It is easy to blame myself for everything awful or stupid that has ever befell me.  It is easy to let people treat you badly simply because they are your boss or your “best friend” or boyfriend/girlfriend or spouse.  It is easy to allow your self esteem to be undermined because other people refuse to be accountable for their own problems.

I am still angry and still anxious, but I do not allow myself to feel like shit simply because someone else says I should.  I stood up for myself the best way I know how (by composing a letter!) and did what I felt was right and good.  So I got fired.  I am sad at losing an income, and especially at losing such awesome coworkers and patients, but I am okay.  I would not have been happy had I continued on in a workplace that seemed to not appreciate its employees’ successes and, quite frequently, was insensitive like I experienced.  I was not asking for something extraordinary, I just ask for decency.  I know it is hard to give patience and kindness but you should pride yourself in your patience and kindness and give it willingly.  Especially if your job involves working closely with people.

lighter still

02/28/2009

Hibernatin'
Napping otter
Egret
Wolf

Zoo animals.  It has been tough going for me lately so I decided visiting the zoo might help some.  It did, although I don’t enjoy being near so many lousy parents and their lousy children who tap on the glass and are generally pretty awful.  The wolf was periodically responding to the call of some distant howler and it was the most beautiful thing.  I am not always about the majesty of animals because some of them (like chimps or bears) will rip your face off if they can, but there is something lovely and sad about a wolf’s howl that is much different than other predatory animals’ calls.  It is more majestic and moving than the screeching of human children, at least.

I am fairly certain I will march into CPK on Monday and ask if they have any need of my services.  I cannot describe the overwhelming disappointment I have in myself for even thinking about this, but I also cannot describe how tired I am of financially relying on my father, or how sad it makes me that the art world is hurting so much (as it usually is) that I have to take some steps back.  As much as I feel like a failure, I am also worried that they won’t be interested in having me.  The upside of this is that I won’t have to resort to my last resort and can continue my search for a less miserable job.  But, that might also mean that I will never find a job, ever, and so will have to start working at McDonald’s because no one else will hire me.  I tell you, I have never felt so much doubt about anything in my life and it makes me feel even more sad and guilty that there are people out there who don’t have the financial support of their family to help them through unemployment and foreclosures.  

As impatient and unforgiving I can be with others, I am worse with myself.  It is no easy thing to accept and love yourself as the person that you are and I am constantly struggling with this practice, with the person that I am.  

It is my father’s birthday today and it was my brother’s birthday on Wednesday and this is the first time I haven’t been able to spend time with them around their birthdays.  All sorts of firsts since I moved out here.  As Emiliano said to me earlier today, we are all of us hurtling into the future.  It is all unknown and uncertain.

02/23/2009

Rained on

The first change is years before the palpable sickness when my mother finds that jogging has become more difficult than it normally is.  I do not notice because I am 8.  She is diagnosed with a lung disease and is on prednisone for the rest of her life.  It makes her moody and cranky and she warns us before she starts taking it so that we should know not to take her anger to heart.
She is the light of my world.  She is my mother so she is the sun, the gravity that holds the universe together.  She makes me aware of myself, my faults, and my goodness.  She sees me as a human being, not just her daughter or as a child, and she loves my brother and me more than anything.
She is not like other mothers.  She doesn’t wear makeup.  She wears tennis shoes, jeans, and baggy silk shirts.  Her hair is black and short and she doesn’t dye it to hide the silver hairs.  She does not get manicures, pedicures, or massages.  She does not get waxed or plucked.  She is worried that she is fat and this makes her upset.  It always makes her upset but she is not fat.  She has gotten older and time is not easy on the body.
I become her disciple.  I ask her questions and she answers them honestly and without hesitation.  She imparts her wisdom to me, her spirituality, her hopefulness, her extraordinary love.  She does not give me her cynicism or hypersensitivity or her anger but not for lack of trying.
She is proud and forceful.  Sharp and biting.  Stubbornly independent.  Sensitive, critical, judgmental.  She does not like small talk and she is almost always right.  She tries not to fight with my father in front of my brother and me.
She teaches me independence.  She says, You cannot be happy unless you are happy by yourself.
She comforts me.  I am all full of hormones, I am awkward and unattractive.  She takes me into her arms and tells me I am beautiful, always, and that there will be a time when I will see that too.  It does come eventually and forever I rejoice in the encouragement.
My brother and my mother engage in screaming matches regularly for years.  I generally avoid them by retreating to my room.   The impending fury and cussing from my brother makes me shake with anxiety.   I am generally not caught in the middle of the fighting but it affects me nonetheless.  My brother is terror.  I am careful around him so that I do not anger him in some way.  Otherwise, the yelling commences and I am the focus.  He knows this and he has always known this.  He is how he is regardless.
The palpable sickness hits when I am in high school.  At first, my mother laughs at the oxygen machine.  “My doctor thinks I should use it! How ridiculous.”
Reluctantly and slowly, it becomes a part of her.  At first she only uses at home but within a few months she has to take it with her everywhere.  It’s hiss stays with me, the familiar sound punctuates my life and is a painful reminder.
For my sixteenth birthday and for mother’s day, we all go to the beach.  My mother has to bring her oxygen tanks with her.  She can barely walk around outside.  My mother’s favorite thing in the world is the ocean and she cannot go to the shore and lift her hands to the sky and praise its immensity.  Her illness is some stranger that is commandeering her life and refusing her the joys of the body and the earth.  It is all killing her spirit.
The morning after we get back into the city, she cannot get enough oxygen from the tank at home. My father says he is taking her to the hospital.  From this moment, panic resides in our household.  I go to school anyway.
She stays in the hospital, she cannot come home.  She needs a lung transplant or she’ll die.  She cannot come home or she will die.  We wait.
I feel as if I am barely treading water.  A friend writes me a letter and says I cannot act like a bitch for no reason.  I sit on a bench before school starts one morning, trying to get perspective, trying to breathe and I cannot.  It is an invisible struggle that I do not know how to name: she was at home, always, when I got home.  She took me to school in the mornings.  She picked me up from tennis practice after school and took me to Sonic.  She was awake before I woke, she was up when I went to sleep.  Now I cannot even be alone with her.  Now, people crowd her hospital room as if they just realized she was alive.  Now, she no longer belongs to me.
Once and only once, she shoos away my father to be alone with me.  I say, What do I do when I lose my cornerstone?  It is dramatic but it is as honest as I can be.
She recognizes my grief, she knows.  She motions to me to lie beside her in the hospital bed. It is the last time I feel her comfort.
It is July in Texas.   I have just taken a shower and am standing in the hallway of the house I grew up in.  I am wearing a robe and my hair is wrapped in a towel.  I am looking at my brother who has an indescribable look on his face.  He hands me the phone, then walks away.  It’s my father, who’s at the hospital with my mother.  She has been unconscious for a month since her lung transplant.  My father is asking for the approval but it sounds more like he is telling us we will have to take my mother off life support.  I can’t say anything because I barely know anything.  I ask if we can wait.  My father, who is a doctor, does not think we can.
I don’t know what I do after I get off the phone.  At some point I walk past the living room and my brother is praying with all his might, crying, saying, Please, please.  I have never seen him pray in my life and I don’t think he believes in a god but that does not matter.  I feel I cannot comfort him because he would be angry and ashamed so I walk by and do not say a thing.
I do not go to the hospital to watch my mother die.  She is not there, she has not been there.  She cannot say goodbye, neither can I.  Her body dies almost immediately after the machines are turned off.
Peter takes me out for icecream later.
At her memorial service, my father’s youngest brother asks me if my mother had a relationship with Christ.  Irritated, and confused as to why this matters and why he would ask such a question, I mutter something so that he’ll leave me alone.  We are in a church before everyone has arrived.
When people begin to pour in, I am overwhelmed, touched by the attendance of so many of my friends, of my mother’s friends, of people we weren’t even that close to.   I cry constantly throughout the ceremony.  My mother’s youngest brother plays the piano and sings during the service.  It is one of the most beautiful moments of my entire life.  I feel as if I have never understood my mother’s relationship with her brother, never glimpsed it.  And suddenly every part of human nature, everything about my life and my mother’s life and my father’s life and my brother’s life and everyone I have ever known or met, our secrets and our shame and our memories and our lies, everything is mysterious but everything is revealed.  It is all heartbreaking and my father cries.
I cry as everyone in attendance approaches to give condolences.  Close friends and their families hug me tightly and I am choked with the shared love for my mother.
At some point I turn to look at her urn and say, She used to be so much taller.  My friends laugh uncomfortably.
I do not remember eating, waking, laughing, for ages.  My father cries more than I’ve ever seen him cry in my whole life.  It makes me angry and resentful.  We do not have a strong relationship. I see his forgetfulness and awkwardness as his ignorance of my self.   I am stunned at being forced into this and I often sense that I have been left with the lesser parent.
People bring us lots of food and this makes me angry.  Some of the food is offensively mediocre.  It seems ridiculous to me that people would bring food to people who know how to feed themselves.
Because of my relationship with my mother, I do not accept anyone’s offers for help or talking.   I have been isolated for so long, so concentrated on her love and wisdom alone that I cannot even begin to reach out.  I recognize it is alienating but I know no other way.
My father, my brother, my grandmother and I drive down to the coast in my Honda to scatter some of my mother’s ashes.  I feel so overwhelmingly empty and lost that it hurts to breathe.  This feeling never stops.
By October, my father is dating a woman he met at work.  I meet her at a function for their work and I am civil.  He seems happy to have someone.  My brother and I feel it is too soon.  He says, It is time to make our family whole again.  But our family is not broken.  I do not begrudge him his happiness, it is his obliviousness and his unwillingness to comprehend our objections that are offensive.
The woman is and always is kind.  But she is not my mother and she is not like my mother.  She does dye her hair every 6 weeks to hide the grey, she does wear makeup, pluck her eyebrows, wax her legs.  She wears heels.  She is younger than my father, seems younger.  She is not angered by my father’s arrogance.  My father is behaving like a teenager and it disgusts me and no one seems to hear me.
My father’s family is happy he is moving on.  More than half of his entire life spent with the mother of his children and his heart’s love and three months is all it takes.  Once, I try to bring it up tactfully while we are eating in a restaurant but my father scowls and says I am just jealous because he no longer spends all his time with me.  It is the most impossible thing, the worst misunderstanding of my life.  He doesn’t get it and he never will.  I never again talk to him about how his relationship affects me.  Anger makes a home in me and remains for a long time.

stored

02/20/2009

In a church

1) Lying in the hospital bed with my mother when she was dying. The last time I was ever alone with her, the last time she held me.

2) Riding a bus through the hills north of Florence. Being able to see the whole city, loving the sunshine, enjoying my music, surveying that beautiful, old valley.

3) Having a particularly bad day.  Standing in line with a friend and leaning forward to rest my head between his shoulder-blades, him leaning his head back against mine.  Feeling all was right with the world and the promise it would continue to be.

4) Vacationing in California with my parents, driving through San Francisco.  A swirling white fog among the golden hills in the setting sun.

5) Reading Emerson for the first time in high school.  Baptized in some holy and joyful knowledge I’d never even heard of.  Feeling awake and renewed for the first time after my mother’s death.

6) Putting our dog Bexar to sleep.  Watching his spirit slowly leaving his ailing and sad body.  Crying for a very long time with some new understanding of what it is to live and to die and to love.

7) A dream about my mother that left me doubled over with pain in the shower the next morning.

8) My father telling me I was just jealous because he wasn’t spending all his time with me anymore when he began dating my future stepmother.  Feeling utterly defeated and unheard.

adjectives to describe your parents

02/19/2009

Mom in the woods

If my mother had been a frivolous woman I might have become an entirely different person from the one I am now. Some small chance adjective could have shaped my life in another way. But my mother was not frivolous and I am her resulting offspring.

You might ask what I think the word frivolous means, since language occasionally bears more baggage than it should. It seems to me that a frivolous person is one who concerns oneself with everything in life that is unnecessary and meaningless. This person is neither wise nor clever where matters of human dignity and love are concerned, is not blindly generous nor forgiving, not compassionate, and not ever happy nor full of peace. This person would be pitiable if he or she weren’t so complacent in their frivolity. But they want no part of consciousness and they should not be pitied.

So what kind of woman was my mother, being not frivolous? I’ll share one of the last memories I have of my mother that occurred when I was fifteen years old and while she was still healthy, and reveals a good deal about my character and hers. I was relating to her an event that happened at school one day wherein a friend of mine had exasperatedly complained that I should get over so-and-so boy I had thought myself in love with. He had said it after I had casually mentioned this boy to another friend and it in no way (honest) relayed my pining or misery at so-and-so’s no longer caring for me. Full of indignation and in uncharacteristic defense of myself, I looked and pointed at him and uttered fiercely: “You should keep your mouth shut because I was not talking to you.”

He did shut his mouth and he did turn away from me. My effort to shame him had worked and I felt justified in defense of myself. My mother was not so pleased.

“Why would you say something like that to a person, a friend? You shouldn’t say such mean things to people. I am not going to be on this earth for much longer and I have to teach you how to act.”

I had not expected this disapproval. I felt it was wrong of her to not want to support me in that quip of mine. I do not think I responded directly to her statement. In a few moments, I pointed out a funny bumper sticker on a nearby car. My mother was once again angered.

“What is wrong with you?? How can you basically ignore what I just said and move onto something silly like that?! Sometimes I have no idea where you came from!”

I only muttered that I did not know what was wrong with me.

It is only after years of reflection that I can for certain say why it is that this particular incident remains one of the most vivid memories of my mother. There are two reasons.

The first and most obvious is that rather than simply choose to be on my side against a friend who had hurt my feelings with a false assumption, my mother chose not to be. This is tied to the second reason: this incident perfectly exemplifies to me my non-frivolous mother in very obvious and very painful ways. My mother, no matter at what cost or hurt caused, would rather be right than kind. She was ever critical of my actions and words despite my being her daughter or (occasionally but not often) being right. And she had placed a great deal of weight upon me by not only trying furiously to carve into me her own self-criticism before her death, but also by not allowing me to be defensive without feeling guilty or unjustified.

My mother’s desire to be right was a part of her own self-assessment and low self-esteem, rather than a perverse will to belittle me or instill doubt in me. Believing herself not ever good enough in most matters, she sought to be better. Personal growth is not a bad trait in itself but it is hurtful when applied too severely and painfully subversive when turned outwards.

She had had a terminal illness since I was eight years old and her prophesying her forthcoming death was not incorrect. I had grown used to the fact that my father would long outlive my mother although I had never been able to imagine my life without her. I was not resentful towards nor angry with her after this incident. I never broke from her as most teenagers do. I remained her faithful disciple even after her death and, in some ways, even now. Although her teachings have occasionally backfired, I still feel she was right about most things. The anger and resentment only came much later when I was old enough to truly know myself and understand the way that mothers, frivolous or not, can shape their daughters’ lives.