I recently heard a historian giving an interview about the original Thanksgiving. She pointed out that what made the English colonists so thankful was the awful year that had come before. The Pilgrims hadn’t meant to settle on a rocky coastline with poor soil and long, frigid winters. They’d been heading to Virginia but got blown off course and landed on Cape Cod in desperation. That first winter, they lost a huge chunk of their numbers to famine and illness. Native Americans in the area had also been decimated by a smallpox epidemic. If it weren’t for assistance from Squanto and treaties with other members of the Wampanoag, the Pilgrims would have been no more than a footnote in the history books.
I used to post gratitude lists fairly regularly, along with other lists. That’s supposed to be what blogs are for: thoughts too long for Facebook, but too short or too rough for more polished forums. I’ve been in one of my shy-about-blogging phases, so here’s something to break the ice.
Great Mother, thank you for:
- Clean water
- My job
- Going home from my job
- Deborah, Eugenia, Kelly, Wandajune, and other friends
- Having $1.50 in change so I can buy a soda from the vending machine
- The guys I sit with in the company cafeteria
- The window next to my cubicle (I waited eight years for that!)
- Daily coincidences that show me the Universe is on my side
- Ball point pens
- Clean underwear
- Modern pharmaceuticals
- Good healthcare
- Barbara Helfgott Hyett’s workshop
- Poet friends near and far
- Jellyfish Magazine
- Oddball Magazine
- The Queer Open Mic at Fazenda in Jamaica Plain
- The people coming to my poetry workshop this Thursday
- The Boston Dyke March
- Sweet, sweet sleep
- My comfy bed
• A wide social network
• Friends and family who know the me that exists beneath the facade of social media
• An emergency room just a few minutes away from my home that provides prompt, high-quality care
• A doctor’s office that knows my history and will see me when I’m sick
• Health insurance that makes it possible for me to seek out care without breaking the bank
• Knowing that many other people in my part of the world are suffering from respitory ailments — that I’m not alone in my suffering
• The kind of job that won’t fire me because I’m sick and can’t come to work
• Zyrtec, Robitussin, Tessalon pearls, and Albuterol
• A partner who’s willing and able to drive me to the doctor when I’m too sick to drive myself
There’s more to be grateful for than this. My life is changing very rapidly right now, and the stress of those changes has no doubt contributed to my getting so sick. But for today at least, I’m going to focus on resting, healing, and getting better. And on all the positive supports in my life that make that possible.
- Fuzzy wool socks for cold feet at night
- A 3:1 household ratio of blankets to humans
- Cooler weather means the memory foam in our bed doesn’t give me night sweats anymore
- We finally paid off the bed
- A doctor who reminds me that the symptoms of my illness are not moral failings, that I don’t have to suffer through them in order to be a productive member of society
- A job that allows me to work from home AND provides me with office space (now with new, improved window cube!)
- Listening to Sharon Salzberg’s audiobook Lovingkindness while taking baths
- A partner who loves and accepts me in spite of my flaws
- A community of friends who love, accept, and support me in spite of my flaws
- It’s finally frickin’ Friday
- Getting two more hours of sleep last night after a solid week of insomnia.
This month, the number of people following my blog topped 500. I’d like to express my gratitude to all of you — the people who visit, the people who follow, the people who take the time to comment, to click, and to share. Writing is about communication, not just self-expression — there’s no point in doing it if it’s not reaching anyone. Here’s a Pinterest board I created just for you.
It’s national poetry month again. My website was briefly down because Gmail did such an amazing job of sorting my email for me, I never got the notices reminding me to renew the domain registration for Gardenofwords.com. That was a killer way to start off national poetry month.
I noticed the outage when I was pitching a website redesign to a poet whom I greatly admire. I’m fortunate to be able to pick and choose my clients in a way I wasn’t always able to in the past. As a result, my very short client roster is full of interesting, creative women. This latest client would probably point out that I am an interesting, creative woman myself, to which I respond “pshaw.” It’s nice to have friends who say complimentary things about you. In the Po-Biz, that’s how you get blurbs for the back of your book.
April has been surprisingly un-cruel in the past couple of days, especially given March, February, January, and December, all of whom I want to roll up into a big ball, flatten with a giant rolling pin, dry in the sun, and then fold into lots of sharp corners and stick up the posterior of this past winter. It’s very easy to forget that things are exponentially better for me today than they were this time last month, and the month before. Just the other morning I forgot about it while packing my lunch. M. and I got into a lively discussion* about his tactical decision to forgo buying lettuce on Monday night rather than buying me non-organic lettuce which I might not eat. It wasn’t about lettuce, of course. It was about my own severe anxiety at having less than $10 in my checking account the day before I got paid. And the very uncomfortable dynamic that develops when two people fall in love and move in together, and then one of them takes a hefty pay cut.
On the plus side, we worked it out, as we always do. I’m continually amazed at M’s ability to handle situations that have baffled me for most of my life. Emotional intelligence comes in all kinds of packages — some of them former infantrymen. Also on the plus side, I’m steadily plugging back up the hill toward a full-time work schedule. Also also on the plus side, I took a walk yesterday afternoon and TOOK OFF MY COAT. And didn’t put it back on once. Which just goes to show you anything is possible.
Spring is late this year, but it’s here. The hills are still grey and brown with bare trees, but the moss has turned bright green and the grass won’t be far behind. Snowdrops have been out for weeks now, lingering in the cool spring air. Crocuses are here, and may even be gone in another week. The daffodils in my back garden have been poking their little green heads up. Ralph chases the squirrels until well past 6:00 pm.
Poetry-wise, I’m doing less and more than I’ve done in years past. Whereas in past years I’ve adhered to a strict regimen of a poem-a-day, I find myself moving more fluidly now. I’m making inroads into new techniques for revision, attempts to cut away the dross and find surprising turns of phrase. A sort of Orb-style remix, but with random poems instead of sound clips.
The bout of illness and the 40th anniversary of my birth made me stop and think about what I’m doing with my life, and if it’s what I want to be doing, and what I can do about all that. When I’m very ill, I will often decide that This One Big Change is what will fix all of my problems. Past experience has taught me that it usually just creates more instability and makes it harder to get back to a baseline. A cursory search of the Intartubes (“year of the horse” plus “horoscope” plus “2014” plus “water ox”) gives me highly scientific** evidence that this is not the year for me to make any sudden changes. In the Year of the Horse, things gallop along. You might find yourself miles from where you started, only to discover you’ve gotten on the wrong horse. For a person born in the year of the water ox (1973), it’s not a good year to be moving and changing. But it is a good year to send out hidden feelers under the earth, gathering information through the mycelium that binds us all together.
The seed inside unfurls with the longer days, reaching toward the light. I watch it, worry, pray it won’t be killed in an early frost. April is cruel in a different way every year. I am curious to know its cruelty this year, in the year of the horse. Maybe there will be a kindness to its cruelty, as I slog and toil and trudge into something warmer, something sunny, something else.
*which our neighbor could hear through the walls, no doubt
** and by “scientific,” I mean the opposite, of course
Things that make me cranky:
- waking up feeling worse than when I went to bed
- trading one set of medication side effects for another
- feeling my body getting heavier and older
- expecting to be able to exercise the way I used to when I was 25 and at the peak of training
- days when the only thing I seem fit to do is putter around the house and take in a matinee
- Boston’s schizophrenic spring weather
- focusing on my own needs and the ways they’re not being met
- getting away from support systems that help me feel connected
- pollyanna-ish spiritual literature that tells me to just focus on the positive! and everything will be fine!
- focusing on the things that make me cranky, especially when they’re things I can’t control
Things that make me happy:
- posting cranky status updates on Facebook (and the one or two people who say they can identify)
- comparing the treatments available today to what people used to endure 50-60 years ago
- considering advances in genetic research that may make it easier for doctors to pinpoint which kinds of medication will be most effective for individuals with my illness
- friends and mentors who can say the sorts of things that snap me out of negative thinking and help me focus on what will work
- reconnecting with support systems that remind me I am part of beloved community
- focusing on how I can be of service instead of on what I can get — or what I think I SHOULD be getting
- remembering that work is a wonderful opportunity to be of service
- making moderate progress while conserving energy — sometimes this is better than exhausting myself by FIXING ALL THE THINGS
- identifying small, achievable tasks toward a larger goal — and checking them off a task list
- putting stickers next to completed items on my task lists
- remembering that all things pass — even the line in the Post Office on a Saturday afternoon
- moderate exercise
- intense exercise (in moderation)
- dancing at weddings
- professional massages
- hot tubs and steam rooms
- inexpensive (and free) self-care, like a spa day at home
- vanilla-scented bubble bath
- taking myself on an artist date
- reading 101 artist date ideas
- the unwinding feeling that comes with relaxation — in all kinds of ways, expected and unexpected. Sometimes in meditation, sometimes when I’m laying in a big bed all by myself, sometimes when I’m in a field of grass in warm weather, sometimes when I’m sitting with a cup of tea and looking at the trees as the sky fades from blue to darker blue.
- the first time in 2014 that I smell rain on unfrozen soil