Sunday, November 30, 2008

Nightmares don't always come true

I had a bad dream last night. A garden gnome was trying to hack his way through the sliding glass door and attack the dog. Hmmmm. I can't quite wrap my brain around what Freud would say about "attacked by garden gnome".

The other recent nightmare seems much more scary in the light of day. I have been having dreams about being in a homeless shelter with my kids. It really, truly would be the worst case scenario in my already chaos riddled life. I know it's not going to happen, but it haunts me as I look for a second job and a place to live that will take me, my small income, my 2 teenagers and a pit bull. Good lord, what have I done?

So, today's notes from my dearest sister-I-picked, RK, along with her own post about me (which did, indeed, make me cry) were perfect timing. She guaranteed me over coffee yesterday that I would NEVER be homeless - that she wouldn't allow it. That was the absolutely, positively, unbelievably kindest thing anyone has ever said to me. Ever. And I believe it.

So, with the month of December looming large and many, many not good things occurring as I enter that month, I will remember the kindness of friends who are like family, the kindness of strangers, but mostly the feeling of family I get from my few and rare friends who are stuck with me forever. Thanks, guys. Time to pack. Now where did I put that garden gnome...?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Happiness is a feeling that makes you feel good

Life is full of pain. You stub your toe, lose a friend, end a relationship. It's just the way it is. And yet, as human adults, we have a tendency to take each of these setbacks and file them away, almost as a painful reminder that everything good ends up hurting, sooner or later. So what's a girl to do when good things happen? I wait for the other shoe to drop, imagining the inevitable demise of this temporary and fleeting happiness. And that sucks.
But what is happiness, anyway? I thought it would be fun to wiki it. Hmmmm...

Happiness is a feeling that makes you feel good.
Philosophers and religious thinkers have often defined happiness in terms of living a
good life, or flourishing, rather than simply as an emotion. Happiness in this older sense was used to translate the Greek Eudaimonia, and is still used in virtue ethics. In everyday speech today, however, terms such as well-being or quality of life are usually used to signify the classical meaning, and happiness is reserved for the felt experience or experiences that philosophers historically called pleasure.
Happiness forms a central theme of
Buddhist teachings, which focuses on obtaining freedom from suffering by following the Eightfold Path. In the Buddhist view, ultimate happiness is only achieved by overcoming craving in all forms. Aristotle saw happiness as "the virtuous activity of the soul in accordance with reason," or the practice of virtue. In Catholicism, the ultimate end of human existence consists in felicity, or "blessed happiness", described by the 13th-century philosopher-theologian Thomas Aquinas as a Beatific Vision of God's essence in the next life.[1] One psychological approach, positive psychology, describes happiness as consisting of positive emotions and positive activities.
While direct measurement of happiness is difficult, tools such as
The Oxford Happiness Inventory have been developed by researchers. Physiological correlates to happiness can be measured through a variety of techniques, and survey research can be based on self-reported happiness levels.
Research has identified a number of correlates with happiness. These include religious involvement, parenthood, marital status, age and income.
Happiness economics suggests that measures of public happiness should be used to supplement more traditional economic measures when evaluating how successful public policy is.

Good Lord. Even happiness needs to be measured to quantify it enough that we completely remove the human, feeling aspect of it. Happiness economics? What the hell? So here's PGs take on happiness, in a nutshell.

I'm happy when I have waffles and scotch for breakfast at the Driftwood

I'm happy when I open my eyes to an alarm clock that says it's later than 8am

I'm happy when I have a laptop, a mocha and a warm pair of socks, all at the same time

I'm happy when I stomp in puddles. Even if my socks squish - that makes me happier still.

I'm happy when I get a text message from a friend

I'm happy when I say I love you to my son (because I mean it - I never say it if I don't)

I'm happy when I'm reading a good book that I can't put down

I'm happy playing scrabble. Really, really happy. Even when I lose.

I'm happy listening to portishead

I'm happy sitting at the bar at Gino's (too bad they're not open all day...)

I'm happy shopping for presents for the people I love

I'm happy when I work and do something that matters

I'm happy walking my Ezmond through the leaves

I'm happy when I send a note in the mail and put a stamp on it

I'm happy when the phone doesn't ring for an entire 24 hours
I'm happy in the tub with my bubbles

I'm happy when I finish a project

I'm happy when I paint- wall or canvas

I'm happy when I sharpen pencils

I'm happy when I figure out a difficult problem

I'm happy when I rub buddah's belly - even though buddhism says happiness is the complete removal of craving from my life. Why would I want to do that? If not for cravings there would be no Ben & Jerrys.

OK - take my list (and this is just a partial one that I spent less than 5 minutes creating) and hold it up against the definition. Do I really defy explanation that much? 18 months ago, happiness was fleeting and rare - sometimes I wouldn't see it for days, even weeks. I had things. Lots of things. And enough money to thrive, savings accounts, the ability to do and see and shop. Today, even without a permanent job, a place to live, a car I can afford, the savings gone, I have found so many things in my day that make me happy - and every day it gets better. The happier I am, the happier I get. Not that the chaos isn't making me nutty. Not that I am happy to be poor, unable to do the things I want to do, staring at a pile of medical bills I can't pay and working through my son's health issues, my daughters anxiety, my need to feel loved. And yet there it is, plain as day. I'm happy.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

When all else fails.....

...take a bubble bath. That's my new mantra. I want to be one of those girls who hit a wall on a project and go "I think I'll go shopping for shoes." But I'm not really like that. I angst about things, think things through for about 2-3/4 hours too long, and basically suck the life out of any room if overwhelmed with the details - because I'm so busy thinking about it, trying to figure out, I'm not actually getting anything DONE. Which I am. Today. Keep your distance.

So, back to the list of good things that are happening do I merrily go. I repeat them in my head and thank the universe for my health, my friends, the dog, my favorite scarf. You know, the orange one. And I do what the little engine does. "I think I can, I think I can..." But I know I may not be able to avoid stress, drama and spiteful vengeance at the moment. Worse, I know things are going to get worse before they get better. It's like watching a comet approach the earth, wondering if it will hit - or miss. Please let this one miss... please.

So tonight I will take my Mr Bubble, my candles and a really nice glass of something cold to drink in by the Jacuzzi. And I will pay homage to the wonders that are the bubble bath. And be grateful that I have hot water, soap and Caramel scented candles. Really - they smell like caramel. The dog ate one - somehow, I don't think they tasted the way he expected. Isn't that typical...

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Lake

Everybody probably has a recurring nightmare. One of those deep, psychological burdens that seems to appear with little notice, when we want it least, to shake us out of a stupor. My troubling old dream was back with a vengence last night - and now, of course, I feel very restless and frustrated. I thought I'd finally purged it.

I have a fear of water. I think I was fine with it as a small child, but I had a traumatic experience with a sneaker wave at Seaside when I was small, remember my father desperately searching for my older brother who was swept away by the wave as my little brother and I sat on the sand, watching, helpless. He was pushed back to shore, thank goodness. But I remember the terror my father felt and feeling completely helpless. And I remember the moment when the wave ha washed completely over our heads, knocking us down and trying to sweep us away, too.

Not long after that event, I started having the dream. It's dark outside and I can smell and feel the water around me but I can't quite see it. I realize I must be on an island of some sort because my feet are dry but it is so dark out, there's no moon, I can't see a thing. Slowly, the clouds move away from the moon and I can see myself on a lake (I think it's the lake from Camp Fire camp, only bigger) and I'm on this little island. I am absolutely terrified, but I can't figure out why. I have no boat but I don't think the water is deep - I could wade to shore if I wanted to. But I don't leave the safety of the island. Slowly, I feel peaceful relaxation come over me and I'm confused as to why I would suddenly feel safe, after being so afraid.

Normally, I would wake up while still afraid and look forward to a full night of reading, tossing and turning, avoiding sleep until the after effects of the dream would leave me in peace, finally. Other times, I'd wake up feeling more peaceful and I'd fall back to sleep. I always seem to wake up from this one, though, not just slep until dreams changed and became something else.

Last night's dream was different. I was on the island but someone was sitting on the shore. I could just see a shadow. I wasn't afraid of the person, but they made me nervous somehow. I called out "Is someone there?" and he or she stood and started to walk away. Which made me immensely sad. So, I decided to try to wak across the water. Remember, in 35 odd years, I've never left the safety of the island. Normally, I just sit there.

As I set foot in the water, I realized there was something under the surface. Of course, visual person that I am, I immediately pictured the people under the water in Lord of the Rings, faces staring blankly up and hair flowing in the water. It was completely creepy and suddenly I felt like I was breathing liquid. I couldn't breathe. I woke up with a start, gasping for breath as though I had been suffocating. It took a long time to catch my breath and get back to sleep.

And I immediately picked up where I had left off in the dream. I felt, again, like I was breathing water, but this time I went with the feeling instead of fighting it, and found that breathing water was easy. I walked through most of the lake with the water only knee or waist deep and suddenly stepped off the shalow into a deep ravine that I'd been unable to see. As I fell deeper under water, I saw a shadow of what looked like a tree. I grasped it with all my strength, completely sure that if I hit the bottom, I'd never get back out of the water again.

And then I heard a voice. "Let go," it said, and I knew it was right, that I just had to let go of the tree, feel myself float deeper, stop being afraid of what would happen next. So I did. I let go.

My eyes were closed, but I could feel myself falling deeper in the water, still breathing just fine, like it's totally normal to inhale water through my lungs. I felt myself settle on the bottom, sat down and focused on breathing, nothing else, just the intake and exhale. Over and over.

After a few minutes, the water was getting warmer and I felt like the time had come to open my eyes even though I was a little afraid of what I'd see under the water. When I did, I realized I was no longer under the water but on the shore, dry from sitting in the brilliant sunlight. And I saw the shadowy figure leaning against a building ahead. Just waiting, patiently, for whatever it was I would do next.

Then it occurred to me - I was off the island. I've spent my whole life there - sitting, waiting for something to happen, afraid to take a step. Being cautious and guarded brought me a sum total of nothing.

Here I am - starting over. No job, no place to live, no vehicle (I think I'll cry when I say goodbye to the Jag, as stupid as that sounds) - but I get to decide who I want to be in this chapter. And the prospect of starting over feels a bit like an adventure, when I'm not freaking out about all the little details that overwhelm. Hmmm... I wonder where I'll be in a year? And who the person standing in the shadows turns into? Stay tuned, I'm betting you won't want to miss this.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The ring

Things have been a bit tight in the budgetary department. I don't normally ask for help, but I made that very difficult call to mom last week, filled her in on some of the continuing chaos, let her know how dire the financial picture is and that, in all honesty, I'm overwhelmed. I also have plans about attacking one item at a time and she agreed that I've been thoughtful, am making good decisions. I was only asking for a little grocery money - my friends have stepped up (most exceptionally RK, who is my hero more often than I can say) and we don't go hungry. But my mom, who is in a very good financial position, should be helping her daughter and grandkids.

I got the call yesterday - she was coming by at lunch time to drop off something. A little cash for necessities (thanks, mom) and something else. Something that blew me out of the water.

I was married when I was 19 to a somewhat nice guy with a little drinking problem and some stalker tendencies. Things dissolved quickly into a horrible situation from which I had to rescue myself - and I did. Landed on my own two feet, slightly scathed but basically none the worse for wear. I had to borrow a little money from mom to extricate myself (making $4.32 an hour didn't allow for much of a savings account) and I gave her my engagement ring to sell to get back the couple hundred dollars I'd borrowed. I thought nothing of it, she never mentioned it again.

Fast forward to 2008 - over 20 years since that wedding day in April. I spent 3 years paying off that ring that I didn't even wear for one. Live and learn, that's my motto for the moment. Well, she kept it all these years, had it reset into a ring she thought she might wear or give to my children at some point. It was in the envelope with the cash she left for us. I can't tell you how weird it is to be looking at this memento of something so old, so long ago and so forgotten. I have to get this thing appraised and sell it. Rent's past due and every little bit will help. But what does it mean that there are absolutely zero feelings around this ring that meant so much once? Maybe because it is a thing, and because I spent many hours and thousands of dollars in a therapists chair, talking about what I did, what went wrong, my responsibility for the mess that was a marriage at 19.

So the ring sits here, mocking me a little bit. I spent over a thousand dollars on it (that's more than the entire cost of my wedding to Keith, including rings. Ryan selected a very expensive ring and I ended up paying for it - that's relationship #1 in a nutshell). After we split up and I started to heal, I considered it money well spent on figuring out who I was, who I wanted to be and how to grow up.

Someone very wise told me recently that when you get a big windfall and something happens - a death, a divorce, an illness - that costs a lot of money, when you had other plans for that cash, it means that the universe provided. I sold my house, then Keith got sick. Without that money, he'd be living in a cardboard box, paying off 20 grand in chemotherapy bills for the rest of his life. Not acceptable. Thanks, universe.

And thanks for my mother being aware that some day I might need this sparkly piece of stone back. It may only gain me a couple hundred dollars, but the lesson I'm reminded of today is priceless. The universe provides. Thanks, universe...

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Under covers

I went over my to-do list this morning and had a minor panic attack. So back under the covers I went. I sit here, cozy under the piles of blankets, and want to thank the universe for its gifts.

Amazing friends - new ones added all the time

A job out there, just for me, that will fulfill my needs: enough to eat, a place to sleep, decent car to drive

Children I adore

The coolest dog ever

I get to start a new adventure in every area of my world

It's my favorite season, full of autumn leaves, the smell of mist in the morning and a great big fire in the living room at least a couple more times

I am loved by so many and I love freely, easily, with my whole heart - it brings me joy

I find things that offer me bliss each and every day

Thanks to all of you that make this list better. And thanks for joining me on this new adventure...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Lately, life has handed me a number of surprises. New people have come into my life that I never would have expected to meet. People are reappearing at an alarming pace. The chaos of my world seems to be making a subtle shift to something more manageable. More palatable. More.... nice.

I have no doubt that any chaos I've been feeling has been my own, tortured soul trying to escape the little box it's been shoved into - closed with duct tape and twine and any number of rusty nails. I dug my way out without any help and I'm proud of that fact that the box is now a distant memory that rarely invades my dreams these days.

I escaped that little box and I don't worry about the things that aren't working themselves out. I pick one topic a day and focus all my energy on that (today's topic: meet someone new. seemed to go well. pleasant is an understatement. connections are really cool...)

Now if you'll excuse me, I've some puddles in which to stomp.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Isn't that just like a girl?

Walking through downtown Seattle on Saturday, I had the strangest feeling that I'm going to be spending more time there. I found myself discovering shops that I loved, meeting people with common threads, even falling in love with some restaurants. The traffic would make me nuts, though - I'll need a job that can afford me my own personal driver or lots of money for cab fare. And a maid. I like to dream big!

I found this dress that spoke to me. It was at a little shop near Pike Street, they hand make everything so probably sets you back 10 grand for a little black number, but it was gorgeous. Kind of like that sapphire ring I saw a couple years back at Twist. Can you feel a connection to an object??

For now, I'm not really sure where I am supposed to be. Sellwood draws me. My friend Jen, my Seattle tour guide, told me that we're too hip for Lake Oswego. I think she may be right. Besides, I can visit from across the river when I miss my friends here.

Today is an adventure. And besides the election, it just so happens that today is the day that TWO - not one, but two - psychics said my world changes for the better. Anybody else have goosebumps?

Monday, November 3, 2008

Don't follow me - I'm lost

Today, children, our topic of discussion will be people. Specifically, people who are not open. Closed off. Closed down.

I was one of these strange creatures, once upon a time. Worried about everything, worked really hard, spent way too much time making an effort for everyone to like me, for everyone else to be ok, to make sure nobody thought anything... gasp... BAD about me. Everyone thought I was just fabulous. And I was miserable. I had this imaginary wall I'd built and I never let anyone past the moat full of alligators and the dragon with bad breath.

It's interesting to see where I am because of - or in spite of - this tendency; to always come out on top; to find success at all costs; to put family, life and love on a back burner and make sure your slacks are modern, your blouse is pressed and that you look better than anyone else as you take them down a notch. Where am I? About to be homeless (ok, I'll find something) almost jobless (I am one of many under-employed people on my city block) and trying desperately and valiantly to decide what the heck I'm supposed to do next. When the world hands you chaos, and you feel like Dorothy in the wizard of oz, and the people who are supposed to be there for you are just adding insult to injury, what do you do?

My first thought? Move. And I'm not talking across town. I don't love it here. Portland has been my home for my entire adult life - except for a couple brief forays to follow boys in the 80s. That's right, I was a guy groupie. I like many things about Portland but dislike even more. I feel like the shelf life of this city may be about to expire. But where to?

Hood River? Oceanside, Oregon? Boston (yes!!!)? London (cool!)? And what do I do when I get there? Bag groceries, walk dogs, babysit? Write?

As most of you already know, I'm a little silly about certain things. Like psychics (Until Saturday, I've only been to one once - and it was an odd experience). Like karma. Like bliss. And, I think I have to wonder if the universe isn't sending me in a completely different direction - as it did my friend Jen - because there's something I've missed in all these years of being strong, tough, independent and alone. Being taken care of.

Not like a child - tuck me in, make me warm milk - but the way us grown-ups should be taking care of each other, the way I've always taken care of the people I care about. Answering a call at 1am. Playing scrabble online. Saying "I wish I was there so you weren't alone." Visiting a friend, or having a friend visit, and making sure they get what they need from our time together. Whether that's an ego boost, a deep breath or a shoulder to cry on. So, if I'm truly looking for a shoulder, I guess I have to open up a little, allow that fear of rejection to run its course. Because I've been rejected - by others, but worse,by ME. I don't want to be closed off anymore - in Portland or anywhere else. Time to start taking applications. Closed off people need not apply.