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There is simply nothing like the bond that you have with the folks you happen to be attached to by birth to make you absolutely lose your mind. My family? I call it the Gaar Family Circus. I tend to hesitate to bring new people around, especially if they have “tender sensibilities.”
My mother and father are still married, which I realize makes them a bit of an oddity. I am the oldest child, and following me are one sister – Kate, and a brother – Dave (a.k.a. “the boy”). The sole grandchild – Abby – is my sister’s daughter and my goddaughter, and puts the twinkle in my parents’ eyes.
The majority of my extended family lives within an hour’s driving distance. My people are totally “settlers.” Our predecessors got off the boat, got to Wisconsin, and here they stayed. Here we’ve all stayed to the present day.
There have been plenty of times in my life when I have definitely felt completely stymied by the seeming unchanging nature of this group of people. By the embedded traditions, and the expectations that accompany them. By the sheer weight and force of all of these people.
Yesterday was Thanksgiving, and we gathered at my parents’ house. I have a little joke with my folks, now that I live elsewhere – an elsewhere that manages to be pretty quiet and peaceful most of the time. When the circus starts up, I walk into the glass-fronted pantry, and close the door behind me, and every single time, my dad starts giggling.
My parents do strange things, now that I don’t live there. They bicker and tease one another. They have a different and cool relationship – they have their own secrets and stories again – ones that don’t include us. It’s pretty neat, actually.
My sister is a Gemini. That should explain everything. I always say that her picture should be featured in the dictionary next to “A.D.D.” – she doesn’t really have it, but having a conversation with the “two” people inside her head is maddening. First, you have to realize that as the Sign of the Twins, she can’t help it – there are two people having a conversation with you. Second, you have to learn to play both sides of the issue with her, and know that in each moment there is a part of her that is in complete opposition to what’s coming out of her mouth (hint: that’s the part that talks next). Kate is also incredibly irreverent, and hilarious.
The boy is taciturn and amusing by turns. He’s the youngest and the only boy. He had a hard time of it with us girls – a team and a force to be reckoned with – but he’s relatively well adjusted.
These people have shared moments with me that have made me cringe with embarrassment, grit my teeth with rage, cry with pain or joy. They have watched me walk through some of the darkest moments of my life, and they have seen me shine at my best. We have dealt one another some of the worst blows we’ve ever faced, and provided the strongest support any of us has ever received.
And yesterday, we sat down at a table together and broke bread. All of the drama melted away for just a little while. The three-ring circus emptied, the lights came down, and we just enjoyed one another.
My mother said it best, “I am grateful for my family. I am grateful that we are all here to eat this meal together today.”
Simple words, powerful words.
I am grateful for my family.
Happy Thanksgiving World.
This morning did not start out well. On my way to go pick up my cousin for school, I had the insistent and persistent sense that my ferrying services would not be needed today. Every single time I have had this feeling (the “I don’t know why you’re even bothering leaving. That boy is not going to school today” feeling), I have been enroute, and gotten a text message telling me not to come. Again today, I got that feeling, and again today the boy did not need me to take him to school. Only today, I discovered this after I’d been sitting outside his house for fifteen minutes. He and my uncle were both very sorry, but to be honest, that was totally beside the point.
Hot on the heels of this little annoyance, I call my sister only to discover that she has invited a virus into her computer much in the same way one might invite a vampire into their home. My sister, the inexperienced computer user (obviously), doubted that there was anything to be so concerned about. I spent about twenty minutes calling and waking my poor fiancé to get his take on things, calling her back with information and instructions, and calling him back to apologize for harassing him so early in the morning. Finally able to convince her that this was serious – call the bank, don’t even touch your computer serious – I got off the phone, heaved a deep sigh, and continued my long morning commute.
The day was not off to an auspicious start.
I arrived at Three Sisters, and I had about an hour and a half to myself to kind of decompress and invite calm back into my sphere. I also chose to turn off my phone. Dani and I had a great day (I always do when I’m there – love it, love it, love it) – very productive, busy, and fun. So productive, busy and fun, we didn’t have time to eat, and since I was having so much fun, I didn’t really notice how hungry I was until I left.
So, I called my fiancé to get the scoop on tonight’s victuals, and he (per my earlier instructions) had already eaten. Great. Hmmmm. I was flying solo, super tired, and super hungry – and I couldn’t really decide what would be the most economical and least pain in the rear…. I realize that this shouldn’t have been a major decision, but my brain had atrophied by this point, and it sure felt major.
I called Rosati’s pizza in the Falls, deciding that, since I only have to please me, I’ll get the pizza I like, which no one else does – the Chicago style deep dish, all goooey and delicious with cheese and a buttery flaky crust and rich, chunky tomato sauce smothering all of the cheese and toppings…YUM. I call to order this delectable dish fit for the gods (or at least fit for me) only to hear, “I’m sorry ma’am, we’re all out of deep dish crust.” I literally said, “You make me sad.” I have no idea what the poor man thought of this, but he was very accommodating as I attempted to make another selection. I must have sounded as disappointed as I felt.
I arrive at the pizza joint, ready to dart inside and retrieve my pizza at the exact nanosecond he said it’d be ready, only to be told that it would be another ten minutes or so. At this point, I am tired, and so hungry that I feel dizzy and have a headache blooming across my forehead. I call Wittler (my fiancé) to tell him (or warn him, depending upon whose perspective you’re viewing this through…) that I was on my way home. Poor man. He sounded somewhat alarmed and not a little bit scared, even though I told him I wasn’t gunning for him.
The entire ride home, my poor little car made the whirring, spinney, rattling noise that my uncle (the mechanic) warned me was the harbinger of doom and my car’s imminent demise. Drat, drat, and double drat. So with the annoying and anxiety-producing whirring in the background, and the litany of the day’s issues running doggedly through my head, and the issues of the past weeks thrumming along nicely just for rhythm, I drove home.
With the exception of the middle of my day (while I was at Three Sisters’), this had not been the best day.
Wittler was very solicitous when I walked in the door, dutifully oohing and aahing over the scarves I bought out of the new shipment at the shop, and keeping his distance the way you would from a dog you’d just met and didn’t want to bite you.
To survive, we must begin to know sacredness. The pace at which most of live prevents this.
For a long time now, I have kept up a punishing pace. I am very hard on myself, and more demanding of me than others would be. I am a hard and exacting taskmaster. And, I’ve decided I am too damn nice. I need to learn to say no sometimes. Even to myself.
As I trudged into the front room with the pizza and Practical Magic, and the announcement that I planned to do whatever I liked this evening without interference, I realized that I don’t do that nearly often enough.
Before the age of cell phones, which I am thankfully old enough to remember and appreciate, I used to go off the map. Get lost for a while, have an adventure, do whatever the heck I pleased, for just a little while. I don’t do that anymore – and today, I realized just what that is costing me.
Your sacred space is where you can find yourself again and again.
— Joseph Campbell
Where are my sacred spaces now? I used to have favorite and secret haunts that soothed me and fed my soul. I have starved myself of the sacred, and withheld the opportunity to replenish myself, and I feel it.
I do too much for other people. I say yes to things far too quickly. I have “dutied” myself out of the pleasure I found in just being with myself.
So, tonight I told Wittler that soon – very, very soon – I’d be taking a day just for me. That I would hold it sacred, and that I wouldn’t be answering the phone, or telling anyone where I was, and that everyone would just have to somehow manage without me for one bloody day. Dani does this for herself, and in hearing her talk about it, despite my obstinacy, the Universe finally found a way to creep through the cracks of my stubbornness and get that seed in there.
I cannot remember the last time I even took a few hours for myself that did not involve going to visit with someone or weren’t simultaneous to doing the laundry at my folks’ house.
I have not been honoring my need to be alone with myself.
I have not been honoring my need for silence.
I have not been honoring my need to explore my world, to explore myself.
I have not been honoring myself.
Live your life as you see fit. That’s not selfish. Selfish is to demand that others live their lives as you see fit.
— Anthony DeMello
For the course of my entire life, I have been led to believe that in order to be good, I should find ways to be unselfish (which I’ve apparently translated to mean selfless). In order to be good, I needed to find ways to be of service to others. That is not in itself an untruth, or a bad thing. It should have been prefaced, though, by the idea that in order to be of service to others, I need to first serve myself. I need to take care of me, first. I need to love me, first. I need to serve me, first. Then, I can take the fullness and breadth of my whole and healthy being, and serve others.
The wonderful irony of the Universe is that I have said this very thing to at least three people in the past few weeks. It wasn’t until today, that I could see it with new eyes and hear it with new ears, and take it into my being, where it most needed to be.
So, my lovelies, I am going to indulge in watching one of my favorite movies, and I am not going to empty the blasted dishwasher, I am not going to answer my phone. And Wittler, since he is smart and knows me so well and loves me so well, will steer clear of the front room so I can have the me time I so desperately need. And, most importantly, I am going to start scheduling time for myself, before I schedule time for everyone else.