Stream of consciousness…grab a paddle…

WordPress informed me that it was just around 7 years ago that I moved into this space. It’s my 7th blogiversary and rest assured I hate that I just typed out that non-word.

I admit I’m feeling a little weird today, not because I was reminded that I’ve been putting words up on this spot for 7 years but more because I delivered my first full length book to the editor last friday. I’ll get it back in the next few weeks/months of course, for rewrites and such but for the most part the bulk of the work is behind me. The process of publishing can be long and winding and, as I am discovering, a kind of emotional roller coaster in my case. The oddball feeling I have been sporting since I pressed “send” last Friday feels, strangely enough, more like grief than celebration. I told someone recently that writing memoir is like doing an emotional striptease, taking off one piece of protective clothing at a time over the course of months and months. I worry sometimes that perhaps I’ve told all of my stories now and I’ll have to wait another 46 years before I write a book again.

Which brings me to another chink in the emotional armor. Today’s my birthday. I’ve traveled round the sun 46 times now. I hope I’m getting better at it but honestly, I’m never really certain. I’d forgotten it was today until I woke to a chorus of affirmation on Facebook. I love that. Facebook birthday affirmation makes pretty much every annoying thing about social media bearable in my opinion. I’ll take it.

Most likely in the next few days I’ll see people live and in person. Most likely they’ll ask me what I “did” to celebrate my birthday. I’m not big on the “doing things” celebration aspect of my birthday, preferring instead to gather myself in, pile the in person and online affirmation around me like sand on the beach, letting it stick to my skin, some sliding away, some traveling home with me in my shoes and my hair.

Then issue of “self-care” sidles up next to my stream of consciousness canoe and I let it drift away, carried by the current. This might have to be the year I get serious about the care and keeping of me. It’s alright. We’ll catch up.

On the left bank of this stream of consciousness I see how the landscape changes, low hanging branches  dipping into the water give way to clearings and sand bars. I hadn’t expected all the transitions this year would bring-buying and moving into a house, delivering my first book to a publisher, sending all my kids to school, gray hairs…sometimes they show up in my eyebrows, long and wiry, nearly white. I’ll pluck them out with some curiosity, some precision and a little fear, a little anxiety. It’s strange to wake up and find that my body has been secretly aging without my noticing. The skin’s a little more saggy, the baggage under my eyes growing heavier, the effects of gravity becoming apparent, that downward pull, that aching back.

I drank three cups of coffee this morning. That extra cup was to work against the cold medicine hangover from last night. The process of the head cold never fails to astound me. It begins with that all over shiver, even on a hot day, head becoming cloudier than usual, a small tickle in the throat and maybe a sniffle, maybe not. By the end of the day I’m dragging, the virus having made its way around the whole of me, and I lay down and let my white blood cells gear up for battle. It’s my side of the battle that causes the material discomfort of clogged nostrils and headache and coughing. I try to remember that as I lay in bed and close my asbestos lined eyelids. I never nap. That’s how the boys know I really am ill. They pile into the bed with me, unafraid of the germs because in truth, that’s how the virus found its way into the house to start.

In the dream I am looking in the mirror because my teeth hurt. When I check my gums I find that they have receded so far that I can see the bone of my jaw and I panic but then I wonder about the miracle of modern dentistry and I leave it alone. I venture out to a writer’s conference with a friend and she tells me that we can enter the conference but that once there we’ll have to stay the whole weekend, we cannot leave “campus” for any reason until it is over. It bothers me but I go anyway. In the dream I am sitting with my daughter, we are out at a nice dinner and talking about life things- rough waters, calm inlets, tributaries and lagoons. We are both so beautiful. The moment is breathtaking and then I wake up.

I drank that third cup of coffee this morning to shake off the cold medicine hangover and it worked pretty well. I won’t take the medicine tonight, opting instead for hot steamy showers and eucalyptus essential oils- letting the natural cure bat clean up for a change.

It surprises me sometimes how few people still call me Angie.

It may be because I almost never introduce myself as “Angie” anymore. I guess I’m Angela now because I’m a grown up and stuff. Still, if anyone were to ask, I’d gladly answer to Angie. It seems like a long time since I thought about it. The idea only coming to me as I check my Facebook greetings again and count how many “Angie” and how many “Ang” and how many “Angela.” I’m all of these. I can almost date the length and depth of my friendships by the name I’m called. Almost. There are some exceptions- Dave still calls me Angela, as he always has done. My good friend Paula calls me Angela, usually when she’s laying wisdom on me in that way she has but sometimes I’m Angie to her, sometimes I’m Ang. She’s got all sides of me. That’s a comfort.

Paddles in the water, floating over, moving on.

I wrote once about how birthdays are like little Easters and I do still believe that. I still cling to the idea that we’re getting better, that we’re filled with moments of redemption and restoration. Today as I consider my 46 years on planet Earth and the effects of three cups of strong brewed coffee on a stuffy head I find some strange degree of stasis, an even-ing out, cups balancing on hands turned upward, cups waiting to be filled, waiting to be served, waiting to be placed carefully along a long and winding road that runs along the banks of this stream of consciousness. Though I meander and muse and branch out like tributaries and inlets and lagoons I do arrive finally at shore to say that I am grateful, profoundly grateful. I sit on the sunny shore of this stream, listening to water licking and spitting along stones, making music and mayhem and wonder and I am struck by the goodness of this life I hold within me and around me. I close my eyes to drink this in and I locate this, I am grateful, tremendously grateful.


missive: gratitude

dear one,

You are no stranger to disappointment. It follows you around sometimes for days, calling you by your first name. It knows every injury you’ve ever gotten, every job you didn’t keep, every friend you lost, every hope dashed. Still, you are willing to take it into your house when it comes around, let it tell the stories of the hardships of the world and feed it all of the food from your table. Some nights if you are not careful you find you are only left with the remains of what was meant to be a feast of joy.

Disappointment cannot be avoided as long as air is breathed and blood is pumped. Disappointment is simply a part of what it means to be alive.

But we cannot live on the left over bread crumbs and bitter wine with disappointment as our only companion. Disappointment has its place, certainly. Unfortunately it cannot fuel us for the path ahead- but gratitude can.

Though it may be hard to muster in desperate times, gratitude can find us when we’re lost. Gratitude can fill us when we’re empty. Gratitude can rouse us for that next hard patch of road ahead. You may be tempted to toss gratitude off the first chance you get because you think it is temporary, because you are afraid to hope, because you cannot trust that you will be alright in the end.

Please, hold on to gratitude.

Call it up when things are desperate, when you are so tired you can’t speak, when you are sure that disappointment is knocking at the front door. Call up gratitude and let it reach deep into your bones and remind you of where your flesh is anchored, where your soul is seated, where your love is located.

You don’t have to turn disappointment away from the table when it shows up uninvited but at least let gratitude sit next to you so that it can refill your plate. Gratitude will not let you go hungry.

don’t forget,

mrs m