My Dog Fae

My dog Fae is a gentle and timid soul. She tends to view the world with an anxious and worried demeanor. I think she’s expecting the proverbial “other shoe” to drop out of the heavens and onto her head. Or, perhaps, she’s waiting for the universe to come after her. She is afraid of pretty much everything: strangers, my cat, the dark, rain, butterflies, her own farts … Well, you get the general idea.

Fae 2: june 2013

Fae’s rather squirrelly outlook on life makes taking a walk a challenging adventure, even at the best of times. It always starts out quite well. At the first mention of a walk, Fae dances around in excitement. She wags her tail and uses little howls of delight to tell me all about the good things in life as I strap her into her harness and leash. She bounds out of the front door, tail held high and a huge smile on her doggie face. A walk! A walk! What could be better than that?!? Nothing, that’s what!

We always have to walk the same route. Even the slightest deviation causes Fae to whine anxiously under her breath and constantly whirl around to look behind us — just in case someone is following her. She is not a dog who wants to discover and sniff new things. Even so, she seems to have a good time, in her own way. Until we reach a certain spot, about ten minutes away from our house. Once we cross into that invisible no-man’s land, Fae sits down on the sidewalk and refuses to budge. She eyes me with nervous, side-long glances, as if to say, “This is the farthest I’ve ever been from home. I’m scared of what the next step might bring. What if the sidewalk ends and I fall off the edge of the world?”

We stop for a moment or two. Sometimes, Fae and I look at each other. Sometimes, Fae studies the grass and the cracks in the sidewalk next to her front paws. And then, I tell her, “It’s okay, Fae. Let’s just take one more step.” It’s enough to get past her invisible barrier, and we finish our walk. Perhaps not as cheerfully as we started out, but we hang in there until the end. And that’s what counts.

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I think I’m a bit like Fae. There are times in my life when I think to myself, “Self, this is the farthest I’ve ever come. And I don’t know what to do now.” There are things I don’t think I can handle. There are things that scare me. There are times when it feels so much easier to sit down on the sidewalk and quit.

But maybe I can learn a lesson from my gentle, strange, and brave dog. I should take a deep breath and take a step forward — just one more step. Because, if I can hang in there until the end, I will have done my best. And that’s what counts.

Today …

Is not my day. At all.

Let’s forget the fact that it’s Monday. Monday is never the best way to start off a week, particularly when one has had a really nice weekend. When your weekend was nice and filled with fun, Monday morning comes as too much of a shock. The rudest awakening possible.

But, even for a Monday, today has been particularly sucky. My morning started out with fun and games. I didn’t sleep well last night, and I stumbled out of bed running on about three hours of sleep. Needless to say, my brain was not functioning at its best this morning. I shuffled into the upstairs hallway to do my morning duty of cleaning the cat box. (This is also my mid-morning duty, early afternoon duty, late afternoon duty, early evening duty, and just-before-bed duty. Also, if you say the word “duty” a lot of times in your mind, your brain starts to giggle. I think this is an involuntary reaction.) Unbeknownst to me, my cat decided to have some sort of sicko party in the hallway last night. So there was litter all over the floor in the hall, most of which had turned into a mushy sort of mud within a gigantic puddle of cat pee. Of course, the existence of said cat pee puddle didn’t register in my half-awake brain until I was standing in the middle of it. Sigh. Seriously, nothing says “Hello, Monday!” like a giant puddle of cat pee.

So I cleaned up kitty’s “gifts”. This required a good deal of time on my hands and knees, scrubbing with the industrial-strength urine cleaner. I cleaned off my slippers — the soft, suede-ish, lambswool ones from LL Bean, so,  yeah, those are never going to be the same. I replaced the pee pad in front of the litter box, all the while grumbling to myself about how that had done a fat lot of good last night. And then I wandered off to get dressed.

I had this uneasy feeling of foreboding. After all, this is Monday. And I was cleaning up cat pee first thing in the morning. Was this a sign of how the rest of my week was going to go? Let me tell you: This is not a good feeling. At all.

June 2011

I told myself to shake it off. After all, I was tired from not getting enough sleep. And today is the day my cleaning ladies were coming. My cleaning ladies come every other week, and their scheduled day is like a little holiday of happiness for me. I look forward to it all week long. Or, well, all week and another week. But that doesn’t sound nearly as good, does it? Anyhow, the point is that I told myself things would get better. Cat pee in the early AM doesn’t have to set the tone for the whole day.

Except, possibly, it does. Because I went downstairs to discover the leak we thought had been fixed was, in fact, not. And my whole living room smells musty and mildewy because of the hard rains we had a couple of days ago. And my dogs tracked mud all over the carpets. And then my phone battery went dead and took forever to recharge. Actually, it’s still charging. And then, when I came home with lunch for my cleaning ladies and went upstairs to tell them the food was here, one of them told me there had been a huge puddle of cat pee under my desk, too. So I guess kitty’s party extended into the office last night, as well. But, of course, I hadn’t gone in there this morning. I had been running late due to cleaning up the mess in the hallway. And then my cleaning lady told me not to worry: that she had cleaned it all up. And I felt extremely embarrassed, like one of those elderly women who get filmed on A&E hoarding animals or something and wonder, out loud on the show, how things got so out of hand. And then something in my lunch didn’t agree with me, which was … well, gross and not fun. And then my brand new keyboard refused to turn on or hook up to my computer.

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So, you know what, Monday? I hate you. You suck chunks. And I am done.

Tomorrow is another day. I remain unsure if this is inspirational wisdom or a cosmic threat. At the moment, it’s a toss-up.

A Hair Raising Tale

There are a lot of things about PCOS that absolutely suck chunks. A LOT. I don’t think I’m overstating things by saying this. I could write a long and impassioned post about each one of the trials and tribulations that plague me and the rest of my soul-sisters who also struggle with this condition. And, maybe, I will do that — one of these days. But, today, I want to talk about hair.

I feel really shallow and vain for admitting this out loud, but hair loss is probably in my top two or three things that have hit me the hardest in my struggle with PCOS. I was never blessed with the most fantastic hair, to begin with; it was fine and straight, and it never cooperated with curling irons or hairspray or humidity. But there was a pretty good bit of it. And it was not a bad color. Most importantly, it was mine. My very own hair.

I spent quite a lot of time in my youth hating on my hair. I think a lot of this was fueled by my mother. I’m sure she meant well, but she never liked my hair, either. She always wanted it to be thicker or fuller or more curly or … Well, she just wanted it to be something other than what it was. Now, in my second twenties and struggling with this stupid disease, I wish I could go back in time and tell my younger self to appreciate what she has. I guess the saying about not appreciating something until it’s gone is true. There is painful wisdom in those words.

For a long time, I tried to tell myself everything was okay. I would look in the mirror and suspect there was more and more of my scalp showing, but I would whisper to myself that it wasn’t real. I was just imagining it, and everything was fine. I couldn’t quite look myself in the eyes when I would say this, because, then, I would see the fear written there in big, capital letters that I wouldn’t be able to ignore.

One day — this is years before my diagnosis — I went to get my hair done, and the stylist commented that my hair was getting too thin on top. She went on to tell me I should focus harder on losing weight. That, obviously, my hair wasn’t really falling out; it was just that my head was too fat. I managed to hold everything together long enough to pay, but, after, I sat in my car and cried for thirty minutes. I went home and told my husband: “My hair is falling out.” He held me and tried to comfort me. And he told me it didn’t matter. He said all the right things: that he would love me, no matter what — even if I was bald; that I was so much more than just some hair; that I was still beautiful; and that, if the worst happened, we would get the best wig possible. I look back on this conversation now and feel amazed that my husband was so intuitive. He really and truly “gets” me. At the time, though, it just made me cry more.

Shiner 3: june 2013

I stopped getting my hair done. Because I was too embarrassed. I started looking for pictures of women who were bald. Because, if that was where I was heading, I wanted to know what I might look like. Let me tell you this: There are some amazingly gorgeous bald women out there in the world. Amazingly gorgeous! At the time, I was positive I would not be an amazingly gorgeous bald woman. I still think this. My head is all lumps and weird shapes. It looks like someone dropped me on it — repeatedly. (No one really ever dropped me on my head. I was just born with a lumpy sort of skull. But I have to admit, for a while, I thought about telling people my parents had dropped me on my head. You know, just for sympathy.) I started obsessively counting the hairs left in the drain after my shower. Were there more down there today than yesterday? How many had been in the drain the day before? Could I even remember? I stopped looking in the mirror. Because doing so just made me feel hopeless and helpless. At the time, I didn’t know why I was losing my hair. And I felt completely powerless to stop it.

My eyebrows fell out, too. Not all the way, but they thinned out to wisps on the ends. The last time I was in Texas visiting my parents, I went with my mom to the salon where she gets her hair done. The lady who does her hair has been a family friend for many years, and she told me I needed to stop plucking my eyebrows. When I asked her what she meant, she replied that I was plucking them too much on the ends and they looked too thin and silly. I took a deep breath to remind myself she meant well, frowned at her, and replied, “I don’t pluck them at all. I have PCOS, and they are falling out.”

But you know what? I didn’t cry. At all. I felt strong and confident. More at peace, in a way. Was this a strange way to feel in that moment? I don’t know. Maybe. I guess, somewhere along the way, I had come to terms with the idea that my hair was falling out. That I might be bald. That I might be left with only a few wisps of hair on my head. I can’t say I feel “ok” with it. But I realized I couldn’t torture myself about it any longer. And I realized I couldn’t hate myself for it, either. I think that moment was the first time I truly felt strong and confident since my diagnosis. Heck, it was the first time I had felt those things in quite a long time — way, way before my doctor diagnosed me with PCOS.

Yesterday, my friend told me my hair was looking better. I asked her what she meant, and she said, “There’s more of it. I think it’s growing back. Haven’t you noticed?”

And it surprised me to realize I hadn’t noticed. I don’t ignore my hair any longer. I decided to cut it short, and I maintain that cut and length. And I started coloring it again — reluctantly. I’m still a bit worried this might cause it to fall out more. But it became necessary because I was noticing a lot more gray, which completely washes me out. Putting the increased grays together with my friend’s comment, I realize that whatever new growth I’m getting must be coming in as silver-gray. So I suppose vanity won out.

I went home and looked in the mirror. Really, really looked — hard — for the first time in many months. Sure enough, there was less of my scalp peeking through on the top of my head. My hair is still fine. It’s still straight. But there is a little more of it there. And it’s all mine. My very own hair.

Blue

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Yesterday, as I walked by,
I found a tiny bit of sky.
Lying there upon the ground
Waiting, quietly, to be found.

Little bird, you live each day,
And let no worries come your way.
Do you know that you are blest
To carry magic in your breast?

Then you bring it down to earth,
Your gift and blessing of new birth.
So much beauty that you do
Reminding us all things are new.

Yet, I think you never know
How you have caused my heart to grow.
Living in the trees above,
Singing your songs of truth and love.

Yesterday, as I walked by,
I found a tiny bit of sky.
Lying there upon the ground
Waiting, quietly, to be found.

The Sum

We are the sum of all of our experiences. This is a great saying, isn’t it? Said by someone who is famous and much more clever than me. Of this, I am certain, even though I am currently too lazy to go and look up just who this clever person is. Or was. Or whatever.

No, it’s not that I’m too lazy. It’s more that I know what will happen. I will go off to find this one tidbit of information. And, in doing so, I will run across something else that looks interesting. Maybe it’s a cat picture. Or a link about a dog who learned to play chess. Of course, I will feel almost compelled to click the picture or follow the link. Before I know it, I will look up from the keyboard, realize it’s past midnight (which means my daughter has been left alone at school for a gazillion hours and I can expect a friendly visit from “the authorities” the next day), and I will have gotten nothing done all day. Because I will have allowed myself to get sucked down into the rabbit hole wonderland that is the Interwebs. No, really. This is how they get you. I think it’s a plot by the cats to take over the universe, one click at a time. Well played, cats. Well played.

June 2011

The sum of all of our experiences. In theory, I like this idea that everything I have gone through, everything I have learned, everything I have seen or tasted or felt or believed, everything I have survived, everything I have laughed at … That all of it, somehow, mashes up together in some magical sort of potion that makes me the person who is, right at this moment, sitting at her desk and clacking away on her keyboard in the hopes that words will come out of all her effort. And in the further hope that these words will make some sort of sense. This is a total crap-shoot, even on the best of days. But we do our best with what we have.

I love the idea of taking the things that haunt me and using them for something else. Maybe I can even make something beautiful out of what, to me, has been utter and complete shit. As writers, isn’t that part of what we do? We internalize those experiences and brood on them and mix them together to create new characters and worlds and adventures. Because, if something good or beautiful comes out of our pain, it almost feels like the pain was worth it. Like it counted for something. I am not sure I can explain it, not really, but this feels important to me. It feels important that the pain should count for something. That it should go back out into the world transformed into something better: something beautiful or meaningful or brave. Maybe, this would mean I was in control of my own life. Yes, painful things happened to me. But those experiences don’t own me. Instead, I own them. I can make them dance at my whim.

I think this is important, too: to feel as if you are in control of your own life. I have never felt this way. I mostly feel small and afraid — a tiny, tiny speck within a never-ending universe. Insignificant and not quite really “real”. I think some writers are incredibly brave. I admire the way they do exactly the things I can’t do, which is to speak from their experiences and their dreams, even if it hurts. I am not brave at all. I started writing in order to pretend to be someone else. I wanted to be anyone other than the person I was, and writing offered that to me. I could pretend to be amazing or talented or beautiful or loved. Now, I face my second twenties without quite knowing who or what I am. I look into the mirror and don’t recognize the expression in the eyes of the person staring back at me. I want to know her. Now, I find myself no longer wanting to pretend. Instead, I want to write for the person I am today. I want to find her and hold her and tell her things are okay. I want to tell her she is okay. But I find, perhaps, I have spent too much time pretending. And now, when I need them, the words don’t come as easily or as readily. Maybe this is natural. Maybe pretending is easier.

Reflections

You see, I am a little bit stuck. I find myself trapped between wanting to pretend and needing to tell the truths of my own life. There are memories and experiences and feelings which I have held close — oh so closely — all my life. I continue to hold them next to me even now. I can feel them, deep inside, next to my heart, festering. And I think to myself, “One push of the keyboard. Then another and another. What does it matter? It’s only words on a page, and those can’t hurt anyone. If you let them go, you’ll be free.”

And yet, I can’t seem to do it. No matter how much I need to write my truths, I can’t bring myself to take the action. I come close, but always fail to do it, in the end. Is it a misplaced sense of loyalty? Is it a misplaced sense of responsibility — this idea that I am responsible for the way other people feel? I do know words can hurt. I know this probably better than most people. Is it all right for me to chance inflicting hurt so that I can heal? Is it fear that holds me back? Maybe no one will believe me. Or, perhaps, it’s the small child who still lives somewhere deep down inside of me. She knows better than to talk about anything that happens at home. She has been told this all her life. And some lessons are impossible to unlearn.

I am the sum of all my experiences. They have made me a person who has compassion and care for others. They have given me the ability to mother my child with humor and humility and joy. They have taught me to laugh at life and at the world around me. They have done so many good and wonderful things for me. But they also hold me back. Because I can’t let them go. Amid the gut-wrenching realization that this will never end for me, I want to cling to hope. Because my experiences taught me that, too: If you are alive, there is always hope for things to change. Maybe I can’t write about the things I need to say. Maybe, for today, those experiences remain locked inside of me. But tomorrow is a new day. And so is the day after that. And I’m still alive.

I Might be Odd …

First things first, I’m sitting here wondering if I should have capitalized the word “be” in my blog post title. I am doing a quick mental run-down of what I remember of the rules for capitalization and punctuation, and drawing a total blank. I also think this will likely haunt me for the rest of the evening. Or perhaps I should say early morning, since it’s almost 2 AM in my corner of the universe.

Anyhow …

Back to the topic at hand. I am getting *that* feeling — you know the one: the sinking feeling of doom that seems to bungee from your head right down to your toes and tells you that the thing you’re thinking, which you most certainly don’t want to be true, really is true. Yeah. THAT feeling. And I am confident you all managed to hang in there and interpret my rambling, stream-of-consciousness, run-on sentence. Because you are all intelligent and wonderful people. And I am certain you will also forgive me for said rambling sentence, too. Because, as already mentioned, you are wonderful people. And also because it’s almost 2 in the blessed AM, and I should be asleep. Or, at the very least, tucked into bed happily playing Hay Day on my iPad.

Texas Sunset

But I am not asleep … Or playing Hay Day. (Why is that game so darn addictive, anyhow? I blame the pigs. Seriously. Those pigs are hella cute.)

A few weeks ago, my husband told me, in response to me bemoaning the death of my latest beloved Logitech DeNovo keyboard (which, by the way, the company no longer manufactures), “I think you should switch to a mechanical keyboard. I think it’s the only way you are going to end up with a keyboard that will make you happy. And that will last.” This might seem like a strange sort of conversation for two married people to have. Or maybe it doesn’t. We’ve certainly had stranger. But the idea that my husband was spending his valuable free time (and probably some of his work time, too) considering my keyboard needs gave me a serious case of the warm & fuzzies. Because that’s love, folks. If you have a mate who considers your computing needs, you need to hang on to them for dear life. At any rate, I had never considered a mechanical keyboard or the benefits of mechanical vs. regular keyboards. And so I simply replied as most dutiful wives would. I said, “Yes, Dear.” And went along my merry way, not giving the matter another thought. Tonight, though, the whole mechanical vs. regular debate came home to roost in a very big way — in the form of my very own, mechanical keyboard.

And so, I am sitting here in my little office typing away and feeling giddily excited over one of the best Mother’s Day presents I have ever received. This keyboard is beyond awesome. It’s in the realm of “Flipping Fantastic”, and you guys know I don’t use those words lightly. It has the perfect push and release action, and that wonderfully “clicky” noise  I love so much. Seriously, I love the noise this thing makes. But, as if that wasn’t enough … The dang thing lights up like the console of a space cruiser. I can set it to different modes, my favorite one being where the lights ripple across the board whenever I press a key. I say “I” can set it, but, in reality, the only person in my household who knows how the darn thing works is my 11-year old daughter. But whatever. So long as I have light ripples, I am a happy, happy woman. And there is a light-up snake on the space bar.

A Light Up Snake.

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Can we just take a moment or two to let the pure awesomeness of this tidbit sink in?

Yeah. I don’t even like snakes. At all. But I love this feature. Plus, I (meaning my daughter) can set the snake to light up in blue. Blue!!! This is so far beyond amazing that I don’t even know what it is. I’m not sure there are words to describe the level of brain-gasm I am experiencing at this moment.

Which brings me back around to my initial premise: I think I may be a little bit odd. I could have had jewelry for Mother’s Day. Or flowers. Or perfume. But, instead, the little girl who lives in my brain is squealing her heart out over a keyboard. A clicky keyboard with a light up snake on the space bar. EEEEEK!

As my husband loves to say, “It is what it is.” Which, actually, I don’t even know what that means. Of course the thing is whatever it is. What else would it be? And yet, the saying seems oddly appropriate at this moment.

Red

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Red were the words
That you said to me
Spoken in anger
When we didn’t agree.

Red were the things
I hurled back at you
Hurting and wounded
Wanting to strike you, too.

You have my heart
You are strong and true
Let us remember
Other things Red can do.

Red is feeling
The color of love
From you unto me
Precious gift from above.

Red is the love
I give back to you
Strong and eternal
My heart forever true.

A Thousand Miles

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

You know that quote, right? Yeah, of course you do. We all know that quote. We’ve seen it a hundred-thousand-million times in our lives, tacked up on all kinds of posters and placards, almost always backed with some sort of inspirational picture of mossy rocks or the ocean or, maybe, a towering mountain range. I get it. It’s a good quote. Right up there with the hanging kitten poster with the words, “HANG IN THERE!!!” shouting at you from the bottom, in all capital letters and with several exclamation points bringing up the rear — you know, just to drive the point home.

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

It is inspirational, isn’t it? I mean, it really makes you stop and think — about life, about where you’ve been, about where you might want to go, about how it might be possible to achieve all those dreams you’ve kept hidden, deep down inside, for far too long. Maybe, it’s even enough to push a person forward, to encourage someone to begin anew or tackle that life-altering “thing” that’s been put off for way too long. It’s heavy stuff, that quote. Good stuff.

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I think I hate that saying. It makes everything feel so simple and so easy. You want to go on some huge, life-altering journey? Great! Just take a step and, before you know it, *boom*,  you’re there! But life is seldom that simple. Maybe it is for other people, but not for me.

The thing is … It’s not the second step or the tenth step or the thirty-second step or even the hundred-and-fifty-first that’s hard. The hard part is that first step. There’s a huge leap of faith involved in taking that first step. Because you have to believe there will be a second step or a tenth or a thirty-second … and so on. You have to believe you will, first, find a path and, second, manage to stay on that path. You have to believe life can change. You have to believe you can change. You have to believe in yourself. And that’s hard. Like, bone-shaking, shiver-inducing, panic-stricken HARD. Sometimes, it feels beyond impossible. The doubts and uncertainty are chaotic and painful. They pile up and up and up, until you feel you might choke on them. You might hate these feelings, but they are so familiar that, no matter how obscene it feels, you cling to them.

Stacks of Cars

I’ve been on my own journey of a thousand miles. It has proven to be a meandering jaunt, with unexpected side trips, detours, and set-backs along the way. Each time, taking that first step has been hard. And painful. And, probably, not something I would have chosen to do, had I been left with any other choice. And yet, in each instance, I was left with no other choices. It was move forward or sit down beside the road of my misery and die. It sounds so dramatic when I write it out in black and white. I feel a little bit silly about it, honestly, because I am not a dramatic sort of person. But, dramatic or not, it was the truth.

Is the journey over? No. I don’t think I’ve finished walking my own thousand miles. The older I get and the more life experience I gather, the more I realize I may never reach that coveted mile marker. It’s a good journey. It’s also a bad journey. It’s a journey full of missteps and stupid mistakes. But also packed with laughter and joy and memories. Sometimes, I wonder where I might wind up at the end of it all. And other times, I find the ending point doesn’t really matter much. Because it truly is the journey that counts, as cliche as that sounds. But I do know this: I am glad I found the courage and strength to take the first step.

There’s another saying I love, from another great philosopher of our time. And this one speaks to me much more than Lao Tzu’s words, wise though they may be. This gentleman said, “I’m a thousand miles from nowhere. Time don’t matter to me. ‘Cause I’m a thousand miles from nowhere. And there’s no place I wanna be.”

Oh yeah. Sing it, Dwight Yoakum. Sing it again, just for me. And I’ll hum along as I trudge my thousand miles.