September 30, 2011

the good

• just as I finished my run on the river the other day, a cyclist who had passed me earlier, and who had then stopped nearby to look at the view, turned and asked me if I knew what the river construction was. it's the new transit bridge, and it's being built right beside our office, so I told him all about it. we chatted for a few minutes and he said, "thanks for all this info. and you are an awesome runner, by the way."

• I begin to understand what the buddhists mean when they say there is no "self," we are all one. on eighty degree days, I run on the river with my shirt off, and having lost ten pounds in the breakup I feel not a single scrap of self-consciousness. but as I do, I realize how often I have run on the river, slow, coping with injury, being frustrated with my body, and have hated a little the quick, lithe girls who have passed me with ease. but now I understand: they are me. I am them. I am the slow ones and the fast ones. with each person I pass, I practice. in my head, I say, "you are beautiful." it doesn't matter if they are faster or slower, outwardly pretty or ugly. they are me. 'you are beautiful,' I think. and then, 'we are beautiful.'

• a coworker comes in and gives me a hug; I am in my office chair and she's behind me so her arm is around my neck, and I laughingly make a choking noise. as she keeps hugging me she goodnaturedly says, "I am not choking you, you fucking pussy," which is so hilarious that it improves my whole morning.

• my sister and I tentatively plan to run half-marathons in both of our towns and in las vegas. in costume.

• our associate music director, one of the hardest working people I know, sticks his head in my office on monday and says, with real sincerity in his voice, 'congratulations on the gala, darling -- you should be very proud.'

• buried under figaro parts, which are due on monday and which I'm about a week and a half behind on, I find myself immersed for days on end in audiobooks, which is remarkably cozy, despite the fact that I'm writing so much I'm beginning to lose feeling in my fingers. (seriously.) (it will pass, it's happened before.)

• my freezer is filled with food I did not pay for: chickens I helped butcher; peas and green beans from the garden; frozen tomatoes, both roasted and raw; a loaf of bread which was a giveaway at last weekend's 5K. the freezer is literally full, and the only food in there that I purchased are a bag of potstickers and the fruit I eat in my daily morning smoothie. total cost, about $8.

• people are, for the most part, inherently good.

• writing -- for a friend's running blog, for the opera blog, for the opera marketing department, for myself -- takes up a significant portion of my life. enough so that it feels like I'm a writer almost as much as a music librarian. I didn't even get here on purpose but it's like magic. it hardly matters at all that I do most of it for free.

• I might feel as though I could collapse from my grief some days. I can't deny it. some days there is no way out. even on days when I seem to be coping, I often cry. life is outside of my control; it's outside our control. this is a hard thing to swallow. the grief is, at times, tremendous -- as you have seen. and yes, I would like to be rid of it. but I don't begrudge it, and I don't regret it. I am sad because something mattered to me, and that something is gone, probably forever, left only to memory. grief is apt. grief is okay. you don't just stop loving someone. I've made a conscious choice: I could go through the memory banks and pick out all the things in our relationship that were hard on me, and bundle them up and chew on them for awhile, discarding all the beauty between us. that would be a way to leapfrog this sorrow: to focus on all the negatives. but that's terrible, and I want no part in it. that's why I can't stay angry. I don't really have much to be angry about; it's all manufactured. whether or not it seems like an exercise in futility, or insanity, I would still prefer to choose love. you are what you love, after all-- not what loves you.

September 28, 2011

meditation #1

most everyone wants me to be angry but I just can't hold on to it; my heart's not in it. my heart, my stubborn heart, it won't listen to a thing I say. standing in the shower, waking in the morning, running on the river, watching tv; there is no place without you.

as I drive to work, I pass on my way a woman standing with her little girl at the bus stop. an ordinary woman. it is raining; the little girl holds an umbrella. I pass her and as I drive by I think, ordinary people don't wake up every day with this heavy sadness. ordinary people wake up and make toast, drink a cup of coffee, watch the morning news. you're not supposed to feel like this. it's not supposed to be so hard.

I keep trying to do this complex math, thinking somehow if only I can get it, everything will be right again. I try so hard to avoid memory altogether, but snapshots of our life creep in, despite. the memories, plus the math, are on some days enough to kill me. I remember how by the third date there was no question that we wouldn't see other people. I remember how engulfed I was by the wave of love that came upon me in the fall; how there was nowhere for it to go in your absence but into the food I made for you and stashed in your freezer; into cleaning up your kitchen; into love letters. I try to add these remembered glimpses to the absence of now, the zero, the unintelligible lack. the equation is off. something defies me; adding it all up, I could never have foreseen this outcome.

this disbelief keeps me rooted to the ground. stuck. lost.

I begged my sister recently to please reassure me that I would make it to the other side of this. 'you have been sitting shiva,' she said, 'but you have to keep moving forward.' I liked the idea that this was what I was doing -- sitting shiva -- but it's not accurate. shiva only lasts seven days. and afterwards, you're supposed to feel a little better.

it feels like everyone must be exasperated with me. including you. including myself. I find myself preoccupied with 'supposed to.' you are supposed to be over this by now; you are supposed to be better; you are supposed to be angry, or healing, or you are supposed to forget. you are not supposed to hurt this badly after this long. you are not supposed to question; you're supposed to move on.

it turns out, the depth of my love was greater than either of us knew. is this the great joke of the universe?

it is maybe the best signifier of my mental state that I glance out the window from time to time at the bike rack, thinking maybe my bike's come back. as if whoever had stolen it has just decided to return it. in the moment just after I blink, I recognize the idea as crazy, but there's always one half breath of wild hope before reality kicks in again. in that moment I think, maybe what is lost can be found. maybe what is gone is not gone forever.

what I really want to say is: don't give up on me.

September 27, 2011

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I have spent my entire work day (marking mozart scores, an intensely tedious and therefore introspective task) thinking about this.

September 23, 2011

uncle.

more faithful
than lover or husband
it cleaves to you,
calling itself by your name
as if there had been a ceremony.

at night, you turn and turn
searching for the one
bearable position,
but though you may finally sleep
it wakens ahead of you.

how heavy it is,
displacing with its volume
your very breath.
before, you seemed to weigh nothing,
your arms might have been wings.

now each finger adds its measure;
you are pulled down by the weight
of your own hair.
and if your life should disappear ahead of you
you would not run after it.

"pain," linda pastan

...

a stolen bike. the birthday of my brother, who committed suicide last year. the anniversary of my stepdad's death. the hardest opera production of my career. and the breakup that just keeps giving. whatever else it is you want from me, universe, might as well go ahead and take it now. I relent. I can't swim any harder upstream.

September 14, 2011

my silence is my self-defense

you with the crack running through you
I can seep in, I can dry clear.

And yes it would still be there.
And no I couldn't hold you forever.

But isn't it drafty at night,

alone in that canyon
with the wind of the mind

dragging its debris--

I wanted to put
my mouth on you

and draw out whatever toxin ...

--but I understand. There are limits
to love. Here is a flower

that needs no water.
It can grow anywhere,

nourished on nothing.
And yes.

-- kim addonizio

I think I'm taking a hiatus for awhile. I don't know. all I know is, for the last few days it has been hard again, for reasons I don't quite understand, and I am so tired of it -- so tired of fighting off tears, so tired of being full up on remorse and longing and regret -- that there are moments when I truly don't know what to do. my body is out there in the world, visiting friends, running, smiling, treating people with kindness. my mind is there too, sometimes, but always there is you, you, you. I hate the weight of it so much I could scream, and I can't seem to unbury myself from it, despite my bravest and best of intentions. six weeks, and none of what has happened makes any sense to me at all, nor what's happening now; everything is a great mystery I don't know how to unravel. I still feel so full of love, and the unfairness of finding myself open like this at precisely the moment when it's no longer wanted is so hard I can hardly bear it. the math doesn't add up, and I'm tired of counting.

I both am and am not the mess you see on this blog. I write in my best and worst moments; though none of it is a lie, what you get is a strange collection of snapshots that add up to something only three-quarters true. many days, I'm OK. in some moments I feel fierce and full of promise. just not today.

you don't need to see me like this anymore. I'll be back whenever I finally trust myself to begin wearing mascara again.

September 10, 2011

I was wrong.

these are the ugliest tomatoes.

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I like them a lot. all full of crags and holes from where they've sprouted against the cages, or against each other; misshapen from where they've grown too fast; cracked from where they've ripened too much. these heirlooms, while more delicate, have a lot more character than the hybrids. they're crotchety, imperfect. a lot like us, I think.

just so you know, I can grow beauty pageant tomatoes too.
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do you know something? this is the first time in my entire life I've ever truly had my heart broken. it makes me feel so much compassion for every person whose heart I, too, have mangled. rob, casey, aaron, jay. universe, please forgive me.

the mantra I've been trying to live by lately: everything that you experience from another human being is either love, or a call for love.

September 7, 2011

the universe presents a single note of kindness

twice in the past week I have accidentally found myself in the exact spot where Scott and I met. I don't think I ever walked by it the entire time we dated. it was march 4. he was wearing a green shirt. I can still remember the conversation we had, even though it was brief.

today, suddenly coming upon it again, I was overcome by sadness. I passed a man who was about to get on his bike. he was standing in the grass. as I walked by, he looked up. "that's a very nice dress you're wearing," he said, simply. I smiled and thanked him. it was the dress Scott bought me on my birthday. although I felt as sad as I had before, I also said thank you, out loud, to the universe, for reaching out with one kind word at a moment when I needed it.

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when a life is over,
the one you were living for,
where do you go?
-- anne sexton

September 5, 2011

regard, the tomato
I grew the world's ugliest tomato! I'm so proud.

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it's huge. you can kind of tell there how big it is in comparison to my hand. I honestly can't remember where I planted the two heirloom varieties, so this is either a dr. wyche's tomato or it's an ananas noire. only one of the two heirlooms has begun to ripen so the jury is out. plus I think they ripen into the same color. this one didn't seem quite ripe but, well, look at it. it needed to be picked. I'm making homemade tomato sauce later tonight, once it cools down outside a little.

28. brave the nude beach

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(in the new dress my sister sent me as a present last week, which I never want to take off again, especially since it perfectly matches my fabulous hat)

yup. I did it. I've been talking myself into it all week. I was going to go yesterday but I chickened out, and also was sort of mentally overwhelmed by work stuff, so I ended up going into the office instead. (I know. ugh.)

there are two clothing-optional beaches near us: rooster rock, out in the columbia river gorge, and collins beach, on sauvie island. I've gone to the beach directly adjacent to collins beach before; there's a little wooden sign in the sand that denotes the line. I remember it wasn't too crowded that day but in the distance I could see a dude standing idly, naked.

I got there relatively early today -- about 10:30 -- because parking can be a complete nightmare and I didn't want to talk myself out of it again. when I got there, the air was still chilly and there were few cars in the lot. I wanted there to be enough people that I wasn't the only naked one around (or topless -- I wasn't sure which yet), but I didn't want it to be PACKED either. I had no idea what the vibe would be.

oh man, YOU GUYS. so I got there and there were maybe 20 or so people on the beach, all in groups, almost all totally naked. most of them older. it was like the safest group of totally naked people ever. I set my chair and towel relatively far from the water, away from everybody, and slowly put sunscreen on, trying to ease into the concept of taking off my bathing suit.

and then I took off my bathing suit.

just like I discovered when I stripped my shirt off during the naked bike ride, it turns out to be no big deal to be naked when everybody around you is also naked. after the initial leap of faith required to strip down, it was all cool. no big deal. except I can't find my good sunscreen and accidentally brought SPF 15, so I spent most of the time worried about my poor pale butt.

this is as close to proof as you get, internet:

actually naked.

some notes on this experience:
  • naked people are friendly!
  • the nude beach -- or at least this section of nude beach, which I picked specifically because it's considered the 'family' section -- is super unsexual
  • it was like a freaking sausage fest out there. I'd say male/female ratio was 80/20.
  • naked beach volleyball is surprisingly less hilarious to watch than I expected
  • by the end of the day it turns out to be no big deal to stand next to a naked dude and have a conversation about snowboarding
  • pardon my vanity, but wow, I really have it going on.
I did have a moment of hesitation later on in the day, when I decided to walk down and hop in the river. I wasn't too daunted to walk naked past a bunch of other naked people, but I suddenly had this moment where I was like, "wait, I'm not delusional, right? this isn't like that dream where you take off your clothes thinking everyone else is naked, only they're not...right?"

I did have a guy hit on me in the river -- in a very low-key way, thankfully. there definitely is a whole new level of discomfort when someone awkwardly hits on you and you're both naked. no thanks.

when I got back out of the water (which was so cold my nails had turned blue), a group of younger twenty-somethings had set up shop right next to me. all of them were in regular bathing suits. I found this rather odd, and even a little offensive, and had to tell myself, 'hey, you're not the weird one here, they're all clothed at a nude beach.' then one of the guys came over and said, 'we're going to set up a slackline here on these pilings, do you mind?' the pilings were right next to me. I had no idea what he was talking about but I was like, 'it's cool.'

do you know what slacklining is? I didn't, but it turned out it's something I've run into people doing a couple of times. it started with climbers and then branched out. it's essentially tightrope walking with a line that, rather than being taut, is just slack enough to be a little bit bouncy. the guys were AWESOME at it. I watched as they gave a tutorial to a friend, who himself could not get up on the line to save his life, and then after a couple other people tried it, they invited me to give it a go. as with most things, it was ridiculously harder than it looked. one of the guys kindly lent me his shoulder to hold once I was up, although I only managed to get up once (and take one step) before I yielded the line to the folks who'd brought it. SO. FUN.

just so we're clear, I did put my bathing suit back on for that experience. because tumbling in the sand + being sweaty + being naked + being really close to strangers = also no thanks.

indian summer at the farm stand
at kruger, there is almost nothing left to pick. SO. SAD. I was hoping there'd still be blackberries but they were nearly gone. I was really happy to find figs, though, because I just missed them at the market. figs + ricotta + honey = love forever.

I stuffed my basket full of figs, peaches, beets, and gravenstein apples, and then the lady in front of me had a beautiful bundle of flowers she'd picked, and I LOVE FLOWERS! so after I paid for my produce, I went back out and traipsed through the flower field.

I have decided that it is scientifically impossible to be sad, regardless of what you may have gone through in the past four weeks, if you are standing in a field full of flowers taller than you are.

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(I love how the dark ones look so emo. "we are sad sunflowers," they seem to be trying to say, but it's hard to take them seriously)
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(see? they're like the flower equivalent of suburban white angsty teenagers)

all the sunflowers' attention is elsewhere:
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I decided I'd spend a few dollars on flowers, despite having tons of flowers in my garden. there was a price list in the U-cut booth but having no idea what any of the flowers were (save, of course, the sunflowers), I just went out and cut a couple of stems and hoped I had enough cash. I ended up with a bunch of zinnias and marigolds and a single sunflower, at a whopping cost of ... $4. the marigolds smell so unbelievable I just want to curl up with them for the next few days. why do I not have more of these in my garden? I love the hot-pink zinnias too.

almost four day weekend
it turned out OK. I had contemplated, as I mentioned earlier in the week, doing something grand with my time off, like traveling somewhere nearby, but abandoned the notion when I realized it would all likely make me sad. in the end I got a lot of the trite, but nevertheless satisfying, around-the-house things done: cleaned my car, made homemade salsa, weeded the crap out of the garden, bathed the horse. my upstairs neighbor came down and introduced himself, and without prompting offered to move his car in our lot so I could maneuver better (I've been parking on the street because my assigned space is so close to the building, I'm afraid I'll get in and won't be able to pull back out). I've seen him outside a few times since then and he's so friendly -- it's nice to have a nice neighbor.

I also ran four miles in my vibrams. I meant to just run two, but it felt really good so I just ... kept going. which I shouldn't have done, because in the vibrams I have a different running style and now my calves are crazy sore and I'm walking like a 96-year-old. oops.

my last words on the subject. maybe.
I'm doing better. no longer crying every 15 minutes. I wrote a long, long blog post about the breakup the other day, but I lost the heart to publish it. it's really not fit for public consumption anyway. writing has always been the cheapest therapist I can find, which is why this place is inundated with my grief.

I feel like I may finally be able to emerge from the cocoon. it's hard. the difficult truth is, happiness feels like a betrayal. it's not that I think I don't deserve it; it's that I waited so long for it, and made scott wait so long for it, and now if I can lay my hands on it, it makes me feel very sorry that I can't share it with him. I really want to. but I don't get to choose.

here is an interesting truth about this breakup. in my darkest moments I found myself grasping for anything that would help me feel better, and often googled things like "how to get over a broken heart," "the worst breakup I've ever had," etc. what I discovered was that people get dumped and their overwhelming feelings are:
a) I'm afraid of being by myself
b) I need somebody around so I'm not lonely
c) the person who loved me has left me, so I must be unlovable
d) no one will ever love me again because I'm [ugly/stupid/whatever]

I found this fascinating -- and frustrating. none of it applies to me at all. people, I could win olympic gold in solitude. there is no struggle at all in being alone; on the contrary, for me the challenge is to continue being open to others. as for loneliness: sometimes you need something horrible to happen to you to realize how much you are surrounded by people who love you. I only need to shout (or cry) "help?" and ten people are there with candy and blankets and hugs. people I am, for the record, intensely grateful for.

I suppose I could feel, in rejection, as if it must be my essential nature that's rejected, and yet I know that's not so. to be honest, I feel pretty and athletic and charming. after all, the breakup gave me running back. (why? why now instead of any time in the last eight months? because in these past few weeks running has been the only thing that has consistently helped me feel like I wasn't going to die of a broken heart. so now I will do anything -- truly, anything -- to keep my injury from getting worse.)

I say all this because I want to be clear about my sorrow: it's not the sorrow of a person who feels that the future is hopeless. no. it's the sorrow of someone whose best friend has left the building. I don't know why this differentiation matters so much to me -- wait. yes, I do. it matters because I continue to feel nothing but love for that best friend, and it's important to me to be clear that what I feel isn't about fear or a lack of self-confidence or whatever makes people cling to bad relationships. it's about caring for someone tremendously important to me, with whom I have had an enormous share of beautiful moments. and missing that person, tremendously, in his absence. now, when I experience a slice of happiness, I'd like nothing more on earth than to share it with him. I constantly have the urge to kidnap him and take off on an adventure, because we needed so much more of that in our life together -- so much more wild joy, unfettered happiness, unbridled playfulness. the sadness I continue to feel comes from the wall between us that keeps me from being able to drive over and give him a piggyback ride or go get a donut or run through the woods or stay up all night. good lord, I wish I could do those things. it's hard to suddenly find yourself with a gift to give, when the hands of the one you love are closed.

blog, this is why I write. the gift's gotta go somewhere. we're going to try and move forward now, okay?

September 1, 2011

september

Tonight there must be people who are getting what they want.
I let my oars fall into the water.
Good for them. Good for them, getting what they want.

The night is so still that I forget to breathe.
The dark air is getting colder. Birds are leaving.

Tonight there are people getting just what they need.

The air is so still that it seems to stop my heart.
I remember you in a black and white photograph
taken this time of some years. You were leaning against
a half-shed tree, standing in the leaves the tree had lost.

When I finally exhale it takes forever to be over.

Tonight, there are people who are so happy,
that they have forgotten to worry about tomorrow.

Somewhere, people have entirely forgotten about tomorrow.
My hand trails in the water.
I should not have dropped those oars. Such a soft wind.


-- jennifer michael hecht