Sunday, December 29, 2013

Hiking the cultural landscape

My transmission went out the day before my last final.
My lithium ran out two days later.
Today M— and I walked seven miles so I could get my refill.
I digitally captured the hike to preoccupy my wandering mind.
This is the south end of Happy Towne in all its splendor.











Saturday, December 28, 2013

You should have been there, 16 years ago today

He slid into this world the same way 
he tucks and rolls off rooftops.
Easiest birth of all four,  
the one that taught me to ride the waves,
and the necessary technique 
of juggling two babies at once. 

He will fly farthest from the nest.
I miss him already.

He is my son in so many ways.










Friday, December 27, 2013

Solstice perspective

This past year I developed a theory of mood patterns
and the effects of cosmic tides.


It's rather simple. I can account for decades of emotional turbulence, beginning with a depressive tilt in November and coming out the end of December running headlong toward hypomania if not erratic mixed episodes. The pattern has perplexed me for years, and I've learned to brace myself for it.


My last ex posited that these were somehow connected to memories of past traumas that I relived per annum. I might have accepted this theory except that there is no significant trauma that I can link to onset. The pattern just began, about the same time I was diagnosed in 1987, and was firmly fixed by 1992 when I left home.


My mood disorder is well established. It has certainly played havoc with my ability to cope under stress and in difficult relationships. But the pivot in December, even though I know it's coming, never gets easier.

I've begun to contemplate the role of light.


Bipolar Disorder bares the interesting feature of light sensitivity. The sun's rays, too little or too much, are component to dips and lifts in mood. I feel best in spring and summer with plenty of daylight and outdoor exposure. But if I'm not careful and allow myself enough to sunburn, I tend to experience upward swings. I've found indoor tanning helps to temper this because it lessens my sensitivity to outdoor absorption. 

What I can't control are the solstice and equinox and the amount of sunlight that naturally reaches my portion of the hemisphere. Note the dramatic lessening of light through the end of November until the darkest day—December 21st. And then, incrementally, portions of light are reallocated through January.

I believe this is the answer.


Winter solstice is rebirth, and birth is turbulent. The laboring mother lays in the valley of sorrow, pushes through darkness, and in a rush of climactic endorphins a life ignites and emerges. Settling into the routine of new life is often chaotic and confusing. It has to learn the meaning of day and night, of sleep and awake. 

I know this is an odd metaphor. But I believe I've discovered something crucial to understanding the pattern my moods follow. And like learning to birth children (because it is a learning process) I believe that giving in to the inevitable, embracing the waves of work toward the transition, and allowing myself to ride the natural process is going to ease the change of light in coming years considerably.


Thursday, December 26, 2013

Rockin' around the Christmas tree

This one easily takes first place.
Best. Christmas. Ever.
First Christmas that Ex. No. Awesome and I co-parented the holiday.
E— said, "I got seriously lucky in the parent market."
I think I agree.






After all this technicolor, I spent a few hours in the kitchen whipping up four pots of soup: Cheddar Ale, Cauliflower Cheddar, Clam Chowder, and Chili. (That's a lot of Cs.) At 5 p.m. Empedocles joined us and we stuffed ourselves with soup. After chatting and filling 20 single serving hefty containers with soup, Ex No. Awesome drove me and L— out into the chilly night to find the hungry.

What happened over the next hour is a long story, but I fed one sick man from my poetry class, two cops, and seventeen homeless people. And lets just say I've got an idea brewing for how to do it more efficiently and effectively next year so that I can feed, house, and hug more beautiful, lost human beings walking the streets of Happy Towne.

L— told me I'm an inspiration. I told her, "Like anyone I have bursts of amazing, once or twice a year. But most days I'm just a human wading in mediocrity like all the rest. And that's okay with me."

The amazing is the circuit of power produced between two people in an embrace. I held a number of homeless men and women in my arms last night. Their residue is sticky on my heart.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

"Go home and see to your education..."

Those were the last words of direction and advice he had for me. 
Twenty years ago, today.





It is difficult to mourn what we never had.
We can, instead, mourn the rough approximations of things received
when it would never measure up to what we needed.
We can also choose to celebrate those parts of ourselves that are theirs,
choose to to let the best and strongest traits live,
so that when we say "I miss you" what we mean is:
I see the best of you in me and I am humbled.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

daze

Aced my final Greek philosophy paper. We'll see how I eeked by on the two hour long, wrist-cramping everything you know about Plato and Aristotle write-a-thon. I knew most of it. I also prayed a bunch more today than I have in a while.

CNF is basically done except for a few peer critiques that I'm catching up on tonight.

God and Evil still wants its paper written. That will be my focus for the next week. I'm still trying to hone in on a clear, concise thesis statement that won't eat me alive with the research necessary.

Laura, the Poetry professor I TAed for has asked that I repeat next semester. She's my English Deptartment mom, and since I'm not good at cutting apron strings I said yes.

I'm taking two blocks of ancient Greek (the language), three credits of upper division ancient Greek (the philosophy), and Advanced Poetry beginning in January. As far as I am aware I will also TA for Mr. PNU's Ethics class, and I've promised Spring semester's lit journal editor-in-chief that I will edit poetry for him.

Now I need to relax into the holiday. Two weeks. I must catch my breath, because at the moment I'm feeling something akin to shell shock. 

Prior to 3:30 p.m. I'd slept eight hours in four days. I crashed for four, got up to feed my kids and critique some CNF peer work, and now I've got to try and put in some more time in REM sleep. My brain is fried. 

When it cools off, Anne Conway's theory of spirit, mediator and matter against the cosmology of the King Follett discourse. (I don't know if this counts as a viable comparison for this class, but I'm going to see what can be done.)

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Box and hanger 4.0


 He's the leader of the Grunts—T'sanku.





He calls the game Tron. 
No, he's never seen the Disney original nor the remake. 
He came up with the game before he'd even heard of the movies. 
But the battles happen here, up and down our hallway, 
with whatever armor and weaponry he can find to stay alive.

we're dorky, and we know it

Two weeks, caught on my smartphone:


Give an adolescent girl your phone, this is what she'll leave for you...


his superpower is lightning (he says, nodding)


five bodies, one queen bed


birthday snickerdoodles, cake is for aristocracy
or people who have time to bake. 

Mothers of winners

Brevity is sometimes the kindest friend.

I know very little about what's up with my mother. She doesn't actually have a diagnosis yet, although there is concern about the bone tissue on her left arm. The whole sarcoma thing, well, it's too soon to say how I feel about how that was conveyed. I visited my mother and my step-dad with my kids on Tuesday evening. They stayed at my step-grandparents' home while tests were being run at St. Mark's. The earliest they'll get feedback is next Tuesday. 

We had an early Christmas. It was pleasantly brief.

My philosophy professors have given me extensions on my papers, but my Ancient Greek professor told me straight up that there's no reason why I shouldn't ace the final. I appreciate his confidence. I'm also appreciative of the focus this sort of pressure produces.

Thursday Touchstones, the Pie Tin's lit journal, was released. I took M— as my date. We were treated to a lovely sit down dinner and the company of Empedocles before the awards and readings. 

I won first place for poetry with "Bobbie Driscoll on Never Growing Up" and runner-up for prose with my newly titled essay "Chain."

I made two things very clear in my acceptance speech.

(1) For the last ten years I have carried with me an award certificate for third place in a lit journal while I was attending the LDS University—North Country. For ten years I have basically been clinging to the certainty of mediocrity, wondering if I could do better. Winning at the Pie Tin in the presence of so many strong poetic voices was a huge honor, and the opportunity to continue working with these talented folk is a gift.

(2) Unlike my mother, I am not about to take credit for academic achievement without acknowledging the daughter who picks up the slack. Any applause I received Thursday night was applause for her and her efforts.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Nobody

I was in the middle of writing my culminating piece for my Creative Non-Fiction class when my step-dad called. I didn't answer. He left a message for me to call him back. I waited and kept writing for almost two hours. I'm writing on rewriting our stories when our childhoods suck. I think it will have wide appeal. I've been using the difficulty of growing up in the uber idealistic Mormon regime established by my mother. It's been a rough go. It just got harder.

I'm going to say that before I called my step-dad I've known that my mom is aging and that her health hasn't been the greatest. I'm going to admit that I've thought about what it would mean for her to die without speaking to her again. I'm old enough and have been through enough of my own to understand that life is temporary, and I'm glad of that. Truly. I've lost a parent already twenty years ago. It's a strange thing. You stand next to a corpse that is half of your DNA, touch its hand, feel the solidity of the chest that never sinks nor rises, you get that the body alone is no more than a compilation of meals.

My mother has been having some pain in her left arm. She went in to the doctor and an MRI was ordered. What it showed was an internal depletion of bone, probably by a tumor. At presented the guess is sarcoma, but she has to see an oncologist for definitive diagnosis. She's scheduled for consult on Tuesday at St. Mark's in SLC. Depending on what is found she is expecting surgery on Wednesday.

We live. We write our stories. 

An acquaintance posted this in FB yesterday:

"The thought came over me that never would one full and absolute moment, containing all the others, justify my life, that all of my instants would be provisional phases, annihilators of the past turned to face the future, and that beyond the episodic, the present, the circumstantial, we were nobody."
-Jorge Luis Borges 

Strangely enough, I find real peace in this.

My father is nobody. He's been dead for almost 20 years. I told M— tonight that sometimes we love people the most after they are gone. I don't want my mother to suffer. Cancer is a hard thing. The day will come, either sooner or later, that she will leave this life. That is why any of us comes into it. I've determined to keep writing this story. Whitewashing history doesn't do justice to those who have been something terrible but manage to become the beloved. How wonderful it would be to have the chance to embrace both the destructive past that my mother created and also love her carefully for the excised goodness I can find for many years into the future. I mean to do this until she is nobody and I am nobody beside her.


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Madiba

There are so few heroes in this world. 
Tonight, one has earned his eternal sleep.


Philosophy paper marathon

~An open post for random thoughts to keep me off of Facebook~

It's not that I can't argue a point that can't be absolutely verified; it's that I don't have the opportunity to verify my suppositions with the source. I think this is the draw the Ancient Greeks pose. I want the game to be a jigsaw, but it's all argumentative guesswork and in the end the pieces may or may not lend to airtight logic.

Knowledge = perception of true things received stimuli through sensory means
Knowledge ≠ truth, but rather a sensory perception of how things are from a single perspective
Epistemically, knowledge can only be acquired through kinetic participation

Language = vibration or image-based symbolic representation of perception, devised to convey the idea of perceptions through means of another sensory system.

Can language convey truth? No.
If language is employed at all in kallipolis what is the justification for Socrate's ban on poet?
How important is truth?
Are rough approximations enough to create good citizens?

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Seventeen


I'm about to turn in for the night. When I wake up I will have been a mother for seventeen years, and M— will have graced this planet with her phenomenal presence for the same.

We took a walk together tonight, talking about Japanese, language, the conveyance of ideas, our ideas about god and our individual capacity for goodness in the universe. 

My days with her are dwindling. Just one year is left before the world is hers and I need to do all I can to get her there. It's the strangest feeling, knowing that her ability to take off is dependent on how well I can prepare to let go; all the while I remember clearly the weight of her infant body in my arms or resting against my shoulder. 

She was born with the umbilical cord around her neck and meconium stain after hours of fetal distress. M—'s birth may well have been precursor to her life's anxiety. Her little whelps once she'd been blue bagged barely qualified as a cry. I was allowed just a few moments to hold her and then NICU nurses whisked her away to evacuate any possible meconium from her lungs and monitor her for signs of complication for the next three hours. I was wheeled in the opposite direction away from the nursery to postpartum where I tried to sleep amid a hollow of aloneness I'd never before known. By six a.m. I couldn't be apart from her any longer. I wrapped myself in a hospital gown, found my legs, and felt the attraction between gravity and my insides as I hobbled from my room to the nursery where I demanded my baby girl.

This craving for her closeness has persisted for seventeen years. M— is my best friend. While it would be irresponsible of me to try and keep her to myself beyond the next year, I hope nothing ever happens to that space in me that she's carved with her body and now fills with her heart.

Thanks

I'm on Thanksgiving break for 24 more hours. It's not long enough. The rest has been good. I spent the holiday with my first ex's family at the historic Lamb's Grill. The event was lovely, and I felt welcome, but the stress in life doesn't know how to relax with everyone else. 

M— relapsed Thansgiving. Even though I knew she was deeply distressed I didn't find out she'd cut until the next day. I trying to remain calm and stay clear-headed, but I can't focus on any of the homework I have to do. I'm worried about my grades this semester, worried that there's nothing I can do to help them, worried that if I don't keep my focus on M— that in the long run doing well in school isn't going to mean jack to me.

Same time, I'm feeling a great measure of comfort that is completely unexplainable. I pray, I do. It happens in the shower most of all, and it's pretty much never on my own behalf. I pray for the family in Santa Rosa. I pray for my friends at school. I pray for my kids. I don't really ask for anything personally anymore. I figure the universe is going to send me what it's going to send me. This has been my life for as long as I can remember. So when I start feeling comfort I know that if it isn't karmic retribution at a universal level, if it's not brain chemicals interacting in some chance mixture that meets a psychological need, that someone somewhere is saying prayers in my behalf. 

If that's the case, thank you. You really don't have to, but I'm appreciating this calm all the same.

We'll see how the next week goes.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Prayers and parkour: grounded wings

Last night, in a fit of insomnia I spent a few hours scanning the news when news hit the wire that a 15-year-old boy was discovered at 4 p.m. in Santa Rosa, CA, propped against the outer wall of a high school. He had sustained severe head trauma, cuts and abrasions to his arms and hands, significant loss of blood, and was unconscious. Thirty minutes prior he'd informed his parents he was going out for a walk.

Tonight, this boy, still unidentified because of his age, lies hospitalized in critical condition in a medically induced coma.

What happened? The answer isn't definite, but at this point in the investigation authorities believe his injuries were sustained in a parkour related accident, perhaps in a fall from the school's roof where the boy and his friends had previously practiced together.

I didn't sleep last night for a few reasons. This is one of the big ones. You've got to know I am hurting for this boy's family. Crying for them.

There are people asking two big questions. First—What is parkour? Second—How could his parents let him do something so dangerous?

I'm not this young man's mom, but I am a "parkour mother" and I have some answers.

What IS Parkour?

Parkour is not just a physical activity; it's an art. Developed by the French Navy, it incorporates the principles of negotiating one's environment as quickly and efficiently as possible by utilizing combined elements of logic, graceful acrobatics, cardiovascular endurance, and sheer athleticism. It is hard.

Parkour is considered non-competative because it is not performed "against" an opponent or opposing team. However, mastery is only achieved through rigorous discipline and pushing personal limitations. Your opponent is yourself.

Parkour is not counter-culture. Young men and women attracted to the art are generally disenchanted with the nature of competitive sports' rules and regulations. They come together to train and in effect become family, cheering on one another to do better, and encouraging adherence to healthy lifestyles that will promote physical excellence.

Law enforcement has no problem with Parkour; only trespassing.

Parkour teaches practical problem-solving skills. It trains the mind to quickly evaluate obstacles and to make accurate judgments. These skills fluidly transmit to school, work, and relationship settings.

Parkour grounds its participants in the present. It steadies focus. It defines situations within the boundaries of what can and can't yet be done.

Why do I encourage my son in his love of Parkour?

I don't agree with the mentality of competitive sports, which set boys and girls against each other and focuses on the "star" of the team. Social systems work best when we encourage each other and when we are rewarded equally for contributing our personal best. 

I believe that all people can practice and find enjoyment pushing themselves in parkour. This is not an exclusive art. 

I love the healthy, inclusive camaraderie of the parkour family. The philosophy behind the art requires respect of all people, of environments, of self.

I appreciate that men and women can train together. 

I believe in letting my children develop a sense of self-government and self-evaluation. They need to be in tune with themselves to understand their abilities and limitations. Parkour promotes this. It instills self-confidence in its practitioners. It empowers and stabilizes youth who may otherwise be affected by negative environmental factors. 

I've seen it work wonders in my son's life.

Is it dangerous?

Yes. It is physically and mentally challenging, and regularly tests physical stamina. There is inherent risk. BUT parkour training teaches young people to take responsibility and to progress at a safe rate so that they avoid accidents. Typical competitive sports teach youth to push through pain. Parkour teaches youth to listen to their senses and their bodies. Typical competitive sport also subjects young people to take hits, which cause far more injury than parkour, which teaches its participants how to avoid hazards. 

Do I approve of roof jumping?

This depends on two things: (1) Does my son have permission to be on the roof? (2) Does my son feel safe and confident in his skills to jump from those heights? Only he can be the judge of that. Who am I to keep my son from realizing his potential because I am afraid?

Of course, I worry. I watch the clock every time he goes out to do parkour in town rather than at the gym, and I feel much better about him training at the gym. I review the ground rules ad nauseum so that he knows I expect him to train with safety and intelligence. But I get that the time will come that my son will be of legal age and he won't need to clear permission to train. 

He plans to travel the world. He plans to film his parkour work. I won't be there to supervise. We have to let these children try their wings before they leave the nest for good. We have to show them that we believe in them, even when we worry about their safety. It's the best way I know to raise self-confident human beings.

My heart and prayers are with the family in Santa Rosa tonight, because they are part of the parkour family. When one set of wings goes down, we all feel it.


Monday, November 25, 2013

Topics

E— stayed up till 3 a.m. working on film edits and music. He didn't wake up at 8 a.m. when it was time to get ready for church. I was already showered and dressed. M— listened to me whine about not wanting to go, and then I drove her to her boyfriend's so she could attend with him before driving to my meetinghouse where I did Sacrament Meeting solo at 9 a.m. It wasn't too bad. The chapel didn't catch fire or anything. I chose to take the Sacrament. I feel good about that choice. Topic of speakers: gratitude and thankfulness—a no brainer. 

I listened and didn't get too upset when the story of the ten lepers wasn't interpreted exactly how I would do it. (Although I felt a renewed charge to learn ancient Greek.) There was even a great story about parenting without freaking out over kids' mistakes. The RS president did come over to visit, but I told her I intended to leave and thankfully she didn't press. That was enough for now. It even might have been what I'd describe as comforting. But really, no commitments. Like I told my home teacher a couple of months back, when I'm there I'll be there, when I'm not I need my time to work through all of this.

So I came home to think about God and Evil and a final paper outline I'm supposed to have drawn up by Tuesday. I have to decide...

Anne Conway and her concept of the feminine divine, the creation of Earth as mother, and the earth's contribution to the creation of bodies;

or

Malebranche and evil (privation/mental illness) as a creation of God?

I'm leaning toward Conway. We'll see.

I fell asleep and dreamed. I didn't wake until 2 p.m.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Cycle


I spent the day hanging with E— after M— went to her boyfriend's to hang.

So my son and I—we both had migraines in the last 48 hours, and spent most of the day eating when we weren't actually hungry. I don't know that either of us did anything productive besides share the apartment, talk, share stuff with each other on the interwebz, and eat.

Finally I said, "Man! I keep stuffing my face, even though I'm not hungry."

"No way!" he said. "Me too. We totally must be on the same cycle."

Yup, he meant it the way it sounds. I'm auntie flowing with my 15-year-old son.

And then he pulled one on me. I asked him what his plans were for tomorrow and he told me he's going to church. M— is going with her BF, so I asked him if he was planning to go with them.

"No, I'm going to our ward."

"Alone?"

"Aren't you going?"

"I haven't been in a couple of months. I'm cool with you going and all, but..."

"Why don't you wanna go?"

It's hard to answer this straight to your kids. I don't feel like it. I've got doubts that I'm not willing to doubt. I'm not sure what to do with the whole sacrament thing. It's socially awkward. I don't want to get pissed off and have to walk out so that I don't say something that will get me dragged into the bishop's office.

"Nevermind. I decided I don't want to go," he said.

I went to pick up M— after her date. I sat in the driveway of her BF's house and thought it over. I have absolutely no desire to go tomorrow. None. Zilch. Nada. Zero. But by the time I came home I caved.

"If I go tomorrow do you want to go too?"

"Yes!"

So mother/son date. Tomorrow at nine a.m. Actually, today at nine a.m. I dragged this kid to meetings for 15 years, trying to convince him it was where he was supposed to be. If I were still aiming at that goal in parenting I'd say I've done a good job.

*sigh*

I don't even WANT to want to go. But I'm going.