Tank tops and shorts on the first warm day of April, sprawled on the dorm lawn in adolescent abandon, air smelling of baby oil, iodine, and sweet spring sweat. The Eiffel Tower on the first warm day of April, arm locked with arm among the winds of Paris, air smelling of wine, tulips and a lover's sweet caress. Boy child and ball on the first warm day of April, laughter on a learning curve stumbling in wet grass, air smelling of new mud, wet pine, sweet sun after rain. Contemplating the dappled shade on the first warm day of April, glider swing creaking its soft lullaby, air smelling of lavender, memories, and sweet seasoned dreams.
I wote this in 2004, four years into being the full-time, live-in caregiver for my mother, who had severe dementia and the object of the abuse heaped upon me by myi brother. It is a reminder that I have been through writer’s block before.
I think what happened is I learned t.o care too much. I think what happened is that I let the world nibble away at my layers so that I lost my deepest secrets.
“The Many Breasted Artemis,” my shrink once noted, as I unloaded my distress at being expected to always be the nurturer, the feeder, the source of unlimited resources, the problem-solver, the responsible one.
I thought that when I retired, I would be able to find, again, that dreamy focus. Instead, it takes me until midnight to finally breathe evenly and deeply, to let go of all of the knowing. It takes me until midnight to finally feel the yearning for deep secrets.
But to have secrets, one has to have a life beyond the giving of care.
I’m waiting for my time to come again, when I will, again, simmer and stir, ladle, at last, into mounds of midnight words, that witch’s brew.
While I’m waiting for that “sleep switch” to kick in, I’ve been trying to track down other bloggers around my age to see if we can develop into a virtual community of kindred spirits. That’s what I had back in the 2000s, and I miss the virtual camaraderie.
As part of my efforts to lesson my feelings of isolation, I am working with my local senior center to try to put together a weekly Zoom group of older folks who are disabled or are self quarantined. I only go out when I have to — medical appointments or grocery shopping. I would love to make new friends, and these days, Zoom is the way to do it.
I did spend most of my afternoon sending out my poetry in response to several “call for entries.” I have been pretty successful getting my poetry published, but it is three years since I have sent any out. At some point I will add a “Poetry” link to my primary menu.
Beginning next week, I will be part of a Zoom-based poetry group. I just love when synchronicities kick in and I become aware of the ongoing spirals that my life is on. I dreamed of a married couple with whom I was close friends for decades, but then they moved away. I contacted to tell them about the dream, and they put me in touch with the leader of the poetry group. The leader of the poetry group was one of my ex-husband’s college students and my daughter was a flower girl at his wedding. Circles into spirals.
Obviously, I have my depression under control. If only I could do that about my Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder.
Three or four a.m. has become my usual bedtime. Will I ever be awake again during those morning hours when the air smells fresh and the birds are just starting to sing?
I don’t have insomnia, I have Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome.
Over the past decade, I consulted with various sleep specialists, none of whom ever mentioned DSPS as a diagnosis. I finally had to diagnose myself. All of them told me that I, indeed, had a sleep disorder and provided various suggestions, all of which I tried and documented here. The last sleep study I endured, several months ago, required two Ambien to even get me to sleep on their schedule. Then they woke me up after 4 hours (5 am) because I had to leave, and I was barely able to walk out of the lab and find a place to sit and wait for my daughter to pick me up. I have found that few doctors do the investigations necessary to actually find an accurate diagnosis. It has become cookie-cutter medicine. One size fits most.
Three months ago, I had a serious emotional meltdown, which prompted me to find someone to prescribe more effective anti-depressants, since there would be days I would only get out of bed to eat and go to the bathroom. Struggling to change my circadian rhythm — and failing over and over — finally sent me on an internet search to see if my 3 or 4 am to noon or later sleep schedule was something others were experiencing. And they are. Many. All of the world. Almost all just learned to live with it because nothing worked when they tried to change it. One woman who lived on the east coast took a job on the west coast because she figured that would put her bedtime at midnight, and she could live with that. But it didn’t take long for her body to relapse back to a 3 am bedtime, even on the west coast.
This household shuts down around 11 pm each night. That leaves me with a good four hours to find something to do that won’t wake them up. It’s so easy to just sit, watch tv or read, and eat. I wish I could use that time to write poetry.
Anti-depressants, at the potency at which I am now consuming them, dull the sensibilities that I need to be inspired to create poetry. Even my prose becomes drab and spiritless. But now that I have a diagnosis and an actual official name for what I am experiencing, I will try to ease off some of what I began taking to climb out of the Major Depressive Disorder that I fell into because of all of my failed efforts to change my circadian rhythm.
What I wonder is, why now, since most folks with DSPS are adolescents or young adults. I think there’s a connection to the 5 year trauma I lived through taking care of my increasingly demented mother while dealing with the constant harassment and abuse heaped upon me by my brother. During that time I had no set sleep schedule and often had to resort to sleeping pills to get any rest at all. While enduring my recent meltdown, I realized that I really do have PTSD as a result. Knowing is always better than not knowing.
I’m back writing on this blog to fill up some of that time until 3 or 4 am, when my sleep switch activates. That’s really what it feels like. While I feel relaxed and tired during those wee morning hours, there comes a time when I simply fall asleep, as though a switch is flicked. There is nothing I can do to make that happen. When my brain is ready, it shuts off. And then I sleep deeply for 8 or 9 hours and wake up rested.
So, this is my life now, at age 81. It could be worse, and I try to be grateful that I can still see and hear (with help) and drive (but not at night) and I don’t have any serious medical conditions. I can live with that.
It’s March. Lost, mindless Oestre chicks. Hares gone Mad with abandon.
March Madness is a crazy time, a neither/nor time. Neither winter nor spring. An in-between time. Neither asleep nor awake.
Mad March targets the tales of those who hide behind the shroud of surety and secrets, takes hold of souls wrapped in remnants of reason, sending them into the mad March wind, freeing the poet’s wonder to unseat what is mean, what is mad, what is best left to the whinings of past seasons gone to seed. Beware the March Hare, unless she is your cup of tea.
A maze is a complex branching (multicursal) puzzle that includes choices of path and direction, may have multiple entrances and exits, and dead ends. A labyrinth is unicursal i.e. has only a single, non-branching path, which leads to the center then back out the same way, with only one entry/exit point.
These two structures have different, although related, meanings. Yet they are incorrectly used interchangeably all of the time
A labyrinth, while sometimes having very convoluted-seeming pathways, really only has one way in and one way out. Walking a labyrinth invites patience, focus, care, introspection. The goal is not to find your way out or in. That’s all laid out for you. You can’t get lost.
There is no set ritual for walking a labyrinth, but there are books and lectures to assist you in performing a labyrinth walk. The basic advice is to enter the labyrinth slowly, calming and clearing your mind. This may be done by repeating a prayer or chant.
A maze, on the other hand, invites you on a challenging journey to find your way in and your way out. Its pathways are meant to be disorienting and its goal is to confuse you. According to Wikipedia:
A maze is a path or collection of paths, typically from an entrance to a goal. The word is used to refer both to branching tour puzzles through which the solver must find a route, and to simpler non-branching (“unicursal”) patterns that lead unambiguously through a convoluted layout to a goal. (The term “labyrinth” is generally synonymous with “maze”, but can also connote specifically a unicursal pattern.) The pathways and walls in a maze are typically fixed, but puzzles in which the walls and paths can change during the game are also categorized as mazes or tour puzzles.
The Minator lived in the middle of a MAZE – a maze with such complex pathways that Theseus, sent to kill the monster, might not have been able to find his way out after he completed his task. So he tied a ball of string to the entrance to the maze and unwound the string as he went in so that he could follow it back and be able to get out.
So, while a labyrinth can be classified as a “maze,” a maze is not the same as a labyrinth.
This is what I was thinking about the other night, waiting for sleep. (Sleep doesn’t come easily or me).
I am thinking that some folks seem able to walk the safe, set pathway of the labyrinth life-model. Some by choice, like cloistered nuns and monks, who are relieved of the kinds of personal choices that are constantly confronted by those who find themselves navigating various stressful life mazes. Others, because of personality traits or very careful controlled planning, find their lives moving within the ease of the Labyrinth. There are still others who allow themselves to be absorbed into a cult mentality that provides the boundaries and makes their choices for them, making hard life choices simply by giving them a labyrinthian framework to follow. If they don’t deviate, they will make it to the goal (however the cult defines it). Organized religion also provides that clear pathway, so much easier to navigate than that messy maze.
Most of us, however, can’t avoid the stresses from the constant choices with which we are confronted along the maze-like journey of our lives. We constantly bump into dead ends, go around in circles, sometimes just sit down wherever we are, too tired to go on. I also think that if you are a creative person who engages with life to find inspiration, motivation, questions and answers, you have no choice but to take your chances in those messy mazes.
How different my holidays are from when I was a child, part of a large extended Polish family, for whom Vigilia (Christmas Eve) was a major event, with all of the traditional foods and traditions.
The only thing I have left is one ornament that says Merry Christmas in Polish.
After I got divorced, since my kids would spend Christmas Eve with me and Christmas Day with their Dad, we started our own food tradition. I let the kids choose. They wanted a meat fondue. And we continue that tradition today. Having to wait for our chunks of protein to simmer until ready means that we have to sit around the table for a while (unlike our usual “eat dinner together and then go our separate ways”).
We tend not to eat beef, so we usually have chicken; but this year we broke with tradition so that Lex, my grandson, could try beef. (Which, unfortunately, he likes.)
We did manage to make and decorate some cookies — from Baby Yoda (which Lex devoured rather quickly) to the wreath “painted” by my art-major son-in-law. (I have to say that I love that Lex wears the “Jughead” hat I made for him all of the time.)
My daughter has successfully installed replacements for the traditions I left behind. Over the past week or so, she has cooked dinners from the various ethnic traditions of our genetics — German, Swedish, Lithuanian. We often have Polish and Italian food, so there was no need to repeat those. And it’s a Christmas Eve tradition for us to watch Polar Express together after dinner while we have dessert. I decided to forego yet another watch and retired to my computer to struggle with this post. (I am still have problems using this new fangled WordPress platform; but I’m intent on figuring it out; I have been at it for three hours now.)
Somewhere in Yonkers, my younger cousins are feasting on their home made pierogi, carrying on the old traditions,using recipes that have been handed down for generations. I have yet to find store-bought peirogi that come anywhere near those our mothers made. I’m too lazy to do all of the work to make my own.
I don’t know if they sing Polish “kolendy” (Christmas Carols), but I know they get their families together and share old memories. I’m not in touch with them these days because he is their president, and he’s not mine.
I have fond memories of those Polish Christmases as a child. I probably don’t remember them the same way that my cousins do.
I’m a poet. I am all Eye.
December 24, 1948
There is no mistaking this immigrant clan
for anything but a matriarchy,
bringing from its Polish homeland
the fundamentals of family, earthy foods,
a deference to the will of the grayest female.
The men earn hard money, revere their vodka,
as it was on the farms of the old country.
The rest is woman’s right and work.
So, when the magical time of Vigil Eve draws near
the men disappear into their smoky enclaves
to share sad fatherland memories,
while the women gather in her kitchen,
a determined lineage of daughters,
by birth and marriage, armed with
the culinary legacies of generations.
For days, they roll, flour, fill, and pinch,
while we children sit on the floor, eye level to legs,
playing with scraps of pasty dough,
lulled by the soft humming of female voices,
the steady rumble of snowy urban streets.
The night flows with prayers and feasting,
as families gather at the gray lady’s call,
reviving ancient rites of pine and light,
singing the language and history of their people
carried across oceans of fear and hope.
They sing of homeland yearnings for freedom and faith,
of the tears of mountaineers displaced and despaired,
of the battles of heroes to free the heart’s land,
of mystical mothers and magical births.
Generations of voices in harmony
drift through the lace-curtained windows
open to the cold winter night, that night
when animals talk, wishes are granted,
and ancient rituals forge the primal bonds of blood.
I wrote this when I was in my mid-thirties, when life was an adventure. At almost 80, my life now is a different kind of adventure.
And it’s more than the eyes. The WordPress I used more than a decade ago is a different animal. I’m on a very slow learning curve. But they say that learning new things is good for the brain. Maybe so, but it’s not always good for the stress..
As I get older, I need things to be more simple. Only nothing is simple these days. Even though the “Ayes” had it in Washington and voted to impeach the Big Orange Turd, it’s still complicated, and it’s not going to be easy.
We are a family that has always valued and encouraged creativity.
My late once husband was a gifted playwright and director. I continue to write and publish poetry. (I just had two accepted for publication by the Orchard Street Press.) Our daughter is a published novelist who has branched out into designing publications as well. Our son, who was recently diagnosed as autistic, is a talented writer and photographer; he uses social media as his venue.
This is a film that my late once husband shot with an 8mm camera. B!X was recently contacted by someone who is working on a Netflix documentary on “The Toys That Made Us” to ask about using some clips, but that didn’t happen.
Since we all latched onto the original Star Trek television series with great enthusiasm, it’s not surprising that b!X’s bedroom walls became the Star Trek bridge (drawn with magic marker); a blue-painted foam board and a picture of the universe became the view screen.
There really weren’t any cosplay outfits available yet, so I painted the Star Trek logo on 4-year old b!X’s shirt (we called him “Kit” back then) so that he could play Captain Kirk, armed with laser gun and tricorder. The special effects are totally primitive, but the kids had fun making it and watching it.
As my kids were growing up, I would take a day off from work and let them play hooky from school every time a new Star Trek movie came out so that we could all go to the first showing. That tradition continues with my grandson, as we all go together to see all of the Star Wars, Avengers, and just about every sci-fi/fantasy movie that comes out.
My grandson has inherited those genes big time, and he and his mom are participating in Mastermind Adventures “Camp Half-Blood.” Melissa is Artemis and Lex is some character from Star Wars. They will both be in costume.
I’m the only one who has not been very creatively inspired lately; this is the first post I’ve written in a while. And I did create a little mini “Gnome Garden” in a spot near the driveway.
Little by little, I’ll get my groove back.
The ancient Hanged Man is the center of attention, oddly modern in straight lines and upright, bloodless repose.
I am at a funeral mass in a church that is a testament to privilege, from the pale polished wood of vaulted ceilings to the delicate stained glass windows, graceful allegories of allegiance and ardor.
My dead friend rests in a simple urn among flowers and photos. I am here to honor him, but the incense filled air and steady droning of apocrypha ease me into images from my past life.
I am in fourth grade, sitting next to my classmate, Stanley Szymanski, enthralled by the drama and special effects of a Black Friar production of the “Stations of the Cross.” As our bones vibrate to the crashes of recorded thunder and our hearts flutter to the rhythmic flashes lightening that signal the death of that Hanged Man, Stanley reaches over, grabs my hand, and whispers “Let’s get hitched.”
I am somewhere in my pre-teens, standing next to my father, who smells vaguely of Old Spice and who subtly hums along with the inspiring choir. He is tall and strong next to me, and, for the first time, I feel stirrings of some kind of desire. Someday I will learn about Electra, and I will take courses in psychology, and I will understand.
When I return home after the funeral service, I finish reading a book I requested from its author because, these days, I am even more fascinated by death and the processes of dying than I was as a child growing up above the viewing rooms in my father’s funeral home.
I also am a fan of Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell, so I tend to have an affinity for archetypes, and Polishing the Bones by Jungian Analyst Penelope Tarasuk tells of a journey that embraces both of my passions.
It is a unique story – one that can only evolve between two very creative, introspective, and unique individuals as they embark upon a shared journey to unravel and understand, first, who they are as patient and therapist and, finally, as companions on a final pilgrimage.
Tarasuk invests eight years in partnering with her “client” to prepare for the inevitable, which comes later than sooner and provides a richness of inner growth for both.
Theirs is not an experience that can be easily duplicated, but it does offer tremendous insight into how it is possible use the limitations of mortality to spark creative energies and insight.
More than 25 years ago, I was fortunate enough to pair with a therapist who used Jungian and Shamanistic techniques to help me explore my own dreams and demons. I wrote about it in an essay that was published in 1990 in a psychotherapy journal, Voices.
If you are interested, you can read it here: shadows2