Gardens

A Sore Tenderness

I went to get a massage yesterday to alleviate the developing hunch in my shoulders. When I walked in the door, the first thing the therapist asked after my name was, “Are you fully vaccinated?”

How bold to put the question I’ve been wondering about others out in front – a precursor to connection, a permission to proceed.

She welcomed me in to the space and I was met with the automated sounds of waves crashing on a noise machine. I completed the paperwork and she asked me what brought me in. What I was hoping to achieve?

I responded to all of the normal questions when one goes to see a new provider.

When asked, “Do you have any traumas?” I paused.

“You want me to list them here? I thought to myself. “Um, how far back do you want me to go? Are there folks who can answer no?”

I’ve met this question before and I’ve learned to be wary of how my answers are received. What does one need to know? When are folks simply curious?

To answer, I narrowed my scope. I ticked off the bus accident I was in in high school, a chronic crunch from hot days on tennis courts, an over heavy backpack from years as an academic overachiever. I spoke of my grief experience and that I carry anxiety in my hips.

She nodded, prodding no further with words. Instead, she turned to her hands to dig in to the story only a tense body can tell.

As I lay on a table covered in cool blue sheets, my masked face fought fabric and layers of protection to breathe. Skilled hands addressed deeply what I’ve been carrying from this pandemic and beyond.

I went home feeling relief.

People keep telling me to read the book “The Body Keeps the Score.” I’m afraid to pick up the title. Afraid of what may be revealed on those pages. That trauma and its adverse affects may be living in me.

You, too, have lived through a very traumatic time in our collective history. This pandemic isn’t over yet. The death rates may be slowing, and our bodies will be learning how to carry this experience for a beyond just a bit.

This morning, hoping for magic, I moved through a series of stretches. Where the therapist had focused her healing left a responsive ache in my muscles. I’ve been adjusted. I’m not free from pain.

Standing in my kitchen, waiting for water to boil, I watched a shimmering spider web descend from the trees out my front window. The strand was waving in the wind, arching from a leafy branch to settle on to the patio furniture waiting to be warmed by the sun. Do the spiders sense this global shift? Or are they simply doing what they know how to do? Reaching out. Webbing a place of belonging. Creating connections to ground oneself in the spaces in between.

Healing work takes practice. Kneading of muscles admits the nature of needing others to help us realign. In the reaching lies a sore tenderness and hope that we will once again connect from here to there. What a beautiful thing.

Relying on the 5 Senses

Photo Courtesy of Unsplash

A therapist once taught me a grounding exercise. When overwhelm wraps its scratchy arms around me, I have to start to count the things I notice. The practitioner told me to pay attention to my senses.

What’s something you see? What do you smell? What do you taste? What’s within reach that you can run your palms across? What noises can you hear? As you make note, repeat the phrase, “I am safe” to yourself in a whisper.

Repeat the process until the anxiety subsides.

I had an epiphany last week while staring at pictures of others gathering with friends and family. If others can gather safely without health consequences, perhaps I am entitled to the same experiences. I tiptoed into my closet to pick out an outfit made of fibers other than spandex and cotton. I used mascara. I blow-dried my hair.

I had a coffee date with a new connection. I flicked through clothing racks at T.J. Maxx. When I hugged my friend, seven months pregnant, for the first time since the first lockdown, I cried. Emotions bubbled up, surprising me as I embarked on the everyday, ordinary routines that I’d skipped for the sake of safety.

All the while I kept whispering to myself, “I am safe” on repeat.

In seasons of darkness, we’re told to look for light. I find myself squinting from the flares of light others have been basking in for awhile longer than me. I’m moving into the world stepping cautiously into ordinary spaces.

While my eyes adjust, I’m also practicing looking for signs of life.

Andy Rooney once said, “For most of life, nothing wonderful happens. If you don’t enjoy getting up and working and finishing your work and sitting down to a meal with family or friends, then the chances are that you’re not going to be very happy. If someone bases his happiness or unhappiness on major events like a great new job, huge amounts of money, a flawlessly happy marriage or a trip to Paris, that person isn’t going to be happy much of the time. If, on the other hand, happiness depends on a good breakfast, flowers in the yard, a drink or a nap, then we are more likely to live with quite a bit of happiness.”

Curating happiness in a post-pandemic world requires much of the same skills we learned in our hibernation.

What are your senses revealing?

Potatoes are poking their way through the dirt and I witness tiny tomato seedlings in their determination to become something of substance.

Neighbors up and down the street create a symphony of mowers releasing plumes of green grass thanks to all of the rain.

I’ve watched the irises grow their cellulose stalks and unfurl their blousy arms with flare. Bringing the blooms inside, I stuck my nose near the center and inhaled.

I dipped corn chips into hot cheese tasting flavors only a restaurant can concoct.

My clothes are clean. Leggings are worn soft. My toes can be free in flip flops once again.

A cousin said hello to their new baby girl.

When is the last time something wonderful happened to you?

I am safe. Life is here.

Relying on the five senses. A beautiful thing.

Been There. Done That.

I’ve been at this awhile now – this seeking beautiful things in August.

I typed peaches into my search browser on this site and the first hit is a post from 2015.

I’ve observed the sights and smells of summer before.

I’ve been moved by the bounty appearing on my counter tops – harvested fresh from farmers fields nearby and tiny pots warming on my porch.

I wrote about the peach lady here and encounters with fresh produce here.

I’ve written about my gardens here and lessons from tomatoes here and my appreciation for nature and growth of flowers and trees and the promises of soil here.

It’s happened again. The days turned into months and with each sleep came seasons unfurling in my same lap – the one often longing for something different. As if repetition means stagnant and recurring inspiration means I’ve missed some big opportunity.

Sometimes I catch myself dreaming of other lives I could be living. An urban woman in black pencil skirt, taking the subway to a publishing house – her fancy heels tucked in an expensive black shoulder bag. The J-Crew dressed scholar with tiny-framed glasses burrowed in a dimly lit library while working on a masters degree in something world changing. A mother tending to toddlers with curls, wishing her hair was washed and her stretchy yoga pants were freshly laundered. The REI-outfitted adventurer with worn hiking boots and tales of sleeping in hostiles and fighting off flirtatious men in Europe.

Maybe some day those visions will come true.

For now, I lift up my head and turn the calendar page for here it is – August again – and I sit, still me, with clean hair up and my square-framed glasses I should be wearing buried in the trusty, worn Timbuktu bag resting behind the desk chair I used in college.

Yesterday, we went to the farmers market and picked a bag full of bright orange carrots, crisp green peppers, a cantaloupe, and stone-sized potatoes still grimy with dirt.

Today, we drove home on the busy highway and pulled over to visit a bright yellow awning with fruit the size of baseballs ready to be bought. I wrote a check and handed it to  the teenage boy who only briefly nodded when I said I get excited to come get my peaches every year.

On Sunday, we went for a bike ride at dusk on the familiar trail near our house. Cool breezes from the river nearby lapped at my face as I peddled along, long grasses licking at my ankles.

The carrots and corn are still growing. Peaches wait to be picked.

I’ve got a pallet of luscious fruit wafting on my counter top begging to be doused in ice cream. Dusk still falls with purple and orange and the cool breeze waits to kiss my cheeks when I pass by on a bicycle.

Yes, I’ve been here and done these things before.

With all the chaos out there I’m reminded, in this moment, I don’t need anything more.

What a beautiful thing.

Seriously, I knew this was going to happen.

I added a 4-pack of marigolds to my growing selection of plants in the cart on Saturday. The orange blooms are supposed to help with pests and pollinators and look pretty in my square of dirt. We came home and dug holes for tomato starts and zucchini and cucumbers co-workers previously grew with care. Out poked the green shoots and leaves that will transform energy into happiness later this year.

It was risky, putting those plants in the ground. I knew the forecast was calling for rain and rain in May often turns to snow in May and still I was stubborn. Full of hope for my little seeds had sprouted and I wanted to get them warm and cozy in their dirty bed.

We put in the flowers too.

marigold

And just like the weather said, it started raining. I chickened out and brought my peppers and tomato stalks inside. Now my bathroom floor is full of pots waiting once again in the dark. We slept and it poured.

And tonight, just as they said, the rain is turning to snow. Damn. We got out the trash bags and pots and buckets, covering my little guys to attempt to keep out the cold. I could see my marigolds trembling, their little petals looking up saying “Seriously, I knew this was going to happen.” And I whispered “Good night, you’ll do great. Try to stay warm.” 

And I came inside.

Also happening in my life is the slow demise of my iPhone Six. Here comes a first world rant as I know my privileged problems are small in the grand scheme of things.

For months my phone hasn’t updated. No storage. Countless problems with the operating system. First went the feature of mobile deposits. Then no room for Spotify. Which is more important – King Soopers coupons or Starbucks. Trivial questions and simple choices, yes, and still very obnoxious. I paid for more storage – still no luck. Deleted photos. Archived emails. Desperately asked the kind folks at Verizon for help.

“It’s never going to update,” said the nice sales lady “There’s just no more space on your phone.”

I looked up at her, shaking like those marigolds, thinking “Seriously, I knew this was going to happen.”

The phone is only five years old! Technology be damned, if Apple wanted to be so innovative and the world is going to crap, shouldn’t we be able to sustainably use our very expensive devices until the end of time?

Nope. Not that innovative.

So after the research and the Youtube reviews, I found myself once again standing at the Verizon counter with a pretty package and an expensive new computing device to use for my texts and my photos, and the occasional phone call. The world’s information is at my fingertips and I needed to make sure I could have a head phone jack instead. Spoiled, yes.  I stood drawn in, addicted, and raddled looking for solutions to my technological deprivation. I made a choice and signed a contract.

As the same sales woman placed the new box in my hand, my heart started to drop.

“I knew this was going to happen,” I whispered to myself as I walked out of the store. My grief gremlin climbed out of my pocket and hopped into my hand. “Oh hello,” I murmured as her feathers started poking my hand.

This new phone will never receive a text from my dad. There will be no new photos of him and his phone number won’t live in my contacts.  I already lost his texts. But this device he will never even impact. No yahoo jokes. No butt dials. No bad connection calls.

A phone became a trigger and Apple’s planned obsolescence moved me further away from him.

There are lots of endings this week. Game of Thrones came to a close – I didn’t watch it but he did. So will Modern Family and The Big Bang Theory. Cultural movements that made up much of the last ten year’s pop culture just stopped. I didn’t expect them to last forever – I just didn’t expect it to hurt as much as it did when they were done.

Our good friends who we met just months after losing Dad are moving hours away. We said good-bye to them too.

Seriously, I knew this was going to happen.

Life moves on and things change. These changes are joyous and hard and even the best news and exciting devices can suck the breath right out of your lungs.

Like those little plants in my garden, being transplanted into new chapters of life can feel shocking and cold. It’s risky putting new roots in new places.

And yet, we have blankets, and buckets, and cups of tea to protect us. And I hope when the snow melts, beautiful orange petals and green leaves will keep turning their faces to the sun.

Shows end, we upgrade, they move, and we still we tuck ourselves in, saying with kindness to reflections in the mirror, “Good night, you’ll do great. Try to stay warm. The snow may melt tomorrow.”

That hope is a beautiful thing.

A Very Merry Un-Birthday

“One’s unbirthday should not be confused with one’s half-birthday, which only occurs once a year.” – Wikipedia – Unbirthday

I had a roommate in college who cut hair. She wore dark clothes and lots of boots and was able to rock short hair in a way that would make my round head look, well, rounder. She dreamed of dropping out of our university to attend beauty school. Instead of studying she would spend nights in our co-ed house dying the hair of the boys who lived down the hall.

The boys would emerge from narrow hallways smelling of bleach. They’d strut towards us, proud of their new, burnt orange do’s while swooping their freshly cut bangs over their eyes with a vicious tilt of the head. Smooth.

I was dating one of those boys. He later became my husband.

I’d watch from the worn, scratchy couch across the way as this roommate would confidently wield her scissors, tucking clips in her layers of black, kind and sure of herself in a way I wished I could be. I was not sure of myself in college.

This roommate was also sure of celebrations and firmly believed in celebrating her half-birthday. ONLY her half-birthday. She and her mom would give halves of gifts and eat halves of cakes and celebrate making it another tilted trip around the sun. She hated her real birthday.

I liked this premise and tried to make it my own.

Over the next four years, I started acknowledging my half birthday too. I wasn’t ready to renounce my real birthday and chose to adopt another day of recognizing me. I’d shout to myself as my half-birthday approached and remind people I loved with text messages and emails. My loved ones didn’t get my obsessive need for celebration. Most ignored my cries for recognition – I’d survived another six months, so what? In most minds, my half-birthday was just another day. As Alice in Wonderland would say, just another un-birthday. We have 364 of them.

Not in my dad’s mind though. He was one of the only people who would follow my whims, get onboard my excited text message chains and holler “woo woo!” throwing a fist pump in the air as I urged others to come along.

Sometimes, I really just wanted to be seen.

He didn’t have to understand the why of my absurd claims, he would just start to play along.

Sunday was my half-birthday.

I texted my loved ones and whooped quietly in the morning and they responded limply. I ate half a muffin and would have tucked a candle in my homemade banana cake, but the waxy old sticks rolled missing in my drawers.

This year, in his absence, my half-birthday felt like an un-birthday and perhaps that’s ok.

I’ve been working on a running list of the many things we don’t do anymore as his bubble of absence grows and pops.

Half-birthdays turn to un-birthdays. Move air. Blow bubbles. Pop.

Vacation traditions fall flat.

Car caravans leave without our vehicles.

Lines fill at taco stands with feet in Chacos, not ours.

They’ll sleep in the valley, under the stars while we keep mending here instead.

Move air. Blow bubbles. Pop.

We no longer eat small bowls of vanilla ice cream.

I was in my garden this evening and saw this giant snail, carrying its home on its shoulders. My dog sniffed and sniffed, her breath blowing the cobwebs and dirt on this creature’s muddied shell.

I paused and I thought, “What is this snail carrying that protects, but no longer serves? What debris of home follows you, little snail, wherever you go? And what of me? The things I carry, my dirt, my dust, my joy turned to wispy webs of systems and traditions no longer serving a beautiful, bubble-filled heart.

A very merry unbirthday.

To me.