Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Tenderness trips me up. Lately, an unexpected emotion has washed across my eyes and hands and heart as I work. I've gotten through almost thirteen years of doing massage by keeping a thin, hard layer across all my exposed surfaces, all my tricky synapses. For the last few weeks, however, I've fallen into an unexpected kindness. A tremor of empathy runs through me for the exhausted, aching people who lie naked on my table beneath a thin sheet and soft blanket.

I've never been a cookie cutter therapist, but I've always let my hands be my dominant guide, working on an instinct that seemed to largely circumvent both highly technical routines and overly emotional responses. That same instinct remains intact, but now something else has seeped into my sessions.

My cynical mind remains cynical. The collapse of the Great American Dream continues full force. The destruction of the planet grows loud and real. Religion blinds us, money corrupts us, etc., etc., etc. Nothing new there. But as I sit at the head of the table with a person's head in my cupped hands, my fingers pressed along the edges of their vertebrae and my palms wrapping their tired shoulders little wishes for them run through me. Wishes for kindness and joy, wonder and health.

As one of my favorite William Meredith poems says: "But whether from brute need/ Or divine energy / At last mind eye and ear/ And the great sloth heart will move."

Go figure...

Saturday, April 25, 2009

I stacked my youth into a pale blue bin: letters from a boy in upstate New York once scoured for hidden signals, journals smeared with the misery of being seventeen, and eighteen and nineteen, good photos of people whose names I forget and bad photos of people I still love.

I read a couple letters and smiled. I showed some of the photos to some of my friends. I read some of my words, decades old and showed them to no one. And then I went to sleep.

There I met my high school boyfriend. We were both soft and lined and smartly dressed and despite our long absence from each other, still together and still the same. He sang obscure songs at me and wouldn't tell me what they were. I moped at his side and answered every question with "I don't know." We stared at each other and I confused pangs of anxiety with pangs of love. I woke up annoyed, as if our dream selves should have learned more in all these years. Am I doomed to repeat history, even in my sleep?

The blue plastic bin is heavy. I will need Sean to help me lug it to the basement. In another twenty years I will pick at the detritus there and let it trickle through the sluggish coils of my brain. And when my dream self again meets an old beaux or enemy, a lost friend or lost chance, maybe she'll take the opportunity that dreams offer and try it a different way.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Euphorbia. Euphoria.

The sun comes softened by a breeze but still makes its mark on the new leaves, the sloth-rich soil, my frightened winter skin. Now, with a fresh blush burned into sternum, nose and arms, I am Italian again. I am the tomato-grower. The protector of young basil. Despite the dip of light, evening will not start for hours. We are busy playing music and writing poems. We are sun drunk and in love with our drinking buddies.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

On the radio this morning, I heard a worldwide call-in talk show focused on the topic of slowing down. More than half the people were happy with the quick pace of their lives and thought that to slow down would mean failure. A few people advocated for reading poetry in the sun or taking the time to cook a really good, really healthy meal, but most of them liked their quick paced lives, their busy schedules. For them, staying busy was equal to staying both happy and productive.

In my head, I argued that being productive doesn't have to be the key to happiness. And productive in what capacity? If I take the time to read a book, am I not being productive, albeit on a cerebral level? Isn't taking a walk and admiring the spring flowers productive for your health and well-being? I think so.

But here's the catch... I've been in such a funk lately because I haven't produced nearly enough writing. Despite what I said in my last post, I've been struggling to get the words down, though I've been trying. At every step I meet a hurdle if I'm lucky, an electric barbed wire fence if I'm not. This sticky, gummed-up story is driving me mad.

So maybe those people were right. I may not need to produce reports, resolutions or widgets but I need to produce something to feel my best, to feel like I'm something other than a receptacle for youtube videos and Netflix DVDs. My only solution is to ratchet down the expectations to an even slower pace and try to learn how to savor the drip...drip...drip onto the page.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

I've written it in pen, right there on the calendar, not only for Wed. 8th but on all the days of the following week. I've swallowed too many misspent hours and feel a bit nauseous, a bit deceitful. My life feels funny without a solid writing project in front of me. The new project is unformed, unweildy, un-everything. It has things to teach that I'm reluctant to learn. For one, have some goddamn fun. Furthermore, make millions of mistakes.

At first I wanted to think and dawdle and dwell on the shape and character of this new book and I've done a bunch of that. But now it wants me to write it out fast. It wants to be long and shitty. It wants to make so many wrong turns I get lost somewhere kind of cool.

If only I had a montage. Enter the button-down recluse whose worn down all the erasers in the house. Exit the footloose free spirit who tosses off pages without a second glance. All set to some jangly folk-pop song by Feist. A magical transformation.

Monday, April 06, 2009

We, as a city, exhaled fully these last few days, dropping our cramped shoulders down from our ears. The sun came and cured us of most of our bad moods, our tedious confinement and our frighteningly luminous flesh. Someone told me there were 25 days of rain in Portland this March. It felt like it. But now, I'm sitting in a tank top and shorts writing this beneath a picture of this year's first flowers, carried home in my bike basket. If it didn't interfere with my cargo capacity I would carry potted flowers around on my bike all the time. You should know this about me...for a misanthropic hermit, I am inordinately delighted and soothed by the presence of brightly colored petals. I am also notoriously bad with plants. More on this conundrum to come...

Friday, April 03, 2009

Almost all of my friends live a decent but nonetheless check-to-check existence and always have. This craptastic economy has tightened our well-cinched belts, but ultimately hasn't changed much in our daily lives. Except for this: We used to joke when we talked about a grand European vacation or saw a perfect piece of perfectly spendy art or walked by a gorgeous 5 bedroom house that we would go ahead and buy it. "I've got $5 bucks in my pocket. That should be enough right?"

Well, now it is. In Detroit, at least. I know, it's Detroit but still...When I heard about the crazy market there I googled Detroit Real Estate, entered a value between $100 and $1000 and came up with 156 results. The above 6 bedroom multi-unit building is going for $600.

I'm not sure why, but I'm totally fascinated by this phenomenon. Maybe it's just the strangeness of watching a city decay, first in increments and then in leaps and bounds. Maybe it's the dash of entrepreneurial spirit inherited from my father that makes me think somebody should be taking advantage of this, not in a greedy, lecherous way but in a way that does something daring and grand for these neighborhoods.

I'll go crazy and throw in $20. Who else wants in on the American dream of home ownership?