Close the door, put out the light

I had the loveliest soundtrack for my morning meditation today — the pouring rain. Within the past year someone asked me what my favorite sound is, and that was my answer. I don’t have favorite anythings, really, but pouring rain is in the top few.

The lyric above is, of course, from “No Quarter”. However, my introduction to Led Zeppelin came in the form of a handmade copy of “Houses of the Holy,” and the bomber jacket-clad underaged bouncer who made it for me wrote the song list incorrectly. For years I thought “No Quarter” was “The Rain Song,” and since many of the band’s song titles — and most, if not all, from that album — bear little resemblance to the lyrics, I dwelled in ignorant bliss until someone-much-cooler-than-I-am corrected me.

When I was a sophomore (wise fool) in college I was friendly with a group of gals on my floor — they were most definitely cooler than me — and one day we were sitting around in someone’s room talking and listening to music. A song came on and someone said, “So-and-so had never heard of this song before!” to which everyone replied with astonishment. “I mean, everyone knows this song, right?” she continued, and we all murmured in assent and nodded. She looked right at me and asked, “You know it, right?” and I nodded with great fervor and a look of incredulity that so-and-so had never heard of this so very knowable song before.

Every now and then I remember this, and I wonder, still, what song it was.

This meditation thing continues to be a very interesting process. They say that one thing that can occur during practice is that long forgotten memories will emerge. In some cases these can be unresolved sources of stress, and that has absolutely happened in the past week. But during one of my sessions it wasn’t specific stress, I just couldn’t get out of this one room in my childhood home — the sunroom, for those of you who know my childhood home. I pictured aspects of it I hadn’t thought of in years — the sunbleached green carpet, the pale yellow radiator, the little shelf that shared an opaque, frosted window with the powder room off the kitchen. The curtained cupboard where we stored our board games. The clock on the ceiling.

Why was there a clock on the ceiling?

I got an out-of-the-blue apology via Facebook mail from someone I de-friended years ago, someone I’d never really friended much in the first place and so hadn’t thought about since the inciting incident. Apparently, and now it’s vaguely familiar based on the exchange that had taken place five years ago, he tended to respond to my optimistic posts with extreme negativity. This was a very specifically difficult time in my life, a time when I was dealing with a serious health issue in my immediate circle, and I was terrified and I had to be strong and I was falling apart on the inside but putting on a brave face and playing an active supportive role for the person whose health was compromised. And so I guess I was posting positive statements akin to “This too shall pass” “From great suffering comes great wisdom” “Brightness follows every squall” and other saccharine dreams … and he was responding to them with comments akin to, “Yeah, but if it passes there will only be more horrible things ahead” and “nope, suffering begets greater suffering” (he’s not articulate enough for that one), and “actually, extensive flooding usually follows squalls, and with that comes poverty, disease, and more destruction,” and so on and so forth. And I guess I asked him, publicly, to stop raining on my one-woman parade (which is really just a walk) and he told me to “fuck off” (that’s an actual quote) and I defriended him.

Wow I’ve had a lot of caffeine this morning.

Anyway, so I got an out-of-the-blue, five-years-later note from him that read: “If I was a dick to you in the past, I apologize”.

Twelve step program, table for one.

I responded with, “Apology accepted, we’ve all been dicks at one point or another”.

I don’t really know what my point is in sharing that. Maybe it’s that there is no statute of limitations, in my opinion, for apologies. And that, even though I do very much love the rain, I do not like having my spirit dampened.

Life is hard for all of us; that’s the nature of the beast. But to me, the more connections we can make to one another, the richer and more beautiful it can be.

Many people in my life are going through challenging times — breakups, financial troubles, health issues, family challenges — and for these friends, and for me, I wish many moments of reprieve, however temporary, from the pain. If you’re reading my words, I promise you you are not alone. There is nothing to lose and everything to gain in reaching out if you’re going through dark times.

This post took an unexpectedly somber turn. Kittens! Baby sloths! Sea otters holding hands!

I’m only happy when it rains

Well that’s not entirely true, but there are times that call for torrential downpours and this weekend is one of them. I have a lot of purging to do, literally and figuratively, and a rainy day would allow me to sit in my apartment without feeling guilty that I should be soaking in the waning days of summer (it’s still summer until the 21st and perhaps a bit after if it chooses to remain so), boxing up decades’ worth of books and photos and clothing and mementos whose significance elude me. It will feel really good to do this; it will be a start in the myriad steps I must now take to become the right version of myself, the one I’ve been shirking for 43 years. The one who relies on old pain to justify defensive reactions, on fear of my feelings not being validated to spew them in the most vicious and verbal way that I can in order to be heard. My childhood was a long time ago and it’s time I caught up to that reality.

And so I have begun taking some very important steps – and very scary ones, in some ways – as my dear L says, “learning to take care of ourselves first goes against everything we’re ingrained to believe” – or words to that effect. And she’s right. I’ve been called selfish, I’ve been called irresponsible, I’ve been called worthless – and those are some of the accolades – but the fact of the matter is that I’ve spent an awfully long time putting the needs of others – or what I perceive to be the needs of others – before my own. And so when my efforts to be needed are met with resistance, 43-years worth of frustration and loneliness and the absolute irrefutable “knowledge” that no one will ever really see me as I am or understand me as I want to be understood manifest in a torrent of ugliness that only a time machine could fix.

Mistakes I’ve made, many throughout my life and far too many in recent weeks, and while I do accept full responsibility for my actions, I have limited choices as to how to proceed now. I can apologize – and I do – with every cell of sincerity in my body. I can beat myself up (figuratively) and chastise myself and hate the little girl who rears her ugly head as a grown woman and says and does things she’ll forever regret. I can also breathe, deeply, use some of the breathing exercises a wise woman taught me this week, and I can begin to heal. I can learn from my past regrets and make what may seem like empty promises to never repeat certain behaviors, but until my final day on earth I will not know that I’ll never be “that bad” again. I certainly intend not to be – that is my goal. I can live in the present and pray for the future. I can accept my solitude because assigning fault or blame to it is fruitless; this is where I am today for reasons that are too complex for WordPress.

I can pour my vast stores of emotion into love and tranquility for myself and for anyone who enters my life from here on out. This is what I can do. I can not change the past, I can only embrace the present and strive for a better future. As I’ve said recently, I am pathologically optimistic (and yes, feel free to insert other ways in which you deem me pathological here). This is why I “ignore” signs that shouldn’t be ignored, and this is why I get myself into a terrible state where I ruin days and nights. I’m very, very tired of living this way.

In keeping with the poem I posted the other day, here’s another from Mary Oliver, which I’ve posted before. I know she’s not everybody’s cup of tea, but these words helped me once and they will again; I just have to learn to bear the lessons in mind and to stop sabotaging my life and ignoring the truth. If someone is hellbent on vilifying [you], no amount of repentance, explanation, or love can help. It’s time to move forward, hard as this may be:

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.