Sunday, September 25, 2022

Maybe someone cared about this place once

took the time to set the plants in motion. Orange daylilies in the spring. The black-eyed Susans in summer. Purple aster and rosy pink sedum in fall. It took me several years to figure the patterns out, the first year spent surveying the mess, the plants toppling over each other, the choking weeds, and everywhere, shoots of #%$^% bamboo. 

That was the first thing to go. That, and the prison door. 

Some days I seriously thought about tearing everything out, scouring it down to the hard, packed dirt. But then I would've missed the design hiding under all of that mess. How each season's flowers give way to the next. There's a metaphor hiding here too and if I thought I could explain it to you, I would, but for now, let's pretend I'm talking about my backyard, 

and how I learned what needed to be shed and what might be lovely to keep. 

1. It helps to know what you are dealing with. IE, what these plants are. This seems like a no brainer, but I can't tell you how long I spent trying to identify this stuff. You can google, and there are plant identifying apps and books, of course, but I found it most helpful to ask a more knowledgeable gardening friend. Think: therapist, but with flowers.

2. Don't do anything you may regret (except for what you are absolutely sure about--the prison door; the noxious bamboo). It really is okay to take your time while you get your bearings. 

3. But at some point, you will be ready to act, and when you are, do it. Dig out a plant and plop it somewhere else. Rip something else out all together and toss it in the compost. 

4. Or don't. Not everything is worth saving.

5. This is your garden now, after all. Acknowledge what was gifted to you and then draw up your own design. Plant your seeds. Find joy in what grows. 

6. As for the rest—take a breath. It’s okay. I promise—let it go. 


Sunday, September 18, 2022

I Yoga-ed with a Goat (and I liked it)

Something interesting that I noticed yesterday when I was doing goat yoga in the park outside the library is that when a baby goat jumps on your back, and their little hooves nudge and shuffle over your shoulder blades, and their tail switches against your neck, and their furry body bonks the back of your head, you can't help but be in the moment. Being

in the Moment is something I've been working on for years and with varying degrees of success. Day-to-day moments like walking the dog and doing the dishes and checking in books at the library are moments I can manage. These are quiet moments where I can reasonably expect what is going to happen next. 

Also, it helps to be on vacation, dog paddling around in the cool water of Woods Hole, Massachusetts. And now I can add: Sit in a Park and Let Baby Goats Jump on Your Back to my list. But what I really want is to stay present in moments without the cool ocean water and without baby goats. 

Moments that are uncomfortable. Stressful. Scary. These are the moments when I slip into what I've learned is a trauma response. You may have heard of this as "Fight, Flight, or Freeze." It's our body's way of protecting us when we perceive danger. Of course when you really ARE in danger, these responses good. They are automatic, self-protective, and essential for survival. 

The trouble is, later, when you are no longer in danger, your body may still be hard-wired for these responses, perceiving threat where there is none. An example is a soldier home after battle who cowers at the sound of fireworks or a car backfiring. But trauma response also occurs in survivors of childhood abuse, victims of natural disaster, or any number of life-altering events.  

In my case I may run away or I may lash out at someone, but typically, I dissociate. In other words, I disappear. Disappearing seems like the most innocuous of the three responses, and I even used to joke about it, how when things get too rough I can float right out of my own head, and what a fun trick that is. Except, 

it isn't fun. Because the thing about disappearing is that when you do it, you miss things. Important things. Like bits and pieces of holidays and birthday parties. Your child's graduation. Your own wedding. And when you "come back," which you inevitably will, you are jittery, wrung out, sad and ashamed.

There is the added element of powerlessness. Something happens to trigger you, and you respond, as if a button has been pushed. I don't know who I am speaking to here, in this moment, or who might need to hear this, but I have recently learned that there is a space between the trigger and your response.  

And you can sit in that space and ground yourself. With some practice, you may be able to take a breath and keep yourself from floating away. 

The goats don't know what yoga is, the goat handler told us at the beginning of the yoga class. They are just here. Clomping around in the grass on a lovely day in the park in front of the library building. Stopping to inspect and munch on a leaf. Pooping on someone's yoga mat (okay, that was MY yoga mat!). And every now and then 

clambering joyfully onto someone's back. I mean, me. They were clambering onto my back. And weirdly, I liked it.   

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Bee Moment

The water was cold at the beach and every morning it took me a good twenty minutes to work my way into it. First, to the tops of my feet, up to the ankles. Then to the knees. The thighs. An excruciatingly long moment at the waist. Until at last, the final plunge. Once I was all the way in though, it wasn't so bad. 

Actually, it was very nice. 

I'd paddle around, drifting on my side, rolling onto my back. Watch the seagulls landing on the nearby rocks. A sailboat gliding past. And somewhere in the distance the honk of the ferry horn. It occurred to me that I was not tangled up in my own thoughts about the past or worrying over something that might happen in the future. 

Instead, I was present and relaxed, fully inhabiting the moment. But then, I was on vacation. Why wouldn't I be relaxed? The trick would be coming home, and how could I bottle up this feeling? Take the Here with me. The ocean scrabbling over the sand. The seagulls... cawing? Cooing? Whatever sound it is that seagulls make. 

All week I was reading a book about time travel, a span of four hundred years, and every hundred years a global pandemic. Which doesn't sound like a fun book, I know, but strangely, it was soothing to me. How time kept repeating itself, and in each time, it was surprising, and somehow, not surprising. 

We go on vacation. We come home. 

But wait. It wasn't the moment on vacation I wanted to bottle up and carry with me. It was the moment-y moment of wherever I was, wherever I am. Flipping through books at the library. Or tapping on my keyboard. Or shopping for a mother-of-the-bride dress (I found one!) (WOOT WOOT!) 

Or just this morning passing by the bobbing flowers in my garden, quietly slowing, so as not to wake 

a sleeping bee. 

Sunday, September 4, 2022

A Library of Dresses

would be nice, but I don't think this is a thing. At least not where I live. What some people may not know is that there are all kinds of items--in addition to books, movies and music--available at their local library. 

At my library in Columbus, Ohio, for example, you can borrow a mobile hotspot, a tape recorder, and a light therapy lamp (the kind that helps you combat seasonal depression). At other libraries in our system there are jigsaw puzzles, boardgames, headphones, and a set of orange parallel parking cones. 

And at the lovely library in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, a place I visited a few weeks ago on my vacation, I found a delightful assortment of items ready for checkout, including a sewing machine, a tortilla press, a telescope, a ukulele, and a Halloween Monster cake pop pan, just in case you ever find yourself in need of one of those.  

I mean, LOOK AT THIS fun brochure:

But unfortunately, the Woods Hole Public Library does not offer dresses, specifically, a Mother of the Bride dress. 

Which is a giant bummer, because I could really use one of those right now. Instead, I trekked it out to the expansive outdoor mall in our area, accompanied by my husband, who is the best sport ever, the two of us dodging the crowd, the crowd itself, the main topic of our conversation. Who are all these people? I would say, or my husband would say. And then I would add, or he would add, 

And why are they here?

Why are WE here? was the follow-up question. But that answer was easy. Because the library does not offer Mother of the Bride dresses in the catalog and our daughter's wedding is in (gulp) eight weeks. 

Here is the thing about me and shopping: I don't like it. The rummaging through racks. The trying on of clothes. The part where you squint at the three-way mirror and realize that while the sorta okay dress looked sorta okay hanging on the hanger, it sorta does not look okay when it's hanging on you. 

Everyone and their mother is in this store right now, I text to my best friend and my daughter, who are both very kindly (virtually) nudging me along. And then after a beat, Wait, everyone and their mother really IS in this store right now. 

Turns out these dress shops are crowded with daughters shopping with their moms for homecoming dresses. There's a line to get into the dressing room. Crowds of teenagers traipsing past the fancy mother-of-the-bride-ish looking dresses toward the younger, more sparkly Homecoming-ish style.

Suddenly, I am flashing back to shopping trips with my daughter when she was in high school, the flinging of different sized dresses over the dressing room door, the oohs and ahs at my darling little girl turned lovely grown up young woman, the trip we took less than a year ago when she tried on her wedding dress, that dress not sorta okay at all, 

but stunning on the hanger, on her, a radiant soon-to-be-bride in eight short weeks! And Oh my gosh 

what am I doing, whining about trying on a dress (well, truthfully, A LOT of dresses) when I know one of them will turn out to be completely fine, and anyway, who even cares what I'm wearing, as long as it's hanging on me somewhat comfortably, my hand in my husband's hand, our daughter and son-in-law, our gathered family and friends, each of us in our bought/rented/borrowed clothing, so happy to be here

and all of us together.