Friday, December 30, 2005

Cleansing

Cleansing.  I spend a great deal of my time, between housework and laundry, on routine cleansing, but today I’m dealing with cleansing the after affects of some major stress.  I am doing an internal cleansing and a sage burning in a room, to start the New Year free of the old spirits.  Or am I?

I’m not sure if the hours I’ve spent this after Christmas week looking at jewelry online qualify as cleansing or escape.  Over the past few years, I’ve bought myself a piece of jewelry for my birthday and for Christmas each year, which I did not do this year, due to housekeeper meltdown drama, which ensued mid-December.  I am somehow providing myself consolation for what I have suffered recently, so there is the connection.  At middle age, I do feel better with jewelry and makeup on, what’s that joke from retail “early to bed, early to rise, work like hell and accessorize”!  I just don’t feel very glam when I get up in the morning, and put on several years ago’s bulky fleece robe.  My naturally curly hair does not qualify as stylish for the past ten years or more, it’s ok when I fix it with some product, but in the morning, not ok.  I was lucky in my twenties; “big hair” was in (circa Farrah Fawcett and many others in the 1970’s).  Now I don’t follow the trends anyway, and find it kind of foolish anyway.  I see older women who are all decked out in the latest young girl fashions and to me they look older, not younger.  My wardrobe is not even under discussion here…I wear about 25% of my clothes.  Mostly I wear stuff I can exercise in.  I like to wear only one outfit a day (see laundry above) and most days, I try to do something I can call exercise.

So the jewelry will make me prettier, yes?  And affirm my worth?  I should clarify here that the jewelry I have ordered is decent quality but not “precious”.   Is that my feeling about myself?  I think probably it is, actually.  At middle age, I seem to have a larger inventory of assaults to my sanity to recover from, and at the same time, less stamina to do so.  

Perhaps I should burn that sage in my bedroom as well as the third bedroom, where the housekeeper smoked.  Bad vibes, bad vibes.  My poor kitty loves that room, and his eyes are all runny from the smell of Febreeze.  I’ve been in attack cleaning mode all week in that room.  Previously it was my office, and I spent a lot of hours in there.  I also slept in there for four months during some construction in my bedroom and bathroom.  So that room has “been there for me” in the past.  Must go shower, put on today’s accessories for my belated birthday lunch.  My gifts to myself have shipped, according to my e-mail, so it is only a short wait until I become prettier and cleansed.  Right?  Maybe not.  The symbolism of cleansing is a very good start.  I will meditate on this, which I think is a lot closer to the reality of cleansing, that it is a spiritual inside job.  

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Gift Hook

The gift hook, as in “get the hook” or what?  I think I know what he meant, when he confided that he left me the holiday flowers and champagne at my door, that there was a hook for him.   He said he felt anxiety last week about the whole gift and holiday business I guess.  Well, hello, he’s not the only one, but hey men are not so insightful sometimes.  He talked last night on the phone when I called to thank him, quite a bit about this “hook” he felt.  He said he wanted to look at his attachments, that he’d entered into relationships before by positioning himself as being needed.  He said he thought he wanted me to need him, so that was the hook to the gift.

My first clue that he was conflicted was the drop off on the front step, rather than a holiday hello that we had earlier discussed by phone.  Now I admit to being every bit as standoffish, every bit as conflicted, although I handle it in a different way, Mars and Venus and all.   I had gotten him a silly “stocking gift” - actually, I just got a whole lot of festive holiday type stuff at the bargain stores back at the first of December, and wrapped them up for various friends.  Sort of a caffeine jag at the dollar store type of thing.   I only got a few real gifts for anyone this year, and even those personal gifts were small and generally in the “joke gift” or “gift exchange” category.  So yes, I am also adrift in the world of attachments.  There are a couple of these “stocking gifts” which are now irrelevantly sitting out in the garage…holiday cheer the week after Christmas just doesn’t cut it.  Note to self, don’t do that “stocking gift” dollar store blast again next year.  

And remind me not to stock up on chotchkies for those freakin’ hand made greeting cards either.  I’m retiring from the greeting card game.  They are fun when they’re done, and people seem to enjoy receiving them, but they take way too much time.  I have a whole box of bows, mini garland, special paper, gold tissue etc. that I didn’t use this year, due to the psycho meltdown of my housekeeper in mid-December, setting me into a dark non-festive mood.  A girlfriend told me the story of losing her nanny the week of Thanksgiving, so I guess the holidays just amplify all the emotions that we all have shored up inside.   Attachments, as my friend said, guilt, longing, nostalgia, you name it.

A final note on my gifting reflection is a fairly close girlfriend who sort of remembered my birthday, but not exactly.  She got the day wrong, no card, and gave me a import store gift, which was identical to the gift she gave me last year!  I do like it, and conceivably could use two.  But the feeling of my birthday not really being noticed is what stung a bit.  I’m not big on the inner child stuff but I do remember that from childhood, when my birthday was blurred into Christmas.  I felt cheated.   Of course I got her a chintzy joke Hanukkah gift, so I guess what goes around comes around.  I did make her a nice birthday card, and a special little gift I knew she’d like.   So maybe it doesn’t come around literally.  A number of other friends forgot completely, but hey it’s not like I’m making a little spreadsheet or something, hmmm, maybe I should….

The non-event of Christmas is fading from memory, as the ham and spiced apples are eaten up.  Ate the last slice of pumpkin chiffon bakery pie for lunch, and I don’t even like pie.  Bought myself a few sparkly presents online, as “consolation prizes” I guess.   The new year is ahead, and we’ll start anew giving to each other, sometimes giving generous gifts, sometimes not giving much at all, and sometimes giving a lot of misery.   Giving and receiving seem inexplicably tied.  We have a new year coming up, another chance to sort it out.

Monday, December 26, 2005

My New Outlook

She cleaned with a vengeance, no doubt from all the pain she held inside.  A full week after she moved out, thoughts of our troubled terminated housekeeper still fill my head, as I adjust to once again taking care of Dad and the house alone.  I still feel traumatized by her angry vindictive behavior the week following my giving her notice.  It was uber scary to have that kind of drama with a stranger who had a key to our home.  Not like a family member or a teenager, where I could just say “that Debra, what a temper”.  I’m gradually cleaning up her room, getting rid of the smell of smoke and cheap perfume.  I feel I need to burn sage or have a cleansing ceremony before I make that room my office again.   I feel disappointed and yet relieved in a way that the whole idea of a live in homemaker has proved to be so much more headache (literally and figuratively) than it has been worth.  “Good help is hard to find” brings to mind thoughts of my earlier life’s quest for lasting love.  Is finding a life partner or household help just a matter of lowering my standards or is this just my time to become more adept at being alone?

Alone seems to be the underlying theme lately.  This Christmas I was both the dropper and “the droppee” of bags of holiday greetings left on doorsteps.  My life and many of my friends’ lives seem to be so full of obligations that we can’t find much face time.  My eternal busyness is productive in some ways, yet chaotic and unsettling from a goal-achieving standpoint.  We have a nice, well-kept home, which is today still clean and decorated from Christmas.  Dad is doing excellent, considering his age.  Laundry is done, the refrig is full of tasty leftovers, and there is toilet paper if we sit down on the throne.  But my writing, my meditating, my reading, my exercise all seem to be last on my list, or just plain forgotten.  Most every day I feel frustrated and in need of escape, which I typically find through the Internet, my evening glass of Chardonnay, and my current obsession with the 24 TV series on DVD.  I’m busy all the time, but feel like I’m doing nothing of value.  So drilling down, I ask myself how can I not feel so frustrated with my life, just as it is?

Even when Debra was here, and I had some precious “out of the house” time, I felt often disconnected with my prior life - to my former church, groups, many of my friends, my interests.  These past four years, my life has changed in such a major way, the whole foundation has shifted.   I’m the same person in some ways, but from my outlook at this moment, it seems that I’m not the same person.  I’m a new person who I don’t actually know too well.  I’m a person who is very productive as a caregiver and homemaker, but as a baby boomer who has always worked, these are sidelines not a whole life.  I’m left with a huge question mark when I ask myself what has happened to my actual life that I had before?  I just turned 56 last week.  This paradigm shift in my life is a bit unwelcome - I’m not retired, yet I’m not working either.  So what exactly am I doing?

Someone recommended Still Here by Ram Dass to me last year.  I was struck by the process that such a spiritual man went through when he had to reconstruct his life after a massive crippling stroke.  His story comes to my mind often.  My life adjustments are miniscule and largely voluntary compared to an experience like his.

I’ve just set up a personal schedule for myself in my Microsoft Outlook (how apropos the name for that application is) of writing, meditating and exercising.  Going with the flow, I set the schedule around my actual life.  Considering it is “New Years’ Resolution” season, I am trying to keep a healthy grip on reality here, and not over commit and just end up more frustrated.  I’ll end here since my writing, journaling and MasterMind time for today is now over.  I’m moving peacefully to my next task, which imagine that, is housework.

Monday, December 19, 2005

So many levels of bad

I walk into her room, formerly known as my home office.  It smells of cheap perfume, and increasingly of cigarette smoke, as the perfume wears off.  The smoking was a deal breaker; she knew that, so smoking in her room was just another parting shot.

A horrible Christmas story has played out at my house for the last ten days.  Mental illness, issues of finding quality eldercare, dealing with the cuts in the Bush administration in social services, her history of domestic violence, her poverty, the landlord tenant code and local police shortages in our city verging on bankruptcy are all unwelcome preoccupations.  This time of year is about joy, hope and love if I’m to believe my vinyl placemats!  I’m not a huge Christmas nonsense person, but I do like the lighter spirits, and the “peace on earth and goodwill toward men” side of Christmas.  I guess terminating a neurotic, depressive difficult person from a job as our domestic worker does not count as loving the unlovable, as suggested in a daily meditation I subscribe to.

I’ve got my hacking dry cough now, cleaning up her room with the leftover smoke and perfume.  So she got me.  Gotcha!  How grand for her.  Do I forgive her?  I feel sorry for her.  I think right now I feel sorry for me.  Her depression and pathetic life seemed to have rubbed off on me.  Maybe that was her true intention.  I couldn’t raise her consciousness, so she was determined to lower mine.  Funny how that works.  Now I look at this past year in my depressive pathetic life, and it looks pretty bleak.  This isn’t how I typically spin things, but this is how I feel tonite.

All the years I did office work, I always noted the opposing forces of order and chaos - what I’ve heard referred to as the “chaordic alliance”.   Nature is always in flux, nothing stays in either perfect order or perfect chaos, and it is always pulled in the other direction.  My experience, chaos trumps order.  My ex-homemaker’s hysterics have trumped my serenity.

There’s always chocolate, shopping and other “self distractions” as a friend put it.  Went to the library today, and stocked up on some spiritual reading, as well as a few videos to get me thru the next week of hoopla.  I have a feeling I’m not the only one going into Christmas this year with more than vague discomfort.  

Monday, December 05, 2005

Unglued

Is the craziness inside/outside my head that keeps me from sleeping, or is it the endless insomnia that sets the stage for the crazies?  Drilling down a bit further, what is the story behind the story?  Anxiety?  Control?  Frustration?  “Stress”?  Hormones?  El Nino?

I woke up this morning about 2:30 a.m. for no reason.  The cat was sleeping in the living room, and all was quiet.  I was cold, and my shoulder was hurting, but nothing major.  As I lay awake (until 5:45 a.m. when I finally gave up and got up…) I did hear a car alarm go off twice so maybe it was the culprit earlier and I just don’t remember.

I know I should stop drinking all caffeine and alcohol, but I can’t bring myself to do it.  Not just sure about those factors anyway.  Many nights I sleep very well and my caffeine and alcohol consumption is pretty consistent and (I think) pretty moderate.  Really!  I’m old here.  I’ve pretty much eliminated coffee, drinking a decaf blend about twice a week.  Mostly I’ve switched to Lipton tea.  Does have caffeine, but not as much.  My one glass of wine from what I read is not problematic.  I have been having just a shot of Port after my glass of Merlot this past couple nights.  Holiday stress?  Probably.

The rituals of shopping and gifting have been pretty minor for me in recent years although I enjoy what I would call “joke gifts” like from the dollar store.  Antler headbands, Christmas CDs and holiday deco and generally stupid or festive stuff.  My handmade greeting cards are another story…they’ve been taking up increasing amounts of time over the past three years since I’ve been a rubber stamper…I’m not all that artistic, but I’ve gotten into it and made some very lovely ones.  Friends tell me how much they enjoy them…I guess anything handmade is becoming more unique in a mass-market world.  But making them is just so overwhelmingly time consuming.  Meditative when I actually get into it, but finding the concentrated time to produce them in quantity for the holidays is starting to make me feel really pressured.

My sane mind tells me that I’m ruminating about the stupidest things, things of no consequence.  Not just that little test about what will be important six months from now - but these things aren’t even important now!

I did ask for and receive a small consulting job - revising the content and “look and feel” of a friend’s website for their small business.  I’m excited about this project, yet sluggish mentally due to above overload.  Like my silver foil gift bag that I’m sliding the CDs into, I’m coming a bit unglued.