Shapeshifter

I am not a fixed point.  I am always moving, always changing.  Everything comes and go in cycles, waves and swirls, even tidal waves sometimes.

My body changes.  It changes size and structure.  I regularly cycle up and down through 50 or 60 pounds and several dress sizes. It happens every few years, regardless of diet or exercise.  I don’t mind the size change so much.  I always feel the same in my body regardless of size.  What bothers me more is losing access to clothing I love and getting stuck in clothing I don’t love because it happens to fit right now.  I’ll make a favorite skirt when I’m up, then can’t wear it when I’m down until I take it in, then I go back up and can’t wear it again.  I’ve stopped following the old advice of purging things that don’t fit or haven’t been worn in years unless they are terribly ugly because it saves me plenty of time and money not to have to buy yet another wardrobe when the cycle comes around again.

I change in strength and fitness.  I go through periods of pretty solid physical activity, biking and walking as a teenager, skating, running, biking again.  In between, I end up getting flabby and soft and weak.  I like being strong better than I like being weak, but there’s usually some reason, some block in my time or energy, to keep me away from whatever activity is current.  I have to accept that and work with it.

I change in what I eat and drink.  If you’re my friend, you can’t assume that you know how I like my coffee or what to order at the bar, although I won’t complain if you offer me something.  I cycle from drinking my coffee black to taking both cream and sugar, and everything in between.  I just shifted from black to creamy.  I cycle through food obsessions, back and forth, queso, popcorn, bread, oatmeal, cooking everything from scratch or buying everything ready-made.  Diet soda or regular soda or tea, beer or sweet cocktails (I don’t think I’ve ever gone through a bloody mary phase!).

I change in what I like to wear, in how I present myself to others.  One year I’ll be more butch and utilitarian, always in jeans, never with a purse, rarely with earrings or makeup.  Another year I’ll be all over the skirts and thinking about accessories, putting makeup on every morning, playing with my hairstyles.  Back and forth.

Money cycles, too, just like in the macro-economy.  Some years we feel flush with cash, plenty for eating out, vacations, clothes, whatever we need or want.  Other years we are strapped, counting every penny and dollar.  This doesn’t seem to necessarily match our income, either.  Sometimes we feel more cash-poor, more limited in our lifestyle, even with more income coming in.  Strange how that works.

For the past decade or so, the pain comes in cycles, too.  Sometimes I think it’s connected to physical activity.  Sometimes it seems to relate to the temperature, or the weather, or the humidity, or to stress (my husband’s favorite candidate).  Most of the time, when the pain is up (like it is now) I just want to give up and not care anymore.  When it is down, I try to forget about it and just take in as much as I can while it lasts.

Maybe this year I want to date, and maybe next year I’m happy to stay inside my apparently normal hetero-monogamous marriage.  Maybe this year I’m all about the Craft and practicing my religion daily and always in the open, maybe another year the gods have taken a backseat to daily living and never get noticed much.  Maybe this year I want to sing, and another year I’m performing piano gigs, and another year I’m trying to see how many new instruments I can learn.  This year I’m knitting, another year I’ll do cross-stitch, and another year will be all about crochet.  This year I’m reading science fiction, next year I’ll be back on fantasy.  This year everything I do is inside, another year I’ll be outside every time tromping through the woods with my herd.

Sometimes I feel like the cycling leaves me a perpetual novice, never sticking in one area long enough to become a true expert.  Other times, though, I am grateful for the constant searching for new things, new perspectives, new combinations that come together as all my cycles twist and turn.

One thing is for certain: my life is never boring.

Just Keep Swimming

I feel like I should be about due for a pontificating post at this point, but I am so very, very tired and achy right now that I can’t do it.  I can’t do any research on anything, I can’t think out logical arguments, I can’t.  I’m so tired that normally I would have been chugging caffeine all day long.  Today I refrained because tomorrow is another surgery day for Kender, and I have to get up around 5:00 a.m.

It will be A’Kos’ first trip to the hospital with Kender.  I can’t wait to see how it goes.  Kender has been showing some anxiety in the pre-op area the last couple of visits, and he is always very upset when he wakes up.  I’m looking forward to seeing A’Kos and Kender in bed together and keepin’ it cool.  I know A’Kos will do a great job.  He’s even all clean, freshly bathed and groomed, and we finally found the right flea treatment so he’s bug-free, too!

I’m just trying to check all my items off my checklist today.  I don’t have enough spare mana to go stealth, and my party might start up the next quest anytime now so I don’t want to let them down.  It’s a good thing I have that HabitRPG party to keep me going, because the way I feel right now I would otherwise be done for the day.  I have enough checked off that I won’t die, and enough gold to buy knitting time for the rest of the night.  But instead, I shall soldier on.

Need and Fire

I love fire.  It burns very close to my heart.  I love to watch it, the flames twisting and turning, the blast furnace of the coals underneath, the crackling and sparking, the transformation of everything it touches, the warmth, the need to breathe, the need for fuel.  I have always loved to watch fires and longed to tend them.  I remember my father lighting fires in our fireplace when I was a kid.  I remember watching him twist newspaper into little starter twigs.  I remember the wood piled up next to the fire.  I remember sitting on one of the round wicker stools we had, turned on its side so I could rock back and forth in my seat.

I want fire.  I need fire. But I don’t get it very much.

I remember collecting pretty candles when I was a little girl.  In Georgetown, we even lived near a candle factory where beautiful candles, works of art really, were made.  We would take out-of-town visitors there to see the candlemaking and maybe buy souvenirs.  But in our house, candles were never for burning.  I remember how much my mother freaked out the one time she caught me lighting one of my candles in my room, and I never dared to light fire under her roof again.

We weren’t allowed to touch fireworks, either.  We would go to the municipal fireworks shows, big fireworks up in the sky, but we were never ever allowed to even be near fireworks on the ground.  One time, I spent the fourth of July with some cousins, a younger cousin my age and I staying with another cousin maybe 15 or 20 years older than us.  She let us set off some little firecrackers in the trailer park that night and sent each of us home with a packet of our own.  My packet went straight into the bottom of my mother’s top dresser drawer.  She always said I could set it off later, another time, not now.  I finally stole it back when I was a teenager and snuck out of the house in the middle of the night to set some off in the street with a friend.

Fire, always lurking, always beckoning, always forbidden.  Look but don’t touch.  See the fire, but don’t tend the fire, don’t light your own fire, never.  Girl scouts don’t light fires, their leaders light the fire and keep them safely back from it.

When I moved out, off to college and marriage and all of that, I loved candles.  No longer forbidden, they were something to play with and live with.  I could read and eat and even bathe by candlelight if I wanted, with the dancing of the flames causing the light to dance around me.  I would make wax-covered wine bottles, spending hours with candles burning, turning the bottles this way and that to let the wax drip evenly down.  I loved to use candles in magick, burning them for vigils, anointing them and carving them and burning them to release.

When you’re renting, you still can’t have a real fire.  No fireplace in most apartments, no yard for a firepit.  Camping was never something we did, either.  When we bought our first house, it had a fireplace, but we kept it locked up, literally with chains and a padlock holding the doors closed, because we had to keep the triplets out of it.  We couldn’t risk any flames when they were babies, except maybe occasionally a candle here and there when they were asleep.  So many years, still without my own fire.  We’d go to eat at a restaurant with a fire and I would go and sit in front of the fireplace with one or more of my kids, either waiting for the meal or after it, just watching the fire, only watching, forbidden to touch.

I never see anybody else watching the fires like that.

I get to see fires more now, but they are still forbidden.  Sacred fires, bound by restrictions even stronger than my mother’s panic.  The priests in charge start the fires, the firetenders start and tend the fire, but I do not start the fires, not ever.  The fires are not mine, look only, do not touch, do not tend, do not fuel.  Now my kids are old enough to tend fires, so when the opportunity arises, I must stand aside and let them have their turn, let them learn and build and tend the fire.  Somebody else has started the fire, has brought the wood to fuel it, it’s their fire. Still not my fire.

I live in a house with no wood fireplace, only a small gas fireplace in one room.  We have no backyard where a firepit could be placed.  No place for my fire.

So it was indeed a wondrous and joyous thing for me last night to be able to tend a fire.  I didn’t get to light it, but I was left to tend it for almost five hours, adding the wood, placing it just so, building the flames, helping them breathe when they faltered, watching the coals, lighting new pieces.  The time passed so quickly, so fast.  I came to the fire broken inside.  I had spent most of the day in tears, feeling the mountain of “can’t” crumbling down on top of me, can’t keep up, can’t find a way through, can’t find the money, can’t find the time, can’t keep the patience, can’t stop things from breaking, until every single blessed thing I saw or heard or did brought the tears back up again.  Tears can’t stand up to fire, though.  The fire boils them away, cauterizes the wound, builds back life and warmth.  That fire still wasn’t mine, not my backyard, not my firepit, not my wood, but I still got to tend it, help it grow, and I left the fire cleansed and fresh, content, maybe even happy.

I am back in no-fire land again, back with the tears, cold.  Someday, sometime, I’ll get to do it again.  Maybe someday, I will have my own fire.

No Box

There is no box, not for me.

You try to place me in one.  You see something about me, and you say, Oh, this is how I feel, and this is how I see the world, and this is what challenges me, and this is what I desire.  But you don’t know me.

To me, I see you sitting there in your own box.  It colors your world as you look through its windows.  You say you want out, with one arm you fight to get out, but with the other arm you just as firmly fight to keep your box, to stay within its walls.

This is no box for me.

Sometimes I’ve tried to build a box for me.  I’ve said This is this and that is that, and this is where I live.  Whenever I think I’ve made a nice, safe box, something comes along and destroys it.

So there is no box for me.

It’s okay.  Without my box, I can feel the grass and see the stars.  I can see everybody else’s box, and sometimes I can crawl into a box and share its space for a while, share the piece of me that fits in that box.

It’s not my box, though. I’ll always leave.  If I don’t, I’ll be pushed out anyway.

Some boxes are nice and friendly.  They always seem to have room for one more, and they don’t seem to mind if its been a while since I visited.  Sometimes I wish I could carry one of these boxes along with me in my travels.  Sometimes I’ll make a friend in one of these boxes, and they’ll travel to other boxes with me for a while, but never for long.  The journey is my own path.

Some boxes are not so nice.  They look nice on the outside.  They have very nice decorations, hookups to all the great utilities, like a mansion or at least a really nice condo.  When I stick my head inside, though, I find security checkpoints and proctors, constant observation and monitoring.  There’s a mold you have to fit to get through the door, and once inside everyone is constantly examined to make sure they are complying.  Anybody different is ejected.  Sometimes I am nicely escorted out by the proctors.  Sometimes the mob turns on me and chases me away.

I don’t like those boxes.  They are not for me.

There is no box for me.  I am outside the boxes.  They are nice to look at and sometimes to visit, but there is no box for me.

Life Is Good

I certainly post enough entries here when I’m feeling sad, frustrated, argumentative, or what have you.  I should be trying to post more when life is feeling good, which it is today.  There’s nothing special I can think of that makes it super good.  The kids still fight and skip chores, the house is still a wreck, I still haven’t gotten a perfect day on HabitRPG in I don’t know how long.

Every so, today I feel good.  I am at peace with life today.  I can giggle over getting some illicit Oreos with Jarod at the store and eating them in the parking lot.  I can pet other people’s big dogs and hug them and be good with it.  I can roll my eyes at a misbehaving computer.  Yesterday was good too.

It’s a good day when I can let troubles roll off my back.  It’s a good day when I can smile at something that happened weeks or months ago, or smile and laugh at something that has been going on for months..  It’s a good day when I can feel that there are things I want to do, and I will do them, or some of them, or maybe just one, but I’ll do something and enjoy it.  It’s a good day when I can so easily focus on my gratitudes instead of my grievances.

Today is a good day.

Then and Now

When we got married more than twenty years ago, I don’t think anybody thought we were going anywhere.  I had essentially run away from home and crossed state lines to move in with my boyfriend when I was 17.  He was in a computer science program at Lion’s World Services for the Blind in Little Rock, Arkansas, his only income from disability checks.  We both had dropped out of college in Texas, and I didn’t even have a high school diploma to my name.

When I moved to Little Rock, we moved into a house across the street from Lion’s World that we shared with another couple that were in the program.  The area was known to the local police department as the “war zone” because of all the gang activity.  I’m pretty sure the house would have been red-tagged if anybody official had been able to get a look at it.  The crawl space under the house was wide open and full of rats.  (We knew this because our dog Sasha, who we were too stupid to train properly so she could actually live inside the house with us, would bring us rats and drop them at the back door.)  The living room had a hole in the floor, an actual hole with torn up carpet going through to the crawl space.  The door had a hole in it, I think, from a missing lock.  The gas stove had no functioning pilot, so we lit it with matches.  We had a washing machine but no dryer and no dishwasher.  The kitchen was carpeted. (Whose bright idea was that anyway?) The wiring was iffy, and the breakers went out constantly.

We had no car, not for the first few months.  Once I convinced Central High School to enroll me without my parents’ signatures, if I missed the bus I had to walk about 3 miles to get there.  We regularly walked a mile and a half each way to the grocery store and carried the groceries back.  Occasionally, we’d splurge and get a taxi back, filling the trunk so we wouldn’t have to go back for a while.  Eating out happened maybe once a month, someplace cheap.  We saw a movie once.  Otherwise, we didn’t go anywhere except school and work, and to go hang out at the mall.

All of our furniture was damaged or worn out, hand-me-downs, garage sale finds, curbside salvage.  Our waterbed heater’s thermostat didn’t work, so we’d plug it in for a few hours to warm up, then unplug it until it got uncomfortably cold (which actually felt good, sleeping in the afternoons in an un-airconditioned house in an Arkansas summer).  When our parents came out for the wedding, they were probably horrified all over again that we preferred to live there, together on our own, than to live in comfort and security with our parents, apart and dependent.

I remember learning how to cook by trying to make various recipes out of the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook.  Buying store brand soda for the first time ever.  Trying to get a doctor to see me without insurance or Medicaid, and waiting in an emergency room for a doctor to see Brian because that’s where you went with Medicaid.  Selling my plasma for a little spending money.  Working in a phone call center that was thunderclouded with cigarette smoke at all times.  Riding the bus and having that little old black lady tell me I had “too much hair for a white girl.” Watching the cat get tangled up in crochet thread she’d strung all over the house. The old guy next door with his Santa Claus beard and the bandanna he wore while mowing the lawn (never blue or red, not in that neighborhood).  Watching Rocky Horror for the first time in our living room.  Bananas and Rice Chex for breakfast.  Tear gas getting released in the halls while I was at school. Working the night shift near the airport and watching the planes come and go.  Sending in Publisher’s Clearing House mailers just for fun.  The idiot in one of my classes who thought it mattered to me or the school if I had been seen smoking in the mall over the weekend.  Borrowing the pianos at the UALR music building to practice.  The drive-through Chinese place where you could get an absolutely enormous order of fried rice with meat in it for just five bucks.  Finding an occult shop up the road where I could buy incense and candles.

For all the things we’ve been through over 20 years, for all the broken things we have now, the holes in walls and broken appliances and broken furniture, the worries about money and bills and kids and politics, we sure do have a lot more than we started with.  A whole lot more.  And I still wouldn’t trade it to go back, to not run away, to follow the expected path.

Dancing Through Life

The Great and Wonderful Aunt Anne came through last week.  It was wonderful to get to visit with her, although we did not get to ride together after all. (Turns out, she didn’t bring her bikes on this trip!)  We cooked together, their dog Chucho and A’Kos played together…or at least Chucho tolerated A’Kos trying to play.  Meeting Uncle Ken was great, too.  He’s such a perfect fit for Anne, and I could wish he’d been in the family all along.

We talked about the kids, and she encouraged me to get in touch with my cousins about their education.  Her son Brenton works at Quail Springs, a “learning oasis” that teaches all things permaculture and living off the land.  This is right up the girls’ alley; they both would love to be rangers or something similar when they grow up, living off the land instead of working in the city.  Aunt Anne suggested seeing if we could set up work/studies for them or something similar to help them get started.  Her other son Kenyon runs a Montessori school in North Carolina with his wife Mary Helen.  I’ve been looking more and more into Montessori techniques of self-directed learning for Kender, since he flat refuses to participate in anything that I lead him to.  The most I can do is set up an activity and guide him to it.  My hope is that he will be able to offer some advice on how best to set up our house for this considering our unique situation and Kender’s unique challenges.

While she was here and after she left, my aunt remarked, as everybody does, on how she doesn’t know how I do it.  How I cook for so many people every day, how I stay so calm with all the drama and crises that are constantly going on.  I’m still not sure how “safe” she would be to say this to, but as I’ve thought about that today, I have to get mushy and say that Loki and the Lord and Lady have played a huge part in this.  After Kender was born, as crisis after crisis emerged with him in slow motion, I really lost my ability to keep going.  Where I used to dance through the day (or at least my memory says I did), I came to a crawl.  Working with my church, working with Loki, and now studying at seminary have really helped me to get a better handle on my life.  Loki in particular has really changed how I view things and allowed me to see my place in the world as Edgewalker, allowing me to smile and laugh so much more than I ever did before.

At seminary, we do devotions every morning together.  One of the things we do during devotions is to state an intention for the day.  We each state our own, the only real rule being that it must be positive, no negatives anywhere.  One of my favorite intentions to build on has been, “I am strong and confident, swift and competent, leaving completed tasks in my dust as I dance through my day.”  It sums up what I want to accomplish and how I want to feel about it all together.

Speaking of dancing, I am going to take up the