I Am Lost

My charge has been to find my place.  Until I do, I am lost.    I am like a traveler into a black hole, cut off from the rest of the universe, unhinged from my place in it.  The world spins on around me, as I move into a center of nothingness, as I find that peace and calm within.  I have to pass through that place of nothing in order to come out on the other side, reborn into time and space, aware again of my place and what is around me.

The farther I go into this journey, the more adrift I feel.  It is as though pinpointing and examining all the pieces of me makes them fade away.  As I understand them, they become less important, less demanding.  Each piece is part of a wall.  As I understand that piece, it disappears from the wall.  When the wall is gone, I will see what is beyond, but until then it is like nothingness.

I am being drawn more into meditation and scrying.  As I deal with all the obvious, easily-found pieces on the surface, I need to become still and go deeper into order to find what is beneath.  The rituals of worship and meditation help to still the mind and allow it into those inner depths.  My outer mind is a little afraid of what I will find there.  I need to lull it to sleep and calm its fears before I can explore.

Finding peace and calm is certainly no easy thing around here.

I Have a Dark Sense of Humor

20130415_184937I just happened to have this topic on my list for today.  Go figure.  It will work out well, for I have a dark sense of humor, and my responses to today will not be the same as most others’.

I have never had trouble laughing during serious times.  I can crack jokes and play pranks during a funeral.  I’ve joked around in the hospital waiting room while my children are in surgery.  While I have had my share of struggles with depression in my life, I often have trouble maintaining a serious demeanor when everybody else is upset and crying.  I will laugh at jokes that are in poor taste (and sometimes make them). I prefer wakes to funerals. While I’ve done my share of being glued to the news during tragic events, these days I prefer to shut it off and find something more entertaining.

Darkness and tragedy are a part of life.  They are unavoidable.  There is always conflict, there is always danger.  There will always be evil out there.  Life is never perfectly safe, perfectly light and happy.  I accept this balance.  I feel that I cannot accept all of life without accepting its dark side.  To do otherwise is to set myself up for constant pain and suffering that is not necessary, as I bemoan the inevitable duality of the wheel of life.  To refuse to accept that darkness exists would be to belittle the beauty of the light, to say that it is not beautiful enough because it is not pure enough.

For the light is there.  It is always there. Whenever one life dies, another is born.  For every day there is a tragedy, there are hundreds and hundreds of days without.  For every pain, there is joy.  For every weakness, there is strength.  And the light grows.  It grows all the time.  Every day, every year, there are fewer deaths, less pain, less conflict, less crime.  We think there is more when we leave our televisions tuned to 24-hour channels that exist to search for tragedy and violence and never report on anything else, but when you look at the numbers, things are getting better, not worse.  The light is there, and it grows.  And I would rather celebrate the light than mourn the dark.  So I would rather celebrate a life at a wake than mourn it at a funeral.  I would rather crack jokes about a disability than cry that I have one.  I would rather make fun of racists than give them power over my speech.

Those who cause darkness want that power.  Bullies, tyrants, terrorists…actually, they’re all bullies, when you get down to it. The evil people of the world want pain, they want sadness.  They want to control their victims, to change the way their victims live and think.  They want power, they want respect.  I can’t control their actions, although I can try to limit the scope.  I can, however, control my response.  I don’t have to be upset.  I don’t have to be sad.  I don’t have to change the way I live out of fear.  I don’t have to freeze like a deer in the headlights, waiting for the bully’s next move.  I can laugh, I can dance, I can show that they do not have that power over me, that control of my self that is their true goal and desire.

I will not apologize for my dark humor.  And I’m not going to worry about it anymore.  I don’t mock people when they are down.  I don’t try to cut people, to hurt them, to bring them down.  I simple don’t try to deny the humor in situations when I see it, even when the setting is serious.  I’m not going to censor myself anymore, I’m not going to let the stress over what other people think bring me down, I’m not going to allow my thoughts and emotions to be controlled by others.

And so my response to today is to rejoice that such events are so incredibly rare in my part of the world, that I am more likely to die of a lightning strike than by directly affected by something like that.  And I’m going to continue to laugh at the absurdity of blowing up endurance runners, because they the ones who are the most capable of running down and catching the culprit.  I am not going to give any more sadness and sorrow to those who so greatly desire my pain, and I am not going to give any more of my freedom to those who so greatly desire to take it away.

Because I do have a dark sense of humor.  It is part of me.

I Have Big Eyes

copyright 2013 Caitlin HuntYou know that old saying about your eyes being bigger than your stomach?  I have that problem with my whole life.  I love the idea of new things, and I’m always wanting to try new things.  I rarely stop to seriously consider whether something is reasonably within reach.

I started running a couple of years ago.  I was so excited at the thought that my body could do something it had never done before, I decided I had no limits anymore, and I started training for a marathon.  Now I’m benched from everything until I can fix what might be tendonitis in my ankles.

I keep trying to start up various businesses from home, with varying degrees of success. Lingerie was a total crash and burn, although partially a case of “life got in the way” since I landed myself a concussion right after telling a bunch of people I would make them stuff.  I’m gearing up to do it again, trying to get a collection of things made and ready for a vending booth by next year.

I keep trying to start a Spiral Scouts circle, because I have wanted my kids to be Spiral Scouts ever since they were babies, and we never have had an actual group formed in our area.  Never mind that I have very few people skills, that I never wanted to be a scout leader, that I don’t have the spare time among all my other necessary duties to take on that kind of work.  I think I’ve tried three times now, and crashed each time.

I’ve always wanted to have a garden.  I keep trying, regardless of my poor history with growing things.  A couple of years ago, I had the entire yard mapped out for gardening, but that didn’t happen.  Half the stuff I did get in the ground either died or got stolen.  I’m about to do it again.  The farm store up the road has 4×4 garden boxes on sale, and I’m planning to go pick up 3 or 4.  Overambitious again.

That’s the word I was looking for: overambitious.  I set these huge goals, without ever thinking if they might just be impossible after all.  I’ll spend time and money on them, I’ll open my big mouth and tell everybody about my wonderful huge plans, and then….crash and burn.

There are a lot of elements going on there.  Some of it is lack of follow-through.  Some of it is refusing to admit that some things might just be outside my abilities and talents.

I need to stay a little more focused.  Dreaming is okay, new projects are okay, goals are good.  But I need to focus on what will truly line up with my long-term goals.  I need to think projects through before I do stupid things akin to shouting to the world that I’m going to climb Everest.  I need to accept that maybe some things I want just aren’t going to be, that I don’t have time to do everything myself.

It’s okay to be ambitious.  But I need to take smaller bites and chew before I swallow.

I Am Music

free-clipart-music-notesI’m surprised it took me this long to choose music for a topic.  Maybe that’s because it’s a little like examining my skin, or my hair.  I don’t know how much of it was learned, and how much is innate, but whichever, it is definitely a part of me now.

It say it could be learned because I started music lessons when I was 4.  That seems a little young, and I’m not aware of showing any spectacular tendencies at that age.  I was reading, and I was able to sit up straight and push the keys, which seem to be the only starting requirements for piano.  I was trained in the Suzuki piano method, for better or worse.  The “better” part of that was it’s intense focus on memory work, which probably helped develop my good memory that I use all over the place now, not just in music.  The “worse” part was it’s intense focus on playing sheet music.  I never learned anything about music theory, beyond what was needed to read and express what was written.  When I went to college at a heavy music school, I learned just how lacking I was.  I could not improvise, I could not play the music in my head.  All I could do was search for sheet music that sounded good, that sounded similar to what was in my head, and play that.  I have tried since to make sense of improv and jazz theory, but I’ve never made much progress.  For better or worse, I am a very good performance pianist only.

I’ve explored other musical paths as well.  From as early as I can remember, I loved singing along with the radio and in church, and I was the youngest member of the church choir at the time at my church in Georgetown. (I suspect they might have started the youth choir in an attempt to get me out of the adult choir, but I don’t know!) Whenever there was a talent show, I was there singing.  My singing along with everything prompted my mother’s removal of a Madonna album from my possession when it came out.

Heading into sixth grade, it was time for band to start in school (we didn’t have an orchestra).  When “band camp” rolled around, and everybody went to try the instruments they were interested in, nobody went to the double-reeds…so of course that’s where I went!  And I picked bassoon because the only other person there wanted the oboe.  I loved playing bassoon, though.  I had big hands that could reach all the way around the instrument, and I loved the rumbly feeling of the lowest notes.  I remember the sounds it could make, the smell of a fresh reed, the way my father joked about the sounds of a dying cow.  I played oboe some years, too, mostly for the challenge, but I preferred the bassoon, and I played that in the band off and on until I went to college, getting into and winning several competitions, both solo and with the band.  I never had an instrument of my own, though, always playing on the school’s instruments, so when I left Georgetown, I didn’t have an oboe or bassoon to take with me.

In 10th grade I discovered show choir and fell in love all over again.  Talk about singing and performance!  I got to combine my love of singing, my love of dance, and my love of performance, in an atmosphere where nobody cared what I looked like as long as I could sing and dance.  We were fortunate in having a wonderful choir director who really knew what a show choir should look like and do, and with his direction we won almost every competition we went to that year, even heading to Los Angeles for a national show at the end of the year.  (That was an absolutely awesome, best-ever school trip, and I remember almost nothing of the choir part, instead remembering the plane ride and accompanying theft by others of the little alcohol bottles, wandering the streets of LA with Mr. J looking for Taco Hell, staying with host families, getting caught in a line when Six Flags closed and having to ride home in the equipment bus, how bad LA smelled when we got off the plane, etc.)  My parents even talked the school into lettering me in choir, even though I was only in it for one year, because I was leaving for college and couldn’t do more.

I missed choir so much I tried out for a musical the following summer, when I was 16.  They seemed to like my singing but told me to come back when I was older.  Pbbt.

In college, alongside finding out I was deficient on the piano, I discovered a whole new instrument to love: the pedal harp.  I got to play this for two years, again only ever playing on school-owned instruments (have you ever seen the price of a pedal harp???).  I practiced that harp until my fingers bled, quite literally! (oops…sorry about the blood on the floor…)  I loved it so much.  The harp is on the top of my nobody’s-ever-going-to-buy-it-anyway wish list.

I’ve done other things.  My own piano was my first major purchase as an adult.  I taught myself flute and guitar, a bit.  I taught at a piano conservatory in Virginia for a little while.  I’ve played in restaurants and hotels.  I learned I could win pretty much any karaoke competition in DC, until they made me stop entering (the prizes were good while they lasted, though).  I performed as one of three singers with a swing band in DC for a while.  I learned how to dj karaoke as a mobile dj in DC, then worked as a dj at an all-karaoke bar in Austin for a while.  Most recently, I discovered the joy of drumming, and really learning the bodhrán is next on my musical to-do list.

And then I had kids.

That’s pretty sad, but accurate, too.  My last DJ job was while they were babies, and was mostly a way just to get out of the house a couple nights a week.  I stopped playing piano because I couldn’t practice without small people banging the keys, pulling my hair, getting underfoot.  I’ve tried to pick it back up a few times. It’s not like you ever really forget it, but it does take consistent, fairly time-consuming practice, and it just hasn’t happened.  I don’t perform anymore, with anyone, anywhere, and I miss it dearly.

This is probably another piece of myself that I should try to care for more.

I Am a Traveler

20130415_150721Most of my life, I’ve been boxed in by limitations and demands.  But every once in a while, I’ve been free to roam, and roam I do.

As a kid, I had a bike.  When I was 9, we moved to Georgetown and lived in a subdivision that was effectively out in the country.  The area is built up now, but then I was only a few doors away from open ranch land, and we’d find scorpions in our house and giant centipedes in the yard.  Those open back roads and trails were mine.  I’d pack a snack, or stop by the Jiffy Mart to grab something, then I’d bike a few miles into the middle of nowhere.  Maybe I’d keep going down a trail for a while, too, until I couldn’t see any sign of people anymore.  Then I’d camp out with a book for a while, or follow the wildlife, or imagine being there a hundred years ago.  I spent most of my days this way as a kid.  I thought I was queen of the bike road…until my aunt, the Bicycle Lady, came to visit once.  She brought my tallest cousin with her, and they showed me what real bikers were like.  I couldn’t even keep up with them past the lake, and they kept on going for miles and miles, hours and hours.  Ever since that day, I’ve harbored a secret wish to be my aunt when I grow up.  She was a nomad for a while, with no permanent home and my dad for a mail drop, wandering through Canada in the summer and Central or South America in the winter, staying with friends or camping out of her van.  For a couple of years, she wandered through Europe and Africa, too, using her sister’s home in Kenya as a base.  She is still my idol, my personal symbol of strength and freedom.

I felt that freedom as an adult for a while at the end of my stint in college, when I was out of TAMS and on my own.  I had it again when we were newly married, before the kids came into the picture.  I remember being able to just pack up and hit the road for the weekend, with maybe just an hour’s warning or forethought before we left.  When I was in Denton and Brian was in Little Rock, I’d decide around 10pm that I was going to go see him for the weekend, and hit the highway with all the truckers.  After we married, we’d go visit relatives, visit friends we’d met online, or just go hole up in a cabin in the woods for the weekend.  Brian travelled out to California from D.C. once to meet an online friend; I drove up to Dallas from Austin for the day to meet another.  When we lived in D.C., it wasn’t until the week I knew we were leaving that I bothered to visit the Mall and the Smithsonian, but we took trips to the coast and to the Appalachians on a regular basis.  I’d go spend a week with my parents, skiing the Rockies and smuggling back illicit beer on the plane.

After the triplets were born, things were a little restricted, but I was determined to keep my freedom.  If I had the impulse to go to the park or wander the mall, by gosh I was not about to be trumped by three little babies.  I had it down to a science, packing bags of bottles and diapers, knowing all the restaurants that would let me heat the bottles and sit at a table feeding babies for an hour, all the parks that had three babies swings next to each other, all the restrooms with changing tables that I could get to with the triple stroller.  Maybe I couldn’t find babysitters, but I wasn’t going to stay home, either.

After Liam was born and we moved to Michigan, I kept that mobility for a while.  Going to the mall, going to the park, going for a drive.  When Brian would be on-call for a week and so busy that we never saw him, we’d hit the road and drive to Texas, not even making hotel reservations but just driving until it got dark and stopping at the first place with a room.  We’d stop at every roadside attraction and rest stop, and eat breakfast in our room, and the triplets would sleep in sleeping bags on the floor if there was only one bed.  During harvest season, we’d drive all over looking for the best u-pick farms, stopping at random parks, looking for cool trails to hike on.

These days, I don’t get out much anymore.  The mall isn’t an attractive place to hang out when you either don’t have the money or no longer care about the things in it.  With Kender being too big to contain in a stroller or sling or highchair anymore, but not able to be contained by verbal direction or an understanding of the rules, every time we leave the house I spend the whole time worried about what he’s going to do, when he’s going to run off, what he’s going to break.  I’m too scared to travel far with him, because I can’t childproof hotel and timeshare rooms to keep him from running away or getting hurt, and I can’t contain him at all at a campsite.  I don’t fly anymore, thanks to 9/11-inspired security theater that I won’t put up with.  Even eating out is something that rarely happens, since it is now generally a hundred-dollar proposition for a single meal.  Being in constant pain doesn’t leave me with a lot of spoons to deal with all of these, either.

I am still a Traveler, though.  Now I need to find a way to set myself free again.

I Am a Stormchaser

stormI love storms.  I love their power, their intensity, their beauty.  They are captivating to me.  Whenever a storm rolls through, I open the windows so that I can hear the thunder and smell the rain.  I’ll go outside so I can see the lightning.

I miss being in Texas, where you could see so far.  You could see storms that were miles and miles away.  At night, driving across the state on back highways, sometimes I would stop if I saw lightning in the distance.  You could see the lightning lighting up the storm clouds from the inside, providing the briefest glimpses into their beautiful structure available only to the intent and patient watcher.  During the day, you could watch sheets and walls of rain sweep across the landscape from a distance, sometimes passing you by, sometimes moving inexorably closer and closer until the rain hits you and blinds your vision of the storm.

Up here in Michigan, vision is limited by the trees.  The trees are so tall and so pervasive, that even in the most open areas around highways and fields, you can only see for five or ten miles at the most.  Up here, if a storm is rolling through and you haven’t been paying attention to the weather radar and forecasts, the storm can be upon you almost before you know it is coming.  Maybe you’ll get a few minutes to see the rolling clouds sweep in overhead.  If it’s a big storm front, you might see the outflow coming in up to an hour before the real storm, but that’s just a gray wall that obscures the structure of the storm.  Up here, storms usually come with fronts, a squall line, not so much the isolated storms that can pop up over the plains.

I’ve never seen a tornado.  I want to, someday.  That’s definitely on my bucket list.  I’ve been close, but I’ve never actually seen one.  Once, I know we were within a mile or two of one, but we were in the rain and couldn’t see anything.  I want to see one from a distance, a few miles, far enough to be relatively safe but close and clear enough to see the storm, see the churning clouds and the patterns of circulation.  I want to see a hurricane someday too, if I can find a nice, thick, concrete bunker with reinforced bulletproof windows to watch from (because I’m not actually stupid).

Every time there is a storm system rolling through whatever area I am in, I am glued to the radar, alternating with running outside to feel the storm if it is overhead.  I watch storms like some people watch football or racing, and I wait for that tornado warning the way those others wait for the pileup, knowing it is awesome and deadly at the same time.  During hurricane season, I subscribe to all the NWS updates, I follow all the charts, read the discussions of the forecasters (who can get pretty silly sometimes), and always stay glued to the radar.  The images are fascinating, captivating.  I can’t get enough of them.

I dream of storms, sometimes.  I’ve had one recurring dream since childhood that involves being in the middle of a tornado swarm, with funnels everywhere I look and everybody running for cover.  Sometimes we drive, sometimes we hide in a house; sometimes it’s just me, sometimes it’s my birth family, sometimes it’s my now family, sometimes it’s me and a pack of total strangers.  But always, there are the tornadoes, leveling the world around me in chaos and destruction.

Chaos and destruction.  That’s what storms are.  They bring change, violent and often deadly, wind of the funnel, fire of the lightning, water of the rain, earth thrown up by their force, spirit of their power.  They are a necessary force, though.  They are the great regulators, the restorers of balance.  They bring back an equilibrium that has gone astray.  They are a necessary part of life, part of my life.

I am a stormchaser.