Thaw

The ice is falling off the trees in a way that I feel it’s dangerous to be driving along the oak, maple, and fir-lined backroads, ever cognizant of the chunks landing in piles onto the asphalt. When I’m underneath, zooming along the ups and downs of the previously free of ice roads, I hear spastic crashes loudly hitting the top of the car, or I watch gravity urging it on as it falls, almost in slow-motion, from the tip of an elegant drooping branch down to my windshield from above. A loud splat. I press down briefly on the knob behind the steering-wheel, clearing away the debris and am relieved, in my naivety, that there isn’t a crack in the glass.

A crack in the glass. Just what would that mean? I don’t mean literally, as literally it would mean taking the car in to get it fixed and then fretting over the expense. It would mean, in that moment, the insides would get out and the outsides would come in. Barriers removed; exchange. Now that’s union.

I was sitting, satisfied and content, at the kitchen table after dinner. Leftovers waiting patiently in the dutch oven on the stove, roasted potato rendering me complacent I sipped kombucha, “Hey, we should call Ray back.”

Ray: the owner of the other house we have been caring for in the holiday-celebrating way friend’s of friend’s (and friend’s) of ours have left the area this season. He’d left a message that had yet to be returned.

And so returned it was. Me, sitting idly by with my fermented beverage, listening to the sturdy, companionable way the check-in message was relayed to Ray’s voicemail, “ … and we’ve stayed the last couple nights over here and have gone back and forth to your place to keep it warm and check on Skippy ….” Wait a minute. No. You can’t just tell them that we haven’t been at their place taking excruciatingly good care of it. We need to tell them things that will make them feel good and feel comfortable and like they know they made a good choice in having us stay and in a way that they’ll think we’re completely wonderful people and would be happy to help us out in the future if an occasion arose for them to do so. And so we’ll have to be on our absolute best behaviour and act in a way that we think will be pleasing to them in order for them to think positively of us so you simply can’t tell them that we haven’t been at their place at the beck and call of their solar-powered home that can be rather demanding in the dead of winter the way the generator needs to be turned on if it isn’t sunny enough and oh my goodness, what are they going to think?! “… so let us know when you’re getting back and it will be great to see you then.”

Somehow in that racing of my mind I’d had an epiphany. It was as if a piece of ice fell and really did crack something, or, at least, managed to break through the veneer of this mask that all those un-voiced thoughts wore. I really am a people-pleaser.

It’s not like I need to throw names around. It’s not like I need to rush back through, in incoherent, open-mouthed gaze, every recent and historic instance of me doing something at my expense for the sake of someone else. I can simply observe this truth, and move on making different choices in the future.

I’ll admit, this knowledge slightly paralyzes me. It makes me clearly aware of a layer put up between myself and the rest of the world around me. Except maybe my mother. I do remember the last time I saw her, the evening before I was to fly out East, rushing around downtown Calgary through construction zones and one-way streets. “It’ll be faster if we go this way,” she cooed pleasantly, careful not to glance too obviously at the clock indicting our lateness even more than we already knew it was.

“That road takes us completely out of the way!! Being late would just be the worst thing ever! This is outrageous, why aren’t you listening to me!?” Me, practically foaming at the mouth, in that hyperbolic way that daughters and be angry at their mothers.

This, layer, this ice-like layer—how have I managed to let it exist all of this time? Its silent barrier freezing me into rigid notions of acting the way I think I need to in order for people to like me. I smile more affably when I notice someone could use reassurance, I return the dish sponge to exactly the place I found it thereby rendering my influence nearly invisible compared to if my Christmas host had done the dishes, and I wonder where the line is between kindness and my own reluctance to insert myself into life.

My instinct tells me that line is right around the place of wanting to alter tangible facts, or at least the way they are conveyed, in order to retain control of the way others could view the situation. A simpler way to put it: manipulation.

Yes my subtle fear that Ray would be unhappy to hear his home had been left uninhabited for even a dozen hours makes me want to be more hazy about the way we’ve been caring for two homes at once. Okay, okay, it was more like 36 hours. Yes, I can come clean. This subversive—and altogether delusional, really—method of control has simply got to go. I feel I can muster the courage to tackle it, bit by bit, and enter into a more complete interaction with the world around me. One where I don’t feel I need to have a guard up to ensure smooth sailing through life.

Outside the trees are losing their sheaths of frozen water. I watch as the encasing melts underneath the ice, at the level of the branch and seems to slide down, drip by drip, and out at the very tip of each twig. Maybe that’s how it happens, change. First at the level of deep recognition, and then slowly, with every moment of recognition and altered pattern, and even then only if this thaw holds up.

 

 

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Grumpy

I’m relatively sick today. A sore throat scratching my esophagus and my ears doing their usual, “I’m not going to cause you an infection right now but I am mad at you so, for one, I’m not going to say what about, and for another I’m going to swell up and be all itchy inside.” Itchy innards. That’s what I’ve got.

I can tell that I’m sick because I have enough energy to want to get up and do something but not enough energy to actually do it, which causes me to burst into tears. Now those are the true indicators of sickness. They’re the kind of tears that want to crawl into bed in the fetal position and go to sleep, or read on the couch for most of the day.

Having checked off those two most important tasks of the day I’ve also been able to put energy towards wondering where the heck am I going to live after this current housesitting gig ends next week (assuming the current plan doesn’t work out), thinking I really need to take more responsibility for my life, and doing the dishes. Luckily there weren’t a lot of dishes because really, I don’t have that kind of energy.

I’d been feeling grouchy prior to Christmas and have been, naturally, taking it out on the person I see most often. Oh, who am I kidding? I’ve been grouchy after Christmas, too. What I’ve realized through all of this: today’s sickness and the general grouchiness, is that I really do get to choose how I respond to my life.

I have all these yogic tools and whatnot in order to fall back upon. I get to fully reflect on what responsibility means, I get to practice speaking with clarity saying that I really won’t split paying for something half-way if I’m not going to use it as much, and I get to choose my words when I’m grumpy.

Somehow this last one has always slightly eluded me as a yogic concept. Sure, I’m not going to react out of anger when I feel it flare up within me—my calculated and measured comments will be perfectly tolerable in their seething, silent way. You won’t be able to say I’m irrationally expressing myself. No sir-ee.

Yet what do those constrained and suppressed moments of interaction do if not completely and utterly go against what I aspire my goal of yoga to be: to know myself. To know union.

Okay, so I can reasonably and effectually assess myself to be grumpy. I can step back and see what exactly has added to my grumpy state by triggering issue X, Y and Z from my upbringing. I can comprehend any current situation as temporary and liable to blow over quickly. Yet for some strange reason I can still act from the seat of jiltedness from which my grumpiness resides.

The task in front of me, I now realize, is to step forward with brazen abandon and get to the other side of my grumpiness. Intellectualizing it is not enough, witnessing it in an effort of dispassion is not enough. I want to make choices that will pull me out of my grumpiness.

My best tool for this is naturally going to be my breath. I can follow the ups and downs of my diaphragm and be gently rocked to the rhythm of the universe when I follow my breath. It can pull me up out of places I’ve been dwelling and into a bigger vision of my reality. I love that. I love how something so simple can do that.

Next I need to actually make a different choice than the one I feel entitled to make simply because I’ve labelled myself as “grumpy.” I’ve made the steps of recognizing my feelings and talking them through. Next I get to get over myself. Be kind. Say something nice. Add to the productivity of love and compassion in this world. It’s fun.

It doesn’t always feel like I have the inner resources to step out of grumpiness, but I’m glad I’ve felt the understanding that it’s only up to me to do so. That’s the kind of responsibility I want to take in my life.

As for feeling sick I presume I’ll get over it soon. I’ve gotten into the habit of sleeping for 12 hours a night, and I have a feeling it can only benefit my current phlegm-to-throat ratio. Plus we’ve made it through the solstice another year and the light is returning. Especially gorgeous from the top of this hill I find myself on.

Om om.

Photo on 2013-12-28 at 3.41 PM #3

Moving House

Something I’ve realized in life that things can always be worse. Events can be unfolding that seem both incredibly unlikely and incredibly inconvenient, yet things can always be worse.

Setting: Somewhere past Noyes Lane. Address only retrieved upon dispatcher’s advice to find a piece of mail.

Time of Day: Late. Sometime past midnight.

Tone: Tired. Long day. Just arrived, moved to new housesitting gig after packing up/cleaning house all day and then offering a Kirtan at a local yoga studio.

Enter Stage Left, Upstairs: GIRLFRIEND

G: (towards off-stage) Have you seen the cat? I’m looking up here but … (on-stage) Oh, there you are Skippy. Say, what’s that noise like a crackling fire coming out of the chimney? And what are those embers floating down outside the window? Hmmm …

Exit Stage Left.

Enter Stage Right, Downstairs: COMPADRE

C: (towards off-stage) Hey, G this fire’s getting a little hot and … woah, it’s smokey down here.

Enter Stage Right, Downstairs: GIRLFRIEND

G: Woah, C! There are embers outside! And smoke everywhere! And that chimney is red-hot!

C and G jump to action then freeze, stage lights dim to black.

Exit Stage Right: COMPADRE and GIRLFRIEND

Enter Stage Right, Downstairs: PARAMEDIC 1, FIREMAN 1, FIREMAN 2, FIREMAN 3, FIREMAN 4 followed by COMPADRE and GIRLFRIEND

FIREMAN 1: Well, it looks like everything is under control here. The chimney’s nice and clear. Just must have got a little too hot when you started up the fire and burnt out the creosote. Everything’s fine now.

Exit Stage Right: PARAMEDIC 1, FIREMAN 1, FIREMAN 2, FIREMAN 3, FIREMAN 4

C and G: *phew*

Looking outside and seeing the flashing lights of a firetruck is always a bit of a jolt. Yes, we’d called them so I obviously knew they were coming, yet I’ve been socialized to be struck by the shocking intrusive reality of intermittent red lights contrasting a dark night.

I’d always wondered what to do in the case of a chimney fire and just what exactly causes them. A build-up of creosote can coat the inner chimney and subsequently light on fire if temperatures climb too high. It can burn out inertly, held within the chasm of the dark tube of the chimney, or it can ignite the surroundings of the chimney and cause a whole heck of a lot of problems. Luckily my experience included the former: the well-insulated chimney burning so hot it filled the house with the smoke of black burning itself grey. By the time the fire department arrived, dissatisfied with telling us what to do in the case of a chimney fire over the phone and wanting to check to make sure all was well, it had taken care of itself and we were left to collapse into bed after a long day.

It can always get worse. No matter if I’ve run around all day and am coming home to a place I’ve only been to in the day-time, that the house is stone-cold because the owners left in the morning and the fire has long burned out. No matter what happens, things can always get worse.

Where does this leave me? Not only am I forced to be grateful for everything that is going well in my life, but coming up against difficult situations makes it impossible to check-out, to ignore the realities of my situation. It may not be as obvious as a house full of smoke and red flashing lights outside my kitchen window, but when something unexpected comes up I know I can’t ignore it. I’m just on this ride and I am most certainly not the one in control. Life’s unexpectedness keeps me on my toes, and keeps me strictly in each present moment.