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heal thyself

I refuse to become a seeker for cures.
Everything that has ever
helped me has come through what already
lay stored in me. Old things, diffuse, unnamed, lie
                     strong
across my heart.
                          This is from where
my strength comes, even when I miss my strength,
even when it turns on me
like a violent master.

— “Sources” (II), Adrienne Rich

I have missed my strength. When it returns from its absences, it is as unrecognizable as if I’d picked it up out of a Lost and Found box. It’s here now, puny and new and weird again. But it knows all my stories and treats me like an old friend. I hold myself back from trusting such an inconstant thing like I do with most other instant intimacies.

Most of what has happened lately—really, most of what has gone on with me since late last summer, since I first felt that I was willing to crack apart my entire world and the world, in response, broke out the duct tape—is not for public consumption. I look back and I see that these things are not my stories to tell. It’s hard to keep your mouth shut and fingers quiet when instinct tells you to write them out so that they can make sense. Instead, I have written around these stories and packed the blog with grilled cheese and happier things. (Are there happier things than grilled cheese? Maybe not.) I did not do what I should have done, which was to pick apart the story until I found the parts that were just mine, and then to realize that there were no such parts, that all stories are intertwined. That me alone is just scene, not story.

Right now I am alone, in fact. Myron is far away at his new job out west, and it’s up to me to prepare the house for sale and pack. I think about that Adrienne Rich poem while I debate what comes to the new house and what will go. Everything that has ever helped me has come through what already lay stored in me. No cardboard box could make this claim. It helps to know that the old things that matter are the ones that lie strong across my heart, which thumped its way through everyone else’s stories. It does not help that I put out enough trash bags every week to make people suspicious. What’s left is strong. It shines in the sunlight and sounds like steel if you smack it hard enough. It’ll get me where I’m going. I know I can write along the way instead of choosing silence.

There is a lightness now that has been missing. There is less sentiment. There are so many reasons to look forward, and then within. Who needs a cure when there’s nothing to fix? I fucked up a lot in the past year and was forgiven, and I forgave the ones who fucked up against me, and I am loved beyond measure, and nothing—nothing that matters—is broken.

dream on

This weekend was my sixth anniversary. (I wrote the wedding up briefly last year if you care to read it.) And all this morning I’ve been writing a lovely post about the weekend, except that at about 952 the browser crashed and kerploof and that’s okay, because it was just words and I spew them out all the time. Watch me. Here I go again.

It was a great anniversary, low-key on the outside but intense on the inside, like a piece of chocolate that turns out to have an amazing filling—so amazing that you wish you hadn’t bitten in with such abandon, that you’d known to savor it in advance. A persistent headache meant that I wasn’t able to take part in everything I wanted to, but the high quality of the good stuff made up for it. (Even though I lost at Scrabble by two.lousy.points while Myron reclaimed the household Scrabble crown. He even made a good show of looking apologetic as he plunked down his winning word. Next time, man of mine. Next time.) Good meals. Popcorn for lunch. A respite from the concerns of the rest of the week.

And then there was the inside, truffle filling with hits of espresso and maybe chili, too. No couple wants to stagnate; even though marriage offers consistency, the last thing any human wants (even staid types like us) is to waste our finite time on earth without fulfilling a few dreams here and there. I’m not a loud dreamer. Life has taught me to appreciate what’s around me, to be grateful for the rain finally falling against my window, to grieve and laugh and love with everything in me. Dreaming, though, that’s a different story. Raised by pragmatic women and accustomed to disappointment, I learned to live in the present and leave the future to a future me. Self-styled advice gurus and life coaches like to tell people to dream big/live their truth/[insert trite-ism here], but if it were just that simple, no one would need a life coach.

Here we go, though, dreaming. And not just dreaming, but peeking under the dust ruffles and behind the green curtains and exposing the architecture of the dream itself. Girders and tight angles and strong, riveted connections—you can see the weight-bearing structures that hold the whole fancy dreamscape together. Swath as many pink clouds around as you like, but they’ll dissipate without that foundation. It’s the foundation that makes me breathe a little easier as I look ahead to an anniversary some time from now when things might just be very different for the two of us. And if that dream doesn’t manifest, we can move on to the next one. Even thinking about something this massive is a real step forward.

Beneath my monitor lately I have a little memo box that holds up three things: a scrawled copy of Vegetarian Times’ Garlicky Tahini Sauce over Chard & Quinoa (thank you, Culinate), a post-it note with the hex codes for the colors of this website, and a photo of Myron from many years ago. The chard is coming soon to a dinner plate near me, the hex codes will be changing sometime this summer, and Myron’s smile is still the same, as is the scar above his eyebrow. You gotta have some consistency when you look behind those green curtains. You only get the one future, and when you share it with someone this important, this special, it’s even more important to get it right.

saving up and spending

Most of the blood oranges I used for this cake were purple-black inside, but this one had a little more variation.This past week was another one of those mad visits to Deadline Land, resulting once again in a newsletter packed full of information and reasons to celebrate. By the time the weekend hit I was ready to dissolve into hot water like a sugar cube. Earlier in the week I saw this recipe at Smitten Kitchen for blood orange olive oil cake and had it in the back of my mind for our weekend indulgence. Every moment of the process was one of peace: shredding the zest with the Saturday opera floating through the air, methodically removing orange sections from the whole, the streams of purple juice flowing into the bowl of the white ceramic citrus reamer. Once again, I didn’t think to bring my camera down until the very end of the process, with one sad orange half left. I started a pot of dhal and knit a few inches on a sock. I started a book I absolutely cannot wait to tell you about. 

You might have to make nose-to-nose friends with your monitor to see it, but the cake is packed full of zest. There’s a bitterness to it because of this; the flavors are complicated and not overly sweet, and the crumb is making my mouth water just to remember it. As Deb mentioned in the recipe, it improves markedly after a few days, too. I skipped the compote topping and saved my extra fruit because I feel like some blood orange curd is in my near future. By the time we settled in for a movie Saturday night, I felt pleasantly spent. We may still be missing our third valentine in this house, but the two of us did all right on our own. 

A bit of the detail from the February page of my calendar. I LOVE this calendar. Who gets this excited about a calendar? Apparently I do. I’ve included a link in the image in case you’re curious.I am not one of those people who has problems with Valentine’s Day, nor did I when I was single. But heck, I don’t even “do” Christmas, the biggest holiday in the western world, and with Valentine’s Day I’m similarly un-invested. Some people really do need the excuse of Valentine’s Day to be a little mushy and tell their loved ones how they feel. They save it up all year, quietly showing love in different ways—knocking down a mortgage, being on time, choking down a mystery casserole with a smile, being a pillar through health crises and empty bank accounts. I love to see burly men poking through the card aisle at the grocery store in February, picking up one after another, making sure the card says enough, but not too much, and nothing that can be taken the wrong way. 

On the other hand, we are spenders. I make my own chocolates (with chili and fleur de sel). I grow my own flowers (not too successfully, but doggedly, damn doggedly). There are stars in my eyes for my husband all year long, and I know in my bones how mutual the feeling is. The thing about love is that you can spend it all you like and not run out. Unlike cake with blood oranges, there’s always more.

#reverb10: future self

Prompt: Future self. Imagine yourself five years from now. What advice would you give your current self for the year ahead? (Bonus: Write a note to yourself 10 years ago. What would you tell your younger self?) 
 
Reverb10 prompt from Jenny Blake
 
December 21, 2015: I hope that at 42 the grays coming in at your widow’s peak have clustered to give you one of those great streaks some women can rock. And I hope you can rock it. I hope Roger is coloring the rest of your hair and you are manufacturing one if you have to. I hope Roger is still spouting politics and you’re still nodding mm-hmm, mm-hmm—a stylist who can keep those curls in submission is someone you should fight as hard to keep as any other friend.
 
I hope that at 42 you still spend part of your week on this website, and that people have found it and love it just as much as you do. Or that it’s become whatever websites are in 2015; I can’t even imagine what technology will be like then. As long as you and Heather are still manufacturing inspiration, making time for it and each other. Hannah will be eleven then, and she will have grown up in front of an audience of indulgent surrogate aunties, every flashing smile captured in this place where we reach for beauty. She might have a brother or sister by now; wouldn’t that be amazing? 
 
I hope that at 42 you are able to remember what life was like now, for me. By then you will have been in Canada ten years, unless you’ve become independently wealthy and moved your pale-as-pudding husband to a sunnier climate. If you have, make sure he uses his sunscreen. You, too, for that matter. 
 
I hope you have not gone too long without a pet in the house. I know that you won’t have found a new one right away. But five years ago on this day, it was the winter solstice and you brought your little silver beastie home with four shaved spots, stitches he promptly pulled when he leaped up on your bed, spraying his blood on the clean sheets. This is life, on December 21, 2010. You know how much time he has left and I do not. Oh, I wish I were in your shoes; I hate not knowing.
 
I hope that at 42 you have moved past this book into the book about the farmland that was for sale that won’t be for sale, and then past that one into the book with the hook that Uncle Robert gave you on Easter Sunday. I hope at least one of them is in print, that people like it, that someone writes to you and tells you that they enjoyed it, they couldn’t stop reading until it was over and they still wanted more. 
 
I hope you are healthy, and busy, and optimistic, and loved. I hope you are doing the things I hope for you, or something better—I like the thought that you might see this, look back and think how little I knew of what the world and my life would be in five years. I like the thought that you might be as indulgent with me as I am when I think of myself at 22, at 32. Oh, you make big mistakes, loud ones, and apologize later if you need to, but live first, damn it, live hard. Don’t let me go quiet. 
 
and if you think I could pass up a bonus you just don’t know me at all
 
December 21, 2000: Wake up early when you can. Look out the sliding doors that lead to your porch, and look at your mesa. For the next three years, it is as much yours as it is anyone else’s. Let it fill you in pink sunrise mornings and face the east when you pray, if praying’s what you call it. Let it fill you in pink sunset evenings.
 
When you leave that place—extricate yourself; you cannot and must not and will not stay—you will remember those scarlet and orange skies and nothing will remind you of your small and enormous human life like those memories. 
 
At work, you are doing the right things. Keep listening. Keep trying. Don’t let that student teacher in your classroom; she’ll let Harris throw a basketball at your computer and it’ll never be the same again. 
 
Outside of work, drive out into the desert. You cannot get lost. Count those stars. Count them. Stay awake and give them a number; someday you’ll wish you could see those stars again. You’ll live amid pollution and drywall-and-vinyl houses and so many white people that it will feel confusing and wrong like a nightmare. You will remember the torrents that came around every autumn during monsoon season and the sheer, stultifying heat of the summer. You will not get to escape snow forever. Drive to Phoenix. Drive to Tucson. Drive to Puerto Penasco. Drive to California. Drive. These days look strong as adobe, but they are a vacation from the rest of your life. 
 
Call your mother. Tell her everything.