Like Words Together Reflections from the deep end of Practice.


Here and Now

All told I've opted for a really quiet birthday this year. We're having a leisurely morning then going on a hike & letterbox hunt at a park not too far from our house. We'll picnic and then come home to garden. It is going to be a pretty wonderful day spent with some of my favorite beings.

I'm celebrating my first birthday since my Mother died this past winter. It has felt at times pretty rough, although given that my last birthday-related communication from her was deliberately hurtful, it is also something of a relief. More steps into this strange, new world where my Mother no longer can hurt me. Still, it has made this birthday seem a little less celebratory in some ways.

In other ways it feels like an enormous milestone. Over the past 16 years I've completely changed my life to live more healthfully and more ethically. I don't have as much of a comparison to my Father's family, since they've always been estranged, but on my Mother's side the later half of the 40s, if not the early half, came with one or more prescriptions for managing heart disease and/or Type II Diabetes. Hypertension, high cholesterol, and dangerously high blood glucose levels all ran in my family. Women tended to die of strokes or some type of heart failure. Obesity was also something that just began to happen after high school. It was the normal behavior for pretty much all the women in my family, always on an endless cycle of dieting, binging, stress-eating, etc.

To be 47 years old, not obese and not on a single medication for heart disease or diabetes is an enormous accomplishment.

Yes, I take daily medications. I take things that help me live with the chronic pain from my back due to degenerative disc disease and I take things to help me manage the anxiety and depression that arise from my C-PTSD. Those and things to further support my overall health, like a daily multivitamin! That's it though, and that is something that my Mother would make out as if I'd performed some kind of miracle instead of giving me the credit for working really very hard indeed to change my life, to steer myself toward health.

In a way I don't think I'd ever thought I'd be here now. Bigger than the still daily shock of recalling that I stopped working in tech nearly 3 years ago. I really doubted my health for so many years, internalizing my Mother's never-ending medical crises until I started to believe that I was next, I'd get cancer and die. I'd have a heart attack. I'd get congestive heart failure too.

Yet here I am.

I'm still figuring out how to engage around doing work with other people, which still feels challenging to get back into but I'm slowly learning the boundaries of my ability to work on projects again. I'm at a point now that I don't think I really could go back into the stress of the kind of tech work I did for nearly 2 decades, even very occasional meetings tends to increase my anxiety. Not that I really want to go back to tech in any way, sometimes I just miss the money and it briefly crosses my mind. That's when I recall the tone of my doctor's voice when she describes my health a few years ago as being in "acute crises" and "on the verge of hospitalization".

I'm learning how to be a business owner, luckily with the help of a program for "dislocated workers" that provides me with free training and support from a business advisor. I'm close to completing my business plan and then can submit it for a small seed grant from the program. I came from such a blue collar family that being a business owner, trying to get my brain around how business works, feels like such an unexpected experience.

So much about my life now is unexpected, not at all what I used to be planning for. 47 sees me watching for sales and trying to do our grocery shopping strategically, cooking more inexpensive meals at home. I am reminded of the frugality, the barest of minimum my Mother and I lived with for long stretches at a time. It isn't always easy and I do miss my tech salary. That said, my life now is so full of richness, wonder, delight, and love. There are so many things I continue to discover are possible when I don't work 50-60 hours a week, including connecting deeply with CK over gardening as well as having time to really appreciate all the things, including beautiful flowers, she brings to my life.

I'm so grateful to be here now, in this life, with this health, and with the support of the loving beings that now surround me. I'm teaching 9-12 Yoga classes a week now and continuing to work towards completing my certification in Integrated Movement Therapy. I'm stretching my confidence slowly in regards to my art, but continue to explore the ideas that come to me as both a way of creating beauty and to let myself use my art as a way to express the journey I've been on as I heal.

Having come all this way through all this welter
Under my own power,
I've earned this worn-down, hard, incredible sight called Here and Now.

I've taken liberty a bit with some lines above from a poem by Northwest poet, David Wagoner, "Getting There". It's a poem that has continued to open and unfold for me since discovering it when I was 15 or so. It feels appropriate to put it here again, it has been in my mind the past several days as this birthday approached.

Getting There
by David Wagoner

You take a final step and, look, suddenly
You’re there. You’ve arrived
At the one place all your drudgery was aimed for:
This common ground
Where you stretch out, pressing your cheek to sandstone.

What did you want
To be? You’ll remember soon. You feel like tinder
Under a burning glass,
A luminous point of change. The sky is pulsing
Against the cracked horizon,
Holding it firm till the arrival of stars
In time with your heartbeats.
Like wind etching rock, you’ve made a lasting impression
On the self you were
By having come all this way through all this welter
Under your own power,
Though your traces on a map would make an unpromising
Meandering lifeline.

What have you learned so far? You’ll find out later,
Telling it haltingly
Like a dream, that lost traveler’s dream
Under the last hill
Where through the night you’ll take your time out of mind
To unburden yourself
Of elements along elementary paths
By the break of morning.

You’ve earned this worn-down, hard, incredible sight
Called Here and Now.
Now, what you make of it means everything,
Means starting over:
The life in your hands is neither here nor there
But getting there,
So you’re standing again and breathing, beginning another
Journey without regret
Forever, being your own unpeaceable kingdom,
The end of endings.

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