:bring on the daily posting!!
fairy tale of the day: The Devil and the Three Golden Hairs. Read it here: https://www.cs.cmu.edu/~spok/grimmtmp/022.txt
The lovely Jana Kingsford has suggested that starting my workday with a blog post is the way to go. Remember how I did that "NaBloPoMo" thing a couple of years back, and posted every day in November? That might be what's going to happen here, with Prolific Posting becoming more important than Amazing Content.
There are some who will tell you that the whole point of a blog is to attract readers. And for some people, that may be the case. I came up in the world of Live Journal, though, and dial-up BBS services, so for me, it's more of my letter to the world. My open-book journal. My place to pour it out. And that still makes me incredibly leery, because LOOK! This is an open platform -- what I put here is going to live on into eternity, thanks to the Wayback machine and other such things. My first blog, back when we called them Weblogs, was at PITAS. I can no longer remember my password, so I don't know how on earth to remove the account. At least my friendster account has gone the way of the dodo, along with friendster.
I'm feeling better today, but also feeling really sad about the rough day my poor kiddo had yesterday. "Everyone thinks I'm such a brave kid," he says, "but I'm scared of a lot of things." Halloween is rough on him, because he loves costumes and magic and candy, but he HATES the gruesome ghouls and floaty, gauze-wrapped skeletons everywhere.
And lately, I am butting up again and again against the pull of video games and cartoons on my son. I am not totally anti-media, but I feel like I'm getting sucked down and powerless against the riptide of violence and the addictive quality of screen time. He's still little, thank God, so social media isn't a concern yet. But UGH.
Sparkle Stories is always a help in this whole ordeal. They are what my son turns to when he can't sleep, when he needs some comfort, when the world is too much. Funny, heartfelt, touching, and full of truth, beauty, and goodness. There are five free Halloween stories on their site right now; that's where we'll head tonight.
I'm sitting down to write, and I feel empty. A beloved guest from far away is staying with us, and my panicky only-child self is at war with my desire to spend time with my dear visitor. So I over-extend and do too much, and don't set boundaries, and then wonder why my heart is racing and I'm snapping and sniping at my child and spouse...
And our time together is good. A mirror is being held up, though, to how much i rely on my own routines and patterns to get by.
I hate that I'm letting my child soothe himself with tech -- games and cartoons on the iPad -- when I retreat to my phone and computer to tune out.
I hate that my kid is eating so much sugar, when I search the cupboards for a quick snack instead of a meal.
I hate being begged for a toy or soon-to-be thrown away thing, when I am letting money run through my fingers and bills are piling up while I don't work enough.
Im in a rough and whiny spot tonight, and angry with myself for not being happy.
This photo is from last year. The dogwood never got this colorful this year. Writing feels like wading through moving water. I'm pushing along but not making a lot of headway. In my big project, I'm at the point where I'm really doubting what I set out to do, and I feel like what I'm doing isn't any good anyway. Other writers assure me that this is part of the process...
I'm forcing myself to blog, just doing it, just ten minutes of actual writing that isn't for money and isn't related to this one project, this one project that has gotten so narrow and yet so big at the same time. I've been burned before by what I've put out into the world, by daring to be open and talk about how I feel in public, and that being seen as unprofessional. What do you think? Is it unprofessional to talk about your feelings? To say, "I've self-imposed an unreasonable timeframe on this work?" To acknowledge that the work is bloody hard?
I remember being fifteen and weeping hysterically to my mother that it was so important that I be who other wanted me to be. That if I didn't, there was no place for me in the world. And to a certain extent, I still behave that way, afraid that if I talk too much, shine too brightly, stand out, or, conversely, if I don't shine, if I let myself need help and need support from other, if I talk about my problems, I'll be outcast. And I wonder, what is to be gained by staying within parameters? and what is to be gained by breaking out? And can I get back in?
SO I'm still working on being more authentic, and at the same time, at molding who that is, who is that person who is still learning and growing and feeling like a child in so many ways at forty?
And there is October, this month of glory, and I don't want to miss it. It's passing by so quickly, and we still need to make a costume for kiddo's halloween, and to decorate and carve and store up the sweetness of summer for the long winter ahead. We've been told to expect a long, snowy winter this year, and my heart is full of dread. Trying to sway that, to turn it around into expectation and wonder.
Leaves of red and gold are littering the grasses now. Some trees are already bare. Others are blazing and delighting. And on the edge of my consciousness are test results and scans and a lingering unknowing. Best to blaze now, isn't it?
I'm a woman in America. This means that my life has been defined by certain outside forces. I'm a queer woman in America, in a relationship with a woman. We have a child. I'm white, middle class, educated. We live in a house. Somehow, the bills get paid.
All of these facts contribute to my experience of the world.
It would seem that I ought to work from a "modern" understanding, that I ought to relate mostly to stories of "modern" women.
Where I find my deepest resonance, is with fairy tales.
Perhaps, to you, fairy tales are unrealistic, misogynistic tales, told to keep little girls in their place, emphasizing making a good marriage and giving up agency.
I find them to be the opposite. Perhaps it is the fairy tales I choose, but my heroines are brave, resourceful, kind, and adventurous. They do not wait around to be saved. They save their loved ones, trick giants and kings, weave shirts of nettles, create worlds.
They are invincible in their vulnerability.
Recently, I worked with a woman with the tale of Tatterhood. For her, on first hearing, the story was of how the brave and exciting Tatterhood gave up what and who she was, became acceptably beautiful, in order to marry the prince. "Wow," I thought. "That is so far from my reading. Why is that?"
Together, we explored questions of what it is that is being unveiled when Tatterhood removes her hood. What conditions have to be in place for us to remove the veils we use to keep ourselves safe from others? What is the question we need to hear in order to take that step? And how do we get someone to ask when we need it?
I love these stories. I love the depth that I can get to so very quickly through their wishing-well of images and archetypes. I would love to share them with you.
My kid is feeling good about himself right now. He's in the back yard, helping an older boy whom I've hired to clear a bunch of weeds. I wasn't looking forward to this afternoon. I had envisioned sweating in the heat, attacked by mosquitoes, as I assist two little boys in pulling weeds. Instead, I've stepped back, sprayed them with bug spray, and am sitting in the shade writing while they work. They feel good about what they're doing, I'm here to help if needed, and we are all winning.
When we step back, and allow others' competence to create magic, a sense of calm and peace can arise. That is a gift. It's a gift to ourselves, and it's a gift of trust and belief in the abilities of others to contribute. This is especially true when those we are allowing to shine are young people. I forget just how much my seven-year-old can do for himself. I forget that an eleven-year-old can handle sharp tools and responsibility for another kid. But when I remember...
Just a quick update -- steroids are amazing. Yes, I'm feeling tired, run down, and unfocused, but
I CAN SEE! My vision in my left eye seems to be back to about 80%. This is extraordinary. I am still waiting on test results and I'll have more MRIs tomorrow, but for now. For now, I am so very grateful.
Did I mention it's my birthday next week? Want to give me a present? I'd love for you to join me in supporting charity:water. My birthday campaign is here -- I set the bar low so we can blow it out of the water, so to speak! This is an opportunity to really change lives, folks.
Six years ago, on Easter Sunday, the sight in my right eye dimmed and became gray and fuzzy. Frightened, I dropped our son off with my partner after Easter dinner at my mom's, and headed to the ER. After a long evening, I was referred to the ophthalmologist with a tentative diagnosis of optic neuritis. Optic Neuritis is an irritation of the optic nerve, caused by a deterioration of the myelin coating on the nerve. It can be a sign of Multiple Sclerosis.
After a few scary days and an MRI, the neurologist said I did not have MS, and I decided to forego the suggested steroid treatment as I was still breastfeeding the kiddo.
Last Tuesday, it came back, in the other eye.
My brain scan is still clear. My new neurologist has ordered some blood tests and some more MRI scans, to see if we can determine why I've had a recurrence. I started steroid treatment on Friday, and I'm cautiously noting a little improvement. Optic neuritis can take up to 8 weeks to resolve without treatment. With treatment, that can be cut down by 50-70%.
So the world is a little fuzzy. I have a pirate-style eyepatch to wear when driving gets hard -- my eyes sometimes have trouble working together right now. Colors are softer. I can sometimes read a little, I can see faces, but not features, with my left eye.
I'm really feeling okay, overall. Fatigued, but not overwhelmingly. My first three days of steroids were IV administered; now I get to switch to oral tablets. And I still don't know what causes this. My headaches, which actually started a few days before I lost vision, are getting better, so I'm hopeful.
With my fuzzy vision, I've been shying away from computer work, but I need to dive back in-- there is blogging to be done, and a new program to prepare for you, as well as my work on the curriculum project (our bread and butter these days). I'll have to be patient, take breaks, and work with more determination and less reliance on powering through.
Oh, and I turn 40 in 8 days.
Life is kind of fuzzy. We see things through so many lenses of experience and identity. It's good to be reminded of the effort it takes to see clearly, to peel off the glasses or wipe away the perspiration or blink away the tears... I can't blink this away, but I can be patient. I can take the medicine and be scanned and tested. And I can welcome every newly emerging color, every sharp line, every beautiful, familiar smile.
Look, I know there are issues. There are always issues. And up until Friday, I wasn't that excited about the Olympics this time. Except about Simone Biles, because that woman is 4'8" of pure power.
But then, our son and I watched the Opening Ceremonies. And I felt it again.
Hope. Deep joy. A belief in the power of people to come together across differences to celebrate a common love of excellence.
I was so deeply moved by the beauty of what Brazil created to welcome everyone. The brave acknowledgement of its own history of slavery and oppression, and the contributions of people of all economic strata and ancestries to its culture. And then, they reminded us what's at stake in this time of volatile climate change. The beautiful tricycles with the seeds and trees for the Athletes' Forest....
And now, I get to cheer on athletes, mostly much younger than I, but some older, as they live their dreams.
i can't help it. I love it. I love it all.
This morning the house is open. the pets are eating breakfast. Kiddo is having some screen time, and I am easing into the day. It's summer still, but there's a deepening of color outside that says, hurry. Enjoy it. It's fleeting.
It's a month until school starts. It's two weeks and two days until I turn 40. That sounds very old to me, because wasn't I just 27 or 33 or something?
Summer feel over when August comes. The stores are full of school supplies, the notices of tuition due and first-week plans start coming from school. Little League is already sending Fall Ball notices.
But it's a beginning time -- looking forward to a new school year. Celebrating the 10,000-some young people (and older people, like the 41-year-old gymnast and 55-year-old sailor) gathered in Rio de Janeiro to interact through competition, not combat.
Oh, that team of refugees. Oh, the teams from Vanuatu and Tuvalu, whose islands are shrinking year by year as the ice melts and the seas rise. Oh, all those joyful, determined faces. The brave acknowledgement of Brazil's history and of our common need for change. The Olympics choke me up every time. I'm deeply moved by the spectacle and the small moments.
So here are the questions I'm living with this month: What is beginning? What is ending? How can I savor and stretch out these days of summer, while doing the work I need to do? How will I greet a new year of life and let go of being a young woman?
What are your questions in this deep summertime? Or perhaps, this quiet, deep wintertime in your part of the world? How do we understand our journeys, and where are we on the path? At every moment, we are making that journey, in every decision -- we travel from the call, to the forest, to the crisis, to the resolution, and back to the village. Over and over again.
What is ending? What is beginning?
Sara is a storyteller, writer, artist, teacher, wife, mother, and singer living in Minnesota. I write about storytelling, and about living a life with stories.