I Have Felt Like This Before

Last night, I lay awake for hours trying to will my heart to stop thumping scarily and erratically. Trying to tame my breath into regularity. Recalling every relaxation technique I’ve ever learned. None of it worked. My body shook.

The unthinkable was happening. My children, ages eighteen and twenty-one, who had been so excited about voting, were both dismayed. I didn’t know what to say to them. I’m sorry your adult lives are beginning this way. It’s not what I wanted for you. My husband and I watched the markets plunged, seeing a future without retirement and without safety nets. We kept asking how this could be. How could so many Americans vote for someone endorsed by the KKK?

An existential fear suffused my being. It felt like the end of everything. I tried to remember when I had ever felt so terrified, so horrible. And the memories surfaced. A handful of times, events in my life had evoked this kind of emotional response for me:

  • The Oklahoma City bombing
  • 9-11
  • Sitting in a hospital while an ultrasound technician ran a wand over the bump on my son’s head and said “I want to check with the radiologist about getting a CT scan of this.”
  • The day my mother died.

I suppose I went on after all of those happenings. I suppose I will go on now. I’m already making plans about how I personally can counteract some of the negatives I expect.

But my feelings have not caught up with my head. This morning I argued with the weather forecaster when he said Today will be sunny. NO IT WON’T I yelled.

For today, this is my soundtrack: 

 

Poem:Seeing Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds

Like holiday poetry? Here’s one I wrote a few years ago for Halloween.

 

Seeing Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds at Age Seven

My mom was there but not — asleep on the couch,
head lolled back, mouth open wide
enough for a parakeet to fly in
had ours not died already.
My dad was gone.

Nobody knew my brother and I
were getting away with something.
Late night TV. The Birds.
We dared each other to watch.

Normally I’d try lifting my mom’s
lower jaw into place once or twice
of an evening; I worried
about moths and things.
But this night I wouldn’t risk waking her.

Later I wished I had,
even months later, an eon of regret in childhood –
when I’d look up from my coloring in the afternoon
having heard a flutter near the window
knowing sharp beaks could slash right through the screen,
when I’d run flat out the three blocks to school
books held over my head as a shield,
and especially when the crows gathered at dusk,
raucous and shifting and crowding, and then
more especially when they settled down,
waiting.

 

(This originally appeared in Well Versed.)

Guy Talk

With the current brouhaha over recordings from a certain candidate, I’m flashing back to memories from my own life, as I’m sure most women are. Here’s a flash memoir.

When I was twenty, I got an office job where I was the only female in the department. Some of the guys engaged in pretty rough talk (though actually not speaking of assault — not to the Donald’s level), but fairly sexist, fairly objectifying. Either they forgot I was there, or didn’t realize I was close enough to overhear sometimes, or they didn’t care. They’d talk about the women in the front office, comparing physical attributes. They’d look out the window and “rate” women passing by on the street.

Not all of the guys, though. One of the younger ones, near my age, didn’t engage in this behavior, ever, and that was easy to notice. If he ever talked about a woman, it was just as a human. I ended up dating him. I met his mom and sister, who were big influences in his life, both of whom he treated with respect. Reader, I married him.

 

What I Love About Living in the U.S.

Here I am on July 4th, Independence Day here in the U.S. No big plans today except to go watch the city’s fireworks tonight.

I’m a sucker for all the holiday accoutrements, though, on any holiday. So I’m wearing red capris and a blue t-shirt with some white print on it. It’s only a matter of time until I own a Christmas sweater, I suppose.

I had some actual paper letters to mail and the temperature was pleasant, so I walked to the post office this morning. Here’s the part where I say what I love about this country, and more specifically the location of my home. On my 2-mile round-trip to the post office from my house, I passed a public library, a public school, a Baptist Church, an antiquarian book seller, an auto mechanic, a bicycle store, a School of Metaphysics, a Vietnamese restaurant, a Mediterranean restaurant, an Indian restaurant/grocery and an old-fashioned diner where the menu is heavy on biscuits-n-gravy type fair.

Here are a few places I didn’t pass this morning, but are within a mile of my house: a Mosque, a Unity Church, a Christian Science Church and a community center that has programs for residents who live in public housing, and a brew-pub.

I don’t always think about it, what a richness of experience and culture is all around me. But I noticed this morning. I thought about it, walking along in my red, white and blue. This is what the United States is about. This is the kind of thing that stirs my feelings of loyalty and love for my country. So many people from so many different backgrounds, and here we are together, making a city, a community, supporting our public libraries and public schools.

I know many towns and communities are a lot more homogeneous, but my midwestern metropolis has a population of only about 120,000. So it doesn’t take a huge urban area to live the dream. This is the American dream I want for myself and my kids — one that includes a place for all of us.

RIP Glenn Frey, Hotel California Alt Lyrics

I’m increasingly concerned for performing artists in their sixties. First Lemmy, then Natalie Cole, followed by David Bowie and Alan Rickman. And today’s announcement of the passing of the Eagles’ Glenn Frey.

Frey holds a special place in my life, having composed “Hotel California.” Way back in the mists of prehistory, when Mr. Nomadic Noesis and I were only dating and not yet married, I often found myself driving home from his house late at night with my car radio blasting to keep me awake. It tended to be around the same time and, not saying whoever programmed the radio station was lazy or anything, but I could pretty much count on hearing the same songs. Almost without fail, “Hotel California” finished up shortly before I pulled into my driveway.

A few years ago on our wedding anniversary, I wrote a poem about this. Here it is:

Driving to the Hotel California

On a dark urban highway, Eagles on the radio.
I thought the lyricist smelled the lieges, since I’d
never heard of colitas and the story made no sense
anyway. The heavy head, though – that part
I understood, for the evening
was not young when I left his doorway.
I had a long drive home
and I was thinking to myself,
“They play this same old song every night
while my headlights light up the orange barrels
lining this construction corridor.”
And I knew the next day I would still hear them sing

“Welcome to the Hotel California”
Every single place
I went all day long
in my head — the Hotel California.
No matter what I did, it’d be there.

My mind was definitely stuck on the song again again
but every time I thought of it I thought too of the man I’d seen –
how we danced and we courted on those hot summer nights.
The song makes me remember; I’ll never forget.

So I called up the station
“Please play me my song,”
They said “We haven’t had that request since I don’t know when.”
Still I can hear those voices sing to this day,
wake up in the middle of the night,
next to me he breathes.

The rhythm is Hotel California
I look at his sleeping face
recall driving from his place
to the strains of Hotel California.
What a nice surprise, our love’s still alive.

Water stains on the ceiling
Legos strewn underfoot.
Sometimes feel like a prisoner to home repair and clutter
and in the middle of it all
I cook the evening feast,
try to find something everyone will like
something they all will eat.
Then I stop and remember
those times leaving his door
how I never wanted to go back
to the place I lived alone.
Legos will get picked up
and ceiling fixed eventually.
This is the life I’ve chosen
and I don’t want to leave.