Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak whispers the o'er-fraught heart and bids it break. ~ William Shakespeare
Thank you, kind reader, for visiting all the posts chronicling the loss of ottoman-shaped dog. You have shared -- and thereby lightened -- the burden of my grief, and I am tremendously grateful. You are such a blessing to me.
The evening after The End, Beloved Husband and I drove past the veterinarian's tiny offices on the way home from an errand. No cars were parked in the lot; the windows were dark, the 'Closed' sign hung by the door. We wondered whether Thorbert's body was still there, or whether it had been moved onward to be cremated as we'd requested.
The thought of Thorbert's furry ottoman-shaped body being there in the building all alone yielded an abrupt and harrowing sensation -- like stepping on a needle-thin shard of glass. All of a sudden I was sliced wide open, gasping at the sudden pain, panicking. It was as though all of the tiny moments of Thorbert's patient waiting by the front door for me over the past ten years had reappeared synchronously, coalesced into a thunderous, suffocating cloud of longing.
MY DOG. HE'S ALONE. HE BELONGS WITH ME.
I knew it was a nonsensical thought. I clutched at the hope that Thorbert had known within his furry heart that I would never abandon him. I wrapped myself in the reminder that Thorbert is gone and no longer feels separation anxiety, longing, fear, or pain. It was a thin cloak against the raging tempest that had so unexpectedly appeared. I held my breath. The tornado passed me by, brushing me with its bitter and cold edges. Exhale. Wipe my eyes. Breathe again.
No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.
― C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed
The question remains: where is Thorbert now?
As a scientist, part of me distinctly thinks that he is just No More. His biological processes have ceased. His essence is gone.
But is it? Perhaps his soul -- for there is no doubt that he had one -- has somehow merged with the greatness of the Universe. If so, the Universe is a better place for it.
Is he with God? I would rejoice to know that Thorbert is with his Creator, in eternal joy. I am frustrated that my mind's eye cannot yet imagine it. It is revoltingly, appallingly egotistic of me to have difficulty picturing him so happy without me, yet his unwavering dedication to me during his lifetime somehow makes it hard for me to envision. Or perhaps -- and this is a naked, uncomfortable admission -- it is rather that I cannot yet bear to think that I am no longer the fortunate object of his unceasing devotion. I was so accustomed to his unconditional love.
Perhaps now, both he and I are taking our steps towards perfection. As we recently noted:
When Love has matured and, through a dissolution of the self into light, become a radiance, then shall the Lover be liberated from dependence upon the Beloved, and the Beloved also be made perfect by being liberated from the Lover. ― Dag Hammarskjöld, Markings
You have gone towards the light, my treasured ottoman-shaped dog. You are the light. You are free, and you are perfect. Perhaps, if I am extremely lucky, we shall meet again someday.
Herself writes again about the dog relationships.
Tiny Dog Maya was so very small when she first came home with us, that we generally kept her separated from Daisy and Thorbert. Over the past year, though, as she has matured, we have realized that she can get along well with the others as long as we keep a reasonable eye upon them when they are all in the same room. Maya and Daisy tend to try to vie for the Top Dog position; it's still up in the air as to who will ultimately win, although given the size differential, it's likely to be Daisy -- Maya wisely defers at the last second to the dog who weighs fifteen times what she does.
Thorbert, always mild-mannered, tolerated Maya ever so patiently. Maya, ever territorial about people and food, would snap at him when he jumped up onto the couch to sit with me, or if he stood too closely to me while I was eating. He never snapped back. Good boy, Thorbert.
Some times, Maya would try to play with Thorbert. He never understood the concept of Play, and would look slightly confused and alarmed at Maya's efforts. Other times, Maya would lie down next to Thorbert and nudge her tiny head under his chin. He would lick her noggin thoughtfully, and she would melt into relaxation under his damp ministrations.
Two days ago, Maya approached Daisy and attempted to encourage her to do the same. Daisy delivered a look that clearly stated, "I am annoyed and do not have time for such trivia." Alas, Maya. There will be no more noggin-licking.
Herself writes about the dog relationships.
Daisy was three when we adopted one-year-old Thorbert. Daisy had been a very silly dog -- all giant feet and goofiness, ambling about like the tiny puppy she still apparently thought she was. With another dog in the household, though, Daisy suddenly grew up. She took on the role of the dominant dog, the responsible older sister. She showed Thorbert what was what and where was where, and they settled into an easy companionship. Except for the occasional tussle over a molecule of food (Thorbert's one passion), they got along very well. They were a solid pair. And they matched, with their black and white fur. Though neither dog enjoyed cuddling much, they would oftentimes rest near one another. In fact, an hour of Thorbert's last morning was spent lying on the floor near Daisy.
Late last night, Daisy woke me up by standing next to the bed and softly woofing. She didn't want to go out. She just kept looking around. Eventually she sat back down on the couch where she usually sleeps, but she left a space at the end where Thorbert would usually sit. It took her quite a while to settle back down. I'm sure she was looking for Thorbert.
Herself continues to chronicle her thoughts about treasured ottoman-shaped dog, Thorbert.
Thorbert loved to eat. His stomach had a built-in alarm clock for breakfast and dinner. When his internal alarm rang, he would get up from wherever he was resting near me, and sit very closely to me, staring soulfully, wagging his stumpy tail urgently, sending brain waves of "DINNERTIME" through the ether. He especially enjoyed the little treats - a piece of cheese, a square of cooked chicken - that I would give him with his pills and his insulin. Whenever I worked in the kitchen, he'd stand near me, ever hopeful. I'd give him a tiny sliver of the carrot or bell pepper I was chopping. When I made myself lunch or a snack, he'd patiently wait for a taste. I always saved him a molecule. And when I cleaned up, he'd stand at attention by the dishwasher, attempting to lick away any food morsels I'd left on cutlery or plates.
Without Thorbert, I now must rely on my alarm clock beeping in the morning. I have no motivation to get up and start my day since I need no longer adhere to the schedule of meals and insulin for him. Similarly, at 7 PM, I realize that there is no longer any urgency in the pet-feeding schedule. The joy of cooking, or even of making a simple sandwich, is diminished without his enthusiasm for ingredients. The pleasure of a bowl of ice cream is lessened since he is not there to lick the spoon afterwards.
Food is just not the same. Nothing, in fact, is quite the same.
Because Thorbert always followed me around the house, I would do all my downstairs chores one after the other, collecting items to go upstairs in the front hall until it was time to move upwards. I did not want him to have to run up and down the stairs, taxing his tiny legs, just to stay near me as he preferred. Now, I can move around the house with impunity, make multiple trips with laundry, or whatever I like. Yet I still feel the urge to consolidate. It's an ingrained habit -- now, alas, an unnecessary one.
When I used my elliptical trainer, Thorbert would lie on the chaise/couch nearby. If I was tired or needed a break, I would go and sit with him for a few minutes. Thorbert was not the kind of dog who asked for a lot of physical attention, but he would always sigh in a relaxed and sleepy manner when I'd pat his ears and ruffle his furry neck. Now when I exercise, I have to find some other distraction for my rest interludes.
Every time I walk up the path to the house, I can't help but look through the glass of the front door, first towards the floor and then towards the raised shelf behind the couch where Thorbert would wait for me to come home. My eyes search and search for his familiar form. It is not there. The other canines eventually greet me when I enter the house, but it is not the same.
Some moments, I am peaceful, relieved that his suffering is done. Other moments, I forcefully reign in thoughts and questions and doubts that attempt to gallop through my mind. I cannot afford to allow "what ifs" to take up residence. It is Finished. Godspeed, Thorbert.
I know that the Offspring and Beloved Husband are grieving as well. They know I am sad; I am not hiding that. I am trying to show them that it is possible to reminisce and be sad, and to remember with love and move onwards, too. I hope that their hearts are not too sore, and that they are healing in their grief.
Some moments, I can talk about him and about his absence. Then unexpectedly and suddenly, my voice catches and I have to stop and gather myself. I hadn't realized how much of my daily routines, and my heart, I had given to my ottoman-shaped dog. I cannot imagine ever again loving a creature the same way that I loved (and continue to love) Thorbert.
I am afraid to let my tears fall freely. I fear that crying may release a degree of sorrow that no one should have to witness, and yet I cannot bear the thought of being alone in such grief. The only one who could withstand such weeping, provide comfort, and subsequently treat me the same as always, would have been Thorbert.
Today, I will think about how Thorbert sometimes used to lie upside-down when he was very relaxed. It never failed to bring a smile to my face. Good boy, Thorbert.
After I received ottoman-shaped dog's diagnosis a few months ago, I had plenty of time to mentally prepare myself for yesterday morning - knowing that Thorbert would eventually hit a medical crisis that would necessitate The End. It was clearly time yesterday, and because I had kept an eye on him so tightly, he had hardly any discomfort right up to the end. I'm glad for that, and relieved.
What I didn't prepare myself for, though, was what it would be like after he was gone. We had him for nearly 10 years, and because I've been telecommuting for even longer than that, he was my constant companion for essentially an entire decade. He made sure I got up promptly in the morning to enjoy breakfast and the cool morning air. He'd lie in my study when I was working, sit on the couch with me when I read a book or took a nap, and follow me around when I did chores. He was my sous-chef in the kitchen -- he'd come running if he heard the sound of the knife on the cutting board. He curled up with me in my sleeping bag those cold nights when we went camping. He'd rest on the couch when I used my elliptical trainer, and sleep at the foot of the bed near me at night -- unless Beloved Husband was away, in which case he would delightedly ensconce himself right next to me on Husband's pillow. He stayed by my side whenever I was sick or sad, offering silent and beautiful comfort. And, of course, he waited right by the front door for me whenever I left the house.
He was ALWAYS here.
Now there is this ottoman-shaped-dog-shaped void where he once was, and I have to learn to go about my daily life without his company. I never thought about how it would be to do so. I suppose I'm glad I didn't, though, because to try to anticipate or imagine his absence would have yielded a degree of sorrow that would have been both frightening and nearly impossible to withstand. And now, it is here: a nauseating grief that washes over me in salty ocean waves. A wordless roar of loss.
Faithful, beloved dog. His unquestioning devotion to me brought me tremendous joy and also broke my heart, every single day. Was I worthy of his affection, his adoration, his attachment? I don't think anyone can be worthy of such love. I tried my hardest, though. I hope he knew.
Humble, devoted, beautiful-hearted Thorbert. I will always remember the love you so freely gave to me. Thank you.
Do not surrender your grief so quickly Let it cut more deeply Let it ferment and season you As few human or divine ingredients can Something is missing in my heart tonight That has made my eyes so soft And my voice so tender And my need of God so absolutely clear.
Ottoman-shaped dog had a difficult day yesterday, followed by a very rough night last night. This morning, it was clear that because of the bladder tumor, he had developed a blockage. He couldn't urinate.
These past few months since his diagnosis, we have been watching him, waiting for signs, worrying about the progression of his illness and about his comfort. He would have a bad day, and we would think, "Now?" And then he would bounce back, so it was clear that it was not Now.
It was clear, though, that today was Now.
You are at rest now, Thorbert, with no more pills or needles. No more anxiety, no more fears. I hope that somewhere, somehow, you are now free to have all the snackies you would like, to pee happily on every bush you pass, to sniff and run bark and lie on cushions and be joyful once more.
Godspeed, Thorbert. You were the very best dog I could ever have -- unrelentingly cheerful, devoted, and loving. You would rest by my side when I was sick, be silently and comfortingly present when I was sad, and wait patiently by the front door for my return whenever I left the house. You were unconditional love wrapped in an ottoman-shaped dog body. Thank you for your time with us.
Herself took Offspring the Third to the local mall, in order to visit a store that has a better selection of jeans designed for a teen who is mostly leg. After they were finished shopping, they stopped in the food court to obtain a snack to curb the perpetual hunger of said teen. There, in between the chicken sandwich establishment and the sandwich shop, was a new stall dedicated to teas. Bubble tea, fruit-infused tea, shave ice. Potential to be tasty, for sure.
An article we found in Science Daily describes a study presented in the August issue of the journal, Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, which provides evidence for something we have long felt to be an inherent truth:
Our 'self' comes to include the people to whom we feel close.
The scientists "conducted the study with 22 young adult participants who underwent fMRI scans of their brains during experiments to monitor brain activity while under threat of receiving mild electrical shocks to themselves or to a friend or stranger. The researchers found, as they expected, that regions of the brain responsible for threat response -- the anterior insula, putamen and supramarginal gyrus -- became active under threat of shock to the self. In the case of threat of shock to a stranger, the brain in those regions displayed little activity. However when the threat of shock was to a friend, the brain activity of the participant became essentially identical to the activity displayed under threat to the self."
"The finding shows the brain's remarkable capacity to model self to others; that people close to us become a part of ourselves, and that is not just metaphor or poetry, it's very real. Literally we are under threat when a friend is under threat. But not so when a stranger is under threat."
We freely profess to having followed with mild interest the birth of king-to-be George to Prince William and Kate Middleton. They seem like such genuinely nice and caring people, and appear so surprisingly normal despite the constant glare of the media and the weight of a royal life. We're happy for them. We wish them a long, healthy, and happy life together.
We have a special fondness for Kate Middleton especially - when she emerged from the hospital with her husband to reveal their new baby to the waiting public, we noted with joy and appreciation the fact that she looked precisely as a woman who had just delivered a baby should (albeit much better coiffed): she still had a significant tummy. Thank you, lovely Kate, for demonstrating to the world that a woman is not suddenly slender immediately after giving birth, and that the expected post-delivery roundness is nothing to which attention should be drawn, or which should be carefully concealed. We're grateful to you for being so marvelously natural.
We were a tiny bit surprised today about particular 'news' articles relating to the royal family. The articles speculated in detail about whether William and Kate would have young George circumcised. (You can find such articles here, for example, or here. Or here. Or here. Or here. You get the idea.) Yes indeed. People are apparently actively wondering about the status of the royal baby's penis.
In the past couple of decades (or perhaps even longer), there has been a raging debate regarding circumcision. Yea or nay? Health benefits, risks, religious concerns, and so forth. We have our own clear and well-researched opinions about circumcision, and based necessary decisions regarding the male Offspring on those opinions. And the world need not know what our opinions are. Ever.
Equally clear: the state of tiny George's willy is NONE OF OUR BUSINESS. Ever.
It's quite fascinating, really, how nothing is left private any more. Who is to blame: the media, or those to whom the media cater -- people who willingly consume every tidbit of others' personal information? It fills us with dismay. How we wish we could turn off the sources of the prying and intruding, and that people would focus instead on Real News. The world would become a better place -- regardless of the circumcised, or uncircumcised, state of anyone's penis.
This charming image of the royal family was found here.
Ah, a classic blast from the past: Bruce Springsteen, Born To Run.
It reminds Herself of summer camp when she was a very young teen. She and the other girls would trade lip glosses and squeeze into their best jeans to get ready for an evening dance with the boys' camp across the lake. Bruce Springsteen, with his rough edges, motorcycle, and abundant masculinity, seemed to be the epitome of danger and desire - a far cry from the juvenile mancubs who would lurk in the shadows with their hands in their pockets and their shoulders shrugged, afraid of the dance floor. Take us away, Bruce.
Wendy let me in I wanna be your friend I want to guard your dreams and visions Just wrap your legs 'round these velvet rims and strap your hands 'cross my engines Together we could break this trap We'll run till we drop, baby we'll never go back
Is it possible to evolve to a point at which one can give freely, without need or desire for reciprocation or appreciation? Most days, we are so close; we do what we do, with joy in our hearts, purely for the pleasure of knowing that we have made another's life a wee bit better somehow. And that is enough.
Every now and then, though, we realize that we have given away a great many tiny pieces of ourselves. We feel fragile, exhausted, in need. Our reservoirs are empty, and we wish to be filled. We yearn to reach out our hands to others, and yet are afraid to do so. In our fear, we become angry at ourselves for our wants and desires. We should be able to fulfill ourselves; why can it not be so? It is a blessing and a curse of humanity: the need for others.
It is a mystery.
We try to be as the rocks are, shaped by sand and rain and wind. We shade those around us from the glare of the sun, and provide a place to momentarily call Home. And, when night falls, we reach towards our stars. When you have reached the point where you no longer expect a response, you will at last be able to give in such a way that the other is able to receive, and be grateful. When Love has matured and, through a dissolution of the self into light, become a radiance, then shall the Lover be liberated from dependence upon the Beloved, and the Beloved also be made perfect by being liberated from the Lover. ― Dag Hammarskjöld, Markings
I soothe my conscience now with the thought that it is better for hard words to be on paper than that Mummy should carry them in her heart. ~ Anne Frank
Herself does not write much about her close family members. Any short entry here regarding them cannot possibly do justice to the length and breadth of her relationships with them; conversations and silences and happenings, moments and days and years. Every now and then, though, she tries to process her thoughts and feelings towards them through writing. It helps her to understand both them, and herself, better. And so, we delve today every-so-briefly into the tremendous complexity of the mother-daughter relationship.
Herself's Mother is a fascinating person. Intelligent and resourceful, she rose above a hardscrabble childhood by pursuing higher education and a career which blossomed out in several directions over time. She is extremely well-read and well-traveled. She is knowledgeable regarding a wide variety of topics, especially art and literature, and delights in sharing information with people. She has beautiful manners and prides herself in always knowing the proper way Things Should Be Done. She possesses an innate ability to charm others with her conversation and lively repartee. She would be comfortable having tea with the Queen. And she would know precisely what to wear, when to curtsy, and which teaspoon to use.
Herself speaks with both her parents regularly. When they called to with Herself and Herself's Beloved a happy anniversary, she had a slightly odd conversation with her Mother. It went as follows - and we include Herself's thoughts in italics, for the sake of completeness of the picture:
Mother: "Let me give you one piece of advice. When [Offspring the First] gets married, be sure to hire a wedding planner. It will save you a whole lot of money and aggravation."
Herself: (Wait - what does that mean? Mother did the planning. I thought Mother had wanted to do the planning. She had very specific ideas about how the wedding should be done, and was hundreds of miles closer to the wedding location than I, so it made sense for her to take charge. I didn't care - I just wanted to be married to my Beloved. She's never mentioned the cost or annoyance before. Is she only now saying that the wedding was aggravating and excessively expensive?) "I think that she would love to do the planning herself. She enjoys that kind of thing."
Mother: "Oh, thank goodness. Remember when I had to take you to the department store in the mall to get clothes for the wedding? You were so difficult about things, it made it so hard."
Herself: ( Good Lord, what did I do wrong back then? I tried to be acquiescent and quick about all wedding-related matters. I do remember going to the mall when I needed shoes for the wedding, and attempting to capture Mother's interest by holding up various pairs for her input, but she stood towards the front of the shoe store, staring silently out the shop window into the mall. I did my best to make a quick selection so that we could leave. Was she angry at me then, or just preoccupied with her own thoughts? I can't remember anything else. I don't understand. I should try to make light of this comment.) "Oh, dear. I'm sooooooo sorry I was difficult. I'm not a fan of shopping, as you know. That was over two decades ago, though - is it necessary to still hold a grudge about it?"
Mother: "Yes, it is. I've been coddling this grudge all these years, keeping it warm and cared-for. I have a few others, too."
Herself: "Well, good! I'd hate to think the grudges are neglected. It's very kind of you to take such good care of them over the years."
They continued with further banter about grudges as well as apologies from Herself before they concluded. Herself tried to make her apologies as profuse as possible, almost to the point of silliness, to mirror what seemed in her mind to be another silliness -- an incomprehensible mentioning of unspecified grievances from ages past. What else could she do? Herself was tempted to see gibes veiled under pointed reminiscences and joking. Or was that merely a guilty conscience shining a spotlight on previously-buried moments?
Afterward, Herself felt ever so slightly on edge, not knowing the nature of the 'crime' of which she had been accused. She tread carefully in her thoughts that evening, lest she fall into her habitual trap of second-guessing and rehashing all that she has said and done (or not said or not done). She also swatted away a tiny cloud of guilt that was seeded by her apparent insufficient involvement in the wedding planning (and the minimizing of expenses). Tiny guilt clouds quickly grow, we know, when they feed on Herself's horror of having been difficult about anything or inconvenienced Mother, or anyone, in any way.
Two women, two different points of view. Is there a truth somewhere in between?
Rather than invest any further mental energy in deciphering matters, Herself decided today to focus on a good moment from that time instead. A rainbow memory, after the rain.
I remember waking up that morning, in the attic room. It seemed like a miracle that the endless waiting, waiting, waiting, was over, and that the day had finally arrived. The dawn was quiet. The sunlight was just beginning to filter in through the curtains. There was a plain metal clothes rack to one side of the attic, with my wedding dress carefully hung upon it. Such a beautiful dress - the lace, the tiny buttons down the back, the bow under which the train would be bustled later. Such a happy dress.
Some nights I need to be held. Tonight I'm a listener. So nice to lie in rumpled sheets and listen. Cover me with words. ― Don DeLillo, Libra
As the school year approaches, Herself looks forward to tightening up the daily routines. While at first the general laxity of summer was enjoyable, after a few months it has become clear that the floppiness of the schedule results in a significant danger of descending into the Chaos of sloth and unproductivity. It is much more difficult to get things done, to arrive on time, to even think. That needs to be changed. It will, soon.
There's something very satisfying about beginning anew with the school year. We make promises to ourselves to be more productive, to keep on top of all the things that need be done, to do more. We may backslide on occasion, but we manage keep the spirit of those promises for a fairly long time. It is good.
One goal for Herself is to delve anew into her writings. She's still working on the same story. It comes in increments. One page at a time. The plot, as it unfolds, appears to be working inexorably towards a physical relationship between two characters -- or rather, between various couples of characters. Can she write about sex in a way that is not cliché or prurient? Can the words be erotic, lustful, sensual, without being crude, or worse yet, boring?
She's a bit hesitant; she sees that there is danger in writing about romance (whether physical, or even emotional, romance). There is always the risk that those who read will impute the desires and feelings of the characters to the author. While it is true that little pieces of the author may creep into the writings, we hope that ultimately, readers will view the words much like an apron imprinted with a bikini-clad idealized body. The author's shape is under there, we know, but the gift to the reader is the painted picture of words.
Our new tack to overcome a bit of writer's block: finding a picture, and then writing about it.
Today's photograph - homage to the color yellow:
Yellow reminds us of Luna Lovegood.
"Oh, hello, Harry," said Luna. "Did you know one of your eyebrows is bright yellow?"
"How would you like to come to Slughorn's party with me tonight?"
"I'd love to go with you as friends!" said Luna, beaming as he had never seen her beam before. "Nobody's ever asked me to a party before, as a friend! Is that why you dyed your eyebrow, for the party? Should I do mine too?"
Ah, Luna, with your 'knack of speaking uncomfortable truths,' your willingness to be fully yourself despite those who would tease you, and your radish earrings. You would be a good friend.
There are so many very strange corners of the internet, with all kinds of quirky, amusing, and/or peculiar content. Whilst roaming our usual world wide web haunts today, we came across a particular "prank" video. While Herself loathes and detests most activities called "practical jokes" or "pranks," this one was slightly different:
it depicts a serious request by a young man to receive aid with a commonplace occurrence.
The young man sits on a park bench, with a very small bed on the ground before him. He calls out to passers-by; he indicates that his foot has fallen asleep; would they please tuck it into bed? While some suspiciously decline, others good-naturedly comply. Observers laugh happily. For the more willing strangers, the young man additionally asks if they will put tiny pajamas on his foot or read it a bedtime story. One is even asked to give it a kiss goodnight. She quickly places a kiss on her fingertips and delivers it to the tucked-in foot.
We suppose that if the young man in question were sinister, unwashed, or otherwise creepy, the activity wouldn't have been successful. His fresh-faced and deadpan requests, though, were perfect in their innocuousness and humor. And if we'd been there, we would have acquiesced, complete with foot-pajamas, story, tucking-in, and all. Because life is too short not to be amused by literal follies.
You can see the video for yourself, here:
Just in case the link doesn't work, you can find it here as well.
So many little bits of things floating about in our heads -- the flotsam and jetsam of a rather busy and slightly odd summer, bobbing about on the waves of time that are carrying us forward toward the beginning of the school year and (hopefully) a resumption of normalcy. It's difficult to isolate and scoop up one thing or another without the other things bumping in and distracting us from, or displacing, the desired thing. (This might be why not much is getting accomplished these days.) Let us inspect all the items that are currently within our visual field, shall we?
Item One: The Dogs, with a special emphasis on ottoman-shaped dog
Holy moly, the beasts have all been particularly needy of late. Ottoman-shaped dog had a couple of Very Bad Days, leading Herself to wonder if it were time for him to shuffle off this mortal coil, but then he bounced back. He stoically watches at the front door whenever Herself goes out, as always, and she finds it almost unbearably sad to think of the day on the near horizon when she will no longer spy his ears poking up from his spot where he awaits her return. And at the same time, she is tired from anticipating the moment when she knows it's time to help him to go. It will be heartrendingly sad, and a great relief. That's a terrible combination to tolerate.
Item Two: words, too many and yet not enough
We have been flagging in our posting here, and struggling with writing the story we've been composing for quite some time now. Without the rigors of the school schedule, the constant presence of the Offspring -- even though they are lovely people -- is like a low drone, a hum in the ears that is distracting and prevents us from being able to gather our thoughts and collect our words and arrange them in proper and significant order. We desperately need some people silence in the house. Some moments alone. To think, and to write -- creatively, meaningfully, hopefully.
Item Three: wants and desires
We have such ordinary longings: to have a few moments during which we need not think about the daily grind of bills and laundry and work and money and fuss and muss. To have a few moments when we do not recollect the unseemly, shameful horror of crying so audibly in the Emergency Room because of the kidney stone. To have a few moments when we do not need to work so hard to weigh our words, curb our emotions, and speak carefully, either in order to walk someone through a difficulty, or in order not to upset someone with a poorly chosen word or emotional outburst. To have a few moments when we do not feel the weight of someone else's needing something that we must provide.
To be able to dream about an occasional possession that we would like to have, without feeling guilty for the desire and without sensing the cloud of impossibility overshadowing us.
To be creative.
To be unrestrained. To be free to dance or to sing.
To feel an absence of judgement, and an acceptance just as we are.
To be cherished despite our failings. To be desired despite our flaws.
To enjoy peace and quiet. To be content.
It seems so simple. And yet, on some days, so far out of our grasp.
Many years ago today (forty-six, we were somehow surprised to count) Herself made her entrance into this world. Ta-daaaa! In the blink of an eye, time passes by.
She is currently nursing a migraine, and thus is spending a muted day, mostly napping with assorted canines here and there. In the spare moments, though, she is quietly grateful for her family and her close friends. They make everything worthwhile. She loves them so.
Note: discussion of undergarments today. You have been warned!
You will likely recall the recent post on Things That Are Terrifying. I am pleased to report that an ultrasound to follow up on the incidental finding on the CT scan revealed nothing more than two very small, benign cysts (oddly, in the contralateral area from that identified by the CT scan). No biopsy was necessary. Nothing more than routine follow-up was recommended.
"Pleased to report" is hopelessly inadequate a phrase; "tremendously relieved" may perhaps begin to describe it. The feeling was much like believing that one has seen The Grim, but then discovering that it was, in fact, nothing more than an actual puppy's shadow. Hallelujah.
In celebration (and also out of a bit of necessity), Herself went shopping for new supportive undergarments for the mammaries. They deserved a bit of cheer in honor of the Good News.
For a somewhat ample woman such as Herself, purchasing brassieres is a task that is possibly even more fraught than shopping for a bathing suit. There is much unhappiness and frustration under the glaring ugly lights of the dressing room. The vast majority of ordinary stores do not carry a cup size beyond a double-D (and even precious few of those), except for the very rare, industrial-strength items with larger band sizes. Many of these profess to be "minimizers," which essentially compact matters down lest the woman's bosom take up too much of the public airspace. Many also include odd seams in nipple-chafing patterns. These are not attractive undergarments. Why is a pretty brassiere so difficult to find? Sigh.
Miraculously, Herself managed to find a few appropriately-sized garments in a nearby store. Huzzah! Better yet, they were not excessively matronly. Huzzah again! Everything is comfortably supported without undue squashing of The Girls. All is well. Cheers.
The fact is, I love to feed other people. I love their pleasure, their comfort, their delight in being cared for. Cooking gives me the means to make other people feel better, which in a very simple equation makes me feel better. I believe that food can be a profound means of communication, allowing me to express myself in a way that seems much deeper and more sincere than words. My Gruyere cheese puffs straight from the oven say 'I'm glad you're here. Sit down, relax. I'll look after everything.'
-- Ann Patchett, "Dinner For One, Please, James” (as quoted by Jenni Ferrari-Adler, in Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant : Confessions of Cooking for One and Dining Alone)
On days when we are feeling fraught, we think about this exchange in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and we laugh and feel better about being awash in one hundred different emotions.
Don't you understand how Cho's feeling at the moment?" she asked.
"No," said Harry and Ron together.
Hermione sighed and laid down her quill.
"Well, obviously, she's feeling very sad, because of Cedric dying. Then I expect she's feeling confused because she liked Cedric and now she likes Harry, and she can't work out who she likes best. Then she'll be feeling guilty, thinking it's an insult to Cedric's memory to be kissing Harry at all, and she'll be worrying about what everyone else might say about her if she starts going out with Harry. And she probably can't work out what her feelings toward Harry are anyway, because he was the one who was with Cedric when Cedric died, so that's all very mixed up and painful. Oh, and she's afraid she's going to be thrown off the Ravenclaw Quidditch team because she's been flying so badly."
A slightly stunned silence greeted the end of this speech, then Ron said, "One person can't feel all that at once, they'd explode."
"Just because you've got the emotional range of a teaspoon does't mean we all have," said Hermione.
- J.K. Rowling, Order of the Phoenix, Chapter Twenty-One
We have lost the art of public tenderness, these small gestures of wiping and washing; we have forgotten how abjectly the body welcomes a formal touch. ― Anne Enright, The Gathering
When the Offspring were small, they all enjoyed physical contact to varying degrees. Herself spent many years carrying them in turn in the baby sling, adjusting them in her lap as they read together, gathering them together for family pictures with arms around one another or hands on shoulders or heads.
As the Offspring have aged, their need for parental touch has diminished significantly. Though all of them still tolerate a kiss goodnight or an occasional light touch, on the whole they have personal space spheres that have grown as they have. They hug their friends more than they do Herself. That is the way of the world, Herself knows: as the Offspring approach adulthood, their physical independence from her mirrors the mental independence that they are working to achieve.
She respects their autonomy. She follows their leads, stepping back if she senses that they might shrug off a touch, and waiting for a slight inclination towards her that indicates that she may still kiss the tops of their heads goodnight. Every now and then, she misses certain physical activities of yore - carrying a sleeping toddler to bed, comforting a worrying child with reassuring arms, soothing someone's scrape or bruise with a pat and a bandage. Those were tiny joys in their own ways.
These types of touch seem to be limited to parent/small child interactions. As adults, we feel constrained: we are hesitant to touch a tender scar, an aching joint, a sorrowing head. Are we afraid of bearing too close a witness to someone's pain or hurt? Or perhaps it is the unspoken intimation that to comfort a person -- or to accept comforting -- somehow implies weakness. No one likes to be perceived as wanting consolation or care; no one likes to look fragile or uncertain or emotional. It's dangerous. We suffer in silence, untouched.
And untouching. For much as we yearn to lay a hand that might relieve an aching body or console an aching soul, it seems too intrusive. We are hesitant to ask if we may do so, too, because we don't want to imply that another is in need. People limp onward in their own personal spheres, disguising pains that could be ameliorated by physical touch, and hiding longings to reach out to others.
Survival of the fittest has turned into evolution into a void of human touch.
That seems wrong.
Can we change it? I think we should try. Gently, patiently. One person at a time.
NinjaHead resides with a muffin-baking woman known herein as Herself. Herself has a Beloved Husband, with whom she shares three nearly-grown Offspring. When she is not writing Things, Herself nurtures a visceral fondness for small furry creatures. The household menagerie, which has varied in size and composition over the years, presently contains a minuscule middle aged chihuahua, a most mild-mannered senior chihuahua, and a very small hamster who, due to the prominence of his gonads, seems to need trousers for decency.