Musical Milliner

May 26, 2014

Disordinata

  images (Revised 9/18/17)

The destruction of a long-term  relationship, leading to her hitting rock bottom.  She is sometimes delusional.  In her addled mind, she sometimes believes she’s lost all of her friends, most of whom were mutual friends of the partnership, her in-laws, her community.

This delusion is the result of wrong thinking. When she has a clear mind, she sees all the people who really care about her, and have been there all along, some since childhood. Once again , they are in the foreground of her life, reminding her of her value as a human being, as a friend, as a mother. Yes, she has lost some friends in the war. Friends who were there for a season, and have moved on. It’s not a bad thing. It just is.

 Back to the delusion, she knows it is all her fault. Of course it is. That is what he says.  His mental illness, his failures, all bad occurrences and recurrences would never be, but for  her decision to recind the contract.  She has ruined his life. Forever. That’s what his family takes as gospel. It’s a family of enablers.

But it’s not all her fault. Get real.

His mother prayed for the demise of his son’s marriage to this unsubmissive woman, this vegetarian, teetotling feminist who breastfed her children forever, and didn’t change her name at marriage. A woman who took off to one of the top summer opera  Young Artists Program for 12 weeks months after her wedding, and the following two summers, and weeks periodically for the rest of the year.

In other words, she was a bad wife according to the mother-in-law, and she fed that narrative to her son, the husband.

Among tha many gems uttered by his mother was the following: “There is nothing wrong with my children, it’s just the people they married.”

Do you get that?

Aren’t we, as women expected to  keep our marriages together? If they fail, is it not, by default, we who are to blame?

Do you get that?

 The meek little wifey model disappeared decades ago. It’s still practiced in fundementalist cultures all over the world, including the United States. Society has evolved and expanded, and some people aren’t able to stretch their imaginations and adapt. They refuse. The in-laws close ranks and believe whatever it that their son or brother, her husband, tells them. And it’s always the kids who suffer from the disconnection. You shun the mother, and wonder why the children will do anything to avoid spending time with those people. The children are loyal to their mother. They observed firsthand the abuse over the years, and how their father’s family did nothing to help.

The same woman once said, “I like my children. I just don’t like other people’s children.”

Does she get that ? Skilled dispensor of passive-agression, her mother-in-law?

Does she wonder why her grandchildren are not in touch? Does she understand they why don’t come around? Of course, that is their mother’s fault. Never mind the children are adults. That is their family culture. Submit, conform, or you can’t play with us.

What am I talking about? I am trying to reconcile how I went from someone with a good education, a prodigious talent, a career, self-respect. A singer with big competition wins A confident woman who collapsed into a beaten down, humiliated, & depressed woman in a violent marriage. How did that happen?  I need to check in, look into this hatbox which I shoved up on a high shelf, and check my compass.  I hate thinking about all of this. But I’m stuck again. What’s working? What’s static?

I am ready to write about these things now. My children are all adults. This is also their history.

(c)GoshGusMusic2014,2017

January 1, 2012

Ricordare

Two years ago today we lost our good friend. None of us saw it coming. I have a story to share, and a list of Mark’s wisdoms.
Soon after his mother died, I received a large package in the mail. It was the corduroy patchwork quilt she had made some thirty years before as a going away gift for Mark as he went off to college.Over the years, Marilyn had collected scraps of the fabric from her son’s trousers and shirts, and created this beautiful thing. When I followed Mark up to Northern California, it became my quilt, too.
For Mark to pass this on to me, a quilt over which his mother had lovingly labored, which had been so skillfully sewn as to have no tears or snags after so many years of use was a great comfort to me. Mark’s mother had for some years mothered me as well, and I miss her, too.

In my home, the quilt holds an honored place. We call it “The Mothers Quilt.” Any time someone is ill, or needs some warmth and comfort, out comes the quilt, and a cup of tea. The person is wrapped like a big corduroy burrito, and being a quilt of near magical powers and full of mother love, never fails to raise the spirits of whomever is wrapped within it.

For me, the quilt remains one of the strongest reminders of Mark’s legacy.

Here is a list of words I recall Mark saying, or sentiments I can attribute to him.
1. Always be kind.
2. Consider that the other guy may have had a worse day than you.
3. Wave pedestrians and other cars through a four-way stop.
4. Hug your mother while you still can.
5. Learn three corny jokes. Use them to disarm people and demonstrate that you are not their better.
6. If a friend needs some money, know it was hard for them to ask and give them small chores in exchange so they save face.
7. Remember that most folks really want to do their best.
8. Forgive and forget as often as possible.
9. It’s okay to keep your opinions to yourself.
10.When all is said and done, true love remains forever.

(c) GoshGusPublishing(ascap)2012

December 26, 2011

Memorie

Like most children, I looked forward to the Christmas season. Deep in my memory is a tray of Kodak (pre-carousel) slides flashing vignettes on a white wall.

The first tray contains slides when my mother was still walking.

I see my dad taking pleasure and effort to make from found items, a giant arrangement of red candles in graduated sizes, each wired with a different colored light atop, and attached to a platform which was displayed in front of the house on the lawn outside my mother’s kitchen window.  Something about a neighborhood decorating competition. Something about the wires occasionally shorting out. I found the whole thing fantastic.

I see him on a ladder, held by my eldest brother and being cautioned by my mother, taking care to hang lights under the eves.  I remember the glow of the soft colors filling my bedroom as I fell asleep, and how magical that felt.

I have a flash of my mother trying to make potica, a Slovenian holiday bread my father grew up with, and her quiet mumbling as she struggled to get it right.  I’m not sure if she ever did, but I wouldn’t have eaten it, being too picky to try unfamiliar foods like most little ones.

Then there was a year when my father had erected some tacky cardboard fireplace and mantle.  I attribute this to his solution of pestering questions about how could Santa come down the chimney when we didn’t have one.  None of the ranchers where I grew up had them because it rarely got cold enough.  Some companion slides appear on the wall, and I see my parents, who seemed to entertain a lot, sitting around with a living room full of happy people on Christmas Eve after church, and I in my jammies wanting to wait up for Santa.  I remember what I thought was a sonic boom, but, given the day and time of night was probably a quick, sharp earthquake jolt, and the adults telling me that the noise was Santa parking on the roof, and I’d better get to sleep or he wasn’t going to come inside.  Snap.  I woke up later and quietly padded into the living room (the squeaky parquet floor was a challenge) to find that Santa had left many presents, including a doll for me!

My next oldest brother convinced me to get back to bed before we got caught.

The milk and cookies we had left for Santa were gone!

There are slides of our family at Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.  The creche scene behind the rail suddenly replaced by humans.  I was told many times that I made my stage debut as the baby Jesus when I was twelve days old, and slept peacefully per the script.  I  can’t forget the well dressed man next to us who dripped some astounding green-red glop from his nose onto a crisp white hankie. I couldn’t have been more than three or four years old, yet I remember this fellow. He is stuck on that slide.

The fragrant tree so beautifully decorated.  The ceramic creche underneath the spruce with which I  entertained myself, rearranging the cattle and sheep. Moving Joseph around.  Keeping the straw tidy and off the carpet for my mother.

Slides of the company- all the visitors.  The endless trays and dishes full of food.  The shock of seeing the rector in collar, sitting on a sofa with a cigarette and a glass of Scotch, and not having a clue as to how to deal with this contextual confusion.

It was a time of innocence which all children deserve.  By the time I was five, my mother was no longer able to walk.

The second tray of slides sits quietly in my mind.  The wall is blank. I don’t want to look at them.

(c)GoshGusMusic(ascap) 2011

November 7, 2010

Follia

Disheartened, discouraged, discomfited. Crying. Sulking. Repressed passion. More than anything she wants to crawl back into the cave, into the darkness that kept her safe. In its favor, the darkness is familiar. She  knows how to be there. Rather, when in the cave, she knows how not have to “be there.”

Once the light starts to crack its way in, she begins to take note of her surroundings. She is relieved by her solitary confines. At first this is reassuring.  At last!  All alone here, thank God. Nobody requiring her to explain or justify herself.  Relaxing from the tumult, she rests.

Eventually her thinking turns on her as her vision gains focus. Is this good, all this isolation? It is a bit… lonely. Perhaps she needs some company after all. Perhaps some distraction is in order, something to take her mind off those events which sent her running into the night alone.

She looks out. She looks around. And she waits passively for passersby. Who is that on the edge of the shadows? How can this be. Him? Truly? At first she does not understand why he is there, or how he came into her presence at this critical crossroads.

More alert now, her mind shifts into overdrive as synapses permit neurons to fire in rapid frequency as she seeks an assessment. One of the artifacts of spending so much time alone inside one’s head is that a person becomes an expert processor, engaged in an obsessive need to analyze situations from multiple angles. It’s a useful skill, but a skill which used to excess is not entirely healthy. The cost of this habit is a deficiency of  the ability  necessary to fix and embrace goals. It is the mental equivalent of a dog chasing it’s tail. Intensive thinking creates details which break down into a million bits of minutiae. Every one of those bits holds profound import. One begins to hyper-focus on each bit. A mind become lost and confused in the sheer volume of its creation.

From such thinking, surely, madness comes.

So she breaks free long enough to risk conversation. Acutely vulnerable and exposed, she experiences the tsunami of affirmations, and flattery wash over and pull her further from the dark places despite her resolve. Still over-thinking, she weighs her options.

She has an absurd conference in her mind wherein the Rational and the Empirical and the Existential and the Pragmatic all compete for dominance.

Not having sorted herself out, she risks all by taking the hand she sees reaching toward her. She finds in that immense hand kindness. She feels love. She is surprised by the intense passion, the cumulative suppression of which has been revealed in this confluence. What is this? Can it be real? She knows she cannot evade him even if she wanted to because he knows her game.

The light is blinding. It is as painful as the darkness. As much as she wants to acclimate to this new place, she finds herself battling mightily against fears and uncertainties. She remembers a time long ago when she lived in this brightness and flourished. She recalls exactly when and why she retreated into herself after the fog rolled in on her. She knows that in the dark, she cannot be seen. In the dark, she feels safe from potential harm imposed on her. In the dark she is comfortably numb.

That warm hand…It is attached to realities she has desired, and intense experiences she has sought all her life. But his hand is attached to complications seemingly impossible to resolve. The hand proffered is conditional, and in the end will likely choose to retreat to it’s familiar place in it’s own dismal darkness.

To hope against hope is yet another path to madness.

She measures her resources and finds herself  too fragile to juggle this place of suspended animation and potential. If it was contingent on waiting, on riding it out, then perhaps…yes!  She could do that. But she knows better.  Maybe it’s not that she knows better as much as it is about her inability to handle further loss. She chews over parables and metaphors and cultural wisdoms:  if a thing is too good to be true, then it likely isn’t;  nothing ventured, nothing gained;  that which is worth having is worth waiting for.

She is too old and cynical for such bullshit.

She flees back to her dark fortress. A place of familiarity with its own wisdom: pain alone is better than pain shared.

(c)GoshGusMusic(ascap)2010

August 5, 2010

Nella Luce: Inside the Light

For a time we played with sweetness
Chasing after loves protection
Safely sheltered from our darkness
Searching signs to seek direction
Reaching toward the light

Shelter from the storms
Hiding from the madness
Within a house of glass

So sure, so strong this time we felt it
Cold darkness losing to the the dawn
Reborn hope and plans- we meant it
Two hearts turned round again as one
Safe inside the light

Cracks appeared, we fell adrift
Of dreaming twilight by the sea
Our clashing ways couldn’t fit
In anger pushed us to be free
While seeking out the light

Shelter from the storms
Hiding from the madness
Within a house of glass

With all my heart I wish you well
And pray you’ll find the girl you need
Someone whose love will help you see
The love you hold inside the light

(c)GoshGusMusic(ascap)2010

January 15, 2010

La Sonnambula: Grief and the Liminal Place

I keep bumping into a word. It’s a familiar experience. One day, you hear a word with which you are mildly acquainted, but haven’t heard all that much. Then for no apparent reason, it appears, sprinkled into conversations or text with noticeable frequency. It’s both annoying and intriguing. Right? But collecting words enriches our experience. And as German language speakers well know it can be a hoot. Let’s stick to English.

For several years, a regular feature on the inside back page of the Atlantic Monthly was Word Fugitives. Readers would send in clever notes, such as the following from the July/August 2004 edition. Lots of fun to read the creative suggestions that made the column.

The second fugitive sought in March was “a term that describes the momentary confusion experienced by everyone in the vicinity when a cell phone rings and no one is sure if it is his/hers.” Paul Holman, of Austin, Texas, suggested conphonesion; Pam Blanco, of Warwick, Rhode Island, phonundrum; Alan Tobey, of Berkeley, California, ringchronicity; Jim Hutt, of Blue Mountain Lake, New York, ringmarole; William A. Browne Jr., of Indianapolis,ringxiety; and Gordon Wilkinson, of Mill Bay, British Columbia, fauxcellarm.

Taking top honors is Michael W. Pajak, of Portland, Maine, for being the first of many readers to suggest the apt coinage pandephonium.” (http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200407/wallraff)

You get the idea. Every once in a while I’ll catch onto one of these and play with it. Of course we can play with language. How dull would it all be without this delicious pleasure? Sometimes it’s  a thoughtful word, a word that strikes a  tune in your thinking. And in your aural experience.

My new ear worm is the word  liminal. Unless you have spent time studying psychology or philosophy or some other “ology”, it’s a word you’re unlikely to toss about in everyday conversation. But here it is, and it won’t leave me alone. I know exactly why I am obsessed with this one.

In the past two weeks since my friend died, I have been plagued with a common grief reaction:  I awaken with a hard smack most mornings. I am dreaming about whatever, and in the passage from sleep to full consciousness my peace is abruptly disturbed when I remember what a crap time this is, and how  much I dread getting on with my day with this heaviness of heart. I wander off, underlining the hours until I can return to soothing linens of an indulgent thread count, a down duvet, and the half-dozen pillows I like to burrow under. It is indeed comforting under the comforter.

Sleep does not come easily because although my body is relieved by the cozy set-up, my thoughts are amplified as my brain betrays me, and I’m stuck with a familiar rat chasing these eternal rotations of my mental wheel. Insomnia is a bitch which has taken root in the past few years and is situationally exacerbated.  Usually I find sleep by means of an iPod with comfy headphones. Music is so often the cure in my life. Thank God for such a wonder.

The space in time between these two states is the liminal place. It is betwixt and between, and serves as a transitional period for our emotional states, our brain function, as well a means by which our bodies are nudged into activity, or from activity into peaceful slumber.  The early twentieth century anthropologist Victor Turner described the liminal state as the passage between childhood and manhood in certain African tribal cultures which practiced coming of age rituals. In fact, one can find examples of these practices in most non-Western cultures. (http://www.liminality.org/about)

The etymology of the word derives from the Latin “limen” (nominative case)  and liminis (noun,genitive case, third declension…I live in a house where both sons were required to study Latin, which means mom had to learn a bit as well.  I salute Ms. Firth in her persistence.)  But my sources concur that the English translation is “threshold.”

The very word used to describe this void in which change unfolds, is grudgingly recognized by the Oxford English Dictionary-2 (1989) only as an adjective, and not at all in it’s noun, liminality. (http://csmt.uchicago.edu/glossary2004/liminal.htm) OED-3, began a major overhaul in 1993, and to date is not yet one-third complete. Words such as liminal and liminality, though not truly within common usage, are expected to be added  due to their increased inclusion in scholarly applications. (Ibid)   OED-2 gets picked on for it’s snootiness and perceived bias, but at 221,000 entries, it retains it’s place as the most authoritative English dictionary. (www.oed.com/newsupdate/revision0712)

Language is, or should be, elastic enough to accommodate  evolving usage.  I could get into a discussion here about email and social networking shorthand, which some see as the demise of English language, (and I don’t),  but that will have to wait for another day.

Back on track.  So we have this space between two places of consciousness. It’s a place where we process and integrate. It can’t be codified into a specific length of time. The liminal time seems to be fluid and mutable. It may be seconds or minutes.

My thinking is that when we experience significant disturbances in our daily lives, we do not spend the necessary  time in the liminal. We awaken with a spurt of catecholamines and don’t experience the liminal transition which is intended to ease us into or away from conscious function. There is something about the import of liminality which makes it essential for well-being.

I’ve managed to sleep a requisite number of hours. My dreams, as I can recall, are benign if not pleasant or interesting.  Yet when I slam into wakefulness, I am tired.  Not forever. Just right now. Another part of  my current situation. The full liminal meal will return, but apparently I need the shock of adrenaline to get me moving these days.  It just doesn’t feel right.

(c)GoshGusMusic/ascap

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