marionette girl

A year ago I placed a tiny sliver of index card above my desk.
When I did something brave, something very challenging, took a step or action that would've stymied me in the past, I drew a tiny star on that paper. The star was a tiny something no one would understand but me.

The stars were not related to fitness, hobbies or any single goal. The way I earned them wouldn't make sense to most people. Most of the stars were for actions or choices you may make regularly by instinct or habit. I did not keep a record of each action or why it was difficult for me at that time. But make no mistake, those stars were hard-earned. My only goal with the star card was to remind myself that I was capable. "Of what?" you ask. And my answer is, "Just that: Capable."
If you spend years relinquishing power to gods or other people, after awhile you don't know you have any of your own. Surrendering that strength and your own will sounds beautiful and selfless to some. To others, it sounds like shirking responsibility for your actions. I believe it can be both at different times. But even as an act of selflessness, it can become skewed. For me, the result was feeling like a marionette. And when the strings on a marionette are cut, it flops to the ground. And when you flop to the ground, you have to build or rebuild those weak legs to stand on your own.

The stars I gave myself were for each time I practiced standing. They reminded me I had tried using those standing muscles and succeeded. And even when I couldn't remember how I'd "stood" exactly, I'd see the card filling with stars. I'd see it, and I'd think, "Capable. Remember, you are capable of standing and choosing for yourself."

Today I noticed the card for the first time in awhile. That tells me something.
 It tells me that at some point, making choices became more habitual. The muscles became a bit more developed. My instincts became more natural, and choosing things for myself was a muscle I'd used. Recording each one didn't seem so pressing.

Of course I noticed the card today, because I needed to be reminded. That's how things work, right? I was going to take it down, but instead I think I will just draw one more star so I remember I remembered;)


I take the human body very seriously.  I mean, toes are funny, but otherwise, I want to treasure mine and others'.

We see so much of everyone and all their skin in the media.  In addition, any child can find pornography somewhere, whereas in the 80s we had to count on that one kid who'd found a mauled magazine in the woods. The pages were so worn by the time the thing made it around our circle, the bodies were blurry and confusing.  But, honestly, nudity isn't even my point.

I'm not sure what I want my children to know exactly. With all of the sexual assault and harassment news, of course it's on every parent's mind.  We want good and safety for our kids as they grow up in this world.   And I think a lot of us are nervous.
Okay, remember that paragraph when I said I wasn't sure what I want my children to know?
That was a lie.  That was a soft Pam-ish way of saying, "Get ready, because I'm going to tell all of you exactly what I wish we knew."

What I want:

I want us to look at people and their appearances with gentleness.
I want us to look at their bodies and realize that it is a form and precious home that has carried them their entire lives.  And even if they ridicule it, hate parts of it, joke about it, we don't join in.  We just silently or verbally, remember it is the one body they get. Flawed or not, it is a precious living amazing place that carries them through this world.

Then, after that, I want us to look down at our own bodies...the parts we have had wars with, the parts that we've spent years wishing away and dreaming of changing, and place a careful hand on each part to thank them for serving us.

We get one skin.
It is our boundary between us and the world.  It is a precious outline of our self and soul.  It should be the line between us and others, and if we choose to allow anyone to cross it, this is a holy gift to them.  Likewise, if someone shares a part of themselves with us, even if they joke and berate themselves, let's not agree.  Just a pat, a quiet solemnity usually settles anyone and reminds us we live in a sacred dwelling.

This doesn't fix everything, but it's a start.

maybe i'll go check on that g'mornin', Glory today.
maybe I won't.
maybe i'll do what I feel like.
maybe I won't.
maybe i'll give a damn and try real hard to learn and understand and grow.
or maybe i'll just eat this apple, core, seeds and all.
I dare you to call me a non-conservationist.

Monkey Life: Part 4

I'm writing this to myself until I make it through this year of living like a monkey.  Hopefully, it'll prevent a repeat of last night.

Dear Pam:

Remember that Firestone place you love?
C'mon, you know the place.  It's so close that once walking your weird dog, you dropped your keys into the sewer.  You walked over to Firestone, and that guy fashioned you a sewer-key-grabber out of a big wire.  You know, the wire you use to retrieve rogue socks from behind the washing machine these days?  That place.  No?

I know I can help you remember, stick with me.  It's where you went just two months ago after you knocked your sideview mirror off with a mailbox while applying mascara.  You drove straight there.  You were all, "Omigosh I need a mirror, but look how thick my eyelashes look!" And sewer-key-grabber guy was all, "It'll cost $300, but maybe don't replace it because it seems like you don't use it anyway!"  And you don't.  So you didn't.  Coming back to you yet?

Dude, you were JUST there a month ago for your inspection.  They suggested a bunch of stuff you needed and you bought none of it, because you didn't recognize most of the words and decided they were mythical items, fancy words people made up for trickery, like air filter and narwhal.  Also you found out you can pass inspection without a side mirror, which seemed so wrong, but was super economical.  Remember?  Yes? Yay!  There you go.  I knew you'd get there.  Yeah, THAT place.  Good, good.

We love that place don't we?  Yes, they ARE very nice.  Yes, they HAVE helped us with so many things this Monkey Year.  Omigosh, you're going to be so happy when I tell you their actual business.  I can hardly wait.  Ready? 
They change the oil in your car. 
I know; let it sink in.

The stuff you bought at 10pm last night at Food Lion after having a guy try to jump your battery several times.  Okay two guys.  Why lie to ourselves?  Even I thought the first guy was being lazy.   Turns out, he was right.  Your battery is fine, but you forgot to put oil in the van. 

I know you think of the van as a cozy place to text and eat Cheezits, but you need it to run.  And I know those Firestone guys are good at retrieving keys and telling you when Starbucks opens, but please, for the love of God, occasionally, stop by and let them do their real job.  Just say, "Hey're here, I'm here, I brought the van instead of the dog this time.  Put that magical unicorn juice in here and make her go."

You're doing a good job  this year.  You are.  This year has been balls-to-the-wall crazy, and no one is blaming you.  But the next time you hit that Firestone curb and run into  their parking lot to catch your hubcap, just hang out for 15 minutes.  If you can't remember why you came, just wander aimlessly a few minutes.  I bet that guy will come out and ask if you need your oil changed.

You do.
The answer is always yes, you do.

don't grade yourself; you're just auditing

Some weeks, do you have a resounding mantra in your head that sounds like, "I'm just not doing very well at life...I'm just not doing very well?"  And you're not sure exactly what constitutes "doing well," but you're certain "well" looks different from what you're doing?  And if someone were coming around with a clip board to observe and grade you, you know she'd come with a clucking tongue, shaking her head and frowning.

But you're not dumb, you know no one is coming to grade you, which is all the more reason not to let yourself off the hook.  You must cluck and frown at yourself and remind yourself your performance is sub par.  It feels bad.  But if you relaxed, wouldn't you just slide further and further into mediocrity and sub par and even deeper into just plain shameful?

I know that we don't get graded.
I know we shouldn't compare our parenting or personality or job performance or anything else to others' or even to some fictitious ideal.
These days, I still cluck and frown at myself and tell myself I could "do much better, young lady."
I still mentally grade myself.
HOWEVER, I'd like to point out that I know it's wrong and I remind myself that it's wrong AS I cluck and frown.
And for this...
Well, I believe I should receive partial credit towards the final grade.

the future

Because you cannot see your future,
doesn't mean it is not lovely.
It does not mean it doesn't exist.

Look into that hazy void
and dream and pray,
work and love.

Then turn and do the same
with the present.
Eventually, they will bump up against each other
and meet.

Monkey Life Part 3

Here's the problem...
There are just SO MANY damn things you have to do to stay alive.
I mean, I can eat real food OR take a multi-vitamin, but how can I remember both?
And why isn't food just a space pill yet?  I was promised in a movie once.

I can be clothed OR match, but not both.  So I'll wear all black and grey and blend.  And shut up about adding accessories; am I a wizard?  (Confession to my scarf-loving friends:  I added two scarves this year.  One's black and one's grey).

Warning:  If you find yourself in monkey phase, think carefully before buying a dog.  If you have one already, well...well you just do.  Try not to lose her.  But if you don't, wait six months.  I spend a lot of time and energy "coming to" mentally only to panic and call out, "Roxy???  Roxy where are you???"only to stand up and step on her tail. 
If you get one, get a needy codependent one who won't wander away.

Last week in the snow, I took the dog out at 10pm, dropped my keys into the snow and couldn't find them for 20 minutes.  You may be thinking that's not weird, except that I didn't know my keyring was with me until I heard a plunk that sounded keyish.  Basically, as soon as I realized I had it, it was gone.  You know, like my good firm fanny from my 20s.

If you're in monkey phase, be super friendly and kind, because you'll need a lot of grace from others.  I forgot to pay my rent one month,  TIL THE 15TH of the month.  People will forgive a lot if you're honest and kind, because remember you don't have that bottom working for you anymore.

No one gets gifts or birthday wishes from you much when you're a monkey.  Or rather, the person you barely know but happened to be born on and cross your radar on one of your lucid days gets a LOT of celebration.  You just pour all the love and guilt of forgetting your immediate family's birthdays into that one friendly maintenance guy named John or Jason or "Hey Buddy," until he's nervous about returning to your apartment for the next air filter change.