in a foul mood, an ugly mood, a sadness not blue but black. hating everything, most of all myself. my stomach hurts, White Kitty’s back legs grow weaker, the dust buffalos cozy up to my unopened textbooks. having disaster dreams where everything crumbles to dust around me. worried White Kitty won’t be here a year from now. afraid that i’ll never study properly for my exam, that it’s already too late.

feeling completely inadequate, like everyone i see is healthier, eating better, more accomplished. my body is falling apart; my cooking uninspired; my photographs muddy; not calm enough to knit; not brave enough to study. (why does it sound ridiculous when enumerated?) i can’t make things when i am this dark.

things that make me happier: putting something in my belly, a long shower, sweet milk tea, filling the sugar jar, emptying the sink of dirty dishes, cute kitty pictures, kissing my fuzzies, a good book, loud music, npr, a long walk. reminding myself that Mom is out of reach, that there is nothing else i can do for her.

it’s Mom’s birthday today. she would be 61. ten years since we celebrated her 50th in a whirlwind of dancing, eating, and running late to the play. all of us together, not realizing how little time was left.

had a bad dream about her this morning. there was a hole below her collar bones, a space that tunneled through her back, leaving a windowed view of what’s behind her; she was signing up with a questionable enterprise. been a long time since i had a bad dream, a worry dream about her.

i feel ineffectual on these anniversaries. we celebrate as best we can, but it never feels like enough. how do i know if she is ok? how do i know if the yellow roses are enough? why hasn’t she given me a sign in these nearly seven years?

death separates us with unknowns, no matter what one believes. i can’t ask her if she is well, i can’t ask if i’m adequate comfort. what i do with what she left me has to be enough. it’s all i have. but it never feels like enough.

these anniversaries still hit me like a ton of bricks.

lost a day somewhere. thought i went one day without writing, but i’ve gone two. thought i had until today to renew a library book, but that was yesterday. don’t know if i lost friday or saturday. don’t know where it went. some days seems so full; others are so empty they disappear.

to tell the truth about the day requires that something happened.

the two of us spent all of early evening working in the garden. it is still summer, the sun still hot on my hair. but i feel the coming of fall. the air is comfortable; fruits and pods begin to shrivel; branches and stems nod to a breeze, a cool breeze so delicious after the hot, humid summer that i stay out of doors through the mosquito bitings.

we finished filling the new raised bed today and planted in it the stunted tomatoes that have spent all summer languishing in seedling pots. it’s probably too late. it is too late, but still, it is done, and we have hope. and a tarp that may nurse them for a couple of months yet.

one of the tomatoes by the back porch found earth with it roots, eked its way through seedling pot, terracotta pot, and a layer of brick. it found a way to flourish despite our lassitude. its many arms reach and lean across all three porch steps, nursing a dozen swelling tomatoes and many flowers yet to fruit. we make things so complicated–hatching perfect plans, building perfect raised beds, looking for perfect pots. ever trying to do the “right” thing as summer passes us by.

i don’t regret this season of incubation, slowly forming the garden into a shape that suits us, that belongs to us. but it’s easy to forget we don’t have to try so hard, carry so much angst. shove some plants in a pot with dirt and water, set it in the sun, and it will grow. no fancy steps are required to grow some tomatoes. it’s hard to fail as long as you are out there working the ground. sometimes, gardening–living, surviving–is simple.

we are finally feeling at home enough in the garden, finally past the getting-to-know-you stage, to starting pulling out plants and moving things around. cleared out the herb bed, cleared back the raspberries, transplanted the sage today. it’s very satisfying to dig a big hole in the ground.

now there is a beautiful blank space in the middle of the herb bed, waiting for pots of strawberries and who knows what else. a patch of possibilities.

if you don’t know me, you would read these words and wonder how they fit into your life. the crevices they might fill. the jagged edges they might smooth. the ground they might till. or how they flit across the landscape and into the stratosphere without any sense of gravity.

if you know me well, you would read these words and wonder how the words fit into me. you’d trace a contour map with these lines, overlaying who you think i should be. in turns embarrassed and betrayed, you’d ask why i say such things, send such things into the world. all the while, my inner workings are exposed, naked to your judgement.

so i stay mum, my writing a dirty secret to those i love; i a dirty secret to those who read.

lunch at home. leisurely and sleepy. his jetlag still strong; he cranky. a shiny metal bowlful of pasta with cherry tomatoes, little cubes of creamy avocado. kitten paces back and forth between us along the edge of the table. we peruse the pamphlets and tickets from his trip: kawaguchiko, kachikachi yama ropeway, the bell in the sky. otomotachi ni oshiete ne!

White Kitty has been more talky and walky the last couple of days. a little less slip ‘n’ slide. he’s also been seen gently washing his face. hope swells again.

Kitten has been lonely today, lonely and restless; running after us and squeaking mews. doesn’t want to be held. instead he sleeps against my leg and under my desk, close enough to keep watch by touch.

late night meal at Teejay’s with Hordac and Peaches. steak and eggs, hashbrowns, strawberry pie at midnight. something we could be found doing twenty years ago, though we’ve lost some people and gained others. that we could be found twenty years later at the same old diner, not in nostalgia but as part of our everyday goings-on, is comforting. laughing over the same foods, reading the ingredients on the bottles of condiments, fighting over the check. feels like some things last forever.

rereading what i wrote yesterday. it sounds a little false, a little defensive. less heartfelt. now that the blog is up, the inner censors are raising their voices. whenever i feel eyes and ears on me, i lose my own senses. all i hear is what people might think, how i might be heard. i am quite good at conversing when i know what my interlocutor needs, but when the topic is me, i panic. like i’m losing my threads of thought. grandstanding. justifying. nothing to align to. nothing to tether myself.

one of the popular instagramers posted a pretty photo to say she was feeling sad. a number of comments came in admiring the photo, complete with hearts and thumbs-up emoticons, heaping compliments and cheer. i hate that feeling… that one could say something that should stop people in their tracks, but people go on like nothing unusual has occurred.

one could scream agony in a crowd, and people would endeavor to keep on moving, to not stare, to pretend. this is apparently the polite thing, the safe thing to do. if the kerfuffle comes in a pretty package, then we are that much more blind to the pain. how do we become so desensitized? why do we dehumanize the living, breathing being standing next to us? we tread our well worn ruts, trade our hearts for habits. do we have to choose between efficiency and love, tidiness and humanity? is it necessary to be so guarded?

why do we institutionalize frigidness in the form of politeness? being polite means not seeing them hurt their child. being polite means don’t tell the truth. being polite means sliding quietly into our own turmoil and watching others do the same. when did personal space become the most valued of qualities?

it’s so easy to want to be like Granny Weatherwax. all that power. knowing what to do when it needs to be done. knowing what should come to be, and having the means to make it happen. and headology! seems enough on this side of supernatural to be possible. i have this longing to be superhuman, like being human is some awful weakness.

just finished setting up “odd haikus” (tomorrow’s post will be so meta now) with a pleased sigh. i feel strangely uncritical. sending these words into the world, even undressed, seems fortifying, like the completion of something i’ve been meaning to do for a long time, finally done right. i think i’ve missed blogging… it gives me that “i made this” feeling.

White Kitty was walking about sniffing various and sundry objects on the ground, while Kitten threw himself about the house–up and down stairs, around corners. then, a strange rattling located everywhere and nowhere particular in the house. i peeked out the front windows looking for disturbances, while my mind ticked through the possibilities. fluffy or fluffitos? groundhogs couldn’t create such a sensation. a loud truck going by? no. suspicious person doing something suspicious to the porch? no. replaying the moment to my inner senses, i hear the curtain pulls swaying. i am suddenly sure it was an earthquake.

at the stove making a snack of fried rice when M comes home from work. sunny yellow eggs sauteed with leftover rice. he presses against me, fluttering smooches against my right cheek, and declares “i love you.” my body combusts into a grin.

feel empty of stories today. i think the newly established blog bears only a small portion of the responsibility, a minute case of stagefright now that i am vulnerable to an audience. then i remembered i didn’t have any stories to tell other than factoids about the Virginia earthquake when M came home from work. what makes a day story-ful? how many of them do you get in a lifetime?

after he came home and napped, i passed a lonely White Kitty to his lap. he watched our sweet old fuzzy baby–talked to him,  sat with him, kissed him–while i finished making curry for dinner. it gave my heart a bustling fullness. dinner simmering. kitty comforted. and it felt like a forecast of beautiful days that might be when we have some kidlets.

have to keep reminding myself… i’m now someone who “likes myself.” if i were to meet me, i would think her amazing–all kindness, innocence, and intelligence. and thoughtful, in every sense of the word. lily… a savorer of thoughts.

this newfound pleasure in myself takes getting used to. i feel different. before and after. and i want it to show in my countenance and posture, in the timbre of my voice. i want photos of me to be free of self-consciousness, screwed into a contortion of fright and the anticipation of remonstrance. i want to be filled to the fingertips, toetips, hairtips; every pore in the calm of a girl in happy possession of her own little world in this universe of interconnected orbs.

decorating one’s home is perhaps a misguided notion, a seemingly permanent act from the outside, like paint on canvas. but the insides of homes must grow from use, constantly shifting to the needs and desires of the space and occupants. there are days for sitting by the window, looking and hoping; days for sitting in a dark corner, cocooning. there are never any days to sit where the chair looks complementary.

listening to Alice Waters on Fresh Air with Terry Gross. is Berkeley my only home, the only place where i belong? she talks of the sacredness of eating with the seasons, the partaking of nature. tomatoes and corn in summer. preserves and nuts in winter.

i think perhaps living the seasons is a telling of truth about the passage of time.

i picked up “Bird by Bird” for the building-block views, for an antidote to paralysis, but it has unexpectedly turned me into a writer. she has always been there, resurfacing in fits and starts. in journals. at NaNoWriMos. a figment of forbidden thoughts. i understood the value of vomiting words for the first draft, the pleasure of words, the power in writing. i guess i never had the right kind of permission.

but that poignant, funny little book, with which i find plenty to disagree, has removed my personal i-am-not-allowed boogaloo. she said the way i look at the world is wonderful; she said she teaches people who want to write to think this way. and suddenly i’m hemorrhaging words. i’m thinking all the diatribes and ponderings in my head should be written down, that they are beautiful.

slept in until ten this morning with barely lucid awareness of M’s palms running sleepily up and down my back, melting away the icebergs in my spine.

lying crosswise on the bed with White Kitty’s back against his chest, he rubs White Kitty’s still pink, ultrasound shaven belly. i pet the forehead… fingertips to palm, fingertips to palm, like a giant kitty tongue. White Kitty purrs. Kitten adds himself to the snuggle train and suckles on his big brother’s arm. M is home from Sagamiono.

Grandview library, Luck Bros’, long walk on the trail to Whetstone park. filled our sunday with lovely things to fight off M’s jetlag. one of the fullest and nicest days we’ve had in a long time.

Luck Bro’s was idyllic today. sweet summer sun pooling on our window table. good coffee with not a trace of soy sauce. perfect chocolate chip cookies–sandy on the outside, gently chewy on the inside, creamy chocolate chips. a sophisticated cookie. we had to buy a second one. Terry Pratchett making me giggle. instagram keeping us company. children climbing slides and air-bicycling on playtoy zip lines across the street.

two little ones on the baseball diamond jettisoning handfuls of reddish dirt into the air, the motes of red parachuted and scattered, bursting into ghosts and blossoms by the wind. this is the magic of child eyes, finding art in a field of dirt.

almost forgot about those two little ones with their handfuls of magical dirt. something i would have thought indelible, would have liked indelible, almost lost to the ether. mistakenly categorized as inconsequential by the sifters in my subconscious.

drove home with the windows down, me at the wheel, singing nearly at the top of my lungs. uncharacteristically loud and unrestrained. M asked why i was yelling. i like being the driver on a late summer day.

found Neighbor Kitty waiting for us when we came home. picked him up, showered him with love, and teased him with a stick. sitting with him while he lapped Newman’s canned food this morning, i decided he was 95% ours. since he is 100% our neighbor’s, he must be 195% kitty.

barks greeted us from the neighboring yard. learned from one of the shy, considerate boys next door shushing her that the grey and black-spotted, floppy-eared puppy’s name is V—.

went for a long walk on the Olentangy trail, northwards, the unusual direction for our habits. there are hundreds of blackened pins and staples on the wooden pole at North Broadway and Milton. Some of the exquisitely domed ones seem outside the realm of my memory, as if they might be older than my 35 years. that wooden sentry an inadvertent keeper of archeological secrets.

came home from our long evening walk, having fed the local mosquitos but happy. met a friendly brown and white puppy on the way back, coat all silk and velvet, who trotted over for a sniff and lick of our hands. late and tired. but still, my thoughts were of what to cook, not how to avoid the kitchen. feeding us from the market has become habit. taking care of us has grown easier.

still reading “Bird by Bird.” her familial relationship stories are my favorite. such poignancy and love. her making index-card giants for her sick son; her mother’s reaction to her published books.

those stories, those emotions are what’s meaningful to me. bonds beyond rationality; feeling safe in a cruel world; doing what one can to care for each other. do they touch me because they are gaps in my life? or there is there some fundamental humanity there? probably both.

she says big hearts show, like beautiful, unwieldy, throbbing things walking about in public. i think that is me. an overgrown heart–always open, childlike and naive, caring enormously for every passing thing. sensitive. it’s this bright, obvious thing. every child and kitty notices and are drawn to me as i am to them.

but out in the cynical, callous “adult” world, this is apparently invitation for teasing, mocking, belittling. why isn’t it seen as a beautiful combination, a grown person’s wisdom with the enthusiasm, innocence, keenness of a chid. it’s not weakness. it’s not stupidity. i’ve manage to grow up while still capable of caring about everything.

i like my big heart. i don’t need to be fixed other than caring too much about what everyone else thinks. i don’t aspire to be them. is it possible? i am ok? is this the moment i fall in love with myself?

i’m tired of being the one good at taking care of people, the most considerate one in the group. when i’m needy, the people in my life often fail me. it’s lonely. and i grow tired of asking.

i love sitting at Stauf’s sidewalk table, at night, alone. cars going by and parking mere feet from me, clusters of people walking by, congregating, disassembling. buzzing chatter, with snippets of enthusiastic declarations rising above the fray. that special grin of people with Jeni’s ice cream in hand. a latte and snickerdoodle–snickerrrrrdoooooodle–on my table. an open free weekly in on lap. i feel alive.

Kitten just ran over to White Kitty, plopped down astride an arm, then looked up at me with eyes as big as saucers. he holds his kitty stare on me like a hanging question mark, asking if he was doing anything bad (since he is always getting in trouble for playing roughly with White Kitty). i give him a kitty kiss with my eyes, and he immediately falls to suckling on White Kitty’s arm.

White Kitty is surprisingly adventurous today. sleeping on the mat by the front door, sitting in the middle of the livingroom, asking to cuddle on my lap.

reading Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird.”

thinking about her inviolable garden of the inner landscape, one that we tend for our own sake–what mine would look like; how many i let in as trespassing rulers; how much is grown only to feed others. there is a small bundle of shriveled twigs in a little round of dirt at the center. waiting.

does my garden look ok? did i make it right? won’t you please say it’s wonderful? how i long to be able to say, with calm certainty, “it’s mine! it’s mine! it’s all mine!”

they gave me this patch as a satellite only. i must keep the gates open; ask permission; need approval; give away my prettiest blooms; be safety net, ego prop, and mother. they taught me to grow the grandest, shapeliest things, just not for me–how selfish, how greedy, how ridiculous of me to want. it’s hard not to believe them when the alternative is the cessation of a mother, breaking of the family, emotional violence.

all these years of emotional turmoil and growth. does it come down to boundaries? i need a room of my own, but i learned to treat myself by what they said about me. control and belittle, control and belittle, with random sprinkles of admiration for my ability to please. it’s hard not to listen when they loved me, and needed me to love them back.

be kind. listen. to yourself. i don’t need to be revered. i don’t need to be complimented. i just need a place to do whatever the hell i want. i can have strings of shriveled balloons in here if i so choose.

perfectionism is the manifestation of worry; the cost of control is missing the magic of how things really are.

listen. listen. listen.