Another Week Spent . . .

I’ve discovered what I can do when my back gives out and both my feet decide to rebel against the last lawn mowing frenzy. I can do a half-crawl upstairs and into bed at 2:30am after discovering not 1, not 2 but 3 errors on a Statistics project and get up and hobble to school the next day. And the next. And the next. I can get a party going for my youngest son’s birthday supreme. I can smile and agree when I’m reminded that I didn’t actually demonstrate dotting (pointillism) for my first speech and take my lumps with the compliment: “your speaking skills are off the hook!” And I can do it while passing through epic changes in my soul, leaping broad chasms with a single bound.

8 Years w/The Ev Wonder
8 Years w/The Ev Wonder

Yes, I may sound prideful to some. If I were, I wouldn’t bother to express this. I’m detailing events that ideally (except for my son’s 8th b’day!) should have happened at least a decade ago. I suppose it depends on whom you consult. We’d have to decide there is one path, one timeframe most perfect and then compare us all to it. I take comfort in knowing you cannot do what you cannot do any sooner than you can do, be, grow.

I appreciate Kristy’s words on her own life’s trails. Her courage. I look at all my sisters and can only say that an A+ in World Literature or having good public speaking skills is minor compared to traversing daunting paths out of layers of oppression (I use the term broadly because I believe we are oppressed by wounds of the soul, by spiritual tyranny whispering what we “should” focus on vs. what we intuit is best and and and…).

The shine has worn off the thrill of being in school but I’m more committed than ever. I’m irritated to discover that I’ve discovered what I thought I would discover in the way of an “attitude” about “education.” But I have balancing components in my mind that help me recognize how awesomely advantageous is this pursuit. And I love the opportunity to get to know some great professors and students.

So, off to catch up on Statistics homework and answer the question (for another class, of course): “What crime is truly worthy of the punishment of death?”

Wow, I think of only one and I’d probably do the dirty work of justice myself, minus any regard for the law. But it’s not a terribly unusual stance for most wolfish moms.

On with life . . .

Now That We’ve Found Love . . .

I like this song. In fact, I like every remix and version of it.

Meanwhile, I rest. My blog languishes. My workload is beyond belief. And I believe it.

Know what happens when you haven’t had to work any mathematical equations beyond percentages and family budgets for over 20 years? You forget how to approach some data. You overlook things and then you realize at 11pm that your project for statistics is missing major components. And you made a C on your first test. And this is important to you even if you wind up having to drop the class from sheer exhaustion and start it over again another semester. You pull back, growl at your mind for not seeing a pivotal detail and you begin. Again.

And at 1:30 in the morning you realize you never converted from kilograms to pounds. So, you begin again. See, this profoundly alters the histogram and the infuriating box plot. The best news is that there is something alive in you, something you’ve not felt before when you’re working these charts and equations. Standard deviation? Coefficiency of variation? What’s next? I’m exhausted and pissed but there is this vibe that adores the opportunity to use these mental muscles. Hey, maybe I’ll like calculus. But it’s not on the docket for a psyche major!

By 2:20 in the a.m. when you go to stand up, your back gives out on you and you quickly become the narrator of your life, the “you” to whom you refer as you figure out how to get up steep steps to a charger for a cell whose battery is low and you realize it’s quite a simile. Um, I mean metaphor. Yeah, that’s it. Right? Oh hell. I’m lysdexic too! But I’m no cell phone…(why did I shift voice here?!)

Hey, even with screaming agonizing feet and a twisted lower back, life is good!

Nap time . . .

What Are The Odds?

I take a test today but I’m up before the sun and the birds this morning studying, cramming more into my brain and actually laughing my um off.

Um, “I hate statistics.” Um, “If I study for that long with that much focus, I’ll surely lose the data. Focus overload brought on by stress.” That’s the conclusion you draw when you’re mapping a course through a territory foreign. You cringe and fret but parts of you are surprised at how the hours melt away and not one ounce of you complained. Okay, the um part of me did.

I ran in the direction of what I previously hated (ignorantly) and found that I waken on the morning of a test with quartiles dancing through my head and images of data sets and bell curves, skewness and histograms, yawning and saying out loud “a quartile is…the class width is determined by….empirical rule states that 68% of the data…” and I realize something. It’s pouring out of my brain and onto a conscious screen in my own words with images depicting their meaning. I’m humming with that energy inevitable. The stuff of jiving enjoyment. I mean, more specifically, the supremely best kind of energy without having sex (the best sex, of course). I like it this much? I don’t think we could’ve predicted this. This is one of those random acts of good energy it seems.

I’m the relationship, psychology, human behavior, spiritual, history and language woman, right?

It turns out there may be more to me than even that.

But we can pretty much guarantee that 68% of the data lies within 1 standard deviation of the mean, when working with symmetric distribution. Of course. And symmetry is great stuff.

Barring any pesky outliers (or ants stalking – Scorpio’s minor prediction for the week already fulfilled), I predict I’ll keep loving statistics since it makes my brain sing. And it probably won’t make a difference if I get a good grade on the first test or not. I’m enjoying it too much to stress.

But a nap is inevitable.

The Week in Rear View, Rather?

By Friday evening, I felt like I’d rather just show my ass to the world than be nice. I don’t mean literally, of course. Overall, this was not the week of transcendence. I rather think it good. Rather.

I found courage. I went ahead. I got’er done. I. I. I.

But pissy was the word for me all week and I could not blame the cycles of nature. (I don’t do that anyway.) I was pissy with a smile and a snarl under the surface. Why?

I don’t know exactly. Some of it is sheer frustration. I am 2 months away from 42. I am being asked to do some things that I have mastered already. And some things I have not. And you put it all in a pot and turn up the heat and blamo. Put the learning curve in there and my nice settled routines are gone to hell in that handbasket I thought was so pretty! By Friday evening I was flattened. And my kids were gone with their father. And the 22 year mark of my first and only marriage came and went on a Saturday silent and without relent. Ah. Ha.

Mayhaps that is the piss of it? No. That’s not all. It’s that things are not finalized yet due to financial lah tee and dah. But still, even that is not all. I was re-visited by a painful scenario I felt I had finally managed to transform enough never to attract again! Ha! and Ah!

But I am still kicking. And I am still grinning. Just don’t get too close, you may hear me snarl and decide I’m not someone to cuddle just yet. I have moments of appreciation and gratefulness and all that good stuff we all want to hear to keep us feeling we’re growing and “perfect” and.

Trance' n' Dents
Smile? Heck no.

And I just felt pissy with occasional waves of blissful wonder (it’s a wonder, truly). Anyone going under the speed limit got to experience the crispness of my moves oh baby oh in my snappy little 14 year old car. Get OUT of my way.

Ah but I am love…

a pissy love this week. And it’s true…all of it…all…at…once. And I’ve gotten AHEAD on my homework while Statistics is mocking my love of it. Mocking me to shame. It’s like learning a language you never get to hear enough. And you love it but it laughs at you when you do so well in class and then sit with the book and die.

This is my evening to whine. Now, I’m done.

Week Two – A Review and Barefoot Worldview

Life tossed me more obvious challenges with my feet this past week, turned up the heat on my efforts to retain the influences of each class and spit me out into a weekend of reflection. My kids and their demands for help with homework, organization of their schedules and the matchless value of connection time reminded me of how easy it is to lose track of vital threads.

My first essay for Critical Thinking is asking me to clarify my worldview. This would not be the first or even the third time I have done so. But it has the feel of solidity hard won, of confidence still cooling after the fires of struggle and an awareness of life’s propensity for tossing more challenge my way. I thought of posting it as a page on my blog, went to do so and realized there were some major threads left out in my rush to get on with the rest of my homework.

A worldview unfolds a rich tapestry of life’s vicissitudes of prosperity and loss on so many levels. When tailored around carefully constructed inquiries, it challenges a life to see clearly and to define a personal foundation of meaning. It’s great stuff.

But in the meantime, my lawn languishes, feet not ready to add the strain of pushing uphill with a Reel mower while still adjusting to carrying a heavy bookbag on my back across long stretches of parking lot. I remind myself that some front lawns suggest so very much but tell precious little. I tell my mind to shut up and let go of the fear of parents’ wrong conclusions when they drop their kids off to walk with my daughter to school.

It is, after all, a minor thing and rains have been rare, turning lawn into desert patches. But I have often worried far too much about what people think of me, how I am perceived. It’s a chance to let go of vanity on deeper levels while promising myself that my worthwhile longing for an attractive yard and home will find fulfillment. It’s a timely venture since vanity gets to go flying out the window when you’re stumbling for good expression in front of a whole class. Not that I’ve had what would even qualify as bad moments but the experience of putting myself out there is a wonderfully liberating work. And it underlines how much richness I have at my disposal, that I do identify with the basic struggles of humanity because of the path my life has traversed.

I’d say this week has done at least one thing for me. It has stripped me of more extras, of those layers that I was unaware of wearing as defense against what turns out to simply be…life. I’m looking around for those tidal pools in my soul, the ones that invite me to kick off my shoes, shed any pretense or defense and just flow …

Barefoot Beckonings
Barefoot Beckonings

Looking Back On Week One (And Brain Drool?)

The sum of it: I’m not who I was in 1986. I suppose that’s a no-brainer but the difference (besides the obvious physical!) is epic. In 1986, I dropped my philosophy class because I knew it would cause me to walk out of Christianity. I sat there listening to the professor dissect his outline for the course and my leg started bobbing up and down in auto-flex rapid-fire impatience and anxiety. No way. Get me out NOW. You know what you’re ready for, it seems. I wasn’t ready to change that part of me yet. I had some things to heal first. And Christianity provided the atmosphere to begin that depth healing work, believe it or not.

I couldn’t be more delighted with what I’ve experienced this week all things considered. My feet are the one big drawback. When I fell down the stairs in July, the pain was surreal but then I had wisdom tooth extraction and that pain was considerable enough to cause me to give in and take the meds. Those meds (narcs!) put me in the denial zone about my feet. I had no idea, basically. Now that all meds are gone, my feet are screaming their protest of everything from high heels to lawn care. By the end of Thursday, I was limping. I love to wear heels. I hadn’t. And I won’t for a long time. But that’s trivial enough, except when the backpack gets extra heavy and the half a mile trek to class with hairline fractures looms. The college is experiencing record enrollment this year. I have to get to school over an hour before my first classes of each day. I’m not complaining. Homework and pointillism time abound.

Here’s the biggest shock of the week. I love this class and was sure I’d loathe it:

Elementary STATISTICS!!!
Elementary STATISTICS!!!
My brain drools, if that’s possible, when I sit and listen and take notes in my statistics class. Then there’s lab. 2 hours. I was sure I’d drop it. So far, I’ve no desire to do that. In fact, it’s great. Go figure. I’m getting to know this Ruth. She’s full of surprises.

The biggest delight for me is the discovery that re-introducing myself to college at the age of almost 42 is wonderful. I have hands to grasp the material and the import of it all. The ease with complete strangers is another fun change. I was terribly shy 22 years ago. Now I have fun taking potshots at the public speaking prof as he says to me “back when WE were kids…” “WE?! Our childhood?! Now wait a minute…” He’s one of the “old” ones.

Then there’s the need for reading glasses far too big for even my big nose. That’s a change I’m not heralding with appreciation today anyway. I had no idea how ridiculous they looked since the store mirrors were smaller than a rearview mirror.

Foster Grant Ain't What it Was!
Foster Grant Ain't What it Was!
I’m especially pleased to discover so many women and men fresh from the fields of their own decades of life experience, encouragement coming at me from every direction. It is a little strange to be older than 3 of the 5 professors who have had life paths vastly different from  my own. But one gentleman, not my professor, kindly bolstered me as we both waited for the elevator. His grey beard seemed to explain the need to avoid the stairs and I felt a bit out of place. But to hear him share about his path to teaching, to watch him balk at my age (it’s official. i look much younger than i am. thanks mom!) and then bend over backwards to encourage, sharing his own story, was well worth the frustration of temporary disability.
Each one of my classes insists on participation. I’ve a great big chance to get rid of any lingering effects of my former identity as the quiet kid in the cubicle or corner with her nose in a book. I might just pull this off. Especially since I get to retreat to study and hug my kids.

Open Doors, College and The God-Gut

Yesterday a man knocked on my door. I’d seen him going door to door in my neighborhood. I’d noted, impressed with his great greeting etiquette, that he rang the doorbell and immediately stepped off my neighbor’s front porch, waiting well out of reach of the door. It’s a pet peeve of mine, the whole door dumbness routine. You don’t knock on my door, a total stranger, and then stand smack up against the safety zone of the door as I open it to say “hello,” making a crowded and awkward collision of intention. If you know consideration, if you know thoughtfulness, you stand back and well out of the way and you show yourself fully from a distance appropriate. You give space. You make it clear that you respect a person’s home and the obviousness of your status as completely unknown. (But I’m not at all opinionated about this.) In any case, you’re doing well to get me to come to the door at all if I don’t know you. I have the same attitude about telephones. This guy had my attention. His body language was confident but something. I couldn’t pin it down. He didn’t have the dress or demeanor of a salesman. He looked like he was declaring something and his aura, his energy communicated something noble. Can a person look noble from a distance? So it seems. But I was curious. So, when my doorbell rang I chose not to pretend to be unavailable. I wanted to see if his greeting stance would be consistent. 

He waited well within range of my vision. I was impressed, wanting to ask him to give lessons to all doorbell hopefuls. I noted as I opened the door that a family van was parked in front of my home. He introduced himself and let me know he and his wife, who was waiting in the van, had been laid off from their jobs. “Is there any work we can do for whatever you might be able to give? We could paint your house number on the curb.” I asked how much he would charge, thinking it a cool coincidence that I’d just noted the lack of a house number on the curb, once again, the same morning, wishing for an easy solution. “We’ll take whatever…$10? We’re hurting.” “Well, $10 is all I have actually and that’ll be great. Thank you.” He was amazed, his head doing that shocked jerk heads do when they’re about to turn away and go down the sidewalk with a frustrated body to the next house. His wife was amazed. I was thrilled. 

The previous week I’d felt “led” to get $10 cash out. I’m paying attention to my intuition more than ever. A couple times I had opportunities to burn through the cash. But my gut said no. So, no. When he said “$10” my gut said “yes!” Sounds silly. But I don’t have cash on hand around here. Cash has a way of evaporating, proving the old adage about pennies saved and earned and not doing much for college funds or paint for house numbers on a curb. Oh wait…

Why bring this up? Why share? Why does it even matter, this whole “led” thing? It was such a wonderful feeling, to realize I’d opened the door in my heart before I opened the door literally. When I saved the $10, I was preparing for that moment without any truly logical proof of a great reason to do so. Intuition is such nourishing goodness. It, when carried through on the wings of “happenstance,” fills the soul with appreciation, thankfulness. Intuition thrives on hope and hope thrives sometimes when it makes very little sense. We all need hope. And courage. Courage to risk the seeming loss of face for trusting a process that has no hard and fast guarantees. 

Knock on doors? Ask if you can do any house or yard work? Go door to door in your Dodge Caravan and point to your wife and stand there and declare shamelessly your need? Get $10 out for a gut feeling and hoard it like some old maid miser? I don’t do cash. I don’t do old maid miser. Do I? Say it isn’t so. No, it isn’t. If cash sits stashed in my purse, it’s gone as soon as a child has a wish. And that is often and fun! 

But I have my house number on the curb now. Had I not had the $10, I wouldn’t. Had I not noted the sense of being “led” it would’ve been gone by the time my doorbell rang. And he’d not have had a surprising $10 moment. Besides, I found another dollar. He and his wife got $11 for the work. I wanted to give them a meal and jobs. You know what I appreciated more than numbers on a curb? The brief conversing with the couple, the firm handshake and receiving a verbal blessing: “God bless you.” I’ll take God’s blessing any day. 

That’s the other thing. Much like an odd appearance on my front step complete with thoughtful regard for my boundaries, I’m discovering the emergence in my soul of a new appreciation for the mother and father heart of God, a God I began to give up on 10 years ago. I don’t really know this God though. S/he is not insisting on any religion or proof of existence. She wants to iron out details and make things new and paint numbers out of the blue. He wants to affirm hope and make a way where there seems not to be one. 

My gut is telling me the timing couldn’t be better. And it was a perfect prelude to my walk across campus to pay, in person, for the fall semester of my second year of college at the age of 41. A 22 year gap in education (formal, that is!) found tremendous renewal today. There was no way I was going to do the payment over the phone. This had to be done in person, with son by my side. I wasn’t going to NOT go to school this fall though every fact and figure said otherwise. As it turns out, life responded with timely provision – just enough and at just the right moment. 

I like details. And I like how life affirms us when we decide to dance with hope and courage. It births a nobility in the mean streets of loss and opens doors for all of us.

Dreams Delayed?

I ended my evening yesterday on news not encouraging. In the middle of priceless treasure discoveries, rich givings by life itself, my life has consisted of obstacles overcome, setbacks redeemed and yet more to overcome, plow through. And even, to re-do. It’s not an unusual story, in general. Though it’s even fairly typical as “hardship” goes, it has its unique and uncommon elements. There’s never been any solid financial wealth. Mostly it’s been a story of poverty well-dressed and holding her head above water, appearing on the verge of wealth or even consistent sustenance, taking hits from waves created on distant shores. And that is it. Nothing to whine about. It simply is. A richness of soulful knowing, growing awareness of things more precious than gold serves me feasts in dark nights, feeds me strength in bleak times. Without the struggles, would I know how sweet it all is? No. Know what, though? I’m tired of the stark contrasts. (insert whining tone here, immediately cough and clear the throat. moving right along. no more whining allowed. it will be okay!!!)

Life dishes some struggles more daunting lately. ( Two steps forward…three back? Um, wait a minute. That’s not even remotely fair! Hey! Look at all these people with me in this same seemingly rigged journey! I wonder if we’ll discover the secret.)

I rely on whatever paltry sum freelance writing can bring me at this time in my life. Believe me, paltry is a generous notion. I often feel like Jack came home with the beans and I should toss them out the window in outrage, hoping for mythical giant smashings, landing golden solutions at my doorstep. Then I laugh at myself. How silly. How delusional. Where’s the beef?! : ) So, I dig around for more opportunity but the restraints on my life make that digging a limited endeavor. I’m the childcare, and gladly so, in a separation soon heading for divorce. And amicably, kindly so. No ugly nonsense going on here. I am thankful for my feasts! Being the childcare is more affordable, on so many levels, than the alternatives that will cost me heavily in health, in peace, in so much. I did the full-time mad woman working and picking her kids up at 6pm every night. I almost died (okay, not literally). CFIDS relapsed, smashing me back to my hearth and home, wimpering like some lost child. But what I found of myself because of that disaster is priceless. I came home on levels I’d not been able to do before. Home to being mother, to being woman. And my body has been mending.

Now what? Do I go back out to full time in the wake of yesteday’s bad news? Smash me into compliance with “the way it is?” We rely on one income here while I manage it, budget up to two years and include the financial arrangements that divorce will bring. The not-ex-ex is thankful for that. The goal is to get me through college and onto a job that won’t toss me into CFIDS reruns, a job that will solidify futures. Many moons ago I put him through college, paid the bills, got increasingly more ill and crashed into motherhood. Somewhere in there it hit me that the marriage never actually happened. (Not for lack of effort here.) One year of college, years of work and then over a decade of mostly parenting with part-time and some full-time employment. All the while writing,writing, writing and going through changes epic. Here I am. It’s an oversimplification of an arduous journey. But it suffices.

The bad news? The not-quite-ex may have to take a cut in pay or worse. So…college in the fall? Or…a job at Walmart? I kinda doubt there’s much more than that. Where? How? What? When you look at the possibility that dreams will never come to fruition, you are forced to fall back on that intrinsic, that innate, that basic enjoyment of being in skin, of breathing deeply the smell of life after rain, of feeling intensely every ounce of life’s sweetest gains, of sunsets surreal and healing, moon’s ushering quiet calls…however fleeting, however seemingly small. These can never be thwarted, stolen or otherwise laid off. (A piece of cake is nice, too!)

Courtesy of Will H.
Courtesy of Will H.

And while you fall back on it all, watch the bloom of night’s horizon, you refuse to release the dreams. Even if they never reach their fullest glory. They are the balance between living and merely existing (for me, anyway).

At least…that’s how I feel today. And I’ve suddenly run out of things to say. On with the quest…

jrk

In The Rain

Love is a dark night where sons bring you dandelions wet from spring’s showers, smiling warmth, hugs, “Oh please finish that drawing Mom! Use my pencils…” and a daughter graces you with her wisdom, her revolutionary perspective on life. The contrasting jewels of liquid shimmer in a decades-long night of growth, change and pain. Their brilliance echoes the pricelessness of these gems, of love’s offerings. And they roll on and on through the dawn of light, flowing up and out from depths of earth’s most fertile mines.

 

And they find you in a rain that just won’t stop.

 

I made a call to a local college earlier this week and was faced with the opportunity to handle everything over the phone. It just wasn’t working for me. So I interrupted, interjected eagerly: “I need a face. I really have to see someone and just talk. I’m 41 and trying to get back into college to finish up a degree and it would help me to talk with someone in person.” I rounded a corner this year and any further tolerance of other needs clamoring their call to put my hopes on the backburner simply ran completely out, gone. And good gone. But I was vacillating on what to do with the fatter dreams. Just what was sensible, anyway?

 

So, today in the rain I walked into my appointment with zero trepidation, surrounded by shining young faces and voices speaking fresh from their first passage into adulthood. I wondered how long it would take them to learn the preciousness of the soul, the dark nights that birth us all into brighter awareness of our value, degreed or not.

 

And. I wondered how obvious I was, if there was a big sign on me screaming “Not quite divorced, totally broke, old woman finally finding the time to get on with her education. Deeply aware, battle-weary dame recovering from major life changes.”

 

Nobody seemed to notice me. I liked it. Maybe I will lose my scar fixation. And some scars.

 

Sitting down with the counselor I discovered a few things. It’s wonderful to have guidance from a 30 year old woman who is shocked to hear your age and knows what it feels like to feel the pressure to “get there yesterday.” “What?! You don’t look…” “Oh…” Really, I’ve been sure the look of youth is gone. That’s how tiring the past year has been. Something in our exchange slowed her down, she looked at me with new eyes. And she had an arsenal of defense against my near capitulation to convenience, rationale and need. See, I had been sure I should chuck the dream of the bachelor’s degree (and more) and just get sensible. Almost 42 here. Hello, give it up. Go for the associates in applied science and spend the rest of my life gooping bellies and sending sound waves through the epicenter of the earth. Standing still for hours in the dark. The reasoning: money, convenient timeline, 3 children with plenty of need. She looked at me and said “I have an aunt who just turned 52. She just finished law school and she’s doing great. Don’t give up.”

 

As it turns out, the dark nights birth days of appreciation for the simplest things. Like finding someone at the end of a long road who looks at you and says “May I be blunt?” Please! Yes! Go woman! Go! I like blunt when I’m on the edge of a choice.

 

Go for the Master’s degree.

 

Invest in what you want and don’t look back. It will all work out. The thing about dark nights and decades of them is their tendency to seep into the bones, a sense of futility, of loss so surreal that nothing can waken old dreams. But one person speaking bluntly out of the blue can make the biggest difference. She was tired, on the edge of her own dark night and the potency of her voice hit home.

 

So, I get dandelions, wisdom and exhortation in the rain. Many days, most days I feel like I’ve won the lottery of soulful wealth ‘though my curtains are still about to literally come apart at the seams, even when the emerging shoots of growth in my soul insist for more room, more channels for more fruit. There is still that feast in the night and right there at day’s breaking light. And I could be very sensible about the future, allow the needs of others to outweigh and outcry my own, to cut them short. But…why? Would I want this for my kids at 42? What do I risk if my choice is driven by a fear of risking too much or if I’m intent mainly on minimizing risk, hedging all my bets? And my best.

 

 

Without risk, we all die. No convenience there . . .

 

jruthk