Monday, March 15, 2021

The March of Time: Where Have I Been and How Did I Get Back Here?

If for no other reason than to document for myself what has filled the last 10 years, I'm going to attempt to remember and write as much of the notable stuff as I can.

Looking back to see where I left off and what was happening then I have to admit that there are big gaps in my memory. Those are most likely due to life just being very mundane and my keeping focused on those immediate needs and responsibilities. Not to say that life was boring! It certainly was not, what parts I can remember anyway. 

During and for some time after the 2008-2010 period of overwhelming losses, illnesses, and other hardships, I think fell into a hole of insanity, or maybe it was more of a dark, thick cloud of mental and physical exhaustion. I made some mistakes in dealing with some things, and some of those regrets added to the length of recovery. Focusing on others and their needs and giving up my addictions helped pull me out of the funk but it also left parts of myself somewhat neglected (leftover voids). It's all a give-and-take, and ultimately giving wins out, whether by duty or by natural inclination. Those neglected aspects generally remain unchanged...  

The Band Life

Once my kids got into middle school and high school it seemed they needed me more in lots of ways, than when they were little. I became much more involved in their activities, especially marching band in high school. I was all-in as a "Band Mom" because I loved watching my kids perform and because the band program relied on parent volunteers to help it function. Their school had an awesome band program, and it really made all the difference for my oldest, especially, because he excelled and got to have many opportunities and experiences that otherwise wouldn't have been possible. It also took him off a potentially harmful path with some of the "wrong" people. The marching band program was led by a popular, effective director, and the program was loved and well-supported by many of us. In addition to the full ensemble of outdoor marching, my favorite activities were the indoor percussion programs. Man, the drumming and creativity were sometimes like a drug. I still have ideas and visions of potential shows though I don't exactly have the music writing and other technical skills to bring them to life. The 8 year capsule of time involved with music, performance, camaraderie, is a definite highlight of life and resulted in some very nice, lasting friendships. But like nearly all other awesome time periods it was not destined to last forever. The great band director moved on to continue his education and the programs quickly disintegrated into mediocrity and worse under different leadership. It was extremely frustrating to be in the middle of it and to have it somewhat sully the kids' memories of the band life. Heydays come and go. I guess kids have to learn that too. The band life for us ended in Spring 2018. 

The Farm

I had to look back at the official papers to remind myself of when exactly we bought the farm in Grainger County. It was Spring 2017, and it is a little surprising that so much time has passed. It was originally bought to be a kind of hunting retreat for the guys but it has evolved a lot since then. My oldest son rebuilt an old house on the property and lives there and seems to be very happy. Google maps streetview is so out of date in that area that it looks nothing like the current condition, but it's kind of cool to see a reminder of how much work has been done in 4 years. A very old decrepit house (built around 1900) that we called "The Spook House" had to be knocked down. I was a little sad about it but it was a hazard and liability and damaged beyond affordable repair. 

At some point we might build a house on the property but that plan keeps getting delayed for various reasons. I have mixed feelings about it. I sometimes really, really want to start refresh in a new place. Our current house is too big, too much to care for as I'm getting older and less energetic about those things. I used to do all kinds of "manly" home maintenance, but I'm tired of having to do it and it's really hard to find honest, reliable people to do it for me. My guys are too busy playing on the farm to help around here. Last year I was so over it that I basically presented an ultimatum - things have to change one way or another.  For several years I'd been saving most of the rental income I got from renting out my parents' old house. I thought seriously about kicking out the renters and going to live there myself. But that wouldn't have solved the no-help-with-maintenance problem. It just would have moved its location. Then I thought, okay, I'll sell that house and buy myself a condo where I won't have to deal with all the inside and outside maintenance. My sister has a really nice condo I could see myself living in something similar. So the ultimatum was basically that I'm selling the rental house and I'm either buying myself a condo or building something smaller/newer/less maintenance on the farm and you can come with me or not. No divorce. Just a different living arrangement, one that doesn't leave me feeling abandoned and somewhat helpless. If I was going to be left alone all the time then I wanted to at least be where I wasn't also constantly overwhelmed. Divorce has never really been a serious consideration, though I've inquired a few times if that was something that was wanted. It's too complicated and creates too much animosity to go down that path. 

Anyway, as is usual with ultimatums you end up having to eat your words if you don't have the courage to follow through with the most drastic action. The condo idea was scoffed and the promise of a new house on the farm was made. The rental house was put on the market and sold at full price within a week. Well, the closing of the deal took over a month due to the covid restrictions and complications. Approximately one year ago I was a quite wealthy woman, lots of cash in the bank, or at least a lot to me - nothing like a million or even half but enough that I felt secure and valuable, with some means to negotiate if it came to that. Now, I don't want it sound at all like I am, or feel, oppressed or controlled. I am where I am because I choose to be faithful to my duties and responsibilities, not because I've been suppressed into submission. There has been no abuse. There has been some neglect however, as I've tried to explain throughout. So for a short time despite the covid insanities of the world I felt hopeful about the future.

Then my daughter fell in love and decided to get married. That's all fine and good, and I'm happy she found her life partner. He's a good guy. She wanted a barn wedding, something that's very popular these days, and looking at venues she was discouraged because of the high costs to rent them. Because of covid most churches were refusing to allow weddings so all the other places were getting booked up. When we bought the farm part of the future vision for it was to create a venue for groups to have events, retreats, camps, and so on. As one might foresee how this story is going, my future house funds were diverted to build a new "pole barn" for my daughter's wedding and future weddings, events, etc. It was an investment, of course, into the future for everyone. Again, momma sacrifices everything for the family. No, I'm not really as bitter or upset as that sounds, but it would be dishonest to say that I haven't had my moments of feeling completely drained and done. And let me tell you, planning a wedding can turn the sweetest girls into Bridezillas and my daughter was one of the worst. I've never felt so unappreciated and... unliked. I never thought we had a difficult relationship but the last year has strained it and made me pretty sad sometimes. I've watched a documentary about the female animals that die for their children - they starve themselves guarding them until they hatch and sometimes the hatchlings eat her remains. Sometimes that's how I feel. Fortunately, my sons are much more expressive of their appreciation and affection for me, though I never ever say such comparative things to the kids because that is just not good for relationships.

Despite all of that it was an absolutely beautiful and serene wedding. We hosted over 120 people, mostly unmasked though we had many available if people wanted them or forgot theirs. Lots of hand sanitizers were available. Social distancing was up to the individuals but there were many hugs all around. We broke most of the "rules" but thankfully not a single person got covid from being there. 

And sorry, kids, if you ever read this, for putting certain things "out there" but in reality, pretty much nobody is going to read this anyway, and it's for my own documentation because I am really concerned with my own cognitive decline. I pray to God that I don't succumb to dementia. That has got to be the absolute worst way to go. Watching friends lose their parents to it is heartbreaking. Not that I think I'm going senile already but I have noticed some aging related changes. I am not a young woman anymore. Time marches on.

Current Conditions

So now I am finding myself with that same overwhelmed and somewhat alone feeling that was supposed to have been remedied by now with a new start in a new place. But now I don't even have the bargaining power of a rental house or money. I have nothing, but I also have everything, if that makes any sense. It's just that everything is still more than I can manage. On top of not having an "escape" we have the added complications of my daughter and son-in-law living here with us. It's not a bad thing usually, but sometimes I just want to scream "I want MY house back!" Covid has created a lot of problems in so many aspects of life for nearly everyone, and young married couples have a hard time finding affordable housing if they aren't already in a place on their own. Allowing them to live here is helping them save money to buy/build their own place, and this house is certainly big enough for them to have their own "wing" that can feel like their own place, except for sharing the kitchen and laundry. The arrangement was supposed to include them doing a lot of helping around here in place of paying rent, but that hasn't happened so much. Part of it is because I have lost my "viciousness" (whatever it was that gave me the energy to assert my authority, etc.) due to being metaphorically beaten down by disappointments and some mistreatment (Bridezilla stuff). Like a Pavlov dog, I am not immune to such conditioning. But also, they are young and just starting out in the world of full-time work and learning how to be married and all of that stuff which all can be rather overwhelming too. I try to have some empathy and compassion instead of feeling put-upon, used, and self-absorbed. But come on, how hard can it be for them to take out the goddamn garbage? 

My daughter has all these ideas about what her perfect house should look like, and I'm not that stringent in trying to have the "perfect" house because I've learned that time is valuable and one can spend all day washing dishes to keep the sink empty or one can wash dishes once per day and have time to do other things and so what if there are some dirty dishes in the sink for a short time? My priorities are not to have a kitchen that looks like it is never used. My house is a working house and working efficiently requires stuff to be out and accessible. She might learn eventually not to put so much value on a particular vision of life because those perfect visions really are not functional nor sustainable. Or maybe she will be one of those few people who can maintain that perfect image without completely alienating all the normal people who fail to meet unreasonable expectations? She is the one person who has done the most to make me feel completely inadequate and worthless (I am so sorry for the times I ever made my own mother feel that way- I'm certain it happened because I was a lot like my daughter when I was her age and I didn't even realize what an asshole I was). But the truth is she doesn't really clean as well as I do. Just putting stuff out of sight isn't cleaning. Leaving crumbs and spills on the stove is not clean, regardless of how many dishes you've washed. You see, I do actually have pretty high standards for my kitchen cleanliness which means doing more than just moving things around to make it look a certain way. These conflicts are amplified by having to share the kitchen, but I feel like she has no concept of "hierarchy" in that she acts like we are equals in this situation, but we are not. If they paid half of all the bills and did half of all the work of maintaining the household, then yeah, maybe they could be closer to "equal." But just being adults and married does not really give them the same status in this household as they would have in their own house. **I really do love my daughter and don't want it to seem otherwise. She is "vicious-momma-in-training" ;-) She might feel hurt to read these things but I have to be honest in how I feel. I am allowed to express my hurt and pain even if it makes others uncomfortable to know their part in it. Holding it in has not been healthy. ** 

Blog Therapy

I know this all sounds like a bunch of "woe is me" whining and complaining, and maybe I do sound a bit like Meghan Markle and Prince Harry moaning about how unfair and hard their lives are. Well, my life isn't really so bad, I know that, but it's also okay to exorcise some of the darker feelings by getting them out of my head and into words. Also, as mentioned above, I feel the need to document things for future reference. Now that my kids are all adults and relatively independent I do have more time to spend on my own things. I'm finding new interests, or more accurately, revisiting previous interests with new eyes and perspective. 

Blogging was an important part of my "previous" life, and I hope to include it more moving forward (I've said that before but now I do have more time), although it will most likely be much less "social" than before. An original fellow blogger from the beginning has even passed away (Mr. G rip). I certainly don't expect to recreate the past. But the days of Facebook are waning and Twitter is fun sometimes but rather shallow. I expect Instagram to remain important but it is primarily for images. 

What Comes Around

I am extending my learning about herbal healing and other shamanic or "witchy" subjects. These things have always been of interest to me, even as a young child. When I was about 5 I had a very vivid and never-fading message, not a vision exactly but a deep knowing, that "these plants will talk to you and tell you how to help/heal yourself and others." It sounds crazy, and maybe it is, but looking back on my 53 years I see how this message has endured and built upon itself and is kind of demanding the attention to fully express itself. I have always known that my ultimate goal in life was to be the Old Crone Witch Doctor, and here I am getting closer to that. 

Herbalism is a really big thing right now as more people are looking for alternatives to the overly processed and artificial stuff that seems to be less helpful than it has been sold to be. It's not a left-right political thing, though some people want to make it that way because they try to tie other overly processed and artificial ideas and movements like Global Warming to the desire to live a more "natural" life. Well, I want to avoid all the political garbage that people try to attach to otherwise nice ideas. 

It is not so controversial to believe that because we humans have evolved within and alongside all the rest of Nature there are going to be inherent relationships between our biologies and the biologies of the plants that we have consumed and evolved alongside. Some of this, I believe, can be intuitive when aided by actual knowledge. Long ago people relied on visual traits for clues about the possible uses of plants. This "doctrine of signatures" has largely been laughed off by modern scientists, but we are beginning to learn more about the actions of plant compounds that sometimes are consistent with that old idea. One personal example that surprised and delighted me was the sweet gum tree growing in my backyard. This tree produces these spiky balls that contain their seeds. And the leaves and balls when crushed have this citrusy, kind of medicinal scent. We are learning a lot about plant terpenes (aromatic compounds) and how they are responsible for medicinal actions through their chemical structure and interactions with our bodies. So with my little bit of knowledge about terpenes and also about the shapes of viruses, I intuited that maybe these sweet gum balls have some antiviral use. (They really are shaped just like viruses.) So being the good little investigator I did some research and discovered that yes, indeed, the sweet gum balls have significant amounts of the very same compound (shikimic acid) that is used to make the antiviral medication Tamiflu. Ha! Of course, this isn't a "real" scientific discovery on my part, but I've learned that life doesn't always fit neatly into a strict formula. Incidentally, I suspect that the sweet gum tincture I made that I've taken nearly every day of this pandemic has helped me avoid getting sick with covid, or any other viruses, along with the obligatory public masking, distancing, and the hand-washing I've always done. 

So I am learning to trust my intuitions a little more, but they must be tested too. The shamanic approach to life really depends on continuous observation and testing. It is not dogmatic. While there are truths of nature that we all live with there is so much more to our human experience than what we have been allowed (by some religions, and also by dogmatic science) to explore and develop. Shamanism and science have more in common than most scientists would like to admit, but let's be real here and acknowledge that there are lots of people who claim to be scientific but they are just as rigid and dogmatic as the worst types of religious people. Anyway, I don't want to debate the abuse of science any more than I want to debate political ideas that are inappropriately connected to nature. My concerns now are more in the direction of finding actual solutions to problems than in fighting about ideas. 

It looks like I've gotten to a fair stopping point for now. I'm not sure yet if by returning to some old places I am only a ghost of the past, haunting and stirring up some unrest. The empty and abandoned places tend to attract restless spirits.                 


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