I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Monday, January 18, 2010

Loosening the logjam

In talking with Smart Guy about this blog, he helped me to understand what I'm trying to do with it by giving me the image of a logjam of emotional baggage which keeps me from seeing things that should be obvious to me. He gave me the feedback that I skimmed pretty quickly and glibly through the decade of the 1980s, which was also mentioned in some comments.

It's curious that I kept a journal from October 1981 until January 1991 -- I have them all neatly placed on my bedroom bookshelf, and I've carried them around for all these years. Sometimes I'll open one and try to find something I don't quite remember. But I can't re-read them. It hurts too much to see who I was then, a woman both naive and outwardly sure of herself but filled with remorse and shame.

My dad died of a heart attack in 1979, and when my whole family got together in Texas to say goodbye to him (he had three days from the time of the event until he died), it was my first really devastating loss since Stephen died in 1965. I remember how hard it was to go on, and how every man who looked remotely like Daddy just broke my heart all over again. But you know, eventually you heal from even the most difficult losses. He was only 62 when he died, and I'm already five years older than that.

I guess those two unresolved losses led to my willingness to begin training as a hospice volunteer. Boulder has a wonderful program, and I was one of perhaps fifty people who went through the training in the winter of 1983/84. My first experience was with the Dragos, and I wrote about it in my other blog here. I continued to volunteer for two years, and during that time I remember, among other things, bathing and shaving a man in a coma, being the only person with another man who just upped and died unexpectedly, and sitting silently with numerous others who just didn't want to be alone.

I also began to go folk dancing, a free and very enjoyable activity, in 1980. Seven of us folk-dancing women decided we needed to start a women's group. (I also wrote about that activity here, with pictures.) We met once a month and took turns being the hostess. If the women came to your house, you would provide a dinner, dessert, and decaf coffee, while the others would bring wine. (All husbands were banished from the house during the dinner.) The hostess did all the preparation and cleanup. This happened once every seven months, and the other six months you would be treated to a blissful and usually spectacular evening. This continued until I retired and moved away, although we were down to five by then: one had moved to another city and one died during the more than 25 years we met together.

I also took up meditation and ended up learning to sit for hours at a time. I miss that experience, but for whatever reason have not been able to begin again. I was able to be centered through many storms from that practice.

I just brushed over my relationship with Jamie in that last post, but I loved him desperately. We were together for more than four years, and he left me for another woman. I was totally and completely devastated for quite awhile, but eventually he broke up with her and tried to return to me. I had moved on and couldn't go back. I would never have believed it possible. The difference in our ages contributed a great deal to our difficulties; he was 13 years younger than me and wanted to try things and "sow his wild oats" in ways that no longer interested me. For many years after we broke up, we would still spend time together, and I was amazed to see how easy it is to let go when your perspective changes. We both continued to feel love for each other.

I also remembered that Chris went back to Michigan in the mid- to late 1980s to be with his father and work in the construction industry with him. Chris always had a girl friend, and strangely enough each one of them seemed to have a child, always a boy. Chris never impregnated anyone, as far as I know. He stopped using any kind of protection and hoped (I think) to have a child, but it never happened. I think I would know. When he finally married Silvia in Germany at the turn of the century, he hoped to have a child with her, but Silvia never got pregnant by Chris. So I have no grandchildren.

This picture was taken at my sister Norma Jean's home in Michigan during Thanksgiving in 1988. Chris, my mom, and Derald surround me. I am the only person in this picture who is still living.

By the time the 1980s ended, I had gone through Rolfing and lots of other bodywork, hoping to get myself connected to myself. I had begun working full time, in the same place and for the same people, but my responsibilities had moved up to being quite indispensable to the office. Everyone wanted to have me prepare their papers and help with edited volumes, although I was the writer/editor's assistant, doing the work without the title. Or the pay. But I didn't need much to be happy, and I've never cared to accumulate property. It always felt like a burden.

Sitting here in my spot in Bellingham, where I look out the window and see my bird feeders and the huge pine trees, I have around me three of those 17 journals from that decade, all of them hand-written (I don't do that any more), Birds of Washington State, and various things that give me comfort. My angel card for this period: simplicity. I pull one of these out every now and then.

Okay, I did it. I covered the decade with not so broad a brush, and I can feel it must be doing something to that mental logjam, because I feel a little fluttery discomfort down there somewhere in the middle of my stomach. I'm feeling ready to tackle the whole skydiving thing next, without carrying all this other stuff untouched...


Leave a Legacy said...

Thanks for the update, DJ. I have a feeling there's more. If so, I'm sure you'll uncover it at some point. I was pleasantly surprised to see this next inserted chapter so soon.

Far Side of Fifty said...

So you had to revisit the 1980's. I wish I had kept a journal back then..I find it interesting that you have the journals but don't read them.
I am sorry that you are not a Grandma..it is a wonderful experience..one that you were cheated out of. It is like a loss also.. I am sure it must feel that way to you.
I think we all have times in our life that we cover with a large brush..
I am interested in hearing about your skydiving:)

CiCi said...

The womens group was a long time. Sounds like you did have things in your life long term. No more nomadic wanderings. You learned so much and have experienced much.

Norma Jean said...

I had forgotten what beautiful dimples Derald had. Great picture...I have a different one taken at the same time hanging in the living room as part of the montage Pete put together several years ago.

Buz said...

I'm glad you wrote a little more about Jamie. I noticed the conspicuous brush-over in your last post, but didn't want to say anything. I only knew him a little from the summer Richard and I spent in Boulder, but I always knew he meant a lot to you.

Rolfing! How tall did you get? =)

The Retired One said...

Somehow I feel there is much, much more yet to tell about this time period.
Maybe if you just read ONE page a day in those journals of yours, it would open up the dam of butterflies you are feeling?....

gayle said...

This is the first one I have read but I will go back and start from the begining.. I wish that I had kept journals!!

Whitney Lee said...

It's unusual to read another post so soon; this must have really been bothering you. I am pleased to read this, though. I know that this whole journey, as glossed over as it may be, must be terribly painful in many ways. Thank you again for your courage.

Stella Jones said...

What on earth is Rolfing? I've never heard of that one and it might make you taller??? how!
I can read your posts without involvement, simply reading and trying to understand how you must have felt during all these changes. I dare not yet open my dark cupboard.
Blessings, Star

Lucy said...

Wanna hear something funny? My dad also died in 1979. Oct 19 to be exact. He was 64 though. Cancer. I'll never get over it!