2017 – The Year of Not Caring

I’ve always been a pretty optimistic person, someone who believes in love and family and that those two things will see you through any bad time that comes your way. My friends and family have seen me through a couple of harrowing years, one of a scary cancer diagnosis and another seeing me through the job from hell. I don’t know how I would have made it through either of those without the love and support of family and friends. But we all go through phases and stages, and this past year everyone’s phases coalesced into the perfect storm of children pulling away and adults revisiting their purpose in this world, all under the helpless feeling that comes with a tumultuous election of a divisive president. It was a one step in front of the other kind of year, a year of going through the motions, of waking up with a dedication to getting through the day.

And it’s taught me to care less.

Though I’m not a Buddhist, I can finally see how letting go gives peace. I have held tightly to my ties, even while the hands on the other end were slackening their grip. I have sat in the middle of a pile of photo albums that only I look at and cried over times past. I have served dinner in front of a wall of photo collages of happy times and tried to make conversation with people who were intent on showing that they were just not that into me. I have tried to communicate my needs and my desires only to be met with blank stares as I pounded my head against that brick wall. And so I let go.

It’s a lonely feeling to let go.

I have spent a lot of time this year wandering by myself, walking through nature, feeling the salt air on my face, staring at the expanse of the Pacific Ocean and marveling at the giant moon as it rose over the land. I slept in the back of my car to get my camping experience and cried as I listened to the families around me talk and laugh around their own campfires. I have wandered and traveled, all the time taking photos that don’t include the people I love. I have dammed up the feeder stream to friendships that were sustained on my little trickle alone. I have searched inward for solace.

There were islands of joy in my barren year, trips to see Smartypants in Virginia and Sunshine in Colorado, trips that filled my soul and reminded me of what I love most about life. We explored and ate and talked and laughed, and I went home revived, with a full tank to carry me through months of what has become a dry, prickly, arid existence. There was a springtime trip with Mr. A to the national parks, getting away from the roles and responsibilities that have made up our last 23 years in this same spot. But returning to knee-high grass and weeds and those same roles and responsibilities brought reality home like a blast from the furnace, and as Mr. A dove back into work, I was on my own once again.

And so I wandered.

And I stopped caring.

As I said, there’s a freedom that comes from not caring, a vagabond mentality that is always seeking out options. It’s a freedom from fear. It’s a knowledge that anything  stable could be upended without a moment’s notice, and an appreciation for what is going well in the moment. It comes with a humility that I cannot influence what I thought I could, and that being myself might not be enough to work magic in other people’s lives. It’s come with the feeling of teetering on the brink between falling back into a life I’ve always treasured and being pushed into a new existence, a chance to re-imagine myself, that square peg that will never fit into the round hole no matter how much pressure is applied.

And so I’ve wandered through the darkness of 2017 and come to the end intact, though the lessons may have been hard. In the autumn of my life, I watch my expectations change and fall like leaves, clustering at my feet, in sight, but out of reach, before blowing away on each stiff breeze.

I am learning to let go.

 “All that history, the love & laughter, is designed for youth. It is what keeps the story of who we are alive from one generation to the next. It ensures our indelible mark in the souls of generations we will never have the pleasure of holding in a warm embrace. Life is short people. Before you know it, another decade will pass, people you love will be lost to this world, and all that will be left of them is what we carry in our hearts.”
― E.B. Loan



Dancing in the Dark

Golden sunlight pierces a rift
In draperies drawn closed,
Warm photons passing through floating motes,
To land upon a fallen streamer lying
Coiled in a graveyard of listless balloons.

For a brief moment the hovering dust
Swirls and eddies
As a figure slowly sways through the light,
Stocking feet shuffling
Back and forth,
Back and forth.

Eyes closed in reverie,
Softly humming,
Moving in time,
Her graying hair shifting loosely
Around thin shoulders,
As she sways
Back and forth,
Back and forth.

Arms opening wide
As if in expectant embrace,
She slowly twirls
Out of the light
And resumes her swaying
Back and forth,
Back and forth.

The balloons scuttle heavily out of her path,
Carried on disturbed air.
Streamers whisper as they form new entanglements
On the wooden floor,
And as she makes her latest pass,
All becomes quiet again
As she continues
Dancing in the dark.

Battling the Loneliness Monster

The monster sleeps fitfully in its lair. A vicious opportunist with an insatiable appetite, it dreams of stragglers, outliers, awkward members of the group who veer to the dangerous periphery.

The smell of solitude awakens it from its slumber. A single soul wanders into view. Fully awake now, the monster sizes up its victim. Definitely alone. The monster gets up, hungry with anticipation. It pads on stealthy paws, silently creeping up from behind. Without a sound, it pounces, grasping the prey’s neck with sharp claws and rendering it immobile. The prey, feeling the tightening grip, feeling the danger, valiantly struggles to break free as the monster’s grip intensifies. With a desperate, pleading glance, she cranes her neck to look it in the eye, but dark emptiness stares back at her.

The monster pushes her down to the ground and puts the whole force of its weight into its goal of submission.  Tenaciously it clings on, waiting for the moment of despair, salivating at the chance for a long-awaited meal.

The prey fights back. She weakly calls for reinforcements, but they are far from the periphery, where she now lies immobile. They can hardly make out her cries for help. From their vantage points they can’t see the monster. They tell her to get up, to come back to the group, and then go back to their business.

On her own, she knows she must struggle or perish. Her hands flail wildly to the sides for something within reach, something, anything with which to attack the monster. She grabs a paintbrush and beats the monster, hitting its sides, its head, prying at the claws around her neck. She feels its weight shift, its grip relax slightly, feels its energy subside, but its weight is still on top of her and sharp claws, though looser, still encircle her throat. She grabs garden clippers and stabs at it, slowly, deliberately, purposefully. It releases one strong paw in defense and swings its head around. While it’s distracted, she drops the clippers, grabs a guitar, and bashes it over the head. With a yowl, it finally releases its grip and flees back to its cave.

There it lies in fitful slumber, temporarily subdued, awaiting a chance to strike again.