Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Bravo Democracy

Hi, I hope everyone else voted too. Anything is better than the governing body we had. Hopefully the Democrats will let go of their penchant for whimpyness and take some action toward turing this country back towards it's true self. Anyway, thank you to everyone who voted, especially those of you who voted for Democrats.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

New Perspectives

My new windows are in and they are absolutely wonderful! It is a daily miracle to get up and see so much light and my wonderful new view. (For the curious, I have posted a set of pictures showing a bit of the installation process down below today's post.) There were even a few wonderful days, before it got chilly, when I could sit here at my desk and open a window to let in fresh air and the sound of the neighbor’s kids playing. Fantastic. There are squirrels out there and kitties and even an occasional dog roams by. I’ve been watching the leaves change and fade on trees off in the distance. One of my neighbors even waves to me from time to time when she passes by. I’m a person! I’m hoping that Halloween will bring trick or treaters too. I’m guessing that it will since the people next door set up a pair of inflated ghosts on their front yard back in September. It took me a while to realize that they were ghosts and not snowmen. (There is some basis for this beyond senility because the angle from which I originally saw them was such that all I saw was white blobs. I don’t know why snow men was what I came up with instead of ghosts but...) Since I figured out what they are I have rather enjoyed the little war that the Angel look-alike kitty who lives next door is waging on them. When I opened my door a number of weeks back, there she sat looking very pleased with herself next to deflated pile of ghosts. They continue to deflate and reappear on a fairly regular basis. As I’m writing this, I believe we are on round seven. Seems to me that the kitty is winning.

As predicted, my Angel is delighted with the windows. What has been especially interesting to me, though, is what is happening with Tara Grace. Both my cats were rescued. Angel was half starved and sick with giardia, but she was only 4 months old and except for being physically very small, she doesn’t seem to carry many scars - physical or emotional from her time in the big world. She is relentlessly curious, playful (you can't tell from the picture) and full of life and joy. She plays with abandon and hugs the same way.

Tara Grace is another story. It’s hard to know how old she is, but she lived outside for a long time. She was clearly severely malnourished from an early age. She still weighs only 5 pounds, is small and when you touch her body, you can feel how fragile - for want of a better word - it is. (Not that she is really fragile. Try to put her in a carrier and you’ll find out just how wiry and tough she can be... ) But she was deeply damaged by her time on the streets. She has chronic congestion and it is more than likely that she only sees shapes and movement. She explores with a lot of sniffing, is only slowly learning to play and while she clearly craves touch, is also nervous about receiving affection.

I wasn’t sure how - or even if - she would react to the windows, but I built a little step system so she could easily access them and about a week after they were installed, late in the evening she took her first leap of faith and climbed up to the ledge, exploring somewhat gingerly behind the curtains which were already pulled shut. Much to my delight, she is now a regular visitor to the windows and to my desk where she is increasingly opening up to being touched. More intriguing is that she is more open in general. She’s playing more, which is wonderful. The down side is that she has chosen the hours between five and seven a.m. (not my favorite time of day) to play and poke at my head for affection. We need to work on some of the logistics of Tara Grace’s miracle healing, but even if it has some raggedy edges... like timing and a tendency to walk on my computer keyboard, it is still remarkable. Tara is still operating on a push/pull approach... she comes forward and then when I reach for her she runs, then returns, runs, returns... and eventually stays for petting. But her visits are getting longer each evening and her ability to sit for touch better. I can’t imagine how cruel her early life must have been that she still carries so much fear of love, especially when it is coupled with such a palpable desire for the same affection she so fears.

But then I don’t know why it should be so shocking to me. I am much the same in many ways: Hungry for love, terrified of rejection and unsure how or even whether to reach out for what I want.

New perspectives are curious things. There is the obvious impact: new views, expanded outlooks... the joy of that is unquestionable. Then there is the openness that has come with my windows... I can literally open them, of course. And I can see and be seen (a mixed blessing... I love the "seeing" part and part of me loves being seen. Since I rarely leave the house, being visible makes me more real for my neighbors (and them to me) and maybe it will even remove some of the barriers to getting acquainted with them. Then there are wonderful mysteries like the impact the new windows are having on sweet Tara Grace.

Posting this blog is another kind of new perspective. I have enormous anxiety about posting here. It feels different to me than writing my column for Something about having the “pre-approval” of an authority figure (the Suite) made it "ok" for me to express myself. Here (in my head at least) it becomes a brazen act of self indulgence. Why should anyone care what I think or feel? Who do I think I am? I guess the answer in the end is that I’m me. That’s all I need to be. People will visit my “nest” if they choose to and they will either yawn their way through my thoughts or find something that connects them to their own lives.

My new perspective here is that I will try to write for me with the hope that in so doing I will be of service to others as well. That’s my perspective today. Who knows what it will be tomorrow. Like Tara Grace. Even though my world is constricted, I am exploring new corners. I love Tara’s courage even as I love Angel’s total lack of fear. They are both wonderful. I suppose from some perspective somewhere, so am I. So are you. Thanks for listening.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Barriers and Windows

(Note: This was originally posted at Geocities on October 2nd, but I have decided to relocate Raven's Nest so that I can include photos along with my words.)

Greetings friends and relatives. It is now a year since my Agoraphobia column was taken away from me, 11 months since I was forced out of my apartment, 10 months since my sweet little house became mine. It is also 18 years since my older sister was senselessly murdered by a troubled 16-year old. It seems like another life-time and it seems like yesterday.

I like to do something life-affirming on the anniversary of Carole’s death and starting this blog - starting it for real (I tried once before in May) - seemed like a good way to honor someone I loved and still miss. My sister was the person in my family who encouraged my dreams and my writing, so I will dedicate this blog - whatever it turns out to be - to her. Also inspiring me to finally put fingers to the keyboard is that two people in the past few days have said that they miss my column. Well, one said she missed it; the other asked me if I missed it. I do. I like writing.

My problem is what to write about. I think I have done with writing about agoraphobia. I had actually drifted pretty far afield from agoraphobia in my column over the three years of writing it. So I guess I will write about myself or whatever happens to come into my head. I will gladly take requests for topics. I am not one of those self-motivated people. Ask me to write about something and I will joyfully (mostly) dig in and give it a go. Ask me to think of something to write about and I tend to sit with a blank stare on my face and not a thought in my head except “eeek!”

Mercifully, my friends Paul and Nancy visited me last weekend. I met Paul and Nancy in a writing class led by Elizabeth Ayers (a gifted poet and writer and a great teacher). You can find out more about her at: Creative Writing Center. Paul works for Elizabeth as co-director of her Center. He’s leading a workshop this coming weekend and the theme there is going to be “Barriers.” Yippee. A topic I can sink my teeth into. Few things resonate more with an agoraphobic than barriers. Barriers are my life, so to speak.

That my personal barriers are mostly in my head seems to make them all the stronger. My brain is as sneaky and clever as they come and the barriers I have created to living in the real world shift and drift like sands in the desert. Just when I think I have a handle on the landscape, a wind blows and the trail has once again disappeared. To be honest, though, I have stopped looking for a path. Wise or foolish, I have been out of the world so long that I feel ill-equipped to find my footing there again. I have begun to make peace with myself. I am happy in my sweet little house with my two kitty children. We are settling in, making it our own.

I think my house is healing deep wounds in my psyche. Maybe something new has been birthed in me in this process. It took nine months to the day from when Crazy Diane evicted me from my apartment to moving into my house. I love saying that. My house. How cool. But I digress. The whole process of enduring the discomfort of staying put while I searched for my new home, of allowing myself to accept and receive my niece’s incredible generosity to me and opening to assistance from many friends and sources, of allowing myself to consider the possibility of such a grown-up thing as owning my own home, has, it seems, changed me.

My house seems especially blessed. It sits between two much bigger houses which (in my imagination anyway) sort of shelter it. In winter the sun shines right on my desk and warms me and in summer I am shaded by two big trees. Across the street there’s a big tree and the lawn of one of the big houses on the block. I can watch hawks and crows fly high in the sky.This allows me a wonderful feeling of privacy and the beauty of nature at the same time as it lets me know that I am not alone.

This summer, after much inner turmoil, I allowed myself to splurge on painting the house, partly because the trim was in serious need of help - it was literally peeling off - and because I wanted to make the house “mine.” I had no idea what a difference it would make. I used to describe it as “the shacky looking place.” Not anymore. It is my sweet little green (dried thyme, to be precise) house. The change is nothing short of amazing. It gives me such joy to see my house blossom into her best self.

Now I’m taking a huge leap of faith and finance and getting new windows. The miracle of this decision (and what made it possible) is that the window company helped me to refinance my existing debt so that although my debt is virtually doubled, my monthly payments are about the same. Amazing.

Ironically, the name of the company is Barrier Windows. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing or no thing at all, but I’m choosing to see it as a cosmic pun on the shifting of my personal barriers. Right now the windows in my house are installed quite high (even standing up I can’t see very much). They are also old, not very well sealed. If I’m to have fresh air in the summer and warmth in the winter, I need either to take advantage of friends or hire someone to insert screens and then replace them with winter glass at the change of seasons. This year I only had the front door and the kitchen window done. So besides promising to save me up to 40% on my heating costs, my new windows have built-in screens so I can look after myself in this area and have fresh air in any room in the house if I want it. Yippee! I’m enlarging the window in the living room so that I will be able to see the world around me as I sit at my desk. I will be more exposed, more open to the world, even if I remain inside. Perhaps something in me is ready to at least peek a nose out of hiding. Hmm.

The decision to give myself this gift has not been without angst. But then very little passes through my psyche without a hefty dose of self-induced anxiety. None-the-less, I think I have broken through some inner barriers too. The crazy people - sometimes known as Demonalians (see )- who inhabit my unconscious have been hard at work. They have a very strange world view. “How selfish can you get,” they whisper, “painting your house?” “What will the neighbors think? They will resent you and think you are rich and evil.” (They actually say this. I’m not kidding.) “You are living off the government.” (Their opinion about disability). “You have no right to anything good. Everyone will hate you for your selfishness. They will resent you for having windows, for having a house, for buying a book. They will see the UPS truck and deem you greedy and reckless. Who do you think you are, you useless bitch?” (Considering that I’m so nice, my voices are incredibly nasty.)

But last week when the UPS truck went up the block to someone else’s house, as it often does, something astonishing happened. It somehow registered in my brain on a deeper than usual level that I don’t think ill of my neighbors when they get a package. I don’t think it means they are rich or evil or spending money they shouldn’t. I don’t think much about it at all. Could it be that the neighbors don’t care a bit whether I get a package or not? It isn’t that I haven’t known that all along, it’s just that I can feel that something is different, that I know it from a different place in my being. Another barrier to happiness has been pushed aside as gently as a curtain and suddenly I know that it’s ok for me to receive. Whether this will last or not, I don’t know, but I intend to enjoy it while it does.

I could ramble on, but I have probably written too much already. It feels terribly self indulgent to write about myself but it seems to be what I do. And I suppose (or hope is perhaps a better word) that in writing about myself, I am writing about everyone in one way or another. We may have different demons, different barriers we put up to ward off happiness or our own greatness, but most of us have at least one or two ways in which we sabotage ourselves.. I guess my hope, my dream, is that by sharing what it has taken me 59 years to figure out, I can save others a little time, save them a life lived hiding inside their houses or their hearts.

That’s my wish. Today is Gandhi’s birthday and my sister’s “death/rebirth day.” Thank you, Carole, for the being such a good big sister, for being a wonderful mother, for being such a good human being. You live on in your incredible son, your amazing daughters and in your wondrous grandchildren. I guess you even live on in me. Thank you. I love you. Welcome to my blog everyone and thank you for coming.