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» Hatrack River Forum » Archives » Landmark Threads » Mehndi My Broken Heart, Bruce Cockburn (Landmark II, in six acts)

   
Author Topic: Mehndi My Broken Heart, Bruce Cockburn (Landmark II, in six acts)
ClaudiaTherese
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(with a nod to the Barenaked Ladies [Smile] )

Act I

Almost a year ago exactly, I wrote my first Landmark Thread, Embracing the Great Big Maybe. That writing was dedicated to Dana and Bob at the time of their engagement. It is fitting that this one be dedicated again to them at the time of their marriage.

Landmarks are writings of peculiarly personal topics. Sometimes they are musical, sometimes geographical, sometimes mythical. Although I have no ear for music, I do have a love of lyrics. Through the last few months, Lovers in a Dangerous Time has been on my mental replay track as I try to piece together my life. The thoughts are collected here. This, for what it is worth, avoids mythology. The geography is my own.

--------------------------------------------------------------------

Don’t the hours grow shorter as the days go by
You never get to stop and open your eyes


Ever since I was a little tyke, “getting it right” has been a bit of an obsession. A year ago, I started to explore the world of gray, of maybe, in a conscious and deliberate way. Maybes are scary things. In some ways, I’d rather be dead wrong than possibly right. Surety is seductive. As I probed that idea, I still was focused on “getting it right.” The right maybe, the fitting one – and happily I would do it over and over again, just to be sure. If I could, I would redo my life as well. This time to get it right, this time to perfect it.

And so at the death of my mother, I figured that at last I would be able to make sense of the final time for the two of us. Remembering, recalling over and over the details of our time together – the worn paint on the gray chair as she stroked my hair, the timbre of her voice threaded with anger, the gentleness of her twisted and mottled hands. Once our world was still, once the story was told, there would be time for reflection. No chance of letting her down, that sick sense of being less of a daughter than she deserved.

In the latter part of her life, she grew both more determined and more frail. She was terrified of death – no, actually, she was angry. Angry at losing control, furious at becoming less. (“Less” she was in her own eyes, nobody else’s. But she had always been the one doing the birthing, the succoring, the tending and the wielding. Now she was being tended and wielded, and it did not sit well.)

Nobody tells you about the hardest part of caring for your parents. Like children, they can become intimately dependent, but unlike kids, they have known what it was to be independent. They were once the doers, not the done-to. Thus as she whiled away her time on morphine and hospital food, she fretted about the littlest things: the shades had to be drawn, no, opened. The sheet was wrinkled. Perhaps it had a stain.

(I was angry at her. I wanted to sleep.)

The water was not cold enough. The television wavered.

(I brought her fresh ice. When she spilled it, I brought her some more. At 3 in the morning, I climbed on a chair to tighten the cables of the set. I went for a walk down the hall, and I bit my tongue til it bled.)

Someone needed to speak to the doctor. She needed experimental therapy, a more aggressive physician, more treatments, despite the pain. Despite the ravages on her body. She had me take Polaroids of her unclothed, bloated and scarred. I have them still in the trunk of my car. She looks at the camera with her chin tucked under, her hair a patchy frizz, her arms hanging limp.

(I did not want to see her CT scans, her nakedness, her private agony. I apologized to her nurses for her craziness. I betrayed her with my obsequiousness, with my wanting to be liked and approved of. She shamed me. I shamed myself.)

Always something, always a fidgeting mess of righteousness and proud arrogance. And always a frightened child, a soft body of fear and anxiety. Always a mother, too, and still remembering.

(She apologized to me, once. She said, “It is always the one who is there that receives the anger. I know, Sara. I remember my parents, too.” It was a blessing.)

Like all of us, I rose to the occasion sometimes, just as I fell sometimes. At the last, I was strong enough. We were in the ambulance, and she had stopped breathing. I held power of attorney for healthcare; I spoke with her voice.

“Should we put in a tube? We need to know. Do you want a breathing tube?”

(No. No. No, no, no. Oh God, enough.)

“Yes. Yes, she wanted everything done. Do it.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

(Yes.)

And so the night went on, and so I spoke for her, with her voice. She was breathing again, for awhile. Then cardiac arrest. CPR? “Yes, yes.” When there was nothing left but implanting an electrical node, to cut through the scars and the paper-thin flesh, to force the failing heart to beat again – yes. For her, yes. For me, no, but for her, yes.

And then it was over.

(Had it been enough? I was human, frail myself, but I had been there. I had softened my hands, muted my voice, found grace in her dying. I bore witness, which was all she needed, up until the end. And then I said it right. Didn’t I? Didn’t I do it right? Was it enough?)

[continuing …]

[ April 03, 2005, 12:53 PM: Message edited by: ClaudiaTherese ]

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ketchupqueen
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Wow. I admire your strengh and your writing, CT. Very powerful.
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Dagonee
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Oh, CT. You were always strong enough. ((CT))
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ClaudiaTherese
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Act II

One minute you’re waiting for the sky to fall
The next you’re dazzled by the beauty of it all


Some few weeks ago, I attended the bridal shower of our Dana. It was a time of womenfolk. We painted each other’s bodies, we talked frankly, we giggled over sex and men and our own depravity. We ate Turkish Delight, and we danced.

I looked around at all these beautiful women, most all new friends to me. KrabbyPatty with her mischievous eyes, ElJay of the swift smile and surprising gentleness. Dana, her arm held out to her mother for a henna benediction. Vana, laughter light and so very deep within. Ryuko, shy and bold, her blouse down to her waist, her arms crossed so modestly. Her friends all sparks and angles, bright young things of wit and wild humor.

Another life here, a whole story unfolding other than my own. Some ways like my life, some ways different. Nonetheless, it would keep going. Woven together and unraveling, reknitted and tatted again. Like my life. Like me and my mother, but different. They were binding themselves to each other in ways I could not even begin to see.

Did I have this with my mother? Yes, I think I did. We had years and years of stories and shared thoughts, we were bound together so tightly. Actually, that binding was there regardless of anything I now did or didn’t do. Whether or not I made sense of them, the ties would remain.

My god. Could it be this simple? Could I just … let it be?

If I didn’t worry it down to the bone, if I didn’t tally the points and mark the scale, would it even matter? The story was told. The tale was done.

I cannot tell you what a sense of relief this was. What an amazing and unexpected gift. As I went through my days plucking away at the memories, trying for some sort of tune, I might well be (maybe, maybe) just spinning in needless circles. This had never occurred to me before. I’d always thought that eventually I would pay the price of picking over the scraps, piecing it all together. Making sense of it.

Maybe, though, that part didn’t matter. Huh.

Maybe.

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ClaudiaTherese
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(((Dagonee and ketchupqueen)))
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Raia
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CT, your posts made me cry. They're beautiful. I admire you so much as a person... you're just a beautiful human being. In many more ways than one. Thank you for letting me get to know you here. *hug* And happy landmark, too. [Smile]
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ketchupqueen
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[Smile] That made me smile, thinking of my girlfriends, and how I love to be in a circle of women. I hope I can share that with my daughter, as well. [Smile]
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ClaudiaTherese
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( [Smile] )

Act III

These fragile bodies of touch and taste
This fragrant skin, this hair like lace


We are creatures of habit, we humans. I think it is in our nature to follow routines, to putter through the world in the most familiar and well-marked paths we can see. It would be cruel otherwise. A land of unmarked terrain is dangerous, unknown. It is right to be on guard when you face the unexpected, when the way before you is unclear. And it is right and natural to prefer the tread paths, to walk again in our own footsteps.

We are probably hardwired for this. The safety and security of my husband’s scent on the pillow is as no other, and I could never rest as easy with another. This is a hindbrain thing, an immediate and irresistible relaxing of the muscles and soothing of the spirit. My heart beats slower, and I sleep.

Every now and then, though the familiar may not be the healthy. What was once a useful tool may be broken, or wear out. The marked path may not lead where you need to go. It might be time to find a new map, to go adventuring again.

Chewing the cud had been such a useful tactic for me. If I felt guilty for not doing enough, well, at least I felt guilty. [Smile] Poring over and over my own faults was in fact a way of not dealing with them. “See?” I cried. “I am paying for it already. I am punishing myself.” A way of taking control (my mother’s daughter, here) – if I cracked the whip, it might still sting, but at least I’d know where and when.

Useful. Driving. Fear as a motivator, one of the strongest of them all. And always the carrot of someday gorging on the whole of it, of reliving every last bit I could remember, scathingly.

Enough. It would be enough. (Ah, Lord, I am a Catholic still. [Smile] )

But you see, it was never all about me. It never should have been, not in the final analysis. There is my responsibility and my history, my debts and my repentance, but these were never the whole story. What is good and just and right in the world, what is grace and kindness, goes far beyond the spinning wheels in my fuzzled head.

There is work left to be done. Lives go on being lived. What is done is done.

Do you know that the story goes on? That whatever you fear may come, but it may well pass?

That you may still be here? Alone in your head, a little befuddled, and unexpectedly, perhaps, just maybe, free to choose?

[ April 03, 2005, 01:48 PM: Message edited by: ClaudiaTherese ]

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ClaudiaTherese
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(Raia! [Kiss] And ketchupqueen, I know. [Smile] )
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ClaudiaTherese
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Act IV

Spirits open to the thrust of grace
Never a breath you can afford to waste


Here I was, warm and fat and sassy, with my feet propped up and henna spilling from knees to toes. A moment of grace, a chance to re-evaluate and decide once again.

Who knows where such moments come from? Those times when the world presents itself to you anew, when you see yourself clearly again, never seem to come when you expect them. Luckily, henna dries slowly, and the surrounding conversations percolated on without me.

I think I chose then to take the risk that opened before me. I think it was a time of clarity, and I think I chose differently than I may have before.

Sometimes I feel like my life is an echoing hall of mirrors, reflected one in another, the same patterns repeated over and over again. Déjà vu of déjà vu – I have remembered remembering this before. [Big Grin] Rarely does it feel like there is a sudden change, like one mirror tilts just enough to show a new scene.

Blessed, blessed moments of peace. Blessed moments of rebirth. Blessed choice, blessed relief.

Chew, gulp, swallow.

Do not repeat.

[ April 03, 2005, 02:07 PM: Message edited by: ClaudiaTherese ]

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Derrell
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(((CT))) That is very well written. Thank you for sharing a part of yourself with us. Hatrack is truly a better place for having you here.
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ClaudiaTherese
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Act V

When you’re lovers in a dangerous time
Sometimes you’re made to feel as if your love’s a crime


I’m quite taken with the seductiveness of surety.

I think this made being my own jailor a very attractive and satisfying choice. I think making less of oneself is a way of knowing, at least, the exact nature and location of one’s suffering.

Crack the whip. The pain will come. Burn it in. And when you burn yourself, you are at the center. When you scald your own soul, the rest of the world fades. What more can it do to you? Pay penance, pay it ceaseless, pay all you have and pay it without hesitation. Surely enough, yes? Surely there can be no more.

Ah, seductive. Sweet and safe. Painful but known, familiar, a path one can walk a thousand times. What awesome, awesome control. What fierce power! What certainty!

How righteous.

How selfish, how blind.

(How human. How easy to understand, how sad. How forgivable.)

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ClaudiaTherese
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( [Wave] Hey, Derrell. [Smile] )
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ClaudiaTherese
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Act VI

Nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight
Got to kick at the darkness ’til it bleeds daylight


And so we come to the final act. Here is where I tell you what I learned, what I chose in opposition to what I rejected.

I’m not sure.

I think it has something to do with balance and with Aristotle’s “golden mean” of virtue. I think it has a lot to do with choosing new habits and choosing them mindfully.

I’m sure it has very little to do with self-flagellation. Or cuds. Good grief, please, no more cuds!

I expect it to be harder, in part because it will be less painful. With pain, at least you have a North Star to guide by. I don’t know where to set my sights now.

So, uh, any ideas? Words of wisdom? (So to speak [Big Grin] )

----------------------------------------------------------------------

My thanks for your patience in reading this, and your kindness to me as I scoured myself raw this last year. I think the storm is over, and a new adventure has begun.

[Hat]

[ April 03, 2005, 02:38 PM: Message edited by: ClaudiaTherese ]

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Noemon
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That was beautiful CT. A bit hard to read, but impossible not to, once I had begun.
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ClaudiaTherese
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*grin

It was a bit hard to live through, too. I know what you mean. But I'm engaged in putting my house to rights now, and it feels pretty good.

Thanks. [Smile]

[Edit: Isn't it amazing what we do to ourselves? Good grief.]

[ April 03, 2005, 04:01 PM: Message edited by: ClaudiaTherese ]

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Boon
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I'm in awe.

I'm glad you're here, that I have the opportunity to get to know you a bit. I hope someday we could meet in person.

Thank you for sharing your mother with us, painful though it must have been.

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ClaudiaTherese
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Boon, I can't wait to meet you, too. [Smile]

It was too private in some ways, but I had already culled a lot of the details. Some things ought to stay private, you know? I'm happy enough with the balance of it for now.

Writing this made me get together my thoughts in a way I hadn't been able to in all these months since her death. Someday, once I've gotten a little more distance, I'll write a proper Speaking for her. This bit is all about me, but I needed it to be all about me. Now I can set it aside.

[ April 03, 2005, 05:45 PM: Message edited by: ClaudiaTherese ]

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Kama
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I'm tired tonight, I'll read tomorrow.

[Kiss] CT.

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ClaudiaTherese
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Sleep tight, dollface. [Kiss]

I'm calling it a night for Hatrack as well. I have some work to tend to. Regardless, you [all] should know it is okay not to post anything once you did read it. It was enough to write it. (Really, that sounds sappy, but it is true.) Sometimes it just works out that way.

Ah, but such a blue, blue sky.

[Wave]

[ April 03, 2005, 06:05 PM: Message edited by: ClaudiaTherese ]

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dread pirate romany
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That was beautiful, CT. Thanks for your bravery in sharing your mother's last moments with us. I am so priveleged to know you.
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Synesthesia
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You're so cool.
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kwsni
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CT, I love how you can always put things so perfectly.

Hatrack wouldn't be the same wihtout you.

Ni!

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Foust
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Bruce Cockburn makes everything better.

I kind of pictured him as a Canadian secret, though.

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jexx
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I love you, CT. I always have and I always will. I think I love you a little extra, today.

(((CT)))

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Shigosei
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Thank you, CT.
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TomDavidson
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Sara knows many Canadian secrets.
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Irami Osei-Frimpong
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What jexx said.
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Ryuko
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Sara, lady, I envy you. I envy your strength, your ability, and your beauty. Most of all I envy your ability to make this decision for yourself. I hope someday I can approach the same problem in myself with the same clarity of thought.

You are wonderful. You're like a cool breeze or a calm pool, like a soothing break in one's day. Your mother sounds like a beautiful person, and I know she's proud of you.

Be happy, Sara.

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twinky
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Until just now I hadn't cried in almost a year. Here is the proof.

"A quarter for the phone: why don't you call someone and find out how it is we can all belong to something that no one wants any part of?"

[Edit: I just realized that's not accurate. It's more like six months. But in any case, Sara, I think you know why this affected me the way it did. I only hope I have your strength. Yours is an example for me to follow.]

[ April 04, 2005, 12:47 AM: Message edited by: twinky ]

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Icarus
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Wow. I am stunned by your ability to breathe life back into this tradition, where it can seem like everything that can be said has been. This was beautiful and powerful and painful.

I adore the CT that I know through Hatrack.

[Kiss]

Be well.

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Leonide
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I'll share some tears with twinky.

You're an amazing person, CT.

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beverly
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((((Sara))))

I remember you saying that you were going through some internal turmoil. I wondered about what you might be going through.

*head spinning*

Your words are so poignant--I think I need to read it again.

Speaking from someone who tends to be too hard on herself, I think self-mercy is something to be highly desired. I'm not sure exactly how to acheive it, but I think I have gotten closer to it as time goes on. I sure wish I could tell you exactly how to find it, since I'd like that knowledge myself.

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Mrs.M
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I've had to care for my mother and grandmother when they were gravely ill (though they're both alive, thank goodness) and you captured so much of how I felt so beautifully. I'm proud to know you as much as I do and I'm glad that you've achieved a measure of peace.
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Lyrhawn
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That was an incredible piece of writing. It's not often something strikes me in such a purely emotional way. Act V in particular struck me,

"Crack the whip. The pain will come. Burn it in. And when you burn yourself, you are at the center. Pay penance, pay it ceaseless, pay all you have and pay it without hesitation. Surely enough, yes? Surely there can be no more.

Ah, seductive. Sweet and safe. Painful but known, familiar, a path one can walk a thousand times. What awesome, awesome control. What fierce power!"

In many ways that articulates the anthem for a large part of the last eight years of my life. But you wrote it far more eloquently than I ever could. I don't know if your experience parallels mine with regards to what you are refferring to there, but I thank you for sharing that with us. The pain and lessons of one help ease the suffering and inexperience of thousands.

Peace be unto you.

[ April 04, 2005, 01:29 AM: Message edited by: Lyrhawn ]

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Shan
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Sara - thank you. You put so eloquently in words what I at least have not been able to articulate when it comes to the tangled skein of parent-child relationships.

Hugs and blessings to you during your housecleaning.

Remember to burn some sage.

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Kama
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amazing. powerful.

Thank you for being CT.

quote:
Poring over and over my own faults was in fact a way of not dealing with them. “See?” I cried. “I am paying for it already. I am punishing myself.”
so true.
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Kama
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This may be just an impression, but CT's writing reminds me of Angela Carter.
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rivka
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It is the time of year for cleaning house -- actual and metaphorical.

May I do as well at the metaphorical housecleaning as CT has.

Love you lots, Sara. *hug*

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ElJay
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Add me to the list of the teary-eyed. Thank you, Sara, for sharing. You are a strong, wonderful woman. **hugs**
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ClaudiaTherese
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*holding you all close in my heart

(I'll be back to write more in a bit, in thanks and response. For now, it is looking to be a Good Morning. [Smile] )

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JonnyNotSoBravo
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Wow. So much good stuff! I'll try to comment on a bit of it.

Act I

quote:
Ever since I was a little tyke, "getting it right" has been a bit of an obsession.
I, too, obsess about "getting it right". As I've grown older, I've learned that right is increasingly more muddled. People I respect and who are my close, personal friends have vastly different ideas about what is Truth. I can argue with them, present evidence and even a lot of the time they'll admit I was right. But they hate it. So I let it go.

What's worse is that some things I thought were "right" have changed. The theories keep getting updated, new information is found, what scientists were sure was "true" can sometimes be disproved.

The "gray" is very interesting. And difficult. They say that a sign of intelligence is your ability to embrace paradox, but it's not fun to be on that sliding scale, that slippery slope where the ground beneath you could give out at any moment. I empathize with your plumbing of those depths.

...

I loved the parts in parentheses. They added so much to the narrative! Awesome technique. I'll probably steal it and use it to improve my own writing, and I think it'll appear farther down in this commentary.

Act II

quote:
Another life here, a whole story unfolding other than my own. Some ways like my life, some ways different. Nonetheless, it would keep going. Woven together and unraveling, reknitted and tatted again. Like my life.
Awareness of others is so weird, isn't it? Sometimes life is so existential, and a person (I) might think that we're all stuck inside our heads, destined never to really know one another. Then you get a glimpse, maybe even see the personal effect you have on someone else, and the connection is made, the bond solidified. You stop worrying/thinking and let yourself just feel and exist.

...

The idea of women coming together, dancing and embracing their gender seems archetypal, even historic. I don't know if it comes from books, movies or what but it's in my mind's eye that this sort of thing has happened throughout history. Your story conjured up images of women gathering together since time immemorial, creating a link with their past.

Act III

quote:
We are creatures of habit, we humans. I think it is in our nature to follow routines, to putter through the world in the most familiar and well-marked paths we can see.
And later:
quote:
We are probably hardwired for this.
Thinking about the chemical pathways in our brains, the receptors and channels in our synapses, this makes sense. There is less resistance to follow along the path well traveled in our heads. Thinking the same thoughts is sometimes easier than creating new routes. And then we have all the psychological associations and memories with what we have done before. I'm inspired to go do something different!

Act IV

quote:
Here I was, warm and fat and sassy, with my feet propped up and henna spilling from knees to toes.
Warm, fat and sassy evokes (invokes?) images of a puppy with a fat little belly after a meal, attacking me even though I'm huge in comparison. The continuation of the same theme from Act III, but look, there's the word "henna" again. Crap, now I'll have to go look it up.

Act V

quote:
I’m quite taken with the seductiveness of surety.
Back to earlier themes. We're reminded that this is just one Act in a series. The reappearing thought, the familiar pattern, the theme of repetition in repeating a theme, at the same time emphasizing it and burning it into the reader's brain without them realizing it, like some catchy song.

quote:
Crack the whip. The pain will come.
Now repetition takes on a grimmer tone. Is it the righteousness and piety of the religious ascetic? Or is it the horror and self indulgence and pitiful spectacle of the "cutter"? Here lies paradox, and the gray.

And finally, Act VI

quote:
I’m not sure.
No neat little packages. No easy victory. But definitely Truth.

.......

Oops! I kind of "went off" there. I think I need to read and write more instead of exploding all over someone else's landmark.

CT, I think you're one of the best posters on Hatrack (okay, actually you're the best, but let's leave the "one of" in there so I don't bruise egos). You're funny, irreverent, intelligent and sophisticated. You back up your posts (cite) with links, and fret more than anyone else seems to over whether your posts might hurt someone. You're the gold standard and you make me want to be a better poster. Good luck on your adventure!

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Christy
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*holds a very warm spot in her heart for Sara*
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twinky
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I've always thought of you and Jenny and Sara as a sort of triumverate of Hatrack Earth Goddesses, Christy. In a good and wholesome sort of way. [Smile]

As a friend of mine put it this weekend, you're three pods in a bean [ROFL]

Silliness aside, though, the sentiment is genuine.

[Cool]

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Jenny Gardener
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The Company of Women is so healing, I think. I am fortunate enough to have a circle of my own. And Hatrack, too, has its ladies' circles. Sara, how beautiful for you to share so intimate a part of female life as the odd connections between mothers and daughters. I have issues with my own mother, and I wonder what things will be like for my daughter.

Thank you, for opening the door to healing. And thank you for opening the door to yourself. May all love flow in, as you so lovingly care for us jatraqueros. You are a woman of beauty. Truly, the Goddess manifests herself in you.

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Elizabeth
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That was absolutely beautiful, Sara. It had the same effect on me that this song did. I think it is the most beautiful song I have ever heard, and it is basically about a man forgiving himself.

It's No Secret,
by Crow Greenspun

Take with you the sound of the creek from the land
Take that round black rock that I found and hold it in your hand
If you need to
Think of me but look to you
You're going to know what you need to do
It's no secret
You've always been a sucker for the taint time to dream
Your baby on your chest is as real as the dream gets do you knowwhat I mean
It's going to change you
Two become three become one just take it slow
Everything with cells breaks in two before it grows
It's no secret
Take with you the sound of the rain on the tin
Shake the pain of my death off your chest now and let life in
It's the real you
I've been watching and I know what you've been through
I'm proud of the man you've grown into
It's no secret
Take my passion for the life of a song
Listen to the rising of my voice with the tune boy now you should
sing along
I'm singing a way to be
It's in your blood and your memory of me
Just keep on singing and you'll find it easily
It's no secret

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