Saturday, August 29, 2020

Kitchen table on the Fjord

It's odd being on a summer island at the end of the season. "Are you hytte folk?" (summer house people) a man asked as we were walking. Not many of us left, and only a few boats on the water on this overcast day. I see some light - all is not lost - but it's far away on the horizon on the east side of the Oslo fjord. This weather reminds one of trolls and sweet chestnuts and lingonberries. I am drinking too much wine. I drink too fast, I know this, I don't savor it. I cook and I sip and I am not mindful. My father insisted that we taste wine, that we take each sip and think about its taste. I don't do this. I gulp. And I don't think I'm doing that until I feel like falling asleep and of course this leads to waking up in the night, when the sugar kicks in, with dread and loathing. I listened to a hypnotism podcast for sleep at about two ayem and the man started by saying, "of course you haven't had caffeine or sugar for the last few hours" in his annoying, preachy voice, and it snapped me right out of my go-to-sleep breathing and I thought Fuck You Annoying Shamey Hypnotist Man. But then there you are, stuck in a cycle of non-sleep and waking up tired, and shame, again, and again and again. Perhaps it's because my beloved isn't here. His gentle sleep breathing is soothing. Perhaps it's Thistle's thunderous and hearty snoring I miss. It wasn't a good night. I wake up every day and I think "I drink too much." And then I look up "how much wine is too much" and then I convince myself I'm not an alcoholic. One article said "you should be able to stop for 90 days" and I think, yeah right, in the middle of a pandemic, that's doable. And then another part of me says, are you a man or a mouse, woman? Have you ever met a challenge you won't take on?

My daughter is here and she cooks delicious meals for us every night - parma ham and cold sweet melon, roasted cauliflower and leek pasta with a little bacon. We alternately laugh and quibble, hug and recalibrate. The whole process of relearning how to relate to your adult child is an interesting one. You don't know how powerful you are. You don't know how much your words mean. Especially with your children. I hold my tongue as much as I can. I try to find the right words so that I don't say the thing I don't mean to say. I watch her, every day, as we work on duelling laptops. She is calm, professional, smart. She always sounds like the grown up in the room. I know that she is setting the world on fire. I surge with pride as I watch her, listen to her interactions, feel the way that she is sweet and kind with people she respects, and how she has little time for people who don't do the work. I hope her agency knows how lucky they are to have such a great woman on their team. I call my ex-husband and I say, wow. And he says, right? And I say, yup. And we nod and smile knowingly on different continents, smug in the realization that we have great, great kids. Perhaps we had nothing to do with it, who knows? 

My sweet man is on the Isle of Wight. He drove down yesterday with the dogs in the car. He facetimes me from the boat, and shows me the dogs in the back of the car in their beds, my big orange horse blanket woven between them so that they are "extra cozy." He is with his friends for their annual bank holiday weekend end of summer get together, in a lovely, warm and light house overlooking the sea. There will be picnics on the beach, and swimming, and good food. He calls me at night as he walks the dogs and I can hear the sea wind behind him. Next week he goes to the Venice Film Festival, where he is the King, as far as I can tell. He knows the festival so well, understands how it works, is connected to everyone, is revered for his wisdom and easy going modus operandi. He will probably wear his panama hat, even though he has declared it too Radio Two, and he has new yellow sneakers, and a Tottenham mask, and probably next week I will pick up one of the trades and there will be a quote from him. The trades refer to him as an icon, unironically. I am proud. I am the proud girlfriend.

It's hard from here, from my quiet perch in the kitchen in the cottage on the island in the Oslo fjord, looking out across the sea, to ignore what is going on in the world. In the middle of the night, in my insomnia, reading too much Twitter news, too much NY Times and CNN and Trevor Noah and Colbert, and listening to the RNC and massive fact-checking of lies in the those speeches, to see what is happening in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the shooting of Jacob Blake, white militia, Hurricane Laura's destruction, it's almost possible, almost, to think that this might actually be the end. This idea of fighting for the soul of America doesn't seem so far-fetched, and our complete disregard of the climate crisis. We have ruined everything. We were handed a paradise, and we have destroyed it, haven't we? Civility just flew right away. Democracy is going with it. We have no respect for our fellow citizens. We don't connect with the earth. We are allowing a power hungry fascist dictator to take over. Not ever again they said, but here we are. Here we are. And yes, I am approaching this from a Jungian perspective. It's all part of everything, we are all part of the same collective consciousness. What happens to Jacob Blake, and George Floyd, happens to all of us. It's so damn Blake-ian. Or Star Wars-ian. Good versus Evil. Right here, right now.

I'm reading Joan Juliet Buck's memoir, The Price of Illusion, and I love it more than I can say.  I read her posts on Facebook - huge stream of consciousness paragraphs about life and anxiety in the time of Covid - and she makes me feel that I'm not alone. 

I think that's really the point. We aren't alone. There is something that connects us all and perhaps the key is to concentrate on putting ego aside, and focus on the common good. 

Wherever you are in the world, I hope you are safe. And know that you are not alone. Mary Karr talks about prayer making her less anxious, a happier human unit. She says:

"To skeptics I say, Just try it. Pray every day for thirty days. See if your life gets better. If it doesn’t, tell me I’m an asshole."

We can debate what this means, and who you're praying to. Hell, I spent my whole marriage doing this. I just know that when I am anxious, this is what I come back to: the idea that there is a higher power, that we are not alone, that the idea that we are in control, guiding one's destiny without help, without any other factors weighing in, is madness, or at least arrogance. I don't know why I keep coming back to this idea, or why it gives me solace; perhaps it's the only time that one can fully relax. It's that Jesus Take The Wheel thing.

What do you think?



Marcheline said...

I think that it doesn't really matter if prayer "works" or if there is really a being "up there" or "out there" - what matters is, does doing that / believing that make you have a better life? If it does, more power to you!

I personally think things are what they are. I don't think there's anything after death, and I don't think there's a being up there who cares which leg of my pants I put on first. But I do believe that people's minds are very powerful - they control our health, our sense of well-being, etc.

I think that if people feel better assigning a personality to the power of nature, if it makes them feel less alone, then what's the harm? I would never ever try to cause anyone to stop or change their spiritual path. I only ask that others treat me with the same respect. It makes me happy to see a monk, or a priest, or a practitioner of faith (any faith), living a good life and being content in it. That's wonderful to me.

As for wine - I believe in wine! Usually in moderation, but sometimes too much of a good thing is better. Just sometimes. 8-)

Susan said...

"The quality of your life is determined by the focus of your attention (author unknown)." This is my new mantra. With the world turned upside down, it is easy to become anxious and even sad. As necessary, I redirect my attention. It definitely helps me.

How wonderful to have your daughter and son with you enjoying the island. When your man joins, this will be all the better.

Sleep patterns can be hard to shift. Lately I'm rising very early 5:30-6 AM. It is still dark. Not quite sure what is going on but I sleep through the night.

Regarding wine, I've switched to champagne or sparkling water. Both lovely during the Summer.

I'm sure you are your daughter's role model. Observing your daughter's success and letting her know how proud you are of her is wonderful.

Enjoy island life as long as you can. Depart from the havoc. Shall we say, "check-out?"
Sounds good to me.

cheri said...

So well spoken, your words resonate within me...I often think the same of wine...can't and don't want to stop drinking it though, although if I had to, I know I could do it. This anxiousness that is traversing the county is all too real. I pray every day to whomever the powers to be are, that our beloved country can regain its dignity once the atrocious person and his squad are gone from the WH. Love, love your writing and thoughts. Keep well..

Debo said...

Oh dear Bumble hello from Vancouver Island. We may be far from each other in space and time but our angst often are in perfect sync. Late life marriage breakdown and now saying goodbye to my beloved Pinot Grigio.

I decided to put the wineglass down 'for the pandemic'. Hahah...not thinking it would be forever! I was experiencing so much pervasive Trump dread, insomnia, headaches and deepening depression that I could not shake and thought I would continue on from my Dry January. I did a lot of Quit lit reading - Annie Grace...Laura Mckeowan, Krista Coulter and Holly Whittaker - recommend them all, and couldn't condone Continuing With my wine life. April 3rd was the first day of my alcohol free life And now on day 150 I feel so much clearer, lighter, hopeful and healthier. There is no denying at 65 I had to choose my health. It has not been easy, but it hasn't been Too horrible. And I have learned that the opposite of addiction is connection....what I have been seeking all my life. So from Abstinence, to sobriety and now on to recovery....I am loving life again. And all my recovery folks love Poetry! No shame poetry lovers all......that sealed the deal for me.

Keep in touch, much love, deborah xx

Ps that poem you posted today by Inger Hagerup stopped me in my tracks, oh wow....this is my morning now, 'all is good', xx

Speranza said...

After yet another night of fretful "sleeping" only to wake early with that heavy dread in my heart, I was so grateful to find your words here confirming my own feelings.You articulate the situation so well. Especially about the wine! I alarm myself by how much I look forward to that special time of the day, and I too am conscious of gulping when I ought not to be - and my previous personal rule of "never more than 2 glasses" just seems quaint and old-fashioned now during this terrible, never-ending Book of Revelations-style world at the moment. I also cannot believe that it is September - so hard to take one day at a time when each day is so uncertain and brings more global pain. I miss being able to completely uncoil and relax. I am going to return to prayer today as well. Thank you for writing.