The Traditional, Albeit Belated, New Year’s Post.

Well, if January is anything to go on, the theme of 2013 is going to be Learning How To Manage Expectations.  So far, every single plan I’ve made has been thwarted.  Everything I’ve looked forward to and hoped for has fallen through.  Everything I have set out to accomplish hasn’t happened.  And as I described here, I’ve taken a series of financial and emotional hits.

I find myself, at the end of the first month of the year, drained.  Exhausted.

And yet.

On a cerebral level, I can see how these events are good for me.  From an objective standpoint, this month hasn’t been bad.  Aside from Zuma almost getting his tongue ripped out, I can tick off the benefits of all these disruptions and  unexpected events.  When I think about it, even Zuma’s accident has yielded a beneficial change in my life: due to the decision to no longer housesit, I have decided to start boarding birds instead, which will be a good source of income while allowing me to stay at home more.  The unproductive east side of my garden and Archie’s death and subsequent burial on that side of the yard has inspired new plans to put in a memorial xeriscaped / succulent garden.  The disruption of my plans on a few occasions has resulted in new friendships being formed.  The financial hit I’ve taken has encouraged me to get back to my healthier, home-cooked eating habits.  It’s all good things.

I can't wait to do something like this in my yard.

I can’t wait to do something like this in my yard.

So why am I feeling drained?  Because of my emotional attachment to my expectations.  Every time a plan has been thwarted, my reaction has been frustration, rather than acceptance.  Instead of embracing the unforeseen, I’ve been clinging to my own personal agendas.  Having something ripped from my emotional grasp is painful; if I can learn to voluntarily let go, the experience will be painless.

So, instead of doing New Year’s resolutions like I have in the past, I want to set only one goal for myself: to accept, joyfully and willingly, whatever happens in 2013.  Instead of making more resolutions, I need to learn to be less resolute, more pliable.  So here’s to the next 11 months, and whatever they may bring!

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Peaches lied.

For the most part, life seems happy and good and heading in the right direction.  Things are exciting, even.  I look forward to events, people, goals, etc.  I feel like I’m where I need to be.  But then, every once in a while – usually at night, right before I fall asleep – I take a step back and realize that this is my reality now, and there is no going back.  I’m not on a break or vacation.  I’m not trying this new reality on for size before returning to my previous one.  I am here to stay.  The result is a mixture of grief and panic.  I keep having dreams of being on vacation in some other country and enjoying myself until I realize that, for one reason or another, I can’t come back home.  I’m stuck in that country forever, and have to make it my new home.  I know why I’m having those dreams; they are simply my mind’s metaphor for what’s happening in my life.  I am so, so homesick.  But there is no going back home.  Home is gone.  So now I must go about the onerous and seemingly impossible task of making this new reality my home.  Maybe someday I’ll actually succeed.

On reciprocity, and how it doesn’t seem to happen as often as it should.

At the risk of sounding like an arrogant asshole (but if the shoe fits…), I’m pretty good at making friends.  I can think of maybe three times in my life when I’ve really wanted to be friends with someone and they, for whatever reason, weren’t feeling it.

The more common social problem I experience is when someone seems very eager to befriend me and I, for whatever reason, am not feeling it.  Over the past few months, two people in particular have been aggressively pursuing a friendship with me, and I just haven’t been able to muster an equal amount of zeal for them.  Believe me, I’ve felt pretty fucking guilty about it.  It’s not that I’m a snob; I don’t think I’m better than these people or more interesting or more likable.  In fact, on a purely cerebral level I can tick off all the boxes on the list of characteristics that I usually value in people.  By all rational accounts, I should totally adore these people.  But for whatever reason, I just couldn’t, and I felt horrible about that.

Enter Other Person.  I met Other Person a few months back and was instantly friend-smitten.  I wanted to be their BFF.  I wanted to spend all my spare time with them.  I wanted us to hold hands and skip off into the sunset.  It was instant.  It was magnetic.

Well, for me it was.  For them…not so much.  At first I chalked it up to personality quirks (“Oh, they’re just not as demonstrative as I am!”), but eventually I realized: karma, my friends, it is a bitch.  The shoe’s on the other foot now, innit?  I felt like a little puppy that’d just gotten the smackdown from an adult dog: hurt, confused, bewildered.  “But… but… I don’t understand!  How can you not love me?  Don’t you realize that when you met me you struck friend gold?  I’m loving, loyal, thoughtful, generous, caring, reliable, smart, funny, adventurous, and fun.  I’m patient and compassionate and understanding about your flaws; honest and open and apologetic about mine.  I will never judge, betray, or intentionally hurt you.  I see you, I get you, and I certainly treat you a hell of a lot better than your other ‘friends’ do.  WHAT’S NOT TO LOVE???”  (I told you I was an arrogant asshole!)  But no dice.  No matter how hard I tried, Other Person just doesn’t give a shit like I do.

So recently I was hanging out with Other Person and it occurred to me that I need to put on my big-girl pants and behave like an adult.  Sure, it would be awesome if there was some cosmic rule that you could never feel drawn to someone who isn’t equally drawn to you, but that’s not real life.  In real life there are adages like, “If you love something, you let it go,” which is another way of saying, “Look, most of what or whom you love in life probably won’t love you back, so quit being a Clingy McDesperaton and let everyone and everything do what they want and go where they will.  That way, if someone or something sticks around, you’ll be pleasantly surprised,” which is yet another way of saying, “Hey, you can’t win ’em all.”  So that’s what I’m doing.  I’m letting Other Person go, and I’m trying not to get my feelings hurt by the fact that they clearly don’t appreciate me at my full value, because maybe they can’t help it exactly like how I couldn’t help it with the first two people I told you about.   It isn’t my fault; it isn’t their fault; they just don’t connect to me like I connect to them.  Maybe the cosmos is sadistic or maybe I remind them of their abusive gym teacher or maybe they just don’t dig on curly hair.  Whatever the case, I need to respect the disconnect and move on.

Having said that, the OTHER thing I learned from this experience is that maybe I need to stop running from the guilt I feel about the first two people, turn around, and really face them.  If Other Person was being blind to the friend-gold they were passing up in me, maybe I’m being blind to the friend-gold I’m passing up in these people, right?  So I started spending more time with them recently, really focusing on all the good things I admire about them, and you know what?  They’re actually pretty great!  I don’t know if we’ll be holding hands and skipping off into the sunset together, but we’ll at least be sitting in the grass watching a few sunsets together for sure.

So there’s that.  Life lessons at 32 years old that I should’ve learned at, like, 12 years old.  Ah, well.  Better late than never.

EDIT: This whole blog entry reminds me of this song:

Ah, Bjork, you have a song for every situation.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder

So a thing happened at work this morning, and it seems silly to even bring it up, but though it’s small, I think it’s significant.

I was in the treatment area with a vet, a tech, and a receptionist (this sounds like the beginning of a terrible joke, but bear with me), and somehow the topic turned to our bodies.  They were talking about how and where they gain all their weight, the changes they’ve noticed in their bodies as they’ve started to age, etc.  I chimed in: “I hate how I’m built like the fucking Michelin Man.  I have these lumpy boobs, lumpy tummy, lumpy abdomen.  I look like a stack of freaking tires.”  The receptionist – whom, by the way, I think is totally gorgeous and has a beautiful body – looked at me with a flash of irritation and said, “Just… don’t.  Don’t even go there.”  At first, I didn’t understand why she was irritated.  Then, it happened.

There was this little pop in my vision.  Nothing in the room actually changed, but my perception of it did.  I am so used to being the fattest person in the room that I don’t even consciously think about it anymore.  No matter where I go or whom I’m interacting with (except for obviously, drastically, morbidly obese people), there’s always just this underlying assumption that I’m the fatty in the room.  I hadn’t really thought about it at this hospital where I’m working right now, but in that moment I realized that I’d still been thinking of myself as the fattest person there.  And then that little shift in perception happened.  I looked down at myself.  I looked around at the other women.  And then I realized: I am the thinnest person in the room.  And none of them are really overweight at all!  They’re quite lovely, actually!  But *that* was why she was irritated with me: I was being one of those obnoxious girls who is thinner than everyone in the room and complaining about how fat she is.  That was me.  Wait, what?  That was me? I was standing there in the midst of a mundane little conversation that happens every day, every where, among any given group of women, and my mind was exploding: I’m not fat anymore.

50 lbs.  I look at that number, and I understand it.  On a cognitive level, I know what that number means.  I know what it feels like to carry a 50 lb dog, so I can imagine what it is to take 50 lbs off my body.  But this is the first time that I’ve actually internalized it–that I can see myself without it.  Before this morning, I still saw a fat person.  Today, I see myself as I truly am.

This is a stellar example of why we’re friends.

I was gchatting with Caitlin this morning (*coughyesIreallydohavemorethanonefriendIswearcough*) while composing an email to another friend (See? Told you.), and our conversation went a little something like this:

Me: A friend asked me to elaborate on some brief comments I made the other day about my reaction to his artwork, and I’m having a difficult time articulating what I felt.  It was more of a visceral reaction than a complete thought.

Caitlin: Say, “Your work makes me feel,” and attach a picture of a wedding dress.

Me: Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!

Caitlin: “As a girl, I only have two feelings: ‘:(‘ and ‘wedding dress’.  This makes me feel the latter.”

My god, I love that girl.

I especially love how this wedding dress has Hello Kitty on it, thus enhancing its inherent contextual comedic value.

Bayu and Ixchel actually take flight; I, on the other hand, just feel high.

If it were possible to high-five a period of time, I would have been high-fiving today like every couple of hours.  Great job, Today!  You’re awesome, Today!  Hey, Wednesday, November 10, 2010, you’re a real champ!

Et cetera.

So here’s what happened:

1) Bayu, my male Eclectus who has previously only flown when terrified, desperate, or both, decided this morning that flying was actually a pretty cool way to get around the house on his own.  He flew into the living room to hang out with me for a while, then, when he got bored, he flew back into the bedroom and back to his cage.  Like it was no big deal.  Like he’d been doing it for years.  His landings?  Immaculate.  Whereas his terror-flights always resulted in clumsy- or downright crash-landings, I think he’s been watching Cah’ya and Yodit carefully and learning how to land from their example, because it was beautiful to watch him put his little feet out, throw his tail up, and make a soft, clean landing onto my chair back.  Attaboy, Bayu!

I like to take full credit for his newfound confidence, because after almost three years of living with the boy, it finally dawned on me that what he really needed to help build his confidence and give him a sense of agency was free roam.  I opened his cage door a few days ago and have left it open ever since.  Normally, I don’t recommend letting birds just out to wander at will, as it exposes them to many more dangers then if they’re only out of their cages under supervision.  But in his case, my room is bird-proofed (heck, it’s practically a bird room with a human bed shoved in one corner), and he is so scared of the other birds that out-of-cage time when the others are out isn’t really very fun for him.  So I figured: let the boy decide, in peace, sans other birds, when and whether he wants to come out of his cage.  Let him go down onto the ground and forage around in the bird food and supplies if he wants to.  Let him have free access to the playgyms, window, bed, etc., when the other birds aren’t out to bully him.  Empower him to make his own decisions, to freely explore his environment, and wander without fear of repercussions.  And wouldn’t you know it?  Today he starts flying.  Yeah, it took me almost three years to figure it out, but hey!  At least I figured it out!  At least it’s working!  At least his quality of life is finally, finally improving.

2) Ixchel also decided to fly today.  She’s been doing great flapping exercises ever since I got her, but today when we were doing our flapping she actually lifted up out of my hand.  She couldn’t sustain lift, though, so I’d have to leapfrog my hands one in front of the other to catch her keel each time she took off, then sank, then took off, then sank.  So finally, she was getting enough lift that I thought she could make the short trip to the sofa.  I extended the hand that she was cradled in and gently tossed her towards the sofa.  Beautiful arc, beautiful landing.  She laughed softly as she landed.  I praised her like crazy, then we tried it again, a foot farther from the sofa than last time.  Again, she made it, and again, she laughed.  We tried it again, a foot farther away, and again: landing, laughter.  The fourth time, I was all the way on the other side of the living room, I extended my hand, but I didn’t even have to toss her.  She knew what was coming and started flapping her wings, then took off on her own, without my help, and landed beautifully on the sofa.  After that, there was no stopping her.  She tried to turn mid-flight a few times and head towards the other birds’ cages, but couldn’t quite  make it all the way.  She’d either land on the floor or I would catch her.  Regardless, every time her flight would end, she would laugh.  Which made me laugh.  Which made Cah’ya laugh.  There was a lot of laughter in my house this morning.

So yay!  Ixchel can fly!  Now that she’s fledging I can start taking her places with me to get her properly socialized and introduce her to the world around us.  If anyone wants to be a part of that socialization process, by all means, let me know.  I need volunteers.

3) Wednesdays are always as least partially awesome because it’s the day that I pick up our weekly veggies from our Springdale Farm CSA.

It has quickly become a treasured weekly tradition for me.  I love going to pick up the bags and chatting with Paula and Jennifer.  I love taking our bag to Nick’s house, finding out what treats and goodies they’ve included for the week, and divvying them up between the two of us.  And most of all, I love taking my portion of the goods home and figuring out what I can do with them!  I have discovered so many new recipes and experienced so many new flavors since joining this CSA, because there’s always at least one thing in the bag that I’ve never cooked with before.  This week, for instance, it’s fennel.  Never cooked with it before.  But I’m definitely going to enjoy doing something tasty with it tomorrow!

4) But also, Nick had a special treat for me when I got to his house today: he gave me a copy of his brand new book, which came out just this week!

I haven’t had a chance to read all of it yet, but so far it’s simply breathtaking.  I highly recommend it to everyone, ever, but particularly to artists and people who are interested in becoming artists.  I’m super inspired to continue work on my own book(s)–especially after reading his chapter on “Cultivating the Proper Mindset”.   That resonated with me so much because it’s what I want and need to do; I’ve just… failed at it, due to various distractions.  *coughIxchelandthisblogforexamplecough*  But!  Tomorrow is a new day, with no mistakes in it!

5) That devastating discovery I made a couple of days ago isn’t so devastating anymore, mostly because I have had some time to learn more about it.  And yes, as I suspected, it is ultimately going to lead to healing some brokenness in me that has been there for years and years.  So…you take the bad with the good and recognize that oftentimes the bad is necessary to help lead us to the good.

And again, I repeat: tomorrow is a new day, with no mistakes in it!

(Just give me about 12 hours to fuck it up proper!)

Baby Love

This evening, when I got home from having worked all day at a clinic after only three hours of sleep last night, I laid down on the futon for a quick nap before moving forward with my to-do list.  Ixchel’s box was on the floor at the end of the futon closest to my head, and when she saw me lie down so close to her she scrambled over to my side of her box, cried out in the softly pleading way that baby caws do, and tried climbing/flapping out of the box towards me.   I extended a finger towards her beak, which she hooked onto and used as leverage to hoist her clumsy, crippled little body over the box’s side.  I caught her keel in my hand and brought her towards me.  She couldn’t wait for my slow movements to complete the journey; with an awkward jump and a mighty flap of her wings, she launched herself at my shoulder, burying her face in the crook of my neck and nestling her body in the “u” made by my shoulder and arm.  We slept cuddled up like that for a little over an hour.

When we woke up I held her over her box to potty and then she immediately wanted to come back to the futon.  This time I set her next to me on the futon.  With a determined squawk, she set about the daunting task of climbing up onto my back.  With contorted legs, ungainly wings, and a determined beak, she writhed and struggled and eventually flopped and scooted onto my back.  Once there, she again fought against the deformity of her legs and somehow managed to pull herself up to the highest point of my back: the scapula.  I thought that was her end-goal: to hang out on the tallest possible point.  But once she reached my shoulder blade, she folded her wings and did a slow-motion dive towards my face.  She landed with a rocking motion, kind of like a penguin sliding off an ice floe, then pressed her right cheek firmly against my left cheek, tucked her toes against my clavicle, and stretched her right wing over my neck and head in a gloriously sweet baby caw hug.

In that moment, all the tenderness and affection and love that I feel towards any animal in my care expanded and deepened and intensified, and Ixchel joined ranks with Cassia, Charlie, and Cah’ya.  Don’t get me wrong: I love all the animals with whom I’ve had the privilege of sharing a trans-species community, but some transcend friend and companion.   Some have a special place in heart and life.  Oh, little crippled Ixchel, how I love you so.

She goes into surgery next week.  She’ll be 12 weeks old.  Charlie had his first surgery at 12 weeks old, too.  May the medical similarities end there.