The Hillhouse

The Journey of a Mother and Son

Funk December 7, 2013

Been in a bit of a funk all week. Partly because of an old friend’s death, I think. The idea of him being so absolutely gone, and for something that seemed so fixable. Partly that. Partly other stuff too I guess. Stupid stuff. Like a parking ticket I really can’t afford, given to me while I loaded my kid’s bass in at school. And then the way it doubled on the very day I got paid (and the day, of course, I’d planned to pay the ticket). Or like the crown wiggling its way loose again when I haven’t even paid for the last time my doc re-glued it in place. Or maybe it’s been the onslaught of new music I’ve had to learn and read for school. I’ve spent the past two decades avoiding this very sort of thing, now here I am beset with it. Good for me, I suppose. (Some of it’s been written specifically for the classes, so it’s strange, chromatic and meandering and there’s no way to ‘hear’ one’s way out of it). And then there’s the constant lack of money and the fast-coming holiday. Thankfully, Elihu will be with his father, so East coast Santa’s off the hook for an extra week. No extra income, though. Maybe the extra week will buy a solution. I’m unsure though, and worrying about it has me tired and stressed. Then there are the aging folks in my family, an alcoholic brother, a mother who doesn’t think things are all that bad, and all the mental energy it’s taking to avoid thinking about that whole scene. Ich. And there are five baskets of laundry taking up my bedroom floor that need to be folded and put away. A Christmas tree that needs to be bought and decorated, a party next week to host, evites for which must yet go out… And a piano to tune. Which will likely fall to the bottom of the list of priorities when I scrutinize more closely my month’s budget. And lastly – and most vainly – there’s my waistline. I was feeling great this past summer – I really did make my fiftieth a success – but I’ve sadly just about un-done all my progress in just a few short months of Halloween candy, home-baked bread and apple pies (oh, yeah, and after last night, you can add homemade meatballs to the list). Of all people, I should know better! All that deprivation for nothing. Crap. Lastly, there are my fingers. Betraying me with unrelenting rheumatoid arthritis almost every single day. Just last night I noticed a new growth of bone spur on one of my outer knuckles. My third fingers are now getting stuck in between the three black notes (but not the two black notes, which are just a tiny bit further apart. Til now, who knew?) and I must tug to wrest them free as I play. Very discouraging. Very.

All the way ’round, I’m just not feeling too good these days. I just can’t seem to get ahead of it. Can’t find peace. Can’t quite get myself up and out of this temporary funk. At least I hope it’s temporary….

What to do? I make a list. First, I might do well with sitting in quiet. I don’t think I even know how to do that anymore… Yes. Maybe that’s it. I should be meditating. I remember a couple of years ago when I moved here, shaken and sick with heartbreak, I meditated almost an hour a day. Sat quiet, in a dark closet, imagining my in-breaths igniting all the little energy spirals up and down my spine… An hour of chakra-balancing felt like fifteen minutes. Stepping out of the dark room I was always surprised when I looked at the clock. And it helped. I remember it did. But how on earth to get that back into my routine again? It seems so, well, hard. Boring. Ok, how to start? Keep it short. Do-able. Schedule it in every morning first thing. Ok. First on the list. Meditate. Right.

I think the answer might also be a gym membership. I know I need to move. Means I need to apply for a Y scholarship, I guess. Must be sure to use it if they give it to me… but when would I go? And what to do with the kid while I workout? I feel stopped before I start. I suppose I could walk outside instead. Tried it for a while, but petered out on it, completely bored with the same stretch of road, the long, empty silence. Music… yes, I should get music back in my life. Haven’t used ear buds in a good decade (I suppose since my kid was born). But I need help with this too. My ancient, classic IPod sits unused, filled with songs my next-door neighbor back in Illinois gave me (without the legitimate purchase and therefore legal licensing) and I am somehow unable to add songs to it from my similarly ancient and now dead Macbook. How do I retrieve the handful songs I did purchase once upon a time? And why can’t I simply add them to my pirated list, or at least input them without re-formatting the whole shebang and starting completely over? Don’t know, and I can’t seem to figure it all out. So when I do walk (which these days is actually never) I walk in silence. And somehow, I think it might be easier to move if I had a soundtrack. Man. I miss the days of cassettes. They were so much easier. It embarrasses me slightly to say so, but there it is.

You could say that I need some help in general when it comes to technology. Like the kind of help I always seemed to have around in the old days. A local college kid who can help me streamline my administrative duties – the kind of kid who would say ‘admin’ and not ‘administrative’…  I need a kid who’s still cheerful enough to think that none of my ‘admin’ needs are really that big of a deal and who can hold my hand through some much needed media upgrading in my life. There’s the IPod thing, yes, but then there’s so much more. I’ve been advised that as an aspiring writer/blogger I need to Tweet. I bought a book about it, but even after reading it I feel stopped. I can see the appeal, but I can’t seem to get past setting up an account. I’ve also been told it would be advantageous of me to use Foursquare. Really? I’m only ever in one of three places: behind the piano at school, behind the sink doing dishes at home, or driving back and forth somewhere between the two. Is that of interest to anyone, really? (Besides, can I even do all that stuff on my old-school flip phone?)

I’m not sure where to begin. The technology train left years ago and I did not get on board. Maybe all I need is to wait another couple of years and let Elihu help me. But aren’t I supposed to be helping him? Man. Last night we saw a record player in the window of a shop and he said he wished we had one. Careful what you wish for, kid….

In order that I might not sound myself too much like a record player – a broken one, that is – I shall stop my song now. Much to consider, much to do. And much I will no doubt put off til later. Only thing is, I can’t wait too long. Cuz stuff that currently smells bad tends to get even funkier the longer it’s left unattended…

 

Low Gear September 13, 2013

After awaking from a scant five hours of sleep this morning, I wondered how it was that I’d make it through the day. Elihu had a classmate coming home from school with him today, his bass needed to be picked up at the music store, and I desperately needed various necessities, from chicken feed to toilet paper. Plus I still had to put in my shift at school. Man, I didn’t see how I was going to get all of it done. We’d been plowing through our first full week of school and my new schedule in high-energy mode. And now, after last night’s outing at the school, it just seemed that there wasn’t anything left. Yet on came life, to-do lists and playdates, without pause. After putting the kettle on I laid down on the couch and closed my eyes, trying to glean some refreshment from twenty seconds of rest. I took a couple of breaths, then got up to resume the morning.

Elihu had awakened on his own – a surprise to me after all that late-night rabble rousing. (He’d even jumped on the trampoline for another ten minutes after we got home last night in order to ‘get out the last of his energy’. Seems all my energy stays on in whirling eddies of endless thought… Wish I had a mental trampoline to expend all of that before bedtime. Might help with my chronic difficulty sleeping.) This morning he was cheerful and our breakfast was a lovely start to the day. We let the chickens out, got in the car and headed off to school. On the way we passed several neighbors out jogging. We waved to each other as we usually do. A few minutes passed, then Elihu said from the back seat “Mama, I’d like you to be in as good shape as Mr. Stewart.” The sixth grade teacher was known to all the younger kids as being the only grownup who joined the kids in their play – making Thursdays extra special by playing tag with them. I thought about the quick movements, the sprinting involved and did a quick assessment of my current condition. I remembered as a kid, hell, as a young adult even, thinking that only wimps – people who’d lazily given in to age – lost their speed and agility. While I’d never been a particularly fast or agile kid, I was able to move in certain ways that I just don’t think I’m able to right now. “No one’s in as good shape as Mr. Stewart” I retorted, trying to dodge the real issue. I thought about it for a minute. “But I know what you mean. I do. I know, sweetie, I need to move.” A bit more quiet passed, then Elihu suggested “Just walk up to the Brown’s. That’s not far. It won’t seem like a big deal at all. Just do that today.” I did a little scan of my body, of my mental fortitude, and felt I could easily do that to get things going. I agreed. He had his homework each day – not a bad idea that I might have a little challenge on my plate too.

These past few years I’ve been feeling just too overwhelmed and busy to find time to move. I tell myself that my situation is exceptional, that I have every reason not to exercise. And maybe I do. But so too do the other folks that I see jogging down Braim Road. Yeah, in fact they’ve likely got more responsibilities than I do; work loads involving people and paper and rules – stuff that I’ve spent a lifetime deftly avoiding – and they’ve likely got more stress in their lives than I do. Ok, so maybe they’re not single-parenting a young child, but they’ve got other work, other issues. And somehow they make time. Every time I see one of them passing on the road, I have to ignore a tiny voice deep inside that scolds me for not at least trying. So today, as soon as I got home from driving Elihu to school, I went for a walk.

I was grateful for my new hiking boots – they’d give me some needed stability. (I had bought them in anticipation of a long-awaited trek we’d planned for this fall that would involve steep grades and would wind its way to an off-the-trail site deep in the woods known locally as Devil’s Den. Maybe not a big deal to the me of twenty years ago, these days I felt I needed correct footwear before endeavoring to make the hike.) Thankfully, the annoying bugs of summer were mostly gone – in spite of recent tropical heat. It was finally cool out, and sunny too. I simply could not have hoped for a better day. The conditions had stripped me of every excuse. It was time.

I set out, crunching my way down the new driveway. The scent of the woods hit me. I could smell the ferns, the damp of the forest floor, the turning leaves, the cool, ancient stones. The road is always different when you’re moving slow, and I marveled at the things I could see now that I was moving at a walking pace. I found several dead frogs, a few different species of em (and I told them each I was sorry for their tragic end and said a little blessing for them as I passed). I saw a mourning dove on the wire above me. Frightened at my approach, she would fly to a spot only a few feet further down the line to escape. Silly bird, she continued thusly for a good part of my walk. While I sometimes see the crimson males swooping over the road as I drive (strangely, we don’t get cardinals at our feeders) I was happily surprised to see a female cardinal above my head on the wire, flicking her tail. Came upon the now decomposed remains of a porcupine and a raccoon that had both been hit sometime mid summer. They were now mostly skeletons – only quills, whiskers and rubbery noses remained. I gathered up the jawbone and some teeth of the raccoon and put it in my shirt pocket to bring home for Elihu.

While I slowed to notice the creatures in my path, I was always mindful of keeping my pace. And on the way back I began to feel it; the grade in our area is deceptive – hills are gradual and hardly noticeable – especially when you’re going down. But the way back was all a slow increase in grade, and I began to feel it in my body. I felt my muscles warm up, my feet grip the road, my whole body engage to support my progress. I hadn’t felt my body in a long time, and I was surprised to find I was glad of it. The brief walk down the hill to the garden and back up again was the extent to my workout routine these days. This slight increase in grade wasn’t terribly hard, so therefore I was able to give myself to it. To push into it and become aware of my body. It felt good. But would I manage to do this again? Every day even? I decided not to worry about it, but rather be glad that I’d finally done it at all. The driveway was still going uphill. I felt my butt muscles working, my thighs, my arms swung to assist and I swear that even my back got in on the act. Clearly, I was starting all over with this moving thing. Years ago I regularly participated in races – 5Ks and 10Ks – up and down hills far steeper than this… I felt a bit wimpy about celebrating such a thing as walking up my driveway.

But hey, everything has to start small. And to get into high gear, you gotta put in low gear first. So wish me luck.