29 February 2016

With February ending I note with wonder that I had only five sick days and these at the beginning of the month right after the RTX treatments. But shhh, keeping fingers crossed.
My gums are shot to pieces, the inside of my nostrils a bloody battlefield, but what do I care. I cycled for an hour yesterday afternoon, icy wind from all sides, clear skies reflected in the swampy puddles of the forest and the birds heckling from their hiding places high up.
My inner balance is all over the place. There are so many good things to look forward to, visitors, travel, decisions, and I have stopped getting emotional about the teeny tiny damp spot in the basement. Instead, I cried over Leo's oscar speech, while R spent his weekend plastering and painting the walls of a former hospital together with Syrian refugees who are living there now, four to a room. Very polite people, gentle to a fault, he tells me.

22 February 2016

There will be spring.

All morning the cranes have come back in their large noisy v-shaped formations. The sky looks so benign all of a sudden. The dawn chorus is a glorious racket and for a while, I feel that everything is as it should be.

21 February 2016

Once again I am appalled, embarrassed, frustrated and horrified about the political debates I have been witnessing. The way these men in their bespoke suits strut up to the waiting cameras after another night of negotiating their pole positions in the endless power game (how do they keep awake? speed? cocaine?). Do we in all seriousness want to argue that over 500 million European citizens are unable to cope with two or three million refugees, that we are overstretched? That the burden is too much? It frightens me how politicians treat human beings fleeing from war, political persecution or poverty like annoying flotsam that can be piled up somewhere far away hoping that it will vanish all by itself. Just as long as we don't have to care.
Oh shit. There is no refugee crisis, there is a European irresponsibility crisis.

15 February 2016

The rich people are doing so well (...). I mean, we never had it so good.
It's class warfare, my class is winning (...).
Warren Buffett 2005

The global inequality crisis is reaching new extremes. The richest 1% now have more wealth than the rest of the world combined. Power and privilege is being used to skew the economic system to increase the gap between the richest and the rest.
Oxfam 2016 

Charity is the drowning of rights in the cesspit of mercy.
Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi approx. 1825 

Today, I am angry.

13 February 2016

don't talk about this in public

Usually on a Saturday I exchange emails with my sister, about the weather and our gardens and husbands, anything worth mentioning from work and our father's latest adventures, maybe a bit about our latest doctor's visits. We pretend to get on well but never have
Secretly, I think that for both of us this is the subconscious continuation of all our failed communication efforts with our mother.  The thing is, if I don't write she gets worked up worrying about my miserable health and will have sleepless nights and it will be All My Fault. And that of course, is just another subconscious continuation of my vast scope of guilty feelings (of which I have truckloads).  We both know, our sharpest weapon is the purposeful generation of guilt.
Without getting too nasty here, I must add that she gets enormous mileage from my being ill. On the rare occasions when I meet any of her friends, they are usually amazed that I walk and talk and look pretty normal. The heavens only know what she tells them. 

My family, the one I grew up in, has not been a happy one. Strange as it may sound, it feels good to be able to write this and I have also said it out loud and in company. And for this and many more sins I must have committed since I moved away and failed to return, I am not included in the inner circle and rarely get invited to the various family dinners and celebrations. But as a rule, I am told about them well in advance and afterwards with details about food and wine and the glowing lists of recent shiny achievements of my blood relatives.

Over the years, this has become quite normal and I am sure by now they don't even realise how odd it is to be told that "the whole family" is going to or was having a great time celebrating this or that or whatever in great style.  

My friends, however, are outraged and furious that I am so lenient, while I try and convince them that this is just the way we are, That this family is clumsy, competitive, mean. That we know how to dish it out without noticing, that we have sharp elbows, are quick with a little slap here and there, but always so it doesn't show in the morning.

Anyway, this Saturday, I am not going to write that email. I am taking a break. Stuff happened. I try to sort it out in my mind and one minute it looks ridiculously minor and maybe just the usual daft and careless stuff, but then again, it gets bigger and nasty and rude and all that shit. 

10 February 2016

In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.

And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.
Albert Camus 

Today I remember that I always wanted to live by the sea and that when I eventually did, I failed to appreciate it as much as I should have. What was I thinking? Of course, I didn't think at all because I was young and life seemed endless and the Dun Laoghaire pier or Killiney beach on a rainy day? 
Not even the dogs liked it.
But, oh how I wish for the comfort of an open endless horizon by my side.

Meanwhile, R is saving another stack of ancient (25 yrs old) negatives from certain death and when I occasionally look over his shoulder, I get these little stabs of memory and delight. Yes, I was there, for a while, we lived in paradise, this is me crashing through the waves. It was as perfect as it looks.
And no, this is neither the Dun Laoghaire pier nor Killiney beach, this is a place called Anse Lazio.

08 February 2016

rainy grey stormy Monday, occasional bursts of brilliant sunlight

What is the nub of such a plain grey day?
Does it have one? Does it have to have one?
If small is beautiful, is grey, is plain?
Or rather do we sense withdrawal, veiling,
a patch, a membrane, an eyelid hating light?
Does weather have some old remit to mock
the love of movement, colour, contrast –
primitives, all of us, that wilt and die
without some gorgeous dance or drizzle-dazzle.
Sit still, and take the stillness into you.
Think, if you will, about the absences –
sun, moon, stars, rain, wind, fog and snow.
Think nothing then, sweep them all away.
Look at the grey sky, houses of lead,
roads neither dark nor light, cars
neither washed nor unwashed, people
there, and there, decent, featureless,
what an ordinariness of business
the world can show, as if some level lever
had kept down art and fear and difference and love
this while, this moment, this day
so grey, so plain, so pleasing in its way!
Let’s leave the window, and write.
No need to wait for a fine blue
to break through. We must live, make do.

06 February 2016

The love one has for a child (. . . ) is a singular love, because it is a love whose foundation is not physical attraction, or pleasure, or intellect, but fear. You have never known fear until you have a child, and maybe that is what tricks us into thinking that it is more magnificent, because the fear itself is more magnificent. Every day, your first thought is not "I love her" but "How is she?" The world, overnight, rearranges itself into an obstacle course of terrors. I would hold her in my arms and wait to cross the street and would think how absurd it was that may child, that any child, could expect to survive this life. It seemed as improbable as the survival of one of those late-spring butterflies - you know those little white ones - I sometimes saw wobbling through the air, always just millimetres away from smacking itself against a windscreen.

Hanya Yanagihara - A Little Life

(Despite this quote - which rings true to some extent -  I gave up on the book about two thirds through. I did a quick speed read to the end to find out whether there were any big revelations in store but no, more splendid marble-based interior design details, bespoke suits and handmade shoes, trips to India and select exclusive European destinations, excellent menu suggestions and all that predictable suffering and trauma. However, no time frame, no history, no world events, just a handful of men ageing in style and incredible wealth and professional success so it seemed, with an absurd one-centred concept of friendship and compassion. In the end I just had to stop in order to get rid of the taste in my mouth, like artificially sweetened cotton wool. 
That and reading it in bed made my arms ache.)

03 February 2016

drama queen

Yesterday, after I had done the slow crawl to my GP and back, after she had told me in her gentle voice to come to my senses and just rest for as long as it takes, while I was waiting in front of the microwave (never do that, R told me a long time ago, radiation and all) for the milk to heat up for my coffee, I could feel it coming from wherever it usually hides inside of me, the thing that we all have buried somewhere, and don't fool yourselves, you all have it, the thing that defines our existence, that makes us vulnerable and human, that in a flash can destroy all of our carefully fabricated order and meaning, yes, that nasty fear of death, I could feel it rumbling in my intestines, painfully expanding my chest and creeping up through my gagging throat into my head where it started to swirl around and around, with its booming hiss: what if this is it, are you ready?

And my eyes exploded in angry tears and I banged my fists on the microwave, shouting no, no, no, not yet. Piss off you bastard.

And then I had to clean the spilt milky coffee and before I knew it, I had washed the kitchen floor and only then did I start to rest for as long as it takes.

01 February 2016

Today is Imbolc or Lá Fhéile Bríde - the only feast day in my repertoire of rituals.
. . . a festival of the hearth and home, and a celebration of the lengthening days and the early signs of spring 
But I don't do any of the dipping my hands into the holy well stuff, not that there is a shortage of holy wells, this is catholic Rhineland, I don't cook special food (I don't cook that much anyway) and no prayers either, no bonfire to purify the air. No blackthorn in our garden.

I am just relieved that once again, the darker months are over and done with, that I am here, still in my shabby dressing gown, with a cup of lukewarm tea, washed up in one piece after another stormy weekend of vertigo and nausea, my ears ringing and booming, finding my bearings. Listening to Luka and the lovely Dublin crowd singing.

Luka Bloom, Don't be afraid of the light that shines within you