It seems everything is taking more time than it should. The wheels turning slowly. The system gummed up. If my life has been like this before, I am not sure I noticed it in this way. But I am trying to accept this. At least for now.

I was listening to a Radiolab podcast the other day about how lithium works in the body. How the salt mimics and replaces the normal sodium in the brain. But lithium is less efficient and it slows the connections of the neuropathways. The thing is, I don’t feel like I am going slower. The world is slower – and more stubborn. I am fine.

Really.

I move through downward dog and upward dog easily but feel my hamstring taught and dangerous in a side lunge. Breathe. Count on exhalations. Give in, while extending in all directions. Yoga is all about contradictions, about holding several truths at once while trying to find a comfortable equanimity. In out the stillness in-between all flowing together.

Stay in the present. Yes, but on the other hand, there is a query deadline on Sunday and packing to do for next week. Reviews and newsletters and housework. And everything feels as choked and sticky as my hamstring. And if I can’t rush through it, I just want to hop off. I am struggling to hold both truths, and leaning toward either/or. Or nothing: I want to pour a glass of wine and watch soap operas. I tell myself I deserve it. As though life should be like that: work and rewards in turn. Rewards like those flimsy gold foil stars that teachers would stick on our foreheads in elementary school. Making us feel proud and ridiculous in turns. I wanted one, and I didn’t. At any rate, they’d fall off before we got home to show the grown-ups.

I didn’t have the kind of grown-ups around who would fuss over gold stars, or even say things like “work is its own reward”. I had “that’s nice, but stay in your lane” grown-ups. But part of me has always wanted the gold stars. External rewards only abstractly connect to an actual achievement, because there’s no risk involved that way. Really being seen is dangerous.

A gold star is just a little shot of dopamine. A bit of chocolate. A glass of wine. And then it’s over. No vulnerable hopes, no expectations, no disappointments. Just a bit of pleasure. And back to work. The baseline is familiar and easy.

But I am beginning to think that tiny wins can be like pebbles in a jar. Over time, they can add up, overflow the jar and fill the whole room. Maybe the trick is to get to the point where holding a pebble, running a finger along the pocked surface, measuring its weight cupped in a palm, is as satisfying as chocolate. But more enduring.

These things – foil stars, chocolate, pebbles – mean what we decide they mean. Maybe it is possible that we are continually being rewarded by the world for just being here. If only we’d only take the time to look closely.

And breath in a continous flow.

Leonard is stretched out on the floor next to me.

And barking at the neighbor’s voices squeezing in through the windowsill. His concern is unconvincing. I suppose it’s nice that he feels a sense of duty.

He hasn’t moved in a half an hour.

I expect this morning’s exceptional walk along the trail was too much for his hound-sized brain. I still can’t run with this achilles tendon, so we walked this morning and took him with us. There were more exciting smells than he knew what to do with. The trail used to frighten him, so this was a big deal. He’s getting over whatever trauma he had as a pup. Slowly.

I didn’t smell stoat this morning, but I am sure Leonard did. Birds don’t interest him, but anything small and furry, or small and spikey does. Some evenings I have to play the guardian of the hedgehog while he does his business in the front yard.

I wanted to say “garden”. The front garden. As though that were a real thing in my life. Garden goes with words like cottage, and teapot. I have an A-frame house built in the 1970s and an electric water cooker. I have a mossy yard with half-hearted flower beds and derelict greenhouses. I wrote neglected first. But derelict relieves me of responsibility.

Time. I think the reason I spend so much of it trying to understand what it is, is because I do waste it. Or spin in place as it passes. All these “free” hours open up like sinkholes in the days. They don’t feel like freedom. They feel free of substance, actually. And inescapable.

Some days I can only get the work done when there is no time in which to do it. To get outside with a plan of some sort. To get upstairs and work with the paints. To fold the damned laundry.

Instead, I have an open afternoon – another open afternoon – and sit here brooding. And chiding myself when E. can hear me.

And it is not very convincing.

the grey heron sleeps
in the reeds-keeps her distance
eye on the canoes


My memory has always been poor. I’m assuming that is what can happen when people in your life rewrite your stories for you from early childhood. I was familiar with the term “gaslighting” before it became a buzzword a few years ago.

At least I think I was. I know I’d seen the film with Angela Landsbury when I was young enough to be deeply unsettled by her — or her character’s — sexuality.

I’ve moved so often over the years, time is vaguely divided in my mind into chapters of “where I was living then”. So those mornings, in that house, when the kids’ heads could still be nestled under my armpit I woke fully conscious and fully unaware of who I was. It only happened twice. Not two mornings in a row, but close enough together that I carried a seed of panic for months. I was then still statistically too young for early-onset Alzheimer’s. But I wondered, and sometimes still do if it was a glimpse of things to come.

It was such a specific experience, lasting more at least a minute, that I still wonder if experiences like these are the source of people’s belief in reincarnation. I lay perfectly still and “sorted through” my mind to find my gender, my age, my situation: oh, yeah, I have children, two — just tall enough to fit under my armpits in side hugs.

I wasn’t overwhelmed with emotion during those lost moments. I was curious. At first. It felt as though I’d woke underwater and could see the light at the surface. But while swimming upward, I felt a growing fear that I may not reach the surface soon enough. What if I didn’t break through?

I’ve never talked to a doctor about these experiences. I figure now that I’d been dreaming. I’ve googled of course, but search results always mention “confusion.” I didn’t experience confusion. I felt remarkably clear, actually… just very far away.

I pull up these experiences now when I consider my meditation practice. Despite prevailing psychology theories, this is my conscious self detached entirely from narrative. Even the idea that this awareness was/is a dream-self is itself a narrative consciously placed on the experience.

In these moments the whole of my awareness was the “I”, watching the experiencing self — or in these two instances, searching for the experiencing self.

Swimming upward.

When I sit in meditation, I have to be careful. I have to guide myself to avoid hallucinations and other kinds of associative traps. I begin with the image of water. Blue (the air here is white*).

When I was small we would — or we did — camp in the desert and swim in springs. I remember once being tossed naked into a dark pool and feeling the cold current pushing against my feet, my legs, while the water around my torso was still and warm. I remember having the choice of where to put my attention.

I panicked. I kicked at the cold, I screamed: it got me nowhere.

I’ve found lately that there is a reason for pulling up memories. I’m beyond hope of uncovering objective truths, or even causes/consequences. I’ve given up on healing childhood traumas through memoir, but I’m convinced that it is possible that every incident tucked away — in sensual detail — in my mind is a metaphor for… everything.


*This is not at all in accordance with Buddhist symbolism, but it is in accordance with the Jæren landscape and relevant to my personal experience.