Is that manic or depressive?

Today felt good. I think. I’m not sure.  I either interacted with the world in a deeply engaged way or I’m developing nervous tics to handle stress. Or both.

It's not bipolar. It's chimera!

It’s not bipolar. It’s chimera!

Butter and I dropped Peanut at school and went for a walk in the rain. I felt sunshine through the thin, grey, stacked clouds that snotted on us all day. Butter clung to me in the backpack, randomly snuggly today in ways that Almost Four resists in its developmental Need to Be Independent and Competent and Separate.

I liked it.

We wandered through the throngs of difference in downtown Berkeley—old and young, punk and granola, homeless and wealthy, tidy and filthy. I bought my little guy a bagel and a homeless woman some orange juice. I helped my Butterbean understand when he pointed out a man’s brightly colored, patchwork pocketed pants that no, those weren’t dirty and old pants, those are art. The young man wearing those carefully-crafted and well-worn pants (and the shirt with the large hole and the many face piercings and the giant chip on his shoulder) smiled at me and thanked me. I explained quietly to Butter that we can always talk later about what we see, but that talking about how somebody looks isn’t polite because it might make them feel bad even if we’re just curious. Then the impeccably-groomed college student getting Butter his bagel asked if I was aware that I had a small child on my back and I made them both laugh by trying to look behind me, asking, “Where?! Where?!” with great concern.

I carried my little carbohydrate fiend past a police barricade because I never saw it, focused instead on humanity today, making eye contact and noticing how simultaneously disjointed and alive the city felt. A stocky  man with a small face moved into my path and gently gestured, “stop, head back, cross, and go around” as he told me softly that the street was closed and he’d prefer that I please head back to an intersection and cross. I barely noticed his neon yellow vest and police uniform but I clearly saw his shiny apple cheeks and his wide brown eyes. I spun around and headed back, passing the barricade I’d missed. A few feet away from the barrier an unshaven man dressed all in black slumped into a corner and ran his hand through his unwashed grey hair as he said to me, “dead person.”

I looked at him and he looked at his fingernails.

Oh.

And I thought about that choice of words. Not “body.” Person. I thought about that reality and the half a block of thick public concrete and red curbs and parking meters and tall, caged trees blocked off for private police use. I noticed that the homeless were clustered in groups of four on every corner for blocks in both directions. This might have been a suicide or a homicide but was likely the routine expiration of a homeless neighbor from exposure or malnutrition or unresolved medical issues.

And they were aware—the police and the acquaintances. And I was now vaguely aware, but not really. And my preschooler was not aware. That’s true of much of life, isn’t it, that there’s a spectrum of connection and awareness. The circle of those you know and the wider circle of those you know less well overlap the circles of awareness borne of age and experience. Exposed lives versus sheltered lives versus young lives? That’s not the right way to define awareness. Because we know a homeless family with two small children. Do their kids know all the things these homeless adults do? Probably not. Are they witness to the street version of life or the child version of life or something in between?

My friend’s impending death won’t attract yellow police tape or the private use of a public space or gawking passersby. But his friends are gathered, too, communing. Huddled in support, not on street corners and not out of curiosity.

Today was a process of going, not unlike other days. Movement, journey, development. The day progressed and everything with a heartbeat did, too, whether the breathing and blinking felt like progress or not. And for some reason my progress today involved connection. Looking into eyes, gently touching arms as I passed, smiling. And asking questions. I stopped to ask the work crew what their truck was called (never seen a drilling rig with a mud rotor and never knew soil samples were taken this way). I asked the Goodwill clerk why they don’t sell baby gates to keep kittens out of handi-accessible bathrooms and whether she had enough help keeping the store as nice as she does (liability, and no, but she’s glad I noticed how hard she works). I asked the security guard outside Bank of America if there was actually any threat to BofA or if they were still making a statement about the lengthy Occupy Wall Street protests (not allowed to talk about security issues but have a nice day). I asked my back-bound lump of Butter what he thought about the varied art we saw in store windows.

I talked to my son who was still patiently snuggling me and his bagel, four miles into the walk, about the typewriter store and the traffic patterns and the balloon animals we were going to make when we got home.

Maybe constant verbal patter is my shield. Maybe what keeps me from noticing the dead persons and dying persons is nervous chatter. Perhaps I’m particularly engaged today because I’m anxious.

But what’s there to be anxious about? Death and homelessness and illness and loneliness and the thin threads that keep us from becoming unrecognizable to ourselves?

Well, that’s just silly. Why should that make me nervous?

Allow me to leave you with today’s soothing balloon giraffes.

IMAG4729

If those freakishly disproportionate bubble creatures don’t fix existential panic, I don’t know what will.

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Well, now, that explains a lot.

Existential crises call for desperate measures. So do two major moves in two months. At naptime today, therefore, I pulled out the Feng Shui book (yay for reclaiming my books and yay for Ohmega Salvage’s awesome collection of recycled craftsman built-in bookcases and yay for sixteen boxes of books unpacked and out of my freaking way) to see if it could fix my life.

Now, I have no idea what I’m doing when it comes to Feng Shui. Can’t even pronounce it, though I try hard. And I don’t know if it works. But I know it feels, in a desperate “clinging to guns and religion” way, like I have control of the uncontrollable if I have tall rectangles in the east and round metal accents in the west. It’s one of those “can’t hurt, might help, just don’t tell anyone you know or they’ll laugh at you then have you taken off their ‘call when in need of rational and logical help with personal dilemmas’ list” kind of things.

So today’s discoveries put into perspective a few, um, issues in my life. First, we keep finding houses where our money and romance are figuratively in the toilet. This is the third residence in which our bathroom sits squarely in the west, the tiny corner of our universe in which our income and lovin’ ought flow. Instead, there’s a steady stream of waste, dirt, crayons, and nonsense flowing down the drain. Explains mucho about the continued ease with which we lose what little money we have.  [Thanks financial sector a–holes. Like being a stay-at-home mom wasn’t detrimental enough to my future retirement. In 2054 I’m finally gonna have to break our Wal-Mart boycott so I can get a job as a greeter and support myself in the squalor to which I’ve become accustomed.

So my money and my marriage are in the crapper. (Sorry, Spouse. But you saw it coming in the wedding ring fungus, didn’t you? It was nice while it lasted. But the feng shui book says our love’s being flushed down the drain, dude. And you know that if I read it in a book, it’s the law. So plan on having dwindling affection and interest soon…oh, the ring around my finger under the ring around my finger already did that? You’re creeped out by a little rash on my third finger? Well, It’s you’re fault it’s there. Yes it is. Yes, it is. Yes. It is. Are you hearing me? Yes it is. Don’t pull out your logic with me, Mister. Fine, it’s your fault our money and marriage sector is in the bathroom. No I didn’t. No, I didn’t. No. I didn’t. True, but that’s because…I’m done with this. No, the garage isn’t in our marriage sector. Oh, ha ha. Yeah, maybe if you’re in there things WILL get better. Bah.)

Just after that eight direction, nine ki number pronouncement that we’re poor and nasty to each other because of the sewer placement, I found this lovely tidbit:

“Maybe, for example, you find that you are edgy, irritable, and tense quite a lot of the time….It would be wise to avoid spending a great deal of time in [the north-east and south] of your home. If possible, position your bedroom in the west where chi energy is more settled and contented.”

Hmmm. So I should stay out of the living room, dining room, and bedroom, and sleep in the shower? Makes perfect sense. My irritability doesn’t stem from 32 months of interrupted sleep and full daylight hours focus on a wild, strange, and often irrational creature. I’m not cranky because I’m having trouble adjusting to a reality where my life is not my own, my time is not my own, and six of my greatest hopes and dreams are on hold for the honor of raising a loving and caring human being. Nope. It’s ‘cuz I live in a house where the dining room makes me “feel on edge”  and “impatient,” the entryway makes me “tired from lack of rest,” and the bedroom leads to “slow progress in career.”  So I need a house without a north-east, east, south-east, south-west, and west. I’ll bet I can get a good rate on renting a piece of paper, because it’s the only two-dimensional structure I know that will eliminate those issues.

The bigger problem? The placement of my son’s room apparently makes me “overly controlling of others.” Oh, yeah, that‘s the problem. ‘Cuz I’ve existed on that plane since, well, since…oh, yeah. 1972. I don’t think there’s a crystal or mirror remedy for that one, feng shui friends. It would seem that I exist in a vortex where there is only northwest. Mmm. Maybe it’s good we didn’t pick Portland. I might have exploded from the vortex created between my need to control and my relative powerlessness. Or I would have had 17 cats. ‘Cuz they listen, right?

Tell you what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna embrace my inner incomplete task, my perpetual on edge, my tiredness from lack of rest (I’m sorry, how is that not a cause and effect clause all unto itself? Do you really need a room in the wrong quadrant of the compass to be tired from lack of rest? Is there anyone who is revived from lack of rest? If so, will they take over nights at our house, with nightmare-y kid and attachment parenting central, and cats who yowl for people to come to them instead of seeking heat and food themselves? And, while you’re at it and up at 3am anyway, for all the other perfectly normal children in the world who don’t sleep well until they are three or four? ‘Cuz there are a bunch of them, and that one bastard who’s thriving on lack of rest really owes the rest of us.)

So call me, rested person. We need to put you in my bedroom while I sleep off my marital fungus and controlling irritability in the bathroom.

In the midst of flipping through the book to find cheap solutions to increase tree energy and decrease me energy throughout the house, I found a lovely little gem: the chart of prevailing influences for the year and position of my nine ki number. And with a little math I realized that this year’s existential crisis is not due to an inbalance in my needs, nor an extended, yet normal transition mothers experience in which they new and different priorities smash violently into old happiness and self-actualization. No, no. I’m having a tumultuous year because it’s part of a universal cycle. Like the Fourth Turning, only on a personal level. So this is like another Strauss and Howe Crisis season and ancient Chinese centre year. Yeah. See, for people born Feb 5ish through the following Feb 4ish of 1918, 1927, 1936, 1945, 1954, 1963, 1972, 1981, 1990, and 1999, this is a uncomfortablly flux-y year. Like your chi has gas. One of those “put off decisions ‘cuz you’re in for a whirlwind of changes and nothing will be the same next year” kind of years. Oooooh. Yes. I see.

Next year is a year to plan and organize. No point in that now. 2010 is for romance (fungus gone, maybe?). 2011 is for ambition. 2012 is for passion. 2013 is for studying. 2014 is for progress. 2015 is for starting something new. 2016 is for more progress. See? in eight years I’ll be making some progress. Gee. That’s all I needed. To be reassured that it’ll only take a decade. Ah. All better.

Except that I’ll have a teenager in my house. Not sure that bodes well for progress, but we’ll see.

Thanks feng shui. For the new sleeping place and the new outlook. I’ll have several books published, a PhD, a new job, and some sex by 2016. All I needed was a plan mass-produced with absolutely no knowledge of my life other than my birthday. How wonderful to know that, like, 10% of us are having a crappy-ass year but have nine years to go before it happens again. Yay. Feng shui, you’re the best. Remind me to get a crystal to hang over my calendar. ‘Cuz we have another couple of months of Indecision 2008.