On my extremely rational mind

So you know that I have been trying very hard to learn how to relax, which isn’t easy WHEN THE FATE OF THE FREE WORLD DEPENDS ON YOU, or at least, you know, someone has to buy the groceries around here. It is a curious fact of my life how often these two things feel exactly the same. (Yes, I know they are not. I’m just saying.)

So my buddy Debz did another of her famous guided meditations this summer. You remember Debz:
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Debz has an amazing capacity to believe in things she can’t even see, which we know is a capacity I do not possess, but I am willing to imagine things, and she is willing to help me out.

So she always starts out with us imagining that we are going through a gate or a portal or some such, and the first step is to look at the gate. This time mne was a big plastic button, and I had a conversation with myself about how a button is not a gate, but I rarely listen to anyone, including me, and when the time came to go through the gate, I pushed the button and then the world I was in blew up, which was unexpected, and also possibly a cautionary tale about pushing big white buttons.

So I fell in a shower of stardust into a new country. I landed in gemstones with rubies and sapphires and emeralds. I do like sparkly things.

Debz wanted us to think of this world as a fairy-tale land and to look around and see the creatures there.

“One of them is your spirit guide,” she said, “and when you’re back in your reality you’ll see it all around you.”

So I saw a dragon, but since dragons don’t exist in my reality, I knew that couldn’t be it.

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(Those are supposed to be scales on the dragon, but it looks like he is wearing a sweater vest. I sort of love the idea of my dragon wearing a sweater vest.)

Anyway, dragons don’t exist so I went looking around for a creature that does. There was a winged horse, and that was cool, but the horse wasn’t my spirit guide because of course winged horses don’t exist in my reality either. So I asked the winged horse if it was there to bring me to the other spirit guide and the horse was all, “Your spirit guide is RIGHT THERE, you ninny.”

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So I went eyeball to eyeball with the dragon. He belched flame.

Now, the last time a quantum creature belched flame I got all worried about touching him and ended up getting burned anyway, so this time I thought, “Aha! The lesson here is to understand the flame cannot hurt me!”

But then the dragon curled his claws around me, brought me into the shelter of his wing, and said, “You are supposed to get out of the way of fire! What kind of idiot are you?”

Whatever.

So I looked up at the dragon and said, “You don’t exist in my reality, so how can you be my spirit guide?” whereupon—and in an extremely annoyed fashion—he burst into ten thousand pieces, a bunch of lizards scurrying around.

“Better?” he asked.

Ha, ha.

 

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So as we were winding down, Debz said to look for our spirit guide in the real world. The next week, I went on vacation with Jessica, and what did I find? That South Florida teems with tiny lizards. “It must be a sign!” I thought.

The second evening we were there, a black-and-white cat trotted by with one of the lizards, now dead, in its mouth. I found it a somewhat disconcerting experience.

It was probably also a sign, although I haven’t got the slightest clue what it means. Stop looking for signs in the world, maybe. That’s not where someone like me will ever find them.

On where the time goes

So I was on a roll, posting to my blog regularly, and then I hit one of those patches. You know the kind.

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So I will have some stories. You know there are always stories.

But for right now, I wanted to share happiness. Jessica’s new website is up and looks beautiful. I know she would love it if you would take a peek at her beautiful work.

Also, if you sign up for my newsletter, which has now become our newsletter because Jessica has awesome things to talk about, too, you might be able to win your very own piece of Jessica’s glass in an upcoming contest. That’s if I can convince her to donate some work to the cause. The newsletter signup is right there on the homepage.

Love, Jennifer

At the coffee shop

The summer is winding down, and Jessica and I are at the coffee shop. I have given up any idea that I will get any work done here, because she will want to hang out, which means asking a lot of questions about how things work and watching all of the people.

She asks for a Coke Zero from the fridge, and the barista explains that in order to have the Coca-Cola refrigerator, they have to have some Coke in it, but he never sells any so he doesn’t know how much to charge.

Eventually we agree on a fair price and he makes my mocha with almond milk, steaming hot the way I like it, in a pint glass, sprinkles no whip, and I realize I have become one of those people who can’t just drink a damned cup of coffee. I’ve become a pain in the ass.

I tip the barista extra but can’t figure out how to turn back into someone who isn’t a pain in the ass. I am thinking of this as Jess and I head for a bench outside. A big green awning keeps the worst of the sun’s sting from us, but it is late summer in Kansas. I look at my steaming drink and wonder what the hell. The fridge had two Coke Zeroes in it, but I’ve got hot coffee in my hand on a ninety degree day.

This is the kind of thing that is occupying my attention when Jessica says, “I’m freaked out.”

She announces it calmly. She announces everything calmly, not like me, but I can see, now that she has gotten my attention, that she is vibrating with worry. She sits down next to me, and I open her can and she takes a swallow.

She has some medical tests coming up, for which she will be under anesthesia, and the older she gets the more stressed she becomes about the potential results of these tests. They often mean more surgery, and they always mean more pain, and I wish . . . well, the things I wish.

I was not expecting this conversation here on the bench outside the coffee shop in the summer sun. I don’t know why we can’t have them at home, where maybe I might be prepared for them, or at least not blinking sweat out of my eyes.

But I get it together, and try to think of what to say. I start with, “I know,” trying to say that I understand her frustrations. “I know you don’t like—”

No,” she says with such intensity that I shut up. “Listen,” she says. “I am afraid I will not wake up again.”

I don’t know what to do with this or what to say. If she had said she doesn’t like how upset her stomach feels afterward, or how sore her throat is from the tube they always place so she doesn’t stop breathing the way she did that one time, I would have an answer. I would have We’ll bring some graham crackers for your tummy or I’ll get some cold Sprite for your throat, but for this I have nothing. I don’t even have I know because I don’t; I had no idea she is afraid of dying.

“You’ve always woken up before,” I say, one of my more feeble efforts, and I don’t even have to see the sharp shake of her head to know it is not the right thing. But there are no right things. You’ll be fine, everything will work out, no worries, those are all just lies, the bullshit that we say to each other because we do not want to sit with this. If anyone knows that sometimes life isn’t fine and everything doesn’t work out, it’s Jessica.

But I have an out, an escape hatch, and I grab it with both hands.

“I can find out if you can do the tests without anesthesia,” I say. “They’ll be hard without it but I can tell the doctor how important this is to you and I’m sure he’ll try.”

“When will you call?”

“As soon as we get home.”

“Okay,” she says. “Yes, that is what I want.”

“You bet,” I say.

I know I have only postponed the reckoning. There will be a time, I don’t know how soon, when I can’t offer a solution like this, and I don’t know what I will say to her then. It will happen on a day like today, while I am contemplating nail polish colors at the drugstore or reading the list of ingredients on a package of crackers at the grocery store.

I know now that it is coming but it will still take me by surprise when it gets here, and I hope I will do the right thing then. I have no idea what the right thing could be. All these years and I have never learned how to be Jessica’s mother except as the moment demands.

She rests her head against my shoulder and I stroke her hair.

“I hope it is okay with you,” she says.

“Of course, darlin’ girl. I’m not the one who has to go through this.” I just have to watch. I have always just had to watch.

“And you will make the nurses say 1,2,3.”

“Of course,” I say. She always watches when the nurses put the needles in. 1, 2, 3, they say and go. She always needs to know who is in the room and what their names are and what they will do and how they will do it.

“I just . . . you know,” she says.

“Want to see it coming. I know. I’ll do my best, darlin’,” I tell her, and I see that she has given me the right answer for when the time comes.

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On how we explain things

So the other day I got an unexpected check in the mail, and I went out and squandered it on a food processor and a Dustbuster. The nineteen-year-old who still lives in my brain was appalled that this is what I would do with a hundred bucks because she would have bought some great shoes and hitched a ride to SXSW to spend it there. But I digress.

I am not a person who vacuums, ever, but I got the Dustbuster because of all the sand that had collected in my car and was scratching up my shoes. They are not the great shoes I wore when I was nineteen and hadn’t yet blown out my knees practicing martial arts, but I was still annoyed enough by the scratches to actually think, “You know, if I vacuumed out the car, this wouldn’t happen.”

To vacuum out the car would require finding the vacuum, lugging it out of wherever I stuck it when I moved in here five years ago, trying to get the attachments to attach and like that. Every time I thought about it I had to go lie down.

But the check came and the idea of getting a small handheld vacuum for the car popped into my head, and without considering my other options (I could have bought books! I could have bought wine!) I headed to Target and became the proud possessor of a Dustbuster. (Also the food processor, but this isn’t a story about the food processor.)

So I vacuumed up the sand, and the Dustbuster worked exactly as I wanted it to, and as I emptied the canister into the trash, I realized that I had sucked up a little bug, a small black beetle. The beetle was still alive, although somewhat befuddled by his experience.

And it occurred to me that this was going to be a hell of a story for him to tell his beetle friends:

“I was just sitting there, in that spot under the seat, you know the one? Where there’s that french fry? When suddenly I heard a noise like a screaming chainsaw!

“Before I could react, I was sucked up in a whirling wind of sand and dust, thrown into a prison of clear Plexiglass, and tumbled about in circles for what seemed like forever!

“Then it went deathly quiet. The wind stopped howling. The prison was opened and I was dumped into an abyss that smelled a lot like that Dumpster we used to hang out at. You know the one? It took forever to crawl out of that pit of despair and return home.”

And you know that none of his beetle friends will actually believe he was abducted by aliens. And if you were to tell the beetle that he’d been accidentally sucked up by a Dustbuster wielded by a woman wearing a darling pink T-shirt, he would think you were out of your mind.

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Dojo Wisdom for Writers, now available! And don’t forget Jessica Starre’s newest release, Lessons in Magic!