Adventures in Healing and Dogsitting
Katie Estes is a freelance designer, art director, photographer and stylist. She sometimes writes too.
Pictures compliment retrospect, everything makes sense after the fact, especially if you take a picture and color correct the memory. Things are brighter, guns are shinier. Sunsets remain a mere suggestion of their reality. Below is a lump of pictures that make it seem like I knew what I was doing while I was doing it.
Day Four. No Tylenol, no Guaifenesin, maybe some powdered witchcraft, but mostly torrents of phlegm exiting my face. I get these colds when I'm overwhelmed. Too much happening at once with no answers, paired with our little 3-legged heeler waking us up every day at 6 am, plagued by the same answerless questions. "What's that noise outside?" "I can't see, I can't see!" "Why aren't you awake yet, I've been barking for 10 whole minutes?"
I put the baby/pet gate up last night (same thing according to the people at Walmart) at the bottom of the stairs, uh huh I have stairs in this house, and it worked. No barking, no forceable quarantines in the softbox. When I woke up, questions were answered, my head cleared and I found myself experiencing that momentary calm when everything makes sense and everything will be fine forever. Amazing what sleep (and Valerian) can do.
Lingering of course is the knowledge that there will always be overwhelm, no matter how hard I try to excise all the tumors out of my life. I'll have another cold, I'll be stressed out, I'll be lost in the fog of indecision exactly when an important decision needs to be made. But right now it doesn't matter. Because I slept. And I'm drinking coffee.
This is where the triumphant music montage would kick in, reinforcing this statement. And because this is a blog with links and stuff, I'll do just that.
I love food. So much. I like cooking it too, but I didn't used to. Mostly because there was usually someone more skilled available, and then I couldn't make dainty lady food without meat. Sometimes I feel like this when it's time to cook, even though it will likely be cheaper and tastier if I don't go out. I've never mastered a pantry, never had space for something like that, or the ability to keep it stocked. Dinner comes from the store, usually because I just purchased it an hour before. Today, because I'm dog sitting in Land of Endless Pots n' Pans and Viking Stove, cooking is far less daunting. Also because I didn't visit any grocery stores today, bitches.
As follows, a recipe for thoughtless tasty meal:
Chick Peas from a can
Quinoa from the Costco bag bought two months ago
A shit ton of curry powder
More powders: turmeric, chimayo chili powder, cayenne, coriander and turmeric, because there is never, never too much turmy.
Sweat that shit! Make it soupy! Quinoa needs all the help it can get. This is actually quite filling for the lady dining alone. Lots of protein here. The beer as always, is optional but suggested.
Olga der hund.
Risa the dog.
Me and the fat white wolf.
We all make choices. Often we choose partner humans based off of too little information or some overtly external factor that makes our egos squeal. Or maybe the information is simply false; there is the tendency to perform in the beginning. When the watercolor thin veneer does start to run at the slightest hint of truth, you might wonder, what happened? I planned this so well.
The title here, credit belonging to the Melvins, lays things out pretty clearly, I'd like to think. How many Bad Men does it take to make a History? Five. It takes five. Five bad men make a history. It does not have to be consecutive, mind you. A good 18 years will give some fine perspective. Throw a few nice ones in there too, so you know the difference.
Some say sludge metal doesn't inspire the way, say, classical music inspires you to concentrate on your math homework. (Do they, Katie? Who says that?) I don't know, I read it somewhere once. But, I disagree. I find it has cleansing, healing properties; the ability to politely flush away the bad men, just like the used toilet paper they treated me like.
I would be grossly oversimplifying to say that this cleansing can be done in one Melvins song. Therefore I created a playlist for those suffering from the influence of Bad Men or heck, even the Bad Men themselves. Forewarning: this is for medicinal purposes only, these selections, based off of the 5 stages of grief, have the potential to make one feel...uncomfortable. Use as you see fit.
*Note that acceptance starts with Avail and has many more offerings. Skip straight there if that's where you are at.
This can all end one of two ways.
The first possibility is best described again with the lyrical help of the Melvins:
"I begged her to shoot me in the head
she took my gun and shot my leg instead.
The way she held my gun and looked at me with rage
told me that everything was OK and I survived."
You can work through that rage, with or without the gun, and find yourself a nice nurse who goes with you to the Emergi-Clinic on Valentines Day and charts out your six prescriptions for the next two weeks. Or maybe that's just me.
*Nurse not guaranteed.
Go to mountain.
(Do not alarm authorities.)
Let the mountain have it.
It's what they're there for.
Then take a shit ton of pictures.
The place I'm staying at has two comforters, right on top of each other, different duvet covers and everything. It's unbelievably fluffy. I feel like the yams roasting comfortably under a marshmallow topping. It's the perfect weight too, although I'd sleep under a bookshelf if someone would help me out in the morning.
I'm fairly off grid here in my temporary quarters, like camping, but not glamping. Like responsible isolation. It's been super cold, but I'm learning how to do that. At least I have my double comforter. And kimchi. Put kimchi in everything--eggs, tuna, rice--and everything is ok.
Take a picture of it!
I was driving across Texas, going 90 I'm sure, when I noticed that an outrageous sunset was setting up. Picture anxiety started to appear, my immediate thought being well sunsets last all of 15 minutes, so I'm already too late. Had I known sunsets in Texas last an hour and half, I would've calmed down a bit. I was armed with my phone, clicking away while driving, but the camera roll was already full of 17 identical windmill pictures in a not amazing pink and purple sky. Then that little dialogue box, "storage almost full" popped up, as it has been for the past year. Then the camera stalled with the blurry background, taunting me like maybe I'll let you take a picture, but I haven't decided yet. Nope. No more room, no camera for you.
So I anxiously deleted, decreasing my speed to a responsible 85. (If cruise control is on, I just go in the back and read a book.) Noticing that the sunset was actually getting better, I made a last minute decision to swerve off to an exit and unleash the big camera. Big Camera is such a source of anxiety. It's so powerful and I use it to about 25% of it's power, so more often than not I just keep it tucked away like that fancy coffee table book you don't want open or touch too much for fear of it actually looking, you know, used. I pulled over, got out without a jacket, the temperature dropped 40 degrees as I was driving, and shivered while setting up Big Camera. I had that mind argument with my camera that I'm sure other photographers have that goes something like, "why aren't you seeing what my eyes are seeing!!!" Or maybe good photographers just change their settings and patiently wait for the perfect photo. :)
Below is the best I got before retreating back inside to the heated seats. The sky melted into deep pinks, purples, blues, and finally into a fiery magenta as I hit Amarillo. Even though I stressed about not being able to properly capture exactly what my eyeballs recorded, I was able to enjoy the sky show quite a bit.
Sale cheese (hard or soft)
Jalapeno (without regard to heat potential. Chop and dump, seeds and all, deal with it later.)
Salted honey, oil, champagne vin, salt and pep for dressing
Mountauk Driftwood Ale
Cup of bone broth (optional)
Obviously the beer and broth are separate but advisable to drink in succession of each other. Broth first. (The link is for a 6-pack, beware, but very worth it.) Best eaten in front of laptop. (See pic.)
Everyone should take a Thanksgiving to themselves. No work, no loved ones, no travel, maybe a dog. Ok I'm talking about me. I'm taking a solo Thanksgiving, suspending reality for a good four days. I couldn't be more content. I've never been in the city for Thanksgiving, or alone, but I'm happy and it's quiet. So, so quiet. No Biggie, no Mariah, just birds. I'm grateful, I'm clearheaded, I can hear. After making the grits (see below,) all there is to do is walk the dog.
Well this is upsetting. I woke up fearful, a few times, from checking the results and then having nightmares of being followed. Trump Triumphs was likely the beginning of most people's mornings, followed by what happens now? I spent the past year voluntarily oblivious to the campaigns, but truly believing that hate and fear wouldn't prevail. Now that it has, I have a choice: continue to be afraid or offset the mania. Help. Help in any way possible. Plant a tree? Sure. Volunteer? Absolutely. If you're worried about what is going to happen, start with the why and apply it to everything you do.
I'm grateful to have spent the past weekend at Kripalu, where I was able to spend a lot of time and give a lot of space to the why. The mountains are much more receptive to such questions. I can hurl all my worry, all my stubbornness at them and they respond with comforting silence.
There, I watched a baby squirrel chase a momma squirrel through Swami Kripalu's leaf covered meditation garden. It was 45º and I sat for a little over a half hour. The squirrels circled over the crunching leaves, threatening at first to be a much larger animal. They darted across the stones and up a tree. The mother slowed to a stop as the baby continued some circles. Around one tree, then another, then directly towards me. He stopped abruptly three feet in front of me, and stared at me as if he wanted me too, to chase him up the tree. He moved his little squirrel paws one in front of the other, slowly inching closer and closer to me. He angled to the right and in a wide berth passed me and continued slowly up a nearby tree, his eyes on me the whole time.
A silent conversation with a squirrel gave me more hope than the newly elected president. We may be transitioning to a leadership with a devolved perspective of the world, but I simply choose to not operate from that frequency. And encourage all to do the same!
The past couple of years I've been living a life similar to a monk or hitman, depending on how you look at it. Or as I noticed when camping and only had two pots — it's just like at home! I have two pots, three really, because I ordered the wrong size and couldn't return it, so sometimes the tea pot has popcorn in it. Or vice versa. My washer is a dryer, and as we often joke, a urinal.
"I thought you had to pee?"
"I did, you were in the bathroom, so I used the urinal. Never seen one with a door!"
Everything has its purpose, preferably many. Little by little I've been adding luxuries like juicers and blankets and plants. I move so often I was looking at things in volume and weight and simply skipping the present. That's going to be a pain in the future so don't even bother now! This compounded by the stuff-packed apartments of the dog owner's I sit for. Stuff in place of substance. Stuff instead of feeling.
This is the first year in a few where I'm not planning on fleeing. I like the idea of my bed with the very heavy frame staying right where it is. My books at arm reach, seem happy to remain where they are too. Saves me the trouble of giving them away and then buying them again, another odd habit I've adopted.
The latest coincidence coursing through my life right now, as there are happily many, is one of "both." As in you don't have to give up ________ to have _________. I've always been a wholehearted believer in pick one, as noted in the rigid lifestyle. An argument between Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs in the movie Steve Jobs, says it well:
Wozniak: "It's not binary. You can be decent and gifted at the same time."
You don't have to be an asshole to win. I don't have to live immobile in one spot and sacrifice living. There's many things I'm skipping over here like frugality, budgets, and proper planning, but ultimately, I can have all the elements of a home AND a space to keep them in. I can wander and not sacrifice the security of knowing I have an apartment to come home to.
Maybe I'm behind and this doesn't resonate, but it's what I needed to learn. It's easy to overlook the lubrication that commonly makes these things flow: dual incomes, a dominant partner, (a partner for that matter,) wedding registrations, roommates. I had (some) of that and lost it all, twice. It was deathly important for me to know I had my own back; that I could survive, comfortably, through full leases in apartments I searched for, paid for, furnished and loved, completely on my own. I'm proud of myself for that whether I should be somewhere further in mindset or status.
(All dog names have been changed, in this case to other fictional dog's names.)
I'm sitting for a dog who's head and waist are bigger than mine and am convinced he is juicing at night. I've been considering wrist and shin braces when walking him. That or reins. My bed is shoved up against two almost floor length windows, and he has taken to darting through the entrance doors at full speed then waiting at my door where I remove his leash and stand back. He runs full speed to my bed and one of these times I fully expect him to shoot through the window swim across the Atlantic.
Of course though he's a big snugglebug and scared of things, like small spaces. Me too, bud. Maybe if I chewed through my airplane seat, I'd feel better about flying. He's a dog though and I have a love all dogs policy, no matter what. Working on translating that to humans, stay tuned.
UPS, It's me
Katie, with the vestibule
Please leave the package
Not another note
stuck to my door, I'm here now!
Packages! Not Notes!
do you use to determine
a packages worth?
Because I was not
aware shower curtains were
Save a tree, leave a
box, not a tracking number
or an aneurysm
Thank you UPS
for the curtain, used books and
Thank you UPS
for top security in
And sometimes the only nature you can get to is in the bathroom.
Or coincidentally, my palm tree upholstered chairs
Speaking of appropriate literature at the appropriate times, I forgot to take this book out of my purse when I bought it yesterday. I remembered the second I plopped down in the beige Lincoln for alternate side parking. This isn't the second tale of shame I promised in the previous post, although it could be, I imagine there will be plenty of shame posts in the future, but I can't tell you the horror alternate side parking used to be for me. My ex-person could, I used to call him after I battled for a space, and say, "I parked, here you take the anxiety." Just last week I sat the entire hour and half to have Doug from House of Cards (it looked like him at least) knock on my window and say, "you know you parked in front of a driveway didn't you?" Fuck, Doug, no I didn't.
Breathe, says Thich, "peace and calm are contagious."
I read a lot of books with embarrassing covers, always type driven, large type that says something like:
J U D G E M E.
Lately, when people ask, as they have, "what do you do with your time?" I have been answering, "I mostly read and walk dogs." Which to the 60-hour-a-week friends I've answered to, must sound a lot like, "my juice bar on the coast of Maui is so successful, I only to need to be open two hours a day." It's not like that, I promise, but I'm into the intention.
I read these books, usually at the exact time I need to, and think of all the people that could benefit from reading the same things, but will likely never go near such a book. One of the same inquisitive busy friends challenged me to sell him on The Power of Now, after a long-winded critical assessment of just the title.
"Well, have you read it?"
To be honest, I was at a loss as to how to answer. I stumbled through some main themes, but like any therapy, if it's forced, it will likely be ineffective. When I do read these books, I feel compelled to reach my former brethren of pessimists. What I've noticed is that similar themes are thrown around and what changes is the size, shape, gender, design, and aesthetic of the person teaching it. Each vessel of dissemination, perfect and necessary in reaching whatever audience they are supposed to reach. A very limiting pattern of thought I've forcibly detached myself from is that of the belief that there is an over-saturation of _______ market. It's been done so don't do it. Stop that line of thinking that will bring you somewhere brilliant, immediately! (Believe me when I say this was fun in Grad School, in the most debilitating sense, but more on that in another post.) Slowly I've been creeping up to the idea of abundance and incorporating the practice of it. In the vein of embracing the glory of self-help books and their authors, here are two of my own stories inspired by shame and vulnerability:
(The vulnerable one first.)
I went shopping in Soho like it was my first weekend in New York and I had a paycheck to blow. In the past I would have driven back to Tysons Corner before attempting to shop on Broadway, so I guess the meditation is working. (It's crowded for those that don't know. Aggressive crowds, armed with large bags.) Perhaps it was because I wasn't shopping for myself, merely acting as support/voice of reason for my shopping partner, but this trip I braved the density unaffected. Heading north back into the thick of it, I passed a man with a sign, not unlike many I've seen before. It said:
I'm in my mid-50s and broke and ashamed and don't know what to do."
There was more but I walked by quickly, in that pace of "the quicker I walk, the faster this feeling of heartbreak will go away." It made me well up. It still does. Even though I experienced those feelings, a new voice croaked louder. It was instructing that yes, you passed this man, but you can still do something. He'll be there. Getting a little flustered with competing emotions, I separated from my shopping partner and headed towards my bank. I didn't want it to be a thing, I just wanted to do something. The guy was being vulnerable. I felt respect for him. On my way back, I handed the guy a ten. I had to get his attention and when he reached out to take it, he seemed vacant, lost. I wished I could do more. A block further was another guy with a dog and a sign. I dropped $2 in his box of coins. I know people saw, I kind of wished they didn't. I wasn't being a hero, I wasn't shaming them, I just wanted to do it.
Thousands of people carrying bags with stuff, past this guy who felt like he wasn't worthy of living.
After the fact, my life went on. I felt good in a strained sort of way, but I didn't dwell, just went to Whole Foods. I was doing some prescriptive shopping for one ingredient in particular that costs half of a two or three day shopping bill. If you're familiar, Manuka Honey has proven medicinal benefits, and the price tag to show for it. In the Brooklyn Whole Foods it's locked up in a glass box like the razors at Duane Reade. It's 26 dollars.
When I got to the checkout counter, with a few other things in my basket, the girl at the register asked me if I knew I could put it on my face too. I said, "No I didn't, but I could probably eat half the things in my bathroom."
"That's how you know it's good!
$11.25 is your total."
Mechanically I took out my card to pay, my mouth forming the words "that's not right," but nothing came out. I paid and walked out with my magic honey. Part of me thought she knew exactly what she did or didn't do, and the other part thought maybe she had watched me earlier. It was almost the exact amount I had given away. Help equals help. I thought about feeling bad or guilty but frankly chose not to. I chose to be grateful instead.