Goodbye, Ms. Dragonfly

Yesterday morning, as I sat in my chair looking out the sliding glass door, a dragonfly flew full speed into the door and dropped to the balcony below. It shocked me for a brief minute as my anxiety spelled out scenarios of insects attacking but then I remembered the time I briefly interned with a crappy company in a big glass building. It was while I was there that I learned that birds routinely fly into the reflection of blue skies on glass buildings and the sidewalks below these buildings are often host to their dead little bodies with people stepping over them on their busy way to work as corporate slaves churning out the profits for the select few. But…I digress. Sigh.

So after the dragonfly encountered the false sky reflection in my window and I had recovered from my invasion anxiety, I contemplated it while it lie there, presumably dead. I remembered the time I went fishing with one of my closest friends and how excited she became when a dragonfly landed on the end of her pole. “Oh look!” she exclaimed, “A dragonfly! That is good luck.” Having never heard that particular rural myth before, I reconsidered the dragonfly – an insect I had never really thought about before then. I came into my appreciation for insects late in life and, while I loved butterflies and have always considered them sacred, I spent a lot of time on my grandmother’s farm growing up and was the kind of kid who burned ants with sunlight, salted slugs and pulled the flashy butts off fireflies to make pretend jewelry for myself. (God forgive my little rural ass.)

As my mind traveled down the memories of insects past, the dragonfly on my balcony suddenly flipped up and then zoomed away. I was happy. And not just because that meant I didn’t have to go pick up a big dead insect and discard its carcass but because it lived and, for a brief moment, it brought me to some of the memories that I treasure most…fishing with my friend, getting sweaty and grubby on the farm, chasing fireflies. And just as I was lost in contemplating these memories further, another dragonfly zoomed into the second half of my patio door – the side covered in a screen. But this time, rather than slamming into the door and falling, the dragonfly landed gracefully and clung to the screen, slowly beating its double set of wings and seeming to be settling in for a little rest.

Over the course of the next hour, I contemplated this new dragonfly a little more deeply than the first. Rather than bringing up fears of insect invasions or memories from the past, I became curious and studied it as it hung on the screen less than three feet away me. I could see its damaged wings with pieces missing and its huge alien eyes. Occasionally it would curl the lower half of its body outward but otherwise it stayed perfectly still and I started to feel all voodoo about it. Some people believe that when we die, we are reincarnated into other forms of life, including insects. Was this dragonfly here for me? Was it someone I knew? Was it Mom coming to stare at me because I called her “fucking bitch” in my last post? 

I didn’t consider any of these questions seriously (at least not for very long) and eventually googled all about dragonflies; learning the one clinging to my window screen was a female because she had little dangly things on the end of her tail for cutting plant matter when she laid eggs. I learned that she spent her days eating mosquitos (bad bitch) and had a lifespan of approximately a month as an adult. And that is when I suddenly realized my dragonfly probably wasn’t hanging out with me to rest a spell, like I had thought, but had probably landed for the last time when she found this space next to me. She had, most likely, come here to die.

Over the course of the next several hours, I watched Ms. Dragonfly closely and there were signs of life even as her legs started to curl under her one by one. I couldn’t help but draw the parallel between this and the days I spent watching my mom approach her own death. I couldn’t help but contemplate my own approaching death and the parallel of flying off to a quiet place to be alone and to find peace and rest while life ebbed. I couldn’t help but feel a little sad, a little encouraged and a little blessed by the experience. Mine is not an exciting life these days but it’s a contemplative one lived, not through so many grand experiences of my own, but through the exploration of even the smallest of moments that allow me to be transported into all of the possibilities of existence. And as I gently removed Ms. Dragonfly from the screen this morning and wrapped her in a tissue, I couldn’t help but feel grateful to her for sharing her last moments with me. 

What though the radiance that was once so bright be now forever taken from my sight. Though nothing can bring back the hour of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower, we will grieve not, rather find strength in what remains behind.” ~ Wordsworth

Thirstier Than Ever Before

It’s funny, isn’t it? How one day you can be feeling so confident that you’ve finally arrived at that place where things are going to be better and within minutes of having this crazy notion of normalcy, the wind shift and everything is batshit again? While my persecution complex makes me want to believe this special kind of neurotic cosmic energy is directed to me alone, I know it isn’t. I know I’m not the only one who fights the voice inside that says “Give up.” I know I’m not the only one who is afraid to feel happy because it’s easier just to stay sad and not have happiness taken away. I know I’m not the only one longing for what we used to take for granted….for unmuffled laughter, for festivals, for theater popcorn in a crowded movie theater, for a country not courting civil war, for peace of mind, for a blissful raw-dogging-the-air-without-fear existence. I know everyone is stressed out, broken hearted and fatigued by endless outrage. I know I’m not the only one who is “thirsty” for better…for a time when it feels safe to hope again.

In my last post, I more or less said “goodbye” to this blog. It was created in 2013 after a life event that left me shattered in a way I never thought I would recover. I named it “Thirsty Thoughts and Prayers” because that is what I was feeling when an online friend offered to set up a writing space for me. And for many years, this space helped me makes sense of things while I mended. Having moved through my 2013 heartache and arrived at the other side of the event where hindsight made me grateful it happened, I thought I was “quenched.” I thought I wouldn’t be thirsty anymore. I thought, having survived the hardest thing I had ever experienced, I was done being thirsty for answers and a life that made sense.

If I could go back in time and talk to the 2019 version of myself who had discovered “freedom in shedding my personal belongings on an unplanned journey of minimalism” and embarking on a life of full-time travel, I would try to be gentle but there is no real nice way to say “I know you think you’ve got it all figured out and your new life as a sojourner sounds great but there is going to be a global pandemic and probably a civil war, so hold our happy panties girlfriend…you ain’t quenched. And, what’s more, you fixin’ to be thirstier than you’ve ever been.” Truly…there is no way to say that gently.

I’ve spent the past seven months in utter isolation. With the exception of two one-week visits from a dear friend, I’ve spent every minute of these seven months alone, 1,000 miles away from anyone who knew me and completely without purpose or any idea of how to find a purpose. I couldn’t plan a way from being alone with myself. I couldn’t escape my own company. I was alone, so very very alone, with the person I’ve hated most all my life.

Maybe there are some who have moved through this past year in all ways graceful and successful. I have nothing but respect for these people who have turned tragedy into triumph but I don’t claim to be one of them. I’ve gained weight and lost my direction. I’ve slipped into a comfortable depression and I’ve slept away the days, weeks and months that seems too long and pointless to live. I’ve ignored relationships that needed tending and mending and let things go unsaid too long. I’ve numbed my mind and my emotions with Xanax and Netflix. I’ve stopped having adventures and making new memories. But at the same time that I admit that I have fallen down in a lot of ways ove the past couple of years, I have grown a new kind of grudging respect for myself. It’s true that I’ve haven’t thrived. But…I have survived.

It wasn’t pleasant, it wasn’t pretty and it isn’t over…but at least I’m writing again.