Friday, January 31, 2014

Agita aka A Bad Case of the Grrr's

ag•i•ta (ˈædʒ ɪ tə)
1. heartburn; indigestion.
2. agitation; anxiety.
[1980–85, Amer.; < Italian, <agitare < Latin agitāre agitate], courtesy

Agita. I'd never heard the word until a few years ago, when my friend from Long Island introduced me. It perfectly describes what I'm feeling today, a deep level of unease. Dis-ease. A teeth-gritting, muscle-clenching day when everything and everyone gets on your last nerve. Of course, I know it's not them. It's me.

Agita. I found this excerpt from an article by David Giacalone upon googling the word. The highlights were supplied by me.
"...I discovered a fuller and fun discussion of agita at The Word Detective, which includes: You won’t find “agita” in most dictionaries, although it is a quintessential Italian-American slang word. Strictly speaking, “agita” is a stomach upset or heartburn. But “agita” can also mean that special kind of existential dyspepsia of the soul you get when absolutely everything goes wrong. Comedian Jackie Mason has explained “agita” as “when you have been aggravated to the point where it feels like you have a serious migraine headache throughout your whole body.” “Agita” is thus more or less the Italian-American equivalent of the Yiddish “tsuris” (”misery”), an equation not lost on Woody Allen, who made a song about “agita” the center-piece of his 1984 film “Broadway Danny Rose.” ~ David Giacalone 
Strange word, agita. One you don't hear growing up in the south. But it's one of Those Words. Once you know it and experience the feeling, you think, "Yeah. Exactly. Agita."

So like it or not, I've got the grrr's. Could it be the fallout from Flurryopollis or whatever Jon Stewart called it? Seeing nothing but white for three days running? Being on high alert for thirty hours, watching Facebook's newsfeed, helping pray family, friends, clients and other's loved ones home safely?

Or maybe it's the inner manifestation of an itchy rash I've developed from a new sensitivity to latex and spandex. Which, by the way, is in every bra ever manufactured, including the camisoles to which I'd resorted.

Whatever the cause, the best thing to do with a person afflicted with agita is: RUN. Or duck. But for heaven's sake, don't try to fix, or understand it. Just go away. Leave us alone. Hope tomorrow's better.

Of course, if you, like me, are the one suffering from agita, you're screwed. I can't run. I can't hide. I can't duck. I'm stuck. With an anxious, irritable me.

So here's hoping for a better tomorrow.

~ Olivia J. Herrell

Friday, January 24, 2014

From Awful to Blessings to Healing

Three days ago I returned from my ex’s funeral. Stepping out of the Atlanta Airport, I was greeted with plunging temperatures, body-slapped by twenty mile-an-hour winds shrieking down from the north.

Santa Monica Mountains Looking South from Pt Mugu
At home, the reception was warmer. Bugsy’s loud, long meowls lasted a good five minutes as we bumped and rubbed faces until he decided I was really home. Bedtime came late. My body and spirit linger in Southern California, where the temperatures are balmy and the time still early.

The trip was fraught with both blessings and healings, as is wont to happen at such times. I experienced the safety and shelter of being in the hollow of God’s hands, as doors and hearts opened and festering wounds healed. Gone are the chains that shackled my heart. Gone is the man at the other end.

Author Unknown
Buoyed as I am by this new state of being, grief weighs heavy, disguised as depression. My suitcase is yet unpacked and clothes pile high in the bedroom. Work has been difficult and any nonessential task, unbearable. Suffice it to say I've put it aside until later. That’s me being gentle with me. Tomorrow is Saturday. Color me grateful. I plan to do some writing, sticking close to home.

Monkey Paws on Seaward in Ventura, CA
Yesterday I received an allegorical short story while sitting in the sun watching the birds near the feeder. A love story which may or may not have a happy ending, its title is “Meadow Lark and Mocking Bird”. The writing will be cathartic. More healing.

Then, during quiet time this morning, a Book Two character appeared, along with an electrifying (literally) scene to introduce him. Key to the main character’s development, 'Taranis' will help move the story from local to international and be the first ‘god’ to enter the fray. Seems the second book of my "Peace Makers" trilogy is taking shape, in spite of the fact that Book One is incomplete.

Time now to relax. Maybe a movie. Netflix. Hulu. Something with worlds and characters someone else created. Here's to an early bedtime and a body clock (please, please) back on Eastern time.

~ Olivia J. Herrell

Saturday, January 18, 2014

And When I Die

I’m headed to Los Angeles to attend the funeral service of a friend. At age fifty-six, he had always been healthy. Yet that night his heart gave up and stopped beating. Did he know? Or did he just keep on flying, higher and higher, in some beautiful dream, determined not to come back to a cold, cruel world?

Did blocked arteries really end such a vital life? Or were there emotional scars, wounds that couldn’t heal, a heart broken one too many times? Was he tired of this rat race, the struggle for survival in a world that cares little for our dreams? What mental state propels one to leave for the other side?

Regardless, he is gone, this man who showed me the time of my life.

Still in shock, I wrestle with the finality of death. Before that text on Wednesday, I could never have imagined a world without Harold. He was out there, somewhere, creating music and being Him. We were on opposite ends of the country and no longer an item, but we stayed in touch. And in my heart I held out hope that one day we’d be together. Now he’s gone.

Thank God for shock, the blessed fugue-state that protects the remaining from the pain of separation. Sunday we say goodbye in the Hollywood Hills at Forest Lawn.

~ Olivia J. Herrell


It’s now the next day and the obituary is up. The shock is wearing off, replaced by an enormous sense of finality. A song plays through my head this morning, as if Harold is telling me to let him go. “I’m not scared of dying/And I don’t really care./If it’s peace you find in dying,/Well then let the time be near.” One line in particular plays over and over: “Just let me go naturally.”

So Harold, here’s to you. I love you. And always will.

Blood Sweat and Tears performing "And When I Die"

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Library Deja Vu

I settled at a table in Neva Lomason Library with the hopes of gathering scattered thoughts. Book One of Peace Makers is writtten, but it's disjointed, fat and clumsy.

As I began jotting notes about arcs and plot points, set up and denouement, I became aware of mothers passing by with young children. Their arms were laden with books, their faces reflected inner contentment and the joy that comes from having one's arms wrapped around the written word.

Neva Lomason Library, Carrollton, GA
Suddenly recognition dawned. These are the same racks, rows and shelves that I drew from as a girl, almost half a century ago. One particularly special rite of passage that came to mind was graduating from the children's section and getting to check out and read books from the adult's.

But I digress. Back to deja vu. Mama with me, my older sister and my younger brother in tow in this same library. You've heard my story about the Villa Rica library. I'd forgotten my experience in this one.

The common denominator was Mama. Every week she would pile us in the car, drive us to the library and let us check out the maximum number of books each. Then the following Saturday, we'd do it all again, returning those five and checking out five more.

I have tears in my eyes and throat now as the realization sinks in. My daddy might've been a genius, and professor-like in his knowledge and common sense, but it was Mama who did the real work, Mama who made sure that our fertile minds had plenty of fodder, Mama who had a deep love for books and passed it on to us.

I don't remember her reading back then, maybe because I was so caught up in me. But later in life, after retirement, she was voracious, poring over the racks at the Madison library, then later, the shelves of the lending library at the retirement village.

Mama, thank you. Thank you. THANK YOU!

And I'm sorry. I'm sorry I'm just now realizing this about you. And I'm sorry I never told you in person.

*stops to blow nose and wipe away tears*

Closing time approaches, as does the end of my battery life. As I wind this down, it occurs to me that I likely didn't come here to gather Peace Maker thoughts at all, though I did accomplish that end.

What I'm really here for is remembrance. And appreciation. And some sort of redemption I don't yet understand.

~ Olivia J. Herrell

Monday, January 6, 2014

Snow Flurries and Cat Sighs Redux

We have snow flurries today in the deep South, along with bone-chilling temperatures. It reminded of another flurry and this post I'd done a few years ago:

This morning I woke up to 20 degree temperatures and snow flurries. Sitting here with Bugsy in the ancient, oversized armchair, I look out at the snowflakes fluttering against the sunrise, and wonder why we call them flurries.

When I think of a flurry, I think of a quick burst of frenetic activity. These flakes, on the other hand, are very casual as they drift with no apparent aim. Most follow some mysterious, circuitous route, floating up, down and all around. Many chase each other and do aerobic acrobats before continuing on their individual journeys to the ground.

Hardly any of the snowflakes seem to be in a hurry, but rather float randomly, and lazily, around. In fact, it seems their goal is to stay in the air as long as they possibly can. They play on the wind, merry and unrestrained. Very few of them fall straight down.

So why the name ‘snow flurries’?

It has more to do with the volume, I think. There aren’t enough flakes to classify as a snow shower. And when a good, stiff breeze blows, they actually do hurry. Mostly in one direction, sideways, toward the ground.

Bugsy watches with interest, as do I. What does my cat ponder? Knowing Bugsy, he’s thinking of being outside, chasing those fluttering flakes.

Unable to do so, he takes a big, deep breath. And sighs.

Curling up on the back of the chair, he presses his cheek close to the window and naps, dreaming in his sleep, of the chase.

Me? I can’t help but think how like these snowflakes we humans are. And I long to be more like the playful, capricious flakes. And less like the ones that hurry to the ground.

~ Olivia J. Herrell

Flurry: definition according to The Free Dictionary: flurry n pl -ries
1. a sudden commotion or burst of activity
2. a light gust of wind or rain or fall of snow
3. (Economics, Accounting & Finance / Stock Exchange) Stock Exchange a sudden brief increase in trading or fluctuation in stock prices
4. (Life Sciences & Allied Applications / Fishing) the death spasms of a harpooned whale
vb -ries, -rying, -ried confuse or bewilder or be confused or bewildered [from obsolete flurr to scatter, perhaps formed on analogy with hurry]
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