Thursday, April 17, 2014

Dude


I stopped to buy a car.
Something sure and simple
with nice upholstery.
Rick, the salesman,
thought my name was Young Lady
though I corrected him often.
Sometimes he thought I was Gal
and often I reminded him of his wife
though none of her problems,
dislike of technical explanations
and fear of driving in the snow,
were my problems.
I countered.
I called him Dude.
I said man a lot
as in man you gotta be kidding.
Though well into his seventies
I told him he was a thoughtful lad.
I thought he was naive
he thought I was peculiar.
We parted, he with his commission
I with a car
and a reminder
that the old world
turns slowly.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Take it Easy

You know you're not a perfectionist.  You can tolerate messes, you're not overly critical of others or yourself, you procrastinate but not excessively, you notice details but not obsessively. So, while you are not swimming in the deep and very difficult waters of perfectionism, you are aware of some discomfort at the shallow end.

You have a sense of not being so comfortable with yourself, even when things, for a change, are going well.  A tugging at the self, a message whispered, There is more to do.  In order to silence the message, that you are barely aware exist, you might have that extra drink or too much TV or just be aware of not being as happy as a pleasant day or evening would warrant. Could it be that you are suffering from SUP? (Don't look it up cause I made it up)  SUP stands for slightly under performing.  Unlike the perfectionist, this has little to do with what others think of you.  It's an ongoing self-examination, an anxious drip, drip drip: you're letting-yourself-down, you are not living up to your full potential, whatever that might be. And, really, could anyone ever know their full potential?  Isn't there always more?

Goals are good.  Some of life's best days are those spent in working towards goals.  But goals have their place.  There should also be goal-free time. Time when the message is not try harder but rather, stop trying... leave space  for other meanings and purposes in life to occur.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Brave Season

I hear from other parts of the country that spring has arrived, but we here in Cleveland still await it.  The hardest winter many of us can recall, when spring does arrive, we will open our doors, come out and greet our neighbors and reassure ourselves that we are not polar bears.

It's almost impossible not to be touched by the season of birth and growth whether one is happy or sad, looking forward or clinging to the past.  Spring, especially, seems to say, "Move on."  "To where, to what?" you might ask if you are depressed or confused.  No answers from me except to say, move. Often, a whattodo will present itself once you decide to move your body and your mind.  It's not always a right answer but it is something.  And something can lead to something else. That's called living, which by now, we all know, requires courage.  So, if your are fortunate enough to have spring at your door, take a  brave step into it.

Snowdrops, in the poem below, are the bravest flowers I know.

          Occupied

Camped beneath the trees,
lined up along the driveway,
snow drops are rioting in my yard.
Two inches high, their droopy little heads together
they are bound in flower solidarity,
withstanding every weather.
Even the mad March hare
that runs about my house at night
cannot scare these little soldiers.
Heralds of spring, they close ranks
against the blustering wind
that, unbeknownst to it,
carries the snowdrop message,
"Spring is coming."

Monday, February 17, 2014

Beauty Salon

The salon is packed. There's the usual frisson of excitement that belongs to a Saturday morning; lots of chatting, some talk about weekend plans.  I recognize a few people who, like me, are regulars.  I enjoy the pleasant pull of Marie's strong fingers as she blow-dries my hair, shakes it back and forth.  In the mirror, I see the frothy cloud she has created and will soon tame. My eyes slip sideways. Several feet in front of and to the left of me I see a face that blots out everything.  A middle-age woman has her head tilted back.  Her skin has a gray tinge.  Her lips are moving but no sound comes out.  Her eyes are tightly closed but tears leak through and slip down her round cheeks.  Jane is cutting her hair.  Big chunks of it fall on the woman's shoulders and the floor.  Very soon, Jane will begin shaving her scalp. She stops to wipe tears from her own eyes so she can go on.  I look up at Marie who shakes her head and mouths the word cancer.

The woman's sorrowful face returns to me many time during the day.  The way she squeezed her hands, her lips moving with silent incantations, the bright world buzzing around her. That night, I wake up and see her face again.  I wonder if she, too, is awake. Her head cold, her ears strangely exposed.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Hopefully, Happy Valentine's Day

And if it's not so happy because you don't have a valentine, or your valentine disappoints you (sends you one of those stupid bears) or you are breaking up (I hear that happens fairly often on V day) remember there are chocolates and flowers bloom for everyone.  Here's a poem for all unhappy valentine people that actually suits any day of the year.

A Place for Everything

I had a tidy heart
in a nice place in my chest.
Then one-more-thing happened
and my heart escaped.

At night when I am sleeping
it wakes me with a pinch
and in the day when I am speaking
it climbs up in my throat.
I'd like to take a stick to it.
I'd like to wring it in my hands
until the last drop of sorrow
plops.

That's crazy talk my brain tells me,
always my better friend.
Time heals
your heart will mend
grow small again
and find its rightful place.

Bridget Harwell

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

True and True

Having just put down a beloved cat, I am struggling now with facts and feelings.  Toony was physically healthy but, for some reason, every so often, he went psycho and would attack me.  Though we ran many tests, neither I nor my vet could figure out why.  I struggled for a year and then accepted that I had to put Toony down.  Many kind friends have reassured me that I did the right thing and I'm grateful for their intentions, but the truth is I know that.  It's simply a fact.  Knowing the fact does not alleviate the sorrow.  I loved my cat and I am responsible for his death.  A contradictory experience abides in me.

Learning to live with conflicting truths is one of life's not-so-easy tasks.  Black and white do not always meld.  Often they remain black and white and live side by side.  You love your mate and s/he annoys the hell out of you.  You want to be close to your friends and you want distance.  You don't like your job and you like your salary.  You hate fighting and you believe in telling the truth.  You love your parent and his/her death will be a relief.  You long for adventure and home is very dear to you.  Notice I didn't use the conjunction "but" I used "and."  "But" might imply weight on one side or the other, whereas "and" indicates that both sides of the conflict are true.  A lot of time can be spent swinging between two things that are both true for you.  As if by trying really hard you can eliminate conflict.  Often true but not always.  Another choice is to accept living with contradictory truths.  Accept is the key word, a word, by the way, that helps eliminate guilt. I love my cat and I  killed him. So there you are.  The person who first said, "Life is messy," was ever so wise.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Drifting

Monday morning, gray skies and 5 degrees here in Cleveland.  Great day for staying under the covers and toying with the idea of calling in sick.  A fleeting thought because duty and necessity and even passion call.  Routine takes over, you're up, dressed, fed and on with your day.

But what if you stay under the covers?  For whatever reason, health or depression, or someone else is paying your bills ( thank you mom and dad) you do not have to follow a routine.  You have no agenda.  "A dream come true," you might say as you scrape ice off your windshield.  And for some people who own their own time, it really is.  They are able to fill their lives with meaningful activity, whatever it might be.  They are not drifting.  Drifting is overdosing on free time.  It is answering the siren call of escape.  And escape, unless you are a very hard drifter, is followed, if only momentarily, by the awful face to face with real life (your other, better self) and the dive back under the covers.

To get out of drifting one must, and who doesn't know this, get off the drug, whatever it is that is used for escape: Facebook, video games, sleep, alcohol, hard drugs, sex.  I'm not inclined to write about the "how to." There is a lot written and it's easy to find if you are so inclined.  But I will make one suggestion that can be a powerful motivator. Think back to a time in your life when you liked yourself.  When you had success, big or small, when you got up every morning, followed a routine, had a place to go, work to do, people in your life that admired and liked you. That self is not lost to you, it is only inactive.  Any day of the week, even on a cold Monday, you can choose to activate it, use your old talents, call up the self-discipline you once had, get a grip, get out of bed.  There is no free lunch and there is no free time.  It gets filled up with something.

To read more about how routine can serve your life see  "Dear Routine" in Lies, p. 22.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Pure Gold

A cold, gray day perfect for going to the dentist.  And it was a Monday. I met Alice for tea and sympathy afterwards and she listened to my woes before telling me her own dentist story.  It was both odd and moving.  The week before she had to have a crown removed, kind of chipped away.  The dentist asked if she wanted the bit of gold that was left, made a joke about selling it and was surprised when, in fact, she held out her hand.  She hadn't  given the incident much thought but in the telling of it she began to cry.  It was obvious she was experiencing a deep emotion.  When her feelings subsided, she didn't want to talk about them beyond saying she hadn't thought about her dad for a long time.  But that afternoon when she took the gold it was because her father had been a dentist and it was he who, many years ago, had inserted it.  Her father had not been a particularly warm parent and she had had issues with him. So why, she asked, after forty years was this well spring of love so strong and clear?

I chose three o'clock in the morning to wonder. I knew about that surge of love, out of the blue and more than the sum of experiences shared; as if all the love you ever felt for a person was swept up into a bundle of pure, almost hurtful joy. Because surface events fade it's easy to think that love does also.  But love seems to abide at a deeper level of our being and unexpectedly, and sometimes uncomfortably, makes itself known.

And here's another dentist story.  At the hair salon the next day, Maria told me her father had just given her a small jar that he had been saving for her. Within were all her baby teeth.  She was pleased and horrified.  She thought about making a bracelet. Love. It's a beautiful thing.