Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas Carols: Musical Passport to the Past

Musical Memories

My sister and best friend came to my house last night for coffee and girl talk.  We haven't done that in quite awhile and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.  The coffee was hot, the lemon cookies tasted divine, and the talk danced from one topic to the next.  The most surprising part of the evening, however, occurred when we broke out into song after discussing our favorite Christmas carols and we then proceeded to sing about ten of them right there at the dining room table.

And you know what?  It felt really, really good. We congratulated each other for knowing all the verses, laughed when we said the words wrong or hit a badly pitched note, and smiled the entire time we sang.  My kids eased over to watch us, wide-eyed with both astonishment and mirth.  In front of them, three middle-aged ladies cavorted like children singing song after song, swaying at the table and thoroughly enjoying themselves.  My husband even came out of his Monday night football man-cave to check on the ruckus in the dining room.  Peeping around the corner, he smiled and just shook his head.  He knows how absolutely silly I can be at times.  I just keep reminding him that it's all part of my devastating charm, but I am not sure he believes me half the time.

I have incredibly fond memories of Christmas music.  Most people either love it or hate it.  Some enjoy it for a brief period and then grow to despise it by the time Christmas finally arrives. I, however, enjoy the songs from the very start of the Christmas season until the very end.  I've always loved the carols, especially the religious ones, even though I've never been very religious.  I suppose that stems from my deep appreciation for beautiful music.  I've always loved the complexity of classical arrangements and something about the religious carols speaks to that love.  They contain both a simplicity and a richness of composition that modern day Xmas songs lack.

I can listen to almost any Christmas carol and draw up memories long forgotten as well as memories that I thumb through and enjoy on a regular basis.  Music has informed such a large part of my life that most of my very vivid remembrances include a song.  This is especially true for the carols that play every year around this time.  Christmas naturally lends itself to perusing cherished memories, but the music of Christmas makes them more brilliant and intense.

As a child, I remember singing carols in the car with my mother and sister.  My father would join in on occasion, and entire road trips would pass moving from one song to the next.  We always had music playing in the house and one of my clearest and earliest memories includes helping my father hang garland in the dining room while we sang along with the record player. I must have been about four years old and my mother's favorite album of carols sung by Wayne Newton caught my attention.  I remember telling my father that the woman singing had such a beautiful voice.  He laughed and laughed at that.  I always loved Daddy's full-body laughter, how it consumed him and tickled everyone around him.

In middle school, I remember getting a group of friends together during Winter Break and going from house to house one afternoon singing Christmas carols.  We thought it would be a silly way to spend the afternoon and we cracked jokes about the absurdity of it in between getting up enough nerve to actually sing.  To our surprise and pleasure, most of the people we entertained seemed very happy to hear us sing. The most memorable part of the day, however, occurred when an elderly gentleman asked us to wait a moment as he wheeled his wife to the door in her chair so we might sing for her as well.  I am sure more than a few of us thought that this might be his wife's last Christmas when we witnessed her frailty.  All of us kids completely felt the emotion of the moment and we settled quietly to sing Silent Night as best we could. By the end of the song, everyone, including my sarcastic pre-teen friends had tears in his or her eyes.

In high school, my Latin teacher translated Christmas carols into the dead, yet beautiful language and we serenaded every class along our hallway during sixth period.  Although embarrassed a bit due to the nerdiness of being in a Latin class and being forced to sing, we enjoyed every minute of it, making our classmates smile and giggle. Good music, in any language, transcends every circumstance.  Unless a person is completely unfeeling, music makes an impact upon him or her--even snarky teenagers.

As an adult, after the births of my children, all of whom are born around Christmas, I remember singing them to comfort and sleep with beautiful carols, such as The Holly and The Ivy and O Holy Night.  I have such special memories of holding their warm, tiny bodies close to mine and singing softly to them, feeling utterly blessed to have such little miracles in my life. Every time I hear either song, I am filled with love for my babies.

I am certain that last night, my kids created Christmas music memories of their own by watching their mother and their aunts act silly and sing at the top of their lungs.  Hopefully they will remember this and many more pleasant instances where music provided a background soundtrack for all the love, joy, and happiness the Christmas season brings.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Behind the Christmas Curve

I wish I had this much done already.

There remain nineteen days until Christmas.  Nineteen short, rapidly disappearing days and I have yet to buy a single present for anyone, including my three children.  I haven't bought nor mailed Christmas cards, ordered sausages and cheese from Swiss Colony, planned the menu for our Christmas Eve party, or even decided what goodies I am baking this year to give to friends.  Suffice to say, I am a bit behind the Christmas curve this year.  I have absolutely no motivation to do any of these things.

If I had my way, it would be October all over again and I would be much more focused and prepared for the holidays.  I wouldn't waste my time being distracted by mundane, unimportant things that I spent my hours on this past Fall.  I would prepare, plan and execute properly and be totally in position for a splendid, Norman Rockwell-esque Christmas.  As it is, one would think that I should at least have a little bit of agitated panic to get my motivation up to snuff by this point in time, but I still feel like I cannot be bothered with all the details. I have this deep-seated feeling that no matter what I do or don't do, Christmas will work out as it always does.  As if by magic, it will come together flawlessly or with all the expected and excused flaws that happen every year.

The presents will be bought and wrapped, the cookies baked, the party planned and all will be well with the world.  I just hope I am a bit more mentally present for the whole thing.  I am looking back upon this year and realizing that while I was here for some parts of it, I was gone for a great deal of it as well.  I think after the death of my father, which in a way I dealt with but also did not deal with, I absented myself from being fully present in my own days.  I did a lot of mental vacationing, engaging in fantasy, or burying myself in so many little things that I didn't have think or feel too much.  I am kind of tired of behaving that way.  I miss the old me. Over the past few weeks I've become a bit more aware of all the things I need to do. Gradually I am coming back to myself and my reality and I realize that it's not such a bad place to be.  I don't need to run away from all the changes that have happened nor the feelings that accompanied those changes.  I don't need to dread holidays just because my father won't be here to celebrate them with us this year.  He would want me to live life like he did...enjoying each minute for what it is and staying completely present in the moment.

 In essence, I am beginning to be okay again.  And for that, I am really grateful.  There is much to be said about just being "okay" and for being fully present in one's own life--being there for the good, the bad, the ugly, and Christmas.  Even if there are only nineteen days left in which to get everything done.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Out of the Mouth of Babs

My quirky, beautiful, wise Babs.

My daughter, Abby whose nickname is Babs, really impressed me the other day.  As I picked her up from middle school, she told me about her day while we drove home.  It was her eleventh birthday that day and I expected her to be talkative and chirpy from the moment she sat in the car.  However, her cousin dominated the conversation by relating a story in which he had almost punched a kid in the face for teasing and mocking him earlier that day.  Abby remained silent through his story and then after he left, she turned to me and said, "He really could have handled that better." Very interested to hear what she had to say, I replied, "How so?"  She then told me a story about how some boy had picked on her in band class, calling her hyper and mental and geeky.  I expected her to then tell me how she responded with some choice cut-down of her own as she is incredibly intelligent and witty.  I also expected it because it would have been exactly what I would have done at her age.  She surprised me, however, by saying something entirely, beautifully different.

Abby said that she just looked at him and felt badly for the other kids he had picked on earlier and how she felt badly for the boy too because he had been the object of mockery as well.  So instead of continuing the snarkiness and meanness and negative energy, she decided to end it.  She said, "I told him 'I am me and you are you. I laugh and giggle and am quirky.  You aren't those things, but something else and that's cool. We should appreciate that difference and just leave it at that."   I smiled at the maturity and wisdom of those words, and then asked how the boy responded to her statement.  She said he looked at her, but really didn't know what to say and was quiet for the rest of the class period.  He didn't pick on her or anyone else for the remainder of the day.

Some of the wisest words come from the mouths of children.  They don't over-think things like adults, they don't imbue much subtext into their statements.  They just say it from a purity of youth that adults really can't access anymore.  I was proud of her innate sense of what was the right thing to do, but also because it proved to me that she listens when I speak.  She listens when I tell her that words do matter, that she should be kind when she can, that negative energy shouldn't be fed and fostered.  She amazed me with her maturity and with her emotional intelligence and overall with her kindness.  She could have very well come back with some cutting, hurtful remark but chose not to do that.  She is, at eleven, a far better woman than I.  I am so lucky that she's my daughter.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Opened Eyes: How Friendship Changed My Perspective

Friendship can change the way you see things.

For the longest time, it seems that the only opinion I ever held on the Israel-Palestinian conflict seemed to be the pre-packaged kind in which I blindly supported Israel because its status as an American ally.  If asked about it, I would answer that Israel had a sovereign right to defend itself against Palestinian militants, that the Palestinians should learn to be happy with what they had and if they weren't so aggressive, things would be more peaceful.  I never really gave any thought as to what it was like living in the Gaza Strip, or what it must have been like to live an oppressed and refugee kind of life on a daily basis.  Previous conflicts, such as the one in 2008-2009 never held my attention very long because to me, it was just "those" people fighting again over nothing important, and over a situation which would never be resolved.

This current conflict between Israel and Palestine, however, has really caught my attention.  A few things have changed my perspective. Firstly, I started reading news from international websites a few years ago.  Europe has a completely different perspective on the world than the US and in many instances, European news outlets provide much more balanced and objective examinations of world events.  Secondly,  I read about the history of Israel and Palestine and familiarized myself with the ongoing issues of the region. Thirdly, I now have several friends who are Muslim.  Prior to last year, I didn't know a single Muslim personally and many of my misconceptions regarding Islam and Muslims have been cleared up through my friendships with these people. 

Reading unbiased news reports and learning the history of the region helped in my understanding of the issues that divide Israel and Palestine as well as opening my eyes to how strongly the US colors any conflict in the region in favor of Israel.  I understand that the US sees Israel as a key ally in a contentious Middle East. Nonetheless, I find it extremely distasteful that the government exerts such a propagandizing impact upon the news which obscured the true living conditions of the Palestinians.  It's a sad state of affairs when a person has to read or watch news from other countries to get an accurate portrayal of what is happening in the world, especially for a country which prides itself on freedom of press. I have learned so much in the last two years of expanding my sources of information.

By far, however, it has been having Muslim friends which has made this issue for me compelling.  Learning about Muslims first hand by establishing and maintaining friendships has endowed the Palestinians with a humanity and a sense of identity that, for me, didn't previously exist.  My personal friendships gave the people of Palestine a human face, one which I hadn't seen before.  These people, who Israel seems intent upon oppressing and dehumanizing, are mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, daughters and sons.  They have families and friends.  They have jobs.  They have good times and bad times.  They laugh, they cry, they love, they hate, they fight, they make up, they pray and they sin.  They have dreams, hopes, and desires.  They are just the same as anyone else around the world.  They are the same as us Americans, with the exception of one thing--personal freedom and access to basic human rights.

Palestinians are some of the most oppressed people in the world.  Israel controls what goes in and out of Gaza.  Israel controls the movement of the people.  Israel controls everything there, and in my opinion, Israel has made Palestine the largest open-air prison in the world.  Their basic human rights are infringed upon on a daily basis.  And people wonder why they attempt to fight.  To me, they fight because to not fight for your own fundamental rights means you give up and die.  And I don't see them doing that any time soon.  What people would?  We all have an innate instinct to not only survive, but to thrive.  They are doing what comes naturally to any human being--fighting for something better.

It distresses me to hear the casualty counts from this seven-day conflict.  Three Israelis and over 100 Palestinians, many of whom are innocent civilians such as women and children.  This past week I've seen pictures of children literally blown apart, homes completely destroyed with only craters left in their place, and people's faces filled with fear and terror of dying at any minute.  And I am not talking about the Israelis.  Their photos consist of people  looking out broken windows, hiding in decent bomb shelters, and being armed to the teeth.  They have armored and reinforced bulldozers, the Iron Dome missile defense system, and the latest high-tech weaponry. The Palestinians are fighting with molotov cocktails and rocks. The disparity blows me away.  It's not a war.  A war is between two countries evenly matched, both with the ability to wage war.  This seems more akin to squashing an ant with an atom bomb.  And if a person were to try and find information on this disparity, it wouldn't be in American news outlets.  All of their sympathy lies with the accessible, US-friendly Israelis.  The entire thing is an outrage.  And I am ashamed of President Obama for saying that Israel has every right to defend itself but without noting that the defense should be tempered by good judgment.  Israel should defend itself, but to openly decimate innocent civilians? Hell no!

After seeing the pictures of the dead babies and dismembered children, I had to write something about this topic.  Those images will haunt me for a very long time and they have prompted me to be more vocal about finding a peaceful and  fair solution to this issue. And if whomever reads this has difficulty in feeling sympathy for the Palestinians or who still can't be bothered to pay attention to this conflict, just try to imagine someone you love dying in such a violent way after having lived in poverty, despair, and oppression for their short lives.  I think that might give you some perspective and an impetus to try and change things for the better too.  If we all remember that the "them" is the same as "us" the world would be a much more peaceful, free, and loving place in which to live.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Things that Go Bump in the Night: Guilt

Guilt demands its due.
Contemplating this I say,
"Perhaps I'll pay...."
Anything it wants, I'll give--
all my haunted, familiar places--
rent in form of rents on me.
My body, twisted inside out
might die. 
And with face to foot, elbow to knee
scalding regret and caustic remorse
will mark my aching flesh,
my rippled, riddled
rotting corpse.

People tell me not to feel guilty, but I do.  I can't help it.  I stuff it down to the point where it is only a dull throbbing that can go unnoticed for a long period of time until something brings it up again.  Even the smallest of bumps pushes the pain front and center.  It's a bone deep ache, a chronic hurting that nothing ameliorates.  I carry it with me every day, a hidden disease of the heart and soul.

People tell me it wasn't my fault.  That it was meant to be and that Fate decreed it to happen.  But I know differently.  I know that if I had not been selfish and had stayed home it wouldn't have occurred.  I would have been there to change the course of events.  I am responsible for it because I chose myself over my obligations and now there is nothing I can do to quiet that voice that tells me every day, "It's your fault....it's all your damned fault."

And I am paying the price.  Everything in my reality seems to be fraying at the edges.  What once held light only holds shadows and shade.  Guilt tinges everything with a slightly bitter, acrid scent of culpability and shame. I can't shake it.  It revisits again and again...quickly becoming a familiar, unwanted friend.

I don't know what I am doing.  I don't know how to change how I feel.  I don't know that I ever can move beyond this secret I hold...that I am fundamentally a bad person who causes bad things to happen.  I hate myself for not being there.  If it had been anyone else, I would have forgiven them immediately as there would have been nothing to forgive.  But I cannot grant that grace to myself.  It is the penance I must pay and I must pay it silently.  No one understands and no one deserves the worry of knowing.

Usually I am optimistic about life in general, about the goodness and beauty of this particular existence.  But right now I am so damned sad I don't feel any optimism whatsoever.  Hope abandoned me months ago and I am coasting on fumes, on ideas I held dear a year ago.  I am not who I want to be.  I am not who I used to be.  I don't know who I am anymore.  All of my touchstones have disappeared.  All of my references have changed and morphed into something else entirely and I am not navigating this new course with grace and aplomb.  I am failing myself miserably, a completely derailed train ready to crash and burst into flames.  I just don't want to take anyone down with me.

And I can't apologize enough.  A lifetime of sorry wouldn't suffice.  But I am sorry.  I am more sorry than anyone will ever know.  I am more sorry than anyone will take the time to hear.  Every atom apologizes for failing, for not being there when you needed me, for being selfish and absent.

I dream of you at night.  I almost wish I didn't.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Vicious Circle

I have a confession to make.  Perhaps it is something I should really keep to myself because I know it will engender dislike for me on the part of some people, a dislike so intense as to border on hate.  I will offend pet parents everywhere who see their animals as family.  I might even alienate a friend or two.  Nonetheless, after picking up the eighteenth pile of poop in as many days and surveying the wreckage of certain areas within my home, I feel compelled to state it loudly and proudly.  I HATE MY DOG!

I cannot stand this animal.  He is stupid to the point of actual retardation, but cunning enough to know exactly what buttons to push to drive me absolutely insane.  I hate the fact that he will spend hours outside and then the minute he comes indoors he poops in the hallway or my sons' room.  I despise that he chases and molests the cats at every opportunity.  I loathe the way he jumps and licks both family and company.  I detest his habit of chewing anything of value to me, knowing exactly the destruction of which shoe, piece of furniture, book, or clothing will upset me the most.  I am exasperated with cleaning up the mud he tracks in, the food he deliberately spills, the endless amounts of dog hair found on everything.  Most of all, however, I really hate the way he makes me feel like a complete failure at being a pet owner.  A person is supposed to love their pet and cherish the animal's unconditional love and affection.  I just flat-out don't like him, and it makes me feel as if I hold some deep character flaw or emotional defect.  In sum, I hate myself for hating my dog which  makes me hate him more.  It's a vicious circle I want to stop.

The only reason the dog is still part of the family is because he brings joy to my children.  They love playing with him, sleeping with him, dressing him in outrageous outfits, walking him and just in general having him in our home.  The children would be terribly upset if Gus were to go anywhere, and I love my children far more than I hate my dog, so the dog stays.

I love my cats, enjoy the guinea pig, and even miss the fish that died a few months ago.  I am a kind, compassionate woman in most regards, but this dog drives me to distraction and brings out every negative or bad quality I own.  I mutter terrible things under my breath when I am cleaning up yet one more pile of strategically placed poop or chewed up treasure. I feel such anger and rage that I become even more upset that I get that angry in the first place.  I am not that kind of person, and I don't want to engage in that level of negativity, but Gus seems to magnify all the awful things about my personality which I try to keep subdued.  I hate him for that too.

I keep wondering what lesson I am supposed to learn from this dog.  I think it must be patience and acceptance and maintaining tranquility in the face of stress.  I constantly strive to take Gus' behavior in stride, to breathe deeply when I really want to yell at him, and to maintain my composure regarding my feelings towards this animal.  I think I've grown quite a bit in my ability to maintain my temper, and I suppose that is a good thing.  It shows emotional development and control, although I would rather not have the stressors to begin with.  Perhaps there is a larger lesson to be learned as well.  I am not quite sure what it may be, but he has a minimum of another ten years with us based on the average lifespan of a dog, so I am sure it will be revealed to me as some point.

I am certain over the upcoming years that we will continue to refine our relationship.  Gus and I hopefully will develop a peaceful coexistence. I am hoping I learn to control myself and to react to situations from a place of positivity rather than negativity.  To move in all things, especially when dealing with the dog, from a place of love and patience and generosity. I am not sure, however, that he is smart enough to learn anything new at all.  Oh, that was mean. Oops! As evidenced by the previous sentence, this positive attitude development regarding the dog might be harder to achieve than I originally thought.  I am going to have to work hard and stay vigilant about my comments and emotions.  It's going to be a tough row to hoe, and in thinking about all the work I need to do in this pet/owner relationship, it's just one more reason to add to the list of why I really hate that dog.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Lessons in Karaoke: Listening Skills

We definitely hear things, but do we really listen?

I went to karaoke last night with my best friend.  I actually didn't want to go, but felt compelled to be her wing man.  She has the serious hots for a man who also goes to karaoke frequently. Therefore, after longingly eyeballing my pajamas and new novel, I reluctantly got dressed, grabbed my purse and headed out in the rainy night to have a beer, sing a few songs, and hopefully help her further her budding relationship with "the dude".

After spotting her prey, we got our drinks and sat down, and chatted about a variety of things, but primarily "the dude." Growing a bit tired of the conversation, I watched people entering the bar and my attention focused for a few minutes on a group of eight loud, drunken men.  They lost my interest rapidly as they moved to a corner of the bar near the pool tables and proceeded to challenge one another to a punching bag competition.  From that point, the evening proceeded smoothly as we sang, visited with bar friends and laughed quite a bit. As my friend went to get two more beers and flirt with "the dude", I fiddled with my phone, unaware that all hell had suddenly broken loose next to the karaoke stage.  A full-on,  Thursday night, alcohol and machismo induced bar fight happened and I had front row seats.  

I think at least twelve or thirteen people were involved in hitting each other, throwing punches and bar stools, yelling, and posturing. The group of drunken men at the punching bag had a few moments earlier begun to hassle another group of young men playing pool. The ensuing fight would have been comically cliche and rather entertaining if people hadn't gotten hurt, but one poor man was blindsided by a chair causing a large gash on his forehead and another unfortunate soul managed to find himself stabbed in the arm.  After the bartender announced the imminent arrival of the police, the group of men who started the fight scattered and ran out the door.  Along the way, one of them threw a gun onto the roof of the building.  I only discovered that nugget of lovely information after the arrival of the authorities who questioned each bar patron as to what they had witnessed.  

After the initial excitement of the fight and it's aftermath waned, I grew irritated with being unable to go home until the police finished their investigation.  As my annoyance built up, I became even angrier at the idea that these so-called "men" entered this fun, outgoing place where regulars enjoy each other's company and good music, with knives and guns and stupidity in mass quantities.  How dare they violate the sanctity of karaoke with chips on their shoulders, alcohol-induced bravado, and a desire to fight? Their mere presence threatened the safety of everyone in the building and I resented them for having placed me and my friends in a dangerous situation.

Physical violence solves nothing.  Being strong enough to hurt another person doesn't prove someone's worth or value.  It doesn't make you a big man or an important woman.  A person who uses strength to injure someone intentionally and for no good reason only indicates a distinct and fundamental weakness in that person's character.  It also shows a profound lack of intelligence.  As Confucius once said, "He who throws the first punch, admits he lost the argument."  If a person provokes a heated situation through words and cannot resolve it through words, then it illustrates an inability to think properly and deeply in my opinion. In sum, those men were drunken idiots who had no concern for anything or anyone but their all-consuming machismo and male pride.  Seriously, how stupid is that?

I planned to categorize this entry under a "Lessons in Karaoke" theme, but I am still trying to figure out what I learned last night.  Maybe it's a few things I already knew like testosterone and alcohol don't mix, stupid is as stupid does, or when everything is telling you to stay home and read a book, I should stay home and read a book. I think the last one might truly be the best lesson of all.  If gut instinct whispers to you, tells you, or actually yells at you to do something, you probably should follow it's directions.  People always discount their intuitive feelings, looking for more rational explanations. They should definitely develop better listening skills. I suppose I should too.  I firmly believe we have instinct for a reason and that we should listen to it, but I completely ignored my own last night and ended up in the midst of a tawdry and dangerous bar fight.  If I had paid closer attention to my instinct, I would have enjoyed a quiet night in my fuzzy jammies, sipping a hot cup of coffee, and reading a compelling novel.  Instead, I put myself in a potentially seriously dangerous situation, and came home too late, exhausted from stupidity and miffed at the general dumbness of drunken men.  

From here on out, if I get a niggling sensation telling me to do something, I am going to listen much more closely to it.  I guess karaoke did teach me something last night, or at the very least reinforced a lesson I already knew to be true.  And on another up note, my friend made further progress with "the dude." I have a strong instinct that that particular endeavor will yield good results and fortunately, it's one feeling I am happy to listen to.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Playing the Hand You Are Dealt

"I just want to let you know, that even though he isn't responsive, he can more than likely hear every word you are saying."  The nurse said this to my friend as she visited her step-brother in hospice.  In a coma-like state for the past few days, he had obviously begun his journey towards death and she had come to make her goodbyes to someone with whom she'd shared part of her life, but with whom she had no real relationship.

I watched silently, as different emotions surfaced on her face and in her eyes, only to be pushed down again by some steely desire within her to remain in control.  I could see her struggle for the right words, and I empathized with her difficulty in saying and doing the right thing. I could tell she felt infinite compassion for this shell of a man who lay on the bed in front of her, mixed with ample amounts of pity, regret, and even anger.  What does one say to someone else who has shared some of the same trauma as you, but also created chaos and trauma for you as well?  Merely being victims of the same perpetrator doesn't necessarily make two people friends or allies.  Sometimes it just makes you enemies that share a common hatred for someone else.

The entire scene depressed me.  So much so, that the next day I felt drained, overly-emotional and full of existential angst regarding the meaning of life.  The episode affected me rather deeply for several reasons.  I felt pity for the man dying of a slow cancer who had obviously led a life made complicated and difficult by circumstances in his childhood that left painful scars never completely healed.  He constituted one of those people that seemed destined to be born only to suffer through life and to die suffering as well.  I felt sad regarding my friend who has worked diligently on recovering and enriching her life for having to deal his death and the resurfacing of dormant memories and accompanying emotions caused by this event.  I confronted my own feelings concerning death and loss from which I had been hiding.  Emotions regarding my father's sudden passing this spring and my recent estrangement from my sister surfaced and made me thoroughly sorrowful.

Yesterday, I spent a great deal of time going over questions in my mind for which I have yet to find reasonable answers. Why must people suffer as they do?  What causes an innocent child to be born into a family that neither deserves them or treats them humanely? Why do people consistently make stupid decisions which allows evil to flourish? Why do good people die early and heinous people continue breathing other people's air? Why are some people consistent survivors and some chronic victims?  Why does humanity exist and what's our purpose?  What's the point of being born, living and dying?  Is there something we are meant to accomplish during this all-too-brief period?  What lessons are we meant to learn? Suffice to say, I had too many thoughts and not enough room to think yesterday and fell into a fairly melancholy and morbid state.

I have ideas that partially answer these questions, but I have yet to find anything that answers them completely.  All I know to be true is that life can be totally random, tediously scheduled, cruel, generous, ugly, beautiful, short, divine, mundane, happy and sad.  In a nutshell, uncontrolled. We have to figure out how to handle the mercurial nature of life to minimize the negative aspects and maximize the positive elements. But, damn! Staying focused on living in the present and living positively can be exhausting, even for the lucky ones like me. I cannot begin to imagine how incredibly difficult it can be when hardship and chaos dominate a person's life for no apparent reason.

I am proud of my friend.  She's a survivor and maintains a perspective regarding life that is both pragmatic and hopeful.  She has made the best of the hand life has dealt her and in spite of all the hardships, she still maintains the capacity for generosity, compassion, and love. Her indomitable spirit allowed her to gather the emotional reserves to put aside her bad memories, the effects of childhood trauma, and painful feelings regarding family to gracefully and graciously say goodbye to her step-brother.  Her acknowledgment of him and the past that they had shared did not go unrecognized by the dying man.  He knew she was there and I think he appreciated her presence.  And maybe that's all we can do.... maybe it's all we are meant to do...Maybe the ANSWER I've been looking for is as simple as that--being present, acknowledging our fellow man and woman and their journeys, and playing the hand we are dealt in the best possible way.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Bright, Beautiful and Over-The-Top

 I love green things.  Living in southern New Mexico, even with all of it's unique desert beauty, a person can become starved for vegetation.  If you know where to look in the desert, you can find all sorts of living things, but most come in shades of tans, rusts, and brown. There exists a distinct lack of vibrant colors.  Everything is muted except the brilliant blue sky. The desert possesses an austere beauty, stripped of all pageantry and flash. Green things are few and far between and when I get the opportunity to spend some time in the midst of living, beautiful plants and flowers, it rejuvenates my soul and my mood.

I love pageantry and flash.  I miss the vitality that green things just exude.  Being around plants and flowers and water makes me feel alive.  Colors put a song into my soul and brings me joy.  We went to the botanical gardens in Albuquerque this weekend and I had the most amazing time.  Just being in the middle of all the green grass, flowers, trees, plants and water features made me so incredibly, stupidly happy.  I think it must be a throw back from living in South Carolina as a child.  Everything green seems to grow wild there.  Lush and humid and beautiful, the deep south can be a paradise for lovers of nature.  I completely understand why people who move from somewhere green have difficulty adjusting to Alamogordo.  Everyone goes through a transition period where they hopefully become accustomed to the low humidity, the lack of water and vegetation.  Quite a few people, however, become depressed to be in such a dry area.  If they are lucky, they start to see how the desert itself can be quite beautiful, but it takes time and a focused mindset of appreciating differences to really feel comfortable here.  Those things and a heck of a lot of chapstick and a good humidifier!

I totally understand the depression, though.  I went through the same thing when I moved here. I missed the grass that just grew untended, the flowers that bloomed without hours of care and watering.  I  missed the greenness with a passion that few native desert dwellers understand.  I've been in New Mexico for twenty-five years now and I still have moments where I long to be somewhere else, where wildness blooms in the spring, where trees turn a hundred different colors in the fall, and where the smell of green permeates the air.  That's one reason why I appreciated the botanical gardens so much this past weekend.  It smelled green and beautiful and wonderful. I am definitely going to go back again when I need another reminder of how riotous and glorious nature can be.  It was a good weekend for all things bright, beautiful and over-the-top.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Fire and Ice

Fire and Ice

I know I can come across to other people as callous and unfeeling on occasion. I can be cold as ice--frostily, perfectly polite. I don't do it intentionally to hurt anyone.  It seems to be an automatic reaction to when I've been hurt or upset to reduce myself to manners, becoming completely devoid of warmth and sincerity, but most of all feelings.

Some people, when angry or betrayed, transform to heat,  full of fiery outbursts.  They let all sorts of things fly about, calling up a storm of words to express how they feel.  They become the moment themselves, losing rationality, burning everything with emotion.  I am the opposite.  Instead of expanding, I contract to the smallest, remotest point possible.  I retreat into myself and become logical and rational.  I use civility like a knife, cutting with precision strokes.  It is a cold passion, but just as destructive as the heated kind.

I think it is funny that my sister and I have such disparate fighting styles.  Raised in the same household with the same parents and enjoying seemingly the same childhoods, we could not be more different when it comes to engaging in or sustaining an argument.  I know it makes her crazy when I withdraw and refuse to become emotional. She interprets that as being completely uncaring about the situation. And in all honesty, I can understand how she might interpret it that way.  Rather than succumb to the feelings I have, I shut them down, put them in a drawer to deal with them later privately. I have never liked being "messy" in front of other people, including family, and being emotional is "messy."  It is uncontrolled, it is untamed and I don't like it one bit.

 She makes me nuts when I cannot get past her posturing and bombast.  She is all feeling and no logic and completely "messy." She feels so much that she refuses to listen.  I think her ears must be too full of fire to hear anything anyone says.  I hear everything, I just don't react to it. It is equally as destructive of a fighting technique or defense mechanism as not listening. When we fight, we embody the saying "oil and water."  We do not mix at all, bouncing off each other the entire argument. Dancing around each other and not resolving anything until she cools down and I warm up. It is fortunate that we do not fight much because we do not do it well.

My sister is all I have left from my original, very close-knit nuclear unit. For my entire life, she and I behaved as an inseparable unit.  We were best friends, confidantes, and each other's cheerleaders. As ugly as our fights could become, our love and friendship remained just as strong.  Things lately, however, have been incredibly strained between us.  Living in each other's back pockets had to come to an end sometime and I actually could sense a change in both of us over the past few years, where I became more of my own person.  As I've matured, I've become more opinionated and less willing to subsume the things I want to do in favor of someone else's desires.  She has changed a variety of ways as well. We think differently, we behave differently, and we are both our own women with our own ideas and beliefs.

I never thought, in a million years though, that the changes we've both undergone would lead to an estrangement between us.  For the past several months, our relationship has been strained by external factors, other people, our own reactions to situations, and differences in how we think about what constitutes good and bad decisions.  I think the differences in our outlooks were always present, but current situations have exacerbated them, brought them into the forefront and highlighted them.  It has become less easy to brush them under the rug and move on as if they did not exist.  It has become harder to accept those things about each other that make us so different and therefore, we've quit spending time together.  

I don't know when this estrangement will end.  Unfortunately,the one thing we do have in common is a stubborn nature.  She thinks she is right and I think I am right and neither of us has gotten to a point where we are willing to give up enough of our points to make it comfortable between us.  All I do know is that I miss her.  I miss her so much.  I lost a lot last year with all of the changes that happened in my extended family, with the death of my father, with just....everything. I never expected to lose her too.  

The past several months have been incredibly difficult in regard to my relationship with my sister.  I think about it all the time.  How we went from being so close to so very far away from one another. In all honesty, I don't think it will ever be the same again. She and I are not the same people we used to be.  I just want it to get to a point where we can be good friends, without any fire or ice, without too  much much messiness or precision.  I want a calm, peaceful, easy and enjoyable friendship with her and I am really going to work on trying to achieve that.  I hope she works at it too.  Life is too short not to have your family share it with you.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Whatever and More Poems

Do Not Love Me

Like a comet called to dance,
you break into the pregnant earth, the solid rock-roundness of me.
Crashing into my details, furrowing a road where none existed,
you give me words, lend me sound
to say anything, to scream up a magic that rages
against isolation interrupted.

Wary, I wait on
the imagined damage already done,
for the wave goodbye with a cynical eye and easy wrist.
I refuse your prayers to wake and embrace this love.
My head holds only space for solitary kites
in flights of fancy, the stuff which dreams are made.

I despise the gravity, the weight which holds you firmly to my lonely fate.
I cannot love beautifully, nor love right.
I am perfect imperfection in matters of the heart and night.
I'd rather you be a falling star faded on the wind,
than let me extinguish your fire in the end.

Shadow Cinquain

The sun
hangs low right now.
The afternoon ends soon.
You walk away without my heart.
I cry.


"It takes courage!" he barked at me.
Where am I supposed to find that? I thought.

Does it even exist in this body,
perhaps clinging to tendons and bones unknown,
like a virus dormant until triggered.
Is it in muscle memory,
kinetic energy
stored deeply beneath the fear?
A moment of time,
a catalyst never coming,
a bravery unfulfilled, unnamed.

"Whatever," I replied.
And cried on the inside
hot tears of doubt and shame.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Best Wishes, Birthday Boy!

Birthday Boy Grayson
Today, my nephew Grayson David turns 12 years old.  He is quickly becoming a young man, moving out of childhood and entering the awkward period of adolescence.  It seems sometimes that for every step he makes forward, he gets pushed two steps back, but he never gives up.  His resiliency amazes me. Grayson has an entire world inside himself to draw upon when times get difficult or stressed.  His brilliance lies in his imagination and his inner-world of thought.

He can be a very deep thinker with flashes of incredible humor.  By turns he is annoying as heck and as funny as all get out.  I've never met another person quite like Grayson, and I am blessed that I get to be his favorite Aunt.  We share a common bond of being Virgos and he and I have similar qualities and characteristics that allow us to understand one another in a way that other people do not.  He is maturing and developing every day and learning how to harness his intellect and imagination.  In sum, he's one spiffy kid!

I wish only the best for my crazy, wonderful nephew.  I hope he achieves all his goals and dreams and develops a positive sense of self. I want him to love himself as others love him.  I want him to move smoothly and well through the world.  On his birthday, I wish for him only the brightest of futures in which he develops into a moral, compassionate, wise and kind individual who knows his own value and the value of others.  I think he is well on the road to living a successful, productive and fulfilling life.

Happy birthday, Grayson!  Always know that no matter how frustrated I may get with your antics, I will always love you and wish the best for you.  You are one amazing boy and I know that you will be one even more amazing man one day.  (Even if you do have questionable taste in music and birthday cakes!)

Runaway Train: Coping Mechanisms

For some reason it seems as if quite a few people in my life have been experiencing increased levels of stress. The reasons range from intense family drama to finances to romance--basically all the typical things that create issues for individuals. A number of friends and family members have been experiencing cognitive dissonance regarding how they want their lives to be and how their lives are actually manifesting.  I am pretty sure I might be one of them.  Circumstances really haven't matched what I envisioned for myself, and I need to discover a way in which to reconcile what is with what should be, or to just create different circumstances altogether.

I have been thinking lately of coping mechanisms and how people employ them to reduce emotional and mental stress to manageable levels.  I think we all have ways in which we deal with situations that cause us to freak out a bit or take us outside our comfort zones.  Some mechanisms provide short term fixes and we use them solely for moments or instances that pop up and fade away.  Other mechanisms are long-term stress management tools and often they prove to be effective in reducing stress, but they can also cause collateral damage which increases discomfort in other areas of our lives. They can also create an environment in which a person is constantly managing stress but never addressing the reasons for the stress in the first place. Coping mechanisms primarily center around one thing--avoidance.  They are like a runaway train which we all hop on when the going gets tough.

The key to healthy living is finding coping mechanisms that reduce stress levels effectively while not causing further problems in relationships, job performance, and levels of self-worth.  Sometimes people turn to substances to manage their feelings and emotions.  They have a drink after work, smoke cigarettes, or take drugs to reduce their negative feelings to less noticeable levels.  Others withdraw totally from friends and family, stewing inside and thinking over situations, numbing themselves with isolation.  I have one friend who lashes out at the slightest provocation and seems to lose all sense of humor.  I have another friend who cracks joke after joke, drowning distress in laughter.  I have a tendency to lose myself in trivial make-work, finding small odd projects to do that are so detail-oriented that I don't have to think about what really bothers me.

Each of these methods can be very effective in making us feel better, but most of them have by-products that affect the people in our lives in a negative way.  They also don't do anything to address the causation of the stress, they are merely palliative, not curative. For example, my husband has a tendency to isolate himself during periods of intense stress.  It helps him cope with his problems at work, but for me it feels as if I am being completely shut out of his life. Although I understand his motivation for isolation isn't related to me, I can't help but feel rejected sometimes.  It drives a wedge between us and creates a distance that then takes extra work to eventually bridge and if it goes on long enough, it creates an underlying resentment for the time spent emotionally separated from one another.  My friend who laughs about her stress rarely gets to the root of her problems because she is too busy laughing about them.  Nonetheless, when the entertainment value has been mined from the drama, the problems still remain. My other friend who loses her sense of humor  and lashes out at her friends or becomes intensely negative with them has to spend time repairing relationships as opposed to fixing the original problems causing her to behave that way.

I know that when I get busy with meaningless or trivial projects to fill my time, I am not using the time to ruminate about how I can fix myself, I am just focusing on something benign or soothing so that I can hide from issues I'd rather not face.  Coping shouldn't always be about running away or burying our feelings and thoughts in substances, behaviors, laughter, or isolation.  Coping mechanisms should be used in the short term, while we make other efforts to improve the overall state of our lives.  Facing what annoys us, stresses us, or scares us can be the only way to create a more healthful way of living and being.  There is a distinct difference between existing and living in this world.  Existing means moving from one point to the next without fully being present.  Living embraces the idea that we are truly here for every moment, completely aware of ourselves and our place within the world as well as our impact upon those who inhabit the world with us.

Dealing with stress should be in as positive a way as possible. More so than that, however, dealing with the issues that cause us chronic, on-going stress should be addressed as soon and as fully as we can.  That might include finding a faith or philosophy that provides some comfort and security, eliminating or reducing habits and behaviors that create stressful situations, engaging in hobbies or activities that increase our sense of self-worth and satisfaction, or facing and conquering our fears. We just need to stop running away or avoiding our problems.  Play the hand we are dealt and do it in the best way possible--a way that is life-affirming and positive.  It might be easier said than done, but it is entirely possible and absolutely up to us.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Character Flaw

I remember having a conversation with my sister many years ago about a woman we both knew who had the audacity to say she would choose her man over her kids any day of the week.  It's one thing to focus on a spouse or a boyfriend when your children are grown and have lives of their own and to say that your children are secondary concerns while they are young. We were flabbergasted by that statement.  How as a mother can you just throw over your children like that for a man? From the moment I heard those words from that lady's lips, I lost respect for her.  So far...about ten years later, it still hasn't returned to its previous levels.  For me, that one expression of how she felt regarding her minor children, illustrated a profound character flaw in her that I never could get beyond.  She became, in my opinion, tainted goods.

For me, the best thing I have ever done in my life was give birth to my three little miracles.  They are my favorite people in the entire world and there is not one thing that I wouldn't do for them if I knew it would enhance their lives, make them more secure and safe, and make them feel loved and valued.  I love my husband dearly, he is my soul mate in fact, but if I were forced to choose between him and my children, he knows that the children would come first.  And he damn well knows that if he had to choose me or the kids, they had better come first for him too.  In my world view, that's the way it should be.

I've seen first hand the kind of psychic damage that occurs when a mother or a father discards his or her children in favor of another person.  The sense of emotional and sometimes physical abandonment is something that these people struggle with for the remainder of their lives.  They have difficulty trusting others, they view themselves as damaged and unlovable,  and they maintain fragile self-esteem and low feelings of self-worth, all which impact every aspect of their lives. It is a terrible thing to do to a child to indicate or even openly express that they are not your top priority, that someone else comes first, and that they aren't worthy of an unconditional, abiding parental love.

I cannot even begin to understand what would motivate a parent to do that to his or her children.  It bothers me so deeply because I think everyone should love and respect their children enough to ensure that they mature into productive, happy adults.  I adore my children and constantly think about what practices provide the best way of creating a secure, safe, loving, and warm environment in which they can develop and grow in a positive fashion.  They come first, and I often put myself last in my list of priorities to ensure that they have their needs met.  I couldn't live with myself if I knew that what I was doing was hurting my kids.  The guilt would eat away at any of the joy I gained from my actions. Once you have a child, you have a solemn and sacred responsibility to that child to raise him or her well.  What you want to do shouldn't matter until the child's needs have been met.

I am not saying a parent should tolerate disrespect, bad behavior, or on the other hand, spoil their children rotten by giving them everything they want.  I am saying that when push comes to shove, when it comes down to brass tacks, the children should know that in their parents' hearts, they take the first position. Their emotional and physical security, their mental and physical health should be paramount.  If you fall in love with someone who doesn't get along with your kids, or who is emotionally or physically abusive to your children, or who emotionally manipulates and isolates you from your children, then that person should leave.  No decent human being would ask a parent to put him or her above the kids' well being, and if he or she does, then that person has just proven the extent of his or her character flaws.  More importantly, if you are weak enough to believe that someone else's well being is more important than your children just because they fill some void within you, then God help you.  It's just tragic and pathetic when that happens.  Everyone loses. The children are irreparably hurt and you end up old and alone.

I am going to bed now, but before I sleep, I will make sure that I go in and kiss my blessings and wish them sweet dreams.  I will pray for them tonight as well, asking the Universe to grant them happiness, health, and love and me the skills and abilities to raise them well.  It's a hard task, being a parent and especially hard being a good one, but the rewards far outstrip any of the troubles.  You just have to be willing to subsume some of your own wants and desires to see them.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Unity of Purpose Knows Only Victory

A good friend of mine took this picture, and aside from the brilliant clarity and color, what captured my attention most was the sense of possibility the composition contained.  I love the idea of a road stretching out before me, turning on a curve so that I have no idea what could be ahead, but nonetheless eager to get there.

My fortieth birthday is coming up this Sunday and have been reflecting quite a bit about my life in general and this past year in particular. I thought this picture seemed appropriate for how my 39th year passed--full of curves and unknown destinations.  The past twelve months constituted one wild ride full of ups and downs, but one in which I learned a lot about myself.

I did things I never thought myself capable of doing.  I loved hard and lost hard this past year.  I stretched my ideas and explored new avenues of thought and action.  I hid away for awhile too, nursing wounds too deep to share with anyone.  I faced one of my biggest fears, that of losing my father, and I find that while I am not completely 100 percent okay, I am doing pretty damn well considering all the circumstances.  It's been an amazing year of discovery and of loss, of contraction and expansion, of accommodation and denial.  A year of dichotomies.  And even with all the chaos, the driving into unknown territory, I am all the better for it.

Much like the road in the picture, I am looking forward eagerly to what the upcoming year may bring me.  I feel like flying quickly down this road, savoring the sensation of forward momentum and enjoying the scenery along the way.  It's taken a good long while to recapture my sense of excitement and optimism regarding starting a new year of my life.  I am grateful to finally be feeling this way.  I spent much of the past month struggling with depression and a bone-deep sense of ennui.  My tried and true methods of pulling myself out of the dumper didn't work and this failure only intensified my negative feelings.  Then I woke one morning and decided that I couldn't continue indulging in such a level of self-pity and misery and just got on with the business of living, forcing myself to say "yes" when I wanted to say "no", putting myself in situations where opportunities for enjoyment were guaranteed, and making a conscious choice to be positive.  That's another thing I learned this year, that the old saying of my father is absolutely true, "Unity of purpose knows only victory."  If one focuses all his or her will power in one direction, success happens.

I think that will be my motto for the upcoming year....I will have tremendous unity of purpose.  I am going to continue learning, growing, and gaining forward momentum and accomplishing those things I know I either want or need to achieve.  I am going to drive down this road wherever it may lead and make sure that forty is fun, fabulous, and fulfilling.  Watch out world, here I come!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

I had a friend recently tell me that she felt as stupid as she could possibly feel regarding a certain situation in which she found herself.  She vented to me about how silly she believed some of her actions to be, and while I listened to her I realized that the old adage, "Stupid is as stupid does," really doesn't apply in most instances.  I, for one, think it is all about how a person frames the situation and from what perspective he or she views his or her actions.  If a person's intentions are pure, and one acts in a manner true to his or her motivations, then the behavior should never be perceived as stupid.  Unsuccessful, maybe.  Embarrassing, sometimes. Unsatisfying, most definitely. But never stupid.

Stupid means foolish, careless, vapid, obtuse and lacking intelligence.  Just because circumstances fail to go according to our plans doesn't make our intentions or our actions necessarily stupid.  As much as we humans would enjoy having control over our world, we do not have that luxury.  We have control over our own feelings, reactions, intentions, and behaviors, and that's it.  We are not responsible for anyone's actions but ourselves and thus we should not indulge in feeling stupid about situations over which we have no control. In a nutshell, never take one someone else's stupidity for your own.  If people consistently allow themselves to feel stupid when life runs amok, then they begin to inhibit their behaviors and even thoughts.  It's not a positive, growth-oriented way in which to live.

I am a firm believer in "nothing ventured, nothing gained."  Quite often our plans fail to reach fruition, but if we never put ourselves out there we never have opportunities for things to be successful either. We deny ourselves both the pleasure derived from successful ventures as well as the learning moments gained from failures. When the fear of appearing stupid curbs how we operate in life, we do not live fully.  Life takes detour after detour, and all we can do is follow along, hopefully enjoying the scenery on the way and learning something new.  

Each day, each moment, each situation in which we find ourselves constitutes an opportunity for growth, learning, self-control, and personal empowerment.  Allowing the self-negating feelings of stupidity and foolishness to overcome our sensibilities leaves no room learning and positive development. So, when my friend wrapped up her story and asked me if she appeared as stupid as she felt at that moment, I gave her a resounding "No!"  I told her to get over her bad self and just take the event as one big learning experience that would ultimately provide us quite a bit of laughter later in life while we reminisced in the old folks home. At that point, she punched me arm and declared, "Oh, stop being so stupid."  I punched her back, grinning all the while and said, "Stupid is as stupid does."

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


View from the front porch.
This past Labor Day weekend I went back to Capitan with my family and my sister, her boyfriend and one of her sons.  We generally return there several times of year and Labor Day is primarily used for yard work and home maintenance.  There is about one acre of fenced land that needs to be mowed, trimmed and weeded and various other fix-it projects to do around the house.  We usually have a great time over the three days in addition to working hard, and a large part of that enjoyment comes from the fact that Capitan becomes stunningly beautiful in August and September.  The rains finally arrive and the grass becomes green and lush.  Yellow and purple and white wildflowers dot the landscape, occasionally creating entire fields of color.   The way the sun begins to set behind Sierra Blanca in the early evening creates the most beautiful displays of shadow and light I have ever seen anywhere.  The weather cools down, the evenings carry a bit of a chill and the stars positively burst from the night sky.  The entire ambiance and atmosphere tickles my bones, eases my soul and makes me thoroughly content to be home.

The only thing that could possibly wheeze on a gig this grand is family dynamics and when it wheezes it does it up big time!  Spending three days with another family, even if it is my sister's, always taxes my nerves.  With my three children and their cousins, the house feels full to bursting and countless negotiations take place, innumerable disagreements get disputed and then settled, and incessant chatter occurs continuously.  For being fairly rural and isolated, the Capitan home has to be about the noisiest place I can recall being as of late.  In addition to corralling the monkeys, the adult dynamics also take a little toll on my sanity, as I have not yet become used to the constant presence of my sister's boyfriend.  Everywhere I turn, he is there occupying some space that previously had been inviolate and solely mine and my family's.  It has been difficult sharing my space with someone new, especially a space so profoundly steeped with memories that definitely did not include him.

In some instances this past weekend, I would turn a corner in the house and feel as if I had bumped right into an invisible wall upon seeing him sitting or standing where someone else should have been.  I know I will eventually accommodate this particular change in the family dynamic, but it still greatly disconcerts me.  It is hard to not succumb to feelings of resentment and violation, but I really tried this weekend to remain pleasant and nonchalant in his company.  I wanted to enjoy myself at home and I didn't want any negativity creeping into my mindset or behavior.  While I didn't accomplish that particular goal at 100 percent, I think I made some positive strides in the right direction.  It seems as if he is here to stay and other than controlling my own reactions and feelings to things, there isn't a single thing I can do about that.

The children, as usual, had an amazing time.  For them, Capitan is a home full of happy memories, a respite from the heat and desert of Alamogordo, and somewhat exotic as it is definitely out in the country.  They don't seem to experience the melancholy that occasionally overtakes me as I think of my parents and begin miss them desperately.  Everything about them is still very close and present in Capitan and while I am able to be there without hurting constantly, I must admit this past weekend I got teary eyed several times.  Especially regarding my father. Once or twice I even felt as if I had my breath completely stolen from me, like I had been punched and had my breath knocked out. He's only been gone for five months and August seems to have been just about the hardest month so far for me in terms of missing him.  Going to Capitan for Labor Day only intensified those feelings of longing to see him again.

All in all, I had a good weekend.  My family enjoyed themselves.  I enjoyed the cool weather, the gorgeous view, and the sense of being "home" again.  Even though I had moments of exasperation, frustration, and sadness, I feel better for having gone.  I always feel better when I am able to touch base again with the place that will always be home for me, a haven.  Like the yellow Black-Eyed-Susans that dot the front yard and give it a temporary vibrancy, Capitan does the same for me.  It fills me up with gratitude and recharges my mental and emotional batteries, making me vibrant as well.  I am already looking forward to visiting again.

Black Eyed Susan

Friday, August 17, 2012

Karaoke Lessons: Friendship Rocks!

Happy Hour is Officially Over!

Happy Hour is Never Over When You are With Friends!

Days exist in one's life that just absolutely suck all the joy right out of a body and leave a person feeling defeated, tired, put-upon, old and ugly.  Nothing goes right.  One bad thing piles on top of the other and it seems as if a person's house of cards will crash down completely and leave one bereft of anything good.  Unfortunately, my best friend experienced a week of such days and yesterday she had reached her breaking point for stress and depression.  

The "blahs" must have been contagious as I had a series of bad days as well, feeling low and unlovable mid-week.  The events of last night, however, considerably changed my mood.  I woke this  morning feeling happy and upbeat, and my friend did too.  Nothing special happened--we didn't win the lottery, meet anyone extraordinary, or even  engage in friskiness.  We spent time together being silly and stupid and having a blast. 

She came over to my place after work and we indulged in a brief pity party, discussing the ins and outs of why the week had been a wearing one. We exchanged sympathy and advice, gave all the obligatory affirmations and basically comforted one another. Then the fun began--we started with ice cream.  Good ice cream.  High quality, "so-not-sharing-with-the-children"  kind of ice cream.  Passing two cartons of Ben and Jerry's back and forth allowed the conversation to elevate to lighter topics. As we chatted, we started laughing a bit, poking fun at our moroseness and self-pity. Once you've reached the stage where your own misfortunes can become the butt of jokes, you know things are looking up.

Giddy and hopped up on sugar, we decided spontaneously to gussy up and go to karaoke.  Following the logic of commiseration, if ice cream had made us feel better, just imagine what a beer and a bad rendition of Love in an Elevator could do for our collective mood. 

It totally worked too!  We goofed around, cracked jokes, and flirted with some men who's ages we were better off not knowing. After a couple cold beers, we got on stage and butchered White Snake's Here I Go Again, laughing the entire way through the song.  Feeling our oats, we then decided to take on the Spice Girls, whipping out with an embarrassingly bad version of Wannabe.  I haven't had so much fun in a long time.  There is something entirely refreshing about making a total ass of yourself and doing it on purpose, as opposed to feeling like the world is making an ass out of you for all reasons beyond your control.  

Last night's revelry at a dive karaoke bar put things in perspective for me.  Sure, life can get dreary and depressing and yes, bad things happen to good people all the time, but as long as you have a good friend with whom you can laugh, be silly, and play the fool, things never get too bad.  Friendship ameliorates, heals, enriches, and enlivens.  It adds an element to one's life that not even family can fill.  Family has to love you, to be in your company whether they like it or not.  Friends, on the other hand, choose your company because they enjoy it.  They want to be with you because of you, and whether or not we realize it, the notion of being wanted as opposed to needed has a tremendously powerful impact on a person's sense of self and feelings of personal worth.  

Karaoke did it again.  Yet another life lesson reinforced through the power of song.  Friendship totally rocks!  Sometimes it rocks quietly and solidly, comforting when comfort is needed.  Sometimes it rocks loudly and raucously, cheering and elevating when necessary.  A good friendship just does what needs doing.  Yesterday it needed to cheer up both of us.  It needed to remind us that the world holds so much joy if you only look for it, and that being down never lasts for long.  Thankfully, our friendship did just that.  It jump started our resilient natures, boosted our moods, and just made me wake up with a sense of satisfaction and a smile.  Life is good, especially when you are lucky enough share it with friends.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tickling Spiders and Others: Mash Up Poems

I revisit photographs full of pleasure and knowing
touching the outlines of black and white.
Colors refract back
into eyes that see without perspective,
complicating the view.

We played at love
well and often
and became obsessed with details of discovery
greedy for knowledge
hungry and alone.

Swallowed Spiders
Climb in the back
and we are gone.
Riding the road
skimming hills and valleys
that drop into our bellies 
tickling like swallowed  spiders.

I remember the smell of sunshine
and your hair dancing on the back of your neck
bent low in laughter,
while the hypnotic joy of freedom,
like yellow highway lines,
slid faster and faster
beneath us, into us.

and a half a lifetime ago
provide the perfect place to hide.
To once again feel the sun,
the tickling spiders,
and you,
like freedom,
sliding deeply into me.

Background noise and ambient unknowns
coat me in pleasured confusion.
I take off my glasses
and each hour quickly passes
with shapes and colors and sound.
I cannot hear your words
but I feel them slipping into me
snake-like, gentle pushing fingertips
of innuendo and suggestion.

The way you stroke imagination,
I do not need eyes and ears.
My body and spirit become an impressionist canvas
and melt liquid into
a pulsing puddle of sensation.

One dance left.
I want to leave behind doubt,
the fears and flaws that shadow and shade,
wasting the grace I've been given.

One song left.
I want to give my Siren's call
to draw you near from far away.
Come to me to raise cups and voices.

One life left.
I want to stretch the moments
building bridges to infinity
crafting something from this nothing.

I could be your sun.