Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Seriously? February Had To Have an Extra Day This Year

Although most years of the modern calendar have 365 days, a complete revolution around the sun takes approximately 365 days and 6 hours. Every four years, during which an extra 24 hours have accumulated, one extra day is added to keep the count coordinated with the sun's apparent position.

For being the shortest month of the year, February has always seemed interminably long to me.  It is my least favorite month of the year although several of the most special and important events of my life have taken place during this time.  I think of it as a month of holding one's breath, of playing a waiting game.  I am tired of winter which has completely lost its luster and I am waiting impatiently for spring to arrive.

I am pretty sure at this point that my attitude has a lot to do with February generally being a stressful, crappy month.  I always have managed to get sick after staying healthy all winter long, and my children all come down with something at the same time as well.  It is a month of ear infections, stomach flu, colds, runny noses, and the start of allergies. Therefore, I never really approach February with a good attitude.  I consistently wait for the other shoe to drop this month and wait for the sickness to happen so we can get it over with.  Perhaps I draw it to myself by thinking like this.  I really need to change my attitude, but I can't seem to get enough energy to do it.  This month also marks a time when my energy levels drop.  I have a tendency to become mildly depressed, realize I've completely reneged on all my New Year's resolutions, and generally feel like doing absolutely nothing.

Suffice to say, this February sucks much in the same way as most previous Februaries.  Actually, it sucks a bit more.  It's been a difficult month for a variety of reasons.  Everyone, including my husband got sick this year during this month, several things around the house have needed serious repair, allergies have hit earlier than usual and harder than normal, and I have put by the wayside everything I resolved to do at the start of January.  I am feeling as if the month cannot end fast enough and lo and's a damned leap year!  Just my luck.

I know I should be grateful to have more time granted to me, but I just can't work up the gratitude this year.  I am holding out for March and hoping things will be better.  I normally have a great attitude and love life, but right now I just want to go back to bed for the remainder of this extra day and wake up to an entirely new month!  I am vowing to start fresh, have a positive outlook on life and much like the spring that is rapidly approaching enter into a period of renewal. And on that note...I think I shall go take a nap!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Hanged Man

The Hanged Man is thought to represent the value of surrender and selfless acts. The Hanged Man embodies the notion that sometimes to lose is to win.

The Hanged Man creates his fate through inaction and accepts his fortune passively, without resistance. He does not struggle to control the path his life takes, but rather allows events to sweep him where they will, even if he is called upon to sacrifice himself. He is so at ease with the Fate the Universe chose for him that even hanging upside down from a tree does not ruffle his inner peace."

I have always enjoyed reading my horoscope and seeing what the day could possibly hold in store for me.  I have also recently been pulling a daily tarot card as well.  Today I received "The Hanged Man."  This card represents surrendering to fate, of having such a deep level of inner peace that a person remains completely unperturbed by what happens to him or her.  I like the idea of that...being so thoroughly centered that no matter what occurs in my life, I can handle it.  I often stress about situations, people, or events that cause problems or that mess with the flow of things.  I don't like being stressed because it then negatively affects my thinking and throws off the rest of my day.  Sometimes it can be the smallest incident that triggers too much thinking and a rising level of discontent.  I would love to have a greater sense of peace that regardless of how crappy the day turns out to be, I am still internally peaceful.

Some people may think that surrendering to Fate creates an environment in which a person chooses to do nothing in regard to guiding his or her life.  I think that could happen for some people if they took the message at face value.  I don't think the Hanged Man represents giving up completely and not having a personal stake in creating direction and meaning for one's life.  It just means to remain internally chill about how things shake out, while at the same time striving for the things, situations, and people one wants in his or her life.  In my opinion, being at peace doesn't necessarily negate ambition.

Anyway, it is definitely an idea to ponder today.  I am going to strive for remaining relaxed and calm in the face of whatever adversity may come my way.  I am also going to embrace and celebrate any joy that comes my way as well.  Being happy and peaceful is a choice.  Circumstances don't have to dictate our emotions.  We can decide to make up our minds to be joyful, peaceful, and happy regardless of our environments.  Pretty much everything is a state of mind.  You just have to make up your mind to be at peace, stay present in that idea, and enjoy life as it comes.  I think hanging out with the Hanged Man for awhile would be good for me, so that is exactly what I am going to do.  I'm already looking forward to a chill and relaxed day.  I hope yours is a good one too.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Not So Naive Anymore

I just finished watching an episode of Glee.  I love this show for a variety of reasons.  The music, the snarky dialogue, and the intricately developed characters all entertain, amuse and move me.  The show mixes humor and drama and music very well. Tonight's episode dealt with the attempted suicide of a young man tormented both online and at school after someone involuntarily outed him as gay.  My first reaction to the story line seems naive upon reflection.  I had a fleeting thought that the boy overreacted to his situation and that the bullying had been over-the-top for plot purposes.  However, I quickly changed my mind when I remembered a similar experience that happened in my senior year of high school.

In late January 1990, my mother who taught at the very small high school I attended, received a late night phone call regarding the suicide of a sophomore boy that I knew well and considered a friend.  I couldn't believe it when she told me what had happened.  He had gone out with one of his friends that night, came home,  went to his room, got undressed, and with his brother's gun shot himself in the head.  He killed himself because dying seemed easier than living as a gay teen in a small, rural town in New Mexico.  I think about him every now and then, and all the things he has missed.  Twenty two years have passed since his death and I am certain that his 37 year-old self would have been so much happier than his 15 year-old self could ever have imagined.  This thought deeply saddens me.

When I say I went to a small school, I mean a very small school.  We had about 100 students in grades seven through twelve.  I had 27 classmates graduate with me that year and most people considered us a large class.  Everyone knew this boy.  Everyone in town had watched him grow up and everyone knew he marched to the beat of a different drummer.  He never fit in with his family.  He suffered constant teasing at the hands of his brother, kids at school, and even friends.  He never admitted his homosexuality, but those people who are in tune with others could just tell.  I never cared one way or another about his sexual orientation.  To me, he was no more and no less than an average teenage boy trying to find his way through high school.  He was kind, he was funny, and on the surface he seemed to enjoy life.

In my naivety I never knew the level of his despair, nor the daily abject fear of being discovered to be gay.  For those of you who may read this and live in more cosmopolitan and open-minded areas of the world, New Mexico can be an incredibly backward, narrow minded, Christian-fundamentalist, and ultra-conservative place to live.  A small ranching town in the southern part of the state twenty-two years ago had to have been a living hell for someone who is gay.  He grew up around people who carelessly tossed around the word faggot, and made cruel and violent remarks about homosexuals. He learned in church that gay people comprised an affront to God and would burn in Hell for eternity.  I cannot even begin to fathom how difficult it must have been to have his entire world tell him every single day both silently and aloud how profoundly evil, malformed, and wrong he was.  I cannot understand what it must have been like to have your entire being be negated and disparaged on a daily basis.  It must have been a soul-crushing existence.  Nonetheless, he seemed to hide it rather well and when he killed himself so violently, the entire town reacted with shock and horror.

I remember feeling so angry at the time.  I harbored anger at him for not waiting two more years to get out and go live somewhere else where he would find acceptance.  I hated the students and townspeople who openly wept over his death, but had either complicity or blatantly caused it with their intolerance, their judgment, and their bullying.  I still feel sad when I think of him and the utter waste of his young life.  Even today, with all the progress that has occurred in regard to the acceptance of the LGBT community, teens who are lesbian, gay, transgendered or bisexual still have the highest rates of suicide among their peer groups. I continue to get angry at people who do not understand that being homosexual isn't bad or wrong or evil.  It just is.  Everyone should have the right to live his or her own life as he or she sees fit.  Everyone has the right to be loved, to love well and to live without recrimination, fear, and intolerance.

His death only reinforced for me my belief that all humanity is valid, worthy and beautiful.  We people come in all shapes, sizes, ideas, orientations, religions, colors and opinions and we all deserve respect, love, and tolerance.  We deserve acceptance, no matter what the details of our existences encompass.  As long as a person lives morally, treats other people with respect and affection, does nothing to harm another deliberately then he or she is a good person, and everything else about them doesn't really matter.  I wish more people in the world could see that.  We lose ourselves in trivial differences and fail to see the truth, the big picture of how humanity should peacefully co-exist.

Since his death, I've tried to provide support, affection and friendship to the LGBT people that have come and gone in my life. I've had several very good friends who have been homosexual as well as numerous students in the past who have been gay or lesbian. And I see it as my responsibility, my obligation to ensure that at the very least they know that one person loves and accepts them for who they are.  If I can help someone who feels isolated and alone feel connected and respected then I have made a difference and Corey didn't die in vain.

Beauty Is As Beauty Does

Dahlias will always be some of my favorite flowers.
Some of my earliest and most precious memories consist of my grandfather's beautiful backyard.  My mother's father, widowed for more than a decade when I can first remember becoming aware of the magnificence of his backyard, grew thousands of dahlias to occupy his time.  I can recall flowers as small as a three-year-old's fist and as large as dinner plates, and with colors ranging from the purest white to a purple so dark it looked ebony in the sunshine.  I came across this photo this morning, looking for examples of beauty as I had been thinking of the quote, "Beauty is as beauty does."  It reminded me so much of my grandpa whom my sister and I always called "Daddy Jack" that I decided to write about him instead. He was an amazing man in many ways and accomplished great things in his lifetime, his dahlias being one of them.

My grandpa entered the world on March 23, 1912.  As the oldest of eight brothers and sisters,  he developed a deep sense of caring and responsibility for others during his childhood and young adulthood.  He protected his mother from his abusive, alcoholic father and helped support the younger siblings during the Great Depression.  He learned resiliency, stoicism, and compassion during those years and truly understood the concept of self-sacrifice from a young age.  After hearing some of the stories from his youth, I am amazed that he grew into such a loving, generous, and well-adjusted man.  He persevered against situations that might have broken a weaker man and made a wonderful life for himself and his small family consisting of my grandmother and my mother. Although he had seen the darker side of the world from up close, he never lost his ability to see the beauty the world contained.  He celebrated that beauty through his flowers.

The dahlias took center stage throughout the year, not just during the late summer and early fall when they bloomed in a riot of color.  My grandfather spent countless hours digging the earth, safely storing the bulbs during the winter, carefully planning the planting so the colors and shapes would play beautifully with one another in the closely packed flowerbeds. All his hard work and dedication paid off when in July and August his backyard would explode with the most gorgeous flowers imaginable.  Another wonderful by-product of his garden, the countless hummingbirds that would feed in the early morning and early evenings, amazed me as a young girl.  So many would congregate you could hear this delicious buzzing and humming for a solid hour.  Sitting still on the work table on his back porch, my grandpa and I would watch the birds with quiet fascination.  Merely thinking of those golden moments brings a smile to my face every time.

The first year Daddy Jack became too weak to properly care for his flowers, my father who loved him as both a father and a friend, tried his hardest to make the dahlias bloom as my grandfather had.  Even though he put in every effort, the flowers did not respond to my father as they did to my grandpa.  They looked weak and anemic, almost as if they felt the declining health of Daddy Jack and responded in kind as a form of sympathy. I could feel the change coming that year, and shied away from the inevitability of his death.  Even as I continued to spend my evenings on the back porch with my grandfather, watching the hummingbirds, enticing him to eat milkshakes I would bring home from work, scratching his back and making the time as normal as possible, I could feel it coming and a deep sadness lay just underneath my surface almost all the time.

My grandpa, however, never gave into the sadness. I don't even know if he ever felt it.  He enjoyed every minute of those evenings. He always marveled at how beautiful the world could be, how wonderfully people could shape something plain and uninspiring into something profoundly magnificent and this true appreciation of life made his life meaningful and deep until the very end.  It also comprised one of the best and longest-lasting lessons I have ever had the good fortune to be taught.  Daddy Jack taught me to appreciate that the world contained infinite beauty and wonder and that people could and should create beautiful things not only for personal enjoyment but to make the world a better place as well.  As long as a person could go through life with gratitude, appreciation, and a willingness to work, life would be good and enjoyable until the last minute. Thank you, Jack L. Mayfield for giving me this gift of gratitude, developing my eyes to see all things beautiful, and sowing the seeds of true appreciation for all that life has to offer.  I miss you every single day.

 Earliest Eyes
From my earliest eyes, I remember flowers.
Plots, rows, and beds
of color dripping upon color
as if a rainbow had melted
in your back yard.
Hummingbirds in the late afternoon sun
danced on the air so joyful 
in the summer sanctuary you created.
Buzzing and gliding,
landing on dinner-plate dahlias,
they reveled in their feast.
Holding my tiny hand 
in your work-roughened fingers,
you spoke to me about the importance
of believing in beauty
without ever saying a word.
Always the gardener,
you sowed the seeds early 
and with grandfatherly patience
waited for them to bloom.
I wish you could see me now.
In the summer of my life.
I've taken all your lessons and put them to use,
blossoming .
I live in a world 
with color dripping upon color
as if a rainbow
had melted upon

Sunday, February 19, 2012

There is Something in Us That Loves Broken Things

There is Something in Us That Loves Broken Things
There is something in us that loves broken things.
That which has almost touched angel wings.
He who has heard the words seraphim sing,
and felt the hand of God so near.

In such vulnerability beauty resides
stripped of the veneer where ugliness hides.
It's purity restored by the violent tides,
and our need to witness the fear.

To rescue and be the hero with might,
take what is wrong and shape it to right.
Bring that which is dead back into light.
The seduction of resurrection is clear.

Cinquains of Wind
Trees sway.
Winds push and pull,
ripping apart old limbs.
They crash down, angry at being

The wind
screams its fury
and whips all living things.
Rage is visible even through
hot tears.

my teeth, dirt hides
gritty on my tongue.
I hate when it blows hard and fast
on me.

Falling Off the Wagon
Sanity is an acquired taste,
an act of will,
a diet for the soul.

I think I shall fall off the wagon
and have a thick slice of weirdness this morning

a huge helping of idiosyncrasies for lunch
with oddities on the side,

a sumptuous repast of outlandish behavior 
to sup upon,

and go to bed with satisfaction on my smile
and a promise on my lips to be much, much better tomorrow.

Someone stole my words--
forced me into muteness.
Thrust his fist down my throat, 
and choked me on his flesh.
Filled my mouth with muscle--
I drowned on sweat and skin.
Burrowing his fingers, inside me deep,
he pried loose my language and thought.

When he had them all in hand,
his arm popped out like a cork
and left me devoid of sound.

Before he vanished, for good measure
I received a parting kick.
He sewed my lips tightly shut
and laughed at my despair.

Puddle Jumper
When did the world begin to shrink?
How long ago like a muscle clenched
did oceans contract to puddles
and individuals disappear?
Years tightened like evaporating drops of rain,
and I never noticed.

I can touch its edges now.
Hand to hand, only a shoulder span apart.
I run my fingers along uneven, puckered seams
and marvel at the scar tissue
healed from history's violence.

Moving here to there and back,
I am a slip stream of time to race
jumping with one held breath
into ever smaller

It's a Plan 
It's a plan, man.
Can't you understand?
Or are your shaking knees
saying, "Please....
don't make me do this."

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Cheesy Little Secret

Anniversary Roses

I have a cheesy little secret... I am one of the millions of people who married on Valentine's Day.  February 14, 1998 marked the day that Jorgen and I tied the knot and yesterday we celebrated our fourteenth anniversary. I don't often tell people about our anniversary, or if I do, I usually add the caveat, "It was the only available day on a three-day weekend."  He and I have always been aware of the trite and cliched feel of a Valentine's wedding, and we often tease each other about this.  Secretly, however, I believe we both think of it as a fun little fact regarding our marriage.  It is not just a cheesy anniversary date, it is deliciously tacky and we appreciate the humor it contains. Humor comprises a cornerstone of our life together, along with trust, respect, and love.

In all honesty, the date came about due to logistics more than anything else.   Being a first-year teacher, I didn't want to take days off from work for my wedding.  In addition, Jorgen and I needed to marry quickly to start the immigration process and make him a legal resident.  We had about six weeks to plan and prepare, and President's Day weekend of 1998 seemed like a good option at the time.  We decided on a Saturday afternoon wedding at my sister's house with the justice of the peace, and it wasn't until we received a call from the printer of the invitations that we realized Saturday was the 14th and not the 15th as we had believed.  Being slightly embarrassed by the instant elevation of the cheese factor, Jorgen and I discussed changing the wedding to Sunday, but quickly realized we didn't care what day we married, just as long as we made it official.  The plans went ahead as scheduled.

For being a small wedding, over fifty people attended, crowded in my sister's living room and spilling over into the kitchen.  Everyone I loved shared this special day with us, and we all had a fabulous time.  I remember a few things very clearly from that day.  Laughter primarily.  I laughed as my mother pulled me aside as I got dressed and said, "Now you don't have to marry him if you don't want to.  Just be sure you want to do this. We can always leave through the back door."  (This is the same woman who looked at the judge after he had just married her and my father and asked, "If I don't sign this certificate, am I still married?)  I laughed as my dad walked me down the aisle (the ten steps from the kitchen to the living room), cracking jokes the entire way. I laughed when Judge Prelo couldn't pronounce Jorgen's name and then completely screwed up mine as well because he got nervous.  And everyone laughed when I said a spontaneous "Whoo hoo!" after he pronounced man and wife.

I also remember an overwhelming feeling of love.  I don't know if Valentine's Day added an extra dose of affection on the part of our guests, but everyone just exuded the most positive, happy and loving feelings all day long. We had the love of friends and family supporting us and sharing our day, but more importantly, Jorgen and I made the public commitment to love one another for the rest of our lives.  The only comparable feeling of all-encompassing love I have experienced since saying "I do." to Jorgen is the birth of my three children.  If you ask him, I think his answer will be the same.

Fourteen years later, we are more in love now than ever before.  We have experienced highs and lows, and periods of intensity and ennui.  We have laughed, cried, argued and made peace. We have three beautiful children who embody the best qualities of ourselves and who makes us better people.  So even though my anniversary date couldn't possibly be any tackier, I embrace it.  I am lucky and blessed to be so well-loved and to love so well, and every year that passes, Valentine's Day seems more and more fitting as a day to celebrate our marriage.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Blessings for the Birthday Boy

My 13-Year-Old Nephew Jon and my Almost 73-Year-Old Dad on Jon's Birthday
I consider my father and my nephew, Jonathan to be two of the funniest, wittiest, charming people I know.  My dad can talk to anyone, make them feel at ease, and entertain them with his stories, his jokes, and his smile.  Jon cracks jokes as well, possesses a good heart, and truly enjoys being around people. My nephew, his oldest grandchild, follows right in my father's footsteps--so much so that they even look alike and have similar mannerisms. Therefore, I find it ironic that these two people don't often get along very well.  They share similar personalities and temperaments, but it has only been recently that they've consistently enjoyed each other's company.  I love this photograph because they look happy, and more so they look happy being together.  I look at it as a harbinger of good things to come in their relationship.

Jack, Jon's Mom, Me and Jon
Tonight we celebrated Jon's thirteenth birthday.  This past year circumstances have been difficult for Jonathan and his family so it sincerely pleased me that he thoroughly enjoyed his family dinner and his party.  I think tonight's success constitutes an omen for good things to come and an overall improvement in his life in general.    My sweet baby is growing up. I remember him as the happiest of infants, vibrant, always smiling, and full of laughter and affection.  He won my heart immediately and I will always hold a special place for him there. He's grown in so many ways over the years. Physically he's been mature for quite some time.  He's 5'10, a solidly-built boy, and wears a size 13 shoe.  Recently his emotional and mental maturity have finally started to catch up with his physical growth, and I am amazed every day by his development.  He has so much potential and I am certain he will fulfill it.

Jon and his Happy Napper

Even though he is growing up, getting taller and bigger, and more like an adult, he still remains a child at heart. He has an innate silliness and fun-loving personality that will serve him well throughout his lifetime. No matter what negative issues occur in his life, he always bounces back to his jovial, happy nature.  His reactions to his presents and cake just reinforced this belief I hold about him. The World's Largest Gummy Bear and a Happy Napper comprised his two favorite birthday presents.  He loves the silliest things the best. His goofiness reminds me a lot of me when I was his age.  I think his resiliency to troubles and difficulties stems from his ability to completely enjoy himself when he is enjoying himself and his openness to allowing the little things to tickle his soul. I love that quality about him, and I love my nephew Jonathan so very much.  On his thirteenth birthday, an important milestone on his journey to becoming a man, I wish him only the best of luck, love and happiness and that this year is filled with blessings aplenty.

Abby, Jack, Birthday Boy, and Gray

Jon Blowing Out His Candles

Friday, February 10, 2012

Thousand Yard Stare: Rejection Sucks

Rejection sucks.  Done by someone we care about rejection can be devastating, but even when someone we don't particularly know or care for rejects us, it still stings.  It makes us by turns indignant, "Who the hell do they think they are?  What's not to like here?" and self-doubting, "Why doesn't anyone like me?  What is so wrong with me that even that person finds me unappealing?".  It also creates a certain level of sadness due to failing to make a connection with another human being.  We might not acknowledge the sadness, but I think we sense it, even if only subconsciously. Our varied responses to rejection drag down our emotional state and often result in feeling seriously crappy for a period of time. I would venture to guess that even the most secure, self-evolved people from time to time experience the negative emotional aftermath of rejection....even if they won't admit it.

Some types of rejection can be open, hostile, and down-right ugly, while other kinds display much more subtlety.  I think it is the quiet, indifferent style of rejection that hurts the most.  Making someone angry or annoyed at least means he or she pays attention to you, your being, and your presence.  Although negative in nature, it constitutes an acknowledgement and recognition of ourselves by someone else.  A person, on some fundamental level,  has to care enough about another human being to get angry with him or her and to let he or she then know, feel, or see the anger. The natural response to that kind of dismissal usually creates anger and resentment on the part of the rejected person.  While anger isn't necessarily a productive, healthy emotion, it feels much better than plain sadness.   Anger also motivates a person to action much better than self-loathing or self-doubt.

Being summarily dismissed as if one did not exist at all hurts the most.  I am positive that everyone has, at some point, received the "thousand yard stare."  The feeling of someone looking not at you, but right through you contains a profoundly disturbing and diminishing quality that upsets a person to his or her core.  I defy anyone not to be thoroughly insulted and/or hurt by this particular type of rejection.  I have experienced both ends of this....being looked past and being the one deliberately not seeing someone else.  In both scenarios, I felt badly.  I hated the lack of recognition by others, and I disliked my own behavior when I did that to someone else. Primarily because I knew just how hurtful non-acknowledgement can be and in hurting them, I hurt myself.  That's the shitty thing about being empathetic, you have a hard time with revenge or with rejecting people.  Even if you don't like someone, an empathetic person feels his or her pain.  Being deliberately mean is difficult for me, and my baser self wishes on occasion it were easier to accomplish.  I can't even give my husband the "silent treatment" very long, even if he seriously deserves it. And that pisses me off...I give in way too quickly.  I should at least hold out long enough for flowers.

I once had a friend who competed with my sister in many ways, but especially in the acquisition of people's regard.  She liked to rub it in when someone preferred her company to my sister's, and would often say, "I don't know why they don't like you....they love me."  At the time I laughed as it had become a running joke, but looking back on it, I think of it as evidence that we all seek to be seen, to be known, and to be heard, and we consider it a personal achievement when we gain someone's attention. Recognition can become addicting and I've seen people do unsavory things to gain it.  Part of the maturation process for humans includes becoming more accepting of ourselves, and less dependent on external reinforcement validating who we are.  Some people understand this concept and embrace it as they age, while others either dislike themselves or doubt themselves for their entire lives and remain enslaved to the constant search for attention and approval from outsiders.

In my opinion, to have a healthy life a balance must be struck between recognition of self and the importance one holds for the attention received from outside sources.  In addition, people should also limit their outright rejection of others, because when we cause pain to people, we only bring it upon ourselves. We can never escape the fundamental, genetic need for human connection, for the hard-wired desire to be appreciated by someone else, but we can mitigate its impact upon our lives.  By being more selective about our search for attention and by becoming more comfortable in our own knowledge of self, we can lessen the damage of rejection.  We can ameliorate the negative feelings engendered by being dismissed or by being the ones who dismiss. We can view situations and circumstances with a greater sense of peace, and not feel compelled constantly to seek validation or to be the ones who harshly reject others for whatever reasons.  A balance in this area infinitely aids a person in living a happier life in which personal satisfaction and compassionate behavior towards all people peacefully coexists.  Rejection will always suck, but we can definitely manage our response to it and our engagement in it, and at the end of the day feel pretty good about ourselves.  Because, when you lay your head on your pillow at night, the only person's opinion that matters regarding yourself is your own.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Here's to Hoping

While there is life, there is hope.
Marcus Tullius Cicero

When used as a noun, hope is a feeling of expectation or desire for something to happen.  As a verb, hope means to want something to occur.  Most importantly, hope comprises a permanent, fundamental aspect of human nature and lies deep within us whether or not we want it live there.  Over the centuries, philosophers, scholars, and writers have examined humanity's conflicted relationship with hope.  Great American statesmen, Benjamin Franklin said, "He that lives on hope will die fasting." While the father of the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther wrote, "Everything that is done in the world is done by hope."  I think writer, Francois de la Rochefoucauld best described the impact of hope on people by stating, "Hope, deceiving as it is, serves at least to lead us to the end of our lives by an agreeable route."  Even though life harbors a tremendous amount of disappointment, the mere act of hoping keeps us strong, dynamic, and resilient. Holding onto hope, even though most dreams never see the light of day, makes living life a worthwhile endeavor. Hope sustains us through hard times, it allows us to look to the future with a sense of optimism, and it keeps us progressing, growing, and learning until we take our last breaths.

Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul - and sings the tunes without the words - and never stops at all.
Emily Dickinson

In my own humble opinion, hope constitutes a cornerstone of living well. When a person has hope, he or she possesses a resiliency that will allow them to keep growing, learning, dreaming and loving until death. I personally cherish the ability to hope.  I love the fact that even though life can be difficult, disappointing and even devastating, hope ameliorates these things.  Hope cushions heartache, it eases grief, and it keeps us from giving into despair. It forever puts on our horizon the ability to think in terms of the future being better, and thus makes us behave in a way that will allow that improvement to come to fruition.  Without hope, nothing great, or even good, can be accomplished.  It constitutes a necessary, constant companion for our hearts, our souls and our lives.  Without ever-present hope, we are nothing.

We have always held to the hope, the belief, the conviction that there is a better life, a better world beyond the horizon.
Franklin D. Roosevelt

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Joy and Bliss of This....


There is never just hello with you.
Words that should float, fall heavy from your lips.
Lightness does not exist with the tug of subtext,
dragging them and me down into darkness.
I weary of hearing the hidden meanings,
the unsaid slights full of dormant disapproval.

Your eyes betray your thoughts,
your  body belies the smile on your lips.
A touch from you, becomes a lie itself
burning my skin, blistering me in the heat of hate
you cannot express.

Why stay?
Contempt cannot comfort nor satisfy.
Let me go by leaving.
Say hello to someone else
and mean it with all your being.

The Joy and Bliss of This…

That little thrill, bass in the blood stream
pumping to a beat beyond the heart’s well-known drumming,
dances through the body, coursing from fingers to toes,
arms and legs, eyes and nose
till a song breaks aloud and
I sing.

My golden moment,
the joy and bliss of this….
music of the soul transcending blood and bone
to find purchase in the world of words
loving melody and mood.

Lie to Me, Let Me Believe

Your  stories told made my life bright
Bright  enough to light the night.
Night became my favorite place.
Place your lies with me, my space.
 My space then filled asks you to leave.
Leave just the lies, let me believe.

Like Me

When I look at you, I see me
a younger version of self that has now molded
into something other, another copy
fifteen years too late.
Some learning,
some love,
some hate
makes me what I am.

Wishing to know then
what I know now,
I could have stemmed the tide,
but chose to hide instead.
And now, fifteen years too late
I am dying, not dead.

Guttering like a candle
blown in a draft, I am but wrinkles in the melting wax.
I ask you to relax, to take it easy
and not care so much. 
But I can feel your fear,
in the words I hear
dropping like stones, to rest weighted at my feet.

I see you see it too,
the familiarities, similarities between your state
of being and my own.
Don’t wait fifteen years too late, to be grown.
Do it now, the hard work won’t wait
for it will leave you all alone.

Some Things Are Just Not Worth Doing Well

Perfection might exist as a town, but never as a state of being.

My sister and I finally got to spend some quality time with each other this weekend.  I really enjoyed just being able to talk with her as it has been a long time since we've conversed about this, that, and whatever.  As the topics flowed from points A to Z,  we began talking about people we mutually know.  Somehow, the conversation turned to different personality types and we spent quite some time on the perfectionist personality as we have a few friends who share this trait.  Based on general observations we both came to several conclusions. Firstly, she and I have just enough slacker in us that we don't qualify as perfectionists. Secondly, that perfectionists often have troubled inner-lives filled with dissatisfaction, doubt, and low self-esteem. Thirdly, that we remain grateful to not have an incessant desire for perfection; it's too difficult a way in which to live one's life.

We both agreed that having a personality that tends toward perfectionism comprises more of a burden than a blessing. Two types of perfectionists inhabit the world: overachievers constantly seeking to be better, stronger, faster, and smarter and complete slackers who achieve nothing.  True perfectionists will work incredibly hard to achieve an unattainable ideal and along the way rack up an impressive list of accomplishments, or they do nothing at all.  Either way, these people who seek perfection never feel complete satisfaction in whatever they do.  They lead lives of consistent and continual dissatisfaction which can manifest itself in a host of emotional and mental problems.

 I myself lean towards wanting everything to be "just right", but as I've aged, I more thoroughly embraced the idea my great-aunt Merry Jo espoused.  When I get overwhelmed by having to do so many tasks during the day and disappointed that I cannot complete them to perfection, I hear her Texas drawl in my head reminding me, "Darlin', there are just certain things in this world not worth doing well."  I remember that conversation with her clearly because her words enlightened me.  I had an epiphany that day about how to live well, and from that point forward, I followed this particular philosophy. As my daily responsibilities increased, this idea has only strengthened and become more applicable to my situation.  At the time she told me this, my slightly messy house embarrassed me, and  I apologized for it's sloppy state. She responded with that particular statement and the addendum, "And housework is just one of those many things."  I am positive she never realized how her words impacted me, but they instantaneously made me feel better.  Even more so than that, they became a touchstone for me when I became stressed about not being able to do something just right.

In my lifetime, I have encountered both types of perfectionists, but currently I know two of the slacker variety.  I feel the most sympathy for them because they lead lives of desperation, so immobilized by not being able to be perfect in everything that they ultimately do nothing. They squander the many amazing gifts and talents they have to share with the world because of fear of imperfection.  At least the over-achieving perfectionist can placate him or herself with a laundry list of achievements, but the slackers have nothing of the sort on which to fall back.  Usually they develop an intense self-loathing and often escape into an addiction of some kind that allows them to maintain a sense of stability or numbness to their true emotions.  In a way, the over-achievers have that same self-loathing and become addicted to the cycle of constantly striving for more and consistently failing to meet their own high standards.  In any event,  both ways of living and thinking sadden me because these perfectionists never achieve the most important thing in life--happiness.

I want to sit both my friends down and shake sense into them.  I desire to make them realize that the valuable things in life--those things that bring us the most joy, enlightenment, and satisfaction are never perfect. Perfection does not exist.  It is an idealized state meant to motivate and inspire people to action, but not something we can ever truly attain. They need to understand that it is those imperfect things that we do from which we learn the most and from which we obtain the greatest satisfaction.  The cumulative experiences, the people that share our lives, the small moments of bliss and despair  make our lives worthwhile, not the end state of perfection.  It is the journey that remains important, not the destination.

Being able to accept reality as it currently exists would liberate them immensely and allow them to enjoy their lives.  They could, like me, focus on the aspects of their lives they deem to be the most important, putting forth great effort at doing the best that they can in those areas, while letting go of putting the same amount of effort into the trivial, less-meaningful things. This philosophy has granted me a life that satisfies me as well as provides me room for continual improvement.  It has created a healthy balance and I am truly grateful to have been introduced to the concept early on in my adult life. I really wish I could conjure for them my great-aunt Merry Jo, so she could whisper her magic into their ears and sow the seeds of imperfection in their lives.  For me, it definitely comprises one of the most beautiful, valuable flowers in my own personal garden, and I truly want this idea to bloom for them.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Say What??? Communicating with the Opposite Sex

Puppets with 3d symbols .. 

This evening, my daughter helped me prepare dinner.  She and I are the bastion of femininity in a house and family dominated by males.  In addition to my husband and two sons, I have two nephews, one father and mostly male pets.  It can be testosterone overload some days.  Therefore, she and I enjoy spending time together in the haven of the kitchen, hiding from the boys and discussing "girl" topics.  It is our own little version of my husband's "man cave" but with much better snacks.

Abby likes hanging out with me.  She likes talking with me and to me, and I am going to take advantage of every minute she chooses to do this.  At some point, she will realize how totally uncool her mother is and she will want to spend her time in other ways.  For now, however, she tells me about her day, her feelings, her friends, and any important incidents or events that happened to her.  My little girl inherited my "talkative" gene in spades.  She could talk a river upstream.  I even think she could talk me under the table if given the chance.  I usually listen attentively because my children seek my interest, my approval, and on occasion, my opinions.  My mind wanders every now and again, though, and this evening while Abby talked at me, I experienced a realization about the nature of boys and girls.

While Abby discussed in detail how she and a friend played at recess, I thought about how different my baby girl is from my two boys.  If I ask her a question, she generally gives a detailed, thoughtful response.  Very, very detailed. In contrast, my two boys generally use the minimum number of words they can get away with that still holds the meaning of their message intact.  I can't really chalk that up to just being variations in personalities between Abby and her brothers because my sons are as different from each other as night and day, yet they still behave similarly.  I think it has to do with the fact that they are boys.  This little mini-realization got me to thinking about gender differences in general, but primarily regarding the differences in how males and females communicate.  Even at the earliest ages, boys and girls exhibit drastic differences in the ways in which they share their ideas and feelings with others.

I am not a linguist or a specialist in language or communication by any means.  I merely base my ideas on observation and make generalizations about them.  From my experience, I've noticed that women tend to be more verbally expressive and communicative than men.  On average, little girls learn language earlier than little boys and they use their language to express their feelings, ideas, and opinions.  Little boys seem to express themselves more physically. I see this in my children.  As a toddler, Abby used her words to explain how she felt about something.  My boys use their bodies and their facial expressions more so than their language.  Joshua especially uses facial expressions, body language and sheer noise to carry meaning across to other people, primarily when his feelings are intense or overwhelming.  I have to remind him to talk to me about his issues rather than him relying solely on physical means of expression.  My son Jack, who began speaking at 9 months and using complete sentences by 13 months, amazes me with his vocabulary, his grasp of context, and his overall verbal ability.  Yet, he too, chooses to be more physical in expression than verbal.  He has the words, he just decides not to use them.

For some reason, men just don't have that innate drive to express themselves in verbal detail the way women do.  Some of that comes from just viewing circumstances with a completely different eye.  A man and a woman looking at one situation will not see the same thing. It could be the same set of facts, but opposite interpretations. Therefore the communication regarding the same event will be disparate as well.  A woman could describe the situation six ways to Sunday and a man might have only one or two sentences about it. I believe this stems from the male perspective that it is not important to hash out every little detail or to discuss with minute precision every single aspect of something. Once the general idea has been stated, there really isn't any reason to waste more time on discussing it.  They seem to me to be "big picture" people while women focus on details, hidden meanings, and the subtext of a circumstance.  This has to be due to variations between the male and female brain--the fundamental way in which we think.  Regardless of where the differences originate, however, what it all adds up to is that men and women have a hard time understanding one another and have difficulty communicating with each other.

We just don't speak the same language, and in order to have healthy relationships with the opposite sex we all have to become foreign language students and learn how to speak either "man" or "woman" with one another.  Most people eventually become fluent enough to maintain good relations and to communicate clearly their wants and needs.  Other people, however, never really learn how to talk to the other gender well and they usually have difficulties understanding the opposite sex.

The best way to fix this communication problem between the sexes is for all people to speak honestly, clearly, and concisely with each other, regardless of their gender.  I find that listening attentively to someone,  restating what they said in your own words, and checking with them to see if what you said is correct comprises the most effective means of fostering good communication and understanding between men and women.  You'd be surprised how often what one person says is not even close to what the other person hears.  Double-checking before moving forward with a conversation can only help a relationship become more fulfilling, more understanding, and more cohesive.

As I am writing this, I am watching my children play.  The boys are wrestling on the living room floor squealing and screeching while Abby has curled up on the couch with her Monster High doll, brushing it's hair.  The stereotypical nature of this particular tableau actually makes me laugh. I know gender differences exist on an innate level just by observing my own children and raising them on a daily basis.  Some of these things they do are hardwired and will never change.  Communicating with people, however, doesn't have to be one of those static gender traits.  Everyone can learn to speak clearly and make their meanings understood.  All people have the opportunity to develop good communication skills and I try every day to get my boys to use their language to the best of their ability.  I might even invite them into the "Girl Cave" in the kitchen to hang out with Abby and I so we can practice listening and speaking skills. They might not be terribly interested in the "girl topics" but I am certain I can lure them there with the better snacks than their Dad has to offer.