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