Abstract: Branching Dream in Blues, by russell.tomlin
“Where do colors go at night, before they are returned to us at dawn?” ~ Lorenzo
Sunday evening. Clear and chilly.
Last night I dreamed that I was fighting a dragon, a huge, purple dragon that swooped down over the meadow I happened to be in, and somehow, I escaped, only to fight a wolf with my bare hands. Weird, huh?
I love my husband; he shares everything me. For instance, his winter cold—clogged ears, cough, aches, and all. His symptoms began about four or five days ago. Mine hit their high point yesterday, so another day in bed for me. How does one repay such generosity of spirit? I’ll find a way. Trust me.
I didn’t come near the computer yesterday, which should give you an idea as to how low I felt. Instead, I read another book, this one by James Rollins. Please don’t ask me the title as I haven’t the foggiest idea. I just breezed through it in between napping. It possessed my little grey cells only for as long as I was actively reading. Sometimes those are the best kinds of books: formulaic plots that don’t tax the mind too much but manage to pass the time suitably, i.e., smart, independent woman, strong man, mad scientist/curator/military leader, possible end of the world scenario.
In other news, I think that I have finally, finally gotten my health insurance fiasco fixed. My last e-mail exchange with the HR rep at GW seems to confirm this, which makes it less fantasy and more possible reality. I know. Stupid isn’t it when wishing that you had health insurance that you are paying for actually worked? So if everything goes as hoped, I can make appointments with all of the specialists that I need to see: the neurologist, the gastro guy, the gyn, the eye doctor, and the mood doctor. Oh, and the breast smashing-people.
I have so much to look forward to.
“. . . Man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life.”~ John F. Kennedy
On to other things . . . Corey has an aunt and uncle in Egypt. I’m not exactly sure as to their location, but I do know that they live in an American compound. Still, it’s a situation fraught with dangers. I will admit that I am not as up on the background that led to the current uprisings. My ongoing headache has greatly affected my usual perusal of news sites. But I did come across the following on my tumblr dash:
“The current popular unrest in the Arab world has a lot of lessons for Washington. Undoubtedly one of the most jarring is this: The leak of a simple series of cables from a U.S. ambassador in an obscure country — officially condemned by Washington — may have done more to inspire democracy in the Arab world than did a bloody, decade long, trillion-dollar war effort orchestrated by the United States.”
Michael Hirsch of The National Journal was referencing Tunisia in the above passage, which many feel has a direct link to what is happening now in Egypt. According to The Daily Mail, “A 2008 diplomatic cable leaked by the WikiLeaks site outlines how the U.S. State Department supported a pro-democracy activist and lobbied for the release of dissidents from custody.” The article goes on to state that “the protests were triggered by the overthrow of Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Al Ben Ali. Street protests in Tunis focused on similar issues, including poverty and political repression.”
I must take the time to research the situation more thoroughly. If anyone has any good links, I’d appreciate the info.
“The trouble is, you think you have time.” ~ Guatama Buddha
In less world-shattering news, I have decided to enter an informal poetry contest that one of my fellow tmblrs is holding (A Poet Reflects).
Now, I should probably explain a few things here for those of you who think that entering such a contest is old hat for me. First, and probably most importantly, to enter the contest, I must submit my work. This means that someone other than my computer and occasionally a few family members will see my poetic attempts. The idea of such a thing scares the ever-loving bejeezus out of me.
Second, I don’t practice my poetry often; dabbling might be stretching the reality a bit. I am much more comfortable in prose. But occasionally, a poem comes to me out of the blue. You would think (well, most logical people would think) that such flashes would inspire me to hasten to some writing utensil to put down the words that are bouncing around in my head so that I can work with them more. Nope. Don’t do it. Too scared.
Too convinced that my poems are hack. Too certain that there is no point. So after reading about this contest, that night in bed the opening of a poem came to me. I went over it several times, rearranging words, deleting some, inserting others. By the time I was finished with my musings, I probably had eight or ten lines. Now anyone else might get out of bed and write these lines down so that they could be revisited in the morning. Did I do that? No. I told myself, ‘self, surely you will remember all of this mental gymnastics in the morning. Go to sleep.’
And so I did.
“So many worlds, so much to do, so little done, such things to be.”~ Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Of course I did not remember. This is the third thing in the list of things you should know about my poetry, and/or writing in general: I am my own worst enemy.
The next day, after bemoaning the fact that I could remember not even one line, I took a pad of paper and pen and sat on the bed to begin again. (I prefer to draft poems with pen rather than computer—probably the only kind of writing that I do with pen any more.) I was rather pleased when I drafted eight quatrains, rapid-fire. Rather surprised, too. Then I reread them and promptly put down the pen and paper and thought to myself, “Crap. Crap. Crap.” A few hours later, a totally new opening came to me, and having learned my lesson somewhat, I wrote down the new opening. Then I left everything alone so that I could mull and stew a bit (I view poems a lot like my homemade spaghetti sauce: it needs to simmer to reach its optimum flavor).
Okay, now here is the kicker: I put the three pages of pen-written draft in my book basket next to my side of the bed. At some point during the evening, I knocked over my cup of tea. Where did most of it land?
Do I really need to tell you? On my draft. I spread the soaked sheets of paper on plain white paper (one was written on both the front and back, something I rarely do) and left them to dry. It’s been two days. Have I looked at the pages to see if they are readable?
Of course not. Will I finish this poem in time to submit by the deadline? Who knows.
Perhaps the more interesting aspect is the journey that I have taken to write the poem rather than the poem itself. Then again, that just might be more of my self-justification for not doing what I need to do. Did I mention that a book of Pessoa’s poetry is the prize? That alone should motivate me to enter the contest.
I’ll let you know what I do when I know what I’m going to do.
More later. Peace.
Music by Jenny Lewis, “Godspeed”
From “Silence,” by Edgar Lee Masters
I have known the silence of the stars and the sea,
And the silence of the city when it pauses,
And the silence of a man with a maid,
And the silence for which music alone finds the word,
And the silence of the woods before the winds of spring begin,
And the silence of the sick,
When their eyes roam about the room.
And I ask: For the depths
Of what use is language?
A beast of the field moans a few times
When death takes its young.
And we are voiceless in the presence of realities—
We cannot speak.
Egyptian Protestors Praying in front of Military Vehicles in Tahrir Square, downtown Cairo, by Scott Nelson of The New York Times
If you know anyone in Egypt, please pass this on to them. To bypass government blocking of websites, use numerical IP addresses: Twitter: “220.127.116.11,” Facebook:Fb “18.104.22.168,” Google: “22.214.171.124.” A French ISP offers free dial up internet access: +33 1 72 89 01 50 Login password: toto. Please pass this on and share.
“An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics.” ~ Plutarch
Following is my personal state of the union post. You didn’t hear about most of these things last night because, well, that just wouldn’t play well in Peoria. Keep in mind that I’m only touching on just a few of our country’s ails tonight. I mean, very little of what I have included would be considered applause-worthy; I’ll leave that to the politicians. Lest you think that I am berating the President (I’m not, although I’m still pretty pissed over the acquiescence over the tax-cut extension), I would prefer to think of this SoU post as more of a reality check, bearing in mind that the foundations for the current morass in which this country finds itself were laid well before Obama, three decades or so ago, to be more precise.
Instead of my usual ranting and raving, I am simply going to supply some statistics and facts regarding the brutal realities of life in this country for a large part of the citizenry. Links are provided for my sources.
According to an article in USNews.com based on a Legatum Institute “prosperity index,” the United States is fairing poorly among advanced nations in several categories. Here are just a few:
Poverty. The U.S. poverty rate, about 17 percent, is third worst among the advanced nations tracked by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. In that sample, only Turkey and Mexico are worse.
Education. American 15-year-olds score below the average for advanced nations on math and science literacy. But don’t worry, our nation’s future leaders are still ahead of their peers in Mexico, Turkey, Greece, and a few other places.
Competitiveness. In the latest global competitiveness report from the World Economic Forum, the United States fell from No. 1 to No. 2. Sure, let’s console ourselves that the No. 1 country, Switzerland, is a tiny outlier nation and that getting bumped from the top spot doesn’t really mean anything. Add an asterisk, and we’re still No. 1.
Prosperity. The most prosperous nations, according to the Legatum report, are Finland, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, and Norway. These fairly homogenous European countries are the teachers’ pets of global rankings, often appearing near the top because of right-sized economies and a relatively small underclass. For a huge economy like America’s, a No. 9 ranking is still respectable. And part of the drop from last year’s No. 4 spot is a change in methodology that puts more emphasis on the health and safety of citizens. Still, in the index’s subrankings, the United States isn’t even in the top 10 for economic fundamentals, safety and security, or governance. We should do better.
Health. In the Legatum study, the United States ranks 27th for the health of its citizens. Life expectancy in America is below the average for 30 advanced countries measured by the OECD, and the obesity rate in America is the worst among those 30 countries, by far. And, of course, we spend far more on healthcare per person than anybody else—but get no bang for the extra buck.
“When I graduated from college, the average corporate CEO made 20 times what the average worker did. Today, it’s nearly 400 times. In other words, it takes the average worker more than a year to make the money his or her boss makes in one day.” ~ Senator Jim Webb
Nationally, the unemployment rate for people ages 16 to 24 climbed to 19.1 percent in July, up from 10.8 percent in July 2007.
According to a December 2010 article in USA Today, the unemployment rate for college graduates is at its highest since 1970:
“The jobless rate for Americans with at least a bachelor’s degree rose to 5.1%, the highest since 1970 when records were first kept, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics. October’s 4.7% rate was up from 4.4% in September. Meanwhile, the national unemployment rate last month rose to 9.8% from 9.6%.”
And according to an article in The New York Times, college graduates with bachelor’s degrees are still facing lower starting salaries, that’s if they can find jobs at all. Andrew Sum, an economics professor at Northeastern University, used federal labor statistics to assess the job market for college grads. Sum concludes that “many college graduates are finding jobs that do not require bachelor’s degrees, like retail clerk, office assistant or barista, he said. Using federal labor statistics, he has found that only 51 percent of college graduates under age 25 were working in jobs that require college educations, down from 59 percent in 2000.”
“From a spiritual point of view, it cannot be true that the work of the CEOs of some companies is worth a thousand times that of some other of their employees, just as it cannot be true that because you can get people to work full time for minimum wage they are justly compensated.” ~ Gregory F. A. Pierce
A September 2010 article in The Huffington Post reports on a 2010 report by the Institute for Policy Studies on CEO pay, “Executive Excess 2010: CEO Pay and the Great Recession”:
“The CEOs who laid off the most employees during the recession are also the CEOs who took home the biggest pay checks . . . The study (PDF) also found that 36 of the 50 layoff leaders “announced their mass layoffs at a time of positive earnings reports,” suggesting a trend of “squeezing workers to boost profits and maintain high CEO pay.”
The $598 million combined compensation of the top 50 CEOs in our layoff leader survey could cover the cost of average unemployment benefits to 37,759 workers for an entire year— or provide nearly a month of insurance for each of the 531,363 workers their companies laid off.
Golden Parachuter: Fred Hassan of Schering-Plough, by far the highest-paid layoff leader, last year pocketed nearly $50 million. Hassan received a $33 million getaway gift when his firm merged with Merck, while 16,000 workers were receiving pink slips. Hassan’s 2009 pay could have covered the average cost of these workers’ jobless benefits for more than 10 weeks.
Michael Duke, CEO of Walmart ranked #7 with a total compensation of $19,234,269 in 2009 versus 13,350 layoffs from November 2008 to April 2010.
“I think it is a national crisis to have the income disparity we have in this country. It is wider than in any other industrialized nation in the world. There must be a national policy to address the widening gap between wages of workers and the enormous incomes of the wealthy. I think the greedy corporate owners have to be confronted with the fact that they are ignoring their most powerful resource—their workers.” ~ John Sweeney
I found the following tidbit (from above-referenced study) very informative as regards what other countries are proposing for their own CEOs:
In Israel, the Labor Party’s Shelly Yachimovich and Likud’s Haim Katz have introduced legislation in the Knesset that would cap Israeli executive pay at 50 times the pay of a company’s lowest paid workers. Sharan Burrow, the new general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, the world’s most important trade union body, has proposed, as president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, a cap that would limit executive salaries to 10 times average worker pay. She also called for a special tax on any firms with executives taking home over $1 million in total compensation
“What we have here is a form of looting . . . The rich don’t need the money and are a lot less likely to spend it—they will primarily increase their savings. Remember that wealthier families have done extremely well in the US in the past twenty years, whereas poorer ones have done quite badly. So the redistributive effects of this administration’s tax policy are going in the exactly wrong direction . . . I think this is the worst government the US has ever had.”~ George A. Akerlof, economist, on 2003 Bush Tax Cuts
According to the Economic Policy Institute, “Around 27 million workers—roughly one out of every six U.S. workers—are either unemployed or underemployed. Importantly, this is a very conservative measure of the total number of underemployed because it does not include workers who have had to take a job that is below their skill or experience level.”
White Wing Blue Water (Pixdaus, photographer unknown)
“What is the meaning of life? That was all—a simple question; one that tended to close in on one with years, the great revelation had never come. The great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead, there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark.” ~ Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse
Monday evening. Bitterly cold
Shall I share something with you? I have been pondering whether or not I should put this out for public consumption. Oh. Nothing like that. I mean, I haven’t won the lottery or suddenly become famous. Totally not where I was going with this.
This is the secret that dwells within, the truth that perhaps gives meaning to my existence: I hate my life.
Hmmm . . .
Perhaps I should be a bit more precise: I don’t hate myself. I don’t hate the people in my life. I don’t hate life. I hate my life, the one that I’m living at this moment.
You see, yesterday was my birthday, and yes, every year I go on and on about how much I detest my birthday, and yes, every year I manage to work myself into some kind of snit over the acknowledgement of (or lack thereof) my birthday, so you would probably not be completely misguided in thinking that perhaps my declaration has something to do with my birthday because, well, it does.
“What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.” ~ Crowfoot, Blackfoot Warrior
I mean, how did I get to be this old without accomplishing even half of the things that I thought I would have done by now? How does that happen? How does it happen that your body betrays you much too soon and you find yourself spending days at a time in bed? How does it happen that you turn a corner and find a wall instead of a door?
You may be sitting there thinking to yourself ‘How in the hell can she claim to hate her life? What kind of statement is that?’
I won’t argue with you. I won’t even try to persuade you of the validity of my claim. I only know that a few days ago I was sitting in bed holding my head in my hands in an attempt to squeeze the pain away when I suddenly thought, “This sucks. This really, really sucks. I thought that I was getting better . . . I hate my life.”
So you see, that’s how I can make that claim. Am I being melodramatic. Of course I am. Do I mean it? Of course I do, and of course I don’t. (What, you want definitive from me?)
As I was trying to explain to Corey: The first year out on disability was a steady decline; I never knew when I was going to be stuck in bed for days, unable to do even the simplest task. The next year contained intermittent advances. Yes, I still hurt, but I had more energy. Then several months ago, I felt well enough that I toyed with the idea of returning to work. Then BAM! (sorry, don’t usually yell with caps, but felt it apropos here), I’m hit with one of the worst downtimes I’ve had in quite some time.
It’s as if I’m one of those little wind-up toys that advance a few steps each time the spring is wound and the release button is turned. The boys had those when they were toddlers, and my favorite was the penguin, the way that it toddled.
But I digress . . .
Like the toy, I can only go so far, but . . . Not. One. Step. Farther. To try to do so only messes with the spring mechanism and eventually ends up with the toy being broken and completely useless, except to look at, and who wants a wind-up toy that can only be seen and not used?
“His advanced age, his wounds, his chains . . . ‘Albanian,’ he inquired. ‘Why do you fight when you could live differently?’ ‘Because, Padishah,’ replied the prisoner, ‘Every man has a piece of sky in his breast and in it flies a swallow.’” ~ Fatos Arapi, Sultan Murat and the Albanian
Admittedly, this mood more than likely stems from that overwhelming ennui that cloaks me from November through February. Hence the blue theme, the ice, the stillness in the pictures.
The reality is that only narcissists and psychopaths are able to go through life never questioning their existence, never doubting themselves—the former because perfection is hard to improve upon (in their minds), and the latter because self-doubt requires a conscience. This isn’t the first time that I have felt myself a failure, nor will it be the last.
Although I have to say that the idea that my life is beyond my control really torques me out of shape. The battle rages on between what my mind aspires to and what my body will accede to, and I simply will not, cannot concede, not as long as I can still find the smallest piece of blue sky to which I can cling, not as long as I can strike a match in the night to create enough light on which I can pin my hopes.
“Those who do not understand their destiny will never understand the friends they have made nor the work they have chosen” ~ David Whyte, from “All the True Lies”
Okay. So this post is not unfolding as I had envisioned. Perhaps because my declaration in the first section is a few days old, and I was unable to write about it while it was preying on me the strongest—because of the headache that will not end (I kid you not—28 days and counting).
So I should clarify: I hate the circumstances of my life, those factors that keep me down (physically and emotionally), the elements that seem to be so much beyond my control. I mean, even this headache thing—the neurologist to whom my headache doctor referred me does not accept GW’s new insurance plan. Was I surprised? Not at all. Anything else would have been too easy.
But in the end, under the glaring light of introspection and self-analysis, I realize that I am a tortured but fortunate soul. I think that my friend Alan comes to me in my dreams occasionally to remind me of this. His death from cancer at only 39 means that he never saw his son as a teenager; he never hit those major birthday milestones. And if anyone had a legitimate reason to curse fate, it was him.
As I have said many, many times, fate is fickle, and the very fact that I have been around enough years to repeat myself, to bemoan my fate, and to find the light in the darkness is what truly defines me.
More later. Peace.
Music by Brendan James, “The Sun Will Rise” (could not insert YouTube video as content is restricted, but I really wanted this song for this post)