“As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.” ~ Carl Jung

Spitfire Lake Reflection by Will Forbes (National Geographic Photo of the Day)

                   

“At the heart of all beauty lies something inhuman, and these hills, the softness of the sky, the outline of these trees at this very minute lose the illusory meaning with which we had clothed them, henceforth more remote than a lost paradise . . . that denseness and that strangeness of the world is absurd.” ~ Albert Camus

Wednesday afternoon. Cloudy and mild, thunder showers.

Carl Jung again. I’m finding more and more that I really like Jung, but I probably should read more of him before I become a devotee.

Foggy Landscape by Vadim Trunov (Voronezh, Russia)

Anyway, I’ve been thinking a lot about mothers and daughters, the relationships that are carved from necessity and that  ineffable fragility that exists between the two. I’ve tried to think of the kinds of things that I’ve told Alexis over the years, and whether or not I’ve been the kind of mother that she has needed.

Truthfully, I don’t know. I don’t know if I’ve always said the right thing, and probably, I have not. I don’t know if I’ve always been the sounding board that she needed, or if I’ve shouldered enough or too much of the burdens that she has borne. No one gives you a manual when you take your first child from the safety of the hospital. Suddenly, you find yourself holding this tiny bundle who has needs, the kinds of needs you have never before had to consider. It gets easier with subsequent children because you have already had to learn what the different cries mean, what the different body postures may signal.

But that first time? You know nothing. It doesn’t matter how much you cared for other children when you babysat for the neighbors or how often you had to take care of younger siblings; with your first child, you enter foreign territory, and it is nothing less than terrifying.

Alexis is entering that territory. She told the family at Christmas that she is pregnant. Surprise!

I had wanted to wait until all of the tests were done and she had passed that iffy 16-week mark before saying anything. She has had to undergo more testing than the average pregnant young woman, mostly because of that unexplained seizure that she had a few years ago. Thankfully, everything seems to be good, normal, whatever that is.

“Everything in life that we really accept undergoes a change. So suffering must become Love. This is the mystery. This is what I must do.” ~ Katherine Mansfield, from The Journal of Katherine Mansfield

So of course, I am filled with trepidation and joy, simultaneously. My daughter is not as strong as I was at that age; that is simply an observation, not a criticism. She is an entirely different kind of person. Everything worries her, and she becomes emotionally distressed easily. Having said that, I have noticed that she seems to be handling this rather tremendous life change with a kind of quiet grace.

Colibita Lake, Romania, by bortescristian (FCC)

This is not to say that she doesn’t have her meltdowns. Hormones, that and the fact that she cannot take her usual medications. She is a bundle of raging, unchecked hormones. Thankfully, Mike is very excited about becoming a daddy, and he seems to be balancing her well.

Now ask me how my mother took the news? Not well. She made a rather biting comment in front of everyone, and then said that she was joking and couldn’t understand why everyone got so upset. Luckily, she has since progressed a bit and is now purchasing baby clothes. Regardless, her initial horror at the news really affected Alexis adversely, understandably.

Which brings me back to my original thought: mothers and daughters.

“The tiny space I occupy is so infinitesimal in comparison with the rest of space, which I don’t occupy and which has no relation to me. And the period of time in which I’m fated to live is so insignificant beside the eternity in which I haven’t existed and won’t exist . . . .” ~ Ivan Turgenev, Fathers and Sons

I am hard on my mother, judgmental, critical. And I have to wonder if Alexis views me in the same light. I would like to think that this is not the case, that I have managed to carve out a good relationship with my daughter, even though I know that it has not always been good, that there have been times when the estrangement between us has seemed to vast to ever be repaired.

I have not always liked the males that she has chosen as boyfriends, nor have I always liked those she has chosen as friends. I think that those things are probably standard fare for mothers—thinking that the person with your daughter or son is not good enough, believing that your daughter or son does not make the wisest choices when it comes to friends. No matter. Alexis has a tight group of friends that she has been with since grade school, and she has been with Mike for nine years. Obviously, I was wrong about some things.

Morning Fog, The Meadows, Edinburgh, Scotland by keepwaddling1 (FCC)

But I suppose what I am really wondering is if I have instilled in her the knowledge that she needs to face this big new adventure in her life, whether or not I have shown her by example how important it is to love even when it is hard to love, even when everything within screams NO, I will not, because even though you may not want to, sometimes with children it is better to give that inch in order to gain the years.

Does that make sense?

When you are a mother, you subsume so much of your own personality at certain points in order that your child or children can become stronger individuals. You bite your tongue, or you walk away, even when you really don’t want to. And those mothers who are unable to do this, mothers like my own mother, are never able to retain their own identities, continue to live through their children, long after their children have become separate individuals. And conversely, mothers who have very strong personalities, such as myself, must take care not to try to impose that personality on their child or children.

It’s so easy to think of your child as a miniature version of yourself when you first start out. So many people come up to you and say things like, “She looks just like you,” or “She has your eyes and nose,” or whatever. It is much more difficult to remember that genetics are not destiny.

“It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.” ~ Aldous Huxley, Island

In other words, just because this tiny individual looks like you does not mean that she is you. And that’s a hard but important lesson to learn—early. And while I am talking mostly about mothers and daughters, the same is true of fathers and sons, or parents and children in general.

Morning Lake Mist by basheertome (FCC)

My god, it’s hard. It’s hard not to invest everything in this little person, and I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t invest everything. I’m only saying that it’s so important to remember that at some point there is going to be a separation, a time in which that little person is no longer little, no longer your mirror image, no longer content to live life as you see fit, and that point, that moment is when so many parents fail.

They try to hard to hold on with everything they have in any way that they know how, whether it is by proximity or money or guilt or something else.

As an only child, I have always felt that I could not move too far away from my mother because who else is there to be there in emergencies, like when she falls and breaks her leg? And even though I write often about my longing to be elsewhere to see other countries, I know that I am bound to this place indefinitely. I would be lying if I said that a part of me doesn’t resent this, but I also know that in the end, family is family, and my mother has me, only me, which is why she is determined to hold on so tightly, to try to control things in any way that she can.

“what matters most
is how well you
walk in the
fire.” ~ Charles Bukowski, from “how is your heart?”

So in the end, what have I taught my daughter, my children? What things do I hope she retains in her reservoir of knowledge that may be of some use to her in the coming months and years?

  • That voices raised in anger can say things that can be as damaging as a hand raised in anger
  • That a hand raised in anger can do irreparable harm
  • That the words I love you cannot be spoken too often
  • That calling a child a hurtful name is the same as marking that child
  • That hugs are for sharing
Old Gate in Fog by elias_daniel (FCC)
  • That it is more important to listen than to hear
  • That promises are meant to be kept
  • That a child remembers if you break a promise
  • That children learn trust from being trusted
  • That there is no good time to lie to a child
  • That compassion for others helps you to be a better person
  • That beauty can be found in unexpected places
  • That the toilet seat should be down
  • That body image is cultivated at home first
  • That tenderness should be expressed frequently
  • That hatred for others who are different is learned not inherited
  • That it’s okay to be silly at weird times
  • That we are stewards of the earth
  • That music and art are important aspects of life
  • That it is impossible to spoil a baby
  • That babies are meant to be held
  • That Law & Order is the best show that has ever been on television
  • That your children see and hear more than you realize
  • That truth is paramount
  • That a loving relationship with your partner helps your children to form loving relationships
  • That respect should never be taken for granted
  • That you only have one body and you should respect it
  • That you should always look someone in the eye when you shake their hand
  • That being tolerant should never be underestimated
  • That animals are sentient beings and must be treated as such
  • That until you have walked in another’s shoes you should not judge
  • That stuffed animals do in fact need homes
  • That words hold more power than you can ever imagine
  • That the rich should pay more taxes
  • That simply being a celebrity of any sort does not imply being a good person
  • That the Golden Rule is the most important rule of all.

“Because there’s nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline, no matter how many times it’s sent away.” ~ Sarah Kay

I know that I’m running long, but what it boils down to is this: I cannot remember the last time that my mother told me that she loved me. It has been years, maybe even since my father died.  I tell each of my children and Corey that I love them anytime they leave the house and before I hang up the phone. Is this too much? Can you say such a thing too much?

My mother’s constant patting of body parts and the tsks that followed taught me to be ashamed of my body. I hate my neck because she spent years telling me to do exercises to get rid of my double chinssss. I hate my belly because she does not hesitate to pat it and say something like “you’ve gained weight.”

Bridge in Mist by jamtea (FCC)

My mother’s inability to trust, especially my father, made it very hard for me to trust men. And her difficulty in showing intimacy gave me very mixed signals as a teenager. I was taught that sex was dirty and an obligation, and while I realize that this is a generational thing, don’t think for a second that being taught such a thing didn’t screw me up.

I want my daughter to bring her daughter into this world full of hope and a recognition that there are always possibilities. That heredity is not destiny and that we are only limited by ourselves. And one more thing: I will actually be a real Lola now.

More later. Peace.

Music by Peter Bradley Adams, “I May Not Let Go”

                   

Miracle Fair

Commonplace miracle:
that so many commonplace miracles happen.

An ordinary miracle:
in the dead of night
the barking of invisible dogs.

One miracle out of many:
a small, airy cloud
yet it can block a large and heavy moon.

Several miracles in one:
an alder tree reflected in the water,
and that it’s backwards left to right
and that it grows there, crown down
and never reaches the bottom,
even though the water is shallow.

An everyday miracle:
winds weak to moderate
turning gusty in storms.

First among equal miracles:
cows are cows.

Second to none:
just this orchard
from just that seed.

A miracle without a cape and top hat:
scattering white doves.

A miracle, for what else could you call it:
today the sun rose at three-fourteen
and will set at eight-o-one.

A miracle, less surprising than it should be:
even though the hand has fewer than six fingers,
it still has more than four.

A miracle, just take a look around:
the world is everywhere.

An additional miracle, as everything is additional:
the unthinkable
is thinkable.

~ Wislawa Szymborska (translated by Joanna Trzeciak)

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“Pick a theme and work it to exhaustion . . . the subject must be something you truly love or truly hate.” ~ Dorothea Lange

crashinglybeautiful:Bad Trouble over the WeekendI am trying here to say somethingabout the despised, the defeated,the alienated.About death and disaster.About the wounded, the crippled,the helpless, the rootless,the dislocated.About duress and trouble.About finality.About the last ditch.—Dorothea LangePhoto by Dorothea Lange, Last Ditch series, 1964. Thank you, melisaki.

 

Bad Trouble over the Weekend

I am trying here to say something
about the despised, the defeated,
the alienated. About death and disaster.
About the wounded, the crippled,
the helpless, the rootless,
the dislocated.
About duress and trouble.
About finality.
About the last ditch.

~ Dorothea Lange

Photo by Dorothea Lange, Last Ditch series, 1964

from crashinglybeautiful

“If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.” ~ René Descartes

These pavement cracks are the places where poets pack their warrior words ~ Lemn Sissay, Tib Street, Manchester UK*

                    

“All moments, past, present, and future, always have existed, always will exist. It is just an illusion we have here on earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone it is gone forever.” ~ Kurt Vonnegut

Monday late afternoon. Mild temperatures, 50’s.

I slept. A lot. How unusual. Not complaining.

These pavement cracks are the places where sleeping shadows of moving bridges stole ~ Lemn Sissay

I think that I fell asleep around 1 a.m. I got up at 12 to take Brett to school, and then came home and slept for a few more hours. Obviously, my body needed sleep. I did the usual awakening around 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. to let the dogs out, but I had no problems in getting back to sleep as soon as my body hit the mattress. I know: this is not remotely exciting in the way of readable copy, but you have to understand that deep sleep is so unusual for me that I feel a great need to shout it from the rooftops.

Consider the shouting over.

So anyway, Corey had to work third shift last night, and so far today, he has not received any telephone calls from the shipping line. He’s walking back and forth in the house and doing a lot of heavy sighing. This is not a big house, so his path is pretty limited, which I suppose sort of defeats the purpose of intent pacing. I’m not making fun (well, actually, I am, just a bit), but he is so restless that even Tillie, who usually follows him wherever he goes, has taken up position on the couch and just raises her head as he passes by to see if perhaps he’s going someplace that she needs to follow. Then she puts her head down and goes back to napping.

Dogs. Incredibly discerning creatures.

“Some people turn sad awfully young. No special reason, it seems, but  they appear almost to be born that way. They bruise easier, tire faster,  cry quicker, remember longer and, as I say, get sadder younger than  anyone else in the world. I know, for I’m one of them.” ~ Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine

Actual quote from my mother: “You’ve gotten really grouchy now that you’re old.”

How does one respond to something like that? Gee, thanks mom. You say the sweetest, most uplifting things.

Where the dying dust of dreams slides where the slits silt turns to food ~ Lemn Sissay

As I’ve said, I know that I’m particularly impatient with my mother, and trust me when I say that it comes from years and years and years of the same conversation, rehashed, reshaped, repeated ad nauseum. That’s not fair. I know. But I just cannot help it. Well before my mother entered her 70’s she repeated herself constantly, and I got impatient with the repetition. My father used to say, “Yeh, yeh, yeh, yeh, yeh.” Five of them in a row, and I swear the first time that came out of my mouth, I was horrified yet still oddly satisfied.

So when my mother comes out with things like this, inevitably I turn to Corey and say something along the lines of “and you wonder why I have no self-esteem.”

Look, I’ll admit that I’ve never been a heaping pile of optimism, nor has anyone ever accused me of walking around with a stupid smile on my face for no reason. That’s just not who I am. Does that mean that I’m not happy? No. It does mean that I am more often than not in contemplation over this or that, and in that sense, I married the perfect person to complement my personality. Corey is not one of those mindlessly happy individuals either. But we make each other laugh, and we take pleasure in the same things. Mostly.

People who smile easily—there’s something to be said for that. Being cheerful—that’s a good thing. I’ve always envied people like that, but I know myself too well, and I’m not one of those people. Like the lyrics in that Chorus Line song: “Mother always said I was different, different with a special kind of personal flair.” Whatever.

“You simply keep putting down one damn word after the other, as they come to you. You can either set brick as a laborer or as an artist. You can make the work a chore, or you can have a good time. You can do it the way you used to clear the dinner dishes when you were thirteen, or you can do it as a Japanese person would perform a tea ceremony, with a level of concentration and care in which you can lose yourself, and so in which you can find yourself.” ~ Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

So where was I before my mother interrupted? Who knows.

Where rain rushes down grit rock faces where the heartless heat crouches beneath the cold ~ Lemn Sissay

I do believe that some people are born happy and that other people are born sad. And sometimes that changes, and those who were born sad manage to morph into fundamentally happy people, people who can engage in witty repartee, who can smile without any effort; and then those who were born happy have some event in their lives that causes a shift, and they no longer smile, and their wounds, whatever they are, consume every waking moment.

And then there are the others, and this is the category into which I believe I fall: We feel things intensely, and when we are happy, we are happy beyond measure so that even the smallest thing can conjure a smile, but when we are sad, the pain of that sadness overshadows all of our features, leaving our faces pensive and closed. It’s a matter of knowing how to be happy, of having had experiences that were completely blissful, yet at the same time, having experienced tremendous pain and always being cogent of the fact that such pain can come back.

Glass half full or half empty—in the truest sense—or glass simply there as a container.

“I have always been unsatisfied with life as most people live it. Always I want to live more intensely and richly. Why muck and conceal one’s true longings and loves, when by speaking of them one might find someone to understand them, and by acting on them one might discover oneself?” ~  Everett Ruess

I know that I’ve said this in another post, probably more than once, but one of my keenest memories of my mother giving me advice when I was a teenager was that I needed to read happy things and think happy thoughts. I remember the exact moment acutely: I was in the store with her, and as usual, I was in the book section, and I had picked out the book The Holocaust. I think that I might have been about 14. She made me put the book back on the shelf because it was depressing.

And perhaps the pavement cracks are the pattern of concrete butterflies ~ Lemn Sissay

Of course I went back another time and bought the book anyway.

Look. I’m not saying that my approach to life is the best approach. Far from it. I’m merely being brutally honest. I know myself, know my limitations just as surely as I know my capabilities. And it’s a situation of what if: What if my mother had been more attuned to my needs? What if my mother had been better able to offer the kind of advice that would have actually been helpful? What if my mother had nurtured my talents instead of trying to rein them in?

I must sound awful, as if I hate my mother, and that’s so far from the truth. I love my mother, but I also am a realist. I know that my mother is a product of her environment, a child of the Depression, the daughter who lost her mother at a very early age and had to look elsewhere to fill that gaping hole. All of these factors shaped my mother, and the advice that she gave me made complete sense to her even if it didn’t to me. I know that my mom had her own dreams and that many of them did not come true, and that breaks my heart.

“The good writing of any age has always been the product of someone’s  neurosis, and we’d have a mighty dull literature if all the writers that  came along were a bunch of happy chuckleheads.” ~ William Styron

Happiness is a strange thing, and if we are being truthful, probably rarer than most would admit.

Like us they hold the people of a modern earth this world between the windswept flags ~ Lemn Sissay

When were you last happy? What was the exact moment of your bliss?

I know that as a child, I was happy. I was happy and creative and friendly. I got along as well with adults as I did with children. I think, no, I know that my personality changed drastically when I hit puberty. It wasn’t the rebellion. It was the sadness, the deep abiding sadness that I simply could not explain and that I did not understand. Of course I realize now that with puberty and the great hormone surge came my depression.

I have another vivid memory from my early teens: sitting on the corner of the street under the street sign, just sitting and crying. People passed me in cars, some slowed, concern obvious on their faces, and I turned away. I just wanted to be left alone in my sadness. I could not have told you why I was so sad that day. I really had no idea; I only knew that my heart felt so heavy with a sadness that I could not name that feeling anything else would have been relief. Oh god, the angst. I probably went home and wrote one of my maudlin poems.

The teen years: more bad poetry produced by the misunderstood than can ever be read.

I did not tell my mother. And truthfully, I still cannot tell her.

Oh. The answer to that question I posed? I’ll get back to you.

More later. Peace.

*Images are of  verses from Lemn Sissay’s poem “Flags,” which was commissioned by The Northern  Quarter and laid into Tib Street in Manchester, England.

Music by The Wellspring, “The Ballad of El Goodo”

                   

The Crunch

too much too little

too fat
too thin
or nobody.

laughter or
tears

haters
lovers

strangers with faces like
the backs of
thumb tacks

armies running through
streets of blood
waving winebottles
bayoneting and fucking
virgins.

an old guy in a cheap room
with a photograph of M. Monroe.

there is a loneliness in this world so great
that you can see it in the slow movement of
the hands of a clock

people so tired
mutilated
either by love or no love.

people just are not good to each other
one on one.

the rich are not good to the rich
the poor are not good to the poor.

we are afraid.

our educational system tells us
that we can all be
big-ass winners

it hasn’t told us
about the gutters
or the suicides.

or the terror of one person
aching in one place
alone

untouched
unspoken to

watering a plant.

people are not good to each other.
people are not good to each other.
people are not good to each other.

I suppose they never will be.
I don’t ask them to be.

but sometimes I think about
it.

the beads will swing
the clouds will cloud
and the killer will behead the child
like taking a bite out of an ice cream cone.

too much
too little

too fat
too thin
or nobody

more haters than lovers.

people are not good to each other.
perhaps if they were
our deaths would not be so sad.

meanwhile I look at young girls
stems
flowers of chance.

there must be a way.

surely there must be a way that we have not yet
though of.

who put this brain inside of me?

it cries
it demands
it says that there is a chance.

it will not say
“no.”

~ Charles Bukowski

“I longed to know the world’s name.” ~ Robert Penn Warren

“Cass Mastern lived for a few years and in that time he learned that the world is all of one piece.  He learned that the world is like an enormous spider web and if you touch it, however lightly, at any point, the vibration ripples to the remotest perimeter and the drowsy spider feels the tingle and is drowsy no more but springs out to fling the gossamer coils about you who have touched the web and then inject the black, numbing poison under your hide.  It does not matter whether or not you meant to brush the web of things.  Your happy foot or your gay wing may have brushed it ever so lightly, but what happens always happens and there is the spider, bearded black and with his great faceted eyes glittering like mirrors in the sun, or like God’s eye, and the fangs dripping.”—Jack Burden, from Robert Penn Warren’s novel All The King’s Men (Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1946)

“Cass Mastern lived for a few years and in that time he learned that the world is all of one piece.  He learned that the world is like an enormous spider web and if you touch it, however lightly, at any point, the vibration ripples to the remotest perimeter and the drowsy spider feels the tingle and is drowsy no more but springs out to fling the gossamer coils about you who have touched the web and then inject the black, numbing poison under your hide.  It does not matter whether or not you meant to brush the web of things.  Your happy foot or your gay wing may have brushed it ever so lightly, but what happens always happens and there is the spider, bearded black and with his great faceted eyes glittering like mirrors in the sun, or like God’s eye, and the fangs dripping.”

~ Jack Burden, from Robert Penn Warren’s novel All The King’s Men (Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1946)

Found on one of my favorite Tumblrs: A Poet Reflects

“Words, words, mere words, no matter from the heart.” ~ William Shakespeare

Yes, I’m cheating, doing a bit of back posting to fill in days on which I was unable to post. This time, I’m using words found on a new site that I discovered: Other Wordly, which is filled with strange and lovely words, not all from the English language. And you know how I do love my words.

Enjoy.

“Hold fast to your dreams, for without them life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly.” ~ Langston Hughes

Anemone in Seventeen Parts by Oslo in the Summertime (FCC)

                   

“I have woven a parachute out of everything broken.” ~ William Stafford 

Friday afternoon. Way too warm for winter, 80’s.

That’s right, 80’s. Ugh. What’s so bad about this is that I’m certain that next week it will probably be in the 40’s. How is a person with sinus problems supposed to thrive in such an environment? It’s hot. No wait, it’s cold. No, it’s hot. The natural immunity that I have gets so confused that it runs and hides.

Kaleidoscope by ark (FCC)

As it is, I’m out of my Singulair, so my lungs are beginning to crackle again, and because of the hiccup in Corey’s job, I cannot get refills until this coming Thursday. By then, with the temperature changes, this gunk that had taken up temporary residence in my lungs may have come back for an extended visit.

Last night, the progress I had made in getting to sleep earlier vanished as I was unable to fall asleep until 5 a.m., and then I had very bad dreams about dead babies. So not cool.

Corey is working all weekend, which is actually good as it keeps his mind busy so that he doesn’t dwell on the still-unannounced departure date. His truck is finally working; of course, it needs gas, which isn’t going to happen, so while he’s excited that his truck has been fixed, he’s depressed that he cannot drive it anywhere. Of course, there are still a few other things that need to be done, not the least of which is to put new tires on it, but we’re planning to wait until he gets back from his hitch before that expenditure.

Meanwhile, life carries on, as it were.

“Fortune is like glass—the brighter the glitter, the more easily broken.” ~ Publius Syrus

So I’ve been thinking about things that break—real and imagined, literal and figurative. Not really sure why. What follows is stream of consciousness and random association, so be forewarned:

  • Crystal (too much)
  • Hearts (too many)
  • Promises (promises to keep . . .)
  • Words (is this the same thing as promises?)
  • Glass (looking glass? walking on broken glass?)
  • Eggs (secrets and treasurer inside a fragile box)
  • Families (far too many of these)
  • Concentration (too easily done)
The Twist by sebilden (FCC)
  • Fevers (hallucinations or reality)
  • Negotiations (power struggles)
  • Wings (fear of flying)
  • Codes (more secrets?)
  • Locks (the way in or keeping something out?)
  • Bones (corporeal fragility)
  • Habits (bad? broken enough?)
  • Contracts (see words and promises above)
  • Records (as in over and over, or in something to surmount?)
  • Speed of sound (can we travel this far this fast?)
  • Barriers (all of my life)
  • Rules (meant to be broken)
  • Spirits (see wings and hearts)
  • Glass ceilings (barriers for women)
  • Systems (this country)
  • Waves (crash down)
  • Deadlines (as in promises?)
  • Bodies (feel this too acutely)
  • Ties (promises? hearts? families? All of these?)
  • Covenants (more than a promise)

“I was never one to patiently pick up broken fragments and glue them together again and tell myself that the mended whole was as good as new. What is broken is broken—and I’d rather remember it as it was at its best than mend it and see the broken places as long as I lived.” ~ Margaret Mitchell

So what does all of this mean? In no particular order . . .

I spent a great deal of time in my 20’s trying to break the glass ceiling. I felt that it was my duty, to myself, to the women who looked up to me and those I mentored, and to women in general to take on the very systems that promoted inequity. I had indoctrinated myself in the whole system of feminism, the idea that there should be no inequality between the sexes, that people were people, regardless of sex, creed, color.

Kaleidoscope VI by fdecomite (FCC)

I have learned in recent years that feminism has taken on a new meaning, that the rules by which I lived may no longer apply. All of the unspoken promises that those of us on the frontline made to the cause, those ideologies have been overshadowed by something that is no better than the patriarchy that we fought so hard to replace. Feminism should not be about women being better; it should not be about lesbians being better. The whole point of the covenant that we made was that no one should be considered better or treated better or made to feel inferior.

I am sadly disheartened on several fronts: the young women who see feminism as a dirty word, associating it with women who don’t like men (not sexual preference, just in general), defining it as women who hate marriage, family, children. That’s not what it’s about, or at least what it used to be about. I also hate that so many of the young women who are enrolled in women’s studies curricula have made it an uncomfortable place for men. When I was seeking my women’s studies certificate as an undergraduate, the classes were filled with men and women, all who sought equity, more parity between the sexes, all of whom were dedicated to an idea that women could be whatever they wanted and that men could actively support this. It was a curricula that welcomed everyone, and it still should, but I fear that that is no longer the case.

So many barriers that used to hold women back—in government, in society, in all aspects—these barriers have been broken. They should not be replaced with new barriers, reverse sexism, if you will.

People. We are people, and as such, we can embrace our difference and similarities without building more walls.

“It makes my heart sick when I remember all the good words and the broken promises.” ~ Chief Joseph

Someone once said that a broken promise is better than no promise. I heartily disagree. A promise reflects the individual. One who is willing to make a promise is giving his or her word. To toss that aside thoughtlessly is to be careless with the essence of what makes us who we are.

Starspheres by Song_Sing (FCC)

When we marry someone, we make all kinds of promises, sometimes in front of large groups of people and sometimes in front of no one more than an official. In so doing, we bind ourselves, create a tie. When Corey and I wrote our vows, we promised to do things for each other, with each other. Time and circumstance should not change those promises. I don’t believe that either of us said those words lightly. Nevertheless, I would not be telling the truth if I did not admit that we have each broken pieces of the other’s heart, have each chipped away at that unspoken code to do no harm to those we love best. We are only human, after all.

Admittedly, I made promises to my ex, or we made promises to one another. In the end, our words ended up on the scrap heap of broken promises; our marriage on the pile of rocks where broken marriages go to die. Years later, I no longer feel the seething anger or intense heartbreak that I once felt, and time and distance have allowed me to see how much we were both at fault, how we broke each other’s spirits, and broke our covenant, which resulted in a broken and fractured family that has slowly rebuilt itself..

We move through time, salve our wounds, fix some things, but are unable to repair completely others. Too often we walk about in a fog, as if in a fevered ague, and only awaken when necessity forces us to confront what is before us.

“The tender heart, the broken and contrite spirit, are to me far above all the joys that I could ever hope for in this vale of tears.” ~ Charles Simeon

Years ago, when I was still teaching at ODU, I was standing on the kitchen counter, reaching for something, and I dropped a glass on the floor, which immediately broke into pieces. I looked down, saw the glass. This fact registered in my brain, but I still stepped down onto the floor in my bare feet and immediately cut a deep gash on the sole of my foot that required stitches.

Daisy Kaleidoscope by srqpix (FCC)

Why do I mention this? Because even with knowledge, foresight, we still take steps that are foolhardy; we still knowingly step into a pile of sharp edges, and then we are surprised when we are wounded. We enter into frays knowing that we might exit with wounds, yet still we do it, perhaps because we think that if we make it through to the other side, we have outpaced our own limitations, we have approached the speed of sound, come close to shattering yet another barrier. Or perhaps it is something much more simple: We are not careful enough, not mindful enough. We do not treat our hearts and our souls like the fragile eggs that they are, always believing that we can go just one step further, take one more chance.

We have no fear of flying, convincing ourselves that it cannot possibly happen to us, that is until it does, until our wings are broken, or at the very least, clipped. And what then? Does the reflection looking back at us become unrecognizable, distorted as if reflected from broken glass?

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

Ultimately, this is a world of broken people, fragmented lives, and no matter what system we depend upon for support, we are all still imperfect beings. How we seek to attain perfection varies as widely as there are people on this planet. How we attempt to reach that state of grace is limitless.

And as I sit here now, contemplating the mutability of life, I am brought back to the corporeal as a stabbing pain shoots down my spine. And I know that even though my body is broken in so many ways, that I often do not recognize the person in the mirror as I glance quickly and then turn away, I also know with just as much conviction that the places in me that are broken have been stitched together with things that I have borrowed and stolen from everyone I have ever encountered:

Mushroom Flower by sebilden (FCC)

A bone of contention here, a sliver of spine there. I have amassed fragments and pieces, facets and slivers.

Sitting atop my jewelry box is a rather small Waterford crystal salt cellar, an individual dish for salt. My m-in-law gave it to me years ago, and it was my first piece of Waterford. She had received it as a present from an elderly woman to whom she delivered Mobile Meals. This vessel contains three small pins that I no longer wear as I have few occasions to wear suits. This tiny crystal container is perhaps one of my most treasured belongings, so I handle it with great care, probably more care than I take with my life as a whole.

Why do I mention it here? Because it is one of those things that I have amassed that is as much a piece of me as anything else. It does not serve the purpose for which it is intended, but if I were to  employ it for salt, it could hold my tears. Or I could stand at the edge of the shore as the waves break onto the sand and collect sea spray that would dry as salt, and fill it wave by wave.

For now, I allow it to contain memories, and I protect it and everything that it symbolizes, which, in the end, is all that we can do really—protect that which can be broken or mend that which has already fractured.

More later. Peace.

Music by Livingston, “Broken”

                   

The Opening of Eyes

That day I saw beneath dark clouds
the passing light over the water
and I heard the voice of the world speak out
I knew then as I have before
life is no passing memory of what has been
nor the remaining pages of a great book
waiting to be read

It is the opening of eyes long closed
It is the vision of far off things
seen for the silence they hold
It is the heart after years of secret conversing
speaking out loud in the clear air

It is Moses in the desert fallen to his knees
before the lit bush
It is the man throwing away his shoes
as if to enter heaven and finding himself astonished
opened at last
fallen in love
with Solid Ground

~ David Whyte