“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)

“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