“Life is what happens to you when you are busy making other plans.” ~ John Lennon, from “Beautiful Boy”

                    

“Destiny is a good thing to accept when it’s going your way. When it isn’t, don’t call it destiny; call it injustice, treachery, or simple bad luck.” ~ Joseph Heller

Today’s word seems completely appropriate . . .

What this week has been like: Like someone asked me to do calculus while standing under a ladder with an open umbrella, a black cat in heat, and a broken mirror in my back pocket, not to mention the math final that I forgot about and the big rip in the seat of my pants . . . and for good measure, I feel fat and ugly, and my mother dresses me funny. Did I mention the bullseye that I’m sure is painted on my forehead?

                   

John Lennon, “Beautiful Boy”

Advertisements

“Reality is what we take to be true. What we take to be true is what we believe. What we believe is based upon our perceptions. What we perceive depends upon what we look for. What we look for depends upon what we think. What we think depends upon what we perceive. What we perceive determines what we believe. What we believe determines what we take to be true. What we take to be true is our reality.” ~ Gary Zukav

Gate of Wishes, Mrtivica Canyon, Montenegro (Pixdaus)

“The more I see, the less I know for sure.” ~ John Lennon

Saturday afternoon. Temperatures hovering above 100° F. Thunderstorms.

Keyhole Arch in Monument Valley

I awoke with another headache, nothing new. Not too bad, but lots and lots of pressure in my forehead and behind my eyes. Probably due to the barometric pressure and the heat.

Yesterday I did something I haven’t done in years: I went outside during a rain shower and got in the pool. It was so refreshing. The air temperature dropped a bit, and the water cooled. The dogs joined me for a few minutes, but Shakes doesn’t much care for rain. Tillie stayed out with me for the duration. It didn’t rain long, but I enjoyed myself while it did.

I was hoping to do the same again today, but unfortunately the rain is accompanied by thunder and lightning. Even I have enough sense not to get in a metal-clad pool in the middle of a thunderstorm.

I just glanced at my weather icon, and the temperature has dropped 8 degrees in the last fifteen minutes. Now that’s change I can live with . . .

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” ~ Oscar Wilde, “Lady Windermere’s Fan”

Monday afternoon. Not nearly as hot.

Kicking Horse River through Natural Bridge, Canada

So I got distracted . . . where was I? Oh yes, drama.

Woke up this morning to lovely news: we should expect a drop-in visit from Adult Protective Services. Whatever . . .

The ongoing drama at our house had been calm for far too long. I knew to expect something soon, and I wasn’t disappointed. Apparently, the pest (nicest word I can think to use for this person), reported Em’s case worker and our home as being  . . . shall we say, unfit? Charges include holding her against her will, all of us being insane (I told you this person wasn’t wrapped too tight), beating her down continually (not sure if that was meant to be literal or metaphorical), ya da ya da ya da . . .

In the inestimable words of W: Bring. It. On.

I mean, we have absolutely nothing to hide here. We are exactly as we purport ourselves to be: a middle class family in the burbs that is making ends meet. We have a home, food in our pantry, all of the accoutrements, as it were. We do not claim to be wealthy because we are not. We do not claim to have all of the answers because we do not. We do claim to have a healthy living environment for our family because we do. We do claim to know a few things about people who face challenges in life because we do. We do claim to be good parents because we are.

So when I heard that APS was going to come by, my response was what it only could be: Okay. Whatever. Tell them to drop by as they like because we have nothing to hide.

So they did. Today. A very nice woman who sat down with Em and asked her basic (and I mean basic) questions: Are you able to dress yourself? Yes. Do you take care of your own physical hygiene? Yes. Do you know how to do things around the house? Yes (she does now). Can you get your own food or does someone have to do it for you? Get it myself and can cook a little . . . and lots more in that vein, and then . . . Are you happy? I am now.

We left Em alone with the case worker so that the woman wouldn’t think that we were trying to sway her answers or to influence her unduly (because that’s what I do, you know. I beat people down until they are simpering idiots who have no will of their own . . . right.) The case worker asked her more questions that I didn’t hear because I wasn’t listening. Then I invited her to look through our house, as it were.

Dreaded visit over, and everyone survived. And the case worker didn’t even flinch over Em’s shaved head, which she is loving, by the way, especially since no one has asked her to wear a hat to hide her ears. Of course, after the case worker left I took all of the illegal drugs out of the hall closet, and I let the dozen or so illegal aliens out of the bathroom, and I got back to making the homemade meth that I was cooking up in the kitchen along with barbecued ribs.

It’s a joke, people. Of course, I know that sentence will come back in another form somewhere, but at this point, I am so over it.

“There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.” ~ Aldous Huxley

Keyhole Arch, Apostle Islands (National Park Service)

You might think that such a visit and the results would put a normal person’s mind at ease, that the news that a completely unbiased third party witnessed the supposedly downtrodden young woman healthy and happy would be welcome news. You would think, but the key word here is normal. I know that this saga isn’t over. There will be more frantic telephone calls to whoever will listen. There will be more tossing about of the family name in an attempt to curry favor. There will be more stealing of passages of my blog to try to show how insane I am. There will be more disparaging remarks regarding my character, the character of my family.

As I’ve said before, when I need to, I can have the patience of Job. The more chest-banging this other person does, the less I need to justify myself. And dare I say it? I don’t really have anything to justify. I took in a young woman who felt trapped and mentally abused. I offered a safe haven to a person who did not feel safe, for various reasons. She is healthy. She is happy. She is safe.

I can do no more than what I have already done and what I continue to do—be myself—be patient, be sympathetic and empathetic, be a sounding board when needed.

Oh, and by the way, the illegal things? Puleez. But the part about Em’s shaved head is true; she just hasn’t died it blue yet . . .

“The most perfidious way of harming a cause consists of defending it deliberately with faulty arguments.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Keyhold Arch, Antelope Canyon

Even though I’m spending a lot of effort here bitching, I’m actually not at all peeved. Instead, what I really feel is a deep sense of pity. You might think that I’m a sap for feeling pity for an individual who is set upon my ruin, for the person who does not hesitate to disparage me to anyone who will listen, but that is indeed what I feel.

I cannot say that I have ever encountered anyone exactly like this particular individual before, but I have encountered people who are filled with such a determined sense of entitlement and righteousness: They are the only ones who are right, and everyone else is wrong. They are entitled to have this or to be given that because of a skewed sense of self-importance.

Unfortunately, my encounters with this personality type most often have occurred when dealing with members of boards of directors, especially in the arts. I cannot tell you how many people, women especially, who banked everything on their last names. They would meet me, hear my unusual, distinctly not patronage-linked last name, and immediately make assumptions about my value to them. If I could, in fact, give them something they needed or desired, then they would deign to be polite to me, but if my existence did not in any way benefit them, then I simply ceased to matter.

The first time that this happened, I was highly affronted, and my alpha side reared its head: You will listen to me because I do know exactly what I am talking about . . . I may as well have been barking at the moon for all of the good that it did me. This personality type is impermeable to reality, well, at least the reality in which so many of us exist. I took a lesson from my director, who was a very soft-spoken, wise man when he told me that I simply could not treat these people using logic because in their worlds, Copernicus was wrong, and the universe did indeed revolve around their spheres.

“No man has the right to dictate what other men should perceive, create or produce, but all should be encouraged to reveal themselves, their perceptions and emotions, and to build confidence in the creative spirit.” ~ Ansel Adams

Keyhole Tree, Broome, Australia

I have written about self-entitlement before, but usually as it pertains to teenagers and how we have an entire generation of people who think that they deserve whatever they want simply because. It’s not often that I encounter someone from my own generation who operates with this same sense of entitlement. People within my age group have usually worked hard to get to the points in our lives at which we find ourselves. Many of us our self-made, and many people I know are second generation to this country.

Being second generation (even on one side) imbues those of us like this with a strong work ethic because the desire not to fail our parents is extremely important. Being second generation also means that few of us have family names on which to fall back. We have made our own names, and we don’t depend upon our ancestors to define us. I cannot imagine being the kind of person to make requests simply because of what my name happens to be, but I have met people like this, and they have no qualms about throwing around that name as if it we still lived in a system with peers and nobles.

I think that part of what makes me strong is the fact that I have worked for everything that I have, that my parents came from humble beginnings and worked and saved for everything that they had. I’m proud to come from working-class stock. I was taught the value of a dollar, and I was taught that respect is something to be earned, not something to be bestowed upon someone simply because of who they are.

So what it boils down to is that in the midst of all of this, I try to retain my patience, and I try to retain my sense of humor, much taxed though they may be. And when in doubt, I remember the rule of three: that what we send out into the world comes back to us threefold.

Karma. It’s a bitch.

More later. Peace.

Music by The Morning After Girls, “Hidden Spaces”

                   

Picture of the Author with Vice President

That’s me on his left. If neither one of us
looks comfortable, it’s because I said
I’m sorry to hear about his heart.
A small machine, he says, sends tiny sparks
in there, to pace the flow of blood.
Some people will dispute this photo; his office
has denied it’s me; but I have to believe
I am in the picture. It’s awkward, yes,
for we don’t know each other;
and if he’s known as a man who keeps
public secrets, I’m not known at all.
Even so, he and I share something
that we cherish, deeply, which is our love

of trout. On his Wyoming ranch, he owns
a trout stream for himself. When I raise
the question—How’s the fishing?—he will rise
to the subject, and we will have grown
a little closer, having now disclosed
a passion no one, having known, lets go.
And he, too, is a man who knows cold blood
of trout cares nothing for who you are.
Nor do they care who owns the land
their water flows within: So long
as land and stream stay clean, they live.
Because I must rely on public lands
to find—weighed out in the flash
of a trout’s brilliant scales—that cleanly order,
I’m concerned about his sympathy
with those who call such places “undeveloped.”

But I know better than to say as much
to a man who’s so well versed
in the rhyming of ecology with economy
abstract nets that hold so many tangibles,
such as meadow grass that filters silt
so cutthroat trout may have clean beds
of gravel for their spawning redds;
or the English teacher whose hopes
for a pay raise float on the promise
of a growing tax base—in other words,
the new sport coat I’m wearing
in the photo, bought for this occasion.
Still, I want to believe in the heart
of a man who would fish a barbless fly
for a trout, and let it go; who would spend
that much time to be where trout live, to step
so softly in their stream, they do not frighten.

So I am going to tell him a story
about the Sacramento Mountains of New Mexico,
and a man who lived there. By all accounts,
William Myers knew the land, but owned
none of it. Had no money, so in order to live
in the mountains, he bartered work
for the privilege of staying in
other people’s second homes.
One day, he drove his ATV up a ridge
to scout the most likely route to run a pipe
to his friend’s house. He lit a cigarette,
studied the forest floor, as he’d often done
for fresh deer lies, bear scat, a crop of mast
that might draw wild turkeys in.
Whether it was a spark from the ATV
or the cigarette, he didn’t know; but he was sure,
he told police, that it was he who caused the fire.
That night, a glowing orange blemish on the sky;
by next day, a dry mist with a taste
of wet paper. Nine thousand acres
of forest he had hunted, ponds and creeks
he’d fished—the bell-note of hummingbird wings,
the raccoon crooning to her pups—gone up
in a surf of flame; sap-laden pines burst
like the improvised gas-and-bottle bombs
he’d learned to make in the army. Helicopters
dropped fire-retardant chemicals on a woods
he’d loved but never owned, and never meant

to burn. They fell in scarlet plumes, like blood
that must have sprayed from his skull
when he stood in front of the gun
he held in his own hand, and fired.
—Well, it may have been the words
like blood, and skull, and gun,
that made the men in sunglasses bring
our conversation to a polite, efficient end.
Or it could have been my agitation
over a man who took responsibility—
who, as his scribbled farewell letter read,
could never live with what he had destroyed.

~ William Wenthe (as found in The Paris Review)

“We shall find peace. We shall hear angels. We shall see the sky sparkling with diamonds.” ~ Anton Chekhov

Marine White Gloves, Sand from Iwo Jima and a Red Rose Atop the Casket of Lt. James Cathy, image by Todd Heisler, Pulitzer Prize-winning Photographer 

“Give me love, give me peace on earth, give me light, give me life, keep me free from birth, give me hope, help me cope, with this heavy load, trying to, touch and reach you with, heart and soul” ~ George Harrison

Well, it’s been over a week since I last blogged, except for my brief Christmas message. In that time so much has happened. I’ll get to the saga of our most recent trip to Ohio in a different post, but today, I wanted to share something with you that happened this morning: 

I was on my way to the bank, and Eamonn was in the car with me. Normally, I cut through a small neighborhood to get to the bank; it’s an old neighborhood, full of smaller houses. I was driving slower as I do on neighborhood streets when I noticed a marine in full dress uniform knocking on a door. Two other marines were sitting in a car parked in front of the house. 

When I saw that young marine, my heart completely sank. I knew what was about to happen. I have seen this scene in countless movies, but never in person. I explained to Eamonn what was about to happen: The day after Christmas a family was going to be notified that someone they loved had been killed. I explained to Eamonn that notifications are always done by someone official. 

The marine on the porch paused to watch us drive past; he was young, and his face was momentarily filled with anguish, and then the façade reappeared just as quickly as it had faded. 

“The real differences around the world today are not between Jews and Arabs; Protestants and Catholics; Muslims, Croats, and Serbs.  The real differences are between those who embrace peace and those who would destroy it; between those who look to the future and those who cling to the past; between those who open their arms and those who are determined to clench their fists.” ~ William J. Clinton

I cannot tell you that I know how the family that received that notification feels because I cannot. Yes, I have known death, have watched it come, have held it, but I have never faced the death of a loved one in the military, of someone who has been killed in conflict by whatever means. Someone who was close to me has faced the horror of the knock on the door, and the pain that I felt for her was miniscule in comparison to what she felt, still feels to this day. 

But after this morning’s moment of great sadness I felt great anger, incredible indignation at what had brought this man to this family’s door. I am not naive enough to believe that we will ever truly have peace on earth. As long as human beings inhabit this planet, there will be war, conflict, evil. There is something within our species that is never content, something that always wants more—whether it be more land, more oil, more power. No matter how much millions of us clamor for it, rally for it, cry for it, there will never be lasting peace. Humanity is not capable of it. 

Don’t misunderstand. I am not saying that human beings are inherently evil or bad or malicious. I choose to believe the opposite. But I know that to erase intolerance of other religions, other races, other tribes, other beliefs, to do this is an impossibility because people with intolerance and hatred in their hearts will always exist. People with evil in their souls will always stake claims over the lives of others. This is life. This is the life that we have created over thousands of years, the life that we have accepted, will continue to accept. 

Kindness and generosity should rule, but they do not. Empathy and tolerance should be the way of the world, but it is not. And so, in spite of my great desire—a desire that is shared all over the world—not to send sons and daughters, mother and fathers, brothers and sisters to war, we will continue to do so, and families will continue to receive heart-wrenching news from someone whose unenviable duty it is to carry this message to their doorsteps. 

“The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the universe dwells the Great Spirit, and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us.” ~ Black Elk

Pulitzer Prize-winning Image of CACO Major Steve Beck, 2005, by Todd Heisler of Rocky Mountain News

I must pause here to acknowledge the marine CACO (Casualty Assistance Call Officer). Notifying a military family of the death of a family member must take immeasurable strength and courage of a different kind. I know that these men and women undergo rigorous training for their jobs, which includes notification, family support and assistance, as well as escort. Being a CACO becomes the primary duty of the service man or woman, and it must be a job fraught with emotional turmoil. 

I don’t think that the memory of the marine’s face will ever completely fade from my memory. If I am to retain my humanity, I pray that it does not 

However, if I am to be completely honest, I must admit that something deep within me was incredibly thankful that Eamonn was with me; perhaps he, too, will remember that moment and understand it for what all that it was: the fragility of life, the real consequences of war, the need for compassion, the ineffable sadness of loss. 

Witness creates impression in a way that all of the words spoken cannot. A hard lesson for the holidays. 

“Namaste. I honour the place in you where the entire universe resides . . . a place of light, of love, of truth, of peace, of wisdom. I honour the place in you where when you are in that place and I am in that place there is only one of us.” ~ Mohandas K. Ghandi

 More later. Peace. 

“Happy Xmas (War is Over),” by John Lennon with incredible images. 

  

 

  

For more information about CACOs and their relationships with military families, see the excellent book Final Salute: A Story of Unfinished Lives, by Jim Sheeler. Click here for The New York Times book review.

High School Should Be Abolished

The Boardwalk Trail in Trail of Cedars Glacier Natl Park by Janson Jones
Trail of the Cedars, Glacier National Park, Montana by Janson Jones of Floridana Alaskiana

“The Long and Winding Road . . . ” ~ Paul McCartney, The Beatles

“Will Never Disappear. . .”

pathwayI picked up my son Brett from school today. When he got in the truck, I could tell that it had been another bad day for him. My heart aches so much for him as he is certain that the rest of his life is going to be as bad as it is right now.

Even though most of his teachers and his counselor have been extremely understanding and have agreed to work with him, he is still suffering the pains of the anxiety and depression, and I have little doubt that almost all of it is caused by school.

When he asked me if his life is always going to be so bad, I just wanted to cradle him in my arms and hold him and never let go. That’s the mom in me talking, but it is also the person in me talking who has been and continues to be terribly unsure of herself, even after all of these years. I know how it feels to believe that life just sucks and that it is never going to get better. I know how it feels to believe that you are worthless. I know how it feels to bear the burden of putting on a good face just to make it through the day.

And because I know these things, it makes me wish that he could just skip these years and arrive at a better point in his life.

“I’ve Seen That Road Before . . .”

stone stepsI mean, I actually didn’t have a horrible time in high school. I did pretty much whatever I wanted, managed to still get good grades, cheered, and belonged to every club I could join. But the truth is that it was all a big act: my attempts to fit in, to belong. And I always wore this façade, one that reflected someone who knew what she wanted and wouldn’t let anyone stand in her way.

I have to tell you that maintaining that kind of façade really takes its toll. I would move through school at this frenetic pace for weeks and weeks at a time. I would go to all-night study sessions, take my advanced courses, work part time four or five times a week. The pace I set for myself was insane now that I look back on it. But then the inevitable crash would come, and I would get sick and be out of school.

At the time I suspected that I was manic/depressive, as it was called then, but only from the little bit of research that I had done on the subject. Of course, information was not a mouse click away at the time, and research meant pulling books and articles from shelves and reading them on the library’s time. I just knew that I had these extreme highs that would shift on a dime.

My mother, of course, would say things like “snap out of it,” and “you’re just making yourself sad.” Or the best one: “You have your period.” To be fair, though, even though I cast my mother as uncaring, it was not that so much as uninformed. My mother came from a very small town in North Carolina and had no formal education. What she knew about depression was only what she might see in movies. And in her generation, mental illness was a big stigma: People did not talk about such things as it would end up on their permanent record.

Permanent record. You won’t believe how many times I used to hear that. I asked my mom one time where this permanent record was kept. She told me not to be a smartass.

But I digress . . .

“The Wild and Windy Night . . .”

Dark-stormy-cloudsMy main point is that high school is an unendurable test of strength, will, character, and emotion. Think back to your high school days: Did you love them? Do you look back on them fondly? Bigger question: Would you go back?

No. Absolutely not. No way. Never. Fry some chicken and call me for dinner but N-O.

I was telling Brett that there are some people who never leave high school because it was the best time of their lives. We all know those people, and we usually feel sorry for them.

But in retrospect, there are only a handful of people from my high school days that I still care about. One of them is dead; he died much too young of cancer. One I was married to (no, we were not high school sweethearts, ugh). One is his best friend and was my best friend. One reads my blog regularly and has come in and out of my life for years and has always been in my life because we have known each other much longer than high school. And one is a gay man who lives with his partner up north.

There are other people who I remember fondly, There are moments that I remember fondly. There are incredible adventures that I will never forget. But that was then. I’ve moved on, matured, grown, aged, changed and changed again.

“That the Rain Washed Away . . .”

silver-birch-forestWhat I was trying to tell Brett was that all of those popular people in high school, the ones who everyone knew and envied, or wanted to be like or hated just a little because they were too popular or too handsome or too privileged—those people are not who they were in high school.

For example, one of the really sad stories from my high school concerns the football star, the quarterback. He was actually a quiet, troubled soul, but few people knew that. Everyone just knew that he could throw a ball. A few years after high school, he killed himself. I won’t even try to surmise why he might have done such a thing. No one can ever know another person’s demons.

Or take some of the beautiful people in high school, the pretty blondes, the handsome jocks: Some of them are on their third marriages. Some are with spouses who they thought would treat them like queens only to find out that their husband is a monster who beats them behind the privacy of their closed door.

Some never made it to 20. They died from drug overdoses, suicide, homicide, illnesses. The ones other people looked down on, the brains, are working for GE, fortune 500 companies as engineers, NASA.

“Why Leave Me Standing Here? Let Me Know the Way . . . “

Standing AloneWe can never know where life will take us. Most of us would never have guessed that we would be in the places we find ourselves today. Some of us have done much better than we ever hoped. Some of us have done much worse. Fate is fickle, and life is hard.

When we are in high school, everything seems possible at some point. Then nothing seems possible the next day. We go from highs to lows in the blink of an eye. Maybe it’s because of a rejection letter from the college we really wanted. Maybe it’s because we lost a parent or a sibling or a best friend. Maybe it’s because our family’s circumstances changed, and what we once had was taken away. Maybe it’s because we have no support system at home. Maybe it’s because we have no home. Who knows?

All of the petty grievances we had with people in high school seem so small once we move on and have to deal with real world issues: paying the mortgage, working with a boss who is sexist, finding out our spouse is cheating, losing a job because of circumstances beyond our control.

How can breaking up with your one true love at 16 prepare you for such things? It can help you to understand loss, but without a broader context, that loss will seem overwhelming at the time.

How can failing English or Trigonometry not make you feel like a failure? It can’t at the moment, but in a broader context, it can help you to learn how to overcome failure, and as long as no one rubs your nose in that failure, you may be able to deal with it in a way that does not tear at your sense of self.

“Many Times I’ve Been Alone and Many Times I’ve Cried”

Wild and Windy NightI’m not trying to diminish all of the emotions, feelings and flailing that a young person in high school endures. It is precisely because of the constant bombardment of things that so many young people take their own lives. As I wrote about in a previous post, being bullied when you are 13 and unable to sort through all of the emotions can cause a young person to snap. And how sad and utterly wasted.

If only there were some way to go inside the heads of these young men and women and let them know that in one year or two or three, their lives will be different. They won’t have to endure humiliation, verbal abuse, or whatever obstacles they face now because they will have the power to get away from that source of pain. If only they can hang on long enough.

I’m not naive. I know that not everyone escapes. I know that for some, the abuse continues. I know that because of economic circumstances, some will never be able to touch even the periphery of their dreams. And some will continue patterns begun in high school that prevent them from ever really maturing emotionally.

Many an alcoholic and drug addict are born in high school. Those bullies grow up to be spouse and child abusers. Some of those who endured constant ridicule grow into people who survive by belittling others because that is all that they know. Others who had to lie and live in secret grow into adults who always keep their true selves hidden. And some who were never able to overcome their childhood fears grow into individuals who continue to be victimized their entire lives.

But there is always hope, and with luck, maybe the sorrows that they endure during this emotional, hormonal, confusing time will help them to become stronger people, or at least give them insight into how they don’t want to raise their own children, the things they should never say or do to their own children because they have the emotional and physical scars to remind them of how much words can hurt.

“. . . You Will Never Know the Many Ways I’ve Tried”

Solitary Walk on BeachIf high school was the apex of your life, and you still look on it fondly, then good for you. Cherish your memories. But for most of the rest of us, it’s a period that we are glad is in the past. We might go to a reunion to see a few familiar faces and say hello, and probably, we want to gloat a little inwardly at the beauties who have gained weight and the arrogant young men who are now balding and pot-bellied.

Sometimes, revenge is sweet when it is never served at all, when we just let life take care of things. When we just allow fate to dip into the well and present its own version of just rewards.

I wish with all of my heart that the high school years could somehow be avoided, jumped over, or abolished altogether. But that is not reality. As much as I might want to cosset my son and keep him from pain, I know that I have to step back and allow him to finish this particular journey in his life. I can be there to support him, but I cannot bear this burden for him, nor would I want to if I could.

“Don’t Leave Me Waiting Here/Lead Me to Your Door”

sunrise through treesThere is an old Spanish proverb that says “The journey is more important than the inn.”  Only when we are a little older and a little wiser and a few years removed from the hardest legs of our journey—only then do we begin to understand that life truly is a winding road, filled with twists and turns and hillocks and vales.

Until then, we must endure all of the more arduous legs of our individual journeys and bide our time for the smoother paths. And if we can be patient, sometimes along the way the light will shine through the trees to help us along our paths.

Let me leave you with this beautiful memory of Paul, George and Ringo together live with John in video. More later. Peace.

 

 

Looking to generate more traffice for your blog? Visit condron.us where you will find a whole community of bloggers, writing about topics in all areas. Join the forum and add your opinions to open discussions. Or submit your blog to the blogroll and browse blogs from writers who are posting in your subject areas. CONDRON.US

“It was a dark and stormy nightmare.” ~ Neil Gaiman

take-on-edvard-munchs-scream

My Take on Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”

Nightmare: Vivid, distressing dream that lasts until I wake up or my head explodes . . .

” . . . it is sitting on your chest torturing you, giving you nightmares.” ~ Bhagwan Shree Raineesh

the-scream-maskI awoke again this morning from another nightmare. This state of affairs is becoming increasingly intolerable, especially since this time my awakening was accompanied by a migraine that felt as if someone was trying to rip out my right eyeball.

The fact that I am even writing about ripping out eyeballs should be indicative of my state of distress: I hate anything to do with eyeballs. I refuse to watch any part of a movie that has any kind of object within range of the eyes. I don’t even think that I could get laser surgery on my eyes because I am so timid about eyeballs. It’s amazing that I can wear contacts.

But that is exactly what this pain felt like. I was whimpering so much that the dogs became distressed, and Shakes crawled up my chest, with all of his Polar Bear bulk, and began to lick my chin. Tillie started whining, and Alfie jumped off the bed.

Need I say that this was not a pretty sight?

“I couldn’t awake from the nightmare/That sucked me in and pulled me under/ Pulled me under.” ~ Jeff Buckley

pink-floyd-screamIn this particular nightmare, I was working for the realty firm again, the one for which I was marketing director.  Almost all of my nightmares or anxiety dreams involve something about work or going to work or leaving work. (Could be that I still have unresolved feelings about being on disability, especially since I’ve worked almost my whole life?)

So in this nightmare, I was at some boring realtors’ dinner, and I needed to leave in time to pick up my daughter. Now this scenario does not seem to be the standard material for a nightmare. Seems pretty lame, in fact.

I won’t go into all of the details because they continue in the same vein. Nevertheless, turn into a nightmare it did, along with the accompanying feelings of helplessness, distress, and heightened senses. This particular nightmare would be classified as a perceived assault on my self-esteem as opposed to an assault on my person. Okay, whatever.

I just know that when I awoke, my heart was pounding, and I was breathing in short, shallow gasps. The bonus was the throbbing, pulsating pain in my head and the rotating spots in my eyes.

But the most awful part is that after I woke up and Corey shoved an axert down my throat, the nightmare continued once I was able to go back to sleep. Tell me this isn’t weird.

“Who’s to say that dreams and nightmares aren’t as real as the here and now?” ~ John Lennon

humancerebralcortex10xsmall1
Human Cerebral Cortex: My Brain in Overdrive

I did a little reading on nightmares, and apparently, they are most common in children, but adults do have them. The causes range from stress, real-life trauma, fevers, anxiety, bereavement, heredity, and reactions to medicine.

Since this onset of nightmares began when I changed medicine, I think that I can deduce the cause of these nightly forays into fright land. But I also think that the more that I have them, the more that they are going to occur—sort of like a self-fulfilling prophecy. They are breeding and multiplying in my subconscious like some amoeba on Viagra.

I want to send a cease and desist signal to my cerebral cortex: Stop with the creative nocturnal psychosis, please. I don’t mind if my cerebral cortex goes into overdrive when I want to be creative, but this is too much.

“This has got to be a nightmare . . . I haven’t woken up yet.” ~ Curtis Sliwa

zachary-goodson-scream
"Scream" by Zachary Goodson

There is actually something called “Nightmare Disorder” (of course there is). The criteria are the following:  

  • Repeatedly wakes up with detailed recollection of long, frightening dreams centering around threats to survival, security or self-esteem, usually occurring in the second half of sleep or nap period.
  • Becomes oriented and alert instantly upon awakening.
  • Results in distress or impairment of occupational, social or other important areas of functioning.
  • Symptoms are not caused by general medical condition or by use of medications or other substances.

  • I have the first three, but am not sure about number four. According to the Psychology Today Diagnosis Dictionary, a tendency towards nightmares can be inherited (http://www.psychologytoday.com/conditions/nightmare.html). I remember when I was a child, my father used to have these screaming nightmares. He would thrash about and wake up wild-eyed. Unfortunately, sleep apnea can also be a cause for nightmares, and my father, being a Filipino, had a predisposition to sleep apnea.

    Sleep apnea is a very common occurrence in Filipino males; very often they stop breathing, and then gasp and begin breathing again. My father used to do this, and it was scary as hell to see when it happened. A few times, my mother would pound him on the chest to make sure he started breathing again. But being a stubborn man, he never saw a physician for his condition.

    The syndrome actually has a name: Sudden unexplained nocturnal death syndrome, and it occurs predominantly in Southeast Asian males. Filipinos call it bangungut, which is Tagalog for “to arise and moan,” the word for nightmare.

    Another symptom of sleep apnea is loud snoring. My father’s snoring was incredible. Sometimes I would lie in my bed at night and just listen. The snoring wasn’t  just an inhale/exhale normal kind of snoring. It had tonal variations, and one inhalation seemed to go on forever. Apparently, well not apparently but decidedly, I too have an incredible ability to snore. It wasn’t always like this, but in recent years, I have begun to wake myself up with my snoring. The only being in the house who snores louder than I is Tillie (this according to Corey who must sleep next to my noisy self—now that’s love).

    “Dreams are often most profound when they seem most crazy.” ~ Sigmund Freud

    the-simpsons-homer-scream
    Homer's Simpson's "Scream"

    The number of theories about dreams abound. Freud believed that our dreams were a reflection of our unconscious desires. I don’t agree with that one. Some researchers say that dreams are the cortex’s way of  finding meaning from random signals that are sent out during REM sleep and then creating a story from these signals. Others say that dreams are the mind’s way of sifting through the detritus of everyday life and getting rid of the things that we don’t want to warehouse in long-term storage.

    Personally, I believe the third explanation more than the other two. When I try to interpret my normal dreams, often the randomness has a pattern formed from insignificant events that occurred during the day or the previous day.  For example if I dream about my mother driving a bus, I may have had a telephone conversation with my mother about nothing, and a bus may have nearly sideswiped me on my way to the store.

    “Everything in a dream is more deep and strong and sharp and real than is ever its pale imitation in the unreal life . . .” ~ Mark Twain 

    the-scream-by-dwayne-jensen
    "The Scream" by Dwayne Jensen

    But one thing is certain about my dreams and nightmares: I can recall most of them vividly upon waking, which can be very disturbing if the dream was particularly unsettling. The feelings aroused by the dream/nightmare carry over into my day, coloring my mood and attitude. For example, haven’t you ever dreamed that you had an argument with someone, and then when you awoke, you actually felt mad at that person?

    So you can imagine my state of mind when I have a nightmare: I am mad at the world or whatever part of it inhabited my mind during REM. Luckily for the other members of the family, my nightmares rarely involve them in a negative light.

    I told Corey this morning that I thought that one of the reasons I had a migraine was that I must have been clenching my jaw during my nightmare. My jaw has hurt all day, just like it did when I had TMJ and used to clench my way into a migraine either from anxiety or anger. Luckily, I managed to teach myself not to clench, especially after two jaw surgeries, and I have no desire to reacquire that painful habit . . .

     “Those with the greatest awareness have the greatest nightmares.” ~ Mahatma Ghandi

    dreaming-big-by-steve-roberts
    "Dreaming Big" by Steve Roberts*

    I don’t know that I necessarily have more awareness than most people, but I definitely have more nightmares than anyone I know. Maybe I have nightmares because I can’t deal with reality. Who knows?

    But one thing is certain: If these nightmares, vivid dreams, whatever, don’t lessen, I may never be able to look forward again to a good night’s sleep as I once did.

    “To sleep, perchance to dream” has taken on a whole new meaning, and that connotation is not particularly welcoming.

    There will be more later. Peace.

    *http://www.steverobertsart.com/images/dreaming_big–small1_a7sz.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.steverobertsart.com/Announcements.html&usg=__AmTOf15OSxc_AU1OLXoSe70hE50=&h=336&w=448&sz=16&hl=en&start=38&tbnid=EFoz060Yka4ePM:&tbnh=95&tbnw=127&prev=/images%3Fq%3Ddreaming%26gbv%3D2%26ndsp%3D20%26hl%3Den%26sa%3DN%26start%3D20

    “Be The Difference You Want To See In The World” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

    peace-activist-poster

     

    “All We Are Saying Is Give Peace A Chance”

    peace-quote-john-lennonOh, those were good times. John Lennon. Yoko Ono, declaring to the world in nine words the simplest of mantras.

    If only it could be so simple again. If only people could set aside all of their agendas and just give it a chance. What is it you ask? Why peace of course, peace and maybe just a little more: equality possibly?

    Equalityin the workplace, equality in the tax rolls, the right to own a home without paying exorbitant interest rates, the right to go to college using a GI Bill, or a student loan, the ability to retire comfortably without having to worry about half of your retirement funds disappearing because of fiscal mismanagement by unknown suits on Wall Street, access to good health care without worrying about how you will pay for it.  All of these rights just because you are an American, no matter where you live, or how much you make, or what you last name is, or who your parents are. It could be that simple. If only . . .peace-quote-lincoln

    If only the color of a man’s skin really and truly did not matter any more in social or political settings.. If only all that mattered were his ideas and his plans for making this nation better for all Americans. If only he could be judged solely for his intelligence, his political savvy, his keen insights. Over 50 percent of Americans said in November that the color of his skin did not matter. Perhaps it is finally true.

    If only there were the possibility that those who are already decrying actions before the act itself has the chance to be accomplished, would pause long enough to see if it works. Just tarry a moment to discern if the covenant that this man has made with the nation might have a chance of coming to fruition if given enough support.

    If only so many things had not gone wrong once upon a time. If only we had not lost our most preeminent visionaries half a century ago: First, the man who brazenly declaredpeace-quote-hope that we “ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” And people walked away ready to volunteer, ready to commit to their country.  And then a few years later, another man, bolstered by the younger man, declared that he “had a dream,” and countless people followed him to Washington, D.C.

    If only he had had the chance to see his dreams through. And then one more man, a younger brother, tried to pick up the torch and carry it for both men, but he, too was shot down. If only . . . 

    And now, fifty years later, as we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Peace sign, we also celebrate the dream, and we laud the speeches, and a man of colpeace-quote-inherit-earthor stands before us and pledges to reflect on their dreams, to remember the dreams of his grandparents, his father. And he pledges to contemplate the generations to come, considering his own young daughters, and it is because of them that we know that it is not a matter of if only, but a matter of when.

    So this time, when we sing “give peace a chance,” perhaps more people will hearken, more people will acknowledge, more people will heed the call, and maybe this time, perhaps peace will actually have the chance it needs.

    Inaugural Poem 

    Praise Song for the Day

    A Poem for Barack Obama’s Presidential Inauguration

    by Elizabeth Alexander

    Each day we go about our business,

    walking past each other, catching each other’s

    eyes or not, about to speak or speaking. 

    All about us is noise. All about us is

    noise and bramble, thorn and din, each

    one of our ancestors on our tongues. 

    Someone is stitching up a hem, darning

    a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,

    repairing the things in need of repair. 

    Someone is trying to make music somewhere,

    with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,

    with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice. 

    A woman and her son wait for the bus.

    A farmer considers the changing sky.

    A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin. 

    We encounter each other in words, words

    spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,

    words to consider, reconsider. 

    We cross dirt roads and highways that mark

    the will of some one and then others, who said

    I need to see what’s on the other side. 

    I know there’s something better down the road.

    We need to find a place where we are safe.

    We walk into that which we cannot yet see. 

    Say it plain: that many have died for this day.

    Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,

    who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges, 

    picked the cotton and the lettuce, built

    brick by brick the glittering edifices

    they would then keep clean and work inside of. 

    Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.

    Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,

    the figuring-it- out at kitchen tables. 

    Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,

    others by first do no harm or take no more

    than you need. What if the mightiest word is love? 

    Love beyond marital, filial, national,

    love that casts a widening pool of light,

    love with no need to pre-empt grievance. 

    In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air,

    any thing can be made, any sentence begun.

    On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,

     

    praise song for walking forward in that light.

    Copyright (c) 2009 by Elizabeth Alexander. All rights reserved.
    Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, Saint Paul,
    Minnesota. A chapbook edition of Praise Song for the Day will be
    published on February 6, 2009.

    four-peace-signs     

     

     

          PEACE—Fifty years ago the Peace symbol was designed by Gerald Holtom, a British designer and artist. 

         There will be more later. Peace.

    Is My Life Just a Sad Song?

    inset-of-doorways-oil-on-paper-by-michael-h-zack
    Doorways by Michael H. Zack (inset; oil on paper)

    Sometimes My Life Is Just A Country Song

    Another day has almost come and gone
    Can’t imagine what else could wrong
    Sometimes I’d like to hide away somewhere and lock the door
    A single battle lost but not the war (’cause)

    the-torch-singer-by-connie-chadwell
    The Torch Singer by Connie Chadwell

    I don’t know about the rest of you, but when I’m feeling unsettled, music runs through my head constantly, like an internal play list. Songs from the past pop up out of nowhere, more than likely sad songs, melancholy songs, that I haven’t heard in years. And they usually have a sad story behind them.

    The only way to get rid of these songs is to turn on one of my play lists on my computer and try to replace the music in my head with music outside my head. Sometimes it works, but sometimes it doesn’t. More often than not, a song on my play list just bumps one in my head, and I start to dwell on the new song: where did I first hear it? What were the circumstances? Why did I put it on my playlist?

    Often, the song is one that I have sung at the old karoake bar that we used to frequent, and it brings back memories of singing, something that I love to do in front of an audience. I think that in one of my past lives I was probably a torch singer in a smoky room in a back alley bar somewhere down by the docks. I don’t think that I was famous, but I think that I was well known for my raspy voice and my cigarette holder.

    Tomorrow’s another day
    And I’m thirsty anyway
    So bring on the rain

    But songs mean a lot to me. They are poetry (hence the name lyrical poetry), and they are stories. Simon and Garfunkel are definitely the voice of the generation of the 60’s and 70’s. Their songs are anthems for what was going on during those tumultuous times. The same can be said for John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s songs, as well as the songs of Bob Dylan, and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young.

    These songwriters were followed by a generation of modern country songwriters such as Garth Brooks, Bonnie Raitt, Kenny Chesney, The Dixie Chicks, and crossovers like The Indigo Girls, Jackson Browne, and Sheryl Crow.

    And of course, the emergence of Rap music as urban poetry must not be ignored. Rap speaks to the minds and emotions of its listeners. Among the most famous rap artists today are Notorious B.I.G., Tupac, Ludacris, and Snoop Dogg.

    It’s almost like the hard times circle ’round
    A couple drops and they all start coming down
    Yeah, I might feel defeated,
    I might hang my head
    I might be barely breathing—but I’m not dead

    I used to love to listen to Jane Olivor when I was feeling down. She has the voice of a chanteuse, and one of the songs that she sang was called “It’s over. Goodbye.” I must have played that song 50 times in a row after a major breakup with my good Catholic boyfriend. Each time was like a knife in my heart, which was what I felt I deserved for ending a relationship with such a wonderful person. But I never felt good enough, and I knew in my heart that I would never be true to him. So Jane and I spent the night together: she pouring out her heart, and I weeping.

    Tomorrow’s another day
    And I’m thirsty anyway
    So bring on the rain

    Another thing that I love to do is to make CDs of different playlists (my car is not equipped with an MP3 player, thank you very much). I have a road trip CD, one for rolling down the windows and blowing back your hair. It includes Springsteen, Clapton, The Stones, The Who, among others. I have a boat music compilation—Jimmy Buffet (of course), Kenny Chesney, Uncle Kracker, Jackson Browne. I have compilations for just about any occasion.

    I’m not gonna let it get me down
    I’m not gonna cry
    And I’m not gonna lose any sleep tonight

    falling-rain1
    But one song that always gets to me when I hear it or when I sing it is Jo Dee Messina’s “Bring On the Rain” because this woman is saying, “yep, just about everything that could go wrong today has gone wrong. So go ahead and just get it over with. I’m down anyway. I can barely hold up my head, but I know that tomorrow is going to come. So open up the sky, and let it pour, because I’m thirsty anyway.

    Man, to have that strength. To be able to say to life: Go ahead. Give me your best shot because I know that you are going to whether I’m ready for it or not.  This day can only get worse. I’m already pretty close to the ground. Might as well rain all over me. But you know what? I’m feeling down, but I’m not dead, and tomorrow’s another day.

    Right now, I’m looking for that strength. I’m not defeated, not even close to it. Just tired and feeling low to the ground . . . but a little rain never hurt anyone. It’s nature’s way of cleansing, of getting rid of the dirt and grime that has built up, allowing for new growth because the soil is refreshed. All of the dead leaves have been washed away. And if it rains hard enough, somewhere the sun will reflect on the raindrops and create a rainbow and verify that life does indeed still exist.

    Tomorrow’s another day
    And I am not afraid
    So bring on the rain

    Maybe I am a little afraid, afraid of the unknown because it’s been the unknown for so long now. But I’m reminded of another song about rain: Trisha Yearwood’s Georgia Rain, which is another song that I love to sing. In it, the woman is remembering her long lost love and their night in the Georgia Rain. She says that “Nothin’ here’s the same/Except for the Georgia rain.”

    You can’t ever go back really. And it’s sad when you see people try or continue to hope for that “one day” when they can go back; you just want to shake them gently and say, “It’s not there any more. It’s only in your mind. Things change.” You can never go back, and I never want to. I have too much here. Back is gone. Back is yesterday. I only want to make it to tomorrow.

    Tomorrow’s another day
    And I’m thirsty anyway
    So bring on the rain

    After the rain, more. Peace.