“Yesterday was blue, like smoke.” ~ Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

Tree in Field before the Storm (Pixdaus)

                   

“That is why the bird sings its songs into the world as though it were singing into its inner self, that’s why we take a birdsong into our own inner selves so easily, it seems to us that we translate it fully, with no remainder, into our feelings; a birdsong can even, for a moment, make the whole world into a sky within us, because we feel that the bird does not distinguish between its heart and the world’s.” ~ Rainer Marie Rilke, “Notes on Birds”

Friday evening. Warm, not too humid. Possibility of storms.

Field Storm by Maria (Pixdaus)

Last night I dreamed of a vast field, green and yellow and a storm approaching from the distance.

Today I spent the longest time in the pool so far this season. Tillie and Shakes joined me, which meant that splashing ensued, but it was still quite peaceful. Everyone else was in the house, so it was just me, the dogs, and lots of birds. It’s nice when it’s just the dogs because when I fall off the raft or talk to myself about my belly, they just look and listen as if I’m talking about cookies.

The mockingbirds are back. As I floated, I watched two small mockingbirds attack a much larger crow. I love mockingbirds, not just for their songs, but also for their fearlessness. They are the rebel songbirds; I like that about them.

The blue sky was dotted with puffy cumulus clouds, and thankfully, no leaf blowers or chain saws were in earshot, so overall, it was a peaceful few hours, except for the hole in my raft. I bought two rafts at the discount store, and one has a hole in it already—it’s never been used. You get what you pay for, I suppose, but these will have to do for now.

As a result, I got the beginnings of a nice tan on my front, and nothing on my back. I’m not too fussed about it, though. It’s not as if anyone ever sees me.

“Has it ever struck you . . . that life is all memory, except for the one present moment that goes by you so quickly you hardly catch it going? It’s really all memory . . . except for each passing moment.” ~ Tennessee Williams, The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore

Flight Before the Storm (Pixdaus)

Well, I had two doctors’ appointments this week. Have you ever had one of those doctors who just loves to do tests? My gastro guy has turned into one of those. He wasn’t always like that. We talked about the results from my last two tests, which essentially show the same things—my digestive system is whacked—and then he mentioned another test. I told him that I really didn’t think that it was necessary.

I think that I need to find a new gastro doctor. I mean, now that I’ve been poked and prodded from both ends, perhaps I can find someone who will now discuss treatment options with me instead of talking about more tests and referrals. This particular visit was part of the cause for my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day; that, and more peripheral drama.

My other doctor’s visit was with my PCP, who is also starting to sound like a broken record: It would be nice if we could get you off some of these medications . . .

Really? That never occurred to me. Which ones do you think I can do without? The pain medicine for my back? The cholesterol medicine? The headache medicine?

Exactly.

So she sent me to the lab to have more vials of my life blood sucked out, and I’m certain that she will not be happy with the results because I have yet to begin my exercise regimen. I know. I know. I really do need to at least walk, but it’s mighty hard to steel the self for three or four miles when the vision is impaired from squinting as a result of the jack hammer that is at work on the skull.

Just saying . . .

“I thought how true it was that the world was a delightful place if it were not for the people, and how more than true it was that people were not worth troubling about . . .” ~ Katherine Mansfield, Violet

Red Stormy Skies (Pixdaus)

The ongoing drama at my house is not really something that I feel comfortable talking about as it does not directly involve me. Rather, Corey and I are on the periphery of events that are unfolding, and our role is pretty much relegated to support. I’m fine with this, especially in this particular situation.

I’ve been pondering the concept of people in the past few days. You might find that a bit odd, but not really. I mean, so many people come and go in our lives, and I firmly believe that each person leaves a little something behind, even if it is only a brief memory of an afternoon, or a remembered line from a conversation, or a sense of keen dread when remembering certain individuals.

I will admit that I am one of those people who usually causes one of two reactions in people: either strong dislike or undying loyalty. I’ve wondered what it is about me that causes this, and most probably, it is because I tend to speak my mind. I have found that, especially in a certain types of men, this is not a trait that is welcomed in a woman, which only makes me more vocal.

But at the same time, I know that in the past, I got along better with men than with women. I have found—at least in the workplace—that a group of women always has a very specific dynamic: one of extreme competitiveness, either for real power or perceived power. It’s that whole clique formation thing, perhaps a carryover from high school and the concept of mean girls. I know that it’s one thing that I do not miss at all about working full time.

Women can be absolutely brutal to one another, and that saddens me. It truly does. When I was an undergraduate taking Women’s Studies courses, I remember a lot of discussions about the sociology and psychology of females and the unspoken need to one-up another woman who may or may not be a competitor. As in, for example, the Queen Bee Syndrome: the woman who reaches a position of power who then does everything she can to make sure that no other women get promoted (there is only room at the top for one).

“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” ~ Edith Wharton

Storm Clouds, South Dakota (Pixdaus)

I know that I’ve talked about these things before in this forum, but when I think back on some of the women I have left by the wayside in my own quest for fire, I am, most certainly, abashed. For example, I remember years ago when I managed the document production department for a government contractor. The art department was particularly troublesome.

The first graphic artist I hired was a seemingly nice woman. What I didn’t realize, even at the time, was that she was so insecure that anyone else I hired had to be willing to be subservient to her.

In my way of apology, it was my first time supervising so many people, and they were all female, until I hired a guy who had been in graduate school with me to work as an editor. Anyway, the senior graphic artist took a strong dislike to another artist I hired, and as a result, she (the first) took every opportunity to plant little tidbits of doubt in my ear. I was just naive enough to fall for it, and the end result was that the second graphic artist lost her job.

Now in my defense, she was habitually late and/or absent, so that was reason enough, but I never should have fallen prey to the constant brainwashing that X was really a terrible person, a bad artist, unproductive, ya da ya da ya da . . .

My point is this: I was stupid. The woman who reveled in spreading seeds of discontent was insecure, petty, and immature, and as a result, everyone lost.

“What horrifies me most is the idea of being useless: well-educated, brilliantly promising, and fading out into an indifferent middle age.” ~Sylvia Plath

Field Before the Storm (Pixdaus)

I would like to think that such things would not happen now. I’m older, wiser, more patient, and less prone to be swayed by idle gossip and venomous rancor. I wish that I had had these traits when I was in my 20’s, but of course, hindsight proves to be the greatest teacher of all. I think back on myself at that time and how certain I was of everything, how unwilling I was to bend for fear it would be seen as weakness.

I love it when young women declare to the world, I am not a feminist. I would never want to be that kind of woman.

What is the old saying? Feminism is the radical notion that women are people too (I’m paraphrasing). So many women of my daughter’s generation view feminists as men-haters, as lesbians, as hairy-arm-pitted radicals.

If only they knew. I was in the second wave, after the bra-burners. But if not for women like me who did not allow men on the staff to pat my bum or to call me sweetie, women in their 20’s would not have half the gains they have in the workplace. Fifty-one percent of the population is female. The number of women on corporate letterhead is still growing.

Women are in politics, in the boardroom, in private practice; they are partners in prestigious firms, and they are chief of staff. No longer are women in the service confined to bedpans and bandages. They can fly fighter jets.

At the same time, feminism is all about choices: those women who choose to stay home and raise their children, those women who choose not to get married, those women who choose to have careers and families. And all of this is because of the radicals of the 60’s and early 70’s, and those of us who came after and picked up the baton.

“’How does distance look?’ is a simple direct question. It extends from a spaceless
within to the edge
of what can be loved. It depends on light.” ~ Anne Carson, Autobiography of Red

Storm Clouds Over the Canola Field

I remember that sometimes it really did feel as if we were fighting in the trenches, with our power suits, pumps and briefcases. Take us seriously—the unwritten banner across our chests.

I remember the male general manager who did not want to promote a woman on staff because he did not like her laugh. I remember the male executive who asked me to microwave his lunch. I remember the teacher who told me that I should seriously consider a career in politics. I remember wondering if it would ever get better.

It did. And I did.

What seemed so far in the distance to me when I was just beginning my career is no longer unattainable simply because of gender. Yet for all of it, women still seem to be hardest on other women, and I’m not talking about in the insane vernacular of real housewives women. For every male who stood in my way in the workplace, there was a female who did the same.

I wonder if it will always be that way. I wonder if that is an American socialization thing, or if it spreads throughout countries all over the world.

Curious.

The computer is beginning to misbehave, and I haven’t even inserted my graphics yet, so let me close with this: A man asked Cher is she wasn’t a bit old to still be rocking. Cher replied, “You’d better ask Mick Jagger.”

More later. Peace.

Music by Grace Griffith, “My Life.” (Thanks, Leah in NC)

                   

When I Am Asked

When I am asked
how I began writing poems,
I talk about the indifference of nature.
It was soon after my mother died,
a brilliant June day,
everything blooming.

I sat on a gray stone bench
in a lovingly planted garden,
but the day lilies were as deaf
as the ears of drunken sleepers
and the roses curved inward.
Nothing was black or broken
and not a leaf fell
and the sun blared endless commercials
for summer holidays.

I sat on a gray stone bench
ringed with the ingenue faces
of pink and white impatiens
and placed my grief
in the mouth of language,
the only thing that would grieve with me.

~ Lisel Mueller

“It was thus I learned, after having been so many years treated for disorders which I never had, that my incurable disease, without being mortal, would last as long as myself.” ~ Jean-Jacques Rousseau

From Andrew Moore: Making History (Selected Photographs 1980-2010) 
                       
“Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.” ~ Naomi Shihab Nye, from “Kindness”
Waiting Room, Detroit, Michigan, by Andrew Moore

Saturday afternoon. The hurricane passed us and left beautiful weather: sunny and mild. Simply lovely. 

I feel like a slug today—no energy, one of those fat and ugly and my mother dresses me funny days. I suppose that I should be happy since just three days ago I wasn’t able to get out of bed. This episode of uncategorized malaise didn’t last too long, or rather, not as long as they usually last. Probably karmic payback for even thinking that I might be feeling well enough to consider going back to work. 

Not too much happening today. Corey was supposed to work the second shift (3 to 11 p.m.), but the ship left port early, which means that this is the fourth shift since this past Monday that has been cancelled. Thankfully, the duty sergeant called Corey in for the third shift tonight. If I think about the ramifications of the constant up and down too much, I might go mad. 

Can one go madder? Mad. Madder. Maddest. But would it be more mad, and is that even possible? 

I really should be polishing furniture, but motivating myself enough to do so doesn’t seem within the realm of possibilities today. Instead of furniture polishing, I did a bit more in Eamonn’s room, which means that I pulled seven pairs of shoes out from beneath the futon. Obviously Eamonn does not care about these shoes, or he would have taken them with him, that, or he has forgotten about them. 

Whatever the case, I am taking advantage of his absence to get rid of all but two pair, one of which Corey likes, and another pair of Nike Airs. Neither pair appears to have been worn more than a few times—treads in almost perfect shape and leather barely showing signs of wear. Have I mentioned lately how spoiled my children are? On the plus side, I know for certain that I did not buy all of these shoes for him, with the exception of the cleats that he had to have for football; ask me how long he played football? 

Other than a bit of light sorting, I find myself confounded because the Internet isn’t working reliably, or the router isn’t working, or something isn’t working, which means that this post, like the previous one, will appear sometime in the future. When exactly is indeterminable. (Point of fact, I’m writing on one day and posting whenever the Internet connection magically reappears: This post was written on Saturday, but posted on Sunday, backdated. Confused? I am.) 

Last night I spent about four hours praying to the gods that be to allow my computer to work long enough to create backup files. I put some data on flash drives, some on Corey’s computer, and some on this computer in Eamonn’s room (how long does it continue to be Eamonn’s room after he has vacated the premises?). I decided to risk the odds and back up several things simultaneously. Luckily, my computer remained working long enough to perform the backup, which relieves me of one headache—the thought of having to pay the Geeks to recover and reload my data. 

I’m pretty sure that I have everything that I need, as in documents, images, music, and fonts. At this point, I’m just grateful that I was indeed able to create backups as the thought of losing over two years worth of data made me physically nauseous. 

“You never know what is enough, until you know what is more than enough.” ~ William Blake, “Proverbs of Hell”
Peacock Alley, Detroit, by Andrew Moore

In other news . . . Alexis’s friend Jennifer reconsidered her options and has decided to undergo radiation treatments. I haven’t had an update lately, but I believe that Jennifer, her brother, and her son have settled into some kind of routine. I do know that a home-health nurse visits daily, and her son Reilly will be starting kindergarten on Tuesday. 

Thanks to everyone who sent well wishes. I passed them along to Jennifer via Alexis. 

Alexis has pulled back somewhat from the situation with Jennifer, which I had expected to happen eventually. I know from experience that being involved 24/7 in something as stressful as watching someone you love die takes a very heavy toll. At times, Jennifer was arguing with Alexis, and I tried to point out that such a thing is predictable: the caregivers are always the ones to bear the brunt of the afflicted individual’s misplaced anger. I mean after all, is there an actual correct, acceptable way to rale at fate? 

Another negative aspect is that Alexis has been getting grief from work in that the other women with whom she works at the thrift store felt that Alexis was getting special treatment, which she was because of the circumstances. Rob, the store manager, knows how close Jennifer and Alexis are, and in the past few months he has actually asked Alexis to leave work and spend time with Jennifer. I admire Rob for his insight, and the fact that he is directing Alexis should be more than enough for her co-workers. 

Why do women have to be so damned bitchy? Why can’t empathy sustain itself in a closed environment? I mean, everyone with whom Alexis works claims to love and care about Jennifer, yet they complain and accuse Alexis of coming and going as she pleases. Alexis did not ask for special treatment, but she received it nonetheless. Therefore, Alexis is the enemy. The stress coming at her from so many different directions is having a major impact on my daughter’s already precarious psyche. 

I have little patience with selfish, shallow individuals, and unfortunately, women who work together can be the least sympathetic when it comes to a female co-worker. I hate to say that because it sounds sexist, but experience has shown me just how much like high school the workplace can be: the groups that gather together to talk about other people, the constantly-changing alliances, the petty jealousies. 

“I can be changed by what happens to me, but I refuse to be reduced by it.” ~ Maya Angelou
 Cuba 2009, by Andrew Moore

                     

I remember from my women’s studies curriculum reading about the phenomenon called the queen bee syndrome, a term coined when women began to move into more managerial positions. The basic premise is that once a woman is in power, she will do everything she can to ensure that no other women attain as much power, like the sole queen bee in a hive. I would like to think that woman have moved beyond this line of thinking, that woman can advocate for one another without fearing healthy competition. Some women can. Some women cannot. A lot depends upon the individual woman’s self-esteem. 

Those women with lower self-esteem feel too threatened by other women to allow for their basic humanity to reveal itself. And I suppose that I am generalizing, but I think that education and intellect play a large part. By that I mean that a female manager who supervises another woman who might have more education or be more savvy (education not equating with intelligence) may be more easily threatened and therefore be more critical of said employee. 

It all goes back to socialization. Like it or not, women feel less threatened by men in the workplace (as far as jealousy) because there is that innate socialization to expect men to advance faster. But take two women who for all intents and purposes are equal in the hierarchy, have essentially the same background and the same experience, and chances are good that the two women will engage in some pretty vicious backbiting. 

Yes, yes. Times have changed, but the change has been slow, and the evolution is still creaking along. Parity is not the standard. 

Not really sure what sent me off on that tangent,just felt the need to vent a bit, which leads me to this: Are people inherently good or inherently evil? 

A question for another day, perhaps, but know this: My answer constantly changes. 

More later. Peace. 

Music by Dar Williams, “Blue Light of the Flame” 

                                                 
All images by American photographer Andrew Moore: “Moore distills the spirit of this message in his haunting large-scale images of decay and renewal. From Cuba to Russia to Detroit, Moore seeks out disused, wrecked buildings and captures the moment that nature stakes her claim on their ravaged grandeur.”