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”
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”
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.”
“If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.” ~ William Blake
A quiet Sunday. Corey is working 3 to 11 again. The dogs are being lazy. Laundry is going. Outside, no sounds coming from the park, only the occasional birdsong. Comfortable temperatures and sunshine, although rain later. All in all, not a bad day.
I was thinking last night, or rather, early this morning, about the differences between what we perceive and what is real, that is, is what we see necessarily what is real? Is our reality the only reality?
I think that what set me on this tangent was a dream from which I awakened in which my father was going to drive a big white Cadillac to a physical therapy appointment; my mother was rearranging papers, and different people kept coming in and out. My father, who was a small man, never felt comfortable in big cars. In his later years, I think that he would have been hard-pressed to see over the steering wheel of a big Cadillac.
But I awoke from this dream thinking about how the mind works, how in dreams reality is always altered at least slightly if not completely. I mean, the appearance of my father so often in my dreams is obviously not in keeping with the reality of my life because my father died almost nine years ago. Yet there he is. I know that I’m simplifying considerably, but for approximately one-quarter to one-third of our lives, we exist in a state of unreality—those hours in which we sleep and dream; although the dreaming part is usually only about 25 percent of that sleeping time, taking place during REM sleep.
But the perceptions in dreams are not what I am really talking about. I think.
“But I look up:
the stars write.
Unknowing I understand:
I too am written,
and at this very moment
someone spells me out.” ~ Octavio Paz
As far as I can discern, the concepts of perception and reality are both fluid, totally dependent upon the individual. My sense of what is right and just is based on how I was raised, the laws of the country of my birth, the beliefs instilled in me by family. For example, I do not believe that it is right to force a woman to cover her body because the sight of a female ankle might drive a man into unbidden lust. However, I was raised in a society in which the roles of men and women have continually evolved. My reality is not that my bare legs are sinful; does that mean that in another city in another country the idea of the exposed female body as unholy is wrong? No. Not wrong. Just different.
But let’s move closer to home. I believe that there is exquisite beauty in a yard that is filled with different kinds of flowers and trees. Five houses down the street there is a house that does not have one tree, one shrub, one flower. My perception is that it is barren. The owner’s perception may be that such a yard is maintenance free, clean lines, uncluttered.
When the trees lose their leaves in the fall, I do not feel a great compulsion to rake the leaves and dispose of them. In fact, I love the look of fallen leaves. My nosy neighbor cannot abide a stray leaf. She probably sees my leaf-strewn yard as the end result of laziness, slovenliness. I see her perfect yard as a reflection of how uptight she is.
Granted, these are relatively small things. But you get the point: What I perceive as beauty is not necessarily seen as beautiful by someone whose reality does not allow for things to be out of place.
“What the caterpillar calls the end, the rest of the world calls a butterfly.” ~ Lao-tzu
My perception of the reality of my life at the moment is shaped in great part by the reality of my past. Three years ago, money was not so much an issue. I did not awaken each morning and measure the possibilities of my day by how much pain I was experiencing. Today, I see my life as being very limited, hemmed in by circumstances that are very much out of my control. These are my perceptions.
Across the world, in a small village somewhere, the days are measured in more concrete terms: how much water is available? Will there be enough rain to sustain the crops? Will another child die from dysentery?
Across the country in a city somewhere, a woman with perfect nails and a chic haircut is measuring her day by how many pairs of shoes she will buy, whether or not to lunch in this trendy bistro or that one.
Is one reality better than the others? Is one reality less of an existence than the others? We make these judgments according to what we know, most of the time without ever considering what is going on across the world, across the country, or even across the street.
“We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.” ~ Anaïs Nin
I don’t know if I’m being very effective here in making my point. What I had planned to say, or thought that I might say, does not seem to be translating well onto this page.
I think that too often we take our own realities and try to impose them on others. Take the Catholic church (or not). I am not catholic, but many people assume that I am because I am Filipino. But my feelings about the Catholic church are mostly hostile, and I realize that my hostility comes from my firm belief that there should be equality between the sexes; the Catholic church is inherently misogynistic. Men have all of the power. Therefore, I cannot reconcile myself to be of a faith that in its basic tenets places women below men. For me, that’s just a bunch of hooey.
But I was watching some documentary a while back that discussed how Catholicism, because of its staunch stance against the use of condoms is causing more deaths in third world countries. Consider: according to the pope, condoms are a sin because of that whole sex and procreation thing. Men with AIDS are forbidden by the church to use condoms when having sex with their wives even though the unprotected sex will most likely result in the wife contracting AIDS.
In my reality, this makes no sense, no sense whatsoever. But there are a whole bunch of people out there for whom this reality makes perfect sense. Do I have a right to be indignant? Well obviously I can be as indignant as I want to be, but whether or not that indignation should be heaped on any Catholic with whom I might come into contact is questionable.
But I’m right. Right? Transmitting AIDS is wrong. Right? Well, duh. But to people of faith, for whom the word of the pope is infallible, it’s not a duh. On the contrary. It’s not even a quandary.
Hence the whole personal reality and perception versus that of another person, society, country, etc. The concept of fluidity is more fact than concept. My reality of today is so different from my reality of 20 years ago.
“I want so to live that I work with my hands and my feeling and my brain. I want a garden, a small house, grass, animals, books, pictures, music. And out of this, the expression of this, I want to be writing (Though I may write about cabmen. That’s no matter.) But warm, eager, living life — to be rooted in life — to learn, to desire, to feel, to think, to act. This is what I want. And nothing less. That is what I must try for.” ~ Katherine Mansfield
When I was younger, my reality went something like this: career first, family incidental. Before I had children I could not conceive of a time in which my career was not the most important thing in my life. My personal success was directly tied to the size and location of my office, the amount of my salary, the scope of my bonuses. In my 20’s, I was a political animal in the corporate world. I had the kind of personality that would have actually done very well in politics.
After I had Alexis, my reality shifted, slightly at first, then dramatically as the days passed into months. I hit a point in my life in which I could not conceive of ever placing anything above her needs, her comfort, her security. And so on.
My reality now? Not sure. I perceive of myself as being so different from what I used to be, but I don’t know if that is true. It could well be that time has passed, but I have remained the same. Or maybe time has passed, and I have allowed my reality to evolve. I just know that Mansfield’s quote comes about as close to my ideal reality as I can sum up in words: home, animals, books, pictures, music, writing. To continue to learn, expand my mind. Not to stop thinking and delving and discovering.
I feel fortunate that my reality does not include the possibility of starvation, or imminent rape, or death from something easily preventable. That my reality does not include Manolo Blahniks and pricey eateries really doesn’t bother me. In fact, I think that if I were to put on a pair of shoes that cost $800, I would probably hate myself because I would not be able to rid my mind of the thought of how that money might be put to better use.
Evolving realities. Shifting perceptions. Movement. Growth. Life is not the destination; it’s how we get there and what we do along the way.