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

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

                   

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

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

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

Kaleidoscope by ark (FCC)

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

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

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

Meanwhile, life carries on, as it were.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kaleidoscope VI by fdecomite (FCC)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Starspheres by Song_Sing (FCC)

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

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

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

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

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

Daisy Kaleidoscope by srqpix (FCC)

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

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

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

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

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

Mushroom Flower by sebilden (FCC)

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

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

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

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

More later. Peace.

Music by Livingston, “Broken”

                   

The Opening of Eyes

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

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

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

~ David Whyte

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“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.”