“The truth knocks on the door and you say, “Go away, I’m looking for the truth,” and so it goes away. Puzzling.” ~ Robert M. Pirsig, from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

From Other Wordly:

                   

One day a young Buddhist on his journey home, came to the banks of a wide river. Staring hopelessly at the great obstacle in front of him, he pondered for hours on just how to cross such a wide barrier. Just as he was about to give up his pursuit to continue his journey he saw a great teacher on the other side of the river. The young Buddhist yells over to the teacher, “Oh wise one, can you tell me how to get to the other side of this river?”

The teacher ponders for a moment looks up and down the river and yells back, “My son, you are on the other side.”.

“The stars are suspended on strings that are pulled up in the daytime and let down at night.” ~ Babylonian Mythology, 3000 B.C.

Moeraki Boulders of New Zealand

“the sound of wind
rustling bamboo leaves
near my window
short is my nap
and its dream” ~ Shikishi

I have been unable to post recently: Three nights of restless, intermittent sleep has taken its toll once again. I feel as if I were a method actor preparing for the role of a zombie, so much so that my eyes seem to have taken on that glassy sheen of the cinema un-dead. Absolutely delightful.

Last night/this morning was perhaps even worse than the night before. Usually I sleep in two-hour intervals; last night it was half hour intervals. I downed an Alka Seltzer a short bit ago and am now sipping on a cold Pepsi. No, I do not need the caffeine, but I do need the fizz. And then there are the migraines, the ones that come roaring in around 2 a.m. All in all, not the best few days.

The one good thing about getting out of bed so much is that one or more of the dogs gets up with me, and we stumble to the back door together. I stick my head outside as they are about their business. Last night was deliciously cool, and the air smelled like spring.

“Below the surface-stream, shallow and light,
Of what we say we feel—below the stream,
As light, of what we think we feel—there flows
With noiseless current strong, obscure and deep,
The central stream of what we feel indeed.” ~ Matthew Arnold

In spite of my not posting for a few days, nothing much happened. I mean, I watched RHNY on Thursday night as Kelly had a meltdown of epic proportions, making repeated nonsensical declarations: “Satchels of gold.” “Al Sharpton, Al Sharpton.” “Feelings are so 1979.” “Bethenny has knives on her tongue . . . eee eee eee (stabbing motions). I know that it’s not nice to make fun of crazy people, so I’ll just say for the record, I told you she was crazy last year.

Since I could not focus enough to post yesterday or the day before, I spent an inordinate amount of time surfing aimlessly. In my searches, I came upon the perfect curling iron, decided to change my shampoo, and read some hype about something called a Far Infrared Dome, which is supposed to be based on Eastern concepts of acupuncture only with infrared heat. If I were going to believe the pitch, then this machine would cure all of my ails: chronic pain, back pain, muscle aches, poor circulation, gout, and a grumpy disposition (just threw in the gout to see if you were paying attention).

Essentially, the device is an open dome that the user places atop his/her body, and then infrared gamma rays from the planet Krypton zap away the pain, leaving a sense of relief and thirst (Users are cautioned to drink water before and after each treatment). Of course, just the increased intake of water could actually be the source of the curative effect.

Hmm . . . things that make you go hmm . . .

Apparently, these infrared domes do a good business in Canada, but I don’t know about elsewhere. Of course they are pricey, but if they actually worked, I could safe a ton on doctor’s visits and shots. I wonder if they are just woo or if there is actually some scientific basis for their claims. Anyone know?

Time out. Had to go lie down and actually fell asleep, real sleep, four hours. Bliss.

“Be like the sun for grace and mercy. Be like the night to cover others’ faults. Be like running water for generosity. Be like death for rage and anger. Be like the Earth for modesty. Appear as you are. Be as you appear.” ~ Mawlana Jalal-al-Din Rumi

I had an interesting conversation with my ex on Friday regarding a letter that we received from TCC. Apparently, Eamonn is on academic probation. I’ll admit it: I immediately defaulted on this one and threw the ball into his court. That is a conversation that I could not possibly have without a lot of shouting ensuing (his first, then mine).  How does one get on academic probation at a community college taking four courses? Perhaps by not doing the work? Not going to class? I can only surmise here since I haven’t been firsthand this semester.

I freely admit that I expect a lot of those around me, always have, always will. I expect it because I have seen what each of them can do. Eamonn is a very intelligent person; he can be incredibly intuitive and perceptive. But he is also completely oblivious about the bigger picture—what life is about beyond the scope of his core group of friends, his girlfriend, his little community. Is this surprising? Not really. He’s a teenager who, for the most part, has had a pretty easy life. So on the one hand, I’m not too surprised when he acts as if the world begins and ends with him. That being said, I really thought that he would get it when he started college. You know? It, the big it, as in this is the beginning of my life . . . this is not high school any more . . . this means something.

Unfortunately, it does not appear to have hit home yet. Thus, I pass the buck on this one because I know myself too well, and I know my son. I just do not believe that it is possible to teach another person self-awareness, not matter how much love is behind the lesson. Self-awareness, self-discipline—these things must be learned individually, and almost always as a result of failure, loss, and pain. And the reality is that my instinct to nurture compels me to shield those I love from pain, which is not always a good thing.

“For it would seem—her case proved it—that we write, not with the fingers, but with the whole person. The nerve which controls the pen winds itself about every fibre of our being, threads the heart, pierces the liver.” ~ Virginia Woolf, Orlando

Writing this post has been like blood-letting: I began it early this morning when I could not sleep. I came back to it after an intermittent sleep. I became distracted while writing it in searching for the theme of my quotes. I took a turn at Japanese Tanka poetry. And of the five quotes that I had originally selected, only the title and the Matthew Arnold quote remain.

Sometimes it comes so easily—my fingers move across the keys, creating words and sentences as if of their own volition. Other times, I regroup, move things around until I am satisfied. But on rare occasions, the writing is as it has been today: filled with pauses, backtracks, and uncertainty. When this happens, I must quell a deep desire to simply take the whole thing and move it to the trash heap of computing, that never-never land where words go to die. Perhaps twice I have given over to this desire and just said to hell with it and stopped, but when I do that, I feel even worse than I did while I was writing, as if I abandoned my very thoughts, negated them, made them inconsequential.

But I do not know which is worse: to suffer through until an end appears so that I can stop, to continue to write until things begin to take shape more clearly, or simply to close up shop, hang a sign saying “Back Soon,” and surrender to the miasma of words on the page that have refused to go where I willed them. But for today, I will compromise, having reached an ending, I will stop, post, and hope for a better day tomorrow.

More later. Peace.

Music by Iron & Wine, “Passing Afternoon”

“Whatever you are, be a good one.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

 The journey is more important than the inn

Photograph by L. Liwag

“What you are comes to you.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

“I am returning this otherwise good typing paper to you because someone has printed gibberish all over it and put your name at the top.” ~ Unknown English Professor, Ohio University

Well, eldest son did it. He walked up there and took his diploma, and the school Superintendent pronounced them graduates. The ceremony was a fast-paced deal that lasted only an hour and a half, as compared to my daughter’s graduation which seemed to go on and on and on. The venue was good too, open, roomy, not squooshed up against the person you are sitting against, so I had no claustrophobia problems.

Aside from immediate family, his cousin who is graduating tomorrow came, as did his friends since childhood, Gordon and Tailor. I made Eamonn stand for pictures with everyone, and he was actually pretty gracious about it.

The only downside was when I was trying to move up a row (because of course every seat in the row that I selected was being saved), and I scraped my thigh on the arm of the end seat. I have a nice, big black and blue spot on my leg, but I don’t plan to enter any hot legs contests anytime soon.

As far as people being overly rowdy and loud, it wasn’t too bad. The school’s principal had already made a few announcements prior to the start of the ceremony in which she said that if the noise became too loud, she would step back and stop handing out diplomas, and she kept her word. Twice she stopped the procession until the crowd calmed down.

It’s such a shame that she had to make the announcement in the first place, and that she had to follow through with it, in the second place.

“What is the most important thing one learns in school? Self-esteem, support, and friendship.” ~ Terry Tempest Williams

The Road Less TraveledI always like to choose a fitting quote to go into almost every card that I give, and I found a really good one on Goodreads. The quote is by writer Neil Gaiman:

“I’ve been making a list of all of the things they don’t teach you at school. They don’t teach you how to love somebody. They don’t teach you how to be famous. They don’t teach you how to be rich or how to be poor. They don’t teach you how to walk away from someone you don’t love any longer. They don’t teach you how to know what’s going on in someone else’s mind. They don’t teach you what to say to someone who is dying. They don’t teach you anything worth knowing.”

The reason that I like this quote so much is because it is essentially true. What do we take away from high school? How to conjugate a verb in French? How to find the square root of an isosceles triangle? What the Monroe Doctrine was?

If you remember this kind of information, you probably do really well at Trivial Pursuit and/or you have gone on to become a teacher. But what is my son taking away from high school?

A group of friends who have stood by him during the worst times of his life (so far) and the best times of his life (again, so far). Memories of some really great times that he would prefer his mother never finds out about, and more than a few regrets that he didn’t follow through on a few things (track, football).

He is also taking with him the following lessons:

  • Mom knows if you are lying if you giggle too much
  • It’s hard to explain why you were absent from a particular class if your mom dropped you off at school that morning.
  • The school is serious when they say they will confiscate cell phones
  • You cannot make the team if you never go to practice
  • Yes, you have a deceptively charming smile, but that smile only works with some teachers, probably females
  • Mom was right when she told you that you really would survive the second breakup with your first serious love
  • Girls do talk to each other, so it’s probably not a good idea to date friends no matter how hot they are
  • Asking your mom to type your paper that is due the next day at 9 the evening before does not put her in a good mood
  • It takes money to put gas in the Trooper, and it’s probably a good idea to check the oil sometimes
  • Your mother knows when you have been smoking in her car, even if you leave the windows down all night

“High school: Oh man. This is where boys and girls go from tweens to teens and become complicated and cruel. Girls play sick mind games; boys try to pull each other’s penises off and throw them in the bushes.” ~ Eugene Mirman

Zen leapOkay, those are the fluffy lessons, so to speak. But he also learned some really hard lessons, like how much it hurts when your first love breaks your heart. And how hard it is to keep your word if you never meant it in the first place. Or how someone who claims to be a friend can stab you in the back without breaking a sweat. And how your parents can become real hardasses over things like curfews, and grades, and conduct notices, even though you don’t really understand what the big deal is.

I think that it is profoundly unfair that you first discover love at a time when you least know yourself in life. How is a teenager supposed to cope with all of the drama and accusations and breaking up one day only to make up the next day? How are they supposed to handle all of this angst and study for calculus too?

Frankly, when I put things in perspective, it’s no wonder that 11th grade becomes the make or break year for so many people. The pressure from their teachers is incredible because they are pushing students to think about college, and they are trying to cram as much information as possible into a brain that is essentially a sponge: and while a sponge can absorb a great deal, it also lets a whole lot seep out.

The pressure from worried parents intensifies in their junior year because there is college to think about, and if not that, then how have they prepared for a trade? And aren’t they spending too much time on the phone, and shouldn’t there be limits on the computer?

And the poor teenager is thinking “God, I wish that I could talk on the phone in peace, and I really don’t think that chemistry is going to make or break my career, and I’m responsible enough to stay out until midnight on a school night.”

And then comes the summer before senior year, and everything changes. By October, your senior is already thinking about graduation and getting an apartment, and you are wondering where all of the years went and praying that nothing goes horribly wrong in the next seven months.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ Mark Twain

Eamonn made us tremendously proud today, but I have to admit that there were times when I wasn’t sure that he would make it. There were moments when it seemed that there was nothing more than Pooh fluff in his brain, and there were many nights when I would get anxious about his state of mind and just how much he was in control of himself when he wasn’t under guard at home.

But I really believe that the senior year is more for parents than it is for their teenagers. It’s nine months in which you can begin to accept the fact that you son or daughter isn’t 7 any more, that you are not the most important part of their world, and that they are thinking about life without you.

Starry skiesIt’s a hard reality to face, and if you are anything like me, you don’t accept it gracefully. Even as your man-child or woman-child is thinking of new paths of discovery and a brand new chapter in life, you are reconciling yourself to fate and the need to close a chapter that has ended much too soon.

I hope that Eamonn figures out what his great adventure is going to be. I hope that he never stops dreaming, and trying, and loving, and living. I wish him star-filled skies at night, and red-orange sunrises that will take his breath away. I want for him all of those things that are possible, and even some that may not seem possible. I wish him joy, and I wish him love, but most of all, I wish him a life that is filled with hope.

Hope for better tomorrows, a world more at peace, people who are more in tune with their environment, friends who will be there at 3 o’clock in the morning if he needs them, and the immutable knowledge that home is always waiting.

And in the words of the incomparable Maya Angelou:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget the way you made them feel.”

More later. Peace be with you and yours.