Tag Archives: life

The Evening Star

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evening star over cemetary

An infant’s cry cracks the dawn of a day in all eternity

And who’s to say what will unfold and what shall be his destiny

By mid-morning all the lessons learned, freedom is at hand

And play ensues till afternoon when he becomes a man

Then work and duty call on him to strive for his success

But by the eve, he realizes more want for happiness

The fire of the afternoon has burned to smoldering coals

And he’s warmed by his memories as he faces being old

But it’s in the early evening when twilight fills the gap

Between the burning heat of day and slumber’s cozy wrap

It’s here where peace and contentment wait

Like the twinkling evening star

Barely visible unless you concentrate upon the very far.

Before the night overtakes it, it has a solemn place

To witness, as it stands alone

The utter state of grace

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All the World’s a Stage

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puppetIt started as a story

As old as all of time

Barely changed by history

Relieved of any rhyme.

A play upon a stage

The actors held on strings

To perform at any age

Both sad and glorious things.

We agreed to take the part

Not knowing how to feel

But like a puppet’s heart

Just wishing to be real.

Pulled in that and this way

Lifted time again

Our body, arms and legs sway

Dangled by some thread.

We have this opportunity

To act the story out

In whichever way we see to tell

What it’s all about.

We rise and fall with ease

Under power not our own

And dance upon a breeze

While longing to go home.

We wish for some control

Not knowing how it’s done

But the curtains too soon close

Like the setting sun.

If only we could see

That there is nothing at all to fear

For we are not the puppet,

We are the puppeteer.

Can I Love You Less?

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“It’s a love like no other.”

baby-lovedAt least that’s what I’ve been told. I’ve also heard, “It’s the purest unconditional love” and “Like nothing else on Earth.” Maybe for you it is. But that’s not me.

You see, I recently became a grandparent, and all my grandparent friends congratulated me with sentiments like these. But I don’t get it. And it makes me feel like maybe I’m missing something.

Did I not love my children? Wasn’t that unconditional love? I cried when my babies were handed to me. I was overjoyed as I counted their fingers and toes. I saw my own hands in my son’s long fingers. Can anything compare to that?

Did I not love my husband? There were times it felt that our hearts melted together and we knew that in that moment we were both the same.

Do I not love my siblings? For certain, I love them and my friends unconditionally. They are who they are, and I accept that. We’ve shared joys and sorrows, fun and laughter. And even though I don’t speak to some of them very often, I still feel the same. Our history is still shared. Our memories are interwoven.

I loved my parents my whole life, and even though they’re both gone, I love them still.

I love my sons, both of them, equally. They are totally different and each has talents and characteristics that make him unique. I love that about them. And it doesn’t matter whether they become rich or successful or live as a struggling artist. I will always love them with all my heart.

And don’t all parents feel that way? So how is it that people freely say they love their grandchildren like never before? Do some people actually dole out less love to their children than they did to their parents? Or worse, do some people share less love with their aging – perhaps dying – parents than they do with this little person only months old?

Evidently, they do. They hold back their hearts. I don’t understand it because we are the ones who lose out. When we hold love back because of hurt. Or when we hold it back out of fear that it won’t be returned. Or when we hold it back out of anger or because we think others aren’t worthy. Or worse, when we believe we aren’t worthy.

The way I see it, love is not something that is dependent on who the recipient is…whether your parent, spouse, child or neighbor. Love is a result of the giver. You either give love or you don’t.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if you felt the same love for your father, despite his dementia and constant need for attention, that you do for the infant with her inability to communicate and total dependence?

And of course you can. Because it’s your decision how much you love.

It doesn’t matter that you have a history with someone or not. It’s the same with this little baby girl who hasn’t yet spoken my name – or should I say the name she will eventually call me. Does it matter that I don’t have to put her to bed every night? Does it matter that she looks equally like her other side of the family as she does mine? Not at all. But then, it never mattered with my sons either. It didn’t matter how they did in school. Or whether they excelled at sports. I love them fully. I don’t think I could love anyone more. Or less.

Because love doesn’t vary with the way others behave. It’s not love that changes. Love only varies when we decide not to give it.

It’s just a choice we make to feel or not feel it. And like every other decision, we can change it. We can give our hearts the freedom to love everyone. Equally. Because it’s our heart to give, it’s our choice how “in love” we feel. And once we open up our hearts and treat everyone with the love they probably don’t “deserve” but need just the same, the whole world changes. People know when they’re being treated with love. And they return it the same way it was given.

So do yourself a favor. If you want to be loved unconditionally, you must love others the same way. And without fail, they will love you back. All of them. Every time. They won’t be able to help themselves.

And believe me when I say it’s possible. Because I couldn’t love you less.

The Dying of the Light

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Spring was pleasant

Ephemeral

Naïve

Blossoming hopefully in the dewy morn

Until steamy, hot red skin

Wiped summer from my brow

When loyal Sun prolonged the noon

Then August washed it away

Amidst thunder and lightning

And torrents of hurricanes

Falling into the arms of autumn

To cool my head and warm my heart

Finally harvesting what I’ve been tending

All this wonderful life

Now facing and bracing against it

Planning for winter’s cold

Hibernation

But not yet.

Chill nights are relieved by tender light

Gray-blue clouds blanket golden trees

Cattails gently sway, counting down the days

I could take September forever.

Pigtails and Politics

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girl in pigtailsI’d like to convey a message from little girls everywhere – A message that even they don’t know how to express.

“Fuck You Disney!”

I mean… that’s what they’d say if they weren’t lovely little full-of-sugar-and-spice cherubs with ponytails in dresses sprinkled with flowers and butterflies. But if they knew what the women they are about to become know, they would definitely flip a Hello Kitty manicured finger.

What do women know that little girls don’t understand?

Brainwashing. There’s no other word for it. What else would you call a message that insists on depicting girls with no other goal than to find Prince Charming? After all, he’s your ticket out of (fill in the blank)…

Loneliness? Little Ariel traded her singing career and then disowned not only her entire family and all her friends (that lobster is so cute too), but her very existence for a boy she’s seen at the beach twice.

Drudgery and responsibility? Cinderella couldn’t wait to get out of the fire pit and wash house. Guess what girls… every castle that this prince wants to be king of comes fully equipment with kitchen and laundry facilities. Shoulda danced all night while you had the chance.

Your boring life?  Because nothing is more exciting than some mysterious beast of a man… the quiet, brooding type is so fascinating. Belle, honey, don’t bother with the dance lessons. Ain’t gonna happen.

Being unappreciated? No one knows as well as Snow White the amount of work there is in taking care of little people. Remember sweet sister that no kingdom is complete without heirs, and at least the dwarves brought home a paycheck.

Princes are nice, but gimme a break, that’s not ALL we dream about!  (Yes, I was once a little girl so I speak from years of experience.)

Wake up Disney! There are girls out there capable of curing diseases and starting businesses, designing skyscrapers and flying jets. We like adventure. We like space exploration and dinosaurs too. And just in case you haven’t heard, some of us drive race cars. There are little girls everywhere with talents and skills, and I don’t mean just ballet and baking.  Some of the best math brains are walking around in pink ruffles. And just because the outfit is totally coordinated and accessorized, don’t think there isn’t a future world leader behind that lip gloss.

So please stop force feeding women-in-training this one-trick-pony life. Because, by the way, little boys have no idea that it’s their job to keep the princess happy. (Whatever that takes)  They’re busy having adventures, exploring frontiers, and driving race cars.

It’s Midnight

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Well, I came to the city… I was running from the past

My heart was bleeding… And it hurt my bones to laugh

A month in ICU. Yes, a month. That’s a long time for someone to need state-of-the-art life support. If you’re the one in and out of the coma, that time might pass unnoticed. But if you’re the one standing bedside, eternity passes between flashes of a blinking light on a machine. When it’s your partner of 35 years, your life together flashes before your eyes.

So I asked my friend if she wanted to come hang out with me for a little… just to get some relief from fluorescent lighting. She said she did need to get out of the hospital, and didn’t want to be home alone if they called. She said that once they got through shift change, and he was stable for the night, she would come. That was 6:30 pm. She arrived just after 11:00.

Stayed in the city…No exception to the rules, to the rule

He was born to love me… I was raised to be his fool, his fool

With old friends, no matter how much time has lapsed between visits, there’s no need to catch up. We know who we are. We are there for each other in that moment. We listen when the other needs to decompress.

She described her month – surgical procedures that went on for days, the barrage of “survival odds” given as a regular update, the staff telling her how worried they were for him, and how, in delirium, he had cried out for her for hours one night when she wasn’t there.  And, after 36 days, how thankful she was to be still describing him in the present tense.

Walk that line, torn apart. Spend your whole life trying.

Ride that train, free your heart. It’s midnight up in Harlem.

I was glad she came. But exhausted the next day when she left. We had spent hours talking… questioning… hoping… praying. As we held hands and closed our eyes to say Good-bye, I felt all of the love I have for her and her family, and all of the light of my being move through us together as we asked for a miracle.

Afterward, I felt so drained from being so fully present for her that I needed to sleep. When I awoke, I went out for a walk around the pond. As I sat on the grass and kicked off my flip flops, I checked Facebook on my phone. Posted by a friend was a song – Midnight in Harlem. His suggestion was to let it “blend with you.”

I came to the river… And I took a look around

There were old man’s shoes. There were needles on the ground.

No more mysteries, baby. No more secrets, no more clues.

I took a deep breath and exhaled as the guitar started to twang and the audience cheered. The cymbals shivered as the railroad rhythm unfolded. My toe involuntarily started to keep the beat. As my shoulders rolled down and began to sway, I could feel the chords move me as the singer’s sultry voice reached out. I became aware of the grass under my feet and was transported to that summer concert amphitheater when the back-up singers stepped forward cooing.

The stars are out there.  You can almost see the moon.

The streets are windy and the subway’s closing down.

Gonna carry this dream to the other side of town.

The warm summer breeze moved the grasses and the tall cattails in the marsh – in harmony to the rifts in the song. I could smell the muddy earth mixing with the sweet honeysuckle nearby. Red-wing blackbirds whistled and sparrows flitted, dipped and dived over the shallow water. I closed my eyes and breathed in the music just as I breathed in the air around me. A shiver ran up my spine as I totally absorbed all of the energy from the beauty of this moment… nature, music, poetry…knowing that the art of life is in the living of it and that the spirit is infinite and will bring you back from the edge of sadness to again feel the joy.

Walk that line, torn apart

Spend your whole life trying

Ride that train, free your heart

It’s midnight up in Harlem.

Many thanks to the artists: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ubH7dLJJiE&list=FLv4ash5ErtR2eZM3Lu8PFxQ

The Last Word on Suffering

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I had an epiphany. I finally understand the crucifixion.crucifixion

It happened like this.

Event One:

I was staying with a friend who told me that she had trouble sleeping. After several days, I asked if I could make an observation about her inability to find sleep. She said “No, I’d rather you didn’t. A lot of people have given me advice about insomnia, and they don’t understand my problem.” I answered “OK. That’s why I asked.” But she continued, and I listened in order to try to better understand her perspective. (I’m paraphrasing)

“Sometimes when there is an experience of deep trauma while you’re sleeping, and then fear of what might happen again, you just can’t let yourself be “asleep at the wheel.” I found her self-awareness and ability to communicate her exact dilemma inspired, but her inability to want to heal it perplexing.

Conclusion: We choose to hold onto our suffering and we believe no one else can understand it.

Event Two:

I watched a woman be a total bitch to a guy who liked her. She actually laughed at him. He turned to me – a person he’d met a few days before  –  and shrugged.  I shrugged back.

Conclusion: People deliberately cause other people to suffer through their unkindness.

Event Three:

I recently related a story about how I was humiliated as a kid. As I told my friend about it, I realized I could still feel the betrayal of people I had believed were my friends. It still brought my eyes to the verge of tears and my throat clenched as my breathing grew shallow. I finished my story in a cracking voice.  I was that kid again. I am that kid still.

Conclusion:  We are all children, wounded and not knowing why.

Catalyst: My 50th Birthday

As this big day approaches, and coincides with the arrival of my first grandchild, I’ve taken to reviewing the journey so far. More to the point, I’ve actually started a travel journal. So, as a good middle-aged adventurer, I’m creating my bucket list.  But, before I could start thinking of all the things I want to do, I needed to make a list of what I’ve already done (and thereby prove I am indeed ready to kick the bucket).

After logging the places I’ve been and cool stuff I’ve tried, I thought I should record other milestones of my life. What have I experienced that other people haven’t or won’t? What traumas have I survived?  I thought about that last one for a few minutes. It’s a long list. And I’m very grateful to say Everything. I’ve survived it all. Not only that, but I’m thriving, happy and at peace. I’m glad I focus on the good stuff because boy, I’d be totally sad if I just thought about all that other crap. And then I questioned the Universe – Why do people hold on to their pain? Why do they cause others to suffer? Why do we tolerate witnessing this abuse?

And the answer came:  Because they don’t get it. People feel alone in their pain yet are too afraid to share it. They even feel that no one could possibly understand their suffering.  They believe that their grief or loss or heartbreak is somehow unique. They insist on describing – sometimes in great detail – all of their symptoms. Often they repeat this list over and over until they believe that the symptoms are the cause of the pain. They hurt others and stand by as others are hurt to reassure themselves they are not the only one suffering.

So back to my original point – the crucifixion.

Bottom line: It seems to me that the only way Jesus could stop people from wallowing in their own ego-driven self-pity long enough to be kind to others and not perpetuate the inhumanity we inflict on each other was to set the bar.  It’s the all-time-great decision of one man to say:

“Look, no one’s suffering is bigger than mine. I totally can relate. Get over yourself. We all know pain. We all have witnessed cruelty. Once and for all, you haven’t suffered any more than anyone else, just differently. If you need an example, look at me. Been there. Done that. I get it. I might not know your particular brand of pain, but then again, you don’t know mine. Just know that we share it. Now stop it. Quit your fuckin’ bitchin’ and put on the big panties. Focus on all you are, have done, and have survived and go help someone else. You’ll be amazed how happy you’ll be when you just do that. Forever.”

You Say It’s Your Birthday. It’s My Birthday Too.

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“Not the Barry Bonds, Mom. Ok? Not the Barry Bonds.” Barry_Bonds_follow_through

It’s been twenty years or so since my son Dylan said that.  Something had ended up broken – probably due to “just messin’ around” – and restitution was owed. Usually, I’d cover what losses were incurred, but for whatever reason, this time I had told him that it was coming out of his money. He smugly replied that he had no money. “Easy fix.” I said “You have baseball cards. I guess we’ll have to sell one of those.”  “The Barry Bonds” referred to the acrylic-encased prized rookie card.

Bonds is now considered to be one of the greatest baseball players of all-time. He has a record-setting seven MVP awards. He is a 14-time All-Star and 8-time Gold Glove-winner. He holds numerous Major League Baseball records, including the all-time Major League Baseball home run record with 762 and the single-season Major League record for home runs with 73 (set in 2001), and is also the all-time career leader in both walks (2,558) and intentional walks (688).

But that’s not what made him special. Not to Dylan. He was special because he was born on July 24th.

That’s a big deal you see. It’s Dylan’s birthday.

Also born on July 24th? Alexander Dumas, author of The Count of Monte Cristo, Dylan’s favorite book.

I remember when he discovered the fact that people who had accomplished great things had been born on his birthday. A look came over him, a look of simultaneous amazement and pride. The look conveyed “Why not me?”

It’s been all downhill from there.

Dylan was convinced from that point on that being born on a day that special was proof of the magnitude of his own destiny.

And who am I to judge? Just a parent… trying to build the confidence of her eight-year-old. So yes, I agreed that being born on July 24th was indeed a most fortuitous event. The universe clearly had big things in mind to have him arrive on such a day. And that’s what I told him “You’re Dylan. And the Universe loves you.”

He’s a grown man now… married to his college sweetheart, expecting a baby girl next month. He works in the industry that has always fascinated him – Finance. He restored a bargain-priced foreclosed house into a very comfortable home in the mountains. And he is, by all accounts, the “nicest, most even-tempered guy” anyone has ever met… at least that’s what people tell me.

On his wedding day, one of his guests asked “Dylan, man, you have it all… a great house, a fantastic job, and now a beautiful wife. You just seem to get everything you want. How do you do it?” With his characteristic laugh and big smile, he replied, “I’m Dylan and the Universe loves me.”

All because of that one special day. And what do we know about birthdays? We all know birthdays are like… well, they’re like opinions… everybody has one. So who are the greats born on your day? Maybe it’s you.

“You say it’s your birthday

Well it’s my birthday too, yeah

You say it’s your birthday

We’re gonna have a good time

I’m glad it’s your birthday

Happy birthday to you.”
~ The Beatles

Are We There Yet?

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Space. The final frontier. Image

At the end of the journey to all of the previous frontiers, man encountered strangers. When the Neanderthal left the cave, he met Cro-Magnon. When the Greeks left the Mediterranean, they met Europeans.  When Europeans searched for spice, they discovered the Asians. When Columbus sailed for India, he met… well, Indians.

And now our explorations take us beyond the solar system to search for other stars and life on other planets.

My first question is, What then?

What’s our plan if we locate a little speck of dust circulating around a little twinkle of light in the dark sky?  What if we determine that on a unique ball of clay, the temperature is not scorching and the atmosphere isn’t poisonous gas? What do we do then?

While you ponder that…

Next question.

What if, after all of our searching and exploration, throughout all of the eons of time and vastness of space, there is no other place like this one?

What if this speck is the ONE with life on it? What if the magnificent diversity of our Earth is as good as it gets? What if everything else in this hot mess of a galaxy is just star stuff, and nothing else breathes?

Maybe the orchestral genius that it took to cool and heat, to crystallize and solidify, to grow and blossom, and to think and love ourselves here has only happened once.  When you think about it, it’s a miracle there’s any life in this universe at all.

And yet, here we are – each of us – more rare and precious than stars… and certainly more accessible – traveling companions for whatever journey awaits.

So what if, the next time you look at a stranger – their eyes and smile, personality and character, unique in the universe of humanity – you see them with the same wondrous awe you have when gazing up at the night sky? And then treat them with mankindness. We are not alone in this Youniverse. We have each other.

Heads, I Win

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Heads

Suffer – to feel pain or distress

“SUFFER” That’s what it said, in caps, in neat print, enclosed in a box.

I was cleaning out some old stuff and came across a letter from my grandmother written to me when I was living away at college. In it, she told me about things going on at home, how much she missed my brother (living on the opposite coast), and wished that I would come home to visit soon. It was signed Love, Nana. But on the bottom of the last page in a small box was written: SUFFER.

Suffer? Was she suffering? Her note seemed typical, cheery enough. She couldn’t mean that she wanted me to suffer? Probably not.  Nana used a regular note pad for her letters, just the usual one that she kept next to her chair so she could have been checking the spelling of the word or something. But it seemed odd to me. Whatever.  It was just a word scribbled on the back of a piece of paper she used to drop me a quick note.

Every now and then though, the concept of suffering moves forward in my mind. People often talk about “putting an end” to suffering.  As a culture we want to eliminate suffering. Pope John Paul II said that there is meaning in suffering. Of course, Catholics are a martyr-loving bunch so I wasn’t surprised; however, when I considered that at the time he said this he was profoundly affected by Parkinson’s disease, it gave me pause. What meaning had he found in his own suffering? As a respected spiritual leader what purpose or lesson did he find in humanity’s suffering?

Recently, when I think about the years spent witnessing my mom’s neurological degeneration, I get it.

The meaning for me has changed.

Suffer – to endure, to bear, to withstand

Tails

My Facebook feed has recently been loaded with inspirational posts referring to “passion”… Find your passion… Follow your passion… blah, blah, blah. In looking at my own life, I have a lot of interests, but nothing I would call a clear “passion.” Don’t get me wrong, I have a very full and satisfying and happy life, but what is my passion? Hmmm.

So what is it? Not only what is my individual passion, but what is passion exactly and how does one go about finding it?

Me being me… I looked it up.

Passion —  an intense emotion, compelling feeling, enthusiasm, or desire for something.(from the Ancient Greek verb paskho – to suffer)

Wait. What?

The word is derived from “suffering,” which brings me back to my original question. What is suffering? And now, how could it be related to passion?

How could the one thing we want to eliminate in life be the same thing as what we’re supposed to pursue?

They seem to be the opposite sides of the same coin. To be passionate about something or someone is to focus your time and attention, your energy and spirit. And there’s the problem. Once we share so much of ourselves, we expose our hearts to suffering because the object of our passion can be taken from us.

Wait a minute. Maybe I’ve been looking at this all wrong. It’s not the passion that causes the suffering. It’s the loss of the passion. Well, there you have it. Something can only feel lost if you expect to get it back. Now I see. If I just give the passion away, I can’t possibly suffer any loss.

All together now.

Suffer – to endure, to bear or withstand + Passion – to give of ourselves without expectation

So how do we eliminate suffering AND live a passionate life?

Literally “Have the courage to love freely.”

So it’s not something I need to pursue after all. Finders-keepers.