6.28.2006

Braking

You know how the tractor-trailer of illness makes you slow down on some days? How those days are always when you had a great plan – the creative project you were hungry to greet, the list of tasks you were eager to kill off, the simplicity of just following a plan, any plan?

But you wake up, and your throat hurts and the clarity of thought is lurking behind a misty cloud, and every time you try to stand, you just give in and fall backwards on your bed.

And you complain. You want the day you’d counted on.

Welcome to my Wednesday.

I’m trying not to resist, but more so, to listen. To allow my body what it needs, acknowledging all the times it serves me and I don’t properly thank it.

So here’s a belated ‘thank you, Body.’

I apologize for the days that I feed you poorly and don’t let you sleep in. Sometimes life calls, and you come in second. It isn’t really fair, and I’ll try to better consider your needs in the future. I’m sorry that I exercise you in crazy spurts past the point of health, desperate to knock off a few pounds that snuck up on me, and then when you want to get out and stretch your legs, I tell you I’m not in the mood. Sorry. That’s not very thoughtful.

I’ll no longer get annoyed with you when you want to watch a rerun of ‘Friends’ before bed rather than read the heady novel I’m attempting to tackle. You deserve your guilty pleasures, so I’ll stop rolling my eyes.

But most of all, I’ll try to embrace the day that shows up and quit whining that it wasn’t what I’d wanted. When you press the brakes, I’ll slow to a stop, breathe calmly, and just accept. After all that you do for me, it’s the least I can do for you.

6.26.2006

“As if…”

A friend of mine is taking the big step of moving in with her boyfriend. Once her rural house sells, the two of them will begin the mighty urban house hunt to find a home to share. Her boyfriend is divorced with two nearly grown kids, but this is my friend’s first attempt at cohabitation. When the marriage question comes up, she artfully tosses it aside with, “I’m boycotting marriage until gays can marry. It’s only fair.”

I applaud her pro gay marriage stance, even though we both smile knowing in this conversation she is playfully using it as a means to conceal a bit of caution regarding her own relationship. While she’s not cementing her union at this time with a legal ceremony, I still think she and her boyfriend deserve to be celebrated. After all, moving in together is a big step. So, I’m pushing her to register, buy rings, and throw a party “As if…

Yes, as if they got married. Only didn’t.

“This is the perfect ‘As if…’ ring,” I say, pushing her towards a beautiful display case in a high-end gift store on her recent visit to L.A. from Seattle.

“How much?” she asks.

“$345,” the salesperson responds.

“Oh, if we’re getting rings, I’m gonna hit my boyfriend up for more than that!” my friend smiles. I can see she is getting with the program.

As I point out the lovely dishes and coffee table books, glass vases and condiment accessories, my friend retreats. “I don’t want friends spending money on us.”

“What?” I challenge. “You’ve been there for all our romantic adventures. Wedding gifts. Baby showers. Now it’s your turn. When you two buy your house, you deserve to get all the cool stuff. Throw the party, and I’m on the first plane to toast you.”

As if… I like it.

Some may argue that my friend isn’t taking a deep enough plunge to earn the gifts, but I disagree. Too often we come together to help a friend in need when tragedy arises and life gives us a reason to feel sad. But here I am pitching for a reason to share joy.

My friend, inching towards fifty, confessed that she’s battled depression for most of her life. Now, partnered for three years with a loving boyfriend, that feeling has become a distant memory. If that’s not worthy of a ring and new dishes and a champagne toasting party, I don’t know what is.

And if you’re eager to push her towards a wedding, just start lobbying for gay marriage. That way we can all celebrate.

6.24.2006

Peddling Backwards

As we travel through life, we tuck our tales of experience into our repertoire, eager to pull them out for just the right audience, convinced that we can make the journey easier for others through caveats or by nudging them towards the doors easiest to open.

But when I look at my son, I realize, it’s best to stay quiet.

As a youth I was bold and brave, fearless in a way only innocence can allow. At nineteen-years-old, I eagerly walked into the Los Angeles Bureau of the Associated Press with a meager portfolio of black and whites and asked to work as a freelance photographer for the summer. The Bureau Chief looked me over and reached for my portfolio, an ugly fake wood-grain file held shut by an elastic band. He pulled the 8x10 glossies from the enclosure and rifled through them as I saw my life’s moments whiz by.

“The pros are much faster than college,” he said, dismissively tossing down the highlights of a year’s work upon his desk.

“I know,” I said, reaching to gather my photos. “But how can I prove I can do it if you don’t give me a chance?” Our eyes met and right then I knew I had won, my spirit more important than my expertise.

That night as I climbed down the stairs of Dodger Stadium, the fans screaming with enthusiasm, the artificial lights more jarring than daylight ever could be, I felt myself trembling. Weighed down by three cameras and my fear, I moved onto the field to the stares of the crowd and fellow photographers. At nineteen and a wisp of a girl, I couldn’t have looked more out of place or felt more disoriented.

But the crack of ball hitting bat sparked instinct. I focused and clicked and missed every important image.

The next day I dragged myself before the Bureau Chief, embarrassed, guilty, like a dog who’d misbehaved.

“How’d ya do?” he asked.

“Terrible. I was really nervous.” I could barely look up. “I need another chance.”

And I got it. And I shined, outshooting the staff photographer accompanying me, and getting published across the nation in assorted papers. The rest of that summer I shot for AP in L.A., and when the time came to return to college for my sophomore year, I started working for the bureau near my university thanks to the recommendation of the L.A. Bureau Chief.

So this should be my tale of courage and perseverance, but really, it is my tale of luck. When I walked into AP that day, I arrived with the perfect balance of innocence and guts and stumbled upon a willing recipient of my style. I could boast and advise my son to go after life in just the same way, and it could completely backfire.

The real story of courage is to sit back and allow my son to find his own path.

Sometimes it is better to reinvent the wheel, to ignore the advice of those who have traveled before you, and truly believe that you know how to do it in a bigger and better way because maybe you just do. I’d hate to see seasoned wisdom drench the fire of inexperience, for too much is lost as a result.

I no longer have the spirit that pushed me through the door of AP. Skinned knees and broken hearts, exploitive employers and senseless wars have robbed me of my priceless innocence. While I’ve learned from the rejections and the missteps, I’ve also grown more polished and practical along the way. That may serve me at times, but I also see that the adult me would politely walk out the door if greeted by a disinterested bureau chief.

So I’m coming to the defense of innocence and pledging not to tell my son of all the ways he can’t do something or all the ways he can. I will only seek to feed his confidence so that he too can have his turn to deny the impossible, a unique state best associated with dreamers and the young.

I will strive to keep quiet, and when I slip up and proudly start to share a piece of wisdom with my son only to be greeted by his rolling eyes, I will smile and think back on my younger self longingly, envious. Maybe my son’s disdain can help me peddle backwards and return to the place where absence of knowledge was the key to courage. Rather than teaching my son, I will look into his eyes and try to learn from him. Maybe I can still blaze some trails of my own.

6.22.2006

The Seeker

The bottle of clear green glass bobs in the wild ocean, smacked by whitecaps. The scroll inside grows seasick, wanting out, wanting shore. I reach from the sky and pluck the bottle from the sea, tossing it harshly onto island sand. I don’t know why I’m angry at the bottle. It’s never done anything to me.

The cork, completely saturated, wiggles free from the mouth of the bottle. It failed at its job, allowing a trickle of water to moisten the note within, black writing bleeding through to the underside of the paper.

I unwrap the scroll and lay it gently upon the dry beach. It stretches after its long confinement, extending invisible limbs, assuming its full form. I wait for legible words to appear, wanting the message, needing the message. Isolated words emerge as if written with cheap disappearing ink and later reclaimed with water in a game of play.

Hollow
Alone
Join
Become
Float

Pieces of a puzzle with no answer key. I’ve waited so long for my message - not passively but patiently - and here, when I thought it had arrived, it remains a mystery.

Whoever told you life should be fair? I was quizzed as a child. But even that harsh dose of reality didn’t kill my belief that universal justice would inhabit my life.

I close my eyes.

FIND ME. The words rise through the ink. My eyes open and I gently pass my right index finger over the letters, expecting them to smear into an indecipherable mess, but they remain. Calm. Clear.

Not another task
, I sigh. I want permission to just be. To be sought by life, not to be the seeker.

6.21.2006

Out From Under



June 21st. First day of summer. Spring cleaning long overdue, but tossing out accumulated possessions has never been my forte. If I can’t find a new home for an item and it must go to the landfill, I shudder.

“So, you’d rather live with garbage in your home than live on top of it?” a friend once asked.

I never said my neurosis was logical.

However, I can no longer tolerate the state of my dorm-like bedroom, the repository of all the mismatched, hand-me-down furniture that has followed me from apartment to apartment. While I brought the rest of my condo up to adult standards in a remodel three years ago – at least in the way I would deem ‘adult’, full of funk and style, and everything with its own place – I’m allowing the clutter in my bedroom to bury me.


Along with the orphaned furniture, the room houses all that has never had a proper home – dusty T-shirts from my past emblazoned with logos of track meets, tennis tournaments, favorite bands, and movie-job memories; stacks of The New Yorker whose primary intrigue is the speed with which it multiplies; envelopes of photos not worthy of display, yet not deserving of the dumpster; gadgets whose usefulness vanished during the industrial age; old phone books and cassette tapes and VHS dubs of movies and extension cords and my son’s favorite baby toys and a few key college text books that for some reason appear to have meaning.

Clearly I have had this room to myself for too long.

I’ve always counted on a mate showing up and demanding some space, forcing my purge, sitting me down, and quizzing me on the necessity of the spare non-cordless phone where the five button doesn’t work.

“There could be a power outage, and we’d need it to call someone,” I would explain.

“As long as their number doesn’t contain a ‘five,’” he would retort.

“It would work for 911,” I would counter, clutching the yellowed plastic phone to my chest.

But I’d gleefully be talked out of all the other possessions I don’t have the strength to abandon on my own. The cords for cell phones long gone. The power converters for European excursions, even though all my traveling appliances are now dual voltage. Vegetarian magazines filled with recipes I will never cook. Design magazines filled with ideas I will never implement. The Drury area rug from my first post-college apartment rolled up and stashed under my bedroom chaise.

Aside from the landfill issue, I don’t understand my inability to say good-bye to the dust collectors. A friend once told me I must get rid of my wedding album in order to meet someone new. It had worked for her, and she insisted upon it. But I don’t agree. I don’t feel I have to erase my past to allow in a future. Where I’ve been has brought me to where I am. I rely on the photos and trinkets to nudge my memory, for I forget so much. And besides, with a son around, I want to be able to take him on the journey of my life, and the props serve as great visual aids.

But the clutter is another thing all together. It doesn’t foster memories; it just creates a swirl of chaos in my overburdened brain.

Walking back from the garbage chute, I wonder what the big deal had been, why I’d allowed the piles to remain tucked in the corners of my room for countless months. I feel lighter, and the growing emptiness around me allows in the breeze. It’s all just a start, but it feels so damn good.

6.18.2006

Cause and Effect

I’m thinking of going off the Pill just so I’ll start having sex again. You see, I’ve discovered an inverse relationship between extent of protection and frequency of sex. Every time I’ve gone through a long lapse in sex and go off the Pill, deciding that partaking in daily birth control is not only unnecessary but also like rubbing forced abstinence in my face, that’s when I meet someone new. It’s the opposite of Build It and He Will Come. When sex is involved, it seems as if the less prepared you are, the more likely it will show up on your doorstop and taunt you with how poorly you’ve planned the moment.

Yes, there’s the Not-quite-properly-shaved/trimmed/waxed – whatever the current grooming trend is – phenomenon, the What-is-that-underwear? embarrassment, and the Why-didn’t-I-change-the-sheets? head-slap. If you’re north of thirty-something or not the most natural blonde, you might encounter the Is-he-tall-enough-to-get-a-good-glimpse-at-my-roots? scenario. But all of these pale in comparison, I promise, to going off the Pill.

If the yo-yoing weight associated with the on-off Pill scenario weren’t so disturbing, it might be worth dumping the hormonal birth control just to jump-start my social life. I refuse to even consider what torment I am causing my body by ingesting the Pill daily, for I weigh that against a broken condom and an accidental pregnancy. Yes, ever since deadly diseases intruded upon the spontaneity of my earlier sex life, I employ multiple forms of birth control.

I first went on the Pill at sixteen, before I’d had sex or even had a boyfriend, but I could sense it coming – my hormones screaming in my ear – and wanted to be prepared. About two years later, when my mom discovered I was on the Pill (in the era where the prescription price was actually affordable, as I was paying for it on my own), she casually mentioned that when she’d tried the Pill, she became amazingly nauseous. Thanks for the info, Mom. As if trying to poison my sex life, my mom’s subtle revelation passed the nausea to me, and within a week I found myself getting fitted for a diaphragm, possibly the least desirable way of avoiding pregnancy I’ve ever lived with.

In my youthful, cavalier way of thinking, I never understood accidental pregnancies. I always thought it quite easy to use birth control, and considered accidents the failing of the participants. When the time rolled around when I actually wanted to get pregnant, and following five months of constant sex and no looming baby, I apologized to no one in particular for my harsh assumptions, figuring that possibly I hadn’t been so skilled at using birth control. Rather, I was infertile. Apparently my atonement satisfied the pregnancy gods, for the stick gave me a double line, Yes, you’re pregnant indication the following month.

Coming into sexuality in the late 70s, I never imagined simple access to birth control and the knowledge or how, when, and why would ever be threatened. Birth control and the education surrounding it was a given, at least in California. So now when I read the papers and see how both education and access are under attack, I shake my head in complete disbelief. Personally, I see it as a bait and switch around the abortion issue, an effort to exhaust and divert pro-choicers. Woman – and hopefully concerned men – are going to get so distracted by protecting access to birth control that in comparison abortion rights will be an afterthought, which, of course, as a mere matter of sequential events, it would be.

The real issue is sex – who should and shouldn’t be having it, and who gets to make that decision. I hope all who voted for Bush are glad that this is an area where he is putting his energies because you sure better accept that it will effect your life, either directly or indirectly. If you think there are unwanted pregnancies now, just wait. And if this concerns you, please start flexing your vocals cords. Now.

While those of us with sons are affected by the restrictions on sex education and the attacks on birth control, those of us with daughters – and gee, those of us still fertile folks having sex ourselves – should be yelling at the top of our lungs. But of course, as so many disillusioned non-voters in 2000 and 2004 complained, “It doesn’t matter who wins. It’ll all turn out the same.” Do you still feel that way? If so, I’ve got some property in New Orleans to sell you at an exceptional price.

6.16.2006

Secrets and Omissions

I come from a family of secrecy, and as a result have grown into a person of profound privacy. For those getting to know me through my writing, that may be a grand surprise, but trust me, when friends come here and read, they’re completely startled by my disclosures.

Last night I attended a tribute to Spalding Gray entitled ‘Leftover Stories to Tell.’ If ever I wanted to reach out to the grave and thank someone, last night was that time.

The first time I saw Spalding Gray deliver a monologue, I decided he had the best job in the world. That should have given me a hint of where I was headed, but it was years and years ago and writing was far from my mind. I know he’s not for everyone. When telling a few friends I was going to his tribute, I heard more grunts than expressions of ‘Lucky you.’

There have been times when Spalding made me uncomfortable, when I thought the performance of his life took precedence over his concern for those he was living with. I wanted to inject a bit more guilt into his proclamations of hurtful infidelity. I wanted him to demonstrate more remorse for the bodies he left buried behind. But ultimately, I loved him. I loved his courage, his willingness to laugh at himself, to be human, to be scared and neurotic. I loved how he could shift me from tears of laughter to fighting back tears that understood his pain.

Spalding was the first to show me the beauty of bleeding in public, to teach me the power of sharing, quite a contrast to my upbringing where whispers in the shadows dominated the atmosphere. Those whispers still haunt me as I realize how many conversations were hidden, deemed inappropriate for a child. Sadly, what took their place were secrets and omissions and a sense of isolation. Through the years, by banishing uncomfortable discussions, my family members grew disconnected from one another. And now, when tense moments arise, everyone retreats either via a staccato outburst or by slinking away, leaving the impression that honest dialogue is a sin.

My upbringing robbed me of the ability to navigate difficult relationships. I’m best at the strong fa├žade and a quick retreat. I wish I’d seen my parents fighting and arguing and then moving through resolution. While our house may have been quiet, it was like the living room set aside for everything but living. Artificial. Unreal.

So maybe that’s why I love Spalding Gray. He left nothing unsaid, unless for dramatic effect. He hung life out for display and dissection. I learned from him.

If we all peel away the veneer on our secrets, I figure we can come together in a bigger and better way. And while I will always run my writing through the filter of ‘Would this revelation hurt my son?’, I want him to see his parents as real people with real lives and real challenges. I don’t want to make life scary, but I don’t want to portray it as artificially safe, because I know from my own experience, that hardly did me a favor.

So, thank you, Spalding Gray, for your courageous – even disturbing – disclosures. You will be missed.

6.12.2006

Safe Deposit Box Buddy

I’m attempting to become a grown up. This transition is well overdue, but for a woman who remains most comfortable sitting cross-legged on the floor, I may never act my age. If only I didn’t look it.

During the past few months, I finally drew up a will and created a living trust to ensure the legal wellbeing of my child if I ever get hit by a bus unexpectedly. Yes, I know. Most encounters with moving buses are unexpected, outside bold acts of self-destruction and insurance fraud.

I come at this lightly, for if I truly imagine the implications of my son charging forward in life without me, I’ll have my first panic attack. To fend this off, I tell myself that everything works out in the end, even if I find the evidence a tad dubious. An acceptance of this concept rests completely on how you define ‘working out’ and ‘in the end.’ If you’re content with the knowledge that regardless of our exhaustive efforts, we all age and die and thus worrying is unnecessary, saying ‘it all works out’ is a fine, calming mantra. That’s what I cling to.

My will and trust documents finally arrived, a booklet overwhelmingly thick with precision and legalese, along with a letter from my lawyer instructing me to keep the originals safe from flood, fire, and burial under all my other neglected papers. Knowing that a safe deposit box is best, I called my bank and learned that as an account holder, I am entitled to a tiny free box, but my branch had none available.

“I can offer you a larger one for $99 per year,” the bank employee informed me.

Nice bait and switch. I declined. He kindly offered to call other nearby branches seeing if he could find me a free box. Four days later, one was on reserve.

I grabbed my documents, hopped into my toy-like Aqua Blue VW Beetle, and put the top down as if thumbing my nose at the mature act I was embarking upon. As I zipped down the local streets, my hair tousled into an ugly beehive mess, I remembered why my convertible is more of a concept than a regularly enjoyed experience.


“Here are your two keys,” the employee in the safe deposit area said, handing me a small white envelope as I signed my rental agreement.

“So, I can give one key to someone else in case they need to get into my box if I die or, um, go into a coma or something?” I asked.

“No. Sorry. Only a co-renter can get into the box,” the bank employee informed me.

“Not even my mom or another relative?”

“Only if she is a co-renter.”

“But my health care directive is in there,” I said, motioning towards the box. “My family needs to know which body parts I’ve authorized for harvesting if I get into a fatal accident. Or when to pull the plug. No one really wants to discuss these details right now,” I explained. “My family is a bit squeamish, and when I bring this up, I get a lot of ‘God forbid.’”

“Only a co-renter,” she reiterated.

I left the bank in search of a safe deposit box buddy, someone who only needed a tiny corner of space in my obscenely small free box. I dialed my friend who’s also becoming a grown up by getting a will together.

“Hey, do want to share my safe deposit box?” I asked. “I need to find a co-renter who will gather my papers for my family if I die so that they don’t have to wade through probate to get their hands on my official docs. I’ll return the favor.”

“How much?” she asked.

“Free, but it’ll only fit some folded papers.”

“Sure.”

Done deal. A few weeks later, my friend rang up saying her documents had arrived. We made a date to visit the bank.

“Hi,” I said to the safe deposit box guardian. “I want to add my friend here as a co-renter.” As the bank employee reached for my rental card, I turned to my friend, “Wait, what if we go out together in a fiery crash? It could happen. We socialize.”

“Not that much,” she said. “You know I don’t like to go out.”

“But it could happen, and then all of this is pointless.” She responded that maybe we needed to add her husband to the account as well. “Can we do that?” I asked, turning toward the bank employee.

“Sure,” she answered. “But all three of you will have to be here at the same time to sign a new card.” I was not loving the hassles of being a grown up.

“Relationship?” my friend asked the bank employee, indicating a blank spot on the personal information section of the rental card.

“That’s new since the Patriot Act. Because of terrorism. We never had to ask that before.”

“So what would terrorists fill in?” I asked. “Co-conspirators?” I knew sarcastic responses were risky in this new era, but I couldn’t help myself. My friend simply penned ‘friend.’

“We’re safe deposit box buddies now,” I said. “And surely on some government watch list.”

I won’t rail on about the lunacy of much of the Patriot Act, mostly because I haven’t read it. I only receive the bits and pieces that make it into social discourse through articles and experiences such as my own. But if you find the Act comforting, just remember, I’ve now probably been tucked onto the bottom of some ‘to be investigated’ list simply because I went outside the norm and invited a friend onto my safe deposit box dance card. You gotta wonder.

6.09.2006

Balance

A sixty-something-year-old woman just passed me on my run. Granted, she was going the opposite direction, but I’m sure she was running faster than I was. I know I shouldn’t care. After all, life isn’t a competition.

Yeah, right. Who am I kidding?

I want to break bread with the one who never makes comparisons, the one so accepting and blissful that everyone else’s accomplishments are simply an opportunity for joint celebration.

Well, not really. I don’t think I’d have much in common with someone like that. But it is something to strive for.

Life’s mixed messages could fill a book. From an early age, I was a sports enthusiast, and despite the proclamations of AYSO, it’s not just about participating. We are bred to win, to pursue the trophy for the mantle, to measure our success by the number of pluses in the win column.

Somewhere along the road, the message shifts, and we’re encouraged to embrace acceptance, to believe that wherever we are – even if it’s stuck in mud – is exactly where we’re meant to be. But meanwhile, we’re supposed to work on self-improvement. And get in better shape.

Ouch. My head hurts.

Improve. Accept. Improve. Accept. This is why we have two hands, so that we can outstretch them and mime balance.

When my son was two-years-old, I knew my life was out of whack. I did nothing for myself, the typical devoted first-time mom who placed herself last in the hierarchy of deserving. But one day I forced myself out for a solitary stroll on nearby Main St., poking my head into shops as my then husband played with our son back at home.

“Just looking,” I said as I slid through a jewelry store door.

I moved past the offerings, slowly, a meditative luxury I hadn’t allowed myself in a long while. I wasn’t looking to buy. I was looking to look, to fill my visual senses with the creativity of artisans and designers.

Screaming out from a display case was a ring with the word ‘BALANCE’ inscribed across its plain silver band, the word staring up at me like a command. When jewelry starts speaking to you, it’s time to listen. Without hesitation, I purchased the ring figuring that if I placed such a reminder upon my finger, I could no longer deny myself. And it worked. When tempted to ignore my own needs, I looked down at that ring and then adjusted slightly to consider myself in the equation.

“Why are you wearing a ring with the name ‘LANCE’ on it?” my friend asked on that rare occasion when I gathered with others for drinks. She took my hand in hers for better inspection. I have fairly small hands and awfully small fingers. She saw what she saw.

“It reminds me I have options,” I said, leaving it like that.

After a year or so, the ring fell from my finger. I don’t know when and I don’t know how, but suddenly my companion had vanished. Rather than mourn the ring’s departure, I took it as a simple sign: I’d achieved balance and no longer needed a daily reminder.

But I often still fall victim to the comparison devil. As I see other people’s lives dance before me, I pick and choose which components I wish occupied my own. And while comparison-shopping is a handy tool to save money, it really shouldn’t be applied to lives, except for the sole purpose of presenting us with options.

Happily, I have some great options. While I could have continued to slave at a job that only allowed me fifteen rushed minutes with my son each morning, returning me home at night long after he was asleep, I’ve walked away. For now. My creative life is essential to me so I’m working on the homespun version, but to date, my greatest accomplishment is the relationship I’ve shaped with my son, one that is so open and honest that no discussion is off the table.

Long before need could arise, my son knew what a condom was thanks to the internet circulation of a brilliantly funny French condom ad, and the fact that my son likes to look over my shoulder. Beware what arrives in your inbox. Random emails prompt everything, including healthy premature discussions of contraception. On another occasion as my son raced through a Japanese Manga, he encountered some provocative imagery. He shyly approached me, and as I looked at the sexist comic, we talked about male-female relations and cultural differences. I still remember his contemplative look as he considered how women should be treated and portrayed.

I’ve warned my son that he may not always want to plop down beside me on my bed saying, “Can we have one of our talks?” The teen years could be rough for us, I cautioned, as the push-pull between parent and child emerges, but ultimately, I reassured him, “We’ll be fine. I’ll meet you on the other side,” I smiled. “Sometime around when you turn nineteen.”

When I focus on these little moments, all comparisons slip away, and I can occupy my life without the need to compete. Though, I must confess, I wonder how fast I’ll be running at sixty.

6.05.2006

A Little Time

I want to thank all of you who nudge the direction of my writing. I’m thinking of offering a service: “You got something you’d like me to discuss? I can be hired fairly cheaply.

But that would probably kill the thrill of it all because I think those who propose topics love the validation of seeing their ideas, by way of my filter, in virtual print. Paying me would completely diminish the value of the suggestion, so I guess I’ll plug on for free.

Recently the NY Times printed an article about how online vigilantes in China are policing social mores via the internet. A simple posted accusation of an affair can lead to mob behavior of prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner rolled into one. Facts need not be validated. Charges suffice to spur action. Irate language on the internet moves into real life as the indicted are hunted down for revenge. It’s shocking and threatening.

However, since I can hardly intervene and halt these actions in China, I’d like to see if I can lobby to put this behavior to use for my own advantage.

My best buddy who recently abandoned me (see Just Friends ), finally realized that we haven’t been hanging out or talking. I guess several weeks of my absence finally became noticeable, a bit long for the health of my ego. So now my phone and inbox are getting lots of attention, and my friend is completely indignant that I’m not responding. Some would label my behavior as immature or vengeful. I call it personal growth.

However, in an act of weakness, I responded to one email pleading for an explanation of my disappearance. Obviously, if this friend ever visited here and read my writing, he’d be quite well informed. The fact that he has only, quote, “taken a cursory glance at my site” further fuels my justification for departure. He knows how I’ve been trying to create a writer’s life, and since he is a writer, he knows the challenges I face. Relatively recently – pre-break up – he recommended a newspaper to which I should submit articles. I only now know that his suggestion wasn’t based on having read anything I’ve been writing.

In a flurry of back and forth emails, we quickly hashed out the demise of our friendship with his capping comment being that he should have been more considerate knowing that I’m “a sensitive person.”

Strike Two. Actually, way more than strike two. That would be the sound of the guillotine falling.

At least he didn’t blame my reaction on my having my period, but nonetheless, this is clearly my problem. And right now I’d like to call in a dose of mob mentality to rally some internet outrage against him. Yes, this would be the appropriate time to label my behavior as immature, but the thing is, I can’t seem to fend this guy off on my own, which has been my problem all along. He gets under my skin because I want him to understand.

But he never will. Never. I WILL NEVER GET WHAT I WANT. Which, in the simplest terms, is to be understood.

If only I could get my fat head to accept that, I might find myself free of this painful relationship. Yet now he is lobbying daily for our friendship, and every time I see his email address in my inbox, I tear up, because, as another friend pointed out, connection is very rare.

So I’m left struggling, and while I could simply block his emails, that wouldn’t solve my problem. I need him to move far, far away, to forget I ever existed and for me to do the same. We need an encounter with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, only that doesn’t work either. Rough as it is, these experiences create us. I am different for having met this man, and while right now different feels like worse, I can’t really be sure. Being so close to the experience, I have no perspective, just the hurt of disappointment. I’ve been instructed to try for anger and rage, but that just isn’t my default wiring.

I want to take back my ground here, and believe in the good that comes of the bad. That’s always been my philosophy, much to the dislike of many. But I do believe we can always find a positive. Sometimes, it just takes a little time. Like right now.

6.02.2006

Women and Children

Every time I turn on the radio, it seems as if there’s more tragic news coming out of Iraq. Now we’re hearing accusations of marines murdering innocent civilians in an act of retaliation for the death of a fellow marine who was killed by a roadside bomb.

Regardless of the specific facts that emerge in this case, war and occupations breed unthinkable behavior, and we can easily launch a grand debate over the cause of this incident, drawing on philosophical, political, and spiritual elements. If the charges are found to be true, some will fault the individual marines, while others will point to the commanders, the tense climate, the politicians who launched the situation, and, quite simply, human nature.

Nearly all the reports investigating this story mention how ‘women and children’ were amongst the group of innocent victims. Every time I hear that phrase, ‘women and children,’ I pause. Innocent victims are innocent victims. Yes, I can argue that children are more innocent than adults, but are women more innocent than men? Always? Inherently?

The stories emphasize that the marines obviously could not claim that the infants were a threat. Apparently, ‘women and children’ puts women in the same camp. For me, ‘unarmed civilians’ actually unites all who were killed.

So why the phrase ‘women and children’? This expression seems to hearken back to the days where women were seen as frail and harmless and property of men. I certainly don’t want to be elevated to prime target when it comes to violent suspicion, however I’m bewildered by the remaining widespread use of this phrase as a means of enhancing the gravity of a situation and to incite outrage.

I would like all life to been seen as sacred. How about ‘innocent men, women, and children’ were killed. If my mate or father or uncle were amongst the dead, I certainly wouldn’t want his life dismissed simply because of his Y chromosome.


[For those who need a respite from heavy thought, check out Evolution of Dance. I promise a smile.]