Five Years Ago–Happy Revolutions


Facebook reminds me that I have a memory from five years ago, a picture of my then 12 year old daughter in braids and new-budding body and me, lean and less harried (the intervening five years ran roughshod over my face and spirit), walking a 4th of July 5k that is an annual staple of my town, that and the parade that follows. A rare photo in that my younger daughter awoke early to participate in this event with me. She has seen me run all of her life, even gone with me via stroller or bicycle. Running and soccer predominated over our home all of her life.

Except my daughter, a soccer player since a toddler following in her older sister’s footsteps, literally, has never enjoyed running. In fact, her particular style of soccer reveals a constant strategy to minimize sprints and chases. She outsmarts rather than outruns. So, this particular photo reveals the rare and typical: the two of us in an early morning race–walking. 

I remember this day vividly. She and I raced to the race, having awakened late. By the time we reached the starting line, the race had begun and we raced along in the throngs of sneakered early-morning celebrators. We ran our race before it began, a well-known mistake for one who had run dozens of prior races, short and long. Pacing. We had not paced ourselves, so the photo captures us walking at the three-quarters mark, me with serious intent and recovery written on my expression and she with discovery and rescue broadcast on hers. We were enjoying the moment of breath and notice, me ever deep inside myself and she with wonder of the street lined masses outside.

The friend who took the picture much to my surprise traveled in a group tour with me to the Costa Rican Carribbean rain forest jungle on a yoga retreat. We became waterfall hiking companions as well as yoga classmates on the trip and afterward at the health club we both attended. I did not know he had taken the picture until he posted it on my wall. That memory and all it blankets coupled with a coffee quiet morning foreshadows a lovely 4th. 

Happy, peaceful revolutions to you all.

Coffee-Time-Meditation: Ten For Today (Slow Write, Fast Thoughts)


Coffee with a friend results in too much coffee for the day, making my bones jitter. My usual monkey mind races through the chatter jungles even faster and wilder than usual, turning and grabbing each vine-thought as it drops in sight–rapid fire.  This compared to yesterday’s thirty-minute meditation miracle contrasts like peace and chaos. Amazing how days vary so much, even while seeming the same while we experience them.

The yoga center free meditation session, which I have been meaning to attend for months, turned out deeply pleasant, a nice piggy back to the quality quiet and sitting in the monastery meditation room just two days before. Quiet makes all the difference. And not just any quiet. The infinite soundless quiet, soaked in all the meditations breathed before in unspoken time, en-layers the ease of slipping under the mind. My home has too much rackety noise and pending obligation to set me free.

Finding the depth of solitude to get underneath the mind’s skin needs place and moment. A quest to find just that place piques ticklish wonder. Maybe what we here call the dungeon aka the sound-proof music room/man cave beckons me.

July 1st Ten Minutes of Life – Mad Dad

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July 1, 2016

I overhear my father speaking to my brother on the phone. He laughs as he reports that each time he sees a doctor, security is called. He thinks it’s funny. To me, it’s a reminder of the anger gene I inherited—which is not funny. Overcoming this trait—to anger easily and frequently—comprises my life work. And as I get older, my life’s work becomes more challenging.

My father’s doctors do not need security. My father’s doctors need to know that anger gets the best of him every so often, and he says foolish things, downright scary, violent words accompanied by mad gesticulations and facial expressions. Those who don’t know him well might fear. His last outburst was directed at the receptionist manning his doctor’s phones. She bore the brunt of his crazed-from-pain-and-impatience anger and threats spewed in demonic tones, I’m sure. I was not there.

But when the four police officers on my lawn caught my attention from inside the house, I found that they were cautious, though easily assuaged of their suspicions, that my father, who sat in front of them in a lawn chair in our front yard (detained), was relatively harmless. Neither of us owns a gun, after all.

My father had just ten minutes before told me that he lost patience and insinuated to the receptionist some veiled threat—this within days of the Orlando nightclub shooting. The doctor’s office receptionist and entire staff reacted seriously. When I heard it, I did not. I had heard these idle threats before and his relating them to me as if he had said them. Usually he admits that he felt like threatening out loud but did not. This time he admitted he said it, said something menacing.

No, I cannot say I was entirely surprised when I saw the cops in front of the house. Yes, he is a slouching, skinny 6 foot 3, 82 year old man, who looks older these days due to back pain, cancer surgery and infection recovery. And he rambles incoherently at times, particularly under duress, but he knows how to smooth things over too. The cops detected my exasperation and his beaten down pride, maybe even shame. Certainly embarrassment. So they let him go with a warning that next time…

A week later, his chuckling over the security guard called to his last doctor’s appointment reminds me of the cover up we end up having to do after we lose our cool—he and I both—to others and ourselves.

 

image: maddad/blogspot

Today on The Mindful Word


Please enjoy a little shared yoga after glow in today’s The Mindful Word.

In a mind-drifting moment during Yoga practice this morning, I flashed on a childhood fantasy about leaping in zero gravity like the astronauts. How fun it would be to float freely without burden, without weight forcing me down to the earthbound reality that I could never fly…read more.

Don’t Call Me a Mistress


Language Matters: Alamy

Language matters. When newspapers call women mistresses or “homewreckers”, they are not just using an identifying term. They are also making a value judgement about what happened in a relationship – a judgment that often places the blame on women, even though there are two people involved in an affair.

So writes Jessica Valenti of the Guardian in an article entitled “Why we need to lose biased words like ‘mistress’ for good.” Her argument based on Paula Broadwell’s campaign to get news media to stop using that word to characterize (and vilify) her relationship with ex-CIA director, David Patraeus, goes something like this: ‘Mistress,’ which has no male counterpart is one of those words used to blame women for behavior of two consenting adults, presumably male and female, that society condemns.

When we use words that prop men up for the same behavior that we disdain in women, we are sending a very particular message, one that causes harm whether you’re a reporter writing for readers or a parent talking to your kids.

She throws in other loaded terms targeting women like spinster and Oxford Dictionary’s ‘rabid feminist’ as a word definition example along with the usual words used against men to suggest womanly behavior like ‘bitch’ and ‘pussy’ that she concludes are sexist, outdated and harmful. 

So let’s lose “mistress” and words like it. Our language should reflect the world we want, not antiquated ghosts of sexism past.” 

She’s right. The word “mistress” has no male counterpart and denotatively and connotatively female words used to ascribe enculturated female behaviors as insults are loaded with history’s carryover sexist world. She’s also right that “language matters.” 

But history also matters, for that matter. So, rather than cut ties with history by eliminating language that survives the ephemeral fashions, behaviors and ideas of long ago, why not use language to educate people? Rather than deny distasteful history, say, slavery or holocaust, by eliminating the hate words that derived from those horrific institutions and events (nigger, kike, etc.), how about we teach people to be aware of how we use language and why? 

Jill McCorkle writes in the essay, “Cuss Time,” the story of how she resolved her nine year old’s forbidden fruit fascination with profanity by allowing him a 15 minute cuss time each day, a free-to-say-anything break in the day to let it all out. Risking a bad parent label (or even a referral to child protective services, I would imagine), she allowed her son the freedom to swear like a sailor rather than censor his language and lose the power, resource and history of language by eliminating words from her son’s vocabulary. She writes:

 Word by single word, our history will be rewritten if we don’t guard and protect it, truth lost to some individual’s idea about what is right or wrong. These speech monitors–the Word Gestapo (speaking of words some would have us deny and forget)–attempt to define and dictate what is acceptable and what is not.

Valenti also opens her article with language parenting by mentioning her careful language selection, words she wants her children to use like firefighter instead of fireman. I believe these two authors hold the key to the problematic power inherent to language: teach children by mindful use and education rather than by a negative, censorship. The children wield the power to change future language, meaning, action and society.

(Thanks to Laura Steuer of  infidelity counseling network for sending this article my way). 

I want to be Esther Perel

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She is just so cool and says everything I need and want to say.

Commenting in Salon last month on Beyoncé’s Lemonade video that grapples, in part, with her cheating partner (“I know you’re cheating on me.”), Esther Perel in the article titled “Grief sedated by orgasm, orgasm heightened by grief”: Beyoncé, “Lemonade” and the new reality of infidelity“, applauds the singer’s frankness and platform used to plunge the public into the taboo infidelity, a conversation which Perel believes should be opened repeatedly. In fact, she believes that’s her job as a therapist and author–to help couples find themselves and their options past the ravine that betrayal opens between partners.

After noting the European and American moralistic difference in how couples suffer infidelity, she suggests Americans need to lose the strictures on discussion and judgment of both perpetrator and victim (think Hillary Clinton for staying when she could have left), which shames and thereby stifles examination of and learning from infidelity to repair,  renew or reject relationships shattered by infidelity.

After profiling American attitudes about the subject, she exhorts:

Given this reality, it’s time for American culture to change the conversation we’re having about infidelity—why it happens, what it means and what should or should not happen after it is revealed. The subject of affairs has a lot to teach us about relationships—what we expect, what we think we want, and what we feel entitled to. It forces us to grapple with some of the most unsettling questions: How do we negotiate the elusive balance between our emotional and our erotic needs? Is possessiveness intrinsic to love or an arcane vestige of patriarchy? Are the adulterous motives of men and women really as different as we’ve been led to believe? How do we learn to trust again? Can love ever be plural? 

These are important questions to begin the healing and ensuing path in any relationship that is pierced with this not always fatal rending. As Perel states, infidelity has existed longer than marriage, though she does not justify it as right for having lasted. She merely points to the reality of its persistence.

And just as Beyoncé is fire and ache, Perel is compassionate logic and measured reason, which is her (both) allure.

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May is National Masturbation Month

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And I wanted to know why. I may be very late on this, but I was not aware of the back story to this national recognition just like great women in history month or Black history month or even yoga month. So how does masturbation earn its month?

So I googled. EmpowHer.com answered thusly:

So how does a hush-hush subject like masturbation get a month of its own? It started in 1995 in San Francisco as a response to the forced resignation of U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders. After a speech at the United Nations World AIDS Day in 1994, an audience member asked Elders about masturbation’s potential for discouraging early sexual activity. She answered,“I think it is something that is part of human sexuality and a part of something that perhaps should be taught.”

That was the end of the first black Surgeon General’s career, but the beginning of National Masturbation Month. The founders of San Francisco based sex toy and education shop Good Vibrations said, “Enough is enough!” They wanted to do two things: keep up the conversation about Elders unjust firing and make people talk about masturbation.

Good Vibrations recognized many people needed support and advice about the very act of masturbating. One of the first things they had to do is provide reassurance. They made sure people knew it was okay to masturbate in the first place. For so long, shame and stigma have been attached to masturbating. Yet the truth is it is an activity so commonplace, natural, pleasurable and healthy it is said “ninety-eight percent of us masturbate, and the other two percent are liars.”

Not sure about those last stats but the subject does need air time. So how do you celebrate or honor the theme of such a month other than the obvious–doing what cums naturally?

Babies in College

 
 
Today a student handed me a note purportedly written by his mother, excusing him for leaving class early a couple of days ago. I teach college English. In the 20 plus years I have taught, this was a first.
 
In the last 2 years teaching at the same college I have taught for 16 years, my plans for at least one class per semester have been interrupted to remind students that they are in college. They don’t have to be in class like they had to in high school by state law, though it is probably a good idea, especially in my class. I do lots each class to justify my existence–that is, graded assignments and answers to eventual final exam questions–and missing a class is not recommended. 
 
However, students who must miss class are assumed to be adults responsible enough to find out what they missed and resourceful enough to recoup their losses. Big assumptions. They still ask me questions like, “Did we do anything while I was gone?”
 
Though less disturbing, I cannot count how many times students ask me permission to leave early, arrive late or miss class altogether. At first I believed they were simply not mentally out of high school, where their attendance was strictly required though their attention to the class while attending was not so strictly required. I can only assume so from the in depth, lengthy text messages I have received from my children while they were in class. Many students have confirmed the same, and judging by the persistent, nearly obsessive habit of texting or gazing into their phones–activity banned in my class–I believe the phone habit is a long-instilled layover from high school, or merely the product of living now.
 
Ironically, high school mandates attendance but not attention while college is just the reverse. Since I teach freshman, their education includes breaking the high school habits and convincing them that they truly are free now, free to succeed or fail–whether I give them permission or not.
 
I’ll admit that my jaw dropped and my face clearly had “wtf?” written all over it when I read the penciled note on a sticky note sized paper that asked to excuse her son for missing class the other day. Have I gotten much, much older recently or have my students gotten much younger? I am now convinced that the number of coddled college kids have increased and they have a tougher time growing up, thus the odd permission requests and absence notes. Or is it simply time for me to retire?
 

Credit: http://www.babiesonline.com