Cradle to Grave


One more I honor and pray will not be the last,

This poem, your day, awakenings to more days

Filled with complaints, facts, lies, jokes and sighs

Those last with mortal grimace and existential pain–

And celebrations.

No one fills your place, not before or after,

None who sits just where you do in my house,

Or my car, no one quite like you who inherited and grew

status, class, gender, race, trait, stance and ethnicity.

You made me.

One day you will unmake me just like the sun and earth,

My fiery Death whose smoke will awaken the ravens

Loosen charred Regret and Steam, neither life companions

On my walk, my rise and fall, blossom and decay, my stain

After you.
 

Motherhood on Mother’s Day: Let it Be


My Dear Daughters:


   No letter, especially one to daughters, should begin with I’m sorry, but this one does. I’m sorry. Though regrets are a waste of time, I must apologize for your inheritance. No, I don’t mean money. In all likelihood, your fortunes are your own to make. And I know of no genetic medical challenges in store for you in this lifetime. No, this apology comes upon seeing the two of you drive off to lunch together, one tight-lipped and tense, the other tentative and earnest.


You see, dear daughter number two in birth order, you have inherited the portion of your mother’s temperament that ruffles easily when you convince yourself that another has acted poorly or unjustly or incompetently. You do not suffer lightly the effects of others’ actions on your life, irritated at the shortcomings of your fellow beings. You stew. 


To make matters worse, you can’t shake it off. When you decide to change teams and find the coach knows little more than the last one and your teammates are no different, no more skillful or intelligent or cooperative than the last, you simmer, aggravated after a game where the forwards hardly ever anticipate your serves from mid-field and so miss scoring opportunity after scoring opportunity, while the coach fails to instruct and the defense fails to adjust for the deflected offense. 


So you grouch for the rest of the day, angry at your teammates, your coach, but mostly at yourself for having chosen the team, or for even playing soccer in the first place.


And you, daughter number one, I owe you an apology for both your inability to fix your sister and your desire to do so. Like me, you feel discomfort when others display unpleasant emotions, even if  they are mere facial expression. Your sister cannot hide what she feels, though she speaks not a word or a sigh. Her face tells the story–sorry again, second born, for yet another trait passed on. 


And you feel responsible when you are not completely oblivious. Sensitivity is not your strongest attribute. You need to be hit over the head, spoken to directly, told what someone feels, unable to intuit. I gave you that obtuseness. Then when you hear the complaint, the source of woes, compassion turns to anxiety to solve the break, the mood, or problem. 


That anxiety leads to paralysis. Your mind turns foggy with the pressure to create, find an idea. And so you retreat, get disinterested and frustrated. You have no idea what to do to please her, though you try: bribe her with first choice of music in your car or chocolate or a trip to the mall. You try teasing and joking but the list of sorry-I-gave-that-trait-to-you includes stubbornness on her part as it does cluelessness on yours. 


But you know she unwinds in time, flexes her tension and exhales in release when she does, so there’s no rushing through it. The two of you cleave to one another as the best of friends, so you know.
  


Daughter born first, the days ahead bring many lessons about letting go, acceptance and boundaries, yours in relation to others. Your compassion will hold you in good stead if you never swallow it down in futility rather than acceptance: you can offer but no one has to accept. Perhaps she cannot. That is not your fault. Give, nevertheless, without the expectation of receiving. Help others because others need help, not to get results. You are not here to fix but to try.


Daughter born second, when you too learn to accept yourself, mistakes and all, your moods will calibrate, even out. Your expectations so high for yourself, you project those on to others who cannot meet them. If only you can merely see people, observe them without judging, and accept your strengths and weaknesses realistically without judgment, you may be able to do the same for others. 


The expanding pressure contracts and recedes in the exhaust of toxic release, the poison of fear–of disappointment, not measuring up, and not succeeding–whether aimed at you or others.


You both have a lifetime ahead of procuring patience, and if you get the jump on everyone else, you may discover the secret, the jewel of existence, of slowing down just as time speeds up. If you can, if somehow in cinematic slo-mo you can envision your two hands grab the big hand of the clock, just like when you were little we learned from that interactive picture book with the brightly colored spinning clock hands (blue for the big one and red for the small one) and hold that big boy back with all your might, you better the odds at beating the odds against you–your inheritance. 


Take time, my daughters, to be and let be. She who came after you needs time to work the inarticulable undulations of anger mounted on uncertainty overlaid on the foundation of fear that shift and morph like sea kelp ebbing and flowing with the tide. If you, my first born, breathe slowly, let every drop out before you sip another slow breath in, the extra seconds may allow you the focus, the time it takes for the words to come, the ideas to set you free:  “She is who she is, and I am who I am. Nothing more.”

I am sorry but have no regrets. You two embody the best I have to offer–and more. 

With all my love…
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I know you know.
  

In Response to “A Letter to My Father’s Mistress” found on rebellesociety.com entitled “no one owes you anything: a letter from Harry Browne to his daughter”


“Everything you want in life has a price connected to it. There’s a price to pay if you want to make things better, a price to pay just for leaving things as they are, a price for everything.” — Harry Browne

During the darkest part of the night, who do you blame?
Do you know who Mr. Browne is? According to Wikipedia, Harry Browne (1933 – 2006) was a free-market libertarian writer and investment analyst who was the Presidential candidate of the United States Libertarian Party in 1996 and 2000. He was also Director of the American Liberty Foundation.
I don’t know what these characteristics translate into or even the kind of person Harry Browne was. I did, however, come across this letter he wrote at Christmas to his then nine-year old daughter. The letter was dated December 25, 1966.
I have shared Harry’s letter over the years with circles of friends and family. The responses have varied. Some have whole-heartedly agreed with Harry, yet some reacted with defensiveness, even contempt, not only for Mr. Browne, but toward me for sharing. Some felt the letter was cynical, harsh, even cruel. There were also those who thought that Harry’s words to his daughter offered them a new perspective on life.
For me, the letter was a great reminder of the expectations we attach to people, outcomes and situations, and the potential blame we assign when we don’t receive what we have desired.
Who is responsible for life’s outcomes? Who is responsible for our experiences?
***
Harry’s letter to his daughter:
It’s Christmas and I have the usual problem of deciding what to give you. I know you might enjoy many things — books, games, clothes.
But I’m very selfish. I want to give you something that will stay with you for more than a few months or years. I want to give you a gift that might remind you of me every Christmas.
If I could give you just one thing, I’d want it to be a simple truth that took me many years to learn. If you learn it now, it may enrich your life in hundreds of ways. And it may prevent you from facing many problems that have hurt people who have never learned it.
The truth is simply this: No one owes you anything.
Significance
How could such a simple statement be important? It may not seem so, but understanding it can bless your entire life.
No one owes you anything.
It means that no one else is living for you, my child. Because no one is you. Each person is living for himself; his own happiness is all he can ever personally feel.
When you realize that no one owes you happiness or anything else, you’ll be freed from expecting what isn’t likely to be.
It means no one has to love you. If someone loves you, it’s because there’s something special about you that gives him happiness. Find out what that something special is and try to make it stronger in you, so that you’ll be loved even more.
When people do things for you, it’s because they want to — because you, in some way, give them something meaningful that makes them want to please you, not because anyone owes you anything.
No one has to like you. If your friends want to be with you, it’s not out of duty. Find out what makes others happy so they’ll want to be near you.
No one has to respect you. Some people may even be unkind to you. But once you realize that people don’t have to be good to you, and may not be good to you, you’ll learn to avoid those who would harm you. For you don’t owe them anything either.
Living your Life
No one owes you anything.
You owe it to yourself to be the best person possible. Because if you are, others will want to be with you, want to provide you with the things you want in exchange for what you’re giving to them.
Some people will choose not to be with you for reasons that have nothing to do with you. When that happens, look elsewhere for the relationships you want. Don’t make someone else’s problem your problem.
Once you learn that you must earn the love and respect of others, you’ll never expect the impossible and you won’t be disappointed. Others don’t have to share their property with you, nor their feelings or thoughts.
If they do, it’s because you’ve earned these things. And you have every reason to be proud of the love you receive, your friends’ respect, the property you’ve earned. But don’t ever take them for granted. If you do, you could lose them. They’re not yours by right; you must always earn them.
My Experience
A great burden was lifted from my shoulders the day I realized that no one owes me anything. For so long as I’d thought there were things I was entitled to, I’d been wearing myself out —physically and emotionally — trying to collect them.
No one owes me moral conduct, respect, friendship, love, courtesy, or intelligence. And once I recognized that, all my relationships became far more satisfying. I’ve focused on being with people who want to do the things I want them to do.
That understanding has served me well with friends, business associates, lovers, sales prospects, and strangers. It constantly reminds me that I can get what I want only if I can enter the other person’s world. I must try to understand how he thinks, what he believes to be important, what he wants. Only then can I appeal to someone in ways that will bring me what I want.
And only then can I tell whether I really want to be involved with someone. And I can save the important relationships for those with whom I have the most in common.
It’s not easy to sum up in a few words what has taken me years to learn. But maybe if you re-read this gift each Christmas, the meaning will become a little clearer every year.
I hope so, for I want more than anything else for you to understand this simple truth that can set you free:
No one owes you anything.

http://www.rebellesociety.com/2013/07/30/no-one-owes-you-anything-a-letter-from-harry-browne-to-his-daughter/

A Letter To My Father’s Mistress

Life as the other woman is just SO hard. You can’t put pictures of your cute little getaways on social media, you can’t brag to all of your friends how awesome your new man is, and you can’t bring him home to meet the folks. Your sleepovers are few and far between and you know you’ll never get that goodnight or good morning text from him because he’s at home with his family. Oh shit — did you forget about those other people? Y’know, his wife? His children? You probably didn’t think it would matter; you probably figured it was just a little affair and we would never find out. We’ll just go on and live the rest of our lives completely unaffected by it, right?

Nope. I am the child of a cheating father and believe me, I’ve been deeply affected by the mistakes you’ve made. In fact the pain that you’ve caused me will follow me for the rest of my life. Soon after my father’s infidelities came to light I struggled with depression, anxiety, and binge drinking — problems that I had never had before you were around. I was in so deep I didn’t realize I was spiraling out of control until I had nearly destroyed my academic career, my friendships and my relationships. The selfish choices you made ruined my whole family. Not just my mom, and not just me or my sister either. But his parents too. His sisters, nieces and nephews. My mom’s sisters and her nieces and nephews. It ruined my relationship with my boyfriend of two years because I couldn’t deal with the stress you caused. People have openly mocked me about my dad being a philanderer and I can’t say anything back because it’s true. Do you have any idea how it feels to come home to your crying, depressed mother and have to be the one to comfort her because of mistakes YOU made? Members of my family (myself included) had mental breakdowns because of the pain that YOU caused. The worst part is that I had to accept you or face the threat of being cut out of my father’s life. Because, after all of this, he’s still crass enough to continue dating you. Yeah, he may have left her, but don’t you dare believe he ever did it for you.

THIS is not a little affair and you’re ruining people’s lives far beyond your own. It’s bad enough to disregard his wife, but the damage you’ve caused me and everyone else will haunt us forever and you will eventually pay for what you’ve done. You can attempt to justify your decision by saying he was unhappy and that, if it weren’t you, he would have probably just cheated with another woman. But it’s not your place to decide “If not me, someone else.” You let it be someone else.