Bullies, Terrorists, and Congressmen: Ten for Today


Image Source
 
My head aches with the world, swollen with the chaos and calamity of it. No salve of good will and transcendent detachment patches the soreness, the inflammation, and the throbbing anger.

When I reactively shout at him, my father’s happy. Negative attention is better than none. I’ve raised my children, done my job outmaneuvering ration-less beasts. Why do they appear in full grown men’s bodies now? I’m mad that I can’t return to my former childless self—be the child and not the parent.

And then that runaround with the country of Kaiser. Institutions are built to crush people who pay for them, give them their existence. Medicine is meant to be waved before the eyes of the sick, taunting, “Catch me if you can.” I hated when boys stole a poor unsuspecting victim’s wool hat and played keep away, tossing it just above the desperately grabbing hands reaching for it.

I’m not alone in this now perceived defect, empathy. Yet, it drains the very peace from me, feeling it all, the hands of every eternally colonized American—women, children, people of color, and the poor—with raised hands clutching at their wool hats—respect, pay, opportunity, voice, healthcare, food, dignity—just out of reach by bullies gleefully foaming at the mouth as they expand their world by shrinking others’.

Always a zero sum game to psychotics, paranoids, terrorists, and congressmen.

We Witness (for the Poetry Patroness)


Insurmountable: to palm someone’s blinding grief in your hands 

to show her–the griever– 

the terrifying, sublimity in bottomless agony. 

You can’t help her picture that pure, petrified stance on the bridge 

mid-way between his suffering and her own, textured so distinctly, 

galaxies apart in their partnered struggle,

his fraught with the tortured, focused fight against pain, and hers, 

witness, empath, limb, mother, wife, married to his suffering. 

Her body pours static breath into his mad-gnashing vortex.

 
Where does one end and the other begin? 

At the point of internal harrowing, razing cells that scream 

in hysterical, frenzied death and reproduction, 

death and reproduction, 

with no end in sight, for these crazed, cracked-out enucleate disks don’t quit, 

bear no mind but to destroy in their very giving–as if human.

 
I’ll show you the petals of the wide-blooming, morning rose, 

heady as your bejeweled wedding day,

the dewy, pale, opalescent-translucence of redolent, velvety dalliance, 

stained rust-dry at the edges–

a picture of blossoming, ordered DNA

perfectly-formed, fragile as your first-born’s, infant fingernail– 

carrying its own prescient death at the borders.

 
She’s beautiful, 

not as a symbol, not as obedient structure, 

but as herself, fragrant joy bleeding. 

I’ll cup her in my gardening hands to grow a path between us–

sorely aggrieved and floundering shadow, 

clumsily consoling your fear and mine, 

both corraling an other’s-brother’s-father’s-husband’s-son’s fluxing end. 

Could you crawl outside a minute to see?

The Heart of Empathy Speaks


I fell in love with foreign languages from before I could speak,

From Mother Goose nursery rhymes chanted to childhood,

Singing me through my days in silly lilting jibberish tolling tales–

Mesmerizing wispy wild figures sticking thumbs in plum pies

Or eating mystical morsels named curds and whey on a tuffet.

Then in college, I pined for the secret to unlock the hearts of 

Spanish, French and Russian poets, painters and culture magicians.

I cracked the code to some, forming strained lipped sounds,

Writing winsome words in chipped or open gullet accents  or

Symbols to sounds unmade, unimagined and click ticklish

until I could not remember my own tongue.

But after college, language tore at me, ripped me up

And left me dull, licit and languishing in legal triangles,

Endless geometry of angles, degrees and lines.

The law sandpapered language across imagination’s landscape,

Smoothed my edges in deeper, rounder archetypal paths, pregnancy, 

Until I lost Octavio Paz’s meter sanded out in childrearing recipes

Swapped with Guatemalan nannies.

Pellucid sentences peeled off like shredded wallpaper skin,

Their luster gone with a youthful jaunt, hop, gleam and trigger,

Flashed in skipping stones, falling in love and hopping fences

Round speedways, parks and wood clearings where music moved 

Us, loins and feet to primal noun-less, soundless speech, 

Just to see,  get a glimpse at lip-sung words beyond the barriers, 

Risking liberty and future, impelled by lusty mischief and rush.

Back then, I had to hear them sung in tune-ful missives keyed only to me.

And now, the remaining hash of come and gone, bright and dark, transforms

Acidic intestinal stew to sorcerer’s clairvoyant elixir: my gut tells me.

Among the clamorous hate-filled speeches and cautious creeds non-offending,

Blasted in soldiered lies and political stomps, and on uncivil, anti-social media,

The gurgle steels me listen to us, be your pain, own my heated core as if it were 

The world’s sole lingual ignition; the ravenous merging urge to swallow me up,

The kind you write in erotic type and imagery possessing, owning my pulse–

These are mere smoke signals, the wink-less language of I know you as I am.  

In the aftermath of lived language, word dross, let us, you and me, tutor empathy,

The Esperanza of human kindness,  re-remembered swish and slosh in thickish silent

 womb–connected to another’s rhymes and rhythms, as the song. 

 

No Empathy: Short-term Relationships (an eavesdropper’s delivery) 

 

 
Shit or get off the pot, my mom always said. Well, I’ve taken enough shit. I’m getting off by telling him off. I mean, who the fuck says he loves someone and then fails to show up at an important event as promised and then nonchalantly excuses himself with some lame-ass story. Unbelievable. 

–Did he know he was supposed to be at this wedding for a long time or some last minute invite by you?

No, for fuck’s sake! He got the same invitation I did a few months ago! He’s known forever!

–Oh.

He offered to come all the way to my house to pick me up so we wouldn’t have to take two cars. That’s at least a half hour out of his way, since the church is north of his apartment and I am way south. He knew as of last Wednesday when we made these plans.

–What was his excuse?

He claimed his mom called him in a panic about losing her driver’s license and was frantic about it. He had to go help her.

–What? That IS lame.

Right? Especially since his stepdad is there to help.

–Sounds like he just didn’t want to go this wedding.

That’s what I think. And these are good friends of ours, so he knew it was important for me to go. (Smiling) You know how much I love a good party too. There was an open bar and everything.

–So did he find the license for his mom? 

I don’t know. I was so mad at him I hardly listened. He might have said they couldn’t find it.

–Wow, that’s kind of shitty. How could he justify letting you down for something so stupid. Does his mother drive to work?

No, she doesn’t work. She retired from an 80k a year admin job after she couldn’t do it any more because of memory loss. 

–Oh, how sad. Alzheimer’s?

No, she had a slow carbon monoxide leak in the stove of her apartment she lived in for ten years. Apparently it destroyed her memory. Permanently.

–Oh shit, that’s terrible! I mean, is she like severely brain damaged or just slightly impaired?

No, she is totally fucked up. She appears normal, but she forgets everything she just did or said. It’s short term memory loss. Well not everything, but she forgets a lot. And it makes her anxious and paranoid. 

–How old is she? 

She’s 75. 

–Is she healthy otherwise? I mean is she a frail 75 or a strong 75?

She just had a heart attack and a stent put it in her groin to help her circulation. She is much better now. Says she can think a little more clearly. You wouldn’t even know she has a memory issue other than she is slow talking, a little, and seems spacy. But she is fearful as fuck when she can’t remember something she knows she should or loses something…like the driver’s license. She gets herself all worked up.

–Which couldn’t be good for her heart. 

No, she’s supposed to be on meds to help her mellow out, get rid of the anxiety but she forgets to take it. 

–Well, isn’t her husband any help? 

No, he’s like 86 and on his way out. Ironically, she is his caretaker.

–Are you fucking kidding me?!!

Yeah, it’s crazy.

–Does she drive? Is she able to?

Well yeah, but she gets lost.

–That is a goddam tragedy waiting to happen.

Right? And yet she won’t let her own son take them in. I mean Terry’s a great guy for that. He wanted to get help for them, put them in a senior living place, really nice community, or just take them in himself, which would have totally sucked the life out of him, suck for us. But she’s too fucking stubborn and would rather just have him at her beck and call whenever the slightest thing happens. 

–Holy fuck, Karen! You can’t be serious?!  When did you get to be such an asshole?

 

credit: wikihow.com

In which we witness a prayer

  

 

 I’ve looked into the eyes of this movingly tender and beautiful photo of my daughter fifty or more times since discovering it. She allows me a glimpse of her social media life in but one place: Instagram. I am grateful for it. There I can peek just a little to see what others see of her, what she allows to leak. I know her and don’t know her.

But this picture is poignant for several reasons. It is the one picture I believe I have a leg up on all of her friends, acquaintances and public, maybe even a significant other. I know the look in her eyes. I have been fully immersed in the practice of recognizing what lies behind the surface of her expression since she was born. It was a method of survival for both of us. Is she hungry? afraid? frustrated? Anger was always obvious. But differentiating between shy and reserved took some deciphering, some investigative study, and close observation on my part.
 
I had to discern between what I read–over-read really–in books about personality traits and behaviors from what my gut told me silently, wordlessly. Motherhood is the scariest ride at Disneyland times 100. It’s often a matter of life and death. The twists and unexpected turns cannot always be calculated or anticipated.
 
I have grown to recognize by an unconscious alarm in my head when my daughter is sad or slightly afraid or both by nuances. Her veneer always seems collected, polished plain and emotionless when she is settled into herself. When she is playing or performing, her face is a farcical mask of glee or humor or goof. She lets it out all hang out.
 
But this subtle look behind her eyes is sad sorrowing pain, one from prolonged stress of doubt and fear, standing on the edge of the fall balanced to the very brim of standing it. She abides. But she slides down into the “feels” of it sometimes.
 
I never set out to steer her into college sports. It took me along as it took her. One day I was her coach among all the other six year olds, trying to entertain and teach, and the next I was helping her decide whether to accept a college offer to play the game in another state. Recreation soccer blossomed into a competition that could only be sated by club ball, which always sold parent hopefuls on the steep price of a scholarship.
 
I cannot say that a scholarship was the lure for me. I figured out the math early on. For all the years of paying for trainers, club fees, equipment, travel and this and that peripheral fees, I could have paid her and her sister’s college by investing the money in passive income yielding ventures. But the lifestyle of soccer promotes health and the outdoors, hones the coping skills of competitors and educates the athlete to her own limitations, desires and nature.
 
I don’t regret the time and expense of it all. What else would have driven us as a family to places we visited–together–from hotels in deserts to hell holes to luxury digs in gorgeous cities? The drives alone provided family time we would not have scheduled otherwise. And I often ask what will bring me to lay myself down on the grass of an open field on a Saturday sunny afternoon in the breeze, imbibing the disparate smells of trees, wind and turf, when my children no longer play?
 
But watching my determined, ebullient, driven and light-hearted child-woman as she steps through her days of doubt and illness, waiting for her brain to heal, I wonder why I–we–wanted this. Of course, no one picks a course thinking something terrible will happen, something will go wrong. And even if we ever think about the possibilities of injury, failure, or loss, we gloss it over with a deferment and hope: think about it if it happens. Such is life lived as us.
 
She will survive a concussion that has driven the joy out of her first time away from home experience and exacerbated the hardship of that transition (something she has not managed too smoothly since I can remember) in school and life. But will I survive her Instagram pictures that freeze-frame the story of that grief and turmoil? Yes. With the faith and prayer of the priest and scientist, I watch.

Writing Empathy

  
Eternal seekers, humans are also time travelers. Separated by comforting (but illusory) shelters–houses and skin–they journey among others and through others. A simple word, a name called out in a crowd, suddenly connects the speaker and the unsuspecting, in-his-own-world hearer in a moment of communal recognition. This is the magic of language. 

But beyond the word, driving the journey of sentences, is the uncoded language neither spoken or written: the language of compassion. Compassion is the foundation of every act of communion, not merely writing. We ‘read’ others with a willingness to believe them if they are true, paint the real of our experiences. Moreover, we empathize in reading and writing, experiencing or anticipating an other’s suffering or success. A story character we have grown to love falters, missteps and fails, and we grieve.

“The state of reading consists in the complete elimination of the ego,” Virginia Woolf wrote, and it is true. To be in the story, we must suspend ourselves to be others for a while.

 

credit: https://betterwritingnow.files.wordpress.com

Meraki

  
The therapeutic rewards of writing have long been touted even before Freud and “the talking cure.” Writers write endlessly about writing as compulsion, art, creativity, release, documentation, imitation, recording, reporting and life. But my scouring of the web today yielded very little about writing as a gift. Correction, writing as a gift to the reader. I read plenty advice to write as a gift to the self.

I teach writing. I have often wondered not only what every teacher has wondered (and Kurt Vonnegut wrote about in one smart anecdote he told in the New York Times “Writers on Writing” series), if writing can in fact be taught (which I think it can), but what can teaching writing teach about relationships. 

Just like all roads in creative nonfiction lead home to the writer writing about writing, all teaching should lead to life, and what is life but relationships? We live in the world with other people–most of us. Relationships are relevant. Teachers should teach relevant skills, especially in classes teaching craft.

So, I try to impress upon students that grammar is life and writing is a gift, if you write consciously and conscientiously. 

Grammar is life. The eight parts of speech comprise the basic elements, the core of the English language. However, what something is, changes in relation to what that something is next to. For instance, when is a noun not a noun? When it is up against another noun, side by side, in a sentence. Often the first noun acts like an adjective such as in the phrase “road runner” or “nurse maid.” 

Similarly, a student sits in my class as a human being, perhaps a particular gender identified to that human. Sitting in my class, that human is a student, an enrollee and a peer. At home, he or she may be a sibling, a daughter or son, or spouse. People are defined by their relationships, where they are in the world–just like grammar.

And grammar is the coded order of our language, how we make sense of things. When we write–even for our own health or need–we write to be read by ourselves and others. To be understood is to write for someone else, to paint pictures, to explain something, to teach how to do something or vent, to name a few purposes of writing.

The act of writing is a giving. To do it well, to make it beautiful, clear, precise or illustrative, we must turn our eyes from ourselves to others, see like an other. What will my reader understand? What will it mean for the reader? My great gut-wrenching desire to get “it” right–just the right word–is the desire not only to create something worthy of respect, not merely catering to compulsion, but to connect a mind to another mind in a shared moment of thought or experience.

  
Wanting to transport something from inside the self to another self is a longing to merge with another. The writer and reader are lovers, always longing for being one.

credit: 

jarretfuller.com and illuminology.tumblir.com

Published on #RebelleSociety: Learning How to Shift Our Anger Out of Overdrive and Into Freedom

image

 

Please visit RebelleSociety.com and read the complete version of an essay I sketched on the blog a few days ago: Read it here.

Blogging has been a fruitful enterprise for me creatively speaking, and I am happy to have maintained my initial pursuit and purpose for it as a sort of notebook of ideas and writings, both complete and incomplete, wholly raw or somewhat polished.

When I find myself in mid-spasm of angry spume, I calm myself with a gratitude checklist, one item being the opportunity to write. This blog has facilitated that.

Thank you all for reading.  Here is a treat:

 

 

“How I Came to Identify with my Husband’s Mistress”




credit:  izquotes.com

Dogs are wise.  They crawl away into a quiet corner and lick their wounds and do not rejoin the world until they are whole once more.  Agatha Christie

A well written piece in The Huffington Post, Sophie Rosen, writing for divorcedmoms.com, takes her readers through her transformation from a jilted wife railing at her husband’s mistress to knowingly tasting of the same forbidden nectar in How I Came to Identify with my Husband’s Mistress.

The article starts with the confrontation, suppressed rage:  “Are you fucking my husband?”

But then she settles into the reflective tone she adapts to chronicle moving through her thought process.

More than my husband’s actions, what I found most curious was his mistress’ lack of remorse, remorse for her part in a marriage’s end, especially where three young children were involved.


She ponders this idea that sticks in the craws of most who weigh in on the subject. What is the responsibility of the mistress to her lover’s wife? The clear dividing line is between those whose policy it is to never go near a married man and those who do. Rosen enters the nebulous area of those unknowingly lured. What of those who get involved innocently, or blindly? Again, the choice can be as clear as the no-married-men-no-matter-what policy or the struggling or not so struggling cost-benefit analysis of a relationship in those three-way circumstances.   

Some might disqualify a liar on the grounds of failing the integrity test, considering the future-going prospects of someone who starts a relationship with deceit. Others may evaluate the relationship in terms of the state of the marriage, i.e., waning or holding steady, and the aims of the parties. Two may simply share time as they may until it is no longer viable to do so.  Much depends on the parties’ intentions and expectations, which, of course, tend to be as fluid as Rosen’s in the end.


Within every lie there exists its opposite — the truth. In my eyes, this was it. The truth I saw that evening came in the form of a man desperately looking for the attention and appreciation he was obviously not feeling at home, likely why he exuded such warmth when we first met and the chemistry between us was so heated.

Empathically, Rosen “sees” the lonely man, acknowledging her own loneliness, and grows an understanding of why someone might seek comfort in another who can provide it, despite his allegiance or vows to another who no longer does. So much, to me, depends on the honesty of the individual confessing his truth and the self-awareness to do so.

Indeed, if we are not careful, marriage can become the loneliest place on Earth. I know.

Though Rosen spends only one night with someone whom she suspects lied about his marital status, she does earn valuable insight about the complexity of marriage, monogamy and human beings.

Today I question whether my husband’s mistress is the same homewrecker I had once thought.

Putting herself in the position of her husband’s mistress even momentarily or to the degree that she felt appropriate–she is not the same woman as her husband’s mistress, obviously–she concludes that the fault cannot be so easily attached to one person in a triad of lies and need. Though omitted, the underlying foundation of Rosen’s conclusion is the realization of her inattention or unawareness, her own part in the destruction of her marriage

My husband and I seemed to do a pretty good job wrecking the home we had built together without any of her help.

Perhaps I have been too much a subscriber to cause and effect, but my assumption about cheating and divorce has always been that something was wrong whether it was the character of one or both parties, self-delusion, denial, youth, mid-life crisis, incompatibility, unrealistic expectations, the failure of monogamy, fateful accidents or illness or any number of life circumstances providing the impetus.The client who tearfully confessed he or she was blind sided by the cheating, that everything seemed fine was suspect. I could not help but flash on whether the person before me was willfully “blind” in some way. 

Perhaps the cynicism of the job ripened the seeds sown in me at birth.  Or maybe I was to some extent right.

We get caught up in life. We fail to open our eyes wide enough, a self-imposed squint implemented to maintain focus on the daily business of getting through the days. How can we expect to “know” ourselves let alone the other one we have sucked up into the motion and madness, scooped up and absorbed as if two were only one?  We forget our spouses were once human beings we wondered about and ached to discover.    

It is easy to say with conviction that cheating should never happen. Accepting why it often does is what remains a challenge.


She does not excuse behaviors, anyone’s. She stops short of rationalization, only hinting at her own one night allowance and commendable perceptiveness in suspecting a lie when she smells one. The take-away is the understanding that snap judgment, the black and white of it, is an unconsidered stance, too raw. Empathy, compassion and reason gathered her into the grey.