“The 9 Most Overlooked Threats to Marriage”


Kelley M. Flanagan’s Huffpost article isolating the most threatening issues to a long lasting marriage is interesting, hopeful and thoughtful, even if somewhat obvious and common sensical. I especially like the introduction as she reminds me how humans are short cutters and labelers in nearly everything. She comments that communication always takes the rap for failed marriages, which is untrue.

When I have my students write an essay on marriage and counseling, the parroted mantra is marriage breaks down for lack of communication. Counseling helps couples communicate better. Well, that always seemed to be broad to incomprehensibility as well as reductive. Whenever two people show up in a room it’s more complicated than that let alone show up to a supposed life-long commitment.

I particularly like the point she makes about marriage and loneliness:

Marriage doesn’t take away our loneliness. To be alive is to be lonely. It’s the human condition. Marriage doesn’t change the human condition. It can’t make us completely unlonely. And when it doesn’t, we blame our partner for doing something wrong, or we go searching for companionship elsewhere. Marriage is intended to be a place where two humans share the experience of loneliness and, in the sharing, create moments in which the loneliness dissipates. For a little while.

As a 34-year marriage veteran, I can speak to the greatest advantage of marriage, regardless of the perceived strength or quality of the union, which is the frequent haven from loneliness even as couplehood sometimes increases loneliness or at least puts that human condition in sharp relief. Flanagan reminds her readers that marriage is neither a panacea nor a merging. When she goes on to point out the shame baggage marrieds bring to a marriage, she hammers home that point that–and I’m extrapolating a bit–the union is of two individuals not a solitary unit.

The rest of the article underscores the more obvious and familiar about boredom, blaming, not taking responsibility and the like. She does mention another item that resonates with me, two actually: marriage is life and empathy is crucial to survive and thrive in both. True?

Cicisbeo’s Courtly Cell

credit: cinebazar.it

You live in a whisper, cicisbeo.
Your love is near and dearly so
but you are her shadow partner
a puppet and a beloved though
you will inherit nothing but her
gratitude and safely warm hello.

She more needs and adores you
than anyone else in her retinue
and so keeps you soft and close
inside cued cries and shrieks too
and you obey as you she chose
to wear on her arm like her jewel.

You have her secrets and her lies
told in an ear’s warm breath flies
from lips of painted hues so red
the color of her heart’s true sighs
that never you share in her bed
for she wears comfort at her side.

Are you her friend and lover too?
A scepter in her hand to rule you
are you satisfied with ether love?
Gather your pride in vain pursuit
and wear her need like the glove
of your cold killer hands so cruel.

She is dead to you now in mind
she, being blind to your design
Using another’s need as a pet
is the willful way of all her kind
and opposition none she’s met
with the force of a love sublime.

My mistress has met her a match
in circles of a scheme unhatched
come back to bite a cold remorse
in blue eyes of the candle’s catch
sweet and sorrowful loves endorse
the knife in you, the itch scratched.

Love and Let Die


credit: corvalisadvocate.com

You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves
.  Mary Oliver

In the morning after a rain when the ocean settles into the sky, the horizon looks true,
not divided but a continuum–grey on grey–indecipherably terra-firmament.

My life appears so linear, me moving my mother and father along their journey, as they once held my hand and led my toddling feet, cajoling them forward and dragging them back, the push and pull of a daughter’s love full of fear and longing as they travel into the night even as my daughters, soft and loosely tethered to my heels, unwittingly come along for that treacherous trek of mortality. But the line is an illusion. Time is recursively experienced and what else is there but subjective moments of breath?

Heidegger notes: Temporalizing does not signify that ecstases come in a ‘succession’. The future is not later than having been, and having-been is not earlier than the Present. Temporality temporalizes itself as a future which makes present in a process of having been. (Being and Time 68: 401).

The past, present and future are always with us in lived experience. I am one (of many others) with an awareness and constitution of my past, my history, born to certain parents in a particular calendar time, history, and place, aware that I exist–live, breathe, do–in the moment known as now until the someday I cease to exist and so experience time not as an arrow shooting from birth to death but as a walking simultaneity of past, future and present I carry and am.

Like time, bodies are continuous, only unmindful minds make it not so–the mime of generations. We are and are not the infant or/nor the corpse but live suspended between the two, seemingly marching forward from birth and facing death, but really carrying our birth and death with us at all times.  Living with another human being is living with her patterns and hang ups developed from childhood, her fears of her own mortality and the actions and inabilities to love or trust or celebrate life due to her genetics, home life, experiences or attitude toward her own mortality.  She is reckless because she can be in her twenties with so much life ahead or she is cautious and more discerning with the people with whom she spends time given she may only have a good ten or twenty years of life left on Earth.  Death shapes her.

To clearly “see” ourselves poised for death sharpens our vision of what is real and true, who we are. Since I will die, I schedule my days full of stuff to do. Since I will die, I plan from the time I become aware of my impending death to go to school, get a career, a family–live a life in finite time. If I were immortal, would I choose to get up and go to work each day?

The realization that I am not, wearing my own death as a blanket across my face in order to make me see what I do in the unknown time allotted to me, who I am, is the experience of time that allows me to be my authentic self, roughly paraphrasing from Heidegger. We all know what it feels like to have a close call. The aftermath of that potentially fatal collision–near miss–shows us who we are, what we are made of, what we hope for, and what is important to us–truly, not lost in the doing-ness of the day. So how to keep death in front of our eyes?

Read a lot. Observe. Listen. Think. Feel. Try on faces, clothes, philosophies, scenarios, and lovers; test your instincts and learn. “Love who can love you the way you need and want to be loved,” I tell my daughters. The formula is simple. It only takes knowing who you are, letting the “soft animal of your body love what it loves.” Time as aggregation, an amassment of experience and burning, is the fullness of space opening up as the big bang deity of the universes spreads the creation of all we are and imagine unending.

The deep field experiment (http://youtu.be/LENqnjZGX0A) of the Hubble telescope reveals that the infinite is even more than we circumscribed previously. David Eagleman, in his informative and entertaining Youtube video on Possibilianism, remarks that the Hubble telescope identified over ten thousand galaxies in a pencil eraser sized spot in seemingly starless space viewed from Earth. Upon learning this, I was struck with how humans are unfathomably minuscule and particulate and endless as moving dust of eons innumerable.

Perspective. There is no time or reason to suffer needlessly at the hands of others in the finite or infinite. Each human is an ever burgeoning expanding and shrinking self in a moment. We are not either-or’s, especially not labels that predict behaviors merely for the sake of another’s comfort. I don’t have to identify as heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual in order for someone to understand how to act with me, determine what interests or potential lies in me.

Gender is not merely anatomy. Sexuality is not merely the act. In the words of Robyn Ochs, bisexual activist, writer, professor:
“Sex is between your legs; gender is between your ears.” In real people, sex and gender do not always correspond…sex and gender each exist on a continuum; thus there are more than two sexes, and more than two genders.

This resonates with my lived experience thus far. We cannot know another by assuming we know, only intuit and strive and thrive, be brave and curious. Love is all we get in finite time. Judge not so unthinkingly.

“The Coolest Thing About Gratitude”


I have no idea which researchers substantiate the science in this article, which I have copied in its entirety because it is short and contains a poem by Pablo Neruda, a personal favorite, but I sure love the idea.

By now, most of us have heard the news: grateful people are happier, healthier and generally more fulfilled.

And while these are all really great side effects of gratitude, for me, one of the coolest things about gratitude is the way it affects the heart. The heart creates an electromagnetic field that expands up to five feet from the body. Its electrical field is 60 times stronger in amplitude than that of the brain.

Studies show that when people cultivate positive feelings, the heart’s frequency changes and its waves become smoother and more consistent, while anxiety or stress caused waves to be shorter and less organized. Though most positive feelings were capable of affecting the heart in this way, researchers noted that gratitude changed the heart’s rhythm more easily and faster than any of the others.

What’s more is that this frequency can even “entrain” hearts and brains nearby. It’s especially likely that the heart with smoothest, most “coherent” frequency will be the heart that other people sync up with. So if you’re cultivating gratitude, it’s probable that you’re changing the feeling state of those around you for the better too.

Basically, even when we aren’t aware of it, our heart is constantly communicating with those around us. But as complex as it all may seem, intuitively, it seems that humans have been aware of this chatting between hearts for quite some time.

It may be the reason we say we’re having a “heart to heart” with someone when we’re engaged in an intimate, sincere conversation.

Researchers have reported that hearts between lovers sync even when the lovers aren’t touching or conversing. The same goes for heart frequencies of unborn babies and their mothers.

So when Jim Rohn said, “You’re the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with,” he made an interesting point indeed. Our bodies are talking. And physiologically, it’s gratitude whose message is the loudest. We’re affecting each other in ways we may have never even pondered.

Choose your company wisely, but find comfort in the idea that gratitude has a way of trumping all. Keep gratitude flowing in your own heart, and you can change the world around you without lifting a finger.

Ode to Thanks
by Pablo Neruda

Thanks to the word that says thanks!
Thanks to thanks,
that melts
iron and snow!
The world is a threatening place
makes the rounds
from one pair of lips to another,
soft as a bright
and sweet as a petal of sugar,
filling the mouth with its sound
or else a mumbled
Life becomes human again:
it’s no longer an open window.
A bit of brightness
strikes into the forest,
and we can sing again beneath the leaves.
Thanks, you’re the medicine we take
to save us from
the bite of scorn.
Your light brightens the altar of harshness.
Or maybe
a tapestry
to far distant peoples.
fan out
into the wilds,
and in the jungle
of strangers,
rings out
while the hustling train
changes countries,
sweeping away borders,
then spasibo
clinging to pointy
volcanoes, to fire and freezing cold,
or danke, yes! and gracias, and
the world turns into a table:
a single word has wiped it clean,
plates and glasses gleam,
silverware tinkles,
and the tablecloth is as broad as a plain.
Thank you, thanks,
for going out and returning,
for rising up
and settling down.
We know, thanks,
that you don’t fill every space-
you’re only a word-
where your little petal
the daggers of pride take cover,
and there’s a penny’s worth of smiles.


Jenna McCarthy’s “What You Don’t Know About Marriage”

credit: drbrendawade.com

“Love, n. A temporary insanity curable by marriage.”
― Ambrose Bierce, The Unabridged Devil’s Dictionary

In a short, amusing TED talk video, journalist Jenna McCarthy offers some fun facts from studies conducted on predictors of long-term marriage. One of the quirky items is the smile in childhood photos as indicator of propensity to lasting marriage. How do these researchers even imagine examining that connection?

For Emma

Is it true what they say about you, Emma?


They betrayed you, didn’t they? Everyone marching you down the line from birth to death used you even as they propped you up, the precious rag doll with the delicate fine porcelain mask you were. Your feckless foe and charms–your beauty and your sex–betrayed you. How could you know?

I could imagine your life that way, narrate it so. Or I could finger-trace the lines of the stolen silken bodily moments with your lover–impassioned with danger and secrecy, danger of the war with impending loss of your lover and the father of your child, as well as the secrecy of your affair. Your story.  Who were they to take your lover, your secrets, your letters and your world with so little regard, to throw you in a prison of injustice and debt? The iron of your manacles was brutal in hypocritical cold, the jailers murderously callous. They took your love, money and life. I hate them.

I dreamed your dream once, was your dream, a sister from ecstatic vision and prescient sight, warming your mind like the lynx enwrapping your belly. The sweetness of half-lit rooms and pleasant chaise-lounge velvet bethroned bodies bathed in halogen bulbs of passionate witness. Give me your seed. Implant your vision of Veronese wood tables engraved with curled tresses that beckon our baby’s bonneted hair and make my cells crave yours in hours of the early morning upon awakening from suffering sleep. I ache. Take me with you. I will dust off your prison hurt and make your beauty mesmerize love again.

Love Song

credit: uploads6.wikiart.org – odd-nerdrum

Come to me
Be in me
Lie by my side
Thumbnail my spine
Soft-brush my face
Look in my eyes
Finger-loop my curls
Ear-breathe my sighs
Toe-touch my heels
Elbow my side
Arm-snuggle my neck
Chest pound my breath
Come to me
Be in me
Lie by my side

Comet Love


What’s it like to land on a comet with its flaming tail at the speed of night? The fantastical imaginary of the ordinary citizen can only know a breath of it. If only such a landed probe could take pictures of all of the people looking up in awe and wonderment at its passing. That would be the ideal outcome, to capture the best of the human spirit as it is not in the human capacity to reach beyond our galaxy as we sit on the earth now, but it is in our capacity to dream and imagine and reach with our minds.

Perhaps that is what space travel will be eventually, a cosmic astral projection of minds to other minds in distant galaxies and that the stuff of television shows and NASA or other space agency attempts are mere clumsy limitations of the mind. The physical transport is an outdated mis-read of where humans should be directing their efforts–not at transporting the body to other galaxies with improved technology for craft life but transporting the mind through developed improvements in using more of the human brain, much more than the ten percent we do. If scientists can figure out the workings of the brain and how to use more of it, we would go farther in all of our feeble attempts, due to lack of imagination and physical ability, to space travel the verses–uni or multi. That’s my dark matter hope. As grand as our meager steps are in proportion to who we are, I can only speculate that more brain is better for bigger steps toward human survival–if that is even worth it. My limited brain cannot imagine what could be more important.

Philae successfully landed on Comet 67P. The scientists in news-flash photos, mostly men, and I seem to be the only ones excited about that. Though the landing did not go entirely to plan, that didn’t dent the jubilation of the paunchy breath-holding middle aged scientists who hopped, jumped and hugged in high-five glee and release at its touchdown. The love and pride for their cyber child was bounded only by the liquid vision of the for-once unshielded tears of these utilitarian fathers of the brave foundling. One of her thrusters did not thrust, but she is safe and is useful nevertheless. If she does what she is programmed to do, take pictures and collect other data, she will bless her human makers with information unknown about the travels of a lone comet that circles the sun of its destruction, succumbing to the irresistible force of suicide, desire and heat.

So long as there is an infinite unknown, I anthropomorphically will it to be so: that she brings back an ancient love story beyond comprehension for its pre-dating and surpassing human imagination. That way we can continue to wonder and strive, which is the best humans have to offer.

She will give us imagery to parse and dream about, analyze the pre-solar system traces so that we may sniff the scent of our own origins–even just a hint. The human mind will take it from there. And if those paunchy old and young science-saddled men and women get nothing more than a glimpse into the relationship of a comet with a blustery sun that blasts and winds like the litany of a curmudgeon whose cranky rant on a rainy arthritic day thunders and grates, then humans will be that much more edified. They only need new clues to edge ever nearer to the ever elusive answers to the age old questions that echo in the ignorant blackness of the deep-of-darkness matter: How did we come to be? Are we alone? Why does that even matter?

“In the Name of Love: Shame and Love”


Credit: bleedingcool.com

Trying to find some clues as to the usefulness of shame in love, I came across this article, “In the Name of Love” by philosopher Aaron Ben Zeev, that quite frankly did not help me at all. Maybe I am missing the point, not reading well. I did find some portions of the article interesting but I did not understand much more than shame and love are both powerful emotions that can either build or destroy. Am I missing something? Does this article clarify the relationship between love and shame? It’s short, so feel free to read and comment, educate me.