Regroup

She cannot begin to know grief, difficult
as it is to penetrate veil upon veil,
self deceptions and descriptions, the torment
of pleasing in order that one
might feel loved;

She is sure she knows at such a tender age,
and life has but toyed with her up
to this point, lovers and love, planes
and trains and automobiles speeding her
away from any unpleasant experiences; has
yet to encounter a wall she cannot vault
over, the one that demands we climb it brick
by brick until, exhausted beyond weariness,
we glimpse the other side;

By that time, we are no longer concerned
with vistas, even as the most extraordinary
perspective unfolds before the eyes.

 

Who is This I?

My ex-husband used to tell me that there are many kinds of love. This in response to my frustration that he couldn’t make up his mind, or rather his heart. I should have read the signs right there and then, faced the disappointing truth that he would always desire intimacy with more than one woman. But I was young and swooning and voluntarily blind to the faults of my beloved. What I failed to understand then was that we were both spellbound; transfixed and captivated by an idealized version of romantic love, a yearning, fiery fervor fanned and stoked by the smoke of the silver screen of our youth. My parents were likewise enamored of high drama, so it was not surprising that I had no other point of reference; these two put Liz and Dick to shame.

I cannot tell you that I came to any sudden realizations on the road to relational contentment. Instead there was a painfully slow awakening, a process of learning who I was underneath all the parental and religious conditioning, of recognizing a deep dissatisfaction with the impact my own confusion had upon others I cared most about. In a word, I recognized a lack of authenticity. It was as if I was going through the motions in life like an actor in a play, one step removed. I was not being honest with myself or anyone else. I lacked integrity.

It’s tough to get to the core of who we are when we don’t have an inkling of what that might be. In the throes of confusion, we cannot imagine that the small insignificant being that lies beneath our projected persona could possibly be enough. Everyone else seems so confident, so dynamic. We are constantly comparing ourselves, coming up short. We don’t realize our fellow actors are likewise engaged in their own role playing. And so on we go, on and on in that grand passion play of life, until something jolts us awake or until we become so miserable that we begin looking for answers outside the lines that have defined us up until that point.

Awakening to a deeper, more authentic presence has been a lifetime process of opening up and daring to drop the armor, bit by bit. My own path has been to practice this in the companionship of a best friend and life partner. Without this solid friendship however, the trust it takes to become that painfully vulnerable would never have truly developed. Without deeply valuing friendship in and of itself, the idealized romantic mold would, somewhere along the line, have been blown to smithereens. Without being committed to the very best for a dear friend, a gentle soul would have been shattered in the throes of my own bonds bursting. Without holding one another in tender regard, frustration would have easily mounted, as layer upon protective layer papered over accessibility, holding both of us at the stale distance many come to know in their own long-term relationships.

While commitment to authenticity can be difficult at times, the rewards are well worth pursuing. They are lasting, far reaching and doubtless contribute enormously to the betterment of humanity and our own inner peace. Besides, who wants to feel defeated in the face of aging bodies and forgetful minds? Far better to continue awakening, becoming aware and energized for the unknown journey ahead.

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Run-on

All my life I’ve struggled with the spoken word. Anytime I engage in conversation, I’ve got a litany of words streaming through my head, Matrix-like, and must sort through them in order to ensure what I’m about to say lends proper weight, meaning, gravitas. At the same time, I’m aware most people couldn’t care less. But I can’t alter who I am at whim. Meanwhile I cringe as others begin drifting away, looking furtively from side to side as though they want to be anywhere but inside of this suddenly far-too-complex interaction.

While making conversation might be easy for some, consider the bane of a thesaurus-like brain. If you really can’t or don’t want to stretch your imagination, simply consider the paradox that is the (American) English language. (This should  be easy for those of you for whom English is your second language.) Although I have passing knowledge of French and Spanish, I lack fluency, though I’d like to believe there are languages out there that make it easier to say what one means and thus to mean what one says. Spoken (American) English seems facile only if one does not seek to use it too creatively.

Take for instance the greeting, How are you? Really, and I’ve found this to be disappointingly true, most folks don’t want to know how I am. Instead they simply desire the briefest of intercourse, want mirrored back to them that all is well in their world. Thus I have discovered the proper answer is simply Great! or Fine! or Fabulous! Or if I haven’t the stomach for perfidy, I can always get away with a simple Okay. (Period. Or dot-dot-dot.) More than the most cursory reply seems to hold little interest, and I can’t bear dismissive looks anyway. The word pleasantries does not really fit and yet its meaning does: inconsequential banter, though I don’t find it pleasant in the least; do forgive my honesty. I find it banal and shallow.

Consider the word discriminate. I do not discriminate based on color, gender, sexual proclivity or religious viewpoint. But I do discriminate when it comes to the quality of my interactions. If I didn’t, I’d ramble on to a four year-old about my future plans for education or my mother’s bad knees. If I did not discriminate, I might find myself in a dangerous situation. Or I might choose eggs when I really wish I would have eaten the chicken instead, though this is purely metaphor, being vegetarian these days. All this before I open my mouth.

While I strive not to judge others knowing it is unfair, if I do not judge anything about them or about myself, if I fail to have opinions about human behavior or with regard to various life situations, I’d never be able to write. Anything. At all. It’s simply the way I’m wired.

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