Only The Shadow Knows: Boston Marathon Op Ed

 

image: Steven Kenny

 

From Wikipedia: the Jungian shadow often refers to all that lies outside the light of consciousness, and may be positive or negative. “Everyone carries a shadow,” Jung wrote, “and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. It may be (in part) one’s link to more primitive animal instincts, which are superseded during early childhood by the conscious mind.”

It is when these ‘primitive animal instincts’ flood into consciousness, void of direction or understanding or the capacity for reflection before action, that we are in deep trouble.

Examples abound. Leaders who make excuses for war and senseless attacks of atrocity, abuse and torture for the sake of profit (and under the guise of justice or righteousness) exemplify this negation of Shadow. Their denial of motives becomes larger than life, which is as close to a holy war as America gets. It comes under the pretense of spreading democracy, but really it is for personal gain of a few misguided souls in positions of power. Many people have simply had enough of it, but feel despondent and powerless. Our democracy-as-participatory government seems a sham. Acts of desperation are often the result.

Is there anything that can be done to avert future acts of violence on a mass scale, such as happened most recently at the Boston Marathon? This kind of madness almost demands an inner confrontation in the individual. Any outer posturing is potentially dangerous. Rather than coming to grips with fears of insufficiency or powerlessness that lurk within, the unconscious among us may simply act out in whatever way seems compelling at the time. If we want to help heal the collective, we must learn to sit with discomfort until it becomes clear how, when and where to act appropriately, after grieving the loss of what cannot be grasped, either conceptually or materially. Facing what we find repugnant, we allow love to restore wholeness within ourselves. We may then begin to understand the capacity for these shadowy elements in others. Out of this comprehension emerges a more compassionate worldview, and healing begins from the inside-out.

Obviously whoever commits acts of desperation or hatred has a warehouse full of undealt-with emotional baggage. All our fellow human beings deserve our understanding and compassion – which is far more difficult to grant when they go out and destroy the lives of other people. Yet it is then, believe it or not, that these acts become our problem. Because they exemplify an aspect of our collective denial, it brings up whatever it does in and for each of us.

We are all in this together. We cheer on with great admiration our best, our brightest – and find it distasteful to observe our deepest, darkest demons out on the playing field. What we are witnessing is, in essence, our collective human drama being played out on the great, grand stage of life. A valid concern might be what role we, ourselves wish to play.

The Age of Aquarius?

Age of Aquarius-790-xxx

In 1969, I was a high school freshman. Middle school had bussed me from a known quantity – a neighborhood in which I thrived with friends I’d known since kindergarten – into flights of stairs and home rooms and tennis courts and football fields and oh, so many students! That original grammar school group was split into three and cast to the winds of destiny. And though high school brought me closer to the mountain foothills where I spent my childhood, once again school chums were cleaved into three groups; three different high schools.

Each time I changed academic institutions, the pond got bigger and bigger. A grammar school class of less than one hundred multiplied by ten in middle school; my middle school class exploded into a high school graduating class of twelve hundred. These were frightening changes to a sensitive kid, but I put on a brave face and kept moving forward. What else could I do? Being bookish, I embraced new arenas of learning. Being an observer of people, I was highly entertained.

Those high school days brought self expression to the fore: the drama cliques, the jocks and cheerleaders, the intellectual/nerds, the joiners/social climbers, the band and drill team groupies, the hippies, the Black Panther wannabes and more. Tumultuous times indeed, they were not without colorful expression and the passion befitting adolescents about to launch themselves into a frightening world replete with social and political unrest.

One of my fondest memories of that time emerges from the center of the school’s interior. Being in a year-round climate meant the quad’s lawn was always abuzz with activity. The hippie kids brought along guitars and beaded headbands; armpit hair, sandals, poetry and song. The Fifth Dimension’s Aquarius hit the top of the charts and my very corpuscles thrilled at its message: When the moon is in the seventh house; And Jupiter aligns with Mars; Then peace will guide the planets; And love will steer the stars …

It seemed all things were possible – that no act of civil disobedience would be executed without merit – we were headed into a new world where our generation would finally have the chance to impact the kinds of positive change we doubtlessly came to earth to embody.

Fast-forward forty years, and the giant clock hands ker-chunk into prayer hands position. Moving into the long-awaited New Age, we discover, to our great consternation, that instead of peaceful euphoria, we are faced with unparalleled atrocities (if only due to our burgeoning numbers, here on Planet Earth). Global warming and random acts of senseless violence pierce the airwaves like Morse code gone berserk. How could this possibly be the same Age foretold in those not-so-long-ago lyrics: Harmony and understanding, sympathy and trust abounding; No more falsehoods or derisions, golden living dreams of visions; Mystic crystal revelations, and the mind’s true liberations … Aquarius! A-quar-i-us?

In fact, Aquarius governs electricity, democracy, technology, computers, the Internet, flight, freedom, idealists, religion and innovative systems such as astrology. Aquarius itself is ruled by the planet Uranus; considered by most astrologers to be the planet of surprise and change. As with any condition on planet Earth, one observes a fair dose of polarity. For all the positive changes that have certainly been implemented in my lifetime, certain incomprehensible acts might seem to negate them. But it is not so simple, for the birthing of a child, of a solar system, of new ideas and concepts and awareness all require tremendous contraction and expansion before settling into the rhythm of existence.

Of course I’d like to believe that events in the recent past, no matter how horrific, will yet result in further awakening humanity; that the chaos perpetrated by a confused minority will result in a collective expansion of noble hearts; of kindness and compassion. I’m hoping that the threat of a planet rife with bizarre weather patterns and melting polar ice, not to mention the extinction of far too many species of flora and fauna, will embolden us to insist special interest groups step aside and let creative innovators help rebalance our planet to the extent that it is still possible. I expect that science coupled with humanitarianism holds the key – that golden key that finally ushers in the long-awaited gifts of the Aquarian Age.

The Wisdom of the Ages

It’s satisfying to discover menopause as an unexpected gift. No longer vexed or driven by floods of hormones, I’m far more able to settle into my body in a new way; to focus more acutely on what’s essential to my growth as a human being. There’s a time to every purpose under heaven. And I believe … I believe.

When I was twenty, thirty, forty, I didn’t dread aging, rather I simply didn’t give it much thought. My fifties were the pivotal years; a transition between what propels the young forward and what captures the imagination of the old; a segue between the fires of biology and the waters of intuition; between craving and contentment.

I love the peace I have discovered in simply allowing life to be what it is; allowing others to be the imperfect fools we all, at times, prove to be. Competition and comparison really have no useful place in the depths of profound human interaction. And though these attributes may appear to be effective in the shallows, I am left feeling hollow and bereft and inadequate in their wake.

I rise daily to the possibilities intrinsic in allowing others to assume their inevitable place amongst the striving and the cunning. Soon enough, they too may begin to question the folly of their ways. If receptive to the wisdom inherent in aging, they will know to their bones the futility in contributing to their own or another’s suffering. And though it’s tempting to shoot for the moon, thankfully these later years confer enough patience to realistically observe the grinding cycles of human evolution. Surely there is benefit to be derived at each stage of our growth in the greater, grander scheme of Creation.

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Columbus Day Musings

We live down the street from a rooster farm – no, make that two rooster farms. We didn’t know about one of them, which only came into being a week after we settled into this place. It wasn’t a conscious decision to be or not to be in company with such an annoyance, rather in order to secure a nice home with a modicum of privacy, this is what was available; this is what we got.

When the tradewinds are down as they are and have been for the past few days, the noise can be unbearable, never mind the agenda that presents itself when one considers the raising of these lovely birds, each tethered by its foot to a triangle of plywood just big enough for its body. To us animal lovers, it is a disturbing and pitiful sight. And let’s face facts – there is no earthly reason to raise these creatures except to fight them. They don’t lay eggs and their meat is too tough to be palatable. And though cockfighting is illegal in the great old US of A, it is largely overlooked in Hawaii due to the diverse cultural milieu.

Before you get all riled up as I was the first time I realized people actually engaged in this awful practice while living on the island of Moloka’i twenty years ago, I’d offer this caution: if righteous anger could alter an engrained cultural practice overnight, we would live in a very different human universe. Sadly, it does not and cannot. Changes of this caliber happen slowly, if they happen at all, through peaceful understanding and more patience than the gods ever granted folks like me, though I am learning. Changes such as this happen by impressing youngsters with knowledge and alternatives. In turn, they then may or may not affect the deeply rooted values of their parents.

If I’ve learned nothing else through confronting injustices such as this, it is to cultivate greater tolerance. Countless others have attempted through personal and litigious channels to eradicate rooster fighting from the islands without success. And I realize that, just like personal transformation, change happens from inside the culture. It’s highly unlikely that another white person (who, like it or not, remains a symbol for the coopting of indigenous people through imminent domain) is going to ingratiate himself into the native community while insisting that people sweep away even more vestiges of their familiar. It’s a conundrum and a balancing act in this evolving world where many of us envision a more level playing field for all sentient beings.

 

 

MULBERRY STREET (or was that really a lobster crossing the road?!)

 
“Young man,” said Miss Block
“It’s eleven o’clock! This school begins
promptly at eight-forty-five;
Why, this is a terrible time to arrive!
Why didn’t you come just as fast as you could?
What is your excuse,
and it better be good!”
 
“This morning, Miss Block,
when I left home for school
I started off early, according to rule –
I said when I started at quarter-past-eight
I must not, I will not, I shall not be late!
I’ll be the first pupil to be in my seat, then
BANG!  Something happened on Mulberry Street.”
 
~ Dr. Seuss
 

Hoping I have done it justice, this poem memorized to recite to my third grade classmates leapt to mind this morning while riding my bike up Union Mill Road to my regular route along Akoni Pule Highway. Honestly, you might think I’m fooling or maybe a little daft – but it is said that truth is stranger than fiction. And though incredible, this story is no fabrication.

I lived thirty-two years in Maine, the lobster capital of the world. Yet somehow the sight of a lobster crossing the road never transpired in my experience. All that changed today, when, pedaling up the steep hill toward the highway, I spotted what appeared to be a small lobster marching across the asphalt. I slowed to a stop, checked for oncoming cars. We were alone in this warped world, the lobster and I. I shook my head, but there was nothing wrong with my vision. It was indeed what appeared to be a baby lobster, marching west to east with small unoccupied plantation houses on either side. The fact that it might be a crayfish did occur to me, but being unsure, I didn’t dare touch or attempt to grasp it. Casting a line to my frazzled mind, an image of the drysack I carry along with me in case of rain emerged. I grabbed the conveyance, unbuckled it, and set it in front of the creature who, without hesitation, sauntered deep within its recesses.

I’ll take it back to the ocean, I thought, after my ride. I’ve ten miles to go. I wonder if it will be okay like that, in the bag, in the sun? A half mile down the highway, I turned back toward home. This is ridiculous, I thought. If I’m going to chance upon a lobster crossing the road on the north shore of Hawaii Island when I never saw such a sight in all my years of living in Maine, I’d best get the poor beast to water and pronto. But what to do? Lobster or crayfish? Fresh water or salt? I didn’t want to kill the critter I was attempting to return to its natural environment. As luck would have it, a fishing tackle shop lay sandwiched between one of the town’s veterinarians and a quick-stop store/gas station on the corner of Union Mill Rd. and the highway. I popped in to confront old Mr. Naito with my discovery, though I cautioned him first that he would remember this for the balance of his life. Indeed he looked a bit suspicious – to many locals, God bless them, white folks can seem a bit touched in the head at times, with their mainland notions and quick movements and speech. Likely I was placed amongst the “crazy ha’oles” he has encountered in a long life of many transitions, not the least of which was that our community boasted an enormous sugar plantation not fifty years ago – cane waving in the bright sunshine as far as the eye could see before the blue of the ocean sharply delimited the expanse of green. So many changes have occurred since that time that the grace of living here is that somehow the locals have managed to maintain a loving spirit of Aloha toward most everybody – the craziest among us included.

Shaking his head in disbelief, Mr. Naito and I eventually conjoined in the conclusion that what I held in my possession was indeed a crayfish. When asked where best to return it to its habitat, he gestured up the hill to the Kohala ditch – a massive irrigation system built during plantation times. A bridge marked the particular spot he referred to as a fast-moving current, and I carefully shook the crustacean out of its borrowed lair onto leaf mold. Examining it more carefully now, I noticed its shell was covered in a light coating of dried mud. Venturing now to grasp its body, it neither squirmed nor asserted itself in a harmful fashion. Rather it reached its claws and tail out to their furthermost boundaries as if enjoying a good stretch, perhaps sensing the presence of water nearby. With that gesture, I wished it well and tossed it gently into the swirling waters below.

Find the Cost of Freedom

 

It’s often been said, at least in this country, that freedom isn’t free. Yet true freedom, as I have come to understand it, can only arise at the tremendous cost of dropping all my preconceived notions of how the world works; of my storylines about who others are and honestly confronting the veracity of my noble efforts not to judge or condemn. This kind of self-review is like a running dialogue, moment to moment. And as with all actions in life, sometimes I succeed and at other times I regress – abysmally. Yet realizing that moment of forgetting, of losing sight of what is essential to my own well being, is not failing. I know now that what has changed in that instance is not my fundamental nature, which I am convinced is and has always been loving – but my willingness to drop my defenses (even those directed toward myself) in order to free my mind from perpetually cycling back to its dark cave of retreat.

Licking my wounds only reinforces the damage, and mentally or verbally lacerating (myself again; others) is often and not surprisingly the result. Confronting what I fear most within and which others reflect back to me (perhaps in order that I might awaken more fully to the truth of my being) grants me the opportunity to settle more authentically into my center and cease the deceptions which keep me locked up in fear and uncertainty.

In Secrets of the Yamas, author John McAfee speaks to a basic human tendency toward violence. Of course there is the violence that surrounds us – wars, pestilence, human rights abuse – yet according to him (if I understand correctly), this arises from our individual ignorance of a core of violence  which stems from a persistent sort of human denial. We want to believe we are better than we are, perhaps especially those of us who strive so diligently to create a peaceful mind, a peaceful home, a peaceful world. Even so, we find ourselves pointing fingers; putting others on trial (even in our minds), while all the time harboring feelings that are not in harmony with a true inner contentment. Such behaviors, whether we are aware of them or not, are not in alignment with the compassionate nature we most wish to exemplify.

McAfee: The first step in understanding our violent nature might be the observation that violence is stimulated whenever our security is threatened. We have built complex walls of relationships, ideals, financial arrangements and religious beliefs, behind which we hide from change and uncertainty … Most of us would like a formula to end violence, a set of instructions … But such a solution is a trick of the mind. No one can lead you to yourself, and there is no formula for self-discovery. These things are distractions, momentary occupations that keep the mind from perceiving what is plainly visible … If we are fully aware of violence as it is happening, and observe, without judgment or distraction, then in that full observation the root of violence is revealed, and in that understanding violence evaporates. Then the duality of violence and its opposite cease to be an issue.

Then, one supposes, we might experience – perhaps for the first time – peace of mind. I know it works for me most of the time. But then again, I’m still and only human. It’s a work in process.

 

Had To Cry Today


It’s already written that today will be one to remember …                                                  
~ Steve Winwood

I had to cry today. In fact, I used to cry all the time. Honestly, it got to the point that I wondered if I would ever cease weeping. Looking back, I view my life as a jumble of confusion – I did not know myself well at all, and less did I accept that I might hold any place of significance whatsoever in the world. This was of some importance to me when young and remains so unto this day: a feeling that merely marking time – simply taking up space on the planet – is a waste of life.

I am determined to offer something of value to the living, and it matters not if it is received by a single person or many. Whether dog or bird; man, woman or child – it’s the quality of the gift that counts. An intention and willingness to leave the campsite cleaner than I found it etches itself upon a guidepost instilled in me as a small child from my scoutmaster father. It takes nothing away to offer a smile or a moment of heartfelt sharing with another. In fact what is offered thus freely returns to me in manifold proportion, each and every day I draw breath. It simply consumes a bit of time to discover that inner fount, though it’s always longing to be expressed. I’m convinced it’s part of our essential nature.

As a child living in an urban environment likely too stimulating for her sensitivities, I proved too ebullient, too enthusiastic; in a word, too eager. These attributes were off-putting to boys I found interesting, and adults simply didn’t know what to make of an energetic, intelligent child who gazed deeply into their souls; who spoke freely and called them by their first names. Then again a few did take the time to satiate my abundant curiosity – answered my questions and sparked a dialogue, nose to nose. Remember too that this was a time when women were only beginning to come into their own – the nineteen fifties and sixties. No wonder I cried almost daily, wondering what was wrong that God made me so peculiarly.

Meanwhile decades passed before discovering a strong foothold in this life. And despite years of various therapies which I am sure were useful in their own way, the most powerful force of healing has been an immersion in nature. This included countless sunrises and stargazes but also encompassed giving birth to children – that primal, visceral experience which sealed my kinship to all mammals, from the tiny mouse to the great whale. I cannot say how many hours or days, months or years of observation it required to willingly assume my place in the scheme of things. I didn’t realize how out of touch I was with what is now essential to my wellness and functionality as a sentient human being until, bit by bit – like a seed bursting through its fragile skin to unfurl before heaven – I rose up steadily on two solid legs as if for the first time somewhere in my forties.

Now much as small children do, I marvel daily at the minutiae of existence as exemplified by all living creatures – the drive and determination of beetles and ants, squirrels and voles, marten and fox, herons and loons. Each seemingly independent and insignificant event has worked its way into my psyche bit by bit, granting me peace and gratitude for existence, itself. Perhaps the deepest wisdom lies in viewing adult experience  through the guileless eyes of the innocent.

Indeed, while lying prone upon an acupuncturist’s table under geometric patterns of sensitively placed needles, I had to cry today. And it might momentarily have been a cry of mourning for another brother recently lost to self destruction. But when I wound into the feeling, spun it into the centrifuge at the core of my being right down to my toes, I discovered a wellspring of happiness – a joy in living that precipitated tears of gratitude that I am finally able to appreciate the tenuous threads that weave me into the fabric of life. My colors blend well into that tapestry, and I am content.

 

baby cardinals in their nest, tucked into our sandpaper vine

An Exercise in Humility

Glancing at a current issue of Vanity Fair, not one but several celebrity questionnaires assault my eyes. And it’s not so much the responses they have given (though I discover, if words reflect accurately, that Matt Damon seems a decent sort of human being) – but it’s more the questions themselves that prompt my own inner Interviewer to grasp the stub of a pencil lurking in her French rolled coif and, licking its tip, gaze penetratingly and directly at me, gauging my response as she queries, What do you consider your worst trait? Under that ironclad stare, I know in a millisecond that wiggling out from under an honest answer is futile. Instead without hesitation and yet humble in the assurance that I do not enjoy admitting it, I let spill judging others.

Being aware of this quality or fault, depending on how one perceives it (discernment seems more palatable somehow than judgment) has ultra-sensitized me to the importance of accepting others on their own ground. Knowing this and practicing it as best I am able, I still admit that the first thoughts proverbially popping into mind when confronted with new faces are the instant laser-like assessments: What a space shot! Doesn’t she know how transparent she is? He ought to get over himself! These are three separate examples of what might leap to mind. Of course I don’t articulate these thoughts and to my credit I do sit with them – striving to understand why, knowledge and faith be damned, this remains such automatic behavior. I don’t like to harbor such conclusions, yet at this stage in life I am comforted in finally accepting my warts and all. If I can’t be kind to myself, it is most unlikely I will ever fully cultivate this trait toward another.

One of the greatest gifts in garnering wisdom is not in knowing how perfect I am, but that I am able to acknowledge and accept my imperfections, escorting them into the light of awareness. When I dare to delve into these less savory aspects, I come up with mirror images for the examples offered, above: In tribute to the spacey among us, I am able to admit to an outright sense of envy that I can’t be looser and less hyper-responsible. As pertains to transparent people, I am far too vulnerable and fearful that I will be targeted because of my own lack of guile. And as for labeling egomaniacs? Deep down inside I possess some pretty reliable resources. In fact I have been told by friends that, before they knew me, I appeared somewhat aloof due to a perceived aura of competence and confidence. So much for perceptions, as my judgments clearly arise from fear of my own inadequacies.

The real kicker to this whole diatribe is that I have often been hailed as one of the least judgmental of persons by others. And, since paradox seems to be a human trait, I would agree – demonstrating what I have suspected for some time: just as no one can truly know the angst I suffer at the hands of my own inner demons,  I can never fully know another. After all, I’m still working on knowing myself! And no matter how honest I try to be, I only share aspects of that self that are appropriate in any given moment and situation. Factor in the other seven billion inhabitants of the planet, and it’s easy to surmise that labeling people prevents me from allowing others to reveal the treasure trove of their complexity.

 

 

image: viva la vibs

The Heart of Compassion

Typically I eschew today’s news. As far as I’m concerned, good journalism died a long time ago, and the opinionated drivel that clogs the arteries of society is not worth my time and attention. We do however subscribe to a daily paper, just in case there is something major of which we need to be aware. Other than that, it’s Bizarro and Annie’s Mailbox which pretty much take me through my morning papaya. I always find it intriguing to discover what others deem critical enough to share on a national forum, and today it concerned a gal so repelled by her obese father that she just had to ask for help in managing her irritation. Annie’s response was that “Dad already feels worthless, so instead of anger and disgust, try compassion.” That got me going.

The term compassion gets tossed around a lot these days, with less regard than the word sympathy. To my mind, any of us can feel empathy or sympathy for another going through a tough time. Compassion, however, is a horse of a different color. Compassion itself has come to the fore largely due to the life work of such noble beings as the spiritual leader Tenzin Gyatso, more commonly known as Tibet’s 14th Dalai Lama. Even the Tibetans don’t toss the concept around lightly – they encourage a lifetime practice of sitting with ourselves in mindful meditation so that we might touch, among other things, the heart of genuine compassion.

You can understand how something this demanding differs from a sentiment like sympathy. Even Webster’s definition is dilute in its effort to express the depth of this character trait as the sympathetic consciousness of another’s distress together with a desire to alleviate it. Yet it becomes clear even then that this is simply not something we learn overnight. Sympathy or empathy are feelings that naturally arise when we observe another’s pain and can identify with it. Compassion derives from a committed inner practice and awareness of the pervasive nature of suffering itself. It is not a quality that can be elicited or forced before its time, much like the aging of a fine wine.

In typical Western fashion, many strive to attain overnight what Tibetan monks and nuns have achieved over a lifetime of dedicated service, having entered the monastic life as very small children. There’s nothing wrong with a desire to better ourselves, only let’s be realistic about what it takes to plumb the depths of our true being: a moment to moment awareness of our thoughts and intentions. Forgiveness of ourselves and others develops over time, where we discover what lies beyond inner walls of self hatred and blame.

Forgiveness itself may well be key, as most have someone or something hanging in that balance, and absolving ourselves can prove the most humbling of all. As we strive to bear no malice toward others – and this is not something we can simply say and it becomes so – we discover in the process that, in being sentient, we suffer. Awareness of this noble truth arises in an open heart. We begin to understand the lonely twisting pain of those who have wronged us – those who are not yet able to forgive others who have crushed their spirit and have little hope of exculpating themselves. And so in their ignorance, they pass it on. It is with an equal yet opposing force of determination that we may choose to commit ourselves to a path of peace, diligently cultivating the tenderness required for a compassionate existence. As Sogyal Rinpoche offers, “Compassion is not true compassion unless it is active.”

 

Tenzin Gyatso, The 14th Dalai Lama

Fast Forward

Short and stodgy with badly bowed legs, the old Filipino woman on the sidewalk smiles up and into the liquid black eyes of a tawny-faced man and his pale companion. A half turn and a step back is all it takes as, smiling broadly, he cranks open the heavy door. The young woman seems eager to engender feelings of goodwill as well, nicely jump-starting the day. “Thank you, young man!” the elder offers with brazen humility. “Thank you very much!”

The placated couple then strolls down bleached concrete stairs arm in arm as if gliding on air, enraptured of the moment. Random acts of kindness clearly lift the givers as much if not more than those on the receiving end.

Magnanimity is contagious, and I reflexively break into a grin. Pulling my bicycle aside from the walkway, I enter the bank. A gust of cold air conditioning meets sweaty flesh, and, breathing deeply, I sidestep into the small queue. The old woman now totters before me, grey shoulder-length hair streaked with oil, combed but lacking style. Natty navy sleeveless dress resurrected from another era hangs on her decrepit form. Engorged veins bulge from compression stockings, rolled unevenly just below the knees. Laughter, pleasantries exchange between her and the teller. A smattering of Pidgin flows like heated honey from the old woman’s lips, and I notice vexation spread across the younger woman’s features, though clearly she is familiar with the dialect.

As I glimpse the matron in profile, it becomes apparent that she is lacking several teeth. Deep grooves etch her wizened countenance. Her body is bent and stooped, suggesting a lifetime of hard toil and heavy heart, perhaps at the mercy of heavy hands.

My mind casts back to the days of a spent youth when many clambered to open doors on my behalf. With a dishy body and inflated sense of self worth, I would stroll disgustedly by and through, mammoth inferiority complex well hidden under preened exterior. I dismissed most of these eager helpers as blithering fools.

Now pushing well into my fifties, no one stumbles over anything to offer me such pleasantries, and I appreciate the gesture when it comes – gently now, as befitting the tenor of time. The awkwardness of acceptance has faded into history.

Regaining the present, my brain fast forwards to a time only too imminent – a future where I too shall fail to exude anything physically compelling to the opposite gender.  And likely it will not matter. The best I can hope for is to hold onto a sort of dignity when some sweet youth, oblivious to the fleeting road unraveling before them, once again stumbles over themselves to break trail for a crone. And deeply touched at the sentiment, I will stutter on into some oblique errand in the withering days of my dotage.