Saturday, March 24, 2007
Half asleep and bleary-eyed, I looked out the bathroom window this morning. Raindrops hovered on winter-silvered branches like strings of jewels glinting in the watery sunlight. Wiping the sleep from my eyes, I looked again when I passed the window on the way back to my warm bed. There were a few raindrops hanging from branch tips, but the rest were buds, green, yellow and pink buds. Somewhere between winter's cold and this morning there had been just enough warmth and sun in the lengthening days to stir the sap and push out onto the thin dead branches.
There was supposed to be snow today higher up in the mountains and freezing temperatures and white-out conditions but here in the sheltered valley in the mountains shadow it rained and brought the first blush of spring. The bare skeletal arms of the forsythia next door are bursting with green-yellow flowers and buds. They almost seem to bloom and blossom before my eyes, a sure sign of spring. No wonder I've felt so restless the past few days.
Considering all that has happened in the past weeks, I chalked up the restlessness to a bit of cabin fever and a need to fit myself back into the comfortable niches and hollows of my life. It has escaped me. I can't seem to settle down long enough to find the familiar grooves, always fretting and chafing at responsibilities and expectations and schedules, wanting to be away from the narrow confines of my office and out somewhere. There have been a few warm days teasing me through the open windows. Night creeps closer and the wind bites with icy teeth. I close the windows and force myself back into the chair, fingers to the keyboard, ear buds demanding my undivided attention, and so back to work.
The cold rain dripping from the eaves and shushing from the tires of passing traffic whispers promises of new life and spring and the changes it brings, a blank slate begging to be used. Not even Ostara's ritual stirred me as much as the buds spangling branches that were winter killed and bare just yesterday.
There will be time for schedules and responsibilities and duties; they are constant companions, but now is the time to breathe the warming air, enjoy the green and yellow and blue and red and lilac and soft pastels and inhale the glorious scent of returning life. When winter is reluctant to loose its icy hold, gentle spring returns and coaxes life back into the bleak landscape with its soft warm breath.
The wheel turns and season gives way to season. Spring has sprung.
Friday, March 23, 2007
A friend wrote me this morning about sin and forgiveness. She believes when you hurt someone in any way you should make amends to that person and ask their forgiveness but her family--and the person we've been discussing--believes that all it takes is asking god for forgiveness because he's the only one who can forgive. Basically, if I steal from you or beat you up or lie about you, all it takes to make things right is to ask god to forgive my sins. I don't need to go to the person and make it right. More and more I realize just how pagan I am. This is one more example.
When the boys were little and they did something wrong they learned very early that all it took to make things right was saying they were sorry. They had already raided the cookie jar and eaten all the cookies without sharing or gotten what they wanted and enjoyed it so to my mind saying they were sorry was like peeing in the ocean--not much in the scheme of things.
One time, Eddie bit David Scott on the back, leaving bloody teeth marks, pain and a lot of tears behind. There was no reason for Eddie to bite his brother; it was a phase he was going through. Someone upset him or looked at him wrong and he bit them. I used various forms of punishment and none of them worked, but when Eddie bit his brother so viciously (I'm not sure David Scott doesn't still have the scars) I decided to do something drastic. Eddie had said he was sorry but that didn't change what he did. An object lesson was needed. I bit Eddie. I didn't break the skin but my teeth marks were on Eddie's back just like where David Scott still bled. Eddie was shocked at first and then the pain hit and he cried. I didn't say I was sorry because I wasn't. I had to nip (no pun intended) the problem in the bud. It worked. Eddie never bit anyone again.
I have heard the whole song and dance that only god can forgive for a very long time and it still surprises me. It isn't that I don't believe in miracles or divine intervention, I do. But I also remember a lot of the Bible I was taught. "God helps those who help themselves." I believe that is the moral of the parable of the ten talents, or at least one of the object lessons.
I do my best not to offend or hurt others. There have been times when someone believed I had hurt them and expected an apology. In the spirit of friendship I apologized. One apology, it turned out, was not enough. I was asked to apologize again and again and yet again. I began to see why people believe that only god can forgive and therefore is the only person you should ask forgiveness from. It's a one-time deal and you don't have to keep apologize over and over and over for the same thing any time someone gets in a snit. The thing is, those kinds of apologies aren't worth anything and don't solve the problem because the problem is in the other person's mind. It isn't about an apology or making amends at that point' it's about humbling you.
More and more, I find that I don't apologize very often. Instead, I acknowledge my error and make amends in some way. I know how much peeing in the ocean affects that vast watery expanse.
As for me, if someone offends me I would be happier if they would simply acknowledge the offense and let us both move on. There are sometimes ruts and potholes in the road. When you hit a big one that damages your vehicle you get it fixed, but you don't stop driving and you certainly don't get rid of the vehicle. You tend to avoid the big potholes and ruts in the road the next time around, and that is only common sense. Friendship is like that road with ruts and potholes. A good friendship is like that vehicle when you hit a big pothole. Fix the damage and keep the friendship but avoid the pothole.
Too many times friendships have ended because of potholes that caused some damage. The thing about damage is that if it isn't fatal it can still be fixed. I can think of a couple of friends who decided it is easier to end the friendship than to repair the damage. They are wrong. A good friend, like true love, is too rare to so casually toss away. Forget about asking god to forgive. Fix the damage and put the vehicle--and the friendship--back on the road. You'll be glad you did, especially if the road still leads to where you want to be.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
One of the good things about life is that as long as you can take another breath you have the opportunity to change your mind.
Too often people get bogged down in mistakes and missed opportunities. They don't realize they can still make changes. Nothing is carved in stone until it's on your tombstone.
Many times before I have said that if something isn't working and fixing it is not an option, toss it and start over again.
When I first started writing for a local newspaper back in Ohio I was assigned to interview an attorney for the ACLU who was defending the Ku Klux Klan in front of the Supreme Court. The fact that the attorney was a Jew defending a group that wanted him dead and his entire race exterminated didn't fascinate me nearly as much as finding out he was a new lawyer. He had had a career in business and had retired. He'd always wanted to be a lawyer so at the young age of 57 he went back to school, got his law degree and signed on with the ACLU. The KKK case wasn't his first, but he didn't have that many cases under his belt when he took them on. I asked him why he decided to begin another career and he told me it was because he wasn't dead yet. He even had plans of starting another career if he got tired of law.
A guy I went to school with who lived in my neighborhood is another case in point--or rather his father is. His father was in his fifties when he met, courted and married a woman in her thirties. He had been married before. His wife had died and his children were grown and gone but he fell in love again. He married her and assured her they wouldn't have any children and that he might not live very long. He was wrong. They had a son--the guy I mentioned. When I met the guy again at a high school reunion we picked up our friendship again. He introduced me to his parents. His father was in his nineties and bed ridden. He had emphysema and was on oxygen. As I talked with his mother and father in their living room where his father lay on a foldout couch, they told me their story. His father told me that he had thought his life was over when his wife died and his children moved away. It wasn't. In between gasping breaths he told me the world was a funny place and the best part is that every day is another chance to go in a new direction. He almost didn't marry my friend's mother because he didn't believe he had much longer to live.
He turned to his wife sitting by his side holding his hand. "I'm glad she didn't give up on me," he said.
His wife smiled shyly. "I wasn't going away," she said. "No matter how long it took for him to come to his senses. We belong together."
"I thought I was doing the right thing staying away from her. I thought she'd find someone her own age and be happy." He squeezed her soft hand with one big arthritis-gnarled hand.
"How could I be happy without you?" They smiled at each other as if we weren't in the room.
I have met and interviewed many people. The people who linger in my memory are the ones who didn't give up and weren't afraid to take a new direction. They give me a sense of hope that nothing is impossible as long as there is a moment more of life.
We all make mistakes. If a mistake isn't fatal and there is still a moment more, a single breath left of life it isn't too late to reach out for what you want. It's never too late to go back and pick up where you left off or even strike out in a new direction. For all you know, someone is willing to forget the mistakes and waits for you to come to your senses and take another chance at happiness.
Monday, March 19, 2007
Outside the open windows the city is silent except for the occasional rush of wind that suddenly dies, leaving everything becalmed. Lights, amber, white, sapphire, green and blue, wink in the distance and everything is black. Not even the mournful wail of a train in the distance relieves the night.
I can't sleep.
My mind won't quiet.
Sam 'n Ella still churn in my belly and my head hurts.
The glow from the laptop cannot push back the black night.
I feel lost.
I go to the bathroom but cannot go. I fill a glass of water but do not drink. I go to the kitchen and don't want anything to eat. Out of habit I open the front door and see if there is anything in the hallway, if Nel brought up the mail. No mail. But there is a Nalgene bottle full of flowers wrapped in gay red paper and a card with my name propped against the door. I did hear someone tapping. I thought it was a fever dream.
One month and one day from my birthday, Nel remembers me with a card and flowers and a very welcome gift. I can't face people right now. I'll thank her tomorrow when the sun is up and it seems there are more possibilities.
I have to pull out of this even though I want nothing more than to pull the covers up and chase sleep until it catches me. I have responsibilities. I need... I want...
Sunday, March 18, 2007
Someone wrote and asked me yesterday if I preferred to have people in my life the way I remembered them before their lives, circumstances and choices made them what they are today. She wrote: "Do you really want to know [them] as they are now or back when . . . they were well adjusted to life as it should be?"
The one certainty in life is change. It's a constant process. It's the water that wears away the stone of the mountain until it no longer stands. Nothing stays the same, least of all people. But it is the belief that things were better before and if no one had lived and changed they would be more worth knowing. That is so wrong.
Even a person in stasis changes; they just change slower. I'm talking about the science fiction idea of the use of cryogenics in long space voyages, but it's still true. Beards and hair and nails grow and cells live and change and die--slowly but still they change. We change. Caught in our dreams, locked into a long sleep we live a twilight existence processing information from everything around us into dreams. (I think there is a story there)
When did it become the ideal to want things as they were? We live and change, not always for the better, and we hope those we meet and get to know will accept us even though we are no longer bright and young and barely touched by life.
This goes back to what I said before about relationships being a two-way street and the first date mentality of putting your best foot forward. Acquaintances are not relationships and sooner or later the mask slips and the real person emerges. People are the sum of their existence and to know only a small portion of that equation is not to know the truth, not to know the person. You cannot every know everything about a person because there are too many seconds and minutes and hours between birth and now to know all of it. Locked up in our minds are all that time but we don't really remember every bit of it, only those bits that we take out and handle and look at over and over. And memory can be jogged.
I don't expect people to be perfect. I'm certainly not. I hope people will be real and not hide their mistakes and choices like a naughty child who accidentally broke a window or a lamp and doesn't want to be punished. The child knows how it feels to be spanked or yelled at and doesn't want to hurt or feel ostracized because of a mistake, so the child lies. "I don't know what happened." All too often we treat the people around us the same way any time they make a mistake or reveal a flaw, punishing them instead of understanding them. We are all too used to the feeling of punishment and we avoid it, even to the point of backing away from someone who loves us because we're afraid they won't understand--or worse yet, that they will--and won't want to be around us any more. Fear of being accepted makes us push others away, clinging to the idea that the others will be better off without us because we cannot live up to their idea of us. We fear seeing the light go out in their eyes when they look at us or that they will turn away, so we take away the opportunity and leave them with questions we can't--or won't--answer.
As I've said many times, I'm not perfect. I've made bad choices and questionable choices and even some good choices (for me). I have lived--and changed. Each new obstacle and pain and setback and situation is like water wearing down the mountain. I look at the scars on my body and wish they weren't there, that I still had the smooth unblemished skin of youth, but each of those scars is a story of where I've been and how I've lived, tales of birth and death and pain and so much more. Right now I am the sum total of my experiences and I hide none of them. I have been petty and I have been magnanimous. I have hurt and I have loved. I have known and embraced life. Take one experience, one moment from the sum total of my life and I am no longer me. I become someone else.
Someone once said that by making mistakes we learn how to make things right. I've said that we learn more by our mistakes than by doing everything right. It's hard to learn tolerance if you've never experience intolerance. It's hard to understand what someone goes through when they choose abortion or giving up a child. It's hard to understand anything if you haven't lived it.
I'm not afraid to face my mistakes or to stand waiting judgment for them. I want people to know who and what I am. I don't hide my mistakes or my triumphs or even the endless march of days and months when nothing happened. I already know someone as they were before life happened. I want to know who and what they are now that the water has worn away the edges and given them a new shape and a different perspective. I may not understand everything someone has been through but I'm willing to listen and learn, but more importantly to understand. There is nothing so horrible, no mistake so awful that I would turn away from a friend--or even a stranger. Flaws are much more interesting than bland perfection. Don't you think?
Children are fascinating. It's when they crawl or take a step or speak a full sentence or change in any way that they become interesting. It isn't their innocence but the constant visible change that awes and engages us--even when they break a window or a vase.