Saturday, February 18, 2012

Put All Trash Here

I've an acquaintance online I've known for years and she is quite the business person and blogger. I don't know how she does it, but between Washington D.C. business, traveling all over the world for work and fun, and maintaining a home in D.C. and one in Florida, she is a success -- in everything but her relationship. That is a mixed bag.

I wonder what drew them together in the first place. They have their fun moments, and their fights and differences, but it seems most of it is good -- at least as far as is reported. Nothing is ever what it seems.

We look to the past and say that there were fewer divorces. That's true. There was the Catholic church to consider and ex-communication was not something too many people were willing to face if they divorced, providing the church allowed it, and there were lots of hoops to jump through (and money to be paid) to grease the wheels of ecclesiastical favor. There were also financial issues to be considered, as well as the destabilization of countries if marriages were annulled or the parties divorced. King Henry VIII comes to mind; he had to create his own religion as a result, despite being a devout Catholic, and Harry took it to the limit, marrying 6 times before he died, and producing 2 females that lived to rule. His only sons died young.

Marriages were more about benefits for financial reasons, lands, property, and power, and less about love and fidelity. That was relegated to the lower classes. They could afford to marry for love since they were unlikely to be able to marry for property and power. No wonder the divorce rate as so low. No one wants to give up land or money, and power even less.

Things today are simpler. Fall in love over Cosmopolitans, have the big fairy tale wedding that cost a few years' salary, and divorce before all the thank you cards have been written and sent. Disposable. The real reason was the fancy fairy tale wedding after all. An entire industry was created to service that particular excess of eccentricity and narcissism, which is strange to someone who put together a wedding in 2 weeks and paid for most of it from my savings.

I managed a nice ceremony with 5 attendants, 2 flower girls, a ring bearer, and 5 groomsmen (maids of honor need escorts), and a lovely and almost rowdy reception afterwards, followed by a honeymoon at the local fancy hotel in the honeymoon suite, which turned into a rush for clothes when Mom and a cop came knocking on the door. The cop was my cousin and Mom was carrying my overnight bag, which I had forgotten in the rush to get away from the people trying to overturn the car we were in because it wasn't the one they had decorated (and mined with exploding and embarrassing devices). That marriage ended, but not until after 3 boys, 7 years, and a load of grief from the typical mother-in-law and various and sundry infidelities from the male side of the relationship.

Not that I have a great track record, having been divorced twice, the 2nd time from an abusive spouse, but I do know what counts and what I want. One is not to go down the aisle again unless there are some pretty powerful benefits, none of which I've seen yet.

Every relationship is different. Some people marry young for love and stay together happily (mostly) for the rest of their long lives. They're the ones 75th anniversaries were created for. There are also those who get into marriage at the drop of a hat, usually worse for drink or other substances, and some actually stay together. There are still liaisons that come out of board rooms and social registers where the main focus is money, property, and/or power (usually all three), and there are the regular people who marry in haste and repent as soon as the divorce decree is signed a hot New York second after the ink is dry on the marriage license. Disposable and not recyclable, although sometimes the excuses and the people are as disposable as they are interchangeable.

Disposable is defined as a product designed for cheapness and short-term convenience rather than medium to long-term durability, with most products only intended for single use. The term is also sometimes used for products that may last several months (ex. disposable air filters) to distinguish from similar products that last indefinitely (ex. washable air filters).

Disposable is also defined as the amount of money that households have available for spending and saving after income taxes have been accounted for. Disposable personal income is often monitored as one of the many key economic indicators used to gauge the overall state of the economy.

I think the last definition is the most apt here, disposable meaning what is left over after all the bills and income taxes have been taken out of the net income. In other words, what is available for saving after obligations have been met.

I don't think that children should be part of the equation, unless martyrdom is the main point, because children do not thrive or end up whole and undamaged being brought up in an abusive relationship that is little more than a war zone, but the needs of the children should be weighed in and out of the relationship against what is gained or possible to gain.

All these fancy words come down to one thing. Is the relationship/marriage worth saving? How many people stop to ask that question when they sober up or come down of the high of a fairy tale wedding and honeymoon while the 5+ carat rock is still shining on their finger and the glow of nonstop sex and excitement still glimmering in their eyes?

Marriages come from all sorts of reasons, but the usual reason for divorce is boredom. Marriage wasn't quite what they thought it would be. It's drudgery, staying up all night with newborns and sick children, emptying the dishwasher and arguing over who takes out the trash, cooks dinner, or does the laundry, paying the bills, repairs on house and vehicles, and the cost of living together. It's not always cheaper with two people, especially not in the current economic climate when 2 incomes are often not enough. Spouses/partners with no children have to deal with potential crashes between personal and business issues and which house to live in, whose friends are more important, and a thousand other details that end up being a tug-of-war over whose life and needs take precedence, and then there's the sex issue. I don't know why it is, but partners always seem to come from opposite ends of the spectrum, one likes sex and the other doesn't, which is really code for I like sex but not so much with you. Soon, the relationship is on the rocks, which is where it began and remained beneath the haze of wedding festivities, alcohol, and vacation bliss before the real work began. 

Marriage and relationships are work because the people in them keep growing and change, or not growing or changing at all. The old saw about a woman seeing possibilities and what she can do with the raw material in front of her and the man believing the woman will stay exactly as she is, frozen in amber. The same goes for gay and transgender couples, too. One person wants stasis and the other sees potential.

Until marriages and relationships are seen as living things that grow and change and evolve, for better or worse, and until people realize that, for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, the commitment is real, people will come together willy-nilly and separate just as haphazardly without realizing that the most important part of their life is finding a way to fit with another human being and work together.

I don't have all the answers. Life is too complex to boil down into a simple blog post that offers enlightenment. All I can do is shine a light into the murk and hope that someone gets it. The "it" is that people are not disposable. We are complex entities with flaws and potential and we need other people, not to make us whole, but to make things interesting -- and lasting. Future generations depend on us and, if all you ever do is bring children into the world or help raise children and teach them that people matter, you've done a good thing.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Some Day When I'm Old and Grey

"They say it's your birthday. Well, it's my birthday, too."

I've always wanted to use those lyrics in something other than a song, and now I've found a way. It's a little self-aggrandizing to mention that it's my birthday today, but all my friends and family live far away and I work at home so there are few chances for me to stumble into a surprise party and be surprised. On the other hand, if I stumbled into somewhere and a bunch of strangers jumped out and yelled, "Happy Birthday!" I would be very surprised.

I know a lot of people here in Colorado Springs, but they are amateur radio operators and mostly men. I doubt they even remember I have a birthday, let alone think to throw a surprise party or even email to offer their wishes for a happy birthday. They seldom remember their own children's or wives' birthdays. I can't expect them to slot me into minds overfilled with electronics, waveforms, and oscilloscope readings. It's too much for them to handle and they might just blow a gasket or three. I wouldn't want them to hurt themselves.

That's the thing about birthdays. As Poppy Z. Brite, also known as Billy, reminded me a couple days ago, things are always better when you're a kid. I was talking about getting Valentines in school because he is down on Valentine's Day, but it is apt for today, too, the anniversary of my debut into the world 57 years ago. Then again, birthdays weren't always so great when I was a kid either, but that's a story for another time.

I have ordered tiramisu and Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia ice cream for my own little celebration, which will be consumed during my lunch break since I have to work today, and nothing else will change in my daily schedule. I'll shower and dress, pull up the recycling bin and break down boxes to recycle, check the mail, send some mail out, and put away the groceries, all before I start working. My only hope for a day off is for the Internet or the lights to go out so I have no means to work. I can still eat my tiramisu and ice cream by sunlight and spend some quality time with my Kindle finishing off Terry Pratchett's "Unseen Academicals" and get back into "Black" by Ted Dekker, which is beginning to get very interesting. I might even sit outside if it's not too cold and work a little more on another Xmas stocking for one of my grandchildren or try out the new stretcher frame and stand I got yesterday for the needlepoint. I can't roll that up and work on it like I can with cross-stitch. It requires taut framing so the stitches come out even and the stocking looks right when it's done. I think it's going to be the only needlepoint stocking I will do. I prefer cross-stitch right now.

In the end, birthdays aren't always about presents, although I did get a couple (from Beanie and Mary Ann), but about celebrating another year in the life, which is always better with friends. I have loads of those and they spent a few seconds this morning reminding me of that on Facebook where they typed out their birthday messages to me. One of my sons even remembered I have a birthday; that is a first. Birthdays are also about reminding us that time doesn't wait for us to get with the program or figure out what we're going to do. Time keeps moving no matter how many plans we made for some day. As far as I am concerned, some day is today and I have a lot I'm looking forward to getting done. There will be no boxes, bags, and storage cases with my some days in them. I'll have done them all today.

Happy birthday to everyone who shares February 17th as their natal anniversary. Make it a good one.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Personal Touch

I had forgotten how much fun (and frustration) cross-stitch can be. Since I decided to make Xmas stockings for my grandchildren for Xmas this year I've rediscovered both, and the joy I get sitting down and focusing on something that blooms with color and shape and beauty with simple stitches.

I find myself looking at cross-stitch kits and ooh-ing and aah-ing over the different styles and pictures, wanting to buy them all and lots of frames to hang them in. I see them in different rooms and groupings and want to do them all, but I have a job and while it pays for the necessities and a few luxuries (one at a time), it's not enough to buy them all so I can make them all, not and still have a job.

That excitement and rush to get back to stitching is what I miss about writing. I schedule time for stitching and for writing but for a long time the writing hasn't been enough to keep me excited and looking forward to the next day. At least it hasn't been until recently. I feel that same sense of excitement and I'm anxious to get to the next sentence, paragraph, page, chapter. It's a good feeling and one I miss and didn't realize was gone.

I started cross-stitching seriously about the same time I start writing professionally. In the meantime I have finished may cross-stitch projects that became gifts, some of which are still hanging on walls and decorating Xmas trees and mantles with toys and fruit and nuts sticking out of the tops of the stockings. I wrote hundreds of short stories and a book I couldn't finish because it didn't really have a middle, few of which were published. I gave up writing books and short stories for a while and concentrated on articles, which I continue to write. The cross-stitch was easier and the results less prey to chance.

When I began a cross-stitch project, I knew I'd finish it fairly quickly and that whoever received it would enjoy having it. Not so with writing. I got lots of (long) encouraging rejection letters, but few sales, and one sale died on the vine when the magazine stopped publishing. I'd have to go back through old archived files to find the story, but it might find a home today. There's not telling with writing.

When I started moving around the country, taking my job with me, I gave up cross-stitch and put my organized plastic boxes full of threads, needles, and blending filaments in storage next to the old stories and files full of rejection letters. When I picked the writing up again I didn't pick up the cross-stitch until now, although, five years ago, my mother gave me back the 18" x 36" framed and matted King Tut and Nefertiti I cross-stitched for her about 20 years ago. She wanted to make sure I got it back when she was gone. My dad died a week later, but King Tut and Nefertiti hang on the living room wall, still framed, still matted, and still as beautiful as the day I finished them. They will last long after I'm gone and I'm not sure where they will end up. I'm not ready to go yet, so I haven't decided that yet either.

My stories are different. They will last (I hope) long after I'm gone and they will belong to the people who bought them and kept them to read again and again. At least I chose two creative endeavors that have legs on them and will keep going and making people smile or laugh or simply marvel at the good and bad in both areas.

Life is about change from our first breath and although my dreams of writing and art, in this case the cross-stitch, remain, the way in which I approach and execute them are very different than when I began. My work in both now is nuanced and mature and will continue to gain more subtlety and maturity as I keep working on both, as long as I keep working.

My birthday is tomorrow and, if I have one wish, it is to be able to continue writing and stitching until my last breath. I want to die in harness, so to speak, and will gladly expire quietly knowing that my work has no expiration date. That is a gift I can enjoy every day of the year because it bears the personal touch.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Not a Hero or a Leader

The flags are flying at half staff and I wanted to know if the President or Vice-President had died. I suppose a hero from Afghanistan or Iraq wars could have died, some young woman or man who saved a battalion or captured an insurgent camp and was wounded could have died and warranted the flag at half staff. No, the flags are flying at half staff because of a drug addict.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed Whitney Houston's performances and her singing, but the woman who died this week was no longer than stunningly beautiful goddess of song and theater but a drug addict. She was a famous drug addict, someone who fought with her husband, Bobby Brown, in public (he was a philandering so-and-so), and was often caught on camera as a ranting mad woman, but she was a drug addict just like the homeless drug addicts doing their business in the street (heeding nature's call and scoring more drugs). She was not a hero and she died because of her addiction to drugs. That is nothing worth celebrating.

Celebrate her life, not her death or her slow decline into drugg addled madness and social and personal suicide. Remember her accomplishments, but there is no need to celebrate her death because she died a drug addict.

I don't think many people get that. She was a drug addict and drug addicts eventually get their wish and they die. All this boo-hooing and national mourning for an entertainer is on one hand admirable and on the other a travesty of what it means to be a hero.

Whitney was born talented and privileged and wasted both in her quest for more drugs, better drugs, and more better drugs. Everything she was and could have been were wasted because she couldn't handle success, or for whatever reason committed slow suicide.

Where were the half-staff flags for John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Guy Williams, and dozens of other actors who fought in the wars and came back to Hollywood to play heroes -- and a few bad guys -- and died as a result of cancer, old age, and myriad other diseases and complications? Where are the half-staff flags for the men and women who died of AIDS before it had a name and was thought to be a plague against homosexuals? Where are the half-staff flags for the thousands of quiet heroes who make a difference every single day to uncounted millions of people? Where are the half-staff flags for mothers and fathers everywhere who worked hard, gave their families the best lives they could, and died?

There are none because those people haven't been valued enough. I can see the half-staff flags to this day when Dr. Martin Luther King died. I remember seeing phots of the flags at half staff when John F. Kennedy died that November day in Dallas. Those men deserved the flags at half staff; Whitney Houston does not.

The world has turned upside down because an entertainer died a drug addict. Yes, she was a wonderful actress and singer and she was a beautiful woman. Too bad she didn't value herself enough to stay away from drugs. Whatever demons drove her to the oblivion of drugs, they should not be honored or celebrated. Remember her life and remember that she died a drug addict, a wasted life that should be honored quietly and with humility, but not with the flags at half staff. The death of a drug addict is the death of hope and life, its ugly tentacles dragging the person down to the depths of despair, lost to the promise of what they could've been.

Mourn Whitney Houston quietly and remember it didn't have to be this way. She could have used her talent and her beauty to go with dignity like Audrey Hepburn, who gave her life and her talents to the children of the world and succumbed to cancer. There was someone worth celebrating.