Some Dreams Die Hard

It’s very difficult to give up my dream of being another person’s true love. Yes, I know you can love more than one person in a lifetime. I know that it may be unrealistic to imagine one person can meet another’s needs. However, I still can’t help wanting to be special to someone who believes me to be special.  Perhaps not being special to anyone in my life growing up contributed to this dream. Who knows?

My husband is really ill. We got the unfortunate news that the tumor taken out during surgery may have spread and an organ must be removed because of it. That’s major surgery and a major change of lifestyle. I believe I’m ready to help him tackle it. I care about his life and his comfort, so abandoning him was never going to be an issue, even if I did contemplate it a few months ago when all of the marriage issues showed up again.  I’m bracing myself for the worst though. What would I do if something happened to him.. if the worst happened?

Life is going to change yet again. In times past I would have obsessed over a Plan B, but now I think I can meet whatever happens head on without over-thinking it. Needless worry just adds needless stress and I don’t think that would be good for me. I’ve just now cut down on the stress I was experiencing over the marriage by reintroducing antidepressants to my daily routine. They are working well and I can feel the stress reducing. Now being my husband’s carer will no doubt add some more. I need to be calm. Marriage issues should no longer be allowed to be my primary concern. It’s time for carer mode now.

Yet, like tonight, I can’t help feeling sad as I go up to my bedroom. Sad that someone isn’t looking forward to being with me at the end of the day. Sad that I may never meet someone who makes me feel needed and wanted above all others. I’m getting over it, but it still hits me at certain times. I spend my day in one room, he in the other. We occasionally chat over dinner, dishes, the household chores, bills, and his musical needs. But we live separate lives in the same house. The other night we visited friends and it was good to see them, but we came home to separate beds. Occasionally I will sleep in our bed together because I need to feel close to another human being. He never asks me to or expresses his need to sleep with me. And I do mean sleep. Nothing else has happened in our bed, other than sleep, for months. He never expresses an interest or asks me. And that makes me sad.


The Crash and Burn Syndrome


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I’m a weirdo, I admit it. I go along almost as happy as you please and then I let things build up internally. I take an insult here and a jibe there from a coworker. I become miffed at a misspoken word or I get irritated about something. These little things add up day after day and sometimes week after week and BLAMMO!! I explode and go on a tearing bender of a fit and lay waste with my scathing wit or anger everyone who just happens to get in my way! Well, ok, maybe it’s not that bad, but it feels like it sometimes. Then, I am fine for awhile until the cycle starts up all over again.  Anyone else do that?

So what’s the answer? Religion used to soothe me. Reading still distracts me but sometimes I can’t concentrate enough to read. I’ll watch a good movie, but they only last two hours at the most.  So I’ll take a whole weekend and just become a hermit. Except I can’t do that much anymore now that I live with my daughter. But I can sure try!  Yesterday I watched the Tim Burton movie Alice in Wonderland. The movie was visually appealing and a definite work of art, but the story wasn’t so great. No, it didn’t follow the original much. Same characters, different plot. I did become very sidetracked by the glorious score by Danny Elfman:

I could listen to it all day. It soothes me.

Then I read my book for awhile:  The Gate House by Nelson DeMille. I had to put Greg Iles away (The Devil’s Punchbowl) without finishing it. It bordered on torture porn and don’t we have enough of that with all the television shows that feature the female victim of the week. I mean really! How many times do we have to see rapes and murders of young women? Aren’t there enough of those in the news. We are a world full of voyeurs.  But in any case, I don’t need that to calm my nerves now do I? My counselor once asked me why I didn’t just pray to God and, granted she was a Christian counselor, I told her that God and I didn’t communicate much anymore. She said that that didn’t matter, the very act of praying would help. So I did and right before gnawing my paws off while trying to go to sleep on the worst of the nights, I asked God to help me out here a little. Anything would do, a little peace of mind or some new insight or hey, how about some nice calming peaceful feelings? I then went to sleep and woke up feeling much better.

Now I don’t know if God did anything or not, but it doesn’t hurt to think so. It also didn’t hurt to ask. And I didn’t even have to straighten up and fly right first! Some parents could use that lesson.. ahem.. In the coming weeks when one of the most important days of my life comes to pass (my wedding), I need to remember why my fiancée and I are doing this, how little time we have on this earth to love each other, and frankly how tiny some of those seeming insurmountable problems appear from an eternal viewpoint. Whether eternity turns out to be nothing at all or some celestial kingdom, it can’t hurt to imagine one’s life in such a time frame. People get so overwrought about things that are meaningless, me especially. My philosophy should always be,  “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die!” Sometimes there’s some great shit in the bible! 😀

Science Ate My Brain, But I Have a Theory About That

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Trolling the Twitter feed this morning I found this tweeted by

Q from audience. What can we do to encourage girls to pursue science careers? A: Change their perception of science

Uh, no, how about making science more interesting? I don’t buy into the argument that girls are “kept out” of science because they don’t see other girls interested in careers in science. I think, and everyone get their umbrage spatter glasses on, that some girls just find science boring as hell. I did and so did a lot of my friends, including guys. Oh not all science was boring. I found physical geography, earth science, and meteorology interesting, food science was fun and you got to eat the results, but anything that I had to learn statistics or geometry or physics for on a higher level than measuring cups? Forget it. My brain didn’t work that way. I’m an English major. I deal in story theory, literary tropes, and composition, not in facts. In fact, much like some of Alice’s friends in Wonderland, I can’t hold more than a few mathematical or scientific facts in my brain at one time. There’s just more interesting things out there. I found Algebra interesting in college but failed it in High School (ahem, this might have something to do with my other interests in high school… er.. boys). Algebra was interesting until we got into logarithms or matrices. Bleck. Math theory? BORING! English theory?? Hooray!!

No, I don’t believe girls are kept back from science. Girls keep themselves from science because some of us just aren’t interested. I also think we think differently because, and here’s a concept, we are different.  No one will ever convince me that the female brain is the same as the male brain because, and I am officially giving up my feminist “license” on this one, of one difference; hormones. Hormones are why there are effeminate men and masculine women. Testosterone and estrogen and the amounts that each of us are born with pretty much determine how we present ourselves in society and much of our likes and dislikes. I don’t know why this is so, but it is and I’ve lived long enough to observe some facts about that myself. Does that mean that women cannot do science? Lord, no! It means that some of us are so wired that science as a career sounds as boring as being an accountant (believe it or not I started to be an accounting major, but found it… surprise…very boring). I couldn’t imagine doing science or accounting for a living. So, no, I don’t think we can push the sexes to be other than they are, interested in their own areas of knowledge and expertise. Some things you just can’t even out or socially engineer because you wish it so.

Voice of the Day

Monastic spirituality says that we are to honor one another. We are to listen to one another. We are to reach across boundaries and differences in this fragmented world and see in our differences distinctions of great merit that can mend a competitive, uncaring, and foolish world.
Sr. Joan Chittister, The Rule of Benedict

The 11th of September

September 11, 2001

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I remember where I was on this day 9 years ago. I was working at a brand new job that year. I was down in the print room of my workplace and the business manager came downstairs and asked me if I’d heard the news that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. At this point, I wasn’t sure if I’d ever thought what the World Trade Center was, but I knew they were tall buildings. I thought immediately that perhaps a small plane had gone off course and was going to land but had accidentally hit the building. Then I went upstairs to turn on the television that someone had dragged out of storage and set up in the kitchen.

When I saw the images on television I knew it was going to be bad. And then I saw the images of the planes flying into the two towers and I knew it was deliberate. Images of people flinging themselves out of the highest floors, clouds of smoke and debris taking over lower Manhattan, people were running and screaming, some covered in ash and god knows what chemicals… I remember asking my boss, who had joined me in the kitchen to watch, “How many people had to have been in there at 8 a.m. on Tuesday morning?” He just shook his head. All day we kept the radio on, listening for news, and monitoring the internet. The news kept getting worse. There was a crash at the Pentagon. A plane went down in Pennsylvania. One learned to expect anything next. I watched President Bush on television being told on camera about it and I remember that he couldn’t have handled it better. He was calm and in charge.

Over the days and weeks following the event the anger began to set in. I was one who cheered when President Bush announced a retaliation against the cowards of Al Qaeda in their hideouts; Afghanistan and Iraq (and now Pakistan and Iran). I’d never been to New York but I suffered vicariously with its citizens that day, as did millions of other people. I tried to imagine what the spouses, mothers, children, and friends of those who had died were thinking and feeling, not only at that moment, but later when they had to relive the last moments of their loved ones’ lives over and over in their mind. Memory is a cruel master. I became angrier when Osama bin Laden gloated on video about crippling our nation by this act and angrier still each time a video came out of Al Qaeda beheading some poor victim of their fanaticism and filming their agony for all to see. I thought they were barbarians then and I think so now.

My anger really hasn’t diminished all that much since that day.  Before September 11, 2001, I gave no thought to Al Qaeda, the Muslim religion, imams, or anything about that part of the world. Now I can say that after that date, I know more about them than I wish to and I still harbor no good feelings about them. I know no Muslims. I’ve read the Koran and remain unimpressed. While there are some good sentiments in there, like the Christian bible, women are deemed as possessions and men are encouraged to “discipline” them as needed. Infidels (unbelievers in the Muslim God) are to be tolerated if they wish to convert, but eliminated if they do not. Peace is assured to those who accept this God as their God. Like those who take the Christian scriptures literally, the lives of those who don’t agree with their God’s diktats mean little. I understand this is a matter of interpretation and I have no problem with Muslims, who like their Christian brothers and sisters, do not take their scriptures literally, fanatically, or unquestioningly. Critical thinking about supposed “inspired” scriptures is a must for reasoned dialogue. My anger has indeed made me rethink how I view the world and the world’s religions. It’s brought home to me how much more civilized some nation’s people are than others, how much more freedom we have here in America than anywhere else, and how much more freedom of religion.

The big difference I think is the way we use our religion to further our own political agendas. Surely, religionists have to ask themselves, “what is my religion for?” Is it to cleanse the world of everyone but your own kind? That’s fanaticism. Is it to assure yourselves that those who rule religion will rule earth? That’s fanaticism.  You don’t have the right to make that decision for everyone else, especially if they disagree with you. Our response? We can ignore religion or not. Radicalism demands that we do not ignore it. Some choose to ignore it from a position of a-religion and ridicule, imagining wrongly, that this will suddenly hit home to such fanatics that they were wrong all along. The a-religionists imagine that eliminating religion will eliminate the hatred in people’s hearts. I don’t believe this for a minute. Religion is merely a tool of the human sins of pride, greed, and selfishness. Until we can all coexist peacefully, religion or not, we will have these kinds of acts.

Some choose to view religion from within a more progressive, open, and evolutionary stance which means that it’s open to new insight from the Divine in a spirit of cooperation and love. In this case, religion is transformative. Allowing your own heart to be changed is the key, not trying to force others to change theirs. Transformation begins at home, so to speak.  I’m still trying to process my feelings stemming from that day. I can honestly say that I’m not Christian enough or rational enough to put my anger aside and see it clearly. I was not injured in that attack. My loved ones were not killed. If they had been, it would have taken a herculean effort on my part to learn to forgive. But I’m still learning and hoping I can change my heart enough to do so. But, it’s just too fresh of a national wound. Until I can, I will continue to think America’s the greatest country in the world with the greatest people in the world. Unimaginable acts of compassion have resulted from this event and it gives me hope. Call being in this country what you will, accident, fortune, whatever. For that I’m thankful.

Liberal vs. Conservative Values and Why It Matters

Greta Christina hit the nail right on the head for me with this article about politics. When we are young, we usually have not thought out to any degree what we think about the world and what approach we will take to living in it. We seem to soak up everyone’s values who live around us and if we had parents who took us to church, we believed what they believed. If we came to religion late, we went to church and there we accepted what we were told because hundreds of people believing the same thing had to be right… right? Not so fast.  When we actually begin questioning our values and belief systems (and sadly not everyone does this), we start analyzing not just those things we believe to be true, but the very assumptions behind them. Perhaps I soaked up this method in philosophy 101 but I learned that you should always begin with the premise of an idea not just the idea when discussing any topic. You had to establish the basis from which everyone was working before discussion could begin.

I think that the problem with religious folk and those who never question their belief systems is that they never question the premises on which their beliefs rest. Fundamentalists believe a god premise, or a holy book premise, or creation by a deity premise. Conservatives believe in, as Christina points out, a premise of authority, loyalty, and purity. She writes:

The conservative value of authority has, at its very core, the idea that certain special people — i.e., authority figures — ought to be respected and obeyed more than others, and ought to have the right to tell other people what to do, and ought to have the power to enforce those dictums. The conservative value of loyalty has, at its very core, the idea that certain special people — i.e., people inside the in-group, the family or country or faith or what have you — ought to be valued more than others. And the conservative value of purity… well, purity is a weird one, since it applies more to how people treat their own bodies, and less to how people treat one another. (Making it a pretty baffling ethical principle, in my opinion.) But when it does apply to how people treat other people (the notion of “untouchables,” for instance), it has, at its very core, the idea that certain special people — i.e., people who are considered pure — ought to be treated as fully human… and that people who are considered impure need not be.Conservative values — authority, loyalty, and purity — can’t be universalized. They actively resist universalization.

Liberals on the other hand believe in the principles of fairness and not doing harm. In other words, whatever mangles these two ideas is not liberal. She goes on to explain herself in detail and I suggest you read all of it, but Christina’s premise of making an ethical principle universalized is similar to Kant’s Categorical Imperative which states, “Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.” Both Christina and Kant agree in that we should examine our principles in such a way that we would wish all of society be this way. Of course we know that both liberals and conservatives believe they are practicing that which best furthers society. But my eyes were opened to the fact that I pretty much agree with Christina that liberal values are better for society. Liberal values open society to the dignity of all persons whereas conservative values still compartmentalized people into elites vs. untouchables, those not worthy of help vs. those who deserve it due to money, status, power, etc. Their sexual politics is worlds apart, so the purity principle is paramount in conservative values.

It was indeed an eye-opening article and I’ve grateful for finding it. As someone who has spent her life questioning the why of things, I realized that I had never broken down my political beliefs and convictions into the basics enough to see that what enhances a few people in society enhances all of us. Rather than chastise some of us for not “creating wealth” as this man does we should look for ways from which everyone can benefit, including those who will never have enough capital to “create wealth” on their own and by implication will never be good enough to participate in society.  I will end with Christina’s words as they sum up my own:

I’m saying that any moral progress humanity has made over the centuries and millennia has been made, not in the direction of greater adherence to authority or purity or tribal/group loyalty, but in the direction of expanding our understanding and application of fairness and the avoidance of harm. I’m saying that, in every example I can think of where our morality is a clear improvement over the morality of the past — democracy, banning slavery, religious freedom, women’s suffrage, etc. etc. etc. — the core values being strengthened have been the values of fairness and the avoidance of harm: the liberal values, the ones that can be applied to everyone.

What Transforms Us

Quill and ScrollI have a germ of an idea snaking through my consciousness; about writing, about transformation. Yet I cannot articulate it well unless I begin the process and tease out this idea which has come into being.

The process of writing is rarely talked about outside of academic classrooms or MFA programs. In college, I did not take the Creative Writing courses that many of my fellow students did because I tend to think of Creative Writing as narrowly encompassing poetry, fiction, and even some imaginative biography. Instead I chose to concentrate on Literature because we did no less the amount of writing that the Creative Writing student did, perhaps we did even more. I wrote 3 or 4 papers per class, per semester and I enjoyed every paper I wrote. The process of preparing for writing was the most fun, the most rewarding, and the most transformative act in my college career than any other projects we were asked to do.  I cringed at public speaking and quaked at the acting required in Medieval Drama, but I did them and cannot say they did anything for me except make me nauseous. No, the part that I enjoyed the most was research, research, writing, and more research. It was like digging for gold or discovering electricity or meeting up with another tunnel that one dug through those mysterious tunnels of ideas in one’s brain. No, I loved the writing process itself.

The sheer joy of reading and research is hard to explain. I think my earlier forays into fundamentalism inside the nuclear family unit to which I was confined in the 80s and 90s fed that need to read and research, even when one’s spirit in that religion was confined to the leather-bound pages of a book said to be the inerrant word of God. One did not have much use for knowledge outside this book, we were told. All we needed to know was in there. Protect your mind from other things, tainted sinful knowledge that had no truck with the bible. But the mind, the curious mind, cannot be confined to such as this. College opened a whole new world for me and truly transformed me far more than religion did. Here was a whole library full of research to be done! I was in my element. Oh I learned my scriptures inside and out as a religious fundamentalist, but when that proved increasingly unsatisfactory, I had to look elsewhere. And I think that what religion did for me in those early years of young motherhood, literature, history, and philosophy did for me later. I needed something to spur me outside my comfort zone. I needed to be pushed to limits not allowed by religion.  But once I had done that and soaked up the knowledge I so greedily feasted upon, then what? Did that transform me? And if it did, in what way was I transformed? I can say now that religion transformed me, but not necessarily in a good way. I needed something more.

Like going to a grocery store with far too many options to choose from and overspending, going to university tossed ideas at me in a similar fashion and left me just as bewildered and spent. There’s this to contemplate, but what about this? How does this relate to that? Some live and die by this ideology but others live by that? Defend this, but ignore that. It was, in some ways overwhelming.  There were far more “isms” to worry about and many more we weren’t supposed to question or offend the proponents of. Writing helped clear all the clutter from my brain when it got to be too much. Keeping a journal for over 30 years has been as transformative a tool as any amount of meditation has (or medication for that matter). Writing on blogs has similar purgative qualities. But are we only purging? What is the intentional writer and how can it be meaningful in a society full of those talking more than those listening, those writing more than those reading?

Susan Yanos makes a very good point in “Wielding Thor’s Hammer, What it Means to Write as Ministry:”

Because truth lies within each of us, the creative process is the discipline writers embrace in order to encounter the mystery of the truth of their experiences and of their beings.

In other words, I write to know myself. I read to reveal the truth in myself in sympathy with the author’s words. I write because I want it to change my own personality somehow, not just to be a better writer but to be a better person. Yet, I am so often discouraged not only by the sheer numbers of good writers out there, but by the outrage attached to much of it, especially in blogs and online news editorials.  I am hesitant to jump out there with an opinion because I feel there are those lying in wait to pounce on every opinion and rip it to shreds. It’s an attack that feels very personal and the armor instantly comes up. I feel like that poor water buffalo at the watering hole. Every other elk has hightailed it out of there because of the tiger crouching in the weeds, licking its chops and I’m left pondering to myself, “What? Where’d everybody go?” just as I get eaten or taken down by the throat. I leave my opinions unwritten and safe in my own head. Yet, the need is still there. Is this why some of the best bloggers sometimes wish to remain anonymous or to find safer blog waters in which to swim? Is this why they disappear? I think so. But I must slog on. Yanos writes:

What I do think Whitman meant is that when poets undertake the search for meaning, for truth, in such an intentional way, they not only write poems that capture that truth, they actually live the truth, they then become the truth themselves. When Abraham bargained with God over the outcome of Sodom, he discovered, not that God could be bargained with, but that good is far more powerful than evil. Even ten good men could transform and save a city. And whenever Moses complained to God about his inability to perform the ministry God had laid before him, he learned that God could transform his perceptions of himself as a murderer, as an inept prophet, or as a leader separate from the sinful actions of his people….

The Spanish philosopher Miguel de Unamuno once said that we will be judged not so much by what we have done as by what we hoped to be. Now we may be tempted to reply to him that the way to hell is paved with good intentions. However, Unamuno is not talking about the difference between intention and action. If we truly hope for something, we will make every effort to achieve it. Our desire will be the center and motivator of our lives. Our desire will possess us until we become that desire. Whether we accomplish the goal is irrelevant because we have become the goal.

Assuming that there is a God to which we have to answer, this is comforting, to know that we turn into what we hope for to become the goal itself. If I hope to be a good writer, someone who will make a difference perhaps, then my striving to do so will accomplish the very purpose I so much want to see. Transformation will take place and so slowly I do not notice. I can only hope..