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Monthly Archives: March 2013

Hair

I had pulled the car out of the garage and set up a chair.  Months earlier I had purchased a Norelco family hair cutting kit, and electric razor and attachments, for next to nothing at a garage sale. I had no idea why, but I brought it home, and now, now, it was plugged in and ready to be used.

The chemotherapy had left your hair in clumps.  It fell into the shower drain, left bits on the pillow, left itself on the couch. Each bit that fell, you cried. I watched as you turned once, as I held you up in the shower to see your hair on the drain.  Out of the shower, you stood, facing the mirror, clutching at your hair, pulling it out in clumps, tears falling, falling into the sink with the strands from between your fingers.

Hats you didn’t like. The scarves you used have been all given away.

You said you wanted your head shaved. I offered. You said no. You didn’t want me doing it. You didn’t want that to be the memory of my hand.  You wanted Unena to do it. Only she would do.

We were sitting on the couches in the living room. We wanted to go out, the three of us. It would be one of the last nights we would go out, you and I. Maybe second to last. But first, your hair.

How did it come to this? Who once was the patient, now helping care for you. Who once you treated, now holding you up, walking with you, one of the few people you trust.

And she fell in love with you.  And you with she.  And I with her. What a strange circumstance. You, with barely a female friend all your life—you, straight as an arrow—seemingly, obviously, so in love. And it bothered me not one bit. That a blessing of love would come to you, with so little time left, made me smile. How much bigger our hearts were now that our hearts were breaking.

A folding chair in the garage. Craig’s chair. The one he left here for himself to use, unfolded, set by the open garage door. You, helped to the chair, sitting. A towel around your shoulders, on your lap. The razor plugged in. Hesitation. And she starts.

I can barely look at the razor as it glides over your scalp, and look down instead. Hair falling. Falling to your lap. Falling at your feet. Falling to the floor in soft puffs, blowing as the breeze would catch it, swirling around the garage and, then, out the door.

What did not swirl out of the garage, I swept out. Out, over the drive way. Out, into the grass. Let the birds have it, you said. Let them. What good to hold on?

Others might have saved your hair. But we discussed it. Decided no. Let it blow. Let it sail. Let it be carried by the wind, by birdwings and raindrops. Let it become the stuff of nests, work into the soil, seeds will grow, eggs will hatch and new life will come into the world nestled in your hair, and your hair will be all around us, around me, surrounding your home, in the ground and the trees, in the water, always there, always there, like you. Always there. Some of you, always there.

And the razor stopped. And all I could do was kiss your head. But I think Unena got there first. And that was OK. It was her hand that had done the deed, performed the mitzva, loosened further your already tenuous connection to this world.

I have a picture of the two of you. A month later. The last time you were out. The night you made her promise to take care of me. The night you made me promise to take care of her.  Your heads are pressed together. Your smile. You smiled like that when you held your granddaughter. You smiled like that when you saw me. You smiled like that when your children came to see you after long absence. In less than a month you would leave us, and I don’t think I ever saw you smile quite that big.

Lee and Unena August 2011

 
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Posted by on March 14, 2013 in Culture, Family, Social

 

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Love Means Never having to Apologise for Saying “Sorry, You don’t get to treat Me like that.”

Loving someone, even deeply and completely, does not automatically confer a sprinkling of pixie dust that creates compatibility.  It takes work. And even then, work will not make two people fit who do not. Like sanding, it may take off rough edges, but will not make something into a new shape. That would be to make a new person in a shape that fits. Such love is not for the person, but an image or ideal, an imagining. Work will not make a miss-sized or miss-shaped shoe fit. You may get it on, but it won’t get you anywhere.

There have been a spate of “Love me as I am” graphics on the Internet lately. The latest says “The person who really loves you sees what a mess you can be, how moody you can get, and how hard you are to handle. But still wants you in their life.” Bad punctuation aside, this is a load of trite, treacly tripe not worth the pixels it takes to render it. The “hard to handle” part of the poster is the part I find most, well… hard to handle. Sure, no one is perfect. As one friend said, we are “Perfectly imperfect works in progress.” But the poster isn’t saying that. Basically, the poster is saying this : “Hey, even if I’m a complete and utter basket-case that makes you crazy, so inconsistent that you cannot even build trust in me,  if you love me, you’ll put up with whatever the hell I do to you.”

There is a quote that has been going around that is attributed to Marilyn Monroe. “I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.”  Let’s look at this. That’s a bit like saying “You love me, so I’m going to feed you fishsticks. If you don’t like eating fishsticks, you sure as hell don’t deserve to eat fresh salmon.”   What we should be saying, both men and women, to our lovers, is this. “You love me and you deserve my best all the time. I love you and want you to have my best. But sometimes, like all people, I’m at my worse. And thank you for dealing as best as you can with that as well.”

Love doesn’t mean putting up with abuse. And love should mean doing our best to modify the inconsistencies, the moods, so there is stability.  Without stability, nothing can be built.

Look at is this way -these posters usually come with graphics that have beaches, and hearts, and flowers, denoting femininity in some way, so we know it is aimed at men and regarding women. What if we changed the graphics to denote something that is culturally understood as masculine.  For the sake of argument, perhaps a garage. Or a beer can. Telling women that, as a guy, I can be unstable, inconsistent, moody, snappish, and hard to handle but, if you love me, you’ll put up with my lack of desire to control myself, lack of interest in seeing how my behavior affects you, and whatever nonsense I dish out.  How far would that get?

And a guy who puts up with that, no matter how much he loves a woman? And, to be fair, any woman who puts up with that from a man? We’d say they have a lack in self-respect. Maybe they don’t love themselves or respect themselves enough. Or perhaps they feel they can’t do better or don’t deserve to be treated better.

These posters perpetuate an idea that any feminist, female or male, should rail against. The idea that a woman isn’t responsible for her behavior and, if a man loves her, he’ll just deal with it. That men are, by duty, stable and consistent – the emotional anchor in a relationship – and that women are creatures of emotion only and may be absolved of responsibility for upheavals in a relationship. Upheavals that men must simply weather. It’s time for these posters to go and for women to stop posting them. They owe it to their daughters. They owe it to their sons. They owe it to their lovers. They owe it to those who fought for women to stand on equal footing.  They owe it to themselves.

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2013 in Culture, psychology, Social

 

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My Book, Tellstones: Runic Divination in the Welsh Tradition, is an Amazon Bestseller

My First book, Tellstones: Runic Divination in the Welsh Tradition, is an Amazon bestseller. Of course, it took a fan writing me before I knew it. So thanks!

And thanks to all of you who have bought it. And thanks to all of you who have not bought it yet, but are about to.

Now, let’s work on making my other books hit the top as well. It takes all of us, and, if you are a writer, let’s support each other. Buy, review, and blog each others’ books!

 

My work, poetry, essay, creative nonfiction and more, can be found in various anthologies as well as my books, The Phoenix and the Dragon: Poems from the Alchemical Transformation (Smithcraft Press), Tellstones: Runic Divination in the Welsh Tradition, and Bud the Spud, which may be found at your local bookstore, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and elsewhere, for you reading needs, whether you like to hold books in your hands or read them on tablets or phones or Kindles or Nooks or, goodness gracious – so many options.  You can find my author profile on Amazon and please find me as well at GoodReads.)

 
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Posted by on March 8, 2013 in Books, Religion, Writing

 

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Sleep

I have attempted to chronicle each step in this journey of grief and healing. Each time I do, the openness of sharing it has been, I am told, of service to others. Each time, others have found it helpful. I have done my best to live openly, and lose openly, to the fullness of my ability and knowledge.

I wrote this about a week ago.

I posted it that night.

At least I thought I had posted it. I have never had trouble posting to my blog before, but this ended up, each time, in the Drafts folder. I asked my editor, who has access to my blog, for help.

He read it.  He said he was glad it seemed stuck as a draft. He was afraid that giving this voice might make it become so.

I erased it.

I have learned, through years of teaching and using narrative therapy, that the best way to move an emotional state out is to bring it out as fully as possible. Putting it into words, as fully, as accurately, with as much detail, emotion, and directness as possible, is one of the best ways to do that. It also means it is then outside, not being repeated in one’s head, all day, all night, on and on.

My editor showed it to my psychologist. Dr. Sarah Arnett. She explained to him that writing about it or talking about it, was far from dangerous: not talking about it was the danger. And, as scary as it is, people who feel this way must be allowed to talk about it. Not told it is wrong. Not given trite reasons to go on or have clichés foisted upon them, not told they have so much to live for, not told there are people who would miss them. They know this. But none of that helps. They need to give voice to the sorrow, or the anger, so it can come out.

My friend Joyce, she got it. She and I laughed one evening over the ways we’d end it. How we could do it without it looking like we had any real part in it. It was good to know someone understood.

So here it is. After checking with the kids, letting them know it was OK, here it is.

Maybe reading this, more people will know it is OK to listen, without fear, to a friend or loved one who feels this way. It is not a plan. It is a feeling. It is loss and longing and anger and sorrow looking for cessation, surcease, palliation. It is not life that wants the end, but the pain.

Maybe reading this, more people who feel this way will know it is OK to say it, to write it, instead of letting it grow inside, instead of letting it eat one up, take over. Instead of doing it.


The moon doesn’t change as I walk. It doesn’t move. Not perceptibly. The wind pushes steadily in the direction of the incoming waves so that I must push back to keep myself at the shoreline.  A little struggle, a bit of resistance, friction, is good, if it is tangible. If it is clear.

I know, over time, the moon will rise. I can watch it as much as I like, but I’ll never perceive the movement. Yet, over time, move it will, higher and higher, then set again, and be gone.

Over the last two years, if I look back, I can see where I’ve been, what has changed. The pace is, perhaps, glacial. But I think, at last, it, too, is setting. I don’t want to watch it anymore.

I have a good life. A wonderful life. I have been the luckiest of men. I have, in the real sense of what one needs, wanted for nothing. I want for nothing now. I am surrounded by goodness and love. A splendid family, children anyone would be proud off, friends anyone would be blessed with. I was married for nearly thirty years to the most wonderful of women. There is nothing wrong. But I don’t want it.

I don’t want to linger anymore. I don’t want to just wait for the day I can see her again, or discover there is nothing to see, but rest, and darkness and nothingness. I can wait around, and just be. But there seems little reason. No motivation.

I know my friends, my family will differ with this, but the last year and a half has proven life goes on, that things happen, and we continue. I’m just choosing that I don’t wish too. My kids are off and fine and my wife is gone. So, no need.

I promised her I’d go and be happy. It may be the only promise to her I didn’t keep. I’m trying to. Leaving feels more like keeping it than the intangible struggle of the day to day. The struggle to be, to  find reasons to wake up.

I don’t want to hear about the little pleasures. I know about them. Flowers. Hugs, sunrises.  But the last few nights, I have had dreams: sitting and talking with my Lee. All night, just talking, like the best friends we are. And that is all I can want.

I promised her, as well, I’d not join a monastery. That I’d not become a Buddhist monk. I’ll keep that promise. I promised I’d not allow myself to spend my life alone. But I am a shy creature, and do not venture out by myself, do not mingle, meet, join, talk to people I don’t know. I don’t party or partake or parlay or participate in things social. So I am left with a second promise it appears I cannot keep.

Being alone is not a problem. Lack of contact, feeling isolated—that is. I can feel it. And to not feel it, I have to deny it.

I don’t want to deaden anything with alcohol, or take pills. I don’t want to not feel. But it seems most feelings are disappearing on their own. And I am left with…what?  A sad nostalgia of belonging to a place and person not here. A feeling for which English has no word.

I’m going day by day. Making plans for the very near future only.  Living today for what I need to do today. Tomorrow will be for today. The next day will be for today. Only today. Give me a task, I’ll do it. Why not? For now.

Real plans I have none. No goals. Nothing to aspire to.  And I have no real plans to end anything, but each night, I wonder, how do I not wake when the sun rises? How can my sleep be one from which I do not wake? How can my dream go on and on?

Suicide is not illegal. Only doing something to oneself that is obviously designed to lead to termination in the very short term. One may not poison oneself with a vial but one may with chemicals, knowing that time is all it takes. One may not do without food or water, but one may choose things which will hasten one’s end. One may not leap but one may walk too close. And one may slip.

I am taking excellent care of myself. I may be in the best shape of my life. And getting better. My life is simple. I do nothing that may immediately lead to my leaving. I do nothing that anyone can look at, can point to, can identify as a cause, of it being my fault. So I exercise, eat well, rest. But neither do I do anything to prolong my stay.  I no longer put on my seat belt. I am careless. I pay little attention. Most of the time, I am just thinking, how much more sweet to sleep.

I have no plan. Just opportunity.

I grew tired of people saying things were God’s will, that it was time, that there is a plan. Fine, I say, then. If something happens, it happens. It was a plan. Whatever happens, if I was supposed to take some strange comfort in there having been a plan for my wife’s hideous, painful death, then those who believe such can feel the same way about whatever happens next as well.

I don’t want anyone to suffer. And I was told, over and over, not to case so much about others that I let myself suffer as a result.  OK. Now I’m listening.

I was told I wasn’t needed by others as much as I thought. That I could live my life for myself, for my own desires. I said don’t try to convince me of that. I said it would be a bad day if ever I believed that.   Now, I believe it.

I’m tired of it. I just want it to end. The day-to-day drudge of just waiting until I see her again. I used to feel that tomorrow would be fine, or next week, next year, or forty years. It didn’t matter. But now it does. I wasn’t meant to do this by myself and I want out.

I have cancelled my appointments. I don’t need them. No doctors. No psychologist. Let the appointments be for someone for whom they will be of some use. Someone who wants to stay.

I asked my daughter once, after she tried to take her own life, to promise she would not hurt herself. She said she could not make that kind of promise. I understood. I never asked again.  My psychologist asked me to promise I would not hurt myself.  I could not make that promise.

Sometime, soon, I can hope, emotion and opportunity will come together, for a moment.

Tomorrow I will go for a walk. Next week, I have a call to make, and a book I might put together. That is the extent of my life’s plans.

The moon tonight is full. I can look at it all night, and it will never seem to change. It will be like that, forever. Or so it seems. And that is enough.

2/27/2013

 
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Posted by on March 3, 2013 in Culture, Family, philosophy, psychology, Social, Suicide, Writing

 

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The Feather and the Weight

Someone asked me if I remembered the good times. Why I could remember the details of the bad times, but not recall the specifics of all the good ones. I answered.

Because the good times are so much more ephemeral. Evanescent. Even among the grandness of life, the good, the joyous, is found in the seemingly insignificant, made up of moments, small kindnesses, sincere unbidden smiles, the touch of the hand, a glance. Whispers. They possess an ineffability that affects us deeply but leaves its mark on our inner world. Like religious experience, they are hard to grasp, but exist no less. Over time, they add up to goodness. Each not so different than another, but with a feeling of being filled with goodness though one may cast about for specific examples.

And the bad times. They come like startling punches to the gut amid the good moments. So surprising, the shock embeds the details in memory.

Some days we get up, look outside at the gorgeousness of the day. And we feel filled with joy and delight. But what particular sunny day do you recall? How many? But the storms amid them? The horrific storms we remember, blow by blow.

The good becomes ubiquitous. The bad embeds in space and time.

The good does not diminish but persists even though we cannot point to it.

And the bad can fade, unless it is refreshed. Unless the storms come again, and again. Punched too often, one becomes sore and shy.

It doesn’t minimize the goodness at all. But our memory treats them differently. Joy and trauma do not process the same way. Pleasure and pain are not remembered alike.

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2013 in philosophy, psychology

 

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If I Could Show You Your Heart

If I could show you
Your own heart
You would fall
In love with you.

You would see what I see:
The Universe flaming into being
And newborn light
Leaping from star to star.

You would see
The birth of suns
Comets spinning into space
And planets coming to life,
Life upon life.

You would see
Celestial bodies in love
Drowning in each other
And their children
Populating the skies.

If I could show you
Your own heart
You could see mine
Deep inside, smiling.

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2013 in Poetry

 

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