No Excuses


I’m at a pivotal time in my life. Some would call this a crisis moment, a fork in the road so to speak. I see it simply as a time of frightening and exhilarating clarity of who I’ve been, and why. I see my entire life built upon the constantly changing foundation of what I thought was expected of me. I believed that what I taught myself to be because of that belief, was what gave me value. I lived my life as if my purpose as a human being was dependent upon my giving what was expected.

Now here I am, at 55 years old, holding the knowledge that I screwed myself, and everyone in my life, out of the real deal. I get it, it’s okay. I see and accept what I’ve done to myself, but goddammit if it doesn’t just piss me off at the moment. I’ve been a hot mess posing as someone who has it all together, let me be the first to say it here.

So let me tell you what I’ve learned, and you may do with it what you will.

I have learned that honest communication between us is imperative if we are to have any relationship worth having. I’ve learned that love is a living thing that can be grown to an unbelievable beauty or shoved into a closet for its inconvenience to slowly suffocate until it is no more. Love is a living thing that can thrive and strengthen the environment where it exists or suffer from the poisoning of neglect, thus destroying all that surrounds it with its misery as it dies.

I’ve learned that our lives are an example of what love is to us, and I’ll be damned if that doesn’t scare the hell out of me. The example I’ve set is that love requires constant sacrifice, and the lessening of self. I’ve lived as if it required that I didn’t matter, that I never say “no”, that I turned myself into a mat that it wiped its feet upon. I made myself matter so little to myself (and therefore others) that everyone was a priority before what I wanted was considered. Unfortunately by the time I asked myself what was important to me, I had no idea. None. At. All.

Here is all I know for sure right now.

I know that I want people around me that are brave enough to say when I’ve hurt them, and how. People that are willing to say I’m sorry when they’ve hurt me, and mean it. I want those strong enough to work through the hard shit because our friendship is worth it. I want those who are willing to work hard the same way I am willing to work hard, to build a relationship of value and not just one that skims the surface. I’m tired of the bullshit, the cheap seats and the easy way to nowhere. I’m not just tired of it, I don’t want it in my life at all.

I don’t have time to spend on those who have no courage to really love me.

To be honest, I don’t have time to spend on those I can’t truly love. Because they deserve better and so do I. It’s a ridiculous waste of time to live a half-hearted life in a mediocre way that fits into some la-la-la bullshit of normal. I don’t want normal, I want real. I’m willing to do the real and jump through the hoops that result in looking into the eyes of someone who will go the distance for me. Truly. Someone who deserves me to go the distance for them, and I will because they’ve done the work and matched my resolve and offered their heart. Straight up and without apology. Devil take it, come what may.

That’s the kind of relationship I’ll go to war to preserve.

I don’t want beige. I have no interest in tepid or vague or nerveless little gatherings of comradery. Give me the people who will put themselves on the line for me, start a riot, burn a building. Give me those people and I will give them every bit of that in return. Is that too much to ask?

And if it is, do you mind if I say step aside and let the real ones through?

If you do mind, step aside anyway. These words and this life aren’t for you.

Don’t be too hard on yourself. It took me half a century to figure it out.

No more excuses.

 

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This Is Life


This is not a fairy tale.

I’m going to tell you a true story.

My husband and I have been divorced for a little over a year now, and this is what I’ve learned…

We wanted the same things and didn’t know how to give them to ourselves and each other. We couldn’t figure out the right language or behavior to keep the love we had for each other strong and growing and fresh. We married too quickly after just a month and five days of dating.

Nobody knows if they’re suited for each other in that length of time. You can’t have the sight that quickly for any soul. We were two decent people who ended up not bringing out the best in each other, so we hurt each other instead. I used to joke and say that I wanted Romeo and Juliet and he wanted June and Ward Cleaver. The reality could and should have been somewhere in between, but we didn’t have the tools at the time to make that happen, or should I say we didn’t know there were tools and how to use them.

Then life happened, as it does to all of us. We raised a much loved little boy into a wonderful man and then he went out into the world…and we were lost in the silence of all we hadn’t built between us.

Then the “200 year flood” came and we lost our home of 20 years. We relocated and shortly after that the pension that was supposed to kick in for him/us was with-held and that financial blow crippled us even further.

Having dedicated his entire adult life to serving the community that he felt had now turned on him, he became a very angry man.  He fought for it and eventually got what he was owed including all back pay, but the damage to his perception, attitude and to us as a couple was locked in.

Five years of anger and bitterness and resentment takes its toll on even the strongest people. Our brains are wired for our survival, not our happiness, and we both shut down in all the ways that matter. My spirit was as broken as his pride; I hid in my writing and he hid in his hobbies. We did not know how to be there for each other.

We did not know how to fix us. We were too busy pointing out what the other was to blame for that we avoided addressing our own issues that would have made the difference.

So here we are. He has dated a few women, and I haven’t dated at all. He has lost his father, and I have found my parents all over again. Our son is Switzerland, as he should be. I’ve been to therapy to discover the tools I can use to be, do and give more in my own life and he is learning his lessons as well.

We are each growing painfully in our own way, as we should.

This is life.

My experiences since our divorce have taught me that the Treasury Department has it right when they teach that the only way to spot a fake is to put endless effort into the study of what is genuine. That way, when the counterfeit  is offered to you, you immediately know it is not the genuine article. He has learned this as well, I believe.

I see it all around me and I know. My ex-husband is a good man. I want him to be happy. We actually talk now. I’ve had him over for dinner, and am helping him with his new puppy which is giving him great joy. He knows he can call me if he needs help, and I know I can do the same.

You don’t quit loving, it just changes form.

It makes me happy that we can begin a friendship that should’ve started 30 years ago. It does us both good, I think.

We were hard on each other’s hearts and pride. We both did a lot of damage to the other. There were times, in our anger, that we were not there for each other when we should have been. We are truly flawed human beings.  We needed the lessons we’ve learned.

He is not the evil king or dragon in my stories. Those are metaphors for the damaged hurting parts of those who only hurt us in their misery. He is a good man. And I am certainly no benevolent queen or sorceress that benefits all mankind. Those are only metaphors for the very best of us that we can call forth if we choose to do so.

So, just this once, please forgive the lack of drama and imagination as I write this offering to you.

We each contribute something to the burning or the building of our bridges.

We get to decide where to put our efforts, and our rewards or consequences will present themselves to us accordingly.

This is Life.

The Art of Being Ugly


I woke up ugly this morning.

Not on the outside although it wasn’t one of my better days, but my heart, my thoughts and my perception of things were on the hard side. I woke up gritting my teeth and knew it would be a struggle to contain the harshness from those who didn’t deserve it.

Which was everyone.

I usually don’t feel this way, and I don’t like it. I used to deny its existence or hide it from myself, missing every important lesson the meanness was trying to teach me.

I’m a slow learner but when I finally get it, it sticks.

Listening to the ugly parts of me is the only way to see where I’m being foolish in ways that injure my heart. Shaking hands with the side of me that wants to strike out helps me see where I’ve set myself up for failure. The “righteous” part of me that wants to cause equivalent pain in another is a 911 call for pulling my head out of my ass and taking a good look at where I’m standing…

And how fast I’m sinking.

I’m about chest high in bad attitude right now, cigarette in one hand and wine glass in the other, listening to the ugly. I don’t apologize for the contents of either hand or the content of my mind.

I’m sorting it out.

The more I listen the more it recedes, slowing my breath and easing the tightness in my jaw. My heart softens again and my mind settles. I see the adjustments I need to make to defuse my dilemma.

Fortunately, most will never meet the ugly I talk to from time to time, even though that side of me is an important part of who I am. If I don’t listen to the black-hearted, judgmental, vigilante part of me…

How will I ever grow?

Front Porch Therapy


Welcome to my front porch. Sacred ground. A place to share your pain, anger and silliness. It’s by invitation only because my first responsibility is to myself. If I’m not right, my porch is not the place for anyone to be.

My porch is Switzerland, baby. Neutral territory. No recognized extradition laws here.

Only the truth is spoken here, either in person or via phone or text. But I, at least, must be sitting right here for these laws to be in effect.

Your age, race, gender or faith of choice is rendered clear here. We talk, share, shout out, laugh hysterically and solve our issues. At the very least we part ways with new ideas to filter through our views of life.

It’s an awesome place to hang out when needed.

The Front Porch is a precious place to me. I’ve laughed here, cried plenty and healed to a wholeness I’ve never known before now. I’ve heart/soul talked with brothers, sisters, parents and friends who are my family.

I became real here. It will be hard for me to ever leave should I someday decide to.

My heart took its first free breath here with broken ribs, and a fierce joy.

Fierce.

Only those who have proven themselves soul-worthy have been welcomed here in person, or otherwise. It is non-negotiable to me.

One of my best friends says she’s not right if a week goes by without porch therapy. I get it. If your soul can’t speak out in a safe and accepting environment, it gets a little lonely.

We need each other. Don’t act like we don’t.

So my point is this, friends…find your “front porch”. Build it. Protect it fiercely. It will save you, and those in your inner circle who live in your heart.

Be the safe place. Open eyes, open heart, open mind…open arms…

Because hugs are a critical part of front porch therapy, even if they’re virtual.

You know who you are, you are welcome here, and I love you.

 

Unexpected Places: A Eulogy


rumi set your life on fire

I thought her beautiful

at any age…

Time seemed to have

no power over

how she

presented herself

to the world…

She made me laugh

every damn time

I saw her, and lifted

me when I was

sure nothing could…

I don’t understand

how she could

be gone

when she never

grew old…

Never got stuck

in any one way of thinking,

always open

to the next great

possibility…

She was honest

when it wasn’t “cool”

and transparent

when no one

wanted to

see…

There was something

about her that

drew you

close,

held you tight

and made you welcome…

She knew the latest

songs and slang

and laughed

uproariously at how

it blew my mind…

She loved

at times when

I thought she

shouldn’t, and the pieces

of life that she

leapt out to have

for herself

that made me

question her sanity

were the times

she treasured most

in her heart.

I can only hope

that she will live on

not just in our hearts,

but in our ways

of thinking and seeing

the world,

the choices we make

for our lives,

and the courage

we call out

of ourselves

to love and live

in unexpected

places.

 

 

Pistols At Dawn


 

Let’s talk a bit about resolving conflict. There is the tried and true way of yelling and screaming at each other which achieves nothing but a sore throat and resentments. We can also do the ignoring of the elephant in the room and begin the second cold war. If that doesn’t work we can blame and shame the other into some kind of submission, that’s always a fun one. If all else fails, we can (sigh) try to work it out with discussion and understanding.

I know, this is a radical concept, but stay with me for a minute or two.

If both parties are not heard and respected, then there is no real resolution to any problem brought to the table. For a misunderstanding to be cleared up, everyone has to be willing to listen and consider. Not just one person, but all persons involved. If there is an assumed insult to deal with, somebody needs to listen to the offense taken and the other must listen to the intention of the words spoken.

Unless you just want to be angry, then you should quit reading right now. 

Any kind of successful resolution to conflict comes from both sides being able to share their intent and emotion, from both being willing to listen to the other and consider that maybe, just maybe no harm was intended. That is not to say no harm was done, because who are we to say when we have caused another pain? We don’t determine that, they do. Our part is to listen, understand as best we can and explain from our hearts that our words were from a harmless loving place. That we truly meant no harm or hurt at all.

If someone hurts us, it is our right to speak up and stop them where they stand. We have a right to say what the injury is and expect an explanation and apology. If the offender is important to us we will give them equal time and respect to listen so that we can understand what caused them to hurt us so carelessly. If they don’t matter to us, well we say what we need to and move on, leaving them behind. That alone will tell you where you stand.

Let me tell you what doesn’t work, in case you’ve been in a cave or under a rock the last 50 years or so. A Johnny Carson monologue on someone’s transgressions with no feedback is worthless. A gag order where the other party has no time or right to say anything to explain their side is worthless. Deafness to any belief or truth other than the one already pre-decided is a real resolution killer.

I hope I’m not being too vague in pointing out that resolving conflict takes input from both sides to be of any value to the continuing relationship. If the relationship matters at all.

Each of us see and understand life differently based on our personal experiences and traumas. We all need to respect that about each other and tread carefully. That being said, it is impossible for us to go through life without treading on each others hearts, memories and experiences. Impossible. So our only option for loving and lasting relationships of any kind is to refine the art of resolving conflict.

I have been in a relationship where there was never any resolution to conflict. It is a soul killer. I am no longer there, and will not be in another one of any kind where there is not the heart or courage to give and receive and resolve. Period. I will not go there.

If I’m not looking at someone with the guts to take the same truth as they are willing to give, then I won’t be looking at them for long. I have just learned that about myself. If I’m willing to shut up and listen and absorb and ponder the possibilities, then by god the one I’m looking at better have the balls to do the same. Or they can move on to someone else who hasn’t lived the reality of what it’s like to be forced into silence.

I will never be that person again.

Another important point before I close is to fight fairly to resolve the issues at hand. It’s wrong to use any weakness shared with you as a weapon against the one you care about.It shows a dent in your character to use what has been shared in confidence to harm the person who trusted you to begin with. Resolve the damn issue like people who actually care for each other.

I have wondered recently why a person wouldn’t just say “ouch, you just stepped somewhere I don’t want to go” and let you step away and respect their space. Why does everything need to be a huge offense to humanity instead of a “hey, okay sorry, I won’t go there”? If something stabs you in the heart, by all means say so! We can’t know unless you do. But let there be a reasonable, mature solving of the problem.

Forgive my diatribe. If I have offended you, your feedback is more than welcome. We will resolve.

If all else fails, we will go with pistols at dawn.

War Paint


 

 

It may seem to you that I am weak in my beliefs because I don’t scream them out at the top of my lungs in defiance of the world. You don’t see your roars and ravings blowing past me like a hot breeze through my hair as I stand quietly in the truths I know.

You think me shallow in my support of those I love because I don’t rant and belittle others in a public display in some kind of show of solidarity. Your eyes don’t see how I quietly remove their fractured foundations from beneath them to let them crumble into their own foolishness.

You see my kindness and compassion as a flaw of selfishness given out to the world to make myself look good, or feel better about who I am. You see my generosity of heart as a character flaw of pandering to my own ego; my desire to hold and love and heal the hurts where I can as nothing but a big show. You see my joy in giving as an attempt to purchase love where none is offered, my reaching out as a request for validation.

After all this time. You don’t know me, darling. You just wish you did.

Your words fall harmlessly away from my heart, causing me none of the damage you hoped to inflict. Your opinion of me is regretful, but not something to cause me a moment’s wavering from who I know I am. You are a damaged, deceitful mess. You are a legend in your own mind, playing out a story you’ve written where you are the star, and the rest of us merely supporting characters.

You do not see me. You never have. Any description you give of me would be met with blank stares and astonishment from those who love me and know me well. You are not one of those few. You are not capable of it. After all this time.

I will admit to stepping back, diminishing myself to make room for you, adjusting who I was to make you more comfortable. Therein lies my weakness. Neither one of us deserved that. If I had allowed myself to remain, what kind of person would you have become? That is my second regret. The first one is that I diminished myself at all. I made myself quiet and less and vague. I quit speaking freely. I stopped sharing who I was. I shut myself down due to lack of interest. The most important being my own.

This is not your story anymore, baby. This is mine. Feel free to go ride in your own rodeo, I’m not buying any tickets this time around. You’re so good at showing the world your war face. You thump your chest and shout and decree how the world should be. It’s quite a sight to see, especially from the front row.

Unfortunately for you my love, I’m no longer in the building.

I’m just a little busy shaking off the paralysis that comes from teaching myself not to give a shit about what’s happening around me. I’ve got a lot going on with this remembering how to breathe, speak and laugh freely whenever I choose. I’m really tied up right now with kicking my own ass for wasting so much of my time on someone who didn’t really want it anyway. The joke’s on me, and thank god I’m still alive to laugh about it. I will always laugh about it, because that’s the point where my vision clears and my heart beats strongly and my mind is wide open to possibility.

Thank god I didn’t lose my sense of humor when my common sense veered left of center.

You think yourself a great warrior. A veteran of life’s battles. A person of integrity in a sea of wasted humanity. I see you. You hate it that I do. That’s very sad for both of us.

But I can own my shit, recalibrate and live an amazing life.

I thank you for the lessons learned. I would not have appreciated what I have now, and expect to have in the future, if not for each and every moment of sorrow I chose until I learned enough to choose differently. The smile in my eyes and the laughter in my heart?

That is my war paint. See it and weep.