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.

Live And Learn


 

 

The brave may not live forever, but the cautious do not live at all.

~Attributed to multiple sources

If you are very lucky, as I have been, you will meet someone who changes your life just by the experience of knowing them. There are some whose paths you may cross, as I have experienced, that create a pivotal point in your life. You may then choose to become, as I have done, a force to be reckoned with in your own life based on the wisdom gained from opening your mind to the life of someone uniquely special to you.

This is a time in my life like none other that has come before. I have been gifted with a friendship of unequalled value to me that has changed the way I see everything. Everything. In a very short time, I have accepted the truth of the frailty of life. The fleetingness of the time I have here is highlighted in technicolor. The importance of every relationship I have carries a greater weight than ever before, and the heaviness of those I matter little to is simply a burden to be laid aside on the road to honest living.

I have learned many things this past year. Each lesson is a painful treasure to me and I refuse to hoard any of them, thereby lessening their value. Each one thus far is a game-changer for me, but we are all different so do with them as you will.

I know that I have to live in such a way as to breathe freely and be myself. I have to be able to laugh as frequently and as loudly as I wish. I will not stop myself from stepping outside and opening my arms wide and letting all the joy shine out of me. I’ll dance and sing when I want to no matter how badly I suck at it. I will cry over things that hurt my heart, although I’ve learned it’s self-serving to do so at the expense of another’s need to be strong.

I’ve learned I can honor another’s strength better at times by respecting it, saving my personal need to grieve for when it does no disservice to their courage.

I have learned that my heart feels safe when I can trust that someone will be honest with me. When someone respects me enough to tell me when I’ve hurt them, and by god what they expect me to do about it. I trust the heart that will body slam my ego to the floor and let me know that they love me, but my bullshit is just not working. I trust those who don’t walk when things get ugly because their commitment is stronger than the monsters life can sometimes bring to my door.

I’ve learned to do things that I’m afraid of because each action makes me stronger. I’ve learned to say I love you, I forgive you and I’m grateful for all the parts of you that you bring to the table. I’ve learned to embrace new things, to learn new things and by doing so I become something new and beautiful myself.

This is my ever-evolving story. I swear to you I learn something new every day, and it’s magnificent to me no matter how trivial the wisdom gleaned from the knowledge. I’ll admit that sometimes I get tired of the learning and want to whine  just a little for the rainbows and butterflies world I tried to see around me before I felt the gut impact of what a raw and real life feels like.

It’s liberating.

I’ve learned that any form of abuse is powerless against my knowledge of myself. That as long as I hold myself with grace under such fire, I am total teflon. It thrills me to feel the utter lack of impact another’s opinion has on me when I know my own heart. No one can talk down to me, belittle me or insult me when I just don’t accept it, and may it be returned to them times three.

No one can make me feel small when my heart is larger than their tiny minds. No one can put me down when I refuse to stay there. No one can take from me what I gained by being afraid and acting anyway. Even pointing out my mistakes with gleeful viciousness means nothing when I know how to rock every one of them into making me a better person than just a moment ago.

People are precious. Some are downright gifts from the universe itself, you just have to be clear-sighted and open-hearted to know when they stand before you. I am. I know. I value those who guard my heart when I’m too foolish to do so. Sometimes I still wander into rainbow and butterfly land where all is pretty, but not for long.

Give me the foundation of truth to build a life worth living no matter how long or short the time given. The very first lesson I truly learned from such a friend was that I would rather live a short time living a life with my heart lifted than a long time with a spirit broken.

But I speak only for myself.

 

 

 

 

The Perception Of Truth


 

While I do agree that all of us have a different perspective on things, there are times when I look inward to find the truth of a matter. There are times when someone’s perception of me is so totally opposed to what I see as the truth that I have to stop and take a good hard look at what I’m doing, and how I’m sharing it with others.

I’ve made some major changes in my life recently that will affect the lives of others for a long time. They’ve been a long time coming, much feared and thought over and extremely traumatic to put into play. I have done my best so far to own my part in every negative situation, even though at times it did have to be force fed down my throat for me to consider it. It is really easy to blame others and to portray myself as a victim of circumstance that triumphs in the face of the greatest odds.

A friend recently commented that when I write, it is as if I have it all together. I have all the answers and am on top of the game. I’ll admit to being totally taken aback by this and began to wonder if I’d been misrepresenting myself in some way in my writing. If I have done so, it has not been intentionally. It’s not easy to admit that I am responsible for where I’ve been and where I am now, but I have tried to do so.

My earlier writings were, I freely admit, whiny and self-serving. I did see myself as a victim and my writing freed things that needed to be brought out and taken to the trash. I believe writing cleanses and heals the heart. It has helped me survive my own mistakes and have the courage to attempt to correct them to the best of my ability.

At some point in time, the words I wrote became a love letter to myself. Not a guru-driven directive for the masses. Not too long ago, one of my best friends said to me, “Now you will finally be the woman you write about”. It brought tears to my eyes to know that she saw that. I told her honestly that all those stories and articles had been written to me. I was trying to save myself. She simply said, “I know”. That’s what best friends do. They know.

I don’t know how to write any differently than the words that come from my heart at any given time. Tomorrow, I won’t write with the same heart as I do today. I hope that is always true so that I can see myself growing in everything I write, whether it be about my own life or something I see in the lives of others. I don’t mind saying I’m a screwed up mess from time to time because that means I’m doing something other than refusing to try and fail. I don’t mind admitting I’m not perfect in any way because, really? What a  relief that is to give that up.

I have a lot of work to do on myself. I don’t have a problem with that. I’ve disappointed a lot of people. I can live with that. There are those who will never really see me, and as heart-breaking as that will eventually be, I will live with that too. All I have to do is see myself clearly, pick the most alive path I can find for myself, and take that one.

No matter how goddamn hard it looks.

 

No More 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 53 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 or apathy, 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 fuck you, step aside and let the real ones through?

If you do, 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.

 

 

Relationship Apocalypse: The Warning Signs


What are the warning signs of a dying relationship? Why does it seem that only one partner is aware of this impending tragedy? Is this really true, or is it simply that one person chooses to be blind, is comfortable with the way things are for them, and hopes to ride out the discontent of their partner? The equivalent of pulling the sheets up over your head and thinking the monsters can’t see you.

This whole scenario astonishes me.

If someone I love looks at me and says, “It hurts me when you do that.” You can bet your ass I’m not going to be doing whatever that is again. Because that would make me an asshole, which I am not. If my partner looks me in the eye and tells me he needs something from me that I have the power to give him to ease his heart, then that exact thing is what I’ll do. If I learn there is a particular thing I can do that makes my partner feel loved…it’s happening.

It seems simple to me.

But this is not what happens in a lot of relationships, and they are dying by the thousands, even if divorce isn’t mentioned. When one partner prospers at the expense of the other, and has no problem with that..? I have a problem with that. If one has a concern and the other refuses to listen because it is not important to them..? I have a problem with that. If one says quite plainly, “I am unhappy and am telling you this in hopes of repairing us instead of hating what we have”, and the other belittles and dismisses the other…?

I. Have. A. Problem. With. That.

A relationship is a two way street, a collaboration, a joining of two to make a sum greater than. It is not King and servant, Lord and minion, Owner and possession. It is supposed to be two people who mean so much to each other that they both give to the other, building a fortress of unconditional love while doing so. It is the constant pursuit of that ideal for each other, and for themselves.

Do you remember the first time you were in the middle of an argument, and instead of crying and feeling heartbroken you found yourself thinking, “Who the fuck do you think you are?”. I do. Do you recall feeling upset and sorry and ashamed later like you should have had more love to give there, and you didn’t? I do. Do you remember much later actually opening your mouth and saying the words, “Who the fuck do you think you are?”.

I do.

I remember it clearly. Because I felt the first vertebra in my spine solidify in what would eventually become a backbone. I remember it because I shook off the thought of “if I only tried harder”, and decided to burn every single relationship self-help book I’d ever purchased. I decided if I were going to become better, stronger, and more alive, I would do it for me.

Because that’s who deserved my efforts.

This is where I stand. Don’t tell me you don’t know. Don’t be a coward. Just step up and say, “I can’t give you more than two weeks of effort, because it just isn’t important enough to me”. Just admit you want someone to make your life easier without having to do the same in return. Admit that you want to be respected and valued without having to reciprocate. Admit you’re afraid of being alone so whatever you call this is just good enough for you. I say all of this knowing you won’t, because you know if you did…

It would make it easy to leave, and you know it’s hard to do.

This is where we are now. Take a good long look. Frightening to you isn’t it? It should be, because the future that you fear…

I welcome with heart wide open.