A Knight’s Myth

 

You are no longer mine

Even though you are still here

In this castle you don’t want to be in

With a woman you don’t want to be with

With children who, well,…. who knows what they realize

But soon their lives will change

Their innocence forever gone

Wiped away by male menopause

That dreams of lusty new love

Perpetual hard-ons

And fireworks that light the night sky

With love’s first kiss

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You insist you are not angry

“Look how quite I am”

“Look how composed”

Head down, eyes masked

Yet the words you CHOOSE sting

The heat charring them before they leave your mouth

I know that you will not admit the anger

Because it would make you appear

Flawed to yourself

And you cannot have anyone think you are

Anything less than

Perfect

Gallant

Charming

Noble

A Hard working

Self-Sacrificing

Christian Man

With all the Qualities

That a knight is supposed to possess

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And you have to see yourself in this way

To like who you are

Because if you really looked deep inside

You would be devastated

By the little boy inside of you

Who cries out from pain of

An abusive mother

And an absent father

And a self that has been lost for so many years

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You think you have found yourself

Now that you have found your voice

But you have only skimmed the surface

Of your deep lake of hurt and anger

That drives you to change

EVERYTHING

But your deepest self

Because you are afraid if you really had to examine

The truth of who you are

And where you came from

Your tears would flood this earth

And there would be

No one there to dry your tears

And stop the carnage that you are creating

Maybe someday you will become like

That Knight you so desperately try to emulate

By being brave, true, and loyal to yourself alone

And by slaying that ancient dragon

That lives within your soul

But you will have to cross deep rivers

High Mountains

And Low Valleys

To get to the place

Which brings you peace

But by then

The castle will be empty

The princess gone

And you will have fought the battle

But lost the war

Everything you once loved

And everyone who loved you

GONE

And you will be

But a mere man seated at

The Roundtable all alone

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A Love Story

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A story courtesy of my therapist with quite a lot of embellishment on my part.

Once upon a time there was a couple, who like most couples, were as different from one another as night and day. The man was sturdy and pragmatic; a man of few words. He loved to take things apart to see how things worked and LOGIC was his middle name.

The woman had an openness with people and was sentimental about those things she deemed important. She was a lover of words and was as bohemian and adventurous as her husband was stalwart and they lived together in a rather small house, that was dominated by a rather large hutch, that the wife inherited from an uncle she met once when she was four years of age. As often happens in these cases, a large piece of furniture like a hutch can rarely be left to stand empty; so the wife slowly began to fill it with cups, which after several years became a collection of sorts.

The first cup that was bought came from a grand old lodge in the Adirondacks where the couple spent their honeymoon. It was a good solid cup in a rustic and homey sort of way. It cost $20 which seemed wildly extravagant in those days but she loved it and so her husband surprised her with it when they got home so “our honeymoon can continue forever,” he said.

The second cup, the one with a small chip on the handle,  was picked up at a flea market at a small country church. The couple had stumbled upon it on their way home from the annual pilgrimage to his parent’s farm which was located in the boon docks of the state. It was a place people rarely visited and home to more cows than people but the imperfect cup needed a family and so it came home with them and their new puppy, a mottled brown dog that they named Boonie.

About a year later the third cup was won at the local county fair by the husband after he successfully threw a ring around a bottle. It surprised them both because neither had known that the man had a talent for this particular kind of endeavor. It was an ugly pea-green color that was too big to hold a decent amount of coffee without going cold and it was too small for a pint of cold beer but nevertheless it was given a place of honor on the shelf.

And so it went…a fourth cup soon joined the third and the fifth came after the birth of their first child. Soon the top shelf was filled with cups of all shapes and sizes and every morning the wife was delighted as she opened her hutch and studied the cups pondering which one she would use that day.

As the years went by upon occasion the wife began to ask her husband  to buy her a cup when he was away on business. But he was a pragmatic sort of chap and didn’t see the need for yet another cup in the house. He always used the same cup day in and day out and saw no reason to change. He was baffled about his wife’s cup “obsession” and began to resent the money she spent buying them and the time she spent taking each cup down for a decent dusting and so he refused to indulge in his wife’s request for more cups.  But sometimes when he went out-of-town on business he would remember her request and bring her home a piece of homemade candy or something that the area was known for instead; but he never brought her a cup. And while the wife appreciated his gesture it sometimes hurt her feelings that he would not give her her hearts desire…a cup that he had taken the time to pick out just for her just as he had on their honeymoon. Then after a while she began to wonder if he even loved her at all because he wouldn’t give her a cup when he knew how much she desired this of him. And while she knew her worth could not be measured by the appearance of a mere cup sometimes it felt as if its absence spoke volumes about how her husband saw her and it validated her belief that her husband didn’t love her enough to do something as simple as buying her a cup. Slowly their connectedness to each other began to diminish due to her resentment and his withholding.

One day, as the woman was dusting her collection, her husband asked her, “Why is it that you seem to delight in taking each cup down and dusting it? It is a lot of work to keep those cups clean. Why do you do it?”

“I do it because everyday when I open the hutch our story together continues. When I reach for this one, she said, pulling out a dark purple cup covered in roses; I remember the first time we went to the public gardens over by the shore. I bought it because it reminded me of how you picked that lily and handed it to me with a flourish. Then we left immediately, afraid we would be thrown out of the gardens forever and hauled off in the paddywagon. We laughed hysterically as we made our getaway….remember?”

Her husband chuckled. Yes, he too had fond memories of that summer’s day.

“And this one with the hearts on it is from the time you surprised me with tickets to see my favorite band.”

“Let me guess. Was that the time I took you to see Heart?” he said with a laugh.

“Of course” she said with a smile.

As his wife shared her memories about each cup her husband realized that he had not understood his wife’s delight in each cup because he did not understand the story. His unit of measurement of love was different from hers. While he had just seen cups; she saw more and she remembered the closeness and the joy she felt when she was with her husband and bought a cup in remembrance of those special times together. To her the cups were proof of their love story and for that reason she treasured each and every one.

The next morning the man watched as his wife opened the doors to the hutch and pondered which cup she would use that day. Her face lite up with delight as she removed the tiny white one adorned with four-leaf clovers and his did too as he remembered the trip they took to Ireland for their 20th anniversary.

Several weeks later the man headed off on yet another business trip. But this time when he arrived home he decided he would surprise his wife with a cup. So he searched high and low until he found the perfect one at an old antique shop on River Street. It reminded him of the weekend they had traveled the South searching for the perfect painting to go over their mantle but brought home a four-poster bed from Georgia instead. A bed that had brought each so many nights of pleasure since the day they hauled it, huffing and puffing up the stairs and through the hall to their room which lay furthest west from the front door.

As she unwrapped the box her husband felt a kind of happiness he hadn’t felt in a long time. It was a sort of hungry anticipation for seeing the delight he knew his wife would feel when she saw the cup and he wasn’t disappointed.

“Georgia?” his wife said as she admired the cup and her husband’s good taste.

“That was one special weekend, wasn’t it?”

“I think about it every night we lay together in our bed,” she replied with a shy grin.

These days, when he goes away, the husband, upon occasion,  looks for the perfect cup to give his wife. Sometimes he comes home with one and other times he doesn’t because he hasn’t found one that would be meaningful to them. But when he does arrive with the perfect cup in hand he savors the simple delight of his wife has when receiving her cup, while his wife savors the connectedness she feels with him as they discuss each of his finds. Because once the husband understood the entirety of the story sitting within the hutch it allowed him to give his wife her hearts desire and she began to see the other things her husband did to nurture their relationship. Their story was no longer about the absence of a cup. Instead, it was a story that morphed into the connectedness and delight  the couple felt towards one another that was renewed once each understood and appreciated the other’s story and soon they begin living with hearts wide open towards each other just as they had when they were first married .

It never really was about the cups after all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Born On The Fourth Of July

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Meet George. He was born in Romania and came to the United States due to an unfortunate set of circumstances that ripped apart the land of his birth.  He fled his country with a determination to make a new life for himself and his family… and he did. He is satisfied with what he has accomplished. It is glaringly obvious that George is the type of person who makes the best of what he has been given. He makes sure that whatever he plants blooms where it grows…people, optimism, and opportunity… just to name a few of the things that have flourished under his tutelage.

Today is a day of national celebration and George is driving the shuttle bus that is taking me to the airport after the BIG BIRTHDAY BASH. His enthusiasm is contagious as he talks about what he loves about this Fourth Of July holiday.

“I celebrate this land today too and with great joy,” he says in English broken by his native dialect. “It has given me my independence. Its a place where I can be happy and work doing what I want to do. I get to choose. That was not possible in Romania.”

He continues:

“Here in America, you have chances. You can be rich or you can be poor but you always have hope. And even if you are poor you still have opportunities and chances waiting outside your door every day. You still can live decently no matter what you have or don’t have. I hear so many complain that ‘”I do not have this or that'” but they will never starve here. The citizens of the United States will never know the true hopelessness of there being nothing out there for them…no jobs, no homes, no heat, no food. Here, don’t have to live under the threat of knowing that there is a chance you might be taken from your home never to be seen or heard from again. In the United States, you don’t know what true oppression is and the fear that dominates your life because of it. People here think they have it so bad, but the truth is, they don’t know how good they really have it. They forget to be thankful for every morning that they wake up in a country that honors its citizens and gives them the freedom to be who they want to be.”

“So what is your favorite thing about the Fourth of July?” I ask him.

“Of course it is the fireworks,” George exclaims with the enthusiasm of a young boy “I went down to the river the first year I was here to watch. Never had I seen such a thing. So loud and so big.  To me they were colors of hope and promise and I knew if I reached high enough in the night sky that I too would find my place in this country. And I did. It’s not the perfect place but its my place. That is what I was looking for when I came…a place for me to be me. I like to think that I was born a citizen that day, that I was born on the Fourth of July.”

“Are you going to celebrate tonight?” he asks.

“Yes. I will spend time watching the fireworks with my family and setting off a few ourselves,” I say.

“When you do, I want you to look at all the different colors in the sky, and remember that they look like all the different kinds of people living here. It is a beautiful sight, is it not? says this immigrant turned citizen.

And tonight, as I watch my own family of immigrants celebrate alongside the people of this diverse neighborhood, I think of George, and I have to agree with him… it is a glorious and beautiful sight indeed!

Where Do I Go From Here?

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My plane lifts off for Shanghai in thirty-seven hours. Between now and then I want to play with the grandkids (ages 2 and 7 months). They bring such joy and happiness around a house filled with the angst of teens and tweens. I want to enjoy and appreciate my kids and have my love surround them when I am gone. Each and every one of them.But in real life time, I also have to work at a diving meet tomorrow and then stay to watch Gracie compete. I have to shower. Do my hair. I have to pack. Decide what to bring and what not and whether or not to take up precious room in my suitcase by bringing along eye candy for my husband. Red or green? See-through or make-you-guess? Right now it is a 50-50 chance one of them will make the cut. Later I have to drive from my house to the airport which is four hours away IF there is no traffic and that is a BIG if. Thirty-seven hours  to go and I am nowhere near ready and I am unsure what I want to do with the 24 hours we have in Shanghai. Still. But I think I might have an idea.

I have been investigating Shanghai for the past four hours. Considering whether to take a tour. Or maybe a private car (never have done one of those). Even a taxi. But within the last two hours I think I have decided to be brave and take the road less traveled by many foreigners. I think we will take the subway from the airport (line 2), go eleven stops, transfer to line 16, go 6 stops, exit the subway station, cross the street and take bus 628 go past the Government Building and get off at the next stop. Then walk towards the direction the bus is going, make a left and then I should see the Ancient Water Town of Xinchang. At least this is what Doug on Trip Advisor says. Every Doug I have ever known has been a nice guy so I am going to assume that this Doug is too and that he is not leading me into some sort of den of iniquity which might be interesting in of itself if B was not along for the ride.

It is always intriguing to me how we choose the places that we visit. I used to think that is was a science but I have now come to believe it is haphazard and you end up going where you are suppose to be. So many times I have set out in one direction and ended up somewhere else. Usually some place better than I had ever imagined and I have met people that I never would have had I followed my Itinerary.

That is what I am hoping for when I go to Xinchang. I hope to meet an old man who takes me into his ancient house in the ancient river and tells me stories. Stories of what life was like when he was young. Stories of the war. Stories of his family, his work and his loves. Stories that help explain things I can only imagine. Stories that bring tears to my eyes and a laugh to my heart. For really, its only the ancients that can tell a great story in a way that makes you realize you have to live much longer, take more bounteous risks, and love much deeper/fearlessly in order to create a story that hugs a heart like that. A stick-with-you kind of scenario. An I-want-to-do-better-myself type of thing.

So I am crossing my fingers about today and the days to come. They are crossed for Gracie and her first diving competition of the year. About my suitcase weighing less than 50 pounds. They are crossed and white knuckled about airplane trips. About de-icing planes. About making sure my kids are okay. They are crossed tightly about having a clear day to look up at Mt. Everest. About B and I discovering more to love about one another during this trip. About meeting little old men with great stories so I can earn the basics of a few good stories of my  very own. And my fingers are crossed because maybe, just maybe, this journey of a lifetime will actually renew a love that was suppose to last a lifetime; as we look towards a mountain that has withstood it’s own test of time to become a beacon for those with love in their heart, determination in their minds and passion in their souls. One can only hope.

 

 

The Things That We Keep

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I lift a battered and worn cigar box out from beneath a massive box of family photos, 150 year-old letters and diaries. It and all the treasures it contains belonged to my G-Grandmother, Eva, born at home in 1873, somewhere in the woods of Ohio. I marvel as I hold in my hands a small remnant of a piece of pink and blue calico cloth; a dried flower; several old cards with cherubs on them; calling cards of long forgotten friends; and a poem written in script so precise that I can actually imagine the school teacher standing over an eight-year-old Eva making sure that each swirl is aligned correctly with the next.

All these precious things still remain while Eva has been gone for almost 75 years. It makes me wonder more about the type of person that Eva was. It makes me question why these cigar box momentos were so special to her? It makes me ask why don’t we tag these love affairs of the heart so the next generation understands what was important and meaningful to us? And it makes me ponder why it is we hold onto the things that we do?

Therapy this week has been tough full of the good and not-so-good. It has left me questioning myself about why I hold onto the things that I do. Why do I take a piece of this from my past and carry it with me while leaving behind a piece of that? Why do I continue to hold onto anger that helped me survive as a 15-year-old runaway but is no longer useful to me today? Why do I choose to stay rather than leave? The answers to some of these questions remain elusive and hidden in the Place of Mysteries that is nestled in my own mind. Yet, I know this much to be true…that the things we hold onto say more about us than our words and that sometimes we need to examine why we hold onto the things we do. Fear, neediness, love….just what is it that drives us to keep things in sacred spaces and at what point are we free to let them go? Are “things” and emotions meant to be forever or do they have expiration dates? Or are these precious items, thoughts and feelings best left to remain in a small battered cigar box for the next generation to find and wonder…why?

 

 

Autism 101

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AUTISM 101

Often times we have our best conversations in the car so tonight (2011) while Paul and I were out together I decided to broach the subject of autism and explain to him about the condition he has. Our conversation went like this:

Me: Hey, Paul have you ever heard the word autism?

Paul: I’m not sure but I think so.

I pause wondering if I should go on

Paul: So what is it?

Me (Describing Paul): Well, it is something that some people have. Sometimes a person with autism hears noises louder than other people. LIke they might hear the refrigerator sound very loud whereas most people can not really hear it. Or sometimes for someone with autism lights seem very bright. Sometimes people with autism find it hard to be touched or they are really ticklish. Do you want me to go on?

Paul: Okay.

Me: Sometimes people who have autism find it hard to look other people in the eyes when they are talking to them and sometimes it is very hard for them to sit still. For some people with autism the tags in their shirts make them itchy. Sometimes it is hard for them to talk to other people. But people with autism are usually very smart and often they see things in ways that other people don’t which makes them good artists or good with computers or good playing a musical instrument. Their brains just work a little differently than many people, but hey, everyone is different. Some people have brown hair, some people need a wheelchair to get around. Having autism is just like being a boy or being Korean or having blue or brown eyes. It is just a part of who a person is but not the whole person. Do you have any questions?

Paul: “Mom, do you have autism cause if you do, I still love you just the way you are!”

ARE YOU KIDDING ME… NEVER TAKE FOOD FROM MY KIDS

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YOU HAVE TO BE KIDDING ME…

Sometimes I just shake my head and surrender.  I mean sometimes there is just nothing else to do but that. Today was one of those days

So I am downstairs with Paul when he says to me, “Mom, Andre dropped his pack of gum in the toilet.”

“That’s too bad,” I said.

“But Mom, he dropped his pack of gum in the toilet.”

“Did he flush it?” I ask.

“No”

“So where is it?”

“Andre has it”

“Andre,” I yell at the top of my lungs, “Come down here please.”

“Okay Mom”

“Andre, did you drop your pack of gum in the toilet?”

“Yes, Mom, I did”

“So where is it?”

“Right here,” he says pulling it out of his pocket.

Then it dawns on me….

“Andre, is the gum you are chewing, the gum you dropped in the toilet?”

“Yes, Mom”

ABA therapist T and I just stare at each other incredulous. Then T recovers and says “Andre gum that has been in the toilet has germs. Go spit it out right now!”

Andre runs to spit it out….then Paul follows right behind him and spits his out!!!

ARE YOU KIDDING ME??????? REALLY????? After that lollipop incident in the pit toilet? Didn’t you learn anything then?????????? Granted you were only five but PLEASSSSSSE that is one of the lessons that should never be repeated.

“Andre, why did you think it was okay to fish your pack of gum out of the toilet?”

“Well, I let it dry out first!”

And there you have it! Hopefully now you will remember my rule. NEVER, EVER, EVER take any food products from my children. NEVER!!!!!!!! Taking food from my kids can be hazardous to your health!!!!! Consider this to be a warning and some sort of legal publication!!!!

Living For The Magic Of The Moment

Many years ago I lived in the Midwest. Our property sat on a bluff overlooking the town and in fall the leaves were so vivid and red that it seemed that they were painted in rich shimmery oils aptly named CANDY CANE or FIRE ENGINE RED. We had an idyllic six acres on which to roam. On the north side a succulent pear tree grew silently upward, its branches winding silently around an abandoned wood pile, while hybrid cold-weather wine grapes dotted the steep hill out front. But the best place to be was near the back of the property where remnants of a old fort lay rotting on the ground and a bowl-shaped mass of thorny gigantic red raspberries grew; the best I have ever tasted. Seriously. All these years later I haven’t experienced anything that comes close.

It was a sliding-into-fall sort of day. Jackie and I were taking a walk at the back of the property where an old car lay on the other side of the fence being claimed by no one for the past 30 years. The sun was starting its descent while still warming the stagnant air when a monarch butterfly floated by; the light shining through its semi-transparent wings like the Rose window at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. We were surprised when another butterfly glided by, soon to be followed by another, and another, and yet another. So we began to follow them to the far back edge of our land, a place we rarely visited.

As we rounded the corner we were suddenly blinded by intense hues of orange, black and green swimming in the trees. Swarms of Monarch Butterflies, starting their migration, clung to the limbs one on top of another like necklaces of cascading orange pearls. It was mesmerizing … wings sunning themselves in the remaining light of the day and legs climbing one over the other as the dominant butterfly would make it’s way to the top of the chain.I had never seen anything like it. And then it happened…

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Our beast of a dog ran up to us barking joyfully and the butterflies released themselves from one another and the trees, swarming and swirling outward and upward, luminous in flight with hundreds upon hundreds of the magnificent creatures filling the sky. I still remember the chorus of the velvety fuzzy flap of their wings as the flew around us, some alighting on the pear tree and others settling on our heads and arms. It was one of those exceedingly rare “Take Your Breath Away” moments; the kind that you remember as you take your last dying breaths. The kind that you try to artificially create time and time again but can never quite capture the vivacity, artistry and allure of that type of spontaneity again. Yet, it doesn’t stop us from trying with mostly disappointing results.

What is it about these elusive and precious seconds that makes us want to experience them many times over? Moments like those few first seconds when you meet someone and immediately you know they are the soulmate you have been waiting for your entire life.  Or the first cry of the baby you have anxiously imagined during the last nine months. Or the moment your child shows empathy towards someone who is struggling and you realize that how you have been parenting this kid has been right all along. It’s those rare fleeting glimpses of beauty, compassion, love and mystery that give us idea of who we are and what we want for the future.They provide a meaning to life and it is in these special moments that we are reminded of the possibilities that still exist. They give us hope for something better and sometimes closure and the peace that come with it. And if you are lucky and on a day least expected, sometimes you can find those magic moments right around the corner and in your own backyard.

Copyright 2015

The Road Not Taken…335 Days To Fix This…29 Days Yell Free

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Robert Frost’s A Road Not Taken is a mystery to poets and critics alike. To author, David Orr, Frost’s poem is, ” a commentary on the self-deception we practice when constructing the story of our own lives.”

And I think that could be true.

For we all practice self-deception of one sort or another in order to stay with our significant other. We re-write the stories we tell ourselves about why we love, why we stay, who we love and the games they play in order to make the story comfortable to us. We all make up stories which allow us to go on with our lives. “He won’t hit me again”, “He’ll fall in love with me again”, “We can survive this,” are the words some say in attempt to change the storyline and make it “fit” into how we imagine the story of our lives should go.

In this vein, I suspect if you asked most men when they hear the words ” The Road Not Taken”  they would say it takes them back to the  women who have inhabited their lives. For it seems to me, that men are often following that Road Not Taken back to the past; wondering if Anna would have been a better lover, if he would have had more in common with Jane at this point in his life and if Jennifer would have been a better mother.  Often, it appears to me that men “regret” losing the woman on whose path they did not travel, while women “what if” or “if only” the road they chose to take. Men seem to let go of their culpability in the demise of a relationship while women, well we, “if only” ourselves to death. “If only I was thinner I could still be married to him.”

Me, I am trying to take a fresh approach on Frost. I think that what he meant was that we as people are altered with every decision we make when we step onto one road and leave one behind. As a result we need to make decisions that will bring us to our best and true self. And that whatever road we have taken we must make it the best road for us. One full of life. One full of hope. One of love, compassion and grace. We can’t turn around and take the “other” road but we can enjoy the one we are on. So today, I am going to take hard,strong, meaningful steps on my path. I will leave the tip-toeing around for another day.