pri.org

My friend Josh and I were recently comparing notes on e-trading. Day-trading, to be specific. Josh spends most of his free time doing it: up an hour or two before the market opens, studying and investing. I’ve done a little of it, and have been successful on a small scale. But I’ve noticed that e-trading messes with my peace of mind. It makes me even more nervous than I already am. I told Josh that I’d swapped out morning e-trading for morning Blogging. No adrenaline rush; no financial ‘score’, but quiet, meditative mornings and no losses.

Josh had questions, so we talked a little more about Blogging. How many Posts had I written (since I began on April 27, 2019)? How many Views was I getting? Hearing my answer to question one, Josh asked, “Where the —- do you get your ideas ?!” Eyebrows raised. My response was frustratingly (for him) simple, I think:  Just by Living Life and being observant: of my own feelings, and the feelings and experiences of those around me.

pri.org

It’s true. Most of the time I write because I’m listening to, thinking about, or feeling something that needs exploring. As I get into the topic (I never know whether or not I’ll Publish until I finish), I have to feel like I’m learning something new about myself, and about Living Bravely, as I put it on my Main Page. I have to feel like what I’ve learned might be of some value to other people.

Every once in a while, however, a topic comes into my mind and heart that feels extremely personal. I write to soothe and release something that’s causing me pain; like finally digging out a thorn, gifted by the rose bush I pruned a week ago; deeply stuck and aching.

warrenphotographic.co.uk

I’ve always loved animals – especially cats and dogs. (As a kid I also had birds, rabbits, snakes, fish, lizards and wild creatures rescued and nursed back to health.)  When we moved into the house where I currently live, the large yard seemed perfect for pets: two puppies from the animal shelter; two weeks-old kittens rescued from a parking lot and a soccer field. As time goes by, of course, these spunky little creatures, full of life, mature and grow old. It’s never easy to hear, when a pet you’ve had for well over a decade tells you “it’s time to go”.

Having faced this reality with one of my cats on Wednesday of this week ( a lot of tears and a lot of tissues; a very compassionate veterinarian), I hadn’t even recovered emotionally when one of my dogs collapsed two days later. She’d been severely arthritic and now couldn’t move, whimpering in pain. Bless You, Dr. Mobile Vet: the super nice guy came that very morning.

“All Creatures Great and Small” telegraph.co.uk

But I wasn’t ready for the reality- check he gave me. The vet watched me with my dog, trying to help her stand — her hind legs kept buckling — so he could examine her. With a kind, and sorrowful face he looked down at us and said, “This is Assisted Living. This isn’t the way you, or your dog, want to live. Am I right?” His words outed me. I’d become a Care Provider to my animals – first my cat, then my dog – not even noticing that no one was happy or thriving. Enormous energy expended, in just trying to keep them alive and comfortable. This very experienced, wise and compassionate man (Patrick) then gave me a gentle lecture about what I needed, versus what the cat and the dog needed. I know it sounds simple, but, whether you’re providing care for a loved one or a beloved pet, perspective gets skewed and boundaries get blurred; it’s partly why care providers – especially those who’re caring for family members – become crazed with emotional and physical exhaustion.

When we deeply love a person or pet whose Race is Run and it’s time to stop, the Heart is seldom clear about the exact right time to say ‘goodbye’. This week I had to accept that my own reluctance to ‘let go’ was far less important than honoring Life and its natural cycle. Even as they left my Life, my animals were gracious in their last lessons about Love.

thedailymash.co.uk

In 2017, when the city managers of Paris – the official “City of Love” —  went on a rampage against the 45 tons of Love Locks fastened to its historical Pont Des Arts, they were forced to do so. The sheer weight of the million-plus locks had finally caused a section of the bridge to collapse. Such was the mythic power, on a global scale, of this famous bridge:  Love, fulfilled; Love, unrequited; Love, lost; Love, yearned for. Desires and promises captured for eternity in the hearts of padlocks whose keys were then tossed into the river Seine.  

courtesy of michellegable.com

In 2019, popular travel sites now offer suggestions for the most romantic locations (lakes, rivers, oceans – with the necessary bridges, fencing or gates or…) for the Love Lock-obsessed. As annoying and as silly as these notions might seem, they represent a very human desire to believe in wishes.  It’s more than wishing, really; the belief is in the power of unseen forces that feel magical, and that fulfill our need for a deeper, more ancient-feeling connection with those forces.

courtesy, wicca-life.com

Recent studies (one was published in early 2019, in the New York Times) show an uptick in public interest worldwide, in spiritual avenues that the majority of people probably wouldn’t refer to as ‘mainstream’. Wicca membership has increased, as have visits to astrology websites, and the use of psychics. Books and magazine articles that focus on Wellness topics have steadily grown in popularity since the 1990’s. Yoga, in all its forms, has experienced a surge in popularity. But Wellness is not the quite the same as believing in the power of spirit animals and planetary influences. Its not the same as believing in the power of a Love Lock, with the lovers’ initials etched into it, to be able to capture love forever. To slip into this realm means letting go of our need for reasons and rationales. It means re-connecting with our sense of Wonder.

A sense of Wonder is most often attributed to children, as in, To perceive something with child-like wonder. But what is that, exactly? We have memory of what it feels like, from childhood. We’re envious of those that still have it; we know that Life and living tend to extinguish it. But we also know that a sense of Wonder is real;  and, it’s one of the few things in our lives that feels authentic and un-fakeable (I think I just coined a new word, here – apologies, if necessary). I’ll define Wonder – here and now, anyway — as an acceptance of, and appreciation for what can’t be fully known or experienced with the mind. Wonder is felt. Wonder takes what we think we know can, or cannot be, and turns it on its head by presenting us with something awe-some.We don’t doubt it; we don’t need to prove it or convince anyone else that our sense of  Wonder’s valid.

This morning when I walked out my front door I checked, as I always do, the level of nectar in the hummingbird feeder to the left of the door. Surprised and delighted, I was in perfect time to catch a tiny, jet-black hummer sipping from the feeder. As if that wasn’t enough of a treat, the little thing then zoomed directly in front of my face at eye level, about 18 inches from my nose, and hovered there looking directly at me for a few seconds. Funny that I was just longing for something Wonder-ful, when it greeted me by almost touching my face.

Unlike the individual who interpreted the study (I mention above) as a sign that we’re all going completely Off The Rails  with our crystals and faeries, psychic readings and personalized Birth Charts, I think it’s completely ‘ok ‘to seek Wonder wherever we think we might find it. In the eyes of our faithful hound or mystical cat; in a flower; in the tarot cards; in a circle of wiccans giving thanks to the Great Forest and its sprites; in the power of a Love Lock to bind us forever.  Who cares? We embrace our Wonder wherever we find it and rejoice in not having to ask Why or How.

The first time I went to Italy I was just a young girl. I was still in what some writers call the “colt” (filly, I guess) stage:  all long arms and legs, awkwardly trying to coordinate them into graceful movement, with utter self-consciousness. But not really caring how I looked, when it came right down to it. So I was beyond surprised when a group of Italian boys came in pursuit. My parents and I were in Venice, in search of the famous Bridge of Sighs (my father’s map-reading leading us deep into shaded, narrow streets, nowhere near the canal). Their calls to me were in Italian, of course, but the lilt of their voices communicated their approval of my appearance, and then some. The pack of four or five young men followed directly behind us, chattering loudly. One of them suddenly dashed forward, even though I was walking between both of my parents, and pinched me.  He let out a loud “Whoop!!” and sprinted away like a cricket, as my startled parents watched. The young men all then went off in another direction, laughing and talking. I was delighted. For days.

One of the things I enjoy and appreciate – as a single woman traveling abroad – is the way that men generally allow their appreciation of the female form to be completely obvious. A woman can be walking with another man and still get an admiring (if not burning with desire) look. It’s usually playful, not a ‘stalker’ type of attention. But it’s the openness, the frankness of the look that I admire. “Yes. I am looking at you because I want to, and I want you to know this, because you are looking so good.” (I’ve actually had French men say variations of this line to me; I express gratitude, and life goes on.) It’s all part of a more enlightened, in my opinion, view of sexuality that literally puts ‘sex’ into just about everything. Normale.

In California, it’s a different story. Perhaps it’s mostly in our bigger cities here, but I’ve felt it in smaller ones also. In general, there’s a practiced indifference that both men and women struggle to perfect, no matter how attracted they might be to someone. Now, I’m not talking about the bar-scene; or places where people go to hook-up. And I can only speak as a straight female, in my experience with straight men. But it’s really pretty funny (and ironic) how much effort goes into the precisely-measured response; the studied nonchalance; as though looking too hard or too long might give away Important Personal Secrets and compromise any relationship from the get-go. I’ve seen both men and women do this. I’ve learned how to do it. It’s part of a universal language, here in the Golden State. Usually, it’s pure fun. Sometimes it’s kind of pitiful.

Summertime temperatures being what they are, today I decided to make a dash to my neighborhood grocery store for some melon. As I moved through the produce section (totally jammed with people, typical for a weekend), I was aware of a very tall person moving toward me, though my eyes were scanning the fruit for freshness. Call it my long-standing situational awareness: I’m not expecting anyone to hit on me – I just don’t want to be hit or run over with a cart (as a woman did to the heel of one of my better pair of flats, recently). I looked up as the man approached me, met his eyes, and caught his as they looked down at the fourth finger on my left hand, which was bare. I felt him circle around behind me. ‘Whatever’, was my first thought, and kept going in my fruit prowl.

A very few minutes later I happened to look up once more (I can usually feel ‘eyes’ on me – again, self-protection instincts). The same man was standing about three feet away, next to a pyramid of peaches. As I looked up, his eyes searched mine. He didn’t smile, he just looked, and kept looking at me. A handsome face. A sad face. Light olive skin and very brown eyes. A little gray in his hair. But in a split- second I realized that the very imposing woman directly in front of my cart was apparently The Wife. Ah. So… were his eyes saying, “Help Me” ?

She was casual chic, all in black; a tasteful summer cashmere something-or-other around her back and shoulders. Her hair was thick, glossy and also black, pulled into a stylish pony. I could only see the side of her face: a large silver hoop, a strong jawline and a jet brow. As my eyes left her ensemble, the woman’s voice, directed at the man who’d been staring at me (did she notice, I don’t think so), cracked like a very loud whip. “Not those!” (his hand was suspended over a bag of cherries at that moment). “I told you I didn’t want those!” Oh my, I thought. Scolded loudly, in a crowded produce isle, for choosing Bing over Ranier.  Hell – I felt cowed. I edged away to avoid hearing any more. As I turned back briefly, the woman’s face was in a deep scowl. In fairness, maybe the husband’s a total jerk and he deserved this treatment. But it didn’t feel that way. It felt bleak. His look wasn’t just Help Me; it was, I Can’t Seem to Help Myself.

Sometimes when I’m feeling a little wistful about my solitude  ( In-Between-Men,  as they say), I’m also quick to send my Gratitude to the Universe that I don’t have to eye-ball silent signals of Please: Just Smile at Me, in the grocery store. I’m thankful that I’ve gained the wisdom that would never allow me to stay in a relationship without passion, honor and respect. I’m also grateful that I have the understanding, if not the total ability (yet), to be candid in my appreciation of a potential love interest. Today, I’ve decided:  Be it among the cherries, or somewhere else, I’m going to let my eyes linger when they feel like it. I am not going to pretend indifference, but fully take-in an interesting-looking (hopefully single) man. If he clocks me doing this, so much the better. I think I might even give him a little “Whoop!!” See what happens.

I’ve never liked waiting. For anything. Today in a short line at my local pharmacy, there was only one cashier; and she was training an obvious new hire. OMG. I heard identical, patiently-repeated instructions in monotone from the head cashier, after each identical mistake the new person made. “Second checker, please!” I sent this command telepathically to store management, to no avail. Rather than whip out my phone (I’d already checked my mail and news feeds) my eyes began scanning shelves around me for what I might need, but didn’t know I needed – yet. The new hire was aware of the vibes being directed toward her from the restless people in line and was growing increasingly flustered. I considered a space-age-looking nicotine delivery ‘barnacle’ for the skin. I don’t even smoke, but the idea of a drug patch was tempting at that moment.

Waiting, big or small, means something or someone else is in control. Yes, I have an uneasy relationship with that word. I think I should have more of it; the Universe believes I should have less. You know how that goes, right? I get lots of lessons about ‘waiting’. But I’m not really talking about store lines here; or waiting at the train station or airport; or, to see my dentist or eye doctor. In these venues I’m able to distract myself while waiting: I almost always have something to read in my super-sized purse (which is usually carrying what I might need if stranded for two days).

No. The control I long for is over the big stuff. Putting Heartbreak behind me. Waiting for New Love. Getting past a significant Disappointment. Being able to Move to a new city, free of the obligations tying me to my current one. Waiting for that ‘shift’ in the heart and mind that gives instant relief: the signal that I’m over the hump of waiting for the vanishing-act of whatever hurt, frustration, or longing that’s taken control of my wellbeing.

Like most people, I’ve read a lot (and even absorbed some wisdom) about Perfect Timing. I’m referring to the philosophy that all things unfold in the time and manner that they should. In my heart I know this to be mostly true. (Try telling someone whose son just overdosed ‘All is As it Should Be’ – tough sell, that one.) But my brain is another matter. There’s a reason that I struck out on my own when I was 17. There’s a reason behind my career choices (allowing for so much autonomy). I know where I’m going and I want to be in charge of how and when I get there. Note:  I don’t want or need to control other people, just my immediate surroundings.

How did I get this way? The list is long, friends. Part of it is my personality, but much of it relates to the circumstances surrounding my early years. Not feeling able to trust that Those in Charge knew what they were doing. I had evidence. Even as a young kid. So, as soon as I could, I took action; I made changes; I grabbed control of my own journey-forward in emotional and material ways. The problem now is – well, it’s not really a problem anymore, since I stumbled on the solution recently. The problem was how to transition (comfortably) from Action to Receptivity.

Receptivity (not new in my knowledge, but in actual practice) is not the same thing as being passive. Receptivity is allowing, instead of resisting. It takes plenty of attention and engagement, as I’m finding out. Receptivity takes the ‘sting’ out of waiting for me, in that it allows me to see, feel and appreciate the small steps I’m taking – even when it feels like I’m standing still. Do I still fight the need to take action when Life’s just not moving fast enough in the direction I want it to go? Absolutely. ‘Action’ is what I’m used to; it’s always been my go-to strategy. But I’m going to give Receptivity some time – a month or so ? Or…maybe I won’t give it a timeline at all, but instead, see where it wants to take me.

For a long time now, and with even more effort lately, I’ve been trying to recall my dreams the minute I wake up in the morning. Most of the time, even a vivid, totally-immersive experience during sleep evaporates as fast as my conscious mind tries to grab for it. This morning was different, though:  not only did I wake with a complete memory of what I’d dreamed,  but I was also keenly aware of the message from my subconscious mind, as to what it was trying to tell me. Last night’s dream was all about my relationship with Love, and how that relationship has changed, through both luminous, and harsh, experiences.

Being in Love is uniquely personal. I can’t, and wouldn’t try to describe it for anyone else. First Love (which was what my dream-memory recalled) was an absolute free-fall and deep-dive into the other person, without any fear or hesitation. I often had the sense that we were in sync at a cellular level: at times seeing, breathing, thinking as One.  Everything that I thought I was, and everything I wanted to be, was intertwined with this feeling. Love was authentic and trustworthy. Love was a kind of protective insulation from the world; a special way of feeling, and being, that sprinkled fairy dust on anything  we wanted to conjure together (even the mundane, like our first apartment). My first love lasted almost 9 years. Even then, the love didn’t ever wane, but our radically-different ideas about ‘stability’ became impossible to ignore. We were a cliché of the times:  the ambitious professional, constantly – and becoming bored with — propping up the starving-artist who wanted to play music and do little else. Still, over the years that First Love remained imprinted on my entire being;  it was my metric for how I knew a relationship could feel. But as I continued to date, even falling in love two more times, I began to change, and my lovers did too.

If we stay ‘single’ or get divorced, at a certain point, — or maybe it’s a certain age — men and women start to feel and act on the belief that Love is just not going to happen naturally. It’s over. Done. The time has passed.That’s when the small lapses start; the little half-truths or fully-baked lies.When I’ve had occasion to give a man the heave-ho because he’s grossly misrepresented himself (I once had guy tell me he was in a college nursing program; he was actually a gardener with no academic aspirations), I’ve always asked, Why? Why lie? A shrug of the shoulders is a common response. As if.  If I had time and space here, I’d share with you some similar, truly laughable, and even bizarre, online dating experiences I’ve had. (which is why I stopped taking that avenue!) Men have lied about their faces and bodies (of course, right?), but also their careers, interests, habits (smoking, vs. non-) and marital status (“married, but (not) in the divorce process”). Again: Why do this? It’s not like the Truth will never be exposed; but it’s a gamble that it won’t, so there’s the answer.

My male friends (not dating prospects, so they’re willing to be candid) back me up on this, telling me that I just don’t understand how hard it is for men to be “on their own”. They seem to think that women have the upper-hand, when it comes to coping with a solitary life; so, women are less-likely “cave” to deception and outright lying.

I don’t know about that. But what I do know is that it can feel increasingly difficult to remember Love, before the heart became jaded and wary; and, at the same time, easier to want to hide in seclusion, amidst the after effects of consecutive disappointments with Love. My dream last night, I’m convinced, arrived as a gentle reminder of the Power of Love, Trusting in Love, being Patient with Love, and the courage needed to take care of my Self until I cross paths with Love again. There’s really no point in trying to look for it; it knows where I am.

Here in the U.S., June is “Pride Month”. This Community for sure  has cause to celebrate but, also obvious and factual reasons to believe that ‘the work’ hasn’t even really begun, and will not allow much rest. I’m certain that the headlines in my city, reporting ongoing injustice and violence toward human beings whose lifestyles are considered offensive, are not exclusive to where I live. I wonder, however, if a month dedicated to marginalized (and often demonized) human beings is impactful, in increasing awareness and changing minds. I used to include the word ‘tolerance’ — next to awareness (compassion, and love). But tolerance, for me, just isn’t a strong enough “ask”. I even wonder about that word, as though permission is sought, or needed for being true to one’s Self.

When I was just a child, homosexuality was not exceptional. Both of my parents were literary nerds, and Oscar Wilde was a featured favorite in our household. My father had male friends who were gay; and, my parents’ dinner parties drew male and female same-sex couples. I can still recall that, during one such party, a guest had brought Mapplethorpe’s recent coffee table book, which buzzed in the conversation all evening ! I suppose this upbringing was more European than WASP: I didn’t ‘register’ people-in-the-process-of-being-themselves as anything more than ‘different’ from my parents. It was only when I grew older that I realized the pain, the fear, and the legitimate threat experienced by non-heterosexuals.

As I mentioned in one of my previous Posts (“The Legacy of Suicide”), my mother took her own life when I was 10 years old. When I was about to turn 12, my father re-married. I adored my new step-brother Jeff immediately. He was just a year younger than me, an only-child and a bit spoiled by my step-mother. He was brilliant in math and science, and possessed a dry wit before he’d even entered the ‘ironic’ teenage years.

As we grew into those years, we remained very close. It was only when he left California to pursue his first graduate degree did I feel things between us change. When he returned, Jeff had an ‘edge’:  wary, cynical; not just witty, but sarcastic and almost mean. Unhappy. One evening in early September we were all gathered at the family home, celebrating my birthday (I was turning 30, I think). The champagne flowed freely; the house and yard reverberated with laughter. Suddenly, my step-brother shot out of the front door (I was standing on the porch with friends) and announced he was leaving the gathering. He had tears in his eyes. Jeff tried to brush past me but I grabbed him, looked deeply into his eyes and demanded to know what had happened. He told me, “I just came-out to Mother and Daddy!”. It was a punch to the gut (How did I not see this??), but I held on to him – or tried to. He wrenched away and I went inside to search for my parents.

Jeff’s life after that night took him to places – physically (he went to another out-of-state university for his PhD), and emotionally — where I could no longer connect easily with him. To his credit, when he was in town he’d always suggest a get-together. But in our parents’ home, in his mother’s presence, things were pretty horrible. As I later learned, my father had accepted Jeff’s lifestyle, but my step-mother had turned bitter, resentful and vicious. Jeff’s choice, as she saw it, had deprived her of her own anticipated future as a grandmother. It was a terrible, divisive, painful wedge in our lives.

What happened after that I can only describe as Jeff’s slow descent into a kind of ‘hell’. He ultimately married a man he seemed to truly love. But Jeff became a heavy smoker, drinker and drug-user. The only time he seemed in high spirits was while ‘high’. I remained close to him, but my love was not enough. He felt he’d betrayed his mother, and she was doing nothing to convince him otherwise.

When Jeff was in his mid-40’s, he developed an aggressive lung cancer that eventually spread to his liver and brain. He called me on the phone, to tell me when they’d first found it in his lung. He begged me not to tell our parents; he expected even more anger and recriminations from his mother. When he became critically ill, our parents thought it had all happened in less than 6 months. But Jeff had been nurturing deep sadness, confusion, and dis-ease for over 10 years. I know that, in the end, my step-mother realized the mistake she’d made. She herself connected the dots:  Jeff’s despair and decline, with how she’d responded to his sexuality – punishing him, as a profound disappointment — for years. He just wasn’t the kind of person to give his mother ‘the middle finger’ and get on with his life. So he got on with his death.

Pride Month, if it’s the best we can do in the meantime, is “ok” with me. But I know I’m not the only one who’s lost someone I love, because they just couldn’t take the pressure of trying to live and love outside The Mainstream. In my view, a ‘Month’ is just “ok”, but not in any way enough to support our fellow human beings in feeling whole, happy, and cherished.