Looking back and thinking forward

Month: January, 2011

From the inside looking out

Yesterday I went to the gym and worked out hard. Treadmill, weights and then a long, strong swim – twenty laps or was it more? After my shower I noticed a few aches and pains but those were the usual twinges I always feel after stretching and oiling those aging muscles and joints. I looked in the mirror. Rosy cheeks and bright sparkling eyes. I felt good.

I drove off energetically to meet a friend for lunch, stopping off here and there to buy a few things for the house: milk, nuts, tuna for Ada, and so forth. As I skipped up the steps of the restaurant I felt my feet were light and nimble – what can I say? I felt positively spry. Leaning over the counter, I gave my name to the hostess and was told there would be a twenty minute wait. So I stood back wondering if I had time to grab a cup of cappuccino at the Starbucks a few doors away.

Suddenly, a young man was in front of me saying, "Would you like to sit down?" I stared at him for a few seconds not quite understanding what he meant. And then I realized he was pointing to his seat next to a young woman, where he had been sitting waiting his turn for a table at the restaurant. "WHAT? HE THINKS I AM OLD AND NEED TO SIT DOWN!" My brain bellowed out loudly to me. I burst out laughing with what seemed to me like a monstrous guffaw. "Oh no thank you," I spluttered and gasped. "No, really," I continued, "Thank you but no, really … no …"

Before I knew it I had stumbled out of the restaurant confused and befuddled, wandering in the street along the pavement thinking, "I must go and get that cup of coffee now." As I ruminated, I found myself standing on the corner, where I saw my friend waiting to cross over towards me at the light. "Hi, hello!" I called out (I think I might have sounded panic-stricken), "There is a twenty minute wait!"

Since then, every time I think of my reaction to the young man's generous and compassionate offer, I burst into peals of laughter. Honestly? I thought I was right on track. Getting older and accepting it. Enjoying becoming wiser while watching my body slowly falling apart or seizing up. Even accepting the fact that there is no turning back after sixty. Just moving forward to a new age with different challenges. I was sure I was at peace with these facts – this new era in my life.

I guess – not quite yet.

Nope – not so much.

For, I simply have to admit, that what I may be feeling on the inside … does not always translate to how I seem on the outside. 

A year ago at Mining Nuggets: Simply put

Speaking of anger …

This just in from G.B. – thanks …

"Subject: Where were the angry people when……?

Birthers, Deathers, TEA BAGGERS, and Angry People…. 

You didn't get mad when the Supreme Court stopped a legal recount and appointed a President.  

You didn't get mad when Cheney allowed Energy company officials to dictate energy policy.  

You didn't get mad when a covert CIA operative got outed.  

You didn't get mad when the Patriot Act got passed.  

You didn't get mad when we illegally invaded a country that posed no threat to us.  

You didn't get mad when we spent over 600 billion(and counting) on said illegal war.

You didn't get mad when over 10 billion dollars just disappeared in Iraq .

You didn't get mad when you saw the Abu Grahib photos.

You didn't get mad when you found out we were torturing people.

You didn't get mad when the national debt doubled under the previous President from $5.674 trillion to $10.024 trillion.

You didn't get mad when the government was illegally wiretapping Americans and the President lied about it.

You didn't get mad when we didn't catch Bin Laden in Tora Bora.

You didn't get mad when you saw the horrible conditions at Walter Reed.

You didn't get mad when we let a major US city drown!

You didn't get mad when the deficit hit the trillion dollar mark.

You finally got mad when.. when… wait for it……………

When the government decided that people in America deserved the right to see a doctor if they are sick.

Yes!  Illegal wars, lies, corruption, torture, stealing your tax dollars to make the rich richer, are all ok with you, but helping other Americans… well that makes me mad!


A year ago at Mining Nuggets: What a state – the union (Update)

Surrender to my Self …

Quote of the day:

… And remember, too, you can stay at home, safe in the familiar illusion of certainty. Do not set out without realizing that the way is not without danger. Everything good is costly, and the development of the personality is one of the most costly of all things. It will cost you your innocence, your illusions, you certainty. Sheldon B. Kopp. (Page 10)

I have been reading Kalilily Time recently, where I learned of:�If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him! The Pilgrimage of Psychotherapy Patients.�

Checking out blog stats this morning I saw someone had come upon this post. I found it soothing to read again …

The Good Mother

Ten minutes … go!

Unconditional love. Validation of emotions. A listener. Nurturer. A constant in an ever changing world. A tall, solid oak that is steady and firm when the rivers swell and rage through life's storms. Long, warm arms that envelope when sorrow prevails – with the ability to drive away despair and loneliness. A fixer! Protector. Willing to sacrifice her Self – Devoid of anger or disappointment. A saint with a strong shoulder to bear the burdens of motherhood. Predictable, practical, compassionate. As I write I realize that the expectations are unrealistically enormous. An impossibility to accomplish. Indeed, I know no mother like this. Who am I thinking of? Who am I matching myself up with? I have no personal experience of any of these qualities in my early childhood, or even after. Will I never grow up? When I was young, did I aspire to become a nun in order to be the perfect mother, knowing full well I could never become like her? The subject gives me an ache – a burning sensation in the pit of my stomach. My body becomes agitated. Am I a failure before I begin? No wonder I want to write: "A Handbook of Guilt for Parents." Where do these images come from, I wonder as my fingers tap away at the keyboard? I sense rage rising now. It seeps up and out from somewhere deep in my body, but intellectually I realize anger is bubbling up from the deep recesses of my brain. I hear an infant sobbing, arms stretched out – reaching for a mama … echoes of yearning, anxiety, fear, loneliness.

It has become longer than ten minutes now. I have done nothing more than describe a plastic image – a stereotype of "the good mother." When, in fact, I am well aware that mothering is a complexity of shadows and radiance, kindness and self-interest, wrapped into one whole. My old therapist, Bob, used to say that my mother is a "work of art." "Then, surely," I think, "I am too?" And in a work of art I see shades of dark and light, humor and joy, as well as despair and sorrow. That is what makes it intellectually interesting, and wondrously emotional. Art is what makes me gasp with ecstasy and amazement – sometimes, even, horror. It is what fills me with love and awe – fear and wonder – it's of the human condition – expands my imagination.

The Good Mother is evolving into a work of art.

Expand our moral imaginations

Quotes of the day: [From President Barack Obama's speech in Tucson, Arizona last night – italics – mine]

"… it's important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds."

"Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let us use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together."

"We recognize our own mortality, and are reminded that in the fleeting time we have on this earth, what matters is not wealth, or status, or power, or fame – but rather, how well we have loved, and what small part we have played in bettering the lives of others."

 "… let's remember that it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy, but rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to our challenges as a nation, in a way that would make them proud. It should be because we want to live up to the example of public servants like John Roll and Gabby Giffords, who knew first and foremost that we are all Americans, and that we can question each other's ideas without questioning each other's love of country, and that our task, working together, is to constantly widen the circle of our concern so that we bequeath the American dream to future generations."

"We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another is entirely up to us."

"I want us to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it. All of us – we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children's expectations."

A year ago at Mining Nuggets: Writing in the dark

Last looks

Quote of the day:

"It's a holy thing to be a writer. It is why you want to write your memoir: to remember all of it. The good and the bad. To trust your experience, to have confidence that your moments and the moments of others on this earth mattered, not to be forgotten, wiped out with the new decree, the better plan. 

It is a great thing you are doing whatever it is you are remembering. You are saying that life – and its passing – have true value." Natalie Goldberg [Page 265]

Yesterday I started making an inventory of "goodbyes." One of the exercises that I have started writing in a journal I was given for Christmas. It is a small book, with a fabric cover – floral, paisley design in rustic colors and splashes of blue. The paper inside the journal is roughly bound, and a piece of elastic band holds the book together. Its size made it easy to slip into my bag as I walked off, around the corner, to the High Point Cafe yesterday. I took the long way so as to get in a twenty minute walk at the same time, and the morning was crispy cold. By the time I arrived at the cafe, the tip of my nose was rosy red from the wind, and my glasses steamed up as I walked in the front door. The warmth of the place enveloped me with its diverse community of old and young, babies and young children accompanying young parents and grandparents, all talking and some laughing. Others bent in closely over their tables in intense conversations. I carefully pushed my way through the crowds to a small table in the corner and placed my coat, hat and gloves on the chair to book my space while ordering at the counter a cheddar cheese scone and non-fat latte.

As I began eating, drinking and writing, a young man asked if he could sit at my table as there were no more seats in the small room of the cafe. I agreed at once. He pulled out his iPad and began checking out news on CNN. First he gave me a large, warm smile and wished me a "Happy New Year," hoping that my day was going well. It felt perfect. Indeed, the perfect venue to start writing my list of goodbyes. I was not alone as I began to explore "fare-welling" during the past sixty one years of my life. I had been putting off this exercise for a couple of months now. In the feelings department, it had seemed formidable.

In between sips of the milky coffee-latte and soft, cheddar scone perfectly baked with traces of salt and pepper subtly integrated into the warm dough, I began my inventory. As I wrote each memory down, yet another would immediately rise up from somewhere in my brain: "Oh yes, and I remember that time!" – Each goodbye setting off an association with yet another and another.

I named that journal entry, "Last Looks," because I realized that goodbyes have to do with my memories of how people looked at me before they departed – whether through security gates at airports, boarding a bus, waving from a car window, glancing back while walking down a road, or just before they died. Some of those last looks have stayed with me for years, compounded by guilt and regret haunting me at times, at others with yearning for good times gone by.

Eventually I ran out of memories. I laid down my pen, and gazed around the cafe. The young man opposite me was engrossed in reading his iPad and there had been some comings, goings, exchanges and rotations of groups and couples at neighboring tables. I was exhausted. Nostalgic. My throat seemed closed, with an almost choking sensation, and I wanted to weep. As I gathered my empty cup and plate to discard in the buckets next to the counter at the back of the room, the man looked up directly into my eyes. Once again he gave me a large, warm smile, and this time said gently, "Have a wonderful day out there." 

I stumbled out onto the sidewalk and as I almost jogged down the hill towards my house, tears streamed down my cheeks.


This month is the sixth anniversary of blogging for me. It also means that we have been living in Philadelphia these past six years, for, originally, I used my blog to help the transition from New York to Pennsylvania, one job to another, old friends to new ones, and our Buffalo house to our new Philadelphia home.

So, not only is it 2011 – ahead is a new blogging year as well. I have been thinking about how blogging has changed since I started six years ago. I had more readers then, and my posts were a lot longer than they are now. And, talking of focus, I seemed focused on self-alteration, or at the very least, trying to understand my Self more and more through writing publicly about that.

In August this year, I have signed up for, and plan to participate in a workshop with Natalie Goldberg in Taos, New Mexico. My hope is to figure out a way to to write a memoir – find a focus, and tell my life story. My brain constantly shoots out thoughts, ideas and angles of my life, but I feel overwhelmed with information and memories to choose from. I like the idea of a silent retreat and daily writing exercises, and am hoping Goldberg's expertise will guide me to my memoir path. 

I asked Santa for journals on my Christmas list, and indeed received a few of those [Thanks, S., J., & T.]. Natalie Goldberg requires us to hand-write our pieces. Those I will certainly do. For I try to be a good student! However, I have been thinking that this year I will also use my blog for writing exercises. No doubt about it, blogging has been invaluable in exercising and improving my writing skills these past six years. As I type away, I consider the readers out there, and at times even receive comments from the few remaining visitors to my posts. 

Today, I hail the sixth anniversary, and tilt my blog slightly in a different direction, with a slightly changed focus: writing skills. 

However, understanding my Self through writing will most certainly still be included. For most of the writing exercises Natalie Goldberg suggests, come from places deep within our emotional memory banks. 


It seems like I have lost my focus. Or did I ever have it?

I mean I must have. For, how did I complete a doctoral dissertation, and write or edit three books? How do I organize syllabus's and teach two courses a semester? How do I Chair a department? Make presentations.

Without focus.

And yet, I feel as if I have lost my focus, and, indeed, that I have never had it! 

In fact, it seems as if I have always juggled a number of things at once. For example, as I wrote the dissertation, I was also directing a university child care center, being president of the local, and a member of the State early childhood organization, while teaching courses at three colleges as an adjunct instructor. 

So, is juggling a way for me to focus?

For, as I start one thing I immediately find myself doing a couple of others simultaneously – blogging while paying taxes; drinking coffee as I water the plants, clean the cat litter, do the laundry, and wash dishes; write, and organize my photo albums; organize courses and talk on the phone – on and on …

Last year this time I wrote about wasting time. So, perhaps I feel out of focus right after the holiday season.

Therefore, has focusing something to do with being in or out of routine?

Or with brain-space?

So many ways to think about it.

It makes it harder to focus.

And then …

… why do I care about being focused?

A year ago at Mining Nuggets: Time and the wasting