The Truth About The Truth

Hi,

Remember that great scene in “A Few Good Men” when Jack Nicholson vehemently states, “You can’t handle the truth!”  I love that.  Because we skirt so many truths out of fear, reluctance, discomfort, personal disgust – I could go on.

Does that mean we are dishonest, horrid liars?  Absolutely not – in fact, I really like us as a species.  For every awful, despicable action that we witness, there is a generous, loving gesture to be seen.  We are cool, talented, smart, and have great music.  Our hugs can nourish us; our humor evokes hiccups, stomach cramps and a warmth like nothing else.

But are we honest?  I mean, really, really honest?  When we insist that we are our own worst enemy – um, not sure about that.  I think we’re honest with ourselves to the point of disquiet.  If it causes us too much agita, we move on to the issues we can handle.  Joe Klaas writes, “The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off”.  We certainly can feel self-anger – I’m just not sure if it’s about the stuff that whispers to you in the dark.

Don’t misunderstand me, please – I’m not the icon for honesty.  As a kid, I thought I invented lying – rationalizing (and perhaps to a degree rightly so – or so I believed) that my parents would freak if I came clean.  Obviously to a kid, that means you don’t want to get in trouble, and I hated getting in trouble (of course, who does?).

As an adult, some truths are harder to face, and perhaps if the effect of keeping them hidden causes little harm to yourself or others, those defense mechanisms arguably should remain in working order.  After all, they’re there for a reason.

But the big ‘but’ to me, is the illusion of all truth all the time.  I think that in and of itself is a fallacy.  I think we hide from certain truths, deny others and refuse to even consider some.  And perhaps the admission of this is the most honest we can be.  Personally I think that’s ok.

I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t look deeper, harder and with a more fearless eye. We may learn something about ourselves that really can free us from certain emotional binds that inhibit blood flow.  In fact, I think it’s a courageous thing to do.  I also think that in reality it is the fear of what we might find that makes us our own worst enemy.  Surrounding ourselves with a sycophantic chorus that assures us that our flaws are minor and our assets too numerous too mention – I’m not sure that gives any of us the love, understanding and perspective we deserve.

Where the hell is this all coming from?  Certainly the disingenuousness of the news here in the States, the frustration I feel at all the crap that’s circulating and frankly soiling the air I breathe.  A little self-reflection, a little candor, a lot of humility and a recognition of the failures in our humanity would be welcome.  Whoever you’re for or against is not the issue – what is at issue is the absence of honest self-reflection, for starters.  And frankly, if you’re an enemy to yourself, how can you be for anyone?  Just sayin’.

Of Paradoxes and Pop

Hi,

So here’s what’s been rolling around in this very addled head of mine…My neighbor Gary is an avid gardener.  So much so, that we have never spoken about anything else.  He came to the door a few weeks back to tell me that our grass was being over-watered and that I should adjust the scheduling of the sprinkler system.  Ok, done.  The other day he flagged down my car to advise me that my grass wasn’t getting enough water (I’m abbreviating the conversation to keep this thing going).

Everything needs water – but not too much.  Every meal should be savored – but not so much that you get heartburn.  My cyber pal David (davidkanigan.com), is pondering the extremes of emotional bungee jumping, as I extol the state of balance.  But highs are awesome – it’s the lows that suck.  It’s all a paradox (sidebar – Annie LaMott’s Ted talk on her 12 rules of life and writing – enjoy it).  I got it – and to a ridiculous degree, it’s all a cliché.  Until of course, you get to some lessons I’ve learned from my father-in-law.

Sid calls me his favorite daughter-in-law, and he in turn is my favorite father-in-law.  Of course, we are also each others’ only person in that category, so for me, it’s an easy win.  He’s 92, one of the greatest generation, the head of Andy’s clan and he wears that mantle handsomely.  He recognizes the magnificence of my sons’ as fathers – and tells them.  He literally beams at the mention of his grandkids.  He’s vibrant and engaged and has become the official greeter to his community.  Going up to strangers, introducing himself, inviting people with an outstretched hand and an easy smile.  He’d win “Most Popular” if they had such awards for adults.

Pop has an easy walk, this kind of strolling gait that is unhurried yet purposeful.  He broke his foot a few weeks back, which only slightly inconvenienced his ability to dance at his granddaughter’s wedding.  His two granddaughters wheeled him onto the dance floor, he was handed the mike to sing along with Louis Prima and no one eclipsed him from that point forward.

And yes, now that his boot is off, he’s got golf to return to, bridge of course…you get my drift.  Pop’s unassuming and humble, he’s warm and truly finds no fault with anyone in his ever-widening circle.  He reaches out – with no hesitation.  If you surmise that I love him, you’re right.   I think he finds self-absorption boring – too much is happening for the over-examination of one’s self, or the pursuit of that kind of attention from others.

My parents were too young when they passed away.  I’ve written about them extensively and will not do so now.  What I will say is that neither was able to show me how to grapple with getting older.  I’m grateful for Pop’s lessons, because other than learning how to  play bridge, I try to play this life as he does.

Pop was married to my mother-in-law for well over 60 years.  And he still called her the ‘most beautiful woman in the world’.  We all were deeply worried about him – would he be able to get past the grief, heal enough to make a life for himself, etc.  And here’s the paradox that Pop taught me, the only one that doesn’t make me crazy.

You don’t get past grief (I knew that part);  you don’t get over love and you still live.  One can argue that it is a religious requirement to do so (it is in Judaism) – which is a pretty high imperative;  so is doing it for the spirit within that begs to sing.  Love and grief co-exist.  One doesn’t cancel out the other.  Losing someone you adore doesn’t give you permission to exempt yourself from life’s dance.  They are not different sides of the same coin – they are the same side of the coin.  There is no better moment to thank my father-in-law than today, there is no better reason than his patient coaching and his love.  What can you say to someone who asks the world to be his guest?  Thank you for the invitation, Pop – I gratefully accept and I love you.

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It’s All For You

Hi my friend,

Once again, it’s been too long.  I would say that so much has happened, and yet that’s only true if one considers day-to-day life as a reasonable descriptive for endless activity.   It’s not that I am hustling to beat rush hour, get children out the door, committing sixteen hours to the workplace.  Been there, done that.  Somehow though, the days fall on top of each other, ignoring my exasperation with their speed.  So, with laundry in the dryer, the diswasher repair person gone, the shutters being installed and the Sirs running around offering love to any and everyone (oh, and cinnamon rolls in the oven),  I thought now would be a good time to write you.

The dishwasher repair person is from New Jersey – he’s been here before.  He and his wife moved here a year ago, and they too are adjusting to new rhythms, people, etc..  It’s awkward when you’re desperate to fit in, and find yourself feeling isolated.  The process of adapting is not nearly as fluid as the days are.  I smile because I hear my 92 year old father-in-law imploring me to ‘reach out, because no one is reaching in’…I’m reaching, Pop, I’m reaching.  That said, I’m also very short, so this whole reaching thing leaves me with my calves screaming (that was a joke).

And yet – there are neighbors who are nice enough when we see each other.  There’s a book club I joined.  I have made a friend.  And there’s a cashier at the local supermarket who gives me the biggest hugs whenever we see each other and compare notes on our grandchildren.  She reached in when she saw me buying enough cleaning supplies to dust and polish and wash an entire neighborhood (have I mentioned that I’m big on cleaning supplies?).  My first supermarket shop – and she hugged me.  Same thing has happened at the local CVS – the young woman with the purple hair (well, it varies) and spacers in her ears.  She’s a hugger.  The 13 year old who comes to Torah study – love that kid.

And so it goes – giving and receiving little tokens from the universe and marveling that I should be so lucky.  And do I pay it forward?  I try.  I need to do more.  Not only is it the rent we pay for being here, it just makes me feel like I’m doing something while I’m here.  The woman in the wheelchair at the gas station with two little ones in her lap and oxygen pulsing through her nose.  Does she need to know I paid her bill?  Absolutely not.  There’s no need.  The ladies who come every two weeks to clean my house and for whom I always bake (thus, the cinnamon rolls in the oven) –  though they are paid,  it just feels good to do a little something extra.  Listening to those who have so much to say and struggle to figure out how to articulate their thoughts.  As those opportunities arise, I open my arms wide.

I listen to a fourteen year old who has had a really lousy year – by almost any measure.  He doesn’t see that he is kick ass smart, erudite, cute, creative,  charming and wise.  He is slight, bereft, angry,  alone when he doesn’t want to be and indifferent to those around him simultaneously.  His peers are cruel and his teachers too overwhelmed I guess, to even notice.  So I notice.   And I get the chance to remind him that he is remarkable and talented and for reasons I don’t understand, he doesn’t dismiss me out of hand.  Being fourteen sucks on every level, but when you are a stranger in a world that doesn’t resemble anything familiar, it’s even worse.

This isn’t about whether or not I’m a nice person.  I’m ok as people go, but I know I can do better.  I know that the world is getting increasingly low on kindness and rich in judgments.  Are there reasons for this?  Many without question, and perhaps that is a topic for another day.  I’m sure we all have opinions about that.  So, I’m going to circle back to an earlier thought.  Those of us who are fortunate enough to read this on our computers, to have time to reflect, to worry more about the days flying by than how we will survive the next few hours – we’ve got rent due.  The world has given us much.

“Look at the sky:  that is for you.  Look at each person’s face as you pass them on the street:  those faces are for you.  And the street itself, and the ground underneath the street, and the ball of fire underneath the ground:  all these things are for you.”  — Miranda July

 

 

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Who’s Stewart?

Hi,

There are many stories in here, so forgive the multiple parentheticals – recognizing of course, that really talented writers don’t use them often.  Ah well, I’ve never claimed to be a really talented writer.

Anyway, I was speaking with my builder last week.  A few years ago, her birthday gift from her husband was a girls’ weekend at an exclusive hotel.  These women have been friends for years; there are no secrets.  Well, with an abundance of alcohol there are no secrets.  And they imbibed – a lot.  One of her friends has been happily married for many years.  Great guy – sweet, attentive, doting – the kind of guy everyone else in the group holds up as the example when they’re arguing with their spouses.

After many drinks, her friend acknowledged that as much as she loved him, he wasn’t her ‘Stewart’.  Stewart was the one who got away.  Her college sweetheart – part dog, part romantic fool.  She was besotted, he was hormonal.  But she held out a fantasy, wondering for years, ‘what if’.

To abbreviate the tale, over the years her feelings for her husband have replaced that wonder.  She adores him – even though he wasn’t her ‘Stewart’.

I’ve never had a Stewart.  Perhaps it’s because I married often enough that by the time I hit 30, the prospect of a fantasy romance would have just enervated me.  I was a single mom with two boys under the age of five.  And honestly, being a mom was pretty much the only fantasy I ever really had that I insisted on making a reality (but that’s another story).

So let’s move on.

Have I told you that my sister is flippin’ brilliant?  On so many levels, this woman amazes me constantly (Debbie, I know you are shaking your head, telling me that this is same-sex, birth order bullshit – and even if you’re right, so what?  It is what it is.  Truth for sure – and some residual younger-sister-will-never-be-as-good neurosis for good measure).  She is beautiful, scary smart, talented beyond measure – and she is a writer – the legitimate kind.  In one of her recent stories she wrote “you fall in love with the way someone falls in love with you”.  Brilliant.

And true.

I fell in love with the way Andy fell in love with me.  He made himself fit into my life with such an abundance of heart, romance, delight – he introduced me to his magic and I was ultimately mesmerized.  He is my Stewart, but he isn’t the one who got away.  He’s the one who stayed.

We may fall in love with the vision of love that we see, but we stay in love with the person who orchestrated the imagery.  The person who may not be who we first saw (and are we the person they first saw?), but who’s in it with you.  The person who can be your best friend and some weird extra-terrestrial at the same time and still be cute.  The one who drives you crazy in every conceivable way.  I’m a kite;  Andy is an anchor.  He’s judgmental;  I’m not (but for my expectations of sub-contractors working on our house, but they’re not reading this).  We are opposite sides of the same coin – and that is the kind of love that can’t be fabricated by fantasy.

We fall in love with the way someone falls in love with us.  True enough.  We love the person who knew how to make that happen.  Perhaps I never had a Stewart because I have an Andy.  And even though this has absolutely nothing to do with what I intended to pen today, it is what’s been on my mind all morning.  So, I guess therein is another story.

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Keep Moving

“My, my.  A body does get around.” – William Faulkner

Oh William, you have no idea.

We’ve moved.  We’re in our new house.  It is lovely, really.  True, the microwave doesn’t open, the dishwasher is confused about its purpose, there’s a wine fridge but it too is inoperable, and though I have a double oven, it has to be replaced or repaired.  Did I  mention that our refrigerator legs aren’t locked, so that it creeps along surreptitiously,  advancing with little notice until it kisses the wall?

Of course, as with every new house, there’s a punch list that is lengthy – and I now understand why it is in fact called a ‘punch’ list.

At night, our boxes multiply as if their souls were rabbits.  And each morning, I look around in disbelief that there are so damn many them.  The yard is not seeded, sodded or fenced, so the Sirs and I walk with our heads down – our neighbors must look at the mosh pit that is the front yard and shake their heads with displeasure.  Some of the doors don’t lock properly yet, but what the heck, I can always make someone a cup of coffee.

And yet.

I love that I have landed.  I may not be able to find my way through this morass even with a compass and clear head (I lack both) – but I am home.  A place to create new memories, walls that will hold laughter and baby giggles, words from family and friends, new secrets and old stories that are told and re-told for their lessons and familial value – all will be protected by this structure.  When you cross our threshold, you will know you are welcome.  I think that is what I have missed most about our old home (other than the fact that my kids were still under the roof).  It was ‘home’ to all who entered – shoes were off, people curled up on couches, succumbing to those drooly kind of naps, big Thanksgiving dinners, intimate moments with friends around the kitchen table.

I wish my whole family was local, but I am so, so grateful for those who are here.  I think as you get older, you treasure ‘home’ differently.  It isn’t about acquisitiveness any longer – on the contrary, that which isn’t essential to your heart is purged – it’s about holding on to that which is most important to you.  And reveling in it.  Perhaps therein lies my impatience.  I want to find the pictures of my parents, the cards my sons gave me when they were small.  I want to ‘feel’ my life in what I touch.

Andy keeps telling me to go slow, that this isn’t a marathon – he’s right of course.  I’m driven by a compelling force to snuggle into what I know, before I begin to create something new.  If our fence was up, I’d have one foot in the new and the other in the old.  Barring that,  I’m just going to keep going until I uncover all those priceless treasures that I have missed for almost a year.  And whisper with delight and gratitude, ‘There you are!  Thank you for waiting for me!’.

Ok, time to get started –

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