17 August 2016

Watcha say?

I have lots of questions.  About Life and how to live it.  And about people and the choices they make as they live Life.  And about my particular life as I live with myself and interact with people.

I'm not talking about the deep mysteries:  why are we here?  what happens when we die?  If there's an after life, is there also a before life?  I ponder those mysteries too but that's not what I want to talk about today.

Today I'm looking at a little thing that I experience over and over in social settings but I just don't "get".  I've always considered myself an intelligent person but the absence of intelligence in this regard -- an apparent inability to look, learn something and apply the acquired knowledge -- makes me wonder about my so-called intelligence.


So here's what's up for consideration today:  In more than 9 out of every 10 verbal exchanges with people, their response to my first statement or question is either "What?" or "Huh?"  I don't include my students in this number because, given the context in which we interact, I understand that much of what I say is probably new information for them.  I encourage them to question what I say.

Yes, I recognize the issue of regional dialect. I've lived a lot of different places, each with its own distinctive dialect.  But this place, Holly Springs, MS, is the first place I've lived where people routinely seem unable to understand my speech. Judging from past experience in other places, I speak a kind of generic American dialect that is decipherable for most American listeners. 

But not here. 

I was sitting in Wendy's recently, one of the few wi-fi spots in town, taking care of online business and browsing social media.  Fox News blared from the big screen TV while a female crooned a pop tune through the restaurant's sound system. At a nearby table, the adults in a rambunctious family group were engaged in a lively discussion of something they'd just heard on TV, apparently able to understand everything the news anchor said.

As I passed the table I paused to alert the young woman holding the infant that "Her little shoe fell off." 

"Huh?"

"The baby's shoe fell off.  It's under your chair," I intoned slowly while making eye contact.

"Oh!"  She bent to retrieve it.  "Thank you, ma'am."

I proceeded to the counter to order a beverage. "Welcometowendy'smayItakeyourorder," the young cashier trilled as I approached.  After considering my options for a few seconds, I said "I'd like the green tea, please."

"What?"

"The green tea," I repeated, speaking a bit louder and a lot slower.

&&&&&&&

So.

Is it easier to understand newspeak than everyday conversation?  Or is it easier to hear the human voice through a TV speaker?  Or is real-time human interaction so off-putting as to disrupt cognitive processing?  Or do I talk funny and it's only coincidence that people in New Orleans, San Francisco, Boston, Colorado Springs, Rio de Janeiro, ETC., are able to understand my funny talk? 

Or ....?

01 August 2016

The Landlord's Gallery

On the morning of the day I moved into the Yellow Fever House, the landlord and I spoke by telephone. I asked when I could move in and was told "If you can give me a few hours to take down the art, you can move in this afternoon." I offered there was no need to remove art from a space I would inhabit. We met an hour later, I signed the lease and was given the keys.

The photos below chronicle the current installation of paintings by Del Stover. One painting was removed a few weeks ago. The ghosts in the house are fond of nudging the hung works into slightly lopsided alignment. Straightening the paintings is part of my housekeeping regimen. Last fall one of the paintings was nudged so forcefully that it fell off the wall and was separated from its frame. After repairing it and rehanging it, only to have it forcefully ejected again, I returned it to my landlord.

Many of the paintings hold little to no appeal for me but I don't find any of them disturbing enough to remove from the gallery.  As far as I know, none of the works is titled.

The paintings hang in every room except my bedroom.  I've informed Del that that space is reserved.

I won't live here forever. These photos are for the record, documentation of one the stops along the way.














How Our Children See Us

"How foolish to think you can tell your children about yourself before they're at least fifty. To ask to be seen by them as a person and not as a function. To say:  I am your history, you begin from me, listen to me, it could be useful to you." from  The Lost Daughter by Elena Ferrante

In a few weeks I'll travel to Kansas to visit my son and meet second grandchild, a girl named Georgia, for the first time.  The last time we Skyped she hardly noticed me, more interested in crawling around and exploring the stuff on her father's desk. She'll have no recollection of me when we meet face to face.

Her older brother Henry calls me Gramma Alee. She'll probably follow his lead. It's evident she adores him from the photos I've seen. I haven't seen Henry in four or five years.

Georgia doing Frieda
Even though I'm always a little insecure with people under the age of 15 or so, once we've introduced ourselves in our own words I am usually able to focus more on them and less on my anxiety and we do just fine.

Georgia and Henry are both exceptionally bright children and, from what my son tells me, Georgia is as graceful a conversationalist as her brother. That always helps -- I like to talk to kids that enjoy conversation.

My son was that way when he was very young.  Curious about everything and courageous and highly gregarious.  I loved that about him and encouraged his fearless engagement with the world. I still love that about him. He knew I "had his back" as they say.

I still love that about him but his sense of me having his back has diminished. He just turned 38. I don't hear from him very often. Since he found his life partner -- a beautiful woman who mostly presents as my temperamental opposite -- he's been intent on protecting her and the children from me (his word).

When he was about 11, he asked me to tell him the story of my life and I did. I hope some day he'll ask me again to tell him the story of my life. I think he'll understand it better this time. I think he'll meet me at last and realize I was never a threat to his family.

31 July 2016

Approaching the Tipping Point

I am losing sleep. And chain smoking. And crying a lot. 

I am (as of two days ago) committed to taking my vitamins more consistently. 

I must have coffee in the morning.  Two cups is standard quota now -- up from the usual single cup.

I am finding succor in a virtual world among people I have never met. 




I am holding my tongue and filtering the audience that can hear me when I break silence.

There must be a word to describe the experience of a heart breaking and a brain exploding at the same time.

I watched portions of the Republican National Convention, sitting at a counter in my kitchen. Not surprised that their message of "everything is horribly wrong and it's Their fault -- not ours and our guy is gonna beat them up for us" has an appeal but pained to see the numbers, just how many humans have no trouble, suffer no incapacitating cognitive dissonance while standing under the "liberty and justice for all flag" while spewing hatred.  Some of them even call me "friend."

I watched portions of the Democratic National Convention, sitting at a counter in my kitchen. From time to time I wished I was in Philadelphia. I have not been a registered Democrat for many years but lots of Independents showed up in Philly, too, and I sighed with longing as I watched them marching and chanting and sitting-in.

I struggle to reconcile the hopeful enthusiastic fervor of HRC supporters inside the Wells Fargo Center with the hopeful enthusiastic fervor of Sanders/Stein supporters outside and inside the Wells Fargo Center. I note the frustration and animosity of both groups toward the other, struggle to understand what any or all of this has to do with me, to ascertain where, if anywhere at all, my place is in the tumult. 

The struggle is familiar. Feels like a life-long struggle. The context this time is national politics, a presidential campaign but I know about suppressing personal desire and revamping principles and breathing through delayed gratification and seeking a mature serenity with a making-the-best-of-It compromise, glimpsing a shining city on a hill while slogging through a decimated ghetto full of frightened, disheartened people, all of us in shackles.

And I know my life nears its end. And I wonder will there come a day when I can/will simply stand up and walk toward the city on the hill?  Find the courage to press on, this time toward the Light and only the Light? 

I am likely guilty of the naivete, selfishness, and delusional thinking that some accuse me of. I am not appreciating the magnitude of the danger we face, they tell me. A danger whose devastating potential outweighs whatever truth and beauty I imagine I see on the shining hill. A danger that will make current deprivations look like paradise by comparison.

I am so tired, so aware of my mortality, so aware that time is running out. Something in me is screaming "Enough is enough. No more. The time has come." 

Whatever the particulars of its presentation, the struggle is sometimes like a choice between slow death by torture with nothing to wear or eat and slow death by torture with clothing inadequate to the weather and a steady diet of toxic food. It's a hard choice, right?  

I am told repeatedly that abstaining from either option, choosing a third way that lies along the path to the city on the hill, is foolish, for just around that curve up ahead I will learn that this road actually leads to one of the other two options. 

In the fantasy, somehow I die on the road. Maybe before the curve or maybe just as I enter it. 


14 July 2016

The Long Haul

I was yanked from sleep this morning by what felt like every cell in my body (and the equivalent of every cell in my soul) taking a deep breath and shouting with a determination to be heard at the furthest corners of the Universe. "We are ready!" I felt strong and determined and ready for a slog through Hell.

As a teen and a young woman I wondered why my mother didn't love me. Now and then, my mother and I would have an especially painful (for me) exchange. Seeking comfort (or something) from a relative or friend of the family, I'd hear "She loves you. She just doesn't know how to show it." This never comforted me. Not once.

And I didn't believe it. Any more than I believed "You can be anything you want to be" or "Good things come to those who wait" or "Everything happens for a reason." How could I believe? Real life experience was telling me that she did not love me. The people I consulted didn't want to believe that such a thing could happen, that a mother could not love her child.


In the early days of Donald Trump's candidacy for President of the United States, he made outrageous statements. He lied. He was rude. He was mean. He was stupid. People said "He won't last. He'll be gone before the first primary election." They didn't want to believe that such blatant bigotry and incompetence would appeal to the "good people of this country" (the assumption being that "people are basically good." Add that one to the list of platitudes in the previous paragraph.)

As time went on, real life experience delivered a different message. Blatant bigotry and incompetence appealed to a great many people.

"Well, he'll never be nominated," they said as Trump's march through the primary season began.

"Well, hell never be elected," "they" are saying now. People from a variety of political persuasions don't want to believe that a man of such blatant bigotry and incompetence could be elected and hold the highest office in the "greatest nation on earth."


A few months ago a big brown envelope was delivered to me via USPS. It contained the Amended Final Settlement of my deceased mother's estate. She died on Valentine's Day 2012.  My name does not appear anywhere in the document, only on the address label affixed to the envelope.  As far as my mother was concerned, as indicated in her Final Will and Testament, I did not exist. The document acknowledges the existence of my son but not me.

She did not know how to show her love for me (if she had any) but she did know how to show an enduring disregard. As the recipient of this disregard, I must say it feels a lot like not being loved.

And I've survived it. For the last 30 years of her life, my mother refused to speak to me, to answer or return phone calls or acknowledge cards and letters. It hurt -- hurts still on certain days -- and I survived it.


There is a strong possibility that some day in the not-too-distant future, Barack and Michelle Obama will give Donald and Melania Trump a tour of the White House. The Obamas will not be happy about it but they will survive it.

I don't want to see Donald Trump elected. I hope he isn't. If he is, the consensus in the entirety of my sensorium is that I will survive it.




27 July 2015

This is Goodbye

Thank you for reading.  I'll leave the posts up for a few more weeks before archiving them with my personal papers. They will not be available after 1 October 2015.

Safe journey and meaningful sojourns to you.


20 July 2015

Lessons in a Charmed and Imperfect Life

Living the last 30 days has been like skipping through a sun-drenched field of flowers -- and stepping on a nail.

Three nails, to be accurate. If I expand the time frame to include C_____'s betrayal, four nails.

Last night I dreamed that one of two friends who were living with me invited an "enemy" into the house without my permission. I exploded in highly articulate passion. "Don't ever bring anyone into my house who does not love me as I am!"

Today I am still walking in the after glow of the dream's exhilarating moment. Feeling tall and clear and certain.

I relish energetic exchanges sparked by a difference of opinion. I am a would-be lawyer. This is not about wishing that everyone saw things my way.

This is about people who want to see themselves as friends of mine, who would say with pride that they are good people and they care about me.  This is about those people, upon discovering something about me that conflicts with their projections and idealized views of me, deciding to either attack, criticize or jump ship.  They reject dialogue as an option. They reject empathy. They reject compromise.

Today, I erase the board: I've been using the wrong symbols to solve the problem. I've been trying to find a way to maintain intimate relationship with people who perceive a fatal flaw in me. They insist that I be some way other than I am...or else. No more cookies. No more peace.  No more love. For them, something I am or something I said or did presents as a mortal threat so dire as to justify attack.

If this is Love....  Intimacy is not possible under these conditions.

I understand their behavior is a commentary on the state of their own hearts and minds. I wish them well in their lives. I am moving on. I divest interest in finding a way to prove myself to them, finding a way to keep them in my heart.

This decision will change the flavor of our interactions from this point on. I accept them where they are -- people who find me flawed -- and will proceed accordingly.