Day By Day

A Few Notes:

♥ Photo above by Ken Arni, I’ll try to credit photos I use and will never use them for anything but this blog and remove them if asked. Contact me if you see something I need to change.

♥ Well, I found out that making my poetry public on this web site makes it essentially ineligible for publication. I’m not sure I want to do that. I may have grandiose hopes but part of the thought in posting all of it was to get it exposed so that I might get a wider readership. If I find out that the information I got is wrong and that isn’t a problem I’ll make everything public.

♥  I won’t change the blog posts unless there is a factual error and since most of this is my opinion there is no need to change them. As I change my mind I’ll write new posts. The biography won’t change here but I might put up new stuff about the same thing as my views grow.

If anyone knows a good on-line poetry site where I might be able to have my stuff critiqued honestly I’d appreciate it if you’d let me know.

THANK YOU for reading what I write.



The Price of Magic

I was sitting, tucked into the corner of my room at my little desk, a wooden bookcase to my left. I was writing, I don’t recall what. As it moved in, my sight opened up. My heart beat so strongly and so deeply I had to lift my face, to give the blood more space to move through my head. That was when I saw it. I’ve never seen it before nor since but it changed everything. I understood that this was what the Zen Buddhists call satori. I was awake for a moment. The clear thing I retain is a sense of awe.

Turning, I put my hand out to the bookcase and as clear as the air on a snowy mountain side I could see it. I could see that my hand, the bookcase, the books, the wall, my desk, the air were all one. To touch one was to touch everything. I knew I couldn’t hold onto that vision long. I opened myself to the change it was making in me so that I could carry it with me. I dwelt in the awareness of how, just as every drop of water that has ever been still is, what I am has been a part of every other thing and holds its memories, its knowledge, its wisdom, its life. That I am, just adds to all of life. My job became honoring those ancient understandings.

Years later we were camping by the bay with our kayaks. It was a full moon night and we decided to go out and watch her from the water. We set a lantern on the shore in case we too got too far away to recognize our spot. We paddled out but didn’t stop for long. It was like being called to paddle out farther. The water was undulating silk, dark, soothe, and washed with the moonlight. It was like paddling in a trance. There was the moon in the water around each boat but I could see nothing of the water beyond that circle of light. If I looked up I could see the shadow of the distant shore ahead, lights dotting the black. The only sound was the lap of the water on the shore somewhere and the plink of water dripping from the paddle as the other blade slid into the water. It was another of those experiences I knew I couldn’t hold for long so I settled into the magic of the rhythm of the night, the full moon light, the pull of the paddling and shushing of water on the shore.

We paddled until we got into a nest of crab pots that required some attention so that we didn’t get tangled in the lines. Coming out the other side it had been lost. I knew looking for it was futile but did try for a bit. We where now just paddling in the dark towards the sleeping town we didn’t want to reach. The glow that had embraced us was lost, the water was slapping instead of caressing the shore. I tried to find it again but maybe it’s only to be found as the full moon first come to bloom over the horizon, or over the trees in this case. The world had returned to its usual cold water, sharp lines and intent. We had had no intent when we first set out, only allowing ourselves to be lured by the experience. Time returned. We paddled a bit farther then turned and headed back. We figured we had paddled about six miles in two hours. The only time I was really aware of was of the time after we lost the magic.

I had to pay a token price for that trip. I had been wearing earrings that were a gift, that I was particularly fond of. She took one and I had to just say thank you and let the sacrifice go. I’d gladly pay again but I suspect that is a once in a lifetime trip.

In my life I’ve been brush my magic and enchantment many time. Some are extraordinary and transforming experiences but most of the ones in my life have been transporting. I’ve been taken to a place of such pleasure and peace that I notice how amazing it is. They are moments of seeing the shine around something ordinary that demands that it isn’t ordinary. Most of these times have been out in the woods or on the water. Like the experience paddling the willingness to be taken by the unknown, be moved in places I’ve never been without fear is magical. Outside it’s easier to see because of the nature of our awareness and attention out of doors. Inside we assume our surroundings and will fail to notice even the most amazing thing that happen right under our noses. The very awareness of the extraordinary is transformative or enlightening, a thing that I call magic.

Sleeping or Getting There

Sleep has been a hard thing for me all my life. Like every other child who waits for Santa, Christmas eve was particularly hard. I must have been maybe 4 at the most. I couldn’t sleep. I’d been told he wouldn’t come if I didn’t sleep. I was one of those children who wouldn’t be able to sleep or I’d wake in the night and roam or play. It drove my parents nuts, especially my mother. At any rate, this particular Christmas eve when I couldn’t sleep I got up to pull the shade down so he couldn’t see I couldn’t sleep. I pulled so hard I pulled it down or broke it or something like that. I was so upset that he’d see me that I cried myself to sleep. I’ve hated pull-shades since that night even though I bought a pair of black-out shades for my room a few years ago. No light is more critical to my sleep than what kinds of window covers I have.

Mom made sleeping even harder for me. She wasn’t a patient person. She brooded. When she got to a boil you really weren’t sure what she’d do. My Dad worked evening shift, not getting home until after 11:00. I suspect he wasn’t home one night when she got mad about something. She stormed into my room as I was sleeping and started hitting me. I don’t recall anything except that explosion of fear I felt, not knowing what was happening. Many years later she said she regretted it. That night and until she threatened to punish me I slept on the floor on the other side of the bed from the door. She might even have apologized told me it would never happen again, I don’t recall. I wouldn’t have trusted anyway. The damage was done because she was so unpredictable. I don’t think I ever told her it was because of her I slept on the floor.  I was afraid to go to sleep for the longest time. She must have known but I think I was afraid to bring it up. To this day if someone suddenly opens my bedroom door I jump and my heart beats wildly. If I’m asleep and am startled I feel like I can’t breathe. Of all the things that have happened to me this one has stuck most tenaciously with me unlike things that sound more dramatic. What happens to small children really does count. Now I have trouble sleeping if my bed is next the door. The slightest noise outside will wake me. I always try to get the bed next to the window in hotels.

I recall waking up one morning, I was maybe 9 or so, with one leg under the covers and one leg over the covers. It was a revelation that you could do that. I’ve always slept hot so mostly slept without blankets and sometimes no sheet. I grew up before the age of home A/C so we sweated a lot during the summers. With this new idea I found I could get comfortable with my feet outside but cover over my body. I came to snuggling with my pillow and my feet waving outside the blankets even in the winter. As a hyperactive kid I was always moving, even in my sleep and the feet wiggling at 90 mph was why no one would sleep with me when we traveled. Another thing people complained about was I’d laugh in my sleep, which I’ll still do.

I’ve always been nocturnal. My mom said I was that way before I was born, sleeping all day and keeping her up all night. I suspect that is why night sleeping is still hard. I get my best sleep from about 4am to about noon. I worked swing shift in several jobs. In the  days of VCRs I programmed them to record the shows I liked and I ‘d be watching TV at 3:00-4:00 and going to bed when daylight appeared. I don’t like facing sun-up at the end of a day.

When I was in  my late 20s I went to a psychiatrist about tensions and sleep issues. He gave me pills saying I was missing some body chemical that kept me asleep. They worked wonders. I recall the first morning after taking it and saying to my sister how wonderful it was to get a good night’s sleep. I stayed on that medication for years. I don’t recall why I stopped. Maybe once I was on a regular pm shift I wasn’t as bothered by my odd sleep pattern.

I also made sleeping hard for myself. For years I drank iced tea by the gallon. It was cheap and sugar free but I never considered how much caffeine was in it. For at least 10 years I used Excedrin PM to go to sleep most nights. It got to the point where I was taking 3 a night instead of the 2 they recommended. I also had to recognize that any coffee in the evening didn’t help, that took several more years. In fact I’ve kind of gaven up all but my morning mug of coffee. Any night when I’d had more than a glass or two of wine I’d again have trouble. This is all quite normal but I had to learn it all the hard way, by losing sleep.

Another thing I had to change was that I had been sleeping with a radio on for years to block out outside sounds. This was before the age of digital and white noise machines. I now have one of those playing the sound of rain. What was happening was that the news voices woke me. When NPR classical radio came about in the 70s I played that and it didn’t bother me as much because they didn’t increase the volume for things like ads. I still found some of the voices intrusive so the white noise machines have been a blessing.

I’m fortunate because I’ve learned how to mostly keep worries from keeping me up. Once asleep they may surface in my dreams but I mostly know I’m sleeping and can push them away. Now that I’m retired I don’t have the stresses that really can make waking life, much less sleep a burden.

Every night I try to remember to count my blessings. You’d be amazed at how that changes your outlook. It sounds trite to say to count your blessing but it works because most of the time we gripe about the stuff that is hard. I go to sleep or at least bed with gratitude. I start with being thankful for my full size bed instead of a twin, or no bed. Then I snuggle under the puffy down comforter that is so warm and feels so luxurious. I go on to think about the privileges I’ve experienced that day like eating when I was hungry, being able to pay the bills that came in the mail that day, having a spouse whom I love and who loves me, having the cutest dogs and so on. I marvel at the internet and how much it has added to my life and knowledge.  If I’m still awake at this point I start to make up stories that are fun from plans to make something to plans to take a trip or even just thinking about the last good book I’m reading. From there more drastic measures are needed, like turning on the light and reading until I’m sleepy. I have to read something that isn’t the best or it just keeps me up. Rarely am I still awake by 4:00 am.


Insight: Magic

When I was a child I was unhappy or at least very confused and unsure of what was going on. I couldn’t figure it out. I understood that mom and I were not friends, I didn’t trust her or like being around her but I needed someone to get out of my inner insecurities.

I was thinking about how kids like magic. They believe in it. They believe in Santa, the tooth fairy, and elves and faeries. I remember my delight in them. I wished we had a back porch so I could set milk out for them.

I recall going to Sunday School in Calf. I know I went to it back here. They taught us about this god we couldn’t see who would answer our prayers. They taught us about how to say the prayers. They taught us about Jesus who could do these magical things of healing people and feeding people and other stuff. What we had to do was to learn to say the right things and to go to Mass and perform the rituals just right and our prayers would be answered. So, to try to fix things, I worked very hard at learning all of this to make things in my life better. I got all As in religion. But being the curious, pushy person I was I started recognizing the inconsistencies of the beliefs of the church and in that questioning I moved out and beyond.

One of the goals of my life has to be not bound by rules and expectations as much as I could. That opened doors to incorporating ideas from everything from the RC dogma to fairy tales in my thinking about the inner life and the process of existence. I’m thinking “unbound” is one of my functional words.


I’ve been retired for a bit over 2 years. The first year I spent dealing with my own and my wife’s problems. The second year was better but fell apart after a June trip she took to Calf. to visit her family. She cobbled herself back together and the last 6 months have been quite smooth but my walking has deteriorated to the point that I can’t walk more than 100 yards at most and I’d need 2 or 3 breaks in that 100 yards.

I like to stay up late reading. In recent weeks it’s been about 4:00 so I don’t get up until noonish. That way days feel off kilter, running late. I kind of live with the feeling I’m running out of time. Maybe that is a function of age as well as circadian rhythms. I’m working on addressing this slightly uncomfortable feeling by establishing a pattern to my days. I have this “flow” list I’ve made. Flogging order into the way I do things is so hard. I’ve mostly gone with the flow so things got done or not. Now I don’t have that much that has to happen so I need to fill it with something other than pontificating on Facebook all day and night, which I’ve been doing now for over 3 years. I did it the whole 5 months I was off work because of my back. I am quite the addicted it seems. But with the election over there isn’t as much that I want to read or say. I’m very worried and saddened by what I see in Trump. It’s kind of easier to not be on FB because I don’t want to read or write about him particularly.

My pattern is to make these great lists or approaches to problems and promptly forget them. I have to have it in front of my face, not under a pile of papers and magazines and books and such. Right now on my list I’m only at “think about the day” and it’s 3:45! I have accomplished things like getting dressed and a bit of housework, but I have a meeting tonight so I had things connected with that and the printer wouldn’t work so I had to play with that and Mardi needed a few minutes. When I think about the day I recall what I needed to do and instead of just writing it down I ran and did it so the day planning never got completed <sigh>. Anyone cleaning house will recognize the pattern. You take dishes into the kitchen while dusting the living room, and instead of setting them down you start washing the few that are in the sink, then you recall you left some in the den, so you go in there but you recall you said you’d email someone some information, so you sit down and do that, then you check Facebook and recall you were going to donate to the ACLU, but you want to get your check book to make sure you can do it today, so you go to the desk in the living room to get it and realize 2 hours ago you were dusting. The dusting isn’t done, the dishes aren’t done, ACLU doesn’t have its money and you have to go back to the beginning.

What’s on my mind is how to keep some systematic way to organize my days so I don’t live feeling I’m running out of time.


Tin God

He can do it all
He’s so sure he can,
no matter what it is
or how awfully hard.
Just his words are enough
to make it real,
They do believe
When they cry
too many people
not like me
he yells, build a wall,
Mexico will even pay
…to make it so.
They scream on cue
a wall, a wall, a wall
They do believe
Your jobs got sent away
We’ll make them
bring them back
No minimum wage
No safe conditions
I know you’ll gladly
die for me because
I’ve got to make
a profit first.
They do believe
I know you love me
so I can do or say
most anything
even if I do my worst
you’ll follow me
to hell and back,
Truth isn’t such a friend
I love that you are mad as hell
I’ll even be your guide.
They do believe

Personal history

We can’t change our personal history, only the stories we tell of it. We can say something different about what happened and what we now feel about it but we can’t change what really happened that day or how we felt then, nor how we grew around the emotions of it. In a search to reconcile with out past we retell our stories changing this or that. Often we start by giving a benefit of the doubt to one character of the other. It is too great a burden to keep blaming. It hurts to much to be angry, to feel rejected, to take it all personally as a reflection of ourselves. We have to find a way to explain things that lightens the burden of responsibility we carry. Going around blaming your mother/yourself is just so tiring.

It’s a long journey around all that. You start feeling angry and unloved. She wasn’t nice, she was mean. For 40 years she did that shit and she even admitted it. But now you have to forgive her because it’s you who carries the weight of not laying it down. It has to be someone’s fault. After all it was choices people made, she and I, I think. She didn’t have a mother, she was impatient, she had unrealistic expectations of what children are, she didn’t really like being a mother, she expected children to wait on her, she expected girls to be dainty dolls she could dress up in frilly finery, they would never get dirty, or make a mess. She didn’t know that children fight for who they are, they aren’t as plastic as she thought. It’s not her fault she didn’t know, is it? Not to fight meant to lose, to lose cost even more. So, it’s my fault for fighting, hers? Maybe I could have changed things earlier or faster. Is that a question or statement? I wasn’t brave enough to ask the questions she seemed to be willing to explore.

I’ve noticed as I work this through that my sadness expands as possible pasts pop up. What if…, what if…? How much is lost? What would I have learned, what did I lose? What could she have said that would have made it worse? I think I was afraid that with the unlocked door, if I responded she’d get defensive and slam that crack back in my face. I didn’t want her to take it back and I was sure she would. I never gave her a chance so maybe. . . As long as I can recall and as long as I live I will never trust her not to take “it” back.

She said she tried with me. I believe her but she didn’t know you can’t just try once in a while. That’s almost worse. You are nice and then you are mean again. Trust  needs a foundation of more than shifting sand. You told me I was a liar so you’d never believe me. You didn’t, it didn’t matter even when mostly I told the truth. It’s the same thing, you asked me to believe you loved me then you proved to my little girl’s heart you didn’t. You didn’t even like me. You were mean. I have to remember that, not to whitewash the past. If I do I’m left believing I’m the only one to blame. I have to remind myself, she was the grown-up, not me. She was the mother, I was the child. It was her job to love me first, to show me how to love and live, not mine to prove my love first.

Could it have been different? Maybe, if we were different people. We were who we were with all the things we knew and felt those days. We didn’t know we could change it. We didn’t understand both of us had to go first to stop the cycle of blame and of pain. But then, I wouldn’t be who I am. I wouldn’t have learned I could fight so hard and win. I might be someone not as strong and as happy as I am today if we had done better. So I have to believe I had the best possible history if it lead me here today. But it isn’t perfect and I still mourn the child and the mother who went through so much. At least I’ve forgiven you and see you held in god’s arms with me. We both lay our heads on her breast in equal repose because we are so loved. Now I need to let go of the rest of the stuff that makes my heart so heavy. I see progress but it is as slow as losing weight.

I keep trying to tell the story to turn you into someone who I more than feel sorry for. I do feel sorry for you and for me. I want to instruct the mother and console the child. I can do neither from this end of the string. This is not the end that unravels, the bag opened at the other end. What is done is done, now what’s left is to tell the it and explain it so that it is a story I can live with. As I travel to the end of my life I see you in the mirror and wonder how close we will come.


Search For Wisdom

I wasn’t such a bad looking girl, just overweight so figured I’d never be beautiful. My sister was a lot prettier than I was but I was smart. That was what I had going for me. But I was harangued by my parents for my bad judgement. I they convinced me that this was something I could get better at. How do you make better decisions? I didn’t know. I needed to know.

I have alway had a deep, tender heart. I’ve had to exert control over what I showed outside. I was so easily manipulated by those who knew how much I cared. I had to make sure they didn’t know. But I knew. I had this feeling that good judgement came from wisdom. Since I saw myself as so smart, I figured what I needed was to become wise. How do you become wise?

Anything I’ve ever wanted to know about I read about. This was the 1960s and the rise of the self-actualization movement. There was the women’s lib movement, the rise of the use of drugs like LSD and mushrooms to get in touch with your inner being, the rise in groups that met to support each other in their journeys of self-discovery. I read Hugh Prather, Carlos Castinada, Heinlein, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and all those cool books of the 60s, 70s and 80s. I found them fascinating but wasn’t sure I was getting anywhere with this search for wisdom. It occurred to me that maybe my problem was a lack of clarity about what it was I was seeking. What is wisdom?

I can find definitions of wisdom in every dictionary. Wikipedia says: the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment; the quality of being wise. OK, but something is missing. When I meet someone wise I know it. I hear it as they speak. I know lots of people with experience who are just plain crazy, not wise. I know people with what is called good judgement who are the most boring people in the world. They don’t make mistakes because they are so afraid of making them they are mummified by their constraints. I know plenty of people who know a ton of stuff but seem a bit out to lunch. So who is wise, how are they different from others with these qualities?

When I meet someone who seems wise they appear to know a lot, their understanding of the interplay of events and feelings is deep. Tell them a story and they can predict the outcome and more importantly, why. They have a special gift of syntheses. Their vision doesn’t make them afraid but curious.

I was about 50 years old when I finally recognized what I was looking for. I had wondered in passing for years and years about this idea but only in my late 40s did I actually make it a priority task, to identity wisdom. We talk about it like it was some fixed point that you could just hike to and it would be yours forever. The idea that I could achieve or capture wisdom was probably the thing most in my way of recognizing it.

What I’ve come to believe is that wisdom is a nexus that creates a synergy. With all the things that happen to us we come to an understanding what those experiences meant for us. I’ve come to believe that everything has some meaning, even the small things. Often that meaning is as simple as that I’ve found something that gives me joy or pleasure or disappointment but there is something to be recalled.

It took me 2 years of some consistent thought about it but I decided the definition that worked for me is, wisdom is the intersection of knowledge and understanding. That means everyone has some if they learn from their choices. Making good choices really isn’t wisdom but the result of wisdom and discipline. It is like the really great doctors who smoke or abuse drugs. They know better but can’t get a grip on themselves. Knowledge becomes wisdom with the addition of acceptance of meaning and consequences. That requires the heart.

Heart-wisdom demands deep listening, deep silence, and space between thoughts and words. It isn’t judgmental, doesn’t stretch too hard to make assumption outside of what it knows. Watching people closely over time is essential to being able to take true meaning of experiences, yours and others. We know from our experience that certain things hurt, certain things are frightening, certain things comfort us, and each of those feelings can manifest in a whole range of behaviors from running and screaming to deep stillness.

At this point I feel like I’ve reached the point of being closer to the heart wisdom I seek. With age one has to hope. No one can be totally wise because we can’t know enough. We can know some, extrapolate some, and guess at some but we never really have the whole picture, even of ourselves. Wisdom doesn’t assure good choices but it can help. It makes you more cautious about hurting others and hopefully yourself. Wisdom avoids martyrdom in most cases. Giving your all is a thing lovers and parents do but that isn’t called wise, only loving or dedicated. It doesn’t keep us from making financial mistakes when we believe the wrong things.

Perfect judgement can’t exist. If perfection is in safety too much is lost. In being perfectly safe perfection is lost because it is in taking risks that we grow and expand. Safe judgement would avoid the decision points, the opportunity to take a risk, situations requiring taking risks. No, taking risks is how we get rich. We take a risks by caring, by competing, we risk loss and pain. But avoiding life isn’t wise. Those who chose to quit taking risks are seen as smart in money, or plants, or some specialized thing. Smart and wise are two different traits. Smart isn’t always wise but wise is always smart. The heart-wise  are willing to take the risks, being open to pain and to joy.

Answering the question about what wisdom is has been helpful because I understand what I’ve done was actually exactly what I needed to do to get better at living. Chasing wisdom is useless, like trying to put light into a box to keep it. Being open to everything, taking it all in is the path. Being an active participant and observer is how we learn to use what we experience. The experience and the efforts to understand those experiences is the way.

bio-Father’ Ghost

The day of his funeral or maybe the day before all the drama that was to come, I lay down on my bed in the bedroom off the basement rec room. Dad built that bedroom around me when I moved back home when I separated from my husband.

Dad’s chair was in the rec room. He spent 23 years sitting in that room watching TV. I’d spent a good portion of my teen years in their with him. Today when I picture him he is sitting there in front of the TV or out on the deck rocking, thinking as he liked to do. I tried asking him what he was thinking one time and got that, nothing, answer so I would look at him and wonder what thing was making him bit his lower lip as he did when he was upset.

So I’m drifting in that mellow sleep before and I start up at the clear sound of his voice calling me from the rec room. He’d do that because I was handy, being so close. I started up, and sat there a moment, got up and went to the door. I put my hand on the knob, then stopped. Oh my god, I wanted to go out there. I was terrified but I still wanted to go there. Being in that half sleep I stood there with the pull of his voice in my heart and the rational part of me rearing up. Finally, I let my hand drop and I whispered to him that he had to go. It wasn’t that he wasn’t passionately loved or desperately wanted but because it was time. If I went to him he’d have trouble doing what he had to do and so would I. I literally feared more for him. For me I’d have risk it but not for him. I knew he had to go.

I sat on my bed and weeped tears that needed to be shed. Over the years I’ve thought about that. Reason tells me he wasn’t there. Of course he wasn’t. But what would have happened if I’d gone to his call? I wonder if anything would have changed. What if . . .

I was so rich to have grown up with his loving, steady presence. He is much of the reason I’m alive and only normally crazy. I had said everything I ever needed to, to him. There was no unfinished business. There are regrets that I didn’t accept his invitations to things like riding the brand new Metro, the DC subway, the day he went. He was all dressed up in a suit and tie for the event. I was too lazy to get dressed and didn’t realize the point wasn’t riding the Metro but doing it with him. Another thing I wish I’d done is to have gone to see Superman with him. I was sleeping and he called me from upstairs phone on my new bedroom phone to invite me. I didn’t want to get up, I wish I had. There is now a whole string of things attached to Superman, Christopher Reeve, falling off horses, and back injuries of one sort or another. These are the treads between the anchoring strand.

The web of life is a marvel and my parents are anchors without which the whole would crumble. In many ways I’m lucky and even with the hard parts I’m content. I was loved by a father who was with me from the day I was born to the day he died. Some threads are more durable than others, his was the strongest and still is.

b-3 Wishes

I play games in my head of “what if . . . ” all the time. As a kid we all wish for those 3 wishes so we could be rich, beautiful, and smart. But it’s really an interesting game to play as an adult towards the other end of my life. I think these things while going to sleep or even day dreaming, resting my mind.

I’m not that old, nor ill, but I’m in a stage where my number one wish really is to get rid of a lot of this stuff I’ve acquired over time. I have no way easy to get rid it of without feeling the huge loss I’d feel if I just gave it away. I’m deeply sentimental. I have no family who would treasure it for its history as I do. I don’t want more so don’t need riches. I’ve outlived the rage for great beauty, being smarter, maybe. Then I suspect there a point where smarter becomes a burden.

If you had 3 wishes what would they be? Would you reject your urge to gather wealth and power and go for the humanitarian instead? How about world peace? What would we be if we didn’t get into fights all the time? It would be a radical change in human nature to come to a point where we didn’t feel the need to fight for the right or water or money or whatever we think we have a right to.

What would happen if humans didn’t fight for everything they wanted? I suspect our species would be very short lived. There would be outliers and they would just take over. What would that mean? I don’t know, maybe we’d be happy worker bees making honey for the queen who rules us. Maybe happy is better than all this freedom we don’t know how to handle and often don’t even want. Then the outliers would end up fighting and send their worker bees to fight for them. Hum, no improvement with that scenario.

What if we eliminated the outliers with our wish, there would be no bosses. This doesn’t bode well for us, we’d never get organized enough to get anything done, we’d starve or die of the cold or something. Certainly innovation would grind of a halt if we didn’t have an instinct to do the hard stuff and push back against those demanding conformity.

OK, so world peace is out. So we accept there will be fights. How about getting rid of the nuclear weapons? No, we have only used them only twice and yet we are constantly at war with 6,000,000 refugees looking at their lost homelands today. So, war is the problem. If you can’t have world peace and it doesn’t seem to matter if we have weapons of seriously mass destruction, then what? Can we change the laws of physics or introduce magic to eliminate the ability to kill each other? Is killing really the awful thing or is it the smaller horrors of poverty, abuse, and domination that are really what we want to go after? Is there a magic answer to war?

Let’s see, how about something really easy, wish that everyone would be nicer. That would be wonderful. People wouldn’t drive like maniacs and endanger others, they’d hold the door for you, they would be OK with supporting welfare for those who can’t work. Wait, would they? Maybe not. Nice usually ends once your hand goes into your pocket. It wouldn’t change our ideas about who deserves what. If we all agreed on things this world would quickly depopulate as humans died out of boredom. It would still be good if people had better manners. OK, maybe this is possible but is it worth a whole wish?

How about taking only half the wealth of people who are too wealthy and giving it to those who need more. You can’t do that? Why not? Oh, their wealth is paper wealth, not like real money. If you took it away you’d be closing Apple, Microsoft, all the big banks, lots, just a huge number of the biggest businesses in the US and even the world. Who cares, you think. Well, where do the people who work there go? What about the investors? That is yours and my retirement money. Now the whole world is poor. At least you’ve mostly gotten rid of income inequality, no probably not. The uber rich are always there even if he has five horses and you just have a goat. We are back to the times of plagues and massive starvation around 1500 or so. No wealth isn’t a good idea. Lots of things are bad with that idea, forget it.

Is there something I can do with my wish for the world? How about eliminating cancer? All the cancer patients will now be all well. What could be wrong with this? Not too much if done right but then what about the next thing? What about Alzheimer’s? Them too? What about AIDS, MS, what about every sick person? Can you leave anyone behind? Now we really will have a population problem and the old folk will have to go through the dying process all over again as will their families. Or maybe not, everyone will just drop dead without suffering. Really, why and when? Are they supposed to know when or is it just random times? Oh no, this is all too complicated. There are too many details. What is fair? Should those born with handicaps that limit their ability to live a full, pain free, productive lives live as long? Who will care for them? Even more complications that have no fixed answers. I’m sure not going to be in charge of managing this new world, even if I have a wish or two left.

It’s beginning to look like three wishes won’t save our world. What good things can be done on a smaller scale? Now we enter the territory of power. If a smaller scale how will that work? So you opt for being the richest person ever. It’s all cash so you can spend it. Part of the wish is you don’t have to pay taxes on it. So you have this money. What is the first step?

Oh, you have to use a wish to make you live long enough to carry out your plan. Now you’ve used two of your wishes, one for wealth and the second for health (instead of beauty). You have one wish now. It’s crunch time. Everybody wants your wealth, they have their hands out or an idea of how to connive getting as much as they can from you. You have to spend more of your time and wealth protecting you from the money grubbers than doing good. Who can you trust to help you? Who should get money? It will disrupt the economy of the country/world to put too much new cash into the world so you have to care about this stuff. You have to hire body guards because the jealous will hate you. You have to live behind a fence with cameras and guard dogs. You have to protect your family. It has all gotten way out of hand. This isn’t worth it. You can’t do good when you spend all your time protecting what you value. This isn’t your wish. Is there one? Maybe it is to be smart enough to deal with all of this. That’s your last one.

After all this I think 3 wishes is a trap. Having to turn down all those grand dreams might lead to regrets. Maybe I’d wish on a smaller scale. I’d wish health for my family, friends and myself, happiness for us all, and enough money to live comfortably but not enough to make anyone want what we have so we can live peacefully. The greatest part of that happiness would be to be content with the choices I’ve made in life across the board.

I suspect a smart geni would give three wishes with a mandatory year between each one, two to made messes and a third to set it all back where it started. Maybe I had those three wishes and that’s how I know I’m content with our little house, the love we share, and the community we are still in the process of building and taking care of. The best place is to feel content and just dream about the possibilities as a doorway to good night’s dreams.

bio–Questions to Mom

When my father died and I realized there were questions I wish I’d asked him about his life that would go unanswered. I decided to ask my mother those questions about her life. I really didn’t know a whole lot about her life, only surface things like you’d find in a public biography. I found that I really couldn’t. It wasn’t her unwillingness to answer but that when I probed her past she often broke into tears she didn’t feel comfortable prompting her to shed. I now wish that I had gone ahead and asked some of them because those questions reflect on my own past, not just hers. I will never know some things about myself that would give my heart ease just to know. I don’t know that they would make a difference but they might have.

Maybe I did ask and forgot the answers because I don’t have a mental file drawer with that label on it so I just can’t find those answers. I have a huge amount of information in my miscellaneous drawer. I filed a lot of what Mom said in that drawer because I didn’t know what to do with it, do I believe it, trust it, want it? With Mom, because I had so little trust in her good will, I didn’t listen to her with my heart. I was so very ready to defend myself at the drop of an adjective. It took so many years for me to be able to let down my guard.

What I’ve come to wish I’d found out is about my childhood behavior and specifically looking at ADHD and my relationships. I’ve said for many years that I was ADHD but never really, really thought about the implications of that idea in my childhood and relationship with my mother. On the other hand I have wondered if I didn’t sour the milk for my sisters. How much of what happened can be laid at my feet, how much was all her, and how much was just incompatible personalities? Those are questions I’ve asked myself all of my life. She certainly blamed me for most of it for our 59 years together.

Mother told he she realized she hated me when I was 18 months old. The way she said it made me totally believe her. I so wish I’d asked her more. For her answer to be so specific and me, so young, I wish I knew what it was that she identified about me that would lead her to say that. But I was afraid to disturb the pleasant balance we had finally found with each other and I was going to ask her to go back to such painful things? No. It seemed the price of the current peace between us was the answer to that question, but I wish I knew.

When I look in my baby book Mom wrote so many glowing things  about how I was always happy, babbling away, constantly in motion, cooperative, anxious to please and so on. But I wonder if this was a lie for public consumption when they she showed the baby book to friends or maybe so she wouldn’t have to face what she probably felt were her failures as a new mother. At 5 1/2 years old she wrote about her concerns for me that I was not tractable, wouldn’t be guided by her. She called me aggressive and uncooperative then, so I tend to believe the rest was wishful thinking on her part. I suspect she didn’t hate me all the time, but in waves. I probably was adorable at times but often enough I was difficult and willful that it made me very hard to parent. She didn’t seem to be the kind who questioned herself about motives or method so didn’t look to herself for solutions. As far as I ever remember, she blamed something or someone outside of herself when issues arose. At home is was usually me.

Mother never accepted that she did not have a patient personality. She was not only impatient with getting things that she wanted completed, done but she was incredibly and increasingly impatient with those who didn’t agree with her, who didn’t know as much as she thought she did about a subject, and especially she was impatient with children. She had this idea that children were little adults capable of reasonable, rational decisions. She thought children could make good decisions, meaning do what she said, and that children were there to wait on adults without demur. That all sounds harsh but as she aged the veneer of sociability and good manners she had cherished as a younger woman wore thin and her impatience sometimes came out and over rode good manners to a point even I found embarrassing. When I’d say, “Mother!” she’d say things like that’s just the way I feel or something else you’d expect out of an old lady.

I recall one time she had a business acquaintance staying with us for a few days. He was a nice, middle-aged guy from Australia. As usual the talk turned to politics and he said something about being ashamed of his country’s milk-toast attitudes and lack of activism about Viet Nam. Mom jumped on his for his lack of patriotism. I was astonished that she’d do that to company, and someone she didn’t really know. I saw his reaction, it wasn’t good. She just stuck her nose in the air. She truly astonished me at times because of the mantra she had about manners, breeding, propriety and so on. I don’t think she ever saw that her behavior violated that standard she had set.

Even her best friend, Ad, would comment on how “difficult” Mom was at times. They decided to go on a driving tour of  North Carolina one time when Mom was probably in her early 70s. Us three kids talked about betting on the durability of their friendship for this trip. I thought they might end up coming home early but they managed. I’m sure it was more about Ad’s loving, forgiving heart than anything else. Ad was not spared Mom’s sharp tongue  and bad temper but she usually just let it roll off with the occasional humph and, “well I never …!” I always internally cheered her on. There was no reason for her to put up with Mother’s ill manners. I really never understood why Ad did it but was glad she did. I loved her so deeply. She was the one I looked to as a loving, female adult in my life.

In reading Anne Lamot’s work she talks a lot about her mother and what an awful mother she had. Our mothers were similar in some ways in that they were neglectful, self-centered, and unsupportive. Reading her stuff got me to reading other women’s thoughts on their mothers. So much of the stuff that came out of the self-help movement of the 70s and early feminist work of that period was about mother to mother, how this conflict about child rearing played out. I didn’t relate to it at all, having no children. The current crop of women’s literature is so much more one-on-one with our mothers about what happened to us as children and how it as informed the women and mothers we became. As we have grown older the deeper schisms are being examined and as our parents have died we are freer to tell the truth we know about our own childhoods and the parents we feel we had.

My view is from the bottom up. I always feel like I’m looking up to see both Mom and Dad. In a way I saw the part under the surface, under the dress-up clothes and after the party but my point of view is also from a child’s eyes, a child’s expectations and needs. That makes me a much harsher judge because their emotional, intellectual and spiritual wrinkles, freckles, and shiny spots are amplified. They stand out more for me because I didn’t have a context in which to judge them, only my needs that were met/unmet. I had no tools to be compassionate or understanding that they had failures and successes, that they were winging-it. I didn’t know that adults didn’t know everything. Just as my mother expected me to know how, what, when, why to do things I expected the same thing of her and she let me down. She failed to be the adult she was supposed to be. I had to find the loving grown-up mother outside of my family. I grew up on this precarious ledge outside, not in the warmth of my mother’s home.

I’m lucky, my life has been good and I am happy now. I know I miss my mother so much now because of our unfinished business. I totally love my father but don’t think of him as often. He’s been gone 20 years longer than Mom but also I don’t have the conversations with him in my head like I do with Mom. When he died I had made sure there were no things left out, unsaid.