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.

b–Moving on

It seems many of our friends are moving, downsizing or getting away from noxious conditions. We were asked to share our experience with this. That is what follows.


     We are in the same process. We have been here for the whole 27 years of our life together. We have touched every surface in this home. We have painted, sanded, tiled, wallpapered, washed, waxed, and loved every bit. The deck outside was built with money from my mother’s estate, the tree out front with money as a housewarming gift from Mardi’s when we first moved in. 

     We have probably tilled every inch of the yard to plant and harvest. We dug and trimmed and encouraged things to grow. The yard was almost perfect this spring. Maybe saying it’s time, you’ve done what you can. Even the roses planted 2 years ago, which I was always afraid to plant because I don’t like using chemicals to keep the bugs away, were super abundant just as the peonies bloomed. The wisteria that I’ve been tying to get to bloom well finally did for the first time in my memory. I made sure to take pictures.

    The peonies have traveled from one house to the next with me and the dwarf red maple is from a seedling dug up in my mother’s yard as are the aucuba and and ajuga. Some of this we can take with us, some only the pictures and memories but all of it will come with us. I’ll miss eating the asparagus next year. We planted it several years ago and it should be of an eatable size next spring.

     Sorting stuff has gotten easier over the years. I have lost the need to be able to touch everything I own. It is OK for it to give others use and pleasure. A whole Jeep full of stuff went to the meeting house for the Strawberry Festival this Sat. I’ll go say a last good bye to all 7 boxes of stuff there. I will bring a thing or two back, maybe some earrings or a book or two. It is a relief to feel so much less acquisitive. In many ways that has been one of the burdens of my life. I’ve been like a turtle, needing to carry my home with me, just in case. I’m so much lighter as my needs and fears are fewer.
     In this process I’ve been striving to look forward rather than back. I can do that looking back from our new porch, doing it now bogs my spirit down because back feels too much like I’m losing something. Looking forward is gaining something and a grand new adventure. Looking forward opens me. It lets me open both my soul to the adventure and my hands to letting go of whats slowing me down. I’m terribly sentimental so this is a bit hard. Mardi has gone overboard with her culling and regretted giving some things away, having to replace them just to move from day to day. She is really into this simplifying but the moving has her scared.
     We haven’t even found a house yet and we have to wait a while to really aggressively look because the uncertainty is so scary. We are doing the part that pleases us, the simplifying, first. Starting that was the hardest part. It’s gained momentum as boxes for the thrift store fill up. We’ll see what next step we are ready for. I’m grateful that we started this. With sorting out I’ve found more space to wiggle my toes, along with some long lost possessions  We are in no rush except houses are getting more expensive. Now that I’m retired and so is she we are fairly unrestricted in where we can live. We just need to be able to get down into town for the music and events we enjoy and have enough money left to not be to scared to use some for pleasure.
     One day at a time, one finger at a time we are changing handholds. Even walking requires a moment of suspension when you are waiting to catch your balance again. You sound like you have your forward foot reaching for the ground. Once it settles I hope you find your new home brings you all the peace and health and joy your are looking for.


I’ve grown into kind a touchy-feely type. I love hugs and to touch people as we talk if I feel they are open to it. I grew up in a family full of hugs. My expanded joy might have evolved from two places. One is from being an elementary school teacher. The rule is not to touch kids. I do it all the time. For too many that is the only loving contact they have with an adult, a touch on the shoulder or head from a teacher. Any child who asks me not to touch them, I don’t do it or at least try to remember not to. I really love the ones who run up to me and throw themselves at me, trusting my hug will keep them safe. I also need to touch these children I am so heart connected to. The other place that has opened me to allowing touch to be important instead of threatening is from the lgbt Quaker community I’ve belonged to for better than 35 years.

At first the tendency was to look around and see who would see you walking into the gay meeting, just so you could keep score of who knew. A sense of being under threat pushes people together. You cling to each other. If you want to assure your group forms a strong bond, have them persecuted.  A subculture grows around the code words and key signs of membership. The campy humor, hankies, chains, special jewelry, haircuts, the touching and hugging, the leaning towards each other. The deep need for human contact we all had could be addressed in this subculture of ours where we could touch each other. We supported each other with more than words. It seemed we were aways so close to tears, so vulnerable, so tense and often downright scared. That there were people around us whom we trusted to hug us, touch us, hold our hands, listen, confident the confusion and grief were understood and often shared kept us mostly sane. I came to understand the critical nature of touch. Even those who reject it do so out of fear, not out of any real desire to be untouched. I usually keep the offer open. Sometimes I try again. So, I touch children and I’ve grown brave about touching adults as well.

As I’ve come to appreciate the physical contact with people I start out I barely knowing, I’ve seen how it has deepened both my understanding of them and my desire to know them. Hugs and touching can be like prayers. They can be a thank you, a WOW, you’re great, or a moment of peace and grace folding over you all. I don’t hug people just a little, unless I’m not comfortable with the hug. I hug like I mean it with my whole heart. The heart in the hug speeds up healing and encourages our connections. It makes us less afraid.

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.