Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Pelican and the Project


Several weeks back, I briefly mentioned the latest argument I had with the husband…said something about it being “very instructional…I learned a lot,” and left it at that.  The truth is, there were things said during that discussion that cut me to the bone, hurt so bad that I had not the capacity to go anywhere near the wound, much less examine or attempt to treat it.

Since then, I’ve been doing my level best to skirt the issue, sidestep the crater…hoping that by pretending it didn’t exist I could make it go away.  I really did NOT want to look at it; did NOT want to discover that my marriage was ever-so-not as recovered and rejuvenated as I so fervently wanted to believe.

But the argument haunted me.  His very perception of what we’ve been doing for the past thirty-six years grabbed me by the throat and would not let go.  Seems he has spent all these years bending over backward to make me happy.  And yet, I am not happy.  What is wrong with ME?   “You get pretty much everything you ask for.  You ask for a deck, you get it.  You ask for planter boxes, you get them.  Looks to me like you have it pretty good.”

Really?  Really??

Without getting into how desperately I needed you—your help, your support, your love—when the restaurant was eating me alive, and you all but turned your back on me…

See if I EVER ask you for anything again. 

A few weeks later, he was all smiles and conciliation.   “What do you want for your birthday?”

 You’re kidding, right?  Hell will freeze over before I ask you for a birthday gift.

To remain functional, I’ve invested a lot of time and energy into the building we acquired; and it’s probably a good thing that it is 100 miles from here.  It’s provided me with distance from the thing I could not confront.

But I couldn’t be away all the time, and when I was home, I was miserable. I would look out the back door at the half-finished deck around my greenhouse—a project he started earlier this year, got frustrated with and gave up on—and I would feel not just a burning resentment, but a heavy sadness settle on my heart.  Something as simple as, “Hey, when are you going to finish that deck?” had become anything but simple.  And how ridiculous, how sad is that, between two people married for more than three decades?  It wasn’t really the unfinished deck that bothered me.  It was what it represented. 

Somehow, that deck became a dragon that I had to slay.  Once that project was finished, there would no longer be a physical manifestation of how broken our relationship still was, staring me in the face every day.   In my bull-headed way, I made up my mind that if I wanted the work done, I would have to do it.  And I wanted the work done. 

So I planned and I designed and I thought and I schemed…and I fretted.  The thing is, I knew what would happen if I set out to do the project myself.  It was guaranteed to provoke another confrontation.  And I was pretty sure I did not want to go where that confrontation was going to send me.  But I knew in my heart that trying to sit down and tell him how I felt—trying to “talk it out”—was not going to work either.  That was what had got us into this mess to begin with.  

Eventually, obsessively weighing the alternatives bore no fruit other than to take me to where I was on the verge of tears every minute. In the end, I decided that if I was damned if I did, damned if I didn’t, I might as well be damned in a chaise longue on my finished deck.  And I decided Sunday would be the day. 

Sunday morning, I got out of bed burdened with a determination and a sadness so overwhelming it was like a physical weight.   It felt surreal that, after thirty some years of marriage, I could not ask him to pick up a hammer or a drill and expect him to gracefully do…what he has always done.  I felt ridiculous and off-balance, and resentful as hell.  I really needed something, someOne, to help me. 

The Almighty has let me know in no uncertain terms that my Spirit Guides are available to walk me through the difficult passages of my life.  So I don’t know why I always think first that I have to gird my loins and do things on my own.  Sunday morning, I really was in no condition to Do It Alone.  I was a mess.  An emotional meltdown was hovering inches from my head.  The resentment and the unforgiveness were sitting so heavily on my shoulders that I could barely move.  So I thought of Pelican.     

Call on pelican when you’re feeling resentful or angry toward someone and you want to release it…
…when you’re feeling overwhelmed with heavy emotions and want to rise above them.

Pelican—who had stepped in as the guiding spirit of my marriage two years ago, and who continued his vigil as I struggled with flashbacks of resentment and feelings of abandonment inflicted by our struggle with that stupid restaurant. 

Pelican—who reminded me to forgive, to release, to let go.  For really the first time, I “called upon” a Spirit Guide.  I gazed at the Pelican icons I’ve collected, reached out a hand to caress a small statue of a pelican that sits on my dresser.  I would like to say that I formed a beautiful poetic petition of some kind to call the power of Pelican to my side.  But all I could really muster through my tears was a weak “Help me out here, guys.”  Hoping someone would hear…

After breakfast, I grabbed some tools and went out to the project site.  Through my resentment and my tears, I managed to ungracefully get a decent start on the job.  Enough to make it obvious that I meant business.  Husband wandered into the picture about an hour into my struggles.  I was clearing off my temporary “deck” made of wooden pallets covered with scrap wood, preparatory to hauling them out of the way to make room for their replacement. 

“You want some help with that?”

A simple question, really.  To normal people.  But in this situation, armed with his, “You get everything you want” comment, an answer was almost impossible.  Yes, I wanted his help.  But I was going to be damned if I was going to ask him for it.  And the first thing that came to my mind was some kind of cutting retort, on the order of “Not if you’re just going to throw it in my face later!” 

But I stowed that.  I looked at him, for too long, I guess, as I tried to form some words that were not cutting or nasty. 

“I was just getting ready to haul these things out of the way…”

“I can help if you want.”

“Sure.  That would be nice.”

And so it went for the rest of the afternoon.  The two of us actually making an effort to be civil to one another.  Choosing neutral words over emotionally-charged ones.  Sharing ideas and brainstorming together, instead of copping that “my way or the highway” attitude which has lately become our go-to philosophy.    

It was nice.  It was peaceful.  And it went a long way toward rearranging the scattered bits of my marriage back into something I could understand and live with again.  I had begun to think that would never happen, and I couldn’t really figure out how I was going to go forward with things as hopelessly mangled as they seemed.  An air of forgiveness presided over us all day, and I believe with all my heart that the Almighty ministered to us through the power of Pelican.

Because I remembered to ask. 

So, yeah…I’m doing a lot of tripping and falling, searching and questioning along this spiritual path to which I’ve been called.  But I’m learning.  Slowly but surely.

And I’m grateful. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Ten Things...

I would request, in this personal New Year...
were I asked...

A partner.

                        A friend.

                                         A place.

                                                            A motive.

                                                                         A victory.

A dream.
                       A reason.
                                       A retreat.

                                                           A chance.

                                                                          A vision. 

A tall order, at my stage of the game.
And nobody's asking...

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Ten Minutes: The Devil Wears...

I am an inveterate second-hand shopper.  I have been haunting garage sales, rummage sales, flea markets and second-hand stores for great buys on otherwise expensive stuff since I was a teen-ager.  That’s forty-plus years (yikes!)  Why buy new when you can get some really cool stuff for a small fraction of the cost of something fresh off the rack at Macy’s?  I’d be willing to bet that something like 75% of the clothes in my closet are from resale shops.  My idea of an engaging, relaxing afternoon is to spend two or three hours sifting through a Goodwill store and scoring great deals.

So the other day when I was down in Eugene, my sister and I hit a couple of St. Vinnie’s (St. Vincent de Paul—a Catholic relief organization that takes donations of clothing and household goods then sells them off in several big stores around town as a way of providing employment and filling their coffers to provide housing and other services to those in need.)  I have been in the market to expand my summer wardrobe, since I realized once the weather started to heat up that I am short on crop pants and summer shirts.

After about a half hour I had tried on a couple of pairs of capris that didn’t fit, chose and discarded one or two blouses, when I came upon this:

A black t-shirt with “bling” and interesting graphics.  Just the kind of thing I wear.  But I have several of these already…do I really need another one?

On closer examination, I realized the shirt was amazingly well-constructed. No wear-once-and-throw-it-away Walmart creation, this.  It also had no tags inside.  At all.  And I couldn’t see any traces of where tags had been cut out.  So…nice shirt.  I think I’ll try it on.

I get in the fitting room and find the t-shirt fits adequately.  Looks pretty good, in fact.  And for $3.27, I could use another nice t-shirt.  Maybe it could replace one of the shabbier ones in my drawer.  And then I look more closely at the graphics on the shirt.

Letters.  Those five little sets of double rows of rhinestones down the front of the shirt are parts of letters.  Let’s see:  “P…”  Paris?  No…  “P-R-…”  Premo?  Prince? 

“A…D….   P-R-A-D…A…?!  Prada?  Holy crap!”

Now, I have no idea whether this is, in fact, a t-shirt genuinely produced for that house which designs clothing for …denizens of the underworld.  Damned if I wasn’t gonna buy it, though…just in case.

Don’t know what Prada t-shirts go for these days, or even Prada knock-off t-shirts.  But I’m pretty sure it would be more than three dollars and twenty-seven cents.      

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

On Taxes: Repost From Feb. 2011

...because it speaks so well to my previous "Ten Minutes" post:

I read an article today on the NPR website that talks about voters who want what tax dollars will provide (like repairs to the country’s aging infrastructure) but have no interest in providing the funds to make it happen. Where do they think the money is going to come from? Heaven? Maybe that’s why the far right agenda seems to be more focused on mollifying God than doing any actual governing…

Let’s face it: Many of our living wage industries have been out-sourced to greener—cheaper—pastures. Or, as is the case here in the Pacific Northwest, the mills have pretty much cut down all the cheap, easily accessible lumber, so they, too, have upped sticks and moved on to the next lumber mother-lode (Canada? The Amazon?)

What’s left for those of us who live here to DO for a living? What jobs/industries are impossible to send overseas or out-source? Well….there’s government (don’t forget this includes law enforcement and fire protection—your tax dollars at work), education (largely funded by tax dollars), infrastructure construction and repair (cha-ching—more tax dollars.) And we know they can’t outsource health care…and what a gigantic money-machine that has become since all the other industries have gone away! And then there is the Service Industry—encompassing everything from WalMart to McDonald’s to parcel delivery to garbage collection. Notoriously low-paying and high-turnover jobs, the ones nobody really wants to do.

So we would all do well not to think of our tax dollars as going to entitlements benevolently bestowed upon some undeserving (in our eyes) segment of the population. We need to think about our own livelihoods—or maybe that of the guy next door, or the family who sits next to us at church. If we did away with all taxes, would you still have a job? Would you be able to make use of our tremendously overblown and overpriced health care system? How many of those folks would then lose their jobs? And since discretionary income would be hard to come by, how would that affect the service industry? What if you couldn’t even afford to eat out at McDonald’s anymore?

Yes, it’s very popular—and the politicians know it—to scream about government overspending and a budget deficit that will imperil our economy for decades to come. But in this consumer economy we’ve created by letting big business get away with sending huge portions of our industries overseas, we really need to understand where those “too many” tax dollars are going. How many of them actually make it back into your own pocket, in some way? How much is government investing in keeping this wrecked ship of an economy afloat? And what would our lives look like if we just…let it sink?

Think about it.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Ten Minutes: From Bad to Worse, Forevermore?

Is the country still reeling from the damage done during the Bush Administration?  Were Bush and his conspiratorial cronies able to affect so many behind-the-scenes changes to our legal system that the country is now at the mercy of big money, and will always and forever dance to the tune of corporate interests?
Let’s face it—the fact that there has been a Democrat in the White House for almost five years does not seem to have turned the nation around to any appreciable degree.  In fact, the right-wing smear machine has been effective at everything from demonizing the president to convincing folks that the enemy picking their pockets is the guy next door, rather than the guy in the penthouse who would pay more for a business luncheon, without batting an eyelash, than you make in six months.  That same guy will rip that job at which you make that big-whig-business-lunch salary right out from under you and hand it to someone in China or India, if it will put another penny or two into HIS pocket.  Also without batting an eyelash. 
And yet, the brainwashed masses invest their time into begrudging forking their money over to the government, because then the “libruls”  give the money away to deadbeats and drug addicts.  Yes, folks, you should be angry about paying your taxes.  But not because the money is used to support the poor and disadvantaged.  You should be righteously put out because the guy in the penthouse has a panel of accountants and lawyers who have figured out how he can get a tax-break for providing that multi-thousand dollar corporate luncheon.  That assh**e is not paying anywhere NEAR the same share you are.  Go ahead.  Get mad about THAT.
Our nation as a whole has turned ugly and venal, acquisitive and selfish.  We all saw that change happen, and none too gradually, between 2000 and 2008.  And the house that Bush built continues to stand, and expand, even though those evil-doers have been out of the White House for five years.  Georgie (Dickie), you’ve done a helluva job…   


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Marriage Box

Once again, I find food for thought posted by one of my facebook friends:

I think we closed up that box and stuck it on the top shelf of a closet long ago.
And I'm afraid that if I take it down and open it up, it'll be pretty empty.  
But...who knows?
Sometimes you find treasures you forgot you had when you dig into old boxes in your closets... 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

(Six Weeks And) Ten Minutes

Reading over my last few posts, I’m beginning to see a pattern emerge…and not a very attractive one.  I’ve been crafting an image of a cranky, hostile, backward-looking malcontent; and I think I am tired of that person right now. 
Honestly, this has been kind of a tough year.  And it shouldn’t be, because nothing really bad has happened.  I know I’ve been battling with depression…don’t really know the cause.  Or maybe I do:  I am under-challenged and socially isolated, so, as is my wont, I have turned inward.
When I was exhausted and completely used up, it was vital to have time to myself to cocoon and to heal.  It took several months to recover to the point that I felt like a human being again.  But now, the isolation and the idleness are no longer a balm to an injured soul.  They are a caustic irritant.  It is bad for me to have nothing much to do and spend too much time by myself.  This was one of the original reasons we started the concession business, and ultimately bought the restaurant.  Making money was not the only or even the most important reason.  I knew that if I spent too many more months alone and isolated, I would eat myself alive. 
Unfortunately, going from 0 to 90 mph and then trying to sustain that pace for five years was not the answer, either.  And now that I have jumped off that train, once again, I’m TOO alone…TOO under-challenged.  Why is there no middle ground for me?
This afternoon, I spent several hours looking over some of my old posts from back in 2008.  I was looking for a couple of specific pieces so that I could post links on Facebook, pursuant to an article upon which I was attempting to comment.  A couple of things struck me, right between the eyes.  First of all, I was in the middle of my tenure at the Hot Flash CafĂ©…yet I somehow had the brains and the creative juju to crank out 120 posts that year.  Where the hell did I get that energy?  And why do I feel like I haven’t any left?

And then, reading the posts, I discovered that I had some interesting and important things to say.  I wrote without rambling.  I made good points.  I philosophized about the moral, ethical and emotional challenges I faced every day.  I kept my foot in the “political commentary” arena.  And the writing was damn good.  Where the hell did I get that creativity?  And why do I feel like I haven’t any left?

I originally started writing this post over a month ago, with the intent of coming up with something positive and day-brightening, something to interrupt the recent somber and churlish tone of the blog.  But to tell the truth, I don’t know how much day-brightening I have in me.  I can see just by the tone of my writing that I am…losing it.  Lost it, maybe.  I’m not passionate about anything.  Not engaged or inspired.  Just…blah.  I have felt this way since before last Christmas.  I know it’s depression, but since I’m not sitting in my pajamas in a darkened room all day, I’ve fooled myself into thinking I’m okay.  I’m handling it.  I’m making it from day to day. 

Of course, I’m not.  Just look at the crap I’ve been posting this year—when I post at all.  I feel like the old crone in Buttercup’s dream in “The Princess Bride.”  Like I’m walking up to people, poking my finger in their faces and hollering “Boo!  Boo!  Rubbish!  Filth!  Slime!  Muck!  Boo!”

Who wants to read that?  I don’t.

So I have to change this, don’t I? 

I think I’ll revive “Ten Minutes.”  This was the vehicle I used when I decided it would be good to write SOMETHING every day.  In ten minutes.  Ten minutes only.  No rambling or posturing or preaching or scolding.  Ten minutes of…whatever comes out of my head. 

I hope it won’t be rubbish, filth, slime and muck.   (Boo!)


Monday, July 8, 2013

The Creator Hearts Women

It’s interesting, the things you’ll learn when you “like” a page on Facebook.  I tend to like liberal sites like Rachel Maddow, Huffpost and March on Washington for Gun Control.  Sometimes, I’ve had to hide posts or even un-like pages (for example: NPR) because my news feed became instantaneously awash with posts from that site, to the exclusion of everything else.  But there are some that seem to feed a bearable stream of juicy articles designed to prick the conscience and prod to deeper thought, if not action.  I find “Salon” does a pretty good job of this. 
A couple of days ago, Salon writer Valerie Tarico assembled a shocking collection of quotes from Christian leaders—from the second century through modern day—that did a passable job of demonstrating that “Christian Leaders Have Always Been Misogynists.”   This assortment of documented spiritual wisdom put forth by respected theologians and doctors of the Church throughout the ages, caused me to realize that I have for good and all severed ties with the brand of theology that can function under the assumption that fully one half of the entire human race (which just happens to be the half to which I belong) should be regarded as “misbegotten,” “defective,” or “a temple built over a sewer.” 
Oh, I’m certain that this article is yet another example of cherry-picking quotations in order to prove a point (which, I am told, can be done with the Bible and any assertion from any political perspective.)  Still, it doesn’t take a collection of carefully-chosen passages to understand that the traditional foundational viewpoint of all Abrahamic religions is at best paternalistic, at worst, decidedly anti-woman.  Christianity, Judaism, Islam—they all embrace a single deity with a distinctly male personality.
There is some argument that contemporary religious might possibly regard “God” as having no gender, or as embodying both genders.  Okay…I could concede that.  But there is still the sticky little point that all the important figures and leaders in Abrahamic religions are MALE.  Moses.  Jesus.  Mohammed.  Yep.  Those with the hot line to the Almighty are almost exclusively men.  Women rate little mention in the historic texts, and are most often berated, ridiculed and marginalized. 
I have no theories about how male-dominated mono-theism became so pervasive the world over—to the point that, at this date, almost half the world population (3.4 billion of 7 billion souls) is bound by it.  I refuse to ascribe any specific desire of the Creator to the facility with which Christianity spread across the world.  Perhaps it was merely an unhappy accident that Christianity accompanied the expansion of the Roman Empire throughout Europe, to be thereafter carried by those acquisitive peoples across the oceans to the Americas, to Africa and the sub-continent, and “evangelized” into Asia and the Pacific.  Were I pressed to come up with a theory of my own, I would be more likely to equate the expansion of Christianity with the singular ability of great ships full of strong-willed humans to transplant invasive species, disease and vermin from one shore to another—whether by accident or design.  The Europeans brought strong stuff with them; stuff against which some of the more tender and specialized natives were powerless.
Along the way of the spiritual journey I now travel, I have tried to practice the kind of “ live and let live” philosophy that I would appreciate being extended in MY direction as I walk this path that is quite outside the bounds of traditional religion.  I have felt that it is not my place to judge the manner in which any other person relates to the Creator of All Things.  I know and respect many people who are content and dedicated in the Christian brand of faith.  It’s not up to ME to posit that the spiritual paths they walk are founded upon faulty assumptions, bad theology and a twisted version of history.  Because I don’t actually know that.  I only know the practice to which I myself am called.  And the first commandment of my little “church” is:  Thou shalt not inflict thy personal call to spirituality upon any other person.
Still, I have to admit to a growing disenchantment with Christianity, with its narrow world view, its anthropomorphic and restrictive representation of the Almighty, and its historical tendency to verbally and emotionally batter women.  Thinking Christians are themselves frustrated by the prejudices and inconsistencies inherent in their faith.   There are so many contradictions and sins masquerading as creed within Christian doctrine.  Why?  Could it be because a lot of it is just…incorrect?  Would the entire fabric of the universe crumble if someone simply said, “Oops.  We got it wrong.”?
It bothers me that women have allowed the treatment we’ve been handed over the millennia.  True, it has been difficult to fight both a “God” designed to intimidate us and the more immediate threat of a ruling group possessing superior physical strength and bent upon keeping us under tight control.  When rebellion would call certain death down upon our heads, we’ve tended to capitulate.  Perhaps, over the ages, we’ve even come to believe the vile things of which we’ve been accused.
But now… now I feel inspired to a righteous outrage over the treatment to which we have been, and to a large extent, still are subjected.  It’s NOT okay.  It’s NOT the word or wish of any god I worship.  My spirit does not bear witness to a Creator who would condone such devaluation of any part of its work, much less half the human race—the half without which the other half could not be born!  There is something very sick and twisted about the way men have enlisted the assistance of “God” to make men the undisputed masters of all they survey.  And it’s about time for things to get un-twisted.
In my own living room, I got a taste of what we are up against should we try to rise up and demand recognition of thousands of years of ill-treatment, antecedent to claiming our rightful place as equal to men in the eyes of the law and of the Creator.  I was reading the afore-mentioned Salon article aloud to my sisters, when my husband swooped in from another room and declared, “Enough man-bashing.  Let’s go!” 
Man-bashing?  What about reading a collection of misogynistic theology cooked up by prominent men of the church over the ages constitutes MAN-bashing?  If my own spouse—who operates from a decidedly liberal viewpoint and is normally in full support of women’s political issues—can have such a reaction to being called out on the history of men’s sorry treatment of the female sex, we have an uphill battle indeed.  But if what happened in  the Texas state house last month is any indication, we have a growing army of women who are mad as hell and are not going to take it anymore. 
I wonder how far we will have advanced before it is my turn to lay down my flag of battle and pass out of this world into the next?  I like to hope we will have made a great deal of progress.