vendredi, avril 30, 2010

So about that party

I'm really not so good at returning to a topic...even after I've told you I'll come back to it.

But I did mention the polyamorous academic and amiable atheists -- and how could I leave them hanging?

I do like to mix it up with people of different persuasions -- and it's fun to see people who might never have run into each other get together and share opinions, wine and spirited conversation.

I think I might have gone too far, however, when I invited the poly prof, his companion, a few guy friends, a couple of neighborhood pals and my ex-husband over for a summer dinner on the deck.

Some of my regular readers were in attendance, and I'm sure have their own perspectives. And, without getting into any specifics, the event taught me a valuable lesson.

It wasn't polyamory that was the problem -- now THAT would have been interesting. But it takes a while for vastly different folks to get to know each other -- and throwing various fish in the pond and expecting them to swim was, perhaps, a little unfair.

I have learned a few other things, too, about the limits of diversity -- at least at outdoor barbeques and other social events.

Have you ever thought that:

Even the most seemingly unconventional behavior becomes a taut box if it is reinforced by others of like mind.

Passionate atheists can be as difficult to deal with as far right Christians. I find I'm much more comfortable with those who are cool with my own quirky brand of faith and don't feel the need to uh, convert me. Or talk down to me.

That's why I prefer the company of oddball Christians, tolerant agnostics, Jews and anyone with a warped mind and wit. Come sit by me, darling.

My ex-husband did turn and ask me, as one point: how did you meet these people?

I'm not sure he totally believed me.

And neither might you...

mercredi, avril 28, 2010

The years of living existentially

If we only have love....

I'd forgotten the companions of my teenage years... Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Samuel Beckett and, of course, the irrepressible Jacques Brel, the songwriter and bistro philosophe.

I had reason to remember them recently in an extended email conversation with a friend.

First, a reminder of my ground rules for discussing real people. I blur the details so that only you can recognize yourself -- possibly. Unless, of course, you are my child, and then I am occasionally shameless.

I don't talk about you if I'm kissing you (unless you give me permission). I try not to talk about you if I'm mad at you and haven't told you. But if you present me with an intellectual or emotional or theological dilemma -- you may find yourself here. Usually well dolled-up as an archetype -- or as part of a Greek chorus.

The fire that lit this candle was, believe it or not, existentialism. I found that I had difficulty stepping outside of my own social framework enough to really wrestle with it.

And yet....

When I was a high school student, existentialism was in the air.

Or at least, it was in our rarified, precocious, sometimes pretentious air.

Although I can't be sure, at this distance, I'm guessing that it came from our headmaster.

Why else would sixteen year olds be asked to ponder, whether, as Jean Paul Sartre had one of his characters claim in "Huis-clos" (No Exit): "L'enfer, c'est les autres?"

@#!*% , it's those other folks.

I don't know what Sartre meant. But it seemed profound at the time.

Why were we spending time watching two characters hang around wondering about someone who never showed up (Waiting for Godot?)

Thank God no one offered us les Gauloises.

But I did have time to reflect on the idea of a world without inherent meaning. That philosophy probably got more considered attention from my teachers than many others did. Certainly than the foundations of faith in a higher being.

A nihilist philosophy, to be fair, was perhaps never a real option in my family.

Although most of us didn't pay much heed to the idea of God, our motley crew are largely, as far as I can tell, artists, political activists, teachers, and engaged in the social service arena. We help create meaning, if it's just for ourselves.

And is it not possible, in the freedom of the existentialist, to choose to believe? Perhaps moment by moment is as good as one can do.

Of course, it is also possible to choose to believe...not. That is still an affirmation -- of no-faith.

I close this post with an homage to Brel, the late Belgian singer (dead of lung cancer at 49) and romance... and the friend to whom I will probably never talk again for prompting me to ponder that which was buried in my memory.

Listen to Brel sing La Chanson des Vieux Amants -- you don't even have to understand French to be moved.

Or not.

But it's hard not to listen and tear up.

"But oh, my love, my sweet, my tender, my marvelous love, from the clear light of dawn to to the end of the day, I love you, my heart. I love you."

Be free.

(Here's someone else's loose translation of the second stanza:)

"I know your tricks and your deceptions,

You know my spells and wiles and charms.

From traps you’ve given me protection: Sometimes I’ve lost you from my arms.

Sure we’ve had lovers in our beds: It helped when there was time to kill

Or with our bodies’ passions raging,

But in the end when all is said

It seemed our only special skill

Was never growing up, just ageing. "

mardi, avril 27, 2010

It's time

We will talk about the polyamorous professor, the amicable atheists, and "Huis Clos".

But not tonight, eh?

Get some sleep.

What I recount only means what you want it to mean.

Tout et rien.

Or possibly...rien de tout.

You be the judge, dear reader...

lundi, avril 26, 2010

Last year's love

It could have been the constant effort to keep the house clean for prospective buyers.

Or maybe it's the learning curve for the new job.

Possibly it's the fact that I never feel on top of the DQ's homework.

And maybe it's the constant thrum of reviews and work that looms on the horizon, the checks to balance, the papers not filed.

Caught between a sense of my own limitations and the constraints of a life conducted mostly online during the day, I felt miserable.

Today I wholeheartedly endorsed the idea of the pathetic fallacy, the grey woman on a gray day.

Even though I knew of course, it was fallacious.

So you can see I was feeling sorry for myself.

The kids who saw their mother's tearswept eyes in the kitchen this afternoon were wonderful.

A quick hug, and a "mom, you don't look more than 32" went a long way towards making me feel better.

But I still wasn't myself.

Asking for an hour of grace from dinner prep, I jogged off to our local elementary school track.

The skies had temporarily stopped pouring rain upon southeastern Pennsylvania, yet they promised more -- this was just a moment's intermezzo.

The scent of woodsmoke filled the air.

The grass was the brilliant green that only a good soaking can give it.

My sneakers squarely hit the tarmac, and the gravel, and the puddles.

As I moved from jogging into running, I was very aware of my own incapacities --- the hip that sometimes aches, the lower back, the crankiness of a stressful day.

But as I went on, I found my stride (sometimes I wonder if it is lost), and the pain was forgotten.
And then my MP3 player hit David Gray's song "This Year's Love" -- and the years spun past.

Years ago, I fell for a guy who was wrong for me.

Wrong in many of the ways a man can be wrong. Only our glimmers of sanity and honor saved us from carnage.

I can't tell you the times that I would run on the main road that went by his house (but not on his street, no stalking), tight tank top and running shorts on display, hoping that he would somehow show up.

Give in.

"If ya love me, gotta know for sure."

Rescue me from my life.

"Won't you kiss me on this midnight street, sweep me off my feet, singing "ain't this life so sweet?""

I didn't believe in fairy tales -- but if I could have, I would have made it happen for us. Two people who would not have made it for a half a day in real life.

When you don't have something, and you are a romantic, it seems more precious than when it shows up at your door.

"Don't ya notice life goes on?"

And so it does.

Thank goodness for the cruel words that eventually opened my eyes, all those years ago.

Cos it takes something more this time
Than sweet sweet lies
Before I open up my arms and fall
Losing all control
Every dream inside my soul

Otherwise, I'd still be running that purgatorial loop, dreaming of a secular miracle, waiting to be rescued -- a willing prisoner of my own delusions, and the pagan god of love.

"This year's love, it better last".

Actually, it already has -- the many years of practicalities creating a love that lasts.

I run home to the teasing of children, the still unfiled receipts, dinner still waiting in the freezer.

No ghostly bodies in my way, no unhealed wounds, no sense of failure - the life we could have lived

So glad for what I have -- and what I don't.

dimanche, avril 25, 2010

Sunday night manifesto

I want to walk as a child of the light.
And I'm not talking theologically as much as practically.
I want out of the shadows. I don't want to pretend, or paper over, or parse.
I want to live at peace with the toughest adversary -- myself. Or at least at truce. I want there to be no gap between the person I am and the person I seem to be.

How about you?

A Sunday confession

I am a moralist.

And, worse, I am an unpredictable moralist -- because I actually am pretty tolerant in some ways.

I can listen to tales of group sex, polyamory, creative weed consumption or other alternative behavior without a quaver of judgement in my voice. Though I haven't gone down those particular roads, I can see how one would end treading that rabbit trail.

If I don't get "it" I will ask you to explain.

Why are you, at this moment in your journey, living in a commune with a biker dude and an officer of the law?

How many marriages?

So what was it like to share that jail cell?

I also figure that your life has got to be much more interesting than mine! Maybe I could find out some new ideas, or even get up the bravery to try something I haven't done before.

I know something about compassion and empathy -- and have perhaps more than my share of gutsiness.

Oh, there is a lot that frightens me -- like driving on turnpikes, handling snakes, losing my ability to be run and cycle and sweat it out.

But my innate willingness to dig deep, to do the highwire act can be a problem.

It can make me too forceful, too ready to pass judgment when I deal with other people's tender feelings.

It's ok to have weak moments -- it's even ok to lie to yourself now and again. It's ok not to be "there" yet...none of us have arrived. Its fine to be confused about your feelings.

So I confess -- sometimes, and I'm not proud of this, I do not understand or empathize with your compromised life -- yet I might be way too comfortable with my own.

Anyway, if you have been the victim of my gimlet eye and razor tongue, I apologize for those times when I have been harsh -- or wickedly facile.

Please forgive me -- and call me on it if I do it again.

But I don't like making my confession alone...

Do you have traits that you would like to change? Times when you shoot off your mouth or email and then would give a lot to take it back? How would you do things different if you could?