vendredi, décembre 23, 2011

Light...and shadows

Heedless of the rain that soaks and ebbs

I walk the path so often taken

The road from which I swerve sometimes

in imagining

A forest of possibilities and

reefs where the unwary might cavort or drown

One, two...fifteen vultures sit in a tree

they do not seem to see me as prey

A part of the landscape, aware of

coming winter, this far away even they

Have a certain loveliness

and still I pace, crunching gravel under sneakers

The damp gradually soaking my hair

blue-eyed-wide intensity

As though as if/if somehow

I could see into your mind

and grasp the power to heal or reconnect

That which is sundered

such arrogance

All I can do is walk this path, alone but the

rabbits and dogs and oh yes, companion vultures

And reach out my hands

embracing light and shadows, virtue and its opposite

Weakness known and strength yet untried

Winter has its own imperative voice

breaking open the most guarded heart

jeudi, décembre 22, 2011

The eroticism of discourse

Now, doesn't that sound like an Eric Rohmer movie?

Rohmer, a product of the Nouvelle Vague, famously liked to have his beautiful young characters talk -- a lot.

Perhaps it's the fact that I saw a few of them in high school that explains my lust (mais oui) for intellectual conversation.

With men.

Not that I don't enjoy a good debate with the intelligent women in my life. Bring it on, sistahs.

My statistics teacher (who made a semester in purgatory just bearable) had never heard anyone ask if validity could be applied to a monkey tribe.

It's just that it doesn't have quite the same charge, somehow.

It's possible that, having grown up in a world of academia still mostly dominated by guys (and tell me that still isn't true, I dare ya) I'm used to them setting the terms of debate -- and responding, agent provocateur that I am.

"Pick me, pick me" said the slightly pudgy girl in the peasant skirts, discussing the double-entendres in Renaissance poetry in a seminar with her highly crushable mentor.

Around our table in the dining room, parquet floors and stained glass relics of a more polite age, politics and history, art and rock music were all blood sports.

The the big 19th-century table where we ate our dinners, though circular, was still dominated by my father, with his multilingual command of history, and his sometimes biting wit.

All speculation aside, I'm starved for conversation with men who can give me a run for my money, intellectually speaking.

It's not that I'm trying to be seductive. It's just that I feel so very alive when my mind is fully engaged.

I know that there are women, and men out there, who feel the same way. There's probably some kind of name for this. Could it be called the New York Review of Books fetish (update that for me, please?)

You know it's gotten bad when the topic of the effective tax rate gets me all shivery inside.

Yet given the polarized state of dialogue in this country on some of the issues that matter the most, I choose my victims carefully.

And while I might find more of them in urban areas, I'm not a kid anymore. I can't hang out in bars with sexy bespectacled guys riffing on Rimbaud and whether Ron Paul would really rid us of the Federal Reserve.


Maybe I'll have to see if the sexy guys come to me.

mardi, décembre 20, 2011

Man-at-war (and the woman who loves him)

Blame it on Mr. Rochester.

Well, a girl's got to have a romantic hero while she's growing up, doesn't she?

It didn't get much better after that.

My romantic hero in my twenties (and probably still, if I'm honest) was a certain noble, Francis Crawford of Lymond.

A Scottish second son, Lymond traveled all over Western Europe and the Arab world (back in the sixteenth century this involved ships, swordplay and harems) wrestling with his past. And oy, did this sexy blonde guy have a past.

It didn't prevent him from seducing, and even fathering a few children with a succession of women (some of whom met unfortunate ends) until, at last, he met up with his true love, who was actually from his past...

But that's a whole other story. In fact, that's five whole other books of roughly 500 pages long. I highly recommend all of them.

Just don't let them influence your idea of the ideal man.

Don't be too hard on me, o.k.?

Some women go for the "bad boys." Others of my sex yearn for guys who can take them to expensive restaurants.

I have a thing for conflicted men.

Probably the quickest way into my heart, if you are a man, is to confess to struggling with some problem. It should be one that's occupying a lot of your time, or wounded you in some way.

It shouldn't be life-threatening.

But it should be just tough enough to give you that slightly careworn, Byronic air that hints of secret sorrows.

You think I'm joking?

Just take a look at my resume.

Now, most of these haven't blossomed into full-scale relationships. And before you draw any conclusions, ofttimes that decision was mine.

In fact, it's highly debatable as to whether many of these guys were really ready to have relationships.

I'll leave that to wiser heads -- many of us keep therapists in business.

All I know is my weakness for the man who, while successful in his career, and stable in the rest of his life, struggles with an unresolved conflict.

One of the wonderful blessings in my life is that a few of these men are friends -- old friends, new friends, somewhere-in-between.

Some of them have resolved the issues they had when we met, and moved on to other issues. Some of them continue to grapple -- because it is part of their personality to wrestle with big questions.

I'm a wrestler myself myself -- so perhaps it's a case of like being drawn to like.

I dunno. All I can say (hey, it's late at night) is that, instead of liking my men a little on the trashy side, I like them a little bruised.

Not enough to be ugly, mind. Just enough to draw my empathy -- and my quixotic, nurturing heart.

lundi, décembre 19, 2011

A woman of inconvenient principles

Yes, I have principles.

They just lurk way outside the box, like the rest of me.

They also tend to crop up at strange times.

Just because I am congenitally not quick to judge (I believe there's something vaguely biblical about this), does not mean that I am without any internal monitor.

Let me amend that statement.

I judge the U.S. Congress, the poor quality of Hershey's chocolate, and the length of my daughter's skirts all the time.

But people's lifestyle choices? Not so fast.

In part, this is due to my abiding curiosity as to why people chose to live the way they do.

I figure that I darn well better understand it, at least from the outside, before I say much about it. And, as a writer, I'd rather describe it from the inside out, so that you have enough information to make your own judgments.

But put me at a party with an orthodox Democrat, and I'll become the conservative moralist -- in part, because I am the spawn of generations of moralists. A devout conservative?

Given the chance, I'll start ranting about the "too big to fail" banks and climate change (an issue on which I am irritatingly consistent).

So what are my principles, such as they are? A few are simple, and this list is by no means exhaustive. I suspect that you share most of them.

Be kind. There's an awful lot of meanness out there.

Be generous.

Think before you speak.

Turn love into a verb of action.

Use the phone and in-person meet-ups in addition to email, texting, and other toys.As I watch my daughter online, I worry that she won't have the communication skills to handle "real" life.

Compromise when possible.

Politicians in Washington have made a mockery of the idea, and yet it is essential if we are going to thrive as a society.

Extend your hand. Apologize first.

Be gracious, whether the cards fall your way or they do not.

But what happens when you have gone as far as you can go -- and the distance between you and a friend, neighbor or spouse still yawns?

Don't sell yourself out.

I am determined that no one mistake my attempts to be kind as weakness of character.

As I've noted before, as we grow older, we become more and more the people we are going to be the rest of our lives. Though I want to stay nimble, I have no desire to become a cloak spread across the mud for someone to step on.

Which is why I seem to end up having the "no friends with benefits" conversation so often. If a guy really likes me, he's going to hang in there (or may never bring it up initially to begin with). If he wants something more superficial, he'll move on to seek lower-hanging fruit.

If a coworker, a friend or a lover can't handle the authentic person you are, you both have something to work on. Sometimes you have no choice.

Often, the choice is yours.

Because I'm such an inquisitive (nosy?) person, I often come crashing into my principles, rather than easing up to them.

You may be less curious -- and more sane. It's simpler that way.

Sometimes the box isn't meant to confine you, but to protect.

I just don't know what I'd learn about human nature if I stayed there.

dimanche, décembre 18, 2011

Set him/her free

Stop clinging.
Open your hands wide.
Let someone move away from you if she or he wants to walk.

This isn't an easy lesson to learn.
It really is a relational paradox.
But it is proved accurate, at least in my life, again and again.
If someone doesn't feel free to leave, then he or she isn't really at liberty to stay.

The more emotion we use, whether it be with a child or with a lover, to engage them and keep them standing in one place, the more they really want to scram.

As we grow up, we sometimes find that dependency appears to pay dividends -- it makes people worry that we won't be o.k. if they need some distance, or maybe even need to take a break from a relationship.

"He or she won't be able to cope if I leave." How many times have you heard that?

Then there are the folks who continue to battle with their ex-spouses or girlfriends long after the relationship is really over.

It's a way of staying connected, but it means they are never truly free to move forward with another person.

It's even harder when you do care about someone.

Parents and children find striking the right balance very tough. I know that I have, with my daughter. For years I took her frustration personally, and as a reflection of my failure as a parent.

Now, though I'm not a model of balance, I try to step back and not simply react -- to leave space for her to feel her own emotions, instead of feeling mine.

When it comes to romance, I have also learned not to cling. This may be easier for me than others, because I crave and relish independence. It's actually harder for me to reach out than it is to be alone, which is why I need to keep working on connecting.

But at least I know, when I sense myself becoming vulnerable to someone, whether it be a friend or a potential "more" to back off, and allow them to make their own choices.

They aren't honest ones if you make them for someone else.

Sooner or later, he or she is going to wake up and realize they've been manipulated.

And you'll be alone -- because he or she needs to have reasons to stay that are wholly their own.

Which leaves you free to become the guy or the woman you want to be -- one capable of meeting them in-between, adult-to-adult, with a sparkle in your eye, mischief in your smile, and the excitement of moving forward, and not sideways.

Of course, there are also those who can't commit...but that's another blog post...