vendredi, décembre 30, 2011

My dream for you

Sometimes one does not know a hunger until one can name it.

As we have.

Dancing, leaping, anticipating, words spiraling across the screen, icons pale substitutes for the gasp of laughter, the grin of surrender, the mock outrage that forgives in being articulated.

And oh, in passing, the mutual, caged, restrained, diverted desire.

Milton, Chaucer, Greene, Russell...there is nowhere, so far, that you haven't traveled, and sought, and found something of value. Even if I think I get there first, you have already found that place of delight.

Or at least, if you haven't been there, you disguise it well, my fellow fencer.

Though we have so much, the gift is tinctured, as perhaps all the really good ones are, with the reality of distance, and struggle, and of priorities.

What we seek is different, as is what we have found. Except for this tilt, pole to pole, unsought by either.

So as you stumble towards your destiny, and I trip towards mine, we make the words dance and glint and shimmer between us -- as you open to me a part of my soul I didn't even realize I had.

I name it now, and will put it aside again, in the service of reality.

For after all, my child, I am a woman of rubrics, principles and facts.

A set of facts to which I must lash myself (and perhaps lash myself with), like a sailor clinging to a mast, lest I get swept away by the "what might have beens" of dreams.

And for all that, in spite of all that I know, this castle in the sky is for you.


At a table you sit, running your hand abstractedly through your hair, the light glancing off your face, giving birth.

The word eludes you, the word that will say all you want, and no more.

Turning to me, you ask for a synonym, an allusion, an image to nestle softly in between the mortar of your creation.

Without thinking, I provide it -- or you steal it, unscrupulous wretch.

Coming up behind you, hands on your shoulders, I lean against you, feeling your strong frame against mine.

Returning to work, only the crackle of the fire punctuating the silent, grey afternoon, we trust the knowledge that kindred spirits share so effortlessly.

No acolytes here. No leader to follow. The marriage of these minds brooks no impediment.

Later, we will take a walk, hand-in-hand, through the open fields, sometimes in amiable debate, sometimes in silence.

We watch for, seek out, wait for inspiration to arrive.

It will find us -- I, who deal in facts and argument -- you, who take words and weave them into poetic tapestries.

Through a mist of gentle kisses, mirrored in eyes that window the advancing and retreating knowledge we have of one another, we leave the introspection be for another evening.

Work is done for the day.

There are new lands to discover tonight - it is a journey I never signed up for, because no one had ever told me it was possible.

jeudi, décembre 29, 2011

The object of his desires

I've been fending off a fair number of what I'd call smarmy suitors.

They share their fantasies with me (I won't go into the details).

I get to experience the seamy underbelly of Internet life without frequenting porn sites!

Isn't it exciting?

Actually, it's repulsive and boring, if something can be said to be repugnant and anomie-inducing at the same time.

I can tell whether a guy is worth getting to know from his initial approach.

If it's "Wow, you look hot in that bathtub. Can I join you?," the terms of the conversation have already been set.

And, oh, trust me, it gets much cruder than that -- right from the start.

One school of thought might argue that I ought to be flattered. After all, how many middle-aged women get this kind of persistent attention?

I'm just tired of it. It makes me feel like a non-person. I'm really grossed out, to be truthful.

Yet I am the kind of woman (the kind who contradicts herself) who does genuinely enjoy male attention.

But it makes all the difference in the world if it's someone who has gotten to know me -- and someone whom I think is hot, too.

The matter of approach, and of multi-dimensional appreciation, is a make-or-breaker.

And then, as if to shake up my assumptions, I got this email from someone who had looked at my profile (name deleted). He told me he looked at me online and fantasized. I told him that for me, (I apologized for my vanity), that was so yesterday. Then I suggested that he should probably go out and find a real woman.

This is what I received back:

well.... it doesn't really sound arrogant I can imagine the mail you get ... I do have an honest reason for fantasizing .... in 2001 I was the victim of a violent crime, my best friend was killed and I spent 2 years in the hospital and 3 more in a wheelchair, I've been thru hell and back ...... theres been noone breaking my door down for a date .... once n a while when I get lonely I fantasize about making love to a beautiful woman its not gonna happen to me ever again ..... we all say oo yes it will ... I'm smart enough to know it won't I'm scarred from head to toe ..... it gets me down at times but its better to lay in bed and dream of you than the alternative ... your an attractive sexy woman .... thats my story ..... and thats how my life has ended ....

What could I say? I told him he alone, of all of the inept Lotharios who had contacted me, was entitled to fantasies.

And now, I'm going to try to forget the whole discussion took place.

mercredi, décembre 28, 2011

Lament of the over-educated single female

I have a thing for online guys who write me and say "hi" or "hello" as a way of introducing themselves to me.

Not a good thing, either.

Generally, I suspect that they are incapable of carrying on an intelligent conversation.

O.K., I've said it. In that one sentence is wrapped up a host of bias: classism, elitism, and other, more subtle-isms that I choose not to share with you right now.

Thus far, there is only one man who didn't fulfill my expectations in that regard -- and he was totally new to the dating scene. I was his trial run.

I was just a little bored yesterday (plus, it was raining, so I couldn't escape to the savanna and pace like a lion).

No more excuses for my bad behavior.

A man contacted me yesterday, his only introduction one word.

And then, the inevitable "Is there room in the bathtub for me?"

That's the second line that will most accurately predict whether someone has an ounce of creativity in his soul.

I didn't answer that one. Instead, I responded "good afternoon." Just enough. Just to see what I'd get back.

"How are u"?

"Fine" I wrote him. "And you?"

Well, you can see where this is going. No-where, if that can be said to be a place.

"I'd be better if I was with you" came the fast answer.

At that point, I was done toying. "You don't know me. You just know what I appear to be" I wrote him back.

Ouch. There I was, taking out my frustration on a poor schlub who just happened to want to chat with me.

It's hard, to be honest, being an educated woman in an online dating environment. First of all, you have to keep reminding yourself that lots of people hate writing, despise it and fear it with a deadly passion.

Which doesn't mean they are stupid. It could mean almost anything.

And then, if there is enough possibility to begin a dialogue, than you have to figure out what is safe to say. Can you discuss politics? Can you talk about previous relationships? What about religion?

Hopefully by then you have moved on to phone chats. All of those, except for the rare birds who are fluent in online conversation, or programmed to "get" each other's wacky ironies, are dangerous territories.

As the novelist Margaret Drabble (sister to A.S. Byatt) wrote once, one of the legacies of an education is to have all sorts of quotes rattling around in your head (often the attribution is forgotten).

It's delicious to be able to share those with someone.

Is it necessary? Well, I wrestle with that often. Maybe it's a luxury. Maybe I'm too fussy. Maybe it's better to trade quotes.

Then where do I draw the line?

I have no idea.

All I know is that, yesterday, I should have drawn it at "hello."

mardi, décembre 27, 2011

What I really wanted for Christmas

As soon as the holiday was over, perhaps even a minute after midnight (who knows?) our inboxes were flooded with a new set of online advertisements.

One of them, from Road Runner Sports, cajoled me into saving 56% on what I "REALLY wanted for Christmas."

Which REALLY pissed me off.

Getting and spending we lay waste our powers, indeed.

We'd just gone through a consuming frenzy in our house. One child was grateful, the other accepted it as her due (that's another story). After a brief conversation with their father over spending limits, I had meekly given in.

Meanwhile, all over America, one in four kids went to bed hungry.

Did I want to spend MORE money because I felt ungrateful for what I'd been given?

Heck, no.

Yet the gaudy ad (and, I admit, a need for new running shoes) did force me to consider what I really, truly, did want for the New Year.

And here it is, in no particular order. The identity of putative receivers are disguised to protect their anonymity.

I want a friend, adopting a son from a country torn apart by violence, to have him arrive in her loving home soon. Each day without him weighs on her spirit.

I hope for the gift of time and presence for her friend, a young father with four children, fighting a terrible disease. Though I don't know them, they were never far from my thoughts and prayers this holiday.

I'd like the weight of a year of losses to lift from another friend's heart this year, leaving them with peace and wonderful memories.

A dad to have his daughter stay out of the hospital, visits which produce fear and near-death escapes.

For a friend whose quest for love has led them to compromise, I would sprinkle the fairy dust of self-respect. There is more -- so much more.

And for another, lost in a wilderness in which there appears to be no exit, I would light the candles of faith, hope and charity. Faith in the future, hope for winning the battle, and charity towards a self that is bruised and scarred but nonetheless dear.

For me? I'd love to see the New Year bring a healthier relationship with a daughter from whom I feel estranged. I'd like to be less sensitive to slights, real or not-real.

And that's just for starters, a few dives into the themes that crowd my consciousness...but I don't want to be greedy. And I also admit the possibility that, when it comes to my friends, I am wrong in my wishes.

I'm sure you have your own lists, dear friends.

This year, let's try to match up what what we really want with the relationships where we put our insight, energy and emotion.

Then we can blithely ignore those stupid ads, knowing that whatever they say we REALLY need...we know better.

THE world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
The Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.--Great God! I'd rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn; 10
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.
W. Wordsworth, 1806

dimanche, décembre 25, 2011

Tear down the walls

It's late at night, Christmas Eve.

Actually, it's early in the morning, Christmas Day, a good time to reflect on the place where faith and unbelief intersect.

Being a parent, no matter how organized (I wasn't organized this year) always seems to entail early morning time on Christmas.

In this case, there are presents I haven't wrapped. But since they are in the room where my son is sleeping (we still don't have the rooms sorted yet), I can't get to them.

I'm sitting here, strengthened with hot chocolate, chocolate peppermint JoJos, and chocolate trail mix (notice a theme here?), reflecting on the evening, and listening to English carols.

It was actually a very nice family evening. My ex and I do the holidays together. We started out doing it for the kids, and now it's got to be such a normal thing we don't even cavil anymore.

Bicker, yes. Cavil, not so much.

And I'm thinking, on one of the holiest nights of the Christian year, of how tangential many churches appear to be in reaching out to society.

As faithful,we seem to perpetuate our cultures.

I have experienced this more and more as I engage those outside the arms of the Church.

It used to be that I could count my atheist or questioning friends on the fingers of two hands (not counting my relatives, of course, a wondrously colorful grab-bag of faith and politics.)

Because I had spent so much of my professional life in the womb of the church (or Church), I had become part of the institution.

I see it with friends, all the time. Good people they are, who sometime along their journey began to socialize only with "their" kind -- other Christians.

Idly rifling through Facebook sometimes, I'll see albums of people who seem to mostly hang out with one another -- and wonder if they want to expand their horizons, or are just comfortable with the folks they know.

It's normal, or natural, for that to happen to people, whether they be artists or accountants.

But I wasn't crazy about the notion when it is applied to me, for a couple of reasons.

I don't like living in a cocoon.

It feels inauthentic. And I also believe that all of us need to have friends who challenge us.

Besides, what is the message of the Gospel if it doesn't mean engaging people who don't believe it - not as superiors, but as listeners, as equals?

Jesus never said anything about superiority. Oh wait, he did -- to the religious authorities of his day.

Part of it was running into guys online who had little experience, or negative experiences, with institutional religion.

Another element was the interviews I did for a number of commentary series -- I became more and more fascinated with the choices people make about what to believe.

(As I've said before on these "pages," people do seem to have to put faith in something, whether it's a god or not a god.)

So many of my Facebook journalist friends are indeed Christians -- but they keep a strong professional line between their practice and their jobs. I guess I feel most comfortable there -- a weird thing for an ordained minister to say, I confess.

I'm not drawing conclusions about secularism or atheism, or alternative beliefs, at least not as yet. But I'm enjoying the dialogues. And I'm learning -- always committed to learning.

I still believe that if religious folks don't try to meet others in the bars, in the coffeehouses, in the workplace, the church risks becoming irrelevant.

Not sayin' that I'm good at having these conversations, or even great at being a listener.

Hostility towards Christians as a class bothers me as much as when I experience hostility from Christians about the not-religious. We can't seem to tolerate difference without wanting to throw up the drawbridges.

But I admit, that, occasionally, I am more excited about what's going on outside the walls of the institutional church than I am about what's going on within it.

And if that's the case for me, imagine, Christians, what it feels like to be searching for meaning outside the walls -- and to have already discounted us as a potential source.

My Christmas column

Why do we make a romance out of Christmas, when in the lives of the poor, it could have been any other day -- except for the Incarnation?

Because, possibly, poverty frightens us -- it's particularly scary for the poor. Because it was a long time ago. Because, possibly, poverty isn't something we like to think about.

But, as Bishop McFadden said, Christ has a special love for those who are poor -- and expects that we will take care of them.

There is not much to the Gospel if it is just meant for the those of us who are well to do.

It isn't, perhaps, the Gospel.