samedi, janvier 07, 2012

The beliefs of a "practical people"

It's been a month since I took Christmas vacation from the Mormon series -- and it was tough to jump back into the thorny issues. Fortunately, someone at Religion News Service had the same thing on his or her mind, and helped spur me on.

As you will see, I haven't even gotten into the really hot issues -- that will have to wait until the columns to follow.

vendredi, janvier 06, 2012

Tears...and more tears

I can't seem to stop crying today.

Pretty tough, with my contractor friends going up and down the stairs behind me, to conceal the tears cascading down my face.

If I could walk away, abjure this( self-inflicted) suffering, make my heart tough and weathered as old barn boards under a scorching sun, I would.


But then I wouldn't feel, or explore, wouldn't reach out, hope or know the truth -- that love is worth aspiring to -- even if for a moment, a second, an hour.

There is some consolation in that, I suppose.

I've seen how people compromise. I just can't seem to do it.

I wish sometimes I were able.

I suppose the price for turning myself into somebody else is too high...just barely.

It's not as it I have a choice.


On the surface, I don't seem like a person prone to fanciful flights.

I've worked very hard to overcome any obvious tendencies in that direction.

Love at first sight? HA.

Sweet nothing compliments?

Try that gullible lady on the next profile over.

Generally, unless I know someone pretty well, I just laugh off racy comments.

It's so hard to take any of it seriously.

But, I have discovered that I suffer from a far more insidious and possibly more dangerous form of the disease: literary romanticism.

If it's a scenario that could happen to someone in a novel (paging Richard Russo or Michael Malone) than possibly it could happen to me.

In my love scenario, there is wit. Seems normal enough, doesn't it? We all like a laugh, or at least a grin.

Intelligence -- it's nice to have someone who enjoys the thrust and parry of conversation. I'm sure I share that with most of you.

Passion (though tempered with realism). Who doesn't like a little excitement?

Then we move into the realm of the imagination -- and that's where it all gets a bit dangerous.

Dangerous to my heart that is.

I crave adventure -- and epic struggle.

Yes, those 18th-century moralists who wrote about the danger of reading novels for ladies were right, I suppose.

To be love, true love, some dragons need to be slain along the way.

It doesn't matter, really, whether they are my dragons or his, inner or outer barriers, the stuff of fiction or the grit of reality.

There has to be something at stake to make a prize worth winning.

Add to this a tendency to be impossibly tender-hearted, and we've got the ingredients for trouble.

Perhaps this is an overly refined, overly delicate, overly dramatic view of romantic life.

So sue me.

In my finely-tuned, introverted way, I'm bent towards drama.

I like to think of it as a particular kind of realism -- the kind that says that scars and even rue are badges of honor -- the ones we get for living boldly.

I don't always live up to my principles.

But I'd like to think that someday someone will come into my life who also sees love as an adventure -- and that we'll take our staffs and a pair of stout shoes and sally forth together.

Let's not forget the swords.

I can tell already -- "we" have dragons to slay.

jeudi, janvier 05, 2012


They press invisible on me


The smell of unwished desire

Is cloying

A manly hunger for love



sometimes fills the air around me insistent.

No Lady Macbeth I

No knife at hand

I do not cut

Or kill

And yet

I am repelled.

For pining bespeaks weakness

Cloud-topped castles

Fleet dreams

Cold rain

Secretive dark touch

And so, what'er befall us

You and I who count our words

The strict currency of candor

I will not pine

For you.

mardi, janvier 03, 2012

Knee deep in vice

O.K., that's a fantasy.

I'm just not good at vice. Advice, perhaps.

But at pure vice, I'm a loser.

I'm sure many of you wonder why I have any regrets about this. But I never had the chance to sow those wild oats.

Every time someone told me where they were, I got there after everyone else had plowed the fields and gone home.

Relational and identity crises? That's quite another matter.

That's NOT a state of mind to desire, but it's one in which I constantly seem to find myself.

Or one in which I find others.

And the annoying thing is that I never quite know how I got there.

I did not choose to dwell in the misty, muddy and sometimes challenging land of moral ambiguity.

Though not inclined to a natural love of black and white (my best friends are those who knowingly discover themselves in the grey areas) I find that, often where I expect to move freely, I am stumbling instead into quandaries.

Not mine, but somebody else's.

Oftime I'll start with the noblest intentions.

Drawn to spectacle like the actress I once thought I would become, I'll allow myself to become part of the dramatis personae -- the problem is that it's someone else's play.

I'm never sure if I'm the heroine, the heroine's best friend (or worst enemy, in some cases) or the clown.

It's not long before my moral antenna begin to wave badly -- and vertigo sets in.

So many insane plot twists.

So much agony. So much inadvertent farce.

And so many secrets.

If I didn't care about the people involved, I'd write a novel.

Only the truth is, watching people attempt to figure themselves out in difficult situations isn't funny.

Or I can't seem to find a way to make it so.

I care too much about their welfare to wryly watch at a distance.

Not a blessing or a curse, it is simply the way I am wired.

I'm hoping that this last time, the price was high enough that I won't make the same mistakes again.

Likely that I may make different ones.

At least give me credit for creativity.

Everything but that...

I can forgive you everything but that

Words unspoken, you burrow into the darkness like a mole

The fantastic dazzles your eyes, the real evades you

I am not all oils and unguents.

I cut.

You bleed.

They do not rise trippingly to the tongue

These syllables

And yet they are the blood, sinews, flesh

That tie together the fragile relations between

Lovers, colleagues, friends

Making it possible to envision something more than civil, sterile truce.

Courage, mon ami. Courage.

It is not a place you know.

Deconstruction erases meaning as though it had never been

Remorse binds those fragile filaments, tying one reality to another

When I can forgive you this cowardice

Reaching out out your hand to mine only in irenic dream

It means (just so you know) your opinion and actions

Have no more weight in my life

Than the breath that stirs the dead leaves

Sending them skittering across the road as we pass

Into oblivion

lundi, janvier 02, 2012

Love in a time of zombies

I'm sitting in front of our new pellet stove.

So far, it's totally the sexiest furniture in the house.

We're hoping the jetted tub will be done soon -- the faucet has a broken diverter, which means spray comes out of the sides. Suffice it to say that we'll be thrilled to hop into it.

Although I'm sitting in a comfortable lawn chair, I'm envisioning a couch here, or perhaps some winged armchairs.

I love the couch idea, though. Idly, I dream of sitting curled up on one end, reading a novel, a man's arm wrapped loosely around my shoulder.

Can't quite envision what he's reading. Let's not even go there, at least not now.

But starting into the glowing flames, I think of....zombies.

Or rather, men and women who act like zombies when it comes to making courageous choices.

When I asked Facebook friends to ponder the concept of "zombie love," two mentioned horror movies.

One of the two suggested that perhaps the undead were those who just went through the motions of love.

What scares me is how many of us there are out there in the land of the supposedly living.

Some are married.

Some are affair partners who can't, or choose not to, communicate with their spouse.

Others are single (in theory).

In reality, they are endlessly recycling the same relationship over and over again.

The past isn't prologue -- it is present.

It draws them like a siren song, one that tows them underwater until they choke and cry out for air.

Yet when time or circumstance rescues them, it seems as though many prefer to return to the deep.

I'm not a zombie. But sometimes I feel as though I walk among the undead.

The price we pay for not reflecting on our past gets higher and higher as we age. That may be in part why so many second marriages fail -- a lack of ability to figure out why what we were looking for may not have been what we needed.

As a Facebook friend commented, however, sometimes looking back can bring sorrow. It's a trick, I think -- to learn from the past and yet live in the present!

Recently a friend said to me, rather enigmatically, that there arrives a time for us when we have to look back and choose -- the time becomes too precious to waste anymore.

On "Tell Me More" this afternoon, Bruce Feiler claimed he wants now (he is a survivor of cancer) to live each year as though it would be his last. That's his New Year's resolution. Not a bad one for all of us.

If you were living this year as though it was your last, would you be with the same partner? In the same post? Listening to the same music?

There may be good reasons to do all of those things...but only after reflecting on them.

I don't want a zombie lover. I want someone who chooses me, not a ghost.

I'd rather live in a vortex of reflection and passion and new life, and cry sometimes - than turn bland, blind eyes towards another just like me.

Actually, I've cried many times. More often during the past year than in many previous ones -- I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad one. But at least I know I'm giving love a shot.

You don't need to be seeking love to pass through zombieland. You may be looking for a new job, coping with a faith crisis, or trying to find the passionate self you left behind a long time ago.

The crossroads are a frightening place. Perhaps it seems, at this point, easier to turn back.

After all, behind you is the place you called home, not matter how dysfunctional it was...ahead lie monsters and cliffs, rough seas and rocks.

Ahead lies your dreams.

I stare into the orange and blue flames, and dream...

Freedom for the zombies. Freedom for the fearful. Freedom for those who want to be liberated.

Even a little. Your day to choose will arrive.

dimanche, janvier 01, 2012

IS love all you need?

I don't really like hurting someone's feelings, even if he is a someone I'm not likely to run into at the Acme.

Though he's not as articulate as I am (but perhaps a lot nicer) I got the message, loud and clear.

I had asked him about his political persuasions.

Oddly enough, religious differences don't bug me (although I'd have as much problems dating a Scientologist as he would dating me).

Earning differences don't bother me, although I would have ethical problems going out with someone who felt he needed to pay for everything and I'd get mad with someone who expected me to fork up for everything.

But politics -- I can feel my mouth curling -- as though, as Alice Longworth Roosevelt said about Calvin Coolidge, I'd been weaned on a pickle.

Truth is that I don't deal well with ideologues. If someone sees an issue as black or white, if he can't juggle potential solutions, if the way he thinks now is the way he thought ten years ago, I know it will be a very big stumbling block.

After I asked him about his political views, he wrote back that I was using the "politics" card as a reason not to meet him.

He is one of the last people to believe that 'love is all you need' he wrote me, implying that those who used politics or religion as a reason to not meet a man like him would find themselves alone.

At first, I was defensive. I worry that I'm turning into one of those singles who can't make room for a vital relationship, one that asks for compromise.

My life would have to change a lot. It's not a matter of making the adjustments that seem to come more simply to the young. By the time we get into our forties and fifties, we've potentially made some pretty big mistakes. And the flip side of that is that we also know ourselves pretty well.

A person who engages with us and our mistakes has got to be both forgiving and willing to tolerate some cracks in the facade.

But then I asked myself the more basic question my friend asked in passing: is love all you need?

And I'd have to answer -- no, it's not everything.

Tolerance helps -- or knowing where, as I said to my online friend, you feel compromise is beyond you. Perhaps you have to practice it, or it gets arthritic.

Physical passion for the other (sigh) doesn't hurt. Nature's joke on us is that we continue to want to feel those sparks after the belly begins to protrude, the limbs cramp up, and the hairline recede.

And compassion -- compassion is huge. If you get close to someone, it is almost guaranteed that you are going to hear things you don't want to hear.

Intimacy isn't easy. In fact, it's frighteningly hard -- else why would so many of us flee from it?

Sometimes, as I may be learning, it's possible to think you are part of the solution, and, in fact, be part of the problem.

Intellectual compatibility is important too, as I've recently discovered -- and been loath to admit to myself.

Tolerance, compassion, physical attraction, a real desire for emotional intimacy and oh yes a common language (even if it's one that you conjugate together) -- all of those, and love too?

Maybe my online pal is correct -- maybe love ought to be all that you need.

But I doubt I'll ever know.

Some of us have to learn the hard way.