Serpent’s teeth and the brilliance of Shakespeare

30 08 2015

db-0100I hated reading Shakespeare as I grew up. The language seemed difficult, the concepts dry and old. I was, of course, ignorant. And a philistine. Now I know better, and am continually gobsmacked by what Shakespeare was able to contain in his works.

I wonder who I was when I was younger – so sure of myself, so sure I knew things, terrified of being caught out yet pushing my way through, singing “Whistle a Happy Tune” and “You’ll never walk alone” to keep my chin up – but as an old friend said, it WAS up. Though I knew nothing, and inside I knew I knew nothing. I knew enough to fake it til I made it, just about. So I did.

I blame my mother. She told us we were special, and though we never really believed it, we carried it around. My adopted aunt once gave me a book which had a marvelous poem in it about “Mary-Alice”, who had great potential, and because she was so afraid of losing that potential, she kept it hidden under her bed in a very secure box and got it out now and again to look at it but never showed it to anyone.

That poem has haunted my entire life. Thanks, Aunt Shirlianne. (Love her so much, and there’s no reason she should have expected that that poem would have such an effect on me). Between my mother assuring me I was meant to do great things and my aunt inflicting overly wise poetry on me, I was and probably still am, a mess. I figure I still have to contribute – have to have an effect on the world, have to use my potential before it vanishes like Mary-Alice’s.

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It’s encouraging in one way, terrifying in another. Here I am, gently losing my mind with the cognitive effects of MS, and I am flogging myself to write, to agitate, to exercise, to model healthy behaviour, blah blah blah. Add in a generous dose of Roman Catholic guilt and it’s almost unbearable in here. Wine helps. And chocolate.

Sad thing is, I seem to have visited it upon my kids, this same sense of “you have great gifts and you’d better use them to better the world or else”. It’s a lot of pressure, and I didn’t mean to make their lives the same living ratrace mentally that I spin upon, but I did.

So now they have secret lives, and are afraid to tell me their plans and are snarky at me so they don’t have to feel that I am judging them.

Which, of course, I am NOT. Funny thing about parenting. That unconditional love thing is the code.You get it through the umbilical cord, I think. So I don’t care what they do, though of course I would be sad if they got arrested or hurt somebody or sat about being unhappy and unfulfilled. But then I think they wouldn’t like that, either, so I assume we are on the same page, sort of. Maybe.

I have to guess, though, because, like those ungrateful children in Shakespeare, two out of my three wonderful offspring speak rarely to me. It hurts me, yes it does. I’m sure they have reasons to avoid me, and it’s pretty much due me as I recall I kind avoided my mother for a spell, and still argue with her though she is 24 years gone. I guess I also passed on the serpent’s tooth.

In a way, it’s good – I raised my kids to be independent, questioning individuals, and so they are. Just wish a bit that they’d be a little less questioning of me, sometimes.

Ah well, at least when we DO talk, they are interesting, witty, intelligent, and worth the wait. Perhaps you can’t have that without the tooth…

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Families, or what would we write about without them?

26 05 2015

stick-figure-family-stickers-12Saw a mini-van today with a partial stick-figure family on the back – just the dad and the son. The mom and another child had obviously been peeled off (in a fit of pique? In sorrow? In rage?). So I wondered. What happened to the other figures (there might even have been a dog there, or a cat)? What happened to the family? Was it a divorce, one kid each arrangement, or was it a terrible tragedy? Did the dad murder the other two and then rip off the stick figures so no one would wonder (ineffectively)? Does the mom have a car with the other two figures stuck on?

So many authors write about their dysfunctional families. It’s tempting. Fits right in with the “write what you know” dictum, especially given that we really have no idea how other families live. I used to try to imagine how my friends lived at home, but unless you were there 24/7, you could never be sure they weren’t putting on an act for you. They always seemed quieter than my family…

As a parent, you are learning all the time. You make mistakes. You try again. You fight with your kids, your partner. You break up. People stop speaking to one another. They start again. I used to think it was all good as long as there were some feelings – when I did home visiting, that saddest children were the ones who were neglected – no one cared about them. At least if their parent was yelling at them, they noticed they were there, I figured.

In my head, I’m the sort of parent who would peel off the stickers on the back of the car in a fit of pique. How I long for the Jewish tradition of rending clothing while shouting “I have no son!” It would be so cathartic, but my Roman Catholic upbringing means I get to sit around instead, feeling awful when my kids ignore me or treat me badly because somewhere in my guilty heart, I know I must have done something, sometime, to deserve such treatment. Or if something bad happens with friends or complete strangers, I know that it must’ve been because of something I did. In a way, it’s nice to always have an explanation.

So I get hurt, and then my brain gets busy. How could I use this pain in a story? How can I take the feelings and put them to good use, as so many other authors have done?

God knows I have enough meat for several novels. The question is, do I make them mysteries and kill off all those I want to hurt back (mwah hah hah), or do I make everything turn out all right in the end? Maybe I should have aliens from another planet intercede. Or maybe something in-between?

All I know is that despite the slings and arrows, I’m grateful. If everyone were sweet as pie, why, I’d have nothing interesting to say.

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(But sometimes, sometimes, that might be nice.)





What is love these days anyways?

16 11 2014

Lately I’ve been wondering.
I’m so lucky.I am surrounded by dear friends who I adore and who seem to like me. I don’t think I’ve offended any strangers lately, except for that guy who wanted my parking space. I have children who care about me.

But I lack love, that romantic upsurge of joy and affection we expect when we see our partner. I mean, I have that upsurge when I see my dear friends, when I get a phone call from afar, when my sons fit me into their wild schedules, when I get an email from a far away family member. But I long for romance. And, quite frankly, someone to curl about me at night and be too hot so I have to peel off the blankets but still sleep, touching each other somehow. I miss that. I miss having someone about to sigh at when my computer goes wrangy or I have to run out for milk or have to climb various stepladders. Someone to laugh with at the end of the day, someone to be with me against life’s challenges.

It seems to be out of style. Or maybe I’ve repelled it by turning down opportunities. I am only now beginning to understand the very real damage done to me in my youth that makes me push words away, seek proof, feel doubt, distrust. I’m doing the work to get over that.

Now, though, that I am yearning for romance, it is elusive, hard to find. People want part of a relationship, not all of it. They don’t want to be tied down, have expectations. Fair enough, I feel a bit that way, too. Adapting to change is hard. Especially as you get older. Others have been hurt, too, and have their own walls to pull down. So they dance away.

But I can’t help but think friendship and romance and love all require some sort of commitment. Time, primarily. The people I adore, I do so because they want to hang out. We spend time together. I can call on them if I need to, and vice versa.

Where is that with my romantic interests? Guarded, bounded, suspicious.
It’s too bad, really. A touch is all I need. And some time. And maybe an occasional bunch of flowers or a surprise book in the mail… I don’t need much to fall head over heels. But I need a bit.

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How will I know?

27 01 2014

images-14Oh, sometimes I hate being a grownup.

See, when you’re a kid, you can spend hours gazing off into the distance and dreaming romantic dreams of life with your dreamboat, think about hours spent together, laughing as you walk along some mountain trail or canoeing down some whitewater river together. I remember spending hours and hours just envisioning a kiss. His hand would come around the back of my head, we’d gaze meaningfully into each other’s eyes, and we’d touch lips, gently, warmly together. No tongues. Thrilling!

When you get a little older, you can whisk up some dreams of families and homes with picket fences and Christmases together and warmth and cuddles. You think about joint trips to the hardware store, hanging lighting, renovating a house, camping, toasting marshmallows. Tongues might be involved. And other parts.

And then you get to an advanced age and realize the chances of whitewater rafting with your love approximate zero since neither of you wants to risk the injuries. Families are done, grandchildren dance offstage, waiting for entrance and attention. Cuddling is great provided it isn’t every night since, after all, a good sleep is sometimes better than sex and requires less energy. And legs kick and nasal passages snore and the elegance of sleeping together lacks something when one of you is hot flashing and the other is sucking in the walls a la Yosemite Sam. Hardware stores lose their appeal when you decide neither of you should get up a ladder. Camping? Ugh. Getting up to find a toilet in the dark and bugs and damp? Never. Love is in the simple things: the newspaper, the cup of coffee in bed, the back rub at the end of a long day.

And still, if you are dating, you find yourself reverting to the kid you once were. Does he like me? Does she think I’m handsome? Will he still like me tomorrow? Will we have anything in common? Should I call him? Should I write to her? Am I being too clingy/demanding/honest/deceptive? What about that errant nose hair? You’d think we’d have this down by now.

Is the effort all worth it?

Somehow, after years of being in loving relationships, I still don’t know how to judge them, if my feelings are real or false, if they are being straight with me or leading me on.

I don’t really care. Life’s too short for endless analysis. I want to feel while I can feel. Sing while I can sing. And dance the dance while my feet still know the steps. And if I end up alone at the end of the party, well, there are always the joys of solitude.

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Serendipitous Connections

2 07 2013

 

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I’m all grown up now, no kids to tow to rugby games or class performances , no parent-teacher lineups or other shared parental volunteer activities to set up friendships with other grown ups. It used to be easy to meet new folks – we were doing the same things at the same time, our kids hung out together, we got to know each other over backyard BBQs and such.

We could hide behind our kids to get us out of bad friendships or conversations or activities. We could meet people we wanted to without seeming creepy or forward. It was all so easy back then.

Now that’s all gone. I meet a few people through my kids but most of the time we travel in very different circles.

So I have to make new connections, and that’s tougher. I was blessed in that I was married to a military guy for years, whose modus operandi was to move me away from everyone I knew and then abandon me and go to work. It was the best thing to ever happen to a gal like me, who was able to fake it til I made it, but who spent a fair bit of her time humming “Whistle a Happy Tune” under her breath.

So I learned to get out there, talk to strangers (and even strangers), join things, keep busy. I took up strange interests – pottery, ukulele, volunteer stuff, writing – in the hope that I’d meet interesting people. I signed up for classes and pretended to study. I joined dating sites and chatted with many many strange men (and some lovely ones). I met people.

But often the connections are so happenstance they are unpredictable. One of my best gal pals I worked with years ago, only to find she’d moved to NS and was living a block away from where I’d moved to – I would never have found her save for a political event attended by her minister, where we got to chatting…

And my other BFF is a lass I met at a ukulele concert – we happened to sit beside one other, got talking about the Halifax Ukulele Gang, both decided we wanted to go, and we’ve been friends ever since.

It’s serendipitous and wonderful, miribilia, as Rob Brezsny would say.

And now threads fly out from me to all those places where I once was, where I have left friends and family, connecting me to people around the globe. Some of those threads are thin and worn, but so many of them hum brightly when I touch them, making me feel supported and part of that ineffable something bigger.

I still sing that song, though. But that’s a topic for another day.

 





Non-negotiables in relationships…

27 02 2013

images-2It’s almost the end of February, and I have to say I’m glad – I’ve been participating in NaBloPoMo on the theme of love and relationships and my friends, reading the posts, call me to ask if I’m okay, check in about my mood, etc. I think they think I am heartbroken – but I’m not. In fact I am happy with things the way they are now – I’m free as a bird, able to meet new folks and get to know them, eager to learn new things and new people. Yep, still doing the dating thing and the associated hair tweezing and nostril hair trimming (honestly!) and searching for the perfect undergarment to make me look lithe and tall…(instead of the spherical current appearance), but overall, content.

I’ve enjoyed looking at the concepts of love and relationships, but, frankly, I’m more interested in other things. Friendship, purpose, life, music… Love is murky enough without having to come up with things for a blog post about it.

Next month’s theme is Risk. MUCH more exciting, and yet it also involves a bit about love and relationships, too. Because, really, entering a relationship involves taking a risk. Will you be able to stand each other long-term? Will they be able to stand you? How much time should you invest in figuring this out? As a friend said to me, there aren’t that many more moments left…how many should be spent with this person?

I don’t know that answer. I remember talking to another friend who discussed the concept of non-negotiables in a relationship – not a shopping list of what you want, cos that’s not realistic. Everyone at our age comes with lumps and bumps and oddities that you balance out in looking at the whole picture.

But it IS worth figuring out your non-negotiables, cos otherwise you can waste a lot of time rationalizing your choice and still come up uncomfortable.

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Here’s my list, for your amusement, and in no particular order. Maybe it will help with your adventures:

1. No addictions – no alcoholism, drug abuse, exercise addictions, over-reliance on motorcycles for manhood, no workaholism or addiction to porn.

2. No history of violence. No incarcerated time. No lawsuits pending.

3. If he has kids, he’s gotta love them, even if they don’t love him back.

4. No married folks. Preferably has respect for his ex. Understands his contribution to any failed relationships. Tidies up his own life before he tries to enter mine.

5. Capable of self-entertainment, has friends other than me, understands the concept of personal space, doesn’t need to be plastered all over me all the time.

6. Capable of plastering himself all over me sometimes.

7. Good kisser. Some say it can be taught, but if you haven’t learned by age 50, it ain’t happening, man. Sorry.

8. Financially responsible.

9. Intelligent, well-read, motivated. Curious about life.

10. Able to see the foolishness in life and laugh about it, and cherish the glory in life and laugh about it, as well.

Hmm. Seems like a long list, doesn’t it? But over the past few years, I’ve met many a person who ALMOST passes muster and I spend time with them, only to realize that if even one chunk is missing, I can feel it, like a hole in my tooth. I’ll worry at it and worry at it and never feel right.

So, fussy I shall stay, I guess. In the meantime, I’m meeting a bundle of interesting people, and that is enough.

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Why not take a risk and join in?





Kissing, kissing, kissing!

11 02 2013

ImageOh how I love the kiss.

For me, it’s a non-negotiable. The man I spend my time with has got to know how to kiss, or it’s over before it starts. I love kissing, I love the way it makes my body screee up into a level of high pitch, the way the thrill starts from the bottom of my spine and drags its fingers right up into the base of my head.

I love the gentle kiss, the touching of lips. One of my boyfriends in university won me by sweeping a kiss past me so quickly I felt nothing but a whisper of longing.

I love the deeper kiss, the one that speaks of lust and longing and the promise of delights to come.

I love the sneaky kiss, the one on my neck while I’m cooking, the one when I least expect it, the one outside on a cold day when lips are cold and mouths are warm.Image

Once, when I was lonely, I used to fantasize about stopping at a red light and seizing some hapless fellow waiting to cross the street and kissing him, just to feel that touch. Fortunately, I didn’t do this, and thus remain un-incarcerated…

It’s caused me no end of trouble, this kissing thing. Usually, when I date someone, if they seem interesting, I kiss them. It’s part of my assessment. If they are able to respond well, I might stick around. If they, like my poor ex, react in a totally startled way (he backed up into the wall and knocked a bunch of pots into a noisy clangle, god love him, but then he was young then and inexperienced and I probably frightened him), I might reassess. If they grab me and immediately go for the breast, I know they are more focused on getting than giving.

It’s a wonderful thing, kissing, when practised well. It’s worth learning to do properly, without sliming your co-kisser or trying to eat her face (men seem to like this. I don’t know why. Something to do with pheromones or something.)

A truly wonderful kiss adapts to the wants and desires of the participants, moving quicker or slower, shallower or deeper as the moments pass. 

It’s Valentine’s week. Pucker up, people. 

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