Archive for the ‘love’ Category

Gifted

I don’t know how many gifts I have received in my life.  I suppose that there a way of estimating the number, given a known number of birthdays, Christmas, anniversaries, graduations, etc.  For many years receiving gifts was as difficult as giving gifts.  I think it comes down to generosity, and not being able to accept or extend it.

Two gifts stand out for me recently in my life.  Both have provided me with examples of what generosity is and what makes it so memorable, so important. The first example was three years ago.  I had spent the day in the hospital with my mother.  As anyone who has been in an ER knows, it isn’t an easy or comfortable process to be there waiting for hours on end, even if the news turns out alright.  I was beat that day, physically and emotionally.  My friend with the cats had a key to my place at that time, and when I came home she had left a gift on my table.  She had left favorite candies of mine (dark chocolate peanut M&Ms, dark chocolate Reese’s miniatures). That she had known my favorites and left them was touching enough, but ….. she gave me three (3!) bags of each! It was, I think, the extravagant generosity of the gift that touched me.  Thoughtful, extravagant, unexpected, loved.  I still remember the feeling, still have the empty bags as a reminder.

The second was more recent.  My friend from my recent road trip,  without any reason, gave me a gift.  It was an unexpected, unique gift for me; it was the first time someone gave me a piece of jewelry, a cross on a chain.  The gift caught me off guard, for a variety of reasons, and I her why she had given it to me.  Her response surprised me, and has lingered with me.  She told me that during the trip she had noticed, and commented, on my lack of jewelry and asked why.  She remembered my response that during and after the divorce, I stopped wearing any because I didn’t feel I was worthy, or more accurately felt too worthless to wear anything.  She gave me a cross because she felt that as a symbol of my faith I might wear it when I wouldn’t wear something else.  She hoped that in wearing it I would eventually see myself again as worthwhile and begin to forgive myself.  An amazing insight and compassion from one conversation, delivered in one gift.

Two very different gifts.  My heart touched by both.  I’m still trying to learn generosity, still trying to forgive. But gifted to be touched by two such caring people.

 

Lives Lived

I took a trip this weekend with a friend of mine.  She was going to the retirement party for an influential college professor from her undergraduate days.  I was along for the ride and to keep her company during the trip.  We had a fair amount of time to talk (driving in a car has a tendency to give you that) and I learned reams about her that I didn’t know before.

I’ve always known her as a very, very bright (impressively so), technologically oriented scientist. What I didn’t know was the path she took to get there.  Actually, while I say path, the reality was that roads had ended and there was no path.  She created a path through obstacles that would have each thwarted lesser motivated, lesser determined people.  In doing so, she became the person I’ve known, and yet the one who hides scars and wounds and damage that most won’t ever see or guess.

During the trip we visited her childhood best friend, one that has been friends with her through all of this.  Down bucolic tree-lined old-style streets we drove until we arrived at a quaint 1920’s bungalow with the biggest, most magnificent ginkgo tree I’ve ever seen.  Her friend, as it turns out, is taking care of a parent who is slowly and painfully dying mentally and physically.  It was a scene of caring, of compassion, of struggle that I have not been witness to in recent years.  My friend helps out where she can, emotionally and financially, despite her own continued problems and challenges.  A friendship of that many years does, I suspect, lends itself to that but it still takes intentionality and commitment.

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It struck me how little we know of the struggles that others have gone through, or are going through. It has made me grateful for what I have in a way I haven’t been for a while. Despite what I view/viewed as a life ending divorce and apparent estrangement from progeny, despite never having had a plan or a goal in life–I’ve had it very easy compared to many and done well despite myself.  Too often I fail to appreciate the good, and over emphasize the bad. And while I have become better at giving, at sharing, at empathizing, I could do better. I think, sometimes, that if I can’t give as much as I think I should, I shouldn’t bother.  It’s a perfectionist trap because it creates a lose-lose situation.  What I need to do is continue to slowly stretch the giving muscles, gradually build the overcoming tendons, build the life-endurance strength in me.

Maybe this trip will help me help my friend when she needs it. And whoever else I see that needs help.  Thank God for the eye-opening of the trip.

 

 

 

 

Shared Shame: Porn and Purity

I’m sure it was entirely coincidence the two articles appeared in the Washington Post on the same day.  I seriously doubt that the editors would have intentionally placed them in such close proximity to each other, even if they were in different parts of the paper.

The religion section had a discussion on the sexual purity movement, and in particular a book that discussed kissing dating goodbye and helped spawn the movement.

The Magazine section included a feature article on one individual’s recovery efforts in overcoming addiction to pornography.

Two diametrically opposed topics, it would seem. But upon reading, it occurred to me that both topics are linked by the same issue — shame.

The problem with the purity program was shame.  While setting high standards for people to follow, and without giving tools and understanding, one of the results of espousing those standards was a sense of shame for not just any acting on the desires, but in many cases for even having the feeling of wanting to act on it.  The normal response of the body to maturation through the teens and twenties, the normal curiosity, even the thinking of what if (and the resulting response) were viewed as wrong and sinful.  The solution to the problem was to deny, to lock up, to isolate.  Purity was lifted up as rules against, evilness of the body, evilness of the mind, rules of “not”….and precious little about how to respond, what to do, how to mature through this normally turbulent phase.  I get this.  In college I felt dirty and shamed by both mental thoughts and my body’s reactions, even if it was from just holding hands.  Seeds of self hate and soul desolation were sown.  I’m pretty sure some of those roots and vines still hold. A normal reaction declared unnormal and wrong.

In addiction, it is perhaps less surprising that shame plays a massive role in the problem.  No one wants to be labeled an addict, but the stigma is particularly harsh against a porn or sex addict.  If you doubt this, think of the reaction of the press and yourself to the death of River Phoenix or Prince from drugs, compared to Anthony Wiener or Tiger Woods.  Society views it, much as alcohol was viewed 80 years ago before AA, as a failure of moral character.  The use/abuse of pornography and sex brings condemnation on the person, and a feeling of shame not just for the act, but the nature of the person committing the act.

Both issues suffer from the existence, the dominance, of shame.  The person is shamed for not having the right moral character for having gotten into the situation; the person has not just acted bad, they are bad. And that occurs whether the bad was an act or a thought or a reaction.  Damned either way by high horses…and high sparrows.  There’s a reason this scene is so powerful and resonates with us.

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What is needed is to increase our capacity for grace; grace for those whose reaction is normal, grace for those whose action is addiction. While these two articles happen to be linked by sex (abstinence or addiction) and shame, there is a need for the application of grace to so much of our lives.  We spend far too much time condemning and shaming and far too little time helping and supporting.  I see it in our responses to fallen heroes, people of opposite opinions, people with whom we interact.  I see it with ourselves, too.

Grace is not easy.  It is as nearly divine as we can get.  It takes work, skill, effort….and ironically the practice of itself when we fail at it.  But whether we fail to measure up to purity, or abuse porn, or abuse ourselves, we need to practice grace, extend grace, to improve our lives.

Shared shame; porn and purity.  Both needing the abundant exercise of grace.

 

 

It’s Benny year…

It has taken me far longer to get around to writing this blog than I anticipated.  I actually told one follower, Heather,  that I would write this…oh, months ago.  But in this case, I need to blame the subject for the delay, for time has not been as free these days as it used to be.

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I’ve had Benny for a year now.  I got him at the very end of July last year, after a long couple of years of searching.  I had been spoiled by my girlfriends two cats when they were here.  They were, together, the most amazing cats I’ve known.  Both of them were large, over 14 lbs, and both affectionate.  In fact, Butterscotch was essentially a dog, for anytime you got near her she’d roll over and expose her belly for rubs. Having them in my life for a while convinced me that, perhaps, for the first time in my life, I would like to get a pet.  Finding a similarly tempered, equally affectionate and sized one, took a while.

Benny had been turned into the animal shelter at the age of 9, ostensibly due to allergies in the home he’d been in since the age of 1 year.  He’s a bit over 15 lbs….so the larger size that I wanted after Lionel and Butterscotch I found!  Still, I always wonder what it is like for him: new home after so many years, new human (and only one human at that), no other animals, smaller space (apartment instead of a house).  So much change for the poor guy.  I still wonder sometimes what goes on in his head.

He is quite the addition to my connection-impoverished life!  First, he is affectionate and not stand-offish.

cuddles

Every morning we sit and he either nuzzles his head into my chin and beard and purrs while I pet him, or buries his head into my knees while I pet him before I go to work.  And this was the case from the first day….the first “selfie” I took of him was upside down in the space between me and the sofa arm, belly up and the wide expanse of white exposed.

day 1 upside down

He is also oh-so vocal!  I WISH I knew what all his sounds meant.  A couple I have figured out, at least well enough to mimic.  The staccato “Ahrow.  Ahrow. Ahrow.” when he sees birds outside the window.  The short, “arrggh”that he gives me in the morning after he’s eaten and gotten off my lap from our cuddle time.  The more traditional “rararow …rararow …..rararow” of the hungry guy when waiting for dinner.  But there are a number I don’t get.  The deeper “rarooooh” he sometimes does during the evening.  And the ventriliquistic “oww………oww………..oww” he does without moving his mouth.

fat cat

He does make writing more difficult, for no reason other than he is just such an attention hog that sitting and petting and being with him takes a lot of spare time.  He does make reading more difficult; holding a newspaper is impossible but at least my paperback books can be held with a single hand off to the side.  But I’m learning. I’m enjoying the time I spend with him, some of his quirks and idiosyncrasies.  Although there are times where I do tire of his LOUD yelling at me that he wants more food!   Still, he seems to be okay with having me, and I of him.

It’s been a good year . Benny really good year 🙂

 

 

Never. Will. Happen.

Things I want, won’t ever be

Will not happen, not for me.

Time has passed, seasons have gone

life moves on, a fading song.

Love won’t arrive, no joyous spring

No rush of warmth or hearts love sing.

Longing for family, hearth; lost and shattered

Pieces and shard, jagged wounds no matter.

Each new change, day, event

Bleeds afresh, new pain is sent.

Joy, hope, love, heart,

Lost now, forever dark.

 

Anti VD

I hate today.

Valentine’s Day.

It is a big, red, trigger-inducing, life-sucking day, unrelieved even by the copious amounts of chocolate around.

It reminds me of my childhood, of the valentines never received, the ones sent that were never responded to, the sense that all the others were liked and friends and I was not.

It reminds me of my marriage, of the never-ending failures on my part to do it right, to make it something that I would be complimented and loved for instead of being constantly off the mark.  Of the stress of trying to do it right, but always doing it wrong even when I thought I was listening.  Of the wrong kinds of flowers, the wrong events.

It reminds me of life post-divorce, of the lack of anyone who cares about me, who loves me, who would want to be with me.  Of Charlie Brown who complained that no one ever liked him at Christmas, but knowing that it is Valentine’s Day that displays the deep truth of being unwanted.

It reminds me more than Christmas of how uncoupled my life is, how unconnected to anyone it is.  How the only value in this otherwise stress filled holiday is the chocolate on half price sale….and knowing that the sale chocolates will no way make up for the empty shell that I stuff them into.

I hate Valentine’s Day.

Who am I?

Who am I?

No longer sure, no longer know.

That which was …..is no more.

That which is…..is not certain, not clear.

Mirror’s reflection….unmatched in mind.

What I was — now lost — is no more, never to be.

Not now husband, not father, not family, not loved.

Not integrated, connected, joined; now unmoored, unguided, unsure.

Value and worth …..reduced. Or not?

Existence and purpose …..worthwhile? Or not?

To feel lovable, loved…..or not?

What am I now?