“Men have no mo…

“Men have no more time to understand anything. They buy things all ready made at the shops. But there is no shop anywhere where one can buy friendship, and so men have no friends any more. If you want a friend, tame me…”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

So said the fox.  The Little Prince did tame the fox and thus they were connected.  “…If you tame me, we shall need one another. To me, you will be unique. And I shall be unique to you…. My life will be filled with sunshine. I’ll know the sound of footsteps that will be different from all the rest. Others send me back underground. Yours will call me out of my burrow like music,” said the fox. 
― Antoine de Saint-ExupéryThe Little Prince  

We have accomplished so much in this world – cars and planes and computers.  Skype.  Cell Phones.  Instant Messaging.  Each of these inventions have succeeded in shrinking our world into smaller and smaller and smaller bits – including the ‘spaces’ between us, our houses, our lives, our countries.  Yet the chasms that exist in this world yarn wider than ever before.  We’re too busy playing computer games, surfing Facebook,  Ebay or any other site that has drawn us in, ensnared us, that many of us have lost the sense of the world beyond it’s lit screen.  Is being ‘tamed’ by the internet really a connection?  How does this life make us unique to one another? 

Instead of sitting on a hill with family or friends to watch a sunset, we look at a picture somebody posted on Facebook.  By ourselves.  Want new shoes?  Buy them online and avoid the crowds and hassle and the personal interaction with the sales people. Order groceries online?  You don’t have to even speak to anybody.  Want to see a movie?  No need to go to the theater.  Just order it online and watch it in the privacy of your own home.  Want a vacation?  Forget the rush of the sea or the cool of the mountains.  Plan a staycation instead and spend your time surfing, each member of the family cut off in their own space.

At what cost have we grown into this new world?  What small pleasures are hidden in the darkest shadows which we never now see and what is lost when our interactions scroll endless through pixels and numbers and cables across thousands of miles that make us feel so close when we’re really not.  No one, especially me, is insisting that the days before these inventions were the absolute ‘good old days,’ but perhaps we have lost something that shouldn’t have been allowed to vanish.

Said the Little Prince to the snake:

“No one has tamed you, and you have tamed no one. You are like my fox when I first knew him. He was only a fox like a hundred thousand foxes. But I have made him my friend, and now he is unique in all the world”
― Antoine de Saint-ExupéryThe Little Prince

My wish is that someday we can all be ‘unique in all the world’ to each other.

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Writing 101, Day Sixteen: Serial Killer III – Lost and Found

I have found that often the small losses we face in our lives bring about our greatest lessons.  I used to have a stone bear charm that I worn all the time.  Twenty four hours a day.  Something in me wanted – needed – a charm to protect against the world.  I choose the bear since it was 1) the charm I found and 2) Bears are big and strong and utterly fierce.  What better protection could one want?

Years later, I looked down and discovered the charm was gone, lost after so many years of protection.  I distinctly remember sitting there, waiting to see what I might feel. Loss?  Anger?  Betrayal?  I never once considered that I might feel calm.  But it was calm that came over me at that moment and I started to remember other things I’d lost in my life.  A earring on the beach.   A National Aquarium tee-shirt on the Baltimore Inner Harbor.  It occurred to me that perhaps my losses were part of the universal plan.  Perhaps a homeless person found the shirt.  I could image his joy at the find.  Surely to somebody with so little a tee-shirt would be a treasure. To me, it was just a souvenir.

And what of the earring on the beach?  Yes, I’d been upset.  What the heck was I supposed to do with just one favorite earring?  And then I wondered who might have picked up that earring; was it a treasure for them too?  What could they do with one earring?  Make a pin out of it?  Had some free spirit who liked to wear different earrings spied it in the sand?  Or had it disappeared into the ocean to wash up on a foreign shore like a strange bottomless message?

As for my bear…. as much as I hated to lose something that had become such a part of me, I realized that maybe it had been time for the charm to go. Maybe there was somebody else, somewhere, who needed that strength and ferocity, just as I had, to get them through a hard time.

I don’t *like* to lose things that are mine, but I’m come to accept that the things we *own* aren’t always really ours.  They are entrusted into our care for a reason, whether to help us get through a hard time, to comfort us in loss or bring joy where there is stress and despair.  Then, once their job is done, those things often move on to find the next person who might need their power.

Writing 101, Day Thirteen: Serial Killer II

Writing 101, Day Thirteen: Serial Killer II

Everything I’ve learned about living I learned from being bipolar. It’s true, funny as that sounds. The old saying is ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’ I should be a mountain woman then, or a polar bear. I can never not remember feeling like this, struggling through a world that felt as foreign as an alien landscape. I had ‘friends,’ yes, but still felt awkward and on edge, trapped behind unbreakable glass walls. I didn’t know then, and I still don’t know now, how to relate well in a group. I’m better one-on-one because when I focus on one person, I can more easily pick up their body and facial clues. Ask me to do this in a group… forget it. Ask me to do most anything in a crowd and I’m sorry but I’ll disappoint you. I don’t Christmas shop on Black Friday or Christmas Eve. I don’t go to see movies when they first hit the theater. I don’t go to the grocery store when they are busy. I don’t function well in large crowds. The noise and colors and confusion overwhelm me and I have to leave.

For some, this ‘condition’ might seem the loss of something in my life, but in reality, once I began to understand, and accept, my differences, they have become a plus. I might not be out in throngs of ‘friends’ but those friends I have are close to my heart. I hold the power of silence around me, the ability to step out of time and just be, even if it is just for a moment. My differences have shown me what it means to be a responsible adult, not only to myself, but to my family, friends, community and my world. That doesn’t mean I’m always Ms. Responsible Adult, but at least I’m honest enough to admit when I fail my own expectations. I know how to pick myself up and keeping moving on, a skill that seems sadly lacking in the world today.

Overall, I have been blessed with this difference. And I’ve finally reached the point in my life when I can see and relish those blessings.

What *negative* aspect of your life has turned into a positive?

Writing 101, Day Twelve: (Virtual) Dark Clouds on the Horizon

I could have said something. I should have said something. But instead I just stood there, locked in the closet of my silence, as you stood there and pretended to be proud of my accomplishment. I knew you weren’t proud. I knew you didn’t like that I had managed to step out from behind my shell and, instead of panicking, decide what needed to be done and do it. That wasn’t normal for me. I’d never used a map before to find my way and yet, when the railroad track was closed, I pulled out the map, found a way around the block (okay I did follow another car but that was later, after I’d already committed to my actions) and to you. And, okay, I did feel several moments of panic, but my desire to see you was so great that I wouldn’t let fear take hold. It was a first for me, and a huge first at that.

Yet, all through your praise, I could feel disappointment. I didn’t understand then, but I do now. You didn’t like that I’d stepped out of my dependence on you, that’s I’d taken a step in the direction of caring for myself; of not needing you so desperately. If I wasn’t dependent then I might see the real you and how then would you control me with your supposed love?

I wanted to say, ‘Why aren’t you happy? Why can’t you be happy for me?’ but I was still too dependent. I thought I needed you so I made myself believe that need was love. I tried to believe that you were happy for me, that every step I took over the next twenty years brought you the same joy I felt. That you wanted me to be my true self and not your mushroom. The truth was, I had no voice and my soul was dying. The words were literally trapped inside me, unable to tear themselves away from my fear of being alone.

Until, one day, I finally allowed myself to realize the truth from which I had been hiding so very long. “I can’t do this any longer. It’s either die to the rest of my life or step free.”

Why that day instead of any of the other thousands of days I’d spend locked in silence? I didn’t know. I only knew that I had to step free. I did. My voice sprang from my throat like the howl of a wolf.

A day without s…

A day without sunshine is like, you know, night.

Steve Martin

Any day into which we do not bring our own light is a day we allow to fester in darkness.  How can we shine in life if we don’t light our own way?  I cringe at the days I’ve lost to darkness but the truth is that we do the best we can do.  As we learn those lessons with which we are tasked, we do better.  Each step forward is a step into sunshine.  

How to you make sure your day is filled with sunshine?

 

 

Writing 101, Day Nine: Changing Moccasins — Point of View

The afternoon hung in pale sunshine, faded remains of a day he might once have known. Age did that to a man; bowed him over, hollowed him out, bore him downwards towards the earth. Today, he didn’t want to think about such things; today was a day for happiness, as much happiness as an old man was allowed.

It broke her heart to see him so old. Where was the man she had known as a child? Who bounced her on his knee and told her stories about myths and fairies and faraway lands? When had his hair grown so thin and white, his shoulder pressed down by the world?

The path they walked lay wide and flat before them, angling down through emerald green towards the lake. He liked to feed the ducks he’d told her but never the reason why. It wasn’t like the reason would matter. She lived in a different world than his, a world as different as dark and light.

She was glad he liked to sit and feed the ducks. It got him outside, away from the dusty house and the ever dusty memory of her mother. She didn’t know why he insisted on living in the past. Yes, she’d loved her mother, but you had to move on. She had a husband who needed shirts ironed and meals cooked; children with full diapers, wounds to kiss and comfort, stories to read each night at bedtime. Stories of myths and fairies and faraway lands.

Sunlight sparkled off the lake as they neared, ducks already swimming closer to shore. An older woman sat on one end of the bench, knitting, back to them.

“Excuse me,” his daughter said, moving around to the front of the bench. “May we sit with you? My father likes to feed the ducks? He comes every day.”

She looked out at the gathering ducks. “See, Dad, they already know you’re here.”

Eyes old as his sparkled as the other woman looked up. She smiled. He looked so handsome, her husband, even after all the years he sacrificed for his family. Three jobs. Working at home late into the night to fix up the home, help her with the children and the chores. No woman could have ever had a better husband. Rising, she lay the completed sweater on the bench, smiled once more before she turned away and was gone.

He sank down on the bench beside his daughter, taking the small sweater into his hands. The yarn was soft against his skin, red because that was his daughter-in-law’s favorite color. It was the same sweater she’d been working on when he’d found her that day, slumped over in her chair.

“She left her sweater,” his daughter said, looking around for the older woman.

He actually smiled, pulling out the bag of food for the ducks. “Don’t worry, sweetheart. I’ll see her soon. I’ll give it to her.” It was one promise he’d be sure to keep.

Writing 101, Day Ten: Happy (Insert Special Occasion Here)!

Any meal at my Grandmothers’ house was special. Every time, I knew she was going to fix my favorite dishes – mashed potatoes and creamed corn.  I’m sure she got tired of mashed potatoes and creamed corn, but every holiday, every visit, every day of the week that we stayed there during the summer, there were the mashed potatoes and creamed corn for dinner. She also made my sister’s favorite dishes though I can no longer remember what those were.  They were my sister’s favorites, not mine, and I can’t recall ever eating them to be honest.  Besides, those bowls were at her end of the table, not mine.

We sat around the dining room table with barely enough room between table and wall for chairs, more dishes laid out than anybody could ever manage to eat.  At least two meats, 4 – 5 vegetables, several starches and breads.  This skill amazes and awes me even now. I struggle to get more than two dishes hot and on the table at the same time.  How was it humanly possible to serve 10 – 12 hot dishes and then desserts?  This, I long ago realized, is a skill that I will never master.

So much has changed in the dynamic of family meals over my lifetime.  My Grandmother had one huge dinner in the middle of the day and then a much lighter supper at night.  Her daughter, my mother, had one slightly larger dinner in the evening consisting of a meat, a starch, a vegetable or two with a light lunch at mid-day. During the years my boys were little, I tried to have a dinner meal at the table, very much based on my mother’s example.  Now, however, at 21 and 18, the rule in my house is when I work, I don’t cook.  When I’m off….. honestly pizza has become the national food of my household.

My grandmother would turn over in her grave……