375. Ahhhh

“AHHHHHHH!!!” The sound rushes out of me unconsciously on this first warm sun-filled day. I don’t even try to take a deep breath, but I do anyway as I  cross the street with a sudden skip in my stride. Expansive energy, so hard to find all winter as I watched for ice patches and slush pools, rises in my perky legs. The sapphire sky expands above, letting out its belt a comfy notch or two. Winter is all about conserving heat and avoiding wind and rain, looking down, shriveling up. But today I’m wearing my hushpuppy suede shoes, knowing that rain is not forecast; and my eyes seek the happy unhooded horizon.  What the heck!  Ahhh, my body is not cramped from all the chillension that comes with freezing rain and driven snow. Spring is not far off; it can’t be. The birds are swarming over farms again. Squirrels are busily digging up their final acorns buried last fall. I can nearly taste the lilacs of spring as surely as I have smelled snow coming. “Slow down in the sun”, my body whispers to my peppy self. “Soak up that vitamin D and smile back at the strengthening sun.” Good advice, body. ‘Ahhhh, thank you, thank you, very much’, I imagine a relaxed Elvis telling me.

A Southern man awakens in me, urging civility, bourbon, and slow cooked pulled pork with three sides. “Ahhh said, Ahhh said, boy, you gotz to get on yo’ hammock and sway in the gentle Gulf breezes. Bad timez and worries, they’ll wait for ya’ll. Aint no future in hurryin. Soon they’ll be a buryin you. Bourbon refill? They ya go. Life and good bourbon be for sippin’ not gulpin’. Yeah, you know it’s true when the warm starts in yo’ belly an yo legs feel like jelly.”

Ahhh, slipping into a hot bath, I don’t even notice that same utterance leaves my mouth till it bounces back off the tiled wall. My low back is pinched at two points and the hot water is like an old lover who knows just what to say. “Hello, tendon. It’s been a long time, I know.  Babydoll, you remember how to stretch, don’t you? Just call all your jangled dandelion neurons together and blow. Blow them all away. Now hold me like you did when we were both young.”

Or slipping into a swimming pool in Tucson when it’s 100 degrees in the sun, “Ahhh” pours out of every skin pore and a choir of ten toenails shouts “Amen”. Your plump earlobes and even the back of your starched throat relax. The hushing almost sounds like water poured on a campfire but not quite so spitty and sputtery. These ahhhs are not about the sharp end of anything but the smooth start of something soothing… silver butter knives spreading warm cream cheese on a perfectly toasted, honey soaked bagel. Yeah, baby. I am a wearer of my hobbled senses now in the post-Ahhhh era. Oh, and they fit like spankz on a summer night. [Not that I have worn spankz on any night, I’m just free styling here, blogapotomases. Curb your kinky thoughts or I will delete you for ever, ever. Don’t try me.]

The first sip of good coffee early in the chill, misty morning or a sip of cold lemonade on a stagnant summer afternoon elicit the same Ahhhhh. “Yeah, that’s good.” Deep answers deep out in the next orbit beyond the material world. It’s the place where Buddhist monks chant Ummmmmmmmm for centuries. Occasionally we crack open a window, not even thinking but just being random… and we hear the monks’ UMMMMMMMM vibrato massage the marrow of our tired bones. Ahhhh. It is the window of whapportunity, whatever that may be. Leave it open to the saffron sound waves and your soul will merge with your rhythm and blues inside a symphony of sandalwood incense. Trippy, yes?  AHHHHHH. [***This is still a drug free blog workspace, just in case you were wondering. I submit to weekly random drug tests every Tuesday at noon.]

The long yawn after a deep night’s sleep filled with dreams of delight and awe.  Awake without full control of your limbs, ahhhhh. Man, that resets everything, as half tears lubricate the corners of my eyes. It’s all good, Momma. Don’t you worry ’bout a thing. Let Stevie Wonder sing. ’cause I’ll be standing on the side when you check it out.

When you go to your doctor, and the doc wants to look  at your throat, what sound is required? The universal Ahhhh. The sound is part of what is known as the therapeutic response. When your chiropractor adjusts your spine, what do you say?  Ahhhhh. And your masseuse or masseur rubs that coiled snake knot out of your trapezius muscle, what’s the word?  Yeah,  Ahhhhh. It is a gasp of relief and pleasure simultaneously experienced. When a difficult problem is finally solved, Charlie Chan says what?  “Ahhh so”. When a rescued damsel in distress gratefully hugs and kisses John Wayne, what’s he say? “Ahhh shucks ma’am. Tweren’t nothin but a thing.” When Bill Clinton was caught in his spankzy moments, what did he say? “Ahhhh, I feel your pain.”

The first cousin of Ahhhh is Awwwww. It is the irresistible response to cuteness. You see your little grandbaby and up rises the vowel of oy gushed through contented vocal chords. Awwww. Golden retriever puppies nip and play with each other on a blanket across from their reclining mother. You just can’t help it. Awww, so I have noticed, is more often uttered by females than by males. And Ahhhh is more often uttered by males. Why?  It would take several volumes of deep psychobabble to even begin to explain this phenomenon. For now, trust me and enjoy the moment. Awwright?

 

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322. The Battleship and the Daisy

[Once, a half dialogue dribbled down like this, like a watercolor monologue or a torpedo’s jet stream.]

“It’s like this”, she said. “You are a battle ship, armored and loaded for warfare. No soft spot on your hull. A floating uncrackable Brazil nut. You can muster your energies for sure destruction, mutually assured destruction, to be sure. Your relational invincibility makes you vulnerable, though. Because I can’t get to your steel-plated heart to change your course. 007 couldn’t complete this mission. So, ‘Boom’, our world ends. Dr. No wins.”

“On the other hand, I am a daisy whose soft petals sometimes fall. I am fragile sometimes and need to be held gently. You know, as a girl I counted ‘he loves me; he loves me not’, always frightened of ending on ‘not’. I can’t end on ‘not’. I refuse to grant you ‘not’ status. We are rooted in each other.”

“Still, you just go ‘Boom’ when things don’t go your way. You attack before you are attacked. No warning, maybe one demand for ransomed love, usually not. Only shattered windows and smoke follow your shoreline shellings. I know every hero needs a good villain, but that’s the movies, Mr. Bond. Listen to me:  this is real life!”

“I, huh, I need your protection and comfort, not your aggression, criticism, and condemnation. Circle that battleship around and protect me, please. Open a door, a port hole to your soft soul. I am not your Savior but I know Him. He loves you too, not your armor. Don’t you know that by now? Doesn’t that lonely ache scream out, ‘Abba’?”

“How? I just don’t know how we are going to make it work. All these years we have adjusted course and reformed a bit, amended, edited, throttled back. But we have not transformed to where we have any chance to succeed.”

“And survival is all we have to show for the years together, like some teetering rock in Utah that has survived centuries of erosion. Desperate Desert Dalis, we balance so precariously on toothpicks. A word, a look, a small failure and the whole thing collapses. Erosion will win if we don’t. Ours is a surreal relationship that won’t pass scrupulous scrutiny. Just look. Things are not what they appear to be.”

“If we don’t die first or find a way that is bigger than both of us–The Way of mutual surrender– then we’re just dead dust. I don’t trust you or myself to find that way through without surrendering to God. We suck by our odd, selfish, impatient, shellfish, greedy, lazy, miserable selves. Dessicated crustaceans in an Asian food market.”

“And that’s just what we are– not special or noble or exceptional. That’s all so much false advertising on t.v. Left to our own vices and devices we deserve nothing but trouble on our own. We are bloated ticks on an old sick hound dog. We need God, who is good and seeks us. Who knows why? The answer is not on our side of the equation, where we stack all our good works and all our failures on one side of a scale and God’s grace on the other. His grace will always weigh more, way way more. Our deeds are hollow as pigeon bones.”

“I can’t explain it. I take it on faith. That’s all. We are always a toothpick away from destruction.”

“Which is why we need to stay on our knees, face to the ground. We cannot fall from this humble mound. It’s when we are tall and haughty that we trip over pebbly sin.”

“Are you listening? How can a daisy pry open a battle ship?  Dear God! There must be a vent, some opening you breathe through. And I will pour my petals into that vent until your pistons pause, your gears gum up, and your engines stutter. I will smear my pollen all over your radar screen and uncorrupt your warped messages with powdery triple negatives. I’ll wrap my supple green leaves around your evil sensing antenna. Send an army of devoted honey bees into your cruel captain’s cabin. I’ll float my fragrant allergens into your nostrils, causing fits of blind sneezes. In any way I can, I will disarm you, my pirate love. We are not at war.”

So Isaiah wrote, “He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”

This cold war operation has run out of time and fuel.”

“Can we live in peace and gently garden? ”

“We will plant hectare upon hectare of pure daisies, my love.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

286. It all began innocently enough…

How many times have you heard a tale of woe and misery begin with an introduction like that? “It seemed like a good idea at the time…. and then everyone died.” In earlier posts I detailed many impulsive adolescent excursions– climbing on the roof of a furniture store to watch the x rated drive-in movie next door; the mid- night ride of Raul Severe; the mid-night ride to Ocean City; the mid-night ride to pitch a tent in the dark and wake up foodless and foolish; the mid-night ride to hit a deer on the Dulles Access Road. (Note the “mid-night ride” theme being developed here.) Yes, all these adventures and many more began innocently enough. Many times after partying late into the night with friends at my apartment in Richmond, Virginia I got the brilliant mid-night idea to hitchhike to Williamsburg and visit my friends Mark, Bob, Gerard, and Dan and their friends, uninvited and totally unexpected. Hey, no one had a personal phone back then. Sure, it’s all fun and games until someone lost an eye or their lease or their relationship with a neighbor. But it was always fun rolling down the 60 miles of Route 60 that separated our worlds.

Now you may not know that folks truly do lose eyes, especially unsupervised boys. It’s not just a line that your parents yelled at you, “You’re gonna put an eye out!!”  No, in an exhaustive 4 minute search of four internet sites on ocular trauma I found no supporting evidence for my following assertion– Boys are eleven times more likely to damage an eye than are girls of the same age. I refer instead to my own anecdotal records to support my assertion. In my neighborhood two boys lost one eye each due to play activities.  Unbelievably, they lived nearly across the street from each other on The Parkway, a nice name for a through street in a cookie cutter housing tract built in the 1950’s and ’60’s outside of Alexandria, Virginia. Virginia Hills was the name for the cookie dough housing development pressed there by a disembodied Divine thumb. The sameness of the sameness was both comforting and numbing, depending on your level of consciousness or coma. I’ll always recall sticking my thumb up at the foot of The Parkway in 1978 to begin my journey to Los Angeles. The Divine thumb was upon me then. But back to the boys.

First there was Lee. He and a bunch of us were playing with toy cap guns and sticks and plastic weapons. It would have been in the mid 1960’s. We were shooting at one another across the Scholls’ half completed rec room. Then Barry brought a real bow and arrow to the plastic gun fight. Incredibly he launched one steel tipped arrow over the crest of the roof just as Lee looked up. The cold steel Arrow met and destroyed the warm soft Eye.  Lee was lucky to live. Somewhere in my memory I see his dad carrying a limp Lee up the street like Atticus Finch carried Jem in To Kill a Mockingbird. (Which is a confabulation because it was Boo Radley who carried Jem home.)  That one unretrievable moment defined Lee and Barry forever. It was truly tragic.

Like cancer and sex, drug use and domestic violence, pedophilia and adultery, this story took on taboo qualities. Everyone knew the story and the fall out that followed, but no one ever talked about it, as I  recall. Barry lived in the shadows, though, like Boo, unable to unshoot the arrow or turn back time.

Years later the other Eye boy Steve was riding around in a Jeep with his buddies. They were old enough to drive that summer. The good idea at the time was to throw cherry bomb explosives out of the Jeep’s back window where Steve was riding. Problem was that he threw one which bounced off the car door frame and it then exploded right in front of his face, burning his soft warm unprotected eye to a fried egg state. In one stupid second Steve’s life changed forever. His promising baseball career ended that day as his nascent anxiety grew tenfold. I can only imagine what that sort of self inflicted disability does to one’s self esteem.

In both cases you just shake your head and ask “WHY?” Maybe mumble something about “such a waste!” Yet, 40 and 50 years later there is some evidence that these guys persevered and made good lives with only one good eye. I suspect they grew cautious over time and a bit more prudent about their health and their kids’  health. Still not something talked about… “Hey, how’s the EYE?” And why should it define someone’s life. Do you ask your neighbor, “How’s the DUI?”  “Oh, good, good. How’s that assault charge comin’ along, Bob?” There is the old saying that goes, “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” Not that Lee and Steve became kings, but maybe royals. Both graduated college.

Grieving your own mortality at a young age is not entirely a bad thing. I’d bet that neither of these one-eyed royals had a mid life crisis because they had dealt with death and disintegration as kids. Heck, Lee was a very good baseball player despite the missing eye. Think about that for a while, blogtators. It’s hard enough to track a curveball coming at your face with binocular vision. Now cover one eye and try to hit it or avoid it. Pretty amazing if you ask me. More amazing was that Lee had a sneaky good pick off move to first base, faking a look with his left eye and peeking over his right shoulder with his good eye. See, the kids on the other team didn’t know his left eye was glass.

So tragedy depends on when you look at something, I suppose. St. Paul said it this way,

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.  And now stays faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. (1 Corinthians 13: 12-13)

When all the kids are called home to heaven by their heavenly Father, I hope we will see clearly and purely. Perhaps what was begun as a good  idea will eventually end innocently enough.

 

282. Into the Mystic

[ After visiting Brovania, the ancestral home of apartment gypsies and Ramen noodles, I feel a need to look at life on the coast of consciousness.]
 *****************************
“We were born before the wind
Also younger than the sun
Ere the bonnie boat was won
As we sailed into the mystic
 ====================
Hark, now hear the sailors cry
Smell the sea and feel the sky
Let your soul and spirit fly
Into the mystic
 ====================
And when that fog horn blows
I will be coming home, mmm mmm
And when the fog horn blows
I want to hear it
I don’t have to fear it
 ===================
I wanna rock your gypsy soul

Just like way back in the days of old
Then magnificently we will float
Into the mystic

Image result for water gypsies pictures

When that fog horn blows
You know I will be coming home
And when that fog horn whistle blows
I gotta hear it
I don’t have to fear it

And I wanna rock your gypsy soul
Just like way back in the days of old
And together we will float
Into the mystic
Come on girl

Too late to stop now”  Van Morrison, poet

***************************************

Van creates musical atmospheres that are nice to travel through even years after hearing them. Though I’ve never been a sailor or known a gypsy lover, I can taste a bit of both in his song. It’s simple enough: A sailor man has been away from his gypsy lover girl for too long and he can’t wait to hold her again. The foghorn is a welcome sound after being out to sea; it also warns him of potential dangers, even death, as he is getting closer to his loved one. There is both urgency and timelessness in this simple song. Moving “into the mystic” happens in present, past and future time. The mystic is not tied to history or politics, economics or technology. It exists outside of these structures in a billowing silken sail made of love… which I can relate to.

noun: mysticism
  1. 1.
    belief that union with or absorption into the Deity or the absolute, or the spiritual apprehension of knowledge inaccessible to the intellect, may be attained through contemplation and self-surrender.
  2. 2.
    belief characterized by self-delusion or dreamy confusion of thought, especially when based on the assumption of occult qualities or mysterious agencies.
    You know like everything else that’s attractive, mysticism is double-edged. If you go with definition 1, it’s cool. A higher Zen-like knowledge or state of being comes over you like a holy cloud. All religions seem to get to this absorption with the Deity– oneness. It’s a great place to visit but impossible to live there because your desire filled body gets in the way, calling you back to otherness .
    Then there’s the second definition that’s less attractive. It’s syncretic and creepy. Requiring a map and a conspiracy theory in order to figure out the inscrutable mysteries and secret codes. You might have achieved oneness but nobody else is there– no Deity just disembodied delusional voices in your head. Unfortunately for folks who do live in definition 2, they struggle to visit reality on brief occasions as they walk relentlessly around their downtown streets. There goes one now, swatting at gnats that are not present on this cool spring day.

I like to think that I’m in the first level, with a healthy appreciation for intuition, associative thinking, creativity, and yeah,  the mystic. Not the occult version, no. I prefer to believe in an oceanic mystic and osmotic experience that is open to everyman as one praises and meets God. A balance is reached in that ocean just as a balance is reached in the arms of your loved ones.  Separateness and longing surrender to one warm amniotic embrace.

Draw, if thou canst, the mystic line, Severing rightly his from thine, Which is human, which divine.     Ralph Waldo Emerson

I don’t know where to draw this mystic line, maybe in the sand of a Zen garden, with a handmade bamboo rake. Why rake sand? Not because you are OCD and you want all the grains to fall the same way, but to lose your otherness and join that elusive oneness of the mystic mind. The burden of otherness gets to be too much too often.
Lying on your back at the beach with eyes closed breathing in rhythm with the waves breaking at your feet… that’s the mystic too. Life is in you and around you and through you. Your sweat dries and becomes humidity as you breathe air in and hook up oxygen with your blood cells. You realize in the mystic moment that you are the lilting breeze, the falling leaf, and the damp soil on which it lands. What you had for breakfast grew out of that very same soil. One and other and the same.
Image result for leaf falling pictures
Divisions and boundaries dissolve in the mystic just like salt in water. Oh, it’s still there in every sip and will return like dried sweat on your skin. It all makes more sense in dreams, this mystic dimension. Time and space and gravity and form all work differently in the land of dreams. What is another paradox is that our bodies and minds are refreshed when we go there for only a few minutes per sleep cycle. I suspect that dreams are the mystic harbor where our ships of consciousness rest and replenish ever so briefly, weightlessly formlessly mindlessly, slip safely into the arms of God.
“And when that fog horn blows
I will be coming home
I gotta hear it
I don’t have to fear it”
Sail on, Blognauts, Into the mystic.

278. Yoga, Barney Fife, and Robert E. Lee

Never did I imagine that I would go to yoga class. Then again I never imagined going to ballroom dance classes. However, since last week’s neck seizure, I had to do something to prevent a recurrence of neck lock. Simply getting toridol shots, using ibuprofen, flexeril, and naproxen beats up my liver and kidneys. They work but do not appease my loving wife, who promised to hurt me if I did not get an order for physical therapy. Cleverly she made a yoga appointment for both of us at a local yoga parlor. Now stop your filthy imaginings right there!  I did not wear yoga pants or biker shorts.
No, I dressed modestly in nylon sweat pants that left everything to the imagination.
We met the petite instructor, Pat, who is so supple and toned that she does not seem to leave footprints when she walks. I followed my wife’s lead and unrolled my pink mat. I was ready to stretch not only my muscles but my manly comfort zone as well. Two other flexible women joined our little group in the small yoga parlor. Any more participants and it could have been an illegal or immoral gathering. Just as we were getting started, a thin man in a drab khaki uniform appeared.
Image result for barney fife pictures
 Vice Squad Detective Barney:  “What the heck are  you doin’ here, fella? Looks like a harem party. Show me some i.d.”
Yoga Man: “I, uh, don’t have any pockets. My i.d. is in my wallet, which is locked in my car across the street.”
Vice Squad Det. Barney: “Do I look like a rookie? Turn around and spread’em.”
Yoga Man: “Officer, is this really necessary?  These women can vouch for me, if you’ll just…. OUCH!” [arm twist behind back]
Vice Squad Det. Barney: “I’ll make the suggestions around here, Yoga Boy. There’ll be no vouching either. 219, I need back up at the Yoga Parlor on Main Street. Over. Caught’em in the act. Over. Send a female officer please. 409, over.”
Wife: “Detective, really, he’s my husband and I have an order in my purse for physical therapy but I thought yoga would do the same thing…”
Vice Squad Det. Barney: “Lemme guess, lady. Your purse is locked in the car across the street. Yeah, nice try. We call that a ruse prior to creating a distraction and an opportunity for escape. Do you know who ya’ll are dealing with? I went to the Mayberry Academy for six months on line.”
Pat: “Detective, you are disrupting a legal gathering of purely innocent activity in which we get in touch with our heart chakras.
Vice Squad Det. Barney: “Nip it! Nip it good, little lady. Just keep your chakras in their sheaves please. 219, send the drug dog too. Over.”
Radio Voice: “Now Barn, it’s Andy. Let them people alone. They got a license to do yoga. I got it right here at the station. Now just uncuff whoever you done arrested and come on back for some of Aunt Bee’s brownies. And, uh, let’s get you back on your medication.”
Vice Squad Det. Barney: “Roger that, Sheriff. 409 out.” [walks out backwards and knocks over an aromatic soap display] “You people caught a break today. But I’ll be watching you, so you best be on your P’s and Q’s. And you, Yoga Boy, you are one twisted man.”
Okay, that did not happen. But it could have been an interesting episode from the days of black and white television.
 Image result for yoga instructor pictures
What did happen was 45 minutes of exertion, stretching, sweating and mild bewilderment. Like dance class I have to be at the same orientation as the instructor, i.e., see the move from his/her perspective or else bad things happen. My brain does not reverse mirror well. I lack the protein that makes the neuropeptide responsible for mirror imaging. At least that is what I’m telling you instead of simply stating the obvious:  I am retarded in three dimensional reasoning like Spock was with emotions.
Image result for mirror image pictures“It’s quite logical, Captain. You see left as right and right as left in the mirror. All is merely opposite, causing the right hemisphere of your brain to interpret what the left hemisphere is experiencing while still retaining the essence of its rightness. When the instructor moves forward, you also move forward. When she moves the arm on your left side, you must respond with movement on your right side. Do not allow your human emotions to intervene.”
“Thank you, Mister Spock.”
Image result for hindu goddess pictures
The lights were dimmed, thank Shakragupta, the Vedic goddess of embarrassment. There were no mirrors reflecting our postures. In my case it was a wobble. I pictured John Candy doing yoga and began to laugh at myself, but I caught the giggle before it exited my pursed lips. I shudder to think what would have happened if I’d laughed at my own incompetence while prerecorded monks chanted “Ooooommmmmmm” over and over again just above a percussion instrument that sounded like a hollow log being beaten with two wooden spoons.

“Breath in and reach up! Pull down and exhale.” “Inhale and step forward in warrior pose. Exhale and step back in reposing warrior stance.” Breathing is important in this exercise. You can’t just breath on your own as your reptile brain tells you. No. You must corral your breaths and make them join the harmony of the motion you are doing, while becoming one with the universe’s pulse. So I am lost, but it’s dark and I’m pretty sure Pat is not looking at my form as she tells the group, “Good job.”
beautiful yoga, #yoga, royal dancer, black & white yoga photography
As we finish the torture, Pat compliments the others and then says to me, “You gave it all you had.” Only later do I analyze that “compliment” and associate it with failed attempts at baseball and skiing and carpentry and roofing. I’d heard this before as an acknowledgement of effort in a failed cause. Like when Robert E. Lee surrendered his saber at Appomattox Court house. General Grant said, “Well, Bob, you gave it all you had.”

190. walking backwards on calloused knuckles

It’s an odd experience to walk backwards. Sometimes you have to do this in biting cold wind because facing it could  freezezip your face off, leaving you with frostbite patches of dead skin and a fleshless nose. If you’ve ever caught a tender piece of your anatomy in a hard metal zipper yank, then you have a rough idea of being freezezipped.  So you turn around and carefully plod backwards on a windswept winter sidewalk or pathway. Sure it’s dangerous, but it’s a compromise against certain disaster.

According to a recent article on frostbite,

“Noses, fingers, toes and ears face the biggest risk. Those body parts have less blood flowing through them and a lot less mass than the body’s core. They’re also more likely to be exposed to the elements. Obviously, bundling up those tender parts is key.”  [Nancy Shute, Your Health, 1-6-14] Thank you, Nancy.

There are other versions of walking backwards. I blogged about retracing one’s steps in post 151. That involved careful re-examining an external reality for something tangible that was lost.  That is not what I have in mind today. What I’m after this time out is more like a near sighted man stumbling backwards in a psychological blizzard searching for something that is lost but intangible. Why?  I get a lot of these sad sagas in my counseling experiences. Men mostly who have lost the love that they took for granted just a month ago. Make no mistake:  these men suffer frostbite damage; it’s just that theirs is invisible…a chamber of their heart atrophies.

Image result for neanderthal pictures

Their controlling self-absorbed lives come unglued when she says, “Enough is enough”. These men start grasping at the ashes of their relationships, hoping to come up with something solid and salvageable instead of powdered soot. Then they get angry, feeling victimized. They push buttons that used to produce sure results. They intimidate, threaten and rage, but it’s too late; the horse is out of the barn, down the lane, and over the county line. They don’t realize that telling their soon-to-be ex-wife that she used to be really pretty when she weighed 50 pounds less is actually an insult. Or that they’d be there if she had terminal cancer. In their memories are oasis-like spots of joy and ecstasy and happiness where these guys focus their attention, believing that three good episodes prove a lovely pattern of behavior over seven or eleven or fifteen years. Not so much, knuckle walkers.

Meanwhile their hurt women are emotionally starved and aching for tenderness, compassion, acceptance, and yes, love. Not perfection or even exceptionality, no, just a modicum of decency and concern, respect and sharing life together. By the time the hurt woman actually leaves the relationship, she is so gut shot that no amount of counseling or medication or therapeutic retreats can sew up the holes in her guts and promote healing. When he desperately asks about counseling and medication, a cruise, a weekend getaway, she gets disgusted because she trumpeted these options for years into deaf ears. Now that he can miraculously hear, she’s gone deaf.  She actually gets enraged when he starts to get help, read books, join a therapy group or do individual counseling. In some ways it’s like telling a corpse how much you love her, and then cleaning the house, or doing the bills, or making dates for the two of you. It’s too freaking late, okay? Even Norman Bates would agree with this evaluation.

Still, these knuckle walkers stagger backwards, remembering how irresistible she was, how fetching, and her image dominates each empty moment. Her perfume, her manicured nails, the baby soft skin… all gone. Her laugh, the way she played with her hair, the killer smile. He resolves to be a new man, but it’s a blizzard of images and feelings swirling around his narrowly hooded view. He can’t see a horizon due to all the flurries. In some ways it’s like Jack London’s short story, “To Build a Fire”. Just when you think the reckless agonist has succeeded in saving himself with a survival fire, the snow above him melts and extinguishes it. TShhhhhh.  Death, ice cold spears of death, is moments away. But it’s not a single moment or incident that kills a relationship. It’s years of termite infestation, the slights and names, the absences, and the blatant superiority attitude. “Meet my needs and ignore yours.”

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There is, however, a moment of epiphany for the demeaned woman. She may come to consciousness watching a movie about a despicable, controlling person. Or it may be a visit to the large apes exhibit at the zoo where a silverback male puts on his dominance act…and the loose points of reference snap together in a razor sharp line of conclusion. “He’s a beast, an idiot, a hostage taker.” She begins the escape plan. Separates out the bills. Finds a way to squirrel away money. Contacts an attorney. All the while allowing Bonzo the Chimp to have his way, scooting about on his calloused knuckles. In fact, he may feel the loss of resistance and conclude that the little woman is finally wising up to comply with his program. Bonzo’s own arrogance is about to choke him silly.

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The breakthrough moment may be that Fourth of July when he flicks her sunglasses off her tense face and says, “Look at me!” The brilliant July sun blasts her shrinking pupils and frames his cocksure portrait with a radioactive glow. “Oh, I see so clearly now,” she thinks to herself. The moment burns onto her memory plates like x-rays. He knuckle walks backwards, beating his chest and thinking he has won another round in this little love war. He’ll send flowers or a special journey necklace later, the kind with tiny diamonds that get bigger as they flow down in an S shape. Later she will turn it upside down and say with a smirk, “The journey’s over, Bonzo.”

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He will turn his back on the icy truths that bite  him and stumble blindly backwards on calloused knuckles.

19. Jammingly

Waiting this morning in my car while cold rain fell. I listened to the radio and talked on the phone with my buddy Clark, who deserves a thousand posts. His grandson is getting better every year and what a gift it is to Granpa Clark. Things did not start as nicely as they are now. It was a question of discipline and the almost too late wrestling match of authority. Clark was ready, “Just give me a week with him and I will straighten him out.” That would have been a week with a grizzly bear, okay. Anyone will behave when a madman breaks out the firearms and begins ranting and raging. Not that Clark would have started with firearms, but they would have been an option at some juncture. In any event # 1 grandson grew and adapted in socially acceptable ways. Hallelujah! Another miracle in my agnostic friend’s life. He’s had many miracles rain down on him in the last third of his life; however, the horrors of the first two thirds of his life have nearly obliterated these sacred late life gifts. They are like drops of deeply hued pigment poured into ten gallons of white paint. They are making a difference but there is an ocean sized desert to redeem, reclaim, and colorize.

We talked for 20 minutes or so, mostly him talking and me listening, which is how it usually goes, but I’m not complaining. He is a whirlwind of thoughts and feelings and insights. I did not realize that I had left my running lights on; nor did I realize that my battery is as old as my car– 12 years. As the cold increased, I decided to run the engine and blow some heat into my little CRV cabin. “Wah,wah, whoa, uh,uh, uh.” Oh, no. It’s cold and rainy. I’m waiting for my college daughter to finish an interview at a school that’s 5 miles from my house and 8 miles from my trusty mechanic. I shut down my lights, the radio, and hoped that my battery would make one last start for me. I shared none of this with Clark, who lives 20 plus miles away. He would have offered to jump start me, but that would have taken two hours out of his day.

Image result for worried faces picturesI got out of my car after I said good bye. I popped the hood and found my battery. I’d never noticed it before. Hondas are just so reliable and I don’t do any mechanical work beyond checking my oil. I not only found the battery, but I could see corrosion all around the positive pole and cable. I shook the cable and blew off some of the cakelike corrosion. I had a moment of prayer, and what do you know? My car started. What a relief. I still called my mechanic to have my battery replaced. He confirmed that it was the original battery, “I just replaced a 13 year old battery. That’s the record for me.” Suddenly I felt like I was in the Honda battery hall of fame, albeit in second place. I’m used to three year batteries, I guess. Somehow my little inconvenience turned into a good thing. Gratitude came over me slowly. It’s a good thing, a very good thing to shift your perspective and be grateful that you have a car, enough money for a new battery, a trusted mechanic, a friend over the mountain, a hard working daughter who rarely complains, a job that you love doing. And a blog, of course, where I can spew all of this mundanity.

I was not jammed up after all. Everything worked through as it should. The little wisp of anxiety that started to rise up, evaporated in an instant. I find this to be the case much more often in my older days. How is it with you, Blogee? Are things working through in your life? If so, why? If not, what do you think is jamming you? Do you have a dead battery issue or a long term relational issue like my buddy Clark? I  put problems in two camps– solvable and unsolvable. Most problems are solvable. The relational issues are harder to get hold of, like a slippery eel. A lot lighter touch and flex are needed to hold a relational issue. People cannot be switched out like batteries, even if they are crazy brothers with no place to go.