At Twilight

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Location: Midwest, United States

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Lying On The Floor

Some nights, I lie on the floor in the dark and listen.

It used to be that I listened to music. Music…lots of music…lots and lots and lots of music. An entire wall is devoted to CD’s, tapes and vinyl platters, and I’ve listened to every note contained within that enormous mass hundreds, if not thousands, of times. Music shaped my values and beliefs. Music gave form and word to my emotions. Music filled my head, my heart and my gut with beautiful, powerful, sometimes euphoric, sensations. I don’t listen to music any more.
I can’t seem to hear it. I can't feel it.

I’ve written about this upsetting development before (more than a year ago, in fact). At first I was panicked, then intrigued, then hopeful, then patiently waiting...and, now?

I feel as if robbed.

The music disappeared when she did. Neither returned. She was music, she was song (still is, I presume); and music brings back memories. I can’t, and dare not, listen to music…

I used to dream erotic dreams while lying on the floor. I used to dream of both making love and lovemaking, in all of their amazing dimensions. I won’t allow my heart to dream those dreams again. They would only serve to remind me that…my music died.

So I lie on the floor and think about lying on the floor.

Why do adults, typically, eschew sitting, lying, or playing on floors? When we were little, that’s all we did. The floor was our playground, our domain, our entire world. The chairs and sofas served adults; they only proved of interest if there was a lap waiting for us there. I remember squirming in chairs when company was gathered, simply itching to clamber down and play. The floor was where we felt most comfortable, was it not?

When do we pick ourselves up from the floor? In my case, I spent a great deal of time sitting, lying and making love on floors in my college years. Kept at it sporadically during the heydays of my career. I never gave it much thought (then), but I realize today that there came a time when I rarely descended to the floor. I can’t quite remember when that positional-metamorphosis started, nor when it become the norm. It was a gradual process, but eventually there came the days, the years, the decades, when I sat in chairs, mostly…office chairs, usually. I’d move from chairs to couch to bed, but rarely to the floor…unless it was late…and I could let music envelop and flow through me.

I should have spent far more of my time playing on the floor through frigid winter days and rainy spring mornings, regardless of the lines and the gray on my face and head; despite the aches in the fingers and the joints. Get up from the floor and you leave your childhood, and your innocence, behind.

I need to spend more time lying on the floor. Maybe, just maybe, the music might return.

* * *

Where Children Live
By Naomi Shihab Nye

Homes where children live exude a pleasant rumpledness,
like a bed made by a child, or a yard littered with balloons.

To be a child again one would need to shed details
till the heart found itself dressed in the coat with a hood.
Now the heart has taken on gloves and mufflers,
the heart never goes outside to find something to “do.”
And the house takes on a new face, dignified.
No lost shoes blooming under bushes.
No chipped trucks in the drive.
Grown-ups like swings, leafy plants, slow-motion back and forth.
While the yard of a child is strewn with the corpses
of bottle-rockets and whistles,
anything whizzing and spectacular, brilliantly short-lived.

Trees in children’s yards speak in clearer tongues.
Ants have more hope. Squirrels dance as well as hide.
The fence has a reason to be there, so children can go in and out.
Even when the children are at school, the yards glow
with the leftovers of their affection,
the roots of the tiniest grasses curl toward one another
like secret smiles.

* * *

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Just A Matter Of Time?

They say, “Time heals all wounds.” They’ve been saying it for a long time, probably throughout human history. I’m willing to bet there are variants of this pithy adage within many cultures, in most languages.

Time heals all wounds?

I suppose it does for many. Certainly, most (not all) of the hurts I’ve suffered cause no pain today. People suffer grievous trauma and yet somehow, someway, someday manage to pick themselves up and smilingly attend to life again. It’s logical to believe that a heart can heal the way the rest of the body does. Given medicine enough, rest enough and time enough, wounds close, scars form, pain subsides, then disappears. Why not assume the broken heart heals the same?

But this healing thing isn’t quite universal, is it? People walk among us with hearts forever broken. Some bear their pain quietly, hiding it from everyone. Others live their pain out loud, descending into hells of drug abuse, alcoholism and abject despair. I’ve seen enough of that to know that some of us, indeed, suffer pain from which we don’t recover.

I learned my lessons in pain while growing up in the Lithuanian ghetto on Chicago’s south side. As in any community, there were ample measures of human kindness, happiness and excellence. Then there was the dark side. The main street consisted of tavern after tavern after tavern. Refugees who had lost everything gathered there nightly. As each night grew long, pain was made audible through the blather or bile that spewed from drunken lips, addled brains and traumatized hearts.

The theater crowd my parents moved with seemed the hardest hit. Precious few of the displaced actors, directors, musicians, artists, poets or playwrights escaped alcoholism. Most died before their time.

Now, I know there are some who truly believe that all wounds can heal with time. They look at those lying in the gutter with an admixture of pity and disgust. “It’s a sign of weakness,” they proclaim. Perhaps it is. Maybe we’re all just Twelve-Steps away from salvation. Then again, maybe not.

What I saw in my parents’ friends was this: I saw people who had experienced sublime happiness at some point in their lives. It seemed to me that the individuals severed from the greatest joys were the ones who did not, could not, recover. It's a long, long way to fall from the zenith to the depths. It takes a miracle just to survive.

I think I understand these lost souls now. It’s one thing to suffer a loss or hurt; it’s quite another matter to lose something or someone so precious, so enriching, and so profound that the heart simply knows it will never experience such bliss again. Never again. How much strength and will does it take to wake in the morning and venture into the world when you know that the day ahead will, most assuredly, not be better than that blessed day, so long ago…forever lost…when you truly bore wings? Can there be greater despair?

And the pain seems to grow ever deeper with the passing of the days. Time, you see, is running out. Salvation, redemption, or simple respite, fade farther from one's reach.

How can the heart heal when the wound is reopened each morning?

* * *

The Cruse
By Louise Townsend Nicholl

Joy and the soul are mates, as heart and sorrow;
The soul has portal difficult and narrow,
Being a vessel oddly wrought, a cruse
Which, proffered sorrow, always must refuse.

The heart’s more open and allows despair,
Fluid importunate and not so rare.
The soul for joy is shaped, the heart for ruth,
And love’s the only oil that flows in both.

* * *

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Flower In A Glass

Why do I torture myself so?

I have work to do, contractors to call, things to pack or throw away. I have walls to paint and poisons to bury. My drums plead desperately for a good thrashing. Music beckons. Trails await my footfalls. I have places to see and wines to sip. My hair-shirt lies draped…half woven. Pictures must be stripped from walls. And I have friends to visit, return calls to make. There are those letters that must be written, negotiations to be concluded. My lawyer wants to meet with me. And I have poems that I must read…and miles to go before I sleep.

But I am numb to all of it. My heart is fixed on a flower in a glass.

* * *

As flowers go, it wasn’t all that magnificent. Then again, it was.

It was a sunflower. Now, I’ve never been much of an orchid man, anyway. I think she knew that. Tulips and sunflowers captivate me just fine. This one was young, plucked from good soil in spring. The petals were a golden yellow, the leaves were tender, the stalk not yet firm. It spoke of the prairie, whispered of a strong and trusting heart.

The flower felt like a new beginning.

She had placed it in a small glass of water atop the nightstand in anticipation of my coming. She understood the importance of flowers. They are, after all, kindred spirits.

I fell in love with the flower at my side. This prairie son surrendered his heart to hers, the way the sunflower surrenders to the sun. Beauty lay on both sides of me. I wasn't dreaming...then.

Both were there in the morning.

* * *

Now, where did I put that glue pot? I have broken wings to patch together. I have devils to vanquish and angels to greet. The carillon bells have long stopped ringing (seems like fifteen centuries ago).

The silence warns me that I have to go.

Why, why, why do I torture myself so?

* * *

The Spoils of Love
By Robert Graves

When all is over and you march for home,
The spoils of war are easily disposed of;
Standards, weapons of combat, helmets, drums
May decorate a staircase or a study
While lesser gleanings of the battlefield –
Coins, watches, wedding rings, gold teeth, and such –
Are sold anonymously for solid cash.

The spoils of love present a different case
When all is over and you march for home;
That lock of hair, those letters, and the portrait
May not be publicly displayed; nor sold;
Nor burned; nor returned (the heart being obstinate) –
Yet never trust them to a strong room safe
For fear they burn a hole through two-foot steel.

* * *

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Waxing Philosophical

Can one truly be too kind? Too charitable, patient, caring, joyous, hopeful, merciful or loving? Do the human graces have intrinsic limits, beyond which lies…what? Madness? Sanctity?

I am not a wise man, but even I know that the smallest measure of hatred, anger, incivility, cynicism, selfishness, prejudice, callousness, intolerance, abuse, cruelty or injustice can harm another and damage a soul (including one’s very own). The tiniest fraction of soul-rot is simply (unacceptably) too much.

I’ve spent so much time and energy battling my dark impulses that I’ve hardly begun to explore the limits of human goodness. There’s been way too much Yin and not enough Yang…not anywhere near enough. I have no idea where those limits (?) might be. I’ve never pushed the edge of that envelope.

Still, I have some time (even if measured in days), to seek the bounds of virtue. I want to hoist the sails and clamber into the crow’s nest to find what lies beyond the tempests and the dark waves...beyond the infinite ocean.

I hope, someday, to report back on what I’ve discovered.

* * *

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Flip-Side

It appears the elderly couple, blissfully sojourning through life together, has struck a wistful chord in some of us...perhaps they would in all of us. Is it not an almost universal dream to find a mate, a partner, a friend and lover who will stand by us, walk with us (sometimes leading, sometimes following), someone who will always be there…always be there…to warm our side? We each need a comforting someone to hold us precious. The human heart craves to feel beloved…forever loved.

Those few, those blessed few, who find such pleasing mates tread lightly on this earth. The rest of us are left to struggle, trudging alone (or...sometimes worse... in the company of the wrong one) on rocky, wind-swept paths.

For us, this poem:

The Vow
by Galway Kinnell

When the lover
goes, the vow though
broken remains, that
trace of eternity love
brings down among us
stays, to give
dignity to the suffering
and to intensify it.

* * *

You are my lover for life. You are my future,” she vowed. I believed her. I wanted and needed to believe. In my heart, my soul, my very marrow, I knew she was the one. How sad, how very sad, that she came to disagree.

You are my lover for life…” Those words, her vow, will haunt me forever.

* * *

(I simply cannot gaze upon a sunflower without feeling utter devastation)

Friday, August 18, 2006

For the Over-Achiever

My favorite navigator, she of the not-so-little starboard heart, ponders life as an over-achiever. To you, my friend, I offer this poem in consolation. Sail on!

To Be of Use
By Marge Percy

The people I love best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go to the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

* * *

And to every navigator with searching eyes scanning the darkest night for guiding stars, I offer this exhortation from my favorite poet, Mary Oliver:


Like Magellan, let us find our islands
To die in, far from home, from anywhere
Familiar. Let us risk the wildest places,
Lest we go down in comfort, and despair.

For years we have labored over common roads,
Dreaming of ships that sail into the night.
Let us be heroes, or, if that’s not in us,
Let us find men to follow, honor-bright.

For what is life but reaching for an answer?
And what is death but a refusal to grow?
Magellan had a dream he had to follow.
The sea was big, his ships were awkward, slow.

And when the fever would not set him free,
To his thin crew, “Sail on, sail on!” he cried.
And so they did, carried the frail dream homeward.
And thus Magellan lives, although he died.

* * *

These two poems speak to the essence of a life worth living, do they not? It falls to each of us to dream our uniquely splendid and beguiling dreams, and then to strive mightily to make the dreams reality.

My own ship is awkward, slow and sinking...(sigh) one ever said it would be easy. I bail and sail, sail and bail.

I will not go down in comfort or despair!

* * *

* * *

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Elderly Couple

I venture into the sunlight after an hour spent in my therapist’s office. I blink away the glare and begin walking towards my car. Half a block ahead, I see an elderly couple walking towards me. Both are small and frail. The man bears a halo of silver, his partner is crowned by a cloud of white. Their steps are painfully halting and slow.

They are holding hands.

As I approach, I hear them conversing quietly. Their conversation is muted, gentle and kind. They look at me and smile, then continue their private exchange.

As I pass them, I say “Good afternoon.” “Good afternoon, to you” they reply together. What they did not hear, for I only thought the words: “How I envy you!

There they went, my dream incarnate, symbolizing all that I ever wanted, my highest aspiration: to venture gently through life, hand-in-hand with a beloved partner…till Death do us part.

Never had I felt the dream so close. So unattainable.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

What Tha!?! (Part 2)

Three years ago, I was feeling mighty strong. I had raced in the Chicago Marathon and, afterwards, I just kept running. I felt I was growing ever leaner, stronger, faster. I increased my training intensity and added hill workouts to my regime.

Disaster struck the following year. My knees and hips began to ache and simply wouldn’t heal. One day, after an otherwise uneventful (albeit labored) run, I woke from a nap several hours later with a searing pain in my right knee. I could not bear any weight whatsoever on that knee. It felt as if a knife had been thrust through the kneecap. I saw a knee specialist/sports doctor immediately. After X-rays and MRI’s, he determined I had torn my meniscus. I needed surgery.

(At this point I’ll resort to plagiarizing myself. I had already described this episode in a runners’ forum)

I had the arthroscopic surgery. I always thought arthroscopy was relatively benign. You hear all these stories about people roaring back from surgery, better than ever, in...say...seventeen minutes. That's kinda how I thought it would be for me. I assumed I’d get my knee fixed and cleaned up, hit the trails, build my speed back, and begin training in earnest for another marathon. Oh, how I wanted to run another marathon!

I entered the hospital in the morning and hobbled out seven hours later. Damn, my knee hurt! I couldn't swallow enough Vicodin to kill the pain. I couldn’t eat or sleep for the next two days. I couldn't move my leg without searing pain.

It wasn't exactly the walk in the park I had expected.

The doctor called me the following Sunday. He asked how I was feeling. "Well, pretty darn crummy, actually." He apologized. "Sorry, I’m afraid we really tore you up. Your operation was much worse than we expected. You had a huge tear in your meniscus…but…I’m sorry…that's the good news. The bad news is that you've lost practically all of the cartilage in your knee. The kneecap no longer glides on cartilage. It's just bone on bone. You have no cartilage remaining on the inside of your joint, either. And, by the way, you had a bone spur that kept your leg from fully extending, and you had massive scarring. We cleaned it all up, but you're going to be hurting for a long, long time." (Line item from hospital bill “Saw Blades and Drill Bits…$2,029.87”)

I saw the doctor four days later. I struggled to walk. My knee was the size of a cantaloupe. The doctor presents me with two pages of fiber-optic photographs of my knee...or whatever we shall call what I have left in that junction of femur and tibia. Gruesome pictures, really. Vestiges of normal cartilage cling to areas of bare bone, the edges of the cartilage frayed and torn. There are huge expanses of pure bone, with just a random patch or two of cartilage. The doctor says: "You're at what we call the 'end-stage' of arthritis. There is nothing left to save. There is nothing more we can do. Your cartilage has been destroyed. It's all bone-on-bone now. All you can do is preserve the joint as best as possible. The next step is knee replacement."

Doctor, can I run?" He shakes his head. "Not really. I suggest that you never run on pavement or asphalt, and only run on soft surfaces…occasionally. Maybe you can spin or cycle, but you'll have to see how that goes. I recommend swimming. We're going to do everything we can to get you mobile. I'm prescribing four weeks of 2x/week physical therapy. You won't be back to being functional for about eight weeks." (The physical therapy ultimately extended into eight weeks of searing rehabilitation exercises).

This is not what I had expected! I thought I was immortal! I thought I would run forever.

It took me the better part of a year to process all of this. I’m still processing this. I’ve been struggling to pull myself out from deep depression. This hurts on so many levels, in so many ways. It feels as if I’ve lost part of my identity. OK, I was never truly an athlete, never a serious competitor, but I was a runner! Running was a big part of my life - it defined me in a way. What was I now? What am I destined to be? I felt lost.

And all of this happened while my entire world was collapsing around me.

I feel old. This whole process of breaking down, rusting away, eroding to dust (OK, I’ll stop…I’m getting maudlin), is humbling and frightening. Aging offers a strange brew of pain, pleasure, brutal truths, nostalgia and heartache (but, if I’m lucky…acceptance, wisdom and understanding). I’ve accepted that I’m not a runner anymore. I’ll run on occasion, but I can no longer be a “runner.” I’ll hit the weights. I’ll begin swimming in earnest. I’ll climb on my road bike and pedal away…maybe I will morph into a swimmer or a cyclist…but I cannot be a runner anymore.

* * *

I miss running. I miss everything about it. I miss lacing up my favorite shoes early in the morning or late in the day. I miss the trails. I miss the sights, sounds and smells of the woods changing by the day and the season. I miss coming home with dirt and sweat caked on my legs. I miss the wind, rain, sun and snow on my face…reminding me that I am truly part of the earth and its cycles. I miss the way a shower feels after a long run. I miss the aches and the weariness. I miss feeling the heat my body generates long after I finish my long runs. I miss the chance to be alone with my body, my breath, my thoughts and reveries. I miss other runners…the banter before races, the company of athletes. I miss the challenge of pushing myself to my limits…thereby discovering where those limits are. I miss tossing souvenir race bibs into my “running box.” Each bib bears my notes about the race: the weather, my splits, my heart rate…each a snapshot of what I accomplished on that particular day. I miss the spectators. People know the runners are out there pursuing their dreams, and they come to admire and applaud…I miss their cheers. I miss seeing my singlets fade in color as I wash and wear them so many times that they become a second skin. I miss the looks I get when I tell people I’m running 10, 15, 20 miles that day. I miss feeling like I’m a powerful animal when I run for hours on end. I miss the serenity I feel after tiring myself out.

I miss running. I miss the physicality of it, the spirituality of it, the pride in it and the joy of it. I miss everything about it.

* * *

(stay tuned)

Friday, August 11, 2006

State of Disrepair (Part 1)

I’d previously written about living in ruins. It is neither a good nor even an acceptable way to live, but…with a little bit of sweat, a few weeks’ time, several competent contractors, and a wallet stuffed with can readily move into a comfortable house (and with a big dollop of love...a home).

Unfortunately, my house is not the only ruin I inhabit. There is also this body of mine to consider.

They say the body is the temple of the soul. Temple seems like such an absurdly inappropriate term in my case. My body was never that. At best, I imagine an old village church, much like the churches I visited in the backwater villages in the Bordeaux region of France. These churches are worn and haggard. They were modest, somewhat deficient structures to begin with, but a few centuries later they seem to veritably list from exhaustion, their stones cracked and eroded, their interiors blackened with smoke and stained from human use. Still, they house the spirit…one can feel its presence. These derelict churches demand a grudging respect. They may not be temples, but they are worth saving. They continue to serve their intended purpose.

I, myself, am growing old. This poor, rustic church of mine is looking mighty shabby. It wasn’t all that long ago when I had committed to sweeping renovations. At age 50, I was a total ruin. The next logical step was complete demolition. Rather than give in to that impulse, I vowed to restore myself as best I could. Thereon, I sweated and groaned in the gym, attended aerobics classes faithfully, practiced yoga daily, stopped smoking and drinking, started cycling (eventually becoming a Spinning Instructor) and…best of all…I started running. Oh, did I run! I ran almost daily - a few miles at first, then ever longer distances until I could complete a 26.2-mile marathon. It felt good to be alive. It felt good to be an animal once more. But it was more than simply becoming fit again. No, it was much, much more than that. My wooded trails became my sanctuary, my runs enlightened me, kept depression at bay, helped me to cope with my disintegrating marriage…

I ran to revel in the beauty all around me, and I ran to escape the world. I ran to feel the earth beneath my feet, the wind in my hair, the rain on my face, and the sun on my back. I ran to feel the sweat in my eyes, to feel my heart sing and my blood pulse. I ran to remember and I ran to forget. I ran to heal despite the pain in my legs. I ran from my demons and I ran towards salvation…

I imagined I would run and run and run for the rest of my life.

I was wrong.

* * *

(to be continued)

Monday, August 07, 2006

The Opposite of Love

I’ve heard it said often (you've probably heard this, too): “The opposite of love isn’t hate…it’s indifference.” At first blush, that sounded true. Nowadays, based on personal experience and lots of contemplation, I no longer agree. I’ve come to feel that the opposite of love isn’t indifference…it’s emptiness.

My wife and I spent the last five years or so pummeling love to death. Over the course of the past fourteen months, we finished the job. Not a trace of love remains. The corpses have been buried. Am I indifferent? No. What I feel is emptiness.

Indifference is commonly defined as “lack of interest, care or concern.”

I haven’t lost interest, care or concern for my wife. I am not indifferent when it comes to her well being. Not at all. This past spring, she suffered a ruptured appendix. I stayed with her day and night, tending to her needs, nursing her, worrying and hoping for her successful recovery (it all ended well). How could I not care about a person who once was the whole world to me? How could I not be concerned? I doubt I will ever be indifferent towards her. I will always want the best for her, always hoping that she finds happiness, ever praying that she remains healthy and safe. BUT…these are now matters solely of mind and memory. My heart is not involved in this. It is isolated, insulated and insentient. My heart is empty.

What I’ve come to understand is that my wife will always be important to me, but she no longer elicits feelings (neither good nor bad) in me. All that I once felt for her, the love and passion that once filled my chest to bursting, are sealed forever within the catacombs hidden in my heart, buried beneath layer upon layer of scar and scab. These emotions will never see the light of day. They will never sing to my soul again. They are shrouded, sealed and buried. There will be no resurrection. There cannot be a resurrection, for buried with all the love, affection, joy and faith I once shared with her are all the horrors and agonies of love destroyed. It has taken so long…and far too many tears…to bury these feelings. No good can come from exhumation.

Only mind and memory can serve us now. I take comfort having Mnemosyne perched on my shoulder, whispering stories of a golden past. I do not wish to forget the long days filled with laughter. I hold precious the memories of the years we sang and danced together. It is good for the soul to remember how it felt to fly. And with those memories come the obligations of the mind…to show respect, to offer help, to treat the other with dignity and care. It is only right and fitting that I treat my partner of twenty years with kindness, care and concern. I will never be indifferent towards her.

But I can’t love her. My heart is empty.

* * *

Friday, August 04, 2006

Character Flaw?

Freud was right; the human mind works in mysterious ways.

In responding to a comment in the entry below, I blurted that I had been told that, by associating with me, one could lose custody of one’s children. It was uttered (written, actually) by the woman I loved above all others. She wasn't kidding. She was deadly serious. I’m not making this up (in my darkest, most frightening nightmare I could not have made that up). Hours after I had posted my remark, it suddenly hit me…that comment was the intended subject of the perplexing “Character Flaw” file.

She never explained why. She simply left me lying in a pool of blood.

I have been hurt in love more than once, at times severely. I have hurt others in turn, just as severely. Still, nothing has hurt me more than that comment. It came frightfully close to being a mortal blow.

It is a wound from which I will never recover.

I’ve never considered myself to be a morally superior person. By the same token, I never considered myself to be a derelict, either. I’ve always pictured myself to be like most human beings…somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between good and evil. I've succeeded at some things, failed at others. I’ve never committed a felony. I've never struck a woman or child...ever. I’ve tried to be a dutiful son, brother, husband and employer. I am gentle with animals. I delight in the company of children. When asked or needed, I readily help my neighbors. I give to charities, never cheated on my taxes, and I don’t spit on sidewalks.

I’ve worked hard my entire life. I’ve provided for my family. I was never addicted to drugs or alcohol. I was a marathon runner, an avid reader, and remain an ardent lover of music, art and poetry. I do not seethe with hate or anger. I try my hardest not to judge…just simply live and let live. I enjoy giving gifts (people say I'm generous), working with my hands, and making music. I love my friends and my country (well, not so much, lately). I used to laugh readily.

And yet, I’ve been deemed unworthy.

I’ve spent so many dark, tormented nights pondering how it could possibly be that a judge or jury would deem me so ignoble that I would be found unfit to have a family? What unpardonable flaw could they find in me that would lead them to reach such a fateful and dire conclusion? I’ve been haunted by this for months on end…driven to near insanity and even to the brink of suicide. Am I so blind as to somehow miss a flaw so odious and profound?

I offer this as a cautionary tale.

It’s been said that hearts choose whom they wish to love; that hearts have reasons that Reason cannot know. I believe that is true (well, true for me, at any rate). To love someone truly, to open your heart to another, is to become utterly vulnerable. And so it came to pass that my heart raised no defense against a devastating blow.

I can’t even recognize my own heart any more. I’m not even sure it is able to love again...although I still love her.

Ironic, isn't it?

* * *

Thursday, August 03, 2006

I Made Myself Laugh (sorta)

Blogging, for me, is a stream-of-consciousness-thing. A river of thought flows and swirls constantly through my head. There are times when a fully formed thought drifts by, so I grab it, put it into words and post an entry. Sometimes the thought is formless, but I know it is something important (important to me, anyway). The “thoughtlet” needs more time. It needs to find a quiet cove where it can grow in truth and substance. I’ve resorted to creating title entries and placing them in a folder as a prompt to revisit particular ideas, thoughts or emotions. At any given time, I may have five or six titles awaiting text. I may occasionally add a note or two, or I may simply give my subconscious mind time to mull and ponder a while longer.

I opened the folder today and found this title: “Character Flaw.” There was no text.

Character Flaw…the topic is driving me crazy. What did I mean to say? What, exactly, was I pondering? I did a quick “flaw review” and simply gave up. I have too many. For the life of me, I cannot remember which flaw it was that prompted me to create that title. It must have been significant. It must have been something that caused me discomfort, perhaps even anguish…something I felt I had to examine and reexamine further. Silly me. I had forgotten what it was in me that required contemplation and confession. Flaws? I have too many. I was overwhelmed. I gave up.

After a half-hour of head scratching, I just had to laugh. I had ventured forth on a fool’s errand…

I deleted the file.

* * *

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Living In Ruins

So much has happened since my Mother died. My heart and soul have been talking to me in ways they’ve never spoken before. I’ve experienced vivid dreams and discovered the truths contained within. The fog of death and despair has lifted. My eyes are open wide again.

What I see around me is not pretty. I see that I have been living in ruins.

First, there is this house my wife and I shared for fifteen years. I cannot call it a home any longer, although it most certainly was a home…once. I can’t remember when the air changed. It was years ago, and the change was something subtle then. Today, the air is poisoned vapor. The home is merely a house now, and a rather sad and shabby one at that. I don’t belong here.

It is not fit for human habitation.

Who would have thought that bricks, lumber, plaster and paint could reflect two souls? The house exudes its inhabitants’ turmoil, anger and melancholy. The plaster is cracked; the paint has turned dingy and dreary. Broken fixtures whisper stories of broken hearts. Weeds have crept into the lawn and elsewhere. There is no joy or laughter within these four walls. There is only silence. Although the roof remains, storms still find their way inside.

I remember the house as it once was, when it was warm and welcoming. There was order then, cleanliness, charm and a loving air. Flowers proliferated and the grass was lush. Fresh paint glistened in the sun. Bright windows brought the sunshine in to light each room. A home has no dark corners. Now, the shades are drawn. The devastated house is dark.

* * *

I was never one to be attached to place. It was never in my nature. When I was happy, I was happy anywhere and everywhere. I guess that’s the way it is with refugees. My family moved often…from tenement to hovel to fixer-upper. Wherever we lived, we worked. My parents bought their first house (a shack, literally) and slowly transformed it into something larger, different, better. Once done with that, they sold and took a modest profit. We moved and started the process of rebuilding and remodeling all over again. I have no memories of a childhood home. A bedroom one year morphed into something different the next, only to morph again. My place was ever changing. I spent my life working with tools, tearing down old walls and creating new rooms. Life was always about sweat and toil, change and improvement. Very few moments were spent in the repose of a quiet home.

* * *

I’ve changed. I need a home, a refuge, a sanctuary. As a consequence of my divorce, I am moving back to a condominium that I had purchased and lived in some thirty years ago. As I began to restore my condo, I came to feel that it would not do to replace solely the worn out carpeting and the obsolete appliances. I want more than modest functionality. I want a home. It’s a hunger that keeps growing deep inside of me. It has become insatiable. In a radical departure from past practice, I am purposefully creating a home. New carpeting will not suffice. I want solid wood floors and Persian rugs. No more linoleum for me. I want ceramic tile. The shades must go. I need beautiful draperies. I need wood and leather and textiles and soft lights and handcrafted pottery. I need living things, natural things, sensuous textures, and beauty. My wife can keep the furniture we bought together (she can have everything except my art). Every new fixture, every new piece of furniture must resonate deeply within me. The condo will be transformed into an expression of my self, my aesthetic sensibilities, my delights and my desires. I’ve never felt this need before, but I embrace it.

I am creating a home…and, in the process, I hope to heal.

* * *

Funny thing, I have a similar impulse regarding my motorcycle. It will not be enough to restore it simply to good working order. This winter, I will transport it to a custom shop and have it stripped, modified, chromed and painted. I want to invest my heart in every thing I own.

I don't know how else to heal. I truly don't.

* * *
(to be continued)

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