Lions, Lightning, and Lessons Learned

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May 20, 2019-

A book of memories and reflections, written by my brother (5 years my junior), came in the mail today.  It set me thinking, again, about my own lessons learned, over the years.  My  book may well be written with the same tools he used, but it will wait until I have made a fair amount of progress in a good friend’s archival project, on which I embarked today.

Dave is one of the lions in my life, and seeing our childhood through his lens is a sublime treasure.  He’s gone after what he has wanted and not been deterred by setbacks-whether imposed from within or from outside forces.  He has also set me to thinking, hard at times, about the direction of my life- usually when I least wanted it, but always when I needed it.

My late father-in-law was another lion-and had a roar to prove it.  He nonetheless had a loyal and loving spirit.  Norm was made in the crucible of World War II, in a mixed Prisoner of War/Concentration Camp.  Those lessons left him at first shaking his head, at what Penny and I thought of as “life challenges”, then compelled him to stand behind us, when the life challenges became all too real.

As an educator, I have learned as much from the students who gave me comeuppances, as from those who were my cheering squad.  David B was a full-on lion, seeing exactly what needed to be done, who was keeping it from getting done and how to cause the riot necessary to get the human barriers out of the way.  In school, it got him in trouble-sometimes with yours truly and more often with the more conservative school principal,Peter Webb.  In life, David’s leonine bent eventually got him killed.

Mr. Webb was a lion in his own right-and arguably the only reason I was able to keep my job for a full two years, before Mr. Nixon’s ax cut Title I funds, in 1978.   He saw my work ethic, though, and when I took a job in rural southern Arizona, Mr. Webb was a key reference.

I had a rough and tumble time, whilst working in some of the neighbourhood schools in the barrios of Phoenix’s western suburbs- and in a few of the more “upscale” areas, as well.  Had it not been for Robert T., and his fiery tongue, I might have stumbled, unchanged, through the five years of balancing being Penny’s primary caretaker with earning money by substituting, and been a good deal less useful.

I was not the finest of classroom instructors.  My presentation was only a slight notch above Ben Stein’s character, in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”.  Robert had seen the movie, and did not mince words about his needs as a student not being met.  I didn’t last long in that setting, but I drew the needed lesson.  I’ve often thought of Robert T, and would not be surprised if he has made a fair success of his life-learning difficulties aside.

Lightning enters our lives, when we don’t listen to the lions amongst us.  There were a few such strikes in my life: You have read of the worst of them, the last few years of Penny’s disease.  There were cars wrecked, all but one, by other people, and that one had been compromised by someone’s tampering, in the night.  There was a financial wreck, directly related to our struggles with dis-ease.  There were jobs lost, to political wrangling and my own stubbornness.

The lions, if we listen closely, can steer us away from the lightning.

 

Cyclopian Vision

8

May 18, 2019-

I see four in front of me,

each bent on talking, and not listening.

You tell us that there is only one way to look at issues-yours.

You see “the others” as unholy threats to our way of life.

You call out anyone who has an alternative point of view,

and call them names,

as if we are in an overcrowded sandbox,

which you feel you own.

You told me that I was the only problem,

in a very fluid work environment.

You said that if I left,

all would be well.

While I would be okay with that,

the reality is more complex.

You cast about for answers,

yet only accept those which fit

your  line of sight.

You offer your viewpoint,

and dismiss all others,

as antiquated,

as throwbacks,

without regard

for the notion

that all life is sacred.

You say that Government

is the supreme answer

to all,

and that abusers have rights,

which supersede

the rights

of the victim.

You say unborn people

have few or no rights,

whilst your opposite number

says that is only

true, of mothers.

I see four cyclops

in the sandbox,

in front of me.

I hear babbling,

too loud for anyone

to actually hear

the solutions.

 

 

Obliqueness

8

May 16, 2019-

Just some random thoughts, on a blustery but otherwise laid back day:

  1. I contacted my employer, and found there is one person doing the work of three.  Sound familiar?
  2. May is seeming more like March, around here.  Higher elevations in the Rockies may get snow, over the next few days.
  3. I would weigh in on Game of Thrones, but-a) I’m still watching Season 7; b) The outpouring of dissatisfaction is a perfect distraction from real-time events; c) The outcome is not subject to popular opinion.
  4.  No sooner did I wonder what on Earth I was doing here, than three different projects presented themselves.
  5. One of those projects involves an All-in-One Printer.  Guess what has gone kaput and needs replacing?
  6. I’ve said it a few times:  I count many different people, all ages, ethnicities, creeds, orientations and body types, as friends.  That stands, because it’s who I am.  If you are kind, considerate and honest, I am your friend.
  7. Romantic interest, though, is my private domain and no, I won’t “consider all the possibilities”.  Nor will I intrude on anyone else’s business, in that regard.  We are each entitled to our own preferences, and I am drawn, in that way, to some women, but not to others.  I guess that makes me neurotypical, in that respect.  I don’t think it makes me mean.
  8.   No offense is intended, in any of the above remarks.
  9. Life is sacred.  Consider the safety and well-being of others.  These two statements are not contradictory.
  10. The planet and its parts, including living parts, deserve to be honoured.  It’s possible to make a living and still be honourable.  Let’s figure this out, together.

Intensity and Isolation

8

May 15, 2019-

When I first awake, many mornings, I contemplate a feeling of increasing isolation here.  The Western states, especially the Southwest, have an ambiance of anonymity- or perhaps that is just the reality of apartment/ head for the garage and lower the door living, anywhere  This is what greets me, with the dawn.

Once up and at ’em, my social media shows that, from the safe distance of behind the screen, my  friends are with me.  Most have their own agendas and schedules, and I was raised to not intrude on anyone’s space.  I have to appreciate that I have friends at all, so our correspondence is much appreciated.

I tend to be quiet, but also very intense in my feelings.   I tend to care greatly, even about relative “strangers”, but do not often verbalize my caring.  This combination does not always serve me well,  particularly when in certain local restaurants.   Besides,older single men are not received well by everyone, when taking up a table.  This adds to a feeling of isolation, as I have indicated in past posts.  In my own case, though, it’s probably better for my physical health-as the establishments in question offer largely high-calorie fare.

It occurred to me, this morning, that the problem is not so much that I am wearing out my welcome here, as that what I need is to end my own isolated living situation and find a small community of people who support one another, not by appointment or scheduled time, but intentionally, naturally.  This is what I miss about the little team of which I was a part, until April 3.  This is what I miss about the hostels where I stayed last summer; about being with friends and family  in Nevada, Philadelphia,  Florida and  Tennessee; about having been in Korea, a few months ago.  There is no easy answer on the horizon, but I know something will surface.

Destiny and Metamorphosis

5

May 13, 2019-

A dear friend posted, on another media site, that we are ever in a state of metamorphosis.  This has nothing to do with the shape-shifting that was all the rage, on television and in film, as recently as two years ago (“Game of Thrones”, “Power Rangers”, etc.)  Metamorphosis is best-seen in terms of growth.

I have also read quite a bit, elsewhere, on narcissism.  I once had a touch of that affliction.  My mother never let that horse out of the gate.  She told us that one who regards self as above reproach is dead in the water.

That’s true beyond doubt.  In the course of dividing up the contents of a bin, I re-read some old papers from my administrative and college-teaching days.  One, invaluable, summary of my students’ evaluation of a rather paltry teaching effort, in 2009, pointed out that I trended towards hidebound monotony, complete with soft, unchanging voice, in presenting what should have been a vibrant, challenging course.

When I returned to teaching, after Penny’s passing, the presentation became more vigorous and engaged.  The old dog had to master new tricks.

Likewise, in younger years, my disciplinary tactics included the bellow, and a harsher tone.  Being a full-time counselor “metamorphosed” my demeanor towards favouring my empathic side, and the hardness of my teacher training went out the window.  I have kept that empathy, yet have also learned to employ a modicum of taking people to task, when that appears necessary, though without being rough or demeaning.

Nowadays, my life-change continues. I am in the process of giving many of my professional materials to others.  Work, as I have known it for the past forty-three years, has a light at the end of its tunnel:  One and a half years remain, until my focus becomes largely travel-journalism and Work Away-based, with a healthy mix of family, perhaps even grandparenthood.  There may be some money, in the former, but I am not worried about that.

My destiny, it seems, has always been to go forward, to build bridges and to not be held to anyone else’s notions of success-no matter how well-meaning those may be.  This may require a few more positive life-changes.

 

The Genesis Spirit

4

May 12, 2019-

I only had one call to make, this morning.  Mom is still very much alive and well.  Mother-in-Law is by her eldest daughter’s side, in the spirit world.  I know they still have my back, though their plans for me are somewhat hidden, at this point in time.

I don’t so much fret over my present state of affairs, as wonder where it is leading.  It could be that, tomorrow, when I contact the County Office of Education, I will be told to re-do this or that process or be told simply that everything is in order on my end, but that they need more time to finish the red tape.  Regardless, the academic year is almost over.  The needs of summer will shortly be upon me.

Enough of my quotidia, though.  This is a day, beyond Hallmark cards and the floral industry, for fully recognizing the spirit of nurturance, the raising of generations.  The vast majority of women who give birth are nurturers. There are always exceptions, outliers, who are not fit for the greatest and most honourable job in the human world.  I read of one such benighted soul, earlier this morning.  Most mothers, though, take the ball and run with it-to the eternal benefit of their progeny, or of those whom they take in as their own.

My mother has taken, and still takes, her responsibility as a nurturer seriously.  That spirit has flowed, seamlessly, to her daughter and granddaughters. It has informed the choices of mate that my brothers and I have made-Penny and each of my sisters-in-law raised their children in a sea of discipline and love.  It continues with our children’s generation. Aram and four of his male cousins have each married strong, nurturing women.

It can’t be easy, this balancing of body and soul; this overcoming the intense pain of bringing a newborn into the world of contingency.  It is certainly troubling, to sometimes feel one’s efforts are overlooked, cast aside or unappreciated, until it is often too late.  In my case, I have sometimes felt that I have had to make up for lost time, with the most important people in my life.

That, though, brings out the true beauty of  the genesis spirit:  The power of forgiveness; the strength of forbearance; the ability to get an errant child to take ownership of destiny.  A true mother does the heavy lifting of nurturance, gets a father to buy into the process and sends a child into the wider world, with the assurance that-one’s foibles and weaknesses aside, there will be success against a backdrop of trials and setbacks.  It  will be so, because of the firm foundation of love.

Vulnerability and Soothing Blend

4

May 11, 2019-

I just finished watching a TED Talk on “Shame”. This came about four hours after someone, with whom I was working as a volunteer, mildly upbraided me for not working at a paying job.  (This person is not working at a paying job, either.)

I am ever willing to stand outside and be vulnerable to criticism, knowing that a) I can’t live with myself, if I am not open and b) The critic is usually seeing, in  me, those things he or she dislikes about self.   That doesn’t mean the criticism never stings- and there are two people who I have banned from my life, in perpetuity, for barrages of that I consider unwarranted attacks. It does mean that those whom I trust, and who do not have hidden agendas, are to speak freely.

The presenter of the above-mentioned video spoke of shame as nearly always a prime impediment to a person being the true self.  Shame is imposed from within, though not always sans influence or instigation from someone else.  When I was younger, it was fairly easy, even for well-meaning people, to wreck my self-confidence and set in motion even false shame.

Since the days when my late wife was in my primary care, I have learned that there are unscrupulous people who will take to questioning even the most basic decisions a person can make- usually with a view towards financial benefit or other forms of power and control over the person they are questioning.  I have learned that there are those who will attack someone who is defending victims of crimes, almost always as a means of gaslighting or obfuscation.  Both of the people I mentioned above are gaslighters, and they came close to doing a good job of making me feel shamed.

There was just one difference, from the days of my youth:  Time, and hard lessons, have taught me the difference between acknowledging wrongdoing and buying into the script of a narcissist or tyrant.   So now, in an intervening period between jobs, I am not ashamed of not presently earning an income, outside of what I have already set aside for myself.  That situation will change- on my terms, not those of the retired critic.

I am not afraid to be vulnerable, or to experience life’s aches and pains.  The physical variety of these is relieved by what is called Soothing Blend (an oil-based ointment).  The spiritual variety is relieved by prayer, meditation and positive action.

If

4

May 10, 2019-

If I lose my way,

there is always

a light that beckons.

If I am down to my last cent,

in a still far-off time,

there is a way

to rebound.

If my health,

somehow begins to fail,

there is a way to recover,

while knowing this life

is hardly the end.

If I am encircled,

again,

by those who

don’t understand me,

on account of

their own pain,

I will keep on

showing my true colours

until their pain

is relieved,

and their vision clear.

Through the ebb and flow,

of a wonderful life,

it has always

been so.

(I’m doing fine.  This verse is just a reminder to self and others.)

Another Distant Mirror

2

May 9, 2019-

I have spent much of the past several days, sequestered in my house, waiting for the corporate entity which employs substitute teachers in our county to finish its processing of my papers.  I am sticking close to home, mainly to stretch my dollars as, while I have a sufficient income, it will still be an involved summer and economy is critical.  The activities that occupy me are sorting out unneeded possessions, exercising, reading- and Netflix.

I have taken to a series, called “The Last Kingdom”, an historical fiction loosely based on the life and times of Alfred the Great, who began the process of unifying the regions of what is now England, in the 9th Century.  It is similar to Barbara Tuchman’s  “A Distant Mirror”, in tone and scope.  Many of the themes with which we are familiar today, occurred in both long-ago times, and most likely have appeared in every era of human endeavour.

I focus here on two recurrent themes in human history:  The tendency to gloss over a person’s achievements, whilst calling excess attention to the same person’s failures; the dichotomy in the level of treatment of women and girls, between those interested in maintaining authority and those living a simpler life, closer to the soil.

In “Kingdom”, Alfred is depicted as one more concerned with maintaining the primacy of the rich and powerful, including himself, than with dispensing true justice.  It is noted, as we know about the Dark Ages, and on into the Renaissance/Reformation, that alliances rose and fell on a whim.  It is noted that manipulative figures operated with impunity, and those who challenged them were either killed or banished-as the central character in “Kingdom”, Uhtred Ragnarsson, experiences banishment and redemption, several times.  It is shown that women had to assert themselves, fiercely, if they were to avoid battering and a life of humiliation.

Of course, as in any depiction of events not occurring in real time, there is undoubtedly a fair amount of amplification and embellishment in the series, based in turn on Bernard Cornwell’s  “Saxon Tales”.    The human struggle will long be what it has been, as man deals with the issues of justice, equity and the balance of power in society.

I have my sense as to how the series will pan out.  I also have a sense as to how the human race will continue to evolve-and the ebb/flow inserted into both processes.

The Soaking

4

May 7, 2019-

May is often a dry month, here in the Southwest.

Often, but not always.

Three years ago,

snow greeted us,

on Mother’s Day.

This week,

we are promised

lots of rain.

I look outside,

and see nature’s bounty,

falling quite heavily.

It is likely to continue,

tomorrow, and maybe,

all the way to Sunday.

This bodes well for

a later, and maybe

less intense,

fire season.

It bodes well,

also,

for the insect population.

So, I will keep copious amounts

of natural repellent,

at the ready,

for those busy days

in early June.

Today, though,

I will sit quietly,

and focus on

my books.

Nature is replenishing

Mother Earth,

in time for Mother’s Day.