Relevant

0

May 26, 2019, Phoenix-

With tomorrow being rather a full day of honouring the departed, back in Prescott, I made this afternoon a time to place flowers and spend some time at Penny’s grave site.  Although I feel her presence constantly, and don’t crowd her spirit life with constant thoughts of what might have been, it is still the mark of a human being to honour loved ones who have gone on.

I’ve thought further about my latest ruminations on friendship.  Each and every one I call friend has at least one particular relevance in my life, and several have more.  Whether a person is primarily a friend-in-Faith, has a role in my health regimen (including the person I met yesterday), is an intellectual match or is tied to me through social networks, alone, each is someone who is of value.

I am past the thrashing about, that seemed to take shallow root, in the two years after Penny passed.  I am not going to follow  third-party hints about pursuing a relationship with someone, when that person herself is not the one dropping those hints.  That, to me, is borderline harassment.

Where I am now is finding my way forward, and keeping my ties to each of my friends based on mutual respect and nurturance.  Whether I see a friend almost every day, once in a while, once a year, or only contact online-the principle is the same.  You have my heart.

 

 

Camaraderie

8

May 25, 2019-

I have, very recently, met someone who has hit me like a ton of bricks, and much in the way Penny did.  I have no idea how this friendship will go, but it is bound to be one of substance.

For the past eight years or so, I have, to outward seeming, gone at times from pillar to post with my meanderings and efforts at working day jobs.  This is who I am, though, and my purpose remains to be a friend to as many who cross my path, as do not mean either me, or the world, harm.

I used to be a loner.  Penny changed all that- and even when it was the two of us, quietly reading or thinking, in our own spaces, I was no longer just one living for myself.  Since she passed, I have been aware that, if I ever reverted to loner-hood, she’d come back and haunt me.  Thus, there is the sense of belonging to a community that’s bigger; to groups that have an aim.

I have ties, camaraderie, with so many communities, it’s hard to pin down to one place.  That remains a good part of me, and so:

Prescott- Here, I have become grounded, made an effort at being part of a day-to-day community and have established many friendships-with people across the political and social spectra, who, in their own words, might not be able to stand being in the same room with each other.  While that’s sad, it is the human condition. I’ve been doing this sort of networking since high school, though, so it is second nature.

Phoenix- It’s no secret that this city, this sometimes choking environment, nearly buried me.  That is as much present in the circumstances of my time lived here, being a caregiver, especially for a loved one, is both labour of love and slow asphyxiation.  She often said she couldn’t wait to “be out of my way”, though to my mind, it could have gone on forever-until leaving was what was best for her.

I love the desert mountains, which the city has had the foresight to keep out of the harm’s way of uber-development (Prescott, take note:  You have no idea how close you are to losing the very places which make you special.) I also love the people who stayed close to me, when the feckless around us were seeking to quarantine my wife and me.

Arizona- You took me in, when I was still very much a mess.  Flagstaff, Superior, Casa Grande, Cochise County, the White Mountain region, Kingman-and the eternally blessed Dineh and Hopi Nations all have given me friendships that will draw this one back, time and again.  Tucson, for reasons both long-standing, and yet to pan out, is a special draw.

The West- California, in the words of Debbie Boone, will “keep calling me home.”  The beaches, the expanse of Mojave and Imperial Deserts, the Coast Ranges, LA, San Diego, Santa Barbara, the Bay Area-and the Sierra Nevada underscore my ongoing friendships, which will remain.  Nevada, Colorado, Utah- your treating me like family will only be an ongoing comfort and draw this one back time and again.

The same hold true, for those in my heart in the Northwest, Alaska, the Midwest, Northeast, South, Canada, Korea and western Europe.  I cannot see myself staying apart from any of you, my friends and family, in perpetuity. Nor, for that matter, do I wish to preclude time with those friends in places yet unvisited:  The rest of Europe, the Pacific Rim, South, West and Central Asia, Africa and the rest of the Americas.

Time will tell whether my solo wanderlust, or this newfound friendship, sets the parameters of  the future.  It is a comforting place to be.

 

Power

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May 23, 2019-

While I was exercising, this afternoon, a former student happened by the exercise room, accompanied by a couple of friends.  The three stood nearby and watched me, out of the corners of their eyes, whilst having an animated conversation.  This student impressed me, over the past two years, as one who has a wealth of personal power and has learned, early in life, how to nurture and exercise those strengths-physical,intellectual and interpersonal.

I’ve been thinking a fair amount, about the exercise of power, over the past few days.  Knowing what power actually is, helps greatly  in that exercise.  Some regard power as the ability to outshout, to cut other people off, to be “large and in charge”.  I see this in various levels of government, in the press and on broadcast media.  Some exercise their power by seeking to exclude others from work, from social events and even from living in a community.  Still others try to legislate or shame people who aren’t living in a manner they see fit, from doing what they regard as abominable or distasteful.

While this last is a  laudable response to crimes against children, vulnerable adults or animals, or to actions causing environmental havoc, it has been carried too far when it comes to prescribing what a person should or should not do with his/her own body.  In a nutshell, regarding the abortion issue and the childcare issue overall, I stand foursquare in favour of adoption/community parenting-and a much more rigourous set of standards for foster parenting, as well.  Those are topics for other posts, though.

Power comes from inside oneself.  It can, temporarily, be augmented by the use of a weapon, by obfuscation and sandbagging, or by outright lying.  Those, however, are bandaids- and we know that bandaids must be changed, daily, lest infection set in.

Power comes from within, and must be brought to account, each day.  It must be nurtured, through prayer and meditation.  It must be strengthened through mindfulness.  It must recognize the Source of all power.   It cannot be ascribed to others.  They, our parents, our elders, our steadfast friends, our leaders, our teachers can only nurture what is already present within each of us.  It is up to the individual to exercise and maintain her/his power.

Closure

15

May 22, 2019-

I was invited, by my former building principal, to attend an end-of -year barbecue.  I went, and he greeted me pleasantly at the door.  A few former co-workers exchanged small talk, and I had a nice lunch. Predictably, some of the elite in my former department turned their backs when I sat down.  That’s what they do.  I did not budge from my seat.

Closure, in a stratified environment, is often hard to achieve.  I give the principal, and my former team members credit, though, for having the integrity to not define me by the unfortunate misunderstandings that led to discretion being the better part of valour, last month.  The principal did what he had to do, and everyone else adjusted.  There was simply no time, or space, for a proper investigation into the false accusations.  I know this, from having been in his shoes.  There are some very fluid situations, on occasion, and time does not wait around.  The safety of students is what matters most.

Education will continue, and will hopefully continue to improve.  I will keep on going and, even if I find it difficult to remain in this community after this Fall, I will find peace wherever I am.  At least I have closure, with regard to leaving my post.

Ten Years Out

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May 21, 2019-

The title is one of the exercises that a person either starting out, or in mid-career, is often asked by Life Coaches and Mentors to undergo.  “Where will you be, ten years from now?”  The purpose, as I understand it, is to encourage long-term goal setting that is relatively specific, and demonstrates a knowledge of trends.

I have, after finishing reading of my brother, Dave’s, book, gone through a “Ten Years Out”, of sorts.  There will, no doubt, be a mix of adventure and normalcy, or maybe the two combined on a day-to-day basis.  Looking at my 78 1/2 year-old-self reminds me to keep up with my current health regimen, and in some respects I may need to double down on certain elements of said regimen.  I certainly hope to still be hiking then, and being able to exercise regularly.

I allow for the role of grandparent, for volunteering and/or part-time employment in whichever community I find myself.  I allow for service to my Faith and for travel, both nationally and internationally, though much of that will have been achieved (God-willing), by the time my Diamond Jubilee (75) rolls around.

I realize that, at this age, some may find a “Ten Years Out” a bit presumptuous.  All I can say to that is, while it’s true, to some extent, that “Man plans and God laughs”, it is useful to have a framework- and if that framework needs to be adjusted in the face of reality, then changes can be made as needed.

A lot of this may sound similar to previous posts that discuss plans.  I guess that makes me fairly consistent.  As long as I’m useful, though, it’s all good.

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

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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

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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.