Friday, July 17, 2015


                                     The Subtle Exoneration of my Current Self  

"Mama Kay, which hand is the other hand?" Aleister asked me, years ago.
"What other hand?" I asked.
"You know," he responded, "like, 'on the other hand'?"

Of course.  As in, here am I, nearly one year past the month I broke my hip and became, as director of H.M.S. Pinafore called me the other night "slow" (...and you are slower than the others', he said, during notes) - -seeing five patients, walking a fast mile,  shopping for a weekend's worth of groceries, lugging the goodies up two staircases,  wrangling with some guy from India who wanted me to sign up for the Super Deal and not the mere Regular Deal because he saw I was a business owner and "any lady who owns her own business must surely own the "Super Deal".........and I am wondering what has become of me.

As for the East Indian, h was wasting his time.
I don't even own an I-Phone.
He gasped when he heard that.
That one could have taken us two days.
Anyway, never mind.

As Aleister, said, on the other hand. On the other hand, tonight is opening night for H.M.S. Pinafore and, although I am only a member of the ensemble, I am in the show. I auditioned. Sort of. I learned my lines.  And all after, what, thirty-some years. After Cabaret, when I was so skinny my last act dress slid down when I raised my arms for that last song. Life is a Cabaret, old chum, come to the Cabaret!

 And so we did.  We went to the Cabaret.  Our children were grown, Jim retired and began his dig in Eastern Washington, I began teaching in Centrum at Port Townsend and Jackson Hole and Quartz Mountain and life became a dream.

On the other hand. There was panic. There was university. There was university and family. Even though the family was grown, there were still family members. There were emotions. There were orals. There were dissertations. There were bones. There were ashes. There were deaths. There were celebrations.  There were poems. There were poets. The word slow was not a word anybody knew.

Nobody knew that word.
Nobody had ever heard of the word slow.
It hadn't come up.
Not among our friends, either.
Not really.

Oh, well.  We're all fast and we're all slow, just in different places. I'm a whiz at remembering literary quotes, coming up with great psychosocial treatment plans, writing songs, stirring up great margaritas, making babies laugh, coming up with spontaneous dinner parties and assisting victims of trauma and abuse. I'm a great letter writer. Yeah, I'm talking a real old fashioned letter. Have any problems with that? I'm so fast I don't even own an I-Phone. Figure that one out. I out lasted faxes by never buying one. I still have records. See? That's the way it works. You just keep one holding on.

It's true.
Everything old gets new again.
Except hips.
And bodies.
And your loved ones.
Watch them go.
Are they gone yet?
They will be.

And, slow or not, we shall all take a step backwards. And then forwards, as it goes.  There is one thing we all seem to agree one, and it is this - - this odd notion that we all feel "just as we ever did!"  No matter how old we are, whether we are thirty or fifty or sixty, we seem to sing the same refrain: "'s strange, but I still  feel as I always did!"

It's nonsense, of course, but there it is.          
It's just what our mind's tell us.
That song.
Happy dreaming.
The mind makes good myths.

On the other hand, there is the other hand, and, if one is fortunate, that makes two, or, one whole.  Two hands to pick things up with. Two hands to hug with.  Two hands to wave with at the parade.  Two hands to salute with - one at the head, one at the side. Two hands to swim with, to ski with, to hold the newborn infant with, to follow the thread with, the thread that we follow as we turn and turn again, watching Aleister grow older,  pursuiing this job and that career, breaking this bone and tearing this heart, healing this patient, getting this role, singing that song, stepping out of that drama, facing that mirror,  recognizing that truth.

This is my first blog in a long time.
Tonight is Performance Number One.
Wish me Break a Leg, and remember,
I am a Human Being, not a Human Doing.
Everybody! Break a Leg!                                         

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Diary of Assisted Living Facility (Diary of Hell)

Diary of Assisted Living Facility (Diary of Hell)

August 14, 2014

I bent over. I bent too far.  I fell forward.  I tried to divert my course, mid-air.  I was wearing leopard print high heels. My hand shot out to break my fall.  Landing hard on cement, I felt nothing. Because I broke so cleanly.  If you break cleanly, there is no pain.

"Oh, let's go upstairs and enjoy a gin and tonic!" I said to my guests. Someone, maybe Chuck, carried me upstairs. We sat around and joked. I didn't climb the stairs to bed. Instead, I slept on the main floor, and, by morning, I could not move.  

I screamed and screamed until I woke Barbara, at 5:20, a.m.  Barbara called 911 and the ambulances arrived. I wore the dress I had worn the night before, to the restaurant with my friends. At the hospital, the orthopedic doctor leaned forward and looked into my eyes.  "You have broken your hip," he said.

I assume they had taken x-rays.  I'd carried with me my dress and my purse.  They conducted the surgery. They put in an artificial hip. Now this, this hurt like hell.

August 20, 2014 

"I can't stay here," I say to the lady behind the desk at Island Health and Rehab.  "This isn't the place for me. I made a mistake. I wanted to be close to my home, but.....this won't do.  I don't belong here and I can't stay."

"Wait a minute now," says the lady. She grabs some papers and rolls my wheel chair down to Room 23.  She has me sit on the bed and sits beside me.  I am weeping.  The shock of seeing where I am, so much like how it was in 1955 in Bismark, North Dakota, traveling with my mother, stopping at all the nursing homes, trying in vain to find my mother's grandmother: the smell, the comatose looks on the faces, the gowns.....the lady says, "now, Kay.  Focus.  Focus.  I have a nice plate of chicken for you.  Just sign the papers and here you go.  Some nice chicken.  Won't that be nice?"

"I'm sure it would be nice for some people, but not for me," I say.  "Is there a phone here? I just have to make a few phone calls and then leave here. May I use a phone?"

"You may only use that phone if you are a patient here," the lady says. "Have some nice chicken and sign the papers."

I am very hungry. It is after seven o'clock p.m.  I sign the papers.  I go to sleep.

August 21, 2014

How large the impact of the smallest physical movement.  How much it all matters. Practice. Practice. Someone was  screaming, "Help me!  Help me!" all night last night.  There is no possibility of sleep. Call buttons are going on and off nearly every second.  We are awakened at 6:30.  Six-thirty a.m.! When all I need is sleep!  The eggs are powdered.  The milk is powdered.  The aides look exhausted already.

"Welcome the pain," Ovid once wrote," for you will learn from it."  But you will only learn from it if you are open to learning.  I am fascinated by my body; by the differences between the "good" undamaged right side of my body and the disrupted, sore, deeply aching side of my body. The left side.     

August 22, 2014

I am writing from one of this country's poshest islands.  I spent six days in the hospital and chose to be sent to this assisted care facility because it is two blocks away from my home. It's on Bainbridge Island, how bad can it be?  This bad.  It can be this bad.  People wailing, call lights never stopping,  nobody attending to the "Help me!" voice, never being able to count on your medication being accurate, cold broccoli smothered in mayonnaise, powdered food, artificial ice cream,  a plateful of mashed potatoes with a thin line of tomato sauce being passed off as Shepherd's Pie. I have to get of here. I can feel myself sliding into a depression. In the bathroom, my deodorant dropped from my hands and I can't bend far enough to pick it up.  Impossible to get an aide in here to help me. Laughable, even, to think of making such a request. There aren't enough aides. Period. The aides are wonderful, but there aren't enough. Today I saw an aide, exhausted, lower herself onto a bed, curl herself around an eighty-seven year old patient, and take a ten minute nap.  Get hold of an RN?  Very very difficult.       

August 23, 2014

Today an RN rolled me down into the lobby and attempted to give me one of my noon blood thinner shots, which are extremely painful, through my clothes, in front of everybody.  Not only that, but she attempted to give it to me in an intimate area some distance beneath my tummy.  I screamed, "WHAT are you doing?"  She said, "Oh!  I'm sorry!  I hope you won't hold me to that standard!"  "But...can't you tell the difference between this place......and this place?"  "I'm so sorry," she said again.   "But," I kept on,"...."through my clothes?  And in public?  "Well," she said, "you know it's hard to tell. "ll you wear is black."

Oh my God.  It's my fault.  Because all I wear is black.  Aren't shots to be given under the clothes?  What kind of hell hole is this?

Today people from my personal life visit.  "Why are you here?"  "We must get you out of here, this is terrible, this place is the worst."  "We must get you out of here."

Last night my daughter called the desk and asked about getting Kay Morgan out of this facility.  The woman at the desk said, "Oh, no, Kay Morgan is not even ambulatory.  She hasn't had any physical therapy or occupational therapy.  She simply lies in bed.  She can not be released."  When my daughter said, "You're not talking about my mother," the woman argued with her and finally hung up on my daughter.  A few minutes later, the desk woman came into the woman I share with a (lovely) ninety-nine year old woman and said, "Well, it seems there are some people around here I just haven't met!"

I plumped up my pillows,  sat up and said, "I think you might be referring to me - and I think it might be a good idea if we had a little chat! Come on over and let's talk!  First," I said, "I have been walking with a walker ever since I arrived here. Secondly,no staff member has ever helped  me into or out of the bathroom. No staff member has ever assisted me in getting me dressed.  I have done all of that by myself. Consistently. I am completely ambulatory.  And. If any member of my family ever calls again, I expect whomever is at the desk, to answer courteously and completely."

The desk woman blinked and then said, "Well. How was I to know about this?"

I was flabbergasted at her question.

"Did you just hear yourself?" I said.  "That's just the problem.  "Why didn't you know about me? I've been here several days!  I've been walking with my walker all by myself up and down the halls. Have I been invisible?" And you know what?  I'm leaving here tomorrow!"

The desk woman's shoulders rose.  "You can't leave tomorrow.  Tomorrow is Saturday. You won't be able to be released on a Saturday," she said.

"Lady," I said, " if tomorrow were Christmas, I'd be out of here."

But, really, I had not idea how I was going to get out none at all.  I only knew I was going to go.  I could call 911.  I could call my daughter and have her take me to my home, whether I knew how to walk up steps or not.  More possibly, I could rent a motel room.  Anywhere but here.       

Saturday, August 02, 2014

                                                                 Aleister, Redux

    Amidst weathering my beloved friend, Bob Dietz's death, which was  preceded by another dear friend, Ann Lovell's, death, and weathering the ups and downs of a small business as a psychologist on Bainbridge Island, and, not nearly so challenging, but part of life as well, auditioning for a play on Bainbridge Island (and getting a callback), and occasionally going on dates with this man or that man, all well-educated and kind and me feeling as if there is something wrong with me for declining these good gentlemen, I received four or five days ago, a message from someone calling himself or herself Anonymous,  asking me, "What has happened with your Grandson, Aleister?"

     Well. It so happens that today I took the aforementioned Aleister to the Silvedale Mall to buy him school clothes for the upcoming term.  I have him placed, for the second year, in a small private school which is more accomodating to Aleister's character and desires, and he is much the better for it. I had, in my purse, a copy of The Grand Budapest Hotel, to which I took Aleister and his mother, Angela at some point in the last year, and which Aleister pronounced was not only, 'The first grown up film I have ever seen", but "The BEST film I have ever seen."

     I  thought, therefore, that I had best get him a copy, and Colin, the man who owns Silver Screen Videos on Bainbridge Island which is an awfully good video store, the best of the last of the breed,  and Colin,  who is an obliging friend who will do nearly anything for me at this point, so great is our mutual love of film, offered to let me buy, not rent, a copy of one of his "Grand Budapest" films instead of merely renting it. So I did. Gratefully and obligingly.

     When I slid The Grand Budapest Hotel out of my purse, Aleister, who is fourteen,  curly headed and touts a mustache now, kissed the video, then hugged it, then purred to it, then danced with it,and finally calmed down enough to thank me.  Clearly, he was pleased, or more than pleased.   He was wearing, Angela pointed out, a pair of my dearly-most-dearly-departed-husband-Jim's-gray-pants.  Those pants, those pants,  they danced in front of me, too long for Aleister,  but, as he pronounced, he would wear them "to the end of time."  He said he also owned a pair of slippers and a hat once owned by his "Papa Jim".  Which he would also own until...............yes.
      He was very different this year from last year (he IS very different this year from last year) in that he is distanced from his "inner-created-space-characters).....the ones who used to inhabit Aleister's mind.  Now, he is interested in Greek mythology, social behaviors, trivia.

     While shopping for clothes, Angela made one of those minor linguistic errors that turn the entire sentence upside down and Aleister nudged her and whispered, "Apostrophes, mother! Apostrophes are important!  Apostrophes can save lives!"

    "My mind is a veritable nest of trivia!" he chuckled,"as we sat down to eat at the Yacht Club Broiler.  He spoke about a new social game amongst teenagers called CHALLENGES -  -  one of the challenges being you spray your hands with hand sanitizer, rub them together, then set your hands on fire.  When I asked him if he had ever done this, he said, "NO!!! I personally think  this is done by a certain type of smart people trying to force gaps inside their specific genetic pools!"

     When Angela and I were talking about people in general, Aleister said, "My world belief is that we should hate the sin but love the sinner." Okay, score 1.

     Best of all was when he said, after a socially-approved-beautiful woman walked by, he said, " I don't really look at women. I just listen to them."  And went on with his Turkey Club Sandwich.

     He is very funny.  But he is also highly philosopical for fourteen.  He agreed to let me - and this was a big one - - take Jim's pants, the next time I saw Aleister - - and get them taken up by a professional tailor. "It is best to wait," he said, "for something you really want - - then to keep the thing for yourself, and suffer because it is not what you really want."  And he sat without complaining while Angela gave him a lesson on empathy - - at which point he managed to :man up" and display his own empathy.  Remember.  He is only fourteen. I doubt that most grown men would be so gallant or so open.

     So, dear ANONYMOUS, that is how Aleister is doing.  We are trying - - and Aleister is trying, as well, - - to keep everything that goes, going.  Aleister chooses,  on a daily basis, not to be miserable.  He knows he may be autistic, although that diagnosis seems less and less likely to me.  He knows he has not yet mastered perfect speech, due to his apraxia.  He also knows he is dearly, dearly, loved, that his mind is multi-layered and that he is smarat.  He can go anywhere.  He can do anything.  He used words today that I don't hear my best friends using.

      I believe, as the poet said, that words have meaning. And so does Aleister.


Sunday, April 27, 2014

                                                               Aleister, My Aleister

 "A voice comes to your soul, saying, 'Lift your foot, cross over, move into the emptiness of question and answer and question."

     This is how I feel when I am with my fourteen year old grandson, Aleister.  Question and answer and question.
     When I am with Aleister I feel as if I have just enrolled in some kind of "sublime university" for which I am not yet quite prepared, but I am eager to begin taking courses at because of the imaginative lessons which await me.
     Today, at lunch, Aleister began by looking me directly in my eyes and saying, "You know, I am seeing a new counselor now and I am able, in little little bits, to discuss my father and my grandfather.  I will tell you what I said about my grandfather[Jim] because these feelings are more on the surface, although they are not easy. I said, 'Grandpa Jim just told me 'what was what'. He said, "do this and don't do that" and I listened to him and understood and that was good. Whereas my mom sugar coats things. She means well, I know." (His voice went to a whisper, here). "Listen. I had a better relationship with Grandpa Jim than I have with my mom."
    At fourteen years of age, and autistic, Aleister's words strike me deeply.  He has been the target of unrelenting bullying.  His family (his mother, his other grandmother and myself) have moved in quickly to resolve these issues.  We know we are at war and we will do anything to lighten Aleister's load, which is to say we will do whatever we can do, and not one bit less.
     Aleister lives mainly in his mind.  Right now, in his mind,  there is a being named Fink who has no emotions except when certain buttons are pushed, and when the buttons are pushed his emotions are extreme. "Mama Kay,"Aleister says to me, "you know the phrase, "you are really pushing my buttons?"
     "I do," I say.
     "Well, that's how poor Fink lives," Aleister says.

     I know that's how Aleister lives, a lot of the time.

     Fink lives on a ship of multiple generations of technology, with a thin layer of indestructable layers of metal between each layer so if the shp crashes, nothing is destroyed.  "It's quite beautiful," Aleister says.
     I ask for more detailed information about Fink.  "How do you know so much about Fink?" I ask.
     "I can't tell you exactly HOW I know," Aleister responds, "but I can tell you that these beings come to existence in my mind when I am watching You Tube or petting my dog and they come to me complete with all the details.  Their entire stories are available to me, all at once.  I know what they like and what they don't like. I know who their heroes are.  I don't write them down, although I would say I am a better writer than most kids my age, because I don't write in what I call the 'Mary-SUe or Gary-Sue' tradition. That is, "Mary-Sue's are always happy and Gary-Sue's are always sure to be depressed. I rise above all that. I am the ship of multiple generations of generations, even in my own short lifetime."
     Oh, Aleister, my Aleister.
     When Aleister was five, and living with Jim and me, Jim wrote a book of Aleister's sayings. Friends caught sight of it and wrote to us, saying things like " much for Socrates, we'll take Aleister!"
    We didn't know back then, that Aleister was autistic.
     Jim was Aleister's great advocate, his "beloved-beloved".  Jim took empty (big) cardboard boxes
and built a small town named Aleister-ville, expanding it from our family room down the hall through our living room. Shops, restaurants, each with a sign and windows and a door. When Aleister rode the yellow school bus to first grade, Jim drove his car behind it, making sure the bus driver made no mistakes.  We have, I have, a picture of Aleiser, glued to the window at the back of the bus, looking solemn, and waving.
     When Aleister was six or seven or eight or nine, and we would ask him what he wanted for his birthday or Christmas, he would say, "I want to buy a village a goat. Or a cow. Or two goats."You could take him to Target and he would yawn.  Now, he wants computer equipment.  Finely. Something I can wrap up.
     There is a being named Scott.  Scott grew up on the moon when the moon was lively and fighting for independence. Scott knew how to fix everything.  A collective of millions of species, including Prontius, who is completely robotic except for his brain, which remain his own brain...."you know, Mama Kay, I am saturated....what is the word?....overloaded!  I am overloaded with all this!"
     ""I know," I tell him.  "I know."
     I tell myself I must be willing to journey forward, to spiral as close to Aleister's center as I can.  I must be willing to be open, receptive and patient and remember that I am not always, even hardly ever, the teacher. I try to remember that this is a pilgrimage and I am caught in a labryrnth of sacred wonder and dedication.        

                                    "So to yield to life is to solve the unsolvable."
                                                 -Lao Tzu

     I don't think any of us are meant to be "solvable".  We are too complicated and nuanced for that.
It is surely enough that we listen to each other and enjoy each other and make way for the genius that we carry.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

                                                   Mick Jagger in Bainbridge

You eat ham and lettuce sandwiches for eleven nights in a row.  You get to know your son  after twenty years.  Really, there are no words for this. Really, one can not quantify.  You enter a poetry contest and you win. Again. You entered three poems. You hate the poem they chose.  It is possible to be too literal minded about this.

You are always in pain. And isn't everybody else?  What does being human mean?  Who cares?  The Coroner's office calls for a client's notes. Here you go. Doesn't this information  look like everybody else's? Oh, shut up.

My deceased husband turns up in my dreams every single night. Alive. He is alive. It's been three weeks now. He's alive, but he's dying, once again. I am so glad to see him, to touch him, but so sorry to know he must die again. He, himself, he does not seem to mind. Whatever. He stands, he sits, he lies down. But this: I am so glad to see him, to touch him.

For a long time I told myself I didn't miss him, I dated men, I watched TV, reread Collete and Simone de Beauvoir, I sang badly at open mikes. This is what you do. You entertain yourself. Or others. You do something. Or something else.

What did Dickens say? "It was the best of times. It was the worst of times."  Okay: You fuck yourself up. You fuck other people up. What do you think you do, after forty-three years?

Have you seen Mick Jagger lately? What do you do with that image?

Somebody said something to me today about how important it is to find love, because death will  find you, no matter what. As I write this, I think: So What, or: Sure, or: Who Doesn't Know That?  I notice I am very, very cynical. Where did I obtain my cynical nature?   What good does it do me?

He sits there and rarely speaks. When he does speak, it is nonsensical, but, inside the dream, it makes total sense.  Inside the dream, I tell myself, Here you are, close to him. Make the most of it. Touch him. Run your hands over his shoulders. His arms. His head. Love him. Touch, lovingly. Take care of him. Take in his odor. That's it. Revel in his aliveness. This is real. Surely, surely, this is real.

In my dreams, other people, people I know and respect in real life, people Jim and I have known for over thirty or forty years,  marvel at this phenomenon.  Jim died and was cremated - - and then came back to life - - and is now dying again!! It's a miracle!! It is horrible and beautiful! It is beautiful and horrible!  Surely, I must make the most of it by loving him!  How blessed, how cursed,this entire situation is!

I have probably read every book on grief written in the past twenty years.  It's all based on personality. Relationship. Culture. Belief system. Point of view. Perspective.  It is individual and cultural and that's it. I have treated it many times, now. Treating it before going through it   - - and treating it after - - two different things. Even so, even so. It's like childhood.  Well, I mean, grief can be as harsh as lamenting an entire childhood.

Have you seen Mick Jagger lately?

Recently, my Grandson has been bullied. Viciously. I have spent a lot of time with his school, talking to the school's director.  I have gone from being livid to being gentle, interested, "part of the team".  They know who I am.  They know who I have said I am. Is it an impasse?  Not exactly.  We shall see.  We shall see.  I have  shown

 them who I am.             

Sometimes, I get angry.  Today, having tea with a female friend, I got angry (inside, I kept it inside), upon  hearing what her husband said to her, upon hearing how many thousands of dollars she will have to pay him monthly if they.......but there is no Director to call,  no policeman, no 911, all I can do is remind myself, gently, that life is not fair and nobody said it was supposed to be.

I can't remember, at the moment, how many "egg seeds" each chicken carries.  Enough, though. Plenty. When chickens get to the end of their "egg-seed-life" their eggs become distorted, lumpy, long, odd-looking.  Maybe that's what's happening to my life.  Or, at least, to my point-of-view.  Today, I bought a black dress to wear to my beloved step-daughter, Kelly's, wedding.  It's a gorgeous dress. I'll accessorize it with lime green heels and jewelry.  But still, it's black.  Does this mean I'm getting to the end of my egg-seeds?

Have you seen Mick Jagger lately?

Tomorrow I will finish my taxes.  I won't do a precise enough job. I will forget something.  Receipts will fall onto the floor and I will let them rest there. I will exaggerate something. I will be struck with the memory could I have possibly spent.........ah, really?............and I thought that would improve my pain, how silly! .........will I be audited!......will I be not?..........There is a man who thinks we should reunite because of how good we would look together in Paris.  This man, he is the best chef I ever met.  How does one know what is the best thing to do in life?

Somebody called me today and said the following: "I have no money, but if I did, I would make an appointment to see you. Never mind. I will call you later when I have something."        

Thursday, February 20, 2014

                                                         The Conversation

                                           You can observe a lot by just watchin'.
                                                      - Yogi Berra

Yesterday my friend Paula and I were rueing the loss of this and that - - and then we began to rue the type of personality (I am one of these) who perpetually mourns the loss of (whatever it may be) - - telephones affixed to walls; real letters having been written in real time; progress, as in my case, of the sad type as that which what has happened to the farm land of Silverdale; Kindles  and Nooks in place of books; people getting together to sing whether they can sing well or not - - you get the drift.  That kind of loss.
     And then Paula said, "Yes, I was in the restroom the other day with a woman who was complaining about how much  the country of Italy has changed and how it will keep on changing and how our grandchildren will never know the wonder of 'the real Italy', when actually, none of us will ever know that particular wonder - - and I turned to her and I said, 'You know, many things narrow down and others go on to become extinct, and all we can really do is teach our grandchildren how to notice or appreciate."

And I thought: wow. 

How true is that?

I suppose it doesn't really matter whether one reads Anna Karenina in book form or Nook form as long as all the words are there.  It certainly doesn't matter what type of telephone there is.  We can, all of us can, still write letters.  No matter what anyone says, time really does remain the same.  It's just our point of view about it, it's just the choices we make inside it, that edge us into thinking there no such thing as time enough anymore.  I still sing, no matter where I am and there's nothing much I can do about what other people do except to cheer them on when they open their mouths and make melodious sounds, and the farm lands of Silverdale? Well, that's another story that has, at least in my case, become a story in at least one or more of my own published stories.

There is a Greaves (I am a Greaves) road, small though it may be; there is still a Clear Creek; there is even a small (quite) group of people dedicated to helping newcomers pronounce the Silverdale area's names correctly. Myhre Road is pronounced MIRE road.  For instance.  Yes, we are that particular.

But enough of that, that's not what Paula was talking about, nor is it what I want to write about.  I want to write about the "real deal" of teaching children how to notice, how to appreciate, how to have zest and endurance and enthusiasms.

I would guess that the future will be very, very different than the past.  Technology says so and technology has a very big mouth. It eats things up.  And it has very big hands.  It makes things up.  And what we deem wonderful now may not even be around in forty or fifty years. Or less.  Or more.  But grieving that is like grieving the Motel T.  Or the blimp.  Or real telephone operators or elevator men or making real mincemeat pies or  being served meals on most airplane flights.

Gone, gone, gone. Dear Allan Ginsberg once wrote a poem out of only that one word. Gone.

But there is still plenty to notice, still plenty to appreciate, still plenty to write about and sing about and be enthused about.

When, as a little girl, I became bored (which wasn't often) I would go to my father, say "Daddy, I'm bored," and he would say, "Then go out into the driveway, pick up twenty white rocks and bring them back to me at once."

He would always say that. I knew he would. I knew what came next, too.  Here's what:

Having picked up twenty white rocks I would run back to him and show him the twenty white rocks, usually bundled up in a scarf or carried in a paper bag.  "Now," he would say, acknowledging the rocks," take these rocks and put each rock exactly where you found it."
Of course, I couldn't. But I tried.

If he never did anything else for me, that was plenty.  Talk about teaching a kid how to notice. Talk about teaching a kid how to do something with practically nothing. Because lots of times that's what you start with - -  practically nothing. And lots of times that's what you end with. You just need to claim the event, the activity, the moment - - as your's.  It doesn't matter how other people see it, it's how you  see it.

Marcel Proust wrote, "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes." 

Well, this is nothing new, but it's been gnawing at my brain.  It isn't flying children to foreign countries that educates them, at least not necessarily.   It is examining the goings-on of a leaf, held in your palm, season after season. You must hold it, bring it to your nose, put it to your tongue, read about it in a book, look it up on the computer if you must (I know, I know, I'm a fogey) - - you must claim it, to know it. You must have, as Henry James said, "The zest to see what there is to be seen."

It needn't cost a penny.

All it takes is you.  And your's.  


Thursday, February 13, 2014

                                                      The Unexamined Life

It's hard, I think, to be happy with reality when you are an American watching the Olympics.  Because, sometimes, the Americans don't win; and that can make for a sullen, dispiriting,
nearly unbelievably bad time.  Say you are watching those muscularly immaculate young men ski and there's a guy from the Netherlands, a guy from Germany, a guy from The U.S., a Dutch guy and a guy from Japan.  And, of course, they're all great.  And you're an American.

Who ya gonna root for?

Well, okay, why not?  Root for your country, right?  Right.  Now, though, say the American doesn't have the speed or the stamina this time and - oops - not a chance. He's out.  Now, watch what your brain does. It starts bashing it's way through its neural library shelves, deciding with alarming speed, who's next.  Who do you root for next?

At this point, do I think you are a free thinker, capable of making an entirely free choice?

Uh-uh.  No, I don't.

I think whatever it is your going to think, whoever it is you're going to decide you want to win, is utterly dependent upon your age, your history, and a number of other variables I can't even come up with now.  You're  hog-tied to your next-best choice and your next next best choice and on down the line.

If you're my age, let's be honest. There was that war. It's always there. That war. That huge human stain. My age group has to slide into a massive death before that particular prejudice ends, because we're wired, friends. So that's Germany and, oddly, to a lesser degree, Japan. My age group just isn't going to cozy up to those boys as our first next choice.

So it's the Dutch guy and the guy from the Netherlands.  They're it.  That's who. You can just feel it in your blood, can't you? Or am I the only one around here who's still prejudiced, even if it's on a normally unconscious level"

The Olympics are good for this kind of noticing.

The thing about the Olympics that I really love, because it is SO unAmerican - - are all those little countries, I mean those really little ones, with five or nine people, marching in with heads held high and astonishing uniforms and proudly held flags - - and these countries show up, year after year after year, and some of them have maybe never even won a medal.  And yet there they are.
Countries like, I don't know, Slovenia, although I think they have won a medal,  but you know what I mean. 

How do you think they feel?  Take a look at them, marching into the stadium. What's in it for them? Well, something IS in it for them, obviously. And I want some of that. But, what IS it? Someone once said, "Allowing yourself to want something is an act of courage."  I think that is true.  To openly want something, whether with reason or beyond reason --is a noble thing.  Or maybe it's being/feeling like you're a part of something huge and that's a great feeling and we're so huge already, we American's, that we've forgotten what that particular feeling is.  Because what matters to us is the meals.

Oh, the medals, the medals, the medals.

"And now, here's So and So, if he wins this medal it will be his third gold medal in a row, bringing it home to the U.S., wow, won't that be something....."

Why will that be something?  Medal hog. How many medals does he need?  It's like he's a great big mouth, swallowing medals, year after year.....

(See how cynical I am).           (And yet- - I love the Olympics).          

Well, I don't know. Last night I cried when the Russian skaters won the gold medal.  I wanted them to win so badly.  When I was a little girl I read every book I could read about the great Bolshoi ballet and its magnificent Russian dancers. When the Russian male skater, tears flowing from his eyes, went to his knees on the ice, and threw his arms up to the sky,  it brought back to me my love of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, which take up at least one large shelf inside the library in my brain, cancelling out Kruschov pounding his big black shoe and shouting out, "We will bury you!"

 So we not only have cultural responses, but individual responses which, if strong enough, can cancel out the mainstream neural imprints.

Socrates said it.  "The unexamined life is not worth living."  Do you live by your own rules or by the rules of others?   But to know what you are "living by," first you must go deep, deep down and acknowledge that dark stuff, the black moss, the stuff you don't want to know about yourself.

The Olympics is as good a place as any to begin the examination.        

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


                                                       The Wu Li Masters

 "This is the message of the Wu Li Masters: not to confuse the type of dance that they are dancing with the fact that they are dancing."

It's been a hard  two weeks, folks.  My dear friend, Ann, fell outside my home and entered Harborview's ICU and I haven't been able to get her out of my mind. But this situation has truly been a hard two weeks for Ann and for Ann's wife, Jan, who has had to endure this pain, this agony, these decisions, this experience. I have "been there"in my own way  and remember my own world of experience, but I have not been able, this time,  to enter Jan's world of experience because my own reality handed me a different card. 

Two days after Ann's fall, my grandson became suicidal after being relentlessly bullied. for two months,  at his private school in Bremerton, and I have been doing everything possible to regain balance at this school; with the boys who had been doing the (outrageously damaging) bullying, and with my grandson's psyche and soul.  The latter, of course, has taken up most of my effort and my time.  No matter how hard it might be, no matter how terrible it might be, you must plot out your own territory.

Where is the map.  Where is the territory. What are my powers. Which powers do I use. I want to mangle. I want to kill. I am filled with anger and fear, they gnaw at me, but can either of these emotions help, in this situation? Knowledge; that is what I need. 1 need help. I call my friend Jane, who was a highly successful principal of a grade school for a long, long time. First step. Use what  Jane tells me. I call the Director of my grandson's school. I talk with him for an hour. I tell him what I know, what I am willing to do. Restraining orders. Police. Let him know. Bullying is illegal. Period. Once I know what is happening I can and I will take action. This is the map. This is the territory. I will do what I can do.

I track down a new therapist for my grandson. A therapist with more strength. A therapist with more knowledge. A therapist who will guide him better, ask more of him.  "You are thirteen, we cannot force you to come here," says the therapist, to my grandson. 

 "I know this," my grandson says, "but I know it is important."

I check in with my grandson twice a day. Hi. How are you. How'z it goin'. Better.
To know that this is your one precious moment, your one precious life, and that, ultimately, it is up to you. To know that, as the poet says, the road is made when we walk on it.

So much is up to my grandson.  Schopenhauer asked. "Can anything happen to you for which you're not ready?" Was he speaking about children, too?  We will never know.  As a therapist whose specialty is Women And Trauma, I have heard stories of such trauma dealt to children that grown men and women would not, I believe, be able to endure for one moment, were they to know ahead of time that they were asked endure such torturous situations. The children disassociated, of course; their central and autonomic nervous systems softened things and hardened others and allowed them to keep on living.  And then they paid.

Take this.
And this.
And this.
And this.

"I know this," my grandson says, "but I know it is important".

He is right.  Awful things happen unexpectedly. You are bullied for a year. It is seemingly unbearable. You want to hit back but you, the youngest person in the school, are also the largest person in the school, and you know that if you hit anyone, you will be the one in the most trouble. So you take it. You take it. You become angrier and angrier. You eat it, like a cake.

Good things happen unexpectedly. You tell somebody. Oh, finally. This starts the ball rolling. It's your mother. She tells somebody. They get involved. Maybe you matter. Maybe you matter a lot. You didn't think you did, now you do. It doesn't matter that you are big. Reporting isn't the same as tattling. It's okay. You have a right. You can breathe. 

"In the world of symbols, everything is either this or that.  In the world of experience, there are more alternatives available. This is how it is in the world of the Wu Li Masters."
- Gary Zukav

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

                             Is It A Bomb Or A Bullet, And the Examination of Gaps

This past Saturday I walked into Poulsbo's WalMart, took a tour around the place as if I were a woman who knew exactly what I was doing and where I intended to do it , and finally walked up to a man wearing a name tag, and asked, "Where do you keep your bombs?"    

The man, wearing a white shirt and blue vest, took an immediate step away from me and attempted a smile. So did I. "Where we keep our bombs?" he parroted back. He appeared to be looking for Time.

"Yes," I said.  "I know you kekep them in the kitchen section, but I can't find that!"
"What kind, bombs....are you looking for?" he said, his brow furrowing and his right arm motioning in what might seem to be a wave  action or a some kind of truly large tic.  Actually, he was waving to another man wearing a white shirt, a blue vest and a name tag. 

When the second man came up to us, the first man said, "Hi, Dave, this lady says she is looking for our bombs, which she thinks we keep in our kitchen section.  Do we have any kind of......well, I mean, (turning back to me) "....what do these bombs do, exactly?)

Glad to be back in the conversation, I said, "All my friends  have them. You put all kinds of stuff in them, turn them on, and in only minutes, maybe seconds, really ....boom!  Everything is liquid!  Or  mush!  I would think you would know exactly where they are!"

Dave smiled, patted Mr. First Man on the back and said, "I think she is talking about  'The Magic Bullet', Jim.  Are you sure you aren't talking about the Bullet?" he said, turning to me

Well, now. The Bullet.  The Bomb.  The Bullet.  The Bomb. Well, the Bullet certainly sounded more .....reasonable, calmer, and fast, yes, a bullet would be fast.  "I can go with that," I said.  "So where's the kitchen department?  Let's go see if we can find this Bullet."

And there, amidst blenders of all sizes and various modes of complications, was The Magic Bullet.   
"I'll take it," I said, and put it in my cart. Easy, see?   How could I have become so attached to the idea that it was called "The Bomb" in the first place? What is that about me? I'll think up a word or phrase or line from this or that, and I'll bet money on its accuracy, if need be.  There are areas in which no one in their right mind would want to bet with me, because they'd know I'd be right.  There are also those areas in my brain wherein if my friends were - - well, not my friends - - they'd be betting against me  and making money hand over fist.

It goes back to my Gaps.  

When first I entered psychotherapy at nineteen years old, suffering from the sickening, debilitating symptoms of anxiety disorder and panic disorder, I happened upon a very good doctor of psychology in Tacoma, Washington, where I was then living, with my first husband, Tom.  I couldn't drive, I could barely speak, I could fly in airplanes, I could sing on stage, but as soon as our set was over, I had to rush back into the kitchen and hold my head in my hands. Mostly, what I could do was read, which I did,  most eagerly.

And, somehow, what Dr. Raymond did, was to bring me back to Life again, to teach me how to look people in the eye, to help me find my tongue so that I could speak again, to give me stacks and stacks of old New Yorkers  and Saturday Reviews  and medical and  psychological journals to read and to give me an IQ test to prove what he already knew about me but I refused to acknowledge and, best of all, to listen to every single word I could muster about my life and ask questions and make comments and remain interested and supportive and never repulsed and never scared but always loving and  interested, even fascinated.  So that, at the end of our three years together, he said this: "I have not diagnosed you. You have no insurance and there is no need, therefore, for me to go through what I believe to be a certain type of  nonsence.  I do know you have been very sick and now you are capable of living a life of creativity and meaning and, most importantly of love. We have established the fact of your high intelligence.  But this level of intelligence does not mean you will not always have gaps. You just will.  It is my opinion you should simply accept these gaps and stay in the area of your brilliance.  Analytically, you will  always be successful..  Mechanically, directionally, you will always be quite low on the scale. Go to University but stay away from engineering. Get enough schooling under your belt that you can hire others to do the "gappy stuff".

So I brought The Bullet home, got out a banana, some strawberries, a handful of spinach, some yoghurt, chopped it all up a bit, and read the directions. In that order.  How hard could it be?  Until I noticed that the container part which held the ingredients appeared to be sitting upside down on top of the rest of the machine. Upside down. On top of the rest of the machine. How could it not spill out, while I was trying to attach the bottom--bladed-part?  But, life being somewhat magical inside the "gap part" of my mind,  I tried. I tried, like I have always tried, and what happened is what always happens, in one form or another - - fruit flying all over my kitchen,is what happened. The counter, the island in the center of my kitchen, the floor, my boots, the bottom hem of my wool skirt, and the gratitude, of course the gratitude that no one had been around to witness this travesty. Unless I had simply had the bad luck to purchase a Bad Bad Bullet.  But, of course and alas, that had not been the case.

It is never the case. It is me, it is always me, it is me and directions or me and mechanics or me and any given space like a garage or an automobile and a pole or, say,  a curb and the way my mind works. But. Give me a test  in a certain type of class,  give me several tests,  give me a masters thesis, give me a doctoral dissertation, and I will  ace it, I will cream it, I may well receive the highest score. Or.  Give me a piece of equipment which most of the populace can figure out in ten minutes and I will deck the halls with fruit and spinach.

The next day, I got up, ran downstairs, grabbed the Bullet box and a cup of coffee and sat for half an hour, reading and imaging, reading and imaging. Yes. I see. You need to turn over the extractor-ring-thing--- - you need to attach it to the bottom of your filled-jar - you need to attach it and then turn the filled-jar over AND THEN plug it in and then - -  but what makes it go?  WHAT MAKES IT GO?  There is nothing on the box that says, "And now, dear READER, here is what you do to make it GO.  TO MAKE IT GOOOOOOOOOOOOO.  To. Make. It. Go.   So there it all was, all filled, all fine and turned over and looking just like the picture on the box, but I couldn't make it go.  I plugged it but it wouldn't go. I felt all over for a button, for a place to press, for an indentation, for ANY indentation,
...........I.................unscrewed the    whole thing, poured the ingredients into a bowl, and ate them, in their original form,  with a fork.

I hated my Bullet.  I just hated it so much.  I wanted to throwthe damn thing off my deck.  I wanted to bang it down into my garage and hammer the hell out of it.  

Instead, I went down into my office and sat with the first three patients of my day.  I felt like I was supposed to feel, or at least how I have come to feel. Curious, calm, ready for anything, eager to see these people, interested, confident.  At the end of the third session my patient asked if I needed more eggs, for she is not just my patient, she is my fresh-egg deliverer, and I confessed that I can think of nothing that has anything to do  with my kitchen just now, because I have just purchased what is called "The Bullet" and, whatever the game we are playing together is called, it, The Bullet,  is winning and I am losing.

"May I come up for a moment and give you a hand?" she asked.
"Of course," I said.  I am not loathe to allow a patient of twenty-some years to give me a hand with the loathesome Bullet.  So up she came and said, "Well, tell me what problem you have having."
"Well," I said, "I don't know how to start it.  I can't find a way to make it go."
"Oh," she said, "that's easy. We don't have to put anything inside at all.  Just attach this to this, plug it in, and push."

She pushed, a motor sound began sounding, blades started running, and I knew that, if any fruit-substances were inside that glass thing, they would be being pulverized.

"Now you do it," she said to me.
I pushed.  No sound.  "Push harder," she said, kindly. "I pushed harder."  No sound.
"Give it hell!" she yelled.  I gave it hell, the motor came on, I could hear those blades a'runnin, and it sounded like heaven.

Ahhhhhhh. Now I knew. Surely I could do it, now. On my own.  She handed me a check which I should have handed back, but didn't, and all was well with the world. Or wasn't.

 So.  The next morning, that being today, I chopped up a banana, some strawberries, added some yogurt and a few rasberries, dropped them in one of the jars, took the mean-looking gray lid with the metal teeth, attached it to the top of the filled-up jar, turned the whole thing upside down, attached it all to the big holder, plugged it in, bore down hard, hard, and - vrooooooom, vrooooom.  Then I0 swept my arms up in the air in sheer triumph, whereupon the other gray lid with the other kind of metal extractor blade got knocked off the counter and slammed itself  down on top of my right bare big toe, banging me down to my bottom and making me to weep in pain for about two minutes before bringing myself back up to a standing position and sampling the contents of my mooshed-up breakfast  Magic Bullet. 

It was good enough for folk music.
Sometimes I fear for my heart.

Sometimes I think I was doomed before I was born.

Sometimes I think that to know me is to endure me.

The author Dani Shapiro once wrote, "My father has a great philosophy.  He says, "You are the same person you've always been.  That doesn't change.

    Yeah.  That's a problem."

From the colored little condo where it's never too late to figure out how to live.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

                                                  Look Homeward, Angel

Whenever a lone of poetry, whenever a song lyric, whenever an entire poem pops into my head, I almost always am able to trace these mind-events to the why-source of their existence. Today's entry was a line from a book I read 51 years ago, when I was seventeen.  My reading, that year, was devoted to the great  writer, Thomas Wolfe.  The line was, ".....a stone, a leaf, a door. And of all the forgotten faces."  The book was Look Homeward, Angel.

Recently, a friend made the observation that he finds my blog to be "tinged with sadness".  Judging from the fact that the above quote is the main quote I have taken with me from my seventeenth year, and that the rest of my favorite lines, lyrics and entire poems are also on the, let's say, dark side (although, God knows, I am most certainly also partial to songs like, "Take Me Out to the Ball Game", "Sunny Side of the Street", "Ain't She Sweet", and "You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby"  - - songs my mother loved to sing to me before she became ill) - - he may be right.  On the other hand, I have known incredible joy, have jumped for it (joy), have danced in it (joy), have sung inside it (joy), have laughed my head off in it (in it).  Have exalted in it.  Joy.

But I am getting off point.

A stone, a leaf, a door.

What you lose, what you find. What you see, what you do not see. The past, the present the future.
By seventeen, I surely knew that life is difficult, that being alive is incredible, that my emotions were events,  that life held so many amazements from the huge to the small-but-still-amazing, say, like a new bar of soap is always amazing.....and that there is a past, a present and, I most resoundingly  

hoped, a future.

When I was seventeen, Maurice Nicoll was not yet writing about Time and Physics: "I have already said that if the actuality of the fourth dimension is grasped, all history becomes alive.  All IS, in this dimension, not WAS or WILL BE.  Every moment IS.  Every moment is LIVING.  The world extended is time IS.  The creation of the world IS in time.  It is all PRESENT." - M. Nicoll

I love this stuff. The world in which nothing is lost.  The world in which what was, long ago, still is.  The stories, the early scenes, the early attractions, the old smiles, the early songs, the days themselves, all are.  I can read it and I can type it, but only a certain type of physicist understands it.

A stone, a leaf, a door.

What got to me, I think, when I was seventeen, about this (quite famous) line of Wolfe's, is it's feel for loss and discovery.  (When Freud was a little boy he wold hide his toys so that he could lose them, so that he could have something to seek.  Loss is that compelling. The British psychiatrist, Winnicott, wrote, "It is a joy to be hidden, but a tragedy not to be found.")

So what's this blog really about?  It's about going along, living your life, thinking you've kind of got a handle on what is and what will be (and maybe you do and maybe you don't), dating and then not dating, seeing patients, sure, getting together with friends and family, eating your frozen dinners and making your funny kind of coffee, reading your books, watching your movies and then.... one day, there's that stone, that leaf, that door.