Days of contemplation

As I begin setting these words down I am listening to Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos, music my father would listen too when he wanted to relax and release the tensions and anxieties of the day. I listen to them now, not just for the same reasons he did, but to bring him close to me. The day my father died my ability to feel safe being me in the world died with him. I was 15, he was 55, way too early on both fronts.

I am inflicting no special form on this essay, other than that of staying with my thoughts and setting them down as accurately, openly and honestly as possible. If I am going to set this down for you to read, you deserve all three elements.

Recently I have been contemplating how best to shape what I currently see as the home stretch of my life. There are certain things I know for sure:

  • I want to write. Not just offerings in this blog and for remarkable publications like the newspaper Independence Today, but short stories and novels and, finally, the completion of a memoir.
  • I will stay involved in advocacy, especially now, when the penchant for budget cuts combined with the forces of greed and out-of-control egos have already done damage and threaten to do more damage.
  • I know that while we have been estranged for some time, the door to my life will always be open to my daughter. I will not go into details here, but no matter the past, there is no person on planet earth that I love more than I love my daughter, not a single one. It would be nice to have time for just the two of us.
  • I would like to travel, though God knows how this will come about given the poverty that currently has me by the throat. But there is time, and there is much I’d like to see: the Grand Canyon (wouldn’t mind living in it as matter of fact), Germany, so I could, finally, make a childhood dream come true and stand in a room the Beethoven was in. And then, of course, England to visit the haunts of Charles Dickens and company, Russia to visit Tolstoy’s home, France to visit all kinds of places including those directly linked to a relative: Jean Jacques Rousseau.
  • I would like to read all the classics ever written.
  • I’d like to break the bonds of PTSD and go outside more than I do.

The current challenge is to find a new home, not easy when you have no money and when your pickings are shaped by rents approved by HUD (Section 8), but, thankfully, not impossible. If I could pick a destination it would be Western Massachusetts. We’ll see, I need to stay open to all reasonable possibilities.

Step one is find a home, then, one day at a time, make the things I know for sure, some just dreams at the moment, come true.

Which Life Am I?

Many of us struggle to make sense of what we experience as conflicting parts of ourselves. Our desire to be morally upright and ethically strong finds itself challenged by our deepest sexual desires, or our desire to smack someone in the mouth who has been brutal to us or, even worse, to someone we love. The deep desire some have to honor their experience of God  is often challenged by our most primal impulses.

So who are we? How do we resolve what we experience as contrary things? I believe we learn to realize and accept that all of the above makes the whole. That the separation of these things in our hearts and minds is driven by far too many misguided and oftentimes punitive belief systems. The all of your human experience makes the whole; there is no division. Our primal instincts are the very things that have kept our species going and the fracturing driven by dysfunctional belief systems is the very thing that will bring our species to its conclusion.

I’ve gotten to thinking about this because I am reading an amazing biography of Leo Tolstoy by Henri Troyat. I am early on in the book, but the struggle described above is one Tolstoy, at least when he is in his twenties, which is how old he is in the page I’m on, struggled mightily with. How can he please God while at the same time have and act on his carnal desires? Far too often religion, not God, demands we not be human. Carnal desire is a healthy thing and has been known to have a wee bit to do with why babies are born (duh).

The instincts to be sexually “out there”, as it were, or  to smack someone in the mouth, makes you human, not bad. It is your relationship with your instincts that makes the difference. I recently learned of a young woman who was shot at twice, the second shot shattering the drivers’ side window just after she entered the vehicle. Not only did I want to choke the individual who shot at her, I wanted to put one man who told the girl’s mother that she was being too dramatic because she was upset for her daughter right through a wall. Does this mean I would actually inflict physical damage on this man were I to meet him? No. It does mean, however, that I would get in his face and verbally rip into him.

My point is this. We are all human beings and this truth is a glorious gift. While we are wise and healthy to respect our fellow human beings, we are wise and healthy to respect ourselves too. And you don’t have to deny the all of your humanity to achieve this. I don’t give a damn what they say.

Give yourself permission to be you, that’s what you’re here for and, if there is a God, I suspect that is exactly what God would want. After all, God would know a helluva lot more about the life paths we should be on than some putz on a mission to control others.