Maplewood Drive

Last night I dreamt I returned to the house on Maplewood Drive, where the old Oak tree spreads its branches over the front yard. In my memory the tree still keeps watch over the children playing in its dappling shade, even though it was uprooted in a terrible storm long ago, The vision of the sun on its golden leaves pierces my heart with gladness. It tells me my life was not lived in vain.

The concrete walkway which still divides the lawn, leads to the glassed-in porch rising above the bricked-in receptacle for flowers. After summer’s end the flowers will begin to die. The leaves will turn to gold and then brown as they fall, waiting for the rake to tease them into mounds for the children to laugh and leap into. Later, when the snow comes, when sunlight glitters on melting icicles hanging from gutters, the children will need new winter coats.

The house fit my vision of an older home, cheap, most likely in need of repair, but in a good location near a school; a used swing set would be found. The school lay just beyond three houses on our side of the street. An actual boon, as I often had to remind a child to watch for traffic before crossing the street.

When we bought the house its white paint was blistered by the sun, peeling randomly. Later, we painted it blue. Foreverafter, It would be called “the blue house” in a term of affection, even after it had been painted gray.

Maplewood was many things, to the children and to me. Also, in a different sense, to their father. You may later wonder why he’s left out of these passages—the reason being simple; his involvement with us was due to an act of generosity on his part, which, although bringing him gifts he hadn’t anticipated, derailed him from the life he’d sought.

When I told him of a time I’d felt downhearted but reminded myself of why I should be joyful, saying how it brought back my joy, driving the darkness away, he was shocked. “You manipulate yourself!” he exclaimed.

A brilliant man, he felt no need to monitor himself. Self-monitoring involves the ability to monitor and regulate emotions and behaviors in response to social environments and situations, being aware of your behavior and the impact it has on others.

Gratefully, I was able to cooperate with fate by modifying my lot so that today I rejoice in my memories of Maplewood Drive, knowing it was all worthwhile.  

Welcome to the Age of Dissent

“Dissenters are often portrayed as selfish and disloyal, but Sunstein shows that those who reject pressures imposed by others perform valuable social functions, often at their own expense. This is true for dissenters in boardrooms, churches, unions, and academia. It is true for dissenters in the White House, Congress during times of war and peace.”  Excerpted from “Why Societies Need Dissent” by Cass R. Sunstein

In attempts to explain various periods of time, history books are riddled with AGES: the “AGE of this” or the “AGE of that”.  Will future historians call the times we are now living through the “AGE  of Dissent”? Or the “AGE of Stupidity”?

Being neither a historian nor a genius, I was led to ponder where I fit in until I finally understood I had become a contrarian—one who is, of course, contrary; we do not wish to fit in.

We’ve reached a dichotomy. The time will come soon when we must start anew. Find the best that’s in you and use it to start your New World.

The Bully Within

Do you often find yourself being attacked by a bully? I don’t mean the one at the office or the obnoxious one sent by the government to harass you. This bully waits inside you, usually until night when you’re in bed trying to sleep. He sneaks in with memories of your past trangressions (especially the embarrassing ones) using them to shame you. with. You try to chase him away but it doesn’t work. Your face grows warm, becomes buried beneath the covers.

Once this bully has your attention, it’s hard to get rid of him. “There’s nothing I can do about that now,” you say. “It was a stupid thing I did (or said). I suffered because of it.”  Or “It was an accident. I didn’t know a piece of toilet paper was stuck to my skirt. You should’ve told me instead of snickering to each other about it and pretending you didn’t see it,” Etc, etc. The things this bully has collected to shame you with knows no end. What do you do?

If a friend were to confide one of these incidents to you how would you respond? Would you feel compassion for your friend, assuring him or her that we all make mistakes and it was nothing to be ashamed of? How come it’s harder to express compassion for ourselves? Everybody needs support in healing and growth, so why shouldn’t it come from inside us?  You need to be a friend to yourself, getting rid of the bully who is set on shaming you.

The inner bully is a by-product of the lack of self-compassion. We struggle with shame and self-doubt until we are able to bridge the difference between how we treat our friends and how we treat ourselves. So kick your bully out in an act of compassion for the person you’ve become.

My Words

Do you hear it on the wind? Shhh? A whisper asking you to be quiet. So you can hear the voice of God? I believe He speaks to us always, through every thought, every feeling, every vision our eyes can see. When we learn to listen.

I have discovered that for most of my life I’ve been on a search for words; words to say just what I feel, just what I think or believe, what I mean. Yet words continue to elude me. Then recently I remembered a day when my son was four, before he entered kindergarten. He had repeated swear words he’d heard his father say. “Please,” I had pleaded with my husband “do not use those words in front of the children or they’ll repeat them.”

But I also told my son: “Those are Daddy’s words’ and you aren’t allowed to say them.” At first he listened to me but then he started kindergarten. One day when he came home from school he had learned new words, bathroom words! “Now those,” he said, “are MY words!” I was dumbfounded, hoping if I didn’t make a fuss he would outgrow the need to use them.

But it seems strange to me that all these years later I’m finally aware that the strongest need in my life, has always been to find the words with which to express my thoughts and feelings. Words to say just how I feel, to say how the sky appears to me just before a thunder-storm, as it fills with dark boiling clouds or calmly permits the Sun to shine through. For all my life I’ve been on a search for words.

I have a vision of Truth waiting for me on the peak of a mountain with many paths leading to it, aware my path is only one of many

Are You Hard of Hearing?

Did you hear what I heard?  There are many different degrees of hearing loss, from slight to profound. I know I’m lucky that mine, although more than slight, is not profound. The hearing doctor believed it’s a side-effect from having the Measles when I was about eight years old.  I say “about” because my eighth year was the most tragic year of my life. It was the year my dad died, just two months after my eighth birthday.

Until recently, I believed the line between the “before” and “after” periods in my life was caused by the loss of my father. However, I’m now convinced the horror of the time that followed was due to being consciously unaware of my hearing loss, failing to understand. Do we refuse to accept our handicaps in order to cope?

Many years later, in my thirties, I was married with four children when my husband remarked on my hearing. I decided to get tested. Not that I hadn’t been accused of  it before, the crucial difference being “accused”, as though I was willfully refusing to hear. My mother’s most famous line was “You hear when you want to!” Other remarks were more critical “Why don’t you pay attention!” Some remarks were more derogatory.

I’d heard the derogatory remarks aimed at my eldest brother and only sister, the first two children in our family, as both suffered from severe hearing loss. I witnessed people being rude to them and decided I would NOT be hard of hearing. This was more subconscious than not, of course, as I simply incorporated lipreading and close attention in my interactions with others. In fact, the hearing doctor pointed out the soreness in my shoulders, which I thought I’d always had, “Your whole body strains to hear.”

My mother had keen hearing but she thought our dad’s hearing suffered somewhat. If we had a hereditary weakness toward hearing loss it likely came from his side of the family. When the next generation (at least three grandchildren, one deaf in one ear, two others profound) suffered hearing losses, the hereditary factor seemed evident. Of course as children, all of us suffered colds and ear infections, as children tend to do. It appears that for some, they may have led to a degree of deafness. My own son, who as an Air Force Officer, served twenty-some years as a Navigator, near retirement suffered a mild hearing loss. Those planes made a lot of noice!

But, on to the consequences of the hearing loss in my own life, which I can’t claim to be a common occurrence. It’s taken me years to come to these conclusions but I’ll share them as I believe them to be true. Before my bout with the Measles or my dad’s death I was a “straight A” student, afterwards my grades fell drastically. I know that sometimes I didn’t hear the teacher correctly. I also remember somebody talking to me on a phone. I heard a voice but could not understand what it said even though it kept repeating stuff. I was embarrassed and began to withdraw socially.

Think about it, you who are not hard of hearing. You’re embarrassed at having folks around you repeat things to a point that you may pretend to understand (“understanding” wrongly!). They may think you are (gasp!) retarded. Although I worked part-time during high school as a waitress, or in the movie-house as a ticket-taker or usher, and worked in offices later, earning good reviews in all of them, my attention and lip-reading being a big help, I often questioned what I heard. I often repeated myself, not sure if the other person heard what I said.  My hearing loss changed me before I ever knew I suffered from it.

As far as hearing aids go, it’s only been within the past few years that a new one came along which  worked  well for me. I was grateful from the time I began wearing them that they helped but my older siblings were not so lucky.  For years there were no good aids for nerve loss, which is undoubtedly what they also suffered from. They are quite expensive and many lower-income people can’t afford them.

I believe all our life experiences work together to help us become who we really are.  If so, both my love of reading and loss of hearing have led me to express who I really am.