The Cards

I caress each line counting,
Not years but memories
Care, love, devotion
Flow along the tracks of smiles
Then each scar, in forgetful recounting
Devalue, discard, return
Constant inconsistency
Of a card-built hand
Return, words, hopes
Flow with the blood of rusted rainbows
Inconsistent constancy
Drawing this card, discard
Drawing that card, devalue
Drawing the Moon down
Into the hand that yearns to dip in the well
I caress each card,
Counting not meaning, but intent
Flow from the dealing
Love, devalue, discard,
Return to the hermitage
Reverse the moon and await
Two lovers, two cups

Feast and Famine

Begging for scraps at an empty table-
The lessons of love you learned as a child.
When the feast is before you,
And the invitation to enjoy given,
You turn away, because it was a trick before,
A way to control you and use you.
And you turn back, tasting only a little here and there;
Just scraps of what is offered;
Wanting more, wanting the need to be satisfied-
Afraid of the eventual price.

The giver of the feast watches with hungry eyes;
Waiting for the realization in yours
That this sustenance is truly yours;
Watches with a begging heart,
Learning that scraps aren’t enough.
Turning away, turning back to see
A morsel and a morsel more slowly devoured.
Just bits of what is laid before you,
But more than you’ve had before.

The fullness of the feast awaits enjoyment-

Perhaps it will simply rot on the table.

Thank God I’m Not A Man!

I originally wrote this in June 2012 on an old blog on Blogspot. I may get attacked here, but it’s timely and what I say is similar to what I am hearing now from others who have lived through these scenarios. As a woman, the consequences of promoting gender over ability has had a negative impact. Now, instead of being capable because I am, I am automatically considered to be “gender-promoted”. That’s getting personal to me and an insult to what I can demonstrably do. I haven’t faced gender discrimination like this in 20 years. We’ve gone backwards, folks, not forwards. Don’t talk to me about EEO stats. Part of my job is participating in that magician’s trick.

I once had a friend who suffered from penis envy. She was intelligent, capable, resourceful, but for whatever reason, she felt that she would never be seen as good as a man. Conversations with her inevitably turned to how men were in control and wouldn’t let her or view her as the intelligent, capable and resourceful person she really was.

She never got the connection between people getting turned off by her diatribes against how her lack of a penis caused her to not get ahead and how she wasn’t getting ahead.

Personally, I’m glad I’m not a man. To be a man in this society is much harder than to be a woman overall. Sure, there’s discrepancy in corporate opportunity and in renumeration still between genders, but along with that are also some benefits.

I get a flat tire, men stop and help me change it, often doing it for me. Once, a man even bought a tire for me to help. I try to carry a bit more than I should, men are asking if they can help. I have doors opened, jars opened, things gotten from high places, meals and tickets bought and a thousand little things.

I am also not subjected to the penalties a man faces. During a divorce, I am not likely to pay for child support or alimony. I will tend to end up with the house and the  good car. The marital assets are going to be split 50/50 even if I had not contributed 50% to the obtaining of those assets. I am likely to end up as the custodial parent of the children and will control when and if a man sees those children, even with a court order specifying the visitation. And in case of alleged assault, it is my word that will be believed by the system rather than the man’s.

We are supposed to be an enlightened society where gender is not a factor in anything but biological need. It all sounds very good on paper, these legal reforms designed to ensure gender equality. What has happened is that the “rights” of women have become paramount over the “rights” of men and even turned into entitlements.

In the instance of work. men are overwhelmingly in the more high-stress jobs, particularly those that place a high demand on physical ability. Women have decided they should have a right to those jobs. What was meant to provide a right to the opportunity to those jobs has become an entitlement to those jobs whether or not a woman can perform those jobs. In order to be compliant, certain physically highly demanding jobs, like police or combat soldier, have lowered the standards so more women can be admitted to these positions. This results in a lessened standard of overall ability of a force.

In a corporate structure, a company will promote a woman over a man so that the company can be seen as diversified. This means that because of gender, a capable man will be passed over in favor of a less capable woman and somehow, that isn’t discrimination. Companies who have this policy have been in economic trouble because while the women could do some or most of the work during good economic conditions, during bad economic times, the women simply cannot do the job. There is a higher turnover for women executives and higher costs associated with women executives.

What was meant to provide opportunity for the truly capable to compete fairly in the job market has become a disaster for companies in terms of able leadership and in increased business costs. If a woman can do the job, it should be at the standards required to do the job, same as a man. Let ability determine, not gender. Thank God I’m not a man! Then I would actually have to perform a job with the same or greater ability in order to get the job.

In the domestic scene, marriage for men is a riskier proposition. The wife’s word is believed over the man’s in the case of alleged assaults and other abuses.  It’s law in the US, in fact. In order to preserve the physical well-being of the “weaker sex”, police forces are to assume that whatever the woman says is the truth and that she is never the provoking party according to the Violence Against Women Act. All a husband has to do is to express anger, even in a nonviolent manner, to be accused of and seen as an abuser. A woman can provoke such anger and face no consequences. She can even lie about it and still be believed and face no consequences. Thank God I’m not a man! The burden of being honest and ethical has been lifted from my shoulders and I can use this power to control my mate, instead of like the bad old days when a husband was always abusive and controlling of a wife, ignoring her needs at will or whim. (Is my sarcasm coming through?)

In the instance of divorce, men are ordered to pay support for the children up to 60% of the gross wages, less taxes. They are also often obliged to pay for insurance for the children without any financial credit towards support. Many men end up with only a quarter of what they earn or are left with an amount below the poverty line, even if the base wages is solid middle income.To add salt to this wound, the man will often not be eligible for any assistance programs. His hard work goes to the woman, who then controls if it is spent as intended on the children or on herself.

I have processed court ordered support garnishments for a number of years and in all that time, I have seen only one woman ordered to pay support. It was a low monthly figure, well below the normal 50% usually used and she was not responsible for the insurance costs. It was discontinued very quickly. Thank God I’m not a man! Not only do I get to keep my wages, but I still have the benefit of the ex-husband’s wages and continuing control of the ex through financial means. 

Why should a man face the risks of marriage when he stands to lose most of what he has earned?

In terms of education, grant and scholarship sources designed specifically for women 
have increased. Men are not eligible due to their gender and male-specific sources are decreasing or being forced to accept women candidates. Admissions as students at university are given more to women. Currently, 53% of the student population are female. Men are being prevented from higher education through less financial resources available and through admission preferences. Thank God I’m not a man! I can get an education more easily and once I have it, I can have that opportunity at a job where the company would be more prone to hire me because of my gender.

These reforms and trends are  going to negatively impact society, the economy and gender relations. All they have done is reverse the gender discrimination instead of promoting true equality. Men are growing more and more angry. Eventually, they will in turn incite a “Male Liberation Movement” that has the potential of being violent, for men are more honest in their anger. Instead of finding sneaky passive-aggressive ways of expressing it, men are going to physically demonstrate that anger at being legislated into second-class citizenry.

It won’t be their bras that will be burning.

Thank God, I’m not a feminist. 

I stand for ability, honesty, ethics and other values as taught to me by my father.

I’m still a woman, but my father taught me to be an honorable person and to not expect life to be a free lunch served in a bed of roses.  Too many women expect the lunch in the rose-covered bed with bonbons and champagne for desert without working for it.

Body Not Mind

The notion that men are inherently more logical and rational while women are more social and more emotional due to the evolution of the Human species is a flawed conclusion.

It takes a certain amount of logic and reason to be the gatherer of a hunter-gatherer society. 

Do you believe that humans came with instinctive intuition about plants and their uses?

They had to learn how to distinguish edible plants from poisonous ones, the use of medicinal plants, ways of storing and using plants for travel, for caching… and later on, for domestication, just as the hunters among them had to learn how to track and kill a variety of animals, learning to differentiate the best meat animal from one that is inferior in providing quality meat. 

It is not the mind that distinguishes male and female. The biochemical differences in the brain are not great enough between the sexes to go significantly beyond individual variance.

It is the physical that provides the grosser delineation and the social evolution of the sexes.

A woman is physically weaker (in general). When gravid, she is even more vulnerable. With young, she is still vulnerable. Her best chance of survival and the survival of her young lies within a community structure- that of other women in the same situation and under the protection of the physically stronger male. Gathering is an occupation that is best done in a group and by the physically more vulnerable. A woman does not need to run from a mushroom.

A man may be stronger physically, but the demands of hunting on the body can be tremendous. It requires the same output in calories as gathering for the tracking, and then more for the kill and the movement of the carcass. There are other demands on the body during the hunt- adrenaline floods the system, along with other biochemicals associated with the fight or flight reaction. Women are not normally subjected to this repeated flooding of the system; mushrooms do not attack like an elk can. Hunting in a group insures greater survival.

Men did and do have need of social connections and they have traditionally had them. We know that the repeated flooding of the system with the “fight or flight” biochemicals have an impact on the physical system. The socialization helps reduce the impact that stress from hunting can bring to the male body- the aggressive behaviors that can be a result of the uncertainty and fear of hunting on a continual basis. Remember, a hunter may be going after a relatively harmless meat animal, but he still has to be on guard against other predators throughout the hunt and most particularly after the kill when the blood scent will attract any other predators in the area.

If he lives in a community where hunting is an option, the successful male will have the physical capability to process the stress of the hunt and possess the physical strength required. One that does not may find himself dead during the hunt or after if he has been determined to be a threat to the community due to excessive aggression.

The ability to enter into physical confrontation has been similarly divided. In direct confrontation, a woman is the more vulnerable. With distance weapons, she becomes limited only by the lethal capabilities of the weapon and her ability to wield it, particularly after the invention of the sling, the spear thrower and the bow and arrow- all of which extend and magnify the lethal capability of the weapon. In direct confrontation, her only defense lies in flexibility and in speed. Add in pregnancy and young children and she is furthered hampered physically.

In terms of species survival, she can carry only a few offspring in her lifetime while men can father many. This makes her ability to produce more rare and therefore more valuable to the community as a greater investment of time and protection are required.

In an egalitarian community, both genders learn the skill sets associated with the other. This insures the survival of the individual as well as the community, providing a broader base from which to draw upon for the most basic need of life: food. Whether these are used once the age of procreation sets is dependent on the gravid condition of a woman.
It is when specialization crept into the social model that the gender division of labor becomes sharper.

Specialization is a result of environmental conditions. In a peaceful and plentiful environment, the individual can barter or contribute his or her best skills for the skills of others. The skills of a hunter may or may not be of a premiere importance depending on the level of domestication. In a war-like or depleted environment, the best skills are needed to ensure the survival of the community and those of a warrior become more important as protection. Women are already important as the incubator of new life.

Specialization, technological development has outpaced the sociological and evolutionary roots of the human society and our bodies are not suited to the sedentary life-style now possible for they were evolved to work hard and at a different pace. Males still retain their evolved biochemistry that promotes aggression while women retain those of pregnancy.

We are cavemen caught in a flux. We are wired to select mating partners based on certain cultural and biological standards but our societies have changed the necessity of those criteria. As women assume more in the traditional male areas, testing shows that they are becoming more competent in those areas. They are receiving more education and practice in those areas. They are also receiving more opportunity to work within those areas.

Men’s choices have also broadened, but due to the cultural conditioning, may find themselves derided by others for choosing traditional “female” work- in ways more subtle than those women find in choosing traditional “male” work.

The ability to control conception has both reduced its impact on women and increased their value as the bearer of young to those men who desire offspring. Men are also now free to choose their own reproductive ability and increasingly so as advances in male contraception are increased and not limited to condoms and vasectomies.

Environmentally, we are becoming more egalitarian. The physical has become less important, except in a few specialized areas. Biologically, we are still in a model that promoted through social evolution the model of gender superiority.

More importantly, we are now more free to choose, of our own will, the relationship model that best fits our individual needs emotionally, if only we can get Mrs. Grundy out of our faces.

I Hate Your Demons

I hate your demons. Of course, the ones that were born of trauma, that hunt and hurt you still. But I also hate those demons who came to as protectors from the hurt. They whispered to you, “Child, hide away! Hide from those who cause you such pain!” They seemed to be godsends then, in your innocence. Those demons brought some measure, some illusion of safety from a cruel world you were living through no fault of your own.

Those around you, the ones you were supposed to love and be loved by, the ones who taught you love, did not always have time for a curious and active child, and you would be pressed into helping in ways beyond your years. The ones who you trusted betrayed your newly formed boundaries. And the demons whispered, “Child, hide away; come away! Come to safety away from those who would hurt you for no reason!”

German Woodcut 1498

And so you hid away and learned that hiding from others made you feel safe; you could control the world instead of it controlling you. Already isolated by circumstance, already not receiving enough attention from a family distant in miles and from parents distant emotionally. Yes, those demons made of safety from all that into a cage for your spirit. Instead of learning how to deal with differences and conflicts, instead of finding through positive influence of those who cared for you with honest love, instead of learning how to love healthily and to develop good emotional bonds with others, those demons I hate so kept you in the dark in a false safety.

As much as the demons born of the past torment you still, these demons keep you from defeating the other ones. And I think that they are the worse and more destructive demons. Every time you reach for the light, to end the internal struggles, they are telling you how risky this is, how you are opening yourself to more hurt, to entice you to stay in their cage. And that wonderful person of joy cannot fly as that person was meant to fly. The demons even prevent you from knowing your true self and from engaging with those around you who hold a genuine connection to you.

In fact, by maintaining the illusion of safety and security on you, those demons cause hurt and pain to the very same people around you who wish you the best. I know. They come and take you away from me. And I don’t understand why you allow them to do this to you. I am helpless before your suffering. I wish that when you need it the most, I could return the grace you’ve given me and ease your suffering. But I cannot. All I can do is either hurt you more by trying to comfort you while you envision the world outside the cage as a place filled with people who want to treat you badly (even me!) or leave you be to find your own way home. I am afraid that you won’t come home; that you’ll leave all you love behind (leave me!). I am afraid and angry and helpless and my natural inclination to fight, to keep my own inner demons from their whispers to me controlling me comes out. I don’t understand why you don’t fight yours, why you would prefer them to walking in joy and in sorrow (for it takes both to live) with me almost fearlessly. I’m not the only one, but while many would leave you to your suffering believing that you won’t change, I hope better, wish better for you though it pains me and I want you to know you have one person in your corner, even if there is time and distance between us, even though I give you space for yourself.

I’ve been told that’s loving another for real rather than for what one can get out of another. I don’t know. I just know that I’ve had that kind of love myself before and how it feels to be loved like that and to love like that. I had people in my life you did not who showed me the way. It is a gift you deserve yourself. Its depths goes beyond what we think of as relationships, for it can be friend to friend, parent to child, sibling to sibling, spouse to spouse. In my experience, it is the closest to the Divine I have felt.

No one lives without love. They just exist. The demons keep you from forming friendships, from forming healthy bonds with your family, your children, from life itself. That’s why I hate your demons. You deserve more from life than existing from one moment of struggle, to one moment of security and back to the struggle. You deserve people in your life with whom sharing the struggles and who make you feel loved and valued. You deserve to love and value yourself. You deserve the security of trusting and being trusted. And the demons took that away from you and deluded you into thinking that’s safety, that isolating cage they put you in.

The Keys

She gave him the keys to her heaven
He opened a door to a beauteous place
A secret garden and he played his games
In a place he had never been before

Sans belief, lacking faith
He feared an illusion would trap him
Through the only map he had
He charted a destructive course

He bid her speak her truth
Words to prove him right
Stormed when her words showed
Him an unknown place

His winds shook the trees
His rain pelted the flowers
Lightening raced hail
But she stood in a different peace

Tears flowed, mixed with the rain
A river flowed between them
Hell the aftermath of heaven
yet a seed she planted with bloody hands

It grew and fruited
His mouth watered for it
He feared it false miracle
He called the storm to protect him

Over and over, storm and plant
Seed and fruit
The river growing wider, wilder
Neither left the shore

She gave him the keys to her heaven
Because she had faith, she believed
She had fear at the risk
She was not afraid to live

His storms passed through her
She found the strength to be vulnerable
She once stood as he did
She knew for what she held fast

He was a hollow man
On a shore of a wild river
Where she waited in a miracle
Of her secret garden

With his own keys
He unlocked the cage fear made
Swam the river and emerged reborn

heart-and-key

Those familiar with Tam Lin will be familiar with the theme of a woman holding fast to her love despite his transformation into various beasts. An echo of this can be found in “Beauty and the Beast”, where the woman sees beyond the beast and sees a man to love.
In this, although it is the steadfastness of the woman, it is the man, by his own choice, that banishes his beast, his fears and angers, once he is emptied of them.
The keys of love do not trap, but free the self to love.

 

 

 

Regarding Healing the Heart

The first rule of healing the heart: One must want the healing.

Incredible as it seems in this age so focused on healing the emotional wounds of the past, in this age where enterprises are intent on commercializing the need for healing, there are some who do not want to be healed of the hurts of their pasts.

Not for them the unknown territory of walking free of the anger and the soul’s bleeding. They hug these to them in an illusion of security and control. They run from it, knowing that freedom brings risk of knowing such pain again. Yet, they find themselves living through it again and again by the choices they make. They will turn away those who would offer solace and emotional safety for their healing. They will remake those who would bring sanctuary while they process the spiritual pus from their hearts. They fear not only the healing, but having been made whole, it will be for naught should pain come again.

They are blind to the strength that can be found by preserving through the storms of life. They dare not feel the hope of the light of  one who shines with love and open arms, beckoning them to safe harbor. They do not learn that having won through the maelstrom, they will know how to navigate those seas again. They will not see the beauteous dawn that follows the dark night of the soul.

 Dark Night of the Soul
By St. John of the Cross
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Once in the dark of night,
Inflamed with love and yearning, I arose
(O coming of delight!)
And went, as no one knows,
When all my house lay long in deep repose

All in the dark went right,
Down secret steps, disguised in other clothes,
(O coming of delight!)
In dark when no one knows,
When all my house lay long in deep repose.

And in the luck of night
In secret places where no other spied
I went without my sight
Without a light to guide
Except the heart that lit me from inside.

It guided me and shone
Surer than noonday sunlight over me,
And lead me to the one
Whom only I could see
Deep in a place where only we could be.

O guiding dark of night!
O dark of night more darling than the dawn!
O night that can unite
A lover and loved one,
Lover and loved one moved in unison.

And on my flowering breast
Which I had kept for him and him alone
He slept as I caressed
And loved him for my own,
Breathing an air from redolent cedars blown.

And from the castle wall
The wind came down to winnow through his hair
Bidding his fingers fall,
Searing my throat with air
And all my senses were suspended there.

I stayed there to forget.
There on my lover, face to face, I lay.
All ended, and I let
My cares all fall away
Forgotten in the lilies on that day.

For those who love them and who hope that one day, the promise of the whole person would bloom, it is a pain sometimes beyond bearing. Yet they know that no matter the risks of their own personal pain and that the promise may never come to be, they bear the burden of hope. Sometimes, it breaks them and they must in their own turn seek healing, but when there has been honest love, they do not count such pain as a loss or a failure, but as an experience for which no matter how small the gains, it was worth the cost.

There is a show which has two recurring motifs of that magic always has a cost and there is no greater magic than love. Yet, they do not explore the extension of these- that love has a cost. It calls that people use trust and faith in each other as compass and sextant, to be willing to risk the turbulent waters not only once, but again and again, with the light of the other as beacon back again. They must want not only the good times, the laughter, the joy, but also be willing to face the dark, side by side.

In short, to make the journey with open arms.

 

Don’t Let The Bastard Win

Don’t let the bastard win.

Doesn’t mean the bastard won’t win, but at least you didn’t give in and surrender to the bastard.

Actually learned that from Hawkeye on MASH, when he muttered “Don’t let the bastard win” as he worked on a very injured soldier during the episode The General’s Practitioner (Season 5, episode 20, 02/08/1977)

Later in the episode, it’s referenced again:

“In the operating room, when Pierce was trying to save that man’s life, he said ‘Don’t let the bastard win.’  Who was he talking about?

“Death. When it comes to death, Pierce is a sore loser.”

“It’s a part of life, part of war. And we’re soldiers.”

“Maybe we are, but Pierce isn’t. He’s just humoring us by wearing that uniform.
He’s one doctor who’ll never be nonchalant where death is concerned. He’ll always take it personally.”

Don’t know why, but it had an effect on my developing sense of person-hood.

Sometimes, it seems like the bastards of life always win. But they don’t. Sure, this time the bastard wins, but the next time can be victory. There’s always a next time if one doesn’t give up.

This isn’t some convoluted self-praise or “neener neener see what I can do”. It’s a message of support to all the people I know who fight the bastard, which ever shape it’s taken in their lives.

I’ve known people who have given up to the bastard. And they just… stop. Some were very dear to me and it angered me to see them giving up like that. I remember yelling at someone about it more than once, I was so angry. And one of the hardest things I’ve done was to let it go after acknowledging it because in the end, it was their choice to give into the bastard.

I’ve known people who keep fighting the same bastard into a draw. Such strength to keep at it even with the win-loss record! But they don’t surrender. Sure parts of them get whittled away through emotional attrition, but what emerges is often more “them” than what was before.

I may not say anything. I may say too damn much. But in both cases, I see the fighters of the bastard. I salute you all no matter if the bastard you are fighting is grief, depression, abuse, addiction, poverty, life’s problems.

Long live the fighters!

Don’t let the bastard win.

(pass the ammo, please?)