ON THIS DAY . . .
A POEM FOR GOOD FRIDAY . . .
FOR THE SAKE OF STRANGERS
No matter what the grief, its weight,
we are obliged to carry it.
We rise and gather momentum, the dull strength
that pushes us through crowds.
And then the young boy gives me directions
so avidly. A woman holds the glass door open,
waits patiently for my empty body to pass through.
All day it continues, each kindness
reaching toward another–a stranger
singing to no one as I pass on the path, trees,
offering their blossoms, a retarded child
who lifts his almond eyes and smiles.
Somehow they always find me, seem even
to be waiting, determined to keep me
from myself, from the thing that calls to me
as it must have once called to them–
this temptation to step off the edge
and fall weightless, away from the world.
A CARTOON FOR EASTER . . .
ON THIS DAY . . .
I LOVE YOU SO . . .
This is the fourth in a series of posts I am writing about the contents of two boxes containing gifts I had given my parents -- primarily my mother -- over the last 10-15 years that were given back to me several weeks ago.
My mother loves word games. I love poetry. For Christmas in 1997, I gave my mother The Magnetic Book of Poetry (pictured immediately above). I inscribed it this way: More ways to have fun with words!
Knowing how much my mother liked to have an uncluttered refrigerator door, I assumed she wouldn't do much with the book. Also, she could only work with the words and letters provided. However, six months later, while visiting my parents, I discovered at least a dozen "magnet" poems on the front of the refrigerator. Here are a few of them:
morning minutes run away
day is over like the song
bouquet of summer showers
lace the evening wind
like a secret bomb
dirt is on the crack
tendril goes up
building an avenue for blossoms
I love you so
it will only grow
consumed all liquid in glass
wild people not we
works for me
when you are blue
I see through
I don't believe my mother knows that I copied down all of her poems, but they reveal yet another side of her I really never knew. Last week, when I opened this Magnetic Book of Poetry, I found letters and words (see top photo) affixed to the magnetized inside front cover. Was this the beginning of one of my mother's poems? If so, what was the poem going to be about? What would have been the words in the rest of the poem?
Tucked inside the Magnetic Book of Poetry was this piece of paper . . . a list of all the words my mother found in the word Millennium:
My mother was a poet and I didn't know it.
TODAY'S TRUTH . . .
CAPTION: "Your mother wanted you to have this for good luck. It's her foot."
ON THIS DAY . . .
A STORY CHALLENGE . . .
Two days ago, my beloved friend, Kelly texted me this story challenge
and thought it might make an interesting Sassistas post:
Without hesitation, I texted her back: I'm not dead yet.
Then this happy 4-word story occurred to me: (t)rump loses American citizenship.
Then I decided to throw the challenge into the sassophere.
Please post your happiest story using ONLY 4 words.
(Please note how the title of this post cleverly ties in everything in this post.)
Thanks for the great idea, Kelly!
TODAY'S TACtic . . .
On November 3, 2004, the TAC CEO opined:
At the operational level, people don’t matter. I mean, they matter, but they are an inconvenience.
TODAY'S TRUTH . . .
ON THIS DAY . . .
TURNING AWAY FROM GRIEVING . . .
On December 22, I wrote a letter to a colleague detailing the challenges of my life . . . and Matissta's. At the end, I wrote this: "If I’ve learned anything these past three years it’s this: good people can do many good things and still evil will triumph. Forgive my darkness, at least today. I’m just weary of lying."
The colleague never replied.
When I shared this in a comment in the sassosphere, Beth replied. "I'm also sorry that your colleague never replied. S/he may not have known what to say or may have feared making things worse for you."
I get it. It's hard to be around someone who is depressed or grieving loss. Just last week, I had the following exchange with a neighbor I've known for nearly 25 years. She had not seen me for some time because these days I tend to go outside my home only when neighbors aren't around. I feel much more comfortable around drugstore and grocery store clerks:
NEIGHBOR: How are you?
SHARON: It's hard to answer that question these days because I don't lie anymore.
NEIGHBOR: I'm sorry. What's wrong?
SHARON: Well, I still can't find work. My mother had a stroke. Another sister was diagnosed with progressive MS. And I'm still struggling with double depression.
NEIGHBOR: We're all going through that. It's happening to all of us.
SHARON (raising voice with each word uttered): No . . . it . . . is . . . NOT . . . HAPPENING . . . TO . . . ALL . . . OF . . . US! I AM GOING THROUGH THIS! IT IS HAPPENING TO ME!
I hurriedly walked away from the neighbor, got into my car and drove away. Of course, I felt terrible. Over the weekend, my neighbor called to let me know about a PBS program revealing how musicians cope with their MS. It was a very thoughtful gesture, and I told her so.
Why do we find it so difficult to be around someone who is grieving or depressed? In his memoir The Narrow Door -- which details the death of his friend, the novelist Denise Gess as well as the break-up with his husband, the poet Mark Doty -- Paul Lisicky writes this:
What is it that makes us turn away from the grieving?
Language fails. No one wants to say the wrong thing. Grief is a monster. Grief laughs at language, lazy language, its tendency to tidy, order, sweeten, console. "It's all part of the deal." Or: "You'll meet in another place." Bullshit. It's quite possible you could say such a thing and never mean to say it, never know where it was coming from.
Or is our aversion more animal than that? Is it a set about the eyes? The way they [the grieving or depressed individual] hold their mouths? Maybe it is a smell they give off, a sadness collecting in their hair. A smell of motor oil, basement, rotten leg of lamb, an old burner gone wrong, and if we breathe it we won't ever get that smell out of our nostrils. We fear that if we're around them too much, some of their bad small will put a spell on us, and we'll lose everything that's dear to us, too. We'll lose our friends and families; we'll lose our houses. And of course we'll do a much worse job of it. Oh, we'll be completely raw in our grief, crawling around on our hands and knees until our palms are worn. We won't be able to get up off the ground. And no one will call our phones or drop off baked goods because we were always too self-oriented to think about anyone else.
Maybe it isn't so sweeping. Maybe coming into contact with such immensity helps us to see that our lives are small, full of the dullest tasks made to distract us from the inevitable: we are walking up the road to death. We can't hold on to that image without turning away from it.
What do you think? Why do you avoid the grieving or the depressed? If you do, how do you avoid them? By the way, I don't blame you for avoiding or finding it difficult to be around folks like me. I believe the above exchange between my neighbor and me demonstrates how my language failed both of us.
TODAY'S TACtic . . . WWJD? . . .
I am attending a TAC company's board meeting to get details about the company's performance in order to draft the annual report.
CEO: Profits are up! We are blessed.
EXECUTIVE PRESIDENT: Yes, the Lord has truly blessed us for being good stewards of his gifts.
CEO: We can now afford a second corporate jet.
TODAY'S TRUTH . . .
ATTENTION MUST BE PAID . . .
On Saturday, I wrote the following Letter to the Editor one hour after seeing the image immediately above on the front page of the latest issue of the Greenbelt News Review, our community newspaper. The Mother and Child statue (see top image) is located in the heart of my community . . . where we gather to light the holiday tree, mark Veteran's Day and set up the stage for music festivals.
I am Andy.
Like many in our community, I was saddened to see the front-page photo (3/17/16 issue) of a display at the Mother and Child statue in Roosevelt Center memorializing Andy Carruthers, who took his life there in the early morning hours of March 11. In the center of this display was a note:
Andy, the world needed your skills and contributions.
But the world ignored what you offered.
Jobs . . . Full employment –
The forgotten mission of the New Deal.
[The last line was obscured by a flower and a large stone.]
I was stunned to find my reality -- the terrible reality of unemployed older workers – tragically on display in the heart of Greenbelt.
Losing a job tends to be a moment of crisis no matter when it occurs; however, a Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) study reported a startling reverse of the long-term trend with regard to suicide and age. During the span of time between 1928 and 2007, suicide rates of Americans aged 55-64 experienced the most significant decline. From 1999 to 2010, there was a dramatic increase in the rate of suicides among men and women age 55-64. Deaths from suicides overtook deaths from car crashes. Most of these suicides result from unemployment.
Four years ago, after a 35+-year career as an award-winning creative consultant and writer in corporate America, I began to lose contracts and projects to younger, mostly white men who were hip to social media. Sadly, corporate communications was becoming more about one’s skill in scoring “hits” and not in writing “words.” During an interview with a corporate vice president of communications for a possible writing project, I was asked how I maintained connections. I responded, “I nurture relationships. I am very good at listening.” Barely looking up from his iPad, the VP responded, “That’s old school.” I didn’t get the project.
I am a baby-boomer who grew up believing in the American dream: that if you are well-liked, work hard -- and in my case, win more than 40 industry awards -- you can find a job. For many baby boomers, that dream is dead. Instead of coasting into retirement, we are scrambling to pay basic living expenses. Perhaps Linda Loman, the wife of Willy Loman in “Death of a Salesman,” best expresses our plight:
Willy Loman never made a lot of money. His name was never in the paper. He's not the finest character that ever lived. But he's a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He's not to be allowed to fall into his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must be finally paid to such a person.
Attention must be paid to Andy Carruthers. I never met Andy Carruthers, but I am Andy. You are Andy. Attention must be paid.
ON THIS DAY . . .
. . . in 1932, John Updike was born in Shillington, PA. He would describe his intended audience: "When I write, I aim in my mind not toward New York but toward a vague little spot a little east of Kansas. I think of the books on the library shelves, without their jackets, years old, and a countyish teen-aged boy finding them, and having them speak to him."
ANNOUNCING THE RESURRECTION OF "OPEN MIC"!
Every weekend, the Sassistas will host our popular "Open Mic" where sass followers can and are encouraged to post about any topic they choose. Opine about politics or your neighbors. Post a favorite quote or poem. Express. Vent. Be heard. Our mic is open to all.
THERE IS JOY . . .
There is joy
in the hair I brush each morning,
in the Cannon towel, newly washed,
that I rub my body with each morning,
in the chapel of eggs I cook
in the outcry from the kettle
that heats my coffee
in the spoon and the chair
that cry "hello there, Anne"
in the godhead of the table
that I set my silver, plate, cup upon
All this is God,
right here in my pea-green house
and I mean,
though often forget,
to give thanks,
to faint down by the kitchen table
in a prayer of rejoicing
as the holy birds at the kitchen window
peck into their marriage of seeds.
So while I think of it,
let me paint a thank-you on my palm
for this God, this laughter of the morning,
lest it go unspoken.
The Joy that isn't shared, I've heard,
TODAY'S TACtic . . .
A new TAC creative consultant (who replaced me) has been retained for a "new branding initiative." He is asked to interview me over the phone because he's been told that I "know as much about the brand as the founder."
CCWM40s (Conservative Christian White Male in his 40s): Here's my value proposition for the initiative . . .
SHARON (interrupting): You mean your goal?
CCWM40s: Yes . . . . My value proposition is to develop a process to create inspirational alignment and organizational conviction to deliver on our highest compelling truth.
SHARON: Highest compelling truth? You mean like God or the Constitution?
CCWM40s: Not exactly. I mean our purpose.
SHARON: Could you give me your value proposition one more time so I can write it down?
He says it one more time, this time slower, so I can get every word. I look at his proposed value proposition.
SHARON: Is this what you mean: "My goal is to get everyone to commit to and work hard toward achieving our purpose"?
SHARON: Don't you think TAC associates would understand a simpler goal rather than one that with terms such as "inspirational alignment" and "organizational conviction" and "highest compelling truth."
CCWM40s: This is the value proposition I use with all of my clients. It's trademarked. It works.
SHARON: So this is your the tagline for your consulting business?
CCWM4Os: Yes, it attracts a lot of clients.
CCWM40s: So who are you again?
TODAY'S TRUTH . . .
The top photo was taken on my iPhone during sunrise at Lewes, DE in September 2014.
TODAY IS THE 60TH BIRTHDAY OF MY SISTER, DAWNA JOY . . .
My earliest memory of my sister, Dawna, is stopping to turn around to make sure she was still behind me on a path blanketed by maple, elm and oak leaves that led to the crude fort we had fashioned out of pieces of an old wooden fence that separated the woods behind our house and the pasture beyond. All afternoon we would play "war" or "cowboys and Indians" or any number of television detective shows, communicating through our makeshift two-way radios: one hand cupped over our right ear, speaking into the other hand cupped around our mouth. Who do we attack next? When? We watched each other; the expressions on our faces . . . Should we be still? Move forward with caution? Charge full speed ahead?
More than five decades later, we are connecting with words -- words that have been hard won. Estranged for several decades because of different perspectives on our childhoods, Dawna reached out to me four years ago to apologize and ask for forgiveness for how she colluded (however unwittingly) with our mother to destroy my identity as anyone other than a daughter. Dawna offered no excuses and took full responsibility. Her confession was clear and honest and marked the beginning of a reconciliation; a new way of seeing each other. It also marked the beginning of a new life for Dawna.
In September 2014, Dawna remarried and asked me to give the homily at her wedding to Amber. And now, as some of you know -- and as she has shared in a comment on this blog -- she has been diagnosed with progressive MS, the same disease that took the life of our sister, Karen, in 2001. In a recent phone conversation she said, "I know turning 60 isn't for sissies, but I wasn't expecting this."
Neither was I. No one was.
Dawna Joy must now forge a new path for living, changing 75% of her diet combined with medication, regular psychotherapy and physical therapy, etc. When we talk on the phone, she sounds strong and resolute. We never hang up without saying, "I love you" and with me more recently adding, "You are not alone."
Sometimes when I hang up the phone, I see myself silently pointing to that lone oak tree in the middle of the pasture. Dawna looks toward the tree and then back at me. We say nothing. We nod our heads and smile knowingly. Then leaping from our fort, we charge full speed ahead.
Me holding Dawna, three weeks after she was born.
My oldest sister, Lauren, is on the left and Karen is on the right.
Me, giving the homily at Dawna's marriage to Amber in September 2014.