Thursday, September 1, 2016

TOUCH


I spend a fair amount of time, 2-3 hours, every day walking and sitting alongside total strangers.  One of thousands of us - working people who commute from the outlying areas of Boston into it through various means.  Trains, buses, cabs, carpools.  And we all bring our stuff with us.  Backpacks filled with laptops, books, notepads, shoes, lunches, whatever we feel we need to have with us to get us through the next 8 to 10 hours. 
I've been noticing because I have to buy a new purse.  This is something that fills me with fear. It sounds ridiculous, I know, but women judge other women they see (not necessarily women they know) by two visible accessories, shoes and purses.  They can tell you so much about a woman Is she practical or exotic? Is she struggling to pay her bills or one of the lucky ones who doesn't even look at a price tag? Does she walk a long way or just strolling from her car to her office? Is she fashion conscious or does she wear what she likes without regard to fashion?  For example, I wear trek sandals when I'm walking on my commute.  Practical, comfortable, but relatively high price tag.  They will last more than one summer and my feet will be relatively free of calculus and bunions.  This you can tell because I get regular pedicures and my nails always look clean and neat. My feet tell you that I care about my comfort and that I walk a great deal.  I can afford fashionable shoes, but I'm more concerned about the health of my feet than fashion, at least with my fellow commuters. I carry a large satchel and a lunch bag.  It's not a designer brand so that tells you that I have to be careful with my money and I probably prefer to spend my money on experiences than things.  But my things are clean, neat and of good quality.  I want them to last. The size of my purse means I can carry my essentials, wallet, keys, phone, access badge, and my comforts, kindle, sweater and possibly a pair of shoes.  Most of us working women have a shoe collection under our desk at work.  It's just easier;
So here I am, practical, middle income, middle aged.  On the train I sit where I won't impede someone's comfort or exit from the train.  In the morning, I try for a window seat so I can sit there when we reach Boston, until the train is nearly empty.  Then I can start on my way without holding up someone who is in a rush, running to be absorbed in the crowd. I try to stay back, so I can walk at my own pace, behind the pack, watching the variety of backpacks and bags, sweaters and coats, boots and shoes that march in front of me.  Going home, if I'm on the aisle, I try to be learn if the person on the inside of the seat is getting off before or after me.  Again, try to simplify the process.  Salem is often the first stop, so I don't worry about it too much. 
Sometimes, I have to join the throng.  I don't get a seat where I can hold back and wait for my moment.  I have to move so that others can move.  Have to join the press for the door, the crosswalk, the walkway.  In these closer places, I see things that make me want to touch someone. A stray thread, a bit of pet hair, a tag sticking out of the neckline.  I just want to touch them and say - "I see you.  You are a human being.  And I think you'll appreciate this gesture."  I don't do it. I don't invade the space - impossible, invisible barrier we erect around ourselves.
But I long for someone to break the barrier.  For just a touch. To know...I"m still alive, still human, still inside here somewhere.  Just a touch.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Birthday Bliss?

Today is my birthday.  Today, I am 54  years old.  I didn't expect to see this day.  I didn't expect to live this long.  You see, 10 years ago, on my 44th birthday, I was going to end my life.

I was lost. Lost to myself.  Lost to my sense of purpose.  Lost to joy and love and all the things that make a life worthwhile. Lost.  But something else happened.  Something amazing.  Call it an angel. Call it grace. Call is spirit, coincidence, synchronicity.  Call it bullshit.

The universe wasn't through with me and so I didn't die.

The past 10 years have not been easy.  It has not been all roses and sunshine and waking up every day  ready to seize life and live it to the fullest.  Many days were dark and lonely and locked me in some super ninja nasty hold that slapped me around and knocked me on my ass. But I learned from those days.  I am a better me because of them.  And I have more good days than bad days now.

The past 10 years have had loss - death - mourning; of dreams, of hope, of love.  There have been changes great and small.  And there have been gifts, blessings, moments of bliss beyond my imagination.  And so today I think...I would have missed so much!

I would never have had the opportunity to meet and get to know so many amazing people, both in virtual and in real life.  That would have been a real loss, because these people add to the richness of my life every day and I love them so very much.

I would have missed knowing the amazing woman my daughter has become. And my wonderful grandchildren who bring me such joy.  And my nieces and nephews and my great nieces and nephews.  And I would not have known what cool and smart and wonderful people my siblings are.

I would not have had my heart broken.  I would not have experienced and survived the most horrible thing a woman can have happen to them - my rape.  I would not have learned how strong I am. How capable I am.  How smart and funny I am.  How loving and passionate I am. How human I am.

And so today - I am alive.  I am grateful.  And I am overwhelmed by the love and kindness that have been showered on me.  I'm so glad I decided to stick around and fight for me. Myself. I.

I can't wait to see what the next 10 years will bring me.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

A Good Man

Roger M Watt - April 8, 1914 - March 27, 1981

My father was a good man.  He was born in Oklahoma 98 years ago today.  He grew up during the First World War and the economic boom of the 20s.  When the bust happened, he moved to Los Angeles with his family.  In 1934, he met my mother at a Halloween Party.  He was 20, she was 15, and he was in love for life.  The raven haired, dark eyed beauty won his heart and his devotion. When my mother became bedridden with tuberculosis, he visited her every day, bringing her books from the library and news of the world.  They married on Father's Day in 1939. 
During the final years of the Second World War, my father was drafted into military service and left my mother with her parents - pregnant with their third child and my brother Jim and sister Judie.  He contracted malaria in the Philippines and spent most of his service in a hospital in Hawaii. 
On March 27, 1946 my parents and their three children moved to Grants Pass, Oregon.  This is where I was born, the youngest of their seven children, where we would all grow up and go to school and church, stay or leave or come back again. 
I was living in Portland when my father died.  It should have been one of the happiest times in my life.  I was loving school.  I was young and beautiful.  I was a featured performer in a new play.  I was 21 years old and my heart was broken.
Even after all these years, it's hard for me to put into words what my father means to me.  He loved me unconditionally.  He loved everyone unconditionally.  He believed in service to his fellow man.  He was devoted to my mother and to each of his children.  He would rather lay on the floor surrounded by small children than have a serious philosophical discussion.  I never heard him say a bad word about anyone - save Richard Nixon.  He loved auto racing, football, and ABC's Wide World of Sports. 
As a little girl, I remember climbing up into his lap as he watched the evening news and leaning my head against his chest.  I felt safe and loved and happy.  Saturday afternoons meant going with him up to the church to prepare everything for the coming service day.  I loved slipping my hand into his and walking through the empty church, knowing God was there watching us.
I still remember how full that church was on the day I had to say good-bye.  So many people were touched by his simple life.  Everyone cried.  People came up to my mother weeping and wondering how they were going to get by without him. 
I know he's still with me, still with us.  I hear a certain honest laughter and he's there.  I hear a man jingling the change in his pocket and he's there.  Someone calls out "Grandpa" and runs to receive a big hug and he's there.  I slip my hand into his and walk through the streets of my day and know that he's there.
Rod Watt was a good man.  He wasn't rich or powerful or heroic - except he was.  Rich in friends and family, powerful in love and compassion, heroic in giving everything for anyone less fortunate than he.  I miss him every single day.  I love you Daddy.

Friday, February 3, 2012

There Be Dragons

So we're one month in to 2012 and it's been kind of rough.  The election mudslinging has started early.  Long term relationships between non-profit organizations are threatened by political machinations.  Major companies pretend to support one lifestyle, cave when threatened by a PAC, then switch again when public opinion cows them.  It's going to be a long year.  I can see lots of unpopular ideas being promulgated and lots of "facts" being tossed around to prove one side or the other as right/wrong - good/bad.  And so I thought I'd make my position known and just refer anyone who wants to drag me into their battle to this post for the next several months.
Like Martin Luther King Jr., "I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down men other-centered can build up."  I was raised to believe that all people deserve to be treated with kindness and respect.  That unless I am willing to walk in another person's shoes, I have no business telling them what they should or shouldn't do, be or shouldn't be, have or shouldn't have.  I was taught that education and culture are key to building dignity, equality and freedom.  I was taught to vote with my heart AND my mind, to listen to others argument and position when it is done with respect and honor and willingness to listen to mine. I was taught to be willing to compromise when the good of all was more important that what was good for me. I was taught to build up others, to believe of them what they may not believe of themselves.  And to show what is possible when people are willing to let go of the past, let go of the pain and look toward a better tomorrow.
And so, let me clear about this.  I will not take part in any movement or campaign that has at its core the stripping of rights from ANYONE, the tearing down of ANYONE, the vanity and self centered nature of ANYONE.  I will not vote for someone because he or she is the lesser of two evils.  I will commit to looking beyond the sound bites, the advertising, the PACs, the money being thrown at me to convince me of a position that I know in my soul to be self serving, petty minded, ignorant and designed to tear down the very heart of a country and a people I know can do better.  I know can be better.  I know ARE better.
I will not listen to arguments that young people are lazy, apathetic and self seeking.  I know many, many young people and every one of them is committed to their education, their future, their family, their country. In spite of the difficulty they are facing in finding work, finding homes, finding comfort, they believe in their ability to change things for the better.
I will not listen to arguments that retirees are bleeding the country dry because they failed to plan for old age and long term medical care.  I watched my mother go from a house that she owned out-right, to apartment after apartment, to assisted living, finally to foster care - at one point having to give away every last dime she had in order to qualify for Medicare to pay for her care.  There has to be a way to allow our citizenry to age with dignity and grace and give back to us from their years of living and wisdom - not to be discarded and forgotten. 
I will not listen to arguments that say someone is not entitled to love another, to marry another, to raise a family because they are gay, straight, poor, rich, native or immigrant.  I will not listen to any argument that places one human being above another.  This is a deeply held core belief for me and I will not allow it to be violated.  All beings deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.  Love one another is the core belief of every faith.  And I can love you even if I don't understand why you are where you are on the path.  All I ask is that you grant me the same - love me even if you don't understand my path.  Until you walk it - you cannot know it.
Our system is broken.  Our country is broken.  Out of our brokenness can come so much good - but only if we are willing to work together.  We must stop yelling at each other and begin to listen.  With our hearts and with our heads.   Love.  Just love.  Love One Another.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Movie Madness - MELANCHOLIA

From the opening moments of Lars VonTrier's latest film MELANCHOLIA (2011), I was hooked.  The exquisite extreme slow motion movement is beautifully orchestrated by Wagner's Prelude to Tristan and Isolde.  We see a bride moving as roots tear at her feet, a mother clutching a child, a horse laying down all as two planets come hurtling toward one another to the inevitable end - the consumption of one planet by another.  It's only later that we learn the larger planet is Melancholia and it is headed toward Earth; because after this beautiful prologue we are thrust into the marriage of Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and Michael (Alexander Skarsgard)*.  Justine and Michael are late for the very elaborate reception being hosted by Justine's sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and her husband John (Kiefer Sutherland).  As the evening rolls on, it's clear that Claire is hanging on by the thinnest of threads and Claire and John are frustrated by her reluctance to put on a good show for everyone. 

When Justine becomes aware that there's clearly something wrong with this planet hurling through space, things do indeed unravel, but not as one might expect.  Justine seems relieved that things will be ending and her pain of living can be over as well.  Claire and John are willing to accept the predictions of science that Melancholia will just pass by Earth and it will be a terrifyingly beautiful happening.  The more likely the end appears, the more they unravel. To most, melancholy is a thing that passes briefly and fills one with gratitude that all the days are not thus. To those of us, and I count myself among those, who have experienced true melancholy know that it is the pain of trying to be free of it and act like everything is fine that is the most awful thing.  The struggle to be heard and seen and experienced, the need to have our special vision acknowledged and respected are more painful than the pain of being swallowed up. 

With VonTrier, one is always better off to let go of the reason why and give over to the experience of his films.  There's message here, to be sure.  But it is the beautiful way in which he presents the end of the world that gives the message its true impact.  MELANCHOLIA is a beautiful thing indeed.  A top notch cast lead with powerful performances from Dunst and Gainsbourg and stunning visuals make this melancholy a thing to be experienced. Brief appearances from John Hurt, Charlotte Rampling, Stellan Skarsgard and the wonderful comic relief of Udo Kier as the wedding planner make this a good solid film. Let go and let it wash over you.    
In theaters now - but also On Demand with major cable providers.  If you have a good home system, you can save yourself a few dollars. 
*in a tux...can I just say "Yummy."