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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Loving Ghosts & Strangers

Love has been defined into pieces, broken, mutilated. It's a gift denounced and mispronounced like a foreign tongue. It must know how God feels.

I've wondered lately more about how love works and less about its particular chemistry or duration. I want to understand more of what forms it takes, how it moves.

This curiosity is due to my noticing frequent BURSTS of "love" for others, near- or perfect strangers when something they've created causes a warm stirring within me, a feeling which ranges from deep enduring appreciation to a brief obsession. I don't have to be physically near the source. I only need exposure to a person's mind which can initially arise from words or any form of artful expression, but once the connection is made, some essences are suddenly free to move about and can appear to me from out of nowhere.

I can feel a person's mind/soul in a painting or essay, a photograph they're in or connected to, an inanimate object they've touched or a song. The feeling can be so strong for these minds I hardly "know" that suddenly their essence envelopes and inspires me to speak out loud to an otherwise empty room, "I love you." It makes no sense.

This phenomenon leads me to believe that love is ubiquitous, a ghostly ethereal breath which flows in and around us when the portals of our souls are open. It is not as a ping pong ball exchanged between a mere two, but an intoxicating vapor infusing welcoming space, free to those who expand comprehension of this love to "All" rather than the weak and fragile "I".

We'll never place this immortal vapor in a jar or hang it on a wall; it is as God has been described, an energy with no circumference but a center everywhere.

Maybe these individuals to whom I feel an immediate connection are other like minds, soul mates, or mirrors of shared traits. In this everywhere of love, these likenesses can share the same space in an instant despite the sometimes great physical distance between them. As Richard Bach once said about loving others, "There's no such place as far away."

The feeling transcends all space/time because I've shared this euphoria with lost loves - a mother, brother, best friend and others - those lost only due to a physical disconnect, which seems to intensify the spiritual connection.

I've felt it when reading the words of those long dead, Sylvia Plath entering my dilated pupils as the intuitive twinge of her husband's infidelity is finally confirmed, "The truth loves me."  I felt it with Henry Miller's admonition to "Forget yourself" in order to be fully present.   I felt it as Michel de Montaigne gripped my soul from his 16th century post, "There is, beyond all my reasoning, and beyond all that I can specifically say, some inexplicable power of destiny that brought about our union."

Invisible limitless transit seems the preferred mode of passage for ubiquitous love - a spiritual plane where our souls move about freely, appearing anywhere sans time. Love has no limits, it cannot die; it needs no words, airplanes or maps. Love knows what it knows without need for proof or reason as it travels along messengers called you and me, tiny familiar posts connecting along the path of forever. This energy surges through us all.

And I love the feeling of being carried away.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Funeral Faux Pas

My sister is almost nine years older than I am. We are opposites and often refer to ourselves as the "country mouse" (her) and "city mouse" (me). We've always gotten along, mostly because I'm affable and forgiving and this allows her to be her grumpy revolutionary self. And I love her, just as a crotchety old man's character is often more lovable because of its rough edges, because of what they hide. We all know that underneath that roughness is a soft sensitive pulp.

My sister recently brought up something that happened at our mother's funeral 26 years ago. My mother had lived out most of her life between two cities, and the plan was to have the funeral ceremony in Houston, Texas where she and I lived, then bury her in Fort Worth, Texas near her parents and other family.

I was eighteen at the time and devastated because my mother had been a troubled soul, in and out of my life, and I was very protective of her. My love felt as much like longing, as if she were a lover always walking away. In her last few years I felt she'd finally returned for good and I left Fort Worth to be with her, to enjoy her presence as the mother I always knew she could be.

Her death was a blow it would take a long time to recover from, and the thought of watching her body placed in the ground was more than I could handle.

I followed the other mourners from Jack Rowe Funeral Home to Interstate 45 which led straight through to Fort Worth. About 45 minutes into the drive I decided I couldn't do it. I couldn't see my mother buried then leave her there and come home, to the city that had been "our" home. I turned around.

Several hours later I got a call from my sister's husband asking why I hadn't come. I couldn't put my reasons into words at the time and felt terrible because my absence not only hurt my sister but disappointed her. This moment was what my sister wanted to remind me of recently, because she's never forgiven me for it.

I'm long past eighteen now and looking back, I'm embarrassed at my immaturity then. I also understand that the girl I was then had lost her mother many times over the years, had watched her hero fall victim to depressions and suicide attempts on several occasions. That girl wasn't ready to see the person she loved most in this world dropped in a black hole and covered up forever.

My mother's body wasn't found for more than twelve hours so her casket was closed which meant I hadn't seen her face for three days. As mourners often do, I fantasized that she was still in this world, maybe as a conscious spirit or an angel. I'm not sure I gave my wishes words, I just felt she was more alive than dead. How could it have seemed any different? I'd loved her for 18 years and she'd been dead for only 3 days. I wanted to argue the matter, deep down, change roles with my sister and be the revolutionary, albeit a passive one. I would deny the death had happened, put off its reality a little longer by avoiding its visual finality.

I don't think I could ever make my sister understand these feelings. She's a take-charge, no-shit girl, a practical warrior who occasionally fights for fun. I feel too much, think too much, and she would consider my excuses soft and selfish. She'd say I need harder edges, a stronger shell.

Of course, I'm older and wiser now, and I would make different choices. I would go to the burial and I would stand there and watch. I would hate it but it's what we're supposed to do and there are others to think about, support. I've been seasoned by other funerals and I know how fragile the dynamic is, how so many are barely holding on and often times our roles are reversed. Maybe that's why my sister is still angry; maybe she needed me there at that moment her soft pulp was exposed.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Last Will & True Testimony

I'm most comfortable writing for no one. I've kept a journal now for 36 years, a private room for just me, paper, and a fast pen.

I only recently considered what I want to happen to my many stacks of journals when I'm gone. Do I want others to see them? Everything is in there. I'm ashamed of some things, embarrassed, even shocked after all these years at some of what I've thought and done (mostly in my 20's but there are a few big blunders in my 30's). It's not that my sins are that awful, I just want to be seen as better than some slivers of my history make me look. If the eyes of others are allowed into my private room, even when I'm gone, is this how I want to be remembered?

Humans aren't considered perfect creatures yet we want others to think we are, or close. We're relieved that our thoughts aren't carried over a loud speaker. But put them in writing and they're there forever.

I'm writing out the fine details of my Last Will & Testament and I recently asked my oldest daughter what she wants. "Well, some personal things and definitely your journals." My daughter wants them? I have to consider this carefully, imagine her cozy by some fireplace one wintry night reading my long gone world. Would she be shocked to learn that I once __________? Or about the fact that I've considered ___________? How about the time I was drunk and ___________? It's all there.

She's an open-minded girl and not a saint herself, yet I'm her mother and held to a different standard. Even as adult children, it's hard to consider our parents as human and just as messed up as anyone else.

The purpose of my journals was to record history - mine, yours', the world's, but it was also a workbook meant to sort things out. The best way to untangle a mess is to study it for a while, really look at it. An ugly knot in the brain can be written into eloquent streams of consciousness, logical answers and real solutions sprouting from the deep dark bowls of our own minds. I've sat down with pen, paper and a weight of darkness only to emerge three pages later enlightened. Some of my worst mistakes reveal the best and deepest lessons learned, the hardest-won wisdom. I will take these gems to the grave with me if I don't allow my children know the whole me, the fallible me.

I owe them my best and my worst.