Saturday, September 25, 2010


     A former student asked for reflections on my own success in life.  I wrote her back immediately, focusing on my academic and professional successes.  Since she is a determined, strong, smart young woman, it seemed as if she would want to hear about academic success.  Perhaps my success stories dealing with the work and academic world would encourage her as she considers those very real challenges in her own life.
 Spoiler alert!  Here comes the trite part... I sat back and looked at those accomplishments, all decked out on paper and knew that they weren't the real successes of my life.  Alexander and Megan were both the most important work of my life and the grandest successes, hands down.  Of course, I can't look at these two socially responsible, kind, thoughtful human beings and claim the credit but I can acknowledge that they mattered more to me than anything else.  Parents can't take credit (really) for genetic gifts or flaws.  Parents are only one of many influences on children.  And parents are best off when working tandem with another parent -which I joyfully did - and the combined effort of both parents, on the same page, is critical. No matter.  What I know is that I gave them my all and hoped for the best.  And they have not disappointed in any way.

     Recently, I've thought of another measure of success that is off the beaten track. In this, the final third of my life, I am finally discovering creative endeavor.  I have always been focused on work and family.  I have certainly depended on creativity in both of these arenas but, lately, I see some of my writing, painting, and photography as success vignettes.  Clearly we are not talking fame and fortune as a measure of success but rather personal satisfaction.  Earlier in my life, success seemed to be about recognizable and culturally approved measures.  Now, not so much.  Now I am happy to be reflected in acrylic or keyboard and mine is the only approval I want.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Fences Around Life

"You can't build fences around life."

This line was part of a larger quote about recognizing that everything changes but I am also drawn to this one sentence.   There is a painting here and the image is clear.  You can't build fences around life and you can't put life in boxes.  Sometimes it is easier or preferable to try to do this but it won't work.  The fence will fall, the box will burst or you will break trying to hold the fence up, the box together.  Those fences are about thinking you are in charge and you can fence in (or out) all that you want to manage.  Boxes are a convenient way of storing things that you don't want to think about or don't want to deal with.  Guess what?  Fences do break.  Boxes can burst.  Life will be richer when you stop building fences and when you leave the lid off the box.

Monday, September 20, 2010


Screaming like a red rubber band
stretched to the max,
sharp stabs of a thin paring knife,
my neck does not like being told
to move.
She complains in a most effective way
and then she commands the shoulders
to do the same.
But I can still make them
I am the boss
of me.

Monday, September 13, 2010

September Revelations

      Any revelations as yet another year spins off my life?  For one thing, I have a grasp now on the fundamental role of change in life.  It is the only thing that doesn't change and it is best to embrace it since change is non negotiable.  That certainly doesn't mean change is welcome, though generally life seems to work its way through a maze of change to find some meaning. I have discovered that anything can be tolerated because, given enough time, it will change.
      I want to say I have learned that life is short and then you die but I don't think I have fully learned that.  It comes and it goes.  The lesson depends on the day.  Clearly, though, I have a beginner's understanding  of the concept and the older I get, the more I understand.
     I might be learning some amount of self acceptance. I saw a photo of myself taken last summer and I was instantly disgusted with the image that I saw.  Not pretty.  At first I was angry and annoyed with myself.  How could things have gotten so bad?  And then I remembered.  I am now 57 years old. Good grief!  I am not 23 years old.  The body, like everything else,  does change and you can't stop that process.  I want to remain healthy and, to that end, I will make wise eating choices and I will exercise daily.  I can't stop my skin from getting loser or tighter or whatever causes the lines and wrinkles.  I can't stop gravity from working on the musculature or the skin and making puffies or softness where once there was tautness and smoothness.  It is what it is.  So accept and even embrace the changes.  Softness can be nice.
    I am learning to laugh more.  Love it!  I am learning that life does not have to be so serious.  I practice amused detachment at those times when the world seems to be over the top crazy or unreasonable or unmanageable.  Observe what is happening, take the moment as it is, and laugh  (in my head, if necessary). Painting makes me laugh!  Such craziness I can create with a paint brush and lots of bold colors.  I love showing the paintings to people and observing their reactions!  My little joke on the rest of the world!
     So another birthday tucked away.  I am happy to put the year to rest.  Who knows what truths are to be revealed in the new year but I am sure lessons will be proffered and I plan to take advantage of them.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Things That Break

       "The things that break - be they bones, hearts, or promises - can be put back together but will never really be whole."

        I saw this quote somewhere a week or two ago and I cannot get the image out of my head.  Most things DO break if given enough time. I'm like most things then. For a long time, I have felt as if I am breaking.  My memory shows cracks and the cracks  shake my sense of me.  My mind  twists as it searches for sleep at night, potentially breaking into fragments.  My heart feels strung out and thin, skating on slippery expectations, looking for warm.  My body moves as a million units, all screaming their own names, all poised to break, one piece at a time. Can I be put back together again?  My friend Megan suggests that these images are hopeful, that some things can  be broken up and can be reassembled.  How would that look?  My memory reassembles as a whole different person, the play of childhood replaced by the taunting of adolescence or the disappointments  of employment.  My mind shatters on its way to sleep one night and I wake up as  brilliant artist who loves math and can speak French. My heart?  My heart attaches itself to sweets and softens up, thin no more and wrapped in a cozy rich blanket of fat. My body units go to Esalen and take a workshop in interpersonal communication and start hugging each other.  So I am put back together again, maybe not every piece, maybe not whole, but recreated in some new way.  And a new part of life begins.