27 November, 2016

"Big Guy"

I knocked a kid out with one punch, once.

Didn't expect that, did you?

Neither did his friends. They stared at him on the ground, stared at me, and scattered to the four winds.

Neither did I. I stared at him on the ground, stared at my fist, though fuck, I killed him -- and scattered right after them.

My stepdad surveyed the little stick-figure of a stepson he'd inherited and told me if you ever get into a fight, punch first. Of course, this was after he taught me how to make a fist. Before he did that, I'd tuck my thumb into it. Good thing I never tried to punch anything like that.

I took his advice to heart. I tried very hard not to get in fights, and to be honest usually I didn't realize I was in a fight until I'd already taken the first punch (and like as not burst into tears, clouding my already iffy vision and making me even easier pickings). But that day...in the Berkshire Club in London, fifteen years old...

Some kids were picking on me. I was shooting pool with a friend of mine, and these strange kids were picking on me, for reasons unknown to me but perfectly understandable to a wide range of bullies dating back seven years or so. They were doing things like pulling the cue out of my hand as I was lining up a shot, or "accidentally" hip-checking me, or picking up the balls on the table and rolling them around. Then throwing them at me. After one bounced off my head, I'd had enough. My friend -- Tim, his name was -- ran to find an adult to intervene, while I drew what little there was of me to draw up and started yelling at the primary bully. His eyes flashed in a way I'd seen countless times: some people only fully come alive when they're beating somebody up. Seven years of bullshit like this had coalesced in my gut and suffused my entire body. I found myself in a red haze.

Time slowed.

I saw his hand beginning to come up, a fist beginning to form.

If you ever get in a fight, punch first.

I shot my own fist out and it connected with his chin. It hurt me. It hurt him worse. Down he went as if poleaxed. For about a second and a half I felt a grim and steely, glorious feeling: this is what it's like to win for a change.

Then I almost puked. Then I ran.

There's a scene in one of the Callahan's Place novels by Spider Robinson very similar to this, except it's  a knife attack, the little nerd--who's actually a tall beanpole of a nerd called Long-Drink McGonnigle--flicked his jacket off and out and caught the knife in it, and then rather than knock his assailant out, he actually stuck him and killed him. McGonnigle goes through the exact same sequence of emotions...a shot of glory, followed by the realization that he was no better than the people who had battened on him--a deep, shameful feeling that hurts worse than any punch. Then the fear. I didn't kill the little prick who had been pissing me off, but I thought I had. Reading that scene all those years later, I thought, my god, somebody gets it.

I haven't exactly shunned violence all my life, because it often seemed to come and catch me unawares. But I have -- with that notable exception -- shunned perpetrating acts of violence, against things (pointless) or people (painful). Vandalism of any kind has always outraged me, dating back to earliest childhood, and violence against people, even on a screen, well, I used to react as if I was the victim.

Take that mindset and mix it thoroughly with the aftereffects of seven years of relentless bullying. I am a veteran of the "-ies". Wedgiesswirlieswet willies and noogies, along with (so far as I know) unnamed acts like being inverted and shoved face first into a full garbage can, or that fun game where you're pushing backwards by Bully A while Bully B crouches on hands and knees behind you so you go arse over tip. Notebooks confiscated and soaked or shredded so often I just stopped using them. Lunches pulled out of my lunch box and stepped on. And of course simple but very effective random punches, slaps, and ball-squeezings. Every man knows what it is to be kicked in the nuts: I'm here to tell you some things are worse.

You end up with an ironclad belief in your place in the world. You are small fry. The Big Guys of the world fuck with you for sport. At first you resent it...eventually you have little choice but to accept it.

My parents put me in karate lessons. They got me a black belt membership that must have cost them a great deal of money. I never got a black belt. I never got any kind of belt. I learned a couple of katas and how to block high, middle and low (a lesson I wish I'd learned years and years earlier), so it wasn't a complete waste of time. But despite my Sensei taking a special interest in me, I could never manage to kick much above knee level, and as far as touching my toes in the stretching exercises beforehand? Forget it. Which is what I did with the karate soon after.

I have it on medical authority that this is a consequence of being more than two months premature, or more precisely the lack of physiotherapy for preemies in 1972. Stretching would help, for me, but I will never be as flexible as the average person.

To recap: constantly picked on, made the victim of pointless violence, completely inflexible, with (oh, yeah) poor eyesight and zero eye-hand co-ordination. Glasses, which were treated very differently in the 1980s. Slightly effeminate, which of course made me a faggot. You get the picture. Probably the scariest thing is that I could go on.

But I didn't.

__________

We haven't bought a pizza from Pizza Pizza for more than ten years now.

Eva's brother Jim was over, and here I have to stop dead.

Jim is the kind of guy who strikes fear into me. He was employed as a bouncer in a bar at 17..a scant few years later, when some asshole decided to break a 2X4 over his head, Jim responded by saying "that wasn't smart" and throwing the jerk through a door.

I once watched Jim carry a couch up a flight of stairs. A full sized couch. By himself.  Jim Hopf is quite simply the anti-Ken.

(He's also a devoted and loving father and husband, gruff but beyond gentle unless provoked, with a quick wit and unassailable loyalty, among many other qualities. But what you get from a glance at him is this: don't get into any kind of pissing contest with me, because I will outpiss you without unzipping.)

Anyway, we we had ordered pizza and wings. It didn't get here on time. When it did, it was cold. So we sent it back. And when the delivery guy came back up the walk, he dropped the wings... and picked them up and stuffed them back into the box and handed the box to me. He also said something derogatory about Eva.

You don't do that around me. You don't disrespect someone I love.

I puffed up. Jim told Eva later that it was at that point he truly understood that I loved his sister very much...and also that there was more to me than he'd seen.

I'm sure that little confrontation wouldn't have come to blows. I threatened Pizza Prick's job and I threatened his boss with widespread media exposure, but I didn't threaten his safety.

But you know, I guess I can look threatening. I'm still kind of surprised at that. It's happened a few times since and bigger people with, you know, muscles actually retreat. I tend to forget that: it doesn't jibe with the image I still have of myself. I'm as pacifistic as they come, really...a lover, not a fighter.

But I'll fight for what I love. And I'll damn well fight for who I love.

My other love says I have the strongest hands she's ever seen. She's almost echoing Eva, who has made similar remarks over the years (but Eva's brother is Jim, which makes Eva's sincerity on this point a little hard to believe).


That love calls me "big guy", which makes my heart go pitter-pat every time. At first I figured she was just referring to that heart, which is the one part of me I've never doubted the size of. But thinking back...that may not be all she means.

I'm stronger than I look.

But smell isn't everything.















26 November, 2016

"Please Don't Take My Man...'

There are certain songs that are touchstones for me: they instantly bring me to a different place and time. Many of mine date to early childhood. My mom usually had music playing. Harmony leached into my blood from very young.

I stumbled across some old Olivia Newton John a few weeks ago and it was like diving into a warm pool of nostalgia. She was one of Mom's favourites, and so her songs were on heavy rotation for years...and then they receded with time until Youtube brought them rushing back in on a tide of memory. Please, Mister, PleaseIf You Love Me (Let Me Know), and especially Let Me Be There...I've been playing them a lot lately.

Many of the songs that resonated with me as a kid, oddly enough, have poly themes. You should have seen me bopping around the house to Stephen Stills, or lamenting along with Mary MacGregor -- this is a seminal poly song:

There's been another man that I've needed and I've loved
But that doesn't mean I love you less 
And he knows he can't possess me and he knows he never will
There's just this empty place inside of me that only he can fill
 ... 
You mustn't think you've failed me just because there's someone else
You were the first real love I ever had
And all the things I ever said, I swear they still are true
For no one else can have the part of me I gave to you

Why is she torn between two lovers, I used to think. Still do. Pretty clear from the lyrics that both love her and she loves both; what's the problem, exactly? She sounds so sad. Having two lovers shouldn't make you sad. It should fill your life to overflowing with joy. Ah, that's it. She's said because she feels she can't have both, it's "breaking all the rules". Whose rules?

(Yeah, I overthink song lyrics. And everything else).

And don't get me started on the first time I heard Jefferson Airplane's "Triad". I was old enough by then to know most of what was being sung about here.

We love each other--it's plain to see
There's just one answer comes to me
Sister lovers, water brothers, and in time...maybe others
So you see, what we can do is to try something new 
(If you're crazy too)
I don't really see why can't we go on as three.
  ("Water brothers" is a concept from Heinlein's Stranger In A Strange Land, something I didn't read until my mid-twenties. It denotes a connection of absolute trust and love.)

But then there are other songs...the vast majority of songs, really, which are very mononormative. Case in point: Jolene (here Dolly is joined by the astoundingly talented a cappella group Pentatonix).

You've heard this, right? I think pretty much everyone has. It's iconic. There aren't many pop songs in C-sharp minor: this is one of the most haunting tunes ever written.

I can not compete with you, Jolene

Now, anybody who has been with me here any length of time knows how I feel about competition. We have framed our entire society on the Darwinian merits of competition: the best rises to the top, and all that. There are times when this frame has its uses: you're not going to entrust your physical safety to a seventh-rate engineer. But in human connections, competing to be the "best" utterly ignores different scales and values of "best". No one person can possibly be the best for you in every conceivable way.

What's really telling here is that the scale Dolly's using to establish "best" is physical appearance. Well, we know Jolene's "voice is soft like summer rain" and that he calls her name out in his sleep. But most of what we know about Jolene is physical. Which is transitory, shallow, ultimately pointless. And yet it seems Dolly is afraid Jolene's going to "take" her man based on that.

Take.

Like the man's an object.

Ugh.

No reference to what the man might do here: he's supposedly utterly helpless in the wake of Jolene's charms. Well, I can tell you, I get the sentiment. New love feels that way: you can't stop thinking about her. You're drawn. Like a magnet. It's for this reason that NRE ("new relationship energy") is the bane of poly existence. You learn to make allowances for it, but you also learn when it's time to snap your fingers and say darling? don't forget about me over here.

The thing about poly is that people don't "take' you. To play with it a minute, you might be "taken", but that in no way prevents you from being "taken" with someone. "I'm quite taken with you...but I'm taken." In poly it doesn't matter, subject to the rules and boundaries you have with another partner or partners.

I used to use "borrow" instead, but even that is objectifying and...well, not the correct word, for me, anyway.

My poly is not like some others. Sorry if this is TMI, but it's highly relevant to the topic at hand. There are many poly people who share not just simultaneous emotional connections but also simultaneous physical connections. That's NOT me. Sure, like any functional male it's something to fantasize about every now and again, but some fantasies ought to remain fantasies and I strongly feel that each relationship should have its boundaries. It's part of cherishing each person for who they are--which is something that for me transcends poly: I do it instinctively with every friend I have.


There are people with multiple lovers who use the same terms of endearment for each: also not me. I get the idea behind this -- love is love is love, right? But in my reality, each love is different in ways subtle and profound and I think it's important to have little tells that differentiate each relationship from others. If only so that you know your lover is...with you.

 I tend to bristle the tiniest bit at a slip of that kind, because it may indicate that I'm not actually, uh, present. And yes, I have slipped myself, once or twice. But put me in an intimate moment, emotional or otherwise, and the world narrows. The more intimate, the more narrow it gets, until at some point there's only room for you and I. This is all standard love trope stuff. The difference is that if I'm with her, the same thing applies. At some point it's just her and I.

That's how it works. For me. Others see this completely differently, and that's why you hear "there is no one right way to do poly".

Back to Jolene. Dolly says that 'her' man -- the man she's afraid Jolene is going to 'take'-- is the only man for her.

Here is where I'm going to gently press just a wee bit.

It's a beautiful sentiment, of course. Truly it is. But...is he? is he really?

I have two reasons for saying this. One is specific to the song; the other is universal and may seem silly.
In the song, it's pretty clear that while he may be the only man for her, she's not the only woman for him. You don't get to talking about Jolene in your sleep without, you know, thinking about her a whole lot. It occurs to me that I may have been wrong about Dolly's overwhelmingly physical assessment of her 'rival'. There's an emotional connection between Jolene and 'her man'. too. Can you truly say that the only man for you is a man whose heart is in two places? I don't know the answer to that, but suspect most people have their own answer to a question they perceive as uncomfortable.

Here's another reason that's going to immediately trigger a Jesus, Ken, stop overthinking reaction.

He's going to die. Statistically, before you do. Now, you may sentence yourself to a lifetime of mourning afterwards and shun all connections out of hand, because he was "the only man" for you. That would be a real pity, to put it mildly.

You know, there are more poly people than you realize. Widows and widowers are very much poly. Unless you're going to tell me that the presence of a new partner, if and when you become ready for one, somehow lessens the love you have for your departed spouse. Perhaps you still wear the ring you've worn for decades. Does THAT somehow negate the love you have for your new partner? I should think not.  Chances are excellent that, as a widow with a new partner, you're going to encounter common poly traps like jealousy: rather than support you in your grief, your new partner may well suggest the presence of that grief suggests you're "not ready". That's silly, in my view.

There is no taking...not even death can truly take your love away. What there is...is sharing. And I think sharing is a beautiful thing...if everyone involved can share.


16 November, 2016

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

It boggles my mind how often I hear things like

"I think she thinks that ______"

or

"I'm not sure if he ________"

I invariably reply, have you asked? And usually I get a look that suggests "asking" is the last thing anyone sane would want to do. Sometimes, to be fair, I hear "yes, I asked, and she said thus-and-such, but I don't think she really meant it."

So ask again. Get more detail. Seriously.

"We need to talk". Four words that seem to strike fear into the heart of most men. I, by contrast hear "we need to talk" and get excited. Cool, there's a good chance of exposed feelings in the next few minutes! 

Is that odd? Hell, I think it's the only sane response to those four words. Maybe she's angry with me: "we need to talk" is my chance to resolve that anger productively. Who wouldn't want that?

Someone called me a very private person last week and it amused me mightily. Of all the things I've been called in my life, "private" is probably the least apt. I do respect privacy, yes. But private myself? Nah. If I'm comfortable with you, it's no holds barred.

Getting comfortable is the kicker.  And that takes communication.

See, that's just it. It takes communication to even figure out how to communicate properly with any given person. Most people just start spewing words (to the extent they spew at all) with little or no idea how those words will be received.

There are four basic communication styles: passive, aggressive, passive-aggressive, and assertive. All but the last are toxic to some degree, either to the self or to others, but most of us have engaged in one or more of the first three, often habitually.

I know many passive communicators. They are terrified of giving offence, and so they speak softly; either minimize or actually stifle their opinions, no matter how deeply held; and allow others to dominate interaction.
There is no opportunity for growth with this communication style. It breeds depression and hopelessness and a feeling of invisibility.

I have found that the best way of drawing passive communicators out of their shell is to demonstrate unconditional support and gently encourage a deeper connection. Validating their emotion goes a long way towards this goal; they're not used to that.  I've been called a "walking safe space" and I think it's partly because of how well I can relate to passive communicators.

I tend to have trouble with aggressive communication. People who use this style are the bullies, the dominators...and often just as insecure as the passive doormats, sometimes more so. It's hard to maintain equilibrium when you feel as if you are under attack. Such people mistake volume for substance and go into any argument assuming they've won it already. That makes it rather difficult to argue at all...which is, of course, the intention.
My first instinct, loathing outright confrontation as I do, is to back down in the face of aggression. Often that's the right call: much of what seems to aggravate aggressive communicators is in fact not such of a much, and I refuse to devote my energies to fighting pointless battles.
I can be goaded to engage in situations where someone I care about is deemed worthless -- a common technique of aggressive communicators. And when I do, it's with a conciliatory tone but equally firm opposite stance. It takes a lot of mental effort to remain calm. The trick is to validate the emotion but reject the way it's expressed. Sometimes such nuance is impossible.
Aggressive communicators don't have any opportunity for growth, either, because nothing is ever their fault. They become trapped in a cycle of alienation of their own making.

We all hate the passive-aggressive types (while sometimes secretly admiring their handiwork). Bitter (as opposed to playful) sarcasm, body language that doesn't match their stated mood, and of course denying there is a problem when there clearly is one: all hallmarks of the passive-aggressive communicator.
These people are hard to engage, too. Again I try to validate their emotion, even if I don't understand it, and repudiate their chosen method of expressing it. I've found that unquestioned support does often defuse the aggressiveness, and the passivity is much easier for me to cope with. Again, though, mental energy. Lots of it. The boat can rock alarmingly from passive to aggressive and back. And of course passive aggressive people have trouble growing, because while they've mastered offloading resentment, they never actually address their issues behind it.

I strive to be the last kind, the assertive communicator. I don't always succeed:  sometimes I fall into passivity, or worse, passive-aggressiveness, myself.  Passivity can ensue in the face of particularly targeted aggression: accusations of my own worthlessness will still, sometimes, hit home. More commonly, passive-aggressiveness comes out when I feel angry, but also know that my anger is not justified. (In the interests of fair and honest communication: my anger is rarely justifiable.)

I am working hard on recognizing both my anger when it hits and its irrationality, and adjusting my communication accordingly. It's worth it. As "FreeAdviceHere" so eloquently said on Reddit this morning,

Radical honesty and connection - what seems like just pain is also in part learning to be more clear in your communications. Learning to speak to each other about things that often get taken for granted. Not always a pleasant process to get the hang of it, but can create an even deeper connection when we're motivated to say the scary things to each other.



13 November, 2016

Partial Retraction

This quote is making the rounds on Facebook:

IF YOU'RE NOT PART OF THE VICTIMIZED GROUPS, YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO DECIDE WHETHER OR NOT THOSE GROUPS ARE ALLOWED TO BE AFRAID.

It stopped me in my tracks and made me realize the tone of some of my last blog may have implied otherwise. C'mon, I basically said. How big a boogeyman can Donald Trump possibly BE?

Pretty big, if you stop to listen to the concerns of those across the United States who did not vote for him. 

There have been hundreds of hate crimes reported since Tuesday. "MAKE AMERICA WHITE AGAIN" is a common refrain. This is wearyingly familiar: we just saw it with Brexit. And we'll see it again in the year ahead as several establishment European leaders, most prominent among them Angela Merkel, stand to be deposed in elections. 

The world just got a lot more frightening.

That said, the response has been heartwarming. Not the "mostly peaceful protests" -- "mostly peaceful" being code for "peaceful, if you ignore all the violence" -- but things like the safety pin campaign. There has been a marked uptick in loving and kind posts on Facebook, not just from the people who have always posted such things, either.

And this, from a friend:

I'm seeing a lot of bickering and friendships being lost over this past US election. I offer this.....Don't let a person's politics mean more to you than their soul. A person is worth infinitely more than their political affiliation.

I'm struggling with this, I really am. The friend of mine who posted this...I love him like a brother, respect him tremendously, and admire his generosity of spirit...and yet...

I get that not all Trump supporters are racist misogynist homophobic troglodytes. But a significant fraction of them are. I have all the time in the world for respectful political disagreements...but when my opponent is starting from a position of disrespect towards an entire class of people, my patience plummets towards zero very quickly. I have, in the past, blocked both friends and family whose views are (a) intolerable and (b) deeply held. I had friended one long-lost uncle of mine on Facebook only to find out he was a blisteringly rabid racist. I really have no time for this in my life.

There is a problem with my attitude. I know it. My abandoning this uncle will have done precisely nothing to ameliorate his racism. But I confess I'm at a loss as to how to engage someone whose values are so opposite mine.  And that's how echo chambers are born.

My friend has a point. If only there were a way to keep the hatred out of politics. Unfortunately, the President-elect ran on a campaign fuelled by pure, unadulterated hatred, and hatred has been emboldened by his victory.

This Breadbin used to have many more political posts than it does of late. I have no intention of returning to that model, don't worry. But by all means do worry about what Trump's victory might mean for  you. And try to counteract it by whatever (peaceful) means you can devise.

10 November, 2016

He Won

He won.
The bugger won.

I'm not as surprised as many, but I can't say I really expected Trump to win.  I had thought that his odious and repulsive character would prove just too much.  It does, in truth, scare me that so many people listened to every pussy-grabbing, daughter-fucking, race-baiting turdlet that issued from that man's mouth and still voted for him.

I usually quote John Michael Greer with respect and admiration, but here --

I would be just as likely to vote for a surly misanthrope who loathes children, kicks puppies, and has deviant sexual cravings involving household appliances and mayonnaise, if that person supports the policies I want on the issues that matter to me. It really is that simple.

-- I'm quite taken aback. I get his point: the President is one person, a figurehead, really, and it's the government (s)he heads that actually gets stuff done, or not. What's more, the President only heads the executive branch of the government. Canadian Prime Ministers, at least domestically, have a great deal more power than U.S. Presidents do.

But personality MATTERS. At least to me, it does. The office of President of the United States is invested, or at least it ought to be, with a certain dignity, a certain gravitas. Clinton, whatever her failings (and she has a boatload), at least struck me as serious. Donald Trump, for all I could tell, treated the entire campaign like a dirty joke. Or rather, a repugnant series of them: racist, misogynistic, homophobic and ableist jokes that don't belong anywhere in this millennium.

The President may be one person, but on the domestic and world stage, in a very real sense, that person is the United States of America. That this one person should, as of January, be Donald Trump...well, I find that profoundly disturbing.

Let's talk policy for a minute. I know it's in vogue to suggest that Trump voiced no policies beyond mindless hate...but that's not actually the case. There are three things in particular that Trump was consistent on, and which he will almost certainly at least attempt to follow through on.

His foreign policy, as I noted a few blogs ago, comprises a conciliatory tone towards Russia, especially its involvement in Syria; what certainly seems to be overt hostility towards China, and flexing of military muscle against Daesh.

Now, I can't say as I agree with any of this. If I had to pick, I'd take Obama's approach, which downplays American exceptionalism in public (while hypocritically keeping on with the little games behind the scenes). But Trump's muscular tone is traditional Republicanism with a few wrinkles. It's not apocalyptic, whatever his detractors might think. Trump's admiration of Putin echoes George W. Bush's--I still remember back in 2001, Dubya saying he peered into Putin's eyes and saw his soul. (He also said Putin was straightforward and trustworthy...ahem...)

I'm thinking Trump's handlers will set him straight on China. The U.S. can't afford to antagonize Beijing overmuch, and most people know it. Economically or militarily -- the latter is very much linked to the former -- it would be a mistake to goad China into anything rash.

ISIS? Is a fading power right now, thanks largely to Russia. I have little doubt some new bogeyman will supplant them, the way they supplanted al-Qaeda. The Middle East is a quagmire and if I had my druthers I'd just wall it all off and let them nuke it out, excuse me, duke it out. Since that's not an option, and none of the options that have been tried in the last seventy years have accomplished a whole hell of a lot..I'm sorry, folks. I wash my hands of it.

Trump has suggested that his foreign policy will be transactional--a "you scratch, I scratch" sort of thing. This strikes me as at least provisionally sensible. Whether or not it actually plays out that way...is anyone's guess. But I don't think it's worth getting scared of.

Pence, on the other hand... you think Trump is scary? Pence terrifies me. He's as fundamentalist as they come, the sort of man who believes it's his sacred duty to do whatever he can to bring about the Second Coming.  Let's pray to whatever we all pray to that Trump doesn't get bored, or sulk off and quit when he finds out he can't just do whatever he wants.

Trump has promised to rip up NAFTA and reverse U.S. governmental policy that tacitly encouraged the offshoring of jobs and the evisceration of the wage class.  I'm not exactly sure how he plans to accomplish this. The world economy is bigger than Trump is by many orders of magnitude. But even discussing this topic has been off the table for the last thirty years at least. This, more than anything else, is why Trump was elected. The Democrats have always talked a good game about helping the working class...but they don't walk their talk, and the working class has had enough of being talked down to.
It's worth noting that the Republican Party itself has been no better, and in many respects worse, for the average working stiff--and that, too, explains Trump. Many qualified, business-as-usual Republicans entered the primaries. Trump alone emerged.  Business as usual no longer cuts it. And Trump better remember that...because his supporters sure do.

Nobody really believes that Trump is going to build a wall, much less make Mexico pay for it. Nobody really believes that Trump is going to start mass deportations of Muslims. The U.S. is not designed for such mass delusion to be easily implemented, even given the recent Presidential fashion of governing by executive order.
But you CAN expect much more attention to be paid to the southern border, and immigration in general. Pace the Left, this is not, in and of itself, a horrible thing. It should be possible to have a reasoned discussion on the merits and demerits of immigration and cultural assimilation without one side, mine, instinctively screaming "you racist xenophobic son of a bitch". SHOULD be.

I am much more concerned with the fact the Republicans are back in power, to be honest, and with a renewed mandate. Trump himself is no Republican, although he quite convincingly played one at times during the campaign. And the Republican machine has been ronking pretty good of late, beginning with that wild Tea Party....but presently they're bound to notice they have power again and can move backward forward with their agenda.

Which includes the Supreme Court. That worries me. That worries me a lot. Because the Supreme Court, steered by a conservative majority, will impact the U.S. long after Trump is gone. Driven by a party that has more than its share of gay haters (Pence is on record as saying he supports "conversion therapy", for fuck's sake) and woman haters....poor haters...really, the GOP's only got your back if you're moneyed. Or a fetus. They love fetuses.

Greer suggests in this week's essay that the United States is and always has been a country of many nations, and those nations have diverse and often divergent moral codes. Oklahoma, he says, will never accept the mores of Massachusetts, or vice versa. He favours a federal government that sticks to things like national defence and ensuring equality under the law. Small problem with that last: a majority of people in Oklahoma and other states don't want "equality under the law"...not when it comes to certain minorities, at any rate.

I don't know what's in store any more than the rest of you do. I doubt Trump does, either. It's going to be interesting, mighty interesting. But I am a consensus builder, determined to find the positive in the darkest of situations. This situation is plenty dark. But not, I don't think, quite as dark as some people are suggesting.

I hope not.





07 November, 2016

Personal Questions, Personal Answers

This has the potential to be one of the longest blog entries I've ever written. I may split it if it gets too unwieldy.

________________

I've been going over old blogs in search of new material, and I've found a motherlode. Back in January, 2015, I wrote a post entitled "How To Fall In Love With Anyone".  Well, 90% of anyone. Sit down for about ninety minutes, ask each other a set of increasingly personal questions, and listen closely to each other's answers. This has been scientifically proven to bring people much closer together--even near strangers stand a ninety percent chance of being friends after this exercise.

What I DIDN'T do was answer the questions.

And so:

Set I: Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?

John Michael Greer, the former Grand Archdruid of the Ancient Order of Druids in America, whose blog is linked in this sidebar, whose thoughts on a wide range of topics I highly respect.

Would you like to be famous? In what way? 

You know, I don't think so. Famous people seem to attract a great number of hangers-on, yes-men, and other fakery. With fame often comes great wealth, and I have never wanted to be rich, either. Comfortable, yes. Rich, no.

Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?

Never. I don't understand this sudden and intense phobia that has developed, seemingly globally, over the past decade when it comes to actually speaking words rather than typing them.  I have suggested that texting is a giant step backwards in communication, and I stand by that, even though I'm forced to do it all the fucking time.

What would constitute a "perfect" day for you? 

I could break this down into stupidly minute detail: long hot shower, breakfast of scrambled eggs, sausages, bacon, hash browns, toast, and coffee, and go on and on from there (fresh new Happy Feet by MacGregor to put on, blah, blah, blah...) or I could just say a day full of loving and being loved, in whatever form that takes. I have a lot of days like that, now.

When did you last sing to yourself? 
Last night: L'architecte, by Lynda LemayTo someone else?
I can't remember. That's been a while...I have to be supremely comfortable with someone to do that...and have an occasion to do it. I'm sure it was Eva, but not sure of the song.

 If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?

MY 30-year-old body? Never had one. Mental acuity, without question. But if you could give me the body of a 30-year-old in peak human condition...that would make this question slightly more difficult.

Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die? 

No. I've dreamt countless times of dying violently, but I'm usually able to convince myself that's just dreaming.

Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.

Let's answer this one for the three people closest to the centre of my life. I will skip the rest of the exercise-specific questions that ask you to talk about your partner, but this one:

Eva: Radiate calm, often even when feeling anything but; open, loving heart; restless, curious mind.
.....
Intensely emotional; quick witted and eloquent; value closeness of all kinds very, very highly.
.....
Genuine interest in people and their stories; loyal almost to a fault; regularly take on the weight of the world because neither of us knows how to walk without it.

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?

Love. Maybe a trite answer, but a true one.

If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?

I believe every child should have the experience of moving homes once. Once. I did it six times in eight years.

If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?

Perseverance. There's a whole suite of linked qualities there: I bore too easily, I can tell you four hundred reasons why any effort I expend will amount to nothing, and I fear rejection, as noted above. If I had perseverance...let's just say my life would be dramatically different. Better? Who can tell? But probably.

 Set II 

If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future, or anything else, what would you want to know?

This answer has wildly varied over the course of my life. Right now I would ask it to tell me what the next five years hold in store. I don't want to look any further ahead. I'm going through a slow pivot right now and I'm not sure where it's taking me.

Is there something that you've dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven't you done it?

I have dreamt of surprising my father and just showing up at his door one day, driving something like this. I can just picture myself with an M-class license, but I would want something a little more stable than a standard motorcycle and with extra cargo capacity. Why haven't I done it? A matter of money, primarily. Not just the money to buy the thing, the money to carry it.

What is the greatest accomplishment of your life? 

Given the childhood I had? The fact that I consider myself to be a reasonably healthy and well-adjusted adult. If you read psychology texts, I should be a monster.

What do you value most in a friendship?

Authenticity.

What is your most treasured memory? 

Getting married, without question. (That link brings you lots of extra added bonus material).

What is your most terrible memory? 

I have too many of these. I will go with the day I almost drowned in a septic tank.  (Extra material here to tell you why this incident has shaped my faith in a higher power, call it what you will.)

If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why? 

I'm not above trying to exploit that.  (Oh, that hurts to acknowledge). But it's not as if the knowledge that I'm going to die in a year suddenly grants me enough money to fulfill even one item on that bucket list I just posted.

What does friendship mean to you? 

A shoulder to cry on, an ear to hear, and a comfortable presence.

What roles do love and affection play in your life? 

They are the cornerstones. You know how the dictum of communism is "from each according to his ability, to each according to her need?" I view poly as a sort of personal communism, and I try to dole out love and affection in whatever form and extent it's accepted, and I'll accept it freely in return. I don't believe in artificial lines for myself...but I will respect yours.

How close and warm is your family?

Not. Not at all. There are numerous deep, irreparable fractures. A few close individual relationships, but they only serve to throw reigning dysfunction into sharper relief.

Do you feel your childhood was happier than most other people's? 

FUCK NO. Horrid family dynamics for the first five years, not enough structure for the next four, largely friendless into my teens, victim of extensive bullying and ostracism...what about that says 'happy' to you?

How do you feel about your relationship with your mother?

Terribly, terribly conflicted. We loved each other deeply, and had a whole hell of a lot in common...but at the same time I'm not sure we ever understood each other.


Set lll

 Complete this sentence: "I wish I had someone with whom I could share ... "

This one I can't answer in that construction. I have multiple people in my life with whom I can share anything--and multiple people I share.

If you were going to become a close friend with your partner, please share what would be important for him or her to know.

I'm polyamorous; I'm not comfortable in crowds or overly strange settings; I may not be going anywhere fast in my life but by damn I'm making the best of where I am. I'm extremely private with strangers, extremely open with friends, and supremely vulnerable because of it...and I wouldn't have it any other way. Shared pain is lessened; shared joy is increased; I have a lot of dark places in me that aren't used to being lit. I can't hurt someone without an awfully compelling reason, and sometimes even with one. Love is freedom, not possessiveness. If I withdraw from an argument, it's because I'm too angry to see all sides of it clearly; give me some time and I'll be back--probably conceding you were right and I was wrong. Please don't feel the need to put on airs: you are no more special than I am and I am no more special than you are. Violence of any kind offends me and can actually physically sicken me. I'm stingy with money, not because I don't want to be otherwise, but because I have experienced being otherwise and it's soul-deadening. I zone out frequently; don't be alarmed. It's one of a trio of reasons I don't drive (the other two being shitty depth perception and an outright phobia so rare it doesn't even have a name. I've seen a kid paralyzed doing something mundane; it sharpened my distrust of risk. And you can always, always, ALWAYS be yourself around me. In fact, if you try to be anyone else, I will be upset.

Share with your partner an embarrassing moment in your life.

Oh, god, which of ten thousand moments should I pick here? I embarrass myself all the time, it's what I do. Okay, in the spirit of the exercise, here is one I've never shared here.

I was Christmas shopping in downtown London, back when downtown London wasn't full of windows that were either broken, boarded, or barred. Dundas and Richmond. Packed street. I was loaded down with at least four large bags of swag, some of it very fragile. I had on a brand new pair of jeans from a now thankfully defunct chain called Bargain Harold's.

There was a seam just below the belt loops that ran all the way around those jeans, and it suddenly split. All the way around. To my horror, my pants rather swiftly fell to my ankles, revealing my tighty-whities and my skinny pale ass. Bedecked with parcels, all I could do was let them down gently, one at a time, and then pull my pants up--they suddenly rode a lot higher on me--and rearrange everything so I could hold them in place with one hand. Which was not easy.

When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?

Can't answer this without violating someone else's privacy, and so I won't.

What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?

This is a challenging question. I will answer "nothing", but qualify that mightily by suggesting I have an exquisite ear for when jokes aren't really jokes. The jokes that aren't really jokes are NEVER funny. There's one category of joke I'd like to single out here. I've heard black people tell racist jokes, gay people tell gay jokes, blondes tell blonde jokes...and I've never heard a fat woman tell a fat joke. I don't like fat jokes. Don't test just how much on me.

If you were to die this evening with no opportunity to communicate with anyone, what would you most regret not having told someone? Why haven't you told them yet?

This is not applicable to me. The people I love know I love them, and to what degree. I'm an open book to people I want to be read by.

 Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why? 

I really don't mean to dodge this one, either, but if my loves and pets are safe, I have all I need.

Of all the people in your family, whose death would you find most disturbing? Why?

This one's easy. Eva's. For a myriad of reasons. She is my safe harbour in every storm, my fount of wisdom and patience. I love her widely and deeply. This next sounds just as mushy, but is in fact coldly true: Making my way in a world without her in it would be very, very challenging for me.

-----------------

Those are the questions, those are my answers. Try the original exercise with your partner(s): I guarantee you'll feel much closer when you've finished. It's said to take about ninety minutes...and if you conclude it with a hug lasting longer than twenty seconds...yeah, you'll be close, all right.




 .

06 November, 2016

Bucket List

How have I gone 12 years of blogging and never done one of these?

PLACES TO SEE

(a) checked off (but may well want to do again)

  • Disney World
This has been the trip of my life so far. Story herehere,  here and here (yes, it took four posts to document). Within thirty seconds of arrival, Eva (who has never shown an interest in going back to anywhere...wanted to come back here. And we will. 
  • Cabin retreat on a lake. 
Our honeymoon at the Bonnie View Inn on Lake Kashagawigamog near Haliburton, Ontario. I can't say enough good things about this place. The food was exquisite, the honeymoon chalet pure bliss, and they even knocked about fifteen percent off our bill as a surprise honeymoon present.


  • Cedar Point, Sandusky, Ohio
I am a roller coaster aficionado, and Cedar Point is heaven on earth for people like me. Six Flags Magic Mountain has three more coasters...but Cedar Point's are faster and taller. I've been twice, once in 1992 and again in 2003, and I really want to go back.

(b) Yet to see:

There are dozens, scores of places on this earth I would love to see. I intensely envy my friend Jason, a jet-setter whose country count is somewhere in the 120s at this point. Let's try to restrict this to the top ten places/experiences I most want to see and have.
  • train trip across Canada
  • Cape Breton
  • Québec City
  • Alaska cruise
  • European river cruise (that's cheating, there are a whole bunch of countries and cultures on one of these)
  • Scotland--staying in an old castle
  • Paris
  • Hawai'i
  • Pompeii
  • The Grand Canyon
THINGS TO HEAR

(a) heard
  • Rachmaninov's Third Piano Concerto (last month!)
  • not one but two favourite musical groups, albeit very much of their era (Roxette and The Proclaimers, the latter of whom I've seen twice)
  • My favourite balladeer (John McDermott) and my second favourite, Roger Whittaker
  • George Carlin, live
  • The Vinyl Café Christmas Concert
  • The Phantom of the Opera and The Book of Mormon
(b) Left to hear:
  • The National (Great Britain) Brass Band Championships
  • Mahler's 2nd Symphony
  • Marc-André Hamelin
  • Hilary Hahn
  • Jeff Foxworthy and/or Bill Engvall
  • the Just For Laughs Festival in Montréal
THINGS TO DO

(a) Done:
  • rode in a helicopter
  • travelled in a car doing 220 km/hr (136 mph)--the same day I rode in the helicopter, and I'm going to have to blog about that day soon
  • saw the Northern Lights
  • got married
  • composed music
  • learned a language * (enough so that some piece of paper calls me 'fluent', at ant rate
(b) Yet to do:
  • write a book. I swear to all the gods that ever were, this one's going to happen. I keep starting and then losing interest, or becoming convinced my few readers will, and petering out. I never seem to get solid ideas even for short stories; one exception, far and away the best piece of fiction I've ever written, is published here and in the subsequent four newer posts. 
  • Get my music on to YouTube. I think I have most of the capability in place to do this now (having a piano certainly helps!) but the logistics of it elude me.
  • teach someone to play piano. Probably going to be my niece Alexa (Lily too, if she's interested; something tells me the piano isn't going to be quite dangerous enough for her.)
  • Acquire enough money to buy the people I love at least one special item. Yes, yes, I know, some of the least dear gifts are the dearest. But just once -- per love -- I'd like to be in a position to indulge my inner Saudi sheik. 
  • Read à la recherche du temps perdu (In Search Of Lost Time)
  • Watch the Toronto Maple Leafs win the Stanley Cup
That's my list. What's yours?






Not Okay, Cupid

Dating has a hell of a lot in common with job hunting. Especially nowadays, when your online dating profile functions as your resume.

Back when I was out of work,  I was sending out reams of resumes and not hearing anything back. This was incredibly disheartening; I was writing and editing resumes and cover letters that worked back in grade five.
I swallowed my pride (bitter taste that was) and went in to Employment Ontario, where I learned that the art of resume writing, not to mention job hunting in general, has evolved considerably. My resume was utterly shredded and then rebuilt from the ground up; the finished product immediately yielded me three interviews.

Which I also bombed. Luckily, EO has seminars on interview skills as well, also very helpful. But in the end, none of those aids are going to do a damned thing for you if you don't have confidence in yourself. And that's a third thing they really try hard to instil in you there. My caseworker, Eleanor Given, always made me feel better about myself after each meeting. It took some doing.

I wish there was some equivalent to Employment Ontario in the dating sphere. Because my "resume" (and no doubt "interview") skills need some burnishing there, too.

This is even more disheartening to me, because in a dating profile my writing ability (and I know I have that) should speak for itself. It hasn't. Vestiges of the supremely unattractive person I was (not coincidentally, right around the same time I was job hunting) insist that since I know I can write, what must be sabotaging me is the really important part of the dating profile, to wit, my pictures.

This, by the way, probably isn't true. Poly people skew nerdy and many have a professed attraction to nerds, so unless I'm actually a really ugly specimen of nerd -- something I can't...quite...discount -- the reason I'm not having any success is probably something else.

No, it's not the fact I'm poly. I have a Chrome plug-in that filters for non-monogamy, and most of my interactions on OKCupid have been with fellow non-monogamists. There are a surprising number of them, locally. But messages to them have either gone unreturned or been met with polite rejections. ("We will keep your application on file for future consideration"...what they never tell you is that the file is circular and has a shredder attached.)

Honestly? I think it's my lack of a (meaningful) job, coupled with the fact I don't drive. The two together fairly scream poor, and it takes a special breed to overlook that. I do have qualities to compensate -- I haven't lost sight of those -- but in order to discover those, you need to interact with me a while, and preferably in person at least once.

I indulged in a month's worth of OKCupid's paid service, called "A-List", primarily to discover who 'liked' me. At the time, the site claimed I had five 'likes'. Four of them turned out to be the same person: OKCupid 'recycles' likes, so after you've acknowledged one, it disappears only to reappear later and make you think you're more popular than you are.

That woman has become a friend, so I can't claim total failure. But I think I'm going to throw in the towel.

I've had four additional 'likes' since. One was from Sweden, by which I mean she lives in Jönköping, which would make dating slightly problematic as I don't own a car, much less a plane. One was from someone who clearly didn't read my profile (or who did and clearly didn't think I was serious about the whole 'polyamory' part of it). I'm going to give her the benefit of the doubt and claim the former. The latter type do exist and it's one of the reasons polyamorous folks are leery of dating outside their species; they're called 'cowboys' because they try to rope you off from your herd and secure you all to themselves.
The other two likes came from other poly people. One hurdle cleared. My followup message, though, was not returned by either of them.

It wasn't forward at all, that followup message. Perhaps that's the problem: I'm tentative. I also don't feel as if I should be doing all the work, even though, as a man on a dating site, it's obviously all my work to do. I don't know where to go from here: send another message and risk looking pushy? Was I supposed to actually ask to meet these people right off the hop? I'd like a few 'getting to know you' chat sessions before I take that step--isn't that how this works?

I never would have said this two years ago, but I think I might do better in person, now. Problem, though: My experience two years ago at the poly dating equivalent of a job fair was absolutely wretched. But even then I said I was going to have to brush that aside somehow.

I have since become aware of other occasional local get-togethers. That have, alas, always conflicted with my damned work schedule. Now I'm on days, albeit early ones...hopefully I can get out there and interact.

But as for that dating profile? I think I'm going to kill it.



05 November, 2016

Caving In

You'll notice I have refrained from voicing an opinion on the shitshow that is the American election.

There are reasons for that.

The first is because everybody else is doing nothing but, and following the crowd is boring; besides which, I'd be kidding myself if I thought I had anything new to say.

The second reason is related to the first: people are bored. Some of them, believe it or not, have been bored since before this interminable election started, because politics.

The thing is, though, American politics is getting more and more entertaining all the time, if you consider trashy reality television entertaining. Indeed, it's hard to tell the difference. One of the contestants nominees is a former reality television star, after all. Soap operas don't play out anywhere near as lurid as this campaign has.

It really is an impossible choice, you know. And I say that knowing just how batshit crazy Donald Trump is...how bigoted, how misogynistic, how spectacularly unsuited to the job of male human being, let alone President of the United States of America, that man proves himself to be with every lying word he speaks.
(Yes, all politicians lie. It's what they do. But Trump lies in a very special way. His lies are the lies of a man who really doesn't give a fart in a windstorm for the truth, not even the 'political' truth that can be manipulated. He just opens his mouth and says whatever he's thinking...if you can call what he does "thinking". )

Now, Hillary, on the other hand?

Okay, I admit it: I've never liked the woman. She has always struck me as power-hungry, conniving, inauthentic, and entirely too full of herself: all traits I dislike or despise. Scandal seems to plague her, and not all of her scandals are the products of Republican witch hunts. (Can we just shut up about Benghazi, already? What was that, eleven separate investigations?)

If you're going on qualifications, this contest is no contest at all. Hillary Clinton is probably the most qualified nominee ever. She knows the hallways and back alleys of power like nobody else anywhere near this race. And Donald Trump isn't qualified at all. Period.

One problem, though, and it's a doozy: For many if not most Americans outside what  John Michael Greer calls the "bicoastal echo chamber of the affluent", the more qualified someone is at the game of politics just now, the more UNattractive she is.  I'm going to quote Greer at length here, because the man really nails it when he enumerates what Clinton stands for:

the bipartisan consensus that’s been welded firmly in place in American politics since the election of George W. Bush...That consensus...supports massive giveaways to big corporations and the already affluent, punitive austerity for the poor, malign neglect for the nation’s infrastructure, the destruction of the American working class through federal subsidies for automation and offshoring and tacit acceptance of mass illegal immigration as a means of driving down wages, and a monomaniacally confrontational foreign policy obsessed with the domination of the Middle East by raw military force.

That can be summarized in three words: Business...as...usual.

Trump claims to actually represent the wage class, a class that no politician in the United States has so much as deigned to notice in forty-odd years. He hammers on immigration, for instance. There's no doubt in my mind that both he and many of his supporters are racist...but at the same time, the immediate hue and cry of shut up, you racist son of a bitch drowns any attempt to discuss immigration and its effect on the economy.  (Yes, yes, of course illegals perform many jobs that Americans disdain. But note two things: one, more people chasing fewer jobs drives down wages; and two, the tacit acceptance of peanuts by illegals on the grounds that their former countries paid peanut...also drives down wages.)

Trump also plans to reverse the offshoring of jobs. This sounds wonderful, but the how of it is very, very murky. Still, it's kind of a pleasant surprise to hear somebody within sniffing distance of the Presidency even acknowledge that hey, you know, once upon a time, not all that long ago, one person could put in an honest day's labour at a blue-collar job and support a family doing it. That's such a taboo topic, anymore. Bring it up and you're just a poor, lazy (???) loser and it's all your fault.

Greer loses me when he covers Trump's "foreign policy"--he seems to assume Trump has one. Many Republicans would hate to hear me say this, but it does make a certain kind of economic sense to play nice with Russia (as distasteful as the thought of Trump and Putin cornholing each other truly is). America can't afford more wars. It can't afford the wars it's been embroiled in over my lifetime. So, okay, fine. But Trump is all over the map. In one breath he's isolationist, then in the next he's promising, with typical hyperbole, the best trade deals you ever saw. And no, I really don't like the thought of a man who simply can't take an insult having the power to launch a war. The nuclear concern is overblown--a President can't launch nukes on his own, no matter what you've been told--but Trump could, and probably would, act entirely too rashly at the first sign of insolence...which won't be long in coming.

You won't get that rashness with Hillary Clinton. On the positive side, with her, you'll get reproductive rights. You'll get Supreme Court appointees that aren't going to try to create a theocracy. You'll get a government that isn't interested in revoking civil rights.  For these reasons and some others, had I a vote, it would be for her.

Reluctantly.

And not because I have this burning urge to vote for Donald Trump.

I am not discounting Trump's many, many character flaws in any way, shape or form. But I understand how people do. I really do. Quoting Greer again:

...supporters of both candidates are quite sensibly aware that this election is meant to choose a public official rather than a plaster saint, and recognize that a genuine scoundrel who will take the right stands on the issues that matter to them is a better choice than a squeaky-clean innocent who won’t, even if such an animal could actually be found in the grubby ecosystem of contemporary American politics.

Business as usual...which is to say, the continued decline and fall of America even as the economy is increasingly spin-doctored to look good...or radical change spearheaded by a blowhard know-nothing-and-proud-of-it pompous diseased ass-pimple.

Hmmm.

I seem to recall the Democrats had a candidate who was very similar to Trump on a number of issues affecting the poor--and they railroaded him out of town in the rush to acclaim Herself.  The truth is I would have voted for Bernie Sanders without even blinking.

Elections are getting more and more polarizing with every cycle. It does NOT bode well for America as a whole. I have said before and I will repeat here that I firmly believe the United States of America is one to at most three electoral terms from a civil war. You can see glimmers of it even now, with Trump (and his supporters) musing about how they might not concede defeat if defeated. Let that thought take hold and the political system loses all legitimacy.

But then again, for many Trump supporters, the political system has been illegitimate for decades. So has the economy. Neither seems to give half a shit about them, at any rate. I should warn you that if Trump loses, there's a good chance the person running for the Republicans in 2020 -- if that party even exists in 2020 -- could be worse.

Stay tuned, folks. The winner will be announced right after these messages from our sponsors.



03 November, 2016

One Year

What do you call the anniversary of a death?

An "un" - iversary, perhaps?

I don't know, but I can tell you it's been a year since my mom passed away in a fire. 

_____________

I miss you, Mom. Still. I suspect I always will.

I started missing you long before you died, of course. We had those years apart, and then when we reset our relationship there was a lot withheld, mostly but not entirely on your side.

I understand that, now. Sort of. I've always wanted to be close to the people I'm close to, but we weren't close at all there, for a while, were we?
It started when I left home, didn't it? I was one confused teenager. I wanted independence, like any other teenager of that era....but I wasn't ready for it and I knew I wasn't ready for it. I'm not blaming anyone for this, least of all you...I had lessons to learn that I never could have learned at home.
I tell myself that my rootlessness, my obliviousness to any imagined future, stemmed from what seemed like near-constant moving around when I was a kid. I might well be wrong, there, but I don't think so. It's hard to feel stable when house-hunting starts the Sunday after moving day, you know? I wrote in this blog's distant progenitor -- my diary for 1988 -- that I felt like I was strapped to the nosecone of a guided missile whose guidance systems were seriously out of whack." That dichotomy -- unable to deviate from a course that didn't seem to be a course at all -- defined me from age 9-19. And when it came time to chart my own course...I can't say as I had the slightest idea how to do that.  Which meant, basically, that I did my best imitation of a balloon with a little hole and a lot of air in it: pppzzzzbbbbpppbbbzzzzt.
It was Eva that picked me up off the ground when the air had finally leaked out. You two circled around each other warily for a bit, but I know with a conviction borne of absolute certainty that you came to love my wife very much.  I know this because no matter how iffy your mind got towards the end, you always remembered her name.

That mental and physical deterioration...was another thing that came between us, like a gauzy curtain that added layers over time until it was nearly opaque. You didn't want me to see you. I get that, Mom, I really do. At the same time, you raised me to look past physical appearance...to discount mental acuity...and to see into someone's heart and soul. I wanted to see you, Mom, but not to look at you. Just to be with you. I didn't get to do that near enough and it still hurts. You had your reasons -- your reasons, as they always did, make logical sense...but mom, screw logic, this is the logic of the nerve endings.

I miss you.

The year since you passed has been...tumultuous. You must be happy to know I'm back on days. Eva's had ups and downs as well, but we're managing.

I never outed myself to you directly, Mom. Mostly because it was easier not to hit you with something you may have found incomprehensible, when there were an increasing number of days you found everything incomprehensible. I've been told my blogs on abundant love never reached your ears. I suspect that owes as much to the mindset of the messenger as anything else. Be that as it may, I'm convinced you can see into me, now, even better than I'm told I see into others, and you know my motives are pure. I was just telling one of my loves about you today...I think you'd love her, Mom. I really do.

Our family remains fragmented, Mom. Too many walls, many of which have been heavily fortified over decades. Every once in a while I will poke my head over one wall or another. I rarely, if ever, see anyone else do the same. There comes a point when further effort seems pointless. Maybe this was my lifetime to experience a family in tatters, I can't say. I can say this:

I feel close to you today, and on many days since you changed your state of being. And that, Mom, is what matters.

I love you. Still. And always will.

Your son,

Ken(ny)