Respect Your Elders

Me and the blonde.

Me and the blonde.

I am so unmoved to write these days.  I have blamed it on the visual nature of my work in the arts, and not without merit.  Writing has become about what I see, feel and need to communicate, rather than simply what I feel and need to communicate.

Tonight, sitting in my husband’s studio after closing the gallery, the same old woman came to mind.  Why does she inspire me so?  Particularly her line, “…better people than her don’t like me.”  I laugh to no end at that.

I’ve written about it before.  Once, I told her, smiling, “I don’t think she likes you”, speaking of my step mother.  Both of us knew she didn’t, but I felt, as always, the need to share my opinion.  (Sorry, not sorry.) There was a hatred, based on a fear…a fear of loss of control (of my father)…which is of course, an illusion anyway, witness, the divorce.

Before she died, my grandmother put her wedding ring in my hand, and asked me to keep the family together.  Ugh.  I tried, because I love her so.  Also, I failed. They just weren’t that interested.  Additionally, after two years, I had enough.

Though I boast an insanely similar personality to Miss Edith Margaret Taylor Goodman, I don’t hold the same sway over my elders.  Once I came to grips with the fact that I failed the only person in this world who ever understood and loved me unconditionally for the passionate and difficult creature I am, (that she also was, this is a woman who flipped a table at a bar in rural Mississippi in the ’40’s over anti semitic remarks in relation to her propriety), I began bonsai’ing my family tree with a vengeance. Fuck it.

As I sat in the studio with my husband / boyfriend of 22 years, reminiscing about the fabulous woman she was..is…will always be…it occurred to me.  She wouldn’t hate me for the chop, chop, chopping of the old family tree.  She’d understand, be disappointed, but respect me for it.

She routinely called one of her daughter in law’s a shit stirrer, and never related to the, Hi, I won’t answer the front door when you visit, but here’s a Happy Thanksgiving card. I tried, to make nice, as she had done, but had to agree, she was a shit stirrer.  Snip, snip goes the bough.  Another, the recipient of the best comment of all time, “…better people than her don’t like me”, I gleefully cut that branch off with a fucking chainsaw laughing all the while.

Other sick limbs fell. Those, I cried over, but they were rotting and needing to go, or risk infecting the rest of the tree.  It was sad, and took a fair amount of intestinal fortitude.  If a bud ever grows back, I’ll nurture it, but it’s not up to me.  She’d have recognized and appreciated that.

Ultimately, I am so grateful.  Grateful, that she raised me, or “trained me”, as she liked to say.  Grateful she met two of my three children…the third bears her name, as promised, Sophia Margaret… Grateful she knew my husband, which is where tonight’s conversation began.  That man got the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.

He called her out.  When she was dying.  …of bone cancer…  He told her she was being selfish in not letting me see her.  He told her I cried when we got off the phone.

Her response?  “Your husband gave me a sermon.  He said I was selfish for not letting you come see me.  He said you cry when we get off the phone…like I don’t know you.  …but don’t tell him I told you or he won’t talk to me like that anymore.”

Respect.

S. Conde

The Buyers

Dear Buyers,

There is a small but prolific vine that pops up all over the flower bed in front of the house.  I left her alone at first because she was lovely and bore tiny flowers.  She managed to choke and kill one of the lavender plants while I wasn’t paying attention last year, and nearly took out one of the delphinium as well.  So now I pull her out as soon as I spot her murderous little tendrils.  I yanked her from four locations just this morning.

There are three varieties of roses climbing up the side of the house.  One of them, I found (thought it was a weed) growing wild in the backyard.  She was tiny when I pulled her out and replanted her in the bed with the others.  At first I didn’t think she’d survive.  Now, she’s the biggest of them all, and covered in buds.  I hope we get to see her bloom one last time before we go.

It’s been an odd Spring.  The tulips, peonies, ferns, lilies, and bleeding hearts all came up at about the same time.  The irises came too soon, and were hit with another blast of arctic temperatures, stopping them in their tracks.  It was a long and bitter winter.  Only one iris managed to flower at all.

Happily, the strawberries, blueberries and grapes were undaunted and are already taking shape.  I do hope you enjoy them.  Take care to protect the grapes or you’ll never taste them.  The birds around here are quick and shameless.

About the house.  I vacuum the wood floors instead of sweeping as it keeps the dust down.  Once every couple of weeks a good vinegar and water mop brings out their shine.  Take care to mop then dry immediately in sections.

I add a few drops of essential oil to my dust rag, varying the scent from room to room.  I like eucalyptus or tea tree in the bathrooms, lemon or lime in the kitchen, geranium throughout most of the house, lavender in the bedrooms, and a combination of cinnamon and patchouli in the master.  …for obvious reasons.  Of course, these are just my preferences.  It’s your house now.

I’ve cooked many a wonderful meal in the kitchen.  I love that kitchen.  We remodeled it ourselves.  It was hard work, but well worth the effort.  I wish you could have seen it before.  Oh and the oven!  A Blue Star, made in Texas.  May she be as good to you as she’s been to me. The refrigerator is a beast, a Traulsen.  We had to remove a section of cabinetry just to fit her in; a decision we’ve never regretted.  It will glide you through pre and post preparation of all your holiday meals.  She housed enough food to keep two enormous teenage boys, a grown man, a beautiful young woman and myself well fed.

The three upstairs bedrooms were our children’s rooms.  After our eldest moved into his own apartment, there was an immediate shuffling of bedrooms.  The smallest, originally our daughter’s, became the guest bedroom.  The room at the back is ours, it’s always been ours.

Our neighborhood is safe, I mean, as safe as a neighborhood can be.  We have fallen asleep with the sliding doors open.  Gardenia and lilac floating in on the breeze.  We’re well within walking distance of the library, movies at The Pickwick, restaurants, and the train station. Affresco is our favorite local restaurant, the ingredients are fresh, simple and made with love.  The owner, Sergio, is a kind and lovely man.  He’ll make you feel at home.

I will miss it here.  We will all miss it here.  This move is bittersweet.  You see we made a life here, we raised a family, we created a home, and while four of us prepare to leave, one of us will stay.  Though I know it’s time to let go, I am struggling.

Please love this home.  Please care for the plants.  Please know that we did not leave this place easily.  We have filled this house with our love, be good to her, keep her filled with your own.

Wishing you all the best in our home, that is to say, your home.

S

 

A Dichotomy : I Don’t Think So

I write about the human spirit mostly, the wounding of it, the healing of it, and its ultimate triumph.  I’m an advocate of chakra meditation, and reorganization of our mental processes via conscious manipulation of the mind, in order to heal old wounds, self inflicted, or otherwise sustained.

I believe in the power of herbs and prayer.  I’ve no doubt that quantum physics will prove that “magic” and the human soul exist. I see philosophical value and practical applications in most Eastern religions.  I also believe in a creator of some sort. (In my opinion, creation is just too well done and specific to be a random accident of chance.)  Though I subscribe to no particular religion, I do relate to aspects of a variety of paths, many of which fall under the neopagan heading.

I strive for harmony in my life, give love freely, keep a live and let live attitude, try to help my fellow humans as much as I can, and, since I was a child, routinely pray for world peace.  Your typical tree hugging, hemp wearing, unshaven, patchouli scented hippie, right?  Not quite.

It may surprise some that I am decidedly conservative in many, if not most, of my political views, valuing freedom and personal responsibility above all else.  If I had to, I would describe myself as a right leaning Libertarian.  “An ye harm none, do what ye will.”  A perfect fit.  I tell you all of this because I feel I must be honest. In doing so, I am convinced I will alienate many, though that is not my aim.

As I struggle to wrap my head around the recent carnage at The Boston Marathon, an urge has resurfaced to discuss pacifism.  Pacifism, as an absolute, is wholly immoral, and in most cases entirely hypocritical.  As the only reason a person has the freedom to be a pacifist, is because there are warriors out there fighting for that right.  Talk about an “inconvenient truth”. Unless you are fully willing to die, to watch your family be killed, please spare me the hypocrisy.

Though I would rather not engage in war nor violence of any sort, there are times when it is absolutely necessary.  Life is indeed precious, and should be protected as such.  Oftentimes that protection can only be afforded through the use of violence.  Guns stopped the terrorists, not hopeful wishing and thoughtful conversation.  This is the violence inherent in peace, a monumental oxymoron, I know.

Should the perpetrator of this outrageously violent criminal act against innocents be allowed to live?  I think not. Anyone who would commit such a horrific act is defective, an aberration, an enemy of life, and as such poses a threat to the rest of us who would like to be left in peace to practice yoga, meditate, or simply watch our loved ones participate in a 26 mile long test of the human mind, body and spirit.

Wouldn’t it be better to just lock him up and throw away the key?  No.  His continued existence is infectious and must be removed as the proverbial bad apple.  If you are so inclined, think on his vibrations and all they might touch.  There need be no anger, no vengeance taken. As a mother cat allows a sick kitten of her own litter to die in order to preserve her life and the lives of her other kittens, so it must be.

There simply can be no peace without occasional violence.  It is an unfortunate truth, too ugly for some to face.  However, this is the way it will be until ALL of humanity is on the same page concerning the intrinsic value of life, and I do hope with all of my heart and soul that day will soon come.  Then, and only then, will the violence end.

….  This piece was originally written on April 18th.  I have tweaked it, by adding information we now know to be true.  I didn’t post it until now because I wanted to wait and see if I still felt the same after my emotions settled.  I must say, now that I have seen the face of the surviving terrorist, now that I know he is younger than my oldest child, it is far more difficult to advocate for his death.  Still, as painful as it is, I stand by my words.  When he is executed, I will cry, as I have cried for his victims.  The tears I shed, however, will not be for him, but for the person he could have been.

 

S. Conde

 

Grasping : Attempting to Fill the Infinite Void

Have you ever felt like there’s an emptiness in your life?  A certain nagging dissatisfaction? A longing for something unnamed?

You try to fill the void by overindulging in pleasurable acts, like shopping, eating, drinking, sex…the problem is that the hole has no bottom, it is infinite.  For a while you are satisfied with the temporary relief these pleasures bring, but when the pleasure wears off, you’re back where you were, empty.

You’re not alone.  The Buddhists have a name for this behavior; they call it grasping.  …and yes, as you may have guessed, it’s futile.  So what to do now?  Well, you could continue to ignore the problem and wait for yourself to be swallowed by the black hole you’ve created, or you could get to the root of the problem.  Easier said than done, huh?

Only a strong person can take an honest look at themselves.  Confronting our inner demons is no small task.  Letting go of excuses is imperative, it is what it is. Just as important is the letting go of judgment.  Be kind to yourself.  What is done is done.  Now is the time to understand, detach from the problem, heal and move on.

You can do this.  You’re stronger than you think.

If this is a subject that interests you, check out my book, “The Red Speck”.  The book is an allegory, not a straightforward self help book.  Couched in the allegory is a path that helped me tremendously.  You might also find this article on neuroplasticity helpful.

Good luck on your journey.  Take some relief in knowing many others have walked this path and survived, why not you?

Much Love,

S. Conde

 

 

My Cat Has ADHD : The Hunter vs. Farmer Hypothesis

I was sitting in a comfy chair watching my cat as she happily purred, kneaded and clawed my bathrobe.  Divinely relaxed as she was, every noise, movement or change in lighting, caused an immediate shift in her attention.  Though she continued to purr, her focus was elsewhere for a moment.  Once the interruption ceased or was deemed non threatening, uninteresting even, her focus returned to my bathrobe which she kneaded with unbridled passion.

As I continued to observe her behavior a thought occurred to me.  My cat has ADHD.  Which is of course completely ridiculous.  She’s a perfectly normal and healthy cat, doing exactly what it is that cats do.  In fact, she does “what cats do” exceedingly well.  She hunts everything in sight.  I pity the poor field mouse, fly, or other small creature that wanders into our home.  Their death knell is already ringing and they don’t even know it, yet.

I considered the correlation between us as hunters and ADHD, again.  Originally proposed by Thom Hartmann, the hunter vs. farmer hypothesis, basically states that ADHD is an adaptive behavior from the time when we, as a species, were hunter gatherers.  During which time the “symptoms” of ADHD, spatial thought, adaptability, distractibility, hyperfocus and impulsiveness, would have been highly valued.  Whereas, in an agricultural setting, not so much.  Linear thought, memorization, organization, timing and repetitive tasks are traits valued on a farm.

So, is what we’re looking at a disorder?  A deficiency? A deficit?  I don’t think so.  Unless, of course, my cat has the same issues.  What we’re looking at is an evolutionary difference in people.  One group with a brain more skilled in the processes aligned with farming and one with a brain more closely aligned with hunting.  Since the hunters are not diseased, should they be medicated in order to fit in with a society currently favoring the farming mentality?  Perhaps I should drug my cat, so she acts like less of a cat.

Why would anyone consider medicating a child because they think differently?  Laziness.  In our current educational system, it’s easier to plant a drugged hunter in a chair and ask them to sit still and be quiet than it is to deal with their persistent questions, movements, and interruptions.  Discussions, arguments even, used to be a valid part of the classical education process.  Perhaps it’s time for a reintroduction of the Socratic method.

“You got a person who has a psychiatric illness in a public school that requires medication from a multibillion-dollar industry, but when you put him into an alternative school environment, not only does he not require the medication, but the disease seems to vanish and he does very well. The question is, then, where is the disease? And I have firmly, solidly come to the conclusion that the disease is in our schools. It’s not in our kids.”

Interesting, huh?  One day we’re going to look back at this period in time with disdain, and shake our heads at the ignorance of it all.  Like we do now when we look back at doctors prescribing overweight children amphetamines in the 60’s and 70’s.  …and for what?  Expediency.  We are numbing and shaming the genius out of our children in this country, my beloved United States of America, where free thought and individuality were once admired.  Now we are encouraged to walk lock step with the perceived “norm”.  It’s shameful really.

I won’t be medicating my cat any time soon.  Fierce and wild.  Strong and flexible.  Highly adaptive to change and extremely adept at survival.  She wouldn’t do well in a dog show, as she’s not very obedient.  I love her as she is.  My little hunter.

 

 

S. Conde

 

 

 

 

 

The Art of Forgiveness

Forgiveness is an art, and I am far from a master.

I can forgive well enough to get past the anger, temporarily at least, and do the right thing, preform the task at hand…show kindness to those who have hurt me.  Completely letting go, however, forgetting, is another matter altogether.

It’s not that I can’t forget, it’s that I’m not so sure I should.  Surely we keep these painful memories for a reason.  Self preservation is my best guess.

The dilemma lies in that I don’t think we can ever truly be at peace until we forget.  Ultimately it boils down to which we value more, peace or self preservation.  Do not delude yourself, this is the choice that must be made.

I’m not ready to make that choice just yet.

 

S. Conde

Faith

It’s easy to keep the faith when times are good.  When times are tough, however, when uncertainty reigns, it’s not so simple, is it?  …not quite so easy.

Staying positive and knowing all will unfold as it’s meant to; learning the lessons set before us and rolling with the waves of stormy seas, is what must be done.  Fighting the tide, struggling against the current, bring exhaustion, even death, for none of us are stronger than the patterns of life.

Losing ones self in the overwhelming onslaught of change is the danger.  Forgetting who we are and reacting in desperation reduce us to nothing more than rats on a sinking ship.

Step back and breathe.  Look at the big picture, minimize the risks as best you can, and capitalize on the opportunities.  Then just roll with the ebb and flow of the tide.

Control is an illusion.  Our lives can be set up in ways that increase certain probabilities, but we control nothing.  Obsessing over things completely out of our control is at best a waste of time, at worst a stress inducing killer of both health and sanity.

I am not omniscient, omnipotent, nor infallible.  I am not the proverbial monk meditating in silence on a hilltop.  I am a real person, like you, who suffers and struggles as everyone else.  I work hard to practice what I preach, and not always successfully.  Still, I try.

Now give us a kiss, a smile, a laugh, and let’s see what happens.

S. Conde