Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Deep End

Swimming pools have those stencils  around the sides--- "2 ft.", "6 ft",  "14 ft".  I understand these.  If the sign says it's two feet deep,  I know not to dive in.  Fourteen feet - it's safe to dive.  I understand these stencils, these signs.

The mystery is why I sometimes ascribe depth to people when it's not actually there.  I have a history of misreading it in men.  For a long time, I think I believed that if a man were kind, smart, witty, charming, charismatic and a drinker, then the drinking was the stencil - it pointed to depth.  Not to be too hard on myself, but what an idiot.  I've been told,  by one of them, ironically,  that my powers of discernment were less than dazzling.

Of course, we are not swimming pools.  None of us has one depth.  None of us is always at 2 feet or 14 feet.  But some reach for 14 and some stay contentedly or discontentedly in 2.  14 is scarier; the water gets dark; you can drown.  Two feet is two feet.  One of the simplest and most elegant observations came in Clyde Edgerton's wonderful novel "Raney".  One character says "There are three kinds of people in the world: those who talk about themselves, those who talk about other people and those who talk about ideas".  

But as people, we wander about on the spectrum.  The deepest among us will at times watch American Idol or Real Housewives and talk about themselves or other people, but some 2 feet people never seem to aim for 14.  Some can't muster the courage or simply don't see the point; the risk of 14 feet has no obvious reward.

But we are each capable of only what we are capable of.  Most of my friends glide easily along the range of depths; we have superficial days and interests and then glide to the relative depth of examined lives.   (And I will say that among my Sudden Cardiac Arrest survivor friends, I have yet to meet one who is not in the deep.  We are all seekers; our hearts stopped without warning and we didn't die. It gives one pause).

My life would be simpler if the shallow end dwellers could wear those stencils.  Since I stink at sorting out which men are which - particularly among my ridiculously beloved heavy drinkers.  As Hayes Carl put it "you're not a poet, you're a drunk with a pen".  Or a lens.  Or a cab.  A drunk with a pen.

There was a day with one of them.  We were talking about why he had stayed so long in a relationship that had been miserable for years.  And he said "She cooked, she cleaned, she drank".   I was speechless.  Could someone actually be shallow enough that those were the criteria for a relationship???  "She cooked, she cleaned, she drank".  I understood she cooked a lot, cleaned a lot and drank a lot.  Enabling him not to cook,  never to clean and  of course, to drink with abandon.   True to form, I got it wrong.  Instead of admitting that my friend was in fact that shallow, I, ever the idiot, ascribed depth even to that.  He knew the absurdity of the rationale, the criteria -- or he would never have said it. At least not to me.  Me, ever the idiot. The reality is that he saw it that way because he forces himself to live in two feet.  He is terrified to see beyond 2 feet; he drinks to make sure he can stay in 2 feet.  Everything else is simply too uncomfortable to manage sober.  Idiot.

I need the stencils.  I sometimes give too much credit; sometimes people give themselves too little.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Un-Friend, De-Friend, the Shortness of It All

I can't quite keep it straight what Facebook (FB) calls it - unfriending, defriending.  Either way, this is serious business, unfriending.  I did it this morning, for the first time.  While I had good reason (in the simple space that is my own mind), it still made me uncomfortable.  I don't think I'm much of a fan of that level of unbalanced, unilateral power.  When I had the big corporate job, I  thought that the decisions about hiring people were only marginally better than the firing ones.  That level of solo power has never been something I lusted after.  (Though I will admit that I love that same level of power over things - as I contemplate re-doing my aging kitchen, I am in love with the reality that I  need discuss the myriad of choices only with myself;  I do not have to cope with someone else's opinions about counters, edges, cabinets, drawers, whether one can actually "need" a double-oven (yes).  This is a fiefdom where I relish the power).

Unbalanced power re: people, not so much.  But I defriended someone.  Truth be told, we are not actual friends; we were merely FB friends, and we had been childhood friends.   In this, the first 10 years of FB's life, I think we are all still sorting out how to deal with it; what the etiquette is, the right 'tone', etc.  It's new.  The rules are being written in pencil.

So the defriend.  This is either a hard, embarrassing week in North Carolina or a relief, depending on your views on gay marriage.  I understand that some yet remain 'squeamish'; I remember being 'squeamish' when first gaining a consciousness about it all.  I remember trying to sort out if there were lines that society shouldn't cross, etc.   But all that was a while ago for me;  so it confuses me - genuinely and without malice - it confuses me how people with loved ones, friends, family members who are gay and have the simple wish to marry - how does it feel acceptable to deny that?  (I assume, perhaps incorrectly,  that is now all of us - don't we all have loved ones and family members who are openly gay?)  But apparently it still feels acceptable to deny them marriage rights, at least to a majority of North Carolina voters this week.  And while I'm comforted with the certainty that this is the last gasp for the anti-gay marriage crowd, that it will die a natural death in 10-15 years, I doubt that is much comfort to our gay loved ones who wish to marry now or who are simply tired of their trampled civil rights.

So the day after the dark election, I posted a link to a quite irreverent Todd Snider song that mightily skewers the right, on this and other issues.  And somewhat less mightily skewers the left.  That's one reason I like him - multi-directional skewering.
So this childhood friend, let's call her Jane; she wrote on my  wall, on my Todd Snider link.  Something to the effect that this song wrongly maligned and mocked Christians.  Well, maybe, but it's my wall.   I waited a day, then sent Jane a private message suggesting we respect one another's FB walls as our own space.  I aimed for gracious.  I suggested that while we had been childhood pals, our roads were clearly very different, and that perhaps our common ground was that our respective (late) mothers had been fast friends who had been wonderfully kind to one another in their last years.
And that we could avoid falling prey to the rot that passes for 'discourse' these days; that we would let pass without rebuke or comment what we each write on our own FB walls.  My mom would have been proud; there was not a single divisive word in that message; it was a plea for civility and etiquette and grace across our great divide.

But then ----  nothing.  I had hoped she'd remove her offending comment from my wall.  Nothing.  This is the kind of behavior from loudly self-proclaiming "Christians" that makes so many people, including me, uneasy and skeptical at best.  I'm pretty sure that the actual Christ would accept an olive branch and a hope for higher ground.

But  --- nothing.  So I deleted her comment and then found the 'unfriend' button and used it.
As we all know - life is short.  If you've survived Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA), you are so cognizant, every single day, that it is shockingly short. Gone in a second short; blink of a flipping eye short.  I've said before SCA changes everything - and one thing for sure:  I won't spend much time in activities that aren't pleasant or gratifying or meaningful in some way - and that includes pointless debate with 'moralists' who are guarding some gates and excluding anyone who makes them uncomfortable.

Comfort is not the only barometer of morality.  Actually, it's not even in the running.

And my un-friend's name is not Jane.  Jane was the name of her lovely, kind, gracious mother.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

I Can Fix That

Every now and then, I forget my utter lack of ability to assemble anything mechanical.  I have a shot if it comes with true instructions (to me, that means that it comes with words of instruction that go something like: First do A with tool B, then do C, and so on).  What I don't mean is anything that comes with "instructions" that consist entirely of a drawing.  I could look at a drawing like that for days, for weeks,  and never ever have any sense of how one begins or ends.  Never.  I know this; I long ago accepted this limitation.  I know that if I try to assemble it without help, failure is certain.  Certain and absolute.  The only question is whom to call on for help.

But every now and then, I forget.  And I buy something that promises "Simple assembly required".  Opening the box, finding only that drawing and perhaps one incomprehensible tool - I remember.  I can't do this.  Not alone.

For decades, I believed I could fix almost anything - "Some fixing required" was not the same to me as "Some assembly required".  My purpose on this earth was to fix, find a better way, see a new chance.  People, situations, work, husband, my own demon - I could fix that.  All it would take was brain power, determination, courage, skills, persistence, creativity, hard work, maybe a little luck.  But everything out there could be fixed.  I believed it - and acted like it  - for decades.

It wasn't pride.  It was merely my purpose.  I was here to fix, to change, to move to new ground.  I was certain of it.  For decade after decade.  There was success and then there were the things I hadn't yet figured out how to fix.  I didn't see any of it as failure - just 'not yet success'.  All I had to do was work harder, be smarter, more creative, braver, more daring --- and it would be fixed or surpassed.    As they say in the mother country --- Idjit.

One does not fix an alcoholic - it only took me about 7 or 8 Alanon years for that one.  And that's only the first.... now the list of what I cannot fix seems endless.  Husband, marriage, son, my demon, anyone else's demons.  I can go to Law School at 50 and learn things no 50 year old brain should even attempt to learn.  Work - yes.  People - no.  Me - no.  Endless list.  Hearts - we cannot fix hearts.

I can't fix or even really understand a buena man, I can't fix my demons, I cannot fix a heart.  I can accept an implanted defibrillator to restart a heart that quits, but that's not quite fixing it, is it?  This week, a 26 year old world champion swimmer from Norway died of Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) after a workout.  A seemingly perfectly healthy world-class athlete simply laid down one moment and died.  His heart just up and stopped.  Inexplicably but inexorably.  That crap is not fixable.  95% die that day.

I have finally, after  5+ decades on this earth --- I have finally accepted that I can fix nothing.  My ability to fix any of it is exactly on par with my ability to assemble the damn bookcases I bought that came with only a diagram.  The only question is whom to ask for help.