Memory Games

Oh memories!

Snapshots of going places,

Recollection of shared laughter,

Connective moments of time –

Weave their threads through my soul

with indifference as to their deposit.

Yet when I reach back to effect a withdrawal,

I am met with a bittersweet welcome.

Shiny and cherished, those memories

Tug nostalgically at the heart:

“That was a quaint time.”

“Wasn’t it a beautiful day?”

“My babies were little once.”

Turn the past psychological pictures over and see

How their initial viewing changes

To one of pride and treasure:

“I am glad to have had that time.”

“That day will always stay with me.”

“My babies are fine young men now.”

Memory Games.

The twofold experience of pain and pleasure.

 

 

 

 


Thanksgiving Manifesto

There is much for which I can be thankful.

I have three healthy boys that have grown to be great young men who seem likely to contribute positively to society.  I have a husband who loves and supports me.   I am healthy.  I have a handful of siblings who are my heroes, each in their own way.  I have a couple of dogs that keep me warm on cold winter nights.

And after the results of the recent election, I find I am especially thankful for the freedoms we have in our nation.  As a writer, I truly enjoy the freedom I have  to know that I can write about anything and have no fear over being arrested for my views.    I can press a button and publish a writ that hundreds can read, think, and decide upon, hopefully making us all better people in the process.

I do not take this freedom for granted, and today, more than ever, I am Thankful for it.

It sounds a bit conspiracy-theory-ish, but I worry about us writers.   We now have a president elect who has demonstrably attacked the press, time and time again.   We have a president elect who’s ties to Russia are disconcerting ( his son sat in on a call with the nation-state over the Syria issue).   We have a leader who can’t take any kind of humor or disagreement.   As a writer, these are deeply concerning issues.

My writing is a small bleep on anyone’s radar, I know, but a bleep nonetheless and in the current environment it’s not a simple matter of just pressing the ‘publish’ button. It’s a matter of weighing each posting, getting it right, ensuring that truth gets its time in the light and that  the unprecedented does not become normalized.   Now more than ever, I will write with all conviction and utilzation of the freedom of speech we have in our nation. No longer will I take this freedom for granted.  It absolutely is the thing I am most grateful for today.

And to my fellow writers , I encourage you to do the same: excercise the beautiful freedom of expression and speech that is part of the bedrock of our nation.  To do less at this moment in history is to fail to live up to the expectations of our forefathers for a healthy commonwealth.

May your thanksgiving be full of new memories, may we exemplify our gratitude for the freedom of speech as writers by making our voice heard and keeping the wheels of creativity churning. 

Yours,

Frankie 
 

 


“Hey Girl” A Lesson About (Self) Compassion

It’s a rough world.   Life is hard.  There are no guarantees. So, we need each other.  We need others to let us know it’s going to be okay. We need someone to sit beside us and hug us and validate our fears, our failings.  That’s why we have friends and why we take care of each other.

The song “Hey Girl”, out on Lady Gaga’s newest album puts this notion to a musical twist.  It’s a collaboration with Florence Welch and the track is musically reminiscent of Elton John’s ‘Bennie and the Jets” with a hit of a bridge containing some heavenly harmonies.

But, as usual, I look for the deeper meaning and found that the song works well when you sing it to yourself…

“Hey girl, we can make it easy if we lift each other…Hey girl, we don’t need to keep on onein’ up each other…If you lose your way, Just know that I got you..” is some powerful stuff to hear yourself tell yourself.

I’ve recently been turned on to Dr. Kristin Neff’s work concerning self-compassion.  It’s about becoming a friend to yourself, instead of the critic that we all grow up with.  You know, that self-talk which typically admonishes and scolds, instead of helping and caring.  It takes work to change that gig around, to come to the rescue of your self in a moment of hurt or anger.   Most of us go right for the throat of our selves:  “If you made this choice instead, you wouldn’t be in this mess,”  “You deserve this because (fill in the blank).”  “Why can’t you figure this out?”

But – what happens when we approach our self from the side, with an arm around our soul and a voice soft with support?   “Hey girl, if you lose your way, just know that I got you.”

Magic happens.

Suddenly, we become our own best advocate.  Think about how we will pretty much drop whatever we are doing and go help a sister.   Now consider how that same energy can be channeled into self-compassion as we learn to drop everything else and go help ourselves. There’s a peace that is acquired.  More than that, there is a kind of neutrality that can empower a person.   If I know I can comfort myself for my deepest, darkest wounds, then no matter who comes at me or what stands in my way, I will muster through because I know that I ‘got myself’.   I know that I can come to my own rescue.  I know that even if I am experiencing the worst imaginable pain, I can be my own source of solace.

Yes, it is hard.  Damn this life is difficult.   But there is a way to manage, and it begins with self-compassion.  Try it out, at least once….”If you lose your way, Just know that I got you.”

Yours,

Frankie

 


Election Reflection: Turn Inward

This was intended to be a general ‘life is rough’ article, but as events unfold and we reel from the recent election, it seems prudent to change the angle a bit.

I mean, after all, we are a hurting nation at the moment.

Many fear for the security of their lives since it has been threatened, and like most humans, allow their ‘fight or flight’ instinct to overcome reason.   I understand the protests.  I will never condone the violence.

Many are in shock at the idea that a bully could have garnered enough support as to be elected to the highest, most respected office in the land. They are concerned about international politics and fear permanent damage to allied relationships  as well as world economic functions.

Many are happy.   They wanted change (I completely understand this sentiment) and they got it.   Whether it plays out in their favor or not, time will tell, currently the president-elect is filling his cabinet with very cozy Wall Street employees so I personally don’t hold out any hope.

Some are gloating.  In my hometown a high school student was passing out home made ‘deportation notices’ to the minorities in his classes.   An elementary lunch room in Michigan was the scene of chants of “Build that wall,” instilling fear and shame into Latino children.

On top of all this, we each have our personal problems to deal with.  A friend of mine is a recent widow.   Another friend just lost her sister.  My niece is bound for lung surgery this week.   Someone, somewhere is going through a divorce.  Someone, somewhere was just betrayed by their best friend.  Someone, somewhere is dealing with a child who is struggling with a heroin addiction.

Life is pain, meanwhile we must be kind to ourselves.

What does that mean?  It means giving the world some space.   We can’t control everything (we can control very little) so quit trying to control everything and turn inward towards yourself.   Allow  yourself to validate your own feelings, allow yourself to accept shortfalls as part of the human experience rather than some defective character flaw, allow yourself to just be and gather strength from ‘mental stillness.’   It is empowering.

Go for walks. Getting in touch with nature never fails to put things into perspective.   The

mtshasta

photo credit to the author 11/09/2016

leaves are turning and littering the earth right now, another summer is over, another cycle consummated, time goes on, we are but a mere speck within it’s marching.  In this bigger picture, our troubles are less taxing.

Meditate.  Shut out the world, listen only to your breathing.   Connect with the universe as a part of it, not separate from it.  Speak gently to yourself.

We must be kind to ourselves at this moment as we reflect on the election and what it means to us personally,  so that we have the capacity to be kind to others.

There are many who need it.

Yours,

Frankie


Civil Grief

There was a time when we could count on civility.  There was a moment in our history when we could actually respect another’s opinion, maybe even weigh it against our own with no harm, and then move on without a grudge, without name calling, without hostility.   We enjoyed a rare exhibit of humanity when an election was over;  when the people had spoken, we accepted the outcome and went on with our lives, knowing that the constitution and reasonable compromise would prevail.  I was taught this in school and in church, and it was exemplified by my elders and former national leaders.

It’s become increasingly apparent that civility is a lost quality in our nation.  This should concern us all.

It began with the election of the current president and a remark from a senator that the commander-in-chief would only get ‘one term’.   It gained momentum when the house speaker in charge couldn’t (or wouldn’t) lead his cabal and a power play over the national budget suddenly became evening news fodder.   It culminated when a law, upheld by the checks and balances of the supreme court, was repeatedly voted upon for repeal (or parts of the law as some would clarify – either way, the inability to accept the high court’s decision  has marred our national landscape).

It continues with this election cycle.  We have witnessed some atrocious behavior towards one another.   We don’t respect each other’s opinion, instead we resort to name calling and vitriolic attacks on friends and family.   This isn’t civility, it’s anarchy.  This isn’t democracy, it’s tyranny.  This isn’t respect, it’s cynicism.

We.  Are.  Better.  Than.  This.

I understand there is fear, but there is peace with unity.  I get that there is lack of integrity, but we can have great confidence in reason.

We will elect a new leader tomorrow.  May we honor the votes, honor our democracy, and come together again at the end of the competition, under one flag, under one ideal and move forward once more as one –  because without civility, we  can no longer claim to uphold the torch of democracy and the “American Dream”.  We cannot exclaim that we are exceptional.

E pluribus anum.

Yours in peace,

Frankie

 


Acquired Strength

Against my back is the rough texture of oak tree bark,

I give it my entire attention, for it is here that I find my strength.

Fragile spine against a layered trunk of experience and trials,

I am inspired by it’s sturdy habits.

At times, strong winds bent it nearly to breaking, yet it remains upright;

Reminded of the forces that have threatened my own grounding,

I am reassured that I too will stand tall once more.

Long limbs reach down and like a crone’s overgrown nails

scratches the itch within my soul, their shadows hug me close to the earth.

Invisible cocoon that welcomes and nurtures,

I sit with my back against the rough texture of an oak tree,

and there acquire the strength to live.

 


Embrace

“You don’t know my mind, you don’t know my kind. Dark necessities are part of my design.”  RHCP

We stood in the hallway of my mom’s little home, saying our goodbyes. My mom, observing my sister and I, made the comment that we were as different as light and dark.  The silence that followed needed no explanation:  we all knew who could identify with which description.   I was the dark one.

I wrestled with this, and only now that I’m ‘middle-aged’ am I finally getting a handle on its meaning.   Darkness is often, in our society, associated with everything bad, revolting, and horrible.  I know myself not to be that kind of person, yet it’s obvious my choice in movie and book genres always portray dark forces that cripple the hero so that he or she must overcome monstrous challenges in order to declare victory, rather than finding my entertainment in comedies or romance.   I know that I tend towards sadness more than happiness, pain more than pleasure, and I’ll almost always choose the unknown adventure over promised security.

Yet, it is a necessity to have such darkness in our midst; this is an age old philosophical idea.   We would not know those among us who tend towards the light, for one thing. Could my family identify my sister as the ‘light’ if she were also compared to ‘light’?  And without a measure of darkness to strike against, how do we know how light it really is and to what degree it exists…is it bright against the dark like a welcoming porch light in the winter storm, or is it a small glimmer that only elucidates the next step of the path?

Besides embracing the notion that I personally have a bent toward the darker aspects of life dynamics, I’ve also navigated the difficult task of embracing the darkness that dwells within.   This is some of the most important time of introspection I have experienced.  It is difficult to look in the mirror and finally notice the shadow behind my eyes; the feelings behind some of my moods.  It is even more difficult to hold the image and acknowledge it for what it truly is – a part of me as much as my happiness.  It is even more difficult still to wrestle with that part of me and accept it, to find a place for it to sit within my soul; to understand that it doesn’t make me a ‘bad’ person for doing so.  In fact, it makes me a better person as I am more inclined to sympathize, more conscious of my self.

There’s a relief in it for me as well, I confess.   Coming from a Christian upbringing, I was taught that anything ‘bad’ was to be blamed on demons or the devil, some outside force over which I had no personal control or even understanding (hence our societal perception of ‘bad’ mentioned earlier).   The comprehension that ‘bad’ exists within as a means to compel me towards goodness rather than the idea that I am subject in some way to an outside boogeymen gives me a sense of control precisely because it enlightens me to certain undercurrents in my personality – awareness is everything.  And, I think,  when we can balance within ourselves the daily struggle most of us undertake to do the right thing and be ‘good’ against the inherent ‘bad’ we all possess, it’s not a stretch to claim that we gain a kind of confidence and strength, our steps become surer, our actions more and more deliberate when we do so.   Therein lies relief – and empowerment.

Embracing our own individual darkness is not a new concept either.  Luke Skywalker’s venture into an unknown cave revealed the face of his enemy instead…Harry Potter closed his eyes to see Lord Voldemort…Jesus’ forty days of wandering tested his personal weaknesses…The story line runs throughout human history as clearly as our DNA can be traced to certain areas of the world.

When considered at a personal level, and embraced as a necessary “part of our design”, darkness is not so scary and becomes a natural component of our world-view – this awareness empowers us in very real ways.

Yours,

Frankie

  • this short audio clip was helpful to me when working through the process of acknowledging my own darkness, it speaks of Carl Jung’s ability to do so within himself and how it empowered his world view.

Partner, Instead of Master

I have been training a puppy for the past two years.It’s no small feat considering the

dozer2

“Dozer”

handful of personality and energy that he encapsulates: he’s a combination of two parts lab, one part st. bernard, one part border collie.  We’ve had our ups and downs; he’s wont to make his own decisions at times but he’s done well overall, and, like most dogs he only wants to please. In the past three or four months, just after his second birthday, he’s gone through a bit of a maturity spurt and has earned my confidence in areas where before there was conflict between my desire for his behavior and his own independent impulses.  As a result I’ve shifted my position a bit with him in terms of our relational dynamic.  I’ve stepped off from the role of Master position and stepped beside him in a role as a Partner.

Its a feeling of accomplishment to be able to do so.  It means there’s a deeper level of trust between us:  he understands that I trust him to behave a certain way and have given him considerable freedom because of it. He trusts me to treat him more as a team mate, on somewhat more equal footing and his wont to please rises to the occasion – if I am his Partner, then he’s going to put his heart and soul into doing right.

The dynamic of shifting from Master to Partner was never so clear to me as it was in this instance and it got me thinking about other relationships and where it might apply as well.

Work?  Yes, this applies to my work life directly!  I am privileged to work with teenagers, and this year my colleagues and I find ourselves interacting with a more high maintenance, high energy group of kids.    As usual at the beginning of the year, I set very clear, immovable boundaries and at first will err on the side of being more harsh than soft when it comes to enforcing their validity (a lesson I learned from my own jr. high school teachers and seems to be fairly effective).  This year I am taking a slightly different approach and utilizing my newfound epiphany: I’ve made the boundaries clear, but I find that if I take a moment to consider the one on one relationship with each student and conceive of some way to Partner with them instead of try to Master them, I get a much better response and they seem be settling in with more ease.  The element of conflict that can inherently exist between a Master and Student is replaced with a mutual trust and common goal; sure I am still the authority figure but my willingness to engage from the side instead of from the front assures them that, on some level, they have a certain amount of respect and trust from me at the outset.  They seem to be responding by rising to the same level of respect.

Partnerships seem to work better than Mastery on the creative level too, I’ve observed.  I’m sewing a quilt for my niece at the moment, she’s beginning her freshman year in college, away from home and family.   If I employ my newfound nugget of wisdom and work with the machine and fabric on a Partner level, as a team mate instead of a Master, I notice a difference in the process.  There is a sense of enjoyment in the mix.  It’s holistic in a way; it’s not just my energy but the way I work with the energy of the machine as well that effects a kind of harmony, instead of subjectivity, and together something new and meaningful is created.

On an intrapersonal level, the idea of trading a Master for a Partner has, for me, been one of the most important adjustments I’ve made in my life.   I don’t know about you, but I am much harsher with myself than I am with others and I’ve definitely had a Master approach when it comes to self-discipline and correction. If I step aside though, work WITH myself instead of against myself in my head and heart, I find a peace I hadn’t experienced before, and whatever issue I am wrestling becomes manageable instead of a kind of drudgery. Furthermore, I find I have more trust in myself to do the right thing where before I might have contradicted the ideal simply for the sake of outdoing my harsh ‘Master’.

I understand this idea doesn’t work in all relationships and I also concede that there are some instances where we must always be “Master.”  But whenever possible, from now on, I will look for ways to Partner instead.   The benefits are mutual and more vibrant, and much more satisfactory to the soul.

Here’s to Partnerships instead of Mastery.   May we find ways to morph some of the latter into more of the former…

Yours, Frankie


“Make it So”

I wrote a while back about the way that science fiction provides examples to us of what a world without religion looks like.   It’s an important point to think on since there’s quite a lot of hullaballoo surrounding the thought that atheists or agnostics can’t be nice or get along and are particularly evil so a future filled with such people is certainly vile, discordant, and unlivable.

Not so.  Many science fiction movies and television shows exemplify that humankind can actually thrive where religion is absent and reason prevails in it’s stead.  Is there evil?  Yep.  We can’t escape it because it is part of ourselves, but we do see in each instance that love or relationships or family overcome and save the day, and tellingly, no supreme being is needed.  (By the way, we really don’t know how else to write the story except that good always defeats evil – such an optimistic species).

With the release of the newest Star Trek movie, a fellow writer picked up on this theme and discusses it in this Atlantic article.   It is hopeful in this time of turbulence – especially as an American watching the current election cycle – to see a standard held for us all to claim:  we can rely on each other, as well as our own reasoning, to create a decent society.

May we ‘make it so.’

Yours,

Frankie

 


Live, While I Wait….

I am

In space.

My energy freed from a fragile shell of skin and bones.

I am.

More than I’ve ever been, I am now.

Time is of no consequence,

It’s iron chains no longer weigh upon my conscience.

Part, now, of the infinite universe.

Free as I once was, returned to my original state.

live

photo credit to n a s a

No longer tied to a planet,

No longer driven by the sun.

Holy stillness.

Peace, pure and perfect.

Silence, beautiful and consoling.

This is the death that awaits me,  and I live for it.